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Full text of "The Sorceress : a novel"

'"^^fi^ 



THE SORCERESS. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/sorceressnovel01olip 



^^^ 



THE SORCERESS. 



B Bouel. 



MRS. OLIPHANT, 

AUTHOK OK 

"THE CHRONICLES OF CARLIXGFORD," 
"THE CUCKOO IN THE NEST," 

ETC., ETC. 



/X THREE VOL UMES. 



VOL. L 



LONDON : 

F. V. WHITE & Co., 

31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C. 

iS93- 

iALL RIGHTS RESERVED ] 



PRINT liU BY 

TILLOTSON AND SON, UULTdX, 

LONDON, NEW YORK, ANU BERLIN. 



V, I 






THE SORCERESS. 



^Y CHAPTERI. 

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 
bride. 

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 
papa." 

" 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 
Aubrey Leigh. 

'' 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 
trees " 

" 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 
world." 

''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 



17 

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. 



VOL. I. 



CHAPTER II. 

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 
good. 



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 
known ? 

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 
to herself. 

" 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, 
like Bee. 



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 
pale. 

"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 
hand shake. 



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 
our hotel." 

" 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 
married before." 

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. 



CHAPTERIII. 

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 
thing." 

'' 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 
flowers. 

'' 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 
Hatto's tower. 

'' 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 
you, mamma." 

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 
knew ?" 

" But you always did know from the very 
beginning, Bee ? " 

'* Well, perhaps I suspected — and used to 
think " 

''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 
of pleasure. 

"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 
adjuncts permitted. 

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 
first. 

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 
me ■ 

" 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. 



UBRARY 

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. 



CHAPTER IV. 

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 
to-night." 

" But, mamma " they both began in 

remonstrance. 



THE SORCERESS. 55 

'' Go down and get your dinner," said ^Irs. 
Kingsward, peremptorily. 

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 
hotel. 

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 
once " 

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 
quarrelled too. 

" 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 
meal. 

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 
know." 

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 
Bee—" 

" 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 
table downstairs. 

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 
way ? 

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 
said. 

" 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, 
mamma ?" 



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 
be." 

'' 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 
voice. 

" 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 
come here." 

''The tall young gentleman?" said the 
waiter. 



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. 



CHAPTER V. 

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 
his life. 

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 
light. 

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 
be!" 

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 
all ?" 

" 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 
late " 

" But mamma's better," cried Betty. "She 
has taken her cure, and she's all right till 
next year." 

" 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, 
too." 

'' 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 ? 



CHAPTER VI. 

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- 
heard " 

" 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 
yourself." 

*' 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 
going out. 

'' 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 
happened. 

'' Is that you, Bee?" she said, smiling, not 
thinking. 

'' 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 
say." 

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 
me." 

" 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 
blazing eyes. 

" 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 
say." 

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 
say. 

'' 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 
of doubt." 

" 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," 
Moulsey said. 

" 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 
mother's chair. 

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 — ' 



CHAPTER VII. 

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 
everything, Bee." 

"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- 
ward's hands." 

" 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 
why." 

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 
eyes. 

" 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 
to her." 

"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 
more." 

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 
proper." 

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 
teeth. 

" 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 
wife " 

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 
year. 

" 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 
voice. 

She could not say a word. She shook her 
head like a mute, looking at him with her 
dazed eyes. 

''She does not understand it — not a word!" 
he said. 

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 
life ? 



CHAPTER VIII. 

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 
smile. 

" 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 
his heart. 

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 
every way." 

"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 
Leigh ?" 

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 



I30 



THE SORCERESS. 



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 
forbidden thing. 

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," 
Aubrey said. 

'' Ah, yes. I believe my wife says so in 
her letter." 

" 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 
me 

*' 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 
say ! 



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." 



CHAPTER IX. 

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 
weak fool. 

" 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 
on. 

''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 
child." 

'' 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 
nothing less." 

'' 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 
left ?" 

" 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 



144 



THE SORCERESS. 



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 
arm. 

*' 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 
your letter?" 

" 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 
that time." 

" 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 
inmate." 

" 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. 
Leigh " 

''Sir," cried Aubrey, stung beyond hear- 
ing, " I will not permit any man to pity my 
wife." 

" 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 
mother." 

''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 
friends." 

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 
more ?" 

'' Well — if you like to put it so — I prefer 
not to hear any more." 

**Not if Bee's happiness should be in- 
volved ?" 

" 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 

J) 
you. 

''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 
salvation !" 

"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 
claims." 



CHAPTER X. 

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 
more. 

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 
concerned." 

" 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 



J) 
me. 



'' 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- 
ness " 

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 
married life." 

" 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, 
dubiously. 

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 
their patience." 

" 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. 



CHAPTER XI. 

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 
said. 

" 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 
rest " 

'•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 
through." 



I 82 THE SORCERESS. 

*' Betty, you get in," said Bee. *' I will go 
with you, Charlie, for I have got mamma's 
keys." 

''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 
Baths." 

" 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 
that." 

" 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 
yourself." 

" Do you think papa will stand to it like 
that, Aubrey ?" 

Aubrey shook his head. He did not make 
any reply. 

" Tell me. Is it a lie ?" she said, 

He bent down his head upon her hand, 
kissing it. 



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 
through ?" 

"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 
you ?" 

" Nothing very much. Asked me about the 
people at the hotel, and if there were any 



THE SORCERESS. 



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 
know why." 

'' 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 !" 



CHAPTER XII. 

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 
speak. 

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 
against us." 

*'Bee! Bee!" 

"And we promised each other we should 
never, never give up, whatever anyone might 
say." 

" 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 
her heart. 

'' 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 
mother's cheek. 

'' 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, 
aloud. 

'' What is she promising, Lucy ? And what 
were you saying to her ? Bee should know 
better at her age than to disturb you with 
talk." 

" 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 
yourself." 

** I always do, Edward," she said with a 
smile. 

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 
his friends. 

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 
would bring. 

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. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

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, 
Southwood." 

" 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 
said. 

'' 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 
know this." 

" 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 
doctor says." 

" Is mamma — very ill ?" Bee asked, be- 
wildered. 

" 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 
you, Bee." 

*' 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 
your side." 

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 
speech. 

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 
in surprise. 

" 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 
fire. 

'' 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 
startled sight. 

'• 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, 
papa ?" 

*' 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- 
ment. 

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 
family." 

" 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 
that " 

" 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 
be gainsaid. 

"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 
beyond words. 

" 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 
his head. 

•'And without mamma to speak for me," 
added Bee. 

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 
good fire." 

" 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 
do." 

"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 
downstairs. 

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 
interfere. 

Mrs. Kingsward had come upon her 
dauofhter seated out on the lawn under the 

o 

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, 
mamma." 

*' 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 
about it." 

*' 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 
comes back." 

" 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 
cried. 



CHAPTER XV. 

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 
days. 

And something did happen, though not in 
any way what Mrs. Kingsward could have 
wished. 

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 
know." 

'' 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." 

** 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 
Lance " 

"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. 
Kingsward, querulously. 

"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 
form. 

'' 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 ?" 



CHAPTER XVI. 

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 
end. 

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 



THE SORCERESS. 



DD 



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 
children. 

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 
do?" 

*' 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 
voice. 

" 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, 
mamma." 

'' 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 
known." 

' 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 
meant." 



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 
clearing himself!" 

" 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, 

mamma ?" 

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 
Bee." 

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 
chapter, Bee." 



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. 











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