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"Es isteine alte Geschichte." 



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The last week of September found Charles 
back at Stoke Moreton to receive the 
''friends" of whom Mrs. Alwynn spoke. 
People whose partridges he had helped to 
kill were now to be gathered from the east 
and from the west to help to kill his. From 
the north also pfuests were cominof, were 

leaving their mountains to But the 

remainder of the line Is invidious. The 
Hope Actons had written to offer a visit at 
Stoke Moreton, on the strength of an old 
promise to Charles, a promise so old that 
he had forgotten it, until reminded, that next 



time they were passing they would take his 
house on their way. They had offered their 
visit exactly at the same time for which he 
had just Invited the Alwynns and Ruth. 
Charles felt that they were not quite the 
people whom he would have arranged to 
meet each other, but as Fate had so decreed 
it, he acquiesced calmly enough. 

But when Lady Mary also wrote tenderly 
from ScarborouQ^h, to ask if she could be of 
any use in helping to entertain his guests, 
he felt it imperative to draw the line, and 
wrote a grateful effusion to his aunt, saying 
that he could not think of asking her to 
leave a place where he felt sure she was 
deriving spiritual and temporal benefit. In 
order to assist at so unprofitable a festivity 
as a shooting party. He mentioned casually 
that Lady Grace Lawrence, Miss Deyncourt, 
and Miss Wyndham were to be of the party, 
which details he Imagined might have an 
interest for her amid her graver reflections. 

The subject of Ruth's coming certainly 


had a prominent place in his own graver 
reflections. For the last fortnight, as he 
went from house to house, he had been 
wondering how he could meet her again, and 
when Mr. Alwynn's letter concerning the 
charters was forwarded to him, a sudden 
inspiration made him then and there send 
the invitation which had arrived at Slumber- 
leigh Rectory a few days before. He 
groaned in spirit as he wrote It, at the 
thought of r^Irs. Ahvynn disporting herself, 
dressed in the brightest colours, among his 
other guests ; and It w-as w^th a feeling of 
thankfulness that he found Ruth and Mr. 
Alwynn were coming without her. 

He had felt very little interest so far in 
the party, w^hich, with the exception of the 
Hope Actons, had been long arranged, but 
now he found himself looking forward to it 
with actual impatience, and he returned home 
a day before the time, instead of an hour or 
two before his guests were expected, as w^as 
his w^ont. 


The Wyndhams and Hope Actons, with 
Lady Grace in tow, were the first to appear 
upon the scene. Mr, Alwynn and Ruth 
arrived a few hours later, amid a dropping 
fire of young men and gun cases, who kept 
on turning up at intervals during the after- 
noon, and, according to the mysterious noc- 
turnal habits of their kind, till late Into the 

If ever a man appears to advantage it is 
on his native hearth, and as Charles stood 
on his in the long hall, where It was the 
habit of the house to assemble before dinner, 
Ruth found that her attempts at conversation 
were rather thrown away upon Lady Grace, 
with whom she had been renewing an old 
acquaintance, and whose interest for the time 
being entirely centred In the carved coats of 
arms and heraldic designs with which the 
towering white stone chimney-piece was 

Lady Grace was one of those pretty, 
delicate creatures who remind one of a very 


elaborate rosebud. There was an appear- 
ance of ultra refinement about her, a look of 
that refinement which Is in itself a weakness, 
a poverty of blood, so to speak, the opposite 
and more pleasing, but equally unwholesome 
extreme of coarseness. She looked very 
pretty as, having left Ruth, she stood by 
Charles, passing her little pink hand over 
the lowest carvings, dim and worn with the 
heat of many generations of fires, and listened 
with rapt attention to his answers to her 

" And the hall is so beautiful," she said, 
looking round with childlike curiosity at the 
walls covered with weapons, and with a long 
array of armour ; and at the massive pillars 
of carved white stone which rose up out of 
the polished floor to meet the raftered ceiling. 
" It is so — so uncommon." 

Whatever Charles's other failings may 
have been, he was an admirable host. The 
weather was fine. What can be finer than 
September when she is in a good humour ? 


The two first days of Ruth's visit were un- 
alloyed enjoyment. It seemed like a sudden 
return to the old life with Lady Deyncourt, 
when the round of country visits regularly 
succeeded the season in London. Of Mr. 
Alwynn she saw little or nothing. He was 
burled In the newly discovered charters. Of 
Charles she saw a good deal, more than at 
the time she was quite aware of, for he 
seemed to see a great deal of everybody, 
from Lady Grace to the shy man of the 
party, who at Stoke Moreton first conceived 
the Idea that he was an acquisition to society. 
But whether Charles made the opportunities 
or not which came so ready to his hand, still 
he found time, amid the pressure of his 
shooting arrangements and his duties as host, 
to talk to Ruth. 

One day there was cub hunting In the 
grey of the early morning, to which she and 
Miss Wyndham went with Charles and 
others of the party who could bear to get 
up betimes. Losing sight of the others after 


a time, Ruth and Charles rode back alone 
together when the sun was high, walking 
their tired horses along the blackberrled 
lanes, and down the long green rides cut in 
the yellowing bracken of the park. 

** And so you are going to winter in 
Rome ? " said Charles, who had the previous 
day, contrary to his wont, accepted an invita- 
tion to Slumberleigh Hall for the middle of 
October. " I sometimes go to Rome for a 
few weeks when the shooting is over. And 
are you glad or sorry at the prospect of 
leaving your Cranford ? " 

'' Very sorry." 

'' Why ? " 

" I have seen an entirely new phase of life 
at Slumberleigh." 

" I think I can guess what you mean," said 
Charles gravely. '' One does not often meet 
any one like Mr. Alwynn." 

" No. I was thinking of him. Until I 
came to Slumberleigh the lines had not 
fallen to me in very clerical places, so my 


experience is limited ; but he seems to me 
to be the only clergyman I have known who 
does not force on one a form of religion that 
has been dead and burled for years." 

*' The clergy have much to answer for on 
that head," said Charles with bitterness. " I 
sometimes like and respect them as Indi- 
viduals, but I do not love them as a class. 
One ought to make allowance for the fact 
that they are tied and bound by the chain 
of their Thirty-nine Articles ; that at three- 
and-twenty they shut the doors deliberately 
on any new and possibly unorthodox idea ; 
and it Is consequently unreasonable to expect 
from them any genuine freedom or originality 
of thought. I can forgive them their assump- 
tion of superiority, their inability to meet 
honest scepticism with anything like fairness, 
their continual bickering among themselves ; 
but I cannot forgive them the harm they are 
doing to religion, the discredit they are 
bringing upon It by their bigoted views and 
obsolete ideas. They busy themselves doing 


good — that is the worst of it ; they mean 
well, but they do not see that in the mean- 
while their Church is being left unto them 
desolate ; though perhaps, after all, the 
Church, having come to be what it is, that 
is the best thing that can happen." 

*' You forget," said Ruth, '' that you are 
regarding the Church from the standpoint ot 
the cultivated and intellectual class, for whom 
the Church has ceased to represent religion. 
But there are lots of people neither cultivated 
nor intellectual — women even of our own class 
are not so as a rule — to whom the Church, 
with its ritual and dogma, is a real help and 
comfort. If, as you say, it does not suit the 
more highly educated, I think you have no 
right to demand that it sJwiild suit what is, 
after all, a very small minority. It would be 
most unfair if it did." 

Charles did not answer. He had been 
looking at her, and thinking how few women 
could have disagreed with him as quietly and 
resolutely as this young girl riding at his 


side, carefully avoiding chance rabbit holes 
as she spoke. 

''There is, and there always will be, a 
certain number of people, not only among 
the clergy," she went on, ''who, as somebody 
says, ' put the church clock back,' and are 
unable to see that they cannot alter the time 
of day for all that ; only they can and do 
prevent many well-intentioned people from 
trusting to It any longer. But there are 
others here and there whom a dogmatic form 
of religion has been quite unable to spoil, 
whose more simple turn of mind draws out 
of the very system that appears to you so 
lifeless and effete, a real faith, a personal 
possession which no one can take from them." 

Her eyes sparkled as she spoke, and 
Charles saw that she was thinking of Mr. 

" He has got it," he said slowly, " this 
something which we all want, and for the 
greater part never find. He has got it. To 
see and recognize it early is a great thing," 


he continued earnestly. " To disbelieve in 
it in early life, and cavil at all the caricatures 
and imitations, and only come to find out its 
reality comparatively later on is a great mis- 
fortune — a great misfortune." 

She felt that he was speaking of himself, 
and they rode on in silence, each grave with 
a sense of mutual understandinQf and com- 
panionshlp. They forded the stream, and 
trotted up the little village street, the cot- 
tagers gazing admiringly after them till they 
disappeared within the great arched gateway. 
And Charles looked at his old house as they 
paced up the wide drive, and wondered 
whether It were indeed possible that the 
lonely years he had spent In It had come to 
an end at last — at last. 

Ruth had noticed that he lost no oppor- 
tunity of talking to her, and when she heard 
him conversing with Lady Grace, or plunging 
into fashionable slang with Miss Wyndbam, 
found herself admiring the facility with which 
he adapted himself to different people. 


The following afternoon, as. she was writing 
in the library, she was amused to see that 
he found it incumbent on him to write too, 
even going so far as to produce a letter from 
Molly, whose correspondence he said he in- 
variably answered by return. 

" You seem very fond of giving Molly 
pleasure," said Ruth. 

'* I am glad to see. Miss Deyncourt, that 
you are beginning to estimate me at my true 

" You have it in your power just now to 
give a great pleasure," said Ruth earnestly, 
laying down the pen which she had taken up. 


*' It seems so absurd when it is put Into 
words, but — by asking Mrs. Alwynn some 
time to stay here. She has always longed 
to see Stoke Moreton, because — well, because 
Mrs. Thursby has ; and real, positive, actual 
tears were shed that she could not come 
when you asked us." 

" Is it possible ? " said Charles. '' It is the 


first time that any letter of mine has caused 
emotion of that description." 

" Ah ! you don't know how important the 
smallest things appear if one lives in a little 
corner of the world where nothing ever 
happens. If Mrs. Alwynn had been able to 
come, her visit would have been an event 
which she would have remembered for years. 
I assure you, I myself, from having lived at 
Slumberleigh eight months, became quite ex- 
cited at the prospect of so much dissipation." 

And Ruth leaned back in her chair with 
a little laugh. 

Charles looked narrowly at her, and his 
face fell. 

'' I am glad you told me," he said, after a 
moment's pause. '' People generally mention 
these things about ten years afterwards, when 
there is probably no possibility of doing any- 
thing. Thank you." 

Ruth was disconcerted by the sudden 
gravity of his tone, and almost regretted the 
impulse that had made her speak. She 


forgot it, however, In the tableaux vivants 
which they were preparing for the evening, 
In which she and Charles illustrated the 
syllable mm to enthusiastic applause. Ruth 
represented the nun, engaged in conversation, 
over the lowest imaginable convent wall, 
with Charles, In all the glory of his cocked 
hat and deputy-lieutenant's uniform, who, 
while he held the nun's hand In one of his, 
pointed persuasively with the other towards 
an elaborately caparisoned war-horse, 
trembling beneath the joint weight of a 
yeomanry saddle, and a side saddle attached 
behind It, which considerably overlapped the 
charger's impromptu fur boa tail. 
' After the tableaux there was dancing In 
acting costume, at which the two men, who 
acted the war-horse between them, were the 
only persons to protest. Lady Grace being 
beautiful as an improvised Aa^ne Boleyn, and 
the shy man resplendent in a fancy dress of 

When the third morning came, Ruth gave 


a genuine sigh at the thought that it was the 
last day. Lady Grace, who was also leaving 
the following morning, may be presumed to 
have echoed it with far more sorrow. The 
Wyndham.s were going that day, and dis- 
appeared down the drive, waving handker- 
chiefs, and carriage rugs, and hats on sticks, 
out of the carriage windows, as is the custom 
of really amusing people when taking leave. 

In the afternoon, Lady Grace and Charles 
went off for a ride alone together, to see 
some ruin in which Lady Grace had mani- 
fested a sudden interest, the third horse, 
which had been brought round for another of 
the men, being sent back to the stables, his 
destined rider having decided, at the eleventh 
hour, to join the rest of the party in a little 
desultory rabbit shooting In the park, which 
he proceeded to do with much chuckling 
over his extraordinary penetration and 

The elder ladles went out driving, looking, 
as seen from an upper window, like four 


poached eggs on a dish ; and, the coast 
being clear, Ruth, who had no love of 
driving, escaped with her paint box to the 
garden, where she was making a sketch of 
Stoke More ton. 

Some houses, like people, have dignity. 
Stoke Moreton, with ivy creeping up its 
mellow sandstone, and peeping into its long 
lines of mullioned windows, stood solemn 
and stately amid its level gardens ; the low 
sun bringing out every line of carved stone 
frieze and quaint architrave, firing all the 
western windows, and touching the tall heads 
of the hollyhocks and sunflowers, that stood 
in ordered regiments within their high walls 
of clipped box. And Ruth dabbed and 
looked, and dabbed again, until she suddenly 
found that if she put another stroke she 
would spoil all, and also that her hands were 
stiff with cold. After a few admiring glances 
at her work, she set off on a desultory journey 
round the gardens to get warm, and finally, 
seeing an oak door in the garden wall open, 


wandered through it into the churchyard. 
The church door was open, too, and Ruth, 
after reading some of the epitaphs on the 
tombstones, went in. 

It was a common little church enough, with 
a large mortuary chapel, where all the 
Danvers family reposed ; ancient Danvers 
lying in armour with their mailed hands 
joined, besides their wives ; more modern 
Danvers kneeling in bas-relief in coloured 
plaster and execrable taste in recesses. The 
last generations were there also ; some of 
them anticipating the resurrection and 
feathered wings, but for the most part still 
asleep. Charles's mother was there, lying in 
white marble among her husband's people, 
with the child upon her arm which she had 
taken away with her. 

And in the middle of the chapel was the 
last Sir Charles Danvers, whom his brother, 
Sir George, the father of the present owner, 
had succeeded. The evening sun shone full 
on the kneeling soldier figure, leaning on its 

VOL. II. 20 


sword, and on the grave, clear cut face, which 
had a look of Charles. The long, beautifully 
modelled hands, clasped over the battered 
steel sword hilt, were like Charles's too. 
Ruth read the inscription on the low marble 
pedestal, relating how he had fallen in the 
taking of the Redan, and then looked again. 
And gradually a great feeling of pity rose in 
her heart for the family which had lived here 
for so many generations, and which seemed 
now so likely to die out. Providence does 
not seem to care much for old families, or to 
value lone descent. Rather It seems to 
favour the new race, the Browns, and the 
Joneses, and the Robinsons, who yesterday 
were not, and who to-day elbow the old 
county families from the place which has 
known them from time Immemorial. 

'' I suppose Molly will some day marry a 
Smith," said Ruth to herself, " and then it 
will be all over. I don't think I will come 
and see her here when she is married." 

With which reflection she returned to the 


house, and. after disturbing ]\Ir. Alwynn, who 
Avas deep in a catalogue of the Danvers' 
manuscripts, in which it was his firm con- 
viction that he should find some mention of 
the charters, she went into the library, and 
wondered which of the several thousands of 
books would interest her till the others 
came in. 

The library was a large room, the walls of 
which were lined with books from the fioor 
to the ceiling. In order to place the higher 
shelves within reach, a light balcony of 
polished oak ran round the four walls, about 
equi-distant from the floor and the ceiling. 
Ruth went up the tiny corkscrew staircase in 
the wall, which led to the balcony, and 
settling herself cornfortably in the low, wide 
window seat, took out one volume after 
another of those that came within her reach. 
These shelves by the window where she was 
sitting had somehow a different look to the 
rest. Old books and new, white vellum and 
cardboard, were herded together without any 


apparent order, and with no respect of 
bindings. Here a splendid morocco " Novum 
Organum " was pushed In beside a cheap and 
much worn edition of Marcus Aurellus ; there 
Emerson and Plato and Shakespeare jostled 
each other on the same shelf, while just below 
** Don Quixote " was pressed Into the un- 
congenial society of Carlyle on one side, and 
Confucius on the other. As she pulled out 
one book after another, she noticed that the 
greater part of them had Charles's name In 
them. Ruth's curiosity was at once aroused. 
No doubt this was the little corner in his. 
great house In which he chose to read, and 
these were his favourite books which he had 
arraneed so close to his hand. If we can 
judge our fellow-creatures at all, which is 
doubtful, it Is by the books they read, and 
by those which, having read, they read again. 
She looked at the various volumes In the 
window-seat beside her with new Interest,, 
and opened the first one she took up. It 
was a collection of translations from the 


Persian poets ; gentlemen of the name ot 
Jemshid, Sadi, and Hafiz, of whom she had 
never heard. As she turned over the pages, 
she heard the ringing of horses' hoofs, and 
looking out from her point of observation, 
saw Charles and Lady Grace cantering up 
the short wide approach, and clattering out of 
sight again behind the great stone archway. 
She turned back to her book, and was read- 
ing an ode here and there, wondering to see 
how the same thoughts that work within us 
to-day had lived with man so many hundred 
years ago, when her eye was caught by some 
writing on the margin of a page as she turned 
it over. A single sentence on the page was 
strongly underlined. 

'' Trtte self-knowledge is knoiv ledge of God!' 
Jemshid was a wise man, Ruth thought, if 
he had found out that ; and then she read in 
Charles's clear handwriting in the margin, 

" With this compare 'Look zmthin. Within 
is the foimtain of good, and it will ever bubble 
Zip if thott zoilt ever dig! — Maj^acs Atirelius!' 


At this moment Charles came into the 
library, and looked up to where she was 
sitting, half hidden from below by the thick- 
ness of the wall. 

'• What ! studying ? " he called gaily. " I 
saw you sitting in the window as I rode up. 
I might have known that if you were lost 
sight of for half an hour you would be found 
improving yourself in some exasperating 
way." And he ran up the little stairs and 
came round the balcony towards her. '' My 
own special books, I see. Eve, as usual, sur- 
reptitiously craving for a knowledge of good 
and evil. What have you got hold of ? " 

The remainder of the window seat was 
full of books, so, to obtain a better view of 
what she was reading, he knelt down by 
her, and looked at the open book on her 

Ruth did not attempt to close it. She felt 
guilty she hardly knew of what. After a 
moment's pause she said — 

'* I plead guilty. I was curious. I saw 


these were your own particular shelves ; but 
I never can resist looking- at the books people 

'' Will you be pleased to remember, in 
future, that In contemplating my character, 
Miss Deyncourt — a subject not unworthy of 
your attention — you are on private property. 
You are requested to keep on the gravel 
paths, and to look at the grounds I am dis- 
posed to show you. If, as is very possible, 
admiration seizes you, you are at liberty to 
express it. But there must be no going 
round to the back premises, no prying into 
corners, no trespassing where I have written 
up ' No road! " 

Ruth smiled, and there was a gleam in her 
eyes which Charles well knew heralded a 
retort, when suddenly through the half-open 
door a silken rustle came, and Lady Hope 
Acton slowly entered the room, as if about 
to pass through it on her way to the hall. 

Now, kneeling is by no means an attitude 
to be despised. In church, or in the moment 


of presentation to majesty, it is appropriate, 
even essential ; but it is dependent, like most 
things, upon circumstances and environment. 
No attitude, for instance, could be more 
suitable and natural to any one wishing to 
read the page on which a sitting fellow- 
creature was eno^aored. Charles had found 
it so. But as Lady Hope Acton sailed into 
the room he felt that, however conducive to 
study, it was not the attitude in which he 
would at that moment have chosen to be 
found. Ruth felt the same. It had seemed 
so natural a moment before, so hideously 
suggestive now. 

Perhaps Lady Hope Acton would pass 
on through the other door, so widely, so 
invitingly open. Neither stirred, in the hope 
that she might do so. But in the centre of 
the room she stopped, and sighed ; the slow 
cracklinof sio^h of a stout woman in a too well- 
fitting silk gown. 

Charles suddenly felt as if his muddy boots 
and cords were trying to catch her eye, as if 


every book on the shelves were calling to her 
to look up. 

For a second Ruth and Charles gazed 
down upon the top of Lady Hope Acton's 
head, the bald place on which showed dimly 
through her semi-transparent cap. She 
moved slightly, as If to go ; but no, another 
step was drawing near. In another moment 
Lady Grace came in through the opposite 
door in her riding habit. 

Ruth felt that it was now or never for a 
warning cough ; but, as she glanced at Charles 
kneeling beside her, she could not give it. 
Surely they would pass out in another second. 
The thought of the two pairs of eyes which 
would be raised, and the expression in them, 
was intolerable. 

" Grace," said Lady Hope Acton with 
dreadful distinctness, advancing to meet her 
daughter, " has he spoken ? " 

" No,'' said Lady Grace, with a little sob, 
''and" — with a sudden burst of tears — ''oh, 
mamma, I don't think he ever will." 


Oh, to have coughed, to have sneezed, to 
have choked a moment eadler ! Anything" 
would have been better than this. 

" Run upstairs this moment, then, and 
change your habit and bathe your eyes," said 
Lady Hope Acton sharply. '' You need not 
come down till dinner time. I will say you 
are tired." 

And then, to the overwhelming relief of 
those two miserable spectators, the mother 
and daughter left the room. 

But to the momentary sensation of relief 
in Ruth's mind a rush of pity succeeded for 
the childlike grief and tears ; and with and 
behind it, like one hurrying wave overtopping" 
and bearing down its predecessor, came a 
burninor indio^nation ao-ainst the cause of that 
picturesque emotion. 

It is indeed a lamentable peculiarity of our 
fallen nature that the moment of relief from 
the smart of anxiety is seldom marked by so 
complete a mental calmness and moderation 
as could be wished. 


Ruth rose slowly, with the book still in her 
hand, and Charles got off his knees as best 
he could, and stood with one hand on the 
railing of the balcony, as if to steady himself. 
His usually pale face was crimson. 

Ruth closed the book in silence, and with 
a dreadful precision put it back in its accus- 
tomed place. Then she turned and faced 
him, with the western light full upon her stern, 
face, and another light of contempt and in- 
dignation burning in her direct eyes. 

*' Poor little girl," she said, in a low distinct 
voice. '' What a triumph to have succeeded 
in making her unhappy ! She is very young, 
and she did not understand the rules of the 
game. Poor, foolish little girl ! " 

If he had been red before, he was pale 
enough now. He drew himself up, and met 
her direct gaze without flinching. He did 
not speak, and she left him standing in the 
window, and went slowly along the balcony 
and down the little staircase into the room 


As she was about to leave the room he 
moved forward suddenly, and said — 

" Miss Deyncourt." 

Involuntarily she stopped short In obedience 
to the stern authority of the tone. 

" You are unjust." 

She did not answer, and left the room. 



*' Uncle John," said Ruth next morning, 
taking Mr. Alwynn aside after breakfast, 
*' we are leaving by the early train, are we 
not ? " 

" No, my love, it is quite impossible. I 
have several papers to identify and re- 

*' We have stayed a day longer than we 
intended as it is. Most of the others go 
early. Do let us go too." 

*' It is most natural, I am sure, my dear, 
that you should wish to get home," said Mr. 
Alwynn, looking with sympathetic concern 
at his niece ; '' and why your aunt has not 
forwarded your letters I can't imagine. But 
still, if we return by the midday train, Ruth, 


you will have plenty of time to answer any 
letters that — ahem ! seem to require immediate 
attention before the post goes ; and I don't 
see my way to being ready earlier." 

Ruth had not even been thinking of Dare 
and his letters ; but she saw that by the early 
train she was not destined to depart, and 
watched the other guests take leave with an 
envious sigh. She was anxious to be gone. 
The last evening, after the episode in the 
library, had been interminably long. Already 
the morning, though breakfast was hardly 
over, seemed to have dragged Itself out to 
days in length. A sense of constraint 
between two people who understand and 
amuse each other Is very galling. Ruth had 
felt It so. All the previous evening Charles had 
hardly spoken to her, and had talked mainly 
to Lady Hope Acton, who was somewhat 
depressed, and another elder lady. A good 
night and a flat candlestick can be presented 
in a very distant manner, and as Ruth re- 
ceived hers from Charles that eveninsf, and 


met the grave, steady glance that was 
directed at her, she perceived that he had 
not forofiven her for what she had said. 

She felt angry again at the idea that he 
should venture to treat her with a coldness 
which seemed to imply that she had been in 
the wroncf. The worst of it was that she 
felt she was to blame ; that she had no right 
whatever to criticise Charles and his actions. 
What concern were they of hers ? How 
much more suitable, how much more eloquent 
a dienihed silence would have been. She 
could not imagine now, as she thought it 
over, why she had been so unreasonably 
annoyed at the moment as to say what she 
had done. Yet the reason was not far to 
seek, if she had only known where to lay her 
hand on it. She was uneasy, Impatient ; she 
longed to ofet out of the house, x^nd It was 
still early ; only eleven. Eleven till twelve. 
Twelve till one. One till half-past. Two 
whole hours and a half to be o-ot throuo^h 
before the Stoke Moreton omnibus w^ould 


bear her away. She looked round for a 
refuge during that weary age, and found it 
nearer than many poor souls do in time of 
need, namely, at her elbow, in the shape, the 
welcome shape of the shy man, almost the 
only remnant of the large party whose dis- 
persion she had just been watching. When- 
ever Ruth thought of that shy man afterwards, 
which was not often, it was with a sincere 
hope that he had forgotten the forwardness 
of her behaviour on that particular morning. 
She wished to see the picture-gallery. She 
would of all things like a walk afterwards. 
No, she had not been as far as the beech 
avenue ; but she w^ould like to go. Should 
they look at the pictures first — now — no 
time like the present ? How pleased he was 1 
How proud ! He felt that his shyness had 
gone for ever, that Miss Deyncourt would 
no doubt like to hear a few anecdotes of his 
college life, that a quiet man, who does not 
make himself cheap to start with, often wins 
in the end, that Miss Deyncourt had unusual 


appreciation, not only for pictures, but for 
reserved and intricate characters that yet 
(here he ventured on a little joke, and 
laughed at it himself) had their lighter side. 
And in the long picture-gallery Ruth and he 
studied the old Masters, as they had seldom 
been studied before, with an intense and 
ienorant interest on the one hand, and an 
entire absence of mind on the other. 

Charles, who had done a good deal of 
pacing up and down his room the night 
before, and had arrived at certain conclu- 
sions, passed through the gallery once, but 
did not stop. He looked grave and pre- 
occupied, and hardly answered a question of 
Mr. Conway's about one of the pictures. 

Half-past eleven at last. A tall inlaid 
clock in the gallery mentioned the hour by 
one sedate stroke ; the church clock told the 
village the time of day a second later. They 
had nearly finished the pictures. Never 
mind. She could take half an hour to put 
on her hat, and surely any beech avenue, 

VOL. II. 21 


even on a dull day like this, might serve to 
while av^ay the remaining hour before 

They had come to the last picture of the 
Danvers' collection, and Ruth was dwelling 
fondly on a very well-developed cow by 
Cuyp, as if she could hardly tear herself 
away from it, when she heard a step coming 
up the staircase from the hall, and presently 
Charles pushed open the carved folding 
doors which shut off the gallery from the 
rest of the house, and looked in. She was 
conscious that he was standing in the door- 
way, but new beauties in the cow, which had 
hitherto escaped her, engaged her whole 
attention at the moment, and no one can 
attend to two things at once. 

Charles did not come any further ; but 
standing in the doorway, he called to the 
shy man, who went to him, and the two 
talked together for a few moments. Ruth 
gazed upon the cow until it became so fixed 
upon the retina of her eye that when she 


tried to admire an old Florentine cabinet 
near it, she still saw its portrait, and when in 
desperation she turned away to look out of 
the window, across the sky and sloping park 
the shadow of the cow hung like a portent. 

A moment later Mr. Conway came hurry- 
ing back to her much perturbed, to say he 
had quite forgotten till this moment, had not 
in the least understood, in fact, etc., etc. 
Danvers' grey cob, that he had thoughts of 
buying, was waiting at the door for him to 
try — in fact, had been waiting some time. 
No idea upon his soul 

Ruth cut his apology short before he had 
done more than flounder well into it. 

*'You must go and try it at once," she 
said with decision ; and then she added, as 
Charles drew near, " I have changed my 
mind about going out. It looks as if it might 
turn to rain. I shall get through some 
arrears of letter-writing instead." 

Mr. Conway stammered and repeated 
himself, and finally rushed out of the gallery. 


Ruth expected that Charles would accompany 
him, but he remained standing near the 
window, apparently engaged like herself in 
admiring the view. 

" It struck me," he said slowly, with his 
eyes half shut, " that Conway proved rather 
a broken reed just now." 

'' He did," said Ruth. She suddenly felt 
that she could understand what it was in 
Charles that exasperated Lady Mary so much. 

He came a step nearer, and his manner 

'' I sent him away," he said, looking gravely 
at her, '' because I wished to speak to 

Ruth did not answer or turn her head, 
though she felt he was watching her. Her 
eyes absently followed two* young fallow deer 
in the park, cantering away in a series of 
hops on their long stiff legs. 

*' I cannot speak to you here," said Charles^ 
after a pause. 

Ruth turned round. 


" Silence is ofolden sometimes. I think 
quite enough has been said already." 

"Not by me. You expressed yourself 
with considerable frankness. I wish to follow 
your example." 

" You said I was unjust at the time. 
Surely that was sufhcient." 

'' So insufficient, that I am going to repeat 
it. I tell you again that you are unjust in 
not being willing to hear what I have to say. 
I have seen a good deal of harm done by 
misunderstandings, Miss Deyncourt. Pride 
is generally at the bottom of them. We are 
both suffering from a slight attack of that 
malady now. But I value your good opinion 
too much to hesitate if by any little sacrifice 
of my own pride I can still retain it. If, 
after your remarks yesterday, I can make the 
effort (and it is an effort) to ask you to hear 
something I wish to say, you, on your side, 
ought not to refuse to listen. It is not a 
question of liking ; you oiight not to refuse." 

