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Full text of "Madame Leroux"

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Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

from the Estate 
of 

PROFESSOR BEATRICE 
M. CORRIGAN 












MADAME LEROUX. 



MADAME LEROUX. 



FRANCES ELEANOR TROLLOPE, 

AUTHOR OF 

THAT UNFORTUNATE MARRIAGE,'' "BLACK SPIRITS AND WHITE, 
ETC. 




VOLUME II. 



LONDON : 

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 
NEW BURLINGTON STREET, 

in COrfcinftrg t0 Ijcr jHajestn tlje (Queen. 

1890 

[All Rights Reserved.] 



MADAME LEROUX. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE holidays were so near at hand when 
Lucy entered on her duties at Douro House 
that she found the scholastic routine some- 
what disorganised. Every one's thoughts 
and efforts were directed towards making a 
brilliant figure on the last day of the term. 
This was to. be celebrated by a matine, at 
which a few recitations in French, German, 
and English, and some musical pieces, were 
to be performed by some of the pupils. But 
the whole affair was to assume, as far as 
possible, the character of a fashionable 
gathering, and to suggest as little as could 
be contrived an ordinary school " breaking 



VOL. II. 



21 



MADAME LEROUX. 



up," with prize giving, and such antiquated 
ceremonials. 

Madame Leroux's connection was said to 
lie almost exclusively among persons of rank 
and fashion, which reputation had filled her 
school with the daughters of persons who 
had neither. As a matter of fact, there were 
scarcely any girls of aristocratic family among 
the boarders in Douro House ; but Madame 
had established certain select day - classes, 
which were attended by girls of first-rate 
social standing, whose families lived in the 
neighbourhood. Thus the wealthy stock- 
brokers' and manufacturers' wives were able 
to boast that their girls were schoolfellows of 
Lord A.'s, and Sir B. C.'s, and Lady D.'s 
daughters ; and they were willing to pay 
highly for the privilege. 

A great deal was said by Madame Le- 
roux herself, and by others, about the "tone" 
of her school, It was an unpleasantly preten- 
tious tone ; it was also a tone which fos- 
tered worldliness, extravagance, and vanity. 
But the glamour of it brought grist to Ma- 
dame's mill. She herself was wont to speak 



MADAME LEROUX. 



of it in a frankly cynical fashion to sundry con- 
fidential friends entirely outside the sphere 
of "prunes and prism." " One is obliged to go 
in for super-finery," she would say. " Nothing 
can be more ludicrously vulgar ; but nothing, 
in my line of business, pays so well ! " 

Lucy, on her arrival at Douro House, 
was put under the charge of Fraulein 
Schulze, who had orders to set her in the 
way of her duties, and initiate her into the 
routine of the house. The Fraulein was a 
plain, spectacled, hard-featured woman, over 
fifty, who seemed to have become a sort of 
governessing-machine, and to have neither 
loves nor hates, hopes nor fears, nor any 
human emotion unconnected with the school- 
room. She did not receive Lucy very 
graciously. It was very disagreeable, she 
grumbled, to have a new teacher just at the 
end of the term, when everything was more 
or less in confusion, and she declared 
speaking excellent English with a peculiarly 
hideous accent that Miss Smith would not 
have time to learn her " tudies " before the 
holidays arrived. 



MADAME LEROUX. 



During the whole of the first day after 
her arrival Lucy did not once see Madame 
Leroux. Madame did not take much part 
in the general teaching, and sometimes did 
not enter the schoolroom for several days 
together ; but she was supposed to exercise 
a general supervision over all the studies, 
and would now and then examine some 
special class in her own room. There were, 
however, countless masters and mistresses 
from outside " professors " of this and that, 
who came and went all day long ; rushing in 
to give three or four lessons of fifteen 
minutes' duration each, and rushing out 
again, watch in hand, to repeat the same 
process elsewhere. 

Lucy felt almost dizzy in watching this 
procession, and wondered how it had been 
possible for any of the pupils to learn any- 
thing at all on such a system. She began to 
understand it somewhat better when she 
found that the whole drudgery of teaching 
fell on the shoulders of two or three obscure 
subordinates ; and that the only object aimed 
at and achieved by the payment of guineas 



MADAME LEROUX. 



and half-guineas for those hurried fifteen 
minutes was to enable young ladies to boast 
themselves pupils of Herr Getose and Signer 
Strilloni. 

She perceived, moreover, that the "tone" 
of the school did not include courtesy or con- 
sideration towards the subordinate teachers ; 
and was amazed at the vulgar insolence with 
which she was treated by certain of the 
boarders. So grossly rude was the be- 
haviour of one of them, that Lucy went to 
Fraulein Schulze and declared her intention 
of complaining to Madame Leroux if the 
girl did not amend her manners. But the 
old experienced hand assured her that such 
a proceeding would be worse than useless. 

" What do you suppose Madame would 
do ? " asked Fraulein Schulze, her light eyes 
blinking through her spectacles, and her 
forehead puckered into a frown. " You 
don't imagine she would send Miss Cohen 
away, do you ? " 

" I should think Madame would not let 
her remain to give a bad example if she 
persists in behaving so unlike a lady." 



MADAME LEROUX. 



" Sancta Simplicitas ! Do you know- 
how much Miss Cohen pays ? Madame can 
find many more poor young ladies anxious 
to teach the piano than rich ones willing to 
learn it. One keeps a school to make 
money. If you can fight it out for yourself, 
and get the better of Miss Cohen, well and 
good. Madame will not interfere. But I 
tell you once for all you will do yourself 
harm by complaining. If you are zensitif 
you should not be a teacher." 

On the second day, Lucy saw Madame 
Leroux ; and the moment she beheld her r 
Fatima's words recurred to her mind : " She 
has a daylight manner as well as a daylight 
face." 

Surely this was a different woman from 
her whom she had last seen across Mr. 
Adolphus Hawkins's supper table ! The 
roses of her complexion had considerably 
paled, and her luxuriant curls not quite so- 
luxuriant as in Great Portland Street, Lucy 
thought were partially hidden under a tri- 
angular piece of delicate lace. Her dress 
was rich and elegant, but subdued in colour 




MADAME LEROUX. 



and without rustle or glitter. But it was in 
the expression of her face it was in the 
manner of moving and speaking, even in the 
very tone of the voice, that the remarkable 
change consisted which struck Lucy with 
astonishment. 

This woman yes, this woman did come 
very near (at all events in outward present- 
ment) to the ideal schoolmistress she had 
pictured to herself. There was nothing prim 
or stiff, no assumption of gravity about her. 
But the bright vivacity of her glance and 
her smile had lost their coquettish poignancy, 
and beamed with the kindliest radiance. 
Her easy gracefulness, her perfect tact, the 
subtle mixture of authority and gentleness in 
all she said and did, were admirable ; and 
their effect was enhanced by an air of un- 
affected good breeding. 

Watching her for a while, herself un- 
noticed, Lucy recognized distinct traces of 
Lady Charlotte Gaunt's manner at her best. 
Certain turns of phrase, and even certain 
movements of the head, were Lady Charlotte 
to the life. Caroline Graham, in short, was 



MADAME LEROUX. 



acting her former patroness with remarkable 
histrionic ability. Her present rendering 
was of a softened and favourable kind ; but 
it was not difficult to imagine her giving a 
very different version of Lady Charlotte's 
air noble. Her powers would undoubtedly 
be equal to a very scathing caricature. 

Madame Leroux was clearly the object 
of her pupils' enthusiastic admiration. Her 
sayings were quoted, her beauty was praised, 
her elegance was held up as a model. 
Madame took care never to appear in an 
unpopular character. If a reproof were to be 
administered or a petition refused, these dis- 
agreeable functions were delegated to some 
one else. Generally they fell to the lot of 
Fraulein Schulze, who didn't mind being 
unpopular ; or if she did mind, at all events 
made no remonstrance, which did just as 
well. 

As regarded the material conditions of 
her life, one piece of good fortune befel 
Lucy ; she had a room to herself. It was a 
mere closet at the top of the house, with a 
little window in the roof, and originally 



MADAME LEROUX. 



intended for storing linen or some such 
household gear. But such as it was, Lucy 
thankfully accepted it. It would be her own. 
She could close the door and be alone there. 

She soon found, however, that there were 
scarcely any minutes available for being 
.alone, until bed-time. It was not that her 
regular occupations were so incessant ; but in 
the bustle of preparation for the matinte a 
variety of small tasks devolved on her, for 
the simple reason that no one else would 
undertake them. And then one or two 
pupils who were to play and recite on the 
great day had to be unremittingly drilled in 
their show pieces during every spare half 
hour, until certain combinations of notes and 
words lost all significance in Lucy's ear by 
sheer iteration ; and became mere irritants to 
her quivering nerves and wearied brain. 

" If you are zensitiff? Fraulein Schulze 
had said, " you ought not to be a teacher." 

Lucy was dismayed to discover how 
sensitive she was, not only in heart, but in 
nerves, in taste, in temper. It was alarming 
to feel so weary and disgusted at the first 



10 MADAME LEROUX. 

trial ! Where were her brave resolves to 
earn her bread with cheerfulness, and to 
repine at no hardships that made her inde- 
pendent, and left her her self-respect ? Was 
she going weakly to break down already ? 

The truth was, that Lucy like most 
young creatures not inured to the horny- 
handed grip of necessity had softened and 
mitigated the more painful details in every 
picture she had made of the future in her 
own mind. The troubles she had represented 
to herself were of the kind which she felt best 
able to endure. But Destiny concerns her- 
self with no such considerate adjustments. 
And Lucy was quite unprepared for most of 
the daily slings and arrows which assailed her 
fortitude and wounded her feelings. Certainly 
Fraulein Schulze was right. It was a terrible 
misfortune for a teacher to be sensitive ! 

She had written a few lines to Mildred 
immediately on the conclusion of her engage- 
ment with Madame Leroux ; dwelling on her 
good fortune, and the high reputation of the 
school ; and promising to write more fully 
when she should have become initiated into 



MADAME LEROUX. n 

her new life. But before she found leisure 
and opportunity to do so, a letter came from 
Mildred, which made her feel utterly forlorn. 

The Enderbys were going abroad earlier 
than had been at first intended. They were 
to spend August and part of September in 
Switzerland, and then travel slowly towards 
Rome, visiting Venice and the Italian lakes 
on their way. The truth was that Sir Lionel, 
having once accepted the idea of foreign 
travel, grew impatient to try it forthwith. 
He was like a child expecting a promised 
toy, to whom to-morrow seems an intolerably 
long way off. 

The letter had been addressed to the 
care of Mr. Hawkins ; and having fallen 
under Fatima's observation, she had taken 
the trouble to forward it. Otherwise, the 
chances in favour of its reaching its proper 
destination would have been small. Mrs. 
Hawkins would have thought it must be 
some one else's business to attend to it ; and 
Mr. Hawkins would have intended to see to 
it at the first moment he could spare ; and so 
it might have reached the dustman un- 



12 MADAME LEROUX. 

opened, in company with a mass of hetero- 
geneous documents connected with the 
Beneficent Pelican, and other birds of prey. 

But it did reach Lucy's hands only two 
days later than it should have done ; and she 
felt the news it contained to be a severe 
blow. She had not realised, until it came, 
how much hope lay hidden in her heart of 
returning to Enderby Court during the holi- 
days ; or, at least, of seeing Mildred fre- 
quently if she spent the vacation at Mr. 
Shard's house. But now she seemed to feel, 
for the first time, the full significance of her 
separation from Mildred, and from all her old 
life. She cried herself to sleep that night in 
her little attic chamber, and awoke the next 
morning with a throbbing head and a heavy 
heart. 

It was within a week of the end of the 
school term, when Mr. Shard wrote to inform 
her that arrangements had been made for her 
to spend the holidays at Douro House. It 
was 'not worth while, he said, to incur the 
expense of a journey to Westfield and back ; 
especially since Sir Lionel and Miss Enderby 



MADAME LEROUX. 13 

would be abroad, and the Court shut up ; and 
since, moreover, her board for the whole of 
the first year had been included in the 
bargain made with Madame Leroux. 

" I paid a heavy premium for you. Lucy," 
wrote Mr. Shard, " and we must get all the 
advantage we can. You are very fortunate 
to be in such a tip-top establishment. And 
I look upon you now as having had an un- 
commonly good start given you. All things 
considered, you can't expect me to do more 
than I have done ; and I rely on your good 
sense to follow it up by doing the best you 
can for yourself in every way. Indeed, I 
look upon this as a sacred duty, and have 
endeavoured to carry it out myself through 
life. Your Aunt Sarah (she is loth to re- 
linquish the old, familiar title, although well 
aware, as you are, that she has no legal 
right to it) desires her love, and sends the 
enclosed. And I am, 

"My dear Lucy, 

" Yours very truly, 

"JACOB SHARD." 



i 4 MADAME LEROUX. 

The " enclosed " was a tiny tract, headed, 
" Stop, Sinner ! ! ! " like a pious sort of hue- 
and-cry. 

The grief caused by Mildred's letter 
drove out any pain which might otherwise 
have been occasioned by Mr. Shard's. It 
-did not matter where she spent the vacation, 
since she could not spend it with the only 
creature who loved her. 

She was soon startled, however, by find- 
ing that she was not expected to remain at 
Douro House. On mentioning the matter 
to Fraulein Schulze, that lady looked greatly 
surprised, and asked how she intended to 
live, seeing that Madame would probably go 
abroad as usual, and that she and all the 
other teachers would be away. This was 
alarming. And Lucy took the bold step of 
seeking an interview with Madame Leroux 
by going straight to her room, without any 
preliminary asking of leave to do so. 

Madame was seated at a little writing- 
table strewn with papers. Most of these 
were bills. But there were some private 
notes, and one or two theatre-tickets lying 



MADAME LEROUX. 15 

in a little heap together at her right hand. 
Over these she threw her handkerchief be- 
fore saying " Come in," in answer to Lucy's 
tap at the door. 

" Oh, it's you, is it, Miss Smith ? " she 
said, looking up ; and then she returned her 
pocket-handkerchief to her pocket. 

" I beg your pardon, Madame ; I am 
afraid you are busy. But I was com- 
pelled " 

" Yes, I am busy, of course ; I always am 
in the last days of term. But say what you 
have to say." 

Lucy, thinking it the quickest way to 
communicate her business, handed Mr. 
Shard's letter to Madame Leroux. She 
bade Lucy sit down, and, taking the letter, 
glanced through it rapidly. 

" Well," she said, raising her bright eyes, 
"' he seems a sharp practitioner, this Mr. 
Shard. But what do you want me to 
do?" 

" Fraulein Schulze told me " s began 

Lucy. Then she paused, and went on with 
a resolutely composed manner. " I merely 



1 6 MADAME LEROUX. 

wished to know whether you intend to go 
away and shut up this house during the 
holidays; because if you do, I I don't know 
what's to become of me ! " And, suddenly 
breaking down, she burst into tears. 

" Tiens, tiens, liens / " murmured Madame 
Leroux. " Don't cry ; it is so disagreeable 
to see people cry ! And you'll spoil your 
eyes." She spoke half jestingly, but not un- 
kindly, and touched Lucy's rich dark hair 
with the tips of her fingers. As she did so, 
the same dreamy, far-away look came into 
her eyes with which she had regarded Lucy 
the first time she saw her ; and it was with a 
kind of effort, as if rousing herself from a 
reverie, that she proceeded. " As it happens, 
I am not likely to go abroad this year. 
Schulze does not know everything ; it is not 
necessary that she should. I shan't keep up 
much of an establishment. The servants 
will be away. It will be a sort of bivouac. 
We will bivouac together, hein ? Don't cry!" 
And once more she lightly stroked the girl's 
hair. * 

In her relief of mind, and in her gratitude 



MADAME LEROUX. 



at hearing a kind word, Lucy took the white 
hand in her own, and kissed it. 

Madame drew her hand away, and looked 
doubtfully at the girl. She had little sym- 
pathy with manifestations of emotion, and 
was apt to suspect their genuineness. 
" There, there," she said, " don't let us 
exaggerate ; there is nothing to make a fuss 
about." 

" Forgive me," said Lucy, timidly ; " I 
felt so lonely, and I have no mother." 




VOL. II. 



22 




CHAPTER XIX. 

A STRANGE quietude settled down on Douro 
House when the pupils and teachers had 
departed, and even the servants had gone 
away for the holidays. The blinds were 
drawn down and the furniture was muffled 
up, and an old woman was installed in the 
lower regions as caretaker. But Madame 
Leroux stayed on, nevertheless ; and Lucy 
stayed with her. 

The caretaker was a Savoyarde, whose 
son kept a small eating-house in the Soho 
district, and she had no acquaintances in 
the neighbourhood of Douro House. Nor, 
indeed, was her English sufficiently fluent to 
enable her to indulge in much gossip, had 
she been inclined for it. 

"When I stay in town incog." Madame 
[ 18] 



MADAME LEROUX. 19 

Leroux would say to her confidential friends, 
" I take good care to have no chattering 
Mary Ann's or Betsy Jane's on the premises. 
English servants are all spies ; some fools ; 
some knaves ; and many all three ! " 

On the first evening of the holidays, 
Madame Leroux informed Lucy that she 
had a private box at the theatre, and asked 
if she would like to accompany her to the 
play. Lucy gratefully accepted the offer, 
and ran to change her dress with some eagei 
anticipations of pleasure. Her experiences 
of the drama had been confined to seeing a 

pantomime at S once or twice, when she 

and Mildred were children, and had been 
taken by Lady Jane to spend a week at 
Christmas in the county town. But she 
had never been inside a London theatre, and 
the play to be performed to-night was one 
which had greatly taken the taste of the 
town ; and the manager was keeping his 
theatre open beyond the usual season in 
order not to interrupt its successful run. 

She, therefore, came downstairs prepared 
for enjoyment. But she was greatly taken 



20 MADAME LEROUX. 

aback to find that instead of leaving the 
house by the usual egress, they were to slip 
out secretly at a back door, which led to 
some mews, where a hired carriage was 
awaiting them. As Lucy hesitated a moment 
on being told to step out at the back door, 
Madame Leroux said 

"It is a warm night ; you are not afraid 
of walking a few yards bare-headed, are 
you ? " 

" Oh, no," answered Lucy, moving 
quickly forward. But Madame, glancing at 
her face, saw an expression there which dis- 
pleased her ; and when they were seated in 
the carriage, she said 

"You look quite tragical, Miss Smith! 
Might I inquire what is the matter ? " 

" I did not mean to look tragical," 
answered Lucy, considerably embarrassed. 

" Shocked, then, or whatever you like to 
call it." 

" Only surprised." 

" Did you imagine I should advertise my 
presence in town by getting into a carriage at 
jny own door in broad daylight ? There are 



MADAME LEROUX. 



neighbours ! I have told every one that I 
was going abroad." 

" Have you ? " said Lucy, looking up at 
her innocently. 

" Yes ; and you will please remember 
that, for every one connected with the school, 
I ant abroad ; and you are staying with some 
friends. I don't know that any questions will 
be asked ; but if any should be, you will know 
what to say. Do you understand me ?" added 
Madame, impatiently. " You look as if you 
were dreaming." 

" Yes, I understand," answered Lucy, in 
a low voice. 

" And, moreover, whatever amusements I 
allow you to share in with me during the 
vacation, you will enjoy on condition that you 
hold your tongue about them. I should not 
venture on appearing at the theatre to-night 
only that hardly any of my clientele are in 
town now ; and most of them would swear 
they were not, anyway. Philistines, prigs, 
and puritans are bores ; but, unfortunately, 
they are my best- paying customers ! I'm 
sure you are intelligent enough to perceive 



MADAME LEROUX, 



that a certain amount of tact and discretion is 
necessary in dealing with people of that sort, 
kein ? " Then, as Lucy did not answer, but 
merely bent her head submissively, Madame 
continued, in a much harder tone, " At all 
events, if you do not perceive it, Mrs. 
Hawkins has given me a wrong impression 
of you altogether." 

Lucy's rising spirits were effectually 
checked, and she remained pale and silent 
for the rest of the evening. 

Madame Leroux, on the contrary, threw 
off the little cloud of annoyance in a very 
few minutes. She held a sort of levde in the 
private box, where she sat so as to be almost 
hidden from the audience. Several men 
lounged in and out, in a free-and-easy sort 
of fashion, and stood talking to her between 
the acts. Most of them were foreigners. 
One or two of them looked at Lucy 
curiously ; but no one was introduced to 
her, and no one addressed her. She was 
conscious, however, in more than one in- 
stance, that they were speaking of her 
questioning Madame Leroux about her. 



MADAME LEROUX. 23 

There was one stout, dark, oily-faced man, 
with huge diamond studs or what looked 
like diamonds in his shirt front, whose 
observation was particularly disagreeable to 
her. And altogether she felt thoroughly ill 
at ease. 

All at once she recognized a voice behind 
her, and turned round, almost eagerly, to 
salute Mr. Frampton Fennell, who had 
entered the box, and was giving Madame 
Leroux and the others the advantage of his 
criticism on the play. 

" Oh I a Miss a " 

" Smith." 

" Exactly ! How d'ye do, Miss Smith ? 
I was just saying that when you find a pro- 
duction like this running to crowded audi- 
ences for more than five hundred consecutive 
nights, you have a pretty fair plummet to 
sound the depth of degradation to which 
the drama in common with literature 
generally, and the fine arts has fallen in 
England." 

Mr. Fennell expressed no surprise at 
seeing Lucy there. He had an agreeable, 



24 MADAME LEROUX. 



though vague, recollection of Miss Smith as- 
a good listener ; and if a young woman 
satisfactorily fulfilled that important function 
of her being, all details as to who and what 
she was and where she came from, became 
superfluous and uninteresting. 

For her part, Lucy felt more satisfaction 
at beholding Mr. Frampton Fennell than she 
would have believed possible a very short 
time ago. He was supercilious, he was 
vain, he was censorious, he was the in- 
experienced country-bred young lady pre- 
sumed to think ridiculous. But he was a 
sort of link with some people who knew her. 
And in his manner of looking at and speak- 
ing to her, there was no trace of the dis- 
respect subtly conveyed by the looks and 
manner of some of Madame Leroux's visitors. 
It was disrespect of a kind to which Lucy 
had never been exposed in her life, but 
which she instantly recognized, with a burn- 
ing feeling of shame and indignation. On 
such points the instincts of the most in- 
experienced purity are very sensitive, and 
the innocence which is insensible to a taint 



MADAME LEROUX. 25 

in the moral atmosphere is likely to be but 
skin deep. 

It was well, perhaps, that Mr. FermeH's- 
peculiar form of vanity did not include any 
exaggerated estimate of his personal attrac- 
tions ; for Lucy's satisfaction at beholding 
his scrubby little red moustache, disdainful 
nose, and insecure eyeglass, was ingenuously 
expressed in her countenance. 

Presently it appeared that a discussion 
was going on between Madame Leroux and 
a group of the men as to a supper to be 
eaten at a restaurant after the play. " Oh, 
you must come," said the dark, oily-faced 
man, speaking in French. " It's all arranged. 
And your little friend will come too," he 
added, with a familiar nod in the " little 
friend's " direction. 

Lucy shrank back from the speaker, 
and, drawing herself as near as possible to 
Madame Leroux, said hurriedly, "No I 
Please, no ! I will return home. Let me 
go home." 

Madame looked thoroughly annoyed. 
" What is the matter with you ? " she said 



26 MADAME LEROUX. 

sharply. Then, almost in a whisper, " You 
are making yourself absurd by these sima- 
grdes" 

" I I don't think it would be fitting for 
me. I cannot go to supper with all these 
strangers. Pray let me go home ! " returned 
Lucy, in considerable agitation. 

" You will go where I go, mademoiselle ; 
unless you intend to walk to Kensington 
alone at midnight. Upon my word ! 'Not 
fitting for you ! ' Trust an ingenuous jeune 
meess to scent out impropriety, where per- 
sons who know the world perceive none ! " 
Madame spoke in a low tone, between her 
set teeth, and her eyes sparkled with anger. 

Lucy felt the taunt as only a delicate- 
minded girl could feel it, to whom the 
accusation of mock-modesty was about as 
offensive a one as could be made. She was 
helpless to resist her employer's will. It was 
clearly impossible for her to reach Douro 
House alone. She had not even money in 
her pocket to pay for a conveyance, sup- 
posing she were permitted to take one. She 
called all her dignity to her aid, and made 



MADAME LEROUX. 27 

no further appeal ; but her heart was very 
hot within her. It was some comfort to her 
to find that Mr. Fennell was to be of the 
party ; for, although she was scarcely con- 
scious of it, she instinctively relied more on 
his protection than on that of Madame 
Leroux. 

When the play was over, Madame draped 
herself in her rich opera-clock, muffled her 
head in a very becoming lace scarf, and left 
the box on Mr. Fennell's arm, leaving Lucy 
to come after as best she might. Nervously 
fearful lest the obnoxious oily- faced man 
should attempt to escort her, the girl wrapped 
her arms tightly in her cloak, and followed 
them. In her trepidation she pressed so 
closely on Madame as to tread on the hem 
of her dress, thereby earning an impatient 
frown, bestowed over Madame's shoulder, 
and the very audible exclamation, " Dieu ! 
Quelle est bete ! C'est insupportable ! " 

As they stood in the midst of a little 
group of men in the entrance of the theatre, 
awaiting the carriage which had brought 
them there, the occupants of other parts of 



28 MADAME LEROUX. 

the theatre kept crowding out and streaming 
past them. Lucy uttered an exclamation on 
seeing the dark, mobile face of Zephany, 
looking as strange and exotic amid the 
British physiognomies around him as a palm- 
tree might look in an oak-wood. 

He turned sharply on hearing her voice, 
and approached her. " You here, made- 
moiselle ! " he said, shaking hands with her. 
Then he saluted Madame Leroux with a 
deep bow, and a bright, half-jesting smile, 
saying, " I see, Madame, you have brought 
our young friend to enjoy the comedy. That 
was kind.'"' 

"And stupid, like a great many other 
kind things," she answered, drily. "It is a 
mistake to have brought her." 

Zephany drew nearer, and evidently 
asked some questions, to which Madame 
volubly replied ; but their words did not 
reach Lucy's ears. She saw Zephany glance, 
with his peculiar quickness and keenness of 
eye, at the men standing near him. Then 
he advanced to where she stood, took her 
hand, and placed it firmly under his arm. 






MADAME LEROUX. 29 

" You are tired, mademoiselle, and would 
prefer to go home at once. I shall put you 
into a cab, and, if you will allow me, I shall 
have the honour of seeing you safe home." 

" Oh, thank you ! " began Lucy, eagerly. 
But then remembering her penniless condi- 
tion, she hesitated, and said, " But I don't 
know if I'm afraid " 

Zephany cut her short without ceremony. 
" I have arranged it all with Madame 
Leroux," he said. " Come along. If you 
do not fear to walk a few steps, we shall find 
a cab at the corner of the next street." 

She obeyed him unhesitatingly. As they 
left the portico of the theatre, she caught 
sight of Madame Leroux getting into her 
brougham, accompanied by Mr. Frarnpton 
Fennell ; while the oily-faced man stood on 
the kerbstone, and called out, 

"I say, Fennell! I'm going to hail a 
hansom, and shall probably be there as soon 
as you. But if you arrive first, the supper 
is ordered in my name. The waiter knows 
all about it." 

Lucy felt herself to be trembling and 



30 MADAME LEROUX. 

unnerved, now that the strain was over. 
But Zephany, as they walked along, kept 
talking to her in an easy, indifferent, 
commonplace tone, in order to give her time 
to recover herself". 

" I did not see you in the theatre," he 
said. " I think I must have been sitting 
above your box. Yours was on the lowest 
tier, eh ? Yes ; that must have been it. I 
was with an interesting sort of man, too. A 
man who has been away from England nearly 
twenty years, I think, in all sorts of out-of- 
the-way places. He brought me a letter from 
a relative of mine in Gibraltar. A very 
pleasant, bright fellow is Rushmere. Oh, 
here is one. Four-wheeler! Allow me, 
mademoiselle ; with your permission I will 
light my cigar on the box," 

And after placing her in the vehicle, he 
clambered up to the seat beside the driver, 
leaving her to occupy the interior alone ; an 
act of thoughtful delicacy which Lucy felt to 
be not the least of her obligations to him. 

All the difficulties were not quite at an 
end when they reached Douro House ; for 



MADAME LEROUX. 31 

old Jeanne paid no heed to repeated peals at 
the bell. However, she finally stumbled up 
the kitchen-stairs, muffled in a mangy -looking 
old shawl, and with a coloured cotton hand- 
kerchief knotted round her head, and grum- 
blingly withdrew the bolts. 

" Where was Madame ? " she inquired, 
" Madame had her key. Why did people 
come home at that hour without a key ? " 

But in a minute or two, having lighted 
Lucy's candle at the flaring one she carried 
in her hand, she plunged down to the kitchen 
again, and left the young lady to fasten the 
door as she could. 

Zephany took leave of Lucy on the 

threshold, having ascertained that she was 

able to replace the bolt, which moved easily, 

" I don't know how to thank you," she 

said, holding out her hand to him. 

" To thank me ! For what ? That is 
nonsense. Good-night, mademoiselle. I 
shall tell Fatima to come and pay you a visit. 
You are lonely. You will like to see Fatima, 
Say not another word of thanks. It is non- 
sense. Good-night, good-night ! " 



32 MADAME LEROUX. 

After that night a new and singular kind 
of existence began for Lucy. Hour after 
hour she passed absolutely alone, old Jeanne 
in the kitchen being the only other denizen 
of the house. Sometimes she would not 
.see Madame Leroux the whole day long. 
Madame would have a cup of coffee carried 
up to her room by Jeanne at ten or eleven 
o'clock in the morning ; after which she 
would go out, and return no more until long 
.after Lucy was in bed. 

Sometimes Lucy would fancy that she 
heard voices in the house late at night ; and 
once she was so nervous and uneasy that she 
stole out of her little chamber and listened 
on the staircase. On that occasion she was 
sure that she heard Madame Leroux speak- 
ing, and more than one voice replying to 
her. That reassured her, at all events, as to 
the dread of robbers, which had haunted her 
mind as she lay wakeful in the deserted house ; 
burglars not being in the habit of holding 
animated conversation with the owners of 
the dwellings which they visit professionally. 
But it was all very strange and disquieting. 



MADAME LEROUX. 33 

Moreover, her intercourse with Madame 
Leroux became painful to her. Madame was 
not harsh or sullen in manner; but she 
treated Lucy with a disdainful kind- of care- 
lessness tossing her aside, so to say, as one 
might do with a fruit whose flavour had been 
found disappointing. She made no allusion to 
the evening at the theatre, nor did she ever 
again invite the girl to accompany her abroad. 
For days Lucy did not cross the threshold 
of the school. She was at liberty to do so 
being, indeed, left altogether to her own 
devices ; but she was timid of venturing out 
alone. After a time, however, the monotony 
and solitude of her life, and the longing for 
fresh air, became so unendurable, that she 
took courage to walk as far as Kensington 
Gardens, which were at no great distance from 
Douro House. She kept near to the groups 
of nursemaids and children who were plenti- 
fully scattered about there ; and would sit 
watching the little ones, and listening to 
their prattle with a strange feeling, as though 
she were a ghost revisiting a world in which 
she had no longer any part. 

VOL. ii. 23 



34 MADAME LEROUX. 

At first she was fearful of encountering 
some of Madame's friends. And more than 
once she started up from the bench where 
she was sitting, and walked away hurriedly, 
under the impression that she saw the stout, 
oily-faced man approaching, he being of a 
type and style commonly enough met with in 
London. But it always proved to be a false 
alarm. And, thanks, perhaps, to her pre- 
caution of placing herself near to family 
groups so as to seem as if she belonged to 
one or other of them, she was never accosted 
or molested in any way. She might almost, 
indeed, have been an invisible spirit, for all 
the heed that was taken of her. 

One afternoon, however, as she was list- 
lessly strolling homeward in the wake of a 
family procession, she met Zephany. He was 
accompanied by a tall, spare man, little past 
middle life, who limped slightly in his 
gait ; but who, nevertheless, had something 
unmistakably soldierly in his bearing, and 
whom Zephany presented to her as Mr. 
Rushmere. 

Lucy looked at him with quick interest, 



MADAME LEROUX, 35 

for she remembered that Rushmere was the 
name of the man whom Miss Feltham had 
mentioned when talking of Lady Charlotte 
Gaunt's younger days. The face she saw 
attracted her at once. It was not a distinctly 
handsome face ; but there was a mixture of 
strength and gentleness in its expression, and 
a frank sincerity in the dark, hazel eyes, 
which invited confidence. His hair was 
grizzled, but very abundant, and naturally 
wavy. He was sunburnt and weather-beaten, 
and looked, Lucy thought, like a man who 
had known hardship. 

She wondered, during the second in 
which he was raising his hat to her, whether 
this could really be the same man whom 
Miss Feltham had spoken of. It seemed 
very difficult to her eighteen-years'-old 
imagination to picture him and Lady Char- 
lotte as lovers. But she decided in her own 
mind that it was well he had not married her 
ladyship, who, Lucy felt sure, would not 
have made him happy ! 

Mr. Rushmere, all unconscious of the 
young lady's approval of his destiny in this 



36 MADAME LEROUX. 

respect, walked on quietly beside Zephany, 
while Lucy questioned the latter about the 
Hawkins's, and asked why Fatima had never 
come to see her. 

" Oh, Mademoiselle, you know the 
manage. Fatima is not always at liberty to 
do as she would. And, then, the whole 
family is so sure that whatever they desire 
will infallibly happen the day after to-morrow 
that it scarcely seems worth while for any of 
them to make any particular effort to-day! 
But why should you not come and see 
Fatima ? You could get leave, I pre- 
sume ? " 

" I think I might go wherever I 
pleased ; nobody would care," answered 
Lucy, with more despondency than bitter- 
ness. 

"It is settled, then. Fatima and I will 
come over by the Underground Railway, and 
fetch you. I am busy just now, so it must 
be Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, at three 
o'clock, expect us," said Zephany, with his 
usual prompt decision. 

Then he offered to accompany Lucy to 



MADAME LEROUX. 37 

the door of Douro House. But she assured 
him that she had no fear of walking that 
short distance alone ; and tripped away, 
cheered by the sight of a friendly face, and 
even by the prospect of a visit to that dingy 
house in Great Portland Street, which had 
seemed so dreary to her a few short weeks 
ago. 

" That's an interesting-looking girl," said 
Mr. Rushmere, as the two men proceeded 
on their way across Kensington Gardens, 
together. Upon which, Zephany broke into 
a warm eulogium of Miss Lucy Smith, and 
expressed a good deal of sympathy for her 
forlorn position. " She is a very sweet young 
creature," he said ; " I wish she were in better 
hands." 

"How's that?" 

Then Zephany related what little he 
knew of Lucy's history, including the adven- 
ture at the theatre, and gave a vivid sketch 
of Madame Leroux, in which he certainly 
" set down naught in malice," and rendered 
full justice to Madame's beauty, accomplish- 
ments, and esprit. 



MADAME LEROUX 



" All the same, your friend seems rather 
to have mistaken her vocation," observed 
Rushmere, drily. " What on earth could 
have induced such a woman to set up as a 
schoolmistress ? " 




\ 



CHAPTER XX. 

BEFORE the next Sunday Lucy received an 
unexpected letter. It was dated from Raven- 
shaw, in Cumberland, and ran as follows : 

" DEAR Miss LUCY SMITH, 

" I hope you will forgive the liberty I 
take in writing to you, but when I had the 
honour " (happiness had been written first, but 
scratched out, and honour substituted) " of 
seeing you at Westfield, you seemed to be 
interested in the house called Libburn Farm, 
which you mentioned was your birthplace. 
I don't know whether you can call to mind 
a conversation I had with you at old Mr. 
Jackson's, and another at Dr. Goodchild's, 
the afternoon before you went away. But, at 
any rate, I thought you might be pleased to 
[3Q] 



MADAME LEROUX. 



hear what I could tell you about it, as it is a 
place where few strangers come, and you 
wouldn't be likely to have many chances of 
hearing of it. 

