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"THE CHRONICLES OF CARLIXGFORD,"
"THE CUCKOO IN THE NEST,"
/X THREE VOL UMES.
F. V. WHITE & Co.,
31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.
iALL RIGHTS RESERVED ]
PRINT liU BY
TILLOTSON AND SON, UULTdX,
LONDON, NEW YORK, ANU BERLIN.
It was the most exciting event which had
ever occurred in the family, and everything
was affected by it.
f . Imagine to yourselves such a young family,
all in the very heyday of life, parents and
,- children alike. It is true that IMrs. Kinsfs-
ward was something of an invalid, but
'J^ nobody believed that her illness was anything
^ very serious, only a reason why she should
■^ be taken abroad, to one place after another,
^ip the great enjoyment of the girls, who were
"^ never so happy as when they w^ere travelling
;and gaining, as they said, experience of life,
^he was not yet forty, while Charlie was
VOL. I. B
2 THE SORCERESS.
twenty-one and Bee nineteen, so that vir-
tually they were all of the same age, so to
speak, and enjoyed everything together —
mamma by no means put aside Into the ranks
of the dowagers, but going everywhere and
doing everything just like the rest, and as
much admired as anyone.
To be sure she had not been able to walk
about so much this time, and had not danced
once, except a single turn with Charlie, which
brought on a palpitation, so that she declared
with a laugh that her dancing days were
over. Her dancing days over ! Considering
how fond she had always been of dancing,
the three young people laughed over this,
and did not take the least alarm. Mamma
had always been the ringleader In everything,
even in the romps with the little ones at
home. For you must not think that these
three were all of the family by any means.
Bee and Betty were the eldest of I can't
at this moment tell how many, who were safe
in the big nursery at Kingswarden under the
charge (very partial) of papa, and the strict
and steady rule of nurse, who was a per-
sonage of high authority in the house. Papa
THE SORCERESS. 3
had but lately left " the elder ones," as he
called them, including his pretty wife — and
had gone back to his work, which was that of
an official at the Horse Guards, in some
military department of which I don't even
know the name, for I doubt whether the
Intelligence Department, which satisfies all
the necessities of description, had been
invented in those days.
Colonel Kinofsward was a distins^uished
officer, and the occasion of great eclat to the
little group when he showed himself at their
head, drawing round him a sort of cloud of
foreiorn officers wherever he went, which Bee
and Betty appreciated largely, and to which
Mrs. Kings ward herself did not object ; for
they all liked the clank of spurs, as was
natural, and the endless ranks of partners,
attendants in the gardens, and general escort
and retinue thus provided. It was not,
however, among these officers, red, blue,
green, and white — of all the colours in the
rainbow — that Bee had found her fate. For
I need scarcely say it was a proposal which
had turned everything upside down and filled
the little party with excitement.
4 THE SORCERESS.
A proposal ! The first in the family !
Mamma's head was as much turned by it as
Bee's. She lay on the sofa in her white
dressing gown, so flushed with happiness and
amusement and excitement, that you would
have supposed it was she who was to be the
And then it was so satisfactory a thing all
round. If ever Mrs. Kingsward had held
anyone at arm's length in her life it was a
certain captain of Dragoons who had clanked
about everywhere after her daughters and
herself for three weeks past. The moment
they had appeared anywhere, even at the
springs, where she went to drink her
morning glass of disagreeable warm water,
at the concert in the afternoon, in "the
rooms " at night, not to speak of every picnic
and riding party, this tall figure would jump
up like a jack-in-a-box. And there was no
doubt that the girls were rather pleased than
otherwise to see him jump up. He was six
foot two at least, with a moustache nearly a
yard long, curling in a tawny and powerful
twist over his upper lip. He had half-a-
dozen medals on his breast ; his uniform was
THE SORCERESS. 5
a compound of white and silver, with a
helmet that literally blazed in the sun, and
his spurs clanked louder than any other spurs
in the gardens. The only thing that was
wanting to him was a very little thing — a
thing that an uninstructed English person
miorht not have thouQ^ht of at all — but which
was a painful thing in his own troubled
consciousness, and in that of the regiment,
and even was doubtful to the English friends
who had picked up, as was natural, all the
prejudices of the class into which their own
position brought them.
Poor Captain Kreutzner, I blush to say it,
had no " \'on " to his name. Nobody could
deny that he was a distinguished officer, the
hope of the army in his branch of the service;
but when Mrs. Kingsward thought how^ the
Colonel would look if he heard his daughter
announced as Madame Kreutzner tout coiwt
in a London drawing-room, her heart sank
within her, and a cold perspiration came out
upon her forehead. ''And I don't believe
Bee would care," she cried, turning to her
son for sympathy.
Charlie was so well brought up a young
6 THE SORCERESS.
man that he cared very much, and gave his
mother all the weight of his support. His
office it was to beguile Captain Kreutzner as
to the movements of the party, to keep off
that bold dragoon as much as was possible ;
when, lo ! all their^precautions were rendered
unnecessary by the arrival of the real man
from quite another quarter, at once, and in a
moment cutting the Captain out !
There was one thing Mrs. Kingsward
could never be sufficiently thankful for in the
light of after events, and that was, that it was
Colonel Kingsward himself who introduced
Mr. Aubrey Leigh to the family. He was a
young man who was travelling for the good
of his health, or rather for the good of his
mind, poor fellow, as might be seen at a
glance. He was still in deep mourning when
he presented himself at the hotel, and his
countenance was as serious as his hatband.
Nevertheless, he had not been long among
them before Bee taught him how to smile,
even to laugh, though at first with many
hesitations and rapid resuming of a still
deeper tinge of gravity, as if asking pardon
of some beloved object for whom he would
THE SORCERESS. 7
not permit even himself to suppose that he
had ceased to mourn. This way he had of
falHng into sudden gravity continued with
him even when it was evident that every
decorum required from him that he should
cease to mourn. Perhaps it was one of the
things that most attracted Bee, who had a
touch of the sentimental in her character, as
all young ladies had in those days, w^hen
Mrs. Hemans and L. E. L. were the favourite
poets whom young ladies were expected to
read. Well brought up girls were not
permitted, I need not say, to read Byron.
Shelley was a name of fear, and the poems of
Mr. Thomas Campbell, not to say Mr.
Thomas Moore (carefully selected) were
likely to promote that quality.
The pale young man, with his black coat,
his hatband, his look of melancholy, drove
out the image of the Captain at once from
Bee's mind. She had perhaps had enough
of captains, fine uniforms, spurs, and all.
They had become what modern levity calls a
drug in the market. They made Fenster
parade all day long under her windows ; they
thronged upon her steps in the gardens ;
8 THE SORCERESS.
they tore the flounces from her tarlatan Into
pieces at the balls. It was something far
more original to sit out in the moonlight and
look at the moon with a sorrowful young
hero, who gradually woke up into life under
her hand. Poor, poor boy ! — so young and
so melancholy ! — who had gone through so
much ! — who was really so handsome when
the veil of grief began to blow away ! — who
had such a pretty name !
Bee was only nineteen. She had mocked
and charmed and laughed at a whole
generation of young officers, thinking of
nothing but picnics and dinner parties
and balls. She wanted something new upon
which to try her little hand — and now it was
thrown, just when she felt the need. In her
way. She had turned a young fool's head
several times, so that the operation had lost
its charm. But to bring a sad man back to
life, to drive away sorrow, to teach him to
hold up his head again, to learn how sweet it
was to live and smile, and ride and run about
this beautiful world, and wake every day to a
new pleasure — that was something she felt
worthy of a woman's powers. And she did
THE SORCERESS. 9
it with such effect that Mr. Aubrey Leigh
went on improving for three weeks more, and
finally ended up with that proposal which was
to the Kingsward family in general the most
amusing, the most exciting, the most delight-
ful incident in the world.
And yet, of course, it was attended with
a certain amount of anxiety which in her
— temporarily — invalid state was not very
good for mamma. Everybody insisted on
all occasions that it was a most temporary
state, and that by the end of the summer
she would be all right — the palpitations quite
calmed down, the flush — which made her so
pretty — a little subdued, and herself as strong
as ever. But in the meantime this delightful
romantic incident, which certainly acted upon
her like a glass of champagne, raising her
spirits, brought her some care as well. Her
first interview was of course with Bee, and
took place in the privacy of her chamber,
where she cross-examined her daughter as
much as was compatible with the relations
between them — which indeed were rather
those of companions and comrades than of
mother and daughter.
lO THE SORCERESS.
"Now, Bee, my dear child," she said,
" remember you have always been a little
rover, and Mr. Leigh is so quiet. Do you
think you really, really, can devote yourself
to him, and never think of another man all
yuur life .^"
'' Mamma," said Bee, " if you were not
such a clear I should think you were very
insulting. Another man ! Why, where
should I find another man in the world that
was fit to tie Aubrey's shoe ?"
" Well," said Mrs. Kingsward, dubiously ;
but she added, after a moment, "You know,
darling, that's not quite the question. If you
did find in the after ages a man that perhaps
was — fit to tie Mr. Leigh's shoe ?"
" Why in all this world, petite 7nere, will
you go on calling him Mr. Leigh ?"
" Well, well," said Mrs. Kingsward ; " but
I don't feel," she said again, after a moment's
hesitation, " that I ought to go so far as to
call him Aubrey until we have heard from
" What could papa find to object to ?" said
Bee. "Why, it was he who introduced him
to us ! We should not have known Aubrey,
THE SORCERESS. I I
and I should never have been the happiest
girl in the world, if it had not been for papa.
Dear papa ! I know what he'll say : ' I can't
understand, my dear, why you should hesi-
tate for a moment. Of course, you don't
suppose I should have introduced Mr. Leigh
to my family without first ascertaining, &c.,
&c,' That, of course, is what papa will say."
" I dare say you are right, Bee. It is quite
what I expect, for, of course, a man with
girls knows what it is, though for my part I
confess I alwavs thouQ^ht it would be a soldier
— Captain Kreutzner or Otto von "
" Mamma !" cried Bee, almost violently,
light flashing out of the blue eyes, which
were so bright even on ordinary occasions as
to dazzle the beholder — you may imagine
what fire came out of them now — " as if I
should ever have looked twice at one of those
big, brainless, clinking and clanking Germans.
(N.B. — Mr. Aubrey Leigh was not tall.)
No ! Though I may like foreigners well
enough because it's amusing to talk their
language and to feel that one has such an
advantage in knowing German and all that — •
yet, when it comes to be a question of spend-
ing one's life, an Englishman for me !"
12 THE SORCERESS.
Thus, it will be seen, Bee forestalled the
patriotic sentiments of a later generation by
resolving, in spite of all temptations, to
belong to other nations — to select an Eng-
lishman for her partner in life. It is doubtful,
however, how far this virtuous resolution had
existed in her mind before the advent of
'' I am sure I am very glad. Bee," said her
mother, ''for I always had a dread that you
would be snatched off somewhere to — Styria
or Dalecarlia, or heaven knows where —
(these were the first out-of-the-way names
that came to Mrs. Kingsward's mind ; but I
don't know that they were altogether without
reference or possibilities), where one would
have had no chance of seeing you more than
once in two or three years. I am very thank-
ful it is to be an Englishman — or at least I
shall be," she added, with a sigh of suspense,
" as soon as I have heard from papa "
" One would think, Miltterchen, that you
were frightened for papa."
" I shouldn't like you ever to try and go
against him, Bee !"
''Oh, no," said Bee, lighdy, "of course I
THE SORCERESS. I3
shouldn't think of going against him — is the
inquisition over? — for I promised," she said,
with a laugh and a blush, '' to walk down
with Aubrey as far as the river. He likes
that so much better than those noisy blazing
gardens, with no shade except under those
stuffy trees — and so do I."
" Do you really. Bee ? I thought you
thought it was so nice sitting under the
" With all the gnadige Fraus knitting, and
ali the wohlgeborne Herrs smoking. No,
indeed, I always hated it ! " said Bee.
She jumped up from where she had been
sitting on a stool by her mother's sofa, and
took her hat, which she had thrown down on
the table. It was a broad, flexible, Leghorn
hat, bought in Florence, with a broad blue
ribbon — the colour of her eyes, as had often
been said — -floating in two long streamers
behind. She had a sash of the same colour
round the simple waist of her white frock.
That is how girls were dressed in the early
days of Victoria. These were the days of
simplicity, and people liked it, seeing it was
the fashion, as much as they liked crinolines
14 THE SORCERESS.
and chignons when such ornamental arrange-
ments ''came In." It does not become one
period to boast itself over another, for fashion
will still be lord — or lady — of all.
Mrs. Kingsward looked with real pleasure
at her pretty daughter, thinking how well she
looked. She wore very nearly the same
costume herself, and she knew that it also
looked very well on her. Bee's eyes were
shining, blazing with brightness and
happiness and love and fun and youth. She
was not a creature of perfect features, or
matchless beauty, as all the heroines were in
the novels of her day, and she was conscious
of a great many shortcomings from that high
standard. She was not tall enough — which,
perhaps, however, in view of the defective
stature of Mr. Aubrey Leigh was not so
great a disadvantage — and she was neither
fair enough nor dark enough for a Minna or
a Brenda, the definite and distinct blonde
and brunette, which were the ideal of the
time ; and she was not at all aware that her
irregularity, and her mingling of styles, and
her possession of no style in particular, were
her great charms. She was not a great
THE SORCERESS. I 5
beauty, but she was a very pretty girl with
the additional attraction of those blue dia-
monds of eyes, the sparkle of which, when
my young lady was angry or when she was
excited in any more pleasurable way, was a
sight to see.
''All that's very well, my dear," said Mrs.
Kingsward, "but you've never answered my
question : and I hope you'll make quite, quite
sure before it's all settled that you do like
Aubrey Leigh above everybody in the
''A la bonne Jienre,'' said Bee; "you have
called him Aubrey at last, without waiting to
know what papa will say :" with which words
she gave her mother a flying kiss, and was
gone in a moment, thinking very little, it
must be allowed, of what papa might say.
Mrs. Kingsward lay still for a little, and
thought it all over after Bee was gone. She
knew a little better than the others what her
Colonel was, and that there were occasions
on which he was not so easy to deal with as
all the young ones supposed. She thought
it all over from the moment that young Mr.
Leigh had appeared on the scene. What
1 6 THE SORCERESS.
a comfort It was to think that it was the
Colonel himself who had introduced him !
Of course, as Bee said, before presenting
anyone to his wife and family. Colonel
Kings ward would have ascertained, &c., &c.
It was just how he would write no doubt.
Still, a man may introduce another to his wife
and family without being ready at once to
accept him as a son-in-law. On the other
hand, Colonel Kingsward knew well enough
what is the possible penalty of such introduc-
tions. Young as Bee was, she had already
attracted a good deal of attention, though
this was the first time it had actually come to
an offer. But Edward must surely have
thought of that. She was, though it seemed
so absurd, and though Bee had laughed at it,
a little afraid of her husband. He had never
had any occasion to be stern, yet he had it in
him to be stern ; and he would not hesitate
to quench Bee's young romance if he
thought it right. And, on the other hand,
Bee, though she was such a little thing, such
a child, so full of fun and nonsense, had a
spirit which would not yield as her mother's
did. Mrs. Kingsward drew another long
THE SORCERESS. '
fluttering sigh before she got up reluctantly
in obedience to her maid, who came in with
that other white gown, not unlike Bee's, over
her arm, to dress her mistress. She would
have liked to lie still a little longer, to have
finished the book she was reading, to have
thought over the situation — anything, indeed,
to justify her in keeping still upon the couch
and being lazy, as she called it. Poor little
mother ! She had not been lazy, nor had the
chance of being lazy much in her life. She
had not begun to guess why it was she liked
it so much now.
I HAVE now to explain how It was that Mr.
Aubrey Leigh was so Interesting and so
melancholy, and thus awoke the friendship
and compassion, and secured the ministrations
of the KIngsward family. He was In deep
mourning, for though he was only elght-and-
twenty he was already a widower, and be-
reaved beside of his only child. Poor young
man ! He had married with every appearance
of happiness and prosperity, but his wife had
died at the end of the first year, leaving him
with a baby on his Inexperienced hands. He
was a young man full of feeling, and, contrary
to the advice of all his friends, he had shut
himself up In his house In the country and
dedicated himself to his child. Dedicated
himself to a baby two months old !
THE SORCERESS. 1 9
There was nobody who did not condemn
this unnecessary self-sacrifice. He should
have gone away ; he should have left the
child in the hands of its excellent nurse,
under the supervision of that, charming
person who had been such a devoted nurse
to dear Mrs. Leigh, and whom the desolate
young widower had not the courage to send
away from his house. Her presence there
w^as a double reason, people said, why he
should have gone away. For though his
sorrow and trouble was so great that nobody
for a moment supposed that he had any idea
of such a thing, yet the presence of a lady,
and of a lady still called by courtesy a young
lady, though older than himself, and who
could not be treated like a servant in his
house, was embarrassing and not very
seemly, everybody said. Suggestions were
made to her that she should go away, but
then she answered that she had nowhere to
go to, and that she had promised to dear
Amy never to forsake her child. The
country ladies about who took an interest in
the young man thought it was ''just like "
dear Amy, who had always been a rather
20 THE SORCERESS.
silly young woman, to exact such a promise,
but that Miss Lance would be quite justified
in not keeping it, seeing the child had plenty
of people to look after her — her grandmother
within reach and her father dedicating him-
self to her.
Miss Lance, however, did not see her duty
in the same way ; indeed, after the poor little
child died — and there was no doubt she had
been invaluable during its illness, and devoted
herself to it as she had done to its mother — -
she stayed on still at Leigh Court, though
now at last poor Aubrey was persuaded to go
away. The mind of the county was relieved
beyond description when at last he departed
on his travels. These good people did not
at all want to get up any scandal in their
midst. They did not very much blame Miss
Lance for declining to give up a comfortable
home. They only felt it was dreadfully
awkward and that something should be
done about it, though nobody knew what
to do. He had left home nearly six months
before he appeared at the Baths with that
letter to Mrs. Kingsward in his pocket, and
the change and the travel had done him
THE SORCERESS. 21
A young man of twenty-eight cannot go
mournine all the davs of his life for a babv of
eight months old, and he had already begun
to "get over" the death of his wife before
the second event occurred. This troublous
beginning of his life had left him very sad,
with something of the feeling of a victim, far
more badly treated than most in the beginning
of his career. But this is not like real grief,
which holds a man's heart with a grip of steel.
And he was in the stage when a man is ready
to be consoled when Bee's blue eyes first
flashed upon him. The Kingswards had
received him in these circumstances with
more abandon than they would have done in
any other. He was so melancholy ; his
confidences, when he began to make them,
were so touching ; his waking up to interest
and happiness so delightful to see. And thus,
before anyone had thoroughly realized it, the
deed was done. They knew nothing about
Miss Lance — as how should they ? — and what
could she have had to do with it if they had
So there really was nothing but that
doubt of Colonel Kingsward's approval to
22 THE SORCERESS.
alloy the pleasure of the party, and it was
only Mrs. KIngsward who thought of it.
Charlie pooh-poohed the idea altogether. " I
think I should know my father better than
anyone," the young man said, with much
scorn of his mother's hesitation. He was
very fond and very proud of his mother, but
felt that as a man himself, he probably
understood papa better than the ladies could.
" Of course he will approve ; why shouldn't
he approve ? Leigh is a very decent fellow,
though I don't think all the world of him, as
you girls do. Papa, of course, knew exactly
what sort of a fellow he was ; a little too
quiet — not Bee's sort at all. No, you may
clamour as you like, but he's not in the least
Bee's sort "
"I'm supposed to prefer a noisy trooper,
I believe," said Bee.
" Well, I should have said that was more
like it — but mind you, the governor would
never have sent us out a man here who was
not good enough for anything. Oh, I under-
stand the old boy !"
'' Charlie, how dare you .^" cried his
mother ; but the horror was modified by a
THE SORCERESS. 23
laugh, for anything more unHke an old
boy than Colonel Kingsward it would not
have been very easy to conceive.
'' Well, mamma, you wouldn't have me
call him my honoured father, would you ? "
the vounor man said. He was at Oxford, and
he thought himself on the whole not onlv bv
far the most solid and serious member of the
present party, but on the whole rather more
experienced in the world than the gentleman
whom in the bosom of the family he still
condescended to call " papa."
As for little Betty, who up to this time had
been Bee's shadow, and who had not yet
begun to feel herself de trop, she, no more
than her sister, was moved by any of these
cares. She was wholly occupied in studying
the new thinof which had suddenlv started
into beino^ before her eves. Bettv was of
opinion that it was entirely got up for her
amusement and instruction. When she and
Bee were alone, she never ceased in her
interrogatory. *' Oh, Bee, when did you first
begin to think about him like that } Oh,
Bee, how did you first find out that he was
thinking about you ? Oh, Bee, don't you
24 THE SORCERESS.
mind that he was once In love before ? "
Such were the questions that poured In an
incessant stream into Bee's ears. That young
lady was equal to them all, and she was
not unwilling to let her sister share more or
less in the new enlightenment that had come
" When did I first begin to think of him ?"
she said. " Oh, Betty, the first minute I saw
him coming through the garden with Charlie
to speak to mamma ! There were all those
horrid men about, you remember, in those
gaudy uniforms, and their swords and spurs,
and so forth — such dreadful bad taste in
foreigners always to be in uniform "
"But, Bee," cried Betty, "why, I've heard
you say "
" Oh, never mind what you've heard me
say! I've been silly, I suppose, In my day,
like almost everybody. Aubrey says he
cannot think how they can live, always done
up in those hot, stiff clothes — none of the
ease of Englishmen about them."
" Papa says they are such soldier-like
men," says little Betty, who had not been
converted from the regime of the officers,
THE SORCERESS. 25
'' Oh, well, papa — he is an officer himself,
but he never wears his uniform when he can
help it, you know."
"Well," said Betty, "you may say what
you like — for my part, I do love a nice
uniform. I don't want ever again to dance
with a man in a black coat. But Bee, you're
too bad — you won't say a word, and I w^ant so
to know how it all came about. What put it
into your head ? And what did you say to
one another ? And was it he that beo^an first
— or was it you .^"
" You little dreadful thing " said Bee ;
^*how could a girl ever begin .^ It shows
how little you know ! Of course he began ;
but we didn't begin at all," she said, after
a pause, " it just came — all in a moment
when I wasn't thinking, and neither was he."
"Do you mean to say that he didn't intend
to propose to you ?" said Betty, growing
"Oh!" said Bee, impatient, "as if pro-
posing was all ! Do you think he just came
out with it point blank — ' Miss Kingsward,
will you marry me ?' "
" Well," said Betty : " what did he say
then if he didn't say that ?"
26 THE SORCERESS.
''Oh, you little goose !" said Bee.
" I am sure if he had said ' Oh, you little
goose' to me," said Bettty, '' I should never
have spoken a word to him again."
"It is no use talking to little girls," said
Bee, with a sigh. "You don't understand ;
and, to be sure, how could you understand
— at your age and all .^"
''Age!" said Betty, indignant, "there is
but fifteen months between us, and I've
always done everything with you. We've
always had on new things together, and gone
to the same places and everything. It is
you that are very unkind now you have got
engaged ; and I do believe you like this big
horrid man better than me."
" Oh, you little goose !" said Bee, again.
" No, it isn't a big but a little, horrid man.
I made a mistake," said Betty, " not like
Captain Kreutzner that you used to like so
much. It's small people you care for now ;
not your own nice people like me and
mamma, but a man that you had never heard
the name of when you first came here, and
now you quote and praise him, and make the
niost ridiculous fuss about him, even to
THE SORCERESS. 2/
Charlie, who Is far nicer-lookino^ ! — and won't
even tell your sister what he says !"
This argument came to so high a tone that
mamma called out from her room to know
what w^as amiss. ''It does not become you
girls to carry on your old scuffles and
quarrels," she said, "now that one of you, at
least. Is so grown up and about to take upon
herself the responsibilities of life."
"Is x^ubrey a responsibility .•^" Betty
whispered in her sister's ears.
" Oh, you little silly thing !" Bee replied ;
and presently Mrs. Kingsward's maid came
In to say that ]\Ir. Leigh was In the sitting-
room, and would Miss Bee go to him as her
mistress was not ready ; for this was the
little fiction that was kept up in those days
before Colonel Kingsward's letter had been
received. It will be seen, however, that it
was but a fiction, and that as a matter of fact
there was very little restraint put on the
young people's Intercourse. "You must not
consider that anything is settled ; you must
not think there's any engagement," Mrs.
Kings ward had said. '* Indeed, indeed, I
cannot take upon me to sanction anything till
2 8 THE SORCERESS.
I hear from her papa." But virtually they
met as much as they liked, and even indulged
in little talks apart, and meetings by them-
selves, before Mrs. Kingsward was ready ;
so that as a matter of fact this restriction did
very little harm.
And in due time Colonel Kingsward's
letter was received, and it was not unfavour-
able. The Colonel said that, on the whole,
he should have preferred it had Mr. Leigh
waited till they had all returned home. It
would have been a seemly forbearance, and
saved Mrs. Kingsward a great deal of
anxiety ; but as matters stood and as his
dear wife approved, and he heard nothing
but good of Mr. Leigh, he would not with-
draw the provisional consent which she
seemed to have given. "It will be expedient
in the circumstances that you should all
return home as soon as possible, that I may
go into matters with the young man," the
Colonel added in that part of his letter which
was not intended to be read to Aubrey
Leigh. And he added, as Bee had prophe-
sied, '• You might have been sure that I
should not introduce a young man to my
THE SORCERESS. 29
family, and to yourself, my dear, without
ascertaining previously," etc., etc., just as
Bee had said. He added, *' Of course I
never contemplated anything of this sort :
but one can never tell what may happen
when young people are thrown together.
The property Is a good one, and the young
man unexceptionable, from all I can hear."
Then Mrs. Kinofsward's mind was set at
ease. It seemed to Bee that her father might
have said something on the subject of her
happiness, and acknowledged Aubrey to be
something more than an unexceptionable
young man. It was inconceivable, she
thought to herself, how cool people are when
they come to that age. The property good,
and the young man unexceptionable — was
that all ? Did papa take no more interest
than that ? But at all events the engagement
was now quite permitted and acknowledged,
and they might walk out together all day,
and dance together all night, without a word
said ; for which Bee forgave and instantly
forgot — it was really of so little importance
— the coolness of papa.
Mrs. Kingsward's " cure " was over, and
30 THE SORCERESS.
by this time most people were leaving the
Bath. Our party made their preparations
for leaving too, In the pleasantest way. It
was not to be at all a rapid journey, which
would not have been good for Mrs. Kings-
ward. They were to make their way at
leisure from one beautiful old city to another
across the breadth of Germany, staying a day
here and a day there, travelling for the most
part in a large, old-fashioned carriage, such
as was the custom then, with a wide-hooded
seat in front, like the banquette of a French
diligence. In which two people could be
extremely happy, seeing the scenery much
better than those Inside could do, or perhaps
not seeing the scenery at all, but occupying
each other quite as agreeably with the endless
talk of lovers, which is not Interesting to
anybody but themselves. Before they set
out upon this journey, however, which was
to hold so great a place in Bee's life, a little
incident occurred to her which did not appear
to be of very much consequence, but which
made some impression on her mind at the
time, and vaguely appeared afterwards to
throw light on various other events. The
THE SORCERESS. 3 I
German Bath at which the h'ttle story of her
love took place is surrounded with woods —
woods of a kind that are never seen anywhere
else, though they are the special feature of
German Baths. They are chiefly composed
of fir trees, and they are arranged upon the
most strictly mathematical principles, with
that precision which is dear to the German
mind, row upon row standing close together,
as if they had been stuck in so at their
present height, with so many cubit feet of air
to each, as in the London lodging-houses.
They are traversed by broad roads, with
benches at intervals, and at each corner
there is a wooden board on which is
painted indications how to find the nearest
restauration where beer is to be had, and the
veal of the country — for the German, in his
hours of ease and amusement, has continual
occasion to be ''restored."
Bee had gone out early in the morning to
make a little sketch of an opening in the
trees through which a village spire was
visible. There w^ere not many points for the
artist in landscape, especially one of such
moderate powers as Bee, and she was very
32 THE SORCERESS.
anxious to finish this to present it, I need
scarcely say, to Aubrey, as a memento of the
place. Probably there was some other
sentimental reason — such as that they had
first spoken words of special meaning there,
or had first exchanged looks that were of
importance in their idyll, or some other
incident of equal weight. She was seated on
one of the benches, with her little colour box
and bottle of water, giving the finishing
touches to her sketch. Sooth to say, Bee
was no great performer, and the ranks of the
dark trees standing arithmetically apart to
permit of that little glimpse of distance, were
too much for her. They looked in her sketch
like two dark green precipices rather than
like trees, and had come to a very difficult
point, when a lady coming along by one of
the side walks, round the corner past the
restaiiration, suddenly sat down by Bee's
side and startled her a little. She was not a
girl who was easily frightened, but the
suddenness of the apparition out of the silent
morning when she had thought nobody was
in sight was a little startling and made her
THE SORCERESS. ^^
" I hope I am not Intruding upon you,"
the lady said.
" Oh, no !" said Bee, looking up with her
bright face. She was as fresh as the morning
in her broad Leghorn hat with the blue
ribbon, and her eyes that danced and
sparkled. The stranger by her side was
much older than Bee. She was a handsome
woman ; dark, with fine eyes, too, a sidelong
look in them, and a curious half smile which
was like La Gioconda, that famous picture
Bee had seen in the Louvre, as we all have.
