(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Sorceress : a novel"




#;^: :■■">;/■■.■. 







WW ■^^. 









•^iis^. 



r 



f? 



* 



m 



THE SORCERESS. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/sorceressnovel02olip 



THE SORCERESS. 



m bouei. 



MRS. OLIPHANT, 

AUTHOK OF 

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

ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOL LMES. 



VOL. II. 



LONDON : 

F. V. WHITE & Co., 

31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C. 

1S93. 

[ALL RIGHTS KESERrED] 



PRINTED BY 

TILLOTSON AND SON, BULTUN, 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BERLIN. 






^. 



c^ 



THE SORCERESS. 



CHAPTER I . 

It was perhaps a very good thing for Bee at 
this distracting and distracted moment of her 
Hfe, that her mother's illness came in to fill 
up every thought. Her own little fabric of 
happiness crumbled down about her ears like 
a house of cards, only as it was far more 
deeply founded and strongly built, the down- 
fall was with a rumbling that shook the earth 
and a dust that rose up to the skies. Heaven 
was blurred out to her by the rising clouds, 
and all the earth was full of the noise, like an 
earthquake, of the falling walls. She could 
not get that sound out of her ears even in 

VOL. II. B 



2 THE SORCERESS. 

Mrs. Kingsward's sick room, where the quiet 
was preternatural, and everybody spoke in 
the lowest tone, and every step was hushed. 
Even then it went on roaring, the stones and 
the rafters flying, the storms of dust and ruin 
blackening the air, so that Bee could not but 
wonder that nobody saw them, that the 
atmosphere was not thick and stifling with 
those debris that were continually falling 
about her own ears. For everything was 
coming down ; not only the idol and the 
shrine he abode in, but heaven and earth, in 
which she felt that no truth, no faith, could 
dwell any longer. Who was there to believe 
in ? Not any man if not Aubrey ; not any 
goodness, any truth, if not his — not anything! 
For it was without object, without warning, 
for nothing at all, that he had deserted her, as 
if it had been of no importance : with the Ink 
not dry on his letter, with her name still 
upon his lips. A great infidelity, like a great 
faith, is always something. It is tragic, one 
of the awful events of life in which there is, 
or may be, fate ; an evil destiny, a terrible 
chastisement prepared beforehand. In such 
a case one can at least feel one's self only a 



THE SORCERESS. 3 

great victim, injured by God himself and the 
laws of the universe, though that was not the 
common fashion of thought then, as it is 
now-a-days. But Bee's downfall did not mean 
so much as that it was not intended by any- 
one — not even by the chief worker in it. He 
had meant to hold Bee fast with one hand 
while he amused himself with the other. 
Amused himself — oh, heaven ! Bee's heart 
seemed to contract with a speechless spasm 
of anguish and rage. That she should be of 
no more account than that ! Played with as 
if she were nobody — the slight creature of a 
moment. She, Bee ! She, Colonel Kings- 
ward's daughter ! 

At first the poor girl went on in a mist of 
self - absorption, through which everything 
else pierced but dully, wrapped up and hidden 
in it as in the storm which would have arisen 
had the house actually fallen about her ears, 
perceiving her mother through it, and the 
doctor, and all the accessories of the scene — 
but dimly, not as if they were real. When, 
however, there began to penetrate through 
this, strange words, with strange meanings 
in them: "Danger" — danger to whom? — 



4 THE SORCERESS. 

'* Strength failing" — but whose strength ? — a 
dull wonder came in, bringing her back to 
other thoughts. By-and-by, Bee began to 
understand a little that it was of her mother 
of whom these things were being said. Her 
mother ? But it was not her mother's house 
that had fallen ; what did it mean ? The 
doctor talked apart with Moulsey, and 
Moulsey turned her back, and her shoulders 
heaved, and her apron seemed to be put to 
her eyes. Bee, in her dream said, half aloud, 
"Danger?" and both the doctor and Moulsey 
turned upon her as if they would have killed 
her. Then she was beckoned out of the 
room, and found herself standing face to face 
with that grave yet kindly countenance which 
she had known all her life, in which she 
believed as in the greatest authority. She 
heard his voice speaking to her through all 
the rumbling and downfall. 

'' You must be very courageous," it said, 
*'You are the eldest, and till your father 
comes home " 

What did it matter about her father coming 
home, or about her being the eldest ? What 
had all these things to do with the earth- 



THE SORCERESS. 5 

quake, with the failure of truth, and meaning, 
and everything in life ? She looked at him 
blankly, wondering if it were possible that he 
did not hear the sound of the great falling, 
the rending of the walls, and the tearing of 
the roof, and the choking dust that filled all 
earth and heaven. 

'' My dear Beatrice," he said, for he had 
known her all his life, " you don't understand 
me, do you, my poor child ?" 

Bee shook her head, looking at him wist- 
fully. Could he know anything more about 
it, she wondered — anything that had still to 
be said ? 

He took her hand, and her poor little hand 
was very cold with emotion and trouble. 
The good doctor, who knew nothing about 
any individual cause little Bee could have for 
agitation, thought he saw that her very being 
was arrested by a terror which as yet her 
intelligence had not grasped ; something 
dreadful in the air which she did not under- 
stand. He drew her into the dining-room, 
the door of which stood open, and poured 
out a little wine for her. " Now, Bee," he 
said, " no fainting, no weakness. You must 



b THE SORCERESS. 

prove what is in you now. It is a dreadful 
trial for you, my dear, but you can do a great 
deal for your dear mother's sake, as she 
would for yours." 

" I have never said it was a trial," cried 
Bee, with a gasp. '' Why do you speak to 
me so .^ Has mamma told you? No one 
has anything to do with it but me." 

He looked at her with great surprise, but 
the doctor was a man of too much experience 
not to see that here was something into 
which it was better not to inquire. He said, 
very quietly, '' You, as the eldest, have no 
doubt the chief part to play ; but the little 
ones will all depend upon your strength and 
courage. Your mother does not herself 
know. She is very ill. It will require all 
that we can do— to pull her through." 

Bee repeated the last words after him with 
a scared look, but scarcely any understanding 
in her face — *'To pull her — through?" 

"Don't you understand me now? Your 
mother— has been ill for a long time. Your 
father is aware of it. I suppose he thought 
you were too young to be told. But now 
that he is absent, and your brother, I have 



THE SORCERESS. 7 

no alternative. Your mother Is In great 
danger. I have telegraphed for Colonel 
KIngsward, but in the meantime, Bee — child, 
don't lose your head ! Do you understand 
me ? She may be dying, and you are the 
only one to stand by her, to give her 
courage." 

Bee did not look as if she had courage for 
anyone at that dreadful moment. She fell 
a-trembling from head to foot and fell back 
against the wall where she was standing. 
Her eyes grew large, staring at him yet 
veiled as if they did not see — and she stam- 
mered forth at length, "Mother, mother!" 
with almost no meaning, in the excess of 
misery and surprise. 

" Yes, your mother ; whatever else you 
may have to think of, she is the first con- 
sideration now." 

He went on speaking, but Bee did not 
hear him ; everything floated around her in a 
mist. The scenes at the Bath, the agitations, 
Mrs. Kingsward's sudden pallors and flush- 
ings, her pretence, which they all laughed at, 
of not being able to walk ; her laziness, lying 
on the sofa, the giddiness when she made 



8 THE SORCERESS. 

that one turn with Charlie, she who had 
always been so fond of dancing ; the hurry 
of bringing her to Kingswarden when Bee 
had felt they would have been so much better 
in London, and her strange, strange new fancy, 
mutely condemned by Bee, of finding the 
children too much for her. Half of these things 
had been silently remarked and disapproved 
of by the daughters. Mamma getting so idle 
— self-indulgent almost, so unlike herself! 
Had they not been too busily engaged in 
their own affairs, Bee and Betty would both 
have been angry with mamma. All these 
things seem to float about Bee in a mist 
while she leaned against the wall and the 
doctor stood opposite to her talking. It was 
only perhaps about a minute after all, but she 
saw waving round her, passing before her 
eyes, one scene melting into another, or rather 
all visible at once, innumerable episodes — 
the whole course of the three months past 
which had contained so much. She came 
out of this strange whirl very miserable but 
very quiet. 

" I think it is chiefly my fault," she said, 
faltering, interrupting the doctor who was 



THE SORCERESS. 9 

talking, always talking ; *' but how could I 
know, for nobody told me ? Doctor, tell me 
what to do now ? You said we should — pull 
her through." 

She gave him a faint, eager, conciliatory 
smile, appealing to him to do It. Of course 
he could do It ! Tell me — tell me only what 
to do." 

He patted her kindly upon the shoulder. 
"That Is right," he said. "Now you 
understand me, and I know I can trust you. 
There Is not much to do. Only to be quiet 
and steady — no crying or agitation. 
Moulsey knows everything. But you must 
be ready and steady, my dear. Sit by her 
and look happy and keep up her courage — 
that's the chief thing. If she gives In It Is 
all over. She must not see that you are 
frightened or miserable. Come, it's a great 
thing to do for a little girl that has never 
known any trouble. But you are of a 
good sort, and you must rise to it for your 
mother's sake." 

Look happy ! That was all she had to do. 
''Can't I help Moulsey," she asked. " I 
could fetch her what she wants. I could — 



lO THE SORCERESS. 

go errands for her. Oh, doctor, something a 
little easier," cried Bee, clasping her hands, 
"just at first!" 

"All that's arranged," he said, hastily, 
" Come, we must go back to our patient. 
She will be wondering what I am talking to 
you about. She will perhaps take fright. 
No, nothing easier, my poor child — If you 
can do that you may help me a great deal ; if 
you can't, go to bed, my dear, that will be 
best." 

She gave him a look of great scorn, and 
moved towards her mother's room, leading 
the way. 

Mrs. KIngsward was lying with her face 
towards the door, watching, in a blaze of 
excitement and fever. Her eyes had never 
been so bright nor her colour so brilliant. 
She was breathing quickly, panting, with her 
heart very audible to herself, pumping in her 
ears, and almost audible in the room, so 
evident was it that every pulse was at fever 
speed. " What have you been telling Bee, 
doctor ? What have you been telling Bee ? 

What " When she had begun this phrase 

it did not seem as if she could stop repeating 
it again and again. 



THE SORCERESS. II 

" I have been telling her that she may sit 
with you, my dear lady, on condition of being 
very quiet, very quiet," said the doctor. " It's 
a great promotion at her age. She has 
promised to sit very still, and talk very little, 
and hush her mamma to sleep. It is you 
who must be the baby to-night. If you can 
get a good long quiet sleep, it will do you all 
the good in the world. Yes, you may hold 
her hand if you like, my dear, and pat it, and 
smooth it — a little gentle mesmerism will do 
no harm. That, my dear lady, is what I 
have been telling Miss Bee." 

" Oh, doctor," said ]\Irs. Kingsward, " don't 
you know she has had great trouble herself, 
poor child ? Poor little Bee ! At her age I 
was married and happy ; and here is she, 
poor thing, plunged into trouble. Doctor, 
you know, there is a — gentleman " 

Mrs. Kingsward had raised herself upon 
her elbow, and the panting of her breath 
filled all the room. 

''Another time — another time you shall 
tell me all about it. But I shall take ]\Iiss 
Bee away, and consign you to a dark room, 
and silence, if you say another word " 



12 THE SORCERESS. 

" Oh, don't make my room dark! I like 
the Hght. I want my child. Let me keep 
her, let me keep her ! Who should — comfort 
her — but her mother?" 

" Yes, so long as you keep quiet. If you 
talk I will take her away. Not a word — not 
a word — till to-morrow." In spite of himself 
there was a change in the doctor's voice as 
he said that word — or Bee thought so — as if 
there might never be any to-morrow. The 
girl felt as if she must cry out, shriek aloud, 
to relieve her bursting brain, but did not, 
overborne by his presence and by the new 
sense of duty and self-restraint. ''Come now," 
he went on, " I am very kind to let you have 
your little girl by you, holding your hand — 
don't you think so ? Go to sleep, both of 
you. If you're quite, quite, quiet you'll both 
doze, and towards the morning I'll look in 
upon you again. Now, not another word. 
Good-night, good-night." 

Bee, whose heart was beating almost as 
strongly as her mother's, heard his measured 
step withdraw on the soft carpets with a 
sense of wild despair, as if the last hope was 
going from her. Her inexperienced imagina- 



THE SORCERESS. 1 3 

tlon had leaped from complete ignorance and 
calm to the last possibilities of calmity. She 
had never seen death, and what if that 
awful presence were to come while she was 
alone, Incapable of any struggle, of giving 
any help. She listened to the steps getting 
fainter in the distance with anguish and 
terror unspeakable. She clasped her mother's 
hand tightly without knowing it. That only 
aid, the only man who could do anything, 
was going away — deserting them — leaving 
her alone In her Ignorance to stand between 
her mother and death. Death ! Every 
pulse sprang up and fluttered in mortal 
terror. And she was put there to be quiet — 
ready and steady, he had said — to look 
happy ! Bee kept silent ; kept sitting upon 
her chair ; kept down her shriek after him 
with a superhuman effort. She could do no 
more. 

" Listen — he's talking to Moulsey now," 
said Mrs. Kingsward, "about me; they're 
always — whispering, about me — telling the 
symptoms — and how I am. That Is the 
worst of nurses " 

''Mamma! Oh, don't talk, don't talk!" 



14 THE SORCERESS. 

cried Bee ; though she was more comforted 
than words can tell by the sound of her 
mother's voice. 

''Whispering: can't you hear them? 
About temperature — and things. I can bear 
talking — but whispering. Bee — don't you 
hear 'em — whis — whispering " 

" Oh, mamma," cried Bee, '' I love to 
hear you speak ! But don't, don't, don't, or 
they'll make me go away." 

'• My baby," said the mother, diverted in 
her wandering and weakness to a new 
subject, "my little thing! He said we 
were to go to sleep. Put your head there — 
and I'll sing you — I'll sing you — to sleep — 
little Bee, little Bee, poor little Bee !" 



CHAPTER II. 

This night was the strangest in Bee Kings- 
ward's life. She had never known what it 
was to remain silent and awake in the dark- 
ness and warmth of a sick room, which of 
itself is a strange experience for a girl, and 
shows the young spirit its own weakness, its 
craving for rest and comfort, the difficulty of 
overcoming the instincts of nature — with 
such a sense of humiliation as nothing else 
could give. Could you not watch with me 
one hour ? She believed that she had lain 
awake crying all night when her dream of 
happiness had so suddenly been broken in 
upon at Cologne ; but now, while she sat by 
her mother's side, and the little soft crooning 
of the song, which ?^Irs. Kingsward supposed 



TO THE SORCERESS. 

herself to be singing to put her child to sleep, 
sank into a soft murmur, and the poor lady 
succeeded in hushing herself into a doze 
by this characteristic method. Bee's head 
dropped too, and her eyelids closed. Then 
she woke, with a little shiver, to see the large 
figure of Moulsey like a ghost by the bed, 
and struggled dumbly back to her senses, 
only remembering that she must not start nor 
cry to disturb Mrs. Kingsward, whose quick 
breathing filled the room with a sensation of 
danger and dismay to which the girl was 
sensible as soon as the film of sleep that had 
enveloped her was broken. Mrs. Kingsward's 
head was thrown back on the pillow ; now 
and then a faint note of the lullaby which she 
had been singing came from the parted lips, 
through which the hot, quick breath came 
so audibly. Now and then she stirred in her 
feverish sleep. Moulsey stood indistinguish- 
able with her back to the light, a mass of 
solid shadow by the bedside. She shook her 
head. "Sleep's best," she said, in the whisper 
which the patient hated. " Sleep's better 
than the best of physic." Bee caught those 
solid skirts with a sensation of hope, to feel 



THE SORCERESS. 1 7 

them so real and substantial In her hand. 
She did not care to speak, but lifted her face, 
pale with alarm and trouble, to the accustomed 
nurse. Moulsey shook her head again. It 
was all the communication that passed 
between them, and it crushed the hope that 
was beginning to rise in Bee's mind. She 
had thought when she heard the doctor go 
away that death might be coming as soon as 
his back was turned. She had felt when her 
mother fell asleep as if the danger must be 
past. Now she sank into that second stage 
of hopelessness, when there is no longer any 
Immediate panic, when the unaccustomed 
intelligence dimly realises that the sufferer 
may be better, and may live through the 
night, or through many nights, and yet there 
may be no real change. Very dim as yet 
was this consciousness in Bee's heart, and yet 
the first dawning of it bowed her down. 

In the middle of the night — after hours so 
long ! — more like years, when Bee seemed to 
have sat there half her life, to have become 
used to it, to be uncertain about every- 
thing outside, but only that her mother 
lay there more ill than words could say — 

VOL. II. c 



I 8 THE SORCERESS. 

Mrs. KIngsward awoke. She opened her 
eyes without any change of position with the 
habit of a woman who has been long ill, with- 
out acknowledging her illness. It was Moul- 
sey who saw a faint reflection of the faint 
light in the softly opening eyes, and detected 
that little change in the breathing which 
comes with returning consciousness. Bee, 
with her head leant back upon her chair and 
her eyes closed, was dozing again. 

" You must take your cordial, ma'am, now 
you're awake. You've had such a nice 
sleep." 

" Have I ? I thought I was with the 
children and singing to baby. Who's this 
that has my hand — Bee ? " 

" Mamma," cried the girl, with a little 
start, and then, " Oh ! I have waked her, 
Moulsey, I have waked her!" 

*' Is this her litde hand ? Poor litde Bee ! 
No, you have not waked me, love ; but why, 
why is the child here ?" 

" The doctor said she might stay — to send 
for him if you wanted anything — and — and 
to satisfy her." 

" To satisfy her, why so, why so? Am I 



THE SORCERESS. 1 9 

SO bad ? Did he think I would die — in the 
night?" 

'* No, no, no," said Moulsey, standing by 
her, patting her shoulder, as if she had been 
a fretful child. " What a thing to fancy ! 
As if he'd have sent the child here for 
that!" 

''No," said the poor lady, "he wouldn't 
have sent the child, would he — not the child 
— for that — to frighten her ! But Bee must 
go to bed. I'm so much better. Go to bed. 
Moulsey ; poor Moulsey, never tires, she's so 
good. But you must go to bed." 

" Oh, mother, let me stay. When you 
sleep, I sleep too ; and I'm so much happier 
here." 

" Happier, are you ? Well — but there was 
something wTong. Something had happened. 
What was it that happened ? And your 
father away ! It never does for anything to 
happen when — my husband is away. I've 
grown so silly. I never know what to do. 
What was it that happened. Bee ?" 

'' There was — nothing," said Bee, 
with a sudden chill of despair. She had 
forgotten everything but the dim bed- 



20 THE SORCERESS. 

chamber, the faint light, the quick, quick 
breathing. And now there came a stab at 
her poor Httle heart. She scarcely knew 
what it was, but a cut like a knife going to 
the very centre of her being. Then there 
came the doctor's words, as if they were 
written in light across the darkness of the 
rooni — " Ready, and steady." She said in a 
stronger voice, " You have been dreaming. 
There was nothing, mamma." 

" Mrs. Kingsward, who had raised herself 
on her elbow, sank back again on her pillow. 

'' Yes," she said, " I must have been 
dreaming. I thought somebody came — and 
told us. Dreams are so strange. People 
say they're things you'v^e been — thinking of. 
But I was not thinking of that — the very last 
thing ! Bee, it's a pity — it's a great pity — 
when a woman with so many children falls 
into this kind of silly, bad health. 

'' Oh, mamma," was all that poor Bee 
could say. 

''Oh — let me alone, Moulsey — I want to 
talk a little. I've had such a good sleep, 
you said ; sometimes — I want to talk, and 
Moulsey won't let me — nor your father, and 



THE SORCERESS. 21 

I have it all here," she said, putting her hand 
to her heart, "or here," laying it over her 
eyebrows, '' and I never get it out. Let me 
talk, Moulsey — let me talk." 

Bee, leaning forward, and Moulsey stand- 
ing over her by the bedside, there was a 
pause. Their eyes, accustomed to the faint 
light, saw her eyes shining from the pillow, 
and the flush of her cheeks against the white- 
ness of the bed. Then, after a while, there 
came a little faint laugh, and, "What was I 
saying?" Mrs. Kingsward asked. "You 
look so big, Moulsey, like the shadows I 
used to throw on the wall to please the 
children. You always liked the rabbit best. 
Bee. Look ! " She put up her hands as if 
to make that familiar play upon the wall. 
" But Moulsey," she added, "is so big. She 
shuts out all the light, and what is Bee doing 
here at this hour of the night ? Moulsey, 
send Miss Bee to bed." 

"Oh, mother, let me stay. You were 
going to tell me something." 

" Miss Bee, you must not make her talk." 

" How like Moulsey ! " said the invalid. 
" Make me talk ! when I have wanted so 



2 2 THE SORCERESS. 

much to talk. Bee, it's horrid to go on In 
this silly ill way, when— when one has children 
to think of. Your father's always good — but 
a man often doesn't understand. About you, 
now — if I had been a little stronger, it might 
have been different. What was it we heard ? 
I don't think it was true what we heard." 

" Oh, mamma, don't think of that, now." 

"It is so silly, always being ill ! And 
there's nothing really the matter. Ask the 
doctor. They all say there's nothing really 
the matter. Your father — but then he doesn't 
know how a woman feels. I feel as if I were 
sinking, sinking down through the bed and 
the floor and everything, away, I don't know 
where. So silly, for nothing hurts me — I've 
no pain — except that I always want more 
air. If you were to open the window, 
Moulsey ; and Bee, give me your hand and 
hold me fast, that I mayn't sink away. It's 
all quite silly, you know, to think so," she 
added, with again a faint laugh. 

Bee's eyes sought those of Moulsey with a 
terrified question in them ; the great shadow 
only slightly shook its head. 

*' Do you remember. Bee, the picture — we 



THE SORCERESS. 23 

saw It in Italy, and I've got a photograph — 
where there is a saint lying so sweetly in the 
air, with angels holding her up ? They're 
flying with her through the blue sky — two at 
her head, and other two — and her mantle so 
wrapped round her, and she lying, oh ! so 
easy, resting, though there's nothing but the 
air and the angels. Do you remember. 
Bee.?" 

"Yes, mamma. Oh, mamma, mamma!" 
"That's what I should like," said Mrs. 
KIngsward ; " it's strange, isn't it ? The 
bed's solid, and the house is solid, and 
Moulsey there, she's very solid too, and air 
isn't solid at all. But there never was any- 
body that lay so easy and looked so safe as 
that woman in the air. Their arms must be 
so soft under her, and yet so strong, you 
know ; stronger than your father's. He's so 
kind, but he hurries me sometimes ; and soft 
— you're soft, Bee, but you're not strong. 
You've got a soft little hand, hasn't she, 
Moulsey ? Poor little thing ! And to think 
one doesn't know what she may have to do 
with it before she is like me." 

" She'll have no more to do with it, ma'am. 



24 THE SORCERESS. 

than a lady should, no more than you've 
had. But you must be quiet, dear lady, and 
try and go to sleep." 

*' I might never have such a good chance 
of talking to her again. The middle of the 
night and nobody here — her father not even 
in the house. Bee, you must try never to 
begin being ill in any silly way, feeling not 
strong and that sort of foolish thing, and 
say out what you think. Don't be frightened. 
It's — it's bad for him as well as for you. He 
get's to think you haven't any opinion. And 
then all at once they find out — And, 
perhaps, it's too late — ." 

'' Mamma, you're not very ill ? Oh, no ; 
you're looking so beautiful, and you talk just 
as you always did." 

" She says am I very ill, Moulsey ? Poor 
little Bee ! I feel a great deal better. I had 
surely a nice sleep. But why should the 
doctor be here, and you made to sit up, you 
poor little thing. Moulsey, why is the doctor 
here ?" 

" I never said, ma'am, as he was here, 
He's coming round first thing in the morn- 
ing. He's anxious — because the Colonel's 
away." 



THE SORCERESS. 25 

*' Ah I you think I don't know. I'm not 
so very bad ; but he thinks — he thinks — 
perhaps I might die. Bee." 

'' Mamma, mamma ! " 

'* Don't be frightened," said Mrs. Kings- 
ward, drawing the girl close to her. ''That's 
a secret ; he doesn't think I know. It would 
be a curious, curious thing, when people think 
you are only ill to go and die. It would 
surprise them so. And so strange altogether 
— instead of worries, you know, every day, 
to be all by yourself, lying so easy and the 
angels carrying you. No trouble at all then 
to think whether he would be pleased — or 
anything ; giving yourself to be carried like 
that, like a litde child." 

"But mamma," cried Bee, "you could 
not, would not leave us — you wouldn't, 
would you, mamma ? — all the children, and 
me ; and I with nobody else, no one to care 
for me. You couldn't, mother, leave us ; you 
wouldn't ! Say you wouldn't ! Oh ! Moulsey ! 
Moulsey ! look how far away she is looking, 
as if she didn't see you and me !" 

" You forget, Bee," said Mrs. Kingsward, 
" How easy it looked for that saint in the 



26 THE SORCERESS. 

picture. I always liked to watch the birds 
floating down on the wind, never moving 
their wings. That's what seems no trouble, 
so easy ; not too hot nor too cold, nor tiring, 
neither to the breath nor anything. I 
shouldn't like to leave you. No — But 
then :" she added, with a smile, " I should 
not require to leave you. I'd — I'd — 
What was I saying ? Moulsey, will you 
please give me some — more — 

She held out her hand again for the glass 
which Moulsey had just put down. 

"It makes me strong — it makes me speak. 
I'm — sinking away again, Bee. Hold me — 
hold me tight. If I was to slip away — down 
— down — down to the cellars or somewhere." 
The feeble laugh was dreadful for the 
listeners to hear. 

" Run," cried Moulsey, in Bee's ea^ " the 
doctor — the doctor! in the library." 

And then there was a strange phantasma- 
goria that seemed to fill the night, one scene 
melting into another. The doctor rousing 
from his doze, his measured step coming 
back ; the little struggle round the bed ; 
Moulsey giving place to the still darker 



THE SORCERESS. 2"] 

shadow ; the glow of Mrs. Kings ward's 
flushed and feverish countenance between ; 
then the quiet, and then again sleep — sleep 
broken by feeble movements, by the quick 
panting of the breath. 

" She'll be easier now," the doctor said. 
" You must go to bed, my dear young lady. 
Moulsey can manage for the rest of the 
night." 

" Doctor," said Bee, with something in her 
throat that stopped the words, " doctor — will 
she — must she ? Oh, doctor, say that is not 
what it means ? One of us, it would not 
matter, but mother — mother !" 

''It is not in our hands," the doctor said. 
" It is not much we can do. Don't look at 
me as if I were God. It is little, little I can 
do." 

"They say," cried poor Bee, ''that you 
can do anything. It is when there is no 

doctor, no nurse that people Oh, my 

mother — my mother ! Doctor, don't let it 
be." 

"You are but a child," said the doctor, 
patting her kindly on the shoulder, " you've 
not forgotten how to say your prayers. 



28 THE SORCERESS. 

That's the only thing for you to do. Those 
that say such things of doctors know very 
Httle. We stand and look on. Say your 
prayers, little girl — if they do her no good, 
they'll do you good. And now she'll have a 
little sleep." 

Bee caught him by the arm. " Sleep," 
she said, looking at him suspiciously. 
''Sleep?" 

" Yes, sleep — that may give her strength 
for another day. Oh, ask no more, child. 
Life is not mine to give." 

What a night ! Out of doors it was moon- 
light as serene as heaven — the moon depart- 
ing in the west, and another faint light that 
was day coming on the other side, and the 
first birds beginning to stir in the branches ; 
but not even baby moving in the house. All 
fast asleep, safe as if trouble never was, as if 
death could not be. Bee went upstairs to her 
chill, white room, where the white bed, un- 
occupied, looked to her like death itself — all 
cold, dreadful, full of suggestion. Bee's heart 
was more heavy than could be told, She had 
nothing to fall back upon, no secret strength 
to uphold her. She had forgotten how 



THE SORCERESS. 29 

wretched she had been, but she felt it, never- 
theless, behind the present anguish. Never- 
theless, she was only nineteen, and when she 
flung herself down to cry upon her white 
pillow— only to cry, to get her passion out — 
beneficent nature took hold of the girl and 
made her sleep. She did not wake for 
hours. Was it beneficent ? For when she 
was roused by the opening of the door and 
sat up in her bed, and found herself still 
dressed in her evening frock, with her little 
necklace round her throat, there pressed back 
upon Bee such a flood of misery and trouble 
as she thought did not exist in the world. 

"Miss Bee, Miss Bee! Master's come 
home. He's been travelling all night — and 
I dare not disturb Mrs. Moulsey in Missis's 
room ; and he want's to see you this minit, 
please. Oh, come, come, quick, and don't 
keep the Colonel waiting," the woman said. 

Half awakened, but wholly miserable. Bee 
sprang up and rushed downstairs to her 
father. He came forward to meet her at the 
door, frowning and pale. 

'' What is this I hear ? " he said. '' What 
have you been doing to upset your mother ? 



THE SORCERESS. 



She was well enough when I went away. 
What have you been doing to your mother ? 
You children are the plague of our lives ! " 



CHAPTER III. 

The week passed in the sombre hurry yet 
tedium of a house lying under the shadow of 
death — that period during which when it is 
night we long for morning, and when it is 
morning we long for night, hoping always 
for the hope that never comes, trembling to 
mark the progress which does go on silently 
towards the end. 

Colonel Kings ward was rough and angry 
with Bee that first morning, to her consterna- 
tion and dismay. She had never been the 
object of her father's anger before, and this 
hasty and imperious questioning seemed to 
take all power of reply out of her. "What 
had she been doing to her mother ?" She ! 