" Being at home for three weeks, I took 
the opportunity of strolling over to the place. 
I used to fish in the burn there when I was 
a boy ; and I can't say I ever caught much, 
though there is good trout-fishing three miles 
lower down, where the stream makes a bit of 
a fall, with some rocks, and one or two deep, 
still pools. But, of course, you can't care 
for all that. The house is stone-built, and 
roomy enough. It has a thatched roof, and 
a little flower-garden running right down to 
the stream, and, being in a hollow, it is pretty 
well sheltered from the wind. The people 
who had the place when you were born are 
gone. The old man died five years ago, but 
his widow is living, and has removed over to 
Carlisle, where she has a daughter. Libburn 
Farm is in the occupation of a man who 
knows nothing about Mrs. Smith. 

" But my mother minds seeing her. She 
didn't like folks to stare at her (Mrs. Smith, 



MADAME LEROUX. 41 

I mean), being in deep trouble ; and she 
always wore a thick black veil when she 
went out, though she might have walked 
miles on the fell-side without meeting any 
living thing but the sheep. But my mother 
saw her twice in Mrs. Ellergarth's parlour. 
She was a very handsome lady, and had a 
way with her as if she had been used to 
everything much better than she found at 
Libburn Farm ; though old Mrs. Ellergarth 
was a very decent body, and used to have 
families out from Carlisle to board and lodge 
in the summer-time. But when Mrs. Smith 
was there it was well on in the autumn fine, 
clear weather, but the cold was rather sharp, 
and came early. My mother minds it all 
very well. 

" For a long time she kept between the 
leaves of a book a bit out of a newspaper 
describing the shipwreck where Mr. Josiah 
Smith, second in command on board the 
Siren, a large trading-vessel bound for Aus- 
tralia from the Port of London, lost his life, 
with nearly all hands. Mrs. Smith gave the 
paper to Mrs. Ellergarth to read all about 



42 MADAME LEROUX. 

her late husband, and Mrs. Ellergarth cut 
the piece out and gave it to my mother. I 
am sorry to say it has got lost in course of 
time, otherwise I would have forwarded it. 
But my mother is clear about the name of the 
ship, and Mr. Josiah Smith. 

"If ever you found yourself in the neigh- 
bourhood, mother and father would be proud 
to see you at Ravenshaw. I hope you will 
excuse me for troubling you with this long 
letter. I tried twice to make it shorter, but 
then I found I left out the chief things I 
wanted to say ; so send off this as it is, though 
very unworthy your perusal. I thought per- 
haps you might like to have a blossom or 
two out of the garden, so I picked this 
forget-me-not down by the burn. 
" Believe me to remain, 

" Dear Miss Lucy Smith, 
" Yours respectfully, 

" EDGAR TOMLINE, JUN. 

" P.S. Mother remembers Mr. and Mrs, 
Marston coming to Libburn Farm when you 
were but a baby, and Mrs. Marston taking to 



MADAME LEROUX. 43: 

you so wonderfully ; which doesn't surprise 
me at all, for I don't see how she could help 
it E. T." 

This letter moved Lucy greatly, and gave 
shape to many indefinite longings and specu- 
lations over which she had been brooding in 
her solitude. The thought of her mother 
had been haunting her persistently of late. 
Sometimes the fancy would strike her as she 
walked along the street, or watched the peo- 
ple moving to and fro in Kensington Gar- 
dens, that this or that woman who passed 
her by as the merest stranger might be the 
mother who had given her life ; and she 
would turn cold and faint with emotion. 

In former days Lucy had almost per- 
suaded herself that her mother must be dead,, 
or she would surely have made some sign in 
all these years. She would surely have 
yearned for a sight of her child, and for 
ocular assurance of its well-being. But of 
late her mind had busied itself with suggest- 
ing excuses and explanations for her mother's- 
long neglect. Who could tell what motives 



44 MADAME LEROUX. 

might have guided her ? what necessities 
might have constrained her? In her loneli- 
ness Lucy clung more and more to the belief 
that her mother was living, and that she might 
one day be restored to her. She would sit 
dreaming of such a meeting, and making 
pictures in her mind, as rose-coloured as the 
ending to a child's fairy tale : " And so they 
all lived happy ever after." 

But now this letter served to give more 
definiteness to her dreams, and even to sug- 
gest some possibilities of endeavouring to 
trace her mother ; although these were very 
vague as yet, like shapes flitting dimly 
through the twilight. Among the other 
theories which she had imagined to account 
for her mother's absolute silence and neglect 
was the supposition that she might be 
ignorant of the name of the place to which 
Mr. Marston removed when he gave up his 
business in Carlisle, and so might not know 
where to seek her child. 

She kissed the faded forget - me - nots 
gathered at her birthplace, and thought with 
yearning pity and tenderness of the sorrow- 



MADAME LEROUX. 45 

stricken young widow awaiting the birth of 
her child under such desolate circumstances. 

And, then, after all these thoughts, she 
thought a little of Mr. Edgar Tomline ; and 
remarked to herself that it was really very 
kind of him to have taken all this trouble, 
and that she had evidently been right in 
judging him to have a good heart under his 
rough exterior. 

Poor Edgar! He had been tossed by 
conflicting feelings in composing that letter, 
He had feared, now that it was too warm, 
and now that it was too cold. At one time 
he thought his copiousness would weary 
Lucy, and at another he was convinced she 
would find his account of Libburn sadly bald, 
and wanting in details. But what troubled 
him most was the postscript. He had said 
that Mrs. Marston's partiality for Lucy did 
not surprise him at all, and that he didn't see 
how she could help it ! These seemed, on 
looking back, to be audaciously bold words. 
He imagined Lucy's reading them thus or 
thus ; and their making this or that impres- 
sion on her. But he never imagined their 



46 MADAME LEROUX. 

making absolutely no impression at all ; 
which was the cruel fact ! 

But, at any rate, he was, before long, sent 
into a state of tumultuous joy and excitement 
by the receipt of a reply to his epistle, in 
Lucy's handwriting. 

He carried it out on to the fell to read ; 
miles away from any human habitation. The 
sky was blue ; the sun was bright ; a lark 
was trilling and soaring overhead. He cast 
himself down on the turf, and leaning his 
elbow on a grassy hillock, prepared to read. 
But just as his fingers great, strong fingers, 
but deft, too, with trained neatness and 
dexterity of movement were about to open 
the envelope, he stopped in a nervous 
tremor. Suppose she should be angry 
offended ! 

But there was certainly no anger in the 
lines which met his eyes nothing but grati- 
tude, and thanks, and, best of all, a request 
that he would do her a service ! Would he, 
if it were not asking too much, be so very 
kind as to see Mrs. Ellergarth the next time 
he happened to be in Carlisle ? Lucy wished 



MADAME LEROUX, 47 

to know where Mrs. Smith had gone to on 
first leaving Libburn Farm after her little 
daughter's birth, and to what address Mrs. 
Ellergarth was in the habit of writing in her 
subsequent communications ; and, in short, 
any particulars about her mother, however 
trifling. 

" I do not know what the distance may 
be," wrote Lucy, " but I suppose it likely 
that you occasionally visit Carlisle. If I am 
wrong, pray excuse me. I will ask you, in 
any case, to let me have Mrs. Ellergarth's 
address, as I wish to communicate with her 
direct. But my communications would, no 
doubt, be better received if you could be so 
very good as to pave the way for them by a 
little explanation as to who I am, and by re- 
calling to Mrs. Ellergarth circumstances and 
people that she may not remember after all 
these years with your mother's clearness of 
mind. Pray give my hearty thanks to Mrs. 
Tomline for her interesting contribution to 
the contents of your letter. I am so glad to 
have the forget-me-nots ! It was a most 
kind thought to send them." 



48 MADAME LEROUX. 

Edgar Tomline's letter had broken up 
the dreary stagnation of Lucy's life ; and 
although to the eye of cool reason there 
might not appear to be anything in it on 
which to ground bright or hopeful anticipa- 
tions, yet it had undoubtedly cheered her. 

Zephany was struck by the change in her 
face when he appeared, true to his appoint- 
ment, on the following Sunday ; and Fatima, 
embracing her friend, exclaimed 

" Why, you don't look so very dreadful ! " 

" I am glad of that," answered Lucy, 
laughing ; " one must not repine at looking 
only rather dreadful ! " 

" No ; but I mean Zephany said you 
were so pale, and and well, you are pale, 
now that little flush has faded. It's London, 
I suppose. Perhaps you want a tonic ? " 

" The sight of friends is the best of 
tonics ; but you have not been in any hurry 
to give it me. I thought you had forgotten 
all about me, Fatima ! " 

Fatima began eagerly protesting that she 
had been meaning and hoping to pay a visit 
to Douro House daily for weeks past, when 



MADAME LEROUX. 49 



Zephany cut short her voluble explanation by 
saying, curtly 

"There, there, enough! Miss Smith 
understands all about it. She knows that 
to-morrow is the day when the Hawkins 
family perform all their social duties and 
most of the others. If one can have patience 
until to-morrow, one will find them the most 
^energetic, punctual, accurate people in the 
world. Ea ! Vamos ! " 

As they walked towards the station of the 
Underground Railway, whence they were to 
start for Great Portland Street, Lucy asked 
Zephany if he had seen his friend, Mr. 
Rushmere, since their meeting in Ken- 
sington Gardens, adding, " I liked his face." 

"It was mutual," answered Zephany. 
44 He liked yours." 

"Was his lameness caused by a wound 
got in battle ? He must surely have been in 
the army ! " 

" You are right ; he was in the army ; 

tut his lameness is the result of an accident, 

which cut short his career. He has told me 

all about himself. That is to say, he has 

VOL. n. 24 



So MADAME LEROUX. 

told me a good deal. No man can tell 
another all about himself. His family were 
in trade. He was an only son, and his 
father lost what money he had soon after 
Rushmere got his commission ; but there 
was a rich uncle who promised to make the 
young man his heir. With his uncle he 
quarrelled a entrance (I fancy it was about 
some love story ; but I know nothing of that) r 
and the rich man disinherited him like an 
uncle at the Comedie Fran9aise. Rushmere 
led a wild unsettled sort of life in India. He 
was in the service of some native prince at 
one time ; and then he wandered half over 
the globe seeking his fortune. But all the 
while his fortune had stayed quietly at home 
in Britain, and there he found her when he 
came back. Less than two years ago he saw 
an advertisement concerning himself in an 
English newspaper. He was at that time on 
a small tea plantation in Ceylon, in which he 
had embarked in company with a few other 
men all the modest sum he was worth in 
the world. The rich uncle had relented at 
the last, and bequeathed him a very hand- 



MADAME LEROUX. 51 

some independence. He was obliged to 
come to England on business connected with 
this inheritance. But he is very undecided 
whether he will remain in this country or not ; 
he has no relations living, and one's crop of 
friends is apt to grow very thin after nearly 
twenty years' absence. To be sure, he 
won't have any difficulty in making new 
ones now. The rich uncle has provided for 
that ! " 

All this confirmed Lucy in the persuasion 
that the lame, sunburnt man, whom she had 
met in Kensington Gardens was the same 
Ralph Rushmere who had figured in Miss 
Feltham's reminiscences. But she resolved 
to say nothing about this to the Hawkins's. 
Miss Feltham had spoken confidentially. 
Moreover Mr. Rushmere had not, apparently, 
alluded to his acquaintance with Lord Grim- 
stock's family in talking to Zephany ; and, 
since he had been silent about it, Lucy would 
be so too. 

She was received by Mr. Hawkins with 
cordiality, and by Mrs. Hawkins with her 
habitual sweet and cool serenity ; and by 



52 MADAME LEROUX. 

both, exactly as if they had parted from her 
yesterday. The house, she thought, looked 
a few shades dingier than her recollection 
had represented it ; but, otherwise, all was 
unchanged. Fatima's room (from which the 
little bed she had occupied had not been 
removed) wore its old peculiar aspect of 
the greatest possible amount of untidiness 
compatible with perfect cleanliness. Fatima 
manifested, in her person and her dress, an 
almost feline daintiness, and aversion from 
soil or stain. But this quality was more 
like the instinct of some desert creature 
than the systematic neatness of a civilized 
young lady ! If Fatima could but have 
fresh air and fresh water, it troubled her 
very little to be surrounded by disorder. 

" Now, tell me," she began, when she 
and Lucy were alone together, " how do you 
get on ? How does Madame treat you ? 
Zephany said he thought you were very 
lonely. It's a shame to leave you like that ! 
Not but what / should prefer her room to 
her company." 

As a matter of fact, Lucy was disposed 



MADAME LEROUX. 53 

to agree with this preference. But she was 
averse from launching forth into blame of 
Madame Leroux, or even from discussing 
her at all with Fatima. She therefore 
changed the subject to one on which she 
felt she had a right to speak fully and 
freely ; and as to which it was a relief to 
pour out some part of what was in her 
heart. 

She briefly narrated all that she knew of 
her birth and early life, and then told Fatima 
of Edgar Tomline's letter, and of her hope 
that she might some day discover her 
mother. Fatima listened with sympathetic 
interest ; but she did not encourage Lucy 
in the idea that her mother was still alive. 
Indeed, she privately suspected that, if she 
were alive, a mother who could utterly 
neglect her child, and make no sign during 
so many years, would be very little worth 
finding. 

Lucy, however, clung to her more san- 
guine view. Why should her mother be 
dead ? She would still be in the prime of 
life. And so many circumstances might 



54 



MADAME LEROUX. 



conceivably have prevented her from claim- 
ing her child after the death of its adopted 
parents ! 

" Perhaps indeed, almost certainly she 
was poor," said Lucy, eagerly. " The more 
she loved me, the less she might be willing 
to make me share her poverty. I can fancy 
now, better than I could before, what a hard 
life she may have had, if, as Mr. Shard 
always supposed, she had to get her living 
as a teacher I mean how impossible it may 
have been for her to keep up anything of a 
home for me and herself. Do you know, I 
have an idea sometimes that she may have 
emigrated to some colony ? My father, 
perhaps, had connections or friends in Aus- 
tralia ; his ship traded there." 

" I tell you what, Lucy," exclaimed 
Fatima, at length, " if Mr. Rushmere should 
come in this evening, as he often does now 
on a Sunday, ask him if he ever chanced 
to meet with, or hear of, your father or 
mother. He has been all over the world." 

" And has probably met with more than 
one Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the course of 



MADAME LEROUX. 



55 



his travels," replied Lucy, shaking her head 
and smiling gravely. 

" Well, it will be no harm to ask. And 
it is possible, you know. Everything is 
possible." 




CHAPTER XXI. 

IN the course of the afternoon, Mr. Haw- 
kins offered to give the ladies a drive before 
dinner, and proposed taking them round the 
Regent's Park. The two girls thought it 
a very pleasant project, and said so, heartily ; 
but Mrs. Hawkins inquired, with quiet dis- 
dain, " Have you ordered a carriage from 
the livery stables, Adolphe ? A carriage 
and pair it must be, of course, if any large 
selection of our party is to go." 

" No, Marie ; I have not. The fact is, I 
thought a couple of hansoms Fatima could 
go with me, and you and Miss Smith in the 
other " 

" Ah ! Exactly ! I suspected some non- 
sense of that kind. You know perfectly well, 
mon ami, that nothing would induce me to 



MADAME LEROUX. 57 

make one in that sort of procession. Two 
hansom cabs in the Regent's Park on a 
Sunday ! Ah ! par exemple ! " 

"Now, Miss Smith, I appeal to you!"" 
said Mr. Hawkins, spreading his arms wide, 
and then clasping his hands together, tragic- 
ally. " Is this not exasperating ? Does it 
not throw a man back upon himself to be 
treated in this way ? Marie knows that if I 
could afford a carriage and pair, or a coach 
and four with outriders, she should have it. 
But that is out of the question. I endea- 
vour to please her to the utmost extent of 
my means, and this is how my attempt is 
received ! " 

" You may depend on it that is how 
all such attempts will be received by me, 
Adolphe," replied his wife, calmly. " Do 
you not consider it too bad, Miss Smith, that 
Adolphe should expect me to accept such a 
proposition, when, if he had not thrown away 
my dot as well as his own money, I should be 
able, at this moment, to have my own vic- 
toria, and turn out decently ? However, I 
can stay at home. That is simple. But I 



58 MADAME LEROUX. 



-decline to exhibit myself in the style of a 
tallow-chandler's wife taken out for her 
Sunday treat." 

Mr. Hawkins muttered in a deep voice, 
*' No matter! Let it go! Let all go!" 
slapped his forehead and dashed out of the 
room. 

As soon as he was gone, Lucy said, 
" Pray think no more about the drive ; at 
least, as far as I am concerned. Perhaps 
Fatima will come out with me on foot. I 
shall enjoy the stroll quite as much." 

" Not at all, my dear Miss Smith," replied 
Mrs. Hawkins, with her serenest smile. "You 
and Fatima will like the drive. I beg you 
to have it. It would not do for me to con- 
sent to drive about the Park in a hired 
cab, for I should never get a remise out of 
Adolphe again ; and I know he could afford 
it just now. I beg, as a personal favour to 
myself, that you will go. It is so much 
better for Adolphe to spend his money in 
that way giving some one a little enjoyment 
out of it than for him to " 

Mrs. Hawkins was not explicit as to the 



MADAME LEROUX, 59 

alternative. The alternatives, in fact, were 
numerous ; and might even include the pre- 
mature payment of a bill not yet demanded 
with the persuasive eloquence of a lawyer's 
letter. 

Lucy suggested that Mr. Hawkins, having 
left the house in some agitation, had, in all 
probability, relinquished the idea of the drive 
altogether ; but Marie shook her head with 
a smile of superior knowledge, justified with- 
in the next minute by their seeing Mr. Haw- 
kins dash up to the door in a hansom cab, 
followed by a second empty one, and hearing 
him call out in a cheerful voice as he entered 
the house, " Now, then, are these young 
ladies ready ? Don't let us lose the best 
hours of the afternoon ! " 

The two girls were put into the vehicle, 
while Zephany and Mr. Hawkins occupied 
the other. And as they drove along, Lucy 
chiefly with the object of keeping the con- 
versation away from Madame Leroux and 
her doings returned to Edgar Tomline's 
letter. Fatima inquired what sort of a per- 
son he was, and Lucy at once endeavoured 



60 MADAME LEROUX. 

to describe him with an unembarrassed 
warmth of friendliness, which was about the 
worst augury possible for the poor young- 
man's secret hopes. " He is rather rough, 
and you might fancy him hard at first ; but 
there is a great deal of sensitiveness under 
that exterior." And then she instanced the 
circumstance of his sending her the forget- 
me-nots from the little garden at Libburn 
Farm. 

" Now I call that sweet of him. What 
a thoroughly good fellow he must be ! " ex- 
claimed Fatima. It never entered her head 
to rally her friend on having made a con- 
quest. There were many young ladies who 
never took their afternoon airing in a hansom 
cab, and to whom the Regent's Park was 
merely a "geographical expression," like 
Whitechapel, who would at once have drawn 
the conclusion, not only that Edgar Tomline 
was in love with Lucy, but that Lucy was 
fully conscious of that fact. For how else 
could one account for a young man's taking 
trouble about what could not in itself afford 
him any amusement, or minister to his egoism ? 



MADAME LEROUX. 61 

But Fatima's life on the borders of 
Bohemia had given her no such highly civi- 
lized insight. Had it been suggested to her 
that young Tomline was moved by a passion 
for Miss Lucy Smith, she would have con- 
sidered that natural and probable ; but she 
did not consider it either unnatural or impro- 
bable that a young man should perform such 
little acts of kindness as writing that letter 
and sending those flowers out of sheer good 
fellowship and kindness of heart. As to 
Lucy's being aware of Mr. Tomline's pas- 
sion, and encouraging it simply to feed her 
vanity, such behaviour might be expected in 
a Madame Leroux, but to impute it to a 
high-minded girl of delicate feelings Fatima 
would have thought grievously insulting. 
Fatima certainly had a good deal of savage 
simplicity about her, and was lamentably 
ignorant of the best Society. 

Notwithstanding the ignominy of the 
hired cab, Lucy found the drive in the 
comparatively fresh though positively un- 
fashionable air of the Regent's Park exhila- 
rating ; and as they returned towards Great 



62 MADAME LEROUX. 

Portland Street she almost determined to 
say a word or two to Mr. Rushmere, in 
accordance with her friend's suggestion, 
should she have the opportunity of doing 
so that evening. Fatima was greatly in- 
terested in talking about Mr. Rushmere ; 
and, indeed, Lucy perceived, from sundry 
words and hints, that the Hawkins's 
cherished some bright, though undefined, 
visions in connection with Mr. Rushmere > 
and grew cheerful at the mention of his 
name. 

At first Lucy accounted for this by sup- 
posing that the sight of a living example of 
one of those sudden turns of fortune which 
Mr. Hawkins was always expecting for him- 
self had raised that gentleman's spirits, and 
encouraged him in a firmer faith in his own 
" luck." But a word dropped by Fatima 
when they were alone together showed that 
some more concrete hopes had been founded 
on Mr. Rushmere's inheritance. 

" Uncle Adolphe wants him to take a 
lot of shares and be director of a company 
he is getting up ; and I wish he would, don't 



MADAME LEROUX. 65 

you ? " said Fatima, in the tone of one who 
is not doubtful of assent. 

Lucy was silent. It appeared to her so 
clear that Mr. Hawkins's speculations were 
not likely to be of the sort one would wish 
one's friends to embark in, that she felt 
astonished at Fatima's speaking in that 
confident way. 

After a little hesitation, Lucy said, " Is 
it such a very promising affair, then ? What 
is the object of the company ? " 

" Oh, I don't know at all ; but poor 
Uncle Adolphe is always saying that if he 
could get hold of a man of capital he would 
be sure to make a splendid coup and it 
does seem hard on him that the people who 
have taken up his schemes have never had 
any money ! I daresay Uncle Adolphe 
might make his fortune if he could only 
get a start. And, besides, Mr. Rushmere 
has plenty of money, so it wouldn't matter 
much if he did lose a little of it." 

With which naive and characteristic 
compendium of the Hawkins's business 
creed, Fatima stuck a silver dagger of 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Oriental workmanship through the thick 
coils of her black hair and went gaily down 
to dinner with her arm round Lucy's waist. 

Enlightened by these hints, Lucy saw 
clearly that even Marie inclined with un- 
usual complacency to her husband's sanguine 
prophecies of the enormous success to be 
achieved by his newest scheme. 

This was, as well as Lucy could make 
out, a project for producing a cheap sub- 
stitute for tea. The homely herbs known 
respectively as milfoil and calamint were to 
be grown on an extensive scale picked, 
-dried, and mingled together in certain pro- 
portions to form a mixture which Mr. Haw- 
kins had decided, after some consideration, 
to call Millamint. Millament tea was to be 
sold to the public at a price which, while 
temptingly low to the consumer, would 
'ensure to the vendor a net profit of ninety- 
five per cent. Mr. Hawkins was very par- 
ticular as to the accuracy of his figures, and 
checked Fatima for speaking loosely of cent. 
per cent. 

" I daresay it will be detestably nasty," 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Mr. Hawkins was rolling out sentences 
VOL. n. 25 



66 MADAME LEROUX. 

into which he kept weaving bits from the 
rough draft of his new prospectus, and 
enjoying himself considerably ; but his wife 
interposed by saying in her sweet, silvery 
tones, 

" Oh, never mind all that, Adolphe ! 
That doesn't matter at all. What does 
matter, is to start the company, and sell off 
all your own shares as soon as ever they 
will fetch a good price." 

From which it will be seen that Marie's 
view was of that wholly unvarnished kind 
which frequently characterises the feminine 
view of " business." The masculine specu- 
lator whether from the superior strength 
of his imagination, or from the wider range 
of sympathies evoked by dealing with affairs 
of more far-reaching public interest usually 
desires to frame his theories with less 
cynical simplicity. And Adolphus Hawkins, 
although led by circumstances into some 
doubtful practices, was always impelled to 
satisfy the higher needs of his nature by 
presenting his schemes to himself in the 
best possible form of words. 






MADAME LEROUX. 67 

Towards eight o'clock Mr. Rushmere 
gratified general expectation by appearing in 
Mr. Hawkins's drawing-room. The agree- 
able impression he had made on Lucy at 
first was confirmed and deepened by observ- 
ing him more at leisure. He looked older 
and more worn than she had thought him 
on seeing him in Kensington Gardens. 
And she noticed that, although there was 
an almost boyish brightness in his smile, yet 
when his face was in repose, it fell into an 
expression of thoughtful melancholy, almost 
like the face of one who is listening to a 
sad story. The fancy crossed her mind that 
he had undergone some sorrow which had 
left ineffaceable marks on his soul as the 
tiger's claws had done on his body. 

Small would have been Lucy's chance 
of obtaining an uninterrupted exchange of 
words with a person possessing, as Mr. 
Rushmere did, the supreme fascination, in 
Adolphus Hawkins's eyes, of holding capital 
at his own disposal, but for the entrance of 
Harrington Jersey, who diverted Hawkins's 
attention. Jersey had been made free of the 



68 MADAME LEROUX. 

great British tea speculation, and having re- 
cently joined the staff of a newly-established 
comic paper, he had promised to give 
" Millamint" a puff, as soon as the company 
for the sale of that admirable commodity 
should be so far established as to invite the 
co-operation of discerning shareholders. 

" I shall have to chaff you, you know,' r 
said Jersey. " The boss wouldn't stand a 
direct recommendation to the public to keep 
its kettle boiling and try Millamint. That 
wouldn't wash at all." 

" Of course of course, my dear boy ! As 
much chaff as you like. ' Vacant chaff well 
meant for grain,' as Shakespeare says, Oh, 
Tennyson, is it ? Sure ? It sounds uncom- 
monly like Shakespeare, don't it ? But the 
grand thing is to be mentioned kept before 

the public eye. Something in verse now ! 

It would be the making of us to have a verse 
from ' Momus ' to put into the advertise- 
ments ! You could knock it off in no time. 
There are lots of rhymes to Millamint." 

" Are there, by George ? Perhaps you'd 
mention a few of them ! " returned Jersey, not 



MADAME LEROUX. 69 

altogether gratified at being told that what he 
was asked to do was so easy. 

"Oh, heaps!" said Hawkins, excitedly 
41 Lint, splint, flint I'll find you a 
dozen." 

" Is he silly, ce cher Adolphe /" exclaimed 
Marie, coming to the rescue, with a dewy air 
of ingenuous freshness on her. " No ; but 
seriously, Jersey, it would, of course, be the 
sort of thing that demands a special gift. So 
few people can do it. / always fancy but 
then I know I am dreadfully ignorant about 
literary matters that it must, au fond, be far 
more easy to write sonnets, and and things, 
don't you know than to throw off little 
sparkling vers de soctiti, like your ' Songs of 
the Tea Kettle.' ' 

While the Hawkins's were thus en- 
deavouring to engage the good will of 
"" Momus " in the person of " Momus's " 
gifted contributor, Lucy, finding herself near 
to Mr. Rushmere, took courage to say to 
him 

"Mr. Rushmere, I want to ask you a 
question ; but I must preface it by a word of 



70 MADAME LEROUX. 

explanation, otherwise it would sound simply 
silly." 

He turned round at once, and gave her 

o 

his attention, with quiet earnestness. 

" I take leave to doubt any question that 
you put seriously sounding silly," he said, 
with a little smile, and a gravely benevolent 
look in his eyes; "but ask it in your own 
way." 

" I will put it as shortly as I can," said 
Lucy ; and then paused a moment, colouring 
a little as she found herself obliged to begin 
with an autobiographical statement. 

" I was an adopted child. My father died 
in a shipwreck before I was born, and my 
mother not being able to provide for me 
entrusted me to some people who were the 
best of parents to me, and whom I dearly 
loved. They are dead, too, now ; so that I 
have been twice orphaned. But I did not 
mean to say all that. The question I wished 
to ask is this : In your travels did you ever 
meet or hear of a Mr. Josiah Smith (that 
was my father's name), who was second 
officer on board a ship called the Siren,, 



MADAME LEROUX. 71 

trading to Australia, between nineteen and 
twenty years ago ? " 

Rushmere looked thoughtful, and shook 
his head. 

" No," said he, after a pause. " I think 
I may say never. The Siren, eh ? She was 
lost with nearly all hands when only a few 
days from Melbourne. I now remember 
reading about it in the newspapers. The 
wreck made some sensation on account of 
the hardships of the few survivors who were 
finally rescued from an open boat. It must 
have happened just about the time that 
I left England, or within a few months 
after it." 

And his face took the brooding look 
of remembered sorrow which Lucy had 
noticed in it before. But almost imme- 
diately he roused himself, and glancing at 
her with a quick look of kindly interest, 
he said, 

" And your mother ? " 

"I do not even know whether she is 
living or dead. But I cannot help always 
hoping, and often believing, that she is 



72 MADAME LEROUX. 

alive." Then, anticipating something which 
she read in his face, she added quickly, 
" She probably knows as little where to find 
me, as I know where to find her." 

The grave sympathy of his manner 
encouraged her to go on. And in a few 
words she told him the main circumstances 
of her little history, even down to the letter 
she had received from Ravenshaw describing 
her birthplace. 

" Do you know," said Mr. Rushmere 
after listening closely, " I fancy your idea 
that your mother may have gone to Aus- 
tralia not at all an unlikely one. It would 
account for her complete disappearance out 
of your life, supposing her to be living. And 
since your father was in the habit of making 
voyages to Australia, it is possible enough 
that Mrs. Smith may have known of friends, 
perhaps even relatives, in one or other of 
the colonies. I think I know some persons 
who might be able to assist you in getting 
information, although the lapse of time is so 
considerable that possibly all traces may be 
lost. But if you will allow me, I shall be 



MADAME LEROUX. 73 

very glad to cause some inquiry to be 
made, quietly. And if, meanwhile, your 
Cumberland friend should have made 
any discoveries nearer home, all the 
better ! " 

Lucy began to thank him warmly. But 
he delicately tried to relieve her from any 
sense of obligation, by assuring her that he 
had occasion to write to Melbourne on his 
own account, and that it could not cost him 
any appreciable trouble to add a few lines 
on her behalf. 

Before she went back to Douro House 
that evening, Mr. Rushmere told her that he 
should be compelled to leave town shortly on 
business connected with some of his property. 
And he said kindly, as he shook hands and 
bade her good night, 

" Perhaps, when next we meet, I may 
have some news to give you ; or you may 
have some to give me. But I hope you will 
not be too much cast down if neither my 
inquiries nor yours prove of any avail ? " 

" No ; thank you, I hope not. And, at 
any rate," she went on with the frank warmth 



74 MADAME LEROUX. 

of her nature, " I shall have one more plea- 
sant thing to think of all my life ; for there is 
nothing gives one such a glow of strength 
and comfort as being sure that there are kind 
and true people in the world." 










CHAPTER XXII. 

THE end of the holidays, and the return of 
the pupils to Douro House, put an end to 
the abnormal and depressing life which Lucy 
had been leading, and she resumed her school 
work with eagerness. 

The sight of lively faces, the sound of 
young voices, the sense of having distinct 
duties to perform, instead of dreaming away 
her days in the heavy atmosphere of aimless 
and lonely leisure, were most welcome to 
her. Nor was it a slight relief to know when 
she lay down at night in her closet of a room, 
that there were fellow- creatures within call,, 
other and nearer than old Jeanne in the 
distant kitchen. For many a night the girl 
had lain awake trembling with nervous 
apprehension frightened now at the vague 
[75] 



7 6 MADAME LEROUX. 

murmur of voices from Madame Leroux's 
sitting-room, and now at the blank silence, 
which she imagined might be broken the 
next moment by a sound of stealing foot- 
steps on the stairs. It was a terrible life for 
a young girl to lead. And Lucy seemed to 
feel more keenly how terrible it had been 
when she looked back on those weeks, 
than during the time when they had been 
passing. 

But, although her present life was far 
more tolerable, it was by no means a pleasant 
one. The hope which she had indulged 
in for a moment, of making a friend of her 
employer, had been roughly dispelled. She 
knew that Madame Leroux had not forgotten 
the evening at the theatre, although she 
never spoke of it or rather, because she 
never spoke of it. But Madame's feeling of 
annoyed resentment was far deeper than 
Lucy conceived for she credited Lucy with 
-drawing a great many inferences which she 
did not draw, and imputing a great deal of 
evil which it had not crossed her mind to 
imagine. 



MADAME LEROUX. 77 

" If I had known what a little stuck-up, 
puritanical fool the girl was, I should never 
have trusted her. Now, of course, in her 
pinafore propriety, and total ignorance of 
any life outside the nursery and the school- 
room, she sets us all down as abandoned 
reprobates ! Marie Hawkins thoroughly 
deceived me about her cheated me in fact. 
I wish the girl had never darkened my 
doors ! " 

Nevertheless, she felt no immediate fear 
that Lucy would speak evil of her, or betray 
her. She could not withhold that tribute 
of belief in the girl's honour and trust- 
worthiness. But it would be a great mis- 
take to suppose that she liked her any the 
better for it. 

Madame Leroux had for many years 
shaped her life in accordance with certain 
maxims of expediency which she called "my 
philosophy." Hers was not the ignorant 
selfishness of an infant or an idiot that will 
devour sweet- tasting poison, or set the house 
on fire to warm itself at the blaze. The 
science of life she believed to consist in 



78 MADAME LEROUX, 

taking care that self-indulgence stopped 
short of hurting itself an achievement for 
ever impossible to beings swayed by spiritual 
emotions as well as bodily desires ; since the 
aim in itself is fatally injurious to those per- 
ceptions which save us from hurting our- 
selves. Madame Leroux did not know, or 
had forgotten, that the function of conscience 
is not solely to register unpleasant memories 
of every moral bruise ; but, like the antenna 
of certain insects, to warn us against contacts 
which are likely to bruise us. 

There had been a time, in her youth, 
when passion had carried her, as on a strong 
tide, beyond the limits of selfish prudence, 
which she now prided herself on observing. 
But, although imprudent, it had not been 
unselfish. And the fires of her love-romance 
had been fed by a good deal of very prosaic 
fuel not to speak of certain sulphurous 
vapours contributed to the flame by vanity, 
jealousy, and falsehood. She looked back on 
that episode in her life without tenderness a 
sure proof that it had been devoid of any 
spirit of self-sacrifice. 



MADAME LEROUX. 79 

And, in truth, the only creature for whom 
Caroline Leroux felt anything like genuine 
attachment was one who had inflicted on 
her a good deal of suffering and many 
injuries. 

She had been married ten years ago to an 
Italian, born in Paris, whose father, a political 
exile, had translated his patronymic of Rossi 
into Leroux. The son inherited from his 
father a handsome, dark-eyed southern face, 
and a native gift of song. But he had, 
moreover, a remarkably beautiful tenor voice, 
on which the impoverished family founded 
brilliant hopes. Many professional judges 
among old Jacopo Rossi's countrymen in 
Paris had prophesied great things from the 
young fellow's charming and sympathetic 
tenore leggiero, if he would but cultivate it 
diligently. This condition was chiefly in- 
sisted on by a snuffy old maestro di canto, 
who expressed no very confident hopes of its 
fulfilment. 

" I have seen so much of it, mio caro" 
said Professor Agrodolce, with a sceptical 
shrug. "If you offered me my choice 



8o MADAME LEROUX. 

between the voice of a Rubini in a man's 
throat and a second-rate organ in a woman's, 
I would prefer the chance of making a great 
singer out of the latter. Young men, espe- 
cially tenors, are more conceited, obstinate, 
and idle than girls are. And then, it's so 
hard to keep 'em from smoking, drinking, 
and going to the devil generally." 

But if Stefano Rossi, who was always 
called Etienne Leroux, had some tendencies 
to travel in that direction, they did not 
show themselves in devotion to absinthe or 
excessive indulgence in tobacco. 

After very brief preliminary studies, he 
made a successful ddbut on the operatic stage 
in a small town in Italy. When Agrodolce r 
who had x shaken his head at Etienne's impa- 
tience oi\ steady work, and had counselled 
two years \more study in the Conservatoire, 
was triumphantly informed by Jacopo of his 
son's success, the old maestro took a pinch of 
snuff and remarked pitilessly, " My dear 
friend, Etienne would be perfectly sure to 
make a splendid career if it could consist 
entirely of first appearances." 









MADAME LEROUX. 81 

The singing-master's bitter word was 
applicable not only to Monsieur Etienne 
Leroux's operatic career, but more or less to 
the whole of his existence. 

