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Full text of "The woman's kingdom: A love story"

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vV^ 






The Woman 's Kingdom 



Dinah Maria IVIulock Craik 




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By the Author of "John Halifax." 



From the North British Review, 

She attempts to show how the trials, perplexities, joys, sorrows, la- 
bors, and successes of life deepen or wither the character according to 
its inward bent. 

She cares to teach, nU how dishonesty is always plunging men into 
infinitely more complicated external difficulties than it would in real life, 
but how any continued insincerity gradually darkens and corrupts the 
very life-springs of the mind ; not how all events conspire to crush an 
unreal being who«is to be the " example " of the story, but how every 
event, adverse or fortunate, tends to strengthen and expand a high mind, 
and to break the springs of a selfish or merely weak and self-indulgent 
nature. 

She does not limit herself to domestic conversations, and the mere 
shock of character on character ; she includes a large range of events — 
the influence of worldly successes and failures — the risks of commercial 
enterprises — ^the power of social position — ^in short, the various elements 
of a wider economy than that generally admitted into a tale. 

She has a true respect for her work, and never permits herself to 
"make books," and yet she has evidently very great facility in making 
them. 

There are few writers who have exhibited a more marked progress, 
whether in freedom of touch or in depth of purpose, than the authoress 
of "The Ogilvies" and "John Halifax." 



HANNAH. 8vo, Paper, 50 cents ; i2mo, Cloth, %\ 50. 

MOTHERLESS ; or, A Parisian Family. Translated from 
the French of Madame De Witt, nie Guizot. For Girls 
in their Teens. . Illustrated. i2mo. Cloth, $1 50. 

FAIR FRANCE. Impressions of a Traveller. i2mo. 
Cloth, $1 50. 

A BRAVE LADY. With Illustrations. 8vo, Paper, $1 00 ; 
Cloth, $1 50; i2mo. Cloth, %i 50. 

A FRENCH COUNTRY FAMILY. Translated from the 
French of Madame De Witt, nie Guizot. Illustrated. 
i2mo, Cloth, $1 50. 

A HERO, AND Other Tales. i2mo. Cloth, %\ 25. 



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By the Author of ''John Halifaxr 



A LIFE FOR A LIFE. 8vo, Paper, 50 cents ; i2mo, Cloth, 
$1 so. 

AGATHA'S HUSBAND. 8vo, Paper, 50 cents; i2mo, 
Cloth, $1 50. 

A NOBLE LIFE. i2mo. Cloth, $1 50. 

AVILLION, AND Other Tales. 8vo, Paper, %\ 25. 

CHRISTIAN'S MISTAKE. i2mo. Cloth, %i 50. 

FAIRY BOOK. Illustrated. i2mo. Cloth, $1 50. 

HEAD OF THE FAMILY. Svo, Paper, 75 cents ; i2mo, 
Cloth, $1 50. 

JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN. Svo, P^per, 75 cents; 
i2mo, Cloth, $1 50. 

MISTRESS AND MAID. Svo, Paper, 50 cents; i2mo, 
Cloth, $1 50. 

NOTHING NEW. Svo, Paper, 50 cents. 

OGILVIES. Svo, Paper, 50 cents ; i2mo, Cloth, $1 50. 

OLIVE. Svo, Paper, 50 cents ; i2mo. Cloth, $1 50. 

OUR YEAR. Illustrated. i6mo, Cloth, Gilt Edges, 
%\ 00. 

STUDIES FROM LIFE. i2mo. Cloth, $i 25. 

THE TWO MARRIAGES. i2mo, Cloth, %i 50. 

THE UNKIND WORD, and Other Stories. i2mo, 
Cloth, $1 50. 

THE WOMAN'S KINGDOM. Illustrated. Svo, Paper, 
$1 00; Cloth, $1 50; i2nio, Cloth, $1 50. 

BOOKS FOR GIRLS. Written or Edited by the Author 
of "John Halifax." Illustrated. i6mo, Cloth, 90 cents 
each. Now ready : 

LITTLE SUNSHINE'S HOLIDAY. 

THE COUSIN FROM INDIA. 

TWENTY YEARS AGO. 



• Harper & Brothers will send either of the above worhs by maily postage 
prepaid, to any part of the United States^ on receipt of the price. 



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vou abJ.i«^te i*. 



/vyV/./' YORK: 
H \ R ? . i' & i: K ( ) '!• If. n R s, !• i; : i . 

f- H A ^' A I. I N SO I -. K 1. 
1872. 



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THE 

WOMAN'S KINGDOM. 

A LOVE STORY. 



BY THE AUTHOR OF 

'JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN," "HANNAH," "A BRAVE LADY," 

"MISTRESS AND MAID," "OLIVE," "THE OGILVIES," 

"THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY," &c, &c 



" Queens you must always be : queens to your lovers ; queens to your husbands 
and your sons ; queens of higher mystery to the world beyond. . . . But, alas 1 you 
are too often idle and careless queens, grasping at majesty in the least things, while 
you abdicate it in the greatest I"— John Ruskin. 



NEW YORK: 

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, 

FRANKLIN SQUARE. 
1872. 



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HARVARD 

[university! 

LIBRARY 
SEP 16 1960 



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fUebuation: 

TO 

MONA MARGARET PATON. 



My little girl I sweet uncrowned queen 

Of a fair kingdom, dim and far ; 
Whose budding life 'neath rosy screen 
Scarce recognizes yet, I ween, 

What lives of other women are ; 

Child, when the burden we lay down, 

Thy tender hands must lift and bear ; 
The household sceptre and love-crown, 
Green-wreathed, or hung with dead leaves brown — 
Take courage. Both are holy wear. 

Better to love than to be loved : 

Better to serve, and serving guide. 
Than wait, with idle oars unproved, 
And flapping sail by each breath moved. 
The turning of life's solemn tide. 

Live, work, and love ; as Heaven assign 
For heaven, or man, thy sacred part ; 

Ancestress of a noble line, 

Or calm in maidenly decline ; — 

But keep till death the woman's heart 



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THE WOMAN'S KINGDOM. 



^* Queens you must always be: Queens to your lovers: Queens to your 
husbands and your sons : Queens of higher mystery to the world beyond, 

But, alas I You are too often idle and careless Queens, grasping at 

majesty in the least things, while you abdicate it in the greatest^'* — ^JOHN 

RUSKIN. 



THB TWO 8I8TKBB. 



CHAPTER I. 



" Oh, Edna, I am so tired I And this is the very dullest 
place in all the world !" 

" Do you think so, dear ? And yet it was the place you 
specially wanted to go to." 

A 2 . 

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10 THE woman's kingdom. S? 

Edna spoke in the soothing yet cheerful tone which all 
people — that is, people like Edna Kenderdine — instinctive- 
ly use towards an. invalid ; and, laying down her work — 
she rarely was without some sort of work in her tiny hands 
— looked tenderly and anxiously at her sister. For they 
were twin-sisters; though, as sometimes happens with 
twins, so excessively unlike that they would scarcely have 
been supposed akin at alL 

'^ You know, Letty dear, that as soon as you began to 
get better the Isle of Wight was the place you fancied for 
a change." 

" Yes ; but we might have found many a nicer spot in 
the Isle of Wight than this — Ryde, for instance, where 
there are plenty of houses, and a good pier, and probably 
an esplanade. Oh, how I used to enjoy the Brighton es- 
planade in the days when I was a little girl, and we were 
rich and happy !" 

"Were we happy then? I don't remember. But I 
know I have been quite as happy since."' 

" You always are happy," returned the invalid, with a 
vexed air. "I think nothing in the world would make 
you miserable." 

Edna winced a little, but she was sitting in the shadow 
of the window-curtain, and was not seen. "Come, come," 
she said, " it is of no use quarrelling with me because I will 
not see the black side of things ; time enough for that 
when we go home to Kensington. Here we are, out on a 
holiday, with beautiful weather, comfortable lodgings, no 
school to teach, and nothing in the wide world to do but 
to amuse ourselves." 

"Amuse ourselves! How can we? We don't know a 
soul here. lu-doors there is nothing to do, and nobody to 
come and see us ; and out-of-doors there is not a creature 
to look at or to speak to." 

" I thought we wanted to get out of the way of our fel- 
low-creatures. Besides, they would not care for us just 
now. It is not every lodging-house, even, that would 
have taken us in, and we lately out of scarlet-fever." 

"We need not hkve told that." 



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THB woman's kingdom. 11 

" Oh, Letty ! we must have told." 

" Edna, you are so ridiculously conscientious I I have 
no patience with you !" 

Edna made no reply ; indeed, it was useless replying to 
the poor convalescent, whose thin face betrayed that she 
was at the precise stage of recovery when every thing jars 
against the irritable nerves, and the sickly, morbid fancy 
changes its moods twenty times a day. Otherwise, to peo- 
ple in the somewhat dreary position of these two young 
school-mistresses— driven from their labors in the midst of 
the half-year by a dangerous fever which had compelled 
the shutting up of the school, brought the one sister near- 
ly to death's-door, and the other not far from it by the 
fatigue of sick-nursing — even to them the parlor they sat 
in was not uncheerful. It was very neat and clean, and it 
had a large bay-window looking out on a verandah ; beyond 
that a little garden ; failher, a narrow strip of bright, 
green, grassy cliff, fringed with a low hedge, where the 
"white-blossomed sloe" was in full glory, and a pair of 
robin-redbreasts were building and singing all the day 
long. Below, at the cliff's foot, the unseen sea was heard 
to tumble and roll with a noisy murmur ; but far away in 
the distance it spread itself out in sleepy stillness, shim- 
mering and glancing in the sunshine of early spring. The 
sight of it might well have gladdened many a dull heart; 
and the breath of it, which came in salt and fresh, though 
not cold, througli the half-open window, might have given 
health to many a sick soul, as well as body — granting that 
soul to be one of those whom Nature can comfort. It is 
not every one whom she can. 

Poor Letty was hot of those thus comforted. Her eyes 
looked as sad as ever, and there was a sharp, metallic ring 
in her voice as she said : 

"I can't imagine, Edna,, why you make so much fuss 
about the fever. You would drive every body away from 
us as if we had had the plague. This morning I overheard 
you insisting that the gentleman who wants the opposite 
parlor should be told distinctly what had been the matter 
with me. It is very foolish, when I am quite well now." 



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12 . THE woman's kingdom. 

" Yes, dear, quite well, thank God 1" returned Edna, 
soothingly. "And the gentleman said he was not in the 
least afraid ; besides, he was a doctor," 

" Was he, indeed? A real gentleman, then !" 

" Supposing that a doctor is — and he certainly ought to 
be — a real gentleman." 

"INTonsense! I mean a professional man; not one of 
those horrid shop-keepers whose children we have to teach 
— how I hate them all 1 And we must go back and be- 
gin again after midsummer. Oh, Edna, I wish I were 
dead!" 

" I don't, and I doubt if you do — not just this very min- 
ute. For there is your dinner coming in — and you like 
fish, and you declared you were so frightfully hungry." 

" You are always making fun of me," said the sick sis- 
ter, half plaintively. Nevertheless she yielded to the in- 
fluence of that soft, caressing, and yet encouraging tone ; 
her gloomy looks relaxed into a faint smile, and she fell to 
her simple invalid meal of fried sole and rice-pudding with 
an appetite that proved she was really getting well, in 
spite of her despondency and fretfulness. Edna sat by 
her and ate her own cold mutton with an equal relish; 
and then the sisters began to talk again. 

" So, after to-day, we shall not be the only lodgers in 
the house. How very annoying !" 

"I don't think the new-comers will harm us much. 
They are likely to be as quiet as ourselves. Besides, they 
will have a fellow-feeling for us. One of them is also an 
invalid, and a great deal worse than you, Letty." 
• "The doctor?" 

" 'No ; his brother, whom he has brought here for change 
. of air." 

"Did you see them? Really, you might have told me 
all this before. I should have been so glad of any thing 
to interest me. And you seem to have inquired all about 
them." 

" Of course I did. It was very important to us whom 
we had in the next parlor, and probably to them also^ in 
the young man's sickly state. I dare say the brother took 



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THE woman's kingdom. 13 

as much pains as I did to find out all about his opposite 
neighbors." 

" Did you see him ?" 

" No ; except his back, which was rather round, and the 
coat very shabby at the shoulders." 

" He isn't a gentleman, then ?" 

"I can't tell. If he happened to be a poor gentleman, 
why should not his coat be shabby at the shoulders ?" 

" I don't like poverty," said Letty, with a slight shrug ; 
and drawing round her the soft, rich shawl, relic of the 
" happy " days she regretted, when the little twins were 
expected to be co-heiresses, and not school-mistresses 
Those days were dim enough now. The orphans had been 
brought up for governesses, and had gone out as govern- 
esses, until difficulties arising, from Letty's extreme beauty 
on the one hand, and Edna's fond clinging to her sister on 
the other, they had resolved to make themselves a home 
by setting up one of those middlo-class day-schools which 
are so plentiful in the immediate suburbs of London. It 
had done well, on the whole ; at least it had sufficed to 
maintain them. They were still young women — only 
twenty-six — though both, Edna especially, had a certain 
air of formality and authority which all school-mistresses 
seem gradually to acquire. But they were, as could be 
seen at a glance, well-bred, well-educated women ; and, be- 
sides, Letitia was one of those remarkably handsome per- 
sons of whom one scarcely sees half a dozen in a lifetime, 
and about whose beauty there can not be two opinions. 
You might not fancy her style ; you might have some 
ideal of your own quite contrary to it ; but if you had 
eyes in your head you must acknowledge that she was 
beautiful, and would remain so, more or less, to the last 
day of her life. Hers was a combination very rarely to 
be met with ; of form and color, figure and face^nough 
completely to satisfy the artist-eye, and indicate to the 
poetical iqaagination plenty of loveliness spiritual beneath 
the loveliness external. Even her illness had scarcely 
clouded it; and with her tall figure shrouded in shawls, 
her magnificent brown hair cut short under a cap, and her 



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14 . THE woman's kingdom. 

graceful hands, white and wasted, lying on her lap, she 
was " interesting " to the last degree. 

Indeed, to tell the truth, Letty Kenderdine's beauty had 
been the real hindrance to her governess-ship. Wher- 
ever she went every body fell in love with her. Mothers 
dreaded her for their grown-up sons ; weak-minded wives 
were uneasy concerning their husbands. Not that Letty 
was the least to blame; she was so used to admiration 
that she took it all quite calmly. Too cold for passion, 
too practical for philandering, there was no fear of her ex- 
citing any unlawful jealousies; and as for regular love- 
affairs, though she generally had one or more on hand, it 
was a very mild form of the article. She never "com- 
mitted " herself She might have married twenty times 
over — poor tutors, country clergymen, and struggling men 
of business ; even a few younger sons of good families : 
but she had, as she said, a dislike to poverty, especially 
matrimonial poverty. 

''Will the flame that you're so rich in 
Light a fire in the kitchen, 
Or the little god of love turn the spit, spit, spit ?" 

was the burden of her sweet, smiling refusals, which sent 
her lovers away twice as mad as they came. But, though 
she smiled, Letty never relented. 

So, though she had been once or twice on the brink of 
an engagement, she had never fallen over the precipice ; 
and as she confided all her difficulties to Edna, and Edna 
(who had never any of her own) helped her out of them, 
they came to nothing worse than " difiSculties." True^ 
they had lost her a situation or two, and, indeed, had de- 
termined Edna to the point which she carried out — as she 
did most of her determinations, in her own quiet w^y — 
the setting up of a school ; but they never weighed seri- 
ously upon either sister's mind. Only sometimes, when 
the school duties were hard, Letty would sigh over the 
comparatively easy days when she was residing in "high" 
families, well-treated, as somehow she always had been, for 
there was a grace and dignity in ]xer which compelled re- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 15 

spectfal treatment. She would regret the lost luxuries — 
a carriage to drive in and a park to walk in with her pu- 
pils, large rooms, plenty of servants, and dainty feeding — 
recapitulating all the good things she used to have, bal- 
ancing them against the ill things she had now, until she 
fancied she had made a change for the worse ; complained 
that her present life was not half so pleasant as that of 
a resident governess, and lamented pathetically over the 
cause of all — what she called "my unfortunate appear- 
ance." 

Still the fact was patent — neither to be sighed down nor 
laughed down — and it had a laughable side — Letty was 
much too handsome for a governess. Too handsome, in- 
deed, for most of the useful purposes of life. She could 
not pass anywhere unnoticed ; to send her out shopping 
was a thing difficult enough, and as for her taking a walk 
alone in pleasant Kensington Gardens, or the lonely Bromp- 
ton Road, it was a thing quite impossible. Edna often said, 
with a queer mixture of perplexity and pride, that her beau- 
tiful sister was as much trouble to her as any baby. And, 
invalid as Letty now was, it must be confessed that not 
without a secret alarm had Edna heard of and made in- 
quiries about the impending lodgers. 

Letty half guessed i,his, though she was not very vain ; 
for she had long become used to her " unfortunate appear- 
ance ;" and, besides, your superlatively handsome people 
generally take their universally-acknowledged honors as 
composedly as a millionaire takes his money, or a poet- 
laureate his crown. When, after Edna's communication 
respecting the gentleman's shabby shoulders, the two sis- 
ters' eyes met, Letty broke into an actual smile. 

" How old is he ? Are you afraid that something will 
happen ?" 

" Perhaps. Something of that sort always is happening, 
you know," said Edna, dolefully ; and then both sisters buret 
out laughing, which quite restored Letty's good-humor. 

" Come, dear, don't be alarmed. He will not fall in love 
with me — ^I'm getting too ugly and too old. And as for 
myself, no harm will come to me. I don't like shabbiness, 



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16 THE woman's kingdom. 

and of all people alive, the person I should least like to 
marry would be a doctor. Only fancy having one's hus- 
band at every body's beck and call — out at all hours, day 
and night ; never able to take me to a party — or give me 
a party at home without being fetched away in the middle 
of it ; going to all sorts of nasty places and nasty people ; 
bringing home fevers, and small-pox, and the like — oh I 
what a dreadful life !" 

" Do you think so ?" said Edna. " Why, when I was a 
girl I used to fancy that had I been a boy, and could 
choose my profession, of all professions I should choose a 
doctor's. There is something in it so grand, and yet so 
useful. He has so much power in his hands. Such un- 
limited influence over souls as well as bodies. Of course it 
would be a hard life — nothing smooth or pleasant about it 
— but it would be a life full of interest, with endless oppor- 
tunities of usefulness. I don't mean merely of saving peo- 
ple's lives, but of putting their lives right, both mentally 
and physically, as nobody but a doctor can do. Hardly 
even a clergyman could come so near my ideal of the per- 
fect existence — ' he went about doing good.' " 

Edna spoke earnestly, as sometimes, though not often, 
she was roused to speak, and then her plain little face 
lighted up, and her tiny form took an unwonted grace and 
dignity. Plain as she was — as noticeably so as her sister 
was handsome — there was a certain character about her 
in her small Arm mouth, and babyish yet determined lit- 
tle chin — in her quick motions and active ways, and es- 
pecially in h.er hands, the only decided beauty she pos- 
sessed — which, though they flitted hither and thither, light 
as snow-flakes and pretty as rose-leaves, had an air of 
strength, purpose, and practicability which indicated fully 
what she was — this merry, busy-bee-like little woman — 

who 

"Gathered honey all the day 
From every opening flower j" 

but yet, on occasions, could be the very soul of the house- 
hold — the referee, and judge, and decisive voice in all mat- 
ters, great or small. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 11 

"Edna, you are preaching me quite a aermon," said 
Letty, yawning. "And I really don't deserve it. Did I 
ever say I wouldn't marry a doctor ?— even this very doc- 
tor of yours, if he wishes it particularly. I am sure," she 
added, plaintively, with an anxious glance towards the 
mirror, "it is time I should make up my mind to marry 
somebody. Another illness like the last would altogether 
destroy my appearance." 

" What nonsense you talk I" 

" No, it isn't nonsense," said Letty, with a queer hu- 
mility. "It is all very well for you, who are clever and 
can talk, and do things prettily and practically, and make 
yourself happy in your own way, so that, indeed, it is little 
matter whether you are ever married or not. But if any 
body marries me, it will be only for my appearance. I 
must make my hay while the sun shines. Heigh-ho ! I 
wish something would happen — something to amuse us in 
this dull place. Do tell me a little more about the new 
lodgers." 

"I have nothing to tell ; and besides — there they are I" 

At that moment, coming round the comer of the house 
(the Misses Kenderdine's parlor-window had to be passed 
in reaching the front door), appeared a porter and two 
portmanteaus, and immediately afterwards a Bath chair. 
Therein sat a figure so muffled up, in spite of the sun- 
shiny day, as to awaken a feeling of compassion in any be- 
holder. 

" Do come away, Letty. It is the sick brother. He 
may not like to be looked at." 

"But I must look at him. I have not had the least 
thing to interest me all day. Don't be cross. He shall 
not see me. I will hide behind the window-curtains." 

And curiosity quite overcoming her languor, she left 
her easy-chair, and crouched down in a very uncomfortable 
attitude to watch the proceedings outside. 

" Do come and look too, Edna. I wondei^is he a man 
or a boy ? He has got no whiskers, and he is so very thin. 
He looks a walking skeleton beside his stout brother. Do 
say if that big, awkward man is the brother, the doctor, 



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18 

1 mean, whom you are so extremely anxious for me to 
marry." 

" Letty, what foolishness 1" 

"Well, I'll promisfto think about him if he ever gives 
me the chance. He does look like a gentleman, in spite 
of his shabby coat. But, as for the other, you need not 
be alarmed about him. He seems to have one foot in the 
grave already. Just come and peep at him. No one can 
see you, I am sure." 

Edna looked — she hardly knew why, unless out of pure 
compassion. It was a face that any woman's heart, old or 
young, would have melted over — white, wan, with heavy 
circles under the large eyes, and a drawn look of perma- 
nent pain round the mouth. One of those faces, so deli- 
cately outlined, so almost feminine in contour, as to make 
one say, instinctively, " He must be very like his mother," 
and to wish likewise that he might always have his moth- 
er or his wife close at hand to take care of him. For it 
was undoubtedly one of those sensitive yet passionate 
faces which indicate a temperament that requires inces- 
sant taking care of— the care that only a woman can take. 
Though the big brother seemed tender enough. He 
wrapped him, and lifted him, and talked to him gently, as 
if he had been a child. Something touchingly child-like — 
the poetic nature is always young — was in the poor fel- 
low's looks, as he wearily obeyed ; doing all he was told 
to do, though every movement seemed a pain, 

" I wonder what his illness has been," said Edna, won 
into a sympathy that deadened even her sense of proprie- 
ty. " Not consumption, I fancy. I should rather say he 
was just recovering from rheumatic fever." 

" Never mind his illness. What do you think of himself?" 

" I think it is one of the most interesting faces I ever 
saw. But if ever I saw death written in a face — Poor 
fellow — and so young, too !" 

" Not much above twenty, certainly." 

"There, he has turned, and is looking right in at our 
window. Come away— you must come, or he will cer- 
tainly see you, Letty !" 



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THE woman's kingdom. 19 

It was too late. He bad seen her ; for the poor sensi- 
tive youth started violently, and a sudden flush came over 
his wan cheek. He drew back hastily, and pulled his fur 
cap closer down over his face. 

Edna rose quickly and shut the Venetian blind. " It is 
cruel — absolutely cruel — to stare at a person who is in 
that sickly, nervous state. How angry I should have 
been if any body had done it to you when you were illl 
and I am certain he saw you." 



" POOE FELLOW— Ain> BO YOUNG, TOO !" 

"Never mind: the sight is not so very dreadful; it 
won't kill him, probably," laughed Letty, whose spirits 
had quite risen under this unwonted excitement. "Per- 
haps it will even do him good, if he wants amusement as 
much as I do ; and he need not excite your sisterly fears : 
he won't fall in love with me. He is too ill to think of 
any body but himself." 

" Poor fellow !" again said Edna, with a sigh. 

She was too well accustomed to her sister's light talk to 
take it seriously, or indeed to heed it at all. People cease 
to notice the idiosyncrasies of those they have been accus- 



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20 

tomed to all their life. Probably, if any other young 
woman had talked as Letty did, Edna would have disliked 
it extremely; but she did not mind Letty — it was her 
way. Besides, she was her sister — ^her own flesh and 
blood, and the two loved one another dearly. 

Shortly the slight bustle in the hall subsided, the Bath 
chair was wheeled empty away, and a confusion of foot- 
steps outside indicated that the sick man was being car- 
ried up stairs by the brother; then the house sank into 
silence. 

Edna drew up the blind, and stood gazbg out medita- 
tively upon the sunshiny sea. 

" What are you thinking of?" Letty asked. 

" Of that poor fellow, and whether this place will do 
him any good — whether he will live or die." 

"The latter seems most likely." 

" Yes ; and it seems to me so sad, especially — " and her 
voice sank a little — " especially since, thank God ! we 
have passed through our time of terror and are safe again. 
So very sad, with every thing outside bright and happy ; 
trees budding, birds singing, the sky smiling all over, and 
the sea smiling back at it again, as if there was no such 
thing as death in the world. How the brother's heart 
must ache through it all 1" 

"The big brother — ^the doctor you mean?" 

"Yes; and, being a doctor, he must tnow the truth — 
that is, if it is to be — if the young man is not likely to 
recover." 

" Yet the doctor seems cheerful enough. As it sounded 
outside in the hall, I thought I never heard a more cheer- 
ful voice." 

"People often speak cheerfully— they are obliged to 
learn to do it — ^when — ^" Here Edna suddenly stopped. 
It was not wise to enlighten Letty, still - an invalid, upon 
her own sad sick-room experience. "But things may be 
more hopeful than we suppose. Nevertheless, I am very 
sorry for our new neighbors — ^for them both." 

" So am L We must ask the landlady all about them 
when she brings in tea." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 21 

But though, in her extreme dearth of outside interests, 
Letty's curiosity became so irresistible that she hurried 
on the tea by half an hour, her inquiries resulted in very 
little, 

Mrs. Williams knew no more of her new inmates than 
most sea-side landladies do of their lodgers. The gentle- 
men had come from the inn ; they were named Stedman 
— Dr. and Mr. Stedman — and she rather thought they 
were from London. "As the ladies also lived in London, 
perhaps they might know something about them," sug- 
gested the simple island woman, who was quite as eager 
to get as to give information, for she owned to being rath- 
er sorry she had taken them in. 

"Why?" asked Edna. 

"I do believe the young gentleman is only brought here 
to die; and death is such a bad thing to happen in any 
lodgings." 

" Nay, we will hope for the best* This fine, pure air 
may restore him. See how strong my sister is getting." 

" Yes, indeed, miss ; and so I told his brother. I wished 
he could have seen how wonderfully the young lady had 
picked up since she came. And he said, * Yes, she didn't 
look a bit like an invalid now.' " 

" Had he seen me ?" asked Letty, half smiling. 

" I don't know, miss ; but he has got sharp, noticeable 
eyes— real doctor's eyes." 

" Oh I" said Letty, and subsided into silence. 

"Does he seem very anxious about his sick brother?" 
Edna inquired. 

"Ay, sometimes, to judge by his look. But he talks 
quite cheerful-like. Just hark ! you can hear 'em a-laugh- 
ing together now." 

" How I wish we had any thing to make us laugh !" 
sighed Letty, when the door closed ; and the important 
event of tea being over, she relapsed into her former dull- 
ness, leaned back again in her easy-chair, letting her hands 
fall drearily on her lap — such soft, handsome, idle, helpless 
hands. 

" Shall I read ?" said Edna, with an anxious glance at 



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22 THE woman's kingdom. 

the clock. It was 
too late to go out, 
and it was many — 
oh ! so many hours 
till bed-time. 

' " You know I 
n^ver cared for 
reading, especial- 
ly poetry books^ 
which are all you 
brought with us." 
" Shall I try to 
get a novel from 
the library ?" 

" Threepence a 
volume, and you'll 
grumble at the ex- 
travagance, and I 
shall be sure to go 
to sleep over it too. 
Well, I think I will 
lie down and sleep 
' a little, for I am so 
tired I don't know 

A DAUGHTBB OF THK GODB. ^J^^^ ^^ ^^ „ 

She rose, walked once or twice across the room, looking 
most migestic in her long, soft, flowing draperies — ^for it 
was twenty years ago, and women's draperies were both 
graceful and majestic then: with her large lovely form 
and classical face she was the personification of Tenny- 
son's line — 

"A daughter of the gods: divinely tall, 
And most divinely fair." 

And when she lay down, she idealized the common horse- 
hair lodging-house sofa by an outline most artistically 
beautiful — ^fit for a sleeping Dido or dying Cleopatra. 
Such women nature makes rarely, very rarely ; queens of 
beauty, crowned or uncrowned, who instinctively take 
their places in the tournament of life, and "rain influ- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 23 

ence," whether consciously or not, to an almost fearful ex- 
tent upon us weak mortals, especially men mortals, who, 
even the best of them, are always prone to reconstrue the 
dogma that the good is necessarily the beautiful, and to 
presuppose the highest beauty to be the highest good. 

But this is wandering into metaphysics, of which, how- 
ever she might be the cause of them in others, there cer- 
tainly was no trace in Letty Kenderdine. She lay down 
and made herself comfortable, or rather was made com- 
fortable by her sister, with shawls and pillows ; then she 
fell sound asleep, like any other mortal woman, breathing! 
so peacefully and deeply that, if it would not utterly de- 
stroy the romance about her, I feel bound to confess she- 
almost snored. 

Edna sat beside her till certain of 'her repose, and then 
crept softly away. Not for idleness, and not for pleasure, 
though the sweet evening tempted her sorely, with its- 
sunset of rose and gray, its fresh sea-breeze, and, as is> 
found along most of the south coast of England, and, es- 
pecially the Isle of Wight, its delicious mingling of sea 
and country pleasures. Above the lapping of the tide on. 
the beach below was heard the good-night warble of the 
robins and the deep note of the thrush; and besides the 
salt sea smell there was an atmosphere of trees budding 
and flowers blossoming, giving a sense of vague delight, 
and tender foreboding of some unknown joy. 

It touched Edna ; she could not tell why, except that 
she loved the spring, and this was the first April she had 
spent out of London for several years; scarcely since 
those dimly-remembered years of their country house in 
Hampshire, which, to her, balanced Letty's memories of 
the Brighton esplanade. One had been the summer, the 
other the winter residence of the rich merchant, who, ab- 
sorbed in money-making, and losing fortune and life to- 
gether, had left no remembrances to his motherless twin- 
girls but these. 

They recurred at times, each in their turn, and to each 
sister according to her nature. To Edna at this moment 
came a rush of the old child-life — ^the pony she rode — a 



% 



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24 THE woman's kingdom. 

pretty little gentle thing, loved like a human companion ; 
a certain stream, which danced through a primrose wood, 
and over which dragon-flies used to skim, and where end- 
less handfuls of king-cups grew ; an upland meadow, yel- 
low with cowslips — ^Edna could smell the odor of it yet. 

" How I should like to make another cowslip-ball ! I 
believe I could do it as well as ever. I wonder if cow- 
slips grow anywhere about here I" 

And then she smiled at the silliness of a school-mistress 
wanting to make cowslip-balls, and wondered at the fool- 
ish feeling which came over her in her monotonous life; 
and why it was that, just rising up out of the long strain 
of anxiety, her heart was conscious of a sudden rebound — 
a wild longing after happiness : not merely the busy con- 
tent of her level life, but actual happiness. In picturing 
it, though it was very vague too and formless, she, how- 
ever, did not picture the usual sort of happiness which 
comes most natural at her age. Unlike her sister, no lov- 
ers had ever troubled Edna's repose. In the dull city 
family where she had been governess ever since leaving 
school no such things were ever thought of; besides, Edna 
was plain, and knew it — felt it too — perhaps all the keener 
for her sister's beauty and her own intense admiration of 
the same. No ; Edna Kenderdine was not a marrying 
woman. She herself was convinced she would be an old 
maid, and had laid her plans accordingly ; and mapped 
out her future life with a quiet acquiescence in, and yet a 
full recognition of— alas I what woman was ever without 
that ? — its sad imperfectness. 

Thus her ideal of happiness was not love, or, at least, not 
consciously, and certainly not love on her own account. 
This golden dream — this seeming height of complete 
felicity — was thought of with reference to Letty alone. 
For herself, she hardly knew what she wanted; perhaps 
a better school, more pupils, and these of a higher class, 
for it was hard and thankless work trying to make lit- 
tle common girls into little gentlewomen. Or possibly — 
though to that El Dorado Edna scarcely dared to lift her 
eyes — some extraordinary windfall of fortune — a legacy, 



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THB WOMAI^'S KINGDOM, 25 

or the like — which would forever lift her out of the neces- 
sity of keeping school at all, and enable her to set up a 
cottage in the country — ever so small, she did not care, so 
that it was only in the country, and had a garden to it, 
and fields around it, where she might do as she liked all 
day long, without being haunted by the necessity of 
school-teaching, or by that dread of the future, of break- 
ing down helpless in the midst of her career, which, since 
the fever time, had often painfully pursued her. She her- 
self, though not exactly ill, had been very much enfee- 
bled ; and probably it was this weak condition of body 
which made the little woman mentally less brave than 
usual; caused her to long, with a sore yearning, not mere- 
ly to be shelttered from evil, but to have her dull life turn- 
ed into brightness by some absolute tangible good. 

So, while Letty slept — the sound, healthy sleep of which 
her easy temperament never made any difficulty — Edna 
stood looking out on the twilight seaj still thinking — 
thinking — till the tears came into her eyes, and rolled 
slowly down. 

They were soon wiped away — not dashed off, but qui- 
etly wiped away with a resolute hand. She could not 
have repressed them, they would have choked her; but 
she could help indulging in theip^, taking a sentimental 
pleasure over them, or exalting them into a real grief. 
Alas I she knew what real grief was when Letty was at 
the crisis of scarlet-fever. 

"No! ni not cry — it's wicked I What have I to cry 
about? when my sister is nearly well, and we shall be 
able to gather the school together very soon, and mean- 
time we have enough money to last us, and no other 
cares. There is much more to be thankful for than afraid 
of And now, before she wakes, let me see exactly how 
we stand." 

She took her little writing-desk to the window, that she 
might catch the utmost of the fading light, and with one 
anxious glance at the sofa, set herself to a piece of work 
which always fidgeted Letty — the balancing of her week- 
ly accounts. Nominally the sisters kept these week and 

B 



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26 THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

week about; but Letty's week was always behindhand, 
and caused her such distress that gradually Edna took 
the whole upon herself — a very small whole; a ledger 
that a man and a millionaire, or even a petty merchant, 
would have laughed at, and wondered how it could pos- 
sibly make the womanish head ache and the womanish 
heart beat, as it did many a time. For Edna was no 
genius at arithmetic ; besides, hers was not the amateur 
masculine arithmetic, worked upon paper, in thousands 
and tens of thousands, though the total, be it loss or gain, 
affects little the current expenses of daily life — since in 
this strange commercial world of ours a man may risk or 
lose a quarter of a million, or go through a bankruptcy or 
two, yet still keep his carriage, and eat his diurnal dinner 
— just as handsome a dinner as ever— though oftentimes 
the appetite brought to it must be small. 

But Edna's arithmetic was a different thing. To her a 
balance on the one side or other of that tiny page implied 
an easy mind and a gay heart, or else — well, it implied 
want of needful clothes, of household comforts, perhaps 
even of suflScient food. Only want — the sacrifice of 
things pleasant and desirable. That other alternative, 
debt, in all its agonies, humiliation, and terrors, these 
poor school-mistresses knew not: never would be likely 
to know, since, opposite as their characters were, the two 
Misses Kenderdine had one grand point in common — they 
would have starved rather than have owed any man a 
half-penny. 

So poor little Edna sat at her task ; and it was a task, 
for she did not like it any miore than she liked school- 
teaching ; but Letty liked it still less than she, and since 
it had inevitably to be done, of course Edna had to do it. 
This was the law of their life together, and always had 
been. 

She sat, her head propped on her two hands, quite ab- 
sorbed. Pathetically so, for she could not make her ac- 
counts meet ; there was a half-crown gone a-missing some- 
where; and a half-crown was an important sum to her, 
poor thing ! Not for itself, but for what it represented-r 



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THE WOMAIt's kingdom.' 27 

a fortnight's butter, or a pair of gloves for Letty, or some- 
thing else that otherwise would require to be done with- 
out. She racked her brains to remember how she had 
spent it, added up the conflicting columns of figures again 
and again, and counted and re-counted the contents of her 
two purses — one for current coin, the other the grand re- 
ceptacle of the family income. 

Vain, vain ! Poor Edna could not make matters right. 
Her head burned, her brow throbbed — she pushed her 
hair back from it with trembling fingers — she was very 
nearly crying. 

It was a small thing — a silly thing almost; but then 
she had been weakened by anxiety and fatigue, and do 
what she could, the future rose up before her darker, and 
reasonably darker than it had ever done before. What if 
the pupils, scared by fever, should not readily return ? 
What if she and her sister were to be left with a house on 
their hands, the rent to be paid, the servant to be kept, 
and nothing to do it with? That morbid dread of the fu- 
ture — that bitter sense of helplessness and forlornness 
which all working-women have at times, came upon Edna, 
and made her think with a strange momentary envy of 
the women who did not work, who had brothers and fa- 
thers to work for them, or at least to help them with the 
help that a man, and only a man, can give. 

And then looking up, for the first time for many min- 
utes, Edna became aware of two eyes watching her, rest- 
ing on her with such an expression of kindliness and pity, 
the sort of half-amused pity that a man would show to a 
troubled and perplexed child, that this poor child — she 
was strangely young still in many ways — looked fearless- 
ly back into them, almost with a sort of appeal, as if the 
observer had been an authorized friend, who could have 
helped her did he choose. But the moment after she 
drew back, exceedingly annoyed ; and the gazer also drew 
back, made a slight apologetic half-bow, then blushed vio- 
lently all over his face, as. if conscious that he had been 
doing a most unwarrantable and ungentlemanly thing, rose 
from his bench by the window, and walked hastily away. 



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28 THB woman's kingdom. 

As he turned, by the broad stooping shoulders and well- 
worn coat rather than by the face, which she had not seen 
until now, being so attracted by the face of the invalid 
brother, Edna recognized the doctor, Dr. Stedman. 



CHAPTER IL 



This will be a thorough " love " story. I do not pre- 
tend to make it any thing else. There are other things in 
life besides love; but every body who has lived at all 
knows that love is the very heart of life, the pivot upon 
which its whole machinery turns; without which no hu- 
man existence can be complete, and with which, however 
broken and worn in part, it can still go on working some- 
how, and working to a comparative useful and cheerful 
end. 

An author once wrote a book of which the heroine was 
supposed to be painted from a real living woman, whose 
relations were rather pleased than not at the accidental 
resemblance. " Only," said they, with dignified decorum, 
" in one point the likeness fails ; our Anastasia was never 
in love with any body." "Then," replied the amused au- 
thor, " I certainly can not have painted her, for she would 
have been of no use to me ; such an abnormal specimen of 
humanity is not a woman at all." 

No. A life without love in it must of necessity be an 
imperfect, an unnatural life. The love may be happy or 
unhappy, noble or ignoble, requited or unrequited ; but it 
must be, or have been, there. Love absolute. Not mere- 
ly the tie of blood, the bond of friendship, the many close 
afiections which make existence sweet ; but the one, clos- 
est of all, the love between man and woman — ^which is the 
root of the family life, and the family life is the key to 
half the mysteries of the universe. 

And so, without disguise of purpose, and rather glorying 
in the folly, if folly it be, I confess this to be a mere love- 
tale, nothing more. No grand "purpose" in it, no dra- 
matic effects — scarcely even a " story ;" but a few pages 



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THB woman's KINQDOM, 29 

out of the book of daily life, the outside of which looks oft- 
en so common and plain; and the inside — ^but One only 
reads that. 

Under Mrs. Williams's commonplace unconscious roof 
were gathered these four young people, strangers to one 
another, and ignorant of their mutual and individual des- 
tinies, afterwards to become so inextricably mingled, tan- 
gled, and crossed. The like continually happens ; in fact 
it must, in most cases, necessarily happen. The first 
chanccrmeeting, or what appears chance ; the first indiffer- 
ent word or hap-hazard incident — from these things do al- 
most all love-stories date. For in all true marriages now, 
as in Eden, the man and woman do not deliberately seek, 
but are brought to one another ; happy those who after- 
wards can recognize that the hand which led his Eve to 
Adam was that of an invisible God ! 

But this only comes afterwards. No sentimental pre- 
monitions weighed on the hearts of any of these, the two 
young men and two young women, who had, each and all, 
their own lives to live, their own separate cares and joys. 
For even if blessed with the closest bonds of fraternity, 
every soul is more or less alone, or feels so, till the magic 
other soul appears, which, if fate allows, shall remove soli- 
tude forever. There may or may not be a truth in the 
doctrine of love at first sight, but it is, like the doctrine 
of instantaneous conversion, too rarely experienced to be 
much believed in. Ordinary men and women walk blind- 
fold to the very verge of their fate, nor recognize it as fate 
till it is long past. Which fact ought to be, to both young 
folks and their guardians, at once a consolation and a 
warning. 

Edna, when, immediately after the doctor's disappear- 
ance, the entrance of candles awakened Letty, told her sis- 
ter frankly, and with considerable amusement, of the stead- 
fast stare which for the moment had annoyed her. 

"At least, I should have been annoyed had it been you, 
Letty. But with me of course it meant nothing ; merely 
a little harmless curiosity. Certainly, as Mrs. Williams 
fiays, he has thorough * doctor's eyes.' They seem able 



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30 THE woman's kingdom. 

to see every thing. As a doctor ought to see, you 
know." 

"And what color were they, and what sort of a face was 
it altogether?" 

" I really can not telL A nice, kindly sort of face, and 
that is all I know." 

" But, Edna, if I am to marry him you ought to know. 
So look hard next time, and tell me exactly what he is 
like." 

" Very well," said Edna, laughing ; thankful for any 
little joke that lightened the heavy depression which was 
the hardest thing to contend with in Letty's present state. 
And then she took to her work and forgot all about it. 
Not until, after putting her sister to bed, she came down 
again for one quiet hour, to do some needful sewing, and 
institute a last and finally successful search among the odd 
comers of her tired brain for the missing half-crown,, did 
Edna remember the doctor or his inquisitive stare, 

" I wonder if he noticed what I was doing, and whether 
he thought me silly, or was sorry for me. Perhaps he is 
good at arithmetic. Well, if there could be any advan- 
tage in having a man belonging to one, it would be to 
help in adding up one's weekly accounts. I shall advise 
Letty to make that proviso in her marriage settlement." 

Wbile the sisters thus summarily dismissed the question 
of their new neighbors, their neighbors scarcely thought 
of them at all. Dr. Stedman sat by his brother's bedside, 
trying by every means he could think of to make the weary 
evening slip by, without forestalling the burden of the 
still heavier night. He talked ; he read a little out of an 
old I^mes — first the solid leaders, and then a criticism on 
the pictures forthcoming in the Royal Academy Exhibi- 
tion, till, seeing the latter excited his patient too much, he 
ingeniously shortened it, and went back to the heavy de- 
bates and other masculine portions of the newspaper. But 
in all he did, and earnestly as he tried to do it, there was 
something a little clumsy, like a man — and one who is al- 
together a man — not accustomed to women's society and 
influence. There was nothing rough or untender about 



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THE woman's kingdom. 31 

him; nay, there was exceeding gentleness in his eyes and 
voice ; he tried to do his very best ; but he did it with a 
certain awkwardness that ho invalid coald help feeling in 
some degree, especially such a nervous invalid as this. 

The two brothers were very unlike— as unlike as. the 
two sisters who sat below stairs. And yet there was a 
curious " family " expression ; the kindred blood peeping 
out, pleadingly, amidst all dissimilarities of character and 
temperament. The younger was dark; the elder fair. 
The features were not unlike, but in one face delicate and 
regular; in the other, large and rugged. The younger 
had apparently lived altogether the student's life ; while 
the elder had been knocked about the world, receiving 
many a hard hit, and learning, in self-preservation, to give 
a hard hit back again if necessary. Besides, an occasional 
contraction of the brow, and a slight projection of the un- 
der lip, showed that the doctor had what is called " a tem- 
per of his own ;" while his brother's expression was alto- 
gether sweet, gentle, and sensitive to the last degree. 

As he lay back on his pillow — for he had been put to 
bed immediately— you might have taken him for a boy of 
seventeen, until, looking closer into the thin face, you 
read there the deeper lines which rarely come under the 
quarter-century which marks the first epoch in a man's 
life. No ; though boyish, he was not a boy ; and though 
delicate-looking, not effeminate. His was the tempera- 
ment which we so ardently admire in youth, so deeply 
pity in maturer years — the poetic temperament — half mas- 
culine, half feminine — capable of both a man's passion and 
a woman's suffering. Such men are, as circumstances 
make them, the angels, the demons, or the martyrs of this 
world. 

He lay — restless, but trying hard to be patient — till the 
light failed and his brother ceased the reading, which was 
not specially interesting, being done in a slightly formal 
and monotonous voice, like that of a person unaccustomed 
to, and not particularly enjoying the occupation. 

" That will do. Will It's really very good of you to 
stay in-doors with me all this evening ; but I don't like it. 



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32 

I wish you would go out. Off with you to the beach. Is 
there a good beach here ?" 

"A very fine oue. You shall see it by-and-by." 

" Nay, my Bath chair could never get down these steep 
cliffs." 

"Do you think I mean you to spend all your days in a 
Bath chair, Julius, lad ?" 

"Ah, Will, shall I ever do without it ? Tell me, do you 
really, candidly, in your honest heart — ^youVe almost too 
honest for a doctor, old boy — ^believe that I shall ever 
walk again ?" 

. The doctor turned and gave him a pat on the shoulder 
— ^his young brother, five or six years younger than him- 
self, which fact had made such a vital difference once, and 
the fatherly habits of it remained stilL There was a cu- 
rious twitching of his mouth, which, though large and 
firm, had much lurking softness of expression. He paused 
a minute before speaking, and then said, earnestly : 

" Yes, I do, Julius. Not that I know it for certain ; but 
I believe it. You may never be quite as strong as you 
have been; rheumatic fever always leaves behind great 
delicacy in many ways ; but I have known cases worse 
than yours which ended in complete recovery." 

" I wish mine may be, if only for your sake. What a 
trouble I must have been to you ! to say nothing of ex- 
pense. And you just starting for yourself too." 

" Well, lad, it didn't matter — it was only for myself. 
If I'd had a wife, now, or half a dozen brats. But I had 
nobody — ^not a single * responsibility ' — except you." 

"And what a heavy responsibility I have been ! Ever 
since you were fifteen I must have given you trouble with- 
out end." 

" Pleasure, too, and a deal of fun — the fun of laughing 
at you and your vagaries, though I couldn't laugh you out 
of them. Come, don't be taking a melancholy view of 
thmgs. Let's be jolly." 

But the mirth came ponderously out of the big fellow, 
whose natural expression was evidently grave — an enemy 
might have c^led it saturnine. And Dr. William Sted- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 33 

man looked like a man who was not likely to go through 
the world without making some enemies, if only from the 
very honesty which his brother spoke of, and a slight want 
of pliability — not of sympathy, but of the power of show- 
ing it — which made him a strong contrast to his brother, 
besides occasionally jarring with him, as brothers do jar 
against brothers, sisters against sisters, friends against 
friends — not meaning it, but inevitably doing it. 

" I can't be jolly. Will," said Julius, turning away. 
" You couldn't, if you had my pains. Ah me I they're be- 
ginning again — they always do at night. I think Dante 
would have invented a new torment for his Inferno if he 
had ever had rheumatic fever. How mad I was to sit that 
week painting in the snow 1" 

"Let by-gones be by-gones, Julius. Never recall the 
past except to mend the future. That's my maxim, and 
I stick to it, though I am a stupid fellow — you're the 
bright one of us two." 

"And what good has my brightness done me? Here 
I am, tied by the leg, my profession stopped — so far as it 
ever was a profession, for you know nobody ever bought 
my pictures. If it had not been for you. Will, what would 
have become of me ? And what will become of me now ? 
Well, I don't care." 

" * Don't care ' was hanged," said the elder brother, sen- 
tentiously ; " and you'll be hung, and well hung, I hope^in 
the Royal Academy next year." 

The threadbare joke, so solemnly put forward and 
laughed at with childish enjoyment, effected its purpose 
in turning the morbid current of the sick man's thoughts. 
His mercurial and easily-caught fancy, which even illness 
could not destroy, took another direction, and he began 
planning what he should do when he got well — the next 
picture he should paint, and where he should paint it. 
His hopes were much lower than his ambitions, for his 
bias had been towards high art, only his finances made 
it impossible to follow it. And, perhaps, his talent — it 
scarcely reached genius — was more of the appreciative 
than the creative kind. Yet he loved his art as well as he 

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34 THE woman's kingdom. 

loved any thing, and in talking about it he almost forgot 
his pains. 

" If I could only get well,'* he said, " or even a little 
better, I might find in this pretty country some nice usable 
bits, and make sketches for my next year's work. Per- 
haps I might do a sea-piece : some small thing, with fig- 
ures in it — a fisherman or a child. One could study from 
the life here without ruination to one's pocket, as it used 
to be in London. And, by-the-bye, I saw to-day a splendid 
head, real Greek, nearly as fine as the Clytie." 

"Where?" 

" Here — at the parlor-window." 

The elder brother smiled. "You are always discover- 
ing goddesses at parlor-windows, and finding them very 
common mortals after alL" 

" Oh, I have done with that nonsense," said Julius, with 
a vexed air ; adding, rather sentimentally, " my day is 
over — ^I shall never fall in love again." 

" Not till the next tima But this head ? I conclude it 
was alive, and had a woman belonging to it ?" 

" Probably, though I only saw the head. Are there any 
lodgers here besides ourselves ?" 

" Two ladies — possibly young ladies ; but I really did 
not think of asking. I never was a ladies' man, you know. 
Shall I make inquiries on your account, young Lothario?" 

"Well, you might, for I should like a chance of seeing 
tjiat head again. It would paint admirably. I only wish 
I had the luck of doing it — when I get well." 

"When I get well" — the sad, pathetic sentence often 
uttered, often listened to, though both speaker and listener 
know by instinctive foreboding that the "when" means 
" never." Dr. Stedraan might have shared this feeling in 
spite of his firm " I believe it" of ten minutes before, for 
in the twilight his grave face looked graver stilL Never- 
theless, he carefully maintained the cheerful, even jocular 
tone of his conversation with his brother. 

" You might ask the favor of taking her likeness. I am 
sure the young lady could not refpse. No young ladies 
ever do. Female vanity and your, own attractions seem 



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THE woman's kingdom. 35 

to fill your port-folio wherever you go. But to-morrow 
I'll try to get a look myself at this new angel of yours." 

" No, there is nothing angelic about her face ; not much, 
even, that is spiritual. It is thorough mortal beauty ; not 
unlike the Clytie, as I said. It would paint well — as an 
Ariadne or a Dido ; only there is not enough depth of sad- 
ness in it." 

" Perhaps she is not a sad-minded young woman." 

"I really don't know, or care. What' nonsense it is 
our talking about women ! We can't afford to fall in love 
or marry — at least I can't." 

"Nor I neither," said the doctor, gravely. "And I did 
not mean to talk any nonsense about these two young 
women — if young they are — for the landlady told me they 
had just come out of great trouble — being school-mistress- 
es, with their school broken up, and one sister nearly dying 
through scarlet-fever." 

"That isn't so bad as rheumatic fever. I remember 
rather enjoying it, because I was allowed to read novels 
all the time. Which sister had it? the Clyi;ie one? That 
rare type of beauty runs in families. Perhaps the other 
has a good head too." 

"I don't think she has." 

"Why not?" 

" Because I suspect I saw her just before I came up stairs 
to you — a little, pale, anxious-looking thing — not at all a 
beauty — sitting adding up her accounts. Very small ac- 
counts they were, seemingly ; yet she seemed terribly trou- 
bled over them. She mu&t be very poor or viBry stupid — 
women always are stupid over arithmetic. And yet she 
did not look quite a fool, either." 

"How closely you must have watched her!" 

" I am afraid I did, for at first I thought her only a little 
girl, she was so small ; and I wondered what the creature 
could be so busy about. Biit I soon found she was a wom- 
an, and an anxious-faced little woman too. Most likely 
these two school-mistresses are as poor as we are ; and, if 
so, I am sorry for them, being only women." 

"Ah, yes," said Julius, absently; but he seemed to 



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36 

weary of the conversation, and soon became absorbed in 
his own suffering. Over him had evidently grown the in- 
voluntary selfishness of sickness, which Letty Kenderdine 
had referred to ; probably because she herself understood 
it only too well. But her sufferings were nothing to those 
of this poor young fellow, racked in every joint, and 
with a physical organization the very worst to bear pain. 
Nervous, sensitive, excitable ; adding to present torment 
by both the recollection of the past and the dread of the 
future ; exquisitely susceptible to both his own pains and 
the grief and anxiety they caused to others, yet unable to 
control himself so as in any way to lessen the burden of 
them ; terrified at imaginary sufferings, a little exagger- 
ating the real ones — which were sharp enough — ^the inva- 
lid was a pitiable sight, and most difficult to deal with by 
any nurse. 

But the one he had was very patient — marvellously so 
for a man. For hours, until long after midnight — for 
Edna told her sister afterwards she had heard his rtep 
overhead at about two in the morning — did the stout, 
healthy brother, who evidently possessed in the strongest 
degree the mens sana in corpore sano^ devote himself to 
the younger one, trying every possible means to alleviate 
his sufferings ; and when all failed, sitting down by his 
bedside, almost like a woman and a mother, saying noth- 
ing, simply enduring ; or, at most, holding the poor fel- 
low's hand with a firm clasp, which, in its mingled strength 
and tenderness, might have imparted courage to go through 
any amount of physical pain — nay, have led even to the 
entrance of that valley of the shadow of death which we 
must all one day pass through, and alone. 

Help, as far as mortal help could go, William Stedman 
was the one to give ; not in words, but in a certain atmos- 
phere of quiet strength, or rather, in that highest expres- 
sion of strength which we call fortitude. It seems easy to 
bear with fortitude another person's sufferings ; but that 
is, to some natures, the very sharpest pang of all. And 
with something of the same expression on his fiice as once 
(Julius reminded him of the anecdote about one in the 



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THE woman's KIKGDOM. 87 

morning), in their first school, he had gone up to the mas- 
ter and begged to be flogged instead of Julius— did Wil- 
liam Stedman sit by his brother's bedside till the parox- 
ysms of pain abated. It was not till nearly daylight that, 
the sufferer being at length quietly asleep, the doctor 
threw himself, dressed as he was, on the hearth-rug before 
the fire, and slept also — suddenly, soundly, and yet light- 
ly ; the sleep of a sailor or a mastiff dog. 

Morning broke smilingly over the sea — an April morn- 
ing, breezy and bright ; and Edna, who had not slept well 
— not nearly so well as I^etty — being disturbed first by 
the noises overhead, and then kept wakeful by her own 
anxious thoughts, which, compulsorily repressed in day- 
time, always took their revenge at night — ^Edna Kender- 
dine welcomed it gladly. Weary of sleeplessness, she rose 
early, and looking out of her window, she saw a man's fig- 
ure pacing up and down the green cliff between her and 
the sea-line. Not a very stylish figure — still in the old 
coat and older wide-awake hat ; but it was tall, broad, and 
manly. He walked, his hands folded somewhat ungrace- 
fully behind him, with a strong and resolute step, looking 
about him sometimes, but oftener with his head bent, 
thinking. Undoubtedly it was the doctor. 

Edna watched him with some curiosity. He must have 
been up all night, she knew ; and as she had herself lain 
awake, listening to the accidental footfall, the poking of 
the fire, and all those sick-room noises which in the dead 
silence sound so ominous and melancholy in a house, even 
to one who has i^o personal stake in the matter, she had 
felt much sympathy for him. She was reminded keenly 
of her own sad vigils over poor Letty, and wondered how 
a man contrived to get through the same sort of thing. 
To a woman and a sister nursing came natural ; but with 
a man it must be quite different. She speculated vaguely 
upon what sort of men the brothers were, and whether 
they were as much attached to one another as she and 
Letty. And she watched with a vague, involuntary inter- 
est the big man who kept striding up and down, refresh- 
ing himself after his weary night-watch ; and when at last 



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38 THE woman's kingdom 

he came in and disappeared, probably to his solitary break- 
fast, she thought, in her practical, feminine soul, what a 
dreary breakfast it must be; no one to make the tea, or 
see that the eggs were boiled properly, or do any of those 
tender duties which help to make the day begin cheerily, 
and in which this little woman took an especial pleasure. 

As she busied herself in doing them for Letty, who was 
always the last down stairs, Edna could not forbear asking 
Mrs. Williams how the sick lodger was this morning. 

" Rather bad, miss. Better now ; but was very bad all 
night, his brother says ; and he has just started off to 
Ryde to get him some new physic." 

" To Ryde— that is nine miles off!" 

" Yes ; but there was no help for it, he said. He in- 
quired the short way across country, and meant to walk 
it, and be back as soon as he could. I asked him about 
dinner ; but he left that all to me. Oh, miss, how helpless 
these men-folk be ! He only begged me to look after his 
brother." 

" Is the brother keeping his room ?" 

"No; he dressed him and carried him down stairs, just 
like a baby, before he went out. Poor gentleman, it's a 
heavy handful for him ; and him with no wife or mother 
or sister to help him ; for I asked, and he said no, they had 
none ; no relations in the world but their two selves." 

" "No more have we ; but then women are so much more 
used to sickness than men are, and more helpful," said 
Edna. Tet, as she recalled her own sense of helplessness 
and entire desolation when she and Letty were landed in 
this very room, wet and weary, one chill, rainy afternoon, 
and the fire smoked, and Letty cried, and finally went into 
hysterics, she felt a sensation of pity for her neighbors — 
those " helpless men-folk," as Mrs. Williams called them, 
who, under similar circumstances, were even worse off 
than women. 

" How is the poor fellow now ?" she asked. " Have you 
been in again to look at him? He should not be left long 
alone." 

" But, miss, where am I to get the time ? And, besides, 



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THE WOICAN's kingdom. 39 

he don't like it. Whenever I go in and ask if I can do any 
thing for him, he just shakes his head and tnrns his face 
back again into the pillow. And I don't think any thing 
will do him much good ; he isn't long for this world. I 
wish I hadn't taken 'em ; and if I can get 'em out at the 
week's end — not meaning to inconvenience — and hoping 
they will get as good lodgings elsewhere, which no doubt 
they will—" 

" You wouldn't do it, Mrs. Williams," said Edna, smil- 
ing, and turning upon her those good, sweet eyes, which, 
Miss Kenderdine's pupils declared, ^' frightened " all the 
naughtiness out of them. 

The landlady smiled too. "Well, miss, maybe I 
wouldn't; for I feels sorry for the poor gentleman; and 
I once had a boy of my own that would have been about 
as old as him. FU do what I can, though he is grumpy 
and won't speak ; and that ain't pleasant, is it, miss ?" 

"No." 

This little conversation, like all the small trivialities of 
their life, Edna retailed for Letty's edification, and both 
sisters talked the matter over threadbare, as people in sea- 
side lodgings and out on a holiday have a trick of doing ; 
for holiday-making to busy people is sometimes very hard 
work. They even, with a mixture of curiosity and real 
compassion, left their parlor-door open, in order to listen 
for and communicate to Mrs. Williams the slightest move- 
ment in the parlor opposite, where the sick man lay so 
helpless, so forlorn, that the kindly hearts of those two 
young women — certainly of one of them — forgot that he 
was a man, and a young man, and wished they could do 
him- any good. 

But, of course, under the circumstances, it would, as Let- 
ty declared, be the height of indecorum ; they, unmarried 
ladies and school-mistresses, with their credit and dignity 
at stake, how could they take the slightest notice of a 
young man, be he ever so ill ? 

"Yet I wish we could," said Edna. "It seems so heart- 
less to a fellow-creature to let him lie there hour after 
hour. If we might go in and speak to him, or send him 



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40 THE woman's kingdom. 

a book to read, I can't believe it could be bo very imr 
proper." 

And when they came back from their morning stroll she 
lingered compassionately in front of the closed window 
and drawn-down blind behind which the sick man lay, ig- 
norant of, or indifferent to, all the glad sights and sounds 
abroad — the breezy sea, the pleasant country, rejoicing in 
this blessed spring morning. 

"Do come in," sharply said Letty, who had in some 
things a keener sense of the outward proprieties than 
Edna. " Don't be nonsensical and sentimental. It would 
never do for us to encourage, even in the smallest degree, 
these two young men, who are certainly poor, and, for all 
we know, may be scarcely respectable. I won't allow it, 
sister." 

And she passed hastily the opposite door, which Edna 
was shocked to see was not quite closed, and walked into 
their own, with Letty's own dignified step and air of 
queenly grace, which, wherever she went, slew men, young 
and old, in indiscriminate massacre. 

She was certainly a rare woman, Letitia Kenderdine — 
one that, met anywhere or anyhow, would make one feel 
that there might have been some truth in the old stories 
about Helen of Troy, Cleopatra of Egypt, and such like — 
ancient queens of history and fable, who rode rampant 
over the necks of men, and whose deadly beauty proved a 
fire-brand wherever it was thrown. 

"Yes," replied Edna, as she took off her sister's hat and 
shawl, and noticed what a delicate rose-color was grow- 
ing on the sea-freshened cheek, and how the old brightness 
was returning to the lustrous eyes. " You are quite right, 
Letty, dear. It would never do for us to take any notice 
of our neighbors, unless, indeed, they were at the very last 
extremity, which is not likely to happen." 

" Certainly not ; and even if it did, I must say I think 
we ought not to trouble ourselves about them. We have 
quite enough cares of our own without taking upon our- 
selves the burden of other people's." 

This was only too true. Edna was silenced. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 41 



CHAPTER m. 

" L'homme propose, et Dieu dispose," is a saying so trite 
as to be not worth saying at all were not its awful so- 
lemnity, in mercy as often as in retribution, forced upon 
us by every day's history; more especially in those sort 
of histories of which this is openly one — love-stories. 
How many brimming cups slip from the lip, according to 
the old proverb ! how many more, which worldly or cruel 
hands have tried to dash aside, are nevertheless taken and 
guided by far diviner and safer hands, and made into a 
draught of life all the sweeter for delay ! And in lesser 
instances than these, what a curious path Fate oftentimes 
seems to make for mortal feet, leading them exactly whith- 
er they have resolved not to go, and shutting up against 
them those ways which seemed so clear and plain I 

For some days Fate appeared to be doing nothing as 
regarded these four young persons but sitting invisibly 
at their mutual threshold with her hands crossed, and 
weaving no web whatever for their entanglement. They 
went out and came in — but their going and coming 
chanced to be at different hours ; they never caught sight 
of one another. Edna, moved by her kindly heart, every 
*morning made a few civil inquiries of Mrs. Williams after 
the invalid ; but Letty, seeing that no interesting episode 
was likely to occur, ceased to care at all about the new- 
comers. Indeed, as she was now rapidly getting well, 
blooming into more than her ordinary beauty in the reju- 
venescence that sometimes takes place after a severe ill- 
ness, how could she be expected to trouble herself about a 
sick young man in a Bath chair, and a stout brother who 
was wholly absorbed in taking care of him ? Except for 
Edna, and her occasional inquiries and remarks concerning 
them, Letty would almost have forgotten their existence. 

But Fate had not forgotten. One morning the grim 



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42 . THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

unseen Woman in the door-way rose up and began her 
work. 

The " last extremity " of which Edna had spoken sud- 
denly occurred. 

They had seen Dr. Stedman start off, stick in hand, for 
his evening walk across the cliffs — which was the only 
recreation he seemed to indulge in — he took it while his 
brother slept, Mrs. Williams said, between twilight and 
bedtime ; otherwise he rarely left him for an hour. This 
night it was an unfortunate absence. He had scarcely 
been gone ten minutes when the landlady rushed into the 
Misses Kenderdine's parlor in a state of great alarm. 

" Oh ! Miss Edna, would you come ? You're used to 
illness, and I don't know what's the matter. He's dead, 
or dying, or something, and his brother's away. Please 
come ! — this minute — or it may be too late." 

" Don't go !" cried Letty. " Mrs. Williams, it's impos- 
sible — impertinent of you to ask it. She can't go." 

But Edna had already gone without a word. 

She was not surprised at the landlady's fright. One of 
those affections of the heart which so often follow rheu- 
matic fever had attacked the young man ; very suddenly, 
as it seemed. He lay not on the sofa, but on the floor, 
as if he had slipped down there, all huddled up, with his 
hands clenched, and his face like a dead man's face. So 
like, that Letty, who, after a minute, had, in spite of 
her opposition, followed her sister, thought he really was 
dead ; and, having a nervous horror of death, and sicknessj 
and all kinds of physical unpleasantnesses, had shrunk back 
again into their own sitting-room, and shut the door. 

Edna knelt down and lifted the passive head on to her 
lap. She forgot it was a young man's head ; she scarcely 
even saw that it was beautiful — b, poet's face, like that of 
Shelley or Keats. She only recognized that he was a sick 
human creature who lay there needing her utmost help ; 
and, without a second thought, she gave it. She would 
have given it just the same to the ugliest, coarsest laborer 
who had been brought injured to her door, and have shrunk 
as little from dirt and wounds as she did now from the 



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THE woman's kingdom. 43 

grace of the curly black hair and the gleam of the white 
throat, which she hastily laid bare to give him a chance 
of breath. 

" No, he is not dead, Mrs. Williams. I can feel his heart 
beat. He has only fainted. Bring me some smelling-salts 
and a glass of water." 

Her simple restoratives took effect — the patient soon 
opened his eyes. 

" Go into our room ; tell my sister to send me a glass 
of wine," whispered she; and the frightened woman at 
once obeyed. 

But the glass was held to his lips in vain. ''Don't 
trouble me," said the poor fellow, faintly, and half-uncon- 
scious still. " Don't, Will ! I'm dying — ^I would rather 
die." 

" You are not dying, and we can not allow it," said Edna 
from behind. '' Drink this, and you will be better pres- 
ently." 

Instinctively he obeyed the cheerful, imperative voice, 
and then, coming more clearly to his senses^ tried to dis- 
cover whence it came, and who was holding hiuu 

No vision of beauty ; no princess succorinjg a wounded 
knight ; or queen of fairies bending over King Arthur at 
the margin of the celebrated lake; nothing at all roman- 
tic, or calculated.to fix a young man's imagination at once 
and forever. Only a little woman — a rather plain little 
woman too — who smiled down upon him very kindly, 
but without the slightest confusion or hesitation ; no more 
than if she had been his aunt or his grandmother. He 
did not even think her a young woman — ^not then — for his 
faculties were confiised ; the only fact he was sensible of 
was her womanliness and kindliness. 

The conversation between them was also as common- 
place as it could be. 

"You are very good, madam; I am sorry to have 
troubled you — and all these women," looking round on 
Mrs. Williams and the servant with an ill-concealed ex- 
pression of annoyance. " I am quite well now." 
. " You will be presently. But please don't talk. Drink 



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44 THE woman's kingdom. 

this, and then lie down again on your sofa till your broth" 
er comes back. Will he be long ?" 

She had scarcely said it before the brother himself ap- 
peared. He stood a minute at the parlor-door. To say 
he looked astonished at the scene before him is needless ; 
but his penetrating eye seemed to take it all in at a glance. 

"Don't move, Julius. I understand. I wish I had not 
gone out," said he ; and kneeling beside him, felt his pulse 
and heart. 

" Never mind, Will ; I am better now. Mrs. Williams 
looked after me ; and this lady, you see." 

" Mrs. Williams fetched me, knowing I was accustomed 
to illness," explained Edna, simply, as she resigned her post 
to the doctor and rose to her feet. " I do not think it was 
worse than a fainting-fit, and he is much better now." 

" So I see. Thank you. We are both of us exceeding- 
ly indebted to you for your kindness," said Dr. Stedman, 
rather formally, but in a manner which proved he was— as 
Edna had said every doctor ought to be — ^really a gentle- 
man. And then, taking advantage of his complete absorp- 
tion in his brother's state to the exclusion of all standers- 
by, she quietly slipped out of the room ; thereby escaping 
all further thanks, explanations, or civilities. 

Letty, having recovered from her fright, and being re- 
assured that there was not that dreadful thing " death in 
the house," nor likely to be at present, became, as was nat- 
ural, mightily interested in the episode which had taken 
place in the opposite parlor. 

" Quite a scene in a play. You must have felt like a 
heroine of romance, Edna." 

" Indeed I didn't ; only rather awkward and uncomfort- 
able — that is, if I felt any thing at all, which I am not 
sure I did, at the time. He was a very sad sight, that 
poor young fellow. Fainting in the reality is not half so 
picturesque as they make it on the stage and in books. 
Besides, I fear it is only an indication of worse things. 
Heart-disease almost Invariably follows rheumatic fever. 
I know that." 

" Of course. You know every thing," said Letty, with 



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THE woman's kingdom. 46 

the Blight sharpness of tone which was occasionally heard ' 
in her voice, and startled a stranger by the exceeding con- 
trast it formed to her beautiful classical face. ''But, for 
all you say, it was a charming adventure. A sick young 
man lying unconscious, with his head in your lap, and his 
brother coming in and finding you in that romantic at- 
titude." 

f* Nonsense !" cried Edna; a slight color, half shame- 
faced, half-indignant, rising in her honest cheek. 

" It isn't nonsense at all. It's very interesting. And 
pray tell me every word they said to you. They ought 
to have overwhelmed you with gratitude; and one or 
both brothers — both would be better — ought to fall in 
love with you on the spot. The result — rivalry, jealousy, 
fury, and fratricide. Oh I what fun I To have two broth- 
ers in love with one lady at the same time ! I wonder it 
never happened to me ; but perhaps it may some day." 

"I earnestly hope not," said Edna. 

But at the same time a horrible foreboding entered her 
mind concerning these two brothers, who must inevitably 
live under the same roof with Letty for some days, possi- 
bly weeks ; who would have many opportunities of seeing 
her — and nobody ever looked at the beautiful Letty who 
did not look again immediately. For her charms were 
not those recondite and variable ones of expression and 
intellect ; they were patent— on the sur&ce — attractive at 
once to the most refined and the coarsest masculine eyes. 
Hitherto no young mAn had ever cast the merest glance 
upon Letty Kenderdine without trying to pursue the slO 
quaintance ; and the anxious sister began to wish that her 
own sympathies had not led her into that act of kindly 
civility which might prove the "open, sesame" to a hun- 
dred civilities more, were the opposite lodgers so inclined. 
Should it appear likely, she determined to make a dead 
stand of opposition, and not allow the least loop-hole 
through which they could push their way to any further 
acquaintance. 

This determination, however, she wisely kept to herself; 
for in Letty's last little love-affair they two had held di- 



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46 THE woman's kingdom; 

vided opinions, and, with all her affection for her sister, 
she had begun to find that sisters do not necessarily think 
alike. Their twelvemonths' living together, after an al- 
most total separation since their school-days, had taaght 
Edna this fact — one of the sad facts which all human be- 
ings have to learn — that every one of us is, more or less, 
intensely alone. Before marriage — ay, and after any but 
the very happiest marriage -^ absolutely and inevitably 
alone. 

" Don't speak so seriously," said Letty, laughing. " You 
are not vexed with me?" 

"Ohnol" 

Where, indeed, was the use of being vexed with her? 
or of arguing the point with her? Edna knew that if she 
were to talk to her sister till doomsday she could no more 
make her understand her own feelings on this subject than 
if she were preaching to a blind man on the subject of 
colors. To Letty love merely meant marriage, and mar- 
riage meant a nice house, a respectable, good sort of man 
as master to it — probably, a carriage ; and at any rate as 
many handsome clothes as she could possibly desire. She 
did not overlook the pleasantness of the preliminary stage 
of love-making, but then she had already gone through 
that, in degree ; in truth, her lovers had of late become to 
her more of a worry than an amusement, and she was now 
disposed to take a thoroughly sensible and practical view 
of things. 

Nevertheless, there was in her a lurking love of admira- 
tion per 86, without ulterior possibilities, which had grown 
by what it fed on — and there was no lack of provender in 
Letty's case, for every man she met admired her. Also, 
she had in her a spice of feminine contradictoriness, which, 
had she discovered any lack of admiration, would have 
roused ber to buckle all her beauty's armor on, and reme- 
dy it, thus marring, by one fortuitous glance or smile, all 
her sister's sage precautions. 

Edna knew this ; knew it by the way in which, while 
protesting that she hoped no further acquaintance with 
the two Stedmans would ensue through this very impru- 



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47 

dent step on Edna's part, she talked all evening about 
them, and insisted on hearing every particular concerning 
them : what they did, said, and looked like ^ what sort of 
a parlor they had, whether it was very untidy and bache- 
lor-like. 

" For, of course, neither of them is married, though the 
doctor is old enough to be; but doctors never can afford 
to settle early, especially in London. These people live in 
London, don't they ?" 

" I really don't know. I have never inquired." 

" Do inquire, then ; for if Dr. Stedman should take it 
into his head to call — and it would be the least thing he 
could do, in acknowledgment of your kindness to his 
brother — " 

"Oh, I hope not." 

"So do I; for it might turn out exceedingly" — Letty 
cast a half-amused glance at herself in the mirror — " ex- 
ceedingly awkward — for him, poor fellow; of course, it 
couldn't affect me. Though big and rough — as he is, you 
say — he seems decidedly the most interesting of the two. 
And depend upon it, Edna, if we should happen to make 
acquaintance with these two brothers, he is the one that 
will fall in love with me." 

"Why do you think so?" asked Edna, internally re- 
solving that, if she could possibly prevent it, the poor 
honest-looking doctor should be saved from that dire ca- 
lamity. 

"Why? Because he's ugly, and I'm — well,rm not ex- 
actly ugly, you know ; and I always notice that plain peo- 
ple are certain' to fall in love with me — probably just by 
the law of contrast. For the same reason you'll tell me, 
I suppose, that I ought to marry some very wise, grave 
fellow, possibly such an one as this doctor of yours, who 
would altogether look after me, take me in and do for 
me — admire me excessively, no doubt, but still save me 
all trouble of thinking and acting for myself Heigh-ho ! 
what a comfort that would be !" 

" It really would !" said Edna, seriously, and then could 
not help smiling, for the hundredth time, at Letty's very 



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48 TH£ woman's kingboh:. 

matter-of-fact style of discussing her loves and her lovers. 
Her extreme candor was her redeeming point. She was 
not a wise woman, but she was certainly not a hypocrite. 
No need to fear that with Letty Kenderdine it would be 
" all for love and the world well lost," or that if she mar- 
ried she would make otherwise than what even Belgravian 
mothers would call " a veiy good marriage," and after- 
wards strictly do her duty to her husband and society, or 
rather to society first, and then, so far as was practicable, 
to her husband. And, Edna sometimes thought, judging 
by the sort of lovers that came after Letty, with whose 
characters and feelings she, Edna, was fully conversant — . 
for her sister had no reticence whatever concerning them 
— men marry for no higher, perhaps even a lower, motive. 
" I am ratjier glad," said she, suddenly, apropos of noth- 
ing, '' certainly more glad than sorry, that I shall be an 
old maid." 

" Well, as I always said, you will be an extremely hap- 
py one," returned Letty ; " and you ought to be thankful 
to be saved from all the difficulties which fall to my lot 
There ! don't you hear the opposite door opening ? He is 
stopping in the lobby — ^speaking to Mrs. Williams, Of 
course, I knew what would come of all this. I was cer- 
tain the young man would call." 

But, in spite of Letty's tone of indignation, her counte- 
nance fell considerably when the doctor did not call, but 
shut his sitting-room door again immediately, apparently 
without taking the slightest interest in, or manifesting the 
smallest desire to communicate with, his fair neighbor. 
And another night fell, and another day rolled on, bright, 
sunshiny, calm ; it was most glorious weather ; just the 
" fullness of the spring," when 

**A young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love;*' 

and still Fate sat motionless at the threshold — ^nor ap- 
proached a step nearer to make these young hearts beat or 
tremble with premonitions of their destiny. 

It was not until the last evening of the week, and three 
days after Edna's act of unacknowledged, and, Letty d&- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 49 

clared, quite unappreciated kindness, that the four in- 
mates of Mrs. Williams's lodgings really met, face to face, 
in a rencontre unplanned, unexpected, and impossible to 
be avoided on either side. Yet it came about naturally 
enough, and at the most likely place — the garden gate. 

Just as the 'two sisters were setting out for the latest 
of their three daily strolls, and the doctor was bringing 
his brother home from his, the Bath chair stopped the 
way. Letty, walking in advance, as she usually did, being 
now as restless for going out as she had formerly been lan- 
guid and lazy in stopping in, came suddenly in front of her 
fellow-invalid. 

She drew back — as has been said, Letty had an instinct- 
ive shrinking from any kind of suffering — and Julius, lift- 
ing up his heavy eyes, saw this tall, beautiful woman 
standing with one hand on the wicket gate, and her hat in 
the other, for she rather liked to go bareheaded in the sea- 
breeze. Now it freshened her cheek and brightened her 
eyes, until she seemed a vision of health as well as beauty 
in the sight of the sick man, who was turning homeward 
after a long afternoon's stroll, weary of himself, of life, of 
every thing. 

His artistic eye was caught at once ; he recognized her 
with a look of admiration that no woman could mistake ; 
though it puzzled Letty Kenderdine -a little, being differ- 
ent from the bold, open stare she was so well used to. It 
was a look, respectful and yet critical ; as calmly observ- 
ant as if she had been a statue or a picture, not a living 
woman at all, and he bent upon investigating her good 
and bad points, and appraising her value. Yet it was a 
gaze of extreme delight, though delight of a purely artistic 
kind — the pleasure of looking at a lovely thing ; the recog- 
nition, open and free, of that good gift—beauty ; when, or 
how, or upon whomsoever bestowed. Therefore it was a 
gaze that no gentleman need have blushed to give, nor 
any lady to receive ; even Edna, who, coming behind her 
sister, met and noticed it fully, could not take offense at it. 

And at sight of Edna the sickly face broke out into a 
smile. 

C 



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50 THE woman's kingdom. 

" It is yotL I hoped I should see you again. I wanted 
to thank you for your kindness to me the other day. I 
told Will— Here, Will, I want you." 

Dr. Stedman, who had been pushing the Bath chair 
from behind, also stood gazing intently at the beautiful 
vision, which, indeed, no man with eyes <K)uld possibly 
turn away from. 

" Will, do come and thank this lady — ^I forget her name; 
indeed, I don't think I ever heard it." 

This was a hint which Edna did not take ; but, to her 
surprise, it was unnecessary. 

" Miss Kenderdine, I believe " (and he had got the name 
quite pat and correct, which strangers seldom did), said 
the doctor, taking off his hat, and showing short, crisp, 
brown locks, curling tight round what would, ere many 
years, be a bald crown. " My brother and I are glad to 
have an opportunity of thanking you for your kindness 
that day.' It made a strong impression on him ; he has 
talked of you ever since." 

"Yes, indeed; it was such a charitable thing for a 
stranger to do to a poor sick fellow like me," added Julius, 
looking up with a simplicity that had something almost 
child-like in it. " Such a frank, generous, womanly thing ! 
I told Will he ought to go in and thank you for it, but he 
wouldn't ; he is such a shy fellow, this brother of mine." 

"Julius, pray — we are detaining these ladies." 

But Julius never took any hints, and often said and did 
things which nobody else would ever think of; and yet, 
coming from him, they were done in such a pleasant way 
as never to vex any body. 

" Nonsense I we are not stiff in our manners here : we 
are at the sea-side ; and then I am an invalid, and must be 
humored, must I not. Miss Kenderdine ? You don't mind 
my detaining you here for two minutes, just to thank you?" 

"No," said Edna, smiling. She wondered afterwards 
that she had responded so frankly to the young man's 
greeting, and allowed so unresistingly the introduction 
which soon brought them all to speaking terms, and drew 
Letty also into the quartette who, for the next five min- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 61 

P 

iites or 80, paused to talk over the garden gate. But, as 
she was forced to confess — when in their walk afterwards 
Letty reproved her, laying all the blame upon her, what- 
ever happened — she could not help it. There was a charm 
about Julius Stedman which made every body do as he 
wished, and he evidently wished exceedingly to make ac- 
quaintance with these two young ladies. Not an unnatu- 
1^1 wish in any man, especially in dull sea-side lodgings. 

So he detained them as long as he civilly could, chatting 
freely to the one, and gazing silently at the other — the 
owner of that wonderful Clytie face. He put himself with 
his unquestioned prerogative of illness, much more forward 
than his brother — though the doctor, too, talked a little, 
and looked also ; if not with the open-eyed admiration of 
Julius, with a keen, sharp investigation, as if he were tak- 
ing the measure, less artistically than morally, of this love- 
ly woman. 

Nevertheless — or, perhaps, consequently — ^the conversa- 
tion that went on was trivial enough : about the sea, the 
fine coast, the lovely spring sunset, and the charming 
weather they had had these two days. 

" Yes, I like it," said Julius, in reply to Edna's question. 
"It warms me through and through — this glorious sun- 
shine ! I am sure it would make me well if it lasted ; but 
nothing ever does last in this world." 

"You will speak more cheerfully by-and-by," said Edna. 
" I was pleased at this change of weather, because I knew 
it would do you and all sick people so much good." 

" How kind of you to think of me at all !" returned Julius, 
gratefully. "I am sure you must be a very nice woman." 

" Must I ?" Edna laughed, and then blushed a little, to 
find herself speaking so familiarly not only with strangers, 
but with the very strangers whom she had determined to 
keep at arm's-length under all circumstances. But then 
the familiarity was only with her — Edna, to whom it sig- 
nified little. Neither of the brothers had addressed Let- 
ty, nor offered her any attention beyond a respectful bow ; 
and Letty had drawn herself up with considerable hau- 
teury adding to the natural majesty of her beauty a sort 



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52 THB woman's kingdom: 

of "fall-in-love-if-you-dare" aspect, which, to some young 
men, might have been an additional attraction, but which 
did not seem to affect fatally either of these two. 

They looked at her; with admiration certainly, as any 
young men might — nay, must have done — would have 
been fools and blind not to have done ; but that was all. 
At first sight neither seemed disposed to throw himself 
prone under the wheels of Letty's Juggernaut chariot; 
which fact relieved Edna's mind exceedingly. 

So, after some few minutes of a conversation equally un- 
embarrassed and uninteresting, the young people parted 
where they stood, all four shaking hands over the gate, 
Julius grasping Edna's with a grateful pressure that 
would decidedly have startled her, had she not recog-' 
nized by instinct the impulsive temperament of the young 
man. Besides, she was utterly devoid of self-conscious 
vanity, and accustomed to think of her own relation to 
the opposite sex as one that precluded any special atten* 
tions. Her personal experience of men had been solely in 
the character of confidante to Letty's lovers. She used to 
say, laughing, " She was bom to be every body's sister, 
or every body's maiden aunt." 

And so the ice was broken between these four young 
people, so strangely thrown together in this solitary place, 
and under circumstances when the world and its restrio 
tions — whether needed or needless — were, for the time be- 
ing, more or less set aside. They met, simply as four hu- 
man beings, through blind chance, as it seemed, and whol- 
ly ignorant that the innocent wicket gate, held open so 
gracefully by Letty's hand for the Bath chair to pass 
through, was to them an opening into that enchanted gar- 
den which is entered but once. Which most of us — nay, 
confess it ! all of us — dream about continually before en- 
tering ; and passing out of— even for happier Edens — sel- 
dom leave without a sigh of regret. For it is the one rift 
of heaven which makes all heaven appear possible ; the 
ecstasy of hope and faith, out of which grows the Love 
which is our strongest mortal instinct and intimation of 
immortality. 



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ISS woman's EJNODOlf. 58 



CHAPTER IV. 

It is an undoubted fact, that when that event happens, 
the most vital in human life-— the first meeting of two per- 
sons who are to influence one another's character and des- 
tinies in the closest manner, for good or ill, happiness or 
misery, nay, even for virtue or crime — the sky does not 
fall, no ominous signs appear in the outside world ; nay, 
the parties concerned, poor puppets as they are, or seem 
to be, are usually quite unconscious of what has befallen 
them, and eat, drink, and sleep just as composedly as ever. 

Thus the two Misses Kenderdine, after shaking hands 
with the two Sted'mans over the gate, went calmly on 
their usual stroll along the cliffs, discussing in feminine 
fashion their new acquaintances, and speculating about 
them with an indifference that was perfectly sincere ; for 
though these school-mistresses were young enough to have 
the natural lot and future of womanhood running a good 
deal in their heads, especially at holiday time, when they 
had no more serious business in hand, and Letty's contin- 
ual "difficulties" always kept the subject alive, still they 
were neither of them silly school-girls, in love with every 
man they met, or fancying every man in love with them. 
Letty, perhaps, had a slight tendency in the latter direc- 
tion, which her experience rather justified than not ; but 
Edna was free from all such folly, or only regarded the ques- 
tion of love and matrimony in its relation to her sister. 

So they discussed freely and openly the two young men. 

Edna had been most interested in the invalid, as was 
natural ; her heart warmed towards every kind of suffer- 
ing ; while her sister had chiefly noticed the big healthy- 
looking brother, who was evidently " a man with no non- 
sense about him," by which Letty meant no sentiment ; for 
she, who had been haunted by sentimental swains, poets 
addressing verses to her, and artists imploring to sketch 
her portrait, disliked sentiment above all things. 



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54 

" Besides, this doctor does really seem a gentleman, in 
spite of his shabby coat. He might be spruced up into a 
very good-looking fellow if he had somebody to see after 
him. You are quite sure he is not married, Edna ? And 
where did you say he lived ? I wonder if it is in a respect- 
able street, and what sort of a practice he has got." 

"Letty," cried Edna, turning sharply round, half amused, 
half angry, "you are not surely going to — " 

" No, you foolish child ; not being quite a simpleton. I 
am not surely going to — to marry him — your friend with 
the shabby coat. Nor even to let him fall in love with 
me, if I can help it. But if he does, you can't blame me. 
It's all my unfortunate appearance." 

Edna attempted no reply — where was the use of it? 
Indeed she shrank back into total silence, as was her habit 
when the sense of painful incongruity between herself and 
her sister, their thoughts, motives, and actions, rose up more 
strongly than usual. She wished there was no such thing 
as falling in love — as Letty put it — or that Letty would 
fall in love honestly and sincerely, once for all, with some 
good man — she began not to care much who it was, if he 
were only good — marry him and have done with it. These 
perpetual "little affairs" of her sister's could not go on for- 
ever. Edna was rather weary of them ; and wished, more 
earnestly than she liked to express, that she could see Let- 
ty " settled "—-fairly sheltered under the wing of a worthy 
husband who would at once rule her and love her — pet her 
and take care of her ; for indeed she needed taking care 
of more than most women of six-and-twenty. Perhaps Dr. 
Stedman might be the very sort of man to do this. He 
looked like it. There was a steadfast honesty of purpose 
in his eye», and a firmness about his mouth, which seemed 
to imply sterling worth. But, though a good man, his ex- 
pression was not exactly that of an amiable man ; and Let- 
ty was a person likely to try a husband's temper consider- 
ably at times. Besides, what if he were poor? Indeed 
the fact seemed self-evident. A poor man — as she said 
herself, and Edna confessed the truth of this — would never 
do for Letty Kenderdine. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 65 

Edna's thoughts had galloped on thus far in a perfect 
steeple-chase of fancy, when she suddenly pulled up, re- 
flecting how exceedingly ridiculous it was. She almost 
despised herself for speculating thus on so slender a foun- 
dation, or no foundation at all, and bent her whole atten- 
tion to the outer world. 

Every thing was so beautiful in the still evening — the 
sea as calm as the sky, and the cliff-swallows skimming 
airily between both. Even Letty, whose thoughts there 
is no need to follow, for she never thought much or long 
about any thing, noticed them, and called them " pretty 
little things;" while Edna, who had a great love for birds, 
watched them with a curious tenderness — the creatures 
that came so far from over the waters — guided unerringly 
— to make their nests here ; as (Edna still firmly believed 
in her deepest heart, though her twelvemonths' life with 
Letty had somewhat shaken the out-works of that girlish 
faith) Heaven guides all true lovers that are to be husband 
and wife — leads them from farthest comers of the world, 
through storm and trial, danger and death, to their own 
appointed home in one another's arms. • 

So she left her sister's lot — her own she never thought 
of— in wiser hands than hers ; trusting that He who mated 
the swallows and brought them hither from across the 
seas, and made them so content and happy, hovering about 
in the spring twilight, would in time bring Letty a good 
husband, and relieve her sisterly heart from the only real 
care it had — the unknown future of this beautiful, half- 
foolish, half- worldly-wise woman, who, though her very 
flesh and blood, was so unlike herself that it puzzled Edna 
daily more and more both to understand her and to guide 
her. 

The two sisters went back to their dull lodgings, which, 
in common with all lodgings, looked especially dull and 
unhome-like at this hour. They sat down to their innocent 
milk supper, and the one glass of wine which Letty still in- 
dulged in, as a last relic of invalidism, though saying each 
day she would give it up. And then they settled them- 
selves to sewing, at least Edna did, Letty declaring she 



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56 THE woman's kingdom. 

never could sew with the poor light of two mould candles. 
She amused herself with lying on the sofa and talking, or 
chatting, the sort of desultory chat which people who. live 
together naturally fall into— it is only strangers who main- 
tain " conversation." Besides, Letty's talk was never con- 
versation ; it rarely rose beyond ordinary facts or person- 
alities ; generally of a trivial kind. Clytie-like though her 
lips were, they did not drop pearls and diamonds ; but then 
they never dropped toads and adders. She was exceeding- 
ly good-natured, and never said sharp or unkind things 
of any body ; in this having the advantage of Edna, who 
sometimes felt sorely tempted to be severe and satirical, 
then blamed herself, and took refuge in mild generalities, 
as now. 

The two brothers would have been more amused than 
flattered had they known that on this momentous evening 
of their first rencontre with the two young ladies, which 
meeting had conveyed to both an impression of undefined 
pleasantness, as the society of all good women ought to 
give to every good man, their fair neighbors' conversation 
was, from the time of re-entering the house, strictly on the 
subject of clothes. 

" Alas I" Letty broke out, almost as soon as supper was 
over, declaring the matter had been on her mind all day — 
the spring weather was coming on fast, and they had only 
their winter garments with them, and no possibility of 
getting more. 

" For we can't buy every thing new, and our last sum- 
mer's things are locked up at home; and besides, I almost 
forget what we have." 

" Nothing very much, I fear." 

" We never have," said Letty, in a melancholy voice. 
''When I was in situations I was obliged to dress well; 
but now ? Just think, Edna, to-morrow is Sunday, and we 
have only our brown bonnets and our winter cloaks ; and 
it will likely be as hot as to-day, and the sunshine will 
show all their shabbiness. It is very provoking ; nay, it 
it is exceedingly hard." 

" It is hard, especially for you, Letty." 



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51 

And Edna glanced at her beautiful sister, upon whom 
any thing looked well; yet whose beauty would have 
borne the most magnificent setting off that wealth could 
furnisL How splendid she would have looked in silks, 
laces, and jewels — the prizes that in all ages there have 
been found women ready to sell their souls for! Was 
Letty one of these? Edna could not believe it. Yet she 
knew well that dress, and the lack of it, was a ;nuch se- 
verer trial to her sister than to herself— that Letty actu- 
ally suffered, mentally and morally, from a worn-out shawl 
or an old-fashioned bonnet ; while as to herself, so long 
as she was neat and clean, and had colors matching — ^no 
blues and greens, pinks and scarlets, which poverty com- 
pelled to be worn together — it did not materially affect 
her happiness, whether she had on a silk dress or a cot- 
ton one. 

This catastrophe of the winter bonnets was annoying ; 
but it was a small annoyance — not worth fretting about, 
when they had so many more important cares, and many 
a blessing likewise. Her mind, which had been wander- 
ing alternately back to the house and the school to which 
in a short time they must return, and dwelling on a few 
pleasant fancies left by the evening walk, felt suddenly 
dragged down into the narrow ways of ordinary life — 
made narrower than they need to be by this hopeless way 
of looking at them. She did not like it ; for, monotonous 
and commonplace as her life had been — ever since she 
was twelve years old — first school life, then governess 
life in a dull country city family, there was in this young 
school-mistress's soul a something which always felt like 
a little bird that would stretch its wings, feeling sure 
there must be a wide empyrean waiting for it somewhere. 
In her long pauses over her needle-work this little bird 
usually sat pluming its feathers and singing to itself, till 
some chance word of Letty's silenced it — as was wisest 
and best. For Letty would not have understood the little 
bird at all. 

Edna fastened its cage-door, and determined to make 
the best of things. 

^ C2 



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68 THB woman's kingdom. 

" Yes, as you say, it is hard ; but be patient this one 
Sunday, and before the next I will see what can be done. 
Suppose I take the coach to Ryde, and choose two plain 
straw bonnets and trim them myself— with green, perhaps. 
You always look so well in green. Then we should be 
quite respectable while here, and they would last us as 
second-best all summer." 

Letty brightened up amazingly. "That is a capital 
thought, Edna. You are the very cleverest girl ! I al- 
ways said, and I will say it, a great deal cleverer than I 
am, if the men could only find it out." 

"They never will, and I don't want them," said Edna, 
laughing. "And now let us come to bed, for it is quite 
time." 

As the sisters passed up stairs, both cast a glance on 
the shut parlor-door opposite, behind which was complete 
silence, as usual of evenings. The brothers did not seem 
to have such long tongues as. the sisters. 

"I wonder how they contrive to amuse themselves, 
these two young fellows," said Letty, yawning. " I hope 
they are not as dull as we are sometimes." 

" Men never are dull, I suppose," replied Edna, in her 
glorious maiden ignorance. "They have always some- 
thing to do, and that alone makes people cheerful. Be- 
sides, they don't dwell on trivial things, as we do; their 
minds are larger and clearer — at least, the best of them 
must be so," she corrected herself, reflecting that she was 
speaking more out of her ideal than her actual experience 
of the race. And with a feeling of weariness at the small- 
ness into which her daily gossip with Letty sometimes de- 
generated, Edna thought she would really like, just for a 
change, to have a good, sensible talk with a man. She 
wondered what those two men down stairs talked about 
when they were alone, and whether their chief conversa- 
tion, corresponding with that in the next parlor, was on 
the subject of clothes. And the idea of Dr. Stedman dis- 
cussing the shape of his new hat, or Mr. Stedman becom- 
ing confidential with his brother on the question of coats 
and trowsers, proved so irresistibly ludicrous that Edna 



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THE woman's kingdom. 69 

burst into one of her hearty fits of laughter — ^her first 
since Letty was ill — which did her so much good that she 
was sound asleep in five minutes. 

And what of the two men fated to influence, and be in- 
fluenced by, these two young women, in the way that hu- 
man lives do act and react upon one another, in a manner 
so mysterious that ail precautions often seem idle — all 
plans vain — all determinations null and void — and yet we 
still go on working, planning, and resolving — deliberately 
laying out the pattern of our own and others' future, of 
which we can neither forecast, nor control, nor, alas ! re- 
call, one single day. 

They did not talk over their neighbors ; it is not man's 
way, or not the way of such men as, with all their faults, 
these two Stedmans were — honest young fellows, from 
whom neither sin nor folly had rubbed off* the bloom of 
their youth, or led them to think and talk of women as, 
God forgive them! men sometimes do — men, who were 
born of women, who once hung as innocent babies at some 
woman's breast. 

They came in-doors, Julius with evident reluctance. 

"Why didn't you give me another turn on the cliffy, 
Will ? I wanted two or three more minutes to study that 
head." 

"MissKenderdine's?" 

"Isn't it grand, now? Bring me my sketch-book, and 
ni have a try at the profile. Finest profile I ever saw. 
It might be useful some day, when I get well." 

"You'll be well sooner than you think, old boy." 

And that was literally all which passed concerning the 
two sisters. 

The brothers spent their usual silent evening, Julius 
drawing, and William immersed in a heap of medical liter- 
ature which lay on a table in the comer, into which he 
plunged at every possible opportunity. For he knew that 
time was money to him, in these early days when he had 
more leisure than fees ; and besides, he had a genuine love 
of acquiring knowledge, all the stronger, perhaps, that he 
was of too cautious, modest, and self€istrustful a tempera- 



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60 THE woman's kingdom, 

ment to strike out brilliant ideas of his own. But he had 
the faculty, perhaps safer for ultimate success, of acquir- 
ing and assimilating the ideas of other men. And conse- 
quently he had a keen delight in what is called ''hard 
reading." 

His head, as he bent it over the chaotic mass of books, 
had a finer expression than its ordinary one, which was a 
little heavy, and sometimes a little cross. But both these 
expressions originated in a sort of undeveloped look he 
had, as if in him the perceptive and the practical had been 
well cultivated, while the fancy lay dormant. A strong 
contrast to that sweet, sensitive, poetic head of his broth- 
er's, where the balance lay in precisely the opposite direc- 
tion. Any superficial observer would have wondered how 
they got on together at all, except for the patent fact that 
people sometimes fit into one another precisely because 
they differ, when the difference is only difference and not 
contrariety. 

" There ! I think I've got it at last !" 

" Got what ?" said the doctor, rousing himself and rub- 
bing his fingers through his short curly locks till they 
stood out all round his head like a chevavx de frise. 

"That profile, of course! Come over and tell me if you 
think it like. Pretty well, I think, for a study done from 
memory. I must get her to sit to me. Will, couldn't 
you manage it somehow? Couldn't you cultivate their 
acquaintance?" 

" I ? Nonsense t I n^ver knew what to say to women." 

"Then how, in the name of fortune, do you mean to 
make yourself into a London physician ? If a doctor can't 
be sweet to women he never earns even salt to his por^ 
ridge." 

"As probably I never may. And then I'll keep on be- 
ing a poor hospital doctor, or doing a large practice gratis, 
as I do now." 

" More's the pity." 

"Not at all. It is practice. And it saves one fiom 
rusting to death, or eating one's heart out in disappoint- 
ment before the gosd time comes, as I suppose it will 



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THE woman's kingdom. 61 

come some time. And now give me your sketch to look 
at." 

He examined it minutely, deliberately rather than en- 
thusiastically, taking exception to certain points of feature 
both in it and the original, hut, on the whole, very lauda- 
tory of both. 

Still, Julius put up the port-folio half dissatisfied. 

"You are so confoundedly cool about things. Why, 
Will, it's the finest subject I ever had. A perfectly cor- 
rect face. Not a feature out of its place, and the coloring 
glorious. What a blessing to have such a model always 
at hand ! I could understand Rafiaelle's carrying off the 
Fomarina, and Andrea del Sarto marrying his beautiful 
Lucrezia, if only for convenience." 

"You scape-grace!" cried the elder brother, laughing. 
" If I thought you were going to make a fool of yourself— " 

" No, no ; my fool-days are done. I'm nothing but an 
artist now. Don't make a mock of me, Will ! — a poor, 
helpless fellow that can't even walk across a room." 

