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Full text of "The Sorceress : a novel"

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THE SORCERESS. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from . 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/sorceressnovel03olip 



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THE SORCERESS. 



m BotoEl. 



MRS. OLIPHANT, 

AUTHOR OF 

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

ETC., ETC. 



/X THREE VOL UMES. 



VOL. HI. 



LONDON : 

F. V. WHITE & Co., 

31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C 

1893- 

\A L L R IG H TS R /iS ER VED ] 



PRINTED BY 

TILLJTSON and son, BOLTON, 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BERLIN. 



THE SORCERESS. 



CHAPTER I . 

When Charlie Kingsward fled from Oxford, 
half mad with disappointment and misery, he 
had no idea or intention about the future left 
in his mind. He had come to one of those 
strange passes in life beyond which the 
imagination does not go. He had been 
rejected with that deepest contumely which 
takes the aspect of the sweetest kindness, 
when a woman affects the most innocent 
suspicion at the climax to which, consciously 
or unconsciously, she has been working up. 
VOL III. - B 



2 THE SORCERESS. 

" Oh, my poor boy, was that what you 
were thinking of?" There is no way in 
which a blow can be administered with such 
sharp and keen effect. It made the young 
man's brain, which was only an ordinary 
brain, and for some time had exercised but 
small restraining power upon him in the 
hurry and sweep of his feelings, reel. When 
he pulled the door upon him of those gardens 
of Aminda, that fool's paradise in which he 
had been wasting his youth, and which were 
represented in his case by a very ordinary 
suburban garden in that part of Oxford called 
the Parks, his rejected and disappointed 
passion had every possible auxiliary emotion 
to make it unbearable. Keen mortification, 
humiliation, the sharp sense of being mocked 
and deceived ; the sudden conviction of 
having given what seemed to the half- 
maddened boy his whole life, for nothing 
whipped him like the lashes of the Furies. 
In most of the crises of life the thought what 
to do next occurs with almost the rapidity of 
lightning after a great catastrophe, but Charlie 
felt as if there was nothing beyond. The 
whole world had crumbled about him. There 



THE SORCERESS. 3 

was no next step ; his very fooling had failed 
him. He rushed back to his rooms by 
instinct, as a wounded creature would rush 
to its lair, but on his way was met by eager 
groups returning from the " Schools," in 
which he ought to have been, discussing 
among each other the stiffness of the papers, 
and how they had been done. This would 
scarcely add to his pain, but it added to that 
sickeninor effort of absolute failure of the 
demolition of everything around and before 
him, which was what he felt the most. They 
made the impossible more impossible still, 
and cut off every retreat. When he stood in 
his room, amid all the useless books which 
he had not opened for days or weeks, and 
heard the others mounting the staircase out- 
side his locked door, it seemed to the unhappy 
young man as though the floor under his feet 
was the last spot on which standing ground 
was possible, and that beyond and around 
there was nothing but chaos. For w^hat 
reason and on what impulse he rushed to 
London it would be difficult to tell. He had 
little money, few friends — or rather none who 
were not also the friends of his family — no 
idea or intention of doing anything. 



4 THE SORCERESS. 

'' Perhaps the world will end to-night." 
He did not even think so much as that, 
though perhaps it was in some sort the 
feeling in his mind. Yet no suggestions of 
suicide, or of anything that constitutes 
a moral suicide, occurred to him. These 
would have been something definite, they 
would have provided for a future, but 
Charlie was stupefied and had none. 
He had not so much sense of any 
resource as consisted in a pistol or a plunge 
into the river. He flung himself into the 
train and went to London, because after a 
time the sound of his comrades, or of those 
who ought to have been his comrades, be- 
came intolerable to him. They kept pacing, 
rushing up and down the staircase, calling to 
each other. One or two, indeed, talked at 
his own closed door, driving him into a silent 
frenzy. As soon as they were gone he seized 
a travelling bag, thrust something, he did not 
know what, into it, and fled — to the desert — 
to London, where he would be lost and 
no one would drive him frantic by calling to 
him, by making believe that there was some- 
thing left in life. 



THE SORCERESS. 5 

It occurred to him somehow, by force of 
that secondary consciousness which works for 
us when our minds are past all exertion, to 
fling himself into the corner of a third-class 
carriage as the place where he was least likely 
to meet anyone he knew, though indeed the 
precaution was scarcely necessary, since he 
could not have recoQ:nised anvone, as he sat 
huddled up in his corner, staring blankly at 
the landscape that flew^ past the window and 
seeing nothing. When he arrived in the 
midst of the din and bustle of the great rail- 
way station, he fled once more through the 
crowd into the greater crowd outside, clutch- 
ing instinctively at the bag which lay beside 
him, but seeing no one, nor whither he went 
nor where he was going. He walked fast, 
and in a fierce unconsciousness pushing his 
way through everything, and though he had 
in reality no aim, took instinctively the way 
to his father's house — his home — though it 
was at that time no home for him, being 
occupied by strangers. When he got into 
the park a vague recollection of this pene- 
trated through the maze in which he was 
enveloped, and for a moment he paused, but 



6 THE SORCERESS. 

then went on walking at the same pace, 
making the circuit of the park which lay 
before him in the mists of the afternoon, the 
frosty sun setting, the hay taking a rosy tint. 
He went all round the silences of the half- 
deserted walks, beginning to feel vaguely the 
strange desolate sentiment of not knowing 
where to go, though only in the secondary 
phase of his consciousness. Until all at once 
his strength seemed to fail him, his limbs 
grew feeble, his steps slow, and he stopped 
short, mechanically, as he had walked, not 
knowing why, and flung himself upon a 
bench, where he sat long, motionless, as if 
that had now become the only thing solid in 
the world and there was no step remaining 
to him beyond. 

A young man, though he may have num- 
berless friends, may yet make a despairing 
transit like this from one place to another 
through the midst of a crowd without being 
seen by anyone who knows him ; if the 
encounters, of life are wonderful, the failures 
to encounter, the manner in which we walk 
alone with friends on all hands, and in our 
desperate moments, when help is most 



THE SORCERESS. 7 

necessary, do not meet or come within sight 
of any, is equally wonderful. The Kings- 
wards had a large circle of acquaintance, and 
Charlie himself had the numberless Intimates 
of a public school boy, a young university 
man, acquainted with half the youth of his 
period — yet nobody saw him, except one to 
whom he would scarcely have accorded a 
salutation in ordinary circumstances. Aubrey 
Leigh, who had been so strangely and closely 
connected for a moment with the Kingsward 
family, and then so swiftly and peremptorily 
cut off, arrived In London from a short visit 
to a suburban house by the same train which 
brought Charlie, and caught sight of him as 
he jumped out of his compartment with his 
bag in his hand. A very cool, self-possessed, 
and trim young man young Kingsward had 
always appeared to the other, with whose 
brightest and at the same time most painful 
recollections his figure was so connected. To 
see him now suddenly, with that air of despe- 
ration which had triumphed over all his 
natural habits and laws, that abstracted look, 
clutching his bag, half leaping, half stumbling 
out of the carriage, going off at a swift, 



8 THE SORCERESS. 

unconscious pace, pushing through every 
crowd, filled Aubrey with surprise which 
soon turned into anxiety. Charlie Kings- 
ward, with a bag in his hand, rushing 
through the London streets conveyed an 
entirely new idea to the minds of the 
spectators. What such an arrival would 
have meant in ordinary circumstances would 
have been the rattling up of a hansom, the 
careless calling out of an address, the noisy 
progress over the stones, of the driver 
expectant of something more than his fare, 
and keenly cognisant of the habits of the 
young gentlemen from Oxford. 

Aubrey quickened his own pace to follow 
the other, whose arrival this time was in such 
different guise. A sudden terror seized his 
mind, naturally quite unjustified by the 
outward circumstances. Was anyone ill ? — 
which meant, was Bee ill ? Had anything 
dreadful happened ? A moment's reflection 
would have shown that in such a case the 
hansom would be more needed than usual, as 
conveying her brother the more quickly to 
his home. But Aubrey did not pause on 
probabilities. A moment more would have 



THE SORCERESS. 9 

made him sure of the unHkelihood that 
Charlie would be sent for in case of Bee's 
illness, unless, indeed, the question had been 
one of life and death. 

But he had not even heard of his love for 
many months. His heart was hungry for 
news of her, and in that case he would have 
done his best to intercept Charlie, to extract 
from him, if possible, some news of his sister. 
He followed, accordingly, with something of 
the same headlong haste with which Charlie 
was pushing through the streets, and for a 
long time, up to the gates of the park, 
indeed, kept him in sight. /\t the rate at 
which the young man was going it was 
impossible to do more. 

Then Aubrey suddenly lost sight of the 
figure he was pursuing. There was a group 
of people collected for some vulgar, unsup- 
portable object or other at that point, and it 
was there that Charlie deflected from the 
straight road for home, which he had hitherto 
taken, and which his pursuer took it for 
granted he w^ould follow for the rest of the 
way. When Aubrey had pushed his way 
through the little crowd Charlie was no 



lO THE SORCERESS. 

longer visible. He looked to left and to 
right in vain, scrutinised the short cut over 
the park, and the broad road full of passing 
carriages and wayfarers, but saw no trace of 
the figure he sought. Aubrey then walked 
quickly to the point where Charlie, as he 
supposed, must be going, and soon came to 
the gate on the other side and the street it- 
self in which the house of the Kingswards 
was. But he saw no sign of Charlie, nor of 
anyone looking for him. He himself had no 
acquaintance with that house, to which he had 
never been admitted, but he had passed It 
many times In the vain hope of seeing Bee 
at a window, not knowing that It was occu- 
pied by strangers. While he walked down 
the street, however, anxiously gazing to see 
if there were any signs of Illness, asking him- 
self whether he dared to inquire at the door, 
he saw a gentleman come up and enter with 
a latch key, who certainly did not belong to 
the Kingsward family. This changed the 
whole current of Aubrey's thoughts. It was 
not here then that Charlie was coming. His 
rapid and wild walk could not mean any 
disaster to the family — any trouble to Bee. 



THE SORCERESS. II 

The discovery was at once a disappointment 
and a relief; a relief from the anxiety which 
had gradually been gaining upon him, a 
disappointment of the hope of hearing some- 
thing of her. For if Charlie was not going 
home, who could trace out where such a 
young man might be going ? To the dogs, 
Aubrey thought, instinctively ; to the devil, 
to judge by his looks. Yet Charlie Kings- 
ward, the most correct of modern young 
men, had surely in him no natural proclivity 
towards that facile descent. What could it 
be that had driven him along like a leaf 
before the wind ? 

Aubrey was himself greatly disturbed and 
stirred up by this encounter. He had 
schooled himself to quiet, and the pangs of 
his overthrow, though not quenched, had 
been kept under with a strong hand. The 
life which he desired for himself, which he 
had so fully planned, so warmly hoped for, 
had been broken to pieces and made an end 
of, leaving the way he had chosen blank to 
him, as he thought, for evermore. He had 
been very unfortunate in that way, his early 
venture ending in bitter disappointment ; his 



12 THE SORCERESS. 

Other, more wise, more sweet, cut off before 
it had ever been. But he was a reasonable 
being, and knew that Hfe had to be put to 
other uses, even when that sole fair path 
which the heart desired was closed. He had 
given it up definitely, neither thinking nor 
hoping again for the household life, the 
patriarchal existence among his own fields, 
his own people, under his own roof, and was 
now doing his best to conform his life to a 
more grey and monotonous standard. 

But the sight of Charlie, or rather the 
sight of Bee's brother, evidently under the 
influence of some strong feeling, and utterly 
carried away by it so as to ignore all that 
regard for appearance and decorum which 
had been his leading principle, came 
suddenly like a touch upon a wound, reviving 
all the questions and impatiences of the past. 
Aubrey felt that he could not endure the 
ignorance of her and all her ways which had 
fallen over him like a pall, cutting off her 
being from him as if they were not still 
living in the same world, still within reach of 
each other. He might endure, he said to 
himself, to be parted from her, to give up 



THE SORCERESS. 1 3 

hope of her, since she willed it so — yet. at 
least, he must know something of her, find 
out if she were ill or well, what she 
was doing, where she was even ; for 
that mere outside detail he did not know. 
How was it possible he should bear 
this — not even to know where she was? 
This thought took hold of him, and drove 
him into a fever of sudden feeling. Oh ! 
yes ; he had resigned himself to live w^ithout 
her, to endure his solitary existence far from 
her, since she willed it so ; but not even 
to know where she was, how she was, 
what she w^as doing ! 

Suddenly, in a moment, the fiery stinging 
came back, the sword plunged into the 
wound, He had not for a moment deluded 
himself with the Idea that he was cured of It, 
but yet it had been subdued by necessity, by 
the very silence which now he felt to be 
Intolerable. He went back into the park, 
where the long lines of the misty paths were 
now almost deserted, gleams of the lamps 
outside shining through the dark tracery of 
the branches, and all quiet except in the 
broad road, still sounding with a diminished 



14 THE SORCERESS.' 

Stream of carriages. He dived Into the Inter- 
sections of the deserted paths, something as 
Chadle had done, seeking Instinctively a 
silent place where he could be alone with the 
newly-aroused torment of his thoughts. 

When he came suddenly upon the bench 
upon which Charlie had flung himself, his 
first movement was to turn back. He had 
been walking over the grass, and his steps 
were consequently noiseless, and he was In 
the mood to which any human presence — the 
possible encounter of anyone who might 
speak to him and disturb his own hurrying 
passions — was Intolerable. But as he turned, 
his eye fell on the bag — the dusty, half- 
empty thing still clutched by a hand that 
seemed more or less unconscious. This 
insignificant detail arrested Aubrey. He 
moved a little way, keeping on the grass, to 
get a fuller view of the half-reclining figure. 
And then he made out In the partial light 
that it was the same figure which he had 
pursued so long. 

What was Charlie doing here In this 
secluded spot — he, the most unlike any such 
retirement, the well - equipped, confident, 



THE SORCERESS. I7 

having to interfere, by the trouble he was 
having, and the deviation from salutary 
routine, but he felt no humiliation either for 
himself or his son. And Charlie's liabilities 
were not large, so far as he could discover. 
The fellow, at least, had no vices, he said to 
himself. Even the unsympathetic Don had 
nothing to say against him but that charge 
of idleness, which the Colonel rather liked 
than otherwise. Had he been able to say 
that it was his son's social or even athletic 
successes which were the causes of the 
idleness he would have liked it altogether. 
He paid Charlie's bills with a compensating 
consciousness that these were the last that 
would have to be paid at Oxford, and he was 
not even sorry that he could not get back to 
town by the last train. Indeed, I think he 
could have managed that very well had he 
tried. He remained for the second night 
with wonderful equanimity, finding, as a 
matter of course, a man he knew in the hotel, 
and dining not unpleasantly that day. Before 
he went back to town, he thought it only 
civil to go out to the Parks to return, as 
politeness demanded, the visit of the lady 

VOL. III. C 



15 THE SORCERESS. 

who had so kindly and courageously gone to 
see him, and from whom he had received the 
only explanation of Charlie's strange be- 
haviour. He went forth as soon as he had 
eaten an early luncheon, In order to be sure 
to find Miss Lance before she went out, and 
stopped only to throw a rapid glance In pass- 
ing at a band of young ruffians — mud up to 
their eyes, and quite undlstlngulshable for the 
elegant undergraduates which some of them 
were — who were playing football In the Parks. 
The Colonel had, like most men, a warm 
Interest In athletic sports, but his soldierly 
Instincts disliked the mud. Miss Lance's 
house was beyond that much broken up and 
down-trampled green. It was a house In a 
garden of the order brought Into fashion by 
the late Randolph Caldecott, red with white 
"fixings" and pointed roof, and It bore 
triumphantly upon Its little gate post the 
name of Wensleydale, Oxford Dons, and the 
Inhabitants of that district generally, being 
fond of such extension titles. Colonel Kings- 
ward unconsciously drew himself together, 
settled his head Into his collar, and twisted 
his moustache, as he knocked at the door, 



THE SORCtRESS. 1 9 

and yet it was not an imposing door. It 
was opened, not by a solemn butler, but by a 
neat maid, who showed Colonel Kings ward 
into a trim drawing-room, very feminine and 
full of flowers and knick-knacks. Here he 
waited full five minutes before anyone 
appeared, looking about him with much 
curiosity, examining the little stands of 
books, the work-tables, the writing-tables, 
the corners for conversation. It was not a 
large room, and yet space had been found for 
two little centres of social intercourse. There 
were, therefore, the Colonel divined, two 
ladies who shared this abode. Colonel 
Kings ward had never been what is called a 
ladies' man. The feminine element in life 
had been supplied to him in that subdued 
way naturally exhibited by a vieldins: and 
gentle wife in a house where the husband is 
supreme. He was quite unacquainted with 
it in its unalloyed state, and the spectacle 
amused and pleasantly affected him with a 
sense at once of superiority and of novelty. 
It was pleasant to see how these little known 
creatures arranged themselves in their own 
private dominion, where they had every- 



20 THE SORCERESS. 

thing their own way, and the touch of the 
artificial which appeared in all these dainty 
particulars seemed appropriate and com- 
mended itself agreeably to the man who was 
accustomed to a broader and larger style of 
household economy. A man likes to see the 
difference well marked, at least a man who 
holds Colonel Kingsward's ideas of life. He 
had gone so far as to note the " Laura" with 
a large and flowing " L" on the notepaper, 
which " L " was repeated on various pretty 
articles about. When the door opened and 
Miss Lance appeared, she came up to him 
holding out both her hands as to an old 
friend. 

'*Will you forgive me for keeping you 
waiting, Colonel Kingsward ? The fact is 
we have just come in, and you know that a 
woman has always a toilette to make, not like 
you lucky people who put on or put off a hat 
and all is done." 

" I did not think you were likely to be out 
so early," the Colonel said. 

'' My friend has a son at Oriel," replied 
Miss Lance. " He is a great football player 
as it happens, and we are bound to be present 



THE SORCERESS. 2 1 

when he Is playing ; besides, the Parks are 
so near." 

" I did not think It was a game that would 
interest you." 

"It does not. except In so far that I am 
interested In everything that Interests my 
surroundlnors. Mv friend eoes Into It with 
enthusiasm ; she even believes that she 
understands what It Is all about." 

" It seems chiefly mud that Is about," 
said the Colonel, with a slight tone of dis- 
approval, for It displeased him to think that 
a woman like this should go to a football 
match, and also it displeased him after his 
private amusement and reflections on the 
feminine character of the house to find, after 
all, a man connected with It, even If that 
man were only a boy. 

" Come," said Miss Lance, indicating a 
certain chair, '' sit down here by me, Colonel 
Kingsward, and let us not talk commonplaces 
any longer. You have been obliged to stay 
longer than you intended. I had been 
thinking of you as in London to-day." 

" It was very kind to think of me at all." 

" Oh, don't say so — that Is one of the 



2 2 THE SORCERESS. 

commonplaces too. Of course, I have been 
thinking of you with a great deal of interest, 
and with some rather rebellious, undutiful 
sort of thoughts." 

"What thoughts .^ " cried the Colonel, in 
surprise. 

'' Well," she said, "it is a great blessing, 
no doubt, to have children — to women, per- 
haps, an unalloyed blessing ; and yet, you 
know, an unattached person like myself 
cannot help a grudge occasionally. Here are 
you, for instance, in the prime of life ; your 
thoughts about everything matured, your 
reason more important to the world than any 
of the escapades of youth, and yet you are 
depleted from your own grave path in life ; 
your mind occupied, your thoughts distracted ; 
really your use to your country interrupted 
by — by what are called the cares of a family," 
she concluded, with a short laugh. 

She spoke with much use of her hands in 
graceful movement that could scarcely be 
called gesticulation — clasping them together, 
spreading them out, making them emphasise 
everything. And they were very white and 
pretty hands, with a diamond on one, which 



THE SORCERESS. 23 

Sparkled at appropriate moments, and added 
Its special emphasis too. 

The Colonel was flattered with this descrip- 
tion of himself and his capacities. 

*' There is great truth," he said, " in what 
you say. I have felt it, but for a father at 
the head of a family to put forth such senti- 
ments would shock many good people." 

"Fortunately there are no good people 
here, and if there were I might still express 
them freely. It is a thing that strikes me 
every day. In feeble specimens it destroys 
the individuality ; in strong characters like 
yourself " 

•' You do me too much honour, Miss 
Lance. My position, you are aware, is 
doubly unfortunate, for I have all upon my 
shoulders. Still, one must do one's duty at 
whatever cost." 

"That would be your feeling, of course," 
said Miss Lance, with a sort of admiring and 
regretful expression. " For my part, I am 
the most dreadful rebel. I kick against duty. 
I think a man has a duty to himself. To 
stint a noble human being for the sake of 
nourishing some half-dozen secondary ones. 



24 THE SORCERESS. 

is to me Oh, don't let us talk of it ! 

Tell me, dear Colonel Kingsward, have you 
got everything satisfactorily settled, and 

heard of the arrival ? Oh," she cried, 

clasping those white hands, "how can I sit 
here calmly and ask, seeing that I have a 
share in causing all this trouble — though, 
heaven knows, how unintentionally on my 
part!" 

" Don't say so," said the Colonel, putting 
his hands for a second on those clasped 
white hands. " I am sure that you can have 
done nothing but good to my foolish boy. 
To be admitted here at all was too much 
honour." 

" I shall never be able to take an interest 
In anyone again," she said, drooping her 
head. '' It is so strange, so strange to have 
one's motives misunderstood, but you don't 
do so. I am so thankful I had the courage 
to go to you. My friend dissuaded me 
strongly fiom taking such a step. She said 
that a parent would naturally blame anyone 
rather than his own son " 

*' My dear Miss Lance, who could blame 
you ? I don't know," said the Colonel, ''that 



THE SORCERESS. 25 

I blame poor Charlie so much either. To be 
much in your company might well be 
dangerous for any man." 

" You must not speak so — indeed, indeed, 
you must not I I feel more and more 
ashamed ! When a woman comes to a certain 
age — and has no children of her own. Surely, 
surely — — " 

'' Come !" he cried. " You said a parent's 
cares destroyed one's individuality " 

*' Not with a woman. What individuality 
has a woman ? The only use of her is to sink 
that pride in a better — the pride of being of 
some use. What I regretted was for you — 
and such as you — if there are enough of such 
to make a class — . Yes, yes," she added, 
looking up, " I acknowledge the inconsis- 
tency. I have not sense enough to see the 
pity of it in all cases — but my real principle, 
my deep belief is that to draw a man like 
you away from your career, to trouble and 
distress you about others, who are not of half 
your value — is a thing that ought to be 
prevented by Act of Parliament," she cried, 
breaking off with a laugh. " But you have 
not told me yet how everything has finished," 



26 THE SORCERESS. 

she added, In a confidential low tone, after a 
pause. 

Then he told her in some detail what he had 
done. It was delightful to tell her, a woman 
so sympathising, so quick to understand, 
with that approving, consoling, remonstrating 
action of her white hands which seemed at 
the same moment to applaud and deprecate, 
with a constant inference that he was too 
good, that really he ought not to be so good. 
She laughed at his descrlotlon of the Don, 
adding a graphic touch or two to make the 
picture more perfect — till Colonel Kings- 
ward was surprised at himself to think how 
cleverly he had done It, and was delighted with 
his own success. This gave a slightly comic 
character to his other sketches of poor 
Charlie's tradesmen, and scout, and an un- 
utterable cad of a young fellow who had met 
the Colonel leaving the college and had told 
him of a small sum which Charlie owed him. 

" The little beast !" the Colonel said. 

"Worse!" cried Miss Lance, 'T would not 
slander any gentlemanly dog by calling him 
of the same species." 

Altogether, her Interest and sympathy 
changed this not particularly lively occasion 



THE SORCERESS. 2/ 

into one of the briorhtest moments of Colonel 
Kingsward's life. He had not been used to 
a woman so clever, who took him up at half 
a word, and enhanced the interest of every- 
thing. Had he been asked, indeed, he would 
have said that he did not like clever women. 
But then Miss Lance had other qualities. 
She was very handsome, and she had an 
evident and undisguised admiration for him. 
She was so very frank and sure of her 
position as a woman of a certain age — a 
qualification which she appropriated to herself 
constantlv, though most women thouQrht it an 
insult — that she did not find it needful to 
conceal that admiration. When he thanked 
her for her kindness for the patient hearing 
of all his story, and the interest she had 
shown, to which he had so little claim. Miss 
Lance smiled and held out those white 
hands. 

" I assure you," she said, " the benefit 
is all on my side. Living here among very 
young men, you must think what it is to talk 
to, to be treated confidentially, by a man like 
yourself It is like a glance into another 
lite." She sighed, and added, " The young 
are delightful. I am very fond of young 



28 THE SORCERESS. 

people. Still, to meet now and then with 
someone of one's own age, of one's own 
species, if I may say so — " 

" You do me too much honour," said 
Colonel Kingsward, feeling with a curious 
elation, how superior he was. She went 
with him to the garden gate, not afraid of 
the wintry air, showing no sense of the chill, 
and though she had given him her hand 
before, offered it again with the sweetest 
friendliness. 

"And you promised," she said, looking in 
his face while he held it, "that you would 
send me one line when you got home, to tell 
me how you find him — and that all is well — 
and forgiven." 

" I shall be too happy to be permitted to 
write," Colonel Kingsward said. 

"Forgiven," she said, "and forgotten!" 
holding up a finger of the other hand, the 
hand with the diamond. She stood for a 
moment watching while he closed the low 
gate, and then, waving her hand to him, 
turned away. Colonel Kingsward had never 
been a finer fellow, in his own estimation, 
than when he walked slowly off from that 
closed door. 



CHAPTER III. 

I WILL not repeat the often described scene 
of anxiety which existed in Kingswarden for 
some time after. Colonel Kingsward returned, 
as Bee had done, to find that nothing had 
been seen or heard of Charlie, whom both 
had expected to find defiant and wretched at 
home. It is astonishing how quickly in such 
circumstances the tables are turned, and the 
young culprit — whom parents and friends 
have been ready to crush the moment he 
appears wuth well-deserved rebuke — becomes, 
when he does not appear, the object of the 
most eager appeals ; forgiveness, and advan- 
tages of e/ery kind all ready to greet him if 
only he will come back. The girls were 
frightened beyond description by their 



30 THE SORCERESS. 

brother's disappearance, and conjured up 
every dreadful image of disaster and misery. 
They thought of CharHe In his despair going 
off to the ends of the earth and never being 
seen more. They thought of him as In some 
wretched condition on shipboard, sick and 
miserable, reduced to dreadful work and still 
more dreadful privations, he who had lain in 
the lilies and fed on the roses of life. 
They thought of him, Colonel Kingsward's 
son, enlisted as a private soldier, in a crowded 
barrack-room. They thought of him wander- 
ing about the street, cold, perhaps hungry, 
without a shelter. The most dreadful Images 
came before their Inexperienced eyes. The 
old aunt who was their companion told them 
dreadful stories of family prodigals who dis- 
appeared and were never heard of again, and 
terror took hold of the girls' minds. 

Their constant walk was to the station, 
with the Idea that he might perhaps come as 
far as the village, and that there his heart 
might fail him. Except for that melancholy 
Indulgence, they would not be out of the 
house at any time together, lest at that 
moment Charlie might arrive, and no one be 



THE SORCEKESS. 3 I 

there to welcome him. There was always 
one who ran to the door at every sound, 
scandalising the servant, who could never get 
there so fast but one of the young ladies was 
before him. They had endless conversations 
and consultations on the subject, forming a 
hundred plans as to how they should go 
forth into the world to seek for him, all 
rendered abortive by the reflection that they 
knew not where to go. Bee and Betty were 
very unhappy during these lingering, chilly 
days of early spring. The tranquillity of the 
family life seemed to be destroyed in a 
moment. Where was Charlie ? Wsls there 
any news of Charlie ? This was the question 
that filled their minds day and night. 

Colonel Kings ward was not less affec- 
tionate, but he was more practical and 
experienced. He knew that now and then 
it does happen that a young man disappears, 
sinks under the stream, and goes, as people 
say, to the dogs, and is heard of no more — 
or, at least, only in a shipwrecked condition, 
the shame and trouble of his friends. It did 
not seem to him, at first, that there could be 
any such danger for his son. He anticipated 



32 THE SORCERESS. 

nothing more than a few days' sullenness, 
perhaps in some friend's house, who would 
make cautious overtures and intercede for 
the rebelHous but shame-stricken boy. When, 
however, the time passed on, and a longer 
interval than any judicious friend would 
permit had elapsed, a deep anxiety arose also 
in Colonel Kingsward's mind. The esclandre 
of an Oxford failure did not trouble him 
much, but, in view of Charlie's future career, 
he could not employ detectives, or advertise 
in the papers, or take any steps which might 
lead to a paragraph as to the anxiety of a 
distinguished family on account of a son 
who had disappeared. Colonel Kingsward 
might not be a very tender parent, but he 
was fully alive to the advantage of his 
children, and would allow no stigma to be 
attached to them which he could prevent. 
He went a great deal about London in these 
days, going into many a spot where a man 
of his dignity was out of place, with an 
anxious and troubled eye upon the crowds of 
young men, the familiars of these confused 
regions, among whom, however, no trace 
was to be found of his son. 



THE SORCERESS. 33 

Nobody ever knew how much the Colonel 
undertook, in how many strange scenes he 
found himself, or half of what he really did 
to recover Charlie, and save him from the 
consequences of his folly. The most devoted 
father could scarcely have done more, and 
his mind was almost as full of the prodigal as 
were the minds of the girls, who thought of so 
many grievous dangers, yet did not think of 
those that filled their father's mind. Colonel 
Kingsward went about everywhere, groping, 
saying not a word to betray his ignorance of 
Charlie's whereabouts. To those who had 
any right to know his family affairs, he 
explained that he had decided not to press 
Charlie to undergo any examination beyond 
what was necessary, that he had given up the 
thought of taking his degree, and was study- 
ing modern languages and international law, 
which were so much more likely to be useful 
to him. "He is a steady fellow — he 
has no vices," he said, '' and I think it is 
wise to let him have his head." Colonel 
Kingsward was by nature a despotic man, 
and his friends were very glad to hear 
that he was, in respect to Charlie, so amiable 

VOL. III. D 



34 THE SORCERESS. 

— they said to each other that his wife's 
death had softened Kingsward, and what a 
good thing it was that he was behaving so 
judiciously about his son. 

A pause Hke this in the Hfe of a family — a 
period of darkness in which the life of one of 
its members is suspended, interrupted, as it 
were, in mid career, cut off, yet not with that 
touch of death which stills all anxieties — is 
always a difficult and miserable one. Some, 
and the number increases of these uncon- 
trolled persons, cry out to earth and heaven, 
and make the lapse public and set all the 
world talking of their affairs. But Colonel 
Kingsward sternly put down even the tears 
of his young daughters. 

''If you cannot keep a watch over your- 
selves before the servants, you had better 
leave the house," he said, all the more stern 
to them that he was soft to Charlie ; but 
indeed it was not so much that he was soft to 
Charlie as that he was concerned and anxious 
about Charlie's career. 

"Betty, I suppose, can go back to the 
Lyons' in Portman Square, and Bee " 

'' If you think that I can go visiting, papa, 



THE SORCERESS. 35 

and no one with the children, and poor 
Charlie " 

'* I think — and, indeed, I know, that you 
can and will do what I think best for you," 
said Colonel Kingsward. 