Caroline had met him in Paris ; she was 
then a little over twenty-seven years of age, 
and in the very prime and flower of her 
beauty. She was established (by the assist- 
ance, as was understood, of distinguished 
patrons) as junior partner in a fashionable 
school in London, and was spending the 
vacation with some Parisian friends, whose 
daughter had been her schoolfellow. At this 
time Etienne Leroux had been before the 
public several years in Italy and France. 
The season of " first appearances " was over 
long ago, and yet the fame and fortune he 
had confidently expected lingered unaccount- 
ably on their way. His voice, however, 
retained a great deal of its beauty, although, 
in the endeavour to cover defects of training, 
he had latterly begun to force it a little. And 
his velvety dark eyes had lost none of their 
pathetic beseechingness when they looked at 
a pretty woman or at a woman whom he 
VOL. IT. 26 



82 MADAME LEROUX. 

wanted to persuade that he thought her 
pretty. But there was no need of any pre- 
tence on this score when his soft, brilliant 
glances were directed towards Caroline 
Graham and he charmed her. 

For his part, he had long been wishing 
to go to London. It had been suggested to 
him by a violinist who knew our metropolis 
that, with good introductions, lucrative en- 
gagements might be found in the salons of 
the English aristocracy. Etienne thought 
the prospect seductive. He cherished a 
contempt for English artistic judgment, 
which, combined with their guineas, would 
counterbalance any humiliation he might be 
exposed to from British morgue and hauteur. 
Miss Graham was understood to have friends 
of very high rank ; she was also a partner in 
a flourishing business, and the idea of a wife 
able to support one in comfort was tempting 
to a tenore leggiero whose high notes were 
beginning to be produced with a disagreeable 
effort. Besides, Caroline was a very brilliant, 
accomplished, attractive woman, and he was 
in love with her which was undoubtedly a 



MADAME LEROUX. 83 

desirable addition to the list of inducements 
to make her his wife. 

Caroline, on her side, had visions of a 
future to be shaped in accordance with her 
tastes and vanities. Each was ready to be- 
lieve in the devotion of the other ; for it is 
noteworthy that egoism is generally disposed 
to reckon confidently on the unselfishness of 
other people. But these mutual illusions 
were of short duration. Madame Leroux 
intended, on her return to London, to take 
steps for withdrawing from the school ; she 
purposed giving private lessons, which would 
leave her more liberty to enjoy shining in 
that section of the foreign artistic world 
into which Etienne had introduced her, and 
where she was greatly admired. But her 
husband would not hear of this plan ; on the 
contrary, he insisted on her making a strong 
effort to buy out the other partner an 
elderly woman, who was not unwilling to 
retire. A considerable sum had to be 
borrowed in order to achieve this ; and 
thus the undertaking, carried on thence- 
forward in the sole name of Madame Le- 



84 MADAME LEROUX. 

roux, was rather heavily weighted from the 
beginning. 

Caroline yielded to her husband with a 
docility which surprised herself. His un- 
doubting naif, unaffected selfishness, mastered 
her. She had in former days laughed to 
scorn all guidance and principle which had 
clashed with her own inclination ; she had 
rebelled against the demands of a higher 
standard of life than that which her un- 
disciplined will chose to accept as desirable ; 
and now she bent her neck to the yoke of a 
lower nature than her own. If it be true 
that " we needs must love the highest when 
we see it," then Caroline Graham had never 
caught a glimpse of the highest. But by 
an inevitable law, every sacrifice she made 
for Etienne endeared him to her. Long 
aftkr what he called his " love " for her had 
burnt itself to ashes, she continued to cling 
to him with a feeling which was not affection, 
or tenderness, or pity, but was partly com- 
pounded of all these ; and subtly mingled 
with them \ was. a sense of superiority of 
protection. ^>he was too intelligent not to 



MADAME LEROUX. 85 

know that the stupid people whom she 
sneered at as Philistines, and prigs, and 
Puritans, would despise her if they could 
know her as she was. But such admiration 
and regard as Etienne Leroux had ever felt 
for her had been founded on no mistaken 
estimate of her moral qualities. He might 
be very angry with her, but he could, 
assuredly, never look down upon her. 

Within two years of their marriage he 
suddenly accepted an engagement with an 
operatic troupe who were going on a tour to 
South America. He had grown disgusted 
with London, where he had met with but 
mediocre success ; and his poor opinion of 
English musical taste had been thus cor- 
roborated after an unexpectedly disagreeable 
fashion. One of his great quarrels with his 
wife was that she did not " push " him with 
sufficient zeal among her fashionable con- 
nection. Caroline knew infinitely better than 
he did to what point such "pushing" was 
practicable, and when further persistence 
would have fatally injured her without bene- 
fiting him. And at the bottom of his mind 



86 MADAME LEROUX. 

he believed her representations. But he 
chose to vent his ill-humour and dis- 
appointed vanity by reproaching her with 
his want of success. 

To be sure, this was doubly unreason- 
able, since, according to his own theory of 
English stupidity in musical matters, it was 
clear that the better he sang, the less they 
must like him ! But Etienne's mind was not 
logical. He professed, indeed, a generous 
impatience of la fredda ragione, or cold 
reason ; and considered an oath and an 
abusive epithet a very sufficient refutation 
of any argument which he happened to 
dislike. 

The fact was, he was sick of England, 
he hated the country, he hated the people, 
and he declared that the climate made him 
ill. And, accordingly, he concluded the 
engagement for South America without con- 
sulting his wife, who, indeed, knew nothing 
of the matter until it was irrevocably settled. 
And this was the first severe blow he had 
inflicted on her. 

But it was by no means the last. The 



MADAME LEROUX. 87 

process of deterioration in such a man was 
naturally rapid. After his return to Europe 
lie did not come to London for several years. 
His wife met him once or twice on the 
Continent, where he led a wandering life, 
falling continually into a lower and lower 
place in his profession. Personal vanity had 
been Etienne Leroux's only substitute for 
self respect, and when he reached the point 
at which he no longer cared to brush his 
coat, or dye his moustache, the man's moral 
degradation seemed suddenly revealed to all 
observers, 

He demanded, and received, assistance 
from his wife, as a matter of course ; but he 
generally contented himself by making his 
demands by letter. Once, however, feeling 
dissatisfied with the amount sent him, he 
presented himself to Caroline in the midst 
of a school term, and made himself so 
generally disagreeable that she was com- 
pelled to forbid him the house under pain 
of cutting off the supplies altogether. He 
was at that time quite sufficiently alive to 
his own interest to understand the danger of 



MADAME LEROUX. 



making such an esclandre as would ruin the 
school. Indeed, a part of his more offensive 
behaviour had been the result of calculation. 
He must make Caroline see what he was 
capable of, unless he were appeased by 
money. Du reste, why should they not be 
good friends ? Only she must be made to- 
see reason. 

Gradually it came to be believed in the 
school that Madame Leroux was a widow. 
She had never explicitly said so, but she 
had allowed the legend to grow unchecked. 
And so she lived with this secret in her life, 
and carrying a burthen of difficulties which 
grew heavier year by year. 

And yet she could be brilliant, sparkling, 
full of wild gaiety at times, and her chief 
source of exhilaration was her looking- 
glass ! This may seem incredible to a great 
many persons, who would find nothing 
improbable in the statement that she 
habitually raised her spirits by opium or 
brandy. But her mirror beguiled her more 
effectually from dwelling on the only prospect 
which had power to quell and terrify Caroline 



MADAME LEROUX. 89. 

Leroux the prospect of old age. To be 
faded, wrinkled, and disregarded ; to see the 
eyes of men glance past her coldly, or turn 
away from her with disgust this seemed to 
her the intolerable fate which brought with 
it no compensations. But she was still 
attractive ; still an object of admiration, and 
a woman whom men vied with each other 
to please. She kept her mind resolutely 
turned away from the cold horror that lay in 
wait for her in the future ; and avoided 
solitude which was liable to be haunted by 
gloomy thoughts, as the desert is by swift, 
soft- footed, hungry beasts. Her health was 
excellent : only sometimes, after an interview 
with Etienne, who had now taken up his 
abode in a lodging in Soho, and had lost the 
last remnant of his voice, she would be 
attacked by a fit of sleeplessness. In such a 
case she at once resorted to a phial of 
chloral ; for wakeful nights and painful 
images would surely hasten the approach of 
the spectre she dreaded. 

Madame Leroux's disappointment in 
Lucy, and consequent displeasure with 



90 MADAME LEROUX. 

Marie Hawkins, had kept her away from 
the house in Great Portland Street during 
the whole of the vacation. She would 
willingly have got rid of Lucy, but that the 
acceptance of the premium had bound her to 
keep Miss Smith a twelvemonth. And she 
would have been well inclined to purchase 
Miss Smith's departure by refunding a por- 
tion of the money paid with her ; yet the 
sacrifice would have been so inconvenient 
at that time that she hesitated to make it. 
Ready money was not plentiful with Madame 
Leroux. She had neither taste nor talent 
for economy. The interest on the loan con- 
tracted to buy out her late partner was 
heavy ; Etienne's demands had been a 
steady drain upon her purse for years ; 
and her whole expenditure was on a lavish 
scale. 

For the present, things must take their 
course. But the disagreeable associations 
connected with Miss Smith were rapidly 
storing up a fund of positive dislike to her 
in the mind of her employer, and during 
the first weeks of the school-term several 



MADAME LEROUX. 91 

small circumstances contributed to increase 
it. Lucy was not popular with a large 
section of the boarders, who looked on Miss 
Cohen as their leader. Some contemptuous 
and stinging truths with which Lucy had 
replied to the wealthy boarder's clumsy 
rudeness had not only rankled in Miss 
Cohen's memory, but had really given a 
shock to her conception of the fitness of 
things. She pronounced Miss Smith to be 
"stuck up!" Had she been lazy, mean, 
false, spiteful any or all of these defects 
might have been condoned as being natural 
enough in a penniless, insignificant school- 
teacher. But to be " stuck-up " was an 
intolerable usurpation of the privileges of 
her betters. 

"Miss Cohen is rude and stupid, of 
course," said Fraulein Schulze to Madame, 
in the tone of one admitting the damp- 
ness of the English climate, or any other 
generally recognized and irremediable fact. 
" But, as I tell her, little Smith is too 
sensitiff" 

" Sensitive ! Miss Smith is too self- 



92 MADAME LEROUX. 

opinionated too fond of lecturing and 
exhibiting her own superiority," returned 
Madame sharply. And she thought to 
herself how remarkably circumstances were 
corroborating her mistrust and repulsion 
towards Lucy. Although, in truth, it was 
no more remarkable than that objects 
should look yellow to a patient with the 
jaundice. 

But notwithstanding these disagreeable 
results of Mrs. Hawkins's recommendation, 
Madame Leroux's anger against that lady 
never very deep was dying away. It was 
very natural that Marie should be eager for 
a transaction which, doubtless, had put a few 
pounds in her pocket ; and very probably 
she had been ignorant of the impracticable 
character of the girl. " At any rate, it is an 
amusing house to go to. There are no pre- 
tences to make, and none of that fear of 
something slipping out which tires one so 
for Marie knows all about Etienne. Why 
should I let that little fool divide me from 
people that suit me ? I won't." 

Thus argued Madame Leroux, in her 



MADAME LEROUX. 



93 



own mind ; and the same evening she drove 
to Great Portland Street, and appeared, 
radiant in a piquant costume of black lace 
and crimson ribbons, in the Hawkins's 
drawing-room. 




CHAPTER XXIII. 

WHATEVER cause Marie Hawkins had as- 
signed for her friend's protracted absence, 
it had not, apparently, entered into her head 
to resent it ; and, being received with perfect 
cordiality, Madame Leroux enjoyed finding 
herself once more in that social atmosphere 
which was not painfully rarified by chilly 
principles and lofty aims, such as she de- 
tested with all her might. But she was 
resolved, nevertheless, to express her disap- 
proval of Lucy's behaviour partly because 
she thought Marie deserved a scolding for 
misleading her, and partly to prepare the 
way for getting rid of Miss Smith whenever 
that could be done without paying too dear 
for it. 

Marie received her scolding with perfect 
[ 94 ] 



MADAME LEROUX. 95 

temper, but, at the same time, with a certain 
mild, invincible persistence in her own 
opinion. 

''You acted rashly, and without your 
usual discretion, ma belle, in taking her with 
you to the theatre under the circumstances," 
she said, with a smile and slightly raised 
eyebrows. And she stuck to this refrain 
through all Madame's fluent sarcasm and 
indignation against poor Lucy's " imperti- 
nence and ingratitude," with the un impas- 
sioned insistance of some little brook whose 
murmur may be temporarily overpowered by 
a hail-storm, but which will be heard long 
after the pelting force has spent itself. 

In response to a hint about the possibility 
of coming to some arrangement with Mr. 
Shard, inducing him to receive back a por- 
tion of the premium and break Lucy's en- 
gagement, Marie shook her head. 

" I don't think he intends to trouble him- 
self any more about her," she said. " She is 
not his own niece ; only a niece by marriage, 
I think. Anyhow, he does not think she has 
any further claim on him. That premium 



96 MADAME LEROUX. 

he considered to be her dot or portion to 
start her in the world. He told Adolphe 
so." 

This coincided with the impression 
Madame Leroux had received from Mr. 
Shard's letter to Lucy, which she had seen. 
It crossed her mind that the position might 
be all the more manageable for not having to 
reckon with that " sharp practitioner." But 
she merely said, " I am not the only person, 
then, who finds the young lady a little too 
oppressive ? I daresay she has been in the 
habit of lecturing this poor uncle of hers, and 
explaining to him what was proper." 

" Miss Smith was very nice while she 
was here, and she never lectured anybody," 
answered Marie, without the least heat. 

Madame gave a little impatient laugh. 
" Since you find Miss Smith so charming 
perhaps you would be willing to receive her 
back again," she said. 

" Receive her ? Receive Miss Smith, do 
you say ? Charmed ! By all means ! " ex- 
claimed Mr. Hawkins, coming close up to 
the two ladies. He had only caught a word 






MADAME LEROUX. 97 

or two of the last sentences, and had no idea 
of the general drift of the conversation. But 
he was in a very expansive mood. A vision 
of " Millamint; the British Tea!" in big 
letters on every hoarding in London, was 
intoxicating him ; and intoxication of any 
sort always made him good-natured. 

" De grace, Adolphel I beg you will 
not talk nonsense," interposed his wife, who 
was far from intending to commit herself to 
any Quixotic invitation without a previous 
guarantee for compensation, either in the 
form of a weekly payment, or by some less 
direct method. 

Madame Leroux understood it all very 
well, and smiled to herself ; but without any 
bitterness. This was a medium in which 
she was quite at her ease. It is not every 
fish that is happiest in the most crystalline 
water. She tapped Adolphus lightly on the 
arm, and said, good-temperedly, " Ah ! you 
will always be soft about a pair of beaux 
yeux. And the little simpleton is pretty be- 
yond a doubt. But that is not so much of a 
compensation to us women who have to darn 
VOL. ii. 27 



98 MADAME LEROUX. 

up what she ravels out, and endure her self- 
righteous wrong-headedness, as you might 
imagine." 

Mr. Hawkins smiled in a vapfue manner, 

o 

and his thoughts were evidently far away. 
(He was beholding, with his mind's eye, a 
colossal coloured picture, representing a 
venerable grandmother, a stalwart father, a 
comely mother, two chubby children, and a 
seraphic baby in a cradle, all strikingly alike 
as to the complexion, grouped in a cottage 
parlour with a kettle steaming like a geyser, 
the tea-things on the table, and a large red 
canister conspicuously labelled " Millamint," 
which the whole family was fixedly con- 
templating with a tender and adoring smile.) 

"What has your husband got into his 
head ? " asked Madame Leroux. "He looks 
as if he had found the philosopher's stone, 
or 'struck ile,' which I should prefer, for my 
own part." 

The prospects of British tea were ex- 
plained to her with great fervour by Mr. 
Hawkins; and the fact that Adolphe had 
really got some one with money to take 



MADAME LEROUX. 99 

the thing up was stated with quiet com- 
placency by Mrs. Hawkins. 

Caroline Leroux was accustomed to Mr. 
Hawkins' sanguine visions of fortune, and 
to seeing him watch his iridescent soap- 
bubbles with a confidence in their turning 

o 

into precious globes of solid rock-crystal, 
which no experience had as yet been able 
to destroy. 

But this time it was clear that he had 
the whole family with him. Even Marie's 
neutral scepticism was permeated with a 
little flush of rose-coloured anticipations. 
And as to Fatima, she was frankly 
elated. 

Poor Uncle Adolphe would have a 
chance now ; and it was high time he should 
have it ! Fatima had a confused idea that 
some compensation was due to Uncle 
Adolphe for the inexorableness with which 
the laws of the universe had hitherto been 
enforced against him. To be sure, people 
who loved to croak always harshly insisted 
that nothing could come of nothing. But 
Uncle Adolphe had tried to get something 



too MADAME LEROUX. 

, - 

out of nothing so often ! It did seem very 
hard that he should not be able to succeed 
for once. 

The only drawback to Fatima's delight 
in the flourishing prospects of British tea, 
arose from the coldness with which Zephany 
regarded them. Zephany had neither money 
nor influence to help or hinder the scheme, 
so his opinion about it was of no conse- 
quence to Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins. But it 
was of consequence to Fatima. 

Zephany had for years been an example 
of steady rectitude to her in the midst of a 
life whose principles partook of the nature of 
a dissolving view ; and what had been objec- 
tionable on Monday, when there was nothing 
to be got by it, was apt to melt into a quite 
different and defensible shape under the new 
light of Tuesday, when it was perceived to 
be profitable. It was not that Zephany ever 
preached ; nor, indeed, had he any lofty 
creed which he could recite off-hand, and by 
which he consciously guided his life. He 
probably held no active belief which would 
have branded a lie as a very serious offence. 




MADAME LEROUX. 101 

But there was a quality of invincible sincerity 
in the man that made humbug odious to him, 
as certain persons are peculiarly sensitive to 
foul air. 

Zephany had been Fatima's friend and 
confidant ever since she was a child of four- 
teen, when he had first come to lodge with 
the Hawkins's. They had been at that time 
under a great pressure of money difficulties, 
and had been glad to receive his modest 
payment for the one room he occupied. 
Since then their fortunes had often fluctu- 
ated, and they had removed from one house 
to another. But whether their tendency 
were upward or downward, Zephany had 
accompanied them in all their migrations 
during those six chequered years. 

A singular kind of friendship had sprung 
up between him and the Hawkins's, which 
at first sight might have seemed a very 
unlikely consummation. But Zephany was 
a man with considerable sensibility for the 
domestic affections ; and to his loneliness the 
family life was attractive, although the scene 
of it was scarcely more stable and permanent 



i (52- MADAME LEROUX. 

than a Tartar tent. But Home is, happily, 
a portable institution. 

It was not probable that this mutual 
liking (for the Hawkins's, on their side, were 
attached to Zephany, who had various quali- 
ties severally attractive to each member of 
the family), which had been growing and 
strengthening for six years, should be easily 
disturbed. Nevertheless, a threatening cloud 
had arisen at one moment. 

Zephany's friend, Mr. Rushmere, falsified 
Mr. Hawkins's favourable opinion of him 
by utterly refusing to give the support of his 
name to the British Tea Company. Neither 
would he invest sixpence in the shares. " I 
don't believe in the thing, my dear sir," he 
had said, quite simply. " The prospectus 
does not persuade me in the least. I may, 
of course, be wrong ; but I don't believe in 
it." And he appeared to think this reason 
for not embarking in it final. 

Marie had ventured to say, in her inno- 
cent voice, and with her forehead very 
smooth and candid, " But I thought that 
some companies were like the things on the 



MADAME LEROUX. 103 

Stock Exchange, don't you know where 
nobody gets anything solid for his money in 
the form of silk, or diamonds, or hogsheads, 
or bales, but where bits of paper are worth 
less to-day and more to-morrow, like lottery 
tickets or the name of a racehorse. I can't 
express it very clearly, but I daresay you 
know what I mean." 

" My dear lady, that kind of Association, 
professing to sell a desirable article, and only 
anxious to sell shares that turn into withered 
leaves for the deluded buyers, is simply a 
swindling transaction." 

"No!" said Marie, clasping her hands 
prettily, and looking up at his worn brown 
face, with a faint blush spreading slowly over 
her own fair smooth one. "' Then of course 
they are quite different from this tea com- 
pany, because there is the article, and they 
only want to sell as much of it as they 
possibly can ! " 

"Of course," answered Mr. Rushmere. 
And the subject was dropped. 

But it was a tremendous disappointment. 
And Adolphus Hawkins' strong revulsion of 



io 4 MADAME LEROUX. 

feeling made him inclined to quarrel with 
Zephany, who surely might, had he chosen 
to be zealous, have induced his friend Rush- 
mere to do something, even had it been but 
to invest a few hundreds " a few paltry 
hundreds!' said Hawkins, with that large 
disdain for sums expressible by three figures 
not unusual in a fervid speculator contem- 
plating the investment of other people's 
money. 

But Zephany did not wait to be attacked. 
Soon after Mr. Rushmere's departure from 
London, he burst forth one day, with his 
loudest voice, and fiercest intensity of gaze, 
" What is this ? What do you mean ? You 
are angry ! You are sullen ! You look at 
me with reproach, and pretend to be cold 
and distant ! For what ? " Then, folding 
his arms, and changing to a low tone, and an. 
articulation seeming to be ground out with 
some difficulty between his teeth, " I shall 
tell you. Because this Englishman whom 
I only know through a letter from one of 
my kindred at Gibraltar, unseen by me for 
twenty-five years has not chosen to risk 



MADAME LEROUX. 



his money on your pot-herbs." Then, with 
a sudden explosive kind of shout " This is 
a nonsense ! " And falling into a lower key, 
but still speaking with glowing anger, he 
proceeded, " I say not that I approve your 
scheme. That matters nothing. But am I 
the dry nurse of Mr. Rushmere, to thrust it 
in his mouth with a spoon if I did approve 
it ? He is not an infant, nor a fool. He can 
judge. He will do as seems good to him. If 
you must be angry and sullen which is a 
nonsense be angry with your Englishman. 
For me, I will not be ill-treated for a non- 
sense ! " 

It was quite impossible to carry on an 
ambushed warfare by means of inuendos, and 
nods, and becks, and offensively elaborate 
politeness with Zephany. He could use 
sarcasm and irony, and join in a conversa- 
tional war-dance, where those verbal wea- 
pons were employed alternately as spear 
and shield, and could make points and sallies, 
and wheel and turn with considerable agility 
and gusto so long as it was all in mere 
sport ; but the instant that he detected a 



106 MADAME LEROUX. 

seriously hostile intention, or that his own 
feelings were engaged, he was apt to lose 
patience, rush at the foe, pounce on him with 
breathless rapidity, and drag him forth by 
the scruff of the neck to fight out the combat 
in the open, where spears are spears, and 
spades are spades, and there are no half- 
lights. 

This explosion very speedily cleared the 
atmosphere, and had the advantage of 
making it plain to Adolphus Hawkins - 
genuinely to his satisfaction for smoulder- 
ing ill-will was repugnant to his disposition 
that he really had no grievance against 
Zephany at all. Marie did not quite take 
this view, but she saw that the grievance lay 
in the very texture of Zephany's character, 
which was beyond the power of any of them 
to alter, and she was not angry with him. 

As to Mr. Rush mere, he was absent from 
London, and not expected to return shortly. 
It was, therefore, not necessary to readjust, 
their opinion of him for immediate practical 
application to their behaviour ; but it is 
certain that they neither of them dreamed of 



MADAME LEROUX. 107 

quarrelling with their new acquaintance. To 
know a man with thousands of pounds at his 
command had something of the effect for 
Adolphus that is produced on a dweller in a 
Southern city by the sound of fountains. It 
is delightful to be assured of so abundant a 
water-supply, even though one may not be 
suffering from immediate thirst. 

But since the enlightened capitalist who 
had at length given Adolphus Hawkins a 
chance was not Mr. Rushmere, who was he ? 
No other than Mr. Clampitt of Lamb's 
Conduit Street, the old gentleman who 
modestly concealed his services to fellow- 
citizens in distress under the allegorical 
figure of a Beneficent Pelican. This title 
had doubtless been chosen with reference to 
the legendary virtues of the pelican towards 
its young. But any one who had happened 
to witness at Zoological Gardens, or else- 
where the solemn voracity with which that 
large-beaked biped disposes of its fish, might 
possibly think the name more completely 
appropriate than had been intended. 

Mr. Clampitt was niggardly and sus- 



io8 MADAME LEROUX. 

picious, but he was also insatiably covetous. 
There had been a recent brilliant example of 
what can be done by starting a company, if 
judiciously " promoted " and audaciously 
puffed. An association for the sale of coffee 
made of a vegetable substance which cer- 
tainly was not the coffee-berry, was doing a 
great stroke of business with its shares, which 
were, indeed, still rising; and Mr. Hawkins' 
scheme of utilising Calarmntha officinalis and 
Achillcea millefolium appeared to come pecu- 
liarly apropos. Since it was possible to realise 
thousands by the mere announcement of 
coffee which was not coffee, why should it 
not be possible to engage the favour of the 
public for tea which was not tea ? 

Mr. Clampitt was tempted. But, although 
on entering into this speculation he remained 
as anonymous as in the Loan Society, he did 
not, as in that case, engross the whole of the 
business. For his justly-earned reputation 
variously expressed by calling him a keen 
blade, a hard old file, a knowing card, or with 
more solemnity of eulogium, a man who knew 
the value of money drew several moneyed 



MADAME LEROUX. 109 

persons towards the undertaking, as a load- 
stone draws a needle. And, without as yet 
rivalling the plate-glass and mahogany 
establishment of the coffee which was not 
coffee, the shares of the tea which was not 
tea appeared to promise large profits for 
those intelligent business persons who should 
know when to sell. 

Madame Leroux might easily have had 
too much of this great theme if the Hawkins 
family had been the only talkers ; but, be- 
sides Zephany, several men dropped in after 
the old fashion in the course of the evening, 
and Madame's chair was soon surrounded. 
Harrington Jersey, who came in late, did not 
make one of the admiring circle. He merely 
bowed, and had a smile flashed at him from 
a distance. 

Jersey's inclination to flirt with Madame 
Leroux had been chiefly stimulated by the 
fatuous airs of Frampton Fennell. When 
Fennell was not there, Jersey's ardour cooled 
down to a very temperate tepidity. And, 
besides, of late, during Madame's withdrawal 
from the house in Great Portland Street, 



no MADAME LEROUX. 

Jersey's affections had been swinging back 
towards sweet-tempered little Fatima, whose 
figure, and foot, and hair would not easily 
be beaten ; and whose admiration for the 
"Songs -'of the Tea-Kettle" discovered a 
basis of solid judgment under her simplicity 
of manner which outweighed a great deal 
of tinsel. 

" Your flashy clever woman is always too 
clever or not clever enough," said Jersey to 
himself. " And she is never thoroughly 
appreciative." 

It thus befel that there was no word 
exchanged between Jersey and Madame 
Leroux until the latter was just going away, 
when she asked for her cloak ; for it had 
begun to rain and the air outside the warm 
gas - lighted drawing - room was chilly. 
Jersey, happening to be nearest the door, 
ran down to the hall to fetch it for her. 

When he returned she was standing 
opposite to the chimney-glass ; and the rest, 
who had risen from their seats when she did, 
were grouped to the right and left of her. 
J.ersey came behind her with the cloak, and, 



. MADAME LEROUX. in 

as he dropped it on to her shoulders, said, 
in a random way, to Mrs. Hawkins, "What's 
become of your Nabob that rich fellow 
from India whom I met here ? He's a great 
friend of the Sheik's, I know Rushmere. 
What's become of Mr. Ralph Rushmere?" 

A curious movement, that was neither a 
start nor a shudder, but rather like a great 
throb pulsing all through her body, shook 
the mantle off Caroline Leroux's shoulders, 
and it slipped in a heap on to the floor, 
while she put out her hand with a groping 
action, as though she were suddenly stricken 
blind. 

The groping hand encountered an arm 
firmly stretched forth from behind her and 
clutched it. The arm was Zephany's, and 
the next moment her eyes met his in the 
glass. Her face looked strangely ghastly, 
for the artificial colour stood out suddenly 
glaring on cheeks from which all the 
blood had receded, and her first instinctive 
movement was to rub her handkerchief 
roughly across her face so as to neutralize 
this effect. 



it2 MADAME LEROUX. 

The time which sufficed for all this to 
pass was measured by seconds. Jersey, still 
standing behind Madame Leroux, had 
stooped to pick up the fallen cloak, and it 
was not until he heard Zephany's voice, 
saying, " You turned dizzy; sit down," that 
he was aware anything unusual had hap- 
pened. Madame Leroux sat down on the 
chair which Zephany had pushed close to 
her as he spoke, and there was a chorus of 
sympathising exclamations and inquiries. 

"Yes," said she, panting a little, " I felt a 
sudden rush of dizziness ; it's over now. I 
never fainted in my life, but that must be 
something like fainting, I fancy. I hope I 
am not becoming apoplectic." 

She spoke with complete self-possession 
and without the least exaggeration of 
manner. 

" I had better get home," she said, after 
a short pause, during which she had sat 
quite still, with closed eyes, while Marie held 
a vinaigrette to her nose. Then she arose, 
nodded " good- night " all round, and, leaning 
on Jersey's arm, went slowly downstairs. 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Zephany had withdrawn into the back- 
ground, and stood a little apart, near the 
piano, pressing his mouth on his clenched 
hand a habitual attitude of his when medi- 
tating. 

" I suppose it was the heat," said Marie, 
returning to the drawing-room, after having 
seen her friend into the brougham that was 
waiting for her. " This room does feel stuffy 
and oppressive on coming back into it." 

" Yes," assented Zephany, " it is close/' 
But he knew it was not the heat which had 
sent that sickening rush of faintness over 
Caroline Leroux, for he had seen her face in 
the glass. 




VOL. II 



28 



CHAPTER XXV. 

MANY possibilities of emotion may remain 
latent within us, and hidden even from our- 
selves. Caroline Leroux would certainly not 
have expected to feel that shock of mingled 
feelings which the sudden mention of Ralph 
Rushmere's name had produced in her. She 
had for years been uncertain whether he 
were living or dead. But if it had been 
possible for the question to present itself to 
her, how she would be affected by hearing 
that he was alive and in England, she would 
have been sure that the tidings would leave 
her mind collected and her nerves calm. 

But it had not been so. Nor was her 
agitation wholly due to surprise ; for as she 
sat alone in her own room at midnight, hear- 
ing over and over again Jersey's careless 






MADAME LEROUX. 115 




words, a chill quiver ran through her at 
intervals, and her hands were cold. 

" Bah ! What queer machines we are ! " 
she exclaimed, in a loud whisper, as she held 
out her hand before her, and perceived that 
it was visibly trembling. 

Then she got up and walked once or 
twice across the room. But her limbs felt 
weak and tired, and she soon sat down again. 

" I must have something to warm my 
blood," she said, to herself. " I must have 
some wine to get rid of this chill sensation." 

But Fraulein Schulze had the housekeep- 
ing keys, and had been in bed hours ago ; 
and Madame Leroux was not one of those 
women who keep a private store of stimu- 
lants. All at once she bethought her that 
the last time she was in Paris, she had filled 
a small travelling flask with Cognac, which 
had remained untouched during the home- 
ward journey. After a little search she found 
her dressing-bag at the bottom of a ward- 
robe, and in it the flask nearly full. She 
poured out a small quantity of the liquid, and 
swallowed it undiluted. 



n6 . MADAME LEROUX. 

" Ah h h !" she sighed, drawing a long 
breath, and giving a little shudder of satisfac- 
^ion, as her blood began to circulate more 
regularly, and a feeling of comforting warmth 
stole into her hands and feet. Then, throw- 
ing herself into a luxuriously easy-chair, she 
addressed her own image in the cheval-glass 
opposite, "Well, my friend, have you had 
enough for the present of making yourself 
a fool ? Are you ready to behave like a 
woman with a little brains and resolution ? 
Voyons ! " 

Then she set herself to think. 

Rushmere alive and in London might 
mean no more for her than the existence of 
any other among the millions of fellow- 
creatures in that vast city. But Rushmere 

alive and in London, and rich That 

might be different. 

" I wonder how he got his riches," she 
thought. " Ralph Rushmere a rich man 
seems like a contradiction in terms. It 
wasn't in him to make money. Can he have 
inherited, after all ? " 

She sat musing, thrown back in the easy- 






MADAME LEROUX. 117 

chair, her hands clasped behind her head, 
and an intent frown upon her brow. Did 
she wish to see Rushtnere again ? She was 
not sure what her choice might be if it were 
left perfectly free, but she was aware of an 
inward recoil at the thought of meeting him. 
However, her choice was probably not free. 
Since he frequented die Hawkins's house, she 
was exposed to being brought face to face 
with him unawares. And that she resolved, 
in any case, to avoid. If they were to meet 
she would be prepared. 

"I'll write to Zephany !" That was the 
first step she resolved on. " And," she 
added, after an instant's reflection, " I'll write 
to-night. To-morrow I might begin to hesi- 
tate, and think it out all over again. But 
that would only be from some hitch in the 
machinery." And she looked at herself in 
the glass with a strange mocking smile. 
" New \ am clear, and the wheels and 
springs are going smoothly. I'll write to 
Zephany." 

She went at once to a dainty little daven- 
port which stood in a corner of the room, 



MADAME LEROUX. 



and wrote in French, with her usual steady, 
minute, foreign handwriting. 

" I desire to say a word to you. It would 
be very amiable if you would come here to- 
morrow between five and six. That is the 
best hour for me. But I shall stay at home 
all day, and will give orders that M. le Pro- 
fesseur Zephany is to be admitted whenever 
he calls. C. LEROUX." 

" I think," she said, as she lay down in 
her bed, " that I shall sleep to-night without 
chloral." And she did. 

She had said confidently in her note that 
she would remain at home the whole of the 
following day. But before she left her room 
the next morning a summons came which 
frustrated that intention. 

A letter was brought to her, with an 
urgent demand for an immediate answer. 
The messenger was waiting ; and the mes- 
senger was no other than the old Savoyarde 

Jeanne, who had acted as caretaker durin^ 
j r> 

the holidays. Madame Leroux dismissed 
the maid who had brought her the letter, 
before opening it. But in less than two 



MADAME LEROUX. 119 

minutes the bell was sharply rung, and 
Madame, standing with her back to the 
servant, in her white peignoir, and with her 
hair hanging down, ordered the messenger 
to be sent upstairs at once. 

" What is it ? " she asked, in a quick, 
peremptory voice, as soon as the old 
woman had entered and shut the door 
behind her. 

" Monsieur wants money," answered 
Jeanne, with perfect composure. 

" Wants money ! Very likely ; but is that 
a reason for disturbing and startling me at 
this hour ? '' answered Madame. But she 
was obviously relieved from a vague fear of 
something worse. 

" I know nothing," said the old woman 
with a shrug. "My son thought I had 
better come to you, or else they will turn 
him out of his lodgings." 

" Turn him out of his lodgings ?. Let 
them ! " exclaimed Madame, with a little 
stamp of her foot. 

" He's ill. He has one of his attacks, 
My son thought he ought not to be moved. 



120 MADAME LEROUX. 

But I know nothing. It is not my business," 
said Jeanne, in a hard, grumbling tone. 

Caroline wrung her hands, and walked 
two or three paces across the room. Then 
she stopped short, and said with an effort, 
" I must go myself. You have a cab 
here?" 

" Yes ; my son said it would be quicker t 
and he was sure you would pay." 

Fraulein Schulze was sent for, and while 
Madame rapidly dressed herself for going 
out, she told the Fraulein that she was sud- 
denly called away to attend on a sick friend, 
"A foreigner who can speak scarcely any 
English," said Madame, hurriedly tying on 
her bonnet. " I cannot leave the case en- 
tirely to strangers. I shall return as soon 
as possible directly I have put things en 
train. But I cannot name any hour. You 
can tell them all in the school why I am 
obliged to be absent It will be better to 
do so." 

Fraulein Schulze did not detain her by 
any inconvenient demonstrations of sympathy 
or anxiety ; and Madame hastened down- 



MADAME LEROUX. 121 

stairs with a quick, firm step, leaving old 
Jeanne to follow, slow and sour-faced as 
ever. 