She thought of La Gioconda at once, when
she looked up into the lady's face. She was
entirely dressed in black, and there could not
have been found anywhere a more perfect
contrast to Bee.
They got into conversation quite easily,
for Bee was a girl who loved to talk. The
lady gave her several hints about her little
picture which Bee knew enough to know
were dictated by superior knowledge, and
then they got talking quite naturally about
the place and the people who were there.
After they had discussed the society and the
number of English people at the Bath, and
VOL. 1. D
34 THE SORCERESS.
Bee had disclosed the hotel at which she was
staying, and many details of her innocent
life, which she was not at all conscious of
disclosing — the stranger began to inquire
about various people. It was not by any
means at once that she introduced the name
of Leigh ; not indeed till she had been over
the Reynoldses, and the Gainsboroughs, and
the Collinses, under Bee's exultant guidance
and fine power of narrative ; then she said
tentatively, that there was she believed, at
one of the hotels, a family of Leighs.
"Oh !" cried Bee, her countenance flushing
over with a sudden brilliant delightful blush,
which seemed to envelop her from top to
toe. She had been looking up into her
companion's face so that the stranger got the
full benefit of this sudden resplendent change
of colour. She then turned very demurely
to her sketch, and said meekly, '' I don't
know any family, but there is a Mr. Leigh at
" Oh," said the lady, but in a very different
tone from Bee's startled ''oh!" She said it
coldly, as if recording a fact. " I thought,"
she said, '' It was the Leighs of Hursdeigh,
THE SORCERESS. 35
friends of mine. I may have been deceived
by seeing the name In the lists."
'' But I think, Indeed I am sure, that Mr.
Aubrey Leigh Is connected with the Leighs
of Hurstleigh," Bee said.
'' Oh, a young man, a widower, an Incon-
solable ; I think I remember hearing of him.
Is that the man ?"
" I don't know If he Is an Inconsolable,"
cried Bee, with a quick movement of anger
and then she thought how foolish that was,
for of course a stranger like this could have
no unkind meaning. She added with great
gravity, "It Is quite true that he has been
Poor little Bee, she was not at all aware
how she was betraying herself She was
more vexed and indignant than words can
say, when the woman (who after all could not
be a lady) burst Into a laugh. " Oh ! I think
I can see how matters stand with /\ubrey
Leigh," this impertinent Intruder cried.
It was just two days after the interview in
the wood described above, that the Kings-
ward party got under weigh for home,
accompanied, I need not say, by Aubrey
Leigh. Bee had not told him of that chance
meeting, restrained I do not know by what
Indefinite feehng that he would not care to
hear of it, and also by the sensation that she
had as good as told the lady, who was so dis-
agreeable and impertinent as to laugh, what
change had taken place in Aubrey's senti-
ments, and what she had herself to do with
that change. It was so silly, oh, so silly of
her, and yet she had said nothing, or next to
nothing. And there was no reason why she
should not have said whatever she pleased,
now that the engagement was fully acknow-
THE SORCERESS. '^'J
ledged and known ; indeed, if that woman
were in any society at all, she must have
heard of it, seeing that, as Bee was aware,
not without pleasure, it had afforded a
very agreeable diversion to the floating
community, a pleasant episode in the tittle-
tattle of the gardens and the wells. Bee had
no absurd objection to being talked of.
She knew that in her condition of life, which
was so entirely satisfactory as a condition,
everything that concerned a family was
talked over and universally known. It was a
thing inevitable to a certain position, and a
due homage of society to its members. But
somehow she did not mention it to Aubrey,
nor, indeed, to anyone, which was a very
unusual amount of reticence. She did not
even give him the sketch, though it was
finished. She had been quite grateful for
that person's hints at the time, and eagerly
had taken advantage of them to improve her
drawing ; but it seemed to her, when she
looked at it now, that it was not her own at
all, that the other hand was so visible in
it that it would be almost dishonest to call it
hers. This, of course, was wholly fantastic,
2,S THE SORCERESS.
for even supposing that person to have given
valuable hints, she had never touched the
sketch, and Bee alone had carried them out.
But, anyhow, her heart sickened at it, and
she thrust it away at the very bottom of the
box that Moulsey was packing. She had no
desire to see the horrid thing again.
In a day or two, however, Bee had
altogether forgotten that interview in the
wood. She had so many things to occupy
her mind. There were few railways in those
days, and the party had a long way to travel
before they came to Cologne, where that
method of travelling began. They all felt
that common life would re-commence there
and their delightful wandering would be over.
In the meantime, there was a long interval of
pleasure before them. The early breakfast
at the hotel in the first hours of the autumnal
morning, the fun of packing everyone away
in the big coach, the books to be brought out
to fill up corners, both of time and space, and
" Murray " then alone in his ^lory, with no
competitive American, no Badaeker, no
Joanne, to share his reign — spread out
open at the right place, so that mamma
THE SORCERESS. 39
inside should be able to lay her finger at
once upon any village or castle that struck
her — and above all the contrivances to be
carried out for securing the banquette, as Bee
said, for *' ourselves," made a lively begin-
ning. Charlie and Betty sometimes managed
to secure this favourite place if the attention
of the others flagged for a moment, and
though mamma generally interposed with
a nod or a whisper to restore it to
the privileged pair, sometimes she was
mischievous too, and consented to their
deprivation, and desired them for once to
keep her company inside. She generally,
however, repented of this before the day was
over, and begged that their favourite seat
might be restored to them.
" For they are really no fun at all," the
poor lady said. *' I might as well have two
images from Madame Tussaud's."
It had been a little hard upon Aubrey at
the moment of their departure to find half the
garrison round the carriage, and bouquets
enough to fill a separate vehicle thrust into
every corner, the homage of those warriors to
the gracious ladies. He had been very cross.
40 THE SORCERESS.
and had made a great exhibition of himself,
especially when Captain Kreutzner's faggot
of forget-me-nots, tied with a ribbon like that
on Bee's hat, had been presented with
indescribable looks. What did the fellow
mean by bringing forget-me-nots ? He
wanted to pitch it out of the window as
soon as they were fairly started.
"What an idiotic custom!" he cried.
"What do the fools think you want with
such loads of flowers when you are starting
on a journey ?"
"Why, it is just then you do want them,"
cried Betty, who had a dozen or so to her
own share, " to smell sweet and show us how
much our friends think of us."
" They will not smell sweet very long, and
then what will your friends think of you ?"
said the angry lover.
Was it possible that Bee was detaching
a little knot of the blue flowers to put in
her waistband ? Bee, Bee ! his own property,
who had no right so much as to look at
another man's flowers ! And what did she
do, seeing the cloud upon his face, but
arrange another little bouquet, which, with
THE SORCERESS. 4I
her sweetest smile — the Httle coquette — she
endea\'Oured to put into his, Aubrey's,
button-hole ! He snatched them out of her
hand in a sort of fury. *' Do you want
me never to forget that heavy brute of a
German?" he cried, in his indignation. "You
may put him near your heart, but I should
like to kick him !" These very natural
sentiments made Bee laugh — which was
cruel ; but then poor Captain Kreutzner had
been blotted out of her life some time ago,
and knew his fate, and had really no right
whatever to present her with these particular
flowers. His lovely bouquet with its blue
ribbon was given to a girl in the first village,
and awakened the still more furious jealousy
of another swain who was less easily
appeased than Aubrey ; but this ricoc/iet w^as
not thought of by the first and principal pair.
There was not perhaps so many remark-
able features in that journey as if it had been
through Italy. There were great plains to
traverse, where the chief sights were cottages
and farmhouses, women going by with great
loads of freshly cut grass full of flowers on
their heads, fodder for the home-dwelling
42 THE SORCERESS.
COWS — or men carrying their hops clinging to
the pole, to be picked at home, or long
straggling branches of the tobacco plant ;
and in the evening the postillion would whip
up his horses, and Charlie in the banquette, or
John, the manservant, in the rumble, would
tootle upon a horn which the former had
acquired clandestinely before the party set
out — as they dashed through a village or
little town with lighted windows, affording
them many a flying peep of the domestic life
of those tranquil places. And in the middle
of the day they stopped to rest somewhere,
where the invariable veal was to be found at
some Guest-house a little better than the
ordinary, where perhaps a bigger village
stood with all its high peaked stream : and at
night rattled into an old walled town with
shadowy high houses which belonged to the
fourteenth century, and had not changed a
whit since that time. There they stayed a
day or two, varying the confinement of
the coach by a course through everything
that was to be seen, setting out in a party
through the roughly-paved streets, but part-
ing company before long, so that Aubrey and
THE SORCERESS. 43
Bee would find themselves alone in the
shelter of a church or in an insignificant
corner by the walls, while the others pursued
their sightseeing conscientiously.
''As for me, what I like is the general
aspect," said Bee, with an air of superiority.
" I don't care to poke into every corner, and
Aubrey knows the history, which is the chief
'' Are they talking all the time of the
history ?" said Betty, overawed.
But this perhaps, was not the opinion of
Charlie and mamma. No, they did not care
very much for the history. People are bad
travellers in that stage of life. They are too
much interested in their own history. They
went about like a pair of Philistines through
all these ancient streets, talking of nothing
but the things of to-day. The most serious
part of their talk was about the home in the
depths of England in which they were hence-
forth to spend their lives. Aubrey had
ideas about re-furnishing — about making
everything new. It would be impossible
to tell the reader how bad was the taste of
the time, and with what terrible articles of
44 THE SORCERESS.
furniture he proposed to replace the spindle
legs and marquetry of his grandfathers. But
then these things were the fashion, and
supposed to be the best things of the time.
To hear them talking of sofas and curtains,
and of the colour for the boudoir and the
hangings of the drawing-room in the midst of
all those graceful old places, was inconceiv-
able. You would have said the stupidest,
unimpressionable pair, talking of ugly modern
English furniture, when they should have
been noting the old world of Nuremberg —
the unchanging mediaeval city. But you
must remember that the furniture was only
a symbol of their love and their new life,
and all the blessedness of being together, and
the endless delights of every day. The sofas
and the curtains meant the Vita Ntiova, and
the refurnishing of the old house a beautiful
fabric of all the honour and the joy of life.
Then came the great river, and the
progress down its shining stream, and
between those beautiful banks, where again
they made several pauses to enjoy the
scenery. The Rhine is not now the river
it was then. It was still the great river of
THE SORCERESS. 45
romance in those days — Byron had been
there, and the young people remembered
Roland and his tower, with his love in the
white convent opposite, and felt a shudder
at the thought of the Lorelei as they floated
under the high and gloomy bank. I doubt,
however, whether the lovers thought much
even of these things. They were busy just
now about the gardens, which Bee was fully
minded to remodel and fill with everything
that was new and delightful in the way of
'' I shall have masses of colour about the
terrace, and every spot covered. I wonder
which you like best, majolica vases or rustic
baskets ? " Bee was saying, when her mother
called her to point out the Platz and Bishop
'' Oh, yes, mamma, it's very pretty. But
you like clematis, Aubrey, for the balustrade
— to wind in and out of the pillars. Yes,
yes, I can see it well enough. I like every
kind of clematis, even the common one, the
traveller's joy — and it would hang down, you
know, over that old bit of wall you told
me of. Do go forward, Aubrey, and let
46 THE SORCERESS.
them see you are taking an interest. I do
see it all quite well, and it is very romantic,
and we are quite enjoying it I can assure
This was how they made their way down
stream ; in the moonlight nights they ceased
to talk of practical matters, and went back to
the history of their loves.
" Do you remember, Bee, that first time in
the wood ?"
" Oh, Aubrey, don't you recollect that
drive coming back in the dark — before I
" But you always did know from the very
beginning, Bee ? "
'* Well, perhaps I suspected — and used to
''You darling, what did you think ? — and
did you really care — as early as that ? "
They went on like this whatever happened
outside, giving a careless glance at the
heights, at the towers, at the robbers' castle
above and the little villages below ; not so
much as looking at them, and yet remember-
ing them ever after, enclosing the flow of
their young lives, as it were, in that strong
THE SORCERESS. 47
flowing of the Rhine, noting nothing and yet
seeing everything with the double sight
which people possess at the highest moment
and crisis of their career. They came at
length to Cologne, where this enchanted
voyage was more or less to end. To be
sure, they were still to be together ; but only
in the railway, with all the others round
them, hearing more or less what they said.
They said good-bye to the Rhine with a
little sentiment, a delightful little sadness full
"Shall we ever be so happy again?" said
Bee, with a sigh,
" Oh, yes, my sweet, a hundred times, and
happier, and happier," said the young man ;
and thus they were assured it was to be.
I don't think any of them ever forgot that
arrival at Cologne. They came Into sight of
the town just In the evening, when the last
glow of sunset was still burning upon the
great river, but lights beginning to show in
the windows, and glimmering reflected in the
water. The Cathedral was not completed
then, and a crane, like some strange weird
animal stood out against the sky upon the
48 THE SORCERESS.
top of the tower. The hotel to which they
were going had a covered terrace upon the
river with Hghts gleaming through the green
leaves. They decided they would have
their table there, and dine with all that
darkling panorama before their eyes through
the veil of the foliage, the glowing water, the
boats moving and passing, with now and
then a raft coming down from the upper
stream, and the bridge of boats opening to
give passage to a fuming fretting steamboat.
Aubrey and Bee went hand in hand up the
steps ; nobody noticed in the half dark how
close they were together. They parted with
a close pressure of warm hands.
'' Don't be long, darling," he said, as they
parted, only for a moment, only to prepare a
little for the evening, to slip into a fresh
dress, to take out a new ribbon, to make
one's youthful self as fair as such unnecessary
But what did Aubrey care for a new
ribbon ? The only blue he thought of was
that in Bee's eyes.
I do not think she was more than ten
minutes over these little changes. She
THE SORCERESS. 49
dressed like a flash of lightning, Betty said,
who could not find her own things half
so quickly, Moulsey being occupied with
mamma. Such a short moment not worth
counting, and yet enough, more than enough,
to change a whole life !
Bee ran down as light as air to the sitting-
room which had been engaged for the party.
She felt sure that Aubrey would hurry, too,
so as to have a word before dinner, before
the rest were ready — as if the whole day had
not been one long word, running through
everything. She came lightly to the door of
the room in her fresh frock and her blue
ribbons, walking on air, knowing no shadow
of any obstacle before her or cloud upon the
joyful triumphant sky. She did not even
hear the sound of the subdued voices, her
faint little sob, strangest of all sounds at such
a moment, which seemed to come out to
meet her as she opened the door. Bee
opened it wondering only if Aubrey were
there, thinking of some jibe to address to
him about the length of time men took to
their toilettes, if she happened to be ready
VOL. I. E
50 THE SORCERESS.
She was very much startled by what she
saw. Her mother, still in her travelling
dress, sat by the table with a letter open
in her hands. She had not made any
preparation for dinner — she, usually so
dainty, so anxious to get rid of the cloaks
and of the soils of the journey. She had
taken off her hat, which lay on the table, but
was still enveloped in the shawl which she
had put on to keep off the evening chills.
As for Aubrey, he was exactly as he had
been when they parted with him, except that
all the light had gone out of his face. He
was very pale, and he, too, had a letter in his
hand. He uttered a stifled exclamation
when he saw Bee at the door, and, lifting his
arms as though in protest against something
intolerable, walked away to the other end
of the room.
''Oh, Bee," said Mrs. Kingsward, "Oh,
go away, my dear, go away ! I mean — get
something to eat, you and Charlie, and Betty,
and then get to bed. Get to bed ! I am too
tired to take anything, and I am going
upstairs at once."
" I thought you had been upstairs, mamma,
THE SORCERESS, 5T
half-an-hour ago. What Is the matter ? You
look like a ghost, and so does Aubrey. Has
anything happened ? Mamma, you won't
look at me, and Aubrey turns his back.
What have I done ? Is it anything about
" What nonsense, child !" said Mrs. Kings-
ward, with a pretence at a smile. " What
could you have to do with It ? We have
both — ]\Ir. Leigh and myself — found letters,
and we are busy reading them. I am sure
the dinner must be served. We ordered It
in the balcony, don't you remember ? Run
away and make Charlie and Betty sit down
at once. I am too tired. Moulsey will run
down in a little and get something for me."
''Mamma," said Bee, "you cannot make
up a story. Something has happened, I am
sure of It ; and It Is something about me."
"Nonsense, child! Go away and have your
dinner. I would come If I could. Don't
you see what a budget of letters I have got ^.
And some of them I must answer to-night."
'' Have you letters, too, Aubrey ?" said
Bee, In her amazement, standing still as she
had paused, arrested by the sight of them,
just within the door.
MlVlftSmr OF ILLINOIS
52 THE SORCERESS.
" Bee, I must beg you will not put any
questions ; go and do what I tell you ; your
brother and sister will be coming downstairs.
Yes, of course, you can see that Mr. Leigh
has his letters to read as well as I."
*' Mr. Leigh ! I wonder If we have all gone
mad, or what Is the matter ? Aubrey ! tell
me — you, at least. If mamma won't. You
must have had a quarrel. Mamma, why do
you call him Mr. Leigh ?"
" Oh, for goodness sake. Bee, go away."
" I am not going away," cried the girl.
"You have had a quarrel about something.
Come, mamma, you must not quarrel with
Aubrey — If he has done something wrong or
said something silly, I will answer for him,
he never Intended It. Aubrey, what do you
mean, sir, turning your back both on mamma
and me ? Come here, quick, and ask her
pardon, and say you will never do It again."
Poor little Bee's heart was fluttering, but
she would not allow herself to believe there
was anything really wrong. She went close
up to her mother and stood by her, with a
hand upon her shoulder. "Aubrey!" she
said, " never mind If you are wrong or not,
THE SORCERESS. 53
come and beg mamma's pardon, and she will
forgive you. There must not — there must
not — oh, it is too ridiculous ! — be anything
wrong between mamma and you. Aubrey !"
He turned round slowly and faced them
both with a face so pale that Bee stopped
short with a gasp, and could not say a word
more. Mrs. Kingsward had buried her face
in her hands. Bee looked from one to the
other with a dismay which she could not
explain to herself. "Oh, what is the matter?
What is the matter ?" she said.
There was no merry dinner that night in the
verandah of the hotel under the clinging
wreaths of green. Mrs. Kingsward went up
to her room still with her heavy shawl about
her shoulders which she had forgotten, though
it added something to her discomfort —
followed by Bee, pale and rigid, offering no
help, following her mother like an angry
shadow. Charlie and Betty met them on the
stairs and stood aside in consternation, unable
to conceive what had happened. Mrs.
Kingsward gave them a sort of troubled smile
and said: ''Get your dinner, dears; don't
wait for us. I am too tired to come down
" But, mamma " they both began in
THE SORCERESS. 55
'' Go down and get your dinner," said ^Irs.
As for Bee, she did not look at them at all.
Her eyes were fierce with some sentiment
which Betty could not divine, and angry,
blazing, as if they might have set light to the
Little Betty pressed against Charlie's side
as they went down, startled and alarmed.
" Bee has had a quarrel with mamma," she
whispered, in tones of awe.
''That's impossible," said Charlie.
" Oh, no, it's not impossible. There was
It comforted them both a little in the awful
circumstances that such a thing had perhaps
happened before. They went very silently
and much cast down to that table in
the verandah, whither obsequious waiters
beckoned them, and contemplated with
dismay all the plates laid, all the glitter of the
lamps and the glasses.
" I suppose w^e must not wait for them
as they said so," said Charlie, sittmg down in
his place at the bottom of the table. '' Tell
Mr. Leigh — that is the other gentleman —
that we are ready."
56 THE SORCERESS.
''The other gentleman, sir," said the
waiter, who was the pride of the establish-
ment for his English, " has gone out."
" Gone out !" said Charlie. He could only
stare at Betty and she at him, not knowing
what to think.
"He has had his letters, too, sir," said
the waiter in a significant tone.
His letters ! What could that have to do
with it ? Charlie also had had his letters,
one of them a bill which he did not view
with any satisfaction ; but even at twenty-one
a man already learns to disguise his feelings,
and sits down to dinner cheerfully though he
has received a bill by the post. Charlie's
mind at first could not perceive any connec-
tion between Bee's withdrawal upstairs and
Aubrey's disappearance. It was Betty who
suggested, sitting down very close to him,
that it looked as if Aubrey and Bee had
" Perhaps that is what it is," she said, as if
she had found out a satisfactory reason.
" Lovers always quarrel ; and mamma will
have taken Aubrey's part, and Bee will be so
angry, and feel as if she could never forgive
him. There, that is what it must be."
THE SORCERESS. 57
*' A man may quarrel with his sweetheart,"
said CharHe, severely, "but he needn't spoil
other people's dinner for that;" however, they
comforted themselves that this was the most
likely explanation, and that all would come
right in the morning. And they were very
young and hungry, having eaten nothing
since the veal at one o'clock. And these
two made on the whole a very satisfactory
The scene upstairs was very different.
Mrs. Kingsward sent Moulsey away on pre-
tence of getting her some tea, and then
turned to her daughter who stood by the
dressing-table and stared blankly, without
seeing anything, into those mysterious depths
of the glass which are so suggestive to
people in trouble. She said, faintly, '' Bee, I
would so much rather you would not ask me
any more questions to-night."
" That is," said Bee, " you would like to
send me away to be miserable by myself
without even knowing w^hat it is, while you
will take your sleeping draught and forget it.
How can you be so selfish, mamma ? x\nd
you have made my Aubrey join in the con-
58 THE SORCERESS.
splracy against me — my Aubrey who belongs
to me as papa does to you. If you are
against us it is all very well, though I can't
imagine why you should be against us — but
at least you need not interfere between
Aubrey and me."
'' Oh, my dear child, my poor darling !''
said Mrs. Kingsward, wringing her hands.
''It is all very well to call me your poor
child, when it is you that are making me
poor," said Bee.
She kept moving a little, first on one foot
then on the other, but always gazing into the
glass which presented the image of an excited
girl, very pale, but lit up with a sort of blaze
of Indignation, and unable to keep still. It
was not that girl's face, however, that Bee
was gazing at, but at the dim world of space
beyond In which there were faint far-away
reflections of the light and the world. " And
If you think you will get rid of me like this,
and hang me up till to-morrow without
knowing what It Is, you are mistaken,
mamma. I will not leave you until you
have told me. What Is it ? What has papa
got In his head ? What does he say in that
THE SORCERESS. 59
horrid — horrid letter ? I wish I had known
when I gave it to you I should have thrown
it into the river instead of ever letting it
come into your hands."
'' Bee, you must know that this passion is
very wrong and very improper. You ought
not to face me like that, and demand an
answer. I am your mother," said Mrs.
Kingsward, but with a falter which was all
unlike that assumption of authority, '' and I
have no need to tell you anything more than
I think is for your good."
"Ah! I know where that comes from,"
cried Bee; "that's papa's thunder! that's
what he has told you to say ! You don't
believe, yourself, that you have a right to
hang up a poor girl over some dreadful,
dreadful abyss, when she was so happy and
never suspected anything." Here Bee's voice
faltered for a moment, but she quickly
recovered herself. " And to drag her away
from the one person that could support her,
and to cut the ground from under her feet,
and never to tell her what it means !"
It was at this point that Moulsey, with a
little discreet cough to herald her approach,
6o THE SORCERESS.
came into the room, bearing a tray with tea,
and a little cover from which came a faint but
agreeable odour. Mrs. Kingsward was in
great trouble about her child, but she was
much exhausted and in want of physical
support, and it did seem to her hard that she
might not be permitted to eat the smallest of
cutlets before embarking on a scene such as
she knew this would be. Oh, why didn't
papa come and say it himself, when there
was so much that was dreadful to say ?
" Shall I fetch something for Miss Bee,
too ?" said Moulsey. " It ain't a good thing
for a young creature to go without her dinner.
If she's not going down, ma'am, as would be
much the best, I'll just run and fetch a little
something for Miss Bee too."
'' Indeed, indeed, Bee, Moulsey is right.
Think how miserable the others will feel all
alone, and thinking something has happened.
Do go down, darling, and strengthen yourself
with a little food, and take a glass of wine
just for once to please me. And after that
you shall be told everything — all that I
Bee grew paler and paler, standing there
THE SORCERESS. 6 1
before the glass, and her eyes blazed more
and more. "It is as bad as that, then !" she
said under her breath to herself, and then
went away from where she was standing to
the further end of the room. " I shall wait
here, mamma, till you have had your tea. I
know you want it. Oh, go away Moulsey !
Let me alone ! Xo, you shall not bring me
anything ! or, if you do, I will throw it out of
the window," she said, stamping her foot.
The dark end of the room seemed suddenly
lighted up by a sort of aurora borealis, with
the fire of poor Bee's burning eyes and the
flashes here and there of her white frock — oh,
poor white frock ! put on in the sunshine of
life and happiness to please her love, and
now turned into a sort of sacrificial robe.
''Take it away, Moulsey ; I can't eat any-
thing — I can't, indeed — no more than i\IIss
" But you must, ma'am," said Moulsey.
" Miss Bee's young ; she's had nothing to
drain away her strength. But it's far different
with you, after all your family and so weak as
you are. If Miss Bee were a real good girl,
as I always thought her, she'd go away and
62 THE SORCERESS.
get something herself just for her poor
mamma's sake, and leave you alone for a
moment to get a little peace and rest."
" There Is no rest for me," murmured the
poor lady. " Oh, papa, papa, why didn't you
come and tell them yourself?"
These piteous tones went to Bee's heart.
They moved her half with contempt, half
with compassion — with something of that
high Indignant toleration of weakness which
is one kind of pity. If mamma could eat and
drink at such a moment, why shouldn't she
be left to do It ? The girl started up and left
the room In the quick flashing Impulse of her
passion. She walked up and down In the
corridor outside, her arms folded over her
high -beating, tumultuous heart. Yes, no
doubt she was going to be miserable, all her
happiness was cut down and withered away,
but In her present passionate Impulse of
resistance and gathering of all her forces to
resist the catastrophe, which she did not
understand. It could scarcely be said that she
was wretched yet. What was It — what was
It ? she was saying to herself. It might still
be something that would pass away, which
THE SORCERESS. 63
would be overcome by the determined, im-
passioned stand against it, which Bee felt
that it was in her to make. The thing that
was worst of all, that stole away her courage,
was that Aubrey had failed her. He should
have been there by her side whatever
happened. He ought not to have abandoned
her. No doubt he thought it was more
delicate, more honourable, more something
or other ; and that it was his duty to leave
her to brave it alone. It must have been
one of those high-flown notions of honour
that men have. Honour! to leave a girl to
fight for herself and him, alone — but, no
doubt, that was what had seemed right in his
eyes. Bee walked up and down in the half-
lighted passage, sometimes almost pushing
against someone going up or down, waiters
or chambermaids or surprised guests, who
looked after her when she had passed ; but
she did not take any notice of them, and she
heard as she passed her mother's door little
sounds of tea-cups and dishes, and Moulsey's
voice saying "A little more," and her mother's
faint replies. Poor mamma ! After all, what
ever it was, it could not be her affair as it
64 THE .SORCERESS.
was Bee's. She would be unhappy about It»
but not all unhappy. She had the others,
who were all right. She had papa. It would
not shatter her to pieces even if one of the
children was to be shipwrecked. It was the
shipwrecked one only who would be broken
to pieces. For the first time in her life Bee
felt the poignant sensation, the jealous pride,
the high, desolate satisfaction of suffering.
The others could all eat and do the ordinary
things. She was elevated over all that, silent
as on a Peak in Darien. She felt almost a
kind of dreadful pleasure in the situation,
smiling to herself at the sounds of her
mother's little meal. She could dine while
Bee was miserable. They could all dine —
Charlie (which was natural), Betty, even
Aubrey. She had no doubt that he, too,
must be seated, feeling as a man does that
dinner must go on whatever happens, at the
After a while, which seemed a long time
to Bee, Moulsey came out with the tray.
She was startled, and exclaimed under her
breath at the appearance of the girl walking
up and down in the corridor : " I did think
THE SORCERESS. 65
you would have had the sense to go and join
the others, Miss Bee." Bee was too much
upHfted, too distant on her high pinnacle of
martyrdom, to make any reply, but when
Moulsey ventured to add a word of advice, to
the effect that she must be careful of her
mamma and not weary her with questions
and she so tired and so weak, the girl flashed
forth all her heart of indignation. " She has
eaten her cutlet, it appears," cried Bee. '' I
should think she may answer my questions."
" Oh !" cried the maid, who had the
privileges of an old servant, " you have
got a heart without pity. You are just like
your papa !"
Bee swept past her into the room, where
poor Mrs. Kingsward, who after all had eaten
but a morsel, sat lying back in an easy chair
awaiting the dreadful conflict which she k:new
was coming. Poor lady, she had lost all her
brightness, that pretty grace of the young
mother among her grown up children, which
prompted so many compliments. She lay
back in her easy chair, feeling as she said
'* any age " — as old as any woman on the
edge of the grave, not knowing how she was
VOL. I. F
66 THE SORCERESS.
to bear the onslaught that was coming, and
how she was to say what had to be said. He
had borne it far better than Bee — poor
Aubrey, poor Aubrey ! whom she must not
call Aubrey any more. He had not denied
anything, he had fallen as it were at her feet,
like a house that had been undermined and
had no sound foundations, but Bee was
different. Bee was a tower that had foun-
dations — a girl that was able to stand up
even to papa, and why — why had he not
come to give forth his sentence in his own
Bee came forward flashing into the light,
in that white frock which shone, and with
those eyes that blazed through all the neutral
tints in the room. She did not sit down,
which would have been a little relief, but
seized a chair and stood with her hand upon
the back, leaning upon it.