Bee looked up at him quickly and met her 
father's eyes. The two looked at each other 
suspiciously, almost fiercely. Bee saw in her 
father s look possibilities and dangers as yet 
undeveloped, mysteries which she divined 
and feared, yet neither could nor would have 
put into words, while he looked at her 
divining her divinations, defying uncon- 
sciously the suspicion which he could not 
have expressed any more than she. 

" Let it be understood once for all," he 
said, ''that the children have their nurses and 
governess, and that your presence is by no 
means indispensable to them. You are their 
eldest sister, you are not the mistress of the 
house. Nothing will happen to the children. 
In considering what is best for you " 

" Papa !" cried Bee, almost fiercely ; but 
she did not pour out upon him that bitterness 
which had been collecting in her heart. She 
paused in time ; but then added, '' I have not 



36 THE SORCERESS. 

asked you to consider what was best for 
me." 

" That is enough to show that it is time 
for me to consider it," he said. 

And then, once more their looks met, and 
clashed like the encounter of two armies. 
What did she suspect ? What did he intend ? 
They both breathed short, as if with the 
impulse of battle, but neither, even to them- 
selves, could have answered that question. 
Colonel Kings ward cried " Take care, Bee !" 
as he went away, a by no means happy man, 
to his library, while she threw herself down 
upon a sofa, and — inevitable result in a girl of 
any such rising of passion — burst into tears. 

" Bee," said the sensible Betty, '' you 
ought not to speak like that to papa." 

" I ought to be thankful that he has con- 
sidered what was best for me, and spoilt my 
life !" cried Bee, through her tears. '' Oh, it 
is very easy for you to speak. You are to 
go to the Lyons', where you wish to go^ — to 
be free of all anxiety — for what is Charlie 
to you but only your brother, and you know 
that you can't do him any good by making 
yourself miserable about him ? And you will 



THE SORCERESS. 2)7 

see Gerald Lvon, who is doinor well at 
Cambridge, and listen to all the talk about 
him, and smile, and not hate him for being 
so smug and prosperous, while poor 
Charlie " 

" How unjust you are !" cried Betty, grow- 
ing red and then pale. "It is not Gerald 
Lyon's fault that Charlie has not done well — 
even if I cared anything for Gerald Lyon." 

''It is you who ought to take care," said 
Bee, " if papa thinks it necessary to consider 
what is best for you." 

"There is nothing to consider," said Betty, 
with a little movement of her hands. 

" But it can never be so bad for you," said 
Bee, with a tone of regret. "Never! To 
think that my life should be ruined and all 
ended for the sake of a woman — a woman — 
who has now ruined Charlie, and whom papa 
— oh, papa!" she cried, with a tone inde- 
scribable of exasperation and scorn and 
contempt. 

''What is it about papa? You look at 
each other, you and he, like two tigers. You 
have got the same dreadful eyes. Yes, they 
are dreadful eyes ; they give out fire. I 



T,S THE SORCERESS. 

wonder often that they don't make a noise 
Hke an explosion. And Bee, you said 
yourself that there was something else. You 
never would have given in to papa, but there 
was something of your own that parted you 
from Aubrey — for ever. You said so, Bee — 

when his mother " 

"Is there any need for bringing in any 
gentleman's name ? " cried Bee, with the 
dignity of a dowager. And then, ignoring 
her own rule, she burst forth, '' What I have 
got against him is nothing to anyone — but 
that Aubrey Leigh should he insulted and 
rejected and turned away from our door, and 
that my heart should be broken because of a 
woman whom papa and Charlie — whom 

papa ! He writes to her, and she writes 

to him — he tells her everything — he consults 
her about us, ^is, my mother's children ! 
And yet it was on her account that Aubrey 

Leigh was turned from the door Oh, if you 

think I can bear that, you must think me 
more than flesh and blood ! " Bee cried, the 
tears adding to the fire and sparkle of her 
blazing eyes. 

" It isn't very nice," said little Betty, 



THE SORCERESS. 39 

sagely, "but I am not so sure that it was her 
fault, for If you had stuck to Aubrey as you 
meant to do at first, your heart would not 
have been broken, and if Charlie had not 
been very silly, a person of that age could 
not have done him any harm ; and then 

papa . What can she do to papa ? I 

suppose he thinks as she is old he may write 
to her as a friend and ask her advice. There 
is not any harm that I can see in that." 

Bee was too much agitated to make any 
reply to this. She resumed again, after a 
pause, as if Betty had not spoken : '' He 
writes to her, and she writes to him, just as 
she did to Charlie, for I have seen them 
both — long letters, with that ridiculous 
" Laura," and a big L, as if she were a girl. 
You can see them, if you like, at breakfast, 
when he reads them instead of his papers, 
and smiles to himself when he is reading 
them, and looks — ridiculous" — cried Bee, in 
her indignation. " Ridiculous! as if he were 
young too ; a man who is father of all of us; 
and not much more than a year ago — . Oh, 
if I were not to speak I think the very trees 
would, and the bushes in the shubbery ! It 
is more than anvone can bear." 



40 THE SORCERESS. 

" You are making up a story," said Betty, 
wonderingly. '' I don't know what you 
mean." Then she cried, carrying the war 
into the enemy's country, " Oh, Bee, if you 
had not given him up, if you had been faith- 
ful to him ! — now we should have had some- 
body to consult with, somebody that could 
have gone and looked for poor Charlie ; for 
we are only two girls, and what can we do ?" 

Bee did not make any reply, but looked at 
her sister with startled eyes. 

*' Mamma was never against Aubrey 
Leigh," said Betty, pursuing her advantage. 
'' She never would have wished you to give 
him up. And it is all your own doing, not 
papa's doing, or anyone's. If I had ever 
cared for him I never, never should have 
given him up ; and then we should have had 
as good as another brother, that could have 
gone into the world and hunted everywhere 
and brought Charlie home." 

The argument was taken up at hazard, a 
chance arrow lying in the young combatant's 
way, without intention — but it went straight 
to its mark. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The house that had been so peaceful was 
thus full of agitation and disturbance, the 
household, anxious and alarmed, turning their 
weapons upon each other, to relieve a little 
the gnawing of that suspense which they 
were so unaccustomed to bear. It was true 
what Bee's keen and sharply aroused ob- 
servation had convinced her, that Colonel 
Kingsward was in correspondence with Miss 
Lance, and that her letters were very 
welcome to him, and read with great interest. 
He threw down the paper after he had made 
a rush through its contents, and read eagerly 
the long sheets of paper, upon which the 
great L, stamped at the head of every page, 
could be read on the other side of the table. 



42 THE SORCERESS. 

How did that woman know the days he was 
to be at home, that her letters should always 
come on those mornings and never at any 
other time ? Bee almost forgot her troubles, 
those of the family in respect to Charlie, and 
those which were her very own, in her 
passionate hatred and distrust of the new 
correspondent to whom Colonel Kingsward, 
like his son, had opened his heart. 

He was not, naturally, a man given to 
correspondence. His letters to his wife, in 
those days which now seemed so distant, 
had been models of concise writing. His 
opinions, or rather verdicts, upon things 
great and small had been conveyed in 
terse sentences, very much to the purpose ; 
deliverances not of his way of thinking, but 
of the unalterable dogmas that were to rule 
the family life ; and her replies, though 
diffuse, were always more or less regulated 
by her consciousness of the little time there 
would be given to them, and the necessity 
of making every explanation as brief as 
possible — not to worry papa, who had so 
much to do. 

Why it was that he found the long letters, 



THE SORCERESS. 43 

which he read with a certain defiant pride in 
the presence of his daughters at the break- 
fast table, so agreeable, it would be difficult 
to tell. They were very carefully adapted to 
please him, it is true ; and they were what 
are called clever letters — such letters as 
clever women write, with a faiLX air of 
brilliancy which deceives both the writer and 
the recipient, making the one feel herself a 
Sevigne and the other a hero worthy the 
exercise of such powers. And there was 
something very novel in this sudden inroad 
of sentimental romance into an existence 
never either sentimental or romantic, which 
had fallen into the familiar calm of family life 
so long ago with a wife, who though sweet 
and fair enough to delight any man, had 
become in reality only the chief of his 
vassals, following every indication of his will, 
when not eagerly watching an opportunity of 
anticipating his wishes. His new friend 
treated the Colonel in a very different way. 
She expounded her views of life w4th all the 
adroitness of a mind experienced in the 
treatment of those philosophies which touch 
the questions of sex, the differences between 



44 THE SORCERESS. 

a man's and a woman's view, the sentiment 
which can be carried into the most simple 
subjects. There is nothing that can give 
more entertaining play of argument, or 
piquancy of intercourse, than this mode of 
correspondence when cleverly carried out, 
and Miss Laura Lance was a mistress of all 
its methods. It was all entirely new to 
Colonel Kings ward. He was as much 
enchanted with it as his son had been, and 
thought the writer as brilliant, as original, as 
poor Charlie had done, who had no way of 
knowing better. The Colonel's head, which 
generally had been occupied by professional or 
public matters — by the intrigues of the service 
or the incompetencies of the Department — 
now found a much more interesting private 
subject of thought. He was a man full of 
anxiety and annoyance at this particular crisis 
of his career, and his correspondent was by 
way of sharing his anxiety to the utmost and 
even blaming herself as the cause of it ; yet 
she contrived to amuse him, to bring a smile, 
to touch a lighter key, to relieve the tension 
of his mind from time to time, without ever 
allowing him to feel that the chief subject of 



THE SORCERESS. 



45 



their correspondence was out of her thoughts. 
He got no reHef of this description at home, 
where the girls' anxious questions about 
Charlie, their eagerness to know what had 
been done, seemed to upbraid him with in- 
difference, as if he were not doing everything 
that was possible. Miss Lance knew better 
the dangers that were being run, the real 
difficulties of the case, than these inex- 
perienced chits of children ; but she knew 
also that a man's mind requires relief, and 
that, in point of fact, the Colonel's health, 
strength and comfort, were of more impor- 
tance than many Charlie's. This was a thing 
that had to be understood, not said, and the 
Colonel indeed was as anxious and concerned 
about Charlie as it was almost possible to be. 
He did not form dreadful pictures as Bee and 
Betty did of what the boy might be suffering. 
The boy deserved to suffer, and this con- 
sideration, had he dwelt upon it, would have 
afforded a certain satisfaction. But what did 
make him wretched was the fear of any 
exposure, the mention in public of anything 
that might injure his son's career. An 
opportunity was already dawning of getting 



46 THE SORCERESS. 

him an appointment upon which the Colonel 
had long kept his eye, and which would be of 
double Importance at present as sending him 
out of the country and Into new scenes. But 
of what use were all a father's careful arrange- 
ments if they were thus balked by the per- 
versity of the boy ? 

Things w^ere still in this painful suspense 
when Miss Lance announced to Colonel 
Kingsward her arrival in town. She des- 
cribed to him how it was that she was 
coming. 

'' My friend Is absent with her son till after 
Easter, and I am understood to be fond of 
town, and am coming to spend a week or 
two to see the first of the season, the pic- 
tures, &c., as well as a few friends whom I 
still keep up, the relics of brighter and 
younger days — this is the reason I give, 
but you will easily understand, dear Colonel 
Kingsward, that there Is another reason far 
more near to my heart. Your poor boy ! 
Or may I for once say our poor boy ? For 
you are aware that I have never ceased to 
upbraid myself for what has happened, and 
that I shall always bear a mother's heart to 



THE SORCERESS. 47 

Charlie, dear fellow, to whom, in wishing 
him nothing but good, I have been so unfor- 
tunate as to do such dreadful wrong. Every 
word you say about your hopes for him, and 
the great chance which he is so likely to miss, 
cuts me to the heart. And it has occurred 
to me that there are some places in which he 
may have been heard of, to which I could 
myself go, or where I might take you if 
you wished, which you would not yourself 
be likely to know. I wish I had thought of 
them before. I come up now full of hope 
that we may hear something and find a 
reliable clue. I shall be in George Street, 
Hanover Square, a place which is luckily in 
the way for everything. Please come and 
see me. I hope you will not think I am 
presuming in endeavouring to solve a diffi- 
culty for which I am, alas, alas ! partially to 
blame. To assure me of this at least if no 
more, come, do come to see me to-morrow, 
Tuesday afternoon. I shall do nothing till I 
have your approval." 

This letter had an exciting effect upon the 
Colonel, more than anything he had known 
for years. He held it before him, yielding 



48 THE SORCERESS. 

himself up to this pleasurable sensation for 
some minutes after he had read it. The 
Easter recess had left London empty, and he 
had been deprived of some of the ordinary 
social solaces which, though they increased 
the difficulty of keeping his son's disappear- 
ance a secret, still broke the blank of his 
suspense and made existence possible. Hard 
to bear was the point blank shock which he 
had sometimes received, as when an indiscreet 
but influential friend suddenly burst upon 
him, " I don't see your son's name in the 
Oxford lists, Kingsward." " No," the Colonel 
had replied, with a countenance from which 
all expression had been dismissed, '' we 
thought it better that he should keep to his 
special studies." "Quite right, quite right," 
answered that great official, for what is a 
mere degree to F. O. ? Even to have such 
things as this said to him, with the chance of 
putting in a response, was better than the 
stagnation, in which a man is so apt to feel 
that all kinds of whispers are circulating in 
respect to the one matter which it is his 
interest to conceal. 

And his heart, though it was a middle- 



THE SORCERESS. 49 

aged, and no longer nimble organ given to 
leaping, jumped up in his breast when he 
read his letter. There was the possible clue 
which it was good to hear of — and there was 
the listener to whom he could tell everything, 
who took such an entire and flattering share 
in his anxieties, with whom there was no 
need to invent excuses, or to conceal any- 
thing. Perhaps there were other reasons, 
too, which he did not put into words. The 
image which had dazzled him at Oxford rose 
again before his eyes. It was an image 
which had already often visited him. One of 
the handsomest women he had ever seen, 
and so flattering, so confidential, so deeply 
impressed by himself, so candid and anxious 
to blame herself, to place herself in his hands. 
He went back to town with agreeable instead 
of painful anticipations. To share one's 
cares is always an alleviation — to be able 
openly to take a friend's advice. The girls, 
to whom alone he could be perfectly open on 
this matter, were such little fools that he had 
ceased to discuss it with them, if, indeed, he 
had ever discussed it. And to nobody else 
could he speak on the subject at all. The 

VOL. III. E 



50 THE SORCERESS. 

opportunity of pouring forth all his specula- 
tions and alarms, of hearing the suggestions 
of another mind — and such a mind as 
hers — of finding a new clue, was balm 
to his angry, annoyed and excited spirit. 
There were other douceurs involved, which 
were not absent from his thoughts. The 
pleasure of the woman's society, who was 
so flatteringly pleased with his, her mature 
beauty, which had so much attraction 
in it, the look of her eyes, which said more 
than words, the touch — laid upon his for a 
moment with so much eloquent expression, 
appeal, sympathy, consolation, provocation — 
of her beautiful hands. All this was in the 
Colonel's mind. He had scarcely known 
what was the touch of a woman's hand, at 
least in this way, during the course of his 
long, calm domestic life. He had been very 
fond of his wife, of course, and very tender, 
as well as he knew how, during her illness, 
though entirely unconscious of how much he 
demanded from her even in the course of 
that illness. But this was utterly different, 
apart from everything he had ever known. 
Friendship — that friendship between man 



THE SORCERESS. 5 I 

and woman which has been the subject of 
so much sentimental controversy. Somebody 
whom Miss Lance had quoted to him, some 
great man in Oxford, had said it was the only 
real friendship ; many others, amongst whom 
Colonel Kings ward himself had figured when 
at any moment so ridiculous an argument 
had crossed his path, denounced it as a mere 
unfounded fiction to conceal other sentiments. 
Dolts ! It was the Oxford great man who 
was in the right of it. The only friendship ! 
— with sweetness in it which no man could 
give, a more entire confidence, a more 
complete sympathy. He knew that he 
could say things to Laura — Miss Lance — 
which he could say to no man, and that 
a look from her eyes would do more to 
strengthen him than oceans of kind words 
from lips which would address him as 
"old fellow." He had her image before 
him all the time as he went up in the 
train ; it w^ent with him into the decorous 
dulness of his office, and when he left his 
work an hour earlier than usual his steps 
were as light as a young man's. He had not 
felt so much exhilaration of spirit since — ■ — ; 



UBRARY -~*^ 
UNIVERSfn OF IttfNOfS 



52 THE SORCERESS. 

but he could scarcely go back to a date on 
which his bosom's lord had sat so lightly on 
his throne. Truth to tell, Colonel Kings- 
ward had fallen on evil days. Even the 
course of his ordinary existence, when he had 
gone through life with his pretty wife by his 
side, dining out constantly, going everywhere, 
though enjoyable in its way, and with the 
satisfaction of keeping up to the right mark, 
had not been exciting. She no doubt told 
for a great deal in his happiness, but there 
were no risks, no excitements, and not as 
much as the smart of an occasional quarrel 
between them. He had known what to 
expect of her in every emergency ; there was 
nothing novel to be looked for, no unaccus- 
tomed flavour in anything she was likely to 
do or say. He did not make this comparison 
consciously, for indeed there was no com- 
parison at all between his late wife (he called 
her so already in his mind) and Miss Lance 
— not the slightest comparison ! The latter 
was a far more piquant thing — a friend — and 
the most delightful friend, surely, that ever 
man had ! 

He found her in a little drawing-room on 



THE SORCERESS. 53 

the first floor of what looked very much Hke 
an ordinary London lodging-house ; but 
within it had changed its character com- 
pletely, and had become, though in a 
different, more subtle way than that of the 
drawing-room in Oxford, the bower of Laura, 
a special habitation marked with her very 
name, like the notepaper on her table. He 
could not for the first moment avoid a 
bewildering idea that it was the same room 
in which he had seen her in Oxford trans- 
ported thither. There seemed the same 
pictures on the walls, the same writing-table, 
or at least one arranged in precisely the same 
way, the same chairs placed two together for 
conversation. What a wonderful creature 
she was, thus to put the stamp of her own 
being upon everything she touched. Once 
more he had to w^ait for a minute or two 
before she came, but she made no apology 
for her delay. She came in with her hand 
extended, with an air of sympathy yet 
satisfaction at the sight of him w^hich went to 
Colonel Kingsw^ard's heart. If she had been 
sorry only it would have displeased him, as 
showing a mind occupied wholly with Charlie, 



54 THE SORCERESS. 

but the delicate mingling of pleasure with 
concern was exactly what the Colonel felt to 
be most fit. 

" I am so glad to see you," she said. 
'' How kind of you to come so soon, to pay 
such prompt attention to my wish." 

" Considering that It was my own wish," 
he said, " and what I desired most, I should 
say how good of you to come, but I can't 
venture to hope that It was entirely for me." 

"It was very much for you, Colonel 
KIngsward. You know what blame I take 
to myself for all that has happened. And I 
think, perhaps, I may have It In my power to 
make some Inquiries that would not suggest 
themselves. But we must talk of this after. 
In the meantime, I can't but think first of 
you. What an ordeal for you — what weary 
work! But what a pull over us you men 
have ! You keep your great spirit and com- 
mand over yourself through everything, 
while, whatever little trouble we may have, It 
shows Immediately. Oh," said Miss Lance, 
clasping her hands, " a calm strong man Is a 
sight which It elevates one only to see." 

" You give me far too much credit. One 



THE SORCERESS. 55 

is obliged to keep a good face to the world. 
I don't approve of people who wash their 
dirty linen in public." 

'' Don't try to make yourself little with all 
this commonplace reasoning. You need not 
explain yourself to me, dear Colonel Kings- 
ward. I flatter myself that I have the gift of 
understanding, if nothing else." 

" A great many things else," he said; "and 
indeed my keeping up in this emergency has 
been greatly helped by your great friendship 
and moral support. I don't know what you 
have done to this room," he added, changing 
the theme quickly, "did you bring it with 
you .'^ It is not a mere room in London — it 
is your room. I should have known it 
among a thousand." 

*'What a delightful compliment," she said. 
" I am so glad you think so, for it is one of 
the things I pride myself on. I think I can 
always make even a lodging-house look a bit 
like home." 

" It looks like you," he repeated. " I 
don't notice such matters much, but no one 
could help seeing. And I hope you are to 
be here for some time, and that if I can be of 
any use — " 



56 THE SORCERESS. 

'' Oh ! Colonel Kingsward, don't hold out 
such flattering hopes. You of use ! Of 
course, to a lone woman in town you would 
be far more than of use — you would simply 
be a tower of strength. But I do not come 
here to make use of you. I come — " 

" You could not give me greater pleasure 
than by making use of me. I am not going 
much into society, my house is not open — 
my girls are too young to take the respon- 
sibilities of a season upon themselves ; but 
anything that a single individual can do to be 
of service — " 

"Your dear girls — how I should like to 
see them, to be able to take them about a 
little, to make up to those poor children as 
far as a stranger could ! But I can scarcely 
hope that you would trust them to me after 
the trouble I have helped to bring on you 
all. Dear Colonel Kingsward, your chival- 
rous offer will make all the difference in 
my life. If you will give me your arm some- 
times, on a rare occasion — " 

''As often as you please — and the 
oftener the more it will please me," he cried, 
in tones full of warmth and eagerness. Miss 



THE SORCERESS. 57 

Lance raised her grateful eyes to him full of 
unspeakable things. She made no further 
reply except by one of those light touches 
upon his arm less than momentary, if that 
were possible, like the brush of a wing, or an 
ethereal contact of ideas. 

And then she said gravely, " Now about 
that poor, dear boy ; we must find him, oh, 
we must find him. I have thought of 
several places where he may have been seen. 
Do you know that I met him once by chance 
in town last year ? It was at the Academy, 
where I was with some artist friends. I 
introduced him to them, and you know there 
is great freedom among them, and they have 
a great charm for young men. I think some 
of them may have seen him. I have put 
myself in communication with them." 

" I would not for a moment," said the 
Colonel, somewhat stiffly, ''consent to burden 
you with inquiries of this kind ! " 

*' You do not think," she said, sweetly, 
" that I would do anything, or say anything 
to compromise him or you ? " 

The Colonel looked at her with the strang- 
est sudden irritation. " I was not thinking 



58 THE SORCERESS. 

either of him or myself. Why should you 
receive men, who must be entirely out of 
your way, for our sakes ? " 

" Oh," she said, with a soft laugh, ''you 
are afraid that I may compromise myself." 
She rose with an unspoken impulse, which 
made him rise also, in spite of himself, with 
a feeling of unutterable downfall, and the 
sense of being dismissed. " Don't be afraid 
for me. Colonel Kingsward, I beg. I shall 
not compromise anyone." Then she turned 
with a sudden illumination of a smile. 
'' Come back and see me to-morrow, and you 
shall hear what I have found out." 

And he went away humbly, relieved yet 
mortified, not holding his head as high as 
when he came, but already longing for to- 
morrow, when he might come back. 



CHAPTER V. 

Colonel Kingsward had been flattered, he 
had been pleased. He had felt himself for a 
moment one of the exceptional men in whom 
women find an irresistible attraction, and then 
he had been put down and dismissed with the 
calmest decision, with a peremptoriness which 
nobody in his life had ever used to him. All 
these sweetnesses, and then to be, as it were, 
huddled out of doors the moment he said a 
word which was not satisfactory to that 
imperial person I He could not get it out 
of his mind during the evening nor all the 
night through, during which it occurred to 
him whenever he woke, as a prevailing 
thought does. And he had been right, too. 
To send for men, any kind of men, artists 



6o THE SORCERESS 

whom she herself described as having so 
much freedom in their ways, and have inter- 
views with them, was a thing to which he 
had a good right to object. That is, her 
friend had a right to object to it — her friend 
who took the deepest interest in her and all 
that she was doing. That it was for Charlie's 
advantage made really no difference. This 
gave a beautiful and admirable motive, but 
then all her motives were beautiful and admir- 
able, and it must be necessary in some cases 
to defend her against the movements of her 
own good heart. Evidently she did not 
sufficiently think of what the world would 
say, nor, indeed, of what was essentially 
right ; for that a woman of her attractions, 
still young, living independently in rooms of 
her own, should receive artists indiscrimin- 
ately, nay, send for them, admit them to 
sit perhaps for an hour with her, with no 
chaperon or companion, was a thing that 
could not be borne. This annoyance almost 
drove Charlie out of Colonel Kingsward's 
head. He felt that when he went to her 
next day he must, with all the precautions 
possible, speak his mind upon this subject. 



THE SORCERESS. 6l 

A woman with such attractions, really a 
young woman, alone ; nobody could have 
more need of guarding against evil tongues. 
And artists were proverbially an unregulated, 
free - and - easy race, with long hair and 
defective linen, not men to be privileged 
with access under any circumstances to such 
a woman. Unquestionably he must deliver 
his soul on that subject for her own sake. 

He thouQfht about it all the morninor, how 
to do it best. It relieved his mind about 
Charlie. Charlie! Charlie w^as onlv a voune 
fellow after all, taking his own way, as they 
all did, never thinking of the anxiety he gave 
his family. And no doubt he would turn up 
of his own accord when he was tired of it. 
That she should depart from the traditions 
which naturally are the safeguards of ladies 
for the sake of a silly boy, who took so little 
trouble about the peace of mind of his 
family, was monstrous. It was a thing which 
he could not permit to be. 

When he went into his private room at his 
office, Colonel Kings ward found a card upon 
his table which increased the uneasiness in 
his mind, though he could not have told w^hy. 



62 THE SORCERESS. 

He took It up with great surprise and anger. 
*' Mr. Aubrey Leigh." He supposed It must 
have been a card left long ago, when Aubrey- 
Leigh was Bee's suitor, and had come 
repeatedly, endeavouring to shake her father's 
determination. He looked at it contemp- 
tuously, and then pitched it into the fire. 

What a strange perversity there Is In these 
Inanimate things ! It seemed as If some 
malicious Imp must have replaced that card 
there on that very morning to disturb him. 

Colonel KIngsward did not remember how 
It was that the name, the sacred name, of 
Miss Lance was associated with that of 
Aubrey Leigh. He had been much sur- 
prised, as well as angry, at the manner In 
which Bee repeated that name, when she 
heard It first, with a vindictive jealousy (these 
words came instinctively to his mind) which 
was not comprehensible. He had refused 
indignantly to allow that she had ever heard 
the name before. Nevertheless, her cry 
awakened a vague association in his mind. 
Something or other, he could not recollect 
what, of connection, of suggestion, was In the 
sound. He threw Aubrey's card into the 



THE SORCERESS. 63 

fire, and endeavoured to dismiss all thought 
on the subject. But it was a difficult thing 
to do. It is to be feared that during those 
morning hours the work which Colonel 
Kingsw^ard usually executed with so much 
exactitude, never permitting, as he himself 
stated, private matters — even such as the 
death of his wife or the disappearance of his 
son— to interfere with it, was carried through 
with many interruptions and pauses for 
thought, and at the earliest possible moment 
was laid aside for that other engagement 
which had nothing to do either with the 
office or the Service, though it was, he 
flattered himself, a duty, and one of the most 
lofty kind. 

To save a noble creature, if possible, from 
the over generosity of her own heart ; to 
convince her that such proceedings were in- 
appropriate, inconsistent with her dignity, as 
well as apt to give occasion for the adversary 
to blaspheme — this was the mission which 
inspired him. If he thought of a natural 
turning towards himself, the friend of friends, 
in respect to whom the precautions he 
enforced were unnecessary, in consequence 



64 THE SORCERESS. 

of these remonstrances, he kept it carefully in 
the background of his thoughts. It was 
a duty. This beautiful, noble woman, all 
frankness and candour, had taken the part of 
an angel in endeavouring to help him in his 
trouble. Could he permit her to sully even 
the tip of a wing of that generous effort. 
Certainly not ! On the contrary, it became 
doubly his duty to protect her in every way. 
This time Miss Lance was in her drawing- 
room, seated in one of the pair of chairs 
which were arranged for intimate conversa- 
tion. She did not rise, but held out her 
hand to him, with a soft impulse towards the 
other — in which Colonel Kingsward accord- 
ingly seated himself, with a solemnity upon 
his brow which she had no difficulty in 
interpreting, quick-witted as she was. She 
did not loose a shade upon that forehead, 
a note of additional gravity in his voice. She 
knew as well as he did the duty which he 
had come to perform. And she was a 
woman — not only quick-witted and full of 
a definite aim, but one who took real pleasure 
in her own dexterity, and played her role 
with genuine enjoyment. She allowed him 



THE SORCERESS. 65 

to open the conversation with much dignified 
earnestness, and even to begin, ''My dear 
Miss Lance," his countenance charged with 
warning before she cut the ground from 
under his feet in the Hghtest, yet most 
complete way. 

" I know you are going to say something 
very serious when you adopt that tone, so 
please let me discharge my mind first. Mrs. 
Revel kindly came to me after you left 
yesterday, and she has made every inquiry — 
indeed, as she compelled me to go back with 
her to dinner, I saw for myself " 

" Mrs. Revel ?" said the Colonel. 

"Didn't you know he was married? Oh, 
yes, to a great friend of mine, a dear little 
woman. It is in their house I meet my 
artists, whom I told you of. Tuesday is her 
night, and they were all there. I was able 
to make my investigations without any 
betrayal. But I am very, very sorry to say, 
dear Colonel Kingsward, equally without any 
efTect." 

''Without any effect," Colonel Kingsward 
repeated, confused. He was not so quick- 
witted as she was, and it took him some time 

VOL. III. F 



66 THE SORCERESS. 

to make his way through these mazes. Revel, 
the painter, was a name, indeed, that he had 
heard vaguely, but his wife, so suddenly 
introduced, and her "night," and the people 
described as my artists, wound him in webs 
of bewilderment through which it was very 
difficult to guide his steps. It became 
apparent to him, however, after a moment, 
that whatever those things might mean, the 
ground had been cut from under his feet. 
" Does Mrs. Revel know ?" he added after a 
moment, in his bewilderment. 

" Know — our poor dear boy ? Oh, yes ; I 
took him there — in my foolish desire to do 
the best I could for him, and thinking that to 
see other circles outside of his own was good 
for a young man. I couldn't take him the 
round of the studios, you know — could I ? 
But I took him to the Revels. She is a 
charming little woman, a woman whom I am 
very fond of, and — more extraordinary still, 
don't you think, Colonel Kingsward ? — who 
is fond of me." 

The Colonel was not up to the mark in 
this emergency. He did not give the little 
compliment which is expected after such a 



THE SORCERESS. 6/ 

Speech. He sat dumb, a dull, middle-aged 
blush rising over his face. He had no longer 
anything to say ; instead of the serious, even 
impassioned remonstrance which he was 
about to address to her, he could only 
murmur a faint assent, a question without 
meaning. And in place of the generous, 
imprudent creature, following her own hasty 
impulses, disregarding the opinion of the 
world, whom he had expected to find, here 
was female dignity in person, regulated by 
all the nicest laws of propriety. He was 
struck dumb — the ground was cut from 
beneath his feet. 

" This is only an interruption on my part. 
You were going to say something to me ? 
And something serious ? I prize so much 
everything you say that I must not lose it. 
Pray say it now, dear Colonel Kingsward. 
Have I done something you don't like ? I 
am ready to accept even blame — though you 
know what women are in that way, always 
standing out that they are right — from you." 

Colonel Kingsward looked at her, helpless, 
still without a word to say. There was 
surely a laughing demon in her eyes which 



68 THE SORCERESS. 

saw through and through him and knew the 
trouble in his mind; but her face was serious, 
appealing, a little raised towards him, waiting 
for his words as if her fate hung upon them. 
The colour rose over his middle-aged counte- 
nance to the very hair which was beginning 
to show traces of white over his high fore- 
head. 