" Yes, you could if you tried. I told you so yesterday. 
Will you try ?" 

Julius shook his head. " That was always your motto 
— 'Try!' You should paint it on your carriage when you 
hunt up the Heralds' College to get arms for your two- 
horse brougham, in which you come to visit me in a two- 
' pair back in Clipstone Street, or Kensal Green Cemetery. 
I don't know which, and don't much care." 

The elder brother turned away. He was used to these 
sort of speeches — hardened to them, indeed; yet they 
could not fail slightly to affect him still, with the sort of 
feeling — ^half pity, half something less tender than pity — . 
with which we are prone to regard weaknesses that we 
ourselves can only by an effort comprehend. 

" Well ! in the mean time, as to your walking. I have 
often told you, Julius, some of your ailments are purely 
nervous. I mean, not exactly imaginary," seeing that 
Julius winced, "but in the nerves. And the nerves are 
queer things, my boy : very much guided by the will, 
which is a queerer thing yet." 



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62 THE woman's kingdom. 

" What do you mean ? That I could walk if I tried ?" 

" Not precisely. But that if you were forced to walk 
— if some strong impulse came — say a fire in the house, 
and you were compelled to escape for your life— you would 
find you could do it. At least that is my opinion." 

" Opinions are free, of coursa I wish for your sake I 
could gratify you, William. I would not then be detain- 
ing you here from your practice, your profession, and all 
the enjoyments of your life, in waiting upon a miserable 
fellow who had much better be in his grave." 

The quick, irritable pride — the readiness to take offense 
— William Stedman was familiar with these vagaries too. 
But the next minute they were gone, as they always were. 
In the sweet nature no bitterness ever lingered long. Ju- 
lius held out his hand to his brother with a child-like ex- 
pression of penitence. 

" I beg your pardon. Will. You're the best old fellow 
alive. Give me your hand, and Til try to walk, or at least 
to stand." 

"That's right." 

"Will it— will it be very painful?" 

The doctor hesitated ; and as he looked at his brother 
there came into his face that deep tenderness — wholly a 
man's tenderness — which none but strong men ever feel, 
and rarely feel except to women. 

" Painful, lad ? Yes, it may be painfuL I am afraid it 
will be, at first. I wish I could bear it for you. Which 
is a silly speech, because I can't. Still, won't you try ?" 

" I will — with somebody to help me." 

Ay, that was the key to his whole nature — that sensi- 
tive, loving, delicate nature. He could do almost any 
thing with somebody to help him ; without that, nothing. 

The brother held out a steady hand; and then slowly, 
shrinkingly, trembling all over with nervous apprehension, 
Julius tried to raise himself in his chair and stand upon 
his stiff limbs. So far he succeeded; but when he at- 
tempted to move them, the pain, or the dread of pain, was 
too much for him. He fell back white and exhausted. 

« It won't do. Will ; it Won't do." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 63 

" Not this time. Wait a few minutes, and then — " 

" Must I try again ? Oh, couldn't you be kind to me, 
and let me rest ?" said the poor fellow, piteously. 

'' If I did, it would not be real kindness. Let me talk 
to you a little common sense — you're not an invalid now, 
nor a baby either. Will you listen to me ?" 

Julius opened his eyes from the sofa where his brother 
had tenderly laid him down, and. saw Will sitting on the 
table opposite, playing with a paper-cutter, but keenly ob- 
servant all the while. 

" Yes, I'll listen. But it will be useless ; you can't give 
me my legs again. Oh, Will, it's easy for you to speak — 
such a big, strong, healthy fellow as you are ! And I was 
the same once, or nearly so, till I threw my health away. 
It's too late now." 

" Too late, at twenty-five ? Bosh ! Look here, lad. As 
I told you before, a doctor has a pretty severe handful 
with fellows like you. He has to fight against two things 
— the reality and the imagination. You are ill enough, I 
know — at least, you were when you were down with that 
rheumatic fever." 

" By George, I was ill 1 Never sufiered isuch a horrible 
pain in all my life. Don't tell me that was fancy." 

" No ; but the pain has left you now. Your last bad at- 
tack was the night you came here. I do not believe you 
will have any more. Your feet don't swell now; your 
joints are supple ; in fact, your legs are as sound as my 
own. Yet there you sit, and let them stiffen day by day; 
or rather, I'm such a fool as to let you, because I happen 
to be brother as well as doctor. Once for all, Julius, do 
you wish to be a cripple for life ?" 

" No. Oh, my God, no !" replied Julius, with a shudder. 

" Then try once more, before it is too late, and you real- 
ly do lose the use of your limbs. Walk, if only three steps, 
to prove to yourself that walking is possible." 

Julius shook his head mournfully. 

" It is possible," cried Will, almost angry with earnest- 
ness. " On my honor as a doctor, there is no physical rea- . 
son why you should not walk. I am sure of it." 



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64 

" Of course it is only my ' fancy,' which you are always 
throwing in my teeth. I suppose I could jump up this 
minute and run a hurdle-race across the cliff for your 
amusement. I only wish I could, that's all I If you are 
right — and of course you always are right — what an aw- 
ful humbug I must be !" 

" I never said that — ^I never thought it," replied the el- 
der brother, very patiently — far more patiently than his 
looks would have given reason to expect. " You are no 
humbug: no more than was a certain patient of mine, 
who fancied he could not use his right arm ; went about 
with it in a sling; won unlimited sympathy; learned to 
write with his left hand ; for he was an author, poor fel- 
low!" 

"Ah ! according to you, half the *poor fellows' in the 
world are either authors or artists." 

" He would come to me," William went on, " with the 
saddest complaints and the most hopeless forebodings 
about his arm. Yet if I got him into an argument, and 
made him forget it, he would slip it out of the sling, and 
clench and flourish it in his own excitable manner ; nay, I 
have seen him hammer it on the table as orators do. And 
when I smiled he would suddenly recollect himself, pull a 
pitiful face, and slip it back into its sling as helpless as 
ever." 

"The hypocrite!" 

" Not a bit — no more a hypocrite than you or I. He was 
an exceedingly honest, good fellow, but he was afflicted 
with nerves. He had not the sense to fight against them 
manfully at first, till afterwards they mastered him. He 
had a great dread of pain: his imagination was so vivid, 
and he yielded to it so entirely, that at last he could not 
distinguish between what he felt and what he feared, un- 
til his fancies became only too sad realities." 

" How did he end ?" said Julius, roused out of the con- 
templation of himself and his own sufferings. 

" I can not tell, for I lost sight of him." 

" But how do you think he would end ?" 

William was startled by the excessive earnestness of 



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THE WOHAN^B KINGDOM. 65 

the question. "I could not say — ^indeed, I should hardly 
like to speculate. In such cases, these delusions are only 
the beginning of the end." 

^^ Isn't it a strange thing," said Julius, after a long pause, 
"that we none of us know, have not the dimmest idea how 
we may end ? Here you and I sit, two brothers, brought 
up together, or nearly so ; living together, with one and 
the same interest, and — well, old fellow I with a decent 
amount of what folk call brotherly love — yet how shall 
we both end?" 

He put his thin hand on William's arm and looked at 
him, or rather looked beyond him into vacant space, with 
that expression of sad foreboding constantly seen in faces 
like his, which is at once cause and effect, prevision and 
fulfillment. 

But it fell harmlessly on the unsuperstitious doctor. 

" How shall we end ? I trust, lad, as we began — to- 
gether. And that is as much as either of us knows, or 
ought to know. I don't like to look far ahead myself; it 
does no good, and is often very silly. Come, we both have 
preached quite enough, let us practise a little. Will you 
walk back to your arm-chair ?" 

" You are the most obstinate, determined fellow. I do 
think, if I were lying dead, you would coolly walk in with 
your galvanic battery to galvanize me to life again." 

" Perhaps I should, because I should never believe you 
dead. Fellows of your temperament take a vast deal of 
killing. Besides, I don't want you to be killed. There's 
a deal before you yet. Will Stedman can never set the 
Thames on fire, but perhaps Julius Stedman may." 

Julius again shook his head, but smiled, and made an 
eflfort to rise. 

"Give me your hand, Will. It's just like learning to 
walk again, as if I were a baby. And you did teach me 
to walk then, you know. You'll have to do it again now." 

" Very well. Here is a finger ; now toddle away, and 
don't be frightened, you old baby." 

Julius tried, walked two or three steps with difficulty, 
and many an expression of suffering, then he succumbed. 



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66 THE woman's kingdom. 

" I can't, Will, I can't do it ; or, at least, it isn't worth 
the pain — ^Lejeu 7ie vautpas la chandeUe^ as I used to say- 
so often. It wasn't true then ; it is now. Never mind 
me : let me be a cripple for life, or let me die." 

" Neither the one thing nor the other. It isn't likely, 
and I'll not allow it. Cheer up, my boy ! You've made 
a beginning, and that was all I wanted. You have had 
plenty of exercise for to-night, and now for a sound sleep 
till morning." 

So saying he took his brother up in his arms, lifting the 
thin, slight figure as easily as if it had been a woman or a 
child, and carried him off to bed. 



CHAPTER V. 



A BRIGHT, cheery, sunshiny Sunday morning, such a Sun- 
day as makes every honest heart glad, down to the young 
'prentice-boy who sings, in that pleasant old English song — 

"Of all the days throughout the week 
I dearly love but one day, 
And that's the day that comes between 

The Saturday and Monday: 
For then I'm dress*d in all my best 
To walk abroad with Sally." 

And though not dressed in all her best, and having no one 
(save Edna) to walk abroad with, even Letty Kenderdine 
enjoyed this Sunday ; ay, though she had to attire herself 
for church in the obnoxious brown bonnet and well-worn 
cloak — the cloak of two winters. But under it her tall 
figure, now lithe and upright with renewed health, looked 
so exceedingly graceful, and above the brown bonnet- 
strings, carefully tied, bloomed such apple-blossom cheeks, 
that when she saw herself in the glass even Letty was con- 
tented. Perhaps all the more so because her beauty had 
not been quite unbeheld. 

Passing through the hall, Dr. Stedman, who chanced to 
open his door at the same moment, had bowed to her with 
a courteous "good-morning," not pausing to say more; 



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6Y 

tbongh fihe declared to Edna he looked as if he should 
have liked it, and she was certain he blushed. However, 
he had given the mere salutation and walked rapidly on 
ahead, till the sisters lost sight of him. 

" Very good manners. He evidently does not wish to 
intrude," observed Letty. 

" No gentleman would," said Edna, " unless quite sure 
that we desired his company." 

" I wonder where he is going ? Probably to church — 
so you see he must be quite respectable." 

A little lurking devil in Edna's spirit inclined her to be- 
gin and argue that question, and prove how many bad 
people went to church, and how many good people con- 
scientiously staid away ; but she restrained it, and soon 
forgot the evil spirit in the delicious calm of their walk, 
through lanes green with budding hedge-leaves and sweet 
with the scent of primroses, to the tiny old village church. 
Such a contrast it was to their London church — so differ- 
ent was this day to their terrible London Sundays, with 
the incessant stream of feet pattering along the dusty, 
glaring pavement, church-goers and holiday-makers all 
hurrying on to their worship, their amusement, or their 
vice, with much the same countenance, and perhaps with 
not such a vital difference in their hearts! Edna often 
used to think so, and then rebuked herself for her unchar- 
itableness. 

But, in truth, she hated London — she hated, above all 
things, London Sundays. Her Sundajrs here, in the gray 
little church, with a green vision of the outside world 
showing through its unpainted windows and open door, 
recalled to her the sweet peaceful Sabbaths of her child- 
hood, when she was a little country girl in Hampshire, and 
was taken across fields and woods to just such a village 
church as this. As she sat there, in the free seats (which 
Letty did not like at all), there came back into her head a 
poem which, in her dreary school-days at St. John's Wood, • 
she had learned, and the school-mistress had reproved her 
because there was " love " in it. But Edna had fancied 
it because there was in it a feeling like those country Sun- 



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68 THB woman's kingdom. 

days ; and oh ! how unlike the Sunday at St. John's Wood ! 
It was something about — 

''There the green lane descends, 
Through which I walked to church with thee, 
O gentlest of my friends! 

"The shadow of the linden-trees 
Lay moving on the grass, 
Between them and the moving boughs, 
A shadow, thou didst pass. 

"Thy dress was like the lilies, 

And thy heart was pure as they: 
One of God's holy messengers 
Did walk with me that day.** 

And so on, and so on— sweet stray verses, which all the 
service long " beat time to nothing " in Edna's brain. A 
strangely simple, yet acute and tenacious brain — a strange- 
ly young heart, that in the midst of all its cares could go 
back upon lots of silly childish poetry. Yet she did so, 
and recalled the exact state of mind she was in when she 
learned it — poor little sixteen-year-old girl, brimming over 
with romantic dreams, none of which had ever come true. 
No, not one ; nor did she expect it now ; yet they were to 
this day vivid as ever. And as, with a half-comical appli* 
cation to the present, her fancy went over the lines — 

"Long was the good man's sermon, 
But it seemed not so to me; 
For he spake of Kuth the beautiful, 
And still I thought of thee. 

"Long was the prayer he uttered, 
Tet it seemed not so to me; 
For in my heart I prayed with him. 
And still I thought of thee." 

— she Still felt, as she remembered to have done then, that 
it would be the summit of earthly happiness to go peace- 
fully to church— just such a village church as this, and on 
just such a summer Sunday morning — and sit there, with 
the beloved of one's heart, worshipping and loving, with 



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THE woman's kingdom. 69 

the prayer that has its root in love, and the love that is 
worth nothing unless it is a perpetual prayer. 

" What a dear little church this is !" she whispered to 
her sister as they went out. 

"Very; but a rather common congregation. I saw 
scarcely any one above the class of farmers, except in the 
rectory pew. And did you notice a bonnet there — straw, 
with a green trimming and a wreath of pink daisies all 
round the face ? That is how I should like my bonnet, 
Edna. Please, remember." 

"Very well." 

" Dr. Stedman did go to church. He sat just behind us. 
Didn't you see him ?" 

" No. In truth, I had forgotten all about him." 

"Hush I there he is." 

He might have overheard the remark, for he passed close 
by the sisters, passed again with only a bow — not mani- 
festing the slightest intention of stopping and speaking, 
like the rest of the congregation, who lingered in friendly 
groups all the way between the church-porch and the lich- 
gate. Presently his long strides took him far away down 
the road. 

" What very odd manners !" remarked Letty, a little an- 
noyed. 

" I think they are the manners of a gentleman who has 
the sense not to intrude upon two ladies who have neither 
father nor brother to make his acquaintance desirable — or 
even possible," said Edna, determined to hold to her res- 
olution, and allow no loop-hole of civility through which 
the enemy might assault their little encampment, and 
bring about that passage of arms for which Letty was evi- 
dently accoutring herself— making ready for a tournament 
which, in Edna's mind, was either foolish child's play, or 
a battle royal for life and death. 

Not that any idea of so serious a crisis struck her on 
that bright Sunday morning. She simply thought that 
her sister wanted a bit of flirtation, and was resolute she 
should not have it. At which Letty sulked a little all the 
afternoon, and spent a long, leisurely, lazy Sunday, with- 



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70 

out refemDg again to either Doctor Stedman or his 
brother. 

After tea she insisted she was strong enough to go to 
church a second time, but recalled her wish when she 
looked out on the sweet Sabbath evening. " We'll take a 
walk instead, if you are not too good, Edna." 

Edna was not in the least too good. She longed to be 
out in the green lanes, enjoying the birds' Sunday hymns, 
and the incense of the Sunday flowers, and the uplifting 
of the elm-trees' tall arms, in a diimb thanksgiving for 
being again clothed with leaves : all creatures, great and 
small, seeming to feel themselves happier and merrier on 
a Sunday than on any common day. So she brought 
down Letty's hat— deposing the obnoxious brown bonnet 
— wrapped her up well in a warm shawl, and went out 
with her, having flrst cast a glance to see if the opposite 
door were shut. It was, and the blinds were down. The 
brothers seemed seldom or never to go out of evenings. 

The sisters crossed the threshold with light steps and 
lighter hearts. But as they did so the grim invisible 
Woman, sitting there, laughed at them, knowing she had 
her will — ^not they. 

And what of the two divided from them by just a wall 
on this momentous, monotonous Sunday — the two young 
men, about whom, whether they thought or not, they said 
nothing ? 

Julius Stedman had been terribly depressed all day. 
There came upon him one of those moody fits to which, 
even in health, he had been subject, and which now were 
so severe as to try to the utmost both body and mind ; and 
the cloud did not lift off for hours. Except during church- 
time, his brother never left him, but hovered about him 
with a tenderness, less brotherly than sisterly, alternately 
reasoning and jesting, reproving and persuading, but all in 
vain. He lay silent, shutting out daylight and cheei-ftil- 
ness, refusing to do any thing, or to suffer any thing to be 
done for him. At last, apropos of nothing that William 
could discover, unless it was the ringing of the bells and 
the closing of the hall-door, indicating the departure of 



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11 

somebody to evening church, Julius said, " I should like to 
go out." 

The doctor remonstrated. It was late — the dew would 
soon be falling. 

" What do I care? What need I care ? It will do me 
no harm. Or if it did, what matter? You can't cure me, 
Will, with your cleverness. You had better kill me off 
quick." 

" How ? Mention the easiest way." 

"Oh, any thing. I hate this shilly-shally work — one 
day better, the next day worse. Your prognostications 
were all wrong. This place does not cure me, and never 
will" 

" Shall we go back to London ?" 

" Horrible ! No. Besides, didn't you tell me you want- 
ed a fortnight's quiet reading before your* hospital lectures 
began?" 

" I'll manage about that, if you would like to go home. 
In fact, though it isn't much of a home we have, I think 
we should be better off there than here." 

Then, with the contrariness of sickness, Julius veered 
round, and argued energetically, almost irritably, on the 
other side. 

Dr. Stedman could not repress his annoyance. He was 
a man who always knew his own mind, and his brother's 
indecision tried him severely. 

" Have it which way you like," he said, sharply. " You 
are as bad to deal with as any woman. Stay or go — which 
you choose ; only let me know, that I may take my meas- 
ures accordingly." 

"As bad as a woman," repeated Julius, mournfully. 
" Yes, I suppose I am. Not half a man, and never shall 
be. Ah ! I wish I had some woman about me ; she would 
pity me ; she would understand me. Nay, Will, don't 
look savage. I didn't mean to vex you." 

" Nor did you vex me ; so don't be fancying that among 
other nonsense," returned. Will, with some impatience. 
" Just let us try to have an ounce of common sense be- 
tween us. The larger matters we can settle to-morrow. 



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12 THE woman's kingdom. 

At present the question is, Will you or will you not go out 
this evening ? Say yes, and I'll go and fetch the chair." 

" Thank you. But it's late, and it's Sunday evening." 

" Pshaw 1" The doctor rose, searched for his hat, and 
was off in a minute. 

In ten minutes more the brothers were out on the cliffs, 
in their accustomed mode of progression, along the famil- 
iar way. Doubtless, a weary life for them both ; an un- 
natural life for two young men, in the very flower of their 
age, and both in the most critical time of their career ; a 
time when to most men every week, every day is of mo- 
ment as regards theii* future. Yet here they were, passing 
it in compulsory idleness. No wonder both were silent, 
and that the lovely evening did not steal into their hearts 
as it did into those of the two young women. Nay, their 
forced companionship seemed to throw the brothers wider 
apart than it had done the sisters. True, Will and Julius 
never quarrelled, as Letty and Edna sometimes did — burst- 
ing into a thunder-storm of words, ending in tears and kiss- 
es of reconciliation — womanish but safe. On the contra- 
ry, each fortified himself behind his masculine armor of 
steely reticence, smooth and cold, feeling all the while that 
within it he was a dull fellow — a solitary fellow — even 
with his own brother beside him. Such lonely moments 
come to all people — ^before marriage (Heaven help them 
if they come after marriage !) — and it would be well if 
brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, recognized this 
fact — as a law of God and necessity — that all the love of 
duty never makes up for the love of choice. 

What poor Julius was thinking of as he sat, helplessly 
propelled along, and looked listlessly on the sweet land- 
scape that he had neither strength nor heart to paint — 
what William felt as he expended in pushing the Bath- 
chair the manly strength that would have enjoyed a good 
twenty-mile walk across the island, geologizing, botaniz- 
ing, and what riot — must remain alike unknown. Certain- 
ly, neither brother communicated his feelings to the other. 
They were uncommonly dull company this evening, and 
that was the truth of it. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 73 

The cliffs were deserted— all the good people at church. 
Only, just as they were returning home, Julius pointed out 
two figures standing on the cliff-top, sharp against the sky. 

** Two ladies, I think they are — a very tall one and a 
very short one." 

"It is probably the Misses Kenderdine. They were 
out, for I saw their door open as we passed." 

"Hurry back then. Will. Don't let us meet them. 
They will only look at me with their confounded pity. I 
hate being pitied. Make haste !" 

The doctor did his best, but there were some steep lit- 
tle ascents and descents which required all his skill and 
• strength. In one of these his pilotage failed. In turning 
past a large stone the wheel came off, and the chair top- 
pled over, landing its occupant ignominiously on the grass. 

A slight, almost ridiculous accident^ if it had not hap- 
pened to an invalid, and to such a nervous invalid as Julius 
Stedman. As it was, his brother was seriously alarmed. 
But Julius, whose state could never be counted on with 
certainty for five minutes at a time, seemed to take his 
disaster easily enough. Nay, the little excitement roused 
his mobile temperament into healthy vitality. He sat on 
the grass, perfectly unhurt, and laughing heartily. 

" I never knew such a * spill.' Done as cleverly as if 
you had done it on purpose— perhaps to attract the atten- 
tion of those ladies. They evidently think we have had a 
frightful accident. See how they are running to the res- 
cue — that is, the little one; the other is too majestic to 
run. She stalks down, Juno-like, to offer her benign aid 
to me, miserable mortal ! And, by Juno, what a gait she 
has ! Never did I see such a handsome creature ! No, I 
thank you, Miss Kenderdine," added he, when, a second 
time led away by her impulse of kindness, Edna came 
hastily down to the scene of disaster. " No, I'm not killed 
' — not this time. But I seem always destined to fall into 
sudden misfortune and have you appearing to me as my 
guardian angel." 

Edna did not laugh, for she caught sight of Dr.Bted- 
nism's anxious face, and guessed at once that the position 

D 



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74 THB woman's kingdom. 

of affairs was rather serious — the chair useless, no carriage 
attainable, the dews beginning to fall heavily, and they on 
the cliff-top, at least a quarter of a mile from home, with 
an invalid who could not walk a step, and was too heavy 
to be carried. 

" What is to be done P' said she, in a low tone, to the 
elder brother, while the younger, oblivious of his disaster, 
became absorbed in conversation with Letty, who, arriving 
stately and slowly, had just begun to hope, with conde- 
scending interest, that he had not hurt himself. "I see 
how things are. What must we do?'' repeated Edna, in un*- 
conscious fraternity. ''Shall I run and fetch assistance?" 

" No ; it would only annoy him. Besides, there is no 
need. We must get him to walk home. I know he could 
walk if he tried." 

Edna looked amazed — ^a little indignant. 

"You think me cruel, I know; but we doctors are 
obliged to be so to some sort of patients. And it is the 
real truth. He is quite capable of walking a short dis- 
tance, and I shall be rather thankful for any thing that 
forces him to acknowledge it. Am I vejy hard-hearted, 
Miss Kenderdine ?" 

" I can not say. I suppose you know best." 

This little conversation was canied on in confidence 
over the broken wheel, but there was no time for discus- 
sion. Every minute the air grew more chill and the grass 
more dewy ; the tide was rising, and the wind that came 
in with it began to blow fi'eshly from over the sea. To 
healthy people it was delicious — intoxicating in its pure 
saltness; but to the invalid, though apparently he did not 
notice it, being engaged talking to Letty, who was Sym- 
pathizing with him in the most charming manner — to a 
person in Julius Stedman's condition, Edna felt that it 
might be most dangerous. 

"We must get him home somehow at once, and I see 
but one way," said the doctor, with a professional air, de- 
cisive and dictatorial, which at any other time would have 
amus'ed Edna. " Will you help me. Miss Ee&derdine ? If 
I support him on one side, will you let him lean on you at 



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THK WOMAlf's KINGDOM. 76 

the Other ? I am sorry to trouble you — very sorry ; but 
it is a case of emergency. And if, as you said, you are ac- 
customed to sick-nursing — " 

^' Yes ; and I think I can do this. I have almost carried 
Letty many a time. Though I am small, I am very strong." 

" I can see that." 

"But how will you persuade him to walk?" 

"Will you suggest it? It might come better, coming 
from a stranger. Try, please ; for we have not a minute 
to lose." 

Nobody knew exactly how it was done — probably by 
the invalid's being taken by surprise, and left no chance 
of refusing ; but it was done. Between his two support- 
ers Julius was marched remorselessly on, half in jest, half 
in earnest, across the smooth down. And then, no doubt, 
it was rather pleasant to be assisted in his steps by one 
charming girl, and have his progress watched and encour- 
aged by another. Be that as it may, Julius did walk, with 
the assistance of his brother and Miiss Kenderdine, the 
whole quarter of a mile; and when he reached the garden 
gate, so far from being exhausted, as they had expected, he 
turned, with his countenance all beaming — 

" How cleverly I have done it ! I do think I shall get 
back the use of my limbs. Will said so — but I never be- 
lieved him. I say, old fellow, don't be too conceited — but 
you were right, after all." 

The doctor smiled. Edna saw something in his face 
that touched her even more than the delighted excitement 
in that of the invalid. 

" Oh, if you knew what it feels like !" said Julius to Edna. 
" To have been lied and bound for weeks to that chair — to 
feel as if one should never walk any more ; and now, I do 
believe, if you would let me, I could walk quite alone." 

" Try," said the doctor, composedly. 

"Oh, do try !" cried Edna, eagerly. 

The young man did try, and succeeded. Very tottering 
steps they were, and not many of them, for his brother 
would not allow it ; but he did really walk — alone and un- 
assisted. And only those who know what it is to be de- 



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76 THE woman's kingdom. 

prived for a season of the power of locomotion, or of any 
power which we use so commonly and thanklessly that we 
need to lose it before we fully recognize its blessing, can 
understand the ecstasy which lit up every feature of the 
poor fellow's face, and was reflected in the faces round 
about him. 

" I declare I am just like a baby — a baby first leanaing 
to walk," said Julius, viewing first one leg and then the 
other — patting them and looking down upon them as if 
they were quite new acquaintances or lately -recovered 
friends. " Don't laugh at me, please, you two young la- 
dies. Will, there, won't ; he knows I always was a sim- 
pleton. And then I have been so ill, and the future has 
looked so terrible. Don't laugh at me." 

" We are not laughing," said Letty, whose good-nature 
had really been roused — so much so as to forget herself, 
her ^' unfortunate appearance," and the sense of dignified 
propriety due to both, in the warm human interest of the 
moment. "Indeed, we are exceedingly glad to see you 
better — are we not, sister ?" 

But Edna was so moved that she was actually crying. 

"How good you are I" said Julius, taking her hand and 
pressing it warmly. While the whole four stood silent, 
something — they knew not what — seemed to come creep- 
ing round them like an atmosphere of peace, and kindli- 
ness, and mutual sympathy — compelling them into fiiend- 
liness, whether they willed it or not* And as they stood 
at the front door, the soft, gray, misty twilight was draw- 
ing a veil over the sea, and the robin-redbreast, from his 
nest at the cliff's edge, gave one or two good-night war- 
bles over his mate and his little ones, and the first star 
came out, large and bright, in the zenith. This sunshiny 
Sunday was making a good end* 

" Come in, now," said the doctor, for nobody seemed dis- 
posed to stir. " At least, we must* Julius, say good-night, 
with many thanks, to these two ladies. Are you quite 
warm, lad? 1 wish I had ordered a fire." 

" Ours is lit," said Edna ; and, with a glance at her sister, 
she did on the impulse of the moment what seemed a sim- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 77 

pie thing enough, yet was the very last thing which, an 
hour ago, she would have thought of doing — the thing of 
all others she had determined not to do— she invited the 
brothers into their parlor. 

" It will prevent all danger of a chill," said the little 
woman, turning to Dr. Stedman with quite a grandmother- 
ly air. "Your room will be wann in half an hour; and 
meantime he can lie down. We have a capital sofa; in- 
deed, Mrs. Williams told us it was better than yours, and 
we offered to exchange." 

"Do not think of such a thing," said Julius. "I shall 
soon be well ; indeed, I feel myself well now. It is aston- 
ishing what good this evening has done me ; or rather, not 
astonishing — a little society cheers one up so much. Well, 
I may go in and sit by that nice blazing fire ?" 

" By all means, since these ladies are so kind." 

The doctor helped his brother in, made him comfortable 
on the sofa (" and how cleverly he did it too — wouldn't he 
be uncommonly good to his wife, that great big fellow !" 
remarked Letty afterwards), and then was about depart- 
ing, as if he hesitated to consider any one but Julius in- 
cluded in the invitation. 

Letty said, in her most stately but most fascinating man- 
ner, '' she hoped Dr. Stedman would remain." So he re- 
mained. 

It was the first evening they ever spent together — these 
four ; indeed, it could scarcely be called an evening, for Dr. 
Stedman carried his brother away remorselessly at the half- 
hour's end. Its incidents were unimportant, and its con- 
versation trivial, as is usually the case with first acquaint- 
ance. Only in books, seldom or never in real life, do 
youths and maidens dash into the Romeo-and-Juliet pas- 
sion of the instant. Nowadays people — even young peo- 
ple — rarely fall in love ; they walk into it deliberately and 
open-eyed, or slip into it gradually unawares. It is all one. 

**Come he slow, or come he fast, 
It is but Love that comes at last." 

The only notable fact in the evening's entertainment 

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IB 

was that, ere he sat down, Dr. Stedman pointedly took out 
his card and laid it before the sisters, 

"I think, Julius, before we intrude upon these ladies' 
hospitality, we ought to tell them who and what we are. 
Miss Eenderdine, my brother is an artist, and I am a doc- 
tor. There are only we two ; our parents are long dead, 
and we never had a sister. We live at Kensington, where 
I have taken the practice of the late Dr. Young." 

" We knew Dr. Young," replied Edna, with very con- 
siderable relief; " and we heard he had a high opinion of 
the gentleman who afterwards succeeded him. That must 
have been yourself?" / 

Dr. Stedman bowed. " Then," he added, smiling, and in 
his smile the not quite good-tempered look before spoken 
of certainly disappeared — " then I may be considered to 
have given in our certificates of character ?" 

" Not mine," observed Julius from the sofa. " I may be 
a most awful scape-grace for all these ladies know ; a ne'er- 
do-weel, hanging round the neck of my respectable brother 
like a millstone on an old man of the sea ; a poor artist — 
disreputable, as most poor artists are. Nobody can expect 
the luxury of a character unless he is rich ; and I am as 
poor as a church mouse, I assure you. Miss Kenderdine. 
All our money came to Will there; his grandfather's pet 
he was, and he left him his heir, but he halves it all with 
me, and — ^" 

" Julius, what nonsense you are talking !" 

" I always do talk nonsense when I'm happy ; and I am 
so happy to-night I can't think what has come over me. 
So now you know all about us. Miss Kenderdine ; and you 
may either make friends of us or not, as you choose." 

'' Say, rather, acquaintance ; friendship does not come 
all in a minute," said the doctor, regarding his brother, 
who sat looking so handsome and bright, pleasant and 
lovable, with something of the expression, deprecating yet 
proud, with which a parent regards a spoiled child, for 
whom he feels bound to apologize, but can not quite see 
the necessity, and thinks every body must secretly be in 
as admiring an attitude as he himself. In fact, the big 



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TOE woman's kingdom. 79 

brother's evident admiration of the sickly one struck the 
sisters as something quite funny — if it were not so touch- 
ing and so unusual in its way. 

" Well, then — we being two lonely brothers, and they 
two sisters, thrown together in this not too lively abode — 
will they kindly permit our acquaintance, after the pat- 
tern of Queen Elizabeth's celebrated lettei^— * Y<Turs as 
you demean yourselves, Edna Kenderdine and — ' I have 
not heard your sister's Christian name." 

" Letty — Letitia," said the owner of it, looking down- 
ward. 

This was the only information vouchsafed to the two 
guests by their hostesses. As Letty said, after they were 
gone, the two brothers, who were evidently gentlemen, 
must have seen at a glance that she and her sister were 
gentlewomen; and any further facts were quite unneces- 
sary. 

Edna thought so too ; still, with her exceeding candor, 
and perhaps a lurking pride, she would have liked them — 
the doctor especially — to know that Letty and herself 
were only school-mistresses. 



CHAPTER VI. 



Why do people take to loving one another — or liking, 
the customary and safe preliminary to loving ? And how 
does the love first Come ? Through what mysterious proc- 
ess do young folks pass, by steps rapid or slow, according 
to circumstances and their own idiosyncrasy, out of the 
common world — the quiet, colorless, everyday world — into 
that strange new paradise from which there is no return- 
ing ? No, none I We may be driven out of it by an an- 
gel with a flaming sword — out into the wilderness, which 
we have to till and keep, changing its thorns and thistles 
into a respectable ordinary garden— t we may pass out of 
it, calmly and happily, into a new earth — safe and sweet, 
and homelike ; but this particular paradise is never found 
again — never re-entered more. 



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80 THE Roman's kingdom. 

Why should it be ? All life is a mere progression — a 
pressing on and on ; and death itself— we Christians be- 
lieve — but a higher development into more perfect life. 
Yet as nothing good is ever lost, or wholly forgotten, one 
can imagine even a disembodied spirit sitting glorious be- 
fore the great white throne, recalling with a tender sweet- 
ness the old earthly, heaven which was first created by that 
strange state of mind — that intoxicating idealization of 
all things within as without, as if every thing were beheld 
with new eyes — the eyes of a creature new-bound; the 
condition which silly folk call being " in love." 

It has its sillinesses-^no one will deny ; its weaknesses 
and madnesses ; but it has its divine side too, chiefly be- 
cause then, and not till then, comes the complete absorption 
of self into some other being dearer and better, higher and 
nobler t^ian one's self, or imagiQed so ; which is the foun- 
dation of every thing divine in human nature. If men or 
women are ever good at all — ever heroic, unselfish, self- 
denying — they will be so when they first fall in love ; and 
if the love be worthy, that goodness will take root and 
grow. As a tree is known by its fruits, so a noble love, 
be it happy or unhappy, ennobles a whole life. And I 
think no friends — no parents especially — ^if they are real 
friends, real parents, true as tender, generous as wise, can 
see two young people standing at the enchanted gate 
without a prayerful thankfulness — ay, thankftilness. For 
it is the gate of life to them, whatever be the end. 

Neither friends nor kindred stood by these four to watch 
or warn them, to help or to hinder their footsteps, in enter- 
ing this unknown paradise; they walked into it deliber- 
ately, day by day and hour by hour, from that first Sun- 
day night when Julius Stedman lay on the Misses Ken- 
derdine'« sofa, talking to one and gazing at the other, 
with all his heart both in his lips and eyes. 

He was the grand foundation of the acquaintance, the 
corner-stone which seemed to make it all safe and right 
and natural. The sacredness of sickness was npon him 
and around him ; for after the exertion of that night he 
fell back considerably, and for some days made his brother 



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THE woman's KIHGDOM. 81 

and his friends — in the ajaxiety they grew into friends — 
very miserable about him. The Misses Kenderdine were 
by no means strong-nainded women, to fly in the face of 
the world, and make acquaintance with, or suflfer them- 
selves to be made acquaintances by, any stray yoiing man 
they happened to meet. They had a keen sense of deco- 
rum ; but then it was the decorum of true womanliness, the 
pure simplicity of soul which sees no harm in things not 
really harmful ; the sweet dignity of maidenhood, which, 
feeling that, known or unknown, met or unmet, there can 
be to any woman but one man alive who is a possible 
husband, regards the rest of the sex with a gentle kind- 
ness — a placid indifference — nothing more. 

At least such was Edna's condition, and by the strong 
influence of her character she turned Letty into the same, 
or an imitation of the same, for the time being. ^ Afrer a 
long consultation between themselves, the sisters agreed 
that it would be ridiculous in them to stand aloof from 
the poor sick fellow in the next room, and his grave, anx- 
ious brother, who seemed wholly absorbed in nursing him, 
because these happened to be young men, and they them- 
selves young women; and no regular introduction in soci- 
ety had taken place between them. 

"But we know all about them, nevertheless," argued 
Edna. " I quite well remember that when I was urged 
to send for Dr. Young to you, and found he had died sud- 
denly, his successor was very highly recommended. It 
must have bqen the same Dr. Stedman. Had I sent, and 
had he attended you in the fever, how very funny it would 
have been !" 

" Yes, indeed. Suppose we tell him what a near escape 
he had of either killing or curing me !" 

"I think not, dear. As you say, there is no necessity 
for them to know any thing about us. I do not mean 
even to tell them that we live at Kensington ; but it is a 
satisfaction to know something about Dr. Stedman, and it 
warrants us in being kind and civil a little to that poor 
sick lad — he looks no more than a lad. And how very ill 
he seemed this morning !" 

D2 



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82 

So Edna reasoned with herself, most simply and sin- 
cerely; as she drifted — they all drifted — into that frank 
association, which, the first barrier being broken, was sure 
to come to people living in the same house, having noth- 
ing in the wide world to do but to go out and come in, 
and watch each other's goings out and comings in, inno- 
cently enough; but yet with a certain interest that ap- 
peared to waken up into new life the whole party, espe- 
cially the invalids. 

For L^tty was a little of an invalid again. She took a 
slight chill ; and Dr. Stedman prescribed for her in a very 
reticent, formal, but still pleasant and friendly way, which 
further helped on the intimacy between them. And as 
for Edna, her chief friend, as she openly declared, was 
Julius. He took to her suddenly and completely, with a 
kind of child-like dependence, so affectionately persistent 
that there was no withstanding it. Soon it became quite 
natural for him to send for her in to sit with him when 
his brother went out, to beg her to accompany them and 
" see that nothing happened to them " in the daily walk 
that Will shortly began to insist upon, firet round the 
garden, and gradually lengthening, to the total abolition 
of the Bath-chair. He talked and jested with her alter- 
nately, for she was a merry as well as earnest little wom- 
an ; he tyrannized over her, making her see to his little 
comforts, which she did in quite a motherly, or, rather, as 
he declared, a " grandmotherly " way ; sometimes he even 
presumed to tease her, but all in such frank, boyish, and 
yet perfectly gentlemanly fashion, that the result was in- 
evitable — ^Edna grew exceedingly fond of him. 

" Fond of" is the word — that gentle tenderness which 
almost invariably, though not always, precludes the pos- 
sibility of any thing more. 

This firm alliance, open and free, between Julius and 
Edna, made things progress amazingly, and threw the two 
others together more than Letty's sister would, a week 
ago, have dared to risk; But then Dr. Stedman, the more 
she knew of him, seemed the more unlikely to fall into 
the ranks of Letty's victims, being exceedingly sedate and 



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THE woman's KINGDOM. 83 

middle-aged for his years, and apparently not at all dis- 
posed to make the best of his opportunities. He would 
walk by Letty's side for hours without detaching her 
from the others, or talking to her very much himself; 
he seemed to like looking at her as any*man might, and 
that was all. Obviously he was incapable of flirtation, 
did not seem to understand what it meant, carried on all 
conversations with the sisters in the most open, grave, and 
courteous earnest ; as Letty decl^^red, it would have been 
quite impossible for her to set up a flirtation with him, 
even had she tried. 

To do her justice, she did not try. She too was sub- 
dued by the shadow of heavy sickness, which she had so 
lately escaped, and which still hung over the two brothers. 
Her sympathy was aroused; she thought less of herself 
and her charms, and was consequently more charming than 
she had ever been in her life. 

Did the young men see and feel it ? This extraordinary 
fascination, half of soul, half of sense, which breathes in 
the very atmosphere of a beautiful woman, if she has any 
thing womanly in her at alL And Letty had a goo.d deal. 
There was in her not a paiticle of ill-nature, that "envy, 
malice, and all uncharitableness,'' which women have some- 
times sore need to pray against. She was always gentle 
and lady-like, and extremely sweet-tempered. If, taken 
altogether, her character was chiefly made up of negatives, 
her beauty was a thing so positive that it supplied all de- 
ficiencies^ at least for a long time. In the eyes of men, 
probably for always. 

Julius had his wish, and made sketches innumerable, 
sometimes open, sometimes surreptitious, of her flexible 
figure and lovely face. Of evenings he used- to repeat 
them from memory, and make compositions out pf them. 
Dr. Stedman was called out of his medical researches for 
endless criticism upon Miss Kenderdine — they always 
called her Miss Kenderdine, and her sister Miss Edna, 
though why, nobody knew — as the gardener's daughter, 

''Gowned in pure white that fitted to the shape, 
Holding a branch to fix it back," 



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84 - THE woman's kingdom. 

Miss Kenderdine in medisBval costume, as Kreimbild in the 
Niebelungenlied, and Miss Kenderdine with her hat off, 
and sea-weeds in her hair, standing with the tide rolling 
in upon her feet, musing pensively with head bent forward 
— a veritable Ariadne of Naxos. 

" That's the best, I think," said Will, whose comments 
were always sharp, short, and decisive. 

" I think so too," replied the other, lingering over his 
work with an artist's delight. " There is a wonderful deal 
of the Ariadne in her face naturally." 

" Yes. The features are of the true Greek type — sensu- 
ous without being sensual, pleasure-loving, but not coarse. 
She ought to marry a rich man, and then she would do 
uncommonly well." 

" Probably ; so would most women," said Julius, with 
some sharpness. 

Will did not notice that, but still gazed in keen criti- 
cism on the sketch. 

"Ay, it's like her; a true Ariadne face — that, Theseus 
lost, would take up very comfortably with Bacchus." 

"Horrible!" cried the artist. "I never knew such a 
matter-of-fact, abominably blunt fellow as you. You 
might as well say that if Miss Kenderdine were disap- 
pointed in love she would take to drinking." 

"She might. I have seen some terrible cases of female 
Bacchants under similar circumstances. But I beg your 
pardon. You need not tell her I said so. Besides, she is 
never likely to be disappointed in love," added the doctor, 
as he put down the sketch-book, and ceased the conversation. 

It was the only conversation that during the first fort- 
night the brothers held concerning their new acquaint- 
ances. Indeed, there was not time, for, excepting the late 
working hours — after nine or ten o'clock — scarcely an 
hour passed when the occupants of the two parlors did 
not meet, or sit waiting, expectant of the chance of meet- 
ing. Not that any walks or talks were purposely or sys- 
tematically planned — still they always seemed to come 
about, and ^t length both sides seemed to make reasons 
or excuses for them. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 86 

'^ We are just a lot of children out on a holiday," said 
Julius one day, when they were all sitting eating their 
combined lunch on a primrose bank, with larks singing 
madly overhead, the salt wind freshening all their faces, 
and far away the outline of white cliffs and blue sea 
stretching into infinite brightness — ^infinite peace. "Just 
mere children. Miss Edna, and oh, do let us enjoy our- 
selves as such. We shall have hard enough work when 
we get home." 

" That is true," said Edna, with a half sigh ; and she too 
gave herself up to the enjoyment of the moment. 

None the less enjoyable that it was, strangely enough, 
the first time in their lives that these two young women 
had had any frank association with men — good, pleasant, 
clever men. To Letty the opposite sex had always come 
in the form of lovers — ^not always satisfactory, especially 
in the amazing plurality with which they had blessed Le- 
titia Kenderdine ; while Edna knew nothing about men at 
all. That cheerful, frank intercourse — social, moral, and 
intellectual— which, within limits, does both sexes a world 
of good, was to her not only a novelty, but an exceeding 
pleasure. She was not a stupid woman — indeed it some- 
times dawned upon her that she might have a few brains 
of her own, since she could so readily enter into the talk 
of these two men, who both, in their way, were undoubt- 
edly clever men — thoughtful, original, and with no folly 
or coarseness about them, such as would at once have i*e- 
pelled these maidenly gentlewomen. Neither of the broth- 
ers attempted in the slightest degree to make love to Let- 
ty, and both treated Edna with a grateful politeness, a 
true heart courtesy, that did her own heart good. For, 
she argued to herself, it was not like the civilities shown 
to Letty ; it must be sincere, since it was shown to a poor, 
plain little school-mistress. She had taken care to let 
their new friends know they were only school-mistresses, 
teaching tradesmen's daughters in a London suburb — so 
much, no more ; and she had noticed with approbation 
that neither brother had made the slightest further in- 
quiry; nor had their respective positions in life, or pe- 



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86 THB WOMAir's KINGDOM. 

cuniary affairs, or family connections, been again refer- 
red to. 

Thus they spent day after day, these four young peo- 
ple, in as complete an' Arcadia as if there were no such a 
place as- the common, working-day world, no sound of 
which ever reached them. This little Isle of Wight, 
which was not then what it is now, but far simpler, far 
lonelier,.far lovelier — though, it is lovely yet — might have 
been an enchanted island of the sea — an Atlantis, such as 
weary mariners sailed after in vain — where no one toiled 
and no one suffered; no one hated, or quarrelled, or be- 
trayed ; but all within was as sweet and peaceful as with- 
out, and where these young people seemed to live a life as 
innocent as the birds, and as peaceful as the primroses. 

Letty even forgot her new bonnet, Edna never took that 
expedition to Ryde ; it seemed a pity to waste a day there- 
on ; and for two Sundays more the sisters went contentedly 
to church in their winter's clothes. But it was spring in 
both their hearts all the while. 

This was, they agreed, the most wonderful spring they 
had ever seen. The primroses were so large; the hya- 
cinths so innumerable and intensely blue, and the trees 
came into leaf with such especial luxuriance — all in a min- 
ute, as it seemed ; some days you could almost see them 
growing. The twenty-ninth of May the oaks were full 
enough to shelter a moderate-sized King Charles ; and on 
a certain country walk Edna discussed eagerly with Julius 
that celebrated historical fact, which he had tried to illus- 
trate by a large cartoon in the previous year's exhibition 
at Westminster Hall. 

"Did you compete for the prizes?" she asked, walking 
along by his side, while the others went on ahead, this 
being their usual way, because Letty disliked being hin- 
dered with Julius's still feeble steps. 

" I tried, but I failed. I always do fail, somehow." 

" That is hard. I wonder why it should be so, when you 
are so very clever," said Edna, innocently. 

"Perhaps other people — Will especially — ^thinkme clev- 
erer than I am. I don't know how it is," added he, mourn- 



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THK woman's kingdom. ^1 

fully, ^^bat I always seem to miss the exact point of suc- 
cess. I get near it, bat I never touch it. I am afraid my 
life has been — always will be — a failure." 

" Many lives are, that do not show it outside," replied 
Edna, more sadly than her wont. For she toof on that 
sunshiny day, with all things luring her to enjoyment, had 
become slightly conscious of something lacking. Did the 
others feel it, she wondered ? Was Letty, there, as happy 
as she looked, when stopping with Dr. Stedman on the 
summit of the steep cliff, up which she herself had man- 
aged to climb with Julius, indulging him with the fancy 
that he was helping her, while, in reality, she supported 
him — a common fiction. 

"My brother and your sister have got on ahead of 
us," said Julius, pausing, breathless. "They seem capital 
friends. He admires her extremely, as, indeed, every body 
must do. She is the most beautiful person we ever saw." 

" Yes ; all people say that. I am quite used to hearing 
it now." 

" Of course you are, which must be my apology for mak- 
ing the remark. The fact is so patent that it ceases to be 
either a compliment or an impertinence.^' 

" It would never be an impertinence, said as you say it," 
replied Edna, gently, for she saw that the young man was 
a little annoyed in some way. " Yet, I will confess, you 
are the first person whom I ever heard call my sister hand- 
some without its making me angry." 

" What an odd observation to make! How it might be 
misinterpreted I" 

" How ? That it meant I was jealous of her ? Oh, how 
very funny ! What an altogether ridiculous idea 1 Me 
jealous of my sister because she is so beautiful, while I 
myself am — ^well — " 

" Never mind what you are," interrupted Julius, blush- 
ing, for he felt he was treading on the very bounds of in- 
civility. 

" Oh, but I do mind a little. I confess I should like to 
have been handsome, too. But as it can't be, it can't be ; 
and I have now grown quite used to being plain." 



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88 THE woman's kingdom. 

Julius was fairly puzzled. It had been his trial, and a 
not inconsiderable one, in his acquaintance, or friendship, 
or whatever it was, with this sweet little woman, that she 
was so plain. To his keen artist eye her want of com- 
plexion, of feature, and general brilliancy of effect, was 
sometimes really annoying. She would have been so at- 
tractive, so original, so altogether charming-^if only she 
had been a very little prettier. 

Of course he would not betray this, and yet he did not 
like to tell an untruth, or to pay a silly compliment, which 
the candid Edna could at once have discovered and scorned. 
A bright thought struck him, and he compromised with it. 

"Plain, are you? Every body doesn't think so; Will 
doesn't. The very first night he saw you, when you sat 
adding up your accounts, he told me what a nice face you 
bad." 

" Did he ? I am sure I am very much obliged to him." 

"And your sister?" continued Julius, still watching the 
other two with an intentness that might have seemed pe- 
culiar had not Edna now become accustomed to his artist 
way of staring — " quite in the way of business," as he took 
care to explain. " What does your lister think of Will ?" 

" I really can not tell," replied Edna, smiling. " In truth 
I have not the slightest idea." 

She might have added— once she thought she would, 
and then despised herself for such an unsisterly betrayal 
— that Letty's thoughts did not much matter, as she was 
not in the habit of thinking long or seriously about any 
thing. So she held her tongue, and the brotherly earnest- 
ness of her companion's next speech shamed her still more. 

" I hope she likes him ; she ought — you both ought, for 
I am sure he likes you, which is a great deal to say for 
Will, as he does not usually get on with young ladies. 
Yet he is a wonderfully good fellow. Miss Edna ; a fine 
fellow in every way, as you would say if you knew him.'* 

" I have no doubt of it." 

"Brothers don't often pull together as well as we do, 
yet we are very unlike, itnd I have tried him not a little. 
When I get strong — if I ever do get strong — " 



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THE woman's kingdom. 89 

" You certainly will. Dr. Stedman said so to me only- 
yesterday." 

" What was he saying about me ? You see, Will and I 
don't talk much either of or to one another, and I should 
like to know what he could find to say." 

Edna hesitated a moment whether or not to repeat this, 
the only bit of confidence that had ever passed between 
herself and the doctor, and which had at once amazed and 
puzzled her for the time : it seemed so very uncalled for. 
Then she thought she would tell it, for it could do no pos- 
sible harm out of its anxious brotherly affectionateness. 
And it might even do good, by rousing Julius out of that 
languid indifference to the future, that loose grasp of life, 
with its duties and pleasures alike, which was such a sad, 
nay, a fatal thing to see in a young man of his age. 

" It was very little your brother said ; only he told me 
his firm conviction that you had no real disease or feeble- 
ness of constitution. You would be all right if you could 
once be roused out of your melancholy and moody fits by 
any strong feeling of any kind : made to take care of your 
health, work hard, though not too hard, and finally marry 
and settle." 

" Did he say that ? Did he want me to marry ?" 

"Very much indeed," replied Edna, laughing. "No 
match-making mother was ever more earnest on the sub- 
ject. He said that a good wife would be the best blessing 
that could happen to you, and the sooner it happened the 
better." 

" Were those his words ? Exceedingly obliged to him !" 

From the tone Edna could hardly tell whether the young 
man was pleased or vexed, but he blushed extremely : so 
much so that she began to blush too, and to question with- 
in herself whether she had not gone a little too far, and in 
her sublime grandmotherly indifference had overstepped 
the boundary of maidenly propriety. But at this instant 
the other two returned, and the conversation became gen- 
eral. 

. Edna was glad Dr. Stedman had called hers "a nice 
face." It showed that he liked her, and she had rather 



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90 THB woman's kingdom. 

thought the contrary. Scarcely fi'om any expression or 
non-expression of the fact, but because he did not seem a 
person who would eas[ily like any body: but once liking, 
his fidelity would be sure for life. Or so at least fancied 
Edna in her simple speculations upon character, in which 
she was fond of indulging — as most people are who do not 
take very much trouble in thinking about themselves. 
She must think about something, and not being given to 
lofty musings or abstract cogitations, she thought about 
her neighbors ; and, for the remainder of that walk, about 
that special neighbor who had been her first acquaintance 
of the two ; since Dr. Stedman had more than once de- 
clared, when they were jesting on the subject, that his ac- 
quaintance with the sisters dated from the moment when 
he had been moved to such deep sympathy by Miss Edna's 
arithmetical woes. 

She was glad he liked her, for she liked him ; his keen 
intelligence, less brilliant than Julius's, but solid, thor- 
ough, and clear ; his honesty of speech and simple unpre- 
tending goodness — especially his unvarying goodness to 
his brother, over whom his anxiety and his patience 
seemed endless; and Edna could understand it all. ^In 
the few private talks she and Dr. Stedman had together, 
their conversation seemed naturally to turn upon the near- 
est subject to both their hearts — their respective sister 
and brother. 

Was he falling in love with Letty, or fearing Julius 
would do so? Either chance was possible, and yet im- 
probable ; nay, in the frank pleasure of their intercourse, 
Edna had almost ceased to dread either catastrophe. Now, 
as they turned homeward along the cliff, she noticed that 
Dr. Stedman looked exceedingly thoughtful — almost sad 
— that he either walked beside Letty, or, when she was 
walking with his brother, he followed her continually with 
his eyes. 

No wonder. Edna thought she had never seen her sis- 
ter so irresistibly attractive. If half the men in the world 
were on their knees at Letty's feet, it would have scarcely 
been unnatural. And yet — and yet — 



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THE woman's kingdom. 91 

Edna did not like to own it to herself—it seen^ed so un- 
kind, nnsisterly ; still, if, as a perfectly unprejadiced per- 
son, she had been asked, was Letty the sort of girl likely to 
carry away captive Dr. Stedman, she should have said no. 
She should have thought a man with his deep nature 
would have looked deeper, expected more. With all her 
love for Letty, Letty would have been the last person in 
the world whom, had she been a man, she, Edna, would 
have fallen in love with; if Dr. Stedman had done so, she 
was a little surprised and — it must be confessed— just a 
trifle disappointed. 

Chiefly so, she argued internally, because she felt cer- 
tain that Letty would never look at him, and then it might 
turn out such an unlucky business altogether — the worst 
yet ; for the doctor was not a person to take things easily, 
or to be played fast and loose with, as was unfortunately 
rather Letty's way. Edna felt by instinct that he would 
never be made a slave of-^-much more likely a tyrant. 
And if he should be very miserable — break his heart per- 
haps — that is, supposing men ever do break their bearts 
for love — ^Edna would have been so very sorry for him. 

She watched him closely all the road home. She did 
not even ask. him to come in to tea, as both brothers 
seemed half to expect, and as had been done more than 
once before the quartette started together for their even- 
ing ramble. Nevertheless, one was arranged — to look at 
a wreck which had been washed ashore the previous winter, 
and which Julius wished to make into a sketch for a pos- 
sible picture. And though there was some slight opposi- 
tion from Edna, who thought the walk would be too long 
for Letty, and ^om Dr. Stedman, for the same reason as 
regarded his brother, Julius was obstinate, and carried his 
point. 

So they parted;, for the brief parting of an hour or two, 
which scarcely seemed such at all. 

Letty threw off her hat and lay down, with both her 
arms over her head, in an attitude exquisitely lovely. 

"I am quite tired, Edna; that doctor of yours does take 
such gigantic strides, and he talks on such solid subjects, 



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92 THE 

it quite makes one's head ache to follow him. I wonder 
why he chose me to walk with, and not you ; but these 
wise men like silly women. I told him so. At least I 
owned I was silly ; but of course he didn't believe it." 
"Of course not. But what was he talking about?" 
"Oh, nothing particular," said Letty, with a slightly 
conscious air. " Men all talk alike to me, I fancy." 
Edna asked no more questions. 



DOOTOB STKDMAK. 



CHAPTER Vn. 



" Will, do you mean to sit over your books all evening ? 
Because if you do I'll not wait for you any longer, but 
take myself off at once." 

" Where ? Why, were you waiting ?'! 

" Don't pretend that you have forgotten." Julius spoke 
with some of his old irritability. " We were to walk as 
far as the wreck; and unless we start in good time the 
tide will have risen, and we shall not be able to pass the 
point ; which would be uncomfortable for ladies." 



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THE woman's KINGDOSC ' 93 

" Did the ladies decide to go ? I thought Miss Edna 
rather objected." 

"Miss Edna's objections were overruled. I arranged 
the matter.'* 

Will smiled. 

" Yes — ^I did. Til not have her and you always getting 
your own way. I must have mine sometimes. I'm not 
your patient now, Will, and I have just as much right to 
eiyoy myself as you have." 

" Did any body say you hadn't, my boy ? Who hinders 
you ? Carry out any plans you fancy, provided they do 
you no harm." 

The doctor rose, put a mark in his book, and prepared 
to clear his ** rubbish " away. 

" So, Will, you are going. I thought you would gOy 
though you made believe to be so indifferent about it." 

The elder brother flushed up, for there was an under- 
tone of rudeness in the younger's speech not exactly pleas- 
ant. But Will was too well accustomed to the painful ir- 
ritability of illness to take much heed of it. He only said : 

"Foir many reasons, I don't consider the expedition very 
wise; but if these young ladies are determined to go, they 
will be all the better for having a man to take care of them." 

" They will have one 4n any case. I am going. No 
need for you to trouble yourself concerning them." 

The sharpness of this speech made Dr. Stedman turn 
round. He was not a man of many words, nor yet a very 
sensitive man — that is, he felt deep things deeply and 
strongly, but the small annoyances of life passed harmless- 
ly over him. He had always had something else to think 
about than himself, and the way people treated him.' • For 
this reason he often did not even see when JuliilA wais an- 
noyed ; but he did now, and turned upon the brother a 
full, frank, good-natured smile. 

"What are you vexed about, lad? Do you want to 
have your friends all to yourself? If so, I'll stay at home 
and read. I dare say Miss Edna — " 

" Stop there. Yes, Will, I am vexed with you, and I 
have good reason to be." 



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94 

"Out with it, then." 

"What business had you to go talking to Miss Edna 
about me ? Why open up to her my weaknesses and fol- 
lies, which nobody knows but you, and you only too much? 
Why should these two girls — for whom, mind you, I care 
not a straw, except that they are pleasant companions — ^be 
taught to criticise me and pity me ?" 

"Pity you?" 

" Of course they do — a poor fellow with not a half-pen- 
ny of money, and no health to earn it — wholly dependent 
upon you." 

" That is not quite true." 

" Yes, it is ; and they must despise me — any girls would. 
There are times when I despise myself" 

This outburst was so sudden, vehement, and inconse- 
quent, as it seemed, that Will Stedman, though tolerably 
used to the like, scarcely knew what to answer. When he 
did, he spoke gently, as to a passionate child who was talk- 
ing at random. 

" Indeed, Julius, I had no thought of annoying you in 
what I said, which was, in truth, very little ; and I felt I 
was saying it to a friend of yours, who was quite welcome 
to repeat it to you if she chose." 

" But why talk to her at all about me ? What are my 
concerns to her? If a friend, she isn't an old friend. 
Three weeks ago we had neither of us set eyes on either 
of these women. I wish we nevel' had. I wish to Heaven 
we never had !" 

Will replied a little seriously: 

"I can not exactly see the reason of that. They are 
both pleasant enough, and, so far as we can judge, very 
exeellent women." 

" I hate your excellent women !" 

" You don't hate these, though, I am sure of that, lad," 
said the doctor, smiling. " Be content ; I have done you 
no harm. I said not a word against you to Miss Edna — 
quite the contrary." 

" But, I repeat, why speak of ine at all ?" . 

" Perhaps I had my own reasons." 



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95 

" What are they ? I insist upon knowing !'* and Julias 
rose and walked up to his brother with a dramatic air. 

Will was comparing his watch with the clock on the 
mantel-piece. He paused to wind up and set both before 
he replied : 

" Since you compel me to speak — and perhaps after all 
it's best — it has struck me more than once, Julius, that 
you would very well like — and, moreover, it would not be 
a bad thing for you — to spend your life, as you have pret- 
ty well spent the last fortnight, with such a sweet, good, 
sensible little woman as Edna Kenderdine." 

Julius threw himself back into his chair, and burst into 
shouts of laughter. 

" Was that it ? And so you were saying a good word 
for me to her ! What a splendid idea ! You are the queer- 
est old fellow that ever was." 

« But, Julius— " 

"Don't interrupt. Do let me have my laugh out. It's 
the best joke I've ever heard. You dear old boy ! What 
on earth have I ever done or said to make you take such a 
ridiculous notion into your head ?" 

The doctor looked a little bewildered. 

" It did not seem to me so ridiculous ; and, at any rate, 
it is hardly civil to the lady to suppose so. She is about 
your own age — perhaps a year older ; but that would not 
signify much. She is healthy, bright, active, clever — " 

" But oh, so plain ! Now, Will, in the name of common 
sense, do you think I ever could fall in love with a plaiii 
woman ?" 

The child-like directness and solemnity of the appeal 
broke down Will's gravity ; he, too, laughed heartily. 

" Never mind. I've made a mistake, that's all. I don't 
know whether I'm glad or sorry. But still, it is a mistake; 
aivd I beg your pardon — ^Miss Edna's too— for mixing her 
name, in such talk. I am certain no idea of the kind has 
ever entered her head." 

" I trust notr— nay, I am sure not," replied Julius, warm- 
ly. " She's not an atom of a flirt — quite different from any 
girl I ever knew — the best, kindliest, sweetest' little soul. 



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96 

But I would as soon think of marrying her — or, indeed, of 
marrying any body — " 

" Wait till your time comes. Meanwhile, shake hands, 
and forget all this nonsense. Only, if ever you do fall 
seriously in love, come and tell it to your brother. He'll 
help you." 

" Will he?" said Julius, eagerly. 

But at that moment, sweeping past the window, plainly 
visible beneath the half-drawn Venetian blind, came the 
violet folds of Letty Kenderdine's well-known gown — 
the much-abused winter gown which had in its old age 
been complimented, and sketched, and painted, as making 
the loveliest bit of color, and the most charming drapery 
imaginable. 

"There they are: we must not keep them waiting," 
said Dr. Stedman, as he took his hat and went out at once 
to the sisters. 

The three sat talking very merrily on the bench at the 
cliff edge for several minutes, till finding Julius did not 
appear, his brother went in to look for him. He had 
started off alone, leaving word that they were not to wait 
— he might possibly join them on their return, 

"Perhaps he wants to make a sketch or two alone," 
said the doctor, apologetically. "We will go without 
him." 

" Certainly," said Letty, who was a little tenacious of 
the disrespect of delay. " Dr. Stedman, your brother is a 
most peculiar person ; and I can never understand pecul- 
iar people." 

"He is peculiar in the sense of being much better than 
other people," replied the doctor, who — whatever he might 
say to Julius — ^never allowed a word to be said against 
him, which idiosyncrasy at once amused and touched Edna. 
With the new idea she had taken concerning him, she re- 
solved to watch William Stedman rather closely, and when, 
before they had gone half a mile, Julius turned up, and 
attached himself very determinedly, not to her side, but 
her sister's, she fell into the arrangement with satisfaction. 
It would give her opportunities of observing more nar- 



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THE woman's kingdom, 97 

rowly this big, quiet, grave man, who was not nearly so 
easy to read as his volatile, impulsive, but clever, affection- 
ate brother. 

So they descended the steep cliffs, and walked along 
underneath, just below high-water mark, where the wet 
sand was solid to their feet : a little party of two and 
two, close enough to make neither seem like a tite^t^y 
and yet sufficiently far apart to give to each a sense of 
voluntary companionship. But the conversation of nei- 
ther seemed very serious ; for Letty's gay laugh was con- 
tinually heard, and Edna made, ever and anon, sundry 
darts from her companion's side to certain fascinating isl- 
ands, formed by deeper channels intersecting the damp 
sand, and which had to be crossed through pools of shal- 
low sea-water, crisped by the wind into wavelets pretty 
as a baby's curls. Edna could not resist them; but 
whenever Dr. Stedman fell into silence — ^which he did 
pretty often — she quitted him, and ran with the pleasure 
of a child to stand on one or other of these sand islands, 
and watch the long white rollers creeping in, each after 
each, as the tide kept steadily advancing upon the soli- 
tary shore. 

Very solitary it was, with the boundless sea before, and 
the perpendicular wall of cliff behind, and not an object to 
break the loneliness of the scene, except that loneliest 
thing of all — the stranded ship. She lay there, fixed on 
the rock where she had struck, with the waves gradually 
reaching her and breaking over her, as they had done 
night and day, at every tide, for six months. 

Julius regarded her with his melancholy poet's eyes. 

" How sad she looks — that ship I Like a lost life." 

"And what a fine ship she must have been ! How very 
stupid of the sailors to go so near the rocks !" 

" How very stupid of any body to do any thing which 
is not the best and wisest thing to do ! Yet we all do it 
sometimes. Miss Kenderdine." 

" Eh, Mr. Stedman ? Just say that again, for I did not 
quite understand. You do say such clever things, you 

know*'* 

E 



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98 THB woman's kingdom. 

" That was not clever, so I need not say it again. In- 
deed I'd better hold my tongue," replied Julius, lookmg 
full at Letty Kenderdine, with the sudden thirst of a man 
who is looking for perfection, has been looking for it all 
his days, and can not find it. And Letty, with those blue 
eyes of hers — the sort of azure blue, large and limpid, 
which look so like heaven, except for a certain want of 
depth in them, discoverable not suddenly, but gradually 

— Letty 

^'GaTO a side glance and looked down,*' 

in her long-accustomed way, thinking of nothing in par- 
ticular, unless it was that the evening was coming on, 
misty and gray, and the sands were wet, and she had only 
her thin boots on. 

She meant no harm, poor girl ! She was so accustomed 
to be admired, to have every body looking at her as 
Julius Stedman looked now, that it neither touched nor 
startled her, nor affected her in any way — especially as 
the look was only momentary; and the young man re- 
turned immediately to his ordinary lively talk — the chat- 
ter of society — in which he was much more au fait than 
his brother, and which Letty could respond to much more 
easily. Indeed she had felt the change of companionship 
to-night rather an advantage, and had exerted herself to 
be agreeable accordingly. Though no one could say she 
smiled on one brother more sweetly than on the other; 
for it was not her habit either to feel or to show prefer- 
ence. She just went smiling on, like the full round moon, 
on all the world alike, as she had nothing to do but to 
smila Did any hapless wight fall, moon-struck — who was 
to blame ? Surely not Letitia Kenderdine. 

And, meanwhile, Edna too had been enjoying herself 
very much, in a most harmless way, clambering over little 
rocks, and trampling on sea-weed — the bladders of which 
" go pop," as the children say, when you set your feet 
upon them — a proceeding which, I grieve to say, had 
amused this young school-mistress as much as if she had 
been one of her own pupils. Finally, by Dr. Stedman's as- 
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THE woman's kingdom. 99 

glad of a helping hand — she gained the farthermost and 
most attractive sand island, and stood there, with her hat 
off, letting the wind blow in her face, for the sake of 
health and freshness ; she was not solicitous about bloom 
or complexion. 

Yet Edna was not uncomely. There was a fairy grace 
about her tiny figure, and an unaffected enjoyment in her 
whole mien, which made her interesting even beside her 
beautiful sister. While she was looking at the sea, Dr. 
Stedman stood and looked at her, with a keen observation 
— inquisitive, and yet approving — approving rather than 
admiring ; not at all the look he gave to Letty. And yet, 
perhaps, any woman, who was a real woman, would rather 
have had it of the two. 

" You seem to enjoy yourself very much, Miss Edna. 
It does -one good to see any person past childhood who 
has the faculty of being so thoroughly happy." 

" Did I look happy ? Yes, I think I am : all the more 
so because my happiness, my sea-side pleasure, I mean, 
will not last long. I want to get the utmost out of it I 
can, for we go home in three days." 

"So soon? When did you settle that ?" 

"At tea-time to-day. We must go, for we have spent 
all our money, and worn out all our clothes. Besides, it 
is time we were at home." 

"Have you taken all precautions about fumigating, 
whitewashing, etc., that I suggested ?" (For she had told 
him about the fever, and asked his advice, professionally.) 

"Yes; our house is quite safe now, and ready for us. 
And most of our pupils have promised to come back. We 
shall be in harness again directly after the holidays. Ah !" 
she sighed, hardly knowing why, except that she could 
not help it, " I have need to be happy while I can. We 
have a rather hard life at home." 

" Is it so ?" Then, after a pause, " Forgive me for ask- 
ing, but have you no father living, no brothers? Are 
there only you two ?" 

" Only us two." 

" It is a hard life, then. I have seen enough of the world 



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100 

to feel keenly for helpless women left to earn their liveli- 
hood. If I had had afcister I would have been so good to 
her." 

" I am sure you would," said Edna, involuntarily. And 
then she drew back uneasily. Was it possible that he 
could be thinking of her in that light — ?l& a sister by mar- 
riage, who might one day take the place of a sister by 
blood ? Was that ther reason he was so specially kind to 
her? 

She could not have told why — ^but she did not quite like 
the idea, and her next speech was a little sharp, even 
though sincere. 

" Yet, on the other hand, however kind a brother may 
be, it is great weakness and selfishness in a sister to hang 
helplessly upon him — draining his income, preventing him 
from man*ying, and so on. If I had ten brothers,. I think 
I would rather work till I dropped than I woujld be de- 
pendent on any one of them." 

"Would you ? But would that be quite right ?" 

" Yes, I think it would be right — for me, at least. I 
don't judge others. Let all decide for themselves their 
own affairs, but, as for me, if I felt I was a burden upon 
any mortal man — ^father, brother, pr-^well, perhaps hus- 
bands are differentjl have never thought much about that 
— I believe it would drive me frantic." 

" You independent little lady I" said Dr. Stedman, laugh- 
ing outright "And yet I beg your pardon," he added, 
seriously. "I quite agree with you. I don't see why a 
woman should be helpless and idle any more than a man. 
And a woman who, if she has to earn her daily bread, sets 
bravely to work and does it, without shrinking, without 
complaining, has my most entire respect and esteem." 

" Thank you," said Edna, and her heart warmed, and 
the fierceness that was rising there sank down again. She 
felt that she had found a friend, or the possibility of one, 
did circumstances ever occur to bring them any nearer 
than now. Which, however, was not probable, since, as 
to these Stedmans, she had determined that when they 
parted — they parted ; that this brief intimacy, which had 



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101 

been 80 pleasant while it lasted, should become on both 
sides as completely ended as a dreAn. Indeed, it would 
be nothing else. The sort of association which seemed so 
friendly and natural here, would, in their Kensington life, 
be utterly impossible. 

" Things are hard enough even for us men," said Dr. 
Stedman, taking up the thread of conversation where Edna 
had dropped it. " Work of any sort is so difficult to ob- 
tain. There is my brother, now. He drifted into the ca- 
reer of an artist almost by necessity, because to get any 
employment such as he desired and was fitted for was 
nearly impossible. Even I, who, unlike him, have had the 
advantage of being regularly educated for a profession — 
would you believe it ? — I have been in practice three years 
and have hardly made a hundred pounds. If I had not 
had a private income — small enough, but just sufficient to 
keep Julius and me in bread and cheese — I think we must 
have starved." 

" So he has told me. He says he owes you every thing 
— more than he can ever repay." 

" He talks great nonsense. Poor fellow ! if he has been 
unsuccessAil it has neither been through idleness nor ex- 
travagance. But he has probably told you all about him- 
self. And you, I find, have told him what I yesterday 
said to you concerning him." 

"Was I wrong?" 

" Oh no. If it had been a secret I should have said so, 
and you would have kept it. You look like a woman who 
could keep a secret. If I ever have one I will trust you." 

What did he mean? Further hints on the matter of 
sisterhood? Edna earnestly hoped not. Perhaps the 
fatal time had passed over, since the people who fell in love 
with Letty usually proposed to her suddenly — in two or 
three days. . Now Dr. Stedman had been with her a whole 
fortnight— every day and all day long — and, so far as Edna 
knew, nothing had happened. If the sisters went away on 
Thursday nothing might happen at all. 

She dismissed her fears and went on with her talk, in 
which the two others soon joined — the pleasant, desultory 



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102 THE woman's kingdom. 

talk, half earnest, half badinage, of four young people al- 
lied by no special tie of kindred or friendship, bound only 
by circumstaace and mutual attraction — that easy liking 
which had not as yet passed into the individual appropria- 
tion which, with the keen delights of love, creates also its 
bitter jealousies. In short, they stood, all of them, on the 
narrow boundary -line of those two conditions of being 
which make hapless mortals — especially men — either the 
best or the worst company in the world. 

They strolled along the shore, sometimes two and two, 
sometime falling into a long line of four, conversing rather 
than looking around them — for there was nothing attract- 
ive in the evening. A dull, gray sky, and a smooth, leaden- 
colored sea, had succeeded those wonderful effects of even- 
ing light which they had night after night admired so 
much ; yet still they went on walking and talking, enjoy- 
ing each other's company, and not noticing much beyond, 
until Dr. Stedman suddenly stopped. 

" Julius, look there ; the tide is nearly round the point. 
We must turn back at once." 

Letty gave a little scream. "Oh, what will happen! 
Why did we go on so far? Edna, how could you — " 

" It was not your sister's fault," said Dr. Stedman, catch- 
ing the little scream and coming anxiously over to Letty's 
side. "I was to blame ; I ought to have noticed how far 
on the tide was." 

" But oh, what will happen ? Edna, Edna !" cried Letty, 
wringing her hands. 

" Nothing will happen, I trust, beyond our getting our 
feet wet. Perhaps not that, if we walk on fast. Will 
you take my arm?" 

"No, mine," said Julius, eagerly, and his brother drew 
back. 

"Do not be alarmed. Miss Edna; but indeed I see you 
are not," said the doctor, striding on, while she kept pace 
with him as well as she could with her little, short steps. 
" We two will just walk on as fast as we can. There is 
no real danger. At worst we shall only get a good wet- 
ting ; but that would be very bad for our invalids." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 103 

" Very bad. Letty — ^Mr. Stedman — please come on as 
fast as you can." 

" Will I" shouted out Julius, " is it spring or neap tide ?" 

"I do not know; only get on. Don't lag behind." 

" Get on yourself, and leave us alone." 

" That isn't your habit, I'm sure. Miss Edna," said Will 
Stedman. 

" What isn't my habit ?" 

" To get on by yourself and leave others to get on alone, 
as my brother has juBt advised my doing." 

" Oh, he did not know what he was saying." 

This was all that passed between them, as walking as 
rapidly as they could, though often turning uneasily back 
to watch the other two, the elder brother and sister reached 
the point where a " race," that is, a line of rocks reaching 
right up to the cliff, made the sea more turbulent, and 
where the cliff itself, jutting out a considerable way, caused 
the distance between it and high-water mark to be scarce- 
ly more than a foot — in spring-tides nothing at all. It 
was not exactly a dangerous place — ^not in calm weather 
like this. At most, a wade up to the knees would have 
carried a wayfarer safely beyond the point; but still it 
wa» an uncomfortable place to pass, and when Dr. Stedman 
and Edna reached it, they found the worst had come to 
the worst — there was no passage remaining, or merely a 
foot or two left bare, temporarily, at each ebb of the wave. 

There were no breakers, certainly ; nothing more threat- 
ening than the long slow curves of tide that came cream- 
ing in, each with a white fringe of foam, over the smooth 
sand; but whenever they met not sand but rocks, they 
became fiercer, and dashed themselves about in a way that 
looked any thing but agreeable, and rendered footing 
among the sea-weed and sharp stones extremely difficult. 

Edna and Dr. Stedman exchanged looks — uneasy enough. 

"You see?" 

" Yes, I see. It is very unfortunate." 

"Will she be frightened, think you? Your sister, I 
mean. She seems a timid person." 
, " Bather, and she dislikes getting wet. How fast the 



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104 THE woman's kingdom. 

tide comes in ! Is there no chance of climbing a little 
way up the cliff?" 

" No, the cliffs are perpendicular. Look for yourself." 

But the doctor looked uneasily back, his mind full of the 
other two. 

" How slow they are ! If they had only been here now 
we might cross at once, and escape with merely wet feet. 
There would be just time. Julius !" he shouted, impatient- 
ly — " Julius, do come on !" 

" He can not," Edna said, gently. " Remember, he can 
not walk like you." 

" Thank you ; you are always thoughtful. No ; I sup- 
pose there is no help for it. We may as well sit down 
and wait." He sat down, but started up again immedi- 
ately. " I beg your pardon, Miss Edna, but would you 
like to go on ? I can easily take you past the point, and 
return again for them. Will you come ?" 

*' No, oh no." And she, too, sat down on the nearest 
stone ; for she was very tired. 

It was full five minutes before Julius and Letty reached 
the point, and by that time the sea was tumbling noisily 
against the very foot of the cliff. Julius at once saw the 
position of things and turned anxiously to his brothei'. 

" Will, this is dreadful ! Not for us, but for these ladies. 
What shall we do?" 

Letty caught at once the infection of fear. 

" What is so dreadful ? Oh, I see. Those waves, those 
waves! they have overtaken us. I shall be drowned! 
Oh, Dr. Stedman, tell me — am I going to be drowned ?" 

And she left Julius's arm and clutched the doctor's, her 
beautiful features pallid and distorted with fear. Also 
with something else besides fear, which shows plainly 
enough in most faces at a critical moment like this, when 
there awakes either the instinct of self-preservation, said 
to be nature's first law, or a far diviner instinct, which is 
not always — yet, thank God I it is often — also human 
nature. 

Dr. Stedman was an acute man. No true doctor can 
well be otherwise. He said little, but he observed much. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 105 

Now, as he looked fixedly down upon the lovely face a 
carious change came over his own. More than once, with- 
out replying, he heard the piteous cry — sharp even to 
querulousness — "Shall I be drowned?" and then gently 
released himself from Letty's hold. 

" My dear Miss Kenderdine, if any were drowned, there 
would be four. But I assure you nothing so tragical is 
likely to happen. Look at the line of sea-weed all along 
the shore; that is high-water mark; farther the tide will 
not advance." 

" But the point — the point." 

" Even at the point the water is not more than six inches 
deep. It could not drown you." 

" But it will spoil my boots, my dress — every thing. 
Oh, Edna, how could you be so foolish as to let us come ?" 

Edna, indeed, did feel and look very conscience-smitten, 
till Dr. Stedman said, rather abruptly, 

** There is no use regretting it, or scolding one another ; 
we were all equally to blame. Don't let us waste time 
now in chattering about it." 

" No, indeed. Let us get home as quickly as we can. 
Letty, take hold of me, and try to wade through." 

But Letty, tall as she was, shrank in childish terror from 
the troubled waters, and several more precious minutes 
were wasted in conquering her fears, and finding the eas- 
iest passage for her across the sands. Meantime the line 
of sea-weed began to be touched— nay, drifted ominously 
higher and higher by each advancing wave, until Dr. Sted- 
man noticed it. 

" Look I" he said in an under-tone to Edna ; " last tide 
may have been neap, but this is evidently a spring-tide. 
It makes a great difference. We must go on without los- 
ing more time. How shall we divide?" 

"I'll help Letty." 

" No, that is scarcely safe — ^two women together. Shall 
I take your sister, and you my brother? You can assist 
him best ! Poor fellow ! this is more dangerous for him 
than for any of us. Julius I" he called out, " don't waste 
more time ; take Miss Edna and start." 

E2 



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106 THE woman's kingdom. 

Julius turned sharply upon his brother : 

"Excuse me, but we have already made our plans. 
Come, Miss Kenderdine." 

Will Stedman once more drew back, and would not in- 
terfere, but he looked seriously uneasy. 

" What must be done ?" he said again to Edna. " I 
wanted you to walk with Julius. She can not take care 
of him — she is too timid. She will only hang helplessly 
upon him, and drag him back when he ought to get on as 
fast as possible." 

" Is there danger — real danger ?" 

" Not of drowning, as your sister thinks" — with a slight 
curl of the not too amiable mouth — " but of my brother's 
getting so wet and exhausted that his illness may return. 
Look ! he is staggering now, the tide runs so strong. 
What can I do?" . • 

" Go and help them. Get them safe home first." 

"But you?" 

" I can not cross by myself. I see that," said Edna, 
looking with a natural shiver of dread at the now fast-ris- 
ing waves. " But I can stay here. I should not be afraid, 
even if I had to wait till the tide turns." 

" That will be midnight. No, about eleven, I think." 

" Even so, no harm will come to me ; I can walk up and 
down this beach, or else I could clamber to that ledge on 
the cliff where the cliff-swallows are building. The high- 
est tide could not reach me there. I'll try it. Good-bye." 

She spoke cheerfully, reaching out her hand. Dr. Sted- 
man grasped it warmly. 

"You are the bravest and most unselfish little woman I 
ever knew." 

"Then you can not have known many," said she, laugh- 
ing ; for, somehow, her courage rose. " Now, without an- 
other word, go." 

He went, but returned again in a minute to find poor 
Edna clambering painfully to her ledge m the rock. He 
helped her up as well as he could, then she again urged 
him to leave her. 

"I can not. It seems so wrong — quite cruel." 



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THB woman's kingdom. 107 

' " It is not cruel — it is only right. You and I are far the 
strongest. We must take care of those two." 

" I have taken care of him all my life, poor fellow I" 

"That I can well believe. Hark! is Letty screaming? 
Oh, Dr. Stedman, never mind me. For pity's sake go and 
help them safe home." 

"I will," said he, "and then I'll come back for you in a 
boat, if possible, only let me see you safe. One step more. 
Put your hand on my shoulder. You're all right now ?" 

" Quite right, and really very comfortable, considering." 

" This will make you more so, and I don't need it." 

He took off his coat and threw it up to her, striding off 
before she had time to refuse. 

"Miss Edna !" and to her great uneasiness she saw him 
looking back once more. " You'll not be frightened ?" 

" Not a bit. Oh, please go !" 

" Very well, I am really going now. But I'll never for- 
get this day." 

Edna thought the same. 



CHAPTER Vm. 

Edna sat on her ledge of rock, to the great discomfiture 
of the cliff-swallows, for a length of time that appeared to 
her indefinite. She had no means of measuring it, for the 
very simple reason that the sisters had only one reliable 
watch between them, and,, when it gave her no trouble, 
Letty usually wore it Now, in her long, weary vigil, Ed- 
na's mind kept turning regretfully and with a childish 
pertinacity to this watch, and wishing she had had the 
courage — ^she did think of so doing once, and hesitated — 
to borrow Dr. Stedman's. It would have been some con- 
solation, and a sort of companion to her, during the hour 
or two she should still have to wait before the tide went 
down. That was, supposing Dr. Stedman found it impos- 
sible to get the boat ; which, when the evening began to 
close in, and still there was no sign of him, she thought 
must have been the case. 



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108 THB woman's kingdom. 



EUNA WAITING. 



She was not exactly alarmed : she knew that the high- 
est spring-tide could never reach the ledge where she sat 
— where the birds' marvellons instinct had placed their 
nests. Her position was safe enough, but it was terribly 
lonely ; and when night came rapidly on, and she ceased 
to distinguish any thing except the momentary flashes of 
foam over the sea — ^for the wind had risen, and the white 
horses had begun to appear — she felt sadly forlorn — nay, 
forsaken. The swallows ceased their fluttering and chat- 
tering, and becoming accustomed to her motionless pres- 
ence, settled down to roost ; soon the only sound she heard 
was the waves breaking against the cliff beneath her feet. 
She seemed to hear them quite close below her : so the 
spring-tide must have been a high one ; and she felt thank- 
ful for this little nook of safety — damp and comfortless as 



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THE woman's kingdom. 109 

it was: growing more so, since, with the darkness, a slight 
rain began to fall. 

Edna drew Dr. Stedman's coat over her shoulders, as 
some slight protection to her poor little shivering, solitary 
self: thinking gratefully how good it was of him to leave 
it, and hoping earnestly he had got home safely, even 
though in ignominious and discreditable shirt-sleeves. 
And, amidst all her dreariness, she laughed aloud to think 
how funny he would look, and how scandalized Letty 
would be, to see him in such an ungentlemanly plight, 
and especially to walk with him through the village. 
But while she laughed the moral courage of the thing 
touched her. It was not every gentleman who would 
thus have made himself appear ridiculous in a lady's eyes 
for the sake of pure kindness. 

And then, in the weary want of something to occupy 
her mind and to pass the time away, she fell into vague 
speculations as to how all this was to end: whether Dr. 
Stedman really wished to marry Letty; whether Letty 
would have him if he asked her. One week would show ; 
since, after Thursday, circumstances would be so complete- 
ly changed with them all that their acquaintanceship must, 
if mere acquaintance, die a natural death. No '* gentle- 
men visitors" could be allowed by the two young school- 
mistresses ; so that even though the Stedmans lived with- 
in a mile of them — ^which fact Edna knew, though they 
were not aware she knew it — still they were not very like- 
ly to meet. People in and near London often pass years 
without meeting, even though living in the next street. 
And if so — ^if this association, just as it was growing quite 
pleasant, were thus abruptly to end — would she be glad 
or sorry? 

Edna asked herself the question more than once. She 
could not answer it, even to her own truthful heart. She 
really did not know. 

But she soon ceased to trouble herself about that or 
any thing ; for there came upon her a feeling of intense 
cold, also — let it not disgrace her in poetical eyes, this 
healthy -framed and healthy - minded little woman! — of 



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110 THE woman's kingdom. 

equally intense hunger : during which she had a vision of 
the bread-and-cheese and beer lying on the parlor-table, 
so vivid and tantalizing that she could have cried. She 
began to agree with Dr, Stedman that it was rather cruel 
to have left her here — at least for so long — so much long- 
er than she had anticipated. 

Surely they had all got home safe by this time. Noth- 
ing had happened — nothing was likely to happen ; for she 
had seen them with her own eyes cross safely the perilous 
point and enter upon the stretch of level sand. With a 
slightly sad feeling she had watched the three black fig- 
ures moving on — two together and one a little apart — 
till they vanished behind a turn in the cliff. Beyond that 
nothing could be safer, though it was a good long walk. 

"And that young man is weak still," thought Edna, 
compassionately. " Of course he could not walk quickly ; 
and Letty never can. Besides, when she learned I was 
left behind she might have been unwilling to go home 
without me." 

But while making this excuse to herself Edna's candid 
mind rejected it as a fiction. She knew well that, with 
all her good-nature, Letty was not given to self-denial : 
being one of those theoretically-virtuous people who are 
content to leave their heroisms to be acted out by some 
one else. But the doctor : he was a man — a courageous 
and kindly man, too. He suriBly would never leave a 
poor, weak woman to spend the night upon this dreary 
ledge of rock. 

" He said he would bring a boat ; but he may not be 
able to get one, or to pilot it in this darkness and among 
all these rocks. It would not be safe." And this thought 
conquered all her personal uneasiness. " Oh, I hope he will 
not try it. Suppose he did, and something were to hap- 
pen to him I I wish I had told him I would wait till the 
tide went down. Rather than any risk to him I would 
have sat here till daylight." 

And with a kind of vague terror of " something happen- 
ing" — such terror as she had never felt concerning any 
one except Letty— nay, with her very slightly, for in their 



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THE WOMAN S KINGDOM. Ill 

dull, peaceful -lives had occurred none of those sudden 
tragedies which startle life out of its even course, and 
take away forever the sense of security against fate-r- 
Edna sat and listened for the sound of oars, of voices — of 
any thing ; straining her ears in the intense stillness until 
the sensation became actual pain. 

But she heard nothing except the lap-lap of the tide go- 
ing down — either it was going down, for it sounded faint- 
er every minute, or else she herself was sinking into a 
state of sleepy exhaustion, more dangerous than any dan- 
ger yet. For if she fainted or dropped asleep she might 
fall from her narrow seat and be seriously hurt. She 
thought, should he come and find her there, lying just at 
his feet, with a limb broken, or otherwise injured, how 
very sorry Dr. Stedman would be ! 

AH these fancies came and went, in every form of ex- 
aggeration, till poor Edna began to fancy her wits were 
leaving her. She drew herself as far back against the 
rock as possible, crouching down like a child, leaned her 
head back, and quietly cried. Then excessive drowsiness 
came over her : she must, for some minutes at least, have 
actually fallen asleep. . 

She was roused by hearing herself called : in her con- 
Aised state she could not think where or by whom ; and 
her tongue was paralyzed and her limbs frozen just as if 
she had the nightmare. 

" Miss Edna — Miss Edna !" the shouting went on, till 
the cliffs echoed with it. "Where are you? Do answer 
— only one word !" 

Then the voice ceased, and a light like a glow-worm be- 
.gan to wander up and down the rocks below. Edna tried 
to call, but could not make herself heard. The whole 
thing seemed a kind of fever-dream. 

At length, sitting where she was, she felt a warm hand 
touch her. She uttered a little cry. 

"You are alive," some one said. "Thank God !" 

Though she knew it was Dr. Stedman, and tried her ut- 
most to appear the brave little woman he had called her, 
Edna's strength failed. She could not answer a word, but 



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112 THE woman's kingdom. 

fell into a violent fit of sobbing, in the which the doctor 
soothed her as if she had been a child. 

"There now. Never mind crying — it will be a re- 
lief. You are quite safe now ; I have come to fetch you 
home. Oh, if I could but have got back here a little 
sooner !" 

And then Edna was sufficiently her natural self to ask 
eagerly if no harm had befallen Letty or his brother — ^if 
they were both safe at home ? 

"Yes, quite safe. But it was a long business. Twice I 
thought Julius would have broken down entirely.'' 

" And my sister ?" 

" Your sister is perfectly well, only a good deal fright- 
ened." 

" Was she very uneasy about me ?" 

" Not overwhelmingly so," said Will Stedman, with that 
slight hardness, approaching even to sarcasm, which came 
occasionally into his voice as well as his manner, giving 
the impression that if very good he was not always very 
amiable. "But come! we are losing time; and I have to 
get you safe home now. I have no boat. I was delayed ; 
they were so long in reaching home that when I went after 
a boat the water was too shallow to make it available-;r" 
the men refused it." 

" How did you come, then ?" 

" I waded. But the tide is down now. We may easily 
walk — that is, if you can walk. Try." 

Edna stretched her poor cramped limbs, and attempted 
to descend. But she grew dizzy; her footing altogether 
failed her. 

" I can't stand," she said, helplessly. " You will have to 
leave me here till morning." 

" Impossible." 

" Oh no ! Indeed, I don't much mind." 

For in her state of utter exhaustion any thing — even to 
lie down there and die — seemed easier than to be forced 
to make a single effort more. 

" Miss Edna," said the doctor, with all the doctor in his 
tone — calm, firm, authoritative — " you can not stay here. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 113 

Tea must be got home somehow. If you can not walk, I 
must carry you." 

Then Edna made a violent effort, and succeeded in crawl- 
ing, with both hands and feet, down the cliff-side to the 
level sands. But as soon as she stood upright and at- 
tempted to walk, her head swam round and consciousness 
quite left her. She remembered nothing more till she 
found herself lying on the sofa in their own parlor, oppo- 
site a blazing fire, with Letty — only Letty — sitting beside 
her. 

" Mrs. Williams ! oh, Mrs. Williams ! come here I She's 
quite herself now. My sister — my dear little twin-sister ! 
Oh, Edna, I thought you were dead. I have been near 
breaking my heart about you." 

And Letty hugged and kissed her, and hung over her, 
and gave her all manner of things to eat, to drink, and to 
smell at — with an affection the genuineness of which was 
beyond all doubt. For Letty was no shain ; she had a 
real heart, so far as it went, and that was why Edna loved 
her. All the better that it was a keen-eyed love, which 
never looked for what it could not find, and had the sense 
not to exact from the large, splendid, open-bosomed Gloire 
de Dijon^ the rich depths of perfume that lie hidden in the 
red moss-rose. 

"Yes, Letty dear, I must have frightened you very 
much," said she, clinging to her sister, and trying to re- 
call, bit by bit, what had happened. " It must have been 
a terrible suspense for you. But indeed I could not help 
it. It was impossible for me to get home. How did I 
ever get home at all ?" 

"I don't know, except that Dr. Stedman brought you. 
You were quite insensible when he carried you in, and he 
had a deal of trouble to bring you to. Oh, it was such a 
comfort to have a doctor in the house ! and he was so 
kind!" 

"Where is he now?" And as Edna tried to raise her 
head a faint color came into her white face. 

" He has just gone away. He said it was much better 
that, when yon came to yourself, you should find nobody 



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114 THE WOMAIJ'S KINGDOM. 

beside you but me — that he had to sit up reading till 
about three in the morning ; and if you were worse I was 
to send for him — not otherwise. He told me not to fright- 
en myself or you. He was not uneasy about you at all ; 
you would soon recover, you were such an exceedingly 
healthy person. Indeed, £dna, he must be a very clever 
doctor : he seemed to understand you as if he had known 
you all your life." 

Edna smiled, but she felt too weak to talk. " And you 
— how did you get home ?" 

"Oh, it was terrible business. I was so frightened. 
And that young Julius Stedman — he was no help at all. 
He is but a poor stick of a fellow for all practical pur- 
poses, and gets cross at the least thing. Still, when we 
reached home, and his brother started off again to fetch 
you, he was very kind also." 

" I am sure he would be." 

" He sat with me all the time we were waiting for you ; 
I sent for Mrs. Williams, so it was quite proper — but, in- 
deed, I was too miserable to think much about propriety. 
I only thought, What if you were drowned, and I were to 
lose my dear little sister — my best friend in all this world? 
Oh, Edna, Edna!" 

And once again Letty kissed and embraced her, shed- 
ding oceans of tears — honest tears. 

Mrs. Williams, too, put her apron to her eyes. She had 
grown " mighty fond " (she declared afterwards) of these 
two young ladies. She was certain they were real ladies, 
though they had only one bottle of wine in the cupboard, 
and their living was as plain as plain could be. So she, 
too, worthy woman! shed a few glad tears over Miss 
Edna's recovery, until Edna declared it was enough to 
make a person quite conceited to be thought so much of. 
And then, being still in a weak and confused state, she 
suffered herself to be carried off to bed by Mrs. Williams 
and Letty. 

It was a novelty for Edna to be taken care of. Either 
she was very healthy — though so fragile-looking — or she 
did not think much about her own health, which is often 



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THE woman's kingdom. 116 

the best method of securing it ; but for years such a thing 
had not happened to her as to lie in bed till noon, and 
have Letty waiting upon her. It was rather pleasant 
than otherwise for an hour or two, until Letty began to 
weary a little of her unwonted duties, and Edna of the 
dignity of invalidism. So she rose, and, though still feel- 
ing dizzy and strange, crept down stairs and settled her- 
self in her usual place, with her work-basket beside her. 

There Dr. Stedman found her, when, having sent a pre- 
liminary message through Mrs. Williams, he came, in the 
course of the afternoon, to visit his patient. 

His patient he seemed determined to consider her. ^e 
entered the room with a due air of mental gravity — nay, 
a little more fonnal than his customary manner — touched 
her pulse, and asked a few unimportant questions, after 
a fashion which quite removed the slight awkwardness 
which Edna felt, and was painfully conscious she showed, 
towards him. 

"Yes, she will soon be quite well," said he, turning to 
Letty. "Your sister is thin and delicate-looking. Miss 
Kenderdine, but she will take a great deal of killing, she 
has such a thoroughly pure constitution. You need not 
be in the least alarmed about her. Still, I will just look 
after her for a day or two, professionally — I mean in an 
amateur professional way — if she will allow me." 

Letty was overflowing with thanks. Edna remained 
silent. She disliked being Dr. Stedman's, or indeed any 
doctor's patient; but her position would have been still 
more difficult had he appeared to-day in the character of 
her brave preserver, who had waded through the stormy 
billows like a Norse hero, and carried her back in his 
arms*~as she now was sure he had carried her, for he 
could have got her home in no other way. But he had 
said nothing about this, and, apparently, nobody had ask- 
ed him. Nor did he refer to it now, for which reserve 
Edna was very grateful. She would not have known 
what to say, nor how to thank him, but his delicate silence 
on the matter made all things easy. 

Likewise Letty, who was not given to penetrate too 



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116 THE woman's kingdom. 

deeply below the surface of things, seemed blessed with a 
most fortunate lack of inquisitiveness. She made no ref- 
erence to last night, but sat talking sweetly to the doctor 
in the character of affectionate nurse and sister, looking 
the while so exquisitely lovely that Julius, who, on his 
brother's suggestion, had been invited in to see Edna, was 
driven to beg permission to make a sketch of her on the 
spot, in the character of a guardian angeL 

Nobody objected — for the young artist was treated like 
a spoiled child by them all. And, as it was a wet day — 
so wet that nobody could think of going out, and every 
body would be dull enough in-doors — they agreed to share 
their dullness and spend the afternoon together; for, as 
some one suggested, their time was drawing short now. 

So Julius brought in his sketch-book and fell to work. 
After a long discussion as to what sort of an angel Miss 
Kenderdine was to be made into, it was finally decided 
that she would do exactly as one of the Scandinavian Val- 
kyrisa, who wait in the halls of Odin to receive the souls 
of the departed slain. 

"Is that the business of guardian angels?" asked Will 
Stedman. " I should have thought they would have done 
better in taking care of the living than making a fuss over 
the dead." 

Julius looked annoyed. " Pray excuse Will, Miss Ken- 
derdine. He is not at all poetical ; he always takes a mat- 
ter-of-fact view of things. Now, just the head bent, with 
a pitying sort of expression, if you can manage it. Thank 
you — that will do exactly." 

And Julius, with that keen, eager, thirsty look, which 
for the last few days had begun to dawn in his face, gazed 
at Letty Kenderdine, who smiled as usual, calm and moon- 
like. Even as Andrea del Sarto's Lucrezia might have 
smiled on him, and as dozens more as lovely women to 
the end of time will continue to smile, maddenmgly, upon 
the two types of men with whom such charms are all-pow- 
erful — the sensualist, who cares for mere beauty, and it 
alone; the poet, who out of his own nature idealizes phys- 
ical perfectness into the perfection of the soul. 



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THE woman's EJI7GDOM. 117 

But there is a third type which iiDites both these. 
Was it to this that William Stedman belonged? — that is, 
in his real heart, though his eyes might have been tempo- 
rarily no wiser than his neighbors'. 

He seemed a little changed in his manner since yester- 
day — ^graver, and yet franker and freer. He made no at- 
tempt to interfere with his brother's complete engross- 
ment of Letty, though he watched the two very closely at 
intervals. This Edna saw, and drew her own conclusions 
therefrom; but they were erroneous conclusions. Never- 
theless, they made her resolve more strongly than ever 
that with next Thursday this intimacy should entirely 
cease. That one or both of these brothers should fall in 
love with Letty was a catastrophe to be avoided, if possi- 
ble. They were two good men, she was sure of that, and 
they should neither of them suffer if she could help it. 
No : just two days more, and the acquaintance with the 
Stedmans should come to a natural and fitting closa 

This being decided, Edna threw herself unresistingly into 
the pleasures of it while it lasted. For it was a pleasure 
— she had ceased to doubt that. No good, simple-hearted, 
sensible woman could help enjoying the society of two 
such men, each so different, and yet each acting as a set- 
off to the other. Julius, when he flung himself into con- 
versation, was not only clever but brilliant ; William said 
little, but whatever he did say, he said it to the point. 
True, as his brother had accused him, he did now and then 
take a matter-of-fact view of things ; but his matter-of- 
factness was neither stupid nor commonplace. He might 
be slow, or obstinate, or hard to please, but he was not a 
fool — not a bit of it ; in spite of his grave and solid tem- 
perament, most people would have considered him an ex- 
ceedingly clever man, in his own undemonstrative way. 