32 THE SORCERESS. 

to her mother ! Bee was too much frightened 
by his threatening look, the cloud on his face, 
the fire in his eyes, to say anything. Her 
mind ran hurriedly over all that had hap- 
pened, and that last terrible visit, which had 
changed the whole aspect of the earth to 
herself. But it was to herself that this 
stroke of misfortune had come, and not to 
her mother. A gleam of answering anger 
came into Bee's eyes, sombre with the 
unhapplness which had been pushed aside 
by more immediate suffering, yet was still 
there like a black background, to frame what- 
ever other miseries might come after. As 
for Colonel Kingsward, it was to him, as to 
so many men, a relief to blame somebody for 
the trouble which was unbearable. The blow 
was approaching which he had never allowed 
himself to believe in. He had blamed his 
wife instinctively, involuntarily, at the first 
hearing of every inconvenience in life ; and 
it had helped to accustom him to the annoy- 
ance to think that it was her fault. He had 
done so in what he called this unfortunate 
business of Bee's, concluding that but for 
Mrs. Kingsward's weakness, Mr. Aubrey 



THE SORCERESS. 33 

Leigh and his affairs would never have 
become of any importance to the family. 
He had blamed her, too, and greatly, for 
that weakening of health which he had so 
persistently endeavoured to convince himself 
did not mean half so much as the doctors 
said. Women are so idiotic in these respects. 
They will insist on wearing muslin and lace 
when they ought to wear flannel. They will 
put on evening dresses when they ought to 
be clothed warmly to the throat, and shoes 
made of paper when they ought to be solidly 
and stoutly shod, quite indifferent to the 
trouble and anxiety they may cause to their 
family. And now that Mrs. Kingsward's 
state had got beyond the possibility of 
reproach, he turned upon his daughter. It 
must be her fault. Her mother had been 
better or he should not have left her. The 
quiet of the country was doing her good ; if 
she had not been agitated all would have 
been well. But Bee, with all her declarations 
of devotion to her mother ; Bee, the eldest, 
who ought to have had some sense ; Bee had 
brought on this trumpery love business to 
overset the delicate equilibrium which he 

VOL. II. D 



34 THE SORCERESS. 

himself, a man with affairs so much more 
Important In hand, had refrained from dis- 
turbing. It did him a Httle good, unhappy 
and anxious as he was, to pour out his wrath 
upon Bee. And she did not reply. She did 
not shed tears, as her mother had weakly 
done In similar circumstances, or attempt 
excuses. Even if he had been sufficiently 
at leisure to note it, an answering fire awoke 
in Bee's eyes. He had not leisure to note, 
but he perceived it all the same. 

Presently, however, every faculty, every 
thought, became absorbed in that sick 
chamber ; things had still to be thought of 
outside of It, but they seemed strange, 
artificial things, having no connection with 
life. Then Charlie was summoned from 
Oxford, and the younger boys from school, 
which Increased the strange commotion of the 
house, adding that restless element of young 
life which had no place there, nothing to do 
with itself, and which roused an almost 
frenzied irritation in Colonel KIngsward when 
he saw any attempt on the part of the poor 
boys to amuse themselves, or resume their 
usual occupations. "Clods!" he said; "young 



THE SORCERESS. 35 

brutes ! They would play tennis if the world 
were falling to pieces." x\nd again that glance 
of fire came into Bee's eyes, marked uncon- 
sciously, though he did not know he had 
seen it, by her father. The boys hung about 
her when she stole out for a little air, one at 
each arm. " How is mother, Bee .^ She's 
no worse ? Don't you think we might go 
over to Hillside for that tournament? Don't 
you think Fred might play in the parish 
match with Siddemore ? They're so badly 
off for bowlers. Don't you think " 

" Oh, I think it would be much better for 
you to be doing something, boys ; but, then, 
papa might hear, and he would be angry. If 
we could but keep it from papa." 

" We're doing mother no good," said Fred. 

''How could we do mother good ? Why 
did the governor send for us. Bee, only to 
kick our heels here, and get into mischief.'^ 
A fellow can't help getting into mischief 
when he has nothing to do." 

" Yes," repeated Fred, " what did he send 
for us for ? I wish mother was better. I 
suppose as soon as she's better we'll be 
packed off again." 



36 THE SORCERESS. 

They were big boys, but they did not 
understand the possibility of their mother 
not getting better, and, indeed, neither did 
Bee. When morning followed morning and 
nothing happened, it seemed to her that 
getting better was the only conclusion to be 
looked for. If it had been Death that was 
coming, surely it must have come by this 
time. Her hopes rose with every new day. 

But Mrs. Kings ward had been greatly 
agitated by the sight of Charlie when he was 
allowed to see her. " Why has Charlie come 
home ?" she said. " Was he sent for ? Was 
it your father that brought him ^ Charlie, 
my dear, what are you doing here ? Why 
have you come back ? You should have 

been going on with Did your father 

send for you? Why — why did your father 
send for you, my boy ?" 

" I thought," said Charlie, quite unmanned 
by the sight of her, and by this unexpected 
question, and by all he had been told about 
her state, '' I thought — you wanted to see 
me, mother." 

" I always like to see you — but not to take 
you away from And why was he sent 



THE SORCERESS. 2)1 

for, Moulsey ? Does the doctor think ? — 
does my husband think ? 

Her feverish colour grew brighter and 
brighter. Her eyes shone with a burning 
eagerness. She put her hot hand upon that 
of her son. "Was it to say good-bye to 
me?" she said, with a strange flutter of a 
smile. 

At the same time an argument on the 
same subject was going on between the 
doctor and the Colonel. 

"What can the children do in a sick 
room ? Keep them away. I should never 
have sent for them if you had consulted me. 
It is bad enough to have let her see Charlie, 
summoned express — do you want to frighten 
your wife to death .^" 

" There can be no question," said the 
Colonel, "if what you tell me is true, of 
frightening her to death. I think, Benson, 
that a patient in such circumstances ought to 
know. She ought to be told " 

"What?" the doctor said, sharply, with a 
harsh tone in his voice. 

"What? Do you need to ask? Of her 
state — of what is imminent — that she is 
going to " 



38 THE SORCERESS. 

Colonel KIngsward loved his wife truly, 
and he could not say those last words. 

'' Yes," said the doctor, " going to ? " 

Well, we hope it's to One who has called her, 
that knows all about it, Kingsward. Doctors 
are not supposed to take that view much, but 
I do. I'd tell her nothing of the sort. I 
would not agitate her either with the sight 
of the children or those heathenish thoughts 
about dying. Well, I suppose you'll take 
your own way, if you think she's in danger of 
damnation ; but you see I don't. I think 
where she's going she'll find more considera- 
tion and more understanding than ever she 
got here." 

" You are all infidels — every one of you," 
said Colonel Kingsward ; " you would let a 
soul rush unprepared into the presence of — " 

*' Her Father," said Doctor Benson. ''So 
I would ; if he's her Father he'll take care of 
that. And if he's only a Judge, you know, 
a Judge is an extraordinarily considerate 
person. He leaves no means untried of 
coming to a right decision. I would rather 
trust my case in the hands of the Bench than 
make up my own little plea any day. And, 



THE SORCERESS. 39 

anyhow you can put It, the Supreme Judge 
must be better than the best Bench that ever 
was. Leave her alone. She's safer with H im 
than either with you or me." 

" It's an argument I never would pardon 
— in my own case. I shudder at the thought 
of being plunged into eternity without the 
time to — to think — to — to prepare -" 

" But if your preparations are all seen 
through from the beginning? If it's just as 
well known then, or better, what you are 
thinking, or trying to think, to make yourself 
ready for that event ? You knew yourself, 
more or less, didn't you, when you were in 
active service, the excuses a wretched private 
would make when he was hauled up, and 
how he would try to make the worse appear 
the better cause. Were you moved by that, 
Colonel Kingsward ? Didn't you know the 
man, and judge him by what you knew ? " 

"It seems to me a very undignified argu- 
ment ; there's no analogy between a wretched 
private and my — and my — and one of us — 
at the Judgment Seat." 

'* No — it's more like one of your boys 
making up the defence^ when brought be- 



40 THE SORCERESS. 

fore you — and the poor boy would need it 
too," Dr. Benson added within himself. But 
naturally he made no impression with his 
argument, whether it was good or bad, upon 
his hearer. Colonel Kingsward was in reality 
a very unhappy man. He had nobody to 
blame for the dreadful misfortune which was 
threatening him except God, for whom he 
entertained only a great terror as of an over- 
whelming tyrannical Power ready to catch 
him at any moment when he neglected the 
observances or rites necessary to appease it. 
He was very particular in these observances 
— going to church, keeping up family prayers, 
contributing his proper and carefully calcu- 
lated proportion to the charities, &c. No- 
body could say of him that he was careless 
or negligent. And now how badly was his 
devotion repaid ! — by the tearing away from 
him of the companion of his life. But he 
felt that there was still much more that the 
awful Master of the Universe might inflict, 
perhaps upon her if she was not prepared to 
meet her God. He was wretched till he had 
told her, warned her, till she had fulfilled 
everything that was necessary, seen a 



THE SORCERESS. 4 1 

clergyman, and got herself into the state of 
mind becoming a dying person. He had 
collected all the children that she might take 
leave of them in a becoming way. He had, 
so far as he knew, thought of everything to 
make her exit from the world a right one in 
all the forms — and now to be told that he 
was not to agitate her, that the God whom 
he wished to prepare her to meet knew more 
of her and understood her better than he did! 
Agitate her ! When the alternative might 
be unspeakable miseries of punishment, 
instead of the acquittal which would have to 
be given to a soul properly prepared. These 
arguments did not in the least change his 
purpose, but they fretted and irritated him 
beyond measure. At the bottom of all, the 
idea that anybody should know better than 
he what was the right thing for his own wife 
was an intolerable thought. 

He went in and out of her room with that 
irritated, though self-controlled look, which 
she knew so well. He had never shown it 
to the world, and when he had demanded of 
her in his angry way why this was and that, 
and how on earth such and such things had 



42 THE SORCERESS. 

happened, Mrs. Kingsward had till lately 
taken it so sweetly that he had not himself 
suspected how heavy it was upon her. And 
when she had begun to show signs of being 
unable to bear the responsibility of every- 
thing in earth and heaven, the Colonel had 
felt himself an injured man. There were 
signs that he might eventually throw that 
responsibility on Bee. But in the meantime 
he had nobody to blame, as has been said, 
and the burden of irritation and disturbance 
was heavy upon him. 

The next morning after his talk with Dr. 
Brown he came in with that clouded brow to 
find Charlie by her bedside. The Colonel 
came up and stood looking at the face on the 
pillow, now wan in the reaction of the fever, 
and utterly weak, but still smiling at his 
approach. 

" I have been telling Charlie," she said, in 
her faint voice, '' that he must go back to his 
college. Why should he waste his time 
here.?" 

'' He will not go back yet," said Colonel 
Kingsward; "are you feeling a little better 
this morning, my dear.?" 



THE SORCERESS. 43 

'' Oh, not to call 111 at all," said the sufferer. 
** Weak — a sort of sinking, floating away. I 
take hold of somebody's hand to keep me 
from falling through. Isn't It ridiculous ?" 
she said, after a little pause. 

''Your weakness is very great," said the 
husband, almost sternly. 

" Oh, no, Edward. It's more silly than 
anything — when I am not really 111, you 
know. I've got Charlie's hand here under 
the counterpane," she said again, with her 
faint little laugh. 

'' You w^on't always have Charlie's hand, 
or anyone's hand, Lucy." 

She looked at him with a little anxiety. 

''No, no. I'll get stronger, perhaps, 
Edward." 

" Do you feel as If you were at all stronger, 
my dear .^" 

She loosed her son's hand, giving him a 
little troubled smile. '*Go away now, Charlie 
dear. I don't believe you've had your break- 
fast. I want to speak to — papa." Then she 
waited, looking wistfully in her husband's 
face till the door had closed. "You have 
something to say to me, Edward. Oh, what 
is it ? Nothing has happened to anyone ?" 



44 THE SORCERESS. 

*'No, nothing has happened," he said. He 
turned away and walked to the window, then 
came back again, turning his head half-way 
from her as he spoke. " It is only that you 
are, my poor darling — weaker every day." 

''Does the doctor think so?" she said, with 
a little eagerness, with a faint suffusion of 
colour in her face. 

He did not say anything — could not per- 
haps — but slightly moved his head. 

" Weaker every day, and that means, 
Edward !" She put out her thin, hot hands. 
" That means " 

The man could not say anything. He 
could do his duty grimly, but when the 
moment came he could not put it into words. 
He sank down on the chair Charlie had left, 
and put down his face on the pillow, his large 
frame shaken by sobs which he could not 
restrain. 

These sobs made Mrs. Kingsward forget 
the meaning of this communication altogether. 
She put her hands upon him trying to raise 
his head. '' Edward! Oh, don't cry, don't 
cry ! I have never seen you cry in all my 
life. Edward, for goodness' sake ! You will 



THE SORCERESS. 45 

kill me if you go on sobbing like that. Oh, 
Edward, Edward, I never saw you cry before." 

Moulsey had darted forward from some 
shadowy corner where she was and gripped 
him by the arm. 

**Stop, sir — stop it," she cried, in an 
authoritative whisper, "or you'll kill her." 

He flung Moulsey off and raised his head 
a little from the pillow. 

''You have never seen me with any such 
occasion before," he said, taking her hands 
into his and kissing them repeatedly. 

He was not a man of many caresses, and 
her heart was touched with a feeble sense of 
pleasure. 

''Dear!" she said softly, "dear!" feebly 
drawing a little nearer to him to put her 
cheek against his. 

Colonel Kingsward looked up as soon as 
he was able and saw her lying smiling at 
him, her hand in his, her eyes full of that 
wonderful liquid light which belongs to great 
weakness. The small worn face was all 
illuminated with smiles ; it was like the face 
of a child — or perhaps an angel. He looked 
at first with awe, then with doubt and alarm. 



46 THE SORCERESS. 

Had he failed after all in the commission 
which he had executed at so much cost to 
himself, and against the doctor's orders ? 
He had been afraid for the moment of the 
sight of her despair — and now he was frigh- 
tened by her look of ease, the absence of 
all perturbations. Had she not understood 
him.^ Would It have to be told again, more 
severely, more distinctly, this dreadful news ? 



CHAPTER IV. 

Mrs. Kingsward said nothing of the com 
munlcation her husband had made to her. 
Did she understand it ? He went about 
heavily all day, pondering the matter, going 
and coming to her room, trying in vain to 
make out what was in her mind. But he 
could not divine what was in that mind, 
hidden from him in those veils of individual 
existence which never seemed to him to have 
been so baffling before. In the afternoon 
she had heard, somehow, the voices of the 
elder boys, and had asked if they were there, 
and had sent for them. The two big fellows, 
with the mud on their boots and the scent of 
the fresh air about them, stood huddled 
together, speechless with awe and grief, 
by the bedside, when their father came 



48 THE SORCERESS. 

in. They did not know what to say 
to their mother in such circumstances. 
They had never talked to her about 
herself, but always about themselves ; and 
now they were entirely at a loss after they 
had said, " How are you, mamma ? Are you 
very bad, mamma? Oh, I'm so sorry ;" and 
" Oh, I wish you were better." What could 
boys of twelve and fourteen say } For the 
moment they felt as if their hearts were 
broken ; but they did not want to stay there ; 
they had nothing to say to her. Their pang 
of sudden trouble was confused with shyness 
and awkwardness, and their consciousness 
that she was altogether in another atmosphere 
and another world. Mrs. Kings ward was 
not a clever woman, but she understood 
miraculously what was in those inarticulate 
young souls. She kissed them both, draw- 
ing each close to her for a moment, and then 
bade them run away. "Were you having a 
good game ? " she said, with that ineffable, 
feeble smile. "Go and finish it, my darlings." 
And they stumbled out very awkwardly, 
startled to meet their father's look as they 
turned round, and greatly disturbed and 



THE SORCERESS. 49 

mystified altogether, though consoled some- 
how by their mother s look. 

They said to each other after a while that 
she looked ''jolly bad," but that she was in 
such good spirits it must be all right. 

Their father was as much mystified as 
they ; but he was troubled in conscience, as 
if he had not spoken plainly enough, had not 
made it clear enough what ''her state" was. 
She had not asked for the clergyman — she 
had not asked for anything. Was it neces- 
sary that he should speak again ? There 
was one thing she had near her, but that so 
fantastic a thing ! — a photograph — one of the 
quantities of such rubbish the girls and she 
had brought home — a woman wrapped in a 
mantle floating in the air. 

" Take that thing away," he said to 
Moulsey. It irritated him to see a frivolous 
thing like that — a twopenny-halfpenny 
photograph — so near his wife's bed. 

" Don't take it away," she said, in the 
whisper to which her voice had sunk; "it 
gives me such pleasure." 

"Pleasure!" he cried; even to speak of 
pleasure was wrong at such a moment. And 
VOL II. • E 



50 THE SORCERESS. 

then he added, '' Would you Hke me to read 
to you ? Would you like to see — anyone ?" 

"To see anyone? Whom should I wish 
to see but you, Edward, and the children ? " 

''We haven't been — so religious, my dear, 
as perhaps we ought," stammered the anxious 
man. " If I sent for — Mr. Baldwin perhaps, 
to read the prayers for the sick and — and 
talk to you a little ?" 

She looked at him with some wonder for a 
moment, and then she said, with a smile, 
" Yes, yes ; by all means, Edward, if you 
like it." 

*' I shall certainly like it, my dearest ; and 
it is right — it is what we should all wish 

to do at the " He could not say at the 

last — he could not say when we are dying — 
it was too much for him ; but certainly she 
must understand now. And he went away 
hurriedly to call the clergyman, that no more 
time might be lost. 

'' Moulsey," said Mrs. Kingsward," have 
we come then quite — to the end now ? " 

" Oh, ma'am ! Oh, my dear lady ! " 
Moulsey said. 

** My husband — seems to think so. It is 



THE SORCERESS. 5 I 

a little hard — to leave them all. Where is 
Bee ?" 

" I am here, mamma," said a broken voice ; 
and the mother's hand was caught and held 
tight, as she liked it to be. " May Betty 
come too ?" 

''Yes, let Betty come. It is you I want, 
not Mr. Baldwin." 

'' Mr. Baldwin is a good man, ma'am. 
He'll be a comfort to them and to the 
Colonel." 

" Yes, I suppose so ; he will be a comfort 
to — your father. But I don't want anyone. 
I haven't done very much harm " 

" No ! oh, no, ma'am, none !" said Moulsey, 
while Betty, thrown on her knees by the 
bedside, tried to smother her sobs ; and Bee, 
worn out and feeling as if she felt nothing, 
sat and held her mother's hand. 

*' But, then," she said, " I've never, never, 
done any good." 

'* Oh ! my dear lady, my dear lady ! x-lnd 
all the poor people, and all the children." 

*' Hush ! Moulsey. I never gave anything 
— not a bit of bread, not a shilling — but 
because I liked to do it. Never ! oh, never 



UBRARY 

UttlYEftSITY OF ILLrNOfS 



52 THE SORCERESS. 

from any good motive. I always liked to do 
it. It was my pleasure. It never cost me 
anything. I have done no good in my life. 
I just liked the poor children, that was all, 

and thought if they were my own Oh, 

Bee and Betty, try to be better women — • 
different from me." 

Betty, who was so young, crept nearer and 
nearer on her knees, till she came to the head 
of the bed. She lifted up her tear-stained 
face, " Mother ! oh, mother ! are you 
frightened ?" she cried. 

Mrs. Kingsward put forth her other arm 
and put it freely round the weeping girl. 
" Perhaps I ought to be, perhaps I ought to 
be ! " she said, with a little thrill and quaver. 

" Mother," said Betty, pushing closer and 
closer, almost pushing Bee away, " if I had 
been wicked, ever so wicked, I shouldn't be 
frightened for you." 

A heavenly smile came over the woman's 
face. '' I should think not, indeed." 

And then Betty, in the silence of the room, 
put her hands together and said very softly, 
" Our Father, which art in Heaven — " 

" Oh, children, children," cried Moulsey, 



THE SORCERESS. 53 

*' don't break our hearts! She's too weak 
to bear it. Leave her alone." 

" Yes. go away, children dear — go away. I 
have to rest — to see Mr. Baldwin." Then 
she smiled, and said in gasps, '' To tell the 
truth — I'm — I'm not afraid ; look — " She 
pointed to the picture by her bedside. 
''So easy — so easy I Just resting — and the 
Saviour will put out his hand and take me 
in." 

Mr. Baldwin came soon after — the good 
Rector, who was a good man, but who 
believed he had the keys, and that what he 
bound on earth was bound in Heaven — or, 
at least, he thought he believed so — with 
Colonel Kingsward, who felt that he was 
thus fulfilling all righteousness, and that this 
was the proper way in which to approach the 
everlasting doors. He put away the little 
picture in which Catherine of Siena lay in 
the hold of the angels, in the perfect peace 
of life accomplished, the rest that was so easy 
and so sweet — hastily with displeasure and 
contempt. He did not wish the Rector to 
see the childish thing in which his wife had 
taken pleasure, nor even that she had been 



54 THE SORCERESS. 

taking pleasure at all at such a solemn 
moment ; even that she should smile the 
same smile of welcome with which she would 
have greeted her kind neighbour had she 
been in her usual place in the drawing-room 
disturbed her husband. So near death and 
yet able to think of that! He watched her 
face as the Rector read the usual prayers. 
Did she enter into them — did she understand 
them ? He could scarcely join in them 
himself in his anxiety to make sure that she 
felt and knew what was her " state," and was 
preparing — preparing to meet her God. 
That God was awaiting severely the appear- 
ance of that soul before him, the Colonel 
could not but feel. He would not have said 
so in words, but the instinctive conviction in 
his heart was so. When she looked round 
for the little picture it hurt him like a sting. 
Oh, if she would but think of the things that 
concerned her peace — not of follies, childish 
distractions, amusements for the fancy. On 
her side, the poor lady was conscious more or 
less of all that was going on, understood here 
and there the prayers that were going over 
her head, prayers of others for her, rather 



THE SORCERESS. 



:)o 



than anything to be said by herself. In the 
midst of them, she felt herself already like St. 
Catherine, floating away into ineffable peace, 
then coming back again to hear the sacred 
words, to see the little circle round her on 
their knees, and to smile upon them in an 
utter calm of weakness without pain, feeling 
only that they were good to her, thinking of 
her, which was sweet, but knowing little 
more. 

It was the most serene and cloudless night 
after that terrible day. A little after Colonel 
Kings ward had left the room finally and shut 
himself up in his study, Moulsey took the 
two girls out into the garden, through a 
window which opened upon it. " Children, 
go and breathe the sweet air. I'll not have 
you in a room to break your hearts. Look 
up yonder — yonder where she's gone," said 
the kind nurse who had done everything for 
their mother. And they stole out — the two 
little ghosts, overborne w^ith the dreadful 
burden of humanity, the burden which none 
of us can shake off, and crept across the 
grass to the seat w^here she had been used to 
sit among the children. The night was 



56 THE SORCERESS. 

peace itself — not a breath stirring, a young 
moon with something wistful in her light 
looking down, making the garden bright as 
with a softened ethereal day. A line of white 
cloud dimly detached from the softness of 
the blue lay far off towards the west amid 
the radiance, a long faint line as of something 
in the far distance. Bee and Betty stood 
and gazed at it with eyes and hearts over- 
charged, each leaning upon the other. Their 
young souls were touched with awe and an 
awful quiet. They were too near the 
departure to have fallen down as yet into 
the vacancy and emptiness of re-awakening 
life. '' Oh," they said, " if that should be 
her !" And why should it not be ? Unless 
perhaps there was a quicker way. They 
watched it with that sob in the throat which 
is of all sounds and sensations the most 
overwhelming. It seemed to them as if they 
were watching her a little further on her 
way, to the very horizon, till the soft distance 
closed over, and that speck like a sail upon 
the sea could be seen no more. And when 
it was gone they sank down together upon 
her seat, under the trees she loved, where 



THE SORCERESS. 57 

the children had played and tumbled on the 
grass about her, and talked of her in broken 
words, a little phrase now and then, some- 
times only "Mother," or "Oh, mamma, 
mamma," now from one, now from another — 
in that first extraordinary exaltation and 
anguish which is not yet grief. 

They did not know how long they had 
been there when something stirred in the 
bushes, and the two big boys, Arthur and 
Fred, came heavily into sight, holding each 
other by the arm. The boys were bewil- 
dered, heavy and miserable, not knowing 
what to do with themselves nor where to go. 
But they came up with a purpose, which was 
a little ease in the trouble. It cost them a 
little convulsion of reluctant crying before 
they could get out what they had to say. 
Then it came out in broken words from both 
together. " Bee, there's someone wants to 
speak to you at the gate." 

'• Oh ! who could want to speak to me — to- 
night ? I cannot speak to anyone ; you 
might have known." 

" Bee," said Arthur, the eldest, " it isn't 
just — anyone ; it's — we thought you would 
perhaps — " 



58 THE SORCERESS. 

" He told us," said Fred, ''who he was ; 
and begged so hard — " 

Then there came back upon poor Bee all 
the other trouble that she had pushed away 
from her. Her heart seemed to grow hard 
and cold after all the softening and tender- 
ness of this dreadful yet heavenly hour. *' I 
will see no one — no one," she said. 

" Bee," said the boys, "we shut the gate 
upon him ; but he took hold of our hands, 
and — and cried, too." They had to stop and 
swallow the sob before either could say any 
more. " He said she was his best friend. 
He said he couldn't bear it no more than us. 
And if you would only speak to him." 

Bee got up from her mother's seat ; her 
poor little heart swelled in her bosom as if it 
would burst. Oh ! how was she to bear all 
this — to bear it all — to have no one to help 
her! " No, no, I will not. I will not ! " she 
said. 

''Oh, Bee," cried Betty, " if it is Aubrey — 
poor Aubrey ! She was fond of him. She 
would not like him to be left out. Oh, Bee, 
come ; come and speak to him. Suppose 
one of us were alone, with nobody to say 
mother's name to !" 



THE SORCERESS. 59 

'' No, I will not," said Bee. " Oh ! Betty, 
mother knows why ; she knows." 

•' What does she know ?" cried Betty, 
pleading. '' She was fond of him. I am 
fond of him, without thinking of you, for 
mother's sake." 

'' Oh, let me go ! I am going in ; I am 
going to her. I wish, I wish she had taken 
me with her ! Xo, no, no ! I will never see 
him more." 

" I think," said Betty to the boys, pushing 
them away, " that she is not quite herself. 
Tell him she's not herself. Say she's 
not able to speak to anyone, and we can't 
move her. And — and give poor Aubrey 
— oh, poor Aubrey! — my love." 

The boys turned away on their mission, 
crossing the gravel path w^ith a commotion of 
their heavy feet which seemed to fill the air 
with echoes. 

Colonel Kingsward heard it from his 
study, though that was closed up from any 
influence outside. He opened his window 
and came out, standing a black figure sur- 
rounded by the moonlight. ''Who is there .^" 
he said. " Are there any of you so lost to 



6o THE SORCERESS. 

all feeling as to be out in the garden, of all 
nights in the world on this night ?" 



THE SORCERESS. 63 

the stern Colonel, who had so crushed him- 
self. And she had received his first letters, 
and had answered them, professing her 
determination never to be coerced in this 
respect. 

He was agitated, his life was full of 
excitement, and speculation, and trouble. 
But this is nothing dreadful in a young man's 
life. It was perhaps better, more enlivening, 
more vivid, than the delights of an undis- 
turbed love-making, followed by a triumphant 
marriage. It is well sometimes that the 
course of true love should not run smooth. 
He thought himself unhappy in being 
separated from Bee ; but the keen delight of 
her determination to stand by him for good 
or evil, her faith in him, her championship, 
and the conviction that this being so all must 
come right in the end, was like a stream 
of bright fresh water flowing through the 
somewhat sombre flat of his existence. It 
had been very sombre in the early days of 
what people thought his youthful happiness 
— very flat, monotonous, yet with ignoble 
contentions in it. Bee's sunshiny nature, 
full of lights and shadows, had changed the 



64 THE SORCERESS. 

whole landscape, and now the excitement 
of this struggle for her, changed it still more. 
It might be a hard battle, but they would win 
in the end. Whether he, a somewhat un- 
lucky fellow, would have done so was very 
doubtful — but for her the stars would fight in 
their courses. Everything would be over- 
turned in the world, rather than that Bee 
should be made miserable, and since she had 
set her dear heart on him, on his behalf too 
the very elements would fight, for how 
otherwise could Bee be made happy ? The 
argument was without a flaw. 

This was his reasoning, never put, I need 
not say, into any formula of words, yet 
vaguely believed in, and forming a source of 
the brightest exhilaration in his life, rousing 
all combative influences by the power of that 
hope of success which was a certainty in 
such a case. This exhilaration was crossed 
by the blackest of disappointments, and 
threatened to become despair when for days 
he had no sign of existence from Bee : but 
that after all was only a keener excitement — • 
the sting of anxiety which makes after 
satisfaction more sweet. And then he was 



THE SORCERESS, 65 

consoled to hear of Mrs. Kingsward's illness, 
which explained everything. Not that 
Aubrey was selfish enough to rejoice in that 
poor lady's suffering. He would have been 
shocked and horrified by the thought. But 
then it was no unusual thing for Mrs. Kings- 
ward to be ill ; it is not unusual, a young man 
so easily thinks, for any middle-aged person 
to be ill — and in so many cases it does not 
seem to do them much harm ; whereas it did 
him much good — for it explained the silence 
of Bee ! 