He spoke in an authoritative tone, which 


gave weight to his words, and in spite of 
herself she saw the truth of what he said. 
She was one of those rare women who, being 
convinced against their will, are 7io^ of the 
same opinion still. It was ignominious to 
have to give way ; but after a moment's 
struQrorle with herself she surmounted her 
dislike to being overruled, together with a 
certain unreasoning tenacity of opinion natural 
to her sex, and said quietly — 

" What do you wish me to do ? " 

Charles saw the momentary struggle, and 
honoured her for a quality which women 
seldom i^ive men occasion to honour them for. ' 

" Do you dislike walking ? " 

'' No." 

" Then, if you will come out of doors, 
where there is less likelihood of interruption 
than in the house, I will wait for you here." 

She went silently down the picture-gallery, 
half astonished to find herself doing his 
bidding. She put on her walking things 
mechanicallv, and came back in a few 


minutes to find him standing where she had 
left him. In silence they went downstairs, 
and through the piazza with its flowering 
orange trees, out into the gardens, where, on 
the stone balustrade, the peacocks were 
attitudinizing and conversing in the high key 
in which they always proclaim a change of 
weather and their innate vulgarity to the 
world. Charles led the way towards a little 
rushing brook which divided the gardens 
from the park. 

" I think you must have had a very low 
opinion of me beforehand, to say what you 
did yesterday," he remarked suddenly. 

'' I was angry," said Ruth. " However 
true what I said may have been, I had no 
right to say it to — a comparative stranger. 
That is why I repeat that it would be better 
not to make matters worse by mentioning 
the subject again. It is sure to annoy us 
both. Let it rest." 

"Not yet," said Charles dryly. ''As a 
comparative stranger I want to know " — 


Stopping and facing her — " exactly what you 
mean by saying that she, Lady Grace, did 
not understand the rules of the game." 

*' I cannot put it in other Avords," said 
Ruth, her courage rising as she felt that a 
battle was imminent. 

" Perhaps I can for you. Perhaps you 
meant to say that you believed I was in the 
habit of amusing myself at other people's 
expense; that — I see your difficulty in finding 
the right words — -that it was my evil sport 
and pastime to — shall we say — raise ex- 
pectations which it was not my intention to 

'' It is disagreeably put," said Ruth, red- 
dening a little; "but possibly I did mean 
something of that kind." 

" And how have you arrived at such an 
uncharitable opinion of a comparative 
stranger ? " asked Charles, quietly enough, 
but his light eyes flashing. 

She did not answer. 

'' You are not a child, to echo the opinion 


of Others," he went on. '' You look as if you 
judged for yourself. What have I done 
since I met you first, three months ago, to 
justify you in holding me in contempt ? " 

" I did not say I held you in contempt." 

'' You must do, though, if you think me 
capable of such meanness." 

Silence again. 

" You have pushed me into saying more 
than I meant," said Ruth at last ; '' at least 
you have said I mean a great deal more 
than I really do. To be honest, I think you 
have thoughtlessly given a good deal of pain. 
I dare say you did it unconsciously." 

'' Thank you. You are very charitable, 
but I cannot shield myself under the supposi- 
tion that at eight and thirty I am a creature 
of impulse, unconscious of the meaning of 
my own actions." 

" If that is the case," thought Ruth, '' your 
behaviour to me has been inexcusable, 
especially the last few days ; though, fortu- 
nately for myself, I was not deceived by it." 


" If you persist in keeping silence," said 
Charles, after waiting for her to speak, " any 
possibility of conversation is at an end." 

'* I did not come out here for conversation," 
replied Ruth. " I came, not by my own 
wish, to hear something you said you par- 
ticularly desired to say. Do you not think 
the simplest thing, under the circumstances, 
would be — to say it ? " 

He eave a short laueh, and looked at her 
in sheer desperation. Did she know what 
she was pushing him into ? 

*' I had not forgotten," he said. '' It was 
in my mind all the time ; but now you have 
made it easy for me indeed by coming to my 
assistance in this way. I will make a fresh 

He compressed his lips, and seemed to 
pull himself together. Then he said, in a 
very level voice — • 

'' Kindly give me your whole attention, 
Miss Deyncourt, so that I shall not be 
obliged to repeat anything. The deer are 


charming, I know ; but you have seen deer 
before, and will no doubt again. I am sorry 
that I am obliged to speak to you about 
myself, but a little autobiography is unavoid- 
able. Perhaps you know that about three 
years ago I succeeded my father. From 
being penniless, and head over ears in debt, 
I became suddenly a rich man ; not by my 
father's will, who entailed every acre of the 
estates here and elsewhere on Ralph, and 
left everything he could to him. I had 
thought of telling you what my best friends 
have never known, why I am not still 
crippled by debt. I had thought of telling 
you why at five and thirty I was still un- 
married, for my debts were not the reason ; 
but I will not trouble you with that now. 
It Is enough to say that I found myself in a 
position which, had I been a little younger, 
with rather a different past, I should have 
enjoyed more than I did. I was well 
received in English society when, after a 
lapse of several years, and a change of 


fortune, I returned to it. If I had thought 
I was well received for myself, I should have 
been a fool. But I came back disillusioned. 
I saw the machinery. When you reflect on 
the vast and intricate machinery employed 
by mothers with grown-up daughters, you 
may imagine what I saw. In all honesty 
and sincerity I wished to marry ; but in the 
ease with which I saw I could do so lay my 
chief difficulty. I did not want a new toy, 
but a companion. I suppose I still clung to 
one last illusion, that I might meet a woman 
whom I could love, and who would love me, 
and not my name or income. I could not 
find her, but I still believed in her. I went 
everywhere in the hope of meeting her, and 
if others have ever been disappointed in 
me, they have never known how disappointed 
I have been in them. For three years I 
looked for her everywhere ; but I could not 
find her, and at last I gave her up. And 
then — I met Lady Grace Lawrence, and liked 
her. I had reason to believe she could be 


disinterested. She came of good people — all 
Lawrences are good ; she was simple and 
unspoilt, and she seemed to like me. When 
I look back I believe that I had decided to 
ask her to marry me, and that it was only 
by the merest chance that I left London 
without speaking to her. What prevented 
me I hardly know, unless it was a reluctance 
at the last moment to cast the die. I came 
down to Atherstone, harassed and anxious, 
tired of everything and everybody, and 
there," said Charles, with sudden passion, 
turning and looking full at Ruth, " there I 

The blood rushed to her face, and she 
hastily interposed. 

" I don't see any necessity to bring my 
name in." 

" Perhaps not," he returned, recovering 
himself instantly ; *' unfortunately, I do." 

'' You expect too much of my vanity," 
said Ruth, her voice trembling a little ; " but 
in this instance I don't think you can turn it 


to account. I beg you will leave me out of 
the question." 

" I am sorry I cannot oblige you," he said 
grimly ; " but you can't be left out. I only 
regret that you dislike being mentioned, 
because that is a mere nothing to what is 

She trusted that he did not perceive that 
the reason she made no reply was because 
she suddenly felt herself unable to articulate. 
Her heart was beating wildly, as that gentle, 
well-conducted organ had never beaten 
before. What was coming ? Could this 
stern determined man be the same apathetic, 
sarcastic beinof whom she had hitherto 
known ? 

'' From that time," he continued, " I became 
surer and surer, of what at first I hardly 
dared to hope, what it seemed presumption 
in me to hope, namely, that at last I had 
found what I had looked for in vain so long. 
I had to keep my engagement with the Hope 
Actons in Scotland ; but I regretted it. I 


Stayed as short a time as I could. I did not 
ask them to come here. They offered them- 
selves. I think, if I have been to blame, it 
has not been in so heartless a manner as you 
supposed ; and it appears to me Lady Hope 
Acton should not have come. This is my 
explanation. You can add the rest for your- 
self. Have I said enough to soften your 
harsh judgment of yesterday ? " 

Ruth could not speak. The trees were 
behaving in the most curious manner, were 
whirling round, were swaying up and down. 
The beeches close in front were dancine 
quadrilles ; now ranged in two long rows, 
now setting to partners, now hurrying back 
to their places as she drew near. 

" Sit down," said Charles's voice gently ; 
'' you look tired." 

The trunk of a fallen tree suddenly ap- 
peared rising up to meet her out of a slight 
mist, and she sat down on it more precipitately 
than she could have wished. In a few 
seconds the trees returned to their places, 


and the mist, which appeared to be very 
local, cleared away. 

Charles was sitting on the trunk beside 
her, looking at her intently. The anger had 
gone out of his face, and had given place to 
a look of deep anxiety and suspense. 

*' I have not finished yet," he said, and his 
voice had changed as much as his face, 
*' There is still something more." 

"No, no," said Ruth. ''At least, if there 
is, don't say it." 

*' I think I would rather say it. You wish 
to save me pain, I see ; but I am quite pre- 
pared for what you are going to say. I did 
not intend to speak to you on the subject 
for a long time to come, but yesterday's event 
has forced my hand. There must be no 
more misunderstandings between us. You 
intend to refuse me, I can see. All the same, 
I wish to tell you that I love you, and to ask 
you to be my wife." 

" I am afraid I cannot," said Ruth almost 


" No," said Charles, looking straight before 
him, " I have asked you too soon. You are 
quite right. I did not expect anything 
different ; I only wished you to know. But 
perhaps, some day ' 

" Don't ! " said Ruth, clasping her hands 
tightly together. "You don't know what 
you are saying. Nothing can make any 
difference, because — I am engaged." 

She dared not look at his face, but she saw 
his hand clench suddenly. 

For an age neither spoke. 

Then he turned his head slowly and looked 
at her. His face was grey even to the lips. 
With a strange swift pang at the heart, she 
saw how her few vv^ords had changed it. 

" To whom ? " he said at last, hardly above 
a whisper. 

'' To Mr. Dare." 

*' Not that man who has come to live at 
Vandon ? " 

'^ Yes." 

Another lonof silence. 

VOL. II. 22 


" When was It ? " 

" Ten days ago." 

'' Ten clays ago," repeated Charles mechani- 
cally, and his face worked. '' Ten days 
aeo ! " 

" It Is not given out yet," said Ruth, hesi- 
tating, ''because Mr. Alwynn does not wish 
it during Lord Polesworth's absence. I never 
thought of any mistake being caused by not 
mentioning it. I would not have come here 
if I had had the least idea that " 

"You cannot mean to say that you had 
never seen that I — what I — felt for you ? " 

'' Indeed I never thought of such a thing, 
until two minutes before you said it. I am 
very sorry I did not, but I imagined " 

" Let me hear what you imagined." 

** I noticed you talked to me a good deal ; 
but I thought you did exactly the same to 
Lady Grace, and others." 

'' You could not imagine that I talked to 
others — to any other woman in the world — 
as I did to you." 


*' I supposed," said Ruth simply, ''that you 
talked gaily to Lady Grace because it suited 
her ; and more gravely to me, because I am 
naturally grave. I thought at the time you 
were rather clever in adapting yourself to 
different people so easily ; and I was glad 
that I understood your manner better than 
some of the others." 

'' Better ! " said Charles bitterly. '' Better, 
when you thought that of me ! No, you 
need not say anything. I was in fault, not 
you. I don't know what right I had to 
imagine you understood me — you seemed to 
understand me — to fancy that we had any- 
thing in common, that in time " He 

broke into a low wretched lauofh. '' And all 
the while you were engaged to another man. 
Good God ! what a farce ; what a miserable 
mistake from first to last ! " 

Ruth said nothing. It was indeed a 
miserable mistake. 

He rose wearily to his feet. 

'' I was foro-ettino-," he said ; '' it is time to 


mmRsny of \imois 


go home." And they went back together In 
silence, which was more bearable than speech 
just then. 

The peacocks were still pirouetting and 
minueting on the stone balustrade as they 
came back to the gardens. The gong began 
to sound as they entered the piazza. 

To Ruth it was a dreadful meal. She 
tried to listen to Mr. Conway's account of 
the grey cob, or to the placid conversation of 
Mr. Alwynn about the beloved manuscripts. 
Fortunately the morning papers were full of 
a recent forgery in America, and a murder In 
London, which furnished topics when these 
were exhausted, and Charles used them to 
the utmost. 

At last the carriage came. Mr. Alwynn 
and Mr. Conway simultaneously broke into 
incoherent ejaculations respecting the pleasure 
of their visit ; Ruth's hand met Charles's for 
an embarrassed second ; and a moment later 
they were whirling down the straight wide 
approach, between the columns of fantasti- 


cally clipped hollies, leaving Charles standing 
in the doorway. He was still standing there 
when the carriao^e rolled under the arched 
gateway with its rampant stone lions. Ruth 
glanced back once as they turned into the 
road, at the stately old house, with its pointed 
gables and forests of chimneys cutting the 
grey sky line. She saw the owner turn 
slowly and go up the steps, and looked hastily 
away again. 

" Poor Danvers!" said Mr. Alwynn cheer- 
fully, also looking and putting Ruth's thoughts 
into words. " He must be desperately lonely 
in that house all by himself; but I suppose 
he is not often there." 

And Mr. Alwynn, whose mind had been 
entirely relieved since Ruth's engagement 
from the dark suspicion he had once har- 
boured respecting Charles, proceeded to 
dilate upon the merits of the charters, and 
of the owner of the charters, until he began 
to think Ruth had a headache ; and finding 
it to be the case, talked no more till they 


reached, at the end of their little journey, the 
door of Slumberleigh Rectory. 

" Is it very bad ?" he asked kindly, as he 
helped her out of the carriage. 

Ruth assented, fortunately with some faint 
vestige of truth, for her hat hurt her fore- 

" Then run up straight to your own room, 
and I will tell your aunt that you will come 
and have a chat with her later on ; per- 
haps after tea, when the post will be gone." 
Mr. Alwynn spoke in the whisper of 

Ruth was only too thankful to be allowed 
to slip on tiptoe to her own room, but she 
had not been there many minutes when a tap 
came to the door. 

" There, my dear," said Mr. Alwynn, 
putting his head in, and holding some letters 
towards her. " Your aunt ought to have 
forwarded them. I brought them up at 
once. And there is nearly an hour to post 
time, and she won't expect you to come 


down till then. I think the headache will be 
better now, eh ? " 

He nodded kindly at her, and closed the 
door again. Ruth sat down mechanically, 
and began to sort the packet he had put into 
her hands. The first three letters were in 
the same handwritinof, Dare's laree v^eue 
handwriting that ran from one end of the 
envelope to the other, and partly hid itself 
under the stamp. 

She looked at them, but did not open 
them. A feeling of intense lassitude and 
fatigue had succeeded to the unconscious 
excitement of the m.orning. She could not 
read them now. They must wait with the 
others. Presently she could feel an interest 
in them ; not now^ 

She leaned her head upon her hand, and a 
rush of pity swept away every other feeling 
as she recalled that last look at Stoke 
Moreton, and how^ Charles had turned so 
slowly and w^earily to go indoors. There 
was an ache at her heart as she thought of 


him, a sense of regret and loss. And he had 
loved her all the time ! 

"If I had only known ? " she said to 
herself, pressing her hands against her fore- 
head. '' But how could I tell — how could I 
tell ! " 

She raised her head with a sudden move- 
ment, and began with nervous fingers to open 
Dare's letters, and read them carefully. 



Ix the long evening that followed Ruth's 
departure from Stoke Moreton, Charles was 
alone for once in his own home. He was 
leaving again early on the morrow, but for 
the time he was alone, and heavy at heart. 
He sat for hours without stirring, looking 
into the fire. He had no power or will to 
control his thoughts. They wandered hither 
and thither, and up and down, never for a 
moment easing the dull miserable pain that 
lay beneath them all. 

Fool ! fool that he had been ! 

To have found her after all these years, 
and to have lost her without a stroke ! To 
have let another take her, and such a man as 
Dare ! To have such a fool's manner that 
he was thought to be in earnest when he 


was least so ; that now, when his whole 
future hung in the balance, retribution had 
overtaken him, and with bitter Irony had 
mocked at his earnestness and made it of 
none effect. She had thought It was his 
natural manner to all ! His cursed folly had 
lost her to him. If she had known, surely it 
would have been, it must have been different. 
At heart Charles was a very humble man, 
though it was not to be expected many 
would think so ; but nevertheless he had a 
deep, ever deepening consciousness (common 
to the experience of the humblest once In a 
lifetime), that between him and Ruth that 
mysterious link of mutual understanding and 
sympathy existed, which cannot be accounted 
for, which eludes analysis, which yet makes, 
when the sex happens to be identical, the 
indissoluble friendship of a David and a 
Jonathan, a Karlos and a Posa ; and where 
there is a difference of sex, brings about that 
rarest wonder of the world— a happy marriage. 
Like cleaves to like. He knew she would 


have loved him. She was his by right. 
The same law of attraction which had lifted 
them at once out of the dreary flats of ordinary 
acquaintanceship, would have drawn them 
ever close and closer together till they were 
knit in one. He knew, with a certainty that 
nothincr could shake, that he could have 
made her love him, even as he loved her ; 
unconsciously at first, slowly perhaps, for the 
current of strong natures, like that of deep 
rivers, is sometimes slow. Still the end 
would have been the same. 

And he had lost her by his own act, by his 
own heedless folly ; her want of vanity having 
lent a hand the while to put her beyond his 
reach for ever. 

It was a bitter hour. 

And as he sat late into the nieht beside 
the fire, that died down to dust and ashes 
before his absent eyes, ghosts of other heavy 
hours, ghosts of the past which he had long 
since buried out of his sight, came back and 
would not be denied. 


To live much in the past is a want of faith 
in the Power that gives the present. Com- 
paratively few men walk through their lives 
looking backwards. Women more frequently 
do so from a false estimate of life, fostered 
by romantic feeling in youth, which leads 
them, if the life of the affections is ended, 
resolutely to refuse to regard existence in 
any other maturer aspect, and to persist in 
wandering aimlessly forward, with eyes turned 
ever on the dim flowery paths of former 

" Let the dead past bury its dead." 

But there comes a time, when the grass 
has grown over those graves, when we may 
do well to go and look at them once more ; 
to stand once again in that solitary burial 
ground, '' where," as an earnest man has said, 
'' are buried broken vows, worn-out hopes, 
joys blind and deaf, faiths betrayed or gone 
astray, lost, lost love ; silent spaces where only 
one mourner ever comes." 

And to the least retrospective of us our 


dead past yet speaks at times, and speaks as 
one having authority. 

Such a time had come for Charles now. 
From the open grave of his love for Ruth 
he turned to look at others by which he had 
stood long ago, in grief as sharp, but which 
yet in all its bitterness had never struck as 
deep as this. 

Memory pointed back to a time twenty 
years ago, when he had hurried home through 
a long summer night to arrive at Stoke 
Moreton too late ; to find only the solemn 
shadow of the mother whom he had loved, 
and whom he had grieved ; too late to ask for 
forgiveness ; too late for anything but a wild 
passion of grief and remorse, and frantic self- 

The scene shifted to ten years later. It 
was a sultry July evening, the evening of the 
day on which the woman whom he had loved 
for years had married his brother. He was 
standinof on the deck of the steamer which 
was taking him from England, looking back 


at the grey town dwindling against the tawny- 
curtain of the sunset. In his brain was a 
wild clamour of wedding bells, and across 
the water, marking the pulse of the sea, came 
to his outward ears the slow tollino^ of a bell 
on a sunken rock near the harbour mouth. 

It seemed to be tolling for the death of all 
that remained of o-ood in him. In losing 
Evelyn, whom he had loved with all the 
idealism and reverence of a reckless man for 
a good woman, he believed, in the bitterness 
of his spirit, that he had lost all ; that he had 
been cut adrift from the last mooring to a 
better future, that nothing could hold him 
back now. And for a time it had been so, 
and he had drowned his trouble in a sea in 
which he well-nigh drowned himself as well. 

Once more Memory pointed; pointed 
across five dark years to an evening when he 
had sat as he was sitting now, alone by the 
wide stone hearth in the hall at Stoke Moreton, 
after his father's death, and after the reading 
of the will. He was the possessor of the old 


home, which he had always passionately loved, 
from w^hich he had been virtually banished so 
long. His father, who had never liked him, 
but who of late }'ears had hated him, as men 
only hate their eldest sons, had left all in his 
power to his second son, had entailed every 
acre of the Stoke Moreton and other family 
properties upon him and his children. 
Charles could touch nothing, and over him 
hung a millstone of debt, from which there 
was now no escape. He sat with his head 
in his hands, the man whom his friends were 
envying on his accession to supposed wealth 
and position — ruined. 

A few days later he was summoned to 
London by a man whom he had known for 
many years. He remembered well that last 
meeting with the stern old man whom he 
had found sitting in his armchair with death 
in his face. He had once or twice remon- 
strated with Charles in earlier days, and as 
he came into his presence now for the last 
time, and met his severe glance, he supposed, 


with the callousness that comes from suffering 
which has reached its lowest depths, that he 
was about to rebuke him again. 

''And so," said General Marston sternly, 
'' you have come into your kingdom ; into 
wdiat you deserve." 

" Yes," said Charles. '' If It Is any pleasure 
to you to know that what you prophesied on 
several occasions has come true, you can 
enjoy It. I am ruined." 

" You fool !" said the sick man slowly. '' To 
have come to five and thirty, and to have 
used up everything which makes life worth 
having. I am not speaking only of money. 
There Is a bankruptcy in your face that 
money will never pay. And you had talent, 
and a good heart, and the making of a man 
in you once ! I saw that when your father 
turned you adrift. I saw that when you were 
at your worst after your brother s marriage. 
Yes, you need not start. I knew your secret, 
and kept it as well as you did yourself. I tried 
to stop you ; but you w^ent your own way." 


Charles was silent. It was true, and he 
knew It. 

''And so you thought, I suppose, that if 
your father had made a just will you could 
have retrieved yourself ? " 

'' I know I could," said Charles firmly ; 
'' but he left the — ■ — shire property to Ralph, 
and every shilling of his capital ; and Ralph 
had my mother's fortune already. I have 
Stoke Aloreton and the place in Surrey, 
which he could not take from me, but every- 
thing is entailed, down to the trees In the 
park. I have nominally a large income ; but 
I am In the hands of the Jews. I can't 
settle with them as I expected, and they will 
squeeze me to the uttermost. However, as 
you say, I have the consolation of knowing I 
brought In on mvself." 

'' And If your father had acted justly, as 
you would call It, which I knew he never 
would, you would have run through every- 
thing In five years' time." 

*' No, I should not. I know I have been 

VOL. II. 23 


a fool ; but there are two kinds of fools — the 
kind that sticks to folly all its life, and the 
kind that has Its fling, and has done with it. 
I belong to the second kind. My father had 
no right to take my last chance from me. If 
he had left It me I should have used it." 

" You look tired of your fling," said the 
elder man. '' Very tired. And you think 
money would set you right, do you ? " He 
looked critically at the worn, desperate face 
opposite him. " I made my will the other 
day," he went on, his eyes still fixed on 
Charles. '' I had not much to leave, and I 
have no near relations, so I divided it among 
various charitable institutions. I see no 
reason to alter my will. If one leaves money, 
however small the sum may be, one likes to 
think It has been left to some purpose, with 
some prospect of doing good. A few^ days 
ago I had a surprise. I fancy it was to be 
my last surprise in this world. I inherited 
from a distant relation, who died intestate, a 
large fortune. After being a poor man all 


my days, wealth comes to me when I am on 
the point of going where money won't follow. 
Curious, isn't it ? I am oroinof to leave this 
second sum in the same spirit as the first, but 
in rather a different manner. I like to know 
what I am doing, so I sent for you. I am of 
opinion that the best thing I can do with it, 
is to set you on your legs again. What do 
you owe ? " 

Charles turned very red, and then very 

" What do you owe ? " repeated the sick 
man testily. '' I am getting tired. How 
much is it ? " He got out a cheque-book, 
and began filling it in. " Have you no 
tongue ? " he said angrily, looking up. " Tell 
me the exact figure. Well ? Keep nothing 

" I won't be given the whole," said Charles 
with an oath. '' Give me enough to settle 
the Jews, and I will do the rest out of my 
income. I won't o^et off scot free." 

" Well, then, have your own way as usual, 


and name the sum you want. There, take It," 
he said feebly, when Charles had mentioned 
with shame a certain hideous figure, '' and 
go. I shall never know what you do with it, 
so you can play ducks and drakes with it if 
you like. But you won't like. You have 
burned your fingers too severely to play with 
fire again. You have turned over so many 
new leaves that now you have come to the 
last in the book. I have given you another 
chance, Charles ; but one man can't do much 
to help another. The only person who can 
really help you is yourself. Give yourself a 
chance, too." 

How memory brought back every word of 
that strange interview. Charles saw again 
the face of the dying man ; heard again the 
stern, feeble voice, '' Give yourself a chance." 

He had eiven himself a chance. " Some 
natures, like comets, make strange orbits, 
and return from far." Charles had returned 
at last. The old man's investment had been 
a wise one. But as Charles looked back, 


after three years, he saw that his friend had 
been right. His money debts had been the 
least part of what he owed. There were 
other lone-standino^ accounts which he had 
paid in full during these three years, paid in 
the restless weariness and disappointment 
that underlay his life, in the loneliness in 
which he lived, in his contempt for all his 
former pursuits, which had left him at first 
devoid of any pursuits at all. 

He had had, as was natural, very little 
happiness in his life, but all the bitterness of 
all his bitter past seemed as nothing to the 
agony of this moment. He had loved 
Evelyn with his imagination, but he loved 
Ruth with his whole heart and soul, and — he 
had lost her. 

The nio^ht was far advanced. The dawn 
was already making faint bars over the tops 
of the shutters, was looking in at him as he 
sat motionless by his dim lamp and his dead 
fire. And, in spite of the growing dawn, it 
was a dark hour. 



Dare returned to Vandoii in the highest 
spirits, with an enormous emerald engage- 
ment ring in an inner waistcoat pocket. He 
put it on Ruth's third finger a few days later, 
under the ancient cedar on the terrace at 
Vandon, a spot wdiich, he informed her (for 
he was not without poetic flights at times), 
his inner consciousness associated with all 
the love scenes of his ancestors that were no 

He was stricken to the heart w^hen, after 
duly admiring it, Ruth gently explained to 
him that she could not wear his ring at 
present, until her engagement was given 

*' Let it then be given out," he said im- 


petuously. ''Ah! why already Is It not 
given out ? " 

She explained again, but It was difficult to 
make him understand, and she felt conscious 
that If he would have allowed her the 
temporary use of one hand to release a fly, 
which was loslne all self-control Inside her 
veil, she might have been more lucid. As It 
was, she at last made him realize the fact 
that until Lord Polesworth's return from 
America in November, no further step was 
to be taken. 

" But all Is right," he urged with pride. 
" I have seen my lawyer ; I make a settle- 
ment. I raise money on the property to 
make a settlement. There is nothing I will 
not do. I care for nothing only to marry 

Ruth led him to talk of other things. She 
was very gentle with him, always attentive, 
always ready to be interested ; but any one 
less self-centred than Dare would have had 
a miselvinof about her feeling for him. He 


had none. Half his \i(q he had spent in 
Paris, and, embued with French ideas of 
betrothal and marriage, he thought her 
manner at once exceedingly becoming and 
natural. She was reserved, but reserve was 
charming. She did not care for him very 
much perhaps, as yet, but as much as she 
could care for any one. Most men think 
that if a woman does not attach herself to 
them she is by nature cold. Dare was no 
exception to the rule ; and though he would 
have preferred that there should be less con- 
straint in their present intercourse, that she 
would be a little more shy, and a little less 
calm, still he was supremely happy and 
proud, and only longed to proclaim the 
fortunate state of his affairs to the world. 

One thing about Ruth puzzled him very 
much, and with a strange misgiving she saw 
it did so. Her interest in the Vandon 
cottages, and the schools, and the new pump, 
had been most natural up to this time. It 
had served to bring them together. But 


now the use of these things was past, and 
yet he observed, with increduhty at first and 
astonishment afterwards, that she clung to 
them more than ever. 

What mattered it for the moment whether 
the pump was put up or not, or whether the 
cottages by the river were protected from 
the floods ? Of course in time, for he had 
promised, a vague something would be done ; 
but why in the golden season of love and 
plighted faith revert to prosaic subjects such 
as these ? 

Some men are quite unable to believe in 
any act of a woman being genuine. They 
always find out that it has something to do 
with them. If an angel came down from 
heaven to warn a man of this kind of wrath 
to come, he would think the real object of 
her journey was to make his acquaintance. 

Ruth saw the incredulity in Dare's face 
when she questioned him, and her hearr sank 
within her. It sank yet lower when she told 
him one day, with a faint smile, that she 


knew he was not rich, and that she wanted 
him to let her help in the rebuilding of certain 
cottages, the plans of which he had brought 
over in the summer, but which had not 
yet been begun, apparently for want of 

** What you cannot do alone we can do 
together," she said. 

He agreed with effusion. He was sur- 
prised, flattered, delighted ; but entirely 

The cottages were begun immediately. 
They were near the river, which divided the 
Slumberleigh and Vandon properties. Ruth 
often went to look at them. It did her good 
to see them rising, strong and firm, though 
hideous to behold, on higher ground than the 
poor dilapidated hovels at the water s edge, 
where fever was always breaking out, which 
yet made, as they supported each other in 
their crookedness, and leant over their own 
wavering reflections, such a picturesque 
sketch that it seemed a shame to supplant 


them by such brand new red brick, such blue 
tiling, such dreadful little porches. 

Ruth drew the old condemned cottages, 
Avith the long lines of pollarded marshy 
meadow, and the distant bridge and mill in 
the backo^round, but it was a sketch she 
never cared to look at afterwards. She was 
constantly drawiuQf now. There was a 
vaofue restlessness in her at this time that 
made her take refuge in the world of nature, 
where the mind can withdraw itself from 
itself for a time into a stronofhold where mis- 
giving and anxiety cannot corrupt, nor self 
break through and steal. In these days she 
shut out self steadfastly, and fixed her eyes 
firmly on the future, as she herself had made 
it with her own hands. 

She had grown very grave of late. Dare's 
high spirits had the effect of depressing her 
more than she would allow, even to herself. 
She liked him. She told herself so every 
day, and it was a pleasure to her to see him 
so happy. But when she had accepted him 


he was so diffident, so quiet, so anxious, that 
she had not reahzed that he would return 
to his previous happy self-confidence, his 
volubility, his grey hats, in fact his former 
gay self directly his mind was at ease and 
he had got what he wanted. She saw at 
once that the chancre was natural, but she 
found it difficult to keep pace with, and the 
effort to do so was a constant strain. 

