Part 4 out of 6
whispered after a pause, during which she realised the depth of the
girl's emotion by her convulsive struggling to keep herself in check.
All at once the tortured girl seemed to yield herself, and slipped
inertly from her grasp till kneeling down she laid her head in the
motherly lap and sobbed. Miss Rowly kept stroking her hair in
silence. Presently the girl looked up, and with a pang the aunt saw
that her eyes were dry. In her pain she said:
'You sob like that, my child, and yet you are not crying; what is it,
oh! my dear one? What is it that hurts you so that you cannot cry?'
And then the bitter sobbing broke out again, but still alas! without
tears. Crouching low, and still enclosing her aunt's waist with her
outstretched arms and hiding her head in her breast; she said:
'Oh! Auntie, I have sent Harold away!'
'What, my dear? What?' said the old lady astonished. 'Why, I
thought there was no one in the world that you trusted so much as
'It is true. There was--there is no one except you whom I trust so
much. But I mistook something he said. I was in a blind fury at the
time, and I said things that I thought my father's daughter never
could have said. And she never thought them, even then! Oh, Auntie,
I drove him away with all the horrible things I could say that would
wound him. And all because he acted in a way that I see now was the
most noble and knightly in which any man could act. He that my dear
father had loved, and honoured, and trusted as another son. He that
was a real son to him, and not a mock sop like me. I sent him away
with such fierce and bitter pain that his poor face was ashen grey,
and there was woe in his eyes that shall make woe in mine whenever I
shall see them in my mind, waking or sleeping. He, the truest friend
. . . the most faithful, the most tender, the most strong, the most
unselfish! Oh! Auntie, Auntie, he just turned and bowed and went
away. And he couldn't do anything else with the way I spoke to him;
and now I shall never see him again!'
The young girl's eyes ware still dry, but the old woman's were wet.
For a few minutes she kept softly stroking the bowed heat till the
sobbing grew less and less, and then died away; and the girl lay
still, collapsed in the abandonment of dry-eyed grief.
Then she rose, and taking off her dressing-gown, said tenderly:
'Let me stay with you to-night, dear one? Go to sleep in my arms, as
you did long ago when there was any grief that you could not bear.'
So Stephen lay in those loving arms till her own young breast ceased
heaving, and she breathed softly. Till dawn she slept on the bosom
of her who loved her so well.
CHAPTER XXI--THE DUTY OF COURTESY
Leonard was getting tired of waiting when he received his summons to
Normanstand. But despite his impatience he was ill pleased with the
summons, which came in the shape of a polite note from Miss Rowly
asking him to come that afternoon at tea-time. He had expected to
hear from Stephen.
'Damn that old woman! You'd think she was working the whole show!'
However, he turned up at a little before five o'clock, spruce and
dapper and well dressed and groomed as usual. He was shown, as
before, into the blue drawing-room. Miss Rowly, who sat there, rose
as he entered, and coming across the room, greeted him, as he
thought, effusively. He actually winced when she called him 'my dear
boy' before the butler.
She ordered tea to be served at once, and when it had been brought
she said to the butler:
'Tell Mannerly to bring me a large thick envelope which is on the
table in my room. It is marked L.E. on the outside.' Presently an
elderly maid handed her the envelope and withdrew. When tea was over
she opened the envelope, and taking from it a number of folios,
looked over them carefully; holding them in her lap, she said
'You will find writing materials on the table. I am all ready now to
hand you over the receipts.' His eyes glistened. This was good news
at all events; the debts were paid. In a rapid flash of thought he
came to the conclusion that if the debts were actually paid he need
not be civil to the old lady. He felt that he could have been rude
to her if he had actual possession of the receipts. As it was,
however, he could not yet afford to have any unpleasantness. There
was still to come that lowering interview with his father; and he
could not look towards it satisfactorily until he had the assurance
of the actual documents that he was safe. Miss Rowly was, in her own
way, reading his mind in his face. Her lorgnon seemed to follow his
every expression like a searchlight. He remembered his former
interview with her, and how he had been bested in it; so he made up
his mind to acquiesce in time. He went over to the table and sat
down. Taking a pen he turned to Miss Rowly and said:
'What shall I write?' She answered calmly:
'Date it, and then say, "Received from Miss Laetitia Rowly the
receipts for the following amounts from the various firms hereunder
enumerated."' She then proceeded to read them, he writing and
repeating as he wrote. Then she added:
'"The same being the total amount of my debts which she has kindly
paid for me."' He paused here; she asked.
'Why don't you go on?'
'I thought it was Stephen--Miss Norman,' he corrected, catching sight
of her lorgnon, 'who was paying them.'
'Good Lord, man,' she answered, 'what does it matter who has paid
them, so long as they are paid?'
'But I didn't ask you to pay them,' he went on obstinately. There
was a pause, and then the old lady, with a distinctly sarcastic
'It seems to me, young man, that you are rather particular as to how
things are done for you. If you had begun to be just a little bit as
particular in making the debts as you are in the way of having them
paid, there would be a little less trouble and expense all round.
However, the debts have been paid, and we can't unpay them. But of
course you can repay me the money if you like. It amounts in all to
four thousand three hundred and seventeen pounds, twelve shillings
and sixpence, and I have paid every penny of it out of my own pocket.
If you can't pay it yourself, perhaps your father would like to do
The last shot told; he went on writing: '"Kindly paid for me,"' she
continued in the same even voice:
'"In remembrance of my mother, of whom she was an acquaintance." Now
sign it!' He did so and handed it to her. She read it over
carefully, folded it, and put it in her pocket. She then stood. He
rose also; and as he moved to the door--he had not offered to shake
hands with her--he said:
'I should like to see, Miss Norman.'
'I am afraid you will have to wait.'
'She is over at Heply Regis. She went there for Lady Heply's ball,
and will remain for a few days. Good afternoon!' The tone in which
the last two words were spoken seemed in his ears like the crow of
the victor after a cock-fight.
As he was going out of the room a thought struck her. She felt he
deserved some punishment for his personal rudeness to her. After
all, she had paid half her fortune for him, though not on his
account; and not only had he given no thanks, but had not even
offered the usual courtesy of saying good-bye. She had intended to
have been silent on the subject, and to have allowed him to discover
it later. Now she said, as if it was an after-thought:
'By the way, I did not pay those items you put down as "debts of
honour"; you remember you gave the actual names and addresses.'
'Why not?' the question came from him involuntarily. The persecuting
lorgnon rose again:
'Because they were all bogus! Addresses, names, debts, honour! Good
He went out flaming; free from debt, money debts; all but one. And
some other debts--not financial--whose magnitude was exemplified in
the grinding of his teeth.
After breakfast next morning he said to his father:
'By the way, you said you wished to speak to me, sir.' There was
something in the tone of his voice which called up antagonism.
'Then you have paid your debts?'
'Good! Now there is something which it is necessary I should call
your attention to. Do you remember the day on which I handed you
that pleasing epistle from Messrs. Cavendish and Cecil?'
'Didn't you send a telegram to them?'
'You wrote it yourself?'
'I had a courteous letter from the money-lenders, thanking me for my
exertions in securing the settlement of their claim, and saying that
in accordance with the request in my telegram they had held over
proceedings until the day named. I did not quite remember having
sent any telegram to them, or any letter either. So, being at a
loss, I went to our excellent postmaster and requested that he would
verify the sending of a telegram to London from me. He courteously
looked up the file; which was ready for transference to the G.P.O.,
and showed me the form. It was in your handwriting.' He paused so
long that Leonard presently said:
'It was signed Jasper Everard. Jasper Everard! my name; and yet it
was sent by my son, who was christened, if I remember rightly,
Leonard!' Then he went on, only in a cold acrid manner which made
his son feel as though a February wind was blowing on his back:
'I think there need not have been much trouble in learning to avoid
confusing our names. They are really dissimilar. Have you any
explanation to offer of the--the error, let us call it?' A bright
thought struck Leonard.
'Why, sir,' he said, 'I put it in your name as they had written to
you. I thought it only courteous.' The elder man winced; he had not
expected the excuse. We went on speaking in the same calm way, but
his tone was more acrid than before:
'Good! of course! It was only courteous of you! Quite so! But I
think it will be well in the future to let me look after my own
courtesy; as regards my signature at any rate. You see, my dear boy,
a signature is queer sort of thing, and judges and juries are apt to
take a poor view of courtesy as over against the conventions
regarding a man, writing his own name. What I want to tell you is
this, that on seeing that signature I made a new will. You see, my
estate is not entailed, and therefore I think it only right to see
that in such a final matter justice is done all round. I therefore
made a certain provision of which I am sure you will approve.
Indeed, since I am assured of the payment of your debts, I feel
justified in my action. I may say, inter alia, that I congratulate
you on either the extent of your resources or the excellence of your
friendships, or both. I confess that the amounts brought to my
notice were rather large; more especially in proportion to the value
of the estate which you are some day to inherit. For you are of
course to inherit some day, my dear boy. You are my only son, and it
would be hardly--hardly courteous of me not to leave it to you. But
I have put a clause in my will to the effect that the trustee's are
to pay all debts of your accruing which can be proved against you,
before handing over to you either the estate itself or the remainder
after its sale and the settlement of all claims. That's all. Now
run away, my boy; I have some important work to do.'
The day after her return from Heply Regis, Stephen was walking in the
wood when she thought she heard a slight rustling of leaves some way
behind her. She looked round, expecting to see some one; but the
leafy path was quite clear. Her suspicion was confirmed; some one
was secretly following her. A short process of exclusions pointed to
the personality of the some one. Tramps and poachers were unknown in
Normanstand, and there was no one else whom she could think of who
had any motive in following her in such a way; it must be Leonard
Everard. She turned and walked rapidly in the opposite direction.
As this would bring her to the house Leonard had to declare his
presence at once or else lose the opportunity of a private interview
which he sought. When she saw him she said at once and without any
'What are you doing there; why are you following me?'