'' Blame !" he stammered, scarcely knowing 
what he said, " I hope you don't think me 
quite a fool." 

" What," she cried, picking him up as it 
were on the end of her lance, holding him out 
to the scorn — if not of the world, yet of him- 
self. '' Do you think so little of a woman. 
Colonel Kingsward, that you would not take 
the trouble to find fault with her ? Ah 1 
Don't be so hard ! You would not be a fool 
if you did that — you should find that I would 
take it with gratitude, accept it, be guided by 
it. Believe me, I am worthy, if you think 
me in the wrong, to be told so — I am, 
indeed I am !" 

Were these tears in her fine eyes ? She 
made them look as if they were, and filled 
him with a compunction and a shame of his 



THE SORCERESS. 69 

own superficial judgment impossible to put 
into words. 

" I — think you wrong!" he said, stammer- 
ing and faltering. " I would as soon think 
that — heaven was wrong. I — blame you ! 
Dear >\Iiss Laura, how, how can you imagine 
such a thing ? I should be a miserable idiot 
indeed if " 

" Come," she said, *' I begin to think you 
didn't mean — now that you have called me 
by my name." 

'' I beg you a thousand pardons. I — I — 
It was a slip of the tongue. It was — from 
the signature to your letters — which is some- 
how so like you " 

"Yes," she said. "It pleases me very 
much that you should think so — more like 
me than Lance. Lance ! What a name ! 
My mother made a mesalliance. I don't 
give up my father, poor dear, though he has 
saddled me with such a family — but Laura is 
me, whereas Lance is only — an accident." 

" An accident that may be removed," he 
said, involuntarily. It was a thing that 
might be said to any unmarried w^oman, a 
conventional sort of half compliment, which 



70 THE SORCERESS. 

custom would have permitted him to put In 
even stronger terms — but to her ! When he 
had said It horror seized his soul. 

'' No," she said, gently shaking her head. 
'' No. At my age one does not recover from 
an accident like that ; one must bear the scar 
all one's days. And you really had nothing 
to find fault with me about ?" 

" How monstrous!" he cried, "to entertain 
such a thought." Then, for he was really 
uneasy in his sense of guilt, he plunged into 
a new snare. " My little daughter, Betty," he 
said, " is coming to town to-day to visit some 
friends in Portman Square. I wonder if I 
might bring her to see you " 

"Your daughter!" cried Miss Lance, clasp- 
ing her hands, " a thing I did not venture to 
ask — the very first desire of my heart. Your 
daughter ! I would go anywhere to see her. 
If you will be so nice, so sweet, so kind as to 
bring her, Colonel Kingsward !" 

" I shall, indeed, to-morrow. It will do 
her good to see you. At her susceptible age 
the very sight of such a woman as you — " 

'' No compliments," she cried, '' if I am 
not to be blamed I must not be praised 



THE SORCERESS. 7 I 

either — and I deserve It much less. Is she 
the eldest ? " There was a gleam under her 
half-dropped eyelids which the Colonel was 
vaguely aware of but did not understand. 

"The second," he said. '' My eldest girl 
is Bee, in many respects a stronger character 
than her sister, but on the other hand — " 

'T know," said Miss Lance, "a little wilful, 
fond of her own w^ay and her own opinion. 
Oh, that is a good fault in a girl ! When 
they are a little chastened they turn out the 
finest w^omen. But I understand what a 
man must feel for this little sweet thing w^ho 
has not begun to have a will of her own." 

It was not perhaps a very perfect charac- 
terisation of Betty, but still it flattered him to 
see how she entered into his thoughts. " I 
think you understand everything," he said. 



CHAPTER VI. 

It was not with any Intention, but solely 
to deliver himself from the dilemma In which 
he found himself — the Inconceivable error he 
had made, Imagining that It was necessary to 
censure, however gently, and warn against 
too much freedom of action, a woman so 
absolutely above reproach, and so full of 
ladylike dignity as Miss Lance — that Colonel 
KIngsward had named the name of Betty, 
his little daughter, just arrived In that 
Immaculate stronghold of the correct and 
respectable Portman Square. He was a 
little uneasy about it when he thought of 
it afterwards. He was not sure that he 
desired even Betty to be aware of his 
intimacy with Miss Lance. He felt that her 



THE SORCERESS. 73 

youthful presence would change, in some 
degree, the character of his relations with the 
enchantress who was stealing his wits away. 
The kind of conversation that had arisen 
so naturally between them, the sentiment, 
the confidences, the singular strain of 
mutual understanding which he felt, with 
mingled pride and bashfulness — bashfulness 
sat strangely upon the much-experienced 
Colonel, yet such was his feeling — to exist 
between Laura and himself, must inevitably 
sustain certain modifications under the sharp 
eyes of the child. She would not understand 
that subtle but strong link of friendship. 
He would require to be more distant, 
to treat his exquisite friend more like 
an ordinary acquaintance while under the 
inspection of Betty, even though he was 
perfectly assured that Betty knew nothing 
about such matters. And what, then, would 
Laura say ? Confident as she was in her 
own perfect honour and candour, would she 
understand the subdued manner, the more 
formal address which would be necessary in 
the presence of the child ? It was true that 
she understood everything without a word 



74 THE SORCERESS. 

said ; but then her own entire innocence of 
any motive but those of heavenly kindness 
and friendship might induce her to laugh 
at his precautions. Was it, perhaps, 
because he felt his motives to be not 
unmingled that the Colonel felt this ? 
Anyhow, the introduction of Betty, whom 
he had snatched at in his haste to save 
him from the consequences of his own folly, 
would be a trouble to the intercourse which, 
as it was, was so consolatory and so sweet. 

It must be added that Miss Lance, before 
he left her, had been very consolatory to him 
on the subject of Charlie, which, though 
always lying at the bottom of his thoughts, 
had begun in the midst of these new develop- 
ments to weigh upon him less, perhaps, than 
it was natural it should have done. She had 
suggested that Charlie had friends in Scot- 
land, that he had most probably gone there 
to avoid for a time his father's wrath, that in 
all probability he was enjoying himself, and 
very well cared for, putting off from day to 
day the necessity of writing. 

'' He never was, I suppose, much of a 
correspondent ? " she said. 



THE SORCERESS. 75 

"No," Colonel Kingsward had replied, 
doubtfully ; for indeed there never had been 
anything at all to call correspondence 
between him and his son. Charlie had 
written to his mother, occasionally to his 
sisters, but to his father, save when he 
wanted money, scarcely at all. 

''Then this is what has happened," said 
Laura ; "he has gone off to be as far out of 
the way as possible. He is fishing in Loch 
Tay — or he is playing golf somewhere — you 
know his habits." 

"And so it seems do you." said the 
Colonel, a litttle jealous of his son. 

" Oh, you know how a boy chatters of 
everything he does and likes." 

Colonel Kingsward nodded his head 
gloomily. He did not know how boys 
chattered — no boy had ever chattered to him ; 
but he accepted with a moderate satisfaction 
the fact that she, Laura, from whom he felt 
that he himself could have no secret, had 
taken, and did take, the trouble of turning 
the heart even — of a boy — outside in. 

" Depend upon it," said INIiss Lance, ''that 
is where he has gone, and he has not meant 



76 THE SORCERESS. 

to make you anxious. Perhaps he thinks 
you have never discovered that he had left 
Oxford, and he has meant to write day by 
day. Don't you know how one does that ? 
It is a Httle difficult to begin, and one says, 
'To-morrow,' and then 'To-morrow'; and the 
time flies on. Dear Colonel Kingsward, you 
will find that all this time he is quite happy 
on Loch Tay." She held out her hand to 
emphasise these words, and the Colonel, 
though all unaccustomed to such signs of 
enthusiasm, kissed that hand which held out 
comfort to him. It was a beautiful hand, so 
soft, like velvet, so yielding and flexible in 
his, and yet so firm in its delicate pressure. 
He went away with his head slightly turned, 
and the blood coursing through his veins. 
But when he thought of litde Betty he 
dropped down, down into a blank of decorum 
and commonplace. Before Betty he certainly 
could not kiss any lady's hand. He would 
have to shake hands with Laura as he did 
with old Mrs. Lyon in Portman Square, 
who, indeed, was a much older friend. This 
thought gave him a little feeling of con- 
trariety and uneasiness in the contemplation 



THE SORCERESS. "]"] 

of his promise to take his Httle girl to 
George Street, Hanover Square. 

And next morning when he went into his 
office, Colonel Kingsward's annoyance and 
indignation could not be expressed when he 
found once more upon his writing-table, 
placed in a conspicuous position so that he 
could not overlook it, the card of l\Ir. Aubrey 
Leigh. Who had fished it out of the waste 
paper basket and placed it there ? He rang 
his bell hastily to overwhelm his attendant 
with angry reproof. He could not have told, 
himself, why it made him so angry to see that 
card. It looked like some vulgar interference 
with his most private affairs. 

" Where did you find this card ?" he said, 
angrily, " and w^hy is it replaced here .-^ I 
threw it into the fire — or somewhere, yester- 
day — and here it is again as if the man had 
called to-day." 

*' The gentleman did call, sir, yesterday." 

"What?" cried Colonel Kingsward, in a 
voice like a trumpet ; but the man stood his 
ground. 

" The gentleman did call, sir, yesterday. 
He has called two or three times ; once when 



yS THE SORCERESS. 

you were in the country. He seemed very 
anxious to see you. I said two o'clock for a 
general thing, but you have been leaving the 
office earlier for a day or two." 

" You are very Impertinent to say anything 
of the kind, or to give anyone Information of 
my private movements ; see that It never 
occurs again. And as for this gentleman," 
he held up his card for a moment, looked at 
it contemptuously and then pitched it once 
more Into the fireplace, "be so good as to 
understand that I will not see him, whether 
he comes at two or at any other hour." 

" Am I to tell him so, sir ? " said the man, 
annoyed. 

" Of course you are to tell him so ; and 
mind you don't bring me any message or 
explanation. I will not see him — that is 
enough ; now you can go." 

*' Shall I say you're too busy, Colonel, 

or just going out, or engaged ?'' 

" No !" shouted Colonel KIngsward, with a 
force of breath which blew the attendant 
away like a strong wind. The Colonel re- 
turned to his work and his correspondence 
with an irritation and annoyance which even 



THE SORCERESS. 79 

to himself seemed beyond the occasion. 
Bee*s old lover, he supposed, had taken 
courage to make another attempt ; but 
nothing would induce him to change his 
former decision. He would not hear a word, 
not a word ! A kind of panic mingled in his 
hasty impulse of rage. He would not so 
much as see the fellow — give him any oppor- 
tunity of renewing Was it his suit to 

Bee? Was it something else indefinite behind ? 
Colonel Kings ward did not very well know, 
but he was determined on one thing — not to 
allow the presence of this intruder, not to 
hear a word that he had to say. 

And then about Betty — that was annoying 
too, but he had promised to do it, and to 
break his word to Laura was a thing he 
could not do. Laura — Miss Laura, if she 
pleased, though that is not a usual mode of 
address — but not Lance — how right she was ! 
The name of Lance did not suit her at all, 
and yet how just and sweet all the same. 
Her mother had made a mesalliance, but 
there was no pettiness about her. She held 
by her father, though she was aware of 
his inferiority. And then he thought of her 



8o THE SORCERESS. 

as she shook her head gently, and smiled 
at his awkward stumbling suggestion that the 
accident of the name was not Irremediable. 
*' At my age," — what was her age? The 
most delightful, the most fascinating of ages, 
whatever It was. Not the silly girlhood of 
Bee and Betty, but something far more 
entrancing, far more charming. These 
thoughts Interfered greatly with his corres- 
pondence, and made the mass of foreign 
newspapers, and the military Intelligence 
from all over the world, which It was his 
business to look over, appear very dull, 
uninteresting and confused. He rose hastily 
after a while, and took his hat and sallied 
forth to Portman Square, where he was 
expected to luncheon. He was relieved, on 
the whole, to be thus legitimately out of the 
way In case that fellow should have the 
audacity to call again. 

" I want you to come out with me, Betty," 
he said, after that meal, which was very 
solemn, serious and prolonged, but very dull 
and not appetising. '' I want to take you to 
see a friend — " 

" Oh, papa ! we are going to Mrs. 



THE SORCERESS. 8l 

Lyon was going to take me to see Mr. 
Revel's picture before he sends it in." 

"To-morrow will do, my dear, equally 
well, if your papa wants you to go 
anywhere." 

'* Mr. Revel's picture.^ He is precisely a 
friend of the friend I am going to take you 
to see." For a moment Colonel Kingsward 
wavered thinking how much more agreeable 
it would be to have his interview with Laura 
undisturbed by the presence of this little chit 
with her sharp eyes. But he was a soldier 
and faithful to his consignee. '* If it w^ill do 
as well to-morrow, and will not derange Mrs. 
Lyon's plans, I should like you to come 
now." 

" Run and get ready, Betty," cried the old 
lady, to whom obedience was a great quality, 
"and there will still be time to go there, if 
you are not very long, when you come back." 

The Colonel felt as if his foot was upon 
more solid ground ; not that any doubt of 
Laura had ever been in his mind — but 

yet He had not suspected the existence 

of any link between her and Portman Square. 

VOL. III. G 



82 THE SORCERESS. 

" Mr. Revel is a very good painter, I 
suppose ?" he said. 

** A great painter, we all think ; and 
beginning to be really acknowledged in the 
art world," said thfe old lady, who liked it to 
be known that she knew a great deal about 
pictures, and was herself considered to have 
some authority in that interesting sphere. 

" And — hasn't he a wife ? I think I heard 
someone talking of his wife." 

" Yes, a dear little woman !" cried Mrs. 
Lyon. " Her Tuesdays are the most pleasant 
parties. We always go when we are able. 
Ah ! here is Betty, like a little rose. Now, 
acknowledge you are proud to have a little 
thing like that. Colonel, to walk with you 
through the park on a fine day like this ?" 

Colonel Kingsward looked at Betty. She 
was a pretty little blooming creature. He 
did not regard her with any enthusiasm, and 
yet she was a creditable creature enough to 
belong to one. He gave a little nod of 
approving indifference. Betty was very 
much admired at Portman Square — from 
Gerald, who kept up an artillery of glances 
across the big table, to the old butler, who 



THE SORCERKSS. S^ 

called her attention specially to any dish that 
was nicer than usual, and carried meringues 
to her twice, she was the object of every- 
body's regards. Her father did not, natur- 
ally, look at her from the same point of view, 
but he was sufficiently pleased with her 
appearance. He was pleased, too, exhilara- 
ted, he could scarcely tell why, by the fact 
that Mrs. Lyon knew the painter's wife and 
spoke of her as a ''dear little woman," the very 
words Laura had used. Did he require any 
guarantee that Laura herself was of the same 
order, knew the same sort of people as his 
other friends? Had such a question been 
put to him, the Colonel would have knocked 
the man down who made it, as in days when 
duelling was possible he would have called 

him out But yet — at all events it gave 

him much satisfaction that the British matron 
in the shape of Mrs. Lyon spoke no other- 
wise of the lady whom for one terrible 
moment of delusion he had intended to warn 
against intercourse, too little guarded, with 
such equivocal men as artists. He shuddered 
when he thought of that extraordinary aber- 
ration. 



84 THE SORCERESS. 

" Who is It, papa, we are going to see ? " 
said Betty's little voice by his side. 

''It is a lady — who has taken a great 
interest in your brother." 

" Oh, papa, that I should not have asked 
that the first thing ! Have you any news ? " 

" Nothing that I can call news, but I 
think I may say I have reason to believe 
that Charlie has gone up to the north to the 
Mackinnons. That does not excuse him for 
having left us in this anxiety ; but the idea, 
which did not occur to me till yesterday, has 
relieved my mind." 

'* To the Mackinnons ! " said Betty, doubt- 
fully, " but then I heard " She stopped 

herself suddenly, and added after a moment, 
''How strange, papa, if he Is there, that 
none of them should have written." 

"It is strange ; but perhaps when you 
think of all things, not so very strange. He 
probably has not explained the circumstances 
to them, and they will think that he has 
written ; they would not feel it necessary — 
why should they? — to let us know of his 
arrival. That, as a matter of course, they 
would expect him to have done. I don't 



THE SORCERESS. 85 

think, on the whole, it is at all strange ; on 
his part inexcusable, but not to be expected 
from them." 

" But, papa !" cried Betty. 

'' What is it ?" he said, almost crossly. *' I 
don't mind saying," he added, " that even for 
him there may be excuses — if such folly can 
ever be excused. He never writes to me in 
a general way, and it would not be a pleasant 
letter to write ; and no doubt he has put it 
off from day to day, intending always to do 
it to-morrow — and every day would naturally 
make it more difficult." Thus he went on 
repeating unconsciously all the suggestions 
that had been made to him. '' Remember, 
Betty," he said, "as soon as you see that 
you have done anything wrong, always make 
a clean breast of it at once ; the longer you 
put it off the more difficult you will find it to 
do." 

"Yes, papa," said little Betty, with great 
doubt in her tone. She did not know what 
to think, for she had in her blotting book at 
Portman Square a letter lately received from 
one of these same Mackinnons in which not 
a word was said of Charlie. Why should 



86 THE SORCERESS. 

not Helen have mentioned him had he been 
there ? And yet, If papa thought so, and If 
it reheved his mind to think so, what was 
Betty to set up a different opinion? Her 
mind was still full of this thought when she 
found herself following her father up the 
narrow stairs into the little drawing-room. 
There she was met by a lady, who rose and 
came forward to her, holding out two beautiful 
hands. " Such hands !" Betty said afterwards. 
Her own were plump, reddish articles, small 
enough and not badly shaped, but scarcely 
free from the scars and sm.irches of garden- 
ing, wild-flower collecting, pony saddling, all 
the unnecessary pieces of work that a country 
girl's, like a country boy's, are employed for. 
She had at the moment a hopeless passion 
for white hands. And these drew her close, 
while the beautiful face stooped over her and 
gave her a soft lingering kiss. Was it a 
beautiful face ? At least It was very, very 
handsome — fine features, fine eyes, an Impos- 
ing benignity, like a grand duchess at the 
very least. 

''So this is little Betty," the lady said, to 
whom she was presented by that title, ''just 



THE SORCERESS. 87 

out of last century, with her grandmother's 
name, and the newest version of her grand- 
mother's hat. How pretty! Oh, it is your 
hat, you know, not you, that I am admiring. 
Like a Httle rose !" 

Betty had no prejudices aroused in her 
mind by this lady's name, for Colonel Kings- 
ward did not think it necessary to pronounce 
it. He said, " My little Betty," introducing 
the girl, but he did not think it needful to 
make any explanations to her. And she 
thus fell, all unprotected, under the charm. 
Laura talked to her for full fi\'e minutes 
without taking any notice of the Colonel, and 
drew from her all she wanted to see, and the 
places to which she was going, making a 
complete conquest of the little girl. It was 
only when Colonel Kingsward's patience was 
quite exhausted, and he was about to jump 
up and propose somewhat sullenly to leave 
his daughter with her new friend, that Miss 
Lance turned to him suddenly with an 
exclamation of pleasure. 

'' Did you hear, Colonel Kingsward ? She 
was going to see Arthur Revel's picture this 
afternoon. And so was I ! Will you come 



88 THE SORCERESS. 

too ? He is a great friend of mine, as I told 
you, and he knew dear Charlie, and, of 
course, he would be proud and delighted to 
see you. Shall we take Betty back to Port- 
man Square to pick up her carriage and her 
old lady, and will you go humbly on foot 
with me ? We shall meet them, and Mrs. 
Revel shall give us tea." 

''Oh, papa, do!" Betty cried. 

It was not perhaps what he would have 
liked best, but he yielded with a very good 
grace. He had not, perhaps, been so proud 
of little Betty by his side as the Lyons 
had expected, but Laura by his side was 
a different matter. He could not help re- 
marking how people looked at her as they 
went along, and his mind was full of pride in 
the handsome, commanding figure, almost as 
tall as himself, and walking like a queen. 
Yet it made his head turn round a little when 
he saw Miss Lance seated by Mrs. Lyon's 
side in the studio, talking intimately to her of 
the whole Kingsward family, while Betty 
clung to her new friend as if she had known 
her all her life. Old Mrs. Lyon was still 
more startled, and her head went round too. 



THE SORCERESS. 89 

*' What a handsome woman ! " she said, in 
Colonel Kingsward's ear. " What a delight- 
ful woman ! Who is she ? " 

"Miss Lance," he said, rather stupidly, 
feeling how little information these words 
conveyed. Miss Lance? Who was Miss 
Lance ? If he had said Laura it might have 
been a different matter. 



C H APTE R VI I. 

While all these things were going on, Bee 
was left at Kingswarden alone. That is to 
say, she was so far from being alone that 
her solitude was absolute. She had all the 
children and was very busy among them. 
She had the two boys home for the Easter 
holidays ; the house was full of the ordinary 
noise, mirth and confusion natural to a large 
young family under no more severe discipline 
than that exercised by a young elder sister. 
The big boys, were in their boyish way, 
gentlemen, and deferred to Bee more or less 
— which set a good example to the younger 
ones ; but she was enveloped in a torrent of 
talk, fun, games and jest, which raged round 
her from before she got up in the morning 



THE SORCERESS. 91 

till at least the twilight, when the nursery 
children got tired, and the big boys having 
exhausted every method of amusement 
during the day, began to feel the burden of 
nothing to do, and retired into short-lived 
attempts at reading, or games of beggar- 
my-neighbour, or any other simple mode of 
possible recreation — descending to the level 
of imaginary football with an old hat through 
the corridor before it was time to go to bed. 

In the evening Bee was thus completely 
alone, listening to the distant bumps in the 
passage, and the voices of the players. The 
drawing-room was large, but it was indiffer- 
ently lighted, which is apt to make a country 
drawing-room gloomy in the evening. There 
was one shaded lamp on a writing-table, 
covered at this moment with colour boxes 
and rough drawings of the boys, who had 
been constructing a hut in the grounds, and 
wasting much vermillion and Prussian blue 
on their plans for it ; and near the fireplace, 
in which the chill of the Spring still required 
a little fire, was another lamp, shining silently 
upon Bee's white dress and her hands crossed 
in her lap. Her face and all its thoughts 



92 THE SORCERESS. 

were in the shade, nobody to share, nobody 
to care what they were. 

Betty was In town. Her one faithful though 
not always entirely sympathetic companion, 
the aunt — at all times not much more than a 
piece of still life — was unwell and had gone 
to bed ; Charlie was lost In the great depth 
and silence of the world; Bee was thus alone. 
She had been working for the children, mak- 
ing pinafores or some other necessary, as 
became her position as sister-mother ; for 
where there are so many children there Is 
always a great deal to do; but she had 
grown tired of the pinafores. If It were not 
a hard thing to say she was a little tired of 
the children too, tired of having to look after 
them perpetually, of the nurse's complaints, 
and the naughtiness of baby who was spoilt 
and unmanageable — tired of the bumping and 
laughing of the boys, and tired too of bidding 
them be quiet, not to rouse the children. 

All these things had suddenly become in- 
tolerable to Bee. She had a great many 
times expressed her thankfulness that she 
had so much to do, and no time to think — - 
and probably to-morrow morning she would 



THE SORCERESS. 93 

again be of that opinion ; but in the mean- 
time she was very tired of it all— tired of 
a position which was too much for her age, 
and which she was not able to bear. She 
was only a speck in the long, empty drawing- 
room, her white skirts and her hands crossed 
in her lap being all that showed distinctly, 
betraying the fact that someone was there, 
but with her face hidden in the ros\ shade, 
there was nobody to see that tears had stolen 
up into Bee's eyes. Her hands w^ere idle, 
folded in her lap. She was tired of being 
dutiful and a good ^irl, as the best of girls 
are sometimes. It seemed to her for the 
moment a dreary world in which she was 
placed, merely to take care of the children, 
not for any pleasure of her own. She felt 
that she could not endure for another 
moment the bumping in the passage, and the 
distant voices of the boys. Probably if they 
went on there would be a querulous message 
from Aunt Helen, or pipings from the 
nursery of children woke up, and a furious 
descent of nurse, more than insinuating that 
Miss Bee did not care whether baby's sleep 
was broken or not. But even with this 



94 



THE SORCERESS. 



certainty before her, Bee did not feel that 
she had energy to get up from her chair and 
interfere ; it was too much. She was too 
solitary, left alone to bear all the burden. 

Then the habitual thought of Charlie 
returned to her mind. Poor Charlie ! Where 
was he, still more alone than she. Perhaps 
hidden away in the silence of the seas, or 
tossing in a storm, going away, away where 
no one who cared for him would ever see 
him more. The tears which had come 
vaguely to her eyes dropped, making a mark 
upon her dress, legitimatised by this thought. 
Bee would have been ashamed had they 
fallen for herself; but for Charlie — Charlie 
lost ! — none of his family knowing where he 
was — she might indeed be allowed to cry. 
Where was he ? Where was he? If he had 
been here he would have been sitting with 
her, making things more possible. Bee knew 
very well in her heart that if Charlie had 
been with her he would not have been much 
help to her, that he would have been 
grumbling over his own hard fate, and 
calling upon her to pity him ; but the absent, 
if they are sometimes wronged, have, on 



THE SORCERESS. 95 

the Other hand, the privilege of being 
remembered in their best aspect. Then 
Bee's thoughts gHded on from CharHe to 
someone else whom she had for a long time 
refused to think of, or tried to refuse to 
think of. She was so solitary to-night, with 
all her doors open to recollections, that he 
had stolen in before she knew, and now 
there was quite a shower of round blots upon 
her white dress. Aubrey — oh, Aubrey ! who 
had betrayed her trust so, who had done her 

such cruel wrong ! — but yet, but yet 

She was interrupted by the entrance of a 
servant with the evening post. Kingswarden 
was near enough to town to have an evening 
post, which is a privilege not always desir- 
able. But any incident was a good thing for 
poor Bee. She drew the pinafore, at which 
she had been working, hastily over her knee 
to hide the spots of moisture, and dashed the 
tears from her eyes with a rapid hand. In 
the shade of the lamp not even the most keen 
eyes could see that she had been crying. She 
even paused as she took the letter to say, 
" Will you please tell the boys not to make 
so much noise ?" There were three letters 



96 THE SORCERESS. 

on the tray — one for her father, one for her 
aunt, one Betty's usual daily rigmarole of 
little news and nonsense which she never 
failed to send when she was away. Betty's 
letter was very welcome to her sister. But 
as Bee read it her face began to burn. It 
became more and more crimson, so that the 
rose shade of the lamp was overpowered by a 
deeper and hotter colour. Betty to turn upon 
her, to take up the other side, to cast her- 
self under that dreadful new banner of Fate ! 
Bee's breath came quickly, her heart beat 
with anger and trouble. She got up from 
her chair and began to walk quickly about 
the room, a sudden passion sweeping away 
all the forlorn sentiment of her previous 
thoughts. Betty ! in addition to all the 
rest. Bee felt like the forlorn chatelaine 
of a besieged castle alone to defend 
the walls against the march of a destroy- 
ing invader. The danger which had 
been far off was coming — it was coming ! 
And the castle had no garrison at all — if it 
were not perhaps those dreadful boys mak- 
ing noise enough to bring down the house, 
w^ho were precisely the partisans least to be 



THE SORCERESS. 97 

depended upon, who would probably throw 
down their arms without striking a blow. 
And Bee was alone, the captain deserted of 
all her forces to defend the sacred hearth and 
the little children. The little children ! Bee 
stamped her foot upon the floor in an appeal, 
not to heaven, but to all the powers of Indig- 
nation, Fury, War, War ! She would defend 
those walls to her last gasp. She would not 
give way, she would fight it out step by step, 
to keep the invader from the children. The 
nursery should be her citadel. Oh, she knew 
what w^ould happen, she cried to herself in- 
consequently ! Baby, who was spoilt, would 
be twisted into rigid shape, the little girls 
would be subdued like little mice — the 
boys — 

At this moment the old hat which served 
as a football came with a thump from the 
corridor into the hall, followed by a louder 
shout than ever from Arthur and Rex. Bee 
rushed forth upon them flinging the door 
open, with her blue eyes blazing. 

" Do you mean to bring down the house ?" 
she said, in a sudden outburst. " Do you 
mean to break the vases and the mirror and 

VOL. III. H 



98 THE SORCERESS. 

wake up the whole nursery and bring Aunt 
Helen down upon us ? For goodness sake 
try to behave like reasonable creatures, and 
don't drive me out of my senses !" cried Bee. 

The boys were so startled by this onslaught 
that Rex, with a final kick sent the wretched 
old hat flying to the end of the passage which 
led to the servants' hall, as if it were that 
harmless object that was to blame — while 
Arthur covered the retreat sulkily by a com- 
plaint that there was nothing to do in this 
beastly old hole, and that a fellow couldn't read 
books all the day long. Bee was so inspired 
and thrilling with the passion in her, that she 
went further than any properly constituted 
female creature knowing her own position 
ought to do. 

" You have a great deal more to do than I 
have," she said, " far, far more to do and to 
amuse yourselves with. Why should you 
expect so much more than I do, because you 
are boys and I am a girl .'^ Is it fair .-^ 
You're always talking of things being fair. 
It isn't fair that you should disturb the whole 
house, the little babies, and everyone for 
your pleasure; and I'm not so very much 



THE SORCERESS. 99 

older than you are, and what pleasure have 
I?" 

The boys were very much cast down by 
this fiery remonstrance. There had been a 
squall as of several babies from the upper 
regions, and they had already been warned of 
the consequence of their horseplay. But 
Bee's representation touched them in their 
tenderest point. Was it fair ? Well, no, 
perhaps it was not quite fair. They went 
back after her, humbled, into the drawing- 
room, and besought her to join them in a 
game. After they had finally retired, having 
finished the evening to their own partial 
content, Bee took out again Betty's letter and 
read it with less excitement than at first — or 
at least with less demonstration of excite- 
ment ; this was what it said — 

" Bee, such a delightful woman, a friend of 
her papa's! So handsome, so nice, so clever, so 
well dressed, everything you can think except 
young, which of course she is not — nor any- 
thing silly. Papa told me to get ready to 
come out with him to see an old friend of his 
and I wasn't at all willing, didn't like It, I' 
thought it must be some old image like old 



lOO THE SORCERESS. 

Mrs. Mackinnon or Nancy Eversfield, don't 
you know. Mrs. Lyon had settled to take 
me out to see some pictures, and Gerald was 
coming, and we were to have a turn in the 
park after, and I had put on my new frock 
and was looking forward to it, when papa 
came In with this order: 'Get on your things 
and come with me, I want to take you to see 
an old friend.' Of course I had to go, for 
Mrs. Lyon will never allow me to shirk any- 
thing. But I was not in a very good 
humour, though they called me as fresh as a 
rose and all that — to please papa ; as if he 
cared how we look ! He took me to George 
Street, Hanover Square, a horrid little lodg- 
ing, such as people come to when they come 
up from the country. And I had to look as 
serious and as steady as possible for the sake 
of the old lady ; when there rose up from the 
chair, oh, such a different person, tall, but as 
slight as you are, with such a handsome face 
and such a manner. She might have been — 
let us say a nice, sweet aunt — but aunt Is not 
a name that means anything delightful ; and 
mother I must not say, for there is only one 
mother In the whole world ; oh, but some- 



THE SORCERESS. lOI 

thing I cannot give a name, so understanding, 
so kind, so nice, for that means everything. 
She kissed me, and then she began to talk to 
me as if she knew everyone of us and was 
very fond of us all. And then about Charlie, 
w^hom she seemed to know very well. She 
called him dear Charlie, and I wonder if it is 
she who has persuaded papa that he is with 
the Mackinnons, in Scotland. But I know 
he is not with the Mackinnons — however, I 
will tell you about this after. 