It was past four o'clock in the afternoon 
before the mistress of Douro House returned 
to it. The first words she said on entering 
the house, were, " Has any one called to ask 
for me ? " 

The servant's answer was in the negative. 
" He will be here between five and six, 
then," she said to herself. Only a few 
minutes previously, on her way home, she 
had remembered that Zephany might pos- 
sibly have called in her absence. 

She looked white and weary ; and she 
caught a side light on her face in the glass as 
she removed her bonnet that startled her 
with a vision of a haggard line round her 
mouth. She sank into a seat, and covered 
her eyes with her clasped hands. The sum- 
mons that morning had been a severe strain 
upon her. Etienne had plunged himself into 
debt as deeply as he had found it possible to 
do. And on being urged to pay his rent, a 
furious fit of anger had brought on a violent 



122 MADAME LEROUX. 

attack of coughing, accompanied by spitting 
of blood, from which he had suffered more 
than ever of late. 

Old Jeanne's son, Louis Montondon, who 
kept an eating-house in Soho, which Mon- 
sieur Leroux patronized, had been sent for 
by the lodging-house people, as being the 
only acquaintance of their lodger accessible 
to them ; and Louis had at once despatched 
his mother to Madame Leroux, as we have 
seen. Whether the Montondons knew 
Etienne and Caroline to be husband and 
wife, or whether they suspected that there 
was a less avowable tie between them, they 
troubled themselves to make no inquiries. 
They understood that Madame desired 
discretion from them, and that it would be 
made worth their while to be discreet. So 
long as Monsieur's score was paid at the 
eating-house, and Madame gave Jeanne 
periodical employment during the holidays, 
they were quite content with their patrons. 
And gradually Louis Montondon had come 
to be on something like confidential terms 
with them both, V 



MADAME LEROUX 123 



" He is better. He will get over it. 
The doctor says he- may live for years, with 
care. But he must be tranquil, and have no 
undue excitement. An excellent prescription. 
Tranquillity and the absence of undue excite- 
ment for Etienne Leroux ! Why did not the 
wise physician add that he must find two new 
sovereigns in his stockings every morning ? 
But I must contrive some means to limit 
his expenditure, or it will be downright ruin. 
There's no use in trying to fight off the truth. 
Money was running very short already. And 

now this new outbreak ! If he takes to 

gambling, in addition to all the rest . 

I must think ; I must think ! " Caroline 
smoothed back the hair from her forehead 
with both hands, pressing them hard against 
her temples, as though the action had some 
coercive power over her thoughts. 

After a while she rang her bell and 
ordered a warm bath to be prepared ; and, 
having bathed, she made a long and elaborate 
toilet with locked doors. 

" When, about a quarter-past five o'clock, 
Professor Zephany was ushered into 



J24 MADAME LEROUX. 

Madame's private sitting-room, he thought 
he had never seen her look so attractively 
handsome. She was somewhat paler than 
usual, but her eyes were full of a soft 
brilliancy beneath their pencilled brows and 
dark lashes, and the curly tendrils of her hair 
were disposed with a charming, careless- 
seeming grace. She wore a dark-grey dress 
of some soft rich silken fabric, and there were 
jewels on the white hands that peeped out 
from beneath lace ruffles. She watched 
Zephany's face at the moment he entered, and 
was satisfied by its expression that she was 
looking well. And let it be understood that 
Madame Leroux had no design against 
Zephany's peace of mind. She was simply 
making him a test of the impression she 
might hope to produce on some one else. 

" Thank you for coming," she said, hold- 
ing out her hand. He bowed over it, and 
hoped she had quite recovered from last 
night's indisposition ; and then he sat down 
and waited for her to speak. 

" You were announced as Professor 
Zephany," she said. " That is what I 



MADAME LEROUX. 125 

wished ; I do not receive many male visitors, 
as you may suppose but a professor one 
may always see on business." 

" I understood that from the wording of 
your note," he answered, with a quick flash 
of intelligence. 

" Ah, what a comfort to deal with a man 
like you ! You don't want everything 
explained three times over, and then mis- 
understand it at the end. You are not dull 
of comprehension." 

" I am not" assented Zephany, with 
emphatic conviction. 

" And since you are not, you perceived 
that it was the sudden mention of a name 
which upset me last night." 

Zephany bent his head with grave friend- 
liness. This candour conciliated him. 

" And I want you to tell me all about the 
owner of that name, whom I have not seen 
or heard of for years." 

" What I can tell is soon told. You are 
asking about Mr. Rushmere ?" 

"Yes." 

" Mr. Rushmere made my acquaintance 



iz6 MADAME LEROUX. 

about two months ago, by bringing- me a 
letter from my uncle, a Jewish merchant in 
Gibraltar. He was formerly in the army, but 
an injury received accidentally, obliged him 
to leave it. He has been wandering about 
the world a good many years; chiefly in 
India. He came last from Ceylon. I have 
understood him to say that he has no rela- 
tives, and scarcely a friend left in England. 
He is in this country now on business of his 
own, but is uncertain whether he shall remain 
here or go back to Ceylon. That is all I 
know." 

" He is not married ?" 

\ 

Zephany shook his head. 

" Thank youv" said Madame, and then 
mused a s little. At length, looking full at 
Zephany, she askfcd, " Can you tell me what 
are his circumstances ? When I knew him 
he was poor." \ 

Zephany returned her gaze with an 
intentness which the vainest of women could 
scarcely have interpreted in a flattering sense. 

"Oh!" said he. "You want to know 
about his money ? " 



MADAME LEROUX. 127 

Madame Leroux took a rapid resolution. 
" Yes," she answered, " I want to know about 
his money, and I will tell you, briefly, why. 
It is an old, old story. Two foolish young 
people who fancied themselves more deeply 
in love than any young people, wise or 
foolish, ever had been before, not a penny in 
the world between them, and a rich, cruel 
uncle who forbade the banns. Nothing at 
all original, you see ! " She stopped, and 
looked at him with a half-humorous, half- 
melancholy smile. 

Zephany's countenance remained quite 
grave as he responded, " But that is only the 
rirst chapter of the story, Madame." 

For an instant a white, shocked look 
came into her face, and she asked in a 
breathless way, as if the words had been 
forced from her against her will, " Has he 
told you anything about his youth ?" 

" Nothing of any love-story not a word." 

" Because," she went on, more com- 
posedly, " frankly, his version might differ 
from mine ; and yet mine is the true one. 
One of the foolish young people in question 



128 MADAME LEROUX. 

was not altogether foolish. She saw that 
although ' egotism for two ' may be delightful, 
poverty for two is a worse business than 
when it has to be borne singly. In short, 
marriage at that time would have meant 
starvation for the body ; and a long, in- 
definite engagement would have meant that 
gradual draining away of youth, and hope, 
and joy, and energy, which is no better than 
slow starvation for the soul. So she had the 
courage to turn the page, and break off that 
story at what you call the first chapter not 
wholly selfishly ; no, not wholly selfishly. I 
should like him to know that," added Caroline 
Leroux, with an indescribable intonation, 
which touched her hearer. 

" She did well," he said, gently, " I 
mean she did well to act so, if she felt 
so." 

" Oh, my good friend," she answered, in 
a lighter tone, " well or ill, it is done ; and 
she is not the woman to sit down and bewail 
the past with a litany of ' ifs.' But if you 
really must allow me that one, because it 
carries a cheerful possibility ! if he has 




MADAME LEROUX. 129 

inherited his uncle's fortune after all, we may 
see plainly that everything has been for the 
best, in this best of all possible civilized 
communities." 

" He has inherited it ; but only quite 
lately." 

She clapped her hands together. " I am 
glad of it ! " she said, softly. " ' Wisdom is 
justified of her children,' and that young 
woman did him a good turn when she shut 
down the page and stopped short at the first 
chapter. I'm ever so much obliged to you, 
Zephany," she said in a cordial tone, giving 
him her hand as he rose to go away. <( To 
tell you the truth as most people do, with a 
flourish, after it has been found out I had 
had my painful thoughts about that poor 
fellow. I did not know whether he was 
alive or dead, and the sound of his name 
last night struck a chord that I thought had 
gone to join the ' eternal silences ' many a 
year ago. But why tell you all that ? You 
saw it clearer and plainer than I can say it." 

He held her hand for a moment, looking 
at her with more benevolence than she had 
VOL. ii. 29 



1 3 o MADAME LEROUX. 

ever seen in his eyes before, although she 
had often seen more admiration. 

" That is good," he said, simply. 

"And there is one more favour I want 
to beg of you you will not say anything 
to to Mr. Rushmere about this conversa- 
tion ? " 

" I shall speak of it to no one," he 
answered. " You may trust me." 

She clasped her hands firmly together, 
looked at him seriously for a moment, 
and answered with a brief, emphatic nod, 
" I do." 




CHAPTER XXV. 






THE chill of latter autumn was making 

itself felt in Westfield, and the fine clumps 

of trees in the park around Enderby Court 

wore as many tints as a painter's palette. 

The gardeners were daily busied in sweeping 

away the fallen leaves from lawn, and drive, 

and pathway ; a faint white mist floated 

morning and evening over the low-lying 

grounds ; sportsmen were active in covert 

and stubble ; industrious housewives stood 

close to cottage windows to catch the last 

waning daylight for their knitting or darning, 

and remarked every afternoon that the days 

-did draw in wonderful, sure-/y ; the glow 

behind the red curtains of the " Enderby 

Arms " looked tempting to slow-footed 

labourers carrying home a heavy weight of 



132 MADAME LEROUX. 

mud on their shoe-soles from field and 
furrow ; and Mr. Jackson's chronic trouble 
with his joints grew sharper. 

All these symptoms of approaching 
winter were looked upon in Westfield as 
being a natural portion of that constitution 
of things whereof the memory of man ran 
not to the contrary. For if there were per- 
sons who remembered Mr. Jackson before 
his rheumatics had crippled him, yet there 
had always been in the remotest times some 
Goody or Gaffer rheumatic enough to keep 
up the charter of our climate and give 
occupation to Dr. Goodchild. The course of 
Nature, in fact, appeared likely to continue 
in those parts with an unvarying regularity 
which would have sufficed to make the 
villagers scoffingly sceptical of Darwinian 
theories of evolution if they had ever hap- 
pened to hear of them ; and the close of 
that year of grace promised to bring nothing 
more unexpected than a rise in the price 
of coals, and a new baby at the Rectory. 

And yet one morning tidings were rapidly 
spread through the village which seemed 



MADAME LEROUX. 133 

almost as startling to many there, as though 
a small earthquake had shaken Westfield to 
its foundations. It was rumoured that Sir 
Lionel Enderby was dead had died sud- 
denly far away in a foreign country ; and 
there was general curiosity and consternation. 

In every dwelling for miles round from 
the ale-house to the Rectory, from Lord 
Percy Humberstone's Elizabethan mansion 
to Goody Bloxham's Victorian model cottage 
this news formed an engrossing topic of 
conversation. 

Those Westfieldians who had any per- 
sonal acquaintance with the servants at the 
Court assumed the airs of a privileged caste, 
and put down outsiders on points of detail 
as if they had been augurs in whose pre- 
sence the profane vulgar had ventured to 
discuss the divination ex ccelo. And be- 
yond this select circle there were various 
degrees of dogmatic inaccuracy, reaching 
even to that outer circumference where Giles 
Ploughman, with a slow shake of the head, 
mentioned to the other farm-servants as- 
sembled at supper, that he had heerd 'twas 



134 MADAME LEROUX. 

mortal unhealthy abroad ; and illustrated this 
position by the narrative of a brother of his 
own, who, being a wild young chap, and 
falling a prey to the seductions of the re- 
cruiting sergeant, had been sent "abroad," 
and was forthwith carried off by yellow 
fever, complicated with rum. 

After the first shock, it appeared in 
various social discussions of the sad event 
that it was no more than had been very 
generally expected. For there were, it 
seemed, a great many persons in Westfield 
who had been quite sure of what would 
happen ; only, from motives of delicacy, they 
had not assumed any offensive superiority 
over their less prescient neighbours by 
mentioning it beforehand. 

Mr. Pinhorn's shop was one of the great 
centres of gossip on this occasion. Mrs, 
Jackson spoke authoritatively in the present 
crisis, as one who had lived ten years at the 
Court, and knew the ways of high families. 
And it turned out that she was among those 
far-seeing spirits who could have foretold 
just how things would be, but had been re- 






MADAME LEROUX. 135 

strained by her constitutional objection to 
talking and prating. 

" I should think Lady Charlotte might 
repent now" said Mrs. Jackson, in her thin, 
acid tones. She was seated on the one 
wooden chair in Mr. Pinhorn's shop, and 
addressed an audience composed of the 
grocer himself, Dr. Goodchild's cook, and 
one of the under-gardeners from Enderby 
Court 

" Ahem ! " coughed Mr. Pinhorn, glancing 
nervously at the gardener. " Of course, my 
Lady will be dreadfully cut up." 

" She shouldn't have let him take such a 
journey, then ! In my lady's time I mean 
Lady Jane Enderby' s it would niver have 
been thought of." 

It may be stated that Lady Charlotte had 
gone away without causing any orders to be 
given for the alteration of the sink in Mrs. 
Jackson's kitchen ; and Mrs. Jackson felt 
that this neglect restored to her the full 
liberty of general censure which imparted 
so much pungency to her conversation. 

"Why, I've been told Sir Lionel was 



136 MADAME LEROUX. 

recommended to travel by the faculty," said 
Mr. Stokes, the under-gardener ; a south 
countryman, with a good-natured, surprised- 
looking face, and mild blue eyes. 

" Ah ! And it ain't always safe to go 
along with the faculty," returned Mrs. Jack- 
son. " A person must keep their eyes open 
and judge for themselves. Not but what I 
always call in the doctor if anything ails me ; 
and so does Jackson. We can afford to pay 
for what we have, visits and physic and all. 
But I don't give up to 'em in everything. 
And I hold by my own opinion about blue 
pill." 

" I'm sure master never ordered Sir 
Lionel abroad," put in Dr. Goodchild's cook. 
" But he says going abroad had nothing to 
do with it. I heard him telling missis that 
it was something Annie something, he called 
it, of the heart that was just as likely to 
have killed him in his own lib'ary at the 
Court as anywheres else. Master saw a 
letter from Lord Grimstock to Mr. Arden." 

"'Just as likely !'" repeated Mrs. Jack- 
son, with ineffable scorn. " Ah, it's easy 



MADAME LEROUX. 137 

talking. If ifs and an's was pots and pans, 
there'd be no trade for tinkers. But we do 
know as Sir Lionel didn't die in his lib'ary ; 
and did die pretty near as soon as he was 
took away from it. We do know that. And 
I like judging from facts myself, and not 
going by what was 'just as likely.' ' 

Mr. Stokes slowly rubbed his hand 
through his hair. He had a dim conviction 
that Mrs. Jackson was wrong somehow ; but 
he felt her dialectics to be formidable. And 
he remarked afterwards in confidence to Mr. 
Pinhorn that Hannah Jackson was one of 
them women as would talk a horse's hind- 
leg off; but she didn't quite know every- 
thing, neyther. 

" Dear, dear, dear," said Mr. Pinhorn, 
with an air of general sympathy, "to think 
that we shall never see Sir Lionel among us 
again ! It's just like when my lady was 
carried off so sudden in London. Do you 
think " addressing Stokes in a lowered tone 
of voice " that they'll bring the the body 
home ? " 

Mr. Stokes professed himself ignorant on 



1 38 MADAME LERO UX. 

the subject ; but Mrs. Jackson's omniscience 
was no more at fault here than on any other 
point concerning the manners and customs 
of high families. And she declared it was a 
matter of course that Sir Lionel should be 
brought back and laid in the family vault 
alongside of my lady. 

" And poor Miss Enderby ! What a blow 
for her ! Such an affectionate daughter ! I 
don't know a sweeter young lady than Miss 
Enderby, let the other be where she will," 
said Mr. Pinhorn, with some genuine feeling. 
The cook and the under-gardener heartily 
coincided with him ; and thus encouraged by 
public opinion, Mr. Pinhorn went on 

"Ah! Her and her friend, poor Miss 
Lucy Mars ton, what a sweet young pair they 
made ! Poor Miss Lucy Marston ! I don't 
know that I ever saw prettier eyes than 
hers, nor a gracefuller figure. And then 
such a lively way with her ! " 

" She were like a moss-rose with the dew 
on it, were Miss Lucy," chimed in the under- 
gardener. 

"She '// feel it dreadful, when she comes to 



MADAME LEROUX. 



hear of it," pursued Mr. Pinhorn. " She was ; 
as much attached to the family at the Court, 
as though she belonged to it. And so she 
did in a way. For ever since she was that 

high 

But here Mrs. Jackson felt it necessary 
to interpose with a firm protest. 

" Well, I don't know what you may think 
of it, Mr. Pinhorn," she said, standing up 
and folding her hands tightly on the flap- 
basket she carried, " but / consider it a'most 
ondecent to be running on in that way about 
eyes and figures when the family's in such 
deep affliction. And I can tell you one 
thing : Lady Charlotte wouldn't be best 
pleased to hear her niece, Miss Enderby, of 
Enderby Court, evened to a fondling like 
that there Lucy Smith ; for Smith her name 
is, if she's got a name at all. And she'd 
been misbehaving some way or another, or 
else she'd never ha' been sent off from the 
Court all of a hurry, the way she was, and no 
reason given. You can't suppose but what 
folks '11 tell fast enough if there's anything. 
to be proud of ; that you niver can suppose, 



140 MADAME LEROUX. 

Mr. Pinhorn ! So when folks are so mighty 
close and stand-offish, you're at liberty to 
think bad of 'em." 

" I should call it a very harsh-minded 
person that thought bad of Miss Lucy with- 
out better cause than that," returned Mr. 
Pinhorn 3 with some spirit. He was fortified 
by the evident sympathy of Mr. Stokes. 
And he did not at all like being lectured in 
the presence of Dr. Goodchild's cook. 

" Oh, harsh-minded ! You can't be 

soft enough to please all the softies. And 
Mr. Shard, that's Mr. Marston's own wife's 
sister's husband, he said hed done all he 
-could for the girl, as was that stubborn she 
heeded neither bit nor bridle. And I could 
see for myself there was a uppishness about 
her as didn't bode no good. And he'd 
washed his hands of her, that's what Law- 
yer Shard said." 

"Well," said Mr. Stokes, in his slow, 
south-country speech, " by what I can hear, 
Lawyer Shard's hands won't be none the 
worse of a little washing ! " 

And the under-gardener lounged out of 



MADAME LEjROUX, 141 

the shop, conscious of having scored one 
against the terrible Mrs. Jackson. 

Thus the news was canvassed throughout 
Westfield ; and nearly everywhere Sir Lionel 
was spoken of with a kindly regret. He 
had not exercised any active influence among 
them like Lady Jane ; but he had borne his 
honours meekly. He had oppressed no 
man ; he had dispensed liberal charities ; 
and he had lived chiefly on his own estate. 

"He was a thoroughly kind-hearted 
man. He had his weaknesses. But, Lord 
bless me, so have we all ! So have we all ! 
Humanum est errare" said Dr. Goodchild, 
in the tone of a man conscious of making a 
handsomer admission than could have been 
justly expected of him. 

"It was a great shock to me," said the 
Rector. " Mrs. Griffiths had a telegram 
from Lord Grimstock just as he was starting 
for Italy. She sent up a man on horseback 
to me with it. I fell back in my chair when 
I read it. It came to me like a thunderbolt 
out of a clear sky. I suppose you were as 
much taken by surprise as any of us, doctor ?" 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Dr. Goodchild pursed up his mouth, and 
nodded his head twice or thrice with a slight 
frown. " I had my own views of the case," 
said he, mysteriously. " But there are cir- 
cumstances in which it is well in fact, 
essential to keep the patient in ignorance 
of his real state. Sir Lionel had a fixed idea 
that he was dyspeptic. And I know that 
Brimblecombe Bromley Brimblecombe, the 
great specialist treated him at one time for 
dyspepsia. But, as to being surprised, my 
dear sir, I had my own views of the case. 
And if any person had asked me whether I 
thought Sir Lionel Enderby likely to die of 
aneurism of the heart, I might not have 
chosen to give that person my opinion, but 
I know ve ery well what it would have 
been." 

Poor Sir Lionel's body was brought 
home, as Mrs. Jackson had foretold, and 
placed beside his wife's in Westfield Church- 
yard. And Lord Grimstock, who had ac- 
companied his brother-in-law's remains on 
that last grisly journey, appeared as chief 
mourner at the funeral. The Earl made a 



MADAME LEROUX. 143 

good impression on all who saw him there ; 
and the assembly was a very large one, in- 
cluding a great number of the neighbouring 
gentry, as well as all the tenantry and inhabi- 
tants of Westfield who could possibly manage 
to be present. Good Mrs. Griffiths declared 
that the sight of his lordship had upset her 
more than anything else, for he did remind 
her so of her late dear lady. And the like- 
ness between him and Lady Jane was gene- 
rally observed. He was, personally, almost 
a stranger to Westfield ; but it appeared that 
he was acquainted with several matters con 
cerning the village which it behoved him to 
know. For instance, he took an early 
opportunity of setting the Rector's mind at 
rest with regard to sundry poor pensioners 
who had been mainly supported by the 
bounty of Enderby Court. And, in fact, he 
informed Mr. Arden that ample provision 
would be made for carrying on all the 
charities established by his late sister and 
her husband. 

Within a short time it was generally 
known that the bulk of Sir Lionel's large 



i 4 4 MADAME LEROUX. 

wealth was left to Miss Enderby ; and that 
her uncle, Lord Grimstock, had been ap- 
pointed Mildred's guardian and trustee. It 
was understood, also, that Sir Lionel had 
several times expressed a wish that Lady 
Charlotte would continue to live with her 
niece, and fill a mother's place towards her ; 
but that a very munificent bequest to her 
ladyship had been hampered by no condi- 
tions. All the old servants had been re- 
membered, and there were liberal legacies 
to all the charitable institutions of the 
county. 

There had been some anxiety in the 
village to know whether my lady and Miss 
Enderby would come back to the Court at 
once. Westfield was of opinion that that 
would be t v he proper course to take. Where 
else could th<e ladies be so comfortable and 
quiet as in their own home. And it was 
well known that Miss Enderby loved the 
country. But the question was not settled 
in accordance with the opinion of Westfield. 
Lord Grimstock, in talking to Mr. Arden, 
mentioned that his sister and niece would 



MADAME LEROUX. 145 

spend the winter in Italy. It was thought 
desirable for Mildred to remain in the South 
not in Rome, where this great afflic- 
tion had befallen her but in some sunny, 
sheltered spot on the Riviera. She had 
felt the shock of her father's sudden death 
very severely, and the doctors did not advise 
her immediate return to England in that 
wintry season. 

Mr. Shard had contrived, on some pre- 
text of business, to obtain access to Lord 
Grimstock during the few hours he remained 
.at Ende.rby Court on the morning after the 
funeral. He ventured to inquire what were 
his lordship's commands as to this and that 
matter. Lady Charlotte had been good 
enough to approve of what he had done. 
He had had the honour of keeping her lady- 
.ship informed, by letter, of what was going 
on. Her ladyship had manifested a con- 
fidence in his judgment, which he humbly 
hoped Lord Grimstock might see fit to 
-continue. 

" I should have thought, sir, that it was 
more necessary to keep Sir Lionel Enderby 

VOL. II. ?O 



] 4 6 MADAME LEROUX. 

informed as to his own property than my 
sister," remarked Lord Grimstock, looking 
with considerable distaste at the man before 
him. 

Mr. Shard had assumed a manner for the 
occasion, compounded of business-like alacrity 
and sorrowing sympathy. And as he stood 
there, rubbing his hands, bowing after each 
sentence, and every now and then raising his 
voice to a plaintive squeak, it must be owned 
that Mr. Shard did not appear to advantage. 
So little was Lord Grimstock prepossessed in 
his favour, that he had not asked him to sit 
down, but had risen himself, and stood lean- 
ing against the mantelpiece ; hoping, in this 
way, to cut the colloquy short. 

"Oh, as to Sir Lionel," answered Mr. 
Shard, " tacking " with instantaneous readi- 
ness, and putting on the bluff air of an old 
family retainer, whose attachment has been 
too well tested to need assertion, " it isn't 
since yesterday, my lord, that I have had the 
privilege of knowing and serving my late 
lamented patron. I have lived in Westfield 
a good many years now, my lord. But 



MADAME LEROUX. 147 

Lady Charlotte was kind enough latterly, to 
take a good deal of trouble off Sir Lionel's 
shoulders. He was never strong, and minor 
details worried him." 

Here Mr. Shard relapsed into affliction, 
and blew his nose in a manner to suggest 
that he was almost tearful. 

" I presume, sir," said Lord Grimstock, 
" that you can, for the present, refer all 
matters as to which you are in doubt, to Mr. 
Bates, the steward ? " 

"If such is your lordship's pleasure 
undoubtedly," answered Mr. Shard, swallow- 
ing his mortification with considerable power 
of self-command. " Mr. Bates has not 
treated me exactly has shown some jealousy 
but far be it from me to intrude my per- 
sonal feelings at a moment like this. Bye 
and bye Lady Charlotte may feel herself able 
to lay my case before your lordship. Mean- 
while I will do my best to keep things going 
smoothly. I have the interests of the family 
more at heart naturally after all these 
years ! than any private pique or annoy- 
ance of my own." 



148 MADAME LEROUX. 

Lord Grimstock hesitated a second. The 
man spoke fairly, and, after all, he reflected, 
he (Lord Grimstock) knew nothing against 
him. 

" Thank you," he said, more graciously 
than he had spoken yet. " I shall be obliged 
to you." 

Mr. Shard bowed low, and rewarded his 
lordship by taking his leave without further 
parley. At the door he paused and turned. 

" Might I venture," he said, humbly, " to 
ask how Miss Enderby is ? She is adored 
by every one in the village, high and low 
alike ; but I may, perhaps, be allowed to 
claim some special interest in her, from her 
having been the playfellow from infancy of 
my niece." 

Mr. Shard had rapidly calculated that it 
might be worth while to have a second string 
to his bow. Hostility to Lucy was needful 
to please my lady, but it did not follow that 
it was equally sure to please my lord. And 
it might even happen that Miss Enderby 
should now choose to hold out and have 
Lucy reinstated. 



MADAME LEROUX. 



149 



"Miss Enderby was greatly prostrated 
by the shock at first," answered Lord Grim- 
stock, once more freezing into stiffness. 
" But we are under no serious .apprehen- 
sions about her." 

And when the door was closed behind 
his visitor he said to himself, "Well, if 
Mildred's bosom friend is the niece of that 
fellow, I don't wonder at Charlotte's anxiety 
to break off the connection. How in the 
world could poor dear Jane have taken 
a fancy to any one belonging to him ! " 





CHAPTER XXVI. 

ALTHOUGH Lord Grimstock had not thought 
himself called upon to enter into such par- 
ticulars with Mr. Shard, yet there had been 
a moment when he and Lady Charlotte had 
felt no little apprehension about their niece's 
health. Mildred had been with her father 
at the moment of his death, and the 
shock of its suddenness had been terribly 
severe. 

All had been going so well up to that 
fatal day. Sir Lionel had been pleased with 
his journey ; had enjoyed Switzerland and 
the Italian lakes ; and had been in particu- 
larly good spirits ever since their arrival in 
Rome, where he had established himself for 
the winter in a patrician palace. He had 
brought letters of introduction from Dr. Lux 
[150] 



MADAME LEROUX. 151 

and others, to members of various foreign 
learned societies in Rome, where the 
descendants of those barbarians who helped 
to destroy it expend a vast amount of 
erudition in elucidating its ruins, and an 
qual amount of energy in defending their 
own elucidations and attacking other people's. 
Sir Lionel, however, had none of that odium 
archceologicum which strikes an outsider with 
surprise such as the poet hints it is natural to 
feel touching the ire of celestial souls. His 
urbanity was unruffled by rival claims on his 
belief; and the shallowness of his learning 
enabled him even to accept conflicting 
theories without knowing it ! 

He had just returned one afternoon from 
a drive in the Campagna, in company with a 
learned gentleman, who, having worked out 
an elaborate plan of Roman topography in 
Bonn, was naturally unwilling to have it 
disturbed by a too close examination of 
existing fragments in Rome ; and who, con- 
sequently, spent the greater part of his time 
in visiting the objects of interest outside the 
walls of the Eternal City. 



152 MADAME LEROUX. 

This gentleman was an accomplished 
scholar, and amiable companion (for such 
persons as held no obstinate theories of 
Roman topography) ; and Sir Lionel had 
enjoyed his drive. He had just declared, 
in answer to his daughter's inquiry, that he 
felt no disagreeable amount of fatigue from 
having climbed the long marble staircase 
leading to his apartment, when he fell back 
fainting in his chair, and never recovered 
consciousness. 

Lady Charlotte's position was one of 
terrible anxiety. A telegram was, of course r 
immediately despatched to her brother. But,, 
let him hasten as he would, three days must 
elapse before he could possibly reach Rome. 
And, meanwhile, a vast number of painful 
formalities had to be complied with espe- 
cially since it was known to have been Sir 
Lionel's wish to be interred beside his wife 
in Westfield. Immense difficulties, of an 
official kind, lay in the way of carrying out 
this wish ; for it is a great error to. suppose 
that Red Tape is a peculiarly English insti- 
tution. And, indeed, it may perhaps be laid 



MADAME LEROUX. 155; 

down as a general observation, that the 
emptiest parcels are everywhere tied up with, 
the most elaborate involutions of it. 

Lady Charlotte declared afterwards to- 
her brother that she did not know how she 
should have got through those terrible days 
between Sir Lionel's death and his (Lord 
Grimstock's) arrival, if it had not been for 
Richard Avon. Richard had devoted him- 
self to her, and had managed everything. 
And it had been, Lady Charlotte considered, 
absolutely providential that Richard should 
have arrived as he did from Brindisi in time 
to help them at their need. 

l< Which Avon is that?" asked Lord 
Grimstock. 

"Your namesake, our cousin Reginald's 
son. He had two sons, you know, but the 
eldest died. That was altogether a sad 
business. It made me feel an old woman 
when a bronzed creature, with a beard, pre- 
sented himself before me as ' little Dick 
Avon.' I remember him as a child at 
Avonthorpe. He has the Gaunt eyes, like 
Mildred's" 



MADAME LEROUX. 



In old days, when they were boy and 
girl together, Reginald Avon had been very 
much in love with his beautiful cousin, 
Charlotte Gaunt. Neither her inclination 
nor her ambition allowed her to think for 
a moment of marrying Reg, who was heir to 
an impoverished estate and one of the most 
ancient names in the kingdom. But yet her 
cousinly regard for him was certainly all the 
more tender for that young romance. And 
.after his marriage, Charlotte was the one of 
Lord Grimstock's children who maintained 
the closest friendship and intimacy with the 
Avons of Avonthorpe. 

They were a numerous family. Two 
sons and five daughters were born in the 
old house, and for some years Avonthorpe 
was a pleasant home, full of mirth and 
laughter, and bright young faces. But then 
came troubles troubles so crushing as to 
break Mr. Avon's heart, and shorten his 
days. His elder son contracted such heavy 
debts at the University, as seriously crippled 
his father's means to discharge them. But 
worse remained behind. The young man 



MADAME LEROUX. 155 

continued to run a course of extravagance 
and dissipation, which ruined his own health 
and almost ruined the family fortunes. 
Cedric Avon died in his twenty-sixth year, 
and judicious friends said to each other that 
he had lived five years too long. 

But his own family neither said nor 
thought so ; to the last he was the idol of 
his mother and sisters. And even his father, 
although outwardly more stern, clung to the 
prodigal with a softer affection than he had 
ever bestowed on Dick. 

Dick was the fourth in order of seniority 
(two sisters coming between him and Cedric), 
and had never been of much account with 
any of them. Dick had grown up in the 
belief that the world was made chiefly for 
Cedric, and that any enjoyments or indul- 
gences vouchsafed to himself were due to 
the kind liberality of his elder brother, who 
shared with him whatever he did not want 
wholly for himself. 

And the brothers were good friends, so 
far as the difference of age between them 
permitted. Cedric went to Christ Church, 



156 MADAME LEROUX. 

while Richard was still in a lower form at 
Eton. But after Cedric's first year at the 
University it was found impossible to con- 
tinue the expense of keeping the younger 
boy at Eton. He was brought home, and 
arrangements were made for his reading with 
the old bachelor-curate of the parish from 
whom he learned, perhaps, more about fly- 
fishing than any other distinct branch of 
mundane knowledge. 

But, looking on the little world around 
him with honest, kindly eyes, Dick learned 
a good many things for himself. 

One result of his observations was that 
he relinquished all hope of going to the 
University, or of being substantially assisted 
with money from home, to make his way in 
any career whatever. There had been a 
talk at one time of getting him attached to 
some foreign Legation, with the view of his 
entering diplomacy as a profession. When 
he was a small boy, the Navy had been 
thought of ; and, when he had become a big 
boy, the Army. But no practical step had 
been taken in either of these directions. 



MADAME LEROUX. 157 

Dick felt no special vocation for any of 
them ; but he would, probably, have accepted 
his fate and done his best in whatever line 
of life his parents had chosen for him had 
things gone smoothly from the beginning. 
Things had gone very roughly, however 
very roughly for father, mother, and sis- 
ters, at least although, perhaps, with fatal 
smoothness for the scapegrace who was slip- 
ping with ever-increasing velocity along the 
downward slope to ruin. Dick saw one by 
one the luxuries and elegancies of their 
home curtailed the girls' saddle-horses sold, 
his mother's carriage put down, the staff of 
servants reduced, and he resolved that for 
him no such sacrifices should be made. He 
would not, knowingly, make his mother's 
pale cheek more haggard, nor bow his father's 
shoulders with an added weight of care. 

He thought long and earnestly how he 
could best find bread for himself in the 
world, and one day he gravely proposed to 
his father to let him emigrate to Australia. 

" Emigrate ! " said Mr. Avon, turning his 
eyes with a dazed, absent look on his son. 



158 MADAME LEROUX. 

" It needn't cost much, sir," said Dick, 
simply. "A moderate outfit, and a few 
pounds in my pocket, just so as to be able 
to turn round for a week or two after I land."" 

"Why, what what could you do?"" 
asked his father, in the nervous, hesitating 
way which had grown on him of late. 

" I can walk all day without being tired, 
sir ; I can jump up to my own eyebrows 
standing; I'm a fairish shot ; I can stick on 
to anything with four legs that I ever saw 
yet although, of course, I haven't such a 
seat as Cedric's ; and and I have a magni- 
ficent appetite," added the boy, with a smile, 
which irradiated his face, and was almost 
irresistibly infectious. 

Mr. Avon, however, did not smile. He 
continued to look dreamily at his son ; and 
said, in a low voice, " What would your 
mother say ? " 

" Oh, mother wouldn't mind, sir ; it would 
be so much better for Cedric, and all of you. 
You see, father," went on Richard, with 
simple earnestness, " it's not a bit of use my 
staying here and eating my head off. You 



MADAME LEROUX. 159 

have so many expenses. I'm too old for the 
navy. The army would swallow up a lot of 
money for coaching and cramming, and, 
even if I was lucky enough to pass, I'm 
afraid I couldn't live on my pay. In fact, do 
what I could in England, I should have to- 
cost you something. Out in the bush it 
would be different ; and in fact, sir, Mr. 
Hopkins has a relative, a sheep farmer, in a 
large way out in Victoria, and he thinks he 
might help me to a berth." 

Mr. Hopkins was the curate. 

As Reginald Avon listened to his younger 
son, a mist seemed suddenly to be cleared 
away from his mind, and he saw the irre- 
vocable past with a clear vision. 

" Dick, Dick," groaned the father, laying 
his hand on the boy's shoulder, and turning 
away his head. " It's hard upon you. 
It's cruelly hard upon you, Dick ! " 

But the end of it was that Dick went to 
Australia. 

It is not needful to describe minutely what 
befell him there. He had a tough struggle 
for the first two years, during which time, 



160 MADAME LEROUX. 

although the magnificent appetite of which 
he had jestingly boasted was never abso- 
lutely unsatisfied, yet it may be said that of 
the comforts (not to speak of the luxuries) 
of life, Richard Avon had but few and far 
between glimpses. At the end of two years 
he was beginning to do fairly well, and 
sober people prophesied that if he remained 
ten or fifteen years more in the colony he 
might realise a fair competency. But it was 
not in the decrees of fate that an Avon of 
Avonthorpe should found a family out in the 
new world at least not in that generation. 

