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Born In Exile by George Gissing

Part 10 out of 10

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Godwin mused on this development of the girl whom he remembered so
well. He could not direct his thoughts; a languor had crept over

'Do you recollect, Peak,' said Christian, presently, 'the talk we
had in the fields by Twybridge, when we first met?'

The old friendliness was reappearing in his manner, He was yielding
to the impulse to be communicative, confidential, which had always
characterised him.

'I remember,' Godwin murmured.

'If only my words then had had any weight with you! And if only I
had acted upon my own advice! Just for those few weeks I was sane; I
understood something of life; I saw my true way before me. You and I
have both gone after ruinous ideals, instead of taking the solid
good held out to us. Of course, I know your story in outline. I
don't ask you to talk about it. You are independent now, and I hope
you can use your freedom.--Well, and I too am free.'

The last words were in a lower tone. Godwin glanced at the speaker,
whose sadness was not banished, but illumined with a ray of calm

'Have you ever thought of me and my infatuation?' Christian asked.


'I have outlived that mawkish folly. I used to drink too much; the
two things went well together. It would shame me to tell you all
about it. But, happily, I have been able to go back about thirteen
years--recover my old sane self--and with it what I then threw

'I understand.'

'Do you? Marcella knew of it, just before her death, and it made her
glad. But the waste of years, the best part of a lifetime! It's
incredible to me as I look back. Janet called on us one day in
London. Heaven be thanked that she was forgiving enough to do so!
What would have become of me now?'

'How are you going to live, then?' Godwin asked, absently.

'How? My income is sufficient'----

'No, no; I mean, where and how will you live in your married life?'

'That's still uncertain. Janet mustn't go on with professional work.
In any case, I don't think she could for long; her strength isn't
equal to it. But I shouldn't wonder if we settle in Kingsmill. To
you it would seem intolerable? But why should we live in London? At
Kingsmill Janet has a large circle of friends; in London we know
scarcely half-a-dozen people--of the kind it would give us any
pleasure to live with. We shall have no lack of intellectual
society; Janet knows some of the Whitelaw professors. The atmosphere
of Kingsmill isn't illiberal, you know; we shan't be fought shy of
because we object to pass Sundays in a state of coma. But the years
that I have lost! The irrecoverable years!'

'There's nothing so idle as regretting the past,' said Godwin, with
some impatience. 'Why groan over what couldn't be otherwise? The
probability is, Janet and you are far better suited to each other
now than you ever would have been if you had married long ago.'

'You think that?' exclaimed the other, eagerly. 'I have tried to see
it in that light. If I didn't feel so despicable!'

'She, I take it, doesn't think you so,' Godwin muttered.

'But how can she understand? I have tried to tell her everything,
but she refused to listen. Perhaps Marcella told her all she cared
to know.'

'No doubt.'

Each brooded for a while over his own affairs, then Christian
reverted to the subject which concerned them both.

'Let us speak frankly. You will take this gift of Marcella's as it
was meant?'

How ~was~ it meant? Critic and analyst as ever, Godwin could not be
content to see in it the simple benefaction of a woman who died
loving him. Was it not rather the last subtle device of jealousy?
Marcella knew that the legacy would be a temptation he could
scarcely resist--and knew at the same time that, if he accepted
it, he practically renounced his hope of marrying Sidwell
Warricombe. Doubtless she had learned as much as she needed to know
of Sidwell's position. Refusing this bequest, he was as far as ever
from the possibility of asking Sidwell to marry him. Profiting by
it, he stood for ever indebted to Marcella, must needs be grateful
to her, and some day, assuredly, would reveal the truth to whatever
woman became his wife. Conflict of reasonings and emotions made it
difficult to answer Moxey's question.

'I must take time to think of it,' he said, at length.

'Well, I suppose that is right. But--well, I know so little of
your circumstances'----

'Is that strictly true?' Peak asked.

'Yes. I have only the vaguest idea of what you have been doing since
you left us. Of course I have tried to find out.'

Godwin smiled, rather gloomily.

'We won't talk of it. I suppose you stay in St. Helen's for the

'There's a train at 10.20. I had better go by it.'

'Then let us forget everything but your own cheerful outlook. At
ten, I'll walk with you to the station.'

Reluctantly at first, but before long with a quiet abandonment to
the joy that would not be suppressed, Christian talked of his future
wife. In Janet he found every perfection. Her mind was something
more than the companion of his own. Already she had begun to inspire
him with a hopeful activity, and to foster the elements of true
manliness which he was conscious of possessing, though they had
never yet had free play. With a sense of luxurious safety, he
submitted to her influence, knowing none the less that it was in his
power to complete her imperfect life. Studiously he avoided the word
'ideal'; from such vaporous illusions he had turned to the world's
actualities; his language dealt with concretes, with homely
satisfactions, with prospects near enough to be soberly examined.

A hurry to catch the train facilitated parting. Godwin promised to
write in a few days.

He took a roundabout way back to his lodgings. The rain was over,
the sky had become placid. He was conscious of an effect from
Christian's conversation which half counteracted the mood he would
otherwise have indulged,--the joy of liberty and of an outlook
wholly new. Sidwell might perchance be to him all that Janet was to
Christian. Was it not the luring of 'ideals' that prompted him to
turn away from his long hope?

There must be no more untruthfulness. Sidwell must have all the
facts laid before her, and make her choice.

Without a clear understanding of what he was going to write, he sat
down at eleven o'clock, and began, 'Dear Miss Warricombe'. Why not
'Dear Sidwell'? He took another sheet of paper.

'Dear Sidwell,--To-night I can remember only your last word to me
when we parted. I cannot address you coldly, as though half a
stranger. Thus long I have kept silence about everything but the
outward events of my life; now, in telling you of something that has
happened, I must speak as I think.

'Early this evening I was surprised by a visit from Christian
Moxey--a name you know. He came to tell me that his sister (she of
whom I once spoke to you) was dead, and had bequeathed to me a large
sum of money. He said that it represented an income of eight hundred

'I knew nothing of Miss Moxey's illness, and the news of her will
came to me as a surprise. In word or deed, I never sought more than
her simple friendship--and even ~that~ I believed myself to have

'If I were to refuse this money, it would be in consequence of a
scruple which I do not in truth respect. Christian Moxey tells me
that his sister's desire was to enable me to live the life of a free
man; and if I have any duty at all in the matter, surely it does not
constrain me to defeat her kindness. No condition whatever is
attached. The gift releases me from the necessity of leading a
hopeless existence--leaves me at liberty to direct my life how I

'I wish, then, to put aside all thoughts of how this opportunity
came to me, and to ask you if you are willing to be my wife.

