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I Say No
Wilkie Collins




BOOK THE FIRST--AT SCHOOL.

CHAPTER I.

THE SMUGGLED SUPPER.

Outside the bedroom the night was black and still.

The small rain fell too softly to be heard in the garden; not a
leaf stirred in the airless calm; the watch-dog was asleep, the
cats were indoors; far or near, under the murky heaven, not a
sound was stirring.

Inside the bedroom the night was black and still.

Miss Ladd knew her business as a schoolmistress too well to allow
night-lights; and Miss Ladd's young ladies were supposed to be
fast asleep, in accordance with the rules of the house. Only at
intervals the silence was faintly disturbed, when the restless
turning of one of the girls in her bed betrayed itself by a
gentle rustling between the sheets. In the long intervals of
stillness, not even the softly audible breathing of young
creatures asleep was to be heard.

The first sound that told of life and movement revealed the
mechanical movement of the clock. Speaking from the lower
regions, the tongue of Father Time told the hour before midnight.

A soft voice rose wearily near the door of the room. It counted
the strokes of the clock--and reminded one of the girls of the
lapse of time.

"Emily! eleven o'clock."

There was no reply. After an interval the weary voice tried
again, in louder tones:

"Emily!"

A girl, whose bed was at the inner end of the room, sighed under
the heavy heat of the night--and said, in peremptory tones, "Is
that Cecilia?"

"Yes."

"What do you want?"

"I'm getting hungry, Emily. Is the new girl asleep?"

The new girl answered promptly and spitefully, "No, she isn't."

Having a private object of their own in view, the five wise
virgins of Miss Ladd's first class had waited an hour, in wakeful
anticipation of the falling asleep of the stranger--and it had
ended in this way! A ripple of laughter ran round the room. The
new girl, mortified and offended, entered her protest in plain
words.

"You are treating me shamefully! You all distrust me, because I
am a stranger."

"Say we don't understand you," Emily answered, speaking for her
schoolfellows; "and you will be nearer the truth."

"Who expected you to understand me, when I only came here to-day?
I have told you already my name is Francine de Sor. If want to
know more, I'm nineteen years old, and I come from the West
Indies."

Emily still took the lead. "Why do you come _here?_" she asked.
"Who ever heard of a girl joining a new school just before the
holidays? You are nineteen years old, are you? I'm a year younger
than you--and I have finished my education. The next big girl in
the room is a year younger than me--and she has finished her
education. What can you possibly have left to learn at your age?"

"Everything!" cried the stranger from the West Indies, with an
outburst of tears. "I'm a poor ignorant creature. Your education
ought to have taught you to pity me instead of making fun of me.
I hate you all. For shame, for shame!"

Some of the girls laughed. One of them--the hungry girl who had
counted the strokes of the clock--took Francine's part.

"Never mind their laughing, Miss de Sor. You are quite right, you
have good reason to complain of us."

Miss de Sor dried her eyes. "Thank you--whoever you are," she
answered briskly.

"My name is Cecilia Wyvil," the other proceeded. "It was not,
perhaps, quite nice of you to say you hated us all. At the same
time we have forgotten our good breeding--and the least we can do
is to beg your pardon."

This expression of generous sentiment appeared to have an
irritating effect on the peremptory young person who took the
lead in the room. Perhaps she disapproved of free trade in
generous sentiment.

"I can tell you one thing, Cecilia," she said; "you shan't beat
ME in generosity. Strike a light, one of you, and lay the blame
on me if Miss Ladd finds us out. I mean to shake hands with the
new girl--and how can I do it in the dark? Miss de Sor, my name's
Brown, and I'm queen of the bedroom. I--not Cecilia--offer our
apologies if we have offended you. Cecilia is my dearest friend,
but I don't allow her to take the lead in the room. Oh, what a
lovely nightgown!"

The sudden flow of candle-light had revealed Francine, sitting up
in her bed, and displaying such treasures of real lace over her
bosom that the queen lost all sense of royal dignity in
irrepressible admiration. "Seven and sixpence," Emily remarked,
looking at her own night-gown and despising it. One after
another, the girls yielded to the attraction of the wonderful
lace. Slim and plump, fair and dark, they circled round the new
pupil in their flowing white robes, and arrived by common consent
at one and the same conclusion: "How rich her father must be!"

Favored by fortune in the matter of money, was this enviable
person possessed of beauty as well?

In the disposition of the beds, Miss de Sor was placed between
Cecilia on the right hand, and Emily on the left. If, by some
fantastic turn of events, a man--say in the interests of
propriety, a married doctor, with Miss Ladd to look after
him--had been permitted to enter the room, and had been asked
what he thought of the girls when he came out, he would not even
have mentioned Francine. Blind to the beauties of the expensive
night-gown, he would have noticed her long upper lip, her
obstinate chin, her sallow complexion, her eyes placed too close
together--and would have turned his attention to her nearest
neighbors. On one side his languid interest would have been
instantly roused by Cecilia's glowing auburn hair, her
exquisitely pure skin, and her tender blue eyes. On the other, he
would have discovered a bright little creature, who would have
fascinated and perplexed him at one and the same time. If he had
been questioned about her by a stranger, he would have been at a
loss to say positively whether she was dark or light: he would
have remembered how her eyes had held him, but he would not have
known of what color they were. And yet, she would have remained a
vivid picture in his memory when other impressions, derived at
the same time, had vanished. "There was one little witch among
them, who was worth all the rest put together; and I can't tell
you why. They called her Emily. If I wasn't a married man--"
There he would have thought of his wife, and would have sighed
and said no more.

While the girls were still admiring Francine, the clock struck
the half-hour past eleven.

Cecilia stole on tiptoe to the door--looked out, and
listened--closed the door again--and addressed the meeting with
the irresistible charm of her sweet voice and her persuasive
smile.

"Are none of you hungry yet?" she inquired. "The teachers are
safe in their rooms; we have set ourselves right with Francine.
Why keep the supper waiting under Emily's bed?"

Such reasoning as this, with such personal attractions to
recommend it, admitted of but one reply. The queen waved her hand
graciously, and said, "Pull it out."

Is a lovely girl--whose face possesses the crowning charm of
expression, whose slightest movement reveals the supple symmetry
of her figure--less lovely because she is blessed with a good
appetite, and is not ashamed to acknowledge it? With a grace all
her own, Cecilia dived under the bed, and produced a basket of
jam tarts, a basket of fruit and sweetmeats, a basket of
sparkling lemonade, and a superb cake--all paid for by general
subscriptions, and smuggled into the room by kind connivance of
the servants. On this occasion, the feast was especially
plentiful and expensive, in commemoration not only of the arrival
of the Midsummer holidays, but of the coming freedom of Miss
Ladd's two leading young ladies. With widely different destinies
before them, Emily and Cecilia had completed their school life,
and were now to go out into the world.

The contrast in the characters of the two girls showed itself,
even in such a trifle as the preparations for supper.

Gentle Cecilia, sitting on the floor surrounded by good things,
left it to the ingenuity of others to decide whether the baskets
should be all emptied at once, or handed round
 from bed to bed, one at a time. In the meanwhile, her lovely
blue eyes rested tenderly on the tarts.

Emily's commanding spirit seized on the reins of government, and
employed each of her schoolfellows in the occupation which she
was fittest to undertake. "Miss de Sor, let me look at your hand.
Ah! I thought so. You have got the thickest wrist among us; you
shall draw the corks. If you let the lemonade pop, not a drop of
it goes down your throat. Effie, Annis, Priscilla, you are three
notoriously lazy girls; it's doing you a true kindness to set you
to work. Effie, clear the toilet-table for supper; away with the
combs, the brushes, and the looking-glass. Annis, tear the leaves
out of your book of exercises, and set them out for plates. No!
I'll unpack; nobody touches the baskets but me. Priscilla, you
have the prettiest ears in the room. You shall act as sentinel,
my dear, and listen at the door. Cecilia, when you have done
devouring those tarts with your eyes, take that pair of scissors
(Miss de Sor, allow me to apologize for the mean manner in which
this school is carried on; the knives and forks are counted and
locked up every night)--I say take that pair of scissors,
Cecilia, and carve the cake, and don't keep the largest bit for
yourself. Are we all ready? Very well. Now take example by me.
Talk as much as you like, so long as you don't talk too loud.
There is one other thing before we begin. The men always propose
toasts on these occasions; let's be like the men. Can any of you
make a speech? Ah, it falls on me as usual. I propose the first
toast. Down with all schools and teachers--especially the new
teacher, who came this half year. Oh, mercy, how it stings!" The
fixed gas in the lemonade took the orator, at that moment, by the
throat, and effectually checked the flow of her eloquence. It
made no difference to the girls. Excepting the ease of feeble
stomachs, who cares for eloquence in the presence of a
supper-table? There were no feeble stomachs in that bedroom. With
what inexhaustible energy Miss Ladd's young ladies ate and drank!
How merrily they enjoyed the delightful privilege of talking
nonsense! And--alas! alas!--how vainly they tried, in after life,
to renew the once unalloyed enjoyment of tarts and lemonade!

In the unintelligible scheme of creation, there appears to be no
human happiness--not even the happiness of schoolgirls--which is
ever complete. Just as it was drawing to a close, the enjoyment
of the feast was interrupted by an alarm from the sentinel at the
door.

Put out the candle!" Priscilla whispered "Somebody on the
stairs."

CHAPTER II.

BIOGRAPHY IN THE BEDROOM.

The candle was instantly extinguished. In discreet silence the
girls stole back to their beds, and listened.

As an aid to the vigilance of the sentinel, the door had been
left ajar. Through the narrow opening, a creaking of the broad
wooden stairs of the old house became audible. In another moment
there was silence. An interval passed, and the creaking was heard
again. This time, the sound was distant and diminishing. On a
sudden it stopped. The midnight silence was disturbed no more.

What did this mean?

Had one among the many persons in authority under Miss Ladd's
roof heard the girls talking, and ascended the stairs to surprise
them in the act of violating one of the rules of the house? So
far, such a proceeding was by no means uncommon. But was it
within the limits of probability that a teacher should alter her
opinion of her own duty half-way up the stairs, and deliberately
go back to her own room again? The bare idea of such a thing was
absurd on the face of it. What more rational explanation could
ingenuity discover on the spur of the moment?

Francine was the first to offer a suggestion. She shook and
shivered in her bed, and said, "For heaven's sake, light the
candle again! It's a Ghost."

"Clear away the supper, you fools, before the ghost can report us
to Miss Ladd."

With this excellent advice Emily checked the rising panic. The
door was closed, the candle was lit; all traces of the supper
disappeared. For five minutes more they listened again. No sound
came from the stairs; no teacher, or ghost of a teacher, appeared
at the door.

Having eaten her supper, Cecilia's immediate anxieties were at an
end; she was at leisure to exert her intelligence for the benefit
of her schoolfellows. In her gentle ingratiating way, she offered
a composing suggestion. "When we heard the creaking, I don't
believe there was anybody on the stairs. In these old houses
there are always strange noises at night--and they say the stairs
here were made more than two hundred years since."

The girls looked at each other with a sense of relief--but they
waited to hear the opinion of the queen. Emily, as usual,
justified the confidence placed in her. She discovered an
ingenious method of putting Cecilia's suggestion to the test.

"Let's go on talking," she said. "If Cecilia is right, the
teachers are all asleep, and we have nothing to fear from them.
If she's wrong, we shall sooner or later see one of them at the
door. Don't be alarmed, Miss de Sor. Catching us talking at
night, in this school, only means a reprimand. Catching us with a
light, ends in punishment. Blow out the candle."

Francine's belief in the ghost was too sincerely superstitious to
be shaken: she started up in bed. "Oh, don't leave me in the
dark! I'll take the punishment, if we are found out."

"On your sacred word of honor?" Emily stipulated.

"Yes--yes."

The queen's sense of humor was tickled.

"There's something funny," she remarked, addressing her subjects,
"in a big girl like this coming to a new school and beginning
with a punishment. May I ask if you are a foreigner, Miss de
Sor?"

"My papa is a Spanish gentleman," Francine answered, with
dignity.

"And your mamma?"

"My mamma is English."

"And you have always lived in the West Indies?"

"I have always lived in the Island of St. Domingo."

Emily checked off on her fingers the different points thus far
discovered in the character of Mr. de Sor's daughter. "She's
ignorant, and superstitious, and foreign, and rich. My dear
(forgive the familiarity), you are an interesting girl--and we
must really know more of you. Entertain the bedroom. What have
you been about all your life? And what in the name of wonder,
brings you here? Before you begin I insist on one condition, in
the name of all the young ladies in the room. No useful
information about the West Indies!"

Francine disappointed her audience.

She was ready enough to make herself an object of interest to her
companions; but she was not possessed of the capacity to arrange
events in their proper order, necessary to the recital of the
simplest narrative. Emily was obliged to help her, by means of
questions. In one respect, the result justified the trouble taken
to obtain it. A sufficient reason was discovered for the
extraordinary appearance of a new pupil, on the day before the
school closed for the holidays.

Mr. de Sor's elder brother had left him an estate in St. Domingo,
and a fortune in money as well; on the one easy condition that he
continued to reside in the island. The question of expense being
now beneath the notice of the family, Francine had been sent to
England, especially recommended to Miss Ladd as a young lady with
grand prospects, sorely in need of a fashionable education. The
voyage had been so timed, by the advice of the schoolmistress, as
to make the holidays a means of obtaining this object privately.
Francine was to be taken to Brighton, where excellent masters
could be obtained to assist Miss Ladd. With six weeks before her,
she might in some degree make up for lost time; and, when the
school opened again, she would avoid the mortification of being
put down in the lowest class, along with the children.

The examination of Miss de Sor having produced these results was
pursued no further. Her character now appeared in a new, and not
very attractive, light. She audaciously took to herself the whole
credit of telling her story:

"I think it's my turn now," she said, "to be interested and
amused. May I ask you to begin, Miss Emily? All I know of you at
present is,  t hat your family name is Brown."

Emily held up her hand for silence.

Was the mysterious creaking on the stairs making itself heard
once more? No. The sound that had caught Emily's quick ear came
from the beds, on the opposite side of the room, occupied by the
three lazy girls. With no new alarm to disturb them, Effie,
Annis, and Priscilla had yielded to the composing influences of a
good supper and a warm night. They were fast asleep--and the
stoutest of the three (softly, as became a young lady) was
snoring!

The unblemished reputation of the bedroom was dear to Emily, in
her capacity of queen. She felt herself humiliated in the
presence of the new pupil.

"If that fat girl ever gets a lover," she said indignantly, "I
shall consider it my duty to warn the poor man before he marries
her. Her ridiculous name is Euphemia. I have christened her (far
more appropriately) Boiled Veal. No color in her hair, no color
in her eyes, no color in her complexion. In short, no flavor in
Euphemia. You naturally object to snoring. Pardon me if I turn my
back on you--I am going to throw my slipper at her."

The soft voice of Cecilia--suspiciously drowsy in
tone--interposed in the interests of mercy.

"She can't help it, poor thing; and she really isn't loud enough
to disturb us."

"She won't disturb _you_, at any rate! Rouse yourself, Cecilia.
We are wide awake on this side of the room--and Francine says
it's our turn to amuse her."

A low murmur, dying away gently in a sigh, was the only answer.
Sweet Cecilia had yielded to the somnolent influences of the
supper and the night. The soft infection of repose seemed to be
in some danger of communicating itself to Francine. Her large
mouth opened luxuriously in a long-continued yawn.

"Good-night!" said Emily.

Miss de Sor became wide awake in an instant.

"No," she said positively; "you are quite mistaken if you think I
am going to sleep. Please exert yourself, Miss Emily--I am
waiting to be interested."

Emily appeared to be unwilling to exert herself. She preferred
talking of the weather.

"Isn't the wind rising?" she said.

There could be no doubt of it. The leaves in the garden were
beginning to rustle, and the pattering of the rain sounded on the
windows.

Francine (as her straight chin proclaimed to all students of
physiognomy) was an obstinate girl. Determined to carry her point
she tried Emily's own system on Emily herself--she put questions.

"Have you been long at this school?"

"More than three years."

"Have you got any brothers and sisters?"

"I am the only child."

"Are your father and mother alive?"

Emily suddenly raised herself in bed.

"Wait a minute," she said; "I think I hear it again."

"The creaking on the stairs?"

"Yes."

Either she was mistaken, or the change for the worse in the
weather made it not easy to hear slight noises in the house. The
wind was still rising. The passage of it through the great trees
in the garden began to sound like the fall of waves on a distant
beach. It drove the rain--a heavy downpour by this time--rattling
against the windows.

"Almost a storm, isn't it?" Emily said

Francine's last question had not been answered yet. She took the
earliest opportunity of repeating it:

"Never mind the weather," she said. "Tell me about your father
and mother. Are they both alive?"

Emily's reply only related to one of her parents.

"My mother died before I was old enough to feel my loss."

"And your father?"

Emily referred to another relative--her father's sister. "Since I
have grown up," she proceeded, "my good aunt has been a second
mother to me. My story is, in one respect, the reverse of yours.
You are unexpectedly rich; and I am unexpectedly poor. My aunt's
fortune was to have been my fortune, if I outlived her. She has
been ruined by the failure of a bank. In her old age, she must
live on an income of two hundred a year--and I must get my own
living when I leave school."

"Surely your father can help you?" Francine persisted.

"His property is landed property." Her voice faltered, as she
referred to him, even in that indirect manner. "It is entailed;
his nearest male relative inherits it."

The delicacy which is easily discouraged was not one of the
weaknesses in the nature of Francine.

"Do I understand that your father is dead?" she asked.

Our thick-skinned fellow-creatures have the rest of us at their
mercy: only give them time, and they carry their point in the
end. In sad subdued tones--telling of deeply-rooted reserves of
feeling, seldom revealed to strangers--Emily yielded at last.

"Yes," she said, "my father is dead."

"Long ago?"

"Some people might think it long ago. I was very fond of my
father. It's nearly four years since he died, and my heart still
aches when I think of him. I'm not easily depressed by troubles,
Miss de Sor. But his death was sudden--he was in his grave when I
first heard of it--and-- Oh, he was so good to me; he was so good
to me!"

The gay high-spirited little creature who took the lead among
them all--who was the life and soul of the school--hid her face
in her hands, and burst out crying.

Startled and--to do her justice--ashamed, Francine attempted to
make excuses. Emily's generous nature passed over the cruel
persistency that had tortured her. "No no; I have nothing to
forgive. It isn't your fault. Other girls have not mothers and
brothers and sisters--and get reconciled to such a loss as mine.
Don't make excuses."

"Yes, but I want you to know that I feel for you," Francine
insisted, without the slightest approach to sympathy in face,
voice, or manner. "When my uncle died, and left us all the money,
papa was much shocked. He trusted to time to help him."

"Time has been long about it with me, Francine. I am afraid there
is something perverse in my nature; the hope of meeting again in
a better world seems so faint and so far away. No more of it now!
Let us talk of that good creature who is asleep on the other side
of you. Did I tell you that I must earn my own bread when I leave
school? Well, Cecilia has written home and found an employment
for me. Not a situation as governess--something quite out of the
common way. You shall hear all about it."

In the brief interval that had passed, the weather had begun to
change again. The wind was as high as ever; but to judge by the
lessening patter on the windows the rain was passing away.

Emily began.

She was too grateful to her friend and school-fellow, and too
deeply interested in her story, to notice the air of indifference
with which Francine settled herself on her pillow to hear the
praises of Cecilia. The most beautiful girl in the school was not
an object of interest to a young lady with an obstinate chin and
unfortunately-placed eyes. Pouring warm from the speaker's heart
the story ran smoothly on, to the monotonous accompaniment of the
moaning wind. By fine degrees Francine's eyes closed, opened and
closed again. Toward the latter part of the narrative Emily's
memory became, for the moment only, confused between two events.
She stopped to consider--noticed Francine's silence, in an
interval when she might have said a word of encouragement--and
looked closer at her. Miss de Sor was asleep.

"She might have told me she was tired," Emily said to herself
quietly. "Well! the best thing I can do is to put out the light
and follow her example."

As she took up the extinguisher, the bedroom door was suddenly
opened from the outer side. A tall woman, robed in a black
dressing-gown, stood on the threshold, looking at Emily.


CHAPTER III.

THE LATE MR. BROWN.

The woman's lean, long-fingered hand pointed to the candle.

"Don't put it out." Saying those words, she looked round the
room, and satisfied herself that the other girls were asleep.

Emily laid down the extinguisher. "You mean to report us, of
course," she said. "I am the only one awake, Miss Jethro; lay the
blame on me."

"I have no intention of reporting you. But I have something to
say."

She paused, and pushed her thick black hair (already streaked
with gray) back from her temples. Her eyes, large and dark and
dim, rested on Emily with a sorrowful interest. "When your young
friends wake to-morrow morning," she went on, "you can tell them
that the new teacher, whom nobody likes, has left the school."

For once, even quick-witted Emily was bewildered. "Going away,"
she said, "when you have only been here since Easter!"

Miss Jethro advanced, not noticing Emily's expression of
surprise. "I am not very strong at the best of times," she
continued, "may I sit down on your bed?" Remarkable on other
occasions for her cold composure, her voice trembled as she made
that request--a strange request surely, when there were chairs at
her disposal.

Emily made room for her with the dazed look of a girl in a dream.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Jethro, one of the things I can't endure
is being puzzled. If you don't mean to report us, why did you
come in and catch me with the light?"

Miss Jethro's explanation was far from relieving the perplexity
which her conduct had caused.

"I have been mean enough," she answered, "to listen at the door,
and I heard you talking of your father. I want to hear more about
him. That is why I came in."

"You knew my father!" Emily exclaimed.

"I believe I knew him. But his name is so common--there are so
many thousands of 'James Browns' in England--that I am in fear of
making a mistake. I heard you say that he died nearly four years
since. Can you mention any particulars which might help to
enlighten me? If you think I am taking a liberty--"

Emily stopped her. "I would help you if I could," she said. "But
I was in poor health at the time; and I was staying with friends
far away in Scotland, to try change of air. The news of my
father's death brought on a relapse. Weeks passed before I was
strong enough to travel--weeks and weeks before I saw his grave!
I can only tell you what I know from my aunt. He died of
heart-complaint."

Miss Jethro started.

Emily looked at her for the first time, with eyes that betrayed a
feeling of distrust. "What have I said to startle you?" she
asked.

"Nothing! I am nervous in stormy weather--don't notice me." She
went on abruptly with her inquiries. "Will you tell me the date
of your father's death?"

"The date was the thirtieth of September, nearly four years
since."

She waited, after that reply.

Miss Jethro was silent.

"And this," Emily continued, "is the thirtieth of June, eighteen
hundred and eighty-one. You can now judge for yourself. Did you
know my father?"

Miss Jethro answered mechanically, using the same words.

"I did know your father."

Emily's feeling of distrust was not set at rest. "I never heard
him speak of you," she said.

In her younger days the teacher must have been a handsome woman.
Her grandly-formed features still suggested the idea of imperial
beauty--perhaps Jewish in its origin. When Emily said, "I never
heard him speak of you," the color flew into her pallid cheeks:
her dim eyes became alive again with a momentary light. She left
her seat on the bed, and, turning away, mastered the emotion that
shook her.

"How hot the night is!" she said: and sighed, and resumed the
subject with a steady countenance. "I am not surprised that your
father never mentioned me--to _you_." She spoke quietly, but her
face was paler than ever. She sat down again on the bed. "Is
there anything I can do for you," she asked, "before I go away?
Oh, I only mean some trifling service that would lay you under no
obligation, and would not oblige you to keep up your acquaintance
with me."

Her eyes--the dim black eyes that must once have been
irresistibly beautiful--looked at Emily so sadly that the
generous girl reproached herself for having doubted her father's
friend. "Are you thinking of _him_," she said gently, "when you
ask if you can be of service to me?"

Miss Jethro made no direct reply. "You were fond of your father?"
she added, in a whisper. "You told your schoolfellow that your
heart still aches when you speak of him."

"I only told her the truth," Emily answered simply.

Miss Jethro shuddered--on that hot night!--shuddered as if a
chill had struck her.

Emily held out her hand; the kind feeling that had been roused in
her glittered prettily in her eyes. "I am afraid I have not done
you justice," she said. "Will you forgive me and shake hands?"

Miss Jethro rose, and drew back. "Look at the light!" she
exclaimed.

The candle was all burned out. Emily still offered her hand--and
still Miss Jethro refused to see it.

"There is just light enough left," she said, "to show me my way
to the door. Good-night--and good-by."

Emily caught at her dress, and stopped her. "Why won't you shake
hands with me?" she asked.

The wick of the candle fell over in the socket, and left them in
the dark. Emily resolutely held the teacher's dress. With or
without light, she was still bent on making Miss Jethro explain
herself.

They had throughout spoken in guarded tones, fearing to disturb
the sleeping girls. The sudden darkness had its inevitable
effect. Their voices sank to whispers now. "My father's friend,"
Emily pleaded, "is surely my friend?"

"Drop the subject."

"Why?"

"You can never be _my_ friend."

"Why not?"

"Let me go!"

Emily's sense of self-respect forbade her to persist any longer.
"I beg your pardon for having kept you here against your will,"
she said--and dropped her hold on the dress.

Miss Jethro instantly yielded on her side. "I am sorry to have
been obstinate," she answered. "If you do despise me, it is after
all no more than I have deserved." Her hot breath beat on Emily's
face: the unhappy woman must have bent over the bed as she made
her confession. "I am not a fit person for you to associate
with."

"I don't believe it!"

Miss Jethro sighed bitterly. "Young and warm hearted--I was once
like you!" She controlled that outburst of despair. Her next
words were spoken in steadier tones. "You _will_ have it--you
_shall_ have it!" she said. "Some one (in this house or out of
it; I don't know which) has betrayed me to the mistress of the
school. A wretch in my situation suspects everybody, and worse
still, does it without reason or excuse. I heard you girls
talking when you ought to have been asleep. You all dislike me.
How did I know it mightn't be one of you? Absurd, to a person
with a well-balanced mind! I went halfway up the stairs, and felt
ashamed of myself, and went back to my room. If I could only have
got some rest! Ah, well, it was not to be done. My own vile
suspicions kept me awake; I left my bed again. You know what I
heard on the other side of that door, and why I was interested in
hearing it. Your father never told me he had a daughter. 'Miss
Brown,' at this school, was any 'Miss Brown,' to me. I had no
idea of who you really were until to-night. I'm wandering. What
does all this matter to you? Miss Ladd has been merciful; she
lets me go without exposing me. You can guess what has happened.
No? Not even yet? Is it innocence or kindness that makes you so
slow to understand? My dear, I have obtained admission to this
respectable house by means of false references, and I have been
discovered. _Now_ you know why you must not be the friend of such
a woman as I am! Once more, good-night--and good-by."

Emily shrank from that miserable farewell.

"Bid me good-night," she said, "but don't bid me good-by. Let me
see you again."

"Never!"

The sound of the softly-closed door was just audible in the
darkness. She had spoken--she had gone--never to be seen by Emily
again.

Miserable, interesting, unfathomable creature--the problem that
night of Emily's waking thoughts: the phantom of her dreams.
"Bad? or good?" she asked herself. "False; for she listened at
the door. True; for she told me the tale of her own disgrace. A
friend of my father; and she never knew that he had a daughter.
Refined, accomplished, lady-like; and she stoops to use a false
reference. Who is to reconcile such contradictions as these?"

Dawn looked in at the window--dawn of the memorable day which
was, for Emily, the beginning of a new life. The years were
before her; and the years in their course reveal baffling
mysteries of life and death.


CHAPTER IV.

MISS LADD'S DRAWING-MASTER.

Francine was awakened the next morning by one of the housemaids,
bringing up her breakfast on a tray. Astonished at this
concession to laziness, i n an institution devoted to the
practice of all virtues, she looked round. The bedroom was
deserted.

"The other young ladies are as busy as bees, miss," the housemaid
explained. "They were up and dressed two hours ago: and the
breakfast has been cleared away long since. It's Miss Emily's
fault. She wouldn't allow them to wake you; she said you could be
of no possible use downstairs, and you had better be treated like
a visitor. Miss Cecilia was so distressed at your missing your
breakfast that she spoke to the housekeeper, and I was sent up to
you. Please to excuse it if the tea's cold. This is Grand Day,
and we are all topsy-turvy in consequence."

Inquiring what "Grand Day" meant, and why it produced this
extraordinary result in a ladies' school, Francine discovered
that the first day of the vacation was devoted to the
distribution of prizes, in the presence of parents, guardians and
friends. An Entertainment was added, comprising those merciless
tests of human endurance called Recitations; light refreshments
and musical performances being distributed at intervals, to
encourage the exhausted audience. The local newspaper sent a
reporter to describe the proceedings, and some of Miss Ladd's
young ladies enjoyed the intoxicating luxury of seeing their
names in print.

"It begins at three o'clock," the housemaid went on, "and, what
with practicing and rehearsing, and ornamenting the schoolroom,
there's a hubbub fit to make a person's head spin. Besides
which," said the girl, lowering her voice, and approaching a
little nearer to Francine, "we have all been taken by surprise.
The first thing in the morning Miss Jethro left us, without
saying good-by to anybody."

"Who is Miss Jethro?"

"The new teacher, miss. We none of us liked her, and we all
suspect there's something wrong. Miss Ladd and the clergyman had
a long talk together yesterday (in private, you know), and they
sent for Miss Jethro--which looks bad, doesn't it? Is there
anything more I can do for you, miss? It's a beautiful day after
the rain. If I was you, I should go and enjoy myself in the
garden."

Having finished her breakfast, Francine decided on profiting by
this sensible suggestion.

The servant who showed her the way to the garden was not
favorably impressed by the new pupil: Francine's temper asserted
itself a little too plainly in her face. To a girl possessing a
high opinion of her own importance it was not very agreeable to
feel herself excluded, as an illiterate stranger, from the one
absorbing interest of her schoolfellows. "Will the time ever
come," she wondered bitterly, "when I shall win a prize, and sing
and play before all the company? How I should enjoy making the
girls envy me!"

A broad lawn, overshadowed at one end by fine old trees--flower
beds and shrubberies, and winding paths prettily and invitingly
laid out--made the garden a welcome refuge on that fine summer
morning. The novelty of the scene, after her experience in the
West Indies, the delicious breezes cooled by the rain of the
night, exerted their cheering influence even on the sullen
disposition of Francine. She smiled, in spite of herself, as she
followed the pleasant paths, and heard the birds singing their
summer songs over her head.

Wandering among the trees, which occupied a considerable extent
of ground, she passed into an open space beyond, and discovered
an old fish-pond, overgrown by aquatic plants. Driblets of water
trickled from a dilapidated fountain in the middle. On the
further side of the pond the ground sloped downward toward the
south, and revealed, over a low paling, a pretty view of a
village and its church, backed by fir woods mounting the heathy
sides of a range of hills beyond. A fanciful little wooden
building, imitating the form of a Swiss cottage, was placed so as
to command the prospect. Near it, in the shadow of the building,
stood a rustic chair and table--with a color-box on one, and a
portfolio on the other. Fluttering over the grass, at the mercy
of the capricious breeze, was a neglected sheet of drawing-paper.
Francine ran round the pond, and picked up the paper just as it
was on the point of being tilted into the water. It contained a
sketch in water colors of the village and the woods, and Francine
had looked at the view itself with indifference--the picture of
the view interested her. Ordinary visitors to Galleries of Art,
which admit students, show the same strange perversity. The work
of the copyist commands their whole attention; they take no
interest in the original picture.

Looking up from the sketch, Francine was startled. She discovered
a man, at the window of the Swiss summer-house, watching her.

"When you have done with that drawing," he said quietly, "please
let me have it back again."

He was tall and thin and dark. His finely-shaped intelligent
face--hidden, as to the lower part of it, by a curly black
beard--would have been absolutely handsome, even in the eyes of a
schoolgirl, but for the deep furrows that marked it prematurely
between the eyebrows, and at the sides of the mouth. In the same
way, an underlying mockery impaired the attraction of his
otherwise refined and gentle manner. Among his fellow-creatures,
children and dogs were the only critics who appreciated his
merits without discovering the defects which lessened the
favorable appreciation of him by men and women. He dressed
neatly, but his morning coat was badly made, and his picturesque
felt hat was too old. In short, there seemed to be no good
quality about him which was not perversely associated with a
drawback of some kind. He was one of those harmless and luckless
men, possessed of excellent qualities, who fail nevertheless to
achieve popularity in their social sphere.

Francine handed his sketch to him, through the window; doubtful
whether the words that he had addressed to her were spoken in
jest or in earnest.

"I only presumed to touch your drawing," she said, "because it
was in danger."

"What danger?" he inquired.

Francine pointed to the pond. "If I had not been in time to pick
it up, it would have been blown into the water."

"Do you think it was worth picking up?"

Putting that question, he looked first at the sketch--then at the
view which it represented--then back again at the sketch. The
corners of his mouth turned upward with a humorous expression of
scorn. "Madam Nature," he said, "I beg your pardon." With those
words, he composedly tore his work of art into small pieces, and
scattered them out of the window.

"What a pity!" said Francine.

He joined her on the ground outside the cottage. "Why is it a
pity?" he asked.

"Such a nice drawing."

"It isn't a nice drawing."

"You're not very polite, sir."

He looked at her--and sighed as if he pitied so young a woman for
having a temper so ready to take offense. In his flattest
contradictions he always preserved the character of a
politely-positive man.

"Put it in plain words, miss," he replied. "I have offended the
predominant sense in your nature--your sense of self-esteem. You
don't like to be told, even indirectly, that you know nothing of
Art. In these days, everybody knows everything--and thinks
nothing worth knowing after all. But beware how you presume on an
appearance of indifference, which is nothing but conceit in
disguise. The ruling passion of civilized humanity is, Conceit.
You may try the regard of your dearest friend in any other way,
and be forgiven. Ruffle the smooth surface of your friend's
self-esteem--and there will be an acknowledged coolness between
you which will last for life. Excuse me for giving you the
benefit of my trumpery experience. This sort of smart talk is
_my_ form of conceit. Can I be of use to you in some better way?
Are you looking for one of our young ladies?"

Francine began to feel a certain reluctant interest in him when
he spoke of "our young ladies." She asked if he belonged to the
school.

The corners of his mouth turned up again. "I'm one of the
masters," he said. "Are _you_ going to belong to the school,
too?"

Francine bent her head, with a gravity and condescension intended
to keep him at his proper distance. Far from being discouraged,
he permitted his curiosity to t ake additional liberties. "Are
you to have the misfortune of being one of my pupils?" he asked.

"I don't know who you are."

"You won't be much wiser when you do know. My name is Alban
Morris."

Francine corrected herself. "I mean, I don't know what you
teach."

Alban Morris pointed to the fragments of his sketch from Nature.
"I am a bad artist," he said. "Some bad artists become Royal
Academicians. Some take to drink. Some get a pension. And some--I
am one of them--find refuge in schools. Drawing is an 'Extra' at
this school. Will you take my advice? Spare your good father's
pocket; say you don't want to learn to draw."

He was so gravely in earnest that Francine burst out laughing.
"You are a strange man," she said.

"Wrong again, miss. I am only an unhappy man."

The furrows in his face deepened, the latent humor died out of
his eyes. He turned to the summer-house window, and took up a
pipe and tobacco pouch, left on the ledge.

"I lost my only friend last year," he said. "Since the death of
my dog, my pipe is the one companion I have left. Naturally I am
not allowed to enjoy the honest fellow's society in the presence
of ladies. They have their own taste in perfumes. Their clothes
and their letters reek with the foetid secretion of the musk
deer. The clean vegetable smell of tobacco is unendurable to
them. Allow me to retire--and let me thank you for the trouble
you took to save my drawing."

The tone of indifference in which he expressed his gratitude
piqued Francine. She resented it by drawing her own conclusion
from what he had said of the ladies and the musk deer. "I was
wrong in admiring your drawing," she remarked; "and wrong again
in thinking you a strange man. Am I wrong, for the third time, in
believing that you dislike women?"

"I am sorry to say you are right," Alban Morris answered gravely.

"Is there not even one exception?"

The instant the words passed her lips, she saw that there was
some secretly sensitive feeling in him which she had hurt. His
black brows gathered into a frown, his piercing eyes looked at
her with angry surprise. It was over in a moment. He raised his
shabby hat, and made her a bow.

"There is a sore place still left in me," he said; "and you have
innocently hit it. Good-morning."

Before she could speak again, he had turned the corner of the
summer-house, and was lost to view in a shrubbery on the westward
side of the grounds.


CHAPTER V.

DISCOVERIES IN THE GARDEN.

Left by herself, Miss de Sor turned back again by way of the
trees.

So far, her interview with the drawing-master had helped to pass
the time. Some girls might have found it no easy task to arrive
at a true view of the character of Alban Morris. Francine's
essentially superficial observation set him down as "a little
mad," and left him there, judged and dismissed to her own entire
satisfaction.

Arriving at the lawn, she discovered Emily pacing backward and
forward, with her head down and her hands behind her, deep in
thought. Francine's high opinion of herself would have carried
her past any of the other girls, unless they had made special
advances to her. She stopped and looked at Emily.

It is the sad fate of little women in general to grow too fat and
to be born with short legs. Emily's slim finely-strung figure
spoke for itself as to the first of these misfortunes, and
asserted its happy freedom from the second, if she only walked
across a room. Nature had built her, from head to foot, on a
skeleton-scaffolding in perfect proportion. Tall or short matters
little to the result, in women who possess the first and foremost
advantage of beginning well in their bones. When they live to old
age, they often astonish thoughtless men, who walk behind them in
the street. "I give you my honor, she was as easy and upright as
a young girl; and when you got in front of her and looked--white
hair, and seventy years of age."

Francine approached Emily, moved by a rare impulse in her
nature--the impulse to be sociable. "You look out of spirits,"
she began. "Surely you don't regret leaving school?"

In her present mood, Emily took the opportunity (in the popular
phrase) of snubbing Francine. "You have guessed wrong; I do
regret," she answered. "I have found in Cecilia my dearest friend
at school. And school brought with it the change in my life which
has helped me to bear the loss of my father. If you must know
what I was thinking of just now, I was thinking or my aunt. She
has not answered my last letter--and I'm beginning to be afraid
she is ill."

"I'm very sorry," said Francine.

"Why? You don't know my aunt; and you have only known me since
yesterday afternoon. Why are you sorry?"

Francine remained silent. Without realizing it, she was beginning
to feel the dominant influence that Emily exercised over the
weaker natures that came in contact with her. To find herself
irresistibly attracted by a stranger at a new school--an
unfortunate little creature, whose destiny was to earn her own
living--filled the narrow mind of Miss de Sor with perplexity.
Having waited in vain for a reply, Emily turned away, and resumed
the train of thought which her schoolfellow had interrupted.



By an association of ideas, of which she was not herself aware,
she now passed from thinking of her aunt to thinking of Miss
Jethro. The interview of the previous night had dwelt on her mind
at intervals, in the hours of the new day.

Acting on instinct rather than on reason, she had kept that
remarkable incident in her school life a secret from every one.
No discoveries had been made by other persons. In speaking to her
staff of teachers, Miss Ladd had alluded to the affair in the
most cautious terms. "Circumstances of a private nature have
obliged the lady to retire from my school. When we meet after the
holidays, another teacher will be in her place." There, Miss
Ladd's explanation had begun and ended. Inquiries addressed to
the servants had led to no result. Miss Jethro's luggage was to
be forwarded to the London terminus of the railway--and Miss
Jethro herself had baffled investigation by leaving the school on
foot. Emily's interest in the lost teacher was not the transitory
interest of curiosity; her father's mysterious friend was a
person whom she honestly desired to see again. Perplexed by the
difficulty of finding a means of tracing Miss Jethro, she reached
the shady limit of the trees, and turned to walk back again.
Approaching the place at which she and Francine had met, an idea
occurred to her. It was just possible that Miss Jethro might not
be unknown to her aunt.

Still meditating on the cold reception that she had encountered,
and still feeling the influence which mastered her in spite of
herself, Francine interpreted Emily's return as an implied
expression of regret. She advanced with a constrained smile, and
spoke first.

"How are the young ladies getting on in the schoolroom?" she
asked, by way of renewing the conversation.

Emily's face assumed a look of surprise which said plainly, Can't
you take a hint and leave me to myself?

Francine was constitutionally impenetrable to reproof of this
sort; her thick skin was not even tickled. "Why are you not
helping them," she went on; "you who have the clearest head among
us and take the lead in everything?"

It may be a humiliating confession to make, yet it is surely true
that we are all accessible to flattery. Different tastes
appreciate different methods of burning incense--but the perfume
is more or less agreeable to all varieties of noses. Francine's
method had its tranquilizing effect on Emily. She answered
indulgently, "Miss de Sor, I have nothing to do with it."

"Nothing to do with it? No prizes to win before you leave
school?"

"I won all the prizes years ago."

"But there are recitations. Surely you recite?"

Harmless words in themselves, pursuing the same smooth course of
flattery as before--but with what a different result! Emily's
face reddened with anger the moment they were spoken. Having
already irritated Alban Morris, unlucky Francine, by a second
mischievous interposition of accident, had succeeded in making
Emily smart next. "Who has told you," she burst out; "I insist on
knowing!"

"Nobod y has told me anything!" Francine declared piteously.

"Nobody has told you how I have been insulted?"

"No, indeed! Oh, Miss Brown, who could insult _you?_"

In a man, the sense of injury does sometimes submit to the
discipline of silence. In a woman--never. Suddenly reminded of
her past wrongs (by the pardonable error of a polite
schoolfellow), Emily committed the startling inconsistency of
appealing to the sympathies of Francine!

"Would you believe it? I have been forbidden to recite--I, the
head girl of the school. Oh, not to-day! It happened a month
ago--when we were all in consultation, making our arrangements.
Miss Ladd asked me if I had decided on a piece to recite. I said,
'I have not only decided, I have learned the piece.' 'And what
may it be?' 'The dagger-scene in Macbeth.' There was a howl--I
can call it by no other name--a howl of indignation. A man's
soliloquy, and, worse still, a murdering man's soliloquy, recited
by one of Miss Ladd's young ladies, before an audience of parents
and guardians! That was the tone they took with me. I was as firm
as a rock. The dagger-scene or nothing. The result is--nothing!
An insult to Shakespeare, and an insult to Me. I felt it--I feel
it still. I was prepared for any sacrifice in the cause of the
drama. If Miss Ladd had met me in a proper spirit, do you know
what I would have done? I would have played Macbeth in costume.
Just hear me, and judge for yourself. I begin with a dreadful
vacancy in my eyes, and a hollow moaning in my voice: 'Is this a
dagger that I see before me--?'"