So Edna thought. And since he chose to talk to her, 
she talked to him back again, and enjoyed the exercise. 
For there could hardly have been a greater contrast than 
these two. Edna Kenderdine, though so quiet, was not a 
passive, scarcely even a calm woman. Whatever she felt, 
she felt acutely. Life and energy, feeling and passion. 



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118 

quivered through every movement of her small frame, 
every feature of her plain but sensitive and spiritual face 
— more so to-day than usual, through the excitement left 
behind by her last night's peril. Also by another sort of 
excitement, for which she could not at all account, but 
which seemed to make her whole being thrill like a harp 
newly tuned, which the lightest touch causes to tremble 
into music. 

She could not think how it was : she ought to have been 
miserable, leaving that pleasant place to go back to Lon- 
don, and work, and endless anxieties. Yet she was not 
miserable ; nay, she felt strangely happy during the whole 
of this day, wet as it was, and through great part of the 
next day — except the hour or two that she occupied in 
packing. 

There, in the solitude of her own room — for Letty, 
whose back was quite too long for packing, was sitting on 
the bench outside, between the two Stedmans — poor Edna 
felt just a little sad and dull. They had had such a hap- 
py time, and it was now over, or nearly over : ay, forever ! 
— such times do not return. People say they will, and 
plan renewed meetings of the same sort; but these seldom 
come about, or if they do, things are different. Edna, in 
her level existence, had not known enough either of happi- 
ness or misery to feel keenly the irrecoverableness of the 
past; still she had sense enough to acknowledge that a 
time such as she and Letty had had for the last fortnight, 
so exceptional in its circumstances and its utter unworld- 
liness of contentment, was never likel/*to occur twice in 
their lives. 

First, because two hard-working, solitary women were 
never likely again to be thrown into such close yet perfectly 
harmless and blameless relations with two such young men 
as the Stedmans^thorough gentlemen, refined in act and 
word, never by the slightest shadow of a shade crossing 
the boundary of those polite and chivalric attentions which 
every man may honorably pay to every woman ; men, too, 
whom they could so heartily respect, who apparently led a 
life as pure and simple as their own. At this time it was 



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THE woman's kingdom. 119 

with the young men, as with the young women, such an in- 
nocently idle life.. When they met again, if they ever did 
meet, they would all be in the whirl of London, absorbed 
in work — the restless, jarring, selfish work of the world — 
in which they might both seem and be quite different sort 
of people, both in themselves and to one another. 

So thought Edna, as she hastened her packing in order 
to go down to the others — who did not seem to want her 
much, she fancied. Still, she wanted them : there were 
several things she would like still to talk about to Dr. ^ 
Stedman, and why should she not talk to him as long as 
she could ? 

As she closed her trunk the heavy fall of the lid felt like 
closing a bright chapter in her existence. She had an in- 
stinct that such seasons do not come often, and that when 
they do they are brief as bright. She did not weep — this 
cheerful-hearted Edna, who had, and was always likely to 
have, enough to do and to think of to keep her from un- 
necessary grieving. She locked her box, having placed in- 
side it the little mementos they were carrying home — a 
pebble which Letty had picked up on the beach, supposed 
to contain the possibility of a valuable brooch, if they could 
afford to have it cut and set; a piece of some queer sort 
of sea- weed which Dr. Stedman had given her, telling her 
that, if hung up in a dry place, it would prove a faithful 
barometer for months and years ; also, pressed between 
her blotting-book's leaves, the very biggest of primroses, 
a full inch in diameter, which she had gathered in a com- 
petition with Julius Stedman. All these trifles, and a few 
more, which were nobody's business but her own, she locked 
up fast : but as she did so Edna sighed. 



CHAPTER IX. 

In this love-tale I find I am telling the story of the 
women more than of the men— which is not unnatural. 

Butj in truth, of the men there is as yet little to be told. 
Their passion had not arrived at the demonstrative stage. 



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120 THB WOMAN S KINGDOM. 

Every thing they did was done quite as usuaL No donbt 
they seized every opportunity of joining their fair neigh- 
bors — watched them out and in ; met them constantly on 
the cliff and down the shore ; contrived in short, by some 
means or other, to spend with them nearly the whole of 
the last three days ; but beyond this they did not go. And 
even this was done by tacit understanding, without prior 
arrangements. Men are much more delicately reticent in 
lofe-affairs than women. Many women, even good women, 
^ill diatter mercilessly about things which a man would 
scorn to reveal, and think himself a brute to pry into. 

On the Wednesday night the brothers had sat till ten 
o'cloi^k in the Misses Kenderdine's parlor — ^the visits were 
always there. On no account would the sisters have pen- 
etrated into that bachelor sanctum, of which, in its chaos of 
bachelor untidiness, they had sometimes caught a glimpse 
through the open door — to Edna^s pity and Letty's disdain. 
The young men themselves felt the contrast between their 
masculine chamber of horrors and the feminine sitting- 
room opposite, which, humble and bare as it was, looked 
always cheerful, neat, and nice. 

" What a muddle we do live in, to be sure !" said Will, 
when they returned this last evening to their own parlor. 
But he sat down to his books, and Julius to his drawing, 
and there they both worked away till nearly midnight, 
without exchanging ten words. 

At length Will rose and suggested his brother's going 
to bed. 

" We have to be up early to-morrow, you know." 

"Have we?" 

Will smiled. "Didn't I hear you settling with the 
Misses Kenderdine to see them off by the coach? It 
starts at seven a.m." 

"I said I would go; but that does not imply your 
going." 

" Oh, I should like to go and see the last of them," said 
Will • 

" It may not be the last. There is no necessity it should 
be. They live in London, and so do we." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 121 

" Do you know their address ?" Will asked, abruptly. 

"No. Do you?" 

" Certainly not. They did not tell me, and I should have 
thought it a great piece of impertinence to inquire." 

"Should you? Perhaps you are right. I assure you I 
have never asked them — though I intended to ask to-mor- 
row. But one wouldn't do the ungentlemanly thing on 
any account. So I suppose, if they givcwus no special in- 
vitation to call on them, they will drift away like all the ' 
pleasant things in this world, and we shall never see them 
more." 

Julius spoke sentimentally — ^nay, dolefully ; but wi^ a 
complete resignation of himself to fate, as was his charac- 
ter. He never struggled much against any thing. 

Will moved restlessly among his books — piling and re- 
piling them in a vain effort at order. At last he let them 
be, and lifting up his head, looked his brother steadily in 
the face. 

"Yes, I suppose at seven to-morrow morning we shall 
see the last of them. And I think it ought to be so." 

" Why ?" said Julius, sharply, taking at once the opposi- 
tion side, as was also his character. 

Dr. Stedman paused a minute before speaking, and the 
blood rose in his rugged brown face as he spoke. 

" Because, Julius, in plain English, two young men can 
not go on in this sort of free-and-easy way with two young 
women — at least, not in any place but here, and not here 
for very long — without getting talked about, which would 
be very unpleasant. For the men it doesn't matter, of 
course, which makes it all the more incumbent on us to be 
careful over the women." 

" Careful 1 What nonsense !" 

"No, it isn't nonsense, though perhaps my speaking 
about it. may be. But Tve had it on my mind to speak, 
and it's better out than in." 

" Very well, then. Preach away." 

And Julius stretched himself along the sofa, his arms 
over his head, listening with a half-vexed, half-contemptu- 
ous air. 

F 



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122 THE woman's kikgdom. 

" Well, lad," said Will, stoutly, ^* I think that for a man, 
because he likes a girl's society, to daunder after her and 
hang oh to her apron-strings till he gets her and himself 
talked about, is a piece of most arrant folly — not to say 
knavery ; for he gets all the fun and she all the harm. It's 
selfishness — cowardly selfishness — and I won't do it ! You 
may, if you choose ; but I won't do it !" 

" Do what ?" said Julius, with an irritable and most irri- 
tating laugh. '' What's the use of blazing up and striking 
your hand on the table as if you were striking me — which, 
gerhaps, is what you're after ? Come on, then I" 

"Do you suppose I'm an idiot?" 

" Or I either ? What harm have I done ? Was I going 
to offer myself on the spot to either of your fair friends ? 
A pretty offer it would be ! A fellow who has not a half- 
penny to bless himself with. Why, she'd kick me out of 
doora, and servo me right, too. No — no!" and Julius 
laughed again veiy bitterly : " I know women better than 
that. Pray compose yourself, Will. Pm not going to be 
a downright fooL" 

"You quite mistake me," said Will, gi'avely. "Any 
man has a right to ask the love of any woman — even if he 
iia^h't a half-penny. But he has no- right to pay her ten- 
der attentions, and se^ people gossiping about her, and 
perhaps make her fi^ncy he likes her, when he either does 
not like her, or doesn't see his way clear to marry her. 
It's not to be done, lad — not to be done." 

"And have I any intention of doing it? You foolish 
old fellow — what crotchets you take up ! Why — hang it 
^^if I had never flirted more than I have here — ^" 

" I hate flirting," broke in Will, tearing a sheet of fools- 
cap viQlently in two. "Women may like it; but men 
ought to have more sense. What's the use of philander- 
ing and fooling when you mean nothing, and it all ends in 
sheer waste of time ? If ever I marry, I vow I'll go up to 
the woman and say, *Mary ' or * Molly ' — " 

" Her name is Molly, then ? That's information." 

"I mean, I'd ask her point-blank to marry me. If she 
said 'Yes,' well and good." 



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THB woman's kingdom. 128 

" And if ' No ?' " said Julius, with a keen look. 

" Fd walk off, and never trouble her more. If a girl 
doesn't know her own mind, she isn't worth asking-MJer- 
tainly not asking twice. She never would be asked twice 
by me." 

" Wait till your time comes — ^as you once said to your 
obedient, humble servant Go on, Will. I'm waiting for 
another sermon, please. Plenty more where that last 
came from, I know." 

Julius seemed determined to turn the whole into a 
laughing matter; and at last his brother was fain to 
laugh too. 

** One might as well preach to a post — it always was 
so, and always will be f Come, Fve said my say, and it's 
done. Let us dismiss the subjecti" 

" Not a bit of it," replied Julius, who, with his other 
womanish peculiarities, had a most provoking habit of 
liking to have the last word; "only just tell a fellow 
what you are driving at. What do you want us to do 
about these girls.? Shut ourselves up in our rooms, and 
stare at them from behind the key-hole without ever dar- 
ing to bid them good-bye ?" 

" Rubbish ! We'll just meet them, as you said, at the 
coach, wish them a pleasant journey, and there it ends." 

" Does it ?" said Julius, half to himself; while his soft, 
sad look wandered into vacancy, and he leaned his arm 
behind his head, in his favorite listless attitude, in which 
there was something affected and something real; his 
small, slight figure, dark, meagre face, and brilliant eyes, 
making equally natural to him both languor and energy. 
A true Southern temperament — ^made up of contrarieties, 
if not contradictions, and never to be reckoned on long to- 
gether in any way. 

But he ceased to argue, either in jest or earnest; and 
soon the two brothers paited for the night ; quite amica- 
bly — as, after all their little warfares, they were in the 
habit of doing ; for neither of them were of the sullen 
sort J and, besides. Will had a doctrine — ^learned at the 
big public school where he had been educated, fighting 



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124 THE woman's kingdom. 

his way of necessity from bottom to top — that sometimes 
afler a good honest battle, in which either speaks his 
mind, men, as well as boys, are all the better friends. 

Julias went to bed. But far into the small hours Will's 
candle burned in the parlor below, as was his habit when- 
ever he had spent a specially idle day. 

Edna, too, sat up late, for to her always fell the domes- 
tic cares of packing, arranging, and settling every thing. 
Not that Letty did not try to help her; but she helped 
her so badly that it Vras double trouble — every thing had 
to be done over again. Letty's unconscious, good-humor- 
ed incapacity was one of the things which tried her sister 
most, and caused her to hope that whenever the of-cotirse- 
certain husband did appear, he might be a man sensible 
and practical, and sufficiently rich to make his wife inde- 
pendent of those petty worries which a cleverer and 
braver woman would breast and swim through, and per^ 
haps even gain strength and energy from the struggle. 

As it was, whenever they had any thing to do or to suf- 
fer, Edna's first thought was, how to get Letty out of the 
way. She had sent her to bed early, and, creeping in tired 
beside her, was only too thankful to find her sound asleep. 
And Letty slept still when in the gray dawn of the morn- 
ing Edna woke, with the consciousness that something had 
to be done, or something was going to happen, which came 
with a sharp shock upon her the minute she opened her eyes. 

She took her watch to the window to see the time cor- 
rectly, and stood gazing out upon the sea, which lay so 
lonely and quiet — dim and gray — just brightened in the 
eastward by those few faint streaks in the sky which 
showed where the sun would rise ere long. 

A strange unquietness came into Edna's spirit — ^hither- 
to as placid as that sea before the sun rose — a sense of 
trouble, of regret, for which she could not account. For 
though she was of course sorry to leave this place, still 
she might come back again some day. And now she was 
going home with Letty quite strong again, and herself 
also ready to begin their work anew. Why should she 
grieve ? She ought to be very glad and thankful 



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THE woman's kingdom. 126 

Perhaps she was only tired with the excitement of last 
night — when the two Stedmans had staid later and talked 
more than usual ; pleasant, refreshing talk, such as clever, 
good men can make with good, and not stupid women ; 
talk difficult to be detailed afterwards, if indeed any con- 
versation written down does not seem as tame and lifeless 
as yesterday's gathered roses. But it had left a sweet 
aroma behind it, and while it lasted it had made Edna 
feel happy, like a creature long pent up in horrible cities, 
who is set free upon its native mountain, and led cheerily 
up the bright hill-side, at every step breathing a fresher 
and purer air; at every glance seeing around prospects 
wider and fairer; the sort of companionship, in short, 
which makes one think the better of one's self because 
one can appreciate it and enjoy it. How keenly she had 
enjoyed it Edna knew. 

And now, with a slight spasm or constriction of the 
heart, she recognized that it was all over, that this morn- 
ing was the very last day. She should probably never 
meet the Stedmans more. , 

She was not " in love." She did not for a moment fan- 
cy herself in love with either of them, being no longer of 
that unripe age when girls think it fine to be in love with 
somebody ; but she was conscious that all was not right 
with her; that the past had been a delicious time, and 
that she began to look forward to her school-life, and her 
home-life, alone with Letty, with a sense of vacancy and 
dreariness almost amounting to dread. Be sorry for her, 
you who can understand this state of mind ! And ye who 
can not — why, she had need to be sorry for you ! 

She stood looking at the sombre sea — at the smiling, 
hopeful dawn, then went back to her bed, and, hiding her 
face in the pillow, wept a few tears. But there was no 
time for crying or for sleeping ; she had still a great deal 
to do, and they must leave soon after six ; so, early as it 
was, she rose. 

Her neighbors were early stirring too, though it was, 
after all. Will who accomplished this, rousing his brother 
into sufficient energy to be in time. The impulse of over- 



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126 THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

night bad faded out, and Julius now seemed very indiffer- 
ent whether or not he wished the sisters good-bye. 

''If we are never to see them again, what does it matter 
to see them now?" said he, carelessly. "Or, indeed, what 
does it matter in any case ? Women only care for fellows 
with lots of money." 

" In one sense, perhaps — ^the matrimonial ; but I thought 
we had decided that this was not the sense in which your 
xdvilities were to be construed." 

"Our civilities. Will You have been quite as sweet 
upon them as I have." 

"Then there is no reason why our civilities should not 
be continued to the end. Get your hat, man, and let us 
start to the coach-office." 

"Now?" 

" Yes, now. We are better out of the way here. We'll 
not bother them with any last word&" 

And the doctor, who looked a little jaded, as if he had 
sat up most of the night — which indeed he had — contrived 
to stay out, and keep his brother out, on the breezy cliffs 
during the half hour that there was any chance of stair- 
case meetings, or interference, for good or ill, with the 
proceedings of the Misses Eenderdine. But all this half 
hour the young men never once referred to their friends — 
or regretted their departure. They lounged about, read 
the newspaper, and talked politics a little, until, suddenly 
taking out his watch, Will said : 

"Now, if we mean to be in time, we had better be off 
at once." 

They walked up to the coach-office. In those days, and 
at that early season of the year, there was only a diurnal 
coach which passed through the village, taking up any 
chance passenger by the way. It was just the usual old- 
fashioned stage, with outside and inside places, and was 
rarely full ; still, to-day, as it came lumbering up the hilly 
street, it looked to be so. 

" Suppose they can't get seats," suggested Julius. 

"Not impossible. I wish I had suggested their book- 
ing places over-night." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 127 

Small, trivial sentences about such a. trivial thing! — 
save that all the manifold machinery of li& hangs pivoted 
upon trifles. 

The brothers found the two sisters standing waiting 
amidst a conglomeration of boxes^at which Julius shrugged 
his shoulders and winked aside at Will in thankful bach- 
elorhood. But the four met and shook hands as usual, 
just as if they were starting for their conjoint walk this 
merry, sunshiny, breezy morning. 

" What a fine day ! I am glad you have good weather 
for your journey. We thought we might be allowed to 
come and see you off. Can we be of any use, Miss Ken- 
derdine?" 

Dr. Stedman addressed himself to Letty, who looked 
nervous and fidgety. 

" Thank you, thank you. It is so troublesome, travel- 
ling ; especially without a gentleman to take care of us. 
Edna, are you sure the bozes are all right? Did you 
count them ? Two trunks, one bonnet-box, one — " 

" Yes, all are right. Don't vex yourself, dear," said 
Edna, in her soft aoUo voce^ and then she was aware that 
Dr. Stedman turned to look at her earnestly, more ear- 
nestly than usual. 

" Let me help you ! you are carrying such a heap of 
cloaks and things, and you look so tired. Are you able 
for the journey to-day ?" 

" Oh yes, quite able. Besides, we must go." 

Will made no reply, but he took her burdens from her, 
arranged her packages, and stood silently beside her till 
the coach came up. 

Julius too, his languor and indifference dispersed as if 
by magic, placed himself close to the blooming Letty, pay- 
ing her his final politenesses with remarkable empressemeni, 

" Yes, I am sorry to leave this place," she said, in an- 
swer to his question. "We have had a pleasant time; 
and we are going back to horrid school-work. I hate it." 

"No wonder. Still, your pupils are somewhat to be 
envied." 

" Eh ?" said Letty, not detecting the compliment, her 



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128 TUB woman's kingdom. 

mind being divided between Julias, the boxes, and the 
approaching coach. **Look, Edna, it is quite full We 
shall have to go inside — ^nay, the inside is full too. What 
must we do ? Oh, Edna, what must we do?" 

**It was my fault," said Will Stedman. "I ought to 
have told you it was better to secure places. Coachman, 
is there no chance whatever for these ladies?" 

Coachman shook his head, remorseless as Fate ; and 
Fate, laughing from under the coach-wheels, and making 
mouths at them from the dickey, set at naught all the ex- 
cellent schemes of these four young people. 

The two sisters regarded each other in mute consterna- 
tion. 

" How very, very foolish I was !" said Edna, in extreme 
vexation. " Can nothing be done ? Dr. Stedman, will 
you think for us ? We must go home to-day." 

"Po'-chay, ma'am — po'-chay to Ryde," suggested the 
landlord. 

"How much would that cost?" 

A serious sum wa^ named. Edna looked at and counted 
her money. No, it was not to be done. She saw Dr. Sted- 
man watching her, and blushed crimson. 

He came near her, and said, almost in a whisper, " Ex- 
cuse me, but at a journey's end one sometimes runs short. 
If—" 

Edna shook her head, and set her little mouth together, 
firm as Fate — whom she fancied she was thus resisting : at 
which Dr. Stedman blushed as deeply as herself, and retired. 

There was no help for it. Several boats crossed daily 
from Ryde ; but to get to Ryde from this out-of-the-way 
place was the difficulty. 

" No, Letty," said Edna, " not being able to travel about 
in post-chaises, we must e'en put up with our misfortune. 
We can go by the coach to-morrow morning. I dare say 
Mrs. Williams will take us in for one night more. Things 
might be worse, you see." 

But as she watched the coach roll away, Edna, though 
she spoke cheerfully, looked a great deal more annoyed 
and troubled than her sister did ; and Dr. Stedman saw it. 



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THB woman's kingdom. 129 

"You have a tell-tale face," said he. "This has vexed 
you veiy much, I perceive." 

" Of course it has. Many reasons made it important for 
us to go home." 

" Your sister takes it easy enough, apparently." 

" She always — " and Edna stopped herself. Why should 
she be discussing Letty with a stranger — with any body ? 

"I beg pardon," said Dr. Stedman, abruptly, and disap- 
peared. 

But when they had all escaped out of the condolences 
of the little crowd round the inn-door, and were ignomin- 
iously retracing their steps to Mrs. Williams's lodgings, he 
overtook them, breathless. 

" Stop, Miss Edna. I have found a way out of your dif- 
ficulties. There will be a post-chaise here at noon, bring- 
ing a wedding-couple from Ryde. It will take you the 
return-journey for merely coach-fare. If you cross at once 
you will be able to start from Portsmouth to London to- 
night. Will that do?" 

"Admirable," said Edna, turning back. "Let me go 
and settle it at once." 

"It is settled — I took the liberty of settling it with the 
landlord,^ whom I know. Always provided you were sat- 
isfied. Are you?" 

" Quite." 

" Thank you. And now you have only to repay me the 
coach-fare— inside places for two," said the doctor, holding 
out his hand with a smile. 

Edna laughingly and, as it occurred to her long after, 
most unsuspiciously, gave him the money ; and he walked 
on beside her, receiving silently her expressions of grati- 
tude. She did indeed feel gratefuL It was so new to her 
to have the burdens of daily life thus taken off her, and in 
such a considerate way, simply a man doing a man's part 
of kindness to a woman — nothing more. It made her re- 
member his words: "If I had had a sister I would have 
been so good to her." Though while Edna recalled them, 
there was a strange sting in the remembrance. 

At the familiar door they all stopped, rather awkward- 
F2 



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130 THB woman's kingdom. 

ly, till Dr. Stedman Baid, with something beyond his usual 
formality : 

" I wonder, Julius, if these ladies would consider it pre- 
sumption in us to offer them our bachelor hospitality for 
the next few hours ? It might be more convenient, and 
they would at least get a dinner." 

" Oh, they must — they must," cried Julius. " Say you 
will, Miss Edna," and he caught hold of her hand in his 
boyish, affectionate way. " Come and dine with us ; it 
wUl be such fun. And we will go a long walk before 
then. Oh, I am so much obliged to Fate and that grim 
coachman 1 We'll have such a jolly day 1" 

He was evidently in a state of considerable excitement, 
which relieved itself in almost puerile pranks, and inces- 
sant flow of talk, and a pettish assertion of his own will, 
which was, as Edna declared, " exactly like a baby." Nev- 
ertheless, she and the others only laughed, and gave way 
to him. 

Evidently the catastrophe about the coach had pro- 
duced in none of the little party any permanent depres- 
sion ; and it was with almost exuberant spirits that they 
prepared to make the very most of this sweet, stolen day 
— all the sweeter, Julius insisted, because it was stolen — a 
clear robbery out of the treasure-house of Destiny, who 
had not many such. 

*^At least not for us," added he, with the dash of mel- 
ancholy which ran through his merriest moods. " So I'll 
take the residuum of my pleasures as I used to take the 
spoonful of sugar at the bottom of an emptied coffee-cup, 
which I was always told it was such ill-manners to touch, 
though it was the best bit of the draught And yet we 
have had a good draught of happiness this fortnight — 
have we not, Miss Edna? Our coffee of life was thor^ 
oughly well-made— strong and clear, with plenty of milk 
in it." 

"The milk of human kindness?" 

"Yes; and some water too. We had only- too much 
water on Monday night. But I beg your pardon." For 
Edna still turned pale, and then red, whenever there was 



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THE woman's kingdom. 131 

the Blightest allusion to her painful adventure; bo that 
now all reference to it had tacitly ceased. 

" I think," said Dr. Stedman, " since our friends have 
gained an extra day of sea-air they had better make use 
of it. So come away all of you down to the shore." 

There they wandered for hours, as merry as children, 
tossing the shingle at one another, or entombing them- 
selves in it as they sat ; writing names and sentences with 
umbrella-sticks on the sand, or building out of it castles 
and moats for the incoming tide first to fill and then to 
wash away. Some mixture of seriousness there was ; for 
sea-side folly has always a touch of solemnity in it ; and 
there is but a step between the babyish pranks on the sand 
and the awfulness of the silent ocean beyond. But still, 
whatever they did, or whatever they talked about, these 
four were very happy. It was a day — ^one of those single, 
separate days which stamp themselves upon the memory 
for years, both from their heavenly beauty, externally, and 
their moral atmosphere of pleasantness and peace. A day 
never to be forgotten in its innocent Arcadian enjoyment, 
to which all things seemed natural; and they themselves 
felt not like modern work-a-day men and women, but crea- 
tures of some perfectly ideal world — shepherds and shep- 
herdesses of some long-past golden age. 

They dined, nevertheless — upon cold mutton and suet 
dumplings, which was the best Mrs. Williams could pro- 
vide ; and they dined heartily and fuerrily. It might have 
been a . little '^ incorrect," this bachelor entertainment to 
two young maiden ladies. In the midst of the meal a 
grave doubt of this struck Edna ; but it was a merry meal, 
for all that, with not one bit of sentiment about it, or re- 
gret that it was the first and last. For still, with all their 
mutual friendliness, the sisters withheld their address, and 
the brothers were too courteous to ask for it. 

Suddenly, in midst of the gayety, Dr. Stedman said, " It 
is nearly three. Your carriage will be at the door ip 
five minutes." And for that five nodnutes every body was 
rather silent. 

Edna sat at the window, taking a farewell look at the 



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132 

beautiful sea; and Dr. Stedman came and looked at it 
with her. 

" You are better now than in the morning, I hope ?*' 

"Yes, the salt air always does me good." 

"It will be very late before you reach home to-night. 
Are you afraid ?" 

"Oh no." 

"You seem afraid of nothing." 

" Not of many things — outside things. Why should I 
be ? And it would do no good. I am not like a careful- 
ly-guarded young lady ; I am a poor school-mistress, who, 
whether she likes it or not, must face the world." 

" Do you find that very hard ?" 

"Sometimes — only sometimes; for I am young and 
strong, and not given to despondency. It may be other- 
wise when I get older." 

And a vague cloud came over Edna as she spoke ; a fear 
that it not only might but would be thus ; that the days 
would come when her strength would fail, and her courage 
sink, beaten down ; when she would be dull, weary, lonely, 
and old. 

"Are you afraid of growing old?" said Dr. Stedman 
again. " I am — a little." 

" Why should you be ?" said Edna, forgetting the ques- 
tion in the confession, and turning to look inquiringly at 
him. "Old age can have no terrors for you. A man is 
so different from a woman." 

"He is — horribly different — in some things. Miss 
Edna — I would give the whole world if I were more like 
you." 

These words, spoken in a tone that seemed at once ap- 
pealing, apologizing — nay, almost caressing, so low and 
soft was it, quivered through Edna jfrom head to foot. 
But before she had time to answei: or think of answering, 
the post-chaise was at the door — a goodly equipage — all 
in its bridal splendor — 'White favors and all. 

Letty jumped up in delight. " Oh, hpw nice ! We shall 
get to Ryde so comfortably. And think of our starting 
from the very door. So kind of you to order it, Dr. Sted- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 133 

man. It is almost as good as if we had our own carriage.' 
Ah, Edna ! shall we ever have our own carriage ?" 

" Possibly — I should say not improbably," said Dr. Sted- 
raan, dryly, as he handed the beautiful woman, with care- 
ful courtesy, to the chaise, which she seemed to step into 
as if she were bom to a carriage. 

Julius hung back, and made his adieux with a cynical 
air. 

"Mrs. Williams thinks the white favors a lucky omen, 
Miss Kenderdine. She hopes to see one or both of you 
two young ladies back again ere long — ^in a similar equi- 
page. I trust the owner may be a duke at least." 

" Eh ?" said Letty, not comprehending, but smiling stilL 

" Mrs. Williams says, next time you come here, she hopes 
it will be in your own carriage, and married to some rich 
gentleman — possibly a duke." 

Letty bridled. " Oh, Mr. Stedman, you are so funny ! 
Good-bye!" 

So they parted — all four with the smile on their lips, 
shaking hands cordially, and keeping up their jests even 
to the last moment ; expressing all manner of mutual good 
wishes, but not a hint or hope of future meetings. They 
parted — as completely as two ships that had crossed one 
another's track in the mid-ocean — paused alongside for a 
short space of kindly greeting-^then divided, steadily and 
finally, to sail on round the world their several and oppo- 
site ways. 

Edna knew it must be thus — that it was best it should 
be. Some instinct, forestalling experience, warned her of 
the fact — ^proved fatally by how many wrecked lives ! — 
that men ought to be nothing to women, and women noth- 
ing to men, except in the merest ordinary friendship— un- 
less they are either akin by blood, or deliberately choose 
one another in love and marriage: that all so-called "Pla- 
tonic attachments," sentimental compromises which try to 
steer clear of both, and institute pseudo-relations which 
nature never meant, almost always end in misery — blame- 
less, but still heart-deep, life-long misery. Edna wished to 
avoid every thing of the kind — both for herself and her 



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184 

'sister. Nothing had happened ; nobody had proposed to 
Letty, and she was thankful thas peacefully, friendly, and 
kindly to close all associations with the Stedmans. 

Yes, they had parted just as (she said this to herself 
again and again during the long drive) — just as she most 
desired them all to part — like ships on the ocean, never to 
sail in company again. Still, she felt that for some days 
to come her own little vessel would sail rather drearily, 
and flap its canvas idly in the breeze, scarcely noticing 
whether or not there was sunshine on the sea, which look- 
ed so limitless, and yet which she must cross — and cross 
alone. 

" I wonder," she thought to herself, " which of us will 
grow old the &stest or live the longest — ^Dr. Stedman 
or I?" 



CHAPTER X. 

E!ensikgton twenty years ago was not like the Ken- 
sington of to-day. It seemed much quieter and farther 
from London. No great Exhibitions had beaten down the 
smooth grass of Hyde Park and stamped out the green 
lanes of Brompton, which then formed a barrier between 
" the old court suburb," as Leigh Hunt tenderly calls it, 
and the metropolitan vortex. Down the long, dusty miles 
of the Knightsbridge road crawled a few uncomfortable 
omnibuses — ^forming the chief communication with Lon- 
don — except for those fortunate people who had carriages 
of their own. Consequently, to middle-class respectabili- 
ty, Kensington was a rather retired place. Townified, cer- 
tainly, but then its queer winding streets, its old-estab- 
lished shops and old-fashioned houses, above all, its palace 
and ancient church, gave it a dignified quaintness which 
half atoned for the want of the country. And but a little 
way beyond it were many ruralities : lanes and gardens, 
haunted by larks in the day-time and nightingales at eve ; 
here and there a real field — not yet become a brick-field ; 
and several " lovere' walks," where, between the tall hedge 



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THE woman's kingdom. 186 

of May or wild roses, young people thus circumstanced 
might exchange a kiss safely and unobserved. 

About half a mile from where the Misses Kenderdine 
lived was a canal, along the banks of which ran a slip of 
waste ground, where bloomed as if by stealth many a real 
country flower : bind-weed — the little pink creeping sort 
and the large white one, that in late summer mounts the 
hedges and stars them with its dazzlbg, short-lived bells ; 
abundance of those flowers which grow on commons and 
waste ground — ^bright yellow hawk-weed, and the delicate 
pnmrose-tinted kind ; with various tiny plants, pleasant 
movigh to observant eyes, and of which there used to be 
plenty in these regions, till London, gradually growing, 
has forced them to give place to coareer weeds. 

To this place Edna often came, between or after school- 
hours, to fancy herself in the country and get a breath of 
air, for the sisters' house was somewhat small and close. 
"Not that it was an ugly house ; creepers, jasmine, and 
grape-vine half covered it, and it was open, front and back, 
to a view of market-gardens. Nobody can find it now — 
it has been completely swept from the face of the earth; 
pulled down and built upon, with all its surroundings. 
Year by year genteel terraces and squares are growing 
where the cabbages — acres of them— once grew. So if I 
say, with the lingering tenderness that its inhabitants also 
learned to speak of it, that it was not an ugly house, 
there is no one who can contradict me. 

It boasted three stories, of two rooms each, the most im- 
poitant of which were the sitting-room, the drawing-room 
above, made into a school-room, and a large (or they called 
it large) bedroom overhead, where the two sisters slept. 
Thus, at a glance, may be seen their small establishment, 
of which the only other inmates besides themselves were 
one servant and a cat. A very microscopic, maidenly es- 
tablishment, simple even to poverty, and yet it had its 
happiness — to Edna at least — for it was their own. Every 
atom of furniture had been bought with their own money 
— bought and paid for — which is more than can be said of 
many magnificent mansions. . Every corner, from attic to 



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136 THB woman's KINODOM. 

basement, was theirs to do with as they liked. And to 
these governesses, who had lived for years in other peo- 
ple's houses, any nook they could call their own and do 
what they chose in, possessed a certain charm, of which 
the novelty was not even yet exhausted. In this nest of 
theirs, narrow as it was, the two sisters had not been un- 
happy — ^Edna especially had been the merriest little bird 
— till now. 

It chanced that after the pleasant spring came a very 
hot summer; weeks of settled drought. By August the 
leaves were almost burnt off the trees, and the dusty, lan- 
guid air that seemed to creep, or rather to stagnate, over 
the lanes and market-gardens, and the line of road be- 
tween Kensington town and Holland House, was almost 
stifling, even at twilight, when Edna insisted on their go- 
ing out, just for health's sake. 

"Oh, Edna," Letty would say, drearily, as she crawled 
along the heated pavement and looked up at the hand- 
some houses, nearly all with closed windows — "every 
body is gone out of town. Why can't we go too? It's 
very hard for us to be teaching school here when all the 
world is away at the sea-side. I wish we were there also. 
Don't you?" 

" No," replied Edna. " One holiday is enough for one 
year. No." 

But she knew she was telling a falsehood ; that in her 
heart of hearts she had a frantic longing for the sight of 
the sea, for the sound and smell of briny waters, lapping 
on shingle and sand, for even a handful of sea-weeds, damp, 
salt, and living — not like that poor dead mummy of a sea- 
weed that still hung up in a comer of the room, though 
Letty had begged her more than Once to take it down, it 
looked so "nasty," for its meteorological powers had sig- 
nally failed. Yet still she let it hang there — a thing that 
had missed its destiny, and was of no mortal use to any 
body — except as a piemento of a very pleasant time. 

That pleasant time had passed out of all memories. 
Even Letty scarcely mentioned it now — three months 
was fat* too long for Letty to remember any thing or- any 



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THE woman's kingdom. 13Y 

body. At first she had found home extremely dull, had 
talked incessantly of the Isle of Wight and of the two 
Stedmans, wondering whether they had come home — if 
when they did come they would make any effort to renew 
the acquaintance. 

"It would be possible, nay, easy, to find out our ad- 
dress, for our boxes were marked * Kensington,' and there 
is the post-office to inquire at. If I were they I would 
hunt us out, and call. In which case, Edna, you know, 
we must be polite to them. They might mean nothing." 

"Probably not. What would you wish them to 
mean ?" 

" How sharp you are with me ! Of course, if Dr. Sted- 
man did call upon us two single ladies, he could have *but 
one intention in doing so. Not that he ever gave me any 
reason to suppose any thing," added Letty, looking down 
with her half smile, that implied an expectation of be- 
ing contradicted in her assertion. But no contradiction 
came. 

" Of course, a man so poorly circumstanced couldn't be 
expected to come forward at once; but then you see — " 

Edna would *see nothing. Every time the conversation 
took this turn she resolutely avoided it: to speak her 
mind, or to open her heart to this her only sister, became 
every day more impossible. Not that there was less af- 
fection between them, but there was a clearer perception 
and a sadder acceptance of the great difference in thought 
and feeling, which sometimes happens — that alienation of 
nature which no nearness of blood can atone for, or pre- 
vent, or cure. 

Sometimes, when in the long bright June evenings Let- 
ty persisted in walking out regularly — ^not down the act- 
ual street where Dr. Stedman lived (Edna knew it well, 
and kept half a mile from it always), but up and down 
the long green alleys of Kensington Gardens, looking 
round at every comer, and fancying every tall figure — or 
two figures, a taller and a shorter — must surely be the 
two Stedmans — ^the patient elder sister would grow ex- 
cessively irritable, and then Letty, who was invariably 



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138 THE woman's kingdom. 

good-tempered, would wonder at her, and fear she was 
DOt well, and pet her and caress her in a fashion harder to 
bear than the interminable talkativeness. 

But when week after week crept by, and the Stedmans 
gave no sign, Letty's interest in her lost admirer or ad- 
mirers died out. Besides, school-time began, and the 
small worries of the present completely extinguished the 
past. Then, when her sister seemed quite to have for- 
gotten them, poor Edna's memory of those happy sea-side 
days woke up with a vividness quite horrible in its pain, 
and in its sharp consciousness of what that pain was, whence 
it arose, and to what it tended. 

I will tell no untruth about my poor Edna, nor make 
any pretenses concerning her, which she herself would 
have been the first to scorn. I believe that no woman, 
gifted with common sense and common feeling, ever ^^ falls 
in love," as the phrase is, without knowing it: at least 
not when the love comes suddenly, and for one who here- 
tofore has been a stranger, so that no gradual previous re- 
lations of intimacy have disguised the true state of things 
for a while, as sometimes occurs. She may refuse to ac- 
knowledge the fact, even to herself; but Ae knows it — 
knows it at the very core of her heart — in all its sweet- 
ness, and in all its bitterness too. 

Long before those three months had gone by, Edna 
Kenderdine, who had met so few men, and had never taken 
the smallest interest in any man, began to £nd out that 
she was never likely again to meet such an one as Dr. Wil- 
liam Stedman — never likely, in all her future life, €o have 
such a happy fortnight as that she spent in the Isle of 
Wight, when her anxiety for her sister was over, and she 
and Letty were roaming about the sweet country and 
pleasant sea^shore, and meeting the two Stedmans every 
day and all day long. 

Only a fortnight — fourteen days — a short time on which 
to build — or to wreck — a life's happiness; yet many have 
done it before now, and will do it again. Fate sometimes 
compresses into a few days the events and experience of 
years. People love in divers ways, and marry under in- 



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THS woman's kingdom. 139 

finitely varied circumstances, concerning which no person 
can judge, or has a right to judge, any other; yet there is 
but one true love — leading to the one perfect marriage, or 
else leading through dark and thorny yet sacred ways to 
that perpetual virginity of heart and life which is (mly 
second to marriage in its holinesi^ and happiness. 

This love had come to Edna, and she knew it. 

She did not fall into romantic ecstasies of joy or grief 
over it, though let not even these be condenmed ; they are 
natural in the time of passionate youth — the Juliet-time. 
But Edna was a woman — ^not a girl, though her heart was 
» as fresh as if she were sixteen. She said nothing — she 
betrayed nothing; externally she was the school-mistress 
only; but within she was conscious of the great change 
which only comes once in a lifetime, and after which no 
woman is ever quite the same again. 

Of her lover — or her love, a tenderer and nobler name — 
she did not sit and think all day long — her days were too 
busy for that ; but she thought of him in every idle or sol- 
itary minute, and often when neither idle nor alone ; till 
day by day she learned to mingle him in all her doings 
and all her dreams. Him — the one " him " in the world 
to her now, whom by a magic sympathy she seemed al- 
ready to understand, faults and all, better than any other 
human being she had ever met. 

For she did not think Dr. Stedman faultless; she had 
seen in him a good many things she would have liked dif- 
ferent, and had to apologize for — shortcomings of temper, 
roughness, and hardness, which seemed the result of ciiv 
cumstances. Still he was himself drawn to her, or rather 
she to him, by a strange attraction, and, as a whole, very 
near her ideal of what a man should be. 

But it is idle reasoning about such things, and soon 
Edna ceased to reason, and was content only to feel. All 
the stronger because in her intense humility it never oc- 
curred to her that the feeling could be reciprocated. She 
accepted with a strong, silent courage the lot which had 
befallen her — a great misfortune, some would say. But 
she did not call it so, though she recognized to the full its 



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140 THE woman's kingdom. 

sadness, hopelessness, and — no, she was not so cowardly 
as to add, its humiliation. 

She had done nothing wrong in loving, even though she 
loved a man who had never asked her to marry him, who 
had apparently no intention of asking her, whom, in all 
human probability, she would never meet again. Well, 
let it be so ; she had met, for once in her life, the man who 
she felt could have satisfied her whole heart, reason, con- 
science — whom, had he asked her, she would have married, 
and whom otherwise she would remember tenderly to the 
day of her death. This is, next to a thoroughly happy 
marriage, the best lot which can befall any woman. * 

I linger over Edna Kenderdine because I like to linger 
over her, just here: the picture of a woman who is brave 
enough to love, unloved, the best and highest ; embodied 
to her, as it was to her mother Eve, in a man. For Mil- 
ton's celebrated line, 

"He for God only, she for God in him," 

is so far true that no woman can love either lover or hus- 
band perfectly, unless — in a sense — she sees God in him, 
and sees in him, beyond herself, the desire for God only. 
And if so, her love is neither an unhappy nor an unfortu- 
nate love, however it may end. 

One fact proved incidentally how utterly removed from 
the selfishness of all personal feeling was this ideal ad- 
miration, this self-existent, up-looking, and outloving love 
which had taken such sudden and strong hold of Edna's 
heart, and after lurking there awhile, sprung up, forced 
into being not by the sunshine of hope, but by the warm 
darkness of complete though quiet despair. The possibil- 
ity — which Letty's vanity had taken for granted — of Dr. 
Stedman's attentions being to herself, awoke in her sister's 
mind no jealousy or dread-^indeed no sensation of any 
kind. In those early days — when she was so ^gnorantly 
happy — ^Edna had thought the matter over in all its bear- 
ings, and set it aside as a mistake. For had he really fall- 
en in love, there was no reason why he should not have 
spoken, nor why afterwards he should not have hunted 



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141 

Letty out and followed her to the world's end. Edna 
thought, if she were a man, she would have done so. She 
could imagine no*hindemnce strong enough to prevent a 
man who really loved a woman from seeking her out, 
wooing her, and carrying her off triumphant — like one of 
the old Paladins — ^in face of all the world. 

Yet all these three months William Stedman had lived 
close by them, and given no sign of his existence. There- 
fore, of course, there was but one conclusion to be drawn. 
Letty, she supposed, had come to it likewise, or else had 
forgotten the whole matter — ^Letty could so easily forget ! 

Still, this summer was a dull time with poor Letty Een- 
derdine. After the fever, pupils were naturally slow of 
returning; the sisters were likely to be very poor this 
half year. Edna did not care much for the fact ; but she 
tried to make things as easy as she could to Letty, whom 
want of money always affected keenly with a hundred' 
small wants and petty humiliations, which her sister, if 
unable to sympathize with, felt heartily sorry for. She 
taxed her ingenuity to lighten Letty's school-duties, and 
out of school to invent inexpensive amusements for her ; 
but still the dullness remained. Only dullness ; certainly 
not disappointed love, for Letty spoke more than once of 
accepting her latest offer from an Australian sheep-farmer, 
once the boy-brother of one of her pupils, whose ardent 
admiration had gone so far as to entreat her to come out 
to Geelong and marry him. And so Edna, who, in her 
simplicity, could not conceive the possibility of liking one 
man, and in the remotest degree contemplating marriage 
with another, became quite satisfied as to the state of her 
sister's affections. «• 

Thus they went on, teaching school daily, and spending 
the time as well as they could after school-hours, gener- 
ally in the arduous duty of making ends meet, until the 
leaves which had budded out in that happy, merry spring- 
time in the Isle of Wight began to change color, wither, 
and fade. 

" How fast the year slips by 1" said Letty, drearily, one 
half-holiday when she sat at the window, with nothing to 



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142 THE WOMAir's KINGDOM. 

do but to look over the long flat of market-gardens, and 
wish she was anywhere but where she was. " I declare, 
to-day is the last day of the band play%ig in Kensington 
Gardens, and we have never yet been to hear it. It is 
your fault, Edna. Why wouldn't you let us go ?" 

The question was not easy to answer. There was, of 
course, the obvious reason that Letty was too beautiful a 
person to promenade much in so public a place without 
father or brother ; but Edna's conscience told her this was 
not the only reason why she had so persistently resisted 
such a very harmless amusement. 

She knew quite well, that if by walking twenty miles 
she could, herself unseen, have caught one glimpse of Wil- 
liam Stedman — resting her weary, thirsting eyes on his 
brown face, which might not be handsome, yet was so 
manly, gentle, honest, and good — she would eagerly have 
done it. That even the dim remote possibility of seeing 
him-*- his tall, sturdy, erect figure, turning round some 
street corner — a common Kensington streets-sanctified to 
her even those dusty pavements and ugly roads. Some- 
times the craving only to know that he was alive — alive 
and well — pursuing his duties, which she knew were so 
close to his heart, working at his profession, and carrying 
out nobly his useftil, beneficent life, without the remotest 
thought of herself, came upon poor Edna with a forcr that 
was almost maddening in its pain. But, at the same time, 
the chance of really seeing him, of meeting face to face, 
and being obliged to bow, or to shake hands and speak to 
him, in the visible flesh — him of whom she thought night 
and day — ^was to her an apprehension almost amounting 
to tiferror. The mere thought of it often, in her walks, 
made her heart stand still a minute, and then go on beat- 
ing so violently that she scarcely knew where she was or 
what she was doing. Therefore she had contrived al- 
ways to avoid that band promenade, where Kensington 
young men might naturally take an a^emoon lounge, and 
where Julius Stedman had once said he was rather fond 
of going. ^ 

But this day Letty was so persistent, that, with a kind 



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143 

of fear lest her secret reason should be betrayed, Edna 
ceased resistance, and they went. 

Only, however, for one or ttV^o turns, during which she 
looked straight before her, and deported herself as grimly 
as possible towards the fops and fashionable idlers who 
never failed to stare at the tall beautiful woman and her 
unobtrusive companion. Only two turns ; but even these 
were one too many. At the second, Fate came, dead front, 
to meet the sisters. 

"There they are! Don't look, Edna; don't let them 
fancy we see them ; but there are the two Stedmans." 

Edna's heart gave a wild leap, every thing seemed turn- 
ing round and round for a minute, then she gathered up 
her senses, and recovered her strong self-control, which 
had never foiled her yet. Happily, her veil was down ; 
but Letty's careless eyes roved everywhere rather than 
to her sister's face. Had it beendifferent, still Edna would 
have been safe. Usually tears and blushes came readily 
to that sensitive little face, which changed its expression 
half a dozen times in a minute ; but when any thing smote 
her hard, Edna neither blushed nor wept, but grew per- 
fectly white, and as quiet as a stone. She did so now. 

" The Stedmans, is it? You are right, Letty, we will 
not look. They are not likely to see us. They are pass- 
ing on." 

And they did pass on, their attention being caught by 
some acquaintance on the other side of the promenade, to 
whom they stood talking for some time. 

That while, the eyes Dr. Stedman did not see — ^the sad, 
fond, lingering eyes — had seen him — vividly^ distinctly ; 
had noticed that he. was a good deal thinner, paler, graver 
— very unlike his former self; until in talking he chanced 
to smile, and then Edna recognized it again fully — ^the 
face stamped indelibly upon her memory. 

Perceiving he was fully occupied, and that there was 
no possibility of his noticing her, she looked at him once 
again, with a quiet, sad feeling — " God bless him ; no man 
is an^ the worse for a woman's loving him" — ^and turned 
away. 



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144 THE woman's kingdom. 

As soon as she could she lured Letty out of the crowd 
into one of those green alleys that abound in Kensington 
Gardens, in sight of the qfteer old red brick palace, with 
its Dutch garden, where, long ago, the courtiers of Wil- 
liam and Mary, and the maids of honor of Queen Anne, 
and the first two Georges, may have strolled and coquet- 
ted and made love — the old, old story ! In their long- 
effaced footsteps walked the lovely Letty Kenderdine, as 
fair as any of them, and talking, perhaps, not greater non- 
sense than they had talked. 

" Well, I must say it was strange," said she. " It only 
shows how easily men forget. To pass me by within a 
few yards, and never even see me !'* 

" They were talking to some gentlemen." 

" Oh, but people always see those they want to see. 
Perhaps I ought to have bowed. You know they could 
not come and speak to us unless we bowed first. And 
how nice and gentlemanly they both looked, especially 
Julius ! Really Julius is a very handsome young fellow, 
now he is quite well. I suppose he is quite well by this 
time." 

"He looked so." And Edna felt glad partly for his 
own sake, but more for his brother's. That anxiety at 
least was over. And then she let her imagination wander 
wildly as to what could be the secret trouble which 
showed plainly on Dr. Stedman's face, and had altered 
him so much. The desperate longing to comfort him, to 
take part of his burden, whatever it might be, came upon 
her, sad and sore. 

So much so, that she never heard footsteps behind, nor 
guessed what was going to happen, until Letty called out 
in her loud whisper : 

" Goodness me I There they are." 

And at an angle of the path the two brothers and two 
sisters met, face to face, abruptly and unexpectedly, so as 
to make non-recognition, or the half-recognition of a for- 
mal bow, impossible. They were all evidently taken by 
surprise. Involuntarily they stopped and shook hands. 
Not without a certain awkwardness in the greeting, prob- 



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145 

ably caused by the suddenness of their rencontre ; but af- 
ter the first minute it passed off. In spite of all the good 
resolutions on both sides, every body seemed unfeignedly 
glad to meet. 

The two young men turned back with them in the old 
familiar way ; Julius by Edna, Dr. Stedman by Letty, 
until with some slight excuse Julius crossed over to the 
latter, and his brother fell behind with Edna. Thus they 
went, walking slowly, the whole way up the broad walk 
to the Bayswater Gate. The younger brother and sister 
began laughing and talking immediately, Julius making 
himself agreeable in his old light way, as if it were but 
yesterday that he had carried on the same pleasant badi- 
nage on the Isle of Wight shore ; but the two others were 
rather silent. 

Dr. Stedman asked Edna a few questions as to her sis- 
ter's health and her own ; if they had had no return of 
scarlet-fever in the house, and if their pupils had come 
back ; to all of which she replied quietly, briefly, and cate- 
gorically ; then he seemed to have nothing more to say. 
And, far in the distance, they heard the faint sound of 
the band playing, and one or two straggling groups of 
gayly-dressed people passed them, chattering and flirting 
— a great contrast to this quiet, silent pair. 

Very silent, very quiet outside, but beneath that — ? 

Many people might call it wrong for an unsought wom- 
an — a tender, sweet, reticent maiden — to feel as Edna felt, 
walking along beside him who, she now knew, was the 
lord of all her life. But there was no wrong in her heart. 
She had no hope of being wooed or married by Dr. Sted- 
man; she only loved him. She only felt that it was 
heaven to be near him — ^to catch again the sound of his 
voice — to rest again in the protection of his honest good- 
ness. Oh that protection I the one thing a woman needs 
— even a woman so brave as Edna Kenderdine. As for 
herself, she thought if she could only serve him, tend him, 
do him good in any way ; ay, in the pathetic way of some 
ballad-heroine she had read of— making the house ready 
for his bride, and helping to rear and cherish his children 

G 



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146 THB woman's KINGDOK. 

— it would have been not hard, but happy to have doile 
it ; for he seemed, now she saw him again, just as hereto- 
fore— junlike all others, simplest, noblest, best ; truest man 
and most perfect gentleman — one worth living for — worth 
dying for. 

She idealized him a little : women always do that ; but 
William Stedman was a great deal that she believed ; and 
for her idealizing, perhaps it did no harm. Men so loved 
not seldom grow to be as good as the fond women believe 
them. 

At the Bayswater Gate Dr. Stedman paused. 

" This is our best way home. Will you come, Julius ?" 

" Certainly not ; I have not half talked out my talk. 
Do you turn? Then so shall we — with your permission. 
Miss Kenderdine." 

Letty bowed a smiling assent After her long fast from 
flirtation she was all graciousness, even to the " boy " Ju- 
lius, as she persisted in considering him, though he was 
exactly her own age. So the two couples strolled back 
again to the palace, and then across the grass to the little 
gate which led to. Kensington High Street. 

" Here we really must take our leave," said William 
Stedman, decisively. " I have an appointment ; and be- 
sides, Julius — " he added half a dozen inaudible words, 
which his brother did not answer, but turned sharply 
away. 

Then Edna came forward, very dignified. This little 
woman could be dignified when she chose, in spite of her 
few inches. 

" Indeed, Mr. Stedman, we will not trouble you to ac- 
company us any farther. We have a call to make in Ken- 
sington. Good-bye." 

She held out her hand — ^first to Julius, and then to his 
brother. 

"Well, that is the coolest dismissal,'' said the for- 
mer. "Must it be? Do you really agree to it, Miss 
Letty?" 

But Miss Letty was making elaborate adieux to Dr. 
Stedman, and did not hear. Besides, she very rarely cour 



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THB WOMAJEf's KINGDOM, 147 

tradicted Edna. Her easy nature always yielded to the 
stronger will ; it was least trouble. But when they had 
really parted from their cavaliers she was a little cross. 

" Why on earth were you so peremptory, Edna ? They 
wanted to see us home." 

"Did they?" 

"At least Julius did. And why not? It would have 
been rathier amusing. K we ever meet them again, and 
perhaps we may, for Mr. Stedman says they always take 
their constitutional in Kensington Gardens — we ought to 
treat them a little more civilly, and let them see us home 
if they desire it." 

Edna replied not, but the small mouth set itself close- 
ly together. No. Letty might say what she liked— ^fan- 
cy what she chose, but this should not be. Dr. Stedman 
should never think that either she or her sister were girls 
ready to meet the first advances of any idle youtL Love 
was no disgrace ; it did nobody any harm ; but the feeble 
pretense of it — flirtation or philandering — was a thing 
which this woman, pure and true, yet passionate-hearted, 
utterly scorned. If the Stedmans wanted to marry Letty 
—either of them — they must come and ask for her as a 
man should ask — and is a coward if he dare not ask under 
any circumstances. 

Letty — always Letty. That the object of their admi- 
ration could be any other when Letty was by did not 
occur to Edna. And when Letty took her bonnet off, ^nd 
shook back her bright fair hair, and looked into the glass 
with her eyes glittering with the novel excitement of the 
day, Edna thought the universal admiration her sister ex- 
cited was not wondei*fuL If Dr. Stedman shared it — ^if 
that was the cause of his silence and evident preoccupa- 
tion — well ! 

Edna stood a minute to face this thought. She was 
alone. Letty had gone down stairs, all smiles and excite- 
ment; at least, as much excitement as she was capable 
of— quite another woman after the afternoon's adventure, 
which was such a pleasant break in their dull life. Was 
it only that, or did she really care for one or other of the 



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148 THE woman's kingdom. 

Stedmans ? And if one of them really asked her, would 
Letty marry him ? 

Such a possibility might occur. The man Edna loved 
might marry another, and that other her own sister : a 
supposition maddening enough to many — nay, most wom- 
en. Even to this gentle little woman it gave the same 
sudden " stound " — which had come to her several times 
lately. She closed her eyes, drew a long hard breath, 
tried to stifle the choking in her throat, and to view her 
position calmly. 

Jealousy, in any of its ordinary forms, did not affect her ; 
her nature was too single, too entirely free from both van- 
ity and self-consciousness. No wound could come to her 
through either of these points — nothing except simple sor- 
row, the agony of lost love. Besides, she was accustomed 
to view things in the plain daylight, without any of those 
distorted refractions to which egotistic people are subject. 
She saw that in such a case as hers there are but two ways 
open to any woman. If she loves a man and he does not 
love her, to give him up may be a horrible pang and loss, 
but it can not be termed a sacrifice — she resigns what she 
never had. But if he does love her and she knows it, she 
is bound to marry him, though twenty other women loved 
him, and broke their hearts in losing him. He is not theirs, 
but hers ; and to have her for his wife is his right and her 
duty. And in this world are so many contradictory views 
of duty and exaggerated notions of rights, so many false 
sacrifices and renunciations weak even to wickedness, that 
it is but fair sometimes to uphold the right of love — love 
sole, absolute, and paramount, firmly holding its own, and 
submitting to nothing and no one — except the laws of God 
and righteousness. 

" Yes," Edna whispered to herself as she sat down, feel- 
ing strangely weak and yet strong, and looked through the 
open window across the market-gardens, and down Love 
Lane, where in the August evening more than one pair of 
figures — lovers, of course— might be seen slowly strolling. 
** Yes, it is all clear enough, plain enough. Possibly we 
shall never meet him again — ^I hope not. But if we do, if 



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THE woman's kingdom. 149 

he loves Letty, marries Letty — " she paused — " of course, 
I never say one word. He only does right, and she does 
right too— what I should have done myselC If he loved 
me, and I knew it, I would hold to him in spite of Letty, 
in spite of the whole world— hold to him till death P' 

Involuntarily, her right hand closed over the other hand. 
Ay, small and fragile as it was, it was a hand that any one 
could see would hold, faithfully and firm, till death. 

Oh that among us poor, wavering women, driven about 
by every wind of fancy, prejudice, weakness, or folly, there 
were more such hands ! They would keep back many a 
man from sinking into the gulf of perdition. 



CHAPTER XL 



" PvB done it 1 I've tracked them as cleverly as if I 
were a bee-hunter on the American prairies. Pve found 
their house — such a little one, in such a shabby neighbor- 
hood. No wonder they didn't like us to know it. I say, 
Wm, don't you hear?" 

" Yes," growled Will, who had just come in from a se- 
vere day's work, as his brother had done from a severe 
day's play. They were eating conjointly their final meal, 
half tea, half supper, roughly laid out and roughly served, 
in the dining-room, which was the one well-fumished apart- 
ment of the doctor's large, empty house — a good house in 
a good street, which as a doctor he was obliged to have, 
and had contrived to make externally comfortable for his 
patients — when they should come. But beyond this con- 
sulting-room all was dreariness — the dreariness of raw 
newness, which is much worse than that of ancient dilapi- 
dation. 

William Stedman was wearied and dull, but Julius 
seemed in high spirits, insisting on talking and being list- 
ened to. 

" I tell you I have found out where they live, though 
they were so confoundedly secret about it. It's a tiny 
house in one of the lanes beyond Kensington. They must 



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160 THS woman's kingdom. 

l)e poor enough — poorer even than they seemed. But 
there they certainly live, and I vow I'll go and pay them 
a call to-morrow." 

" Pshaw ! don't make a fool of yourself'* 

**Make a fool of myself! You're uncommonly civil to- 
day ! Pray, may I ask in what way would it be making 
a fool of myself? I like women's society, and these two 
are the very joUiest young women I ever — ^" 

Will jumped up as if he had been shot. " Hold your 
tongue! you'd better!" cried he, violently; and then, 
catching his brother's look of utter amazement, he sud- 
denly reined himself in, and, with a sort of laugh, begged 
Julius's pardon. 

"Well you may! Why, what has come over you, 
Will ? What on earth have I said or done amiss?" 

" Nothing — decidedly nothing. Except that you might 
speak a little more respectfully of these fiiends of yours. 
And I do think, as I told you before yon went, that it was 
hardly right, hardly gentlemanly, to hunt them out, when 
they so evidently wished to conceal from us where they 
lived. Just consider, we know nothing at all, in reality, 
concerning them, except their names." 

"And themselves, which is a good deal. I flatter my- 
self I know one of them, at- least, pretty well. Miss Edna 
and I were capital friends, though I wasn't sweet upon 
her, as you thought I was. She's a very nice girl, but 
she's not to my taste exactly." 

Will poured himself out his last cup of weak tea and 
answered nothing. 

"Come now, be reasonable, old fellow. You're my eld- 
er brother, and I don't like to go against you. Why are 
you so fierce at me for wishing to keep up our acquaint- 
ance — a perfectly harmless, indifferent acquaintance — with 
the two Misses Kenderdine ?" 

" They evidently do not wish it." 

"Oh, trust me for that," said Julius, with a laugh. "I 
know women's ways rather better than you. They only 
wanted to be followed — tracked down, like bee-hunting, 
as I said ; and very amusing work it is, and rather clever- 



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THS woman's kingdom. 151 

ly I've dooe it. To-morrow I mean to knock boldly at 
their door — such a little door, only fit for a little fellow 
like me, so you needn't try it — send in my card, and re- 
quest permission to pay my respects." 

"And what is to come of it?" 

" Nothing ; at least nothing in particular. Just a little 
bit of harmless amusement." 

"Amusement !" 

" Why should I not have amusement. Nay, don't look 
as if you'd eat me up. Only consider what a dull life 
we lead, especially at this time of year. We're not bad 
enough, or rich enough, to do things joUily. I'd really 
like to be a good boy, if I could find out a house to visit 
at, a family house with nice girls in it, where I could go 
to tea sometimes. I'd do it, I assure you, as soberly and 
respectably as if I were my own great-grandmother." 

"And that is your intention with regard to these la- 
dies?" 

" What other intention could I have ? • You may think 
of marrying, old boy, if you like. You have a profession, 
a house, and a settled income of two hundred a year; but 
as for me — bah I" 

"We 'can neither of us think of marrying just yet," said 
the elder brother, gravely. " It would be an act of insan- 
ity — or worse — scoundrelism, to take a young girl and 
plunge her into a life of grinding poverty. But even that, 
I think, would be lesser scoundrelism than to intrude on 
the privacy of two young ladies who have neither parents 
nor brothers; to cultivate their acquaintance or friend- 
ship, as you choose to call it — but we couldn't be friends, 
it isn't in human nature. It would end in making them 
think, and other people say, we were their lovers ; and 
then we must sheer off and leave them." 

"Well, and if so? It would have been jolly fun while 
it lasted." 

Dr. Stedmau turned upon his brother with blazing eyes. 
^' You're joking — you know you are. For me, I may be 
a very bad fellow — I don't think much of myself, anyhow; 
but I'm not such a scamp as that. And as long as I am 



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152 THs woman's kingdom. 

your elder brother, and have the slightest influence over 
you, I'll hinder you from being one. You will seriously 
offend me, Julius, if you carry out your plan of visiting 
these two young ladies." 

Will spoke quietly, the almost unnatural quietness of 
some smothered feeling or passion : with him a feeling was 
a passion, or it was nothing. He was not a merely intel- 
lectual man, or a sentimental man: it needed but to look at 
him to perceive that in him the full human tide of life ran 
strongly and deeply — the more deeply because so com- 
pletely held in restraint. His measured words, his steady 
step — for he had risen, and was walking up and down the 
room — indicated faintly what lay concealed below. 

But Julius did not notice it. Either he was too pre- 
occupied by his own concerns, or else this was a novel de- 
velopment of his brother which he did not understand. 
He only said, lightly : 

"You are very kind, but I don't consider myself a 
scamp, not just yet; even though, in spite of my elder 
brother, I do certainly intend to call upon the Misses Ken- 
derdine to-morrow." 

It would have been a pity had Edna seen what Pr. Sted- 
man next did— Dr. Stedman, her calm, gentle, wise hero- 
exalted by her foolish love into all that a man should be. 
Nothing could excuse it, though it might be accounted for 
by the long under-current of mental struggle that must 
have gone on within him, before that last touch caused it 
to burst its boundaries, and forced him completely beyond 
his self-control. It was a wrong thing, and a ridiculous 
thing to do, but he did it : he seized his brother by the 
collar and shook him, as a furious big dog shakes a little 
one, which he must punish, but will not injure ; then let 
him go, and leaned breathless against the wall. 

Julius rose up, not furious, but smouldering in the white 
heat of passion which he so seldom showed. 

" You shall repent this," he said. " I don't know wheth- 
er you're mad or drunk, or what, but you shall repent it. 
I'll leave you now : you're not fit for civil men's com* 
pany; but to-morrow — Good-night." 



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THin woman's kingdom. 153 

' Jalius had the best of it, and knew he had. Sometimes, 
though not many times, during their lives, the two broth- 
ers had quarrelled — most brothers do : and then general- 
ly the stronger and better-governed nature had won. But 
now they seemed to have changed characters, and the 
lighter and more superficial one carried the day. 

" I have been a fool," muttered Will, as his brother de- 
liberately lit a chamber candle, and passed him by, unob- 
servant, or else regardless, of the hand which was half ex- 
tended — the old affectionate, brotherly hand. Will drew 
it back immediately. 

^' Good-night," said Julius again, very stiffly, and walked 
out of the room. 

Bitterly humbled and shamed, with the bitterest, per- 
haps the only shame an honest man can ever feel — ^the re- 
proaches of his own conscience — Will sat down, wrapping 
his arms on the table, and laying his head upon them in an 
attitude of complete dejection. There he reniained nearly 
motionless, for a long time. The last faint glimmering of 
an August sunset crept into the room and crept out again, 
leaving behind a dull twilight, almost darkness. Then the 
lamp-lighter's quick step was heard through the open win- 
dow, as he went down the dreary emptiness of a London 
evening street, and flashed upon it gleam after gleam of 
lighted gas-lamps, till at last he reached the one opposite 
Dr. Stedman's window; it suddenly brightened up the 
room, throwing fantastic patterns through the window- 
curtains on the opposite wall. 

Will Stedman sprung up as if he had been asleep and 
the light had suddenly wakened him. 

" What a fool I have been I" he said aloud. " What a — ^ 
Forgive him, gentle souls of gentle women,' if he used 
stronger language than I care to record. He was only a 
man, and he was hard bestead. /^ I wonder what Julius 
thought of me 1 what any one would think I Who would 
believe I could have done such a contemptible thing? 
How she would despise me !" 

She? So the man had succumbed at last. Passion had 
.taken hold of him : that passion which, seizing one like 

G2 



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154 

William Stedman, completely masters him — turns his 
whole nature either to sweetness or bitterness. How had 
this come about, and for what woman ? For that is the- 
great test, the one fearful risk of a man's life. A woman 
will sometimes idealize a very inferior man, until her love 
for him, and her patience with him, exalt him into some- 
thing better than he originally was, and her into little short 
of an angel; but a man almost invariably drops to the 
level of the woman he is in love with. He can not raise 
her, but she can almost unlimitedly deteriorate him. Why 
this should be. Heaven knows, but so it constantly is. We 
have but to look around us with ordinary observation in 
order to see that a man's destiny, more than even a wom- 
an's, depends far less upon the good or ill fortune of his 
wooing, than upon the sort of woman with whom he falls 
in love. 

That William Stedman was a man to choose strongly, 
firmly, and irrevocably, no one who knew him, if ever so 
little, could doubt. That, having chosen, his character 
would be modified to a momentous extent by the object 
of his love, and that, once gaining him, she would have al- 
most unlimited influence over him — was a fact also patent, 
for it belonged to common human nature. Not that he 
was a weak man, or a sensualist, to be led by an iron chain 
hid under' passion's roses — his thirty years of brave and 
virtuous life furnished a sufficient denial to both supposi- 
tions. But his affections were very strong, and hitherto 
had been wholly undivided. He had no intimate friend, 
and not one relative living, except the brother whom he 
had guarded and guided all his days, in a way less broth- 
erly than fatherly. Still, Julius had often been a great 
anxiety to him — ^more anxiety than pleasure ; and besides, 
there comes a time in a man's life — in all lives — when ties, 
not only of instinct and duty, but of personal election, are 
necessary for happiness ; when, in short, no tie satisfies, ex- 
cept the one which God himself made to be the root of all 

Was it so with William Stedman — this good brother ; 
this eager, active worker in the world, who, as yet, did 
more for it than it had ever done for him, though he lived 



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THB woman's kingdom, 155 

in hopes that if he fought on steadily there wad a good 
time coming? Had fate suddenly met him in his busy 
life, caught him round a comer, grappled with him and 
bound him, throwing him into the reckless bitterness, the 
angry, dissatisfied craving of a man who feels the key-note 
wanting in his existence — who misses the soft, sweet har- 
mony that would resolve all its discords into peace — the 
quiet blessedness which nothing ever gives to a man's life 
except a woman's love? 

William Stedman's good angel standing behind him that 
night might well have wept over him, so unlovely and 
unlovable he seemed. But angelic wisdom would have 
known also that it was only the upboiling of the chaos 
out of which was soon to arise a perfect world. 

He paced his dining-room — his well-furnished but ugly 
and dreary dining-room — till he was thoroughly wearied ; 
and he had had a long day of hospital work besides ; yet 
still the restless spirit was not half taken out of him. Then 
he went and listened oh the staircase, but from Julius's 
room came no sound. 

" What do I want with him, or he with me ? Probably 
he is fast asleep, and has forgotten it alL Nothing ever 
makes much impression on him for long. Why should I 
sacrifice myself? He will be just as happy in any other 
house as in mine ; and, besides, he might come here often, 
fie would, if this house were made pretty and pleasant — 
as a woman could make it. They are as poor as we are — 
thank God for that ! Yet what ia difference there used to 
be between their parlor and ours ! How neat her work- 
basket was I and how she used to stick little bits of flow- 
ers here and there about the room I" 

While he thought, the man's hard features softened. 

" She wouldn't let me be savage with Julius. She al- 
ways had a kind word to say for him, poor fellow I She 
would be a good sister to him, I know, fie liked her, too, 
and I was such a fool as to think that — Almost as great 
a fool as I was for a day or two over the beauty of the 
other one. Pshaw ! mere flesh and blood — bones and epi- 
dermis. But my darling ; my little bright, active, loving 



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156 THs woman's kingdom. 

darling ! she is all spiritual : makes me believe in spirit 
without the flesh. No death could kill Aer, or the love 
that lives in her. Oh, my God, if I had it for mine !'* 

A great convulsion came over his face, and his thoughts 
(which were altogether silent — he was not a person to 
stamp about and soliloquize) came to an abrupt stop — then 
ran rampant in a wild riot. At last he gathered them up 
together, and formed them into a resolution — ^strong and 
clear. 

"I will have her; at least Til try my best to get her. 
I am driven to it, whether or no. As for prudence — hang 
prudence I And with regard to honor — well, perhaps it's 
as honorable to speak out at once as to hold my tongue 
for another year or two, and let Julius go philandering 
after them, vexing and fretting her, and setting people 
talking besides ; while if she were engaged to me — openly 
and fairly mine — nobody could say one word. Only let 
any one dare, that's all !" 

He clenched his fist and struck it with such force against 
the table that he actually hurt himself, and then laughed 
at his own exceeding silliness. 

"I'll take a walk and think the matter over. I shall 
get quiet then. . But I must send the household to bed. 
How late it is ! She would not have been so forgetful of 
other people." And after shouting down the stairs to 
the old man and woman who formed his sole establishment 
— one to attend upon patients, and the other to see to the 
comfortless comforts of the two young bachelors— Dr. 
Stedman closed his hall-door with a bang, and set off at a 
quick pace — anywhere. 

His feet carried him to a place where he had very often 
walked this summer, but never in daylight ; mostly, as 
now, taking it on his way home from night visits in that 
poor neighborhood which lay close by, whence, no doubt, 
the scarlet-fever came. Not a wholesome spot, especially 
in late summer and autumn, when the air was heavy with 
decaying vegetation. Yet to the end of his days William 
Stedman thought there was something pleasant in the 
faint moist odor, half perfume, of jasmine, clematis, and 



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THE woman's kingdom, 167 

the like, and half composed of scents much less sweet, 
which came through the brilliant harvest moonlight, as 
he walked along under black shadowing trees and stirless 
hedges, past the Misses Kenderdine's door. 

He knew it well enough — had discovered it long ago 
— though he had allowed his brother to take such a world 
of pains to find it ; but he walked rapidly past it, and not 
till he was some distance off did he turn round to watch 
it, as men in love will stand and watch the casket that 
holds their jewel, to the end of time. 

For he was in love — deeply, desperately— as rarely 
happens to a man twice in a lifetime. Perhaps all the 
deeper because, like Romeo with his Rosaline, there had 
previously appeared and vanished the phantom of a mock 
sun. It sometimes flashed upon him, this deep-hearted, 
high-minded, and somewhat exacting man, who in midst 
of all his passion never let his reason go — what a different 
kind of Jove his would have been had it been placed on 
mere outside beauty — like Letty Kenderdine's I 

" My little darling ! my bright, active, unselfish little 
darling I you are not plain to me. You are all sweet, all 
lovely !" and he opened his arms and closed them again 
over his breast as if he still felt her there, as on the stormy 
night when he carried her home insensible— that night 
when he vowed in his heart that no other woman but her- 
self would he ever marry. 

Let us look at him tenderly — this man who had no 
mother or sister, none of those holy influences which are 
often almost as blessed as that of a wife, if rightly and 
wisely and unselfishly used. But he had, as he said, noth- 
ing ; and he felt his nature hardening and corrupting, and 
a kind of hopeless cynicism stealing over him. 

" Oh, save me I" he cried, almost aloud, for the comer 
where he stood was as desolate as if he had been in a 
wilderness. ** Save me from myself! Make a man of me ! 
You could if you only knew it — ^if you only knew how 
bad I am, and how I want you to make me good, my little 
darling!" 

And then and there he took his resolve, leianing on a 



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158 THB woman's KINODOK. 

mling where many a lover must have leaned before, for it 
was all engraved with rough letters in twos and twos, 
encircled in rings or true-lovers' knots. Ah, to think 
what has become of the owners of those initials now ! 
How many broken troth-plights, and death-partings, and 
marriages more fatal than deaths! Yet still then and 
there William Stedman resigned himself to the common 
lot, and made up his mind that he would risk his all on a 
brief yes or no from a woman's lips. 

The poor old railing has long been broken down, and 
there is a range of handsome houses, in which you can pay 
morning calls and go to evening parties on the quiet spot 
where the lovers used to linger. But I think more than 
one person still living remembers it tenderly, and thanks 
God that William Stedman had strength and courage to 
take his destiny, and another's also, into his own hands, 
after the fashion of those four lines which every hon- 
est man would do well to repeat to himself when he goes 
a-wooing : 

"He either fisars his fate too mnchy 
Or his deserts are small. 
Who dares not put it to the touch, 
And win or lose it all.** 

After that decision the doctor walked home with steadier 
feet and a bolder heart. He let himself in at his own door 
with a feeling that, come what would, he was master there 
— niaster of himself^ and, in measure, of his fortunes; as a 
man always is who has courage to look his difficulties in 
the face, and push his way through them with a firm, 
steadfast hand. 

To that singleness of purpose — to the consciousness 
that, in acting as he had determined to act, there was in 
his heart no mean intent, no thought which a good man 
need wish to hide, or a good woman blush to look at — ^he 
trusted the success of his suit. And if it failed — ^why, 
he was not the first man to whom such a thing had hap- 
pened. 

Though when he imagined the possibility — ^nay, proba- 
bility, for his humility made him think it very probable — 



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THB woman's KmODOM. 159 

of his love being rejected, be felt as a man would not will- 
ingly feel twice in a lifetime. 

Dr. Stedman was no coward ; and yet wben be lit bis 
lamp, took oat bis desk, and fairly sat down to it, bis band 
shook like a leaf. 

The letter consisted only of a few lines — he coidd not 
write more. Some men take refuge in pen and paper, and 
revel therein ; their thoughts and feelings flow out — and 
generally evaporate also — ^in the most charming sentences, 
which, even under the deepest emotion, it is a relief to 
them to write, and a pride in having written. But Wil- 
liam Stedman was of another sort. To express his feel- 
ings at all was very difficult to him — to write them, and 
see them written, staring back at him in terrible black 
and white, was impossible. Therefore this letter, the first 
love-letter he ever wrote, was of the very briefest and 
most formal kind : 

"Dbab Madam, — Will you do me the honor to read 
this in private and alone ? 

** My brother has just told me he has discovered where 
you live, iand means to call upon you. May I be allowed 
to do so first ? I have but one reason for this, and one 
apology for the presumption of proposing it ; that I con- 
sider neither my brother nor myself have any right to in- 
trude upon you as mere acquaintances, ^d besides, a 
mere acquaintance I could never willingly be to you. 

" You and I know one another pretty well : we shall 
never know one another any better unless I dare to ask 
you one question — Could you, after any amount of patient 
waiting on my part, and for the sake of a love of which I 
can not speak — consent to be my wife ? 

" To-morrow is Saturday. If, during the day, only one 
line comes to me by post, I will be with you on Sunday. 
If I may not come — ^but then I know you will answer me 
quickly ; you would not keep in needless torture any crea- 
ture living. Yours faithfully, 

"WmjAM Stedman. 

'*Mis8 Edna EsinDEiiDiinB." 



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160 

Yes, that was the name — ^her name. He wrote it firmly 
enough. The die was cast, and now he must meet either 
fortune ; and he thought he could. He did not even re- 
read his letter, or speculate upon whether or not it was a 
good letter, or the sort of letter to effect its end ; for, even 
in the midst of his delirium of passion, he had sense enough 
to see that a woman who, in so momentous a crisis, could 
lay weight upon accidental forms of phrase or mistakes of 
expression, was not a woman to be much desired. One 
doubt alone he had — would she show her sister the letter? 
and if so, what would Letty say, and how might she influ- 
ence Edna with regard to him? 

But shortly he cast this perplexity also aside. A woman 
who, in such a case, could be influenced by sister or friend 
— or even parent — who could not ask herself the simple 
question, " Do I love him, or do I not love him ?" and an- 
swer it herself, without referring the decision to any hu- 
man being — such a woman might be good enough in her 
way, but she was not Edna Kenderdine — not the woman 
whom a man like William Stedman would ever care to 
marry. 

Saying this to himself, and staying himself therewith a 
little — ^ay, even in the full tide and torrent of his passion 
— ^he closed and sealed his letter ; then, with a vague dread 
of trusting himself with it till the morning, he went out 
again into the dark streets, and posted it with his own 
hand. 



CHAPTER Xn. 



The postman was by no means a daily visitor at the 
Misses Kenderdine's door. It is a fact — amusing or mel- 
ancholy, according as one takes it — that society in the 
aggregate does not very much run after resident govern- 
esses or poor school-mistresses; that they are not likely 
to be inundated with correspondence or haunted with in- 
vitations. Of course, under no circumstances are young, 
good, and lady-like women quite without friends or ac- 
quaintances; such loneliness would argue a degree of un- 



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;rHK woman's kingdom. 161 

lovingnegs, or nnlovableness, of which certainly no one 
could accuse the Misses Kenderdine. But this is a busy 
and a self-engrossed world ; it has quite enough to do with 
its own affairs; and it likes to get the full value for all it 
bestows. The sisters, who had so little to give it, had not 
been troubled with any overplus of its affection. Still 
there were, in different parts of the country, a few house- 
holds who liked and remembei*ed the Kenderdines; and 
even at Kensington there were some houses where they 
occasionally visited, or went to one of those evening par- 
ties which in London middle-class society take the place 
of the countrified, old-fashioned " going out to tea." 

They were expecting one of these invitations ; so the 
postman's red coat gleaming against the green hedge of 
Love Lane attracted Letty's attention, and his knock roused 
her to jump up and take in the letter. Edna allowed her 
to go. She herself had not felt well all the day ; the 
morning school had been an unusual burden to her, and, 
now it was over, she took refuge in her favorite American 
rocking-chair — a present from an old pupil — and rocked 
and rocked, as if in that soothing motion the uneasy feel- 
ing in mind and body — half-weariness, half-restlessness — 
would pass away. Though she knew all the while it 
would not ; that there it was, and she must bear it, as 
many another woman had borne it before her — ^the dull 
heart-ache, the hopeless want. These sorrows do come, 
and they conquer even the bravest sometimes. May He 
who ordained love to be the crown of life have pity on all 
those to whom it comes only as a crown of thorns, or who^ 
have to endure the blankness of its absence — the agony 
of its loss ! Both can be endured, and comfort will come 
at length, but the torture is terrible while it lasts. Edna 
endured it but in a small measure, and for a short time ; 
yet the pang was sharp enough to make her, till the end 
of her days, feel unutterable pity and tenderness over 
those whom the world smiles over as "disappointed in 
love" — those from whose lives God has seen fit to omit 
life's first and best blessing ; or else, though this is a lesser 
grief, to give it and take it away. 



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162 

She was sitting listlessly rocking, not thinking much 
about any thing, when Letty re-entered with the letter. 

" It is for you, dear. What a funny hand ! — a lawyer's 
hand, I should say. Who can be writing to you, Edna ?" 

^' I don't know," said £dna, indifferently, and then, catch- 
ing a glimpse of the letter, checked herself, with a startled 
consciousness that she did know, or at any rate guess ; 
that locked up in her desk in a hidden comer she had a 
small fragment of the very same handwriting — a most un- 
important fragment — memoranda about trains, etc., for 
their railway journey; but still there it was, kept like a 
treasure, secreted like a sin. 

" Miss £dna Kenderdine," read Letty, detaining the let- 
ter and examining it. ^^ Then it must be from a stranger. 
A friend would know, of course, that you were Miss Ken- 
derdine. Shall I open it for you, dear ?" 

^^ No," said Edna, and an unaccountable impulse made 
her snatch it and turn away with it — ^tum away from her 
sister, her dear sister, from whom she had not a secret in 
the world. At the first sentence she started, glanced at 
the signature, and then put the letter in her pocket, flush- 
ing scarlet. 

Letty looked amazed. " What is the matter with you ? 
Is it a love-letter? Do say I" 

" It begins like a business letter, and the writer wishes 
me to read it in private and alone," said Edna, forcing her 
white lips — she felt, with a terrified consciousness, how 
very white she must be turning now — ^to utter the exact, 
formal truth. 

" Oh, very well," replied Letty, a little vexed, but too 
sweet-tempered to retain vexation long. 

She sat down composedly and finished her dinner — lin- 
gering a good while over the pudding— Letty liked pud- 
dings and all good things ; while Edna sat, with the letter 
in her pocket, as quiet and almost as silent as if she were 
made of marble, for a quarter of an hour. Then Letty 
rose. 

"Now FU go into the kitchen, for I want to iron out 
my muslin dress. In the mean time you can read in peacd 



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THE WOMAK'b kingdom. 163 

your wonderful letter. You'll tell me about it afterwards, 
Edna, dear." 

Touched by her sister's gentleness Edna returned a 
smiling '^ Thank you," and tried to look as usual while 
the dinner was being cleared away. But her head was 
whirling and her pulse beating fast — so fast that when she 
at last took the letter out and opened it the lines swam 
before her eyes. She had only strength enough to creep 
noiselessly up to her room at the top of the house, shut 
herself in, and lock the door. 

There let her be. We will not look at her, nor inquire 
into what she felt or did. Women, at least, can under- 
stand. 

Letty's muslin dress had, happily, a good many frills 
and flounces, and took a long time in ironing. Not that 
Letty grumbled at that: she had great pleasure in her 
clothes, and was the last person to treat them lightly or 
disrespectfully, or to complain of any trouble they cost her. 
This dress especially always engrossed so much of her at- 
tention and affection, that it is doubtful whether she once 
let her mind stray from it to such commonplace facts as 
business letters. And when it was done, she was good- 
natured enough to recollect that while she had the things 
about she might as well iron Edna's dress. She went 
up stairs to fetch it, when, to her surprise, she found the 
door locked. 

" I will come presently," answered a very low voice from 
within. 

"But your dress, Edna. I want to iron out your new 
muslin dress." 

"Thank you, dear. Never mind. I will be down 
presently." 

" It was a love-letter, then I" pondered Letty to herself 
as she descended. " I am sure it was. But who in the 
wide world can have fallen in love with Edna? Poor 
Edna!" 

"Poor Edna!" Rich Edna! rich in the utmost wealth 
that Heaven can give to mortal woman ! Oh, when there 
is so much sadness in this world — so much despised love 



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164 THE woman's kingdom. 

— unrequited love — unworthy love — surely the one bliss 
of love deserved and love retui*ned ought to outweigh all 
else, and stand firm and sure, whatever outside cares may 
lay siege to it. They can not touch the citadel where the 
two hearts — the one double heart — has intrenched itself, 
safe and at rest — forever. 

Edna's "love" — hopelessly and dearly beloved — had 
become her lover. He wished to make her his wife. Her 
solitary days were done: she stood on the threshold of a 
new life — in a new world. Never, until through the gate 
of death she should enter on the world everlasting, would 
there come to her such another, hour as that first hour af- 
ter she read William Stedman's letter. 

Half an hour after — to so long a space extended her 
"presently" — £dna Kenderdine crept down stairs, and 
then crept on, still quietly, into her sister's arms. 

" Kiss me, Letty ! There are only we two." 

In a few words — strangely few it seemed, and as if the 
whole thing were quite natural and known beforehand — 
Edna told her happy secret, and the sisters embraced one 
another and wept together, the harmless tears that women 
are sure to shed, and are not women at all if they do not 
■ shed, on these occasions. 

At first Letty was considerably surprised — perhaps a 
little more than surprised — ^but she had the good taste and 
good feeling not to say overmuch on this head, and not to 
refer, even in the most passing way, to certain remarks of 
her own during the last two days, which must have been, 
to say the least, rather annoying to remember. But if 
Letty was a little disappointed and humiliated — ^and it 
was scarcely in human nature that she should not be — 
after having so confidently placed herself and Dr. Stedman 
in the position of the Iiish ballad couplet : 

*'Did ye ever hear of Captain Baxter, 
Whom Miss Biddy refused afore he axed her?** 

her vanity was too innocent, and her nature too easy,.to bear 
offense long. After the first surprise was over, her congrat- 
ulations were given with sufficient warmth and sincerity. 



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THE WOMAN^S KIKGDOM. 165 

" Well, Edna dear, you know I always liked him, and I 
dare say I shall find him a very good brother-in-law ; and 
really it will be rather convenient to have a man in the 
family. But to think that after all the offers I have had, 
you should be the first to get married, or, anyhow, en- 
gaged. Who would ever have expected such a thing !" 

" Who would, indeed I" said Edna, in all simplicity, and 
with a sense almost of contrition for the &ct. 

" Well, never mind !" answered Letty, consolingly ; " I 
am sure I hope you will be very happy ; and as for me " 
— she paused and sighed — "I should not wonder if I were 
left an old maid after all, in spite of my appearance." 

Which catastrophe, so dolefully prognosticated, would 
have awakened a smile yesterday ; but to-day Edna could 
not smile. Though her joy was only an hour old, it was 
so intense, so perfect, that it seemed to absorb the whole 
of life, as if she knew not how she had ever lived without 
it. Thinking of her sister who had it not — who did not 
even comprehend what it was — she felt so sorry that she 
could have wept over her. 

But Letty's next words dispelled this tender regret. 

" Still, Edna, if I were you, I would not be in any hur- 
ry to give the young man his answer. And in the mean 
time we will make some inquiries as to what sort of a 
practice he has — whether he is likely to be in a position 
to marry soon — and so on.. Certainly it is by no means 
so good a match as I myself should have expected to 
make ; but then you are different — I mean your ideas of 
things are much humbler than mine. Didn't somebody 
once say you had quite a genius for poverty ?" 

^^JEk said it," and Edna hung her head, blushing ; then 
lifted it up with a bright, proud, peaceful smile — ^** yes, he 
said it one day on the shore. He knew me even then, and 
understood me, thank God." 

And there came before her a vision of her life to come 
^-not an easy one ; not that of a woman who slips into 
marriage to "better herself," as servants say — to attain 
ease, and luxury, and position, and all the benefits which 
"a good marriage" is supposed to confer. Hers would 



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166 THE womak's kingdom. 

be a life in which every energy would be tested, every 
power put to use — which would exact unlimited patience, 
self-denial, courage, strength ; the life, in short, of a wom- 
an who does not care to be a man's toy and ornament, but 
desires rather to be his helpmeet — supplying all he needs, 
as he supplies all she needs, teaching her through the ne- 
cessities of every day how to fulfill the perfect law .of love 
— self-sacrifice. 

Edna knew she should have a hard life. Though Dr. 
Stedman was still tolerably ignorant about their circum- 
stances, he had taken good care to inform her every thing 
about his own. She was well aware that he was poor — 
proud also — perhaps on account of the poverty. She 
guessed, with her quick^sighted love, that his temper was 
not the sweetest in the world — ^though she could find ex- 
cuses for that. But she believed in him — she honored 
him, for she had never seen any thing in him that was not 
worthy of honor ; and, last little fact of all, which included 
all the rest, she loved him. 

Letty watched her a minute — with that happy smile on 
her face. " Well, Edna dear, if you are satisfied, so am I. 
It is, of course, your own affair entirely. I would only ad- 
vise you to take time." 

" Certainly I shall. It is sure to be a long engagement." 

Letty shook her head pathetically. "Ah! if there is 
one thing more than another which I should object to, it 
is a long engagement. It wears a girl to, death, and cuts 
off all her chances elsewhere. And suppose, in the mean 
time, she should receive a better offer?" 

Edna dropped her sister's hand. " Letty, we had better 
talk no more. If we talked to everlasting I could never 
make you understand." 

She spoke sharply, almost angrily; and then, seeing no 
anger, only mild amazement on Letty's beautiful face, she 
repented. With the yearning that every woman must 
have at this crisis in her life to fall on some other wom- 
an's neck and ask for a little love — a little sympathy on 
the new strange path she had just entered — she turned 
back again to her sister, who kissed her once more. 



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THE WOMAK's kingdom. 167 

"Really now, I did not mean to vex yon, Edna. Of 
course you know your own mind— you always did; and 
had your own way, too, in every thing — Fll tell him so, 
and frighten him.'' 

Edna smiled. 

"And what does he say to you? Do show me your 
love-letter — I always showed you all mine I" 

But this was a different thing quite. Edna closed her 
little hand fiercely over it — her one possession, foretaste 
of her infinite wealth to come. It was hers — all her own, 
and the whole world should neither pry into it, nor steal 
it, nor share it. i 

" Well, never mind. You always were a queer girl," 
said Letty, patiently. " But at least you'll tell me when 
he is coming here. This is Saturday — I suppose he will 
want to come to tea on Sunday ?" 

And so the misty, "beautiful, wondrous dream condensed 
itself into a living commonplace reality. There was a 
note written, which consisted of the brief word " come," 
naming the day and hour. This was sent by their serv- 
ant, who looked much astonished, and hoped nobody was 
ill and wanting the doctor; and then the two sisters sat 
down side by side, for even Letty was silent a while. 

At last, however, she could hold her tongue no longer, 
but began talking in her smoothly-flowing inconsequent 
way. 

" I wonder what sort of a house he lives in, and whether 
it is well furnished. Of course we can't go and see — it 
would not be proper ; but I will try and find out. And 
this house of ours — ^I suppose it will have to be given up. 
No man would like his wife to go on keeping school. He 
would never let her work if he could help it : in such a 
common way too. Ah, Edna, you are the lucky woman, 
after all ! I wish I had somebody to work for ma" 

"Do you?" said Edna, absently. 

" Oh, how nice it must be I To have nothing to do all 
day long, and every thing pretty about one, and perhaps 
a carriage to ride in, and no trouble at all. Heigh-ho ! I 
wish I were married too, though it shouldn't be to any 



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168 



HALF JOTy HALT 80BB0W. 

body like Dr. Stedman. But, my dear, since it is to be, 
and yon are fond of him, and, as I have said, you are your 
own mistress, and must please yourself, do just tell me 
what you think about things. In the first place, what 
ought your wedding-dress to be ?" 

" Hush," Edna whispered. " Please don't talk any more. 
I can't bear it.'* And then she threw herself into her sis- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 169 

ter's arms, and cried passionately — half for joy, half for 
sorrow. So the day ended — the day of days which closed 
up forever one portion of the sisters' lives : a day, to Letty, 
scarcely different from any other, but to Edna like that 
first day which marked the creation of a new world. 

She scarcely slept all night ; still, she rose and went to 
church as usual. She was neither afraid nor ashamed. 
She knew the Great Searcher of hearts would not punish 
her because in every thanksgiving was a thought of A^m, 
and every prayer was a prayer for two. She walked home 
with her sister through the green lane — Letty vaguely 
wondering what church Dr. Stedman attended — she hoped 
he did go to church regularly somewhere, for nothing made 
a man look so respectable, especially if he were a doctor. 
Edna had a sweet composure of mien — a gentle dignity 
such as had never been seen in her before ; inasmuch as 
more than one stray acquaintance told her "how well she 
was looking." At which she felt so glad. 

But during the afternoon — the long still Sunday after- 
noon—with the warm jasmine - scented air creeping in 
through the half-closed Venetian blinds, some of her nerv- 
ousness returned, her quick restless movements, her little 
abruptnesses of speech. She went about from room to 
room, but could not sit long anywhere. 

Letty watched her with a condescending interest, rath- 
er trying to bear. " It's natural, dear, quite natural. I 
used to feel the same myself when one of them was com- 
ing. Dear me ! what a long time ago it seems siiice any 
body came to see me I But even one's sister's lover is 
better than none. I hope you will settle with Dr. Sted- 
man to come every Sunday. And he might sometimes 
bring his brother with him, for it will be desperately dull 
for me, you know. Well, I declare ! Punctuality's very 
self I For it is just five minutes to six, and I am sure I 
see a gentleman striding down Love Lane. FU run down 
stairs and open the door ; shall I, Edna ?" 

Edna assented, but she could not utter a word more. 
She stood at her window — the window where she was 
fond of sitting, and had sat so many an hour, and dreamed 

H 



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170 



THE woman's kingdom. 



SO many a maiden- 
dream. She watch- 
ed him coming, a 
tall figure, strong 
and active, walk- 
ing firmly, with- 
out pauses or hes- 
itation, and though 
sometimes turning 
the head round 
to glance — Edna 
guessed whither ! 
There he was, the 
ruler of her life, her 
friend, her lover, 
some day to be her 
husband. He was 
*^*^*' coming to assume 

his rights, to assert his sovereignty. A momentary vague 
terror smote her, a fear as to the unknown future, a tender 
regret for the peaceful, maidenly, solitary days left behind, 
and then her heart recognized its master and went forth 
to meet him ; not gleefully, with timbrels and dances, but 
veiled and gentle, grave Und meek ; contented and ready 
to obey him, " Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling 
him lord." 

Edna long remembered, in years when it was a comfort 
to have it to remember, how exceedingly good Letty was 
that day; how she went down herself to welcome Dr. 
Stedman, and behaved to him — as he told Edna afterwards 
— in a way so womanly, friendly, and sisterly that it took 
away all his awkwardness ; and by the time another little 
light footstep was heard on the stairs he was found sit- 
ting — as quietly as if he had sat there every Sunday for 
years — in the great arm-chair by the window, with his 
face pale indeed, but radiant with the light of happiness, 
the one only happiness which ever gives that look, turned 
towards the opening door. 
It opened, and Edna came in. 



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Ill 

I have said this little woman was not beautiful, not even 
pretty; but there was a lovesomeness about her -^ her 
neat, small, airy figure, her harmonious movements, and 
her dainty hands — which often grew into absolute love- 
liness — at least would, in the eyes of any man who had 
the sense to love her, and prize her at her worth. Woman 
.as she was — all woman — she was 

**Yet a spirit too, and bright, 
And something of an angel light." 

And as this man — this big, tall, and, it might onoe have 
been, rather rough man — looked at her, standing in the 
door-way in her lilac muslin dress, his whole soul came 
into his eyes. Though there was in him a mingled ex- 
pression of dread, as if expecting that while he gazed her 
wings would grow, and she would fly away from him. 

He rose, and advanced a step forward ; then he and the 
lilac angel shook hands — humanly — in a most common* 
place fashion. After which Letty, with astonishing tact, 
discovered the immediate necessity of "seeing about tea," 
and disappeared. 

There are those who despise small rooms and homely 
furniture — to whom Love is nothing except he comes 
dressed in fine clothes, and inhabiting splendid drawing- 
rooms. Of course, under such circumstances, when Pov- 
erty enters in at the door, the said Love will surely fly 
out at the window. He has been far too much accustomed 
to think of himself and his own easie. Undeniably it is 
very pleasant to be rich, to inhabit handsome houses, and 
be dressed in elegant clothes; and there is a kind of love 
so purely external, selfish, and self-seeking, that it can not 
exist unless it has also these things. But the true love is 
something far, far beyond. And Edna, when William Sted- 
man took her in his arms — just herself and nothing more 
— in her common muslin gown, with no attractive sur- 
roundings, for the parlor was small and humble as well 
could be — asking her if she could love him, and if she 
were afraid to be a poor man's wife — Edna knew what 
that true love was. 



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1*12 THE woman's kingdom. 

They sat long talking, and he told her every thing, in- 
cluding a little confession which perhaps every man would 
not have made ; but this man was so conscientiously hon- 
est that he could not have been happy without making it 
— that his first passing fancy had been for her beautiful 
sister. 

"And I like her still — ^I shall always like her," added he 
with an earnest simplicity that made Edna smile, and as- 
sured her more than ever of the love that was far deeper 
than all telling. "And — before you get anxious about it, I 
wish to say one thing — Letty shall never leave you, if you 
do not wish it, and I will always be good to her. Who 
could help it ? She is so charming to look at — so sweet- 
tempered — so kindly. I like her exceedingly; but as for 
loving — " 

Edna gave one shy inquiring glance into the passionate 
face ; then, in the strange familiarity — sacred as sweet — 
which one little hour had brought about between them, 
she laid her head upon his shoulder, saying, gently, 

" I am not afraid. I know you will never love any body 
but me." 

And when at last Letty came in, after a most lengthy 
and benevolent rattling of the door-handle, William Sted- 
man went up to her and kissed her like a brother. 

" It is all settled, and you are to live with us. We never 
mean to part with you — except to somebody better than 
ourselves." 

Thus quietly, in his brief, masculine way, he cleared off 
the only weight on Edna's mirid-^in the only way in which 
it could be donei And as she lookbd up to him with grate- 
ful eyes, loving him all the dearer because of the tender- 
ness he showed to her own flesh and blood, he inly vowed 
that he would never let her Jcnow how, in resigning his 
first great happiness of a married home all to themselves, 
he had made a very great sacrificie. 

Letty thanked him, not with overmuch emotion, for she 
was so used to be first considered, that she took it quite 
naturally. Then, with a little commonplace quizzing — not 
ill-meant but rather inappropriate — she sai down in Edna's 



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THE woman's kingdom. 173 

place to pour out tea and enjoy the distinction of enter- 
taining " the man of the family." 

When the meal was ended, Dr. Stedman, in the aforesaid 
capacity, which he accepted in a cheery and contented 
manner, proposed that they should at once enter upon the 
question of ways and means. 

"Which means being married, I suppose?" laughed 
Letty. 

" Yes," he answered, with a deep blush, and then dashed 
at the subject abruptly and desperately. " I do not wish 
to wait — not ot day after I get a hospital appointment 
which I have been long trying for, and have now a good 
chance of With that and my profession we could live. 
And Julius, he will have enough to live upon too." 