'Though I have never written a word of love, my love is unchanged.
The passionate hope of three years ago still rules my life. Is
~your~ love strong enough to enable you to disregard all hindrances?
I cannot of course know whether, in your sight, dishonour still
clings to me, or whether you understand me well enough to have
forgiven and forgotten those hateful things in the past. Is it yet
too soon? Do you wish me still to wait, still to prove myself? Is
your interest in the free man less than in the slave? For my life
has been one of slavery and exile--exile, if you know what I mean by
it, from the day of my birth.

'Dearest, grant me this great happiness! We can live where we will.
I am not rich enough to promise all the comforts and refinements to
which you are accustomed, but we should be safe from sordid
anxieties. We can travel; we can make a home in any European city.
It would be idle to speak of the projects and ambitions that fill my
mind--but surely I may do something worth doing, win some position
among intellectual men of which you would not be ashamed. You
yourself urged chance, that I may know the joy of satisfied love! I
am past the me to hope that. With you at my side--Sidwell, grant me
this age which is misled by vain fancies. I have suffered
unspeakably, longed for the calm strength, the pure, steady purpose
which would result to me from a happy marriage. There is no fatal
divergence between our minds; did you not tell me that? You said
that if I had been truthful from the first, you might have loved me
with no misgiving. Forget the madness into which I was betrayed.
There is no soil upon my spirit. I offer you love as noble as any
man is capable of. Think--think well--before replying to me; let
your true self prevail. You ~did~ love me, dearest.----

Yours ever,
Godwin Peak.'

At first he wrote slowly, as though engaged on a literary
composition, with erasions, insertions. Facts once stated, he
allowed himself to forget how Sidwell would most likely view them,
and thereafter his pen hastened: fervour inspired the last
paragraph. Sidwell's image had become present to him, and exercised
all--or nearly all--its old influence.

The letter must be copied, because of that laboured beginning.
Copying one's own words is at all times a disenchanting drudgery,
and when the end was reached Godwin signed his name with hasty
contempt. What answer could he expect to such an appeal? How vast an
improbability that Sidwell would consent to profit by the gift of
Marcella Moxey!

Yet how otherwise could he write? With what show of sincerity could
he ~offer~ to refuse the bequest? Nay, in that case he must not
offer to do so, but simply state the fact that his refusal was
beyond recall. Logically, he had chosen the only course open to him,
--for to refuse independence was impossible.

A wheezy clock in his landlady's kitchen was striking two. For very
fear of having to revise his letter in the morning, he put it into
its envelope, and went out to the nearest pillar-post.

That was done. Whether Sidwell answered with 'Yes' or with 'No', he
was a free man.

On the morrow he went to his work as usual, and on the day after
that. The third morning might bring a reply--but did not. On the
evening of the fifth day, when he came home, there lay the expected
letter. He felt it; it was light and thin. That hideous choking of
suspense--Well, it ran thus:

'I cannot. It is not that I am troubled by your accepting the
legacy. You have every right to do so, and I know that your
life will justify the hopes of her who thus befriended you. But
I am too weak to take this step. To ask you to wait yet longer,
would only be a fresh cowardice. You cannot know how it
shames me to write this. In my very heart I believe I love
you, but what is such love worth? You must despise me, and
you will forget me. I live in a little world; in the greater world
where your place is, you will win a love very different.

S. W.'

Godwin laughed aloud as the paper dropped from his hand.

Well, she was not the heroine of a romance. Had he expected her to
leave home and kindred--the 'little world' so infinitely dear to
her--and go forth with a man deeply dishonoured? Very young girls
have been known to do such a thing; but a thoughtful mature woman
----! Present, his passion had dominated her: and perhaps her nerves
only. But she had had time to recover from that weakness.

A woman, like most women of cool blood, temperate fancies. A
domestic woman; the ornament of a typical English home.

Most likely it was true that the matter of the legacy did not
trouble her. In any case she would not have consented to marry him,
and ~therefore~ she knew no jealousy. Her love! why, truly, what was
it worth?

(Much, much! of no less than infinite value. He knew it, but this
was not the moment for such a truth.)

A cup of tea to steady the nerves. Then thoughts, planning,

He was awake all night, and Sidwell's letter lay within reach.--
Did ~she~ sleep calmly? Had she never stretched out her hand for
~his~ letter, when all was silent? There were men who would not take
such a refusal. A scheme to meet her once more--the appeal of
passion, face to face, heart to heart--the means of escape ready
--and then the 'greater world'----

But neither was he cast in heroic mould. He had not the
self-confidence, he had not the hot, youthful blood. A critic of
life, an analyst of moods and motives; not the man who dares and
acts. The only important resolve he had ever carried through was a
scheme of ignoble trickery--to end in frustration.

'The greater world'. It was a phrase that had been in his own mind
once or twice since Moxey's visit. To point him thither was
doubtless the one service Sidwell could render him. And in a day or
two, that phrase was all that remained to him of her letter.

On a Sunday afternoon at the end of October, Godwin once more
climbed the familiar stairs at Staple Inn, and was welcomed by his
friend Earwaker. The visit was by appointment. Earwaker knew all
about the legacy; that it was accepted; and that Peak had only a few
days to spend in London, on his way to the Continent.

'You are regenerated,' was his remark as Godwin entered.

'Do I look it? Just what I feel. I have shaken off a good (or a bad)
ten years.'

The speaker's face, at all events in this moment, was no longer that
of a man at hungry issue with the world. He spoke cheerily.

'It isn't often that fortune does a man such a kind turn. One often
hears it said: If only I could begin life again with all the
experience I have gained! That is what I ~can~ do. I can break
utterly with the past, and I have learnt how to live in the future.'

'Break utterly with the past?'

'In the practical sense. And even morally to a great extent.'

Earwaker pushed a box of cigars across the table. Godwin accepted
the offer, and began to smoke. During these moments of silence, the
man of letters had been turning over a weekly paper, as if in search
of some paragraph; a smile announced his discovery.

'Here is something that will interest you--possibly you have seen

He began to read aloud:

'"On the 23rd inst. was celebrated at St. Bragg's, Torquay, the
marriage of the Rev. Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers, late Rector of St
Margaret's, Exeter, and the Hon. Bertha Harriet Cecilia Jute, eldest
daughter of the late Baron Jute. The ceremony was conducted by the
Hon. and Rev. J. C. Jute, uncle of the bride, assisted by the Rev.
F. Miller, the Very Rev. Dean Pinnock, the Rev. H. S. Crook, and the
Rev. William Tomkinson. The bride was given away by Lord Jute. Mr
Horatio Dukinfield was best man. The bridal dress was of white
brocade, draped with Brussels lace, the corsage being trimmed with
lace and adorned with orange blossoms. The tulle veil, fastened with
three diamond stars, the gifts of"----Well, shall I go on?'