'I wanted to see you alone. I could not get near you on account of
that infernal old woman.' Stephen's face grew hard.
'On account of whom?' she asked with dangerous politeness.
'Miss Rowly; your aunt.'
'Don't you think, Mr. Everard,' she said icily, 'that it is at least
an unpardonable rudeness to speak that way, and to me, of the woman I
love best in all the world?'
'Sorry!' he said in the offhand way of younger days, 'I apologise.
Fact is, I was angry that she wouldn't let me see you.'
'Not let you see me!' she said as if amazed. 'What do mean?'
'Why, I haven't been able to see you alone ever since I went to meet
you on Caester Hill.'
'But why should you see me alone?' she asked as if still in
amazement. 'Surely you can say anything you have to say before my
aunt.' With an unwisdom for which an instant later he blamed himself
he blurted out:
'Why, old girl, you yourself did not think her presence necessary
when you asked me to meet you on the hill.'
'When was that?' She saw that he was angry and wanted to test him;
to try how far he would venture. He was getting dangerous; she must
know the measure of what she had to fear.
He fell into the trap at once. His debts being paid, fear was
removed, and all the hectoring side of the man was aroused. His
antagonist was a woman; and he had already had in his life so many
unpleasant scenes with women that this was no new experience. This
woman had, by her own indiscretion, put a whip into his hand; and, if
necessary to secure his own way, by God! he meant to use it! These
last days had made her a more desirable possession in his eyes. The
vastness of her estate had taken hold on him, and his father's
remorseless intention with regard to his will would either keep him
with very limited funds, or leave him eventually a pauper if he
forestalled his inheritance. The desire of her wealth had grown
daily, and it was now the main force in bringing him here to-day.
And to this was now added the personal desire which her presence
evoked. Stephen, at all times beautiful, had never looked more
lovely. In the days since she had met him on the hilltop, a time
that to her seemed so long ago, she had grown to be a woman, and
there is some subtle inconceivable charm in completed womanhood. The
reaction from her terrible fear and depression had come, and her
strong brilliant youth was manifesting itself. Her step was springy
and her eyes were bright; and the glow of fine health, accentuated by
the militant humour of the present moment, seemed to light up her
beautiful skin. In herself she was desirable, very desirable;
Leonard felt his pulses quicken and his blood leap as he looked at
her. Even his prejudice against her red hair had changed to
something like hungry admiration. Leonard felt for the first moment
since he had known her that she was a woman; and that, with relation
to her, he was a man.
And at the moment all the man in him asserted itself. It was with
half love, as he saw it, and half self-assertion that he answered her
'The day you asked me to marry you! Oh! what a fool I was not to
leap at such a chance! I should have taken you in my arms then and
kissed you till I showed you how much I loved you. But that will all
come yet; the kissing is still to come! Oh! Stephen, don't you see
that I love you? Won't you tell me that you love me still?
Darling!' He almost sprang at her, his arms extended to clasp her.
'Stop!' Her voice rang like a trumpet. She did not mean to submit
to physical violence, and in the present state of her feeling, an
embrace from him would be a desecration. He was now odious to her;
she positively loathed him.
Before her uplifted hand and those flashing eyes, he stopped as one
stricken into stone. In that instant she knew she was safe; and with
a woman's quickness of apprehension and resolve, made up her mind
what course to pursue. In a calm voice she said quietly:
'Mr. Everard, you have followed me in secret, and without my
permission. I cannot talk here with you, alone. I absolutely refuse
to do so; now or at any other time. If you have anything especial to
say to me you will find me at home at noon to-morrow. Remember, I do
not ask you to come. I simply yield to the pressure of your
importunity. And remember also that I do not authorise you in any
way to resume this conversation. In fact, I forbid it. If you come
to my house you must control yourself to my wish!'
Then with a stately bow, whose imperious distance inflamed him more
than ever, and without once looking back she took her way home, all
agitated inwardly and with fast beating heart.
CHAPTER XXII--FIXING THE BOUNDS
Leonard came towards Normanstand next forenoon in considerable mental
disturbance. In the first place he was seriously in love with
Stephen, and love is in itself a disturbing influence.
Leonard's love was all of the flesh; and as such had power at present
to disturb him, as it would later have power to torture him. Again,
he was disturbed by the fear of losing Stephen, or rather of not
being able to gain her. At first, ever since she had left him on the
path from the hilltop till his interview the next day, he had looked
on her possession as an 'option,' to the acceptance of which
circumstances seemed to be compelling him. But ever since, that
asset seemed to have been dwindling; and now he was almost beginning
to despair. He was altogether cold at heart, and yet highly strung
with apprehension, as he was shown into the blue drawing-room.
Stephen came in alone, closing the door behind her. She shook hands
with him, and sat down by a writing-table near the window, pointing
to him to sit on an ottoman a little distance away. The moment he
sat down he realised that he was at a disadvantage; he was not close
to her, and he could not get closer without manifesting his intention
of so doing. He wanted to be closer, both for the purpose of his
suit and for his own pleasure; the proximity of Stephen began to
multiply his love for her. He thought that to-day she looked better
than ever, of a warm radiant beauty which touched his senses with
unattainable desire. She could not but notice the passion in his
eyes, and instinctively her eyes wandered to a silver gong placed on
the table well within reach. The more he glowed, the more icily calm
she sat, till the silence between them began to grow oppressive. She
waited, determined that he should be the first to speak. Recognising
the helplessness of silence, he began huskily:
'I came here to-day in the hope that you would listen to me.' Her
answer, given with a conventional smile, was not helpful:
'I am listening.'
'I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I did not accept your offer.
If I had know when I was coming that day that you loved me . . . '
She interrupted him, calm of voice, and with uplifted hand:
'I never said so, did I? Surely I could not have said such a thing!
I certainly don't remember it?' Leonard was puzzled.
'You certainly made me think so. You asked me to marry you, didn't
you?' Her answer came calmly, though in a low voice:
'Then if you didn't love me, why did you ask me to marry you?' It
was his nature to be more or less satisfied when he had put any one
opposed to him proportionally in the wrong; and now his exultation at
having put a poser manifested itself in his tone. This, however,
braced up Stephen to cope with a difficult and painful situation. It
was with a calm, seemingly genial frankness, that she answered,
'Do you know, that is what has been puzzling me from that moment to
this!' Her words appeared to almost stupefy Leonard. This view of
the matter had not occurred to him, and now the puzzle of it made him
'Do you mean to say,' he asked hotly, 'that you asked a man to marry
you when you didn't even love him?'
'That is exactly what I do mean! Why I did it is, I assure you, as
much a puzzle to me as it is to you. I have come to the conclusion
that it must have been from my vanity. I suppose I wanted to
dominate somebody; and you were the weakest within range!'
'Thank you!' He was genuinely angry by this time, and, but for a
wholesome fear of the consequences, would have used strong language.
'I don't see that I was the weakest about.' Somehow this set her on
her guard. She wanted to know more, so she asked:
'Harold An Wolf! You had him on a string already!' The name came
like a sword through her heart, but the bitter comment braced her to
further caution. Her voice seemed to her to sound as though far
'Indeed! And may I ask you how you came to know that?' Her voice
seemed so cold and sneering to him that he lost his temper still
'Simply because he told me so himself.' It pleased him to do in ill
turn to Harold. He did not forget that savage clutch at his throat;
and he never would. Stephen's senses were all alert. She saw an
opportunity of learning something, and went on with the same cold
'And I suppose it was that pleasing confidence which was the cause of
your refusal of my offer of marriage; of which circumstance you have
so thoughtfully and so courteously reminded me.' This, somehow,
seemed of good import to Leonard. If he could show her that his
intention to marry her was antecedent to Harold's confidence, she
might still go back to her old affection for him. He could not
believe that it did not still exist; his experience of other women
showed him that their love outlived their anger, whether the same had
been hot or cold.
'It had nothing in the world to do with it. He never said a word
about it till he threatened to kill me--the great brute!' This was
learning something indeed! She went on in the same voice:
'And may I ask you what was the cause of such sanguinary intention?'
'Because he knew that I was going to marry you!' As he spoke he felt
that he had betrayed himself; he went on hastily, hoping that it
might escape notice:
'Because he knew that I loved you. Oh! Stephen, don't you know it
now! Can't you see that I love you; and that I want you for my
'But did he threaten to kill you out of mere jealousy? Do you still
go in fear of your life? Will it be necessary to arrest him?'
Leonard was chagrined at her ignoring of his love-suit, and in his
self-engrossment answered sulkily:
'I'm not afraid of him! And, besides, I believe he has bolted. I
called at his house yesterday, and his servant said they hadn't heard
a word from him.' Stephen's heart sank lower and lower. This was
what she had dreaded. She said in as steady a voice as she could
'Bolted! Has he gone altogether?'
'Oh, he'll come back all right, in time. He's not going to give up
the jolly good living he has here!'
'But why has he bolted? When he threatened to kill you did he give
any reason?' There was too much talk about Harold. It made him
angry; so he answered in an offhand way:
'Oh, I don't know. And, moreover, I don't care!'
'And now,' said Stephen, having ascertained what she wanted to know,
'what is it that you want to speak to me about?'
Her words fell on Leonard like a cold douche. Here had he been
talking about his love for her, and yet she ignored the whole thing,
and asked him what he wanted to talk about.
'What a queer girl you are. You don't seem to attend to what a
fellow is saying. Here have I been telling you that I love you, and
asking you to marry me; and yet you don't seem to have even heard
me!' She answered at once, quite sweetly, and with a smile of
superiority which maddened him:
'But that subject is barred!'
'How do you mean? Barred!'
'Yes. I told you yesterday!'
'But, Stephen,' he cried out quickly, all the alarm in him and all
the earnestness of which he was capable uniting to his strengthening,
'can't you understand that I love you, with all my heart? You are so
beautiful; so beautiful!' He felt now in reality what he was saying.