" I hope, mamma," she said, pitiless, "that
you liked your tea, and ate something — and
that you are better now."
" Oh, Bee !" cried the poor lady ; if there
is one reproach more dreadful than another
it is this of being able to eat when you ought
THE SORCERESS. 6"]
to be overwhelmed with trouble." ]Mrs.
Kingsward could scarcely keep from crying
at the imputation. And Bee, I fear, knew
that it was the unkindest thing that could be
" Now, mamma," she resumed, almost
stonily, " it is time that you should tell me
what has happened. We arrived here all
quite happy — it is just an hour ago "
here Bee's voice shook a little, but she
commanded it with an effort — " I ran up to
dress for dinner, and when I came back in
about ten minutes I found you and ^Aubrey —
with your letters — looking as if you had both
been dead and buried while I was away.
You wouldn't answer me, and he never said
a word. You had done something to him in
that little time to make him turn away from
me. and yet you w^ill not tell me what it is.
Here I am alone," said Bee, once more with
a quiver in her voice. " Aubrey ought to be
standing by me. I suppose he is having his
dinner downstairs, too, and thinking no more
of me. I just stand alone, nobody caring in
all the world. What is the meaning of it,
68 THE SORCERESS.
'' Bee, you are very hard upon me. And
poor Aubrey, he is having no dinner — of that
I am sure."
*' You called him Mr. Leigh downstairs."
'' So I did, and so I must, and all of us ;
but I cannot have you speaking of him like
that, poor, poor fellow ; and just for this
once Oh, Bee, my darling, don't stand
and look at me so ! I would rather have
died than say it either to him or to you.
Your papa has been hearing I don't know
what, and he has changed his mind about
Mr. Leigh altogether, and says it must not
'' What must not be ?"
"Oh, Bee! Oh, don't take it so hard!
Don't look like that ! Your — your — engage-
ment, my darling. Have patience ; oh, have
patience ! He has heard something. Men
hear things that we would never hear.
And he doesn't deny it. Oh ! he doesn't
deny it. I had a hope that he would
contradict it at once, and flare up in a
rage like you, and say it wasn't true. But he
doesn't deny it — poor boy, poor boy ! And
after that, how can I say one word to papa .^"
THE SORCERESS. 69
'* My engagement ?" said Bee, in a hoarse
voice. She had been staring at her mother
as in a dream — only partially hearing, not
understanding at all the rest that was said.
" My engagement ? He gave his consent.
It was all settled. You would not allow us
till the letter came, but then it was consent."
" Yes, yes, dear. That was at first, He
consented at first because — and now it
appears he has heard something — someone
has called upon him — he has discovered — and
he writes to me that it must be broken off.
Oh, Bee, don't think my heart doesn't bleed
for you. I think it will kill me. He says it
must be broken off at once."
"Who says so?" said Bee, in her passion.
" He ! One would think you were speaking
of God — that can say ' Yes ' to-day and ' No '
to-morrow, and build things up and then
snatch them down. But I will not have it !
I am not a doll, to be put in one position and
then in another, as anybody pleases. My
engagement ! It is mine ; it is not his."
" Bee, think ; it is papa you are speaking
of. Dear, I feel for you — I feel for you ! but
so does he. Oh, my darling, you don't know
70 THE SORCERESS.
what you are saying. Do you think he
would do anything to make you unhappy if
he could help it — ^your papa, Bee, who has
been so good to you all your life .^"
" I do not care how good he has been.
He is not good now. How will it harm him ?
He sits at home, and he thinks he can do as
he pleases. But not with me. It is my
affair more than it is his. He thinks he can
break his word and it doesn't matter — but I
have given my word, and it does matter.
Break my engagement !" cried Bee, her
young bosom swelling, the sob rising in her
throat that would soon choke her voice. "It
is mine and not his; and nobody in the world
shall break it. You can tell him so, mamma,
or I will write myself and tell him so. I am
not a wax image to take any shape he
pleases. Who is he ? He is not God "
'' Bee — he is your father "
" Oh, my father ! Ves, I do whatever he
tells me. If he says I am to fetch anything I
run like a little dog. I have never been
disobedient. But this — this is different. I
am not a child any longer. And, mamma,
not for him nor for anyone — not even for you
will I take back my word."
THE SORCERESS. 7I
" Bee ! You make me say a great deal more
than I meant to say. I thought you would
have been a good child and seen that papa
must know best. My poor, poor little girl,
there is w^orse behind. Mr. Leigh, whom we
all thought so much of "
"Aubrey," Bee managed to say, though
for no other word could she command her
" Darling, he has deceived us. He is not
what he seems. He has done, oh, so wrong
— there have been things — that you ought
never to hear ''
*' Stop !" said Bee. She had to speak in
monosyllables with her labouring breath.
*' Wait ! — not behind his back." She rushed
to the bell and rung it so wildly that both
waiter and chambermaid appeared in alarm,
with Moulsey rushing in calling for a doctor,
and saying that her lady was going to faint.
Bee pushed the woman aside and turned to
the waiter, w^ho stood anxious at the door.
" Mr. Leigh !" she cried, impatiently ; '' the
gentleman — who was with us : tell him — to
''The tall young gentleman?" said the
72 THE SORCERESS.
'* No — the other : tell him he is to come
here — instantly — this moment."
" I beg your pardon, miss," said the man.
" The other gentleman ? He have been
gone away this half-hour."
'' Gone away !" she cried. And it seemed
to Bee that the blackness of darkness closed
over her and the room and everything in it.
She did not faint, oh no, no such happiness —
but everything grew dark, and through the
dark she heard her own voice speaking —
speaking, and did not know what she said.
But Aubrey had not gone away. He had
gone out in the dizziness of a great downfall,
scarcely knowing how to keep his feet steady
as he wandered along the dark street, not
knowing where he went. The landscape
that had charmed them all so much — was it
scarcely an hour ago ? — the lamps reflected in
the water ; the verandah, w^th its wreaths of
green ; the brilliant yet mysterious glimmer
of the moon, made his heart sink to look at
them now. He strayed off into the darkest
of the narrow streets, into the great gloom of
the cathedral shadow, where he could see
nothing but a poor light twinkling here and
there, making the darkness visible. Oh ! how
certain it is that, however sweet they may
seem, your sins will find you out ! Oh ! how
more than certain if you have let yourself be
74 THE SORCERESS.
dragged down once, only once, In a spodess
life, that the one fault will be made into the
central fact of your whole existence. If he
had been a bad, dissipated man, it would
have been only fair. But this poor young
fellow was like the young man whom our
Lord loved though he went away. All
good things he had kept from his youth
up — but once, only once, half distracted
by grief, and by the desire which is so natural
to escape from grief, and by infernal tempta-
tion, he had fallen — oh, there was no need to
tell him how he had fallen ! Had it not been
the canker in his soul ever since ? And now
this one thing, this miserable, much-repented
fault, which revolted, disgusted, horrified
himself, was brought up against him as if
it were the pattern upon which he had shaped
And now, what was left for him but to fall
down, down into the unfathomable abyss ?
The distracted feelings with which he had
broken away from home, the horror and
dismay that at once belonged to his natural
grief and made the burden of it a thousand
times harder to bear, all rushed back upon
THE SORCERESS. 75
him, whirling him down and down to dimmer
and more awful depths. He had partially
healed himself in the intolerableness of his
trouble by travel and change, and the
arbitrary forgetfulness which comes from
absence and the want of any association
which could call back to him what was past ;
and then the touch of Bee's soft, girlish
hand, the sound of her voice, had suddenly
called him back into an enchanted land
where everything had again become possible.
He had hesitated for some time, wondering
if he mioht dare — he who had a secret
smirch upon him which nobody suspected — to
avail himself of this way of salvation. The
reader will think that he had not hesitated
very long — poor Aubrey — seeing that the
introduction, the acquaintance, the love, the
engagement had all occurred within the
small space of one month ; but to the brood-
ing spirit the hours of one interminable day
are long enough for a chronicle. Something
like the phenomena of love at first sight had
occurred in the bleeding yet young heart,
which had felt itself cut loose from all the
best associations of life. Deliverance, re-
76 THE SORCERESS.
creation, the new beginning of life and all its
possibilities had gleamed upon him in Bee's
blue eyes. Her appearance swept away
everything that was dark and ominous in his
life. Did he dare to ask for her hand, to set
out again to make himself a new career ?
He had worked at that question almost from
the first day, discussing It with himself for
the three weeks preceding their engage-
ment, waking and sleeping, almost without
intermission ; and then in a moment he had
forgotten all controversy, and let forth
without Intention the words that had been
lying, so to speak, on the threshold of his
lips — and In that moment all the clouds had
been swept away. He was only eight and
twenty after all — so young to have such a
past behind him, and what so natural as that
his life should begin again — begin now as for
the first time ? He had hesitated In the first
fervour of his betrothal whether he should
not tell all his story. But there was no one
to tell It to but Mrs. Kingsward — a lady, even
a young lady, not looking much older than
Bee herself. That Is one of the drawbacks
of a young mother. She was still In the
THE SORCERESS. 'J'J
sphere of the girls, not In that of the old
ladies whom Heaven has ordained to repre-
sent the mothers of the race. How could he
tell to her the story of that entanglement ?
If Colonel Kingsward had been there,
Aubrey was of opinion that he would have
made a clean breast of everything to him.
But I think It very likely that he might not
have done so. He would have intended it,
and he would have put It off from day to
day; and then he knew how lightly men of
the world look upon such matters. What
would have horrified Mrs. Kingsward would
probably call forth nothing but a pooh-pooh
from her husband. Aubrey, as it proved,
was mistaken there, for Colonel Kingsward
had ideas of his own, not always correspond-
ing to those of the ordinary man of the
world ; but no doubt had he heard the story
from that side and not from the other, he
would have regarded It in a very different
But it was too late — too late for these
reflections now. The fiat had gone forth,
the sentence had been pronounced beyond
appeal. Oh, Bee, Bee, she was too good for
78 THE SORCERESS.
him ; too fresh, too bright, unsullied by the
world, for a man who had gone through so
much already although he was still young
enough. He who had loved and married —
though, oh, how differently! — poor little Amy,
who was nobody, whom he had liked for her
yielding sweetness, sweetness which had cost
him so dear — he who had been a father, who
had lost his way in life amid the fogs of death
and grief — how had he now dared to think
that such a girl as Bee should dedicate her
fresh young life to restore him again to the
lost possibilities of his? It seemed to him
the greatest presumption, the most dreadful,
cynical, almost blasphemous attempt. It was
the way of the world — to think that any
woman, however good, might be sacrificed to
the necessities of a man's restoration whatever
he had done ; everybody thought so, his own
mother even. But he, Aubrey, should have
known better — he should have known that
even at his best he could never have been
good enough for Bee, and to think that he
had dared now when he was no longer at his
best ! What a fool, what a fool he had been !
He had come to be able to endure the day-
THE SORCERESS. 79
light and '' get on " well enough when he had
arrived at the Bath and seen her first. Why
had he not contented himself with that,
knowing that he had no right to expect
more ? And now there was nothing — nothing
before him but a plunge into the unutterable
darkness — darker than ever, without any
hope — worse almost, if worse were possible,
than when he had fled from his home.
He did not know how long he had been
roaming about the dark town pondering all
these dreadful thoughts. When he went
back to the hotel, which he finally did, worn
out, not knowing where else to go, one
reproachful waiter, with eyes that said he
ought to have been in bed long ago, was
waiting for him with a curt demand what he
would have to eat, and all the house, except
that deserted eating-room, where one light
twinkled — reproachful, like the waiter — was
shut up. He went to his room when he had
swallowed some brandy, which was the only
thing he could find to put a little warmth into
his chilled limbs and despairing heart, and
threw himself miserable upon his bed, where
I have no doubt he slept, though he was not
So THE SORCERESS.
aware of It — as Bee did, though she had no
intention of doing so.
The only one who was really a sufferer in
this respect was poor Mrs. Kings ward, who
was ill, and who had been far more agitated
than her feeble strength could bear. She it
was who lay and wondered all through the
night what she must do. Was he really
gone without a word, thus proving how
much he was in the wrong, and how right
the Colonel was? It would have saved her
from a great deal of embarrassment, but I do
not think Mrs. Kingsward wished that
Aubrey might have really gone. It was too
summary, it was not natural, it would show
Colonel Kingsward to have been too right.
Oh ! she believed he was right ! She did not
doubt that his decision was for the best any
more than she doubted that it was in-
exorable : but still the heart revolted a little,
and she hoped that he might not be proved
so unutterably right as that. And poor Bee
— poor little Bee ! She did not know, poor
child, that there were bitters in the sweetest
cup — that if she had twenty years of Aubrey
she would not probably have thought quite
THE SORCERESS. 8 I
SO much of him as now — that nobody was
perfect, which was a conviction that had been
forced upon Mrs. Kings ward's own mind,
though it was not a strong one, by the
passage of the years. And then the poor
lady went off into perplexed considera-
tions of what she personally must do. Must
he leave them all at once, travel home in a
different carriage, avoid them at the stations,
not venture to come near their table when
they dined on the way .-^ It would seem so
ridiculous, and it would be so embarrassing
after their very close intercourse. But men
never thought of these little things. She
felt sure that the Colonel would expect her
never to let the two meet again. And how
could she do that when they were both
travelling the same way ? Besides, was it
fair, was it just, would Bee endure it — never
to see him again ?
Bee woke up in all the energy of despair.
It burst upon her in the first moment of her
waking that he had gone away, that it was
all over ; but her mind, when it had time to
think, rejected that idea ; he would not, could
not have gone w^ithout a word, without even
VOL. I. G
82 THE SORCERESS.
saying farewell, without asking her — anything,
anything — to forgive him or to forget him, or
to be faithful to him, or not to believe what
was said against him. One or other of these
things Aubrey must say to her before he
went away. Therefore, he could not have
gone away, and everything was still possible.
In her passion and pride she had refused last
night to let her mother tell her what it was.
She had resolved that Aubrey should be
present, that he should hear the accusation
against him, that he should give his own
explanation — that was only just, she said to
herself — the poorest criminal had a right to
that! And Aubrey should have it. He
should not, whatever papa said and whatever
mamma said, be condemned unheard. She
dressed in great haste and rang the bell
energetically to ascertain if he had come
back. But the chambermaid who answered
Bee's bell was stupid and could not under-
stand what Herr it was about whom the
young lady questioned her so closely. Had
he come back ? Oh, yes, she believed all the
Herren had come back ; there was not a bed
to be had in the house. But what Herr was
THE SORCERESS. S^,
it whom the gracious young lady sought.
The old gentleman in the next room, who
was so ill ? She heard that he was a little
better this morning — or the young Herr In
number ten, or the Herr whose eyes were so
bad, who was going to the great doctor at
Dusseldorf? Perhaps poor Bee's German
was at fault. She was still attempting to
make the matter clear when Moulsey came
in with the news that Mrs. Kingsward was
very poorly, and had not slept at all, a state-
ment which Betty, rushing in half-dressed,
confirmed anxiously. *' Mamma has had a
very bad night ; and what is the matter, Bee,
that we are all at sixes and sevens, and why
did you lock your door ? I came up as soon
as I could — as soon as Charlie would let me.
He said it was dreadful, nobody coming
down : and that we must eat through the
dinner for the sake of appearances. And
Aubrey never showing neither, and me
obliged to sleep in mamma's room because
you had locked the door."
''I want to know," said Bee, "whether
Aubrey came back last night."
" Oh, how should I know ?" said Betty,
84 THE SORCERESS.
"and why shouldn't he come back? Of
course he must have come back. Is he
going anywhere else but home ? 1 wish
people would not get letters," said the girl.
''You are all so ridiculous since those letters
came last night. Letters are nice when they
are nice. But, oh ! how much nicer it was
yesterday morning when you had none, and
we were all quite happy, and mamma well,
and Aubrey and you as funny as you could
There flashed upon Bee as she spoke the
whole bright panorama of yesterday. Not a
cloud in the sky nor a trouble in the world.
Mamma as fresh as the morning, the river
shining, the steamboat thrilling through the
water with a shiver of pleasure in its wooden
sides, every group adding amusement, and
they themselves affording it, no doubt, to the
rest. How conscious they had been when
they laughed uuder their breath at the young
German pairs, that they themselves were
lovers too, quite as happy, if not so demon-
strative. Oh ! yesterday — yesterday ! You
might as well say last century for anything
that resembled it now. Bee turned almost
THE SORCERESS. 85
fiercely to Moulsey, who stood looking on
with that air of knowing all about it which so
often exasperated the girls, and requested
her to go downstairs immediately and ask
if Mr. Leigh had come back. Moulsey
hesitated and protested that the chambermaid
would know. "And you that know the
language. Miss Bee."
"Go down directly and inquire if Mr.
Leigh has come back. You know the waiter
that speaks such good English as well as I
do," said Bee, peremptorily. And Moulsey
could do nothing but obey.
Yes, Mr. Leigh had come back ; he had
occupied his room, but was not yet up so far
as the attendants knew. There came such a
change on Bee's face at this news as startled
both the curious observers. The light grew
less fierce, more like the usual sunny bright-
ness in her eyes. A softening came over
her face. Her colour flashed back. " 1
want to know when mamma is coming down-
stairs," she said. " Moulsey — or no, stop.
I'll go myself and see."
Moulsey was so roused that she caught the
young lady by the arm. "If it was your
86 THE SORCERESS.
papa himself, my lady shan't be disturbed,"
she said. ''And not by you, Miss Bee, as
are the cause of It all ; not If you should put
a knife Into me afore her door."
" How dare you say I am the cause of It
" Because It's the truth," said the enraged
maid. " She was worrited enough before by
those letters, and you coming In like the
wind, like your papa himself, as I always
said you were his living Image ; and stopping
her In the middle of her little bit of cutlet
that would have given her strength, and
questioning of her like a drum-major, and
pacing up and down outside the door like a
wild beast. Mind my words : you don't
know, none of you, how little strength my
poor lady's got. And you're all so masterful,
every one, with mamma here and mamma
there, and you'll not find out till It's too
" But mamma's better," cried Betty. "She
has taken her cure, and she's all right till
" I only wish as you may all find It so,
miss," said Moulsey, folding her arms across
her broad chest and shaking her head.
THE SORCERESS. Sy
Bee was awe-struck for a moment by this
speech, but she knew that Moulsey was
always a croaker, and it was quite true about
the cure. She paused a little uncertain, and
then she resumed in a subdued voice —
'* I never want to disturb mamma. But
Moulsey, we've got to leave here to-day."
"That can't be," said Moulsey, decisively.
'' My lady is not fit to travel after such a bad
night, and I won't have it," she said. '' The
doctor has put my lady into my hands, and
he says ' She's not to be overtired. Mind, I
don't respond for nothing if she's overtired.'
And she just shan't go — that's flat. And you
may all say what you like, and your papa,
'' Not to-day ?" said Bee, with another
change of countenance. It flashed upon her
that another day's delay would give time for
all the explanations in which she could not
help hoping. Her excited pulses calmed
down a little. She was not alarmed about
her mother. Had she been so, it would no
doubt have given her thoughts another direc-
tion. But Bee knew nothing of illness, much
less anything of death. She was not afraid
88 THE SORCERESS.
of them. In her experience people might be
ill occasionally, but they always got better.
Mamma, too, would be better presently, when
she got up ; and then they could all meet,
and the letters and the whole matter could
be discussed. And it seemed to be impos-
sible — impossible that from this some better
conclusion could be arrived at. There
had been so much confusion last night, when
it burst upon them like a thunderstroke.
When looked at calmly, without flurry or
haste, the better moment would bring better
views, and who could say that all might not
vet be well ?
Emboldened by this thought Bee went
downstairs to breakfast, which was spread
again in the verandah in the warm sunshine
of the autumnal morning. The new hope,
though it were a forlorn one, restored her
youthful appetite as well as her courage, and
her coffee and roll were a real restorative
after the long fast and agitated night. But
there was no appearance of Aubrey, neither
at the table nor in the passages, nor any-
where about. He seemed to have disap-
peared as if he had never been. When
Charlie came down from his mother's room,
where he had been shut up with her for some
time. Bee, who had no particular respect for
Charlie's opinion or inclination to allow him
any authority over herself, such as an elder
90 THE SORCERESS.
brother Is sometimes supposed to have,
began at once to question him. '' Where is
Aubrey?" she said. "Why doesn't he come
to breakfast ? Will gou go and look for
Aubrey, Charlie ?"
'* Indeed, I will do no such thing," said
Charlie, almost roughly. '' I hope he has
had the sense to go away. I should just like
to see him come calmly down to breakfast as
if nothing had happened. If he came,
then I can answer for it, you should not be
allowed to say a word to him. Bee."
"Who should prevent me?" cried Bee,
lookmg up with her eyes on fire and her
nostrils dilating. She had not noticed before
what a cloud was upon Charlie's face and
how heavy and scowling were his brows.
She added, springing up, ''We shall soon
see about that. If you think I shall do what
you tell me, or condemn any man un-
" The cad ! He never denied it. You
can ask mamma."
" I will not ask anyone but Mr. Leigh,"
said Bee, throwing back her head; "and I
advise you to mind your own business, and
THE SORCERESS. 9 1
not to call names that may come back upon
*' Stop where you are, Bee. I never went
out into the world under false pretences. A
man is a cad when he does that."
'* I shall not stop for you, nor anyone but
my parents," said Bee, in a splendid flush of
anger, her countenance glowing, her eyes
blazing. ' ' Stand out of my way. Oh, if
that is all, and you want to make a scene for
the edification of the tourists, I can go in by
the other door."
And she did so, leaving Charlie standing
flushed and angry, but quite unable, it need
scarcely be said, to coerce his sister. To
make an attempt of this kind, which comes
to nothing, is confusing and humiliating.
He looked round angrily for a moment to
see if it were possible to intercept her, then,
yielding to necessity, sat down where Betty,
eager and full of a thousand questions, sat
calling for explanations. That is the good
of a family party, there is always someone
ready to hear what you have to say.
Bee went at once to the English-speaking
waiter, and asked for Mr. Leigh, whom the
92 THE SORCERESS.
man, curious as all lookers-on are at a social
drama going on under their eyes, declared to
be still in his room. She sent him off
Instantly with a message, and stood in the
hall awaiting his return, angry and brave,
like the rose in George Herbert's poem, yet
soon getting shamefaced and troubled, as the
people coming and going, travellers, visitors,
attendants, stared at her and brushed against
her as they passed. Bee never forgot all her
life the gleam of the river at the foot of the
steps, of which she had a glimpse through
the doorway — the Rhine barges slowly cross-
ing that little space of vision, the little boats
flitting across the gleam of the rosy morning,
and the strong flowing tide, the figures going
up and down breaking the prospect.
The man came back to her after a time,
looking half sympathetic, half malicious, with
the message that the gentleman was just
'' Just going out !" She repeated the words
half-consciously. *' Was it Aubrey that sent
her that message ? Aubrey — who yesterday
would not let her out of his sight, who
followed her everywhere, saw every sign she
THE SORCERESS. 93
made, heard every word almost before it was
spoken !" The surprise and the pang together
made her heart sick. She could not rush
upstairs and knock at his door and call him
out imperatively, to tell her immediately what
it all meant — at least, though it occurred to
her that this would be the most natural thing
to do, she did not. Intimidated by the
circumstances, by the half impertinence of
the waiter, by the stare of the people about,
she reflected for a moment breathlessly that
he must come out this way, and that if she
remained there she must see him. But Bee's
instinct of a young \voman, now for the first
time awakened, made her shrink from this.
When she was only a little girl, so very short
a time ago, she did not mind who looked at
her, who pushed past her. But now every-
thing was different I
She went away, still holding her head high
that nobody (above all not Charlie, who
was watching her through the glass of the
verandah) should guess that her courage was
drooping, and going into the deserted sitting-
room, where last night that blow had fallen
upon her, sat down and wrote to her lover a
hurried little note :
94 THE SORCERESS.
" Oh, Aubrey, what is the matter? Have you deserted
me without a word? Do you think I am like them, to
take up any report ? I don't know what report there
is — I don't know what n is, this terrible thing that has
come between us. What is it ? I will take your word
and nobody else's. I don't believe you have done
anything that is wrong. Aubrey ! come and tell me out
of your own mouth. I told mamma last night I would
hear nothing unless you were there ; but you were gone
away, they said. And now you send me word that you
are going out and can't see me. Going out and can't
see ;//^ / What does it all mean ?
" If it is some fad of honour, of not seeing me against
f/ieir will — though I do think your first duty is to me,
Aubrey, before anyone else in the world — but if it
should be so, mamma will be down here at twelve
o'clock — and I invite you to meet her, to hear what is
said, to answer for yourself and for me. If you have
done anything wrong, what does that matter? Don't we
all do wrong ? And why should it come between you and
me ? Am I without sin that I should throw stones at
you ? Aubrey, you can't throw everything away without
a word. You can't desert me without a word. I can
bear anything — anything, rather than this.
"Your Bee ."
Bee, poor child, shrank from intrusting
this to the impertinent waiter, who had a
leer in his eye as if he were defending his
own side from the importunities of the other.
She went out furtively into the hall and
studied the numbers of the rooms and the
names of the tenants upon the board, neces-
THE SORCERESS. 95
sity quickening her perceptions, and then
she stole upstairs and gave her poor Httle
appeal into the hands of the stout chamber-
maid who watched over that part of the
hotel. It was for the Herr in No. lo, and
the answer was to be brought immediately to
the little salon No. 20 downstairs. " Eine
Antwort," she said over and over again in
her imperfect speech. '' Schnell, schnell!"
This, with the aid of a thaler — for it was
before the days of the mark — produced per-
fect understanding in the mind of the maid,
who with becks and wreathed smiles accepted
the commission, and in a short time brought
her back the answer for which she waited
with feverish anxiety. It was very much
shorter than her own.
" I am not worthy to stand before you. I cannot and
I must not take advantage of your innocence ; better
I should disappear altogether than wound your ears with
what they say. But I will not since you will it so. At
twelve o'clock then, Bee, my darling, I will stand up
before your mother, and say what I can for myself.
Bee, my own dearest, my only hope!"
This last was scrawled across the paper as
if he had put it in after the despair of the
former part. It was this that the poor little
girl fixed upon — the sweet words to which
96 THE SORCERESS.
she had been accustomed, which her heart
was fainting for. It was not, one would
have said, a very cheerful note for a love-
letter. But Bee was ridiculously cheered by
it. So long as she was his own dearest, his
hope, his darling — so long as there was no
change in his love for her — why then, in
the long run, whatever was said, everything
must come right.
I need not follow Bee to her mother's bed-
side, when Mrs. Kingsward woke and for
the first moment did not remember what had
'' Is that you, Bee?" she said, smiling, not
'' Are you better, mamma ?"
"Oh, yes, just in my usual ," said Mrs.
Kingsward. And then she caught a fuller
sight of her daughter's face. Bee had none
of her usual pretty colour, the light in her
eyes was like fire. The mother gave a little
feeble cry, and in a moment was no longer in
her usual, but lost in the feverish mists of a
trouble far too great for her to bear. ''Oh,
Bee ! Oh, Bee !"
'' We had better not say anything about it.
THE SORCERESS. 97
mamma, to agitate you. I have told him you
will be ready at twelve o'clock, that I may
know what the story is, and what he has to
Mrs. Kingsward struggled up to a sitting
position. "At twelve o'clock.^ No! I
cannot, I cannot !" Then she dropped back
upon her pillows sobbing, " Oh, Bee, spare
me ; I am not equal to it. There is Charlie
can read your papa's letter. Bee ! Bee !"
" Charlie !" cried Bee, w^ith a flash of fury.
" Who is Charlie, that he should sit in
judgment on Aubrey and me ? If he has
anything to do with it, I tell you, mamma, I
will go away. I will go with Aubrey. I will
not hear a word."
'' Oh, Bee," cried Mrs. Kingsward, holding
out her hot, feverish hands, '' I am not fit for
it! I am not fit for it! If I am to travel
to-morrow — ask Moulsey — I ought to stop in
bed and be quiet all day."
" I don't see that it matters," said Bee,
sternly, ''whether we travel to-morrow or in
a week. To go home will be no pleasure to
" If we were there, then papa could manage
VOL. I. H
98 THE SORCERESS,
It all himself; he is the proper person. On
a journey is not the time to settle things so
important. I will write and tell him I have
put it all off, and have not said anything, till
he could do it himself."
'' But that will not be true," cried the
young Rhadamanthus, inexorable, with her
" O Bee! you are dreadfully, dreadfully
hard upon me!" the poor young mother said.
This is the drawback of being so young a
mother, just as young as your grown-up
children. It is very delightful, when all is
sunny and bright, but in a great emergency
like this it is trying for all parties when a
girl's mother is only, so to speak, a girl like
herself. Bee lifted up her absolute young
head, and gave forth her ultimatum unmoved.
'*Well, mamma, it must be as you choose.
If you think my happiness is of less con-
sequence than the chance of a headache to
yourself, I have naturally nothing more to
A headache ! That was all she knew.
Mrs. Kingsward was ready by twelve
o'clock, much against Moulsey's will, who
THE SORCERESS. 99
dressed her mistress under protest. " I ain't
one to interfere with what's going on in a
family," said Moulsey, as she combed out
the long locks, tangled with the restlessness
of a troubled night, which were as silky and
as smooth as Bee's. "I'm only a servant,
and I knows my place ; but you're not fit
to struggle among them young ones. The
nursery children, it's all very well ; if they're
naughty you whip them, or you put them in
a corner, and there's a good cry and all right
again. But w^hen it comes to a business
with a young lady and a gentlemen, the
Colonel ought to have come himself, or he
ought to have put it off till we all got home."