'The triumph of Chilvers!' murmured Godwin. 'I wonder whether the
Hon. Bertha is past her fortieth year?'

'A blooming beauty, I dare say. But Lord! how many people it takes
to marry a man like Chilvers! How sacred the union must be!--Pray
take a paragraph more: "The four bridesmaids--Miss--etc., etc.
--wore cream crepon dresses trimmed with turquoise blue velvet, and
hats to match. The bridegroom's presents to them were diamond and
ruby brooches."'

'Chilvers ~in excelsis~!--So he is no longer at Exeter; has no
living, it seems. What does he aim at next, I wonder?'

Earwaker cast meaning glances at his friend.

'I understand you,' said Godwin, at length. 'You mean that this
merely illustrates my own ambition. Well, you are right, I confess
my shame--and there's an end of it.'

He puffed at his cigar, resuming presently:

'But it would be untrue if I said that I regretted anything.
Constituted as I am, there was no other way of learning my real
needs and capabilities. Much in the past is hateful to me, but it
all had its use. There are men--why, take your own case. You look
back on life, no doubt, with calm and satisfaction.'

'Rather, with resignation.'

Godwin let his cigar fall, and laughed bitterly.

'Your resignation has kept pace with life. I was always a rebel. My
good qualities--I mean what I say--have always wrecked me. Now
that I haven't to fight with circumstances, they may possibly be
made subservient to my happiness.'

'But what form is your happiness to take?'

'Well, I am leaving England. On the Continent I shall make no fixed
abode, but live in the places where cosmopolitan people are to be
met. I shall make friends; with money at command, one may hope to
succeed in that. Hotels, boarding-houses, and so on, offer the
opportunities. It sounds oddly like the project of a swindler,
doesn't it? There's the curse I can't escape from! Though my desires
are as pure as those of any man living, I am compelled to express
myself as if I were about to do something base and underhand. Simply
because I have never had a social place. I am an individual merely;
I belong to no class, town, family, club'----'Cosmopolitan
people,' mused Earwaker. 'Your ideal is transformed.'

'As you know. Experience only could bring that about. I seek now
only the free, intellectual people--men who have done with the old
conceptions--women who'----

His voice grew husky, and he did not complete the sentence. 'I shall
find them in Paris, Rome.--Earwaker, think of my being able to
speak like this! No day-dreams, but actual sober plans, their
execution to begin in a day or two. Paris, Rome! And a month ago I
was a hopeless slave in a vile manufacturing town.--I wish it were
possible for me to pray for the soul of that poor dead woman. I
don't speak to you of her; but do you imagine I am brutally
forgetful of her to whom I owe all this?'

'I do you justice,' returned the other, quietly.

'I believe you can and do.'

'How grand it is to go forth as I am now going!' Godwin resumed,
after a long pause. 'Nothing to hide, no shams, no pretences. Let
who will inquire about me. I am an independent Englishman, with so
and so much a year. In England I have one friend only--that is
you. The result, you see, of all these years savage striving to knit
myself into the social fabric.'

'Well, you will invite me some day to your villa at Sorrento,' said
Earwaker, encouragingly.

'That I shall!' Godwin's eyes flashed with imaginative delight. 'And
before very long. Never to a home in England!'

'By-the-bye, a request. I have never had your portrait. Sit before
you leave London.'

'No. I'll send you one from Paris--it will be better done.'

'But I am serious. You promise?'

'You shall have the thing in less than a fortnight.'

The promise was kept. Earwaker received an admirable photograph,
which he inserted in his album with a curious sense of satisfaction.
A face by which every intelligent eye must be arrested; which no two
observers would interpret in the same way.

'His mate must be somewhere,' thought the man of letters, 'but he
will never find her.'


In his acceptance of Sidwell's reply, Peak did not care to ask
himself whether the delay of its arrival had any meaning one way or
another. Decency would hardly have permitted her to answer such a
letter by return of post; of course she waited a day or so.

But the interval meant more than this.

Sylvia Moorhouse was staying with her friend. The death of Mrs
Moorhouse, and the marriage of the mathematical brother, had left
Sylvia homeless, though not in any distressing sense; her
inclination was to wander for a year or two, and she remained in
England only until the needful arrangements could be concluded.

'You had better come with me,' she said to Sidwell, as they walked
together on the lawn after luncheon.

The other shook her head.

'Indeed, you had better.--What are you doing here? What are you
going to make of your life?'

'I don't know.'

'Precisely. Yet one ought to live on some kind of plan. I think it
is time you got away from Exeter; it seems to me you are finding its
atmosphere ~morbific~.'

Sidwell laughed at the allusion.

'You know,' she said, 'that the reverend gentleman is shortly to be

'Oh yes, I have heard all about it. But is he forsaking the Church?'

'Retiring only for a time, they say.'

'Forgive the question, Sidwell--did he honour you with a

'Indeed, no!'

'Some one told me it was imminent, not long ago.'

'Quite a mistake,' Sidwell answered, with her grave smile. 'Mr
Chilvers had a singular manner with women in general. It was meant,
perhaps, for subtle flattery; he may have thought it the most
suitable return for the female worship he was accustomed to

Mr. Warricombe was coming towards them. He brought a new subject of
conversation, and as they talked the trio drew near to the gate
which led into the road. The afternoon postman was just entering; Mr
Warricombe took from him two letters.

'One for you, Sylvia, and--one for you, Sidwell.'

A slight change in his voice caused Sidwell to look at her father as
he handed her the letter. In the same moment she recognised the
writing of the address. It was Godwin Peak's, and undoubtedly her
father knew it.

With a momentary hesitation Mr. Warricombe continued his talk from
the point at which he had broken off, but he avoided his daughter's
look, and Sidwell was too well aware of an uneasiness which had
fallen upon him. In a few minutes he brought the chat to an end, and
walked away towards the house.

Sidwell held her letter tightly. Conversation was no longer possible
for her; she had a painful throbbing of the heart, and felt that her
face must be playing traitor. Fortunately, Sylvia found it necessary
to write a reply to the missive she had received, and her companion
was soon at liberty to seek solitude.