Reciting with her face toward the trees, Emily started, dropped
the character of Macbeth, and instantly became herself again:
herself, with a rising color and an angry brightening of the
eyes. "Excuse me, I can't trust my memory: I must get the play."
With that abrupt apology, she walked away rapidly in the
direction of the house.

In some surprise, Francine turned, and looked at the trees. She
discovered--in full retreat, on his side--the eccentric
drawing-master, Alban Morris.

Did he, too, admire the dagger-scene? And was he modestly
desirous of hearing it recited, without showing himself? In that
case, why should Emily (whose besetting weakness was certainly
not want of confidence in her own resources) leave the garden the
moment she caught sight of him? Francine consulted her instincts.
She had just arrived at a conclusion which expressed itself
outwardly by a malicious smile, when gentle Cecilia appeared on
the lawn--a lovable object in a broad straw hat and a white
dress, with a nosegay in her bosom--smiling, and fanning herself.

"It's so hot in the schoolroom," she said, "and some of the
girls, poor things, are so ill-tempered at rehearsal--I have made
my escape. I hope you got your breakfast, Miss de Sor. What have
you been doing here, all by yourself?"

"I have been making an interesting discovery," Francine replied.

"An interesting discovery in our garden? What _can_ it be?"

"The drawing-master, my dear, is in love with Emily. Perhaps she
doesn't care about him. Or, perhaps, I have been an innocent
obstacle in the way of an appointment between them."

Cecilia had breakfasted to her heart's content on her favorite
dish--buttered eggs. She was in such good spirits that she was
inclined to be coquettish, even when there was no man present to
fascinate. "We are not allowed to talk about love in this
school," she said--and hid her face behind her fan. "Besides, if
it came to Miss Ladd's ears, poor Mr. Morris might lose his
situation."

"But isn't it true?" asked Francine.

"It may be true, my dear; but nobody knows. Emily hasn't breathed
a word about it to any of us. And Mr. Morris keeps his own
secret. Now and then we catch him looking at her--and we draw our
own conclusions."

"Did you meet Emily on your way here?"

"Yes, and she passed without speaking to me."

"Thinking perhaps of Mr. Morris."

Cecilia shook her head. "Thinking, Francine, of the new life
before her--and regretting, I am afraid, that she ever confided
her hopes and wishes to me. Did she tell you last night what her
prospects are when she leaves school?"

"She told me you had been very kind in helping her. I daresay I
should have heard more, if I had not fallen asleep. What is she
going to do?"

"To live in a dull house, far away in the north," Cecilia
answered; "with only old people in it. She will have to write and
translate for a great scholar, who is studying mysterious
inscriptions--hieroglyphics, I think they are called--found among
the ruins of Central America. It's really no laughing matter,
Francine! Emily made a joke of it, too. 'I'll take anything but a
situation as a governess,' she said; 'the children who have Me to
teach them would be to be pitied indeed!' She begged and prayed
me to help her to get an honest living. What could I do? I could
only write home to papa. He is a member of Parliament: and
everybody who wants a place seems to think he is bound to find it
for them. As it happened, he had heard from an old friend of his
(a certain Sir Jervis Redwood), who was in search of a secretary.
Being in favor of letting the women compete for employment with
the men, Sir Jervis was willing to try, what he calls, 'a
female.' Isn't that a horrid way of speaking of us? and Miss Ladd
says it's ungrammatical, besides. Papa had written back to say he
knew of no lady whom he could recommend. When he got my letter
speaking of Emily, he kindly wrote again. In the interval, Sir
Jervis had received two applications for the vacant place. They
were both from old ladies--and he declined to employ them."

"Because they were old," Francine suggested maliciously.

"You shall hear him give his own reasons, my dear. Papa sent me
an extract from his letter. It made me rather angry; and (perhaps
for that reason) I think I can repeat it word for word:--'We are
four old people in this house, and we don't want a fifth. Let us
have a young one to cheer us. If your daughter's friend likes the
terms, and is not encumbered with a sweetheart, I will send for
her when the school breaks up at midsummer.' Coarse and
selfish--isn't it? However, Emily didn't agree with me, when I
showed her the extract. She accepted the place, very much to her
aunt's surprise and regret, when that excellent person heard of
it. Now that the time has come (though Emily won't acknowledge
it), I believe she secretly shrinks, poor dear, from the
prospect."

"Very likely," Francine agreed--without even a pretense of
sympathy. "But tell me, who are the four old people?"

"First, Sir Jervis himself--seventy, last birthday. Next, his
unmarried sister--nearly eighty. Next, his man-servant, Mr.
Rook--well past sixty. And last, his man-servant's wife, who
considers herself young, being only a little over forty. That is
the household. Mrs. Rook is coming to-day to attend Emily on the
journey to the North; and I am not at all sure that Emily will
like her."

"A disagreeable woman, I suppose?"

"No--not exactly that. Rather odd and flighty. The fact is, Mrs.
Rook has had her troubles; and perhaps they have a little
unsettled her. She and her husband used to keep the village inn,
close to our park: we know all about them at home. I am sure I
pity these poor people. What are you looking at, Francine?"

Feeling no sort of interest in Mr. and Mrs. Rook, Francine was
studying her schoolfellow's lovely face in search of defects. She
had already discovered that Cecilia's eyes were placed too widely
apart, and that her chin wanted size and character.

"I was admiring your complexion, dear," she answered coolly.
"Well, and why do you pity the Rooks?"

Simple Cecilia smiled, and went on with her story.

"They are obliged to go out to service in their old age, through
a misfortune for which they are in no way to blame. Their
customers deserted the inn, and Mr. Rook became bankrupt. The inn
got what they call a bad name--in a very dreadful way. There was
a murder committed in the house."

"A murder?" cried Francine. "Oh, this is exciting! You provoking
girl, why didn't you tell me about it before?"

"I didn't think of it," said Cecilia placidly.

"Do go on! Were you at home when it happened?"

"I w as here, at school."

"You saw the newspapers, I suppose?"

"Miss Ladd doesn't allow us to read newspapers. I did hear of it,
however, in letters from home. Not that there was much in the
letters. They said it was too horrible to be described. The poor
murdered gentleman--"

Francine was unaffectedly shocked. "A gentleman!" she exclaimed.
"How dreadful!"

"The poor man was a stranger in our part of the country," Cecilia
resumed; "and the police were puzzled about the motive for a
murder. His pocketbook was missing; but his watch and his rings
were found on the body. I remember the initials on his linen
because they were the same as my mother's initial before she was
married--'J. B.' Really, Francine, that's all I know about it."

"Surely you know whether the murderer was discovered?"

"Oh, yes--of course I know that! The government offered a reward;
and clever people were sent from London to help the county
police. Nothing came of it. The murderer has never been
discovered, from that time to this."

"When did it happen?"

"It happened in the autumn."

"The autumn of last year?"

"No! no! Nearly four years since."


CHAPTER VI.

ON THE WAY TO THE VILLAGE.

Alban Morris--discovered by Emily in concealment among the
trees--was not content with retiring to another part of the
grounds. He pursued his retreat, careless in what direction it
might take him, to a footpath across the fields, which led to the
highroad and the railway station.

Miss Ladd's drawing-master was in that state of nervous
irritability which seeks relief in rapidity of motion. Public
opinion in the neighborhood (especially public opinion among the
women) had long since decided that his manners were offensive,
and his temper incurably bad. The men who happened to pass him on
the footpath said "Good-morning" grudgingly. The women took no
notice of him--with one exception. She was young and saucy, and
seeing him walking at the top of his speed on the way to the
railway station, she called after him, "Don't be in a hurry, sir!
You're in plenty of time for the London train."

To her astonishment he suddenly stopped. His reputation for
rudeness was so well established that she moved away to a safe
distance, before she ventured to look at him again. He took no
notice of her--he seemed to be considering with himself. The
frolicsome young woman had done him a service: she had suggested
an idea.

"Suppose I go to London?" he thought. "Why not?--the school is
breaking up for the holidays--and _she_ is going away like the
rest of them." He looked round in the direction of the
schoolhouse. "If I go back to wish her good-by, she will keep out
of my way, and part with me at the last moment like a stranger.
After my experience of women, to be in love again--in love with a
girl who is young enough to be my daughter--what a fool, what a
driveling, degraded fool I must be!"

Hot tears rose in his eyes. He dashed them away savagely, and
went on again faster than ever--resolved to pack up at once at
his lodgings in the village, and to take his departure by the
next train.

At the point where the footpath led into the road, he came to a
standstill for the second time.

The cause was once more a person of the sex associated in his
mind with a bitter sense of injury. On this occasion the person
was only a miserable little child, crying over the fragments of a
broken jug.

Alban Morris looked at her with his grimly humorous smile. "So
you've broken a jug?" he remarked.

"And spilt father's beer," the child answered. Her frail little
body shook with terror. "Mother'll beat me when I go home," she
said.

"What does mother do when you bring the jug back safe and sound?"
Alban asked.

"Gives me bren-butter."

"Very well. Now listen to me. Mother shall give you bread and
butter again this time."

The child stared at him with the tears suspended in her eyes. He
went on talking to her as seriously as ever.

"You understand what I have just said to you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you got a pocket-handkerchief?"

"No, sir."

"Then dry your eyes with mine."

He tossed his handkerchief to her with one hand, and picked up a
fragment of the broken jug with the other. "This will do for a
pattern," he said to himself. The child stared at the
handkerchief--stared at Alban--took courage--and rubbed
vigorously at her eyes. The instinct, which is worth all the
reason that ever pretended to enlighten mankind--the instinct
that never deceives--told this little ignorant creature that she
had found a friend. She returned the handkerchief in grave
silence. Alban took her up in his arms.

"Your eyes are dry, and your face is fit to be seen," he said.
"Will you give me a kiss?" The child gave him a resolute kiss,
with a smack in it. "Now come and get another jug," he said, as
he put her down. Her red round eyes opened wide in alarm. "Have
you got money enough?" she asked. Alban slapped his pocket. "Yes,
I have," he answered. "That's a good thing," said the child;
"come along."

They went together hand in hand to the village, and bought the
new jug, and had it filled at the beer-shop. The thirsty father
was at the upper end of the fields, where they were making a
drain. Alban carried the jug until they were within sight of the
laborer. "You haven't far to go," he said. "Mind you don't drop
it again--What's the matter now?"

"I'm frightened."

"Why?"

"Oh, give me the jug."

She almost snatched it out of his hand. If she let the precious
minutes slip away, there might be another beating in store for
her at the drain: her father was not of an indulgent disposition
when his children were late in bringing his beer. On the point of
hurrying away, without a word of farewell, she remembered the
laws of politeness as taught at the infant school--and dropped
her little curtsey--and said, "Thank you, sir." That bitter sense
of injury was still in Alban's mind as he looked after her. "What
a pity she should grow up to be a woman!" he said to himself.

The adventure of the broken jug had delayed his return to his
lodgings by more than half an hour. When he reached the road once
more, the cheap up-train from the North had stopped at the
station. He heard the ringing of the bell as it resumed the
journey to London.

One of the passengers (judging by the handbag that she carried)
had not stopped at the village.

As she advanced toward him along the road, he remarked that she
was a small wiry active woman--dressed in bright colors, combined
with a deplorable want of taste. Her aquiline nose seemed to be
her most striking feature as she came nearer. It might have been
fairly proportioned to the rest of her face, in her younger days,
before her cheeks had lost flesh and roundness. Being probably
near-sighted, she kept her eyes half-closed; there were cunning
little wrinkles at the corners of them. In spite of appearances,
she was unwilling to present any outward acknowledgment of the
march of time. Her hair was palpably dyed--her hat was jauntily
set on her head, and ornamented with a gay feather. She walked
with a light tripping step, swinging her bag, and holding her
head up smartly. Her manner, like her dress, said as plainly as
words could speak, "No matter how long I may have lived, I mean
to be young and charming to the end of my days." To Alban's
surprise she stopped and addressed him.

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Could you tell me if I am in the right
road to Miss Ladd's school?"

She spoke with nervous rapidity of articulation, and with a
singularly unpleasant smile. It parted her thin lips just widely
enough to show her suspiciously beautiful teeth; and it opened
her keen gray eyes in the strangest manner. The higher lid rose
so as to disclose, for a moment, the upper part of the eyeball,
and to give her the appearance--not of a woman bent on making
herself agreeable, but of a woman staring in a panic of terror.
Careless to conceal the unfavorable impression that she had
produced on him, Alban answered roughly, "Straight on," and tried
to pass her.

She stopped him with a peremptory gesture. "I have treated you
politely," she said, "and how do you treat me in return? Well! I
am not surprised. Men are all brutes by nature--and you are  a
man.
 'Straight on'?" she repeated contemptuously; "I should like to
know how far that helps a person in a strange place. Perhaps you
know no more where Miss Ladd's school is than I do? or, perhaps,
you don't care to take the trouble of addressing me? Just what I
should have expected from a person of your sex! Good-morning."

Alban felt the reproof; she had appealed to his most
readily-impressible sense--his sense of humor. He rather enjoyed
seeing his own prejudice against women grotesquely reflected in
this flighty stranger's prejudice against men. As the best excuse
for himself that he could make, he gave her all the information
that she could possibly want--then tried again to pass on--and
again in vain. He had recovered his place in her estimation: she
had not done with him yet.

"You know all about the way there," she said "I wonder whether
you know anything about the school?"

No change in her voice, no change in her manner, betrayed any
special motive for putting this question. Alban was on the point
of suggesting that she should go on to the school, and make her
inquiries there--when he happened to notice her eyes. She had
hitherto looked him straight in the face. She now looked down on
the road. It was a trifling change; in all probability it meant
nothing--and yet, merely because it was a change, it roused his
curiosity. "I ought to know something about the school," he
answered. "I am one of the masters."

"Then you're just the man I want. May I ask your name?"

"Alban Morris."

"Thank you. I am Mrs. Rook. I presume you have heard of Sir
Jervis Redwood?"

"No."

"Bless my soul! You are a scholar, of course--and you have never
heard of one of your own trade. Very extraordinary. You see, I am
Sir Jervis's housekeeper; and I am sent here to take one of your
young ladies back with me to our place. Don't interrupt me! Don't
be a brute again! Sir Jervis is not of a communicative
disposition. At least, not to me. A man--that explains it--a man!
He is always poring over his books and writings; and Miss
Redwood, at her great age, is in bed half the day. Not a thing do
I know about this new inmate of ours, except that I am to take
her back with me. You would feel some curiosity yourself in my
place, wouldn't you? Now do tell me. What sort of girl is Miss
Emily Brown?"

The name that he was perpetually thinking of--on this woman's
lips! Alban looked at her.

"Well," said Mrs. Rook, "am I to have no answer? Ah, you want
leading. So like a man again! Is she pretty?"

Still examining the housekeeper with mingled feelings of interest
and distrust, Alban answered ungraciously:

"Yes."

"Good-tempered?"

Alban again said "Yes."

"So much about herself," Mrs. Rook remarked. "About her family
now?" She shifted her bag restlessly from one hand to another.
"Perhaps you can tell me if Miss Emily's father--" she suddenly
corrected herself--"if Miss Emily's parents are living?"

"I don't know."

"You mean you won't tell me."

"I mean exactly what I have said."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," Mrs. Rook rejoined; "I shall find out at
the school. The first turning to the left, I think you
said--across the fields?"

He was too deeply interested in Emily to let the housekeeper go
without putting a question on his side:

"Is Sir Jervis Redwood one of Miss Emily's old friends?" he
asked.

"He? What put that into your head? He has never even seen Miss
Emily. She's going to our house--ah, the women are getting the
upper hand now, and serve the men right, I say!--she's going to
our house to be Sir Jervis's secretary. You would like to have
the place yourself, wouldn't you? You would like to keep a poor
girl from getting her own living? Oh, you may look as fierce as
you please--the time's gone by when a man could frighten _me_. I
like her Christian name. I call Emily a nice name enough. But
'Brown'! Good-morning, Mr. Morris; you and I are not cursed with
such a contemptibly common name as that! 'Brown'? Oh, Lord!"

She tossed her head scornfully, and walked away, humming a tune.

Alban stood rooted to the spot. The effort of his later life had
been to conceal the hopeless passion which had mastered him in
spite of himself. Knowing nothing from Emily--who at once pitied
and avoided him--of her family circumstances or of her future
plans, he had shrunk from making inquiries of others, in the fear
that they, too, might find out his secret, and that their
contempt might be added to the contempt which he felt for
himself. In this position, and with these obstacles in his way,
the announcement of Emily's proposed journey--under the care of a
stranger, to fill an employment in the house of a stranger--not
only took him by surprise, but inspired him with a strong feeling
of distrust. He looked after Sir Jervis Redwood's flighty
housekeeper, completely forgetting the purpose which had brought
him thus far on the way to his lodgings. Before Mrs. Rook was out
of sight, Alban Morris was following her back to the school.


CHAPTER VII.

"COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE."

Miss De Sor and Miss Wyvil were still sitting together under the
trees, talking of the murder at the inn.

"And is that really all you can tell me?" said Francine.

"That is all," Cecilia answered.

"Is there no love in it?"

"None that I know of."

"It's the most uninteresting murder that ever was committed. What
shall we do with ourselves? I'm tired of being here in the
garden. When do the performances in the schoolroom begin?"

"Not for two hours yet."

Francine yawned. "And what part do you take in it?" she asked.

"No part, my dear. I tried once--only to sing a simple little
song. When I found myself standing before all the company and saw
rows of ladies and gentlemen waiting for me to begin, I was so
frightened that Miss Ladd had to make an apology for me. I didn't
get over it for the rest of the day. For the first time in my
life, I had no appetite for my dinner. Horrible!" said Cecilia,
shuddering over the remembrance of it. "I do assure you, I
thought I was going to die."

Perfectly unimpressed by this harrowing narrative, Francine
turned her head lazily toward the house. The door was thrown open
at the same moment. A lithe little person rapidly descended the
steps that led to the lawn.

"It's Emily come back again," said Francine.

"And she seems to be rather in a hurry," Cecilia remarked.

Francine's satirical smile showed itself for a moment. Did this
appearance of hurry in Emily's movements denote impatience to
resume the recital of "the dagger-scene"? She had no book in her
hand; she never even looked toward Francine. Sorrow became
plainly visible in her face as she approached the two girls.

Cecilia rose in alarm. She had been the first person to whom
Emily had confided her domestic anxieties. "Bad news from your
aunt?" she asked.

"No, my dear; no news at all." Emily put her arms tenderly round
her friend's neck. "The time has come, Cecilia," she said. "We
must wish each other good-by."

"Is Mrs. Rook here already?"

"It's _you_, dear, who are going," Emily answered sadly. "They
have sent the governess to fetch you. Miss Ladd is too busy in
the schoolroom to see her--and she has told me all about it.
Don't be alarmed. There is no bad news from home. Your plans are
altered; that's all."

"Altered?" Cecilia repeated. "In what way?"

"In a very agreeable way--you are going to travel. Your father
wishes you to be in London, in time for the evening mail to
France."

Cecilia guessed what had happened. "My sister is not getting
well," she said, "and the doctors are sending her to the
Continent."

"To the baths at St. Moritz," Emily added. "There is only one
difficulty in the way; and you can remove it. Your sister has the
good old governess to take care of her, and the courier to
relieve her of all trouble on the journey. They were to have
started yesterday. You know how fond Julia is of you. At the last
moment, she won't hear of going away, unless you go too. The
rooms are waiting at St. Moritz; and your father is annoyed (the
governess says) by the delay that has taken place already."

She paused. Cecilia was silent. "Surely you don't hesitate?"
Emily said.

"I am too happy to go wherever Julia go es," Cecilia answered
warmly; "I was thinking of you, dear." Her tender nature,
shrinking from the hard necessities of life, shrank from the
cruelly-close prospect of parting. "I thought we were to have had
some hours together yet," she said. "Why are we hurried in this
way? There is no second train to London, from our station, till
late in the afternoon."

"There is the express," Emily reminded her; "and there is time to
catch it, if you drive at once to the town." She took Cecilia's
hand and pressed it to her bosom. "Thank you again and again,
dear, for all you have done for me. Whether we meet again or not,
as long as I live I shall love you. Don't cry!" She made a faint
attempt to resume her customary gayety, for Cecilia's sake. "Try
to be as hard-hearted as I am. Think of your sister--don't think
of me. Only kiss me."

Cecilia's tears fell fast. "Oh, my love, I am so anxious about
you! I am so afraid that you will not be happy with that selfish
old man--in that dreary house. Give it up, Emily! I have got
plenty of money for both of us; come abroad with me. Why not? You
always got on well with Julia, when you came to see us in the
holidays. Oh, my darling! my darling! What shall I do without
you?"

All that longed for love in Emily's nature had clung round her
school-friend since her father's death. Turning deadly pale under
the struggle to control herself, she made the effort--and bore
the pain of it without letting a cry or a tear escape her. "Our
ways in life lie far apart," she said gently. "There is the hope
of meeting again, dear--if there is nothing more."

The clasp of Cecilia's arm tightened round her. She tried to
release herself; but her resolution had reached its limits. Her
hands dropped, trembling. She could still try to speak
cheerfully, and that was all.

"There is not the least reason, Cecilia, to be anxious about my
prospects. I mean to be Sir Jervis Redwood's favorite before I
have been a week in his service."

She stopped, and pointed to the house. The governess was
approaching them. "One more kiss, darling. We shall not forget
the happy hours we have spent together; we shall constantly write
to each other." She broke down at last. "Oh, Cecilia! Cecilia!
leave me for God's sake--I can't bear it any longer!"

The governess parted them. Emily dropped into the chair that her
friend had left. Even her hopeful nature sank under the burden of
life at that moment.

A hard voice, speaking close at her side, startled her.

"Would you rather be Me," the voice asked, "without a creature to
care for you?"

Emily raised her head. Francine, the unnoticed witness of the
parting interview, was standing by her, idly picking the leaves
from a rose which had dropped out of Cecilia's nosegay.

Had she felt her own isolated position? She had felt it
resentfully.

Emily looked at her, with a heart softened by sorrow. There was
no answering kindness in the eyes of Miss de Sor--there was only
a dogged endurance, sad to see in a creature so young.

"You and Cecilia are going to write to each other," she said. "I
suppose there is some comfort in that. When I left the island
they were glad to get rid of me. They said, 'Telegraph when you
are safe at Miss Ladd's school.' You see, we are so rich, the
expense of telegraphing to the West Indies is nothing to us.
Besides, a telegram has an advantage over a letter--it doesn't
take long to read. I daresay I shall write home. But they are in
no hurry; and I am in no hurry. The school's breaking up; you are
going your way, and I am going mine--and who cares what becomes
of me? Only an ugly old schoolmistress, who is paid for caring. I
wonder why I am saying all this? Because I like you? I don't know
that I like you any better than you like me. When I wanted to be
friends with you, you treated me coolly; I don't want to force
myself on you. I don't particularly care about you. May I write
to you from Brighton?"

Under all this bitterness--the first exhibition of Francine's
temper, at its worst, which had taken place since she joined the
school--Emily saw, or thought she saw, distress that was too
proud, or too shy, to show itself. "How can you ask the
question?" she answered cordially.

Francine was incapable of meeting the sympathy offered to her,
even half way. "Never mind how," she said. "Yes or no is all I
want from you."

"Oh, Francine! Francine! what are you made of! Flesh and blood?
or stone and iron? Write to me of course--and I will write back
again."

"Thank you. Are you going to stay here under the trees?"

"Yes."

"All by yourself?"

"All by myself."

"With nothing to do?"

"I can think of Cecilia."

Francine eyed her with steady attention for a moment.

"Didn't you tell me last night that you were very poor?" she
asked.

"I did."

"So poor that you are obliged to earn your own living?"

"Yes."

Francine looked at her again.

"I daresay you won't believe me," she said. "I wish I was you."

She turned away irritably, and walked back to the house.

Were there really longings for kindness and love under the
surface of this girl's perverse nature? Or was there nothing to
be hoped from a better knowledge of her?--In place of tender
remembrances of Cecilia, these were the perplexing and unwelcome
thoughts which the more potent personality of Francine forced
upon Emily's mind.

She rose impatiently, and looked at her watch. When would it be
her turn to leave the school, and begin the new life?

Still undecided what to do next, her interest was excited by the
appearance of one of the servants on the lawn. The woman
approached her, and presented a visiting-card; bearing on it the
name of _Sir Jervis Redwood_. Beneath the name, there was a line
written in pencil: "Mrs. Rook, to wait on Miss Emily Brown." The
way to the new life was open before her at last!

Looking again at the commonplace announcement contained in the
line of writing, she was not quite satisfied. Was it claiming a
deference toward herself, to which she was not entitled, to
expect a letter either from Sir Jervis, or from Miss Redwood;
giving her some information as to the journey which she was about
to undertake, and expressing with some little politeness the wish
to make her comfortable in her future home? At any rate, her
employer had done her one service: he had reminded her that her
station in life was not what it had been in the days when her
father was living, and when her aunt was in affluent
circumstances.

She looked up from the card. The servant had gone. Alban Morris
was waiting at a little distance--waiting silently until she
noticed him.


CHAPTER VIII.

MASTER AND PUPIL.

Emily's impulse was to avoid the drawing-master for the second
time. The moment afterward, a kinder feeling prevailed. The
farewell interview with Cecilia had left influences which pleaded
for Alban Morris. It was the day of parting good wishes and
general separations: he had only perhaps come to say good-by. She
advanced to offer her hand, when he stopped her by pointing to
Sir Jervis Redwood's card.

"May I say a word, Miss Emily, about that woman?" he asked

"Do you mean Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes. You know, of course, why she comes here?"

"She comes here by appointment, to take me to Sir Jervis
Redwood's house. Are you acquainted with her?"

"She is a perfect stranger to me. I met her by accident on her
way here. If Mrs. Rook had been content with asking me to direct
her to the school, I should not be troubling you at this moment.
But she forced her conversation on me. And she said something
which I think you ought to know. Have you heard of Sir Jervis
Redwood's housekeeper before to-day?"

"I have only heard what my friend--Miss Cecilia Wyvil--has told
me."

"Did Miss Cecilia tell you that Mrs. Rook was acquainted with
your father or with any members of your family?"

"Certainly not!"

Alban reflected. "It was natural enough," he resumed, "that Mrs.
Rook should feel some curiosity about You. What reason had she
for putting a question to me about your father--and putting it in
a very strange manner?"

Emily's interest was instantly excited. She led the way back to
the seats in the shade. "Tell me, Mr. Morris, exactly what the
woman said." As she spoke,
 she signed to him to be seated.

Alban observed the natural grace of her action when she set him
the example of taking a chair, and the little heightening of her
color caused by anxiety to hear what he had still to tell her.
Forgetting the restraint that he had hitherto imposed on himself,
he enjoyed the luxury of silently admiring her. Her manner
betrayed none of the conscious confusion which would have shown
itself, if her heart had been secretly inclined toward him. She
saw the man looking at her. In simple perplexity she looked at
the man.

"Are you hesitating on my account?" she asked. "Did Mrs. Rook say
something of my father which I mustn't hear?"

"No, no! nothing of the sort!"

"You seem to be confused."

Her innocent indifference tried his patience sorely. His memory
went back to the past time--recalled the ill-placed passion of
his youth, and the cruel injury inflicted on him--his pride was
roused. Was he making himself ridiculous? The vehement throbbing
of his heart almost suffocated him. And there she sat, wondering
at his odd behavior. "Even this girl is as cold-blooded as the
rest of her sex!" That angry thought gave him back his
self-control. He made his excuses with the easy politeness of a
man of the world.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Emily; I was considering how to put what
I have to say in the fewest and plainest words. Let me try if I
can do it. If Mrs. Rook had merely asked me whether your father
and mother were living, I should have attributed the question to
the commonplace curiosity of a gossiping woman, and have thought
no more of it. What she actually did say was this: 'Perhaps you
can tell me if Miss Emily's father--' There she checked herself,
and suddenly altered the question in this way: 'If Miss Emily's
_parents_ are living?' I may be making mountains out of
molehills; but I thought at the time (and think still) that she
had some special interest in inquiring after your father, and,
not wishing me to notice it for reasons of her own, changed the
form of the question so as to include your mother. Does this
strike you as a far-fetched conclusion?"

"Whatever it may be," Emily said, "it is my conclusion, too. How
did you answer her?"

"Quite easily. I could give her no information--and I said so."

"Let me offer you the information, Mr. Morris, before we say
anything more. I have lost both my parents."

Alban's momentary outbreak of irritability was at an end. He was
earnest and yet gentle, again; he forgave her for not
understanding how dear and how delightful to him she was. "Will
it distress you," he said, "if I ask how long it is since your
father died?"

"Nearly four years," she replied. "He was the most generous of
men; Mrs. Rook's interest in him may surely have been a grateful
interest. He may have been kind to her in past years--and she may
remember him thankfully. Don't you think so?"

Alban was unable to agree with her. "If Mrs. Rook's interest in
your father was the harmless interest that you have suggested,"
he said, "why should she have checked herself in that
unaccountable manner, when she first asked me if he was living?
The more I think of it now, the less sure I feel that she knows
anything at all of your family history. It may help me to decide,
if you will tell me at what time the death of your mother took
place."

"So long ago," Emily replied, "that I can't even remember her
death. I was an infant at the time."

"And yet Mrs. Rook asked me if your 'parents' were living! One of
two things," Alban concluded. "Either there is some mystery in
this matter, which we cannot hope to penetrate at present--or
Mrs. Rook may have been speaking at random; on the chance of
discovering whether you are related to some 'Mr. Brown' whom she
once knew."

"Besides," Emily added, "it's only fair to remember what a common
family name mine is, and how easily people may make mistakes. I
should like to know if my dear lost father was really in her mind
when she spoke to you. Do you think I could find it out?"

"If Mrs. Rook has any reasons for concealment, I believe you
would have no chance of finding it out--unless, indeed, you could
take her by surprise."

"In what way, Mr. Morris?"

"Only one way occurs to me just now," he said. "Do you happen to
have a miniature or a photograph of your father?"

Emily held out a handsome locket, with a monogram in diamonds,
attached to her watch chain. "I have his photograph here," she
rejoined; "given to me by my dear old aunt, in the days of her
prosperity. Shall I show it to Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes--if she happens, by good luck, to offer you an opportunity."

Impatient to try the experiment, Emily rose as he spoke. "I
mustn't keep Mrs. Rook waiting," she said.

Alban stopped her, on the point of leaving him. The confusion and
hesitation which she had already noticed began to show themselves
in his manner once more.

"Miss Emily, may I ask you a favor before you go? I am only one
of the masters employed in the school; but I don't think--let me
say, I hope I am not guilty of presumption--if I offer to be of
some small service to one of my pupils--"

There his embarrassment mastered him. He despised himself not
only for yielding to his own weakness, but for faltering like a
fool in the expression of a simple request. The next words died
away on his lips.

This time, Emily understood him.

The subtle penetration which had long since led her to the
discovery of his secret--overpowered, thus far, by the absorbing
interest of the moment--now recovered its activity. In an
instant, she remembered that Alban's motive for cautioning her,
in her coming intercourse with Mrs. Rook, was not the merely
friendly motive which might have actuated him, in the case of one
of the other girls. At the same time, her quickness of
apprehension warned her not to risk encouraging this persistent
lover, by betraying any embarrassment on her side. He was
evidently anxious to be present (in her interests) at the
interview with Mrs. Rook. Why not? Could he reproach her with
raising false hope, if she accepted his services, under
circumstances of doubt and difficulty which he had himself been
the first to point out? He could do nothing of the sort. Without
waiting until he had recovered himself, she answered him (to all
appearances) as composedly as if he had spoken to her in the
plainest terms.

"After all that you have told me," she said, "I shall indeed feel
obliged if you will be present when I see Mrs. Rook."

The eager brightening of his eyes, the flush of happiness that
made him look young on a sudden, were signs not to be mistaken.
The sooner they were in the presence of a third person (Emily
privately concluded) the better it might be for both of them. She
led the way rapidly to the house.


CHAPTER IX.

MRS. ROOK AND THE LOCKET.

As mistress of a prosperous school, bearing a widely-extended
reputation, Miss Ladd prided herself on the liberality of her
household arrangements. At breakfast and dinner, not only the
solid comforts but the elegant luxuries of the table, were set
before the young ladies "Other schools may, and no doubt do,
offer to pupils the affectionate care to which they have been
accustomed under the parents' roof," Miss Ladd used to say. "At
my school, that care extends to their meals, and provides them
with a _cuisine_ which, I flatter myself, equals the most
successful efforts of the cooks at home." Fathers, mothers, and
friends, when they paid visits to this excellent lady, brought
away with them the most gratifying recollections of her
hospitality. The men, in particular, seldom failed to recognize
in their hostess the rarest virtue that a single lady can
possess--the virtue of putting wine on the table which may be
gratefully remembered by her guests the next morning.

An agreeable surprise awaited Mrs. Rook when she entered the
house of bountiful Miss Ladd.

Luncheon was ready for Sir Jervis Redwood's confidential emissary
in the waiting-room. Detained at the final rehearsals of music
and recitation, Miss Ladd was worthily represented by cold
chicken and ham, a fruit tart, and a pint decanter of generous
sherry. "Your mistress is a perfect lady!" Mrs. Rook said to the
servant, wi th a burst of enthusiasm. "I can carve for myself,
thank you; and I don't care how long Miss Emily keeps me
waiting."

As they ascended the steps leading into the house, Alban asked
Emily if he might look again at her locket.

"Shall I open it for you?" she suggested.

No: I only want to look at the outside of it."

He examined the side on which the monogram appeared, inlaid with
diamonds. An inscription was engraved beneath.

"May I read it?" he said.

"Certainly!"

The inscription ran thus: "In loving memory of my father. Died
30th September, 1877."

"Can you arrange the locket," Alban asked, "so that the side on
which the diamonds appear hangs outward?"

She understood him. The diamonds might attract Mrs. Rook's
notice; and in that case, she might ask to see the locket of her
own accord. "You are beginning to be of use to me, already,"
Emily said, as they turned into the corridor which led to the
waiting-room.

They found Sir Jervis's housekeeper luxuriously recumbent in the
easiest chair in the room.

Of the eatable part of the lunch some relics were yet left. In
the pint decanter of sherry, not a drop remained. The genial
influence of the wine (hastened by the hot weather) was visible
in Mrs. Rook's flushed face, and in a special development of her
ugly smile. Her widening lips stretched to new lengths; and the
white upper line of her eyeballs were more freely and horribly
visible than ever.

"And this is the dear young lady?" she said, lifting her hands in
over-acted admiration. At the first greetings, Alban perceived
that the impression produced was, in Emily's case as in his case,
instantly unfavorable.

The servant came in to clear the table. Emily stepped aside for a
minute to give some directions about her luggage. In that
interval Mrs. Rook's cunning little eyes turned on Alban with an
expression of malicious scrutiny.

"You were walking the other way," she whispered, "when I met
you." She stopped, and glanced over her shoulder at Emily. "I see
what attraction has brought you back to the school. Steal your
way into that poor little fool's heart; and then make her
miserable for the rest of her life!--No need, miss, to hurry,"
she said, shifting the polite side of her toward Emily, who
returned at the moment. "The visits of the trains to your station
here are like the visits of the angels described by the poet,
'few and far between.' Please excuse the quotation. You wouldn't
think it to look at me--I'm a great reader."

"Is it a long journey to Sir Jervis Redwood's house?" Emily
asked, at a loss what else to say to a woman who was already
becoming unendurable to her.

Mrs. Rook looked at the journey from an oppressively cheerful
point of view.

"Oh, Miss Emily, you shan't feel the time hang heavy in my
company. I can converse on a variety of topics, and if there is
one thing more than another that I like, it's amusing a pretty
young lady. You think me a strange creature, don't you? It's only
my high spirits. Nothing strange about me--unless it's my queer
Christian name. You look a little dull, my dear. Shall I begin
amusing you before we are on the railway? Shall I tell you how I
came by my queer name?"

Thus far, Alban had controlled himself. This last specimen of the
housekeeper's audacious familiarity reached the limits of his
endurance.

"We don't care to know how you came by your name," he said.

"Rude," Mrs. Rook remarked, composedly. "But nothing surprises
me, coming from a man."

She turned to Emily. "My father and mother were a wicked married
couple," she continued, "before I was born. They 'got religion,'
as the saying is, at a Methodist meeting in a field. When I came
into the world--I don't know how you feel, miss; I protest
against being brought into the world without asking my leave
first--my mother was determined to dedicate me to piety, before I
was out of my long clothes. What name do you suppose she had me
christened by? She chose it, or made it, herself--the name of
'Righteous'! Righteous Rook! Was there ever a poor baby degraded
by such a ridiculous name before? It's needless to say, when I
write letters, I sign R. Rook--and leave people to think it's
Rosamond, or Rosabelle, or something sweetly pretty of that kind.
You should have seen my husband's face when he first heard that
his sweetheart's name was 'Righteous'! He was on the point of
kissing me, and he stopped. I daresay he felt sick. Perfectly
natural under the circumstances."

Alban tried to stop her again. "What time does the train go?" he
asked.

Emily entreated him to restrain himself, by a look. Mrs. Rook was
still too inveterately amiable to take offense. She opened her
traveling-bag briskly, and placed a railway guide in Alban's
hands.

"I've heard that the women do the men's work in foreign parts,"
she said. "But this is England; and I am an Englishwoman. Find
out when the train goes, my dear sir, for yourself."

Alban at once consulted the guide. If there proved to be no
immediate need of starting for the station, he was determined
that Emily should not be condemned to pass the interval in the
housekeeper's company. In the meantime, Mrs. Rook was as eager as
ever to show her dear young lady what an amusing companion she
could be.

"Talking of husbands," she resumed, "don't make the mistake, my
dear, that I committed. Beware of letting anybody persuade you to
marry an old man. Mr. Rook is old enough to be my father. I bear
with him. Of course, I bear with him. At the same time, I have
not (as the poet says) 'passed through the ordeal unscathed.' My
spirit--I have long since ceased to believe in anything of the
sort: I only use the word for want of a better--my spirit, I say,
has become embittered. I was once a pious young woman; I do
assure you I was nearly as good as my name. Don't let me shock
you; I have lost faith and hope; I have become--what's the last
new name for a free-thinker? Oh, I keep up with the times, thanks
to old Miss Redwood! She takes in the newspapers, and makes me
read them to her. What _is_ the new name? Something ending in ic.
Bombastic? No, Agnostic?--that's it! I have become an Agnostic.
The inevitable result of marrying an old man; if there's any
blame it rests on my husband."

"There's more than an hour yet before the train starts," Alban
interposed. "I am sure, Miss Emily, you would find it pleasanter
to wait in the garden."

"Not at all a bad notion," Mrs. Rook declared. "Here's a man who
can make himself useful, for once. Let's go into the garden."

She rose, and led the way to the door. Alban seized the
opportunity of whispering to Emily.

"Did you notice the empty decanter, when we first came in? That
horrid woman is drunk."

Emily pointed significantly to the locket. "Don't let her go. The
garden will distract her attention: keep her near me here."

Mrs. Rook gayly opened the door. "Take me to the flower-beds,"
she said. "I believe in nothing--but I adore flowers."

Mrs. Rook waited at the door, with her eye on Emily. "What do
_you_ say, miss?"

"I think we shall be more comfortable if we stay where we are."

"Whatever pleases you, my dear, pleases me." With this reply, the
compliant housekeeper--as amiable as ever on the
surface--returned to her chair.

Would she notice the locket as she sat down? Emily turned toward
the window, so as to let the light fall on the diamonds.

No: Mrs. Rook was absorbed, at the moment, in her own
reflections. Miss Emily, having prevented her from seeing the
garden, she was maliciously bent on disappointing Miss Emily in
return. Sir Jervis's secretary (being young) took a hopeful view
no doubt of her future prospects. Mrs. Rook decided on darkening
that view in a mischievously-suggestive manner, peculiar to
herself.

"You will naturally feel some curiosity about your new home," she
began, "and I haven't said a word about it yet. How very
thoughtless of me! Inside and out, dear Miss Emily, our house is
just a little dull. I say _our_ house, and why not--when the
management of it is all thrown on me. We are built of stone; and
we are much too long, and are not half high enough. Our situation
is on the coldest side of the county, away in the west. We are
close to the Cheviot hills; and if you fancy there is anything to
see when you look out of window, except sheep, you will find
yourself woefully mistaken. As for walks, if you go out on one
side of the house you may, or may not, be gored by cattle. On the
other side, if the darkness overtakes you, you may, or may not,
tumble down a deserted lead mine. But the company, inside the
house, makes amends for it all," Mrs. Rook proceeded, enjoying
the expression of dismay which was beginning to show itself on
Emily's face. "Plenty of excitement for you, my dear, in our
small family. Sir Jervis will introduce you to plaster casts of
hideous Indian idols; he will keep you writing for him, without
mercy, from morning to night; and when he does let you go, old
Miss Redwood will find she can't sleep, and will send for the
pretty young lady-secretary to read to her. My husband I am sure
you will like. He is a respectable man, and bears the highest
character. Next to the idols, he's the most hideous object in the
house. If you are good enough to encourage him, I don't say that
he won't amuse you; he will tell you, for instance, he never in
his life hated any human being as he hates his wife. By the way,
I must not forget--in the interests of truth, you know--to
mention one drawback that does exist in our domestic circle. One
of these days we shall have our brains blown out or our throats
cut. Sir Jervis's mother left him ten thousand pounds' worth of
precious stones all contained in a little cabinet with drawers.
He won't let the banker take care of his jewels; he won't sell
them; he won't even wear one of the rings on his finger, or one
of the pins at his breast. He keeps his cabinet on his
dressing-room table; and he says, 'I like to gloat over my
jewels, every night, before I go to bed.' Ten thousand pounds'
worth of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and what not--at
the mercy of the first robber who happens to hear of them. Oh, my
dear, he would have no choice, I do assure you, but to use his
pistols. We shouldn't quietly submit to be robbed. Sir Jervis
inherits the spirit of his ancestors. My husband has the temper
of a game cock. I myself, in defense of the property of my
employers, am capable of becoming a perfect fiend. And we none of
us understand the use of firearms!"