"Oh, I wish, I wish he had!" Mrs.
Kingsward said, sighing. " I am not in the
least what I used to be, Moulsey ; don't you
think I am very different from what I used
to be ? I have not half the strength."
"There often is," said Moulsey, "a time
when a lady isn't so strong, after all these
children and everything. It takes a deal
out of you, it do. And I don't hold much
with them foreign cures. I'm one that
stands for home. And there's where you
lOO THE SORCERESS.
ought to be, ma'am, whatever anyone may
'' I am sure it is where I wish to be," said
the poor lady, " but we must not be unjust,
Moulsey. My cure did me a great deal of
good, and I liked being out and seeing
everything just as much as the girls."
''That is just it, ma'am," said Moulsey;
'' you're a deal too much the same as the
young ladies, and can't make up your mind
as you haven't the strength for it. I'm not
one to ask any questions, but I can't help
seeing there's something wrong. Don't you
give in to Miss Bee in everything. I
wouldn't go down to make up the quarrel if
I was you. Leave 'em to themselves, and
it'll all come right. Bless us, lovers' quarrels
is nothing — it wouldn't be half the fun if it
wasn't for that."
Moulsey knew very well this was no lovers'
quarrel ; but it seemed to her a good way of
satisfying herself what it was.
" Oh, if that were all !" sighed the poor
lady. " Moulsey, you are an old friend, and
take an interest in the family. You have
known Miss Bee since ever she was born.
THE SORCERESS. lOI
I don't know why I shouldn't tell you. It is
no quarrel ; it's something the Colonel has
heard about Mr. Leigh."
" All lies, ma'am, I don't make no manner
" Do you think so, Moulsey ; oh, do you
think so ? Have you heard anything ? You
often know more, hearing the servants speak,
than we do. If you have any light to throw
on the subject, oh, do so, do I I shall be
grateful to you all my life. "
" I don't know as I have any light to
throw. I knew as there was some trouble at
the time the poor young lady died — some
friend of hers, as Mr. Leigh, being a kind-
hearted gentleman, couldn't turn out of the
house — and it made a talk. But if there was
anything wrong, you take my word, ma'am,
it was none of his fault."
" Ah, it's so easy to say that, Moulsey ;
but the man must bear the blame."
" I've always heard, ma'am, as it was the
woman that got the blame ; and right
enough, for they often deserve it the most,"
" Oh, I wish — I wish, whoever was to
I02 THE SORCERESS.
blame, that it was not I that had to clear It
up," poor Mrs. KIngsward said.
" Oh, cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right."
She would not have said this, poor lady.
She would have thought it swearing and
unbecoming for a woman's lips ; still,
Hamlet's sentiment was hers, with much
stronger reason. She looked like anything
but a strong representative of justice as she
went downstairs. Charlie had come to give
her his arm, and though he was very tender
to her, Charlie had no Idea of sparing her
any more than Bee. He, too, thought that
it was only the risk of a headache, and
that a headache was no such great matter.
Charlie's idea was, however, that what the
governor said was, of all things on earth, the
most important to be carried out — especially
when it did not concern himself.
Bee was sitting at the window looking
out upon the river, seeing the reflections
flash and the boats pass. The steamer had
just started with Its lively freight — the steam-
boat which had brought them down the
stream yesterday, with all its changing
THE SORCERESS. IO3
groups, and the pairs of German lovers with
their arms about each other in the beatitude
of the betrothal. All just the same, but how
different, how different ! She did not rise,
but only turned her head when her mother
came in. She was on the other side. She
did not see, with so many other things in her
head, how fragile Mrs. Kingsward looked.
Betty was the only one who perceived at all
that mamma was less strong than usual, and
even Betty took no notice, for she, too, was
on the other side. As for Charlie, he stood
behind her, a sort of representative of execu-
tive force at the back of Justice, backing her
authority up. It was he who arranged her
chair, her footstool, the shawl Moulsey had
insisted she should wear, and w^hich Charlie,
who knew nothing about shawls, huddled up
about her neck, not unlike the judge's
ermine. He did it all, not with sympathetic
touches as the girls would have done had
they not been on the other side, but rather
with an eye to her dignity as a representative
of the law.
And then, just as the hour of noon sounded
from all the church clocks, Aubrey came in.
I04 THE SORCERESS.
He was very pale, but dressed with care, no
symptoms of neglect about him, with an air
of preparation which became a man who was
going to stand his trial. Bee jumped up
from her seat and went up to him, putting
her hand through his arm, and Betty, half-
frightened, with a glance at her mother,
offered him a timid hand. She sat down
behind them, on a chair that was ranged
against the wall. The defendant's side was
her side. She wanted to show that, and yet
not to go against mamma. Charlie took no
notice at all of the new comer, but stood
scowling, looking at nobody, behind his
Mrs. Kingsward, frightened at her own
dignity and breathless with agitation, cried,
"Oh, Mr. Leigh!" which was a kind of
salutation. She had some papers in her lap,
over which her hands fluttered restlessly, her
husband's letter, and something else beside,
and she looked at the group before her with
a little dubious smile, asking pardon of the
culprit whom she had come here — oh, so
much against her will — to try for his life.
" Now, mamma," said Bee, in a cheerful
voice, "we are quite ready, Aubrey and I — '
Mrs. Kingsward's opening speech was a
wonder to hear. She sat and looked at them
all for a moment, trying to steady herself,
but there was nothing to steady her in what
she saw before her — Aubrey and Bee, the
pair who had been so sweet to see, such a
diversion in all circumstances, so amusing in
their mutual absorption, so delightful in their
romance. It all flashed back to her mind;
the excitement of Bee's first proposal, the
pleasure of seeing "her bairn respected like
the lave," though Mrs. Kings ward might
not have understood what these words
meant, the little triumph it was to see her
child engaged at nineteen, when everybody
said there was nobody for the girls to marry
— and now to have that triumph turned Into
I06 THE SORCERESS.
humiliation and dismay! And to think of
Bee's bright face overcast, and her happiness
over, and poor Aubrey thrown but into the
uttermost darkness. Had she seen CharHe
it might have given her some support, for
CharHe was the impersonation of immovable
severity ; but Betty's wistful little face
behind the other pair, coming out from
Aubrey's shadow by moments to fix an
appealing look upon her mother, was not
calculated to make her any stronger. She
cleared her throat — she tried hard to steady
her voice. She said, " Oh, my dear child-
ren," faltering, and then the poor lady ended
in a burst of sobbing and tears. It gave her
a little sting and stimulant to see through
her weeping that though little Betty ran
towards her with kisses and soothing. Bee
took no notice, but stood hard and unaffected
in her opposition, holding close to Aubrey's
arm. Mrs. Kingsward indeed got no sym-
pathy except from little Betty. Charlie put
his hand imperatively upon her shoulder,
recalling her to herself, and Bee never
moved, standing by the side of Aubrey
Leigh. The mother, thus deserted, plucked
THE SORCERESS. IO7
up a little spirit in the midst of her weakness.
'' Bee," she said. " I do not think it is
quite nice of you to stand there as if your
own people were against you. We are not
against you. There has been, I fear, a great
mistake made, which Colonel Kingsward " —
here she turned her eyes to Aubrey — " has
found out in — in time ; though it is a pity, a
sad pity, that it was not found out before.
If Mr. Aubrey had only been frank and said
at once — but I don't see what difference that
would have made. Papa says that from
what he has heard and discovered things
must not go any further. He is sorry, and
so am I, that they have gone so far, and the
engagement must be broken off at once.
You hear what I say, Bee.'^"
'' I heard you say so last night, mamma,
but I say it is my engagement, and I have a
right to know why. I do not mean to
break it off "
'' Oh, how can I make explanations — how
can I enter into such a question ? I appeal
to you, Mn Aubrey— tell her."
" She ought not to ask any explanations.
She is a minor, under age. My father has a
I08 THE SORCERESS.
right to do whatever he pleases — and she has
none to ask why."
This was how Charlie reasoned on the
height of his one-and-twenty years. Charlie
was the intolerable element in all this
question. Aubrey cast a look at him, and
forcibly closed his own lips to keep in some-
thing that was bursting forth. Bee defied
him, as was natural, on the spot. " I will
not have Charlie put in his opinion," she
cried. " He has nothing to do with me.
Even if I obeyed papa, I certainly should
not obey him."
" Let Aubrey say, himself," said Mrs^
Kingsward, " whether you ought to be told
"It is cruel to ask me," said Aubrey,
speaking for the first time. '' If Bee could
know all — if you could know all, Mrs. Kings-
ward ! But how could I tell you all ? Part
of this is true, and part is not true. I could
speak to Colonel Kingsward more freely. I
am going off to-night to London to see him.
It will free you from embarrassment, and it
will give me perhaps a chance. I did not
want to put you to this trial. I am ready to
THE SORCERESS. IO9
put myself unreservedly in Colonel Kings-
" Then," said Bee, hastily, '' it seems I am
of no sort of importance at all to anyone. I
am told my engagement is broken off, and
then I am told I am not to know why, and
then . Go, then, Aubrey, as that is your
choice, and fight it out with papa, if you
please." She loosed her arm from his, with
a slight impulse, pushing him away. "But
just mind this — everybody," she cried ; "you
may think little of Bee — but my engagement
shall not be broken by anybody but me, and
it shall not be kept on by anybody but me ;
and I will neither give it up nor will I hold
to it, neither one nor the other, until I know
Then the judge and the defendant looked
each other in the face. They were, as may
be supposed, on opposite sides, but they were
the only two to consult each other in this
emergency. Aubrey responded by a move-
ment of his head, by a slight throwing up of
his hand, to the question in Mrs. Kingsward's
" Then you shall know as much as I can
no THE SORCERESS.
tell you, Bee. Your father had a letter last
week, from a lady, telling him that she had a
revelation to make. The letter alarmed your
father. He felt that he must know what it
meant. He could not go himself, but he
sent Mr. Passavant, the lawyer. The lady
said that she had lived in Mr. Leigh's house
for years, in the time of his late wife. She
said Mr. Leigh had — had behaved very badly
"That I do not believe," said Bee.
The words flashed out like a knife. They
made a stir In the air, as If a sudden gleam
had come into it. And then all was still
again, a strange dead quiet coming after, In
which Bee perceived Aubrey silent, covering
his face with his hand. It came across her
with a sudden pang that she had heard some-
body say this morning or last night — " He
did not deny it."
"And that he had promised her — marriage
— that he was engaged to her, as good as —
as good as married to her — when he had the
cruelty — oh, my dear child, my dear child ! —
to come to you."
Aubrey took his hand away from his white
THE SORCERESS. Ill
face. " That," he said. In a strange, dead,
tuneless voice, "is not true."
*' Oh, more shame to you, Aubrey, more
shame to you," cried Mrs. Kingsward, for-
getting her judicial character in her indigna-
tion as a woman, ''if it is not true ! — " She
paused a moment to draw her breath, then
added, " But indeed you were not so wicked
as you say, for it is true. And here is the
evidence. Oh!" she cried, with tears in her
eyes, " it makes your conduct to my child
worse ; but it shows that you were not then,
not then, as bad as you say."
Bee had dropped into the chair that was
next to her, and there sat, for her limbs had
so trembled that she could not stand, watch-
ing him, never taking her eyes from him, as
if he were a book in which the interpretation
of this mystery was
" Never mind about me," he said, hoarsely.
" I say nothing for myself. Allow me to be
as bad as a man can be, but that is not true.
And what is the evidence ? You never told
me there was any evidence."
''Sir," said Mrs. Kingsward, fully roused,
" I told you all that was in my husband's
letter last night."
112 THE SORCERESS.
'' Yes — that she," a sort of shudder seemed
to run over him, to the keen sight of the
watchers — " that she — said so. You don't
know, as I do, that that is no evidence. But
you speak now as if there was something
She took a piece of folded paper from her
lap. " There is this," she said, "a letter you
wrote to her the morning you went away."
'' I did write her a letter," he said.
Mrs. Kingsward held it out to him, but
was stopped by Charlie, who put his hand on
her arm. '' Keep this document, mother.
Don't put the evidence against him into a
man's power. I'll read it if Mr. Leigh thinks
Once more Aubrey and Bee together, with
a simultaneous impulse, looked at this in-
truder into their story.
" Mamma! send him away. I should like
to kill him !" said Bee within her clenched
" Be quiet, Charlie. Mr. Leigh, I am
ready to put this or any other evidence
against you into your hands."
He bowed very gravely, and then stood
THE SORCERESS. II3
once more as if he were made of stone.
Mrs. Kingsward faltered very much, her
agitated face flushed. " It begins," she said,
in a low fluttering voice, " My dear little
Then there came a very strange sound
into the agitated silence, for Aubrey Leigh,
on trial for more than his life, here laughed.
'' What more, what more ?" he said.
" No, it is not that. It is — ' I don't want
my dear little wife to be troubled about
anything. It can all be done quite easily
and quietly, without giving an occasion for
people to talk ; a settlement made and
everything you could desire. I shall make
arrangements about everything to-day.' It
is signed A. L., and it is in your handwriting.
Bee, you can see it is in his handwriting ;
look for yourself."
Bee would not turn her head. She thought
she saw the writing written in fire upon the
air — all his familiar turns in it. How well
she knew the A. L. ; but she did not look at
it — would not look. She had enough to do
looking at his face, which was the letter — the
book she was studying now.
VOL. 1. I
114 THE SORCERESS.
** No doubt it is my handwriting," he said,
''only it was addressed not to any other
woman, but to my wife."
"Your wife died two years ago, Mr.
Leigh ; and that is dated Christmas — this
" That is a He !" he cried ; then restrained
himself painfully. ''You know I don't mean
you — but the date and the assumption is
entirely a lie. Give me time, and I will tell
you exactly when it was written. I remember
the letter. It was when I had promised
Amy to provide for her friend on condition
that she should be sent away — for she made
my house miserable."
"And yet — and yet, Mr. Leigh . Oh,
don't you see how things contradict each
other ? She made your house miserable, and
yet when your wife was dead, and you
were free "
He looked at her, growing paler and paler.
"And yet!" he said. "I know what you
mean. That is the infernal art of it. My
own folly has cut the ground from beneath
my feet, and put weapons into every hand
against me. I know — I know."
THE SORCERESS, IT5
Again there came into Bee's mind the
words she had heard last night — *' He does
not deny it." And yet he was denying it
with all his might ! Denying, and not
denying — what ? The girl's brain was all
in a maze, and she could not tell.
" You see ?" said Mrs. Kingsward, gently.
*' Oh, I am sorry for you in my heart. Per-
haps you were led into — a connection that
you feel not to be — desirable. That I can
understand. But that you should think you
could save yourself by means of an innocent
girl, almost a child, and impose yourself on a
family that had no suspicions ! — oh, Mr.
Leigh, Mr. Leigh ! you ought to have died
sooner than have done that !"
He looked at her piteously for a moment,
and then a dreadful sort of smile came upon
his face. " I allow," he said, " that that
would have been the best."
And there fell a silence upon the room.
The sun was shining outside, and the sound
of the water gurgling against the sides of
boats, and of all the commotion of the land-
ing place, and of the hundreds of voices in
the air, and of the chiming of the clocks,
Il6 THE SORCERESS.
came In and filled the place. And just then
there burst out a carillon from one of the
steeples setting the whole to music, har-
monising all the discords, and sweeping into
this silence with a sudden rush of sound as
if some bodily presence had come in. It
was the touch too much for all these excited
and troubled people. Mrs. Kingsward lay
back in her chair and began to weep silently.
Aubrey Leigh turned away from where he
was standing and leant his head against the
wall. As for Bee, she sat quite still, dazed,
not able to understand, but crushed out of all
her youthful self-assertion and determination
to clear it all up. She to clear it up ! — who
did not even 'understand it, who could not
fathom what was meant. That there was
something more than met the eye, something
that was not put into words, seemed to show
vaguely through the words that were said.
But what it was Bee could not tell. She
could not understand it all. And yet that
there was a fatal obstacle rising up between
her and her lover, something which no one
could disperse or clear away, not a mistake,
not a falsehood, not a thing that could be
THE SORCERESS. II/
passed over triumphantly and forgotten —
not as youth is so quick to beHeve a mere
severity, tyranny, arbitrary conclusion of
papa — she felt in every fibre of her frame.
She could not deny it or struggle against it ;
her very being seemed paralysed. The
meaning went out of her face, the absolute,
certain, imperious youthfulness died out of
her. She who loved to have her own way,
who had just protested that she would
neither give up nor hold fast except by her
own will and understanding, now sat dumb,
vaguely staring, seeing shadows pass before
her and hearing of things which were
undeniable, mighty things, far more powerful
than her little hot resolutions and determina-
tions. Bee had never yet come face to face
with any trouble which could not be smoothed
aw^ay. There was her own naughtiness,
there were Charlie's escapades at school and
college — some of which she had known were
serious. But in a little while they had been
passed over and forgotten, and everything
had been as before. One time she remem-
bered papa had threatened not to let Charlie
go back to Harrow, which was a dreadful
Il8 THE SORCERESS.
thing, exposing him and his naughtiness to
all the world. But after a while papa had
changed his mind, and everything had gone
smoothly as before. Could papa change
his mind now ? Would time make it, even
if he did, as it was before ? Bee had not
mental power enough to think these things,
or ask these questions of her own will. But
they went through her mind as people come
in and go out by an open door.
It was Aubrey who was the first to speak.
The carillon stopped, or else they got used to
the sound and took no further notice of it,
and he collected himself and came forward
again to the middle of the room. He said,
*' I know it will be a relief that I should go
away. There is an afternoon train which I
shall take. It is slow, but it does not matter.
I shall be as well there as anywhere — or as
ill. I shall go direct to Colonel Kingsward
and lay my whole case before him. He will
perhaps confront me with my accuser — I
hope so — if not, he will at least hear what I
have to say for myself."
*'Oh, Mr. Leigh! Oh, Aubrey! I can't
wish you anything but well, whatever —
whatever may be done !"
THE SORCERESS. I I 9
" Thank you, Mrs. Kingsward, I looked
for nothing less from your kind heart. Will
you give me that letter?"
She put it into his hands without the least
hesitation, and he examined it — with a sort
of strained smile upon his face. "I should
like to take this back to Colonel Kingsward,"
he said. Then added quickly with a short
laugh, ''No, I forgot; there might be sus-
picions. Send it back to him, please, by the
first post, that he may have it when I get
there." He gave the letter back, and then
he looked round wistfully. "May I say
good-bye to Bee ?"
She got up at the words, feeling herself
vaguely called upon — yet quite dull, dumb,
with all sorts of thoughts going and com-
ing through those wide-open doors of her
mind — thoughts like strays which she seemed
to see as they passed. Even Aubrey himself
appeared a ghost. She got up and stood
awaiting him when he approached her, not
putting out a finger. Nobody interfered,
not even Charlie, who was fuming internally
yet somehow did not move. Aubrey went
up to her and put his hands upon her
I20 THE SORCERESS.
shoulders. Her unresponsiveness sent a
chill to his heart.
" Have you given me up, Bee ?" he cried,
''Already, already!" with anguish in his
She could not say a word. She shook her
head like a mute, looking at him with her
''She does not understand it — not a word!"
Bee shook her head again. It was all she
could do. No, she did not understand,
except that it was a kind of dying, something
against which nobody could struggle. And
then he kissed her on her forehead as
gravely as though he had been her father ;
and the next moment was gone — was it only
out of the room, or out of the world, out of
It was a slow train. The slowest train that
there is, is, of course, far, far quicker than
any other mode of conveyance practicable in
a land journey, but it does not seem so. It
seems as if it were delay personified to the
eager traveller, especially on the Continent.
In England, when it stops at a multiplicity of
stations at which there is nothing to do, it at
least goes on again in most cases after it has
dropped its half-passenger or taken in its
empty bag of letters. But this can never
be said of a German or even of a brisker
Belgian train. The one in which Aubrey
was meandered about Liege, for instance, till
he had mastered every aspect of that smoky
but interesting place. It stopped for what
looked like an hour at every little roadside
122 THE SORCERESS.
Station, in order, apparently, that the guard
might hold a long and excited conversation
about nothing at all with the head man of the
place. And all the while the little electric
bell would go tingling, tingling upon his very
brain. Thus he made his slow and weary
progress through the afternoon and evening,
stopping long at last at a midnight station
(where everything was wrapped in sleep and
darkness) for the arrival of the express, in
which the latter portion of the journey was to
be accomplished more quickly. If there had
been anything wanted to complete the entire
overthrow of a spirit in pain it was such an
experience. All was dismal beyond words
at the place where he had to wait — one poor
light showing through the great universe of
darkness, the dark big world that encom-
passed it around — one or two belated porters
wandering through the blackness doing
mysterious pieces of business, or pretending
to do them. A poor little wailing family — a
mother and two children, put out there upon
a bench from some other train, one of the
babies wailing vaguely into the dark, the
other calling upon ''mamma, mamma," driving
THE SORCERESS. I 23
the poor mother frantic — were waiting Hke
himself. It gave Aubrey a momentary con-
solation to see something that appeared at
least to the external eye more forlorn than
he. He remembered, too, that there had
once been a baby cry that went to his heart,
and though all the associations connected
with that had now turned into gall and bitter-
ness, so that the sound seemed like a spear
penetrating his very being, and he walked
away as far as the bounds of the station
would allow, to get, if possible, out of hearing
of it — yet pity, a better inspiration, at last
gained the day. He went up and spoke to
the woman, and found that she was an
English workman's wife making her way
home with her children to a mother who was
dying. They had turned her out here, with
her babies, to wait — ah, not for the express
train which was to carry on the gentleman,
but for the slow, slow-creeping third-class
which only started in the morning, and which
would, after other long waits at other places,
reach England sometime, but she could
scarcely tell when.
'' And must you pass the night here out in
the cold ?" said Aubrey.
124 THE SORCERESS.
'' It Isn't not to call a cold night, sir," said
the woman, meekly, ''and they've got plenty
on to keep them warm."
" I'll try and get them to open the waiting-
room for you," said Aubrey.
" Oh, no, sir ; thank you kindly, but don't
take the trouble — the rooms are that stuffy.
It's better for them in the open air, and
they'll go to sleep in a little while. Baby
will be quite warm on my lap, and Johnny's
lying against me."
"And what is to become of you in this
arrangement?" said Aubrey, looking pitifully,
with eyes that had known the experiences
both of husband and father, upon this little
plump human bed, which was to stand in the
place of down pillows for the children.
" Oh, I'll do very well, sir, when they go
to sleep," she said, looking up at him with a
" And when does your train go ?"
" Not till six in the morning," she replied ;
''but perhaps that's all the better, for I'll be
able to get them some bread and milk, and a
good wash before we start."
Well, it was not much of an indulgence for
THE SORCERESS. I 25
a man who was well off. He might have
thrown it away on any trifle, and nobody
would have wasted a thought on the subject.
He got hold of one of the wandering ghosts
of porters, and got him, with a douceur, to
change the poor woman's cheap ticket for
her into one for the express, and commis-
sioned him, if possible, to get her a place in
a sleeping carriage, where, I fear, she was
not likely to be at all a warmly welcomed
addition to the luxurious young men or
delicate ladies in these conveyances. He
saw that there was one found for her which
was almost empty when the train came up.
He scarcely knew if she were young or old —
though indeed, as a matter of fact, the poor
little mother, bewildered by her sudden
elevation among the gentlefolks, and not
quite sure that she would not have preferred
to remain where she was and pick up in the
morning her natural third-class train, w^as
both young and pretty, a fact that was
remarked by the one young lady in the
carriage, who saw the young man through
the window at her side, and recognised him
in a flash of the guard's lantern, with deep
126 THE SORCERESS.
astonishment to see him handing in such a
woman and such children to the privileged
places. He disappeared himself into the
dark, and indeed took his place in the corner
of a smoking carriage, where his cigar was a
faint soother of pain. In his human short-
sightedness, poor Aubrey also was consoled
a little, I think, by the thought that this poor
fellow-passenger was comfortable — she and
her children — and that instead of slumbering
uneasily on a bench, she was able to lay the
little things in a bed. It seemed to him a
good omen, a little relaxation of the bonds of
fate, and he went away cheered a little and
encouraged by this simple incident and
by the warmth of the kindness that was in
He spoke to them again on one or two
occasions on the way, sent the poor woman
some tea in the morning, bought some fruit
for the children, and again on the steamboat
crossing, when he listened to the account of
how they were going on, from Dover, with a
certain interest. When they parted at the
train he shook hands with the mother,
hoping she would find her relation better,
THE SORCERESS. I 27
and put a sovereign into Johnny's little fat
hand. The lady who had been in the sleep-
ing carriage kept her eye upon him all the
time. She was not by any means a malicious
or bad woman, but she did not believe the
poor woman's story of the gentleman's kind-
ness. She was, I am sorry to say, a lady
who was apt to take the worst view of every
transaction, especially between men and
women. People who do so are bound in
many cases to be right, and so are confirmed
in their odious opinion ; but in many cases
they are wrong, yet always hold to it with a
faith which would do credit to a better
inspiration. " I thought young Mr. Leigh
was going to marry again," she said to a
friend whom she met going up to town.
'' Oh, so he is ! To the nicest girl — Bee
Kingsward, the daughter of one of my
dearest friends — such a satisfactory thing in
"Wasn't there something," said the lady
of the sleeping carriage, '* about a woman,
down at his place in the country ?''
■'* Oh, I don't think there was ever any-
thing against him. There was a woman
128 THE SORCERESS.
who was a great friend of his poor wife, and
Hved with them. The wife was a goose,
don't you know, and could not be made to
see what a foolish thing it was. My opinion
is that he never could abide the woman, and
I am sure she made mischief between them.
But I believe that silly little Mrs. Leigh —
poor thing, we should not speak ill of those
that are gone — made him promise on her
deathbed that this Miss Something-or-other
should not be sent away from the house. It
was a ridiculous arrangement, and no woman
that respected herself would have done it.
But she was poor, and it's a comfortable
place, and, perhaps, as there was no friend-
ship between them she may have thought it
was no harm."
'' Perhaps she thought she would get over
him in time and make him marry her."
'' Oh, I can't tell what she thought ! He
rushed off in a hurry at a moment's notice,
nobody knowing what he intended, after the
poor baby died, the very day of its funeral.
Not much to be wondered at, poor young
man, after all he had gone through. I don't
know how things were settled with Miss
THE SORCERESS. 1 29
Lance, but I believe that she has gone at
last. And I am delighted to hear of his
engagement. So will all his neighbours in
the county be."
'' I should not like a daughter of mine to
marry a man like that."
*' Why ? I wish a daughter of mine could
have the chance. Everybody likes him at
home. Do you know anything of Aubrey
He did not know in the least that this talk
was going on as the train went rushing on to
town ; his ears did not tingle. He was in
the next carriage, divided only by a plank
from these two ladies in their compartment.
The woman who took the bad view of every-
thing did not wish him any harm. She did
not even think badly of him. She thought
it was only human nature, and that young
men will do that sort of thing, however nice
they may be. and whatever you may say of
morals and so forth. I do not think, though
she had made that little conventional speech,
that she would at all have hesitated to give
her own daughter to Aubrey, provided that
she had a daughter. His advantages were
VOL. I. K
SO evident, and the disadvantages, after all,
had so little to do with actual life.
Aubrey did not present himself before
Colonel Kingsward that night. He did not
propose to follow him to KIngswarden, the
old house In Kent, which was the sole
remnant of territorial property belonging to
the family. He wanted to have all his wits
about him, to be cool and self-possessed, and
able to remember everything, when he saw
the man who had given him Bee and then
had withdrawn her from his arms. He
already knew Colonel Kingsward a little,
and knew him as a man full of donhommie,
popular everywhere — a man of experience,
who had been about the world, who knew
men. By this time Aubrey had recovered
his spirits a little. He thought It Impossible
that such a man, when a younger than him-
self laid bare his heart to him, could fail to
understand. It was true that the Colonel
was probably a martinet in morals as he
was in his profession, and Aubrey had that
behind him which he could not deny. He
would not attempt to gloss it over, to make
excuses for it. He would lay his life In this
THE SORCERESS. I3I
man's hand as if he had been his confessor.
And surely, surely the acknowledged sin
would find absolution, the extenuating cir-
cumstances would be considered, the lie with
which that accusation was accompanied
would recoil upon the accuser. The young
man buoyed himself up with these thoughts
through the long evening. He did not go
out or to his club, or anywhere where he was
known. In September there are not so
many inducements to stray about London.
He sat in his room and thought of Bee, and
wrote little letters to her, which were a relief
to his mind though he knew he could not
send them. By this time he reflected they
must have started. They were beginning
their journey as he ended his. He hoped
that Charlie, that lout, would have the sense
to take care of his mother, to see that she
suffered as little as possible, to prevent her
from having any trouble — which I fear was
not the view at all that Charlie took of
his duty to his mother. Aubrey, like all
outsiders, had a clearer view of Mrs. Kings-
ward's condition than her family had arrived
at. He was very sorry for her, poor,
132 THE SORCERESS.
delicate, tender woman — and grieved to the
bottom of his heart that this trouble should
have come upon her through him. Bee was
different. There would be so many ways,
please God, if all went well — and he could
not bring himself to think that all would not
go well — in which he could make it up to his
Bee. Finally, he permitted himself to write
a little letter to meet his darling on her
return, and enclosed in it another to Mrs.