" Dear Bee, what will you say when I tell 
you that this delightful woman is Miss 
Lance ? You will say I have no heart, or no 
spirit, and am not sticking to you through 
thick and thin as I ought ; but you must hear 
first what I have got to say. Had I known 
it was Miss Lance I should have shut myself 
close up, and whatever she had done or how- 
ever nice she had been, I should have had 
nothing to say to her. If she had been 
an angel under that name I should have 
remembered what you had said, and I should 
not have seen any good in her. But I never 
heard what her name was till we were all in 
Mr Revel's studio, quite a long time after. 



I02 THE SORCERESS. 

Papa did as he always does, introduced me 
to her, but not her to me. He said : " My 
daughter Betty," as if I must have known by 
instinct who she was. And, dear Bee, 
though I acknowledge you have every reason 
not to believe it, she is delightful, she is, she 
is ! She may have done wrong. I can't tell, 
of course ; but I don't believe she ever meant 
it, or to harm you, or Charlie, or anyone. 
Everybody is delighted with her. Mrs. 
Lyon, who you know is very particular, says 
she has the manners of a duchess — and that 
she is such a handsome, distinguished-look- 
ing woman. She is coming to dine here 
next Saturday. The only one who does not 
seem to be quite charmed with her is Gerald, 
who is prejudiced like you. 

" Do try to get over your prejudice. Bee, 
dear — she is, she is, indeed delightful ! You 
only want to know her. By the way, about 
the Mackinnons : papa has got it firmly into 
his head that Charlie is there ; he says his 
mind is quite relieved about him, and that 
the more he thinks of it, the more he is 
certain it is so ; now I know that it is not so. 
I got a letter from Helen Mackinnon the day 



THE SORCERESS. IO3 

I came here, and there is not a word about 
CharHe — and she would have been certain 
to have mentioned him had he been there. 
I tried to say this to papa, but his head was 
so full of the other idea that he did not hear 
me at first, and I couldn't go on. I whis- 
pered to Miss Lance in the studio, and asked 
her what I should do ? She was so troubled 
and distressed about Charlie that the tears 
came into her eyes, but, after thinking a 
moment, she said, ' Oh, dear child, don't say 
anything. Your young friend might have 
been in a hurry, she might not have thought 
it necessary to speak of your brother. Oh, 
don't let us worry him now ! Bad news 
always comes soon enough, and, of course, he 
will find it out if it is so.' Do you think she 
was right .-* But, oh Bee, dear Bee, I am 
afraid you will not think anything she says is 
right ; and yet she is delightful. If only you 
knew her ! Write directly, and tell me all 
you think." 

Bee was not excited on this second read- 
ing. She did not spring to her feet, nor 
stamp on the floor, or feel inclined to call 
upon all the infernal gods. But her heart 



I04 THE SORCERESS. 

sank down as if it would never rise again, 
and a great pain took possession of her. 
Who was this witch, this magician, that 
everyone who belonged to Bee should be 
drawn into her toils — even Betty. What 
could she want with Betty, who was only a 
little girl, who was her sister's natural second 
and support ? Bee sat a long time with her 
head in her hands, letting the fire go out, 
feeling cold and solitary and miserable, and 
frightened to death. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

In the afternooa of the next day, Bee was 
again alone. The old aunt had come down 
for lunch, but gone up to her room again to 
rest after that meal. It was a little chilly 
outside. The children, of course, wrapped 
up in their warm things, and in the virtue of 
the English nursery, which shrinks from no 
east wind, were out for their various walks. 
The big boys, attended by such of the little 
boys as could be trusted with these athletes, 
were taking violent exercise somewhere, and 
Bee sat by the fire, alone. It is not a place 
for a girl of twenty. The little pinafore, half 
made, was on the table beside her. She had 
a book in her hand. Perhaps had she been 
a young wife looking for the return of her 



I06 THE SORCERESS. 

young husband In the evening, with all the 
air of the bigger world about him and art 
abundance of news, and plans, and life, a 
pretty enough picture might have been made 
of that cosy fireside retirement. 

But even this Ideal has ceased to be satis- 
factory to the present generation. And Bee's 
spirits and heart were very low. She had 
despatched a fiery letter to Betty, and with 
this all her anger had faded away. She had 
no courage to do anything. She seemed to 
have come to an end of all possibilities. She 
had no longer anyone to fall back upon as a 
supporter and sympathiser — not even Betty. 
Even this closest link of nature seemed to 
have been broken by that enemy. 

To have an enemy Is not a very common 
experience In modern life. People may do 
each other small harms and annoyances, but 
to most of us the strenuous appeals and 
damnations of the Psalmist are quite beyond 
experience. But Bee had come back to the 
primitive state. She had an enemy who had 
succeeded In taking from her everything she 
cared for. Aubrey her betrothed, Charlie, 
her father, her sister, one after the other In 



THE SORCERESS. lOJ 

quick succession. It was not yet a year and 
a half since she first heard this woman's 
name, and in that time all these losses had 
happened. She was not even sure that her 
mother's death was not the work of the same 
subtle foe ; indeed, she brought herself to 
believe that it was at least accelerated by 
all the trouble and contention brought Into 
the family by her own misery and rebellion — 
all the work of that woman I Why, why, had 
Bee been singled out for this fate ? A little 
girl In an English house, like other girls — no 
worse, no better. Why should she alone in 
all England have this bitterness of an enemy 
to make her desolate and break her heart ? 

While she was thus turning over drearily 
those dismal thoughts, there was a messenger 
approaching to point more sharply still the 
record of these disasters and their cause. 
Bee had laid down her book In her lap ; her 
thoughts had strayed completely from it and 
gone back to her own troubles, when the 
door of the drawing-room opened quietly and 
a servant announced " Mrs. Leigh." Mrs. 
Leigh ! It is not an uncommon name. A 
Mrs. Lee lived In the village, a Mrs. 



I08 THE SORCERESS. 

Grantham Lea was the clergyman's wife In 
the next parish. Bee drew her breath 
quickly and composed her looks, but thought 
of no visitor that could make her heavy 
heart beat. Not even when the lady came 
in, a more than middle-aged matron, of solid 
form and good colour, dressed with the sub- 
dued fashionableness appropriate to her age. 
It was not Mrs. Lee from the village, nor 

Mrs Grantham Lea, nor Yet Bee had 

seen her before. She rose np a little startled 
and made a step or two forward. 

'' You do not know me, Miss Kingsward ? 
I cannot wonder at It, since we met but once, 

and that In circumstances Don't start 

nor fly, though I see you have recognised 
me." 

" Indeed I did not think of flying. Will 
you — will you — sit down." 

'' You need not be afraid of me, my poor 
child," said Mrs. Leigh. 

Aubrey's mother seated herself and looked 
with a kind yet troubled look at the girl, who 
still stood up In the attitude in which she had 
risen from her chair. " I scarcely saw you 
the other, time," she said. '' It was in the 



THF, SORCERESS. IO9 

garden. You did not give me a good 
reception. I should like much, sometime or 
other, if you would tell me why. I have 
never made out why. But don't be afraid ; 
it is not on that subject I have come to you 
now." 

Bee seated herself. She kept her blue 
eyes, which seemed expanded and larger 
than usual, but had none of the former indig- 
nant blaze in them, fixed on the old lady's 
face. 

'' Your father is not here, the servant tells 
me — " 

" No — he is in town," she answered, 
faltering, almost too much absorbed by 
anticipation to reply. 

'' And you are alone — nobody with you to 
stand by you ?" 

" Mrs. Leigh," said Bee, catching her 
breath, " I don't know why you should ask 
me such questions, or — or be sorry for me. 
I don't need anybody to be sorry for me." 

'' Poor little girl ! We needn't go into 
that question. I am sorry for any girl who 
is motherless, who has to take her mother's 
place. I would much rather have spoken to 
your father had he been here." 



I lO THE SORCERESS. 

''After all," said Bee, ''my father could 
say nothing. It is I who must decide for 
myself." 

She said this with an involuntary betrayal 
of her consciousness that there could be but 
one subject between them, and it was not in 
the power of Aubrey Leigh's mother, how- 
ever strongly aware she was of another theme 
on which she had come to speak, not to note 
how different was Bee's reception of her 
from the other time, when the girl had fled 
from her presence and would not even hear 
what she had to say. Bee's eyes were large 
and humid and full of an anxiety which was 
almost wistful. She had the air of refusing 
to hear with her lips, but eagerly expecting 
with her whole heart what was about to be 
said. And she looked so young, so solitary, 
in her mother's chair, with a mother's work 
lying about, the head of this silent house — 
that the heart of the elder woman was deeply 
touched. If little Betty had been like a rose, 
Bee was almost as white as the cluster of 
fragrant white narcissus that stood on the 
table. Poor little girl, so subdued and 
changed from the little passionate creature 



THE SORCERESS. Ill 



who would not hear a word, and whose in 
dignation was stronger than even the zeal of 
the mother who had come to plead her son's 



cause ! 



Mrs. Leigh drew a little nearer and took 
Bee's hand. The girl did not resist, but kept 
her eyes upon her steadily, watching, her 
mind in a great turmoil, not knowing what to 
expect. 

'' My dear," said the old lady, " don't be 
alarmed. I have not come to speak about 
Aubrey. I cannot help hoping that one day 
you will do him justice ; but, in the mean- 
time, it is something else that has brought 
me here. Miss Kingsward — your brother — " 

Bee's hand, in this lady's clasp, betrayed 
her in spite of herself It became limp and 
uninterested when she was assured that 
Aubrey was not in question; and then, at 
her brother's name, was snatched suddenly 
away. 

''My brother?" she cried, ''Charlie!" 
Then, subduing herself, " What do you 
know about him ? Oh," clasping her hands 
as new light seemed to break upon her, "you 
have come to tell me some bad news ? " 



I 12 THE SORCERESS. 

" I hope not. My son found him some 
time ago, disheartened and unhappy about 
leaving Oxford. He persuaded him to come 
and share his rooms. He has been with him 
more or less all the time, which I hope may 
be a comfort to you. And then he fell ill. 
My dear Aubrey has tried to see your father, 
but in vain, and poor Charlie is not anxious, 
I fear, to see his father. Yes, he has been 
ill, but not so seriously that we need fear 
anything serious. He has shaken off the 
complaint, but he wants rousing — he wants 
someone whom he loves. Aubrey sent for 
me a fortnight ago. He has been well taken 
care of, there is nothing really wrong. But 
we cannot persuade him to rouse himself. 
It is illness that is at the bottom of it all. 
He would not have left you without news of 
him, he would not shrink from his father if 
he were not ill. Bee, I will confess to you 
that it is Aubrey who has sent me ; but don't 
be afraid, it is for Charlie's sake — only for 
Charlie's sake. He thinks if you would but 
come to him — if you would have the courage 
to come^to your brother, Bee." 

'' He — he thinks.^ Not Charlie — you don't 
mean Charlie ? " Bee cried. 



THE SORCERESS. II3 

" Charlie does not seem to wish for any- 
thing. We cannot rouse him. We think 
that the sight of someone he loves " 

Bee was full of agitation. Her lips 
quivered ; her hands trembled. " Oh, me !" 
she said ; ''I am no one. It is not for his 
sister a boy cares. I do not think I should 
do him any good. Oh, Charlie, Charlie ! all 
this time that we have been blaming him so, 
thinking him so cruel, he has been lying ill ! 
If I could do him any good !" she cried, 
wringing her hands. 

" The sight of you would do him good. It 
is not that he wants a nurse — I have seen to 
that ; but no nurse could rouse him as the 
sight of some of his own people would. Do 
not question, my dear, but come— oh, come I 
He thinks he is cut off from everybody, that 
his father will never see him, that you must 
all have turned against him. Words will not 
convince him, but to see you, that would do 
so. He would feel that he was not 
forsaken." 

"Oh, forsaken ! How could he think it ? 
He must know that we have been breaking 
our hearts. It was he who forsook us all." 

VOL. III. I 



I 14 THE SORCERESS. 

Bee had risen again, and stood leaning upon 
the mantelpiece, too much shaken and 
agitated to keep still. Though she had 
thought herself so independent, she had in 
reality never broken the strained band of 
domestic subjugation. She had never so 
much as gone, though it was little more than 
an hour's journey, to London on her own 
authority. The thought of taking such a 
step startled her. And that she should do 
this on the word and in the company of 
Aubrey's mother — Aubrey, for whom she 
had once been ready to abandon everything, 
from whom she had been violently separated, 
whom she had cast off, flung away from her 
without hearing a word he had to say ! How 
could she put herself in his way again — go 
with his mother, accept his services ? Bee 
had acted quickly on the impulse of passion 
in all that had happened to her before. But 
she had not known the conflict, the rending 
asunder of opposite emotions. In the whirl of 
her thoughts her lover, whom she had cast 
off, came between her and the brother whom 
he had succoured. It was to Aubrey's house, 
to his very dwelling where he was, that she 



THE SORCERESS. II5 

must go if she went to Charlie. And Charlie 
wanted her, or at least needed her, lying 
weak and despairing, waiting for a sign from 
home. It was difficult to realise her brother 
so, or to believe, indeed, that he could want 
her very much, that there was any yearning 
in his heart towards his own flesh and blood. 
But Mrs. Leigh thought so, and how could 
she refuse? How could she refuse.^ The 
problem was too much for her. She looked 
into Mrs. Leigh's face with an appeal for 
help. 

*' My dear," her companion said, leaving a 
calm and cool hand upon Bee's arm, which 
trembled with nervous excitement, "If you 
are afraid of meeting Aubrey, compose your- 
self. Aubrey would rather go to the end of 
the world than give you any pain, or put 
himself in your way. We are laying no trap 
for you — I should not have come if the case 
had not been urgent. Never would I have 
come had it been a question of my son ; I 
would not beguile you even for his sake. It 
is for your brother, Bee ; not for Aubrey, not 
for Aubrey !" 

Not for Aubrey ! Was that any comfort, 



Il6 THE SORCERESS. 

was there any strength in that assurance ? At 
all events, these were the words that rang 
through Bee's head, as she made her hurried 
preparations. She had almost repeated them 
aloud in the hasty explanations she made to 
Moss upstairs, who was now at the head of 
the nursery, and to the housekeeper below. 
To neither of these functionaries did it seem 
of any solemn importance that Bee should 
go away for a day or two. There was no 
objection on their part to being left at the 
head of affairs. And then Bee felt herself 
carried along by the whirl of strange excite- 
ment and feeling which rather than the less 
etherial methods of an express train seemed 
to sweep her through the air of the darken- 
ing spring night by Mrs. Leigh's side. A 
few hours before she had felt herself the 
most helpless of dependent creatures, aban- 
doned by all, incapable of doing anything. 
And now, what was she doing ? Rushing 
into the heart of the conflict, assuming an 
individual part in it, acting on her own 
responsibility. She could scarcely believe it 
was herself who sat there by Mrs. Leigh's 
side. 



THE SORCERESS. II7 

But not for Aubrey, not for xAubrey ! 
This kept ringing in her ears, like the tolHng 
of a bell, through all the other sounds. She 
sat in one corner of the carriage, and listened 
to Mrs. Leigh's explanations, and to the 
clang of the engine and rush of the train, all 
mingled together in bewildering confusion. 
But the other voice filled all space, echoing 
through everything. Bee felt herself trem- 
bling on the edge of a crisis, such as her life 
had never known. All the world seemed to 
be set against her, her enemy, perhaps her 
father, and all the habitual authorities of her 
young and subject life, now suddenly rising 
into rebellion. She would have to do and 
say things which she w^ould not have ventured 
so much as to think of a little time ago ; but 
whatever she might have to encounter there 
was to be no renewal to Bee of her own story 
and meaning. It was not for Aubrey that 
she was called or wanted — for the succour of 
others, for sisterly help, for charity and kind- 
ness ; but not for her own love or life. 



CHAPTER IX. 

It was to a house in one of the streets of 
Mayfair that Mrs. Leigh conveyed her young 
companion ; one of those small expensive 
places where persons within the circle of 
what is called the world in London contrive 
to live with as little comfort and the greatest 
expenditure possible. It is dark and often 
dingy in Mayfair; nowhere is it more difficult 
to keep furniture, or even human apparel, 
clean ; the rooms are small and the streets 
shabby ; but it is one of the right places in 
which to live, not so perfect as it was once, 
indeed, but still furnishing an unimpeachable 
address. 

It had half put on the aspect of the season 
by this time ; some of the balconies were full 



THE SORCERESS. II9 

of flowers, and the air of resuscitation which 
comes to certain quarters of London after 
Easter, as if, indeed, they too had risen 
from the dead, was vaguely visible. I'o be 
sure, little of this was apparent in the dim 
lamplight when the two ladies arrived at the 
door. Bee w^as hurried upstairs through the 
narrow passage, though she had been very 
keenly aware that someone in the lower 
room had momentarily lifted the blind to 
look out as they arrived — someone who did 
not appear, who made no sound, who had 
nothing to do with her or her life. 

The rooms, which are usually the drawing- 
rooms of such a house, were turned evidently 
into the apartments of the sufferer. In the 
back room which they entered first was a 
nurse who greeted the ladies in dumb show, 
and whose white head-dress and apron had 
the strangest effect in the semi-darkness. 
She said, half by gesture, half with whispered 
words more visible than audible, " He is up 
— better — impatient — good sign — discon- 
tented with everything. Is this the lady .'^" 

Mrs. Leigh answered in the same way, 
''His sister — shall I go with her ? — you ? — 
alone ?" 



I20 THE SORCERESS 

" By herself," said the nurse, laconic ; and 
almost inaudible as this conversation was, it 
occasioned a stirring and movement in the 
inner room. 

*' What a noise you make," cried a queru- 
lous, unsteady voice, ''Who's there — who's 
there ?" 

The nurse took Bee's hat from her head, 
with a noiseless swift movement, and relieved 
her of the little cloak she was wearing. She 
took her by the arm and pushed her softly 
forward. '' Nothing to worry. Soothe him," 
she breathed, holding up a curtain that Bee 
might pass. The room was but badly 
lighted, a single lamp on a table almost 
extinguished by the shade, a fire burning 
though the night was warm, and one of the 
long windows open, letting in the atmosphere 
and sounds of the London street. Bee stole 
in, an uncertain shadow into the shaded 
room, less eager than frightened and over- 
awed by this sudden entrance into the 
presence of sickness and misery. She was 
not accustomed to associate such things with 
her brother. It did not seem anyone with 
whom she was acquainted that she was about 
to see. 



THE SORCERESS. 121 

*' Oh, Charlie!" the Httle cry and move- 
ment she made, falHng down on her knees 
beside him, raised a pale, unhappy face, half 
covered with the down of an irregular fledg- 
ling beard from the pillow. 

"Hallo!" he said, and then in a tone of 
disappointment and disdain, " You !" 

" Oh, Charlie, Charlie dear I You have 
been ill and we never knew." 

*' How^ do you know^ now ? They knew I 
never wanted you to know," he said. 

•'Oh, Charlie — who ought to know but 
your own people ? We have been wretched, 
thinking all sorts of dreadful things — but not 
this." 

" Naturally," he said, " my own people 
might be trusted never to think the right 
thing. Now you do know you may as well 
take yourself off. I don't want you — or any- 
body," he added, with an impatient sigh. 

" Charlie — oh, please let me stay with you. 
Who should be with you but your sister ? 
And I know — a great deal about nursing. 
Mamma " 

" I say — hold your tongue, can't you ? 
Who wants you to talk — of anything of that 
sort.^" 



122 THE SORCERESS. 

Bee heard a slight stir in the curtains, and 
looking back hastily as she dried her stream- 
ing eyes saw the laconic nurse making signs 
to her. The sight of the stranger was more 
effectual even than her signs, and restored 
Bee's self-command at once. 

*' Why did they bring you here?" said 
Charlie. '' I didn't want you ; they know 
what I want, well enough." 

"What is it you want, oh, Charlie dear? 
Papa — and all of us — will do anything in the 
world you want." 

'* Papa," he said, and his weakened and 
irregular voice ran through the gamut from a 
high feeble tone of irritation to the quaver of 
that self-pity which is so strong in all youth- 
ful trouble. " Yes, he would be pleased to 
get me out of the way, and be done with me 
now." 

'* Oh, Charlie! You know how wrong 
that Is. Papa has been — miserable — •" 

Charlie uttered a feeble laugh. He put 
his hand upon his chin, stroking down the 
Irregular tufts of hair ; even in his low state 
the poor boy had a certain pride in what he 
believed to be his beard. 



THE SORCERESS. I 23 

" Not much," he said. " I daresay you've 
made a fuss — Betty and you. The governor 
will crack up x^rthur for the F.O. and let me 
drop like a stone." 

'* No, Charlie, no. He has no such 
thought — he has taken such trouble not to 
let it be known. He would not advertise or 
anything." 

'' Advertise ! " A sudden hot flush came 
over the gaunt face. "For me!" It did 
not seem that such a thought had ever 
occurred to the young man. " Like the 
fellows in the newspapers that steal their 
master's money — 'All is arranged and you 
can return to your situation.' By George!" 

There was again a faint rustle in the 
curtains. Bee sprang up with her natural 
impatience, and went straight to the spot 
whence this sound had come. 

'' If I am not to speak to my brother alone 
and in freedom, I will not speak to him at 
all," she said. 

The laconic nurse remonstrated violently 
with her lips and eyes. 

" Don't excite him. Don't disturb him. 
He'll not sleep all night," she managed to 



124 THE SORCERESS. 

convey, with much arching of the eyebrows 
and mouth, then disappeared silently out of 
the bedroom behind. 

'' What's that ?" said Charlie, sharply. He 
moved on his sofa, and turned his head round 
with difficulty. " Are there more of you to 
come r 

There seemed a kind of hope and expecta- 
tion In the question, but when Bee answ^ered 
with despondency, " There's only me, 
Charlie," he broke out harshly : 

*' I don't want you — I want none of you ; 
I told them so. You can go and tell my 
father, as soon as they let me get out I'm 
going off to New Zealand or somewhere — 
the furthest-off place I can get to." 

" Oh, Charlie !" cried Bee, taking every 
word as the sincerest utterance of a fixed 
Intention, " what could you do there?" 

'' Die, I suppose," he said, with again that 
quaver of self-compassion In his voice, " or 
go to the dogs, which will be easy enough. 
You may say, why didn't I die here and be 
done with It? I don't know — I'm sure I 
wanted to. It was that doctor fellow, and 
that woman that talks with her eyebrows, and 



THE SORCERESS. I 25 

that confounded cad, Leigh — they wouldn't 
let me. And I've got so weak ; if you don't 
go away this moment I'll cry like a dashed 
baby ! " with a more piteous quaver than 
ever in the remnant of his once manly voice. 

All that Bee could do was to throw her 
arms round his neck and draw his head upon 
her shoulder, which he resisted fiercely for a 
moment, then yielded to in the abandonment 
of his weakness. Poor Charlie felt, perhaps, 
a momentary sweetness in the relaxation of 
all the bonds of self-control, and all the well- 
meaning attempts to keep him from injuring 
himself by emotion ; the unexpected outburst 
did him good, partly because it was a 
breach of all the discipline of the sick room. 
Presently he came to himself and pushed 
Bee away. 

" What do you come bothering about ^" he 
said ; " you ought to have left me alone. 
I've made my bed, and I've got to lie on it. 
I don't suppose that anyone has taken the 
trouble to — ask about me ?" he added, after a 
little while, in what was intended for a 
careless tone. 

'' Oh, Charlie, everyone who has known ; 



126 THE SORCERESS. 

but papa would let nobody know : except at 
Oxford. We — went to Oxford " 

He got up on his pillow with his eyes 
shining out of their hollow sockets, his long 
limbs coming to the ground with a faint 
thump. Poor Charlie was young enough to 
have grown during his illness, and those 
gaunt limbs seemed unreasonably long. 

'' You went to Oxford !" he said, " and you 
saw — " 

'' Dear Charlie, they will say I am exciting 
you — doing you harm — — " 

"You saw?" he cried, bringing down his 
fist upon the table with a blow that made the 
very floor shake. 

''Yes," said Bee, trembling, "we saw — or 
rather papa saw " 

He pushed up the shade of the lamp with 
his long bony fingers, and fixed his eyes, 
bright with fever, on her face. 

"Oh, Charlie, don't look at me so! — the 
lady whom you used to talk to me about — 
whom I saw in the academy " 

" Yes ?" — he grasped her hand across the 
table with a momentary hot pressure. 

" She came and saw papa in the hotel. 



THE SORCERESS. I 27 

She told him about you, and that you had — 
oh, Charhe, and she so old — as old as " 

*' Hold your tongue !" he cried, violently, 
and then with a long-drawn breath, "What 
more ? She told him — and he was rude, I 
suppose. Confound him ! Confound — con- 
found them all !" 

" I will not say another word unless you 
are quiet," said Bee, her spirit rising ; " put 
up your feet on the sofa and be quiet, and 
remember all the risk you are running —or I 
will not say another word." 

He obeyed her with murmurs of complaint, 
but no longer with the languid gloom of his first 
accost. Hope seemed to have come Into his 
heart. He subdued himself, lay back among 
his pillows, obeyed her in all she stipulated. 
The light from underneath the raised shade 
played on his face and gave it a tinge of 
colour, though It showed more clearly the 
emaciation of the outlines and the aspect of 
neglect, rather than, as poor Charlie hoped, 
of enhanced manly dignity, conveyed by the 
irregular sick man's growth of the Infant 
beard. 

"Papa was not rude," said Bee, "he is 



128 THE SORCERESS. 

never rude ; he Is a gentleman. Worse than 
that—" 

"Worse — than what?" 

*' Oh, I cannot understand you at all, you 
and — the rest," cried the girl; "one after 
another you give in to her, you admire her, 
you do what she tells you — that woman who 
has harmed me all she can, and you all she 
can, and now — Charlie ! " Bee stopped with 
astonishment and indignation. Her brother 
had raised himself up again, and aimed a 
furious but futile blow at her in the air. It 
did not touch her, but the indignity was no 
less on that account. 

"Well," he cried, again bringing down that 
hand which could not reach her, on the table, 
" How dare you speak of one you're not 
worthy to name? Ah! I might have known 
she wouldn't desert me. It is she who has 
kept the way open, and subdued my father, 

and " An ineffable look of happiness 

came upon the worn and gaunt countenance, 
his eyes softened, his voice fell. " I might 
have known!" he said to himself, "I might 
have known !" 

And what could Bee say? Though she 



THE SORCERESS. I 29 

did not believe In — though she hated and 
feared with a child's Intensity of terror the 
woman who had so often crossed her path — 
she could not contradict her brother's faith, 
though she considered it an infatuation, a 
folly beyond belief ; It seemed, after all, in a 
manner true that this woman had not deserted 
him. She had subdued his father's dis- 
pleasure somehow, made everything easier. 
Bee looked at him, the victim of those wiles, 
yet nevertheless indebted to them, with the 
same exasperation which her father's subjuga- 
tion had caused her. What could she say, 
what could she do, to reveal to them that 
enchantress in her true colours ? But Bee 
knew that she could do nothing, and there 
began to rise In her heart a dreadful question. 
Was it so sure that she herself was right ? 
Was this woman, indeed, an evil Fate, or 

was she, was she ? And the first story 

of all, the story of Aubrey, was it perhaps 
true ? 

The nurse came In noiselessly, hurrying, 
while Bee's mind ran through those thoughts 
— evidently with the conviction that she 
would find the patient worse. But Charlie 

VOL. III. K 



130 THE SORCERESS. 

was not worse. He turned his face towards 
his attendant, still with something of that 
dreamy rapture in it. 

" Oh, you may speak out," he said ; '' I 
don't mind noises to-night. Supper ? Yes, 
I'll take some supper. Bring me a beefsteak 
or something substantial. I'm going to get 
well at once." 

Nurse nodded at Bee, with much uplifting 
of her eyelids. '' Put no faith in you," she 
said, working the machinery of her lips ; 
'* was wrong ; done him no end of good. 
Beefsteak ; not exactly ; but soon, soon, if 
you're good." 



CHAPTER X . 

Bee saw no more of Charlie that night. 
When she came out of his room, where there 
w^as a certain meaning In her presence, she 
seemed to pass Into the region of dreams. 
She was taken upstairs to refresh herself and 
rest, into the smaller of tw^o bedrooms which 
were over Charlie's room, the other of which 
was occupied by Mrs. Leigh. And she was 
taken downstairs to dine with that lady tete- 
a-tete at the small shining table. There was 
something about the little house altogether, 
a certain conciseness, an absence of drapery, 
and ot the small elegant litter which is so 
general nowadays, which gave it a masculine 
character — or, at least. Bee, not accustomed 
to aesthetic young men, accustomed rather to 
big boys and their scorn of the decorative 



132 THE SORCERESS. 

arts, thought so with a curious flutter of her 
being. This perhaps was partly because the 
ornamental part of the house was devoted to 
Charlie, and the little dining-room below 
seemed the sole room to live in. It had one 
or two portraits hung on the walls, pictures 
almost too much for its small dimensions. 
The still smaller room behind was clothed 
with books, and had for its only ornament a 
small portrait of Mrs. Leigh over the mantel- 
piece. Whose rooms were these ? Who 
had furnished them so gravely, and left 
behind an impression of serious character 
which almost chilled the heart of Bee ? He 
was nowhere visible, nor any trace of him. 
No allusion was made as to an absent master 
of the house, and yet it bore an air so 
individual that Bee's sensitive being was 
moved by it, with all the might of some- 
thing stranger than imagination. She stood 
trembling among the books, Ictoking at the 
mother's portrait over the mantel-piece, feel- 
ing as if the very mantel-shelf on which she 
rested her arm was warm with the touch 
of his. But not a word was said, not an 
allusion made to Aubrey. 



THE SORCERESS. I 33 

What had she to do with Aubrey ? 
Nothing — less than with any other man In 
the world — any stranger to whom she could 
speak with freedom, interchanging the 
common coin of ordinary intercourse. He 
w^as the only man in the world whom she 
must not talk of, must not see — the only one 
of whose presence it was necessary to 
obliterate every sign, and never to utter the 
name where she was. Poor Bee I Yet she 
felt him near, his presence suggested by 
everything, his name always latent in the air. 
She slept and waked in that strange atmos- 
phere as in a dream. In Aubrey's house, 
yet with Aubrey obliterated — the one person 
in existence with whom she had nothing, 
nothing to do. 

It was late before she was allowed to see 
her brother next day, and Bee, In the mean- 
time, left to her own devices, had not known 
w^hat to do. She had taken pen and paper 
two or three times to let her father know- 
that Charlie was found, but her mind 
revolted, somehow, from making that intima- 
tion. What would happen when he knew ? 
He w^ould come here immediatelv ; he would 



134 THE SORCERESS. 

probably attempt to remove Charlie ; he would 
certainly order Bee away at once from a place 
so unsuitable for her. It was unsuitable for 
her, and yet — She scarcely saw even Mrs. 
Leigh after breakfast, but was left to herself, 
with the door open into that sanctuary which 
was Aubrey's, with all his books and the 
newspapers laid out upon the table. Bee sat 
in the dining-room and looked into that other 
secluded place. In the light of day she 
dared not go into it. It seemed like thrust- 
ing herself into his presence who had no 
thought of her, who did not want her. Oh, 
not for Aubrey ! Aubrey would not for the 
world disturb her, or bring any embarrass- 
ment into her mind. Aubrey would rather 
disappear from his own house, as if he had 
never existed, than remind her that he did 
exist, and perhaps sometimes thought of her 
still. Did he ever think of her ? Bee knew 
that it would be wrong and unlike Aubrey if 
he kept in these rooms the poor little photo- 
graph of her almost childish face which he 
had once prized so much. It would have 
been indelicate, unlike a gentleman ; and yet 
she made a hasty and furtive search every- 



THE SORCERESS. I 35 

where to see if, perhaps, it might be some- 
where, in some book or Httle frame. She 
would have been angry had she found it, and 
indignant ; yet she felt a certain desolate 
sense of being altogether out of the question, 
steal into her heart, when she did not find it 
— in the inconsistencies of which the heart is 
full. 