The torrent of his words left no opening for her objection; it swept
all merely verbal obstacles before it. She listened, content in a
measure. So long as he sat at the distance which she had arranged
before his coming she did not fear any personal violence. Moreover,
it was a satisfaction to her now to hear him, who had refused her,
pleading in vain. The more sincere his eloquence, the larger her
satisfaction; she had no pity for him now.
'I know I was a fool, Stephen! I had my chance that day on the
hilltop; and if I had felt then as I feel now, as I have felt every
moment since, I would not have been so cold. I would have taken you
in my arms and held you close and kissed you, again, and again, and
again. Oh, darling! I love you! I love you! I love you!' He held
out his arms imploringly. 'Won't you love me? Won't--'
He stopped, paralysed with angry amazement. She was laughing.
He grew purple in the face; his hands were still outstretched. The
few seconds seemed like hours.
'Forgive me!' she said in a polite tone, suddenly growing grave.
'But really you looked so funny, sitting there so quietly, and
speaking in such a way, that I couldn't help it. You really must
forgive me! But remember, I told you the subject was barred; and as,
knowing that, you went on, you really have no one but yourself to
blame!' Leonard was furious, but managed to say as he dropped his
'But I love you!'
'That may be, now,' she went on icily. 'But it is too late. I do
not love you; and I have never loved you! Of course, had you
accepted my offer of marriage you should never have known that. No
matter how great had been my shame and humiliation when I had come to
a sense of what I had done, I should have honourably kept my part of
the tacit compact entered into when I made that terrible mistake. I
cannot tell you how rejoiced and thankful I am that you took my
mistake in such a way. Of course, I do not give you any credit for
it; you thought only of yourself, and did that which you liked best!'
'That is a nice sort of thing to tell a man!' he interrupted with
'Oh, I do not want to hurt you unnecessarily; but I wish there to be
no possible misconception in the matter. Now that I have discovered
my error I am not likely to fall into it again; and that you may not
have any error at all, I tell you now again, that I have not loved
you, do not love you, and never will and never can love you.' Here
an idea struck Leonard and he blurted out:
'But do you not think that something is due to me?'
'How do you mean?' Her brows were puckered with real wonder this
'For false hopes raised in my mind. If I did not love you before,
the very act of proposing to me has made me love you; and now I love
you so well that I cannot live without you!' In his genuine
agitation he was starting up, when the sight of her hand laid upon
the gong arrested him. She laughed as she said:
'I thought that the privilege of changing one's mind was a female
prerogative! Besides, I have done already something to make
reparation to you for the wrong of . . . of--I may put it fairly, as
the suggestion is your own--of not having treated you as a woman!'
'As you observe so gracefully, it is annoying to have one's own silly
words come back at one, boomerang fashion. I made up my mind to do
something for you; to pay off your debts.' This so exasperated him
that he said out brutally:
'No thanks to you for that! As I had to put up with the patronage
and the lecturings, and the eyeglass of that infernal old woman, I
don't intend . . . '
Stephen stood up, her hand upon the gong:
'Mr. Everard, if you do not remember that you are in my drawing-room,
and speaking of my dear and respected aunt, I shall not detain you
He sat down at once, saying surlily:
'I beg your pardon. I forgot. You make me so wild that--that . . .
' He chewed the ends of his moustache angrily. She resumed her
seat, taking her hand from the gong. Without further pause she
'Quite right! It has been Miss Rowly who paid your debts. At first
I had promised myself the pleasure; but from something in your speech
and manner she thought it better that such an act should not be done
by a woman in my position to a man in yours. It might, if made
public, have created quite a wrong impression in the minds of many of
There was something like a snort from Leonard. She ignored it:
'So she paid the money herself out of her own fortune. And, indeed,
I must say that you do not seem to have treated her with much
'What did I say or do that put you off doing the thing yourself?'
'I shall answer it frankly: It was because you manifested, several
times, in a manner there was no mistaking, both by words and deeds,
an intention of levying blackmail on me by using your knowledge of my
ridiculous, unmaidenly act. No one can despise, or deplore, or
condemn that act more than I do; so that rather than yield a single
point to you, I am, if necessary, ready to face the odium which the
public knowledge of it might produce. What I had intended to do for
you in the way of compensation for false hopes raised to you by that
act has now been done. That it was done by my aunt on my behalf, and
not by me, matters to you no more than it did to your creditors, who,
when they received the money, made no complaint of injury to their
feelings on that account.
'Now, when you think the whole matter over in quietness, you will,
knowing that I am ready at any time to face if necessary the
unpleasant publicity, be able to estimate what damage you would do to
yourself by any expose. It seems to me that you would come out of it
pretty badly all round. That, however, is not my affair; it entirely
rests with yourself. I think I know how women would regard it. I
dare say you best know how men would look at it; and at you!'
Leonard knew already how the only man who knew of it had taken it,
and the knowledge did not reassure him!
'You jade! You infernal, devilish, cruel, smooth-tongued jade!' He
stood as bespoke. She stood too, and stood watching him with her
hand on the gong. After a pause of a couple of seconds she said
'One other thing I should wish to say, and I mean it. Understand me
clearly, that I mean it! You must not come again into my grounds
without my special permission. I shall not allow my liberty to be
taken away, or restricted, by you. If there be need at any time to
come to the house, come in ceremonious fashion, by the avenues which
are used by others. You can always speak to me in public, or
socially, in the most friendly manner; as I shall hope to be able to
speak to you. But you must never transgress the ordinary rules of
decorum. If you do, I shall have to take, for my own protection,
another course. I know you now! I am willing to blot out the past;
but it must be the whole past that is wiped out!'
She stood facing him; and as he looked at her clear-cut aquiline
face, her steady eyes, her resolute mouth, her carriage, masterly in
its self-possessed poise, he saw that there was no further hope for
him. There was no love and no fear.
'You devil!' he hissed.
She struck the gong; her aunt entered the room.
'Oh, is that you, Auntie? Mr. Everard has finished his business with
me!' Then to the servant, who had entered after Miss Rowly:
'Mr. Everard would like his carriage. By the way,' she added,
turning to him in a friendly way as an afterthought, 'will you not
stay, Mr. Everard, and take lunch with us? My aunt has been rather
moping lately; I am sure your presence would cheer her up.'
'Yes, do stay, Mr. Everard!' added Miss Rowly placidly. 'It would
make a pleasant hour for us all.'
Leonard, with a great effort, said with conventional politeness:
'Thanks, awfully! But I promised my father to be home for lunch!'
and he withdrew to the door which the servant held open.
He went out filled with anger and despair, and, sad for him, with a
fierce, overmastering desire--love he called it--for the clever,
proud, imperious beauty who had so outmatched and crushed him.
That beautiful red head, which he had at first so despised, was
henceforth to blaze in his dreams.
CHAPTER XXIII--THE MAN
On the Scoriac Harold An Wolf, now John Robinson, kept aloof from
every one. He did not make any acquaintances, did not try to. Some
of those at table with him, being ladies and gentlemen, now and again
made a polite remark; to which he answered with equal politeness.
Being what he was he could not willingly offend any one; and there
was nothing in his manner to repel any kindly overture to
acquaintance. But this was the full length his acquaintanceship
went; so he gradually felt himself practically alone. This was just
what he wished; he sat all day silent and alone, or else walked up
and down the great deck that ran from stem to stern, still always
alone. As there were no second-class or steerage passengers on the
Scoriac, there were no deck restraints, and so there was ample room
for individual solitude. The travellers, however, were a sociable
lot, and a general feeling of friendliness was abroad. The first
four days of the journey were ideally fine, and life was a joy. The
great ship, with bilge keels, was as steady as a rock.
Among the other passengers was an American family consisting of
Andrew Stonehouse, the great ironmaster and contractor, with his wife
and little daughter.
Stonehouse was a remarkable man in his way, a typical product of the
Anglo-Saxon under American conditions. He had started in young
manhood with nothing but a good education, due in chief to his own
industry and his having taken advantage to the full of such
opportunities as life had afforded to him. By unremitting work he
had at thirty achieved a great fortune, which had, however; been up
to then entirely invested and involved in his businesses. With,
however, the colossal plant at his disposal, and by aid of the fine
character he had won for honesty and good work, he was able within
the next ten years to pile up a fortune vast even in a nation where
multi-millionaires are scattered freely. Then he had married, wisely
and happily. But no child had come to crown the happiness of the
pair who so loved each other till a good many years had come and
gone. Then, when the hope of issue had almost passed away, a little
daughter came. Naturally the child was idolised by her parents, and
thereafter every step taken by either was with an eye to her good.
When the rigour of winter and the heat of summer told on the child in
a way which the more hardy parents had never felt, she was whirled
away to some place with more promising conditions of health and
happiness. When the doctors hinted that an ocean voyage and a winter
in Italy would be good, those too were duly undertaken. And now, the
child being in perfect health, the family was returning before the
weather should get too hot to spend the summer at their chalet
amongst the great pines on the slopes of Mount Ranier. Like the
others on board, Mr. and Mrs. Stonehouse had proffered travellers'
civilities to the sad, lonely young man. As to the others, he had
shown thanks for their gracious courtesy; but friendship, as in other
cases, did not advance. The Stonehouses were not in any way
chagrined; their lives were too happy and too full for them to take
needless offence. They respected the young man's manifest desire for
privacy; and there, so far as they were concerned, the matter rested.
But this did not suit the child. Pearl was a sweet little thing, a
real blue-eyed, golden-haired little fairy, full of loving-kindness.
All the mother-instinct in her, and even at six a woman-child can be
a mother--theoretically, went out towards the huge, lonely, sad,
silent young man. She insisted on friendship with him; insisted
shamelessly, with the natural inclination of innocence which rises
high above shame. Even the half-hearted protests of the mother, who
loved to see the child happy, did not deter her; after the second
occasion of Pearl's seeking him, as she persisted, Harold could but
remonstrate with the mother in turn; the ease of the gentle lady and
the happiness of her child were more or less at stake. When Mrs.