For more than an hour she remained alone. However unemotional the
contents of the letter, its arrival would have perturbed her
seriously, as in the two previous instances; what she found on
opening the envelope threw her into so extreme an agitation that it
was long before she could subdue the anguish of disorder in all her
senses. She had tried to believe that Godwin Peak was henceforth
powerless to affect her in this way, write what he would. The
romance of her life was over; time had brought the solution of
difficulties to which she looked forward; she recognised the
inevitable, as doubtless did Godwin also. But all this was
self-deception. The passionate letter delighted as much as it
tortured her; in secret her heart had desired this, though reason
suppressed and denied the hope. No longer need she remember with
pangs of shame the last letter she had written, and the cold
response; once again things were as they should be--the lover
pleading before her--she with the control of his fate. The injury
to her pride was healed, and in the thought that perforce she must
answer with a final 'No', she found at first more of solace than of

Subsidence of physical suffering allowed her to forget this emotion,
in its nature unavowable. She could think of the news Godwin sent,
could torment herself with interpretations of Marcella Moxey's
behaviour, and view in detail the circumstances which enabled Godwin
to urge a formal suit. Among her various thoughts there recurred
frequently a regret that this letter had not reached her, like the
other two, unobserved. Her father had now learnt that she was in
correspondence with the disgraced man; to keep silence would be to
cause him grave trouble; yet how much better if fortune had only
once more favoured her, so that the story might have remained her
secret, from beginning to end.

For was not this the end?----

At the usual time she went to the drawing-room, and somehow
succeeded in conversing as though nothing had disturbed her. Mr
Warricombe was not seen till dinner. When he came forth, Sidwell
noticed his air of preoccupation, and that he avoided addressing
her. The evening asked too much of her self-command; she again
withdrew, and only came back when the household was ready for
retiring. In bidding her father goodnight, she forced herself to
meet his gaze; he looked at her with troubled inquiry, and she felt
her cheek redden.

'Do you want to get rid of me?' asked Sylvia, with wonted frankness,
when her friend drew near.

'No. Let us go to the glass-house.'

Up there on the roof Sidwell often found a retreat when her thoughts
were troublesome. Fitfully, she had resumed her water-colour
drawing, but as a rule her withdrawal to the glass-house was for
reading or reverie. Carrying a small lamp, she led the way before
Sylvia, and they sat down in the chairs which on one occasion had
been occupied by Buck! and Warricombe and Peak.

The wind, rarely silent in this part of Devon, blew boisterously
from the south-west. A far-off whistle, that of a train speeding up
the valley on its way from Plymouth, heightened the sense of
retirement and quietude always to be enjoyed at night here under the

'Have you been thinking over my suggestion?' asked Sylvia, when
there had been silence awhile.

'No,' was the murmured reply.

'Something has happened, I think.'

'Yes. I should like to tell you, Sylvia, but'----


'I ~must~ tell you! I can't keep it in my own mind, and you are the
only one'----

Sylvia was surprised at the agitation which suddenly revealed itself
in her companion's look and voice. She became serious, her eyes
brightening with intellectual curiosity. Feminine expressions of
sympathy were not to be expected from Miss Moorhouse; far more
reassuring to Sidwell was the kind attentiveness with which her
friend bent forward.

'That letter father handed me to-day was from Mr. Peak.'

'You hear from him?'

'This is the third time--since he went away. At our last meeting'
--her voice dropped--'I pledged my faith to him.--Not
absolutely. The future was too uncertain'----

The gleam in Sylvia's eyes grew more vivid. She was profoundly
interested, and did not speak when Sidwell's voice failed.

'You never suspected this?' asked the latter, in a few moments.

'Not exactly that. What I did suspect was that Mr. Peak's departure
resulted from--your rejection of him.'

'There is more to be told,' pursued Sidwell, in tremulous accents.
'You must know it all--because I need your help. No one here has
learnt what took place between us. Mr. Peak did not go away on that
account. But--you remember being puzzled to explain his orthodoxy
in religion?'

She paused. Sylvia gave a nod, signifying much.

'He never believed as he professed,' went on Sidwell, hurriedly.
'You were justified in doubting him. He concealed the truth--
pretended to champion the old faiths'----

For an instant she broke off, then hastened through a description of
the circumstances which had brought about Peak's discovery. Sylvia
could not restrain a smile, but it was softened by the sincere
kindliness of her feeling.

'And it was after this,' she inquired impartially, 'that the
decisive conversation between you took place?'

'No; just before Buckland's announcement. We met again, after that.
--Does it seem incredible to you that I should have let the second
meeting end as it did?'

'I think I understand. Yes, I know you well enough to follow it. I
can even guess at the defence he was able to urge.'

'You can?' asked Sidwell, eagerly. 'You see a possibility of his
defending himself?'

'I should conjecture that it amounted to the old proverb, "All's
fair in love and war". And, putting aside a few moral prejudices,
one can easily enough absolve him.--The fact is, I had long ago
surmised that his motives in taking to such a career had more
reference to this world than the next. You know, I had several long
talks with him; I told you how he interested me. Now I can piece
together my conclusions.'

'Still,' urged Sidwell, 'you must inevitably regard him as ignoble
--as guilty of base deceit. I must hide nothing from you, having
told so much. Have you heard from anyone about his early life?'

'Your mother told me some old stories.'

Sidwell made an impatient gesture. In words of force and ardour,
such as never before had been at her command, she related all she
knew of Godwin's history prior to his settling at Exeter, and
depicted the mood, the impulses, which, by his own confession, had
led to that strange enterprise. Only by long exercise of an
impassioned imagination could she thus thoroughly have identified
herself with a life so remote from her own. Peak's pleading for
himself was scarcely more impressive. In listening, Sylvia
understood how completely Sidwell had cast off the beliefs for which
her ordinary conversation seemed still to betray a tenderness.

'I know,' the speaker concluded, 'that he cannot in that first hour
have come to regard me with a feeling strong enough to determine
what he then undertook. It was not I as an individual, but all of us
here, and the world we represented. Afterwards, he persuaded himself
that he had felt love for me from the beginning. And I, I tried to
believe it--because I wished it true; for his sake, and for my
own. However it was, I could not harden my heart against him. A
thousand considerations forbade me to allow him further hope; but I
refused to listen--no, I ~could~ not listen. I said I would remain
true to him. He went away to take up his old pursuits, and if
possible to make a position for himself. It was to be our secret.
And in spite of everything. I hoped for the future.'

Silence followed, and Sidwell seemed to lose herself in distressful

'And now,' asked her friend, 'what has come to pass?'

'Do you know that Miss Moxey is dead?'