It was mid-day when she was called 
upstairs, to find Charlie established in the 
room which should have been the drawing- 
room, and round which she threw another 
wistful look as she came into it in full day- 
light. Oh, not a woman's room in any way, 
with none of those little photograph frames 
about which strew a woman's table — not one, 
and consequently none of Bee. She took 
this in at the first glance, as she made the 
three or four little steps between the door 
and Charlie's couch. He was more hollow- 
eyed and worn in the daylight than he had 
been even on the night before, his appearance 
entirely changed from that of the common- 
place young Oxford man to an eager, anxious 
being, with all the cares of a troubled soul 
concentrated in his eyes. Mrs. Leigh sat 



136 THE SORCERESS. 

near him, and the nurse was busy with 
cushions and pillows arranging his couch. 

" My dear, you will be thankful to hear 
that the doctor gives a very good report 
to-day. He says that, though he would not 
have sanctioned It, my remedy has done 
wonders. You are my remedy, Bee. I am 
proud of so successful an Idea — though, to be 
sure, It was a very simple one. Now you 
must go on and complete the cure, and I 
give you carte blanche. Ask anyone here, 
anyone you please, so long as It Is not too 
much for Charlie. He may see one or two 
people If nurse sanctions It. I am going out 
myself for the day. I shall not return till 
late In the afternoon, and you are mistress In 
the meantime — absolute mistress," said Mrs. 
Leigh, kissing her. Bee felt that Aubrey's 
mother would not even meet her eyes lest 
she should throw too much meaning Into 
these words. Oh, there was no meaning In 
them, except so far as Charlie was con- 
cerned. 

And then she was left alone with her 
brother, the most natural, the only suitable 
arrangement. Nurse gave the last pat to his 



THE SORCERESS. 137 

cushions, the last twist to the coverlet, which 
was over his gaunt limbs, appealed to him 
the last time in dumb show whether he 
wanted anything, and then withdrew. It 
was most natural that his sister, whose 
appearance had done him so much good, 
should be left with him as his nurse ; but she 
was frightened, and Charlie self-absorbed, 
and it was some time before either found a 
word to say. At last he said, "Bee!" calling 
her attention, and then was silent again for 
some time, speaking no more. 

''Yes, Charlie!" There was a flutter in 
Bee's voice as in her heart. 

" I say, I wasn't, perhaps, very nice to you 
last night ; I couldn't bear to be brought 
back ; but they say I'm twice as well since 
you came. So I am. I've got something to 
keep me up. Bee, look here. Am I dread- 
ful to look at ? I know I haven't an ounce of 
flesh left on my bones, but some don't mind 
that ; and then, my beard. I've heard it said 
that a beard that never was shaved was — 
was — an embellishment, don't you know. 
Do you think I'm dreadful to look at. Bee?" 

'' Oh, Charlie," said the girl, from the 



m8 the sorceress. 



depths of her heart, ''what does It matter 
how you look ? The more ill you look the 
more need you have for your own people 
about you, who never would think twice of 
that." 

Charlie's gaunt countenance was distorted 
with a grin of rage and annoyance. " I wish 
you'd shut up about my own people. The 
governor, perhaps, with his grand air, or 
Betty, as sharp as a needle — as if I wanted 
them ! — or to be told that they would put up 
with me." 

" Charlie," said Bee, trembling, " I don't 
want to vex you, you are a little — but 
couldn't you have a barber to come, and per- 
haps he could take it off." 

There came a flash of fire out of Charlie's 
eyes ; he put up his hand to his face, as if to 
protect that beard in which he at least 
believed — " I might have known," he said, 
"that you were the last person ! A fellow's 
sister is always like that : just as we never 
think anything of a girl's looks in our own 
families. Well, you've given your opinion 
on that subject. And you think that people 
who care for me wouldn't think twice of 
that ? " 



THE SORCERESS. I 39 

" Oh, no," said Bee, clasping her hands, 
*' how should they ? But only feel for you far, 
far more." 

Charlie took down his hand from his 
young beard. He looked at her with his 
hollow eyes full of anxiety, yet with a certain 
complacence. " Interesting ? " — he said, " is 
that what you meant to say ? " 

"Oh, yes," cried Bee, her eyes full of pity, 
" for they can see what you have gone 
through, and how much you have been 
suffering, — if there was any need of making 
you more interesting to us." 

Charlie stroked down his little tufts of 
wool for some time without speaking, and 
then he said In a caressing tone unusual to 
him, '' I want you to do me a favour, Bee." 

" Anything — anything, whatever you wish, 
Charlie." 

" There is just one thing I wish, and one 
person I want to see. Sit down and write a 
note — you need not do more than say where 
I am," said Charlie, speaking quickly. '' Say 
1 am here, and have been very ill, but that 
the hope she'd come, and to hear that she 
had forgiven me, was like new life. Well ! 



140 THE SORCERESS. 

what Is the meaning of your ' anything, any- 
thing,' If you break clown at the first thing 
I ask you ? Look here, Bee, if you wish me 
to hve and get well you'll do what I say." 

'' Oh, Charlie, how can I ? — how can I ? 
— when you know what I feel — about " 

''What you feel — about ? Who cares what 
you feel ? You think perhaps It was you 
that did me all that good last night. 
That's all conceit, like the nonsense In 
novels, where a woman near your bed 
when you're ill makes all the difference. 
Girls," said Charlie, ''are puffed up with 
that folly and believe anything. You 
know I didn't want you. It was what you 
told me about /le?^ that did me good. And 
your humbug, sitting there crying, 'anything, 
anything !' Well, here's something ! You 
need not write a regular letter, if you don't 
like It. Put where I am — Charlie Kings- 
ward very 111 ; will you come and see him ? 
A telegram would do, and it would be 
quicker ; send a telegram," he cried. 

"Oh, Charlie!" 

"Give me the paper and pencil — I'm 
shaky, but I can do that much myself " 



THE SORCERESS. I4I 

" Charlie, I'll do it rather than vex you ; 
but I don't know where to send it." 

" Oh, I can tell you that — Avondale, near 
the Parks, Oxford." 

'' She is not there now — she is in London," 
said Bee, in a low tone. 

"In London?" Again the long, gaunt 
limbs came to the ground with a thump. 
'' Bee, if you could get me a hansom perhaps 
I could go." 

The nurse at this moment came in noise- 
lessly, and Charlie shrank before her. She 
put him back on the sofa with a swift move- 
ment. " If you go on like this I'll take the 
young lady away," she said. 

" I'll not go on — ril be as meek as Moses ; 
but, nurse, tell her she mustn't contradict a 
man in my state. She must do what I say." 

Nurse turned her back upon the patient, 
and made the usual grimaces ; " Humour 
him," her lips and eyebrows said. 

"Charlie, papa knows the address, and 
Betty — and I ought, oh, I ought to let them 
know at once that you are here." 

" Betty !" he said, with a grimace, " what 
does that little thing know ?" 



142 THE SORCERESS. 

'' She knows — better than you think I do ; 

and papa Papa is never happy but when 

he is with that lady. He goes to see her 
every day ; she writes to him and he writes 
to her ; they go out together," cried Bee, 
thinking of that invitation to Portman Square 
which had seemed the last insult w^hich she 
could be called on to bear. 

Charlie smiled — the same smile of ineffable 
self-complacence and confidence which had 
replaced in a moment the gloom of the pre- 
vious night ; and then he grew grave. He 
was not such a fool, he said to himself, as 
to be jealous of his own father ; but still he 
grudged that anyone but himself should have 
her company. He remembered what it was 
to go to see her every day, to write to her, 
to have her letters, to be privileged to give 
her his arm now and then, to escort her here 
or there. If it had been another fellow! 
But a man's father — the governor ! He was 
not a rival. Charlie imagined to himself the 
conversations with him for their subject, and 
how, perhaps for the first time, the governor 
would learn to do him justice, seeing him 
through Laura's eyes. It was true that she 



THE SORCERESS. I43 

had rejected him, had ahiiost laughed at him, 
had sent him away so completely broken 
down and miserable that he had not cared 
what became of him. But hope had sprung 
within him, all the more wildly from that 
downfall. It was like her to go to the old 
gentleman (it was thus he considered his 
father) to explain everything, to set him 
right. She would not have done so if her 
heart had not relented — her heart was so 
kind. She must have felt what it was to 
drive a man to despair — and now^ she was 
working for him, soothing down the gover- 
nor, bringing everything back. 

" Eh?" he said, vaguely, some time after ; 
he had in the meantime heard Bee's voice 
going on vaguely addressing somebody, in 
the air, '* are you speaking to me ?" 

** There is no one else to speak to," cried 
Bee, almost angrily. And then she said, 
" Charlie — how can you ask her to come 
here V 

*' Why not here ? She'll go anywhere to do 
a kind thing." 

" But not to this house — not here, not 
here!" 



144 THE SORCERESS. 

" Why not, I should Hke to know — what's 
here ?" Then CharHe stared at her for a 
moment with his hollow eyes, and broke Into 
a low, feeble laugh. 

"Oh," he said, '' I know what you've got 
in your head — because of that confounded 
cad, Aubrey Leigh ? That is just why she 
will come, to show what a lie all that was — 
as if she ever would have looked twice at a 
fellow like Leigh." 

" He seems to have saved your life," said 
Bee, confused, not knowing what to think. 

"You mean he gave me house-room when 
I was ill, and sent for a doctor. Why, any 
shop-keeper would have done that. And 
now," said Charlie, with a grin, "he shall be 
fully paid back." 



CHAPTER XI. 

Bettv Kingsward lived in what was to her 
a whirl of pleasure at Portman Square, where 
everybody was fond of her, and all manner 
of entertainments were devised for her 
pleasure. And her correspondence was not 
usually of an exciting character. Her morn- 
ing letters, when she had any, were placed 
by her plate on the breakfast-table. If any 
came by other posts, she got them when she 
had a spare moment to look for them, and 
she had scarcely a spare moment at this very 
lively and very happy moment of her young 
career. Besides, that particular evening 
when Bee's note arrived was a very impor- 
tant one to Betty. It was the evening on 
which Miss Lance was to dine with the 

VOL. III. L 



146 THE SORCERESS. 

Lyons. And it was not a mere quiet family 
dinner, but a party — a thing which in her 
newness and inexperience still excited the 
little girl, who was not to say properly " out," 
in consequence of her mourning ; still wearing 
black ribbons with her white frocks, and only 
allowed to accept invitations which were 
"quiet." A dinner of twenty people is not 
exactly an entertainment for a girl of her 
years, but Betty's excitement in the debut 
of Miss Lance was so great that no ball could 
have occupied her more. There was an 
unusual interest about it in the whole house, 
even Mrs. Lyon's maid, the most staid of 
confidential persons, had begged Betty to 
point out to her over the baluster " the lady, 
Miss Betty, that is coming with your papa." 

"Oh, she's not coming with papa," Betty 
had cried, with a laugh at Hobbs' mistake, 
" she is only a great, great friend, Hobbs. 
You will easily know her, for there is nobody 
else so handsome." 

" Handsome is as handsome does," said 
the woman, and she patted Betty on the 
shoulder under pretence of arranging her 
ribbon. 



THE SORCERESS, 1 47 

Betty had not the least Idea why Hobbs 
looked at her with such compassionate eyes. 

Miss Lance, however, did come into the 
room, to Betty's surprise, closely followed by 
Colonel Kingsward, as if they had arrived 
together. She was like a picture, in her 
black satin and lace, dressed not too young 
but rather too old for her age, as Mrs. Lyon 
pointed out, who was as much excited about 
her new guest as Betty herself; and the 
unknown lady had the greatest possible 
success in a party which consisted chiefly, as 
Betty did not remark, of old friends of 
Colonel Kingsward, with whom she had been 
acquainted all her life. Betty did not remark 
it, but Gerald Lyon did, who was more than 
ever her comrade and companion in this 
elderly company. 

" Why all these old togies ? " he had asked 
irreverently, as the gentlemen with stars on 
their coats and the ladies in diamonds came 
in. 

Betty perceived that it was an unusually 
solemn party, but thought no more of it. It 
was the evening of the first levee, and that, 
perhaps, was the reason why the old gentle. 



148 THE SORCERESS. 

men wore their orders. Old gentlemen 1 
They were the flower of the British army. 
Generals This and That, heads of depart- 
ments ; impossible to imagine more grand 
people — In the flower of their age, like 
Colonel Kingsward. But eighteen has its 
own Ideas very clearly marked on that sub- 
ject. Betty and Gerald stood by, lighting 
up one corner with a blaze of undeniable 
youth, to see them come in. The young 
pair were like flowers in comparison with the 
substantial size and well worn complexions of 
their seniors, and they were the only little 
nobodies, the sole representatives of undis- 
tinguished and ordinary humanity round 
the table. They were not by any means 
daunted by that. On the contrary, they felt 
themselves, as it were, soaring over the 
heads of all those limited persons who had 
attained, spurning the level heights of real- 
isation. They did not In the least know 
what was to become of them In life, but 
naturally they made light of the others 
who did know, who had done all they were 
likely to do, and had no more to look to. 
The dignity of accomplished success filled 



THE SORCERESS. I49 

the young ones with Impulses of laughter ; 
their inferiority gave them an elevation over 
all the grizzled heads ; they felt themselves, 
nobodies, to be almost ludicrously, dizzily 
above the heads of the rest. Only one of 
the company seemed to see this, however ; 
to cast them an occasional look, even to 
make them the confidants of an occasional 
smile, a raising of the eyebrow^s, a sort of 
unspoken comment on the fine company, 
which made Betty still more lively in her 
criticisms. But this made almost a quarrel 
between the two. 

" Oh, I wish we were nearer to Miss 
Lance, to hear what she thinks of it all," 
Betty said. 

" I can't think what you see in that 
woman," cried Gerald. " I, for one, have no 
desire to know^ her opinion." 

Betty turned her little shoulder upon him 
with a glance of flame, that almost set the 
young man on fire. 

"You prejudiced, cynical, uncharitable, 
malicious, odious boy ! " And they did not 
say another word to each other for five 
minutes by the clock. 



150 THE SORCERESS. 

Miss Lance, however, there was no doubt, 
had a distinguished success. She captivated 
the gentlemen who were next to her at table, 
and, what was perhaps more difficult, she 
made a favourable impression upon the ladies 
In the drawing-room. Her aspect there, in- 
deed, was of the most attractive kind. She 
drew Betty's arm within her own, and said 
with a laugh, " You and I are the girls, 
little Betty, among all these grand married 
ladies ;" and then she added, '' Isn't it a little 
absurd that we shouldn't have some title to 
ourselves, we old maids ? — for Miss means 
eighteen, and it's hard that it should mean 
forty-two. Fancy the disappointment of 
hearing this juvenile title and then finding 
that It means a middle-aged woman." 

She laughed so freely that some of the 
other ladies laughed too. The attention of 
all was directed towards the new comer, which 
Betty thought very natural, she was so much 
the handsomest of them all. 

" You mean the disappointment of a 
gentleman ?" said one of the guests. 

"Oh, no, of ladles too. Don't you think 
women are just as fond of youth as men are, 



THE SORCERESS. I5I 

and as much disgusted with an elderly face 
veiling itself in false pretences ? Oh, more ! 
We think more of beauty than the men do," 
said jNIIss Lance, raising her fine head as if 
to expose its features to the fire of all the 
glances bent upon her. 

There was a little chorus of cries, "Oh, no, 
no," and arguments against so novel a view. 

But Miss Lance did not quail ; her own 
beauty was done full justice to. She was so 
placed that more than one mirror in the old- 
fashioned room reflected her graceful and not 
unstudied pose. 

" I know It Isn't a usual view," she said, 
" but If you'll think of It a little you'll find It's 
true. The common thing is to talk about 
women being jealous of each other. If we 
are It is because we are always the first to 
find out a beautiful face — and usually we 
much exaggerate Its power." 

'' Do you know," said Mrs. Lyon In her 
quavering voice, '' I almost think Miss Lance 
is right? Mr. Lyon instantly says 'Humph!' 
when I point out a pretty person to him. 
And Gerald tells me, 'You think every girl 
pretty, aunt.'" 



J 52 THE SORCERESS. 

" That Is because there is one little girl 
that he thinks the most pretty of all," said 
Miss Lance, with a sort of soft maternal coo 
In Betty's ear. 

The subject was taken up and tossed about 
from one to another, while she who had 
originated It drew back a little, listening 
with an air of much attention, turning her 
head to each speaker, an attitude which was 
most effective. It will probably be thought 
the greatest waste of effort for a woman thus 
to exhibit what the newspapers call her per- 
sonal advantages to a group of her own sex ; 
but Miss Lance was a very clever woman, 
and she knew what she was about. After a 
time, when the first fervour of the argument 
was over, she returned to her first theme as 
to the appropriate title that ought to be 
invented for old maids. 

*' I have thought of It a great deal," she 
said. '' I should have called myself Mrs. 
Laura Lance, to discriminate — but for the 
American custom of calling all married 
ladles so, which Is absurd." 

'' I have a friend in New York who writes 
to me as Mrs. Mary Lyon," said the mistress 
of the house. 



THE SORCERESS. 153 

" Yes, which is ridiculous, you know ; for 
you are not Mrs. Mary Lyon, dear lady. 
You are Mrs. Francis Lyon, if it is necessary 
to have a Christian name, for Lyon is your 
husband's name, not yours. You are Mrs. 
Mary Howard by rights — if in such a matter 
there are any rights." 

*' What !" cried old ]Mr. Lyon, coming in 
after the long array of gentlemen, "are you 
going to divorce my wife from me, or give 
her another name, or what are you going to 
do ? We thought it w^as we only who could 
change the ladies' names, Kingsward, eh ?" 

Colonel Kingsward had placed himself 
immediately in front of Miss Lance, and 
Betty, looking on all unsuspicious, saw a 
glance pass between them — or rather, she 
saw Miss Lance look up into her father's 
face. Betty did not know in the least what 
that look meant, but it gave her a little shock 
as if she had touched an electric battery. It 
meant something more than to Betty's con- 
sciousness had ever been put into words. 
She turned her eyes away for a moment to 
escape the curious thrill that ran through her, 
and in that moment met Gerald Lyon's eyes, 



154 THE SORCERESS. 

full of something malicious, mocking, dis- 
agreeable, which made Betty very angry. 
But she could not explain to herself what all 
these looks meant. 

This curious sensation somehow spoiled 
the rest of the evening for Betty. Every- 
body it seemed to her after this meant some- 
thing — something more than they said. 
They looked at her father, they looked at 
Miss Lance, they looked even at Betty's 
little self, embracing all three, sometimes in 
one comprehensive glance. And all kinds of 
significant little speeches were made as the 
company went away. " I am so glad to 
have seen her," one lady said in an under- 
tone to Mrs. Lyon. " One regrets, of 
course, but one is thankful it is no worse." 
'' I think," said another, " it will do very 
well — I think it will do very well ; thank you 
for the opportunity." And " Charming, 
my dear Mrs. Lyon, charming," said another. 
They all spoke low and In the most confiden- 
tial tone. What was It they were all so In- 
terested about ? 

The last of the party to go were Miss 
Lance and Colonel Kingsward. They 



THE SORCERESS. I 55 

seemed to go away together as they had 
seemed to come together. 

" Your father is so kind as to see me 
home," Miss Lance said, by way of explana- 
tion. " I am not a grand lady with a carriage. 
I am old enough to walk home by myself, 
and I always do it, but as Colonel Kingsward 
is so kind, of course I like company best." 

She too had a private word with Mrs. 
Lyon, at the head of the stairs. Betty did 
not want to listen, but she heard by instinct 
the repeated " Thank you, thank you ! How 
can I ever express how much I thank you ? " 
Betty w^as so bewildered that she could not 
think. She paid no attention to her father, 
who put his hands on her shoulders when he 
said " Good-night," and said, " Betty, I'll see 
you to-morrow." Oh, of course, she should 
see him to-morrow — or not, as circumstances 
might ordain. What did it matter ? She 
was not anxious to see her father to-morrow, 
it could not be of the least importance 
whether thev met or not ; but what Bettv 
would really have liked would have been 
to find out what all these little whisperings 
could mean. 



156 THE SORCERESS. 

Mrs. Lyon came up to her when the last, 
to wit, Colonel Kingsward following Miss 
Lance, had disappeared, and put her arms 
round the little girl. " You are looking a 
little tired," she said, *' just this last hour. I 
did not think they would stay so late. It is 
all Miss Lance, I believe, setting us on to 
argue with her metaphysics. Well, every- 
body likes her very much, which will please 
you, my dear, as you are so fond of her. 
And now, Betty, you must run off to bed. 
There's hardly time for your beauty sleep." 

" Mrs. Lyon," said Betty, very curious, 
*' was it to meet Miss Lance that all those 
grand people came ? " 

"I don't know what you call grand people. 
They are all great friends of ours and also of 
your father's, and I think you know them 
every one. And they all know each other." 

" Except Miss Lance," said Gerald, who 
was always disagreeable — always, when any- 
one mentioned Miss Lance's name. 

"I know her, certainly, and better than any 
of them ! And there is nobody so delightful," 
Betty cried, with fervour, partly because she 
believed what she said, and partly to be dis- 
agreeable in her turn to him. 



THE SORCERESS. I 57 

" And so they all seemed to think," said 
old Mr. Lyon, "though I'm not so fond of 
new people as the rest of you. Lay hands 
suddenly on no man is what I say." 

" And I say the same as my uncle," said 
Gerald, ''and It's still more true of a woman 
than a man." 

'' You are such an experienced person," 
said the old lady; "they know so much 
better than we do, Betty. But never you 
mind, for your friend has made an excellent 
impression upon all these people — the most 
tremendously respectable people," Mrs. Lyon 
said, *' none of your artists and light-minded 
persons ! Make yourself comfortable with 
that thought, and good night, my little Betty. 
You must not stay up so late another night." 

What nonsense that was of staying up late, 
when It was not yet twelve o'clock ! But 
Betty went off to her room with a little 
confusion and bewilderment of mind, happy 
on the whole, but feeling as If she had some- 
thing to think about when she should be 
alone. What was it she had to think about ? 
She could not think what It was when she 
sat down alone to study her problem. There 



158 THE SORCERESS. 

was no problem, and what the departing 
guests had said to Mrs. Lyon was quite 
simple, and referred to something that was 
their own business, that had nothing to do 
with Betty. How could it have anything to 
do with Betty ? 

Around the corner of the Park, Bee, too, 
was sitting alone and thinking at the same 
time, and the two sets of thoughts, neither 
very clear, revolved round the same circle. 
But neither of the sisters knew, concerning 
this problem, whereabouts the other was. 



CHAPTER XII. 

And yet all this time there lay upon 
Betty's table, concealed under the pretty 
laced handkerchiefs which she had pulled out 
of their sachet to choose one for the party, 
Bee's little tremulous letter, expressing a 
state of mind more agitated than that of 
Betty, and full of wonderings and trouble. 
It was found there by the maid who put 
things in order next morning, when she 
called the young visitor. 

" Here's a letter that came last night, and 
you have never opened it," said the maid, 
half reproachfully. She, at least, she was 
anxious to note, had not been to blame. 

Betty took it with great sang jroid. She 
saw by the writing it was only Bee's — and 



l6o THE SORCERESS. 

Bee's news was never imperative. There 
could not be much to disclose to her of the 
state of aftairs at Kingswarden that was new, 
since the night before last. 

But the result was that Betty went down- 
stairs in her hat and gloves, and that Mr. 
Lyon and Gerald, who were both sitting 
down to that substantial breakfast which is 
the first symbol of good health and a good 
conscience in England, had much ado to 
detain her long enough to share that meal. 

Mrs. Lyon did not come downstairs in the 
morning,;SO that they used the argument of 
helplessness, professing themselves unable to 
pour out their own tea. 

'' And what business can Betty have of 
such importance that she must run out with- 
out her breakfast ?" said the old gentleman. 

" Oh, it is news I have heard which I 
must take at once to papa !" 

The two gentlemen looked at each other, 
and Mr. Lyon shook his big, old head. 

" I would not trouble your papa, my dear, 
with anything you may have heard. Depend 
upon it, he will let you know anything he 
wishes you to know — in his own time." 



THE SORCERESS. l6l 

"But it is news — news," said Betty ; " news 
about Charlie ! " 

Then she remembered that very Httle had 
been said even to the Lyons about Charlie, and 
stopped with embarrassment, and her friends 
could not but believe that this was a hasty 
expedient to conceal from them that she had 
heard something — some flying rumour which 
had set her little impetuous being on fire. 
When she had escaped from their sympathetic 
looks and Gerald's magnanimous proposal to 
accompany her — without so much as an egg 
to fortify him for the labours of the day ! — 
Betty set out, crossing the Park in the early 
glory of the morning, which feels at nine 
o'clock what six o'clock feels in the country, 
to carry the news to her father. 

Charlie found, and ill ; and demanding to 
see Miss Lance, his health and recovery 
depending upon whether he should see her or 
not ! Betty's first instinct had been to hasten 
at once to George Street, Hanover Square, 
but then she remembered that papa presum- 
ably was the one who was most anxious 
about Charlie and had the best right to 
know, and it was perhaps better not to 

VOL. Ill M 



I 62 THE SORCERESS. 

explain to the friends in Portman Square 
why Miss Lance should go to Charlie. In- 
deed, when she had set out, a great many 
questions occurred to Betty, circulating 
through her lively little mind without any 
possibility of an answer to them. Why 
should Charlie be so anxious to see Miss 
Lance ? Why had he been so long there, 
ill, and nobody come to tell his people of it ? 
And what was Bee doing in Curzon Street, in 
Aubrey Leigh's house, which was the last 
house in the world where she had any right 
to be ? But she walked so fast, and the 
sunny air with all its movement and lightness 
so carried her on and filled her with pleasant 
sounds and images, that these thoughts, 
blowing like the wind through her little 
intelligence, had not much effect on Betty 
now — though there was incipient trouble in 
them, as even she could see. 

Colonel Kingsward was seated at his 
breakfast when his little girl burst in upon 
him in all the freshness of the morning. Her 
youth and her bloom, and her white frock, 
notwithstanding its black accoutrements, 
made a great show in the dark-coloured. 



THE SORCERESS. 163 

solemn, official-looking room, with its Turkey 
carpets and morocco chairs. The Colonel 
was evidently startled by the sight of her. 
He said, "Well ?" in that tone of self-defence, 
and almost defiance, with which a man pre- 
pares for being called upon to give an 
account of himself; as if anything so absurd 
could be possible as that Betty, little Betty, 
could call upon her father to give an account 
of himself! But then it is very true that 
when there is something to be accounted for, 
the strongest feel how "conscience doth make 
cowards of us all." 

" Oh," she cried, breathless, " Papa — 
Charlie ! Bee has found Charlie, and he's 
been very ill — typhoid fever ; he's getting 
better, and he's in London, and she's with 
him ; and he wants but to see Miss Lance. 
Oh, papa, that's what I came about chiefly — 
he wants to see Miss Lance." 

Colonel Kingsward's face changed many 
times during this breathless deliverance. 
He said first, " He's at Mackinnon's, I 
know;" then, " In London!" with no 
pleasure at all in his tone ; and finally, 
"Miss Lance!" angrily, his face covered 
with a dark glow. 



164 THE SORCERESS. 

" What Is all this ?" he cried, when she 
stopped for want of breath. " Charlie — in 
town ? You must be out of your senses. 
Why, he Is In Scotland. I heard from — , 
eh ? Well, I don't know that I had any 
letter, but — . And 111 — and Bee with him ? 
What Is the meaning of all this ? Are you 
both mad, or In a conspiracy to make your- 
selves disagreeable to me ?" 

" Papa !" cried Betty, very ready to take 
up the challenge ; but on the whole the news 
was too Important to justify a combat of self- 
defence. She produced Bee's note out of Its 
envelope, and placed It before him, running 
on with a report of it while the Colonel 
groped for his eyeglass and arranged It upon 
his nose. 

'*A lady came and fetched her," cried 
Betty, hurriedly, to forestall the reading, 
*'and brought her up to town and took her 
to him — oh, so bad — where he had been for 
weeks ; and she told him you had been to 
Oxford, and something about Miss Lance ; 
and he wants to see Miss Lance, and calls 
and calls for her, and won't be satisfied. Oh, 
papa !" 



THE SORCERESS. 165 

Colonel Kingsward had arranged \\\s pince- 
nez very carefully ; he had taken up Bee's 
note, and went over it word by word while 
Betty made her breathless report. When he 
came to the first mention of Miss Lance he 
struck his hand upon the table like any other 
man in a passion, making all the cups and 
plates ring. 

'' The little fool !" he said, " the little fool ! 
What riofht had she to bring; in that name ? 
It w^as this that called forth Betty's exclama- 
tion, but no more was said by either till he 
read it out to the end. Then he flung the 
letter from him, and getting up, paced about 
the room in rage and dismay. 

*' A long illness," said the Colonel, "was 
perhaps the best thing that could have hap- 
pened to him to sweep all that had passed 
before out of his mind ; and here does this 
infernal little idiot, this little demon full of 
spite and malice, get at the boy at his worst 
moment and bring everything back. What 
right had she, the spiteful, envious little fool, 
to bring in the name of a lady — of a lady to 
whom you all owe the greatest respect?" 

''Papa!" cried Betty, overwhelmed, ''Bee 
couldn't have meant any harm." 



1 66 THE SORCERESS. 

Colonel KIngsward was out of himself 
and he uttered words which terrified his 
daughter, and which need not be recorded 
against him — for he certainly did not in cold 
blood wish Bee to fall under any celestial 
malediction. He stormed about the room, 
saying much that Betty could not under- 
stand ; that it was just the thing of all others 
that should not have happened, and the time 
of all others ; that if it had been a little later, 
or even a little earlier, it would not have 
mattered ; that it was enough to overturn 
every arrangement, increase every difficulty. 
He was not at all a man to give way to his 
feelings so. His children, indeed, until very 
lately, had never seen him excited at all, and 
it was an astonishment beyond description to 
little Betty to be a spectator of this scene. 
Indeed, Colonel Kings ward awoke presently 
to a sense of the self-exposure he had been 
making, and calmed down, or, at least, con- 
trolled himself, upon which Betty ventured 
to ask him very humbly what he thought 
she had better do. 

''May I go to Miss Lance and tell her? 
She is not angry now, nor unhappy about 



THE SORCERESS. 167 

him like — like us,'' said Betty, putting the 
best face upon it with instinctive capacity, 
" and she might know what to do. She is 
so very kind and understanding, don't you 
know, papa ? — and she would know what 
to do." 