"Will he live with you ? Then how can I?" asked Let- 
ty, bridling up with a sudden fit of propriety. 

" NOy not with tis," was the answer, strong, decisive, al- 
most angry. " As she knows," glancing at Edna, " there 
is two hundred a year which, if necessary, he can have — 
part or whole ; but I will not have him living with me. 
Two men in one house would never do ;" and then he told, 
cursorily, the " slight diflference " — so he called it — which 
he had had with his brother, and how he had not seen him 
since, Julius having gone next morning on a painting ex- 
pedition. 

Edna looked grave, but Letty listened with considerable 
amusement. "And so Julius — I may say 'Julius,' as he 
will be my half-brother-in-law, you know — wanted to come 
and see us, and you prevented him ? And if this quarrel 
had not happened you would not have written ? Perhaps 
you would never have made up your mind to ask Edna 
at all?" 

The silly woman had hit upon something like a truth, 
or near enough thereto to vex the man a little. 

"I assure you, Miss Letty — ^but excuse my explaining. 
Your sister knows all." 

Yes, Edna did know — all the pride — all the pain — the 
struggle between duty and passion — the difficulty of de- 
termining right from wrong — honor from cowardliness — 



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1^4 THE woman's KINGDOM. 

rashness from fearless faith. Many a man has gone through 
the like before his marriage — the woman neither undeiv 
standing it nor pitying it ; but Edna did both. She laid 
her little hand on his — 

" No need to explain, I am quite satisfied." 

"And Julius?" persisted Lett y, who was beginning to 
find second-hand felicity a little uninteresting. " Does he 
know of all this between Edna and you ?" 

" No ; but when he returns on Monday I shall tell him." 

" And what will he say ?" 

" I think he will say, as a brother should — 'It's all right. 
Be happy in your own way.' " 

" But if he does not ?" said Edna, tremulously. 

.William Stedman looked vexed. Perhaps he knew his 
brother bettjBr than she did, or was less accustomed than 
she was to think of others. 

" I do not contemplate any such impertinent interference 
on his part. But if so, it can make no difference to me. 
When a man of my age chooses his wife, no other man, 
not even his own brother, has a right to say a word. Ju- 
lius had better not ; I would not stand it." 

He spoke loudly, like a man not used to talk with or to 
listen to women ; a man who, right or wrong, liked to have 
his own way. Truly he was far from perfect, this chosen 
of Edna's heart. Yet he had a heart too, and a conscience, 
and both these would have understood her momentary 
start — the slight shadow which troubled her happy face. 
But though the happiness lessened the peace remained, 
and the love which had created both. 

" I think," she said, very gently, " that Julius is too gen- 
erous to make us unhappy. He may be vexed at first, hav- 
ing had you all his life — and only you — like Letty and me 
here. But perhaps he is not quite so good as my Letty." 

And thinking of her gentle sister, and contrasting their 
ways with the fierce ways of these two men— lover and 
brother, with whom her lot was to be bound up for life — 
Edna trembled a little ; but the next minute she despised 
herself for her cowardice. What was love worth if it 
could not bear a little pain ? In the darkening twilight 



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115 

she loosened not, but rather strengthened, her clasp of Wil- 
liam Stedman's hand ; and as he went on talking, princi- 
pally to Letty, and about common things, the size and 
arrangements of his house, and his means of furnishing it, 
his good angel might have heard that the man's voice grew 
softer and sweeter every minute. Already there was steal- 
ing into him that influence, mysterious as holy, which, with- 
out any assertion on their part — any parade of rights or 
complaints of wrong — makes all women — Christian wom- 
en — if they so choose it, the queens of the world. Already 
the future queen had entered into her kingdom. 

He was still talking, being left respectfully by these in- 
experienced maidens to take the man's part of explaining 
and deciding every thing, when there came a knock to the 
door, so sudden and startling, in that quiet Sunday even- 
ing, that the little house seemed actually to reel. 

" Probably some one for me," said Dr. Stedman. "Heft 
word at home where I might be found if wanted ; a doctor 
is always liable to be summoned, you know. It is not an 
easy life for him or for his household," added he, with a 
slightly shy and yet happy smile. 

" Oh," cried Letty, " I wouldn't marry a doctor upon any 
account, as I always said to Edna " — whose conscious blush 
showed how completely the good advice had been thrown 
away. 

But just this minute the front-door was opened, and the 
voice of a man, hurried and eager, was heard inquiring 
for the Misses Kenderdine ; also, in not too gentle tones, 
whether Dr. Stedman was here ? 

"It is Julius," said Letty. But what happened next is 
serious enough to require another chapter. 



CHAPTER Xm. 



Julius Stedman entered the parlor in a rather excited 
state. Not with wine — that was a temptation impossible 
to the pure-living, refined young artist ; but his excitement 
was of a kind peculiar to the artistic and nervous temper- 



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176 THE woman's kingdom. 

ament, and might easily have been mistaken for that of 
drink. His face was flushed, his motions abrupt, his speech 
unnaturally loud and fast, and as he stood shading his eyes 
from the sudden dazzle of the lamp'-light, even his appear- 
ance spoke against him ; for his dress was dusty, his long 
hair disorderly, and his whole exterior very far below that 
standard of personal elegance — nay, dandyism — which was 
a strong characteristic of Julius Stedman. 

He bowed to Letty, who was the first to advance to- 
wards him. 

^^ I am ashamed, Miss Kenderdine, of intruding at this 
unseemly hour; but my brother — ah, there you are! I 
have found you out at last ;" and he darted over to the 
doctor's chair. " You're a pretty fellow. Will ; a nice el- 
der brother ! — a proper person to lecture a younger one, 
and teach him the way he should go— a good, honest, gen- 
erous, candid — " 

" Julius !" cried Will, catching him by the arm, and 
speaking almost in a whisper, " command yourself. You 
forget these ladies." 

"Not at all!" And there was no abatement in the 
shrill, furious voice. "I have the highest respect for 
these ladies. And out of my respect, as soon as I came 
home (unexpectedly of course, like a fool that I was, to 
make it up with you), and found where you were gone, I 
came after you — I came, just to tell them the plain truth. 
Miss Kenderdine, this brother of mine, who comes sneak- 
ing here on the sly — " 

" Julius !" Not a whisper now, but thundered out in 
violent passion ; then controlling himself, Will added, "Ju- 
lius, you are under an entire and ridiculous mistake. Ei- 
ther leave this house with me instantly, or sit down and 
listen to my explanation." 

" Listen ! — explanation !" repeated Julius, and looked 
bewildered from one to the other of the three whom he 
had found sitting together so familiarly and happily in 
the pleasant little parlor. 

" Yes," said Will, laying his hand firmly and kindly on 
his brother's shoulder, "I will explain every thing: there 



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THE woman's kingdom. 177 

is no reason now why I should not. I objected to your 
visiting here, because you had no right to come; and your 
coming was an injury to these ladies, and would have ex- 
posed them to all kinds of unpleasant remarks. But with 
me it is diflferent. I came here to-day — and it is my first 
visit, I assure you — with a distinct right, and in a recog- 
nized character. Julius, I am going to give you a sister." 

"A sister !" The young man turned frightfully pale, 
and his eyes sought— which face was it ?-^Letty's. . Then, 
as with the strength of despair, he forced himself to speak. 

" Tell me — tell me quick ! This is so sudden !" 

" Not sudden in reality^t only seems so," said William, 
smiling; "and you like hervery much — ^you know she will 
make you a good sister. Shake hands with him, Edna." 

"Ediia-^is it Edna?" And then, either out of his own 
natural impulsiveness, or in the reaction from a still strong- 
er excitement, Julius darted forward, and instead of shak- 
ing hands, kissed her warmly. " I beg your pardon ; but 
I can't help it. • Oh, you dear little woman-r-so it's you, is 
it?— you that have all but brought 'about a quarrel be- 
tween Will and me^-^the first we ever had in bur lives." 

"And the last, I trust," said Will, cheerily, submitting 
to have his hand almost shaken off. . 

"Never mind— ^never mind, now, old fellow. All's well 
that ends well. I give you joy. I'm quite content. She 
will be the best little sister in all the world. Shake hands 
agaiuj Edna — let's shake hands all round." 

But when he came to Letty, he stopped point-blank. 

Letty extended her long fingers in a dignified manner, 
and smiled her benign sriiile — alike to all— upon the 
flushed, passipnate young face. 

" I suppQse, Mr. Stedman, this makes you and me a sort 
of half-brother-and-sister-in-law. I am quite willing. I 
hope we shall always be very good friends — jiist like 
brother and sister, indeed." 

" Thank you," was the answer, and the young man's ex- 
cited mood sank into quietness, nay, into more than quiet- 
ness — sadness. But this was nothing unconamon with Ja- 
lius Stedman, who, after one of his fits of high spirit8,'gen- 

H2 



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178 THB woman's kingdom. 

erally fell into a corresponding fit of gravity and melan^ 
choly. 

This, or perhaps his mere presence as an extraneous ele- 
ment in what had been such a peaceful trio — for, in these 
early days of betrothal, sometimes an easy negative third 
rather adds to than takes away from the new-found and 
still unfemiliar happiness — made the evening not quite so 
pleasant as before. In vain Will, with most creditable 
persistency, maintained conversation, and Edna by a great 
effort shook off her shyness, and, taking her place as host- 
ess, presided at supper— endeavoring to be especially at- 
tentive to Julius, and give him a foretaste of the good sis- 
ter she intended to be. For in the midst of all her own 
joy her heart warmed to him — this moody, variable, affec- 
tionate, lovable fellow, who seemed, as so many young 
men do, like a goodly ship with little ballast, the success 
of whose whole voyage depended upon what kind of hand 
should take the helm. Besides, though she knew it was 
womanish and ridiculous, she could not help having a sort 
of pity for any body who had lived with William Sted- 
man for so long, and would not now live with him much 
longer. She could afford to be exceedingly kind and for- 
giving to poor Julius. 

Still the cloud did not pass away, and in spite of every 
body's faint efforts to disperse it — except Letty's, who was 
not acute enough to see any thing, and went talking on in 
the most charmingly unconscious and inappropriate way 
— the awkwardness so spread itself, that it was quite a re- 
lief when the little quartette broke up. Dr. Stedman pro- 
posed leaving, and then stood with Edna at the window, 
talking for ever so long between themselves ; while Letty, 
with a nod and a wink, went into the passage, beckoning 
Julius to follow her. 

*f We're terribly in the way— we two," said she, laugh- 
ing. " I am afraid, on future Sundays, we shall have to 
retire to the kitchen— that is, if you persist in coming to 
take care of your brother when he goes a-courting. But 
it will be very dull for you with only stupid me." 

" Only you 1" said Julius, gazing at her as she stood 



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THE woman's kingdom. 179 

leaning against the lobby wall, seeming to illumine the 
whole place, poor and small as it was, with her wonderful 
beauty. " Only you !" 

And Letty looked down, not unconscious of his admira- 
tion, and perhaps feeling just sufficiently ill-used by fate 
as to think herself justified in appropriating and enjoying 
it — that is, if she ever thought at all ; or thought ten 
minutes in advance of the present moment. 

"I suppose those two are very happy," said Julius, at 
length, with a glance in the direction of the silent parlor. 

" Oh, of course. Every body is very happy at first — 
that is — I suppose so. Not that I know from experience." 

Julius regarded her with piercing eyes, and then laughed, 
half carelessly, half cynically. 

" Oh, you and I are old stagers, I suppose. We will 
not reveal the secrets of the prison-house. Probably, be- 
ing in love is like being in prison." 

^^Eh?" said Letty, puzzled, and then added, confiden- 
tially: "I don't like to hear you mention prisons. I hope 
your brother is not in debt — so many young men are now- 
adays. Is he in sufficiently good circumstances to warrant 
his marriage ? Not that I would say a word against it. 
Of course my sister knows her own mind, and acts as she 
thinks right ; she always did. But will they not be very 
poor ? And it is such a dreadful thing to be poor." 

"A cursed thin^I" And there was a gleam, almost a 
glare, in those wild, bright eyes of Julius Stedman, as he 
fixed them on the beautiful creature before him. A crea- 
ture whom some fortunate man — say an Eastern sultan, or 
a Western duke — ^might have eagerly bought, the one with 
a ring, the other with a given number of piastres, and car- 
ried off to be robed in silks and hung with diamonds — 
laden with every gift possible, except that which, perhaps, 
After all, she might not care for, or only as it was accom- 
panied by these other things — ^his heart. " Yes, poverty 
is a dreadful thing. There I quite agree with you, Miss 
Kenderdine." 

" You might as well call me Letty, and so get our rela- 
tions clear at once," said Letty, coquettishly. 



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180 THB woman's KINODOM. 

. " Thank you, thank you, Letty," and he seized her hand. 

" I mean — our brother and sisterly relations," said Letty, 
drawing back, upon which Julius apologized, and also drew 
back immediately. 

"As you were saying," observed he, after a pause, dur- 
ing which the low murmur of talking within came mad- 
deningly to his ears, " those two, our brother and sister, 
regarded by our wiser eyes, are — simply a pair of fools. 
My brother's certain income, since you so prudently ask 
it, is only two hundred a year. Besides that he may 
make another two hundred by his profession, which comes 
to four hundred altogether. And four hundred a year is, 
of course, to a woman, downright poverty. I myself think " 
Will is insane to dream of marrying." 

" What did you say, my boy ?" cried Will, coming be- 
hind him, with a r^adiant light on his face, though it looked 
thin and worn still, " insane, am I ? Why, it's Julius, and 
not I that deserves a lunatic asyluoL He has been in love, 
off and on, ever since he was fifteen, and never found any 
body good enough to please him for a month together. 
Wait, man ! Wait till you have found the right woman, 
and have won her, too !" 

"Ah, wait," said Edna, softly, as in a pretty demure 
sisterly fashion she put both her hands into those of her 
future brother, and then took them away to remove some 
stray dust that disfigured his coat-sleeve ; " wait till that 
good time comes. And she will be so happy, and so very 
fond of you." 

" Bless you, my little sister," said Julius, in a choked 
voice, as he suddenly bent down and put his lips to Edna's 
hand. "No, he's not mad, he's a lucky fellow, that scamp 
there. And he has had a comfortless life of late, I know 
that ; and I have not helped to make it more comfortable. 
Perhaps we shall both be the better, we jolly young bach- 
elors, for having a woman 'to keep us in order. Though 
you'll find me a tough customer, I warn you of that. Miss 
Edna." 

" Never mind. I'll take you just as you are, and make 
the best of you." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 181 

With which light jest the two sisters sent the two- 
brothera out under the narrow jasmine-scented door-way 
—out into the brilliant harvest moonlight, so dazzling 
white that it smote one almost with a sense of chill. 

Will put his arm through his brother's, and they walked 
on a considerable way before either spoke. At last Julius 
took the initiative. 

" Well, old fellow, this is a pretty go ! Catch a weasel 
asleep! I certainly have been that unfortunate animal. 
I had no more idea that any game of this sort was afoot 
than— -than the man in the moon, who perhaps has^ more 
to do with such things than we suspect. Of course, love is 
' only a fit of temporary or permaoent insanity. By-the-by, 
what a precious fool I was near making of myself to-night 1" 

"How?" 

" Oh, in several ways ; but it doesn't matter now. I've 
come out safe and scot-free. And pray, how long is it 
since you made up your mind to marry that little thing?" 

Will winced. 

"I beg your pardon, but she is such a little thing; 
though, I own, the best little woman imaginable ; and has 
such neat pretty ways about a house— even such a shabby 
house as theirs looks cozy with her in it. How jolly com- 
fortable she'll make us — I mean you ; for, of course, I shall 
have to turn out." 

Will said nothing — neither yes nor no. He felt upon him 
that cowardice, purely masculine, which always shrinks 
from doing any thing unpleasant. He wished he had had 
Edna beside him, to put, as plainly as his own common 
sense put it, the fact that a man has no right to lay upon 
his wife more burdens than she can bear ; and that with 
his changeful, moody ways, his erratic habits, and his gen- 
eral Bohemian tendencies, Julius was, with all his lovable- 
ness, about the last inmate likely either to be happy him- 
self, or to make others happy, in a married home. That 
is, unless the home were his very own, and the mistress of 
it had over him the influence which was the only influence 
that would keep Julius safe — that of a passionately-loved 
and loving wife. 



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182 

All this Will thought, but could not explain. There- 
fore his only refuge was silence. 

" Yes, it's all right," said Julius, somewhat coldly ; " and 
quite natural too. I don't blame you. You have done a 
deal for me, Will : more than any brother, or many a fa- 
ther, would have done. I'll never forget it. And I dare 
say I shall be able to shift for myself somehow." 

" There will be plenty of time, my dear fellow," an- 
swered Will, in rather a husky voice. "I shall not be 
married until I get something quite certain to start with 
— probably that appointment which you know I have been 
after so long. And then I shall be able to pay over to 
you, in whole or part, for as long as you require it, the 
other half of grandfather's money." 

"Will, you don't mean that?" 

" Yes, I do. In truth, she was so sore about you, and 
especially your being ' turned out,' as she called it, that 
she would not have had me without my promising that 
arrangement, which will make our marriage, whenever it 
does take place, none the worse for any body," 

"But—" 

" It's no use arguing with a woman, especially one who 
won't talk — only act. Edna is quite determined. Indeed 
I may say I have purchased her at the alarming sacrifice 
of two hundred a year, payable quarterly — ^" 

" Will !" cried Julius, stopping suddenly, and looking 
his brother full in the face. The moonlight showed his 
own, which was full of emotion. " You're a pretty pair, 
you and she — six of one and half a dozen of the other. I 
see it all now. Give her my love. No; I'll take it to 
her myself For me, I've been a selfish, luxurious rascal 
all my life ; but I'll turn over a new leaf, hang me if I 
won't I I'll take an oath against light kid gloves, and 
rings, and operas. I'll dress like an old-clothesman, and 
feed like a day-laborer. And I'll work — by George, won't 
I work I" . 

"That's right, lad," said the elder brother, cheerily. 
"And you'll find it all the better when, some day, you 
have to work for two. Meantime, instead of the * family 



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THE WOMAlf's KINGDOM. 183 

house' you wanted to visit at, you'll have a brother's 
home always to come to. And she will make it so bright, 
as you say. Besides, Letty will be there," continued 
Will, dashing at this fact with a desperate haste, uncer- 
tain how it might be taken. 

Julius did start, very uneasily. "Is she to live with 
you?" 

" Yes ; there was no other way. As must be obvious 
enough, Letty is not the person to be left to live alone." 

" No," said Julius, concisely. 

" I doubt whether she will like living with us, for we 
shall have a hard struggle to make ends meet, at any 
rate for the first few years ; and she is not well fitted for 
poverty — ^Letty, I mean." 

Julius was silent. 

" But in that case, if she got tired of us, she could easily 
return to her old life as a resident governess, which she 
often regrets still — unless, in the mean time, some young 
fellow snaps her up, which is far from improbable. Her 
sister says she has had lovers without end, as was to be 
expected ; but none of them were good enough for her. 
Edna hopes, when she does marry, it will be some nice, 
good fellow, with plenty of patience and heaps of money. - 
Letty would never be happy unless she lived in clover 
and cotton-wool. Poor Letty 1 It's well for me that my 
Edna is different." 

William Stedman must have been strangely blind — per- 
haps that little word "my" produced the blindness, and 
carried his thoughts involuntarily away — not to have no- 
ticed how dumb grew his talkative brother ; how he walk- 
ed on fiercely and fast, swinging his cane, and slashing at 
the hedges in a nervous, excitable way, as they threaded 
the narrow lanes, which were so pretty twenty years ago, 
but are now vanishing fast, in the streets, and squares, and 
"gardens" of Campden Hill. At last Julius said, with 
that sudden change from earnestness to frivolity which 
was too common in him to cause Will any surprise — 

" Nevertheless, it's odd thdt you, and not I, should be 
the fool or the madman — for you certainly are both — to 



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184 THE woman's kingdom. 

commit matrimony. Catch me giving up my freedom, 
my jolly, idle life, to tie myself to any woman's apron- 
strings ! You'd better think twice of it : eh, old fellow ? 
Edna's a good girl — I don't deny that ; and likes you-^I 
suppose ; she'd be an ass if she didn't. But is there a girl 
alive who would go on caring for a man unless he had lots 
of money — could give her all she wanted ? and they're al- 
ways wanting something. All alike, all alike ; and a pre- 
cious lot they are, too. So — 

* I'd be a bachelor bom in a bower,"* 

carolled the young fellow, startling the green lanes and a 
solitary policeman with the then popular tune of " I'd be 
a butterfly," and inventing a doggerel parody to it, which 
was, to say the least, rather inappropriate that quiet Sun- 
day night. 

" You are not yourself, Ju," said William. " You have 
got overtired. Didn't you say you had walked fifteen 
miles to-day ? That was far too much. I shall have to 
keep a sharp look-out after you, even when we have a sep- 
arate establishment." 

And the elder brother, out of his deep heaven of peace, 
looked tenderly upon the foolish fellow who did not un- 
derstand what peace was, who was making a mock of it, 
and trying, like so many other skeptics, driven into skep- 
ticism less by nature than circumstances, to believe that 
to be non-existent which was only non-beheld. 

Then the two Stedmans, with their bachelor latch-key, 
entered their dull, dark, close house, which breathed the 
very atmosphere of dreariness and disorder. Julius went 
up to bed almost immediately; but William sat long in 
his empty dining-room, peopling it with wondrous visions, 
brightening it with hearth-light and lamp-light, and, above 
all, the perpetual light of a woman's smile — the smile 
which happy love brings to a woman's .lips, never to be 
wholly lost from them until they are set in that last, love- 
liest peace upon which the coffin-lid closes — which seems 
to say even to mourning Busband or children, "Be con- 
tent — I am loving you still — with God." 



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THS woman's kingdom. 185 

William Stedman had to-day seen, beyond a doubt, this 
love in his betrothed's face; and he felt by that in his 
own heart that it would be his until death. 

He knew, as well as his brother did, that he should be 
poor enough, probably for years ; that, with most men, to 
marry upon his prospects would be the height of madness. 
But then they were men who had not learned, like himself, 
the calm self-denial which disarms poverty of half its dan- 
gers, half its dread, because holding as its best things the 
things which money can neither give nor take away ; be- 
ing far too proud for the ordinary petty pride of being 
afraid to seem what one is, if that happens to be a little 
inferior to one's neighbors. True, he had never starved, 
never been in debt; for neither alteinative often happens 
to an unmarried man who has ordinary health, honesty, 
and brains — at least, if it does, he has usually only him- 
self to blame. But William Stedman had been poor, very 
poor; he had known how hard it is to go on wearing a 
threadbare coat because you have not five pounds to spare 
for a new one ; how harder still to crave for many an ac- 
cidental luxury which you know you have no right to in- 
dulge in. And perhaps, hardest of all, to associate with 
people who, in all but money, are fairly your equals ; and 
who never suspect, or never pause to think, how your ev- 
ery penny is as momentous as their pounds. In short, 
he had learned, in the many wholesome but painful ways 
that early poverty teaches, the best lesson that any young 
man can learn — ^to control and deny himself. 

Therefore, fitter than most men was he to enter upon 
that " holy estate," which, perhaps, derives its very holi- 
ness from the fact that it requires from both man and wom- 
an infinite and never-ending self-denial — teaching, as noth- 
ing else can teach, that complete absorption of self into 
another, which is the key-stone and summit of true hap- 
piness. 

Possibly William Stedman did not say all these things 
to himself, for he was not much given to preaching or to 
self-examination — ^in truth, he never had time for it ; but 
he felt them in a dim, nebulous way ; he '^ took stock of 



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186 THE woman's KIKGDOM. 

himself," so to speak, as to whether he was fit for J,he life 
which lay before him — fit to be trusted with the happiness 
of a sweet, fond, ignorant, innocent woman ; whether he 
had strength for her sake to go on with hard work and 
little pleasure, to place his enjoyments in inward rather 
than outward things, and to renounce very much that to 
most young men — Julius, for instance — would be what he 
to himself had jestingly termed, like the linen-drapers' ad- 
vertisements, an " alarming sacrifice." 

He was not afraid, for he knew Edna was not. He 
knew that whatever he had to. give up in the world with- 
out would be made up by the world within. That this 
little woman would come in on his cheerless, untidy hearth 
like a good fairy, reducing chaos to order, and charming 
away gloom and dullness by her bright, sweet ways. Be- 
sides that, he felt that with her direct simplicity, her un- 
worldly tone of thought, her divine instinct for right and 
truth, she would come and sit in his heart like a conscience 
— a blessing as well as a delight, making him better as 
well as happier, and happier just because he was better. 

" God has been very kind to me— 'far kinder than I de- 
served," said the young man to himself, thinking, in his 
happiness, more than he often found time to think, of the 
Source whence all happiness flows. And his heart melted 
within him ; and the long pent-up storm of headlong pas- 
sion, and frantic pride, and bitter self-distrust which had 
raged within him for weeks and months, and had come to 
a climax two days ago, when he felt himself driven mad 
by the sound of a voice and the touch of a little ignorant 
hand — all this calmed itself down into a most blessed 
quiet, like a summer evening after a thunder-shower, when 
every thing is so perfumy, fresh, and green, and the flow- 
ers are lifting up their heads, and the birds sing doubly 
loud and clear, even though the large-leaved trees are still 
dropping — as more than one great, heavy drop fell, in this 
sacred solitude, from William Stedman's eyes. 

They came from a sudden thought which darted across 
him — the thought, not of Edna, but of his mother. He 
scarcely remembered her — he was only seven years old 



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187 

when she died ; but he knew she was a very good woman; 
and he had kept up all his life this faint, shadowy remem- 
brance with a sort of silent idolatry which had begun then 
in his childish yet tenaciously faithful heart. 

He wondered whether she had any knowledge of what 
had happened to him to-day, and whether she would have 
been satisfied with the wife he had chosen ; and he thought, 
the next time he saw Edna, he would tell her all these his 
childish recollections, and take her instead of pearls and 
diamonds, which she altogether refused to accept from 
him, the simple guard-ring which had belonged to his 
mother. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



It was now fully ten months since William Stedman 
and Edna Kenderdine had plighted that promise which, 
when made deliberately, wisely, and justifiably on both 
sides, should be held as inviolable as the subsequent vow 
before the altar — that is, if the love, which is its only 
righteous foundation, lasts. Otherwise, the best wisdom 
is that which Edna sometimes gave in answer to Letty's 
murmurings of the misery of long engagements, and the 
advantage of keeping " free." " When he wishes to be 
free, he is free. The moment he ceases to love me, let 
him go !" 

But this contingency did not seem likely to happen. 
Though the promise had been made conditionally — that is, 
he had told her, in his deep humility, that when she found 
out all the bad things in him, she might break it at any 
time, and he should not blame her — still she found out all 
the bad things, and she did not break it. Perhaps he too 
discovered certain little earthly specks in his angel's white 
wings, just enough to keep her from flying away from him, 
and survived the discovery. For two people, who expect 
to find one another all perfection, must be taught such 
wholesome lessons; and doubtless these lovers had to 
learn them. But they had the sense to keep both their 



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188 THE woman's kingdom. 

experience and their mode of acquiring it strictly to them- 
selves. 

" You two never quarrel," Letty would say sometimes, 
half puzzled, half vexed. " I thought lovers always quar- 
relled. I am sure I squabbled continually with all mine." 

At which Edna smiled, and only smiled. Her sister's 
unconscious plurals precluded all argument. As well rea- 
son with the Grand Turk on the Christian law of marriage 
as talk to poor Letty of the mysterious law of love. 

And yet she was most kind, most good-natured — an ever 
welcome and convenient third in the various week-day 
walks, and meetings for " sight-seeing," which Dr. Stedman 
contrived to steal, out of his busy life, and add to those 
blessed Sundays which he spent with his betrothed, heal- 
ing thereby all the cares and worries of the seven days 
past. And he was so good to Letty ; he took such pains 
that she should never be forgotten in any pleasure which 
could be given her, that she liked Will very much. But 
still she moaned sometimes — Letty rather enjoyed moan- 
ing — over the probable length of Edna's engagement, and 
the misfortune of her marrying a poor man. 

" For talk as you like, my dear," she sometimes oracu- 
larly said, " I am certain you would be a deal happier in 
an elegant house, with a carriage to drive in, and plenty 
of good society. And — don't look so indignant — I dare 
say he would love you better — men always do, you know 
— if you were a little better dressed." 

But Edna only smiled, and smoothed out her pretty cot- 
tons and muslins as carefully as if they were silks and sat- 
ins. Perhaps Heaven had mercifully given her a tempera- 
ment that did not much care for luxuries, except those of 
Heaven's providing, common and free as air and sunshine 
— such as cleanliness, order, simplicity, and harmony. And 
then she was so happy, for God had sent her heart's desire. 
She sang over her daily work like an April thrush in a 
thorn-tree, building its nest through rain and shine. Let- 
ty complained bitterly of the delay which made school- 
keeping still necessary; Dr. Stedman openly grumbled at 
the school and alL belonging to it; and often behaved ex- 



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189 

ceedingly badly, and very like a man ; but Edna was as 
gay as a lark, and never swerved from her firm determina- 
tion not to be married till a small certainty made the mar- 
riage prudent as regarded them all. She declared she 
would work steadily on, like a brave independent little 
woman as she was, till the very day of her marriage. 

" For," she said once, with her sweet, earnest face lifted 
up to the clouded one of her lover, " I see no pleasure, and 
no dignity either, in idleness. K you had not loved me I 
should have been a working-woman to the end of my days, 
and have worked cheerily too. When you can work for 
me, I'll work no more. But if you ever needed it, and I 
could do it, I would fall to work again, and you should not 
hinder me I I'd begin once more to teach my little butch- 
ers and bakers and candlestick-makers, and think myself 
honored in the duty." 

And then the strong man would catch her in his arms, 
and thank God he had chosen a woman who, in the count- 
less troubles that man's lot is heir to, would neither be 
selfish nor cowardly, a burden nor a snare ; but, under her 
soft meekness, would carry about with her a spirit fearless 
as his own. 

After much delay the long-hoped-for hospital appoint- 
ment was given — and given to some one else. William 
told this news to Edna one dark night coming through 
the green lanes home from church — told it briefly, almost 
sharply ; which showed how deep was his disappointment. 
She only pressed his arm, and said : 

"Never mind. We are young still. It is said to be 
good to bear the yoke in one's youth." 

" Yes, if it is not so heavy as to make one humpbacked 
for life," answered Dr. Stedman, with a laugh, tuneless and 
hard ; then, stopping under the next gas-lamp, he saw 
Edna was crying^— his poor Edna, whose life was no easier 
than his own ! In the next dark place they came to, he 
turned and clasped her to his heart, with all the bitterness 
melted out of it, but with a passion of yearning that even 
she could not understand. After that they spoke of the 
lost hospital appointment no more. 



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190 THE woman's kingdom. 

Then, too, Julius fell into a very unsatisfactory state, 
physical and moral, which, even if Will had not confided 
it to her, Edna was too sharp-eyed not to see. He looked 
wretchedly ill, was often moody and out of temper ; took 
vehement fits of work, and corresponding fits of despond- 
ent idleness. Whether it was that the home he was soon 
to quit lost even its small attractions for him, or from 
some other nameless fancy, but Julius became more erratic 
than ever : in his comings and goings entirely unreliable, 
save on those Sundays when, whether invited or not, he 
always presented himself with his brother at the Misses 
Kenderdine's door. 

There might have been a pleasanter guest ; for some- 
times he sat whole evenings, like a cloud of gloom, by the 
cheerful fireside ; or else startled the whole party by his 
unnatural flow of spirits. They bore with him — every 
body always did bear with Julius. And these lovers had 
a quality not universal among people in their circum- 
stances — their own happiness made them very patient 
with those who had pone. Besides, Julius was not al- 
ways a dead weight upon Edna and Will; with astonish- 
ing tact he always contrived, early or late, to escape to 
the kitchen-fire, which, the servant being absent at church, 
was faithfully presided over by Letty's favorite cat, large 
and lovely as herself— and by Letty. There he and Letty 
shared each other's companionship for hours. 

What resulted was sure to result, even if the two eld- 
ers, for once in their lives sufficiently so self-engrossed as 
to be oblivious of others, had seen what they did not see 
until too late to prevent — ^that is, supposing they had any 
right to prevent it. 

Letty too — she should not, at this point, be blamed too 
severely. She was like many another woman, not wicked, 
only weak. It was very pleasant to her to be adored, and 
it would be to nine out of ten of the women who read 
about her in these pages — girls who are taught from ear- 
liest maidenhood that the grand aim of life is to be loved 
rather than to love. She did not at all dislike — who 
would? — after her dull week's work, to have, for some 



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191 

hours every Sunday, those passionate eyes following her 
about wherever she moved, that eager breath hanging on 
every word she uttered, whether silly or wise ; those looks, 
which said as plainly as words could say — sometimes 
joking, sometimes earnestly, when he glanced at the lovers 
— " Never mind them, I live only for you." Only looks. 
Julius never committed himself — never said a syllable 
which, to use Letty's phrase afterwards, could be " taken 
hold of." As for flirting, of course she was well used to 
" that sort of thing ;" but this was admiration of a novel 
kind — persistent, permanent, and yet kept so safely with- 
in limits, and under the shadow of their approaching re- 
lationship, or connection, or whatever they chose to call 
it — that if at any time during the winter and spring Letty 
had been asked the direct question, which she never was 
asked — "Is Julius Stedman making love to you?" she 
would have answered, without any falsehood— that is, not 
in her notion of falsehood — ^*' Oh dear, no ! not the least in 
the world." 

And yet all the while she was maddening him with her 
beauty, bewildering him with her caprices — sometimes 
warm, sometimes cold ; having little quarrels, and making 
it up again ; assuming the tenderest " sisterly " confidence, 
and then sUding off again into perfect coldness and unap- 
proachable civility. Doing it all half conscipusly, half un- 
consciously ; aware of her power, and liking to exercise it 
up to a certain extent — an extent that gave herself no in- 
convenience. But once, when the thrushes were singing 
on the budding trees of Kensington Gardens, as they 
walked there of evenings — and again, on the first day of 
the Royal Academy, when Julius took them all in great 
pride to see his first well-hung picture, and Letty looked 
so beaming and beautiful that every body turned to stare 
at her — then, seeing certain alarming symptoms in Julius, 
she drew in her horns, and was exceedingly cold and cau- 
tious for a day or tw5. " For," she reasoned to herself, 
and long afterwards repeated the reasons to Edna, " what 
was I to do with the young man? He hadn't a half- 
penny." 



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192 

Quite right, Letty Kenderdine — ^not a half-penny ! — only 
a man's heart, or worse, a man's soul, to be lost or won, 
according as a woman chooses. But that, in these days, 
and with many people, is quite immaterial. 

It was a day rather momentous — that first Monday in 
May — when Julius learned his picture was hung. Will 
had decided with Edna that they must all go to see it, 
and the sisters had a wild struggle after sudden spring 
bonnets, to be assumed at a few hours' notice ; " for," said 
Letty, " we can't go at all unless we go respectable." And 
possibly William Stedman thought a little beyond respect- 
ability the happy face circled with white daisies under a 
round-brimmed straw bonnet — such as was the fashion 
then — which smiled beside him, so delighted in the brief 
holiday with him. For Letty — Letty always looked beau- 
tiful. She was a picture in herself. But, as fate so often 
balances things, she did not care half so much about the 
pictures as Edna did ; nor, handsome as it was, did her 
face look half so beaming as that one from whence Wil- 
liam Stedman learned to see mysteries of loveliness which 
had never come upon his darkened mind before. There 
was in him just enough of the poetic nature to wish he 
had more of it, and to be tenderly reverential towards the 
beloved woman who had it, and whom he thought so in- 
finitely superior to himself While she, who knew herself 
to have so many faults, to be at times so fierce and hasty, 
passionate and unwise, held a different opinion. 

They examined the pictures, none of which Edna liked 
better than Julius's own — the landscape about which she 
had heard so much — painted as Julius dared to paint, and, 
in that anti-Pre-Raphaelite time, was greatly despised for 
painting — from absolute nature, instead of nature diluted 
through faded Old Masters — ^Claudes,Poussins,and Salvator 
Kosas — each a degree farther off from reality than the last. 

" Yes," said Julius, a gleam of hope lighting up his mel- 
ancholy eyes, as they followed a stray sunbeam which 
kindled in deeper beauty his beautiful work ; " this year I 
think I have not wasted my time. Perhaps I may end in 
being an artist, after all." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 193 

" Were you thinking of being any thing else ?" asked 
Edna, surprised. 

Julius blushed slightly. " Oh, I think of so many things. 
A painter never makes money, and I want money — tem- 
bly. But let us look at the pictures, Letty." She was 
hanging on his arm, piloted carefully through the crowd. 
" You were admiring that portrait's velvet gown — here is 
another well-painted bit of velvet for you, and a bit of 
sentiment too — a girl taking a thorn out of a boy's finger. 
What a mildly determined air she has I she won't let him 
go, though he winces at the pain — just like a man, and 
just like a woman. The old story. She is beginning to 
hurt him even at seven years old." 

" She ought to hurt him, nor be afraid of hurting him, 
if she can take the thorn away," said Edna, gently. 

" Listen, Will I Now you see what lies before you ! 
Bravo ! Who wouldn't rather be a bachelor, if all men's 
wives are to be ready with needle and penknife to wound 
their spouses — of course, entirely for their good. Heigh- 
ho I What say you, Letty ?" 

" I beg your pardon ; what were you talking about ?" 
replied Letty, whose attention had been wholly distracted 
by a charming bonnet which she was most anxious Edna 
should see and imitate. But Edna was absorbed in a 
picture which she never saw after that day, and never 
even knew whose it was ; but it fastened itself upon her 
memory, to be revived, even after many years, like invisi- 
ble color, which some magic touch makes fresh as ever. 

It was called "In another Man's Garden," and was 
simply a suburban cottage-door, painted with the in- 
tense realism then altogether pooh-poohed and despised. 
Thereat — also modem and real, down to coat, hat, and 
stick — stood a young man, bidding the cheery morning 
adieu to his wife and child before going to business — a 
happy, intensely happy little group, safely shut inside the 
rose-trellised walls. While outside, leaning against the 
gate, was a solitary figure — a broken-down, dust-stained, 
shabby man— gazing with mouniful yearning into "an- 
other man's garden." 



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194 THE woman's kingdom. 

Edna looked at her betrothed, then at the picture ; and 
her eyes filled with tears. She could not help it. She 
understood it all so well. So — out of his deep content — 
did he. 

"Poor fellow 1" said William, as if he were speaking of 
a real person. 

" Oh, that's me !" cried Julius, with a short laugh. " I 
thought you would recognize the likeness. The painter 
is a fnend of mine. He asked me to sit, and thought I 
looked the character to perfection. Do I, Letty ?" 

" What, the gentlemanly young man in the garden ?" 

"No; the blackguard outside. That was the charac- 
ter I personated. I got quite used to my battered old hat, 
and stockingless shoes, and coat all rags and tatters." 

" Did you* really put on these things ? Oh, how nasty 
of you !" said Letty, turning away in great disgust. 

The artist laughed again, more bitterly than before. 
"Then if I ever appear as a returned convict, or a repent- 
ant prodigal, it's of no use my coming to you, Letty ?" 

"Julius ! how can you talk of things so very shocking? 
It makes me quite miserable." 

Here Letty gave — and Edna caught, startling her into 
uneasy suspicion — one of those sidelong, downcast looks, 
which might well delude a man into that mad passion 
which, for the rest of the afternoon, gleamed in every fea- 
ture of Julius Sted man's face, as he followed her like her 
shadow, and seemed only to live upon her smile. 

" Something will surely happen ; and oh, I wonder — ^I 
wonder what — " thought Edna, very' anxiously; longing 
for the next Sunday, when she would have .a quiet hour 
to lay all her anxieties upon the wise, tender, manly heart 
which was her comfort in all her troubles now. 

But as yet there was no chance of a quiet word with 
William, for the four came home to Kensington ignomin- 
iously in an omnibus, to Letty's unconcealed dismay. 

"Ah," sighed she, " how nice it would be if Dr. Stedman 
kept his brougham, like so many London doctors— I do so 
like a carriage 1" At which Will laughed, but Julius looked 
dark and sad for the whole journey. 



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. THE woman's kingdom. ' 195 

It was a recogDized rule that the Stedmans should only 
be received on a Sunday, so the four young people parted 
at the Misses Kenderdine's gate, and Edna and Letty sat 
down to their late tea, very tired both of them — one a lit- 
tle cross, and the other just a little weary-hearted. 

Edna could bear her own burdens — ^their own burdens, 
she and William together ; but she thought, if an added 
weight were to come, and such a serious anxiety as a love- 
affair or marriage engagement between Letty and Julius 
must inevitably be, however it might end, her cares would 
be heavy indeed ; for neither of these two were the sort of 
people capable of bearing their own troubles, to say noth- 
ing of lightening other people's. 

As she looked at Letty, so handsome and so helpless, 
and thought of Julius, who had turned from the door in 
one of his sad, sullen fits, painful and yet pathetic as those 
of a naughty child, Edna felt her courage give way, and 
her heart sink with that strange foreboding of evil which 
comes sometimes, we know not how or why. Without 
saying a word to Letty — it would have been neither deli- 
neate nor wise — she pondered over the whole question, till 
at last, utterly bewildered, it settled itself into her one 
grand refuge for all distresses — ^**I will tell it to William 
next Sunday." And, comforting as this thought was, it 
brought also a vague longing for the time when their Ufe 
would be all Sundays, when they would be continually 
together. With it came a fear — the fear that will come 
with deep love — lest something should come between 
them. Only, to their faith and constancy, nothing could 
come but death ; and that she did not fear, for it would 
only be falling, as David wished to fall, into the hands of 
God — the same God who had already made them so happy. 

" Yes, we have been happy — very happy, and I am very, 
very thankful !" thought poor Edna, and her serenity re- 
turned — the unchangeable peace of those who have the 
blessedness of being able to recognize their blessings. 

Tired as she was, she took out her work and was sitting 
— let us boldly confess it — ^mending a large basketful of 
stockings, when there came a knock at the front door. 



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196 THE woman's kingdom. 

Letty started up from the sofa. 

"That's William's knock — ^I know it is. Oh, what can 
have happened !" 

" Nothing to be frightened at," said William, who was 
in the room almost as soon as she spoke. Good news, 
not ill, were written on his face. " I beg your pardon. I 
could not help coming." He shut the door behind him, 
and then, regardless of her sister's presence, clasped Edna 
tight in his arms. "It has come at last — come at last, 
thank God !" And in an ecstasy of joy which betrayed 
how sharp had been the unacknowledged suffering, he 
kissed again and again his betrothed wife — then went 
over and kissed Letty, and bade her wish him joy. 

Presently, when he was sufficiently calm for a consecu- 
tive statement to be got out of him. Dr. Stednaan told the 
great news — strangely little it would seem to some people, 
yet to these two was enough to uplift them into perfect 
felicity. 

It was one of those bits of " good luck " — he called it 
nothing more, and always protested he had done nothing 
to win it — which occasionally turn the tide of a man's 
fortune by giving him, at the outset of his career, that 
slight impetus of help without which a fair start is nearly 
impracticable. A great lady, and good as great, who had 
been interested in Dr. Stedman's incessant labors among 
the poor, had offered him a permanent appointment as 
physician to a charitable institution which she had found- 
ed and principally supported. His salary was to be £300, 
and, by-and-by, £400 a year — a solid foundation of annual 
incoipe ; while the work could not interfere with his prac- 
tice, but would rather give him opportunities for that 
continual study of his profession which a doctor so much 
needs, and which, at the begining of his career, he finds, so 
difficult to obtain. Thus the lady, a far-sighted and gen- 
erous woman, in securing his services, benefited both sides, 
and ill doing a prudent did also a kindly deed. 

"I wish she knew all the happiness she has given us!" 
said Edna, trembling and agitated ; while Letty, as was 
her wont under all novel and exciting circumstances, be- 



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THB woman's kingdom. 197 

gan to cry. In fact, they all shed ah honest tear or two, 
and then they sat down together — Edna close by William, 
holding Letty's hand on the other side — to try and realize 
the sudden bliss — this unexpected change in all their af- 
fairs. 

" Does Julius know?" asked Edna, anxiously. 

" No— the letter came after he had gone out. You know 
he almost always does go out of evenings. But it will be 
a brighter home for him to come to when you are there — 
and Letty." 

William said this in all simplicity, as Edna at once per- 
ceived ; and his evident unconsciousness of the idea which 
had lately entered her mind shook Edna's faith in her own 
quickness of perception. If William were quite at ease 
concerning his brother, why should she perplex herself oi* 
perplex him by speaking of this matter of Julius and Let- 
ty ? So, for the present, she let it slip by ; and when Let- 
ty benevolently quitted the room, and left her alone with 
her lover, she forgot every thing, as lovers do. 

Forgive them, if so be there is any need of forgiveness. 
Life is so short, so changeful, so full of infinite chances of 
grief and loss, who would grudge to any body a little love, 
a little happiness? These two were ready to take both 
the sweet and the bitter, the evil and the good, believing 
that both come alike by the Father's will. Yet who can 
wonder that, as they sat together, knowing they were go- 
ing to be married — ^not exactly "to-morrow," as Dr. Sted- 
man had ingeniously suggested, but within a few weeks 
— and that, come weal or woe, they would never more be 
parted, it was surely pardonable if, for. a while, they for- 
got every body but themselves. 

"And you are not afraid to begin life with me — to be a 
poor man's wife ? for it will be that, Edna. I can't dress 
you any better than this " — touching tenderly her gray 
merino gown ; " and the carriage Letty wants, it may be 
years before I can give it you, if ever. Oh, my love, am 
I harming you ? In marrying you now at once, while I 
have still only just enough for us to live upon, am I doing 
you any wrong ?" 



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198 THB woman's kingdom. 

"Wrong!" she cried, as she clung round his neck for 
a minute, and then drew back, looking at him with the 
brightest fac^ — the most radiant, and yet half-indignant 
eyes. "Wrong! you are showing me the utmost love, 
and paying me the chiefest honor that a man can give to 
a woman. Tou are taking me at your life's beginning, 
that we may begin it together. That is the right thing. 
Don't be afraid, William. I'll help you — ^I know I can, for 
I am not a coward, and I have you. Oh ! if men were 
more like you, had your courage, your faith, there would 
not be so many broken-hearted women in the world." 

" And there would not be so many bad, ruined men, I 
think, if women were more like my Edna." 

So talked these twO' — foolishly, no doubt, and with a 
vicarious self-laudation which is very much the habit of 
lovers. And yet there was truth at the bottom of it — a 
truth which, day by day, as she and Letty busied them- 
selves every spare hour in those innocent wedding prepara- 
tions which every honest heart, either of friend or stranger, 
can not help taking pleasure in, forced itself deeper and 
deeper upon Edna's heart. No worldly show was there 
— no hiding with splendid outside formalities the hollow- 
ness within : she was going to be, as William said, a poor 
man's wife; and expensive clothes and extravagant out- 
lay of any sort would be merely ridiculous ; but Edna pre- 
pared herself for her great change with all the happy- 
heartedness that a bride should have, a bride who knows 
that down to the lowest depth of her soul is not a feeling 
that need be hidden, not a thought that God and her hus- 
band may not see. 

One little thing made her sorry. Julius did not come 
to see her ; indeed, he had taken himself off on an artistic 
tour in Wales, to be " out of the way," he alleged ; but 
he wrote, after a few days' delay, an affectionate congrat- 
ulatory letter, and asked her to seek out for him bachelor 
lodgings as close as possible to their own house, where 
he meant to be exceedingly jolly, and inflict himself upon 
them several times a week. And he sent her, as a wed- 
ding present, a lovely portrait of Letty, composed out of 



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THB woman's kingdom. 199 

the many studies he had made of her face, which he said, 
briefly, " he knew by heart." At which remark Letty 
blushed a little, and pouted a little, saying it was "im- 
pertinent;" but was exceedingly gratified to look at her 
own exquisite portrait, and hear every body admire it and 
say how very like it was. 

So fled the time, long, and yet how short — dwindling 
first into weeks and then into days, until the last break- 
ing-up day came, and the two young school-mistresses, not 
without a few sincere tears, sent away their little pupils 
forever. After that there was only one more Sunday left 
for the Stedmans to come to tea in the old way, which 
for nearly a year had gone on now, and brought with it 
so much of peace and pleasure. No more now of those 
" courting days," which are said by some to be the happi- 
est, by others the most miserable of their lives. Probably 
the real truth lies between both these facts, kuA that the 
happiness or misery is according as the lovers create it 
for themselves. Life is not all joy — neither God nor man 
can make it so ; but it may be made all love. And love, 
that infinite and endless blessing, had been held out from 
heaven to these two, Edna and William ; they had had 
eyes to see it, strength to grasp it, faith to cling to it. 
They had cause to be glad and thankful, and so they were. 



CHAPTER XV. 



Dr. Stedman came alone to spend his last Sunday with 
his bride and her sister. Julius had returned home and 
promised to come, but changed his mind and disappeared 
for the day. 

*' He is so constantly changing his mind and plans, that 
I hardly know what to make of him. I do wish he had 
a wife of his own," said the elder brother, with a sigh. 
"But a sister will be better than nothing: you must be 
very good to him, Edna." 

" I will," said Edna, in her quiet way. And then they 
all spent together — contentedly, yet half solemnly — the 



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200 THE woman's kingdom. 

last Sunday of so many Sundays, the last which would 
ever see them as they were. It hardly seemed real — this 
great change — and it had come about so naturally that 
they felt none of the agitation and excitement which a 
marriage brings. No one made any unnecessary fuss; 
and even when Letty took Dr. Stedman up stairs to see 
the bridal finery — the white muslin dresses and white 
bonnets gloriously displayed — he only said, " Very, pret- 
ty," and came down looking happy, indeed, but rather 
grave. 

Indeed they were all three a little subdued, and, ar- 
rangements being now completed — for the wedding was 
fixed for Tuesday — they had little or nothing to talk 
about. Tea over, they were sinking into a rather sombre 
silence, when, to their amazement, Julius appeared. 

The sisters had never seen him since the day of the Ex- 
hibition, and the welcome they gave him was hearty and 
warm. He received it with eager happiness. 

" Yes ; I thought I would come, if only to have a last 
look at Edna Kenderdine. Though I know I am fright- 
fully in the way : not wanted — never shall be wanted — 
anywhere — by any body !" 

" Oh, Julius !" said Edna, reproachfully ; then, without 
more words, she busied herself in getting him tea, and all 
those creature comforts which a man sorely needs, espe- 
cially when he comes in worn and worried — as Julius did. 
After the first flush of excitement had faded, she saw, and 
was shocked to see, how great was the change in him 
during these few weeks. He had grown exceedingly thin, 
and had at times a restless, hunted look, as of a man pur- 
sued by one relentless idea which he vainly tries to mas- 
ter, but which conquers him against his will. He was 
quieted a little, however, during the tea and talk, and re- 
covered his old self— so charming, brotherly, and kind, 

William Stedman looked on, pleased and smiling, but 
he mid nothing. Nor did Letty, which was a still more 
remarkable fact; and when Julius, having accomplished 
his usual aim by asserting volubly, to every body's great 
amusement, that he must retire to the kitchen, as his sole 



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THE woman's kingdom. 201 

pui-pose in paying this final visit was to take a farewc 11 
sketch of it and the cat, disappeared, Letty drew herself 
up with dignity, and, instead of accompanying him, went 
up stairs. Whence, however, she was soon heard to de- 
scend, Letty being one of those people who prefer any 
body's company to their own. 

" I hope she will be kind to him, even though he has 
neglected you and her a little of late," said William, in- 
nocently. "I do trust they will get on well together — 
our brother and sister. Tliey ought, for there is such a 
deal of good in poor Julius. He shows it, by being so 
very fond of you. He told me last night, when I was 
urging him to end his nonsensical flirtations and get hon- 
estly engaged to some nice girl, that he would, if only I 
could find him such a girl as my Edna." 

Edna laughed. 

"Do you know he once made me half jealous— I mean^ 
when I began to want you myself, and fancied he did the 
same. Now, little Conscience, if it had been so, what 
ought I to have done ? Given you up to my brother, eh?" 

Edna's light laugh ceased. She thought a minute, and 
then said, seriously, " No ; if you loved me, and I loved 
you, you ought to have married me in spite of all the 
world." 

So talked they — half merry, half grave — recalling their 
past, or planning their future, and then scarcely talking at 
all — content with the simple fact of being together. 

Meantime, in the kitchen there was also comparative 
silence. Not the talking and laughing which. generally 
went on between Letty and Julius, who always ridiculed 
the extreme soberness of " the folks in love." Just a low 
murmur of conversation sometimes, and then long pauses 
— so long that even the betrothed pair in the next room 
noticed it at last. 

" I wonder if the sketch is finished. Shall we go and 
see, William?" 

" Not yet — please not just yet. I must leave early this 
evening, and you will not let me come to-morrow. But 
after to-morrow you will never get rid of me." 

12 



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" Never, all my life ! I am so " — sorry, a coquette 
would have said ; but Edna, wholly true, had not a spark 
of coquetry in her, first or last. She said" glad." 

"Thank you, my blessing of blessings !" And then 
they talked no more. 

But when at length Edna, with a certain uneasy feeling 
that she could not get rid of, though she kept it strictly 
to herself, wondering at the long stillness, went to see,' she 
found Julius sitting all by himself over the fire, which, out 
of its dull, burnt-out hollow, threw occasional sparks of 
flame, giving a ghostly look to the neat kitchen, as neat 
and pretty almost as a parlor, which Julius used to say 
was "the finest room in the house." He was so absorbed 
that, till Edna touched him on the shoulder, he did not 
notice her entrance. 

" Where is the sketch, Julius ?" asked Will. 

"And where is my sister ?" 
, " Gone up stairs. Hey, Will I is that you, man ? Tm 
going home." 

" Not this minute ; not before supper," pleaded Edna. 

" Supper ! Fve had mina Fve * supped full of horrors,' 
like Macbeth. Now, ' to bed — to bed — to bed !' Edna, 
couldn't you give a poor fellow something to make him 
sleep — forever ?" 

" Ju," said Will, " what is the matter with you ? You're 
half asleep now, I think ; wake up, man !" 

" I will," cried Julius, springing to his feet with a vio- 
lent gesture. " I have been asleep ; but I'm awake now. 
Give me. my hat; I'll take a walk and come back to my 
senses, and to supper likewise, if you please, Miss Edna." 

But he never appeared. Letty came down stairs flushed 
and uncomfortable-looking, and to William's jesting ques- 
tion if she and Julius had been quarrelling, gave an answer 
so sharp that Dr. Stedman said no more. Silently, un- 
easily, ended the last evening of so many merry evenings 
which they had spent in that little house, every comer of 
which Edna felt she should love to the end of her days. 

Yet, as she stood at the door on the solemn dark night 
— for it had been raining heavily, and there was not a 



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203 



star visible — even 
though her hand 
was clasped in her 
lover's, and his safe 
arm round her, a 
weight of forebod- 
ing sadness gath- 
ered over her. 

"Oh, William, 
if trouble should 
come !" 

"We will bear it, 
whatever it is, to- 
gether." 

And when he 
said that, and drew 
her closer, and she 
felt the beating of 
his warm, living, 
loving heart, so 
tender and so true, 
she knew that she 
could bear it. 

After Dr. Sted- 
man was gone, Let- 
ty called Edna into the kitchen — ^Letty still flushed, and 
full of the excitement of a secret. 

" Don't be running off the very minute yon have sent 
your lover away. You might have some little sympathy 
with other people's love-affairs — mine, for instance." 

"Oh,Letty!" 

" Yes, you need not look so shocked. It has just come 
to that. I knew it would. I have been afraid of it for 
ever so long. Very provoking. A wretched business al- 
together. How could the poor fellow be such a goose ! 
though I suppose he couldn't help it." 

And Letty tried to look grave, while a furtive, gratified 
smile twinkled round the comers of her mouth. 

"But you could have helped it, if it is as I suspect," 



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204 THE woman's KINGDOM. 

cried Edna, greatly distressed. " How could you let him 
do it ? For of course it is Julius — poor Julius !" 

Letty nodded. "I promised not to tell any body, and 
of course I won't. You will notice, I have never men- 
tioned his name, and I never told you of it, though I have 
suspected it for months. Poor fellow, he is desperately 
fond of me." 

« Oh, Letty!" 

Edna could not say another word. She saw, as in an 
ominous vision, Julius's face, as he snatched up his hat 
and rushed from the house — a wild, fierce, maddened face 
— full of that overwhelming passion, a compound of the 
senses and the imagination, which sometimes seizes upon 
a young man : whom, having played at love throughout 
his first fantastic youth, it takes hold of at last in terrible 
earnest, either making or marring him for the rest of his 
life. For Julius was one of those weak, loving natures 
who must cling to somebody, be in love with somebody. 
And he had fallen in love with Letty, the very last per- 
son, any third party would say, whom he ought to choose. 
But third parties are not infallible, and Edna snatched at 
a fragment of comfort and hope. 

" Surely, Letty, you like Julius ?" 

"Like him ? Oh yes ; very much — in a sisterly way. I 
told him so. I promised to be the best sister possible to 
him, as I always have been, I am sure. But as to marry- 
ing him, that is quite another thing. Why he has not a 
halfpenny but what he earns, and he will never earn much 
— geniuses never do. He will be poor all his life. And, 
oh dear me, Edna," shrugging her shoulders with a trick 
she had learned at her Paris pension^ " you know I have 
had quite enough of poverty." 

" But you might wait." 

" Wait — till my appearance was all gone. He is an art- 
ist, and has an eye for that, I know," said Letty, with the 
pathetic intuition which sometimes dawned through all 
her silliness, of favor being deceitful, and beauty vain — 
"Wait till! got old and ugly, and couldn't enjoy good- 
fortune when it came ? Oh no, Edna ! that would never 



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205 

do. Better even for the young man himself that I won't 
marry him. And yet he is frantically in. love with me — 
he is, indeed. I had no idea there was so much earnest- 
ness in him about any thing till now. Would you be- 
lieve, he almost frightened me." 

And Letty, sitting at the kitchen -fire, meditatively 
warmed her lovely foot, glancing round. half triumphant- 
ly, half pensively at her sister, whose heart slowly, slowly 
sank, heavy as lead. For vainly she sought in those beau- 
tiful eyes some trace of the feeling — call it love, nay, pas- 
sion, if you will — which, however sad, however unfortu- 
nate, when earnestly and honestly felt, ennobles any wom- 
an ; while that other side of it — the weak pleasure of con- 
quest, the petty egotistical vanity of being loved — only 
deteriorates and degrades. 



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206 THE woman's kingdom. 

" Oh, how blind, how careless I have been 1" cried Edna, 
almost in a sob. " And you, Letty, you have been play- 
ing with edged tools — you know you have. That poor fel- 
low ! And you guessed it all, yet you let it go on. How 
could you I But it is not quite too late. Perhaps you don't 
know your own mind — perhaps you really love him ?" 

Letty laughed. " How should I know ? Certainly not 
in your sort of love. I'm very fond of him, and I told 
him so, as a sister. For any thing else — but it's no use 
thinking of that, as you must see ; for us to be engaged, 
Julius and me, would, in our circumstances, be ridiculous 
— perfectly ridiculous." 

Edna answered, with a strange harshness, which she re- 
pented afterwards, or would have done but that Letty did 
not seem to perceive it at all, " I think you are right. It 
would be even worse than ridiculous. When Julius is my 
brother, I shall warn him that the most fatal thing he 
could do would be to marry my sister Letty." 

" Yes," said Letty, composedly misapprehending, " I con- 
sidered that point also. Two brothers marrying two sis- 
ters rarely get on together. And then there would be the 
difficulty of the money-matters ; for Julius said he only 
wished me to be engaged to him ; he would never think 
of marrying me till he had an income of his own, and was 
quite independent of his brother. And I couldn't wait — 
I really couldn't, you know. So it is a great deal better 
as it is. Of course he will get over it ; men always do," 
added Letty, looking as if she were comfortably persuaded 
to the contrary. "After all, it has been a little excite- 
ment. One isn't quite an ofd woman yet, I see." 

And then, scarcely observing Edna's dead silence, Letty 
unbound her great golden sheaves of hair, and, while she 
brushed and combed them, chattered unceasingly of Julius 
— all he had said, all he had done ; his frantic pleadings, 
his bitter despair; till Edna — thinking of the heart that 
would bleed for every woand of Julius's, the heart whose 
every emotion she kept sacredly to herself, and always 
would have done, whether she had loved him or not — Edua 
started up in a passion of wrath, and grief, and shame. 



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207 

" Letty, hold your tongue I I won't hear you ! the last 
time you talked like this I was a girl, and I did not un- 
derstand it — did not mind it. Now I do. I say you have 
done a wicked thing. Every woman who thinks a man 
loves her, and lets him go on loving her till he asks her to 
marry him, and then gives him No — a cold, prudent, heart- 
less No — does a wicked thing. I am ashamed of you, 
though you are my own sister. I am bitterly ashamed of 
you." 

Letty opened her eyes in the utmost astonishment. She 
did not get angry ; it would have been almost a comfort 
if she had done so ; but she sulked a little, and then melt- 
ed into tears. 

" I couldn't help it, and you have no right to scold me. 
It was partly your fault ; you should not have left us so 
much together, or you should have spoken to me before- 
hand. I always listen to what you say, Edna. You are 
very, very unkind ; but now you are happy and going to 
be married, it does not matter what becomes of me." 

And so, with that strange tyranny of weakness to which 
the strongest often mournfully succumb, she softened her 
sister's heart towards her, and, despite her common sense, 
her conscience, her bitter, bitter grief for ^Tulius and Jul- 
ius's brother, Edna kissed Letty, and scolded her, as she 
called it, no more. 

Instead she talked to her, seriously and tenderly, of 
things concerning which she had often talked before, till 
she gave it up as hopeless. But now her reasoning was 
not, as then, out of theories which Letty had always set 
aside as "romantic," "impossible." She spoke of what 
she knew — out of her own blessed experience — of the sa- 
credness of love, given or received ; the wickedness of tri- 
fling with it ; the awful responsibility it was — things once 
dimly dreamed of by Edna Kenderdine, but now seen by 
William Stedman's bride, with a fatal vividness and a pas- 
sionate intensity of belief that made her fearless either of 
ridicule or contradiction : determined to speak out, wheth- 
er listened to or not. 

Letty did listen — as she said, she generally listened to 



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208 

Edna — at the time ; and this time, either through the ex- 
citement of the evening or because she was really touched 
by Julius's devotion, she listened with an expression of 
earnestness which made Edna almost believe she under- 
stood it all. 

" What you say may be very true, Edna — ^I am sure I 
hope it is — only you seem to fancy love is the only thing 
in life. Now I think there are many other things." 

"So there are; but love is the first, the best, the root 
and crown of all the rest. And more for men even than 
women. If that goes wrong with them every thing goes 
wrong. Oh, Letty, take care !" 

" Nonsense ! what must I take care of? It isn't my 
fault that men fall in love with me." 

" No ; but it is your fault if you treat them in such a 
way that they never believe in love again — that they de- 
spise it and despise you." 

" Will Julius despise me, do you suppose ? I hope not !" 

" Then behave to him so that, whatever you make him 
suffer, he may still respect you. I don't know what has 
been — how far you have gone on with him ; but oh, Letty, 
from this time be very careful how you treat him !" 

" Bless us I" said Letty, half crossly, half laughing, " how 
seriously you do take it ! I might be going to murder the 
young man." 

" You do murder him, in reality, when you trifle with 
him — play fast and loose, warm and cold, as I have seen 
you do with some people. Don't do it with him — it will 
be the ruin of him. Oh, Letty !" — and she grasped her 
sister's hand in an agony of entreaty — " for my sake, for 
William's sake, take care !" 

"What on earth am I to take care of? As if Julius 
were the first man that ever was crossed, in love.. He 
must just get over it." 

" Yes ; but how ? We women don't understand. We 
can but break our hearts; but they — they turn wicked. 
If Julius does, I shall blame you." 

Letty looked uneasy. 

"I am very sorry. I am sure I did not mean any harm. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 209 

and I hope none will come, for it would be extremely un- 
pleasant. But what am I to do ? It is the most uncom- 
fortable thing. Oh I I wish I had never been brought into 
it. I wish you were not going to marry William Stedman, 
or that somebody was going to marry me — some suita- 
ble man, with plenty of money, who would take me quite 
away out of all these troubles." 

" Then you do not care — not one atom — for Julius." 

" Oh yes, I do — I like him very much. I dare say I 
shall never get any one to be so fond of me again. I 
would take him to-morrow if he had a tolerable income, 
or a chance of getting on in the world. But he has none; 
and, as I told you, I can't wait — so he must go." 

" Clearly," said Edna, setting her firm little mouth to- 
gether, not without a curl of contempt in it, and rising 
to light her candle and go to bed. 

" Oh, stop a minute — do help me ! Tell me how I am 
to manage it all. What do you mean by my treating Jul- 
ius so as to do him no haim, and to make him respect me ?" 

Edna paused to think. Unto her, in her brimming hap- 
piness of contented love, Julius's lot seemed bitter to an 
almost exaggerated degree. She mourned for him from 
the very depth of Tier heart, yet she could not, she dared 
not, urge Letty to accept him. She knew that "love 
bidden is love forbidden;" and that far safer for Julius 
would be a short, sharp blow, and over, than the tortur- 
ing suspense of uncertainty and indecision. 

" I hardly know what to advise, except that you must 
meet him as seldom as possible. I will manage that. But 
when you do meet, though you need not be unkind to 
him — still you must never let him doubt your mind. You 
must not waver; you must keep firm, Letty — as firm as a 
rock." 

And then the impossibility of firmness to that weak, 
vain, pleasure-loving nature, which always did the easiest 
thing at the time, without much regard to consequences, 
forced itself upon Edna with a mounful foreboding. Yet, 
for a little while, Letty's evident sincerity gave her hope. 

" I will do every thing you^ell me ; I will, indeed," said 



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210 THE woman's kingdom. 

she, her ever-ready tears flowing down apace. " Poor Jul- 
ius ! I am so sorry for him — so sorry if this makes you 
and William unhappy. For, of course, you will tell Wil- 
liam, though I wish you wouldn't." "* 

Nevertheless, Letty's looks betrayed a sort of satisfac- 
tion that William was obliged to be told. 

"Yes, I shall tell William. Oh, my poor William 1" 
sighed Edna to herself, knowing how keen would be the 
pain to that tender heart, in whom the best love of all 
only made all other affections the stronger. " Letty, we 
can't help what is past, but you mttst do what is right 
now ; you must make William respect you, ay, and Julius 
too, even though you refuse him. I don't know it of my- 
self—thank God ! nobody ever loved me but William — 
still, I am sure it is (juite possible for a good woman to 
turn her rejected lover into her truest friend — that is, if 
he had nothing to blame her for except rejecting him. 
But we will talk no more now. Let us go to bed, sister. 
Oh, my sister 1 my only sister !" 

Worn out with all the emotion of the day, Edna threw 
her arms round Letty's neck, and they clung together- 
like sisters, in whom no difference of character could 
break the tie of blood — at least not yet. And then they 
went to sleep in peace together. 

All next day — the day before the wedding — ^Letty went 
about the house with a very sad and serious face, though 
it brightened up occasionally — especially at sight of any 
thing in the shape of clothes. And when she tried on her 
own dress — a costume so tasteful and becoming, that she 
looked fit to be brides-maid to a queen instead of to that 
dainty, white-robed, yet plain little woman, who was to 
William Stedman all his heart's desire — Letty's spirits 
rose amazingly. 

" I wonder if there will be any body to look at us ; it 
is a shame to waste all these pretty things upon the par- 
son and the clerk, and old Mr. Marchmont " — a city mer- 
chant, whose house had been Edna's only situation as resi- 
dent governess, and who, in default of nearer friends, had 
claimed the pleasure of giving her away. . 



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THE woman's kingdom. 211 

" Except Julius — if Julius comes," said Edna, gravely. 

Letty looked a little conscience-smitten. "He is sure 
to come — he told me he should. He did not wish Wil- 
liam to find out any thing, and, besides, it would be his last 
look of me. He means to go abroad — to Switzerland, I 
think. Poor fellow! I am really very sorry for him," 
added Letty, as she glanced in the glass, and could not — 
who could ? — help smiling complacently at the charming 
image reflected there. 

But Edna said nothing, and shortly afterwards went 
out of the room. 

Strange ! she could not have believed it of any body 
else, yet any one who knew her unselfish nature might 
have believed it of her ; but Edna, even on her marriage- 
eve, thought less of herself and her own feelings than of 
poor Julius. Do what she would, she could not get him 
out of her mind. The contrast between him and the rest 
— William and she going off together on a raan-iage-tour 
to their old haunts in the Isle of Wight ; Letty taken to 
a cheerful visit in the Marchmonts' luxurious home, where, 
among those wealthy, but rather dull city people, she, 
with her beauty and her familiarity with " high families," 
was very popular; and forlorn Julius left alone to bear 
his grief how he might — all this smote Edna with exceed- 
ing pain. She was one of those who ^nd it hard to be 
happy when others are not ; who would have leaned over 
the edge of paradise itself to drop bitter tears upon the 
poor souls in purgatory. And when, towards evening — 
the last day of her maiden life — she left Letty, still busy 
about some trifling adornment, and started on a quiet, 
solitary stroll, to consider what was to be done, and how 
and when she should tell the sad secret to William, she 
felt so unhappy that she could hardly believe to-morrow 
was her wedding-day. 

Nevertheless, she walked on, trying to compose herself 
by walking, when she heard footsteps behind her, light, 
quick, and hurried, and, turning round, saw Julius. 

She looked in his face, and he in hers, and both under- 
stood that each knew all. She put out her hand to him. 



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212 THE woman's kingdom. 



JUL11TB AJSm XDNA. 



^ 



he grasped it hard, and then turned away. They walked 
along side by side for some distance before either spoke. 
When Julius did, his voice was hollow and unnatural. 

"I have been hanging about here all day. You know 
why ; she would be sure to tell you. She promised not, 
but of course she did. Women always do." 

" Yes, she told me." 

" Well, I don't blame her. Perhaps, if I had told you J 



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213 

myself before now, I might have been saved all this. You 
knew her mind ?" 

" No," said Edna, firmly, afraid lest his eager question- 
ing might betray her into any admission that might lead 
him astray, " I could have told you nothing, for I had not 
a suspicion of such a thing till last night^^J mean, till just 
lately." • ' 

" You did suspect, then ? You thought she cared for 
me ?" said Julius, eagerly. " You must have seen I cared 
for her? More fool I! But it's over now. Women are 
all alike— all alike." 

"Julius," said Edna, appealingly, and her soft eyes 
bi-immed over. For he was so changed, even in those 
iew hours — so haggard and wild-looking, with neglected 
dress and excited manner. 

"I beg your pardon; no, you are different. I know 
Will has found his good angel, as he deserved. I de- 
served nothing — and got it. Edna, you once told me to 
wait till my time came. It has come, from the minute I 
first saw her beautiful face through the lodging-house win- 
dow. It was a madness — quite a madness. If ever the 
devil comes to a man as an angel of light — as the Bible 
says he does come, you know — he came to me in the shape 
of your sister Letty." 

" Hush !" said Edna, putting her arm through his, and 
drawing him on, for his loud voice and violent manner had 
caught the notice of a stray passer-by. " Come with me : 
I am going a walk, and you can tell me every thing." 

"Everything?" 

" Yes, every thing," said Edna, with firmness, for he was 
so past all self-control that it became necessary, " You 
need not mind speaking to me — I never chatter to any 
body. Besides, to-morrow I shall be your own sister — 
William's wife." 

" William's wife ! Oh, happy, happy Will ! But you'll 
promise not to tell him, not till after to-morrow ? And 
you'll see how I'll behave. He shall guess nothing, for it 
would vex him so. Dear old Will ! I'm right glad he is 
happy. Lucky, lucky Will !" 



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214 THE woman's kingdom. 

Edna could not speak for crying. Her tears seemed 
to calm her companion in some degree. He pressed her 
hand. 

" Are you so very sorry for me, you good little woman ? 
Then you think there is no hope ?" 

Edna shook her head in a silent negative. She dared 
not do otherwise. For, knowing her sister as she did — 
and seeing Julius now in the new light in which his pas- 
sion had shown him — ^the expression she had used last 
night of "playing with edged tools " but faintly expressed 
the danger of any trifling. Foolish Letty ! — she might as 
safely emulate the juggler's tricks of swallowing fire, or 
tossing up and catching gleaming daggers, as attempt, 
with her weak, womanish, uncomprehending nature, her 
small caprices and coquettish arts, to deal with such a 
man as Julius Stedman. Well might she say she was 
"frightened of him." Edna almost was. Never before 
had she witnessed the desperate agony of thwarted love, 
as shown in one who was capable, by fits, of self-repression 
— but of self-government had none. What passed between 
her and Julius for the next three minutes Edna hid in the 
deepest, darkest recesses of her pitying heart; she never 
betrayed it, not even to William. 

At length she said, softly, " Tell me how it happened. 
How came you to care for Letty, or to fancy Letty cared 
for you ?" 

"Fancy I It was no fancy. You know better than that. 
She must have told you ? No ? Then I'll not tell. I'll not 
be such an ungentlemanly wretch as to tell. I was mis- 
taken — that's all. But, Edna — I'm not a conceited ass, I 
hope. And when a girl lets you talk to her, sit by her, 
hold her hand, kiss her — " 

Edna started, and then Julius also drew back in bitter 
shame. 

" I was a coward to say it ; but no matter. It was no 
harm : only * sisterly.' She told me so. No blame to her, 
of course. Only, Edna, mind this, if a girl wants to send a 
young fellow to hell, body and soul, bid her treat hini * as 
a sister.' " 



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THE woman's kingdom. 216 

Edna walked on, sadly silent. Mad as his words were, 
there was truth at the bottom of them, though much might 
be said on the other side. For Julius implied, though he 
did not actually own, how this passion had come upon him 
— ^fierce as retributive justice — when he was first amusing 
himself, as he had often done before, with that tender phi- 
landering, half love, half friendship, saying nothing, yet im- 
plying every thing, by which so many a young man has 
broken the heart, and blighted the life of a young, foolish, 
innocent girl, who would only have laid to his charge the 
pathetic lament of Ophelia — when Hamlet says, "Z <:?^e? 
love you dearly once /" and she answers, ^^Indeed, my lord^ 
you made me believe 50." 

Yet two wrongs can never make a right : Letty was in- 
excusable. And the worst of it was, she would never 
be conscious that she needed excusing. But the mischief 
was done. Here was this young man, to whom a strong, 
real passion for a good woman, however hopeless, would 
have been salutary — might have shaken him out of his 
frivolities and follies, and awakened him to that new and 
holier life which elevates a man, less by possession than 
by striving after the nobleness which deserves to possess 
— but, trifled with by such a girl as Letty, he would sink 
lower and lower — whither? For there are no depths of 
depravity to which a man may not fall, from whose heart 
and lips come the bitter cry which startled Edna many a 
time during their miserable walk — " They are all alike — 
all alike. I will never believe in any woman more." 

" But," she said at last, "you will believe in men. By- 
and-by you will come and talk to William. He will help 
you. Why," she said, trying at last playfulness, when all 
serious arguments failed, *' you are not the first man who 
was refused and got over it, married somebody else, and 
lived happy ever afterwards. Even Shakspeare says, * Men 
have died, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.' " 

Julius laughed angrily. "No; I shall not die. You 
may tell Will that, if he cares about it." 

"You know he does. It would break his heart — ^both 
our hearts — if you broke yours. But you will not. You 



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216 THE woman's kingdom. 

will yet find a far sweeter woman, a far more suitable 
wife, than my sister Letty." 

" Suitable ? Yes, that was the word she used. It was 
not a * suitable ' marriage — that is, I could not give her a 
carriage and pair, and a house in Belgravia. Nor, indeed, 
could I marry her at all just yet, I could only love her, 
and she did not care for that. Edna" — and he turned 
fiercely round — ^^ Edna, I'd honor the meanest milliner-girl 
to whom I came with only a wedding-ring, or perhaps with 
no ring at all, and said, * Love me' (if she did love, and 
some of them do, poor things !), more than your fine lady 
who will accept any body, no matter who, so that she is 
well married. But it isn't marriage at all ; it's — " 

" Be silent," interrupted Edna, in her clear, firm voice, 
severely sweet as Milton makes that of his angels. " You 
are speaking of what you do not understand: You only 
see half a truth. Because one side of a thing is wicked, 
does it make the other good? There are people like 
what you say — who marry in unholiness, or who love, 
omitting marriage, in equal unholiness ; but there are oth- 
ers who love with all their hearts, and marry because they 
love, like William and me. Come to us; we will take 
care of you. We will not let you * go wrong.' " 

"You can't help it." 

" No ; but you can. Julius, a man may be grievously 
injured by a woman ; but if he lets himself be ruined by 
her, he is one of two things — either a coward or a fool. 
You are neither ; you are a man. Be a man, and bear it." 

He turned towards her, the sweet woman, so loved, so 
happy; who out of all her happiness could spare thought 
and sympathy for others — for his miserable self. She 
stood, looking up at him with her pale, tear-stained, eager 
face, through which, in midst of all her grief, gleamed that 
hopeful courage which women often possess so much more 
than men, given to them, perhaps, that they may the better 
help men. The strong spiritual attraction mastered Jul- 
ius in spite of himself. 

" You are an angel !" he said, in a broken voice. " I 
think, if any thing could save me from going to the devil, 



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THE woman's kingdom. 217 

it would be my sister Edna. Tell Letty — ^no, tell her 
nothing. Tell William—" 

" What ?" asked Edna, seeing he hesitated. 

"Every thing; I had rather he knew it. Tell him" — 
with a feeble smile — "tell him to-morrow afternoon. 
And then say, he need not vex himself, for I shall go to 
Switzerland to-morrow night — to work hard and trouble 
nobody. And, mind you, nobody need trouble themselves 
about me, since I shall come to no harm for three months 
— I promise you that." 

"And afterwards?" 

"God knows!" 

"Yes," Edna answered, reverently. "God does knpw. 
And He never tries any one of us more than we can bear. 
Now, walk with me to the end of the lane. Then go 
straight home." 

Julius obeyed, without the slightest resistance, and with 
the gentleness of a child. 

Next morning, quite early — for they were to start at 
once, there being no wedding breakfast — with Letty look- 
ing charming as* brides-maid, though a little nervous and 
agitated, but not unbecomingly so; with Julius as best 
man, very handsome, well dressed, and agreeable, but, on 
the whole, more absorbed in attention to the bride than to 
the brides-maid, which fact much surprised Letty's warm 
admirer, old Mr. March mont — next morning, William and 
Edna were married. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



A DABK wet November night — or evening ; but it look- 
ed like night, for the houses were all shuttered up, and 
there was no light except the gas-lamps, and the one red 
doctor's lamp, to break the dreariness of the long, monoto- 
nous, shopless street, where every house was so exactly 
like another — outside at least. Within — what an im- 
measurable difference ! 

What is it makes a house bright ? pleasant to go to — to 

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stay in — even to think about, bo that even if fate totally 
annihilates it we recall tenderly for years its atmosphere 
of peace, cheerfulness, loving-kindness — nay, its outside 
features — down to the very pictures on the walls, the pat- 
tern of the papering, the position of the furniture ? While 
other houses — we shiver at the remembrance of them, and 
the dreary days we spent in them — days of dullness, misery, 
or strife — these houses we would not revisit for the world ! 

Why ? If a house with fair possibilities of home com- 
fort is thoroughly comfortless — if there is within it a reck- 
less impossibility of getting things done in the right way 
or at the right time — or if, on the contrary, it is conducted 
with a terrible regularity, so that an uninvited guest or an 
extempore meal sends a shock throughout the whole abode 
— if the servants never keep their places long— and the 
gentlemen of the family are prone to be " out of even- 
ings " — who is to blame ? 

Almost invariably the women of the family. The men 
make or mar its outside fortunes ; but its internal comfort 
lies in the women's hands alone. And until women feel 
this — recognize at once their power and their duties — it 
is idle for them to chatter about their rights. Men may 
be bad enough out-of-doors; but their influence is limited 
and external. It is women who are in reality either the 
salvation or the destruction of a household. 

Dr. Stedman's household had done with its bachelor 
freedom, and passed into feminine sway — a sway more 
complete than in most; and yet there are many profes- 
sional men who, like a doctor, are so engrossed by outside 
toil that they are obliged to leave every thing else to their 
wives. Well for them if, like William Stedman, they have 
mari'ied a woman who is fit not only to obey, but to rule. 
Especially so when, as in this case, there are few appliances 
of wealth to aid her — no skilled servants, no well-appoint- 
ed and well-furnished establishment; but one which re- 
quires, in every point, not only the mistress's head, but 
her eye, and often her hand. 

Thus, in the drawing-room, where Edna sat sewing, al- 
ways sewing, and, for a wonder, Letty was sewing too, 



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31B8. WILLIAM BTEDMAN. 



there was a combination of old things and new ; the fur- 
nishing being accomplished by means of devices which 
would have shocked a respectable — and expensive — up- 
holsterer. Yet the general effect was neat and pretty ; an 
ordinary eye would have discovered no deficiencies, and 
a good heart, even if discovering them, would have been 
touched by, rather than have laughed at, these pathetic 
incongruities. 

The mistress was not unlike her house ; carefully, though 
any thing but richly, dressed; still she was dressed for 
dinner, with her soft hair all smooth, and her laces drop- 
ping daintily over the little busy hands. Some people 
said — and not untruly — that Edna had grown a deal pret- 
tier since her marriage. Yet she was worn and thin, as if 
she had a rather anxious life ; but there was no anxiety in 
her eyes at this moment — nothing but perfect content — 
perfect rest. 

She listened — patiently, though with a far-away look, as 
if she only heard half of it — to Letty's incessant stream of 
rather fretful talk about the inconveniences of the estab- 
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220 THE woman's kingdom. 

"I am sure I am quite glad to do all I can, and be of 
use in the house; but there seems no end to all we have 
to do, Edna. It's much harder work than keeping school, 
I think." 

"Perhaps," said Edna, smiling; for there was some 
truth in Letty's complainings. Dr. Stedman, in his bach- 
elor helplessness, had been compelled to marry first and 
" settle" afterwards ; and the settling cost more trouble — 
and money also— than they had calculated on. Happily, 
there was Edna's share in the good-will of the school — 
Letty's being conscientiously invested for herself; still, as 
William, like the sisters, held strongly to the only safe 
rule for poor people — of never buying what he could not 
at once pay for — the difficulties of furnishing w6re not 
small ; and it required all Edna's cleverness to reduce ex- 
traneous expenses, and make sixpence go as far as six- 
pence honestly would. Thus the first few months of their 
married life were not easy. 

None the more so because Letty shai*ed them. All peo- 
ple make mistakes sometimes ; and Edna and William soon 
discovered that for a young couple to have the constant 
presence of even the least obnoxious "third party "is not 
to be desired. Poor Letty ! they tried to keep her from 
suspecting this, and to make the best of it, till the change 
which she already began to talk about and long for — ^name- 
ly, going out again as a governess — should arrive ; but 
still she helped to make the first six months of her broth- 
er and sister's marriage the most difficult portion of their 
lives. 

Nevertheless they were happy — blessed as two people 
must be who love with all their hearts, and trust each 
other from the inmost depths of their souls. That their 
life was all smooth I do not aver; but it was like what 
learned men tell us of the great ocean — ^the storms only 
troubled its surface, and came from extraneous agencies, 
such as no life is free from; in its deepest depths was a 
perpetual calm. 

Calmness, perhaps, was the strongest characteristic of 
Edna's face now. She had been a restless little woman 



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heretofore — easily moved, ready to catch each flitting 
shade of pleasure or of pain ; now she had learned the 
self-control which every human being must learn who has 
-another human being to care for — bound by the only tie 
which entirely takes away the solitude of individuality. 
This fact alone made a difference wider than had before 
existed between her and Letty, and it made her also very 
patient with Letty. 

She heard all the grumblings — giving an occasional 
gentle reply — ^till a loud knock thrilled through the silent 
house — the master's knock. 

"There he is r 

And Edna ran down stairs to open the door to William 
— a foolish custom which Letty always condemned — de- 
claring she wouldn't do it to her husband ; it spoiled one's 
collar and one's hair, and gave far too much trouble ! Un- 
comprehending Letty ! 

So William's first greeting at his own door was always 
his wife's face — bright and gay, with all the wony smooth- 
ed out of it and the anxiety banished — he had enough of 
both outside. 

" All right, my darling ?" 

" Yes ; quite right." 

" I'll go up and change my clothes. I have just come 
from the hospital. Then we'll have dinner." 

A doctor's wife has a hard life, as Edna found. Tet 
there was something grand in it, even in its dangers; 
something heroic enough to touch her sense of the ideal, 
which in this little woman was very strong. Continually 
there was much to be done, and as much more to be suf- 
fered — silently and without appeal. When Edna first 
married, and realized all that her husband went through 
daily and hourly, she found it very hard to bear. It was 
an agony to her every time he entered a fever^ward, and 
was sent for to those dens of misery and crime where a 
doctor is often the only m^psenger of good that ever 
comes. But now she bore all quietly. She knew his life 
was in God's hands — that he must do his duty, and she 
hers, which was to help rather than to' hinder him. Yet 



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222 THE woman's kingdom. 

often when she saw other wives whose husbands went into 
no danger, were exhausted by no hard work, and William 
came home, as to-day, utterly woni out, so that the smile 
with which he always met her only lasted a moment — the* 
sinking at her heart returned, the deadly fear or wild out- 
cry of prayer that all who love can understand. 

But she said nothing ; and when she took the foot of 
her husband's dinner-table, it was with the cheerful face 
that a wife ought to wear, and which does more good 
than food or warmth to a weary man. 

" Oh, this is such a pleasant room !" said Dr. Stedman, 
looking round it with a sense of infinite rest, and comfort, 
and relief. *' I am glad I have not to go out again. It is 
such a wretched night outside. I hope Julius will wait 
in Paris, and not be thinking of crossing till the weather 
alters. There is his letter, Edna, which came to-day. He 
speaks of being in London soon." 

This was said looking at his wife, but not overlooking 
her sister, who maintained a demure silence. 

To Letty William had never spoken one word on the 
subject of Julius, nor indeed very many to Edna. He had 
heard all, of course, and been deeply moved ; but after- 
wards, with a man's sharp cutting of many Gordian knots 
which women wear their lives out in untying, he had dis- 
posed of that painful domestic complication by simply 
saying : 

" What is done can not be undone. We shall not mend 
it by talking about it, and we may make it much worse. 
Let us say no more, and it will all gradually slip by." 

Nor was he cold or hard to Letty ; perhaps, man-like, 
he was ready to find excuses for a woman — and a woman 
so beautiful. Whatever he felt on the subject, he had 
only shown his feelings by writing long, and unfailingly 
punctual, letters to Julius, with a persistency rather rare 
in a man and a brother. And now — with that good com- 
mon sense of his, which never made unnecessary fuss about 
any thing — ^he just mentioned, in an off-hand way, the fact 
of Julius's coming home. 

" He comes home rather prosperous too. He has just 



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223 

sold a large picture to your friend Mr. Marchmont, Let- 

ty." 

" I am sure I am very glad to hear it," answered Letty, 
looking down. 

"And he sends me back — ^honest fellow 1 — his quarter's 
allowance, saying he can well do without it, better than 
we ; which is partly true, Edna, my dear." 

" We'll keep it for him, in case he wants it," said Edna, 
kindly. " What has he been doing lately ?" 

"Read, and you will see. He and the Marchmonts 
seem to get on capitally. He has shown them Paris, and 
speaks a good deal of them ; thinking of them much as 
you do — worthy, kindly people, with heaps of money and 
not too much of brains— except, perhaps, your pupil. Miss 
Lily, who he says is so pretty." 

"Lily Marchmont pretty?" cried Letty. "I never 
heard such nonsense I Why, she is a mere roly-poly dot ; 
as red as a cherry, and as round as a ball. What can 
Julius be thinking of? Is he falling in love with her? 
But, indeed, I should be very glad to hear of any thing 
of the kind," added Letty, with a sudden accession of de- 
mureness. 

"So should I," replied her brother-in-law, gravely. 
" Nothing in this world would make me more glad than 
to see Julius married — ^happily married. He is the best 
fellow I know, and would be better still if he had a wife 
— just such a wife as mine." 

And, with eyes overflowing with love, William glanced 
across the table to the sweet face that was all his sun- 
shine, all his delight. Tet, just as in her case towards 
him, the joy was not without its attendant pain. 

" You are looking pale, my wife ; you have been over- 
tiring yourself." 

" A little. I was in town to-day. I was obliged to go." 

" Those horrid omnibuses ! Oh, I wish I could give you 
a carriage ! Do you know, sister Letty, I am seriously 
thinking of following your constant advice, and starting a 
brougham, which people say is a sine qua non in the suc- 
cess of a doctor commencing practice i it makes such an 



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224 

excellent impression. Suppose I tiy'it? Only you must 
be sure not to tell the mistress. She would be so exceed- 
ingly displeased." 

He laughed while he spoke, and gave a glance over to 
Edna — half joking, half anxious — as if feeling his way, and 
seeing how the land lay. Was "the mistress" grown 
such an alarming little person, after all ? 

She smiled, but said not a word. Letty dashed eagerly 
into the question, 

" I am sure Edna would never be so foolish as to object 
to any thing that was for your advantage. Besides, a 
carriage would be such a great convenience to us. You 
might have it all the day, and we could use it of evenings 
instead of a nasty cab, which always spoils one's dresses. 
And how grand it would sound — * Dr. Stedman's carriage 
stops the way* — at theatres and evening parties !" 

"That implies you have both to go to. But I dare say 
you would. If I started a brougham, people would think 
I had no end of practice, which would create more. The 
world always worships the rising sun. Yes, perhaps it 
might be an advisable investment," added William, chang- 
ing from his satirical tone to that of prudent worldliness, 
which agreed ill with his honest voice and mien. 

" Not so much an investment as a speculation, since at 
present we have no money to pay for it," said Edna, gently. 

"No more have half the world that rides in carriages. 
Yet how content it looks, and how comfortable its car- 
riages are !" 

"Very comfortable," said Letty, "and, if carefully lined, 
always so clean and nice for one's clothes." 

" And consciences," added William, with a light laugh ; 
" which I see, by her looks, is what Edna is thinking 
of— What ! another message ? Have I got to go out 
again to-night ?" 

And he rose, not looking particularly glad ; but when 
he opened the letter he showed uncontrollable surprise 
and delight. 

" Who would have thought it ? While I was speaking 
about him, Julius was close at hand. Bid the messenger. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 225 

wait ; he shall have an answer in a few minutes. Yes, 
Edna, you had better show it to Letty." 

For Letty, not wholly unmoved, had come to look over 
her sister's shoulder at the few words which explained how 
Julius had just come in from Paris, and was at a coffee- 
house close by, where he said he would be glad to see his 
brother. 

" Of course you will go to him at once, dear?" 

" Certainly. Poor fellow, how very glad I am !" 

And William's eyes were shining, and his fatigue all 
vanished. Then, suddenly, his countenance changed. 

" I forgot — I really quite forgot for the minute ; but, 
Edna ? — no, I suppose that is not to be thought of. Yet 
it's hard that I can not fetch my own brother at once to 
my house. Of course nobody is to blame. Yet it is very 
sad — very annoying." 

Dr. Stedman did not often speak so irritably, as well as 
sorrowfully. Edna knew not what to say. Letty drew 
herself up with a dignified air. 

" I assure you, William, if out of consideration for me — ^" 

"No; Pm not considering you at all," was the blunt 
answer. "I am considering my brother, Letty. I have 
never named this matter to you before, and do not sup- 
pose I am blaming you now; you had a right to give 
Julius any answer you pleased. Moreover, I have every 
reason to believe that he has quite ' got over it,' as you 
women say, and would no more mind meeting you than 
any other lady of his acquaintance." 

" I am sure I am delighted to hear it.'' 

" Only, if you do meet," continued William, pointedly, 
"it must be clearly understood that you meet only as 
acquaintances." 

"Certainly," replied Letty, tossing her head, and retiring 
to the other end of the room, while the husband and wife 
consulted together in an undertone. At last Edna came 
up to her sister. 

" Letty, should you object to Julius coming here for a 
day or two — that is, if he will come — if William can bring 
him back with him ? . It would make William so happy." 

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226 THE woman's kingdom. 

Then for goodness' sake do it ! Really nobody hinders 
you. I don't. I am sure it is very hard for me to be the 
cause of family dissension. I will set you all free by-and- 
by. I will go away and be a governess as soon as ever I 
can." And Letty began to weep. 

William was touched. " Come," he said, laying his hand 
affectionately on her shoulder, " don't be foolish, Letty. 
Don't let us be making miseries where none exist, or ex- 
aggerating any little difficulties that we have. Rather let 
us try to get through them. If you never cared for Julius, 
and Julius has ceased to care for you, there can be no pos- 
sible objection to your meeting, or to his coming here. 
Shall I say so, and ask him to come ?" 

Letty brightened up at once. " Do, for I am sure it 
would be the very best plan. There is plenty of room in 
the house, you know. Besides, we are rather dull— ^Edna 
and I — with you away so much. And Julius used to be 
so very amusing." 

So William departed ; and after half an hour of rather 
anxious expectation, the two sisters welcomed the two 
brothers, in changed relations certainly, but with all the 
warmth and cordiality of yore. And then William and 
Julius stood on the hearth together, the elder with his 
arm on the younger's shoulder, and regarding him with 
eyes out of which beamed the old affection — the old ad- 
miration. 

The brothers had always been strikingly dissimilar, but 
now the dissimilarity was particularly plain — not so much 
in face as' in the difference which character and circum- 
stances make in outward appearance, which increases rap- 
idly as people grow older. Nothing could be a greater 
contrast to the hard-working doctor than the fashionable 
young artist — ^who laughed and talked so fast, with more 
than his former brilliancy ; greeted every body, compli- 
mented every body ; admired the house, and paid the ten- 
derest attentions to its mistress. 

" You have grown quite a foreigner. I should hardly 
have known you, Julius," said Edna. " There is scarcely 
a bit of your own old self left in you." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 221 

"Perhaps not, and all the better," answered he; then 
added, gayly, " but I don't see the least change — indeed, I 
should not like any change — ^in my little sister, I hope 
she means to be as good as ever to me ?" 

" No fear of that," said William, looking from one to 
the other in great content, and really almost forgetting 
Letty, who, on her part, took very little notice of the rest, 
but remained aloof in stately dignity. 

Nor did Julius take any special notice of her, or man- 
ifest any agitation at meeting her; in fact, the whole 
thing passed over so very quickly and quietly that Edna 
almost smiled to think of what an anxiety it had been to 
her and William. Glad as she was, it gave her a certain 
sad feeling of the mutability of all things, and especially 
of men's love in general — lightly won, lightly lost Was 
every man's love so, except her own William's ? 

" No," she said to herself, as she watched the brilliant 
Julius, the beautiful Letty — both equally self-controlled 
and self-satisfied. " No, we need not be in the least afraid. 
Nothing will happen." 

Undoubtedly it was a relief and a great pleasure to 
spend such a merry evening. Julius gave endless ac- 
counts of his continental life, where he seemed to have 
made good use of his time-^in bringing back sketches in- 
numerable, and in making acquaintance with foreign art- 
ists of note — of whom he talked a great deal. He spoke 
also kindly, though with an undertone of sarcasm, of his 
rich and stupid patron, Mr. Marchmont. 

" You saw a good deal of the Marchmonts ?" observed 
Edna. 

" Yes, they needed me, and I needed them ; so we made 
it mutually convenient." 

" And you call Lily Marchmont pretty ?" here broke in 
Letty, irresistibly. " I never heard of such a thing I Lily 
Marchmont pretty !" 

"Are not all young ladies pretty — just as all young 
men are estimable — when they are rich?" said Julius, 
laughing. 

Letty drew back and spoke no more. 



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228 TUB woman's kingdom. 

But as, in the course of conversation, Julius made as 
much fun of the young lady as he did of her respectable 
papa, Edna thought there was not much to be hoped for 
in his praise of Miss Lily Marchmont. 

In truth, glad as she was to see him — gladder still to see 
her husband's happiness in his return — there was some- 
thing about Julius which inexpressibly pained Edna. No 
human creature ever stands still ; we all either advance or 
deteriorate, and Julius had not advanced — either in ear- 
nestness, or simplicity, or manliness. . Externally, his refine- 
ment had degenerated into the air of the petit mattre — the 
roan who placed the happiness of his existence on the set 
of a collar or the wave of a curl ; while his conversation, 
lively and amusing as it was, flitted from subject to sub- 
ject with the lightness of a mind which had come to the 
bitter conclusion that there is nothing in life worth seri- 
ously thinking of. He was not unaffectionate, and yet his 
very affection ateness saddened her ; it showed how much 
there was in him that had never had fair play, and how 
his best self had been stunted and blighted till it had shot 
out, by force of circumstances, into a far smaller and more 
ignoble self than Nature had intended. Of course, a strong 
character would have controlled circumstances; but who 
is always strong ? Clever and channing as he was, Edna 
felt something very like actual pity for Julius. 

He refused to stay in his brother's house, alleging that his 
ways were not their ways — they were married, and he was 
a gay young bachelor — he should scandalize them all ; but 
he commissioned Edna to procure him lodgings close by. 

" Such lodgings as I troubled you about once before, 
only the trouble was all wasted, like other things," said 
he. And this was the only reference he made, even in the 
remotest degree, to any thing of the past. Of the future 
he talked as little. Indeed, he seemed to live wholly the 
life of the present. — " Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow 
we die." As for his paissionate love for Letty, he seemed 
to have quite forgotten it. But there is an oblivion which 
is worse for a man than the sharpest remembrance. 

" Yes," said William's wife, as, Julius having left, and 



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Letty having gone to bed immediately, her husband came 
and sat beside her at their fireside — " yes, we might have 
spared ourselves all anxiety about Julius, Oh, William, 
how seldom does love last long with any body 1" 

" You did not surely wish this to last, you most unrea- 
sonable and contradictory little woman ? You must feel 
it is far better ended ?" 

"I suppose so. And yet — ^" Edna was half ashamed 
to own it, but she was conscious that in the depth of her 
foolish, faithful heart she should have respected Julius 
much more if he had not in six little months — ay, it was 
this very day six months that he had poured out to her 
compassionate ear all the agony of his passion — so com- 
pletely " got over " it. 

She sat down by her husband's side for the one quiet 
half hour when the master and mistress of the household 
were left to themselves, to discuss the affairs of to-day, 
and arrange for those of to-morrow. Although so short a 
time married, Edna and William had already dropped into 
the practical ways of " old married people," whose love 
demonstrates itself more often by deeds than words — by 
giving one another pleasure, and saving one another pain ; 
which latter, in their busy and hard life, was not the light- 
est portion of the duty. Neither ever dwelt much upon 
any thing that must needs be a sore subject to the other, 
and so a few more words iended the matter of Julius. It 
was William's decided opinion that their brother and sis- 
ter should be left as much as possible to themselves — not 
thrown together more than could be helped, but still nei- 
ther watched nor controlled. 