Stonehouse would say:
'There, darling! You must be careful not to annoy the gentleman,'
Pearl would turn a rosy all-commanding face to her and answer:
'But, mother, I want him to play with me. You must play with me!'
Then, as the mother would look at him, he would say quickly, and with
genuine heartiness too:
'Oh please, madam, do let her play with me! Come, Pearl, shall you
ride a cock-horse or go to market the way the gentleman rides?' Then
the child would spring on his knee with a cry of delight, and their
The presence of the child and her loving ways were unutterably sweet
to Harold; but his pleasure was always followed by a pain that rent
him as he thought of that other little one, now so far away, and of
those times that seemed so long since gone.
But the child never relaxed in her efforts to please; and in the long
hours of the sea voyage the friendship between her and the man grew,
and grew. He was the biggest and strongest and therefore most lovely
thing on board the ship, and that sufficed her. As for him, the
child manifestly loved and trusted him, and that was all-in-all to
his weary, desolate heart.
The fifth day out the weather began to change; the waves grew more
and more mountainous as the day wore on and the ship advanced west.
Not even the great bulk and weight of the ship, which ordinarily
drove through the seas without pitch or roll, were proof against
waves so gigantic. Then the wind grew fiercer and fiercer, coming in
roaring squalls from the south-west. Most of those on board were
alarmed, for the great waves were dreadful to see, and the sound of
the wind was a trumpet-call to fear.
The sick stayed in their cabins; the rest found an interest if not a
pleasure on deck. Among the latter were the Stonehouses, who were
old travellers. Even Pearl had already had more sea-voyages than
fall to most people in their lives. As for Harold, the storm seemed
to come quite naturally to him and he paced the deck like a ship-
It was fortunate for the passengers that most of them had at this
period of the voyage got their sea legs; otherwise walking on the
slippery deck, that seemed to heave as the rolling of the vessel
threw its slopes up or down, would have been impossible. Pearl was,
like most children, pretty sure-footed; holding fast to Harold's hand
she managed to move about ceaselessly. She absolutely refused to go
with any one else. When her mother said that she had better sit
still she answered:
'But, mother, I am quite safe with The Man!' 'The Man' was the name
she had given Harold, and by which she always now spoke of him. They
had had a good many turns together, and Harold had, with the
captain's permission, taken her up on the bridge and showed her how
to look out over the 'dodger' without the wind hurting her eyes.
Then came the welcome beef-tea hour, and all who had come on deck
were cheered and warmed with the hot soup. Pearl went below, and
Harold, in the shelter of the charthouse, together with a good many
others, looked out over the wild sea.
Harold, despite the wild turmoil of winds and seas around him, which
usually lifted his spirits, was sad, feeling lonely and wretched; he
was suffering from the recoil of his little friend's charming
presence. Pearl came on deck again looking for him. He did not see
her, and the child, seeing an opening for a new game, avoided both
her father and mother, who also stood in the shelter of the
charthouse, and ran round behind it on the weather side, calling a
loud 'Boo!' to attract Harold's attention as she ran.
A few seconds later the Scoriac put her nose into a coming wave at
just the angle which makes for the full exercise of the opposing
forces. The great wave seemed to strike the ship on the port quarter
like a giant hammer; and for an instant she stood still, trembling.
Then the top of the wave seemed to leap up and deluge her. The wind
took the flying water and threw it high in volumes of broken spray,
which swept not only the deck but the rigging as high as the top of
the funnels. The child saw the mass of water coming, and shrieking
flew round the port side of the charthouse. But just as she turned
down the open space between it and the funnel the vessel rolled to
starboard. At the same moment came a puff of wind of greater
violence than ever. The child, calling out, half in simulated half
in real fear, flew down the slope. As she did so the gale took her,
and in an instant whirled her, almost touching her mother, over the
rail into the sea.
Mrs. Stonehouse shrieked and sprang forward as though to follow her
child. She was held back by the strong arm of her husband. They
both slipped on the sloping deck and fell together into the scuppers.
There was a chorus of screams from all the women present. Harold,
with an instinctive understanding of the dangers yet to be
encountered, seized a red tam-o'-shanter from the head of a young
girl who stood near.
Her exclamation of surprise was drowned in the fearful cry 'Man
overboard!' and all rushed down to the rail and saw Harold, as he
emerged from the water, pull the red cap over his head and then swim
desperately towards the child, whose golden hair was spread on the
The instant after Pearl's being swept overboard might be seen the
splendid discipline of a well-ordered ship. Every man to his post,
and every man with a knowledge of his duty. The First Officer called
to the Quartermaster at the wheel in a voice which cut through the
gale like a trumpet:
'Hard a port! Hard!'
The stern of the great ship swung away to port in time to clear the
floating child from the whirling screw, which would have cut her to
pieces in an instant. Then the Officer after tearing the engine-room
signal to 'Starboard engine full speed astern,' ran for the lifebuoy
hanging at the starboard end of the bridge. This he hurled far into
the sea. As it fell the attached rope dragged with it the signal,
which so soon as it reaches water bursts into smoke and flame--signal
by day and night. This done, and it had all been done in a couple of
seconds, he worked the electric switch of the syren, which screamed
out quickly once, twice, thrice. This is the dread sound which means
'man overboard,' and draws to his post every man on the ship, waking
The Captain was now on the bridge and in command, and the First
Officer, freed from his duty there, ran to the emergency boat, swung
out on its davits on the port side.
All this time, though only numbered by seconds, the Scoriac was
turning hard to starboard, making a great figure of eight; for it is
quicker to turn one of these great sea monsters round than to stop
her in mid career. The aim of her Captain in such cases is to bring
her back to the weather side of the floating buoy before launching
On deck the anguish of the child's parents was pitiable. Close to
the rail, with her husband's arms holding her tight to it, the
distressed mother leaned out; but always moving so that she was at
the nearest point of the ship to her child. As the ship passed on it
became more difficult to see the heads. In the greater distance they
seemed to be quite close together. All at once, just as a great wave
which had hidden them in the farther trough passed on, the mother
'She's sinking! she's sinking! Oh, God! Oh, God!' and she fell on
her knees, her horrified eyes, set in a face of ashen grey, looking
out between the rails.
But at the instant all eyes saw the man's figure rise in the water as
he began to dive. There was a hush which seemed deadly; the
onlookers feared to draw breath. And then the mother's heart leaped
and her cry rang out again as two heads rose together in the waste of
'He has her! He has her! He has her! Oh, thank God! Thank God!'
and for a single instant she hid her face in her hands.
Then when the fierce 'hurrah' of all on board had been hushed in
expectation, the comments broke forth. Most of the passengers had by
this time got glasses of one kind or another.
'See! He's putting the cap on the child's head. He's a cool one
that. Fancy him thinking of a red cap at such a time!'
'Ay! we could see that cap, when it might be we couldn't see anything
'Look!' this from an old sailor standing by his boat, 'how he's
raisin' in the water. He's keeping his body between her an' the
spindrift till the squall has passed. That would choke them both in
a wind like this if he didn't know how to guard against it. He's all
right; he is! The little maid is safe wi' him.'
'Oh, bless you! Bless you for those words,' said the mother, turning
towards him. 'At this moment the Second Officer, who had run down
from the bridge, touched Mr. Stonehouse on the shoulder.
'The captain asked me to tell you, sir, that you and Mrs. Stonehouse
had better come to him on the bridge. You'll see better from there.'
They both hurried up, and the mother again peered out with fixed
eyes. The Captain tried to comfort her; laying his strong hand on
her shoulder, he said:
'There, there! Take comfort, ma'am. She is in the hands of God!
All that mortal man can do is being done. And she is safer with that
gallant young giant than she could be with any other man on the ship.
Look, how he is protecting her! Why he knows that all that can be
done is being done. He is waiting for us to get to him, and is
saving himself for it. Any other man who didn't know so much about
swimming as he does would try to reach the lifebuoy; and would choke
the two of them with the spindrift in the trying. Mind how he took
the red cap to help us see them. He's a fine lad that; a gallant
CHAPTER XXIV--FROM THE DEEPS
Presently the Captain handed Mrs. Stonehouse a pair of binoculars.
For an instant she looked through them, then handed them back and
continued gazing out to where the two heads appeared--when they did
appear on the crest of the waves like pin-heads. The Captain said
half to himself and half to the father:
'Mother's eyes! Mother's eyes!' and the father understood.
As the ship swept back to the rescue, her funnels sending out huge
volumes of smoke which the gale beat down on the sea to leeward, the
excitement grew tenser and tenser. Men dared hardly breathe; women
wept and clasped their hands convulsively as they prayed. In the
emergency boat the men sat like statues, their oars upright, ready
for instant use. The officer stood with the falls in his hand ready
to lower away.
When opposite the lifebuoy, and about a furlong from Harold and
Pearl, the Captain gave the signal 'Stop,' and then a second later:
'Full speed astern.'
'Ready, men! Steady!' As the coming wave slipping under the ship
began to rise up her side, the officer freed the falls and the boat
sank softly into the lifting sea.
Instantly the oars struck the water, and as the men bent to them a
cheer rang out.
Harold and Pearl heard, and the man turning his head for a moment saw
that the ship was close at hand, gradually drifting down to the
weather side of them. He raised the child in his arms, saying:
'Now, Pearl, wave your hand to mother and say, hurrah!' The child,
fired into fresh hope, waved her tiny hand and cried 'Hurrah!