While she was in full enjoyment of this last aggravation of the
horrors of the prospect, Emily tried another change of
position--and, this time, with success. Greedy admiration
suddenly opened Mrs. Rook's little eyes to their utmost width.
"My heart alive, miss, what do I see at your watch-chain? How
they sparkle! Might I ask for a closer view?"

Emily's fingers trembled; but she succeeded in detaching the
locket from the chain. Alban handed it to Mrs. Rook.

She began by admiring the diamonds--with a certain reserve.
"Nothing like so large as Sir Jervis's diamonds; but choice
specimens no doubt. Might I ask what the value--?"

She stopped. The inscription had attracted her notice: she began
to read it aloud: "In loving memory of my father. Died--"

Her face instantly became rigid. The next words were suspended on
her lips.

Alban seized the chance of making her betray herself--under
pretense of helping her. "Perhaps you find the figures not easy
to read," he said. "The date is 'thirtieth September, eighteen
hundred and seventy-seven'--nearly four years since."

Not a word, not a movement, escaped Mrs. Rook. She held the
locket before her as she had held it from the first. Alban looked
at Emily. Her eyes were riveted on the housekeeper: she was
barely capable of preserving the appearance of composure. Seeing
the necessity of acting for her, he at once said the words which
she was unable to say for herself.

"Perhaps, Mrs. Rook, you would like to look at the portrait?" he
suggested. "Shall I open the locket for you?"

Without speaking, without looking up, she handed the locket to
Alban.

He opened it, and offered it to her. She neither accepted nor
refused it: her hands remained hanging over the arms of the
chair. He put the locket on her lap.

The portrait produced no marked effect on Mrs. Rook. Had the date
prepared her to see it? She sat looking at it--still without
moving: still without saying a word. Alban had no mercy on her.
"That is the portrait of Miss Emily's father," he said. "Does it
represent the same Mr. Brown whom you had in your mind when you
asked me if Miss Emily's father was still living?"

That question roused her. She looked up, on the instant; she
answered loudly and insolently: 'No!"

"And yet," Alban persisted, "you broke down in reading the
inscription: and considering what talkative woman you are, the
portrait has had a strange effect on you--to say the least of
it."

She eyed him steadily while he was speaking--and turned to Emily
when he had done. "You mentioned the heat just now, miss. The
heat has overcome me; I shall soon get right again."

The insolent futility of that excuse irritated Emily into
answering her. "You will get right again perhaps all the sooner,"
she said, "if we trouble you with no more questions, and leave
you to recover by yourself."

The first change of expression which relaxed the iron tensity of
the housekeeper's face showed itself when she heard that reply.
At last there was a feeling in Mrs. Rook which openly declared
itself--a feeling of impatience to see Alban and Emily leave the
room.

They left her, without a word more.


CHAPTER X.

GUESSES AT THE TRUTH.

"What are we to do next? Oh, Mr. Morris, you must have seen all
sorts of people in your time--you know human nature, and I don't.
Help me with a word of advice!"

Emily forgot that he was in love with her--forgot everything, but
the effect produced by the locket on Mrs. Rook, and the vaguely
alarming conclusion to which it pointed. In the fervor of her
anxiety she took Alban's arm as familiarly as if he had been her
brother. He was gentle, he was considerate; he tried earnestly to
compose her. "We can do nothing to any good purpose," be said,
"unless we begin by thinking quietly. Pardon me for saying
so--you are needlessly exciting yourself."

There was a reason for her excitement, of which he was
necessarily ignorant. Her memory of the night interview with Miss
Jethro had inevitably intensified the suspicion inspired by the
conduct of Mrs. Rook. In less than twenty-four hours, Emily had
seen two women shrinking from secret remembrances of her
father--which might well be guilty remembrances--innocently
excited by herself! How had they injured him? Of what infamy, on
their parts, did his beloved and stainless memory remind them?
Who could fathom the mystery of it? "What does it mean?" she
cried, looking wildly in Alban's compassionate face. "You _must_
have formed some idea of your own. What does it mean?"

"Come, and sit down, Miss Emily. We will try if we can find out
what it means, together."

They returned to the shady solitude under the trees. Away, in
front of the house, the distant grating of carriage wheels told
of the arrival of Miss Ladd's guests, and of the speedy beginning
of the ceremonies of the day.

"We must help each other," Alban resumed.

"When we first spoke of Mrs. Rook, you mentioned Miss Cecilia
Wyvil as a person who knew something about her. Have you any
objection to tell me what you may have heard in that way?"

In complying with his request Emily necessarily repeated what
Cecilia had told Francine, when the two girls had met that
morning in the garden.

Alban now knew how Emily had obtained employment as Sir Jervis's
secretary; how Mr. and Mrs. Rook had been previously known to
Cecilia's father as respectable people keeping an inn in his own
neighborhood; and, finally, how they had been obliged to begin
life again in domestic service, because the terrible event of a
murder had given the inn a bad name, and had driven away the
customers on whose encouragement their business depended.

Listening in silence, Alban remained silent when Emily's
narrative had come to an end.

"Have you nothing to say to me?" she asked.

"I am thinking over what I have just heard," he answered.

Emily noticed a certain formality in his tone and manner, which
disagreeably surprised her. He
 seemed to have made his reply as a mere concession to
politeness, while he was thinking of something else which really
interested him.

"Have I disappointed you in any way?" she asked.

"On the contrary, you have interested me. I want to be quite sure
that I remember exactly what you have said. You mentioned, I
think, that your friendship with Miss Cecilia Wyvil began here,
at the school?"

"Yes."

"And in speaking of the murder at the village inn, you told me
that the crime was committed--I have forgotten how long ago?"

His manner still suggested that he was idly talking about what
she had told him, while some more important subject for
reflection was in possession of his mind.

"I don't know that I said anything about the time that had passed
since the crime was committed," she answered, sharply. "What does
the murder matter to _us?_ I think Cecilia told me it happened
about four years since. Excuse me for noticing it, Mr.
Morris--you seem to have some interests of your own to occupy
your attention. Why couldn't you say so plainly when we came out
here? I should not have asked you to help me, in that case. Since
my poor father's death, I have been used to fight through my
troubles by myself."

She rose, and looked at him proudly. The next moment her eyes
filled with tears.

In spite of her resistance, Alban took her hand. "Dear Miss
Emily," he said, "you distress me: you have not done me justice.
Your interests only are in my mind."

Answering her in those terms, he had not spoken as frankly as
usual. He had only told her a part of the truth.

Hearing that the woman whom they had just left had been landlady
of an inn, and that a murder had been committed under her roof,
he was led to ask himself if any explanation might be found, in
these circumstances, of the otherwise incomprehensible effect
produced on Mrs. Rook by the inscription on the locket.

In the pursuit of this inquiry there had arisen in his mind a
monstrous suspicion, which pointed to Mrs. Rook. It impelled him
to ascertain the date at which the murder had been committed, and
(if the discovery encouraged further investigation) to find out
next the manner in which Mr. Brown had died.

Thus far, what progress had he made? He had discovered that the
date of Mr. Brown's death, inscribed on the locket, and the date
of the crime committed at the inn, approached each other nearly
enough to justify further investigation.

In the meantime, had he succeeded in keeping his object concealed
from Emily? He had perfectly succeeded. Hearing him declare that
her interests only had occupied his mind, the poor girl
innocently entreated him to forgive her little outbreak of
temper. "If you have any more questions to ask me, Mr. Morris,
pray go on. I promise never to think unjustly of you again."

He went on with an uneasy conscience--for it seemed cruel to
deceive her, even in the interests of truth--but still he went
on.

"Suppose we assume that this woman had injured your father in
some way," he said. "Am I right in believing that it was in his
character to forgive injuries?"

"Entirely right."

"In that case, his death may have left Mrs. Rook in a position to
be called to account, by those who owe a duty to his memory--I
mean the surviving members of his family."

"There are but two of us, Mr. Morris. My aunt and myself."

"There are his executors."

"My aunt is his only executor."

"Your father's sister--I presume?"

"Yes."

"He may have left instructions with her, which might be of the
greatest use to us."

"I will write to-day, and find out," Emily replied. "I had
already planned to consult my aunt," she added, thinking again of
Miss Jethro.

"If your aunt has not received any positive instructions," Alban
continued, "she may remember some allusion to Mrs. Rook, on your
father's part, at the time of his last illness--"

Emily stopped him. "You don't know how my dear father died," she
said. "He was struck down--apparently in perfect health--by
disease of the heart."

"Struck down in his own house?"

"Yes--in his own house."

Those words closed Alban's lips. The investigation so carefully
and so delicately conducted had failed to serve any useful
purpose. He had now ascertained the manner of Mr. Brown's death
and the place of Mr. Brown's death--and he was as far from
confirming his suspicions of Mrs. Rook as ever.


CHAPTER XI.

THE DRAWING-MASTER'S CONFESSION.

"Is there nothing else you can suggest?" Emily asked.

"Nothing--at present."

"If my aunt fails us, have we no other hope?"

"I have hope in Mrs. Rook," Alban answered. "I see I surprise
you; but I really mean what I say. Sir Jervis's housekeeper is an
excitable woman, and she is fond of wine. There is always a weak
side in the character of such a person as that. If we wait for
our chance, and turn it to the right use when it comes, we may
yet succeed in making her betray herself."

Emily listened to him in bewilderment.

"You talk as if I was sure of your help in the future," she said.
"Have you forgotten that I leave school to-day, never to return?
In half an hour more, I shall be condemned to a long journey in
the company of that horrible creature--with a life to look
forward to, in the same house with her, among strangers! A
miserable prospect, and a hard trial of a girl's courage--is it
not, Mr. Morris?"

"You will at least have one person, Miss Emily, who will try with
all his heart and soul to encourage you."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Alban, quietly, "that the Midsummer vacation
begins to-day; and that the drawing-master is going to spend his
holidays in the North."

Emily jumped up from her chair. "You!" she exclaimed. "_You_ are
going to Northumberland? With me?"

"Why not?" Alban asked. "The railway is open to all travelers
alike, if they have money enough to buy a ticket."

"Mr. Morris! what _can_ you be thinking of? Indeed, indeed, I am
not ungrateful. I know you mean kindly--you are a good, generous
man. But do remember how completely a girl, in my position, is at
the mercy of appearances. You, traveling in the same carriage
with me! and that woman putting her own vile interpretation on
it, and degrading me in Sir Jervis Redwood's estimation, on the
day when I enter his house! Oh, it's worse than thoughtless--it's
madness, downright madness."

"You are quite right," Alban gravely agreed, "it _is_ madness. I
lost whatever little reason I once possessed, Miss Emily, on the
day when I first met you out walking with the young ladies of the
school."

Emily turned away in significant silence. Alban followed her.

"You promised just now," he said, "never to think unjustly of me
again. I respect and admire you far too sincerely to take a base
advantage of this occasion--the only occasion on which I have
been permitted to speak with you alone. Wait a little before you
condemn a man whom you don't understand. I will say nothing to
annoy you--I only ask leave to explain myself. Will you take your
chair again?"

She returned unwillingly to her seat. "It can only end," she
thought, sadly, "in my disappointing him!"

"I have had the worst possible opinion of women for years past,"
Alban resumed; "and the only reason I can give for it condemns me
out of my own mouth. I have been infamously treated by one woman;
and my wounded self-esteem has meanly revenged itself by reviling
the whole sex. Wait a little, Miss Emily. My fault has received
its fit punishment. I have been thoroughly humiliated--and _you_
have done it."

"Mr. Morris!"

"Take no offense, pray, where no offense is meant. Some few years
since it was the great misfortune of my life to meet with a Jilt.
You know what I mean?"

"Yes."

"She was my equal by birth (I am a younger son of a country
squire), and my superior in rank. I can honestly tell you that I
was fool enough to love her with all my heart and soul. She never
allowed me to doubt--I may say this without conceit, remembering
the miserable end of it--that my feeling for her was returned.
Her father and mother (excellent people) approved of the
contemplated marriage. She accepted my presents; she allowed all
the customary preparations for a wedding to proceed to
completion; she had not even mercy en ough, or shame enough, to
prevent me from publicly degrading myself by waiting for her at
the altar, in the presence of a large congregation. The minutes
passed--and no bride appeared. The clergyman, waiting like me,
was requested to return to the vestry. I was invited to follow
him. You foresee the end of the story, of course? She had run
away with another man. But can you guess who the man was? Her
groom!"

Emily's face reddened with indignation. "She suffered for it? Oh,
Mr. Morris, surely she suffered for it?"

"Not at all. She had money enough to reward the groom for
marrying her; and she let herself down easily to her husband's
level. It was a suitable marriage in every respect. When I last
heard of them, they were regularly in the habit of getting drunk
together. I am afraid I have disgusted you? We will drop the
subject, and resume my precious autobiography at a later date.
One showery day in the autumn of last year, you young ladies went
out with Miss Ladd for a walk. When you were all trotting back
again, under your umbrellas, did you (in particular) notice an
ill-tempered fellow standing in the road, and getting a good look
at you, on the high footpath above him?"

Emily smiled, in spite of herself. "I don't remember it," she
said.

"You wore a brown jacket which fitted you as if you had been born
in it--and you had the smartest little straw hat I ever saw on a
woman's head. It was the first time I ever noticed such things. I
think I could paint a portrait of the boots you wore (mud
included), from memory alone. That was the impression you
produced on me. After believing, honestly believing, that love
was one of the lost illusions of my life--after feeling, honestly
feeling, that I would as soon look at the devil as look at a
woman--there was the state of mind to which retribution had
reduced me; using for his instrument Miss Emily Brown. Oh, don't
be afraid of what I may say next! In your presence, and out of
your presence, I am man enough to be ashamed of my own folly. I
am resisting your influence over me at this moment, with the
strongest of all resolutions--the resolution of despair. Let's
look at the humorous side of the story again. What do you think I
did when the regiment of young ladies had passed by me?"

Emily declined to guess.

"I followed you back to the school; and, on pretense of having a
daughter to educate, I got one of Miss Ladd's prospectuses from
the porter at the lodge gate. I was in your neighborhood, you
must know, on a sketching tour. I went back to my inn, and
seriously considered what had happened to me. The result of my
cogitations was that I went abroad. Only for a change--not at all
because I was trying to weaken the impression you had produced on
me! After a while I returned to England. Only because I was tired
of traveling--not at all because your influence drew me back!
Another interval passed; and luck turned my way, for a wonder.
The drawing-master's place became vacant here. Miss Ladd
advertised; I produced my testimonials; and took the situation.
Only because the salary was a welcome certainty to a poor
man--not at all because the new position brought me into personal
association with Miss Emily Brown! Do you begin to see why I have
troubled you with all this talk about myself? Apply the
contemptible system of self-delusion which my confession has
revealed, to that holiday arrangement for a tour in the north
which has astonished and annoyed you. I am going to travel this
afternoon by your train. Only because I feel an intelligent
longing to see the northernmost county of England--not at all
because I won't let you trust yourself alone with Mrs. Rook! Not
at all because I won't leave you to enter Sir Jervis Redwood's
service without a friend within reach in case you want him! Mad?
Oh, yes--perfectly mad. But, tell me this: What do all sensible
people do when they find themselves in the company of a lunatic?
They humor him. Let me take your ticket and see your luggage
labeled: I only ask leave to be your traveling servant. If you
are proud--I shall like you all the better, if you are--pay me
wages, and keep me in my proper place in that way.

Some girls, addressed with this reckless intermingling of jest
and earnest, would have felt confused, and some would have felt
flattered. With a good-tempered resolution, which never passed
the limits of modesty and refinement, Emily met Alban Morris on
his own ground.

"You have said you respect me," she began; "I am going to prove
that I believe you. The least I can do is not to misinterpret
you, on my side. Am I to understand, Mr. Morris--you won't think
the worse of me, I hope, if I speak plainly--am I to understand
that you are in love with me?"

"Yes, Miss Emily--if you please."

He had answered with the quaint gravity which was peculiar to
him; but he was already conscious of a sense of discouragement.
Her composure was a bad sign--from his point of view.

"My time will come, I daresay," she proceeded. "At present I know
nothing of love, by experience; I only know what some of my
schoolfellows talk about in secret. Judging by what they tell me,
a girl blushes when her lover pleads with her to favor his
addresses. Am I blushing?"

"Must I speak plainly, too?" Alban asked.

"If you have no objection," she answered, as composedly as if she
had been addressing her grandfather.

"Then, Miss Emily, I must say--you are not blushing."

She went on. "Another token of love--as I am informed--is to
tremble. Am I trembling?"

"No."

"Am I too confused to look at you?"

"No."

"Do I walk away with dignity--and then stop, and steal a timid
glance at my lover, over my shoulder?"

"I wish you did!"

"A plain answer, Mr. Morris! Yes or No."

"No--of course."

"In one last word, do I give you any sort of encouragement to try
again?"

"In one last word, I have made a fool of myself--and you have
taken the kindest possible way of telling me so."

This time, she made no attempt to reply in his own tone. The
good-humored gayety of her manner disappeared. She was in
earnest--truly, sadly in earnest--when she said her next words.

"Is it not best, in your own interests, that we should bid each
other good-by?" she asked. "In the time to come--when you only
remember how kind you once were to me--we may look forward to
meeting again. After all that you have suffered, so bitterly and
so undeservedly, don't, pray don't, make me feel that another
woman has behaved cruelly to you, and that I--so grieved to
distress you--am that heartless creature!"

Never in her life had she been so irresistibly charming as she
was at that moment. Her sweet nature showed all its innocent pity
for him in her face.

He saw it--he felt it--he was not unworthy of it. In silence, he
lifted her hand to his lips. He turned pale as he kissed it.

"Say that you agree with me?" she pleaded.

"I obey you."

As he answered, he pointed to the lawn at their feet. "Look," he
said, "at that dead leaf which the air is wafting over the grass.
Is it possible that such sympathy as you feel for Me, such love
as I feel for You, can waste, wither, and fall to the ground like
that leaf? I leave you, Emily--with the firm conviction that
there is a time of fulfillment to come in our two lives. Happen
what may in the interval--I trust the future."



The words had barely passed his lips when the voice of one of the
servants reached them from the house. "Miss Emily, are you in the
garden?"

Emily stepped out into the sunshine. The servant hurried to meet
her, and placed a telegram in her hand. She looked at it with a
sudden misgiving. In her small experience, a telegram was
associated with the communication of bad news. She conquered her
hesitation--opened it--read it. The color left her face: she
shuddered. The telegram dropped on the grass.

"Read it," she said, faintly, as Alban picked it up.

He read these words: "Come to London directly. Miss Letitia is
dangerously ill."

"Your aunt?" he asked.

"Yes--my aunt."


BOOK THE SECOND--IN LONDON.

CHAPTER XII.

MRS. ELLMOTHER.

The metropolis of Great Britain is, in certain respects, like no
other metropolis on the face of the earth. In the population that
throngs the st reets, the extremes of Wealth and the extremes of
Poverty meet, as they meet nowhere else. In the streets
themselves, the glory and the shame of architecture--the mansion
and the hovel--are neighbors in situation, as they are neighbors
nowhere else. London, in its social aspect, is the city of
contrasts.

Toward the close of evening Emily left the railway terminus for
the place of residence in which loss of fortune had compelled her
aunt to take refuge. As she approached her destination, the cab
passed--by merely crossing a road--from a spacious and beautiful
Park, with its surrounding houses topped by statues and cupolas,
to a row of cottages, hard by a stinking ditch miscalled a canal.
The city of contrasts: north and south, east and west, the city
of social contrasts.

Emily stopped the cab before the garden gate of a cottage, at the
further end of the row. The bell was answered by the one servant
now in her aunt's employ--Miss Letitia's maid.

Personally, this good creature was one of the ill-fated women
whose appearance suggests that Nature intended to make men of
them and altered her mind at the last moment. Miss Letitia's maid
was tall and gaunt and awkward. The first impression produced by
her face was an impression of bones. They rose high on her
forehead; they projected on her cheeks; and they reached their
boldest development in her jaws. In the cavernous eyes of this
unfortunate person rigid obstinacy and rigid goodness looked out
together, with equal severity, on all her fellow-creatures alike.
Her mistress (whom she had served for a quarter of a century and
more) called her "Bony." She accepted this cruelly appropriate
nick-name as a mark of affectionate familiarity which honored a
servant. No other person was allowed to take liberties with her:
to every one but her mistress she was known as Mrs. Ellmother.

"How is my aunt?" Emily asked.

"Bad."

"Why have I not heard of her illness before?"

"Because she's too fond of you to let you be distressed about
her. 'Don't tell Emily'; those were her orders, as long as she
kept her senses."

"Kept her senses? Good heavens! what do you mean?"

"Fever--that's what I mean."

"I must see her directly; I am not afraid of infection."

"There's no infection to be afraid of. But you mustn't see her,
for all that."

"I insist on seeing her."

"Miss Emily, I am disappointing you for your own good. Don't you
know me well enough to trust me by this time?"

"I do trust you."

"Then leave my mistress to me--and go and make yourself
comfortable in your own room."

Emily's answer was a positive refusal. Mrs. Ellmother, driven to
her last resources, raised a new obstacle.

"It's not to be done, I tell you! How can you see Miss Letitia
when she can't bear the light in her room? Do you know what color
her eyes are? Red, poor soul--red as a boiled lobster."

With every word the woman uttered, Emily's perplexity and
distress increased.

"You told me my aunt's illness was fever," she said--"and now you
speak of some complaint in her eyes. Stand out of the way, if you
please, and let me go to her."

Mrs. Ellmother, still keeping her place, looked through the open
door.

"Here's the doctor," she announced. "It seems I can't satisfy
you; ask him what's the matter. Come in, doctor." She threw open
the door of the parlor, and introduced Emily. "This is the
mistress's niece, sir. Please try if _you_ can keep her quiet. I
can't." She placed chairs with the hospitable politeness of the
old school--and returned to her post at Miss Letitia's bedside.

Doctor Allday was an elderly man, with a cool manner and a ruddy
complexion--thoroughly acclimatized to the atmosphere of pain and
grief in which it was his destiny to live. He spoke to Emily
(without any undue familiarity) as if he had been accustomed to
see her for the greater part of her life.

"That's a curious woman," he said, when Mrs. Ellmother closed the
door; "the most headstrong person, I think, I ever met with. But
devoted to her mistress, and, making allowance for her
awkwardness, not a bad nurse. I am afraid I can't give you an
encouraging report of your aunt. The rheumatic fever (aggravated
by the situation of this house--built on clay, you know, and
close to stagnant water) has been latterly complicated by
delirium."

"Is that a bad sign, sir?"

"The worst possible sign; it shows that the disease has affected
the heart. Yes: she is suffering from inflammation of the eyes,
but that is an unimportant symptom. We can keep the pain under by
means of cooling lotions and a dark room. I've often heard her
speak of you--especially since the illness assumed a serious
character. What did you say? Will she know you, when you go into
her room? This is about the time when the delirium usually sets
in. I'll see if there's a quiet interval.'

He opened the door--and came back again.

"By the way," he resumed, "I ought perhaps to explain how it was
that I took the liberty of sending you that telegram. Mrs.
Ellmother refused to inform you of her mistress's serious
illness. That circumstance, according to my view of it, laid the
responsibility on the doctor's shoulders. The form taken by your
aunt's delirium--I mean the apparent tendency of the words that
escape her in that state--seems to excite some incomprehensible
feeling in the mind of her crabbed servant. She wouldn't even let
_me_ go into the bedroom, if she could possibly help it. Did Mrs.
Ellmother give you a warm welcome when you came here?"

"Far from it. My arrival seemed to annoy her."

"Ah--just what I expected. These faithful old servants always end
by presuming on their fidelity. Did you ever hear what a witty
poet--I forget his name: he lived to be ninety--said of the man
who had been his valet for more than half a century? 'For thirty
years he was the best of servants; and for thirty years he has
been the hardest of masters.' Quite true--I might say the same of
my housekeeper. Rather a good story, isn't it?"

The story was completely thrown away on Emily; but one subject
interested her now. "My poor aunt has always been fond of me,"
she said. "Perhaps she might know me, when she recognizes nobody
else."

"Not very likely," the doctor answered. "But there's no laying
down any rule in cases of this kind. I have sometimes observed
that circumstances which have produced a strong impression on
patients, when they are in a state of health, give a certain
direction to the wandering of their minds, when they are in a
state of fever. You will say, 'I am not a circumstance; I don't
see how this encourages me to hope'--and you will be quite right.
Instead of talking of my medical experience, I shall do better to
look at Miss Letitia, and let you know the result. You have got
other relations, I suppose? No? Very distressing--very
distressing."

Who has not suffered as Emily suffered, when she was left alone?
Are there not moments--if we dare to confess the truth--when poor
humanity loses its hold on the consolations of religion and the
hope of immortality, and feels the cruelty of creation that bids
us live, on the condition that we die, and leads the first warm
beginnings of love, with merciless certainty, to the cold
conclusion of the grave?

"She's quiet, for the time being," Dr. Allday announced, on his
return. "Remember, please, that she can't see you in the inflamed
state of her eyes, and don't disturb the bed-curtains. The sooner
you go to her the better, perhaps--if you have anything to say
which depends on her recognizing your voice. I'll call to-morrow
morning. Very distressing," he repeated, taking his hat and
making his bow--"Very distressing."

Emily crossed the narrow little passage which separated the two
rooms, and opened the bed-chamber door. Mrs. Ellmother met her on
the threshold. "No," said the obstinate old servant, "you can't
come in."

The faint voice of Miss Letitia made itself heard, calling Mrs.
Ellmother by her familiar nick-name.

"Bony, who is it?"

"Never mind."

"Who is it?"

"Miss Emily, if you must know."

"Oh! poor dear, why does she come here? Who told her I was ill?"

"The doctor told her."

"Don't come in, Emily. It will only distress you--and it will do
me no good. God bles s you, my love. Don't come in."

"There!" said Mrs. Ellmother. "Do you hear that? Go back to the
sitting-room."

Thus far, the hard necessity of controlling herself had kept
Emily silent. She was now able to speak without tears. "Remember
the old times, aunt," she pleaded, gently. "Don't keep me out of
your room, when I have come here to nurse you!"

"I'm her nurse. Go back to the sitting-room," Mrs. Ellmother
repeated.

True love lasts while life lasts. The dying woman relented.

"Bony! Bony! I can't be unkind to Emily. Let her in."

Mrs. Ellmother still insisted on having her way.

"You're contradicting your own orders," she said to her mistress.
"You don't know how soon you may begin wandering in your mind
again. Think, Miss Letitia--think."

This remonstrance was received in silence. Mrs. Ellmother's great
gaunt figure still blocked up the doorway.

"If you force me to it," Emily said, quietly, "I must go to the
doctor, and ask him to interfere."

"Do you mean that?" Mrs. Ellmother said, quietly, on her side.

"I do mean it," was the answer.

The old servant suddenly submitted--with a look which took Emily
by surprise. She had expected to see anger; the face that now
confronted her was a face subdued by sorrow and fear.

"I wash my hands of it," Mrs. Ellmother said. "Go in--and take
the consequences."


CHAPTER XIII.

MISS LETITIA.

Emily entered the room. The door was immediately closed on her
from the outer side. Mrs. Ellmother's heavy steps were heard
retreating along the passage. Then the banging of the door that
led into the kitchen shook the flimsily-built cottage. Then,
there was silence.

The dim light of a lamp hidden away in a corner and screened by a
dingy green shade, just revealed the closely-curtained bed, and
the table near it bearing medicine-bottles and glasses. The only
objects on the chimney-piece were a clock that had been stopped
in mercy to the sufferer's irritable nerves, and an open case
containing a machine for pouring drops into the eyes. The smell
of fumigating pastilles hung heavily on the air. To Emily's
excited imagination, the silence was like the silence of death.
She approached the bed trembling. "Won't you speak to me, aunt?"

"Is that you, Emily? Who let you come in?"

"You said I might come in, dear. Are you thirsty? I see some
lemonade on the table. Shall I give it to you?"

"No! If you open the bed-curtains, you let in the light. My poor
eyes! Why are you here, my dear? Why are you not at the school?"

"It's holiday-time, aunt. Besides, I have left school for good."

"Left school?" Miss Letitia's memory made an effort, as she
repeated those words. "You were going somewhere when you left
school," she said, "and Cecilia Wyvil had something to do with
it. Oh, my love, how cruel of you to go away to a stranger, when
you might live here with me!" She paused--her sense of what she
had herself just said began to grow confused. "What stranger?"
she asked abruptly. "Was it a man? What name? Oh, my mind! Has
death got hold of my mind before my body?"

"Hush! hush! I'll tell you the name. Sir Jervis Redwood."

"I don't know him. I don't want to know him. Do you think he
means to send for you. Perhaps he _has_ sent for you. I won't
allow it! You shan't go!"

"Don't excite yourself, dear! I have refused to go; I mean to
stay here with you."

The fevered brain held to its last idea. "_Has_ he sent for you?"
she said again, louder than before.

Emily replied once more, in terms carefully chosen with the one
purpose of pacifying her. The attempt proved to be useless, and
worse--it seemed to make her suspicious. "I won't be deceived!"
she said; "I mean to know all about it. He did send for you. Whom
did he send?"

"His housekeeper."

"What name?" The tone in which she put the question told of
excitement that was rising to its climax. "Don't you know that
I'm curious about names?" she burst out. "Why do you provoke me?
Who is it?"

"Nobody you know, or need care about, dear aunt. Mrs. Rook."

Instantly on the utterance of that name, there followed an
unexpected result. Silence ensued.

Emily waited--hesitated--advanced, to part the curtains, and look
in at her aunt. She was stopped by a dreadful sound of
laughter--the cheerless laughter that is heard among the mad. It
suddenly ended in a dreary sigh.

Afraid to look in, she spoke, hardly knowing what she said. "Is
there anything you wish for? Shall I call--?"

Miss Letitia's voice interrupted her. Dull, low, rapidly
muttering, it was unlike, shockingly unlike, the familiar voice
of her aunt. It said strange words.

"Mrs. Rook? What does Mrs. Rook matter? Or her husband either?
Bony, Bony, you're frightened about nothing. Where's the danger
of those two people turning up? Do you know how many miles away
the village is? Oh, you fool--a hundred miles and more. Never
mind the coroner, the coroner must keep in his own district--and
the jury too. A risky deception? I call it a pious fraud. And I
have a tender conscience, and a cultivated mind. The newspaper?
How is _our_ newspaper to find its way to her, I should like to
know? You poor old Bony! Upon my word you do me good--you make me
laugh."

The cheerless laughter broke out again--and died away again
drearily in a sigh.

Accustomed to decide rapidly in the ordinary emergencies of her
life, Emily felt herself painfully embarrassed by the position in
which she was now placed.

After what she had already heard, could she reconcile it to her
sense of duty to her aunt to remain any longer in the room?

In the hopeless self-betrayal of delirium, Miss Letitia had
revealed some act of concealment, committed in her past life, and
confided to her faithful old servant. Under these circumstances,
had Emily made any discoveries which convicted her of taking a
base advantage of her position at the bedside? Most assuredly
not! The nature of the act of concealment; the causes that had
led to it; the person (or persons) affected by it--these were
mysteries which left her entirely in the dark. She had found out
that her aunt was acquainted with Mrs. Rook, and that was
literally all she knew.

Blameless, so far, in the line of conduct that she had pursued,
might she still remain in the bed-chamber--on this distinct
understanding with herself: that she would instantly return to
the sitting-room if she heard anything which could suggest a
doubt of Miss Letitia's claim to her affection and respect? After
some hesitation, she decided on leaving it to her conscience to
answer that question. Does conscience ever say, No--when
inclination says, Yes? Emily's conscience sided with her
reluctance to leave her aunt.

Throughout the time occupied by these reflections, the silence
had remained unbroken. Emily began to feel uneasy. She timidly
put her hand through the curtains, and took Miss Letitia's hand.
The contact with the burning skin startled her. She turned away
to the door, to call the servant--when the sound of her aunt's
voice hurried her back to the bed.

"Are you there, Bony?" the voice asked.

Was her mind getting clear again? Emily tried the experiment of
making a plain reply. "Your niece is with you," she said. "Shall
I call the servant?"

Miss Letitia's mind was still far away from Emily, and from the
present time.

"The servant?" she repeated. "All the servants but you, Bony,
have been sent away. London's the place for us. No gossiping
servants and no curious neighbors in London. Bury the horrid
truth in London. Ah, you may well say I look anxious and
wretched. I hate deception--and yet, it must be done. Why do you
waste time in talking? Why don't you find out where the vile
woman lives? Only let me get at her--and I'll make Sara ashamed
of herself."

Emily's heart beat fast when she heard the woman's name. "Sara"
(as she and her school-fellows knew) was the baptismal name of
Miss Jethro. Had her aunt alluded to the disgraced teacher, or to
some other woman?

She waited eagerly to hear more. There was nothing to be heard.
At this most interesting moment, the silence remained
undisturbed.

In the fervor of her anxiety to set her doubts at rest, Emily's
faith in her own good resolutions began to waver. The temptation
to say somethin g which might set her aunt talking again was too
strong to be resisted--if she remained at the bedside. Despairing
of herself she rose and turned to the door. In the moment that
passed while she crossed the room the very words occurred to her
that would suit her purpose. Her cheeks were hot with shame--she
hesitated--she looked back at the bed--the words passed her lips.

"Sara is only one of the woman's names," she said. "Do you like
her other name?"

The rapidly-muttering tones broke out again instantly--but not in
answer to Emily. The sound of a voice had encouraged Miss Letitia
to pursue her own confused train of thought, and had stimulated
the fast-failing capacity of speech to exert itself once more.

"No! no! He's too cunning for you, and too cunning for me. He
doesn't leave letters about; he destroys them all. Did I say he
was too cunning for us? It's false. We are too cunning for him.
Who found the morsels of his letter in the basket? Who stuck them
together? Ah, _we_ know! Don't read it, Bony. 'Dear Miss
Jethro'--don't read it again. 'Miss Jethro' in his letter; and
'Sara,' when he talks to himself in the garden. Oh, who would
have believed it of him, if we hadn't seen and heard it
ourselves!"

There was no more doubt now.

But who was the man, so bitterly and so regretfully alluded to?

No: this time Emily held firmly by the resolution which bound her
to respect the helpless position of her aunt. The speediest way
of summoning Mrs. Ellmother would be to ring the bell. As she
touched the handle a faint cry of suffering from the bed called
her back.

"Oh, so thirsty!" murmured the failing voice--so thirsty!"

She parted the curtains. The shrouded lamplight just showed her
the green shade over Miss Letitia s eyes--the hollow cheeks below
it--the arms laid helplessly on the bed-clothes. "Oh, aunt, don't
you know my voice? Don't you know Emily? Let me kiss you, dear!"
Useless to plead with her; useless to kiss her; she only
reiterated the words, "So thirsty! so thirsty!" Emily raised the
poor tortured body with a patient caution which spared it pain,
and put the glass to her aunt's lips. She drank the lemonade to
the last drop. Refreshed for the moment, she spoke again--spoke
to the visionary servant of her delirious fancy, while she rested
in Emily's arms.

"For God's sake, take care how you answer if she questions you.
If _she_ knew what _we_ know! Are men ever ashamed? Ha! the vile
woman! the vile woman!"

Her voice, sinking gradually, dropped to a whisper. The next few
words that escaped her were muttered inarticulately. Little by
little, the false energy of fever was wearing itself out. She lay
silent and still. To look at her now was to look at the image of
death. Once more, Emily kissed her--closed the curtains--and rang
the bell. Mrs. Ellmother failed to appear. Emily left the room to
call her.

Arrived at the top of the kitchen stairs, she noted a slight
change. The door below, which she had heard banged on first
entering her aunt's room, now stood open. She called to Mrs.
Ellmother. A strange voice answered her. Its accent was soft and
courteous; presenting the strongest imaginable contrast to the
harsh tones of Miss Letitia's crabbed old maid.

"Is there anything I can do for you, miss?"

The person making this polite inquiry appeared at the foot of the
stairs--a plump and comely woman of middle age. She looked up at
the young lady with a pleasant smile.

"I beg your pardon," Emily said; "I had no intention of
disturbing you. I called to Mrs. Ellmother."

The stranger advanced a little way up the stairs, and answered,
"Mrs. Ellmother is not here."

"Do you expect her back soon?"

"Excuse me, miss--I don't expect her back at all."

"Do you mean to say that she has left the house?"

"Yes, miss. She has left the house."


CHAPTER XIV.

MRS. MOSEY.

Emily's first act--after the discovery of Mrs. Ellmother's
incomprehensible disappearance--was to invite the new servant to
follow her into the sitting-room.

"Can you explain this?" she began.

"No, miss."

"May I ask if you have come here by Mrs. Ellmother's invitation?"

"By Mrs. Ellmother's _request_, miss."

"Can you tell me how she came to make the request?"

"With pleasure, miss. Perhaps--as you find me here, a stranger to
yourself, in place of the customary servant--I ought to begin by
giving you a reference."

"And, perhaps (if you will be so kind), by mentioning your name,"
Emily added.

"Thank you for reminding me, miss. My name is Elizabeth Mosey. I
am well known to the gentleman who attends Miss Letitia. Dr.
Allday will speak to my character and also to my experience as a
nurse. If it would be in any way satisfactory to give you a
second reference--"

"Quite needless, Mrs. Mosey."

"Permit me to thank you again, miss. I was at home this evening,
when Mrs. Ellmother called at my lodgings. Says she, 'I have come
here, Elizabeth, to ask a favor of you for old friendship's
sake.' Says I, 'My dear, pray command me, whatever it may be.' If
this seems rather a hasty answer to make, before I knew what the
favor was, might I ask you to bear in mind that Mrs. Ellmother
put it to me 'for old friendship's sake'--alluding to my late
husband, and to the business which we carried on at that time?
Through no fault of ours, we got into difficulties. Persons whom
we had trusted proved unworthy. Not to trouble you further, I may
say at once, we should have been ruined, if our old friend Mrs.
Ellmother had not come forward, and trusted us with the savings
of her lifetime. The money was all paid back again, before my
husband's death. But I don't consider--and, I think you won't
consider--that the obligation was paid back too. Prudent or not
prudent, there is nothing Mrs. Ellmother can ask of me that I am
not willing to do. If I have put myself in an awkward situation
(and I don't deny that it looks so) this is the only excuse,
miss, that I can make for my conduct."

Mrs. Mosey was too fluent, and too fond of hearing the sound of
her own eminently persuasive voice. Making allowance for these
little drawbacks, the impression that she produced was decidedly
favorable; and, however rashly she might have acted, her motive
was beyond reproach. Having said some kind words to this effect,
Emily led her back to the main interest of her narrative.

"Did Mrs. Ellmother give no reason for leaving my aunt, at such a
time as this?" she asked.

"The very words I said to her, miss."

"And what did she say, by way of reply?"

"She burst out crying--a thing I have never known her to do
before, in an experience of twenty years."

"And she really asked you to take her place here, at a moment's
notice?"

"That was just what she did," Mrs. Mosey answered. "I had no need
to tell her I was astonished; my lips spoke for me, no doubt.
She's a hard woman in speech and manner, I admit. But there's
more feeling in her than you would suppose. 'If you are the good
friend I take you for,' she says, 'don't ask me for reasons; I am
doing what is forced on me, and doing it with a heavy heart.' In
my place, miss, would you have insisted on her explaining
herself, after that? The one thing I naturally wanted to know
was, if I could speak to some lady, in the position of mistress
here, before I ventured to intrude. Mrs. Ellmother understood
that it was her duty to help me in this particular. Your poor
aunt being out of the question she mentioned you."

"How did she speak of me? In an angry way?"

"No, indeed--quite the contrary. She says, 'You will find Miss
Emily at the cottage. She is Miss Letitia's niece. Everybody
likes her--and everybody is right.'"

"She really said that?"

"Those were her words. And, what is more, she gave me a message
for you at parting. 'If Miss Emily is surprised' (that was how
she put it) 'give her my duty and good wishes; and tell her to
remember what I said, when she took my place at her aunt's
bedside.' I don't presume to inquire what this means," said Mrs.
Mosey respectfully, ready to hear what it meant, if Emily would
only be so good as to tell her. "I deliver the message, miss, as
it was delivered to me. After which, Mrs. Ellmother went her way,
and I went mine."

"Do you know where she wen t?"

"No, miss."

"Have you nothing more to tell me?"

"Nothing more; except that she gave me my directions, of course,
about the nursing. I took them down in writing--and you will find
them in their proper place, with the prescriptions and the
medicines."

Acting at once on this hint, Emily led the way to her aunt's
room.

Miss Letitia was silent, when the new nurse softly parted the
curtains--looked in--and drew them together again. Consulting her
watch, Mrs. Mosey compared her written directions with the
medicine-bottles on the table, and set one apart to be used at
the appointed time. "Nothing, so far, to alarm us," she
whispered. "You look sadly pale and tired, miss. Might I advise
you to rest a little?"

"If there is any change, Mrs. Mosey--either for the better or the
worse--of course you will let me know?"

"Certainly, miss."

Emily returned to the sitting-room: not to rest (after all that
she had heard), but to think.



Amid much that was unintelligible, certain plain conclusions
presented themselves to her mind.

After what the doctor had already said to Emily, on the subject
of delirium generally, Mrs. Ellmother's proceedings became
intelligible: they proved that she knew by experience the
perilous course taken by her mistress's wandering thoughts, when
they expressed themselves in words. This explained the
concealment of Miss Letitia's illness from her niece, as well as
the reiterated efforts of the old servant to prevent Emily from
entering the bedroom.

But the event which had just happened--that is to say, Mrs.
Ellmother's sudden departure from the cottage--was not only of
serious importance in itself, but pointed to a startling
conclusion.

The faithful maid had left the mistress, whom she had loved and
served, sinking under a fatal illness--and had put another woman
in her place, careless of what that woman might discover by
listening at the bedside--rather than confront Emily after she
had been within hearing of her aunt while the brain of the
suffering woman was deranged by fever. There was the state of the
case, in plain words.

In what frame of mind had Mrs. Ellmother adopted this desperate
course of action?