" For," said he, " we really have no right to control them, 
or to interfere with them in the smallest degree. If there 
is one decision in life which ought to be left exclusively 
to the two concerned, it is the question of marriage. If I 
had a dozen sons and daughters" — Edna half smiled, 
faintly coloring; — " I would give them all liberty to choose 
any body they Uked ; only taking care to bring them up 
so that they would choose rightly — in a manner worthy 
of themselves and of me." 



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230 THE woman's kingdom. 

" What an admirable sentiment, and so oracular, it ought 
to be printed in a book," answered Edna, laughing. Wil- 
liam laughed too at his own energetic preaching. 

" But now," said he, " I am going to preachify in ear- 
nest ; and, my darling, it is about a veiy serious thing, 
which you must give all your wise little mind to, and tell 
me what you really think about it. I want to set up a 
carriage." 

He said it a little hesitatingly, between jest and earnest. 
Edna looked up. 

"You don't mean it, William? You are only jesting 
with me?" 

" Not in the least. I mean what I say, as I am rather 
in the habit of doing," and the dominant hardness which 
was in his nature, as it is in the nature of every strong 
man, betrayed itself a little. " I have been thinking of 
the matter ever so long, and it is an experiment I feel 
strongly inclined to try." 

Edna was silent. 

" Something must be done, for my practice is no better 
than it was two years ago, except for my fixed salary, 
which, of course, we have need to be thankful for. Still, 
I want to get on ; to make a handsome income ; to give 
you every thing you need." 

" That is not very much," said Edna, softly. 

" I know it. You are a careful wife, my love. But our 
lot is somewhat hard." 

" We knew it would be hard." 

"Yes, but I want to alter things — to make a desperate 
effort to get on. This is a plan which many young doc- 
tors try. Some, indeed, say that nothing can be done 
without it. It is like setting a tub to catch a whale — 
baiting with one's last trout for a big salmon, as we used 
to do in my glorious fishing days of old. Ah, I never go 
a fishing now. Never shall again, I suppose." 

" I wish it was different," said Edna, sadly. " You get 
no holidays, and I don't know when you will. They are 
among the pleasant things you have lost through marry- 



ing." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 231 

" My darling !" But there is no need to particularize 
William's answer, or what he thought of the loss and the 
gain. "And now," said he, at last, "let us go back to 
practical things. This carriage — ^" 

He met somewhat uneasily his wife's fond, grave, ques- 
tioning eyes. 

" Yes, this carriage. Do you really require it ? For 
the sake of your health, I mean ? You are often very 
much worn out, William ?" 

" But not with walking ; I wish I were I I wish I had 
enough of patients to wear me out. No, Edna, I can not 
conscientiously say I require a carriage, but I want it, just 
for the look of the thing. We must meet the world with 
its own weapons ; if it insists upon being a humbug, why, 
I suppose we must be humbugs too. Don't you see ?" 

" I am afraid I don't." 

Dr. Stedman laughed, not his own joyous, frank laugh, 
but one more like Julius's. " Oh, you are such an inno- 
cent, my darling. Why, many a fashionable doctor, now 
earning thousands, has started upon nothing, and lived 
upon credit for the first two or three years. Just make 
people believe you have a large practice, and you get it. 
Patients flock to you one after the other, like sheep. That 
* sawbones' — in the funny tale by some young fellow 
named Dickens, which you read last night — who sent his 
boy about delivering unordered medicines, and had him- 
self fetched out of church every Sunday on imaginary 
messages, had not a bad notion of the right way of get- 
ting on in the world." 

" The right way, William ?" 

" Well, the best way — the cleverest way." 

"But— the honest way?" 

"I was not talking of honesty." 

Edna regarded her husband keenly. Like every miar- 
ried woman, she had to learn that there is much in mascu- 
line nature difficult to understand ; not necessarily bad, 
only incomprehensible. As, no doubt, William Stedman 
had before now found out that his angel was a very wom- 
an, full of many little womanish faults that his larger na- 



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232 THE woman's kingdom. 

ture required to be patient with. It was good for both 
60 to be taught humility. 

" Don't let us discuss this matter to-night," said Edna, 
rather sadly. "Do let it rest." 

" No, it can not rest. You do not see — women never 
can — that a man, if he has any pluck in him, will not sit 
quiet under ill-fortune. He must get on in the world, by 
fair means or fouL But this is no *foul' means. It is 
only doing, for the sake of expediency, a thing which, 
perhaps, one does not quite like. Yet — " 

" But how can you do it at all ? Keeping a carriage, 
you say, will cost two hundred a year, and we have, alto- 
gether, only five hundred a year to live upon." 

"Yes, but — in plain. English, Edna, we must strain a 
point, and do it upon credit." 

"Upon credit!" 

"I see you don't like that, neither do J; but there is no 
other way." 

" No way to get on in the world without making peo- 
ple believe we are better off than we really are, in the 
chance of becoming what we pretend to be ?" 

" You put the matter with an ugly plainness, consider- 
ing how many people do it, and think nothing of it. Why, 
half London lives beyond its income — peers, ministers of 
the crown, professional and business men — why not a poor, 
struggling doctor?" 

" Why not ? if he can bend his pride, and reconcile his 
conscience to such a life," said Edna, with — ah, let us con- 
fess it — a slight thrill of scorn in her clear voice. " Only 
I should despise him so much that I should not like his 
name to be Doctor William Stedman !" 

Will sprung up. He was more than annoyed — angry; 
with that sudden wrath which has its origin in sundry in- 
ward twinges, that sometimes hint to a man he is not quite 
so much in the right as he tries to believe himself to be. 
He walked up and down his dining-room, much displeased. 

Let us give him his due. He was a very good man, 
and a truly good man is, in some things, better than any 
woman, because he has so much more temptation to be 



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THE WOMAN'3 kingdom. 233 

otherwise. But the best man alive, who is compelled to 
knock about in the world, receiving and giving many a 
hard thump sometimes, finds it not easy to preserve quite 
unstained that instinctive, ideal sense of right and wrong 
which seems to be set in every good woman's breast, like 
a deep, still pool in a virgin forest. Happy the man who 
can always come to its pure, safe brink, and find heaven, 
and nothing but heaven, reflected there ! 

It was not in William Stedman's nature long to bear 
anger against any one, least of all against his wife. They 
differed occasionally, as any two human beings must dif- 
fer, but they never quarrelled ; for the bitterness which 
turns mere diversity of opinion into personal disputes was 
to them absolutely unknown. After a time Dr. Stedman 
stopped ut his rapid walk. 

"William," said Edna, "come over here and explain 
what you mean, and I will try to understand it better. 
You must not be vexed with me for saying what I think." 

" Certainly not. I told you, when I married you, that 
I wanted a thinking, feeling, rational, companionable wife, 
not a Circassian slave. A man must be either a fool or a 
tyrant who likes a woman to be his slave." 

"And I am afraid I could never have been a slave, even 
to you," replied Edna, laughing, with her old gayety; 
"because I should first have despised you, then rebelled 
against you, and finally I believe I should have run away 
from you. But I won't do that, William — ^not just yet !" 

She put her arms round his neck, and looked at him with 
eyes loving enough to have melted a heart of stone. She 
might be a very fierce little woman still : undoubtedly she 
was impulsive and irrational sometimes ; but she loved him. 

Dr. Stedman sat down again, and began to explain, re- 
peating, though not quite so forcibly as at first, the many 
advantages of meeting the world on its own ground, and 
of guiding one's conduct by that intermediate rule be- 
tween right and wrong — the law of expediency. No 
doubt all he said was very wise ; but he did not seem to 
say it with his heart in it, and there was an undertone of 
sarcasm which pained Edna much. 



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234 THE woman's kingdom. 

" I wonder," said she, " whether all the world is a sham 
and the enoourager of shams ?" 

" Or the dupe of them ? It's a melancholy truth, Edna ; 
but I do believe my only chance of getting a good practice 
is by pretending to have it already. Then, no doubt, I 
should soon become a successful physician," 

" And if so, would you really enjoy it ? Would you not 
rather despise the success that had been obtained by a 
lie?" 

William started. 

" You are awfully severe. Who spoke of telling lies?" 

"An acted lie is just the same as a spoken one. And 
to spend money when you have it not, and do not know 
when you may have it, is nearly as bad as theft. Oh, Wil- 
liam, I can't do it I I can't reconcile my conscience to it. 
You must act as you choose — ^I have no right to prevent 
you. Don't ask me ever to put my foot into your grand 
carriage, or to enjoy the prosperity that was purchased by 
a deception — a cheat !" 

She spoke vehemently — the tears gushing from her eyes, 
and then she clung to her husband and begged his pardon. 

" I have said it wrongly — violently ; I know I have ; but 
still I have said the truth. Oh, please listen to it ! I want 
to be proud of you, William. I am so proud of you — ^the 
one man in the world that I am thankful to have for my 
husband and my — ^" 

Edna stopped. Moved by some strong emotion, she hid 
her face, and began to tremble exceedingly. 

William took her closer to him. 

"What is the matter with you? My darling, what is 
wrong ?" 

" Nothing is wrong. Oh no ! Only, will you listen to 
me?" 

" Yes ; say your say." 

She repeated it — ^in quiet words this time, and Dr. Sted- 
man listened also quietly; for he was too wise a man to 
be unreasonable. 

"There, now, you speak like a rational woman," said he, 
smiling, " and you don't use bad language to your hus- 



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TfiB woman's kingdom. 285 

band, for it was very bad, Edna, my dear. * Liar ' and 
* thief' I think you called me, or nearly so." 

« Oh, William!" 

"Well, I'm not quite that — at present. And, my dar- 
ling, I own there is some little truth in what you say. I 
am afraid I should not care for any success that was not 
fairly earned — without need of resorting to a single sham. 
And if it did not come — if I failed to make a practice af- 
ter all, and found myself fathoms deep in debt, like some 
poor wretches I know — " 

" Still, that is not the question. I was not arguing as 
to consequences. Dearest husband, don't do this, I be- 
seech you, but only because it is not right to do it." 

William paused a little — ^half thoughtful, ha;lfi^mused; 
then he said, with a smile — 

" Well, then, I won't. But, my little woman, ir you 
have to trudge on your two poor feet all your life-long, 
remember it's not my fault. Now kiss and be friends." 

Ay, they were "friends." Neither goddess and wor- 
shipper — tyrant and slave — simply and equally friends. 

"And now tell me, Edna, what you were going to say 
just now when you broke off so abruptly," and got into 
such a state of agitation as I never saw before? You 
foolish little woman ! Why were you so fierce with me ?" 

" Because I did not want you to do any thing not quite 
right, or that you might afterwards be ashamed of, since 
you will have to think not only of ourselves, but " — her 
voice fell and her hand drooped — " of more than ourselves. 
Because next summer, please God, if He keeps me safe 
and alive — ^" 

She threw herself on her husband's bosom in a passion 
of tears, and he guessed all. 

" I was afraid to tell you," Edna said, after a long si- 
lence, " you had so much anxiety, and this will add to it. 
I know it must. Are j/ou afraid ? Are you sorry ?" 

" Sorry !" the young man cried, with all his soul in his 
eyes, as he clasped his wife to his heart. " I sony ? Let 
us thank God I" 



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286 THE woman's kingdom. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

It was in sunshiny summer weather — like those days in 
the Isle of Wight when t^e was first married, that Edna's 
little baby came to her. The same evening there came 
to the tall elm-tree in their little bit of garden a black- 
bird, who, like Southey's thrush, took up his abode there, 
and sung — morning, noon, and night — his rich, loud, con- 
tented song to the mother, as she lay, a " happy prisoner," 
with her first-born by her side. In after-days, Edna never 
heard a blackbird's note without remembering that time, 
and its ecstasy of restful joy. 

What need to write about it ? a joy common as day- 
light — yet ever fresh : to the queen who gives an heir to 
millions, or the poor toiler in field or mill who brings only 
a new claimant for the inheritance of labor and poverty. 
But upon neither does the unknown future look with an- 
gry eye — the present is all in all. So it was with Edna. 
Her eldest son was bom amidst considerable straitness of 
means and many anxieties ; his mother made him no cost-) 
ly baby-clothes, nor welcomed him in a grand nursery, 



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THE woman's kingdom. 237 

with every device of fantastic love: she only took him in. 
her arms and rejoiced over him — as the Hebrew women 
rejoiced of old — her man-child, her gift from the Lord. 

And William Stedman — the young man thrown igno- 
rantly and unthinkingly, as most young men are, into the 
mystery and responsibility of fatherhood— how did he feel? 

Whatever he felt, he said little : he was not in the habit 
of saying much — except to his wife. Nor, at first, did he 
take very much notice of the small creature in whom his 
own face was so funnily reproduced. But he never forgot 
something repeated to him by his sister-in-law during a 
certain fearful half hour when his wife lay, half conscious, 
her life hanging on a thread — ^^ Tell William to be a reed 
father to my poor baby." 

• Many a time, when nobody saw him. Dr. Stedman 
would creep in and look at his boy, a grave tender look, 
as if he were. pondering on the future — his son's and his 
own — ^with infinite humility, yet without dread. More 
sadly wise than Edna in worldly things, and not having 
— no man has — ^that natural instinct for children which 
makes them a pure joy, and, at first, nothing else : yet it 
was clear that he too was striving to take up the conjoint 
burden of parenthood — accepting both its pleasantness 
and its pain; and so was likely to become worthy — oh, 
how few men are I—rof being a father. 

Letty did not understand her sister's felicity at all. She 
thought the baby would be a great trouble and a great 
expense, when they had cares enough already. She won- 
dered how people could be so foolish as to marry unless 
they had every thing nice and comfortable about them — 
as was far from the case here, especially of late, when 
double work had fallen upon poor Letty's elegant shoul- 
ders. She had more than once declared that if ever a 
baby was born she would look out for a situation, and re- 
lieve her brother-in-law from the burden of her mainte- 
nance, and herself from the alarming duties of a maiden 
aunt. But Letty always talked of things much oftener 
than she did them ; and besides — But it is useless at- 
tempting to analyze her motives ; probably for the simple 



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288 THE woman's kingdom. 

reason that she had no motives at all. As she said one 
day to Julius, who all this winter and spring had kept 
coming and going, sometimes absenting himself for weeks, 
then again appearing every evening at his brother's house, 
to sit with Edna and Letty, though he paid the latter no 
particular attention — "What did it matter where she 
went or what she did ? nobody cared about her — she was 
a solitary creature, and therefore quite free." 

The evening she gave utterance to this pathetic senti- 
ment Aunt Letty was a very lovely object to behold. 
She had taken the baby ; for, though not enthusiastic over 
it, she was a woman still, and liked to nurse it and " cud- 
dle " it sometimes. As it lay asleep on her shoulder, with 
one of its tiny hands clutching her finger, and her other 
hand supporting it, she looked not unlike one of Raffaelle's 
Madoqnas. 

"Stop a minute — just as you are; I want to sketch 
you," said Julius, rousing himself from a long gaze — noi 
at the baby, for whom, though it was his namesake, Uncle 
Julius had testified no exuberant admiration. But still, it 
being safely asleep, he continued sitting with Letty in the 
drawing-room, as he had got into a habit of doing of even- 
ings, since Edna's disappearance up stairs. 

" Dear me, Julius, I should think you were quite tired 
of taking my likeness; but Edna will be in raptures if 
you draw the baby." 

Julius curled his satirical lip — ^more satirical and less 
sweet than it once was, and then said, with a certain com- 
punction, " Oh, very well ; I'd do much to please Edna, 
the dearest little woman that ever was bom. How she 
puts up with a fellow like me is more than I can tell. I 
think — ^that night I walked our street with Will, and we 
did not know but that she might slip away from us before 
the morning, I would almost have given my life for poor 
Edna's." 

The voice was so full of feeling, that Aunt Letty open- 
ed her eyes wide to stare at Uncle Julius — only to stare ; 
the penetrating, yet loving gleam of sympathy was not in 
those large beautiful orbs of hers. 



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THE woman's KINGDOM. 239 



UnOLX ANI> AUMT. 



" Not that my life would have been much of a gift," 
added Julius. " It is of little value now to me or to any 
body. Once, perhaps, and under different circumstances, 
it might have been." 

Letty dropped her eyes. It was the first time her re- 
jected lover had made any reference to those "circum- 
stances," though she had sometimes tried, a little coquet- 



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240 THE woman's kingdom. 

tishly, to find out whether he remembered them or not. 
For it was provoking, to say the least of it, that he should 
so quickly have overcome a passion which he had vowed 
would be eternal — that he could see her — Letty — in all 
her fascinations, weekly, daily, if he so wished, and yet be 
as apparently indifferent to her as he was to the many 
other young ladies of his acquaintance, whom he was al- 
ways talking about and criticising, as probably he criti- 
cised her to them in return. The idea rather vexed Letty. 

She, and even his own brother, knew little of Julius's 
life beyond what they saw when he made his erratic ap- 
pearances and disappearances. Now, as of old, all his 
brother's friends were his, but only a small proportion of 
his friends were also his brother's. Julius cultivated a 
class of intimacies which William had never cared much 
for, and now cared less — the floating spin-drift of literary, 
artistic, and semi-theatrical society — clever men, and not 
bad men, at least nobody much knew whether they were 
bad or good, and certainly nobody much cared, brains be- 
ing of far greater use and at a far higher premium than 
morals. With this set, lounging about during the day, 
and meeting of nights at various well-known symposia 
of men — only men, and not their wives, even if they had 
any — Julius spent much of his time. But he never 
brought these friends to his brother's house, or, indeed, 
said much about them, except that they were " such jolly 
clever fellows — so excessively amusing." 

Amusement was, however, not his whole pursuit. He 
sometimes took vehement fits of work, which lasted a day 
or two, perhaps a week or two ; then he would throw up 
his picture, in whatever stage it was, and devote himself 
to every form of ingenious idling. In short, he was slow- 
ly drifting into that desultory, useless existence, grasping 
at every thing and taking a firm hold of nothing, which, 
without any actual vice, is the very opposite of that calm, 
pure life — laborious and full of labor's reward — which is 
the making of a real man. 

And its effects were already beginning to be painfully 
apparent. Sallow cheeks, restless eyes, hand shaking and 



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THE woman's kingdom. 241 

nervous ; brightening up towards night, but of mornings, 
as he confessed, utteriy good for nothing except to lounge 
and smoke, or lie and sleep in thankful torpor — all these 
signs foreboded fatally for poor Julius. His brother be- 
gan to doctor him for " dyspepsia ;" but Edna, less learned, 
yet clearer-eyed, detected a something more — a sickness 
of the soul, far sadder, and more difficult of cure. 

He who had no one to think of but himself, who earned 
a tolerable livelihood which he spent wholly upon himself, 
was beginning to look older and more anxious than his 
brother, with all his burdens. 

Now, while Letty and Julius were talking lightly down 
stairs, in Edna's room overhead was a grave silence. Wil- 
liam, coming in to spend a quiet hour beside his wife's sofa, 
had fallen dead asleep through sheer weariness. And Edna 
was watching him as Letty watched his brother, but with, 
oh ! what a sort of different gaze ! The difference which 
always had been, and would be to the last — eyes that said 
honestly^ "I love you;" and the coquettish, down-drop- 
ped glance that inquired pelfishly, " I wonder how much 
you love me ?" 

Women are often attracted by their opposites in men, 
and perhaps some woman, bright and wise, with large pa- 
tience, and courage enough to sustain both herself and 
him, might have loved deeply and understood thoroughly 
this Julius Stedman. But Letty— beautiftil Letty — was 
not that sort of woman. Therefore, while he made his last 
remark about his life being of no value to any body, she 
only sat and looked at him. 

" Yes, mine is a wasted life, Letty. I shall end like that 
stranded ship on the Isle of Wight shore; you remem- 
ber it?" 

"Nonsense !" said Letty, blushing a little. " Or if it is 
so, it will be your own fault. You artists are always so 
miserably pooir." 

" Some of us do pretty well, though, if we run after titled 
patrons and high society. Or, if we happen to be especial- 
ly fascinating, we marry rich wives, and — ^" 

"Perhaps that is what you are thinking of doing?" in- 

L 



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242 THE woman's kingdom. 

terrupted Letty, with some acrimony. " Indeed it struck 
me there was more than met the eye in a hint Mrs. March- 
mont gave me to-day, as I dare say Mr. Marchmont has 
given to you." 

" What ?" asked Julius, eagerly. 

" That, if you liked to change your career, he thought 
so well of you, and of your extreme cleverness for every 
thing — ^business included — that he would take you into 
their house at once ; first as a clerk, and then as a partner." 

"'Marchmont and Stedman, indigo - planters !' How 
grand it would sound! What an enviable position!" 
said Julius, satirically ; though not confessing whether or 
not the news had come upon him for the first time. 

" Very enviable indeed," said Letty, gravely ; " and es- 
pecially with Miss Lily Marchmont to share it." 

Julius winced, but turned it off with a laugh. 

" Lily Marchmont — poor Lily 1 A nice creature ! if she 
were only a little taller, and not quite so fat." 

" She is getting as thin as a shadow now, at any rate," 
said Letty, in much annoyance. " But it is no use speak- 
ing to you, or trying to get any thing out of you, Julius. 
Indeed you're not worth thinking about." 

" I was not aware you ever did me the honor to think 
about me at all." 

" Oh yes," returned Letty, with an air of sweet simplici- 
ty. " Who could help it, when you are always here, and 
every body is so fond of you, and makes such a fuss over 
you ? Edna told me that if any thing had happened to 
her, you were to come back and live here again. I was to 
tell you that she depended upon you to take care of and 
comfort William." 

"Poor Edna — dear Edna — to fancy I could comfort 
any body ! But this is ridiculous !" added he, abruptly. 
"Here are Edna and Will, both as jolly as possible, and 
that young rascal besides, to carry down the ugly name 
of Stedman to remotest ages. Every body is all right — 
except me — and as to what becomes of me, who cares ? 
Not a soul in this mortal world. But I beg your pardon, 
and I am wasting your time. Just move your i-ight hand, 



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243 

Letty, please. No, fingers closer together. May I place 
them?" 

"Yes, only don't wake the baby." 

" That would be a catastrophe." 

Julius knelt down, and with hot cheeks and hands that 
trembled visibly, tried to arrange his group to his satisfac- 
tion. Letty bade him "''take care," and leaned her other 
hand on his shoulder, carelessly enough; she thought 
nothing of it. Besides, was he not, as she sometimes 
called him, her " half-brother-in-law ?" 

At her touch the young man looked up — a look no 
woman can mistake : it is madness, or deliberate badness, 
if she does mistake it; and then, turning, pressed his lips 
on her arm — not tenderly, not reverently, but with a pas- 
sionate fierceness that^ was less a kiss than a wound. 

So the barrier was broken down between them, and 
Letty knew — as any girl of common perception must have 
known — that the indifference was all a sham, that her dis- 
carded lover was just as desperately in love with her as 
ever. 

Was she glad or sorry ? She really could not tell ; but 
she was considerably agitated. She started up, regard- 
less of the baby, and shook down angrily her lace sleeve. 

"Julius, you ought to be ashamed of yourself !" 

" I am not. You used to let me kiss you once. Give 
me the right to- do it again." 

And he came nearer, and was on the point of carrying 
out what he threatened, when some instinct of gentleman- 
hood made him pause. But he grasped both her hands, 
and looked in her face, half mad with the passion that 
was consuming him. No sentimental philandering — no 
child's play, or silly flirtation — ^but a violent passion, the 
first he ever had, and-^would it be the last ? 

Some women might have hated him for it, and the man- 
ner he showed it — strong, proud, reticent women, whose 
love must be given as a free gift, or else is wholly unat- 
tainable — but Letty did not hate him. Lideed she rather 
liked being taken by storm in this way. 

" Let me go 1" she cried. " See, you are waking the 



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244 THB WOMAnV kingdom. 

baby !" Which remorseless infant now set up a howl loud 
enough to fright away all the lovers in Christendom. 

Julius stopped his ears. " Take it away — horrid little 
thing I But Letty," and he seized her hands again, "you 
must come back to me at once, for I want to speak to you. • 
I shall wait here till you come back, if it is till midnight^ 
or next morning. So you had better come. Promise you 
will." 

She. promised, though with a very dim intention of 
keeping her word. In truth, all she wanted at that mo- 
ment was to get rid of him — anyhow, in any way ; for she 
felt rather afraid of him. "He looked," she afterwards 
confessed to Edna, "as if he could have kissed me, or 
killed me; it was all one, and didn't much matter which." 

It was true. Men — no worse men than Julius — ^have 
sometimes killed the women they were in love with, on 
scarcely more provocation. 

But when, having resigned her charge to nurse, Letty 
ran up into her own room, she began to recover herselC 
There was a pleasurable excitement in being once more 
made love to, when she had half feared such a thing would 
never happen again ; that she should have to sink into a 
drudge and a maiden aunt, obliged to help in other peo- 
ple's work, and contemplate from a distance other people's 
joys — a picture not too attractive in the eyes of Miss 
Letty Kenderdine. Now, at least, she could be married 
if she chose — ^it was entirely her own fault if she were not. 
After her dull life in her brother-in-law's house, perhaps 
unconsciously, the spirit of the old song ran in her head — 

''Come deaf, or come blind, or come cripple, 
O come, ony ane o* ye a* I 
Better be married to something. 
Than no to be married ava.'* 

And Julius Stedman was not a despisable " something." 
He had youth, good looks, good manners, good brains. 
Every body admired him — so did Letty too, in her way. 
And then he was so frantically in love with her. 

" Poor fellow I" she thought, as she stood arranging her 



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THE woman's kingdom. 245 

hair at the glass, which gave back by no means a disa- 
greeable reflection — ** poor fellow ! I'm sure I could have 
liked him very much, if he had but had a little more 
money." 

She was here summoned for some inevitable house busi- 
ness, which she got through absently — there was little 
pleasure in keeping other people's houses. If she had one 
of her own, now— really pretty and comfortable — it would 
be quite different. And she caught herself reckoning, 
with arithmetical precision, how much it would be possi- 
ble for Julius Stedman to earn per annum, supposing he 
painted a picture regularly every three months, as of 
course he might easily do, and sold it, which was a little 
more diflScult. 

So serious a calculation made Letty look a little grave 
— at any rate, quiet — when she entered her sister's room, 
and stood watching the group there. William, shaken 
from his sleepiness by the energetic howling of his little 
son, had resigned himself to circumstances, and now sat 
looking very tired indeed, but exceedingly amused and 
contented, watching that young hero take his supper. 
While the mother — the pale, bright-eyed, smiling mother 
— but God only knows what is in the hearts of mothers. 
It was but a poor room, plainly furnished too ; but in its 
narrow compass it rounded the whole circle of this world's 
best joys. 

"Gome here, Letty," said William, kindly; "just look 
at that young gentleman. Isn't he enjoying himself? 
He will be taking a walk in the park, and giving his arm 
to his Aunt Letty, in no time." 

Letty laughed. Perhaps she was ^ little touched by 
the happiness before her ; perhaps there came also a little 
of the sad feeling which must come to the best and most 
unselfish of unmarried women at times, to see the rest of 
the world running its busy race, enjoying daily its natural 
joys, and she shut out. She, Letty Kenderdine, handsome 
and admired as she was, or had been, was now first object 
to no one — except that poor fellow down stairs. 

" Letty looks as grave as a judge," said Edna, turning a 



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246 THE woman's kingdom. 

moment from her sucking child, ber little blossom of Para- 
dise, to the common world. "Is any thing the matter?" 

" Oh no I" answered Letty, with a novel reticence, and 
blushing extremely. " Only— When is William coming 
down to supper?" 

" I don't know," said William, stretching himself out in 
lazy content, and regarding tenderly his wife and son. 
" Tell Julius— By-the-bye, is he here still ?" 

"I think so." 

" Tell him I wish he would get his supper without mind- 
ing me; If he had been up nearly every night for a week, 
and had a wife and baby on his mind besides, I am sure 
he would excuse me. You'll take care of him, won't you, 
Letty ? See that he is comfortable, and be kind to him. 
He has been so very kind and good lately — poor Julius !" 

Letty felt that fate was against her. To explain to Wil- 
liam — then and there — William, whom she was always a 
little afraid of— the reason why she could not go down 
and entertain his brother was simply impossible. At least, 
she said to herself that it was. Besides, would it not be 
better in every way, would save trouble and prevent fu- 
ture misunderstandings, that she should just hear what 
Julius had to say, give him his answer, and put a stop to 
this nonsense at once ? For it must be put a stop to — of 
course it must. And then she would again go out as a 
governess; and who knew what might happen? Some 
wealthy, sedate, respectable widower — about whose cir- 
cumstances and position there could not be the least doubt 
— who would not expect too much, and would make her 
very happy and comfortable. And then she thought of 
Julius — how handdome he was, and how wildly in love 
with her; and Letty sighed. 

She took as long a time as possible to order supper, and 
again went up into her room while it was being laid, to 
give to her dress a few last touches, so as to make herself 
look as well as possible. 

Yet it would be unfair to human nature to declare that 
Letty was quite composed, quite cold-blooded. As she 
looked in the glass at the fair face which was already be- 



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247 

ginning to fade, she thought of Edna, who never was pret- 
ty, who had not cared whether she was pretty or not, to 
whom growing old had no terrors ; for was she not wife 
and mother, loved with a love that was at once strong 
and tender, protecting and adoring ? Letty's heart beat a 
pulse or two faster. Yes, such a love would be "nice" to 
have. Neither solemn nor satisfying, delicious nor des- 
perate — ^merely " nice." But of course it could not be. A 
year's experience of what marriage is — upon a limited in- 
come — had given Letty a deeper dread than ever of poverty. 

" Oh, dear me !" thought she, " why are some people so 
very fortunate and others so very unfortunate — and all for 
no fault of their own ?" And then she gave the final brush 
to her shining hair, and went down to " that poor fellow." 

He was a poor fellow. He was mad — literally mad — 
with a passion against which he had struggled as much as 
was in his nature to struggle, but in vain. This insanity 
— shall we anatomize it ? I think not. God knows what 
an awful thing it is; and some women know it too, and 
have witnessed it, as Letty did now. But seldom the best 
or highest kind of women ; for the lover is very much what 
the loved one makes him to be ; and no passion, however 
hopeless, which has not been needlessly tortured by its ob- 
ject, stung with coldness one day and lulled by tenderness 
the next, is ever likely to degrade itself by grovelling in 
the dust — as, his first buret of impetuous tyranny over, 
Julius grovelled this night. 

" Oh, have pity on me, Letty !" he cried, throwing him- 
self before her, kissing her hands, her feet, the very hem of 
her gown. " I have tried all these months to forget you, 
to live without you, and I can not da it. If you will not 
marry me I shall go to utter ruin. For I can understand 
now how men drink themselves to death, or take to gam- 
bling, or buy a pistol and — " 

" Oh, stop !" exclaimed Letty, shuddering. " Please do 
not talk about such dreadful things. -You are very cruel 
to frighten me so." 

And she began to sob — real honest sobs and tears. They 
. drove Julius quite beside himself for the time being. 



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248 THE woman's kingdom. 

"I frighten you? Then you do care for me? I'll make 
you care forme!" 

He sprang from his knees and clutched her — a clutch 
rather than a clasp^tight in his embrace, and kissed her 
innumerable times. 

^^ Julius, for shame I" was all she said, still sobbing an- 
grily, like a child. 

He released her at once. 

" You are right. I am ashamed of myself. I have acted 
more like a brute than a gentleman. Shall I go away, and 
never enter your presence more ?" 

" I — ^I don't quite see the necessity of that," said Letty, 
half smiling. 

And then the poor frantic fellow snatched her to his 
arms once more, and vowed that if she would only say to 
him one loving word, neither heaven nor hell should pre- 
vent his marrying her. 

" But," said Letty, when she had suffered him to calm 
down a little, and had taken a brief opportunity to ar- 
range her hair, and seat herself in her proper place at ta- 
ble, in case any body should come in, " what in the wide 
world are we to marry upon ?" 

" Never mind — ^I'U see to that. I shall be as strong as 
a lion, as bold as Hercules, as patient and hard-working as 
— well, as my brother Will himself, if you only love me, 
Letty — only love me. Oh, say it I — say it over and over 
again !" and his dry and thirsting eyes seemed ready to 
drink in, like water in the desert, every look of this beau- 
tiful, beloved woman. " Tell me, my sweetest, that you 
really love me ?" 

Letty hardly knew what had come over her. As she 
afterwards confessed to Edna, it was the greatest piece 
of folly she ever committed in her life — she could scarcely 
tell even if it were speaking the truth or not — ^but what 
could she do ? She was obliged to say something just to 
quiet him. So she looked in her lover's face, and answer- 
ed, smilingly, " Yes." 

It is not the first time that a man's undoing has been 
the woman's doing. 



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THE woman's kingdom, 249 



CHAPTER XVm. 



Db. Stebman did not get the quiet evening he had 
promised himself — a comfort in his busy life only too 
rare. He might easily have indorsed, out of his own ex- 
perience, the brief question and answer recorded of two 
companions — ^**My dear friend, when shall you take a lit- 
tle rest?" "In my gravel" But if any such thought 
came across him, this brave Christian man would have 
smothered down the weak complaining, knowing that life 
is meant for labor, and the grave is our only place of 
righteous rest — or, perhaps, not even there. 

Still, for the time being, the hard - worked doctor felt 
excessively tired — too tired to talk much. He laid his 
head on his wife's shoulder, and watched the baby, who 
was fast asleep across her lap, until his face gradually soft- 
ened, so that it was difficult to say whether child or fa- 
ther looked most peaceful and content. Very like they 
were too — ^with that strange inherited likeness which is 
seen strongest immediately after birth — often then van- 
ishing, to reappear years after in the coffin ; but it made 
the young mother's heart leap when she looked at her 
child. 

" I am so glad he is like you, dear," she said. " I hope 
he will grow up your very image. I could not wish him 
a better blessing." 

" I could — ay, and I'll help him to get it as soon as ever 
he can." 

"What is that?" 

"A wife I — and just such a wife as his mother !" 

" Oh, Will I — oh, papa, I mean — for you must learn to be 
called that now," said Edna, with her own merry laugh, 
though all the while in each eye was a bright, glittering 
tear. And then she held up her face to be kissed, and the 
two overfull hearts met silently together over the little 
creature that owed its being to their love— whose future 

L2 



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250 THE woman's kingdom. 

was to them utterly, awfully unknown — except as far as 
it lay, humanly speaking, in their hands and in their love 
— to guide or misguide — to ruin or to save. 

"And now I must go down and bid good-night to Jul- 
ius — Uncle Julius. I wonder whether his nephew and 
namesake will at all take after him." 

Edna shrank involuntarily, and then said, with the infi- 
nite yearning pity that happy people feel towards those 
who have missed happiness, 

"Yes, you should go down to him for a little — poor 
Julius I — and bring me up my work-basket out of the little 
room behind the dining-room, for I have his gloves there, 
which I promised to mend three weeks ago. Oh, what an 
age seems to have gone by since then !" 

" Yes, thank God !" muttered Will, as he went away 
quietly — all the house seemed in dread of that great enor- 
mity, waking the baby — and hunted for several minutes 
in the little room — his wife's special room, with all her 
household relics sattered about, Letty's regency not being 
remarkable for neatness. But the right mistress would 
soon be back again to resume her place, and put every 
thing in order. And oh, to think what might have been ! 
— of the households of which he happened to have known 
several lately — where the mistress had vanished thus, and 
never come back again — alas ! never more. 

The young husband shuddered, and then, with a thrill 
of thankful joy, put the sickening thought away from him, 
and went back into his ordinary life and ordinary cares, 
of which not the lightest was his brother Julius. 

In early youth people find it hard enough to bear their 
own burdens ; later on, they learn to be thankful when 
these are only their own ; for each day brings with it, in a 
manner that none but the wholly selfish can escape from, 
only too heavy a share of the burdens of other people. 
As Will fulfilled his wife's small mission, he pondered 
with an anxiety, sometimes dormant, but never quite sub- 
dued, over his brother Julius. 

The dining-room was so silent that at first he thought 
Julius was gone, and so came suddenly in there — ^to see, 



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THE woman's kingdom. 251 

what made him for the moment instinctively draw back, 
feeling himself exceedingly de trop. 

The supper-table, laid an hour before, remained just as 
it was ; while, sitting on a sofa together, very close to- 
gether, with his hands clasping both hers, and his eyes 
fixed on her face — the intense, passionate gaze which told 
but one possible tale — were Letty and Julius. 

Both started up, and sprang apart ; but Letty recov- 
ered herself much the sooner, saying, in quite a careless 
voice, though her cheeks were hot and her manner slightly 
nervous, 

" Come in, William. We have been waiting for you." 

William stood, quite confounded, doubting the evidence 
of eyes and ears. Then he said, rather sharply, " You neeS 
not have waited, for I told you I was not coming ;" and 
paused for some explanation. 

But none came. Letty, with great composure— she was 
used to these sort of things — ^took her seat at the table, 
and, officiating there, managed not only to eat a good 
supper, but to keep up an easy conversation. True, she 
had it all to herself. Will was too honest to say more 
than half a dozen commonplace words and shrink into 
silence ; and Julius, after meeting a waraing glance from 
Letty, did the same. 

But the young lover was, like a lover, painfully nervous, 
trembling with smothered excitement. He could not look 
his brother in the eyes ; yet William was struck by the 
mixture of sadness and rapture that came and went in 
lights and shadows over his sensitive face. His was not 
the calm of assured happiness, but the fitful, desperate joy 
of a child who has hunted down a butterfly, and caught 
it under his cap, yet scarcely dares to believe it is safe 
thefe, or to look for it, lest he should find it flown away, 
after all. 

Supper over, Letty, with a brief good-night to Julius, 
coquettish rather, but careless and indifferent as any other 
good-night, vanished up stairs, and the two brothers were 
left alone. Julius took up his hat to go. 

"Jul" said Will, laying his hand on his shoulder, and 



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252 THE woman's KINGDOM; 

looking him hard in the face, " have you got nothing to 
say to me ?" 

" No, nothing !" The words came out hurriedly, and 
then he repeated them in an altogether changed and sup- 
pressed tone — the sudden and causeless depression which 
was one of his characteristics. " No, nothing !" 

Will, of course, said no more. 

But when he had shut the hall-door upon his brother, 
he went up to his wife with a countenance on which it 
was hard to say whether anger or grief predominated. 

" Oh, husband, what is the matter? — what has vexed 
you?" 

" Vexed is hardly the word ; but I am sorely grieved 
and perplexed. Where is Letty ?" 

^' Gone up stairs. She looked in here a minute, and went 
away." 
- " Did she say nothing — tell you nothing ?" 

"No." 

And then, seeing how pale his wife grew, he told her in 
a few words all he had seen. ^ 

" If I had not seen it, I could not have believed. I don't 
know how you women feel in such mattei*s — that is, or- 
dinary women : not my wife — I know her mind I — but if 
Letty is not engaged to Julius, I might say a few sharp 
words concerning her, even though she is your sister." 

Edna was silent. The strong tie of blood, which in 
tender and faithful hearts will bear such long straining, 
kept her silent ; but she looked exceedingly sad. 

" The girl can not know what she is doing," said Dr. 
Stedman, rising and pacing the room in exceeding annoy- 
ance. " It is like the fable of the boys and the frogs — 
sport to her, and death to him ; for he is just as mad afler 
her as ever. I saw it in his eyes. And she will never 
marry him ; she would marry nobody that is not well off; 
I heard her say so only yesterday." 

"Are you sure of that?" 

"Quite sure; and I entirely agree with her. It would 
be madness in any poor man to think of marrying her. 
She wants, not an honest man to love, which some people 



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THE woman's kingdom. 253 

I could name were silly enough to care for and think worth 
having, but an establishment and a few thousands a year." 

Edna would not answer. She knew it was true. 

" Not that I blame her; and I hope she'll get her wish," 
said Will, waxing hotter every moment. "But in the 
mean time she shall not make a fool of my brother Julius. 
And it's not merely making a fool of him, she is making 
him despise her, and, through her, all women. Edna, when 
once a man gets that into hi& head — that you are not bet- 
ter than we are ; that there is nothing worshipful about 
you ; nothing for a poor fellow to look up to and hold fast 
by in this wicked, contemptible world — it's all over with 
him. If he does not respect women, he respects nothihg. 
He goes down, down, to the bottomless pit. Oh, I wish I 
had been wiser, and had never taken her into my house, or 
never let my brother set foot within it ; for I know what 
he is, and what she is. She will be the ruin of him." 

William spoke with a passion that even his wife could 
hardly understand ; and yet she felt he had right on his 
side. 

'' But," she pleaded, " perhaps we entirely mistake. She 
may have accepted him." 

"Then why not say so? Why should he not say so? 
I gave him the chance. Of course a man holds his tongue 
till he is really engaged. Ju and I have never once named 
Letty's name between us. But depend upon it, there's 
something wrong, something bad, or weak, or cowardly, 
when a man dare not tell his own brother that he is going 
to be married. And as for her — ^Edna, I am sorry, sorry to 
my heart, to think ill of your sister ; but I can not help it." 

"No, you can not; I see that. Still she is my sister; 
and, as you said, she does not know what she is doing." 

Will stopped in his angry walk, and contemplated the 
little figure sitting on the sofa corner, in white dressing- 
gown and cap, so matronly, calm, and sweet. 

" You are right, my darling ; she does not know. Wom- 
en never do. I was not such a very bad fellow as a bach- 
elor, not in the worst sense, only selfish, rough, worldly ; 
but oh I how I have learned to hate my old self now I How 



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264 THE woman's kingdom. 

thankful I am that a certain little woman I know came and 
laid her fairy hands on me, and led me right, as only wom- 
en and wives can I Strong, pure, loving hands they must 
be; if they are not, if they lead not the right way, but the 
wrong — Edna, if Julius goes to the bad, it will be Letty's 
doing." 

" What is Letty's doing ? and why is William in such a 
passion ? Have I got into disgrace about the dinner again ? 
I'm always getting into disgrace, I think. Nobody can 
please him but you, Edna." 

Letty stood at the door with a pretty air of innocent 
sulkiness, her candle in her hand, which, while in the dusky 
twilight it hid from her the faces of her brother and sister, 
vividly displayed her own. Such a lovely face — more daz- 
zling than ever in its expression of mischievous triumph — 
a face that, whether or not it could soothe or comfort a 
man, had assuredly in it the power to drive him wild. 

" So you have nothing to say to me, after all ? And you 
both look exceedingly comfortable, and don't want me, I'm 
sure. Good-night, then, for I'm going to bed." 

" I have something to say to you. Sister Letty," replied 
William's grave voice. " Stay ; for I had better say it at 
once." 

Now, in her secret heart, Letty had a great respect for 
William. He was the only young man of her acquaint- 
ance who had come within fair reach of her charms and 
not succumbed to them — who had been to her the kindest 
of friends, but never a lover ; over whom, well as he liked 
her and showed it, her fascinations had not the slightest 
influence. She knew it, and stood in awe of him accord- 
ingly. 

She set down her candle, and answered rather meekly 
than otherwise: 

" Well, if you are going to scold me, I had better take a 
chair, for I am rather tived — your brother kept me talking 
so very long. But, then, you told me to make him com- 
fortable. And, really; Julius is so clever — so exceedingly 
amusing." 

She spoke flippantly, and yet not unobservantly ; she 

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THE woman's kingdom. 266 

seemed wishful either to throw dust in her brother-in-law's 
eyes, or to find out how much he really knew of the state 
of things. But her finesse was all lost upon William. He 
said, bluntly and angrily, 

" I wonder, Letty, you dare look me in the face and men- 
tion my brother's name." 

" Dare ! Why should I not ?" 
' " You know why." 

There was an awkward pause, and then Letty said, care- 
lessly, 

" Oh, if you mean because he once made me an offer and 
I refused him, as I have refused a dozen more. I couldn't 
help that, you know." 

"No, and I never blamed you for it. But it ought to 
have been a plain, decisive ^ No,' as I understood it was, 
and an end to the matter. Now — " 

" Well, Dr. Stedman, and now ?" mimicked Letty, half 
mischievously, and yet for some reason or other unwilling 
to betray herself xmtil the very last. 

" It isn't an easy thing to say to a lady ; but I have eyes 
in my head," said William, much annoyed, " and, from what 
. I saw this evening, I can only conclude — " 

Letty began to laugh. " Oh, pray don't conclude any 
thing I You are so very particular !" 

William Stedman turned away in anger — in something 
worse than anger — contempt, and was quitting the room 
abruptly, when his wife caught his hand. 

" Oh, stop I Letty, do explain things to him. Will, per- 
haps she meant nothing ; or she may not quite know her 
own mind." 

"Then she ought to know it; it is mere weakness if 
she does not. And in such cases weakness is wickedness. 
You women dance with lucifer matches over powder mag- 
azines. I beg your pardon. Miss Kenderdine. Your love 
affairs are no business of mine ; «or should I take the lib- 
erty even of naming them, were it not that Julius happens 
to be my brother. I know him, and you do not. As I 
have just been saying to my wife, if you do not take care 
yoTt will be the ruin of him." 



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266 THE woman's kingdom, 

"Shall I?" said Letty, a little frightened, and a little 
touched, also, for there is something in an honest man's 
righteous wrath which carries conviction to even the shal- 
lowest natures. " Perhaps I may be. I told him so ; but 
it won't be in the way you imagine. I didn't mean to tell 
you — not just yet, for there's many a slip between the 
cup and the lip — and I know I am doing a very silly thing, 
which I didn't mean to do, only somehow he persuaded 
me ; but — Well, brother Will," and she laughed and cast 
down her eyes, " instead of abusing me, you had better kiss 
and forgive me, for I'm not going to harm Julius. I promised 
I would marry him — that is, as soon as he can afford it." 

She held out her hands in a pretty, beseeching way, and 
her eyes glistened with something not unlike tears; in 
truth, the beautiful Letty had not often looked so woman- 
ly and so sweet. 

William was melted. He embraced her warmly, and 
said he was glad to have her as a double sister. As for 
Edna, she sprang to Letty's neck — almost forgetting the 
baby — and did— as women always do on these occasions ; 
women who, judging others' hearts by their own, believe 
true love and happy marriage to be the utmost blessed- 
ness of life. 

Then they all three settled down, as people will settle 
down from the highest tide of emotion to corresponding 
ebb, a little dull, perhaps, seeing that, after the first warm 
impulse, each of them had necessarily some reserve. Be- 
sides, they were not very romantic — at least, Will and* 
Letty were not. As for Edna? Mercifully Heaven puts 
into some natures, especially those destined for a not easy 
life, a certain celestial leaven — a sense of the heroic, love- 
ly, and divine — which the world calls romance, but which 
they themselves know to be that which sustains them in 
trial, braces them for bitter duties, comfoits them when 
outside comforts are faint and few. Edna was a " roman- 
tic " woman. You saw it in her eyes. Whether she was 
the better or the worse for this her life showed. 

" My darling, you look as pleased as if you were going 
to be married yourself." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 257 

"Do I, Will?" and she took a'hand of her husband and 
sister — her two dearest on earth — and cast a fond look 
on a third small creature, still so much a piece of herself 
that she hardly regarded it as a separate existence at all. 
" Yes, never was a happier woman than I am this night, 
with you and baby, and Letty and Julius all right. Oh, 
how glad I am I — ^how very glad I am I" and the wife's 
and mother's heart danced within her at all the joy that 
was coming to her sister. 

" I know Julius will be a good husband, not so good as 
William — ^nobody could be that — ^but very, very kind and 
good. And, Letty, yo];i will be his lady and his queen. 
Don't laugh. We are queens, we women — queens and 
handmaids too, and as royal when we serve as when we 
rule. It is only when we step down from our throne and 
turn into nautch-girls and harem slaves that we degrade 
ourselves and our husbands too." 

" You are talking poetry, my love," said Will, with a 
tender patronizing ; " and so I must turn the tables, and 
talk a little prose. Sister Letty, may I ask, when shall 
you and Julius be married?" 

Letty didn't know. She hoped rather soon, as she had 
a great objection to long engagements. 

"And what are you going to marry upon ?" 

"Ay, that is the difficulty which your brother and I 
were talking over just when you came in."'^ 
. "What, already?" said Edna. 

" Yes, why not ? It was the most important point of 
the matter; for, as I told him, I have been poor all my 
life, and very uncomfortable I have found it, so I am de- 
termined when I marry it shall not be to poverty. I told 
Julius he must contrive to make an income — a good setr 
tied income — within a reasonable time, or our engagement 
must necessarily fall througli. Though I should be sorry 
for that, for I do like Julius ; he is handsomer than any 
body I ever knew — and so exceedingly amusing." 

The husband and wife met each other's eyes with an 
anxious, mournful meaning, and then hopelessly turned the 
matter off with a jest. 



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268 

" Edna, my wife, I am afraid you are by no means the 
handsomest person of my acquaintanca" ' 

" Nor you the most amusing of mine." 

" Yet, you see, Letty, we contrive to jog on together, 
but shall be delighted to be outdone by you and Julius. 
Let us reckon. Since the whole question apparently re- 
solves itself into pounds, shillings, and pence — how much 
does he make a year — not counting — ^" 

" Not counting your allowance to him, if you mean to 
refer to that. He told me of it to-night, but says he will 
not accept it any more." 

" I did not mean it, but am veiy glad to hear it," re- 
turned William, gravely. " No man ought to marry upon 
another person's money. But how does he intend to man- 
age without it." 

" That is the thing ; and I wish you would try to per- 
suade him," cried Letty, anxiously. " There is a matter 
on which I have been persuading him with all my might ; 
in fact, I have told him I don't think I can marry him un- 
less he does it." 

"Does what?" 

" Gives up art and takes to business." 

" Takes to business — which he so dislikes !" 

" Gives up art — which he loves so much !" 

" You may say what you like, both of you," Letty re- 
plied to these exclamations, " but I know it would be the 
most prudent. I have said my say, and I mean to stick to 
it. He has grand ideas, poor fellow, about how well he 
should get on when we were married, and he had me for 
his model — ^his inspiration — ^his muse, I think he said, but 
I told him that was all nonsense ; he had much better have 
me as the mistress of a good house, with every thing nice 
and comfortable about me. I should be happier, and he 
too. Now, William, don't you think so ?" 

" My dear sister, I have given up thinking much about 
these matters of you and Julius. I have no call to inter- 
fere or do any thing but offer my best wishes." 

"And your advice — ^pray give him your advice," cried 
Letty, with more anxiety and eagerness than she had yet 



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259 

shown. " Make him understand how foolish he would be 
to reject Mr. Marchmont's offer — of entering his house of 
business, first as a salaried clerk, then becoming a junior 
partner." 

"Did Mr. Marchmont really offer that? I wonder. Jul- 
ius never told me." 

" He only told me to-night, or rather I told him ; I heard 
it this morning. It was the first thing which made me 
think seriously of marrying him." 

The excessive candor of Letty's worldliness often dis- 
armed indignation. Dr. Stedman could hardly help smil- 
ing. 

" Letty, you are the oddest girl I ever knew I What- 
ever else you may be, you are no hypocrite. And so you 
want me to help you in turning my brother's life clean up- 
side down. Is he mad enough to do it, I wonder, for you 
or any woman alive ?" 

" I don't consider it mad ; and I am almost sure he will 
do it for me. He had nearly promised me when you came 
into the room." 

" Well, that is some consolation. It Mras not a kiss I 
intnided upon — only a bargain." 

» " William, do be serious I" cried Letty, really annoyed. 
" Can't you see what a good chance it is ? Here is old 
Mr. Marchmont with no son — only Lily — ^" 

" Perhaps he does it with an eye to Lily, as you hinted 
once she liked our Julius." 

." Oh no, that was all a mistake;" and Letty tossed her 
head. "At least Julius won't marry Lily — she is never 
likely to marry any body. For all her red cheeks, she is 
dying of consumption, and they know it." 

"Poor thing — poor father and mother!" said Edna, 
stopping in her busy hushing of the baby to listen. " But 
perhaps she really liked Julius, and for her sake, even 
though she is dying, they wish to do him good." 

" That is your romantic version of the affair, but the 
plain sense of it is that Julius has received such an offer : 
if he accepts it, Pll marry him ; if not, I won't. So there . 
is an end of the matter. And now Fll go to bed." 



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260 THB woman's kingdom. 

Bat still she lingered, watching her brother and sister. 
Edna sat leaning against her husband; and he had his 
arm round both her and the child, his rugged, yet tender 
face looking down protectingly upon both. A pretty pic- 
ture, unconsciously made, yet full of meaning, which even 
Letty saw. Something of nature — sweet, true, human na- 
ture — tugged at her heart-strings. 

" Don't be vexed with me, I know I am not so good as 
you two. I can not, for my life, see things as you do ; but 
I'll try my best, indeed I will. Please don't be angry with 
me." 

And sliding to her knees, she laid her cheek on Edna's 
lap — or, rather, on the baby — and kissed the sleeping 
hands which lay there curled like tiny rose-leaves. God 
knows what was in the woman's mind ; perhaps a moment- 
ary gleam — all womanly — of that maternal instinct which 
in some women is stronger even than conjugal love — ex- 
ists before it, and long survives it ; or, possibly, only a 
sudden thought of how far removed she was both from 
her sister and from that innocent babyhood, fresh from 
heaven, which none of us can look at without wonder and 
awe. But there she knelt, and shed on the tiny hand and 
pretty white frock — her own working — more than one 
tear ; maybe the purest, honestest tears that Letty Ken- 
derdine e\er shbd. 

" 60 away, William, please," whispered Edna ; and when 
the door closed upon him she took her sister in her arms, 
wished her happiness anew, and, moreover, told her how 
to earn it and keep it — as women well-beloved always can. 
The listener, if she did not understand much, at least list- 
ened with a tender, touched expression ; and when the 
two sisters parted for the night they felt more thoroughly 
sisters, more near together, than they had ever done in 
their lives. 

For William, he followed his first natural impulse, 
snatched up his hat, and, late as it was, went off straight 
to his brother's lodgings. 

It was still dusk, not dark ; and through the balmy 
summer night the nightingales were singing shrill and 



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THE woman's KINGPOM. 261 

clear — as they used to sing twenty years ago from the 
tall trees of Holland Park. But Kensington High Street 
shone all a-glare with gas-light still, for it was Saturday 
night; and filing through it and its wretched -looking 
crowds came a string of grand carriages from some enter- 
tainment at the Palace. Dr. Stedman looked carelessly in 
at the lovely faces and flashing diamonds, and thought of 
the little figure in the sofa-comer, and the other one, as 
yet scarcely to him an entity at all, asleep on her lap. His 
heart leaped — ^the husband's and father's heart. He had 
tasted the life of life : he could afford to let its empty 
shows go by. 

With a blithe step Will entered his brother's room — 
half-parlor, half-studio — which, though a good room in a 
handsome house, was always strewn with what the doctor 
called artistic rubbish. Still Julius'e keen sense of beau- 
ty and fitness had hitherto kept it in some sort of order. 
Now it had none. Utter neglect, all but squalid untidi- 
ness, were its sole characteristics ; and the owner sat alone, 
not even smoking, though the room was redolent of stale 
tobacco, but lolling on the table, his head hidden upon his 
arms, so absorbed, or else half asleep, that he did not even 
notice the opening door. 

"Hollo, old fellow, what's the matter with you? A 
pretty sight I find you, after turning out at this late hour 
just to wish you joy." 

" Wish me joy !" Julius sprang to his feet, his flushed 
face gleaming wildly. " What do you mean ?" 

" What do you mean, you deceitful, shut-up, unbrother- 
ly fellow, not to tell me what I should be so glad to hear? 
Of course she told." 

"What did she say?" 

William laughed, though a little vexed at this excessive 
reticence, till the agony of suspense in Julius's face startled 
him. 

" Don't mock me. Will ; tell me what she said — what 
she really thinks; for, before Heaven, I declare to you this 
minute I have no idea whether she will take me or not. 
I only know that if she does not — ^" He laughed hoarsely, 



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262 THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

and made a. sharp, quick sound with his mouth, like the 
click of a pistol. 

" Don't be a fool," said Will, angrily ; then clapped him 
on the shoulder. " You are a fool, of course ; we are all 
fools in our day about some woman or other. But cheer 
up; you'll get what you want. Letty said distinctly to 
her sister and to me that you and she were engaged to be 
married." 

Evidently Julius had been strung up to such a pitch of 
excitement and despair, that, with this sudden reaction, 
his self-control entirely left him. He threw himself back 
in his chair, covered his face with his hand, and sobbed 
like a woman or a child. Alas ! there was about him, and 
would be till the day of his death, much both of the wom- 
an and the child. 

Will walked to the window. If the young man had 
been any one else — But all his life Julius had won from 
him an exceptional tenderness. The look of slight con- 
tempt faded from his face, leaving it only grave and sad ; 
and it was a kind and cheery hand he laid on his brother's 
shoulder once more. 

" Come, come, Ju I this is not exactly the way to begin 
life ; for you are beginning it quite anew, as every man 
does when he is engaged to be married. I give you joy, 
my lad, and so does Edna." 

"Thank you both." 

The brothers shook hands, brotherly and friendly ; and 
then, without more waste of emotion. Will plunged into 
the practical side of the affair, asked Julius what were 
his future plans, and especially what was that offer of 
Mr. Marchmont's to which Letty had alluded, and which 
seemed too extraordinary to be true. 

" Yes, it is quite true. Sit down, and I'll tell you all 
about it." 

And then, with some natural and not discreditable hesi- 
tation, he confided to his brother one of those romances in 
real life which, when we authors hear of and compare with 
those we invent, we smile to think that were we to make 
our fiction half as strange as truth nobody would read us. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 263 

The rich merchant's -only child had fallen in love with 
the poor artist, frantically, desperately, and held to him 
with a persistent passion that, being concealed, came in 
time to sap the very springs of life. In fact, she was dying 
— ^merry, rosy-faced Lily Marchmont — dying literally of a 
broken heart. How far Jalius was to blame nobody coald 
say : he himself declared that he was not — that he had 
never made love to her, never intended such a thing. And 
when at last — Lily's secret being discovered — her misera- 
ble parents betrayed it to him, and made him this propo- 
sal for her sake, he declined it. Whatever he had done, 
he did the right thing now. He was too honorable to de- 
grade a woman by marrying her for mere pity, when he 
felt not an atom of love. 

" You did right," said Will, with energy. "And all this 
was going on, and we knew nothing — you kept it so close. 
What you must have suffered, my poor fellow !" 

" Never mind me ; there's another I think of much more. 
Poor little thing ! God forgive me all the misery I have 
caused her !" And could she have seen Julius then, Lily 
might have felt herself half avenged. 

" Does she know about Letty ?" 

"Yes; I told her — clear and plain. It was the only 
honest thing to do. But it signifies little now ; she is dy- 
ing ; and before she dies she wants her parents to adopt 
me as a son — to take me into the house of business, either 
in London or Calcutta — only fancy my going out to Cal- 
cutta ! — first as a clerk, with a rising salary, and then as a 
partner. She settled it all, poor girl, and her father came 
and implored me to accept. But I never thought of it, not 
for one minute, till they told Letty, and I^etty urged me to 
agree. She has no scruples about poor little Lily." 

"And Lily?" 

" Lily only thinks of Letty — that is, of me through her. 
She wants me to be happy with Letty when she is gone. 
Oh, it's a queer world !" 

Will thought so too, as he recalled the merry little girl, 
whose governess his wife had been, who had now and then 
come to his house, and whom he knew Edna was fond of 



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264 THE woman's kingdom. 

— rich, bright, prosperous Lily Marchmont — dying. He 
looked at the haggard face which even happiness could 
not brighten much : he remembered his talk with Letty 
that night — Letty, who considered it almost a misfortune 
to marry Julius — and the strange incongruities and ine- 
qualities of life forced themselves upon his mind. Yet 
perhaps things were less unequal than they seemed — per- 
haps in the awfully uncertain future there might come a 
time when Lily Marchmont in her grave would be more 
happy than either Letty or Julius. 

However, to forecast thus mournfully was worse than 
useless — wrong. Will rose. 

"I must go now. My wife will wonder where I am. 
Yes, lad, as you say, it is a queer world; but we must 
make the best of it. You'll come over to breakfast to- 
morrow ?" 

Julius hesitated. 

" Of course you must. Letty will expect you." 

Poor fellow — how his whole countenance glowed ! Yes, 
that was the one thing certain in all this perplexity. Jul- 
ius was deeply, devotedly in love ; and out of a man in 
such a condition can be made any thing good or bad. 

" You're very far gone — quite over head and ears, I 
see," said Will, smiling. " I wonder you never told me till 
now." 

" How could I, while I had nothing to tell, except that I 
was perfectly mad ? She kept me in a state something like 
Tantalus or Ixion, or some of those poor ghosts that Fve 
been trying to paint here. I ought to be successful in 
painting hell; these six months I have assuredly been 
in it." 

" You're out of it now, though, old fellow ; so cheer up 
and forget it. You'll be all right soon. A man is not half 
a man till he is married ; and when he is, he may face the 
whole world. That's my opinion and experience. Now 
I'm off. Good-night I" 



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265 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Julius accepted Mr. Marchmont's offer, and Letty Ken- 
derdine accepted him — that is, conditionally, promising 
to marry him as soon as his income warranted what she 
called a "comfortable establishment." The exact sum, or 
the exact date, she declined to give, and she wished the 
engagement to be kept as private as possible. " For," said 
she, "who knows what might happen? and then it would 
be so very awkward." 

So they were betrothed, to use the good old word — now 
almost as obsolete as the thing — and two days afterwards 
Lily Marchmont died, slipping away, quietly and happily, 
to a world which long sickness had made to her a far 
nearer world than this. Her former governess, Mrs. Sted- 
man, was with her at her death-bed, and mourned her af- 
fectionately and long. 

Julius also, let him not be too harshly judged. For 
many days after Lily's death, even amidst his own first 
flush of happiness, he looked pale and sad; and while 
playing the devoted lover sudden glooms would come 
over him, which Letty could not in the least understand, 
and which affronted her extremely. Doubtless she was 
very proud of him and his prospects ; for in her secret 
heart she had always looked down upon the profession of 
an artist as not quite the thing — not exactly respectable. 
Besides, how could it ever have supplied the house in 
Phillimore Place, or some place like it, upon which she 
had set her heart, and which she furnished and refurnish- 
ed, imaginarily, a dozen times a day ? Likewise, her mind 
was greatly occupied by her future carriage, and the diffi- 
culty of deciding whether it should be a brougham or a 
britzska, Julius being gloriously indifferent to both. But 
all these splendors loomed in the distance ; his present in- 
come was only £300 a year — a sum upon which Letty de- 
clared it was quite impossible to marry. 

M 



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266 THE woman's kingdom. 

So she lived on in her brother-in-law's house, and her 
lover in his lodgings hard by, meeting every day, and en- 
joying, or they might have enjoyed, to their fullest con- 
tent, the sweet May -time of courtship; when restless 
hearts gain strength and calm, and true hearts grow to- 
gether, learning many a lesson of patience and forbear- 
ance, self-distrust and self-denial, from which they may 
benefit all their lives to come, if they so choose. 

But these two were rather uncomfortable lovers. They 
did not "shake down together," as Will insisted they 
must be left to do, without any interference from the 
sympathetic Edna, to whom — ^luckless little sister 1 — they 
both came in their never-ending small " tiffs," forsaking 
her, of course, when the troubles were over. No doubt 
Julius was madly in love still, which, considering the silly 
things Letty often said and did, and how little of real 
companionship there was between them — affianced lovers 
though they were — sometimes roused Edna's surprise. 
But she comforted herself by the common excuse that 
tastes differ, and people who seem the most glaringly dis- 
siinilar to others, often between themselves find a similar- 
ity and suitability which makes them grow together, and 
in the end become perfectly united and happy. 

"As, truly, I hope, Letty and Julius will be," repeated 
Edna for the twentieth time, concluding a talk on this 
subject with the only person to whom she ever confided 
it. " Dearest, what a mercy it is that each one thinks his 
or her choice best, and nobody ever wishes for anybody 
else's wife or husband !" 

Will laughed ; it was impossible to help it ; but as he 
kissed her earnest, innocent eyes — as innocent as her 
baby's eyes — he thanked Heaven for the safe assuredness 
of his own lot, even though at the same time he half 
sighed over the uncertainty of his brother's. 

Dr. Stedman was no poetical optimist, or purblind 
dreamer; just an honest, ordinary man, working hard 
among the world of men, with his eyes wide open — as a 
doctor's must be — to all its misery and sin, yet shrinking 
from neither ; walking straight on, through foul ways and 



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267 

clean, with a steady, upright, pure heart, as an honest man 
can do. But being thus sadly wise, and seeing only too 
far into the depths of things, made him more than ever 
anxious over his brother Julius. 

For the first few months of his engagement Julius 
seemed happy. He had gained, as he said, his heart's de- 
sire ; and he was young enough to bear a little of hope 
deferred. His changed career he did not actually dislike. 
Either he had a little wearied of unsuccessful Art, and 
business, with its settledness and regularity, had a sooth- 
ing and strengthening effect on his excitable temperament ; 
but he vowed that his " erratic " days were done, dubbed 
himself a regular " city man," came home punctually ; and 
daily, as the clock struck eight, his little, slender, lissome 
figure might be seen hurrying round the street comer, and 
his quick, impetuous knock was heard through the even- 
ing quiet of Dr. Stedman's house. Then he would just 
put in his smiling face to what was formerly a consulting- 
room, then the dining-room, and afterwards the domain of 
Edna and baby ; would give a brotherly jest or two, and 
leap up stairs, three steps at a time, to the drawing-room, 
where sat, always sweetly smiling and prettily dressed, his 
expectant Letty. 

They were pleasant days, these courtship days ; and a 
pleasant sight were the two lovers — when in their good 
moods — both so handsome, light-hearted, and bright. Still 
dark days did come — they come soon enough in all loves, 
and all lives — and then Edna had a hard time of it. Yet 
still, in her fond romance, her earnest faith in the saving 
power of love, she put up with every thing, hoping for the 
best, and determined to do so till the end. 

Which end, after six months of love-making, seemed as 
far off as ever, until an unexpected turn of affairs brought 
it to a crisis. 

One January night Julius came in, " all in the sulks," as 
Letty called it — one of those moods to which he was so 
liable, and to escape which his betrothed always, as now, 
ensconced herself behind the safe shelter of the family cir- 
cle, and sewed away, unconscious, or pretending uncon- 



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268 THE woman's kingdom. 

scionsness, of the sad, passionate, beseeching looks which 
followed her every movement. She had grown used to 
his devotion — it was nothing new now ; and the silly wom- 
an threw away as dross that which some other woman — 
poor Lily Marchmont, for instance — ^might have gathered 
up and stored as the wealth of two lives. 

But Letty stitched and stitched, wholly occupied with 
the effect of her white tarlatan and pink ribbons. 

"And, after all, I shall have to ruin it in a common 
street cab. How very provoking! Will, do you ever 
mean to set up your carriage ?" 

" You would not benefit much by it, Letty," returned 
Will, rather gruffly, since from behind his newspaper he 
often saw more than he was given credit for, " I suppose 
you will not live with us always." 

" Heigh-ho ! It looks very like it." 

Julius winced. " That is not my fault, Letty, as well 
you know. May I tell William and Edna what I was 
telling you yesterday, and ask their opinion ?" 

"If you like; but I take nobody's opinion. I said, and 
I say it still, that five hundred a year is actual poverty. 
Look at Edna ; she has not, to my certain knowledge, had 
a new dress these six months." 

" Because she wanted none," said Edna, hastily. " But 
come, Julius, your news ! Has Mr. Marchmont raised 
your salary? He told me he should; you were so 
clever — had taken to business so aptly — were sure to 
get on," 

Julius shook his head despondently. "He thinks so, 
but Letty doesn't. She will not trust herself to me — not 
even with five hundred a year." 

"No," said Letty, setting her lovely lips together in the 
hard line they would sometimes exhibit. " You may all 
preach as you like, but I don't approve of poverty ; and 
any thing is poverty under a thousand a year." 

" Theji we may as well part at once !" cried Julius, vi- 
olently. 

Letty stopped her sewing, to turn round upon him a 
placid smile. 



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269 

" Indeed, my dear Julius, I sometimes think that would 
be by far our best course." 

Julius answered nothing. His very lips grew white; 
his anger ceased ; he was ready to humble himself in the 
dust at Letty's feet. 

"Letty, how can* you?" whispered Edna in passing. 
" You speak as if you did not love him at all." 

" Oh yes, I do," returned Letty, carelessly, as she de- 
voted all her energies to her last pink bow. "But he 
might wait a little longer for me without grumbling. He 
is not near so wretched as he makes himself out to be — 
has comfortable lodgings — ^heaps of friends." 

" Take care ! Better not drive me back to my * friends.' " 

" Why, Julius ? Were they so very — ^" 

" Never mind what they were — I have done with them 
now. Only keep me from going back to them. Dearest, 
if you wish to save me, keep me beside you. Take me, 
and make the best of me, my Letty — my only love !" 

The latter words were in a whisper of passionate appeal, 
such as a man sometimes makes to a woman — a cry for 
help, strength, salvation, such as she, and she only, can 
bring. But this woman heard it with deaf, ignorant ears, 
neither understanding nor heeding. 

"Oh, my dress — my beautiful new dress — you are 
trampling over it, ruining it ! Julius, do get away !" 

He moved aside at once. 

" I beg your pardon," and the old satirical manner re- 
turned. " I ought to have remembered that woman's first 
object in life is — clothes." 

But the next instant, when Letty rose to quit the room, 
he threw himself between her and the door. 

" Have I vexed you ? Oh, say you are not displeased 
with me. It will kill me if you quit me in anger. Oh, 
Letty, I will work like a horse in a mill to get you all 
you want." 

" I am sure I want nothing, except not to be married 
just yet — until you can make me comfortable," said Let- 
ty, in an injured tone. "And you do worry me so" (which 
perhaps was true enough). " It's very hard for me." 



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210 THE woman's kingdom. 

" It is hard." Then suddenly and impetuously, " Would 
you like to get rid of me ? Because — there is a way. No, 
not that way," seeing Letty looked really frightened. " I 
am not such a fool, though I have sometimes said it. And 
the other way would be almost as sure. Mr. Marchmont 
could secure me a thousand a year — your great ambi- 
tion — if I would at once go out to India for — let us say 
twenty years." 

" Go out to India — for twenty years !" cried Edna. 
"Oh, Julius, surely you would never think of such a 
dreadful thing I"" 

" Is it so dreadful, my kind little sister ?" replied Julius, 
tenderly. " But Letty, my own Letty, what does she say ?" 

Letty had turned eagerly round, on the point of speak- 
ing, but when her sister spoke she drew back, a little 
ashamed. 

" Of course, as Edna says, it would be a very dreadful 
thing in some ways — especially at first; but you might 
get used to it. And consider, if you were to make your 
fortune, as Mr. Marchmont did — as people who go out to 
India always do — " 

"And you would share it? Or" — a new idea seemed 
to strike the desperate lover — " you might help me to win 
it. Tell me, if I went out to India, would you go too ?" 

Letty looked down demurely. "Perhaps I might. I 
don't know. I always had a fancy for India, where one 
could ride in a palanquin, and have plenty of diamonds 
and beautiful shawls. Yes, perhaps I might be persuaded 
to go — sometime." 

Julius covered her hand with grateful kisses, and Letty 
allowed herself to be led back to the fireside, where the 
project was entered into seriously in family conclave. 

But, in truth, Letty, assuming for the first time in her 
life a will of her own, decided the question. In one of 
those rare fits of resolution which the weak and irreso- 
lute take, she had convinced herself that going to India 
was the best thing possible for herself and Julius. " Her- 
self and Julius." Her unconscious wording of the matter 
was the key to it all. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 271 

" For Julius, all places were alike to him, so that he had 
Letty beside him — Letty wholly his own. He betrayed 
even a wild delight at the idea of having her all to himself 
— away from all her kith and kin, in the mysterious depths 
of India. He was in that condition when the one passion, 
less a passion than a monomania, swallows up every lesser 
feeling — overwhelms and determines all. So, after dis- 
cussing the point inconclusively until past midnight, he 
went away, and came back next evening at his usual hour 
with the brief words, " I have done it." 

"Done what?" asked Letty. 

" Exactly what you wished me to do. I have an*anged 
with Mr. Marchmont to go out to Calcutta. And now, 
my dearest, you can set about your preparations at once." 

" Preparations for what ?" said Letty, innocently. 

"Our marriage. We must be married and go out in 
three weeks — only three weeks. Oh, my Letty! my 
Letty!" 

He clasped her in his arms, almost beside himself with 

joy. 

But Letty drew back; primly protesting, " She had had 
no idea of such a thing. She did not like being married 
in such a hurry. How could she possibly get her things 
ready ? Besides, she had never promised — she was quite 
certain she had never promised. No, if he went, he must 
go by himself." 

Julius stood literally aghast. 

" What have I done ? Oh, Edna !" for, seeing him turn 
deadly white, Edna had sprung up from her work and 
caught him by the arm. " Edna, this is what comes of 
trusting a woman." 

And then ensued one of those scenes — only too common 
now — of anguish, bitterness, protestation, appeals, ending 
by Letty's being moved to tears, and Julius to contrite 
despair accordingly. Edna said nothing; they had both 
grown quite careless of her presence at such times ; and 
how could she, or any third person, interfere between 
them? She was only thankful William was not by — 
William, who had not so much patience as she. But she 



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272 THE woman's kingdom. 

trembled as she thought of the future of these two lovers, 
who made love not a blessing, but a torment — a burden, 
almost a curse. If it were thus before marriage, what 
would it be afterwards ? 

Presently the storm lulled. For once Letty had over- 
strained her power. Even in this Armida's garden where 
she held Bim bound, the poor Rinaldo began to feel blind- 
ly for his old armor, and to struggle under his flowery 
chains. 

" It is of no use talking, I must go, and by the next mail. 
I promised Mr. Marchmont, and I will keep my promise. 
Am I not right, Edna ?" And he walked across the room 
to her. 

She held out her hand to him. " Yes, I think you are." 

Then Letty, seeing her sceptre slipping from her, gave 
way a little, and said, in a complaining tone, 

" You are all very unkind to me. How can I go out in 
three weeks ? And to be married and left behind a * wid- 
ow bewitched,' as Julius proposes, would be dreadful. If 
he would go flrst, and make all comfortable for me, and I 
could follow in six months or a year — young ladies often 
do it under proper escort." 

" And would you — oh, my darling — would you come 
out to me all alone ?" 

And Julius, again in the seventh heaven of rapturous 
devotion, was ready to consent to any thing, if only he 
might win her, even thus. 

The matter was settled, and Letty having got every 
thing her own way, made herself sweet as summer to her 
lover, who hung upon her every look and word ; so that 
the brief intervening time before his departure was the 
smoothest and happiest of his whole courtship. This, 
without any hypocrisy on.Letty's part; for she was really 
touched with his devotedness. And besides, in groat cri- 
ses, people rise to their best selves ; and many a love, which 
would soon wax meagre and threadbare in the daily wear 
and tear of life, drapes itself heroically and beautifully 
enough at the supreme hour of parting. 

So Julius sat, in his last evening at an English fireside 



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THE woman's kingdom. 273 

-^hfe brother'j3, of course ; for he declared that beyond it 
was not a single soul whom he cared to say good-bye to ; 
sat, not broken-hearted by any means ; for the excitement 
of this sudden step, and his eager anticipations in his new 
career, seemed to deaden pain. Still, he kept desperate 
hold of Letty's hand, and gazed continually in her face 
with that eager passionate gaze, half of artist, half of lover, 
neither of which seemed ever to tire of its beauty. And 
now it wore a softness and tenderness which made parting 
grow into a delirious ecstasy, less of grief than joy. 

Edna and William were not sad neither. Their long 
suspense over these two was apparently ended ; the future 
looked bright and clear; nor did they blame the lovers 
for a somewhat selfish enjoyment therein. For they knew, 
none better, this happy husband and wife, that those who 
mean to become such have a right to be all in all to each 
other, to go out cheerfully together into the wide world, 
and feel all lesser separations but as a comparatively little 
thing. 

"Yes," Will said to his brother; "I'm glad you're go- 
ing — thoroughly glad. You may have your health better 
in India than here, if you take care. And you will have a 
wife to take care of you. You will do well, no doubt — 
perhaps come back a nabob before your twenty years are 
out. And though I may be old and gray-headed before I 
see you again, still, my lad, I say, I'm glad you're going." 

Thus talked he, to keep his own and every body else's 
spirits up, while quick as lightning the final minutes flew 
by. Edna sat behind the tea-urn in her customary place, 
and was waited upon by Julius in the long-familiar way. 
He tried so hard to be good and sweet to her, and to pay 
attention to her baby, who, not to detain the mother, had 
been brought down unlawfally, cradle and all, to a corner 
of the drawing-room, where he contributed his best to the 
hilarity of the evening by sleeping soundly all through it. 

" Poor little man ! he will actually be a man, or nearly 
so, before I set eyes on him again. I only hope, Edna 
dear, that he will grow up a better man than his name- 
sake. And yet not so — " Julius turned roupd, his coun- 

M2 



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274 THB woman's kingdom. 

teDance all glowing. " Not a better man than I mean to 
grow — than she will help to make me." 

Letty smiled — ^her sweet, unmeaning, contented smile — 
and that was all. 

She sat by her lover^s side — sat and looked pretty ; did 
not talk much, except to give a few earnest advices about 
practical things ; the sort of house— or bungalow, she be- 
lieved they called it — which she should like him to take ; 
the number of servants and horses which they should keep 
— all which facts she was found to have informed herself 
upon very accurately. She promised, faithfully and affec- 
tionately, to get her "things " — which seemed her chief 
care — ready without delay, so as to follow by the first 
feasible opportunity; and she begged Julius to write her 
every particular about Calcutta, and every information 
necessary for her own voyage thither. 

But she never once said, as some fond, foolish women 
might have said, " Take care of yourself— the dear self 
which is all the world to me." 

Thus passed, in the strange unreality of all parting 
hours, this last evening, as if every succeeding evening 
would be just like it, and its cheerful chat, its quiet fire- 
side pleasure, would come all over again next night, in- 
stead of never coming again in all this mortal life ; as by 
no human possibility could it come— just as now — to these 
four. 

At last Dr. Stedman looked at his watch. There was 
only time to catch the train to Southampton, whence Jul- 
ius was to embark the following morning. 

"I'll close up your portmanteau for you, Julius, my lad ; 
you never could do it for yourself, even when we were at 
school. Come, Edna, come and help me." 

Edna, shutting the door close behind her, followed her 
husband ; and as she stooped over him while he was fasten- 
ing the valise, she kissed him softly on the shoulder. He 
turned and kissed her also, both feeling, as in moments of 
sharp pain like this all such married lovers must feel, the 
one intense, unspeakable thankfulness that " naught but 
death parts thee and me." 



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275 

" Julius, ready ?" Will called outside the drawing-room 
door ; and shortly afterwards his brother appeared — Letty 
likewise. She looked pale, and was crying a little. For 
him — never as long as they lived did Edna and William 
forget the look in Julius's face. 

" Now, not a minute to spare," Edna said, as she threw 
her arms round her brother-in-law's neck and kissed him 
fondly, forgetting all his little faults, remembering only 
that, to her at least, he had never been aught but brother- 
ly and good. "Take care of yourself! oh, do take care of 
yourself!" 

"Take care of Aer/" he answered, hoarsely. Then stag- 
gering blindly forward, indifferent to all beholders, he 
snatched frantically to his bosom the woman whom he so 
madly loved. 

"Oh, be true to me !" he gasped. "For God's sake be 
true to me ! Edna, don't let her forget me 1 Letty, re- 
member your promise — your faithful promise !" 

" I will !" said Letty, with a sob, and offered her lips for 
the last kiss. It was given in a frenzy of passion and grief; 
then Will took his brother by the arm, and lifted rather 
than led him to the cab at the door — and they were gone. 

« 9|e 9|e 9|e 4e ♦ ♦ 

About nine months after this night a group of three 
persons found themselves all in the gloom of a muggy, dis- 
agreeable November evening at the entrance-gate of one 
of the docks of East London, whence trading vessels start 
for the Lidies. It was William Stedman, his wife, and 
her sister. They groped and stumbled through the dirty 
devious ways, guided by a man with a lantern, which 
showed dimly the great black hulls of ships laid up in 
dry-dock, or the ghostly outline of masts and rigging. 
Strange, queer noises came through the dark — of men 
shouting and swearing, the lading of cargo, the tramp of 
horses and carts. 

"What a horrid place! Oh, I wish I had never come 
here ! I wish I were not going away at all I" 

" Never despair, Letty ! Take my arm ! We are safe 
now. This is certainly the * Lily Marchmont.' " 



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276 THE woman's kingdom. 

For by the "Lily Marchtnont" — strange, pathetic coin- 
cidence — Letty Kenderdine was going out to India to be 
maFried to her lover, 

Julius had waited — been compelled to wait — until some 
good opportunity offered for the safe-conduct of his bride ; 
for Letty was not the person to do any thing without a 
due regard to both comfort and propriety. Indeed she 
delayed as long as she could, until all possible excuse for 
hesitation was removed by the offer of a passage in this 
ship, which belonged to the firm, and was taking out to 
Calcutta Mr. March months nephew and his young wife. 
With them.Letty could reside until she was manied, and 
the wedding could take place from their house with all 
idat^ for they were well-to-do and very kindly people. 

So the matter was settled; though Letty might have 
lingered yet longer, had not the strain of narrow means 
and an increasing family rendered her brother-in-law's 
house a less desirable home for her than even the com- 
paratively small establishment which awaited her in India. 
New clothes were now scarcer than ever to poor Mrs. Sted- 
man ; they were all wanted for little Julius, and for an- 
other little child that was to come by-and-by, not long af- 
ter Aunt Letty was gone. In Edna's face was increasing, 
day by day, the anxious, worn look which all mothers 
have at times, and never wholly lose — never can lose-^ 
until their sons and daughters close the coffin-lid upon 
the heart that can suffer no more. Still, when Letty said 
to her sister, as often she did, *^ Oh, Edna, I wonder you 
ever married !" there would come such a light into the 
, thin face — such a holy patience and thankful content — as 
none but wives and mothers ever know. 

But the cares of Dr. Stedman's household were numer^ 
ous enough to lessen his sister-in-law's regret, at leaving 
it. She did regret a little, clinging to them both with a 
curious, fitful tenderness as the time went by; but still she 
made up her mind — and her trousseau, absorbing therein 
all her own money, which William had carefully kept for 
her, declaring that her help in his house was a full equiv- 
alent to him for her residence there — and departed. Not, 



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THE woman's K:iNGD01tf. 277 

however, without many complainings and self-pityings, 
even to the final moment ; when after a visible hesitation, 
as if at the very last she were half inclined to draw back, 
poor Letty climbed up from the gloomy dry-dock side to 
the still gloomier deck of the "Lily Marchmont." 

But when they descended to the bright, cheerful, hand- 
somely fitted-up cabin, where every thing had been ar- 
ranged for the comfort of the young married couple and 
her own, her spirits revived. Her fair looks made her at 
once popular with strangers, and as she stood talking to 
the young Marchmonts — after being briefly introduced to 
the only two other passengers, a little fat elderly Dutch- 
man and a lady, his sister, who were to be landed at the 
Cape of Good Hope^— -Letty Kenderdine was herself again. 
Well dressed — ^for she had made the utmost of her small 
means, and even contrived a little present or two from 
Aunt Letty to the baby that she would not see ; well-pre- 
served, and, though past her first youth, much younger- 
looking than Edna, Miss Kenderdine shed quite a sunshine 
of feminine beauty abroad in the little cabin. Her sister, 
forgetting all parting pain, smiled to think what a sunshine 
she would also bring to poor Julius, yearning for her so 
terribly in his busy, lonely, anxious life of amassing wealth 
— wealth that perhaps he, with his careless artist tempera- 
ment, might never have cared for, certainly never would 
have struggled for, excepting for her sake. 

But Letty herself seemed less absorbed in the future 
than in the present. When her four fellow-passengers 
quitted the cabin, to allow her in quiet a few farewell words 
with her own friends, she glanced after them depreciatingly. 

" Good people, I dare say, but dull, very dull. I am 
afraid I shall have a dreary voyage. I wish I had taken 
the overland route — if only I could have afforded it. Oh, 
Edna, the misery of poverty !" 

And then, struck with a sudden compunction — a sudden 
impulse of tenderness for these two, so contentedly bear- 
ing theirs, and sharing with her, for these last two years 
and more, every little comfort they had, Letty flung her- 
self into her sister's arras. 



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278, 

" Oh forgive me ! You have been so good to me, both 
of you. I'll never forget you — never ! Do not forget me.'' 

" No, no !" said William, as he hurried his wife away, 
for he saw that the trial of parting was more than she 
could bear. " Kiss her, Letty, and bid her good-bye." 

But — the sharp, final wrench over — he himself came 
back again, to say a last kind word to his sister-in-law, on 
whom depended his brother's whole future in this world. 

"Letty," whispered he, very earnestly, "I trust you. 
Make Julius happy. Remember, his happiness all rests 
with you." 

"I know that." 

" Never forget it. Be to him all that my wife is to me. 
Good-bye ! God bless you !" 

Letty leaned over the ship's side, violently sobbing. 

"Go back into the cabin, Letty dear," Dr. Stedman called 
out. " Is there nobody who will be kind enough to take 
charge of my sister ?" 

" May I assist you. Miss ?" said a funny Dutch voice, 
and William thankfully consigned her to the care of the 
elderly merchant. 

Next morning, spreading her white wings in the winter 
sunrise, and moving as gracefully as when a poor little 
hand, now mere dust, had given her her christening liba- 
tion, the "Lily Marchmont" weighed anchor and sailed 
away to the under world. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 2^9 



fifteen ffiear0 ^fter. 



CHAPTER XX 

It was a. small junction station on one of the numerous 
lines of railway that diverge from London Bridge, and a 
dozen or so of passengers were walking up and down the 
narrow platform, in the early dark of a winter afternoon, 
waiting patiently or impatiently, as their natures allowed, 
for the never-punctual train. They consisted chiefly of 
homely people — Kentish farmers, laborers going home, and 
London youths starting for their Saturday-to-Monday holi- 
day. The only first-class passengers — in outward appear- 
ance at least — were a lady and a little girl, who sat in the 
small waiting-room, absorbing the whole of the welcome 
fire. She was a tall and remarkably handsome woman — 
handsome still, though she must have been quite five-and- 
forty. So fair was her skin, so regular her features, that, 
but for an expressii&n of rooted discontent which never left 
her, she would have been almost as comely as a young 
lady in her teens.^ 

The child-^her own — for she addressed her as "mam- 
ma,"- was not like herself at all ; being a short, round-faced, 
button-nosed little maid of about twelve years old ; far 
from pretty, but with a sweet, sensible look, which we 
sometimes see in little girls, and prognosticate tenderly 
what sort of women they will grow up to be — what com- 
forts at home, and helps abroad — what unspeakable bless- 
ings to all about them a» daughters, sisters, and — Well I 
men are sometimes so blind that these good angels of 
maidenhood never turn into wives or mothers. But they 
are not left forlorn j Providence always finds them work 
enough — ay, and love enough, too, to the end. 

This little plain child hovered about her handsome moth- 



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280 THB woman's kingdom. 

er with a tender protectingness rather amusing, if it had 
not been so touching, to see ; feeling if her feet were warm, 
collecting her parcels for her — they had evidently been 
shopping — and then beginning a careful search for a miss- 
ing railway-ticket, about which the lady worried herself 
considerably. 

" We shall have to pay it over again, Gertrude, I sup- 
pose," said she, appealingly, to her little daughter, as if she 
were already accustomed to lean upon her. " Your papa 
will be cross, and call me stupid, as usual. However, we'll 
not mind. Don't look for the ticket any more. Papa can 
pay when he meets us at the station." 

She spoke languidly — she seemed rather a languid lady 
— and shading out her voluminous silk dress, and gather- 
ing up her ermine muff and boa, rose and stood at the 
waiting-room door. Her little daughter, who had no in- 
cumbrances except a pet dog — a small Skye terrier, which 
she carried fondly in her arms, and vainly tried to keep 
from barking at every body and every thing — stood si- 
lently beside her, noticing all that was passing, with a 
pair of bright, acute, and yet most innocent childish eyes. 

" Mamma," at last she said, " do you see those three sol- 
diers with their knapsacks ? I am so sorry for them, they 
look so shivering and wretched this cold day. They seem 
as if they were just come home from India or somewhere. 
For how shabby their uniforms are, and how brown their 
faces, nearly as brown a» the Caffres that used to — " 

" Oh stop, child, don't talk about Caffres ; don't put me 
in mind of our dreadful life at the Cape. Now we are 
safe in England, do let us forget it all." 

"Very well, mamma; only please, would you look at 
those soldiers ? I am sure they have been in a great many 
battles, and gone through a deal of hardship. That one, 
the shortest of them, with his face half covered in a long, 
gray beard, has the very saddest eyes I ever saw." 

The mother directed a careless glance to where her com- 
passionate little girl indicated. 

"Yes, he does look ill, poor fellow. Perhaps he has had 
fever, or cholera, or something ; don't go near him. It is 



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281 

so cold standing here, I think I will return to the fire, 
while you wait and watch for the train. It can not be 
very long now." 

She took out a watch all studded with brilliants, but it 
had stopped ; and with a discontented exclamation about 
her watches being " always wrong," she settled herself in 
her old position, her feet on the fender, staring vacantly 
into the blazing coals. 

Hers was a face so remarkably handsome that it could 
not pass unnoticed, and noticing, you would not only ad- 
mire, but pity it — in perhaps a deeper degree than the lit- 
tle girl pitied the three broken-down soldiers. For there- 
in any experienced eye could read too. plainly the tale of 
a disappointed life ; ay, in spite of all the fine clothes and 
evident associations of wealthy ease, the lady's look, fret- 
ful, weary, inane*, reminded one of the sigh of the young 
beauty exhibiting to her late brides-maid her marriage 
jewels. — "Ah, my dear, I thought I should have been per- 
fectly happy when I had a diamond necklace. And yet — " 

That mysterious " and yet," the one hidden hitch in the 
wheels of existence : most of us know what it is, but some 
contrive to get over it, and make the wheels run on 
smoothly enough to the end. This woman apparently 
had not done so. There was no badness in her face; 
none of the sharp maliciousness visible in too many faded 
beauties ; but her mouth, that feature which time and de- 
veloped character alter most, indicated incurable weak- 
ness, unconquerable discontent. 

She sat, paying little heed to any thing that passed, 
warming her feet over the fire, and leaving every thing to 
her young daughter, until an unpleasant episode roused 
her from her lazy ease. 

The ^ dog, accustomed to genteel and well-dressed com- 
pany, took offense at a little innocent admiration which 
had been shown him by one of the shabby soldiers, the 
youngest and strongest-looking ; and showed it indis- 
criminately, as his betters often do, by barking furiously 
at another of them, the gray-bearded man, who came 
shivering to catch a distant glimpse of the waiting-room 



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282 

fire ; at which presumption Bran began to growl furious- 
ly, and at last, springing out of Gertrude's arms, flew at 
him, bit his heels, tore his already ragged trowsers, and 
even set his teeth in the flesh. The soldier, uttering an 
execration, shook him off", and then giving the creature an 
angry kick, sent him howling across the platform on the 
rails, where a train was just gliding up. 

" Oh, my doggie, my doggie, he'll be killed !" screamed 
Gertrude in despair, and instinctively darted after Bran. 
Nobody saw her, or else nobody had the sense to stop 
her. Iq half a minute the train would have been upon 
her, and the bright, kindly little life quenched forever, 
had not the gray-bearded soldier, with a spring as light 
as that of a hunting leopard, leaped on the rails, caught 
her, and leaped back again — the train advancing slowly, 
but so close that it almost touched the little girl's frock 
as it passed. Of course every body thought the dog was 
killed, until the poor brute came yelping out from under 
the carriages, terribly frightened, but quite unharmed. 

" Oh my doggie, my doggie !" cried Gertrude again, in 
an ecstasy of joy, snatching him up in her arms, and nei- 
ther thinking of her own danger, nor how she had been 
rescued. Nor, in the confusion, did any body else notice 
it ; so the soldier got no thanks, which did not seem 
greatly to astonish him. He retired, sullen and angry, 
rubbing his hurt leg, while a sympathetic crowd — porters, 
passengers, station-master and all — gathered round the 
lady and child, who seemed perfectly well known at the 
junction, and far too respectable for any body to sug- 
gest, as, had Gertrude been a poor woman's child, would 
assuredly have been done, that she should be taken up 
and brought before a magistrate for ..attempting to cross 
the line. 

They passed on, respectfully escorted by porters and 
guard, to their first-class carriage, the lady's long dress 
sweeping across the very feet of the poor soldier, who 
still hung aloof, rubbing his leg and growling to himself. 
Now, however, he just looked up, and caught her profile 
as she went by. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 283 

A violent start, a sadden step forward, and then the 
poor fellow recovered himself and his manners. 

" Who is that lady ?" asked he of a porter. ♦ 

" Her there ? Oh, she's Mrs. Vanderdecken, of Holywell 
Hall. Her husband's the richest old cove in all these 
parts ; and that little 'un is their only child. Whew ! if 
miss had been killed, there'd have been a precious row." 

" Mrs. Vanderdecken, of Holywell Hall," repeated the 
soldier, as if to fix the words on his memory, and clench- 
ing his thin yellow fingers tightly over his stick, for he 
was shivering like a person in an ague. "Holywell Hall. 
Where is that? how far from here?" 

" Eight miles. Second station after this is the one you 
stop at. I'd go there, gov'nor, if I was you. For I seed 
you catch hold o' the little miss ; and depend upon it, if 
you tell him, her father '11 come down with something 
'andsome. If he don't believe you — for old Van's a bit 
of a screw over his money — call me for a witness. Eh ! 
the fellow's off already. He's a sharp 'un, that." 

" Stone 1 Hollo, Jack Stone !" shouted the other two 
soldiers. " Stop, that's the wrong train !" 

But wrong or right, their comrade had leaped into it, 
already moving as it was, and, leaving all his baggage — 
not much to leave — ^behind him, was earned off rapidly 
and irrecoverably in the opposite direction from London, 
whither the rest were apparently bound. 

They made a few grumbling remarks to the station- 
master, telling him the name of their companion — John 

Stone, late of regiment, discharged invalided ; and 

leaving his box to be claimed if he called for it, went on 
their way. 

Meanwhile Stone had jumped into the carriage — a 
third-class — next to the one occupied by the lady and 
child. They were alone, in all the dignity of wealth, but 
he had plenty of company, cheery, conversational ; and es- 
pecially well-disposed, as the humble British public al- 
most always is, towards a red coat, and one that has ap- 
parently seen foreign service. Besides, it was just after 
the Indian mutiny, and the British heart was at once 



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284 THE woman's kingdom. 

fierce and tender, and burning with curiosity. But frank 
and talkative as third-class passengers generally are, there 
was something in this soldier which made them hesitate 
to speak to him, and look at him several times before in- 
terrupting the brown study into which he fell, as he curl- 
ed himself up in his comer. The last bright western glow 
showed his sallow and sickly face, sickly enough to touch 
any heart, at least any woman's, with keen compassion ; 
and at last one old woman, a decent lady with a market- 
basket in her hand, did venture to address him. 

" You be just home from furrin' parts, I reckon, soldier ?" 

"Yes." 

"From India, likely ? I had a son as was killed at Del- 
hi. Maybe you've heerd of Delhi, sir?" For the good 
soul seemed to feel, instinctively, the minute he opened bis 
eyes and looked at her, that she was speaking not exactly 
to a common soldier, or at least to one who might have 
dropped to that from something higher. 
~ " Delhi ? Yes, I have been at Delhi." 

" Was it there you was shot ?" touching his arm, which 
was in a sling, " Shot, like my poor Tom ; only not killed." 

" No, worse luck !" growled the man, as he turned rough- 
ly away ; but the old woman would not be beaten. 

" Yes, it's bad luck either way for poor soldiers. Either 
they get killed — as my Tom was — or they come home fit 
for nothing, with a pension as won't half keep them, and 
too old to turn to any thing like a trade, as you'll find, 
my man. You'll be over fifty, I take it ? Got a missis, 
or any little 'uns?" 

"No." 

" Eh, that's a blessing," sighed the old woman. " I've 
had to look after poor Tom's five. Well, they're not bad 
children," continued she, addressing herself to the com- 
pany at large, " and they'll take care of me some o' these 
days — so it's all right. Good -night, for I'm stopping 
here, to tea with Tom's wife — and there's little Tom 
a-waiting for me. He's very fond of his granny. Good- 
night, soldier ; maybe you're going to see your own folk. 
A good journey, and a happy coming home." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 286 

" Thank you," said the man, with a sharp laugh, then 
curled himself into his comer so repellantly that none of 
his fellow-travellers had the courage to address him more. 

Meanwhile Mrs. Vanderdecken and her daughter com- 
posed themselves, after their great fright and agitation, 
in the solitude of their comfortable carriage. The former 
made considerable use of her smelling-bottle, which she 
really needed, and Gertrude caressed and comforted her 
doggie until stopped by her mother's sharp voice. 

^' Do let that stupid dog alone, and tell me how all this 
happened. You were within an inch of being killed, child. 
How could you frighten me so ?" 

"I couldn't help it, mamma. The soldier kicked Bran." 

"Kicked Bran I" 

" Oh, but I don't wonder at that," said the child, hasti- 
ly ; " for Bran bit him, and I am sure hurt him very much. 
Still, he was the man that jumped op to the rails after me. 
I didn't remember at the time, but I'm sure of it now." 

" Why didn't you say so, child, and I would have given 
him some money ; he would be sure to expect it — those 
sort of people always do. Now he may be finding out 
who we are, and coming and bothering papa for a reward, 
and that will make papa so angry. Oh, Gertrude, my 
dear, how very stupid it was of you !" 

" I know it was, mamma," replied Gertrude, half hum- 
bly, half indifferently, as one well used to complaints and 
scoldings. 

" Perhaps after all we had better say nothing to papa 
about the matter. You are quite safe, my child," and the 
mother's eyes had a touch of sincere affection in them, 
" and so it does not signify." 

"Only I should have liked just to have said * Thank 
you' to the poor soldier, and asked if Bran had hurt him 
very much. Naughty, naughty Bran ! You ought not 
to bite people just because they are shabby-looldng. I 
wouldn't. I'm ashamed of you." 

And the little loving hand, pretending to beat him, was 
licked by the loving dog, who perhaps, after all, had a 
moral nature not much inferior to his neighbors. For 



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286 

rags are rags — ugly and unpleasant things — which seldom 
a man sinks to unless, in some way or other, by his own 
fault. True, there may be what the French law courts 
call "extenuating circumstances;" but how is a dog to 
judge of these? Bags are rags, and he treats them ac- 
cordingly. 