And then it came to Aubrey's ears that 
Mrs. Kings ward was very ill — worse than 
she had ever been before ; and then that all 
the family had been summoned that she was 
dying. Such rumours spread like wildfire — • 
they get into the air — nobody knows how they 
come. He went down to the village nearest 
Kingswarden, and found a lodging there, 
when this news reached him, and endea- 
voured to send a note to Bee, to let her 
know he was at hand. But in the trouble of 
the house this note, sent by a private hand — 
always in these days an unsafe method — was 
somehow lost and never reached her. He 

VOL. II. F 



66 THE SORCERESS. 

hung about the house In the evenings, 
avoiding on various occasions an encounter 
with CharHe, who was not friendly, and with 
the Colonel, who was his enemy. These two 
were the only members of the family visible 
outside the gates of Kingswarden — until he 
managed to Identify the two boys, whose 
disconsolate wanderings about pointed 
them out to him, and who did not 
know, therefore had no hostility or sus- 
picion of the stranger who Inquired after 
their mother so anxiously. Everybody in- 
quired after their mother. It was nothing 
strange to them to be stopped on the road 
with this question. It was thus at last, 
hearing the final blow had fallen, Aubrey 
had ventured to send a message, to ask for a 
word from Bee. The thought of what the 
girl must be suffering in her first grief, and 
to feel himself so near her — almost within 
hearing — yet altogether shut out, was more 
than he could bear. He pushed in within 
the gate, into the shelter of the shrubbery, 
and there he stopped short, bound by invisible 
restraints. It was the home of his love, and 
yet it was the house of his enemy. He could 



THE SORCERESS. 67 

not take advantage of the darkness of the 
night and of the misery of the moment to 
violate the sanctuary of a man soul-stricken 
by such trouble. But from where he stood 
he could see the little group of shadows 
under the tree. And how could he go away 
and not say a word to her — not take her in 
his arms, tell her his heart was with her, and 
that he was a mourner too ? "Ask Bee to 
speak to me. Ask her to speak to me — only 
for a moment. I am Aubrey Leigh," he said 
to the two brothers, taking an arm of each, 
imploring them. The boys did not know 
much about Aubrey Leigh, but still they had 
heard the name. And they were overawed 
by his earnestness ; the sound of his voice 
which, full of passion and feeling as it was, 
was strange to their undeveloped conscious- 
ness. They took his message, as we have 
seen, and then there came a mysterious 
moment which Aubrey could not understand. 
He could not hear what was said, but he was 
conscious of a resistance, of denial, and that 
Bee did not make a step towards him ; that 
she recoiled rather than advanced. Though 
he could scarcely see anything distinctly, he 



68 THE SORCERESS. 

could see that — that there was no Impulse 
towards him, but rather the reverse ; that 
Bee did not wish to come. And then the 
harsh voice of the Colonel broke the spell of 
the quiet, of the mournful, tranquil night, 
which It was so easy for a roused Imagination 
to think was penetrated, too, by the sentiment 
of sorrow and of peace. The Colonel's voice 
put every gentler vision to flight. "Is It 
possible that any of you are out here 
In the garden — of all nights In the 
world on this night ?" Oh ! the very night 
of all nights to be there — In the first awe and 
silence, watching her pass, as It were, to the 
very gates of Heaven ! Perhaps, It was 
unawares from Bee's mind that this Idea 
came to his — " to watch her ascending, trail- 
ing clouds of glory," as the poet said ; but 
that was the spirit coming and not going. 
These thoughts flew through his mind in the 
shock and irritation of the Colonel's voice. 
And then the shadows under the tree seemed 
to fly away and disperse, and silence fell 
upon all around, the great ghostly trees 
standing up Immovable like muffled giants 
in the moonlight, their shadows making lines 



THE SORCERESS. 69 

and heavy clumps of blackness on the turf, 
the late roses showing pale in the distance, 
the garden paths white and desolate. A 
moment more, and the harsh sound, almost 
angry, of the Colonel's window shutting, of 
bolts and bars, and a final closing up of 
everything came unkindly upon tbe hushed 
air. And then the moonlight reached the 
shut up house, all unresponsive, with death 
in it, with one faint light burning in the large 
window upstairs, showing where the gentle 
inmate lay who needed light no more. 
Strange prejudice of humanity that put out 
all the lights for sleep, but surrounds death 
with them, that no careless spirit may mistake 
for a common chamber the place where that 
last majesty lies. 

Aubrey stood alone in this hushed and 
silent world. His heart was as heavy as a 
stone, heavy with grief for the friend who 
had passed for ever out of his life. He had 
not known perhaps till now^ what he too had 
lost — a friend, who would not have forsaken 
him not a very strong champion to fight for 
him ; but a friend that never, whatever might 
be said, would have refused to hear him, 



70 . THE SORCERESS. 

refused to give him her sympathy. Had 
Bee, his own Bee, refused ? The young 
man was bewildered beyond the power of 
thought. Was It his fault to have come too 
soon ? Was It an outrage to be there on the 
night of the mother's death ? But there was 
no outrage In his thoughts, not even any 
selfishness. It was her he had been think- 
ing of, not himself ; that she might feel there 
was someone whose thoughts were all hers, 
who was herself, not another, feeling with 
her, mourning with her, her very own to take 
the half of her burden. He had felt that he 
could not be far away while Bee was in 
trouble — that even to stand outside would be 
something, would somehow lighten her load, 
would make her feel in the very air a con- 
sciousness of the mighty love that would 

cleave in twain 
The lading of a single pain 
And part it giving half to him. 

His heart, which had so gone out to her, 
seemed to come back confused, with all the 
life out of it, full of wonder and dismay. 
Had she rejected him and his sympathy? 
W^as It the fault of the others, the boys who 



THE SORCERESS. yi 

did not know what to say ? Was she angry 
that he should come so soon ? But it was 
now, immediately on the very stroke of the 
distress, that love should come. He stood 
for a long time silent, bewildered, not know- 
ing what to think. Was it possible that she 
could have misunderstood him, have thought 
that he had come here only to beguile her 
into his arms, to take advantage of an 
opportunity.^ It pained poor Aubrey to the 
heart to think that she might have thought 
so. Ah ! ]\Irs. Kingsward would not have 
done it, would not have let Bee do it. But 
she lay there, where the light was, never to 
say anything more : and Bee — Bee ! 

He got out of the little park that 
surrounded Kingswarden by the stile near 
the village, some time after, he did not know 
how long. He thought it was in the middle 
of the night. The moon had set, everything 
was dark, and all the cottagers asleep. But 
time is long to watchers unaccustomed to 
long vigils, and the lights were not out at the 
small inn in the village where he was 
lodging. He found the master of the house 
and his wife talking at the door in subdued 



72 THE SORCERESS. 

tones, over the event of the evening. " She 
was always a weakly body, but she'll be sore 
missed," the woman said. '' She kept every- 
thing going. The Colonel, he'll not have a 
servant left as will put up with him in three 
months. You take my word. She kept all 
straight Lord, that's how women mostly 
is — no account as long as they're living — and 
then you finds the want o' them when they're 
gone." 

" Here you are, mister," said the landlord; 
" we thought as you was lost. It was a fine 
night, tempting for a walk. But it's clouding 
over now." 

" Oh, no, sir, nought of the sort," said the 
woman. " My master here, he never goes to 
bed afore the middle of the night, he don't, 
and it's an excuse for not getting up in the 
mornin'. But you'll have to be early to- 
morrow, Gregg, you take my word, for 
there'll be undertakers' men and that sort 
down from London, and I'll not be bothered 
with them, mind you that." 

" I suppose you're right this time," said the 
man. " They drinks a deal to keep up their 
spirits, being as it is a kind of depressing 
trade." 



THE SORCERESS. J 2> 

" If I hear vou lauQrh aofain like that! — and 
the missis lying in her coffin ! Don't you 
think, sir, as he's got no feeling. He puts it 
off like with a laugh not to cry. I was 
kitchen-maid up there, and he was groom in 
the old days, and many and many's the 
kindness she done to me and mine. Oh, 
and such a pretty lady and sweet — and a 
young family left just at the ages that most 
need a mother's care." 

"They're all ages, Molly, if you come to 
that." 

"Well, and don't they want a mother's 
care at all ages ? What would you do with 
my children if I was took, John Gregg? 
And the Colonel, he's just a helpless man like 
you are. The only hope is as Miss Bee will 
turn out like her mother. I always thought 
she favoured Missis, though some said it w^as 
the Colonel she was like. It's a dreadful 
charge for her, poor thing, at her age ; but if 
she takes after the ]\Iissis there will be some 
hope for them," the woman said. 

" I thought as Miss Bee was going to be 
married .•^" said the landlord. 

" Oh, that's all broken off," she said, " and 



74 THE SORCERESS. 

a good thing too, seeing what's happened, for 
what could ever Httle Miss Betty do?" 

Aubrey, who had Hngered listening, went 
slowly up the narrow wooden stair to his 
shabby little room as the pair locked the 
door and put out their lights. He heard 
them carrying on the conversation in the 
kitchen underneath for a few minutes before 
they, too, in their turn clambered upstairs to 
bed. " Oh, that's all broken off, and a good 
thing too." He kept saying these words 
over and over miserably, as if they had been 
the chorus of some dreadful song of fate. 



CHAPTER y I. 

Aubrey stayed at the village public-house 
day after day, hoping for some sign or 
message. He wrote to Bee, this time by the 
post ; but he had no better success. Was it 
only because of her grief that she took no 
notice ? Terrible as that grief must be, and 
rigorous as evidently were the rules of the 
closed-up house, from which no one came 
forth, even for a mouthful of air, it did not 
seem to him that this was reason enouQ^h for 
putting him from her — he who was to share 
her life, and whose sympathy was so full and 
overflowing. Surely it was the moment when 
all who loved her should gather round her, 
when she most wanted solace and support. 



76 THE SORCERESS. 

It could not be that her heart was so wrapped 
up in sorrow that she should push from her 
the man who had the best right to share her 
tears — whom her mother approved and liked, 
whose acceptance she had ratified and con- 
firmed. It could not be that. He felt 
that, had he been in the same circumstances, 
his cry would have been for Bee to stand by 
him, to comfort him. Was she so different, 
or was she overwhelmed by what was before 
her— the charge of her father's house, the 
dreadful suggestion that it was to him and 
the children she should dedicate herself 
henceforward, giving up her own happiness i* 
It seemed to Aubrey, after long thinking, 
that this must be the cause of her silence ; 
the burden which surely was not for her 
young shoulders, which never could be 
intended for her, must have come down upon 
her, crushing her. She was the eldest girl. 
She must have, like so many girls, an exag- 
gerated sense of what was her duty. Her 
duty ! Could anything be more fantastic, 
more impossible ? To take her mother's 
place — and her mother had been killed by it ! 
— to humour the stern father — to take care of 



THE SORCERESS. 'J J 

the tribe of children, to be their nurse, their 
ruler — everything that a creature of nineteen 
could not, should not be ! And for this she 
would throw aside her own life — and him. 
whose life it was also. He would never, 
never consent to such a sacrifice, he said to 
himself. Bee was not soft and yielding, like 
their mother. She was a determined little 
thing. She would stand to it, and sacrifice 
him as she sacrificed herself, unless he made 
a bold stand from the first. No, no, no I 
Whatever was to be done, that must not be 
done. He would not have it — he must let 
her know from the very first — if it were not 
that she knew already, and that this was the 
reason why she was silent, feeling that if 
ever they met she could not hold out against 
him. Poor little Bee ! Poor, poor little Bee [ 
Her mother dead, and her father so stern ; 
and thinking it her duty — her duty, God 
bless her I — to take all that household upon 
her little shoulders. The tears came into his 
eyes with a sudden softening. She thought it 
better to keep him at arm's length, the 
darling, knowing that she never could stand 
against him, that he would never, never 



J^ THE SORCERESS. 

consent ; the little, sublime, unreasonable girl ! 
The things they took into their heads, these 
inexperienced, generous creatures ! But, 
thank heaven, he was here ; even though 
she held him at bay — here, to make all right. 
The reader knows that poor Bee was not 
actuated by such lofty feelings, but then 
Aubrey had no knowledge in his mind of 
that strange story which had destroyed her 
faith in him. When a man is guilty he 
knows all that can be brought against him, 
in which, in its way, there is a certain 
advantage. He cannot be taken by surprise. 
He knows that this or that is lying ready 
like a secret weapon apt to be picked up by 
any man who may wish to do him harm. 
But the innocent man has not that safeguard. 
It is not likely to occur to him that harmless 
circumstances may be so twisted as to look 
like guilt. For his own part he had forgotten 
all about that little episode on the railway — or 
if he remembered it, it was with a smile and a 
glow of momentary pleasure, to think how, 
with a little money — so small a matter — he 
had been able to make comfort take the place 
of misery to the poor little family, whom 



THE SORCERESS. 79 

perhaps he would never have noticed at all 
had not his thoughts been full of Bee. 
He had done that for her with the feeling 
with which he might have given her an 
ornament or a basket of flowers ; the only 
drawback to the pleasure of it being that he 
could not tell her off-hand, and get the smile 
of thanks she would give him for it — far more 
than he deserved, for he liked doing it — 
kindness coming natural to this young man. 
It was hard on Aubrey in the complications 
of fate that this innocent, nay praiseworthy, 
incident should be made the occasion of his 
trouble. But he had no suspicion of it — 
forgot the fact, indeed, altogether — and would 
have laughed at the idea that such an 
accidental occurrence could in any way 
influence his fate. 

He went to the funeral, unnoticed in the 
crowd of people who were there — some for 
love and some for conventional necessity, but 
almost all with a pang of natural sympathy 
to see the train of children who followed 
their mother to her last rest. The Colonel, 
rigid in all things, had insisted at last, that 
all, except the very youngest, should be 



8o THE SORCERESS. 

there — having wavered for a moment whether 
it would not be more in order that the ^irls 
should remain at home, and only the boys be 
present at the melancholy ceremony. To 
see the little wondering faces two-and-two 
that followed the elder children up the aisle, 
and were installed in the mourners' places, 
some of them scarcely tall enough to see 
over the edge of the pew, brought many 
a gush of tears to sympathetic eyes. Bee 
and Betty, the two inseparable '' eldest," — 
slim, black figures — drooping under the heavy 
veils that covered them from the daylight, 
almost touched Aubrey with their clinging 
black garments as they passed. Did they 
see him ? He saw, wherever he was, at 
whatever distance, any movement they made. 
He saw that Bee never raised her head ; but 
Betty was younger, and less self-restrained — • 
that she had seen him at least he felt sure. 
And he felt the Colonel's eyes upon him, 
penetrating the thickest of the crowd. 
Colonel Kings ward had a glance that saw 
everything. He was a man bereaved, the 
light of his eyes taken from him, and the 
comfort of his life — and yet he saw every- 



THE SORCERESS. 8 I 

thing at his wife's funeral, saw and noted the 
faces that were dull and tired of the tension, 
and those that were alive with sympathy — 
making notes for or against them in his 
memory, and, above all, he saw Aubrey 
Leigh. Charlie saw him more accidentally, 
without any conscious observation, and the 
boys who had cried all they were capable of, 
and now could not help their eyes straying 
a little, conscious of the spectacle, and of the 
important part they played in it, everybody 
looking at them. i\ll of them saw him, but 
Bee. Was it only Bee who was so little 
in sympathy with him that she did not know 
he must be there ? 

He went back to his lodging a little angry 
through his emotion. It was too much. 
Even in the interval between her mother's 
death and funeral he felt that a girl who loved 
him should not be so obdurate as that, and 
he listened with a very sombre face to all 
the landlady's discussion of the proceedings. 
''It was a shame," she said, " to bring those 
little children there, not much more than 
babies — what could they know ? I'd have 
kept them safe in the nursery with some 

VOL. II. G 



82 THE SORCERESS. 

quiet game to play, the poor little innocents ! 
And so would Missis. Missis would have 
thought what was best for them, not for 
making a display. But God knows what 
will become of them children now." 

"What should become of them ?" said the 
husband. ''They'll get the best of every- 
thing and servants to wait on them hand and 
foot. The Colonel, he ain't like a poor man 
who could do nothing for them. When the 
mother's gone the children had better go too 
- — in a poor man's house." 

"It's little you know about it," said the 
woman with contempt. " Rich house or poor 
house, it don't make no such great difference. 
Nurses is a long way different from mothers. 
Not as I'm saying a word against Sarah 
Langridge, as is a good honest woman, that 
would wrong her master not by a candle end 
or a boot lace, not she. But that's not like 
being a mother. The Lord grant that if I 
die and there's a baby it may go too, as you 
say. You're more than a nurse, you're their 
farher, and you're part of them ; but Lord 
forbid that I should leave a poor little baby 
on your hands." 



THE SORCERESS. 8 



The man turned on his heel with a tremu- 
lous laugh. '' Well, I ain't wishing it, am I ?" 
he said. 

" But," said Aubrey, ''there are the — elder 
sisters — the young ladies." 

" Miss Bee ! Lord bless us, sir, do ye 
know the age that child is ? Nineteen, and 
no more. Is that an age to take the charge 
of a nursery full of children ? Why, her 
mother was but forty as has has been laid in 
her grave to-day. I wish to goodness as 
that marriage hadn't been broke off. He 
was a widower — and I don't much hold with 
widowers — but I wish that I could give him. 
a sign to come back, if he has any spirit in 
him, and try and get that poor young lady 
away." 

"If he has been sent about his business," 
said Aubrey, forcing a smile, " he could have 
no right to come back." 

" I don't know whose fault it was," said the 
landlady. '' None o' missis's, you take my 
w^ord ; but. Lord, if a gentleman loves a 
young lady, what's to hinder him putting his 
pride in his pocket ? A man does when he's 
real fond of a woman in our rank of life." 



84 THE SORCERESS. 

" I don't know about that," said her 
husband. " If I had been sent away with a 
cuff on the side of my head, blessed if I'd 
ever have come back." 

" You're a poor lot, all of you," the woman 
said. 

Aubrey could not but smile at the end of 
the argument, but he asked himself when he 
was alone — Was he a poor lot ? Was he 
unwilling to put his pride in his pocket ? 
Walking about his little room, turning over 
and over the circumstances, remembering 
the glare from Colonel Kingsward's eye, 
w^hich had recognised him, he at last evolved 
out of his own troubled feelings and imagina- 
tion the idea that it was his part to offer 
sympathy, to hold out an olive branch. 
Perhaps, after all, the stern man's heart was 
really touched ; perhaps it would soothe him 
in his grief to hear that "when the eye saw 
her, then it blessed her," which was Aubrey's 
sincere feeling at this moment in respect to 
Bee's mother. It seemed to him that it was 
best to act upon this impulse before other 
arguments came in ; before the sense of 
wounding and pain in Bee's silence got the 



THE SORCERESS. 55 

upper hand. He spent most of the afternoon 
in writing a letter, so carefully put together, 
copied over and over again, that there might 
be nothing in it to wound the most sensitive 
feelings ; offering to Colonel Kingsward his 
profound sympathy, telling him with emotion 
of her kindness to himself, her sweetness, her 
beauty, with that heightening of enthusiastic 
admiration, which, if it is permissible any- 
where, is so over a new-made grave. And 
at the end he asked, with all the delicacy he 
could, whether in these new circumstances he 
might not ask a hearing, a renewed considera- 
tion, for her dear sake who had been so good 
to him, and who was gone. 

I am not sure that his judgment went fully 
with this renewed effort, and his landlady's 
remarks were but a poor reason for any such 
step. But his heart was longing after Bee, 
angry with her, impatient beyond words, 
disturbed, miserable, not knowing how to 
support the silence and separation while yet 
so near, And to do something is always a 
relief, even though it may be the worst and 
not the best thing to do. In the evening 
after dark, when there was no one about, he 



86 THE SORCERESS. 

went up to Kingswarden, and himself put his 
letter into the hands of the butler, who did 
not know him, and therefore knew no reason 
why the letter should either be carried in 
haste to his master or delayed. Aubrey 
heard that the young ladies were quite as 
well as could be expected, and the Colonel 
very composed, considering — and then he 
returned to the village. How silent the 
house was ! Not a creature about, and how 
disturbing and painful to the anxious spirit 
even the simple noises and commotion of the 
village street. 

Next morning a letter came, delivered by 
the postman, from Kingswarden. It con- 
tained only a few words. 

" Colonel Kingsward is obliged to Mr. Aubrey Leigh 
for his message of sympathy, but, on consideration of the 
whole circumstances, thinks it better that no pretence at 
intercourse should be resumed. It could be nothing but 
painful to both parties, and Colonel Kingsward, with his 
compliments, takes the liberty to suggest that Mr. Aubrey 
Leigh would do well to remain in the neighbourhood as 
short a time as suits his convenience. 

" Kingswarden, October 15." 

Inside were the two or three notes which 

Aubrey on different occasions — twice by post 



THE SORCERESS. 2>y 

and once by a private messenger — had sent 
to Bee. They had not been opened. The 
young man's colour rose with a fiery indig- 
nation — his heart thumped in his ears. This 
was an explanation of which he had not 
thought. To keep back anyone's letters had 
not occurred to him as a thing that in the 
end of the eighteenth century any man would 
dare to do. It seemed to bring him back 
face to face with old-fashioned, forgotten 
methods, of all sorts of antiquated kinds. 
He put down the papers on the table with a 
sort of awe. How was he to struggle against 
such ways of warfare ? Bee might think he 
had not written at all — had shown no sym- 
pathy with her in her trouble. How likely 
that it was this that had made her angry, that 
kept her from saying a word, from vouch- 
safing a look! She might think it was he who 
was deficient, who showed no feeling. What 
was he to do ? The landlady coming up with 
his breakfast broke in upon this distracting 
course of thought. 

*T didn't know, sir, as you were acquainted 
with the Colonel's family," the woman said. 

" A little," said poor Aubrey. The letters 



88 THE SORCERESS. 

were all lying on the table, giving to a sharp 
observer a very good clue to the position. 
Mrs. Gregg had noted the unopened letters 
returned to him in the Colonel's enclosure at 
the first glance. 

'' You didn't ought to have let us talk. 
Why, we might have been saying, without 
thinking, some ill of the Colonel or of Miss 
Bee." 

He smiled, though with little heart. "You 
were once in their service," he said, ''do you 
ever go there now ? " 

'' Oh, yes, now and again," said Mrs. 
Gregg. *' Sarah Langridge, as is In the 
nursery, Is a cousin of mine, and I do go just 
to see them all now and again." 

'' Would you venture to take a letter from 
me to — Miss Kingsward ?" 

" Sir," said Mrs. Gregg, ''is It about the 
marriage as was broke off? Is It?" she 
added quickly, as he answered her by nodding 
his head, " likely to come on again ? That's 
what I want to know." 

" If it does not," said Aubrey, "it will not 
be my fault." 

" Then I will and welcome, the landlady 



THE SORCERESS. 89 

said. "It's natural I should want to go the 
day after the funeral, to see about everything. 
Give me your letter, sir, and I'll get it put safe 
into Miss Bee's own hands." 

All that he sent was half-a-dozen words of 
appeal. 

" Bee, these have been sent back to me. Was it by 
your will ? I have been here since ever I heard of her 
illness, longing to be with you, to tell you what I felt for 
her and you. And you would not speak to me I Bee, 
dearest, say you did not mean it. Tell me what I am 
to do. 

How^ long the woman was in getting ready 
— how long in going I Before she came back 
it was almost night again of the lingering, 
endless day. She brought him a little note, 
not returning the enclosures — that was always 
something — with a reproach. "Oh, sir, and 
you very near got me into terrible trouble ! 
I'll never, never carry anything from you 
again." The note was still shorter than his 
own : — 

" It was not by my will. I have never seen them till 
now. But please — please let this be the last. We can't 
meet again. There can never more be anything between 
us — not from my father's will, but my own. And this 
for ever — and your own heart will tell you why. 

'' Bee." 



90 THE SORCERESS. 

'* My own heart will tell me why ! My 
heart tells me nothing — nothing ! " poor 
Aubrey said to himself in the silence of his 
little room. But there was little use in 
repeating it to himself, and there was no 
other ear to hear. 



CHAPTER VII. 

It was with a sort of stuplfied bewilderment 
that Aubrey read over and over the Httle 
letter of Bee's. Letter ! To call it a letter. 
Those straggling lines without any begin- 
ning, no name of him to whom they were 
addressed, nothing even of the most super- 
ficial courtesy, nothing that marked the link 
that had been — unless it were, perhaps, the 
abruptness, the harshness, which she would 
have used to no other. This was a kind of 
painful comfort in its way, when he came to 
think of it. To nobody but him would she 
have written so — this was the little gleam of 
light. And she had retained his letters, 



92 THE SORCERESS. 

though she had forbidden him from sending 
more. These Hghts of consolation leaped 
into his mind with the first reading, but the 
more he repeated that reading, the darker 
grew the prospect, and the less comfort they 
gave him. '* Not by my father's will, but my 
own ; and your own heart will tell you why." 
What did she mean by his own heart ? She 
had begun to write conscience, and then 
drew her pen through it. Conscience ! 
What had he done ? What had he done ? 
The real trouble of his life Bee had forgiven. 
Her father had stood upon it, and nothing 
had changed his standing ground so far as 
the Colonel was concerned ; but Bee, who 
did not understand — how should any girl 
understand ? — had forgiven him, had flung 
his reproach away and accepted him as he 
was. How was it that she should thus go 
back on her decision now .^ ''Not my 
father's will, but mine. And your conscience 
will tell you why." Aubrey's conscience 
reproached him with nothing, with no 
thought of unfaithfulness to the young and 
spotless love which had re-created his being. 
He had never denied the old reproach. But 



THE SORCERESS. 93 

what was It, what was It which she bid him 
to remember, which would explain the 
change In her ? *' Your heart w^Ill tell you 
why " — why his heart ? and what was there 
that could be told him, which could explain 
this ? He walked about his little room all 
night, shaking the little rickety little house 
with his tread, asking himself, "What was It, 
what was it ? " and finding no answer any- 
where. 

When he got up from a troubled morning 
sleep, these disturbed and unrefreshing slum- 
bers, full of visions which turn the appearance 
of rest Into the most fatiguing of labour, 
Aubrey formed a resolution, which he said 
to himself he should perhaps have carried out 
from the first. He had an advocate who 
could take charge of his cause without any 
fear of betrayal, his mother, and to her he 
would go without delay. Of all things in the 
world to do, after the reception of Bee's note, 
giving in was the last thing he could think 
of. To accept that strange and agitated 
decision, to allow that there was something 
in his own heart that would explain it to him, 
was what he would not and could not do. 



94 THE SORCERESS. 

There was nothing in his own consciousness, 
in his heart or conscience, as she had said, 
that could explain it. Nothing! It was not 
to his credit to accept such a dismissal, even 
if he had been unaffected by it. He could 
not let a mystery fall over this, leaving it as 
one of those things unexplained which tear 
life in pieces. That would be mere weak- 
ness, not the mode of action of a man of 
sense who had no exposure to face. But if 
his letters were intercepted — miserable folly ! 
— by the father, a man of the world who 
ought to have known that such proceedings 
were an anachronism — and rejected by her- 
self, it was little use that he should continue 
writing. Against two such methods of 
silencing him no man could contend. But 
there was still one other great card to play. 
He went out and took a last view of the 
sheltered and flowery dwelling of Kings war- 
den, as it could be seen among the trees at 
one part of the road. The windows were 
open and all the blinds drawn up. The 
house had come back out of the shadow of 
death into the every-day composure of living. 
White curtains fluttered in the wind at the 



THE SORCERESS. 95 

upper windows. The late climbing roses and 
pretty bunches of clematis seemed again to 
look in. It was still like summer, though 
the year was waning, and the sun still shone, 
notwithstanding all sorrow. Aubrey saw no 
one, however, but a housemaid, who paused 
as she passed to put up a window, and 
looked out for a moment. That was all. 
He had not the chance of seeing any 
face that he wished to see. In the village 
he met the two boys, who recognised him 
sheepishly with their eyes, and a look 
from one to another, but were about to 
shuffle past, Reginald on the heels of i\rthur, 
to escape his notice — when he stopped them, 
which was a fact they were unprepared for, 
and had not calculated how to meet. He 
told them that he was going away, a definite 
fact upon which they seized eagerly. " Oh, 
so are we," they said, both together, one of 
them adding the explanation that there was 
always something going on at school. ''And 
there's nothing to do here," the other added. 
" I hope we'll, sometime or other, know each 
other better," said Aubrey, at which the boys 
hung their heads. " There is a good deal of 



96 THE SORCERESS. 

shooting down at my little place," he added. 
He was not above such a mean act ; where- 
upon the two heads raised themselves by one 
impulse, as if they had been upon wires, and 
two pairs of eyes shone. "Try if you can 
do anything for me, and I'll do everything I 
can for you," this insidious plotter said. The 
boys shook hands with him with a warmth 
which they never expected to have felt for 
any such "spoon," and said to each other 
that he didn't seem such a bad fellow at 
bottom — as if they had searched his being 
through and through* Mr. Leigh met Charlie 
when on his way to the railway station, but 
he had no encouragement to say anything to 
Charlie. They passed each other with a nod, 
very surly on Charlie's part, whose anger at 
the sight of him — as if that man had anything 
to do with our trouble — was perhaps not so 
unnatural. Charlie, too, was going back to 
Oxford next day, and thankful to be doing 
so, out of this dreary place, where there was 
nothing to do. 

It was the afternoon of the next day when 
Aubrey arrived at his mother's house. It 
was at some distance from his own house. 



THE SORCERESS. 97 

much too far to drive, and only to be got at 
by cross-country railways, with an interval of 
an hour or two of waiting at several junctions, 
facts which he could not help remembering 
his poor little wife and her companion had 
congratulated themselves upon in those old, 
strange days, which had disappeared so 
entirely, like a tale that is told. He won- 
dered whether she would equally think it an 
advantage — if she ever was the partner of 
his home. There seemed to him now some- 
thing wrong in the thought, a mean sort of 
petty feeling, unworthy of a fine nature. He 
wondered if Bee — Bee ! How unlikely it 
was that she would ever consider that 
question, or know anything further about his 
house or his ways of living — she who had 
thrust him away from her at the very moment 
when her heart ought to have been most 
soft — when love was most wanted to 
strengthen and uphold. Not her father's 
will, but her own. And your own heart will 
explain it. His own heart ! in which there 
was nothing but truth and devotion to her. 

He arrived thus at his mother's house 
very depressed in spirits. Mrs. Leigh was 

VOL. II. H 



98 THE SORCERESS. 

not the ordinary kind of mother for a young 
man Hke Aubrey Leigh. She was not one 
of those mothers wholly wrapped up in their 
children, who are so general. She had all 
along made an attempt at an independent life 
of her own. When Aubrey married she was 
still a comparatively young woman, by no 
means disposed to sink her identity in him 
or his household. Mrs. Aubrey Leigh might 
possess the first place in the family as the 
queen regnant, but Mrs. Leigh, in her per- 
sonality a much more important person, had 
no idea of being swamped, and giving up her 
natural consequence. She was still a con- 
siderable person, though she was not rich, 
and inhabited only a sort of jointure-house, a 
'' small place " capable of holding very few 
visitors. Aubrey was her only son, and she 
was, of course, very fond of him — of course, 
she was very fond of him — but she had no 
intention of sinking into insignificance or 
living only in the reflection of Aubrey, still 
less of his wife. 

Hurstleigh, where Mrs. Leigh lived, was 
near the sea, and near also to the county 
town, which was a brisk and thriving seaport. 