To use her own expression, she had deserted Miss Letitia "with a
heavy heart." To judge by her own language addressed to Mrs.
Mosey, she had left Emily to the mercy of a stranger--animated,
nevertheless, by sincere feelings of attachment and respect. That
her fears had taken for granted suspicion which Emily had not
felt, and discoveries which Emily had (as yet) not made, in no
way modified the serious nature of the inference which her
conduct justified. The disclosure which this woman dreaded--who
could doubt it now?--directly threatened Emily's peace of mind.
There was no disguising it: the innocent niece was associated
with an act of deception, which had been, until that day, the
undetected secret of the aunt and the aunt's maid.

In this conclusion, and in this only, was to be found the
rational explanation of Mrs. Ellmother's choice--placed between
the alternatives of submitting to discovery by Emily, or of
leaving the house.


Poor Miss Letitia's writing-table stood near the window of the
sitting-room. Shrinking from the further pursuit of thoughts
which might end in disposing her mind to distrust of her dying
aunt, Emily looked round in search of some employment
sufficiently interesting to absorb her attention. The
writing-table reminded her that she owed a letter to Cecilia.
That helpful friend had surely the first claim to know why she
had failed to keep her engagement with Sir Jervis Redwood.

After mentioning the telegram which had followed Mrs. Rook's
arrival at the school, Emily's letter proceeded in these terms:

"As soon as I had in some degree recovered myself, I informed
Mrs. Rook of my aunt's serious illness.

"Although she carefully confined herself to commonplace
expressions of sympathy, I could see that it was equally a relief
to both of us to feel that we were prevented from being traveling
companions. Don't suppose that I have taken a capricious dislike
to Mrs. Rook--or that you are in any way to blame for the
unfavorable impression which she has produced on me. I will make
this plain when we meet. In the meanwhile, I need only tell you
that I gave her a letter of explanation to present to Sir Jervis
Redwood. I also informed him of my address in London: adding a
request that he would forward your letter, in case you have
written to me before you receive these lines.

"Kind Mr. Alban Morris accompanied me to the railway-station, and
arranged with the guard to take special care of me on the journey
to London. We used to think him rather a heartless man. We were
quite wrong. I don't know what his plans are for spending the
summer holidays. Go where he may, I remember his kindness; my
best wishes go with him.

"My dear, I must not sadden your enjoyment of your pleasant visit
to the Engadine, by writing at any length of the sorrow that I am
suffering. You know how I love my aunt, and how gratefully I have
always felt her motherly goodness to me. The doctor does not
conceal the truth. At her age, there is no hope: my father's
last-left relation, my one dearest friend, is dying.

"No! I must not forget that I have another friend--I must find
some comfort in thinking of _you_.

"I do so long in my solitude for a letter from my dear Cecilia.
Nobody comes to see me, when I most want sympathy; I am a
stranger in this vast city. The members of my mother's family are
settled in Australia: they have not even written to me, in all
the long years that have passed since her death. You remember how
cheerfully I used to look forward to my new life, on leaving
school? Good-by, my darling. While I can see your sweet face, in
my thoughts, I don't despair--dark as it looks now--of the future
that is before me."

Emily had closed and addressed her letter, and was just rising
from her chair, when she heard the voice of the new nurse at the
door.


CHAPTER XV

EMILY.

"May I say a word?" Mrs. Mosey inquired. She entered the
room--pale and trembling. Seeing that ominous change, Emily
dropped back into her chair.

"Dead?" she said faintly.

Mrs. Mosey looked at her in vacant surprise.

"I wish to say, miss, that your aunt has frightened me."

Even that vague allusion was enough for Emily.

"You need say no more," she replied. "I know but too well how my
aunt's mind is affected by the fever."

Confused and frightened as she was, Mrs. Mosey still found relief
in her customary flow of words.

"Many and many a person have I nursed in fever," she announced.
"Many and many a person have I heard say strange things. Never
yet, miss, in all my experience--!"

"Don't tell me of it!" Emily interposed.

"Oh, but I _must_ tell you! In your own interests, Miss Emily--in
your own interests. I won't be inhuman enough to leave you alone
in the house to-night; but if this delirium goes on, I must ask
you to get another nurse. Shocking suspicions are lying in wait
for me in that bedroom, as it were. I can't resist them as I
ought, if I go back again, and hear your aunt saying what she has
been saying for the last half hour and more. Mrs. Ellmother has
expected impossibilities of me; and Mrs. Ellmother must take the
consequences. I don't say she didn't warn me--speaking, you will
please to understand, in the strictest confidence. 'Elizabeth,'
she says, 'you know how wildly people talk in Miss Letitia's
present condition. Pay no heed to it,' she says. 'Let it go in at
one ear and out at the other,' she says. 'If Miss Emily asks
questions--you know nothing about it. If she's frightened--you
know nothing about it. If she bursts into fits of crying that are
dreadful to see, pity her, poor thing, but take no notice.' All
very well, and sounds like speaking out, doesn't it? Nothing of
the sort! Mrs. Ellmother warns me to expect this, that, and the
other. But there is one horrid thing (which I heard, mind, over
and over again at your aunt's bedside) that she does _not_
prepare me for; and that horrid thing is--Murder!"

At that last word, Mrs. Mosey dropped her voice to a whisper--and
waited to see what effect she had produced.

Sorely tried
 already by the cruel perplexities of her position, Emily's
courage failed to resist the first sensation of horror, aroused
in her by the climax of the nurse's hysterical narrative.
Encouraged by her silence, Mrs. Mosey went on. She lifted one
hand with theatrical solemnity--and luxuriously terrified herself
with her own horrors.

"An inn, Miss Emily; a lonely inn, somewhere in the country; and
a comfortless room at the inn, with a makeshift bed at one end of
it, and a makeshift bed at the other--I give you my word of
honor, that was how your aunt put it. She spoke of two men next;
two men asleep (you understand) in the two beds. I think she
called them 'gentlemen'; but I can't be sure, and I wouldn't
deceive you--you know I wouldn't deceive you, for the world. Miss
Letitia muttered and mumbled, poor soul. I own I was getting
tired of listening--when she burst out plain again, in that one
horrid word--Oh, miss, don't be impatient! don't interrupt me!"

Emily did interrupt, nevertheless. In some degree at least she
had recovered herself. "No more of it!" she said--"I won't hear a
word more."

But Mrs. Mosey was too resolutely bent on asserting her own
importance, by making the most of the alarm that she had
suffered, to be repressed by any ordinary method of remonstrance.
Without paying the slightest attention to what Emily had said,
she went on again more loudly and more excitably than ever.

"Listen, miss--listen! The dreadful part of it is to come; you
haven't heard about the two gentlemen yet. One of them was
murdered--what do you think of that!--and the other (I heard your
aunt say it, in so many words) committed the crime. Did Miss
Letitia fancy she was addressing a lot of people when _you_ were
nursing her? She called out, like a person making public
proclamation, when I was in her room. 'Whoever you are, good
people' (she says), 'a hundred pounds reward, if you find the
runaway murderer. Search everywhere for a poor weak womanish
creature, with rings on his little white hands. There's nothing
about him like a man, except his voice--a fine round voice.
You'll know him, my friends--the wretch, the monster--you'll know
him by his voice.' That was how she put it; I tell you again,
that was how she put it. Did you hear her scream? Ah, my dear
young lady, so much the better for you! 'O the horrid murder'
(she says)--'hush it up!' I'll take my Bible oath before the
magistrate," cried Mrs. Mosey, starting out of her chair, "your
aunt said, 'Hush it up!'"

Emily crossed the room. The energy of her character was roused at
last. She seized the foolish woman by the shoulders, forced her
back in the chair, and looked her straight in the face without
uttering a word.

For the moment, Mrs. Mosey was petrified. She had fully
expected--having reached the end of her terrible story--to find
Emily at her feet, entreating her not to carry out her intention
of leaving the cottage the next morning; and she had determined,
after her sense of her own importance had been sufficiently
flattered, to grant the prayer of the helpless young lady. Those
were her anticipations--and how had they been fulfilled? She had
been treated like a mad woman in a state of revolt!

"How dare you assault me?" she asked piteously. "You ought to be
ashamed of yourself. God knows I meant well."

"You are not the first person," Emily answered, quietly releasing
her, "who has done wrong with the best intentions."

"I did my duty, miss, when I told you what your aunt said."

"You forgot your duty when you listened to what my aunt said."

"Allow me to explain myself."

"No: not a word more on _that_ subject shall pass between us.
Remain here, if you please; I have something to suggest in your
own interests. Wait, and compose yourself."

The purpose which had taken a foremost place in Emily's mind
rested on the firm foundation of her love and pity for her aunt.

Now that she had regained the power to think, she felt a hateful
doubt pressed on her by Mrs. Mosey's disclosures. Having taken
for granted that there was a foundation in truth for what she
herself had heard in her aunt's room, could she reasonably resist
the conclusion that there must be a foundation in truth for what
Mrs. Mosey had heard, under similar circumstances?

There was but one way of escaping from this dilemma--and Emily
deliberately took it. She turned her back on her own convictions;
and persuaded herself that she had been in the wrong, when she
had attached importance to anything that her aunt had said, under
the influence of delirium. Having adopted this conclusion, she
resolved to face the prospect of a night's solitude by the
death-bed--rather than permit Mrs. Mosey to have a second
opportunity of drawing her own inferences from what she might
hear in Miss Letitia's room.

"Do you mean to keep me waiting much longer, miss?"

"Not a moment longer, now you are composed again," Emily
answered. "I have been thinking of what has happened; and I fail
to see any necessity for putting off your departure until the
doctor comes to-morrow morning. There is really no objection to
your leaving me to-night."

"I beg your pardon, miss; there _is_ an objection. I have already
told you I can't reconcile it to my conscience to leave you here
by yourself. I am not an inhuman woman," said Mrs. Mosey, putting
her handkerchief to her eyes--smitten with pity for herself.

Emily tried the effect of a conciliatory reply. "I am grateful
for your kindness in offering to stay with me," she said.

"Very good of you, I'm sure," Mrs. Mosey answered ironically.
"But for all that, you persist in sending me away."

"I persist in thinking that there is no necessity for my keeping
you here until to-morrow."

"Oh, have it your own way! I am not reduced to forcing my company
on anybody."

Mrs. Mosey put her handkerchief in her pocket, and asserted her
dignity. With head erect and slowly-marching steps she walked out
of the room. Emily was left in the cottage, alone with her dying
aunt.


CHAPTER XVI.

MISS JETHRO.

A fortnight after the disappearance of Mrs. Ellmother, and the
dismissal of Mrs. Mosey, Doctor Allday entered his
consulting-room, punctual to the hour at which he was accustomed
to receive patients.

An occasional wrinkling of his eyebrows, accompanied by an
intermittent restlessness in his movements, appeared to indicate
some disturbance of this worthy man's professional composure. His
mind was indeed not at ease. Even the inexcitable old doctor had
felt the attraction which had already conquered three such
dissimilar people as Alban Morris, Cecilia Wyvil, and Francine de
Sor. He was thinking of Emily.

A ring at the door-bell announced the arrival of the first
patient.

The servant introduced a tall lady, dressed simply and elegantly
in dark apparel. Noticeable features, of a Jewish cast--worn and
haggard, but still preserving their grandeur of form--were
visible through her veil. She moved with grace and dignity; and
she stated her object in consulting Doctor Allday with the ease
of a well-bred woman.

"I come to ask your opinion, sir, on the state of my heart," she
said; "and I am recommended by a patient, who has consulted you
with advantage to herself." She placed a card on the doctor's
writing-desk, and added: "I have become acquainted with the lady,
by being one of the lodgers in her house."

The doctor recognized the name--and the usual proceedings ensued.
After careful examination, he arrived at a favorable conclusion.
"I may tell you at once," he said--"there is no reason to be
alarmed about the state of your heart."

"I have never felt any alarm about myself," she answered quietly.
"A sudden death is an easy death. If one's affairs are settled,
it seems, on that account, to be the death to prefer. My object
was to settle _my_ affairs--such as they are--if you had
considered my life to be in danger. "Is there nothing the matter
with me?"

"I don't say that," the doctor replied. "The action of your heart
is very feeble. Take the medicine that I shall prescribe; pay a
little more attention to eating and drinking than ladies usually
do; don't run upstairs, and don't fatigue yourself by violent
exercise--and I  see no reason wh y you shouldn't live to be an
old woman."

"God forbid!" the lady said to herself. She turned away, and
looked out of the window with a bitter smile.

Doctor Allday wrote his prescription. "Are you likely to make a
long stay in London?" he asked.

"I am here for a little while only. Do you wish to see me again?"

"I should like to see you once more, before you go away--if you
can make it convenient. What name shall I put on the
prescription?"

"Miss Jethro."

"A remarkable name," the doctor said, in his matter-of-fact way.

Miss Jethro's bitter smile showed itself again.

Without otherwise noticing what Doctor Allday had said, she laid
the consultation fee on the table. At the same moment, the
footman appeared with a letter. "From Miss Emily Brown," he said.
"No answer required."

He held the door open as he delivered the message, seeing that
Miss Jethro was about to leave the room. She dismissed him by a
gesture; and, returning to the table, pointed to the letter.

"Was your correspondent lately a pupil at Miss Ladd's school?"
she inquired.

"My correspondent has just left Miss Ladd," the doctor answered.
"Are you a friend of hers?"

"I am acquainted with her."

"You would be doing the poor child a kindness, if you would go
and see her. She has no friends in London."

"Pardon me--she has an aunt."

"Her aunt died a week since."

"Are there no other relations?"

"None. A melancholy state of things, isn't it? She would have
been absolutely alone in the house, if I had not sent one of my
women servants to stay with her for the present. Did you know her
father?"

Miss Jethro passed over the question, as if she had not heard it.
"Has the young lady dismissed her aunt's servants?" she asked.

"Her aunt kept but one servant, ma'am. The woman has spared Miss
Emily the trouble of dismissing her." He briefly alluded to Mrs.
Ellmother's desertion of her mistress. "I can't explain it," he
said when he had done. "Can _you_?"

"What makes you think, sir, that I can help you? I have never
even heard of the servant--and the mistress was a stranger to
me."

At Doctor Allday's age a man is not easily discouraged by
reproof, even when it is administered by a handsome woman. "I
thought you might have known Miss Emily's father," he persisted.

Miss Jethro rose, and wished him good-morning. "I must not occupy
any more of your valuable time," she said.

"Suppose you wait a minute?" the doctor suggested.

Impenetrable as ever, he rang the bell. "Any patients in the
waiting-room?" he inquired. "You see I have time to spare," he
resumed, when the man had replied in the negative. "I take an
interest in this poor girl; and I thought--"

"If you think that I take an interest in her, too," Miss Jethro
interposed, "you are perfectly right--I knew her father," she
added abruptly; the allusion to Emily having apparently reminded
her of the question which she had hitherto declined to notice.

"In that case," Doctor Allday proceeded, "I want a word of
advice. Won't you sit down?"

She took a chair in silence. An irregular movement in the lower
part of her veil seemed to indicate that she was breathing with
difficulty. The doctor observed her with close attention. "Let me
see my prescription again," he said. Having added an ingredient,
he handed it back with a word of explanation. "Your nerves are
more out of order than I supposed. The hardest disease to cure
that I know of is--worry."

The hint could hardly have been plainer; but it was lost on Miss
Jethro. Whatever her troubles might be, her medical adviser was
not made acquainted with them. Quietly folding up the
prescription, she reminded him that he had proposed to ask her
advice.

"In what way can I be of service to you?" she inquired.

"I am afraid I must try your patience," the doctor acknowledged,
"if I am to answer that question plainly."

With these prefatory words, he described the events that had
followed Mrs. Mosey's appearance at the cottage. "I am only doing
justice to this foolish woman," he continued, "when I tell you
that she came here, after she had left Miss Emily, and did her
best to set matters right. I went to the poor girl directly--and
I felt it my duty, after looking at her aunt, not to leave her
alone for that night. When I got home the next morning, whom do
you think I found waiting for me? Mrs. Ellmother!"

He stopped--in the expectation that Miss Jethro would express
some surprise. Not a word passed her lips.

"Mrs. Ellmother's object was to ask how her mistress was going
on," the doctor proceeded. "Every day while Miss Letitia still
lived, she came here to make the same inquiry--without a word of
explanation. On the day of the funeral, there she was at the
church, dressed in deep mourning; and, as I can personally
testify, crying bitterly. When the ceremony was over--can you
believe it?--she slipped away before Miss Emily or I could speak
to her. We have seen nothing more of her, and heard nothing more,
from that time to this."

He stopped again, the silent lady still listening without making
any remark.

"Have you no opinion to express?" the doctor asked bluntly.

"I am waiting," Miss Jethro answered.

"Waiting--for what?"

"I haven't heard yet, why you want my advice."

Doctor Allday's observation of humanity had hitherto reckoned
want of caution among the deficient moral qualities in the
natures of women. He set down Miss Jethro as a remarkable
exception to a general rule.

"I want you to advise me as to the right course to take with Miss
Emily," he said. "She has assured me she attaches no serious
importance to her aunt's wanderings, when the poor old lady's
fever was at its worst. I don't doubt that she speaks the
truth--but I have my own reasons for being afraid that she is
deceiving herself. Will you bear this in mind?"

"Yes--if it's necessary."

"In plain words, Miss Jethro, you think I am still wandering from
the point. I have got to the point. Yesterday, Miss Emily told me
that she hoped to be soon composed enough to examine the papers
left by her aunt."

Miss Jethro suddenly turned in her chair, and looked at Doctor
Allday.

"Are you beginning to feel interested?" the doctor asked
mischievously.

She neither acknowledged nor denied it. "Go on"--was all she
said.

"I don't know how _you_ feel," he proceeded; "_I_ am afraid of
the discoveries which she may make; and I am strongly tempted to
advise her to leave the proposed examination to her aunt's
lawyer. Is there anything in your knowledge of Miss Emily's late
father, which tells you that I am right?"

"Before I reply," said Miss Jethro, "it may not be amiss to let
the young lady speak for herself."

"How is she to do that?" the doctor asked.

Miss Jethro pointed to the writing table. "Look there," she said.
"You have not yet opened Miss Emily's letter."


CHAPTER XVII.

DOCTOR ALLDAY.

Absorbed in the effort to overcome his patient's reserve, the
doctor had forgotten Emily's letter. He opened it immediately.

After reading the first sentence, he looked up with an expression
of annoyance. "She has begun the examination of the papers
already," he said.

"Then I can be of no further use to you," Miss Jethro rejoined.
She made a second attempt to leave the room.

Doctor Allday turned to the next page of the letter. "Stop!" he
cried. "She has found something--and here it is."

He held up a small printed Handbill, which had been placed
between the first and second pages. "Suppose you look at it?" he
said.

"Whether I am interested in it or not?" Miss Jethro asked.

"You may be interested in what Miss Emily says about it in her
letter."

"Do you propose to show me her letter?"

"I propose to read it to you."

Miss Jethro took the Handbill without further objection. It was
expressed in these words:

"MURDER. 100 POUNDS REWARD.--Whereas a murder was committed on
the thirtieth September, 1877, at the Hand-in-Hand Inn, in the
village of Zeeland, Hampshire, the above reward will be paid to
any person or persons whose exertions shall lead to the arrest
and conviction of the suspected murderer. Name not known.
Supposed age, between twenty and thirty years. A well-made man,
of small stature. Fair complexion, delicate features, clear blue
eye s. Hair light, and cut rather short. Clean shaven, with the
exception of narrow half-whiskers. Small, white, well-shaped
hands. Wore valuable rings on the two last fingers of the left
hand. Dressed neatly in a dark-gray tourist-suit. Carried a
knapsack, as if on a pedestrian excursion. Remarkably good voice,
smooth, full, and persuasive. Ingratiating manners. Apply to the
Chief Inspector, Metropolitan Police Office, London."

Miss Jethro laid aside the Handbill without any visible
appearance of agitation. The doctor took up Emily's letter, and
read as follows:

"You will be as much relieved as I was, my kind friend, when you
look at the paper inclosed. I found it loose in a blank book,
with cuttings from newspapers, and odd announcements of lost
property and other curious things (all huddled together between
the leaves), which my aunt no doubt intended to set in order and
fix in their proper places. She must have been thinking of her
book, poor soul, in her last illness. Here is the origin of those
'terrible words' which frightened stupid Mrs. Mosey! Is it not
encouraging to have discovered such a confirmation of my opinion
as this? I feel a new interest in looking over the papers that
still remain to be examined--"

Before he could get to the end of the sentence Miss Jethro's
agitation broke through her reserve.

"Do what you proposed to do!" she burst out vehemently. "Stop her
at once from carrying her examination any further! If she
hesitates, insist on it!"

At last Doctor Allday had triumphed! "It has been a long time
coming," he remarked, in his cool way; "and it's all the more
welcome on that account. You dread the discoveries she may make,
Miss Jethro, as I do. And _you_ know what those discoveries may
be."

"What I do know, or don't know, is of no importance." she
answered sharply.

"Excuse me, it is of very serious importance. I have no authority
over this poor girl--I am not even an old friend. You tell me to
insist. Help me to declare honestly that I know of circumstances
which justify me; and I may insist to some purpose."

Miss Jethro lifted her veil for the first time, and eyed him
searchingly.

"I believe I can trust you," she said. "Now listen! The one
consideration on which I consent to open my lips, is
consideration for Miss Emily's tranquillity. Promise me absolute
secrecy, on your word of honor."

He gave the promise.

"I want to know one thing, first," Miss Jethro proceeded. "Did
she tell you--as she once told me--that her father had died of
heart-complaint?"

"Yes."

"Did you put any questions to her?"

"I asked how long ago it was."

"And she told you?"

"She told me."

"You wish to know, Doctor Allday, what discoveries Miss Emily may
yet make, among her aunt's papers. Judge for yourself, when I
tell you that she has been deceived about her father's death."

"Do you mean that he is still living?"

"I mean that she has been deceived--purposely deceived--about the
_manner_ of his death."

"Who was the wretch who did it?"

"You are wronging the dead, sir! The truth can only have been
concealed out of the purest motives of love and pity. I don't
desire to disguise the conclusion at which I have arrived after
what I have heard from yourself. The person responsible must be
Miss Emily's aunt--and the old servant must have been in her
confidence. Remember! You are bound in honor not to repeat to any
living creature what I have just said."

The doctor followed Miss Jethro to the door. "You have not yet
told me," he said, "_how_ her father died."

"I have no more to tell you."

With those words she left him.

He rang for his servant. To wait until the hour at which he was
accustomed to go out, might be to leave Emily's peace of mind at
the mercy of an accident. "I am going to the cottage," he said.
"If anybody wants me, I shall be back in a quarter of an hour."

On the point of leaving the house, he remembered that Emily would
probably expect him to return the Handbill. As he took it up, the
first lines caught his eye: he read the date at which the murder
had been committed, for the second time. On a sudden the ruddy
color left his face.

"Good God!" he cried, "her father was murdered--and that woman
was concerned in it."

Following the impulse that urged him, he secured the Handbill in
his pocketbook--snatched up the card which his patient had
presented as her introduction--and instantly left the house. He
called the first cab that passed him, and drove to Miss Jethro's
lodgings.

"Gone"--was the servant's answer when he inquired for her. He
insisted on speaking to the landlady. "Hardly ten minutes have
passed," he said, "since she left my house."

"Hardly ten minutes have passed," the landlady replied, "since
that message was brought here by a boy."

The message had been evidently written in great haste: "I am
unexpectedly obliged to leave London. A bank note is inclosed in
payment of my debt to you. I will send for my luggage."

The doctor withdrew.

"Unexpectedly obliged to leave London," he repeated, as he got
into the cab again. "Her flight condemns her: not a doubt of it
now. As fast as you can!" he shouted to the man; directing him to
drive to Emily's cottage.


CHAPTER XVIII.

MISS LADD.

Arriving at the cottage, Doctor Allday discovered a gentleman,
who was just closing the garden gate behind him.

"Has Miss Emily had a visitor?" he inquired, when the servant
admitted him.

"The gentleman left a letter for Miss Emily, sir."

"Did he ask to see her?"

"He asked after Miss Letitia's health. When he heard that she was
dead, he seemed to be startled, and went away immediately."

"Did he give his name?"

"No, sir."

The doctor found Emily absorbed over her letter. His anxiety to
forestall any possible discovery of the deception which had
concealed the terrible story of her father's death, kept Doctor
Allday's vigilance on the watch. He doubted the gentleman who had
abstained from giving his name; he even distrusted the other
unknown person who had written to Emily.

She looked up. Her face relieved him of his misgivings, before
she could speak.

"At last, I have heard from my dearest friend," she said. "You
remember what I told you about Cecilia? Here is a letter--a long
delightful letter--from the Engadine, left at the door by some
gentleman unknown. I was questioning the servant when you rang
the bell."

"You may question me, if you prefer it. I arrived just as the
gentleman was shutting your garden gate."

"Oh, tell me! what was he like?"

"Tall, and thin, and dark. Wore a vile republican-looking felt
hat. Had nasty ill-tempered wrinkles between his eyebrows. The
sort of man I distrust by instinct."

"Why?"

"Because he doesn't shave."

"Do you mean that he wore a beard?"

"Yes; a curly black beard."

Emily clasped her hands in amazement. "Can it be Alban Morris?"
she exclaimed.

The doctor looked at her with a sardonic smile; he thought it
likely that he had discovered her sweetheart.

"Who is Mr. Alban Morris?" he asked.

"The drawing-master at Miss Ladd's school."

Doctor Allday dropped the subject: masters at ladies' schools
were not persons who interested him. He returned to the purpose
which had brought him to the cottage--and produced the Handbill
that had been sent to him in Emily's letter.

"I suppose you want to have it back again?' he said.

She took it from him, and looked at it with interest.

"Isn't it strange," she suggested, "that the murderer should have
escaped, with such a careful description of him as this
circulated all over England?"

She read the description to the doctor.

"'Name not known. Supposed age, between twenty-five and thirty
years. A well-made man, of small stature. Fair complexion,
delicate features, clear blue eyes. Hair light, and cut rather
short. Clean shaven, with the exception of narrow half-whiskers.
Small, white, well-shaped hands. Wore valuable rings on the two
last fingers of the left hand. Dressed neatly--'"

"That part of the description is useless," the doctor remarked;
"he would change his clothes."

"But could he change his voice?" Emily objected. "Listen to this:
'Remarkably good voice, smooth, full, and persuasive.' And here
again! 'Ingratiating  manners.' Perhaps you will say he could put
on an appearance of rudeness?"

"I will say this, my dear. He would be able to disguise himself
so effectually that ninety-nine people out of a hundred would
fail to identify him, either by his voice or his manner."

"How?"

"Look back at the description: 'Hair cut rather short, clean
shaven, with the exception of narrow half-whiskers.' The wretch
was safe from pursuit; he had ample time at his disposal--don't
you see how he could completely alter the appearance of his head
and face? No more, my dear, of this disagreeable subject! Let us
get to something interesting. Have you found anything else among
your aunt's papers?"

"I have met with a great disappointment," Emily replied. "Did I
tell you how I discovered the Handbill?"

"No."

"I found it, with the scrap-book and the newspaper cuttings,
under a collection of empty boxes and bottles, in a drawer of the
washhand-stand. And I naturally expected to make far more
interesting discoveries in this room. My search was over in five
minutes. Nothing in the cabinet there, in the corner, but a few
books and some china. Nothing in the writing-desk, on that
side-table, but a packet of note-paper and some sealing-wax.
Nothing here, in the drawers, but tradesmen's receipts, materials
for knitting, and old photographs. She must have destroyed all
her papers, poor dear, before her last illness; and the Handbill
and the other things can only have escaped, because they were
left in a place which she never thought of examining. Isn't it
provoking?"

With a mind inexpressibly relieved, good Doctor Allday asked
permission to return to his patients: leaving Emily to devote
herself to her friend's letter.

On his way out, he noticed that the door of the bed-chamber on
the opposite side of the passage stood open. Since Miss Letitia's
death the room had not been used. Well within view stood the
washhand-stand to which Emily had alluded. The doctor advanced to
the house door--reflected--hesitated--and looked toward the empty
room.

It had struck him that there might be a second drawer which Emily
had overlooked. Would he be justified in setting this doubt at
rest? If he passed over ordinary scruples it would not be without
excuse. Miss Letitia had spoken to him of her affairs, and had
asked him to act (in Emily's interest) as co-executor with her
lawyer. The rapid progress of the illness had made it impossible
for her to execute the necessary codicil. But the doctor had been
morally (if not legally) taken into her confidence--and, for that
reason, he decided that he had a right in this serious matter to
satisfy his own mind.

A glance was enough to show him that no second drawer had been
overlooked.

There was no other discovery to detain the doctor. The wardrobe
only contained the poor old lady's clothes; the one cupboard was
open and empty. On the point of leaving the room, he went back to
the washhand-stand. While he had the opportunity, it might not be
amiss to make sure that Emily had thoroughly examined those old
boxes and bottles, which she had alluded to with some little
contempt.

The drawer was of considerable length. When he tried to pull it
completely out from the grooves in which it ran, it resisted him.
In his present frame of mind, this was a suspicious circumstance
in itself. He cleared away the litter so as to make room for the
introduction of his hand and arm into the drawer. In another
moment his fingers touched a piece of paper, jammed between the
inner end of the drawer and the bottom of the flat surface of the
washhand-stand. With a little care, he succeeded in extricating
the paper. Only pausing to satisfy himself that there was nothing
else to be found, and to close the drawer after replacing its
contents, he left the cottage.

The cab was waiting for him. On the drive back to his own house,
he opened the crumpled paper. It proved to be a letter addressed
to Miss Letitia; and it was signed by no less a person than
Emily's schoolmistress. Looking back from the end to the
beginning, Doctor Allday discovered, in the first sentence, the
name of--Miss Jethro.

But for the interview of that morning with his patient he might
have doubted the propriety of making himself further acquainted
with the letter. As things were, he read it without hesitation.

"DEAR MADAM--I cannot but regard it as providential circumstance
that your niece, in writing to you from my house, should have
mentioned, among other events of her school life, the arrival of
my new teacher, Miss Jethro.

"To say that I was surprised is to express very inadequately what
I felt when I read your letter, informing me confidentially that
I had employed a woman who was unworthy to associate with the
young persons placed under my care. It is impossible for me to
suppose that a lady in your position, and possessed of your high
principles, would make such a serious accusation as this, without
unanswerable reasons for doing so. At the same time I cannot,
consistently with my duty as a Christian, suffer my opinion of
Miss Jethro to be in any way modified, until proofs are laid
before me which it is impossible to dispute.

"Placing the same confidence in your discretion, which you have
placed in mine, I now inclose the references and testimonials
which Miss Jethro submitted to me, when she presented herself to
fill the vacant situation in my school.

"I earnestly request you to lose no time in instituting the
confidential inquiries which you have volunteered to make.
Whatever the result may be, pray return to me the inclosures
which I have trusted to your care, and believe me, dear madam, in
much suspense and anxiety, sincerely yours,

                                        AMELIA LADD."


It is needless to describe, at any length, the impression which
these lines produced on the doctor.

If he had heard what Emily had heard at the time of her aunt's
last illness, he would have called to mind Miss Letitia's
betrayal of her interest in some man unknown, whom she believed
to have been beguiled by Miss Jethro--and he would have perceived
that the vindictive hatred, thus produced, must have inspired the
letter of denunciation which the schoolmistress had acknowledged.
He would also have inferred that Miss Letitia's inquiries had
proved her accusation to be well founded--if he had known of the
new teacher's sudden dismissal from the school. As things were,
he was merely confirmed in his bad opinion of Miss Jethro; and he
was induced, on reflection, to keep his discovery to himself.

"If poor Miss Emily saw the old lady exhibited in the character
of an informer," he thought, "what a blow would be struck at her
innocent respect for the memory of her aunt!"


CHAPTER XIX.

SIR JERVIS REDWOOD.

In the meantime, Emily, left by herself, had her own
correspondence to occupy her attention. Besides the letter from
Cecilia (directed to the care of Sir Jervis Redwood), she had
received some lines addressed to her by Sir Jervis himself. The
two inclosures had been secured in a sealed envelope, directed to
the cottage.

If Alban Morris had been indeed the person trusted as messenger
by Sir Jervis, the conclusion that followed filled Emily with
overpowering emotions of curiosity and surprise.

Having no longer the motive of serving and protecting her, Alban
must, nevertheless, have taken the journey to Northumberland. He
must have gained Sir Jervis Redwood's favor and confidence--and
he might even have been a guest at the baronet's country
seat--when Cecilia's letter arrived. What did it mean?

Emily looked back at her experience of her last day at school,
and recalled her consultation with Alban on the subject of Mrs.
Rook. Was he still bent on clearing up his suspicions of Sir
Jervis's housekeeper? And, with that end in view, had he followed
the woman, on her return to her master's place of abode?

Suddenly, almost irritably, Emily snatched up Sir Jervis's
letter. Before the doctor had come in, she had glanced at it, and
had thrown it aside in her impatience to read what Cecilia had
written. In her present altered frame of mind, she was inclined
to think that Sir Jervis might be the more interesting
correspondent of the two.

On
 returning to his letter, she was disappointed at the outset.

In the first place, his handwriting was so abominably bad that
she was obliged to guess at his meaning. In the second place, he
never hinted at the circumstances under which Cecilia's letter
had been confided to the gentleman who had left it at her door.

She would once more have treated the baronet's communication with
contempt--but for the discovery that it contained an offer of
employment in London, addressed to herself.

Sir Jervis had necessarily been obliged to engage another
secretary in Emily's absence. But he was still in want of a
person to serve his literary interests in London. He had reason
to believe that discoveries made by modern travelers in Central
America had been reported from time to time by the English press;
and he wished copies to be taken of any notices of this sort
which might be found, on referring to the files of newspapers
kept in the reading-room of the British Museum. If Emily
considered herself capable of contributing in this way to the
completeness of his great work on "the ruined cities," she had
only to apply to his bookseller in London, who would pay her the
customary remuneration and give her every assistance of which she
might stand in need. The bookseller's name and address followed
(with nothing legible but the two words "Bond Street"), and there
was an end of Sir Jervis's proposal.

Emily laid it aside, deferring her answer until she had read
Cecilia's letter.


CHAPTER XX.

THE REVEREND MILES MIRABEL.

"I am making a little excursion from the Engadine, my dearest of
all dear friends. Two charming fellow-travelers take care of me;
and we may perhaps get as far as the Lake of Como.

"My sister (already much improved in health) remains at St.
Moritz with the old governess. The moment I know what exact
course we are going to take, I shall write to Julia to forward
any letters which arrive in my absence. My life, in this earthly
paradise, will be only complete when I hear from my darling
Emily.

"In the meantime, we are staying for the night at some
interesting place, the name of which I have unaccountably
forgotten; and here I am in my room, writing to you at
last--dying to know if Sir Jervis has yet thrown himself at your
feet, and offered to make you Lady Redwood with magnificent
settlements.

"But you are waiting to hear who my new friends are. My dear, one
of them is, next to yourself, the most delightful creature in
existence. Society knows her as Lady Janeaway. I love her
already, by her Christian name; she is my friend Doris. And she
reciprocates my sentiments.

"You will now understand that union of sympathies made us
acquainted with each other.

"If there is anything in me to be proud of, I think it must be my
admirable appetite. And, if I have a passion, the name of it is
Pastry. Here again, Lady Doris reciprocates my sentiments. We sit
next to each other at the _table d'hote_.

"Good heavens, I have forgotten her husband! They have been
married rather more than a month. Did I tell you that she is just
two years older than I am?

"I declare I am forgetting him again! He is Lord Janeaway. Such a
quiet modest man, and so easily amused. He carries with him
everywhere a dirty little tin case, with air holes in the cover.
He goes softly poking about among bushes and brambles, and under
rocks, and behind old wooden houses. When he has caught some
hideous insect that makes one shudder, he blushes with pleasure,
and looks at his wife and me, and says, with the prettiest lisp:
'This is what I call enjoying the day.' To see the manner in
which he obeys Her is, between ourselves, to feel proud of being
a woman.

"Where was I? Oh, at the _table d'hote_.

"Never, Emily--I say it with a solemn sense of the claims of
truth--never have I eaten such an infamous, abominable,
maddeningly bad dinner, as the dinner they gave us on our first
day at the hotel. I ask you if I am not patient; I appeal to your
own recollection of occasions when I have exhibited extraordinary
self-control. My dear, I held out until they brought the pastry
round. I took one bite, and committed the most shocking offense
against good manners at table that you can imagine. My
handkerchief, my poor innocent handkerchief, received the
horrid--please suppose the rest. My hair stands on end, when I
think of it. Our neighbors at the table saw me. The coarse men
laughed. The sweet young bride, sincerely feeling for me, said,
'Will you allow me to shake hands? I did exactly what you have
done the day before yesterday.' Such was the beginning of my
friendship with Lady Doris Janeaway.

"We are two resolute women--I mean that _she_ is resolute, and
that I follow her--and we have asserted our right of dining to
our own satisfaction, by means of an interview with the chief
cook.

"This interesting person is an ex-Zouave in the French army.
Instead of making excuses, he confessed that the barbarous tastes
of the English and American visitors had so discouraged him, that
he had lost all pride and pleasure in the exercise of his art. As
an example of what he meant, he mentioned his experience of two
young Englishmen who could speak no foreign language. The waiters
reported that they objected to their breakfasts, and especially
to the eggs. Thereupon (to translate the Frenchman's own way of
putting it) he exhausted himself in exquisite preparations of
eggs. _Eggs a la tripe, au gratin, a l'Aurore, a la Dauphine, a
la Poulette, a la Tartare, a la Venitienne, a la Bordelaise_, and
so on, and so on. Still the two young gentlemen were not
satisfied. The ex-Zouave, infuriated; wounded in his honor,
disgraced as a professor, insisted on an explanation. What, in
heaven's name, _did_ they want for breakfast? They wanted boiled
eggs; and a fish which they called a _Bloaterre_. It was
impossible, he said, to express his contempt for the English idea
of a breakfast, in the presence of ladies. You know how a cat
expresses herself in the presence of a dog--and you will
understand the allusion. Oh, Emily, what dinners we have had, in
our own room, since we spoke to that noble cook!

"Have I any more news to send you? Are you interested, my dear,
in eloquent young clergymen?

"On our first appearance at the public table we noticed a
remarkable air of depression among the ladies. Had some
adventurous gentleman tried to climb a mountain, and failed? Had
disastrous political news arrived from England; a defeat of the
Conservatives, for instance? Had a revolution in the fashions
broken out in Paris, and had all our best dresses become of no
earthly value to us? I applied for information to the only lady
present who shone on the company with a cheerful face--my friend
Doris, of course. "'What day was yesterday?' she asked.

"'Sunday,' I answered.

"'Of all melancholy Sundays,' she continued, the most melancholy
in the calendar. Mr. Miles Mirabel preached his farewell sermon,
in our temporary chapel upstairs.'

"'And you have not recovered it yet?'

"'We are all heart-broken, Miss Wyvil.'

"This naturally interested me. I asked what sort of sermons Mr.
Mirabel preached. Lady Janeaway said: 'Come up to our room after
dinner. The subject is too distressing to be discussed in
public.'

"She began by making me personally acquainted with the reverend
gentleman--that is to say, she showed me the photographic
portraits of him. They were two in number. One only presented his
face. The other exhibited him at full length, adorned in his
surplice. Every lady in the congregation had received the two
photographs as a farewell present. 'My portraits,' Lady Doris
remarked, 'are the only complete specimens. The others have been
irretrievably ruined by tears.'

"You will now expect a personal description of this fascinating
man. What the photographs failed to tell me, my friend was so
kind as to complete from the resources of her own experience.
Here is the result presented to the best of my ability.

"He is young--not yet thirty years of age. His complexion is
fair; his features are delicate, his eyes are clear blue. He has
pretty hands, and rings prettier still. And such a voice, and
such manners! You will say there are plen ty of pet parsons who
answer to this description. Wait a little--I have kept his chief
distinction till the last. His beautiful light hair flows in
profusion over his shoulders; and his glossy beard waves, at
apostolic length, down to the lower buttons of his waistcoat.

"What do you think of the Reverend Miles Mirabel now?

"The life and adventures of our charming young clergyman, bear
eloquent testimony to the saintly patience of his disposition,
under trials which would have overwhelmed an ordinary man. (Lady
Doris, please notice, quotes in this place the language of his
admirers; and I report Lady Doris.)

"He has been clerk in a lawyer's office--unjustly dismissed. He
has given readings from Shakespeare--infamously neglected . He
has been secretary to a promenade concert company--deceived by a
penniless manager. He has been employed in negotiations for
making foreign railways--repudiated by an unprincipled
Government. He has been translator to a publishing
house--declared incapable by envious newspapers and reviews. He
has taken refuge in dramatic criticism--dismissed by a corrupt
editor. Through all these means of purification for the priestly
career, he passed at last into the one sphere that was worthy of
him: he entered the Church, under the protection of influential
friends. Oh, happy change! From that moment his labors have been
blessed. Twice already he has been presented with silver tea-pots
filled with sovereigns. Go where he may, precious sympathies
environ him; and domestic affection places his knife and fork at
innumerable family tables. After a continental career, which will
leave undying recollections, he is now recalled to England--at
the suggestion of a person of distinction in the Church, who
prefers a mild climate. It will now be his valued privilege to
represent an absent rector in a country living; remote from
cities, secluded in pastoral solitude, among simple breeders of
sheep. May the shepherd prove worthy of the flock!

"Here again, my dear, I must give the merit where the merit is
due. This memoir of Mr. Mirabel is not of my writing. It formed
part of his farewell sermon, preserved in the memory of Lady
Doris--and it shows (once more in the language of his admirers)
that the truest humility may be found in the character of the
most gifted man.

"Let me only add, that you will have opportunities of seeing and
hearing this popular preacher, when circumstances permit him to
address congregations in the large towns. I am at the end of my
news; and I begin to feel--after this long, long letter--that it
is time to go to bed. Need I say that I have often spoken of you
to Doris, and that she entreats you to be her friend as well as
mine, when we meet again in England?

"Good-by, darling, for the present. With fondest love,
                                        Your CECILIA."

"P.S.--I have formed a new habit. In case of feeling hungry in
the night, I keep a box of chocolate under the pillow. You have
no idea what a comfort it is. If I ever meet with the man who
fulfills my ideal, I shall make it a condition of the marriage
settlement, that I am to have chocolate under the pillow."