Most bipeds would have treated similarly the poor sol- 
dier, for he could not have been a good man — scarcely 
even a respectable man — since when, on putting his head 
out to ask, " Is this Holywell station ?" he was answered 
roughly, as porters usually answer third-class passengers, 
he returned evil for evil in language equally rough—nay, 
worse, after the manner of soldiers. It contrasted ill with 
the delicate appearance, small hands, refined features, and 
so on — which had made the old woman call him "sir;" or 
else it showed that, in whatever rank of life he had been 
bom, he had dropped from it down and down, acquiring 
gradually the habits and manners of the class to which he 
ftll. If he had been born a gentleman — ^which was possi- 
ble, remembering the many foolish youths who run away 
and " list," to repent it all their lives afterwards — no one 
could accuse John Stone of being a gentleman now. The 
terrible law of deterioration, as certain as that of growth 
and amendment, had worked in him, equally as in the un- 
happy-looking lady in the next carriage, who was proba- 
bly a lovely, merry girl once. For the soldier, whatever 
he might once have been, was now neither mteresting nor 
attractive. Even his gray hairs, if they indicated old age 
— which is not the case always — failed to indicate also 
that 

" Honor, loTe, obedience, troops of friends," 

which, as Shakspeare says, ought to " accompany ** it. 
They only affected one with a sense of pity. Wrinkles 
were there — ^not few ; weary crow's-feet were gathering 
round the dark deep-set eyes ; but of the quiet, the digni- 
ty, the blessedness of old age, this man had none. 

The train stopped at a small station hidden between two 
gravelly, furzs-crowned banks ; and a porter, passing from 



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THE woman's kingdom, 287 

carriage to carriage, shouted the name of the place. It 
startled the soldier out of a sleep, or a dream — it might 
be either : he leaped hastily on to the platform, where half 
a dozen other passengers were also getting out — among 
the rest, Mrs. and Miss Vanderdecken. 

"There's papa !" cried the little girl, and ran towards a 
figure, short and round, and made rounder still by a large 
fur great-coat. 

The old man — he looked not far from seventy — greeted 
and kissed her with evidently a fatherly heart, and then 
stood waiting by the open door of an extremely elegant 
carriage, which — what with its size and its handsomeness, 
its spirited pair of horses, its burly coachman and two 
footmen, much taller and grander-looking than their mas- 
ter — shed quite a lustre upon the little road-side station, 
and was evidently regarded with no small respect by the 
other passengers, who crept humbly out — passing behind 
it, or ducking under the horses' heads — all save the sol- 
dier. 

But he, too, stared with the rest at this dazzle of wealth, 
which formed such a contrast to his own lonely and for- 
lorn poverty. He watched Mr. and Mrs. Vanderdecken 
get into their carriage, followed by their little daughter, 
who— sweet soul ! — had sharper eyes and a longer meipory 
than they had; for just before driving away she whispered 
in her mother's ear, 

" Mamma, I do believe there is that poor soldier." 

"Nonsense — impossible!" answered the lady. "And, 
Gertrude, do learn to speak more softly, or, deaf as he is, 
papa will hear many things we don't want him to hear. 
Hush, now !" 

" Very well, mamma ;" and Gertrude relapsed into her 
comer ; but too late, for Mr. Vanderdecken, in the shrill, 
suspicious tones of deaf persons, asked " what the child 
was talking about ?" 

" Only about some people who amused her on the jour- 
ney to-day," said the mother. " She is always taking such 
fancies — little goose ! But what are we waiting for? Mr. 
Vanderdecken, will you bid the coachman drive on? You 



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288 THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

know we are going out to dinner to-night. I wonder, is it 
raining ?" 

She put her head out of the carriage window, and the 
station lamp fell full on her face, which must once have 
been so beautiful, and had a certain kind of beauty still. 

The soldier, detained by the porter at the gate, leaned 
forward to stare at her. No — not stare — glare is rather 
the word : an expression that might be in the eye of a 
hunted animal coming at last face to face with its enemy — 
its destroyer— the Nemesis which had pursued it every- 
where, as the spectral hounds pursued Actaeon, even to the 
deeps of helL 

But this is poetic phraseology, which may appear sim- 
p\j ridiculous in describing a poor, broken-down, invalided 
soldier gazing at a rich and handsome lady: so let us con- 
tent ourselves with merely Baying that — in common with 
the rest of the world — John Stone took a good look at 
Mrs. Vanderdecken, as he was certainly justified in doing, 
and then moved away, walking rather staggeringly, as if 
his feet were weary or numb^ to the farther end of the 
station. 

Ere long he reappeared and presented himself before the 
station-master. 

" I could easily have cheated you, and got away with- 
out paying ; but Tm an honest man, you see," he laughed. 

" I came from ," naming the junction : " being in a 

hurry, I jumped in without a ticket. What's to pay ?" 

His red coat, and perhaps his gray hair and weather- 
beaten, sickly looks, stood him in good stead, for after some 
demur his word was taken, and he was allowed to pay the 
few pence of fare required. 

"I assure you it's all right," said he, taking off his knap- 
sack, and showing hidden there a purse full of sovereigns. 
" I'm a capitalist, you see — there was plenty of ' loot ' for 
all of us at Delhi. Telegraph for my baggage, which I left 
on the platform at . Name, John Stone, — th Regi- 
ment; and you may keep my traps here till you see me 
again, which you may pretty often, for I mean to stop in 
these parts." 



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THE woman's KIKGDOM. 289 

"Very good, sir" — the "sir" being due partly to the 
sight of the sovereigns, and partly to an impression made 
apparently on others besides the old woman, mother of 
defunct "Tom" — that this man was a little above an or- 
dinary private soldier — better born — better educated. If 
better in any other way, who could tell ? Alas, the higher 
the height, the deeper the fall I 

He fastened up his knapsack again, undid from it his 
gray soldier's overcoat, and wrapped himself in it, with a 
shivering look-out, for the brief bright sunset had closed 
in a drizzle of rain. With a careless nod to the station- 
master, he shouldered his property and passed out ; then 
stopped. 

" Hallo, porter I you'll be civil now, I dare say. Which 
is the road to Holywell ?" 

" Holywell village, or Holywell Hall ?" 

" Not the hall, this time. Is there a village too ? How 
far off?" 

"Three miles." 

" Straight road ? No missing of one's way, as fools do 
sometimes, and I always was a fool. Come, look sharp, 
man, for it's turning out a wet night, and I haven't a car- 
riage to go home in, like your big Mr. Vanderdecken." 

"Do you know him, sir? Then maybe you belong to 
these parts, and are going home ?" 

" Yes, I'm going home some day. But not just yet. I 
don't look very fit for work, do I now ? but I've got a 
precious deal of work on my hands to do before I go 
home." 

" I'm glad to hear it," returned the porter, a little fright- 
ened at his excited manner ; he had heard of such things 
as sun-strokes in India ; this poor soldier might have had 
one, and got his brain a little turned. So, putting up com- 
passionately with his oddness and roughness, the man, who 
was a good specimen of the thoroughly respectable British 
peasant, as railway porters often are, let him civilly out of 
the station gate, and took a good deal of pains to direct 
him in the right road, and start him off therein — not sorry 
to be safely rid of him. 

N 



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290 THE woman's kingdom. 

" That's a queer fish," said he, confidentially, to the sta- 
tion-master. " He's seen some rough usage in his life, I 
reckon. A little cracked here," tapping his honest fore- 
head. " Hope the poor fellow '11 do no harm to hisself or 
his neighbors." 

Meanwhile John Stone pursued his road innocuously 
enough. Whether " cracked " or not, he seemed to medi- 
tate no evil to any body. He walked quickly on, more 
quickly than his delicate appearance would have made 
probable, until he came to a place where there were a 
few small houses and a church, when his speed suddenly 
flagged. He leaned against the church-yard wall, behind 
which a few scattered grave-stones glimmered in the rainy 
dark, and coughed convulsively and painfully, so that a 
woman, standing at her open door, crossed over to look at 
him, saying, • 

" You seem rather-bad like." " ■ '• 

" Not I ; only I've walked fast, and my breath's short:" 

" I'll get you a drink, if you like." 

" Thank you ;" and accepting the literal " cup of cold 
water" — for he would take nothing else, though she of- 
fered him beer — John Stone leaned a few minutes longer 
against the low wall, with the church-yard on one side of 
him and on the other the open cottage door, casting into 
the darkness a flood of cheerful light 

The soldier cast his eyes from one to the other of these 
two houses — of the living and the dead — neither of which 
opened for him. Perhaps he thought thus, for he sighed, 
then thanked the civil woman, in a softer tone than he had 
yet used to any body, adding, in answer to her question, 

" No, I can get on quite well. I'm not in a consump- 
tion, though it looks like it. I'm used to this cough — it's 
only that my heart is rather queer: I once had rheumatic 
fever." 

" Eh, rheumatic fever leaves folks' hearts queer as long 
as they live. I know that by my master. He had it ter- 
rible bad ten years ago, and I've got to look pretty close 
after him still. Have you got a missis to look after yon ?" 

"No. Good-night!" 



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THE woman's kingdom. 291 

It was said sharply, fiercely almost, as the soldier sud- 
denly started off at. his old quick pace, and disappeared 
into tiie gloom. 

Another long mile did he tramp through muddy coun- 
try roads, guiltless of gas or pavement, or even raised 
footpath, to guide the traveller from their miry abysses. 
Sometimes he came upon a few cottages, but they were 
all closed and dark. It was growing into one of those 
dreary November nights when every body is glad to shut 
even the humblest door. At last he passed them all by, 
and came out upon a high common, across whose blank 
gloom nothing was visible except a huge windmill, which 
stretched its ghostly arms skyward, and interposed its still 
blacker bulk against the level darkness; for not a star 
had appeared, the rain came driving and pelting, the wind 
had arisen, and now on the exposed ground blew fiercely 
enough. It seemed, in travelling over the miles of invisi- 
ble country below, to have carried with it, like an over- 
taking fate, all the damps and fogs of the unknown or for- 
gotten region it had passed over. It pierced to the bone 
the Indian soldier, and then blew him about at its mercy, 
helpless as a withered l<fia£ 

He tried to draw b^ 'cap over his eyes, and pulled his 
coat closer about him, sb.as to meet it like a man — a Briton 
— this wholesome British wind ; but he had just come from 
a foreign climate, and the time of youth and strength was 
with him gone by. After struggling on a little, he cow- 
ered and quailed before the blast, and sank down, vainly 
trying to shelter himself under a furzy bank, muttering 
something between an oath and a moan. At this moment 
two glow-worm-like lights came glimmering across the 
pitch-dark common, travelling nearer and nearer till he dis- 
tinguished the S9und ofhorses' fiset ; and there passed him 
a close carriage, satin-lined, and with 9, lamp inside, so as 
to show plainly the two occupants. They were an old 
man, and a lady, still only middle-aged, or she looked so, 
in the becoming splendors of her dinner-dress, her white 
fur, and her velvet and her diamonds. She sat in her cor- 
ner, and her companion in his— neither paying any heed 



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292 

to the other, as wealthy married couples going out to din- 
ner could scarcely be expected to do. They looked com- 
fortable, indeed, but not happy — ^it is a curious fact that 
"carriage-people'' seldom do look happy; and as they 
drove slowly past, the soldier had no difficulty in recog- 
nizing the magnates of the neighborhood, Mr. and Mrs. 
Vanderdecken. 

Of course they no more saw him than if he had been a 
bush at the road-side. But he saw them, and as soon as 
they had passed he leaped up and shook his fist at them, 
in a manner that almost justified the railway porter's sus- 
picion as to his sanity. 

" Curse you ! curse you ! by day and by night, by bed 
and board, eating and drinking, sleeping and waMng — 
curse you !" 

Was it the frantic howl of poverty against wealth — of 
failure against success — of misery against happiness? Or 
was it something deeper still — some old link of the past 
which these fine folks stirred in the breast of the poor sol- 
dier, so as to turn him, for the time being, into a veritable 
madman ? 

Yet he was neither mad nor sun-struck, and when his 
sudden fit of fury had subsided, he gathered himself up to 
try and battle with the wind a little farther. He seemed 
to have been long used to "rough it," as soldiers must. 

Presently he came to the verge of the common, and saw, 
thiHjugh the misty, rainy gloom, a line of houses, imply- 
ing some sort of a village ; and coming nearer, the wet 
and weary man caught the welcome glow and sound of a 
blacksmith's forge. He entered it. 

"Is this Holywell?" • I 

" No— Holt. Holywell's nigh half a mile farther." 

Stone leaned against the door- way, utterly worn out. 

" Can I get a night's lodging here ?" 

" I reckon not. There's no public near, except Mother 
Fox's over the way, where there's * good entertainment 
for man and beast.' If one don't suit 'ee, tother may. 
Ho, ho!" 

" Ho, ho ! I wish I was a beast," laughed the soldier, with 



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THE woman's kingdom. 293 



*auB8B you!* 



a careless air, as if he were accustomed to put up with all 
sorts of jokes, and every kind of company. " Then, at 
least, J'd get a dry stable to put my head into, this horri- 
ble night. But come, show me the way to Mother Fox's." 

It was a small, old-fashioned, village public-house, and 
as he looked in at the door, which opened at once upon 
the bar, he was stared at hard by the little knot of Satur- 
day-night customers, whom the landlady was serving as 
fast as she could. 

"Can you give me a night's lodging here?" said he. 

Either his voice sounded unlike what might have been 
expected from his appearance, or some other cause made 
the busy landlady stop and notice him,* and at once he 



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294 THB WOHAIC^S KINGDOM. 

recognized in her the inquisitive old lady who had ad- 
dressed him in the railway-carriage. 

"Bless us, is that you? Who'd ha' thought it? But 
come in, my good man, and I'll make you very welcome. 
I've a warm heart to soldiers. Deary me, how wet you 
are !" feeling his coat-sleeve ; " and you're just as thin as 
a skeleton, besides. Come in to my kitchen fire and warm 
yourself." 

" Thank you," said Stone, gentler. Under all his surly 
ways lurked a vague, pathetic gentleness, or as if he had 
been gentle once. " You are very good to me, Mrs. — ^" 

"Fox, my name is — Dorothy Fox ; and this is the Goat 
and Compasses, a very respectable house, though I say it 
as keeps it, and uncommon comfortable." 

"And you can take me in?" 

" Well, sir," said she, after eying him over again pretty 
sharply, " we don't usually take in travellers as we knows 
nothing of; indeed the place is too small But my daugh- 
ter's away ; and if you likes to take her room till Monday, 
you can." 

" How do you know I shall not take myself off without 
paying my bill on Monday ? We're a bad lot, we soldiers." 

" So poor Tom said. But you can't harm me much, and 
Fll trust you. Come along." 

He followed her, and was soon basking in the blaze of 
the huge fire with an air of comfort that seemed to afford 
his hostess real pleasure. She looked at him inquisitively, 
especially when he took off his forage-cap and showed his 
bare bald crown, though the fringe of curly locks under 
it, unlike his beard, was still black, or only slightly touched 
with gray. 

" You're not so old as I took you for, my young man 
— for you're young compared to me. How many years 
might you have been in the service ?" 

"A dozen or more, perhaps. I don't remember." 

" Then you didn't 'list as a lad ? Volunteered, maybe ?" 

"Ay." 

"And you're only just back to Old England, did you 
say? You must find every thing very strange?" 



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THB woman's KINGDOM; 295 

"Very strange. Get 
rae my supper, will 
you ? I'm starving." 

He spoke in a sharp, 
irritable tone, which 
even a woman and a 
landlady could not 
Well submit to ; so she 
brought him his bread 
and cheese in offended 
silence, and troubled 
him no more till he 
had moved from the 
table to the old-fash- 
ioned settle near the 
fire-place, where, over- 
come by weariness and 
warmth, he soon fell 
fast asleep. 

Then Mrs. Fox's 
heart relented. He 
must have been so ex- 
cessively tired, poor 
fellow I and, besides, 
heavy slumber is such 
a softener of most faces. Not of all — some people look all 
the uglier or the wickeder; but othei*s seem to slip back 
through the gates of sleep — as of death — into the land of 
their pristine innocence, and wear a look so helpless and 
appealing that one could not hate even one's direst enemy 
if one came upon him fast asleep. 

John Stone slept, in his great exhaustion, as soundly and 
softly as a baby — slept, sitting as he was, for no doubt his 
military life had accustomed him to go to sleep anyhow, 
anywhere. He scarcely moved from his original posture, 
but just let his head fall against the high back of the set- 
tle ; while his hands, thin and yellow, dropped upon each 
knee, *and then curled up drowsily, like a baby's hand. 
His forehead lost its knotted wrinkles, and if one could 



PEIVATE JOHN BTOmB. 



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296 

have seen his mouth through that long, rough grizzly 
beard, doubtless it would almost have smiled. 

For he seemed, under the influence of the pleasant 
warmth and the strange contradictory vagaries of slum- 
ber, to be carried entirely out of the present into some 
golden dream-land. He gave vent to a little low sound — 
almost like a laugh — and then began to talk in his sleep — 
at first quite unintelligibly, and then uttering a name : 
"J5e«y," Mre. Fox thought it, and concluded it was his 
wife's or his sweetheart's — probably long dead and 
gone. 

" Poor fellow I maybe that's what he 'listed for. Like- 
ly he's seen a peck o' troubles," said she to herself, look- 
ing at him, and uncertain whether she should wake him 
or not, for it was time to shut up, only she grudged rous- 
ing him out of what seemed such a happy slumber. 

But Fate broke it, as she does many a deeper dream. 
There was a sudden clatter of pewter pots and glasses in 
the bar, creating such a stir that the soldier started up 
with the frightened look of one who did not know where 
he was. 

" Never mind — there's nothing the matter. Ton drop- 
ped asleep and was a-dreaming, my dear," said Mre. Fox, 
patting him on the shoulder with a motherly air. "You're 
at the Goat and Compasses, the best public in all these 
parts, and Dolly Fox '11 make you very comfortable. 
Your bed's ready — hadn't you better be a-taking yourself 
off now?" 

" Thank you," said the soldier, shaking himself wide 
awake, though he still stared about him somewhat wildly. 
" Yes, I remember all now. Give me a light. I'll go to 
bed— I'll go to bed." 

He disappeared, and was not seen or heard of again till 
far into the Sunday morning. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 297 



CHAPTER XXL 

Sunday was a quiet and respectable day in Holt vil- 
lage. No Cockney Sabbath-breakers or Sabbath holiday- 
makers, according as people choose to term them, had as 
yet foand out its prettiness, or, if they had, its distance 
from the nearest railway station saved it from being a 
place of easy resort. Consequently, its Sunday was still 
a rest-day. No swarms of destructive feet trod down its 
green fresh common, where fern, thyme, and heather flour- 
ished, and the bright yellow furze blossomed all the year 
round. No tea-garden, or bedizened public-house, or even 
a solitary refreshment-stall, destroyed the delicious peace- 
fulness and thorough rurality of the spot — the windmill, 
the forge, Mrs. Fox's small, whitewashed, old-fashioned 
inn, and a few cottages of similar date, being the only 
harm it had as yet received from bricks and mortar. 

And on this Sunday morning, when, after a wild rainy 
night, the weather brightened up, as it does sometimes in 
November, and the whole earth and sky became transfig- 
ured into a wonderful blueness and clearness that showed 
the landscape, distinct and exquisitely-colored, for many, 
many miles — this upland common, so fresh and breezy, 
quiet and fair, was a sight to do a man's heart good in 
spite of himself. That is, a man whom nature had made 
sensitive to external influences— as not every man is ; but 
to those who are, life's delights are doubled. Also, per- 
haps, its pains. 

John Stone crawled down, late and lazy, to his long- 
waiting breakfast in Mrs. Fox's parlor. 

" Pull down the blind — ^I hate sunshine," was all he said 
to her, as he fell languidly to his solitaiy meal. 

When she came to remove it, she was dressed all in her 
Sunday's best, and hinted that Holt church " went in " at 
eleven o'clock, and it was a good mile's walk across the 
common. 

N2 



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?98 THE woman's kingdom. 

" I never go to church," said the soldier, abruptly. Then, 
as with a second thought — ^^ But don't let me hinder you 
from going. I shall want nothing more." 

"Thank'ee. Only what shall you do when Fm out? — 
for I always lock up the house o' Sundays. I'm a lone 
widow as can run no risks." 

Stone laughed. " Do you think I look like a swindler 
or a burglar — that I shall break open your cupboards and 
carry off your plate? No, no. I'm a bad fellow enough, 
but I'm not in that line of business. Make your mind 
easy, old lady. Lock up your house, and I'll turn out and 
wander about somewhere till you come back." 

" You're very obliging," said Mrs. Fox, looking some- 
what compunctious. " I'll be back in two hours, and you 
might amuse yourself that while seeing the Park. It's a 
pretty park — the Vanderdeckens'." 

John Stone jumped up from his chair, savagely pushed 
it from him, and began walking up and down the room. 

"Big people, are they ? and have a fine place, no doubt? 
nigo, Where is it?" 

"Just across the next common. You turn along the 
park palings till you come to a stile, where there's a board 
put up with * Please to keep the footpath.' That's old 
Vanderdecken's doing. He couldn't stop the right of 
way, but he narrowed it down as much as he could, and 
made the place as private as possible. That's the trick of 
your stuck-up new-comers, as never knew their own grand- 
father. Not like the good old families that are quite sure 
o' themselves, and so they're never frightened to let us 
poor folk come a-nigh them, lest we should fiiid out that 
the only thing as makes the difference between us and 
them is clothes." 

Either John Stone, who looked a clever fellow himself, 
was struck by the old woman's sharpness — or in his lone- 
liness he rather liked a little conversation — but he did not 
discourage her gossip. He even asked a question or two 
about these Vanderdeckens, and when they had come to 
the neighborhood. 

" Three years ago. He bought the Hall, which was just 



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7:uB womak's kingdom. 299 

dropping to ruin, and built it into a big house — ^far too 
big for him, poor silly old man, for he has got no son to 
come after him — only one little daughter. But he's 
mighty fond of her, they say — fonder than he is of any 
thing, except his money." 

." He's a miser, then ?" said the soldier, eagerly. 

" Not ejcactly — or else, like most of your miserly folks, 
he'll spend pretty well where he fancies it, or where the 
money shows. Though I'm not saying aught agin the 
Yanderdeckens ; she's a kind lady enough, and wonderful 
good-looking, and sees after the schools, and has her fin- 
ger in < all the charity doings. And be has restored Holt 
cburChr— they're very regular church-goers, both on 'em — 
-TTfand put in it a big painted window in memory of Anne, 
only sister of Jacob Vanderdecken, who died at the Cape 
of Good Hope some'at about fourteen years ago. You 
sees I knows it all off by heart, sir, for I sits opposite to 
iteyery Sunday ; and sometimes when I'm inclined to be 
sharp upon * Old Van,' as we calls him hereabouts, I've 
thought folks' memories are so short in this world, that 
there must be some'at not bad in a man who remembers 
his sister for more than a dozen years. But I beg your 
pardon for going on like this." 

"No, no," said Stone, absently. "As you say, folks' 
memories are short, very short. There's a proverb about 
a man's name outliving him half a year, if he builds 
churches ; and about funeral baked meats that did coldly 
furnish forth marriage tables." 

" Be that in the Proverbs — the Bible, I mean ?" 

" No, in a much better book." Then, seeing how shock- 
ed and scandalized the good soul looked, he half apolo- 
gized. " You think me a heathen, or an infidel ?" 

"Not a bit of it, sir. I hope you're a good Chris- 
tian." 

" There you mistake," said the soldier, looking up with 
gleaming eyes. " I'm no thief. You needn't be afraid of 
my robbing your house and murdering you. But I am 
no Christian. I don't believe in any thing or any body." 

" I'm sorry for it. But you're young still, I reckon, and 



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300 THB woman's kingdom. 

perhaps before you die the Lord will bring yon to a better 
mind." 

"Will He? Then why hasn't He done it already? 
Why didn't He do it years ago ?" 

" I can't tell, sir," and the old lady laid down the table- 
cloth she was folding, and clasped together her withered 
hands. "That's just what I said to myself when poor 
Tom was shot, while Jim Brady beside him, as was no- 
body's son and nobody's husband, and all the village was 
. glad to get rid of— Jim hadn't a scratch. Why doesn't 
the Lord do a many things that He doesn't do, and leave 
undone a lot more that one thinks He ought to do? I 
can't tell, sir, and I suppose nobody can. However, there's 
the bells beginning, so I'll go to church and say my 
prayers ; that can't come amiss, anyhow." 

The soldier was silent till just as she had cleared every 
thing away, when he said, suddenly, 

" I'll go to church with you, Mra Pox, if you are not 
ashamed of my company." 

"Oh, sir." 

" But, mind you, I'm not like you. I don't go to say 
my prayers: I go for jny own — amusement. Yes, we'll 
call it amusement," and he laughed. 

" Never mind, if only you'll go. Them as isn't against 
Him is for Him, says the Bible. And you'll see our 
church ; and as for our parson, whether or not you like 
his sermon, it'll do you good only to look at his face." 

So in a few minutes more that strangely-matched pair 
of church-goers — they could not be called worshippers — 
the stout landlady in her best black, permanent widow's 
weeds, and the thin, spare, sickly soldier, took their way 
across the common, guided by one of those fine peals of 
bells such as are heard nowhere but in England. It poui^ 
ed through the windless, sunshiny air in the familiar chime 
— ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting; ting — and then a 
clash, as if the whole eight bells had rushed upon one anr 
other and fell crushed into one solid mass of music. The 
soldier stopped to listen; his hollow face grew still more 
wan, and his lips began to tremble. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 301 

" You like our bells ? we reckon 'em very fine," said 
Mrs. Fox, gratified. " I suppose it's pretty long since 
you've heard a good chime of English bells ?" 

He nodded. "What's that?" pointing to something in 
the view, perhaps to make a diversion in the conversation. 

" What do you mean — them steeples ?" 

" No, that queer sort of building, which seems crawling 
along the horizon like a big caterpillar, with two towers, 
like horns, one at its head and the other at its tail?" 

" You're very funny, sir," answered Mrs. Fox, excessively 
amused. " I dare say you must have been rather a droll 
chap altogether when you was young. A caterpillar! 
Well, it is like it; and to think that you didn't know 
what it was ! To be sure, you've been a good bit away 
from England. But did your folk never send you any 
newspapers, and never tell you about the Crystal Palace ?" 

" No," replied the soldier, in such a sharp, trenchant tone, 
that Mrs. Fox determined never to mention his "folk" 
to him again. She was convinced there was "some'at 
wrong " concerning them, and though by no means deficient 
in feminine curiosity, still there had been quite enough of 
household tragedy in her life of seventy years to make 
her comprehend that every heart has its own burden of 
grief, and that it is often kindest and best to notice noth- 
ing, but to " let sleeping dogs lie." So, without farther 
questioning, or indeed any conversation at all, she took her 
companion across the common and down a village street to 
the church, against the low wall of which he had leaned 
the night before. 

It was an old building, but modernized into comforta- 
ble unpicturesqueness. Nothing about it was very notice- 
able, except a solitary yew-tree, which kept guard over a 
few ancient, nameless graves. Of the modem memorials 
one caught Stone's eye, as it would any body's, being a 
long, wooden board, planted lengthwise on a grave, with 
the name and dates very plain, and underneath, bigger 
and plainer still, the warning text " Watch^ therefore^ for 
ye know not at what hour the Lord cometh^'* 
. The soldier turned and regarded it with some curiosity, 



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302 THB woman's kingdom. 

which slowly faded away into a contemptuous sneer. He 
might have been going to say something sneering, doubt- 
less, but the old woman beside him was walking on so 
quietly with her grave Sunday face; and likewise he 
seemed to notice for the first time that she was in widow's 
weeds. So, infidel as he was, or called himself, Stone shut 
his lips together and followed Mrs. Fox in silence to the 
church-door. 

" Take off your hat," she whispered — ^not too soon, for 
he was marching into the half-filled church like a man in a 
dream, regardless alike both of the place and the people. 

Still, when warned, he recollected himself, and obeyed, 
blushing a little, like a reproved child. 

" I beg your pardon, Mrs, Fox ; I had forgotten my man- 
ners. I have not been inside a church-door these fifteen 
years." 

" Oh, my dear soul, how shocking 1 Stop, stop !" again 
restraining him. "The church is free; but somehow we 
always leaves them foremost seats for the gentry. Sit 
you down here." 

For he was going right up to the chancel, where, close 
in front of the white-spread communion-table, which some 
old-fashioned folk still call, and believe to be, " the Table 
of the Lord," was a handsome pew, oak-carved, crimson- 
cushioned, and well furnished with Bibles, prayer-books, 
and hymn-books of the hugest size. 

" You mustn't go in there, it's the Vanderdeckens' seat ; 
but you can see their window just as well from here, and 
the clergyman, too. Do sit down, sir." 

For she still kept putting in the instinctive " sir," as 
with a suspicion that the man was, or once had been, what 
people term a gentleman. And he both interested and 
fidgeted her so much that the poor old woman hurried 
over as fast as possible her customary prayer, and then 
turned, uneasy as a hen over a young duckling, to see 
what hev protkgk was doing. 

Nothing dreadful, certainly. Whatever he himself might 
be — Jew, Turk, infidel, or heretic (Mrs. Fox classed them 
all together, as the Prayer-book does, and knew no more) 



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yHE woman's kingdom. 308 

«— he had Bat down decorously and harmlessly beside her, 
staring about him a little too much, perhaps, but still not 
more than many well-bred people stare, at " the gentry " 
who came filing in — the good old families who lived in 
the good old red-brick houses, solid and square, of the 
Georgian era, which Mrs. Fox had pointed out on their 
way to church. 

" None o' them's the Vanderdeckens, though ; they al- 
ways comes in by the chancel-door ; and she's worth look- 
ing at, being a fine woman still, and dresses mighty grand. 
I sees her in a new bonnet every second Sunday at least." 

John Stone bent his head assentingly to this whispered 
feminine communication, and then sat quietly and decent- 
ly enough, his hands clasped on his knees, and his eyes 
steadily fixed at the opening door, top much in shadow to 
be very noticeable, else he too might have been worth 
looking at. He had been decidedly handsome, and, had 
he had a smooth life, might have been handsome to ex- 
treme old age ; but it was one of those artistically moulded 
&ces, dark yet delicate, and all alive with what our grand- 
mothers used to call "sensibility;" in which a hard or 
troubled career soon wears out all the beauty, and, indeed^ 
alters the whole appearance ; so that after some years a 
mother would hardly recognise her own son. And his 
bald head and full gray beard gave him, at first sight, the 
look of a man not far off sixty, though, examining him 
closer, he was not nearly so old. 

He sat staring about him ; for, as he had averred, he 
came to church not to pray, but merely to amuse himself, 
until, last of all the congregation, appeared the Vander- 
deckens. 

They were a group of three— father, mother, and little 
girl. A big footman preceded them to their pew, showed 
them in, placed an additional book there, and^ left them. 
Then this wealthy family dropped their heads on their 
hands for a minute's space of prayer like other " miserable 
sinners." 

Yet undoubtedly they looked exceedingly comfortable. 
Mrs. Yanderdecken's violet silk dress was rich in hue as 



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304 

the painted window, and her ermine fiirs were dazzling as 
the purest snow. Certainly she knew the art of dressing 
well, and had every opportunity for exercising it. Her lit- 
tle girl, too, was clad as a rich man's daughter should be, 
though no splendor of clothes could make her any thing 
but an ordinary child, in whom one vainly sought the 
smallest trace of the mother's beauty. Another thing, 
also, one did not find, happily— the mother's peevish, un- 
satisfied expression, which dulled all her loveliness, like a 
sweet landscape overspread with mist and rain. 

Gertrude's quick eyes roamed round the church, and 
soon met John Stone's. She whispered something to her 
mother, and then Mrs. Yanderdecken also turned, and fixed 
her eyes — her large, blue, soulless, uncomprehending eyes 
— upon the poor soldier. Fixed them leisurely, looked 
him all over from head to foot, apparently seeing nothing 
in him but a very shabby, broken-down fellow, and then 
turned back again to her daughter, whispering something 
back. Something kindly, no doubt; for the little girl 
blushed and looked pleased, and continued her investiga- 
tion of the soldier in shy glances, which she hardly re- 
strained from breaking out into positive and most undec- 
orous smiles. 

But the mother did not look again. She had done her 
duty — all that could be expected of her ; and then the 
poor man evidently passed from her memory. He did not 
belong to her and her circle of thought at all ; she put him 
aside, and settled herself to her comfortable devotions. 

Mrs. Yanderdecken was, as Mrs. Fox had said, decided- 
ly worth looking at ; and John Stone did look at her all 
church-time. Just a glance or two did he expend upon 
the little fat old man beside her, one of those men who 
are only remarked in society as their wives' husbands ; 
yet there vas an obstinate protrusion of his under-lip, and 
a glitter in his small, keen eyes, which accounted for Mrs. 
Yanderdecken's hesitation at " telling papa," and implied 
at least a possibility that the large handsome lady mar- 
ried to the ugly little man was not so much " the gray 
mare " as appeared probablfe. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 305 

John Stone apparently was a student of hnman nature, 
for he seemed to take in all this, and more. From his 
post of observation he let not a movement in the Vander- 
decken pew escape him. No avenging ghost could fix 
upon it and its occupants steadier or stonier eyes. He 
paid attention neither to the prayers nor to the sermon ; 
merely got up and sat down when Mrs. Fox urged him to 
do so, but otherwise made no pretense of worship. What- 
ever he was, he was at least honest. And when, escaping 
from his hard, fierce stare, which harmed them not, for 
they never saw it, the Vanderdecken family, with the 
humbler portion of the congregation, bent their heads to 
receive the final benediction, " the peace of God which 
passeth all understanding," this man, in whose counte- 
nance was no peace, held it up, as if at once hating them 
and accusing them to the silent heaven, which had beheld 
all, and prevented nothing. 

" Come," said Mrs. Fox, touching him as he stood erect 
and motionless, " the likes of us always goes out first, the 
gentry afterwards. Though it's being sacrament Sun- 
day, the most of 'em stops behind; the Vanderdeckens al- 
ways do, except the little miss. Come along," she added, 
sharply. 

She led him, walking more like an automaton than a 
man-, down the church aisle, and out into the air, which 
blew sharply across the church-yard, and made him shiver 
with Indian sensitiveness all over. 

" Let's make haste," said the old woman. " It's coming 
on to rain, and I've my Sunday clothes on ; besides, I want 
to get home and cook a bit o' some'at hot for your dinner 
— you'll want it this sharp day." 

" Thank you ; you're very kind to think of me," said — 
with a sudden change of voice — the poor soldier. 

It did rain, and rained, soppily and soddeningly, the 
whole remainder of the day, as these bright winter morn- 
ings have a trick of doing ; so neither Mrs. Fox nor her 
charge, as she now seemed fairly to consider him, crossed 
the threshold again. Stone spent half the afternoon in 
sleeping, with his head against the settle, dropping off as 



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806 

if from sheer weakness, on the intervals of smoking his 
pipe, which he did to an unconscionable extent. Beyond 
it, indeed, he seemed to care for nothing, neither amuse- 
ment nor occupation ; asked for no books, though Mrs, 
Fox brought him several; good Sunday books — "Pil- 
grim's Progress" and "Hervey's Meditations among the 
Tombs." At last, pitying his utter indifference to every 
thing, she risked her Christianity enough to fetch him a 
newspaper. But the world seemed to have completely 
slipped from him, or he from it, so that he took no more 
notice of the "Times" itself than if it had been a sheet 
of blank paper. Never was there a sadder spectacle of 
a man with nothing to do, and no strength to do it — a, 
sick soul in a worn-out body. And yet, whenever he fell 
asleep, the boyish, innocent look came back, till the old 
woman stood and watched him with an expression of pity 
that she could not suppress. 

"I doubt if you're long for this world, and maybe you'll 
not be sorry to get out of it," said she to herself, looking 
at him from over the big Bible, which she always scrupu- 
lously read of Sunday evenings. " Poor fellow ! I shouldn't 
like to be your mother, I reckon. My Tom's happier where 
he is, and so am I, than if he'd come back to me like you." 

Yet the remembrance of poor Tom was so strong, that 
when, just before bed-time. Stone asked her abruptly if she 
would take him in for a few more days — a week or two, 
perhaps — Mrs. Fox, though she had never seen the color 
of his money, assented. 

" You can stop if you like, for Pve a weak side to sol- 
diers. Maybe you're a long way from your home ?" 

" Yes — a long way." 

"Then you're right to try and get a bit stronger before 
you go there. Holt is a healthy place, they say, and then 
there's Holywell. You may spend half your time in wan- 
dering about Holywell Park." 

" I mean to." 

" If you'd like me to name you to the butler there — he's 
a friend of mine — ^you could come and go about the place 
as you fancy, with nobody to hinder you." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 307 

" Nobody will hinder me." 

It might have been said either as fact merely, or else a 
threat, for the tone of it caught Mrs. Fox's attention. She 
shook her head. 

"Ah, my man, Fm afeared you're one of them radicals 
as hates all rich folk, for nothing on earth huit being rich 
folk, while we belongs to what they calls ' the lower class- 
es.' Bat I never troubles my head about such things; 
and when you're as old as I am, and have gone through 
all I have gone through, mayhap neither will you." 

The soldier was silent. 

After a while he said, " I've been thinking, Mrs. Fox, 
that I ought to tell you my name, or give you some war- 
rant for my respectability." 

" Just as you like, sir. Of course it's better and more 
satisfactory to all parties, and, besides, our rector, he al- 
ways calls when he sees a new face in church, for he's as 
good as a father to the whole parish, and I'd like to be 
able to tell him I'd got a decent man in my house. Who 
shall I say, sir?" 

" John Stone, private, — th Regiment ; discharged inva- 
lided, with a pension. Besides, in case I should starve 
upon that — your British nation is not too generous to 
broken-down soldiers — look here !" 

He showed her, as he had done to the railway-porter, 
the bag of sovereigns. 

"It's loot — honest loot, I assure you; at least, so far as 
loot ever is honest And perhaps your millionnaires — 
your Yanderdeckens, for instance — make their money in 
no more creditable way." 

" Oh, sir, I never heard any thing to Mr. Vanderdecken's 
discredit. He's a very respectable gentleman." 

" Well, so am I ; that's alL Will you trust me now ?" 

The old woman looked at him hard. " I think I'd have 
trusted you anyhow. But I can't tell. Tve been took in 
a good many times. I often think the world's made up o' 
two sorts o' folks — them as puts upon others, and .them 
that is put upon theirselves ; and it's pretty hard for the 
last, only maybe the Lord loves 'em best, after all." 



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308 THE woman's kingdom. 

"Does He?" 

" Don't you sneer, sir ; you may live to think different 
from what you do now. Young folks fancy they've found 
out every thing, but old folks know they've never done 
learning." 

" You're a wise woman, Mrs. Fox." 

" I wish I was, sir ; I wish I was ! But good-night to 
you. You've had a dull Sunday, if this is your first Sun- 
day in England." 

An innocent trap which caught nothing. Stone neither 
answered yes nor no. 

"Anyhow, you'd better go to bed now, and perhaps 
you'll feel not so bad on Monday morning. Good-night. 
As the young ladies used to say where I was nurse-maid 
forty years ago (I was brought up among my betters, sir, 
and I'm used to their ways), * Sound sleep, pleasant dreams, 
and a blithe waking.' " 

"Never in this world, and there may be no other — I 
hope not, for I could not stand it. I am so tired — so tired !" 

It was not said bitterly or blasphemingly, only in utter 
weariness ; and Stone left his thin, wasted hand for a min- 
ute in the old woman's palm, which had grasped his own 
in rough cordiality. But she was so shocked at what he 
had said that she dropped it at once ; whereupon he slowly 
turned away, took his candle, and went up stairs, to meet 
that long, lonely night which is either the utmost fear or 
the only comfort of such as he — till God prepares for them 
that bed which may be sweeter than they know. 



CHAPTER XXn. 



Holywell Hall, whatever it had originally been, was 
now transformed into one of those splendid modem man- 
sions peculiar to England and to the taste of English mer- 
chant-princes. Exclusively modern — for, like Mr. Vander- 
decken, these commercial magnates have seldom known a 
grandfather; and most of them see the wisdom of escap- 
ing entirely from the sombre glory of unattainable an- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 309 

cestral dignity into the tangible magnificence of present 
wealth. 

Every thing at Holywell was solely of to-day, except a 
wall or two left standing for picturesqueness, and the gi- 
gantic trees of the park, which could not well be regrown, 
and made trim and new, or very likely Mr. Vanderdecken 
would have done it. In the house he did as he chose. 
The upholstery was of the latest style ; the tables, chairs, 
mirrors, and pictures — all being equally regarded as fur- 
niture — had not one antique flaw. In fact, the whole con- 
tents of the mansion might have come — half of it did come 
— bran-new and specklessly perfect, from the Great Exhi- 
bition of AH Nations, then jnst closed. It was altogether 
a very splendid abode, complete in all its arrangements, 
and lacking nothing that money — which can purchase 
taste, among other trifles — could supply. 

The only thing it wanted — if, indeed, such a want is 
worth mentioning — was that intangible something which 
may be called the soul of a house, in contradistinction 
from its body ; which makes you conscious of the pres- 
ence and influence of somebody who loves the dwelling 
and takes pleasure in it, either for its own sake — we can 
get attached to dead bricks and mortar, for want of any 
thing better — or for the sake of some hiiman being belong- 
ing to it. This soul, which can inhabit and inform with 
its own beauty and brightness a very poor abode, does not 
always dwell in a rich one, and certainly did not dwell at 
Holy well Hall. 

Nevertheless, it was a flne place, and perfect of its kind ; 
quite above criticism, indeed, except that a captious ob- 
server might say, if it had a fault, it was that, like its mis- 
tress, its handsomeness verged on too much of splendid 
solidity. You found in it none of the play of variety, the 
sweet little untidinesses, such as a book out of its place, a 
bit of work left in a chair, or a child's toy on the floor, 
which make a house look inhabited and home-like. From 
end to end you might traverse Holywell Hall and not dis- 
cover aught amiss, not even in Mrs. Vanderdecken's bou- 
doir, where she sat every morning — scarcely for business, 



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810 THE woman's KINGBOM. 

domestic or otherwise ; she had nothing to do ; but mere- * 
ly because most ladies in the neighborhood had such a 
room, and were always found sitting there before lunch- 
eon. They also — as she found on coming home from 
abroad — had the good old English habit of needle-work; 
so Mrs. Vanderdecken likewise adopted it, and was gen- 
erally seen with a beautiful embroidery-frame before her, 
where she was making a fender-stool for a charity bazar. 
At least, she put in a stitch or two when she felt inclined, 
and her own or Gertrude's maid continued and completed 
the task. 

The effect of the elegant work, and the diamond-ringed 
fingers moving over it, was very good ; while as for the 
room, it was perfect, and arranged with an especial view 
to those rosy half-lights which set off to the best advan- 
tage a lady whose complexion may naturally be supposed 
beginning to fade a little — very little in this case; and 
all that art could do to sustain waning nature was un- 
doubtedly done for wealthy Mrs, Vanderdecken. 

Yet she looked dull, as she almost invariably did of a 
morning, for visitors rarely came so early, and she never 
saw Gertrude till lunch. The child was always up and at 
work by eight, with her daily governess ; while the moth- 
er never rose till after ten, leaving her husband and daugh- 
ter to breakfast alone together, as they had done ever 
since the little girl was two years old. 

Gertrude was an only child. Mrs. Vanderdecken would 
have liked a son best — a son and heir to all this property. 
Still, she was very fond of her little daughter. Women, 
who seem otherwise to have no heart to speak of, have 
very often the mother's heart — at least, that natural in- 
stinct which belongs equally to brutes and human beings, 
yet it is a sacred instinct in its way. Mrs. Vanderdecken 
had it She had petted Gertrude extremely during infan- 
cy, and now, as she was growing up into a companion, 
clung to her, as such silly women do cling to any body 
who will take a little of the burden of existence off their 
shoulders. 

I have called her a ** silly " woman ; but perhaps that is 



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THB woman's kingdom. 311 

• not quite fair. There was no absolute silliness in her, no 
more than there was absolute badness ; she looked merely 
negative — made up of negatives : the kind of woman who, 
if left alone, will willfully do no harm to any one, but sleep 
through life like a Persian cat upon a velvet cushion — 
sleek, and a little uninteresting ; but quite harmless — or 
looking so, at least. 

She herself seemed interested .in nothing to any great 
degree. She had no favorite pursuits. Her sitting-room 
was in perfect order ; the book-case untouched ; the piano 
unopened. She idled wearily over her embroidery, yawn- 
ed two or three times, and pulled out her jewelled watch 
to see how the time went on — time, which to some gallops 
so fast, but which with her seemed perpetually to crawl. 
At last, unable to bear her weariness of it or of herself any 
longer, she rose and rung the bell. 

" Tell Miss Vanderdecken to come up to me the minute 
she has finished lessons.'' 

But when, shortly after, the child came bounding in 
with an exuberance of life that made her almost pretty 
for the time being, the mother's only welcome was a fret- 
ful reproach. 

" How rough you are, Gertrude ! and how very long 
you have been at lessons I What detained you ?" 

" My history, mamma. I was in Queen Elizabeth's 
reign, and I wanted to finish it." 

" That is a trick you have ; when you begin a thing you 
never rest till you have finished it. You are just like your 
aunt — ^" 

Mrs. Vanderdecken stopped suddenly. 

" Not like my aunt Anna, surely ; though papa fancies 
it sometimes. But I hope not ; for nurse says she was 
quite an elderly person — and so fat. I would, rather be 
like my other aunt — ^Aunt Edna ; isn't that her name?" 

"Yes." • 

" Didn't I bring you this morning a letter from my aunt 
Edna ? — ^that is, I thought so ; for the post-mark was Brook 
Street," said the child, hesitatingly, as if treading on a for- 
bidden subject. 



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312 THE woman's kingdom. 

"It was from your aunt Edna. She remembered my 
birthday, which nobody else has done for many a year." 

"Oh, mamma, why didn't you tell me your birthday? 
and I would have given you something pretty, and wished 
you * many happy returns.' Isn't that what they say in 
England ?" 

" I don't know ; I have almost forgotten." 

"Dear old mammy— darling mammy I" cried the child, 
fondling her. " Now, won't you show me the letter from 
Aunt Edna? I should so much like to see it! I wonder 
if she writes as nicely as she talks? Where is it? in your 
pocket ? Do give it me." 

"Little girls should not expect to see their mamma's 
correspondence," Mrs. Vanderdecken answered, coldly 5 
" and you know so little of your aunt, that it is impossi- 
ble her letter can interest you. She is well, and so are all 
the family. That is enough for you to know." 

Gertrude looked disappointed, but urged no more! 

"And, by-the-bye, child, you need not say any thing 
about the letter, to . your papa. He does not know the 
Stedmans, and they are in such a different sphere of life 
from ourselves that it is not likely we shall ever be very 
intimate with them. So the less we talk about them the 
better." 

" Very well, mamma." 

The child's answer was given with that careless acqui- 
escence which neither implies assent nor obedience. Per- 
haps, unperceptive as she was, the mother had sense 
enough to discern this, for she said, after regarding her 
daughter uneasily — 

"You must really mind what I say to you, Gertrude. 
You are always taking fancies to people, and you are not 
old enough to choose acquaintances for yourself. Promise 
that you will make none without telling me. You ought 
to tell me every thing. I mean your papd and me, of 
course." 

" But, mamma, you don't always tell papa every thing ?" 

Mrs. Vanderdecken looked extremely annoyed, and her 
vexation took refuge in displeasure. 



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THB woman's kingdom. 313 

" You naughty, impertinent child, how dare you say 
such rude things to your mother — your poor mother, who 
has no comfort in the world but you !" 

Neither the anger nor the pathos seemed to affect the 
child very deeply ; probably she was well used to both. 
She only stroked her mother's hand with a sort of patron- 
izing affection. 

" Dear old darling, I didn't mean to vex you. I'll never 
do so no more — till the next time — and I'll be the goodest 
girl that ever was, if you will only let me go once again 
to see my aunt Edna." 

Mrs. Vanderdecken turned away very bitterly. 

" You ungrateful girl, you don't care two pins for your 
mother noW. It is all your aunt Edna." 

" No, it isn't ; how could it be ?" returned Gertrude, 
practically. " Because mf mother is my mother, and my 
aunt Enna I have only set eyes on twice, an hour each 
time, counting the hour last week when I met her at the 
Crystal Palace with Cousin Julius." 

" Julius ; is that their eldest boy's name ? Oh yes ; I re- 
member now. You seem to have caught it up very readily." 

" Because I thought it such a funny name ; and when we 
were walking together by the fountains, I asked him who 
they had called him after — was it Julius Caesar? and he 
said no, it was after an uncle he had, who had been dead 
a great many years." 

" Yes ; a great many years." 

There was something in Mrs. Vanderdecken's manner 
which struck the child — who was as quick to observe as 
her mother was slow — for she said at once, 

"Did you know him, mamma? What was he like? 
Was he my uncle also? Did you ever see him?" 

No ! the lady was just going to reply, but the contempt- 
ible lie — the lie of fear — died upon her lips. Falsehood 
was so difficult, so impossible, with her young daughter 
looking right in her face with the honest gaze of a child. 

" Yes," she said, " I did know him once a little. But he 
was no relation of yours — only Dr. Stedman's brother. He 
went out to India, and died there." 

O 



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314 THE WOMAN^S KINGBOM; 

*^ How did he. die?" 

" He was drowned, I believe." 

"Where? in the sea?" 

" In the River Hoogly, I think ; but I never heard much 
about it. And now, my dear, yon need not catechise nie 
in this way, for. I really can tell you nothing more. And 
you must not ask any more about — about Mr. Stedman." 

"Why not? Oh, I understand," and the little maid's 
face suddenly became tender and grave. " We ought to 
be careful in speaking about people that are dead. . And 
perhaps they were very fond of him—his own relations, I 
mean — and very sorry when he died." 

"Perhaps they were," said Mrs. Vanderdecken. 

She rose from her chair and stood, her full height, oppo- 
site the full-length mirror. Her lips were ashiade paler 
than their usual rich color, and she evinced a slight unea- 
siness and gravity of manner, such as most people show in 
speaking of any unpleasant subject, a shocking accident, 
or discreditable history, just enough to convince the quick- 
witted Gertrude that something mysterious lay behind, 
and make. her resolve, poor little unconscieutious girl as 
she was-T-ftl^s ! she had had no example of conscientious- 
ness—that, in spite of her mother's prohibition, she would 
question Cousin Julius closely about his uncle the very 
next time she got a chance; of seeing him. 

" There is the bell ; let us go down to luncheon," said 
Mrs. Vanderdecken, with an air of relief, and, taking her 
little daughter's hand with an appealing sort of fondness, 
w;hich sat tpuchingly . on the large, splendid wom^n, she 
passed slowly down the marble staircase, crossed the hall, 
and entered the dining-room; where, in somewhat cheer- 
less state, she, Gertrude, and the governess, were accus- 
tomed to take their midday meal together. 

She was very silent throughout it ; but then who could 
expect her to talk niuch to a mere governess? She nev- 
er interfered in the teaching, but always showed the utr 
most distaste for, and ignorance of, the proceedings of the 
school-room. And, whenever she addressed the little eld- 
erly lady who taught Gertrude, and had been a teacher of 



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THB woman's kingdom. 315 



UBS. YANDBSDBOKEN AlTD l>AVOHn£]t. 



children all her days, it was with a reserved dignity that 
showed plainly the great difference between poor Miss 
Smith and Mrs. Vanderdecken, of Holywell Hall. 

Yet&he was not unkind, or uncivil, or unlady^like : here, 
too, the extreme negativeness of her character prevented 
her from doing any thing decidedly amiss, and no doubt 
Miss Smith would quite agree with Mrs. Fox, and with 



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316 THB woman's kingdom. 

most other people, in finding no fault with, nay, even prais- 
ing, the great lady of the parish. It takes so little to gain 
popularity when one has an indefinite number of thousands 
a year. 

Meantioie, Gertrude chattered incessantly to her mam- 
ma or her governess, with the wondrous merry heart of 
twelve years old, so that gradually the vexed look — ^it was 
only vexation, not sorrow — passed from the mother's face, 
and she listened with a lazy smile, glad to catch the pres- 
ent pleasure — and such an innocent pleasure, too. If she 
ever looked really happy, this poor rich woman, whose life 
seemed so barren of every thing but riches, it was when in 
the company of her little girl. 

"It is very odd," said she, half to herself, when the gov- 
erness had retired, and the child still went chattering on ; 
" but though, as papa says, you are like the Vanderdeck- 
ens, and not a bit like me — still there is about you some- 
times a queer look of your aunt Edna." 

"Are you sorry for that, mamma?" For while Mrs. 
Vanderdecken spoke she had slightly sighed. 

"Sorry! what makes you fancy such a thing? Dear 
me, no ; except that your aunt Edna isn't pretty — never 
was. Still, as I always tell you, good looks are of no im- 
portance. I'm sure I never got any benefit from mine I" 
(with another sigh) — " No, child ; you are better as you 
are, and I dare say your aunt Edna would tell you the 
same thing." 

" Would she ?" and Gertrude indulged, for a wonder, in 
a few moments of silent meditation. "Please, mamma, 
when is Aunt Edna coming here ?" 

" I really don't know." 

" Will she never come here ?" 

"How can I say? Your papa asks to his house who- 
ever he pleases ; and probably he doesn't want to ask my 
sister." 

" Bat don't you want her, mamma ? Did you ever real- 
ly tell papa you wanted h6r ? Shall I tell him ?" 

"Oh dear no; not upon any account," said the lady, 
hurriedly, caught, as she continually was, by her honest 



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317 

child, in the very ambush under which her weakness hid 
itself. "The fact is, the Stedmans are so different from us 
that we do not care to invite them ; nor do we think they 
would enjoy themselves if they came. But, for all that, 
she is a good person, an exceedingly good sort of person — 
your aunt Edna." 

So saying, Mrs. Vanderdecken rose and ordered the car- 
riage, while Gertrude, who hated being shut up in a close 
brougham, begged to be allowed to take a run in the park 
with " old nurse," a colored woman, over whom she ruled 
supreme. 

"Just as you like," the mother said, peevishly; "you 
are always glad to go out with any body but me, and to 
do any thing that I don't particularly want you to do. 
And what you can find to amuse you in the park these 
dull, damp winter afternoons is more than I can see." 

" Oh, mamma, I can amuse myself anywhere if only I 
am let alone." 

" Just like your aunt Edna — as like her as two peas !" 
muttered Mrs. Vanderdecken. Then, in her velvet, fur- 
trimmed cloak, with her filigree gold card-case in her hand, 
she stepped into her carriage, to pay the never-ending, 
still-beginning round of visits, which constituted the prin- 
cipal duty and solace of her life. 

Then her little daughter trotted off: trotted is just the 
word for the round, compact little figure, pattering reso- 
lutely upon its small dots of feet, the merry face shining 
under a round cap of chinchilla fur, the hands tucked in- 
side her miiff, and gathering close about her a scarlet 
cloak, like little Red Riding Hood. She was not a pretty 
nor even a picturesque child ; but she was a child, which 
is a great deal to say for her in the present generation. 
And, withal, she was a quaint, self-contained, self-depend- 
ent little soul, not taking much after either parent, but 
belonging to some far-back, long-forgotten Dutch type ; 
while, ever and anon, there reappeared in her that curious 
likeness to her mother's English sister, which seemed at 
once to annoy and to touch Mrs. Vanderdecken.. 

She trotted through the park, this funny little maid, ap- 



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318 THK woman's kingdom. 

pearing and disappearing among the bushes, in her scarlet 
brightness, not unlike a cheery, plump, merry robin-red- 
breast. 

, It was one of those dull days when, foreigners say, En- 
glishmen are all inclined to go and hang themselves. The 
mossy walks, once so soft and green, were now spongy and 
sodden ; dead leaves lay everywhere in rotting masses, ex- 
cept the few left on the trees, which fluttered mournfully 
against the murky sky. Every thing was at the transition- 
time, when earth seems as if she could not reconcile her- 
selt to winter, but lies, abject and helpless, grieving over 
her own decay, with the grief of a man over a wasted life, 
or a woman over her love-life all done. Dark days, dreary 
days, whether in the year or in human existence ; yet they 
must come to us all. 

Ay, even to poor little Gertrude ; though as yet she un- 
derstood them not, nor seemed in the least affected by the 
gloominess of the day. She went gayly on, stamping on 
the wet moss, and leaving it in little ponds, shoe-shaped, 
behind her; or kicking the dead leaves about at every 
step, in exceeding fun. Soon she quite distanced the 
nurse, who, indeed, was only too glad to be let slip, and 
returned to the house, as was her custom, telling nobody 
— and well certain that Gertrude would tell nobody — of 
her absence ; inconvenient candor being by no means the 
rule of the Vanderdecken household. So Gertrude came 
alone to her favorite play-place — art odd-shaped ornament- 
al pond, possibly, in far-back centuries, the original f holy 
well." Several oaks, now huge and hollow with age, with 
quantities of ferns and. even stray brambles growing in 
their hearts and on the crevices of their gnarled arms, had 
been planted round its brink. Also a yew-tree, whose 
enormous branches swept the water, and stretched over it 
almost to the island in the centre, which some later hand 
had made and adorned with rhododendrons and other 
flowering plants. A somewhat dreary spot, because it 
was not wholly Nature — Nature never is dreary — but had 
in it a forlorn mingling of art. But Gertrude made her- 
self quite happy there ; and after feeding her water-fowl, 



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THE woman's kikgbom; 819 

the only inhabitants of the spot, who swam towards her in 
a chilly appealingness, as if the black-looking pond were 
almost too much, even for ducks, she climbed to her favor- 
ite post — the arm of the largest oak-tree which overhung 
the water — and sat swinging there, Ophelia like — not sing- 
ing, certainly, but indulging in castle-building, as this soli- 
tary rich man's child, so unlike both her parents, was rath- 
er prone to do. 

Hers was, however, a very modest and matter-of-fact 
castle : nothing more than a pretty summer-house, which 
she would coax the gardener — Gertrude was hand-in-glove 
with all gardeners and humble folk on her father's prop- 
erty — to build for her, and to which she would invite, if 
possihlej who ? Casting her thoughts round about, she 
could find no better visitors, or more to her mind, than her 
aunt Edna's five boys, with Cousin Julius at their head, if 
only Cousin Julius — a big manly youth — would condescend 
to come. Perhaps there, under the influence of tea and 
cake and cousinly feeling, she might coax out of him what 
she was sure must be most romantic and mysterious — ^the 
whole history of his uncle and namesake, Julius Stedman. 

In default of this^ she began to invent it for herself, being 
in the habit of making up stories, heroic and pathetic, at 
will. By-and-by she grew so absorbed in her own imag- 
inations that she let her muff drop off into the water, and 
was nearly following it herself, when a strong hand caught 
hold of her. 

It was a man, who had crept near and been watching 
her intently for several minutes, only in her absorption she 
neither heard nor saw him. Probably he had UQt meant to 
be seen, since he had hidden himself behind the yew-tree, 
save fpr the instinct which made him stretch out a hand 
to save the child from falling into the water. 

" Take care^ little miss," said he, grufliy. " That's an 
unsafe seat for a child like you. Are you alone ?" 

Yes, she was alone. Not a creature to protect her from 
the grim man, who spoke so roughly, as if he hated her, 
and was ready' to do her any sort of mischief. But Ger- 
trude was not a cowardly child ; if frightened at all, it was 



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82d THB woman's kingdom^ 

usually at supernatural tbipgs ; and th]s was only a man. 
In fact, as she perceived the minute she took courage to 
look at him closer, a man already known to her by sight 
— the poor soldier who, she believed, had saved her life, and 
whom she thought a good deal of .since. Surely he never 
meant to barm her. 

She did not scream, but looked him composedly in the 
face. 

" Yes, I am quite alone. Why did you ask me ? What 
are you going to do to me ?" 

" Do to you, simpleton ! what should I do ? Eat you up, 
as the wolf ate.Red Riding Hood? Do I look like it?" 

And he laughed— a horrid kind of laugh, the poor little 
girl thought — and glared at her with the wildest eyes she 
had ever beheld, or ever imagined, in ogre or giant. Yet 
he was a small man, comparatively — thin and sickly-look- 
ing ; and while considerably frightened, she also felt sorry 
for him. Perhaps he was a little crazy ; and she had heard 
that madmen ought to be humored and treated as if one 
were not the least afraid of them. So she answered, though 
inwardly quaking, as gently as she could, 

" You would be a very bad, cruel man to kill a poor lit- 
tle girl who never did you any harm." 
"Indeed!" 

"And if you did kill me," gathering courage as she spoke, 
" you would be punished for it. Papa would have you 
hanged." 

The soldier laughed again. "And how would that ben- 
efit you ? For instance, your father's hanging me would 
not bring you back to life again ? It might comfort him, 
though ; for revenge is sweet — ^very sweet-»-" . 

And he went on muttering to himself the rest of his 
sentence. 

Gertrude now grew seriously alarmed. She would have 
run away home ; but the man leaned against the oak-tree 
trunk, and so blocked up her passage. She was compelled 
to remain sitting on the branch, with her poor little legs 
dangling over the pond. Thus they kept their positions, 
these two ; for her jailer seemed to have forgotten her pres- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 321 



LITTLB BED BIDING HOOD* 



ence and dropped into a fit of musing, till at last Gertrude 
ventured to address him again. 

" Please, kind man, let me go. It can't do you any good 
to be cruel to a little girl like me. I'm very sorry for you, 
you look so ill ; and I would give you some money only I 
have none jn in^r pocket. But I'll tell mamma about you 
when she comes home." 
• " Is she out, your mother?" 

" Yes, out driving. You might wait for her at the lodge- 
gates, and she would be sure to give you something. She 
is very good, is my mamma." 

" That's a lie !" answered the soldier, fiercely. 

Then the little maid forgot her fear in a sudden blaze 
of indignation. 

O 2 



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322 THB woman's kingdom. 

"How dare you say so? What do you know of my 
mamma ? She is a lady, and you only a common man — 
not even a gentleman, or you wouldn't talk to me about 
Mies.'" 

"Shouldn't I?" returned the man, eying in a sort of 
curiosity the small, fearless face, all ablaze with wrath. 
Then he said, " You're not like her — not one bit. I won't 
harm you; you may step down. Allow me to assist you. 
Miss Vanderdecken." 

He offered her his hand with such a courteous air — not 
like an ogre at all, she thought, but more resembling the 
politeness of the young prince in the "White Cat," or the 
Beast, after Beauty had turned him human by loving him 
— that Gertrude regarded the man with dumb surprise. 
Instead of taking to her heels, as she had meant to do, she 
turned and offered to shake hands with him. 

" Good-bye. You seem to know my name. I am much 
obliged to you, and so will my manlma be ; for she knows 
who you are " — (the soldier started) — " and so do I too." 

"Indeed! Who am I?" 

"I think you are the man who pulled me from under 
the train one Saturday night. I have not said much about 
it since ; for mamma does not like talking about unpleas- 
ant things; and she is easily frightened. But I know 
quite well that but for you I should have been dead and 
buried, and gone to heaven by this time." 

He smiled at the quaint wording; but he could not 
deny the fact. In truth, with the peculiarity of his nature, 
in which impressions that seemed slight at first, instead of 
wearing out deepened down with time, during these three 
days it had more than once occurred to him, with a strange^ 
creepy feeling, how very near he had been, and the child 
too, to the " going to heaven " which she talked about—^ 
going together. How odd such an accident would have 
appeared! and what a queer coincidence it would have 
been if they two had been dragged out dead from under 
the train, and identified (as, though careless enough about 
himself living, he always took care his body should be iden- 
tified) — himself and Mr8.Vanderdecken's little daughter! ' 



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THE woman's kingdom. 323 

Half in mockery, and yet drawn towards her by an at- 
traction for which he could not account, and with not at 
all the sort -of feeling which he expected to have. had to- 
wards her, he intently examined the child. 

" Would you have liked to * go to heaven,' as you call 
it?". 

Gertrude pondered a minute. " No ; at least not just 
yet, I think." 

"Why not?" 

"Because I am quite happy as I am." 

" Happy I" echoed the man, and looked half-contemptu- 
ously, half-pitifully at the child. " Is any body happy, do 
you think? Is your mother happy?" 

" Of course she is. No, stop a minute ;" and the honest 
little face took an expression which, in its flitting, shadowy 
sweetness, reminded the soldier of another — far back in 
ghostly ages ; even as we sometimes see, with a start, the 
dead and the lost come back to us for a minute in the like- 
ness of some little one of a new generation. " No, I am 
afraid mamma is not always happy, for she sometimes tells 
me I am the only comfort she has ; and I am sure that is 
very little." 

A gleam of satisfaction — wild satisfaction — ^lit up the 
countenance of the poverty-stricken soldier. "Really I 
she is not happy ? AH her riches can not make her hap- 
py — nor her husband neither? She and your father quar- 
rel sometimes, don't they ?" 

The man seemed quite carried away out of himself, or 
he must have seen the astonishment, mixed with reproof^ 
of the little girl's look. 

" You must be a very odd sort of person to talk to me 
in this way about my papa and mamma. What can you 
know of them ? I am very, very sorry for you, and very 
grateful to you for saving my life ; and any amount of 
money that papa could pay — " Here the little girl stop- 
ped, confused, touched by an instinct stronger than all her 
education. 

"I suppose you think — doubtless your mother has 
taught you — that money can do every thing; but it can 



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324 

not. I want nothing. I know I saved your life; and I 
prefer to hold you in my debt for doing so. You may say 
this to your papa, if you like." 

Gertrude looked puzzled. " I wish I could tell him, and 
then he might thank you as I do. But papa knows noth- 
ing about this accident or about you ; mamma would not 
let me tell him." 

"Then she keeps secrets from him — ^from her own hus- 
band ?" said the soldier, eagerly. 

" I don't know What you mean about keeping secrets j 
and, indeed, if you will let me go away, I had rather not 
talk to you any more," answered the little girl, almost be- 
ginning to cry, with a vague fear which she could not 
quite get over; while, at the same time, her keen sense of 
the romantic — and binder her funny little Dutch outside 
there was a deal of romance in Gertrude Vanderdecken — 
was interested and excited to the highest degrea 

The soldier had apparently meant more conversation; 
indeed, he had taken the trouble to divest himself of his 
overcoat, ^nd made of it a cushion for the little girl on the 
tree-arm be3ido him ; but now he took it up again. 

" Very well : you can go whenever you like. Good-bye." 

" Good-bye," Gertrude began walking off as fast as she 
could, for twenty yards or so, then turned and looked be- 
hind her. 

The man was sitting as she left him, with his elbows on 
his knees, gazing down into the black water. His appear- 
ance and attitude were so forlorn, so wretched — he seemed 
so utterly lonely, sitting there on the dreary December 
afternoon, with the damp, white mist beginning to crawl 
over every thing — that the little girl, who was going 
home to a good fire and a bright drawing-room, where she 
always shared her mamma's cozy five-o'clock tea, felt her 
heart melt towards him. 

She returned, and touched him on the arm. 

" I beg your pardon ; I forgot one thing. Tell me who 
you are, and where you live ? If it is in this parish, I am 
sure mamma will come and see you; for she has her dis- 
trict, and goes round regularly- -unless when she sends 



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■ a25 

nnrse and me instead. And I should like to come and see 
you too. What is your name ?" 

A simple question — the simplest possible, and given with 
the most innocent, up-looking, kindly eyes ; yet it made 
the soldier start, grow pale, and then blush violently all 
over his face. He turned sharply away. 

" What does my name matter to you ? Why do you 
question me? What right has your mother to come and 
see me ?" 

" Oh, she always goes to see poor people, or sick people ; 
all the ladies in the parish do. But she shall not come if 
you do not wish it. Indeed, if you dislike it so much, I 
will tell her nothing at all about you." 

*^ That's right," said the man. And then, with a sudden 
thought, he added, "if you will promise to tell your moth- 
er nothing at all about me, I will meet you here every af- 
ternoon, if you like ; and FU tell you all sorts of pretty 
stories, and queer tales about foreign countries. I have 
been half over the world, I think, and seen curious things 
without end." 

"Have you, really?" said Gertrude, opening wide eyes 
of delight. Here was an opportunity such sts she had oft- 
en longed for — an adventure delicious as any fairy tale ; 
and the small fact of its being -a surreptitious enjoyment 
did not lessen, but rather increased, the charm of it to this 
poor little Boul, who had never been brought up to that 
holy atmosphere of simple truth whicli makes want of 
candor as impossible to the child as it is to the parent. 
There is a rough and bitter proverb, "As the old cock 
crows, the young cock learns;" and those who sow in 
small shams not unirequently reap in large deceptions. 
In this case Gertrude's better nature made her hesitate a 
little. " Mamma always bids me tell her every thing ; but 
then to hear endless stories, as you say — oh ! it would be 
so nice I" 

"Very nice," sneered the soldier; "and all true, of 
course. Every body always tells the truth, your mamma 
included. Come, shall we make a bargain, and shake 
hands upon it ?" 



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326 THB woman's kingdom. 

Yet, as the warm little hand dropped upon his, in the 
sudden foolish confidence of childhood, on his side too, 
the man's higher nature felt a slight upspringing of con- 
science, but he battened it down tight and close. To the 
little girl herself he knew he intended no harm — nay, he 
rather liked her than otherwise, and, for aught else, what 
did it matter?" 

" Very well, my dear," said he kindly, trying to teach 
himself to speak to her as he supposed children were ac- 
customed to be spoken to. " Then we have made what 
the Scotch call 'a paction' between us. Take care you 
don't break it. I shall not" 

" Nor L But," her curiosity getting the better of her, 
" I should so like to know your name.*' 

"John Stone." 

"Thank you — and good-bye again, for I hear the car- 
riage coming." 

She flew off like a bird — like the little winter robin that 
she so much resembled — and left him alone in the gloomy^ 
darkening mist. 



CHAPTER yynr 



Almost daily, and for many days, John Stone the sol- 
dier and little Miss Yanderdecken met — accidentally it 
appealed, but nevertheless by design — in quiet nooks of 
the wintry, deserted park. Sometimes Gertrude's nurse 
was with them, sometimes not. At any rate. Stone con- 
trived to secure the woman's fidelity, both by money and 
by talking to her in her native Hindostanee, she having 
been originally an ayah^ brought from Calcutta to the 
Cape. This done, he had no other fear of premature dis- 
covery, for at Holywell Hall,: as in most large establish- 
ments, the comings and goings of any individual item 
therein was scarcely noticed, not even though it were the 
young lady of the house. Besides, every body was accuse 
tomed to Miss Gertrude's independent proceedings, which 
formed such a contrast to her mother's giraceful laziness ; 



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327 

consequently, the carrying out of this sun*eptitiou8 adven- 
ture was easy enough. 

The only trouble in the matter was the child's own con- 
science, which sometimes woke up, and she begged leave to 
tell every thing to her maqima ; but Stone always quieted 
her with promises that she should do so very soon. Be- 
sides, he said, if she were ever found out, and asked any 
questions, she had nothing to do but to tell her mother 
the direct truth. 

'^But suppose mamma is angry with me, and forbids me 
to see you any more, what shall I do ?" 

She spoke in eager anxiety, for the fascination of this 
man's company, the charm of his talk, and the interest in- 
spired by his looks and manner — so unlike a common sol- 
dier, and so very like, she thought, to a prince in disguise, 
as she every day expected he would turn out to be — had 
quite intoxicated the romantic child. She was not exact- 
ly fond of him-^was almost afraid of him sometimes, for 
he had such queer ways — such sudden bursts of excite- 
ment ; and yet day and night she never got him out of 
her mind, and was always thirsting to meet him again 
and hear something new. 

"Your mamma angry?'* repeated Stone, with a sneer. 
" I thought fine ladies wei^ never angry. However, in 
that case, just send her to me — John Stone, lodging at 
Mrs. Fox's, of the * Goat and Compasses,' and I'll make 
things straight for you directly." 

" Will you, really ? And will you explain to her that it 
was all because you made me make a promise, and I could 
not break it? People should never break their promises." 

"Did she teach you that?" 

" No, but papa did ; papa is very particular. He says, 
'true in small things, true in great; that if you deceive one 
person, you'll be sure to deceive another; and he some- 
times talks about all this in such a way that he makes 
mamma cry." 

" Why ?" asked Stone, grasping at the family skeleton 
which the child had betrayed, and investigating it with 
the zest of a ghoul burrowing into a grave. 



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829 THE woman's kingdom. 

^' Oh, becs^Qse she is a little lightened of him, I think ; 
and yet he does not mean half he says. He is never un- 
kind to jne. Only he dislikes mamma's asking him for 
money; and sometimes he gets into a passion, and calls 
her ugly names, and she begins, to sob, and wishes she had 
never married ; and At makes me so unhappy, you can't 
think. But 1 ought not to tell you all this." 

^' It's no matter. I'll not tell again. I can keep a se- 
cret. Besides, I have nobody to tell it to." 

"Have, you no relations — ^nobody at all belonging to you ?" 

Stone shook his head. 

" I wish you had had a little girl of your own for me to 
play with. You were never married, I suppose?" 

"No." 

" But you had a father and mother — perhaps brothers 
and sisters, once ?" 

"No sisters." 

" Oh, what a pity ! It must be so nice to have a sister. 
I have no relations at all ; at least, none that I shall ever 
see much o£ But that is a secret too," added the child, 
looking graver. " I can't imagine why it is, but mamma 
can not bear my talking much about my aunt — ^the only 
one I have — ^Aunt Edna." 

The soldier started. He iiad been sitting, with the 
child beside him, in the hollow of an old oak, telling his 
Munchausen-like stories, of which how much was fiction, 
how much fact, he alone knew ; and afterwards he had 
fallen into a £ort of dream, as he was prone to do, watch- 
ing the sunset, and listening to a wren on a tree-top near, 
siDging as loud and merrily as if it were the year's begin- 
ning, instead of its close. Now he seemed startled out of 
his meditation into exceeding agitation. 

"I .beg your pardon, say that name again. I was not 
listening. Tour aunt who ?" 

"Aunt Edna, mamma's only sister; indeed, I never knew 
she had a sister till about a year ago, when, in driving 
through London, we saw the name on a door — Dr. Sted- 
mau. That is Aunt Edna's husband. He is a doctor, yon 
must know." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 329 

" And he lives — where ?" 

" In Brook Street, Hanover Square," answered the little 
maid, delighted with the importance of giving informa- 
tion. ^'It is but a little house. When mamma called 
there she wondered how they could live in such a pokey- 
hole, but she supposed it was because they were poor still." 

"Poor?" -i 

^'That is, compared with us; but I don't think they can 
be really poor people ; or if they are, they don't mind it. 
They all look so happy and merry — ^Aunt Edna and her 
five sons." 

''Five sons, has she?" said Stone, who, after his first 
violent start, had settled down into an attitude which he 
was prone to fall into — stooping forward with his hand 
over his eyes. He said he had had moon-blindness, and 
sometimes wore green spectacles. "And — ^her husband — 
your uncle?" 

" Oh, you mean Dr. Stedman. Of course, he is my un- 
cle; but I have never seen him. We have only called 
once, and they never come here." 

"Why not?" 

" Nobody seems to want it, except me. But I want it 
very much. I should so like to have my cousins to play 
with, especially Cousin Julius." 

Stone sprung up, and then suddenly sat down again, 
catching hold of a half-rotten branch, and breaking it in 
little pieces as he spoke. 

"I beg your pardon. Go on, child. Tell me all about 
your aunt and uncle and cousips." 

" Would you really like to hear ?" cried Gertrude, highly 
delighted. " Not that there is much to tell ; for I know 
so very little about them. But they live in Brook Street, 
as I said, and they are such a happy family, and seem so 
fond of one another. Two of the boys are bigger than 
Aunt Edna — she is a very little woman, you must know — 
and they pet her and play with her, and yet seem so 
proud of her. They tell her every thing, Julius says, just 
as mamma desires me to tell Aer," added the child, sigh- 
ing — only, somehow, I can't. Don't you think there is 



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380 IBE woman's kingdom. 

something about a person which makes you tell them 
things? But you can't do it just because they desire 
you, any more than you could love people because they 
compelled you to love them." 

The little girl had hit upon a great mystery — perhaps 
the greatest mystery in parental government ; but no such 
ethical or moral question interested the soldier. Yet he 
did seem interested — ^keenly, painfully — ^in what she was 
saying. 

" Go on; Tell me more," 

^' About Aunt Edna and her house ? Oh, I am sure it 
must be the happiest house in the world. No wonder 
they don't care to come to ours." 

" Is that so ? Who says it ?" 

"Mamma." 

" Oh, then, of course, it .must be true." 

"I wish you saw my aunt Edna. I do like her so!" 
cried Gertrude, enthusiastically. " She is not pretty, and 
is not a fine lady at all — dresses very plainly ; but then 
she is so bright, and sweet, and kind. The first time I 
saw her she took me on her knee and kissed me, and cried 
a little, saying to mamma that she once had a dear little 
girl of her own, but it died when a baby. However, she 
seems very happy with her five boys. Oh, I could be so 
fond of Aunt Edna if they would let me 1 But — hark ! I 
think I hear wheels. I must run in-doors before mamma 
comes home. Good-bye." 

" Good-bye," said Stone. He had seemed to pay little 
attention to her latter words ; but when she was quitting 
him he called her back. " Stop. Your uncle is a doctor, 
you say. I might want one. I am ill sometimes. Give 
me his address." 

Gertrude gave it .eagerly. 

" Oh, do go to him I I am sure he would do you good. 
And then, perhaps, you would see Aunt Edna and my 
cousins, and would tell me all about them when you come 
back. Only you had better say nothing to them about 
me." 

" Of course not." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 331 

" I wonder," said the little girl, lingering, as a sadden 
brilliant idea struck her, " whether you, having been at 
Calcutta, and actually sailed up the Hoogly River, might 
know any thing about — about — ^" 

"What?" 

" Oh, nothing particular. Yes, it is something particular, 
as I can guess from mamma's telling me never to speak 
about it. There is a secret which, if I pould find it out, 
might be as interesting as any of the stories you have 
told to me. Listen :" and she placed her lips to his ear in 
the approved fashion of mystery-mongers. " Cousin Jul- 
ius told me that he had, once upon a time, an uncle." 

This communication made nothing like the impression 
she intended. Stone heard it, sitting, rigid as his name, 
with his eyes fixed on the ground. At last he said, 

"Is he alive?" 

" No — deiad many years ago, mamma told me." 

The soldier started a little. 

" How did he die — ^how did she say he died ?" asked he, 
after a pause. 

"He was drowned in the Hoogly. But there's Nurse 
beckoning. I must run. Good-bye." 

"Good-bye;" and Stone sat where she had left him, 
pondering. • 

"t>ead — drowned!" he repeated to himself, and then 
laughed. "Dead, years ago! Well, it's all true — all 
true ; and better so." 

He rose, hearing the rumble of distant carriage-wheels, 
and hurried by a short cut to a comer of the park, where 
he generally lingered at this hour, behind a thick holly 
bush which was near the park gates. Thence he could 
watch Mrs. Vanderdecken drive slowly through in her 
phaeton, or brougham, or landaulet — she had an endless 
variety of carriages — ^but always alone, always dull, as if 
nothing ever had given or could give her pleasure in this 
world. 

When she had passed. Stone started up from his hiding- 
place, and ranged wildly over bush and brake, like a man 
out of bis senses, till he came out upon the common, where, 



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332 THE woman's kingdom. 

seeing decent laborers walking decently homeward in twos 
and threes, he also did the same, and soon found himself at 
Mrs. Fox's door. 

The good woman had been very kind to him, though, as 
she told confidentially to all her neighbors, she thought 
him a little '^ cracked." But as he was quite harmless, and 
paid his bill regularly — every morning, because, he said, no 
one knew what might happen before night — she did not 
object to have him staying with her. He had his meals 
in her parlor; gave hardly any trouble; went early to 
bed, and was late to rise ; never complaining of either his 
food or his lodging. He took very little notice of any 
body, yet there was: in him a pathetic gentleness, which 
won the heart of every creature — certainly every woman 
— who had any thing to do with him. 

^' I'll be bound he has seen better days, and had folk 
mighty fond of him some time," was Mrs. Fox's deliberate 
opinion. "What has brought him to this4)ass, goodness 
knows." 

" Drink, perhaps," somebody suggested. 

But Mrs. Fox indignantly repelled this accusation, 
though she owned he sometimes looked as if he had been 
drinking, and, besides his tobacco, there was now and then 
a queer smell in his room, like a druggist's shop. But it 
was not brandy, she Was certain : nothing ever passed his 
lips but water in her sight, and, if out of it, she would soon 
have discovered the fact, for she was a great lover of tem- 
perance, even though she kept a public-house. 

So, much as they talked him over, the little circle which 
revolved round the " Goat and Compasses " could come to 
no conclusion about John Stone, except that he was " rath- 
er queer," but certainly not sufficiently crazy to be treated 
as a lunatic. Still, they let him alone as much as possi- 
ble — all, save the good landlady, who, partly from a love 
of patronizing, and partly through real kindness, took him 
in her charge entirely, and, it must be owned, very de- 
votedly. 

" Mra. Fox, what is the earliest train to London to-mor- 
row ?" 



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THE WOHAN'S kingdom. 333 

She was so amazed at the qaestion that she forgot her 
ordinary deference, which rather increased than diminished 
the more she had to do with '* Mr/' (as she now always 
called him) Stone. 

" My dear soul, you don't mean to say you're going up 
to London ?" 

"Yes." 

" Well, Pm glad of it. It'll amuse you, maybe. Is it 
for good, or only for a day or two ?" 

" Only for a day or two. * For good,' as you say, I am 
not likely to go anywhere. I shall leave my traps with 
you, and return very soon. Come, come ; I dare say, in 
your heart you're not sorry to be rid of me." 

The old woman shook her head with one of her senten- 
tious remarks. 

^^ Them as their friends is glad to get rid of, Mr. Stone, 
are generally those as have never tried to make 'em waut 
'em. You're no trouble here — quite a pleasure ; and you'd 
better stop with me till you goes back direct to your own 
folks." 

This latter was a thrust, deliberate and prudential ; for 
she often felt her responsibility very great, and would have 
been really thankful to find out something definite respect* 
ing the lonely, sickly man, who might at any time fall ill, 
or even die upon her hands ; but Stone took no notice of 
what she had said. Indeed, after the matter of the train 
was fixed, he scarcely spoke another word, but smoked in- 
cessantly till he went to bed. 

He was very late up, so late that he nearly missed his 
breakfast and his chance of a lift to the station in the 
butoher'ja cart, which Mrs. Fox had kindly arranged for 
him. And as she started him off he looked so haggard, so 
feeble, that she shook her head more ominously than ever. 

" He'll go off some day like the snuff of a candle. I 
wish I knew who his friends were, and I'd write to 'em, 
with his leave or without it, that's all." . 

But the busy and the poor have not too much time even 
for conipassion, and before Stone was a mile away even his 
kindly hostess had forgotten him. 



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334 

Not a thought from her, or any human being, followed 
the solitary soldier as he took his journey, and at length 
found himself dropped into the wild whirl of London 
streets, which he trod with an uncertain step, and dazed, 
bewildered air, as of a man who had never been there be- 
fore, or so many years ago that his experience was no help 
to him now whatever. 

Besides all this, he had at first a frightened look, as if 
he expected continually to be recognized or spoken to — a 
fancy which country people often have, till they under- 
stand London better. London^- that mad Babel — so 
crowded, yet so intensely lonely, that among the myriads 
one jostles against, to meet a known face is almost an im- 
possible chance. So he was drifted on — this atom, this 
nomad, this forlorn bit of humanity — in the great human 
tide that went surging right and left down either side the 
street. Gradually he let himself be swept on by it, as un- 
important and unnoticed as a bubble down a stream. 

He turned westward, more by instinct than design, ap- 
parently — for he walked like a man half blind and stun- 
ned. By slow degrees, however, he seemed to grow ac- 
customed to the crowd ; breasted it less awkwardly and 
timorously, and looked around him a little, as if trying to 
recollect the places he saw — above all, to recollect him- 
self 

Thus he got on as far as the Cheapside comer leading 
to St. Paul's Church-yard, when the sudden boom of the 
great cathedral bell, striking eleven o'clock, sent such a 
shock through his frail, nervous frame, that he leaned stag- 
gering against a shop-window. 

"Halloo, man] are you drunk, or what?" cried a pass- 
er-by, catching hold of him, but meeting no answer, no 
resistance, let him go again. " You're ill, sir. You'd bet- 
ter get into a cab and go home ;" but there was no cab at 
band, so the stranger hailed an^ omnibus which Stone si- 
lently indicated as it passed, and civilly helped him into 
it, perhaps feeling that he was safer among companions 
than alone. 

The omnibus was full of the usual average of omnibus 



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335 

passengers, all busy and self-absorbed, every one going his 
own way, and paying little heed to his neighbor. No- 
body noticed Stone, who turned his face to the glass and 
watched the gliding by of the various familiar objects 
along the great western outlet from the city. They were 
scarcely changed. London looked precisely as he had left 
it, even after this long interval of twelve years. It seem- 
ed only yesterday that he had taken his last omnibus ride 
homeward on this very route, the day he left England, a 
young man, with life all before him and nothing behind. 
Now? 

Well, we all of us must meet such crises ; times when 
some sharp, sudden curve of the river of life brings us face 
to face with the lost past, and we stand and gaze on it for 
a moment or two— startled, saddened, or smitten with in- 
tolerable pain — then, knowing it irrecoverable, turn our 
backs upon it, and go on, like our neighbors, our inevitable 
way. 

Most men, who have at all neared their half century of 
existence, can understand this feeling ; but then few have 
such a past to look back upon as John Stone. 

He rode on a good distance, and then got out and walk- 
ed through the quietest and least frequented streets of the 
West-End, losing himself several times. The only place 
he stopped at was, oddly enough, an upholsterer's shop, in 
the window of which there happened to be for sale a large 
swing glass. Stone looked at himself in it, carefully, from 
head to foot. 

His was a figure certainly peculiar, but not peculiar 
enough to attract notice among the many odd fishes who 
swim safely and unobserved through London streets. 
Spare and short — the shortest stature admissible by the 
regulation height of the army — the faded scarlet just 
glimmering under his gray coat, the foraging cap pulled 
closely over his brows, and the rest of his face almost hid- 
den by his spectacles and long beard, any special personal 
appearance he had was so concealed that his own mother 
might have passed him in the street and not have known 
Wm. 



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336 THE woman's kingdom. 

Apparently, he satisfied himself as to the result of his 
self-examination, for shortly, paying no heed to the jeer of 
a small London boy that " P'raps he'd know that 'ere par- 
ty agin when he met him," Stone turned away from the 
mirror and passed on — walking much more confidently 
than before. 

He reached at last Brook Street, that* favorite habitat 
of physicians and other strictly respectable but not ultra- 
fashionable people, and walked right down it till he came 
to Dr. Stedman's door. 

A quiet, unpretending door it was, and belonging to 
one of those small houses, at least much smaller than the 
rest, which are sometimes to be found in this neighbor- 
hood. The brougham standing opposite to it was of the 
same character; a neat doctor's carriage, arranged with 
all appliances for books, etc. — evidently that of a man 
who works too hard not to economize time as well as 
money by every possible expedient. The coachihan, a de- 
cent elderly man-^one of those servants who are tiot only 
thoroughly respectable, but confer respectability on their 
employers — sat on his box, waiting patiently for his mas- 
ter. 

He had not to wait long. Punctually at twelve o'clock 
Dr. Stedman came out, and stood on the door-step talking 
to a poor woman who had just run up to him : so that the 
soldier, if he wished it, had a full opportunity of observing 
the physician whom he had said he might consult some 
day. 

Dr. William Stedman — as his door-plate had it — was a 
tall, strongly-built, middle-aged gentleman: fair-featured 
— a little florid, perhaps — but with the ruddiness of health 
only. He was muscular, but not stout, and very whole- 
some-looking, even though he was a doctor and lived in 
London. His mouth was placid, his eyes were kind. His 
whole appearance was that of a man who has fought his 
battle of life somewhat hardly, but has got through the 
worst of it, and begins now to put a cheerful sickle into 
the harvest of his youth — ^to reap what he has sown, and 
prepare to go forth rejoicing with his sheaves. A season, 



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THE woman's "kingdom. 337 

often the very best and brightest of existence to such a 
man ; and the ver^ bitterest to a man who has come to 
his harvest-time with no harvest ready, and finds out the 
awful inexorable truth, that whosoever has sown the wind 
must reap the whirlwind. 

While Dr. Stedman stood, talking to his patient or ap- 
plicant — a very poorly-clad and sad-faced woman — John 
Stone watched him intently. He even ctept on a little 
farther, holding by area-railings as he went, that he might 
see him better; and so remained until the physician, hav- 
ing finished his talk with the woman, dismissed her, and 
then, as with a second thought, called her back, took her 
into his carriage, and drove away. 

When he was gone Stone clung to the railings tight and 
fast. One of his violent fits of coughing seized him, and 
for a little he could hardly stand or speak. 

No one took any notice of him — those things are too 
common in London. He came to himself soon, and then 
paused to consider what he should do. Bodily exhaustion 
guided him as much as any thing, and the horrible fear 
that he might drop in the street. He went into the near- 
est shop, a baker's, and asked fos a penny loaf and a glass 
of water. But after he had munched a few mouthfuls he 
put the food aside, and taking out of his pocket a queer 
little Eastern-looking box, which emitted a still queerer 
smell — not tobacco — he extracted and ate a small frag- 
ment out of its contents. 

" What's that ?" asked the baker's wife, uneasily. " Not 
poison ?" 

"Oh no! It'» my physic — my food — my drink — my 
chief comfort in life, I assure you !" said Stone, in an ex- 
cited manner, as, layihg down sixpence, and forgetting to 
take up the change, he hurried out of the shop, and was 
soon lost once more in the maze of London streets. 

Lost — how sad a word it is — how sad, and yet how com- 
mon I And who are the lost ? Not the dead — God keeps 
them — safe and sure ; though how and where we know not, 
until we go the way they all have gone. But the living 
lost — ^the sinners, who have been overtempted and have 

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338 THE WOMAN'S KINGDOM. 

fallen — the sinned against, who have been hunted and tor- 
tured into crime — the weak ones, half good, half bad, with 
whom it seems the chance of a straw whether they shall 
take the right way or the wrong — who shall find them? 
He will one day, we trust; He who in His whole universe 
loses, finally, nothing. 

Poor Stone had much of this "lost" look as he wander- 
ed about London — uncertainly, idly, like a man who has 
given up all stake in life and takes no particular interest 
in any thing. Sometimes he stopped at a shop-window, 
generally a print-shop, and vacantly gazed at its contents; 
but he never lingered long anywhere; and being in his 
exterior neither a beggar nor a rogue, but just up to the 
decent level which makes a man an object neither of fear 
nor compassion to his fellow-creatures, he was not much 
noticed by any body, but just allowed to go his own way 
— to work or be idle — feed or starve — live or die, as it 
pleased himself and Providence. 

Wherever he wandered during that long day. Stone al- 
ways came back to the little house in Brook Street, hover- 
ing about it as a ghost might haunt its body's grave; 
walking to and fro, sometimes on one side of the street and 
then on the other, and watching every one who went in 
and out. 

There were many, for Dr. Stedman's seemed both a full 
and a busy house. People were perpetually coming and 
going, not a few with those eager, anxious countenances 
that are ever haunting a doctor's abode. He appeared to 
have a good practice, and to be not without friends, for 
several daintily-dressed lady visitors called ; and one or 
two gentlemen in carriages, grave, professional, eminently 
respectable — the sort of connections which gather round a 
man when he begins to rise in the world, and the world 
discovers that it may be rather proud of him than other- 
wise. 

John Stone the soldier saw all these things. Pacing 
the street, and sometimes, that he might awaken no suspi- 
cion, hanging about with other forlorn and shabby-looking 
loungers on area-steps and at shop-windows, he watched 



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THE woman's kingdom. 339 

with hungry glances the continually opening door. Once, 
struck by a sudden impulse, he even went up to it and 
laid his hand upon it, but just that minute two young 
lads came springing up the steps behind him, all life and 
gayety. 

V Halloo! here's an old soldier. Did you want my fa- 
ther, eh, my man ?" looking into the stranger's face with a 
frank bright smile which earned with it such a ghostly 
likeness that, after a moment's eager glance at the lad. 
Stone, trembling like an aspen, shook his head in silent 
negative, and went shambling away. 

" They must be his boys, of course," muttered he to him- 
self. " Such big lads ! W>8 boy>* It seems like dreaming. 
But Tm always dreaming."' And he laughed, but the 
laugh was half a moan. 

After a few n^nutes the two lads reappeared, bringing 
out with them^ ill .triumph a little lady, well ftirred and 
cloaked, and evidently prepared to meet the still damp 
day and enjoy it as much as either of her sons. For 
mother a^d sons they were, there was no mistaking that. 
The elder gave her his arm, patronizingly and tenderly, 
as if it were a new right which he was rather proud of 
claiming, while the younger walked beside her, seizing by 
force her umbrella and bag, and flourishing, them about 
with great liveliness. Both lads were so full of them- 
selves, and of her,, guarding her on either side, and enjoy- 
ing her company with undisguised delight, that they were 
rather regardless of passers-by, and the elder brushed past 
Stone somewhiat roughly. 

"Take care, Julius," said the lady, in a gentle, feminine 
voice, fit to win over any number of boys, and yet rule 
them too, for there was neither weakness nor indecision 
in it. Then, turning to the soldier, she added, " I beg your 
pardon, my son did not mean to be riide to you." 

Stone made no reply, and after a passing glance at him 
she walked on. However, ere crossing the street, she 
looked back and said a word or two to her second son, 
who immediately came and spoke to him, civilly and 
kindly. 



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340 THE woman's kingdom. 

"Are you not well? Is there any thing I can do for 
you?" 

"No, nothing. Let me alone!" said Stone, sharply, 
and hurried away. 

A few minutes after, however, he was haunting the 
same street — the same door. Almost that instant the 
doctor drove up to it, when two little lads not long past 
babyhood, going out with their nurse, blocked his way. 

" Papa ! papa !" rose in unison, a perfect shriek of wel- 
come. 

Dr. Stedman stopped and tossed them up, one after an- 
other, in his strong arms. 

" My Castor and Pollux, is it you ?" 

" We're not Castor and Pollux, we're David and Jona- 
than. Papa, give us another toss." 

" Not to - day ; I'm very busy. Run away, Gemini 
Nurse, is mamma at home ?" 

And hearing she was not, a momentary cloud crossed 
his face. 

"Ah, well, she'll be back by dinner-time, and so shall I. 
Tell her so." And he hurried in with the preoccupied 
look of a man who has no idle moments to lose. Very 
soon he came out again, and was hastening to his car- 
riage, when his quick eye caught sight of the figure lean- 
ing against his area-railingsi 

" Did you want me, my good man ? Any message ? 
Are you a patient of mine ?" 

"No." 

" I don't remember your face. But you look ill. I am 
unfortunately m haste," taking out his watch ; " but still 
I could spare fully* three minutes, if you wanted to consult 
me." 

"No." 

" Good-aftemobn, then." 

"Good-afternoon." 

Preoccupied as he evidently was, the kind physician 
gave one half- compassionate glance behind him, then 
closed his carriage-door and drove away. John Stone 
stood in the street alone. 



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THE woman's kingdom; 341 

Yes, quite alone now — alone as few men ever are until 
their death. He had come hither with no definite inten- 
tion beyond the natural impulse of most men, to see old 
places and familiar faces again. Afterwards, driven by 
some vague yearning, some last clinging to this world and 
all its tender ties, he had experimentalized thus on a mere 
chance, hardly knowing whether he wished to succeed or 
fail He had failed. 

It was neither improbable nor unnatural that he should 
have done so, and yet the certainty of it smote him hard. 

" I am quite safe," he said, bitterly. " Nobody knows 
me. I may go among them all as harmless as a ghost." 

And not unlike a ghost he felt — a poor, wandering 
ghost revisiting the upper world, where his place was 
now as completely filled up as, perchance, even the best- 
beloved, most honored dead would find theirs, could they 
return after a season to the hearths they sat at, the friends 
and kindred who once loved them so well ; ay, and love 
them still, only with a different sort of love. It seems 
sad, and yet it is but a law of nature, most righteous, 
most merciful, if we look at it as we believe our dead do, 
grieving no more, either over themselves or us, but re- 
joicing in their new and perfect existence. 

But Stone was a living man still, and he found his lot 
hard to bear; yet it was, in some sense, his own choosing. 
He had slipped away, first in madness, and then with a 
stunned indifference to life and all its duties; suffering 
himself to drop without a struggle into the great sea of 
sorrow, which at some crisis in our lives is ever ready to 
overwhelm each one of us. It had closed over him. He 
had gained his desire. Years of oblivion had rolled be- 
tween, changing the terrible present into a harmless past ; 
and now his own place and his own people knew him no 
more. 

He turned into Hanover Square, and walked round and 
round it, in the gloom of the early dusk, avoiding the 
houses, and keeping to the inner circle, where a white 
frosty fog hung over the trees like a shroud. 

" It's all right," he muttered, talking to himself, as was 



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342 THE woman's kingdom. 

his habit — ^the habit of most solitary people. " They are 
happy, perfectly happy, as they deserve to be. They have 
wholly forgotten me. Of course ; they could not but for- 
get. What was there to remember except pain? And 
yet— oh Will ! Kind, loving, good old Will !" 

A sharp sob broke his words. Ashamed, he turned to 
see if any chance passer-by was near him; but there was 
no one. The place was—as London squares are on a win- 
ter evening — lonely as a desert. 

"Five sons the child said he had. Plenty to keep up 
the name-^the honest, honorable name — which he used to 
say I should make famous some day. I? What a mock- 
ery it seems now ! Five sons. Not a bad help for a man 
when he gets old. That eldest — the big fellow, so like his 
father — must be the one that was the baby. /She used to 
pet him and play with him." 

He ground his teeth as he spoke, and talking to himself 
no more, sped on round and round the circle, like a man 
possessed ; sometimes stopping from sheer exhaustion, and 
then hurrying on again as if there were an evil spirit be- 
hind him. At length, quite worn out, he crawled back to 
the "old spot— the bright little house in Brook Street. 

It looked doubly bright in the now thickly gathering dark- 
ness of the street. The Venetian blinds had been drawn 
down, but not closed, so that any one looking through the 
interstices could see into the room quite plainly. 

A cozy dining - room, warm and cheerful ; gilt - framed 
prints shining on the crimson-papered walls ; a large book- 
case at one end ; a mirror and sideboard, garnished with 
what looked like presentation -plate, goblets, a claret-jug, 
etc., on the other; between, the shining, white-spread fam- 
ily dinner-table, with chairs all round it, evidently meant 
to be filled as full as it could hold. Standing on the hearth- 
rug, apparently waiting and watching, but knitting still — 
for the fire-light flickered on the glancing needles, and 
made a star of light out of one fine diamond which glit- 
tered on the rapid little hands — was a figure that looked 
like the good fairy, the presiding genius, the guardian an- 
gel of the whole. 