'I haven't heard of it.'

'She is dead, and has left Mr. Peak a fortune.--His letter of today
tells me this. And at the same time he claims my promise.'

Their eyes met. Sylvia still had the air of meditating a most
interesting problem. Impossible to decide from her countenance how
she regarded Sidwell's position.

'But why in the world,' she asked, 'should Marcella Moxey have left
her money to Mr. Peak?'

'They were friends,' was the quick reply. 'She knew all that had
befallen him, and wished to smooth his path.'

Sylvia put several more questions, and to all of them Sidwell
replied with a peculiar decision, as though bent on making it clear
that there was nothing remarkable in this fact of the bequest. The
motive which impelled her was obscure even to her own mind, for ever
since receiving the letter she had suffered harassing doubts where
now she affected to have none. 'She knew, then,' was Sylvia's last
inquiry, 'of the relations between you and Mr. Peak?'

'I am not sure--but I think so. Yes, I think she must have known.'

'From Mr. Peak himself, then?'

Sidwell was agitated.

'Yes--I think so. But what does that matter?'

The other allowed her face to betray perplexity.

'So much for the past,' she said at length. 'And now?'----

'I have not the courage to do what I wish.'

There was a long silence.

'About your wish,' asked Sylvia at length, 'you are not at all

'Not for one moment.--Whether I err in my judgment of him could be
proved only by time; but I know that if I were free, if I stood

She broke off and sighed. 'It would mean, I suppose,' said the
other, 'a rupture with your family?'

'Father would not abandon me, but I should darken the close of his
life. Buckland would utterly cast me off; mother would wish to do
so.--You see, I cannot think and act simply as a woman, as a human
being. I am bound to a certain sphere of life. The fact that I have
outgrown it, counts for nothing. I cannot free myself without injury
to people whom I love. To act as I wish would be to outrage every
rule and prejudice of the society to which I belong. You yourself--
you know how you would regard me.'

Sylvia replied deliberately.

'I am seeing you in a new light, Sidwell. It takes a little time to
reconstruct my conception of you.'

'You think worse of me than you did.'

'Neither better nor worse, but differently. There has been too much
reserve between us. After so long a friendship, I ought to have
known you more thoroughly. To tell the truth, I have thought now and
then of you and Mr. Peak; that was inevitable. But I went astray; it
seemed to me the most unlikely thing that you should regard him with
more than a doubtful interest. I knew, of course, that he had made
you his ideal, and I felt sorry for him.'

'I seemed to you unworthy?'----

'Too placid, too calmly prudent.--In plain words, Sidwell, I do
think better of you.'

Sidwell smiled.

'Only to know me henceforth as the woman who did not dare to act
upon her best impulses.'

'As for "best"--I can't say. I don't glorify passion, as you know;
and on the other hand I have little sympathy with the people who are
always crying out for self-sacrifice. I don't know whether it would
be "best" to throw over your family, or to direct yourself solely
with regard to their comfort.'

Sidwell broke in.

'Yes, that is the true phrase--"their comfort". No higher word
should be used. That is the ideal of the life to which I have been
brought up. Comfort, respectability.--And has ~he~ no right? If I
sacrifice myself to father and mother, do I not sacrifice ~him~ as
well? He has forfeited all claim to consideration--that is what
people say. With my whole soul, I deny it! If he sinned against
anyone, it was against me, and the sin ended as soon as I understood
him. That episode in his life is blotted out; by what law must it
condemn to imperfection the whole of his life and of my own? Yet
because people will not, cannot, look at a thing in a spirit of
justice, I must wrong myself and him.'

'Let us think of it more quietly,' said Sylvia, in her clear,
dispassionate tones. 'You speak as though a decision must be taken
at once. Where is the necessity for that? Mr. Peak is now
independent. Suppose a year or two be allowed to pass, may not
things look differently?'

'A year or two!' exclaimed Sidwell, with impatience. 'Nothing will
be changed. What I have to contend against is unchangeable. If I
guide myself by such a hope as that, the only reasonable thing would
be for me to write to Mr. Peak, and ask him to wait until my father
and mother are dead.'

'Very well. On that point we are at rest, then. The step must be
taken at once, or never.'

The wind roared, and for some minutes no other sound wasaudible. By
this, all the inmates of the house save the two friends were in bed,
and most likely sleeping.

'You must think it strange,' said Sidwell, 'that I have chosen to
tell you all this, just when the confession is most humiliating to
me. I want to feel the humiliation, as one only can when another is
witness of it. I wish to leave myself no excuse for the future.'

'I'm not sure that I quite understand you. You have made up your
mind to break with him?'

'Because I am a coward.'

'If my feeling in any matter were as strong as that, I should allow
it to guide me.'

'Because your will is stronger. You, Sylvia, would never (in my
position) have granted him that second interview. You would have
known that all was at an end, and have acted upon the knowledge. I
knew it, but yielded to temptation--at ~his~ expense. I could not
let him leave me, though that would have been kindest. I held him by
a promise, basely conscious that retreat was always open to me. And
now I shall have earned his contempt'----

Her voice failed. Sylvia, affected by the outbreak of emotion in one
whom she had always known so strong in self-command, spoke with a
deeper earnestness.

'Dear, do you wish me to help you against what you call your
cowardice? I cannot take it upon me to encourage you until your own
will has spoken. The decision must come from yourself. Choose what
course you may, I am still your friend. I have no idle prejudices,
and no social bonds. You know how I wish you to come away with me;
now I see only more clearly how needful it is for you to breathe new
air. Yes, you have outgrown these conditions, just as your brothers
have, just as Fanny will--indeed has. Take to-night to think of
it. If you can decide to travel with me for a year, be frank with Mr
Peak, and ask him to wait so long--till you have made up your
mind. He cannot reasonably find fault with you, for he knows all you
have to consider. Won't this be best?'

Sidwell was long silent.

'I will go with you,' she said at last, in a low voice. 'I will ask
him to grant me perfect liberty for a year.'

When she came down next morning it was Sidwell's intention to seek a
private interview with her father, and make known her resolve to go
abroad with Sylvia; but Mr. Warricombe anticipated her.

'Will you come to the library after breakfast, Sidwell?' he said, on
meeting her in the hall.

She interpreted his tone, and her heart misgave her. An hour later
she obeyed the summons. Martin greeted her with a smile, but hardly
tried to appear at ease.

'I am obliged to speak to you,' were his first words. 'The letter
you had yesterday was from Mr. Peak?'

'Yes, father.'

'Is he'--Mr. Warricombe hesitated--'in these parts again?'