CHAPTER XXI

POLLY AND SALLY.

Without a care to trouble her; abroad or at home, finding
inexhaustible varieties of amusement; seeing new places, making
new acquaintances--what a disheartening contrast did Cecilia's
happy life present to the life of her friend! Who, in Emily's
position, could have read that joyously-written letter from
Switzerland, and not have lost heart and faith, for the moment at
least, as the inevitable result?

A buoyant temperament is of all moral qualities the most
precious, in this respect; it is the one force in us--when
virtuous resolution proves insufficient--which resists by
instinct the stealthy approaches of despair. "I shall only cry,"
Emily thought, "if I stay at home; better go out."

Observant persons, accustomed to frequent the London parks, can
hardly have failed to notice the number of solitary strangers
sadly endeavoring to vary their lives by taking a walk. They
linger about the flower-beds; they sit for hours on the benches;
they look with patient curiosity at other people who have
companions; they notice ladies on horseback and children at play,
with submissive interest; some of the men find company in a pipe,
without appearing to enjoy it; some of the women find a
substitute for dinner, in little dry biscuits wrapped in crumpled
scraps of paper; they are not sociable; they are hardly ever seen
to make acquaintance with each other; perhaps they are
shame-faced, or proud, or sullen; perhaps they despair of others,
being accustomed to despair of themselves; perhaps they have
their reasons for never venturing to encounter curiosity, or
their vices which dread detection, or their virtues which suffer
hardship with the resignation that is sufficient for itself. The
one thing certain is, that these unfortunate people resist
discovery. We know that they are strangers in London--and we know
no more.

And Emily was one of them.

Among the other forlorn wanderers in the Parks, there appeared
latterly a trim little figure in black (with the face protected
from notice behind a crape veil), which was beginning to be
familiar, day after day, to nursemaids and children, and to rouse
curiosity among harmless solitaries meditating on benches, and
idle vagabonds strolling over the grass. The woman-servant, whom
the considerate doctor had provided, was the one person in
Emily's absence left to take care of the house. There was no
other creature who could be a companion to the friendless girl.
Mrs. Ellmother had never shown herself again since the funeral.
Mrs. Mosey could not forget that she had been (no matter how
politely) requested to withdraw. To whom could Emily say, "Let us
go out for a walk?" She had communicated the news of her aunt's
death to Miss Ladd, at Brighton; and had heard from Francine. The
worthy schoolmistress had written to her with the truest
kindness. "Choose your own time, my poor child, and come and stay
with me at Brighton; the sooner the better." Emily shrank--not
from accepting the invitation--but from encountering Francine.
The hard West Indian heiress looked harder than ever with a pen
in her hand. Her letter announced that she was "getting on
wretchedly with her studies (which she hated); she found the
masters appointed to instruct her ugly and disagreeable (and
loathed the sight of them); she had taken a dislike to Miss Ladd
(and time only confirmed that unfavorable impression); Brighton
was always the same; the sea was always the same; the drives were
always the same. Francine felt a presentiment that she should do
something desperate, unless Emily joined her, and made Brighton
endurable behind the horrid schoolmistress's back." Solitude in
London was a privilege and a pleasure, viewed as the alternative
to such companionship as this.

Emily wrote gratefully to Miss Ladd, and asked to be excused.

Other days had passed drearily since that time; but the one day
that had brought with it Cecilia's letter set past happiness and
present sorrow together so vividly and so cruelly that Emily's
courage sank. She had forced back the tears, in her lonely home;
she had gone out to seek consolation and encouragement under the
sunny sky--to find comfort for her sore heart in the radiant
summer beauty of flowers and grass, in the sweet breathing of the
air, in the happy heavenward soaring of the birds. No! Mother
Nature is stepmother to the sick at heart. Soon, too soon, she
could hardly see where she went. Again and again she resolutely
cleared her eyes, under the shelter of her veil, when passing
strangers noticed her; and again and again the tears found their
way back. Oh, if the girls at the school were to see her now--the
girls who used to say in their moments of sadness, "Let us go to
Emily and be cheered"--would they know her again? She sat down to
rest and recover herself on the nearest bench. It was unoccupied.
No passing footsteps were audible on the remote path to which she
had strayed. Solitude at home! Solitude in the Park! Where was
Cecilia at that moment? In Italy, among the lake s and mountains,
happy in the company of her light-hearted friend.

The lonely interval passed, and persons came near. Two sisters,
girls like herself, stopped to rest on the bench.

They were full of their own interests; they hardly looked at the
stranger in mourning garments. The younger sister was to be
married, and the elder was to be bridesmaid. They talked of their
dresses and their presents; they compared the dashing bridegroom
of one with the timid lover of the other; they laughed over their
own small sallies of wit, over their joyous dreams of the future,
over their opinions of the guests invited to the wedding. Too
joyfully restless to remain inactive any longer, they jumped up
again from the seat. One of them said, "Polly, I'm too happy!"
and danced as she walked away. The other cried, "Sally, for
shame!" and laughed, as if she had hit on the most irresistible
joke that ever was made.

Emily rose and went home.

By some mysterious influence which she was unable to trace, the
boisterous merriment of the two girls had roused in her a sense
of revolt against the life that she was leading. Change, speedy
change, to some occupation that would force her to exert herself,
presented the one promise of brighter days that she could see. To
feel this was to be inevitably reminded of Sir Jervis Redwood.
Here was a man, who had never seen her, transformed by the
incomprehensible operation of Chance into the friend of whom she
stood in need--the friend who pointed the way to a new world of
action, the busy world of readers in the library of the Museum.

Early in the new week, Emily had accepted Sir Jervis's proposal,
and had so interested the bookseller to whom she had been
directed to apply, that he took it on himself to modify the
arbitrary instructions of his employer.

"The old gentleman has no mercy on himself, and no mercy on
others," he explained, "where his literary labors are concerned.
You must spare yourself, Miss Emily. It is not only absurd, it's
cruel, to expect you to ransack old newspapers for discoveries in
Yucatan, from the time when Stephens published his 'Travels in
Central America'--nearly forty years since! Begin with back
numbers published within a few years--say five years from the
present date--and let us see what your search over that interval
will bring forth."

Accepting this friendly advice, Emily began with the
newspaper-volume dating from New Year's Day, 1876.

The first hour of her search strengthened the sincere sense of
gratitude with which she remembered the bookseller's kindness. To
keep her attention steadily fixed on the one subject that
interested her employer, and to resist the temptation to read
those miscellaneous items of news which especially interest
women, put her patience and resolution to a merciless test.
Happily for herself, her neighbors on either side were no idlers.
To see them so absorbed over their work that they never once
looked at her, after the first moment when she took her place
between them, was to find exactly the example of which she stood
most in need. As the hours wore on, she pursued her weary way,
down one column and up another, resigned at least (if not quite
reconciled yet) to her task. Her labors ended, for the day, with
such encouragement as she might derive from the conviction of
having, thus far, honestly pursued a useless search.

News was waiting for her when she reached home, which raised her
sinking spirits.

On leaving the cottage that morning she had given certain
instructions, relating to the modest stranger who had taken
charge of her correspondence--in case of his paying a second
visit, during her absence at the Museum. The first words spoken
by the servant, on opening the door, informed her that the
unknown gentleman had called again. This time he had boldly left
his card. There was the welcome name that she had expected to
see--Alban Morris.


CHAPTER XXII.

ALBAN MORRIS.

Having looked at the card, Emily put her first question to the
servant.

"Did you tell Mr. Morris what your orders were?" she asked.

"Yes, miss; I said I was to have shown him in, if you had been at
home. Perhaps I did wrong; I told him what you told me when you
went out this morning--I said you had gone to read at the
Museum."

"What makes you think you did wrong?"

"Well, miss, he didn't say anything, but he looked upset."

"Do you mean that he looked angry?"

The servant shook her head. "Not exactly angry--puzzled and put
out."

"Did he leave any message?"

"He said he would call later, if you would be so good as to
receive him."

In half an hour more, Alban and Emily were together again. The
light fell full on her face as she rose to receive him.

"Oh, how you have suffered!"

The words escaped him before he could restrain himself. He looked
at her with the tender sympathy, so precious to women, which she
had not seen in the face of any human creature since the loss of
her aunt. Even the good doctor's efforts to console her had been
efforts of professional routine--the inevitable result of his
life-long familiarity with sorrow and death. While Alban's eyes
rested on her, Emily felt her tears rising. In the fear that he
might misinterpret her reception of him, she made an effort to
speak with some appearance of composure.

"I lead a lonely life," she said; "and I can well understand that
my face shows it. You are one of my very few friends, Mr.
Morris"--the tears rose again; it discouraged her to see him
standing irresolute, with his hat in his hand, fearful of
intruding on her. "Indeed, indeed, you are welcome," she said,
very earnestly.

In those sad days her heart was easily touched. She gave him her
hand for the second time. He held it gently for a moment. Every
day since they had parted she had been in his thoughts; she had
become dearer to him than ever. He was too deeply affected to
trust himself to answer. That silence pleaded for him as nothing
had pleaded for him yet. In her secret self she remembered with
wonder how she had received his confession in the school garden.
It was a little hard on him, surely, to have forbidden him even
to hope.

Conscious of her own weakness--even while giving way to it--she
felt the necessity of turning his attention from herself. In some
confusion, she pointed to a chair at her side, and spoke of his
first visit, when he had left her letters at the door. Having
confided to him all that she had discovered, and all that she had
guessed, on that occasion, it was by an easy transition that she
alluded next to the motive for his journey to the North.

"I thought it might be suspicion of Mrs. Rook," she said. "Was I
mistaken?"

"No; you were right."

"They were serious suspicions, I suppose?"

"Certainly! I should not otherwise have devoted my holiday-time
to clearing them up."

"May I know what they were?"

"I am sorry to disappoint you," he began.

"But you would rather not answer my question," she interposed.

"I would rather hear you tell me if you have made any other
guess."

"One more, Mr. Morris. I guessed that you had become acquainted
with Sir Jervis Redwood."

"For the second time, Miss Emily, you have arrived at a sound
conclusion. My one hope of finding opportunities for observing
Sir Jervis's housekeeper depended on my chance of gaining
admission to Sir Jervis's house."

"How did you succeed? Perhaps you provided yourself with a letter
of introduction?"

"I knew nobody who could introduce me," Alban replied. "As the
event proved, a letter would have been needless. Sir Jervis
introduced himself--and, more wonderful still, he invited me to
his house at our first interview."

"Sir Jervis introduced himself?" Emily repeated, in amazement.
"From Cecilia's description of him, I should have thought he was
the last person in the world to do that!"

Alban smiled. "And you would like to know how it happened?" he
suggested.

"The very favor I was going to ask of you," she replied.

Instead of at once complying with her wishes, he
paused--hesitated--and made a strange request. "Will you forgive
my rudeness, if I ask leave to walk up and down the room while I
talk? I am a restless man. Walking up and down helps me to
express myself freely."

Her f ace brightened for the first time. "How like You that is!"
she exclaimed.

Alban looked at her with surprise and delight. She had betrayed
an interest in studying his character, which he appreciated at
its full value. "I should never have dared to hope," he said,
"that you knew me so well already."

"You are forgetting your story," she reminded him.

He moved to the opposite side of the room, where there were fewer
impediments in the shape of furniture. With his head down, and
his hands crossed behind him, he paced to and fro. Habit made him
express himself in his usual quaint way--but he became
embarrassed as he went on. Was he disturbed by his recollections?
or by the fear of taking Emily into his confidence too freely?

"Different people have different ways of telling a story," he
said. "Mine is the methodical way--I begin at the beginning. We
will start, if you please, in the railway--we will proceed in a
one-horse chaise--and we will stop at a village, situated in a
hole. It was the nearest place to Sir Jervis's house, and it was
therefore my destination. I picked out the biggest of the
cottages--I mean the huts--and asked the woman at the door if she
had a bed to let. She evidently thought me either mad or drunk. I
wasted no time in persuasion; the right person to plead my cause
was asleep in her arms. I began by admiring the baby; and I ended
by taking the baby's portrait. From that moment I became a member
of the family--the member who had his own way. Besides the room
occupied by the husband and wife, there was a sort of kennel in
which the husband's brother slept. He was dismissed (with five
shillings of mine to comfort him) to find shelter somewhere else;
and I was promoted to the vacant place. It is my misfortune to be
tall. When I went to bed, I slept with my head on the pillow, and
my feet out of the window. Very cool and pleasant in summer
weather. The next morning, I set my trap for Sir Jervis."

"Your trap?" Emily repeated, wondering what he meant.

"I went out to sketch from Nature," Alban continued. "Can anybody
(with or without a title, I don't care), living in a lonely
country house, see a stranger hard at work with a color-box and
brushes, and not stop to look at what he is doing? Three days
passed, and nothing happened. I was quite patient; the grand open
country all round me offered lessons of inestimable value in what
we call aerial perspective. On the fourth day, I was absorbed
over the hardest of all hard tasks in landscape art, studying the
clouds straight from Nature. The magnificent moorland silence was
suddenly profaned by a man's voice, speaking (or rather croaking)
behind me. 'The worst curse of human life,' the voice said, 'is
the detestable necessity of taking exercise. I hate losing my
time; I hate fine scenery; I hate fresh air; I hate a pony. Go
on, you brute!' Being too deeply engaged with the clouds to look
round, I had supposed this pretty speech to be addressed to some
second person. Nothing of the sort; the croaking voice had a
habit of speaking to itself. In a minute more, there came within
my range of view a solitary old man, mounted on a rough pony."

"Was it Sir Jervis?"

Alban hesitated.

"It looked more like the popular notion of the devil," he said.

"Oh, Mr. Morris!"

"I give you my first impression, Miss Emily, for what it is
worth. He had his high-peaked hat in his hand, to keep his head
cool. His wiry iron-gray hair looked like hair standing on end;
his bushy eyebrows curled upward toward his narrow temples; his
horrid old globular eyes stared with a wicked brightness; his
pointed beard hid his chin; he was covered from his throat to his
ankles in a loose black garment, something between a coat and a
cloak; and, to complete him, he had a club foot. I don't doubt
that Sir Jervis Redwood is the earthly alias which he finds
convenient--but I stick to that first impression which appeared
to surprise you. 'Ha! an artist; you seem to be the sort of man I
want!' In those terms he introduced himself. Observe, if you
please, that my trap caught him the moment he came my way. Who
wouldn't be an artist?"

"Did he take a liking to you?" Emily inquired.

"Not he! I don't believe he ever took a liking to anybody in his
life."

"Then how did you get your invitation to his house?"

"That's the amusing part of it, Miss Emily. Give me a little
breathing time, and you shall hear."


CHAPTER XXIII.

MISS REDWOOD.

"I got invited to Sir Jervis's house," Alban resumed, "by
treating the old savage as unceremoniously as he had treated me.
'That's an idle trade of yours,' he said, looking at my sketch.
'Other ignorant people have made the same remark,' I answered. He
rode away, as if he was not used to be spoken to in that manner,
and then thought better of it, and came back. 'Do you understand
wood engraving?' he asked. 'Yes.' 'And etching?' 'I have
practiced etching myself.' 'Are you a Royal Academician?' 'I'm a
drawing-master at a ladies' school.' 'Whose school?' 'Miss
Ladd's.' 'Damn it, you know the girl who ought to have been my
secretary.' I am not quite sure whether you will take it as a
compliment--Sir Jervis appeared to view you in the light of a
reference to my respectability. At any rate, he went on with his
questions. 'How long do you stop in these parts?' 'I haven't made
up my mind.' 'Look here; I want to consult you--are you
listening?' 'No; I'm sketching.' He burst into a horrid scream. I
asked if he felt himself taken ill. 'Ill?' he said--'I'm
laughing.' It was a diabolical laugh, in one syllable--not 'ha!
ha! ha!' only 'ha!'--and it made him look wonderfully like that
eminent person, whom I persist in thinking he resembles. 'You're
an impudent dog,' he said; 'where are you living?' He was so
delighted when he heard of my uncomfortable position in the
kennel-bedroom, that he offered his hospitality on the spot. 'I
can't go to you in such a pigstye as that,' he said; 'you must
come to me. What's your name?' 'Alban Morris; what's yours?'
'Jervis Redwood. Pack up your traps when you've done your job,
and come and try my kennel. There it is, in a corner of your
drawing, and devilish like, too.' I packed up my traps, and I
tried his kennel. And now you have had enough of Sir Jervis
Redwood."

"Not half enough!" Emily answered. "Your story leaves off just at
the interesting moment. I want you to take me to Sir Jervis's
house."

"And I want you, Miss Emily, to take me to the British Museum.
Don't let me startle you! When I called here earlier in the day,
I was told that you had gone to the reading-room. Is your reading
a secret?"

His manner, when he made that reply, suggested to Emily that
there was some foregone conclusion in his mind, which he was
putting to the test. She answered without alluding to the
impression which he had produced on her.

"My reading is no secret. I am only consulting old newspapers."

He repeated the last words to himself. "Old newspapers?" he
said--as if he was not quite sure of having rightly understood
her.

She tried to help him by a more definite reply.

"I am looking through old newspapers," she resumed, "beginning
with the year eighteen hundred and seventy-six."

"And going back from that time," he asked eagerly; "to earlier
dates still?"

"No--just the contrary--advancing from 'seventy-six' to the
present time."

He suddenly turned pale--and tried to hide his face from her by
looking out of the window. For a moment, his agitation deprived
him of his presence of mind. In that moment, she saw that she had
alarmed him.

"What have I said to frighten you?" she asked.

He tried to assume a tone of commonplace gallantry. "There are
limits even to your power over me," he replied. "Whatever else
you may do, you can never frighten me. Are you searching those
old newspapers with any particular object in view?"

"Yes."

"May I know what it is?"

"May I know why I frightened you?"

He began to walk up and down the room again--then checked himself
abruptly, and appealed to her mercy.

"Don't be hard on me," he pleaded. "I am so fond of you--oh,
forgive me! I only mean that it distresses me to have any
concealments from you. If I could open my whole heart  at this
moment, I shou ld be a happier man."

She understood him and believed him. "My curiosity shall never
embarrass you again," she answered warmly. "I won't even remember
that I wanted to hear how you got on in Sir Jervis's house."

His gratitude seized the opportunity of taking her harmlessly
into his confidence. "As Sir Jervis's guest," he said, "my
experience is at your service. Only tell me how I can interest
you."

She replied, with some hesitation, "I should like to know what
happened when you first saw Mrs. Rook." To her surprise and
relief, he at once complied with her wishes.

"We met," he said, "on the evening when I first entered the
house. Sir Jervis took me into the dining-room--and there sat
Miss Redwood, with a large black cat on her lap. Older than her
brother, taller than her brother, leaner than her brother--with
strange stony eyes, and a skin like parchment--she looked (if I
may speak in contradictions) like a living corpse. I was
presented, and the corpse revived. The last lingering relics of
former good breeding showed themselves faintly in her brow and in
her smile. You will hear more of Miss Redwood presently. In the
meanwhile, Sir Jervis made me reward his hospitality by
professional advice. He wished me to decide whether the artists
whom he had employed to illustrate his wonderful book had cheated
him by overcharges and bad work--and Mrs. Rook was sent to fetch
the engravings from his study upstairs. You remember her
petrified appearance, when she first read the inscription on your
locket? The same result followed when she found herself face to
face with me. I saluted her civilly--she was deaf and blind to my
politeness. Her master snatched the illustrations out of her
hand, and told her to leave the room. She stood stockstill,
staring helplessly. Sir Jervis looked round at his sister; and I
followed his example. Miss Redwood was observing the housekeeper
too attentively to notice anything else; her brother was obliged
to speak to her. 'Try Rook with the bell,' he said. Miss Redwood
took a fine old bronze hand-bell from the table at her side, and
rang it. At the shrill silvery sound of the bell, Mrs. Rook put
her hand to her head as if the ringing had hurt her--turned
instantly, and left us. 'Nobody can manage Rook but my sister,'
Sir Jervis explained; 'Rook is crazy.' Miss Redwood differed with
him. 'No!' she said. Only one word, but there were volumes of
contradiction in it. Sir Jervis looked at me slyly; meaning,
perhaps, that he thought his sister crazy too. The dinner was
brought in at the same moment, and my attention was diverted to
Mrs. Rook's husband."

"What was he like?" Emily asked.

"I really can't tell you; he was one of those essentially
commonplace persons, whom one never looks at a second time. His
dress was shabby, his head was bald, and his hands shook when he
waited on us at table--and that is all I remember. Sir Jervis and
I feasted on salt fish, mutton, and beer. Miss Redwood had cold
broth, with a wine-glass full of rum poured into it by Mr. Rook.
'She's got no stomach,' her brother informed me; 'hot things come
up again ten minutes after they have gone down her throat; she
lives on that beastly mixture, and calls it broth-grog!' Miss
Redwood sipped her elixir of life, and occasionally looked at me
with an appearance of interest which I was at a loss to
understand. Dinner being over, she rang her antique bell. The
shabby old man-servant answered her call. 'Where's your wife?'
she inquired. 'Ill, miss.' She took Mr. Rook's arm to go out, and
stopped as she passed me. 'Come to my room, if you please, sir,
to-morrow at two o'clock,' she said. Sir Jervis explained again:
'She's all to pieces in the morning' (he invariably called his
sister 'She'); 'and gets patched up toward the middle of the day.
Death has forgotten her, that's about the truth of it.' He
lighted his pipe and pondered over the hieroglyphics found among
the ruined cities of Yucatan; I lighted my pipe, and read the
only book I could find in the dining-room--a dreadful record of
shipwrecks and disasters at sea. When the room was full of
tobacco-smoke we fell asleep in our chairs--and when we awoke
again we got up and went to bed. There is the true story of my
first evening at Redwood Hall."

Emily begged him to go on. "You have interested me in Miss
Redwood," she said. "You kept your appointment, of course?"

"I kept my appointment in no very pleasant humor. Encouraged by
my favorable report of the illustrations which he had submitted
to my judgment, Sir Jervis proposed to make me useful to him in a
new capacity. 'You have nothing particular to do,' he said,
'suppose you clean my pictures?' I gave him one of my black
looks, and made no other reply. My interview with his sister
tried my powers of self-command in another way. Miss Redwood
declared her purpose in sending for me the moment I entered the
room. Without any preliminary remarks--speaking slowly and
emphatically, in a wonderfully strong voice for a woman of her
age--she said, 'I have a favor to ask of you, sir. I want you to
tell me what Mrs. Rook has done.' I was so staggered that I
stared at her like a fool. She went on: 'I suspected Mrs. Rook,
sir, of having guilty remembrances on her conscience before she
had been a week in our service.' Can you imagine my astonishment
when I heard that Miss Redwood's view of Mrs. Rook was my view?
Finding that I still said nothing, the old lady entered into
details: 'We arranged, sir,' (she persisted in calling me 'sir,'
with the formal politeness of the old school)--'we arranged, sir,
that Mrs. Rook and her husband should occupy the bedroom next to
mine, so that I might have her near me in case of my being taken
ill in the night. She looked at the door between the two
rooms--suspicious! She asked if there was any objection to her
changing to another room--suspicious! suspicious! Pray take a
seat, sir, and tell me which Mrs. Rook is guilty of--theft or
murder?' "

"What a dreadful old woman!" Emily exclaimed. "How did you answer
her?"

"I told her, with perfect truth, that I knew nothing of Mrs.
Rook's secrets. Miss Redwood's humor took a satirical turn.
'Allow me to ask, sir, whether your eyes were shut, when our
housekeeper found herself unexpectedly in your presence?' I
referred the old lady to her brother's opinion. 'Sir Jervis
believes Mrs. Rook to be crazy,' I reminded her. 'Do you refuse
to trust me, sir?' 'I have no information to give you, madam.'
She waved her skinny old hand in the direction of the door. I
made my bow, and retired. She called me back. 'Old women used to
be prophets, sir, in the bygone time,' she said. 'I will venture
on a prediction. You will be the means of depriving us of the
services of Mr. and Mrs. Rook. If you will be so good as to stay
here a day or two longer you will hear that those two people have
given us notice to quit. It will be her doing, mind--he is a mere
cypher. I wish you good-morning.' Will you believe me, when I
tell you that the prophecy was fulfilled?"

"Do you mean that they actually left the house?"

"They would certainly have left the house," Alban answered, "if
Sir Jervis had not insisted on receiving the customary month's
warning. He asserted his resolution by locking up the old husband
in the pantry. His sister's suspicions never entered his head;
the housekeeper's conduct (he said) simply proved that she was,
what he had always considered her to be, crazy. 'A capital
servant, in spite of that drawback,' he remarked; 'and you will
see, I shall bring her to her senses.' The impression produced on
me was naturally of a very different kind. While I was still
uncertain how to entrap Mrs. Rook into confirming my suspicions,
she herself had saved me the trouble. She had placed her own
guilty interpretation on my appearance in the house--I had driven
her away!"

Emily remained true to her resolution not to let her curiosity
embarrass Alban again. But the unexpressed question was in her
thoughts--"Of what guilt does he suspect Mrs. Rook? And, when he
first felt his suspicions, was my father in his mind?"

Alban proceeded.

"I had only to consider next, whether I could hope to make any
further discoveries,
 if I continued to be Sir Jervis's guest. The object of my
journey had been gained; and I had no desire to be employed as
picture-cleaner. Miss Redwood assisted me in arriving at a
decision. I was sent for to speak to her again. The success of
her prophecy had raised her spirits. She asked, with ironical
humility, if I proposed to honor them by still remaining their
guest, after the disturbance that I had provoked. I answered that
I proposed to leave by the first train the next morning. 'Will it
be convenient for you to travel to some place at a good distance
from this part of the world?' she asked. I had my own reasons for
going to London, and said so. 'Will you mention that to my
brother this evening, just before we sit down to dinner?' she
continued. 'And will you tell him plainly that you have no
intention of returning to the North? I shall make use of Mrs.
Rook's arm, as usual, to help me downstairs--and I will take care
that she hears what you say. Without venturing on another
prophecy, I will only hint to you that I have my own idea of what
will happen; and I should like you to see for yourself, sir,
whether my anticipations are realized.' Need I tell you that this
strange old woman proved to be right once more? Mr. Rook was
released; Mrs. Rook made humble apologies, and laid the whole
blame on her husband's temper: and Sir Jervis bade me remark that
his method had succeeded in bringing the housekeeper to her
senses. Such were the results produced by the announcement of my
departure for London--purposely made in Mrs. Rook's hearing. Do
you agree with me, that my journey to Northumberland has not been
taken in vain?"

Once more, Emily felt the necessity of controlling herself.

Alban had said that he had "reasons of his own for going to
London." Could she venture to ask him what those reasons were?
She could only persist in restraining her curiosity, and conclude
that he would have mentioned his motive, if it had been (as she
had at one time supposed) connected with herself. It was a wise
decision. No earthly consideration would have induced Alban to
answer her, if she had put the question to him.

All doubt of the correctness of his own first impression was now
at an end; he was convinced that Mrs. Rook had been an accomplice
in the crime committed, in 1877, at the village inn. His object
in traveling to London was to consult the newspaper narrative of
the murder. He, too, had been one of the readers at the
Museum--had examined the back numbers of the newspaper--and had
arrived at the conclusion that Emily's father had been the victim
of the crime. Unless he found means to prevent it, her course of
reading would take her from the year 1876 to the year 1877, and
under that date, she would see the fatal report, heading the top
of a column, and printed in conspicuous type.

In the meanwhile Emily had broken the silence, before it could
lead to embarrassing results, by asking if Alban had seen Mrs.
Rook again, on the morning when he left Sir Jervis's house.

"There was nothing to be gained by seeing her, "Alban replied.
"Now that she and her husband had decided to remain at Redwood
Hall, I knew where to find her in case of necessity. As it
happened I saw nobody, on the morning of my departure, but Sir
Jervis himself. He still held to his idea of having his pictures
cleaned for nothing. 'If you can't do it yourself,' he said,
'couldn't you teach my secretary?' He described the lady whom he
had engaged in your place as a 'nasty middle-aged woman with a
perpetual cold in her head.' At the same time (he remarked) he
was a friend to the women, 'because he got them cheap.' I
declined to teach the unfortunate secretary the art of
picture-cleaning. Finding me determined, Sir Jervis was quite
ready to say good-by. But he made use of me to the last. He
employed me as postman and saved a stamp. The letter addressed to
you arrived at breakfast-time. Sir Jervis said, 'You are going to
London; suppose you take it with you?'"

"Did he tell you that there was a letter of his own inclosed in
the envelope?"

"No. When he gave me the envelope it was already sealed."

Emily at once handed to him Sir Jervis's letter. "That will tell
you who employs me at the Museum, and what my work is," she said.

He looked through the letter, and at once offered--eagerly
offered--to help her.

"I have been a student in the reading-room at intervals, for
years past," he said. "Let me assist you, and I shall have
something to do in my holiday time." He was so anxious to be of
use that he interrupted her before she could thank him. "Let us
take alternate years," he suggested. "Did you not tell me you
were searching the newspapers published in eighteen hundred and
seventy-six?"

"Yes."

"Very well. I will take the next year. You will take the year
after. And so on."

"You are very kind," she answered--"but I should like to propose
an improvement on your plan."

"What improvement?" he asked, rather sharply.

"If you will leave the five years, from 'seventy-six to
'eighty-one, entirely to me," she resumed, "and take the next
five years, reckoning _backward_ from 'seventy-six, you will help
me to better purpose. Sir Jervis expects me to look for reports
of Central American Explorations, through the newspapers of the
last forty years; and I have taken the liberty of limiting the
heavy task imposed on me. When I report my progress to my
employer, I should like to say that I have got through ten years
of the examination, instead of five. Do you see any objection to
the arrangement I propose?"

He proved to be obstinate--incomprehensibly obstinate.

'Let us try my plan to begin with," he insisted. "While you are
looking through 'seventy-six, let me be at work on
'seventy-seven. If you still prefer your own arrangement, after
that, I will follow your suggestion with pleasure. Is it agreed?"

Her acute perception--enlightened by his tone as wall as by his
words--detected something under the surface already.

"It isn't agreed until I understand you a little better," she
quietly replied. "I fancy you have some object of your own in
view."

She spoke with her usual directness of look and manner. He was
evidently disconcerted. "What makes you think so?" he asked.

"My own experience of myself makes me think so," she answered.
"If _I_ had some object to gain, I should persist in carrying it
out--like you."

"Does that mean, Miss Emily, that you refuse to give way?"

"No, Mr. Morris. I have made myself disagreeable, but I know when
to stop. I trust you--and submit."

If he had been less deeply interested in the accomplishment of
his merciful design, he might have viewed Emily's sudden
submission with some distrust. As it was, his eagerness to
prevent her from discovering the narrative of the murder hurried
him into an act of indiscretion. He made an excuse to leave her
immediately, in the fear that she might change her mind.

"I have inexcusably prolonged my visit," he said. "If I presume
on your kindness in this way, how can I hope that you will
receive me again? We meet to-morrow in the reading-room."

He hastened away, as if he was afraid to let her say a word in
reply.

Emily reflected.

"Is there something he doesn't want me to see, in the news of the
year 'seventy-seven?" The one explanation which suggested itself
to her mind assumed that form of expression--and the one method
of satisfying her curiosity that seemed likely to succeed, was to
search the volume which Alban had reserved for his own reading.

For two days they pursued their task together, seated at opposite
desks. On the third day Emily was absent.

Was she ill?

She was at the library in the City, consulting the file of _The
Times_ for the year 1877.


CHAPTER XXIV.

MR. ROOK.

Emily's first day in the City library proved to be a day wasted.

She began reading the back numbers of the newspaper at haphazard,
without any definite idea of what she was looking for. Conscious
of the error into which her own impatience had led her, she was
at a loss how to retrace the false step that she had taken. But
two alternatives presented themselves: either to abandon the hope
of making any discovery--or to attempt to penetrate Alban 's
motives by means of pure guesswork, pursued in the dark.

How was the problem to be solved? This serious question troubled
her all through the evening, and kept her awake when she went to
bed. In despair of her capacity to remove the obstacle that stood
in her way, she decided on resuming her regular work at the
Museum--turned her pillow to get at the cool side of it--and made
up her mind to go asleep.

In the case of the wiser animals, the Person submits to Sleep. It
is only the superior human being who tries the hopeless
experiment of making Sleep submit to the Person. Wakeful on the
warm side of the pillow, Emily remained wakeful on the cool
side--thinking again and again of the interview with Alban which
had ended so strangely.

Little by little, her mind passed the limits which had restrained
it thus far. Alban's conduct in keeping his secret, in the matter
of the newspapers, now began to associate itself with Alban's
conduct in keeping that other secret, which concealed from her
his suspicions of Mrs. Rook.

She started up in bed as the next possibility occurred to her.

In speaking of the disaster which had compelled Mr. and Mrs. Rook
to close the inn, Cecilia had alluded to an inquest held on the
body of the murdered man. Had the inquest been mentioned in the
newspapers, at the time? And had Alban seen something in the
report, which concerned Mrs. Rook?

Led by the new light that had fallen on her, Emily returned to
the library the next morning with a definite idea of what she had
to look for. Incapable of giving exact dates, Cecilia had
informed her that the crime was committed "in the autumn." The
month to choose, in beginning her examination, was therefore the
month of August.

No discovery rewarded her. She tried September, next--with the
same unsatisfactory results. On Monday the first of October she
met with some encouragement at last. At the top of a column
appeared a telegraphic summary of all that was then known of the
crime. In the number for the Wednesday following, she found a
full report of the proceedings at the inquest.

Passing over the preliminary remarks, Emily read the evidence
with the closest attention.

                                        -------------

The jury having viewed the body, and having visited an outhouse
in which the murder had been committed, the first witness called
was Mr. Benjamin Rook, landlord of the Hand-in-Hand inn.

On the evening of Sunday, September 30th, 1877, two gentlemen
presented themselves at Mr. Rook's house, under circumstances
which especially excited his attention.

The youngest of the two was short, and of fair complexion. He
carried a knapsack, like a gentleman on a pedestrian excursion;
his manners were pleasant; and he was decidedly good-looking. His
companion, older, taller, and darker--and a finer man
altogether--leaned on his arm and seemed to be exhausted. In
every respect they were singularly unlike each other. The younger
stranger (excepting little half-whiskers) was clean shaved. The
elder wore his whole beard. Not knowing their names, the landlord
distinguished them, at the coroner's suggestion, as the fair
gentleman, and the dark gentleman.

It was raining when the two arrived at the inn. There were signs
in the heavens of a stormy night.

On accosting the landlord, the fair gentleman volunteered the
following statement:

Approaching the village, he had been startled by seeing the dark
gentleman (a total stranger to him) stretched prostrate on the
grass at the roadside--so far as he could judge, in a swoon.
Having a flask with brandy in it, he revived the fainting man,
and led him to the inn.

This statement was confirmed by a laborer, who was on his way to
the village at the time.

The dark gentleman endeavored to explain what had happened to
him. He had, as he supposed, allowed too long a time to pass
(after an early breakfast that morning), without taking food: he
could only attribute the fainting fit to that cause. He was not
liable to fainting fits. What purpose (if any) had brought him
into the neighborhood of Zeeland, he did not state. He had no
intention of remaining at the inn, except for refreshment; and he
asked for a carriage to take him to the railway station.

The fair gentleman, seeing the signs of bad weather, desired to
remain in Mr. Rook's house for the night, and proposed to resume
his walking tour the next day.

Excepting the case of supper, which could be easily provided, the
landlord had no choice but to disappoint both his guests. In his
small way of business, none of his customers wanted to hire a
carriage--even if he could have afforded to keep one. As for
beds, the few rooms which the inn contained were all engaged;
including even the room occupied by himself and his wife. An
exhibition of agricultural implements had been opened in the
neighborhood, only two days since; and a public competition
between rival machines was to be decided on the coming Monday.
Not only was the Hand-in-Hand inn crowded, but even the
accommodation offered by the nearest town had proved barely
sufficient to meet the public demand.

The gentlemen looked at each other and agreed that there was no
help for it but to hurry the supper, and walk to the railway
station--a distance of between five and six miles--in time to
catch the last train.

While the meal was being prepared, the rain held off for a while.
The dark man asked his way to the post-office and went out by
himself.

He came back in about ten minutes, and sat down afterward to
supper with his companion. Neither the landlord, nor any other
person in the public room, noticed any change in him on his
return. He was a grave, quiet sort of person, and (unlike the
other one) not much of a talker.

As the darkness came on, the rain fell again heavily; and the
heavens were black.

A flash of lightning startled the gentlemen when they went to the
window to look out: the thunderstorm began. It was simply
impossible that two strangers to the neighborhood could find
their way to the station, through storm and darkness, in time to
catch the train. With or without bedrooms, they must remain at
the inn for the night. Having already given up their own room to
their lodgers, the landlord and landlady had no other place to
sleep in than the kitchen. Next to the kitchen, and communicating
with it by a door, was an outhouse; used, partly as a scullery,
partly as a lumber-room. There was an old truckle-bed among the
lumber, on which one of the gentlemen might rest. A mattress on
the floor could be provided for the other. After adding a table
and a basin, for the purposes of the toilet, the accommodation
which Mr. Rook was able to offer came to an end.

The travelers agreed to occupy this makeshift bed-chamber.

The thunderstorm passed away; but the rain continued to fall
heavily. Soon after eleven the guests at the inn retired for the
night. There was some little discussion between the two
travelers, as to which of them should take possession of the
truckle-bed. It was put an end to by the fair gentleman, in his
own pleasant way. He proposed to "toss up for it"--and he lost.
The dark gentleman went to bed first; the fair gentleman
followed, after waiting a while. Mr. Rook took his knapsack into
the outhouse; and arranged on the table his appliances for the
toilet--contained in a leather roll, and including a razor--ready
for use in the morning.

Having previously barred the second door of the outhouse, which
led into the yard, Mr. Rook fastened the other door, the lock and
bolts of which were on the side of the kitchen. He then secured
the house door, and the shutters over the lower windows.
Returning to the kitchen, he noticed that the time was ten
minutes short of midnight. Soon afterward, he and his wife went
to bed.

Nothing happened to disturb Mr. and Mrs. Rook during the night.

At a quarter to seven the next morning, he got up; his wife being
still asleep. He had been instructed to wake the gentlemen early;
and he knocked at their door. Receiving no answer, after
repeatedly knocking, he opened the door and stepped into the
outhouse.

At this point in his evidence, the witness's recollections
appeared to overpow er him. "Give me a moment, gentlemen," he
said to the jury. "I have had a dreadful fright; and I don't
believe I shall get over it for the rest of my life."

The coroner helped him by a question: "What did you see when you
opened the door?"

Mr. Rook answered: "I saw the dark man stretched out on his
bed--dead, with a frightful wound in his throat. I saw an open
razor, stained with smears of blood, at his side."

"Did you notice the door, leading into the yard?"

"It was wide open, sir. When I was able to look round me, the
other traveler--I mean the man with the fair complexion, who
carried the knapsack--was nowhere to be seen."

"What did you do, after making these discoveries?"

"I closed the yard door. Then I locked the other door, and put
the key in my pocket. After that I roused the servant, and sent
him to the constable--who lived near to us--while I ran for the
doctor, whose house was at the other end of our village. The
doctor sent his groom, on horseback, to the police-office in the
town. When I returned to the inn, the constable was there--and he
and the police took the matter into their own hands."

"You have nothing more to tell us?"

"Nothing more."


CHAPTER XXV

"J. B."

Mr. Rook having completed his evidence, the police authorities
were the next witnesses examined.

They had not found the slightest trace of any attempt to break
into the house in the night. The murdered man's gold watch and
chain were discovered under his pillow. On examining his clothes
the money was found in his purse, and the gold studs and sleeve
buttons were left in his shirt. But his pocketbook (seen by
witnesses who had not yet been examined) was missing. The search
for visiting cards and letters had proved to be fruitless. Only
the initials, "J. B.," were marked on his linen. He had brought
no luggage with him to the inn. Nothing could be found which led
to the discovery of his name or of the purpose which had taken
him into that part of the country.

The police examined the outhouse next, in search of
circumstantial evidence against the missing man.

He must have carried away his knapsack, when he took to flight,
but he had been (probably) in too great a hurry to look for his
razor--or perhaps too terrified to touch it, if it had attracted
his notice. The leather roll, and the other articles used for his
toilet, had been taken away. Mr. Rook identified the
blood-stained razor. He had noticed overnight the name of the
Belgian city, "Liege," engraved on it.

The yard was the next place inspected. Foot-steps were found on
the muddy earth up to the wall. But the road on the other side
had been recently mended with stones, and the trace of the
fugitive was lost. Casts had been taken of the footsteps; and no
other means of discovery had been left untried. The authorities
in London had also been communicated with by telegraph.

The doctor being called, described a personal peculiarity, which
he had noticed at the post-mortem examination, and which might
lead to the identification of the murdered man.

As to the cause of death, the witness said it could be stated in
two words. The internal jugular vein had been cut through, with
such violence, judging by the appearances, that the wound could
not have been inflicted, in the act of suicide, by the hand of
the deceased person. No other injuries, and no sign of disease,
was found on the body. The one cause of death had been
Hemorrhage; and the one peculiarity which called for notice had
been discovered in the mouth. Two of the front teeth, in the
upper jaw, were false. They had been so admirably made to
resemble the natural teeth on either side of them, in form and
color, that the witness had only hit on the discovery by
accidentally touching the inner side of the gum with one of his
fingers.

The landlady was examined, when the doctor had retired. Mrs. Rook
was able, in answering questions put to her, to give important
information, in reference to the missing pocketbook.

Before retiring to rest, the two gentlemen had paid the
bill--intending to leave the inn the first thing in the morning.
The traveler with the knapsack paid his share in money. The other
unfortunate gentleman looked into his purse, and found only a
shilling and a sixpence in it. He asked Mrs. Rook if she could
change a bank-note. She told him it could be done, provided the
note was for no considerable sum of money. Upon that he opened
his pocketbook (which the witness described minutely) and turned
out the contents on the table. After searching among many Bank of
England notes, some in one pocket of the book and some in
another, he found a note of the value of five pounds. He
thereupon settled his bill, and received the change from Mrs.
Rook--her husband being in another part of the room, attending to
the guests. She noticed a letter in an envelope, and a few cards
which looked (to her judgment) like visiting cards, among the
bank-notes which he had turned out on the table. When she
returned to him with the change, he had just put them back, and
was closing the pocketbook. She saw him place it in one of the
breast pockets of his coat.