Kingsward, directed to Kingswarden. They
would receive it when they entered their
house — and by that time, surely by that
time, his letters would not be any longer a
That morning it rained, and the London
skies hung very low. The world had the
effect of a room with a low roof, stifling and
without air. He set out to walk to Colonel
Kingsward's office. I forget whether the
Intelligence Department of the War Office
was in existence at that time, or if it has
always been in existence only not so much
heard of as in our vociferous days. If it did
exist then, it was, of course, in Pall Mall, as
we all know. Aubrey set out to walk, but
THE SORCERESS. I 33
soon recollected that muddy boots detracted
from a man's appearance, especially in the
eyes of a spick and span person like Colonel
Kingsward, who never had a speck upon any
garment, and accordingly he got into a
hansom. It did not go any faster than the
beating of his heart, and yet he could have
wished that it should only creep along like
the heavier cabs. He would have put off
this interview now had he been able. To
think that you are within an hour at most of
the moment when your life shall be settled
for you absolutely by another person's will,
and that your happiness or unhappiness rest
upon the manner in which he will look at the
question, the perception he will have of your
difficulties, the insight into your heart, is a
terrible thing — especially if you know little of
the person who has thus become endowed, as
it were, with the power of life and death over
you — do not know if his understanding is a
large or limited one, if he has any human
nature in him, or only mere conventionality
and the shell of human nature. It is seldom,
perhaps, that one man is thus consciously in
the power of another — and yet it must come
to that more or less, every day.
134 THE SORCERESS.
Colonel Kingsward was in his room, seated
at his writing table with piles of books
and maps, and masses of newspapers all
round him. He was an excellent linguist,
and there were French papers and German
papers, Russian, Scandinavian — all kinds of
strange languages and strange little broad-
sheets, badly printed, black with excessive
ink, or pale with imperfect Impression, on
the floor and the table. He had a large
paper knife at his hand in ivory, with the
natural brown upon it, looking like a weapon
which could cut a man, not to say a book, in
pieces. He looked up with an aspect which
Aubrey, whose heart was in his mouth, could
not read — whether it was mere politeness or
something more — and bade Mr. Leigh be
seated, putting aside deliberately as he did
so the papers with which he was engaged.
And then he turned round with the air of a
man who says : Now you have my entire
attention — and looked Aubrey in the face.
The young man was facing the light which
came In from a large high window reaching
nearly to the roof. The elder man had his
back half turned from it, so that his regard
THE SORCERESS. 135
was less easy to read. It was not quite fair.
Aubrey had everything against him ; his
agitation, his anxiety, an expressive tell-tale
face, and the light searching every change
that took place in it ; whilst his opponent was
calm as his own paper knife, impassive,
with a countenance formed to conceal his
emotions, and the light behind him. It was
not an equal match in any way.
'' I have come direct from Cologne,"
'' Ah, yes. I believe my wife says so in
" You have news from them to-day ? I
hope that Mrs. Kingsward is better."
" My wife never at any time speaks much
of her health. She was a little fatigued and
remained another day to rest."
" She is very delicate, sir," said Aubrey.
He did not know why, unless it was reluctance
to begin what he had to say.
" I am perfectly acquainted with Mrs.
Kingsward's condition," said the Colonel, in
a tone which was not encouraging. He
added, "I don't suppose you took the trouble
to come here, Mr. Leigh, in order to speak
to me about my wife's health."
136 THE SORCERESS.
'' No. It is true. I ought not to waste
the time you have accorded me. I do not
need to tell you, Colonel Kingsward, what I
have come about."
" I think you do," said the Colonel, calmly.
'' My letter to my wife, which I believe she
communicated to you, conveyed all I had to
say on the matter. It was not written
without reflection, nor without every possible
effort to arrive at the truth. Consequently, I
have no desire to re-open the subject. It is
in my mind concluded and put aside."
" But you will hear me ?" said Aubrey.
" You have heard one statement, surely you
will hear the other. No man is condemned
unheard. I have come here to throw myself
upon your mercy — to tell you my story.
However prejudiced you may be against
*' A moment, Mr. Leigh. I have no
prejudice against you. I am not the judge
of your conduct. I claim the right to decide
for my daughter — that is all. I have no
prejudice or feeling against you."
"Colonel Kingsward," cried Aubrey, ''for
God's sake listen ! Hear what I have to
THE SORCERESS. 137
The Colonel looked at him again. Perhaps
it was the passion of earnestness in the young
man's face that touched him. Perhaps he
felt that it was unwise to leave it to be said
that he had not heard both sides. The end
was that he waved his hand and said :
" My time is not my own. I have no
right to spend it on merely private interests ;
but if you will make your story as short as
possible I will hear what you have to say."
The story which Aubrey Leigh had to
tell was indeed made as short as possible.
To describe the most painful crisis, in your
life, the moment which you yourself shudder
to look back at, which awakens in you that
fury of self-surprise, horror and wonder
which a sudden departure from all the habits
of your life brings after it when it is guilt,
is not an easy thing ; but it supplies terse
expressions and rapidity of narration. There
is no desire to dwell upon the details, and to
tell a story so deeply affecting one's self to a
politely unsympathetic listener who does not
affect to be much interested or at all moved
by the subtle self-defence which runs through
every such statement, is still more conducive
to brevity. Aubrey laid bare the tempest
THE SORCERESS. I 39
that had swept over him with a breathless
voice and broken words. He could not
preserve his equanimity, or look as if it were
an easy thing for him to do. He made the
most hurried description of the visitor who
had taken possession of his house, saying not
a word beyond the bare fact. It had been
deeply embarrassing that she should be
there, though at first in the melancholy of
his widowerhood he had not thought of it,
or cared who was in the house. Afterwards
he was prevented from doing anything to
disturb her by his promise to his dying wife.
Then had come the anxiety about the baby,
the wavering of that little life in which the
forlorn young father had come to take a little
pleasure. She had been very kind to the
child, watching over it, and when the little
thing died, when the misery of the fresh
desolation, and the pity of it, and the over-
whelming oppression of the sad house had
quite overcome the spirit of its young master,
then she had thrown herself upon him, with
all the signs of a sudden passion of sympathy
and tenderness. Had any confessor skilled
in the accounts of human suffering heard
140 THE SORCERESS.
Aubrey's broken tale he could have found
nothing but truth In It, and would have
recognised the subtle sequence of events
which had led to that downfall. But Colonel
KIngsward, though not unlearned in men,
listened like a man of wood, playing with the
large paper-knife, and never looking towards
the penitent, who told his story with such a
strain of the labouring breast and agonised
spirit. Had a young officer In whom he had
no particular interest thus explained and
accounted for some dereliction of duty he
might have understood or sympathised. But
he had no wish to understand Aubrey ; his
only desire was to brush him off as quickly
as possible, to be done with his ridiculous
story, to hear of him no more. He might
be as little guilty as he described himself.
What then? Aubrey's character was nothing
to Colonel KIngsward, except as It affected
his daughter. He had cut him off from all
connection with his daughter, and It was now
quite immaterial to him whether the man
was a weak fool or a deceiver. Probably
from as much as he heard while thus listening
as little as he could, Leigh was In the former
THE SORCERESS. I4I
class, and certainly he did not intend to take
a weak fool, who had shown himself to be at
the mercy of any designing woman, into his
family as the husband of Bee. Give him the
benefit of the doubt, and allow that it had
happened so, that the woman was much
more to blame than the man, and what
then ? A sturdy sinner on the whole was
not less but more easily pardoned than a
" This is all very well, Mr. Leigh,"
Colonel Kingsward said, "and I am sorry
that you have thought it necessary to enter
into these painful details. They may be
quite true. I will not offend you by doubting
that you believe them to be quite true. But
how, then, do you account for the letter
which my wife, I believe, showed you, and
which came direct from the lady's own hand
to mine ? "
"The letter was a letter which I wrote to
my wife two years ago. There had been
discussions between us on this very subject.
I promised, on condition that Miss Lance
should leave us, to make such arrangements
for her comfort as were possible to me — to
142 THE SORCERESS.
settle a yearly Income on her, enough to live
''Was that arrangement ever carried out?"
'' No ; my wife became ill immediately
after. I found her on my return in Miss
Lance's arms, imploring that so long as she
lived her friend should not be taken from
her. What could I do ? And that prayer
was changed on my poor Amy's deathbed to
another — that I would never send Miss
Lance away ; that she should always have a
home at Forest-leigh and watch over the
'' I don't wish to arouse any such painful
recollections — especially as they can be of no
advantage to anyone — but how does this
letter come to have the date of last
Christmas, more than a year after Mrs.
Leigh's death ?"
"How can I tell that, sir ? How can I tell
how the devilish web was woven at all ? The
note had no date, I suppose, and the person
who could use it for this purpose would not
hesitate at such a trifle as to add a date."
" Mr. Leigh, I repeat the whole matter is
too painful to be treated by me. But how is
THE SORCERESS. 1 43
it, If you regarded this lady with those
sentiments, that you should have in a moment
changed them, and, to put the mildest inter-
pretation upon your proceedings, thus put
yourself in her power ?"
The young man's flushed and anxious face
grew deadly pale. He turned his eyes from
the inquisitor to the high blank light pouring
in from the large window. *' God knows,"
he said, " that is what I cannot explain — or
rather, I should say, the devil knows !" he
cried with vehemence. " I was entirely off
my guard — thinking, heaven knows, of
'' The devil is a safe sort of agency to put
the blame on. We cannot in ordinary affairs
accept him as the scapegoat, Mr. Leigh —
excuse me for saying so. I will not refuse to
say that I allow there may be excuses for
you, with a woman much alive to her own
interests and ready for any venture. You
did write to her, however, on the day you
" I wrote to her, telling her the arrange-
ment I had proposed to my wife, in the very
letter which she has sent to you — that I
would carry It out at once, and that I hoped
she would perceive, as I did, that it was
impossible we should remain under the same
roof, or, indeed, meet again."
" That was on what date ?"
'' The evening before my child's funeral.
Next day, as soon as it was over, I left the
house, and have never set foot in it again."
'' Yet this lady, to whom you had, you say,
sent such a letter, was at the funeral, and
stood at the child's grave leaning on your
*' More than that," cried Aubrey, with a
gasp of his labouring breath, " she came
up to me as I stood there and put her arm,
as if to support me, within mine."
The Colonel could not restrain an ex-
clamation. ''By Jove," he said, "she is a
strong-minded woman, if that Is true. Do
you mean to say that this was after she had
" I suppose so. I sent it to her in the
morning. I was anxious to avoid any scene."
"And then, on your way to London, on
that day, you went to your solicitors, and
gave instructions in respect to Miss Lance's
THE SORCERESS. I45
annuity — which you say now had been de-
termined on long before?"
" It was determined on long before."
" But never mentioned to any one until
" I beg your pardon ; on the day on which
I wrote that letter to my wife I went direct
to my lawyer and talked the matter over
freely with Mr. Morell, who had known me
all my life, and knew all the circumstances —
and approved my resolution, as the best of
two evils, he said."
" This is the most favourable thing I have
heard, Mr. Leigh. He will, of course, be
able to back you up in what you say ? "
*' Mr. Morell!" Aubrey sprang to his
feet with a start of dismay. " I think," he
cried, " all the powers of hell must be against
me. Mr. Morell is dead."
Thev looked at each other for a moment
in silence. A half smile came upon the
Colonel's face, though even he was a little
overawed by the despair in the countenance
of the young man.
" I don't know that it matters very much,"
he said, '' for, after all, Mr. Leigh, your
VOL. I. L
146 THE SORCERESS.
anxiety to get rid of your wife's companion
might have two interpretations. You might
have been sincerely desirous to free yourself
from a temptation towards another woman,
which would have given Mrs. Leigh pain.
A man does not sacrifice two hundred a year
without a strong motive. And subsequent
events make this a far more likely reason
than the desire to get rid of an unwelcome
" I cannot tell whether my motive was
likely or not. I tell you, sir, what it was."
*' Ah, yes — but unfortunately without any
corroboration — and the story is very different
from the other side. It appears from that
that you wished to establish relationship
during your poor wife's life, and that it was
the lady who was moved by pity for you in a
moment of weakness — which is much more
according to the rule in such matters."
''It is a lie!" Aubrey cried. ''Colonel
Kingsward, you are a man — and an honour-
able man. Can you imagine another man,
with the same principles as yourself, guilty of
such villainy as that ? Can you believe "
" Mr. Leigh," said the other, " it is
THE SORCERESS. I47
unnecessary to ask me what I can believe ;
nor can I argue, from what I would do, as to
what you would do. That may be good
Christianity, you know, but it is not tenable
in life. Many men are capable enough of
what I say ; and, indeed, I do you the credit
to believe that you were w^illing to keep the
temptation at a distance — to make a sacrifice
in order to ease the mind of your wife. I
show a great deal of faith in you when I say
that. Another man might say that Mrs.
Leigh had exacted it from you as a thing
necessary to her peace."
Aubrey Leigh rose up again, and began to
pace the room from one side to the other.
He could not keep still in his intolerable
impatience and scorn of the net which was
tightening about his feet. Anger rose up
like a whirlwind in his mind ; but to indulge
it was to lose for ever the cause which,
indeed, was already lost. When he had
gained control over himself and his voice, he
said, " We had neighbours ; we had friends ;
our life was not lived in a corner unknown to
the world. There is my mother ; ask them —
they all know ."
148 THE SORCERESS.
*' Does anyone outside know what goes
on between a husband and wife ?" said
Colonel Kingsward. " Such discussions do
not go on before witnesses. If poor Mrs.
''Sir," cried Aubrey, stung beyond hear-
ing, " I will not permit any man to pity my
" It was beyond my province I allow, but
one uses the word for those who die young.
I don't know why, for If all is true that we
profess to believe they certainly have the
best of it. Well, If Mrs. Leigh, to speak
by the book, had any such burden on her
mind, and really felt her happiness to depend
on the banishment of that dangerous com-
panion. It is not likely that she would speak
of it either to your neighbours or to your
''Why not? My mother was of that mind,
though not for that villainous reason ; my
mother knew, everybody knew — everybody
agreed with me In wishing her gone. I
appeal to all who knew us. Colonel Kings-
ward ! There is not a friend 1 have who did
not compassionate me for Amy's Insensate
THE SORCERESS. I49
affection. God forgive me that I should say
a word against my poor little girl, but it was
an infatuation — as all her friends knew."
" Don't you think we are now^ getting into
the region of the extravagant ?" Colonel
Kingsward said. " I cannot send out a royal
commission to take the evidence of your
Aubrey had to pause again to master
himself. If this man, with his contemptuous
accents, his cool disdain, were not Bee's
father ! but he was so, and, therefore,
must not be defied. He answered after a
time in a subdued voice. "Will you allow
me — to send one or two of them to tell you
what they know. There is Fairfield, with
whom you are acquainted already, there is
Lord Langtry, there is Vavasour, who was
with us constantly "
"To none of these gentlemen, I presume,
would Mrs. Leieh be likelv to unfold her
most intimate sentiments."
" Two of them have wives," said /\ubrey,
determined to hold fast, " whom she saw
familiarly daily — country neighbours."
" I must repeat, Mr. Leigh, I cannot send
150 THE SORCERESS.
out a royal commission to take the evidence
of your friends."
** Do you mean that you will not hear any
evidence, Colonel Kingsward ? — that I am
condemned already ? — that it does not matter
what I have in my favour ?"
Colonel Kingsward rose to dismiss his
suitor. " I have already said, Mr. Leigh,
that I am not your judge. I have no right
to condemn you. Your account may be all
true ; your earnestness and air of sincerity, I
allow, in a case in which I was not personally
involved, would go far to making me believe
it was true. But what then ? The matter is
this : Will I allow my daughter to marry a
man of whom such a question has been
raised ? I say no : and there I am within
my clear rights. You may be able to clear
yourself, making out the lady to be a sort of
demon in human shape. My friend, who
saw her, said she was a very attractive
woman. But really this is not the question.
I am not a censor of public morals, and on
the whole it is a matter of indifference to me
whether you are guiltless or not. The sole
thing is that I will not permit my daughter
THE SORCERESS. I51
to put her foot where such a scandal has
been. I have nothing to do with you but
everything with her. And I think now
that all has been said."
'' That is, you will not hear anything
'' Well — if you like to put it so — I prefer
not to hear any more."
**Not if Bee's happiness should be in-
" My daughter's happiness, I hope, does
not depend upon a man whom she has known
only for a month. She may think so now.
But she will soon know better. That is a
question into which I decline to enter with
''Men have died and worms have eaten
them, but not for love," said Aubrey, with a
coarse laugh. He turned as if to go away.
** But you do not mean that this is final,
Colonel Kings ward not final ? Not for
ever ? Never to be revised or recon-
sidered even if I were as bad as you
think me ?"
*' How needless is all this ! I have told
you your character does not concern me —
152 THE SORCERESS.
and I do not say that you are bad — or think
so. I am sorry for you. You have got into
a rather dreadful position, Mr. Leigh, for a
young man of your age."
" And yet at my age you think I should
be cut off for ever from every hope of
"Not so ; this is all extravagant — ridicu-
lous ! And if you will excuse me, I am
particularly busy this morning, with a
hundred things to do."
Poor Aubrey would have killed with
pleasure, knocked down and trampled upon,
the immovable man of the world who thus
dismissed him ; but to be humble, even
abject, was his only hope. " I will try, then,
to find some moment of leisure another time."
'* It is unnecessary, Mr. Leigh. I shall not
change my mind ; surely you must see that it
is better for all parties to give it up at once."
" I shall never give it up."
" Pooh ! one nail drives out another. You
don't seem to have been a miracle of con-
stancy in your previous relationships. Good
morning. I trust to hear soon that you have
made as satisfactory a settlement of other
Other claims ! What other claims ? Aubrey
Leiofh went out of the office in Pall ]\Iall
with these words circling through his mind.
They seemed to have nothing to do with
that which occupied him, which filled every
thought. His dazed memory and imagina-
tion caught them up as he went forth in the
fury of suppressed anger, and the dizzy,
stifled sensation of complete failure. He had
felt sure, even when he felt least sure,
that when it was possible to tell his tale
fully, miserable story as it was, the man
to whom he humbled himself thus, not
being a recluse or a mere formalist — a
man of the world — would at least, to some
degree, understand and perceive how little
real guilt there might be even in such a fault
as he had committed. It was not a story
154 THE SORCERESS.
which could be repeated in a woman's ears ;
but a man, who knew more or less what was
in man — the momentary lapses, the sudden
impulses, the aberrations of intolerable
trouble, sorrow, and despair . Aubrey
did not take into account the fact that there
are some men to whom such a condition as
that into which he himself had fallen in the
desolation of his silent house — when death
came a second time within the sad year, and
his young soul felt in the first sensation of
despair that he could not bear it ; that he
was a man signalled out by fate, to whom it
was vain to struggle, to whom life was a
waste and heaven a mockery — was incon-
ceivable. Colonel Kingsward was certainly
not a man like that. He would have said to
himself that the mother being gone it was
only a blessing and advantage that the child
should go too, and he would have withdrawn
himself decorously to his London lodgings
and his club, and his friends would all have
said that it was on the whole a good thing
for him, and that he was young, and his life
still before him. So, indeed, they had said
of Aubrey, and so poor Aubrey had proved
THE SORCERESS. I55
for himself. Had there not been that terrible
moment behind him, that intolerable black-
ness and midnight of despair, in which any
hand that gripped his could lead him till the
light of morning burst upon him, and showed
him whither in his misery he had been led !
Satisfy other claims ? The words blew
like a noxious wind through his brain. He
laughed to himself softly as he went along.
What claims had he to satisfy? He had
done all that honour and scorn could do to
satisfy the harpy who had dug her claws into
his life. Should he try to propitiate her with
other gifts ? No, no ! That would be but
to prolong the scandal, to give her a motive
for continuance, to make it appear that he
was in her power. He was in her power,
alas, fatally as it proved, if it should be so
that she had made an end of the happiness
of his life. She had blighted the former
chapter of that existence, bringing out all
that was petty in the poor little bride over
whom she had gained so complete an ascen-
dancy, showing her husband Amy's worst
side, the aspect of her which he might never
have known but for that fatal companion
156 THE SORCERESS.
ever near. And now she had ruined him
altogether — ruined him as in old stories the
Pamelas of the village were ruined by a
villain who took advantage of their simplicity.
What lovely woman who had stooped to
folly could be more ruined than this unhappy
young man? He laughed to himself at this
horrible travesty of that old familiar eigh-
teenth century tale. This was the fin de
siecle version of it, he supposed — the version
in which it was the designing woman who
seized upon the moment of weakness and the
man who suffered shipwreck of everything in
consequence. There was a horrible sort of
ridicule in it which wrought poor Aubrey
almost to madness. When the woman is the
victim, however sorely she may be to blame
for her own disgrace, a sort of pathos and
romance is about her, and pity is winged
with indignation against the man who is
supposed to have taken advantage of her
weakness. But when it is a man who is the
victim ! Then the mildest condemnation he
can look for is the coarse laugh of contempt,
the inextinguishable ridicule, to which even
in fiction it is too great a risk to expose a
THE SORCERESS. I 57
hero. He was no hero — but an unhappy
young man fallen into the most dreadful
position in which man could be, shut out of
all hope of ever recovering himself, marked
by the common scorn — no ordinary sinner, a
man who had profaned his own home, and all
the most sacred prejudices of humanity. He
had felt all that deeply when he rushed from
his house, a man distraught not knowing
where he went. And then morning and
evening, and the dews and the calm, and the
freshness and elasticity inalienable from
youth had driven despair and horror away.
He had felt it at last impossible that all his
life — a life which he desired to live out in
duty and kindness, and devotion to God and
man — should be spoiled for ever by his
momentary yielding to a horrible temptation.
He had thought at first that he never could
hold up his head again. But gradually the
impression had been soothed away, and he
had vainly hoped that such a thing might be
left behind him and might be heard of no
Now he was undeceived — now he was
convinced that for what a man does he must
158 THE SORCERESS.
answer, not only at the bar of God, where all
the secrets of the heart are revealed, but also
before men. There are times in which the
former judgment is more easy to think of
than the latter — for God knows all, every-
thing that is in favour of the culprit, while
men only know what is against him. A man
with sorrow in his heart for all his short-
comings, can endure, upon his knees, that
all-embracing gaze of infinite understanding
and pity. But to stand before men who
misconstrue, mis - see, misapprehend, how
different a thing it is — who do not know the
end from the beginning, to whom the true
balance and perfect poise of justice is almost
impossible — who can judge only as they know,
and who can know only the husk and shell of
fact, the external aspect of affairs by the side
which is visible to them. All these thoughts
went through Aubrey's mind as he went
listlessly about those familiar streets in their
autumnal quiet, no crowd about, nothing to
interrupt the progress of the wayfarer. He
went across the Green Park, which is brown
in the decadence of summer, almost as
solitary as if he had been in his own desolate
THE SORCERESS. I59
glades at home. London has a soothing
effect sometimes on such a still, sunny autumn
day, when it seems to rest after the worry
and heat and strain of all its frivolity and
folly. The soft haze blurs all the outlines,
makes the trees too dark and the sky too
pale ; yet it is sunshine and not fog which
wraps the landscape, even that landscape
which lies between Pall Mall and Piccadilly.
It soothed our young man a little in the
despair of his thoughts. Surely, surely at
eight -and -twenty everything could not be
over. Bee would in a year or two be the
mistress of her own actions. She was not a
meek girl, to be coerced by her father. She
would judge for herself in such a dreadful
emergency. After all that had passed, the
whole facts of the case would have to be
submitted to her, which was a thought that
enveloped him as in flames of shame. Yet
she would judge for herself, and her judgment
would be more like that of heaven than like
that of earth. A kind of celestial ray gleamed
upon him in this thought.
And as for these other claims — well, if
any claim were put forth he would not shrink
l6o THE SORCERESS.
— would not try to compromise, would not
try to hide his shame under piles of gold.
Now he had no motive for concealment, he
would face it out and have the question set
straight in the eye of day. To be sure, for a
man to accuse a woman is against the whole
conventional code of honour. To accuse all
women is the commonplace of every day ;;
but to put the blame of seduction upon one
is what a man dare not do save in the
solitude of his chamber — or in such a private
inquisition as Aubrey had gone through that
day. This is one of the proofs that there is
much to be said on both sides, and that it is
the unscrupulous of either side who has the
most power to humble and to destroy. But
the bravado did him good for the moment —
let her make her claim, whatever that claim
was, and he would meet it in the face of day !
Other ideas came rapidly into Aubrey's
mind when he strolled listlessly into his club,,
and almost ran against the friend in whose
house he had first met Colonel Kingsward,
and through whom consequently all that had
afterwards happened had come about. "Fair-
field !" he cried, with a gleam of sudden hope
in his eyes.
THE SORCERESS. l6l
'' Leigh ! You here ? — I thought you were
philandering on the banks of — some German
river or other. Well ! and so I hear I have
to congratulate you, my boy — and I'm sure I
do so with all my heart "
You might have done so a week ago, and
I should have responded with all mine. But
you see me fallen again on darker days.
Fate's against me, it seems, in every way."
"Why, what's the matter?" cried his
friend. " I expected to see you triumphant.
What has gone wrong ? Not settlements
already, eh ?"
'' Settlements ! They are free to make
what settlements they like so far as I am
" Kingsward's a very cool hand, Aubrey.
You may lose your head if you like, but he
always knows what he is about. You are an
excellent match "
" You think so," said poor Aubrey, w^ith
a laugh. "Not badly off; a mild, domestic
fellow, with no devil in me at all.
" I should not exactly say that. A man is
no man without a spice of the devil. Why,
what's the matter? Now I look at you,
VOL. 1. M
1 62 THE SORCERESS.
instead of a victorious lover, you have the
most miserable hang-dog "
" Hang-dog, that is it — a rope's end, and
all over. Hang it, no! I am not going to
give in. Fairfield, I don't want to speak
disrespectfully of any woman."
''Is it Mrs. Kings ward who is too young,
herself, to think of enacting the part of
mother-in-law so soon as this ?"
'' Mrs. Kingsward is a sort of an angel,
Fairfield, if it were not old-fashioned to say
so — and, alas, I fear, she will not enact any
part long, which is so much the worse for
'' You don't say so ! That pretty creature,
with all her pretty ways, and her daughter
just the same age as she ! Poor Kingsward.
Aubrey, if a man shows a little impatience
with your raptures in such circumstances, I
don't think you ought to be hard upon him."
" I don't believe he knows what are the
circumstances, nor any of them. It is not
from that cause, Fairfield. You know Miss
Lance, poor Amy's friend "
Once more he grew hot all over as he
named her name, and turned his face from
his friend's gaze.
THE SORCERESS, 163
" Remember her! I should think so, and
all you had to bear on that point, old man.
We have often said, Mary and I, that if ever
there was a hero "
*' Fairfield ! they have got up a tale that it
was I who kept her at Forest-leigh against
poor Amy's will, and that my poor wife's life
was made miserable by my attentions to that
fi- ." Fiend he would have said, but he
changed it to " woman," which meant to him
at that moment the same thing.
Fairfield stared for a moment — was he
taking a new idea into his commonplace
mind ? Then he burst into a loud laugh.
"You can call the whole county to bear
w^itness to that," he cried. "Attentions!
Well, I suppose you were civil, which was
really more than anyone expected from you.'
" You know, and everybody knows, what
a thorn in the flesh it was. My poor Amy !
Without that, there would have been no
cloud on our life, and it all arose from her
best qualities, her tender heart, her faithful-
A dubious shade came over Fairfield's face.
" Yes, no doubt ; and Miss Lance's fiattery
164 THE SORCERESS.
and blandishments. Aubrey, I don't mind
saying It now that you are well quit of her —
that was a woman to persuade a fellow Into
anything. I should no more have dared to
keep her — especially after — In my house, and
to expose myself to her wiles "
** They never were wiles for me," said
Aubrey, again turning his head away. It
was true, true — far more true than the fatal
contradiction of It, which lay upon his heart
like a stone. " I never came nearer to
hating any of God's creatures than that
woman. She made my life a burden to me.
She took my wife from me . She
I needn't get dithyrambic on the subject ;
you all know."
" Oh, yes, we all know ; but you were too
soft-hearted. You should have risked a fit
of tears from poor Mrs. Leigh — excuse me
for saying so now — and sent her away."
" I tried it a dozen times. Poor Amy
would have broken her heart. She threatened
even to go with her. And they say women
don't make friendships with each other !"
Fairfield shrugged his shoulders a little.
'' I suffer myself from my wife's friends," he
THE SORCERESS. 165
said ; " there's always some ' dear Clara ' or
other putting the table out of joint, making
me search heaven and earth when there's
anybody to dinner to find an odd man. But
Mary has some " Sense, he was going
to say, but stopped short. Mrs. Fairfield
was one of those who had concluded long
ago that dear Amy was a little goose, taken
sad advantage of by her persistent friend.
"Fairfield," said Aubrey, "you could do
me a great service if you would. Colonel
Kingsward has just told me that he can't
send out a royal commission to examine my
friends on this subject. You see him some-
times, I suppose. I know you belong to one
of his clubs. Still more, he's at his office all
the morning, and you know him well enough
to look in upon him there."