Hurrah!' The sound could not reach the mother's ears; but she saw,
and her heart leaped. She too waved her hand, but she uttered no
sound. The sweet high voice of the child crept over the water to the
ears of the men in the boat, and seemed to fire their arms with
A few more strokes brought them close, Harold with a last effort
raised the child in his arms as the boat drove down on them. The
boatswain leaning over the bow grabbed the child, and with one sweep
of his strong arm took her into the boat. The bow oarsman caught
Harold by the wrist. The way of the boat took him for a moment under
water; but the next man; pulling his oar across the boat, stooped
over and caught him by the collar, and clung fast. A few seconds
more and he was hauled abroad. A wild cheer from all on the Scoriac
came, sweeping down on the wind.
When once the boat's head had been turned towards the ship, and the
oars had bent again to their work, they came soon within shelter.
When they had got close enough ropes were thrown out, caught and made
fast; and then came down one of the bowlines which the seamen held
ready along the rail of the lower deck. This was seized by the
boatswain, who placed it round him under his armpits. Then, standing
with the child in his arms he made ready to be pulled up. Pearl held
out her arms to Harold, crying in fear:
'No, no, let The Man take me! I want to go with The Man!' He said
quietly so as not to frighten her:
'No, no, dear! Go with him! He can do this better than I can!' So
she clung quietly to the seaman, holding her face pressed close
against his shoulder. As the men above pulled at the rope, keeping
it as far as possible from the side of the vessel, the boatswain
fended himself off with his feet. In a few seconds he was seized by
eager hands and pulled over the rail, tenderly holding and guarding
the child all the while. In an instant she was in the arms of her
mother, who had thrown herself upon her knees and pressed her close
to her loving heart. The child put her little arms around her neck
and clung to her. Then looking up and seeing the grey pallor of her
face, which even her great joy could not in a moment efface, she
stroked it and said:
'Poor mother! Poor mother! And now I have made you all wet!' Then,
feeling her father's hand on her head she turned and leaped into his
arms, where he held her close.
Harold was the next to ascend. He came amid a regular tempest of
cheers, the seamen joining with the passengers. The officers, led by
the Captain waving his cap from the bridge, joined in the paean.
The boat was cast loose. An instant after the engine bells tinkled:
'Full speed ahead.'
Mrs. Stonehouse had no eyes but for her child, except for one other.
When Harold leaped down from the rail she rushed at him, all those
around instinctively making way for her. She flung her arms around
him and kissed him, and then before he could stop her sank to her
knees at his feet, and taking his hand kissed it. Harold was
embarrassed beyond all thinking. He tried to take away his hand, but
she clung tight to it.
'No, no!' she cried. 'You saved my child!'
Harold was a gentleman and a kindly one. He said no word till she
had risen, still holding his hand, when he said quietly:
'There! there! Don't cry. I was only too happy to be of service.
Any other man on board would have done the same. I was the nearest,
and therefore had to be first. That was all!'
Mr. Stonehouse came to him and said as he grasped Harold's hand so
hard that his fingers ached:
'I cannot thank you as I would. But you are a man and will
understand. God be good to you as you have been good to my child;
and to her mother and myself!' As he turned away Pearl, who had now
been holding close to her mother's hand, sprang to him holding up her
arms. He raised her up and kissed her. Then he placed her back in
her mother's arms.
All at once she broke down as the recollection of danger swept back
upon her. 'Oh, Mother! Mother!' she cried, with a long, low wail,
which touched every one of her hearers to the heart's core.
'The hot blankets are all ready. Come, there is not a moment to be
lost. I'll be with you when I have seen the men attended to!'
So the mother, holding her in her arms and steadied by two seamen
lest she should slip on the wet and slippery deck, took the child
Harold was taken by another set of men, who rubbed him down till he
glowed, and poured hot brandy and water into him till he had to
almost use force against the superabundance of their friendly
For the remainder of that day a sort of solemn gladness ruled on the
Scoriac. The Stonehouse family remained in their suite, content in
glad thankfulness to be with Pearl, who lay well covered up on the
sofa sleeping off the effects of the excitement and the immersion,
and the result of the potation which the Doctor had forced upon her.
Harold was simply shy, and objecting to the publicity which he felt
to be his fate, remained in his cabin till the trumpet had blown the
CHAPTER XXV--A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD
After dinner Harold went back to his cabin; locking himself in, he
lay down on the sofa. The gloom of his great sorrow was heavy on
him; the reaction from the excitement of the morning had come.
He was recalled to himself by a gentle tapping. Unlocking and
opening the door he saw Mr. Stonehouse, who said with trouble in his
'I came to you on account of my little child.' There he stopped with
a break in his voice. Harold, with intent to set his mind at ease
and to stave off further expressions of gratitude, replied:
'Oh, pray don't say anything. I am only too glad that I was
privileged to be of service. I only trust that the dear little girl
is no worse for her--her adventure!'
'That is why I am here,' said the father quickly. 'My wife and I are
loth to trouble you. But the poor little thing has worked herself
into a paroxysm of fright and is calling for you. We have tried in
vain to comfort or reassure her. She will not be satisfied without
you. She keeps calling on "The Man" to come and help her. I am loth
to put you to further strain after all you have gone through to-day;
but if you would come--' Harold was already in the passage as he
'Of course I'm coming. If I can in any way help it is both a
pleasure and a duty to be with her.' Turning to the father he added:
'She is indeed a very sweet and good child. I shall never forget how
she bore herself whilst we waited for aid to come.'
'You must tell her mother and me all about it,' said the father; much
When they came close to the Stonehouses' suite of rooms they heard
Pearl's voice rising with a pitiful note of fear:
'Where is The Man? Oh! where is The Man? Why doesn't he come to me?
He can save me! I want to be with The Man!' When the door opened
and she saw him she gave shriek of delight, and springing from the
arms of her mother fairly leaped into Harold's arms which were
outstretched to receive her. She clung to him and kissed him again
and again, rubbing her little hands all over his face as though to
prove to herself that he was real and not a dream. Then with a sigh
she laid her head on his breast, the reaction of sleep coming all at
once to her. With a gesture of silence Harold sat down, holding the
child in his arms. Her mother laid a thick shawl over and sat down
close to Harold. Mr. Stonehouse stood quiet in the doorway with the
child's nurse peering anxiously over his shoulder.
After a little while, when he thought she was asleep, Harold rose and
began to place her gently in the bunk. But the moment he did so she
waked with a scream. The fright in her eyes was terrible. She clung
to him, moaning and crying out between her sobs:
'Don't leave me! Don't leave me! Don't leave me!' Harold was much
moved and held the little thing tight in his strong arms, saying to
'No darling! I shan't leave you! Look in my eyes, dear, and I will
promise you, and then you will be happy. Won't you?'
She looked quickly up in his face. Then she kissed him lovingly, and
rested her head, but not sleepily this time, on his breast said:
'Yes! I'm not afraid now! I'm going to stay with The Man!'
Presently Mrs. Stonehouse, who had been thinking of ways and means,
and of the comfort of the strange man who had been so good to her
'You will sleep with mother to-night, darling. Mr. . . . The Man,'
she said this with an appealing look of apology to Harold, 'The Man
will stay by you till you are asleep . . . ' But she interrupted,
not fretfully or argumentatively, but with a settled air of content:
'No! I'm going to sleep with The Man!'
'But, dear one,' the mother expostulated, 'The Man will want sleep
'All right, mother. He can sleep too. I'll be very good and lie
quite quiet; but oh! mother, I can't sleep unless his arms are round
me. I'm afraid if they're not the sea will get me!' and she clung
closer to Harold, tightening her arms round his neck.
'You will not mind?' asked Mrs. Stonehouse timidly to Harold; and,
seeing acquiescence in his face, added in a burst of tearful
'Oh! you are good to her to us all!'
'Hush!' Harold said quietly. Then he said to Pearl, in a cheerful
matter-of-fact way which carried conviction to the child's mind:
'Now, darling, it is time for all good little girls to be asleep,
especially when they have had an--an interesting day. You wait here
till I put my pyjamas on, and then I'll come back for you. And
mother and father shall come and see you nicely tucked in!'
'Don't be long!' the child anxiously called after him as he hurried
away. Even trust can have its doubts.
In a few minutes Harold was back, in pyjamas and slipper and a
dressing-gown. Pearl, already wrapped in a warm shawl by her mother,
held out her arms to Harold, who lifted her.
The Stonehouses' suite of rooms was close to the top of the
companion-way, and as Harold's stateroom was on the saloon deck, the
little procession had, much to the man's concern, run the gauntlet of
the thong of passengers whom the bad weather had kept indoors. When
he came out of the day cabin carrying the child there was a rush of
all the women to make much of the little girl. They were all very
kind and no troublesome; their interest was natural enough, and
Harold stopped whilst they petted the little thing.
The little procession followed. Mr. and Mrs. Stonehouse coming next,
and last the nurse, who manifested a phase of the anxiety of a hen
who sees her foster ducklings waddling toward a pond.
When Harold was in his bunk the little maid was brought in.
When they had all gone and the cabin was dark, save for the gleam
from the nightlight which the careful mother had placed out of sight
in the basin at the foot of the bunk, Harold lay a long time in a
negative state, if such be possible, in so far as thought was
Presently he became conscious of a movement of the child his arms; a
shuddering movement, and a sort of smothered groan. The little thing
was living over again in sleep the perils and fears of the day.
Instinctively she put up her hands and felt the a round her. Then
with a sigh clasped her arms round his neck, and with a peaceful look
laid her head upon his breast. Even through the gates of sleep her
instinct had recognised and realised protection.
And then this trust of a little child brought back the man to his
nobler self. Once again came back to him that love which he had had,
and which he knew now that he had never lost, for the little child
that he had seen grow into full womanhood; whose image must dwell in
his heart of hearts for evermore.
The long night's sleep quite restored Pearl. She woke fairly early
and without any recurrence of fear. At first she lay still, fearing
she would wake The Man, but finding that he was awake--he had not
slept a wink all night--she kissed him and then scrambled out of bed.
It was still early morning, but early hours rule on shipland. Harold
rang for the steward, and when the man came he told him to tell Mr.