She had yet to learn that it is hard to 
live for those who live for self. Between 
a nature which struggles, however feebly, 
towards a higher life, and one whose sole 
object is gracefully and good-naturedly, but 
persistently to enjoy itself, there is a great 
gulf fixed, of which often neither are aware, 
until they attempt a close relationship with 
each other, when the chasm reveals itself 
with appalling clearness to the higher nature 
of the two. 

Ruth was glad when a long-standing 
engagement to sing at a private concert in 
one place, and sell modern knickknacks in old 


English costume at another, took her from 
Slumberlelgh for a week. She looked forward 
to the dreary dissipation in store for her with 
positive gladness ; and when the week had 
passed, and she was returning once more, 
she wished the stations would not fly so 
quickly past, that the train would not hurry 
itself so unnecessarily to bring her back to 

As the little local line passed Stoke 
Moreton station she looked out for a 
moment, but leaned back hurriedly as she 
caught a glimpse of the Danvers' omnibus in 
the background, with its great black horses, 
and a footman with a bag standing on the 
platform. In another moment Mrs. Alwynn, 
followed by the footman, made a dart at 
Ruth's carriage, jumped in, seized the bag, 
repeated voluble thanks, pressed half her 
gaily dressed person out again through the 
window to ascertain that her boxes were put 
in the van, caugrht her veil in the ventilator 
as the train started, and finally precipitated 


herself Into a seat on her bag, as the motion 
destroyed her equIHbrium. 

'' Well, Aunt Fanny ! " said Ruth. 

" Why, goodness gracious, my dear, if it 
Isn't you ! And, now I think of it, you were 
to come home to-day. Well, how oddly 
things fall out to be sure, me getting into 
your carriage like that. And you'll never 
guess, Ruth, though for that matter there's 
nothing so very astonishing about It, as I 
told Mrs. Thursby, you'll never guess where 
Tzjc been visiting." 

Ruth remembered seeing the Danvers' 
omnibus at the station, and suddenly remem- 
bered too, a certain request which she had 
once made of Charles. 

*' Where can It have been ? " she said, with 
a great show of curiosity. 

" You will never guess," said Mrs. Alwynn, 
in high glee. '' I shall have to help you. 
You remember my sprained ankle ? There ! 
Now I have as good as told you." 

But Ruth would not spoil her aunt's 


pleasure ; and after numerous guesses, Mrs. 
Alwynn had the dehght of taking her com- 
pletely by surprise, when at last she leaned 
forward and said, with a rustle of pride, 
emphasizing each word with a pat on Ruth's 
knee — 

" I've been to Stoke Moreton." 

" How delightful ! " ejaculated Ruth. '' How 
astonished I am ! Stoke Moreton ! " 

*' You may well say that," said Mrs. 
Alwynn, nodding to her. '' Mrs. Thursby 
would not believe it at first, and afterwards 
she said she was afraid there would not be 
any party ; but there was, Ruth. There was a 
married couple, very nice people, of the name 
of Reynolds. I dare say, being London 
people, you may have known them. She had 
quite the London look about her, though not 
dressed low of an evening ; and he was a 
clergyman, who had overworked himself, and 
had come down to Stoke Moreton to rest, 
and had soup at luncheon. And there was 
another person besides, a Colonel Middleton, 


a very clever man, who wrote a book that 
was printed, and had been in India, and was 
altogether most superior. We were three 
gentlemen and two ladies, but we had ices 
each night, Ruth, two kinds of Ices ; and the 
second night I wore my ruby satin, and the 
clergyman at Stoke Moreton, that nice young 
Mr. Brown, who comes to your uncle's 
chapter meetings, dined, with his sister, a 
very pleasing person Indeed, Ruth, In black. 
In fact, it was a very pleasant little gathering, 
so nice and informal, and the footmen did not 
wait at luncheon, just put the pudding and 
the hot plates down to the fire ; and Sir 
Charles so chatty and so full of his jokes, and 
I always like to hear him, though my scent 
of humour is not quite the same as his. Sir 
Charles has a feeling heart, Ruth. You 
should have heard Mr. Reynolds talk about 
him. But he looked very thin and pale, my 
dear, and he seemed to be always so tired, 
but still as pleasant as could be. And I told 
him he wanted a wife to look after him, and 


I advised him to have an egg beaten up in 
ever such a Httle drop of brandy at eleven 
o'clock, and he said he would think about it, 
he did indeed, Ruth ; so I just went quietly 
to the housekeeper and asked her to see 
about it, and a very sensible person she was, 
Ruth, been in the family twenty years, and 
thinks all the world of Sir Charles, and 
showed me the damask table cloths that 
were used for the prince's visit, and the 
white satin coverlet, embroidered with gold 
thistles, quite an heirloom, which had been 
worked by the ladies of the house when 
James I. slept there. Think of that, my 
dear ! " 

And so Mrs. Alwynn rambled on, recount- 
ing how Charles had shown her all the 
pictures himself, and the piazza where the 
orange and myrtle trees were, and how she 
and Mrs. Reynolds had gone for a drive 
together, " in a beautiful landau," etc., etc., 
till they reached home. 

As a rule Ruth rather shrank from travel- 

VOL. II. 24 


ling with Mrs. Alwynn, who always journeyed 
in her best clothes, "because you never know 
whom you may not meet." To stand on a 
platform with her was to be made conspicuous, 
and Ruth generally found herself uncon- 
sciously going into half mourning for the day, 
when she went anywhere by rail with her 
aunt. To-day Mrs. Alwynn was more gaily 
dressed than ever, but as Ruth looked at her 
beaming face she felt nothing but a strange 
pleasure in the fact that Charles had not for- 
gotten the little request which later events 
had completely effaced from her own memory. 
He, it seemed, had remembered, and in spite 
of what had passed, had done what she asked 
him. She wished that she could have told 
him she was grateful. Alas ! There were 
other things that she wished she could have 
told him ; that she was sorry she had mis- 
judged him ; that she understood him better 
now. But what did it matter ! What did 
it matter ! She was going to marry Dare, 
and he was the person whom she must 


try to understand for the remainder of 
her natural Hfe. She thought a little wearily 
that she could understand Jiiin without 



The 1 8th of October had arrived. Slumber- 
lelgh Hall was filling. The pheasants, 
reprieved till then, supposed it was only for 
partridge shooting, and thinking no evil, ate 
Indian corn, and took no thought for the 
annual St. Bartholomew of their race. 

Mabel Thursby had met Ruth out walking 
that day, and had informed her that Charles 
was to be one of the guns, also Dare, though, 
as she remembered to add, suspecting Dare 
admired Ruth, the latter was a bad shot, and 
was only asked out of neighbourly feeling. 

After parting with Mabel, Ruth met, almost 
at her own gate, Ralph Danvers, who passed 
her on horseback, and then turned on recog- 
nizing her. Ralphs conversational powers 


were not great, and though he walked his 
horse beside her, he chiefly contented him- 
self with assentino- to Ruth's remarks until 

she asked after iNIoUy. 

He at once whistled, and flicked a fly off 
his horse's neck. 

" Sad business with ]\Iolly," he said ; '' and 
mother out for the day. Great grief in the 
nursery. \^ic's dead ! " 

" Oh, poor ^lolly ! " 

" Died this morning. Fits. I say," with 
a sudden inspiration, '* you wouldn't go over 
and cheer her up, would you ? ]^I other's 
out. I'm out. ^Magistrates' meeting at 
D ." 

Ruth said she had nothing to do, and 
would go over at once, and Ralph nodded 
kindly at her, and rode on. He liked her, 
and it never occurred to him that it could be 
anything but a privilege to minister to any 
need of Molly's. He jogged on more happily 
after his meeting with Ruth, and only remem- 
bered half an hour later that he had com- 


pletely forgotten to order the dog-cart to 
meet Charles, who was coming to Ather- 
stone for a night before he went on to kill 
the Slumberleigh pheasants the following 

Ruth set out at once over the pale stubble 
fields, glad of an object for a walk. 

Deep distress reigned meanwhile in the 
nursery at Atherstone. Vic, the much- 
beloved, the stoat pursuer, the would-be 
church goer, Vic was dead, and Molly's soul 
refused comfort. In vain nurse conveyed a 
palpitating guinea pig into the nursery in a 
bird cage, on the narrow door of which 
remains of fur showed an unwilling entrance ; 
Molly could derive no comfort from guinea 

In vain was the new horse, with leather 
hoofs, with real hair, and a horsehair tail — 
in vain was that token of esteem from Uncle 
Charles brouo-ht out of its stable, and un- 
evenly yoked with a dappled pony planted 
on a green oval lawn, into Molly's own hay 


cart. Molly's woe was beyond the reach of 
hay carts, or horsehair tails, however realistic. 
Like Hezekiah, she turned her face to the 
nursery wall, on which trains and railroads 
were depicted ; and even when cook herself 
rose up out of her kitchen to comfort 
her with material consolations, she refused 
the mockery of a gingerbread nut, which 
could not restore the friend with whom 
previous gingerbread nuts had always been 

Presently a step came along the passage, 
and Charles, who had found no one in the 
drawing-room, came in tired and dusty, and 
inclined to be annoyed at having had to walk 
up from the station. 

Molly flew to him, and flung her arms 
tightly round his neck. 

'' Oh, Uncle Charles ! Uncle Charles ! 
Vic is dead ! " 

'' I am so sorry, Molly," taking her on his 

Nurse and the nurserv maid and cook 


withdrew, leaving the two mourners alone 

''He is dead. Uncle Charles. He was 
quite well, and eating Albert biscuits with 

the dolls this morning, and now " The 

rest was too dreadful, and Molly burst into a 
flood of tears, and burrowed with her head 
against the faithful waistcoat of Uncle 
Charles — Uncle Charles, the friend, the con- 
soler of all the ills that Molly had so far 
been heir to. 

''Vic had a very happy life, Molly," said 
Charles, pressing the little brown head 
against his cheek, and vaguely wondering 
what it would be like to have any one to turn 
to in time of trouble. 

" I always kept trouble from him, except 
that time I shut him in the door," gasped 
Molly. " I never took him out in a string, and 
he only wore his collar — that collar you gave 
him, that made him scratch so — on Sundays." 

" And he was not ill a long time. He did 
not suffer any pain." 


" No, Uncle Charles, not much ; but though 
he did not say anything, his face looked 
worse than screaming, and he passed away 
very stiff in his hind legs. Oh ! " (with a fresh 
outburst), " when cook told me that her sister 
that was in a decline had gone, I never 
thought," (sob, sob !) " poor Vic would be the 

A step came along the passage, a firm 
light step that Charles knew, that made his 
heart beat violently. 

The door opened and a familiar voice said — 

'' Molly ! My poor Molly ! I met father, 
and " 

Ruth stood in the doorway, and stopped 
short. A wave of colour passed over her 
face, and left it paler than usual. 

Charles looked at her over the mop of 
Molly's brown head against his breast. Their 
^rave eyes met, and each thought how ill 
the other looked. 

" I did not know — I thought you were 
going to Slumberleigh to-day," said Ruth. 

90 SIR danvers. 

** I go to-morrow morninor," replied Charles. 
" I came here first." 

There was an awkward silence ; but Molly 
came to their relief by a sudden rush at 
Ruth, and a repetition of the details of the 
death-bed scene of poor Vic for her benefit, 
for which both were grateful. 

" You ouQ^ht to be thlnkinof where he Is to 
be burled, Molly," suggested Charles, when 
she had finished. " Let us go into the 
garden and find a place." 

Molly revived somewhat at the prospect of 
a funeral, and, though Ruth was anxious to 
leave her with her uncle, Insisted on her 
remaining for the ceremony. They went 
out together, Molly holding a hand of each, 
to choose a suitable spot In the garden. By 
the time the grave had been dug by Charles, 
Molly was sufficiently recovered to take a 
lively Interest In the proceedings, and to 
insist on the attendance of the stable cat, in 
deep mourning, when the remains of poor 
Vic, arrayed In his best collar, wer^e lowered 
into their long home. 


By the time the last duties to the dead had 
been performed, and Charles, under Molly's 
direction, had planted a rose tree on the 
grave, while Ruth surrounded the little 
mound with white pebbles, Molly's tea-time 
had arrived, and that young- lady allowed 
herself to be led away b}^ the nursery maid, 
with the stable cat in a close embrace, 
resigned, and even cheerful at the remem- 
brance of those creature comforts of cook's, 
which earlier in the day she had refused so 

When ^lolly left them, Ruth and Charles 
walked together in silence to the garden 
gate which led to the footpath over the fields 
by which she had come. Neither had a 
word to say, who formerly had so much. 

'' Good-bye," she said, without looking at 

He seemed Intent on the hasp of the gate. 

There was a moment's pause. 

" I should like," said Ruth, hating herself 
for the formality of her tone, '' to thank you 


before I go for giving Mrs. Alwynn so much 
pleasure. She still talks of her visit to you. 
It was kind of you to remember it. So 
much seems to have happened since then, 
that I had not thought of it again." 

At her last words Charles raised his eyes 
and looked at her with strange wistful in- 
tentness, but when Ruth had finished speak- 
ing he had no remark to make in answer ; 
and as he stood bareheaded by the gate, 
twirling the hasp and looking, as a hasty 
glance told her, so worn and jaded in the 
sunshine, she said '' Good-bye " again, and 
turned hastily away. 

And all along the empty harvested fields, 
and all along the lanes, where the hips and 
haws grew red and stiff among the ruddy 
hedgerows, Ruth still saw Charles's grave 
worn face. 

That night she saw it still, as she sat in 
her own room, and listened to the whisper 
of the rain upon the roof, and the touch of 
its myriad fingers on the window-panes. 


'' I cannot bear to see him look like that. 
I cannot bear it," she said suddenly, and the 
Storm which had been o^atherine so lone, the 
clouds of which had darkened the sky for so 
many days, broke at last, with a strong and 
mighty wind of swift emotion which carried 
all before it. 

It was a relief to give way, to let the 
tempest do its worst, and remain passive. 
But when its force was spent at last, and it 
died away in gusts and flying showers, it left 
flood and wreckage and desolation behind. 
When Ruth raised her head and looked 
about her, all her landmarks were gone. 
There was a streaming glory in the heavens, 
but It shone on the ruin of all her little world 
below. She loved Charles, and she knew it. 
It seemed to her now as if. thouo^h she had 
not realized it, she must have loved him 
from the first ; and with the knowledge came 
an overwhelming sense of utter misery that 
struck terror to her heart. She understood 
at last the meaning- of the weariness and the 


restless misgivings of these last weeks. If 
heretofore they had spoken in riddles, they 
spoke plainly now. Every other feeling in 
the world seemed to have been swept away 
by a passion, the overwhelming strength of 
which she regarded panic-stricken. She 
seemed to have been asleep all her life, to 
have stirred restlessly once or twice of late, 
and now to have waked to consciousness and 
ao-ony. Love, with women like Ruth, is a 
great happiness or a great calamity. It is 
with them indeed for better, for worse. 

Those whose feelings lie below the surface 
escape the hundred rubs and scratches which 
superficial natures are heir to ; but it is the 
nerve which is not easily reached which when 
touched gives forth the sharpestpang. Nature, 
when she gives intensity of feeling, mercifully 
covers it well with a certain superficial cold- 
ness. Ruth had sometimes wondered why 
the incidents, the books, which called forth 
emotion in others, passed her by. The 
vehement passion which once or twice in her 


life she had involuntarily awakened in others 
had met with no response from herself. The 
sight of the fire she had unwittingly kindled 
only made her shiver with cold. She believed 
herself to be cold — always a dangerous as- 
sumption on the part of a woman, and apt 
to prove a broken reed in emergency. 

Charles knew her better than she knew 
herself. Her pride and unconscious humble- 
mindedness, her frankness with its under- 
lying reserve, spoke of a strong nature, slow, 
perhaps, but earnest, constant, and, once 
roused, capable of deep attachment. 

And now the common lot had befallen her, 
the common lot of man and womankind since 
Adam first met Eve in the Garden of Eden. 
Ruth was not exempt. 

She loved Charles. 

When the dawn came up pale and tearful 
to wake the birds, it found her still sitting 
by her window, sitting where she had sat all 
night, looking with blank eyes at nothing. 


Creep Into bed, Ruth, for already the sparrows 
are all waking, and their cheerful greetings 
to the new day add weariness to your weari- 
ness. Creep into bed, for soon the servants 
will be stirring, and before long Martha, who 
has slept all night, and thinks your lines have 
fallen to you in pleasant places and late hours, 
will bring the hot water. 



Reserved people pay dear for their reserve 
when they are in trouble, when the iron 
enters into their soul, and their eyes meet 
the eyes of the world tearless, unflinching, 
making no sign. 

Enviable are those whose sorrows are only 
pen and ink deep, who take every one into 
their confidence, who are comforted by sym- 
pathy, and fly to those who will weep with 
them. There is an utter solitude, a silence 
in the grief of a proud, reserved nature which 
adds a frightful weight to its intensity ; and 
when the night comes, and the chamber door 
is shut, who shall say what agonies of prayers 
and tears, what prostrations of despair pass 
like waves over the soul, to make the balance 
even ? 
VOL. II. . 25 


As a rule, the kindest and best of people 
seldom notice any alteration of appearance 
or manner in one of their own family. A 
stranger points it out, if it ever is pointed 
out, which happily is not often, unless, of 
course, in cases where advice has been dis- 
regarded, and the first symptom of ill-health 
is jealously watched for, and triumphantly 
hailed, by those whose mission in life it is 
to say, " I told you so." 

Mrs. Alwynn, whose own complaints were 
of so slight a nature that they had to be 
constantly referred to to give them any im- 
portance at all, was not likely to notice that 
Ruth's naturally pale complexion had become 
several degrees too pale during the last two 
days, or that she had dark rings under her 
eyes. Besides, only the day before, had not 
Mrs. Alwynn, in cutting out a child's shirt, 
cut out at the same time her best drawing- 
room table cloth as well, which calamity had 
naturally driven out of her mind every other 
subject for the time. 


Ruth had proved unsympathetic, and Mrs. 
Alwynn had felt her to be so. The next 
day, also, when Mrs. Alwynn had begun to 
talk over what she and Ruth were to wear 
that evening at a dinner-party at Slumber- 
leigh Hall, Ruth had again shown a decided 
want of interest, and was not even to be 
roused by the various conjectures of her aunt, 
though repeated over and over again, as to 
who would most probably take her in to 
dinner, who would be assigned to Mr. Alwynn, 
and whether Ruth would be taken in by a 
married man or a single one. As it was 
quite impossible absolutely to settle these 
interesting points beforehand, Mrs. Alwynn's 
mind had a vast field for conjecture opened 
to her, in which she disported herself at will, 
varying the entertainment for herself and 
Ruth by speculating as to who would sit on 
the other side of each of them ; " for," as she 
justly observed, " everybody has two sides, 
my dear ; and though, for my part, I can talk 
to anybody — Members of Parliament, or 


bishops, or any one — still it is difficult for a 
young person ; and if you feel dull, Ruth, 
you can always turn to the person on the 
other side with some easy little remark." 

Ruth rose and went to the window. It 
had rained all yesterday ; it had been raining 
all the morning to-day, but it was fair now ; 
nay, the sun was sending out long burnished 
shafts from the broken grey and blue of the 
sky. She was possessed by an unreasoning 
longing to get out of the house into the open 
air — anywhere, no matter where, beyond the 
reach of Mrs. Alwynn's voice. She had 
been fairly patient with her for many months, 
but during these two last wet days a sense of 
sudden miserable irritation would seize her 
on the slightest provocation, which filled her 
with remorse and compunction, but into 
which she would relapse at a moment's notice. 
Every morning since her arrival, nine months 
ago, had Mrs. Alwynn returned from her 
housekeeping with the same cheerful bustle, 
the same piece of information — " Well, Ruth, 


I've ordered dinner, my dear. First one 
duty, and then another ! " 

Why had that innocent and not unfamihar 
phrase become so intolerable when she heard 
it again this morning ? And when Mrs. 
Alwynn wound up the musical-box, and the 
'' Buffalo Girls " tinkled on the ear to relieve 
the monotony of a wet morning, why should 
Ruth have struggled wildly for a moment 
with a sudden inclination to laugh and cry 
at the same time, which resulted in two large 
tears falling unexpectedly, to her surprise 
and shame, upon her book ? 

She shut the book, and recovering herself 
with an effort, listened patiently to Mrs. 
Alwynn's remarks, until, early in the after- 
noon, the sky cleared. Making some excuse 
about going to see her old nurse at the lodge 
at Arleigh, who was still ill, she at last 
effected her escape out of the room, and out 
of the house. 

The air was fresh and clear, though cold. 
The familiar fields and beaded hedgerows, 


the red land, new ploughed, where the plovers 
hovered, the grey broken sky above, soothed 
Ruth like the presence of a friend, as Nature, 
even in her commonest moods, has ministered 
to many an one who has loved her before 
Ruth's time. 

Our human loves partake always of the 
nature of speculations. We have no security 
for our capital (which, fortunately, is seldom 
so large as we suppose), but the love of 
Nature is a sure investment, which she 
repays a thousandfold, which she repays 
most prodigally when the heart is bankrupt 
and full of bitterness, as Ruth's heart was 
that day. For in Nature, as Wordsworth 
says, '' there is no bitterness," that worst 
sting of human grief. And as Ruth walked 
among the quiet fields, and up the yellow 
aisles of the autumn glades to Arleigh, Nature 
spoke of peace to her — not of joy or of 
happiness as in old days, for she never lies, 
as human comforters do, and these had gone 
out of her life ; but of the peace that duty 


Steadfastly adhered to will bring at last ; the 
peace that after much turmoil will come in 
the end to those who, amid a babel of louder 
tongues, hear and obey the low-pitched voices 
of conscience and of principle. 

For it never occurred to Ruth for a 
moment to throw over Dare and marry 
Charles. She had given her word to Dare, 
and her word was her bond. It was as 
much a matter of being true to herself as 
to him. It was very simple. There were 
no two ways about it in her mind. The 
idea of breaking off her engagement was 
not to be thought of. It would be dis- 

We often think that if we had been placed 
in the same difficulties which we see over- 
whelm others, we could have got out of them. 
Just so ; we might have squeezed, or wriggled, 
or crept out of a position from which another 
who would not stoop could not have escaped. 
People are differently constituted. Most 
persons with common sense can sink their 


principles temporarily at a pinch ; but others 
there are who go through life prisoners on 
parole to their sense of honour or duty. If 
escape takes the form of a temptation, they 
do not escape. And Ruth, walking with 
bent head beneath the swaying trees, dreamed 
of no escape. 

She soon reached the little lodge, the rusty 
gates of which barred the grass-grown drive 
to the shuttered, tenantless old house at a 
little distance. It was a small grey stone 
house of many gables, and low lines of 
windows, that if inhabited would have 
possessed but little charm, but which in its 
deserted state had a certain pathetic interest. 
The place had been to let for years, but no 
one had taken it ; no one was likely to take 
it in the disrepair which was now fast sliding 
into ruin. 

The garden beds were almost grown over 
with weeds, but blots of nasturtium colour 
showed here and there among the ragged 
green, and a Virginia creeper had done its 


gorgeous red-and-yellow best to cheer the 
grey stone walls. But the place had a dreary 
appearance even in the present sunshine ; 
and, after looking at it for a moment, Ruth 
went indoors to see her old nurse. After 
sitting with her, and reading the usual 
favourite chapter in the big Bible, and 
answering the usual question of '' any news 
of Master Raymond " in the usual way, Ruth 
got up to go, and the old woman asked her 
if she wanted the drawing-block which she 
had left with her some time ago, with an 
unfinished sketch on it of the stables. She 
got it out, and Ruth looked at it. It was a 
slight sketch of an octagonal building with 
wide arches all round it, roofing in a paved 
path, on which, in days gone by, it had 
evidently been the pernicious custom to exer- 
cise the horses, whose stalls and loose boxes 
formed the centre of the building. The 
stable had a certain quaintness, and the 
sketch was at that delightful point when no 
random stroke has as yet falsified the promise 


that a finished drawing, however clever, so 
seldom fulfils. 

Ruth took It up, and looked out of the 
window. The sun was blazing out, ashamed 
of his absence for so long. She might as 
well finish it now. She was glad to be out 
of the way of meeting any one, especially the 
shooters, whose guns she had heard in the 
nearer Slumberleigh coverts several times 
that afternoon. The Arleigh woods she 
knew were to be kept till later in the month. 
She took her block and paint-box, and pick- 
ing her way along the choked gravel walk 
and down the side drive to the stables, sat 
down on the bench for chopping wood which 
had been left in the place to which she had 
previously dragged it, and set to work. She 
was sitting under one of the arches out of 
the wind, and an obsequious yellow cat came 
out of the door of one of the nearest horse- 
boxes in which wood was evidently stacked, 
and rubbed Itself against her dress, with a 
reckless expenditure of hair. 


As Ruth Stopped a moment, bored but 
courteous, to return its well-meant atten- 
tions by friction behind the ears, she heard 
a slight crackling among the wood in the 
stable. Rats abounded in the place, and 
she was just about to recall the cat to its 
professional duties, when her own atten- 
tion was also distracted. She started vio- 
lently, and grasped the drawing-block in 
both hands. 

Clear over the gravel, muffled but still dis- 
tinct across the long wet grass, she could 
hear a firm step coming. Then it rang out 
sharply on the stone pavement. A tall man 
came suddenly round the corner, under the 
archway, and stood before her. It was 

The yellow cat, which had a leaning 
towards the aristocracy, left Ruth, and picking 
its way daintily over the round stones towards 
him, rubbed off some more of its wardrobe 
against his heather shooting stockings. 

" I hardly think it is worth while to say 


anything except the truth," said Charles at 
last. " I have followed you here." 

As Ruth could say nothing in reply, it was 
fortunate that at the moment she had nothing 
to say. She continued to mix a little pool 
of Prussian blue and Italian pink without 
looking up. 

" I hurt my gun hand after luncheon, and 
had to stop shooting at Croxton corner. As 
I went back to Slumberleigh, across the 
fields below the Rectory, I thought I saw 
you in the distance, and followed you." 

" Is your hand much hurt ? " — with sudden 

" No," said Charles, reddening a little. 
''It will stop my shooting for a day or two, 
but that is all." 

The colours were mixed again. Ruth, 
contrary to all previous conviction, added 
light red to the Italian pink. The sketch 
had gone rapidly from bad to worse, but the 
light red finished it off. It never, so to 
speak, held up its head again ; but I believe 


she has it still somewhere, put away in a 
locked drawer in tissue paper, as if it were 
very valuable. 

" I did not come without a reason," said 
Charles, after a long pause, speaking with 
difficulty. " It is no good beating about the 
bush. I want to speak to you again about 
what I told you three weeks ago. Have you 
forgotten what that was ? " 

Ruth shook her head. S/ie had not for- 
gotten. Her hand began to tremble, and he 
sat down beside her on the bench, and taking 
the brush out of her hand, laid it in its box. 

" Ruth," he said gently, " I have not been 
very happy during the last three weeks, but 
two days ago, when I saw you again, I 
thought you did not look as if you had been 
very happy either. Am I right ? Are you 

happy in your engagement with ? Quite 

content ? Quite satisfied ? Still silent. Am 
I to have no answer ? " 

*' Some questions have no answers," said 
Ruth steadily, looking away from him. '' At 


least, the questions that ought not to be 
asked have none." 

" I will not ask any more, then. Perhaps, 
as you say, I have no right. You won't tell 
me whether you are unhappy, but your face 
tells me so in spite of you. It told me so 
two days ago, and I have thought of it every 
hour of the day and night since." 

She gathered herself together for a final 
effort to stop what she knew was coming, 
and said desperately — 

*' I don't know how it is. I don't mean it, 
and yet everything I say to you seems so 
harsh and unkind ; but I think it would have 
been better not to come here, and I think it 
would be better, better for us both, if you 
would go away now." 

Charles's face became set and very white. 
Then he put his fortune to the touch. 

'' You are right," he said. " I will go away 
— for good ; I will never trouble you again, 
when you have told me that you do not 
love me." 


The colour rushed Into her face, and then 
died slowly away again, even out of the 
tightly compressed lips. 

There was a long silence, in which he 
waited for a reply that did not come. At 
last she turned and looked him in the face. 
Who has said that light eyes cannot be im- 
passioned ? Her deep eyes, dark with the 
utter blankness of despair, fell before the 
intensity of his. He leant towards her, and 
with gentle strength put his arm round her, 
and drew her to him. His voice came in 
a broken whisper of passionate entreaty close 
to her ear. 

'* Ruth, I love you, and you love me. We 
belonof to each other. We were made for 
each other. Life is not possible apart. It 
must be together, Ruth, always together, 

always " and his voice broke down 


Surely he was right. A love such as theirs 
overrode all petty barriers of every-day right 
and wrong, and was a law unto Itself. Surely 


It was vain to struggle against Fate, against 
the soft yet mighty current which was sweep- 
ing her away beyond all landmarks, beyond 
the sight of land itself, out towards an infinite 

And the eyes she loved looked into hers 
with an agony of entreaty, and the voice she 
loved spoke of love, spoke brokenly of un- 
worthiness, and an unhappy past, and of a 
brighter future, a future with her. 

Her brain reeled. Her reason had gone. 
Let her yield now. Surely, if only she could 
think, if the power to think had not deserted 
her, it was right to yield. The current was 
taking her ever swifter whither she knew 
not. A moment more and there would be 
no going back. 

She began to tremble, and wrenching her 
hands out of his, pressed them before her 
eyes to shut out the sight of the earnest face 
so near her own. But she could not shut 
out his voice, and Charles's voice could be 
very gentle, very urgent. 


But at the eleventh hour another voice 
broke In on his, and spoke as one having 
authority. Conscience, if accustomed to be 
disregarded on common occasions, will rarely 
come to the fore with any decision in emer- 
gency ; but the weakest do not put him in 
a place of command all their lives without 
at least one result, that he has got the habit 
of speaking up and making himself attended 
to in time of need. He spoke now, urgently, 
imperatively. Her judgment, her reason 
were alike gone for the time, but when she 
had paced the solemn aisles of the woods an 
hour ago in possession of them, had she then 
even thought of doing what she was on the 
verge of doing now ? What had happened 
during that hour to reverse the steadfast 
resolve which she had made then ? What 
she had thought right an hour ago remained 
right now. What she would have put far 
from her as dishonourable then, remained 
dishonourable now, though she might be too 
insane to see it. 