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THE "woman's kingdom. 343 

She was a little person, thin and fragile, more so perhaps 
than a matron should be, and her face was not without a 
look of care — or rather the faint reflex of care gone by. 
And when it fell into repose there was, as there is in al- 
most all faces past their youth, a slight sadness, enough to 
make you feel that she had felt and understood sorrow. 
Her hair was already whitening under her little lace cap, 
and her black silk dress had not the slightest pretense of 
girlishness about it. Yet 
there was a youthfulness, 
light and gay, and an al- 
most childish sweetness 
in both face and figure, 
that withstood all the 
wear and tear of time. 
It made folk say, even 
ordinary friends, but es- 
pecially her boys and 
her husband, "Ah, mam- 
ma will never be an old 
woman!" No, never: 
for while her heart beat 
it would be a young heart 
still. When, more than 
once, at the sound of 
wheels she lifted up her 
face to listen, the bright- 
ness that came into her 
eyes was like that of a 
girl hearing the lover's 
footstep outside the door. 

Stone watched her, 
clinging meanwhile to 
the railings, grasping 
them hard, as if the cold 
iron had been a warm, 
loving hand. Perhaps 
for a minute his heart 
misgave him — his bitter, thbouoh the window. 



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344 THE woman's kinqdom. 

cynical, unbelieving heart. One step, one word, and 
might he not pass out of the loneliness and cold into — 
what ? Would it be a welcome ? After all these years, 
all this change, would it be a welcome? He looked 
down on his rags — they were becoming such, for his mon- 
ey was dwindling away ; he put his hand to his head, 
where the deadly food which he had been chewing at in- 
tervals since morning was slowly but surely confusing his 
faculties, making him tnore and more unfit for and averse 
to all society, or any thing that might snatch him out of 
the drugged nocturnal elysium which alone enabled him 
to bear the torments of the day. 

" No — no ; too late ! To them I should only be a bur- 
den and a shame. Better as it is— better as it is." 

And just as the doctor's carriage drove up, and the door, 
opening of itself, showed a dainty head leaning anxious- 
ly forward from the lighted hall, Stone slunk back hast- 
ily, and staggered away, round the street corner, into the 
misty square. 

Half an hour afterwards, he crawled back again, but by 
that time the Venetian blind had been closed ; the house 
was all dark. Only through an inch of the upper sash, 
which was left open for air — ^it was such a small house for 
a large family — the hungry, weary, shiveiing man fancied 
he could hear the clatter of knives and forks, the chatter 
of lively voices, of parents and children, around the cheer- 
ful dinner-table, where all met together after the laboi*s 
and pleasures of the day. 

"Willi — ^Ednal" — he called, but faintly, and as hope- 
less of reply as a bodiless spirit might feel, vainly trying 
to make itself known to the living flesh and blood unto 
whom it was once so near. " Will — ^Edna — you were fond 
of me once, and I was fond of you. I'll not harm you or 
trouble you. Be happy! It is quite true — I am dead, 
dead. Good-bye !" 

He hurried away, and was soon lost in London streets 
— the glaring, splendid, wicked, miserable streets^once 
more. Lost ! — lost ! — lost I 



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THB woman's kingdom. 345 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

" Mamma, only lisfen." 

" Please do, mammy, darling !" 

" Lovey I we'll be so good." 

" Children, will you hold your tongues, and not speak 
more than three at a time ? The dear old mother is per- 
fectly deafened with you." 

Mrs. Stedman smiled at her eldest son — her "right 
hand," as she often called him — her grave, kind, helpful 
Julius; but it being, as he said, quite impossible for her 
to hear herself speak just then, she only shook her head 
with a Burleigh-like solemnity, and waited till the out- 
burst subsided. 

She had all her young flock at home for the holidays, 
which, especially in winter, most mothers will recognize 
as a position not the easiest in the world. Yet £dna was 
well fitted to be the mother of boys. Within her tiny 
feminine body lurked a spirit unconqueriable even by the 
husband who adored her, and the sons who inherited their 
own from her. Bright, brave, active, decided, she had 
learned to hold her own in the midst of the most tumult- 
uous state of things, as she did this day. And however 
gently she might utter it, all knew and recognized that 
her yea was yea, and her nay nay. No one ever attempt- 
ed to gainsay or dispute either. 

There are bad women — God have mercy on them 1 fall- 
en angels, worse than . any men — by whom lovers, hus- 
bands, sons, are led on to destruction: but almost worse 
than these are weak women, who have sufficient good in 
them to make them half loved, while they are wholly de- 
spised, by the men belonging to them.. Now, whether 
Mrs. Stedman's sons loved her or not, it was at once seen 
that they respected her — respected her, as gentle, wise 
firmness is ever respected; and relied on her, as upon 

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346 

quiet strength, whether of man or woman, children always 
learn to rely. 

Silence being restored, she said — 

" No, boys ; I am very sorry for you, but you can not 
go skating to-day. The ice is not thick enough." 

" But, mamma, I saw ever so many on it when Bob and 
I took Caesar down to the Serpentine 'after breakfast." 

" You did not go on it yourselves ?" 

"Of course not. We promised, you know," said Will, 
with an injured air, at which his mother patted him on 
the shoulder tenderly. 

" That's my good boy — my good boys, whom I can al- 
ways rely on. It is hard for you, I allow that; and many- 
harum-scarum fool-hardy lads may tell you your mother 
is a great coward — " 

" No, no, no !" cried all the lads in chorus, and de- 
clared she was the "pluckiest" little mother that ever 
lived. 

"Very well," she answered, laughing; "I am glad you 
think so." And then seriously, " No, boys, I hope I can 
bear inevitable risks, nor do I shrink from lawful dangers. 
Julius will have one of these days to take his turn at the 
fever hospital; Will may go in for a Civil Service exam- 
ination, and be off to India ; and Robert turn sheep-farmer 
in Australia, as soon as his schooling is done. I'll hinder 
none of you from risking life in doing your duty ; but I 
will hinder you, so long as you are in my care, from throw- 
ing away your lives in any reckless manner. A pleasant 
thing for papa and me if you went out this forenoon, and 
were brought home at dinner-time — drowned !" 

" Ju says I'm born to be hanged, and so I shall never 
be drowned," observed Bob, dryly. 

" Drowned," repeated Will, meditatively. Will was the 
clever one of the family ; always striking out new and 
brilliant ideas. "It would be a curibus thing to try what 
drowning is like. People say it is the easiest death that 
any one can die — quite pleasant, indeed. Mamma, did you 
ever know any body who was drowned?" 

"Hush!" said the eldest brother, quick to notice the 



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THE woman's kingdom. 347 

slightest shadow in his mother's face. "You forget Uncle 
Julius was drowned." 

No more questions were asked. Though the children 
knew no particulars, they were well aware that over the 
life and death of this unknown uncle, their father's only 
brother, hung a tender, sad mysteiy, which made their 
mother grave whenever his name was mentioned; and 
their father sometimes looked at Will, who was thought 
to resemble him — looked, and turned away with a sigh. 
And when sometimes, l)eing deluded, as fathers delight to 
be, into telling tales of his own boyhood to his boys, these 
adventures chanced to include Uncle Julius, he would 
break off abruptly, and his hearty merriment changed 
into the saddest silence. Also the elders noticed that, 
except concerning those boyish days, their father never 
spoke much of Uncle Julius. Whether the latter had 
done something " naughty," though nobody ever hinted 
at such a thing, or whether he had been very unhappy or 
very unfortunate, the lads could none of them satisfacto- 
rily decide, though they often held long arguments with 
one another on the subject. But one thing was quite 
clear — Uncle Julius must have been a remarkable person, 
and very deeply loved by both their parents. 

So, being boys trained from babyhood in the sweet tact 
which springs from lovingness, they let Will's nialapropos 
remark pass by without comment, and hung round their 
mother caressingly till they brought her back to her own 
bright self again. 

" Yes," she said, laughing, " you are very good boys, I 
own, though you do worry mamma pretty well some- 
times." 

"Do we, darling? We'll never do so any more." 

" Oh no, not till the next time. There, there, you ba- 
bies!" 

And she resigned her little fur -slippered foot for the 
twins to cuddle — the rosy, fat, good-tempered twins, roll- 
ing about like Newfoundland puppies on the hearth-rug — 
laid one hand on Bob's light curls, suffered Will to seize 
the other, and leaned her head against the tall shoulder 



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348 



EDUX AND HEB BOMS. 



of her eldest son, who petted his mother just as if she had 
been a beautiful young lady. Thus "subdivided," as she 
called it, Edna stood among her five sons ; and any stran- 
ger observing her might have thought she had never had 
a care. But such a perfect life is impossible; and the 
long gap of years that there was between Robert and the 
twins, together with one little curl — that, wrapped in sil- 



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THB woman's kingdom. 349 

ver paper, lay always at the bottom of the mother's house- 
keeping purse— could have told a different tale. 

However, this was her own secret, hidden in her heart. 
When with her children, she was as merry as any one of 
them all. 

"Come now," said she, "since you are such good boys, 
and give up cheerfully your pleasures, not because mother 
wishes it, but because it is right — ^" 

"And also because mother wishes it," lovingly remarked 
Julius. 

" Well, well, I accept it as such ; and in return FU make 
you all a handsome present — of my whole afternoon." 

Here uprose a shout of delight, for every one knew that 
the most valuable gift their mother could bestow on them 
was her time, always so well filled up, and her bright, 
blithe, pleasant company. 

" It is settled then, boys. Now decide. Where will you 
take me to? Only it should be some nice warm place. 
Mother can not stand the cold quite as you boys do. You 
must remember she is not so young as she used to be." 

" She is — she is !" cried the sons in indignant love ; and 
the eldest pressed her to his warm young breast almost 
with the tears in his eyes. That deep affection — ^almost a 
passion-T-which sometimes exists between an eldest son 
and his mother was evidently very strong here. 

" I know what place mamma would like best — next best 
to a run into the country, where, of course, we can't go now 
— I propose the National Gallery." 

Which was rather good of Bob, who, of himself did not 
care two-pence for pictures; and when the others seconded 
the motion, and it was carried unanimously, his mother 
smiled a special " Thank you " to him, which raised the 
lad's spirits exceedingly. 

It was a lively walk through the Christmas streets, 
bright with holly and evergreens, and resplendent with 
every luxury that the shops could offer to Christmas pur- 
chasers. But Edna's boys bought nothing, and asked for 
nothing. They and she looked at all these treasures with 
delighted but unenvious eyes. They had been brought 



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350 XHB woman's kingdom. 

up as a poor man's children, even as she was a poor man's 
wife — educated from boyhood in that noble self-denial 
which scorns to crave for any thing which it can not just- 
ly have. There was less need for carefulness now, and 
every time the mother looked at them — the five jewels of 
her matron crown — she thanked God that they would 
never be dropped into the dust of poverty ; that, humanly 
speaking, there would be enough forthcoming, both money 
and influence, all of their father's own righteous earning, 
to set them fairly afloat in the world — before William and 
she laid down their heads together in the quiet sleep after 
toil — of which she began to think, perhaps, a little more 
than she used to do, years ago. 

Yet when the boys would stop her before tempting jew- 
ellers' or linen drapers' shops, making her say what she 
liked best, Edna would answer to each boy's questions as 
to what he should give her " when he got rich — ^" 

" Nothing, my darling, nothing. I think your father 
and I are the richest people in all this world." 

And when she got into the National Gallery, and more 
than one pei^son turned to look after her — the little moth- 
er with such a lot of tall boys— Mrs. Stedman carried her 
head more erect than usual, and a Cornelia-like conceited- 
ness dimpled round her mouth. Then, she being slightly 
fatigued — she was not the very strongest little woman in 
the world — Julius settled her carefully in the most com- 
fortable seat he could find, and left her there in the midst 
of the pre-Raphaelite saints and martyrs, and mediaeval 
Holy Families, to spend some quiet minutes in pleasures 
which throughout her busy life had been so rare. For 
many of Edna's special tastes, as well as her husband's, had 
beeu of necessity smothered down. In the long uphill 
struggle of their early marned life luxuries had been im- 
possible. During all the years when her little ones were 
young she had read few books, scarcely seen a picture, and 
confined her country pleasures to watching the leaves bud 
and grow green and fall, in Hyde Park or Kensington 
Gardens. It was rarely that the busy mother got even a 
few minutes' rest like this to go back to the day-dreams 



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351 

of her youth — dow fading away in the realities, sad or 
sweet, of her maturer days. 

She almost felt like a girl again as, after a brief rest, 
she rose and took leisurely the circuit of the room, where 
many an old familiar picture looked at her with ghostly 
eyes — pictures fixed on her memory during the days when 
Letty and Julius, she and William, used to haunt this 
place. The years between seemed to collapse into noth- 
ing, and for a moment or two she felt almost as she felt 
then — at the outset of her life, in the tender dawn of her 
love : her heart full of hope that colored every thing rose- 
hue, and faith in God and man that never knew a cloud. 

Well, that time had gone by for them all four. She and 
William were middle-aged parents now ; Letty and Julius 
— poor Letty! poor Julius! — she hardly knew which to 
grieve over most, the living or the dead» 

So had passed all these passing shows of mortal life, 
fleet as a shadow that departeth ; and still the fair Saint 
Catherine stood beside her wheel, smiling her martyr's 
smile, and Del Piombo's ghostly Lazarus arose out of the 
dark sepulchre, and the numberless Madonnas who used 
to thrill Edna's heart with an exquisite foreboding of 
what mother-bliss must be, sat, calm as ever, holding their 
Divine children in their arras — always children, who never 
grew up, never died. And Edna thought of her own lit- 
tle lost baby — her one girl-baby of three months old — and 
tried to fancy how she looked now, perhaps not unlike 
these. Continually, among all her living children — her 
perpetual daily blessings — came the memory of this one, 
a blessing too, as our dead should always be to us, more 
and more perhaps the older we grow, since they bridge 
over the gulf between us and the world unseen. Edna 
was not the less a happy and a cheerful mother, that be- 
sides all these breathing, laughing, loving children, she 
had still another child^ — a little silent angel, waiting for 
her in the celestial land. 

While she was thinking of these things in her own 
peaceftil way, and enjoying the old delicious atmosphere 
of beauty and grace, which had been the fairy-land of her 



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352 THE woman's kingdom. 

youth, her boy Robert, after romping about, tormeuting 
alternately his two elders and the twins, came back to 
her. 

" Mamma," said he, in a loud whisper, " there's a very 
grand lady staring at you, and has been for ever so long. 
She looks as if she wanted to speak to you, but couldn't 
make up her mind. Do you know her?" 

Edna looked round. No mistaking the stately figure, 
the sweeping satin robes. 

" Yes, I know her," blushing while she spoke, and 
startled at the difficulty of explaining to her boy that it 
was her own flesh-and-blood sister, as near to her as Jul- 
ius or Will to him, who thus met her, looked, and — would 
she pass by ? ''I know her, Robert, but do not let us 
turn that way. She has seen me ; she can come and 
speak to me if she chooses. It is your aunt, Mrs. Yander- 
decken." 

" Oh !" said Bob, with difficulty repressing a whistle. 
" What a stunning woman she is ! But why doesn't she 
come and speak to you, mamma — " 

"Hush ! she is coming." 

She came, slow and stately, and held out her hand with 
a patronizing air. 

" You here, Edna ? I thought you never went any- 
where." 

" Oh yes, I do sometimes, when my children carry me 
off with them. And you — who would have expected to 
find you here ?" 

" I came with my little girl. She is learning drawing 
under a celebrated artist — a lady artist, of course, who 
brings her here once a week or so to study the old mas- 
ters. I leave them to go round together while I sit still. 
I don't care for pictures." 

Edna was silent. 

" Besides, I am rather glad to give the child something 
to amuse her, for she has been rather mopy of late." 

"Not ill, I hope?" 

" Oh no, only cross. Do your children never take sul- 
len or obstinate fits, Edna ? and how do you contrive to 



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THE woman's kingdom. 353 



MBS. YAMVEBDEOKKN AMD SISTEB. 



manage them ? I wish you could teach me how to man- 
age mine," and Mrs. Vanderdecken sighed. 

While speaking her distantly polite manner had changed 
into a sort of querulous appeal — Letty's old helplessness 
and habit of leaning upon every body, especially her sis- 
ter. She made room for Mrs. Stedman beside her with 
something of a sisterly air. 



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354 

Now Edna and her husband, without much speaking, 
had tacitly made up their minds on the subject of the 
Vanderdeckens.. They both felt that ties of blood, so far 
as the duty of showing kindness goes, are never abro- 
gated — but intimacy is a different thing. To keep up a 
show of respect where none exists — of love when it has 
been long killed dead — ^is the merest folly, or worse, false- 
hood. The doctor's wife had not an atom of pride in her, 
and the condescending airs of her magnificent sister fell 
upon her perfectly harmless, almost unperceived ; but Let- 
ty's total ignoring of the past, and meeting her, both on 
the two foimer occasions and to-day, as indifferently as if 
she were a common acquaintance, was such a mockery of 
kinship, that she who had believed in flesh-and-blood ties 
with the passionate fervor of all loving hearts — ^until they 
are forced into disbelief— drew back within herself, utterly 
repelled and wounded — until she heard that sigh. Then 
she said, kindly, 

" Letty, if I can help or advise you I would gladly do 
^ it — I have been a mother so many years now." 

"Ah, yes. How many children have you ? I quite for- 
get. But they are all boys. Now, I do think one girl 
is more trouble than half a dozen boys ; at least, if she is 
such a self-willed little puss as mine. I often tell Ger- 
trude I wish when she was a baby I had broken that ob- 
stinate will of hers."- 

" Don't say so," replied Edna, earnestly. " I like my 
children to have a will of their own. I would never 
break it — only guide it." 

"But do they obey you? Are they at all afraid of 
you ? Gertrude is not one bit afi-aid of me." 

" Children that obey from fear mostly turn out either 
hypocrites or cowards. We rule oura by the pure sense 
of right. God's will, which we try to teach them, is the 
real will to be obeyed, far beyond either their father's or 
mine." 

"Ah, I can't understand you — I never could. But 
Edna" — falling into the confidential tone of old days — 
" what would you do if one of your children had formed 



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THE woman's kingdom. S56 

an acquaintance which you objected to, though you could 
not absolutely forbid it, and, let you argue as you might 
with them, they wouldn't give it up ?" 

" Robert," whispered his mother, " run back and stay 
with your brothers for a little. I want to talk to your 
aunt." 

And Robert, though dying with curiosity, obeyed. 

" There ! your boy obeys you in a minute, Edna. Now I 
might reason with my girl for an hour on the subject of 
that horrid old soldier. But I will just tell you the whole 
matter." 

She drew closer to Mrs. Stedman, and in vexed and in- 
jured tones explained, in her own lengthy and contradic- 
tory fashion, how Gertrude had made acquaintance with 
some poor invalided soldier who lived in the village, had 
taken a great fancy to him, and, now that he was laid up ill 
at his lodgings, wanted to go and see him. When refused, 
she had sulked and fretted till she made herself quite ill. 

" The child must have a tender heart," remarked Edna. 

'* Of course she has, and I'm sure I encourage it as much 
as possible. In her position she will have to be very char- 
itable, so I always take her with me on district visiting, 
and put her name down below my own in subscription-lists. 
But this is quite another matter. I told her I would give 
the poor man mqney, or send him his dinner every day, 
but as to her going to see him, it was quite impossible. 
^ Why, he lodges at a small public-house." 

"Is he a bad man, or a man of low character?" 

"How can I say? soldiers often are. But to tell the 
plain truth " — the plain truth generally came out at the 
tail end of Mrs. Vanderdecken's confidences — " I don't like 
to say too much against him, for he certainly once saved 
the child's life — pulled her from under a railway train ; 
and though I must own he has taken no advantage of this 
as yet, I mean in extorting money, still he might do so, 
and that would make Mr. Yanderdecken so angry." 

" Indeed ! but you, I should have thought — " 

"Ah, Edna, one isn't always a rich woman because one 
is married to a rich man. I have every thing I want — can 



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356 THE woman's kingdom. 

run up bills to any amount, but — would you believe it ? — 
I rarely have a sovereign in my pocket to do what I like 
with. Not that I think Mr. Vanderdecken means to be 
unkind ; it's just his way ; the way of all men, I suppose." 

"Not all," said Edna, and thought of her own open- 
handed Will, who trusted her with every thing ; who, like 
herself, never wantonly wasted a penny, and therefore 
had always an honest pound to spare for those that need- 
ed. And she looked with actual pity at her sister — so 
wealthy, yet so helplessly poor. " Yes, I can see yours is 
not an easy position. But does the child still fret? What 
does her father say ?" 

"Oh, he knows nothing at all about it. We never 'tell 
papa any thing. At least," noticing Edna's intense sur- 
prise, "we are obliged to be very careful what we tell 
him. You see, Edna, my marriage is not exactly like 
yours. I being so very much younger than Mr. Vander- 
decken, and perhaps — well, perhaps a little more taking in 
my appearance," she smiled complacently, " he is apt to be 
just a bit jealous. He can not bear the least reference to 
my old ties, which accounts for my not seeing as much, of 
you, dear, as I might do." 

" I understand," replied Edna, gravely. 

"And to tell the whole truth " (it was dropping out bit 
by bit), " if I were to say to him that that poor soldier 
came from Calcutta, as Gertrude informs me he did, my 
husband, who has never forgotten the — the rather peculiar 
circumstances of my marriage, would be quite furious. 
It's natural, perhaps, but," with a martyr-like sigh, " of 
course it is a little awkward for me." 

"A little awkward 1" Edna Stedman turned upon her 
sister full, steady, indignant eyes. "A little awkward!" 
she repeated, and stopped. 

And this was all that remained of the past ; the terrible 
tragedy which even yet she and her husband could hardly 
bear to speak of; the agony of suspense which had dark- 
ened their life for months and years, until it was ended by 
receiving chance evidence which convinced them that Jul- 
ius was not lost, but dead. His story was brief enough. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 357 

On coming down to meet his betrothed at the ship, and 
finding her gone — she having quitted it at the Cape of 
Good Hope to be married to Mr. Vanderdeeken — he had 
suddenly disappeared. 

Disappeared totally, leaving his lodgings just as they 
were — and lying on the table, in an envelope addressed to 
Messrs. Marchmont and Co., a brief holograph will, be- 
queathing every thing he had to his brother, adding, " that 
he would never be heard of more." 

He never was. At first it was thought he might have 
committed suicide — gone voluntarily to face his Maker 
and ask Him the never-answered question of so many 
miserable lives; but when the news was communicated 
to Dr. Stedman, he refused to believe this. He thought 
rather that a fit of frantic despair had induced his broth- 
er to run away, so as to lose himself and his own identity 
for the time. So he instituted wide inquiries, and insert- 
ed advertisements in newspapers half over the world. But 
in vain. 

At last Julius's Indian servant brought to the oflSce of 
Marchmont and Co. an old coat of his master^s, and a pock- 
et-book, in which was written "Julius Stedman." Both 
these he said he had got from an English sailor, who took 
them from a drowned " body," quite unrecognizable, that 
had floated past his boat, down the Hoogly, three years be- 
fore. How far the story was true could never be proved, 
but, in default of all other evidence, it was at last accepted 
and believed. 

So that was the end. After another year's clinging to 
desperate hope, the will was proved, the family put on 
mourning; and now for more than twelve years Julius 
Stedman had been numbered among the dead. 

How much of all this Letty knew, Edna could not say, 
she herself having told her only the final fact in a letter 
which was never answered. Yet when she looked at her 
sister and remembered Julius, whom she had so often 
watched sauntering about these very rooms with his be- 
loved on his arm, Mrs« Stedman thought, had Letty forgot- 
ten ? Was it possible she could forget ? 



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358 

"Gertrude, you stupid child ! don't you see how you are 
trampling on my dress ?" 

The peevish tone, the .entire absorption in this small an- 
noyance of her little girl's rough but affectionate ways — 
yes, Letty had forgotten ! All that fearful history of a 
ruined life — ruined, by whose doing? — was regarded by 
her as " a little awkward," nothing more. 

But it was useless to speak, or to feel, in the matter; in- 
deed, Edna was incapable of a word. She only drew her 
little niece to her side and caressed her, in that lingering 
loving way with which she always looked at little girls 
now. And then lifting up her eyes, she saw entering the 
room, and glancing eagerly round in search of her, her 
husband. 

" I had actually a spare hour this afternoon, Edna, so I 
thought I would follow you. Nurse told me where you 
were gone. I found the boys at once. Now, lads, off 
with you home, for it is growing dark. Mamma and I 
will just idle about for a little, and drive home to- 
gether." 

And Dr. Stedman sat down beside his Edna with the air 
of a man who, after nearly a score of married years, still 
enjoys a stolen half hour of his wife's company, and thinks 
her society the pleasantest in the world. The lady sit- 
ting on her other side he never noticed at all. 

Now Edna knew her husband well ; his strong, faithful, 
tender heart, which yet, under all its tendeniess, had a 
keen sense of right and wrong, honor and dishonor, that 
no warmth of friendship or nearness of blood could ever 
set aside. She was well aware how he felt regarding Let- 
ty, and dreaded, with a kind of sick dismay, any meeting 
between them. But there was no alternative; it must 
take place. 

"William," she said, touching his hand, "this is my sis- 
ter. You did not recognize her, I see." 

The blood rushed all over Dr. Stedman's face, and he 
stepped back a moment with uncontrollable repugnance. 
Then he seemed to remember that at least they were a 
man and a woman — a gentleman and a lady. He bowed 



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359 

courteously, and when Letty offered him her hand he did 
not refuse it. 

" I hope your husband is well ? Is this your daughter ?" 

" Yes. Gertrude, shake hands with Dr. Stedman. She 
is a little like Edna, is she not ?" 

" Oh no," he replied, hastily ; " oh no I" 

And this was all that passed. 

For a minute or two more the three stood together, as 
they had stood so often on this very floor ; — with a fourth, 
who was now — where? They must have thought of him, 
they could not but have done so, yet none of them gave 
the least sign. Alas! if we were all to speak out loud 
concerning these ghostly memories that rise up at many a 
festive board, or walk beside us with soundless feet down 
many a noisy street, what good would it be? Better 
keep a decent silence, and go on patiently between the 
two awful companies which are ever surrounding us — the 
seen and the unseen — the living and the dead. 

Though all preserved their composure, the position was 
so painful that even Mrs. Vanderdecken perceived she had 
better end it. 

"I must go now," she said. "Dr. Stedman, would you 
allow one of your boys to call up my carriage ?" 

" I will see you myself to it, Mrs. Vanderdecken." 

Coldly but courteously he offered her his arm, and they 
went descending the staircase together. 

Edna, hardly knowing what she was about, so like a 
dream did it all seem, wandered mechanically on, looking 
at the mute pictures round her, chiefly portraits of dead 
men and women, on whose faces were strange histories— 
the equal histories of living men and women now. 

Preoccupied as she was, she involuntarily stopped at one 
— ^Andrea Del Sarto's portrait of Jiimself Robert Brown- 
ing must have had it in his mind when he painted that 
wonderful word - picture of Del Sarto and his wife, " his 
beautiful Lucrezia, whom he loved." All that sad story 
is plainly foreshadowed in the face — full of a man's pas- 
sion and a woman's sensitiveness, perhaps also a woman's 
weakness, which looks out from the centuries-old canvas ; 



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360 THE woman's kingdom. 

a face, typical of the artist-nature, in all ages : often, too, 
foreboding the artist's fate. 

While looking, and moralizing over it, Edna suddenly 
recognized why the portrait had struck her with a strange 
familiarity. It was almost as like him as if it had been 
painted from him — poor lost Julius ! 

She stood absorbed, for it seemed to speak to her with 
its sad soft eyes, out of the depths of years, when she felt 
a hand on her shoulder, and turned round to her husband. 

" Edna, what were you looking at ?" 

" That head. Don't you see the strong resemblance ?" 

Dr. Stedman, less imaginative than his wife, might have 
passed it by, but the emotion in her countenance guided 
him at once. He too saw, as if it had risen up out of the 
grave, not Del Sarto's face, but his dead brother's, full of 
genius, life, and hope, whereon was no possible foreboding 
of the fate to come — a fate from which neither brother nor 
sister could save him. 

Cain's appeal, "Am I my brother's keeper ?" though ut- 
tered by a murderer, is not wholly untrue or unjust. Be- 
yond a certain point no human being can help or save an- 
other. We think we can ; we are strong and fearless, till 
taught in many a bitter and humbling way that we are 
poor and blind, weak and miserable, and that in God's 
hands alone are the spirits of all flesh, their guidance and 
their destinies. 

But this is a hard lesson to learn. Edna saw, as she 
had seen many a time before during those heavy years 
when her husband went mourning for his brother — ay, at 
times even amidst the happiness of his most happy home 
— the sharp pain amounting almost to self-reproach, as if 
surely something had been left undone, or done unwisely, 
by him, or Julius's career would never have ended thus, in 
a grief the mystery of which was ten times worse than 
that of ordinary death. 

She answered, as she sometimes ventured to do, the un- 
spoken thoughts which by long experience she had learned 
to trace in William's mind, almost as accurately as if they 
were in her own. 



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861 

" Nay, dearest, you must not grieve. You couW not 
help it— nor I. It was not our doing, and he is at rest now." 

" Yes, he is at rest. But— she ?" 

Will spoke beneath his breath — fiercely too — so that his 
wife knew well enough how much, for her sake, he had 
suppressed during the last half hour. Nor could she deny 
the truth — which he felt, though he did not utter it — that 
if ever a man's life was wasted and destroyed it was that 
of poor Julius ; and it had been Letty's doing. And yet — 
and yet — oh, if God reckoned up against us, not only the 
evil that we meant to do, but that which we have been 
either carelessly or foolishly instrumental in doing, where 
should any of us stand ? 

" Forgive her !" implored Edna, as some such thought 
as this passed through her mind — she, the mother of five 
children, who had all these young hearts in her hand, as it 
were, and knew not how in the unseen years to come they 
might be sinned against or sinning — needing from others 
the pity or pardon which their mother was not there to 
show. "Husband — forgive her! I think even Julius 
would do it, now." 

"I'll try." 

Dr. Stedman pressed his wife's arm close to him and ab- 
ruptly turned away. 

For a little while longer they wandered about the rooms, 
talking of indifferent topics, for Edna knew that there are 
some things too sore to be spoken much about, even be- 
tween husband and wife : until the rare comfort of an idle 
hour together soothed them both, and made them feel, as 
married people do, that all trouble is bearable so long as 
each is left to the other. Perhaps even after then — for 
such love is not a mortal but an immortal possession. 

Then they descended, arm in arm, to where, in the chilly 
dark ofTrafalgar Square, the doctor's comfortable brough- 
am was waiting. 

" I am glad I have a warm cozy carriage to put my dar- 
ling into now," said William, as he wrapped her well up, 
and, stepping in beside her, took her hand with lover-like 
tenderness. 

Q 



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362 THE woman's kingdom. 

Edna laughed — almost the laugh of her girlhood — ^to 
hide the fact of two big tears which came now as quickly 
to her eyes as they used to do then. 

" Will, you are so conceited ;" and then leaning against 
his shoulder — creeping as close to him as the propriety of 
Pall Mall allowed, she whispered, " Oh, how happy we are 
— what a blessed life has been given to us — God make us 
thankful for it all !" 



CHAPTER XXV. 



GsBTBTJDE missed and fretted after her fiiend the sol- 
dier for many days. He and his stories had taken firm 
hold of her imagination, and his feebleness and sickliness, 
together with the fact of his having saved her life, had 
made a strong impression upon her fond little heart 

Being questioned, she had told her mother, as she al- 
ways did when catechised, every thing she was asked : so 
Mrs. Vanderdecken now knew all particular regarding 
John Stone that were known to Gertrude herself But 
this roused in her shallow and self-absorbed mind no sus- 
picion beyond an uneasy feeling that her daughter's pro- 
pensity for " low " society — gardeners, keepers, and the 
common people generally — ^mnst be stopped, and that this 
was a good opportunity for doing it. So, having ascertain- 
ed, in a roundabout way, that Stone was still lying ill at 
the "Goat and Compasses'' — though not dying, or likely 
immediately to die — she communicated these facts to Ger- 
trude, and promised, in the half-and-half way in which the 
weak mother often pacified the strong-willed child, to send 
and inquire for him every day — in return exacting a prom- 
ise that Gertrude would on no account demean herself by 
going personally to see him. 

This precaution taken, the lady left the whole matter to 
chance, and troubled herself no more about it — Letitia 
Vanderdecken being, like Letty Kenderdine, one of the 
many people who never shut the stable-door until the 
steed is stolen. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 369^ 

But one luckless day, when she rolled away in her splen- 
did carriage for a three hours' drive, her little daughter 
having contrived to get rid of nurse, went roaming the 
park in weary longing for something to do, son^ebody to 
play with — a permanent want with the rich man's daugh- 
ter. At last, in a sort of despair, poor little Miss Yander- 
deeken was driven to perch herself, like any common child, 
on the stile which divided Holywell Park from the furzy 
moor, where she could watch, and envy not a little, the 
groups of common children who, just turned out of the 
school-house, were disporting themselves there. 

It was one of those soft days, mild as spring, which had 
followed the breaking up of the frost, and the January 
sunshine, pale but sweet, slanted across the moorland like 
a. sick man's smile. Crawling along like a fly upon a wall, 
and, like herself, idly watching the school children, Ger- 
trude perceived her friend John Stone. 

Now, her moth^T had forbidden her to go and see him, 
and Gertnide always literally kept to her promises; but 
she had nev^er promised not to speak to him if she met 
him — ^Mrs. Vfimderdecken, who had heard, not without a 
vague siense of relief, that the sick man was not likely soon 
to get better, having never thought of providing against 
such a possibility. Consequently, the first thing the little 
maid did was to jump down from her stile and greet him in 
an ecstasy of delight, at which Stone was much bewildered. 

He must have been very ill, so ill as almost to confuse 
his mind^ for he regarded the little red-cloaked elf as if he 
had never seen her before. 

" I don't remember you. What do you want ?" 

Gertrude was a quick child, and possessed by instinct 
that precocious motherliness which some little girls show 
to all sick people whom they have to do with. She said, 
gently, 

" Oh, I dare say you have forgotten me, you have been 
BO iU. I am Gertrude Vanderdecken, the little girl you 
used to tell stories to, and I have missed you so much." 

^^ Missed me? Is there any body in the world who 
would have missed me ?" 



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364 THB woman's kingdom. 

" Oh yes, and I would have come and seen you had I 
been allowed, but mamma said — " 

"Who is your mamma?" Then, as if memory came 
back in a sudden flash, overwhelming him and changing 
his dull apathy into that fierce, half insane look which al- 
ways made the child shrink, though she was too ignorant 
to be much afraid. " Oh yes, I know, I remember. Go 
away ; I want to get rid of you, of all belonging to you. 
Leave me ; let me die quietly — quietly." 

He stopped, and fell into such a paroxysm of coughing 
that it left him quite exhausted. Pie found himself sitting 
on the stile, with the little girl holding his hand. 

" You have not left me, child ? I told you to go." 

"But I did not wish to go," said Gertrude, who had 
been slowly making up her mind to a proceeding daring, 
indeed, and worthy of the tender romance which lay deep 
in her nature. She determined, henceforward, to take this 
poor sick man under her immediate protection, though in 
what way she did not quite know ; and the first step was 
to get over her mother's violent prejudice against him. 
She thought if they could once meet, if her mamma could 
but talk with him quietly, his poor worn, sickly face and 
shrunken figure, and above all the air of refinement, which 
made him so different from the " common people," as Mrs. 
Yanderdecken called them, would make her as much in- 
terested in him as Gertrude was herself 

So she concocted a plan for a sudden and unexpected 
interview between the two — her mother and the poor sol- 
dier — which did her little brain considerable credit, and 
was almost as romantic as the stories she read, or those 
she was in the habit of making " out of her otvn head." 

"This is far too cold a place for you to sit in," said she, 
demurely. " Come with me, and I'll take you to our win- 
ter garden, where you'll find it so warm ; almost like be- 
ing in India." 

" Oh 1" said Stone, shivering, " if I could only get warm ! 
I feel as if I should never be warm again !" and the im- 
pulse of physical suffering, which seemed uppermost in 
him now, added to that state of weakness in which a sick 



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365 

person can be persuaded by any body to any thing, made 
him submit to Gertrude's guidance, almost in spite of him- 
self. She took him by the hand and led him across the 
park; but when they came in sight of the white, stone- 
fronted, handsome house, she stopped. 

" Is your mother there ?" 

" I think not : she is out driving — at least she was out." 

"No prevarication; no weak deceptions; you'll learn 
them soon enough. Where is your mother?" 

"I don't know," said the child, boldly, "and if I did I 
wouldn't tell you, for you look as if you meant to be rude 
to her, and you ought not, for she has never done you any 
harm, and would be very kind to you if she knew you — ^I 
am sure she would. She is exceedingly charitable to " — 
poor people, Gertrude was going to say, but stopped. 

" Exceedingly charitable ! A most amiable, generous 
lady — quite a Lady Bountiful ! And that is the house 
she lives in ; whence she would kindly throw a crumb or 
two to a poor wretched fellow like me, or if I laid me 
down at her gate she would send her lap-dog out to lick 
my sores. Excellent — excellent !" 

Gertrude was no coward, or she might have been fright- 
ened at the way the man talked and looked. But when 
she set her mind upon doing a thing, she rarely let it slip 
undone, 

" Come," she said, taking firm hold of his hand again, 
" don't talk — talking is bad for you. Just come with me 
intp the winter garden." And he came. 

It was one of those floral palaces originated by Sir Jo- 
seph Paxton, and now often to be seen in the domains of 
our merchant princes, who, like Mr. Vanderdecken, seldom 
enjoy or appreciate, but only pay for them. Under a high 
circular glass dome grew fresh, as if in their native clime, 
all sorts of tropical bulbs — palms, bananas, and so on — 
while ranged round, in that exquisite art which knows its 
best skill is to imitate nature, were a mass of flowering 
plants, which burst upon the eye in such a glory of form 
and color as to transform January into June. 

When, the instant Gertrude opened the door, the moist, 



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366 THE woman's kingdom. 

warm, perfumed atmosphere greeted Stone's delicate senses, 
he drank it in with a deep breath of delight. 

"Truly this feels like what Mrs. Fox would call * anoth- 
er and a better world,' which a week since I was supposed 
to be going to. I wish I were there now." 

"Where?" asked Gertrude, innocently, 

"In heaven, if there be such a place. Do you think 
there is, child?" 

She looked puzzled, half shocked, and answered, a little 
primly, "Mamma says we ought not to talk about those 
sort of things except on Sundays." 

" Ha ! ha I Of course not. What should she know about 
heaven any more than I? But tell her, when she gets 
there, as no doubt she will, being such a very benevolent 
lady — tell her to look over the gates of it at me, frying 
slowly, down in the other place." 

Here, catching Gertrude's horrified look, Stone paused, 
struck by the same vague compunction which makes the 
profligate hold his tongue before an innocent girl, or the 
drunkard snatch from the young boy's hand the accursed 



" Never mind me, I was talking nonsense. I often do. 
My head is not quite right. I wish somebody would put 
it right." And he sighed, in that sad helplessness which 
went to the very bottom of the little maiden's heart. 

She planned, with the quickness of lightning, the rest of 
her scheme. 

"I blow somebody who would cure you at once. Did 
you ever go to see him, as you said you would — ^Aunt 
Edna's husband. Dr. Stedman ?" 

Stone sprang up from the easy garden-chair where the 
child had placed him, and glared round him with the eye 
of a hunted animal. 

" Don't speak about him, don't remind me of him, or 
tell him of me. Let me go ! I am a poor lost, miserable 
man, that only wants to lay him down and die, in any 
quiet comer, out of every body's reach. I have changed 
my mind now — I'll promise to harm nobody, punish no- 
body, only let me die." 

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THB woman's kingdom. 367 

" But I don't want you to die," said Gertrude, upon 
whose childish ignorance two-thirds of his wild talk fell 
quite harmlessly — considered, as he said, to be mere "non- 
sense." "If you went to Dr. Stedman he would make you 
well. I am certain he would, for I have seen him myself 
now, and he looks so clever and so kind. I would go and 
tell him or Aunt Edna all about you, only something hap- 
pened last week." 

" What happened ? Any of them dead ?" 

"Oh no!" 

" That's right. They must live and be happy. Nobody 
ought to die except me ; and I can not. Oh that I could ! 
I am so tired, so tired !" 

He looked up at the child, as she stood over him, in her 
precocious womanly protectingness. Her little firm face 
trembled, but only with pity. She was not one bit irreso- 
lute or afraid. 

" It is great nonsense talking about dying," said the little 
maid, imperatively. " You are not nearly so old as papa, 
and I won't let him die for many years yet, for I love him 
dearly, and he is very good to me, even though he was 
cross at that thing which happened." 

"What was it?" 

" Perhaps I ought not to tell you. Mamma said I had 
better not talk about it, it was not respectable to have 
coolness between relations ; but one day when we were in 
London we met the Stedmans — Aunt Edna, and her hus- 
band, and all the boys — and when I told papa, for he asked 
me, as he always does, where I had been and who I had 
seen, and, of course, I was obliged to speak the truth — 
wasn't I now ? — he was so excessively angry, and told 
mamma he would not let his little girl have any thing 
to do with them, for he hated the very name of Sted- 
man." 

"Why? Did he say why?" 

" I think, because of that uncle I told you about, the poor 
man who was drowned. He must have known about him, 
and disliked him, for he began speaking of him to mamma, 
abusing him very much, calling him a penniless, worthless 



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368 THE woman's kingdom. 

fellow, and that every body must have been glad when he 
died." 

"Every body glad when he died!" repeated Stone be- 
neath his breath. 

" Papa said it, and mamma seemed to think so too ; but 
then she never dares contradict papa when he is in one of 
his passions. Still, for all that," continued Gertrude, chat- 
tering, and as if glad to have out in words what she seemed 
to have been deeply thinking about, " I can't get the poor 
man out of my head. I feel sorry for him. He might not 
have been a very bad man, or would have grown better if 
he had had any body to be kind to him. But away from 
his brother and Aunt Edna, living out there in India quite 
alone, with nobody to take care of him or be fond of him, 
what could he do?" 

" Children and fools speak truth," cried Stone, violently. 
" But I've heard enough. What does it matter ? He is 
dead now — dead and forgotten. What's the use of prating 
about him?" 

Gertrude turned upon the soldier the wondering reproach 
which nature — no. Heaven — often puts into the innocence 
of children's eyes : " Why do not you, too, feel sorry for 
the poor man ?" 

" Sorry ? Not L There is a saying, 'As you make your 
bed, you must lie upon it.' He did. But no ! he did not 
make it : it was made for him — full of briers and thorns 
and stinging serpents. A wicked woman did it all 1" 

Gertrude opened her eyes in the utmost astonishment. 

" Should you like to hear about her, child ? It would be 
a pretty tale — a very pretty tale — as interesting as any 
you ever heard. And you could tell it to your mother 
afterwards. Ay, tell her — tell her. That is a grand idea ! 
I wonder I never thought of it before." 

Stone's whole frame quivered with excitement as he 
spoke ; but Gertrude's own curiosity was too eager for her 
to notice his agitation much. 

" Oh, do tell me — I should so like to know ! But how 
did you come to know about him — this Julius Stedman — 
was not that his name ?" 



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THE woman's kingdom. 369 

" Yes," answered Stone, slowly. " Julius Stedman — that 
was his name. He was the friend — of a friend of mine." 

"And what was he like ? Did you ever see him? — with 
your very own eyes ?" 

Stone paused again ere he answered, with a queer sort 
of smile, " No, I never met him." 

Then, regaining forcibly his self-possession, he began, and 
in his old fashion — he had in a remarkable degree the art- 
ist faculty of graphic narration — he told, as vividly as any 
of his other stories, the story of the young painter and the 
beautiful lady with whom he was so passionately in love. 

Nature stirs in a child's heart often sooner than we 
think: there are very few little maidens of twelve who 
can not understand and appreciate a love-story. Gertrude 
listened, intensely interested. 

"And was she very beautiful? As beautiful as" — the 
child stopped for a comparison — " as mamma ?" 

Stone laughed. 

" You may laugh I" said Gertrude, rather angrily, " but 
mamma was once very beautiful. Every body says so; 
and she has lots of portraits of herself, done when she was 
young — only she keeps them locked up in a drawer, for 
papa can not bear the sight of them. But they are so 
lovely, you don't know I Mamma must have been quite 
as handsome as that lady — what was her name ?" 

" What is your mamma's name ?" 

"Letitia; but I heard Aunt Edna call her Letty." 

The soldier dropped his head within his hands. Some 
ghostly memoiy, sweet as the hyacinth-breaths beside him, 
which every, spring comes freshly telling us of many a 
spring departed — dead, and yet for ever undying — must 
have swept over him, annihilating every thing but the de- 
lusive, never-to-be-forgotten dream of passionate love ; for 
he said to the child — the child so utterly unlike her moth- 
er that her flesh-and-blood presence affected him less than 
this accidental word — 

" Not Letty. No, we'll not call her Letty. It was such 
a pretty name — such a sweet, dear name ! And she was 
a wicked woman, as I said. She murdered him 1" 

Q 2 



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370 

Grertrude drew back, horrified. 

" I don't mean that she killed him bodily — ^with a pistol 
or dagger. But there are other ways of murdering a man 
besides these. Til tell you how she did it. And you'll 
not forget, child ? — you'll tell it, word for word, to your 
mother some day ?" 

" Oh yes," said Gertrude, and again bent all her mind 
to listen. 

It was a touching story even to a child. How, far away 
in India, the young man had worked— at work he did not 
care for — to make a home for his betrothed bride : how he 
had strained his means to the utmost, that she should have 
therein every luxury she could care for (" she liked luxu- 
ries — pretty clothes, handsome jewelry," said Stone, in pa- 
renthesis) ; and how, almost beside himself with happiness, 
he had gone down to the ship to meet her — ^his all but wife 
— his very, very own. 

"And she came?" cried Gertrude, breathless with emo- 
tion. 

" The ship came," said Stone, in a cold, hard voice. " She 
was not there." 

Gertrude almost sobbed. " Was she — was she dead ?" 

" Oh no ! only married." 

And then he related, in a few sharp, biting words — for 
his breath seemed almost gone — how, on the voyage, a 
rich man had fallen in love with her (" She was so very 
beautiful, you know 1"), and she had landed at a port half- 
way, where his estate was, and married him. 

" What a wicked, wicked woman ! I hate her !" And 
as she said this Gertrude clenched her little hand. Tears 
— those holy childish tears which burst out irrepressibly 
at any story of cruelty or wrong — ^fell thick and fast ; and 
her whole frame was trembling with more than sorrow- 
indignation. " I hate her 1" 

Stone had said revenge was sweet. He tasted it fully 
now. But the taste could not have been quite so sweet as . 
he expected ; for, instead of exulting over it, he drew rather 
back. 

" Hush, child — don't say you hate her !" 



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THE woman's kingdom. 371 

"But she was wicked — you told me bo." 

" If I did, you need not say it. Children can not under- 
stand these things." 

And a strange remorse came over him — the childless 
man — for having put into any daughter's hand a weapon 
that might pierce her mother to the heart. He had not 
thought of this at first: he had thought only of revenge — 
revenge, no matter how, or by what means — but now, 
when he heard the child's words, and saw her little face 
glowing with righteous wrath, he shrank back from the 
fire his own hands had kindled. 

" Stop a minute," he said. " The world might not judge 
her so harshly. Many people would say she had only made 
a prudent marriage ; and that the man — her lover— if he 
had any manhood in him, ought to have got over it, lived 
an honest life, and died beloved and respected." 

" But he did die : he was drowned, I know. Where was 
it?— how?" 

Stone could not answer. Even a hardened liar might 
have been staggered by the accusing earnestness ot the 
child's eyes. And this man, once so gentle — who, how- 
ever often sinning, never sinned without repenting — he 
knew not what to do ; until, whether for good or ill, fate 
interposed. 

Fate, sweeping along in the purple silken robes and 
white ermine mantle of Mrs. Yanderdecken herself 

" Gertrude I Bless me ! My dear Gertrude 1" 

No wonder, perhaps, at the reproving sharpness of the 
lady's tone. It was a trial. To see — sitting in her beau- 
tiful conservatory, and beside her very own daughter — a 
man, not merely one of the " lower orders," as she termed 
them, but the very man for whom, from being indebted 
to him for an unpaid kindness (weak people so shrink from 
the burden of gratitude !) she had conceived as much, re- 
pugnance as her easy nature was capable of feeling. The 
more, as he paid her none of the almost servile respect 
which Mrs. Yanderdecken was accustomed to receive from 
her inferiors; made no attempt to rise or bow, did not 
even take off his hat, but sat doggedly there, staring at 



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372 THE woman's kingdom. 



MBS. VAITDBBDEOEXN AJW THB 80LDIEB. 



her. Once, as her voice and the rustle of her dress reach- 
ed his ears, he shivered. It might have been a blast of 
cold air from the opened door, or else — who knows ? — 
some breath that the still beautiful woman had brought 
with her from the rose-gardens of his passionate youth — 
those lost love-roses, of which, though form and color have 
been obliterated in dusty death, the perftime never wholly 
dies. 

As to Mrs. Vanderdecken, all she beheld was a shabby- 
lookingj bearded man, with a pair of gleaming eyes, which 
looked as if they would burn her up — devouring all her 
grace and quiet grandeur, though without — and she felt 
this, dull as she was — without having the slightest awe of 
either. 



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Bis 

" Gertrude," she said, uneasily, " who is this — this per- 
son?" 

" Mamma, don't you remember him ? Mr. Stone — whom 
Bran bit — who was so good to me. He has been very, very 
ill, and I brought him in here because it is so nice and 
warm. He likes warmth — ^he has just come from India, 
you know." 

" Oh, indeed," said Mrs. Vanderdecken, carelessly. 

Gertrude whispered in earnest entreaty, ^' Mamma, please 
speak to him — be a little kind to him." 

^^ I am sure, my dear, I am always ready to show kind- 
ness to any poor people who need it, and especially to poor 
people in whom you are interested. But, really, you some- 
times choose such extraordinary sort of folk to make such 
fnends with, and show your charity in such an unsuitable 
way I In this instance " — and her cold eye wandered care- 
lessly over the shabby soldier, and she spoke with the tone 
of dignified rebuke which she was in the habit of using to 
the drunkards and slatterns of her district — " you must 
perceive, my good man, that for you to meet Miss Van- 
derdecken in this way, and let her bring you into our own 
private domains, is quite unpardonable. In fact " — grow- 
ing more angry under the absolute silence of her hearer — 
*' I consider it a most impertinent intrusion, and desire that 
it may never occur again." 

" Mamma — oh, mamma !" pleaded Gertrude, but Stone 
took no notice whatever. He sat, as if in a dream, staring 
blankly at Mrs. Vanderdecken. 

The lady at last grew a little uncomfortable, so fixed 
was the gaze, so impassive the attitude of this strange 
fellow, who seemed to exercise over Gertrude a perfect 
fascination. 

" Come in, child — tea has been waiting this half hour, 
and I have to dress. You forget we have a dinner-party 
to-night. For you," turning to Stone, "as my daughter 
says you are an invalid,! will overlook your rudeness — 
for once ; and since she is kind enough to take an interest 
in you, I shall be glad to assist you — with soup-tickets, or 
out of my village clothing-fund, if you will give me your 



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374 THB woman's kingdom. 

name and address, also — ^I always exact this — a certificate 
of character." 

" No," thandered out the broken-down man, confronting 
the elegant rich woman. " PU give you nothing — I'll ac- 
cept nothing from you.. Let me go I" 

He rose, and staggered past her, then turned, and seeing 
her left hand hanging down — white, glittering with many 
rings — he seized it, regarded it a minute, crushed it in his 
own with a fierce pressure, and flung it away. 

Mrs. Vanderdecken gave a little scream, but the con- 
servatory door had closed, and he was gone. Then her 
indignation, not unmixed with fear, burst out. 

" Gertrude, this protigi of yours is the rudest fellow I 
ever saw — a perfect boor. A thief, too ! for I am certain 
he meant to rob me. Didn't you see him make a snatch 
at my rings ? I wonder if they are safe — one, two, three 
— yes, all right. What a mercy 1 Only think, if he had 
stolen these beautiful diamonds !" 

"Mamma!" cried Grertrude, half in reproach, half in en- 
treaty, for she did not know what to say. Undoubtedly 
the poor soldier had been very rude, and yet she could 
not believe him to be a thief But all her little plan had 
fallen to the ground. She saw her mother was seriously 
displeased, and her common sense told her it was not 
without cause. The poor child thought she would never 
try romantic schemes for doing people good again. 

Perplexed and miserable, she walked by her mother's 
side into the house, where she received her cup of tea, and 
the severe scolding which accompanied it, with a sad hu- 
mility, and then waited beside Mrs. Vanderdecken while 
she dressed for a dinner-party. The little plain child had 
an ardent admiration for her mamma's beauty, and while 
she was meditatively watching the maid comb out those 
masses of long light hair, in which there was scarcely a 
gray thread visible, Mrs. Vanderdecken, chancing to turn 
round, saw her little girl's earnest looks, and smiled, mol- 
lified. 

" Come, my dear," said she, holding out her hand, " PU 
not scold you any more. We will be the best of friends, 



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375 

if only you promise to have nothing more to do with that 
ruffianly soldier." 

" But I can't promise ; and he isn't a ruffian, indeed," 
said Gertrude, piteously, yet very decidedly. She was 
an obstinate little thing, and had a trick of always hold- 
ing fastest to her friends when they happened to be down 
in the world. " You would not say so, mamma, if you 
once heard him talk as he talks to me — as he had been 
talking all this afternoon." 

** All the afternoon I" cried the mother, in dismay ; " a 
young lady like you to be talking a whole afternoon with 
a low fellow like him ! It's dreadful to think o£ I am 
perfectly ashamed of you. What on earth were you talk- 
ing about ? Tell me every word. I command you !" 

Here Gertrude became much perplexed. Somehow or 
other, whenever she spoke of the Stedmans, she had al- 
ways got into trouble with either father or mother, or 
both ; and so she had resolved, in that strong, reserved lit- 
tle heart of hers, to shut them up tight there, and never 
refer to any of them again. She had kept this resolution 
so well that, in spite of the charming excitement of this af- 
ternoon's discovery concerning poor Uncle Julius, for the 
last half hour she had borne her mamma's reproaches in 
perfect silence, nor let herself be betrayed into the slight- 
est allusion to the story which had interested her so much. 
Now, being plainly questioned, she was obliged to speak 
out. 

" I'll tell you any thing you choose, mamma," said she, 
sullenly, " but I know it will only make you cross. I was 
hearing a long story about a person whom neither you 
nor papa like, and whom you told me never to speak 
about, and I wouldn't speak, if you didn't ask me." 

" What nonsense, child ! Who was it ?" 

"Uncle Stedman's brother — ^Julius." 

Had a ghost risen up before her Mrs. Yanderdecken 
could not have been more startled. Her very lips whiten- 
ed as she said, 

" There must be some mistake. Gertrude, how could 
you possibly know — " 



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376 THE woman's kingdom. 

" Of course I know, mamma. Didn't I hear you and 
papa talking about him ? arid didn't you yourself tell me 
who he was, and that he was drowned ? I know all about 
him now," added the child, with childish conceit. " Mr. 
Stone told me his whole story." 

"His whole story?" 

" Yes, mamma, about his being an artist when he was 
young, and his falling in love with a beautiful lady, and 
his giving up painting and going to India to make a for- 
tune for her sake ; how she promised to come out to him 
and marry him ; how — ^" 

" Stop, child," interrupted Mrs. Vanderdecken, with a 
subdued and even frightened air ; " please don't go chat- 
tering on so fast. I can't attend to you. Wait till I am 
dressed. Take your book and be quiet for a little." 

Gertrude obeyed, yet still cast furtive glances at her 
mother, who arranged her dress and clasped her orna- 
ments in a hurried, absent manner, quite unusual for one 
who was generally so particular about these things, 

"Mamma, what is the matter with you? Are you ill? 
You look so white." 

" Nonsense, child." 

No more passed until the maid was dismissed, and the 
lady sat down on the sofa by the fire, her toilet complete 
— and an especially resplendent toilet it was ; but, for 
once, it proved no consolation to her. 

Mrs. Vanderdecken was very nervous; nervous was the 
word — not startled, or shocked, or grieved, but merely 
frightened. A vague apprehension seized her of some- 
thing going to happen. Was it because, after this long, 
safe blank of many years, somebody had turned up who 
knew something of her past life, or merely because of the 
surprise of hearing from her little daughter's lips that 
once . familiar name ? True, it was only a name. Julius 
Stedman was dead, and could not harm her. Living he 
might, or she fancied so, being a coward in her heart, and 
knowing well her husband's jealous temper, nurtured by 
that faint fear similar to the one which Brabantio first 
puts into the mind of Othello : 



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THB woman's kingdom. S11 

''Look to her, Moor: have a quick eye to see: 
She has deceived her father, and may thee.'* 

For — such is human nature, and so surely does fate take 
its revenge — it had been one of the troubles in Mrs. Van- 
derdecken's married life to be not seldom taunted for her 
broken pledge by the very man for whom she had broken 
it. Mr. Vanderdecken, of course, had known all about 
Julius Stedman at the time, but, being passionately in 
love, he had seen in her falseness to one man no obstacle 
to her maniage with another, since that other happened 
to be himself Afterwards, when the desperation of love 
had cooled down into the indifference that was sure, at 
best, to be the outcome of such a marriage, he despised 
his wife, and took care to let her see that he did, for doing 
that which he himself had persuaded her to do. It was 
natural, perhaps, and still, poor woman ! it was rather hard. 

" Gertrude," she said, turning with a helpless appeal to 
her child, who, thinking still that she was not well, had 
stolen up to her and taken her hand — "Gertrude, you 
must not vex your poor mother, who has nobody to be a 
comfort to her but you. You must make her your chief 
companion, and tell her every thing, instead of taking 
queer fancies for old soldiers and such like." 

" But, mamma, I never take any fancies that make me 
forget you," said the little girl, earnestly. "And that 
story, it was no secret. He said I might tell it you when- 
ever I liked." 

"Did he? Who is he? Oh, you mean the man John 
Stone ? Didn't you tell me that was his name ? Did he 
ever know that-^that person ?" 

" Uncle Stedman's brother, whom you dislike so ? No ; 
he told me had never seen him in his life." 

Mrs. Vanderdecken breathed freer. Struck with a vague 
apprehension, she had been beating about the bush, afraid, 
and yet most anxious to find out how much her daughter 
knew ; but now she ventured to say, carelessly, taking out 
her watch, 

"I have just ten minutes left. You may tell me the 
story if you like, and if it amuses you." 



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378 THE woman's KINODOM. 

^' It wasn't at all amusing, mamma. I think it was the 
saddest story I ever heard. Just listen." 

And then, with the vividness with which Stone's words 
had impressed it on her mind, and with a childish simplici- 
ty that added to its touchingness, she repeated, almost lit- 
erally, what she had just heard. 

Her mother listened, too much startled — ^nay, terrified — 
to interrupt her by a word. The whole history was accu- 
rate down to the remotest particulars, facts so trifling that 
it seemed impossible for any stranger to have heard them 
— ^nay, they had escaped her own memory, till revived like 
invisible writing, by being thus brought to light in such an 
unforeseen and overwhelming manner. It seemed as if an 
accusing angel spoke to her from the lips of her own child ; 
as if, after all this lapse of years and change of circum- 
stances, the sins of her youth, which she had glossed over 
and palliated, and almost believed to be no sin at all, be- 
cause no punishment had ever followed them, rose up and 
confronted her. Also, her condemnation came from the 
one creature in the world whom she loved dearly, purely, 
and unselfishly — ^her only child. 

"Was she not a wicked woman, mamma?" said Ger- 
trude, lifting up her glowing face and looking straight 
into her mother's. "After she had made him miserable 
so long, first pretending she liked him, then to change her 
mind and refuse him? When she had at last faithfully 
promised to marry him, and he was expecting her, and 
was so happy, to break her word and go and marry an- 
other man ?" 

" Who was the man ?" asked the mother, in an agony 
of dread. " Did — did he tell you the name ?" 

" No ; only that he was rich, and Mr. Stedman was poor. 
That was why she did it. Wasn't it a wicked, cruel thing ? 
Oh, mamma," cried Gertrude, in a burst of indignation, " if 
ever, when I grow up, I were to meet that lady, I should 
hate her. I know I should. I couldn't help it." 

Mrs. Vanderdecken shivered. All through her fineries — 
her silks, and laces, and jewels, she shivered ; and clutched 
the hand of her little daughter as if she were drowning — » 



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^ 379 

like that poor, drowned Julius — and her child's affection 
were the only plank to which she clung. 

But soon every other feeling was absorbed in apprehen- 
sion — the overpowering, Irrational terror which seizes upon 
all weak natures when brought face to face with a difficulty 
the extent of which their cowardice momentarily iexagger- 
ates. Therefore, she did what such folks generally do, 
she adopted the line of pacification and deprecation. 

^'Gertrude, my dear, I am glad you have told me this 
story. It is exceedingly interesting, and it was kind of 
you to be so sorry for the poor man. Perhaps he never 
meant to rob me, only just to look at my diamonds. I 
wonder how he came to know these facts, if they are 
facts. Did he tell you any thing more ?" 

" No, mamma." 

" I should almost like to speak to him myself. He might 
have heard particulars which the family would be glad to 
know." 

" Oh, mamma, if only yon would see him ! May I go to 
him and tell him you wUl ?" 

" No, no !" said Mrs. Vanderdecken, hastily. " Not upon 
any account, my dear. Don't go near him ; and if you 
meet him, promise me — hark! isn't that your father?" 

And the sound of heavy boots coming up stairs made 
her not wince and look annoyed, as was her wont, but act- 
ually tremble. 

"Gertrude," she. cried, in an agony, "promise me that 
you will not breathe a word to your father of all this." 

"Very well, mamma," said Gertrude, greatly puzzled, 
and a little vexed ; but she was used to her mother's fee- 
bleness and inconsistencies, and had learned to regard 
them with a patience not wholly unallied to contempt. 

Yet she was fond of her, and when,ere her dismissal, she got 
a warmer kiss than usual, Gertrude went away quite happy. 

Not so Mrs. Vanderdecken. Out of the smooth sudace 
of her dull, easy life had risen up a great fear. Avenging 
Fate, whipping her with the cruellest scourge by which 
wrong-doing is ever punished, had humiliated her before, 
and caused her to stand in actual dread of, her own child. 



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380 THE woman's kingdom. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Mbs. Yandebdec!ken's alaim and uneasineBs did not 
abate, as she hoped it would. In the pauses of her dinner 
party, while smiling upon every body and doing the hon- 
ors of her splendid establishment to all the " best " peo- 
ple of her acquaintance, it stood behind her velvet chair, 
ghost-like, and would not be driven away. Not though 
the blessings surrounding her were real and tangible — 
plate, and furniture, and elegant dresses ; polite neighbors 
treating her with the utmost consideration and attention, 
as was due to the wealthy and lady-like millionnaire's wife 
who had come into their circle; while the things she 
dreaded were faint and shadowy, belonging to a period in 
her life which she would fain have swept away into total 
oblivion. 

She said to herself many times how ridiculous it was to 
be so afraid ! As if nobody besides herself had once been 
a governess, or had had a poor lover whom she had given 
up for a rich one! Why, such things happened every 
day; and if this disreputable fellow. Stone, had known 
something of Julius Stedman, was that any reason that 
the mistress of Holywell Hall should trouble herself about 
him ? A five-pound note, no doubt, would settle the mat- 
ter and get him away from Mrs. Fox's, perhaps induce him 
to quit the neighborhood, where he could only have come 
for the pui'pose of extorting money. But five pounds to 
the elegant wife of the miserly Mr. Yanderdecken was as 
unattainable as if it had been five thousand. 

As she pondered, smiling all the while sweetly on her 
right-hand neighbor. Sir Somebody Something, Stone's 
face, haggard, and wild, and sad — yet certainly not that of 
a mercenary impostor — rose up before her threateningly, 
and once or twice that evening, when a gentleman named 
casually the " Goat and Compasses," she felt herself grow 
hot with fear, lest some fatality should bring into the con- 



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THB woman's kingdom. 381 

versation the names she dreaded — John Stone or — Julius 
Stedman. 

She woke next morning with the feeling of " something 
going to happen " stronger than ever ; and, as was her na- 
ture, the more her fear pursued her the farther she tried 
to flee from it. All day she avoided being left alone with 
her daughter, and did not venture once to refer to the sub- 
ject of the Indian soldier. For, when she came to con- 
sider it, her plan of seeing him herself became difficult. 
What was she to say to him ? How question him about 
poor Julius without betraying that this story, which had 
so oddly come to his knowledge, was the last which she 
would have desired to have repeated to her daughter, or 
to any of her neighbors ? In truth, to try and stop the 
man's mouth seemed more dangerous than letting him 
alone. It would be horrible if he should recognize in 
her — Mrs. Vanderdecken — the woman who had so acted 
that even Gertrude, her own little Gertrude, called her " a 
wicked woman," and declared she " hated " her. 

Alas ! there was the sting, or else it was Heaven's finger 
of light touching Letty's foolish, vain heart. More than 
her husband's anger, her neighbors' gossip, she dreaded 
the condemnation and contempt of her child. It seemed 
as if now for the first time the errors of her youth took 
their true aspect, merely from the dread she had lest her 
daughter should hear of them; and, looking back on her 
past, she knew what its blanks and misdoings must have 
been by the longing she had that Gertrude's life might 
not be like her own. 

Two days afterwards came Sunday, and still nothing 
had occurred, and the mother had managed so that not a 
word had passed between her and Gertrude respecting 
John Stone. She had almost contrived to persuade her- 
self that the man was got rid of entirely, when, coming 
into church, she saw him sitting in the free seats beside 
Mrs. Fox, as on the first day, and watching the Vander- 
decken pew with those fierce eyes of his, which he never 
removed during the whole service. Mrs. Vanderdecken 
shivered under them, and looked another way. Church 



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382 

being over, she hurried out ; but though he did not at- 
tempt to speak, or to interfere with them in any way, he 
followed them silently to their very carriage door. 
~ From that time every Sunday the man was in his place, 
and many a week-day when she drove out she saw him 
hanging about on the common, or near the lodge gates, 
watching, she fancied, for her carnage to pass. But Sun- 
days were the worst. Then, the church being free to all, 
she could not escape. Nobody could hinder his coming 
or order him to change his seat ; so there he sat, staring 
at her, not with admiration, and still less with imperti- 
nence, but with a cold, blighting contempt that was al- 
most a malediction. She felt as if he haunted her — that 
miserable man — whom she thought sometimes she must 
have seen before, yet could not remember when or where. 

For Mrs. Vanderdecken was not a woman of imagina- 
tion — an accepted fact she never thought of contradict- 
ing or disbelieving. To doubt that Julius Stedman was 
dead, or that John Stone, who knew so much about him, 
might possibly be himself, was a flight of fancy far be- 
yond her. Besides, she never liked to &ce unpleasant 
things, and it was sufficiently difficult to have to put off 
from time to time Gertrude's earnest entreaties with the 
promise that " she would see about the poor fellow by- 
and-by." 

This sort of life went on for several weeks, and Ger- 
trude's tender heart being pacified by the sight of her 
friend every Sunday, she had almost ceased to worry her 
mother about him, when a small chance raised in Mrs. 
Vanderdecken's mind a new alarm. 

Though she never looked towards the man, and tried 
bard not to see him, still one Sunday morning she did 
see him, drawing his thin hand wearily through his scanty 
gray hair and abundant beard. It was a remarkable 
hand, and hands often keep their individuality when time 
has changed all else. It startled Mrs. Vanderdecken by 
its likeness to one which in the days of her girlhood had 
so often clasped hers. 

What if it were possible — if this wretched, disreputable 



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THB woman's kingdom. 383 

soldier could be her old lover, not dead after all ? She 
had been sorry for his death, but had never had courage 
to ask particulars about it, and beyond Edna's brief com- 
munication by letter, that he had been " drowned," of the 
circumstances of his end she knew nothing. During their 
three shoit interviews the sisters had never once men- 
tioned Julius's name. 

Now, Letty thought, if she could only find out exactly 
when and where and how he died, it would be a comfort 
and protection to her. Protection against what? She 
could not tell. She only knew that with this continual 
dread upon her mind — with the figure of that shabby 
man, whoever he was, pursuing her constantly — ^her life 
was a daily burden to her. The trifling annoyance had 
grown into a perpetual and morbid fear. 

To throw it off, she determined one morning, without 
telling Gkrtmde,to go to London, and find out as much as 
she could from her sister Edna. 

It is a strange thing, and sad too, but sisters do some- 
times come to meet as these sisters met ; with mere court- 
esy-^no more ; to call one another, as these did, by their 
married names — " Mrs. Vanderdecken," " Mrs. Stedman," 
and to sit amiably conversing together on indifferent topics 
like any other ordinary acquaintances. Alas I their fates 
had drifted them apart, as brothers and sisters will drift, 
when there exists between them no real sympathy, no tie 
stronger than the mere natural instinct of flesh and blood. 
That may remain, and duty keeps it alive in a measure ; 
still it is only the mummy of love that they dress up in 
decent clothes for the world to look at. The soul of love 
— deep, close, fraternal leve — ^is not there. 

So it is, and must always be. Better accept the &ct as 
Edna accepted it, and received civilly her sister's civil call, 
though internally thankful that her husband was out, and 
that none of her children were at hand to see into what 
the fraternal bond can degenerate, under given circum- 
stances and with certain characters. 

And yet she was sorry for Letty, and when her grand, 
patronizing manner, and her air of extreme condescension. 



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384 THE woman's kingdom. 

as she examined the '* little poky house," having slightly- 
worn off, Mrs. Vanderdecken betrayed unconsciously her 
inward troubles, though in a roundabout, irrelevant fash- 
ion, Edna felt more sorry still. 

"Was that what you came to speak to me about?" 
said she, with her usual directness. " Tes, it must be a 
great grief, to have your child setting up for independent 
action, making disreputable acquaintances, and persisting 
in them after you have forbidden them entirely." 

" But I have not done that, not exactly, for I doubt if I 
.could make her obey me»" 

"There I think you are wrong," answered Edna, in her 
quick, decided way, which ma^de the people who did not 
like her — no person is liked by every body — say she was 
too much given to preaching. " I would lay upon children 
as few restrictions and commands as possible ; but those 
made must be rigidly enforced. And for that low fellow, 
who, from what you say, is probably no soldier at all, but 
an impertinent beggar, 1 would never allow Gertrude to 
exchange another word with him." 

"Do you think so? I wish I could do it; I wish I 
dared." 

" Dared ! What ! dare you not do an unpleasant thing 
for the good of your own child ?" 

"It isn't that, Edna, not quite; but I will explain the 
matter another time," said Letty, hurriedly, finding that 
it was impossible to get a true answer to the false impres- 
sion which she had somehow contrived to give, and now 
felt difficult to remove. " I'm sick of the subject ; let us 
talk about something else. What a fine young fellow is 
that eldest boy of yours ! I me^ him at the door going 
out with his brother." 

" Will and Julius are constant companions. I hope they 
will grow up the same, and be friends as well as brothers. 
It is so sometimes, though not always," said Edna, with a 
slight sigh. " Their father and I often look at them with 
a full heart, and wonder what their future will be. For 
Julius we have no fear. You remember how healthy he 
was— so good and sweet-tempered, even as a baby." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 885 

" Yes," said Letty, with a little return of her stiff maimer: 

" But Will — ^the boys ought to have changed names, I 
think— rWill is so delicate, so sensitive, in many things^o 
strangely, painfully like — ^" 

Edna stopped. 

Mrs. Yahderdecken felt that now or never was her 
chance, if she wanted to find out any thing about her old 
lover ; and her desperate anxiety to be free from the doubt 
which had lately come made her bolder than usual. 

" Yes, Will is likely to give you some uneasiness. He 
does not look strong, as if he had something of that fam- 
ily weakness — was it consumption, or what? — which 
showed itself so plainly in poor dear Julius." 

"Poor dear Julius!" He had sunk to that, uttered in 
the half-pitying, half-indifferent tone in which dead people, 
whose death is felt to be rather a gain than a loss to their 
friends, come to be spoken of sometimes. 

" And, by-the-bye," continued Mrs.yanderdecken, seeing 
that Mrs. Stedman remained quite silent, " I have often 
wished to ask you, did you get that full information which 
you wei^e in search of when you wrote me the fact — ^the 
mere fact — of his death in India ?" 

"Yes," replied Edna, in a grave, constrained tone. 
"We have, alas! no reason to doubt his death; though at 
first we had, and it was a long time before we could recon- 
cile ourselves to believe it." 

" What !" cried Letty, turning pale ; "was he not dead, 
after all ? I thought he was drowned in the Hoogly ?" 

"We supposed 60, but his body was not found, and so 
we hoped he might be yet alive — ^had gone up the coun- 
try, or sailed to Australia, or perhaps come direct home to 
England, and then shrunk from finding us out; but I 
will not trouble you with these matters." 

" It's no trouble. Please tell me. I should like to hear." 

And though Mrs. Vanderdecken testified no distressing 
emotion — indeed, the absolute &ct that Julius was dead 
proved such a relief to her that she could speak about 
him without any hesitation — still she looked sad and grave, 
rather touched than not. 

R 



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386 THE woman's kingdom. 

" Do tell me all about him, Edna. Poor fellow ! I did 
not mean him any barm. I had no notion be woald have 
taken it so much to heart. Please tell every thing." 

And she listened, not without feeling, while Edna did 
tell her " every thing :" down to the miserable ending of 
that life; whose blessing she might have been, instead of 
its fatality and its curse. 

" Poor fellow — poor fellow I" said Letty, sobbing a good 
deal. "And was he really not seen after that day when 
he went to the ship and found me gone ?" 

" Never. We advertised for him half over the world ; 
the advertisements could not but have reached him some- 
where, if alive. And he would have come home to us, I 
am sure he would. He knew how we loved him." 

" It must have been very painful," said Mrs. Vander- 
decken. "And so — ^^ 

"And so, after two years of suspense, we got the evi- 
dence I told you of. And some months later we received 
his pocket-rbook, with his name written inside it, which he 
always carried about with him, for it held" — she hesitated 
— "it held a lock of your hair. It is all we have left of 
him. Would you like to see it ?" 

" I think I should," said Letty, in a low tone. 

" Then come up stairs." 

Letty followed to her sister's bed-room — a sacred room, 
consecrated by both birth and death; a mother's room, 
where several toys strewn about showed that the children 
had still free admittance into its precincts. . But there was 
no baby in the house now, and the little crib, which had 
been occupied successively so many years, was removed 
from its place beside the bed, and exiled into a far comer, 
to :be' used as a receptacle for spare blankets and other ex- 
traneous things. The room aiid all its appointments were 
comfortable enough, but well worn, and a little old-fash- 
ioned, as if long after the need for economy was gone her 
love for the familiar objects made Mrs. Stedman averse to 
any change in her apartment. 

.*^That is your old dressiug-table and the wardrobe too. 
I could almost fancy myself back in the small house — 



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387 

where was it? I forget — ^that you lived in when first you 
were married." 

" Could you ?" said Edna, as she unlocked a drawer, and 
took therefrom a faded, water-stained book. 

Letty held it gently, crying a little over it. 

"Poor fellow! poor Julius! He was very fond of 
me." 

Asking no more questions, she returned the pocket- 
book to her sister. The tribute to the dead was paid, 
and its painfulness got over. Her emotion had been sin- 
cere enough, but she was not sorry to end it and revert 
to other things. She began turning over the various con- 
tents of the drawer. 

" What have yt)u here ? A pair of baby-shoes ? I should 
have thought your stock of them had been worn out long 
ago." 

"These belonged to my little girl that died." After 
a pause Edna added, " You never lost a child, Letty ?" 

"No." 

And then the two sisters — mothers both — stood by the 
small treasure-drawer, where, besides the elhoes, lay one or 
two other trifles : sleeve-ribbons, a sash, relics of the dead 
that we all are prone to keep somewhere or another, and 
learn in time to look at quietly, as one day others will 
look at relics of us. While gazing, their common woman- 
hood and motherhood melted both hearts. Letty silently 
clasped Edna's hand. 

" How old was she, poor Jittle lamb ?" 

" Only four months. She was such a little delicate thing 
always, but the prettiest of all my babies. I was ill for 
nearly a year after she died, and gave a deal of trouble to 
my husband; but he was so good to me — so good!" 

"Ah !" said Letty, sighing. 

"However, I got well in time, and the year after that 
my twins were bom — ^twins like you and me, you know," 
added she, affectionately. " They comfort me, and now I 
am quite happy again. Only sometimes I wake in the 
night, fancying I hear my little girl crying to me from her 
cot, and— it's hard, Letty, it's hard." 



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B8d THB woman's KIKGDOH. 

Edna leaned her head on her sister's shoulder and bnrst 
into tears. 

Letty caressed her, kindly enoagh ; but she was puzzled 
to know what to say, and so said nothing. Edna soon 
dried her eyes, and quietly locked up the drawer. 

" That's right ; you don?t fret about baby now, I hope? 
It would be wrong, with all your five sons." 

^ I know that ; I know all is right both for her and me, 
and I shall find my little angel again some day. Will yoa 
come down stairs, Letty dear? I hear the bell for the 
children's dinner." 

At this meal '^ Aunt Letty," as she condescendingly an- 
nounced herself, was an object of great curiosity and awe. 
The young Stedmans evidently viewed her with a slight 
distrust — all save Will, who, imaginative lad as he was, 
fell a captive at once to his beautiful aunt, sat beside her, 
paid her his pretty, boyish gentlemanlike attentions, and 
watched her every movement with admiring eyes— the very 
eyes of his uncle Julius. Pleased and flattered, touched 
perhaps in spite of herself, by some of those ghostly mem- 
ories which thS new generation often so strangely brings 
back to us all, Mrs. Vanderdecken took especial notice of 
the boy, and said to his mother, half sighing, that she 
wished she had a son like Will. 

And during the hour she staid Letty was almost the old 
Letty over again. She placed herself in the fireside circle, 
where, with the mother at its centre, the younger children 
soon made themselves merry, and the two elders, busy 
with book and pencil — strangely enough. Will was v^ry 
fond of drawing — occupied themselves steadily and qui- 
etly, sometimes joining in the conversation just enough to 
prove that they were accustomed to be to their parents 
neither playthings nor slaves, but, so far as their years al- 
lowed, rational, intelligent companions. Sh^ talked kindly 
rather than patronizingly, and seemed anxious to iliake^ 
herself popular. Letty never could bear not to be popular 
— for the time being. 

Also — ^let us give her her just due — ^there was something 
in the atmosphere of this warm, bright little house which 



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THB woman's BJNGDOK. 389 

toached the heart, such as it was, of the ansatis^ed rich 
woman, who had a mansion to dwell in, but no home ; a 
millionnaire to provide for her, but no husband ; and who, 
let her try to compel it as she might, could never win 
from her only child any thing like the tender, mindful, 
reverential love that she saw in these five boys towards 
their mother. 

** How fond your children are of you !" she said to her 
sister, as she stood arranging her purple ribbons round her 
still fair face, careful as ever to set it off to the best ad- 
vantage. "And they seem to obey you too. Now Ger- 
trude is fond of me, poor little thing, but she never minds 
me one bit. I wish I could take a leaf out of your book." 

"Do you?" 

"And then your boys all seem to get on so well to- 
gether; never a cross look or a sharp word; but I sup- 
pose that is because you are never cross and vexed youi^ 
self." 

"Oh yes I am," said Edna, smiling. "But we are so 
many people in such a small house, that we should never 
manage at all if we did not learn to keep our little tem- 
pers to ourselves. Isn't it so, Twinnies?" patting the 
round, curly heads which had intruded up stairs. " Come, 
jump up on a chair and kiss your aunt Letty — ^your great, 
tall auntie — and tell her she must be starting — Will and 
Julius shall take her to the railway station — and she must 
come and see us again as soon as she can." 

Mrs. Vanderdecken distributed most affectionate adieus 
all round, and departed with her two nephews. But she 
took care to dismiss them at the earliest opportunity, to 
avoid any possible chance of meeting at the train either 
some of her grand acquaintances, or, worst of all, her hus- 
band. 

At the journey's end her carriage was waiting for her, 
and she drove alone through the lovely Kentish country, 
beginning to wake up into all the freshness of early spring. 
Did it remind her — after her long absence from such 
scenes, for they had wintered in town last year — of many 
a long-ago spring? that in the Isle of Wight, for instance, 



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390 THB WOMAN^S KINGDOM: 

wBen Edna nursed and petted her, and Dr. Stedman was 
kind to her, and JuliuB adored her. Or, perhaps, of later 
springs, when^she and Julias sauntered about as affianced 
lovers, and watched the leaves come out and the thrushes 
sing in Kensington Gardens ? Days when they were all 
poor together — poor and hard-working, but very happy, 
or, looking back, it seemed that they were. And as she 
smoothed down her silken gowii, and leaned lazily back 
on the cushions of her carriage, Mrs. Vanderdecken gave 
more than one sigh to the memory — now a perfectly 
safe and comfortable memory to dwell upon — of poor, 
drowned Julius, lost in his prime, forsaken, dead, and for- 
gotten. 

Passing the school-house, she recollected that she had 
told Gertrude to wait for her there, thinking it a safe place 
of detention between the governess's hour of leaving and 
her own return. But, with fatal precaution, she had over- 
shot her mark ; for, the moment after having descended, 
she saw, sitting on the bench beside the school-house door, 
with Gertrude standing beside him and eagerly talking to 
him, the man John Stone I 

Mrs. Vanderdecken's anger, not unmixed with fear, left 
her absolutely dumb. But Gertrude ran to meet her with- 
out the slightest hesitation — ^betraying no sense of having 
done wrong. 

" Oh, mamma, I am so glad you are come ! I have been 
waiting to tell you something — something so wonderful, 
which Mr. Stone has just told me. You will never be an- 
gry with him any more. And Aunt Edna will be so glad ; 
every body will be so glad." 

"At what, my dear ?" asked Mrs. Vanderdecken, a &int, 
cold fear thrilling through her. 

** Stoop down and Til whisper it, for it is a secret still, 
and only you and I are to know," said the little maid, her 
eyes bright and her cheeks glowing. " But he says — Mr. 
Stone, I mean — that he is quite certain Uncle Julius is not 
dead at all." 

Had a thunder-bolt dropped at her feet Mrs. Vander- 
decken could not have been more startled. For a moment. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 391 

she was silent, then she took to the usual refuge of fear — 
incredulous anger. 

" Don't tell me such ridiculous nonsense. I don't be- 
lieve a word of it And you, Gertrude, you ought to be 
ashamed of yourself. Did I not forbid you ever to speak 
to this — ^this fellow again ?" 

" No, mamma," replied Gertrude, boldly, " you forbade 
me to bring him into the park, but you never said I was 
not to speak to him. I met him quite by chance, and he 
walked on beside me. How could I help it ? the common 
was as free to him as to me. Besides," added the little 
creature, roused to rebellion by what she considered injus- 
tice, " I would not have helped it if I could. Nothing 
should ever make me behave unkindly to a poor sick — ^" 

" Folly ! I tell you, child, he is nothing but a low im- 
postor." 

" I beg your pardon, madam ! What were you pleased 
to call me?" 

Stone had followed, walking feebly with the help of his 
stick, and now stood before the lady, taking off his hat to 
her with an air of mock deference. 

Voices change, like faces, in course of years ; or perhaps 
he intentionally altered his; or still more probable was 
the truth of the old adage, ^^ None so deaf as those who 
will not hear." But even now Mrs. Vanderdecken showed 
no sign of having recognized who he really was. Her re- 
ply was given in unmitigated anger. 

" I do not know who or what you may be, but I know 
you have no business with my daughter. I said, and I say 
again, that you are a low impostor. If you persist in fol- 
lowing us about so impertinently I will tell my husband, 
and he shall give you in charge to the police." 

The man stood a minute, face to face with her, appar- 
ently feeling neither insulted nor afraid. Then he said, in 
a very low voice, 

"Mrs. Vanderdecken, you will neither tell your husband, 
nor will you give me in charge to the police ; I am quite 
sure of that. Look here !" and he took from his waistcoat 
pocket a letter, an old, foreign-looking letter, on which was 



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still visible, in a woman's hand, the address, " Julias Sted- 
man. Esquire, Calcutta." " I have half a dozen more of 
these. They came into my possession — ^never mind how. 
They are not very interesting reading, but they might be 
useful. I was just going to show them to your little girl 
here." 

"Oh no! for pity's sake, no!" gasped the mother, in an 
agony of terror; and, placing herself so that Gertrude 
could not see the letter, she hastily bade her run away 
and call the carriage, remaining in it till she herself came. 

Then, half blind with dread, she turned back and forced 
herself to look at this man, to find out who he really was — 
whether only John Stone, a poor wandering wretch, who 
had somehow got hold of her story, and, still worse, of her 
letters — or some one more formidable still ; voiho^ she dared 
scarcely imagine. 

There he stood, with the sun slanting on his bare, bald 
head and gray beard, leaning on his stick, his threadbare 
coat wrapped round him, the mere wreck of a man — as 
much a wreck as that poor broken ship which they had 
used to watch the waves beating on, off the Isle of Wight 
coast, and yet, like it, preserving a certain amount of dig- 
nity, even of grace, amidst all his downfall A man deeply 
to be pitied — perhaps severely blamed— since every one 
has his lot in his own hands, more or less, to redeem or 
ruin himself— -but a man who in his lowest plight could 
not be altogether despised. 

" I see, madam, you do not remember me, though I 
have the fortune — or misfortune— accurately to remember 
you." 

" How ? Who are you ? But no, it is quite impossi- 
ble!" cried the frightened woman, shrinking back, yet 
knowing all the while how useless it was to shrink from a 
truth which every second forced itself more strongly upon 
her. 

At that critical moment there came out of the school- 
house two of her friends — the rector's wife and sister, who, 
having heard that she was expected, waited to consult 
with her about a school-feast — ^for the Vanderdecken purse 



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393 

and the Vanderdeoken grounds were always their prime 
stronghold in all parish festivities. 

They met her with much empressement — these kindly 
women, whom she liked, and who liked her — for Letty 
Eenderdine's old pleasant ways had not faded out in Le- 
titia Vanderdeoken. She would have gone forward eager- 
ly to meet them, but there— just between her and them — 
watching her like her evil genius, haunting her like an im- 
pending fate — stood this shabby, disreputable man. The 
man who had been the betrothed of her youth — whose 
arms had clasped her — whose lips had kissed her ; to whom 
she had written those silly letters that Ajiancie was likely 
to write, and unto whom she had been false with the ut- 
most falseness by which a woman can disgrace herself and 
destroy her lover — an infidelity than which there is none 
greater or crueller, short of the infidelity of a married wife. 
There he stood — she was certain of it now — not John 
Stone, but Julius Stedman. 

How it came about that he was still alive, or what had 
brought him hither, she never paused to think. She only 
recognized that it was, without a doubt, her old lover, 
risen up as from the very grave to punish her: to bring 
upon her her husband's jealous anger, her daughter's con- 
tempt, her neighbors' gossip. No wonder that the poor, 
weak, cowardly woman was overpowered with an almost 
morbid terror — a terror so great that she did not even 
perceive the faint fragment of right that she still had on 
her side — ^namely, that for any man, let him be ever so ill- 
treated by a woman, to take upon her this mean revenge, 
was a cruelty that condemned himself quite as much as it 
did her. 

But there he was, undoubtedly, Julius Stedman ; and 
Mrs. Yanderdecken felt that if the earth would open and 
hide her from him she should be only too thankfuL 

Alas ! the earth does not open and hide either sufferers 
or sinners when they desire it. They can not escape. 
They must stay and meet the consequences of the sin — 
learn to endure the suffering. 

Mrs. Yanderdecken slipped a step or two aside, and 
R2 



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394 THE WOMAN^S KINGDOM. 

received her rectory friends with a nervous, apologetic 
smile. 

" I beg your pardon, but I was just speaking to this 
poor man, a very honest and respectable person, in whom 
I have complete reliance, and for whom I am most anxious 
to do all I can. I wanted to hear his story, but I will hear 
it another time, if — if he will kindly excuse me now — ^^ 

" Certainly," said the man, with a formal and stately 
bow. " Certainly. I have no wish to intrude upon you, 
madam. I am quite at your disposal any day. Good- 
aftemoon." 

He took off his hat once more, first to her and then to 
the other ladies, and walked away slowly in an opposite 
direction. 

" I know that man by sight," said the rector's wife, look- 
ing after him in some surprise. "He comes to church 
pretty regularly, I think." 

" Yes." 

" Poor fellow, he seems as if he had seen better days. 
My husband must call upon him. What is his name ?" 

** John Stone," replied Letty, faintly. 

"And you have been kind to hiiu, as you are to every 
body. You are a real blessing to our parish, my dear 
Mrs. Vanderdecken." 



CHAPTER XX VH. 

Mrs. Vandebdbckbn's intense fear — ^a fear which it was 
now impossible either to fly from or to set aside — ^made 
her cleverer than ordinary. She carried on the conversa- 
tion with her friends till she had furtively watched this 
man — once her lover, now her bitterest enemy — safe out 
of sight. Then she stepped into her carriage, much agi- 
tated indeed, but still able by a violent effort to control 
herself before her daughter, and account for her nervous- 
ness by saying how very much worn-out she had been by 
her journey to London. 

"But why did you go, mamma? Oh, I remember; it 



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395 

was about a bonnet. Still, I would not have you so tired 
and looking so ill for all the new bonnets in the world." 

" Don't talk to me till we get into the house and have 
had our tea. Then I shall be rested, and you can tell me 
all your story." 

" Very well, mamma," replied Gertrude, with her cus- 
tomary acquiescence, and then sat looking out of the car- 
riage-window, amusing herself with her own thoughts, 
which were generally quite as interesting as her mother's 
conversation. 

Upon her new discovery the little girl's fancy dwelt 
with a tenderness indescribabla Stone had told her that 
for many months Julius Stedman had been ^' out of his 
mind" — though carefully tended by some natives who 
took pity upon him, but never even knew his name. That 
he came to his right senses in some up-country . station — 
all but ipenniless; and had enlisted for a soldier — seen 
much service — and was finally sent home to England in- 
valided — at which critical point in the story Mrs. Vander- 
decken's carriage appeared. 

But Gertrude had heard enough. Her imagination was 
vividly excited. That most divine doctrine of Christian- 
ity, which comes as a natural instinct to the young-^the 
gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, the joy in 
heaven over one sinner that repenteth — wa^ deep in the 
inmost heart of this child. Her eyes filled with tears as 
she thought of poor Julius Stedman, looking not unlike 
the prodigal son in her pictorial Bible, coniing home to hi# 
brother and sister ; taken into the bright little house at 
Brook Street, and there made happy to the end of his 
days. She forgot one thing, which over -tender people 
also sometimes forget, though it is not forgotten in the 
parable— that the prodigal first said, "I have sinned," and 
that in no way had Stone ever hinted that Julius Sted- 
man — wherever or whatever he might be — was in the 
least sorry for any thing. 

But this was an ethical question about which the child 
did not trouble herself. She only waited with painfully 
restrained impatience till she had leave to tell her tale. 



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396 THE woman's kingdom. 

This was not for an hour or more. Mrs. Vanderdecken 
kept patting off, on any excuse, what she so much dreaded 
to hear. At last, getting one of the not unfrequent tele- 
grams that her husband would dine in the city and not be 
home till next day, she took a little more courage, and 
stretching herself on the sofa in her morning-room, pre- 
pared to hear the worst, and to take things, hard as they 
were, at least as easy as she could. 

" Now, Gertrude, while I have ten minutes to spare, tell 
me what was that silly story about Dr. Stedman's brother 
being still alive, which Mr. Stone told you." 

For she had satisfactorily discovered that as Stone only 
did the child know him ; he had, for some reason or other, 
been careful to preserve his incognito ; nor, to Gertrude 
at any rate, had he identified himself with Julius Stedman 
— if, indeed, h^ was Julius. Sometimes a wild hope that 
he was not, that her own fears and some chance resem- 
blance had deluded her, came to comfort Mrs. Vander- 
decken. So, as carelessly as she could, she repeated the 
name of John Stone, and found that her daughter received 
it with equal indifference. So far she was safe. 

But when she began to bear the story, so minute in all 
its details, she felt that, though a child might be deceived, 
no grown person could be, into believing it a tale told 
second-hand. Gertrude's accurate memory and vivid im- 
agination reproduced, almost as graphically as it had been 
given to her, the history of the young man's passionate 
"despair — how, having lost his bride, he determined to 
lose himself— at once, and completely as if he had been 
dead. 

"He wished his friends to think him dead, mamma. 
He thought they would be happier if they did: if he 
could drop out of the world and be utterly forgotten. 
Was that right ?" 

" I can't tell. And where is he? How did Stone know 
him?" cried the mother, with eager deceit — or perhaps 
wishful even to deceive herself 

" You forget, mamma ; but then you know you are not 
very good at remembering things," said Gertrude, patron- 



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THE woman's kingdom. SO*! 

izingly. "Have I not told you ever so often that Mr. 
Stone declares he never met Uncle Julias in all his life ?" 

Obvious as the quibble was, Mrs. Yanderdecken took it 
in for the moment and breathed freer. 

" Oh yes, yes ; go on, child." 

"After he turned soldier he was knocked about the 
world in all directions. Tm afraid," Gertrude added, 
gravely, " that he was sometimes very naughty. Mr. 
Stone says so: but he wouldn't tell me what he had 
done. I told him I thought the naughtiest thing lOf all 
was his not writing to his brother, who loved him so dear- 
ly, and would have been so happy to get him back again." 

"Did he ever come back?" 

" Yes. That is the delight of it. Mr. Stone says he is 
certain he is in England — in fact, I almost think he knows 
where he is, though he did not say so. I fancy he — Uncle 
Julius, that is (oh, please, mamma, let mo call him Uncle 
Julius, for I feel so fond of him) — must be very poor, or 
very miserable, or something ; for when I asked why he 
had not gone at once to his brother, Mr. Stone said, ' No, 
he would never do that, for his misery would only dis- 
grace him.' But, mamma, that can't be true, can it ?" 
said the child, appealingly. "I am sure if I had a broth- 
er, and he were ever so miserable — nay, even if he had 
done wrong, and were to come to me and say he was sor- 
ry, and would never be bad again — I would take him in 
and be glad to see him, and feel it no disgrace, even if he 
were in rags and tatters, like poor Mr. Stone. Would not 
you ?" 

"Yes," said the mother, and knew she was telling a lie, 
and that one day God would surely condemn her out of 
her own lips, before the face of her own child. She turned 
paler and paler, and scarcely could utter the next ques- 
tion — apparently needless, and yet which she felt she 
must fully assure herself of before she ventured a step 
farther. "But the lady — she who went out to India — did 
not Mr. Stone tell you the name of the lady ?" 

Gertrude's lip curled with the supreme, contempt of in- 
dignant youth. 



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308 THE woman's kingdom. 

" No, he told me nothing about her, and I did not care 
to ask — the false, mean, mercenary woman ! Don't speak 
of her, mamma ; she isn't worth it." 

No, the mother did not attempt to speak. She only 
tamed her face to the wall, with a half-audible 'groan, 
wishing she could lie silent forever — silent in the grave, 
where, at least, her child could not have the heart to say 
such cruel words, or she herself, hidden in the dust of 
death, would not be :able to hear them. And yet she 
knew they were true words — ^true as the warm light in 
Gertrude's eyes when, feeling that she had somehow vexed 
her mother, though she could not in the least guess how, 
she crept closer to her, and began caressing her and amus- 
ing her with careless words, every one of which stung like 
wasps or pierced like arrows. 

*' You see, mamma, she must have been such a very 
heartless woraan^ as well as faithless, and such a coward 
tool She never sent one line to Uncle Julius, to tell him 
she had changed her mind — left him to be told by some- 
body else — any body who cared to tell hinu It was the 
ship's captain who did it, when he came on board ; and he 
fell down on the deck as if he had been shot. Mr. Stone 
says it felt like being shot — that he laughed — and it did 
not seem to hurt him at all for a minute, and he got up 
and staggered back to the boat and landed again. After 
that his mind went all astray. Poor man ! Poor Uncle 
Julius!" 

."There, th?it will, do," said Mrs. Vanderdecken, faintly. 
" You have talked so much you have quite made my head 
ache. I think you had better go to bed now." 

"Oh no; it is hardly eight o'clock; and, besides, you 
will want me to wait upon you, and get you your paper- 
case and things. You know you have a letter to write, 
mother dear," said Gertrude, coaxingly. 

"What letter?" 

"To Aunt Edna, of course, telling her that Dr. Stedmaa 
must come here at once." 

"Why?" 

" Can't you guess, mamma ? To see Mr. Stone, and get 



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399 

out 6f him every thing he knows about Uncle Julius. He 
would not tell me, but of course he must tell Dr. Stedman, 
who is Uncle Julius's very own brother. No time ought 
to be lost. You'll write, of course, mamma ?" 

'* Of course," replied the mother, actually shivering with 
fear as this new difficulty in her position opened itself 
out before her. Vainly she turned it over in her troubled 
brain, wondering how she was to escape it. Escape, in- 
deed, was what she most thought of; whether she could 
not, by continuing utterly to ignore him, and keeping still 
in dead silence the secret which he had so far kept, get 
rid, temporarily or permanently, of this man, who might 
be Julius Stedman, and yet might not. But in either case 
it could not signify much, nor for very long. He was ap- 
parently in bad health — he might not live. If he were 
Julius, he probably had his own good reasons for not 
wishing to be recognized by his brother; since, during all 
the weeks he had remained in England, he had made no 
effort to see him. And let the silly, romantic Gertrude 
have what notions she might, theirs could not be a pleas- 
ant meeting. Indeed, as a physician in good practice, it 
might seriously injure Dr. Stedman to have thrust upon 
him a brother so low in the world. Was it not advisable, 
perhaps, to keep them apart ? 

So reasoned this woman, long used to view all things by 
the light of custom and convenience, and half persuaded 
herself to take the easiest course, of letting things alone, 
when she was startled by the voice of her daughter — the 
funny, decided little voice, which often half coaxed, half 
governed her to do many things against her will. 

" Mamma, shall I bring you your letter-case now ? The 
post*bag will go in half an hour ; and here is your favorite 
paper with the crest upon it. I'll get you an envelope im- 
mediately." 

Mrs. Vanderdecken knew not what to do. This, which 
seemed to her child the most natural and simple course 
imaginable, was to her nearly an impossibility — a dread 
indescribable at the time, and the opening up of endless 
future troubles. For of the great enmity that the man 



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400 THB woman's kingdom. 

Stone— or Julius Stedmau, whichever he was — bore her 
there could be no doubt. He would do her harm if he 
could. Instead of aiding, she would thankfully have an- 
nihilated him: not out of cruelty — poor Letty was not 
naturally cruel — ^but out of mere fear. Yet, are not half 
the wickednesses and barbarities of this world done out 
of simple fear? She did not mean to be wicked — she 
would have been horrified had any one suggested such a 
thing — yet more than once the dim thought crossed her 
mind — oh, if only that poor sickly man, whoever he was, 
had slipped away from the world, instead of coming here 
to be the torment and terror of her life ! 