THE SORCERESS. 99 

It was an "old house that had known many 
fluctuations, an ancient manor house, inhabited 
once by the Leighs when they were of 
humbler pretentions than now ; then it 
became a farm-house, then was let to a hunt 
ing man, who greatly enlarged the stables ; 
and now it was a jointure-house, the stables 
veiled by a new wing, the place in that trim 
order which denotes a careful master, and 
more particularly mistress ; with large lattice 
windows, heavy mullions, and a terrace with 
stone balustrades running all the length of 
the house. Mrs. Leigh generally sat in a 
room opening upon this terrace, with the 
windows always open, except in the coldest 
weather, and there it was that Aubrey made 
his way, without passing through the house. 
His mother was sitting at one of her 
favourite occupations — writing letters. She 
was one of those women who maintain a 
large correspondence, chiefly for the reason 
that it amuses them to receive letters and to 
feel themselves a centre of lively and varied 
life ; besides that, she was considered a very 
clever letter writer, which is a temptation to 
everyone who possesses, or is supposed to 



lOO THE SORCERESS. 

possess, that qualification. She rose quickly, 
with a cry of " Aubrey ! " in great surprise. 

"You are the last person I expected to 
see," she said, when she had given him a 
warm welcome. " I saw the death in the 
papers, and I supposed, of course, you would 
be there." 

*• I have just come from Kings warden," he 
said, with a little nod of his head in assent ; 
" and yet I was not there." 

" Riddle me no riddles, Aubrey, for I never 
was good at guessing. You were there and 
yet you were not there ^" 

" I am afraid — I am no longer a welcome 
visitor, mother," he said, with a faint smile. 

*'What!" Mrs. Leigh's astonishment was 
so great that it seemed to disturb the after- 
noon quiet which reigned over the whole 
domain. '* What ! Why, Aubrey! It was 
only the other day I heard of your engage- 
ment." 

"It is quite true, and yet it has become 
ancient history, and nobody remembers it 
any more." 

"What do you mean?" she cried. "My 
dear Aubrey, I do not understand you. I 



THE SORCERESS. lOI 

thought you were dangling about after your 
young lady, and that this was the reason why 
I heard so little of you ; and then 1 was much 
startled to see that announcement in the 
papers. But you said she was always delicate. 
Well, but w^hat on earth is the meaning of 
this other change ?" 

" I told you, mother. For some time I 
was but half accepted, pending Colonel 
Kingsward's decision." 

"Oh, yes; one knows what that sort of 
thing means ! And then Colonel Kingsward 
generously consented — to one of the best 
matches in England — in your condition of 
life." 

" 1 am not a young duke, mother." 

" No, you are not a young duke. I said 
in your condition of life, and the Kingsw^ards 
are nothing superior to that, I believe. Well 
— and then ? That was where your last 
letter left me." 

" I am ashamed not to have written, 
mother ; but it wasn't pleasant news — and I 
always hoped to change their mind." 

" Well ? I suppose there was some cause 
for it ?" she said, after waiting a long minute 
or two for his next words. 



I02 THE SORCERESS. 

He got up and walked to the window, 
which, as has been intimated, was also a door 
opening and leading out on to the terrace. 
" May I shut this window ?"^he said, turning 
his back on her ; and then he added, still 
keeping that attitude, " it was [of course 
because of that old affair." 

-What old affair?" 

" You generally understand at half a word, 
mother ; must I go inio the whole nauseous 
business ?" 

She came up to him and laid her hand on 
his shoulder. " Miss Lance," she said. 

" What else ? I haven't had so many 
scandals in my life that you should stand in 
any doubt." 

'' Scandals !" she exclaimed ; and again was 
silent for a moment. '' Aubrey, explain it to 
me a little. How did that business come to 
their ears ?'' 

" Oh, in the easiest way, the simplest 
way !" he cried, " The injured woman called 
on the father of the girl who was going to be 
given to such a reprobate as me." He 
laughed loudly and harshly, preserving the 
most tragic face all the time. 



THE SORCERESS. IO3 

"The injured woman! Good heavens! 
And was the man such an ass — such an 
ass r 

'' He is not an ass, mother ; he is a modei 
of every virtue. My engagement, if you Hke 
to call it so, lasted about a week, and then I 
was suddenly turned adrift." 

" Aubrey, when did all this happen ?'' 

" I suppose about three weeks ago. Pardon 
me, mother, for not having written, but I had 
no heart to write. I left them at Cologne, 
and travelled home by myself, and the first 
thing I did, of course, was to go and see 
Colonel Kings ward." 

" Well ?" 

" No, it wasn't well at all. He refused to 
listen to me. Of course, I got it out from 
my side as well as I could, but it made 
no difference. He would not hear me. He 
would understand no excuse." 

"And the ladies?" 

" Mrs. Kings ward was too gentle and 
yielding. She never opposed him, and — " 

" Aubrey, the girl whom you loved, and 
had such faith in — Bee, don't you call 
her ?— " 



I04 THE SORCERESS. 

" Bee — stood by me, mother ; never 
hesitated, gave me her hand, and stood by 
me." 

"Ah, well," said Mrs. Leigh, with a little 
sigh of relief, "then that's all right. The 
father will soon come round — " 

" So I should have said yesterday. I left 
them In that full faith. But since they 
came back to Kingswarden something has 
happened. I wrote to her, but I got no 
answer — I supposed It was her mother's 
illness — now I have found that he stops my 
letters ; but something far worse — wait a 
moment — she, Bee herself, wrote to me 
yesterday, dismissing me without a word 
of explanation — declaring she did it by her 
own will, not her father's — and adding, my 
conscience would tell me why." 

Mrs. Leigh looked her son straight In the 
face for a full minute. " Aubrey — and does 
your conscience tell you why ?" 

" No, mother. I am too bewildered even to 
be able to think — I have not an idea what she 
means. She knew all there was to know — 
without understanding it in the least. It 
needn't be said — and held fast to her word ; 



THE SORCERESS. IO5 

and now I know no more what she means 
than you do. Mother, there's only one thing 
to be done — you must take it in hand." 

"I take your love affairs in hand!" 

she said. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

But though Mrs. Leigh said this it is by no 
means certain that she meant it even at the 
first moment. It is only a very prudent 
woman who objects to being asked to 
interfere in a young man's love affairs. 
Generally the request itself is a compliment, 
and not less, but perhaps more so, when made 
to a mother by her son. And Mrs. Leigh, 
though a sensible and prudent person enough 
in ordinary affairs, did not attain to the 
height of virtue above indicated. When she 
went upstairs to change her gown for dinner, 
after talking it over and over with Aubrey in 
every possible point of view, her mind, 
though she had not yet consented in words, 
had begun to turn over the best methods of 



THE SORCERESS. lOJ 

opening the question with the Kingswards, 
and what it would be wisest in the circnm- 
stances to do. That Aubrey should be 
beaten, that he should have to give up the 
girl whom he loved, and of whom he gave so 
exalted a description, seemed the one thing 
that must not be permitted to be. Mrs. 
Leigh was very anxious that her son should 
marry, if it were only to wipe out the episode 
of that little, silly Amy, who was fonder of 
her friend than of her husband ; and the half 
ludicrous, half tragic chapter of l/uil woman, 
staying on, resisting all efforts to dislodge 
her for so long, until she had as she thought 
acquired rights over the poor young man, 
who was not strong-minded enough to turn 
her out of his house. To obliterate these 
circumstances from the mind of the county 
altogether, as could only be done by a happy 
and suitable marriage, Mrs. Leigh would 
have done much, and, to be sure, her son's 
happiness was also dear to her. Poor 
Aubrey ! His first adventure into life had 
not been a happy one, and his descriptions of 
Bee and all her belongings had been full of 
a young lover's enthusiasm, not tame and 



I08 THE SORCERESS. 

tepid as she had always felt his sentiments 
towards Amy to be. What would it be best 
to do if I really undertake this business, she 
said to herseh'. Herself replied that it was 
not a business for her to meddle with, that 
she would do no good, and many other dis- 
suasions of the conventional kind ; but, when 
her imagination and feelings were once lit up, 
Mrs. Leigh was not a woman to be smothered 
in that way. After dinner, without still 
formally undertaking the mission, she talked 
with Aubrey of the best ways of carrying it 
out. If she did interfere, how should she set 
about it? '' Mind, I don't promise anything, 

but supposing " Should she write ? 

Should she go ? Which thing would it be 
best to do .'^ If she made up her mind to go, 
should she write beforehand to warn them ? 
What, on the whole, would it be most appro- 
priate to do ? 

The method finally decided upon between 
them — "if I go — but I don't say that I wil 
go — " was that Mrs. Leigh should first, with 
out warning or preparation, endeavour to see 
Bee, and ascertain whether any new repre- 
sentations had been made to her to change 



THE SORCERESS. IO9 

her mind ; and then, according to her success 
or non-success with Bee, decide whether she 
should ask an interview with her father. 
Aubrey slept under his mother's roof with 
greater tranquility and refreshment than he 
had known for some time, and with some- 
thing of the vague hope of his childhood that 
she could set everything right, do away with 
punishment or procure pleasure, when she 
took it in hand. It had always been so in 
the childish days, which seemed to come near 
him in the sight of the old furniture, the well- 
known pictures and ornaments and curiosities 
which Mrs. Leigh had brought with her 
when she settled in this diminished house. 
How well he remembered them all ! — the old 
print of the little Samuel on his knees, the 
attitude of which he used half-consciously to 
copy when he said his prayers ; the little old- 
fashioned books in blue and brown morocco 
on the shelves, the china ornaments on the 
mantel-piece, tie smiled at their antiquity 
now-a-days, but he had thought them very 
grand and imposing once upon a time. 

In the morning Mrs. Leigh coquetted a 
little, or else saw the whole subject in a 



I lO THE SORCERESS. 

colder light. " Don't you think it is possible 
that I might do more harm than good," she 
said ; " things might settle of themselves if 
you only give them a little time. Colonel 
Kingsward would come to his senses, and 
Miss Bee—" 

" Mother," cried Aubrey, pale with alarm, 
''on the contrary. Do you forget the 
circumstances ? Mrs. Kingsward is dead, 
there is a large family of little children, and 
Bee is of the race of the Quixotes. Don't 
you see what will happen ? She will get it 
into her mind, and everybody will persuade 
her, that as the eldest daughter she is wanted 
at home. It will be impressed upon her on 
all sides, and unless there is a strong 
influence to counteract it, and at once. Bee is 
lost to me for ever." 

" My dear, don't be so tragical. These 
dreadful things don't happen in our days." 

" You may laugh, mother, but it is no 
laughing matter to me." 

** I don't laugh," she said. '' I see the 
strength of your argument ; but, my dear 
boy, nothing will be so effectual in showing 
your Bee the happiness that is awaiting her 



THE SORCERESS. Ill 

as a little trial of the troubles of a large 
family on her shoulders. I know what it is.' 

Aubrey sprang from his seat though it was 
in the middle of his breakfast. " Mother," he 
said, ** there is one thing that I believe you 
will never know — and that is, Bee. The 
burden is exactly what will hold her fast 
beyond any argument — the sense of duty — 
the feeling that she is bound to take her 
mother's place." 

What was in Mrs. Leigh's mind was the 
thought : Ah. that's all very well at first, till 
she has tried it. But what she said was : " I 
beg your pardon, Aubrey. Of course, that is 
a much more elevated feeling. Sit down, my 
dear, and take your breakfast. It is not my 
fault that I don't know Bee." 

Upon which Aubrey had to beg her pardon 
and sit down, commiserating her for that 
deficiency, which was indeed her misfortune 
and not her fault 

At the end Mrs. Leigh was wound up to 
take the strongest step possible. She joined 
her son in London after about a week had 
elapsed. He chafed at the delay, but 
allowed that to leave Bee in quiet for a few 



1 I 2 THE SORCERESS. 

days after all the storms that had gone over 
her head was necessary. Mrs, Leigh went 
down early on a bright October morning to 
Kingswarden with much more excitement 
than she had expected to feel. She was 
herself inclined to take a lighter view, 
to laugh at the idea of interrupted letters 
or parental cruelty, and to believe that 
poor Bee was worn out, her nerves all 
wrong, and possibly her temper affected 
by the irritability which is so apt to 
accompany unaccustomed grief, and that ^in 
a little time she would of herself come round. 
Seeing, however, that these suggestions only 
made Aubrey angry, she had given them up, 
and was in fact more influenced than she 
cared to show by his emotion and anxiety 
when she thus sallied forth into the unknown 
to plead her son's cause. They had ascer- 
tained that Colonel Kingsward had returned 
to his office, so the coast was clear. Only 
the two girls and the little children were at 
home. Mrs. Leigh said to herself as she 
walked to the gate that it was a shame to 
take the little girl, poor little thing, thus 
unprotected, with nobody to stand by her. 



THE SORCERESS. II3 

If it were not that it was entirely for her 
good — nobody that knew Aubrey would 
deny that he would make the best husband 
in the world, and surely to have a good 
house of her own, and a good husband, and 
distinct place in the world was better than to 
grow to maturity a harassed woman at the 
head of her father's house, acting mother to a 
troop of children who would not obey her, 
nor even be grateful for her kindness to 
them. Surely there could not be two 
opinions as to what it would be best for the 
girl to do. Yet she felt a little like a wolf 
going down into the midst of the lambkins 
when she opened the unguarded gate. 

Mrs. Leigh was a clever woman, and a 
woman of the world. She had a great deal 
of natural understanding, and a considerable 
knowledge of life, but she was not unlike 
in appearance the ordinary British matron, 
who is not much credited with these qualities. 
That is to say, she was stout — which is a 
calamity common with the kind. She had 
white hair, considerably frizzed on the top of 
the forehead, as it is becoming to white hair 
to be, and dark eyes and good complexion. 

VOL. II. I 



114 THE SORCERESS. 

These things were In her favour ; still, it is 
impossible to deny that when Bee and Betty- 
saw coming towards them, following the foot- 
man across the lawn, a stout figure, not very 
tall, nor distinguishable from various ladies in 
both country and town whom they knew, and 
with the natural impertinence of youth set 
down as bores, they had both a strong revolt 
in their minds against their visitor. '' Oh, 
who is it — who is it ?'' they said to each other. 
*'Why did James let her in? Why did he 
let anyone in .^" 

It was a warm morning, though the season 
was far advanced, and they were seated 
again on that bench under the tree where 
they had watched the white cloud floating 
away on the night of their mother's death. 
They went there instinctively whenever they 
went out. "Mother's tree," they began to call 
it, and sat as she had been used to do, with 
the children playing near, and nurse walking 
up and down with the baby in her arms. 
They had been talking more that morning 
than ever before. It was little more than a 
week since Mrs. Kings ward's funeral, but 
they were so young that their hearts now and 



THE SORCERESS. I I 5 

then for a moment burst the bondage of their 
sorrow, and escaped the length of a smile or 
two. It was not much ; and, to be sure, for 
the children's sake it was indispensable that 
they should not be crying and miserable 
always, as at first they had felt as if they 
must continually be. But it was another 
thing to receive visitors and have perhaps to 
answer questions about the circumstances of 
their loss. 

*' Mrs. — ? w^hat did James say ?" Neither 
of them were sure, though a thrill ran 
through Bee's veins. It was a stranger. 
Who could it be ? 

" I have to apologise for coming — without 
knowing you — and at such a time," said ]\Irs. 
Leigh, making a little pause till the nurse 
had got to the end of the gravel walk with 
the baby, and James was out of hearing. ''It 
is you who are Bee, is it not?" she said, 
suddenly taking the girl's hands. " I am 
the mother of Aubrey Leigh." 

All the colour went out of Bee's face ; she 
drew away her hands hurriedly, and dropped 
upon her mother's seat. She felt that she 
had no power to say a word. 



I I 6 THE SORCERESS. 

" Oh, I thought it was Mrs. Leigh he 
said," cried Betty, "but I could not suppose 
— oh, Mrs. Leigh, whatever Bee may say, I 
am so glad, so glad to see you — perhaps you 
will be able to make things right." 

" I hope I shall," said Mrs. Leigh, ''and I 
shall always be obliged to you, my dear, for 
giving me your countenance. But your 
sister does not look as if she meant to let me 
put things right." 

" I am sorry if I seem rude," said Bee, 
gathering herself together, ''but — I don't 
think that papa would like us to receive 
visitors." 

" I am not a common visitor," said Mrs. 
Leigh. " I hope you will do me the credit 
to think that it is with a very different feeling 
I come. I am very, very sorry for you, 
so young as you are — more sorry than I 
can say. And, Bee, if indeed I am to hope 
to be one day your mother — " 

Bee did not speak ; but she fixed her 
blue eyes upon her visitor with a sort of 
entreaty to be left alone, and mournfully 
shook her head. 

"We can't think just now of that name," 



THE SORCERESS. I I 7 

said little Betty, with the tears standing in 
her eyes. 

" My dear children, I came to try to com- 
fort you, not to open your wounds. Dear," 
she said, putting her hand on Bee's shoulder, 
"you would not see Aubrey, nor let him have 
a word from you. But he said you had heard 
everything an evil woman could say, and did 
not give him up for that — and he is heart- 
broken. He thought perhaps you would tell 
me if he had done anything to displease you 
— or if it was only the effect of your grief, to 
which he would be submissive at once. All 
he wanted was to share your trouble, my 
dear child." 

This was not at all what "Sirs, Leigh in- 
tended to say. She had meant to represent 
her visit as one of sympathy solely, without 
at first referring to the hard case of Aubrey ; 
but Bee's looks had confused even this ex- 
perienced woman. The girl's pale face put 
on an expression of determined decision, or 
rather of that blank of resistance to enter- 
ing upon the question, which is a kind of 
defence which it is almost impossible to 
break down. 



Il8 THE SORCERESS. 

*' I would rather, If you please, not say 
anything of Mr. Leigh." 

'' Dear child ! Do not take that tone. If 
he has done anything that does nor please 
you, how Is he ever to clear himself If you 
will not tell him what It Is." 

"She Is like this all the time," cried Betty; 
" she will not say what Is wrong — and yet 
she Is just as miserable herself as anyone 
could be." 

Bee gave her sister a look In which Mrs. 
Leigh, closely watching, saw the lightening 
of the glance, the brilliancy and splendour of 
the blue eyes of which Aubrey had raved. 
Poor little Betty was Illuminated as If with a 
great flame. It was all that she could do to 
restrain a very inappropriate smile. '' You 
know nothing, and how do you dare to say 
anything ?" Bee said. 

" I am sure that Bee Is just," said the older 
lady. '' She would not condemn anyone 
unheard. Aubrey Leigh Is my son, but we 
have been separated for many years, and I 
think I judge him Impartially. He does not 
always please me, and I sure that at some 
time or other he has much displeased you. 



THE SORCERESS. II9 

Your eyes tell me, though you have not said 
a word. But, my dear, I have never, since 
he was a child, found him out in anything 
except the one thing you know, in which he 
was so sorely, sorely tried. He has always 
been kind. He gets into trouble by his 
kindness as other men do by ill-behaviour. I 
don't know what you have against him, but I 
feel sure that he will clear himself if you will 
let him speak. Bee " 

'* I do not want," cried Bee, '' to seem 
rude. Oh, I don't want to be rude ! I am 
sure, quite sure, that you are kind ; but I 
have nothing to say, oh ! nothing to say to 
anyone. I am not able to discuss any 
subject, or enter into things. I have a great 
deal to think of, for I am the eldest and it 
will not do for me to — to break down, or to 
have any more to bear. I am very, very 
sorry — and you are so kind. But I must go 
in now — I must go in now." 

'' Bee, Bee " 

" You can stay, Betty, and talk to the lady. 
You can stay, but — oh, forgive me — I cannot 
— cannot help it ! I must go in now." 

This was the end of Mrs. Leigh's embassy. 



I20 THE SORCERESS. 

She had a long talk with Betty, who was but 
too glad to pour into this kind woman's 
bosom all her troubles. Betty could not tell 
what had happened to Bee. She was not the 
Bee of old, and she did not know what it 
was that had happened about Aubrey, or if 
Bee had heard anything against him. She 
was as much in the dark as Mrs. Leigh 
herself. But she made it very evident that 
Bee had a grievance, a real or supposed 
ground of complaint which made her very 
angry, and which she resented bitterly. What 
was it ? But this Betty did not know. 



CHAPTER IX. 

Mrs. Leigh went back to her son with a 
sense of humiliation which was rare in her 
consciousness. She had been completely 
unsuccessful, which was a thing which had 
very rarely happened to her. She had 
expected if she got admission at all that 
anything which so young a girl might have 
on her mind must have burst forth and all 
have been made clear. She had expected at 
once to overawe and to soothe a young 
creature who loved Aubrey, and who had 
some untold grievance against Aubrey. But 
she was not prepared for the dual personality, 
so to speak, of Bee, or the power she had 
of retreating, herself, and leaving her little 



122 THE SORCERESS. 

sister as her representative to fulfil all neces- 
sary civilities without the power of betraying' 
anything that the visitor wanted to know. 
She went back to town very angry with Bee ; 
turned against her ; very little disposed to 
sympathise with Aubrey, which she had so 
freely done before. '' My dear boy," she 
said, " you have made a mistake, that's all. 
The elder sister has a temper like her father. 
Everybody will tell you that Colonel Kings- 
ward is a sharp-tempered man. But Betty 
is a little darling. It is she that should have 
been the mistress of Forest-leigh." 

In answer to this, Aubrey simply turned 
his back upon his mother. He was deeply 
disappointed, but this speech turned his dis- 
appointment into a kind of rage. She had 
mismanaged the whole matter. That was as 
clear as daylight, and such a suggestion was 
an added insult. Betty! a child — -a little girl — 
a nobody. His Bee seemed to tower over 
her in his imagination, so different, so high 
above her, another species. It was some 
minutes before he could trust himself to 
speak. 

''Of course, you think me a fool," said 



THE SORCERESS. I 23 

Mrs. Leigh, "and so I am, to tell a young 
man that there is another in the world equal 
to the object of his fancy." 

" Mother," said Aubrey, in a choked voice, 
''you mistake the matter altogether. That 
is not what is in question. What I want to 
know is, what has been said against me, what 
new thing she has heard, or in what new 
light she has been taught to see me. You 
might as well suggest," he cried, angrily, 
"that another person might have been better 
in your place — as in hers." 

"If that is all I don't mind allowing it," 
said Mrs. Leigh, with an aggravation peculiar 
to mothers. "You might have had some 
one who would have been, all round, of more 
use to you as a mother — only it's a little 
late to think of that. However, without any 
persiflage, here is one thing evident, that she 
has some grievance against you, something 
new, something definite, which she believes 
you to be conscious of, which she is too proud 
to discuss — I suppose ?" said Mrs. Leigh, 
looking at him with the look of the too- 
profoundly experienced, never sure how far 
human weakness mav eo. 



124 THE SORCERESS. 

'' Mother!" Aubrey cried. He was as in- 
dignant as she was unassured. 

" Well, my dear, don't be angry. I am 
not imagining anything. I only ask whether 
you are quite sure that there is nothing 
which might be twisted into a new accusation 
against you ? There might be many inci- 
dents, in which you were quite blameless, 
which an enemy might twist — " 

''You need not be melo-dramatic, mother." 
I have nothing in the world that could be an 
enemy — so far as I know." 

'' Oh, as for that, there are people who 
make up stories out of pure devilry. And I 
had no intention of being melo-dramatie," 
said Mrs. Leigh with displeasure. She 
added, after a moment, " Examine — I don't 
say your conscience, which probably has 
nothing to do with it — but what has occurred 
for the last six months ? See if there is any- 
thing which admits of a wrong interpretation, 
which could be, as I say, twisted." 

Aubrey paused a moment to attempt to do 
as she said, but the little episode of the 
railway station, the poor woman and her 
babies, he did not think of If truth must be 



THE SORCERESS. I25 

told, he thought that incident was one of the 
most creditable things in his life. He felt a 
little pleased with himself when he thought 
of it. It was one of those things which to 
mention might seem like a brag of his own 
generosity. He felt that it was really one of 
the few incidents in his life which modesty 
kept him from telling, one of the things in 
which the right hand should not know what 
the left hand did. Had he thought of it that 
would have been his feeling ; but when he 
was asked suddenly to endeavour to recollect 
something which might be twisted to his 
disadvantage, naturally this good deed — a 
deed of charity if ever one was — did not 
come into his mind at all. He shook his 
head. " You know whether I am that kind 
of man, mother." 

'' Don't refer it to me, Aubrey — a young 
man's mother probably is the very last person 
to know. I know you, my dear, ati fond. I 
know a great deal about you ; but I know, 
too, that you have done many things which I 
never could have supposed you would have 
done : consult your own recollection. Pro- 
bably it is something so insignificant that you 



126 THE SORCERESS. 

will have difficulty In recalling It. One can 
never calculate what trifle may move a young 
girl's Imagination. A grain of sand is enough 
to put a watch all wrong." 

Thus It will be seen that Mrs. Leigh's 
long experience was after all good for some- 
thing. She divined the character of the 
dreadful obstacle which had come in her 
son's way and shattered all his hopes. If he 
had recounted to her that incident which it 
would have seemed ostentation to him to 
refer to, probably she would have pierced the 
imbroglio at once — or could she have seen 
into his life and his memory, she would, no 
doubt, have put her finger at once on that 
place. But there they stood, two human 
creatures In the closest relation to each other 
that nature can make, anxious to find out 
between them the key to a puzzle which 
neither of them could divine, but the secret 
of which lay certainly between them, could 
they but find It — and could make out 
nothing. A word from the son might have 
set the keen-witted mother, better acquainted 
than he with the manner In which scandals 
arise, on the scent. But It never occurred to 



THE SORCERESS. I 27 

him to say that word. They looked into 
each other's faces and made out nothing. 
Strange veil of individuality which is 
between two human creatures, as the sea is 
between two worlds, and more confusing, 
more impenetrable still . than any distance ! 
Aubrey made the most conscientious efforts 
to lay bare his heart, to discover something 
that might be twisted, as she said ; but he 
found nothing. His thoughts since he met 
the Kingswards first had been full of 
nothing but Bee — his very dreams had been 
full of her. He wandered vaguely through 
his own recollections, not knowing what to 
look for — w^hat was there ? There was 
nothing. His mother sat by, and, notwith- 
standing her anxiety, could scarcely refrain 
from smiling at his puzzled, troubled endeav- 
our to find out something against himself. 
But there was nothing to find out. He 
shook his head at last, with a sort of appeal 
to her out of his troubled eyes. He was 
distressed not to find what he sought. " I 
know nothing," he said, shaking his head. 
" One never does anything very good indeed 
— but not very bad either. I have just been 



128 THE SORCERESS. 

as I always am — not much to brag of — but 
nothing to be ashamed of, between one man 
and another." 

" The question is between one man and 
one woman, Aubrey, which is different." 

" Then," he cried, with a short laugh, '' I 
defy discovery. There has been nothing in 
all my thoughts that need have been hidden. 
You do me grievous wrong, mother, if you 
can think — even if I had been inclined that 
way." 

" I don't think. I have the most complete 
faith in you, Aubrey. I say — anything that 
could be twisted by a malign interpretation ? ' 

He shook his head again. ''And who 
would take the trouble to make a malign 
interpretation ? I assure you, I have no 
enemy." 

" Colonel Kingsward is enemy enough." 

''Ah! Colonel Kingsward. I have no 
reason, however, to think that he would do a 
dishonourable action." 

" What do you call intercepting letters, 
Aubrey ? " 

" It is very antiquated and out of date, but 
I don't know that it need be called dis- 



THE SORCERESS. I 29 

honourable ; and he has a high Idea of his 
authority ; but to make a false representation 
of another man " 

"Aubrey, these distinctions are too fine for 
me. There is only one thing that I can do. 
I will now go and interview Colonel Kings- 
ward. If he knows of anything new, he will 
soon reveal it to me. If he goes only over 
the old ground, then we may be sure that 
your Jianc^ has been told something in her 
own ear — something apart from her father — 
which she has betrayed to no one. Unless, 
perhaps, it was got from the mother " 

'* Not a word about the mother. She is 
dead, and she is sacred ; and besides she was 
the last, the very last " 

" You have yourself said she was very 
weak, Aubrey." 

" Weak so far as resisting her husband 
was concerned, but incapable of an unkind 
word ; incapable of any treachery or false- 
hood ; a creature, both in body and soul, 
whom you could almost see through." 

Mrs. Leigh shook her head a little. 

" I know those transparent people," she 
said. " They are not always so But 

VOL. II. K 



130 THE SORCERESS. 

never mind ; I am going to Interview Colonel 
KIngsward now." 

Colonel KIngsward was very courteous to 
his visitor. He received her visit of sym- 
pathy with polite gratitude, accepting her 
excuse that so nearly connected as the 
families had, been about to be, she could not 
be in town without coming to express her 
great regret and feeling for his family left 
motherless. Colonel KIngsward was very 
diorrie. He had the fullest sense of what was 
expected in his position, and he did not allow 
any other feeling to come In the way of that. 
He thanked Mrs. Leigh for her sympathy, 
and exaggerated his sense of her goodness in 
coming to express It. It was more, much 
more, than he had any right to expect. If 
there was any alleviation to his grief It was 
in the sense of the great kindness of friends 
— "and even of strangers," he said, with a 
grave bow, which seemed to throw Mrs. 
Leigh indefinitely back into the regions of 
the unknown. This put her on her mettle at 
once. 

''I do not feel like a stranger," she said. 
"I have heard so much of your family — every 



THE SORCERESS, I3I 

member of it — through my son, Aubrey. I 
regret greatly that the connection which 
seemed to be so suitable should hang at all 
in doubt " 

'* It does not hang in doubt," said Colonel 
Kingsward, *' I am sorry if you have got that 
impression. It is quite broken off — once for 
all." 

" That is a hard thing to say to Aubrey 
Leigh's mother," she said ; '' such a stigma 
should not be put upon a young man lightly." 

'' I am sorry to discuss such matters with a 
lady. But I don't know what you call 
lightly, Mrs. Leigh. I do not believe for a 
moment that you would give a daughter of 
your own — I do not know whether you have 
daughters of your own " 

" Two —happily married, thank heaven, 
and off my hands." 

"You will understand me so much the 
better. (Colonel Kingsward knew perfectly 
well all about ?^Irs. Leigh's two daughters). 
I do not believe that you would have given 
one of them to a man — to whom another 
lady put forth a prior claim." 