VOL. II. 26 


Terror seized her, as of one In a dream 
who is conscious of impending danger, and 
struggles to awake before it is too late. 
She started to her feet, and putting forcibly 
aside the hands that would have held her 
back, walked unsteadily towards the nearest 
pillar, and leaned against it, trembling 

*' Do not tempt me," she said hoarsely. 
'' I cannot bear it." 

He came and stood beside her. 
" I do not tempt you," he said. *' I want 
to save you and myself from a great calamity 
before It Is too late." 

*' It Is too late already." 
** No/' said Charles, in a low voice of 
intense determination. "It Is not — yet. It 
will be soon. It Is still possible to go back. 
You are not married to him, and It Is no 
longer right that you should marry him. You 
must give him up. There is no other 

*' Yes," said Ruth with vehemence. 


" There Is another way. You have made 
me forget It ; but before you came I saw It 
clearly. I can't think It out as I did then ; 
but I know It Is there. There Is another 
way," and her voice faltered ; '' to do what Is 
right, and let everything else go." 

Charles saw for the first time, with a 
sudden frightful contraction of the heart, that 
her will was as strong as his own. He had 
staked everything on one desperate appeal to 
her feelings ; he had carried the outworks, 
and now another adversary — her conscience 
— rose up between him and her. 

" A marriage without love Is a sin," he 
said quietly. " If you had lived In the world 
as long as I have, and had seen what marriage 
without love means, and what It generally 
comes to In the end, you would know that 
I am speaking the truth. You have no right 
to marry Dare If you care for me. Hesitate, 
and It will be too late ! Break off your 
engagement now. Do you suppose," with 
sudden fire, " that we shall cease to love each 


Other, that I shall be able to cease to love 
you for the rest of my life because you are 
Dare's wife ? What is clone can't be undone. 
Our love for each other can't. It is no good 
shutting your eyes to that. Look the facts 
in the face, and don't deceive yourself into 
thinking that the most difficult course is 
necessarily the right one." 

He turned from her, and sat down on the 
bench again, his chin in his hands, his 
haggard eyes fastened on her face. He had 
said his last word, and she felt that when she 
spoke it would be her last word too. Neither 
could bear much more. 

"All you say sounds right — at first',' she 
said, after a long silence, and as she spoke 
Charles's hands dropped from his face and 
clenched themselves together ; " but I cannot 
go by what any one thinks unless I think so 
myself as well. I can't take other people's 
judgments. When God gave us our own, He 
did not mean us to shirk using it. What you 
say is right, but there is something which 


after a little bit seems more rio^ht — at least, 
which seems so to me. I cannot look at the 
future. I can only see one thing distinctly, 
now in the present, and that is that I cannot 
break my word. I never have been able to 
see that a woman's word is less binding than 
a man's. When I said I would marry him, it 
was of my own free will. I knew what I 
was doing, and it was not only for his sake 
I did it. It is not as if he believed I cared 
for him very much. Then, perhaps — but he 
knows I don't, and — he is different from 
other men — he does not seem to mind. I 
knew at the time that I accepted him for the 
sake of other things, which are just the same 
now as they were then ; because he was poor 
and I had money ; because I felt sure he 
would never do much by himself, and I 
thought I could help him, and my money 
would help too ; because the people at 
Vandon are so wretched, and their cottages 
are tumbling down, and there is no one who 
lives among them and cares about them. I 


can't make it clear, and I did hesitate ; but at 
the time it seemed wrong to hesitate. If it 
seemed so right then, it cannot be all wrong 
now, even if it has become hard. I cannot 
give it all up. He is building cottages that 
I am to pay for, that I asked to pay for. He 
cannot. And he has promised so many 
people their houses shall be put in order, and 
they all believe him. And he can't do it. If 
I don't, it will not be done ; and some of 
them are very old — and — and the winter is 
comine." Ruth's voice had become almost 


inaudible. " Oh, Charles ! Charles ! " she 
said brokenly. " I cannot bear to hurt you. 
God knows I love you. I think I shall 
always love you, though I shall try not. 
But I cannot go back now from what I have 
undertaken. I cannot break my word. I 
cannot do what is wrong, even for you. Oh, 
God ! not even for you ! " 

She knelt down beside him, and took his 
clenched hands between her own ; but he did 
not stir. 


'' Not even for you," she whispered, while 
two hot tears fell upon his hands. In another 
moment she had risen swiftly to her feet, and 
had left him. 



Charles sat quite still where Ruth had left 
him, looking straight in front of him. He 
had not thought for a moment of following 
her, of speaking to her again. Her decision 
was final, and he knew it. And now he also 
knew how much he had built upon the wild 
new hope of the last two days. 

Presently a slight discreet cough broke 
upon his ear, apparently close at hand. 

He started up, and wheeling round in the 
direction of the sound, called out in sudden 
anger, " Who is there ? " 

If there is a time when we feel that a 
fellow-creature is entirely out of harmony 
with ourselves, it is when we discover that he 
has overheard or overseen us at a moment 


when we imamned we were alone, or — almost 

Charles was furious. 

" Come out ! " he said in a tone that would 
have made any ordinary creature stay as far 
in as it could. And hearing a slight crackling 
in the nearest horse-box, of which the door 
stood open, he shook the door violently. 

''Come out," he repeated, "this instant!" 

" Stop that noise, then," said a voice 
sharply from the inside, " and keep quiet. 

By , a violent temper, what a thing it 

is ; always raising a dust, and kicking up a 
row, just when it's least wanted." 

The voice made Charles start. 

" Great God ! " he said, " it's not ? " 

"Yes, it is," was the reply; "and when 
you have taken a seat on the further end of 
that bench, and recovered your temper, I'll 
show, but not before." 

Charles walked to the bench and sat 

" You can come out," he said in a carefully 


lowered voice, in which there was contempt 
as well as anger. 

Accordingly there was a little more 
crackling among the faggots, and a slight, 
shabbily dressed man came to the door, and 
peered warily out, shading his blinking eyes 
with his hand. 

" If there is a thinof I hate," he said with 
a curious mixture of recklessness and anxiety, 
'' it is a noise. Sit so that you face the left, 
will you, and I'll look after the right, and if 
you see any one coming you may as well 
mention it. I am only at home to old 

He took his hand from his eyes as they 
became more accustomed to the light, and 
showed a shrewd, dissipated face, that yet 
had a kind of ruined good look about it, 
and, what was more hateful to Charles than 
anything else, a decided resemblance to Ruth. 
Though he was shabby in the extreme, his 
clothes sat upon him as they always and only 
do sit upon a gentleman ; and though his face 


and voice showed that he had severed him- 
self effectually from the class in which he had 
been born, a certain unsuitability remained 
between his appearance and his evidently 
disreputable circumstances. When Charles 
looked at him he was somehow reminded of 

a broken-down thorouorhbred in a hansom 



" It is a quiet spot," remarked Raymond 
Deyncourt, for he it was, standing in the 
doorway, his watchful eyes scanning the de- 
serted courtyard and strip of green. " A 
retired and a peaceful spot. I'm sorry if my 
cough annoyed you, coming when it did, but 
I thought you seemed before to be engaged 
in conversation, which I felt a certain diffi- 
dence in interrupting." 

'' So you listened, I suppose ? " 

" Yes, I listened. I did not hear as much 
as I could have wished, but it was your best 
manner, Danvers. You certainly have a 
gift, though you dropped your voice unneces- 
sarily once or twice, I thought. If I had had 


your talents I should not be here now. Eh ? 
Dear me ! you can swear still, can you ? 
How refreshing. I fancied you had quite 

" Why are you here now ? " asked Charles 

Raymond shrugged his shoulders. 

" Why are you here ? " continued Charles 
bitterly, "when you swore to me in July that 
if I would pay your passage out again to 
America you would let her alone in future ? 
Why are you here, when I wrote to tell you 
that she had promised me she would never 
give you money again without advice ? But 
I might have known you could break a 
promise as easily as make one. I might 
have known you would only keep it as long 
as it suited yourself." 

''Well, now, I'm glad to hear you say 
that," said Raymond airily, " because it takes 
off any feeling of surprise I was afraid you 
might feel at seeing me back here. There's 
nothincr like a orood understanding: between 


friends. I'm precious hard up, I can tell 
you, or I should not have come ; and when 
a fellow has got into as tight a place as I 
have, he has got to think of other things 
besides keeping promises. Have you seen 
to-day s papers ? " — with sudden eagerness. 

'' Yes." 

'' Any news about the Frisco forgery 
case ? " and Raymond leaned forward through 
the door, and spoke in a whisper. 

" Nothing much," said Charles, trying to 
recollect. " Nothing new to-day, I think. 
You know they got one of them two days 
ago, followed him down to Birmingham, and 
took him in the train." 

Raymond drew in his breath. 

" I don't hold with trains," he said after a 
pause ; '' at least, not with passengers. I 
told him as much at the time. And the — 
the other one — Stephens ? Any news of 
him ? " 

** Nothing more about him, as far as I can 
remember. They were both traced together 


from Boston to London, but there they parted 
company. Stephens is at large still." 

" Is he ? " said Raymond. " By George, 
Fm glad to hear it. I hope he'll keep so, 
that's all. I'm glad I left that fool. He'd 
not my notions at all. We split two days 
ago, and I made tracks for the old diggings ; 
got down as far as Tarbury under a tarpaulin 
in a goods train — there's some sense in a 
goods train — and then lay close by a weir of 
the canal, and got aboard a barge after dark. 
Nothing breaks a scent like a barge. And 
it went the right way for my business too, 
and travelled all night. I kept close all next 
day, and then struck across country for this 
place at night. If I hadn't known the lie of 
the land from a boy, when I used to spend 
the holidays with old Alwynn, I couldn't 
have done it, or if I'd been as doo: lame as I 
was in July ; but I was pushed for a time, 
and I footed it up here, and got in just before 
dawn. And not too soon either, for I'm 
cleaned out, and food is precious hard to 


come by if you don't care to go shopping for 
it. I am only waiting till it's dark to go and 
eet somethinof from the old woman at the 
lodge. She looked after me before, but it 
wasn't so serious then as it is now." 

'' It will be penal servitude for life this 
time for — Stephens," said Charles. 

'* Yes," said Raymond thoughtfully. " It's 
playing deuced high. I knew that at the time, 
but I thought it was worth it. It was a 
beautiful thiuQ^, and there was a mint of 
money in it, if it had gone straight — a mint 
of money ; " and he shook his head regret- 
fully. '' But the luck is bound to change in 
the end," he went on, after a moment of 
mournful retrospection. " You'll see, I shall 
make my pile yet, Danvers. One can't go 
on turning up tails all the time." 

" You will turn them up once too often," 
said Charles, '' and get your affairs wound up 
for you some day in a way you won't like. 
But I suppose it's no earthly use my saying 


'' Not much," replied the other. '' I guess 
I've heard it all before. Don't you remember 
how you held forth that night in the wood ? 
You came out strong. I felt as if I were in 
church ; but you forked out handsomely at 
the collection afterwards. I will say that for 

'' And what are you going to do now you've 
got here ? " interrupted Charles sharply. 

" Lie by." 

" How long ? " 

'' Perhaps a week, perhaps ten days. Can't 


''And after that?" 

'' After that, some one, I don't say who, 
but some one will have to provide me with 
the ' ready ' to nip across to France. I have 
friends in Paris where I can manage to 
scratch along for a bit till things have blown 

Charles considered for a few moments, and 
then said — 

'' Are you going to dun your sister for 


money again, or give her another fright by 
lying in wait for her ? Of course, if you 
broke your word about coming back, you 
might break it about trying to get money out 
of her." 

" I might," assented Raymond ; " in fact, I 
was on the point of making my presence 
known to her, and suggesting a pecuniary 
advance, when you came up. I don't know 
at present what I shall do, as I let that 
opportunity slip. It just depends." 

Charles considered again. 

" It's a pity to trouble her, isn't it ? " said 
Raymond, his shrewd eyes watching him, 
" and women are best out of money matters. 
Besides, if she has promised you she won't 
pay up without advice she'll stick to it. 
Nothino^ will turn her when she once settles 
on anything, if she is at all like what she 
used to be. She has grot dollars of her own. 
You had better settle with me, and pay your- 
self back when you are married. Dear me ! 
There's no occasion to look so murderous. 

VOL. n. 27 


I suppose I'm at liberty to draw my own 

" You had better draw them a little more 
carefully in future," said Charles savagely. 
" Your sister is engaged to be married to a 
man without a sixpence." 

** By George," said Raymond, '' that won't 
suit my book at all. I'd rather" — with 
another glance at Charles — '' I'd rather she'd 
marry a man with money." 

If Charles was of the same opinion he did 
not express it. He remained silent for a 
few minutes, to give weight to his last 
remark, and then said slowly — 

'' So you see you won't get anything more 
from that quarter. You had better make the 
most you can out of me." 

Raymond nodded. 

" The most you will get, in fact, I may say 
all you will get from me, is enough ready 
money to carry you to Paris, and a cheque 
for twenty pounds to follow, when I hear you 
have arrived there." 


" It's mean," said Raymond ; " it's cursed 
mean ; and from a man like you too, whom I 
feel for as a brother. I'd rather try my luck 
with Ruth. She's not married yet, anyway." 

" You will do as you like," said Charles, 
getting up. '' If I find you have been trying 
your luck with her, as you call it, you won't 
get a farthing from me afterwards. And 
you may remember, she can't help you without 
consulting her friends. And your complaint 
is one that requires absolute quiet, or I'm 
very much mistaken." 

Raymond bit his finger, and looked irre- 

'' To-day is Wednesday," said Charles ; 
" on Saturday I shall come back here in the 
afternoon, and if you have come to my terms 
by that time you can cough after I do. I 
shall have the money on me. If you make 
any attempt to write or speak to your sister, 
I shall take care to hear of it, and you need 
not expect me on Saturday. That is the 
last remark I have to make, so good after- 


noon ; " and, without waiting for a reply, 
Charles walked away, conscious that Ray- 
mond would not dare either to call or run 
after him. 

He walked slowly along the grass-grown 
road that led into the carriage-drive, and was 
about to let himself out of the grounds by a 
crazy gate, which rather took away from the 
usefulness of the larofe iron locked ones at 
the lodge, when he perceived an old man 
with a pail of water fumbling at it. He did 
not turn as Charles drew near, and even 
when the latter came up with him, and said 
'' Good afternoon," he made no sign. Charles 
watched him groping for the hasp, and, when 
he had got the gate open, feel about for the 
pail of water, which when he found he struck 
against the gate post as he carried it through. 
Charles looked after the old man as he 
shambled off in the direction of the lodge. 

''Blind and deaf! He'll tell no tales, at 
any rate," he said to himself '' Raymond is 
in luck there." 


It had turned very cold ; and, suddenly 
remembering that his absence might be 
noticed, he set off through the woods to 
Slumberleigh at a good pace. His nearest 
way took him through the churchyard and 
across the adjoining high-road, on the further 
side of which stood the little red-faced 
lodge, which belonged to the great new 
red-faced seat of the Thursbys at a short 
distance. He came rapidly round the corner 
of the old church tower, and was already 
swinging down the worn sandstone steps 
which led into the road, when he saw below 
him at the foot of the steps a little group of 
people standing talking. It was Mr. Alwynn, 
and Ruth, and Dare, who had evidently met 
them on his return from shooting, and who, 
standing at ease witli one elegantly gaitered 
leg on the lowest step, and a cartridge-bag 
slung over his shoulder in a way that had 
aroused Charles's indignation earlier in the 
day, was recounting to them, with vivid 
action of the hands on an imaginary gun, his 


own performances to right and left at some 
particularly hot corner. 

Mr. Alwynn was listening with a benignant 
smile. Charles saw that Ruth was leaning 
heavily against the low stone wall. Before 
he had time to turn back, Mr. Alwynn had 
seen him, and had gone forward a step to 
meet him, holding out a welcoming hand. 
Charles was obliged to stop a moment while 
his hand was inquired after, and a new treat- 
ment, which Mr. Alwynn had found useful 
on a similar occasion, was enjoined upon 
him. As they stood together on the church 
steps, a fly, heavily laden with luggage, came 
slowly up the road towards them. 

"What," said Mr. Alwynn, '' more visitors ! 
I thought all the Slumberleigh party arrived 

The fly plodded past the Slumberleigh 
lodge however, and as it reached the steps 
a shrill voice suddenly called to the driver 
to stop. As it came grinding to a standstill, 
the glass was hastily put down, and a little 


woman with a very bold pair of black eyes, 
and a somewhat laced-in figure, got out and 
came towards them. 

"Well, Mr. Dare!" she said, in a high 
distinct voice, with a strong American accent. 
'' I guess you did not expect to see me riding 
up this way, or you'd have sent the carriage 
to bring your wife up from the station. But 
I'm not one to bear malice ; so if you want 
a lift home to — what's the name of your fine 
new place '^. — you can get in, and ride up 
alone with me." 

Dare looked straight in front of him. No 
one spoke. Her quick eye glanced from one 
to another of the little group, and she gave a 
short constrained laugh. 

'' Well," she said, '' if you ain't coming, 
you can stop with your friends. I've had a 
deal of travelling one way and another, and 
I'll go on without you." And, turning 
quickly away, she told the driver in the same 
distinct high key to go on to Vandon, and 
got into the fly again. 


The grinning man chucked at the horse's 
bridle, and the fly rattled heavily away. 

No one spoke as it drove away. Charles 
glanced once at Ruth ; but her set white face 
told him nothing. As the fly disappeared up 
the road, Dare moved a step forward. His 
face under his brown skin was ashen grey. 
He took off his cap, and extending it at arm's 
length, not towards the sky, but, like a good 
churchman, towards the church, outside of 
which, as he knew, his Maker was not to be 
found, he said solemnly — 

" I swear before God what she says is one 
■ — great — lie!' 



If conformity to type Is indeed the one great 
mark towards which humanity should press, 
]\Irs. Thursby may honestly be said to have 
attained to it. Everything she said or did 
had been said or done before, or she would 
never have thought of saying or doing it. 
Her whole life was a feeble imitation of the 
imitative lives of others ; in short, it was the 
life of the ordinary country gentlewoman, 
who lives on her husband's property, and 
who, as x^ugustus Hare says, '' has never 
looked over the garden wall." 

We do not mean to insinuate for a moment 
that the utmost energy and culture are not 
occasionally to be met with in the female 
portion of that interesting mass of our fellow- 


creatures who swell the large volumes of the 
'' Landed Gentry." Among their ranks are 
those who come boldly forward into the full 
glare of public life ; and, conscious of a genius 
for enterprise, to which an unmarried con- 
dition perhaps affords ampler scope, and 
which a local paper is ready to immortalize, 
become secretaries of ladies' societies, 
patronesses of flower shows, breeders of 
choice poultry, or even associates of floral 
leagues of the highest political importance. 
That such women should and do exist among 
us, the conscious salt-cellars of otherwise 
flavourless communities, is a fact for which 
we cannot be too thankful ; and if Mrs. 
Thursby was not one of these aspiring 
spirits, with a yearning after "the mystical 
better things," which one of the above pursuits 
alone can adequately satisfy, it was her 
misfortune and not her fault. 

It was her nature, as we have said, servilely 
to copy others. Her conversation was all 
that she could remember of what she had 


heard from others, her present dinner party, 
as regards food, was a cross between the two 
last dinner parties she had been to. The 
dessert, however, conspicuous by its absence, 
conformed strictly to a type which she had 
seen in a London house in June. 

Her dinner party gave her complete satis- 
faction, which was fortunate, for to the 
greater number of the eighteen or twenty 
people who had been indiscriminately herded 
together to form it, it was (with the exception 
of Mrs. Alwynn) a dreary or at best an un- 
interesting ordeal ; while to four people 
amonor the number, the four who had met 
last on the church steps, it was a period of 
slow torture, endured with varying degrees 
of patience by each, from the two soups in 
the beginning to the peaches and grapes at 
the long delayed and bitter end. 

Ruth, whose self-possession never wholly 
deserted her, had reached a depth of ex- 
hausted stupor, in which the mind is perfectly 
oblivious of the impression It Is producing on 


Others. By an unceasing effort she listened, 
and answered, and smiled at intervals, and 
looked exceedingly distinguished in the pale 
red gown which she had put on to please her 
aunt ; but the colour of which only intensified 
the unnatural pallor of her complexion. The 
two men whom she sat between found her a 
disappointing companion, cold and formal in 
manner. At any other time she would have 
been humiliated and astonished to hear her- 
self make such cut-and-drled remarks, such 
little trite observations. She was sitting oppo- 
site Charles, and she vaguely wondered once 
or twice, when she saw him making others 
laugh, and heard snatches of the flippant 
talk which was with him, as she knew now, 
a sort of defensive armour, how he could 
manage to produce it ; while Charles, half 
Avild with a mad surging hope that would 
not be kept down by any word of Dare's, 
looked across at her as often as he dared, 
and wondered, in his turn, at the tranquil 
dignity, the quiet ordered smile of the face 


which a few hours ago he had seen shaken 
with emotion. 

Her eyes met his for a moment. Were 
they the same eyes that but now had met 
his, half bh'nd with tears ? He felt still the 
touch of those tears upon his hand. He 
hastily looked away again, and plunged head- 
long into an answer to somethincr Mabel was 

o o 

saying to him on her favourite subject of 
evolution. All well-brought-up young ladies 
have a subject nowadays, which makes their 
conversation the delis^htful thine it is ; and 
Mabel, of course, was not behind the fashion. 
" Yes," Ruth heard Charles reply, " I 
believe with you we go through many lives, 
each being a higher state than the last, and 
nearer perfection. So a man passes gradually 
through all the various grades of the nobility, 
soaring from the lowly honourable upwards 
into the duke, and thence by an easy transi- 
tion into an angel. Courtesy titles, of course, 
present a difficulty to the more thoughtful ; 
but, as I am sure you will have found, to be 


thoughtful always Implies difficulty of some 

" It does, Indeed," said Mabel, puzzled but 
not a little flattered. '' I sometimes think 
one reads too much ; one longs so for deep 
books — Korans, and things. I must confess " 
— with a sigh — " I can't Interest myself in 
the usual young lady's library that other 
eirls read." 

" Can't you ? " replied Charles. " Now, I 
can. I study that department of literature 
whenever I have the chance, and I have 
generally found that the most Interesting 
part of a young lady's library is to be found 
in that portion of the bookshelf which lies 
between the row^s of books and the wall. 
Don't you think so. Lady Carmian ? " (to the 
lady on his other side). " I assure you I 
have made the most delightful discoveries of 
this description. Cheap editions of Oulda, 
Balzac's works, yellow backs of the most 
advanced order, will, as a rule, reward the 
Inquirer, who otherwise might have had to 


content himself with " The Heir of Red- 
diffe," the Lily Series, and Miss Strickland's 
' Oueens of Eno^land.' " 

Charles's last speech had been made in a 
momentary silence, and directly it was finished 
every woman, old and young, except Lady 
Carmian and Ruth, simultaneously raised a 
disclaiming voice, which by its vehemence at 
once showed what an unfounded assertion 
Charles had made. Lady Carmian, a hand- 
some young married woman, only smiled 
languidly, and, turning the bracelet on her 
arm, told Charles he w^as a cynic, and that 
for her own part, when in robust health, she 
liked what little she read '' strong ; " but in 
illness, or when Lord Carmian had been 
unusually trying, she always fell back on a 
milk-and-water diet. Mrs. Thursby, how- 
ever, felt that Charles had struck a blow at 
the sanctity of home life, and (for she was 
one of those persons whose single talent is 
that of giving a personal turn to any remark) 
beean a lone monotonous recital of the books 


she allowed her own daughters to read, and 
how they Avere kept, which proved the 
extensive range of her library, not in book- 
shelves, but in a sliding bookstand, which 
contracted or expanded at will. 

Lone before she had finished, however, 
the conversation at the other end of the table 
had drifted away to the topic of the season 
among sporting men, namely, the poachers, 
who, since their raid on Dare's property, had 
kept fairly quiet, but who were sure to start 
afresh now that the pheasant shooting had 
beofun ; and from thence to the recent 
forgery case in America, which was exciting 
every day greater attention in England, 
especially since one of the accomplices had 
been arrested the day before in Birmingham 
station, and the principal offender, though 
still at large, was, according to the papers, 
being traced " by means of a clue in the 
possession of the police." 

Charles knew how little that sentence 
meant, but he found that it required an effort 


to listen unmoved to the various conjectures 
as to the whereabouts of Stephens, in which 
Ruth, as the conversation became general, 
also joined, volunteering a suggestion that 
perhaps he might be lurking somewhere in 
the Slumberleigh woods, which were certainly 
very lonely in places, and Avhere, as she said, 
she had been very much alarmed by a tramp 
in the summer. 

Mrs. Thursby, like an echo, began from 
the other end of the table somethino- vao^ue 
about girls being allowed to walk alone, her 
own daughters, etc., and so the long dinner 
wore itself out. Dare was the only one of 
the little party who had met on the church 
steps who succumbed entirely. Mr. Alwynn, 
who looked at him and Ruth with pathetic 
interest from time to time, made laudable 
efforts, but Dare made none. He had taken 
in to dinner the younger Thursby girl, a 
meek creature, without form and void, not 
yet out, but trembling in a high muslin, on 
the verge, who kept her large and burning 

VOL. II. 28 


hands clutched together under the table- 
cloth, and whose conversation was upon bees. 
Dare pleaded a gun headache, and hardly 
spoke. His eyes constantly wandered to 
the other end of the table, where, far away 
on the opposite side, half hidden by ferns 
and flowers, he could catch a glimpse of 
Ruth. After dinner he did not come Into 
the drawing-room, but went off to the 
smoking-room, where he paced by himself, 
up and down, up and down, writhing under 
the torment of a horrible suspense. 

Outside the moon shone clear and high, 
making a long picturesque shadow of the 
great prosaic house, upon the wide gravel 
drive. Dare leaned against the window sill 
and looked out. "Would she give him up?" 
he asked himself. Would she believe this 
vile calumny ? Would she give him up ? 
And as he stood the Alwynns' brougham 
came with two gleaming eyes along the drive 
and drew up before the door. He resolved 
to learn his fate at once. There had been 


no possibility of a word with Ruth on the 
church steps. Before he had known where 
he was, he and Charles had been walking up 
to the Hall together, Charles discoursing 
lengthily on the impropriety of wire fencing 
in a hunting country. But now he must and 
would see her. He rushed downstairs into 
the hall, where young Thursby was wrapping 
Ruth in her white furs, while Mr. Thursby 
senior was encasing jNIrs. Alwynn in a species 
of glorified ulster of red plush which she had 
lately acquired. Dare hastily drew Mr. 
Alwynn aside and spoke a few words to him. 
]\Ir. Alwynn turned • to his wife, after one 
rueful glance at his thin shoes, and said — 

'' I will walk up. It is a fine night, and 
quite dry under foot." 

" And a very pleasant party it has been," 
said ]\Irs. Alwynn as she and Ruth drove 
away together, "though Mrs. Thursby has 
not such a knack with her table as some. 
Not that I did not think the chrysanthenums 
and white china swans were nice, very nice; 


but, you see, as I told her, I had just been 
to Stoke Moreton, where things were very 
different. And you looked very well, my 
dear, though not so bright and chatty as 
Mabel ; and Mrs. Thursby said she only 
hoped your waist was natural. The idea ! 
And I saw Lady Carmian notice your gown 
particularly, and I heard her ask who you 
were, and Mrs. Thursby said— so like her — 
you were their clergyman's niece. And so, 
my dear, I was not going to have you spoken 
of like that, and a little later on I just went 
and sat down by Lady Carmian, just went 
across the room you know, as if I wanted to 
be nearer the music, and we got talking, and 
she was rather silent at first, but presently, 
when I began to tell her all about you, and 
who you were, she became quite interested, 
and asked such funny questions, and laughed, 
and we had quite a nice talk." 

And so Mrs. Alwynn chatted on, and 
Ruth, happily hearing nothing, leaned back 
in her corner, and wondered whether the 


evening were ever going to end. Even when 
she had bidden her aunt " Good night," and 
having previously told her maid not to sit up 
for her, found herself alone in her own room 
at last, even then it seemed that this inter- 
minable day was not quite over. She was 
standing by the dim hre, trying to gather up 
sufficient energy to undress, when a quiet 
step came cautiously along the passage, 
followed by a low tap at her door. She 
opened it noiselessly, and found Mr. Alwynn 
standing without. 

'' Ruth," he said, " Dare has walked up 
with me. He is in the most dreadful state. 
I am sure I don't know what to think. He 
has said nothing further to me, but he is 
bent on seeing you for a moment. It's very 
late, but still — could you ? He's in the 
drawing-room now. My poor child, how ill 
you look ! Shall I tell him you are too tired 
to-night to see any one ? " 

" I would rather see him," said Ruth, her 
voice trembling a little, and they went down- 


Stairs toeether. In the hall she hesitated 
a moment. She was going to learn her fate. 
Had her release come ? Had It come at the 
eleventh hour ? Her uncle looked at her 
with kind compassionate eyes, and hers fell 
before his as she thought how different her- 
suspense was to what he imagined. Sud- 
denly, and such demonstrations w^ere very 
rare with her, she put her arms round his 
neck, and pressed her cheek against his. 

''Oh, Uncle John, Uncle John!" she gasped, 
'' it Is not what you think." 

'' I pray God it may not be what I sup- 
pose," he said sadly, stroking her head. 
*' One is too ready to think evil, I know. 
God forgive me If I have judged him harshly. 
But go in, my dear ; " and he pushed her 
gently towards the drawing-room. 

She went in and closed the door quietly 
behind her. 

Dare was leaning against the mantelpiece, 
which was draped in Mrs. Alwynn's best 
manner, with oriental hangings having bits 


of oflass woven In them. He was lookino- 
into the curtained fire, and did not turn when 
she entered. Even at that moment she 
noticed, as she went towards him, that his 
elbow had displaced the little family of china 
hares on a plush stand, which Mrs. Alwynn 
had lately added to her other treasures. 

" I think you wished to see me," she said 
as calmly as she could. 