Cedric Avon died in his twenty-sixth 
year, as has been stated, and five years later 
his father followed him, a prematurely aged, 
broken man, and then it behoved Dick to 
return and take possession of the old home 
and the poor remnant of the family property. 

Mrs. Avon, in her first letters, had urged 
his immediate return. She was lost, help- 
less, miserable. He must come back at once, 
and take care of her and the girls. She 
wrote as though it had been possible for her 
son to settle all his affairs in five minutes, 



MADAME LEROUX. 161 

and start for England at any hour of the day, 
and on any day of the month. 

Mrs. Avon was a woman of whom her 
acquaintances admiringly remarked that she 
had such a truly feminine, clinging nature, 
and peculiarly needed the masculine support 
of husband, son, or brother. The truth was 
that she had a sort of feeble obstinacy which 
was very difficult to deal with. She was 
unyieldingly bent on getting her own way 
beforehand, but easily alarmed at the conse- 
quences of having got it ; and her masculine 
" supports " were chiefly needed to carry the 
responsibility of her impulsive self-will. 

Richard had replied assuring his mother 
that he would do his utmost to wind up his 
business affairs and dispose of his property 
promptly ; but that he did not anticipate that 
could be done under six months. He was 
perfectly aware that there was no pressing 
necessity for his instant return, and he knew 
that the family circumstances must be such 
as to make it most important that he should 
realise his small Australian property to the 
best advantage. 

VOL. n. 31 



162 MADAME LEROUX. 

When he arrived at Brindisi on his home- 
ward voyage he found a letter from his 
mother at the Post Restante. Mrs. Avon 
had let the shooting at Avonthorpe, shut up 
the house, and betaken herself to Chelten- 
ham with her daughters for the rest of the 
winter. She hoped Richard would join them 
there by and by, but she had made arrange- 
ments which would prevent the family from 
occupying their old home again until the 
spring. 

" I think mother half repents having 
asked me to come home in such a hurry," 
said Dick to himself, on reading this epistle. 
" Perhaps she's afraid I may be bringing a 
wife to Avonthorpe, and turn her and the 
poor girls out to live on her miserable little 
jointure. But she shouldn't have let the 
shooting and shut up the house without con- 
sulting me. I must be master there now I've 
given up everything out yonder. I'll do the 
best I can for my mother and the girls, poor 
things! but I can't be at Avonthorpe and 
not be master." 

Dick, with his resolute manly face, and 



MADAME LEROUX, 163 

frank blue eye, looked very well fitted to play 
the master. He had gone away from his 
home a stripling under eighteen. He was 
returning to it a man of six-and-twenty. The 
eight years had made little change in some of 
those whom he had left behind ; but for him 
they had been years of growth and ripening. 
His mother's letter at all events absolved 
him from any obligation to hasten his 
journey ; and he resolved, being there, to see 
something of Italy especially since he fore- 
saw that he was not likely soon to have 
money and leisure to revisit it. He had 
spent a week in Naples, and was intending 
to devote a fortnight to seeing Rome, where 
chance brought him into contact with the 
Enderbys. Lady Charlotte gave him so 
cordial a reception as touched him greatly. 
Dick Avon had not lost his relish for sweet 
words and kind looks by being surfeited with 
them. And Lady Charlotte was very sweet 
to him, with an almost maternal softness ; 
and very much interested in hearing all that 
he could tell her of the family fortunes. Dick 
was perfectly frank and confidential with her. 



1 64 MADAME LEROUX. 

He had nothing to conceal. And, besides, 
was not Aunt Charlotte as he had learned 
to call her in his childhood his near kins- 
woman ? 

Lady Charlotte, for her part, was not 
able to be quite so frank ; for she could not 
confide to him her real opinion of Mrs, 
Avon, who had never been included in the 
regard with which she clung to her cousin. 
Indeed her ladyship had always privately 
wondered what in the world Reg could have 
seen in that insipid little woman ; as other 
ladies and gentlemen have wondered before 
and since respecting the matrimonial choice 
of their old sweethearts. 

To Sir Lionel Lady Charlotte was not 
reticent on the subject of Mrs. Avon's sel- 
fishness and the weak indulgence and blind 
idolatry which had caused her to sacrifice 
Richard's interests entirely to his brother's. 

"And now the silly, selfish little thing 
shuts up his house and rushes off to some 
watering-place at the very moment of his 
return to England ! She doesn't deserve to 
bear the name of Avon. Do you know,. 



MADAME LEROUX. 165 

Lionel, that there have been Avons at Avon- 
thorpe in a right line from father to son, 
since the Heptarchy ? " 

Whether Sir Lionel, whose grandfather 
had trundled a barrow, attached quite the 
due importance to this circumstance may be 
doubted. But at any rate he took a great 
liking to Dick Avon, and made him welcome 
in the Palazzo Curiazii with genial courtesy. 
As to Mildred, she made friends with him in 
five minutes ; and they called one another 
cousins, as though they had known each 
other all their lives. And thus it had come 
to pass that Lady Charlotte told her brother 
she did not know how she should have lived 
through those terrible days had it not been 
for Dick Avon. 

Mildred fell into a state of alarming 
prostration after her father's death. Her 
whole nature, physical and moral, seemed, 
as it were, to be stunned. She lay apatheti- 
cally on her couch or chair all day long, and 
could not be roused to express a wish, except 
that they would let her be quiet, and not talk 
to her. Lady Charlotte remembered her 



1 66 MADAME LEROUX. 

sister's anxieties about Mildred in her child- 
hood anxieties which she had then thought 
overstrained, but which she now was feeling 
keenly. The girl's vitality seemed to be at 
a perilously low ebb. She was to be removed 
from Rome as soon as possible ; and the 
physicians advised that she should remain, 
on the Riviera until the spring was well 
advanced. And here, again, Richard was 
most useful. He helped to make all arrange- 
ments for lightening the fatigues and dis- 
comforts of the journey, and even accom- 
panied them to Bordighera. 

Before they parted, Mildred had confided 
a mission to him. Richard was to see Lord 
Grimstock in England, and to ask him if 
Mildred might be allowed to have Lucy 
with her for a time when she returned home, 

" I cannot talk of it to Aunt Charlotte 
now," Mildred said, in a faint, toneless voice. 
" Aunt Charlotte and Lucy never understood 
each other. And, besides, I do not want to- 
pain Aunt Charlotte now. She has trouble 
and anxiety enough with me as it is. And 
I can never forget how good she was to my 



MADAME LEROUX. 



167 



dear father, and how highly he regarded her. 
But, Cousin Dick, if I could have the hope 
of seeing Lucy again, I would be quite 
patient. And that would help me to get 
strong again sooner than anything. I know 
it would ! " 

Cousin Dick undertook the mission to 
Lord Grimstock. And he fancied that there 
was a brighter gleam in Mildred's eyes 
already at the thought of it. 




CHAPTER XXVII. 

MADAME LEROUX'S dislike to Miss Smith had 
been suddenly and unexpectedly quickened. 
She began to fear that Lucy might whether 
consciously or unconsciously, mattered little, 
injure her in the opinion of Mr. Rushmere. 

Fatima, who was always staunchly loyal 
to her friend, chose one evening when Ma- 
dame Leroux was at the Hawkins's house, 
to launch forth into a panegyric on Lucy ; 
and to add that all the gentlemen who had 
met her in that house were enraptured with 
her. Fatima was moved to do this, partly 
because Madame had spoken slightingly of 
cette petite Smith before a circle of men who 
were present, but of whom Zephany was not 
one. 

" Ah, really ? " said Madame, turning 
[168] 



MADAME LEROUX. 169 

round, with a smile of the most winning 
good humour for she was playing to an 
appreciative audience. Frampton Fennell 
was there, and Harrington Jersey ; the un- 
stable Jersey, who was weakly veering round 
again, and drifting into a sham flirtation for 
the sake of a sham victory over a sham rival. 
'" Really ? But, Fatima, ma mignonne, you 
must admit that it is particularly unfortunate 
for a governess in a girls' school to be so 
immensely popular with one sex and so 
utterly unpopular with the other ! The girls 
at Douro House can't bear her. I'm sorry. 
It is, of course, a bore of bores for me ; but it 
is a sad and stubborn fact as stubborn a 
little fact as Miss Smith herself! " 

" I don't mean that gentlemen admire her 
in that way," protested Fatima, vaguely. 
(Poor Fatima was no match for Madame 
Leroux, even when she was not vexed and 
indignant, as she was feeling at this moment.) 
" But I know that Zephany thinks no end 
of her, and that Mr. Rushmere considers her 
one of the most interesting, amiable, attrac- 
tive girls he ever met in his life. He talked 



170 MADAME LEROUX. 

to her the whole evening when she was 
here." 

" Oho ! Your nabob has had the honour 
of an introduction to Miss Smith, then ? " 
said Madame Leroux, with seeming careless- 
ness, but with an inward start of surprise and 
annoyance. 

" Yes," said Marie, interposing. And 
her cool, clear tones produced an effect as of 
dew after a sultry sunset. " But Fatima is too 
vehement. Qiias tu, done Fatima ? Mr. 
Rushmere was very kind, and promised to 
write some letters to Australia for Miss 
Smith. Something about her relations there, 
I believe. Miss Smith is always very nice 
when she is here. I told you so, you know." 

The vision of Miss Smith on such terms 
of intimate acquaintance with Rushmere, that 
the latter had written letters on her family 
business, was peculiarly disagreeable to Caro- 
line Leroux. She had been disappointed to 
learn that Rushmere had left London, and 
that the time of his return was uncertain. 
Having made up her mind that she would 
meet him, she desired that the meeting might 



MADAME LEROUX. 171 

be soon. But now the possibility was sug- 
gested to her that, while he for the present 
was beyond her reach, he might actually be 
in correspondence with Lucy Smith ! There 
was no danger now of Madame Leroux's 
being overcome by emotion at the mention 
of Rushmere's name. She had spoken of 
him freely to the Hawkins's, but without 
hinting that she had ever known him before. 
And Zephany had kept her secret with 
complete fidelity. 

Before leaving the Hawkins's, she had 
drawn forth a full account of the rise and 
progress of Lucy's acquaintance with Mr. 
Rushmere. It dismayed her. She had not 
formed to herself any clear picture of Lucy's 
existence during the holidays at Douro 
House. She had once or twice thought, 
carelessly, that it must be dull ; adding the 
commentary, that it served her right, since 
she had chosen to set herself offensively 
against Madame's way of giving her amuse- 
ment and companionship. But this glimpse 
of Lucy leading a life entirely disconnected 
from the interests and duties, the approval or 



172 



MADAME LEROUX. 



disapproval, of Douro House walking in 
Kensington Gardens, spending the evening 
in Great Portland Street, was not only 
surprising, but absolutely disquieting. And 
Miss Smith had been so cunningly silent 
about it all ! There was no knowing what 
such a deep little thing might do next ! 

But there were complex motives at work 
to strengthen Madame Leroux's desire to rid 
herself of this girl, and among them was 
the deep-lying conviction, unacknowledged 
to herself, tnat " this girl " had some feeling 
akin to contempt for Madame Leroux. 

Now Madame Leroux, like a good many 
other peqple who are lavish of their contempt, 
had a particular objection to incurring it. 
Anger, disapproval, opposition all these she 
could meet victoriously. Even a religious 
despondency as to the state of her soul, 
coupled with an admiring admission that 
her beauty and cleverness laid her open to 
peculiar temptations, did not humiliate her. 
She had encountered that in one memorable 
instance ; and had rather enjoyed the sense 
of her intellectual superiority over the feeble 



MADAME LEROUX. 173 

character which was subject to the spell of 
her attractions whilst condemning it as a sin, 
and struggling against it as a snare. But she 
was inwardly convinced that in the mind of 
Miss Lucy Smith there were no illusions 
about her. And to be judged without 
illusions seemed intolerable to her imagi- 
nation. 

Some of Madame's admirers considered 
her chief charm to lie in her frank disdain 
of humbug. And she did disdain it in 
other people. Nay, her disdain extended to 
those persons whom she humbugged herself. 
All the savour would have disappeared from 
her life if she had failed to deceive them. 
But to despise them for being deceived, 
seemed to her in some way to restore the 
balance of her self-esteem. 

One afternoon, two days subsequent to 
Madame's evening visit to the Hawkins's, 
Lucy appeared at the house in Great Port- 
land Street, and asked to speak with Mr. 
Hawkins. She was shown into the office, 
from whence the last of the Beneficent 
Pelican's borrowers had just departed, and 



T74 MADAME LEROUX. 

where Mr. Hawkins was locking up his desk, 
preparatory to turning the gas out, and going 
upstairs. It was a gloomy November day, 
and the dingy little black den smelt close, and 
felt chilly in spite of the gas. Mr. Hawkins 
turned it up again with a flare when he 
saw who his visitor was, and pulled forward 
a chair for her, and shook hands very 
cordially. 

In a few words she told him that Madame 
Leroux had dismissed her ; that Madame 
had promised to return half the premium 
which had been paid ; and that she (Lucy) 
would be required to leave Douro House at 
the end of the current week. The poor 
child had wept many bitter tears, and had 
passed a night of wakeful misery. But she 
was steady and tearless now. There was a 
fund of energy and courage in her nature, 
which responded to the need for action 
and decision. 

" I hope you will forgive me for troubling 
you, Mr. Hawkins," she said. " But you 
have been so kind to me, I thought I might 
venture to ask your advice. And I am very 



MADAME LEROUX. 175 

friendless here. My only friends are away 
travelling abroad, and I am not even sure 
where a letter would reach them at this 
moment. Besides, time presses." 

Mr. Hawkins replied with warm, and 
evidently sincere, assurances of his good will 
to serve and assist her with his best wisdom. 
Lucy was a little surprised to find that her 
news did not appear to strike him as being of 
a fatal or agitating nature. To her it had 
seemed to imply a sort of cataclysm. 

But Mr. Hawkins had merely said on 
hearing her first announcement, "Dear, dear! 
How's that?" 

Somehow this coolness gave her courage. 
The case could not be so exceptionally bad. 
To Mr. Hawkins's experience it evidently 
seemed remediable. Before starting from 
Douro House she had resolved to ask him 
if he would allow her to return to his house 
for a week or two until she should have found 
some other employment. But there was 
another question to which it first behoved 
her to have an answer ; and she asked it 
leaning a little forward, with hands clasped 



1 76 MADAME LEROUX. 

together on her knee, and her eyes fixed 
earnestly on Mr. Hawkins. 

" Do you think, that it would be right for 
me to appropriate that money the portion 
of the premium which Madame Leroux 
means to repay or ought I to send it to 
Mr. Shard?" 

" God bless my soul, certainly not ! " ex- 
claimed Adolphus hotly. " The idea is 
absurd ! " 

The idea of spontaneously returning" 
money to any one would have struck him as 
being eccentric to the verge of sanity. But 
a moment's reflection assured him that in 
this case there could be no defence whatever 
for so ill-advised a precedent. 

" Shard mentioned to me distinctly that 
that money was to be expended for your 
benefit ; was yours, in short. You need have 
no scruples. Don't say a syllable of the 
kind to him. Give it back, indeed ! " 

Lucy drew a little breath of relief. And 
then proceeded rather timidly to ask if Mr. 
and Mrs. Hawkins would consent to receive 
her again. 



MADAME LEROVX. 177 

"Of course, if you did me that favour, 
I should pay for my board," she said, 
blushing. 

" Don't say a word about that, my dear. 
We shall only be too delighted to have you 
.among us again. Marie will welcome you 
heartily ; and as to Fatima, she will be ready 
to jump out of her skin with joy." 

" Thank you, thank you, thank you, with 
all my heart ! " said Lucy, with the tears 
brimming up into her eyes. 

Then she added, " But I must write to 
my to Mr. Shard, to tell him what has 
happened. He wrote to me in a tone which 
made me feel that he did not wish to be 
-considered in any way responsible for me. 
I understood that perfectly well. But 
still I think he ought to be told ; ought he 
not ? " 

" Shall / write him a few lines explaining 
the circumstances ? I shall put your case a 
great deal better for you than you would for 
yourself," said Mr. Hawkins, looking at her 
with genuine sympathy. 

" Oh that would be so good of you ! But 
VOL. ii. 32 



178 MADAME LEROUX. 

you are busy. I ought not to give you that 
trouble." 

"It will cost me no trouble, my dear. 
No trouble in the world ! " In saying which 
Adolphus Hawkins spoke with more literal 
truth than he was aware of. For, although 
he had fully meant what he said in making 
that offer, yet the letter to Mr. Shard went 
to increase the vast multitude of ideas unem- 
bodied into acts in which were comprised 
many of Mr. Hawkins's best intentions, and 
never got written at all. " Don't be down- 
cast, my dear Miss Smith. With your 
abilities you are sure to do well. In fact," 
continued Adolphus, warming as he went on, 
into one of his sanguine visions, " I think it 
likely that this little contretemps may turn 
out to be the very best thing for you that 
could have happened. You will probably 
find a position in some private family some 
thoroughly first - rate family, where your 
manners and accomplishments will be appre- 
ciated as they deserve. A school, after all, 
must consist of .mixed elements. That vulgar 
young person, Miss Cohen, now, on whose 



MADAME LEROUX. 179 

account chiefly you tell me Madame Leroux 
is parting with you well, it certainly will be 
an unmitigated advantage to be clear of such 
girls as Miss Cohen. Ah, Mammon, Mam- 
mon ! The worship of the Golden Calf ! " 
exclaimed Mr. Hawkins, straightening a pile 
of little pamphlets on tinted paper, bearing 
the title, " Millamint ; or, Home Treasures." 
"It perverts the best natures to some extent 
Not that I would have you think too hardly 
of Madame Leroux. After all, you know, 
she has to carry on her business as best she 
can. We don't live in Arcadia. I only wish 
we did ! But now come upstairs and see 
Marie and Fatima. I have no hesitation in 
saying that I believe this will be the tide in 
your affairs, which taken at the flood will 
lead to your establishment in a very superior 
family." 

Mrs. Hawkins and Fatima were both 
as cordial as possible. But notwithstand- 
ing Mr. Hawkins's disclaimer, Marie showed 
no reluctance whatever to settle with Miss 
Smith the terms on which that young lady 
could be lodged and boarded in her house. 



i8o MADAME LEROUX. 

Lucy left Great Portland Street with a 
heart wonderfully lightened. It was impos- 
sible it would even, she felt, have been 
ungrateful not to be cheered by the kind- 
ness she had met with. And in spite of 
herself she was a little infected by Mr. 
Hawkins' sanguine talk. She checked her- 
self for this ; and called to mind, as a cor- 
rective, the confidence she had heard him 
express as to schemes and plans of his own, 
which nevertheless had left him with the 
salary of the secretary to the Beneficent 
Pelican for his main subsistence. " But 
then," said Lucy to herself, " I am not ex- 
pecting anything so magnificent as Mr. 
Hawkins's visions. A very modest salary 
would content me, and there must be nice 
homes where a governess would be kindly 
treated. Miss Feltham's life was as happy 

as possible, until ." The warm current 

of hopefulness was checked. Her thoughts 
had turned to Mildred, and to the long, long 
time which had elapsed since she had heard 
from her. 

" I suppose she is too busy enjoying all 



MADAME LEROUX. 181 

the beautiful new sights around her," thought 

Lucy, with a faint touch of bitterness. But 

the bitterness was transient. She did not 

really doubt that Mildred continued constant 

and loyal-hearted. Letter- writing had always 

been a disagreeable task to Mildred, requiring 

an effort. (Indeed, Mildred's feeling was not 

apt to express itself in words, either written 

or spoken. And she would often, even 

when they were children, sit silent for half- 

an-hour together by Lucy's side, conscious 

of needing no speeches to make her affection 

understood.) And, besides, she could not 

guess how precious even a few lines full of 

the old familiar loving confidence would be 

to Lucy now coming into her dull and 

lonely life, like a sunbeam into a cold dark 

room. Lucy told herself that she did not 

desire that Mildred should guess it. It 

would only distress her uselessly. For what 

could she do ? She must naturally obey her 

aunt's decision as to what was best. And 

not even at this crisis in her fortunes had 

Lucy for a moment contemplated making an 

appeal to Lady Charlotte's pity. 



1 82 MADAME LEROUX. 

She did not know that her last letter had 
arrived in Milan after the Enderbys had left 
it, and had never come into Mildred's hands. 
But that had not been the reason why no 
communication had come to her for so long 
a time. Mildred would not have reckoned 
so closely with her friend. It was true that 
she disliked writing ; and it was true also 
that she had not unlimited time at her dis- 
posal. Nevertheless, there was a letter to 
Lucy lying unfinished in Mildred's desk, 
when the catastrophe of her father's death 
interrupted the whole course of her life with 
the suddenness of an earthquake. And the 
poor little letter, which would have been 
such a cordial to the spirit of the lonely 
girl in London, was swept away with other 
broken plans, and frustrated hopes, and un- 
fulfilled desires, for ever. 

Lucy left Douro House without a parting 
word from Madame Leroux. Madame was 
busy, and could not be seen. But she sent 
word by Fraulein Schulze that Miss Smith 
was at liberty to refer to her for a certificate 
of competency to teach French and music. 



MADAME LEROUX. 183 

And in this way Lucy found herself once 
more an inmate of the house in Great Port- 
land Street. 

She soon perceived signs of a more 
liberal expenditure than when she had been 
there before. The table was spread in a 
less fluctuating fashion. There was now a 
good dinner every day. Marie was not 
requested to take the air in a hansom cab, 
but had a hired brougham whenever she 
chose to order it. And Fatima came to 
Lucy one day with a twenty-pound note in 
her hand, the first instalment of an allowance 
for dress which Uncle Adolphe was hence- 
forth going to make her regularly. 

Fatima, in truth, possessed about fifty 
pounds a-year of her own ; but it was 
administered by Uncle Adolphe, who gave 
her a sovereign or two when he could, and 
was extremely sorry when he couldn't. But 
Fatima had no idea of making any selfish 
claim. Uncle Adolphe and Cousin Marie 
had fed her, and clothed her, and lodged her 
^ver since she was little. They were very 
kind to her ; and if her fifty pounds had 



1 84 MADAME LEROUX, 

suddenly swelled into five hundred, she 
would assuredly have had no thought of 
separating her interests from theirs. 

There were some delicate blossoms and 
wholesome simples growing, on that border- 
land of Bohemia, among the thistles, and 
tares, and nettles. 

But in other respects, besides material 
comforts, Lucy noted changes. The old 
habittids still came from time to time ; but 
there was also a new, and, she thought, less 
agreeable set of guests who took to frequent- 
ing Mrs. Hawkins's drawing-room, and were 
sometimes even asked to dinner. There/ 
was the great Mr. Bliffkins, of Bliffkins and 
Mugg, who, greatly to Lucy's surprise, 
addressed her as " Miss," without the addi- 
tion of her surname ; and walked warily 
among his aspirates, like a man in tight 
boots along a pebbly path. And once she 
caught a glimpse of Mr. Clampitt only a 
glimpse, for he never joined the society in 
the drawing-room ; but, when he came, was 
ushered into the dining-room, where the 
table was spread with papers. The glimpse 



MADAME LEROUX. 185 

showed her a pair of rounded shoulders, clad 
in a very dusty coat ; and the back of a bald 
head, considerably elongated from stem to 
stern, so to speak, and singularly flat at the 
top. 

The British Tea Company was rising at 
a rapid rate above the horizon, and a ray or 
two from it seemed to be already gilding 
some hitherto impecunious lives. Lucy in- 
stinctively mistrusted the whole affair ; and 
partly justified her mistrust to herself by 
remembering that Mr. Rushmere a man of 
wide experience and bright intelligence 
had mistrusted it also. And she resolved 
not to let herself be tempted, by the force 
of example into any lotus-eating, idle trust 
in the morrow ; but to endeavour, as ener- 
getically as she could, to find the means of 
earning her bread. 

Sometimes it seemed to her that she had 
no right to enjoy sundry little luxuries which 
were placed at her disposal. But how refuse 
kindness that was so freely offered ? She 
was made welcome to share in the family 
prosperity. And even Marie often urged 



1 86 MADAME LEROUX. 

her to accept a place in a carriage, a seat 
at the theatre, a bouquet, an excursion into 
the country, and so on. 

For Marie's prudence took the form of 
getting all that was to be got out of the 
present. And every little treat that they 
could enjoy, with ready money, she looked 
on as so much laid up for a rainy day 
something, that is to say, which the creditors 
would not be able to touch when the crash 
came. 




CHAPTER XXVIII. 

LIFE seemed to Lucy in those days some- 
thing like a game in which the players should 
be expected to put together a puzzle map 
with fragments that did not fit. Her efforts 
to find suitable employment by dint of 
answering advertisements, applying to agents, 
and so on were unremitting. Mr. Haw- 
kins, indeed, took her to task about wearing 
herself out needlessly. Millamint shares 
were going off well, and the world was really 
far too agreeable a place to be spoiled by 
that kind of thing. It was clear, too, that 
Miss Smith had more accomplishments and 
better manners than half the governesses 
who were getting eighty or a hundred pounds 
a year. 

" Your kind estimate of me is far too 



1 88 MADAME LEROUX. 

high, Mr. Hawkins," Lucy said. " But even 
supposing it were not, I should hardly get a 
situation by sitting still and meditating on 
my own acquirements." 

" Tout vient a point pour qui salt at- 
tendre" remarked Mr. Hawkins, conveying 
in his manner a mixture of airy lightness and 
solid knowledge of the world. 

"Well," answered Lucy, laughing, "din- 
ner-time will certainly come if I wait for it. 
But will dinner ? " And she went on day 
after day in her quest, which still continued 
fruitless. 

It was on one of these occasions that the 
comparison of the puzzle map occurred to- 
her mind. There seemed to be so many 
cases where her offer and the employer's 
demand almost fitted each other but not 
quite ! It was terribly trying to be told that 
she was precisely the young person whom 
Mrs. Brown would have liked as governess 
to her two little boys, if only she could have 
undertaken to teach them the Slojd system 
acquired in Sweden. But the Slojd system 
acquired in Sweden was indispensable, and 



MADAME LEROUX. 189 

the negociation must be broken off; or to 
hear that had she applied six days earlier 
for the post of reader and companion to 
Lady Green, she would probably have ob- 
tained it, since Lady Green liked her voice 
and general demeanour a great deal better 
than those of the lady whom she had en- 
gaged. 

And all the persons who would have 
engaged her, but couldn't, were so extremely 
easy to satisfy ; whereas all those who could 
have engaged her but wouldn't, put forward 
extravagant pretensions, and offered the 
most moderate rate of payment. In one 
or two cases where she had personal inter- 
views with ladies to whom the agent had 
sent her, she was examined and catechised 
with a searching sternness which suggested 
that these matrons held the fact of wanting 
to be employed as a governess to constitute 
a prima facie case against her of the gravest 
suspicion ; while others waved her off at 
once with smiling tolerance, and the state- 
ment that she was a great deal too young, 
and not at all the sort of person they wanted 



MADAME LEROUX. 



as if she had been a child wanting to play 
at governess during lesson time. 

Singularly enough, the first practical move 
towards getting her employment originated 
with Mr. Clampitt. 

Mr. Clampitt had seen some papers in 
Lucy's handwriting for in her eagerness to- 
be of use to the Hawkins' she had offered 
to copy Out advertisements and prospectuses 
for the printer, address circulars, and so 
forth and he had expressed approval of the 
neat, clear, character. It was during a fore- 
noon, when the family were alone, and Mr. 
Clampitt was looking through a mass of 
printed and written documents with Mr. 
Hawkins. The considerable quantity of the 
documents, in fact, was the chief reason why 
the dining-room was being used at that mo- 
ment instead of the office. The office was 
small, and cold, and dark ; and, moreover,. 
nearly all its available space was already 
filled with the archives of the Beneficent 
Pelican. And the table in the dining-room 
afforded accommodation for spreading out 
papers. That room afforded, besides, a 



MADAME LEROUX. 191 

roaring fire, kept up at some one else's ex- 
pense a circumstance not unappreciated by 
Mr. Clampitt in the winter weather. 

"A very good writing; clear as print," 
said Mr. Clampitt, with emphatic approba- 
tion. He had been previously informed 
that the writing had been done by a young 
friend "to oblige"; so that he was under 
no apprehension of spoiling the market by 
praising the work of some one who would 
expect to be paid for it. 

Lucy was out, and Fatima seized the 
occasion to sound her friend's praises to Mr. 
Clampitt as she was, in fact, ready to sound 
them under most circumstances. 

" The young lady who wrote those copies 
does everything well," she said, eagerly. 
" And she is so pretty ! " 

" Ay, ay ! But that's having more than 
her share, ain't it ? When a young lady's 
pretty, we don't expect her to write so as 
you can read every letter," returned Mr. 
Clampitt, jocosely. 

Mr. Clampitt's features had a somewhat 
unfinished look ; such as may be seen in a 



192 MADAME LEROUX. 

sculptor's studio, when the inferior workman 
has cut the mass of marble into a rough- 
hewn stage of resemblance to the human face 
divine, and before the master has finished it 
with those minute differences which, taken 
all together, make up so vast a difference. 
He had a broad face, surrounded by a fringe 
of grey whiskers, and surmounted by a wide 
mass of bulging forehead, with ragged, red- 
dish eyebrows, beneath which a pair of pale 
blue eyes, a fleur de tete, blinked in a weak- 
sighted manner. 

Mention has already been made of the 
remarkable flatness of Mr. Clampitt's cra- 
nium. One felt, indeed, in front of that 
wide, bulging brow, somewhat as the be- 
holder feels on contemplating the west front 
of St. Peter's at Rome instinctively im- 
pelled, that is, to step backward so as to get 
a glimpse of the dome. Only in Mr. Clarn- 
pitt's case, no amount of backing or distance 
could lend that last enchantment to the view, 
since the dome did not exist. It may be 
added, that the dustiness which Lucy had 
perceived on the back of Mr. Clampitt's coat 




MADAME LEROUX. 193 

was consistently carried out in the rest of 
his attire ; and that his large, coarse, stumpy- 
fingered hands in particular, were very dirty. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! " laughed Mr. Hawkins 
not with effusive adulation, but merely as a 
polite recognition of the joke. " Very true 
very true ! Some sages have held that 
to be pretty comprises the whole duty of 
woman, and, to judge by what one sees, 
some of the pretty ones seem to think so 
themselves ! " 

" I wonder," said Marie, who was always 
practical according to her lights, and not 
easily diverted into a zig-zag course of con- 
versation by too great quickness in taking 
up merely verbal suggestions for discursive- 
ness, " I wonder whether Mr. Clampitt could 
make any use of Miss Smith's services for 
the British Tea Company could give her 
any employment ! She would be glad to 
earn even very little just for the present." 

Mr. Clampitt suddenly bowed his 
shoulders more than ever in looking over 
the papers, and blinked his eyes uneasily. 

" No, no ; I think not," he said at once, 
VOL. n. 33 



194 MADAME LEROUX. 

fingering the documents and pushing them 
hither and thither on the table in a rough, 
irritable way. " I don't see the least 
chance not the slightest." 

He suspected a trap, but he was not 
going to fall into it; his having praised the 
writing, under the supposition that it had 
been gratuitous, bound him to nothing, as 
the Hawkins' should soon see, if they tried 
it on with him I 

. " Pooh, my dear," said Mr. Hawkins, 
loftily. " Miss Smith has very different 
views ; a girl with her accomplishments " 

" I am quite sure Miss Smith has no 
views which would prevent her from being 
grateful for a little patronage from Mr. 
Clampitt," interposed Marie, who had been 
watching that gentleman with her limpid, 
unembarrassed gaze. " Accomplishments 
don't go far towards getting one's bread ; and 
as to adding any butter to it, it takes very 
great business talents solid abilities, to do 
that in these hard times." 

Mr. Clampitt had often been dumbly 
conscious of precisely these sentiments him- 



MADAME LEROVX. 195 

self especially when observing, with some 
bitterness, the care Adolphus Hawkins took 
of his nails, and the trenchant way in which 
he would settle questions of the Queen's 
English for advertising purposes ; saying, 
curtly, without any specific explanation 

" Oh, no no ; ' had it have been other- 
wise,' won't do at all ! " when Mr. Clampitt 
was certain that the phrase expressed his 
meaning genteelly. 

He remained silent for a few minutes, 
and then proceeded with the work before 
him as if he had forgotten all about Marie's 
suggestion. But he had not forgotten. 
Before he went away he came and stood in 
front of Mrs. Hawkins with his hat on his 
head. He meant no disrespect to her by 
this ; it was simply his habit to pick up his 
hat from under the table when he rose to 
leave the house, and to put it on his head as 
the most convenient and natural place for it. 

" What kind of work does she want ? " he 
asked without preamble. 

"Miss Smith ? " answered Marie, under- 
standing him at once. " Almost any kind of 



196 MADAME LEROUX. 

work. Governess in a school, or private 
family ; companion to an old lady or a 
young one ; reader ; amanuensis anything 
of that sort." 

" Because," said Mr. Clampitt slowly, 
" there's a party I once knew something of 
in connection with the Pelican, before his 
time," with a jerk of the head towards 
Adolphus. "A party that required some 
tempo'ry accommodation. But he's done 
very well for himself since. He introduced 
a borrower to us the other day. He's a 
dentist now." 

"Oh!" said Mrs. Hawkins, with an 
involuntary slackening in the tense look of 
ingenuous interest with which she had been 
listening to Mr. Clampitt. " But I am afraid 
Miss Smith has no skill which could be made 
available for dentistry." 

" It's nothing to do with the teeth. 
The party keeps a sekkertary, p'raps 
more than one, to do a lot of writing for 
him." 

" How good of you to think of it ! " 
exclaimed Mrs. Hawkins, looking up at him. 



MADAME LEROUX. 197 

"And might Miss Smith use your name as a 
reference ? " 

"As far as my opinion of the hand- 
writing. I couldn't speak to her character, 
you know." 

" Oh ! " burst out Fatima, meaning to 
protest a little vehemently. But her cousin 
stopped her with a rapid sentence uttered 
under her breath in French. 

" I will lay it before Miss Smith," she 
said, sweetly. " And perhaps Mr. Clampitt 
would kindly give us his friend's address, so 
that Miss Smith might call if she entertains 
the idea." 

" He isn't exactly a friend o' mine. I 
merely knew him through his wanting a little 
tempo'ry accommodation. And it's no good 
calling without you write first for an appoint- 
ment. But there's his address." 

Mr. Clampitt fumbled in a leather 
pocket-book stiff with grease and dirt, and 
full of miscellaneous papers. At length, 
from the midst of a roll of very soiled bank 
notes, where it had accidentally got wedged, 
he pulled forth a card which he handed to 



198 MAD A. WE LEROVX. 

Mrs. Hawkins. Then, with a muffled 
" Mornin'," which he intended as a farewell 
salutation to the company, he walked 
away. 

The first thing patima did, as soon as 
the door had closed behind him, was to run 
to the sideboard, pour out a glass of water 
from a bottle which stood there, and offer it 
to Marie ; who at once dipped her fingers 
in it and dried them on her handkerchief. 

"What's the matter?" inquired Adol- 
phus, who had withdrawn his attention from 
the conversation some time back. 

"He is such a pig I" said Fatima, 
making a crescendo on each syllable, and 
almost screaming the last, as a climax. 

"Allans, Fatima!" said Marie, quietly. 
" Don't be silly. " You were not asked to 
take his card. And, as for me voild!" 
And she held up her plump white hands, 
over which she had just sprinkled a few 
drops of eau de Cologne, from a little gold- 
capped bottle she carried in her pocket. " I 
would take another card if he'd give me a 
few of the notes wrapped up with it." 



MADAME LER.OUX, 199 

" The notes were filthy, too ! " objected 
Fatima, with a little grimace of disgust. 

Mrs. Hawkins shook her head and 
shrugged her pretty shoulders. Marie was 
not acquainted with Cicero, and if she had 
been, would have taken care not to quote 
him ; perceiving a great deal too clearly the 
image of herself which was admired in 
masculine minds, and having not the least 
desire to correct it. Otherwise " non olet 
unde sit " would tersely have expressed her 
sentiments. 

" What card are you talking about ? " 
asked Adolphus, and then his wife repeated 
to him what Mr. Clampitt had said. 