Stonehouse that the child was awake. His delight when he found the
child unfrightened looking out of the port was unbounded.
CHAPTER XXVI--A NOBLE OFFER
That day Harold passed in unutterable gloom. The reaction was strong
on him; and all his woe, his bitter remembrance of the past and his
desolation for the future, were with him unceasingly.
In the dusk of the evening he wandered out to his favourite spot, the
cable-tank on top of the aft wheelhouse. Here he had been all alone,
and his loneliness had the added advantage that from the isolated
elevation he could see if anyone approached. He had been out there
during the day, and the Captain, who had noticed his habit had had
rigged up a canvas dodger on the rail on the weather side. When he
sat down on the coiled hawsers in the tank he was both secluded and
sheltered. In this peaceful corner his thoughts ran freely and in
sympathy with the turmoil of wind and wave.
How unfair it all was! Why had he been singled out for such misery?
What gleam of hope or comfort was left to his miserable life since he
had heard the words of Stephen; those dreadful words which had
shattered in an instant all the cherished hopes of his life. Too
well he remembered the tone and look of scorn with which the horrible
truths had been conveyed to him. In his inmost soul he accepted them
as truths; Stephen's soul had framed them and Stephen's lips had sent
From his position behind the screen he did not see the approaching
figure of Mr. Stonehouse, and was astonished when he saw his head
rise above the edge of the tank as he climbed the straight Jacob's
ladder behind the wheelhouse. The elder man paused as he saw him and
said in an apologetic way:
'Will you forgive my intruding on your privacy? I wanted to speak to
you alone; and as I saw you come here a while ago I thought it would
be a good opportunity.' Harold was rising as he spoke.
'By all means. This place is common property. But all the same I am
honoured in your seeking me.' The poor fellow wished to be genial;
but despite his efforts there was a strange formality in the
expression of his words. The elder man understood, and said as he
hurried forward and sank beside him:
'Pray don't stir! Why, what a cosy corner this is. I don't believe
at this moment there is such peace in the ship!'
Once again the bitterness of Harold's heart broke out in sudden
'I hope not! There is no soul on board to whom I could wish such
evil!' The old man said as he laid his hand softly on the other's
'God help you, my poor boy, if such pain is in your heart!' Mr.
Stonehouse looked out at the sea, at last turning his face to him
again he spoke:
'If you feel that I intrude on you I earnestly ask you to forgive me;
but I think that the years between your age and mine as well as my
feeling towards the great obligation which I owe you will plead for
excuse. There is something I would like to say to you, sir; but I
suppose I must not without your permission. May I have it?'
'If you wish, sir. I can at least hear it.'
The old man bowed and went on:
'I could not but notice that you have some great grief bearing upon
you; and from one thing or another--I can tell you the data if you
wish me to do so--I have come to the conclusion that you are leaving
your native land because of it.' Here Harold, wakened to amazement
by the readiness with which his secret had been divined, said
quickly, rather as an exclamation than interrogation:
'How on earth did you know that!' His companion, taking it as a
'Sir, at your age and with your strength life should be a joy; and
yet you are sad: Companionship should be a pleasure; yet you prefer
solitude. That you are brave and unselfish I know; I have reason,
thank God! to know it. That you are kindly and tolerant is apparent
from your bearing to my little child this morning; as well as your
goodness of last night, the remembrance of which her mother and I
will bear to our graves; and to me now. I have not lived all these
years without having had trouble in my own heart; and although the
happiness of late years has made it dim, my gratitude to you who are
so sad brings it all back to me.' He bowed, and Harold, wishing to
avoid speaking of his sorrow, said:
'You are quite right so far as I have a sorrow; and it is because of
it I have turned my back on home. Let it rest at that!' His
companion bowed gravely and went on.
'I take it that you are going to begin life afresh in the new
country. In such case I have a proposition to make. I have a large
business; a business so large that I am unable to manage it all
myself. I was intending that when I arrived at home I would set
about finding a partner. The man I want is not an ordinary man. He
must have brains and strength and daring.' He paused. Harold felt
what was coming, but realised, as he jumped at the conclusion, that
it would not do for him to take for granted that he was the man
sought. He waited; Mr. Stonehouse went on:
'As to brains, I am prepared to take the existence of such on my own
judgment. I have been reading men, and in this aspect specially, all
my life. The man I have thought of has brains. I am satisfied of
that, without proof. I have proof of the other qualities.' He
paused again; as Harold said nothing he continued in a manner ill at
'My difficulty is to make the proposal to the man I want. It is so
difficult to talk business to a man to whom you under great
obligation; to whom you owe everything. He might take a friendly
overture ill.' There was but one thing to be said and Harold said
it. His heart warmed to the kindly old man and he wished to spare
him pain; even if he could not accept him proposition:
'He couldn't take it ill; unless he was an awful bounder.'
'It was you I thought of!'
'I thought so much, sir;' said Harold after a pause, 'and I thank you
earnestly and honestly. But it is impossible.'
'Oh, my dear sir!' said the other, chagrined as well as surprised.
'Think again! It is really worth your while to think of it, no
matter what your ultimate decision may be!'
Harold shook his head. There was a long silence. The old man wished
to give his companion time to think; and indeed he thought that
Harold was weighing the proposition in his mind. As for Harold, he
was thinking how best he could make his absolute refusal inoffensive.
He must, he felt, give some reason; and his thoughts were bent on how
much of the truth he could safely give without endangering his
secret. Therefore he spoke at last in general terms:
'I can only ask you, sir, to bear with me and to believe that I am
very truly and sincerely grateful to you for your trust. But the
fact is, I cannot go anywhere amongst people. Of course you
understand that I am speaking in confidence; to you alone and to none
'Absolutely!' said Mr. Stonehouse gravely. Harold went on:
'I must be alone. I can only bear to see people on this ship because
it is a necessary way to solitude.'
'You "cannot go anywhere amongst people"! Pardon me. I don't wish
to be unduly inquisitive; but on my word I fail to understand!'
Harold was in a great difficulty. Common courtesy alone forbade that
he should leave the matter where it was; and in addition both the
magnificently generous offer which had been made to him, and the way
in which accident had thrown him to such close intimacy with Pearl's
family, required that he should be at least fairly frank. At last in
a sort of cold desperation he said:
'I cannot meet anyone . . . There it something that happened . . .
Something I did . . . Nothing can make it right . . . All I can do is
to lose myself in the wildest, grimmest, wilderness in the world; and
fight my pain . . . my shame . . . !'
A long silence. Then the old man's voice came clear and sweet,
something like music, in the shelter from the storm:
'But perhaps time may mend things. God is very good . . . !' Harold
answered out of the bitterness of his heart. He felt that his words
were laden with an anger which he did not feel, but he did not see
his way to alter them:
'Nothing can mend this thing! It is at the farthest point of evil;
and there is no going on or coming back. Nothing can wipe out what
is done; what is past!'
Again silence, and again the strong, gentle voice:
'God can do much! Oh my dear young friend, you who have been such a
friend to me and mine, think of this.'
'God Himself can do nothing here! It is done! And that is the end!'
He turned his head; it was all he could do to keep from groaning.
The old man's voice vibrated with earnest conviction as he spoke:
'You are young and strong and brave! Your heart is noble! You can
think quickly in moments of peril; therefore your brain is sound and
alert. Now, may I ask you a favour? it is not much. Only that you
will listen, without interruption, to what, if I have your
permission, I am going to say. Do not ask me anything; do not deny;
do not interrupt! Only listen! May I ask this?'
'By all means! It is not much!' he almost felt like smiling as he
spoke. Mr. Stonehouse, after a short pause, as if arranging his
'Let me tell you what I am. I began life with nothing but a fair
education such as all our American boys get. But from a good mother
I got an idea that to be honest was the best of all things; from a
strenuous father, who, however, could not do well for himself, I
learned application to work and how best to use and exercise such
powers as were in me. From the start things prospered with me. Men
who knew me trusted me; some came with offers to share in my
enterprise. Thus I had command of what capital I could use; I was
able to undertake great works and to carry them through. Fortune
kept growing and growing; for as I got wealthier I found newer and
larger and more productive uses for my money. And in all my work I
can say before God I never willingly wronged any man. I am proud to
be able to say that my name stands good wherever it has been used.
It may seem egotistical that I say such things of myself. It may
seem bad taste; but I speak because I have a motive in so doing. I
want you to understand at the outset that in my own country, wherever
I am known and in my own work, my name is a strength.'
He paused a while. Harold sat still; he knew that such man would
not, could not, speak in such a way without a strong motive; and to
learn that motive he waited.
'When you were in the water making what headway you could in that
awful sea--when my little child's life hung in the balance, and the
anguish of my wife's heart nearly tore my heart in two, I said to
myself, "If we had a son I should wish him to be like that." I meant
it then, and I mean it now! Come to me as you are! Faults, and
past, and all. Forget the past! Whatever it was we will together
try to wipe it out. Much may be done in restoring where there has
been any wrong-doing. Take my name as your own. It will protect you
from the result of what ever has been, and give you an opportunity to
find your place again. You are not bad in heart I know. Whatever
you have done has not been from base motives. Few of us are spotless
as to facts. You and I will show ourselves--for unless God wills to
the opposite we shall confide in none other--that a strong, brave man
may win back all that was lost. Let me call you by my name and hold
you as the son of my heart; and it will be a joy and pleasure to my
As he had spoken, Harold's thought's had at first followed in some
wonderment. But gradually, as his noble purpose unfolded, based as
it was on a misconception as to the misdoing of which he himself had
spoken, he had been almost stricken dumb. At the first realisation
of what was intended he could not have spoken had he tried; but at
the end he had regained his thoughts and his voice. There was still
wonderment in it, as realising from the long pause that the old man
had completed his suggestion, he spoke:
'If I understand aright you are offering me your name! Offering to
share your honour with me. With me, whom, if again I understand, you
take as having committed some crime?'