He faced suddenly round, his eyes wild, 
his face quivering, and, coming close up to 
her, caught her hand, and grasped it so 
tightly that the pain was almost more than 
she could bear. 

'' Are you going to give me up ? " he asked 

'' I don't know," she said ; " it depends on 
yourself, on what you are, and what you 
have been. You say she is not your wife ? " 

*' I swear it." 

" You need not do so. Your word is 

'' I swear she is not my wife." 


" One question remains," said Ruth firmly, 
a flame of colour mounting to her neck and 
face. '' You say she Is not your wife. 
Ought you to make her so ? " 

'' No," said Dare passionately. " I owe 
her nothing. She has no claim upon me. I 
swear " 

'' Don't swear. I said your word w^as 

But Dare preferred to embellish his speech 
with divers weighty expressions, feeling that 
a simple affirmation would never carry so 
much conviction to his own mind, or con- 
sequently to another, as an oath. 

A momentary silence followed. 

*' You believe what I say, Ruth ? " 

'' Yes," with an effort. 

"And you won't give me up because evil 
is spoken against me ? " 

" No." 

'' And all is the same as before between 
us ? " 

'^ Yes." 


Dare burst Into a torrent of gratitude, but 
she broke suddenly away from him, and went 
swiftly upstairs again to her own room. 

The release had not come. She laid her 
head down upon the table, and Hope, which 
had ventured back to her for one moment, 
took his lamp and went quite away, leaving 
the world very dark. 

There are turning points In life when a 
natural Instinct Is a surer guide than noble 
motive or high aspiration, and consequently 
the more thoughtful and Introspective nature 
will sometimes fall just where a commonplace 
one would have passed In safety. Ruth had 
acted for the best. When for the first time 
In her life she had been brouo^ht Into close 
contact with a life spent for others. Its beauty 
had appealed to her with Irresistible force, 
and she had willingly sacrificed herself to an 
ideal life of devotion to others. 

" But we are punished for our purest deeds, 
And chasten'd for our holiest thoughts." 

And she saw now that If she had obeyed 


that simple law of human nature which forbids 
a marriage in which love is not the primary 
consideration, if she had followed that simple 
humble path, she would never have reached 
the arid wilderness towards which her own 
guidance had led her. 

For her wilful self-sacrifice had suddenly 
paled and dwindled down before her eyes 
into a hideous mistake — a mistake which yet 
had its roots so firmly knit into the past, that 
it was hopeless to think of pulling it up now. 
To abide by a mistake is sometimes all that 
an impetuous youth leaves an honourable 
middle age to do. Poor middle age, with its 
clear vision, that might do and be so much if 
it were not for the heavy burdens, grievous 
to be borne, which youth has bound upon its 

And worse than the dreary weight of per- 
sonal unhappiness, harder to bear than the 
pang of disappointed love, was the aching 
sense of failure, of having misunderstood 
God's intention, and broken the purpose of 


her life. For some natures the cup of Hfe 
holds no bitterer drop than this. 

Ruth dimly saw the future, the future 
which she had chosen, stretching out waste 
and barren before her. The dry air of the 
desert was on her face. Her feet were 
already on its sandy verge. And the iron of 
a great despair entered into her soul. 



Dare left Slumberleigh Hall early the follow- 
ing morning, and drove up to the Rectory on 
his way to Vandon. After being closeted 
with Mr. Alwynn in the study for a short 
time, they both came out and drove away 
together. Ruth, Invisible In her own room 
with a headache, her only means of defence 
against Mrs. Alwynn's society, heard the 
coming and the going, and was not far 
wrong in her surmise that Dare had come to 
beg Mr. Alwynn to accompany him to 
Vandon, being afraid to face alone the 
mysterious enemy intrenched there. 

No conversation was possible in the dog- 
cart, with the groom on the back seat thirst- 
ing to hear any particulars of the news which 


had spread like wildfire from Abandon through- 
out the whole village the previous afternoon, 
and which was already miraculously flying 
from house to house in Slumberleigh this 
morning, as things discreditable do fly among 
a Christian population, which perhaps '' thinks 
no evil," but repeats it nevertheless. 

There was not a servant In Dare's modest 
establishment who was not on the look out 
for him on his return. The gardener hap- 
pened to be tying up a plant near the front 
door; the housemaids were watching un- 
observed from an upper casement ; the portly 
form of Mrs. Smith, the housekeeper, was 
seen to elide from one of the unused bed- 
room windows ; the butler must have been 
waiting in the hall, so prompt was his ap- 
pearance when the dog-cart drew up before 
the door. 

Another pair of keen black eyes was 
watching too, peering out through the chinks 
between the lowered Venetian blinds in the 
drawing-room ; was observing Dare intently 


as he got out, and then resting anxiously on 
his companion. Then the owner of the eyes 
sHpped away from the window, and went 
back noiselessly to the fire. 

Dare ordered the dog-cart to remain at 
the door, flung down his hat on the hall 
table, and, turning to the servant who was 
busying himself in folding his coat, said 
sharply — 

'' Where is the — the person who arrived 
here yesterday ? " 

The man replied that '' she " was in the 
drawing-room. The drawing-room opened 
into the hall. Dare led the way, suppressed 
fury in his face, looking back to see whether 
Mr. Alwynn was following him. The two 
men went In together, and shut the door. 

The enemy was Intrenched and prepared 
for action. 

Mrs. Dare, as we must perforce call her 
for lack of any other designation rather 
than for any right of hers to the title, was 
seated on a yellow brocade ottoman, drawn 


Up beside a roaring fire, her two smart little 
feet resting on the edge of the low brass 
fender, and a small work-table at her side, 
on which an elaborate medley of silks and 
Avools was displayed. Her attitude was that 
of a person at home, aggressively at home. 
She was in the act of threading a needle 
Avhen Dare and Mr. Alwynn came in, and 
she put down her work at once, carefully 
replacing the needle in safety, as she rose to 
receive them, and held out her hand, with a 
manner the assurance of which, if both men 
had not been too much frightened to notice 
it, was a little overdone. 

Dare disregarded her gesture of welcome, 
and she sat down again, and returned to her 
w^ork, with a laugh that was also a little over- 

'' What do you mean by coming here ? " 
he said, his voice hoarse with a furious anger, 
which the sight of her seemed to have 
increased a hundredfold. 

" Because it is my proper place," she 


replied, tossing her head, and drawing out a 
long thread of green silk ; '' because I have 
a right to come." 

'' You He ! " said Dare fiercely, showing 
his teeth. 

" Lord, Alfred ! " said Mrs. Dare con- 
temptuously, '' don't make a scene before 
strangers. We've had our tiffs before now, 
and shall have again, I suppose. It's the 
natur' of married people to fall out ; but 
there's no call to carry on before friends. 
Push up that lounge nearer the fire. Won't 
the other gentleman," turning to Mr. Alwynn, 
*'come and warm himself? I'm sure it's cold 

Mr. Alwynn, who was a man of peace, 
devoutly wished he were at home again In 
his own study. 

" It is a cold morning," he said; ''but we 
are not here to discuss the weather." 

He stopped short. He had been hurried 
here so much against his will, and so entirely 
without an explanation, that he was not quite 


sure what he had come to discuss, or how he 
could best support his friend. 

''What do you want?" said Dare, in the 
same suppressed voice, without looking at 

"My rights," she said incisively; "and, 
what's more, I mean to have 'em. I've not 
come over from America for nothing, I can 
tell you that ; and I've not come on a visit 
neither. I've come to stay." 

" What are these rights you talk of ? " 
asked Mr. Alwynn, signing to Dare to 
restrain himself. 

" As his wife, sir. I am his wife, as I can 
prove. I didn't come without my lines to 
show. I didn't come on a speculation, to see 
if he'd a fancy to have me back. No, afore 
I set my foot down anywheres I look to see 
as it's solid walkinof." 

" Show your proof," said Mr. Alwynn. 

The woman ostentatiously got out a red 
morocco letter case, and produced a paper 
which she handed to Mr. Alwynn. 

VOL, II. 29 


It was an authorized copy of a marriage 
register, drawn out in the usual manner, 
between Alfred Dare, bachelor, English 
subject, and Ellen, widow of the late Jaspar 
Carroll, of Neosho City, Kansas, U.S.A. 
The marriage was dated seven years back. 

The names of Dare and Carroll swam 
before Mr. Alwynn's eyes. He glanced at 
the paper, but he could not read it. 

''Is this a forgery, Dare ? " he asked, 
holdlnof it towards him. 

'' No," said Dare, without looking at it ; 
*'it is right. But that is not all. Now," 
turning to the woman, who was watching him 
triumphantly, " show the other paper — the 

" I made inquiries about that," she replied 
composedly. " I wasn't going to be fooled 
by that 'ere, so I made inquiries from one as 
knows. The divorce is all very well in 
America; but it don't count in England." 

Dare's face turned livid. Mr. Alwynn's 
flushed a deep red. He sat with his eyes on 



the ground, the paper in his hand trembling 
a Httle. Indignation against Dare, pity for 
him, anxiety not to judge him harshly, 
struggled for precedence in his kind heart, 
still beating tumultuously with the shock of 
Dare's first admission. He felt rather than 
saw him take the paper out of his hand. 

" I shall keep this," Dare said, putting it 
in his pocket-book ; and then, turning to the 
woman again, he said, with an oath, "Will 
you go, or will you wait till you are turned 
out ? " 

" I'll wait," she replied undauntedly. " I 
like the place well enough." 

She laughed and took up her work, and 
after looking at her for a moment, he flung 
out of the room, followed by Mr. Alwynn. 
The defeat was complete ; nay, it was a 

The dog-cart was still standing at the 
door. The butler was talking to the groom ; 
the gardener was training some new shoots 
of ivy against the stone balustrade. 


Dare caught up his hat and gloves, and 
ordered that his portmanteau, which had been 
taken into the hall, should be put back into 
the doof-cart. As it was being- carried down 
he looked at his watch. 

" I can catch the midday express for 
London," he said. '' I can do it easily." 

Mr. Alwynn made no reply. 

" Get in," continued Dare feverishly ; " the 
portmanteau is in." 

" I think I will walk home," said Mr. 
Alwynn slowly. It gave him excruciating 
pain to say anything so severe as this ; but 
he o^ot out the words nevertheless. 

Dare looked at him in astonishment. 

''Get in," he said again quickly. " I must 
speak to you. I will drive you home. I 
have something to say." 

Mr. Alwynn never refused to hear what 
any one had to say. He went slowly down 
the steps, and got into the cart, looking 
straight in front of him, as his custom was 
when disturbed in mind. Dare followed. 


" I shall not want you, James," he said to 
the groom, his foot on the step. 

At this moment the form of Mrs. Smith, 
the housekeeper, appeared through the hall 
door, clothed in all the awful majesty of an 
upper servant whose dignity has been 

" Sir," she said, in a clear not to say a 
high voice, " asking your pardon, sir, but am 
I, or am I not, to take my orders from " 

Goaded to frenzy. Dare poured forth a 
volley of horrible oaths, French and English, 
and seizing up the reins drove off at a furious 

The servants remained standing about the 
steps, watching the dog-cart whirl rapidly 

" He's been to church with her," said the 
ofardener at last. " I said all alons^ she'd 
never have come, unless she had her lines to 
show. I han't cut them white grapes she 
ordered yet ; but I may as well go and do it." 

*'Well," said Mrs. Smith, "grapes or no 


grapes, I'll never give up the keys of the 
linen cupboards to the likes of her, and I'm 
not going to have any one poking about 
among my china. I've not been here twenty 
years to be asked for my lists in that way, and 
the winter curtains ordered out unbeknownst 
to me ; " and Mrs. Smith retreated to the fast- 
nesses of the housekeeper's room, whither 
even the audacious enemy had not yet 
ventured to follow her. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Alwynn and Dare drove at 
moderated speed along the road to Slumber- 
leigh. For some time neither spoke. 

*' I beg your pardon," said Dare at last. 
'' I lost my head. I became enraged. Before 
a clergyman and a lady, I know well, it is not 
permitted to swear." 

'' I can overlook that," said Mr. Alwynn ; 
" but," turning very red again, '' other things 
I can't." 

Dare began to flourish his whip, and 
become excited again. 

'* I will tell you all," he said with effusion 


— ''every word. You have a kind heart. I 
will confide in you." 

" I don't want confidences," said Mr. 
Alwynn. " I want straightforward answers 
to a few simple questions." 

" I will give them, these answers. I keep 
nothing back from a friend." 

*' Then, first. Did you marry that 
woman ? " 

'' Yes," said Dare, shrugging his shoulders. 
^' I married her, and often afterwards, almost 
at once, I regretted it ; but ^ue voulez-vouSy 
I was young. I had no experience. I was 
but twenty-one." 

Mr. Alwynn stared at him in astonishment 
at the ease with which [^the admission was 

"How long afterwards was it that you 
were divorced from her ? " 

" Two years. Two long years." 

" For what reason ? " 

" Temper. Ah ! what a temper. Also 
because I left her for one year. It was in 


Kansas, and In Kansas it is very easy to 
marry, and also to be divorced." 

*' It is a disgraceful story," said Mr. Alwynn 
in great indignation. 

"Disgraceful!" echoed Dare excitedly. 
"It is more than disgraceful. It Is abominable. 
You do not know all yet. I will tell you. I 
was young ; I was but a boy. I go to 
America when I am twenty-one, to travel, to 
see the world. I make acquaintances. I 
get into a bad set, what you call undesirable. 
I fall in love. I walk into a net. She was 
pretty, a pretty widow, all love, all soul ; 
without friends. I protect her. I marry 
her. I have a little money. I have five 
thousand pounds. She knew that. She 
spent it. I was a fool. In a year it was 
gone." Dare's face had become white with 
rage. " And then she told me why she 
married me. I became enraged. There 
was a quarrel, and I left her. I had no more 
money. She left me alone, and a year after 
we are divorced. I never see her or hear of 


her again. I return to Europe. I live by 
my voice in Paris. It is five years ago. I 
have bought my experience. I put it from 
my mind. And now" — his hands trembled 
with anger — ''now that she thinks I have 
money again, now, when in some way she 
hears how I have come to Vandon, she dares 
to come back and say she is my wife." 

'' Dare," said Mr. Alwynn sternly, " what 
excuse have you for never mentioning this 
before — before you became engaged to 

*' What ! " burst out Dare, " tell Ruth ! 
Tell /ie7^/ Quelle idde. I would never 
speak to her of what might give her pain. I 
would keep all from her that would cause her 
one moment's grief. Besides," he added 
conclusively, " it is not always well to talk of 
what has gone before. It is not for her 
happiness or mine. She has been, one sees 
it well, brought up since a young child very 
strictly. About some things she has fixed 
ideas. If I had told her of these things 


which are passed away and gone, she might 
not" — and Dare looked gravely at Mr. 
Alwynn — "she might not think so well of 

This view of the case was quite a new one 
to Mr. Alwynn. He looked back at Dare 
with hopeless perplexity In his pained eyes. 
To one who throughout life has regarded the 
supremacy of certain truths and principles of 
action as fixed and recognized as a matter of 
course by all the world, however Imperfectly 
obeyed by Individuals, the discovery comes 
as a shock, which is at the moment over- 
whelming, when these same truths and 
principles are seen to be entirely set aside, 
and their very existence Ignored by others. 

Where there is no common ground on 
which to meet, speech is unavailing and mere 
waste of time. It Is like shouting to a 
person at a distance whom it Is Impossible to 
approach. If he notices anything It will only 
be that, for some reasons of your own, you 
are making a disagreeable noise. 


As Mr. Alwynn looked back at Dare his 
anger died away within him, and a dull pain 
of deep disappointment and sense of sudden 
loneliness took its place. Dare and he seemed 
many miles apart. He felt that it would be 
of no use to say anything ; and so, being a 
man, he held his peace. 

Dare continued talking volubly of how he 
would get a lawyer's opinion at once In 
London ; of his certainty that the American 
wife had no claim upon him ; of how he 
would go over to America, if necessary, to 
establish the validity of his divorce ; but Mr. 
Alwynn heard little or nothing of what he 
said. He was thinking of Ruth with distress 
and self-upbraiding. He had been much to 
blame of course. 

Dare's m.entlon of her nam.e recalled his 

" She Is all goodness," he was saying. " She 
believes In me. She has promised again 
that she will marry me — since yesterday. I 
trust her as myself ; but it Is a grief which as 


little as possible must trouble her. You will 
not say anything to her till I come back, till 
I return with proof that I am free, as I told 
her ? You will say nothing ? " 

Dare had pulled up at the bottom of the 
drive to the Rectory. 

" Very well," said Mr. Alwynn absently, 
getting slowly out. He seemed much shaken. 

" I will be back perhaps to-night, perhaps 
to-morrow morning," called Dare after him. 

But Mr. Alwynn did not answer. 

Dare's business took him a shorter time 
than he expected, and the same night found 
him hurrying back by the last train to 
Slumberleio^h. It was a wild nio^ht. He 
had watched the evening close in lurid and 
stormy across the chimnied wastes of the 
black country, until the darkness covered 
all the land, and wiped out even the last 
memory of the dead day from the western sky. 

Who, travelling alone at night, has not 
watched the glimmer of light through cottage 


Windows as he hurries past ; has not followed 
with keenest interest for one brief second 
the shadow of one who moves within, and, 
imagination picturing a mysterious universal 
happiness gathered round those twinkling 
points of light, has not experienced a strange 
feeling of homelessness and loneliness ? 

Dare sat very still in the solitude of the 
empty railway carriage, and watched the little 
fleeting, mocking lights with a heavy heart. 
They meant homes, and he should never have 
a home now. Once he saw a door open in 
a squalid line of low houses, and the figure 
of a man with a child in his arms stand out- 
lined in the doorway against the ruddy light 
within. Dare felt an unreasoning interest in 
that man. He found himself thinking of him 
as the train hurried on, wondering whether 
his wife was there waiting for him, and 
whether he had other children besides the 
one he was carrying. And all the time, 
through his idle musings, he could hear one 
sentence ringing in his ears, the last that his 


lawyer had said to him after the long con- 
sultation o( the afternoon. 

" I am sorry to tell you that you are in- 
contestably a married man." 

Everything repeated it. The hoofs of the 
cab horse that took him to the station had 
hammered it out remorselessly all the way. 
The engine had caught it up, and repeated 
it with unvarying, endless iteration. The 
newspapers were full of it. When Dare 
turned to them in desperation he saw it 
written in large letters across the sham 
columns. There was nothing but that any 
where. It was the news of the day. Sick 
at heart, and giddy from want of food, he 
sat crouched up in the corner of his empty 
carriage, and vaguely wished the train would 
journey on for ever and ever, nervously 
dreading the time when he should have to 
get out and collect his wandering faculties 


once more* 

The old lawyer had been very kind to the 
agitated, incoherent young man whose settle- 


ments he was already engaged in drawing 
up. At first, indeed, it had seemed that the 
marriage would not be legally binding — the 
marriage and divorce having both taken 
place in Kansas, where the marriage laws 
are particularly lax — and he seemed inclined 
to be hopeful ; but as he informed himself 
about the particulars of the divorce, his face 
became grave and graver. When at last 
Dare produced the copy of the marriage 
register, he shook his head. 

" * Alfred Dare, bachelor and English 
subject,' " he said. " That ' English subject' 
makes a difficulty to start with. You had 
never, I believe, any intention of acquiring 
what in law we call an American domicil ? 
and although the technicalities of this subject 
are somewhat complicated, I am afraid that 
in your case there is little, if any, doubt. 
The English courts are very jealous of any 
interference by foreigners with the status of 
an Englishman ; and though a divorce legally 
granted by a competent tribunal for an 


adequate cause might — I will not say would 
— be held binding everywhere, there can be 
no doubt that where in the eyes of our law 
the cause is not adequate, our courts would 
refuse to recognize it. Have you a copy of 
the register of divorce as well ? " 

'' No." 

" It is unfortunate ; but no doubt you can 
remember the grounds on which it was 

" Incompatibility of temper, and she said 
I had deserted her. I had left her the year 
before. We both agreed to separate." 

The lawyer shook his head. 

"What's incompatibility?" he said. "What's 
a year's absence ? Nothing in the eyes of an 
Englishman. Nothing in the law of this 

" But the divorce was granted. It was 
legal. There was no question," said Dare 
eagerly. " I was divorced In the same 
State as where I married. I had lived there 
more than a year, which was all that was 


necessary. No difficulty was made at the 

" No. Marriage is slipped into and slipped 
out of again with gratifying facility in America, 
and Kansas is notorious for the laxity pre- 
vailing there as regards marriage and divorce. 
It will be advisable to take the opinion of 
counsel on the matter, but I can hold out 
very little hope that your divorce would hold 
good, even in America. You see, you are 
entered as a British subject on the marriage 
register, and I imagine these words must 
have been omitted in the divorce proceed- 
ings, or some difficulty would have been 
raised at the time, unless your residence in 
Kansas made it unnecessary. But even sup- 
posing by American law you are free, that 
will be of no avail in England, for by the 
law of England, which alone concerns you, 
I regret to be obliged to tell you that you 
are incontestably a married man." 

And in spite of frantic reiterations, of wild 
protests on the part of Dare, as if the com- 

voL. n. 30 


passionate old man represented the English 
law, and could mould it at his pleasure, the 
lawyer's last word remained in substance the 
same, though repeated many times. 

" Whether you are at liberty or not to 
marry again in America, I am hardly pre- 
pared to say. I will look into the subject 
and let you know ; but in England I regret 
to repeat that you are a married man." 

Dare groaned in body and in spirit as the 
words came back to him ; and his thoughts, 
shrinking from the despair and misery at 
home, wandered aimlessly away, anywhere, 
hither and thither, afraid to go back, afraid 
to face again the desolation that sat so grim 
and stern in solitary possession. 

The train arrived at Slumberleigh at last, 
and he got out, and shivered as the driving 
wind swept across the platform. It surprised 
him that there was a wind, although at every 
station down the line he had seen people 
straining against it. He gave up his ticket 
mechanically, and walked aimlessly away 


into the darkness, turning with momentary 
curiosity to watch the train hurry on again, 
a pillar of fire by night, as it had been a 
pillar of smoke by day. 

He passed the blinking station inn, forget- 
ting that he had put up his dog-cart there to 
await his return, and hardly knowing what he 
did, took from long habit the turn for Vandon. 

It was a wild night. The wind was driving 
the clouds across the moon at a tremendous 
rate, and sweeping at each gust flights of 
spectre leaves from the swaying trees. It 
caught him in the open of the bare high-road, 
and would not let him go. It opposed him, 
and buffeted him at every turn ; but he held 
listlessly on his way. His feet took him, 
and he let them take him whither they would. 
They led him stumbling along the dim road, 
the dust of which was just visible like a grey 
mist before him, until he reached the bridge 
by the mill. There his feet stopped of their 
own accord, and he went and leaned against 
the low stone wall, looking down at the 


sudden glimpses of pale hurried water and 
trembling reed. 

The moon came out full and strong in 
temporary victory, and made black shadows 
behind the idle mill wheel and open mill race, 
and black shadows, black as death, under 
the bridofe itself. Dare leaned over the wall 
to watch the mysterious water and shadow 
run beneath. As he looked, he saw the 
reflection of a man in the water watching 
him. He shook his fist savagely at it, and 
it shook its fist amid a wavering of broken 
light and shadow back at him. But it did 
not go away ; it remained watching him. 
There was something strange and unfamiliar 
about the river to-night. It had a voice, 
too, which allured and repelled him — a voice 
at the sound of which the grim despair within 
him stirred ominously at first, and then began 
slowly to rise up gaunt and terrible ; began 
to move stealthily, but with ever-increasing 
swiftness through the deserted chambers of 
his heart. 


No Strong abiding principle was there to 
do battle with the enemy. The minor feel- 
ings, sensibilities, emotions, amiable impulses, 
those courtiers of our prosperous days, had 
all forsaken him and fled. Dare's house in 
his hour of need was left unto him desolate. 

And the river spoke in a guilty whisper, 
which yet the quarrel of the wind and the 
trees could not drown, of deep places further 
down, where people were never found, people 

who But there were shallows, too, he 

remembered, shallow places among the stones 
where the trout were. If anybody were 
drowned. Dare thought, gazing down at the 
pale shifting moon in the water, he would 
be found there, perhaps, or at any rate, his 
hat — he took his hat off, and held it tightly 
clenched in both his hands — his hat would 
tell the tale. 



Charles left Slumberleigh Hall a few hours 
later than Dare had done, but only to go 
back to Atherstone. He could not leave the 
neighbourhood. This burning fever of sus- 
pense would be unbearable at any other 
place, and in any case he must return by 
Saturday, the day on which he had promised 
to meet Raymond. His hand was really 
slightly Injured, and he made the most of it. 
He kept it bound up, telegraphed to put off 
his next shooting engagement on the strength 
of It, and returned to Atherstone, even though 
he was aware that Lady Mary had arrived 
there the day before, on her way home to 
her house in London. 

Ralph and Evelyn were accustomed to 


sudden and erratic movements on the part 
of Charles, and to Molly he was a sort of 
archangel, who might arrive out of space at 
any moment, untrammelled by such details 
as distance, trains, time, or tide. But to 
Lady Mary his arrival was a significant fact, 
and his impatient refusal to have his hand 
investigated was another. Her cold grey 
eyes watched him narrowly, and, conscious 
that they did so, he kept out of her way as 
much as possible, and devoted himself to 
Molly more than ever. 

He was sailing a mixed fleet of tin ducks 
and fishes across the tank by the tool shed, 
under her supervision, on the afternoon of 
the day he had arrived, when Ralph came to 
find him in great excitement. His keeper 
had just received private notice from the 
Thursbys' keeper that a raid on the part of 
a large gang of poachers was expected that 
night In the parts of the Slumberleigh coverts 
that had not yet been shot over, and which 
adjoined Ralph s own land. 


" Whereabout will that be ? " said Charles 
inattentively, drawing his magnet slowly in 
front of the fleet. 

'' Where ? " said Ralph excitedly, *' why 
round by the old house, round by Arleigh, 
of course. Thursby and I have turned down 
hundreds of pheasants there. Don't you 
remember the hot corner by the coppice last 
year, below the house, where we got forty 
at one place, and how the wind took them 
as they came over ? " 

'' Nea.r A r/ez£-A f repeated Charles, with 
sudden interest. 

*' Uncle Charles," interposed Molly re- 
proachfully, '' don't let all the ducks stick on 
to the magnet like that. I told you not 
before. Make It go on in front." 

But Charles's attention had wandered from 
the ducks. 

" Yes," continued Ralph, " near Arlelgh. 
There was a gang of poachers there last 
year, and the keepers dared not attack 
them they were so strong, though they 


were shooting right and left. But we'll 
be even with them this year. My men are 
going, and I shall go with them. You had 
better come too, and see the fun. The more 
the better." 

** Why should I go ? " said Charles list- 
lessly. '' Am I my brother's keeper, or even 
his under keeper ? Molly, don't splash your 
uncle's wardrobe. Besides, I expect it is a 
false alarm or a blind." 

" False alarm ! " retorted Ralph. " I tell 
you Thursby's head keeper, Shaw — you 
know Shaw — saw a man himself only last 
night in the Arleigh coverts ; came upon 
him suddenly, reconnoitering, of course, for 
to-night, and would have collared him too if 
the moon had not gone in, and when it came 
out again he was gone." 

'' Of course, and he will warn off the rest 

''Not a bit of it. He never saw Shaw. 
Shaw takes his oath he didn't see him. I'll 
lay any odds they will beat those coverts 


to-night, and, by George ! we'll nail some of 
them, if we have an ounce of luck." 

Ralph's sporting instinct, to which even 
the fleeting vision of a chance weasel never 
appealed in vain, was now thoroughly 
aroused, and even Charles shared somewhat 
in his excitement. 

How could he warn Raymond to lie close ? 
The more he thought of it the more im- 
possible it seemed. It was already late in 
the afternoon. He could not, for Raymond's 
sake, risk being seen hanging about in the 
woods near Arleigh for no apparent reason, 
and Raymond was not expecting to see him 
in any case for two days to come, and would 
probably be impossible to find. He could 
do nothing but wait till the evening came, 
when he might have some opportunity, if the 
night were only dark enough, of helping or 
warning him. 

The night was dark enough when it came ; 
but it was unreliable. A tearing autumn 
wind drove armies of clouds across the moon, 


only to sweep them away again at a moment's 
notice. The wind itself rose and fell, 
dropped and struggled up again like a furious 
wounded animal. 

'' It will drop at midnight," said Ralph to 
Charles below his breath, as they walked in 
the darkness along the road towards Slumber- 
leigh ; '' and the moon will come out when 
the wind goes. I have told Evans and 
Brooks to go by the fields, and meet us at 
the cross roads in the low woods. It is a 
good night for us. We don't want light yet 
awhile ; and the more row the wind kicks up 
till we are in our places ready for them the 

They walked on in silence, nearly missing 
in the dark the turn for Slumberleigh, where 
the road branched off to Vandon. 

'' We must be close upon the river by this 
time," said Ralph ; " but I can't hear it for 
the wind." 

The moon came out suddenly, and showed 
close on their right the mill blocking out the 


sky, and the dark sweep of the river below, 
between pale wastes of flooded meadow. 
Upon the bridge, leaning over the wall, stood 
the figure of a man, bareheaded, with his hat 
in his hands. 

He could not see his face, but something 
in his attitude struck Charles with a sudden 

" By ," he said below his breath, 

plucking Ralph's arm, " there's mischief going 
on there ! " 

Ralph did not hear, and in another moment 
Charles was thankful he had not done so. 

The man raised himself a little, and the 
light fell full on his white desperate face. 
He was feeling up and down the edge of the 
stone parapet with his hands. As he moved, 
Charles recognized him, and drew in his 
breath sharply. 

'' Who is that ? " said Ralph, his obtuser 
faculties perceiving the man for the first 

Charles made no answer, but began to 


whistle loudly one of the tunes of the day. 
He saw Dare give a guilty start, and catch- 
ing at the wall for support, lean heavily 
against it as he looked wildly down the road, 
where the shadow of the trees had so far 
served to screen the approach of Charles and 
Ralph, who now emerged into the light, or 
at least would have done so, if the moonlight 
had not been snatched away at that moment. 