For the first time Colonel Kings ward gave 
his agitated little visitor a smile. "You seem 
to have some understanding, too, for a little 
girl," he said, '' and it looks as if you would 
be worthy of my confidence, Betty. When I 
see you this afternoon I shall, perhaps, have 
something to tell you that " 

There came over Colonel Kingsward's fine 
countenance a smile, a consciousness, which 
filled Betty with amaze. She had seen her 
father look handsome, commanding, very 
serious. She had seen him wear an air 
which the girls in their profanity had been 
used in their mother's happy days to call that 
of the/6'7£? noble. She had seen him angry, 
even in a passion, as to-day. She had heard 
him, alas ! blaspheme, which had been very 
terrible to Betty. But she had never, she 
acknowledged to herself, seen him look silly 
before. Silly, in a girl's phraseology, was 



I 68 THE SORCERESS. 

what he looked now, with that fatuity which 
is almost solely to be attributed to one cause ; 
but of this Betty was not aware. It came 
over his countenance, and for a moment 
Colonel Kingsward let himself go on the 
flood of complacent consciousness, which 
healed all his wounds. Then he suddenly 
braced himself up and turned to Betty 
again. 

'' Perhaps," he said, in his most fatherly 
tone, for it seemed to the man in this crisis of 
his life that even little Betty's support was 
something to hold by, *' my dear child, your 
instinct is right. Go to Miss Lance and tell 
her how things are. Don't take this odious 
letter, however," he said, seizing Bee's note 
and tearing it across with indignant vehe- 
mence, '' with all its prejudices and assump- 
tions. Tell her in your own words ; and 

where they are — and Where are they, 

by the way ?" he said, groping for the frag- 
ments of the letter in his waste-paper basket. 
" I hope you noted the address." 

He had not then, it was evident, noted the 
address, nor the name of Mrs. Leigh, nor in 
whose house Charlie was. Betty's heart 



THE SORCERESS. 169 

beat high with the question whether she 
should call his attention to these additional 
facts, but her courage failed her. He had 
cooled down, he was himself aofain : and 
after a moment he added, " I will write a 
little note which you can take," with once 
more the smile that Betty thought silly float- 
ing across his face. She was standing close 
by the writing-table, and Betty was not 
aware that there was any harm in the natural 
glimpse which her keen eyes took, before she 
was conscious of it, of the note he was 
writing. It was not like a common note. It 
did not begin " Dear Miss Lance," as would 
have been natural. In short, it had no 
beginning at all, nor any signature — or rather 
it was signed only with his initial ''F." How 
very extraordinary that papa should sign 
'' F." and should not put any beginning to 
his letter. A kind of wondering consterna- 
tion enveloped the little girl. But still she 
did not in the least understand what it 
meant. 

Betty walked away along Pall Mall and 
Piccadilly, and by the edge of the Park to 
George Street, Hanover Square. It is not 



170 THE SOKCKRESS. 

according to the present fashion that a girl 
should shrink from walking along through 
those busy London streets, where nobody is 
in search of adventures, at least at that hour 
of the morning. Her white morning frock 
and her black ribbons, and her early bloom, 
like the morning, though delightful to behold, 
did not make all the passers by stand and 
stare as the movements of a pretty girl used 
to do, if we are to credit the novels, in the 
beginning of the century. People, perhaps, 
have too much to do nowadays to give to that 
not unusual sight the attention which the 
dandies and the macaroni bestowed upon it, 
and Betty was so evidently bent on her own 
little business, whatever it was, that nothing 
naturally occurred to detain her. 

It was so unusual for her to have a grave 
piece of business in hand that she was a little 
elated by it, even though so sorry for Charlie 
who was so ill, and for Bee who was so per- 
turbed about everything. Betty herself was 
not perturbed ; she was full of the pleasure of 
the morning and the long, interesting walk, 
and the sense of her own importance as a 
messenger. If there did occasionally float 



THE SORCERESS. I7I 

across her mind the idea that her father's 
demeanour was strange, or that it was odd 
that he should have signed his note to Miss 
Lance with an F., it was merely a momentary 
idea and she did not question it or detain it. 
And poor Charlie ! Ill — not able to get out 
this fine weather ; but he was getting better, 
so that there was really nothing to be 
troubled about. 

Miss Lance was up, but had not yet 
appeared when Betty was shown into her 
little drawing-room. She was not an early 
riser. It was one of her vices, she frankly 
allowed. Betty had to wait, and had time to 
admire all her friend's knick-knacks, of which 
there were many, before she came in, which 
she did at last, with her arms put out to take 
Betty maternally to her bosom. She looked 
in the girl's face with a very intent glance 
before she took her into this embrace. 

'' My little Betty, so early/' she said, and 
kissed the girl, and then looked at her again, 
as if in expectation of something ; but as 
Betty could not think of anything that ]\Iiss 
Lance would be expecting from her, she 
remained unconscious of any special meaning 
in this look. 



172 THE SORCERESS. 

''Yes, I am early," she said; ''it is because 
I have something to tell you, and something 
to ask of you, too." 

" Tell, my dear little girl, and ask. You 
may be sure I shall be at your service. But 
what is this in your hand — a note for me ?" 

" Yes, it is a note for you, but may I tell 
you first what it is about ?" Betty went on 
quickly with her story, though Miss Lance, 
without waiting for it, took the note and 
opened it. " Miss Lance, Charlie is found ; 
he has been very ill, and he wants to see 
you." 

" To see me ?" Miss Lance looked with 
eyes of sympathy, yet great innocence, as if 
at an impossible proposal, at the breathless 
girl so anxious to get it out. " But, Betty, if 
he is with your friends, the Mackinnons, in 
Scotland — ? " 

" Oh, Miss Lance, I told you he was not 
there, don't you remember ? He has never 
been anywhere all this time. He has had 
typhoid fever, and on Thursday Bee was 
sent for, and found him still ill, but mending. 
And when he heard you were in town he 
would give her no peace till she wrote and 



THE SORCERESS. 1 73 

asked you to come and see him. And she 
did not know your address so she wrote to 
me. I went to tell papa first, and then I 
came on here. Oh, will you come and see 
Charlie ? Bee said he wanted to get into a 
hansom and come to you as soon as he 
heard you were here." 

'* What induced them to talk of me, and 
why did she tell him I was here ? " Miss 
Lance cried, with a momentary cloud upon 
her face, such as Betty had never seen there 
before. She sat down suddenly in a chair, 
with a pat of her foot upon the carpet, which 
was almost a stamp of impatience, and then 
she read Colonel Kings ward's note for the 
second time, with her brows drawn together 
and a blackness about her eyes which filled 
Betty with alarm and dismay. She looked 
up, however, next minute with her counten- 
ance cleared. "Your father says I am to 
use my own discretion," she said, with a half 
laugh ; " that is not much help to me, is it, in 
deciding what is best to do? So he has been 
ill — and not in Scotland at all ? " 

" I told you he was not in Scotland,'' cried 
Betty, a little impatient in her turn. Oh» 



174 THE SORCERESS. 

Miss Lance, he has been 111, he is still ill, 
and won't you come and see him when he 
wants you so ? Oh, come and see him, 
please ! He looks so ill and wretched, Bee 
says, and weak, and cannot get back his 
strength ; and he thinks if he could see 
you — — -" 

" Poor boy — silly boy !" said Miss Lance ; 
''why does he think it will do him good to 
see me ? I doubt if it would do him any 
good ; and your father says I am to use my 
discretion. I would do anything for any of 
you, Betty, but perhaps I should do him 
harm instead of good. Have you got your 
sister's letter .^" 

" I left it with papa — that is, he threw it 
into the waste paper basket," said the too 
truthful Betty, growing red. 

'' I understand," said Miss Lance, " it was 
not a letter to show me. Bee has her 
prejudices, and perhaps she is right. I 
cannot expect that all the family should be 
as nice to me as you. Have they taken him 
to Kingswarden ? Or where is he, poor boy ?" 

" He is at No. looo, Curzon Street," Betty 
said. 



THE SORCERESS. I 75 

''What!" said Miss Lance. ''Where?" 
Her brow curved over her eyes, her face 
grew dark as if the Hght had gone out of the 
morning, and she spoke the two mono- 
syllables in a sharp imperative tone, so that 
they seemed to cut like a knife. 

" At No. looo; Curzon Street," Betty 
repeated with great alarm, not knowing what 
to think. 

Miss Lance rose quickly, as if there had 
been something that stung her in the inno- 
cent words. She looked as if she were about 
to pace the room from end to end, as Colonel 
Kingsward did when he was disturbed. But 
either she did not mean this, or she re- 
strained herself, for what she did was to 
walk to her writing-table and put Colonel 
Kingsward's note away in a drawer, and 
then she went to the window and looked out, 
and said it was a fine morning but dusty for 
walking — and then she returned to her chair 
and sat down again and looked at Betty. 
She was pale, and there were lines in her 
face that had not been there before. Her 
eyes were almost piteous as she looked at 
the surprised girl. 



176 THE SORCERESS. 

''I am In a very strait place," she said, 
''and I don't know what to do." Something 
Hke moisture seemed to come up into her 
eyes. " This is always how it happens to 
me," she said, "just at the moment, just at 
the moment ! What am I to do ? " 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Bee had passed the whole day with Charlie, 
the Friday of the dinner party at Portman 
Square. She had resisted as long as she 
could writing the letter which had brought so 
much excitement to Betty, and the passion 
with which he had insisted upon this — the 
struggle between them, the vehemence with 
which he had declared that he cared for 
nothing in the world but to see Laura once 
again, to thank her for having pleaded for 
him with his father, to ask her forgiveness for 
his follies — had been bad for Charlie, who 
lay for the rest of the day upon the sofa, 
tossing from him one after the other the 
novels that were provided for his amusement, 
declaring them to be "rot" or "rubbish," 

VOL. III. N 



178 THE SORCERESS. 

growling at his sister when she continued to 
speak to him, and reducing poor Bee to that 
state of wounded imbecility which is the lot 
of those who endeavour to please an un- 
pleasable invalid, with the conviction that all 
the time they are doing more harm than 
good. 

Bee was not maladroit by nature, and she 
had the warmest desire to be serviceable to 
her brother, but it appeared that she always 
did the wrong thing, not only in the eyes of 
Charlie, but in those of the nurse, who came 
in from time to time with swift movements, 
bringing subordination and quiet where there 
had been nothing but irritation and resistance. 
And in this house, where she had been 
brought entirely for the service of Charlie, 
Bee did not know what to do. She was 
afraid to leave the rooms that had been given 
up to him lest she should meet someone on 
the stairs, or be seen only to be avoided, as if 
her presence there was that of a ghost or an 
enemy. Poor Bee — wearing out the long 
hours of the spring afternoon with poor 
attempts to be useful to the invalid, to watch 
his looks — which he resented by frequent 



THE SORCERESS. I 79 

adjurations not to watch him as a cat watches 
a mouse — to anticipate his wishes — which 
immediately became the last thing in the 
world he wanted as soon as she found out the 
drink or got the paper for which he was look- 
ing, heard or thought she heard steps coming 
to the street door, subdued voices in the hall, 
comings and goings half stealthily, noises 
subdued lest she should hear. What did it 
matter whether she heard or not -^ Why 
should the master of the house be banished 
that she, so Ineffectual as she had proved, 
should be brought to her brother's side ? She 
had not done, and could not do, any good to 
Charlie. All that she had done had been to 
remind him of Miss Lance, to be the medium 
of calling that disastrous person, who had 
done all the harm, back into Charlie's life — 
nay, of bringing her back to this house, the 
inmates of which she had already harmed to 
the utmost of her power. 

That was all that had been done by Bee, 
and now her presence kept at a distance the 
one individual in the world who had the best 
right to be here. He came almost secretly, 
she felt sure, to the door in the dusk to 



l8o THE SORCERESS. 

inquire after his patient, or to get his letters ; 
or stole in, subduing his step, that she might 
not be disturbed. 

Poor Bee ! It was very bitter to her to 
think that Aubrey Leigh should leave his 
own house because she was there. Some- 
times she wondered whether it was some 
remnant of old, almost-extinguished feeling 
in his breast which had made him think that 
the sight of Bee would do Charlie good — the 
sight of Bee, for which her brother did not 
care at all, not at all ; which was an annoy- 
ance and a fatigue to him, except when she had 
betrayed what was the last thing in the world 
she should have betrayed, the possibility of 
seeing again that woman who had harmed 
them all. If Aubrey had thought so, with 
some remnant of the old romance, how mis- 
taken he had been ! And it was intolerable 
for the girl to think that for the sake of this 
unsuccessful experiment he had been sent 
away from his own house. She placed herself 
in the corner of the room in which Charlie 
(to whom she was supposed to do good and 
bring pleasure) could see her least, and 
bitterness filled her heart. There were times 



THE SORCERESS. l8l 

in which she thought of steaHng away, 
leaving a word for Mrs. Leigh to the effect 
that she was doing Charhe no good, and that 
Betty, who would come to-morrow, might 
perhaps be of more use — and returning for- 
lorn to Kings warden to renew the life, where 
perhaps nobody wanted her very much, but 
where, at least, there were so many things 
which she and no one else was there to do. 

She was still in this depressed state when 
Mrs. Leigh (who had evidently gone away 
that the brother and sister might be 
alone and happy together) came back, look- 
ing into Charlie's room to ask how he was 
on her way upstairs to dress for dinner. 

" Better," the nurse said, with her eye- 
brows. " Peevish — ^^young lady mustn't cross 
him — must be humoured — things not gone 
quite so well to-day." 

" You will tell me about it at dinner," said 
?^Irs. Leigh, and Bee went downstairs with a 
heavy heart to be questioned. Aubrey's 
mother looked cheerful enough ; she did not 
seem to be unhappy about his absence or to 
dislike the society of the girl who had driven 
him away. And she was very considerate 
even in her questions about the patient. 



152 THE SORCERESS. 

'* We must expect these fluctuations," she 
said; "you must not be cast down if you are 
not quite so triumphantly successful to-day." 

" Oh, Mrs. Leigh, I am deceiving you. I 
have never been successful at all. He did 
not want me — he doesn't care for me, and to 
stay here is dreadful, upsetting the house — 
doing no good." 

" My dear, this is a strange statement to 
make, and you must not expect me to believe 
you in the face of facts. He was much better 
after seeing you last night." 

'' Doing no good," said Bee, shaking her 
head, ''but harm, oh, real harm! It was not 
I that did him good, it was telling him of 
someone, of a lady. Oh, Mrs. Leigh, how 
am I to tell you ?" 

" My dear child, anything that you your- 
self know can surely be told to me. We 
were afraid that something about a woman 
was at the bottom of it, but then that is 
always the thing that is said, and typhoid, 
you know, means bad drains and not a 
troubled mind — though the one may make 
you susceptible to the other. Don't be so 
distressed, my dear. It seems more to your 



THE SORCERESS. 183 

inexperience than it is in reality. He will 
get over that." 

"Mrs. Leigh," said Bee, very pale, '*he 
has made me write to ask her to come and 
see him here." 

It was now Mrs. Leigh's turn to change 
colour. She grew red, looking astonished in 
the girl's despairing face. 

"A woman to come and see him, here! 
But your brother would never insult the 

house and you I am talking nonsense," 

she said, suddenly stopping herself, " and 
misconstruing him altogether. It is some 
lady who has jilted him — or something of 
that kind." 

Bee had not understood what Mrs. Leigh's 
first idea was, and she did not see any cause 
for relief in the second. 

" I don't know what she did to him, or 
what she has done to them all," the girl said, 
mournfully. '* They are all the same. Papa, 
even, who does not care very much for ladies, 

generally But Charlie, poor Charlie [ 

Oh, I believe he is in love with her still, 
though she is twice as old as he is and has 
almost broken his heart." 



184 THE SORCERESS 

" My dear," said Mrs. Leigh, *' this must 
be something very different to what we 
thought. We thought he had got Into some 
very dreadful trouble about a — an altogether 
inferior person. But as it seems to be a lady, 
and one that Is known to the family, and who 
can be asked to come here — If you can tell 
me a little more clearly what the story Is, I 
shall be more able to give you my advice." 

Bee looked at her questioner helpless, half 
distracted, not knowing how to speak, and 
yet the story must be told. She had written 
that fatal invitation, and It could not be con- 
cealed who this possible visitor was. She 
began with a great deal of hesitation to talk 
of the lady whom Charlie had raved about at 
Oxford, and how he was to work to please 
her ; and how he did not work, but failed In 
every way, and fled from Oxford ; and how 
her father went to inquire into the story ; and 
how the lady had come to Colonel Kingsward 
at the hotel, to explain to him, to excuse 
Charlie, to beg his father to forgive him." 

" But, my dear, she can't be so very bad," 
said Mrs. Leigh, soothingly. '' You must 
not judge her hardly ; if she thought she had 



THE SORCERESS. I 85 

been to blame in the matter, that was really 
the right thing to do." 

'* And since then," resumed Bee, " I think 
papa has thought of nobody else ; he writes 
to her and tells her everything. He goes to 
see her ; he forgets about Charlie and all of 
us ; he has taken Betty there, and Betty 
adores her too. And to-night," cried Bee, 
the angry tears coming into her eyes, " she is 
dining in Portman Square, dining with the 
Lyons as a great friend of ours — in Portman 
Square." 

Mrs. Leigh drew Bee to her and gave her 
a kiss of consolation. I think it was partly 
that the girl in her misery should not see the 
smile, which Mrs. Leigh, thinking that she 
now saw through this not uncommon mystery, 
could not otherwise conceal. 

*' My poor child," she said, '* my dear girl ! 
This is hard upon you since you dislike her 
so much, but I am afraid it is quite natural, 
and a thing that could not have been guarded 
against. And then you must consider that 
your father may probably be a better judge 
than yourself I don't see any harm this 
lady has done, except that perhaps it is not 



I 86 THE SORCERESS. 

quite good taste to make herself so agreeable 
both to the father and son ; but perhaps In 
Charlie's case that was not her fault. And I 
see no reason, my dear — ^really and sincerely 
as your friend, Bee — why you should be so 
prejudiced against a poor woman whose only 
fault is that everybody else likes her. Now 
isn't it a little unreasonable when you think 
of it calmly yourself .'^" 

" Oh, Mrs. Leigh ! " Bee cried. The situa- 
tion was so intolerable, the passion of injury 
and misconception so strong in her that she 
could only gasp in insupportable anger and 
dismay. 

" Bee ! Bee ! this feeling is natural but you 
must not let it carry you away. Have you 
seen her ? Let me come in when she is 
here and give my opinion." 

" I have seen her three times," said Bee, 
solemnly, " once at the Baths, and once at 
the Academy, and once at Oxford ; " and 
then once more excitement mastered the girl. 
" Oh, when you know who she is ! Don't 
smile, don't smile, but listen ! She is Miss 
Lance." 

" Miss Lance ! " Mrs. Leigh repeated 



THE SORCERESS. 1 8/ 

the name with surprise, looking into 
Bee's face. "You must compose yourself," 
she said, '' you must compose yourself. 

Miss ? My dear, you have got over 

excited, you have mixed things up." 

" No, I am not over-excited ! I am telling 
you only the truth. It is Miss Lance, and 
they all believe in her as if she were an 
angel, and she is coming here." 

Mrs. Leigh was very much startled, but 
yet she would not believe her ears. She had 
heard Charlie delirious in his fever not so 
long ago. Her mind gave a little leap to the 
alarming thought that there might be mad- 
ness in the family, and that Bee had been 
seized like her brother. That what she said 
was actual fact seemed to her too impossible 
to be true. She soothed the excited girl with 
all her power. " Whoever it is, my dear, you 
shall not take any harm. There is nothing 
to be frightened about. I will take care of 
you, whoever it is." 

" I do not think you believe me," said Bee. 
" I am not out of my mind, as you think. It 
is Miss Lance — Miss Laura Lance — the 
same, the very same, that — and I have 
written, and she will be coming here." 



I 88 THE SORCERESS. 

''This is very strange," said Mrs. Leigh. 
" It does not seem possible to beHeve it. 
The same — who came between Aubrey and 
you ? Oh, I never meant to name him, I 
was never to name him ; but how can I help 
t ? Laura, who was the trouble of his house 
— who would not leave him — who went to 
your father ? And now your father ! I 
cannot understand it. I cannot believe that 
it is true." 

" It is true," said Bee. " But, Mrs. Leigh, 
you forget that no one cared then, except 
myself ; they have forgotten all that now, 
they have forgotten what happened. It w^as 
only my business, it was not their business. 
All that has gone from papa ; he remembers 
nothing about it. And she is a witch, she 
is a magician, she is a devil — - oh, please 
forgive me, forgive me — I don't know what 
I am saying. It has all been growing, 
one thing after another — first me — and then 
Charlie — and then papa — and then Betty. 
And now, after bringing him almost to death 
and destruction, here is Charlie, in this 
house, calling for her, raging with me till I 
wrote to call her — me ! " cried Bee, with a 



THE SORCERESS. I 89 

sort of Indignant eloquence. " Me ! Could it 
go further than that? Could anything be 
more than that ? Me ! — and in this house." 

" My dear child." said Mrs. Leigh, " I 
don't wonder. I don't wonder — it is like 
something in a tragedy. Oh, Bee ! Forgive 
me for what is first in my thoughts. Was 
she the reason, the only reason, for your 
breach with my poor Aubrey ? For at first 
you stood by him — and then you turned upon 
him." 

" Do not ask me any more questions. 
please. I am not able to answer anything. 
Isn't It enough that all these things have 
happened through this woman, and that she 
is coming here ?" 

Mrs. Leigh made no further question. She 
saw that the p-Irl's excitement was almost 
beyond her control, and that her young mind 
was strained to its utmost. She said, half to 
herself, " I must think. I cannot tell In a 
moment what to do. I must send for Aubrey. 
It Is his duty and mine to let it go no further. 
You must try to compose yourself, my dear, 
and trust us. Oh, Bee," there were tears in 
her eyes as she came up to the girl and 



IQO THE SORCERESS. 

kissed her, '' if you could but have trusted 
us — in all things ! I don't think you ever 
would have repented." 

But Bee did not make any response. Her 
hands were cold and her head hot. She was 
wrapt in a strange passion and confusion of 
human chaos and bewilderment — everything 
gone wrong — all the elements of life twisted 
the perverse way ; nothing open, nothing 
clear. She was incapable of any simple, 
unmingled feeling in that confusion and 
medley of everything going wrong. 

Mrs. Leigh, a little disappointed, went into 
the inner room, the little library, to write a 
letter — no doubt to consult or summon her 
son — from which she was interrupted a few 
minutes later by a faint call, and Bee's white 
face in the doorway. 

" Mrs. Leigh, papa will come to-morrow, 
and he will take us away ; at least he will 
take me away. I — I shan't be any longer in 
anyone's way. Oh, don't keep him apart 
from you — don't send anyone out of the 
house because of me !" 



CHAPTER XIV. 

There was a great deal of commotion next 
morning in the house in Mayfair. 

Bee was startled by having a tray brought 
to her bedroom with her breakfast when she 
was almost ready to go downstairs. '' Mrs. 
Leigh thought, Miss, as you had been so 
tired last night, you might like to rest a little 
longer," said the maid ; and Bee divined with 
a sharp pang through all the trouble and 
confusion of her mind that she was not 
wanted — that probably Aubrey was coming to 
consult with his mother what was to be done. 
It may be imagined with what scrupulousness 
she kept within her room, her pride all up in 
arms though her heart she thought was 
broken. Though the precaution was so 
natural, though it was taken at what was 
supposed to be her desire, at what was really 



192 THE SORCERESS, 

her desire — the only one she would have 
expressed — yet she resented It, In the contra- 
diction and ferment of her being. If Mrs. 
Leigh supposed that she wanted to see 
Aubrey! He was nothing to her, he had 
no part In her life. When she had been 
brought here, against her will, It had been 
expressly explained that It was not for 
Aubrey, that he would rather go away to 
the end of the world than disturb her. And 
she had herself appealed to his mother — her 
last action on the previous night — to bring 
him back, not to banish him on account of 
the girl who was nothing to him, and whose 
part It was, not his, to go away. All this, 
however, did not make It seem less keen a 
wound to Bee that she should be, so to 
speak, Imprisoned in her own room, because 
Aubrey was expected downstairs. She had 
never, she declared to herself vehemently, 
felt at ease under the roof that was his ; 
nothing but Charlie's supposed want of her 
would have induced her to subject herself to 
the chances of meeting him, and the still 
more appalling chance of being supposed to 
wish to meet him. And now this insult of 



THE SORCERESS. I 93 

imprisonment in her bedroom, lest she should 
by any chance come under his observation, 
offend his eye ! — Bee was contradictory 
enough at all times, a rosebud set about with 
wilful thorns ; but everything was in tumult 
about her, and all her conditions nothing but 
contradictions now. 

Thus it happened that while Betty was 
setting out with much excitement, but that 
all pleasurable, walking lightly among undis- 
covered dangers, Bee was suddenly arrested, 
as she felt, imprisoned in the little room 
looking out upon roofs and backs of houses, 
thrust aside into a corner that she might not 
be seen or her presence known — imperceptibly 
the force of the description grew as she went 
on piling up agony upon agony. It was some 
time before, in the commotion of her feelings, 
she could bring herself to swallow her tea, 
and then she walked about the room, gazed 
out of the window from which, as it was at 
the back of the house, she saw nothing, and 
found the position more and more intolerable 
every minute. A prisoner ! she who had 
been brought here against her will, on 
pretence that her presence might save her 

VOL. III. o 



194 THE SORCERESS. 

brother's life, or something equally grandiose 
and impossible — save her brother's life, bring 
him back from despair by the sight of some 
one that he loved. These were the sort of 
words that Mrs. Leigh had said. As if it 
mattered to Charlie one way or the other what 
Bee might think or do ! As if he were 
to be consoled by her, or stimulated, or 
brought back to life ! She had affected him 
involuntarily, undesirably, by her betrayal of 
the vicinity of that woman, that witch, who 
had warped his heart and being. But as for 
influencing in her own person her brother's 
mind or life. Bee knew she was as little 
capable as baby, the little tyrant of the 
nursery. Oh ! how foolish she had been to 
come at all, to yield to what was said, the 
flattering suggestion that she could do so 
much, when she knew all along in her inmost 
consciousness that she could do nothing ! 
The only thing for her to do now was to go 
back to the dull life of which in her impatient 
foolishness she had grown so weary, the 
dull life in which she was indeed of some use 
after all, where it was clearly her duty to get 
the upper hand of baby, to preserve the 



THE SORCERESS. 1 95 

discipline of the nursery, to train the Httle 
ones, and keep the big boys in order, 
These were the elder sister's duties, with 
which nobody could interfere — not any 
ridiculous, sentimental, exaggerated idea, as 
Charlie had said, of what a woman's ministra- 
tions could do. " Oh, woman, in our hours 
of ease !" that sort of foolish, foolish, intoler- 
able, ludicrous kind of thing, which it used to 
be considered right to say, though people 
knew better now. Bee felt bitterly that to 
say of her that she was a ministering angel 
would be irony, contumely, the sort of thing 
people said when they laughed at women and 
their old-fashioned sham pretences. She had 
never made any such pretence. She had 
said from the beginning that Charlie would 
care for none of her ministrations. She had 
been brought here against her judgment, 
against her will, and now she was shut up 
as in a prison in order that Aubrey might not 
be embarrassed by the sight of her ! As if 
she had wished to see Aubrey ! As if it had 
not been on the assurance that she was not 
to see Aubrey that she had been beguiled 
here ! 



196 THE SORCERESS. 

When a message came to her that she was 
to go to her brother, Bee did not know what 
to do. It seemed to her that Aubrey might 
be lurking somewhere on the stairs, that he 
might be behind CharHe's sofa, or lying in 
wait on the other side of the curtain, not- 
withstanding her offence at the quite con- 
tradictory idea that she was imprisoned in 
her room to be kept out of his way. These 
tw^o things were entirely contrary from each 
other, yet it was quite possible to entertain 
and be disturbed by both in the tumult and 
confusion of a perverse young mind. She 
stepped out of her room as if she were about 
to fall into an ambush, notwithstanding that 
she had been thrilling in every irritated 
nerve with the idea of being imprisoned 
there. 

Charlie had insisted on getting up much 
earlier than usual. He had not waited for 
the doctor's visit. He was better ; well, he 
said, stimulated into nervous strength and 
capability, though his gaunt limbs tottered 
under him and his thin hand trembled. 
When he got into his sitting-room he flung 
away all his cushions and wrappings as soon 



THE SORCERESS. 197 

as his nurse left him and went to the mirror 
over the mantel-piece and gazed at himself 
in the glass, smoothing down and stroking 
into their right place those irregular soft tufts 
growing here and there upon his chin, which 
he thought were the beginnings of a beard. 

Would she think it was a beard, that sign of 
manhood ? They were too downy, fluffy, un- 
energetic, a foolish kind of growth, like a 
colt's, some long, some short, yet Charlie 
could not help being proud of them. He 
felt that they would come to something in 
time, and remembered that he had often 
heard it said that a beard which never had 
been shaved became the finest — in time. 
Would she think so ? or would she laugh and 
tell him that this would not do, that he must 
get himself shaved ? 

He would not mind that she should laugh. 
She might do anything, all she did was 
delightful to poor Charlie, and there would 
be a compliment even in being told that he 
must get shaved. Charlie had stroked his 
upper lip occasionally with a razor, but it had 
never been necessary to suggest to him that 
he should get shaved before. 



198 THE SORCERESS. 

He had to be put back upon his sofa when 
nurse re-appeared, but he only remained 
there for the time, promising no permanent 
obedience. When Laura came he certainly 
should not receive her there. 

*' When did your letter go ? When would 
Betty receive it ?" he said, when Bee, breath- 
less and pale, at last, under nurse's escort, 
was brought downstairs. 

" She must have got it last night. But 
there was a dinner party," said Bee, after a 
pause, "last night at Portman Square." 

" What do I care for their dinner parties ? 
I suppose the postman would go all the same." 

'' But Betty could not do anything till this 
morning." 

" No," said Charlie, " I suppose not. She 
would be too much taken up with her ridicu- 
lous dress and what she was to wear " — the 
knowledge of a young man who had sisters, 
pierced through even his indignation — " or 
with some nonsense about Gerald Lyon — 
that fellow ! And to think," he said, in an 
outburst of high, moral indignation " that 
one's fate should be at the mercy of a little 
thing like Betty, or what she might say or 
do!" 



THE SORCERESS. I99 

" Betty is not so much younger than we 
are ; to be sure," said Bee, with reflective 
sadness, " she has never had anything to 
make her think of all the troubles that are in 
the world." 

Chadie turned upon her with scorn. 

"And what have you had to make you 
think, and what do you suppose you know ? 
A girl, always protected by everybody, kept 
out of the battle, never allowed to feel the air 
on your cheek ! I must tell you, Bee, that 
your setting yourself up for knowing things 
is the most ridiculous exhibition in the 
world." 

Bee's wounded soul could not find any 
words. She kept out of the battle ! She 
setting up for knowing things ! And what 
was his knowledge in comparison with hers ? 
He had but been deluded like the rest by a 
woman whom Bee had always seen through, 
and never, never put any faith in ; whereas 
she had lost what was most dear, all her 
individual hopes and prospects, and been 
obliged to sacrifice what she knew would be 
the only love of her life. 

She looked at Charlie with eyes that were 



200 THE SORCERESS. 

full of unutterable things. He was reckless 
with hope and expectation, self-deceived, 
thinking that all was coming right again ; 
whereas Bee knew that things would never 
more be right with her. And yet he presumed 
to say that she knew nothing, and that to 
think she had suffered was a mere pretence ! 
" How little, how little," Bee thought, ** other 
people know." 

The house seemed full that morning of 
sounds and commotions, unlike ordinary 
times. There were sounds of ringing bells, 
of doors opened and shut, of voices down- 
stairs, Once both Charlie and Bee held 
their breath, thinking the moment had come, 
for a carriage stopped at the door, there was 
the sound of a noisy summons, and then 
steps coming upstairs. 