'I inferred from what you said and from your sadness, your desire to
shun your kind, that there was, if not a crime, some fault which
'But your honour, sir; your honour!' There was a proud look in the
old man's eyes as he said quietly:
'It was my desire, is my desire, to share with you what I have that
is best; and that, I take it, is not the least valuable of my
possessions, such as they are! And why not? You have given to me
all that makes life sweet; without which it would be unbearable.
That child who came to my wife and me when I was old and she had
passed her youth is all in all to us both. Had your strength and
courage been for barter in the moments when my child was quivering
between life and death, I would have cheerfully purchased them with
not half but all! Sir, I should have given my soul! I can say this
now, for gratitude is above all barter; and surely it is allowed to a
father to show gratitude for the life of his child!'
This great-hearted generosity touched Harold to the quick. He could
hardly speak for a few minutes. Then instinctively grasping the old
man's hand he said:
'You overwhelm me. Such noble trust and generosity as you have shown
me demands a return of trust. But I must think! Will you remain
here and let me return to you in a little while?'
He rose quickly and slipped down the iron ladder, passing into the
darkness and the mist and the flying spray.
CHAPTER XXVII--AGE'S WISDOM
Harold went to and fro on the deserted deck. All at once the course
he had to pursue opened out before him. He was aware that what the
noble-minded old man offered him was fortune, great fortune in any
part of the world. He would have to be refused, but the refusal
should be gently done. He, believing that the other had done
something very wrong, had still offered to share with him his name,
his honour. Such confidence demanded full confidence in return; the
unwritten laws which governed the men amongst whom he had been
brought up required it.
And the shape that confidence should take? He must first disabuse
his new friend's mind of criminal or unworthy cause for his going
away. For the sake of his own name and that of his dead father that
should be done. Then he would have to suggest the real cause . . .
He would in this have to trust Mr. Stonehouse's honour for secrecy.
But he was worthy of trust. He would, of course, give no name, no
clue; but he would put things generally in a way that he could
When his mind was so far made up he wanted to finish the matter, so
he turned to the wheelhouse and climbed the ladder again. It was not
till he sat in the shelter by his companion that he became aware that
he had become wet with the spray. The old man wishing to help him in
his embarrassment said:
'Well?' Harold began at once; the straightforward habit of his life
stood to him now:
'Let me say first, sir, what will I know give you pleasure.' The old
man extended his hand; he had been hoping for acceptance, and this
seemed like it. Harold laid his hand on it for an instant only, and
then raised it as if to say 'Wait':
'You have been so good to me, so nobly generous in your wishes that I
feel I owe you a certain confidence. But as it concerns not myself
alone I will ask that it be kept a secret between us two. Not to be
told to any other; not even your wife!'
'I will hold your secret sacred. Even from my wife; the first secret
I shall have ever kept from her.'
'First, then, let me say, and this is what I know will rejoice you,
that I am not leaving home and country because of any crime I have
committed; not from any offence against God or man, or law. Thank
God! I am free from such. I have always tried to live uprightly . .
. ' Here a burst of pain overcame him, and with a dry sob he added:
'And that is what makes the terrible unfairness of it all!'
The old man laid a kindly hand on his shoulder and kept it there for
a few moments.
'My poor boy! My poor boy!' was all he said. Harold shook himself
as if to dislodge the bitter thoughts. Mastering himself he went on:
'There was a lady with whom I was very much thrown in contact since
we were children. Her father was my father's friend. My friend too,
God knows; for almost with his dying breath he gave sanction to my
marrying his daughter, if it should ever be that she should care for
me in that way. But he wished me to wait, and, till she was old
enough to choose, to leave her free. For she is several years
younger than I am; and I am not very old yet--except in heart! All
this, you understand, was said in private to me; none other knew it.
None knew of it even till this moment when I tell you that such a
thing has been.' He paused; the other said:
'Believe me that I value your confidence, beyond all words!' Harold
felt already the good effects of being able to speak of his pent-up
trouble. Already this freedom from the nightmare loneliness of his
own thoughts seemed to be freeing his very soul.
'I honestly kept to his wishes. Before God, I did! No man who loved
a woman, honoured her, worshipped her, could have been more
scrupulously careful as to leaving her free. What it was to me to so
hold myself no one knows; no one ever will know. For I loved her, do
love her, with every nerve and fibre of my heart. All our lives we
had been friends; and I believed we loved and trusted each other.
But . . . but then there came a day when I found by chance that a
great trouble threatened her. Not from anything wrong that she had
done; but from something perhaps foolish, harmlessly foolish except
that she did not know . . . ' He stopped suddenly, fearing he might
have said overmuch of Stephen's side of the affair. 'When I came to
her aid, however, meaning the best, and as single-minded as a man can
be, she misunderstood my words, my meaning, my very coming; and she
said things which cannot be unsaid. Things . . . matters were so
fixed that I could not explain; and I had to listen. She said things
that I did not believe she could have said to me, to anyone. Things
that I did not think she could have thought . . . I dare say she was
right in some ways. I suppose I bungled in my desire to be
unselfish. What she said came to me in new lights upon what I had
done . . . But anyhow her statements were such that I felt I could
not, should not, remain. My very presence must have been a trouble
to her hereafter. There was nothing for it but to come away. There
was no place for me! No hope for me! There is none on this side of
the grave! . . . For I love her still, more than ever. I honour and
worship her still, and ever will, and ever must! . . . I am content
to forego my own happiness; but I feel there is a danger to her from
what has been. That there is and must be to her unhappiness even
from the fact that it was I who was the object of her wrath; and this
adds to my woe. Worst of all is . . . the thought and the memory
that she should have done so; she who . . . she . . . '
He turned away overcome and hid his face in his hands. The old man
sat still; he knew that at such a moment silence is the best form of
sympathy. But his heart glowed; the wisdom of his years told him
that he had heard as yet of no absolute bar to his friend's ultimate
'I am rejoiced, my dear boy, at what you tell me of your own conduct.
It would have made no difference to me had it been otherwise. But it
would have meant a harder and longer climb back to the place you
should hold. But it really seems that nothing is so hopeless as you
think. Believe me, my dear young friend who are now as a son to my
heart, that there will be bright days for you yet . . . ' He paused
a moment, but mastering himself went on in a quiet voice:
'I think you are wise to go away. In the solitudes and in danger
things that are little in reality will find their true perspective;
and things that are worthy will appear in their constant majesty.'
He stood, and laying once again his hand on the young man's shoulder
'I recognise that I--that we, for my wife and little girl would be at
one with me in my wish, did they know of it, must not keep you from
your purpose of fighting out your trouble alone. Every man, as the
Scotch proverb says, must "dree his own weird." I shall not, I must
not, ask you for any promise; but I trust that if ever you do come
back you will make us all glad by seeing you. And remember that what
I said of myself and of all I have--all--holds good so long as I
Before Harold could reply he had slipped down the ladder and was
During the rest of the voyage, with the exception of one occasion, he
did not allude to the subject again by word or implication, and
Harold was grateful to him for it.
On the night before Fire Island should be sighted Harold was in the
bow of the great ship looking out with eyes in which gleamed no hope.
To him came through the darkness Mr. Stonehouse. He heard the
footsteps and knew them; so with the instinct of courtesy, knowing
that his friend would not intrude on his solitude without purpose, he
turned and met him. When the American stood beside him he said,
studiously avoiding looking at his companion:
'This is the last night we shall be together, and, if I may, there is
one thing I would like to say to you.'
'Say all you like, sir,' said Harold as heartily as he could, 'I am
sure it is well meant; and for that at any rate I shall be grateful
'You will yet be grateful, I think!' he answered gravely. 'When it
comes back to you in loneliness and solitude you will, I believe,
think it worth being grateful for. I don't mean that you will be
grateful to me, but for the thing itself. I speak out of the wisdom
of many years. At your time of life the knowledge cannot come from
observation. It may my poor boy, come through pain; and if what I
think is correct you will even in due time be grateful to the pain
which left such golden residuum.' He paused, and Harold grew
interested. There was something in the old man's manner which
presaged a truth; he, at least, believed it. So the young man
listened at first with his ears; and as the other spoke, his heart
'Young men are apt to think somewhat wrongly of women they love and
respect. We are apt to think that such women are of a different clay
from ourselves. Nay! that they are not compact of clay at all, but
of some faultless, flawless material which the Almighty keeps for
such fine work. It is only in middle age that men--except scamps,
who learn this bad side of knowledge young--realise that women are
human beings like themselves. It may be, you know, that you may have
misjudged this young lady! That you have not made sufficient
allowance for her youth, her nature, even the circumstances under
which she spoke. You have told me that she was in some deep grief or
trouble. May it not have been that this in itself unnerved her,
distorted her views, aroused her passion till all within and around
was tinged with the jaundice of her concern, her humiliation--
whatever it was that destroyed for the time that normal self which
you had known so long. May it not have been that her bitterest
memory even since may be of the speaking of these very words which
sent you out into the wide world to hide yourself from men. I have
thought, waking and sleeping, of your position ever since you
honoured me with your confidence; and with every hour the conviction
has strengthened in me that there is a way out of this situation
which sends a man like you into solitude with a heart hopeless and
full of pain; and which leaves her perhaps in greater pain, for she
has not like you the complete sense of innocence. But at present
there is no way out but through time and thought. Whatever may be
her ideas or wishes she is powerless. She does not know your
thoughts, no matter how she may guess at them. She does not know
where you are or how to reach you, no matter how complete her
penitence may be. And oh! my dear young friend, remember that you
are a strong man, and she is a woman. Only a woman in her passion
and her weakness after all. Think this all over, my poor boy! You
will have time and opportunity where you are going. God help you to
judge wisely!' After a pause of a few seconds he said abruptly:
'Good night!' and moved quickly away.