*' Hullo, Dare ! " said Ralph cheerfully 
through the darkness. " I saw you. What 
are you up to, standing on the bridge at 
midnight, with the clock striking the hour, 
and all that sort of thing ; and what have 
you done with your hat ? Dropped it into 
the water ? " 

Dare muttered something unintelligible, 
and peered suspiciously through the darkness 
at Charles. 

The moon made a feint of coming out 
again, which came to nothing, but which 
gave Charles a moment's glimpse of Dare's 
convulsed face. And the grave penetrating 


glance that met his own [so fixedly told Dare 
in that moment that Charles had guessed his 
business on the bridge. Both men were 
glad of the returning darkness, and of the 
presence of Ralph. 

** Come along with us," the latter was saying 
to Dare, explaining the errand on which they 
were bound ; and Dare, stupefied with past 
emotion, and careless of what he did or 
where he went, agreed. 

It was less trouble to agree than to find a 
reason for refusing. He mechanically put 
on his hat, which he had unconsciously 
crushed together a few minutes before, in a 
dreadful dream from which even now he had 
not thoroughly awaked. And still walking 
like a man in a dream, he set off with the 
other two. 

" There was suicide in his face," thought 
Charles, as he swung along beside his brother. 
"He would have done it if we had not come 
up. Good God ! can it be that it is all over 
between him and Ruth ! " The blood rushed 


to his head, and his heart began to beat 
wildly. He walked on in silence, seeing 
nothing, hearing nothing. Raymond and the 
poachers were alike forgotten. 

It was not until a couple of men joined 
them silently in the woods, and others 
presently rose up out of the darkness to 
whisper directions and sink down again, that 
Charles came to himself with a start, and 
pulled himself together. 

The party had halted. It was pitch dark, 
but he was conscious of something towering 
up above him, black and lowering. It was 
the ruined house of Arleigh. 

" You and Brooks wait here, and keep well 
under the lea of the house," said Ralph in a 
whisper. " If the moon comes out get into 
the shadow of the wall. Don't shout till 
you're sure of them. Shaw is down by the 
stables. Dare and Evans, you both come on 
with me. Shaw's got two men at the end of 
the glade, but it's the nearest coverts he is 
keenest on, because they can get a horse and 


cart up close to take the game, and get off 
sharp if they are surprised. They did last 
year. Don't stir if you hear wheels. Wait 
for them." And with this parting injunction 
Ralph disappeared noiselessly with Dare and 
the other keeper in the direction of the 

Ralph had been right. The wind was 
dropping. It came and went fitfully, return- 
ing as if from great distances, and hurrying 
past weak and impotent, leaving sudden 
silences behind. Charles and his companion, 
a strapping young under keeper, evidently 
anxious to distinguish himself, waited, listen- 
ing intently in the intervals of silence. The 
ivy on the old house shivered and whispered 
over their heads, and against one of the 
shuttered windows near the ground some 
climbing plant, torn loose by the wind, tapped 
incessantly, as if calling to the ghosts within. 
Charles glanced ever and anon at the sky. 
It showed no trace of clearing — as yet. He 
was getting cramped with standing. He 


wished he had gone on to the stables. His 
anxiety for Raymond was sharpened by this 
long inaction. He seemed to have been 
standing for ages. What were the others 
doine ? Not a sound reached him between 
the lengthening pauses of the wind. His 
companion stood drawn up motionless beside 
him ; and so they waited, straining eye and 
ear into the darkness, conscious that others 
were waiting and listening also. 

At last in the distance came a faint sound 
of wheels. Charles and Brooks instinctively 
drew a long breath ; and Charles for the 
first time believed the alarm of poachers 
had not been a false one after all. It was 
the faintest possible sound of wheels. It 
would hardly have been heard at all but 
for some newly broken stones over which 
it passed. Then, without coming nearer, it 

Charles listened intently. The wind had 
dropped down dead at last, and in the 
stillness he felt as if he could have heard a 

VOL. II. 31 


mouse stir miles away. But all was quiet. 
There was no sound but the tremulous 
whisper of the ivy. The spray near the 
window had ceased its tapping against the 
shutter, and was listening too. Slowly the 
moon came out, and looked on. 

And then suddenly, from the direction of 
the stables, came a roar of men's voices, a 
sound of bursting and crashing through the 
underwood, a thundering of heavy feet, 
followed by a whirring of frightened birds 
into the air. Brooks leaned forward breath- 
ing hard, and tightening his newly moistened 
grip on his heavy knotted stick. 

Another moment and a man's figure darted 
across the open, followed by a chorus of 
shouts, and Charles's heart turned sick within 
him. It was Raymond. 

" Cut him off at the gate, Charles," roared 
Ralph from behind; ''down to the left." 

There was not a second for reflection. As 
Brooks rushed headlong forwards, Charles 
hurriedly interposed his stick between his. 


legs, and, leaving him to flounder, started off 
in pursuit. 

" Down to your left," cried a chorus 
of voices from behind, as he shot out of 
the shadow of the house ; for Charles was 
some way ahead of the rest owing to his 

He could hear Raymond crashing in front, 
then he saw him again for a moment in a 
strip of open, running as a man does who 
runs for his life, with a furious recklessness 
of all obstacles. Charles saw he was making 
for the rocky thickets below the house, where 
the uneven ground and the bracken would 
o^Ive him a better chance. Did he remember 
the deep sunken wall which, broken down in 
places, still separated the wilderness of the 
garden from the wilderness outside ? Charles 
was lean and active, and he soon out-dis- 
tanced the other pursuers, but a man Is hard 
to overtake who has such reasons for not 
being overtaken as Raymond, and do what 
he would he could not get near him. He 


bore down to the left, but Raymond seemed 
to know it, and edging away again, held for 
the woods a little higher up. Charles tacked, 
and then as he ran he saw that Raymond 
was making with headlong blindness through 
the shrubbery direct for the deep sunk wall 
which bounded the Arleigh grounds. Would 
he see it in the uncertain light ? He must 
be close upon it now. He was running like 
a madman. As Charles looked he saw him 
pitch suddenly forward out of sight, and heard 
a heavy fall. If Charles ever ran in his life 
it was then. As he swifdy let himself drop 
over the wall, lower than Raymond had 
taken it, he saw Ralph and Dare, followed 
by the others, come streaming down the slope 
in the moonlight, spreading as they came. 
It was now or never. He rushed up the 
fosse under cover of the wall, and almost 
stumbled over a prostrate figure, which was 
helplessly trying to raise itself on its hands 
and knees. 

" Danvers, it's me," gasped Raymond, 


turning a white tortured face feebly towards 
him. '' Don't let those devils Q-Qt me." 

'' Keep still," panted Charles, pushing him 
down amone the bracken. '' Lie close under 
the wall, and make for the house ao^ain when 
its quiet ; " and darting back under cover of 
the wall, to the place where he had dropped 
over it, he found Dare almost upon him, and 
rushed headlong down the steep rocky 
descent, roaring at the top of his voice, and 
calling wildly to the others. The pursuit 
swept away through the wood, down the hill, 
and up the sandy ascent on the other side ; 
swept almost over the top of Charles, who 
had flung himself down, dead-beat and gasp- 
ing for breath, at the bottom of the gully. 

He heard the last of the heavy lumbering 
feet crash past him, and heard the shouting 
die away before he stiffly dragged himself 
Lip again, and began to struggle painfully 
back up the slippery hill-side, down which 
he had rushed with a whole regiment of loose 
and hopping stones ten minutes before. He 


regained the wall at last, and crept back to 
the place where he had left Raymond. It 
was with a slsfh of relief that he found that 
he was eone. No doubt he had orot into 
safety somewhere, perhaps in the cottage 
itself, where no one would dream of looking 
for him. He stumbled along among the 
loose stones by the wall till he came to the 
place by the gate where it w^as broken down, 
and clambering up, for the gate was locked, 
made his way back through the shrubberies, 
and desolate remains of garden, towards the 
point near the house where Raymond had 
first broken covert. As he came round a 
clump of bushes his heart gave a great leap, 
and then sank within him. 

Three men were standing in the middle of 
the lawn in the moonlight, gathered round 
vsomething on the ground. Seized by a 
horrible miseivine, he hurried towards them. 
At a little distance a dog-cart w^as being 
slowly led over the grass-grown drive towards 
the house. 


" What Is it ? Any one hurt ? " he asked 
hoarsely, joining the little group ; but as he 
looked he needed no answer. One glance 
told him that the prostrate, unconscious 
figure on the ground, with blood slowly 
oozing from the open mouth, was Raymond 

" Great God ! the man's dying," he said, 
dropping on his knees beside him. 

"He's all right, sir; he'll come to," said 
a little brisk man in a complacent, peremptory 
tone. " It's only the young chap" — pointing 
to the bashful but gratified Brooks — "as 
crocked him over the head a bit sharper 
than needful. Here, Esp" — to the grinning 
Slumberleigh policeman, whom Charles now 
recognized, " tell the lad to bring up the 'orse 
and trap over the grass. We shall have a 
business to shift him as It Is." 

" Is he a poacher ? " asked Charles. "He 
doesn't look like It." 

" Lord ! no, sir," replied the little man, and 
Charles's heart went straio^ht down Into his 


boots and stayed there. '' Fm come down 
from Birmingham after him. He's no 
poacher. The poHce have wanted him very 
special for some time for the Francisco 
forgery case." 



Charles watched the detective and the 
poHceman hoist Raymond into the dog-cart 
and drive away, supporting him between 
them. No doubt it had been the wheels of 
that dog-cart which they had heard in the 
distance. Then he turned to Brooks. 

" How is it you remained behind } " he 
asked sharply. 

Brooks's face fell, and he explained that 
just as he was starting in the pursuit he had 
caught his legs on " Sir Chawles sir's" stick, 
and '' barked hisself." 

*' I remember," said Charles. " You got 
in my way. You should look out where you 
are going. You may as well go and find my 


The poor victim of duplicity departed 
rather crestfallen, and at this moment Dare 
came up. 

" We have lost him," he said, wiping his 
forehead. *' I don't know what has become 
of him." 

'* He doubled back here," said Charles. 
*' I followed, but you all went on. The police 
have got him. He was not a poacher after 
all, so they said." 

" Ah ! " said Dare. " They have him ? I 
regret it. He ran well. I could wish he 
had escaped. I was in the doorway of a 
stable watching a long time, and all in a 
moment he rushed past me out of the door. 
The policeman was seeking within when he 
came out, but thouo^h he touched me I could 
not stop him. And now," with sudden 
w^eariness as his excitement evaporated, 
*' all is then over for the night ? And the 
others ? Where are they ? Do we wait for 
them here ? " 

'' We should wait some time if we did," 


replied Charles. " Ralph Is certain to go on 
to the other coverts. He has poachers on 
the brain. Probably the rumour that they 
were coming here was only a blind, and they 
are doinof a eood business somewhere else. 
I am eoine home. I have had enoug^h 
enjoyment for one evening. I should advise 
you to do the same." 

Dare winced, and did not answer, and 
Charles suddenly remembered that there 
were circumstances which mieht make it 
difficult for him to q-q back to Vandon. 

They walked away together in silence. 
Dare, who had been wildly excited, was 
beo-inninor to feel the reaction. He was 

o o 

becoming giddy and faint with exhaustion 
and want of food. He had eaten nothing all 
day. They had not gone far when Charles 
saw that he stumbled at every other step. 

'' Look out," he said once, as Dare stumbled 
more heavily than usual, " you'll twist your 
ankle on these loose stones if you're not 
more careful." 


*' It is SO dark," said Dare faintly. 

The moon was shining brightly at the 
moment, and as Charles turned to look at 
him in surprise, Dare staggered forward, and 
would have collapsed altogether if he had 
not caught him by the arm. 

" Sit down," he said authoritatively. " Here, 
not on me, man, on the bank. Always sit 
down when you can't stand. You have had 
too much excitement. I felt the same after 
my first Christmas tree. You will be better 

Charles spoke lightly, but he knew from 
what he had seen that Dare must have 
passed a miserable day. He had never 
liked him. It was impossible that he should 
have done so. But even his more active 
dislike of the last few months gave way to 
pity for him now, and he felt almost ashamed 
at the thought that his own happiness was 
only to be built on the ruin of poor Dare's. 

He made him swallow the contents of his 
flask, and as Dare choked and gasped himself 


back into the fuller possession of his faculties, 
and experienced the benign influences of 
whisky, entertained at first unawares, his 
heart, always easily touched, warmed to the 
owner of the silver flask, and of the strong 
arm that was supporting him with an un- 
willinorness he little dreamed of. His 
momentary jealousy of Charles In the summer 
had long since been forgotten. He felt 
towards him now, as Charles helped him up, 
and he proceeded slowly on his arm, as a 
friend and a brother. 

Charles, entirely unconscious of the noble 
sentiments which he and his flask had Inspired, 
looked narrowly at his companion, as they 
neared the turn for Atherstone, and said with 
some anxiety — 

" Where are you going to-night ? " 

Dare made no answer. He had no Idea 
where he was going. 

Charles hesitated. He could not let him 
walk back alone to Vandon — over the bridge. 
It w^as long past midnight. Dare's evident 


Inability to think where to turn touched 

*' Can I be of any use to you ? " he said 
earnestly. '' Is there anything I can do ? 
Perhaps, at present, you would rather not go 
to Vandon." 

"No, no," said Dare, shuddering; ''I will 
not go there." 

Charles felt more certain than ever that It 
would not be safe to leave him to his own 
devices, and his anxiety not to lose sight of 
him in his present state gave a kindness to 
his manner of which he was hardly aware. 

" Come back to Atherstone with me," he 
said. " I will explain it to Ralph when he 
comes in. It will be all right." 

Dare accepted the proposition with grati- 
tude. It relieved him for the moment from 
coming to any decision. He thanked Charles 
with effusion, and then — his natural impulsive- 
ness quickened by the quantity of raw spirits 
he had swallowed, by this mark of sympathy, 
by the moonlight, by Heaven knows what 


that loosens the facile tono^ue of unretlcence 
— then suddenly, without a moment's pre- 
paration, he began to pour forth his troubles 
into Charles's astonished and reluctant ears. 
It was vain to try to stop him, and, after the 
first moment of instinctive recoil, Charles 
was seized by a burning curiosity to know all 
where he already knew so much, to put an 
end to this racking suspense. 

" And that is not the worst," said Dare, 
when he had recounted how the woman he 
had seen on the church steps was in very 
deed the wife she claimed to be. '' That is 
not the worst. I love another. We are 
affianced. We are as one. I bring sorrow 
upon her I love." 

*' She knows, then?" asked Charles 
hoarsely, hating himself for being such a 
hypocrite, but unable to refrain from putting 
a leading question. 

" She knows that some one — a person — is 
at Vandon," replied Dare, *' who calls herself 
my wife, but I tell her it is not true, and she, 


all goodness, all heavenly calm, she trusts me, 
and once again she promises to marry me if I 
am free, as I tell her, as I swear to her." 

Charles listened in astonishment. He saw 
Dare was speaking the truth, but that Ruth 
could have given such a promise was difficult 
to believe. He did not know, what Dare 
even had not at all realized, that she had 
given it In the belief that Dare, from his 
answers to her questions, had never been 
married to the woman at all, In the belief 
that she was a mere adventuress seeking to 
make money out of him by threatening a 
scandalous libel, and without the faintest 
suspicion that she was his divorced wife, 
whether legally or Illegally divorced. 

Dare had understood the promise to 
depend on the legality or illegality of that 
divorce, and told Charles so in all good faith. 
With an extraordinary effort of reticence he 
withheld the name of his affianced, and press- 
ing Charles's arm, begged him to ask no 
more. And Charles, half sorry, half con- 


temptuous, wholly ashamed of having allowed 
such a confidence to be forced upon him, 
marched on in silence, now divided between 
mortal anxiety for Raymond and pity for 
Dare, now striving to keep down a certain 
climbing rapturous emotion which would not 
be suppressed. 

One of the servants had waited up for 
their return, and after eettlnof Dare some- 
thing to eat, Charles took him up to the 
room which had been prepared for himself, 
and then feeling he had done his duty by 
him, and that he was safe for the present, 
went back to smoke by the smoking-room 
fire till Ralph came In, which was not till 
several hours later. When he did at last 
return It was In triumph. He was dead- 
beat, voiceless, and footsore ; but a sense of 
glory sustained him. Four poachers had 
been taken red-handed in the coverts furthest 
from Arlelgh. The rumour about Arleigh 
had, of course, been a blind ; but he, Ralph, 
thank Heaven, was not to be taken In In 

VOL. II. 32 


such a hurry as all that ! He could look 
after his Interests as well as most men. In 
short, he was full of glorification to the brim, 
and It was only after hearing a hoarse and 
full account of the whole transaction several 
times over that Charles was able In a pause 
for breath to tell him that he had offered 
Dare a bed, as he was quite tired out, and 
was some distance from Vandon. 

''All right. Quite right," said Ralph, un- 
heeding ; " but you and he missed the best 
part of the whole thing. Great Scot ! when 
I saw them come dodging round under the 

Black Rock and " He was off again; 

and Charles doubted afterwards as he fell 
asleep In his armchair by the fire, whether 
Ralph, already slumbering peacefully opposite 
him, had paid the least attention to what he 
had told him, and would not have entirely 
forgotten it In the morning. And, In fact, he 
did, and It was not until Evelyn desired with 
dignity on the morrow, that another time 
unsuitable persons should not be brought at 


midnight to her house, that he remembered 
what had happened. 

Charles, who was present, immediately 
took the blame upon himself, but Evelyn was 
not to be appeased. By this time the whole 
neiofhbourhood was rinofine with the news of 
the arrival of a foreign wife at Vandon, and 
Evelyn felt that Dare's presence in her blue 
bedroom, with crockery and crewel-work 
curtains to match, compromised that apart- 
ment and herself, and that he must incon- 
tinently depart out of it. It was in vain that 
Ralph and even Charles expostulated. She 
remained unmoved. It was not, she said, as 
if she had been unwilling to receive him in 
the first instance, as a possible Roman 
Catholic, though many might have blamed 
her for that, and perhaps she had been to 
blame ; but she had never, no, never, had 
any one to stay that anybody could say any- 
thing about. (This was a solemn fact which 
it was impossible to deny.) Ralph might 
remember her own cousin, Willie Best, and 


she had always Hked WilHe, had never been 
asked again after that tune — Ralph chuckled 
— that time he knew of. She was very sorry, 
and she quite understood all Charles meant, 
and she quite saw the force of what he said ; 
but she could not allow people to stay in the 
house who had foreign wives that had been 
kept secret. What was poor Willie, who 
had only — Ralph need not laugh ; there was 
nothing to laugh at — what was Willie to 
this ? She must be consistent. She could 
see Charles was very angry with her, but she 
could not encourage what was wrong, even 
if he was angry. In short, Dare must go. 

But when it came to the point, it w^as 
found that Dare could not 2:0. Nothinof 
short of force would have turned the unwel- 
come guest out of the bed in the blue bed- 
room, from which he made no attempt to rise, 
and on which he lay worn out and feverish, 
In a stupor of sheer mental and physical 

Charles and Ralph went and looked at 


him rather ruefully, with masculine helpless- 
ness, and the end of it was that Evelyn, in 
no wise softened, for she was a good woman, 
had to give way, and a doctor was sent for. 

" Send for the man in D . Don't have 

the Slumberleigh man," said Charles ; " it 
will only make more talk ; " and the doctor 
from D w^as accordingly sent for. 

He did not arrive till the afternoon, and 
after he had seen Dare, and given him a 
sleeping draught, and had talked reassuringly 
of a mental shock and a feverish tempera- 
ment, he apologized for his delay in coming. 
He had been kept, he said, drawing on his 
gloves as he spoke, by a very serious case in 

the police-station at D . A man had 

been arrested on suspicion the previous 
night, and he seemed to have sustained some 
fatal internal injury. He ought to have been 
taken to the infirmary at once ; but it had 
been thought he was only shamming when 
first arrested, and once in the police-station 
he could not be moved, and — the doctor took 


up his hat — he would probably hardly out- 
live the day. 

" By the way," he added, turning at the 
door, "he asked over and over again while 
I was with him to see you or Mr. Danvers. 
Vm sure I forget which, but I promised him 
I would mention it. Nearly slipped my 
memory, all the same. He said one of you 
had known him in his better days, at — Oxford, 
was it ? " 

'' What name ? " asked Charles. 

" Stephens," replied the doctor. "He 
seemed to think you would remember him." 

*' Stephens," said Charles reflectively. 
" Stephens ! I once had a valet of that 
name, and a very good one he was, who left 
my service rather abruptly, taking v/ith him 
numerous portable memorials of myself, in- 
cluding a set of diamond studs. I endeavoured 
at the time to keep up my acquaintance with 
him ; but he took measures effectually to 
close it. In fact, I have never heard of him 
from that day to this." 


'' That's the man, no doubt," replied the 
doctor. "He has — er — a sort of look about 
him as if he might have been in a gentleman's 
service once ; seen-better-days-sort of look, 
you know." 

Charles said he should be at D in 

the course of the afternoon, and would make 
a point of looking in at the police-station j 
and a quarter of an hour later he was driving 
as hard as he could tear in Ralph's high dog- 
cart alono- the road to D . It was a six- 

mile drive, and he slackened as he reached 
the straggling suburbs of the little town, 
lying before him in a dim mist of fine rain 
and smoke. 

Arrived at the dismal building which he 
knew to be the police-station, he was shown 
into a small room hung round with papers, 
where the warden was writing, and desired, 
with an authority so evidently accustomed 
to obedience that it invariably insured it. to 
see the prisoner. The prisoner he said, at 
whose arrest he had been present, had ex- 


pressed a wish to see him through the doctor ; 
and as the warden demurred for the space of 
one second, Charles mentioned that he was 
a magistrate and justice of the peace, and 
sternly desired the confused official to show 
him the way at once. That functionary, 
awed by the stately manner which none knew 
better than Charles when to assume, led the 
way down a narrow stone passage, past 
numerous doors behind one of which a 
banging sound, accompanied by alcoholic 
oaths, suggested the presence of a free-born 
Briton chafing under restraint. 

" I had him put upstairs, sir," said the 
w^arden humbly. " We didn't know when he 
came in as it was a case for the infirmary ; 
but seeing he was wanted for a big thing, 
and poorly in his 'ealth, I giv' him one of the 
superior cells, with a mattress and piller 

The man was evidently afraid that Charles 
had come as a magistrate to give him a 
reprimand of some kind, for, as he led the 


way up a narrow stone staircase, he continued 
to expatiate on the luxury of the " mattress 
and piller," on the superiority of the cell, and 
how a nurse had been sent for at once from 
the infirmary, when, owing to his own 
shrewdness, the prisoner was found to be " a 
hospital case." 

'' The doctor wouldn't have him moved," 
he said, opening a closed door in a long 
passage full of doors, the rest of which stood 
open. '' It's not reg'lar to have him in here, 
sir, I know ; but the doctor wouldn't have 
him moved." 

Charles passed through the door, and 
found himself in a narrow whitewashed cell, 
with a bed at one side, over which an old 
woman in the dress of a hospital nurse was 

" You can come out, Martha," said the 
warden. '' The gentleman's come to see 'im." 

As the old woman disappeared curtseying, 
he lingered to say in a whisper. 

" Do you know him, sir ? " 


" Yes," said Charles, looking fixedly at the 
figure on the bed. '' I remember him. I 
knew him years ago, in his better days. 
I dare say he will have something to tell 

*' If it should be anything as requires a 
witness," continued the man — ''he's said a 
deal already, and it's all down in proper form 
— but if there's anything more " 

*' I will let you know," said Charles, look- 
ing towards the door, and the warden took 
the hint and went out of It, closing it quietly. 

Charles crossed the little room, and sitting 
down in the crazy chair beside the bed, laid 
his hand gently on the listless hand lying 
palm upwards on the rough grey counter- 

" Raymond," he said ; " it is I, Danvers." 

The hand trembled a little, and made a 
faint attempt to clasp his. Charles took the 
cold lifeless hand, and held it in his strong 
gentle grasp. 

It is Danvers," he said again. 


The sick man turned his head slowly on 
the pillow, and looked fixedly at him. 
Death's own colour, which imitation can 
never imitate, nor ignorance mistake, w^as 
stamped upon that rigid face. 

*' I'm done for," he said w^ith a faint smile, 
which touched the lips but did not reach the 
solemn far-reaching eyes. 

Charles could not speak. 

'' You said I should turn up tails once too 
often," continued Raymond, with slow halting 
utterance, " and I've done it. I knew it was 
all up when I pitched over that damned wall 
on to the stones. I felt I'd killed myself." 

" How did they get you ? " said Charles. 

'' I don't know," replied Raymond, closing 
his eyes wearily, as if the subject had ceased 
to interest him. " I think I tried to creep 
along under the wall tow^ards the place where 
it is broken down, w^hen I fancy some one 
came over long after the others, and knocked 
me on the head." 

Charles reflected with sudden wrath that 


Brooks no doubt had been the man, and how 
much worse than useless his manoeuvre with 
the stick had been. 

** I did my best," he said humbly. 

" Yes," replied the other ; '' and I would 
not have forgotten it either if — if there had 
been any time to remember it in ; but there 
won't be. I've owned up," he continued in a 
laboured whisper. " Stephens has made a full 
confession. You'll have it in all the papers 
to-morrow. And while I was at it I piled 
on some more I never did, which will get 
friends over the water out of trouble. Tom 
Flavell did me a good turn once, and he's 
been in hiding these two years for — well, it 
don't much matter what, but I've shoved 
that in with the rest, though it was never in my 
line — never. He'll be able to go home now." 

" Have not you confessed under your own 
name ? " 

" No," replied Raymond, with a curious 
remnant of that pride of race at which it is 
the undisputed privilege of low birth and a 


plebeian temperament to sneer. " I won't 
have my ov/n name dragged In. I dropped 
it years ago. I've confessed as Stephens, 
and I'll die and be burled as Stephens. I'm 
not going to disgrace the family." 

There was a constrained silence of some 

" Would you like to see your sister ? " 
asked Charles ; but Raymond shook his head 
with feeble decision. 

" That man ! " he said suddenly after a 
long pause. *' That man in the doorway ! 
How did he come there ? " 

" There Is no man In the doorway,"' said 
Charles reassuringly. '' There is no one here 
but me." 

'' Last night," continued Raymond, " last 
night in the stables. I watched him stand in 
the doorway." 

Charles remembered how Dare had said 
Raymond had bolted out past him. 

" That was Dare," he said ; " the man who 
was to have been your brother-in-law." 


" Ah ! " said Raymond with evident uncon- 
cern. " I thought I'd seen him before. But 
he's altered. He's grown into a man. So 
he is to marry Ruth, is he ? " 

" Not now. He was to have done, but a 
divorced wife from America has turned up. 
She arrived at Vandon the day before yester- 
day. It seems the divorce in America does 
not hold In England." 

Raymond started. 

" The old fox," he said with feeble energy. 
*' Tracked him out, has she ? We used to 
call them fox and o^oose when she married 

him. By , she squeezed every dollar 

out of him before she let him go, and now 
she's got him again, has she ? She always 
was a cool hand. The old fox," he continued 
with contempt and admiration In his voice. 
*' She's playing a bold game, and the luck is 
on her side, but she's no more his wife than 
I am, and she knows that perfectly well." 

" Do you mean that the divorce was ? " 

*' Divorce, bosh ! " said Raymond, work- 


Ing himself up into a state of feeble excite- 
ment frightful to see. " I tell you she was 
never married to him legally. She called 
herself a widow when she married Dare, but 
she had a husband living, Jaspar Carroll, 
serving his time at Baton Rouge jail, down 
South, all the time. He died there a year 
afterwards, but hardly a soul know^s It to this 
day ; and those that do don't care about 
bringing themselves into public notice. 
They'll prefer hush-money, if they find out 
what she's up to now. The prison register 
would prove it directly. But Dare will never 
find it out. How should he ? " 

Raymond sank back speechless and pant- 
ing. A strong shudder passed over him, and 
his breath seemed to fail. 

'' It's coming," he whispered hoarsely. 
" That lying doctor said I had several hours, 
and I feel it coming already." 

'' Danvers," he continued hurriedly, " are 
you still there ? " Then, as Charles bent 
over him, '* Closer ; bend down. I want to 


see your face. Keep your own counsel 
about Dare. There's no one to tell if you 
don't. He's not fit for Ruth. You can 
marry her now. I saw what I saw. She'll 
take you. And some day — some day, when 
you have been married a long time, tell her 
I'm dead ; and tell her — about Flavell, and 
how I owned to it — but that I did not do it. 
I never sank so low as that." His voice had 
dropped to a whisper which died imper- 
ceptibly away. 

*' I will tell her," said Charles; and Ray- 
mond turned his face to the wall, and spoke 
no more. 

The struggle had passed, and for the 
moment death held aloof, but his shadow 
was there, lying heavy on the deepening 
twilight, and darkening all the little room. 
Raymond seemed to have sunk into a stupor, 
and at last Charles rose silently and went out. 

He was dimly conscious of meeting some 
one in the passage, of answering some ques- 
tion in the negative, and then he found him- 


self gathering up the reins, and driving 

through the narrow Hghted streets of D 

in the dusk, and so away down the long flat 
high-road to Atherstone. 

A white mist had risen up to meet the 
darkness, and had shrouded all the land. In 
sweeps and curves along the fields a gleaming 
pallor lay of heavy dew upon the grass, and 
on the road the lonor lines of dim water in 
the ruts reflected the dim sky. 

Carts lumbered past him in the darkness 
once or twice, the men in them peering back 
at his reckless driving ; and once a carriage 
with lamps came swiftly up the road towards 
him, and passed him with a flash, grazing his 
wheel. But he took no heed. Drive as 
quickly as he would through mist and dark- 
ness, a voice followed him, the voice of a 
pursuing devil close at his ear, whispering in 
the halting, feeble utterance of a dying man — ■ 

*' Keep your own counsel about Dare. 
There is no one to tell if you don't." 