Alas ! It was nothing but the doctor, who 
came in, ushered by nurse, but not until she 
had held a private conference with him, 
keeping them both in the most tremendous 
suspense in the bedroom. It is true this 
was a thing which happened every morning* 
but they had both forgotten that In the 
tension of highly-wrought feeling, 



THE SORCERESS. 20I 

And when the doctor came he shook his 
head. "There has been too much going on 
here," he said. "You ha\'e been doing too 
much or talking too much. Miss Kingsward, 
you helped us greatly with our patient 
ye;.terday, but I am afraid you have been 
going too far, you have hurried him too 
much. We dare not press recovery at 
railway speed after so serious an illness as 
this." 

" Oh, I have not wished to do so," said 
Bee. "It is some friends that we are 
expecting." 

"Friends.^ I never said he was to see 
friends," the doctor said. 

"Come doctor," said Charlie, "you must 
not be too hard upon me. It's — it's my 
father and sister that are coming^." 

Your father and sister are different, but 
not too much even of them. Recollect, 
nurse, what I say, not too much even of the 
nearest and dearest. The machinery has 
been too much out of gear to come round all 
in a moment. And, Miss Kingsward, you 
are pale, too. You had better go out a little 
and take the air. There must not be too 



202 THE SORCERESS. 

much conversation, not too much reading 
either. I must have quiet, perfect quiet." 

'' Am I to do nothing but think ? " said 
CharHe. ''Is that the best thing for a fellow 
to do that has missed his schools and lost his 
time ? " 

" Be thankful that you are at a time of life 
when the loss of a few weeks doesn't matter, 
and don't think," said the doctor, "or we 
shall have to stop even the father and sister, 
and send you to bed again. Be reasonable, 
be reasonable. A few days' quiet and you 
will be out of my hands." 

" Oh, Charlie, then you have given up 
seeing anyone else," said Bee, with a cry of 
relief as the doctor, attended by the nurse, 
went downstairs. 

" I have done nothing of the kind," he 
cried, jumping up from the sofa and going to 
the window. " And you had better tell that 
woman to go out for a walk and that you 
will look after me. Do you think when 
Laura comes that I will not see her if fifty 
doctors were to interfere ? But if you want 
to save me a little you will send that woman 
out of the way. It is the worry and being 
contradicted that does me harm." 



THE SORCERESS. 203 

"How can I, Charlie — oh, how can I, in 
the face of what the doctor said ?" 

He turned back upon her flaming with 
feverish rage and excitement. 

"If you don't I'll go out. I'll have a cab 
called, and get away from this prison," he 
cried. " I don't care what happens to me, 
but I shall see her If I die for it." 

"Perhaps," said Bee to herself, trembling, 
" she will not come. Oh ! perhaps she will 
not come !" But she felt that this was a very 
forlorn hope, and when the nurse came back 
the poor girl, faltering and ill at ease, obeyed 
the peremptory signs and frowns of Charlie, 
once more established on the sofa and 
seeming to take no part in the negotiation. 

" Nurse, I have been thinking," said Bee, 
with that talent for the circumstantial which 
women have, even when acting against their 
will, " that you have far more need of a walk 
and a little fresh air than I have, who 
have only been here for a day, and that if 
you will tell me exactly what to do, I could 
take care of him w^hile you go out a little." 

" Shouldn't think of leaving him," said 
nurse, with her eyebrows working as usual 



204 THE SORCERESS. 

and a mocking smile about her lips. " Too 
much talk ; doctor not pleased." 

" But If I promise not to talk ? I shall not 
talk. You don't want to talk, do you, 
Charlie ?" 

Charlie launched a missile at her In his 
ingratitude, over his shoulder. " Not with 
you," he said. 

"You hear?" cried Bee, now intent upon 
gaining her point, and terrified lest other 
visitors might arrive before this matter were 
decided ; " we shall not talk, and I will do 
all you tell me. Oh, only tell me what I am 
to do." 

" Nothing to do," said the nurse, not for 
the next hour ; nothing, but keep him quiet. 
Well, if you think you can undertake that, 
just for half an hour — " 

" I will — I will — for as long as you please,'' 
cried Bee. It was better, indeed. If there 
must be this interview with Laura, that there 
should be as few spectators as possible. She 
hurried the woman away with eagerness, 
though she had been alarmed at the first 
suggestion. But when she was alone with 
him, and nobody to stand by her, thinking at 



THE SORCERESS. 2O5 

every sound she heard that this was the 
dreaded arrival. Bee crept close to him with 
a sudden panic of terror and dismay. 

*' Oh, Charlie, don't listen to her, don't 
believe her ; oh, don't be led astray by her 
again ! I have done what you told me, but 
I oughtn't to have done it. Oh, Charlie, 
stand fast, whatever she says, and don't be 
led astray by her again." 

The only sign of Charlie's gratitude that 
Bee received was to be hastily pushed away 
by his shoulder. "You little fool, what do 
you know about it?" her brother said. 



C HAPTE R XV. 

But the nurse went out for her walk and 
came in again and nothing happened, and 
Charlie had his invalid dinner, which in his 
excitement he could not eat, and Bee was 
called downstairs to luncheon, and yet no- 
body came. The luncheon was a terrible 
ordeal for Bee. She attempted to eat, with 
an eye on the window, to watch for the 
arrival of the visitors, and an ear upon the 
subdued sounds of the house, through which 
she seemed to hear the distant step, the 
distant voice of someone whose presence was 
not acknowledged. She repeated with eager- 
ness her little speech of the night before. 
*' Something must have detained papa," she 
said, '' I cannot understand it, but he is sure 
to come, and he will take me away." 



THE SORCERESS. 207 

" I don't want you to be taken away, my 
dear," said Mrs. Leigh. ''I should not let you 
go if I could help it." 

*' Oh, but I must, I must." said Bee, 
trembling and agitated. She could not eat 
anything, any more than Charlie, and when 
the nurse came downstairs, indignantly 
carrying the tray from which scarcely any- 
thing had been taken, Bee could make no 
reply to her remonstrances. '' The young 
lady had better not come upstairs again," 
said nurse; ''she has done him more harm 
than good, he will have a relapse if we don't 
mind. It is as much as my character is 
worth." She talked like other people when 
there was no patient present, and she was 
genuinely afraid. 

'' What are we to do ? " said Mrs. Leigh. 
"If this lady comes he ought not to see her ! 
But perhaps she will not come." 

" That is what I have hoped," said Bee, 
but if she doesn't come he will go out, he 
will get to her somehow ; he will kill himself 
with struggling " 

At the suggestion of going out the nurse 
gave a shriek and thrust her tray into the 



208 THE SORCERESS. 

servant's hands who was waiting. '* He will 
have to kill me first," she said, rushing away. 

And immediately upon this scene came 
Betty, fresh and shining in her white frock, 
with a smile like a little sunbeam, who 
announced at once that Miss Lance was 
coming. 

"How is Charlie?" said Betty. *' Oh, 
Mrs. Leigh, how good you have been ! Papa 
is coming himself to thank you. What a 
trouble it must have been to have him ill here 
all the time. Mrs. Lyon, whom I am staying 
with, thinks it so wonderful of you — so kind, 
so kind ! And Bee, she is coming, though it 
is rather a hard thing for her to do. She 
says you will not like to see her, Mrs. Leigh, 
and that it will be an intrusion upon you ; 
but I said when you had been so good to 
poor Charlie all along, you would not be 
angry that she should come who is such a 
friend." 

''Any friend, of course, of Colonel Kings- 
ward's " Mrs. Leigh said stiffly, while 

little Betty stared. She thought they all 
looked very strange ; the old lady so stiff, and 
Bee turning red and turning white, and a 



THE SORCERESS. 209 

general air as if something had gone wrong. 

"Is Charlie worse?" she said, with an 
anxious look. 

And then Bee was suddenly called upstairs. 
"Can't manage him any longer," the nurse 
said on the landing. " I wash my hands of 
it. Your fault if he has a relapse." 

" Who is that ?" said Charlie, from within, 
" Who is it ? I will see her ! Xobody shall 
interfere, no one — doctor, or nurse, or — the 
devil himself. Bee !" 

"It is only Betty," said Bee, upon which 
Charlie ceased his raging and flung himself 
again on his sofa. 

" You want to torment me ; you want to 
wear me out ; you want to kill me," he said, 
with tears of keen disappointment in his 
eyes. 

"Charlie," said Bee, "she is coming. 
Betty is here to say so ; she is coming in 
about an hour or so. If you will eat your 
dinner and lie quite quiet and compose your- 
self you will be allowed to see her, and nurse 
will not object. 

" Oh, Miss Kingsward, don't answer for 
me. It is as much as his life is worth." 

VOL. III. P 



2IO THE SORCERESS. 

'' But not unless you eat your dinner and 
keep perfectly quiet." 

" Give us that old dinner," said Charlie, 
with a loud, unsteady laugh, and the tray 
was brought back and he performed his duty 
upon the half-cold dishes with an expedition 
and exuberance that gave nurse new appre- 
hensions. 

" He'll have indigestion," she said, " if he 
gobbles like that," speaking once more in- 
audibly over Charlie's shoulder. But after- 
wards all was quiet till the fated moment 
came. 

I do not think if these girls had known the 
feelings that were within Miss Lance's breast 
that they would have been able to retain 
their respective feelings towards her— Betty 
of adoration or Bee of hostility. She had 
lived a life of adventure, and she had come 
already on various occasions to the very eve 
of such a settled condition of life as would 
have made further adventure unnecessary 
and impossible — but something had always 
come in the way. Something so often 
comes in the way of such a career. The stolid 
people who are incapable of any skilful com- 



THE SORCERESS. 211 

binations go on and prosper, while those 
who have wasted so much cleverness or 
much wit, so much trouble — and disturbed 
the lives of others and risked their own- 
fail just at the moment of success. I 
am sometimes very sorry for the poor 
adventurers. Miss Lance went to Curzon 
Street w^ith all her wits painfully about her, 
knowing that she was about to stand for her 
life. It seemed the most extraordinary spite 
of fate that this should have happened in the 
house of Aubrey Leigh. She would have 
had in any case a disagreeable moment 
enough between Charlie Kingsward and his 
father, but it was too much to have the other 
brought in. The man whom she had so 
wronged, the family (for she knew that his 
mother was there also) who knew all about 
her, who could tell everything, and stop her 
on the very threshold of the new life — that 
new life in which there would be no equivo- 
cal circumstances, nothing that she could be 
reproached with, only duty and kindness. 
So often she seemed to have been just 
within sight of that halcyon spot where she 
would need to scheme no more, where duty 



212 THE SORCERESS. 

and every virtuous thing would be natural 
and easy. Was the failure to come all over 
again ? 

She was little more than an adventuress, 
this troubled woman, and yet It was not with- 
out something of the exalted feeling of one 
who Is about to stand for his life, for emanci- 
pation and freedom to do well and all that is 
best In existence, that she walked through 
the streets towards her fate. Truth alone 
was possible with the Leighs, who knew 
everything about her past, and could not be 
persuaded or turned from their certainty 
by any explanations. But poor Charlie ! 
Bare truth was not possible with him, 
whom she had sacrificed lightly to the 
amusement of the moment, whom she 
could never have married or made the 
instrument of building up her fortune except 
in the way which, to do her justice she 
had not foreseen, through the access he had 
given her to his father. How was she to 
satisfy that foolish, hot-headed boy? — and how 
to stop the mouths of the others in the 
background ? — and how to persuade Colonel 
Kingsward that circumstances alone were 



THE SORCERESS. 21 3 

against her — that she herself was not to 
blame ? She did not conceal from herself 
any of these difficulties, but she was too 
brave a w^om.an to fly before them. She 
preferred to walk, and to walk alone, to this 
trial which awaited her, in order to subdue 
her nerves and get the aid of the fresh air 
and solitude to steady her being. She was 
going to stand for her life. 

It seemed a good augury that she was 
allowed to enter the house without any 
interruption from the sitting-room below, 
where she had the conviction that her 
worst opponents were lying in wait. She 
thought even that she had been able to dis- 
tinguish the white cap and shawl of Mrs. 
Leigh through the window, but it was Betty 
who met her in the hall — met her with a kiss 
and expression of delight. 

" Oh, I am so glad you have come," said 
Betty, *'he is so eager to see you." The 
people in ambush in the ground floor rooms 
must have heard the exclamation, but they 
made no sign. At the door upstairs they 
were met by the nurse, excited and laconic, 
speaking without any sound. 



2 14 THE SORCERESS. 

" No worry — don't contradict. Much as 
life is worth," she said, with emphatic, silent 
lips. Miss Lance, so composed, so perfect 
in her manner, so wound up to everything, 
laughed a little — she was so natural ! — and 
nodded her head. And then she went in. 

Charlie on the sofa was of course the chief 
figure. But he had jumped up, flinging his 
wrappings about, and stood in his gaunt and 
tremulous length, with his big hollow eyes 
and his ragged little beard, and his hands 
stretched out. ''At last!" he said, ''at last 

Laura!" stumbling in his weakness as he 

advanced to her. Bee was standing up 
straight against the window in the furthest 
corner of the room, not making a movement. 
How real, how^ natural, how completely her- 
self and ready for any emergency this visitor 
was ! She took Charlie's hands in hers, 
supporting him with that firm hold, and put 
him back upon his couch. 

" Now," she said, " the conditions of my 
visit are these : perfect quiet and obedience, 
and no excitement. If you rebel in any way 
I shall go. I know what nursing is, and I 
know what common-sense is — and I came 



THE SOKCERKSS. 215 

here to help you, not to harm you. Move a 
toe or fino^er more than vou ouorht, and I 
shall go !" 

" I will not move, not an eyelid if you tell 
me not. I want to do nothing but look at 
you. Laura ! oh, Laura ! I have been dead, 
and now I am alive again," Charlie said. 

" 111 or well," said Miss Lance, arranging 
his cushions with great skill, " you are a 
foolish, absurd boy. Partly it belongs to 
your age and partly to your temperament. I 
should not have considered you like your 
father at the first glance, but you are like 
him. Now, perfect quiet. Consider that 
your grandmother has come to see you, and 
that it does not suit the old lady to have her 
mind disturbed." 

"He had seized her hand and was kissing 
it over and over again. Miss Lance took 
those caresses very quietly, but after a min- 
ute she withdrew her hand. '' Now, tell me 
all about it," she said ; " you went ofT in such 
a commotion — so angry with me — " 

" Never angry," he said, " but miserable, 
oh, more miserable — too miserable for words. 
I thought that you had cut me off for ever." 



2l6 THE SORCERESS. 

" You were right so far as your foolish 
Ideas of that moment went, but I hope you 
have learnt better since, and now tell me 
what did you do ? I hoped you had gone 
home, and then that you had gone to Scot- 
land, and then — . What did you do ? " 

'' I don't know," said Charlie, " I can't tell 
you. I suppose I must have been ill then. 
I came up to town, but I don't know what 
I did. And I was brought here, and I've 
been 111 ever since, and couldn't seem to get 
better until I heard you had been speaking 
for me. You speaking for me, Laura ! Think- 
ing of me a little, trying to bring me back to 
life. I'll come back to life, dear, for you — 
anything, Laura, for you ! " 

" My dear boy. It is a pity you should not 
have a better reason," she said. The two 
girls had not gone away. Betty had retired 
to the corner where Bee was, and they stood 
close together holding each other, ashamed 
and scornful beyond expression of Charlie's 
abandonment. Even Betty, who was almost 
as much in love with Miss Lance as Charlie 
was, was ashamed to hear him " going on " 
in this ridiculous way. What Miss Lance 



THE SORCERESS. 217 

felt to have these words of devotion addressed 
to her in the presence of two such listeners I 
will not say. She was acutely sensible of 
their presence, and of what they were think- 
ing, but she did not shrink from the ordeal. 
''And you must not call me Laura," she said, 
''unless vou can make it Aunt Laura, or 
Grandmother Laura, which are titles I 
shouldn't object to. Anything else would be 
ridiculous between you and me." 

"Laura!" the young man said, raising 
himself quickly. 

" Say Aunt Laura, my dear, and if you 
move another inch I will go away ! " 

"You are crushing me," he cried, "vou 
are driving me to despair ! " 

" Dear Charlie," said Miss Lance," all this, 
you know, is very great nonsense — between 
you and me ; I have told you so all along. 
Now things have really become too serious 
to go on. I want to be kind to you, to help 
you to get well, and to see as much of you 
as possible ; for you are a dear boy and I 
am fond of you. But this can't be unless 
you will see things in their true light and 
acknowledge the real state of affairs. 1 am 



2l8 THE SORCERESS. 

most willing and ready to be your friend, to 
be a mother to you. But anything else is 
ridiculous. Do you hear me, Charlie ? — 
ridiculous! You don't want to be laughed at, 
and you don't want me to be laughed at, I 
suppose ?'' She took his hands with which he 
had covered his face and held them in hers. 
" Now, no nonsense, Charlie. Be a man ! 
Will you have me for your friend, always 
ready to do anything for you, or will you 
have nothing to do with me ? Come ! I 
might be your mother, I have always told 
you so. And look here," she said, with a 
tone of genuine passion in her voice and a 
half turn of her flexible figure towards the 
two girls, "I'm w^orth having for a mother; 
whatever you may think in your cruel youth, 
I am, I am !" Surely this was to them and 
not to him. The movement, the accent, was 
momentary, Her voice changed again into 
the softness of a caress. " Charlie, my dear 
boy, don't make me ridiculous, don't make 
people laugh at me. They call me an old 
witch, trying to entrap a young man. Will 
you let people — nay, will you 7//a^e people 
call me so .^" 

"/ make anyone call you — anything but 



THE SORCERESS. 219 

what you are !" he cried. " Nobody would 
dare," said the unfortunate fellow, "to do 
anything but revere you and admire you so 
long as I was there." 

" And then break out laughing the moment 
your back was turned," she said. " ' What a 
hold the old hag has got upon him !' Is what 
they would say. And It would be quite true. 
Not that I am an old hag. No, I don't think 
I am that, I am worse. I'm a very well pre- 
served woman of my years. I've taken great 
care of myself to keep up what are called my 
personal advantages. I have never wished 
— I don't wish now — to be thought older than 
I am, or ugly. I am just old enough — to be 
your mother, Charlie, If I had m.arrled young, 
as your mother did " 

He drew his hands out of her cool and 
firm grasp, and once more covered his face 
with them. " Don't torture me," he cried. 

" No, my dear boy, I don't want to torture 
you. but you must not make me, nor yourself — 
whom I am proud of — ridiculous. I am 
going probably — for nothing is certain till It 
happens," she said, with a mournful tone In 
her voice, slightly shaking her head, " and 
you may perhaps help to balk me — I am 



2 20 THE SORCERESS. 

probably going to make a match with a 
reasonable person suited to my age." 

Poor Charlie started up, his hands fell from 
his face, his large miserable eyes were fixed 
upon hers. ''And you come — you come — to 
tell me this!" he cried. 

" It will be partly for you — to show how 
impossible your folly Is — but most for myself, 
to secure my own happiness." She said these 
words very slowly, one by one — '' To secure 
my own happiness. Have I not the right to 
do that, because a young man, who should 
have been my son, has taken It into his 
foolish head to form other Ideas of me ? You 
would rather make me ridiculous and wretched 
than consider my dignity, my welfare, my 
happiness — and this is what you call love !" 
she said. 

The girls listened to this conversation with 
feelings impossible to put into words, not 
knowing what to think. One of them 
loved the woman and the other hated her ; 
they were equally overwhelmed in their 
young and simple Ideas. She seemed to be 
speaking a language new to them, and to 
have risen into a region which they had 
never known. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

She left Charlie's room, having soothed him 
and reduced him to quiet in this inconceiv- 
able way, with a smile on her face and the 
look of one who was perfecdy mistress of the 
situation But when she had gone down 
half-a-dozen steps and reached the landing, 
she stood still and leaned against the wall, 
clasping her hands tight as if there was 
something in them to hold by. She had 
carried through this part of her ordeal with a 
high hand. She had made it look the kindest 
yet the most decisi\'e interview in the world, 
crushing the foolish young heart, without 
remorse, yet tenderly, kindly, with such a 
force of sense and reason as could not be 
resisted — and all so naturally, with so much 
apparent ease, as if it cost her nothing. 
But she was after all, merely a woman. 



222 THE SORCERESS. 

and she knew that only half, nay, not 
half, not the worst half of her trial was 
over. She lay back against the wall, having 
nothing else to rest upon, and closed her eyes 
for a moment. The two girls had followed 
her instinctively out of Charlie's room, and 
stood on the stairs one above the other, 
gazing at her. The long lines of her figure 
seemed to relax, as if she might have fallen, 
and in their wonder and ignorance they 
might still have stood by and looked on 
letting her fall, without knowing what to do. 
But she did not do so. The corner of the 
walls supported her as if they had made a 
couch for her, and presently she opened her 
eyes with a vague smile at Betty, who was 
foremost. " I was tired," she said, and then, 
'' it isn't easy " — drawing a long breath. 

At this moment the trim figure of Mrs. 
Leigh's maid appeared on the stairs below, 
so commonplace, so trim, so neat, the little 
apparition of ordinary life which glides 
through every tragedy, lifting its everyday 
voice in announcements of dinner, in inquiries 
about tea, in all the nothings of routine, in 
the midst of all tumults of misery and 



THE SORCERESS. 2 23 

passion. "If you please, madam — my lady 
would be glad if you wouid step into the 
dining-room," she said. 

Miss Lance raised herself in a moment 
from that half-recumbent position against the 
wall. She recovered herself, got back her 
colour and the brightness of her eyes, and 
that look of being perfectly natural, at her 
ease, unstrained, spontaneous, which she had 
shown throughout the interview with Charlie. 
" Certainly," she said. There did not seem 
to be time for the twinkling of an eyelid 
between the one mood and the other. She 
required no preparation or interval to pull 
herself together. She looked at the two 
sisters as if to call them to follow her, and 
then walked quietly downstairs to be tried for 
her life — like a martyr — oh, no, for she was 
not a martyr, but a criminal. She had no 
confidence of innocence about her. She 
knew what indictment was about to be 
brought against her, and she knew it was 
true. This knowledge, however, gives a 
certain strength. It gives courage such as 
the innocent who do not know what charge 
may be brought against them or how to 



2 24 THE SORCEKESS. 

meet it, do not possess. She had rehearsed 
the scene She knew what she was going to 
be accused of, and had thought over, and set 
in order, all the pleas. She knew exactly 
what she had done and what she had not, 
which was a tower of strength to her, and 
she knew that on her power of fighting it out 
depended her life. It is difficult altogether 
to deny our sympathy to a brave creature 
fighting for bare life. However guilty he 
may be, human nature takes sides with him, 
hopes in the face of all justice that there may 
be a loophole of escape. Even Bee, coming 
slowly downstairs after her, already thrown 
into a curious tumult of feeling by that scene 
in Charlie's room, began to feel her breath 
quicken with excitement even in the hostility 
of her heart. 

There was one thing that Miss Lance had 
foreseen, and that burst upon her at once 
when the maid opened the door — Colonel 
Kingsward, standing with his arm upon the 
mantel-piece and his countenance as if turned 
to stone. The shock which this sight gave 
her was very difficult to overcome or con- 
ceal, it struck her with a sudden dart as of 



THE sorcerp:ss. 225 

despair ; her impulse was to fling clown her 
arms, to acknowledge herself vanquished, 
and to retreat, a defeated and ruined adven- 
turess, but she was too brave and unalterably 
by nature too sanguine to do this. She 
gave him a nod and a smile, to which he 
scarcely responded, as she went towards Mrs. 
Leigh. 

*' How strange," she said, " when I come 
to see a new friend to find so old a friend ! 
I wondered if it could be Mr. Leigh's house, 
but I was not sure — of the number." 

'' I am afraid I cannot say I am glad to 
see you, Laura," said Mrs. Leigh. 

" No ? Perhaps it would have been too 
much to expect. We were, so to speak, on 
different sides. Poor Amy, I know, was 
never satisfactory to you, and I don't wonder. 
Of course you only thought of me as her 
friend." 

"If that were all !" Mrs. Leigh said. 

''Was there more than that .^ May I sit 
down ? I have had a long walk, and rather 
an exhaustive interview — and I did not 
expect to be put on my trial. But it is 
always best to know what one is accused of. 

VOL. III. Q 



2 26 THE SORCERESS. 

I think It quite natural — quite natural that 
you should not like me, Mrs. Leigh. I was 
Amy's friend and she was trying to you. 
She put me in a very false position which I 
ought never to have accepted. But yet — I 
understand your attitude, and I submit to it 
with respect — but, pardon me — sincerely, I 
don't know what there was more." 

Miss Lance had taken a chair, a perfectly 
upright one, on which few people could have 
sat gracefully. She made it evident that it 
was mere fatigue which made her subside 
upon it momentarily, and lifted her fine head 
and limpid eyes with so candid and respectful 
an air towards Mrs. Leigh's comfortable, 
unherolc face, that no contrast of the 
oppressed and oppressor could have been 
more marked. If anyone had suffered in the 
matter between these two ladies, it certainly 
was not the one with the rosy countenance 
and round, well-filled-out figure ; or so, at 
least, any impartial observer certainly would 
have felt. 

Mrs. Leigh, for her part, was almost 
speechless with excitement and anger. She 
had intended to keep perfectly calm, but the 



THE SORCERESS. 



227 



look, the tone, the appearance of this 
personage altogether, brought before her 
overpoweringly many past scenes — scenes 
in which, to tell the truth. Miss Lance had 
not been always in the wrong, in which the 
other figure, now altogether disappeared, 
of Aubrey's wife was the foremost, an 
immovable gentle-mannered fool, with whom 
all reason and argument were unavailing, 
whom everybody had believed to be inspired 
by the companion to whom she clung. All 
Amy's faults had been bound upon Laura's 
shoulders, but this was not altogether 
deserved, and Miss Lance did not shrink 
from anything that could be said on that 
subject. It required more courage to say, 
'' Was there anything more ?" 

" More!" cried Mrs. Leigh, choking with 
the remembrance. " More ! My boy's house 
was made unsafe for him, it was made miser- 
able to him, he was involved in every kind 
of danger and scandal, and she asks me if 
there was more ?" 

" Poor Amy," said Miss Lance, with a 
little pause on the name, shaking her head 
gently in compassion and regret. '* Poor 



2 28 THE SORCERESS. 

Amy put me In a very false position. I have 
already said so, I ought not to have accepted 
it, I ought not to have promised ; but it was 
so difficult to refuse a promise to the dying. 
Let Colonel KIngsward judge. She was 
very unwise, but she had been my friend 
from infancy and clung to me more, much 
more than I wished. She exacted a promise 
from me on her death-bed that I would never 
leave her child — -which was folly, and, 
perhaps more than folly, so far, at least, 
as I was concerned. You may imagine, 
Colonel KIngsward," she added, stead- 
fastly regarding him. He had kept his 
head turned away, not looking at her, but 
this gaze compelled him against his will 
to shift his position, to turn towards the 
appellant who made him the judge. He still 
kept his eyes away, but his head turned by 
an attraction which he could not withstand. 
"You mav Imagine, Colonel KIngsward — 
that I was the person who suffered most," 
Miss Lance said after that pause, " compelled 
to stay in a house where I had never been 
welcome, except to poor Amy, who was 
dead ; a sort of guardian, a sort of nurse, 



THE SORCERESS. 229 

and yet with none of their rights, held fast 
by a promise which I had given against my 
will, and which I never ceased to regret. 
You are a man, Colonel Kings ward, but you 
have more understanding of a woman's 
feelings than any I know. My position was 
a false one, it was cruel — but I was bound 
by my word." 

*' No one ought to have given such a 
promise," he said, coldly, with averted eyes. 

" You are always right, I ought not to 
have done so ; but she was dying, and I was 
fond of her, poor girl, though she was foolish 
— it is not always the wisest people one loves 
most — fond of her, very fond of her, and of 
her poor little child." 

The tears came to Miss Lance's eyes. She 
shook her head a little as if to shake them 
from her eyelashes. " Why should I cry ? 
They have been so long happy, happier far 
than we " 

Mrs. Leigh, the prosecutor, the accuser, 
gave a gulp, a sob ; the child was her grand- 
child, her only one — and besides anger in a 
woman is as prone to tears as sorrow. She 
gave a stifled cry, '' I don't deny you were 



230 THE SORCERESS. 

good to the child ; oh, Laura, I could have 
forgiven you everything ! But not — not " 

" What ? " Miss Lance said. 

Mrs. Leigh seized upon Bee by the arm 
and drew her forward — Aubrey's mother 
wanted words, she wanted eloquence, her 
arguments had to be pointed by fact. She 
took Bee, who had been standing in proud 
yet excited spectatorship, and held her by 
her own side. ''Aubrey," she said, almost 
inarticulately, and stopped to recover her 
breath — "Aubrey — whom you had driven 
from his home — found at last this dear girl, 
this nice, good girl, who would have made 
him a new life. But you interfered, you 
wrote to her father, you went — I don't know 
what you did — and said you had a claim, a 
prior claim. If you appeal to Colonel 
Kingsward, he is the best judge. You went 
to him " 

" Not to me, I was not aware, I never 
even saw Miss Lance till long after ; forgive 
me for interrupting you." 

Miss Lance turned towards him again 
with that full look of faith and confidence. 
" Always just!" she said. And this time for 



THE SORCERESS. 23 I 

a tremulous moment their eyes met. He 
turned his away again hastily, but he had 
received that touch ; an indefinable wavering 
came over his aspect of iron. 

" Yes," she said, " I do not deny it — it is 
quite true. Shall I now explain before every 
one who is here ? I think," she added, after 
a moment, "that my little Betty, who has 
nothing particular to do with it, may run 
away." 

*' I !" said Betty, clinging to the back of a 
chair. 

" Go," said her father, impatiently, '' go !" 

*' Yes, my dear, run away. Charlie must 
want some one. He will have got over me 
a little, and he will want some one. Dear 
little Betty, run away I" 

Miss Lance rose from her seat — probably 
that too was a relief to her — and, with a smile 
and a kiss, turned Betty out of the room. 
She came back then and sat down again. It 
gained a little time, and she was at a crisis 
harder than she had ever faced before. She 
had gained a moment to think, but even now 
she was not sure what way there was out of 
this strait, the most momentous in which she 



232 THE SORCERESS. 

had ever been. She looked round her at one 
after another with a look that seemed as 
secure and confident, as easy and natural, as 
before ; but her brain was working at the 
most tremendous rate, looking for some 
clue, some indication. She looked round 
as with a pause of conscious power, and 
then her gaze fixed itself on Bee. Bee stood 
near Mrs. Leigh's chair. She was standing 
firm but tremulous, a deeply concerned 
spectator, but there was on her face nothing 
of the eager attention with which a girl 
would listen to an explanation about her 
lover. She was not more interested than 
she had been before, not so much so as when 
Charlie was in question. When Mrs. Leigh, 
in her indictment, said, ''You interfered," 
Bee had made a faint, almost imperceptible 
movement of her head. The mind works 
very quickly when its fate hangs on the 
balance of a minute, and now, suddenly, the 
culprit arraigned before these terrible judges 
saw her way. 

" I interfered," Miss Lance said, slowly, 
'* but not because of any prior claim ;" — she 
paused again for a moment — " that would 



THE SORCERESS. 233 

have been as absurd as in the case Colonel 
Kingsward knows of. I interfered — because 
I had other reasons for believing that Aubrey 
Leigh was not the man to marry a dear, 
good, nice girl." 