'' I am not at all sure of that. I should 



132 THE SORCERESS. 

have ascertained first what kind of person put 
forth the claim " 

"We need not go into these details," said 
Colonel Kingsward, waving his hand. 

"It is most Important to go into these 
details. I can give you every particular 
about this lady, Colonel Kingsward ; and so 
can a dozen people, at least, who have no 
interest in the matter except to tell the truth." 

" The question Is closed In my mind, Mrs. 
Leigh. I have no intention of opening it 
again." 

" And this Is the sole ground upon which 
my son is rejected ? " she said, fixing her 
keen eyes upon his face. 

" It is the sole ground ; It Is quite enough, 
I believe. Supposing even that the lady was 
everything you allege, an Intimacy between a 
woman of that character and your son is 
quite enough to make him unsuitable for my 
daughter." 

" Who is not of your opinion, however," 
Mrs. Leigh said. 

Colonel Kingsward was confused by this 
speech. He got up and stood before the 
fire. He avoided meeting her eye. " My 



THE SORCERESS. I 33 

daughter is very young and very Inex- 
perienced," he said. '' She is at present 
more moved by her feelings than her reason, 
I believe that with an increase of maturer 
judgment she will fully adopt my view." 

Colonel Kingsward believed that he had 
altogether crushed his visitor, but he w^as not 
so right as he thought. Mrs. Leigh went 
back to her son with triumph in her eyes. 
" He knows nothing more." she said. " He 
does not know that she has turned against 
you. Whatever is her reason, it is some- 
thing different from his, and she has not 
confided it to him. I thought as much when 
you told me of the letters stopped. A man 
does not intercept a girl's letters when he 
knows she has come round to his way of 
thinking. Xow you have got to find out 
what she has heard, and to set her right 
about it whatever it may be." 



CHAPTER X. 

To set'oneself to find out without any clue or 
guidance what It Is which has affected the 
thoughts of a girl for or against her lover — 
without any knowledge of her surroundings, 
or from what quarter an adverse Influence, an 
111 report, could have come — who could have 
spoken to her on the subject of Aubrey, or 
what kind of story to his disadvantage (for 
this was what Mrs. Leigh convinced herself 
must have happened) she had heard — to 
discover everything and counteract It, was a 
mission that might well have frightened any- 
one who undertook It. And I don't doubt 
that Mrs. Leigh, to encourage her son, spoke 
a great deal more confidently than she felt, 
and that she really Intended to give herself 



THE SORCERESS. 1 35 

up to this discovery, and to take no rest until 
she had made it, and cleared up the matter 
which threatened to separate these two young 
people for ever, and make havoc in both their 
lives. 

Aubrey himself shook his head and declared 
himself to have little hope ; but he was not 
really more hopeless than his mother was the 
reverse. While he shook his head there was 
a warm sensation of comfort at his heart. 
That she should have undertaken to find it 
out seemed like half the battle. When a man 
retains any confidence in his mother at all, 
which is by no means always the case, he is 
apt to be influenced more than he is aware 
by the old prejudice of childhood that she 
can do anything that is wanted. She by no 
means felt herself to be so powerful as he 
did, though she professed her certainty of 
success, and he was much more held up and 
supported by her supposed convictions than 
he himself allowed to appear. Thus they 
separated, Aubrey remaining in town, ready 
to take advantage of any occasion that might 
present itself, while she returned to her home, 
to make every exertion to discover the cause 



136 THE SORCEKESS. 

of Bee's estrangement. Very easy words to 
say — but how to do it ? She had not a notion 
even what kind of story had been told to Bee. 
She did not know any special point of weak- 
ness on the part of Aubrey which could have 
been exaggerated or made to appear worse 
than it was. There was no inclination to- 
wards dissipation about him ; he did not 
gamble ; he was not addicted to bad com- 
pany. What was there to say about him ? 
The episode of Miss Lance — and that was 
all. And it was not the episode of Miss 
Lance which had revolted Bee. Had Mrs. 
Leigh ever heard of Aubrey's adventure at 
the railway station, it is possible that her 
mind, excited in that direction, would have 
been keen enough to have divined that the 
mystery was somehow connected with that ; 
for it was certainly Quixotic of a young man 
to put a poor woman and her children into a 
sleeping-carriage — the most expensive mode 
of travelling, and wholly beyond her condition 
— by a mere charitable and kindly impulse. 
And the world, which believes that nothing 
is given without an equivalent, might easily 
have made a story out of it. But then, Mrs. 



THE SORCERESS. 1 37 

Leigh was quite ignorant on this point, 
which, as has been said, had never occurred 
again to Aubrey himself, except as one of the 
few actions in his hfe which he could look 
back upon with entire satisfaction and even a 
little complacence. And thus the only way 
of setting things right was hermetically 
closed. 

Mrs. Leigh went back to her jointure- 
house. It was near the sea, as has been 
said, and near a lively seaside town, where, 
in the summer, there were many visitors and 
a great deal going on, strangers appearing 
and disappearing from all parts of the country. 
But in winter there was nothing of the kind ; 
the world closed up without, leaving only the 
residents, the people who were indigenous, the 
contracted society of neighbours who knew 
all about each other, and were acquainted 
with the same pieces of news, and, excepting 
by long intervals, heard but little of the 
outside gossip, or the doings of other circles. 
Mrs. Leigh returned to her natural surround- 
ings, which knew no more of Colonel 
Kingsward and his family than people in 
what is called "a certain position" know of 



138 THE SORCERESS. 

each other — something of his name, some- 
thing of his connections, but nothing of his 
immediate circumstances. There were indeed 
many questions about Aubrey's marriage 
which she had to answer as she could. The 
news of his engagement had been received 
with many congratulations. Everybody felt 
that poor Aubrey's first essay at matrimony 
had been a very unfortunate one. The 
sooner he brings a nice wife to Forest-leigh 
the better, everybody had said. And when 
Mrs. Leigh returned after her brief absence, 
the many callers whom she received daily 
were full of inquiries about the marriage. It 
was generally supposed that his mother's 
hasty expedition had been in some way 
connected with it. She had gone about the 
refurnishing, about the household linen, which 
perhaps wanted renewing, and which was not 
in a man's sphere — about something in the 
settlements ; at all events, whatever it was, 
her object must have been connected with 
the approaching marriage. They came down 
upon her full of the most eager questions. 
" I suppose the day is fixed ? I suppose all 
the arrangements are made ? How nice it 



THE SORCERESS. 139 

will be to see the house opened, and a new, 
lively, young married couple to put a little life 
in everything "• — matrons and little maids all 
concurred in this speech. 

"You have not heard then?" said Mrs. 
Leigh, with a very grave countenance — 
'* everything, alas, is postponed for the 
moment. ^Nlrs. Kingsward. a most charming 
woman, adored by her family, died last 
week." 

"I told you it was those Kingswards!" 
one of the ladies said to another. 

''There are no other Kingswards that I 
know of," said Mrs. Lei^h. who alwavs held 
her head so high. " I went up with Aubrey 
to pay them a visit of sympathy. There is a 
verv laree voune familv. I found them 
quite broken down with grief. Of course we 
had not the heart, either Aubrey or I. to 
press an arrangement in these dreadful cir- 
cumstances. I confess I am rather down 
about it altogether. Poor little Bee, my 
future daughter- in-law, is the eldest. I am 
quite terrified to hear that she has taken 
some tragic resolution, such as girls are so 
apt to do now-a-days, and think it her duty to 



140 THE SORCERESS. 

dedicate herself to her little brothers and 
sisters." 

" Oh, but surely she would not be per- 
mitted to do that — when everything was 
setded!" 

" I hope not. I most sincerely hope not," 
said Mrs. Leigh. " Naturally, I have not 
said a word to xA.ubrey. But girls now-a- 
days are so full of their ideas, their missions, 
and their duty, and all that !" 

" Not when they are engaged to be 
married," said a scoffing lady. 

*' I wish I could be sure of that. Miss 
Kingsward is only nineteen, just the self- 
sacrificing age. I wish I could be sure . 

There was something in her eye. But, how- 
ever, not a word, not a word about this. I 
still hope that as soon as a reasonable time 
has passed " 

" It is such a pity," said another, '' where 
unnecessary delays are made. I am sure no 
mother would wish her daughter's marriage 
to be put off — things are so apt to happen. I 
think it's tempting Providence when there is 
unnecessary delay." 

" Colonel Kingsward is a very particular 



THE SORCERESS. I4I 

man. He will allow nothing to be done that 
the most punctilious could object to. He 
will not have anything spoken of even. All 
the arrangements are in abeyance. It is 
most trying. Of course, I am very sorry for 
the family, and for him, who has lost so 
excellent a wife. But, at the same time, I 
can't help thinking of my own son kept 
hanging in suspense, and all his plans broken 
up." 

There was a chorus of regrets from all the 
visitors, one party after another ; but from 
more than one group of ladies as they drove 
away there arose the most gloomy auguries, 
spoken amid much shaking of heads. '* I 
don't believe it will ever come to a marriage 
after all," some said, "if Colonel Kingsward 
is so very particular a man, and if he hears of 
all that took place at Forest-leigh in the first 
wife's time." '* Whatever took place," said 
another, " it was her fault, as everybody 
knows." Ah, yes," said the first speaker, 
who represented more or less the common 
voice, " I know the first wife was a little fool, 
and whatever happened, brought it all on 
herself But there is never anv business of 



142 THE SORCERESS. 

that sort without blame on both sides." Thus 
the world generally judges, having half 
forgotten what the facts of the case were, 
though most of the individuals who constitute 
the world could have recalled them very 
easily with an effort of memory. Still, the 
blurred general view is the one that prevails 
after a time, and works out great injustices 
without any evil intention at all. 

It was thus that Mrs. Leigh thought it 
prudent to forestall all remarks as to the post- 
ponement of her son's marriage. She 
succeeded well enough, perhaps too well. 
Mrs. Kingsward's death accounted for every- 
thing. Still, the impression got abroad that 
Aubrey Leigh, that unlucky fellow, had 
somehow broken down again. And as the 
days went on and silence closed around, 
further and further did Aubrey's mother find 
herself from making any discovery. Indeed, 
she did not try, strong as her resolves to do 
so had been. For, indeed, she did not know 
what to do. How was she to clear up such 
a mystery ? Had she known the neighbours 
about Kingswarden, and heard their talk 
among themselves, she might have been able 



THE SORCERESS. I 43 

to form some plan of action. But her own 
neighbours, who did not even know of Mrs. 
KIngsward's death — how could she find out 
anything from them ? She thought it over 
a great deal, and when any friend of her 
son's drifted near her expended a great deal 
of ingenuity in endeavouring to ascertain 
whether there was anything in Aubrey's life 
which could have injured him in Bee's 
estimation. But Mrs. Leigh was perfectly 
aware, even while cautiously making these 
inquiries, that whatever his friends might 
know against him, his mother was the last 
person who was likely to be told. As a 
matter of fact, however, there was nothing 
to tell, and gradually this very fruitless 
quest died from her mind, and she did not 
even dream of pursuing it any more. 

And Aubrey remained in town disconso- 
lately getting through the winter as best he 
could, neglecting all his duties of hospitality, 
keeping his house shut up, and leaving his 
game to be shot by the gamekeepers — in- 
different to everything. He could not bear 
the place with which he had so many painful 
associations, sharpened now by the loss of all 



144 THE SORCERESS. 

the hopes that had fallen so quickly of taking 
Bee to it, and beginning a real life of happi- 
ness and usefulness. What he wanted most 
in life was to fulfil all his duties — in the 
happiest way in which such duties can be 
fulfilled, after the methods of an English 
country gentleman with sufficient, but not 
too great position, money, and all that 
accompanies them. He was not an enraoe 
foxhunter, or sportsman, but he was quite 
disposed to follow all the occupations and 
recreations of country life, to maintain a 
hospitable house, to take his part of every- 
thing that was going on in the county, and 
above all, to efface the recollection of that 
first chapter of his life which had not been 
happy. But all these hopes and intentions 
seemed to have been killed in him by the 
cutting off of his new hopes. He kept up 
his confidence in his mother until he went to 
her at Christmas to spend with her those 
days of enforced family life which, when 
they are not more, are so much less happy 
than the ordinary course of life. He went 
down still full of hope, and though Mrs. 
Leigh received him with professions of un- 



THE SORCERESS. 1 45 

impaired confidence, he was quick to see that 
she had in reaHty done nothing— for that best 
of all reasons, that there was nothing to do. 
" You don't seem to have made progress, 
however," he said, on the first night. 

" No, perhaps I have not made much 
progress. I don't know that I expected to 
make much progress — at this time of the 
year. You know in winter one only sees 
one's neighbours, who know nothing. Later 
on, when the weather improves, when there 
is more coming and going, when I have more 
opportunities " 

This did not sound very cheerful, but it 
was still less cheerful when he saw how little 
even his mother s mind was occupied with his 
affairs. It was not her fault ; all the thinking 
in the world could not make Bee's motives 
more clear to a woman living at a distance of 
three or four broad counties from Bee. And 
one of Aubrey's married sisters was in some 
family difficulty which occupied all her 
mother's thoughts. Aubrey did not refuse to 
be interested in his sister. He w^as willing 
to give anything he could, either of sympathy 
or help, to the solving of her problem ; but, 

VOL. II. L 



146 THE SORCERESS. 

conscious of so much in his own fate that was 
harder than could fall to the lot of any 
comfortable, middle-aged person, it must be 
allowed that he got very tired of hearing of 
Mary's troubles. He answered rather curtly 
on one or two occasions, and chilled his 
mother, whose heart was full of Mary, and 
who was already disposed to blame herself 
in respect to Aubrey, yet to be irritated by 
any suspicion of blame from him. On the 
last morning of his stay he had begged her, 
if she could abstract her thoughts for a 
moment from Mary, to think of him. " I 
don't want to trouble you further, mother. I 
only want you to tell me if you think my 
whole business so hopeless that I had better 
give every expectation up ?" 

"Think your business hopeless, Aubrey? 
Oh, no ; I don't think that." 

" But we know just as much now as we 
did in October. I do not think we have 
advanced a step — — " 

"If you mean to reproach me with my 
want of success, Aubrey !" 

'' No — I don't mean to reproach you with 
anything, mother. But I think it seems just 
as hopeless as ever — and not a step nearer." 



THE SORCERESS. I 47 

"Things cannot be clone in a moment," 
she said, hurriedly. " I never expected — 
When the summer comes round, when one 
sees more people, when one can really pursue 

one's inquiries ." Mrs. Leigh was very 

conscious that she had pursued few inquiries, 
and the thought made her angry. '' Rome," 
she added, " was not built in a day." 

Aubrev Lei^h said no more — but he went 
back to London feeling that he was a beaten 
man, and the battle once more lost. 



CHAPTER XI. 

There is nothing more curious in life than 
the way in which it closes over those great 
incidents that shape its course. Like a stone 
disappearing in a pool, the slow circles of 
commotion widen and melt away, the missile 
sinks into the depths of the water, and 
tranquility comes back to its surface. Every 
ripple is gone, and yet the stone is always 
there. 

This curious calm came into the life of Bee 
Kingsward after the incidents related above. 
The man with whom she had expected to 
share everything disappeared from her exis- 
tence as if he had never entered into it, and 
a dead peace fell over her, and all things 
around her. It was at once better for Bee 



THE SORCERESS. 1 49 

and worse that the mourning for her mother 
swept her away out of all the coming and 
going of ordinary life for a time — better 
because she w^as saved the torment of a per- 
petual struggle with her trouble, and worse 
because it shut her up to a perpetual 
recollection of that trouble. The Kino^sward 
family remained at Kings warden for the 
whole of that winter and spring. When the 
season began there was some question of 
removing to town, which Bee opposed 
strongly. '' I have no wish to go out," she 

said. " I could not, papa, so soon And 

we have no one to take us." 

" You will find plenty of people ready to 
take you," he said. 

And then Bee took refuge in tears. 
'* Nobody — that we could endure to go with 
— so soon, so soon ! — not yet a year," she 
said. Betty followed her sister dubiously. 
It was natural that she should always echo 
what Bee said, but this time she was not 
quite so sure as usual. Xot to balls ? Oh, not 
to balls ! was Betty's secret comment, but — 
Betty felt that to speak occasionally to some 
one who was not of her own familv — not the 



150 THE SORCERESS. 

Rector or the Rector's wife, the Curate or 
the Doctor — would be an advantage ; but 
she did not utter that sentiment. After all, 
what was one season to the measureless 
horizon of eighteen ? Bee renounced her 
season eagerly, and uttered exclamations of 
content when Colonel Kingsward announced 
that, in those circumstances, he had let their 
house in town. But I am not sure that she 
w^as so completely satisfied as she professed 
to be. She had dismissed Aubrey "for ever" 
— and yet, when the deed was clone, a longing 
seized her sometimes to hear his name, 
that someone should speak of him in 
her presence, that she should hear accident- 
ally where he was, and what he was doing. 
She had imagined little scenes to herself in 
which she had heard strangers saying to each 
other that Aubrey Leigh had soon got over 
his disappointment, that he was going to be 
married to So-and-So ; or that he was going 
to make the tour of the world, or to shoot 
big game in Africa ; or, anything in short, so 
loner as it was about him. Even when she 

o 

had been so determined against going out, 
there had been a hope in her mind that some- 



THE SORCERESS. I5I 

how, she did not know how, some news of 
him and what he was doing might be wafted 
her way accidentally. She did not want, she 
said to herself passionately, ever to hear his 
name again ! Yet she had calculated on 
hearing as much as that, hearing quite acci- 
dentally, at the Royal Academy, perhaps, or 
somewhere where she might happen to be 
calling, that he was going to the ends of the 
earth, or that he was going to be married — 
things which the speakers might suppose 
were not of the slightest interest to her. She 
said all the same that she was delighted when 
Colonel Kingsward informed them that he 
had let the house in town — very glad ! before 
it had time to get shabby, the poor old house; 
yet, when she retired to her room for the 
night, Bee cried, shedding many salt tears. 

But nothing of this was apparent in her 
life. The circles had all melted away from 
the still bosom of the pool. The household 
resumed its former regularity, quickened a 
little, perhaps, by the energetic sweeping of 
the new broom. Mrs. Kingsward had been 
an easy mistress about many trifles, which 
Bee, new to authority, and more enterprising 



152 THE SORCERESS. 

than her mother, exacted a rigid account of. 
At the beginning she set all the servants by 
the ears, each of them being anxious to 
show that their own conscientiousness was 
perfect, and their desire to consider their 
master's interests ; but, by degrees, matters 
settled down with an increased strictness of 
order. " As mamma would have wished it," 
Bee said ; and she herself changed in a way 
that would be alm.ost miraculous were it not 
a transformation commonly visible from time 
to time, from a light-hearted girl, full of little 
amusing misdemeanours and mistakes, into 
that sweet serious figure of the eldest 
daughter, the mother-sister, so often visible 
in England when the mistress of the house- 
hold has been removed in early life. There 
is no more beautiful or more tender vision ; 
it is fine at all ages, but in the first bloom of 
youth it has a pathetic grace which goes to 
the heart. Bee underwent this change quite 
suddenly, after a period of trouble and 
agitation and over activity. It might not 
perhaps have come but for the letting for the 
season of the town house, which seemed to 
make so complete a severance between her 
and the ordinary current of life. 



THE SORCERESS. 153 

It was perhaps this that opened what 
might almost be called a new relationship 
between Bee and her brother Charlie, who 
was the nearest to her in the family, though 
there had not been hitherto an unusual 
sympathy between them. For one thing, 
Betty feeling herself a little forlorn in the 
country with all the echoes of London, which 
occasionally came to her ears, had been 
permitted to accept an invitation to Portman 
Square to visit a quiet elderly family, not 
likely to lead her into any dissipation out of 
keeping with her black frock, and Bee was 
virtually alone with the children, to whom 
she gave herself up with a devotion which 
was the very quintessence of motherhood. 
Colonel Kings ward also was in town — a man 
cannot shut himself up (this was what he 
said) w^hatever his private griefs may be. 
He must keep a calm face before the world, 
he must not allow himself to be hustled out 
of the way. For this reason, he remained in 
London, living in chambers, to which he had 
an official right, in the dingy official grandeur 
of Pall jNIall, and coming to Kingswarden 
only now and then from Saturday to Monday. 



154 THE SORCERESS. 

This sundered Bee still more completely 
from the world. And when Charlie came 
back from Oxford she was more eager to 
meet him, more pleased with his company 
than ever before. This was not perhaps 
entirely the young man's mind. That he 
should choose to shut himself up in the 
country in June was perhaps scarcely to be 
expected. According to the curious rule 
which prevails in England he "did not mind" 
the country in January. But in June! How- 
ever, it was soon apparent that there were 
other things than the season in Charlie's 
mind. He began a series of lamentations to 
Bee upon the situation of the family and 
things in general, by the usual complaint of a 
young man in the country of having ''nothing 
to do." 

"A man cannot sit at home and dot up 
the accounts like you," he said, "though I 
don't say but that it's hard upon you, too. 
Still, women like to tie up children's sashes 
and that sort of thing, and calculate how 
much their boots cost in a year. I say, 
mother can't have had half such an easy life 
as we all thought." 



THE SORCERESS. I 55 

" I never thought she had an easy hfe," 
said Bee, which was perhaps not exactly true, 
but the things that Bee had thought a year 
ago were so unHke the things she thought 
now that she did not beheve hfe had ever 
appeared to her in a different hght. 

'' Well," said Charlie, " she had a way of 
making it appear so. Do you remember 
that last time at the Baths ? What a little 
thing you seemed then, Bee, and now here 
I am talking to you quite seriously, as if you 
were mother. Look here. I want you to 
speak to the governor for me. I am doing 
no good here. In fact, there's nothing to do 
— unless I am to drop into drinking and that 
sort of thing in the village." 

" Charlie ! " 

" Well," he said, " I can't sit and sew 
strings on pinafores like you. A man must 
do something at my age." 

*' And what should you do at Oxford ? 
And why do you want to go there when 
everybody is away ?" 

" Everybody away ! That is all you know. 
The dons are away, if that is what you mean. 
There are no lectures going on. But lectures 



156 THE SORCERESS. 

are a mere loss of time. There are lots of 
fellows up there reading. If you want to 
read hard, now Is the best time." 

'' How curious," said Bee, in genuine sur- 
prise, "when all the people who teach are 
away ! And I never knew that you wanted 
to read hard." 

'' No. I never was made to think that I 
ought to," said Charlie, with rising colour. 
" In this house nobody thinks of anything 
more than just getting through." 

Bee was a little angry as well as surprised 
by this censure upon the family. She said, 
*' The rest of us may not be clever — but 
everybody says there are few men that know 
as much as papa." 

" Oh, In his special subjects, I suppose, 
but I am not going in for the army. Bee," 
said Charlie, the colour rising higher on his 
young face, which was still an ingenuous face, 
though not of a very high order. "It is 
such a wonderful thing to have your duty set 
before you, and how you ought to make the 
best of your life. I, for one, never thought 
of it before. I was always quite satisfied to 
get through and to have plenty of time to 



THE SORCERESS. I 57 

amuse myself ; but if you come to think of It 
that's a very poor sort of Ideal for a life." 

Bee looked up at Charlie with more and 
more surprise. He was pulling his young 
moustache nervously, and there was a great 
deal of emotion In his face. It seemed 
amazlnof to his sister that Charlie — Charlie 
who had always been on the unemotional 
side, should take this heroic tone, or do any- 
thing but laugh at the suggestion of an Ideal 
In life. She gazed at him In some bewilder- 
ment. '' What are you going to read ?" she 
asked, with doubt and wonder In her voice. 

'' It Is just like a girl to ask a man what he 
Is going to read ! Why, everything. I just 
pushed through my mods., you know — a pass 
— which It covers me with shame to think of 
now. I must do something better than that. 
I don't know that I'm very good at anything, 
but work, after all, steady work, Is the great 

thing ; and If work can do it ! " cried 

Charley, breaking off, a little breathless, with 
a strange light in his eyes. 

"You almost frighten me, Charlie. You 
were never meant for honours or a high 
degree, were you ? Papa said you need not 



158 THE SORCERESS. 

go in for honours, It would lose time ; and 
you thought so, too." 

" I have changed my mind," said Charlie, 
nervously. I thought, like other asses, that 
in diplomacy you don't want much ; but now 
I think differently. How are you to under- 
stand how to conduct national affairs and all 
that, and reconcile conflicting claims, and so 
forth, and settle the real business of the 
world " 

'' But Charlie, I thought it was languages, 
and great politeness, and — and even dancing, 
and that sort of thing, that was wanted in an 
attache — — ^" 

" Attaches," said the young man, with a 
gravity which, serious as she also was, almost 
made Bee laugh, "are the material out of 
which ambassadors are made. Of course, it 
takes time " 

" Here Bee burst, without meaning it, Into 
a nervous laugh. 

"You are so dreadfully serious about it," 
she cried. 

" And w^hat should a man be serious about, 
if not that ? " the young man replied. 

Here for the moment, in great impatience 



THE SORCERESS. 1 59 

on his i^art, and in the call of some little 
household necessity on hers, the conversation 
closed ; but it was resumed as soon as the 
brother and sister were together again. The 
big boys were still at school, the little ones 
engaged with their lessons, and baby walking 
up and down in his nurse's arms, did not 
interrupt the talk which went on between the 
elders of the family. And there is nothing 
with which it is so easy to indoctrinate a 
girl than enthusiasm about an ideal, whatever 
that may be, or sympathy in a lofty view of 
duty such as this, which had dawned, it 
seemed, upon her brother. Bee took fire, as 
was so natural. She said to herself, that in 
the utter downfall of her own life, it would be 
a fine thing to be able to further his, and 
kept to the idea of Charlie as ambassador, 
settling all sorts of difficulties and deciding 
the fortunes of the world for war or for 
peace, as easily as if the question had been 
one of leading a cotillion. How splendid 
it would be ! She thought of herself as an 
old lady, white-haired, in a cap and shawl — 
for, in an imagination of twenty, there 
are few gradations between youth and that 



l6o THE SORCERESS. 

pathetic, yet satisfactory ultimate period — 
seated in a particular corner of a magnificent 
room at the Embassy, looking on at her 
brother's triumph. These sort of reflected 
successes were the only ones she thought 
that would ever come to Bee. 



CHAPTER XII. 

'' Charlie wishes to go up to Oxford to 
read. Why does he wish to go up to Oxford 
to read ? And what reading is it necessary 
to do there ?'' 

"He says, papa, that it is easier to get on 
when you have all your books about you — 
and when you can arrange all your way of 
living for that, instead of the interruptions at 
home." 

"Oh, there are too many interruptions at 
home ? I should have thought you were 
quiet enough here. I hope you have not 
thrown yourself into lawn tennis parties, and 
tea parties, and that sort of thing — so soon, 
Bee." 

VOL IL M 



I 62 THE SORCERESS. 

Her father looked at her with a seriously- 
reproachful air. He had begun to dine out 
pretty freely, though only in serious houses, 
and where, he explained, it would be pre- 
judicial to him in his profession not to 
appear. 

The undeserved reproach brought quick 
tears to Bee's eyes. '' I have thrown myself 
into no parties," she said, hastily. '' Nobody 
has been here. What Charlie means is the 
meal times, and hours for everything, and all 
the children about. I have often heard you 
say that you couldn't work when the children 
were playing about." 

*' My work and Charlie's are rather 
different," Colonel Kingsward said, with a 
smile. 

" Well, papa ! but to read for a good 
degree, so that you may distinguish yourself, 

must want a great deal of application " 

*' Oh, he wants a good degree, does he ? 
He should have thought of it a little earlier. 
And what use will that be to him in the 
Foreign Office ? Let him learn French and 
German — that's what he has got to do." 
'* But even for French and German," said 



THE SORCERESS. 1 63 

Bee. " German is dreadfully difficult, and 
Charlie does not pick up a language 
easily ; and, besides," she added, '' he has 
nobody to teach him at home " 

" And who would he have at Oxford ? 
Why, in the Long, even the shopkeepers go 
away ! 

" But that is just the time for good, hard 
reading," said Bee, acting on her instructions, 
'* when there are no lectures or anything 
formal to interrupt you." 

"He means, I suppose, w^hen he can do 
whatever he likes, and there are no proctors 
nor gate bills to keep him right." 

" Papa," said Bee, earnestly, " I don't 
think that is at all what Charlie means. I 
am sure that he has a real desire to get on. 
He says that he feels he has been w^asting 
his time, and — and not — not responding 
properly to all you have done for him. He 
wants to make himself fit for anything that 
may happen. If you will think, papa," she 
added, with the deepest gravity, " what a 
great deal of study and reading an ambassador 
must require " 

"An ambassador!" Colonel Kingsward 



164 THE SORCERESS 

was not given to laughter, but he laughed 
now. *' He may think himself fortunate if he 
is anything but an unpaid attache for the 
next ten years — which is an office which does 
not require a great deal of study." 

" But, papa " 

" Nonsense, Bee. He wants, I suppose, 
complete freedom, and to amuse himself as 
he pleases, with no control. I know what it 
means to stay up at Oxford to read during 
the Long. Oh, yes. I don't doubt men who 
know how to grind, grind, but Charlie is 
not one of them. Let him stay at home. 
You are a great deal sharper than he is at 
languages ; you can help him with his 
German as well as anyone." 

" Oh," cried Bee, from the bottom of her 
heart, " not with German, not with German, 
papa ! " 

And there came over her a sudden vision 
of the gardens at the Baths, the murmur of 
talk in the air, the German officers with 
their spurs, and one Englishman coming for- 
ward among them, an Englishman without 
spurs, without uniform, so much more dis- 
tinguished, it had been Bee's pride to think, 



THE SORCERESS. T65 

in his simplicity, than all these bedizened 
warriors — and now ! A gush of hot tears 
came to her eyes. There was reason enough 
for them without Aubrey Leigh, and Colonel 
Kingsward, whose heart was still tender to 
every recollection of his wife, did not think 
of the other memory that thrilled poor Bee's 
heart. He walked up and down through the 
room for a moment saying nothing, and then 
he paused by her side and put his hand with 
an unusual caress upon his daughter's bowed 
head. 

•'You are right, you are right," he said. 
** I could not ask that of you. Bee." 