Charles shivered and set his teeth. High 

VOL. II. S3 


on the hill amone the trees the distant 
lights of Slumberleigh shone like glowworms 
through the mist. He looked at them with 
wild eyes. She was there, the woman who 
loved him, and whom he passionately loved. 
He could stretch forth his hand to take her 
if he would. His breath came hard and 
thick. A hand seemed clutching and tearing 
at his heart. And close at his ear the 
whisper came — 

*' There is no one to tell if yon dont^ 



It was close on dressing time when Charles 
came into the drawing-room, where Evelyn 
and Molly were building castles on the 
hearthrug in the ruddy firelight. After 
changing his damp clothes, he had gone to 
the smoking-room, but he had found Dare 
sitting there • in a vast dressing-gown of 
Ralph's, in a state of such utter dejection, 
with his head in his hands, that he had 
silently retreated again before he had been 
perceived. He did not want to see Dare 
just now. He wished he were not in the 

Quite oblivious of the fact that he was not 
in Evelyn's good graces, he went and sat by 
the drawing-room fire, and absently watched 


Molly playing with her bricks. Presently, 
when the dressing-bell rang, Evelyn went 
away to dress, and Molly, tired of her castles, 
suggested that she might sit on his knee. 

He let her climb up and wriggle and 
finally settle herself as it seemed good to 
her, but he did not speak ; and so they sat 
in the firelight together, Molly's hand lovingly 
stroking his black velvet coat. But her 
talents lay in conversation, not in silence, 
and she soon broke it. 

'' You do look beautiful to-night, Uncle 

'' Do I ?" without elation. 

'' Do you know. Uncle Charles, Ninny's 
sister, with the wart on her cheek, has been 
to tea ? She's in the nursery now. Ninny 
says she's to have a bite of supper before 
she goes." 

'' You don't say so." 

'' And we had buttered toast to tea, and 
she said you were the most splendid gentle- 
man she ever saw." 


Charles did not answer. He did not even 
seem to have heard this Interestlnof tribute 


to his personal appearance. INIolly felt that 
something must be gravely amiss, and laying 
her soft cheek against his she whispered 
confidentially — 

" Uncle Charles, are you uncomferable 
inside ?" 

There was a long pause. 

" Yes, Molly," at last, pressing her to him. 

''Is it there ?" said Molly sympathetically, 
laying her hand on the front portion of her 
amber sash. 

''No, INIolly; I only wish it were." 

" It's not the little green pears, then," said 
Molly with a sigh of experience, " because 
it's always jiLst there, ahvays, with them. It 
was again yesterday. They're nasty little 
pears " — with a touch of personal resentment. 

Uncle Charles smiled at last, but it was 
not quite his usual smile. 

" Miss Molly," said a voice from the door, 
" your mamma has sent for you." 


" It's not bedtime yet." 

''Your mamma says you are to come at 
once," was the reply. 

Molly, knowing from experience that an 
appeal to Charles was useless on these occa- 
sions, wriggled down from her perch rather 
reluctantly, and bade her uncle "Good night." 

" Perhaps it will be better to-morrow," she 
said consolingly. 

" Perhaps," he said, nodding at her ; and 
he took her little head between his hands, 
and kissed her. She rubbed his kiss off 
again, and walked gravely away. She could 
not be merry and ride in triumph upstairs on 
kind curveting Sarah's willing back, while 
her friend was " uncomferable inside." There 
was no galloping down the passage that 
night, no pleasantries with the sponge in 
Molly's tub, no last caperings in light attire. 
Molly went silently to bed, and as on a 
previous occasion when in great anxiety 
about Vic, who had thoughtlessly gone out 
in the twilight for a stroll, and had forgotten 


the lapse of time, she added a whispered 
clause to her little petitions which the ear of 
'' Ninny " failed to catch. 

Charles recognized, in the way Evelyn had 
taken Molly from him, that she was not yet 
appeased. It should be remembered, in order 
to do her justice, that a good woman's means 
of showing a proper resentment are so 
straitened and circumscribed by her con- 
science that she is obliged, from actual want 
of material, to resort occasionally to little acts 
of domestic tyranny, small in themselves as 
midge bites, but, fortunately for the cause of 
virtue, equally exasperating. Indeed, it Is 
improbable that any really good woman 
would ever so far forget herself as to lose 
her temper, if she were once thoroughly 
aware how much more irritating in the long 
run a judicious course of those small per- 
secutions may be made, which the tenderest 
conscience need not scruple to Inflict. 

Charles was unreasonably annoyed at 
having Molly taken from him. As he sat 


by the fire alone, tired in mind and body, a 
hovering sense of cold, and an Intense weari- 
ness of life took him ; and a great longing 
came over him like a thirst — a lonoinor for a 
little of the personal happiness which seemed 
to be the common lot of so many round him ; 
for a home where he had now only a house ; 
for love and warmth and companionship, and 
possibly some day a little Molly of his own, 
who would not be taken from him at the 
caprice of another. 

The only barrier to the fulfilment of such 
a dream had been a conscientious scruple of 
Ruth's, to which at the time he had urged 
upon her that she did wrong to yield. That 
barrier was now broken down ; but It ought 
never to have existed. Ruth and he be- 
longed to each other by divine law, and she 
had no right to give herself to any one else 
to satisfy her own conscience. And now — 
all would be well. She was absolved from 
her promise. She had been wrong to persist 
in keeping it in his opinion ; but at any rate 


she was honourably released from it now. 
And she would marry him. 

And that second promise, which she had 
made to Dare, that she would still marry him 
if he were free to marry ? 

Charles moved impatiently in his chair. 
From what exaggerated sense of duty she 
had made that promise he knew not ; but he 
would save her from the effects of her own 
perverted judgment. He knew what Ruth's 
word meant, since he had tried to make her 
break it. He knew that she had promised to 
marry Dare if he were free. He knew that, 
having made that promise, she would keep it. 

It would be mere sentimental folly on his 
part to say the word that would set Dare 
free. Even if the American woman were 
not his wife in the eye of the law, she had a 
moral claim upon him. The possibility of 
Ruth's still marrying Dare was too hideous 
to be thought of. If her judgment was so 
entirely perverted by a morbid conscientious 
fear of following her own inclination that she 


could actually give Dare that promise, directly 
after the arrival of the adventuress, Charles 
would take the decision out of her hands. 
As she could not judge fairly for herself, he 
would judge for her, and save her from 

For her sake as much as for his own he 
resolved to say nothing. He had only to 
keep silence. 

" There s no one to tell if you donty 

The door opened, and Charles gave a start 
as Dare came into the room. He was taken 
aback by the sudden rush of hatred that 
surged up within him at his appearance. It 
angered and shamed him, and Dare, much 
shattered but feebly cordial, found him very 
irresponsive and silent for the few minutes 
that remained before the dinner bell rang 
and the others came down. 

It was not a pleasant meal. If Dare had 
been a shade less ill, he must have noticed 
the marked coldness of Evelyn's manner, and 
how Ralph good-naturedly endeavoured to 


make up for it by double helpings of soup 
and fish, which he was quite unable to eat. 
Charles and Lady Mary were never congenial 
spirits at the best of times, and to-night was 
not the best. That lady, after feebly pro- 
voking the attack as usual, sustained some 
crushing defeats, mainly couched In the 
language of Scripture, which was, as she felt 
with Christian indignation, turning her own 
favourite weapon against herself, as possibly 
Charles thought she deserved, for putting 
such a weapon to so despicable a use. 

" I really don't know," she said tremulously 
afterwards in the drawing-room, " what 
Charles will come to If he goes on like this. 
I don't mind," venomously, '' his tone towards 
myself. That I do not regard ; but his entire 
want of reverence for the Church and 
apostolic succession ; his profane remarks 
about vestments ; in short, his entire attitude 
towards religion gives me the gravest 

In the dining-room the conversation 


flagged, and Charles was beginning to 
wonder whether he could make some excuse 
and bolt, when a servant came in with a 
note for him. It was from the doctor in 
D , and ran as follows : — 

" Dear Sir, 

" I have just seen {6.30 p.m.) 
Stephens again. I found him in a state of 
the wildest excitement, and he implored me 
to send you word that he wanted to see you 
again. He seemed so sure that you would 
go if you knew he wished it, that I have 
commissioned Sergeant Brown's boy to take 
this. He wished me to say ' there was 
something more.' If there is any further 
confession he desires to make, he has not 
much time to do it in. I did not expect he 
would have lasted till now. As it is, he is 
going fast. Indeed, I hardly think you will 
be in time to see him ; but I promised to give 

you this message. 

*' Yours faithfully, 

'' R. White." 


" I must go," Charles said, throwing the 
note across to Ralph; ''give the boy half a 
crown, will you ? I suppose I may take 
Othello ? " and before Ralph had mastered the 
contents of the note, and begun to fumble for 
a half-crown, Charles was saddlintj Othello 
himself, without waiting for the groom, and. 
in a few minutes was clatterinof over the 
stones out of the yard. 

There was just light enough to ride by, 
and he rode hard. What was it ; what could 
it be that Raymond had still to tell him ? 
He felt certain it had something to do with 
Ruth, and probably Dare. Should he arrive 
in time to hear it ? There at last were the 

liehts of D in front of him. Should he 

arrive in time ? As he pulled up his steam- 
ing horse before the police-station his heart 
misgave him. 

*' Am I too late ? " he asked of the man 
who came to the door. 

He looked bewildered. 

" Stephens ? Is he dead ? " 


The man shook his head. 

'' They say he's a'most gone." 

Charles threw the rein to him, and hurried 
indoors. He met some one coming out, the 
doctor probably he thought afterwards, who 
took him upstairs, and sent away the old 
woman who was in attendance. 

*' I can't do anything more," he said, open- 
ing the door for him. " Wanted elsewhere. 
Very good of you, I'm sure. Not much use, 
I'm afraid. Good night. I'll tell the old 
woman to be about." 

A dim lamp was burning on the little 
corner cupboard near the door, and as 
Charles bent over the bed, he saw in a 
moment, even by that pale light, that he was 
too late. 

Life was still there, if that feeble tossing 
could be called life ; but all else was gone. 
Raymond's feet were already on the boundary 
of the land where all things are forgotten ; 
and at the sight of that dim country, memory, 
affrighted, had slipped away and left him. 


Was It possible to recall him to himself 
even yet ? 

*' Raymond," he said, In a low distinct 
voice, " what is it you wish to say ? Tell 
me quickly what it is." 

But the long agony of farewell between 
body and soul had begun, and the eyes that 
seemed to meet his with momentary recog- 
nition, only looked at him In anguish, seeking 
help and finding none, and wandered away 
again, vainly searching for that which was 
not to be found. 

Charles could do nothing, but he had not 
the heart to leave him to struggle with death 
entirely alone, and so, in awed and helpless 
compassion, he sat by him through one long 
hour after another, waiting for the end which 
still delayed, his eyes wandering ever and 
anon from the bed to the high grated window, 
or idly spelling out the different names and 
disparaging remarks that previous occupants 
had scratched and scrawled over the white- 
washed walls. 


And so the hours passed. 

At last, all in a moment, the struggle 
ceased. The dying man vainly tried to raise 
himself to meet what was coming, and 
Charles put his strong arm round him and 
held him up. He knew that consciousness 
sometimes returns at the moment of death. 

'' Raymond," he whispered earnestly. 
" Raymond." 

A tremor passed over the face. The lips 
moved. The homeless, lingering soul came 
back, and looked for the last time fixedly and 
searchingly at him out of the dying eyes, and 
then — seeing no help for it — went hurriedly 
on its way, leaving the lips parted to speak, 
leaving the deserted eyes vacant and terrible, 
until after a time Charles closed them. 

He had gone without speaking. Whatever 
he had wished to say would remain unsaid 
for ever. Charles laid him down, and stood 
a long time looking at the set face. The 
likeness to Raymond seemed to be fading 
away under the touch of the Mighty Hand, 


but the look of Ruth, the better look, 

At last he turned away and went out, 
stopping to wake the old nurse, heavily asleep 
in the passage. His horse was brought 
round for him from somewhere, and he 
mounted and rode away. He had no idea 
how long he had been there. It must have 
been many hours, but he had quite lost 
sight of time. It was still dark, but the 
morninor could not be far off. He rode 
mechanically his horse, which knev/ the road, 
taking him at its own pace. The night was 
cold, but he did not feel it. All power of 
feeling anything seemed dried up within him. 
The last two days and nights of suspense 
and hio^h struno^ emotion seemed to have left 
him incapable of any further sensation at 
present beyond that of an intense fatigue. 

He rode slowly, and put up his horse 
with careful absence of mind. The eastern 
horizon was already growing pale and distinct 
as he found his way indoors through the 

VOL. II. 34 


drawing-room window, the shutter of which 
had been left unhinged for him by Ralph, 
according to custom when either of them was 
out late. He went noiselessly up to his 
room, and sat down. After a time he started 
to find himself still sitting there ; but he 
remained without stirring, too tired to move, 
his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands. 
He felt he could not sleep if he were to 
drag himself into bed. He might just as 
well stay where he was. 

And as he sat watching the dawn his 
mind began to stir, to shake off its lethargy 
and stupor, to struggle into keener and keener 

There are times, often accompanying great 
physical prostration, when a veil seems to 
be lifted from our mental vision. As in the 
Mediterranean one may glance down suddenly 
on a calm day, and see in the blue depths 
with a strange surprise the seaweed and the 
rocks and the fretted sands below, so also in 
rare hours we see the hidden depths of the 



soul, over which we have floated in heedless 
unconsciousness so long, and catch a glimpse 
of the hills and the valleys of those untravelled 

Charles sat very still with his chin in his 
hands. His mind did not work. It looked 
right down to the heart of things. 

There is, perhaps, no time when mental 
vision is so clear, when the mind is so sane, 
as when death has come very near to us. 
There is a light which he brings with him, 
which he holds before the eyes of the dying, 
the stern light seldom seen, of reality, before 
which self-deception, and meanness, and that 
which maketh a lie, cower in their native 
deformity and slip away. 

And death sheds at times a strange gleam 
from that same light upon the souls of those 
who stand within his shadow, and watch his 
kingdom coming. In an awful transfigura- 
tion, all things stand for what they are. Evil 
is seen to be evil, and good to be good. 
Right and wrong sunder more far apart, 


and we cannot mistake them as we do at 
other times. The debateable land stretching 
between them — that favourite resort of un- 
decided natures — disappears for a season, and 
offers no longer its false refuge. The mind 
is taken away from all artificial supports, 
and the knowledge comes home to the soul 
afresh, with strong conviction, that " truth is 
our only armour in all passages of life," as 
with awed hearts we see it is the only armour 
in the hour of death, the only shield that we 
may bear away with us into the unknown 

Charles shuddered involuntarily. His de- 
cision of the afternoon to keep secret what 
Raymond had told him was gradually but 
surely assuming a different aspect. What 
was it, after all, but a suppression of truth, 
a kind of lie ? What was it but doing evil 
that eood mio^ht come ? 

It was no use harping on the old string 
of consequences. He saw that he had re- 
solved to commit a deliberate sin, to be false 


to that great principle of life — right for the 
sake of right, truth for the love of truth — by 
which of late he had been trying to live. So 
far, it had not been difficult, for his nature 
was not one to do things by halves, but 

Old voices out of the past, which he had 
thought long dead, rose out of forgotten graves 
to uree him on. What was he that he should 
stick at such a trifle ? Why should a man 
with his past begin to split hairs ? 

And conscience said nothing, only pointed, 
only showed with a clearness that allowed of 
no mistake, that he had come to a place 
where two roads met. 

Charles's heart suffered then " the nature 
of an insurrection." The old lawless powers 
that had once held sway, and had been forced 
back into servitude under the new rule of the 
last few years of responsibility and honour, 
broke loose, and spread like wildfire through- 
out the kingdom of his heart. 

The struggle deepened to a battle fierce 


and furious. His soul was rent with a frenzy 
of tumult, of victory and defeat ever changing 
sides, ever returning to the attack. 

Can a kinordom divided ao^ainst itself 
stand ? 

He sat motionless, gazing with absent eyes 
in front of him. 

And across the shock of battle, and above 
the turmoil of conflicting passions, Ruth's 
voice came to him. He saw the pale 
spiritual face, the deep eyes so full of love 
and anguish, and yet so steadfast with a 
great resolve. He heard again her last 
words, " I cannot do what is wrong, even for 

He stretched out his hands suddenly. 

'' You would not, Ruth," he said half aloud ; 
''you would not. Neither will I do what I 
know to be wrong for you, so help me God ! 
not even for you." 

The dawn was breaking, was breaking 
clear and cold, and infinitely far away ; was 
coming up through unfathomable depths and 


distances, through gleaming caverns and 
fastnesses of light, like a new revelation fresh 
from God. But Charles did not see it, for 
his head was down on the table, and he was 
crying like a child. 



Dare was down early the following niorning, 
much too early for the convenience of the 
housemaids, who were dusting the drawing- 
room when he appeared there. He was 
usually as late as any of the young and gilded 
unemployed who feel it incumbent on them- 
selves to show by these public demonstra- 
tions their superiority to the rules and fixed 
hours of the working and thinking world, 
with whoni, however, their fear of being 
identified is a groundless apprehension. 
But to-day Dare experienced a mournful 
satisfaction in being down so early. He felt 
the underlying pathos of such a marked 
departure from his usual habits. It was 
obvious that nothing but deep affliction or 


cub-huntinor could have been the cause, and 
the cub-hunting was over. The inference 
was not one that could be missed by the 
meanest capacity. 

He took up the newspaper with a sigh, 
and settled himself in front of the blazing 
fire, which was still young and leaping, with 
the enthusiasm of dry sticks not quite gone 
out of it. 

Charles heard Dare go down just as he 
finished dressing, for he was early too that 
morning. There was more than half an 
hour before breakfast time. He considered a 
moment, and then went downstairs. Some 
resolutions, once made, cannot be carried out 
too quickly. 

As he passed through the hall he looked 
out. The mist of the niofht before had 
sought out every twig and leaflet, and had 
silvered it to meet the sun. The rime on 
the grass looked cool and tempting. Charles's 
head ached, and he went out for a moment 
and stood in the crisp still air. The rooks 


were cawing high up. The face of the earth 
had not altered during the night. It 
shimmered and was glad, and smiled at his 
grave careworn face. 

" Hallo ! " called a voice ; and Ralph's 
head, with his hair sticking straight out on 
every side, was thrust out of a window. " I 
say, Charles, early bird you are ! " 

*' Yes," said Charles, looking up and 
leisurely going indoors again ; " you are the 
first worm I have seen." 

He found Dare, as he expected, in the 
drawing-room, and proceeded at once to the 
business he had in hand. 

" I am glad you are down early," he said. 
*' You are the very man I want." 

*' Ah ! " replied Dare, shaking his head, 
" when the heart is troubled there is no 
sleep, none. All the clocks are heard." 

*' Possibly. I should not wonder if you 
heard another in the course of half an hour, 
which will mean breakfast. In the mean 
time " 


" I want no breakfast. A sole cup of " 

'' In the mean time," continued Charles, '' I 
have some news for you." And disregarding 
another interruption, he related as shortly as 
he could the story of Stephens's recognition 
of him in the doorway, and the subsequent 
revelations in the prison concerning Dare's 

" Where is this man, this Stephens ? " said 
Dare, jumping up. " I will go to him. I 
will hear from his own mouth. Where is he ? " 

" I don't know," replied Charles curtly, 
" It Is a matter of opinion. He is dead," 

Dare looked bewildered, and then sank 
back with a gasp of disappointment into his 

Charles, whose temper was singularly 
irritable this morning, repeated with sup- 
pressed annoyance the greater part of what 
he had just said, and proved to Dare that 
the fact that Stephens was dead would in no 
way prevent the illegality of his marriage 
being proved. 


When Dare had grasped the full significance 
of that fact he was quite overcome. 

*'Am I then," he gasped — "is it true? — 
ani I free — to marry ? " 

'' Quite free." 

Dare burst into tears, and partially veiling 
with one hand the manly emotion that had 
overtaken him, he extended the other to 
Charles, who did not know what to do with 
it when he had got it, and dropped it as soon 
as he could. But Dare, like many people 
whose feelings are all on the surface, and 
who are rather proud of displaying them, 
was slow to notice what was passing in the 
minds of others. 

He sprang to his feet, and began to pace 
rapidly up and down. 

** I will go after breakfast — at once — im- 
mediately after breakfast, to Slumberleigh 

" I suppose, in that case, Miss Deyncourt 
is the person whose name you would not 
mention the other day ? " 


'' She is," said Dare, " You are riQ^ht. It 
is she. We are betrothed. I will fly to her 
after breakfast." 

**You know your own affairs best," said 
Charles, whose temper had not been improved 
by the free display of Dare's finer feelings, 
*' but I am not sure you would not do well to 
fly to Vandon first. It is best to be off with 
the old love, I believe, before you are on with 
the new." 

'' She must at once go away from Vandon," 
said Dare, stopping short. '' She is a scandal, 
the — the old one. But how to make her o-q 
away ? " 

It was in vain for Charles to repeat that 
Dare must turn her out. Dare had pre- 
monitory feelings that he was quite unequal 
to the task. 

" I may tell her to go," he said, raising his 
eyebrows. *' I may be firm as the rock, but 
I know her well ; she is more obstinate than 
me. She will not go." 

" She must," said Charles with anger. 


** Her presence compromises Miss Deyncourt. 
Can't you see that ? " 

Dare raised his eyebrows. A light seemed 
to break in on him. 

"Any fool can see that," said Charles, 
losing his temper. 

Dare saw a great deal, many things beside 
that. He saw that if a friend, a trusted 
friend, were to manage her dismissal, it would 
be more easy for that friend than for one 
whose feelings at the moment might carry 
him away. In short, Charles was the friend 
who was evidently pointed out by Providence 
for that mission. 

Charles considered a moment. He began 
to see that it would not be done without 
further delays and scandal unless he did it. 

*' She must and shall go at once, even if I 
have to do it," he said at last, looking at 
Dare with unconcealed contempt. ''It is 
not my affair, but I will go, and you Avill be 
so good as to put off the flying over to 
Slumberleigh till I come back. I shall not 


return until she has left the house." And 
Charles marched out of the room, too indig- 
nant to trust himself a moment longer with 
the profusely grateful Dare. 

'' That man must go to-day," said Evelyn 
after breakfast to her husband, in the pre- 
sence of Lady Mary and Charles. " While 
he was ill I overlooked his being in the 
house ; but I will not suffer him to remain 
now he is well." 

" You remove him from all chances of 
improvement," said Charles, *' if you take 
him away from Aunt Mary, who can snatch 
brands from the burning as we all know ; but 
I am going over to Vandon this morning, 
and if you wish it I will ask him if he would 
like me to order his dog-cart to come for 
him. I don't suppose he is very happy here, 
without so much as a tooth brush that he 
can call his own." 

" You are going to Vandon ? " asked both 
ladies in one voice. 

" Yes. I am going on purpose to dislodge 


an Impostor who has arrived there, who Is 
actually believed by some people (who are 
not such exemplary Christians as ourselves, 
and ready to suppose the worst) to be his 

Lady Mary and Evelyn looked at each 
other In consternation, and Charles went off 
to see how Othello was after his night's 
work, and to order the dog-cart, Ralph 
calling after him In perfect good humour 
that '' a fellow's brother got more out of a 
fellow's horses than a fellow did himself" 

Dare waylaid Charles on his return from 
the stables, and linked his arm in his. He 
felt the most enthusiastic admiration for the 
tall reserved Eno^llshman who had done him 
such signal service. He longed for an 
opportunity of showing his gratitude to him. 
It was perhaps just as well that he was not 
aware how very differently Charles regarded 

" You are just going ? " Dare asked. 

'* In five minutes." 


Charles let his arm hang straight down, 
but Dare kept it. 

" Tell me, my friend, one thing." Dare had 
evidently been turning over something in 
his mind. " This poor unfortunate, this 
Stephens, why did he not tell you all this 
the fij'st time you went to see him in the 
afternoon ? " 

'' He did." 

" What ? " said Dare, looking hard at him. 
''He did, and you only tell me this morning ! 
You let me eo all through the niQ:ht first. 
Why was this .^ " 

Charles did not answer. 

" I ask one thing more," continued Dare. 
" Did you divine two nights ago, from what 
I said in a moment of confidence, that Miss 
Deyncourt was the — the " 

'' Of course I did," said Charles sharply. 
*' You made it sufficiently obvious." 

''Ah!" said Dare. "Ah!" and he shut 
his eyes and nodded his head several times. 

" Anything more you would like to know ? " 

VOL. II. 35 


asked Charles, inattentive and impatient, 
mainly occupied in trying to hide the name- 
less exasperation which invariably seized 
him when he looked at Dare, and to stifle 
the contemptuous voice which always 
whispered as he did so, " And you have given 
up Ruth to him — to him ! " 

** No, no, no," said Dare, shaking his head 
gently, and regarding him the while with 
infinite interest through his half-closed eye- 

The doo^-cart was cominQ^ round, and 
Charles hastily turned from him, and, getting 
in, drove quickly away. Whatever Dare 
said or did seemed to set his teeth on edge, 
and he lashed up the horse till he was out of 
sieht of the house. 

Dare, with arms picturesquely folded, stood 
looking after him with mixed feelings of 
emotion and admiration. 

" One sees it well," he said to himself. 
" One sees now the reason of many things. 
He kept silent at first, but he was too good. 


too noble. In the night he considered ; in 
the morninor he told all. I wondered that he 
went to Vandon ; but he did it not for me. 
It was for her sake." 

Dare's feelings were touched to the quick. 

How beautiful ! how pathetic was this 
denoicejueiit I His former admiration for 
Charles was increased a thousandfold. He 
also loved ! Ah ! (Dare felt he was becoming 
agitated). How sublime, how touching was 
his self-sacrifice in the cause of honour. He 
had been gradually working himself up to 
the highest pitch of pleasurable excitement 
and emotion ; and now, seeing Ralph the 
prosaic approaching, he fled precipitately 
into the house, caught up his hat and stick, 
hardly glancing at himself in the hall glass, 
and entirely forgetting his promise to Charles 
to remain at Atherstone till the latter re- 
turned from Vandon, followed the impulse of 
the moment, and struck across the fields in 
the direction of Slumberleigh. 

Charles, meanwhile, drove on to Vandon. 


The stable clock, still partially paralyzed 
from long disuse, was laboriously striking 
eleven as he drew up before the door. His 
resounding peal at the bell startled the house- 
hold, and put the servants into a flutter of 
anxious expectation, while the sound made 
some one else, breakfasting late in the dining- 
room, pause with her cup midway to her lips 
and listen. 

"There is a train which leaves Slumberleigh 
station for London, a little after twelve, is 
not there ? " asked Charles with great dis- 
tinctness of the butler as he entered the hall. 
He had observed as he came in that the 
dining-room door was ajar. 

'* There is, Sir Charles. Twelve fifteen." 
replied the man, who recognized him instantly, 
for everybody knew Charles. 

** I am here as Mr. Dare's friend, at his 
wish. Tell Mr. Dare's coachman to bring 
round his dog-cart to the door in good time 
to catch that train. Will it take luggage ? " 

'' Yes, Sir Charles," with respectful alacrity. 


" Good. And when the dog-cart appears, 
you will see that the boxes are brought down 
belonging to the person who is staying here, 
who will leave by that train." 

'* Yes, Sir Charles." 

" If the policeman from Slumberleigh 
should arrive while I am here, ask him to 

'' I will, Sir Charles." 

"I don't suppose," thought Charles, ''he 
will arrive, as I have not sent for him, but as 
the dining-room door happens to be ajar, it is 
just as well to add a few artistic touches." 

'' Is this person in the drawing-room ? " he 
continued aloud. 

The man replied that she was in .,the 
dining-room, and Charles walked in un- 
announced, and closed the door behind 

He had at times, when any action of 
importance was on hand, a certain cool 
decision of manner that seemed absolutely to 
ignore the possibility of opposition, which 


formed a curious contrast with his usual care- 
less demeanour. 

*' Good morning," he said, advancing to 
the fire. '' I have no doubt that my appear- 
ance at this early hour cannot be a surprise 
to you. You have, of course, anticipated 
some visit of this kind for the last few days. 
Pray finish your coffee. I am Sir Charles 
Danvers. I need hardly add that I am 
justice of the peace In this county, and that 
I am here officially on behalf of my friend, 
Mr. Dare." 

The little woman, who had risen, and had 
then sat down again at his entrance, eyed 
him steadily. There was a look In her dark 
bead-like eyes which showed Charles why 
Dare had been unable to face her. The 
look, determined, cunning, watchful, put him 
on his guard, and his manner became a shade 
more unconcerned. 

"Any friend of my husband's is welcome," 
she said. 

" There is no question for the moment 


about your husband, though no doubt a 
subject of peculiar Interest to yourself. I 
was speaking of Mr. Dare." 

She rose to her feet, as If unable to sit 
while he was standing. 

"Mr. Dare is my husband," she said, with 
a little gesture of defiance, tapping sharply 
on the table with the teaspoon she held in 
her hand. 

Charles smiled blandly, and looked out of 
the window. 

" There is evidently some misapprehension 
on that point," he observed, "which I am 
here to remove. Mr. Dare Is at present 

" I am his wife," reiterated the woman, 
her colour rising under her rouge. " I am, 
and I won't go. He dared not come himself, 
a poor coward that he Is, to turn his wife out 
of doors. He sent you ; but it's no manner 
of use, so you may as well know It first as 
last. I tell you nothing shall induce me to 
stir from this house, from my 'ome, and you 


needn't think you can come it over me with 
fine talk. I don't care a red cent what you 
say. I'll have my rights." 

" I am here," said Charles, '' to see that 
you get them, Mrs. — Cari^olir 

There was a pause. He did not look at 
her. He w^as occupied in taking a white 
thread off his coat. 

'' Carroll's dead," she said sharply. 

"He Is. And your regret at his loss was 
no doubt deepened by the unhappy circum- 
stances in which it took place. He died in 

- Well, and If he did " 

'' Died," continued Charles, suddenly fixing 
his keen glance upon her, " nearly a year 
after your so-called marriage with Mr. Dare." 

'' It's a lie," she said faintly, but she had 
turned very white. 

"No, I think not. My information is on 
reliable authority. A slight exertion of 
memory on your part will no doubt recall the 
date of your bereavement." 


" You can't prove It." 

" Excuse me. You have yourself kindly 
furnished us with a copy of the marriage 
register, with the date attached, without which 
I must own we might have been momentarily 
at a loss. I need now only apply for a copy 
of the register of the decease of Jaspar 
Carroll, who, as you do not deny, died under 
personal restraint in jail ; in Baton Rouge 
jail, in Louisiana, I have no doubt you 
intended to add." 