'No; in Lancashire.'

'Sidwell, I claim no right whatever to control your correspondence;
but it was a shock to me to find that you are in communication with

'He wrote,' Sidwell replied with difficulty, 'to let me know of a
change that has come upon his prospects. By the death of a friend,
he is made independent.'

'For his own sake, I am glad to hear that. But how could it concern
~you~, dear?'

She struggled to command herself.

'It was at my invitation that he wrote, father.'

Martin's face expressed grave concern.

'Sidwell! Is this right?'

She was very pale, and kept her eyes unmovingly directed just aside
from her father.

'What can it mean?' Mr. Warricombe pursued, with sad remonstrance.
'Will you not take me into your confidence, Sidwell?'

'I can't speak of it,' she replied, with sudden determination.
'Least of all with you, father.'

'Least of all?--I thought we were very near to each other.'

'For that very reason, I can't speak to you of this. I must be left
free! I am going away with Sylvia, for a year, and for so long I
~must~ be absolutely independent. Father, I entreat you not to'----

A sob checked her. She turned away, and fought against the
hysterical tendency; but it was too strong to be controlled. Her
father approached, beseeching her to be more like herself. He held
her in his arms, until tears had their free course, and a measure of
calmness returned.

'I can't speak to you about it,' she repeated, her face hidden from
him. 'I must write you a long letter, when I have gone. You shall
know everything in that way.'

'But, my dearest, I can't let you leave us under these
circumstances. This is a terrible trial to me. You cannot possibly
go until we understand each other!'

'Then I will write to you here--to-day or to-morrow.'

With this promise Martin was obliged to be contented, Sidwell left
him, and was not seen, except by Sylvia, during the whole day.

Nor did she appear at breakfast on the morning that followed. But
when this meal was over, Sylvia received a message, summoning her to
the retreat on the top of the house. Here Sidwell sat in the light
and warmth, a glass door wide open to the west, the rays of a
brilliant sun softened by curtains which fluttered lightly in the
breeze from the sea.

'Will you read this?' she said, holding out a sheet of notepaper on
which were a few lines in her own handwriting.

It was a letter, beginning--'I cannot.'

Sylvia perused it carefully, and stood in thought.

'After all?' were the words with which she broke silence. They were
neither reproachful nor regretful, but expressed grave interest.

'In the night,' said Sidwell, 'I wrote to father, but I shall not
give him the letter. Before it was finished, I knew that I must
write ~this~. There's no more to be said, dear. You will go abroad
without me--at all events for the present.'

'If that is your resolve,' answered the other, quietly, 'I shall
keep my word, and only do what I can to aid it.' She sat down
shielding her eyes from the sunlight with a Japanese fan. 'After
all, Sidwell, there's much to be said for a purpose formed on such a
morning as this; one can't help distrusting the midnight.'

Sidwell was lying back in a low chair, her eyes turned to the woody
hills on the far side of the Exe.

'There's one thing I should like to say,' her friend pursued. 'It
struck me as curious that you were not at all affected, by what to
me would have been the one insuperable difficulty.'

'I know what you mean--the legacy.'

'Yes. It still seems to you of no significance?'

'Of very little,' Sidwell answered wearily, letting her eyelids

'Then we won't talk about it. From the higher point of view, I
believe you are right; but--still let it rest.'

In the afternoon, Sidwell penned the following lines which she
enclosed in an envelope and placed on the study table, when her
father was absent.

'The long letter which I promised you, dear father, is
needless. I have to-day sent Mr. Peak a reply which closes our
correspondence. I am sure he will not write again; if he were
to do so, I should not answer.

'I have given up my intention of going away with Sylvia.
Later, perhaps, I shall wish to join her somewhere on the
Continent, but by that time you will be in no concern about

To this Mr. Warricombe replied only with the joyous smile which
greeted his daughter at their next meeting. Mrs. Warricombe remained
in ignorance of the ominous shadow which had passed over her house.
At present, she was greatly interested in the coming marriage of the
Rev. Bruno Chilvers, whom she tried ~not~ to forgive for having
disappointed her secret hope.

Martin had finally driven into the background those uneasy
questionings, which at one time it seemed likely that Godwin Peak
would rather accentuate than silence. With Sidwell, he could never
again touch on such topics. If he were still conscious of a
postponed debate, the adjournment was ~sine die~. Martin rested in
the faith that, without effort of his own, the mysteries of life and
time would ere long be revealed to him.


Earwaker spent Christmas with his relatives at Kingsmill. His father
and mother both lived; the latter very infirm, unable to leave the
house; the former a man of seventy, twisted with rheumatism, his
face rugged as a countenance picked out by fancy on the trunk of a
big old oak, his hands scarred and deformed with labour. Their old
age was restful. The son who had made himself a 'gentleman', and who
in London sat at the tables of the high-born, the wealthy, the
famous, saw to it that they lacked no comfort.

A bright, dry morning invited the old man and the young to go forth
together. They walked from the suburb countrywards, and their
conversation was of the time when a struggle was being made to bear
the expense of those three years at Whitelaw--no bad investment,
as it proved. The father spoke with a strong Midland accent, using
words of dialect by no means disagreeable to the son's ear--for
dialect is a very different thing from the bestial jargon which on
the lips of the London vulgar passes for English. They were laughing
over some half grim reminiscence, when Earwaker became aware of two
people who were approaching along the pavement, they also in merry
talk. One of them he knew; it was Christian Moxey.

Too much interested in his companion to gaze about him, Christian
came quite near before his eyes fell on Earwaker. Then he started
with a pleasant surprise, changed instantly to something like
embarrassment when he observed the aged man. Earwaker was willing to
smile and go by, had the other consented; but a better impulse
prevailed in both. They stopped and struck hands together.

'My father,' said the man of letters, quite at his ease.

Christian was equal to the occasion; he shook hands heartily with
the battered toiler, then turned to the lady at his side.

'Janet, you guess who this is.--My cousin, Earwaker, Miss Janet

Doubtless Janet was aware that her praises had suffered no
diminution when sung by Christian to his friends. Her eyes just
fell, but in a moment were ready with their frank, intelligent
smile. Earwaker experienced a pang--ever so slight--suggesting a
revision of his philosophy.

They talked genially, and parted with good wishes for the New Year.

Two days later, on reaching home, Earwaker found in his letter-box a
scrap of paper on which were scribbled a few barely legible lines.
'Here I am!' he at length deciphered. 'Got into Tilbury at eleven
this morning. Where the devil are you? Write to Charing Cross
Hotel.' No signature, but none was needed. Malkin's return from New
Zealand had been signalled in advance.