Oh ! if I had but known ! Bee felt not 
only miserable, but guilty, when her father's 
touch came upon her hair. To think how 
little the dear mother's presence told in that 
picture, and how much, how much ! that of 
the man — who had been vulgarly untrue to 
her, a man without sense of purity or honour ! 
One whose name she never desired to hear 
again. She could hardly accept the imputa- 
tion of so much higher and nobler feeling 
which her father's touch conveyed. The 
dear mother! who never condemned, who 



I 66 THE SORCERESS. 

was always kind. She was moved to cry out 
In self-abasement, "It was not mamma I was 
thinking of, It was him ! him !" But she did 
not do this. She raised her head and took 
up her work again with a trembling hand. 

" I suppose," said Colonel KIngsward, as 
anxious as his daughter was to get away 
from a subject which was too moving for 
discussion, *' that Charlie finds KIngswarden 
dull. It Is not unnatural at his age, and I 
shall not object if he wishes to come to town 
for a week or so. His own good feeling, I 
hope, would keep him from anything unbe- 
coming In the circumstances. But I must 
hear no more of this going to Oxford. It Is 
quite out of the question. If he had shown 
any desire to go In for honours at the right 

time . But now it is worse than folly. 

He must get through as quickly as he can, 
and take advantage of his nomination at 
once. Who can tell how soon It may be of 
no value ? The Foreign Office may be 
thrown open, like all the rest, to every 
costermonger in the country, in a year or two, 
for anything one knows." 

Charlie received this conclusion with dis- 



THE SORCERESS. 167 

appointment, rapidly turning into rage and 
rebellion. "I should have thought the most 
old-fashioned old fogey in the world would 
have known better," he cried. " What, 
prevent a man from reading when he is at 
the University ! Did you ever hear of such 
a thing, Bee ? Why, even a military man, 
though they are the most obstinate in the 
world, must know that to be really educated 
is everything in these days. A week in 
town ! What do I care for a week in town ? 
It is exactly like the man in the Bible who, 
being asked for bread, gave a stone." 

Bee was greatly impressed by her brother's 
anxiety to continue his studies. It filled her 
with a respect and admiration which up to 
this time she had never entertained for 
Charlie, and occupied her mind much with 
the question how, if her father were obdurate, 
he might be aided at home in those studies. 
She remembered suddenly that Mr. Burton's 
curate had been spoken of as a great scholar 
when he came first to the parish. He had 
taken tremendous honours she had heard. 
And why might not he be secured as an aid 
to Charlie in his most laudable ambition ? 



I 68 THE SORCERESS. 

She thought this over a great deal as she 
moved about her household duties. Bee 
as a housekeeper was much more anxious 
than her mother had been for many years. 
She thought that everything that was 
done required her personal attention. She 
had prolonged interviews every morning 
with the cook, who had been more or 
less the housekeeper for a long time, and 
who (with a secret sense of humour) 
perplexed Bee with technicalities which 
she would not allow that she did not 
understand. The girl ordered everything 
minutely for dinner and lunch and breakfast, 
and decided what was to be for the nursery 
as if she knew all about it, and reproved cook 
gravely when she found that certain altera- 
tions had been made in the menu when those 
meals were served. " I assure you as that is 
what you ordered, miss," cook said, with a 
twinkle in her eye. All this Bee did, not 
only because of her strong determination to 
do her duty, but also because preoccupation 
with all these details was her great salvation 
from thoughts which, do what she would, 
claimed her attention more than nursery 



THE SORCERESS. 1 69 

puddings and the entrt^es that pleased papa. 
But while she pursued these labours there 
was still time for other thoughts, and she 
occupied herself very much with this question 
about Charlie. Why could not Mr. Delaine 
come to read with him ? Mr. Delaine had 
shown an inclination to flirt with Bettty, but 
Betty was now absent, so that no harm could 
be done in that direction. She thought it all 
out during the somewhat gloomy days which 
Colonel Kingsward spent with his family in 
the country. It rained all the Sunday, which 
is a doleful addition to the usual heaviness of 
a day in which all usual occupations are put 
away. Colonel Kingsward himself wrote 
letters, and was very fully occupied on 
Sunday afternoon, after the Church parade 
on Sunday morning, which was as vigorously 
maintained as if the lessening rows of 
little ones all marshalled for morning service 
had been a regiment — but he did not like 
to see Bee doing anything but '* reading 
a book " on Sunday. And it had always 
been a rule in that well-ordered house that 
the toys should be put away on Saturday 
evening, so that the day hung rather heavily, 



170 THE SORCERESS. 

especially when It rained, on the young ones' 
heads. Colonel Kingsward did not mean to 
be a gloomy visitor. He was always kind to 
his children, and willing to be interested in 
what they did and said ; but, as a matter of 
fact, those three days were the longest and 
the most severe of any that passed over 
the widowed and motherless house. When 
Bee came downstairs from the Sunday lesson, 
which she gave in the nursery, she found her 
brother at the writing-table in the drawing- 
room, composing what seemed a very long 
letter. His pen was hurrying over the page ; 
he was at the fourth side of a sheet of large 
paper — and opened out on the table before 
him were several sheets of a very long, 
closely-written letter, to which he was 
evidently replying. When Bee appeared, 
Charlie snatched up this letter, and 
hastily folding It, thrust It Into its envelope, 
which he placed in his breast pocket. He 
put the blotting paper hastily over the letter 
which he was himself writing, and the colour 
mounted to his very forehead as he turned 
half round. It was not any colour of guilt, 
but a glow of mingled enthusiasm and 



THE SORCERESS. IJI 

shamefacedness, beautiful upon the face of a 
youth. Bee was too young herself to admire 
and appreciate this flush of early feeling, but 
she was so far sympathetic in her own 
experience, that she divined something at 
least of what it meant. 

''Oh, Charlie! she said, "you are writing 
to someone " 

" Most assuredly, I am writing to some- 
one," he said, with the half pride, half shame 
of a young lover. 

" W^ho is she?' cried Bee. "Oh, Charlie, 
tell me I Oh, tell me I Do I know who it 
is ?" . 

"I don't know," he said, "what you are 
making such a fuss about. I am writing to 
— a friend." He paused a moment, and then 
said with fervour — " the best friend that ever 
man had." 

" A friend," cried Bee, a little disappointed. 
" But isn't it a lady ?" she asked. 

" I hope," he said, with a haughty air, 
" that you are not one of those limited people 
that think there can be no friendship 
between a man and a woman, for if that's so 
I ve got nothing to say." 



172 THE SORCERESS. 

Bee was scarcely philosophical enough to 
take up this challenge. She looked at him, 
bewildered, for a moment, and then said, 
'' Oh, tell me about her, Charlie ! " It would 
do me good — it would, indeed, to hear about 
somebody whom there could not be any 
objection to, who would be, perhaps, happier 
than me," cried poor little Bee, the tears 
coming to her eyes. 

" Happier than you ? And why shouldn't 
you be happy ? " said the elder brother. He 
made an effort to turn away in dignified 
silence, but the effort was too much for the 
young man, longing to talk of the new thing 
in his life. "There is no comparison at all 
between a little thing like you and — and the 
lady I was writing to," he said, holding his 
head high. ''If you think it is any sort of 
nonsense you are very much mistaken. Why, 
she — she is as much above me as heaven is 
from earth. That she should take the trouble 
to show any interest in me at all, just proves 
what an angel she is. I, an idle, ordinary 
sort of fellow, and she ! — the sort of woman 
that one dreams of. Bee, you can't think 
what she has done for me already," Charlie 



THE SORCERESS. I 73 

cried, forgetting his first defiance. "I'm 
another fellow ever since she began to take 
notice of me." 

Bee stole to her brother's side and gave 
him a sympathetic stroke upon his shoulder. 
'' Oh ! Charlie ! what is her name ? " 

*' You wouldn't know her name if I were 
to tell you," he said. And then, after a 
moment's hesitation : "Her name," he went 
on, " her real name as I call it, is Laura, like 
Petrarch's Laura, don't you know, Bee ? But 
I don't suppose you do know." 

''Yes, indeed, I do," said Bee, eagerly. 
She added in her turn, " I shouldn't have 
thought you would know anything like that." 

" No ; I'm not up to it," said Charlie, with 
unexpected humility; "but I read it all up 
as soon as she said it. Don't you think it's 
a beautiful name ? " 

" Yes," said Bee, yet not w^ith enthusiasm. 
" But, oh ! " she added, " I hope she is not 
married, Charlie ; for that would not be nice 
at all." 

" Married ! " cried Charlie. " I wish you 
were not such a horrid little — Philistine. But 
she is not married, if that is any satisfaction 
to you." 



174 THE SORCERESS. 

''And Is she — beautiful, Charlie ? and are 
you very, very fond of her ? Oh, Charlie ! " 
Bee clasped his arm In both her hands and 
sobbed. It made her feel wretched, yet 
filled her with a delicious tender sense of 
fellow-feeling. If he would only tell her all ! 
It would be hard upon her, and yet It would 
be a sort of heavenly pang to hear another, 
and, oh ! surely, this time, a happy love tale. 
Bee sat down close by him, and clasped his 
arm, and sometimes leaned her head upon It 
in the warmth of her tenderness and 
sympathy. And Charlie was persuaded, by 
degrees, to speak. But his tale was not like 
Bee's. It was a tale of a lady who had 
stooped as from her throne to the young 
fellow of no account — the ordinary young- 
man, who could not understand how she had 
come to think of him at all. It was she who 
had inspired him with his new ambition, who 
had made him so anxious to distinguish 
himself, to make something of his life. She 
had taken the trouble to write to him, to 
keep him up to it since he had come '' down." 
She had promised to let him come to see her 
when he came ''up" again, to Inspire him 



THE SORCERESS. 1 75 

and encourage him. " One look at her is 
better than a dozen coaches," Charlie cried, 
in the fervour of his heart. 

" Do you mean that you are going to see 
her — in town ? " asked Bee, doubtfully. 

''In town? No. She detests town. It's 
all so vain and so hollow, and such a rush. 
She came to live in Oxford at the beginning 
of last term," Charlie said. 

" Oh," said Bee, and she found no more to 
say. She did not herself understand how it 
was that a little chill came upon her great 
sympathy with Charlie and this unknown 
lady of his — friendship, if not love. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Colonel Kingsward, however, could not be 
moved either by Bee's representations or by 
anything said by his son to grant to Chadie 
the permission, and the funds necessary, 
to pursue his studies in Oxford by going 
" up " to read " in the Long." It was indeed 
very Httle that Charhe said to his father on 
the subject. He responded somewhat sul- 
lenly to the Colonel's questions. 

" So I hear you want to go back to Oxford 
to read ?" 

'' Yes," said the young man. 

" You have generally found before this 
that by the end of the term you had had too 
much reading." 

No reply. 



THE SORCERESS. I 77 

" I suppose you want to be free of super- 
vision and do exactly what you please. And 
you find it dull at home ? " 

" I have never said so," said Charlie. 

''You ought to feel that in the circum- 
stances it was appropriate that it should be 
dull. Good heavens ! Were you contemplat- 
ing amusing yourself, rioting with your 
comrades, when your poor mother — " 

'' I have never thought of rioting with 
comrades," said Charlie, with averted head. 

" One knows what that means — going up 
to read in the Long : boats and billiards and 
hotels, bands of young men in flannels 
lounging about, and every decorum thrown 
to the winds." 

The Colonel looked severely at his son, 
who stood before him turning over the pages 
of a book in his hand, with lowering brows 
and closed mouth. 

" You think I don't know," he said, sharply; 
'' but you are mistaken. What would have 
been best for you would have been the 
discipline of a regiment. I always thought 
so, but at least I'm not going to permit every 
decent bond to be broken through." 

VOL II. N 



178 THE SORCERESS. 

"I think, sir," said Charlie, ''that it's 
enough to say ' No,' without accusing me of 
things I never thought of." 

" I am the best judge of what is enough," 
said the angry father. ''If you want a week 
or so in town, I don't object ; but Oxford in 
the Long — No. I only hope," he added 
severely, " that there's no woman in the 
case." 

Charlie's countenance flushed crimson. He 
gave his father a furious glance. "If that's 
all," he said, " I may now go, perhaps ?" 

"Yes, go," said the Colonel, angrily. He 
was himself sorry for that last insinuation as 
soon as his son had left the room. His angry 
suspiciousness had carried him too far. Not 
that he blamed himself for the suspicion, but 
he was aware that to speak of it was a false 
step and could do no good. If there was a 
woman in the case, that flying dart would not 
move the young man to penitence or turn 
him from any dangerous way. Colonel 
Kingsward, however, quickly forgave himself 
for this inadvertence, and reflected with satis- 
faction that, at least, he had prevented the 
young fool from making an ass of himself for 



THE SORCERESS. 1/9 

this summer. And In such cases absence is 
the best remedy and hinders much mischief. 
Charlie rejected with indignation the week In 
town which his father offered. " A week In 
town!" he said to Bee, contemptuously, "to 
waste my time and debase all my ideas ! 
What does he think I want with a week in 
town ? That's the way a fellow's father 
encourages him to do the best he can. Cuts 
off all inspiration, and throws one on the 
dregs of life ! It's enough to make a man 
kick over the traces altogether." 

" But, Charlie," said Bee, with timidity, 
*' don't you think it's very, very quiet here. 
We have nothing to disturb us. If you were 
to try to do your work at home ? — you would 
have the library to sit in all the week while 
papa is in town." 

''Out of reach of books, out of reach of 
any coach — it's like telling a mason to build 
a wall without any stone." 

"The library Is full of books," said Bee, 
with a little indignation. 

"What kind of books? Military books, 
and travels, and things for reference — old 
peerages, and so forth — and some of the 



l8o THE SORCERESS. 

heavy old reviews, and a few novels. Much 
good a man who is going in for real reading 
would get out of those !" 

" But you have your own books — all those 
that you carry about with you, Charlie." 

" Oh ! he said, with impatience, " What 
are they ? Horrible cribs and things, that I 
promised not to use any more." 

" Does Laura," said Bee, with a little awe, 
" say you are not to use cribs ? " 

" And as for the quiet," said Charlie, 
continuing his strain of complaint, '*if you 
call that quiet ! When you never know that 
next moment there may not be a rush down 
the nursery stairs like wild horses let loose, 
and shrieks all over the house for Bee or for 
nurse, sending every idea out of a man's 
head ; or else baby screaming fit to bring 
down the house. You know nothing about 
it, to be sure; it is like talking to the wind to 
talk to a little thing like you. A man can't 
work unless he's in the right place for work- 
ing. If any difficulty arises in a passage, 
for instance, what do you think I am to 
do here ?" 

*' Do you go to Laura, when there is a 

difficulty about a passage, Charlie ? " 



THE SORCERESS. l8l 

"No, you little fool!" With a flush of 
anger and shame he begged her pardon 
next minute. " But It Is so hard to explain 
things to you, Bee. You are so Ignorant 
— naturally, for, of course, you never were 
taught anything. Don't you know that 
Oxford Is full of coaches ? " he said. 

" That was just what I was thinking of, 
Charlie — If you will not be angry, but let me 
speak." 

" Speak away," he said. This was on 
Monday, after Colonel Kingsward had left. 
The days which he spent at Kingswarden 
were the heaviest, as has been said, to the 
young party ; nevertheless when he went 
away the blank of that long world of a week, 
without any communication to speak of from 
without, closed down alarmingly upon the 
elders of the family. Even when papa was 
cross, when he was dissatisfied with his 
dinner or found fault with the noise of the 
children. It was more or less an event. But 
when he departed there was a sense of being 
cut off from all events, separated from the 
world altogether, shut out from the news and 
the hum of society, which was very blank 



I 82 THE SORCERESS. 

and deadening. Bee and Charlie dined 
alone, and it was dreary ; they spent the 
evening together, or else — one in the library, 
one in the garden, where the beauty of the 
snmmer evening was terrible to the one poor 
little girl with her recollections, incapable of 
shutting them out in that utter stillness, and 
trying very ineffectually not to be unhappy. 
When Charlie threw open the window of the 
library and strolled forth to join her, as he 
generally did, it was a little better. Bee had 
just done very conscientiously all her duties 
in the nursery — had heard the children say 
their prayers, in which they still, with a little 
pause of awe, prayed God to bless dear 
mother — and had made all the valorous little 
efforts she could to keep down the climbing 
sorrow. When she heard the sound of the 
library window she quickly dried her eyes 
and contrived to smile. And she was a very 
good listener. She suffered Charlie to talk 
about himself as much as he pleased, and was 
interested in all he said. She made those 
little allusions to Laura which pleased him, 
though he generally answered with a scornful 
word, as who should say that "a little thing 



THE SORCERESS. I 83 

like you " was Incapable of comprehending 
that lady. But this was the sole diversion of 
these young people in the evening. People 
called in the afternoon, and there was 
occasionally a game of tennis. But in the 
evening they were almost invariably alone. 

They were strolling about the garden on 
this occasion when the young man bewailed 
himself. Bee, though she made those allu- 
sions to Laura, had never got over that little 
chill in respect to her which had arisen in 
the most capricious, causeless way when she 
knew that Laura lived In Oxford. Nothing 
could be more unreasonable, but yet It was 
so. It suggested something fictitious in her 
brother's eagerness to get back, and In his 
supposed devotion to his work. Had his 
Egeria been anywhere else Bee would not 
have felt this ; but she did feel It, though she 
could not tell why. She was very anxious 
to please him, to content him, if possible, with 
his present life, to make her sympathy sweet 
to him, seeing that he had nobody but herself 
to console him, and must be separated from 
Laura until October. Poor Charlie ! It was 
hard Indeed that this should be the case, that 



184 THE SORCERESS. 

he should have so dull a home and no com- 
panion but his sister. But it could not be 
helped ; his sister, at least, must do what she 
could. 

''You must not be angry," said Bee, very 
humbly. '' It is only an idea that has come 
into my head — there may be nothing at all 
in it — but don't please shut me up as you do 
sometimes — hear me out. Charlie ! there is 
Mr. Delaine." 

''Mister — what ?" said Charlie, which in- 
deed did not show a very complaisant frame 
of mind — but a curate in the country is of 
less importance in the horizon of the son of a 
house who is at Oxford than he is in that of 
the daughter at home. 

"Mr. Delaine," repeated Bee. "You 
don't remember him, perhaps, at all. He is 
the curate. When he came first he was said 
to be a great schalar. He took a first class. 
You need not say, pooh ! Everybody said 
so, and it is quite true." 

"A first in theology, I suppose," said 
Charlie, disdainfully. 

"No, not that — that's not what people call 
a first. Mr. Burton, I have always heard, is 



THE SORCERESS. 185 

a good scholar himself, and he said a first ; 
of course you know better than I do what 
that means." 

'* Well," said Charlie, *'and supposing for 
the sake of argument that he took a first — 
what then ?" 

•' Why, Charlie dear ! He is an Oxford 
man too ; he must know all the things you 
want to know — difficult passages and all that. 
Don't you think, perhaps " 

" Oh, a coach !" cried Charlie. Then he 
paused, and with withering satire, added 
''No doubt, for little boys — your curate might 
do very well. Bee." 

*' He is not my curate," said Bee, with 
indignation ; " but I have always heard he 
was a great scholar. I thought that was 
what you wanted." 

** It is not to be expected," said her 
brother, loftily, " that you should know what 
I want. It is not a coach that is everything. 
If that were all, there need be no such things 
as universities. What a man needs is the 
whole machinery, the ways of thinking, the 
arrangements, the very atmosphere." 

He strolled along the walk with his hands 



l86 THE SORCERESS. 

in his pockets and his shoulders up to his 
ears. 

" I do not think it is possible," he added, 
turning to her with a softened tone, "that I 
could make you understand ; for it is so 
different from anything you have ever 
known." 

** I hope I am not so dreadfully stupid !" 
said Bee, incensed. "If Laura understands, 
why should it be so impossible for me ?" 

" Oh, for goodness' sake talk of things you 
can know something about ; as if there was 
any comparison between her and you." 

" I think you are very uncivil," said Bee, 
ready to weep. " I may not be clever, but 
yet I am your sister, and it is only because I 
wanted to help you that I took the trouble to 
speak at all." 

"You are very well meaning. Bee, I am 
sure," said Charlie, with condescension ; " I 
do full justice to your good intentions. 
Another fellow might think you wanted to 
have Delaine here for yourself." 

"Me!" cried Bee, with a wild pang of 
injured feeling and a sense of the injustice, 
and inappropriatness, the cruel wrong of such 



THE SORCERESS. iS/ 

a suggestion. And that Charlie could speak 
like that — who knew everything ! It was 
almost more than she could bear. 

'* But I don't say that," he went on in his 
lofty tones. " I know you mean well. It is 
only that you don't — that you can't under- 
stand." How should she? he said to himself 
with amusing superiority, and a nod of his 
head as if agreeing to the impossibility. 
Bee resented the tone, the assumption, the 
comparison that was implied in every word. 

" I wonder," she cried, *' if you ever tell 
Laura that she doesn't and can't understand .'^" 
He stopped short opposite to her, and 
grasped her arm. " Bee," he said almost 
solemnly, " Don't ! If you knew her you 
would know what folly it is and presumption 
to compare yourself for one moment ! — and 
do me the favour not to profane that name, 
as if it were only a girl's name like your own." 
"Is she a princess, then?" cried Bee, "or 
an angel ? Or what is she ?" 

"She is both, I think," said Charlie, in a 
voice full of awe, "at least to me. I wish 
you wouldn't talk of her in that way. I am 
sorry I ever told you her name. And please 



155 THE SORCERESS. 

just let my affairs alone. You haven't been 
able to do anything for me with my father, 
which is the only thing you might have done 
— and I don't want to discuss other things 
with you. So please just let my concerns 
alone from this day." 

"It was not I that ever wished to inter- 
fere!" cried Bee, with great mortification and 
resentment, and after a few minutes' silent 
walk together in much gloom and stateliness 
the brother and sister bade each other an 
offended and angry good-night. 



C H AFTER XIV. 

This made, however, but a very temporary 
breach between Bee and her brother. They 
were a little stiff next morning at breakfast, 
and elaborately refrained from talking on any 
but the most trivial things, but by noon this 
reserve had broken down, and in the even- 
ing, though Bee proudly refrained from 
any reference to Laura, they were as con- 
fidential as ever. Bee's mind had passed 
through various vicissitudes in respect to 
the object of Charlie's adoration. Her first 
overwhelming interest had given way to a 
little doubt, and this was naturally strength- 
ened by the overweaning estimate of the 
unknown which Charlie thrust upon her. A 
girl is very willing to admire at second-hand 



190 THE SORCERESS. 

her brother's love, but when she Is told that 
It is presumption to compare herself with 
that divinity, her sympathy is strained too 
far. Bee began to have an uneasy feeling 
about this unknown Laura. It was one 
thing to stimulate Charlie to work, to stir up 
all that was best in him, to urge him to 
distinguish himself, for Charlie's sake or for 
their joint sakes, if they married and became 
one — which was the only thing that could 
happen in Bee's idea — but it was quite 
another thing to pretend an enthusiasm for 
this in order that Charlie should be kept 
within her reach and at her feet during that 
quiet time of the long vacation. Bee knew 
enough to know that severe work is not 
compatible with miuch love-making. She 
imagined her brother strolling away from 
his books to take Laura out on the river, or 
lie at her feet in the garden, which had 
become the habit of his life, as he betrayed 
to her accidentally. Bee thought, with a little 
indignation, that the lofty intentions which 
would probably end in these proceedings 
were of the nature of false pretences, and 
that the girl whom Charlie endowed with the 



THE SORCERESS. I9I 

most superlative qualities should not attempt 
to take him from his home for such reason ; 
or, at least, if she did should do it frankly for 
love's sake — which was always a thing to be 
forgiven — and not on any fictitious pretence. 

For Charlie, being refused that heroic way 
of working, ''going up to read," did not read 
at all, as was apparent to his sister's keen 
eyes. He did not attempt to do the best he 
could, being prevented from doing what he 
desired. He settled himself, it is true, in the 
library after breakfast, with his books, as if 
with the intention of working, but before 
Bee got through the little lesson which she 
gave every morning to the little ones, Charlie 
was out strolling about the garden, or lying 
on the grass in the shade with a book, which 
was usually a novel, or one which lay closed 
by his side while he abandoned himself to 
thought — to thought, not about his books it 
was to be feared, for Bee, with tremors of 
sympathy in her heart, recognised too well 
the dreamy look, the drooped eyelids, the air 
astray from anything going on around. From 
questions of study, as far as Bee had per- 
ceived in her short experience, the merest 



192 THE SORCERESS. 

footstep on a path, the dropping of a leaf, 
was enough to rouse the student. Charlie's 
thoughts were of a far more absorbing kind. 

Colonel Kingsward suggested once more 
the week in town, when he came on another 
Saturday evening to Kingswarden. He was 
a man not very open to a perception of the 
wants of others, but as time went on, and he 
himself became more and more sensible of 
the ameliorating influences of society and 
occupation, the stagnant atmosphere at home, 
where his two elder children were vegetating, 
so much against all their previous habits, 
struck him with a sensation which he could 
not wholly get the better of. It was only 
right that Bee, at least, should remain in the 
country and in retirement the first summer 
after her mother's death. It would have been 
most unbecoming had she been in town seeing 
people, and necessarily, more or less, been 
seen by the world. But yet he felt the 
stillness close round him like a sensible chill, 
and was aware of the great quiet — aggravated 
by his own presence, though of this he was 
scarcely aware — as if it had been a blight in 
the air. It made him angry for the moment. 



THE SORCERESS. 1 93 

In other times his house in the country had 
always been refreshing and deHghtful to him. 
Now, the air, notwithstanding that it was full 
summer, chilled him to the bone. 

When you are escaping from the atmos- 
phere of grief, anything that draws you back 
to It feels like an injury. He was very cross, 
very impatient w^ith the silence at table, the 
subdued looks of the young people, and that 
they had nothing to say. Was it not worse 
for him than for them ? He was the one who 
had lost the most, and to whom all ministra- 
tions were due, to soften the smart of sorrow. 
But afterwards his thoughts towards his 
children softened. It was very dull for them. 
On the Sunday evening he took the trouble 
to press that week in town upon Charlie. 
'' There's a spare closet you can have at my 
rooms at the office," he said. " It's very 
central if not much else, and I daresay your 
friends will ask you out quietly as they do 
me. I think even you might bring up Bee 
for the day to see the pictures. She could 
stay the night with the Hammonds and see 
Betty." 

*' Oh, don't think of me, papa," cried Bee. 

VOL. II. o 



194 THE SORCERESS. 

" I would rather, far rather, stay at home. I 
don't care for the pictures — this year." 

" That is foolish, my dear," said the 
Colonel. "There is nothing in the least 
unbecoming to your mourning in going there. 
Indeed, I wish you to go. You ought not to 
miss the pictures, and it will be a little 
change. Of course, I cannot go with you 
myself, but Charlie will take you, and you 
can go to Portman Square to sleep. You 
will see Betty, who must be thinking of com- 
ing home about now ; indeed, it is quite 
necessary you should settle that with her. 
She can't stay there all the season, and it is 
rather heartless leaving you like this alone." 

''Oh, no, papa. It is I that wish her to 
stay. She would have come back long ago 
but for me." 

Bee's generous assumption of the blame, if 
there was any blame, excited her father's 
suspicion rather than admiration. He looked 
at her somewhat severely. " I cannot con- 
ceive what object you can have in preferring 
to be alone," he said. ''It is either morbid, 
or — In either case it makes it more desir- 
able that Betty should come back. You can 



THE SORCERESS. I 95 

arrange that. We will say Wednesday. I 
suppose you will not be nervous about 
returning home alone ? " 

'' But, papa — " 

** I consider the question settled, Bee," 
said Colonel Kingsward, and after that there 
was nothing more to be said. 

Poor Bee wept many tears over this com- 
pulsory first step back into the world — 

without her mother, without She did 

not mean (as she said in her inmost thonghts) 
anyone else; but it made the whole world 
vacant around her to think that neither on 
one side nor the other was there anyone to 
walk by her side, to take her hand, to make 
her feel that she was not alone. Neverthe- 
less, it cannot be denied that, in the morning, 
this was the first thought that came into her 
mind, with a faint expansion of her young 
being. The change, though it was not 
joyful, was still something ; and when she set 
out with Charlie on Wednesday morning her 
heart, in spite of herself, rose a little. To 
see the pictures ! The pictures are not 
generally very exciting, and there was not, as 
it happened, a sensation in any one of them 



196 THE SORCERESS. 

In this particular year, even had Bee been 
capable of It, which she was not. But yet 
she had a sensation, and one of the most 
startling description. As she was going 
languidly along, looking at one picture after 
another, mechanically referring to the cata- 
logue, which conveyed very little Idea to her 
mind, her attention was suddenly attracted by 
a lady standing In front of one of the chief 
pictures of the year. She was talking with 
great animation to some friends who sur- 
rounded her, pointing out the qualities and 
excellencies (or non-excellencies, for Bee 
was not near enough to hear) of the picture. 
She was picturesquely dressed In black, a tall 
and commanding figure, with a great deal of 
lace about her, and a fine profile, clearly cut 
and Impressive. Bee's whole attention w^as 
called to her as by a charm. Where had she 
seen her before ? She seemed acquainted 
with every detail of her figure, and penetrated 
by a vague reminiscence as of someone who 
had been of personal Importance to herself, 
though she could not tell when or how. ''Who 
Is she ? Oh, who is she .^" Bee asked her- 
self. She was very handsome — Indeed Bee 



THE SORCERESS. 19/ 

thought her a beautiful woman ; not young, 
which is a thing always noted with a certain 
pain and compassion by a young girl — but 
full of grace and interest. While Bee gazed. 
open-eyed, forgetful of herself — a young 
figure, very interesting, too. to behold, in her 
deep mourning, and with the complete forget- 
fulness of herself involved in that wistful, 
inquiring, and admiring gaze — the lady turned 
round, presenting her full face to the girl's 
troubled vision. Bee felt her breath come 
short, her heart beat. She fell back hurriedly 
upon a vacant place on one of the benehes 
which someone had charitably left empty. 
Bee did not know^ w^ho the woman was. nor 
what possible connections she could have 
with her own fate, and yet there was a 
conviction in the girl's heart that she had to 
do with it, that somehow or other her life 
was in this woman's hands. It was the lady 
whom she had met that autumn morning last 
year in the firwoods round the Baths, where 
Bee had gone to finish her sketch — the lady 
who had appeared suddenly from among the 
trees, who had sat down by her, and pointed 
out the errors in the little picture, and 



198 THE SORCERESS. 

advised her how to put them right. The 
black lace which was so conspicuous in the 
stranger's dress, seemed to sweep over Bee 
as she passed, with the same faint, penetrat- 
ing odour, the same thrill of unaccountable 
sensation. Bee could not take her eyes from 
this figure as it moved slowly along, pausing 
here and there with the air of a connoisseur. 
Who was she ? Who was she ? Bee turned 
as she turned, following her with her eyes. 