When the time for parting came Pearl was inconsolable. Not knowing
any reason why The Man should not do as she wished she was persistent
in her petitions to Harold that he should come with her, and to her
father and mother that they should induce him to do so. Mrs.
Stonehouse would have wished him to join them if only for a time.
Her husband, unable to give any hint without betraying confidence,
had to content himself with trying to appease his little daughter by
vague hopes rather than promises that her friend would join them at
some other time.
When the Scoriac was warped at the pier there was a tendency on the
part of the passengers to give Harold a sort of public send-off; but
becoming aware of it he hurried down the gangway without waiting.
Having only hand luggage, for he was to get his equipment in New
York, he had cleared and passed the ring of customs officers before
the most expeditious of the other passengers had collected their
baggage. He had said good-bye to the Stonehouses in their own cabin.
Pearl had been so much affected at saying good-bye, and his heart had
so warmed to her, that at last he had said impulsively:
'Don't cry, darling. If I am spared I shall come back to you within
three years. Perhaps I will write before then; but there are not
many post-offices where I am going to!'
Children are easily satisfied. Their trust makes a promise a real
thing; and its acceptance is the beginning of satisfaction. But for
weeks after the parting she had often fits of deep depression, and at
such times her tears always flowed. She took note of the date, and
there was never a day that she did not think of and sigh for The Man.
And The Man, away in the wilds of Alaska, was feeling, day by day and
hour by hour, the chastening and purifying influences of the
wilderness. Hot passions cooled before the breath of the snowfield
and the glacier. The moaning of a tortured spirit was lost in the
roar of the avalanche and the scream of the cyclone. Pale sorrow and
cold despair were warmed and quickened by the fierce sunlight which
came suddenly and stayed only long enough to vitalise all nature.
And as the first step to understanding, The Man forgot himself.
CHAPTER XXVIII--DE LANNOY
Not much to look back upon, but a world to look forward to. To
Stephen, dowered though she was with rare personal gifts and with
wealth and position accorded to but few, the hours of waiting were
longer than the years that were past. Yet the time had new and
startling incidents for her. Towards Christmas in the second year
the Boer war had reached its climax of evil. As the news of disaster
after disaster was flashed through the cable she like others felt
appalled at the sacrifices that were being exacted by the God of War.
One day she casually read in The Times that the Earl de Lannoy had
died in his London mansion, and further learned that he had never
recovered from the shock of hearing that his two sons and his nephew
had been killed. The paragraph concluded: "By his death the title
passes to a distant relative. The new Lord de Lannoy is at present
in India with his regiment, the 35th or 'Grey' Hussars, of which he
is Colonel." She gave the matter a more than passing thought, for it
was sad to find a whole family thus wiped out at a blow.
Early in February she received a telegram from her London solicitor
saying that he wished to see her on an important matter. Her answer
was: "Come at once"; and at tea-time Mr. Copleston arrived. He was
an old friend and she greeted him warmly. She was a little chilled
when he answered with what seemed unusual deference:
'I thank your Ladyship for your kindness!' She raised her eyebrows
but made no comment: she was learning to be silent under surprise.
When she had handed the old gentleman his tea she said:
'My aunt has chosen to remain away, thinking that you might wish to
see me privately. But I take it that there is nothing which she may
not share. I have no secrets from her.'
He rubbed his hands genially as he replied:
'Not at all; not at all! I should like her to be present. It will,
I am sure, be a delight to us all.'
Again raised eyebrows; again silence on the subject. When a servant
answered her bell she told him to ask Miss Rowly if she would kindly
Aunt Laetitia and the solicitor were old cronies, and their greeting
was most friendly. When the old gentlewoman had seated herself and
taken her cup of tea, Mr. Copleston said to Stephen, with a sort of
'I have to announce your succession to the Earldom de Lannoy!'
Stephen sat quite still. She knew the news was true; Mr. Copleston
was not one who would jest on a business subject, and too accurate a
lawyer to make an error in a matter of fact. But the fact did not
seem to touch her. It was not that she was indifferent to it; few
women could hear such news without a thrill. Mr. Copleston seemed at
a loss. Miss Rowly rose and quietly kissed her, and saying simply,
'God bless you, my dear!' went back to her seat.
Realising that Mr. Copleston expected some acknowledgment, Stephen
held out her hand to him and said quietly:
After a long pause she added quietly:
'Now, won't you tell us about it? I am in absolute ignorance; and
'I had better not burden you, at first, with too many details, which
can come later; but give you a rough survey of the situation.'
'Your title of Countess de Lannoy comes to you through your ancestor
Isobel, third and youngest daughter of the sixth Earl; Messrs
Collinbrae and Jackson, knowing that my firm acted for your family,
communicated with us. Lest there should be any error we followed
most carefully every descendant and every branch of the family, for
we thought it best not to communicate with you till your right of
inheritance was beyond dispute. We arrived independently at the same
result as Messrs. Collinbrae and Jackson. There is absolutely no
doubt whatever of your claim. You will petition the Crown, and on
reference to the House of Lords the Committee for Privileges will
admit your right. May I offer my congratulations, Lady de Lannoy on
your acquisition? By the way, I may say that all the estates of the
Earldom, which have been from the first kept in strict entail, go
with the title de Lannoy.'
During the recital Stephen was conscious of a sort of bitter comment
on the tendencies of good fortune.
'Too late! too late!' something seemed to whisper, 'what delight it
would have been had Father inherited . . . If Harold had not gone . .
. !' All the natural joy seemed to vanish, as bubbles break into
To Aunt Laetitia the new title was a source of pride and joy, far
greater than would have been the case had it come to herself. She
had for so many years longed for new honours for Stephen that she had
almost come to regard them as a right whose coming should not be too
long delayed. Miss Rowly had never been to Lannoy; and, indeed, she
knew personally nothing of the county Angleshire in which it was
situated. She was naturally anxious to see the new domain; but kept
her feeling concealed during the months that elapsed until Stephen's
right had been conceded by the Committee for Privileges. But after
that her impatience became manifest to Stephen, who said one day in a
teasing, caressing way, as was sometimes her wont:
'Why, Auntie, what a hurry you are in! Lannoy will keep, won't it?'
'Oh, my dear,' she replied, shaking her head, 'I can understand your
own reticence, for you don't want to seem greedy and in a hurry about
your new possessions. But when people come to my age there's no time
to waste. I feel I would not have complete material for happiness in
the World-to-come, if there were not a remembrance of my darling in
her new home!'
Stephen was much touched; she said impulsively:
'We shall go to-morrow, Auntie. No! Let us go to-day. You shall
not wait an hour that I can help!' She ran to the bell; but before
her hand was on the cord the other said:
'Not yet! Stephen dear. It would flurry me to start all at once;
to-morrow will be time enough. And that will give you time to send
word so that they will be prepared for your coming.'
How often do we look for that to-morrow which never comes? How often
do we find that its looked-for rosy tints are none other than the
gloom-laden grey of the present?
Before the morrow's sun was high in the heavens Stephen was hurriedly
summoned to her aunt's bedside. She lay calm and peaceful; but one
side of her face was alive and the other seemingly dead. In the
night a paralytic stroke had seized her. The doctors said she might
in time recover a little, but she would never be her old active self
again. She herself, with much painful effort, managed to convey to
Stephen that she knew the end was near. Stephen, knowing the wish of
her heart and thinking that it might do her good to gratify her wish,
asked if she should arrange that she be brought to Lannoy. Feebly
and slowly, word by word, she managed to convey her idea.
'Not now, dear one. I shall see it all in time!--Soon! And I shall
understand and rejoice!' For a long time she lay still, holding with
her right hand, which was not paralysed, the other's hand. Then she
'You will find happiness there!' She said no more; but seemed to
From that sleep she never woke, but faded slowly, softly away.
Stephen was broken-hearted. Now, indeed, she felt alone and
desolate. All were gone. Father, uncle, aunt!--And Harold. The
kingdoms of the Earth which lay at her feet were of no account. One
hour of the dead or departed, any of them, back again were worth them
Normanstand was now too utterly lonely to be endurable; so Stephen
determined to go, for a time at any rate, to Lannoy. She was
becoming accustomed to be called 'my lady' and 'your ladyship,' and
the new loneness made her feel better prepared to take her place
amongst new surroundings.
In addition, there was another spur to her going. Leonard Everard,
knowing of her absolute loneliness, and feeling that in it was a
possibility of renewing his old status, was beginning to make himself
apparent. He had learned by experience a certain wisdom, and did not
put himself forward obtrusively. But whenever they met he looked at
her so meekly and so lovingly that it brought remembrances which came
with blushes. So, all at once, without giving time for the news to
permeate through the neighbourhood, she took her way to Lannoy with a
Stephen's life had hitherto been spent inland. She had of course now
and again been for short periods to various places; but the wonder of
the sea as a constant companion had been practically unknown to her.
Now at her new home its full splendour burst upon her; and so
impressed itself upon her that new life seemed to open.
Lannoy was on the north-eastern coast, the castle standing at the
base of a wide promontory stretching far into the North Sea. From
the coast the land sloped upward to a great rolling ridge. The
outlook seaward was over a mighty expanse of green sward, dotted here
and there with woods and isolated clumps of trees which grew fewer
and smaller as the rigour of the northern sea was borne upon them by
the easterly gales.
The coast was a wild and lonely one. No habitation other than an
isolated fisher's cottage was to be seen between the little fishing-
port at the northern curve away to the south, where beyond a waste of
sandhills and strand another tiny fishing-village nestled under a
high cliff, sheltering it from northerly wind. For centuries the
lords of Lannoy had kept their magnificent prospect to themselves;
and though they had treated their farmers and cottagers well, none
had ever been allowed to settle in the great park to seaward of the
From the terrace of the castle only than one building, other than the
cottage on the headland, could be seen. Far off on the very crest of
the ridge was the tower of an old windmill.