The fellow-traveler who had accompanied him to the inn was
present all the time, sitting on the opposite side of the table.
He made a remark when he saw the notes produced. He said, "Put
all that money back--don't tempt a poor man like me!" It was said
laughing, as if by way of a joke.

Mrs. Rook had observed nothing more that night; had slept as
soundly as usual; and had been awakened when her husband knocked
at the outhouse door, according to instructions received from the
gentlemen, overnight.

Three of the guests in the public room corroborated Mrs. Rook's
evidence. They were respectable persons, well and widely known in
that part of Hampshire. Besides these, there were two strangers
staying in the house. They referred the coroner to their
employers--eminent manufacturers at Sheffield and
Wolverhampton--whose testimony spoke for itself.

The last witness called was a grocer in the village, who kept the
post-office.

On the evening of the 30th, a dark gentleman, wearing his beard,
knocked at the door, and asked for a letter addressed to "J. B.,
Post-office, Zeeland." The letter had arrived by that morning's
post; but, being Sunday evening, the grocer requested that
application might be made for it the next morning. The stranger
said the letter contained news, which it was of importance to him
to receive without delay. Upon this, the grocer made an exception
to customary rules and gave him the letter. He read it by the
light of the lamp in the passage. It must have been short, for
the reading was done in a moment. He seemed to think over it for
a while; and then he turned round to go out. There was nothing to
notice in his look or in his manner. The witness offered a remark
on the weather; and the gentleman said, "Yes, it looks like a bad
night"--and so went away.

The postmaster's evidence was of importance in one respect: it
suggested the motive which had brought the deceased to Zeeland.
The letter addressed to "J. B." was, in all probability, the
letter seen by Mrs. Rook among the contents of the pocketbook,
spread out on the table.

The inquiry being, so far, at an end, the inquest was
adjourned--on the chance of obtaining additional evidence, when
the reported proceedings were read by the public.

                                        . . . . . . . .

Consulting a later number of the newspaper Emily discovered that
the deceased person had been identified by a witness from London.

Henry Forth, gentleman's valet, being examined, made the
following statement:

He had read the medical evidence contained in the report of the
inquest; and, believing that he could identify the deceased, had
been sent by his present master to assist the object of the
inquiry. Ten days since, being then out of place, he had answered
an advertisement. The next day, he was instructed to call at
Tracey's Hotel, London, at six o'clock in the evening, and to ask
for Mr. James Brown. Arriving at the hotel he saw the gentleman
for a few minutes only. Mr. Brown had a friend with him. After
glancing over the valet's references, he said, "I haven't time
enough to speak to you this evening. Call here to-morrow morning
at nine o'clock." The gentleman who was present laughed, and
said, "You won't be up!" Mr. Brown answered, "That won't matter;
the man can come to my bedroom, and let me see how he understands
his duties, on trial." At nine the next morning, Mr. Brown was
reported to be still in bed; and the witness was informed of the
number of the room. He knocked at the door. A drowsy voice inside
said something, which he interpreted as meaning "Come in." He
went in. The toilet-table was on his left hand, and the bed (with
the lower curtain drawn) was on his right. He saw on the table a
tumbler with a little water in it, and with two false teeth in
the water. Mr. Brown started up in bed--looked at him
furiously--abused him for daring to enter the room--and shouted
to him to "get out." The witness, not accustomed to be treated in
that way, felt naturally indignant, and at once withdrew--but not
before he had plainly seen the vacant place which the false teeth
had been made to fill. Perhaps Mr. Brown had forgotten that he
had left his teeth on the table. Or perhaps he (the valet) had
misunderstood what had been said to him when he knocked at the
door. Either way, it seemed to be plain enough that the gentleman
resented the discovery of his false teeth by a stranger.

Having concluded his statement the witness proceeded to identify
the remains of the deceased.

He at once recognized the gentleman named James Brown, whom he
had twice seen--once in the evening, and again the next
morning--at Tracey's Hotel. In answer to further inquiries, he
declared that he knew nothing of the family, or of the place of
residence, of the deceased. He complained to the proprietor of
the hotel of the rude treatment that he had received, and asked
if Mr. Tracey knew anything of Mr. James Brown. Mr. Tracey knew
nothing of him. On consulting the hotel book it was found that he
had given notice to leave, that afternoon.

Before returning to London, the witness produced references which
gave him an excellent character. He also left the address of the
master who had engaged him three days since.

The last precaution adopted was to have the face of the corpse
photographed, before the coffin was closed. On the same day the
jury agreed on their verdict: "Willful murder against some person
unknown."

                                        . . . . . . . .


Two days later, Emily found a last allusion to the
crime--extracted from the columns of the _South Hampshire
Gazette_.

A relative of the deceased, seeing the report of the adjourned
inquest, had appeared (accompanied by a medical gentleman); had
seen the photograph; and had declared the identification by Henry
Forth to be correct.

Among other particulars, now communicated for the first time, it
was stated that the late Mr. James Brown had been unreasonably
sensitive on the subject of his false teeth, and that the one
member of his family who knew of his wearing them was the
relative who now claimed his remains.

The claim having been established to the satisfaction of the
authorities, the corpse was removed by railroad the same day. No
further light had been thrown on the murder. The Handbill
offering the reward, and describing the suspected man, had failed
to prove of any assistance to the investigations of the police.

From that date, no further notice of the crime committed at the
Hand-in-Hand inn appeared in the public journals.

                                        . . . . . . . .


Emily closed the volume which she had been consulting, and
thankfully acknowledged the services of the librarian.

The new reader had excited this gentleman's interest. Noticing
how carefully she examined the numbers of the old newspaper, he
looked at her, from time to time, wondering whether it was good
news or bad of which she was in search. She read steadily and
continuously; but she never rewarded his curiosity by any outward
sign of the impression that had been produced on her. When she
left the room there was nothing to remark in her manner; she
looked quietly thoughtful--and that was all.

The librarian smiled--amused by his own folly. Because a
stranger's appearance had attracted him, he had taken it for
granted that circumstances of romantic interest must be connected
with her visit to the library. Far from misleading him, as he
supposed, his fancy might have been employed to better purpose,
if it had taken a higher flight still--and had associated Emily
with the fateful gloom of tragedy, in place of the brighter
interest of romance.

There, among the ordinary readers of the day, was a dutiful and
affectionate daughter following the dreadful story of the death
of her father by murder, and believing it to be the story of a
stranger--because she loved and trusted the person whose
short-sighted mercy had deceived her. That very discovery, the
dread of which had shaken the good doctor's firm nerves, had
forced Alban to exclude from his confidence the woman whom he
loved, and had driven the faithful old servant from the bedside
of her dying mistress--that very discovery Emily had now made,
with a face which never changed color, and a heart which beat at
ease. Was the deception that had won this cruel victory over
truth destined still to triumph in the days which were to come?
Yes--if the life of earth is a foretaste of the life of hell.
No--if a lie _is_ a lie, be the merciful motive for the falsehood
what it may. No--if all deceit contains in it the seed of
retribution, to be ripened inexorably in the lapse of time.


CHAPTER XXVI.

MOTHER EVE.

The servant received Emily, on her return from the library, with
a sly smile. "Here he is again, miss, waiting to see you."

She opened the parlor door, and revealed Alban Morris, as
restless as ever, walking up and down the room.

"When I missed you at the Museum, I was afraid you might be ill,"
he said. "Ought I to have gone away, when my anxiety was
relieved? Shall I go away now?"

"You must take a chair, Mr. Morris, and hear what I have to say
for myself. When you left me after your last visit, I suppose I
felt the force of example. At any rate I, like you, had my
suspicions. I have been trying to confirm them--and I have
failed."

He paused, with the chair in his hand. "Suspicions of Me?" he
asked.

"Certainly! Can you guess how I have been employed for the last
two days? No--not even your ingenuity can do that. I have been
hard at work, in another reading-room, consulting the same back
numbers of the same newspaper, which you have been examining at
the British Museum. There is my confession--and now we will have
some tea."

She moved to the fireplace, to ring the bell, and failed to see
the effect produced on Alban by those lightly-uttered words. The
common phrase is the only phrase that can describe it. He was
thunderstruck.

"Yes," she resumed, "I have read the report of the inquest. If I
know nothing else, I know that the murder at Zeeland can't be the
discovery which you are bent on keeping from me. Don't be alarmed
for the preservation of your secret! I am too much discouraged to
try again."

The servant interrupted them by answering the bell; Alban once
more escaped detection. Emily gave her orders with an approach to
the old gayety of her school days. "Tea, as soon as possible--and
let us have the new cake. Are you too much of a man, Mr. Morris,
to like cake?"

In this state of agitation, he was unreasonably irritated by that
playful question. "There is one thing I like better than cake,"
he said; "and that one thing is a plain explanation."

His tone puzzled her. "Have I said anything to offend you?" she
asked. "Surely you can make allowance for a girl's curiosity? Oh,
you shall have your explanation--and, what is more, you shall
have it without reserve!"

She was as good as her word. What she had thought, and what she
had planned, when he left her after his last visit, was frankly
and fully told. "If you wonder how I discovered the library," she
went on, "I must refer you to my aunt's lawyer. He lives in the
City--and I wrote to him to help me. I don't consider that my
time has been wasted. Mr. M orris, we owe an apology to Mrs.
Rook."

Alban's astonishment, when he heard this, forced its way to
expression in words. "What can you possibly mean?" he asked.

The tea was brought in before Emily could reply. She filled the
cups, and sighed as she looked at the cake. "If Cecilia was here,
how she would enjoy it!" With that complimentary tribute to her
friend, she handed a slice to Alban. He never even noticed it.

"We have both of us behaved most unkindly to Mrs. Rook," she
resumed. "I can excuse your not seeing it; for I should not have
seen it either, but for the newspaper. While I was reading, I had
an opportunity of thinking over what we said and did, when the
poor woman's behavior so needlessly offended us. I was too
excited to think, at the time--and, besides, I had been upset,
only the night before, by what Miss Jethro said to me."

Alban started. "What has Miss Jethro to do with it?" he asked.

"Nothing at all," Emily answered. "She spoke to me of her own
private affairs. A long story--and you wouldn't be interested in
it. Let me finish what I had to say. Mrs. Rook was naturally
reminded of the murder, when she heard that my name was Brown;
and she must certainly have been struck--as I was--by the
coincidence of my father's death taking place at the same time
when his unfortunate namesake was killed. Doesn't this
sufficiently account for her agitation when she looked at the
locket? We first took her by surprise: and then we suspected her
of Heaven knows what, because the poor creature didn't happen to
have her wits about her, and to remember at the right moment what
a very common name 'James Brown' is. Don't you see it as I do?"

"I see that you have arrived at a remarkable change of opinion,
since we spoke of the subject in the garden at school."

"In my place, you would have changed your opinion too. I shall
write to Mrs. Rook by tomorrow's post."

Alban heard her with dismay. "Pray be guided by my advice!" he
said earnestly. "Pray don't write that letter!"

"Why not?"

It was too late to recall the words which he had rashly allowed
to escape him. How could he reply?

To own that he had not only read what Emily had read, but had
carefully copied the whole narrative and considered it at his
leisure, appeared to be simply impossible after what he had now
heard. Her peace of mind depended absolutely on his discretion.
In this serious emergency, silence was a mercy, and silence was a
lie. If he remained silent, might the mercy be trusted to atone
for the lie? He was too fond of Emily to decide that question
fairly, on its own merits. In other words, he shrank from the
terrible responsibility of telling her the truth.

"Isn't the imprudence of writing to such a person as Mrs. Rook
plain enough to speak for itself?" he suggested cautiously.

"Not to me."

She made that reply rather obstinately. Alban seemed (in her
view) to be trying to prevent her from atoning for an act of
injustice. Besides, he despised her cake. "I want to know why you
object," she said; taking back the neglected slice, and eating it
herself.

"I object," Alban answered, "because Mrs. Rook is a coarse
presuming woman. She may pervert your letter to some use of her
own, which you may have reason to regret."

"Is that all?"

"Isn't it enough?"

"It may be enough for _you_. When I have done a person an injury,
and wish to make an apology, I don't think it necessary to
inquire whether the person's manners happen to be vulgar or not."

Alban's patience was still equal to any demands that she could
make on it. "I can only offer you advice which is honestly
intended for your own good," he gently replied.

"You would have more influence over me, Mr. Morris, if you were a
little readier to take me into your confidence. I daresay I am
wrong--but I don't like following advice which is given to me in
the dark."

It was impossible to offend him. "Very naturally," he said; "I
don't blame you."

Her color deepened, and her voice rose. Alban's patient adherence
to his own view--so courteously and considerately urged--was
beginning to try her temper. "In plain words," she rejoined, "I
am to believe that you can't be mistaken in your judgment of
another person."

There was a ring at the door of the cottage while she was
speaking. But she was too warmly interested in confuting Alban to
notice it.

He was quite willing to be confuted. Even when she lost her
temper, she was still interesting to him. "I don't expect you to
think me infallible," he said. "Perhaps you will remember that I
have had some experience. I am unfortunately older than you are."

"Oh if wisdom comes with age," she smartly reminded him, "your
friend Miss Redwood is old enough to be your mother--and she
suspected Mrs. Rook of murder, because the poor woman looked at a
door, and disliked being in the next room to a fidgety old maid."

Alban's manner changed: he shrank from that chance allusion to
doubts and fears which he dare not acknowledge. "Let us talk of
something else," he said.

She looked at him with a saucy smile. "Have I driven you into a
corner at last? And is _that_ your way of getting out of it?"

Even his endurance failed. "Are you trying to provoke me?" he
asked. "Are you no better than other women? I wouldn't have
believed it of you, Emily."

"Emily?" She repeated the name in a tone of surprise, which
reminded him that he had addressed her with familiarity at a most
inappropriate time--the time when they were on the point of a
quarrel. He felt the implied reproach too keenly to be able to
answer her with composure.

"I think of Emily--I love Emily--my one hope is that Emily may
love me. Oh, my dear, is there no excuse if I forget to call you
'Miss' when you distress me?"

All that was tender and true in her nature secretly took his
part. She would have followed that better impulse, if he had only
been calm enough to understand her momentary silence, and to give
her time. But the temper of a gentle and generous man, once
roused, is slow to subside. Alban abruptly left his chair. "I had
better go!" he said.

"As you please," she answered. "Whether you go, Mr. Morris, or
whether you stay, I shall write to Mrs. Rook."

The ring at the bell was followed by the appearance of a visitor.
Doctor Allday opened the door, just in time to hear Emily's last
words. Her vehemence seemed to amuse him.

"Who is Mrs. Rook?" he asked.

"A most respectable person," Emily answered indignantly;
"housekeeper to Sir Jervis Redwood. You needn't sneer at her,
Doctor Allday! She has not always been in service--she was
landlady of the inn at Zeeland."

The doctor, about to put his hat on a chair, paused. The inn at
Zeeland reminded him of the Handbill, and of the visit of Miss
Jethro.

"Why are you so hot over it?" he inquired

"Because I detest prejudice!" With this assertion of liberal
feeling she pointed to Alban, standing quietly apart at the
further end of the room. "There is the most prejudiced man
living--he hates Mrs. Rook. Would you like to be introduced to
him? You're a philosopher; you may do him some good. Doctor
Allday--Mr. Alban Morris."

The doctor recognized the man, with the felt hat and the
objectionable beard, whose personal appearance had not impressed
him favorably.

Although they may hesitate to acknowledge it, there are
respectable Englishmen still left, who regard a felt hat and a
beard as symbols of republican disaffection to the altar and the
throne. Doctor Allday's manner might have expressed this curious
form of patriotic feeling, but for the associations which Emily
had revived. In his present frame of mind, he was outwardly
courteous, because he was inwardly suspicious. Mrs. Rook had been
described to him as formerly landlady of the inn at Zeeland. Were
there reasons for Mr. Morris's hostile feeling toward this woman
which might be referable to the crime committed in her house that
might threaten Emily's tranquillity if they were made known? It
would not be amiss to see a little more of Mr. Morris, on the
first convenient occasion.

"I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir."

"You are very kind, Doctor Allday."

The exchange of polite conventionalities having been
accomplished, Alban approache d Emily to take his leave, with
mingled feelings of regret and anxiety--regret for having allowed
himself to speak harshly; anxiety to part with her in kindness.

"Will you forgive me for differing from you?" It was all he could
venture to say, in the presence of a stranger.

"Oh, yes!" she said quietly.

"Will you think again, before you decide?"

"Certainly, Mr. Morris. But it won't alter my opinion, if I do."

The doctor, hearing what passed between them, frowned. On what
subject had they been differing? And what opinion did Emily
decline to alter?

Alban gave it up. He took her hand gently. "Shall I see you at
the Museum, to-morrow?" he asked.

She was politely indifferent to the last. "Yes--unless something
happens to keep me at home."

The doctor's eyebrows still expressed disapproval. For what
object was the meeting proposed? And why at a museum?

"Good-afternoon, Doctor Allday."

"Good-afternoon, sir."

For a moment after Alban's departure, the doctor stood
irresolute. Arriving suddenly at a decision, he snatched up his
hat, and turned to Emily in a hurry.

"I bring you news, my dear, which will surprise you. Who do you
think has just left my house? Mrs. Ellmother! Don't interrupt me.
She has made up her mind to go out to service again. Tired of
leading an idle life--that's her own account of it--and asks me
to act as her reference."

"Did you consent?"

"Consent! If I act as her reference, I shall be asked how she
came to leave her last place. A nice dilemma! Either I must own
that she deserted her mistress on her deathbed--or tell a lie.
When I put it to her in that way, she walked out of the house in
dead silence. If she applies to you next, receive her as I
did--or decline to see her, which would be better still."

"Why am I to decline to see her?"

"In consequence of her behavior to your aunt, to be sure! No: I
have said all I wanted to say--and I have no time to spare for
answering idle questions. Good-by."

Socially-speaking, doctors try the patience of their nearest and
dearest friends, in this respect--they are almost always in a
hurry. Doctor Allday's precipitate departure did not tend to
soothe Emily's irritated nerves. She began to find excuses for
Mrs. Ellmother in a spirit of pure contradiction. The old
servant's behavior might admit of justification: a friendly
welcome might persuade her to explain herself. "If she applies to
me," Emily determined, "I shall certainly receive her."

Having arrived at this resolution, her mind reverted to Alban.

Some of the sharp things she had said to him, subjected to
after-reflection in solitude, failed to justify themselves. Her
better sense began to reproach her. She tried to silence that
unwelcome monitor by laying the blame on Alban. Why had he been
so patient and so good? What harm was there in his calling her
"Emily"? If he had told her to call _him_ by his Christian name,
she might have done it. How noble he looked, when he got up to go
away; he was actually handsome! Women may say what they please
and write what they please: their natural instinct is to find
their master in a man--especially when they like him. Sinking
lower and lower in her own estimation, Emily tried to turn the
current of her thoughts in another direction. She took up a
book--opened it, looked into it, threw it across the room.

If Alban had returned at that moment, resolved on a
reconciliation--if he had said, "My dear, I want to see you like
yourself again; will you give me a kiss, and make it up"--would
he have left her crying, when he went away? She was crying now.


CHAPTER XXVII.

MENTOR AND TELEMACHUS.

If Emily's eyes could have followed Alban as her thoughts were
following him, she would have seen him stop before he reached the
end of the road in which the cottage stood. His heart was full of
tenderness and sorrow: the longing to return to her was more than
he could resist. It would be easy to wait, within view of the
gate, until the doctor's visit came to an end. He had just
decided to go back and keep watch--when he heard rapid footsteps
approaching. There (devil take him!) was the doctor himself.

"I have something to say to you, Mr. Morris. Which way are you
walking?"

"Any way," Alban answered--not very graciously.

"Then let us take the turning that leads to my house. It's not
customary for strangers, especially when they happen to be
Englishmen, to place confidence in each other. Let me set the
example of violating that rule. I want to speak to you about Miss
Emily. May I take your arm? Thank you. At my age, girls in
general--unless they are my patients--are not objects of interest
to me. But that girl at the cottage--I daresay I am in my
dotage--I tell you, sir, she has bewitched me! Upon my soul, I
could hardly be more anxious about her, if I was her father. And,
mind, I am not an affectionate man by nature. Are you anxious
about her too?"

"Yes."

"In what way?"

"In what way are you anxious, Doctor Allday?"

The doctor smiled grimly.

"You don't trust me? Well, I have promised to set the example.
Keep your mask on, sir--mine is off, come what may of it. But,
observe: if you repeat what I am going to say--"

Alban would hear no more. "Whatever you may say, Doctor Allday,
is trusted to my honor. If you doubt my honor, be so good as to
let go my arm--I am not walking your way."

The doctor's hand tightened its grasp. "That little flourish of
temper, my dear sir, is all I want to set me at my ease. I feel I
have got hold of the right man. Now answer me this. Have you ever
heard of a person named Miss Jethro?"

Alban suddenly came to a standstill.

"All right!" said the doctor. "I couldn't have wished for a more
satisfactory reply."

"Wait a minute," Alban interposed. "I know Miss Jethro as a
teacher at Miss Ladd's school, who left her situation
suddenly--and I know no more."

The doctor's peculiar smile made its appearance again.

"Speaking in the vulgar tone," he said, "you seem to be in a
hurry to wash your hands of Miss Jethro."

"I have no reason to feel any interest in her," Alban replied.

"Don't be too sure of that, my friend. I have something to tell
you which may alter your opinion. That ex-teacher at the school,
sir, knows how the late Mr. Brown met his death, and how his
daughter has been deceived about it."

Alban listened with surprise--and with some little doubt, which
he thought it wise not to acknowledge.

"The report of the inquest alludes to a 'relative' who claimed
the body," he said. "Was that 'relative' the person who deceived
Miss Emily? And was the person her aunt?"

"I must leave you to take your own view," Doctor Allday replied.
"A promise binds me not to repeat the information that I have
received. Setting that aside, we have the same object in
view--and we must take care not to get in each other's way. Here
is my house. Let us go in, and make a clean breast of it on both
sides."

Established in the safe seclusion of his study, the doctor set
the example of confession in these plain terms:

"We only differ in opinion on one point," he said. "We both think
it likely (from our experience of the women) that the suspected
murderer had an accomplice. I say the guilty person is Miss
Jethro. You say--Mrs. Rook."

"When you have read my copy of the report," Alban answered, "I
think you will arrive at my conclusion. Mrs. Rook might have
entered the outhouse in which the two men slept, at any time
during the night, while her husband was asleep. The jury believed
her when she declared that she never woke till the morning. I
don't."

"I am open to conviction, Mr. Morris. Now about the future. Do
you mean to go on with your inquiries?"

"Even if I had no other motive than mere curiosity," Alban
answered, "I think I should go on. But I have a more urgent
purpose in view. All that I have done thus far, has been done in
Emily's interests. My object, from the first, has been to
preserve her from any association--in the past or in the
future--with the woman whom I believe to have been concerned in
her father's death. As I have already told you, she is innocently
doing all she can, poor thing, to put obstacles in my way."

"Yes, yes," said the doctor; "she means to write to Mrs.
 Rook--and you have nearly quarreled about it. Trust me to take
that matter in hand. I don't regard it as serious. But I am
mortally afraid of what you are doing in Emily's interests. I
wish you would give it up."

"Why?"

"Because I see a danger. I don't deny that Emily is as innocent
of suspicion as ever. But the chances, next time, may be against
us. How do you know to what lengths your curiosity may lead you?
Or on what shocking discoveries you may not blunder with the best
intentions? Some unforeseen accident may open her eyes to the
truth, before you can prevent it. I seem to surprise you?"

"You do, indeed, surprise me."

"In the old story, my dear sir, Mentor sometimes surprised
Telemachus. I am Mentor--without being, I hope, quite so
long-winded as that respectable philosopher. Let me put it in two
words. Emily's happiness is precious to you. Take care you are
not made the means of wrecking it! Will you consent to a
sacrifice, for her sake?"

"I will do anything for her sake."

"Will you give up your inquiries?"

"From this moment I have done with them!"

"Mr. Morris, you are the best friend she has."

"The next best friend to you, doctor."

In that fond persuasion they now parted--too eagerly devoted to
Emily to look at the prospect before them in its least hopeful
aspect. Both clever men, neither one nor the other asked himself
if any human resistance has ever yet obstructed the progress of
truth--when truth has once begun to force its way to the light.

For the second time Alban stopped, on his way home. The longing
to be reconciled with Emily was not to be resisted. He returned
to the cottage, only to find disappointment waiting for him. The
servant reported that her young mistress had gone to bed with a
bad headache.

Alban waited a day, in the hope that Emily might write to him. No
letter arrived. He repeated his visit the next morning. Fortune
was still against him. On this occasion, Emily was engaged.

"Engaged with a visitor?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. A young lady named Miss de Sor."

Where had he heard that name before? He remembered immediately
that he had heard it at the school. Miss de Sor was the
unattractive new pupil, whom the girls called Francine. Alban
looked at the parlor window as he left the cottage. It was of
serious importance that he should set himself right with Emily.
"And mere gossip," he thought contemptuously, "stands in my way!"

If he had been less absorbed in his own interests, he might have
remembered that mere gossip is not always to be despised. It has
worked fatal mischief in its time.


CHAPTER XXVIII.

FRANCINE.

"You're surprised to see me, of course?" Saluting Emily in those
terms, Francine looked round the parlor with an air of satirical
curiosity. "Dear me, what a little place to live in!"

"What brings you to London?" Emily inquired.

"You ought to know, my dear, without asking. Why did I try to
make friends with you at school? And why have I been trying ever
since? Because I hate you--I mean because I can't resist you--no!
I mean because I hate myself for liking you. Oh, never mind my
reasons. I insisted on going to London with Miss Ladd--when that
horrid woman announced that she had an appointment with her
lawyer. I said, 'I want to see Emily.' 'Emily doesn't like you.'
'I don't care whether she likes me or not; I want to see her.'
That's the way we snap at each other, and that's how I always
carry my point. Here I am, till my duenna finishes her business
and fetches me. What a prospect for You! Have you got any cold
meat in the house? I'm not a glutton, like Cecilia--but I'm
afraid I shall want some lunch."

"Don't talk in that way, Francine!"

"Do you mean to say you're glad to see me?"

"If you were only a little less hard and bitter, I should always
be glad to see you."

"You darling! (excuse my impetuosity). What are you looking at?
My new dress? Do you envy me?"

"No; I admire the color--that's all."

Francine rose, and shook out her dress, and showed it from every
point of view. "See how it's made: Paris, of course! Money, my
dear; money will do anything--except making one learn one's
lessons."

"Are you not getting on any better, Francine?"

"Worse, my sweet friend--worse. One of the masters, I am happy to
say, has flatly refused to teach me any longer. 'Pupils without
brains I am accustomed to,' he said in his broken English; 'but a
pupil with no heart is beyond my endurance.' Ha! ha! the mouldy
old refugee has an eye for character, though. No heart--there I
am, described in two words."

"And proud of it," Emily remarked.

"Yes--proud of it. Stop! let me do myself justice. You consider
tears a sign that one has some heart, don't you? I was very near
crying last Sunday. A popular preacher did it; no less a person
that Mr. Mirabel--you look as if you had heard of him."

"I have heard of him from Cecilia."

"Is _she_ at Brighton? Then there's one fool more in a
fashionable watering place. Oh, she's in Switzerland, is she? I
don't care where she is; I only care about Mr. Mirabel. We all
heard he was at Brighton for his health, and was going to preach.
Didn't we cram the church! As to describing him, I give it up. He
is the only little man I ever admired--hair as long as mine, and
the sort of beard you see in pictures. I wish I had his fair
complexion and his white hands. We were all in love with him--or
with his voice, which was it?--when he began to read the
commandments. I wish I could imitate him when he came to the
fifth commandment. He began in his deepest bass voice: 'Honor thy
father--' He stopped and looked up to heaven as if he saw the
rest of it there. He went on with a tremendous emphasis on the
next word. '_And_ thy mother,' he said (as if that was quite a
different thing) in a tearful, fluty, quivering voice which was a
compliment to mothers in itself. We all felt it, mothers or not.
But the great sensation was when he got into the pulpit. The
manner in which he dropped on his knees, and hid his face in his
hands, and showed his beautiful rings was, as a young lady said
behind me, simply seraphic. We understood his celebrity, from
that moment--I wonder whether I can remember the sermon."

"You needn't attempt it on my account," Emily said.

"My dear, don't be obstinate. Wait till you hear him."

"I am quite content to wait."

"Ah, you're just in the right state of mind to be converted;
you're in a fair way to become one of his greatest admirers. They
say he is so agreeable in private life; I am dying to know
him.--Do I hear a ring at the bell? Is somebody else coming to
see you?"

The servant brought in a card and a message.

"The person will call again, miss."

Emily looked at the name written on the card.

"Mrs. Ellmother!" she exclaimed.

"What an extraordinary name!' cried Francine. "Who is she?"

"My aunt's old servant."

"Does she want a situation?"

Emily looked at some lines of writing at the back of the card.
Doctor Allday had rightly foreseen events. Rejected by the
doctor, Mrs. Ellmother had no alternative but to ask Emily to
help her.

"If she is out of place," Francine went on, "she may be just the
sort of person I am looking for."

"You?" Emily asked, in astonishment.

Francine refused to explain until she got an answer to her
question. "Tell me first," she said, "is Mrs. Ellmother engaged?"

"No; she wants an engagement, and she asks me to be her
reference."

"Is she sober, honest, middle-aged, clean, steady, good-tempered,
industrious?" Francine rattled on. "Has she all the virtues, and
none of the vices? Is she not too good-looking, and has she no
male followers? In one terrible word--will she satisfy Miss
Ladd?"

"What has Miss Ladd to do with it?"

"How stupid you are, Emily! Do put the woman's card down on the
table, and listen to me. Haven't I told you that one of my
masters has declined to have anything more to do with me? Doesn't
that help you to understand how I get on with the rest of them? I
am no longer Miss Ladd's pupil, my dear. Thanks to my laziness
and my temper, I am to he raised to the dignity of 'a parlor
boarder.' In other words, I am to be a young lady who patronizes
the school; with a room of my own, and a servant of my own. All
pr ovided for by a private arrangement between my father and Miss
Ladd, before I left the West Indies. My mother was at the bottom
of it, I have not the least doubt. You don't appear to understand
me."

"I don't, indeed!"

Francine considered a little. "Perhaps they were fond of you at
home," she suggested.

"Say they loved me, Francine--and I loved them."

"Ah, my position is just the reverse of yours. Now they have got
rid of me, they don't want me back again at home. I know as well
what my mother said to my father, as if I had heard her.
'Francine will never get on at school, at her age. Try her, by
all means; but make some other arrangement with Miss Ladd in case
of a failure--or she will be returned on our hands like a bad
shilling.' There is my mother, my anxious, affectionate mother,
hit off to a T."

"She _is_ your mother, Francine; don't forget that."

"Oh, no; I won't forget it. My cat is my kitten's mother--there!
there! I won't shock your sensibilities. Let us get back to
matter of fact. When I begin my new life, Miss Ladd makes one
condition. My maid is to be a model of discretion--an elderly
woman, not a skittish young person who will only encourage me. I
must submit to the elderly woman, or I shall be sent back to the
West Indies after all. How long did Mrs. Ellmother live with your
aunt?"

"Twenty-five years, and more.'

"Good heavens, it's a lifetime! Why isn't this amazing creature
living with you, now your aunt is dead? Did you send her away?"

"Certainly not."

"Then why did she go?"

"I don't know."

"Do you mean that she went away without a word of explanation?"

"Yes; that is exactly what I mean."

"When did she go? As soon as your aunt was dead?"

"That doesn't matter, Francine."

"In plain English, you won't tell me? I am all on fire with
curiosity--and that's how you put me out! My dear, if you have
the slightest regard for me, let us have the woman in here when
she comes back for her answer. Somebody must satisfy me. I mean
to make Mrs. Ellmother explain herself."

"I don't think you will succeed, Francine."

"Wait a little, and you will see. By-the-by, it is understood
that my new position at the school gives me the privilege of
accepting invitations. Do you know any nice people to whom you
can introduce me?"

"I am the last person in the world who has a chance of helping
you," Emily answered. "Excepting good Doctor Allday--" On the
point of adding the name of Alban Morris, she checked herself
without knowing why, and substituted the name of her
school-friend. "And not forgetting Cecilia," she resumed, "I know
nobody."

"Cecilia's a fool," Francine remarked gravely; "but now I think
of it, she may be worth cultivating. Her father is a member of
Parliament--and didn't I hear that he has a fine place in the
country? You see, Emily, I may expect to be married (with my
money), if I can only get into good society. (Don't suppose I am
dependent on my father; my marriage portion is provided for in my
uncle's will. Cecilia may really be of some use to me. Why
shouldn't I make a friend of her, and get introduced to her
father--in the autumn, you know, when the house is full of
company? Have you any idea when she is coming back?"

"No."

"Do you think of writing to her?"

"Of course!"

"Give her my kind love; and say I hope she enjoys Switzerland."

"Francine, you are positively shameless! After calling my dearest
friend a fool and a glutton, you send her your love for your own
selfish ends; and you expect me to help you in deceiving her! I
won't do it."

"Keep your temper, my child. We are all selfish, you little
goose. The only difference is--some of us own it, and some of us
don't. I shall find my own way to Cecilia's good graces quite
easily: the way is through her mouth. You mentioned a certain
Doctor Allday. Does he give parties? And do the right sort of men
go to them? Hush! I think I hear the bell again. Go to the door,
and see who it is."

Emily waited, without taking any notice of this suggestion. The
servant announced that "the person had called again, to know if
there was any answer."

"Show her in here," Emily said.

The servant withdrew, and came back again.

"The person doesn't wish to intrude, miss; it will be quite
sufficient if you will send a message by me."

Emily crossed the room to the door.

"Come in, Mrs. Ellmother," she said. "You have been too long away
already. Pray come in."


CHAPTER XXIX

"BONY."

Mrs. Ellmother reluctantly entered the room.

Since Emily had seen her last, her personal appearance doubly
justified the nickname by which her late mistress had
distinguished her. The old servant was worn and wasted; her gown
hung loose on her angular body; the big bones of her face stood
out, more prominently than ever. She took Emily's offered hand
doubtingly. "I hope I see you well, miss," she said--with hardly
a vestige left of her former firmness of voice and manner.

"I am afraid you have been suffering from illness," Emily
answered gently.

"It's the life I'm leading that wears me down; I want work and
change."

Making that reply, she looked round, and discovered Francine
observing her with undisguised curiosity. "You have got company
with you," she said to Emily. "I had better go away, and come
back another time."

Francine stopped her before she could open the door. "You mustn't
go away; I wish to speak to you."

"About what, miss?"

The eyes of the two women met--one, near the end of her life,
concealing under a rugged surface a nature sensitively
affectionate and incorruptibly true: the other, young in years,
with out the virtues of youth, hard in manner and hard at heart.
In silence on either side, they stood face to face; strangers
brought together by the force of circumstances, working
inexorably toward their hidden end.

Emily introduced Mrs. Ellmother to Francine. "It may be worth
your while," she hinted, "to hear what this young lady has to
say."

Mrs. Ellmother listened, with little appearance of interest in
anything that a stranger might have to say: her eyes rested on
the card which contained her written request to Emily. Francine,
watching her closely, understood what was passing in her mind. It
might be worth while to conciliate the old woman by a little act
of attention. Turning to Emily, Francine pointed to the card
lying on the table. "You have not attended yet to Mr. Ellmother's
request," she said.

Emily at once assured Mrs. Ellmother that the request was
granted. "But is it wise," she asked, "to go out to service
again, at your age?"

"I have been used to service all my life, Miss Emily--that's one
reason. And service may help me to get rid of my own
thoughts--that's another. If you can find me a situation
somewhere, you will be doing me a good turn."

"Is it useless to suggest that you might come back, and live with
me?" Emily ventured to say.

Mrs. Ellmother's head sank on her breast. "Thank you kindly,
miss; it _is_ useless."

"Why is it useless?" Francine asked.

Mrs. Ellmother was silent.

"Miss de Sor is speaking to you," Emily reminded her.

"Am I to answer Miss de Sor?"

Attentively observing what passed, and placing her own
construction on looks and tones, it suddenly struck Francine that
Emily herself might be in Mrs. Ellmother's confidence, and that
she might have reasons of her own for assuming ignorance when
awkward questions were asked. For the moment at least, Francine
decided on keeping her suspicions to herself.

"I may perhaps offer you the employment you want," she said to
Mrs. Ellmother. "I am staying at Brighton, for the present, with
the lady who was Miss Emily's schoolmistress, and I am in need of
a maid. Would you be willing to consider it, if I proposed to
engage you?"

"Yes, miss."

"In that case, you can hardly object to the customary inquiry.
Why did you leave your last place?"

Mrs. Ellmother appealed to Emily. "Did you tell this young lady
how long I remained in my last place?"

Melancholy remembrances had been revived in Emily by the turn
which the talk had now taken. Francine's cat-like patience,
stealthily feeling its way to its end, jarred on her nerves.
"Yes," she said; "in justice to you, I have mentioned  your long
term of service."

M rs. Ellmother addressed Francine. "You know, miss, that I
served my late mistress for over twenty-five years. Will you
please remember that--and let it be a reason for not asking me
why I left my place."

Francine smiled compassionately. "My good creature, you have
mentioned the very reason why I _should_ ask. You live
five-and-twenty years with your mistress--and then suddenly leave
her--and you expect me to pass over this extraordinary proceeding
without inquiry. Take a little time to think."

"I want no time to think. What I had in my mind, when I left Miss
Letitia, is something which I refuse to explain, miss, to you, or
to anybody."

She recovered some of her old firmness, when she made that reply.
Francine saw the necessity of yielding--for the time at least,
Emily remained silent, oppressed by remembrance of the doubts and
fears which had darkened the last miserable days of her aunt's
illness. She began already to regret having made Francine and
Mrs. Ellmother known to each other.

"I won't dwell on what appears to be a painful subject, "Francine
graciously resumed. "I meant no offense. You are not angry, I
hope?"

"Sorry, miss. I might have been angry, at one time. That time is
over."

It was said sadly and resignedly: Emily heard the answer. Her
heart ached as she looked at the old servant, and thought of the
contrast between past and present. With what a hearty welcome
this broken woman had been used to receive her in the bygone
holiday-time! Her eyes moistened. She felt the merciless
persistency of Francine, as if it had been an insult offered to
herself. "Give it up!" she said sharply.

"Leave me, my dear, to manage my own business," Francine replied.
"About your qualifications?" she continued, turning coolly to
Mrs. Ellmother. "Can you dress hair?"

"Yes."

"I ought to tell you," Francine insisted, "that I am very
particular about my hair."

"My mistress was very particular about her hair," Mrs. Ellmother
answered.

"Are you a good needlewoman?"

"As good as ever I was--with the help of my spectacles."

Francine turned to Emily. "See how well we get on together. We
are beginning to understand each other already. I am an odd
creature, Mrs. Ellmother. Sometimes, I take sudden likings to
persons--I have taken a liking to you. Do you begin to think a
little better of me than you did? I hope you will produce the
right impression on Miss Ladd; you shall have every assistance
that I can give. I will beg Miss Ladd, as a favor to me, not to
ask you that one forbidden question."

Poor Mrs. Ellmother, puzzled by the sudden appearance of Francine
in the character of an eccentric young lady, the creature of
genial impulse, thought it right to express her gratitude for the
promised interference in her favor. "That's kind of you, miss,"
she said.

"No, no, only just. I ought to tell you there's one thing Miss
Ladd is strict about--sweethearts. Are you quite sure," Francine
inquired jocosely, "that you can answer for yourself, in that
particular?"

This effort of humor produced its intended effect. Mrs.
Ellmother, thrown off her guard, actually smiled. "Lord, miss,
what will you say next!"

"My good soul, I will say something next that is more to the
purpose. If Miss Ladd asks me why you have so unaccountably
refused to be a servant again in this house, I shall take care to
say that it is certainly not out of dislike to Miss Emily."

"You need say nothing of the sort," Emily quietly remarked.

"And still less," Francine proceeded, without noticing the
interruption--"still less through any disagreeable remembrances
of Miss Emily's aunt."

Mrs. Ellmother saw the trap that had been set for her. "It won't
do, miss," she said.

"What won't do?"

"Trying to pump me."

Francine burst out laughing. Emily noticed an artificial ring in
her gayety which suggested that she was exasperated, rather than
amused, by the repulse which had baffled her curiosity once more.

Mrs. Ellmother reminded the merry young lady that the proposed
arrangement between them had not been concluded yet. "Am I to
understand, miss, that you will keep a place open for me in your
service?"

"You are to understand," Francine replied sharply, "that I must
have Miss Ladd's approval before I can engage you. Suppose you
come to Brighton? I will pay your fare, of course."

"Never mind my fare, miss. Will you give up pumping?"

"Make your mind easy. It's quite useless to attempt pumping
_you_. When will you come?"

Mrs. Ellmother pleaded for a little delay. "I'm altering my
gowns," she said. "I get thinner and thinner--don't I, Miss
Emily? My work won't be done before Thursday."

"Let us say Friday, then," Francine proposed.

"Friday!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed. "You forget that Friday is an
unlucky day."

"I forgot that, certainly! How can you be so absurdly
superstitious."

"You may call it what you like, miss. I have good reason to think
as I do. I was married on a Friday--and a bitter bad marriage it
turned out to be. Superstitious, indeed! You don't know what my
experience has been. My only sister was one of a party of
thirteen at dinner; and she died within the year. If we are to
get on together nicely, I'll take that journey on Saturday, if
you please."

"Anything to satisfy you," Francine agreed; "there is the
address. Come in the middle of the day, and we will give you your
dinner. No fear of our being thirteen in number. What will you
do, if you have the misfortune to spill the salt?"

"Take a pinch between my finger and thumb, and throw it over my
left shoulder," Mrs. Ellmother answered gravely. "Good-day,
miss."

"Good-day."

Emily followed the departing visitor out to the hall. She had
seen and heard enough to decide her on trying to break off the
proposed negotiation--with the one kind purpose of protecting
Mrs. Ellmother against the pitiless curiosity of Francine.

"Do you think you and that young lady are likely to get on well
together?" she asked.