And then there occurred the most won- 
derful incident, so strange, so unsuspected, 
so unaccountable, that Bee could scarcely 
suppress a cry of astonishment. Charlie had 
been " doing " the pictures in his way, going 
faster than his sister, and had been roaming 
down the whole side of the long gallery 
while Bee occupied herself with one or two 
favourites. He appeared now at a little 
distance, having made the round of the room, 
and Bee was the involuntary, much surprised 
witness of the effect produced upon Charlie 
by the sudden appearance which had so 
much excited herself. He stopped short, 
with it seemed a sudden exclamation, let the 
book in his hands drop in his amazement, 



THE SORCERESS. 1 99 

then, cleaving the crowd, precipitated himself 
upon the group in which the lady stood. 
Bee watched with consternation the hurried, 
eager greeting, the illumination of his boyish 
face, even the gesture — both hands put forth, 
and the quiver of his whole eager figure. 
She even heard a little cry of surprise from 
the lady, who presently separated herself 
from her friends and went on with Charlie in 
the closest conversation. It seemed to Bee 
as she watched, following them as well as she 
could through the crowd which got between 
her and these two figures, that there were no 
two heads so close together in all the throng. 
They seemed to drift into a corner where the 
pictures were of no importance, where they 
were comparatively undisturbed as if for the 
most confidential talk. It was not mere 
acquaintanceship, a chance meeting with 
some one he knew, it was utter forgetfulness 
of everything else, complete absorption in 
this new interest that seemed to move her 
brother. For a time Bee formed no con- 
clusion, thought of no explanation, but 
watched them only with all her faculties. 
The catalogue which Charlie had dropped 



200 THE SORCERESS. 

was shuffled and kicked to her feet by the 
passers by, a visible sign that something 
unusual had happened. What was It ? Who 
was she ? 

And then there darted Into Bee's mind a 
suggestion, an Idea which she could not, 
would not entertain. Laura ! Was It possible 
that this could be Laura ? The thought sent 
a thrill through and through her. But no ! 
no! no! she cried within herself; Impossible! 
This lady was years older than Charlie — of 
another generation altogether — not a girl at 
all. She gazed through the crowd at the two 
heads In the corner of the room, standing as 
If they were looking at the pictures. They 
had their backs to Bee, and she could see 
nothing but occasionally a side glimpse of 
Charlie's cheek and the lace bonnet, with the 
unusual accompaniment of a floating veil, 
which covered his companion's head. She 
had remembered the veil at once — not primly 
fastened over her face, as most ladies wore 
them, but thrown back and falling behind, a 
head-dress such as nobody else wore. It 
distinguished from every other head that of 
the woman who, Bee now felt sure, was like 



THE SORCERESS. 20I 

somebody in a tragedy of Fate — somebody 
who had to do, she could not tell how, with 
the shipwreck of her own life — for had she 
not appeared mysteriously, from she knew 
not where, on the very eve of misery and 
ruin ? — and now was overshadowing Charlie's, 
bringing him some calamity. Bee shivered 
and trembled among all the crowding people 
on the seat which so many people envied 
her, and felt that she was retaining far longer 
than her share. She was too much frightened 
to do as she could have wished to do, to rush 
after them, to draw her brother away, to 
break the spell. Such a dark lady had been 
known in story long before Bee was born. 
Could it be true that hateful beings were 
permitted to stray about even in the brightest 
scenes, bringing evil augury and all kinds of 
trouble with them ? Many a time had Bee 
thought of this lady — of her sudden appear- 
ance, and of her questions about the Leighs ; 
of something in her look, an air of meaning 
which even at the moment had confused the 
unsuspicious, unalarmed girl. And now, 
What was she ? Who was she ? Laura ? 
Oh, no, no ; a hundred times no. If Bee 



202 THE SORCERESS. 

could have supposed that her respectable 
father or any member of her Innocent family 
could have wronged anyone, she would have 
thought it was a ghost -lady ominous of 
trouble. Oh, what a silly thought in broad 
daylight, in the Academy of all places in the 
world ! There was very little that was 
visionary or superstitious in such a place. 

Charlie came back to join his sister after 
a considerable time with a glowing face. 
" Oh, you are there ! " he cried. '' I've been 
looking everywhere for you. I couldn't think 
where you could have gone " 

'' I should have seen you had you been 
looking for me," said Bee. 

" Well, never mind, now that I have found 
you. Have you seen as much as you wish ? 
It's time to be moving off if you mean to get 
to Portman Square in time for tea." 

''Charlie," said Bee, very gravely, getting 
up and moving with him towards the door, 
'' who is that lady you were talking to with 
the black lace about her head ? " 

"What lady?" said Charlie, with a very 
fictitious look of surprise, and the colour 
mounting all over his face. '' Oh, the lady I 



THE SORCERESS, 203 

met — that lady ? Well, she is a lady — whom 
I have met elsewhere " 

" I have met her, too," cried Bee, breath- 
less, ''dow^n at the Baths just before 

Oh, who is she — w^ho is she, Charlie? I think 
she is one of the Fates." 

"You little goose," cried her brother, 
and then he laughed in an unsteady way. 
*' Perhaps she is — if there was a good one," 
he cried. " She is," he added, in a different 
tone, and then paused again ; '' but I couldn't 
tell you half what she is if I were to talk till 
next week — and never in such a noisy, vulgar 
place as this." 

Then Bee's mind, driven from one thought 
to another, came suddenly back with a jar 
and strain of her nerves to the question about 
Laura ; was it possible that this should be 
she ? — for it was the tone sacred to Laura in 
which her brother now spoke. " Oh ! tell me 
about her, tell me about her ! " she cried, 
involuntarily clasping her hands — " she isn't 
— is she ? Oh, Charlie, you will have time 
to tell me when we get into the park. Didn't 
she want to speak to me ? Why didn't you 
introduce me to her if she is such a great 
friend of yours ?" 



204 THE SORCERESS. 

'' Hush ! for goodness' sake, now ; you are 
making people stare," said Charlie. He 
hurried down the stairs and across the road 
outside, making her almost run to keep up 
with him. '' I say, Bee," he cried hurriedly, 
when he had signalled to a hansom, '' should 
you mind going by yourself? I hate driving 
when I can walk. Why, you've been in a 
hansom by yourself before ! You're not 
not going to be such a little goose as to make 
a fuss about it now." 

''Oh, but Charlie — I'd rather walk too, 
and then you can tell me — " 

'' Oh, nonsense," he cried, " you're tired 
already. It would be too much for you. 
Portman Square, No. — . Good-bye, Bee. 
I'll look up later," he cried, as, to Bee's con- 
sternation, the wheels of the hansom jarred 
upon the curb and she felt herself carried 
rapidly away. 



CHAPTER XV. 

PoRTMAN Square had seemed to Bee the 
first step into the world, after all that had 
happened, but when she was there this gentle 
illusion faded. It was not the world, but 
only another dry and faded corner out of the 
world, more silent and recluse than even 
Kingswarden had become, for there were no 
voices of children within, and no rustle of 
trees and singing of birds without. The 
meeting with Betty was sweet, but the air 
of the little old-fashioned tea-table, the long, 
solemn dinner, with the butler and the foot- 
man stealing like ghosts about the table, 
which was laid out with heavy silver and cut 
glass, with only one small bunch of flowers 
as a sacrifice to modern ideas in the middle^ 



206 THE SORCERESS. 

and the silence of the great drawing-room 
afterwards, half lighted and dreary, came 
with a chill upon the girl who had been 
afraid of being dazzled by too much bright- 
ness. There were only the old lady and the 
old gentleman, Betty and herself, around the 
big table, and only the same party without 
the old gentleman afterwards. Mrs. Lyon 
asked Bee questions about her excellent 
father, and she examined Bee closely about 
her dear mother, wishing to know all the 
particulars of Mrs. Kingsward's Illness. 

'' I can't get a nice serious answer from 
Betty. She is such a little thing ; and she 
tells me she was not at home through the 
worst," Mrs. Lyon said. 

It was not a subject to inspire Bee, or 
enable her to rise above the level of her 
home thoughts. Betty did not seem to feel 
it in the same way. She was in a white frock 
with black ribbons, for Mrs. Lyon did not 
like to see her in black, '' such a little thing, 
you know." Bee wondered vaguely whether 
she herself, only a year-and-a-half the elder, 
was supposed to be quite middle-aged and 
beyond all the happier surroundings of life. 



THE SORCERESS. lO'J 

Mrs. Lyon gave her a great deal of advice 
as to what she ought to do, and talked much 
of the responsibilities of the elder sister. 
' You must teach them to obey you, my dear. 
You must not let down the habit of obedience, 
you must be very strict with them : a sister 
has more need even than a mother to be very 
strict, to keep them in a good way." Bee 
sat very still, while the old lady prosed. It 
was so silent but for that voice, that the 
ticking of the clock became quite an impor- 
tant sound in the large dim room. And Bee 
strained her ears for the sound of a hansom 
drawing up, for Charlie's step on the pave- 
ment. Many hansoms stopped at neighbour- 
ing houses, and footsteps sounded, but 
Charlie did not make his appearance. " My 
brother said he w^ould look in later," she had 
told Mrs. Lyon when she arrived. " W^ell, 
my dear, we shall hope he will," the old lady 
had said, but a voune man in London finds a 
hundred engagements." And Betty, who had 
been so serious, who had been so sweet, a 
perfect companion at the time of their 
mother's death, more deeply penetrated by 
all the influences of the time than Bee herself, 



208 THE SORCERESS. 

now flitted about in her white frock, with all 
her old brightness, and sang her little song 
without faltering, to show Bee what progress 
she had made since she had been taking 
lessons. Bee could scarcely yet sing the 
hymns in church without breaking down, 
though to be sure a girl who was having the 
best lessons would be obliged to get over 
that. After the long evening when they 
were at last alone together, Betty did not 
respond warmly to Bee's suggestion that she 
should now be thinking of returning home. 
" You seem to think of nothing but the 
children," she said ; "you can't want me," to 
which Bee could only reply that there were 
more things than the children to think of, and 
that she was very lonely and had no one to- 
talk to 

" But you have Charlie," said Betty. 

"Charlie is very full of his ow^n concerns. 
He has not much sympathy with me. All 
that he wants is to get back to Oxford." 

" To Oxford in the vacation ? What 
would he do there ?" 

''He says he would work," said Bee. 

"Oh, Bee, how nice of Charlie! I know 



THE SORCERESS. 209 

they do sometimes, Gerald Lyon tells me ; 
but I never thought that Charlie " 

''No," said Bee, "and I don't feel very 

sure now, there is someone to whom he 

writes such long letters — — " 

"Oh, Bee! This is far, far more interest- 
ing than reading! Do you know who she is? 
Does he tell you about her ?" 

" Her name is Laura," said Bee, "that is 
all I know." 

"Oh," cried Betty, "Charlie too!" And 
then a flush came over the girl's uplifted face. 
Bee, poor Bee, absorbed in the many things 
which had dawned upon her which were 
beyond Betty, did not observe the colour nor 
even that significant "too" which had come 
to Betty's lips in spite of herself. 

" I think he met her or someone belonging 
to her — at the Academy to-day ; and that's 

why he hasn't come Oh, Betty, I am 

not happy about it — I am not happy at all !'' 

Betty put her arms round Bee and kissed 
her. She thought it was the remembrance of 
her own disappointment and disaster which 
made her sister cry out in this heartbroken 
way. Betty looked very wistfully in Bee's 

VOL. II. P 



2IO THE SORCERESS. 

eyes. She was more sorry than words could 
say. If she could have done anything in the 
world '' to make it all come right " she would 
have done so, and in the bottom of her 
heart she still had a conviction that all would 
"come right." ''Oh, Bee, Bee!" she cried, 
" cannot anything be done ? If only — only 
you would have listened to his mother ! — 
Bee " 

Bee held up a warning finger. '' Do you 
think it is myself I am thinking of?" she 
said, and then, wringing her hands, she added, 
** I don't know what harm we have done to 
bring it on, but, oh ! I think we are in the 
hands of fate." 

What did this mean ? Betty thought her 
sister had gone out of her mind, and Bee 
would make no explanation. But I think this 
strange conversation made Betty rather less 
willing to return home. She was the darling 
of the house in Portman Square ; though 
they did not go into society, they had all 
manner of indulgences for Betty, and took 
her to the Park, and encouraged the visits of 
their nephew, Gerald, who was a very merry 
companion for the girl. He was permitted 



THE SORCERESS. 211 

to take her to see various sights, and the old 
people, as usual, did not perceive what was 
beginning to dawn under their very eyes. 
Betty was such a little thing. The con- 
sequence was that, though Bee thought 
Portman Square still duller than Kings- 
warden, her little sister was not of that 
opinion. Bee accordingly went back alone 
next day, Betty accompanying her to the 
railway station. Neither at Portman Square 
nor at the railway station did Charlie 
appear, and it was with a heavy heart 
that Bee went home. It seemed to her 
as she travelled alone, for, I think, the 
first time in her life — - she was not yet 
quite twenty — that everyone was following 
his or her own way, and that only 
she was bearing the whole burden of the 
family. Her father had returned to his own 
world, his club, his dinners, official and 
otherwise. It was indispensable that he 
should do so. Bee had understood, it being 
impossible for a man in his position to with- 
draw from the world on account of any 
private feeling of his own. And Betty had 
flashed back again into her music, and her 



212 THE SORCERESS. 

white frock, and was seeing everything as of 
old. And Charlie — oh, what was Charlie 
doing, drifting off into some tragic enchant- 
ment ? The poor girl's heart was very- 
heavy. There seemed only herself to think 
of them all in their separate paths, one 
here and another there, going further and 
further off in so many different directions 
from the event which had broken the 
unity of the family, yet surely should 
have held them together in their common 
trouble. That event had gone into the 
regions of the past. The time of the mother 
was over, like a tale that is told. There 
were still the children in the nursery, and 
Bee, their guardian, watching over them — 
but the others all going off, each at their 
separate angle. It is hard enough to realise 
this, even when age has gained a certain 
insensibility, but to the girl, this breaking up 
of the family was terrible. '' 1 — even I alone 
remain," she was inclined to say with the 
prophet, and what could she do to stop the 
closing of these toils of Fate ? Her mind 
gradually concentrated on that last and most 
alarming theme of all — the woman, the lady, 



THE SORCERESS. 213 

without a name or history, or any evident 
link with the family, who had thus, for the 
second time, appeared in the path. Bee tried 
to fall back upon her reason, to represent to 
herself that she had no real cause for 
assuming that the stranger of whom she 
knew nothing, who might simply have been 
walking through that German wood, and 
have stopped by chance to speak to the little 
English girl with her stupid sketch, had 
anything to do with the disaster which so 
soon overtook that poor little English girl in 
the midst of her happy love. She had no 
reason, none, for thinking so. She tried to 
represent to herself how foolish she had been 
to entertain such a notion, how natural and 
without meaning the incident had been. And 
now again, for the second time, what reason 
had she to believe that anything fatal or even 
dangerous to Charlie was in this lady's 
appearance now ? She was a distinguished- 
looking woman, much older than Charlie. 
What was more likely than that such a 
woman, probably by her looks a married 
lady, a person of importance, should have a 
great deal of influence over a youth like 



214 '^^^ SORCERESS. 

Charlie if she took notice of him at all ? All 
this was very reasonable. There was far 
more sense in it than in that foolish terror . 
and alarm which had taken possession of her 
mind. She had almost persuaded herself . 
that these apprehensions were foolish before 
she reached home, and yet the moment after 
she had succeeded in reasoning it all out, and 
convincing herself how foolish they had 
been, they had risen up in a crowd and seized 
her anxious mind again. 

It was some days beyond the week which 
Charlie had been allowed in town when he 
came back. He was in agitated spirits, with 
a look of mingled excitement and exhaustion, 
which gave Bee many alarms, but which she 
was not sufficiently skilled or experienced to 
interpret. Colonel Kings ward had not come 
home in the interval, having gone somewhere 
else to spend his weekly holiday, and when 
he did come there were various colloquies 
between him and his son, which were 
evidently of a disturbing kind. Some of 
these were about money, as was to be made 
out by various allusions. Charlie had either 
been spending too much, or had set up a 



THE SORCERESS. 21 5 

claim to more in the future, a claim which his 
father was reluctant to allow. But it seemed 
that he had come out triumphant in the end, 
to judge by their respective looks, when they 
issued from the library together, just before 
Colonel Kingsward left for town. 

" I hope, at least, you'll make good use of 
it," were the father's last words — and '' you 
may trust me, sir," said Charlie, with all the 
elation of victory. 

He was in great spirits all day, teasing the 
children, and giving Bee half confidences as 
to the great things he meant to do. 

" They shan't put me off with any of their 
beastly Governorships at the end of the 
world," said Charlie. " I shall play for high 
stakes, Bee, I can't afford to be a mere 
attache long, but they shan't shelve me at 
some horrible African station, I can tell you. 
That's not a kind of promotion that will suit 
me." 

" But you will have to go where you are 
sent," said Bee. 

"Oh, shall I?" cried Charlie, '^that is 
all you know about it. Besides, when a man 
has a particularly charming wi " He 



2l6 THE SORCERESS. 

Stopped and coughed over the words, and 
laughed and grew red. 

'' Do you think your manners are so par- 
ticularly charming ?" said Bee, with familiar 
scorn, upon which Charlie laughed louder 
than ever and walked away. 

Next day he left home hurriedly, saying he 
was going to make a run for a day or two to 
''see a man," and came back in the same 
excited, exhausted state on Saturday morning, 
before his father returned — a process which 
was repeated almost every week, to the great 
consternation and trouble of Bee. For 
Charlie never mentioned these absences to 
his father, and Bee felt herself spell-bound, 
as if she were incapable of doing so. How 
could she betray her brother ? And the 
letters to Laura ceased. He had no time 
now to write these long letters. Neither did 
he receive them as used to be the case. Had 
the correspondence ceased, or was there any 
other explanation ? But Charlie talked but 
little to his sister now, and not at all on this 
subject, and thus the web of mystery seemed 
to be woven more and more about his feet — 
Bee alone suspecting or fearing anything 
Bee alone entirely unable to make it clear. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

The year went on In Its usual routine, the 
boys came back from school, there was the 
usual move to the seaside, all mechanically 
performed under the Impulse of use, and 
when the anniversary came round of the 
mother's death, It passed, and the black 
dresses were gradually laid aside. And 
everything came back, and everybody refer- 
red to Bee as If there had always been a slim 
elder sister at the head of affairs. Betty 
came home at the end of the season with 
a sentiment In respect to Gerald Lyon, and 
with the prospect of many returns to Port- 
man Square, but nothing final In her little 
case, nothing that prevented her from being 



2l8 THE SORCERESS. 

one of the ringleaders in all the mischief 
which Inevitably occurred when the family 
were gathered together. Bee had become 
so prematurely serious, so over-wrought with 
the cares of the family, that Betty, who was 
too energetic to be suppressed, gradually 
came to belong rather to the faction of the 
boys than to share the responsibilities of the 
elder sister, which might have been her 
natural place. The second Christmas, instead 
of being forlorn, like the first, was almost 
the gayest that had been known in Kings- 
warden for many years. For the boys were 
growing, and demanded Invitations for their 
friends, and great skating while the frost 
lasted, which, as the pond at Kingswarden 
was the best for a great number of miles 
round, brought many cheerful youthful 
visitors about the house. Colonel Kings- 
ward was nothing If not correct ; he did not 
neglect the Interests of any of his children. 
He perceived at once that to have Bee alone 
at the head of affairs, without any support, 
especially when his own time at home was so 
much broken by visits, would be bad at once 
for her •' prospects," and for the discipline of 



THE SORCERESS. 219 

the family. He procured a harmless, neces- 
sary aunt accordingly, a permanent member 
of the household, yet only a visitor, who 
could be displaced at any time, to provide for 
all necessary proprieties, an arrangement 
which left him very free to go and come 
as he pleased. And thus life resumed its 
usual lightness, and youth triumphed, and 
things at Kingswarden went on as of old, 
with a little more instead of less commotion 
and company and entertainment as the young 
people developed and advanced. 

It was perhaps natural enough, too, in the 
circumstances that Charlie, though the oldest 
son, should be so little at home. He came 
for Christmas, but he did not throw himself 
into the festivities with the spirit he ought to 
have shown. He was in a fitful state of 
mind, sometimes in high spirits, sometimes 
overclouded and impatient, contemptuous of 
the boys, as having himself reached so differ- 
ent a line of development, and indifferent 
to all the family re-unions and pleasures. 
Sometimes it seemed to Bee, who was the 
only one in the family who concerned herself 
about Charlie's moods, that he was anxious 



2 20 THE SORCERESS. 

and unhappy, and that the air of being bored 
which he put on so readily, and the hurried 
way in which he rushed out and in, impatient 
of the family calls upon him, concealed a 
secret trouble. He complained to her of 
want of money, of his father's niggardliness, 
of the unhappy lot of young men who never 
had any "margin," who dared not spend an 
extra shilling without thinking where it was 
to come from. But whether this was the 
only trouble, or how it came about that he 
had discovered himself to be so poor, Bee, 
poor child, who knew so little, could not 
divine. How miserable it was that it was 
she who was in the mother's place ! Mamma 
would have divined, she would have under- 
stood, she would have helped him through 
that difficult passage, but what could Bee do, 
who knew nothing about life, who thought it 
very likely that she was making mountains 
out of molehills, and that all young men were 
bored and uneasy at home — oh, if people 
would only be all good, all happy with each 
other, all ready to do what pleased the whole, 
instead of merely what pleased themselves ! 
To Bee, so prematurely introduced into 



THE SORCERESS. 221 

the midst of those jars and Individual striv- 
ings of will and fancy, It seemed as If every- 
thing might be made so easy in life by this 
simple method. If only everybody would be 
good ! The reader may think It was a 
nursery view of human life, and yet what 
a solution It would give to every problem I 
Colonel Kingsward then would have been 
more at home, would have been the real 
father who commanded his children's con- 
fidence, instead of papa, whose peculiarities 
had to be studied, and In whose presence the 
children had to be hushed and every occasion 
of disturbance avoided, and of whom they 
were all more or less afraid. And Charlie 
would have been more or less a second to 
him, thoughtful of all, chivalrous to the girls, 
fond of home, instead of, as he was, pausing 
as it were on one foot while he was with his 
family, anxious only to get away. And Bee 
— well, Bee perhaps would have been different 
too had that new, yet old, golden rule come 
into full efficacy. Oh, if everybody, including 
always one's own self, would only be good ! 

It makes the head go round to think what 
a wonderful revolution in the world generally 



2 22 THE SORCERESS. 

the adoption of that simplest method would 
produce. But in poor Bee's experience it 
was the last rule likely to be adopted in 
Kings warden, where, more and more to the 
puzzled consciousness of the girl not able 
to cope with so many warring iudividualities, 
everyone was going his own way. 

It was in the early spring that Colonel 
Kingsward came down from town to Kings- 
warden, looking less like the adoption of this 
method than ever before. The children were 
in the hall when he came, busy with some 
great game in which various skins which 
were generally laid out there were in use as 
properties, making, it must be allowed, a 
scene of confusion in that place. The 
Colonel was not expected. He had walked 
from the station, and the sound of his voice 
stopped the fun with a sudden horror of 
silence and fright, which, indeed, was 
not complimentary to a father. Instead of 
greetings, he asked why the children were 
allowed to make such a confusion in the 
place, with a voice which penetrated to the 
depths of the house and brought Bee and 
Betty flying from the drawing-room. 



THE SORCERESS. 223 

"Papa!" they both cried, in surprise, 
mingled with alarm. Colonel Kingsward 
walked into the room they had left, ordering 
peremptorily the children to the nursery, but 
finding certain friends of Betty's there, in full 
enjoyment of talk and tea, retreated again to 
his library, Bee following nervously. 

'' Is your brother here ?" he asked, harshly, 
establishing himself with his back to the fire. 

" My brother ?" echoed Bee, for indeed 
there were half-a-dozen, and how was she to 
know on the spur of the moment which he 
meant. 

Colonel Kingsward looked, in the partial 
light (for a lamp which smoked had been 
brought in hurriedly, to make things worse), 
as if he would have liked to seize his 
daughter and wring her slender neck. He 
went on with additional irritation : "I said 
your brother. The others, I have no doubt, 
will provide trouble enough in their turn. 
For the moment it is, of course, Charlie I 
mean. Is he here ?" 

" Papa ! Why, he is at Oxford, you know, 
in the schools " 

Colonel Kingsward laughed harshly. "He 



2 24 "^^^E SORCERESS. 

was going in for honours, wasn't he ? 
Wanted to go up to read In the long vacation 
— was full of what he was going to do ? 
Well, it has all ended in less than nothing, 
as I might have known It would. Read 
that !" he cried, tossing a letter on the table. 

Bee, with her heart sick, took up and 
opened the letter, and struggled to read, in 
her agitation, an exceedingly bad hand by an 
indifferent light. She made out enough to 
see that Charlie had not succeeded in his 
" schools," that he had not even secured a 
"pass," that he had incurred the continual 
censure of his college authorities by shirking 
lectures, failing in engagements, and doing 
absolutely no work. So far as was known 
there was nothing against his moral character, 

but Bee, to whom the censure of the 

college sounded like a sentence of death, 
put down the dreadful letter carefully, as if 
It might explode, and raised large eyes, 
widened with alarm and misery, to her 
father's face. 

" Oh, papa ! " was all that she could say. 

'' I telegraphed to him to come home at 
once and meet me here. The fool," said 



THE SORCERESS. 225 

Colonel Kingsward, pacing about the room, 
" is capable of not doing that — of going away 
—of " 

'' Papa, they say there is nothing against 
his character. Oh ! you couldn't think that 
he would — do anything dreadful; not dis- 
appear, not " Bee said the rest in an 

anguish of suspicion and ignorance with her 
eyes. 

" God knows what an idiot like that may 
do ! Things are bad enough, but he will, of 
course, think them worse than they are. 
There is one thing we may be sure of," he 
said, with a fierce laugh, " Charlie will do 
nothing to make himself uncomfortable. He 
knows how to take care of himself" Colonel 
Kingsward walked up and down the room, 
gnawing the end of his moustache. The 
lamp smoked, but he took no notice of it. 
''There is one thing certain," he said, "and 
that is, there's a woman in it I remember 
now, he was always thinking of something ; 
like an ass, I supposed it was his studies. 
No doubt it was some Jezebel or other." 

" Papa," said Bee. 

" Speak out ! Has he told you anything ?'' 

VOL. II. Q 



226 THE SORCERESS. 

He Stopped in front of her, and stood looking 
with threatening eyes into her face. "If you 
keep back anything from me," he said, "your 
brother's ruin will be on your head." 

" Papa," said Bee, faltering, *' it is not 
much I know. I know that there was a lady 
who lived in Oxford ^" 

"Ah! The long vacation," he exclaimed, 
with another angry laugh. 

"He used to write long letters to her, and 
he told me her name." 

" That is something to the purpose. What 
was her name ? " 

"He said," said Bee, in a horror of betray- 
ing her brother, yet impelled to speak, " he 
said that she was called — Laura, papa." 

" What ?" he cried, for Bee's voice had 
sunk very low ; and then he turned away 
again with an impatient exclamation, calling 
her again a little fool. " Laura, confound 
her ! What does that matter ? I thought 
you had some real information to give." 

" Papa," said Bee, timidly, "there is a little 
more, though perhaps it isn't information. 
When he took me to the Academy in summer 
I saw him meet a lady. Oh, not a common 



THE SORCERESS. 22 7 

person, a beautiful, grand-looking lady. But 
it could not be the same," Bee added, after a 
pause, *'for she was much older than Charlie 
— not a young lady at all." 

" Why didn't you tell me this at the time?" 
cried Colonel Kingsward. " Can one never 
secure the truth even from one's own child- 
ren ? I should have sent him off at once had 
I known. What do you mean by not young 
at all?" 

" I should think," said Bee, with diffidence 
and a great anxiety not to exaggerate such a 
dreadful statement, ''that she might perhaps 
have been — thirty, papa." 

" You little idiot," her father kindly replied. 

Why was she a little idiot ? But Bee had 
not time to go into that question. The even- 
ing was full of agitation and anxiety. The 
poor little girl, unused to such sensations, sat 
through dinner in a quiver of anxious abstrac- 
tion, listening for every sound. There were 
several trains by which he might still come, 
and at any moment when the door opened 
Charlie might present himself, pale with 
downfall and distress, to meet his father's 
angry look, whose eyes were fixed on the 



2 25 THE SORCERESS. 

door whenever It opened with as much pre- 
occupation as Bee's — with this difference, 
that Bee's eyes were soft with excuses and 
pity, while those brilHant steely eyes which 
shone from beneath her father's dark brows, 
and which were the originals of her own, 
blazed with anger. When dinner was over, 
which he hurried through, disturbing the 
servants in their leisurely routine, Colonel 
Kingsward again called Bee to him into the 
library. She was the only person to whom 
he could talk of the subject of which his mind 
was full, which was the sole reason for this 
great distinction, for he had very little 
patience with Bee's trembling remarks. 
" Don't be a little fool," was the answer he 
made to any timid suggestion upon which she 
ventured ; but yet there was a necessity upon 
him to discuss it with someone, and Bee, 
however inadequate, had this burden to bear. 
"If the woman is the kind you say, and if 
she thinks there's anything to be made by it 
— why the fool may have married her," he 
cried. *' Heavens ! Think of it ; married at 
three and twenty, without a penny ! But," 
he added, colouring a little, " they are very 



THE SORCERESS. 2 29 

knowing, these women. She would find out 
that he was not worth her while, and prob- 
ably throw him off in time." 