She o^lared at him in silence. 

" Some dates acquire a peculiar interest 
when compared," continued Charles, ''but I 
will not detain you any longer with business 
details of this kind, as I have no doubt that 
you will wish to superintend your packing." 

" I won't go." 

''On the contrary, you will leave this 
house in half an hour. The dog-cart is 
ordered to take you to the station." 

" What if I refuse to go ? " 

" Extreme measures are always to be 


regretted, especially with a lady," said Charles. 
** Nothing, in short, would be more repugnant 
to me ; but I fear, as a magistrate, it would 

be my duty to " And he shrugged his 

shoulders, wondering what on earth could be 
done for the moment if she persisted. '' But," 
he continued, " motives of self-interest suggest 
the advisability of withdrawing, even if I were 
not here to enforce it. When I take into 
consideration the trouble and expense you 
have incurred in coming here, and the sub- 
sequent disappointment of the affections, a 
widow's affections, I feel justified in offering, 
though without my friend's permission, to 
pay your journey back to America, an offer 
which any further unpleasantness or delay 
would of course oblige me to retract." 

She hesitated, and he saw his advantage 
and kept it. 

''You have not much time to lose," he 
said, laying his watch on the table, '' unless 
you would prefer the housekeeper to do your 
packing for you. No ? I agree with you. 


On a sea voyage especially one likes to know 
where one's things are. If I give you a 
cheque for your return journey, I shall of 
course expect you to sign a paper to the 
effect that you have no claim on I\Ir. Dare, 
that you never were his legal wife, and that 
you will not trouble him in future. You 
would like a few moments for reflection ? 
Good. I will write out the form while you 
consider, as there is no time to be lost." 

He looked about for writing materials, and 
finding only an ancient inkstand and pen, 
took a note from his pocket-book and tore 
a blank half sheet off it. His quiet deliberate 
movements awed her as he intended they 
should. She glanced first at him writing, 
then at the gold watch on the table between 
them., the hours of which were marked on 
the half hunting face by alternate diamonds 
and rubies, each stone being the memorial of 
a past success in shooting matches. The 
watch impressed her ; to her practised eye it 
meant a very large sum of money, and she 


knew the power of money ; but the cool 
unconcerned manner of this tall, keen-eyed 
Englishman impressed her still more. As 
she looked at him he ceased writing, got out 
a cheque, and began to fill it in. 

*' What Christian name ? " he asked sud- 

*' Ellen," she replied, taken aback. 

'' Payable to order or bearer ? " 

" Bearer," she said, confused by the way 
he took her decision for granted. 

" Now," he said authoritatively, " sign your 
name there ; " and he pushed the form he 
had drawn up towards her. '' I am sorry I 
cannot offer you a better pen." 

She took the pen mechanically and signed 
her name — Ellen Carroll. Charles's light 
eyes gave a flash as she did it. 

'' Manner is everything," he said to him- 
self. '* I believe the mention of that 
imaginary policeman may have helped, but 
a little stage effect did the business." 

'' Thank you," he said, taking the paper 


and, after glancing at the signature, putting 
It in his pocket-book. '' Allow me to give 
you this " — handing her the cheque. '' And 
now I will ring for the housekeeper, for you 
will barely have time to make the arrange- 
ments for your journey. I can only allow 
you twenty minutes." He rang the bell as 
he spoke. 

She started up, as if unaware how far she 
had yielded. A rush of angry colour flooded 
her face. 

" I won't have that impertinent woman 
touching my things." 

'' That is as you like," said Charles, 
shrugging his shoulders ; '' but she will be in 
the room when you pack. It is my wish 
that she should be present." Then turning 
to the butler, who had already answered the 
bell, " Desire the housekeeper to go to Mrs. 
Carroll's rooms at once, and to give Mrs. 
Carroll any help she may require." 

Mrs. Carroll looked from the butler to 
Charles with baffled hatred In her eyes. But 


she knew the game was lost, and she walked 
out of the room and upstairs without another 
word, but with a bitter consciousness in her 
heart that she had not played her cards well, 
that though her downfall was unavoidable, 
she might have stood out for better terms 
for her departure. She hated Dare, as she 
threw her clothes together into her trunks, 
and she hated Mrs. Smith, who watched her 
do so wnth folded hands and with a lofty- 
smile ; but most of all she hated Charles, 
whose voice came up to the open window as 
he talked to Dare's coachman, already at the 
door, about splints and sore backs. 

Charles felt a momentary pity for the little 
woman when she came down at last with 
compressed lips, casting lightning glances at 
the grinning servants in the background, 
whom she had bullied and hectored over in 
the manner of people unaccustomed to 
servants, and who were rejoicing in the 
ignominy of her downfall. 

Her boxes were put in — not carefully. 


Charles came forward and lifted his cap, 
but she would not look at him. Grasping 
a little hand-bag convulsively, she went down 
the steps, and got up unassisted into the 

" You have left nothing behind, I hope ? " 
said Charles civilly, for the sake of saying 

" She have left nothing," said Mrs. Smith, 
swimming forward with dignity, *' and she 
have also took nothing. I have seen to that, 
Sir Charles." 

" Good-bye, then," said Charles. ** Right, 

Mrs. Carroll's eyes had been wandering 
upw^ards to the old house rising above her 
with its sunny windows and its pointed 
gables. Perhaps, after all the sordid shifts 
and schemes of her previous existence, she 
had imagined she might lead an easier and 
a more respectable life within those walls. 
Then she looked towards the long green 
terraces, the valley, and the forest beyond. 


Her lip trembled, and turning suddenly she 
fixed her eyes with burning hatred on the 
man who had ousted her from this pleasant 

Then the coachman whipped up his horse, 
the dog-cart spun over the smooth gravel 
between the lines of stiff, clipped yews, and 
she was gone. 



Mr. Alwynn had returned from his eventful 
morning call at Vandon very grave and 
silent. He shook his head when Ruth came 
to him in the study to ask what the result 
had been, and said Dare would tell her him- 
self on his return from London, whither he 
had gone on business. 

Ruth went back to the drawing-room. 
She had not strength or energy to try to 
escape from Mrs. Alwynn. Indeed, it was 
a relief not to be alone with her own thoughts, 
and to allow her exhausted mind to be towed 
along by Mrs. Alwynn's, the bent of whose 
mind resembled one of those mechanical toy 
animals which when wound up will run very 
fast in any direction, but if adroitly turned, 

VOL. II. 36 


will hurry equally fast the opposite way. 
Ruth turned the toy at Intervals, and the 
morning was dragged through, Mrs. Alwynn 
in the course of it exploring every realm — 
known to her — of human thought, now 
dipping Into the future, and speculating on 
spring fashions, now commenting on the 
present, now dwelling fondly on the past, the 
gaily dressed, officer-adorned past of her 

There was a meal, and after that it was the 
afternoon. Ruth supposed that some time 
there would be another meal, and then it 
would be evening, but It was no good think- 
ing of what was so far away. She brought 
her mind back to the present. Mrs. Alwynn 
had just finished a detailed account of a 
difference of opinion between herself and the 
curate's wife on the previous day. 

*' And she had not a word to say, my dear 
not a word, quite Jiors de combat^ so I let 
the matter drop. And you remember that 
beautiful pig we killed last week ? You 


should have gone to look at It hanging up, 
Ruth, rolling In fat, It was. Well, It Is better 
to give than to receive, so I shall send her 
one of the pork pies. And if you will get 
me one of those round baskets which I took 
the dolls down to the school-feast In — they 
are In the lowest shelf of the oak chest In the 
hall — I'll send It down to her at once." 

Ruth fetched the basket and put It down 
by her aunt. Reminiscences of the school- 
feast still remained in it, In the shape of ends 
of ribbon and lace, and Mrs. Alwynn began 
to empty them out, talking all the time, when 
she suddenly stopped short with an exclama- 
tion of surprise. 

*' Goodness ! Well, now ! I'm sure. 
Ruth ! " 

*' What Is It, Aunt Fanny ? " 

"Why, my dear, if there isn't a letter for 
you under the odds and ends," holding it up 
and gazing resentfully at it ; " and now I 
remember, a letter came for you on the 
morning of the school-feast, and I said to 


John, * I shan't forward It, because I shall see 
Ruth this afternoon/ and, dear me ! I just 
popped It Into the basket, for I thought you 
would like to have it, and, you know how 
busy I was, Ruth, that day, first one thing 
and then another, so much to think of — 
and — there it is!' 

" I dare say it is of no importance," said 
Ruth, taking it from her, while Mrs. Alwynn, 
repeatedly wondering how such a thing could 
have happened to a person so careful as her- 
self, went off with her basket to the cook. 

When she returned in a few minutes, she 
found Ruth standing by the window, the 
letter open in her hand, her face without a 
vestige of colour. 

"Why, Ruth," she said, actually noticing 
the alteration in her appearance ; " is your 
head bad again ? " 

Ruth started violently. 

" Yes — no. I mean — I think I will go 
out. The fresh air " 

She could not finish the sentence. 


^'And that tiresome letter? Did it want 
an answer ? " 

'' None," said Ruth, crushing it up uncon- 

'' Well, now," said Mrs. Alwynn, '' that's a 
eood thine, for I'm sure I shall never forget 
the way your uncle was In once, when I put 
a letter of his in my pocket to give him (it 
was a plum-coloured silk, Ruth, done with 
gold beads in front), and then — I went into 
mourning for my poor dear Uncle James, 
such an out of the common person he was, 
Ruth, and such a beautiful talker, and it was 
not till six months later, niece's mourning 
you know, that I had the dress on again, and 
a business I had to meet it, for all my gowns 
seem to shrink when they are put by, and I 
put my hand In the pocket, and " 

But Ruth had disappeared. 

Mrs. Alwynn was perfectly certain at last 
that something must be wrong with her 
niece. Earlier in the day she had had a 
headache. Reasoning by analogy, she decided 


that Ruth must have eaten something at Mrs. 
Thursby's dinner-party which had disagreed 
with her. If any one was ill she always 
attributed It to indigestion. If Mr. Alwynn 
coughed, or if she read in the papers that 
royalty had been unavoidably prevented 
attending some function at which Its presence 
had been expected, she Instantly put down 
both mishaps to the same cause, and when 
Mrs. Alwynn had come to a conclusion it 
was not her habit to keep It to herself. 

She told Lady Mary the exact state In 
which, reasoning always by analogy, she knew 
Ruth's health must be, when that lady drove 
over that afternoon in the hope of seeing 
Ruth, partly from curiosity, or rather a 
Christian anxiety respecting the welfare of 
others, and partly too from a real feeling of 
affection for Ruth herself. Mrs. Alwynn 
bored her Intensely, but she sat on and on In 
the hope of Ruth's return, who had gone out, 
Mrs. Alwynn agreeing with every remark 
she made, and treating her with that pleased 


deference of manner which some middle-class 
people, not otherwise vulgar, invariably drop 
into in the presence of rank ; a Sylla which 
is only one degree better than the Charybdis 
of would-be ease of manner into which others 
fall. If ever the enormous advantages of 
noble birth and ancient family, with all their 
attendant heirlooms and hereditary instincts 
of refinement, chivalrous feelinof, and honour, 
become in future years a mark for scorn (as 
already they are a mark for the envy that 
calls itself scorn), it will be partly the fault of 
the vulgar adoration of the middle classes. 
Mrs. Alwynn being, as may possibly have 
already transpired in the course of this 
narrative, a middle-class woman herself, stuck 
to the hereditary instincts of kei^ class with a 
vengeance, and when Ruth at last came in 
Lady Mary ^vas thankful. 

Her cold pale eyes lighted up a little as 
she greeted Ruth, and looked searchingly at 
her. She saw by the colourless lips and 
nervous contraction of the forehead, and by 


the bright restless fever of the eyes, that had 
formerly been so calm and clear, that some- 
thing was amiss — terribly amiss. 

" I've been telling Lady Mary how poorly 
you've been, Ruth, ever since Mrs. Thursby's 
dinner-party," said Mrs. Alwynn, by way of 
opening the conversation. 

But in spite of so auspicious a beginning 
the conversation flagged. Lady Mary made 
a few conventional remarks to Ruth, which 
she answered, and Mrs. Alwynn also ; but 
there was a constraint which every moment 
threatened a silence. Lady Mary proceeded 
to comment on the poaching affray of the 
previous night, and the arrest of a man who 
had been seriously injured ; but at her mention 
of the subject, Ruth became so silent, and 
Mrs. Alwynn so voluble, that she felt it was 
useless to stay any longer, and had to take 
her leave without a word with Ruth. 

" Somethinor is wrono^ with that o:irl," she 
said to herself, as she drove back to Ather- 
stone. " I know what it is. Charles has been 


behavlno^ In his usual manner, and as there Is 
no one else to point out to him how Infamous 
such conduct Is, I shall have to do it myself. 
Shameful ! That charming, Interesting girl ! 
And yet, and yet ! There was a look In her 
face more like some great anxiety than dis- 
appointment. If she had had a disappoint- 
ment, I do not think she would have let any 
one see it. Those Deyncourts are all too 
proud to show their feelings, though they 
have got them too somewhere. Perhaps on 
the whole, considering how excessively dis- 
agreeable and scriptural Charles can be, and 
what unexpected turns he can give to things, 
I had better say nothing to him at present." 

The moment Lady Mary had left the 
house, Ruth hurried to her uncle's study. 
He was not there. He had not yet come in. 
She gave a gesture of despair, and flung 
herself down in the old leathern chair oppo- 
site to his own, on which many a one had 
sat who had come to him for help or consola- 
tion. All the buttons had been gradually 


worn off that chair by restless or heavy 
visitors. Some had been lost, but others — 
the greater part, I am glad to say — Mr. 
Alwynn had found, and had deposited in a 
Sevres cup on the mantelpiece, till the wet 
afternoon should come when he and his lone 
packing needle should restore them to their 

The room was very quiet. On the mantel- 
piece the little conscientious silver clock 
ticked, orderly, gently (till Ruth could hardly 
bear the sound), then hesitated, and struck a 
soft low tone. She started to her feet, and 
paced up and down, up and down. Would 
he never come in ? She dared not go out to 
look for him for fear of missing him. Why 
did not he come back when she wanted him 
so terribly ? She sat down again. She tried 
to be patient. It was no good. Would he 
rever come ? 

She heard a sound, rushed out to meet 
him in the passage, and pulled him Into the 


'' Uncle John," she gasped, holding out a 
letter In her shaking hand. " That man who 
was taken up last night was — Raymond. He 
is in prison. He is ill. Let us go to him," 
and she explained as best she could that a 
letter had only just been found written to 
her by Raymond in July, warning her he was 
in the neighbourhood of Arleigh, near the 
old nurse's cottage, and that she mio^ht see 
him at any moment, and must have money 
in readiness. The instant she had read the 
letter she rushed up to Arleigh, to see her 
old nurse, and met her coming down in great 
agitation to tell her that Raymond, whom 
she had shielded once before under promise 
of secrecy, had been arrested the night 

In a quarter of an hour Mr. Alwynn and 
Ruth were driving swiftly through the dusk 

in a close carriage in the direction of D . 

On their way they met a dog-cart driving as 
quickly in the opposite direction, which grazed 
their wheel as it passed ; and Ruth, looking 


out, caught a glimpse, by the flash of their 
lamps, of Charles's face, with a look upon It 
so fierce and haggard that she shivered In 
nameless foreboding of evil, wondering what 
could have happened to make him look like 



It was still early on the following morning 
that Dare, forgetting, as we have seen, his 
promise to Charles, arrived at Slumberleigh 
Rectory — so early, that Mrs. Alwynn was still 
ordering dinner, or in other words, was dash- 
ing from larder to scullery, from kitchen to 
dairy, with her usual energy. He was shown 
into the empty drawing-room, where, after 
pacing up and down, he was reduced to the 
society of a photograph album, which in his 
present excited condition could do little to 
soothe the tumult of his mind. Not that any 
discredit should be thrown on Mrs. Alwynn's 
album, a gorgeous concern with a golden 
Fanny embossed on it, which afforded her 
infinite satisfaction, inside which her friends' 


portraits appeared to the greatest advantage, 
surrounded by birds and nests and blossoms 
of the most vivid and llfedlke colouring. 
Mr. Alwynn was encompassed on every side 
by kingfishers and elaborate bone nests, 
while Ruth's clear-cut face looked out from 
among long-tailed tomtits, arranged one on 
each side of a nest crowded with eggs, on 
which a stronof liorht had been thrown. 

Dare was still looking at Ruth's photo- 
graph, when Mr. Alwynn came in. 

'' Do you wish to speak to Ruth ? " he 
asked gravely. 

*' Now, at once." Dare was surprised that 
Mr. Alwynn, with whom he had been so 
open, should be so cold and unsympathetic 
in manner. The alteration and alienation 
of friends Is certainly one of the saddest and 
most inexplicable experiences of this vale of 

" You will find her In the study," continued 
Mr. Alwynn. **She is expecting you. I 
have told her nothing, according to your 


wish. I hope you will explain everything 
to her in full, that you will keep nothing 

" I will explain," said Dare ; and he went, 
trembling with excitement, into the study. 
Fired by Charles's example, he had made a 
sublime resolve as he skimmed across the 
fields, made it in a hurry, in a moment of 
ecstasy, as all his resolutions were made. 
He felt he had never acted such a noble part 
before. He only feared the agitation of the 
moment might prevent him doing himself 

Ruth rose as he came in, but did not 
speak. A swift spasm passed over her face, 
leaving it very stern, very fixed, as he had 
never seen it, as he had never thought of 
seeing it. An overwhelming suspense burned 
in the dark lustreless eyes which met his 
own. He felt awed. 

" Well ? " she said, pressing her hands 
together, and speaking in a low voice. 

'' Ruth," said Dare solemnly, laying his 


outspread hand upon his breast and then 
extending It In the air, ** I am free." 

Ruth's eyes watched him hke one in 

"How?" she said, speaking with diffi- 
culty. '' You said you were free before." 

" Ah ! " rephed Dare, raising his forefinger, 
*' I said so, but it was an error. I go to 
Vandon, and she will not go away. I go to 
London to my lawyer, and he says she is my 

" You told me she was not." 

''It was an error," repeated Dare. '' I had 
formerly been a husband to her, but w^e had 
been divorced ; it was finished, wound up, 
and I thought she was no more my wife. 
There is in the English law something extra- 
ordinary which I do not comprehend, which 
makes an American divorce to remain a 
marriage in England." 

*' Go on," said Ruth, shading her eyes with 
her hand. 

" I come back to Vandon," continued Dare 


in a suppressed voice, " I come back over- 
whelmed, broken down, crushed under feet ; 
and then " — he was becoming dramatic, he 
felt the fire kindline — '' I meet a friend, a 
noble heart, I confide in him. I tell all to 
Sir Charles Danvers " — Ruth's hand was 
trembling — " and last night he finds out by 
a chance that she was not a true widow when 
I marry her, that her first husband was yet 
alive, that I am free. This morninor he tells 
me all, and I am here." 

Ruth pressed her hands before her face, 
and fairly burst into tears. 

He looked at her in astonishment. He 
was surprised that she had any feelings. 
Never having shown them to the public in 
general, like himself, he had supposed she 
was entirely devoid of them. She now 
appeared quite dmue. She was sobbing 
passionately. Tears came into his own eyes 
as he watched her, and then a light dawned 
upon him for the second time that da}-. 
Those tears were not for him. He folded 

VOL. TT. 37 


his arms and waited. How suggestive in 
itself is a noble attitude ! 

After a few minutes Ruth overcame her 
tears with a great effort, and raising her head, 
looked at him, as if she expected him to 
speak. The suspense was gone out of her 
dimmed eyes, the tension of her face was 

*' I am free," repeated Dare, " and I have 
your promise that if I am free you will still 
marry me." 

Ruth looked up with a pained but resolute 
expression, and she would have spoken if he 
had not stopped her by a gesture. 

*' I have your promise," he repeated. *' I 
tell my friend. Sir Charles Danvers, I have it. 
He also loves. He does not tell me so ; he 
is not open with me, as I with him, but I see 
his heart. And yet — figure to yourself — he 
has but to keep silence, and I must go away, 
I must give up all. I am still married — Oi^ ! 
— while he But he is noble, he is sub- 
lime. He sacrifices love on the altar of 


honour, of truth. He tells all to me, his rival. 
He shows me I am free. He thinks I do 
not know his heart. But it is not only he 
who can be noble." (Dare smote himself 
upon the breast.) " I also can lay my heart 
upon the altar. Ruth " — with great solemnity 
— " do you love him even as he loves you ? " 

There was a moment's pause. 

"I do," she said firmly, "with my whole 

'' I knew it. I divined it. I sacrifice 
myself. I give you back your promise. I 
say farewell, and voyage in the distance. 
I return no more to Vandon. There is no 
longer a home for me in England. I leave 
only behind with you the poor heart you 
have possessed so long ! " 

Dare was so much affected by the beauty 
of this last sentence that he could say no 
more, but even at that moment, as he glanced 
at Ruth to see what effect his eloquence had 
upon her, she looked so pallid and thin (her 
beauty was so entirely eclipsed), that the 


sacrifice did not seein quite so overwhelming' 
after all. 

She struggled to speak, but words failed 

He took her hands and kissed them, 
pressed them to his heart (It was a pity there 
was no one there to see), endeavoured to say 
something more, and then rushed out of the 

She stood like one stunned after he had 
left her. She saw him a moment later cross 
the garden, and flee away across the fields. 
She knew she had seen that grey figure and 
jaunty grey hat for the last time ; but she 
hardly thought of him. She felt she might 
be sorry for him presently, but not now. 

The suspense was over. The sense of 
relief was too overwhelming to admit of any 
other feeling at first. She dropped on her 
knees beside the writing-table, and locked 
her hands together. 

''He told,'' she whispered to herself. 
'' Thank God ! Thank God 1 " 


Two happy tears dropped on to Mr. 
Alwynn's old leather blotting-book, that worn 
cradle of many sermons. 

Was this the same world ? Was this the 
same sun which was shining in upon her ? 
What new songs were the birds practising 
outside ? A strange wonderful joy seemed 
to pervade the very air she breathed, to flood 
her inmost soul. She had faced her troubles 
fairly well, but at this new great happiness 
she did not dare to look ; and with a sudden 
involuntary gesture she hid her face in her 

It would be rash to speculate too deeply 
on the nature of Dare's reflections as he 
hurried back to Atherstone ; but perhaps, 
under the very real pang of parting with 
Ruth, he was sustained by a sense of the 
magnanimity of what, had he put it into 
words, he would have called his attitude, and 
possibly also by a lurking conviction, which 
had assisted his determinaton to resign her, 


that life at Vandon, after the episode of the 
American wife's arrival, would be a social 
impossibility, especially to one anxious and 
suited to shine in society. Be that how it 
may, whatever had happened to influence 
him most of the chance emotion of the 
moment, it would be tolerably certain that in 
a few hours he would be sorry for what he 
had done. He was still, however, in a state 
of mental exaltation when he reached Ather- 
stone, and began fumbling nervously with 
the garden gate. Charles, who had been 
stalking up and down the bowling-green, 
went slowly towards him. 

*' What on earth do you mean by going off 
in that way ? " he asked coldly. 

''Ah!" said Dare, perceiving him, "and 
she — the — is she gone ? " 

" Yes, half an hour ago. Your dog-cart 
has come back from taking her to the station, 
and is here now." 

Dare nodded his head several times, and 
stood looking at him. 


" I have been to Slumberleigh," he said. 

''Yes, contrary to agreement." 

" My friend," Dare said, seizing the friend's 
limp, unresponsive hand and pressing it, " I 
know now why you keep silence last night. 
I reason with myself. I see you love her. 
Do not turn away. I have seen her. I 
have given her back her promise. I give 
her up to you whom she loves ; and now — 
I go away, not to return." 

And then, in the full view of the Ather- 
stone windows, of the butler, and of the dog- 
cart at the front door. Dare embraced him, 
kissinof the blushinsf and disconcerted Charles 

o o 

on both cheeks. Then, in a moment, before 
the latter had recovered his self-possession, 
Dare had darted to the dog-cart, and was 
driving away. 

Charles looked after him in mixed annoy- 
ance and astonishment, until he noticed the 
butler's eye upon him, when he hastily 
retreated, with a heightened complexion, to 
the shrubberies. 



It was the last day of October, about a week 
after a certain very quiet little funeral had 

taken place in the D cemetery. The 

death of Raymond Deyncourt had appeared 
in the papers a day or two afterwards, without 
mention of date or place, and it was generally 
supposed that it had taken place some con- 
siderable time previously, without the know- 
ledge of his friends. 

Charles had been sitting for a long time 
with Mr. Alwynn, and after he left the 
Rectory he took the path over the fields in 
the direction of the Slumberleigh woods. 

The low sun was shining redly through a 
golden haze, was sending long burning shafts 
across the glade where Charles was pacing. 


He sat down at last upon a fallen tree to 
wait for one who should presently come by 
that way. 

It was a still clear afternoon, with the 
solemn stillness that speaks of coming change. 
Winter was at hand, and the woods were 
transfigured with a passing glory, like the 
faces of those who depart in peace when 
death draws ni^h. 

Far and wide in the forest the bracken 
was all aflame — aflame beneath the glowing 
trees. The great beeches had turned to 
bronze and ruddy gold, and had strewed the 
path with carpets glorious and rare, which 
the first wind would sweep away. Upon the 
limes the amber leaves still hung, faint yet 
loth to go, but the horse chestnut had already 
dropped its garment of green and yellow at 
its feet. 

A young robin was singing at intervals in 
the silence, telling how the secrets of the 
nests had been laid bare, singing a requiem 
on the dying leaves and the widowed branches, 


a song new to him, but with the old plaintive 
rapture in it that his fathers had been taught 
before him since the world began. 

She came towards him down the yellow 
glade, through the sunshine and the shadow, 
with a spray of briony in her hand. Neither 
spoke. She put her hands into the hands 
that were held out for them, and their eyes 
met, orrave and steadfast, with the lio^ht in 
them of an unalterable love. So long they 
had looked at each other across a gulf. So 
long they had stood apart. And now, at last 
— at last— they were together. He drew 
her close and closer yet. They had no words. 
There was no need of words. And in the 
silence of the hushed woods, and in the 
silence of a joy too deep for speech, the 
robin's song came sweet and sad. 

" Charles ! " 

- Ruth ! " 

^' I should like to tell you something." 


"And I should like to hear It." 

" I know what Raymond told you to 
conceal. I went to him just after you did. 
We passed you coming back. He did not 
know me at first. He thought I was you, 
and he kept repeating that you must keep 
your own counsel, and that unless you showed 
Mr. Dare's marriage was illegal, he would 
never find it out. At last, when he suddenly 
recognized me, he seemed horror-struck, and 
the doctor came in and sent me away." 

Charles knew now why Raymond had sent 
for him the second time. 

There was a long pause. 

" Ruth, did you think I should tell ? " 

'' I hoped and prayed you would, but I 
knew it would be hard, because I do believe 
you actually thought at the time I should 
still consider it my duty to marry Mr. Dare, 
I never should have done such a thing after 
what had happened. I was just going to tell 
him so when he began to give me up, and 
it evidently gave him so much pleasure to 


renounce me nobly In your favour, that I let 
him have it his own way, as the result was 
the same. My great dread, until he came, 
was that you had not spoken. I had been 
expecting him all the previous evening. Oh, 
Charles, Charles ! I waited and watched for 
his comino- as I had never done before. 


Your silence was the only thing I feared, 
because it was the only thing that could have 
come between us." 

" God forgive me. I meant at first to say 

" Only at first," said Ruth gently ; and they 
walked on in silence. 

The sun had set. A slender moon had 
climbed unnoticed into the southern sky amid 
the shafts of paling fire which stretched out 
across the whole heaven from the burning 
fiery furnace in the west. Across the grey 
dim fields voices were calling the cattle home. 

Charles spoke again at last in his usual 

'' You quite understand, Ruth, though I 


have not mentioned it so far, that you are 
engaged to marry me ? " 

"I do. I will make a note of it if you wish." 

*' It is unnecessary. I shall be happy, 
when I am at leisure, to remind you myself. 
Indeed, I may say I shall make a point of 
doing so. There does not happen to be any 
one else whom you feel it would be your 
duty to marry ? " 

" I can't think of any one at the moment. 
Charles, you never could have believed I 
would marry Jiim, after all ! " 

" Indeed I did believe it. Don't I know 
the stubbornness of your heart .-^ You see, 
you are but young, and I make excuses for 
you ; but after you have been the object of 
my special and judicious training for a few 
years, I quite hope your judgment may 
improve considerably." 

" I trust it will, as I see from your remarks 
It will certainly be all we shall have to guide 
us both." 


Postscript. — Lady Mary would not allow 
even Providence any of the credit of Charles's 
engagement ; she claimed the whole herself. 
She called Evelyn to witness that from the 
first it had been her work entirely. She 
only allowed Charles himself a very secondary 
part in the great event, to which she was apt 
to point in later years as the crowning work 
of a life devoted — under Church direction — 
to the temporal and spiritual welfare of her 
fellow-creatures ; and Charles avers that a 
mention of it in the long list of her virtues 
will some day adorn the tombstone which 
she has long since ordered to be In readiness. 

Molly was disconsolate for many days, but 
work, that panacea of grief, came to the 
rescue, and it was not long before she was 
secretly and busily engaged on a large kettle 
holder, with kettle and motto entwined, for 
Charles's exclusive use, without which she 
had been led to understand his establishment 
would be incomplete. When this work of 
art was finished, her feelings had become so 



far modified towards Ruth that she consented 
to begin another very small and Inferior one 
- — merely a kettle on a red ground — for that 
interloper, but whether It was ever presented 
is not on record. 

Vandon Is to let. The erass has o^rown 
up again through the niches of the stone 
steps. The place looks wild and deserted. 
Mr. Alwynn comes sometimes, and looks up 
at its shuttered windows and tralllnor, nee- 
lected Ivy, but not often, for it gives him a 
strange pang at the heart. And as he goes 
home the people come out of the dilapidated 
cottages and ask wistfully when the new 
squire is coming back. 

But Mr. Alwynn does not know. 











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