At first Adolphus treated the idea as 
preposterous, and not to be even mentioned 
to Miss Smith. It was quite out of the 
question that a young lady such as she was 
should condescend to ask employment from 
old Clampitt's acquaintance. 

" He's an ignorant old Harpagon," said 
Mr. Hawkins, who had latterly had fresh 
cause for discontent with Clampitt's avarice. 
" He doesn't understand the principles of 



MADAME LEROUX. 



of He doesn't understand any prin- 

ciples, in short, and wants to pare down the 
advertisements of Millamint. There's no 
greatness of view in Clampitt ; none of the 
boldness in enterprise which has made 
British commerce what it is. Clampitt is 
like a man who would hesitate to pick up 
a diamond because he must let fall his 
handful of halfpence to do it." And Mr. 
Hawkins walked impatiently up and down 
the dining-room, glowing with the vision of 
how sagaciously he would scatter his thou- 
sands as the husbandman scatters his seed- 
corn if he only had them. 

" Bien, bien, Clampitt is all that you 
chose. Do sit down, Adolphe ! You make 
one giddy. But all the same I shall 
certainly mention this chance to Miss Smith. 
Her few pounds won't last for ever, and 
what is, she to do when they are gone ? I 
presume you don't think we could keep her ? 
Because if any such folly is flitting through 
your brain, mon ami, you had better frighten 
it away as soon as possible. Mr. Shard 
might not like to suggest the workhouse if 



MADAME LEROUX. 



he were appealed to, but that is what he 
would mean rather than spend a penny 
himself. And, for my part, I have my 
private conviction that those great friends 
she talks of will do nothing for her. Miss 
Smith may not mean to deceive (though she 
is not so silly and ingenue as you think her), 
but the fact is, she does not even know 
where her dear friends are at this moment ! 
What is their name, Fatima ? Enderby 
isn't it ? " 

" Enderby ! " exclaimed Mr. Hawkins, 
with a start. "Good Heavens! I saw, a 
week or two back, in the Morning Post, that 
Sir Lionel Enderby, of Enderby Court, had 
died suddenly in Rome." 

" That is Lucy Smith's old friend. 
Enderby Court is the name of the place 
where she was almost brought up. She has 
been talking a great deal to me about them 
lately," said Fatima, clasping her hands, and 
turning pale. "But are you sure, Uncle 
Adolphe ? " 

" Sure that I saw the announcement ? 
Yes Bless my soul ! It didn't strike me 



MADAME LEROUX. 



at the time about Miss Smith. In fact, I 
think I must have taken the words in with 
my eyes mechanically, my mind being full 
of other things. Dear, dear, dear ! " 

"Ah!" said Marie, placidly. "You see 
he is dead, and the family have given Miss 
Smith no intimation of it." 

" You think she doesn't know, eh ? " 
'asked Adolphus, with a somewhat rueful 
and puzzled air. 

" Not the least in the world. I dare say 
there was no such great intimacy as Miss 
Smith gave us to understand." 

" You are wrong, Marie ; indeed you 
are ! " cried Fatima. " She is the soul of 
truth. I am sure of it." 

" Very well ; if so, that only proves that 
these Enderbys are behaving badly to her. 
Either she boasted a little, or they are 
unkind ; \ that is quite clear ! " returned 
Marie, with perfect amiability. "At any 
rate, you perceive the urgent necessity there 
is for her to do something. Adolphe, my 
opinion is that she will at once try what can 
be done with this recommendation of le vieux 



MADAME LEROUX. 203 

Clampitt. She is not silly. I always saw 
that, and even Caroline Leroux, who has 
taken her so much en grippe, cannot say that 
Miss Smith is silly ! " 

When Lucy returned from her quest, 
which had once more proved a vain one, 
Fatima met her, and, taking her by the 
hand, said, softly, and in a tone of deep 
feeling 

" I am so sorry ; I have bad news to 
give you, dear. News that will grieve you 
very much." 

Lucy pulled off her hat mechanically 
and sat down. Her thoughts had flown at 
once to Mildred. There alone her affections 
were vulnerable. She looked up at Fatima, 
unable to speak. 

" Your old friend, Sir Lionel Enderby, 
dear ; he is - 

Fatima paused. 

" 111 ? " asked Lucy, in a faint voice. 

" He is dead, dear." 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

THE feelings of a bold aeronaut resolved to 
mount among the stars, who should find 
himself at starting encumbered with a com- 
panion laden with an excess of ballast against 
the risk of too great altitudes ; insisting on 
keeping control of the valves ; and ready 
with the grappling-irons to clutch at some- 
thing solid on brief notice, might faintly 
image forth those of Adolphus Hawkins when 
endeavouring to raise the big balloon called 
Millamint, in conjunction with Mr. Clampitt. 
He was checked at every turn. 

Mr. Clampitt's avarice, like Macbeth's 
ambition, let "I dare not" wait upon "I 
would." It was not that Mr. Clampitt had 
any objection to ' play false " that he might 
" wrongly win ;" what he objected to was the 
[ 204 ] 



MADAME LEROUX. 205 

risk which, in this imperfect state of existence, 
attends the most careful and ingenious play. 
And then it was so difficult to make him 
see, as Adolphus Hawkins daily endeavoured 
to do, that to boggle over sixpence after 
having spent two shillings was to render 
the whole half-crown of no avail. He 
fought for his sixpences. But the bait of 
making exorbitant profits out of Millamint 
was irresistible. 

Perhaps there is no class of persons for 
whom a sort of limited infallibility is more 
largely claimed, than " men of business." 
The infirmities and stupidities to which some 
of them are obviously liable in all other 
departments of life are popularly assumed 
to fall away from them directly they enter 
the charmed circle of " business." As if 
money-getting were a territory outside the 
operation of those laws which govern the 
play of human character elsewhere ; or as 
if we did not witness frequent failure in 
even the most unscrupulous efforts to grow 
rich ! 

When Mr. Clampitt, who was known 



206 MADAME LEROUX. 

{chiefly on the strength of an all-absorbing 
greed, which left him comparatively in- 
different to everything on earth except 
pounds, shillings, and pence) to be such an 
excellent man of business, took up the 
British Tea Company, several men who had 
twice as many brains as he, were led to do 
so too ; arguing that old Clampitt was a deal 
too fond of money to run any risks ; which 
was something like saying of a hungry wolf 
that he was a great deal too voracious ever to 
choke himself with a bone. 

However, the Company was " floated," 
and solid cash was actually paid for shares in 
it. And in spite of the dead weight of old 
Clampitt's ignorance, avarice, and suspicion, 
Mr. Hawkins was for some weeks in buoyant 
spirits. He cherished the most extravagant 
anticipations of the vast sums to be made by 
the Company, and withstood Marie's per- 
sistent advice to sell his shares when they 
advanced, as they soon did, to a surprisingly 
high figure. 

" I have a great respect for your mother- 
wit, my dear," said Adolphus. " And for 



MADAME LEROUX. 207 



the general brightness of your intelligence. 
But you don't understand business. Women 
never do. They are bold or timid in the 
wrong place. Now is the moment to be 
bold ! " 

Whereupon Marie said no more, but 
ordered the neat brougham, which was 
always at her disposal now, and drove to a 
jeweller's, where she expended all her 
savings and every farthing of ready cash, 
which had been given her for the month's 
housekeeping, in the purchase of a diamond 
ring. She was a very fair judge of diamonds, 
and not at all likely to be cheated in the price 
of them. 

Meanwhile Lucy Smith had justified Mrs. 
Hawkins's opinion of her good sense by de- 
termining to apply to the dentist of whom 
Mr. Clampitt had spoken. Hitherto she had 
found no employment that promised better, 
and the chief temptation to her to try this 
opening was that she might thus continue 
to live under the Hawkins's roof. For Mr. 
Clampitt had mentioned that the "sekker- 
taries "were not expected to reside on their 



2o8 MADAME LEROUX. 



employer's premises. They worked only 
during certain fixed hours of the day, and 
were at liberty in the evening. 

The news of Sir Lionel's death had 
greatly affected her ; but Mildred's blank 
silence after it, oppressed her with such a 
weight of loneliness as made her cling almost 
convulsively to this family, where she had, 
at least, the comfort of seeing friendly faces. 
She had written at once to Mildred, on 
hearing of Sir Lionel's death, a long letter, 
pouring out all her heart, and begging for a 
word in reply. She did not know where to 
direct it abroad, and sent it, therefore, to 
Enderby Court, where it was certain that 
Mrs. Griffiths, or some one in charge, would 
know where to forward it ; and it was for- 
warded duly, and duly reached its destination, 
but not until after great delay. 

Lady Charlotte, when she and Mildred 
left Rome, desired Mrs. Griffiths to sus- 
pend the transmission of any correspond- 
ence which might arrive at the Court until 
further orders. Lord Grimstock was, of 
course, in constant communication with his 






MADAME LEROUX. 209 

sister ; and to him, as executor and trustee 
under Sir Lionel's will, all business communi- 
cations touching the property were addressed 
direct. No letters were likely, Lady Char- 
lotte opined, to be sent to Enderby Court 
except formal notes of condolence from dis- 
tant county neighbours, or such other matters 
as she might well be excused from taking 
any immediate trouble about. They tra- 
velled slowly on Mildred's account, halting 
at several places along the Riviera before 
arriving at the villa where they were to 
remain until the spring. 

When Lucy's letter finally reached 
Bordighera, Lady Charlotte recognized the 
handwriting at once ; she was familiar with 
Lucy's hand from having seen it in manifold 
extracts and copies made for poor Sir Lionel. 
Lady Charlotte would not for the world have 
descended to suppress the letter ; but she 
thought herself justified in keeping this one 
back until her niece should be stronger. 
Mildred was still very weak, and subject to 
fainting fits on any agitation. 

When at length Lucy's letter was put 
VOL. ii. 34 



2io MADAME LEROUX. 

into her hand one exquisite sunny day, as 
she sat in the garden gazing at the palm- 
trees and the lapis-lazuli plain of the Medi- 
terranean, Sir Lionel Enderby had been dead 
nearly two months, and many other things 
had happened. 

Among the rest, it had happened that 
Lucy Smith had called by appointment to 
see Mr. Tudway Didear, or, as he preferred 
to style himself, Professor Tudway Didear. 

This gentleman lived in a large, hand- 
some house, in a street turning northward 
from the western extremity of Oxford Street. 
The front of it was painted a deep crimson, 
in the most approved fashion. In summer, 
window-boxes full of flowers, and in winter, 
glass cases full of ferns adorned the windows. 
The plate-glass glittered. So did a large 
brass plate on the door bearing the words 
Tudway Didear, followed by a miscellaneous 
escort of letters of the alphabet, which as 
was taken for granted by those beholders 
who troubled themselves to consider the 
matter at all Dignified the various learned 
bodies, whereof Mr. Didear was a member 



MADAME LEROUX. 211 

by virtue of his skill in dentistry. These 
were nearly all foreign ; a dentist, apparently, 
resembling a prophet, in respect of meeting 
scant recognition among the learned in his 
own country. 

An imposing-looking servant, clad in a 
glossy suit of black, and with the correctest 
of white cravats, opened the door, and 
ushered Lucy and her companion (for she 
had induced Fatima to accompany her) into a 
gorgeous waiting-room, all gilding and red 
satin. Fatima passed in at once ; but Lucy, 
catching a glimpse of other persons there, 
hanging over the picture-books which were 
strewn on the centre table, drew back, and 
whispered to the servant that she thought 
there was some mistake ; she had called 

there by appointment ; and . The man 

interrupted her, respectfully asking her 
name, and adding that the Professor was for 
the moment engaged, but would, doubtless, 
receive the ladies as near as possible to the 
time named. 

" We are not patients," said Lucy. 

The man stopped short and stared at 



MADAME LEROUX. 



her. " But you say you have an appoint- 
ment, madam ? " 

" Yes," answered Lucy, quietly. " It is 
about the situation of secretary." 

" O-o-oh ! " exclaimed the man, lengthen- 
ing out the syllable, and staring at Lucy. 
" Then you should have rung the airey-bell ! 
However," after a pause and a renewed 
stare not performed insolently "as you 
are here, I'll show you down. This way, 
please." 

He opened a red baize-covered swing- 
door, which closed a passage from the en- 
trance hall, and Lucy and Fatima followed 
him. 

The change from one side of that door 
to the other was as great as from the vision 
of the Fairy Realms of Bliss beheld by a 
child at the Pantomime, to the stage-car- 
penter's view of that enchanted kingdom, 
in a world of ropes, pulleys, flaring gas-jets, 
and unpainted canvas. On the hall side was 
fine India matting strewn with soft rugs, 
and adorned by massive vases full of pot- 
pourri. On the other side were bare boards, 



MADAME LEROUX. 213 

unbeautified even by the scrubbing-brush, and 
an odour of dry, close, mouldintss ascending 
from the kitchen stairs. 

"Just you go right down there, Miss, 
and speak to Mrs. Parfitt. She's the cook, 
but she'll know all about it. I can't stop. 
And thereupon the servant took his glossy 
broadcloth and his irreproachable cravat into 
the hall again. The man's intention was to 
be civil and serviceable, but he kept his 
" madams " and his manners for the class 
cf visitors who paid the Professor, and not 
for those whom the Professor paid. 

" But what we're going into the kit- 
chen ! " exclaimed Fatima, in a tone of 
strong protest. 

" Certainly, since we were told to speak 
to the cook," replied Lucy. The absurdity 
of the position had some relish for her in 
spite of all her troubles. Whatever might be 
in store for her, she had not yet arrived at 
the pitch of depression when all sense of 
humour is stifled under a superincumbent 
weight of woe. 

Into the kitchen they went, and found a 



2i 4 MADAME LEROUX. 

decent-looking woman at tea there, with a 
young servant of the housemaid class. 

"Are you Mrs. Parfitt ?" asked Lucy, in 
her clear, soft tones. 

"Yes, I am," answered Mrs. Parfitt, 
rising and rubbing her hands, and looking 
at Lucy with the same expression of per- 
plexity which the man had shown. Fatima, 
with her wits sharpened by residence in 
London and the tents on the borders of 
Bohemia, at once drew the conclusion that 
no creature bearing the quality of "lady" 
impressed on her aspect and manners, had 
ever descended those stairs within Mrs. 
Parfitt's experience. 

Lucy briefly explained her errand, but 
added that she feared Mr. Didear would not 
be able to keep his appointment with her, 
as she had observed several persons in the 
waiting-room. 

" Oh, that won't make no difference if he 
wants to see you," said Mrs. Parfitt. " The 
patients '11 have to wait or come again. But 
I don't quite know- 
At this moment a shrill whistle called 



MADAME LEROUX. 215 

Mrs. Parfitt to a speaking-tube in the pas- 
sage outside the kitchen door. The woman 
put her ear to it, listened a moment, and 
then said, " It's all right. One of you young 
ladies is Miss Smith, ain't you ? Then 
you're to go and wait in the writing-room, 
and the Professor '11 be down directly." 

So saying she opened a door, desired 
Lucy and Fatima to enter, and went away. 

They found themselves in a room which 
had originally been neither more nor less than 
the back kitchen or scullery of the house, 
and was so dark that the gas was kept alight 
there nearly all day long. This made its 
atmosphere heavy and suffocating, as though 
the breathable portion of it were on the 
point of being exhausted, and yet it was very 
far from being comfortably warm. The 
stone-flagged floor probably contributed to 
the sensation of chill which assailed the feet 
of those who remained there many minutes. 
It was covered with oil-cloth a good deal 
worn. In the centre of the room stood a 
deal table, common enough as to make and 
material, but somewhat uncommon as to its 



2l6 



MADAME LEROUX. 



size, which was very large. On this table, 
which was splashed with ink, as though it 
had been played upon with that fluid through 
a garden-hose, were spread piles of printed 
papers, a much-thumbed " Blue Book " or 
directory to the genteeler parts of town, and 
two huge pewter ink-stands, with a few steel 
pens in common wooden handles. Four 
kitchen chairs, some pegs for hanging up 
hats or cloaks, and a white-faced, loud-ticking 
clock fixed on the wall, completed the inven- 
tory of the furniture. 

Two young women were seated at the 
table in the act of writing, and on the floor 
beside each of them was placed a clothes- 
basket, such as washerwomen use, into which 
envelopes containing printed circulars were 
tossed as fast as they were directed ; and the 
clothes-baskets were nearly full. 

" I hope we do not disturb you. We 
were told to come in here," said Lucy, gently. 

One of the young women, a flaxen- 
haired, pale girl, who looked tired or sullen, 
or both, merely nodded. But the other one 
raised her eyes and said, " Not at all. Won't 



MADAME LEROUX. 217 

you sit down ? " and then resumed her writ- 
ing. For a minute or so no sound was heard 
except the scratching of the pens, and the 
loud, hard ticking of the clock. And then 
the flaxen-haired girl, throwing herself back 
in her chair, said wearily, " One thousand 
three hundred and five since Tuesday after- 
noon. I'm pretty nearly through my share 
of S.W. How have you got on, Peggy ? " 

" Middling," returned the girl addressed 
as Peggy. " I don't mean to let my feelings 
run away with me to the extent of giving 
old Diddleum a brass farthing's worth more 
work than is in the bond." 

The other laughed in a dreary way, and 
said, addressing Fatima, " I suppose it's a 
fair question, seeing you here : Are you 
applying for an engagement ? " 

Fatima hesitated an instant ; but Lucy 
at once n plied, " /am thinking of applying. 
Do you think there is a vacancy ? " 

"Oh, yes; I suppose so. We're rather 
slack just now ; but there's generally plenty 
of work." 

" Yes," said Peggy. " Old Diddleum 



218 MADAME LEROUX. 

takes care that Satan shan't find any mischief 
for our hands to do, if being idle gives him 
a chance." 

At this moment a heavy step was heard 
descending the kitchen stairs. Both Peggy 
and her companion bent over their writing 
with sudden diligence, and presently the 
door was flung open, and Professor Tudway 
Didear marched into the room. 

He was a broad heavily-built man, of 
middle height, with a perfectly clean-shaven 
face, and grizzled hair cropped short, smooth, 
and even all over his head, after a fashion 
more commonly seen on the Continent than 
in England. He wore ordinary morning 
clothes the only peculiarity being that he 
had no neckcloth, and that his shirt had a 
broad, falling collar, fastened at the throat 
with a gold stud set with pearls ; and on the 
little finger of his left hand a strong, flexible 
hand, scrupulously cared for, as beseems the 
hand of a dentist he wore a great, showy, 
ruby ring, lie had a bullying air of com- 
mand ; and Lucy noticed with surprise that 
the two young women not only stood up 



MADAME LEROUX. 2 1 9 

when he entered, but remained standing 
until he said to them curtly, " You'd better 
get on," when they resumed their seats and 
their work. 

" Are you Miss Smith ? " he asked, ad- 
dressing Fatima. 

(Fatima maintained afterwards, with per- 
fect good humour, that they had all, from 
the footman to the Professor, thought her 
plain face answered much better to the idea 
of a young person called Smith, and wanting 
to be employed by Mr. Didear, than Lucy's 
did.) 

" Oh ! " said Mr. Didear, when his error 
had been corrected. " It's you ? Well, you 
wrote me a letter mentioning the name of 
Mr. Clampitt, eh ? " 

Lucy bowed. 

" Here it is" (taking it from his pocket). 
"Wrote it yourself?" 

"Yes, certainly." 

" Just take a pen give her yours, Miss 
Barton and write a few words from dicta- 
tion, will you ? " 

Lucy's sense of the ludicrous had quite 



220 MADAME LEROUX. 

overcome her first feeling of annoyance at 
the man's tone, and as she took the pen from 
the girl Peggy, her fingers shook with the 
effort to stifle a laugh. Not so Fatima, 
whose long black eyes looked very wrath- 
fully upon these proceedings. 

" Write," said Mr. Didear, clasping his 
hands behind his back and taking two steps 
in one direction and two steps back again 
along the wall under the clock, " ' the inven- 
tions applied by Professor Tudway Didear to 
the operations of dental surgery mark the ne 
plus ultra of odontological science achieved 
within the present century.' That '11 do. Let 
me see. Hah ! yes ; same hand. Only 
you've hurried this a little. H'm ! Got 
the ne plus ultra all right, I see. A young 
person who applied last week spelt it with 
a k.' " 

This was too much for Lucy, who covered 
her face with her handkerchief, and made a 
desperate effort to convert an irresistible 
burst of laughter into an excusable fit of 
coughing. 

"That was very absurd of her," she 



MADAME LEROUX. 221 

gasped, looking up at length, with eyes full 
of water. 

Mr. Didear stood by suspicious. He did 
not believe in the cough at all ; and he had 
his doubts whether all that hilarity were 
occasioned by the misspelling of a Latin 
word, which even he, the Professor, might 
very likely have written wrongly if he had 
never seen it in print ! and yet, what else 
could there be for any one to laugh at ? If 
the girl turned out a giggling fool she would 
not suit him ; which would be a pity, since 
he liked her writing. It was legible, and yet 
not common. 

" I beg your pardon," said Lucy, making 
a strong effort to regain her self-possession. 
" I must not waste your time. Do you 
think you should be able to give me em- 
ployment ? " 

" I think so. At the present moment 
there is no great pressure ; but in about a 
fortnight we shall be very busy mind what 
you are about, Miss Barton ! those lines ain't 
straight. I'm not going to allow crooked 
directions to emanate from these premises, 



222 MADAME LEROUX. 

as you ought to be aware by this time ! and 
then I might take you on." 

" The duties are ? " 

" What you see. Mainly addressing cir- 
culars. There may be a few letters occa- 
sionally, but my private secretary, upstairs, 
does most of that. It's a different depart- 
ment. Hours, from nine to one and two to 
six, inclusive. That's the regular thing. 
Extra time is extra pay." 

" And the terms ? " said Lucy, colouring 
nervously. 

" The wages I pay are fifteen shillings a 
week. Take it or leave it. Same to all. 
No difference made. If any one is under 
the mark, I don't pay less ; I get rid of 
'em." 

Mr. Didear did not mention what he 
would do in the case of any one being over 
the mark. But, probably, the hypothesis 
had never occurred to him. 

" Thank you," said Lucy. " Then if I 
am disengaged in about a fortnight from this 
time, may I write to you ? " 

" Yes ; or come. All engagements begin 



MADAME LEROUX. 22.3 

on a Monday, and are by the week ; termin- 
able at a week's notice." 

" On either side, of course," said Lucy, 
bowing farewell to the young women at the 
table, and passing out of the room. 

" Well," said Mr. Didear, as he followed 
her and Fatima up the kitchen stairs, " I 
should expect any one to stay and finish up a 
job of work if we happened to be in the thick 
of it. Oh, look here, I forgot to mention, 
you mustn't come in and out this way. 
There's another entrance for the employees. 
Parfitt will show you. But as you are up 
here Rogers, show this party out." 

" Good heavens, Lucy, you surely don't 
think of ever going near that dreadful man 
again ! " burst out Fatima, as soon as they 
were clear of the house. " Cest inouil " 

Lucy laughed a little, and then looked 
grave. " Fatima," she said, " I have found 
out one thing : it is not at all enough to be 
willing to work, to earn your bread. I used 
to think it was. The pay is very little. But 
it would save me from eating up the last 
pound of my tiny capital. And, after all, I 



224 MADAME LEROUX. 

don't know that I should be a bit more 
unhappy directing envelopes in that back 
kitchen, than hearing Miss Heavysides 
trample through the ' Moonlight Sonata,' or 
being obliged to endure Miss Cohen's con- 
tempt for my poverty and general insignifi- 
cance, uttered in such an epigrammatic form 
as, ' Well, I'm sure ! It seems beggars want 
to be choosers ! ' ' 

"Well," said Fatima, musingly. "Per- 
haps as a stop-gap, and if you don't get a 

situation within a fortnight . And then 

you could always leave that creature directly 
anything better offered, couldn't you ? " 

" Oh yes, of course ! " answered Lucy, 
cheerfully. She was but eighteen. And 
sordid troubles still appeared to her merely 
like parentheses in the story of life. 






CHAPTER XXX. 

IT was characteristic of that general pre- 
paration for the unexpected which formed 
a large part of the Hawkins's philosophy, 
that none of- the family expressed or felt any 
special surprise at seeing a girl like Lucy 
apparently abandoned to her fate, and left to 
sink or swim, a lonely waif, in the deep, 
black sea of London. 

Lucy was often lost in wonder as she 
thought of it all herself, but the Hawkins's 
accepted such vicissitudes, both for them- 
selves and their friends, as being part of the 
general constitution of things. Mr. Shard 
was, of course, a hard, selfish^ unfeeling 
curmudgeon. But hard, selfish, unfeeling- 
curmudgeons were amongst the most 
ordinary phenomena of life. And as to the 
VOL. ii. L 22 5 ] 35 



226 MADAME LEROUX. 



cooling-off of Lucy's grand friends well, 
really, neither was that unprecedented. 

Lucy had never said a word of blame or 
anger, but, piecing together things she had 
let fall in talking of Enderby Court, and 
adding to them all that Mr. Shard had said 
when in town, Marie Hawkins had convinced 
herself that it was Lady Charlotte Gaunt w r ho 
had arranged to send Lucy away from West- 
field, and had paid Mr. Shard for getting it 
done. But be that as it might, it was clear 
that the Enderbys meant to drop Miss Smith 
now, at all events. All the more reason for 
Miss Smith to do what she could for herself. 
And Mrs. Hawkins, accordingly, encouraged 
her to accept the dentist's offer. 

Lucy waited out the fortnight before 
making up her mind to do so. But during 
that time nothing in the shape of remune- 
rative employment had presented itself. She 
had, indeed, been offered the entire charge 
of an imbecile and sickly young woman and 
her wardrobe, for the liberal remuneration 
of food and lodging, she to pay her own 
laundress's bill ; and on declining it on the 



MADAME LEROUX. 227 

ground that she would thus have no penny 
for clothing or any other necessary expense, 
she had been somewhat severely rated by 
the imbecile young woman's mother, who 
wondered what things were coming to, when 
persons like Lucy turned up their noses at a 
good roof over their heads, and a sufficiency 
of wholesome victuals ! 

Zephany had been consulted on the 
subject of Mr. Tudway Didear. Zephany 
had been prospering lately ; and his pros- 
perity had come about chiefly through Mr. 
Rushmere's instrumentality. Rushmere had 
expressed his surprise that a man of 
Zephany's extraordinary attainments as a 
linguist should have failed to obtain per- 
manent employment. Whereupon Zephany 
had replied, "My friend, extraordinary 
attainments are not wanted in any line of 
business. A man does not want his horse 
to fly ; he only wants him to run faster than 
other men's horses." 

" Well, but you can run faster than most 
horses ! And you are not obliged to 
mention that you can fly, also. No need to 



228 MADAME LEROUX. 

tell people that you could, if you pleased, 
write their letters for them in Greek, Arabic, 
Turkish, or Hebrew, as well as in German, 
French, Spanish, and Italian ! " 

" That is true," answered Zephany, 
candidly, with his rare smile displaying the 
wonderful range of teeth. 

And soon after that conversation Mr. 
Ferdinand Zephany was installed in the post 
of foreign correspondent in the important 
City house of Steinmetz, Williams, Bauer, 
and Steinmetz. 

This made no difference in his relations 
with the Hawkins's except the characteristic 
difference that Zephany at once insisted on 
paying them a higher rent for his bedroom. 
He still continued to be the confidential 
friend and familiar inmate of the family, and 
the special oracle and counsellor of Fatima. 

She it was who asked him to make some 
inquiries about Mr. Tudway Didear, and the 
result of them was that Zephany reported the 
man to be a notorious charlatan, looked down 
upon by all his more respectable colleagues, 
but nevertheless a charlatan of ability. 



MADAME LEROUX. 229 

" He is a clever manipulator, but all his 
circulars, and reclames, and pretensions to 
science are pure charlatanerie. He is a 
quack and a liar," said Zephany, with his 
usual forcible directness. 

But he did not feel justified in advising 
Miss Smith to refuse the dentist's offer. To 
him, as to the Hawkins's, " ups and downs" 
of fortune appeared to be very much matters 
of course ; and he was sufficiently imbued 
with the tenets of Bohemia to consider the 
quack dentist's service every whit as desirable 
as that of Madame Leroux. As regards the 
worship of the Genteel, Zephany was a stiff- 
necked heretic and unbeliever. 

Lucy did not choose to go to Mr. 
Didear's house on the Monday he had 
indicated without any further notice, but she 
sent a note to say that unless she meanwhile 
heard from him to the contrary, she would 
present herself to begin work on the follow- 
ing Monday morning. 

Punctually at nine o'clock she rang the 
bell at the dentist's street door. No sooner 
had she done so than she remembered the 



230 MADAME LEROUX. 

servant's admonition on the former occasion 
that she should have rung the " airey bell." 
However, she could but stand her ground 
now, and wait until Rogers should appear. 
Rogers did not appear. (She learned after- 
wards that that black-coated functionary was 
only engaged for the hours during which Mr. 
Didear received his patients.) The door was 
opened by a housemaid, who was sweeping 
and dusting the hall. 

Before Lucy could say a word this woman 
exclaimed, " Laws, if I didn't just guess it 
was you ! The Professor told Miss Barton 
you was coming to-day. But you hadn't 
ought to be ringing at this door. I 
should catch it if he knew you got in the 
front way." 

" But," said Lucy mildly, " I don't know 
any other way." 

"Well, come along in. P'raps he didn't 
hear the ring, as he's at his fiddling ; and if 
he says anything I shall just tell him it was a 
parcel for Mrs. Parfitt rung the wrong bell 
by mistake." 

As Lucy passed through the hall, she was 



MADAME LEROUX. 231 

aware of a droning, vibrating sound, like the 
buzz of a gigantic blue-bottle ; and when the 
red-baize door was closed behind her and the 
friendly housemaid, the latter said 

" It's a mercy he's got that cheller to 
let off some of his overbearin'gness on." 

" What is it he has ?" asked Lucy, doubt- 
fully. 

" A cheller violin cheller," answered the 
housemaid, making the action of drawing a 
bow across the strings. " He plays it by the 
hour, setting up in his bedroom in a flannel 
gownd. Sometimes he begins at six in the 
morning. I suppose it does ward off some 
of his aggorance. Not that / should take 
any of his sauce, if he offered it to me ; nor 
yet Mrs. Parfitt wouldn't. But the way he 
does bully that Miss Saunders, that he calls 
his private secretary, words can't depicture. 
You underground young ladies," continued 
the housemaid, thus designating the inferior 
scribes by an ingenious periphrasis, " are 
better off than her. He can't keep bounc- 
ing up and down the kitchen stairs twenty 
times in the hour, like he bounces in and 



232 MAD A ATE LEROUX. 

out of the back parlour to worry Miss 
Saunders." 

Lucy found Miss Peggy Barton and the 
flaxen-haired girl, whose name was Jones, 
hanging up their hats and cloaks in the room 
where they wrote ; and they returned her 
salutations with civility, but with a certain 
distance, and something like an air of 
mistrust. 

" Could you," asked Lucy, hesitatingly, 
" be so kind as to tell me what I ought to do 
first ? " 

" Oh, yes," answered Miss Barton; "old 
Diddleum don't intend you to waste your 
time whilst he pays for it. He gave me this 
bundle ready for you on Saturday night. 
You've got to write 'With Professor Tudway 
Didear's compliments ' at the top of all these 
circulars" pushing a packet across the table 
towards her " and when you have finished 
them, you're to direct the envelopes from that 
list of addresses marked with a blue pencil in 
the directory ; and then you're to write at the 
top of the circulars on pink paper, 'With 
Tudway Didear's respectful compliments,' 



MADAME LEROUX. 233 

and they're to be addressed from the lists 
marked in red. So there's your work cut out 
for you." 

Lucy took the circulars and began to 
write. The other two girls kept silence, but 
cast scrutinising glances at her from time to 
time as she plied her pen. At length Miss 
Barton said 

" You're a quick writer, ain't you ? " 

" I think I am," answered Lucy, looking 
up with a little smile. 

Something in her face determined Peggy 
Barton to speak frankly. 

" Look here," she said ; " don't you get 
that first lot of circulars done before one 
o'clock, whatever you do ; else old Diddleum 
will expect us all to do the same ; and that 
would be awfully rough on Isabel Jones, 
who's a slow writer by nature, and if she 
hurries, her hand gets illegible." 

" There you go, Peggy ! " said Isabel 
Jones in a warning voice. 

" Oh, bother!" returned the lively Peggy. 
" Miss Smith won't tell. She isn't that sort. 
Why, if we didn't stick together a little, old 



234 MADAME LEROUX. 

Diddleum would eat us up alive. If we 
don't put some sort of a limit to our work, 
he'll never put one for us. We don't want 
to be unfair, Miss Smith," pursued Peggy, 
watching Lucy's face. " You see, Diddleum 
considers what we do a fair amount for the 
day, else he'd never put up with it, you may 
bet your boots. But we have to make up 
our minds to get through so much, and no 
more. He's one of the too-clever-by-half, he 
is ! If he treated people like Christians they 
wouldn't grudge him good measure. But, 
as it is, I make a rule, Miss Smith, to 
lay my pen down at the stroke of one by 
that clock, even if I'm in the middle of a 
Svord. And you'll find you'll have to do it too." 

" I will divide this heap of papers, and 
see what proportion of them I can get 
through in half an hour," said Lucy. " Then 
I shall be able to calculate my rate of work, 
and compare it with yours." 

Peggy nodded approvingly, observing that 
she had been sure Miss Smith was the right 
sort, and even Miss Jones looked a little 
more cheerful. And after that, they worked 



MADAME LEROUX. 235 

with very little further interchange of words, 
until the white-faced clock struck one, when 
they laid down their pens, and prepared to 
eat their luncheon. 

Lucy had brought a packet of sand- 
wiches with her, and the other girls pulled out 
some cold meat and bread from their little 
black bags ; and Mrs. Parfitt was petitioned 
to supply them with a jug of water and 
three tumblers. Lucy spread the clean 
white napkin in which Fatima had enveloped 
her paper parcel of sandwiches over one end 
of the tab'e for a cloth, and invited the 
others to share that luxury with her ; a little 
attention which was received with an 
effusiveness that surprised her. 

" Thank you, Miss Smith," said Peggy 
Barton, laying her bread and meat neatly on 
a square of clean paper, placing the whole 
on the napkin, and surveying the effect with 
complacency. 

" Don't it look nice, Isabel ? Old 
Diddleum would like us to eat out of a 
trough like pigs ; unless he'd like better 
that we didn't eat at all ! " 



MA DA ME LEHO UX. 



" May I ask," inquired Lucy, feeling that 
general good-fellowship had been establish- 
ed, "why you call Mr. Didear 'Old 
Diddleum?'" 

Peggy burst into a hearty young laugh. 
" Oh,'' she said, "because he diddles people ; 
cheats them, you know. It isn't very 
elegant. But how could you say anything 
elegant of him ? " 

" I tell Peggy," remarked Miss Jones, in 
her slow, throaty voice, " that she'll forget 
herself some day, and call him Diddleum to 
his face." 

" I nearly did once," said Peggy, with a 
fresh burst of laughter ; " and if it wasn't 
for mother, I should wish I had. If it 
wasn't for mother, I'd never enter his horrid 
old den again the longest day I have to live. 
But mother's an invalid, and we have to eke 
out the little she's got somehow. And, you 
see, the good of this place is that I can 
go home at six and look after mother, and 
give her her tea, and stop with her. Other- 
wise, Miss Smith, there have been 
moments when I could have knocked 



MADAME LEROUX. 



him down and trampled on him, only for 
mother ! " 

The picture of Peggy Barton who was 
a short, slight, little creature felling Mr. 
Tudway Didear to the earth was a suffi- 
ciently comical one. Lucy laughed, and 
observed that "the Professor was more obliged 
to Mrs. Barton than he had any idea of. 

"Oh, of course it's only the feeling. I 
couldn't really do it, I know ; but I do feel 
like a raging tigress sometimes, Miss Smith," 
said Peggy, shaking the crumbs off, and 
folding up the napkin neatly. 

" I shouldn't think any one would come 
here from choice," remarked Isabel Jones. 
" When Bill gets a situation that's my 
second brother / shan't come any more ; 
father says so. Father's a working jeweller, 
but he can't always work because of the 
asthma ; and, with six at home, of course he 
can't afford to keep us all idle. But, when 
once Bill's earning, good-bye to Mr. Tudway 
Didear. I wouldn't come back of my own 
free will, not if he offered me five pound a 
week and a four-wheeler to fetch me morning 



238 MADAME LEROUX. 



and evening," concluded Miss Jones, con- 
scious of having uttered a strong hyperbole, 
but one which was not too strong to express 
her feeling. 