"Oh, papa!" cried Bee, horrified by the 
thought that her brother might be deserted 
in the moment of his downfall. 

" That is the best we can hope. He will 
have K ingswarden, of course, when I die, but 
not a penny — not a penny in the meantime 
to keep up any such ridiculous— Listen ! Is 
that the train ?" 

There was a cutting near Kingswarden 
through which the thundering of the train 
was heard as it passed. This had been a 
great grievance at first, but it was not with- 
out its conveniences to the accustomed ears 
of the household now. They both listened 
with anxiety, knowing that by this time 
it must have stopped at the station and 
deposited any passenger, and for the next 
half-hour watched and waited ; Bee, with all 
her being in her ears, listened with an inten- 
sity of attention such as she had never known 
before, holding her breath ; while Captain 
Kingsward himself, though he kept walking 
up and down the room, did so with a softened 



230 THE SORCERESS. 

Step which made no sound on the thick 
carpet, not uttering a word, hstening too. 
To describe all the sounds they heard, or 
thought they heard, how often the gate 
seemed to swing in the distance, and the 
gravel start under a quick foot, would be 
endless. It was the last train ; if he did not 
come now it would be clear that he did not 
mean to come. And it was now too late 
for any telegram. When it was no longer 
possible to believe that he could have been 
detained on the way, Colonel Kingsward 
drew a long breath of that disappointment 
which, in the yielding of nervous tension, is 
almost for the moment a relief. 

''If there is no letter to-morrow morning 
I shall go up to Oxford," he said, " and. Bee, 
if you like, you can come with me. You 
might be of use. Don't say anything to 
Betty or your aunt. Say you are going with 
me to town by the early train, and that 
you may possibly not return till next day. 
There is no need for saying any more." 

" Yes, papa," said Bee, submissively. That 
was all he knew ! No need for saying any 
more to Betty, who had known every move- 



THE SORCERESS. 23 I 

ment her sister made since ever she was born! 
But, at all events, Bee made up her mind to 
escape explanation so far as she could to- 
night. She paused for a moment at the 
door of the drawing-room as she passed. 
No more peaceful scene could have been 
presented. Betty was at the piano singing 
one song after another, half for practice, half 
to amuse the aunt, who sat dozing in her 
chair by the fire. The others had gone to 
bed, and careless youth and still more care- 
less age, knowing nothing of any trouble, 
pursued their usual occupations in perfect 
composure and calm. The aunt knitted 
mechanically, and dozed in the warmth and 
quiet which she loved, and Betty went 
on singing her songs, indifferent to her 
audience, yet claiming attention, breaking off 
now and then in the middle of a line to ask 
" Do you like that, Aunt Ellen ? Are you 
paying any attention, Aunt Ellen ?" Yes, 
my dear, I like it very much," the old lady 
said, and dozed again. Bee turned away 
with a suppressed sob. Where was Charlie ? 
In disgrace, perhaps heart-broken, deserted 
by his love, afraid to meet his father ! It 



232 THE SORCERESS. 

was foolish to think that he was out in the 
night, wandering without shelter, without 
hope, for there was no need of any such 
tragic circumstances, but this was the picture 
that presented itself too Bee's aching and 
inexperienced heart. 



CHAPTER X \M I . 

Charlie was not in his rooms at College, he 
had not been there for some days, and 
nobody could furnish any information as to 
where he was. Colonel Kings ward had left 
Bee in the hotel while he went on to make 
his inquiries. He was very guarded in the 
questions he asked, for though he was himself 
very angry with his son, he was still careful 
for Charlie's reputation, explaining even to 
the college porter, who was very well 
acquainted with the eccentricities of the 
gentlemen, that he had no douht his son had 
returned home, though they had unfortunately 
crossed each other on the way. The Colonel 
tried to keep up this fiction even with the 
sympathetic Don, who made matters so much 



234 THE SORCERESS. 

worse by his compassion, but who was very 
full and detailed in his relation of poor 
Charlie's backslidings, the heaviness of whose 
gate bill and the amount of whose sins and 
penalties were terrible to hear. He had 
attended no lectures, he had written no 
essays, he had been dumb and blank in 
every examination. 

" Out of consideration to you. Colonel 
Kings ward, the College has been very for- 
bearing, and shut its eyes as long as 
possible." 

" I wish, sir, the College had shown more 
common sense and let me know," the Colonel 
cried, in wrath ; but that did not throw any 
light upon the subject. 

As it turned out, Charlie had not " gone 
in " for his " schools " at all. He had done 
nothing that he ought to have done. What 
things he had done which he ought not to 
have done remained to be discovered. His 
stern father did not doubt that a sufficient 
number of these actual offences would soon 
be found to add to the virtues omitted. He 
went back to the hotel where Bee had been 
spending a miserable morning, and they sat 
together in gloom and silence. 



THE SORCERESS. 235 

"You had better go home," he said to her. 
" He may have got home by this time, and 
I don't see what use you can be here." 

Bee was very submissive, yet begged hard 
to return as far as London, at least, with her 
father ; to wait for another day, in case some 
trace of the prodigal might be found. Many 
such parties have occupied the dreary hotel 
rooms and stared in vain out of the windows, 
and watched with sick hearts the passing 
throng, the shoals of undergraduates, to their 
eyes all dutiful and well-doing, while the one 
in whom they are concerned is absent, in what 
evil ways they know not. Poor Bee was too 
young to feel the full weight of such alarms 
but she was as miserable as if she had known 
everything that could happen in the vague- 
ness of her consciousness of despair and pain. 
What Charlie could have done, what would 
become of him, what his father would do or 
could do, were all hidden from Bee. But 
there was in it all a vague misery which was 
almost worse than clear perception. Colonel 
Kingsward, with all his knowledge of the 
world, was scarcely less vague. He did not 
know how to find out the secrets of an under- 



2^6 THE SORCERESS 



graduate Charlie had friends, but all of 
them protested that they had seen very little 
of him of late. He had fallen off from sports 
and exercise as much as from study. He 
had scarcely been on the cricket ground all 
the summer ; he had given up football ; 
'' boating on the river with ladies," he had 
been seen, but not recently, for the floods 
were out and such amusements were no 
longer practicable. At night the Colonel 
knew almost as little about his son as when 
he had arrived full of certainty that the whole 
matter could be cleared up in a few hours. 

Next day began gloomily with another 
visit to the Don, whom Colonel Kingsward 
hoped to have seen the last of on their former 
exasperating interview. As he had dis- 
covered nothing elsewhere, he went back 
again to the authority, who had also hoped 
on his side to be free from the anxious but 
impatient father, and they had another long 
talk, which ended like the first in nothing. 
The college potentate had no idea where the 
youth could have gone. Charlie had left 
most of his property still in his rooms ; he 
had gone out with only a little bag, nobody 



THE SORCERESS. 237 

suspecting him of an intention to '*go down.' 
After they had gone over the question again» 
the Don being by no means as sympathetic 
as the first time, and contributing a good deal 
to Colonel Kings ward's acquaintance with his 
son's proceedings — a sudden light was for 
the first time thrown upon the question by a 
chance remark. "You know, of course, that 
he had friends in Oxford ?'' 

'' Like other young men, I suppose. I 
have seen several of them, and they can give 
me no information." 

" I don't mean undergraduates : people 
living in the town — ladies," said the Don, 
who was a young man, almost with a blush. 
And after sending for Charlie's scout, and 
making other inquiries, Colonel Kingsward 
was furnished with an address. He went 
back to the hotel quickly, in some excitement, 
to inform Bee of the new clue he had 
obtained, but he scarcely reached the room 
where she was awaiting him when he was 
told that a lady had just asked for him down- 
stairs. Bee was sent off immediately to 
her room while her father received this 
unexpected visitor. Bee had been watching 



230 THE SORCERESS. 

at the window all the morning, looking down 
upon that world of young men, all going 
about their work or their pleasure, all in their 
ht place, while Charlie was no one knew 
where. The poor girl had been breaking 
her heart over that thought, wistfully watch- 
ing the others among whom he ought to 
have been, feeling the pang of that com- 
parison, sometimes imagining she saw a 
figure like his in the distance, and watching, 
as it approached, how every trace died away. 
Where was he ? Bee's young heart was very 
sore. The vacancy was appalling to her, 
filling itself with all kinds of visionary shapes 
of terror. She could not think of him only 
as wandering away in misery and despair, 
feelinof himself to have failed, ashamed and 
afraid to look anyone In the face. She 
scarcely understood her father when he 
hurried her out of the sitting-room, but 
obeyed him with a sense of trouble and 
Injury though without knowing why. 

Bee spent a very forlorn hour in her room. 
She heard the sound of the voices next door. 
Her father's well known tones, and a low 
voice which she felt must be a woman's. 



THE SORCERESS. 239 

She would have been much tempted to listen 
to what they said if it had been possible, but 
there was no door between the rooms, and 
she could only hear that a long and close con- 
versation was going on, without making out 
a word of it. She was very restless in her 
anxiety, wandering from the window to the 
door, which she opened with a desire to hear 
better, which defeated itself — and to see 
better, though there was nothing to be seen. 
It seemed to Bee that half the day was over 
before the sound of movement in the sitting- 
room warned her that the conference was 
breaking up. Even after that there was a 
long pause, and the talking went on, though 
it moved closer to the door. Bee had 
gradually grown in excitement as those 
sounds went on. She stole to her own half- 
open door, as the one next to it was opened, 
and the visitor came forth attended with the 
greatest courtesy by Colonel Kingsward, who 
accompanied her to the stairs. There the 
lady turned round and gave him her hand, 
turning her face towards the spot where the 
unsuspected watcher stood gazing with eyes 
of wonder and terror 



240 THE SORCERESS. 

" Not another step," she said, with a sweet 
but decided voice. " The only thing I will 
ask from you, Colonel KIngsward, will be a 
line, a single line, to say that all Is well." 

''You may rely upon that," the Colonel 
said, bowing over the hand he held, "but 
may not I see you to your carriage, call your 
servant ?" 

"I am walking," she said, "and I am 
alone ; come no further, please ; one line to 
say that all Is well." He still held her hand 
and she gave it a little, significant pressure, 
adding In a low tone: "And happy — and 
forgiven !" 

Bee stood as If she had been turned to 
stone ; a little, clandestine figure within the 
shelter of the door. It was a beautiful face 
that was thus turned towards her for a 
minute, unconscious of her scrutiny, and the 
voice was sweet. Oh, not a woman like any 
other woman ! She said to herself that she 
remembered the voice and would have known 
it anywhere ; and the look, half kind, yet 
with a touch of ridicule, of mockery In It. 
This was evidently not what the Colonel felt. 
He descended a few of the stairs after her, 



THE SORCERESS. 24I 

until turning again with a smile and with her 
hands extended as if to drive him back, she 
forbade his further attendance. He returned 
to the sitting-room thoughtfully, yet with a 
curious, softened expression upon his face, 
and a few minutes afterw^ards, not at once, 
he came to the door again and called Bee. 
There was still a smile lingering about his 
lips, though his mouth had stiffened back into 
its usual somewhat stern composure. 

" Come in," he said, " I have something 
to tell you. I have had a very strange visit 
— a visit from a lady." 

" I saw her," said Bee, under her breath, 
but her father was too much pre-occupied to 
hear. 

"If this was, as I suppose, the lady whom 
you and your brother met, you are right. 
Bee, in thinking her very remarkable. She 
is one of the handsomest women I ever saw, 
and with a charm about her, which — . But, 
of course what you w^ant to hear is about 
Charlie. I am glad to tell you that she has 
very much relieved my mind about Charlie, 
Bee." 

Bee stood before her father with her hands 

VOL. II. R 



242 THE SORCERESS. 

folded, with the most curious sense of revolt 
and opposition in her mind — looking at him, 
a spectator would have said, with something 
of the sternness that was habitual to him, but 
so very inappropriate on her soft brow. She 
made no reply to this. Her countenance did 
not relax. Relieved about Charlie ? No ! 
Bee did not believe it. Pity and terror for 
Charlie seemed to take stronger and stronger 
possession of her heart. 

'' It is a long story," he said. " Sit down, 
you have got a way of standing staring, my 
dear. I wish you had more womanly models 
like the lady I have just been talking to — 
perfectly clear and straightforward in what 
she said, but with a feminine grace and 
sweetness. Well, it appears that Charlie 
had the good luck to get introduced to this 
lady about a year ago. Sit down, 1 tell you, 
I won't have you staring at me in that rude 
way." 

There was a little pause, and Bee sat 
down abruptly, and not very gracefully. 
Colonel Kingsward could not but remark the 
difference. He followed her movements 
for a moment with his eyes, and then he 
began again — 



THE SORCERESS. 243 

" For all I can make out, he has been 
treated with a kindness which should have 
done everything for a young man. He has 
been invited to the house of these ladies — 
he has met all sorts of people who ought to 
be of use to him, whom it was a distinct 
advantage to meet — he has been kept out of 
the usual foolish diversions of young men. 
So far as I can make out, there is nothing 
against his character except what these Don- 
fellows call idleness — a thing that scarcely 
tells against a young man in after-life, 
unless he is a parson, or a schoolmaster, or 
something of that kind. Even the missing 
of his degree," said the Colonel, pulling his 
moustache reflectively, "is of little impor- 
tance among practical men. So long as he 
can get through in his modern languages, 
and so forth, of what importance are the 
classics ? I am very much relieved in my 
mind about Charlie. She thinks he must 
have gone straight down to London, instead 
of going home." 

•' Who is the lady, papa ? " 

Bee's interest in Charlie seemed to have 
dropped, as the Colonel's had done, for the 



244 '^"^ SORCERESS. 

moment. His advocate had made herself 
the first person on the horizon. 

" The lady ? So far as I can make out 
she is living here with some friends, up in 
the district called the Parks, where a great 
many people now live. She says she has 
always taken an interest in the under- 
graduates, who are left so sadly to them- 
selves, and that, being of an age to make it 
possible, she has wished very much to devote 
herself to do what she could for these boys. 
Unfortunately, with her unusual personal 
attractions— — ." The Colonel stopped short 
and bit his moustache. " After all her 
kindness to your brother, encouraging him in 
his work and setting his duty before him — 
and no elder sister, no mother, could have 
been kinder, from all she tells me — the 
foolish boy repaid her good offices by — what 
do you think .'^ But you will never guess." 

" And I will never, never believe it," cried 
Bee, " if it was anything — anything that was 
not nice on Charlie's part ! " Her voice was 
quite hoarse in her emotion, her secret fury 
against this woman, of whom she knew 
nothing, rising more and more. 



THE SORCERESS. 245 

" You little fool ! " her father said, rising 
and standing up against the mantel-piece. 
He laughed angrily, and looked at her with 
his most contemptuous air. "One would 
think that even in their cradles women must 
begin to hate women," he said. 

Bee, who hated no one unless it was this 
woman whom she feared but did not know, 
grew angry red. Her blue eyes flashed and 
shone like northern lights. The cruel and 
contemptuous assumption which touched her 
pride of sex, added vehemence to the other 
emotion which was already strong enough, 
and roused her up into a kind of fury. 

"If she says anything bad of Charlie I 
don't believe it," she cried, " not a word, not 
a word ! Whatever he has done she has 
driven him to it !" Then Bee was suddenly 
silent, panting, terrified or afraid that her little 
outburst of passion would close all further 
revelations. 

" It seems unnecessary to add another 
word in face of such fierce prejudice !" 

" Oh, papa, forgive me. Tell me ; I shall 
say nothing more." 

" You have said a great deal too much 



246 THE SORCERESS. 

already. After this," he said, sarcastically, 
'' you will perhaps think that your brother — 
of three and twenty, without a penny or a 
prospect — did Miss Lance honour by forcing 
a proposal upon her, making love to her at 
the end of all " 

" Miss Lance !" Bee said, with a sharp cry. 

The Colonel took no notice of the inter- 
ruption. He went on with a kind of 
disdainful comment to himself rather than to 
her. 

" After all, there are things which a lady 
has to put up with, which we don't take into 
consideration. A young fool whom she has 
been kind to, knowing he has nobody near to 
look after him, no mother "—his voice even 
grew a little tender at this point — " and by 
way of reward the idiot falls in love with her, 
asks a woman like that to share his 
insignificant little life ! Jove ! What a 
piece of impertinence !" the Colonel said, 
with an angry laugh. 

•' Did you say," said Bee, with faltering 
lips, '' Miss Lance, papa ?" 

He turned upon her with a look of extreme 
surprise. 



THE SORCERESS. 



247 



"Why shouldn't I have said Miss Lance? 
What is there unusual in the name ? " 

Bee looked at him with a dumb rebellion, 
an almost scorn and passion far greater than 
his own. He had forgotten the name — but 
Bee had not forgotton it. The fact that Bee's 
own young life had suffered shipwreck had 
perhaps escaped from his memory altogether, 
though it was she who had done it. Bee 
looked at him with her blue eyes blazing, 
remembering everything that he had for- 
gotten. Her brother had gone out of her 
mind, and all the history of his Laura, and 
the way in which he had been enfolded in 
this fatal web. She went back to her own 
wrongs — forgetting that she had keenly con- 
firmed her father's decision and rejected 
Aubrey on what she thought to be other and 
sufficient grounds. She thought only of the 
moment when sudden darkness had fallen 
upon her in the first sunshine of her life, and 
she had struggled against the rigid will of her 
father, who would listen to no explanations — 
who would not understand. And all for the 
sake of this woman — the spider who dragged 
fiy after fiy into her net ; the witch, the 



248 THE SORCERESS. 

enchantress of whom all poems and stones 
spoke ! Her exasperation was so Intense 
that she forgot all the laws of respect and 
obedience in which her very being had been 
bound, and looked at her father as at an 
equal, an enemy whom she scorned as well 
as feared. 

''What Is the meaning of these looks," he 
said, '' I am altogether at a loss to under- 
stand you. Bee. Why this fury at a name — 
w^hlch you have never heard before, so far as 
I know." 

''You think I have never heard It before?" 
said Bee, In her passion. " It shows how 
little you think of me, or care for anything 
that has happened to me. Oh, I have heard 
It before, and I shall hear It again, I know. 
I know I shall hear It again. And you don't 
mind, though you are our father ! You don't 
remember ! " Bee was still very young, and 
she had that fatal woman's weakness which 
spoils every crisis with Inevitable tears. Her 
exasperation was too great for words. "You 
don't remember ! " she cried, flinging the 
words at him like a storm ; and then broke 
down In a passion of choking sobs, unable to 
say more. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

To do Colonel KIngsward justice, he was 
taken entirely by surprise by Bee's outburst. 
He had no remembrance of the name. The 
name had been wholly unimportant to him 
even at the time when It had come under 
his notice. The previous claimant to Aubrey 
Leigh's affections had been " the woman," 
no more, to his consciousness. He did not 
remember anything about the business now, 
except that there was a story about a woman, 
and that he would not permit his young 
daughter to marry a man concerning whom 
such a story existed. Even after Bee had left 



250 THE SORCERESS. 

him, when he really made an effort to pursue 
into the recesses of his mind anything that 
was connected with that name, he could not 
make it out. Was it perhaps a tyrannical 
governess ? but that would not explain the 
girl's vehement outcry. He had not thought 
for a long time of Bee's interrupted love, and 
broken-off engagement. Of what conse- 
quence is such an episode to so young a girl? 
And there were others matters in his mind of 
what seemed a great deal more importance. 
Whatever was the source of Bee's previous 
knowledge of Miss Lance, she hated that 
singularly attractive woman, as it is usual for 
the sex — Colonel Kingsward thought — to 
hate instinctively every other woman w^ho is 
endowed with unusual attractions. 

What a magnificent creature that woman 
was ! How finely she had talked of the unde- 
veloped boy to whom she had hoped to be of 
service, and with what genuine feeling, half- 
abashed, distressed, yet not without a gleam 
of amusement, she had told him of the 
wonderful scene at the end, when Charlie 
had asked her to marry him. 

''Me ! A woman who might be his mother !" 



THE SORCERESS. 25 I 

she had said, with beautiful candour ; though 
it was not candour, it was more Hke jest, 
seeing that she was still young — young 
enough to turn any man's head. And she 
had added hastily, ''It must have been my 
fault. Somehow I must have led him astray, 
though I was so far from intending it. A 
boy like your son would not have done such 

a wild thing had he not supposed " She 

put up her hands to her face to hide a blush. 
"That is the worst of us, poor women," she 
had said. '' we cannot show an interest even 
in a boy but he supposes — oh, Colonel 
Kingsward, can't you imagine what I felt, 
wishing solely to be of use to your son, who 
is such a good, ingenuous, nice boy — and 
finding in a moment, without the least warn- 
ing, that he had mistaken me like ///^/ / " 

Colonel Kingsward was of opinion, and so 
was everybody who knew him. that he was 
by no means an impressionable man ; but it 
would be impossible to say how touched he 
had been by that explanation. And she was 
so sorr}' for Charlie. She avowed that, after 
what had happened, she would have con- 
sidered herself inexcusable if she had not 



252 THE SORCERESS. 

come to his father, however unpleasant it 
might be to herself, to show him how little, 
how very little, Charlie was to blame. 

''You must not — must not be angry with 
him," she had said, joining her hands in 
appeal. " Oh, forgive him ; it is so much 
my fault. If I could but bear the penalty! 
But I cannot endure to think that the poor 
boy should be punished when all the time I, 
who am so much older than he is, am the 
one to blame. I ought to have known 
better. I am at your mercy, Colonel Kings- 
ward. You cannot say anything worse to 
me than I have done to myself; but he, poor 
boy, is really not to blame." 

The Colonel had no wish to say anything 
to her that was uncomplimentary. He 
entered into her position with the most 
unusual sympathy. Perhaps he had never 
had so warm a feeling of understanding and 
affection for anyone before. The compassion 
and the appeal was something quite new and 
original to him. He was not a man to be 
sympathetic with the troubles of a middle- 
aged spinster — an elderly flirt, as he would 
probably have called her, had he heard the 



THE SORCERESS. 253 

Story at second hand ; in such a case he 
would have denounced the mature siren in 
the terms usual to men of experience. But 
the presence of this lady made all the differ- 
ence. She was not like anyone else. The 
usual phrases brought forward on such 
occasions were meaningless or worse in 
respect to her. He was softened to Charlie, 
too, by the story, though he could have raved 
at his son's folly. The puppy I — to think a 
woman like that could care for him I And 
yet, as she said, there was no harm in the 
boy ; only absurdity, presumption, the last 
depths of fatuity. Poor young fool ! But it 
was a different thing from racing towards the 
bottomless pit for the mere indulgence of his 
own appetites, as so many young men did, 
and if this was the only reason of Charlie's 
downfall it involved no loss of character and 
need make no breach in his career, which 
was the chief thing. He could make up his 
lost ground, and the F.O. would care very 
little for what the Dons said. The idleness 
of a boy in love (the puppy I inexcusable in 
his presumption, but yet with plenty of justifi- 
cation at least) could do him no more than 
temporary harm in any case. 



254 THE SORCERESS. 

These thoughts passed through the 
Colonel's mind with a great sense of relief. 
It did not occur to him that Charlie, when he 
saw his folly, could have much difficulty in 
getting over such a misplaced sentiment. It 
must be done, and the boy must feel that 
such a hope was as much above him as was 
the moon in the skies. He must make up 
his mind to apply himself, to get through his 
examination, to begin his real life — which his 
father would certainly impress upon him was 
not mere amusement or happiness, if he liked 
to call it so, but work and a sharp struggle to 
secure his standing. As for his degree, that 
was a matter of complete indifference to 
Colonel Kingsward. The boy had his ex- 
perience of Oxford life to talk of and fall 
back upon ; he was a University man all the 
same, though he had not been crowned by 
any laurels he had made some friends, and he 
had gained the necessary familiarity with that 
phase of a young man's existence. What did 
the details matter, and who would ever ask 
about his degree ? An attache does not put 
B.A. or M.A. (which was which, or if there 
was any difference, or on what occasion such 



THE SORCERESS. 255 

vanities should be displayed the Colonel was 
quite unaware) to his name like a school- 
master. Nothing could be of less importance 
than this. He dismissed Charlie from his 
mind accordingly with much relief. It was 
not at all unnatural that the boy should have 
gone to town instead of going to Kingswar- 
den. No doubt by this time he had made 
his w^ay home, and this reminded the Colonel 
that it would be as well to send his sister off 
at once to meet Charlie there. He called 
Bee again accordingly from her room, where 
she had taken refuge, and instructed her in 
what he desired. 

"There is a train in an hour," he said. 
'' You had better get ready. I wish you to 
go home at once. Charlie will be there by 
this time, I have no doubt, and I should like 
you to let him know that if he is reasonable 
and drives all folly from his mind, and 
addresses himself at once to his preparation 
for the exam., he shall hear no more from me 
about the Oxford business. It depends upon 
himself whether it is ever alluded to again." 

" Papa," said Bee, faltering a little, "am I 
to go alone ?'' 



256 THE SORCERESS. 

" Why shouldn't you go alone ? Are you 
afraid of getting into a cab at Paddington 
and driving to Victoria, the most ordinary 
everyday business? Why, I thought the 
girls of your period revolted against being 
protected, and were able to take care of 
themselves wherever they went ?" 

Now Colonel Kingsward had always 
insisted on surrounding his daughters with 
quite unnecessary care, being, as he prided 
himself, on all questions in respect to women, 
of the old school. 

'*0h, no," said Bee, very tremulous, look- 
ing at him with eyes full of meaning, '' I am 
not afraid." 

''Then why do you make any fuss about 
it ?" he said. " I shall stay behind for a few 
hours, perhaps for another night. I must see 
whether he has left any debts, and square 
accounts with the College, and — settle every- 
thing." Bee was still looking at him 
with that troubled air of meaning, and he 
looked at her with a stern look, putting her 
down ; but there was in his eyes a certain 
understanding of her meaning and a shrinking 
from her scrutiny all the same. " You have 



THE SORCERESS. 257 

just time to get ready/' he said, pulling out 
his watch and holding it up to her. And 
Bee had nothing to do but to obey. It was 
not the drive from Paddington to Victoria, 
the change from one railway to another, 
which frightened her, though for a girl who 
had never done anything alone, that was not 
a pleasant thought ; but the girl was deeply 
disturbed to leave her father there within the 
power of the woman whom more than ever 
she looked upon with terror as if she had 
been an embodied Fate. How ludicrous was 
the idea that a girl of twenty should be dis- 
turbed and anxious at the thought of leaving 
her father unprotected by her poor little 
guardianship — and such a father as Colonel 
Kings ward ! Bee saw at once the folly and 
futility of such a notion, but she could not rid 
herself of the alarm. Her terror of this 
woman, now fully evident as the same who 
had wrecked her own life, was more than 
ever a superstitious panic. 

Bee's mind was wholly possessed with this 
idea. She thought of the beautiful, dreadful 
lady in Christabel. She thought of that 
other shuddering image in the poem, of " the 

VOL. II. s 



258 THE SORCERESS. 

angel, beautiful and bright," who looked the 
hero in the face ; " And how he knew it was 

a fiend, that miserable knight " Aubrey 

had not known she was a fiend, nor Charlie ; 
and now papa ! What could such a woman, 
do to papa? He was old (Bee thought) 
beyond the reach of the influences which had 
moved the others. What could Fate do to 
him ? She asked herself this question in her 
great alarm, trying to beat down the terror 
in her bosom, and persuade herself that it 
was foolishness. But the more she thought 
the more her heart beat with fright and 
apprehension. It seemed to her, somehow, 
as if the former dangers had been nothing in 
comparison with this, although she did not 
know what it was that she feared. 

Colonel Kingsward walked with his 
daughter to the station, and he was very 
affable and kind to her, taking unusual pains 
to make her feel that there was nothing to 
fear. He selected carefully a carriage which 
was reserved for ladies, and put her into the 
charge of the guard, whom he desired to find 
a cab for her at Paddington, and look 
after her in every way. Nothing could be 



THE SORCERESS, 259 

more fatherly, more thoughtful than he was ; 
but all these precautions, Instead of re- 
assuring Bee, increased her sensation of 
danger. For the Colonel, though he had 
always insisted upon every precaution, had 
not been in the habit of personally seeing to 
the comfort of his children. She followed 
him with her eyes as he occupied himself 
with all these little cares, and explained to 
the guard what was to be done. And then 
he went to the bookstall and bought her 
illustrated papers and a book to amuse her 
on the journey, Bee watching all the time 
with growing wonder. She gave a hurried 
glance now and then around her, sweeping 
the station from one end to another, with 
a terror of seeing somewhere appear the 
woman who had brought such pain and 
trouble into her life — though this, too, was 
folly, as she was aware. And when at last 
the carriage door was closed, and the train 
almost in motion. Bee gave her father a last 
look, in which there were unutterable things. 
He had not met her eyes hitherto, whether 
by chance or precaution. But now he was 
off his guard and did so. Their looks 



26o THE SORCERESS. 

encountered with a clash, as if they had been 
meeting swords, the same eyes, brilliant with 
that blue blaze, flashing like lightning. But 
it was the father's fiery eyes which gave way. 
The girl's look penetrated into his very 
being ; his dropped, almost abashed. How 
did this strange change of position come 
about ? It was anything but reassuring to 
Bee. It seemed to her as if already a new 
chapter of misery and dismay had opened in 
life, although her fears had taken no shape, 
and she could not tell what calamity was 
possible. The very vagueness made it all 
the more appalling to her inexperienced 
heart. 

As for Colonel Kingsward, he saw his 
little daughter go away with a relief which 
he felt to be ridiculous. That Bee's looks 
should affect his movements one way or 
another was beyond measure absurd, and 
yet he was relieved that she was gone, and 
felt himself more at ease. He had a great 
many things to do — to settle his son's 
accounts, to take his name off the college 
books, to wind up that early unsuccessful 
chapter of Charlie's life. But he now felt 



THE SORCERESS. 261 

very little real anger against Charlie — this 
shipwreck of his had suddenly introduced his 
father to what seemed a new view and new 
objects, which indeed he did not in any way 
define to himself, but of which he felt the 
stimulus with vague exhilaration to the 
bottom of his heart. 



END OF SECOND VOLUME. 



TILLOTSON AND SON, PRINTERS, BOLTON. 



V 












'.'■ • v.'m'.m,-.:^, ,' 




'r-'i^t^^'