" Well ?" said Fairfield, dubiously,
'' Couldn't you stretch a point for my sake,
and go — and tell him the real state of affairs
in respect to Miss Lance, and how untrue it
is, how ridiculously untrue, that she was kept
at Forest-leigh by any will of mine ? Why,
it was a thing, as you have just said, that all
the county knew I An infatuation — and
I 66 THE SORCERESS.
nothing less than the bane of my whole
" Yes, I know — everybody thought so,"
Mr. Fairfield said. That new idea — was it
perhaps germinating faintly in his mind ? —
no one had thought of any other explanation,
but yet "
''If you were only to say so — only as
much as that — that all my friends recognised
the state of the case."
" I could say that," said Fairfield, with
hesitation. " Don't think me unfriendly,
Aubrey, but it's a little awkward for a man
to interfere in another man's affairs, and it's
not only your affairs that I know so well, but
you see Kingsward's too "
" I am aware of that, Fairfield ; still, to
break ofT what I believe in my heart would
be for his daughter's happiness too "
'' To be sure there's the young lady to be
taken into consideration," said Fairfield,
It w411 be as well to carry this incident to
its completion at once. Mr. Fairfield at the
last allowed himself to be convinced, and he
went that afternoon to the club, to which he
THE SORCERESS. • 1 67
Still belonged by some early military ex-
periences, and where Colonel Kingsward was
one of those who ruled supreme. He knew
exactly when to find him at the club, where
he strolled in after leaving his office, to
refresh himself with a cup of tea, or some-
thing else in its place. The intercessor went
up to the table at which the Colonel sat with
the evening paper, and conversed for a little
on the topics of the day. After these had
been run over, and the prospects of war
slightly discussed —for Colonel Kingsward
had not much respect for ^Ir. Fairfield's
opinion on that subject — the latter gentleman
said abruptly —
" I say, Kingsward, I am very sorry to
hear there is some hitch in the marriage
which I was so glad to hear of last week."
" Ah, oh ! So Leigh has been with you, I
presume ?" the Colonel replied.
" Yes ; and, upon my life, Colonel, there is
not a word of truth in any talk you may have
heard about that Miss Lance . We all
know quite well the whole business. You
should hear Mary on the subject. Of course,
he can't say to you, poor fellow, that his first
1 68 THE SORCERESS.
wife was a little queer, and that that woman
made her her slave."
" No ; It wasn't to be expected that he
would tell me that."
'' But It's true. She got completely the
upper hand of that poor little thing. The
husband had no Influence. I believe he
hated her — like the devil."
''You think so," said the Colonel, with a
strange smile, "yet It Is a curious thing that
he endured her all the same, and also that a
wife should Insist so In keeping another
woman In her husband's constant company —
and an attractive woman, as I hear."
'' Oh ! a devil of a woman," cried Fairfield.
" I was telling Aubrey I should no more have
ventured to expose myself to her blandish-
ments . One of those sort of women,
you know, that you cannot abide, yet who
can turn you round their little finger."
" And what did he say to that ?" the
Colonel asked, still with that smile.
" Oh, he said she never had any charm for
him — and I believe It — for what with poor
little Mrs. Leigh's whims and vagaries, and
the other's flatteries and adulation and com-
THE SORCERESS. 1 69
plete empire over her, his Hfe was made a
burden to him. You should hear Mary on
that subject — none of the ladies could keep
" Yet it appears Mr. Aubrey Leigh kept
his until he got tired," said the Colonel.
" Believe me, Fairfield, when there is such
an unnatural situation as that, there must be
more in it than meets the eye."
Fairfield, a good, steady soul, who generally
had his ideas suggested to him, went away
very serious from that interview. It was
very strange indeed that a woman should
prefer her friend to her husband, and make
things wretched for him in order to keep her
comfortable — it was very curious that with a
woman so much superior to Amy in the
house, a woman of the kind that turn men's
heads, that mild Aubrey Leigh, who was not
distinguished for force of character, should
have never sought a moment's relief with her
from poor Mrs. Leigh's querulousness. Fair-
field accelerated his departure by an hour or
two in order not to meet Aubrey again before
he had poured those strange doubts and
suggestions into his own Mary's ears.
The party of travellers whose progress had
hitherto been like that of a party of pleasure,
who had been Interested in everything they
saw, and hailed every new place with delight,
as if that had been the haven of all their
hopes, travelled home from Cologne in a
very different spirit. For one thing. It could
not be concealed that Mrs. KIngsward was
ill, which was a thing that she herself and
the whole family stoutly, one standing by
another, had hitherto been able to deny.
She had not gone far, not an hour's journey,
when she had to abandon her seat by the
window — where it had always been her
delight to "see the country," and point out
every village to her children — and lie down
upon the temporary couch which Moulsey
THE SORCERESS. I7I
prepared for her with shawls and cushions
along one side of the carriage. She cried
out against herself as "self-indulgent" and
"lazy," but she did not resist this arrange-
ment. It effectually took any pleasure that
there might have been out of the journey :
for Bee, as may be supposed, though she
was not melancholy, and would not admit,
even to Betty, in the closest confidence, that
she was at all afraid of the ultimate issue,
was certainly self-absorbed, and glad not to
be called upon to notice the scenery, but
allowed to subside into a corner with her
own thoughts. Charlie was in the opposite
corner, exceedingly glum, and not con-
versible. Bee would not speak to him or
look at him, and even Betty, that little thing,
had said, '*0h, Charlie, how could you be so
nasty to Aubrey .''" for her sole salutation
that morning. He was not sure even that
his mother, though he had stood on her side
and backed her up, was pleased with him for
it. She talked to him, it is true, occa-
sionally, and made him do little things for
her, but rather in the way in which a mother
singles out the pariah of the family, the one
172 THE SORCERESS.
who is boycotted for some domestic offence,
to show him that all are not against him,
than In the tone which is used to a champion
and defender. So It was not wonderful that
Charlie was glum ; but to see him In one
corner, biting or trying to bite the few hairs
that he called his moustache, with his brows
bent down to his chin, and his chin sunk in
the collar of his coat — and Bee In another,
very different — indeed, her face glorified with
dreams, and her eyes full of latent light,
ready to flash at out any moment — was not
cheerful for the others.
Mrs. Kings ward looked at them from one
to another, and at little Betty between busied
in a little book, with that baffled feeling
which arises in the mind of a delicate woman
when the strong Individualities and wills of
her children become first developed before
her, after that time of their youth when all
were guided by her decision, and mamma's
leave was asked for everything. How fierce,
how self-willed, how determined In his
opposition Charlie looked ■ like his father,
not to be moved by anything ! And Bee,
how possessed by those young hopes of her
THE SORCERESS. 173
own, which the mother knew would be of no
avail against the fiat gone forth against her !
Mrs. Kingsward knew her husband better
than her children did. She knew that having
taken up his position he would not give in.
And Bee, with all that light of resistance in
her eyes — Bee as little willing to give in as
he ! The invalid trembled when she thought
of the clash of arms that would resound over
her head — of the struggle which would rend
her cheerful house in two. She did not at
all realise that the cheerful days of that
house were numbered — that soon it would be
reduced into its elements, as a somewhat
clamorous, restless, too energetic brood of
children, with a father very self-willed, who
hitherto had known nothing of them but as
happy and obedient creatures, whose indi-
vidual determinations concerned games and
lessons, and who, so far as the conduct of life
was affected, were of no particular account.
Mrs. Kingsward was not yet aware that this
was the dolorous prospect before her house-
hold ; she only thought, " How am I to
manage them all ?'' and felt her heart fail
before Charlie's ill humour and parti pris,
174 '^^lE SORCERESS.
and before the bright defiance In Bee's eyes.
Poor Aubrey, whom she had learned to look
upon as one of her own, half a son, and half
a brother — poor Aubrey, who had gone so
wrong, and yet had so many excuses for him,
a victim rather than a seducer — what was
happening to Aubrey this fine September
morning? It made her heart sick in her
bosom as she thought of all these newly-
raised conflicting powers, and she so little
able to cope with them. If she did not get
strong soon, what would all these children
do ? Charlie would go back to college, and
would be out of it. He had so strong a will,
and was so determined to get on, that little
harm would happen to him — and besides, he
was entirely In accord with his father, which
was a great matter. But Bee — Bee ! It
seemed to Mrs. KIngsward that It was on
the cards that Bee might take matters Into
her own hands, and run away with her lover,
if her father would not yield. What else
was there for these young creatures? Mrs.
KIngsward knew that she herself would have
done so In the circumstances had her lover
insisted ; and she knew that he would no
THE SORCERESS. I 75
more have consented to such a sentence —
never, never ! — than he had done to anything
he disliked all his life. And Bee was like
him, though she had never hitherto been
anything but an obedient child. Mrs. Kings-
ward could not help picturing to herself, as
she lay there, the elopement — Bee's room
found empty in the morning, the note left on
the table, the so easy, so certain explanation,
which already she felt herself to be reading.
And then her husband's wrath, his unalterable
verdict on the criminal " never to enter this
house again !" Poor mother ! She foresaw,
as we all do, tortures for herself, which she
was never to be called upon to bear.
As for Betty, it was the most tiresome
journey in all her little experiences. A long
journey was generally fun to Betty. The
scuffle of getting away, of seeing that all the
little packets were right, of abusing Moulsey
for hiding away the luncheon basket under
the rugs and the books in some locked bag,
the trouble of securing a compartment,
arranging umbrellas and other things in the
vacant seats to make believe that every place
was full, the watch at every station to pre-
176 THE SORCERESS.
vent the intrusion of strangers, the running
from one side to another to see the pretty
village or old castle, or the funny people at
the country stations and the queer names — ■
the luncheon In the middle of the day, which
was as good as a pic-nic — all these things
much diverted Betty, who loved the rapid
movement through the air, and to feel the
wind on her face ; but none of these delights
were to be had to-day. She was In one of
the middle places, between Charlie, so glum
and In a temper, and Bee, lost In her own
thoughts and without a word to say, and
opposite to mamma, who was so much more
serious than usual, giving little Betty a smile
from time to time, but not able to speak loud
enough to be heard through the din of the
train. She tried to read her book but it was
not a very interesting book, and it was short
too, and evidently would not last out half the
journey. Betty was the only member of the
party who had a free mind. The commotion
of the romance between Bee and Aubrey
had been pure amusement to her. It would
be a bore if It did not end in a speedy
marriage, with all the excitement of the
THE SORCERESS. I 77
presents, the trousseau, the dresses (es-
pecially the bridesmaids' dresses), the
wedding day itself, the increased dignity of
Betty as Miss Kingsward, the pleasure of
talking of '* my married sister," the pleasure
of visiting Bee, in her own house, and
sharing all her grandeur as a county lady.
To miss all this would be a real trial, but
Betty had confidence in the fitness of things,
and felt it was impossible that she should
miss all this. And she was at ease in her
little mind, and the present dreariness of this
unamusing, unattractive journey hung all
the more heavy upon her consciousness now.
They arrived next day., having slept at
Brussels to break the journey for Mrs.
Kingsward, and the Colonel met them, as in
duty bound, at Victoria. He gave Charlie
his hand, and allowed Bee and Betty to kiss
him, but his whole attention, as was natural,
was for his wife.
" You look dreadfully tired," he said, with
that half-tone of offence in which a man
shows his disappointment at the aspect of an
invalid. " You must have been worried on
the journey to look so tired."
VOL. I. N
178 THE SORCERESS.
" Oh, no, I have not been at all worried
on the journey — they have all been so good,
sparing me every fatigue ; but It Is a tiresome
long way, Edward, you know."
'' Yes, of course, I know : but I never saw
you look so tired before." He cast a re-
proachful look round upon the young people,
who were all ready to stand on the defensive.
" You must have bothered your mother to
death," he said. " I am sorry I did not
come out for her myself — undoing all the
effect of her cure."
" Oh, you will see, I shall be all right
when I get home," Mrs. Kingsward said,
cheerfully. " As for the children, Edward,
they have all been as good as gold."
"You had better see to the luggage and
bring your sisters home in a cab. I can't let
mamma hang about here," said the Colonel,
in his peremptory way. '' Moulsey will come
with us. I suppose you three have brains
enough to manage by yourselves?"
Thus insulting his grown-up children,
among whom a flame of indignation lighted
up, partially burning away their difficulties
between themselves, Colonel Kingsward half
THE SORCERESS. I 79
carried his wife to the carriage. " I thought
at first I should have waited at Kingswarden
till you came back. I am glad I changed my
mind and came back to Harley Street," he
" Oh, is it to Harley Street we are
going?" said Mrs. Kingsward, faintly. "I
had rather hoped for the country, Edward."
" You don't look much like another twenty
miles of a journey," said her husband.
"Well, perhaps not. I own I shall be glad
to be quiet," the poor lady said. What he
wished had always turned out after a moment
to be just what his wife wished for all the
years of their union. She even meekly
accepted the fact that the children — the
nursery children, as they were called — the
little ones, who were no trouble but only a
refreshment and delight, would have been
too much for her that first night. Secretly,
she had been looking forward to the touch
and sight of her placid smiling baby as the
one thing that would do her good — and all
those large wet kisses of Johnny and Tommy
and Lucy and little Margaret, and the burst
of delighted voices at the sight of mamma.
I So THE SORCERESS.
''Yes, I believe it would have been too much
for me," she said, with a look aside at
Moulsey, who, as on many a previous occa-
sion, would dearly have loved to box her
master's ears. ''And I do believe it would
have been too much for me," Mrs. Kingsward
added, when that confidential attendant put
her to bed.
" Perhaps it would, ma'am," Moulsey said.
" They would have made a noise, bless
them — and baby will not go to anyone when
he sees me — and altogether I shall be more
fit for them, Moulsey, after a good night's
'•If you get that, you poor dear," said
Moulsey, under her breath. But her mistress
did not hear that remark any more than many
others which Moulsey made in her own mind,
always addressed to that mistress whom she
loved. " If he said dying would be good for
you, you would say you were sure of it, and
that was what you wanted most," the maid
said within herself.
It must not, however, be supposed from
this that Colonel Kingsward was not a good
husband. He had always been like a lover,
THE SORCERESS. l8l
though a somewhat peremptory one, to his
wife. And without him her young, gay,
pleasure-loving ways, her love of life and
amusement might have made her a much less
successful personage, and not the example of
every virtue that she was. Had ^Irs. Kings-
ward had the upper hand, the family would
have been a very different family, and its
career probably a very broken, tumultuous,
happy-go-lucky career. It was that strong
hand which had controlled and guided her,
which had been, as people say, the making
of Mrs. Kings ward ; and though she feared
his severity in the present crisis, she yet felt
the most unspeakable relief from the baffled,
helpless condition in which she had looked at
her children, feeling herself all unable to cope
with them in the presence of papa.
'' I wonder if he thinks we are cabbages, "
was Bee's indignant exclamation as he turned
his back upon them.
*' Apparendy," said Charlie, coming a litde
out of his sullenness. "Look here, you girls,
get into this omnibus — happily we've got an
omnibus — with the little things, while I go
to the Custom House to get the luggage
I 82 THE SORCERESS.
*' Betty, you get in," said Bee. *' I will go
with you, Charlie, for I have got mamma's
''Can't you give them to me.^" Charlie
cast a gloomy look about, thinking that
Leigh might perhaps be somewhere awaiting
a word, a thought which now for the first
time traversed Bee's mind, too.
" Then, Betty, you had better go with him,
for he doesn't know half the boxes," she said.
" Oh, you can come yourself if you like,"
said Charlie, feeling in that case that this
was the safest arrangement after all.
" No, Betty had better go. Betty, you
know Moulsey's box and that new basket that
mamma brought me before we left the
" Come along yourself, quick. Bee."
" No, I shall stop in the omnibus."
" When you have made up your minds,"
cried Betty, who had slipped out of the
vehicle at the first word. Betty thought it
would be more fun to go through the
Custom House than to wait all the time
cooped up here.
And Bee had her reward ; for Aubrey was
THE SORCERESS. 153
there, waiting at a distance till the matter
was settled. '' I should have risked every-
thing and come, even if the penalty had been
a quarrel with Charlie," Aubrey said, *'but I
must not quarrel with anyone if I can help
it. We shall have hard work enough without
" You have seen papa ?"
** Yes, I have seen him : but I have not
done myself much good, I fear," said Aubrey,
shaking his head. " Bee, you won't give me
up whatever they may say?"
" Give you up ? Never, Aubrey, till you
give me up !"
" Then all is safe, my darling. However
things look now they can't hold out for
ever. Lies must be found out, and then —
in time — you will be able to act for
" Do you think papa will stand to it like
that, Aubrey ?"
Aubrey shook his head. He did not make
" Tell me. Is it a lie ?" she said,
He bent down his head upon her hand,
184 THE SORCERESS.
" Not all," he said, in an almost inaudible
voice. " I said that — at Cologne "
" I did not understand," said Bee. '' No ;
It does not matter to me, Aubrey — not so
very much ; but if you promised "
" I never promised — never ! My only
thought was to escape "
*' Then I can't think what you have done
wrong. Aubrey, is she tall, with dark hair,
and beautiful dark eyes, and a way of looking
at you as if she would look you through and
"Bee!" he said, gripping her fast, as if
someone had been about to decoy her away.
" And a mouth," said Bee, " that is very
pretty, but looks as if it were cut out of steel ?
Then, I have seen her. She sat down by
me one day in the wood, when I was doing
that sketch, and gave me such clever hints,
telling me how to finish it, till she made me
hate it, don't you know. Is she horribly
clever, and a good artist ? and like that "
*'Bee! What did that woman say to
" Nothing very much. Asked me about the
people at the hotel, and if there were any
Leighs — not you, she pretended, but the
Leighs of Hurst-leigh, whom she knew. I
thought it very strange at the time why she
should ask about the Leighs without knowing
anything — and then I forgot all about it.
But to-day it came back to my mind, and I
have been thinking of nothing else. Aubrey
— she is older than you are ?"
" Yes," he said.
'' And she made you promise to marry
her .^" said Bee, half unconscious yet half
conscious of that wile of the cross-examiner,
coming back to the point suddenly.
" Never, Bee, never for one moment in
my misery ! That I should have to make
such a confassion to you ! — but there was no
promise nor thought of a promise. I desired
nothing — nothing but to escape from her.
You don't doubt my word. Bee ?"
*' No ; I don't doubt anything you say.
But I think she is a dreadful woman to get
anybody in her power, Aubrey. My little
drawing was for you. It was the place we
first met, and she told me how to do it and
make it look so much better. I am not very
clever at it, you know ; and then I hated the
1 86 THE SORCERESS.
very sight of it, and tore it in two. I don't
'' I understand why. Bee, you will be
faithful to me, whatever you are told ?"
'^ Till I die, Aubrey."
'*And never, never believe that for a
moment my heart will change from you."
" Not till I hear it from yourself," she said,
with a woeful smile. The despair in him
communicated itself to her, who had not
been despairing at all.
" Which will never be — and when you are
your own mistress, my darling "
" Oh, we shan't have to wait for that !" she
cried, with a burst of her native energy.
" Dear Aubrey, they are coming back ; you
must go away."
"Till we meet again, darling.'^"
" Till we meet again !"
Bee stole into her mother's room as she
went upstairs before that first dinner at home
which used to be such a joyous meal. How
they had all enjoyed it — until now. The ease
and space, the going from room to room, the
delight in finding everything with which they
were familiar, the flowers in the vases (never
were any such flowers as those at home !),
the incursions of the little ones shouting to
each other, "Mamma's come home!" Even
the little air of disorder which all these
interruptions brought into the orderly house
was delightful to the young people. They
looked forward as to an ideal life, to beginning
all their usual occupations again and doing
them all better than ever. ' ' Oh, how nice
I 88 THE SORCERESS.
it is to be at home!" the girls had said to
each other. Instead of those hotel rooms,
which at their best are never more than hotel
rooms, a genre not to be mistaken, how
delightful was the drawing-room at home,
with all its corners — Bee's little table where
she muddled at her drawings, mamma's great
basket of needlework where everything could
be thrown under charitable cover, Betty's
stool on which she sat at the feet of her
oracle of the moment, whoever that might
be, and all the little duties to be resumed —
the evening papers arranged for papa (as if
he had not seen enough of them in the day-
time in his office !), the flowers to see after,
the little notes to write, all the pleasant
common-places of the home life. But to-
night, for the first time, dinner was a
silent meal, hurried over— not much better
than a dinner at a railway station, with a
sensation in it of being still on the road, of
not having yet reached their destination.
The drawing-room was in brown holland
still, for they were all going on to Kingswar-
den to-morrow. The house felt formal,
uninhabited, as if they had come home to
THE SORCERESS. I 89
lodgings. All this was bad enough ; but the
primary trouble of all was the fact that
mamma was upstairs — gone to bed before
dinner, too tired to sit up. Such a thing had
never happened before. However tired she
was, she had always so brightened up at the
sensation of coming home.
And papa, though kind, was very grave.
The happiness of getting his family back did
not show In his face and all his actions as It
generally did. Colonel KIngsward was very
kind as a father, and very tender as a
husband ; the severity of his character
showed little at home. His wife was aware
of It, and so were the servants, and Charlie,
I think, had begun to suspect what a hand of
Iron was covered by that velvet glove. But
the girls had never had any occasion to fear
their father. Bee thought that the additional
gravity of his behaviour was owing to herself
and her Introduction of a new Individual
interest Into the family ; so that, notwith-
standing a touch of Indlo^natlon, with which
she felt the difference, she was timid and not
without a sense of guilt before her father.
Never had she been rebellious or disobedient
IQO THE SORCERESS.
before ; and she was both now, determined
not to submit. This made her self-conscious
and rather silent ; she who was always over-
flowing with talk and fun and the story of
their travels. Colonel Kingsward did not
ask many questions about that. What he
did ask was all about " your mother.
'' She is not looking so well as when she
went away," he said.
" Oh, papa, it's only because she's so
tired," cried little Betty. Betty taking upon
her to answer papa, to take the responsibility
upon her little shoulders ! But Bee felt as if
she could not say anything.
" Do you really think so ?'' he said, turning
to that confident little speaker — to Betty.
As if Betty could know anything about it !
But Bee seemed paralysed and could not
She stole, as I have said, into her mother's
room on hei way upstairs, but she had hardly
time to say a word when papa came in to see
if Mrs. Kingsward had eaten anything, and
how she felt now that she was comfortably
established in her own bed. It irritated Bee
to feel herself thus deprived of the one little
THE SORCERESS. I9I
bit of possible expansion, and stirred her
spirit. With her cheek to her mother's, she
said in her ear, " Mamma, I saw Aubrey at
the station," with a thrill of pleasure and
defiance in saying that, though secretly, in
her father's presence.
•' Oh, Bee ! " said Mrs. Kingsward, with a
faint cry of alarm.
" And he told me," continued Bee, breath-
less in her whisper, " that papa was firm
"And we promised each other we should
never, never give up, whatever anyone might
" Oh, child, how dare you, how dare you ?"
Mrs. Kingsward said.
How Bee's heart beat ! What an enliven-
ing, inspiriting strain of opposition came into
her mind, making her cheeks glow and her
eyes flame ! The whisper was, perhaps, a
child's device, perhaps a woman's weakness,
but it exhilarated her beyond description to
say all this in the very presence of her father.
There was a sensation of girlish mischief In
it as well as defiance, which relieved all the
192 THE SORCERESS.
heavier sentiments that had weighed down
'' What are you saying to your mother,
Bee ? She must not be disturbed. Run
away and let her rest. If we are to go back
to Kingswarden to-morrow she must get all
the rest that is possible now."
'' I was never the one to disturb mamma,"
said Bee, bestowing another kiss on her
'' Oh, be a good child, Bee ! " pleaded Mrs.
Kingsward, almost without sound ; for by
this time the Colonel was hovering over the
bed, with a touch of suspicion, wondering
what was going on between these two.
" Yes, mamma dear, always," said Bee,
'' What is she promising, Lucy ? And what
were you saying to her ? Bee should know
better at her age than to disturb you with
" Oh, nothing, Edward. She was only
giving me a kiss, and I told her to be a good
child — as I am always doing ; thinking to be
heard, you know, for so much speaking," the
mother said, with a soft laugh.
THE SORCERESS. I93
" Bee has always been a sufficiently good
child. I don't think you need trouble your-
self on that point. The thing is for you to
get well, my dear, and keep an easy mind.
Don't trouble about anything ; leave all that
to me, and try and think a little about
** I always do, Edward," she said with a
He shook his head, but agitation had
brought a colour to her cheeks, and to
persuade one's-self that it is only fatigue that
makes a beloved face look pale is so easy at
first, before any grave alarm has been roused.
Yet, Colonel Kingsward's mind was not an
easy one that night. He was cui fond, a
severe man, very rigid as to what he thought
his duty, taking life seriously on the whole.
His young wife, who loved pleasure, had
made him far more a man of society than
was natural or indeed pleasing to him ; but
he had thus got into that current which it is
so difficult to get out of without a too . stern
withdrawal, and his large young family had
warmed his heart and dressed his aspect in
many smiles and graces which did not belong
VOL. I. o
194 THE SORCERESS.
to him by nature. The mixture of the rigid
and the yielding had produced nothing but
good effects upon his character till now.
But there is no telling what a man is till the
first conflict of wills arises in his own house-
hold. Hitherto there had been nothing of
the kind. His children had amused him and
pleased him and made him proud. Their
health, their prettiness, their infantile gaiety
and delight in every favour accorded to them
had been all so many tributes to his own
supreme influence and power. Their very
health was a standing compliment to his own
health and vigour, from whom they took
their excellent constitutions, and to the
wonderful care and attention to every law of
health which he enforced In his house. Not
a drain escaped trapping, not a gas was left
undisposed of where Colonel Kingsward was.
He had every new suggestion in his nursery
that sanitary science could bring up. "And
look at the result!" he was in the habit of
saying. Not a pale face, not a headache, not
an invalid member there. And among the
children he was as the sun In his splendour.
Every delight rayed out from him. The
THE SORCERESS. 195
hour of his coming home was watched for ;
it was the greatest treat for the Httle boys to
go in the dogcart with Simmons, the groom,
to fetch papa from the station, while the
others assembled at the door as at a daily
celebration to see him arrive. Charlie was
now a man grown, but he was a good boy,
full of all right impulses, and there had never
been any difficulty with him.
Thus Colonel Kingsward had been kept
from all knowledge of those contrarieties
of nature which appear even in the most
favoured regions. He was of opinion that
he surrounded his wife with every care, bore
everything for her, did not suffer the winds
of heaven to visit her cheek too roughly.
And it was true. But he was not at all
aware that she saved him anything, or that
his joyful onmipotence and security from
every fret and all opposition depended upon
her more than on anything else in the world.
He did not know the little inevitable jars
which she smoothed away, the youthful wills
growing into individuality which she kept in
check. Which was a pity, for the strong
man was thus deprived of the graces of
196 THE SORCERESS.
precaution, and knew no more than the
merest weakHng what, as his children grow
into men and women, every man has to face
and provide against. If Colonel Kingsward
was too arbitrary, too trenchant in his
measures, too certain that there was no will
but his own to be taken into account, the
blame must thus be partially laid upon those
natural fictions of boundless love and duty
and sweet affectionate submission, which
grow up in the nursery and reign as long as
childhood lasts — until a more potent force of
self or will or love, comes in to put the
gentle dream to flight.
It was thus that Colonel Kingsward con-
sidered the matter about Bee. It had been,
of course, necessary to cross Bee two or three
times in her life before. It had been
necessary, or at least he had thought it
necessary, to send her to school ; it had
been thought expedient to keep her back a
year longer than she wished from appearing
in the world. These decisions had cost tears
and a little struggle, but in a few days Bee
had forgotten all about them — or so, at least,
her father thought. And a lover — at nine-
THE SORCERESS. I97
teen — what was that but another plaything, a
novelty, a compliment, such as girls love ?
How could it mean anything more serious ?
Why, Bee was a child — a little girl, an orna-
mental adjunct to her mother, a sort of
reflection, not to be detached for a lone time
from that source of all that was delightful in
her. Colonel Kingsward had felt with a
delighted surprise that the child and the
mother did " throw up " each other when he
began to go out with them together. Bee's
young beauty showing what mamma's had
been, and Mrs. Kingsward's beauty (so much
higher and sweeter than any girl's wild-rose
bloom could be) showing what in the after
days her child would grow to. To cut these
two asunder for a stranger — another man,
an intruding personality thrusting himself
between the child and her natural allegiance
— was oppressive in any shape. At the first
word, indeed, and in the amusement furnished
him by the letters that had been poured upon
him, Colonel Kingsward's consent had been
been given almost without thought. Aubrey
Leigh was a good match, he had a fine place,
a valuable estate, and was well spoken of
198 THE SORCERESS.
among men. If Lucy was so absurd as to
wish her daughter to marry ; if Bee, the silly
child, was so foolish as to think of leaving
her father's house for another, that was
probably as good a one as she could have
chosen. I don't know if fathers generally
feel it a sort of desecration when their young
daughters marry. Some fathers do, and
some brothers, as if the creature pure by
nature from all such thoughts were descending
to a lower place, and becoming such an one
as themselves. Colonel KIngsward was not,
perhaps, visionary enough for such a view,
yet he was slightly shocked in his sentiment
about the perfection of his own house by this
idea on his child's part of leaving it for
another. However, it was true he had a
very large family, and to provide so well for
one of them at the very outset of her career
was a thing which was not to be despised.