" I suppose you do it for pocket money ? " 
said Peggy, with a little hesitation. 

" I ? " returned Lucy. " I do it because 
I am very poor, and must earn my bread." 

"No! Why, dear me! Isabel and I 
made up our minds when we saw you the 
other day that you were a swell that had just 
t;iken a fancy to get some money for gloves 
or something." 

" Indeed, I am very far from being a 
' swell,' " replied Lucy, with a smile. 

" You're a lady," said Peggy Barton, 
quickly. " I don't set up to be anything 
grand myself, but of course I can see that 
you are a lady." 

Lucy made no answer ; it was just two 
o'clock, and work must be resumed. But as 
she presented Mr. Tudway Didear's compli- 
ments, in her neatest characters, she could 
not help reflecting, with some wonder, on 
the difference between poor Peggy Barton, 



MADAME LEROUX. 239 

in her shabby frock and worn shoes, and 
Miss Cohen, who cost her parents a hundred 
and fifty guineas a year at Madame Leroux's 
fashionable boarding-school. 

When six o'clock came, she found that 
her shoulders ached, and her hand felt stiff, 
and her head heavy. The constrained 
posture, to which she was unused, was 
fatiguing, and the close atmosphere of the 
room was very oppressive. 

" You must show me the way out, 
please," she said, when the others were 
getting ready to go away. " Otherwise I 
shall not know where to get admittance to- 
morrow." 

" Ah ! " said the irrepressible Peggy, 
"and a very nice way it is, to make ladies 
walk through the mews in all weathers ! " 

" The mews ! " 

" Yes ; the mews. All among the stable 
litter, and the wet coach-wheels spinning 
round to give you a shower-bath, and the 
grooms passing their remarks. No wonder 
you look astonished. But that's the way we 
have to come, if we want to be let in at all. 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Oh, you don't know half the charms of 
the place yet. To-day has been a day of 
peace. Old Diddleum hasn't been down 
once. But well, I dare say you'll have 
the pleasure of a visit from him before 
long." 

Sure enough, they left the house by a 
back door which led directly into some mews 
behind it. Emerging thence, they came up 
a side-alley into the street adorned by Mr. 
Tudway Didear's crimson facade. Miss 
Barton and Miss Jones made Lucy observe 
certain landmarks such as the number of 
lamp-posts from the corner, and a house 
with newly painted railings opposite so that 
she might not miss her way on the morrow. 
And then they bade her good night, and 
walked away together. 

As they went, Lucy heard Peggy Barton 
say to her companion, " Mother's sure to 
have the kettle boiling. She's always so 
glad to see me back. That's the good bit 
of the day." And she thought that if she 
had a mother to welcome her home a 
mother whom she might tend, and for whom 



MADAME LEROUX. 



241 



she might work, all the hardships would be 
cheaply purchased. 

Peggy's threadbare shawl, and rusty hat, 
and boots pervious to the street mud, were 
transfigured into something precious, in the 
light of loving duty ; and Lucy was con- 
scious of envying her lot as she looked after 
the commonplace little figure through a mist 
of unshed tears. 




VOL. II. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



TOWARDS the end of January, Richard Avon 
presented himself at Lord Grimstock's family 
mansion in London. He was received with 
the utmost friendliness, and his kinship with 
the Gaunts was not only allowed, but insisted 
on. Lord Grimstock introduced him to the 
Countess as " my young cousin, Dick Avon, 
Adelaide ; who has been so good and help- 
ful to Charlotte in all her troubles." 

Dick had been to Cheltenham to see his 
mother and sisters, and had paid a visit to 
Avonthorpe, where he proposed installing 
himself as soon as the shooting should be 
over. " I hope to be settled in the old place 
by the seventh or eighth of February," 
said he. 

Lord Grimstock, who prided himself on 









MADAME LEROUX. 243 



his knowledge of agricultural matters, was 
much interested to hear Dick's projects for 
the management of the bit of land which still 
remained to him as heir of Avonthorpe ; 
and full of practical suggestions. And then 
Lady Grimstock had to be minutely informed 
of all the circumstances of the time succeed- 
ing Sir Lionel Enderby's death ; and to have 
a description of the villa at Bordighera ; and 
a verbatim account of what the physician in 
Rome had said about poor darling Mildred ; 
and how dear Charlotte had borne up under 
her trial. 

" Dear Charlotte's " handsome legacy 
from Sir Lionel had raised her into the posi- 
tion of a very important personage in the 
family. The Countess of Grimstock reflected, 
with great satisfaction, that she had always 
behaved well to her sister-in-law even to 
the point of agreeing with Reginald that it 
was right for him to allow her a yearly sum 
of money which could ill be spared. And 
Adelaide, who was a well-meaning, not very 
wise, gentlewoman, was ahnost disposed to 
look upon Charlotte's good fortune as a 



244 MADAME LEROUX. 



reward to herself for her exemplary beha- 
viour. Since what could a maiden aunt, 
having property at her own disposal, do with 
it, except leave it to Lord Grimstock's 
younger children ? 

But all these matters did not make Dick 
rnmindful of his promise to Mildred ; and 
before he left the house, he took an oppor- 
tunity to prefer her request that she might 
have Lucy with her again on her return to 
England. 

To his surprise, Mildred's uncle seemed 
strangely indisposed to countenance any 
renewal of intimacy between the girls. 

" Mildred thinks," said Dick, with his 
usual straightforwardness, " that Aunt Char- 
lotte (I've been used to call her so ever 
since I was a little chap in petticoats) is pre- 
judiced against Miss Marston ; and that in 
short they don't understand one another." 

" H'm ! Well, I own that I had some 
such idea myself at one time. For Charlotte 
has immense a a force of character ; and 
is not easily swayed by other people's 
opinions. But I have seen reason to 



MADAME LEROUX. 245 




believe that Charlotte is right in this 
case." 

" Have you seen Miss Marston, my 
lord ? " 

" N no ; no, I cannot say that I have 
seen her," answered Lord Grimstock, slowly. 
His whole manner was slow ; and he carried 
the Gaunt dignity as if he felt himself a little 
overweighted occasionally. Whereas Char- 
lotte bore her share of it with the proud 
exultation of an ensign carrying the tattered 
glory of his regiment ; or an acolyte bearing 
aloft the banner of his faith ; or any one, in 
short, who finds his personal distinction 
agreeably involved in the proclamation of a 
great principle. 

" No," proceeded his lordship, after a 
pause. " But I have met her uncle, a per- 
son named Shard, at Westfield ; and I assure 
you he is a most objectionable fellow 
thoroughly objectionable cunning, fawning, 
and vulgar." 

" Well ; but, my dear lord, it doesn't 
follow that his niece is like him." 

"It does not follow, of course ; bv no 



246 MADAME LEROL'X. 

means. But you have no idea how 
thoroughly objectionable the fellow is ! " 

" Well, I assure you, Lord Grimstock, I 
think the hope of seeing her friend again 
would be the very best tonic for Mildred you 
could possibly administer, and would do more 
to restore her health and spirits than any- 
thing else ; I do indeed." 

" Bless my soul ! " said his lordship, with 
a stately kind of helplessness in the face of so 
unaccountable a phenomenon. " It is incon- 
ceivable to me altogether inconceivable ! " 

For Lord Grimstock could not dissociate 
the idea of Miss Lucy Marston from the 
bowing, fawning, vulgar figure, with cunning 
eyes and a squeaking voice which remained 
in his memory as Mr. Shard the lawyer. 

Not only was the prospect of having to 
be in frequent communication with Mr. 
Shard on business connected with the En- 
derby estate extremely distasteful to him, 
but Lord Grimstock's observation and infor- 
mation had led him to believe that he should 
not be serving his niece's interests by allow- 
ing Mr. Shard to have any share of that 



MADAME LEROUX. 247 



business in his hands. In a word, he had 
resolved to give Mr. Shard no employment 
at Enderby Court ; and under these circum- 
stances it would, of course, be extremely 
awkward and unpleasant if Mildred insisted 
on installing Mr. Shard's niece as her bosom 

o 

friend and companion. 

Still, Mildred's health was of too great 
importance to be trifled with. Lord Grim- 
stock would undoubtedly have been kind to 
his orphan niece, had she been penniless ; 
but he would not have regarded her quite as 
he did now, with the knowledge that she was 
one of the greatest heiresses in England. 
And, before we blame him too severely, 
let us consider how few persons there are 
(besides ourselves and our friends) who 
habitually estimate their fellow-creatures 
apart from external accidents, such as half a 
million in Government Consols or the Ribbon 
of the Garter. 

It was at length agreed on, that if Mil- 
dred, on her return to England in the spring, 
should still desire to see Miss Marston, 
Miss Marston should be allowed to visit 



248 MADAME LEROUX. 

her ; and Lord Grimstock undertook to gain 
Lady Charlotte's consent to the arrange- 
ment. 

Lord Grimstock had some private doubts 
of succeeding in this undertaking. He 
knew of old the difficulty of dealing with 
what he had called, in speaking to Dick 
Avon, Charlotte's force of character. He 
remembered the stormy days of her youth, 
and how their mother had been crushed by 
the recoil upon herself of the arrogant self- 
will she had encouraged towards others. 
Nevertheless the power lay solely with him, 
as Mildred's guardian, and he did not believe 
that Charlotte would drive him to exercise 
it in opposition to herself. She, too, would 
feel, as he did, that it was important not 
to allow the girl to pine or fret. 

"And I cannot think," said Lord Grim- 
stock to himself finally, " that Mildred will 
persist in this infatuation when, by and by, 
her mind shall have recovered its tone." 

At the end of the interview Dick con- 
sidered himself at liberty to write and tell 
Mildred what he had done ; and the hope 



MADAME LEROUX. 249 

contained in his letter fully justified his 
prediction to Lord Grimstock, that it would 
act as the most potent of tonics. 

It brought a tinge of colour into Mil- 
dred's cheek and a brightness to her eyes, 
which gladdened Lady Charlotte's heart. 
They were both in the garden of the villa 
at Bordighera when the packet from the post 
was brought to them. Mildred was ordered 
to be as much in the air as possible, and 
sometimes spent the whole day in the 
garden. Lady Charlotte, looking up from 
her own correspondence, was struck by the 
new light in the girl's face. 

"Whom is your letter from, Mildred?" 
she asked. 

" From Cousin Dick," answered Mildred, 
flushing still more brightly, and smiling a 
little, with an absent look in her eyes. 

Lady Charlotte looked down again at the 
letter lying on her lap, but she did not see 
a word of it. She was making delightful 
pictures of the future in her own mind. 

Very shortly after Richard Avon's arrival 
in Rome, Lady Charlotte had mentally con- 



MADAME LEROUX. 



structed a romance, of which Richard and 
Mildred were to be the hero and heroine. 
Long before that time she had given a 
good deal of thought to the question of 
Mildred's marriage. 

Mildred, her ladyship thought, would not 
be an easy person to provide for matrimoni- 
ally. She was wealthy, sufficiently pretty, of 
an amiable disposition, and (on the mother's 
side, at least) high-born. But Lady Char- 
lotte felt that it would not be absolutely easy 
to guide her for her good. There was an 
undoubted touch of the Gaunt obstinacy 
about Mildred something of what Lord 
Grimstock had so politely called " force of 
character." Lady Charlotte had never 
allowed her will to come into direct conflict 
with Mildred's, the only point on which she 
had seriously thwarted her (sending Lucy 
away) having been achieved surreptitiously. 
And Lady Charlotte earnestly desired that 
no conflict of wills should ever take place 
between them. 

But besides this Gaunt force of character 
so admirable, unless when it. came un- 



MADAME LEROUX. 251 

fortunately into collision with some other 
Gaunt's force of character bearing down in 
an opposite direction there was another 
quality, inherited from her father's side of 
the house, which might stand in the way 
of her making a thoroughly satisfactory 
marriage. This was a certain resolute 
simplicity, so to say a steady sticking to 
the plain unvarnished fact, which had been 
eminently characteristic of Sir Lionel. 

It did not detract from this quality that 
Sir Lionel had been vain, and fanciful on 
many points. No man can be sincere beyond 
the range of his intelligence. But in all such 
matters as his mind recognised to be facts, 
Sir Lionel had been absolutely clear and 
candid. Lady Charlotte could not be said 
to be an untruthful woman. She considered 
herself to be eminently truthful ; holding it 
far beneath the dignity of a Gaunt to palter 
or pretend. Nevertheless, she habitually- 
dressed up her thoughts about herself and 
other people in imaginary trappings. And 
facts were apt to be disguised beyond re- 
cognition in the process. 



25 2 MADAME LEROUX. 



Now this tone of mind was foreign to 
Mildred, who was essentially matter-of-fact. 
There were many points, indeed, on which 
Lucy would have been far better able to 
sympathise with Lady Charlotte than Mil- 
dred was ; for Lucy had a great deal of 
romance in her nature. And Lady Char- 
lotte was highly romantic. All her girlish 
haughtiness and pride of birth and beauty, 
in her younger days, had been very different 
from the prosaic vulgarity which seeks to 
crush a rival by a finer gown, or stare an 
unknown "nobody" out of countenance. 

Her own love-story had been spoiled, 
and blurred by bitter tears ; but she wished 
that Mildred's should be a bright, unsullied 
page. And she wanted it to be really a 
love-story. No mere mariage de convenance 
would have satisfied Lady Charlotte ; al- 
though, of course, Mildred's husband must 
fulfil all worldly requirements also. Fortu- 
nately, Mildred's wealth was so great, as to 
put the money question entirely in the 
background. And why, this being the case, 
should not Mildred marry Dick Avon ? 



MADAME LEROUX. 253 

There was something in the scheme irre- 
sistibly attractive to Lady Charlotte. There 
would be a kind of poetical justice in her 
helping poor Reg's son to fortune and hap- 
piness. And Dick, too, who had had such 
hard measure dealt to him it would be very 
delightful to act fairy-godmother to Dick, 
bringing in her hand the beautiful princess 
with her golden dower. On his side, he 
came of some of the best blood in England. 
His grandmother had been a Gaunt; and 
even his mother, selfish and silly though she 
might be, was a well-born woman. The 
Avons had never made a mesalliance. And 
Dick's personal qualities were such as might 
win the heart of any girl. 

" With Mildred's fortune to keep it up 
Richard might accept a Peerage," mused 
Lady Charlotte. "His grandfather refused 
one. Baron Avon of Avonthorpe ! He 
would like to keep the old name." 

And then she reflected that Dick's was 
just the character to attract Mildred. His 
unaffected, straightforward manner and quiet 
sweetness of temper, that had yet no touch 



2 54 MADAME LEROUX. 

of mawkish weakness, were admirably suited 
to Mildred's disposition. Of course, this was 
no moment to speak of marrying or giving 
in marriage. And, in any case, there was 
plenty of time before a word need be said. 
A short time ago, Mildred, with her seven- 
teen years, had seemed little more than a 
child at an age when some girls are accom- 
plished ball-room belles, and flirts of some 
experience. But she seemed to have made 
a sudden leap from childhood to womanhood 
since her father's death. 

" That letter is the first thing that has 
made her smile and look like herself since 
poor Lionel died," thought Lady Charlotte, 
who saw every turn of her niece's coun- 
tenance while seemingly absorbed in looking 
through her own correspondence. 

And then she resolved above all things to 
be prudent, and not to risk anything by a 
premature hint. Matters were going on 
even better than she had ventured to hope. 
The only check to her complacency arose 
from the thought that her brother Reginald 
might not see the Avon alliance in quite so 



MADAME LEROUX. 255 

roseate a light as it appeared to her. Lord 
Grimstock might possibly look to Mildred's 
making a more splendid marriage. He 
might desire a coronet for his wealthy niece. 
But, really, who was there, among possible 
matches, who could shed a lustre on the 
daughter of Jane Gaunt, and the heiress of 
Enderby Court ? And, of course, Reginald 
would not play the cruel uncle in a story- 
book. If the young people were in earnest, 
they might be married with no more oppo- 
sition than would serve to give zest to the 
whole affair. 

Lady Charlotte had got to this point in 
her meditations they had not occupied more 
than a couple of minutes, reckoning by 
material time ; although they had flashed 
backwards and forwards through many years 
of the past and the future when she re- 
placed the letter in her hands within the 
envelope, and said, in a quiet voice, " And 
what does cousin Dick say ? " 

" Oh, he says I can't show you the 

letter, Aunt Charlotte, because there is a 
little secret in it. Something I asked him to 



256 MADAME LEROUX. 

do for me ; and he has done it. But you 
will know all about it when we get to 
England." 

" Well, I must repress my curiosity as 
best I may. Meanwhile, you can tell me, I 
suppose, whether he has seen your uncle ; 
and when he goes to Avonthorpe ; and how- 
he is getting on ? " 

Lady Charlotte knew better than to 
suspect that anything in the nature of love- 
making had already begun between the young 
people. But she was delighted that a con- 
fidence had been established. And had she 
known the subject of their confidence, it 
would have detracted very little from her 
satisfaction. In the prospect of a marriage 
between Richard Avon and Mildred 
Enderby, the figure of Miss Lucy Marston 
sank into complete insignificance. 

" Well," said Mildred, looking back at 
her letter, " he doesn't say much about him- 
self. I think he is like me in finding letter- 
writing hard work. But he has called on 
Uncle Reginald ; and he saw Aunt Adelaide ; 
and his mother and sisters are very well ; and 



MADAME LEROUX. 257 

he found an old acquaintance a chum, he 
says whom he knew in Australia, living at 
a place near Avonthorpe, where he has just 
come into some property the chum has, not 
Dick, you know." 

" Dear me ! " exclaimed Lady Charlotte, 
leaning back in the garden-chair, and letting 
her large grey eyes rove absently over the 
sunny landscape. " I wonder who that can 
be ? I don't remember any people near 
Avonthorpe who had a son in Australia, 
except poor dear Dick himself, who ought 
never to have been sent out like a scapegoat 
into the wilderness. There were the Mor- 
dykes but it could not be any of them ; 
and Lord Addenbrook had only daughters ; 

and " 

"No, no, Aunt Charlotte ; Cousin Dick 
says I will read you his very words 'An 
old Australian chum of mine has just come 
into some property a mile or two from my 
place, by the death of a rich uncle. Is it not 
odd, our tumbling against each other here ? 
It makes the world seem very small. I wish I 
had an uncle in the wholesale stationery line ! ' " 
VOL. ii. 37 



258 



MADAME LEROUX. 



" Oh ! That sort of person ! " exclaimed 
Lady Charlotte, in a tone which implied that 
" that sort of person " could have no sort of 
interest for her. 

But' it is never safe to assume one's com- 
plete isolation from the influence of any 
fellow-creature. The vibrations of every 
life, like waves of sound, spread far and wide 
with incalculable effects ; and the presence of 
"that sort of person" had made Charlotte 
Gaunt's heart throb passionately when she 
was a girl in the pride of her beauty, 
and he Lieutenant Ralph Rushmere, of the 
Engineers. 




CHAPTER XXXII. 

HER engagement at the dentist's occupied 
nearly the whole of Lucy's time, so that she 
did not see so much of the domestic life at 
the Hawkins's as had been the case when 
she lived there before. She often remained 
at Mr. Didear's until ten o'clock at night ; for 
there happening to come a considerable press 
of work after Lucy had been in his employ- 
ment a few weeks, Mr. Didear offered her 
extra pay for overtime, if she would remain 
to ten o'clock on certain evenings in the 
week. 

He came down late one afternoon to 
make this proposal to them all, in his 
usual agreeable manner suggestive of an 
official accustomed to deal with refractory 
paupers. 

[ 2 59 ] 



260 MADAME LEROUX. 

" What will be the amount of the extra 
pay ? " inquired Lucy. 

" Sixpence an hour," answered Mr. Tud- 
way Didear, promptly. " Take it or leave 
it. Four hours extra at sixpence, three 
nights a week, makes six shillings ; and very 
good pay, too. Pretty nearly double the rate 
of your regular wages. Forty-eight hours a 
week at fifteen shillings comes to threepence 
three-farthings an hour exactly. Those are 
my terms. I never haggle." 

Peggy Barton was afraid she should not 
be able to work overtime. Her mother 
could not spare her. 

" Bosh ! " said the Professor. " An ex- 
cuse for laziness ! But as you please. And 
you ?" he said, wheeling round upon the other 
two girls with a pouncing suddenness which 
made them start and shrink like the crack of 
a whip. "No shilly-shally ! Yes or no !" 

"Well, sir, I'll stay Mondays and Wed- 
nesdays," said Isabel Jones. " I couldn't be 
spared on Saturday nights if it were ever so." 

"Jones Mondays and Wednesdays," 
said Mr. Tudway Didear, making an entry in 






MADAME LEROUX. 261 

his note-book. Then he looked up at Lucy, 
who said " Yes," in a tone as curt as his own. 

He stared at her for a moment, and then 
turned to Peggy Barton with an angry 
shaking movement of the head, like a dog 
worrying a rat. 

" Look here ! You'll please to understand 
that when I have to get rid of superfluous 
hands in the dead season, you'll be the one 
to go ! I don't keep employees who decline 
work when it's offered them." 

Then he added to his notes the entry, 
"Smith Mondays, Wednesdays, and Satur- 
days," and tramped out of the room. 

" Oh, you brute, you !" exclaimed Peggy, 
as soon as the heavy footsteps had died away 
up the stairs. " Shouldnt I like to hit out at 
you straight from the shoulder ! " and Peggy 
doubled her poorlittle fist and looked ferocious. 

" He'll give you the sack, Peggy," said 
Miss Jones, who was apt to take a dis- 
couraging view of her friend's prospects. 

" Not he ! Very well, then, let him ! " 
returned Peggy, with a spirit equal to either 
fortune. 



262 MADAME LEROUX. 

" Oh, no ! He- surely would not be 
capable of that in earnest," said Lucy. 

" Capable ! Miss Smith, there's nothing 
he ain't capable of except behaving like a 
human being. The thing in all the world 
I should enjoy most would be to see him 
soundly horse-whipped, and if it wasn't for 
mother I'd do it myself! " 

The mention of her mother gave Peggy's 
Amazonian ardour pause. She stopped, sat 
down again to her work, and wrote on in 
silence for a few minutes. Then looking up 
she said with a piteous quiver at the corners 
of her mouth, " I say, Isabel, you don't really 
think he will sack me, do you ?" 

"Just as likely as not," returned Miss 
Jones, lugubriously. 

" The doctor ordered mother strengthen- 
ing jelly yesterday," said Peggy, and a tear 
fell on to the envelope she was directing. 
She hastily wiped it off with her handker- 
chief, but another and another followed, and 
at length the girl leaned back in her chair 
crying silently. 

" Don't fret," said Lucy ; " I am sure you 



MADAME LEROUX. 263 

are too useful to be sent away. Think how 
much work you do for such little pay ! " 

"Ah, but there's lots ready to do it for 
less, Miss Smith," sobbed poor Peggy, whose 
emotion became more uncontrolled at the 
sound of the kind word. " That is true, 
though he says it ! It's awful to think how 
little a girl can earn for working her life out. 
It would be hard to stay over hours because 
of mother ; but that would be better than 
losing it altogether." 

" I know what riled him," observed Isabel 
Jones, nodding her head slowly, as she tossed 
an envelope into the basket. 

" Oh, so do I," said Peggy, with a couple 
of quick answering nods. " I can see through 
him well enough with his mean, paltry, 
nasty, envious disposition." 

"What was it?" asked Lucy, wonder- 
ingly. 

"You," answered Isabel. 

I !__/ offended him ? How ? " 

" Oh, because you're a lady ! " said Peggy, 
vehemently. " Because he knows you can't 
help looking down on him though you are so 



264 



MADAME LEROUX. 



quiet. That's what riled him to begin with ; 
that's at the bottom of his prancing about 
like a mad bull, and being so outrageous all 
this week." 

"You don't seriously suppose that the 
man threatened you as he did simply because 
/ had annoyed him unconsciously, Heaven 
knows ! " exclaimed Lucy, with a shocked, 
anxious face. 

"Oh, don't you vex yourself, Miss 
Smith," said Peggy. " You can't help it ; it 
isn't your fault if he's a mean, spiteful, 
venomous low-bred cockatrice ! " 

"Shut up, Peggy. He's coming back," 
said Isabel Jones, huskily. 

And the next moment they heard Mr. 
Didear's footsteps returning down the 
stairs. 

He entered the room with a frown on his 
face, evidently intended to strike awe, and 
began at once in a more bullying tone than 
usual. 

" Miss Smith, I forgot just now to point 
out to you that you are guilty of some 
impropriety in your speaking to me." Here 



MADAME LEROUX. 265 



he paused ; but, as Lucy merely looked at 
him without answering, he proceeded : " You 
say 'Yes' or 'No,' in a manner I'm not 
accustomed to." 

Here he paused again ; and Lucy said, 
" I assure you I have no idea what you 
mean ; I thought you expressly desired me 
to answer ' Yes 'or ' No ' ! " 

Didear grew red, and the veins of his 
forehead swelled with anger as he ex- 
claimed 

"Very well, Miss Smith very fine! I 
suppose you consider that witty ! But I look 
upon it as impertinence downright imperti- 
nence! You ought to say 'Yes, sir,' and 
' No, sir' That is what I'm accustomed to, 
and what I will have from you, so long as 
you're my paid servant. Do you hear ? " 

" I hear," said Lucy, fronting him like an 
image of astonishment. 

" Then you'll be good enough to obey 
orders. I don't know what you may be 
outside of this house, and I don't care. You 
may be as good as me, for all I know. But 
inside these doors you're my paid servant, 



266 MADAME LEROUX. 

and you'll behave as such. I'll have no 
yessing and noing from my employees, so 
don't try it on." 

"If you please, sir," began Peggy, red- 
nosed and tearful, but with the ghost of her 
native vivacity asserting itself indefinably 
through all, " I've been thinking it over, and 
if it will be a convenience to you I will stay 
overtime this week and next." 

" No you don't, Miss Barton ! You've 
given your answer, and you'll just stick to it, 
and so shall I." And with an impartial scowl 
all round, Professor Tudway Didear once 
more departed. 

There was silence, only broken by the 
busy pens and the cold-blooded tick-tack of 
the clock. Lucy's pen was not busy. She 
sat as if she were positively benumbed with 
astonishment pondering if it were not all an 
ugly dream. " Do you think," she said at 
length, "that the man can be in his right 
mind?" 

"In his right mind ! " repeated Miss 
Jones, slowly. " Laws, yes ! He's making 
heaps and heaps of money." 



MADAME LEROUX. 267 

" I don't wonder at your feeling like that, 
Miss Smith," said Peggy, her speech broken 
by struggling with sniffs and sobs. " People 
talk about something being too good to be 
true. I dare say you fancied old Diddleum 
was too bad to be true. But it's my my 
belief that nothing's too bad to be true of 
men. They're ever such cruel bullies. Why 
mother nobody knows what mother went 
through when I was little, with father 
pounding her to a jelly and pawning the 
blankets off her bed in the middle of winter ! 
He killed himself with drink at last ; and 
moth mother tried to keep him from it. / 
wouldn't ! I'd have poured it down his throat 
in the middle of the night, and mixed hen- 
bane, or lucifers, or something with it to 
make it act the quicker ! " 

"My father isn't like that," said Isabel 
Jones, whose strong point was certainly not 
quickness of sympathy. "He belongs to 
the Blue Ribbon, and goes to Ebenezer of a 
Sunday." 

Lucy's mind was in a tumult. Meekness, 
as we know, was not among the most pro- 



268 



MADAME LEROUX. 



minent of her virtues ; and righteous disgust 
and indignation were now boiling within her. 
For some time her strongest desire was to 
inform Mr. Tudway Didear in brief and 
cutting phrase that she intended at once 
to leave his house and never return to 
it. But as she bent over her writing, 
mechanically copying out the same words 
over and over again, and catching a 
side glimpse, whenever she looked up, of 
Peggy Barton's tear - stained and rueful 
visage, an impulse grew and gathered force 
in her mind, until it was no longer to be 
resisted. 

When six o'clock struck, she laid down 
her pen, pushed aside her papers, and, rising 
up, walked towards the door. 

There was an unusual light in her eyes, 
which both the other girls noticed. Neither 
of them spoke until she had her hand on the 
lock of the door, when Peggy said in a low, 
awe-stricken voice, "You haven't got your 
hat on, Miss Smith." 

"I am going," said Lucy, resolutely, "to 
speak to Mr. Tudway Didear." 



MADAME LEROUX. 269 

She went up the kitchen stairs with a 
quick, steady step, and into the hall. Here 
she paused. Her knowledge of the house 
comprised only the big, gorgeous waiting- 
room, now empty and deserted, and the 
operating room on the other side of the hall. 
Where to find Mr. Didear, she was alto- 
gether uncertain. " I will find him," she 
said, uttering the words to herself in a 
whisper. " It matters nothing what such a 
man thinks of me. But that poor thing 
Suddenly the brum-brum of the violoncello 
sounded from a little back parlour behind 
the waiting-room. Without a moment's 
hesitation Lucy opened the door, and 
walked in. 

There sat Mr. Tudway Didear attired in 
a dark flannel dressing-gown, with his violon- 
cello between his knees and a music-stand 
in front of him. The room was extremely 
hot, for gas was flaring in a chandelier sus- 
pended from the ceiling, and a red fire 
glowing in the grate. On a cushion in front 
of the fire lay a huge Persian cat, luxuriously 
stretching herself in the warmth, and 



270 MADAME LEROUX. 

emitting a deep, purring sound as if in 
emulation of the violoncello. 

To say that Mr. Didear was surprised 
when he beheld Lucy standing in the door- 
way would be but faintly to describe his 
sensations. An expression alnjost of alarm 
passed over his face. Miss Smith's eyes 
were very bright and her countenance was 
full of excitement albeit excitement of a 
subdued and concentrated kind. No doubt 
she was in a furious temper. He had 
noticed her quick, angry flush, and the 
sparkle in her eyes when he spoke down- 
stairs. He rather enjoyed seeing them then, 
since tryanny would be but a flat business 
unless one's victims were sensitive to it. 
But Mr. Didear was one of those persons 
who require an audience of two or three for 
the sustainment of their powers. He was 
occasionally liable to be cowed or quelled in 
a tete-a-tete. 

He stared at Lucy without uttering a 
word. But she was too much absorbed in 
an inward vision that urged her on, to care 
for that. Indeed, she was scarcely conscious 









MADAME LEROUX. 271 

of his looks. She closed the door behind 
her, and advancing a few steps into the room 
until she stood opposite to his chair, said, 

" I am come to beg something of you." 

If before she spoke Mr. Didear's feeling 
had been astonishment, it might now be 
described as stupefaction. His jaw almost 
dropped as he continued to stare at her. 

" I came to beg/' pursued Lucy, with 
intense eagerness, " that you will reassure 
that poor little Miss Barton. She is in 
great distress. She thinks you are angry 
with her. You don't know, perhaps, that 
she has a sick mother whom she works for. 
I am sure you do not mean to send her 
away. But she is afraid. If you would only 
say a word it would lighten her heart. Oh ! 
and I meant to say perhaps I ought to 
have begun with that that if my mode of 
speaking gave you any offence it was quite 
involuntary. I didn't intend to annoy you. 
I will call you ' sir.' I will try to remem- 
ber it." 

The dentist's thoughts had been active 
while Lucy was speaking. He had no 



272 MADAME LEROUX. 

immediate intention of discharging Peggy 
Barton, who worked well and understood his 
requirements. But Peggy Barton's going or 
staying was not important. Miss Smith, on 
the other hand, had made herself valuable 
to him already. He had thought of includ- 
ing some correspondence the writing of 
notes to make appointments with certain of 
his more distinguished patients, and so forth 
in her extra work on the Saturday evening 
when she would be alone. He was quite 
aware that her style of writing such notes 
would be superior to Peggy Barton's, or 
even, probably, to that of Miss Saunders, 
his much-enduring private secretary. He 
had expected when he first saw Miss Smith 
abruptly enter the room to hear her announce 
angrily that she was going to leave him. It 
was certainly agreeable to him to find that 
her errand was so totally different a one, 
and the revulsion of feeling carried him 
even beyond the point of his habitual 
insolence. 

"Are you aware," said he, addressing 
her from his chair, while she stood before 






MADAME LEROUX. 273 

him, "that you have taken a most un- 
common liberty in coming in here ? " 

" I am very sorry ," began Lucy, 

pressing her hands tightly together. 
He interrupted her. 

"It's no good being very sorry ! you 
must not do this kind of thing! marching 
about as if the house belonged to you ! 
None of my omployees have ever ventured 
to think of such a thing." 

Lucy stood still, with downcast eyes and 
changing colour ; and she kept repeating to 
herself, " Peggy's poor sick mother," to keep 
down the indignant words quivering on her 
lips. 

" Pray, did Miss Barton ask you to come 
and speak for her ? " 

" Miss Barton knows nothing about it ; 
indeed, no one knows what I came for." 

" Well, I will say for Miss Barton, that 
I don't believe she would ever have ventured 
to intrude upon me in this way." 

<l She is very much afraid of you," 
answered Lucy. 

Perhaps she could have said nothing 
VOL. n. 38 



274 



MADAME LEROUX. 



more likely to propitiate Didear on Peggy's 
behalf, but the words had been uttered 
without calculation. 

" And you, I suppose," returned Mr. 
Didear, with his fullest bullying voice, " are 
afraid of nobody ! " 

Lucy was silent for a moment ; then she 
said, quietly, " I should be afraid to lose my 
employment if I had a sick mother depen- 
dent on it for her comfort, as Miss Barton 
has. I think one is always more afraid for 
others than for oneself." 

This certainly was a most singular young 
woman ! And her submission did not for a 
moment deceive him as to her real attitude 
of mind towards herself. He was inwardly 
convinced that even if she sank on her knees 
before him, she would in reality be looking 
down on him, not up to him. But, at all 
events, he might make the others believe 
that he had subdued her pride, whatever 
his own secret conviction on the subject 
might be. 

" I shall expect you," he said, with a 
terrier-like shake of the head, "to repeat to 



MADAME LEROUX. 275 

me to-morrow in the writing-room, and in the 
presence of Miss Jones and Miss Barton, 
your apology for speaking disrespectful." 

" Then," said Lucy, looking sraight at 
him, with a glance which she flattered herself 
was very calm, but which Didear felt to be 
mysteriously scorching, " I may tell Peggy 
Barton you don't mean to send her away ? " 

" I don't know anything of Peggys or 
Pollys. I am not so familiar with my 
omployees as you seem to be. As to Miss 
Barton, I have no intention of parting with 
her at present. If I had, nothing you could 
say would hinder it, I can tell you. And 
now perhaps you'll be good enough to with- 
draw and sharp, too. Don't open the door 
wide, and shut it quick behind you. My cat 
feels the cold." 

When Lucy ran down the kitchen stairs, 
she found Isabel and Peggy cloaked and 
hatted, ready to go away, but lingering with 
irrepressible curiosity to know something of 
Miss Smith's interview with Didear. "Are 
you going away, Miss Smith ? Have you 
given him notice ? " asked Peggy wistfully. 



276 MADAME LEROUX. 

" No ; I am not going, and neither are 
you," answered Lucy smiling, and patting 
the girl's shoulder. " He says he has no 
intention of parting with you." 

" No ! " exclaimed Peggy, clasping her 
hands and making her eyes very round. 

" Now, then, ain't you young ladies 
pretty near ready to be off ? " said Mrs. 
Parntt's voice from the kitchen. " The 
Professor'll cut up very rough if the gas is 
burning there after you've done work." 

The three girls hurried out ; and Lucy 
parted with the other two, as usual, at the 
corner of the street 

" Oh, ain't I just thankful ! " said Peggy 
to her friend as they walked quickly 
along. 

" I dare say he knows well enough he 
can't get girls to do the work we do at any 
moment," observed Miss Jones, with some 
inconsistency, seeing that she had previously 
pronounced it likely enough Peggy should 
be discharged. 

" Don't you believe it ! " said the more 
enerous-minded Peggy. " It's Miss Smith's 



MADAME LEROUX. 277 

doing. I'd lay my life it is. She's a regular 
angel ; and mother'll say so too." 