"I have told you already, Miss Emily, I want to get away from my
own home and my own thoughts; I don't care where I go, so long as
I do that." Having answered in those words, Mrs. Ellmother opened
the door, and waited a while, thinking. "I wonder whether the
dead know what is going on in the world they have left?" she
said, looking at Emily. "If they do, there's one among them knows
my thoughts, and feels for me. Good-by, miss--and don't think
worse of me than I deserve."

Emily went back to the parlor. The only resource left was to
plead with Francine for mercy to Mrs. Ellmother.

"Do you really mean to give it up?" she asked.

"To give up--what? 'Pumping,' as that obstinate old creature
calls it?"

Emily persisted. "Don't worry the poor old soul! However
strangely she may have left my aunt and me her motives are kind
and good--I am sure of that. Will you let her keep her harmless
little secret?"

"Oh, of course!"

"I don't believe you, Francine!"

"Don't you? I am like Cecilia--I am getting hungry. Shall we have
some lunch?"

"You hard-hearted creature!"

"Does that mean--no luncheon until I have owned the truth?
Suppose _you_ own the truth? I won't tell Mrs. Ellmother that you
have betrayed her."

"For the last time, Francine--I know no more of it than you do.
If you persist in taking your own view, you as good as tell me I
lie; and you will oblige me to leave the room."

Even Francine's obstinacy was compelled to give way, so far as
appearances went. Still possessed by the delusion that Emily was
deceiving her, she was now animated by a stronger motive than
mere curiosity. Her sense of her own importance imperatively
urged her to prove that she was not a person who could be
deceived with impunity.

"I beg your pardon," she said with humility. "But I must
positively have it out with Mrs. Ellmother. She has been more
than a match for me--my turn next. I mean to get the better of
her; and I shall succeed."

"I have already told you, Francine--you will fail."

"My dear, I am a dunce, and I don't deny it. But let me tell you
one thing. I haven't lived all my life in the West Indies, among
black servants, without learning something."

"What do you mean?"

"More, my clever friend, than you are likely to guess. In the
meantime, don't forget the duties of hospitality. Ring the bell
for luncheon."


CHAPTER XXX.

LADY DORIS.

The arrival of Miss Ladd, some time before she had been expected,
interrupted the two girls at a critical moment. She had hurried
over her business in London, eager to pass the rest of the day
with her favorite pupil. Emily's affectionate welcome was, in
some degree at least, inspired by a sensation of relief. To feel
herself in the embrace of the warm-hearted schoolmistress was
like finding a refuge from Francine.

When the hour of departure arrived, Miss Ladd invited Emily to
Brighton for the second time. "On the last occasion, my dear, you
wrote me an excuse; I won't be treated in that way again. If you
can't return with us now, come to-morrow." She added in a
whisper, "Otherwise, I shall think you include _me_ in your
dislike of Francine."

There was no resisting this. It was arranged that Emily should go
to Brighton on the next day.

Left by herself, her thoughts might have reverted to Mrs.
Ellmother's doubtful prospects, and to Francine's strange
allusion to her life in the West Indies, but for the arrival of
two letters by the afternoon post. The handwriting on one of them
was unknown to her. She opened that one first. It was an answer
to the letter of apology which she had persisted in writing to
Mrs. Rook. Happily for herself, Alban's influence had not been
without its effect, after his departure. She had written
kindly--but she had written briefly at the same time.

Mrs. Rook's reply presented a nicely compounded mixture of
gratitude and grief. The gratitude was addressed to Emily as a
matter of course. The grief related to her "excellent master."
Sir Jervis's strength had suddenly failed. His medical attendant,
being summoned, had expressed no surprise. "My patient is over
seventy years of age," the doctor remarked. "He will sit up late
at night, writing his book; and he refuses to take exercise, till
headache and giddiness force him to try the fresh air. As the
necessary result, he has broken down at last. It may end in
paralysis, or it may end in death." Reporting this expression of
medical opinion, Mrs. Rook's letter glided imperceptibly from
respectful sympathy to modest regard for her own interests in the
future. It might be the sad fate of her husband and herself to be
thrown on the world again. If necessity brought them to London,
would "kind Miss Emily grant her the honor of an interview, and
favor a poor unlucky woman with a word of advice?"

"She may pervert your letter to some use of her own, which you
may have reason to regret." Did Emily remember Alban's warning
words? No: she accepted Mrs. Rook's reply as a gratifying tribute
to the justice of her own opinions.

Having proposed to write to Alban, feeling penitently that she
had been in the wrong, she was now readier than ever to send him
a letter, feeling compassionately that she had been in the right.
Besides, it was due to the faithful friend, who was still working
for her in the reading room, that he should be informed of Sir
Jervis's illness. Whether the old man lived or whether he died,
his literary labors were fatally interrupted in either case; and
one of the consequences would be the termination of her
employment at the Museum. Although the second of the two letters
which she had received was addressed to her in Cecilia's
handwriting, Emily waited to read it until she had first written
to Alban. "He will come to-morrow," she thought; "and we shall
both make apologies. I shall regret that I was angry with him and
he will regret that he was mistaken in his judgment of Mrs. Rook.
We shall be as good friends again as ever."

In this happy frame of mind she opened Cecilia's letter. It was
full of good news from first to last.

The invalid sister had made such rapid progress toward recovery
that the travelers had arranged to set forth on their journey
back to England in a fortnight. "My one regret," Cecilia added,
"is the parting with Lady Doris. She and her husband are going to
Genoa, where they will embark in Lord Janeaway's yacht for a
cruise in the Mediterranean. When we have said that miserable
word good-by--oh, Emily, what a hurry I shall be in to get back
to you! Those allusions to your lonely life are so dreadful, my
dear, that I have destroyed your letter; it is enough to break
one's heart only to look at it. When once I get to London, there
shall be no more solitude for my poor afflicted friend. Papa will
be free from his parliamentary duties in August--and he has
promised to have the house full of delightful people to meet you.
Who do you think will be one of our guests? He is illustrious; he
is fascinating; he deserves a line all to himself, thus:

"The Reverend Miles Mirabel!

"Lady Doris has discovered that the country parsonage, in which
this brilliant clergyman submits to exile, is only twelve miles
away from our house. She has written to Mr. Mirabel to introduce
me, and to mention the date of my return. We will have some fun
with the popular preacher--we will both fall in love with him
together.

"Is there anybody to whom you would like me to send an
invitation? Shall we have Mr. Alban Morris? Now I know how kindly
he took care of you at the railway station, your good opinion of
him is my opinion. Your letter also mentions a doctor. Is he
nice? and do you think he will let me eat pastry, if we have him
too? I am so overflowing with hospitality (all for your sake)
that I am ready to invite anybody, and everybody, to cheer you
and make you happy. Would you like to meet Miss Ladd and the
whole school?

"As to our amusements, make your mind easy.

"I have come to a distinct understanding with Papa that we are to
have dances every evening--except when we try a little concert as
a change. Private theatricals are to follow, when we want another
change after the dancing and the music. No early rising; no fixed
hour for breakfast; everything that is most exquisitely delicious
at dinner--and, to crown all, your room next to mine, for
delightful midnight gossipings, when we ought to be in bed. What
do you say, darling, to the programme?

"A last piece of news--and I have done.

"I have actually had a proposal of marriage, from a young
gentleman who sits opposite me at the table d'hote! When I tell
you that he has white eyelashes, and red hands, and such enormous
front teeth that he can't shut his mouth, you will not need to be
told that I refused him. This vindictive person has abused me
ever since, in the most shameful manner. I heard him last night,
under my window, trying to set one of his friends against me.
'Keep clear of her, my dear fellow; she's the most heartless
creature living.' The friend took my part; he said, 'I don't
agree with you; the young lady is a person of great sensibility.'
'Nonsense!' says my amiable lover; 'she eats too much--her
sensibility is all stomach.' There's a wretch for you. What a
shameful advantage to take of sitting opposite to me at dinner!
Good-by, my love, till we meet soon, and are as happy together as
the day is long."

Emily kissed the signature. At that moment of all others, Cecilia
was such a refreshing contrast to Francine!

Before putting the letter away, she looked again at that part of
it which mentioned Lady Doris's introduction of Cecilia to Mr.
Mirabel. "I don't feel the slightest interest in Mr. Mirabel,"
she thought, smiling as the idea occurred to her; "and I need
never have known him, but for Lady Doris--who is a perfect
stranger to me."

She had just placed the letter in her desk, when a visitor was
announced. Doctor Allday presented himself (in a hurry as usual).

"Another patient waiting?" Emily asked mischievously. "No time to
spare, again?"

"Not a moment," the old gentleman answered. "Have you heard from
Mrs. Ellmother?"

"Yes."

"You don't mean to say you have answered her?"

"I have done better than that, doctor--I have seen her this
morning."

"And consented to be her reference, of course?"

"How well you know me!"

Doctor Allday was a philosopher: he kept his temper. "Just what I
might have expected," he said. "Eve and the apple! Only forbid a
woman to do anything, and she does it directly--be cause you have
forbidden her. I'll try the other way with you now, Miss Emily.
There was something else that I meant to have forbidden."

"What was it?"

"May I make a special request?"

"Certainly."

"Oh, my dear, write to Mrs. Rook! I beg and entreat of you, write
to Mrs. Rook!"

Emily's playful manner suddenly disappeared.

Ignoring the doctor's little outbreak of humor, she waited in
grave surprise, until it was his pleasure to explain himself.

Doctor Allday, on his side, ignored the ominous change in Emily;
he went on as pleasantly as ever. "Mr. Morris and I have had a
long talk about you, my dear. Mr. Morris is a capital fellow; I
recommend him as a sweetheart. I also back him in the matter of
Mrs. Rook.--What's the matter now? You're as red as a rose.
Temper again, eh?"

"Hatred of meanness!" Emily answered indignantly. "I despise a
man who plots, behind my back, to get another man to help him.
Oh, how I have been mistaken in Alban Morris!"

"Oh, how little you know of the best friend you have!" cried the
doctor, imitating her. "Girls are all alike; the only man they
can understand, is the man who flatters them. _Will_ you oblige
me by writing to Mrs. Rook?"

Emily made an attempt to match the doctor, with his own weapons.
"Your little joke comes too late," she said satirically. "There
is Mrs. Rook's answer. Read it, and--" she checked herself, even
in her anger she was incapable of speaking ungenerously to the
old man who had so warmly befriended her. "I won't say to _you_,"
she resumed, "what I might have said to another person."

"Shall I say it for you?" asked the incorrigible doctor. "'Read
it, and be ashamed of yourself'--That was what you had in your
mind, isn't it? Anything to please you, my dear." He put on his
spectacles, read the letter, and handed it back to Emily with an
impenetrable countenance. "What do you think of my new
spectacles?" he asked, as he took the glasses off his nose. "In
the experience of thirty years, I have had three grateful
patients." He put the spectacles back in the case. "This comes
from the third. Very gratifying--very gratifying."

Emily's sense of humor was not the uppermost sense in her at that
moment. She pointed with a peremptory forefinger to Mrs. Rook's
letter. "Have you nothing to say about this?"

The doctor had so little to say about it that he was able to
express himself in one word:

"Humbug!"

He took his hat--nodded kindly to Emily--and hurried away to
feverish pulses waiting to be felt, and to furred tongues that
were ashamed to show themselves.


CHAPTER XXXI.

MOIRA.

When Alban presented himself the next morning, the hours of the
night had exercised their tranquilizing influence over Emily. She
remembered sorrowfully how Doctor Allday had disturbed her belief
in the man who loved her; no feeling of irritation remained.
Alban noticed that her manner was unusually subdued; she received
him with her customary grace, but not with her customary smile.

"Are you not well?" he asked.

"I am a little out of spirits," she replied. "A
disappointment--that is all."

He waited a moment, apparently in the expectation that she might
tell him what the disappointment was. She remained silent, and
she looked away from him. Was he in any way answerable for the
depression of spirits to which she alluded? The doubt occurred to
him--but he said nothing.

"I suppose you have received my letter?" she resumed.

"I have come here to thank you for your letter."

"It was my duty to tell you of Sir Jervis's illness; I deserve no
thanks."

"You have written to me so kindly," Alban reminded her; "you have
referred to our difference of opinion, the last time I was here,
so gently and so forgivingly--"

"If I had written a little later," she interposed, "the tone of
my letter might have been less agreeable to you. I happened to
send it to the post, before I received a visit from a friend of
yours--a friend who had something to say to me after consulting
with you."

"Do you mean Doctor Allday?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"What you wished him to say. He did his best; he was as obstinate
and unfeeling as you could possibly wish him to be; but he was
too late. I have written to Mrs. Rook, and I have received a
reply." She spoke sadly, not angrily--and pointed to the letter
lying on her desk.

Alban understood: he looked at her in despair. "Is that wretched
woman doomed to set us at variance every time we meet!" he
exclaimed.

Emily silently held out the letter.

He refused to take it. "The wrong you have done me is not to be
set right in that way," he said. "You believe the doctor's visit
was arranged between us. I never knew that he intended to call on
you; I had no interest in sending him here--and I must not
interfere again between you and Mrs. Rook."

"I don't understand you."

"You will understand me when I tell you how my conversation with
Doctor Allday ended. I have done with interference; I have done
with advice. Whatever my doubts may be, all further effort on my
part to justify them--all further inquiries, no matter in what
direction--are at an end: I made the sacrifice, for your sake.
No! I must repeat what you said to me just now; I deserve no
thanks. What I have done, has been done in deference to Doctor
Allday--against my own convictions; in spite of my own fears.
Ridiculous convictions! ridiculous fears! Men with morbid minds
are their own tormentors. It doesn't matter how I suffer, so long
as you are at ease. I shall never thwart you or vex you again.
Have you a better opinion of me now?"

She made the best of all answers--she gave him her hand.

"May I kiss it?" he asked, as timidly as if he had been a boy
addressing his first sweetheart.

She was half inclined to laugh, and half inclined to cry. "Yes,
if you like," she said softly.

"Will you let me come and see you again?"

"Gladly--when I return to London."

"You are going away?"

"I am going to Brighton this afternoon, to stay with Miss Ladd."

It was hard to lose her, on the happy day when they understood
each other at last. An expression of disappointment passed over
his face. He rose, and walked restlessly to the window. "Miss
Ladd?" he repeated, turning to Emily as if an idea had struck
him. "Did I hear, at the school, that Miss de Sor was to spend
the holidays under the care of Miss Ladd?"

"Yes."

"The same young lady," he went on, "who paid you a visit
yesterday morning?"

"The same."

That haunting distrust of the future, which he had first betrayed
and then affected to ridicule, exercised its depressing influence
over his better sense. He was unreasonable enough to feel
doubtful of Francine, simply because she was a stranger.

"Miss de Sor is a new friend of yours," he said. "Do you like
her?"

It was not an easy question to answer--without entering into
particulars which Emily's delicacy of feeling warned her to
avoid. "I must know a little more of Miss de Sor," she said,
"before I can decide."

Alban's misgivings were naturally encouraged by this evasive
reply. He began to regret having left the cottage, on the
previous day, when he had heard that Emily was engaged. He might
have sent in his card, and might have been admitted. It was an
opportunity lost of observing Francine. On the morning of her
first day at school, when they had accidentally met at the summer
house, she had left a disagreeable impression on his mind. Ought
he to allow his opinion to be influenced by this circumstance? or
ought he to follow Emily's prudent example, and suspend judgment
until he knew a little more of Francine?

"Is any day fixed for your return to London?" he asked.

"Not yet," she said; "I hardly know how long my visit will be."

"In little more than a fortnight," he continued, "I shall return
to my classes--they will be dreary classes, without you. Miss de
Sor goes back to the school with Miss Ladd, I suppose?"

Emily was at a loss to account for the depression in his looks
and tones, while he was making these unimportant inquiries. She
tried to rouse him by speaking lightly in reply.

"Miss de Sor returns in quite a new character; she is to be a
guest instead of a pupil. Do you wish to be better acquainted
with her?"

"Yes," he said grave ly, "now I know that she is a friend of
yours." He returned to his place near her. "A pleasant visit
makes the days pass quickly," he resumed. "You may remain at
Brighton longer than you anticipate; and we may not meet again
for some time to come. If anything happens--"

"Do you mean anything serious?" she asked.

"No, no! I only mean--if I can be of any service. In that case,
will you write to me?"

"You know I will!"

She looked at him anxiously. He had completely failed to hide
from her the uneasy state of his mind: a man less capable of
concealment of feeling never lived. "You are anxious, and out of
spirits," she said gently. "Is it my fault?"

"Your fault? oh, don't think that! I have my dull days and my
bright days--and just now my barometer is down at dull." His
voice faltered, in spite of his efforts to control it; he gave up
the struggle, and took his hat to go. "Do you remember, Emily,
what I once said to you in the garden at the school? I still
believe there is a time of fulfillment to come in our lives." He
suddenly checked himself, as if there had been something more in
his mind to which he hesitated to give expression--and held out
his hand to bid her good-by.

"My memory of what you said in the garden is better than yours,"
she reminded him. "You said 'Happen what may in the interval, I
trust the future.' Do you feel the same trust still?"

He sighed--drew her to him gently--and kissed her on the
forehead. Was that his own reply? She was not calm enough to ask
him the question: it remained in her thoughts for some time after
he had gone.

                                        . . . . . . . .

On the same day Emily was at Brighton.

Francine happened to be alone in the drawing-room. Her first
proceeding, when Emily was shown in, was to stop the servant.

"Have you taken my letter to the post?"

"Yes, miss."

"It doesn't matter." She dismissed the servant by a gesture, and
burst into such effusive hospitality that she actually insisted
on kissing Emily. "Do you know what I have been doing?" she said.
"I have been writing to Cecilia--directing to the care of her
father, at the House of Commons. I stupidly forgot that you would
be able to give me the right address in Switzerland. You don't
object, I hope, to my making myself agreeable to our dear,
beautiful, greedy girl? It is of such importance to me to
surround myself with influential friends--and, of course, I have
given her your love. Don't look disgusted! Come, and see your
room.--Oh, never mind Miss Ladd. You will see her when she wakes.
Ill? Is that sort of old woman ever ill? She's only taking her
nap after bathing. Bathing in the sea, at her age! How she must
frighten the fishes!"

Having seen her own bed-chamber, Emily was next introduced to the
room occupied by Francine.

One object that she noticed in it caused her some little
surprise--not unmingled with disgust. She discovered on the
toilet-table a coarsely caricatured portrait of Mrs. Ellmother.
It was a sketch in pencil--wretchedly drawn; but spitefully
successful as a likeness. "I didn't know you were an artist,"
Emily remarked, with an ironical emphasis on the last word.
Francine laughed scornfully--crumpled the drawing up in her
hand--and threw it into the waste-paper basket.

"You satirical creature!" she burst out gayly. "If you had lived
a dull life at St. Domingo, you would have taken to spoiling
paper too. I might really have turned out an artist, if I had
been clever and industrious like you. As it was, I learned a
little drawing--and got tired of it. I tried modeling in wax--and
got tired of it. Who do you think was my teacher? One of our
slaves."

"A slave!" Emily exclaimed.

"Yes--a mulatto, if you wish me to be particular; the daughter of
an English father and a negro mother. In her young time (at least
she said so herself) she was quite a beauty, in her particular
style. Her master's favorite; he educated her himself. Besides
drawing and painting, and modeling in wax, she could sing and
play--all the accomplishments thrown away on a slave! When her
owner died, my uncle bought her at the sale of the property."

A word of natural compassion escaped Emily--to Francine's
surprise.

"Oh, my dear, you needn't pity her! Sappho (that was her name)
fetched a high price, even when she was no longer young. She came
to us, by inheritance, with the estates and the rest of it; and
took a fancy to me, when she found out I didn't get on well with
my father and mother. 'I owe it to _my_ father and mother,' she
used to say, 'that I am a slave. When I see affectionate
daughters, it wrings my heart.' Sappho was a strange compound. A
woman with a white side to her character, and a black side. For
weeks together, she would be a civilized being. Then she used to
relapse, and become as complete a negress as her mother. At the
risk of her life she stole away, on those occasions, into the
interior of the island, and looked on, in hiding, at the horrid
witchcrafts and idolatries of the blacks; they would have
murdered a half-blood, prying into their ceremonies, if they had
discovered her. I followed her once, so far as I dared. The
frightful yellings and drummings in the darkness of the forests
frightened me. The blacks suspected her, and it came to my ears.
I gave her the warning that saved her life (I don't know what I
should have done without Sappho to amuse me!); and, from that
time, I do believe the curious creature loved me. You see I can
speak generously even of a slave!"

"I wonder you didn't bring her with you to England," Emily said.

"In the first place," Francine answered, "she was my father's
property, not mine. In the second place, she's dead. Poisoned, as
the other half-bloods supposed, by some enemy among the blacks.
She said herself, she was under a spell!"

"What did she mean?"

Francine was not interested enough in the subject to explain.
"Stupid superstition, my dear. The negro side of Sappho was
uppermost when she was dying--there is the explanation. Be off
with you! I hear the old woman on the stairs. Meet her before she
can come in here. My bedroom is my only refuge from Miss Ladd."

On the morning of the last day in the week, Emily had a little
talk in private with her old schoolmistress. Miss Ladd listened
to what she had to say of Mrs. Ellmother, and did her best to
relieve Emily's anxieties. "I think you are mistaken, my child,
in supposing that Francine is in earnest. It is her great fault
that she is hardly ever in earnest. You can trust to my
discretion; leave the rest to your aunt's old servant and to me."

Mrs. Ellmother arrived, punctual to the appointed time. She was
shown into Miss Ladd's own room. Francine--ostentatiously
resolved to take no personal part in the affair--went for a walk.
Emily waited to hear the result.

After a long interval, Miss Ladd returned to the drawing-room,
and announced that she had sanctioned the engagement of Mrs.
Ellmother.

"I have considered your wishes, in this respect," she said. "It
is arranged that a week's notice, on either side, shall end the
term of service, after the first month. I cannot feel justified
in doing more than that. Mrs. Ellmother is such a respectable
woman; she is so well known to you, and she was so long in your
aunt's service, that I am bound to consider the importance of
securing a person who is exactly fitted to attend on such a girl
as Francine. In one word, I can trust Mrs. Ellmother."

"When does she enter on her service?" Emily inquired.

"On the day after we return to the school," Miss Ladd replied.
"You will be glad to see her, I am sure. I will send her here."

"One word more before you go," Emily said.

"Did you ask her why she left my aunt?"

"My dear child, a woman who has been five-and-twenty years in one
place is entitled to keep her own secrets. I understand that she
had her reasons, and that she doesn't think it necessary to
mention them to anybody. Never trust people by halves--especially
when they are people like Mrs. Ellmother."

It was too late now to raise any objections. Emily felt relieved,
rather than disappointed, on discovering that Mrs. Ellmother was
in a hurry to get back to London by the next train. Sh e had
found an opportunity of letting her lodgings; and she was eager
to conclude the bargain. "You see I couldn't say Yes," she
explained, "till I knew whether I was to get this new place or
not--and the person wants to go in tonight."

Emily stopped her at the door. "Promise to write and tell me how
you get on with Miss de Sor."

"You say that, miss, as if you didn't feel hopeful about me."

"I say it, because I feel interested about you. Promise to
write."

Mrs. Ellmother promised, and hastened away. Emily looked after
her from the window, as long as she was in view. "I wish I could
feel sure of Francine!" she said to herself.

"In what way?" asked the hard voice of Francine, speaking at the
door.

It was not in Emily's nature to shrink from a plain reply. She
completed her half-formed thought without a moment's hesitation.

"I wish I could feel sure," she answered, "that you will be kind
to Mrs. Ellmother."

"Are you afraid I shall make her life one scene of torment?"
Francine inquired. "How can I answer for myself? I can't look
into the future."

"For once in your life, can you be in earnest?" Emily said.

"For once in your life, can you take a joke?" Francine replied.

Emily said no more. She privately resolved to shorten her visit
to Brighton.


BOOK THE THIRD--NETHERWOODS.

CHAPTER XXXII.

IN THE GRAY ROOM.

The house inhabited by Miss Ladd and her pupils had been built,
in the early part of the present century, by a wealthy
merchant--proud of his money, and eager to distinguish himself as
the owner of the largest country seat in the neighborhood.

After his death, Miss Ladd had taken Netherwoods (as the place
was called), finding her own house insufficient for the
accommodation of the increasing number of her pupils. A lease was
granted to her on moderate terms. Netherwoods failed to attract
persons of distinction in search of a country residence. The
grounds were beautiful; but no landed property--not even a
park--was attached to the house. Excepting the few acres on which
the building stood, the surrounding land belonged to a retired
naval officer of old family, who resented the attempt of a
merchant of low birth to assume the position of a gentleman. No
matter what proposals might be made to the admiral, he refused
them all. The privilege of shooting was not one of the
attractions offered to tenants; the country presented no
facilities for hunting; and the only stream in the neighborhood
was not preserved. In consequence of these drawbacks, the
merchant's representatives had to choose between a proposal to
use Netherwoods as a lunatic asylum, or to accept as tenant the
respectable mistress of a fashionable and prosperous school. They
decided in favor of Miss Ladd.

The contemplated change in Francine's position was accomplished,
in that vast house, without inconvenience. There were rooms
unoccupied, even when the limit assigned to the number of pupils
had been reached. On the re-opening of the school, Francine was
offered her choice between two rooms on one of the upper stories,
and two rooms on the ground floor. She chose these last.

Her sitting-room and bedroom, situated at the back of the house,
communicated with each other. The sitting-room, ornamented with a
pretty paper of delicate gray, and furnished with curtains of the
same color, had been accordingly named, "The Gray Room." It had a
French window, which opened on the terrace overlooking the garden
and the grounds. Some fine old engravings from the grand
landscapes of Claude (part of a collection of prints possessed by
Miss Ladd's father) hung on the walls. The carpet was in harmony
with the curtains; and the furniture was of light-colored wood,
which helped the general effect of subdued brightness that made
the charm of the room. "If you are not happy here," Miss Ladd
said, "I despair of you." And Francine answered, "Yes, it's very
pretty, but I wish it was not so small."

On the twelfth of August the regular routine of the school was
resumed. Alban Morris found two strangers in his class, to fill
the vacancies left by Emily and Cecilia. Mrs. Ellmother was duly
established in her new place. She produced an unfavorable
impression in the servants' hall--not (as the handsome chief
housemaid explained) because she was ugly and old, but because
she was "a person who didn't talk." The prejudice against
habitual silence, among the lower order of the people, is almost
as inveterate as the prejudice against red hair.

In the evening, on that first day of renewed studies--while the
girls were in the grounds, after tea--Francine had at last
completed the arrangement of her rooms, and had dismissed Mrs.
Ellmother (kept hard at work since the morning) to take a little
rest. Standing alone at her window, the West Indian heiress
wondered what she had better do next. She glanced at the girls on
the lawn, and decided that they were unworthy of serious notice,
on the part of a person so specially favored as herself. She
turned sidewise, and looked along the length of the terrace. At
the far end a tall man was slowly pacing to and fro, with his
head down and his hands in his pockets. Francine recognized the
rude drawing-master, who had torn up his view of the village,
after she had saved it from being blown into the pond.

She stepped out on the terrace, and called to him. He stopped,
and looked up.

"Do you want me?" he called back.

"Of course I do!"

She advanced a little to meet him, and offered encouragement
under the form of a hard smile. Although his manners might be
unpleasant, he had claims on the indulgence of a young lady, who
was at a loss how to employ her idle time. In the first place, he
was a man. In the second place, he was not as old as the
music-master, or as ugly as the dancing-master. In the third
place, he was an admirer of Emily; and the opportunity of trying
to shake his allegiance by means of a flirtation, in Emily's
absence, was too good an opportunity to be lost.

"Do you remember how rude you were to me, on the day when you
were sketching in the summer-house?" Francine asked with snappish
playfulness. "I expect you to make yourself agreeable this
time--I am going to pay you a compliment."

He waited, with exasperating composure, to hear what the proposed
compliment might be. The furrow between his eyebrows looked
deeper than ever. There were signs of secret trouble in that dark
face, so grimly and so resolutely composed. The school, without
Emily, presented the severest trial of endurance that he had
encountered, since the day when he had been deserted and
disgraced by his affianced wife.

"You are an artist," Francine proceeded, "and therefore a person
of taste. I want to have your opinion of my sitting-room.
Criticism is invited; pray come in."

He seemed to be unwilling to accept the invitation--then altered
his mind, and followed Francine. She had visited Emily; she was
perhaps in a fair way to become Emily's friend. He remembered
that he had already lost an opportunity of studying her
character, and--if he saw the necessity--of warning Emily not to
encourage the advances of Miss de Sor.

"Very pretty," he remarked, looking round the room--without
appearing to care for anything in it, except the prints.

Francine was bent on fascinating him. She raised her eyebrows and
lifted her hands, in playful remonstrance. "Do remember it's _my_
room," she said, "and take some little interest in it, for _my_
sake!"

"What do you want me to say?" he asked.

"Come and sit down by me." She made room for him on the sofa. Her
one favorite aspiration--the longing to excite envy in
others--expressed itself in her next words. "Say something
pretty," she answered; "say you would like to have such a room as
this."

"I should like to have your prints," he remarked. "Will that do?"

"It wouldn't do--from anybody else. Ah, Mr. Morris, I know why
you are not as nice as you might be! You are not happy. The
school has lost its one attraction, in losing our dear Emily. You
feel it--I know you feel it." She assisted this expression of
sympathy to produce the right effect by a sigh. "What would I not
give to inspire such devotion as yours! I don't  envy Emily; I
only wish--" She pau sed in confusion, and opened her fan. "Isn't
it pretty?" she said, with an ostentatious appearance of changing
the subject. Alban behaved like a monster; he began to talk of
the weather.

"I think this is the hottest day we have had," he said; "no
wonder you want your fan. Netherwoods is an airless place at this
season of the year."

She controlled her temper. "I do indeed feel the heat," she
admitted, with a resignation which gently reproved him; "it is so
heavy and oppressive here after Brighton. Perhaps my sad life,
far away from home and friends, makes me sensitive to trifles. Do
you think so, Mr. Morris?"

The merciless man said he thought it was the situation of the
house.

"Miss Ladd took the place in the spring," he continued; "and only
discovered the one objection to it some months afterward. We are
in the highest part of the valley here--but, you see, it's a
valley surrounded by hills; and on three sides the hills are near
us. All very well in winter; but in summer I have heard of girls
in this school so out of health in the relaxing atmosphere that
they have been sent home again."

Francine suddenly showed an interest in what he was saying. If he
had cared to observe her closely, he might have noticed it.

"Do you mean that the girls were really ill?" she asked.

"No. They slept badly--lost appetite--started at trifling noises.
In short, their nerves were out of order."

"Did they get well again at home, in another air?"

"Not a doubt of it," he answered, beginning to get weary of the
subject. "May I look at your books?"

Francine's interest in the influence of different atmospheres on
health was not exhausted yet. "Do you know where the girls lived
when they were at home?" she inquired.

"I know where one of them lived. She was the best pupil I ever
had--and I remember she lived in Yorkshire." He was so weary of
the idle curiosity--as it appeared to him--which persisted in
asking trifling questions, that he left his seat, and crossed the
room. "May I look at your books?" he repeated.

"Oh, yes!"

The conversation was suspended for a while. The lady thought, "I
should like to box his ears!" The gentleman thought, "She's only
an inquisitive fool after all!" His examination of her books
confirmed him in the delusion that there was really nothing in
Francine's character which rendered it necessary to caution Emily
against the advances of her new friend. Turning away from the
book-case, he made the first excuse that occurred to him for
putting an end to the interview.

"I must beg you to let me return to my duties, Miss de Sor. I
have to correct the young ladies' drawings, before they begin
again to-morrow."

Francine's wounded vanity made a last expiring attempt to steal
the heart of Emily's lover.

"You remind me that I have a favor to ask," she said. "I don't
attend the other classes--but I should so like to join _your_
class! May I?" She looked up at him with a languishing appearance
of entreaty which sorely tried Alban's capacity to keep his face
in serious order. He acknowledged the compliment paid to him in
studiously commonplace terms, and got a little nearer to the open
window. Francine's obstinacy was not conquered yet.

"My education has been sadly neglected," she continued; "but I
have had some little instruction in drawing. You will not find me
so ignorant as some of the other girls." She waited a little,
anticipating a few complimentary words. Alban waited also--in
silence. "I shall look forward with pleasure to my lessons under
such an artist as yourself," she went on, and waited again, and
was disappointed again. "Perhaps," she resumed, "I may become
your favorite pupil--Who knows?"

"Who indeed!"

It was not much to say, when he spoke at last--but it was enough
to encourage Francine. She called him "dear Mr. Morris"; she
pleaded for permission to take her first lesson immediately; she
clasped her hands--"Please say Yes!"

"I can't say Yes, till you have complied with the rules."

"Are they _your_ rules?"

Her eyes expressed the readiest submission--in that case. He
entirely failed to see it: he said they were Miss Ladd's
rules--and wished her good-evening.

She watched him, walking away down the terrace. How was he paid?
Did he receive a yearly salary, or did he get a little extra
money for each new pupil who took drawing lessons? In this last
case, Francine saw her opportunity of being even with him "You
brute! Catch me attending your class!"


CHAPTER XXXIII.

RECOLLECTIONS OF ST. DOMINGO.

The night was oppressively hot. Finding it impossible to sleep,
Francine lay quietly in her bed, thinking. The subject of her
reflections was a person who occupied the humble position of her
new servant.

Mrs. Ellmother looked wretchedly ill. Mrs. Ellmother had told
Emily that her object, in returning to domestic service, was to
try if change would relieve her from the oppression of her own
thoughts. Mrs. Ellmother believed in vulgar superstitions which
declared Friday to be an unlucky day; and which recommended
throwing a pinch over your left shoulder, if you happened to
spill the salt.

In themselves, these were trifling recollections. But they
assumed a certain importance, derived from the associations which
they called forth.

They reminded Francine, by some mental process which she was at a
loss to trace, of Sappho the slave, and of her life at St.
Domingo.

She struck a light, and unlocked her writing desk. From one of
the drawers she took out an old household account-book.

The first page contained some entries, relating to domestic
expenses, in her own handwriting. They recalled one of her
efforts to occupy her idle time, by relieving her mother of the
cares of housekeeping. For a day or two, she had persevered--and
then she had ceased to feel any interest in her new employment.
The remainder of the book was completely filled up, in a
beautifully clear handwriting, beginning on the second page. A
title had been found for the manuscript by Francine. She had
written at the top of the page: _Sappho's Nonsense_.

After reading the first few sentences she rapidly turned over the
leaves, and stopped at a blank space near the end of the book.
Here again she had added a title. This time it implied a
compliment to the writer: the page was headed: _Sappho's Sense_.

She read this latter part of the manuscript with the closest
attention.

"I entreat my kind and dear young mistress not to suppose that I
believe in witchcraft--after such an education as I have
received. When I wrote down, at your biding, all that I had told
you by word of mouth, I cannot imagine what delusion possessed
me. You say I have a negro side to my character, which I inherit
from my mother. Did you mean this, dear mistress, as a joke? I am
almost afraid it is sometimes not far off from the truth.

"Let me be careful, however, to avoid leading you into a mistake.
It is really true that the man-slave I spoke of did pine and die,
after the spell had been cast on him by my witch-mother's image
of wax. But I ought also to have told you that circumstances
favored the working of the spell: the fatal end was not brought
about by supernatural means.

"The poor wretch was not in good health at the time; and our
owner had occasion to employ him in the valley of the island far
inland. I have been told, and can well believe, that the climate
there is different from the climate on the coast--in which the
unfortunate slave had been accustomed to live. The overseer
wouldn't believe him when he said the valley air would be his
death--and the negroes, who might otherwise have helped him, all
avoided a man whom they knew to be under a spell.

"This, you see, accounts for what might appear incredible to
civilized persons. If you will do me a favor, you will burn this
little book, as soon as you have read what I have written here.
If my request is not granted, I can only implore you to let no
eyes but your own see these pages. My life might be in danger if
the blacks knew what I have now told you, in the interests of
truth."

Francine closed the book, and locked it up again in her desk.
"Now I know," she said to herself, "what reminded me of St.
Domingo."

When Francine rang her bell the next morning, so long a time
elapsed without producing an answer that she began to think of
sending one of the house-servants to make inquiries. Before she
could decide, Mrs. Ellmother presented herself, and offered her
apologies.

"It's the first time I have overslept myself, miss, since I was a
girl. Please to excuse me, it shan't happen again."

"Do you find that the air here makes you drowsy?" Francine asked.

Mrs. Ellmother shook her head. "I didn't get to sleep," she said,
"till morning, and so I was too heavy to be up in time. But air
has got nothing to do with it. Gentlefolks may have their whims
and fancies. All air is the same to people like me."

"You enjoy good health, Mrs. Ellmother?"

"Why not, miss? I have never had a doctor."

"Oh! That's your opinion of doctors, is it?"

"I won't have anything to do with them--if that's what you mean
by my opinion," Mrs. Ellmother answered doggedly. "How will you
have your hair done?"

"The same as yesterday. Have you seen anything of Miss Emily? She
went back to London the day after you left us."

"I haven't been in London. I'm thankful to say my lodgings are
let to a good tenant."

"Then where have you lived, while you were waiting to come here?"

"I had only one place to go to, miss; I went to the village where
I was born. A friend found a corner for me. Ah, dear heart, it's
a pleasant place, there!"

"A place like this?"

"Lord help you! As little like this as chalk is to cheese. A fine
big moor, miss, in Cumberland, without a tree in sight--look
where you may. Something like a wind, I can tell you, when it
takes to blowing there."

"Have you never been in this part of the country?"

"Not I! When I left the North, my new mistress took me to Canada.
Talk about air! If there was anything in it, the people in _that_
air ought to live to be a hundred. I liked Canada."

"And who was your next mistress?"

Thus far, Mrs. Ellmother had been ready enough to talk. Had she
failed to hear what Francine had just said to her? or had she
some reason for feeling reluctant to answer? In any case, a
spirit of taciturnity took sudden possession of her--she was
silent.

Francine (as usual) persisted. "Was your next place in service
with Miss Emily's aunt?"

"Yes."

"Did the old lady always live in London?"

"No."

"What part of the country did she live in?"

"Kent."

"Among the hop gardens?"

"No."

"In what other part, then?"

"Isle of Thanet."

"Near the sea coast?"

"Yes."

Even Francine could insist no longer: Mrs. Ellmother's reserve
had beaten her--for that day at least. "Go into the hall," she
said, "and see if there are any letters for me in the rack."

There was a letter bearing the Swiss postmark. Simple Cecilia was
flattered and delighted by the charming manner in which Francine
had written to her. She looked forward with impatience to the
time when their present acquaintance might ripen into friendship.
Would "Dear Miss de Sor" waive all ceremony, and consent to be a
guest (later in the autumn) at her father's house? Circumstances
connected with her sister's health would delay their return to
England for a little while. By the end of the month she hoped to
be at home again, and to hear if Francine was disengaged. Her
address, in England, was Monksmoor Park, Hants.

Having read the letter, Francine drew a moral from it: "There is
great use in a fool, when one knows how to manage her."

Having little appetite for her breakfast, she tried the
experiment of a walk on the terrace. Alban Morris was right; the
air at Netherwoods, in the summer time, _was_ relaxing. The
morning mist still hung over the lowest part of the valley,
between the village and the hills beyond. A little exercise
produced a feeling of fatigue. Francine returned to her room, and
trifled with her tea and toast.

Her next proceeding was to open her writing-desk, and look into
the old account-book once more. While it lay open on her lap, she
recalled what had passed that morning, between Mrs. Ellmother and
herself.

The old woman had been born and bred in the North, on an open
moor. She had been removed to the keen air of Canada when she
left her birthplace. She had been in service after that, on the
breezy eastward coast of Kent. Would the change to the climate of
Netherwoods produce any effect on Mrs. Ellmother? At her age, and
with her seasoned constitution, would she feel it as those
school-girls had felt it--especially that one among them, who
lived in the bracing air of the North, the air of Yorkshire?

Weary of solitary thinking on one subject, Francine returned to
the terrace with a vague idea of finding something to amuse
her--that is to say, something she could turn into ridicule--if
she joined the girls.

The next morning, Mrs. Ellmother answered her mistress's bell
without delay. "You have slept better, this time?" Francine said.

"No, miss. When I did get to sleep I was troubled by dreams.
Another bad night--and no mistake!"

"I suspect your mind is not quite at ease," Francine suggested.

"Why do you suspect that, if you please?"

"You talked, when I met you at Miss Emily's, of wanting to get
away from your own thoughts. Has the change to this place helped
you?"

"It hasn't helped me as I expected. Some people's thoughts stick
fast."

"Remorseful thoughts?" Francine inquired.

Mrs. Ellmother held up her forefinger, and shook it with a
gesture of reproof. "I thought we agreed, miss, that there was to
be no pumping."

The business of the toilet proceeded in silence.

A week passed. During an interval in the labors of the school,
Miss Ladd knocked at the door of Francine's room.

"I want to speak to you, my dear, about Mrs. Ellmother. Have you
noticed that she doesn't seem to be in good health?"

"She looks rather pale, Miss Ladd."

"It's more serious than that, Francine. The servants tell me that
she has hardly any appetite. She herself acknowledges that she
sleeps badly. I noticed her yesterday evening in the garden,
under the schoolroom window. One of the girls dropped a
dictionary. She started at that slight noise, as if it terrified
her. Her nerves are seriously out of order. Can you prevail upon
her to see the doctor?"

Francine hesitated--and made an excuse. "I think she would be
much more likely, Miss Ladd, to listen to you. Do you mind
speaking to her?"

"Certainly not!"

Mrs. Ellmother was immediately sent for. "What is your pleasure,
miss?" she said to Francine.

Miss Ladd interposed. "It is I who wish to speak to you, Mrs.
Ellmother. For some days past, I have been sorry to see you
looking ill."

"I never was ill in my life, ma'am."

Miss Ladd gently persisted. "I hear that you have lost your
appetite."

"I never was a great eater, ma'am."

It was evidently useless to risk any further allusion to Mrs.
Ellmother's symptoms. Miss Ladd tried another method of
persuasion. "I daresay I may be mistaken," she said; "but I do
really feel anxious about you. To set my mind at rest, will you
see the doctor?"