But when the second chapter of this
romance, all so simple, so natural in its first
phase, opened out, and there appeared a dark
passage behind — a woman wronged who had
a claim upon the man, a story, a scandal —
whether it were true or untrue ! — Colonel
THE SORCERESS. 1 99
Kingsward, in his knowledge of the world,
knew that it did not so much matter whether
a story was true or untrue. It stuck, anyhow;
and years, generations after, when, if false, it
had been contradicted and exploded, and
acknowledged to be false, people still would
shake their heads and say, ''Wasn't there some
story ? " For this reason he was not very
rigid about the facts, part of which, at least,
the culprit admitted. There was a woman
and there was a story, and all the explanations
in the world could not do away with these.
What did it matter about the man ? He
Colonel Kingsward, was not Aubrey Leigh's
keeper. And as for Bee, there would be some
tears, no doubt, as when she was sent to
school — a little passion of disappointment, as
when she was kept back for a whole year,
from seventeen to eighteen, in her " coming
out " — but the tears and the passion once
over, things would go on the same as before.
The little girl would go back to her place,
and all would be well.
This was the man's delusion, and perhaps
it was a natural one, and he was conscious of
wishing to do the best thing for her, of saving
200 THE SORCERESS.
her from the after tortures which a wife has
to endure whose husband has procHvities
towards strange women, and capabiHtles of
being '' led away." That was a risk that he
could understand much better than she could,
at her age. The fellow might be proud of
her, small blame to him — he might strive to
escape from disgraceful entanglements by such
an exceptionable connection as that of Colonel
Kingsward, of Kingswarden, Harley Street,
and the Intelligence Department ; he might
be very much in earnest and all that. He
did not altogether blame the man ; indeed, he
was willing enough to allow that he was not
a bad fellow, and that he was popular among
But these were not enough in the case of a
girl like Bee. And it was certainly for her
good that her father was acting. She had
known the man a month, what could he be
to her in so short a time ? This is the most
natural of questions, constantly asked, and
never finding any sufficient answer. Why
should a girl in three or four weeks be so
changed in all her thoughts as to be ready to
give up her father's house, the place in which
THE SORCERESS. 201
she has all her associations, the company in
which she has been so happy, and go away
to the end of the world, perhaps with a man
whom she has known only for a month ? It
is the commonest thing in the world, but also
the most mysterious, and Colonel Kingsward
refused to believe in it, as so many other
fathers have done. Bee would cry, and her
mother would console her. She would fly
into a childish passion, and struggle against
her fate — for a few days She would swear
that she would never, never give up that new
plaything, and the joy of parading it before
the other girls, who perhaps had not such
toys to play with — but all that nonsense
would give way in a little to firm 'guidance
and considerate care, and the fresh course of
amusement and pleasure which the winter
The winter is by no means barren to those
who spend it habitually in town. It has
many distractions. There is the theatre,
there are Christmas gatherings without
number, there are new dresses also to be got
for the same, perhaps a pretty new bonnet or
two thrown in by a penitent father, very sorry
202 THE SORCERESS.
even in his own interests to give his little
girl pain. If all these pleasant things could
not make up for the loss of a man — of
doubtful character, too — whom she had only
known for a month, Colonel Kingsward felt
that it would be a strange thing indeed, and
altogether beyond his power to explain.
It was not possible, however, to remove
Mrs. Kings ward to KIngswarden next day.
She was too much fatigued even to leave
her bed, and the doctor who came to see her.
her own familiar doctor who had sent her to
Germany to the celebrated bath, looked a
little grave when he saw the condition in
which she had come home. "No fatigue, no
excitement," was what he enjoined. She was
to have nothing to excite, nothing to disturb
her — to go to the country? Oh, yes, but not for
some days. To see the children ? Certainly,
the children could not be kept from their
mother ; but all in moderation, with great
judgment, not too long at a time, not too
often. And above all she must not be
worried. Nothing must be done, nothing
204 THE SORCERESS.
said to cross or vex her. When he heard
from the Colonel a very brief and studiously
subdued version of a little family business
which had disturbed her — " I need not keep
any secrets from you, doctor. The fact is
that someone wanted to marry my girl Bee,
and that I made some discoveries about him
which obliged me to withdraw my consent."
The doctor formed his lips into a whistle, to
which he did not give vent. " That accounts
for It," he said.
"That accounts for — what?" cried Colonel
Kingsward, not without Irritation.
" For the state In which I find her. And
mind my words, Kingsward, you'd better let
your girl marry anybody that Isn't a black-
guard than risk that sort of shock with your
wife. Never forget that her life 1 mean
to say that she's very delicate. Don't let her
be worried — stretch a point — have things
done as she wishes. You will find It pay best
in the end."
" For once you are talking nonsense, my
dear fellow," said Colonel Kingsward; "my
wife is not a woman who has ever been set
upon having her own way."
THE SORCERESS. 205
" Let her have it this time," said the
doctor, " and you'll never repent it. If she
wants Bee to marry, let her marry. Bee is
a dear little thing, but her mother, Kings-
ward, her mother — is of far more consequence
to you than even she — "
" That is a matter of course," said Colonel
Kingsward. " Lucy is of more importance to
me than all the world beside ; but neither
must I neglect the interests of my child."
" Oh, bother the child," cried the doctor,
" let her have her lover ; the mother is what
you must think of now."
"You seem tremendously in earnest,
" So I am — tremendously in earnest. x\nd
don't you work your mind on the subject, but
do what I say."
" Do you mean to say that my wife is in a
— state of danger ?"
'* I mean that she must be kept from worry
— she must not be contradicted — things must
not be allowed to go contrary to her wishes.
Poor little Bee ! I don't say you are to let
her marry a blackguard. But don't worry
her mother about it — that is the chief thinof
I've got to say."
206 THE SORCERESS.
" No, I shan't worry her mother about it,"
said the Colonel, shutting his mouth closely
. as if he were locking it up. When Dr.
Southwood was gone, howev^er, he stopped
the two girls who were lingering about to
know the doctor's opinion, and detaching
Betty's arm from about Bee's waist drew his
eldest daughter into his study and shut the
door. " I want to speak to you, Bee," he
'' Yes, papa." In this call to her alone to
receive some communication, Bee, as may be
imagined, jumped to a conclusion quite
different from what her father intended, and
almost for the moment forgot mamma.
'' The doctor tells me that above every-
thing your mother must be kept from worry.
Do you understand ? In the circumstances
it is extremely important that you should
" Papa," she cried, half in indignation half
in disappointment, ''do you think that I
would worry her — in any circumstances ?''
*' I think that girls of your age often think
that no affairs are so important as your own,
and it is very likely that you may be of that
THE SORCERESS. 207
Opinion, and I wish you to know what the
" Is mamma — very ill ?" Bee asked, be-
" He does not say so — only that she is not
to be fretted or contradicted, or disturbed
about anything. I feel it necessary to warn
*' Why me above the rest.'^" she cried.
''Am I likely to be the one to worry mamma .^"
''The others have no particular affairs of
their own to worry her with. There must be
no private talks, no discussions, no endeavours
to get her upon what you may suppose to be
Bee gave her father a glance of fire, but
she felt that a little prudence was necessary,
and kept the tumult of feeling which was
within her as much as possible in her own
breast. " I have always talked to mamma of
everything that was in my mind," she said,
piteously. '' I don't know how I am to stop.
She would wonder so if I stopped talking ;
and how can I talk to her except of things
that are in my mind ? "
"You must learn," said the Colonel, ''to
208 THE SORCERESS.
think of her more than of yourself." He did
not at all mean to prescribe to her a course of
conduct more elevated than that he meant to
pursue himself, but then It was only In action
that he meant to carry out his purposes, he
was not afraid of committing himself in
Bee looked at him again with a gaze that
asked a great many questions, but she only
answered, " I will try my very best, papa."
"If you do, I am sure you will succeed, my
dear," he said, In a gentler tone.
'' Is that all ? " she asked, hesitating.
" That Is all I want with you just now."
Bee turned away towards the door, and
then she paused and made a step back.
" Papa ! "
'' Yes, Bee."
" Would you mind telling me — I will not
say a word to her — but oh, please tell me — "
" What is It ? " said the Colonel. He went
to his writing table, and sitting down began
to turn over his papers. His tone was slightly
impatient, his eyebrows slightly raised, as If
" Papa, you must know what It Is. I know
that you have seen — Mr. Leigh ! "
THE SORCERESS. 209
*' How do you know anything about It ?
What have you to do with whom I have seen ?
Run away. I do not mean to enter into any
explanations on this subject with you."
'' Then with whom will you enter Into
explanations ? You cannot speak to mamma ;
she must not be worried. Papa, I am not a
little girl now, to be told to run away."
" You seem to be determined not to lose a
moment In telling me so."
" I should not have told you so," said Bee,
looking at him over the high back of his
writing-table, " if you had not told me I was
not to talk to mamma," ,
He looked up at her, and their eyes met ;
both of them keenly, fiercely blue, lit up with
fires of combat. It is often imagined that
blue eyes are the sottest eyes — but not by
those who are acquainted with the kind
which belonged to the KIngswards, which
might have been called sapphires, If
sapphires ever fiash and cut the air as
diamonds do. They were not either so dark
as sapphires — they were like nothing but
themselves, two pairs of blue eyes that might
have been made to order, so like were they
VOL I. p
2IO THE SORCERESS.
to each other, and both blazing across that
table as If they would have set the house on
'' That's an excellent point," he said. " I
can't deny It. What made you so terrifically
clever all at once ?"
There is nothing more stinging than to be
called clever In the midst of a discussion.
Bee's eyes seemed to set fire to her face, at
least, which flashed crimson upon her father's
'• When one has someone else to think of,
someone's Interests to take care of "
''Which are your own interests — and
vastly more Important than anything which
concerns your father and mother."
'' I never said so — nor thought so, papa —
but If they are different from yours, that's no
reason," said Bee, bold in words but faltering
in manner, " is It, why I should not think of
them, if, as you say, they're my own Interests,
*' You are very bold. Bee."
"What am I to do if I have no one to
speak for me ? Papa, Aubrey "
*' I forbid you to speak with such familiarity
THE SORCERESS. 211
of a man whom you have nothing to do with,
and whom you scarcely know."
**Papa, Aubrey — " cried Bee, with astonish-
Colonel Kingsward jumped up from his
table in a fury of impatience. '' How dare
you come and besiege me here in my owm
room with your Aubrey ? — a man whom you
have not known a month ; a stranger to the
" Papa, you must let me speak. You
allowed me to be engaged to him. If you
had said 'no' at first, there might, perhaps,
have been some reason in it."
"Perhaps — some reason!" he repeated,
with an angry laugh.
" Yes, for even then it was not your owm
happiness that was in question. It was I,
after all, that was to marry him."
" And you think that is a reason for
defying me .^"
" It is always said to be a reason — not for
defying anybody — but for standing up for
what you call my own interests, papa —
when they are somebody else's interests as
well. You said we might be engaged — and
212 THE SORCERESS.
we were. And how can I let anyone, even
you, say he Is a stranger? He is my fiance.
He is betrothed to me. We belong to each
other. Whatever anyone may say, that is
the fact," cried Bee, very rapidly, to get it all
out before she was interrupted.
"It is not at all a cheerful or pleasant fact
— if it changes my little Bee, whom I thought
I knew, to this flushed and brazen woman,
fighting for her — — . Go, child, and don't
make an exhibition of yourself. Your
mother's daughter! It is not credible — to
assault me, your father, in my own room, for
the sake of "
" Papa! don't you remember that it is said
in the Bible you are not to provoke your
children to wrath } Mamma would have
stood up for you, I suppose, when she was
engaged to you. I may be flushed," cried
Bee, putting her hands to her blazing cheeks,
"how could I help it? Forced to talk to
you, to ask you — on a subject that gives you
a right to speak to me, your own child, like
" I am glad you think I have a right to
speak as the circumstances demand to my
THE SORCERESS. 213
own child," said the Colonel, cooling down ;
'"but v^hy you should be forced, as you say,
to take up such an unbecoming and un-
womanly position is beyond my guessing."
** It is because I have no longer mamma to
speak for me," Bee said.
The creature was not without skill. Xow
she came back to the point that was not to
"We have had quite enough of this,"
Colonel Kingsward replied. "Your mother,
as you are quite aware, never set up her will
against mine. She was aware, if you are
not, that I knew the world better than she
did, and was more competent to decide.
Your mother would never have stood up to
me as you have done."
"It would have been better, perhaps,
sometimes, if she had," cried Bee, carried
away by the tide of her excitement. Colonel
Kingsward was so astounded that he had
scarcely power to be angry. He gazed at
his excited child with a surprise that was
" Oh, papa, papa ! Forgive me ! I never
meant that ; it came out before I was aware."
2 14 ^^^ SORCERESS.
"The thought must have been there or it
could not have come out," he said.
" Oh, no ; there was no thought there. It
may be so with you, but not with us, papa.
Words come into our mouths. We don't
think them ; we don't mean to say — they only
seem to — hook on to — something that went
before; and then they come out with a crash.
Oh, forgive me, forgive me, papa !"
" I suppose," he said, with a half laugh,
'' that may be taken as a woman's exposition
of her own style of argument."
" Don't call me a woman," she said, with
her soft small voice, aggrieved and wounded,
drawing closer to him. "Oh, papa! I am
only your little girl after all."
" A naughty little girl," he said, shaking
•'And without mamma to speak for me,"
The Colonel laughed aloud. " You wily
little natural lawyer !" he said ; but imme-
diately became very grave, for underneath
this burst of half angry amusement Bee had
given him a shock she did not know of. All
unaware of the edge of the weapons which
THE SORCERESS. 215
she used with a certain Instinctive deftness.
it did not occur to her that these words of
hers might penetrate not only deeper than
she thought, but far deeper than her own
thoughts had ever gone. His wife's worn
face seemed suddenly to appear before
Colonel Kingsward's eyes in a light which
he had never seen before, and the argument
which this child used so keenly, yet
so ignorantly, pierced him like a knife.
" Without mamma to speak for me !" These
words sounded very simple to Bee, a
mischievous expedient to trap him in the
snare he had laid for her. But if the time
should ever come when they should be true !
The Colonel was struck down by that arrow
flown at a venture. He went back to his
table subdued, and sat down there. " That
will do," he said, " that will do. Now run
away and leave me to my work, Bee."
She came up to him and gave him a timid
kiss, which the Colonel accepted quietly in
the softening of that thought. She roamed
about the table a little, flicking off an imper-
ceptible speck of dust with her handkerchief,
arranging some books upon the upper shelf
2l6 THE SORCERESS.
of his bureau, sometimes looking at him over
that row of books, sometimes lingering behind
him as if doing something there. He did not
interfere with her movements for a few min-
utes, in the attendrisseinent of his thoughts.
Without a mother to speak for her ! Poor
little girl. If that should ever be so ! Poor
little children unconscious In their nursery
crying for mamma ; and, oh, worse than all,
himself without his Lucy, who had made all
the world sweet to him ! He was a master-
full man, who would stand to his arms in any
circumstances, who would not give In even
If his heart was broken ; but what a strange,
dull, gloomy world it would be to him If the
children had no mother to speak for them !
He made a sudden effort to shake off that
thought, and the first thing that recalled
him to himself was to hear Bee, having no
other mischief, he supposed, to turn her hand
to, heaping coals upon the little bit of fire
which had been lighted for cheerfulness only.
"Bee," he cried, "are you still there?
What are you doing ? The room is like an
oven already, and you are making up a sort
of Christmas fire."
THE SORCERESS. 21 7
" Oh, I am so sorry — I forgot," cried Bee,
putting down ths shovel hastily. '' I thought
it wanted mending — for you always like a
" Not in September," he said, " and such
weather ; the finest we have had since July.
Come, cease this fluttering about — you dis-
turb me — and I have a hundred things to
"Yes, papa." Bee's little figure stole
from behind him in the meekest way. She
stopped in her progress towards the door to
give a touch to the flowers on a side table ;
and then she went slowly on, going out.
She had got her hand upon the handle of
the door, and Colonel Kingsward thanked
heaven he had got rid of her for the moment,
when she turned round, eyeing him closely
again though keeping by that means of
escape. " Papa," she said, softly, "after all
the talk we have been having — you perhaps
don't remember that — you have never —
answered my question yet."
" What question ?'' he said sharply.
Bee put her hands together like a child,
she looked at him beseechingly, coaxingly.
2l8 THE SORCERESS.
like that child returning to its point, and
then she said still more softly, "About
Aubrey, dear papa!"
C H APT E R XIV.
I WILL not attempt to follow in detail the
course of that autumn. It was a fine season,
and Mrs. KIngsward was taken to her home
in the country and recovered much of her lost
health in the serene ending of the month and
the bright days of October, which was a
model October — everything that month ought
to be. The trees had scarcely begun to take
any autumnal colouring upon them when
they reached Kingswarden — a house which
stood among the Surrey hills ; an old house
placed not as modern houses are, pitched upon
hillsides, or at points where there is *' a view."
The old Kingswards had been moved by no
such ridiculous modern sentiments. They
had planted their mansion in a sheltered spot,
where It would be safe from the winds that
220 THE SORCERESS.
range over the country and all the moorland
heights. The gates opened upon a wild
country road with an extravagant breadth of
green pathway and grassy bank on either
side — enough to have made a farmer swear,
but very pleasant to the eye and delightful to
a horse's feet, as well as to the pedestrians,
whether they were tramps or tourists, who
walked or rode on bicycles — the latter class
only — from London to Portsmouth. The
house was old, red, and straggling, covered
with multitudes of creepers. Sheets of purple
clematis — the Jackmanni, if anybody wishes
to know ; intolerable name for such a royal
garment of blossom — covered half-a-dozen
corners, hanging down in great brilliant
wreaths over old ivy and straggling Virginia
creeper and the strong stalks of the climbing
roses, which still bore here and there a flower.
Other sheets of other flowers threw them-
selves about in other places as if at their own
sweet will, especially the wild exuberance of
the Traveller's Joy ; though I need not say
that this wildness was under the careful eye
of the gardener, who would not let it go too
far. I cannot attempt to tell how many other
THE SORCERESS. 22 1
pleasant and fragrant and flowery things there
were which insisted on growing in that luxu-
rious place, even to the fastidious Highland
creeper, which in that autumn season was the
most gay, luxuriant, and delightful of all.
The flowers abounded like the children, not
to be checked, as healthy and as brilliant, in
the fine, peaty soil and pure air. The scent
of the mignonette, which in this late season
straggled anywhere, seemed to fill half the
country round. The borders were crowned
with those autumn flowers which make up as
well as they can for their want of sweetness
by lavish wealth of colour — the glowing single
dahlias, which this generation has had the
good sense to re-capture from Nature after
the quilled and rosetted artificial things which
the gardeners had manufactured out of them,
and the fine scarlet and blue of the salvias,
and the glory of all those golden tribes of the
daisy kind that now make our borders bright,
instead of the old sturdy red geranium, which
once sufficed for all the supplies of autumn,
an honest servant but a poor lord. I prefer
the sweetness of the Spring, when every
flower has a soul in it, and breathes it all
222 THE SORCERESS.
about in the air, that is full of hope. But as
it cannot always be Spring, that triumph of
bright hues is something to mask the face of
winter with until the time when the tortured
and fantastic chrysanthemum reigns alone.
This was the sort of garden they had at
Kingswarden ; not shut off in a place by
itself, but bordering all the lawns, which were
of the velvet it takes centuries to perfect.
The immediate grounds sloped a little to the
south, and beyond them was a very extensive,
if somewhat flat, prospect, ending on the
horizon in certain mild blue shadows which
were believed to be hills. There was not
much that could be called a park at Kings-
warden. The few farms which Colonel
Kingsward possessed pressed his little circle
of trees rather close ; but as long as the farms
were let the family felt they could bear this.
It gave them a comfortable feeling of modest
natural wealth and company ; the yeomen
keeping the squire warm, they in their farm-
steadings, he in the hall.
And the autumn went on in its natural
course, gaining colour as it began to lose its
greenness and the days their warmth. The
THE SORCERESS. 223
fruit got all gathered in after the corn, the
apple trees that had been such a sight, every
bouQfh bent down with its balls of russet or
gold, looked shabby and worn, their season
done, the hedges ran over with their harvest,
every kind of wald berry and feathery seed-
pod, wild elderberries, hips and haws, the
dangerous unwholesome fruit of the night-
shade, the triumphant wreaths of bryony of
every colour, green, crimson, and purple.
The robins began to appear about Kings-
warden, hopping about the lawns, and coming
very near the dining-room windows after
breakfast, when the little tribe of the nursery
children had their accustomed half-hour with
mamma, and delighted in nothing so much
as to crumble the bread upon the terrace and
tempt the redbreasts nearer and nearer.
When, quite satisfied and comforted about
his wife's looks, Colonel Kingsward went off
to the shooting, this little flock of children
trailed after mamma wherever she went, a
little blooming troop. By this time Charlie
had gone back to Oxford, and the little ones
liked to have the run of the lawns outside
and the sitting rooms within, with nothing
2 24 THE SORCERESS.
more alarming than Betty to keep them in
order. It is to be feared that the relaxation
of discipline which occurred when papa was
absent was delightfnl to all those little
people, and neither was Mrs. Kingsward
sorry now and then to feel herself at full ease
— with no necessity anywhere of further
restraint than her own softened perceptions
of family decorum required. It was a
moment in which, if that could be said, she
was self-indulgent — sometimes not getting up
at her usual hour, but taking her breakfast in
her room, with clusters of little boys and
girls all over her bed, and over the carpet,
sharing every morsel, climbing over her in
their play. And when she went out to drive
she had the carriage full of them ; and when,
she took her stroll about the grounds they
were all about, shouting and racing, nobody
suggesting that it would be '' too much for
her," or sending them off because they dis-
turbed mamma. She was disturbed to her
heart's content while the Colonel was away.
She said, '' You know this is very nice for a
time, but it would not do always," to her
elder daughter : but I think that she saw no
THE SORCERESS. 225
necessity, except in the return of her husband,
why It should not do, and she enjoyed
herself singing to them, dancing (a very
little) with them, playing for them as only
the mother of a large family ever can play,
that simple dance music which is punctuated
and kept in perfect time by her heart as
much as by her ear. For myself, I know the
very touch upon the piano of a woman who
is the orchestra of the children, who makes
their little feet twinkle to the music. There
Is no band equal to it for harmony, and pre-
cision, and go. They enjoyed the freedom of
having no one to say, " Hush, don't make
such a noise in the house," of the absence
of all the disturbable people, '' the gentle-
men," as the servants plainly said, "being
away " more, Mrs. Kingsward sometimes
thought, with a faint twinge of conscience,
than it was right they should enjoy anything
In the absence of papa. Charlie was quite
as bad as papa, and declared that they made
his head ache, and that no fellow could work
with such a row going on ; It made the little
carnival all the more joyous that he was out
of the way.
VOL. I. ■ Q
226 THE SORCERESS.
Bee had spent the six weeks since their
return in a sort of splendour of girhsh
superiority and elation, of which her mother
had not been unobservant, though nothing
had been said between them. I am not sure
that Bee did not enjoy the situation more
than if Aubrey had been at Kingswarden
wooing her all day long, playing tennis with
her, riding with her — in every way appearing
as her accepted lover. Circumstances had
saved her from this mere vulgarity of
beatitude, and she felt that in the very
uncertainty of their correspondence, which
was private — almost secret, and yet not
clandestine — there was a wonderful charm, a
romance and tinge of the unhappy and
desperate, while yet everything within herself
was happy and triumphant. It had never
been said, neither by the Colonel nor by his
wife (who had said nothing at all), that Bee
was not to write letters to Aubrey nor to
receive letters from him. I cannot imagine
how Colonel Kingsward, in bidding her
understand that all was over between Aubrey
and herself, did not make a condition of this.
But probably he thought her too young and
THE SORCERESS. 22 7
simple to maintain any such correspondence,
and her lover too little determined, too
persuadeable, to begin it. When Bee had
received her lover's first letter it had been
under her father's very eyes. It had come
at breakfast between two girl-epistles, and
Colonel Kingsward would not have been
guilty of the pettiness of looking at his
daughters correspondence for any induce-
ment yet before him. She had the tre-
mendous thrill and excitement of reading it
in his very sight, which she did not hesitate
to do, for the sake of the bravado, feeling
her ears tingle and the blood coursing in her
veins, never imagining that he would not
observe, and setting her young slight
strength like a rock in momentary expec-
tation of a question on the subject. But no
question came. Colonel Kingsward was
looking at the papers, and at the few letters
which came to him at his house. The
greater part of his correspondence went to
the office. He took it very quietly, and he
never remarked Bee at all, which was little
less than a miracle, she thought. And it was
very well for her that this was one of the
228 THE SORCERESS.
mornings on which mamma did not come
This immense excitement was a Httle too
strong for ordinary use, and Bee so arranged
it afterwards that her letters came by a later
post, when she could read them by herself in
her room. The servants knew perfectly well
of this arrangement — the butler who opened
the post bag at Kingswarden, and the maid
who carried Miss Bee's letters upstairs — but
neither father nor mother thought of it.
That is, I will not answer for Mrs. Kings-
ward. She perhaps had her suspicions ; but,
if her husband did not forbid correspondence,
she said to herself that it was not her business
to do so. It seemed to her that nothing else
could keep Bee so bright. Her disappoint-
ment, the shock of the severance, must have
affected her otherwise than appeared if she
had not been buoyed up by some such
expedient. As for the Colonel, he thought
nothing about it. He thought that, as for
love, properly so called, the thing was pre-
posterous for a girl of her years, and that
the foolish business had been all made up of
imaginative novelty, and the charm of the
THE SORCERESS. 229
position, which had flattered and dazzled the
girl. Now that she had returned to all her
old associations and occupations, the pretty
bubble had floated away into the air. It had
not been necessary even to burst it — it had
dispersed of itself, as he said to himself he
always knew it would. Thus he deceived
himself with the easiest mind and did not
Mrs. Kingsward had come upon her
dauofhter seated out on the lawn under the
great walnut tree, reading one of these
letters, one morning when she had gone out
earlier than usual, on an exceptionally fine
day. Bee had thrust it away hastily into
her pocket and came forward with burning
cheeks when she heard her mother s voice —
but it was not till some time later that Mrs.
Kingsward spoke. The day had kept up its
morning promise. It was one of those w^arm
days that sometimes come in October, breath-
ing the very spirit of that contented season,
when all thino^s have come to fruition and
the w^ork of the year is done, and its produce
garnered into the barns. Now we may sit
and rest, is the sentiment of the much toiling
230 THE SORCERESS.
earth — all the labour being over, the harvest
done, and no immediate need yet to rise
again and plough. The world hangs softly
swaying in space, the fields are fallow, the
labourer rests. The sunshine lay warm upon
the velvet grass, the foliage, thinned by one
good blast a week ago, gave just shade
enough, not too much ; the tea-table was
set out upon the lawn — the little horde had
gone off shouting and skirmishing through
the grounds, Betty at the head of them, sup-
posed captain and controller, virtually ring-
leader, which comes to much the same thing.
The air so hushed and silent in itself, half
drowsy with profound peace, was just touched
and made musical by their shouts, and Bee
and her mother, with this triumphant sound
of a multitude close by, were alone.
'* Bee," Mrs. Kingsward said, " I have
long wanted an opportunity to speak to you."
*' Yes, mamma," she said, looking up with
a rush of blood to her heart, feeling that
the moment had come. But she would not
have been Bee if she had not put a little
something of her own into the thick of the
crisis. '' There were plenty of opportunities
— we have been together all day."
THE SORCERESS. 23 1
"You know what I mean," said Mrs.
Kingsward. " Bee, I saw you reading a
letter this morning."
" Yes, mamma."
" Who was it from ?"
Bee looked her mother in the face. '' I
have never made any secret of it," she said.
*' I have read them openly before papa — I
never would pretend they were anything
different. Of course it was from Aubrey,
*' Oh, Bee!" said her mother. *' You have
never told me what your father said to you
that morning. He told me that it was all
over and done with — that he would never
listen to another word on the subject."
" That was what he told me."
" Oh, Bee, Bee ! and yet "
"Stop a moment, mamma! He never
said I was not to write ; he never said there
was to be no correspondence. Had he said
so, I should have, at least, considered what
it was best to do."
''Considered what was best! But you
were not the judge. I hope you would have
obeyed your father, Bee."
232 THE SORCERESS.
" I cannot say, mamma. You must
remember that it Is my case and not his.
I don't know what I should have done.
But it was not necessary, for he said nothing
*' Bee, my dear child, he may have said
nothing ; but you know very well that when
he said it was entirely broken off he meant
what he said."
" Papa is very capable of saying what he
means," said Bee. " I did not think it was
any business of mine to inquire what might
be his secret meaning. Mamma, dear, don't
be vexed ; but, oh, that would have been too
hard ! And for Aubrey, too."
" I think much less of Aubrey that he
should carry on a clandestine correspondence
with a girl like you."
"Clandestine!" cried Bee, with blazing
eyes. "No more clandestine than your
letters that come by the post with your own
name upon them. If Aubrey did not scorn
anything that is clandestine, I should. There
is nothing like that between him and me."
*' I never supposed you would be guilty
of any artifice, Bee ; but you are going com-
THE SORCERESS. 233
pletely against your father — making a fool of
him, indeed — making it all ridiculous — when
you carry on a correspondence, as if you were
engaged, after he has broken everything off"
" I am engaged," said Bee, very low.
*' What do you say ? Bee, this is out of the
question. I shall have to tell your father
when he comes back. "Oh! child, child,
how you turn this delightful time into trouble.
I shall be obliged to tell your father when he
" Perhaps it will be your duty, mamma,"
said Bee, the colour going out of her face ;
*'and then I shall have to consider what is
mine," she said.