That evening the erratic gentleman burst in like a whirlwind. He was
the picture of health, though as far as ever from enduing the
comfortable flesh which accompanies robustness in men of calmer
temperament. After violent greetings, he sat down with abrupt
gravity, and began to talk as if in continuance of a dialogue just

'Now, don't let us have any misunderstanding. You will please
remember that my journey to England is quite independent of what
took place two years and a half ago. It has ~nothing whatever~ to do
with those circumstances.'

Earwaker smiled.

'I tell you,' pursued the other, hotly, 'that I am here to see ~you~
--and one or two other old friends; and to look after some business
matters. You will oblige me by giving credit to my assertion!'

'Don't get angry. I am convinced of the truth of what you say.'

'Very well! It's as likely as not that, on returning to Auckland, I
shall marry Miss Maccabe--of whom I have written to you. I needn't
repeat the substance of my letters. I am not in love with her, you
understand, and I needn't say that my intercourse with that family
has been guided by extreme discretion. But she is a very sensible
young lady. My only regret is that I didn't know her half-a-dozen
years ago, so that I could have directed her education. She might
have been even more interesting than she is. But--you are at
leisure, I hope, Earwaker?'

'For an hour or two.'

'Oh, confound it! When a friend comes back from the ends of the
earth!--Yes, yes; I understand. You are a busy man; forgive my
hastiness. Well now, I was going to say that I shall probably call
upon Mrs. Jacox.' He paused, and gave the listener a stern look,
forbidding misconstruction. 'Yes, I shall probably go down to
Wrotham. I wish to put my relations with that family on a proper
footing. Our correspondence has been very satisfactory, especially
of late. The poor woman laments more sincerely her--well, let us
say, her folly of two years and a half ago. She has outlived it; she
regards me as a friend. Bella and Lily seem to be getting on very
well indeed. That governess of theirs--we won't have any more
mystery; it was I who undertook the trifling expense. A really
excellent teacher, I have every reason to believe. I am told that
Bella promises to be a remarkable pianist, and Lily is uncommonly
strong in languages. But my interest in them is merely that of a
friend; let it be understood.'

'Precisely. You didn't say whether the girls have been writing to

'No, no, no! Not a line. I have exchanged letters only with their
mother. Anything else would have been indiscreet. I shall be glad to
see them, but my old schemes are things of the past. There is not
the faintest probability that Bella has retained any recollection of
me at all.'

'I daresay not,' assented Earwaker.

'You think so? Very well; I have acted wisely. Bella is still a
child, you know--compared with a man of my age. She is seventeen
and a few months; quite a child! Miss Maccabe is just
one-and-twenty; the proper age. When we are married, I think I shall
bring her to Europe for a year or two. Her education needs that; she
will be delighted to see the old countries.'

'Have you her portrait?'

'Oh no! Things haven't got so far as that. What a hasty fellow you
are, Earwaker! I told you distinctly'----

He talked till after midnight, and at leave-taking apologised
profusely for wasting his friend's valuable time.

Earwaker awaited with some apprehension the result of Malkin's visit
to Wrotham. But the report of what took place on that occasion was
surprisingly commonplace. Weeks passed, and Malkin seldom showed
himself at Staple Inn; when he did so, his talk was exclusively of
Miss Maccabe; all he could be got to say of the young ladies at
Wrotham was, 'Nice girls; very nice girls. I hope they'll marry
well.' Two months had gone by, and already the journalist had heard
by letter of his friend's intention to return to New Zealand, when,
on coming home late one night, he found Malkin sitting on the steps.

'Earwaker, I have something very serious to tell you. Give me just a
quarter of an hour.'

What calamity did this tone portend? The eccentric man seated
himself with slow movement. Seen by a good light, his face was not
gloomy, but very grave.

'Listen to me, old friend,' he began, sliding forward to the edge of
his chair. 'You remember I told you that my relations with the
Maccabe family had been marked throughout with extreme discretion.'

'You impressed that upon me.'

'Good! I have never made love to Miss Maccabe, and I doubt whether
she has ever thought of me as a possible husband.'


'Don't be impatient. I want you to grasp the fact. It is important,
because--I am going to marry Bella Jacox.'

'You don't say so?'

'Why not?' cried Malkin, suddenly passing to a state of excitement.
'What objection can you make? I tell you that I am absolutely free
to choose'----

The journalist calmed him, and thereupon had to hear a glowing
account of Bella's perfections. All the feeling that Malkin had
suppressed during these two months rushed forth in a flood of turbid

'And now,' he concluded, 'you will come down with me to Wrotham. I
don't mean to-night; let us say the day after tomorrow, Sunday. You
remember our last joint visit! Ha, ha!'

'Mrs. Jacox is reconciled?'

'My dear fellow, she rejoices! A wonderful nobility in that poor
little woman! She wept upon my shoulder! But you must see Bella! I
shan't take her to New Zealand, at all events not just yet. We shall
travel about Europe, completing her education. Don't you approve of

On Sunday, the two travelled down into Kent. This time they were
received by Lily, now a pretty, pale, half-developed girl of
fifteen. In a few minutes her sister entered. Bella was charming;
nervousness made her words few, and it could be seen that she was
naturally thoughtful, earnest, prone to reverie; her beauty had
still to ripen, and gave much promise for the years between twenty
and thirty. Last of all appeared Mrs. Jacox, who blushed as she shook
hands with Earwaker, and for a time was ill at ease; but her
vocatives were not long restrained, and when all sat down to the
tea-table she chattered away with astonishing vivacity. After tea
the company was joined by a lady of middle age, who, for about two
years, had acted as governess to the girls. Earwaker formed his
conclusions as to the 'trifling expense' which her services
represented; but it was probably a real interest in her pupils which
had induced a person of so much refinement to bear so long with the
proximity of Mrs. Jacox.

'A natural question occurs to me,' remarked Earwaker, as they were
returning. 'Who and what was Mr. Jacox?'

'Ah! Bella was talking to me about him the other day. He must have
been distinctly an interesting man. Bella had a very clear
recollection of him, and she showed me two or three photographs.
Engaged in some kind of commerce. I didn't seek particulars. But a
remarkable man, one can't doubt.'

He resumed presently.