"You had — other reasons, Laura! Mind 
what you are saying — you will have to prove 
your words," cried Mrs. Leigh, rising in her 
wrath, with an astonished and threatening 
face. 

" I do not ask his mother to believe me, 
It is before Colonel Kingsward," said Miss 
Lance, " that I stand or fall." 

'' Colonel Kingsward, make her speak out ! 
You know it was because she claimed my son 
— she, a woman twice his age ; and now she 

pretends Make her speak out ! How 

dare you ? You said he had promised to 
marry you — that he was bound to you. 
Colonel Kingsward, make her speak out !" 

" That was what I understood," he said, 
looking out of the window, his head turned 
half towards the other speakers, but not ven- 
turing to look at them. '' I did not see Miss 
Lance, but that was what I understood." 

Laura sat firm, as if she were made of 



234 THE SORCERESS. 

marble, but almost as pale. Her nerves 
were so highly strung that If she had for a 
moment relaxed their tension, she would have 
fallen to the ground. She sat like a rock, 
holding herself together with the strong grasp 
of her clasped hands. 

''You hear, you hear! You are convicted 
out of your own mouth Oh, you are cruel, 
you are wicked, Laura Lance! If you have 
anything to say speak out, speak out ! " 

" I will say nothing," said Miss Lance. 
" I will leave another, a better witness, to 
say It for me. Colonel KIngsward, ask your 
daughter If It was because of my prior claim, 
as his mother calls It, that she broke off her 
engagement with Aubrey Leigh." 

Colonel KIngsward turned, surprised, to 
his daughter, who, roused by the sound of 
her own name, looked up quickly — first at 
the seemingly composed and serious woman 
opposite to her, then at her father. He 
spoke to her angrily, abruptly. 

" Do you hear ? Answer the question 
that Is put to you. Was It because of this 
lady, or any claim of hers, that you — how 
shall I say It ? — a girl like you had no right 



THE SORCERKSS. 235 

to decide one way or the other — that you 
broke off — that your mind was changed 
towards Mr. Aubrey Leigh?" 

It appeared to Bee suddenly as if she had 
become the culprit, and all eyes were fixed on 
her. She trembled, looking at them all. 
What had she done ? She was surely un- 
happy enough, wretched enough, a clandes- 
tine visitor, keeping Aubrey out of his own 
house, and what had she to do with Aubrey? 
Nothing, nothing ! Nor he with her — that 
her heart should now be snatched out of her 
bosom publicly in respect to him. 

"That is long past," she said, faltering, 
" it is an old story. Mr. Aubrey Leigh is — 
a stranger to me ; it is of no consequence — ■ 
now ! 

** Bee," her father thundered at her, 
"answer the question! Was it because of — 
this lady that you changed your mind ?" 

Colonel Kings ward had always the art, 
somehow, of kindling the blaze of opposition 
in the blue eyes which w^ere so like his own. 
She looked at him almost fiercely in reply, 
fully roused. 

" No ! " she said, " no ! It was not because 



236 THE SORCERESS. 

of — that lady. It was another — reason of my 
own." 

"What was your reason?" cried Mrs. 
Leigh. ''Oh, Bee, speak! What was it, 
what was it ? Tell me, tell me, my dear, 
what was your reason ? that I may prove to 
you it was not true." 

'' Had it anything to do with — this lady ?'' 
asked Colonel Kingsward once more. 

" I never spoke to that lady but once," 
cried Bee, almost violently. " I don't know 
her ; I don't want to know her. She has 
nothing to do with it. It was because of 
something quite different, something that we 
heard — I — and mamma." 

Miss Lance looked at him with a smile on 
her face, loosing the grip of her hands, 
spreading them out in demonstration of her 
acquittal. She rose up slowly, her beautiful 
eyes filled with tears. She allowed it to be 
seen for the first time how she was shaken 
with emotion. 

'' You have heard," she said, '' a witness 
you trust more than me — if I put myself into 
the breach to secure a pause, it was only such 
a piece of folly as I have done before. I 



THE SORCERESS. 237 

hope now that you will let me withdraw. 
I am dreadfully tired, I am not fit for any 
more." 

She looked with that appeal upon her face, 
first at one of her judges, then at the other. 
" If you are satisfied, let me go." It 
seemed as if she could not say a word more. 
They made no response, but she did not wait 
for that. " I take it for granted," she added, 
''that by that child's mouth I am cleared," 
and then she turned towards the door. 

Colonel Kings ward, with a little start, 
came from his place by the mantel-piece 
and opened it for her, as he would have done 
for any woman. She let it appear that this 
movement was unexpected, and went to her 
heart ; she paused a moment looking up at 
him — her eyes swimming in tears, her mouth 
quivering. 

" How kind you are ! " she said, " even 
though you don't believe in me any more I 
but I have done all I can. I am very tired, 
scarcely able to walk." He stood rigid, 
and made no sign, and she, looking at him, 
softly shook her head — " Let me see you at 
least once," she said, very low, in a pleading 
tone, "this eveninor, some time ? " 



238 THE SORCERESS. 

Still he gave no answer, standing like a 
man of iron, holding the door open. She 
gave him another look, and then walked 
quietly, but with a slight quiver and half 
stumble, away. They all stood watching 
until her tall figure was seen to pass the 
window, disappearing in the street, which is 
the outer world. 

" Colonel Kings ward — " said Mrs. Leigh. 

He started at the sound of his name, as if 
he had but just awakened out of a dream, 
and began to smooth his hat, which all this 
time he had held in his hands. 

" Excuse me," he said, excuse me, another 
time. I have some pressing business to see 
to now." 

And he, too, disappeared into that street 
which led both ways, into the monotony of 
London, which is the world. 



CHAPTER X\MI. 

Those who were left behind were not very 
careful of what Colonel Kings ward did. 
They w^ere not thinking of his concerns ; in 
the strain of personal feeling the most 
generous of human creatures is forced to 
think first of their own. Neither of the 
women w^ho were left in the room had any 
time to consider the matter, but if they had 
they would have made sure without hesita- 
tion that nothing which could happen to 
Colonel Kingsw^ard could be half so 
important as that crisis in which his daughter 
was involved. 

Mrs. Leigh turned round upon the girl by 
her side and seized her hands. *' Bee," she 
cried, "now w^e are alone and we can speak 



240 THE SORCERESS. 

freely. Tell me what it was, there Is nobody 
here to frighten you, to take the words from 
your mouth. What was it, what was It 
that made you turn from Aubrey ? At last, 
at last, It can be cleared up whatever It was." 

Bee turned away, trying to disengage her 
hands. " It is of no consequence," she said, 
" Oh, don't make me go back to those old, 
old things. What does it matter to Mr. 
Leigh ? And as for me " 

" It matters everything to Aubrey. He 
will be able to clear himself if you will give 
him the chance. How could he clear himself 
when he was never allowed to speak, when 
he did not know ? Bee, in justice, in mere 
justice ! What was it ? You said your 
mother " 

''Yes, I had her then. We heard It 
together, and she felt It like me. But we 
had no time to talk of It after, for she was 111. 
If you would please not ask me, Mrs. Leigh ! 
I was very miserable — mother dying, and 
nowhere, nowhere In all the world anything 
to trust to. Don't, oh ! don't make me go 
back upon it ! I am not — so very — happy, 
even now !" 



THE SORCERESS. 24I 

The girl would not let herself be drawn 
into Mrs. Leigh's arms. She refused to rest 
her head upon the warm and ample bosom 
which was offered to her. She drew away 
her hands. It was difficult, very difficult, to 
keep from crying. It is always hard for a 
girl to keep from crying when her being is 
so moved. The only chance for her was to 
keep apart from all contact, to stand by her- 
self and persuade herself that nobody cared 
and that she was alone in the world. 

'' Bee, I believe," said Mrs. Leigh, 
solemnly, "that you have but to speak a 
word and you will be happy. You have not 
your mother now. You can't turn to her and 
ask her what you should do. But I am sure 
that she would say, 'speak!' If she were here 
she would not let you break a man's heart 
and spoil his life for a punctilio. I have 
always heard she was a good woman and 
kind — kind. Bee," the elder lady laid her 
hand suddenly on the girl's shoulder, making 
her start, " she would say ' speak ' if she were 
here." 

*' Oh, mamma, if you were here ! " said 
Bee, through her tears. 

VOL. III. R 



242 THE SORCERESS. 

She broke down altogether and became 
inarticulate, sobbing with her face buried in 
her hands. The ordeal of the last two days 
had been severe. Charlie and his concerns 
and the appearance of Miss Lance, and the 
conflict only half understood which had been 
going on round her, had excited and dis- 
turbed her beyond expression, as everybody 
could see and understand. But, indeed, 
these were but secondary elements in the 
storm which had overwhelmed Bee, which 
was chiefly brought back by that sudden 
plunge into the atmosphere of Aubrey. The 
sensation of being in his house, which she 
might in other circumstances have shared with 
him, of sitting at his table, in his seat, under 
the roof that habitually sheltered him — here, 
where her own life ought to have been passed, 
but where the first condition now was that 
there should be nothing of him visible. In 
Aubrey's house, but not for Aubrey ! Aubrey 
banished, lest perhaps her eyes might fall 
upon him by chance, or her ears be offended 
by the sound of his voice ! Even his mother 
did not understand how much this had to do 
with the passion and trouble of the girl, from 



THE SORCERESS. 243 

whose eyes the innocent name of her mother, 
sweetest though saddest of memories, had let 
forth the salt and boiling tears. If Mrs. 
Leigh had been anybody in the world save 
Aubrey's mother, Bee would have clung to her, 
accepting the tender support and consolation 
of the elder women's arms and her sympathy, 
but from Aubrey's mother she felt herself 
compelled to keep apart. 

It was not until her almost convulsive sob- 
bing was over that this question could be 
re-opened, and in the meantime Betty having 
heard the sound of the closing door came 
rushing dowstairs and burst into the room : 
perhaps she was not so much disturbed or 
excited as Mrs. Leigh was by Bee's con- 
dition. She gave her sister a kiss as she lay 
on the sofa where Mrs. Leigh had placed her, 
and patted her on the shoulder. 

" She will be better when she has had it 
out," said Betty. "She has worked herseh 
up into such a state about Miss Lance. And 
oh, please tell me what has happened. You 
are her enemy, too, Mrs. Leigh — oh, how 
can you misjudge her so ! As if she had been 
the cause of any harm ! I was sent away," 



244 THE SORCERESS. 

said Betty, " and, of course, Bee could not 
speak — but I could have told you. Yes, of 
course, I knew! How could I help knowing, 
being her sister ? I can't tell whether she 
told me, I knew without telling ; and, of 
course, she must have told me. This is how 
it was " 

Bee put forth her hand and caught her 
sister by the dress, but Betty was not so 
easily stopped. She turned round quickly, 
and took the detaining hand into her own 
and patted and caressed it. 

" It is far better to speak out," she said, 
" it must be told now, and though I am 
young and you call me little Betty, I cannot 
help hearing, can I, what people say ? Mrs. 
Leigh, this was how it was. Whatever 
happened about dear Miss Lance — whom I 
shall stick to and believe in whatever you 
say," cried Betty, by way of an interlude, 
with flashing eyes, ''that had nothing, 
nothing to do with it. That was a story — 
like Charlie's, I suppose, and Bee no more 
made a fuss about it than I should do. 
It was after, when Bee was standing by 
Aubrey, like — like Joan of Arc ; yes, of 



THE SORCERESS. 245 

course I shall call him Aubrey — I should like 
to have him for a brother, but that has got 
nothing to do with it. A lady came to call 
upon mamma, and she told a story about 
someone on the railway who had met Aubrey 
on the way home after that scene at Cologne, 
after he was engaged to Bee, and was miserable 
because of papa's opposition." Betty spoke 
so fast that her words tumbled over each 
other, so to speak, in the rush for utterance. 
" Well, he was seen," she resumed, pausing 
for breath, "putting a young woman with 
children into one of the sleeping carriages — a 
poor young woman that had no money or 
right to be there. He put her in, and when 
they got to London he was seen talking to 
her, and giving her money, as if she belonged 
to him. I don't see any harm in that, for he 
was always kind to poor people. But these 
ladies did, and I suppose so did mamma, 
and Bee blazed up. That is just like her. 
She takes fire, she never waits to ask ques- 
tions, she stops her ears. She thought it 
was something dreadful, showing that he had 
never cared for her, that he had cared for 
other people even when he was pretending, 



246 THE SORCERESS. 

I should have done quite different. I should 
have said, " Now, look here, Aubrey, what 
does it mean ? " — or, rather, I should never 
have thought anything but that he was kind. 
He was always kind — silly, indeed, about 
poor people, as so many are." 

Mrs. Leigh had followed Betty's rapid 
narrative with as much attention as she could 
concentrate upon it, but the speed with 
which the words flew forth, the little inter- 
ruptions, the expressions of Betty's matured 
and wise opinions, bewildered her beyond 
measure. 

" What does it all mean ?" she asked, look- 
ing from one to another when the story was 
done. "A sleeping carriage on the railway 
— a woman with children — as if she belonged 
to him ? How could a woman with children 
belong to him ?" Then she paused and grew 
crimson with an old woman's painful blush. 
" Is it vice, horrible vulgar vice, this child is 
attributing to my boy ?" 

The two girls stared, confused and 
troubled Bee got up from the sofa and put 
her hands to her head, her eyes fixed upon 
Mrs. Leigh with an appalled and horrified 



THE SORCERESS. 247 

look. She had not asked herself ot what 
Aubrey had been accused. She had fled 
from him before the dreadful thought of 
relationships she did not understand, of 
something which was the last insult to her, 
whatever it might be in itself. "Vulgar vice !" 
The girls were cowed as if some guilt had 
been imputed to themselves. 

"You are not like anything I have known, 
you girls of the period," cried the angry 
mother. " You are acquainted with such 
things as I at my age had never heard of. 
You make accusations! But now — he shall 
answer for himself," she said, flaming with 
righteous wrath. Mrs. Leigh went to the 
bell and rang it so violently that the sound 
echoed all over the house. 

" Go and ask your master to come here at 
once, directly; I want him this moment," she 
said, stamping her foot In her impatience. 
And then there was a pause. The man went 
off and was seen from the window to cross 
the street on his errand. Then Bee rose, her 
tears hastily dried up, pushing back from her 
forehead her disordered hair. 

" I had better go. If you have sent for 
Mr. Leigh it will be better that I should go." 



248 THE SORCERESS. 

Mrs. Leigh was almost incapable of speech. 
She took Bee by the shoulders and put her 
back almost violently on the sofa. ''You 
shall stay there," she said, in a choked and 
angry voice. 

What a horrible pause it was ! The girls 
were silent, looking at each other with wild 
alarm. Betty, who had blurted out the story, 
but to whom the idea of repeating it before 
Aubrey — before a man — was unspeakable 
horror, made a step towards the door. Then 
she said, '* No, I will not run away," with 
tremendous courage. *' It is not our fault," 
she added, after a pause. '' Bee, if I have 
got to say it again, give me your hand." 

*' It is I who ought to say it," said Bee, 
pale with the horror of what was to come. 
''Vulgar vice !" And she to accuse him, and 
to stand up before the world and say that 
was why ! 

It seemed a long time, but it was really 
only a few minutes, before Aubrey appeared. 
He came in quickly, breathless with haste 
and suspense. He expected, from what his 
mother had told him, to find Miss Lance and 
Colonel Kingsward there. He came into 



THE SORCERESS. 249 

the agitated room and found, of all people in 
the world, Bee and Betty, terrified, and his 
mother, walking about the room sounding, as 
it were, a metaphorical lash about their ears, 
in the frank passion of an elder woman who 
has the most just cause of offence and no 
reason to bate her breath. There was some- 
thing humorous in the tragic situation, but 
to them it was wholly tragic, and Aubrey, 
seeing for the first time after so long an 
interval the girl he loved, and seeing her 
in such strange circumstances, was by no 
means disposed to see any humorous side. 

"Here, Aubrey!" said his mother, "I 
have called upon you to hear what you are 
accused of You thought it was Laura 
Lance, but she has nothing to do with it. 
You are accused of travelling from Germany, 
that time when you were sent off from 
Cologne — the time those Kingswards turned 
upon you " — (the girls both started, and 
recovered themselves a little at the shock of 
this contemptuous description), — ''travelling 
in sleeping carriages and I know not what 
with a woman and children, who were be- 
lieved to belong to you ! What have you to 
say ? " 



250 THE SORCERESS. 

'' That was not what I said, Mrs. Leigh." 

" What have you to say ? " cried Mrs. 
Leigh, waving her hand to silence Betty ; 
" the accused has surely the right to speak 
first." 

" What have I to say ? But to what, 
mother ? What is it ? Was I travelling with 
a woman and children ? I suppose I was 
travelling — with all the women and children 
that were in the same train. But otherwise, 
of course you know I was with nobody. 
What does it mean ? " 

Bee got up from the sofa like a ghost, her 
blue eyes wild, her face pale. " Oh, let us 
go, let us go! Do not torment us," she said. 
" I will acknowledge that it was not true. 
Now that I see him I am sure that it was not 
true. I was mad. I was so stung to think 

Mrs. Leigh, do not kill me ! I did 

him no harm ; do not, do not go over it any 
more !" 

''Go over what ?" cried Aubrey. ''Bee! 
She can't stand, she doesn't see where she is 
going. Mother, what on earth does it matter 
what was against me if it is all over ? 
Mother ! How dare you torture my poor 
girl-?" 



THE SORCERESS. 25 I 

This was naturally all the thanks Mrs. 
Leigh got for her efforts to unravel the 
mystery, which the reader knows was the 
most innocent mystery, and which had never 
been cleared up or thought of since that day. 
It came clear of itself the moment that 
Aubrey, only to support her, took Bee into 
his arms. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

The Sorceress walked away very slowly 
down the street. 

She had the sensation of having fallen 
from a great height, after the excitement of 
having fought bravely to keep her place 
there, and of having anticipated every step 
of a combat still more severe which yet had 
not come to pass after her previsions. It 
had been a fight lasting for hours, from the 
moment Betty, all unconscious, had told her 
of the house in which Charlie was. That 
was in the morning, and now it was late 
afternoon, and the work of the day, the 
common work of the day in which all the 
innocent common people about had been 
employed, was rounding towards its end. It 
seemed to her a long, long time that she had 



THE SORCERESS. 253 

been involved, first in imagination, in 
severe thought, and then in actual conflict 
— in this struggle, fighting for her life. 
From the beginning she had made up 
her mind that she should fail. It was 
a consciously losing game that she had 
fought so gallantly, never giving in ; and 
indeed she was not unaware, nor was she 
without a languid satisfaction in the fact that 
she had indeed carried off the honours of the 
field, that it would not be said that she had 
been beaten. But what did that matter? 
Argument she knew and felt had nothing to 
do with such affairs. She had known herself 
to have lost from the moment she saw 
Colonel Kingsward standing there against the 
mantelpiece in the dining-room. It had not 
been possible for her then to give in, to 
turn and go forth into the street flinging 
down her arms. On the contrary, it was 
her nature to fight to the last ; and she 
had carried off an apparent victory. She had 
marched ofT w^ith colours flying from the field 
of battle, leaving every enemy confounded. 
But she herself entertained no illusion in the 
matter. It was possible no doubt that her 



254 THE SORCERESS. 

Spell might yet be strong enough upon her 
middle-aged captive to make him ignore and 
pass over everything that told against her — 
but, after considering the situation with a 
keen and close survey of every likelihood, 
she dismissed that hope. No, her chance 
was lost — again ; the battle was over — again. 
It had been so near being successful that the 
shock was greater perhaps than usual ; but 
she had now been feeling the shock for 
hours ; so that her actual fall was as much a 
relief as a pang, and her mind, full of resource, 
obstinately sanguine, was becoming ready to 
pass on to the next chance, and had already 
sprung up to think — What now ? 

I am sorry that in this story I have always 
been placed in natural opposition to this 
woman, who was certainly a creature full of 
interest, full of resource, and indomitable in 
her way. And she had a theory of existence, 
as, it is my opinion, we all must have, 
making out to ourselves the most plausible 
reasons and excuses for all we do. Her 
struggle — in which she would not have 
denied that she had sometimes been un- 
scrupulous — had always been for a standing- 



THE SORCERESS. 255 

ground on which, If once attained, she could 
have been good. She had always promised 
herself that she would be good when once 
she had attained — oh, excellent ! kind, just, 
true ! — a model woman. And what, after 
all, had been her methods ? There had 
been little harm In them. Here and there 
somebody had been injured, as In the case 
of Aubrey Leigh, of Charlie KIngsward. 
To the first she had indeed done con- 
siderable harm, but then she had soothed 
the life of Amy, his little foolish wife, to 
whom she had been more kind than she had 
been unkind to him. She had not wanted to 
be the third person between that tiresome 
couple. She had stayed in his house from a 
kind of sense of duty, and had Aubrey Leigh 
indeed asked her to become his second wife 
she would, of course, have accepted him for 
the sake of the position, but with a grimace, 
She was not particularly sorry for having 
harmed him. It served him right for — well, 
for being Aubrey Leigh. And as for Bee 
KIngsward, she had triumphantly proved, 
much to her own surprise It must be said, 
that it was not she who had done Bee any 



256 THE SORCERESS. 

harm. Then Charlie — poor Charlie, poor 
boy ! He thought, of course, that he was 
very miserable and badly used. Great 
heavens ! that a boy should have the folly 
to imagine that anything could make him 
miserable, at twenty-two — a man, and with 
all the world before him. Miss Lance at 
this moment was not in the least sorry for 
Charlie. It would do him good. A young 
fellow who had nothing in the world to 
complain of, who had everything in his 
favour — it was good for him to be unhappy 
a little, to be made to remember that he was 
only flesh and blood after all. 

Thus she came to the conclusion, as she 
walked along, that really she had done no 
harm to other people. To herself, alas ! she 
was always doing harm, and every failure 
made it more and more unlikely that she 
would ever succeed. She did not brood over 
her losses when she was thus defeated. She 
turned to the next thing that offered with 
what would have been in a better cause a 
splendid philosophy, but yet in moments like 
this she felt that it became every day more 
improbable that she would ever succeed. 



THE SORCERESS. 257 

Instead of the large and liberal sphere in 
which she always hoped to be able to fulfil 
all the duties of life in an imposing and 
remarkable way, she would have prob- 
ably to drop into — what ? A governess's 
place, for which she would already be 
thought too old, some dreadful position about 
a school, some miserable place as house- 
keeper — she with all her schemes, her hopes 
of better things, her power over others. 
This prospect was always before her, and 
came back to her mind at moments when 
she was at the lowest ebb, for she had no 
money at all. She had always been depen- 
dent upon somebody. Even now her little 
campaign in George Street, Hanover Square, 
was at the expense of the friend with whom 
she had lived in Oxford, and who believed 
Laura was concerting measures to establish 
herself permanently in some remunerative 
occupation. These accounts would have to be 
settled somehow, and some other expedient 
be found by which to try again. Well, one 
thing done with, another to come on — was not 
that the course of life? And there was a cer- 
tain relief in the thought that it was done with. 

VOL. Ill s 



258 THE SORCERESS. 

The suspense was over ; there was no longer 
the conflict between hope and fear, which 
wears out the nerves and clouds the clearness 
of one's mental vision. One down, another 
come on ! She said this to herself with a 
forlorn laugh in the depths of her being, yet 
not so very forlorn. This woman had a kind 
of pleasure In the new start, even when she 
did not know what it was to be. There are 
a great many things in which I avow I have 
the greatest sympathy with her, and find her 
more interesting than a great many blame- 
less people. Poetic justice is generally in 
books awarded to such persons. But that is, 
one is aware, not always the case in life. 

While Miss Lance went on quietly along 
the long unlovely street, with those thoughts 
in her mind, walking more slowly than usual, 
a little languid and exhausted after her 
struggle, but as has been said frankly and 
without arriere pensed giving up the battle as 
lost, and accepting her defeat — she became 
suddenly aware of a quick firm footstep 
behind, sounding fast and continuous upon 
the pavement. A woman like this has all 
her wits very sharply about her, the ears and 



THE SORCERESS. 259 

the sight of a savage, and an unslumbering 
habit of observation, or she could never carry 
on her career. She heard the step and 
instinctively noted it before her mind awoke 
to any sense of meaning and importance in 
it. Then, all at once, as it came just to 
that distance behind which made it apparent 
that this footstep was following some- 
one who went before, it suddenly 
slackened without stopping, became slow 
when it had been fast. At this, her thoughts 
flew away like a mist and she became all 
ears, but she was too wise to turn round, to 
display any interest. Perhaps it might be 
that he was only going his own way, not 
intending to follow, and that he had slackened 
his pace unconsciously without ulterior motives 
when he saw her in front of him — though 
this Miss Lance scarcely believed. 

Perhaps — I will not affirm it — she threw a 
little more of her real languor and weariness 
into her attitude and movements when she 
made this exciting discovery. She was, in 
reality, very tired. She had looked so when 
she left the house ; perhaps she had forgotten 
her great fatigue a little in the course of 



2 6o THE SORCERESS. 

her walk, but it now came back again with 
double force, which is not unusual in the 
most matter of fact circumstances. As her 
pace grew slower, the footstep behind 
became slower . also, but always followed 
on. Miss Lance proceeded steadily, choos- 
ing the quietest streets, pausing now and 
then at a shop window to rest. The climax 
came when she reached a window which 
had a rail round it, upon which she leaned 
heavily, every line of her dress expressing, 
with a faculty which her garments specially 
possessed, an exhaustion which could scarcely 
go further. Then she raised her head to 
look what the place was. It was full of 
embroideries and needlework, a woman's 
shop, where she was sure of sympathy. She 
went in blindly, as if her very sight were 
clouded with her fatigue. 

''I am very tired," she said; 'T want some 
silk for embroidery ; but that is not my chief 
object. May I sit down a little ? I am so 
very tired." 

'' Certainly, ma'am, certainly," cried the 
mistress of the shop, rushing round from 
behind the counter to place a chair for her 



THE SORCERESS. 26 1 

and offer a glass of water. She sat down so 
as to be visible from the door, but still with 
her back to it. The step had stopped, and 
there was a shadow across the window — the 
tall shadow of a man looking in. A smile 
came upon Miss Lance's face — of gratitude 
and thanks to the kind people — also perhaps 
of some internal satisfaction. But she did 
not act as if she were conscious of anyone 
waiting for her. She took the glass of water 
with many acknowledgments ; she leant back 
on the chair murmuring, " Thanks, thanks," 
to the exhortations of the shop-woman not to 
hurry, to take a good rest. She did not 
hurry at all. Finally, she was so much better 
as to be able to buy her silks, and, declaring 
herself quite restored, to go out again into 
the open air. 

She was met by the shadow that had been 
visible through the w^indow, and which, as she 
knew very well, was Colonel Kingsward, stiff 
and embarrassed, vet with crreat anxietv in 
his face. '* I feared you were ill," he said, 
with a little jerk, the words coming in spite of 
him. '' I feared you were fainting." 

"Oh, Colonel Kingsward, you!" 



262 THE SORCERESS. 

"Yes — I feared you were fainting. It Is 
— nothing, I hope?" 

" Nothing but exhaustion," she said, with a 
faint smile. '' I was very tired, but I have 
rested and I am a little better now." 

'' Will you let me call a cab for you? You 
don't seem fit to walk." 

"Oh, no cab, thanks! I would much 
rather walk — the air and the slow movement 
does one a little good." 

She was pale, and her voice was rather 
faint, and every line of her dress, as I have 
said, was tired — tired to death — and yet not 
ungracefully tired. 

" I cannot let you go like this alone." His 
voice softened every moment ; they went on 
for a step or two together. '' You had better 
— take my arm, at least," he said. 

She took it with a little cry and a sudden 
clasp. " I think you are not a mere man, but 
an archangel of kindness and goodness," she 
said, with a faint laugh that broke down, and 
tears in her eyes. 

And I think for that moment, in the extra- 
ordinary revulsion of feeling, Miss Lance 
almost believed what she said. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

What more Is there to say ? It is better, 
when one is able to deal poetic justice all 
round, to reward the good and punish the 
evil. Who are the good and who are the 
evil ? We have not to do with murderers, 
with breakers of the law, with enemies of 
God or man. If Aubrey Leigh had not been 
exceedingly imprudent, if Bee had not been 
hot-headed and passionate, there would never 
have been that miserable breach between 
them. And the Sorceress, who destroyed for 
a time the peace of the Kings ward family, 
really never at any time meant that family 
any real harm. She meant them indeed, to 
her own consciousness, all the good in the 
world, and to promote their welfare in every 
way by making them her own. And 



264 THE SORCERESS. 

as a matter of fact she did so, devoting 
herself to their welfare. She made 

Colonel Kings ward an excellent wife and 
adopted his children into her sedulous and 
unremitting care with a zeal which a mother 
could not have surpassed. Her translation 
from scheming poverty to abundance, and 
that graceful modest wealth which is almost 
the most beautiful of the conditions of life, 
was made in a way which was quite exquisite 
as a work of art. Nobody could ever have 
suspected that she had been once poor. She 
had all the habits of the best society. There 
was nowhere they could go, even into the 
most exalted regions, where the new Mrs. 
Kingsward was not distinguished. She ex- 
tended the Colonel's connections and interest, 
and made his house popular and delightful ; 
and she was perfect for his children. 
Even the county people and near neighbours, 
who were the most critical, acknowledged 
this. The little girls soon learned to adore 
their step- mother ; the big boys admired 
and stood in awe of her, submitting more or 
less to her influence, though a little suspicious 
and sometimes half hostile. As for baby, 



THE SORCERESS. 265 

who had been in a fair way of growing up 
detestable and a little family tyrant, his 
father's new marriage was the saving of 
him. He scarcely knew as he grew up that 
the former ^liss Lance was not his mother, 
and he was said in the family to be her idol, 
but a very well disciplined and well behaved 
Idol, and the one of the boys who was 
likely to have the finest career. 

Charlie, poor Charlie, was not so fortunate, 
at least at first. The appointment which 
Colonel KIngsward declared he had been 
looking out for all along was got as soon 
as Charlie was able to accept It, and he 
left England when he was little more than 
convalescent. People said It was strange 
that a man with considerable infiuence, and 
in the very centre of affairs, should have sent 
his eldest son away to the ends of the earth, 
to a dangerous climate and a difficult post. 
But it turned out very well on the whole, for 
after a few years of languor and disgust with 
the world, there suddenly fell in Charlie's way 
an opportunity of showing that there was, 
after all, a great deal of English pluck 
and courage In him. I do not think it came 
to anything more than that — but then that, 



266 THE SORCERESS. 

at certain moments, has been the foundation 
and the saving of the British Empire In 
various regions of the world. There was 
not one of his relations who celebrated 
Charlie's success with so much fervour as his 
step-mother, who was never tired of talking 
of It, nor of declaring that she had always 
expected as much, and known what was In 
him. Dear Charlie, she said, had fulfilled all 
her expectations, and made her more glad 
and proud than words could say. It was a 
poor return for this maternal devotion, yet a 
melancholy fact, that Charlie turned away In 
disgust whenever he heard of her, and could 
not endure her name. 

Bee, whose little troubles have been so 
much the subject of this story, accomplished 
her fate by becoming Mrs. Aubrey Leigh In 
the natural course of events. There was no 
family quarrel kept up to scandalise and 
amuse society, but there never was much 
Intercourse nor any great cordiality between 
the houses of Kingswarden and Forest- 
lelgh. I think, however, that it was against 
her father that Bee's heart revolted most. 

THE END. 



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