" Oh, Bee, Bee ! Oh I how hard you make
it for me. Oh ! how I wish you had never
seen him, nor heard of him," Mrs. Kingsward
This communication made a little breach
between Bee and her mother and planted a
thorn in Mrs. Kingsward's breast. She had
been getting on so well ; the quiet (which
meant the riot of the seven nursery children
and all their troublesome ways) had been
doing her so much good, and the absence of
every care save that Johnny should not take
cold, and Lucy eat enough dinner — that Ic
was hard upon her thus to be brought back
in a moment to another and a more pressing
kind of care. However, after an hour or
two's estrangement from. Bee, which ended
in a fuller expansion than ever of sympathy
between them — and a morning or two in
which Mrs. Kingsward remembered as soon
THE SORCERESS. 235
as she awoke that It would be her duty to tell
her husband aud break up the pleasant peace
and harmony of the household — the sweet-
ness of that dolce far niente swept over her
again and obliterated or at least blurred the
outline of all such troublous thoughts.
Colonel Kingsward sent a hasty telegram to
say that he was going on somewhere else for
another ten days' shooting, and that, though
she exclaimed at first with a countenance of
dismay, " Oh, children, papa is not coming
home for another week !" in reality gave a
pang of relief to her mind. Gliding into her
being, she scarcely knew how, was an
inclination to take every day as it came
without thinking of to-morrow — which was
perfectly natural, no doubt, and yet was an
unconscious realisation of the fact, which as
yet she had never put Into words, nor had
suggested to her, that those gentle days were
numbered. Her husband's delay was in one
way like a reprieve to her. She had, like all
simple natures, a vague faith in accident, in
something that might turn up — "perhaps the
world may end to-night " — something at
least might happen in another ten days to
236 THE SORCERESS.
make it unnecessary for her to disturb the
existing state of affairs and throw new
trouble into the house. She did not waver
at first as to her duty, though nothing in the
world could be more painful ; and Bee did
not say a word to change her mother's
resolution. Bee had always been aware that
as soon as it was known the matter must
come to another crisis — and the scorn with
which she regarded the idea of doing
anything clandestine prevented her even
from asking that her secret should be kept.
It was not in her mind but in her mother's
that those faint doubtings at last arose —
those half entertained thoughts that a letter
or two could do no harm ; that the corre-
spondence would drop of itself when it
was seen between the two that there was no
hope in it ; and that almost anything would
be better than a storm of domestic dispeace
and the open rebellion in which Mrs. Kings-
ward felt with a shudder Bee would place
herself. How are you to break the will of a
girl who will not be convinced, who says it is
not your, but her affair ?
No doubt that was true enough. It was
THE SORCERESS. 237
Bee, not Colonel KIngsward, whose happi-
ness was concerned. According to all the
canons of poetry and literature in general,
which in such matters permeate theoretically
the general mind when there is no strong
personal instinct to crush them, Bee had
right on her side — and her mother's instinct
was all on the side of poetry and romance
and Bee. She had not the courage to cut
short that correspondence, not clandestine
though unrevealed, which kept the girl's
heart alive, and was not without attractions
to the mother also, into whose ear it mieht
be w^hispered now and then (with alwa}'s a
faint protest on her part) that Aubrey had
better hopes, that he had a powerful friend
who was going to speak for him. If they
really meant to be faithful to each other —
and there was no doubt that was what they
meant — they must win the day in the end ;
and what harm would it do in the meantime
that they should hear of each other from time
to time ? Whereas, if she betrayed the secret,
there would at once be a dreadful commotion
in the house, and Bee would confront her
father and tell him with those blazing eyes,
230 THE SORCERESS.
SO like his, that it was her affair. Mrs.
Klngswarcl knew that her husband would
never stoop to the manoeuvre of Intercepting
letters, or keeping a watch upon those that
his daughter received ; and what can you do
to a girl who says that? She shrank more,
than any words could say from the renewal
of the conflict. She had been so thankful to
believe that it had passed over and all things
settled into peace while she was 111. Now
that she was better her heart sank within her
at the thought of bringing it all on again,
which would also make her 111 again she was
convinced. Yet, at the same time, if she
could not persuade Bee to give it up ot
herself (of which there was no hope what-
ever), then she must, it was her duty, inform
her husband. But her heart rose a little at
that ten days' reprieve. Perhaps the world
might end to-night. Something might
happen to make it unnecessary in those ten
And something did happen, though not in
any way what Mrs. Kingsward could have
Colonel Kings ward's return was approach-
THE SORCERESS. 239
ing very near when on one of those bright
October afternoons a lady from the neigh-
bourhood — nay, it was the clergywoman of
the parish, the Rector of Kings warden's wife,
the very nearest of all neighbours — came to
call. She had just returned from that series
of visits which in the autumn is — with all
who respect themselves — the natural course
of events. Mrs. Chichester was a woman of
good connection, of " private means," and
more or less ''in society," so that she carried
out this programme quite as if she had been
a great lady. She had an air of importance
about her, which seemed to shadow forth
from her very entrance something that she
had to say — an unusual gravity, a look of
having to make up her mind to a certain
action which was not without difficulty.
There passed a glance between Mrs. Kings-
ward and Bee, in which they said to each
other, "What is it this time .'^" as clearly as
words could have said ; for, to be sure, they
were well acquainted with this lady's ways.
She sat for a little, and talked of their res-
pective travels since they had last met ; and
of the pleasant weeks she had passed at
240 THE SORCERESS.
Homburg, where so many pleasant people
were always to be met after the London
season ; and then she lightly touched on
the fact that she had come over early in
September, and since then had been staying
at a number of country places, with the dear
Bishop, and at Lady Grandmaison's, and
with old Sir Thomas down in Devonshire,
and so on.
'' Or," she concluded, with a dispropor-
tionate emphasis on that apparently unim-
portant word, '' I should have been to see
you long ago."
There was a significance in this which
again made Mrs. Kingsward and Bee
exchange a look — a laughing glance — as of
those who had heard the phrase before.
When, however, she had asked some ques-
tions about Mrs. Kingsward's health, and
expressed the proper feeling — sorry to hear
she had been so poorly ; delighted that she
was so much better — Mrs. Chichester de-
parted from her established use and wont.
Instead of beginning upon the real object of
her visit, after she had taken her cup of tea,
with a '' Now," (also very emphatic) " I want
THE SORCERESS. 24 1
to interest you in something I have very
much at heart," — which was generally a sub-
scription, a society, a bazaar, a missionary
meeting, or something of the sort — Mrs.
Chichester bent forward and said, in a half
whisper, " I have something I want very
much to talk to you about. Could I speak to
you for a moment — alone?"
Bee was much surprised, but took her part
with promptitude. "You want to get rid of
me," she said. " I shall go out on to the
terrace, mamma, and you can call me from
the window when you want me. I shall be
sure to hear."
There was another look between them,
always with a laugh in it, as she stepped out
of the open window, with a book in her hand,
a look which repeated, " What can it be,
now ? " with the same amusement as at first,
but with more surprise. Bee made a circuit
round the lawn with her book, one finger shut
in it to mark the place; looking at the flowers,
as one does who knows every plant individu-
ally, and notes each bud that is opening, and
which are about to fall. She calculated within
herself how long the dahlias would last, and
VOL. I. R
242 THE SORCERESS.
that the Gloire de Dijon roses must be cut
to-morrow, as she pursued her way towards
the walnut tree, under which she meant to
place herself. But Bee had not been there
many minutes before she felt a little shiver
creep over her. It was getting rather cold in,
this late October to sit out of doors, when the
sun was already off the garden, and she had,
as girls say, '' nothing on." She got up again,
and made her way round to a garden bench
which was set against the wall of the house,
at the spot where the sunshine lasted longest.
There was still a level ray of ruddy light
pouring on that seat, and Bee forgot, or
rather never thought, that it was close to the
drawing-room window. Her mind was not
much exercised about Mrs. Chichester's secret,
which probably concerned the mothers and
babies of the parish, and which she certainly
had no curiosity to hear. Besides, no doubt,
the visitor had told by this time all the private
details there were to tell. Bee sat down upon
the bench, taking no precautions to disguise
the sound of her footsteps, and opened her
book. She was not an enthusiastic student,
though she liked a novel as well as anyone ;
THE SORCERESS. 243
but her eyes strayed from it to the great
width of the horizon in front of her, and the
ruddy glory in the west, in which was just
about to disappear that last long golden ray
of the sun.
Then she heard a low cry — an exclamation,
stifled, yet full of horror. Was it mamma ?
What could the clergywoman be saying to
bring from mamma's lips such a cry ? Bee —
I cannot blame her — pricked up her ears.
]Mrs. Kings ward was not strong enough to
be disturbed by horrors with which she had
nothing to do.
" Oh, I cannot believe it ; I cannot believe
it !" she said.
'' But," said the other voice, with that
emphasis at which Bee had laughed so often,
" I can assure you it is true. I saw him
myself shaking hands with the woman at the
station. I might not have believed Miss
Tatham's story, but I saw with my own
eyes that it was Mr. Leigh. I had met him
at Sir Thomas's the year before — when he
was still in deep mourning for his wife, you
'' Mr. Leigh ! So it was something about
244 THE SORCERESS.
Aubrey ! Then it was Bee's business still
more than her mother's, and she listened
without any further thought.
'' But," said Mrs. Kingsward, as If taking
courage, "you must be mistaken; oh, not
about seeing him shake hands with a woman
— why shouldn't he shake hands with a
woman? He Is very friendly with every-
body. Perhaps he knew her, and there is
nothing to find fault with in that."
" Now," said Mrs. Chichester, solemnly,
'' should I have mentioned it had it been
confined to that ? I only told you of that as
a proof. The thing is that he put In this
woman — a common woman, like a servant — •
Into a sleeping carriage — you know what
those sleeping carriages cost ; a perfect
fortune ; far too much for any comfort there
is In them — In the middle of the night, with
her two children. The woman behaved
quite nicely, Miss Tatham says, and looked
shocked to be put in with a lady, and blushed
all over her face, and told that ridiculous
story to account for It. Poor thing ! One can
only be sorry for her. Probably some poor
thing deceived, and thinking she was to be
THE SORCERESS. 245
made a lady of. But I know what you must
think of the man, Mrs. Kingsward, who coukl
do such a thing on his way from staying with
your own family, even if there had been no
more in it than that."
" But Mr. Leigh is very kind — kind to
everybody — it might have been nothing but
** Charity — in an express train sleeping
carriage ! Well, I confess I never heard of
charity like that. Gentlemen generally know
better than to compromise themselves for
nothing in that sort of way. They are more
afraid of risking themselves in railway
carriages and thai kind of thing than girls
are — much more afraid. And if you remem
ber, Mrs. Kingsward, what kind of reputation
Mr. Leigh had in his poor wife's time —
keeping that Miss Lance all the time in her
very house under her eyes."
" I have always heard that it was ?ylrs.
Leigh who insisted upon keeping Miss
"Is it likely?" said Mrs. Chichester. "I
ask you, knowing what you do of human
nature ? And then a thing to happen like this
246 THE SORCERESS.
on his very way home — when he had just
left you and poor little Bee. Oh, it is
shameless, shameless ! I could not contain
myself when I heard of it. And then it was
said that the Colonel had broken off the
engagement, and I thought it would be a
comfort to you to know that other things
were occurring every day, and that it was the
only thing to do."
"It is no comfort to me — and I cannot — I
cannot believe it !"
'' Dear Mrs. Kingsward, you always take
the best view ; but if you had seen him, as I
did, holding the woman's hand, bending over
her with such a look ! — I was afraid he would
kiss her, there, before everybody. And I,
knowing of the engagement, and that he had
just left you — before Miss Tatham said a
word — I sat and stared, and couldn't believe
my eyes. It was the tenth of September, and
he had left Bee, hadn't he, the night before ?''
" I never remember dates," said Mrs.
"I do," replied the visitor, "and I took
the trouble to find out. At least, I found out
by accident, through someone who saw him
THE SORCERESS. 247
at the club, and who had just discovered the
rights of that story about Miss Lance. Oh,
I trust you will not be beguiled by his being
a good parti, or that sort of thing, to trust
dear Bee in such hands ! Marriage is always
rather a disenchantment ; but think what it
would be in such a case — a man that can't be
trusted to travel between Cologne and
London without "
" I don't believe it! I don't believe it!"
said Mrs. Kings ward ; and Bee heard that
her mother had melted into tears.
" That is as good as saying you don't
believe me, who saw it with my own eyes,"
said the visitor, getting up. "Indeed, I didn't
mean at all to distress you, for I thought
that, as everything was broken off — I thought
only if you had any doubts, as one has some-
times after one has settled a thing — that to
know he was a man like that, with no respect
for anything, who could leave his Jiaiicee, and
just plunge, plunge — there is no other word
for it "
It was evident that Mrs. Kingsward,
reduced to helplessness, here made no effort
either to detain her visitor or to contradict
248 THE SORCERESS.
her further, or indeed to make any remark.
There was a step or two across the room,
and then Mrs. Chichester said again —
"Good-bye, dear. I am very sorry to have
distressed you — but I couldn't leave you in
ignorance of such a thing for dear Bee's
sake ; that is the one thing to be thankful
for in the whole matter, that Bee doesn't
seem to mind a bit ! She looks just as
bright and just as nice as if nothing had
happened. She can't have cared for him !
Only flattered, I suppose, and pleased to
have a proposal — as those little things are,
poor things. We should all thank heaven
on our knees that there's no question of a
broken heart in Bee's case "
She might not have been so sure of that
had she seen the figure which came through
the window the moment the door had closed
upon her — Bee with her blue eyes blazing
wildly out of her white face, and strange
passion in every line both of features and
'' What is the meaning of it ?" she said,
briefly, with dry lips.
'' Oh, Bee, you have heard it all ! "
THE SORCERESS. 249
" I have heard enough — what does it
mean, mamma ?"
Mrs. Kingsward roused herself, dried her
eyes, and went forward to Bee with out-
stretched arms ; but the girl turned away.
'' I don't want to be petted. I want to know
what — what it means," she said.
'* I don't believe it," cried Mrs. Kingsward.
"Give a reason; don't say things to
quiet me. Oh, keep your arms away,
mamma ! Don't pet me as if I wanted that !
Why don't you believe it? And if you did
believe it — what does it mean — what does
it mean ?"
Bee's look of scared and horrified misery
was something new in Mrs. Kingsward's
experience. The girl had not known any
trouble. Her father's rejection of her lover
and the apparent break between them had
been in reality only another feature in the
romance. She had almost liked it better so.
There had been no time to pine, to feel the
pain of separation. It was all the more like
a poem, like what every love story should
be, that this breaking off should have come.
And now, all at once, without any warning !
The worst of it was that Bee had only heard
a part of the story, the recapitulation of it.
Mrs. Chichester had given the accused more
or less fair play. She had given an imperfect
THE SORCERESS. 25 I
account of the explanation, the story the
woman had told — as was almost inevitable to
a third party, but she had given it to the
best of her ability, not meaning to deceive,
w^illing enough that he should have the
benefit of the doubt, or perhaps that the
judgment upon him should be all the more
hard, because of his attempt to mingle deceit
with his sin, and throw dust in the eyes of
any possible spectators. This was the way
in which it had appeared to herself, but she
was not unfair. She told the story which
had been told to the astonished lady upon
whose solitude the little party had been
obtruded in the middle of the night, and who
had heard it perhaps even imperfectly at
first hand mingled with the jolting and
jarring of the train and the murmur of the
children. And yet ]\Irs. Chichester had
repeated it honestly.
But Bee had not heard that part of the
tale. She had heard only the facts of the
case which had presented to her inexperienced
young mind the most wild and dreadful
picture. Her lover, who had just left her,
whom she had promised to stand by till
252 THE SORCERESS.
death, suddenly appeared to her In the pale
darkness of the midnight with a woman and
children hanging on to him — belonging to
him, as appeared. Where had he met them ?
How had he arranged to meet them ? When
her hand had been in his, when he had been
asking from her that pledge till death, had he
just been arranging all that — giving them
that rendezvous — settling how they were to
meet, and where ? A horror and sickness
came over poor Bee. It made her head swim
and her limbs tremble. To leave her with
her pledge in his ears, and to meet, perhaps
at the very outset of his journey, the woman
with the children — a common sort of woman,
like a servant. As if that made any difference !
If she had been a duchess it would have been
all the same. He must have met her fresh
from Bee's presence, with his farewell to the
girl whom he had pretended to love still on
his lips. She could not think so clearly. Was
this picture burnt in upon her mind ? She
seemed to see the dim, half-lighted carriage,
and Aubrey at the door putting the party in.
And then at Dover, in the daylight, shaking
hands with his companion, bending over her
THE SORCERESS. 253
as If he meant to kiss her I These two
pictures took possession of Bee's mind com-
pletely. And all this just when he had left
Bee — between his farewell to her and his
interview with her father! If she had heard
of the story which the woman had told to the
startled ]\Iiss Tatham in the dim sleeping
carriage, from which, looking out. she had
recognised Aubrey Leigh, it might have
made a difference. But that story had not
been told in Bee's hearing. And Mrs.
Kingsward did not know this, but supposed
she had heard the whole from beginning to
Bee's mother, to tell the truth, after the
first shock, was glad of that unconscious
eaves-dropping on Bee's part ; for how could
she have told her ? Indeed, the story was
too gross, too flagrant to be believed by
herself. She felt sure that there must be
some explanation of it other than the vulgar
one which was put upon it by these ladies ;
but she knew verv well that the same inter-
pretation would be put upon it by her
husband, and many other people to whom
Aubrev's innocent interference in such a case
2 54 THE SORCERESS.
would have seemed much less credible than
guilt. Guilt is the thing that generally rises
first as the explanation of everything, to the
mind, both of the man and woman of the
world. The impossibility of a man leaving a
delicate flower of womanhood like Bee, whose
first love he had won, in order to fall back at
once into the bonds of a common intrigue,
and provide for the comfort of his paramour,
who had been waiting for him on the
journey, would not prove so great to most
people as the impossibility that he, as a
stranger, would step out of his way to
succour a poor little mother and children
whom he had never seen before, and risk
thereby a compromising situation.
The latter was the thing which would have
seemed unutterably ridiculous and impossible
to Colonel Kingsward. A first-class sleeping
carriage secured for a mere waif upon his
way, whom he had never seen before and
never would see again ! The fellow might be
a fool, but he was not such a fool as that.
Had the woman even been old and ugly the
Colonel would have laughed and shrugged
his shoulders at Aubrey's bad taste ; but the
woman was pretty and young. A long-stand-
ing affair, no doubt ; and, of course, it was
quite possible, nay likely, that she was being
sent, poor creature, to some retreat or other,
where she would be out of the way with her
Mrs. Kingsward knew, as if she had heard
him say these words, how her husband would
speak. And who was she, with not half
his experience of the world, to maintain a
different opinion ? Yet she did so. She
thought it was like Aubrey to turn the
poor woman's lingering, melancholy journey
into a quick and comfortable one, out of pure
kindness, without thought of compromising
himself any more than of having any recom-
pense for what he did. But she did not
know that Bee knew nothing of this explana-
tion of the story. When she found that her
child evidently thought nothing of that, but
received at once the darker miserable tale
into her mind, she was startled, but not
perhaps astonished. Bee was young to think
the worst of anybody, but at the same time it
is by far the commonest way of thinking, and
the offence w^as one against herself, which
256 THE SORCERESS.
gives a sharper edge to everything. And
then she knew what was going on in Bee's
mind chiefly by guesswork, for the girl said
Httle. The colour went out of her face, her
eyes sometimes gave a gleam of their old
fire, but mostly had a strange set look, as if
they were fixed on something not visible to
the ordinary spectator. She sat all the even-
ing through and never spoke. This was not
so noticeable while the children were still
about with their perpetual flow of observa-
tions and flood of questions ; but when they
went off in detachments to bed, and the two
elder girls were left alone with their mother,
Bee's silence fell upon the others like a cloud.
Betty, who knew nothing, after a few min-
utes rushed away upstairs to find refuge in
the nursery, and then Mrs. Kingsward was
left alone, face to face with this silent figure,
so unlike Bee, which neither moved nor
spoke. She had scarcely the courage to
break the dreadful silence, but yet it had to
be broken. Poor Mrs. Kingsward's heart
began to beat violently against her breast as
it had not done since her return home.
" Bee!" she said. '' Bee!"
THE SORCERESS. 257
Already the pumping of her heart had
taken away her breath.
" Yes, mamma."
" Oh ! Bee, what — what are you going to
*' To do, mamma ?"
'' Oh ! don't repeat my words after me, but
give me some sort of an answer. Betty may
be back again in a moment. What are you
going to do ?"
''What can I do .'^" the girl said, in a low
" I can't suppose but that you have been
thinking about it — what else could you be
thinking of, poor child ? For my part, I don't
believe it. Do you hear me, Bee ?''
" Yes — I heard you say that before,
'' And that is all you think of what I say !
My darling, you can't remain like this. The
first thing your father will ask will be, * What
has happened ?' I cannot bear that you
should give up — without a word."
Mrs. Kingsward had disapproved of the
correspondence, had felt that it would be
incumbent upon her to tell her husband of it,
VOL I. s
2 58 THE SORCERESS.
but yet in this unforeseen emergency she
forgot all that.
'' Without a word ! What words could I
say ? You don't suppose I could discuss it
with him — ask if it was true ? If it's true,
there isn't a word to say, is there ? And if it
isn't true it would be an insult to ask him.
And so one way or another it is all just done
with and over. And I wish you would leave
me quiet, mamma."
" Done with and over ! Without a word —
on a mere story of something that took place
on a journey !"
'' Oh ! leave me quiet, mamma. Do you
think I need to be reminded of that journey ?
As if I did not see it, and the lamps burning,
and hear the very wheels ! "
'' Bee, dear, how can I leave you quiet ?
Do you mean just to let it break off like that,
without a word, without giving him the
chance to explain ? "
" I thought," said Bee, with a faint satirical
smile, for, indeed, her heart was capable of
all bitterness, " that it was broken off com-
pletely by papa, and all that remained was
only — what you called clandestine, mamma. '
THE SORCERESS. 259
" I did not call it clandestine. I knew you
would do nothing that was dishonourable.
And it is true that it was — broken off. But,
Bee ! Bee ! you don't seem to feel the dreadful
thing this is. After all that has passed, to let
it drop in a moment, without saying a
word ! "
'' I thought it was what I ought to have
done, as soon as papa's will was made
' Oh ! Bee, you will drive me mad. And I
have got no breath to speak, So you ought,
perhaps — but you have not, when perhaps
there was a reason. And now, for a mere
chance story, and without giving him — an
opportunity — to speak for himself."
Bee raised her face, now crimson as it had
before been pale.
" How could I put any questions on such
a thing ? How could it be discussed between
him and me ? To think of it is bad enough,
but to speak of it — mamma ! How do I know,
even, what words to say ? "
"In that case, every engagement would be
at the mercy of any slanderer, if the girl
never could bring herself to ask what it
260 THE SORCERESS.
" I am not any girl," cried poor Bee, with
a quiver of her Hp. " I am just myself. I
don't think very much of myself any more
than you do, but I can't change myself. Oh,
let me alone, let me alone, mamma ! "
Mrs. Kingsward was very much excited.
Her nostrils grew pinched and dilated in the
struggle for breath ; her lips were open and
panting from the same cause. She was
caught in that dreadful contradiction of senti-
ment and feeling which is worse than any
unmingled catastrophe. She had been rent
asunder before this by her desire to shield her
daughter, yet the sense of her duty to her
husband remained, and now it was the corres-
pondence which she seemed to be called upon
to defend almost at peril of her life ; that
actually clandestine, at least secret corres-
pondence, of which she could not approve,
which she was bound to cut short. And yet
to cut it short like this was something which
she could not bear. She threw aside the
work with which she had been struggling and
fixed her eyes on Bee, w^ho did not look at
her nor see how agitated her expression was.
" If you can do this, I can't," she said.
THE SORCERESS. 26 1
" I will write to him. The other dreadful
story may be true, for anything I know.
And that, of course, is enough. But this one
I don't believe, if an angel from Heaven told
it me. He shall at least have the chance of
" I don't know," said Bee, ''what the other
dreadful story was. I thought it was only
pretending to love — some other woman ; and
then — pretending to love vie " — she broke
off into a little hoarse laugh. The offence of
it was more than Bee could bear. The
insult — to suffer (she said to herself) was one
thing — but to be insulted ! She laughed to
think what a fool she had been ; how she had
been taken in; how she had said — oh, like the
veriest credulous fool — ** Till death."
" He was not pretending to love you.
What went before I know not, but with you
he was true."
" One before — and one after," said Bee,
rising in an irrepressible rage of indignation.
" Oh, mamma, how can we sit quietly and
discuss it, as if — as if it were a thing that
could be talked about .^ Am I to come in
between — two others — two I think it
262 THE SORCERESS.
will make me mad," the girl cried, stamping
her foot. How does a man dare to do that —
to insult a girl — who never sought him nor
heard of him, wanted nothing of him — till he
came and forced himself into her life !"
*' Oh ! Bee, my darling," cried the mother,
going up to her child with outstretched arms.
" Don't touch me, don't touch me, don't
pet me ; I cannot bear it. Let me stand by
myself I am not a little thing like Lucy to
be caught up and kissed till I forget. I
don't want to forget. There is nothing that
can ever be done to me, if I were to live to
an hundred, to put this out of my head."
" Bee, be patient with me for a moment.
I have lived longer than you have. What
went before could be no offence to you,
whatever it was. It might be bad, but it
was no offence to you. And this — I don't
believe it "
Bee was far too much self-absorbed to see
the labouring breath, the pink spot on each
cheek, the panting which made her mother's
fine nostrils quiver and kept her lips apart,
or that she caught at the back of a chair to
support herself as she stood.
THE SORCERESS. 263
** I don't know why — you shouldn't beHeve
it. I don't beHeve it ; I see it, I hear it,"
cried Bee. " It's Hke a story — and I thought
these things were always stories, things made
up to keep up the interest in a book
I'm the — deceived heroine, the one that's dis-
appointed, don't you know, mamma .'^ We've
read all about her dozens of times. But she
generally makes a fuss over it," the girl said,
with her suffocating laugh. " I shall make —
no fuss Mamma ! What is the matter,
Nothing more was the matter than the
doctor could have told Mrs. Kings ward's
family long ago — a spasm of the heart. She
stumbled backward to the sofa, and flung
herself down before consciousness forsook
her. Did consciousness forsake her at all ?
Bee rushing to the bell, making its violent
sound peal through the house, then flinging
herself at her mother's feet, and calling to her in
the helplessness of utter ignorance, " Mamma,
mamma !" did not think that she was uncon-
scious. Broken words fell from her in the
midst of her gasps for breath, then there was
a moment of dread stillness. By this time
264 THE SORCERESS.
the room seemed to be full of people — Bee
did not know who was there — and then there
suddenly appeared out of the mist Moulsey
with a glass and teaspoon in her hands.
'' Go away, all of you," cried Moulsey,
" she'll be better directly — open all the
windows and take a fan and fan her, Miss
The blast of the cold October night air
came in like a flood. Bee seemed to come
out of a horrible dream in the waft of air
brought by the fan which she was herself
waving to and fro — and in a little time, as
Moulsey said, Mrs. Kingsward was better.
The labouring breath which had come back
after that awful moment of stillness gradually
calmed down and became softer with an
occasional long drawn sigh, and then she
opened her eyes and said, with a faint smile,
"What is it? What is it?" She looked
round her for a moment puzzled — and then
she said, "Ah! you are fanning me," with a
smile to Bee, but presently, " How cold it is !
I don't think I want to be fanned, Moulsey."
" No, ma'am, not now. And White is just
a-going to shut all the windows. The fire
THE SORCERESS. 265
was a bit too hot, and you know you never
can bear it when the room gets too hot."
'* No, I never can bear it," Mrs. Kings-
ward said, in a docile tone. She followed
the lead of any suggestion given to her. " I
must have got faint — with the heat."
''That was just it," said Moulsey. "When
you have a fire in the drawing-room so early
it looks so cheerful you're apt to pile it too
high without thinking — for It ain't really cold
in October, not cold enough to have a fire
like that. You want It for cheerfulness,
ma'am, more than for heat. A big bit of
wood that will make a nice blaze, and very
little coal, as is too much for the season, is
what your drawing-room fire should be."
Mrs. Kingsward gradually came to herself
during this long speech, which no doubt was
what Moulsey intended. But she said she
felt a little weak, and that she would keep on
the sofa until It was time to go to bed. The
agitation she had gone through seemed to
have passed from her mind. " Read me a
little of that story," she said, pointing to a
book on the table. " We left off last night at
a most interesting part. Read me the next
266 THE SORCERESS.
Bee sat down beside her mother's sofa and
opened the book. It was not a book of a
very exciting kind it may be supposed, when
it was thus read a chapter at a time, without
any one of the party opening it from evening
to evening to see how things went on. But
as It happened at this point of the story, the
heroine had found out that her lover was not
so blameless as she thought, and was making
up her mind to have nothing to do with him.
Bee began to read with an indignation
beyond words for both hero and heroine, who
were so pale, so colourless, beside her own
story. To waste one's time reading stuff like
this, while the tide of one's own passion was
ten times stronger ! She did not think very
much of her mother's faint. It was, no
doubt, the too large fire, as Moulsey said.
END OF FIRST VOLUME.
TILLOTSON AND SON, PRINTERS. BOLTON.