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"THE CflROXICLES OF CARLIXGFORD,"
"THE CUCKOO IN THE NEST,"
/X THREE VOL UMES.
F. V. WHITE & Co.,
31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C
\A L L R IG H TS R /iS ER VED ]
TILLJTSON and son, BOLTON,
LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BERLIN.
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
'*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
" I did not think It was a game that would
"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
'' 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
•' 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
"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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
"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 —
" 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
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
'* 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
" 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
" 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
''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
" 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.
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
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
'' 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 — ■ — ;
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
" 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.
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
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
" 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
''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-
'' 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
" 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.
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
*' The gentleman did call, sir, yesterday."
"What?" cried Colonel Kingsward, in a
voice like a trumpet ; but the man stood his
" 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,
" 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
'* 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
" 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-
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
" 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
"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
''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
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
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
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
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.
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
" 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
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
'' 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
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
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
'' 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
''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
"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
*' 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
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.
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
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 ? —
I20 THE SORCERESS
" By herself," said the nurse, laconic ; and
almost inaudible as this conversation was, it
occasioned a stirring and movement in the
*' What a noise you make," cried a queru-
lous, unsteady voice, ''Who's there — who's
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
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
" 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.
" I say — hold your tongue, can't you ?
Who wants you to talk — of anything of that
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
'* 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
'' 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
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
" 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
'' 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
"Papa was not rude," said Bee, "he is
128 THE SORCERESS.
never rude ; he Is a gentleman. Worse than
"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
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
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
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-
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
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
" 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,
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,
" 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.
"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
*' Why not here ? She'll go anywhere to do
a kind thing."
" But not to this house — not here, not
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."
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
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
" Why all these old togies ? " he had asked
irreverently, as the gentlemen with stars on
their coats and the ladies in diamonds came
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,"
" 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
" 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
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
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.
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
'*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,
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
'' 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
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
'' 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
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
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
" 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
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
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 ? "
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
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
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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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 !"
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
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
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
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
" 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
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
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
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
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
" Oh, I have not wished to do so," said
Bee. "It is some friends that we are
"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,
" 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 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
" 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
'' 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
"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
''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
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
"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-
" 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
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
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
"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
" 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 !"
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
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.
*' 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
"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
Mrs. Leigh, for her part, was almost
speechless with excitement and anger. She
had intended to keep perfectly calm, but the
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
*' I !" said Betty, clinging to the back of a
" 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
" 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 — ■
** 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,
" No ! " she said, " no ! It was not because
236 THE SORCERESS.
of — that lady. It was another — reason of my
"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
'' 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
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
" 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
And he, too, disappeared into that street
which led both ways, into the monotony of
London, which is the world.
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
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
''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
*' 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
" 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
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
" 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
''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
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
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
'' 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
" 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.
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.
TILLOTSON AND SON PRINTERS BOLTON
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