'Now don't suppose that this marriage entirely satisfies me. Bella
has been fairly well taught, but not, you see, under my supervision.
I ought to have been able to watch and direct her month by month. As
it is, I shall have to begin by assailing her views on all manner of
things. Religion, for example. Well, I have no religion, that's
plain. I might call myself this or that for the sake of seeming
respectable, but it all comes to the same thing. I don't mind Bella
going to church if she wishes, but I must teach her that there's no
merit whatever in doing so. It isn't an ideal marriage, but perhaps
as good as this imperfect world allows. If I have children, I can
then put my educational theories to the test.'

By way of novel experience, Earwaker, not long after this, converted
his study into a drawing-room, and invited the Jacox family to taste
his tea and cake. With Malkin's assistance, the risky enterprise was
made a great success. When Mrs. Jacox would allow her to be heard,
Bella talked intelligently, and showed eager interest in the details
of literary manufacture.

'0 Mr. Earwaker!' cried her mother, when it was time to go. 'What a
delightful afternoon you have given us! We must think of you from
now as one of our very best friends. Mustn't we, Lily?'

But troubles were yet in store. Malkin was strongly opposed to a
religious marriage; he wished the wedding to be at a registrar's
office, and had obtained Bella's consent to this, but Mrs. Jacox
would not hear of such a thing. She wept and bewailed herself. 'How
~can~ you think of being married like a costermonger? O Mr. Malkin,
you will break my heart, indeed you will!' And she wrote an
ejaculatory letter to Earwaker, imploring his intercession. The
journalist took his friend in hand.

'My good fellow, don't make a fool of yourself. Women are born for
one thing only, the Church of England marriage service. How can you
seek to defeat the end of their existence? Give in to the
inevitable. Grin and bear it.'

'I can't! I won't! It shall be a runaway match! I had rather suffer
the rack than go through an ordinary wedding!'

Dire was the conflict. Down at Wrotham there were floods of tears.
In the end, Bella effected a compromise; the marriage was to be at a
church, but in the greatest possible privacy. No carriages, no gala
dresses, no invitations, no wedding feast; the bare indispensable
formalities. And so it came to pass. Earwaker and the girl's
governess were the only strangers present, when, on a morning of
June, Malkin and Bella were declared by the Church to be henceforth
one and indivisible. The bride wore a graceful travelling costume;
the bridegroom was in corresponding attire.

'Heaven be thanked, that's over!' exclaimed Malkin, as he issued
from the portal. 'Bella, we have twenty-three minutes to get to the
railway station. Don't cry!' he whispered to her. 'I can't stand

'No, no; don't be afraid,' she whispered back. 'We have said
good-bye already.'

'Capital! That was very thoughtful of you.--Goodbye, all! Shall
write from Paris, Earwaker. Nineteen minutes; we shall just manage

He sprang into the cab, and away it clattered.

A letter from Paris, a letter from Strasburg, from Berlin, Munich--
letters about once a fortnight. From Bella also came an occasional
note, a pretty contrast to the incoherent enthusiasm of her
husband's compositions. Midway in September she announced their
departure from a retreat in Switzerland.

'We are in the utmost excitement, for it is now decided that in
three days we start for Italy! The heat has been terrific, and we
have waited on what seems to me the threshold of Paradise until we
could hope to enjoy the delights beyond. We go first to Milan. My
husband, of course, knows Italy, but he shares my impatience. I am
to entreat you to write to Milan, with as much news as possible.
Especially have you heard anything more of Mr. Peak?'

November the pair spent in Rome, and thence was despatched the
following in Malkin's hand:

'This time I am ~not~ mistaken! I have seen Peak. He didn't see me;
perhaps wouldn't have known me. It was in Piale's reading-room. I
had sat down to ~The Times~, when a voice behind me sounded in such
a curiously reminding way that I couldn't help looking round. It was
Peak; not a doubt of it. I might have been uncertain about his face,
but the voice brought back that conversation at your rooms too
unmistakably--long ago as it was. He was talking to an American,
whom evidently he had met somewhere else, and had now recognised.
"I've had a fever," he said, "and can't quite shake off the results.
Been in Ischia for the last month. I'm going north to Vienna." Then
the two walked away together. He looked ill, sallow, worn out. Let
me know if you hear.'

On that same day, Earwaker received another letter, with the Roman
post-mark. It was from Peak.

'I have had nothing particular to tell you. A month ago I thought I
should never write to you again; I got malarial fever, and lay
desperately ill at the ~Ospedale Internazionale~ at Naples. It came
of some monstrous follies there's no need to speak of. A new and
valuable experience. I know what it is to look steadily into the
eyes of Death.

'Even now, I am far from well. This keeps me in low spirits. The
other day I was half decided to start for London. I am miserably
alone, want to see a friend. What a glorious place Staple Inn seemed
to me as I lay in the hospital! Proof how low I had sunk: I thought
longingly of Exeter, of a certain house there--never mind!

'I write hastily. An invitation from some musical people has decided
me to strike for Vienna. Up there, I shall get my health back. The
people are of no account--boarding-house acquaintances--but they may
lead to better. I never in my life suffered so from loneliness.'

This was the eighteenth of November. On the twenty-eighth the
postman delivered a letter of an appearance which puzzled Earwaker.
The stamp was Austrian, the mark 'Wien'. From Peak, therefore. But
the writing was unknown, plainly that of a foreigner.

The envelope contained two sheets of paper. The one was covered with
a long communication in German; on the other stood a few words of
English, written, or rather scrawled, in a hand there was no

'Ill again, and alone. If I die, act for me. Write to Mrs. Peak,

Beneath was added, 'J. E. Earwaker, Staple Inn, London.'

He turned hurriedly to the foreign writing. Earwaker read a German
book as easily as an English, but German manuscript was a terror to
him. And the present correspondent wrote so execrably that beyond
~Geehrter Herr~, scarcely a word yielded sense to his anxious eyes.
Ha! One he had made out--~gestorben~.

Crumpling the papers into his pocket, he hastened out, and knocked
at the door of an acquaintance in another part of the Inn. This was
a man who had probably more skill in German cursive. Between them,
they extracted the essence of the letter.

He who wrote was the landlord of an hotel in Vienna. He reported
that an English gentleman, named Peak, just arrived from Italy, had
taken a bedroom at that house. In the night, the stranger became
very ill, sent for a doctor, and wrote the lines enclosed, the
purport whereof he at the same time explained to his attendants. On
the second day Mr. Peak died. Among his effects were found circular
notes, and a sum of loose money. The body was about to be interred.
Probably Mr. Earwaker would receive official communications, as the
British consul had been informed of the matter. To whom should
~bills~ be sent?

The man of letters walked slowly back to his own abode.

'Dead, too, in exile!' was his thought. 'Poor old fellow!'

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