Not daring to refuse her daughter — for what possible 
excuse could she give for so doing ? — she sat with the pen 
in her hand — her iiresolute, trembling, jewelled hand — 
until the stroke of nine, and then laid it down. 

" I am so tired, Gertrude, so very tired, and I hate writ- 
ing letters. It is too late now, for I ought to word it care- 
fully, so as not to startle them. FU write it the first thing 
to-morrow.'* 

"Very well, mamma,'' said Gertrude, passively ; she had 
had only too much experience of her mother's dilatory ways, 
her weak habit of putting off every thing till " to-morrow." 
Still, she would not complain, this good child which Heav- 
en was teaching, as it has to teach the luckless children of 
some parents, by negatives. Though bitterly disappoint- 
ed, she held her tongue, and indeed begun, as she often 
did, quietly to lay her own plans for doing what her moth- 
er would most likely leave undone — or do too late. But 
before she could settle any thing to her satisfaction, nurse 
came to carry her off to bed, where she laid her busy little 
head down, and slept off in multitudinous dreams, in which 
Uncle Julius, Aunt Edna, and all the rest figured by turns, 
the intense excitement of the day. 

Not so her mother. Mrs.yanderdecken not seldom had 
to pay the penalty of an idle, luxurious life : her sleep oft- 
en fled from her. In the wakeful, silent hours every small 
grievance became a mountainous wrong. No wonder then 
that the same thing befell her now ; and after a miserable 



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TSB woman's KmaDOM. 401 

night she aro^e sick, unrefresbed, dlriven by sheer despera- 
tion into what yesterday would have been the very last 
thing she had dared to do— a resolve to go and see for 
herself whether her fears were true or false ; whether she 
really had at her very door Julius Stedman, returned 
alive, who, though he could have no actual scandal to 
bring against her — ^Letty Kenderdine, with all her folly, 
had ever kept her fair fame clear^was acquainted with 
the numerous love affairs of her youth : in her vanity she 
had often teased him with them, and laughed at his ridic- 
ulous jealousy. Now, even if he did no worse, he might 
repeat them all, and make her the by-word and the laugh- 
ing-stock of her neighbors. The idea of this low fellow, 
who, whatever or whoever he had been, had now sunk to 
be a lodger in a village ale-house, giving out to all the 
drunken hangers-on there that he was once the lover — 
the plighted husband — of Mrs. Vanderdecken of Holywell 
Hall I It nearly drove her wild. 

To prevent this, by almost any sacrifice, she was driven 
to the daring expedient of attempting an interview — a 
private interview — with the man who called himself John 
Stone. 

At first she thought of sending for him to her own 
house — but Gertrude might wonder, the servants might 
gossip — besides, the man might refuse to come. In any 
sight she had had of him he had seemed more and more 
resolved to make her feel she had cause to be afraid of 
him, not he of her. Better seize him of a sudden, before 
he had time to settle what advantage he should take of 
her — whether he wanted revenge or only money. For 
still she clung feebly to her old delusion, that money 
could do any thing, atone for any thing. 

Yet as she pondered over these things — considering how 
she might best protect herself from him — there came more 
than once to her a vision of her young lover, who would 
have given his existence to protect Aer, who worshipped 
the very ground she trod upon, who, though poor in 
worldly wealth, had been rich in every thing else — most 
rich in the only treasure which makes life really happy — 



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402 

honest, hearty love. And though she had got all she 
wanted — nay, was in a far higher and more prosperous 
position than she had ever dreamed of as a girl — still she 
felt that something was missing out of her life — some- 
thing that never would come into it again. She could 
understand dimly what that text meant — ^ To gain the 
whole world, and lose one's own souL" 

This feeling did not last, of course. Letty's nature was 
too shallow for any emotion to last long ; and she shortly 
turned away from it to consider how she could accom- 
plish, with least observation, her meeting with Stone. 

It happened to be her day of district visiting, when the 
village was accustomed to see her carriage waiting about 
while she went from cottage to cottage, splendid and con- 
descending, though sometimes a little alarming to the in- 
mates. But Mrs. Fox's house was not included in her 
list, partly because the good woman was not quite poor 
enough to warrant her dwelling being taken by storm by 
a rich neighbor, who had no other excuse than the supe- 
riority of wealth to give for so doing, and partly because 
Mr&yanderdecken did not consider a public-house exact- 
ly "respectable." 

Great, therefore, was the landlady's surprise when the 
Holywell equipage stopped at her door, and its mistress, 
leaning out smiling, requested to know if there was not a 
person named Stone lodging there ? 

"Yes, sure, ma'am; has been here since before Christ- 
mas ; a very decent man, or I wouldn't have had him in 
my house, I can assure you. A soldier, ma'am, just come 
from India." 

"So I understand. I have had friends in India. I 
should like to see him — and — it would be a pleasure to 
me to do any thing I could for him. Will you tell him 
so?" 

" That I will, Mrs. Vanderdecken, and Fm real glad 
too," added the old woman, confidentially; "for, to tell 
you the truth, he's sometimes a great weight upon my 
mind — poor Mr. Stone : not for fear he won't pay me — ^he 
does that reg'lar— but I can see he's poor enough, and 



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THE woman's kingdom. 403 

very sickly, and has such queer ways. I was thinkiug of 
telling our rector about him, in case anything did hap- 
pen." 

"Don*t, don't I" said Mrs. Vanderdecken, eagerly. 
" The rector has only too much upon his hands. If you 
want things for your lodger — food or wine— just send to 
the Hall." 

^^ You are only too good, ma'am ; and Fve said to Mr. 
Stone often and often what a kind lady yon be. But here 
he comes to speak for himself. My dear soul," darting up 
to him and whispering in his ear, ** do look alive for once. 
Here is somebody come to see you — a kind lady as says 
she has friends in India, and wishes you well" 

Stone, who had been creeping lazily across the common 
in the sunshine of the lovely spring morning, looked about 
him in his wild, weary, confused fashion — ^he seemed some- 
times half asleep, as if it was a long time before he could 
take any new idea into his bewildered brain. 

" Don't bother me, Mrs. Fox, pray I Ask the lady who 
she is and what she comes about." And then, deaf and 
blind and stupid as he seemed, he perceived the face lean- 
ing out of the carriage window. The mutual recognition 
was instantaneous. 

" What do you want with me ?" asked he, hoarsely. 

"I want to speak to you — just half a dozen words. 
Will you come into my carriage, or shall I get out ?" 

" You had better get out." 

Driven desperate by her extreme fear, Letty obeyed. 
As she did so the mere force of habit made Stone come 
forward to assist her — as any gentleman would assist a 
lady— but by this time Mrs. Vanderdecken had recovered 
her prudence. Pretending not to see him, she rested as 
usual on her footman's arm, and descended leisurely from 
her carriage. 

"Mrs. Fox," said she, carefully addressing herself to the 
landlady, " can I have a word or two with your lodger in 
your little parlor ? And, coachman, walk the horses up 
and down the common ; it is rather chilly this morning. 
Don't you find it so after India, Mr. Stone ?" 



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404 THE WOMAK^S KINGDOM. 

Traly, Letty bad rather gained than lost in the art of 
keeping up appearances. 

" Mr. Stone, my dear," whispered the landlady, palling 
him by the sleeve as he stood motionless. " You're for- 
getting your i&anners, quite. Do go in and speak to the 
lady — ^Mrs. Yanderdecken — she is such a kind lady, and 
might turn out a good friend to you." 

And considering him woefully blind to his own inter- 
ests, which were somehow or otiier in her charge, the old 
woman ffdrly pushed him into the parlor and shut the door. 

So the two — once lovers — stood face to face together 
and alone; even as when they had parted fifteen years 
ago, expecting to meet again almost as husband and wife« 
They stood, looking blankly at one another across the sea 
of dead years which had rolled between and forever di- 
vided them. 

Hardly knowing what she did, Letty slightly extended 
her hand, but it was not taken, and then she said, in a 
frightened yoice : 

"I know who you are; but how did you come here? 
I thought^very body thought — that you were dead long 
ago." 

" You thought I was dead ? Well, so I have been these 
many years. Shall I tell you who killed me ?" 

Mrs. Yanderdecken shrunk back, and then bethought 
herself that, whether he were mad or not, it was advisable 
to pacify him. 

" I beg your pardon ; I only meant that, as we are both 
middle-aged people now, we had better let by-gones be by- 
gones. Won't you shake hands, Mr. Stedman?" 

At sound of that old name — the boyish name, his and 
Will's — the artist's name which he had hoped to make 
famous, and give, covered with honor, to the woman he 
loved — the man started, and began to tremble violently. 

"Don't call me thus. I have long since dropped the 
name. I have forgotten I ever bore it. I told you I was 
dead — dead 1" 

Mrs. Yanderdecken looked sorry, but she was too much 
afraid for herself to give way much. 



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THE WOMAJSr's KINGDOM. 405 

" Pray don't talk in that sad fashion ; I am sure there is 
no need. You are, of course, a good deal changed, and I 
am grieved to see it. You must have had a hard life in 
India, or wherever you were. I should like to be of serv- 
ice to you if I could — if you would promise never to refer 
to youthful follies." 

« Follies r 

" You know they were such," said Letty, gathering cour- 
age. " Ours was just a boy-and-girl affair. We were not 
suited for each other, and should never have been happy. 
It was really quite as much for your sake as my own that 
I did as I did." 

" Stop I" cried Julius, fiercely, and rose up in his rags — 
his old coat was actually ragged now — to confront the 
lady — so much a lady to look at, so graceful and so ele- 
gantly clad. ** Stop. You and I may never meet in this 
world again ; so at least let us tell one another no lies. 
There were lies enough told by one of us fifteen years 
ago." 

His manner was so wild that at first Letty glanced to- 
wards the door; then, rapidly calculating consequences 
— a new thing for her — she decided to propitiate him, if 
possible. 

" This is not kind, or even gentleman-like, of you — and 
you were always such a gentleman," said she, in a sooth- 
ing tone. **I dare say you were much annoyed with me 
at the time, for which I am very sorry, though I did all 
for the best. But you must have got over it now. And 
please don't speak so loud ; people will hear you outside." 

** Oh, that is all you care for still, I see — how things look 
outside." 

His laugh was so strange, so dreadful, that Letty again 
doubted whether, at all risks, it would not be safer to get 
away from him. She looked towards the door. 

" Excuse me, but since you have desired it, we will have 
out our ^few words.' You need not be afraid ; I shall not 
harm you. I am not insane, though the quantity of opium 
I eat makes me a little queer sometimes ; nor a drunkard ; 
nor a thief, as you supposed me to be. But every thing 



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406 THE woman's kingdom. 



TUIXVB AND LRTT. 



else bad that a man can be — that a woman might have 
saved him from — ^I am, and it is your doing." 

"My doing P - 

It was fortunate for Letty that at this moment her car- 
riage passed the window, reminding.her that she was Mrs. 
Vanderdecken, after all. She rose in her stately height 
from the horse-hair sofa. 



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THE woman's kingdom, 407 

" K you talk in this way I mast really go." 

" Not yet ; I could not allow it. But pray be seated. 
Though I am aware it is but poor accommodation I have 
to offer you*" 

^^ I can not stay, indeed. My position as^—as a married 
lady—" 

"A married lady !" repeated he, in the sneering tone of 
young Julius Stedman, deepened tenfold. "Fifteen years 
ago you were in heait and vow married to me. When 
you gave yourself to another man you did — what the other 
women do who sell themselves body and soul to any man 
that desire them — what your Bible calls by the ugly word — " 

" I can't listen. I won't listen," cried Letty, flushing up. 
" Only a brute would speak in this way to me — me, a wife 
and a mother. Oh, my poor little girl 1" 

There was truth in what she said, and, maddened as he 
was, Julias felt it. 

*' I have done no injury to your little girl," said he, more 
quietly. "She in no way resembles you. She is a sweet 
little creature, and I am rather fond of her." 

" You fond of her 1" cried the mother, roused into cour- 
age by the one pure, unselfish instinct she had. "And 
what right have you to be fond of her? What is she to 
you that you should have gone and made friends with her, 
and turned her heart against me by telling her my whole 
miserable story ?" 

" I have not done so— not yet. I have never mentioned 
your name." 

"But she will find it out when she learns who you are, 
as she must when you go home to your brother." 

"I shall never go home to my brother. It is the last 
kindness I can show to him and his, to keep away from 
them. I have seen them all, and that is enough. To 
make myself known to them would only disgrace them. 
They will never see mf , or hear of me, any more." 

The voice was so hollow, so sad, and yet so resolute, 
that for a minute it' touched Letty. Then, in her infinite 
relief that things were thus, she thought it wiser to leave 
them so. 



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408 THB woman's kingdom. 

" You may change your mind," she said, " especially if 
you should be ilL" 

'' No. I am accustomed to be ill alone ; it will not be 
much harder — perhaps less hard — to die alone.*' 

"Ah, we'll hope not. You are too young still to talk 
of dying. But perhaps your plan is the best, after all." 

Julius regarded her, as she spoke so coldly, so indiffer- 
ently — the woman who had been his idol, into whose 
hands had been given, as into many another woman's, 
almost unlimited power over a man, to save or to destroy 
him ; who, loving him not blindly but faithfully, might 
have conquered his faults, developed his virtues, and led 
him, like his good angel, through the world, up to the 
very gate of heaven. But now — 

As he gazed, the last trace of softness went out of the 
man's heait. He was no longer her lover, but her bitter- 
est enemy. 

" You are right," he said. " My plan is best. And now 
we need not mention my brother again. What else have 
you to say to me ?" 

"It was about my little girl. I want you to promise 
never to meet my Gertrude any more." 

"Why not?" 

** Oh, can you not see ? Only just consider." 

" I have considered, ever since I saw you at the railway- 
station — the rich, prosperous woman, whom God would 
not punish. But I am juster than He — ^I will." 

" Punish me ? What do you mean ?" 

" I will tell you, for I like to do things fairly and open- 
ly ; it was you who did them underhand. That Sunday 
night, by the kitchen fire in your little house at Kensing- 
ton—do you remember it? — ^I told you that you might 
make me either good or bad. If you refused me at once 
— point-blank — I might bear it-r-I was young, I should 
*get over it,' as you women say. But if you trifled with 
me, or deceived me, I should never get over it — ^I should 
turn out a vagabond and a reprobate to the end of piy 
days. This came true. See what I am ! and I repeat, it 
is all your doing." 



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THB woman's kingdom. 409 

« Oh, Julius r 

She said it, involuntarily, perhaps — or else to soften him 
— for she was growing more and more frightened, but it 
only seemed to harden him the more. 

" Never utter that name again. I told you I had re- 
nounced it, and shall never resume it while I live, which 
will not be long, thank God 1 That is, if there be a God 
to thank for any thing." 

" Hush ! You are talking blasphemy." 

'' Who made me a blasphemer ? Who taught me to dis- 
believe in every thing good, and holy, and sweet ? Who 
turned me into a heathen, and then, as you say, into a 
brute ? But it does not matter now ; I shall be at rest 
soon. Only, before I die, I will make certain of your pun- 
ishment." 

"Oh, this' is horrible!" moaned Letty. "And what do 
you mean to do to me ?" 

" Nothing that shows outside, if you are afraid of that. 
Nothing to make your neighbors laugh at you, and your 
husband ill-treat you, which, I understand, be sometimes 
does already." 

" It is not true I" cried she, faintly. 

" True or not, it is no concern of mine. I mean to be 
very just, very judicious. I shall not disgrace you in the 
world's eyes. Nobody shall discover who I am — nobody 
but you. But I shall stay here, close in your sight, a per- 
petual reminder of your falsehood towards me, as long as 
Hive." 

" You will do no worse than that ? Oh, promise me." 

" Promises are not necessarily kept, you know. But I 
always had a trick of keeping' mine ; so I would rather 
not promise." 

"Only — only — " and the mother's voice grew sharp with 
misery, " you will not tell any thing to my child — my poor 
little Gertrude that loves me ?" 

" I can not say. It is possible I might take a fit of 
atonement ; might make up for my various ill deeds by 
one good one, and prevent your daughter from growing 
up such a woman as yourself by giving her the wholesome 

S 



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410 THE woman's kingdom. 

warning of her mother's history. It would point a moral, 
would it not ?" 

Mrs. Vanderdecken groaned. " But you can not prove 
it. You have no evidence but your own word." 

" You forget. I showed you a letter. I have kept ev- 
ery one you ever wrote to me — not many — nor v^ry brill- 
iant — ^but sufficient Suppose I were some day to inclose 
them in an envelope/addressed, not * Mrs.' but * Miss Van- 
derdecken, Holywell Hall ?' " 

In real life, people do not drop on their knees and beg 
for mercy, nor stand glaring at one another in fiendish 
<«ialice and gratified revenge ; we are too civilized for this 
sort of thing nowadays. So, critical as the "situation" 
was, the poor soldier and the fashionable lady maintained 
their positions ; and nobody listening outside could have 
heard a sound beyond the ordinary murmur of conversa- 
tion. 

Half frantic, Mrs. Vanderdecken fell back upon the last 
expedient that any wise woman would have tried. She 
put her hand in her pocket. 

" You must be very poor. I am poor too. I get but a 
very small allowance. Still, I would give you this — every 
week, if you like," 

Julius took the purse, and fingered its sovereigns — truly 
not too many — ^with a half-disdainful curiosity. 

"And so you are poor, after all ; though you did not 
marry me? And you want me to accept your money? 
Once, you know, you might have taken all mine : by dint 
of working, saving, almost starving, I had gathered a good 
heap of it to lay at your feet — ^but now — Excuse me, I 
have no farther interest in examining this elegant purse." 
He closed and returned it. 

" Will nothing persuade you, then ? Have you no pity 
for me — a mother with an only child ?" 

"None," said Julius. "Am not I going down to my 
grave, a childless man, with my name blotted out upon 
earth ? No ; I have no pity for you — none." 

"Yet you cared for me once. Oh, Julius, is all your 
love for me quite gone ?" 



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TOE woman's kingdom. 411 

" You must have a strange kind of love for Mr. Vander- 
decken when you can condescend to ask another man that 
question." 

The insult — and evidently meant as such — ^roused every 
womanly bit of poor Letty's nature. She started up, burn- 
ing with indignation. 

" Mr. Vanderdecken is a better husband to me than ever 
you would have been, since you can so turn against me 
now. And for my little girl — my poor little girl — the 
only creature I have left to love me — if you wean her 
heart from me, God will punish you — ^I know He will. It 
is a cruel and a wicked thing to do ; and if you do it, yoU 
will be a wickeder man than I took you for." 

And Letty burst into tears. 

She had been given to weeping always — it was her 
strongest engine of power over Julius ; but it had no ef- 
fect upon him now — at least not apparently. He rose 
and walked to the window. 

" Your carriage is still waiting, I see. Had you not bet- 
ter go ? It is a pity to agitate yourself needlessly." 

" I will go. And you may do what you choose. I never 
mean to speak to you any more. Good-bye." 

"Good-bye, Mrs. Vanderdecken. Allow me," and on 
the latch of the door their hands met. Letty drew hers 
away with a gesture of repugnance, and passed out, never 
looking at him again. 

When she was gone — quite gone, and even the faint 
perfume which her dress had left behind — Letty still liked 
perftimes — ^had melted out of the room, Julius sat down, 
exhausted, gazing wistfully on the place where she had 
stood. 

"Was I right or wrong?" said he to himself. "But 
no matter. Nothing matters now." 

And yet for hours after he wandered about the com- 
mon, stricken with a vague remorse ; also, in spite of him- 
self, with a touch of something approaching respect for — 
not Letty, but Gertrude's mother — the woman whom, 
even while adoring, he had sometimes half despised. 



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412 



CHAPTER XXVm. 

Little Miss Vanderdecken sat in rather a melancholy 
frame of mind under her yew-tree, by the pond. It was 
a very pleasant seat now^ with the leaves all budding, and 
the birds singing on every side ; but the little maid did 
not enjoy them so much as usual. There had been over- 
night one of those " convulsions of nature,'* as, with a pa- 
thetic drollery, the clever child had a habit of calling them, 
which shook the whole household more or less — the dis- 
putes between her father and mother, which are so sad 
for a child to see, and weaken so terribly all filial respect 
for both. The conjugal war had been violent, and lasted 
long ; it had reached, and considerably entertained, the 
servants' hall, also the nursery, where Gertrude had over- 
heard not a few remarks upon ^'Missis's" changeableness 
and selfishness, in insisting on the removal of the whole 
establishment at once to Brighton, and shutting up Holy- 
well Hall entirely, for at least three months. Quite pre- 
posterous, the servants thought — ^giving so much trouble 
for nothing ; and none of them wondered that master ob- 
jected to it. He, being " close-fisted," was with them the 
least popular of the two ; but here they decidedly sympa- 
thized with him, as did his little daughter. 

Gertrude could not imagine what had come over her 
mother, to be so persistent in her fancies, since, finding all 
persuasion vain, Mrs. Vanderdecken had actually started 
that morning for Brighton, to take lodgings there on her 
own account, for herself and her daughter. Gertrude, 
hating Brighton, and loving every nook in the pretty park 
at Holywell, was in exceedingly low spirits at the pros- 
pect before her, of which she could not at all see the end ; 
for her father was obstinate, too, in his way, and it was 
hard for him, an old man, to be driven from his comfort- 
able home, and forced to travel daily a hundred miles by 



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THE WOMAJN's kingdom. 413 

rail, as he would have to do. At seventy, he still worked 
at his favorite pastime of money-making as hard as if he 
had been twenty-five. 

" I wonder how they will settle it between them, poor 
papa and mamma !'' thought the child, dwelling on them 
with a sort of pity. " I wish they wouldn't quarrel so ; 
but mamma says all married people do quarrel; if so, I'm 
sure I hope I may never be married," added she, kicking 
away a large fir-cone as contemptuously as if it had been 
a young lover at her feet; then stooping to pick it up 
again, and add it to a large heap which she had built 
round the root of the tree one day when she was listening 
to Mr. Stone's stories. 

This changed- the current of her thoughts, and she be- 
gan to reckon how soon there might come a letter in an- 
swer to the one which, if her mamma had kept her prom- 
ise, the Stedmans would get late last night, telling them 
that Uncle Julius was not dead. 

"Mamma must surely have written, even though she 
did come in tired from her district-visiting. I wonder 
what it was that worried her so all day. Poor mamma !" 

But, in spite of poor mamma, who was so often worried, 
Gertrude's thoughts wandered longingly to the cheerful 
house in Brook Street, and the good news that was com- 
ing there-T-nay, had cpme already ; and it seemed to her 
quite a coincidence, an opportunity not to be missed, 
when she saw passing down the foot-path that crossed 
the park an old woman, whom she felt sure was Mrs. Fox. 
She ran forward at once. "Please tell me'— I am Miss 
Vanderdecken, you know — how is Mr. Stone to-day ? — 
and — has any body been to see him ?" 

Mrs. Fox looked surprised, but dropped a respectful 
courtesy. " I didn't know as you know'd him, miss ; and 
I only wish somebody would come and see him, poor man. 
I was just going up to the Hall to ask your mamma if she 
would do so, being such a kind lady." 

"I am sure mamma would — but she is gone to Brigh- 
ton to-day." 
. " Oh dear, what a pity ! What shall I do ?" 



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414 THB woman's kingdom. 

" Can I do a,ny thing — take any message ?" 

Mrs. Fox turned and, shrewd old body as she was, 
" took stock," so to speak, of the child. 

" Well, my dear, I think youVe a little lady to be trust- 
ed, and the servants might forget — ^servants in a big house 
often do. Would you please tell your manmia, when she 
comes back, that Mr. Stone is took ill, very bad, indeed ; 
and if she'd see after him a little — she was a-talking to 
him in my parlor for nigh an hour yesterday morning." 

"Was she?" exclaimed Gertrude, excessively aston- 
ished, and then touched to think how kind her mother 
had been, and how she misjudged her. 

"And I dare say she had promised to be a good friend 
to him, as I told him she would, for I found that in his 
coat pocket" — handing to Gertrude a small packet, which 
felt like a bundle of papers, addressed, " Mrs. Vander- 
decken." "It's likely certificates of character, miss; I 
thought I'd best bring it at once, and ask advice as to 
what's to be done with the poor man, for he's very bad 
indeed — quite off his head, and knows nobody." 

"How did it all happen?" asked Gertrude, greatly 
shocked, and yet feeling upon her a strange responsibility. 
For if this poor man lost his reason, or died, what means 
would there be of finding out any thing about Uncle Jul- 
ius ? " Please tell me, Mrs. Fox ; I am nearly twelve years 
old, though I look so small, and mamma always tells me 
every thing." 

" I dare say she does," said the old woman, approving- 
ly, and went on to explain how that, after the kind lady 
left him, Mr. Stone had gone out and wandered about all 
day, as he often did, returning for supper as usual; 
" though afterwards he asked me for pen, ink, and paper, 
which was the only queer thing he did. But this morn- 
ing I finds him lying straight on his bed, like a corpse, 
only not dead and not insensible, for his eyes kept rolling 
about; and he seemed to know what was said to him, 
though he never spoke one word. I think it's brain-fever, 
myself, but I'd like to take advice as to what's to be done, 
for I know nothing of him except his name. Poor fellow I 



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416 

and yet Fd do any thing for him ; he lies like a lamb, and 
follows me up and down with his eyes ;" and the old wom- 
an wiped hers with her apron before she could say another 
word. 

*^ And has nobody been to see him ?" inquired Gertrude, 
cautious through all her anxiety, for she felt that the story 
of Uncle Julius was a &mily secret not to be gossiped 
about in the village. 

'* Who was there to come, miss ? he hasn't a single rela- 
tive or friend as I knows of. But I thought your mamma 
might have heard- — he might have told her something yes- 
terday — she being a lady, and somehow I've often fancied 
Mr. Stone was a bom gentleman. And, any how, she 
might have got him a good doctor." 

" I know' a doctor," cried Gertrude, eagerly ; " I'll send 
for him at once ; he will be sure to come ; he is my " — 
uncle, she was going to say, but, with the painful con- 
sciousness which experience had taught her, stopped. " If 
I write the letter, can you find any body to take it at 
once to him — to London ?" 

" Tommy will ; but would the doctor come, miss ?" 

" Oh, yes ; I am quite sure he will come at once, if I say 
something to him which I shall say." 

And, not without a spice of enjoyment at the romantic 
mystery which lurked under her compassionate errand, 
Gertrude fled into the house and scribbled, as fast as pen 
could go, her impulsive letter : 

" Dbab TJnclb Stbdman, — ^I write to you because mam- 
ma is not at home to write herself, as I know she would. 
Please will you come down here immediately, to the * Goat 
and Compasses,' Holt village, where lies the poor man of 
whom mamma wrote to you yesterday — John Stone, the 
soldier from India, who knows all about your brother Jul- 
ius, whom every body thought to be dead. He is very ill, 
Mr. Stone I mean, and if he dies, you might never find out 
your brother. Please come at once. 

" Your aflectionate niece, 

" Gbbtbuds Vani>bbdbckbn." 



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416 THB WOMAN's^ kingdom. 

It was not till the letter was written, and Mrs. Foi 
away, in total ignorance of its contents except that it 
would be sure to bring Dr. Stedman at once, that Gertrude 
paused to consider what she had done. 

No harm, certainly ; a common act of charity towards a 
sick man— ;the man who had been so kind to her. And 
yet she was by no means sure that her mamma would like 
it — her poor mamma, who had shown such an unfounded 
jealousy of this Mr. Stone— why and wherefore Gertrude 
could not conceive. But, alas ! the child had already, 
by sharp experience, learned to distinguish between what 
mamma liked done and what, in her keen instinctive con- 
scientiousness, she herself thought right to be done. And 
why ? Because the mother had herself laid the fatal foun- 
dation for all disobedience in teaching one thing and prac- 
ticing another. . 

^' Yet I have done nothing that mamma told me not to 
do," argued Gertrude with herself, after the letter, not the 
spirit ; yet only as she had been brought up, poor child ! 
" I have neither written to Aunt Edna nor gone to see 
Mr. Stone. And when mamma comes home to-night, of 
course I shall tell her every thing. And, let me see, what 
shall I do with this packet ? I'll put it on a high shelf, 
and not touch it again." 

And though she was dying with curiosity to know what 
was inside it— no doubt something relating to Uncle Jul- 
ius — she restrained herself, and looked at it no more. 
Nay, she did what was harder still, though her little heart 
was bursting with sympathy and anxiety — during the whole 
long day she neither went herself, nor sent any of the 
servants to inquire how things fared with poor Mr. Stone. 
« « « - « « « « 

Edna and her husband were taking an afternoon's stroll 
in the broad walk of Kensington Gardens — the place which 
they had haunted so much in their old poverty days— days 
when even the sweetness of being together hardly kept 
their tired feet from aching, or their anxious hearts from 
feeling that it needed all the love that was in them to 
maintain cheerfulness. 



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^HE woman's kingdom. 41 Y 

' Now things, outwardly, were quite changed. No weary 
walking — Dr. Stedman had driven his wife to the Palace 
Gate — and the carriage was to meet them at the Bays- 
water end. She walked beside him, clad *' in silk attire,'' 
and ^^ siller had to spare," and he had earned it all. Earn« 
ed, too, as he rose in the world, those bits of delicious idle- 
ness which a man may lawfully enjoy, who, having done 
his best for his wife and family, yet feels that life is not 
all money-making, and that it is sometimes wise to sacri- 
fice a little outside luxury for inward leisure — and love. 

So, with a clear conscience, and a boy - like happiness, 
pleasant to see in one whose hair was already gray, he 
daundered on, with his wife hanging on his arm, listening 
to every bird, and noting every budding tree, stopping 
continually to look in Edna's face and see if she were en- 
joying herself as much as he. 

She did, though in a more subdued way. Women like 
her have natures at once lighter and deeper than men's ; 
and no mother of five children is ever long without some 
anxious care or other. Still, for the time, Mrs. Stedman 
put her's aside ; her sons were, after all, less dear to her 
than was their father. And as she walked along these 
familiar places, where she now came seldom enough not 
to disturb their old associations, she thought of him, not 
as he was now, but as William Stedman, her lover, with 
his love untried, his character untested, and both their 
lives looming before them in a dim, rosy haze, under 
which might lurk — what? They knew not — no lovers 
can know. Unmarried, a man or woman can stand or 
fall alone — but married, they stand or fall together. Per- 
haps if, before she was wed, Edna had felt this truth as 
strongly as she did now, she might have been more afraid. 
And yet not so, for she loved him, and love and suffering 
would have been better to her than loneliness and peace. 
But God had not sent her suffering — at least not more 
than was needed to temper her joys; or it seemed so, 
looking back. She, like all pure hearts, had a far keener 
memory for happiness than for pain. 

And now her life was all clear — nay, it was almost half 
S2 



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418 THE woman's kingdom. 

done. She and William had attained — one nearly, the 
other quite, their half- century, and they had been mar- 
ried twenty years. As she walked on — thoughtful, for 
this spring season, which had been the time of her court- 
ship and marriage, her eldest son's birth and her baby's 
death, always seemed to make her grave — Edna clung 
with a tenderer clasp than ordinary to the arm which 
had sheltered and supported her so long. 

" What are you thinking about, my wife ? You have 
been silent these fifteen minutes." 

" Only five, or I am sure I should have heard of it be- 
fore," said Edna, smiling. " You and the boys think some- 
thing dreadful must be the matter if ever I chance to hold 
my tongue." 

" Well, but what were you cogitating on ? I like to 
hear. If you had put all your pretty thoughts into a 
book, you would have turned out a celebrated authoress 
by this time." 

" Oh no, thank goodness ! for then how could I look 
after you and the five boys. But seriously, I was think- 
ing of something which I dare say some of the clever peo- 
ple who come to our house might find a grand subject for 
writing on." 

"What was it?" 

" Did you notice, as we drove through Kensington, a 
pawnbroker's shop — with a notice in the window : ' To be 
sold, unredeemed pledges ?" It struck me how, in our hu- 
man lives, so many early pledges are forever unredeemed." 

" That is true," said William, sadly. 

Edna hastened to change the conversation. "However, 
we did not come here to moralize. Tell me about the 
cottage at Sevenoaks." 

This was a project dreamed of hopelessly for many 
years, and this year in a fair way of being accomplished. 
All her life Edna had hated London, and yet been obliged 
to live in it : and all his life, for the last twenty years. 
Dr. Stedman had determined that the first use he would 
make of any wealth that came to him should be to buy 
a cottage, where his wife, country-bom and country-bred. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 419 

could take refuge whenever she liked, among her beloved 
fields and flowers. 

" Yes, I'll tell you all about the cottage by-and-by. It, 
at least, will not be one of the pledges unredeemed. We 
have not had many of these." 

« Oh no. Thank God, William— no." 

" Sometimes, when I look back these twenty years upon 
my life, and think what you have made it — " 

"What God has made it." 

" Yes, through you." He stopped, and loosing her arm, 
"eyed her over," as she called it, from head to foot. 
" Such a little woman she is 1" said he, fondly, " but what 
a spirit ! When we were poor, how the tiny feet kept 
trotting about all day long, and the small head wore it- 
self out in ingenious contrivances ! And what a cheerful 
heart she kept — ^how she met all the world and its cares 
without one fear !" 

" There was no need for fear. I had not a single-hand- 
ed battle to fight. There were always two of us. And 
we were always agreed." 

" Not quite, perhaps," said Dr. Stedman. " Especially 
when we began to rise in the world — and I might have 
been foolish sometimes, only this grave little face kept 
me in my balance. Who forbade the brougham, and 
made me be content with cabs till I had a carriage I 
could honestly ride in? Who refused, year after year, 
to take her autumn pleasuring as many wives do, because 
her husband would only have to work the harder for it ?" 

" William I" with a laugh and a stamp, though the tears 
stood in her eyes, " do hold your tongue, or I shall begin 
to quote against you, 

" *Who rose to kiss me when I fell, 
And would a pretty story tell, 
And kiss the place to make it well? 
My mother.' 

But," added she, gravely, " though we may have made 
many mistakes, and done many a wrong thing, perhaps 
even to one another, the pledge my husband gave me on 



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420 

his marriage -day has not been one of these melancholy 
'pledges unredeemed.' I could begin and tell my tale 
too — of patience and tenderness and self-denial, so much 
harder for a man than a woman. But I'll tell nothing, 
unless I should happen to go up first and tell it to the 
angels." 

" Don't talk nonsense," said William, hastily, and re- 
verted at once to the subject of the cottage at Sevenoaks. 

The plan had so delighted him, that he had entered into 
its minutest details with the eagerness of a boy ; and Edna 
was" a long time before she had the heart to suggest the 
only objection she saw to it — namely, that it was on the 
same line of railway as— indeed, only a few miles distant 
from — Holywell HalL 

'^ And if her husband has the objection that she says he 
has to the intercourse of our &milies, this might place my 
sister in rather a painful position— poor Letty !" Some- 
how, after her last visit, Edna had always called her " poor 
Letty." 

" I can not see that we need modify our plans on ac- 
count of either Mr. or Mrs. Vanderdecken. They have nev- 
er shown us any conisideration, and we owe them none." 

William spoke in that formal tone, almost akin to se- 
verity, which any reference to his wife's sister always pro- 
duced in him, and Edna answered, gently : 

'^ You are quite right, and it would be foolish in us to 
be affected by these difficulties. Still, they do exist, and 
I know you will feel them far more than I shall." 

** Possibly, because you only feel them for yourself, while 
I feel them for you. It makes a good deal of difference. 
But we will not discuss these matters, my dear. When- 
ever your sister likes to come .to my house, she can, for it 
is your house too; but never expect me to enter hers. 
And I shall take this plea-sant little cottage, and live in it, 
even were it under the very shadow of Holywell HalL" 

Edna dissented no more, for she knew it was useless — 
her husband had a will of his own, and most often it was 
a right and just will. In this matter she found herself in- 
capable of judging, especially as she was dimly conscious 



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THE woman's KINGDO]^. 421 

that, had she been in his place, she would have felt as he 
did — that no consideration on earth should have induced 
her to cross the magnificent threshold of a brother who 
had in any way slighted her husband. But he had no 
brother — oh ! poor, poor Julius ! So she set her mind to 
bear for the living lost that pain which her husband had 
long endured for the dead, nor wondered that William, 
strong in his hatreds as in his loves, shrunk with a double 
repugnance from every mention of her sister Letty. 

She walked on silently, hoping that the thrushes would 
sing peace into his heart as well as her own, which felt a 
little sad and sore, in spite of the brightness around her. 
It is so easy, so blessed to see God's hand moving behind 
some human hand, for good ; but when the same occurs 
for evil, or what appears to us as evil, the trial of faith is 
somewhat hard. It had cost her a good deal to " forgive 
God Almighty," as a forlorn mourner once expressed what 
many a mounier has thought since, for the lot of poor Julius. 

And thinking of him in these pleasant places, where 
they had so often been together — of him far away from 
the world and its riot and care, gone into peace, though 
how and where no one knew — ^Edna quite started when 
her husband said, suddenly : 

" Look, there comes Julius." 

Julius their son, of course, walking quickly towards them 
with a letter in his hand. 

"This came just after you were gone, father. A boy 
brought it, and said it was very important — about some 
one who was dying — so I hunted you up as fast as I 
could. I think," he added, in a whisper to his mother, 
" that it has something to do with the Vanderdeckens." 

" Oh, William, what is it ? Nothing very bad ?" 

" Look here," and he made her read the letter over with 
him — little Gertrude's letter. "What does she mean? 
What did your sister write to you ?" 

" Not one single line." 

Dr. Stedman, violently agitated as he was, again perused 
the letter carefully. " See what it says, ' Y<mT brother^ 
whom, every body thought to he dead? " 



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422 THE woman's kingdom. 

" It is possible, William — only barely possible. But we 
must find out. Read on." 

" This man — who knows all about him-7-this John Stone, 
who I suppose sends for me — did I ever have any John 
Stone among my patients ?" 

" No," said Edna, decidedly, being one of the few doc- 
tors' wives who are trusted with all their husbands' con- 
cerns. 

"A soldier, too, from India. If he had any tidings to 
bring, why did he not find me out ? It was easy enough 
to do so." 

" Mother," interposed Julius, greatly excited, "once, late- 
ly, an Indian soldier kept hanging about our house for a 
whole morning. Will and I both spoke to him. So did 
you." 

" Yes, I remember — a thin, sickly, rather elderly man, 
with a long gray beard. Perhaps he was John Stone. 
But we must not detain papa here. William, you will 
start at once ?" 

"Certainly." 

" Julius, run and look out for the carriage," said Edna, 
as she took her husband's arm, trying to shield his emo- 
tion even from his own son : fond and tender as the boy 
was, how could he understand it ? 

Without another word the two passed rapidly down the 
Broad Walk to the Bayswater gate, whence, almost as si- 
lently, they drove direct to the railway station. 

Edna kept, close to her husband until the train should 
start. 

" You can not say what time you will be back, of course, 
but let it be as soon as possible." 

" Most certainly. Julius, you'll take special care of your 
mother to-night?" 

" That I will," said the boy, tucking her under his arm 
in his loving, protecting way. " Cheer up, mamma. Sup- 
pose papa should bring home some news — real news — 
about Uncle Julius. Or if he were to come back again 
alive, after all. What a jolly thing that would be !" 

" Hush !" whispered his mother, and then left her son'p 



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THE woman's kingdom. 423 

arm to lean forward and whisper to his father. " I wish I 
were going with you. Take care of yourself, William, my 
darling." 

After Dr. Stedmau reached the station he was bound 
for, he found he had a three-mile walk before him, and it 
did him good. His mind was all confused and bewildered, 
and the sentence in Gertrude's letter, " whom every body 
believed to be dead," kept running in and out of his head, 
awakening strange hopes, which sank the next minute into 
the old dull quietness which had succeeded the long sus- 
pense of pain. Julius might be alive — it was just within 
the bounds of probability; but how and where had he 
lived, in what manner had he contrived so long to hide 
himself from them, and what steps could be taken to dis- 
cover him ? Why had Mrs. Vanderdecken not written ? — 
so like her, though — and what if this delay of hers were 
to make every thing too late, and John Stone should die 
with his secret untold ? 

As Dr. Stedman thought of this chance he ground his 
teeth together — it seemed to be the last wrong Letty had 
done him. He walked on fierce and fast If he could 
have hated any thing so frail as a woman it would have 
beien this woman, who, from her accursed weakness, had 
been the bane of his brother's life. 

His brother — his own, only brother. Though William 
Stedman was no longer a young man by any means, and 
had been knocked about the world enough to make his 
life appear long, even to himself, still, as he walked to-day 
between the bursting hedge-rows, and under the budding 
road-side trees, his boyish days came back to him vivid 
as yesterday. He seemed to see the two little lads who 
used to go birds'-nesting of Saturday afternoons — the two 
youths in their teens — always together, like his own two 
elder boys, delighted to seize the opportunity of any stray 
half-holiday to ramble away for miles across country, re- 
turning, tired indeed, but, oh ! so merry, with a mirth that 
never flagged ; for Julius's light nature always stirred up 
his own graver and more phlegmatic one — so that they 
suited better than if they had been more alike. And after 



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424 

all the years that had rolled between, busy and prospeiV 
ous, anxious and sad, Will's heart leaped back with a pas- 
sionate rebound to those years that were gone forever; 
and he felt as if he would give nearly all he had in the 
world — except his wife and children — to have Julius back 
again, or only to see some one who could tell him how 
and where he died. 

Dr. Stedman reached Holt Common- just at twilight. 
A lovely spot, a heavenly evening; just the hour and 
place that would be sweet to die in for one unto whom 
death was better than life. But the doctor, accustomed 
to fight death hand to hand, also fully recognized the 
blessing of life, and the duty of preserving it. Wasting 
not a moment in useless delay, he hurried as fast as he 
could to the door of the "Goat and Compasses." 

" You have a lodger here," said he, stooping his tall head 
to enter the bar, " a soldier, John Stone by name, ill, as I 
understand. Can I see him ? I am a physician. My name 
is Stedman." 

For he had determined not in the smallest degree to 
allude to theVanderdeckens, or to his connection with 
them. 

Mrs. Fox rushed forward, infinitely relieved. " Dr. Sted- 
man, sure ? The gentleman the little miss sent for ? Oh, 
sir, I'm so glad you've come ! Will you walk up stairs?" 

"Stop a minute. Are you his sister, or mother, or 
what?" 

" Only his landlady — ^Mrs. Fox, at your service. But I 
can't help feeling for him, poor fellow ! and I'm sure I'd 
look after him as if I was his mother, for he doesn't seem 
to have a friend in the world." 

"A young man, or old ?" 

"Neither, sir. Over fifty, I reckon, or may be a bit 
older than you are." 

" Older than I am ?" said Dr. Stedman, and a wild pos- 
sibility that had lurked in some comer of his brain drop- 
ped out of it completely. To him his brother Julius was 
still a young man. " Poor fellow ! I'll go to him directly ; 
but if, as my son found out from your messenger, his brain 



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THE woman's kingdom. 426 

is affected, I can not talk to you much in his room ; so 
tell me here all you know about him." 

Mrs. Fox did so ; but her statement was too involved 
and confused for Dr. Stedman to gain much more informa- 
tion from it ; so, afraid of losing time, he bade her take 
him up at once to his patient's chamber. 

The good old woman had been very mindful over her 
charge. His sick-room was quiet and in order; he had 
every thing comfortable about him — clean linen, smoothly- 
arranged pillows and sheets, and a neat patchwork coun- 
terpane, upon which the two thin hands lay stretched, like 
the dead passive hands which tender friends straighten 
out in peace, never to work any more. 

Indeed, in the darkened room, the figure on the bed 
looked altogether not unlike a corpse, being quite still, 
with wet cloths on the head, and the eyes closed. But at 
sound of the door-latch they opened, and met the two in- 
comers with that strange, glassy, unseeing stare peculiar 
to brain disease. 

" This is a doctor, my dear," whispered Mrs. Fox, sooth- 
ingly. "A kind gentleman from London, who has come 
to see you and make you well." 

" Indeed, I hope so, my poor fellow," said the doctor, 
kindly, as he sat down by the bedside. 

At sound of his voice the sick man turned his head 
feebly round, and looked at him with a kind of half-con- 
sciousness ; a long shiver ran all through his frame ; then 
he closed his eyes, and clasped his hands together, as if 
bent upon concealing some secret which, with the last 
remnant of life or sense that remained to him, he was de- 
termined to keep. 

" Let me feel your pulse ; I'll not hurt you," said Dr. 
Stedman, as with his quiet, determined, professional man- 
ner he unlocked the rigid fingers, and drew the hand to- 
wards him. The face he had not recognized in the least 
— it was so covered with beard, so totally changed ; but 
the hand, with its long fingers and delicate filbert nails — 
the true artist's hand — startled him at once. 

"Doctor, what's the matter?" cried Mrs. Fox. 



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426 

" Nothing," said he, controlling himself at once. "Only 
give me more light. I want to look at my patient." 

" No, no !" A sound, hollow as if out of the grave it- 
self, came from the sick man's parched lips. " No light — 
nol Send the doctor away. I want none. I want to 
die." 

Without answering, Dr. Stedman rose and drew up the 
blind. But by this time the gleam of sense had faded en- 
tirely out of the poor face ; it was sharp-set, and vacant 
with the terrible vacuity of a human face from which — 
temporarily or permanently — ^the conscious mind is quite 
gone. 

Will stood looking at him — ^this utter wreck of all he 
had once been so proud of, so tender over, almost with the 
tenderness of a man over a woman. Then, stooping over 
Julius, with one great smothered sob, he kissed him on the 
forehead — softly, as he would have kissed the dead. 

"Thank God I it may not be too late. Mrs. Fox, I must 
send a messenger to my wife at once. This is my brother." 



CHAPTER XXIX. 



Mes. Stedman was sitting with all her children round 
her, trying to make the evening pass as usual, in reading, 
lesson-learning, drawing — broken by fits of play and merry 
chat. None of the boys, except the eldest, knew of what 
had occurred, or saw any thing remarkable in their fa- 
ther's absence ; and she had charged Julius to be silent 
for the present. He, wise and grave beyond his years, 
and his parents' confidant in many things, wa^ the only 
one who had been told more about Uncle Julius than that 
his father had had such a brother, who died abroad. 
And even he knew comparatively little; but it was 
enough greatly to interest and excite him. Besides, his 
mother — the one grand idol o£ his life, whom he wor- 
shipped with that adoring filial tenderness which is Heav- 
en's best instrument for making noble men — his mother, 
had been put into his charge, and he watched her with es- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 42? 

pecial care— distracted the attention of the rest from her 
— and hovered about her with endless little caresses, list- 
ening all the while to every sound of the hall-bell, which 
made her start whenever it rang. 

For Edna, more imaginative and quicker than her hus- 
band to put things together, could not get out of her mind 
a strange impression, which came very near the truth. 
And when her son brought her the letter, having first 
carefully allured her away from the rest, that she might 
read it unobserved, her hands shook so that she could 
scarcely break the seal 

The next minute she had burst out with a great cry of 
"Julius!" 

Her boy ran to her alarmed, and took her in his arms — 
his dear little mother. 

" Not you, my soa I did not mean you, but your un- 
cle Julius. Papa has found Uncle Julius." 

There is a belief, a feeling — Julius had had it strong- 
ly not so many weeks before, when he stood in the dark 
outside his brother's shut door — that if the dead were to 
come back to us again, they would find their place filled 
up, their loss mourned no longer, and the smooth surface 
of daily life grown greenly over them, like the grass over 
their graves. This is true, in degree, and Infinite Mercy 
makes it so; else human nature could not possibly endure 
its anguish to the end. But there are exceptions, and the 
present was one of them. Julius — poor prodigal as he 
might be — had fed on his own swines' husks silently, far 
away ; he had never^ither disgraced or wronged any one, 
least of all his brother. Heavy grief though he had 
caused, there was mixed with it none of that aching bit- 
terness which Edna felt in her own heart, and the mute 
contempt which she read in her husband's face whenever 
she chanced to mention her sister. Therefore, her rejoic- 
ing over the lost and found was as unclouded as her love 
— and she had always loved Julius. 

The wonderful news could not be long hid, especially in 
this loving family, where the parents kept none but neces- 
sary secrets from their children. The mother was soon 



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428 THE woman's kingdom. 

the centre of an eager group, asking all manner of ques- 
tions, and evidently regarding the whole matter as a sort 
of real-life fairy tale. 

" Don't bother mamma, children," said Julius, with ten- 
der authoritativeness. " Come away with me, and I'll tell 
you as much as I know, while she reads papa's letter." 

Dr. Stedman had written, not telegraphed, that he might 
startle her less and give her the latest intelligence, and 
had sent his letter by the faithful Tommy Fox, who was 
to remain that night at Brook Street, and bring Mrs. Sted- 
man back with him the firet thing next morning. 

" I do not want you until the morning," wrote William 
to his wife. " You must get a good night's rest, for I fear 
you may have some days, or perhaps weeks, of heavy nurs- 
ing here. However, if he survives the next twenty-four 
hours, he will live, I doubt not. I might have sent for 
you to-night, but I thought it best not." 

Edna felt also that it was best not — that not even his 
wife should share in this solemn watch which William 
kept so faithfully — uncertain whether, after all, his brother 
might not slip away, unrecognizing and unrecognized, into 
the next world. But even if Julius died, it would be a 
lighter burden to bear than that which Dr. Stedman had 
borne so patiently, so silently, all these years — ^not suffer- 
ing it to darken his home-life, which would indeed have 
been both foolish and wrong. Still it was there ; and his 
wife knew it. Almost every human heart has some such 
dark chamber in it : she had had hers too. 

Now, was the grief to be lifted off or not? Edna could 
not tell ; nor William. He had only said, in reference to 
the ftiture, one thing — "If Julius recovers, will my wife 
take him home ?" At which the wife smiled to hersel£ 
There was no need to answer that question. 

So, it was necessary to prepare for possibilities; and 
first, by telling the children as much of their uncle's his- 
tory as she thought advisable. They were not inquisitive 
or wonying children. Still, they had their natural curios- 
ity, increased by the very few facts she was able to give 
them ; indeed, little more than that Uncle Julius, whom 



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THB woman's kingdom. 429 

the^r had supposed to be dead, had reappeared, and at last 
come home. 

" But why did he not come home before, mamma ?" 

"Being a soldier, he could not do that, I suppose." 

" Still, he might have written," said Julius, a little se- 
verely. " It was unkind of him to let you and papa im^ 
agine he was dead, and grieve after him for so many 
years." 

"People sometimes do unkind things without meaning 
it, or, at least, without definitely intending it," said the 
mother, gently. " When you are as old as I am, my son, 
yott-will have learned that — " Here she stopped, hinder- 
ed by the great difficulty with all young people — how to 
keep them dtemly to the right ; and yet, while preaching 
strict justice, to remember mercy. " In truth, my chil- 
dren," added she, with that plain candor which had been 
her safeguard all her life, and taught her sons to be as 
fearlessly true as herself, " it is useless to question me ; 
for I know almost nothing, except that papa has found his 
brother again, which will make him so happy. You like 
papa to be happy, all of you ?" 

"Ah, yes!" and they ceased troubling her with their 
wonderings, but with the brilliant imagination of youth 
darted at once to the possibility of Uncle Julius's appear- 
ance among them, making endless speculations and ar- 
rangements concerning him. The twins, hearing he had 
been a soldier, brought out their favorite toy-cannon, with 
a man behind it, which man they immediately named 
" Uncle Julius." Robert, who had set his heart upon wan- 
dering half over the world, exulted in the thought of all 
the information he should get about foreign countries; 
and Will, after much meditation, leaped at once to a most 
brilliant conclusion. 

" That folio of drawings you keep, beside the old easel 
in your bedroom, mamma — were they not done by Uncle 
Julius ? You said he was an artist before he went away 
to India." 

"Yes." 

"And clever, too, to judge by those sketches, which you 



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430 THE woman's kingdom. 

have never properly shown me yet, and will not let me 
have to copy ; very good they are, some of them," contin- 
ued Will, with the slightly patronizing tone of the young- 
er generation. " Of course, he is too old to make an artist 
now ; hut he might help to make me one." 

"Perhaps," said the mother, and wondered whether 
Uncle Julius would recognize, as his brother and she had 
long since began to do, the eternal law of progression, 
whereby one generation slips aside, or is set aside, and an- 
other takes its place — a law righteous and easy of belief 
to happy parents, but hard to others, who have to drop 
down, solitary and childless, into the great sea of oblivion, 
leaving not a trace behind. As she looked on her bright, 
brave boys growing up around her, in whom her memory 
and their father's would live, long after both were in the 
dust, Edna thought of Julius, and sighed. 

" Now, my little man, you must chatter no more, but 
be off to bed ; for mamma has a great deal to do to- 
night." 

Nevertheless, she was not afraid, though it was a small 
and already full house in which she had to make room for 
the wanderer; but the capacity of people's houses often 
corresponds with that of their hearts. And she had good 
servants — a good mistress usually has-^and helpful, un- 
selfish children. Her eldest, especially, followed her about 
the house, assisting in her plans and arrangements almost 
as cleverly as a daughter, and yet so manly, so wise, so 
reliable that for the hundredth time his mother pitied all 
women who had not a son like Julius. 

Yet when he and she sat together over the fire, the 
house being silent and all preparations made, both for her 
temporary absence and for her return with poor Uncle 
Julius, if he recovered — with the reaction from her first 
joyful excitement over — ^anxious thoughts came into Ed- 
na's mind. Was she right in bringing into her household 
and among her young sons this man, who might be so 
changed — whose life for fifteen years and more was utter- 
ly unknown to her, except that he had sunk deplorably 
from his former estate? When her eldest son, looking at 



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THE woman's kingdom. 431 

her with his honest, innocent, boyish eyes, said, earnestly, 
" Now, mamma, tell me all about poor Uncle Julius," Edna 
trembled. 

But only for a moment. She knew well, her anxious life 
had often taught her, the plain fact that we can not liye 
two days at once; that beyond a certain prudent fore- 
casting of consequences we have but to see the right for 
the time being, and act upon it. 

" My son," she answered, cautiously, as her judgment 
prompted, but honestly, as mothers ought who have their 
children's souls in their hands, ^^ Uncle Julius has had a 
very hard, sad life. It may have been not even a good 
life. I do not know. But papa does ; and he understands 
what is right far better than we. He says he wishes Un- 
cle Julius to come home — ^he is so glad and thankful to 
have him at home. So of course it is all right. We can 
trust papa, both you and I." 

" To be sure we can," said Julius, and looked his father's 
very image while he spoke : so that Edna had no farther 
fear even for her darling boy. 

It was little more than ten in the forenoon, and Holt 
Common was bathed in the brightest spring sunshine, 
when Edna crossed it, under Tommy Fox's guidance, to 
take the shortest cut to the " Goat and Compasses." She 
scarcely looked at the sweet sights around her — the green 
mosses, the perfumed gorse — ^so full was her heart, trem- 
bling between hope and fear, wondering whether it would 
please God to give this poor wrecked life into their hands 
— hers and Will's — to be made whole and sound again, 
even in this world ; or whether, in his infinite wisdom. He 
would take it to himself, to do with it according to his 
omnipotent will, which rmM be perfect, or it would not 
be omnipotent. 

There was a figure standing at the ale-house door — her 
husband watching for her. Edna looked rather than ask- 
ed the trembling question, " Is he alive ?" which William's 
smile answered at once. 

He had held up bravely till now; but when he found 
himself alone with his wiSfe he broke down. Edna took 



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482 THE woman's kingdom. 

his head to her bosom, and let him weep there, almost 
like one of his own little children. 

But there was no time to waste in mere emotion — the 
patient must not be left for ten minutes. Nothing but 
constant watching could save the life which flickered like 
a dying taper, half in and half out of the body. Julius 
might slip away at any moment, giving no sign, as all 
the night through he had given none. It was impossible 
to say whether he even recognized his brother, though 
the pressure on the brain produced stupor rather than de- 
lirium. 

" He lies, looking as quiet as a baby," said Will, with a 
great sob. "I have cut his hair and beard; he is quite 
bald. You would hardly know him* I wonder if he will 
know you, Edna ?" 

'^ Let us come and see," answered Mrs. Stedman, as she 
laid aside her bonnet, and made silently all her little ar- 
rangements for the long, long sisterly watch, of which 
God only knew the end. 

Her husband followed her with eyes full of love. " There 
is nobody to do this but you, my wife. You would do it, 
I knew." She smiled. "And I have made things as light 
for you as I can. Mns. Fox will take the night-nursing. 
She is evidently very fond of him — but every body was 
always fond of Julius. My poor dear lad !" 

The strong fraternal love — rare between men, but, 
when it does happen, the heavenliest, noblest bond, a help 
through life, and faithful even unto death — shone in Wil- 
liam's eyes ; and his wife honored and loved him for it. 

"Come," she whispered, "perhaps, please God, we may 
save him yet. Come and take me to Julius's room." 

For another day and night the poor brain — worn out 
with misery, and disordered by the continual use of opi- 
um—lay in a torpid condition, of which it was impossible 
to foretell the next change. Then sharp physical pain su- 
pervened, and forced into a kind of semi-consciousness the 
bewildered mind. 

The day he had spent out on the common — (Tommy 
Fox afterwards confessed to having seen Mr. Stone lying 



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THE woman's kingdom. 433 

for ^otirs under a damp furze-bush) — brought back his 
old rheumatic torments. He had over again the same 
illness, rheumatic fever, through which his brother had 
nursed him twenty years ago. Strangely enough, this 
agony of body was the most merciful thing that could 
have happened to the mind. It seemed to annihilate the 
present entirely, and thrust him back to the days of his 
youth. He took quite naturally the presence of Will and 
Edna, and very soon began to call them by their right 
names, and comprehend, in a confused way, that he was 
under their charge. And in his total helplessness the 
great difl5culty which William had foreseen, the stopping 
of the supplies of opium, became easier than they had an- 
jbicipated. After he had been brought back, as it were, 
from the very gates of the grave, to some slight recogni- 
tion of where he was, and what had happened to him, he 
seemed to wake up, as people often do after very severe 
illnesses, with the freshness of a child — asking no ques- 
tions, but helplessly and obediently clinging to those 
about him, till sometimes none of his nurses could look 
at him without tears. 

Gradually he' passed out of sickness into convalescence, 
began visibly to amend in body, though how far his mind 
was- alive to the things around him it was difficult to say. 
He noticed nothing much — neither the changes which 
Edna had gradually instituted in his ragged wardrobe, 
nor the comforts which she gathered around him in his 
homely room. He spoke little, and his whole intelligence 
seemed to be absorbed in trying to bear, as patiently as 
he could, his physical sufferings, which, for a long time, 
were very great. When at last Edna, to whose minister- 
ing care he had grown quite accustomed, proposed taking 
him " home," he assented, but without asking the slightest 
question as to what and where ^' home " was. 

Letty, either as Letty or Mrs. Vanderdecken, he never 
once named. 

Indeed, in the complete absorption of the time, neither 
Edna nor her husband thought much about her them- 
selves. The near neighborhood of Holywell Park trou- 

T 



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434 THE woman's kingdom. 

bled them not ; the place was half shut up, the mistress 
being away at Brighton. Thence she never sent, never 
wrote ; at which they were neither surprised nor soiTy. 

But the night before they had settled to quit Mrs. Fox's 
kindly roof, the good woman brought to Mrs. Stedman,for 
whom she had conceived a great admiration, a note from 
the Hall. 

" I don't know if you knows Mrs. Vanderdecken, ma'am, 
but perhaps you do, as it was through her little girl I 
heard of Dr. Stedman. And she's a kind lady — a very 
kind lady indeed : he saw her the day before he was ill. 
Didn't you, sir?" 

Edna interposed, and stopped the conversation, but her 
caution seemed needless. The sick man took no notice, 
and she hoped he had seen and heard nothing. Howev- 
er, just before she left him for the night, Julius called' her 
back. 

" What was that note you had ? From your sister?" 

"Yes." 

"Have you seen her?" 

"No." 

This was all he asked or was told, though, in much 
anxiety, Edna sat down beside him for another half hour. 
By-and-by Julius felt feebly for her hand. 

"Are you there still. Sister Edna? I like to have you 
beside me. I know you now, and Will too, though at 
first I did not. I thought I was dreaming. I have had 
so many queer dreams. They all came out of that box 
which you never will let me have." 

" No, never again." 

"Does Will say so?" 

"Yes." 

" Then I suppose he must be obeyed. When we were 
lads, kind as he was to me. Will always made me obey 
him." Julius smiled faintly, yet more like his own smile 
than Edna had ever seen yet. " Where is Will to-night ?" 

" Gone home to get ready the house for us to-morrow, 
you know. Besides, he has his work to do." 

"Ah yes ! and mine is all done. I shirked it once ; and 



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THB woman's kingdom. 435 

now, when I wan* to do it, I can not. Why do you and 
Will take me home ? I would never have come of my- 
self I shall only be a burden upon you. Do you know, 
Edna, that I have not a half-penny in the world ?" 

"Yes." 

" Except, of course, my pension as a soldier — a common 
soldier, which I have been — I ceased to.be a gentleman 
years ago." 

Edna smiled. 

"Do not mock me ; it is true. You had better not take 
me back. I shall only be a trouble to you — nay, even a 
disgrace. Will is an honest, honorable, prosperous man, 
while I — What will all your friends say ?" 

"We shall never ask*them. But," added Will's wife, 
in reasoning not her own, for her own failed her, " it is 
just the story of the piece of silver — 'And when she hath 
found it she calleth her friends and neighbors together, 
saying, Kejoice with me, for I have found my piece that 
was lost.' " 

Julius turned away bitterly. "Don't talk to me out 
of the Bible. I do not believe in the Bible. Only " — as 
if he feared he had hurt her — " I believe in you." 

" Thank you, dear." She often called him " dear" now, 
in the tone she u^ed to her own children; for, in many 
ways, Julius had grown so very like a child. "And I be- 
lieve in the Bible. Therefore, I came here to nurse ypu, 
and keep you alive if we could. Therefore, as soon as you 
are stronger, I mean to take you home, to begin a new 
life, and never to speak of the old life any more." 

Tender as her words were, there was a certain authority 
in them — the quiet decision which Edna always showed, 
and nobody attempted to gainsay. 

Julius did not, but lay quiet, with his eyelids closed, 
till at length he suddenly opened them. 

"There was a packet — letters — which I think I made up 
just before I was ill. Where is it?" 

"Mrs. Fox found it, and delivered it to the person to 
whom it was addressed." 

"Andthat was— " 



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436 THE woman's kingdom. 

" Mrs. Vanderdecken." 

"Are you sure of that?" 

" Quite sure. Now go to sleep." 

" One minute" — and Julius lifted himself up and caught 
Edna's hand. " Tell her — ^your sister — that for the child's 
sake I have forgiven her all I will never harm her. Her 
daughter knows nothing — never will know. Say I for- 
give her, and bid her good-bye from me." 

"I will," said Edna; and then, still holding her hand, 
Julius dropped into the quietest slumber which he had 
yet known. 

When alone for the night Mrs. Stedman read over again 
the dirty-looking note, which had lain a whole day in the 
pocket of a small child, one of Mrs. Vanderdecken's Sun- 
day-class, by whom it had been sent. Letty's cowardice 
had followed her to the last. There was in the missive 
neither beginning nor ending. Nothing that could iden- 
tify it or its writer, or betray any fact that it was safer to 
conceal 

^* I know all, and was glad yonr husband had been sent for to the poor 
man, you and be being the proper persons to manage the business. Give 
him my best wishes, and I hope he will soon get well. If I could do any 
thing — ^but it is better not — you will understand that. Only, if you like 
to come and talk it oyer with me, I shall be very glad to see yon, for I am 
quite alone here, though I shall return to Brighton in two days." 

Edna closed the letter with a heavy sigh, and sat long 
pondering over it, and how she should answer it ; wheth- 
er it would not be advisable, under the circumstances, and 
especially with regard to a future that was very difficult 
at best, to go and see Letty, as she asked, in her own 
house, and calmly, but not unkindly, " talk it over," as she 
proposed, thus closing forever the grave of a past that 
could return no more. 

In her husband's absence Edna was obliged to trust to 
her own judgment, and what she knew his would be. He 
had said more than once that nothing should induce him 
to enter his sister-in-law's door, nor did his wife dissent 
from tlik. There is a limit beyond which self-respect can 



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THE woman's kingdom. 437 

not pass ; and charity itself changes its character when 
it becomes the subserviency of weak right to rampant 
wrong. But Mre. Stedman, who had not an atom of 
weakness about her, or pride either, felt no hesitation 
whatever in crossing just once, and no more, her sister's 
grand threshold; neither humbly nor scornfully, but with 
a kindly, sisterly heart. If she could do Letty any good, 
why, well I If not, still it was well too. They would 
both see clearly, once for all, what their future relations 
to one another were to be. 

So next morning, before Julius was well awake, without 
saying any thing to him or any body, she started off across 
the common to Holywell Hall. 

It was a very fine house, the finest Mrs. Stedman had 
ever entered ; for her busy domestic life and narrow means 
had, until lately, kept her very much out of society. She 
admired it extremely, for she had such pleasure in any 
thing orderly, fit, and beautiful. Yet, when her little feet 
trod on the polished black and white marble of the hall, 
and followed two tall liveried footmen up a magnificent 
staircase, stately, silent, and chill, her heart sank a little, 
and she was glad fate had not burdened her with her sis- 
ter's splendid lot. It did not occur to her, in her utter 
lack of self-consciousness, that, had such been the case, the 
probabilities were that Holywell Hall would have been as 
bright as Brook Street. 

The footman went before, and she was following him 
at once into Mrs. Vanderdecken's morning-room, when she 
heard her sister's voice within, and hesitated. 

"Stedman is the name. Wood? — I don't know— yes, I 
do know the lady. Show her into the yellow drawing- 
room. Oh, she's here." 

Rather awkwardly Mrs. Vanderdecken came forward, 
merely to shake hands, till, the servant having closed the 
door behind him, she stooped and kissed her sister, though 
not with much demonstration of affection. 

" I am very glad to see you. It is extremely kind of 
you to come. You see I couldn't come to you — it was 
quite an impossibility." 



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4B8 THE woman's kingdom. ^^ 

"Certainly." 

Then Letty burst out : 

" Oh I Edna, do give me a little comfort. I have been 
so frightened — so thoroughly miserable. This is indeed a 
wretched business." 

" I do not see that, since it has ended so well in Julius's 
recovery. He might hav_e died. It was such a merciful 
chance that your little girl wrote to my husband." 

"Yes; and I assure you I did not scold her at all for 
doing so. I was only too thankful to get her safe away, 
where she would hear no more of that dreadful story, or 
of him, poor fellow ; he made her so fond of him. She 
cried her eyes out till I told her Dr. Stedman was with 
him, and that he was getting well. That is true, is it not ?" 

" Yes, thank God !" 

"And nobody here knows who he is ; but, like Gertrude, 
people think him Mr. Stone ?" 

" No — ^Mr. Stedman," said Edna, coldly. " My husband 
was not likely to be ashamed of his brother, or to conceal 
his relationship to him. But you need not be alarmed; 
we have carefully hidden our connection with you. No 
one here has the least idea that you are my sister." 

" Thank you, thank you !" And then, some dim notion 
striking Letty that it was an odd thing to express grati- 
tude for, she added, half-apologetically, " You see, we are 
obliged to be careful. In our position people do talk of 
us so. And he was so violent, so cruel to me — ^Julius, I 
mean. And there was something so disreputable — so 
dreadful — about his story. You know it, of course." 

" No ; he has told us almost nothing ; and we are de- 
termined to inquire nothing. My husband believes less in 
the confession of sins than in the forsaking of them. Un- 
less Julius speaks himself, we shall never ask him a single 
question about his past life." 

" Well, perhaps that is your best course ; any other 
would be so very inconvenient. I declare, when I listen 
to Gertrude's story — but I'll just repeat it to you, for it 
will relieve my mind." 

And she told, accurately enough for her, Julius's whole 



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THE woman's kingdom. 439 

sad tale, which he had told to the child, and her own in- 
terview with him, which had followed it. 

The facts were all new to Edna, but she said nothing: 
how could she? From the sick-bed beside which she had 
watched so long she seemed to gaze on her elegant sister, 
gifted with every thing that the world could give ; and 
she understood something about the joy in heaven, not 
over the rich and the prosperous, but over one sinner that 
repenteth. The one question. Did he repent ? was all she 
ever asked herself, and that time alone could answer. 

" Was it not dreadful of him," Letty continued, "after 
all these years, and when I would have met him so friend- 
ly, to try to injure me thus? Ah, Edna, you don't know 
the agony of a poor mother who fears losing her child's 
heart." 

" No," said Edna ; " but you need have no fear now ;" 
and then she delivered, word for word, the message Julius 
had sent. 

Letty was a good deal touched. "Poor fellow! poor 
fellow !" she repeated several times, and wiped her eyes 
with her lace pocket - handkerchieC "But why does he 
bid me good-bye? Will he die, do you think?" 

" God only knows. The first danger is past, but there 
is a weary convalescence before him. He will never be 
really strong, William says ; and if any ill turn comes — 
But we will not forbode evils. I hope for the best." 

"Ah, you always did. You were always the cheerful- 
lest, bravest girl. I wish I had been more like you." 

But these sudden compunctions, which ended in noth- 
ing, only made Edna sigh. She rose. 

" I must go now, Letty. He will be waiting for me. I 
take him home to-day." 

" He ? Oh, I had forgotten ! You mean poor Julius. I 
do hope he will recover ; tell him I said so. Where are 
you taking him? to Brook Street? But of course you 
have n^ other house. Poor dear fellow, I am sure I wish 
him well. But are you sure he will not attempt to injure 
me?" 

Edna smiled. It would have been a sarcastic smile 



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440 

once, when she was scornful and young ; now it was only- 
sad. She did not attempt to grow grapes from thorns, 
or figs from thistles, any more. She only understood, 
though it had been bitter learning, that all human crea- 
tures were of God's handiwork, and if He had patience 
with them, so must she have. 

"And now, Letty, good-bye ; for I really must go." 

Upon which Letty eagerly begged her to stay. 

" Why can't you have lunch with me, Edna, my dear ? 
I am so dull, alone here. And, besides, I should like to 
show you the house and the conservatory ; you were al- 
ways fond of flowers. Ours are considered very fine, es- 
pecially our orchids. Mr. Vanderdecken has paid sixty 
guineas apiece for some of them." 

Edna shook her head. " I have no time for orchids just 
at present." And then, seeing real disappointment in her 
sister's looks, she agreed to stay with her another half hour. 

"Especially as we may not meet again for some tima 
You must perceive, I can not ask you to Brook Street; 
and as for my coming here — But we shall remain sis- 
ters, feeling very kindly to one another, I trust. And, 
Letty dear, if ever you are in trouble, and want somebody 
to help you — ^" 

Here she quite broke down. To the last day of her life 
Edna would never lose this sore- wounded, ill-requited love 
for her only sister. 

Letty kissed her, not unaffectionately. 

"Thank you. We all have trouble, some time or other, 
I suppose. But I hope mine is far off stilL I am very com- 
fortable, and Mr. Vanderdecken is extremely kind. Then, 
too, I have such a pretty house. Won't you come and 
look at it ? People say many a nobleman's mansion is 
not near so fine." 

This was true ; and Edna's innocent, generous heart ad- 
mired it so warmly that her sister's spirits quite rose. 

"Yes, I do think ours is a charming place, and»it is a 
pleasure to show it to you. I am very glad you came to 
see me, and I only wish we could meet oftener, my dear. 
But I suppose that is impossible." 



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THE woman's kingdom. 441 

Edna was silent ; she also felt that it was impossible. 

'' Gertrude will be so disappointed that she has not seen 
yon. She thinks a great deal of her aiint Edna. And 
perhaps, by-and-by, when she has forgotten all about Mr. 
Stone, who I shall tell her is quite well, and gone away to 
his own relations — '* 

" Oh, Letty !" broke in the other, earnestly, " whatever 
you tell her, let it be the exact trath. With such a child 
as Gertrude — with any child — straightforward truth is the 
only way. Forgive me — it will be long before I ' preach ' 
to you again — ^but I have no little girl of my own ; and 
Gertrude is a dear child ! Be careful with her.'' 

Letty looked a little vexed. " It is hardly needful to 
say that to me ; but, Edna, I will take care of her. She is 
the light of my eyes — the best little girl that ever was 
born ! Julius said he wished my child to grow up a 
better woman than her mother. Tell him, I trust she 
may." 

They had now passed out of the winter-garden, with its 
overpowering atmosphere of scent^ into the healthy fresh- 
ness of the spring morning — the delicious spring, which 
always brought back to Edna the days of her childhood, 
and, though it came late, and long afterwards, the spring- 
time of her happy love. This was twenty years ago, and 
yet, at scent of violets and primroses, and singing of nest- 
making birds, every year it came back again fresh as yes- 
terday. It did now, when she thought of going home to 
her own blessed home, from which, in all her married life, 
she had never been absent so long. 

^' I must be gone, indeed. I have not another moment 
to spare." 

" Stay," said Letty, hesitating. " What hour do you go 
to the station ? Let me send my carriage to take you — ^it 
would be easier than a fly— and — ^I should rather like to 
do It." 

But Edna declined. Kindly as she felt towards her sis- 
ter, to accept favors from her was impossible. 

"Ah, well, perhaps you know best. Julius might not 
have liked it ; and, after all, it might have looked a little 

T2 



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442 THE woman's kingdom. 

peculiar. So good-bye, Edna. Remember me kindly to 
all at home." 

So the sisters parted, indefinitely, without hinting at any 
future meeting. They were so different in themselves, and 
their lives had grown so wide apart, that much personal 
association would have been worse than foolish — fatal. It 
was far best that each should go her own way, until, or un- 
less, the infinite chances and changes of this world should 
bring about a future which now seemed impossible — ^as im- 
possible as that the dead should come to life again, and 
the lost be found. Yet this had been. 

As Edna crossed the park, her heart lightened almost 
into mirth by the gladness of the glad spring morning, 
and thought of Julius, whom she was this day taking 
home, with a wondering thankfulness almost equal to that 
with which the sisters of Bethany took home their brother 
Lazarus — it seemed to her as if, unto Infinite Mercy, noth- 
ing were impossible. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

When his sister-in-law entered his room, Julius was 
already up and dressed, in the clothes to which they had 
gradually accustomed him — Edna having spirited away 
the old regimentals, with every thing that could remind 
him of his former life. To put it all behind him, and help 
him to begin anew, so far as there was any new life left in 
him, was their grand aim ; and, so far, they had succeeded. 

"Doesn't he look a sweet, dear fellow, ma'am, and not 
so very ill, after all ?" said Mrs. Fox, who had hovered 
about him the last day or two with a tenderness indescrib- 
able. 

Julius took the old woman's hand — her rough working 
hand — and kissed it with something of his old chivalrous 
air, which had made him, even under his rags and tatters, 
still so completely, often so painfully, " the gentleman." 

" It is all owing to you, and my sister there, that the 
* dear fellow ' is not under ground now. Off with you, Mrs. 



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THE woman's kingdom. 443 

Fox, and cook my last dinner for me in your own perfect 
style. I'm so hungry." 

"Bless you for that, my dear* Mr. Stedman," said the 
good landlady as she hurried away; and then Julius 
turned to Edna with a keen inquiry. 

"You were out this morning. Where have you been?" 

She never thought of answering other than the direct 
trath. 

" I have been across the park, to see my sister. I want- 
ed to bid her good-bye before leaving this place, as she 
and I are not likely to meet again soon." 

" You do not often meet ?" 

"No." • 

" Did you give her my message ?" 

"Word for word." 

These were the sole questions he asked ; indeed, it was 
the only time he mentioned Letty. Nay, when, on their 
way to the station, they met her carriage, and, to Edna's 
utter amazement, Mrs. Vanderdecken bent forward to bow 
and smile— altogether the courteous and stately Mrs. Van- 
derdecken — Julius returned the salute as he would have 
done to any other lady, and then leaned back, taking no 
more notice of her than if she had been a stranger. 

But he did take notice, in a way that to Edna was in- 
finitely pathetic, of every thing around them in the out- 
side world, which seemed as fresh to him as if he had never 
seen it before. He examined, with that keen, artistic eye 
of his, every bit of landscape that Edna pointed out to 
amuse him ; saw the primroses peeping through the road- 
side coppices, and the merry little birds flitting in and out 
— ^^nest-building — among the hedges as they passed. And 
though, when they reached the railway, he seemed to 
shrink a little from the sight of human beings, and en- 
treated that they might have a carriage all to themselves, 
still there was no morbid misery in his aspect, and no bit- 
terness in his words. He seemed weak and weary— that 
was alL Only sometimes, in words he let fall — for he did 
not express it directly — there was the sad longing for rest, 
mingled with what seemed an unconscious echo of the 



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444 THB WOMAlf's KINGDOM. 

Psalmist'^ cry, " Oh, spare me a little, that I may recover 
my strength, before I go^ hence, and be no more seen !" 

At the London terminus William met them, and, almost 
without saying a word — he seemed as if he could not 
speak — half led, half, carried his brother to his carriage. 

" This is your own brougham, I see. You are a pros- 
perous man now. Will," said Julius, feebly smiling. 

And then he lay back, exhausted, and scarcely conscious 
of what was passing, till Edna thought that his "going 
hence " was a possibility by no means far off. Still, if he 
died, he would die at home I 

Home ! A little, little word — only four letters — a thing 
easy to be had, and yet some never have it — ^never know 
what it means, in all their lives. 

Some do not care for it, either ; Edna had once thought 
that Julius did not — ^but she changed her opinion now. 

When they brought him, with considerable difficulty, to 
the large upper chamber, once the twins' nursery, but from 
which they had delightedly retired, on promotion, in favor 
of Uncle Julius — he looked around the room with a strange, 
sad, wondering air. 

" How pretty !" he said ; and then, " How comfortable 1" 

It was both — having been arranged, half as a bedfoom, 
half as a sitting-room, with all the skill that his sister 
could devise, and his brother carry out. But, as the sick 
man sank into the easy-chair by the fire, and drew close 
to the blaze, shivering, though it was May — Edna and 
William turned away, almost ready to weep. For he 
looked so frail, so feeble — as if, let them kill the fatted 
calf, and bring the purple robe as they would — the festive 
food might drop untasted from his lips, and the raiment 
of welcome be used only to wrap the pale limbs of the 
dead. 

Things seemed dreary enough for some hours. The first 
excitement of his journey over — the first pleasure of find- 
ing himself in a real home — his brother's home, with all 
the old comforts about him, and, above all, the love that 
made comforts quite secondary things — Julius broke down. 
With a great and bitter cry about his own "unworthi- 



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THE woman's kingdom. 445 

ness,'' he turned his face to the wall, and sank into a par- 
oxysm of despair. 

" It is no use — ^it is all of no use. I am like that wreck 
off the Isle of Wight, which we used to watch — do you 
remember, Edna, how they tried and tried to save it, but 
could not ? You can not. This poor, ruined, wasted life 
of mine — you had better let it go down." 
. " No," said Will. " No, we'll never let it go down." 

"And that wreck was not a wreck, after all, Julius," said 
Edna, cheerfully. "After months of labor they got her 
safe off, and now she goes sailing over the seas as bravely 
as ever." 

"Does she, really?" said Julius, with a strange, super- 
stitious feeling, that brightened him, in spite of himself, 
for a moment. 

" Yes ; for I saw her name in the * shipping intelligence ' 
only two months agoi She has ceased to be A 1, of course, 
by this time; but she is a capital ship still, and sails 
steadily between here and America." 

" You don't say so ?" cried Julius, rousing himself with 
a childish interest. But the momentary brightness soon 
faded, and he fell back into his former depression. 

Will signed to his wife to go, and joined her a minute 
afterwards on the stair-head. 

" Oh, husband, this is very hard." 

" No ; I expected it. We must have patience. The evil 
of years is not conquered in a day." 

" But have you any hope ?" 

" While there is life there is hope. And then, we know, 
another and a safer Hope begms. I should not lose it, I 
trust, even if after all our care He took Julius out of our 
hands, and said, * Give Me thy brother.' " 

William was deeply affected ; but still, his wife saw, he 
was determined not to yield to despair. She put her arms 
round his neck. 

"Yes ; we'll hope still, and strive on, to the last. And 
however it ends, you have still me and the children." 

She went down stairs and collected round her her eager 
little flock, whom their eldest brother had cleverly con- 



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446 THB woman's kingdom, 

trived to keep out of the way till now. She tried to sun 
herself in their merry, loving faces, unseen for so long ; to 
hear all their history since she was away ; and answer, so 
far as she thought it well, their endless questions about 
her own. But in the midst of them all, half her heart 
went back to the lonely, childless man up stairs, whose 
blighted and blasted life contrasted so bitterly with her 
own full harvest of content. And when she looked round 
on her five boys, she thought, what if it were one day with 
any of them as with Julius, when there was no father's 
house to come to, no mother's bosom to shelter in ? And 
she grew almost sick with fear and sad outlooking to the 
future, till William appeared. It was the blessedness of 
Edna's life that strength, comfort, and peace always came 
to her with the sight of her husband. 

"How is he?" 

"He is asleep," said Will. "And now let me come and 
sit in my old place, and let all go on as usual." 

Taking up his newspaper, he pretended to read, but 
soon stopped to possess himself of his wife's hand, the 
small, soft hand, lovely still, though, like herself, it was 
fading a little — changing into that sweet decline which is 
scarcely like growing old. 

" Oh, how delicious it is to have you at home ! How- 
different the house looks, boys, now your mother has come 
back!" 

" If she had staid much longer," said Robert, indignant- 
ly, "I think we should have gone and fetched her back — 
from Uncle Julius or any body. If she ever goes away 
again — ^" 

" Nay, I shall never go away again. Never, I hope, 
till—" 

But when the mother saw the bright faces all fixed on 
hers, and looking to her for their very light of life, her 
heart failed her : she could not finish the sentence. 

Soon all the evening routine went on as usual, broken 
only by those bursts of family fun, so small in repetition, 
so great in enjoyment ; foolish family jokes, which broth- 
ers and sisters recall afterwards, when scattered far and 



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THB woman's kingdom. 447 

wide, as having been the best jokes in the world. Grad- 
ually the troubled elders were won, too, from their cares, 
and relaxed into the pleasure of their children. The mirth 
was at its loudest — the boys laughing so that Edna could 
hardly hear herself speak — when the door opened, and 
there stood^ in front of his brother's bright hearth and 
circle of happy children. Uncle Julius. 

He was so pale, so haggard, his eyes so sad and wild, 
that the little twins gave a scream, and even Will, who 
was a boy given to poetic imaginings, shrunk back as if 
he had seen a ghost. 

Julius saw this — saw them all. In a moment the door 
would have been shut again, and the apparition vanished, 
but Dr. Stedman darted forward, caught him, and brought 
him in. 

"No, no. Let me go back again. Never mind me, 
Will. I am used to be alone." 

And even when he was coaxed forward, and seated in 
his brother's own comfortable easy-chair, he shrank and 
shivered, like a person who has so long been out in the 
dark and cold that the light only dazzles him, and reviv- 
ing warmth gives actual pain. 

"Indeed, I'll not intrude," he said, nervously, to Edna. 
"You are all so merry. here. I can go up to my room 
again. I only came down because I was restless — so rest- 
less ; and I thought I should like to see you all." 

"And here we all are ; and every one of us is delighted 
to see Uncle Julius," said the mother, in her cheerfullest 
and most every-day tone. " Boys, come here, and let me 
exhibit you to your uncle." 

Somewhat shyly, for they owned afterwards he was 
quite different to what they had expected — not at all 
their hero of romance, the ideal " uncle from India " — ^the 
lads .came forward, one and one. He shook hands with 
them timidly — as afraid of them as they of him; and 
tried, with a great effort, to distinguish their ages, and 
learn to call them by their right Christian names. But 
his mind seemed feeble and confused, and very soon his 
interest in them flagged, his eyes grew dull and heavy, 



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448 THB woman's kingdom. 

and he looked piteously at his brother, as if for protection 
against this new, old, dreadful world. 

"It is all so strange, Will; I can't understand it." 

" Don't try to understand it, dear old boy. Every thing 
will come right presently. Sit still here, and we will go 
on just as if you were not present. You will get accus- 
tomed to us soon." 

"Shall I? But no matter, it's not for long — ^I hope not 
for long." And then, as if struck by a sudden apprehen- 
sion, he called his brother back, and whispered, hurriedly, 
" Wbat do they know about me — all these lads ? Are you 
not afraid to bring me among your sons ?" 

Will smiled. 

" I might barm them, you know. At any rate, they will 
be ashamed of me, and so will you. Do you remember " — 
half his talk now consisted of his pathetic " do you remem- 
ber" — "that picture I sat for,* In another man's garden?' 
You laughed at it then ; but it has all come true. The 
poor vagabond, looking on at his brother's happiness : it's 
just like me now, isn't it, Edna ? Nay, I beg your pardon, 
my good little sister. I did not see you were crying." He 
held out his hand, and pressed hers tenderly. 

" Behave better, then, Brother Julius, or I'll not be good 
to you any more. And talking of pictures I think you, 
will not be the only artist in the family. Will, my son, 
come over here, and show your drawings to your uncle." 

This was a grand stroke of policy on Edna's part. Jul- 
ius roused himself, like a dying war-horse at sound of the 
trumpet, and examined keenly, first the sketches, and then 
the face of his young nephew, so curiously like his own. 

" Sixteen are you, my boy ? I was sixteen once, and 
people called me clever, and said I should make a great 
painter some day. But that is all past and gone. Ah me I" 

He leaned back with a groan; and that sharp agony, 
perhaps the sharpest next to actual guilt that any man 
can know, the remorse over a wasted life, came over him 
heavy and sore. 

Edna was sending her son away ; but the next moment, 
in one of his strange, fitful fluctuations, Julius looked up. 



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THS woman's kingdom. 449 

" Don't disappoint the boy, if, as you said, he wants me 
to look over his drawings. Give me them again." 

They were very good for so young a draughtsman, and 
well chosen, being chiefly copied from the grand old Elgin 
marbles. As he turned them over, the eyes of the sick 
man began to glow. 

"Ah ! this is well done, and this — all except the arm. 
But that bit of foreshortening is difficult. I remember 
how it bothered me when I drew it at the Academy. It 
was my best drawing, though ; but I think yours is better 
stiU." 

And he regarded, with his observant artist-eye, but also 
with a sad, half-tender interest, the little fellow who, his 
face hot with happy blushes, knelt at his side ; then put 
his hand on his nephew's shoulder. 

"Any thing more to show me, my boy? Any thing of 
your very own ?" 

Shyly enough young Will drew from the very bottom 
of his port-folio a page of heads, which, when his mother 
saw, she wished had been at the bottom of the sea. But 
it was too late. 

Uncle Julius started. " What is this ?" 

" It is Aunt Letty. I try to draw her over and over 
again from memory; but I can't succeed. She has the 
loveliest face in all the world," added the boy, growing 
quite excited. " Did you ever see her?" 

Edna's heart almost stopped beating. 

" Yes, I have seen her." 

"And do you think you could draw her? From mem- 
ory? You might. No one who had once seen Aunt 
Letty could ever forget her," 

" No." 

With a calmness that almost startled Edna — only she 
had ceased to be surprised at any thing now — Julius took 
up a crayon, and eyed it tenderly as he did so. 

" I don't know if I can use this. It is years since I have 
touched a pencil — years !" 

" Please try," entreated Will, creeping up to his uncle, 
as if he had an especial property in him. Truly, if the 



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450 THB woman's kingdom. 

younger generation sometimes *' push us from our stools," 
they have likewise a wonderful power of soothing, and 
can often heal over the past, which theyin their innocence 
annul and ignore. 

The five boys all crowded round, watching, with differ- 
ent degrees of curiosity, the beautiful face growing under 
Uncle Julius's hand, which, in the eagerness of its long- 
forsaken labor, gradually became firm and bold. It seem- 



OIVLT A FAOB. 



ed as if the artist's pure delight in work for work's sake 
were faintly dawning in him again. When the sketch 
was done, he held it at arm's-length, critically yet tender- 
ly. It was Aunt Letty — feature by feature, as the boys 
at once exclaimed. Only, not Aunt Letty as she looked 
now. It was the face, young and fresh and sweet, of love- 
ly Letty Kenderdine. 

" Yes ; that will do, I think," said Uncle Julius, holding 
it at arm's-length, and looking at it. "As you say, my 



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451 

boy, it is the most beautiful fece in all the world — but 
only a face. I have drawn it many times : now I shall 
never draw it any more. Put it away." 

Will obeyed, but shortly afterwards came and settled 
himself beside his uncle, to whom from that hour he at- 
tached himself with a devotedness ^hat nothing ever al- 
tered, though it was long before it was either noticed or 
returned. 

Yet, until the children went to bed. Uncle Julius roused 
himself from time to time out of his drowsy weakness and 
sad preoccupation, to observe them a little, with a half 
inquisitive, half melancholy curiosity, as if trying to fath- 
om the mystery of these young Hves, which had been 
growing up, as it were, on the ruins of his own, and to 
trace in the new faces glimpses of the old familiar ones — 
now fading, fast fading, as we all do fade. 

" Five sons ! five hostages to fortune, as people say. 
Will, your name is not likely to cease out of the earth." 

" Our name, Julius," said Will, tenderly. 

"Fine fellows they are, and, I dare say, you and their 
mother are very proud of them ; but I thought — some- 
body must have told me, only my memory is so bad now 
— there was a little girl too — ^Edna, I should have liked so 
much a little girl of yours." 

William touched his brother on the arm to enjoin si- 
lence, and glanced uneasily at his wife. But Edna had 
heard. 

" Yes," she said, speaking in a low Toice, but quite calm- 
ly, " yes, I had a little girl once, but God took her. I have 
learned now to be happy in my boys." 

Julius looked intently at his sister-in-law, as she sat 
there, wife and mother, fulfilling all her duties, and rejoic- 
ing in all her joys ; and saw something in her face which 
he had never noticed before, which showed that she, too, 
had known sorrow, and been taught the hard lesson which 
we all have to learn soon or late, in one form or other — ^to 
be content, not only with what is given, but with what is 
taken away. And the solitary, broken-down man, who had 
suffered so much, but whose suffering was always in and for 



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452 THB woman's kingdom. 

himself, recognized, probably for the first time in his life, 
but with a force the effect of which was never afterwards 
obliterated, that there might be griefs of which he knew 
nothing, and in which he had never attempted to sympa- 
thize, yet which were in reality as sharp, or sharper, than 
his own. * 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



It might have been best, according to poetical justice, 
and certainly as to tragical effect, that Julius Stedman 
should die— die in the odor of sanctity and the arms of 
his brother and sister, leaving to them a perpetual regret, 
and to his faithless Letty a perpetual punishment. But 
Heaven's justice is not always "poetical," and Heaven's 
mercy is above all. Sometimes — most often — it is shown 
in that blessed death which alone can retrieve all things, 
give to the wanderer home, and the weary rest ; but in 
this present case it was not so. 

Julius did not die. In spite of his own prognostica- 
tions and his brother's still more serious fears, he began 
to amend ; very slowly at first, with many retrogressions, 
still it was an amendment. The most fatal element of 
destruction in his career, his opium-eating, had not, hap- 
pily, been of sufficiently long standing to be incurable ; 
and after his illness he conceived a horror of it, and nev- 
er touched it more. Nevertheless, his constitution was 
so shaken tblii; in all human probability, nothing except 
his brother's great medical skill, in addition to constant 
watching, could have saved him ; but he was saved. At 
least he was gradually brought into a state of convales- 
cence — a sort of moonlight existence, compared to the full 
day of health and strength — yet calm and quiet enough, 
so as to make his life bearable to himself, and, by-and-by, 
no very great burden upon other people — a condition which 
would have been to him ten times worse than death. 

Whether he will have a long life is doubtful Proba- 
bly not ; for, at best, his was a temperament in which the 



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463 

sword early wears out the scabbard By fifty Julius Sted- 
man will be quite an old man ; as, indeed, he often looks 
now. But the value of life consists not in its length ; and 
his is now as full as it used to be empty. 

He still lives, nominally, in his brother's house, though 
he is frequently absent from it, for he hates London, and 
enjoys, with all his heart, the little cottage at Sevenoaks, 
which, though silently given" up for one summer — Julius 
never learned why — was taken the next, bought by Dr. 
Stedman, and presented formally to his wife, to be a per- 
petual delight unto her and all the family. 

There, in the deep peace of country life, Julius spends 
his days, mostly all the year roimd, keeping house in the 
absence of his brother and sister; and painting a good 
deal, though not at his former large subjects. Like many 
other people, as he grew older he grew much simpler in 
his tastes — humbler, too, and doubtful of his own powers ; 
so that he contents himself with sitting at the feet of gen- 
tle Mother Nature, and reproducing her in lovely little 
"bits," which people call pre-Raffaelite — pictures which, 
unpretending as they are, have such a reality, and often 
such a deep pathos about them, that they are always ad- 
mired, and, moreover, sold — a circumstance of no slight 
importance to the artist, since as long as a fragment of 
health and life remained in him, Julius would have been 
far too honest and honorable to subsist upon another man's 
bounty, even though that man were his own brother. 

As it is, he earns quite enough money to maintain him- 
self in the moderate way, which is all he cares for now, 
for his ambition has long died out, and his extremely pre- 
carious health will always prevent his working as hard as 
those must work who would attain eminence in any thing. 
He himself will nev6r become a great artist — he knows 
that — but he is bent upon making one of his nephew 
Will. 

There are few things more touching, and at the same 
time more ennobling, than the intense devotion of a young 
man to an elder one ; and Will is devoted heart and soul 
to a passionate extent — which his father and mother, 



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454 

though not a bit jealous, are Bometimes half frightened at 
— to his uncle Julius. The two are constantly together, 
and have been, ever since Dr. Stedman, for both their 
sakes, and at their earnest entreaty, allowed his son to be- 
gin, regularly and decisively, the career of an artist. So 
Uncle Julius and his nephew are sworn companions, de- 
lighting in one another's society, and bound together by a 
tie as close as that of brothera, and as reverently tender as 
that between father and son. In his great love for the 
boy, and his eager anticipations of Will's future, Julius 
Stedman has a life neither forlorn nor unhappy, for he has 
learned to place his happiness on something out of him- 
self—to help to win for another the fame that can never 
be his own. When he looks at young Will, and hears him 
praised on every hand, he feels that his own name will not 
be quite blotted out, nor his memory forgotten upon earth, 
even though he should die an old bachelor, wifeless and 
childless. 

He has never again seen Mrs. Vanderdecken. She lives 
still at Holywell Hall, in great honor and undiminished 
wealth, flourishing like a green bay-tree, except that — 
poor woman — she can not fairly be likened to " the wick- 
ed." She is not wicked, only weak. Her little daughter 
loves her dearly, and has unlimited influence over her, so 
that Gertrude has no difficulty in obtaining leave to visit 
Aunt Edna whenever she chooses — at whose house, of 
course, she meets Uncle Julius, in whom she was quick 
enough at once to recognize her friend, Mr. Stone. But 
Gertrude has tact and delicacy enough not to take notice 
of this, except confidentially to her aunt Edna. Nor does 
Julius Stedman take much notice of her ; but Julius the 
younger does, showing as fatal a predilection for her sweet 
little plain face, so loving and sensible, kind and true, as 
his uncle did for her mother's. This new little romance 
may, alas ! cause mischief some time ; for Dr. and Mrs. 
Stedman dislike the idea of cousins marrying : still, they 
will never imagine themselves wiser than Providence, but, 
if any serious attachment should occur, will leave their 
children's choice in their own hands. 



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THB woman's kingdom. 455 

Mra. Vanderdecken herself never comes to visit her sis- 
ter. That sad cowardliness, that weak shrinking from all 
things difficult or painful, which had been the bane of her 
life — ^nay, of more lives than her own — haunts her still. 
Yet poor Letty has her good points, growing better as she 
grows older, through the influence of her child. She is 
always ready to do a kindness that does not give her very 
much trouble, and she is not a bad wife to her disagreea- 
ble old husband, who leads her any thing but an easy life. 
There is many a small skeleton hid in the cupboard at 
Holywell Hall, but outside her home she enjoys a good 
deal both of pleasantness and popularity, being a very 
important person in her neighborhood, where every body 
agrees that Mrs. Vanderdecken is not only the handsom- 
est, but the most charmbg, of middle-aged women. 

Every body does not say that of her sister, by any means, 
for Mrs. Stedman is one of those women who live so entire- 
ly within their own family, that beyond it they are little 
known, and not half appreciated. But those who really 
do know her, love her; and those who know her best love 
her most of all. 

She and her husband are still in the prime of life, or at 
least only beginning to descend the brow of the hill which 
their children are climbing so fast. All good children — 
diligent, upright, affectionate, honorable; no "black sheep" 
has yet been found in that happy little flock, out of which 
the only one lost is the little one — ^not lost, but gone be- 
fore. Very few families can say as much ; but then, very 
few are blessed with such parents as William and Edna. 

They have, to all appearance, half their life's work, and 
enjoyment too, still before them ; but who can tell ? How- 
ever, they have learned not to be afraid of evil tidings ; 
for their hearts stand fast, trusting in one another, and in 
the Lord. Only sometimes, when they feel — ^^this husband 
and wife — how very close they have grown together, and 
how impossible it is even to conceive the idea of being 
apart, a vague dread comes over them, followed by an un- 
spoken prayer. 

Such an one was in Edna's eyes, at breakfast one mom- 



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466 THE woman's kingdom^ 

ing, when she looked up at her husband, and silently point- 
ed out an obituary notice in the Times: 

''Died — Isaac Marchmont, Esq., merchant, aged 84; and, two days 
afterwards, aged 80, Elizabeth Lilias, his wife." 

" What is that ?" asked Uncle Julius — and they passed 
round the newspaper to him without a word. 

" One can hardly be sorry," said Edna, at last. " They 
had such a long life together ; and, except for the loss of 
dear Lily, it was a very happy life — I used sometimes to 
fancy almost as happy as our own. And this," she added, 
softly, as her hand sought her husband's, " this — their .dy- 
ing within two days of another — seems to me the happiest 
lotofalL" 

" I think so too," said William Stedman. 

Julius turned, and suddenly regarded his brother and 
sister with those wonderful dark eyes of his — very quiet 
eyes now, for the fire of passion had all burned oat of 
them — a little sad at times, though not painfully so — but 
bright with a strange, far-away look, such as those have to 
whom life has been such sharp suffering that even in their 
most restful seasons the other world seems sweeter and 
nearer than this one. He seemed to understand what they 
were talking about — he understood so many things now 
— ^griefs which he himself had never known, and joys in 
which he could never more have any part. 

" Will and Edna," whispered he, affectionately, " I think 
I guess what you mean. You would fain go together — 
and I go alone. But we shall all meet there. I know that 
now. May God give you your heart's desire !" 

He rose, and leaning a moment on Will's shoulder as he 
passed him, kissed Edna, and went away up stairs to his 
own peaceful, solitary room. 



THE END. 



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