When Lucy reached the house in Great 
Portland Street, she found Fatima alone in 
the drawing-room ; and, the moment she had 
entered it, Fatima ran to see that the door 
was quite shut, and then said, in a low, 
mysterious tone, " Oh, Lucy, such dreadful 
news ! Old Clampitt has bolted ! " 

This announcement in itself conveyed 
nothing very harrowing to Lucy's appre- 
hension. But she perceived that worse 
remained behind. And yet Fatima's manner, 
though emphatic, and almost tragical, in- 
describably conveyed the idea that she was, 
on the whole, rather enjoying herself. 

" What has he run away for ? " asked 
Lucy 

" Hush ! It's all up with Millamint. At 
least, Marie says she is sure of it ; and even 
Uncle Adolphe is down, down, down in his 
boots. That old wretch ! " continued Fatima, 
stamping her foot. "If he only had had 
courage to stand firm a few weeks, Uncle 
Adolphe is certain it would all have turned 



278 MADAME LEROUX. 

out splendidly. But old Clampitt" (with 
another stamp) " was terrified at the first 
little cloud in the sky. And he's as rich ! 
but he has bolted, put himself and his hoards 
out of reach, and ruined everything ! " 

" Where is Mr. Hawkins ?" 

" Hush ! Uncle Adolphe is on his way 
to Brussels. What would be the good of his 
staying to be a victim when old Clampitt is 
safe in America, or somewhere ? " 

" And your cousin ?" 

Fatima put her lips close to the other 
girl's ear. " Packing up her jewellery," she 
whispered. 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Lucy, trembling as a 
new and terrible idea rushed into her mind. 
" But shall you shall you all go away ? " 

"It is not certain, but Zephany is to 
bring word this evening what is being said 
in the City. If things look very bad, Marie 
and I must start for Paris to-morrow." 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

CAROLINE LEROUX debated long and 
anxiously within herself, as to how she 
should approach Rushmere. 

Had he been in town, she could have 
found, or made, opportunities of meeting 
him. She would have preferred that this 
meeting should appear to come about by 
chance. But the chance seemed remote. 
And the more she meditated, the stronger 
grew her desire to see him again to test 
her power ; to win back some part of her 
old empire over him. 

She did not desire, nor expect, to re- 
suscitate the passion of their youth. That 
lay in ashes. But she did desire to use 
some influence over this man, and to assure 
herself of the possibility of help from him ; 
[ 279 ] 



280 



MADAME LEROUX. 



feeling that the need of help approached 
more surely day by day. 

Her memory of Rushmere's nature 
taught her that the chord to touch in him 
was generosity. She would win compassion 
from his chivalry, though tenderness might 
be dead. And then admiration would come 
back. Caroline intended to be pitied admir- 
ingly. There should be no condescension 
in the feeling she would inspire. 

She had lost little of her beauty ; and 
she had gained in self-possession, in insight 
into the character and motives of others. 
She was more brilliant, more attractive, 
better able to charm the intellect and sway 
the feelings of such a man as Ralph Rush- 
mere, than she had been when he knew her 
years ago, as an impulsive, inexperienced 
girl. 

Love, indeed that was different ! But 
love did not enter into the thought of her 
future relations with Rushmere. If love 
were recalled at all between them, it must 
be only as the faint perfume of dried rose- 
leaves suggests the fresh-blown rose a 



MADAME LEROUX. 281 

perfume that could not be, unless the rose 
were dead. 

She had no doubt of her power to be 
supremely interesting to him. She was not, 
she told herself, one of those dull women 
whose vanity blinds them to the vanity of 
others. She would use Rushmere's self- 
esteem, not stupidly ignore it. He could 
not be drawn by vulgar, childish flattery, 
such as would succeed with Frampton Fen- 
nell or Harrington Jersey. But, neverthe- 
less, there must be, she did not doubt, some 
sort of flattery which w r ould be sweet to 
him perhaps the flattery of assuming that 
he despised flattery ! 

It was inevitable that she should think 
of him only in relation to herself; all her 
cleverness could not prevent her from attri- 
buting to herself an exaggerated importance 
in his life. Only the higher wisdom, in 
which sympathy overpowers egoism, can 
save us from such errors. 

After much inward debate, which took 
the form of a series of imaginary interviews, 
in which she and Rushmere played now one 



282 MADAME LEROUX. 

part and now another, she resolved to write 
to him. She procured from Zephany the 
address of Rushmere's London bankers, who 
would forward letters to him ; and this is 
what she wrote : 

' ' I am Caroline Graham. 

" I begin thus to secure your attention, 
and because the signature at the end of this 
letter would otherwise be meaningless to 
you. 

" I have learnt accidentally that you are 
in England. For a long time I thought you 
were dead ; the report came from India that 
you had been disabled by a severe accident, 
which was expected to terminate fatally. 

" Something like a thick, chill curtain of 
fog seemed to hide all your life from me 
when I tried to picture it in the present. I 
did try, but my imagination of you could live 
only in the past ; the rest was blank. Had 
I done the best for you, after all ? Since 
you were destined to die in your youth, had 
we not better .have snatched that present 
happiness which seemed within our reach ? 



MADAME LEROUX. 283 

It was not within our reach it never had 
been. In my heart I always knew that ; 
and you, too, must see it now. But I was 
very young still, and I suffered bitterly. 

" Well, I have survived it, and my life 
has not been all miserable. I only tell you 
these things, as briefly and baldly as I can, 
so as to link what I have to say now on 
to that past time. What I have now to say 
is this Will you come and see me ? 

" I heard your name mentioned by 
chance the other day, and the sound seemed 
to pierce me ; and yet afterwards I rejoiced. 
I rejoiced to know that you were still on 
this planet ; that you were in England ; that 
the world had gone well with you. And 
part of my rejoicing you know I never 
loved pretences arose from the selfish 
satisfaction of feeling that I was justified 
I had done rightly, then! That much, at 
least, was clear. The romantic young love 
must, in any case, have burnt itself out ; 
but I had saved it from making a bonfire 
of all other good things in life. 

" Friendship is not better ; a peach is 



284 MADAME LEROUX. 

more delicious than wheaten bread, but one 
cannot live on peaches. But friendship is 
dear. And friendships are no more all alike 
than faces are. Ours should have a tender- 
ness in it beyond the common. Do you 
believe that ' a sorrow's crown of sorrow is 
remembering happier things ? ' No ; that 
remembrance of happier things alone makes 
some sorrows endurable. 

" But I would not have you suppose that 
I have become a weakly wailing, feebly 
sentimental, woman. I am the Caroline of 
old in some respects, chiefly, perhaps, in this : 
that if I am struck sharply, fire glances out, 
not tears. The tears, if they come, flow 
from a deeper spring, and mostly under- 
ground. 

" Will you come to me ? I tell you 
frankly that I wish it very much. 

" CAROLINE G. LEROUX." 

" Within a week," she thought, " I shall 
have an answer. Perhaps the answer will 
be his coming himself." 

From the moment of despatching her 



MADAME LEROUX 285 

letter, she was possessed with a nervous 
anxiety as to the answer. She started at 
every knock at the door, and her hand 
trembled when she received her correspond- 
ence from the servant every morning. She 
was astonished at herself. Her cynical, care- 
less self-possession seemed to have deserted 
her. Her days were haunted by the ghost 
of her youth. She, who had despised vain 
regrets, and had boasted to Zephany that 
she was not the woman to bewail the past 
in a litany of " if's," now found herself 
musing by the hour on what might have 
been ! 

Etienne Leroux was sinking fast. Rapid 
consumption had declared itself. And this 
illness was a constant claim on her, to which 
it was not always possible to respond. As 
it was, she felt the business of the school 
slipping from her grasp. She was less there 
than she ought to have been ; and when 
attempting to perform her duties, would be 
seized with fits of absence and inattention 
which it was impossible wholly to conceal 
from the quick eyes around her. Fraulein 



286 MADAME LEROUX. 

Schulze was staunch and steady, but Fraulein 
Schulze could not replace Madame. 

Madame was conscious of her own 
supremacy, and enjoyed it. For years she 
had felt something of the pleasure of a con- 
summate actress in playing her part in the 
school. But now it was all wearisome a 
heavy burthen which irked her. 

The clutch of a dying hand had seized 
her with an egoism more fierce and more 
intense than her own. There was no affec- 
tion in its eager clinging, but it wrung her 
heart with an aching pity. Etienne had no 
one but her to look to ; no one ! 

And yet there had been another helpless 
life once, with a higher claim on her, which 
she had shaken off with small compunction. 
Caroline Leroux had been hard, and false, 
and cruel to those who merited nothing but 
good at her hands. This wretched Etienne 
was a poorer, narrower, lower creature than 
she was ; he clung to her, and she pitied him. 
Between two unequal natures, toleration, 
compassion, beneficence if they exist at all 
will flow from the higher to the lower, and 



MADAME LEROUX. 287 

not otherwise. And, partly, Etienne's frank, 
unscrupulous, stupid selfishness conquered 
hers, as it had done in the early days of their 
marriage. 

She supplied him liberally with money, of 
which he was wantonly lavish ; but that was 
the easiest part of her task. It was not 
judged prudent to remove him from his 
lodgings in Soho, nor did he desire it. He 
had never expressed a wish to go away, ex- 
cept once, when, during a whole week, he 
had moaned to be taken to Naples. Let 
them carry him to Naples! If he could 
reach Naples, he should be able to breathe 
freely ; he should recover. It was noticeable 
that he never spoke of Paris, of his father, or 
his family there. Old Jacopo Rossi was still 
living, a vigorous man of seventy ; and there 
were sisters, too, married in France. But he 
mentioned none of them. 

Caroline had written to his father, telling 
him of Etienne's state, and the old man had 
answered her. What could he do ? he asked. 
Etienne had gone his own way, and lived 
his own life. Jacopo had no assistance to 






2 88 



MADAME LEROUX. 



give him. He should rather have expected 
assistance from his son. Nevertheless, if 
Etienne wished to see him, and Madame 
would forward the railway fare, Jacopo Rossi 
would come to England. But Etienne did 
not wish to see him. He revolted against 
any hint that his life was menaced, and 
repelled the suggestion of his father's visit 
with anger. 

Every day, and sometimes twice a day, 
Caroline went to the old house in a dark 
narrow street, where her husband lay dying, 
surely but oh, how slowly ! It might last for 
many months yet, this waning of a vitality 
which flickered up now and again, filling the 
dying man with false hopes, and a fictitious, 
momentary strength. His room was abund- 
antly decorated with flowers ; food and wine 
of the choicest were supplied to him ; and, for 
the rest, whatever could be done, was done. 
He was faithfully waited on by old Jeanne 
Montondon ; and her son came in to look 
after him whenever he could spare time from 
his business at the eating-house. Bcoks were 
utterly distasteful to him. His sole amuse- 



MADAME LEROUX. 289 

ments consisted in an occasional game of 
dominoes with some shabby fellow-country- 
man, who submitted to be snarled and sworn 
at for the sake of the glass of good wine which 
Etienne was able to dispense to his visitors ; 
and in the conversation of some underling at 
the Italian Opera, who would retail to him 
the latest green-room gossip, and listen to the 
vaunting narrative interrupted by racking 
fits of coughing of his own success when, 
per Dio ! his voice and style had been un- 
matched in Europe. 

While Caroline remained with him, he 
was usually tranquil. But as the moment of 
her departure approached he became rest- 
lessly irritable ; and either insisted, with 
feeble fury, that she should stay, or implored 
it with fretful moans and reproaches. Daily 
she had to endure this painful parting scene. 
Consideration for her self-restraint for her 
sake were no more to be expected from 
Etienne than from a sick tiger. 

All this told upon her health, fine though 
it was. She watched herself anxiously in the 
glass, and fancied she saw her cheek grow 
VOL. ii. 39 



290 MADAME LEROUX. 



hollow, and lines come across her forehead. 
Sometimes she resolved to give herself a 
respite from those dreadful visits to Soho ; 
and yet the next summons from Etienne was 
at once complied with. If she refused to go, 
his querulous voice rang in her ears, and she 
saw the haggard entreaty in his large dark 
eyes those eyes which had once so charmed 
her, but behind whose soft lustre, as she had 
learned to know, there dwelt a nature harder 
than the nether millstone. 

This double life had been going on for 
some two months, when Madame Leroux 
wrote to Rushmere. And now her thoughts 
were busy, night and day, with the expecta- 
tion of his answer. Almost as Etienne 
clung to her, so she seemed to cling to 
Rushmere. She was greedy to have admir- 
ation, influence, companionship once more. 
And she yearned for a strong arm to lean 
on a faithful heart to take counsel with. 
She could not strike down the dying hand 
that clutched her ; but sometimes she felt, in 
these days, as if its touch were draining 
away her life. 



MADAME LEROUX. 291 

At length it came, the expected letter. 
She recognised it at once. She could have 
picked it out from a thousand. It was 
written on blue-tinted office paper, in the 
round, boyish hand she knew ; only some- 
what closer and more cramped than in the 
old time. 

She rlew upstairs to her own room, with 
a step as swift and light as that of the 
youngest schoolgirl in the house. She 
locked her door, drew her easy-chair close to 
the window, and tore open the envelope. 
But then, before beginning to read, she 
paused a moment with her hand pressed on 
her heart. 

" How it beats !" she whispered. " Dieu ! 
I am losing my nerve altogether ! I used to 
think it impossible that my courage could 
ever break down. And it was not for want 
of being tried, either ! " 

Then she unfolded the letter, and read : 

" I do not see what good end could be 
answered by our meeting. At first I thought 
I would not answer your letter. But as you 



292 MADAME LEROUX. 

are under much misapprehension about me, I 
have resolved to state my view of the case 
plainly, and save you from further attempts 
to delude me, or yourself. You have written 
what you think I believe, or what you wish 
me to believe. I will tell you what I know. 

" You say events have justified your 
conduct. Nothing can justify it so long a3 
right and wrong and dark and light can be 
distinguished one from the other. 

" I loved you with all my heart and soul. 
I loved you so that to lose you nearly broke 
my heart. When I was forced to join my 
corps in India I urged you to come with me. 
You refused. You gave reasons which 
seemed good and prudent. I acquiesced. I 
would send for you as soon as I knew 
precisely what my plans and prospects were. 
I wrote to you within a fortnight of my 
arrival in India, and I sent you my uncle's 
letter. He was displeased at my intention 
of marrying you foolishly and unreasonably 
displeased, because his only ground of dis- 
pleasure was that you were a penniless 
dependent. He gave me my choice between 



MADAME LEROUX. 293 

inheriting his wealth and giving you up, or 
marrying you and having a hundred a year 
settled on me at once with no hope of future 
assistance from him. I did not balance an 
instant. There was no merit in that. Apart 
from my love, with the tie there was between 
us, I should have been a cold, selfish villain 
to hesitate. What was poverty, what was 
struggle, if we could be together ? And I 
had the less self-reproach in asking you to 
share my life, because I should be taking 
you from a home where you had told me 
so a hundred times your proud spirit was 
constantly chafed and hurt. 

" I wrote to you with a heart as full of 
love and truth and trust as man ever offered 
to woman, and how did you answer me ? 

" You ' felt that we had been led away 
by foolish passion ; ' you ' must be wise for 
both ; ' such poverty as we had to face was 
' the worst sort of poverty, a wretched 
struggle to keep up appearances.' In short, 
you were admirably prudent, wonderfully 
wise ! 

" Still I did not disbelieve in your 



294 MADAME LEROUX. 



affection for me even then. How could I 
disbelieve in it ? I thought you were 
romantically and mistakenly sacrificing your- 
self to what you thought my worldly welfare. 
I wrote again and again. I offered to leave 
the army, and to emigrate to Australia, 
where I had friends who would help me to 
find employment. We should have where- 
withal to live until I could earn a fortune for 
you. Have you forgotten all that I said ? 
Perhaps ; but I remember every word of it. 
I, you see, was in earnest. 

" At length my importunity tired you I 
received my last letter back again. You 
had written on it ' This must cease.' 

" At first I was bewildered almost 
stunned but a light was soon shed on your 
motive for treating me so. 

" A man arrived from England who 
knew Lord Grimstock's family. When he 
found that I knew them also, he told me 
that they were in great trouble because the 
second son, Hubert Gaunt, was bent on marry- 
ing a little girl who was his sister's protegee 
and paid companion. The girl was despe- 



MADAME LEROUX. 295 



rately fond of him, and Lady Grimstock, one 
of the proudest women in England, was 
almost beside herself. The matter was 
spoken of half-jestingly, as a piece of idle 
gossip. 

l< But to me it was a revelation. I was 
shaken roughly and thoroughly out of my 
fool's paradise. A hundred circumstances 
which had seemed strange and unaccountable 
to me when I was in England, were ex- 
plained in one flash. All your love for 
me, your protestations, your caresses, had 

been Well, I did not mean to touch upon 

your feelings. You might plead and per- 
suade, and argue about them. But facts are 
too strong for you. My letter sent back 
with those cruel words written across it my 
letter is a fact. I have not looked at it 
again from the day it reached me. It would 
be like rousing up a venomous snake to sting 
me. But I have it. It cannot be explained 
away. 

" For a long time I was almost mad with 
misery. When the accident happened which 
disabled me, I hoped it would kill me. But 



296 



MADAME LEROUX. 



I lived. And the far deeper wound you 
gave me, healed too ; but not so quickly. 

" I made up my mind to write to you 
fully and plainly, once for all : not from 
cruelty I do not wish to hurt you (if any 
words of mine could hurt you) but to con- 
vince you that you cannot deceive or cajole 
me any more. I had heard of you as being 
brilliant, admired, and among the gayest of 
the gay, when I little guessed who was the 
woman so described. 

" For the sake of the lost love of my 
youth, my Caroline, whose name you bear 
you were never that dear girl, I would have 

died for I am glad to know that you 

are not in poverty. 

" Knowing this makes it easier to say 
that I will never willingly see you again. 
" RALPH RUSHMERE." 

Caroline lay back in her chair in a sort of 
stupor ; but a stupor in which suffering was 
active, although the power of thought seemed 
steeped in a helpless lethargy. Every fibre 
of her vanity and proud self-confidence 



MADAME LEROUX. 297 

quivered like a bruised surface roughly 
handled, as certain passages in Rushmere's 
letter repeated themselves over and over 
again in her brain. 

The sense of repulse was sickening. But 
it was not defeat. It should not be defeat. 

As she began to recover from the first 
shock, the most distinct sensation in her 
mind was a passionate desire to vanquish 
him. He would never willingly see her 
more ? Then he should see her unwillingly. 
She would make him sue to her. She would 
bring him to her at any cost. He might 
reproach her, rage against her, hate her no 
matter! Anything would be better than 
beating herself against this hard indifference, 
this frozen contempt. 

" Oh ! " she cried, starting up and pressing 
her hands against her temples, as she began 
to pace up and down the room, "that he 
should write so to me to me ! " She tore 
and twisted at the handkerchief in her hand, 
in a paroxysm of passionate resentment. 
" But if he has made me suffer, he shall 
suffer more." 



298 MADAME LEROUX. 

At that moment she was wholly possessed 
by the burning- desire to conquer Rush- 
mere's resolution to avoid her. Let him 
but come let him but see her, and hear 
her voice again, he should not long- main- 
tain that calm, superior attitude of steadfast 
disapproval. 

She rushed to her writing-desk, and 
wrote : 

"You must speak with me if not as a 
friend, then as an enemy : what you will. 
But I have something to tell you that you 
must hear something that concerns not only 
you and me, but another. I am tied here by 
attendance on a sick and dying man, or I 
would go to you wherever you might choose 
to appoint. You will not, I presume, doubt 
that what I have to say is urgent, since, in 
order to say it, I force my unwelcome 
presence on you. In the catalogue of my 
basenesses which you treasure in your 
memory, there cannot, at least, be included 
a servile readiness to fawn upon the hand 
that lashes me. C. G. L." 



MADAME LEROUX. 299 



Later on in the same day she wrote 
another letter, and desired that the reply 
should be addressed, under cover, to " Mon- 
sieur Louis Montondon, Restaurant du Mont 
Blanc, Soho." 

She had not committed herself to any- 
thing, she reflected, by writing that letter. 
But she would gather up the scattered 
strands of her history, so as to hold them in 
her own hand, and have power to guide 
events as she might hereafter see fit. If she 
trembled inwardly as to the result of this 
return upon her past, no one would know it ; 
and at least it would give her a hold upon 
Rushmere which he would not find it easy to 
shake off. 





CHAPTER XXXIV. 

THE collapse of " Millamint " was disastrous 
and complete. Whether any large sums 
could ever have been realised by the 
original promoters of the Company was 
doubtful. But Mr. Clampitt's defection 
had, at any rate, destroyed all chance of 
that. 

As to the Hawkins's, although they 
bemoaned themselves loudly, and inveighed 
against Clampitt, their case did not appear to 
any of their friends to be one which called 
for deep compassion. To most persons who 
knew them, the ebbing of the tide after high 
water did not appear more certain than the 
overthrow, sooner or later, of all Adolphus' 
speculations. 

Nor, in fact, were the Hawkins's them- 
[300] 



MADAME LEROUX. 301 

selves by any means in such low spirits as 
their utterances might seem to indicate. 
They had but to strike their tents like the 
gipsies, and remove to some new camping- 
ground where the neighbouring hen-houses 
might perhaps be better stocked, or worse 
guarded ; and where, at all events, they 
might reckon on baked hedgehog, and free 
pasturage in some one else's meadow for the 
ponies of the caravan. 

Lucy remarked with amazement that 
Mrs. Hawkins wore the same indescribable 
air of enjoying herself, which she had ob- 
served in Fatima when she first announced 
the news. 

"Well, Miss Smith, what did I tell you ?" 
said Marie, coming downstairs with a card- 
board box full of jewels in her hand. " I 
knew Adolphe was too sanguine all along. 
If he had but invested my dot in Govern- 
ment securities, or secured it to me by means 
of trustees, I should now be in a very 
different position." 

" But Uncle Adolphe would have been 
all right if it had not been for that wretch 



302 



MADAME LEROUX. 



Clampitt! It's all his fault," cried Fatima, 
folding her arms tragically. 

" Oh, pour <^a oui ! Le vieux Clampitt 
is an imbecile. And fancy, Fatima, Adolphe 
has left his silver cigar-case behind him after 
all ! I reminded him to put it in the pocket 
of his paletot. But he was so upset that he 
thought of nothing." 

Lucy could not but gather some hope 
from the serenity of Mrs. Hawkins's face 
and manner. Things could not, surely, have 
com&y:o such an extremity as that Mrs. 
Hawkins would be obliged to fly from her 
home ! - The question was a burning one for 
Lucy. If Mrs. Hawkins and Fatima went 
away, what was to become of her ? She had 
still some pounds of the money refunded 
by Madame Leroux, and there was the 
pittance she earned, enough to give her 
bread. But where could she find a refuge if 
these people, her only friends in the wide 
world of London, went away ? 

When she spoke to Fatima she found 
that the subject, had already been discussed 
in her absence. 



MADAME LEROUX. 303 

" Marie spoke to Zephany," said Fatima. 
" And he said he would make some inquiries 
for some place, some lodging where you 
would be safe for a time. It might be a 
very humble place, but 

"It must be a very humble place! I 
can afford to pay for no other. I should be 
very grateful to Mr. Zephany if he would 
Oh, Fatima, what will become of me if 
you go away ? I shall be so desolate ! " 
And the poor child burst into tears. 

Fatima, from whom the ruin of Millamint 
and its attendant disasters had not drawn a 
tear, immediately began to cry too, from 
sympathy. And Mrs. Hawkins, presently 
entering the room, found them sobbing 
together. 

But Marie was not going to join in their 
sobs. She mildly reproved them, with a 
placid smile, for being so childish, and at 
once offered a practical suggestion. Was 
there not, perhaps, some young ^ woman 
among those employed by the dentist, in 
whose family Miss Smith could board for a 
while if the worst came to the worst ? 



304 



MADAME LEROUX. 



" Oh ! " cried Lucy clasping her hands 
together, and looking up quickly through 
her tears, " Peggy Barton ! I will ask Peggy 
Barton. I am sure she will help me if she 
can. I wonder I did not think of her 
befc-e." 

" Voila ! You see it is much better to 
think over things quietly than to cry riesi- 
ce-pas? Let me see," pulling out an 
enamelled bijou watch, the product of 
popular confidence in British Tea " it is 
now barely half-past seven. I think you 
had better go to this young person at once. 
We don't know what may happen to- 
morrow. Do you know where she lives ? " 

Lucy did not know, beyond the fact that 
it was not very far from Oxford Street ! 
But she had no doubt she could get the 
address from Mrs. Parfitt, Mr. Tudway 
Didear's cook. While she was speaking 
they heard the sound of a latch-key in the 
hall door, and Zephany came in. 

He went up at once to Mrs. Hawkins, 
and said something to her in a low tone, of 
which Lucy could not help hearing the 



MADAME LEROUX. 305 

words, " execution in the house," and " Clam- 
pitt's liabilities." Marie listened, nodding 
her head gently from time to time, as if she 
were hearing the expected confirmation of 
an opinion she had long maintained ; but 
without the smallest manifestation of dis- 
tress. When he had finished, she said 
aloud. " Thanks so much, Zephany. Now 
I want to tell you what we have been 
thinking of for Miss Smith." 

Zephany at once approved the idea of 
applying to Peggy Barton and her mother. 
Peggy's name was familiar to them all ; for 
Lucy had been in the habit of talking over 
her daily adventures at the dentist's, and 
relieving her spirits by dwelling on the 
comic side of them to sympathetic listeners. 

" Well," said Zephany, " you had better 
see these people to-night. Lose not a 
moment. If you allow me, Mademoiselle, 
I will accompany you at once. I will get 
a cab" (which word Zephany always pro- 
nounced keb : his linguistic abilities break- 
ing down at the attempt to reproduce the 
short English a !) 

VOL. n. 40 



306 MADAME LEROUX. 

" Oh, it is good of you, Mr. Zephany ! 
But- 

" Mademoiselle," returned Zephany, se- 
verely, "it is not from you that I expected 
to hear that word. ' But' is for imbeciles." 

" My ' but ' only referred to my unwilling- 
ness to trouble you," said Lucy, smiling 
faintly, and rising from her chair to get 
ready. " Oh, I know you will not be 
thanked ! but you can't help my feeling 
grateful ! " 

Fatima pleaded to be allowed to go too, 
and the two girls left the room together. 
As soon as they were gone, Zephany said 
to Mrs. Hawkins 

"It is better that I go and see these 
Bartons. From what Miss Smith says, I 
believe they are good people, and to be 
trusted ; but, although she is full of intel- 
ligence, she is young and inexperienced. / 
shall see what they are at a glance in one 
flash ! " opening his eyes wide for a moment, 
and raising and lowering his eyebrows 
rapidly. 

Then Lucy and Fatima came downstairs, 



MADAME LEROUX. 307 

and all three set off in a cab to Mr. Tudway 
Didear's. There they were able, through 
the assistance of Mrs. Parfitt, to get Peggy 
Barton's address from Miss Saunders, the 
"private secretary." 

The Bartons, it appeared, lived at no 
great distance from Soho Square, and when 
the cab stopped at the street and number 
indicated, they found themselves in front of 
a poor-looking foreign eating-house, bearing 
the inscription in tarnished gilt letters, 
" Restaurant du Mont Blanc, L. Mon- 
tondon." 

But there was a side door, with a series 
of bell-handles one above the other ; and 
above the topmost one was nailed a card, 
on which was written, in Peggy's own clerkly 
characters, "Mrs. John James Barton. Miss 
Barton." The door being open, Zephany 
decided that they had better go upstairs 
without further ceremony ; that Lucy should 
first knock at Mrs. Barton's door, and that 
he and Fatima should wait outside on the 
landing until they received permission to enter. 

As they went along the dimly-lighted 



308 



MADAME LEROUX. 



passage and up the first flight of stairs, the 
neighbourhood of the restaurant kitchen 
announced itself disagreeably ; but at the 
top of the house, where Mrs. Barton lived, 
the air was sweeter, and they could see by 
the light of a candle stuck in a tin reflector 
against the wall, that the floor of the landing 
was clean, and that a mat had been laid 
before the door. There was also a large 
wooden box, which looked like a sea-chest, 
standing outside on the landing, apparently 
from want of space to stow it within. 

On this box Fatima and Zephany at 
once seated themselves as nonchalantly as 
they would have availed themselves of a 
velvet sofa, or a school-bench, or a Turkish 
divan, or the Lord Chancellor's woolsack, or 
any other sitting accommodation they might 
have chanced to find there. While they 
were mounting the stairs, Zephany had 
whispered that he knew something of the 
keeper of the restaurant, whose mother, old 
Jeanne, had been employed by Madame 
Leroux ; and that the place, though humble, 
was respectable. 



MADAME LEROUX. 309 

" They are rather greedy, hard people 
in brief, Savoyards" said Zephany, uttering 
the word with a sort of suppressed snarl, 
intended to convey, in a concentrated and 
expressive form, his opinion of those hardy 
mountaineers. " But, du reste, decent ; and 
not thieves." 

Their footsteps must have been heard by 
those on the other side of the door, for no 
sooner had Lucy given a gentle tap than 
Miss Peggy Barton appeared, peering out 
on to the landing, and holding the door 
jealously in her hand, so that nothing was 
visible of the interior, except a stream of 
ruddy light. 

" Does Mrs. Barton live " began 

Lucy ; but before she could finish the sen- 
tence, Peggy cried, in a tone of joyful 
surprise, " Why, it's never you, Miss Smith ! 
Oh, mother, here's Miss Smith come to see 
us ! This is an unexpected pleasure ! Do 
please walk in." And Peggy, in her 
eagerness, almost pulled Lucy into the 
room. 

It was a larger room than she had expected. 



3io 



MADAME LEROUX. 



The house was old, and had once been 
handsome, and it was planned on a more 
ample scale than could have been found in 
a modern dwelling of an equally poor 
class. 

A bright fire was burning in a somewhat 
squeezed little grate. The floor was un- 
carpeted, but there was a rug made of 
fragments of cloth sewn together in front 
of the hearth, and beside it, in a big wicker 
chair, propped up by cushions, there sat a 
small, feeble, pale-faced woman, who bore 
the same sort of likeness to Peggy that a 
yard of chintz, faded by much wear and the 
vicissitudes of many wash-tubs bears to its 
fellow newly cut from the same web, and 
fresh from the factory. 

There was a bed on the side of the 
room opposite to the fireplace, and under the 
window stood a mysterious piece of furniture, 
which turned out on after acquaintance to 
be a sofa-bedstead, but which had that 
shabby, slinking, almost deprecating look 
that may be observed in the human subject 
when he has no distinct and recognized 



MADAME LEROUX. 311 

calling in life, but belongs to the miscel- 
laneous class of those supposed to make 
themselves " generally useful." 

There was a large old-fashioned chest of 
drawers between the corner of the room and 
the side of the fireplace, opposite to the 
wicker chair, and above it were fixed some 
deal shelves, decorated with red and gold 
paper, whereon were displayed some cups 
and saucers, one or two books, a small 
workbox, and several large Indian shells. 
These, together with an old pocket-compass, 
suspended by a green ribbon over the 
mantelpiece, a lithograph of Messrs. Macabe 
and M 'Coil's magnificent ship Hector, 1,777 
tons register, and a panoramic view of the 
harbour of Sydney, New South Wales, 
seemed to suggest that the late Mr. John 
James Barton had been connected with a 
seafaring life. 

A kettle was singing on the hob, and 
tea things were spread on a round table 
drawn up by the fire. The mother and 
daughter had evidently just finished their 
evening meal. 



312 



MADAME LEROUX. 



" Oh, Miss Smith ? I am sure I am 

most happy " said Mrs. Barton, in a 

faded little voice which seemed to match her 
face. "You'll excuse my not rising. I'm a 
sad invalid. Peggy, my dear, another cup 
and saucer." 

Lucy checked these hospitable intentions 
by saying that she had come on business. 
She would not detain Mrs. Barton long ; but 
she had some friends with her. Might they 
be allowed to come in ? 

Peggy was out on the landing before she 
had made an end of her speech, begging 
Miss Smith's friends to walk in. She was 
evidently much astonished on seeing 
Zephany ; and told her mother, afterwards, 
that she had little expected to see a black- 
bearded foreigner, with an eye that looked 
as if it could scorch a hole in a blanket. 
But she tried politely to repress all mani- 
festations of surprise. 

As for Mrs. Barton, she was not only 
bewildered, but slightly alarmed, and visibly 
shrank away to the farther side of her chair, 
when Zephany, bowing, and addressing her 



MADAME LEROUX. 313 

as " Madame," offered an apology for his 
intrusion. 

" I'm sure any friend of Miss Smith's " 
quavered Mrs. Barton, feebly ; and then 
stopped, unable to say any more. 

Fatima meanwhile had perched herself 
on the sofa-bedstead, and was smiling and 
nodding at Peggy, whom she had seen 
before. 

Zephany, who took on himself to be 
spokesman, told Mrs. Barton that, owing to 
the unexpected departure of the lady in 
whose house she had been living, Miss 
Smith, being a stranger in London, found 
herself suddenly in need of a home ; and had 
ventured to ask Mrs. Barton if she could 
recommend her a respectable family where 
she might be received for a time. 

" I suppose," said Peggy, in her quick, 
impulsive way, " our place would be too poor 
for Miss Smith ; else a shake-down here with 
us for a time " 

" Oh, it is what I should be most thank- 
ful for ! " said Lucy. " Pray do not speak of 
your home being too poor for me ! I am 



MADAME LEROUX. 



very poor, and should be grateful if you 
would take me in. Only, perhaps," she 
added, glancing at Mrs. Barton, " as your 
mother is an invalid, it might disturb her to 
have a stranger " 

"No, that it wouldn't ; would it, 
mother ? " burst out Peggy, alert and eager 
in a moment. "And, as for accommodation, 
there's my little room the landlord wouldn't 
fresh paper us, so I got a bucket of white- 
wash and did the walls myself. Poor we 
may be ; but dirty, we wouldn't. And there's 
that sofa-bedstead the very thing for me, 
and really much handier, being so near to 
mother in case she wanted anything in the 
night. And, if you'll excuse the light a 
moment, I'll show Miss Smith the room, and 
she can judge whether she would be able to 
put up with it." 

Suiting the action to the word, Peggy 
snatched up the lamp from the table, and 
ushered Lucy into the adjoining room, which 
was bare and poor enough, but perfectly 
clean, and with a good iron bedstead in it. 

Zephany's rapid vehemence being thus 



MADAME LEROUX. 315 

reinforced by Peggy's kindred quickness, 
they whirled poor Mrs. Barton's mind along 
with such a sense of breathless swiftness, 
that she held on to the arms of her chair, as 
though she were afraid of being carried away 
bodily. Zephany and Peggy had arranged 
everything before the others clearly under- 
stood that the negotiation had begun. The 
only hitch was as to price ; Peggy demand- 
ing half-a-crown a week less than Zephany 
thought fair. But he soon settled the matter 
by saying in his sternest voice (which made 
Mrs. Barton quail among her cushions), " On 
our terms, or not at all ! We cannot allow 
you to cheat yourself! " 

But Peggy only rubbed her hands, and 
said, saucily, " You're an uncommonly hard 
hand at a bargain, sir ; but I suppose it must 
be as you say ! " 

Everything being thus agreed upon, even 
to the hour at which Lucy was to arrive 
at the Bartons' the following afternoon, 
Zephany drew off his forces with decisive 
rapidity, only pausing to make a speech of 
politeness to Mrs. Barton, which made her 



MADAME LEROUX. 



so nervous that, although her lips were seen 
to move faintly, no audible words came from 
them. 

Lucy, when she reached Great Portland 
Street again, felt as though she were in a 
dream. But as she entered the house a 
letter was handed to her which startled her 
into a state of excited emotion. 

It was from Edgar Tomline, and informed 
her that he had been unable to elicit from old 
Mrs. Ellergarth any information as to where 
Lucy's mother had gone on leaving Libburn 
Farm. " But," he wrote, " what is very 
strange is that there is some one inquiring 
about you. Mrs. Ellergarth had an anony- 
mous letter sent on to her from the present 
tenant of Libburn, where it had been 
addressed, asking for information about Mr. 
and Mrs. Marston who adopted a little girl 
between eighteen and nineteen years ago ; 
and whether the child was still living." 

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