"The doctor! Do you think I'm going to begin taking physic, at my
time of life? Lord, ma'am! you amuse me--you do indeed!" She
burst into a sudden fit of laughter; the hysterical laughter
which is on the verge of tears. With a desperate effort, she
controlled herself. "Please, don't make a fool of me again," she
said--and left the room.

"What do you think now?" Miss Ladd asked.

Francine appeared to be still on her guard.

"I don't know what to think," she said evasively.

Miss Ladd looked at her in silent surprise, and withdrew.

Left by herself, Francine sat with her elbows on the table and
her face in her hands, absorbed in thought. After a long
interval, she opened her desk--and hesitated. She took a sheet of
note-paper--and paused, as if still in doubt. She snatched up her
pen, with a sudden recovery of resolution--and addressed these
lines to the wife of her father's agent in London:

"When I was placed under your care, on the night of my arrival
from the West Indies, you kindly said I might ask you for any
little service which might be within your power. I shall be
greatly obliged if you can obtain for me, and send to this place,
a supply of artists' modeling wax--sufficient for the product ion
of a small image."


CHAPTER XXXIV.

IN THE DARK.

A week later, Alban Morris happened to be in Miss Ladd's study,
with a report to make on the subject of his drawing-class. Mrs.
Ellmother interrupted them for a moment. She entered the room to
return a book which Francine had borrowed that morning.

"Has Miss de Sor done with it already?" Miss Ladd asked.

"She won't read it, ma'am. She says the leaves smell of
tobacco-smoke."

Miss Ladd turned to Alban, and shook her head with an air of
good-humored reproof. "I know who has been reading that book
last!" she said.

Alban pleaded guilty, by a look. He was the only master in the
school who smoked. As Mrs. Ellmother passed him, on her way out,
he noticed the signs of suffering in her wasted face.

"That woman is surely in a bad state of health," he said. "Has
she seen the doctor?"

"She flatly refuses to consult the doctor," Miss Ladd replied.
"If she was a stranger, I should meet the difficulty by telling
Miss de Sor (whose servant she is) that Mrs. Ellmother must be
sent home. But I cannot act in that peremptory manner toward a
person in whom Emily is interested."

From that moment Mrs. Ellmother became a person in whom Alban was
interested. Later in the day, he met her in one of the lower
corridors of the house, and spoke to her. "I am afraid the air of
this place doesn't agree with you," he said.

Mrs. Ellmother's irritable objection to being told (even
indirectly) that she looked ill, expressed itself roughly in
reply. "I daresay you mean well, sir--but I don't see how it
matters to you whether the place agrees with me or not."

"Wait a minute," Alban answered good-humoredly. "I am not quite a
stranger to you."

"How do you make that out, if you please?"

"I know a young lady who has a sincere regard for you."

"You don't mean Miss Emily?"

"Yes, I do. I respect and admire Miss Emily; and I have tried, in
my poor way, to be of some little service to her."

Mrs. Ellmother's haggard face instantly softened. "Please to
forgive me, sir, for forgetting my manners," she said simply. "I
have had my health since the day I was born--and I don't like to
be told, in my old age, that a new place doesn't agree with me."

Alban accepted this apology in a manner which at once won the
heart of the North-countrywoman. He shook hands with her. "You're
one of the right sort," she said; "there are not many of them in
this house."

Was she alluding to Francine? Alban tried to make the discovery.
Polite circumlocution would be evidently thrown away on Mrs.
Ellmother. "Is your new mistress one of the right sort?" he asked
bluntly.

The old servant's answer was expressed by a frowning look,
followed by a plain question.

"Do you say that, sir, because you like my new mistress?"

"No."

"Please to shake hands again!" She said it--took his hand with a
sudden grip that spoke for itself-- and walked away.

Here was an exhibition of character which Alban was just the man
to appreciate. "If I had been an old woman," he thought in his
dryly humorous way, "I believe I should have been like Mrs.
Ellmother. We might have talked of Emily, if she had not left me
in such a hurry. When shall I see her again?"

He was destined to see her again, that night--under circumstances
which he remembered to the end of his life.

The rules of Netherwoods, in summer time, recalled the young
ladies from their evening's recreation in the grounds at nine
o'clock. After that hour, Alban was free to smoke his pipe, and
to linger among trees and flower-beds before he returned to his
hot little rooms in the village. As a relief to the drudgery of
teaching the young ladies, he had been using his pencil, when the
day's lessons were over, for his own amusement. It was past ten
o'clock before he lighted his pipe, and began walking slowly to
and fro on the path which led to the summer-house, at the
southern limit of the grounds.

In the perfect stillness of the night, the clock of the village
church was distinctly audible, striking the hours and the
quarters. The moon had not risen; but the mysterious glimmer of
starlight trembled on the large open space between the trees and
the house.

Alban paused, admiring with an artist's eye the effect of light,
so faintly and delicately beautiful, on the broad expanse of the
lawn. "Does the man live who could paint that?" he asked himself.
His memory recalled the works of the greatest of all landscape
painters--the English artists of fifty years since. While
recollections of many a noble picture were still passing through
his mind, he was startled by the sudden appearance of a
bareheaded woman on the terrace steps.

She hurried down to the lawn, staggering as she ran--stopped, and
looked back at the house--hastened onward toward the
trees--stopped again, looking backward and forward, uncertain
which way to turn next--and then advanced once more. He could now
hear her heavily gasping for breath. As she came nearer, the
starlight showed a panic-stricken face--the face of Mrs.
Ellmother.

Alban ran to meet her. She dropped on the grass before he could
cross the short distance which separated them. As he raised her
in his arms she looked at him wildly, and murmured and muttered
in the vain attempt to speak. "Look at me again," he said. "Don't
you remember the man who had some talk with you to-day?" She
still stared at him vacantly: he tried again. "Don't you remember
Miss Emily's friend?"

As the name passed his lips, her mind in some degree recovered
its balance. "Yes," she said; "Emily's friend; I'm glad I have
met with Emily's friend." She caught at Alban's arm--starting as
if her own words had alarmed her. "What am I talking about? Did I
say 'Emily'? A servant ought to say 'Miss Emily.' My head swims.
Am I going mad?"

Alban led her to one of the garden chairs. "You're only a little
frightened," he said. "Rest, and compose yourself."

She looked over her shoulder toward the house. "Not here! I've
run away from a she-devil; I want to be out of sight. Further
away, Mister--I don't know your name. Tell me your name; I won't
trust you, unless you tell me your name!"

"Hush! hush! Call me Alban."

"I never heard of such a name; I won't trust you."

"You won't trust your friend, and Emily's friend? You don't mean
that, I'm sure. Call me by my other name--call me 'Morris.'"

"Morris?" she repeated. "Ah, I've heard of people called
'Morris.' Look back! Your eyes are young--do you see her on the
terrace?"

"There isn't a living soul to be seen anywhere."

With one hand he raised her as he spoke--and with the other he
took up the chair. In a minute more, they were out of sight of
the house. He seated her so that she could rest her head against
the trunk of a tree.

"What a good fellow!" the poor old creature said, admiring him;
"he knows how my head pains me. Don't stand up! You're a tall
man. She might see you."

"She can see nothing. Look at the trees behind us. Even the
starlight doesn't get through them."

Mrs. Ellmother was not satisfied yet. "You take it coolly," she
said. "Do you know who saw us together in the passage to-day? You
good Morris, _she_ saw us--she did. Wretch! Cruel, cunning,
shameless wretch."

In the shadows that were round them, Alban could just see that
she was shaking her clinched fists in the air. He made another
attempt to control her. "Don't excite yourself! If she comes into
the garden, she might hear you."

The appeal to her fears had its effect.

"That's true," she said, in lowered tones. A sudden distrust of
him seized her the next moment. "Who told me I was excited?" she
burst out. "It's you who are excited. Deny it if you dare; I
begin to suspect you, Mr. Morris; I don't like your conduct. What
has become of your pipe? I saw you put your pipe in your coat
pocket. You did it when you set me down among the trees where
_she_ could see me! You are in league with her--she is coming to
meet you here--you know she doesnÕt like tobacco-smoke. Are you
two going to put me in the madhouse?"

She started to her feet. It occurred to Alban that the speediest
way of pacifying her might be by means of the pipe. Mere words
would exercise no persuasive influence over that bewildered mind.
Insta nt action, of some kind, would be far more likely to have
the right effect. He put his pipe and his tobacco pouch into her
hands, and so mastered her attention before he spoke.

"Do you know how to fill a man's pipe for him?" he asked.

"Haven't I filled my husband's pipe hundreds of times?" she
answered sharply.

"Very well. Now do it for me."

She took her chair again instantly, and filled the pipe. He
lighted it, and seated himself on the grass, quietly smoking. "Do
you think I'm in league with her now?" he asked, purposely
adopting the rough tone of a man in her own rank of life.

She answered him as she might have answered her husband, in the
days of her unhappy marriage.

"Oh, don't gird at me, there's a good man! If I've been off my
head for a minute or two, please not to notice me. It's cool and
quiet here," the poor woman said gratefully. "Bless God for the
darkness; there's something comforting in the darkness--along
with a good man like you. Give me a word of advice. You are my
friend in need. What am I to do? I daren't go back to the house!"

She was quiet enough now, to suggest the hope that she might be
able to give Alban some information "Were you with Miss de Sor,"
he asked, "before you came out here? What did she do to frighten
you?'

There was no answer; Mrs. Ellmother had abruptly risen once more.
"Hush!" she whispered. "Don't I hear somebody near us?"

Alban at once went back, along the winding path which they had
followed. No creature was visible in the gardens or on the
terrace. On returning, he found it impossible to use his eyes to
any good purpose in the obscurity among the trees. He waited a
while, listening intently. No sound was audible: there was not
even air enough to stir the leaves.

As he returned to the place that he had left, the silence was
broken by the chimes of the distant church clock, striking the
three-quarters past ten.

Even that familiar sound jarred on Mrs. Ellmother's shattered
nerves. In her state of mind and body, she was evidently at the
mercy of any false alarm which might be raised by her own fears.
Relieved of the feeling of distrust which had thus far troubled
him, Alban sat down by her again--opened his match-box to relight
his pipe--and changed his mind. Mrs. Ellmother had unconsciously
warned him to be cautious.

For the first time, he thought it likely that the heat in the
house might induce some of the inmates to try the cooler
atmosphere in the grounds. If this happened, and if he continued
to smoke, curiosity might tempt them to follow the scent of
tobacco hanging on the stagnant air.

"Is there nobody near us?" Mrs. Ellmother asked. "Are you sure?"

"Quite sure. Now tell me, did you really mean it, when you said
just now that you wanted my advice?"

"Need you ask that, sir? Who else have I got to help me?"

"I am ready and willing to help you--but I can't do it unless I
know first what has passed between you and Miss de Sor. Will you
trust me?"

"I will!"

"May I depend on you?"

"Try me!"


CHAPTER XXXV.

THE TREACHERY OF THE PIPE.

Alban took Mrs. Ellmother at her word. "I am going to venture on
a guess," he said. "You have been with Miss de Sor to-night."

"Quite true, Mr. Morris."

"I am going to guess again. Did Miss de Sor ask you to stay with
her, when you went into her room?"

"That's it! She rang for me, to see how I was getting on with my
needlework--and she was what I call hearty, for the first time
since I have been in her service. I didn't think badly of her
when she first talked of engaging me; and I've had reason to
repent of my opinion ever since. Oh, she showed the cloven foot
to-night! 'Sit down,' she says; 'I've nothing to read, and I hate
work; let's have a little chat.' She's got a glib tongue of her
own. All I could do was to say a word now and then to keep her
going. She talked and talked till it was time to light the lamp.
She was particular in telling me to put the shade over it. We
were half in the dark, and half in the light. She trapped me
(Lord knows how!) into talking about foreign parts; I mean the
place she lived in before they sent her to England. Have you
heard that she comes from the West lndies?"

"Yes; I have heard that. Go on."

"Wait a bit, sir. There's something, by your leave, that I want
to know. Do you believe in Witchcraft?"

"I know nothing about it. Did Miss de Sor put that question to
you?"

"She did."

"And how did you answer?"

"Neither in one way nor the other. I'm in two minds about that
matter of Witchcraft. When I was a girl, there was an old woman
in our village, who was a sort of show. People came to see her
from all the country round--gentlefolks among them. It was her
great age that made her famous. More than a hundred years old,
sir! One of our neighbors didn't believe in her age, and she
heard of it. She cast a spell on his flock. I tell you, she sent
a plague on his sheep, the plague of the Bots. The whole flock
died; I remember it well. Some said the sheep would have had the
Bots anyhow. Some said it was the spell. Which of them was right?
How am I to settle it?"

"Did you mention this to Miss de Sor?"

"I was obliged to mention it. Didn't I tell you, just now, that I
can't make up my mind about Witchcraft? 'You don't seem to know
whether you believe or disbelieve,' she says. It made me look
like a fool. I told her I had my reasons, and then I was obliged
to give them."

"And what did she do then?"

"She said, 'I've got a better story of Witchcraft than yours.'
And she opened a little book, with a lot of writing in it, and
began to read. Her story made my flesh creep. It turns me cold,
sir, when I think of it now."

He heard her moaning and shuddering. Strongly as his interest was
excited, there was a compassionate reluctance in him to ask her
to go on. His merciful scruples proved to be needless. The
fascination of beauty it is possible to resist. The fascination
of horror fastens its fearful hold on us, struggle against it as
we may. Mrs. Ellmother repeated what she had heard, in spite of
herself.

"It happened in the West Indies," she said; "and the writing of a
woman slave was the writing in the little book. The slave wrote
about her mother. Her mother was a black--a Witch in her own
country. There was a forest in her own country. The devil taught
her Witchcraft in the forest. The serpents and the wild beasts
were afraid to touch her. She lived without eating. She was sold
for a slave, and sent to the island--an island in the West
Indies. An old man lived there; the wickedest man of them all. He
filled the black Witch with devilish knowledge. She learned to
make the image of wax. The image of wax casts spells. You put
pins in the image of wax. At every pin you put, the person under
the spell gets nearer and nearer to death. There was a poor black
in the island. He offended the Witch. She made his image in wax;
she cast spells on him. He couldn't sleep; he couldn't eat; he
was such a coward that common noises frightened him. Like Me! Oh,
God, like me!"

"Wait a little," Alban interposed. "You are exciting yourself
again--wait."

"You're wrong, sir! You think it ended when she finished her
story, and shut up her book; there's worse to come than anything
you've heard yet. I don't know what I did to offend her. She
looked at me and spoke to me, as if I was the dirt under her
feet. 'If you're too stupid to understand what I have been
reading,' she says, 'get up and go to the glass. Look at
yourself, and remember what happened to the slave who was under
the spell. You're getting paler and paler, and thinner and
thinner; you're pining away just as he did. Shall I tell you
why?' She snatched off the shade from the lamp, and put her hand
under the table, and brought out an image of wax. _My_ image! She
pointed to three pins in it. 'One,' she says, 'for no sleep. One
for no appetite. One for broken nerves.' I asked her what I had
done to make such a bitter enemy of her. She says, 'Remember what
I asked of you when we talked of your being my servant. Choose
which you will do? Die by inches' (I swear she said it as I hope
to be saved); 'die by inches, or tell me--'"

There--in the full frenzy of the agitation that possessed
 her--there, Mrs. Ellmother suddenly stopped.

Alban's first impression was that she might have fainted. He
looked closer, and could just see her shadowy figure still seated
in the chair. He asked if she was ill. No.

"Then why don't you go on?"

"I have done," she answered.

"Do you think you can put me off," he rejoined sternly, "with
such an excuse as that? What did Miss de Sor ask you to tell her?
You promised to trust me. Be as good as your word."

In the days of her health and strength, she would have set him at
defiance. All she could do now was to appeal to his mercy.

"Make some allowance for me," she said. "I have been terribly
upset. What has become of my courage? What has broken me down in
this way? Spare me, sir."

He refused to listen. "This vile attempt to practice on your
fears may be repeated," he reminded her. "More cruel advantage
may be taken of the nervous derangement from which you are
suffering in the climate of this place. You little know me, if
you think I will allow that to go on."

She made a last effort to plead with him. "Oh sir, is this
behaving like the good kind man I thought you were? You say you
are Miss Emily's friend? Don't press me--for Miss Emily's sake!"

"Emily!" Alban exclaimed. "Is _she_ concerned in this?"

There was a change to tenderness in his voice, which persuaded
Mrs. Ellmother that she had found her way to the weak side of
him. Her one effort now was to strengthen the impression which
she believed herself to have produced. "Miss Emily _is_ concerned
in it," she confessed.

"In what way?"

"Never mind in what way."

"But I do mind."

"I tell you, sir, Miss Emily must never know it to her dying
day!"

The first suspicion of the truth crossed Alban's mind.

"I understand you at last," he said. "What Miss Emily must never
know--is what Miss de Sor wanted you to tell her. Oh, it's
useless to contradict me! Her motive in trying to frighten you is
as plain to me now as if she had confessed it. Are you sure you
didn't betray yourself, when she showed the image of wax?"

"I should have died first!" The reply had hardly escaped her
before she regretted it. "What makes you want to be so sure about
it?" she said. "It looks as if you knew--"

"I do know."

"What!"

The kindest thing that he could do now was to speak out. "Your
secret is no secret to _me_," he said.

Rage and fear shook her together. For the moment she was like the
Mrs. Ellmother of former days. "You lie!" she cried.

"I speak the truth."

"I won't believe you! I daren't believe you!"

"Listen to me. In Emily's interests, listen to me. I have read of
the murder at Zeeland--"

"That's nothing! The man was a namesake of her father."

"The man was her father himself. Keep your seat! There is nothing
to be alarmed about. I know that Emily is ignorant of the horrid
death that her father died. I know that you and your late
mistress have kept the discovery from her to this day. I know the
love and pity which plead your excuse for deceiving her, and the
circumstances that favored the deception. My good creature,
Emily's peace of mind is as sacred to me as it is to you! I love
her as I love my own life--and better. Are you calmer, now?"

He heard her crying: it was the best relief that could come to
her. After waiting a while to let the tears have their way, he
helped her to rise. There was no more to be said now. The one
thing to do was to take her back to the house.

"I can give you a word of advice," he said, "before we part for
the night. You must leave Miss de Sor's service at once. Your
health will be a sufficient excuse. Give her warning
immediately."

Mrs. Ellmother hung back, when he offered her his arm. The bare
prospect of seeing Francine again was revolting to her. On
Alban's assurance that the notice to leave could be given in
writing, she made no further resistance. The village clock struck
eleven as they ascended the terrace steps.

A minute later, another person left the grounds by the path which
led to the house. Alban's precaution had been taken too late. The
smell of tobacco-smoke had guided Francine, when she was at a
loss which way to turn next in search of Mrs. Ellmother. For the
last quarter of an hour she had been listening, hidden among the
trees.


CHAPTER XXXVI.

CHANGE OF AIR.

The inmates of Netherwoods rose early, and went to bed early.
When Alban and Mrs. Ellmother arrived at the back door of the
house, they found it locked.

The only light visible, along the whole length of the building,
glimmered through the Venetian blind of the window-entrance to
Francine's sitting-room. Alban proposed to get admission to the
house by that way. In her horror of again encountering Francine,
Mrs. Ellmother positively refused to follow him when he turned
away from the door. "They can't be all asleep yet," she said--and
rang the bell.

One person was still out of bed--and that person was the mistress
of the house. They recognized her voice in the customary
question: "Who's there?" The door having been opened, good Miss
Ladd looked backward and forward between Alban and Mrs.
Ellmother, with the bewildered air of a lady who doubted the
evidence of her own eyes. The next moment, her sense of humor
overpowered her. She burst out laughing.

"Close the door, Mr. Morris," she said, "and be so good as to
tell me what this means. Have you been giving a lesson in drawing
by starlight?"

Mrs. Ellmother moved, so that the light of the lamp in Miss
Ladd's hand fell on her face. "I am faint and giddy," she said;
"let me go to my bed."

Miss Ladd instantly followed her. "Pray forgive me! I didn't see
you were ill, when I spoke," she gently explained. "What can I do
for you?"

"Thank you kindly, ma'am. I want nothing but peace and quiet. I
wish you good-night."

Alban followed Miss Ladd to her study, on the front side of the
house. He had just mentioned the circumstances under which he and
Mrs. Ellmother had met, when they were interrupted by a tap at
the door. Francine had got back to her room unperceived, by way
of the French window. She now presented herself, with an
elaborate apology, and with the nearest approach to a penitent
expression of which her face was capable.

"I am ashamed, Miss Ladd, to intrude on you at this time of
night. My only excuse is, that I am anxious about Mrs. Ellmother.
I heard you just now in the hall. If she is really ill, I am the
unfortunate cause of it."

"In what way, Miss de Sor?"

"I am sorry to say I frightened her--while we were talking in my
room--quite unintentionally. She rushed to the door and ran out.
I supposed she had gone to her bedroom; I had no idea she was in
the grounds."

In this false statement there was mingled a grain of truth. It
was true that Francine believed Mrs. Ellmother to have taken
refuge in her room--for she had examined the room. Finding it
empty, and failing to discover the fugitive in other parts of the
house, she had become alarmed, and had tried the grounds
next--with the formidable result which has been already related.
Concealing this circumstance, she had lied in such a skillfully
artless manner that Alban (having no suspicion of what had really
happened to sharpen his wits) was as completely deceived as Miss
Ladd. Proceeding to further explanation--and remembering that she
was in Alban's presence--Francine was careful to keep herself
within the strict limit of truth. Confessing that she had
frightened her servant by a description of sorcery, as it was
practiced among the slaves on her father's estate, she only lied
again, in declaring that Mrs. Ellmother had supposed she was in
earnest, when she was guilty of no more serious offense than
playing a practical joke.

In this case, Alban was necessarily in a position to detect the
falsehood. But it was so evidently in Francine's interests to
present her conduct in the most favorable light, that the
discovery failed to excite his suspicion. He waited in silence,
while Miss Ladd administered a severe reproof. Francine having
left the room, as penitently as she had entered it (with her
handkerchief over her tearless eyes), he was at liberty, with
certain reserves, to return to what had passed  between Mrs.
Ellmother and himself.

" The fright which the poor old woman has suffered," he said,
"has led to one good result. I have found her ready at last to
acknowledge that she is ill, and inclined to believe that the
change to Netherwoods has had something to do with it. I have
advised her to take the course which you suggested, by leaving
this house. Is it possible to dispense with the usual delay, when
she gives notice to leave Miss de Sor's service?"

"She need feel no anxiety, poor soul, on that account," Miss Ladd
replied. "In any case, I had arranged that a week's notice on
either side should be enough. As it is, I will speak to Francine
myself. The least she can do, to express her regret, is to place
no difficulties in Mrs. Ellmother's way."

The next day was Sunday.

Miss Ladd broke through her rule of attending to secular affairs
on week days only; and, after consulting with Mrs. Ellmother,
arranged with Francine that her servant should be at liberty to
leave Netherwoods (health permitting) on the next day. But one
difficulty remained. Mrs. Ellmother was in no condition to take
the long journey to her birthplace in Cumberland; and her own
lodgings in London had been let.

Under these circumstances, what was the best arrangement that
could be made for her? Miss Ladd wisely and kindly wrote to Emily
on the subject, and asked for a speedy reply.

Later in the day, Alban was sent for to see Mrs. Ellmother. He
found her anxiously waiting to hear what had passed, on the
previous night, between Miss Ladd and himself. "Were you careful,
sir, to say nothing about Miss Emily?"

"I was especially careful; I never alluded to her in any way."

"Has Miss de Sor spoken to you?"

"I have not given her the opportunity."

"She's an obstinate one--she might try."

"If she does, she shall hear my opinion of her in plain words."
The talk between them turned next on Alban's discovery of the
secret, of which Mrs. Ellmother had believed herself to be the
sole depositary since Miss Letitia's death. Without alarming her
by any needless allusion to Doctor Allday or to Miss Jethro, he
answered her inquiries (so far as he was himself concerned)
without reserve. Her curiosity once satisfied, she showed no
disposition to pursue the topic. She pointed to Miss Ladd's cat,
fast asleep by the side of an empty saucer.

"Is it a sin, Mr. Morris, to wish I was Tom? _He_ doesn't trouble
himself about his life that is past or his life that is to come.
If I could only empty my saucer and go to sleep, I shouldn't be
thinking of the number of people in this world, like myself, who
would be better out of it than in it. Miss Ladd has got me my
liberty tomorrow; and I don't even know where to go, when I leave
this place."

"Suppose you follow Tom's example?" Alban suggested. "Enjoy
to-day (in that comfortable chair) and let to-morrow take care of
itself."

To-morrow arrived, and justified Alban's system of philosophy.
Emily answered Miss Ladd's letter, to excellent purpose, by
telegraph.

"I leave London to-day with Cecilia" (the message announced) "for
Monksmoor Park, Hants. Will Mrs. Ellmother take care of the
cottage in my absence? I shall be away for a month, at least. All
is prepared for her if she consents."

Mrs. Ellmother gladly accepted this proposal. In the interval of
Emily's absence, she could easily arrange to return to her own
lodgings. With words of sincere gratitude she took leave of Miss
Ladd; but no persuasion would induce her to say good-by to
Francine. "Do me one more kindness, ma'am; don't tell Miss de Sor
when I go away." Ignorant of the provocation which had produced
this unforgiving temper of mind, Miss Ladd gently remonstrated.
"Miss de Sor received my reproof in a penitent spirit; she
expresses sincere sorrow for having thoughtlessly frightened you.
Both yesterday and to-day she has made kind inquiries after your
health. Come! come! don't bear malice--wish her good-by." Mrs.
Ellmother's answer was characteristic. "I'll say good-by by
telegraph, when I get to London."

Her last words were addressed to Alban. "If you can find a way of
doing it, sir, keep those two apart."

"Do you mean Emily and Miss de Sor?

"Yes."

"What are you afraid of?"

"I don't know."

"Is that quite reasonable, Mrs. Ellmother?"

"I daresay not. I only know that I _am_ afraid."

The pony chaise took her away. Alban's class was not yet ready
for him. He waited on the terrace.

Innocent alike of all knowledge of the serious reason for fear
which did really exist, Mrs. Ellmother and Alban felt,
nevertheless, the same vague distrust of an intimacy between the
two girls. Idle, vain, malicious, false--to know that Francine's
character presented these faults, without any discoverable merits
to set against them, was surely enough to justify a gloomy view
of the prospect, if she succeeded in winning the position of
Emily's friend. Alban reasoned it out logically in this
way--without satisfying himself, and without accounting for the
remembrance that haunted him of Mrs. Ellmother's farewell look.
"A commonplace man would say we are both in a morbid state of
mind," he thought; "and sometimes commonplace men turn out to be
right."

He was too deeply preoccupied to notice that he had advanced
perilously near Francine's window. She suddenly stepped out of
her room, and spoke to him.

"Do you happen to know, Mr. Morris, why Mrs. Ellmother has gone
away without bidding me good-by?"

"She was probably afraid, Miss de Sor, that you might make her
the victim of another joke."

Francine eyed him steadily. "Have you any particular reason for
speaking to me in that way?"

"I am not aware that I have answered you rudely--if that is what
you mean."

"That is _not_ what I mean. You seem to have taken a dislike to
me. I should be glad to know why."

"I dislike cruelty--and you have behaved cruelly to Mrs.
Ellmother "

"Meaning to be cruel?" Francine inquired.

"You know as well as I do, Miss de Sor, that I can't answer that
question."

Francine looked at him again "Am I to understand that we are
enemies?" she asked.

"You are to understand," he replied, "that a person whom Miss
Ladd employs to help her in teaching, cannot always presume to
express his sentiments in speaking to the young ladies."

"If that means anything, Mr. Morris, it means that we are
enemies."

"It means, Miss de Sor, that I am the drawing-master at this
school, and that I am called to my class."

Francine returned to her room, relieved of the only doubt that
had troubled her. Plainly no suspicion that she had overheard
what passed between Mrs. Ellmother and himself existed in Alban's
mind. As to the use to be made of her discovery, she felt no
difficulty in deciding to wait, and be guided by events. Her
curiosity and her self-esteem had been alike gratified--she had
got the better of Mrs. Ellmother at last, and with that triumph
she was content. While Emily remained her friend, it would be an
act of useless cruelty to disclose the terrible truth. There had
certainly been a coolness between them at Brighton. But
Francine--still influenced by the magnetic attraction which drew
her to Emily--did not conceal from herself that she had offered
the provocation, and had been therefore the person to blame. "I
can set all that right," she thought, "when we meet at Monksmoor
Park." She opened her desk and wrote the shortest and sweetest of
letters to Cecilia. "I am entirely at the disposal of my charming
friend, on any convenient day--may I add, my dear, the sooner the
better?"


CHAPTER XXXVII.

"THE LADY WANTS YOU, SIR."

The pupils of the drawing-class put away their pencils and
color-boxes in high good humor: the teacher's vigilant eye for
faults had failed him for the first time in their experience. Not
one of them had been reproved; they had chattered and giggled and
drawn caricatures on the margin of the paper, as freely as if the
master had left the room. Alban's wandering attention was indeed
beyond the reach of control. His interview with Francine had
doubled his sense of responsibility toward Emily--while he was
further than ever from seeing how he could interfere, to any
useful purpose, in his present position, and with his reasons for
writing under reserve.

One of the servants addressed him as he was leaving the
schoolroom. The landlady's boy was waiting in the hall, with a
message from his lodgings.

"Now then! what is it?" he asked, irritably.

"The lady wants you, sir." With this mysterious answer, the boy
presented a visiting card. The name inscribed on it was--"Miss
Jethro."

She had arrived by the train, and she was then waiting at Alban's
lodgings. "Say I will be with her directly." Having given the
message, he stood for a while, with his hat in his
hand--literally lost in astonishment. It was simply impossible to
guess at Miss Jethro's object: and yet, with the usual perversity
of human nature, he was still wondering what she could possibly
want with him, up to the final moment when he opened the door of
his sitting-room.

She rose and bowed with the same grace of movement, and the same
well-bred composure of manner, which Doctor Allday had noticed
when she entered his consulting-room. Her dark melancholy eyes
rested on Alban with a look of gentle interest. A faint flush of
color animated for a moment the faded beauty of her face--passed
away again--and left it paler than before.

"I cannot conceal from myself," she began, "that I am intruding
on you under embarrassing circumstances."

"May I ask, Miss Jethro, to what circumstances you allude?"

"You forget, Mr. Morris, that I left Miss Ladd's school, in a
manner which justified doubt of me in the minds of strangers."

"Speaking as one of those strangers," Alban replied, "I cannot
feel that I had any right to form an opinion, on a matter which
only concerned Miss Ladd and yourself."

Miss Jethro bowed gravely. "You encourage me to hope," she said.
"I think you will place a favorable construction on my visit when
I mention my motive. I ask you to receive me, in the interests of
Miss Emily Brown."

Stating her purpose in calling on him in those plain terms, she
added to the amazement which Alban already felt, by handing to
him--as if she was presenting an introduction--a letter marked,
"Private," addressed to her by Doctor Allday.

"I may tell you," she premised, "that I had no idea of troubling
you, until Doctor Allday suggested it. I wrote to him in the
first instance; and there is his reply. Pray read it."

The letter was dated, "Penzance"; and the doctor wrote, as he
spoke, without ceremony.


"MADAM--Your letter has been forwarded to me. I am spending my
autumn holiday in the far West of Cornwall. However, if I had
been at home, it would have made no difference. I should have
begged leave to decline holding any further conversation with
you, on the subject of Miss Emily Brown, for the following
reasons:

"In the first place, though I cannot doubt your sincere interest
in the young lady's welfare, I don't like your mysterious way of
showing it. In the second place, when I called at your address in
London, after you had left my house, I found that you had taken
to flight. I place my own interpretation on this circumstance;
but as it is not founded on any knowledge of facts, I merely
allude to it, and say no more."

Arrived at that point, Alban offered to return the letter. "Do
you really mean me to go on reading it?" he asked.

"Yes," she said quietly.

Alban returned to the letter.

"In the third place, I have good reason to believe that you
entered Miss Ladd's school as a teacher, under false pretenses.
After that discovery, I tell you plainly I hesitate to attach
credit to any statement that you may wish to make. At the same
time, I must not permit my prejudices (as you will probably call
them) to stand in the way of Miss Emily's interests--supposing
them to be really depending on any interference of yours. Miss
Ladd's drawing-master, Mr. Alban Morris, is even more devoted to
Miss Emily's service than I am. Whatever you might have said to
me, you can say to him--with this possible advantage, that _he_
may believe you."

There the letter ended. Alban handed it back in silence.

Miss Jethro pointed to the words, "Mr. Alban Morris is even more
devoted to Miss EmilyÕs service than I am."

"Is that true?" she asked.

"Quite true."

"I don't complain, Mr. Morris, of the hard things said of me in
that letter; you are at liberty to suppose, if you like, that I
deserve them. Attribute it to pride, or attribute it to
reluctance to make needless demands on your time--I shall not
attempt to defend myself. I leave you to decide whether the woman
who has shown you that letter--having something important to say
to you--is a person who is mean enough to say it under false
pretenses."

"Tell me what I can do for you, Miss Jethro: and be assured,
beforehand, that I don't doubt your sincerity."

"My purpose in coming here," she answered, "is to induce you to
use your influence over Miss Emily Brown--"

"With what object?" Alban asked, interrupting her.

"My object is her own good. Some years since, I happened to
become acquainted with a person who has attained some celebrity
as a preacher. You have perhaps heard of Mr. Miles Mirabel?"

"I have heard of him."

"I have been in correspondence with him," Miss Jethro proceeded.
"He tells me he has been introduced to a young lady, who was
formerly one of Miss Ladd's pupils, and who is the daughter of
Mr. Wyvil, of Monksmoor Park. He has called on Mr. Wyvil; and he
has since received an invitation to stay at Mr. Wyvil's house.
The day fixed for the visit is Monday, the fifth of next month."

Alban listened--at a loss to know what interest he was supposed
to have in being made acquainted with Mr. Mirabel's engagements.
Miss Jethro's next words enlightened him.

"You are perhaps aware," she resumed, "that Miss Emily Brown is
Miss Wyvil's intimate friend. She will be one of the guests at
Monksmoor Park. If there are any obstacles which you can place in
her way--if there is any influence which you can exert, without
exciting suspicion of your motive--prevent her, I entreat you,
from accepting Miss Wyvil's invitation, until Mr. Mirabel's visit
has come to an end."

"Is there anything against Mr. Mirabel?" he asked.

"I say nothing against him."

"Is Miss Emily acquainted with him?"

"No."

"Is he a person with whom it would be disagreeable to her to
associate?"

"Quite the contrary."

"And yet you expect me to prevent them from meeting! Be
reasonable, Miss Jethro."

"I can only be in earnest, Mr. Morris--more truly, more deeply in
earnest than you can suppose. I declare to you that I am speaking
in Miss Emily's interests. Do you still refuse to exert yourself
for her sake?"

"I am spared the pain of refusal," Alban answered. "The time for
interference has gone by. She is, at this moment, on her way to
Monksmoor Park."

Miss Jethro attempted to rise--and dropped back into her chair.
"Water!" she said faintly. After drinking from the glass to the
last drop, she began to revive. Her little traveling-bag was on
the floor at her side. She took out a railway guide, and tried to
consult it. Her fingers trembled incessantly; she was unable to
find the page to which she wished to refer. "Help me," she said,
"I must leave this place--by the first train that passes."

"To see Emily?" Alban asked.

"Quite useless! You have said it yourself--the time for
interference has gone by. Look at the guide."

"What place shall I look for?"

"Look for Vale Regis."

Alban found the place. The train was due in ten minutes. "Surely
you are not fit to travel so soon?" he suggested.

"Fit or not, I must see Mr. Mirabel--I must make the effort to
keep them apart by appealing to _him_."

"With any hope of success?"

"With no hope--and with no interest in the man himself. Still I
must try."

"Out of anxiety for Emily's welfare?"

"Out of anxiety for more than that."

"For what?"

"If you can't guess, I daren't tell you."

That strange reply startled Alban. Before he could ask what it
meant, Miss Jethro had left him.

In the emergencies of life, a person readier of resource than
Alban Morris it would not have been easy to discover. The
extraordinary interview that had now come to an end had found its
limits. Bewildered and helpless, he stood at the window of his
room, and asked himself (as if he had been the weakest man
living), "What shal l I do?"


BOOK THE FOURTH--THE COUNTRY HOUSE.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

DANCING.

The windows of the long drawing-room at Monksmoor are all thrown
open to the conservatory. Distant masses of plants and flowers,
mingled in ever-varying forms of beauty, are touched by the
melancholy luster of the rising moon. Nearer to the house, the
restful shadows are disturbed at intervals, where streams of
light fall over them aslant from the lamps in the room. The
fountain is playing. In rivalry with its lighter music, the
nightingales are singing their song of ecstasy. Sometimes, the
laughter of girls is heard--and, sometimes, the melody of a
waltz. The younger guests at Monksmoor are dancing.

Emily and Cecilia are dressed alike in white, with flowers in
their hair. Francine rivals them by means of a gorgeous contrast
of color, and declares that she is rich with the bright emphasis
of diamonds and the soft persuasion of pearls.

Miss Plym (from the rectory) is fat and fair and prosperous: she
overflows with good spirits; she has a waist which defies
tight-lacing, and she dances joyously on large flat feet. Miss
Darnaway (officer's daughter with small means) is the exact
opposite of Miss Plym. She is thin and tall and faded--poor soul.
Destiny has made it her hard lot in life to fill the place of
head-nursemaid at home. In her pensive moments, she thinks of the
little brothers and sisters, whose patient servant she is, and
wonders who comforts them in their tumbles and tells them stories
at bedtime, while she is holiday-making at the pleasant country
house.

Tender-hearted Cecilia, remembering how few pleasures this young
friend has, and knowing how well she dances, never allows her to
be without a partner. There are three invaluable young gentlemen
present, who are excellent dancers. Members of different
families, they are nevertheless fearfully and wonderfully like
each other. They present the same rosy complexions and
straw-colored mustachios, the same plump cheeks, vacant eyes and
low forehead; and they utter, with the same stolid gravity, the
same imbecile small talk. On sofas facing each other sit the two
remaining guests, who have not joined the elders at the
card-table in another room. They are both men. One of them is
drowsy and middle-aged--happy in the possession of large landed
property: happier still in a capacity for drinking Mr. Wyvil's
famous port-wine without gouty results.

The other gentleman--ah, who is the other? He is the confidential
adviser and bosom friend of every young lady in the house. Is it
necessary to name the Reverend Miles Mirabel?

There he sits enthroned, with room for a fair admirer on either
side of him--the clerical sultan of a platonic harem. His
persuasive ministry is felt as well as heard: he has an innocent
habit of fondling young persons. One of his arms is even long
enough to embrace the circumference of Miss Plym--while the other
clasps the rigid silken waist of Francine. "I do it everywhere
else," he says innocently, "why not here?" Why not indeed--with
that delicate complexion and those beautiful blue eyes; with the
glorious golden hair that rests on his shoulders, and the glossy
beard that flows over his breast? Familiarities, forbidden to
mere men, become privileges and condescensions when an angel
enters society--and more especially when that angel has enough of
mortality in him to be amusing. Mr. Mirabel, on his social side,
is an irresistible companion. He is cheerfulness itself; he takes
a favorable view of everything; his sweet temper never differs
with anybody. "In my humble way," he confesses, "I like to make
the world about me brighter." Laughter (harmlessly produced,
observe!) is the element in which he lives and breathes. Miss
Darnaway's serious face puts him out; he has laid a bet with
Emily--not in money, not even in gloves, only in flowers--that he
will make Miss Darnaway laugh; and he has won the wager. Emily's
flowers are in his button-hole, peeping through the curly
interstices of his beard. "Must you leave me?" he asks tenderly,
when there is a dancing man at liberty, and it is Francine's turn
to claim him. She leaves her seat not very willingly. For a
while, the place is vacant; Miss Plym seizes the opportunity of
consulting the ladies' bosom friend.

"Dear Mr. Mirabel, do tell me what you think of Miss de Sor?"

Dear Mr. Mirabel bursts into enthusiasm and makes a charming
reply. His large experience of young ladies warns him that they
will tell each other what he thinks of them, when they retire for
the night; and he is careful on these occasions to say something
that will bear repetition.

"I see in Miss de Sor," he declares, "the resolution of a man,
tempered by the sweetness of a woman. When that interesting
creature marries, her husband will be--shall I use the vulgar
word?--henpecked. Dear Miss Plym, he will enjoy it; and he will
be quite right too; and, if I am asked to the wedding, I shall
say, with heartfelt sincerity, Enviable man!"

In the height of her admiration for Mr. Mirabel's wonderful eye
for character, Miss Plym is called away to the piano. Cecilia
succeeds to her friend's place--and has her waist taken in charge
as a matter of course.

"How do you like Miss Plym?" she asks directly.

Mr. Mirabel smiles, and shows the prettiest little pearly teeth.
"I was just thinking of her," he confesses pleasantly; "Miss Plym
is so nice and plump, so comforting and domestic--such a perfect
clergyman's daughter. You love her, don't you? Is she engaged to
be married? In that case--between ourselves, dear Miss Wyvil, a
clergyman is obliged to be cautious--I may own that I love her
too."

Delicious titillations of flattered self-esteem betray themselves
in Cecilia's lovely complexion. She is the chosen confidante of
this irresistible man; and she would like to express her sense of
obligation. But Mr. Mirabel is a master in the art of putting the
right words in the right places; and simple Cecilia distrusts
herself and her grammar.

At that moment of embarrassment, a friend leaves the dance, and
helps Cecilia out of the difficulty.

Emily approaches the sofa-throne, breathless--followed by her
partner, entreating her to give him "one turn more." She is not
to be tempted; she means to rest. Cecilia sees an act of mercy,
suggested by the presence of the disengaged young man. She seizes
his arm, and hurries him off to poor Miss Darnaway; sitting
forlorn in a corner, and thinking of the nursery at home. In the
meanwhile a circumstance occurs. Mr. Mirabel's all-embracing arm
shows itself in a new character, when Emily sits by his side.

It becomes, for the first time, an irresolute arm. It advances a
little--and hesitates. Emily at once administers an unexpected
check; she insists on preserving a free waist, in her own
outspoken language. "No, Mr. Mirabel, keep that for the others.
You can't imagine how ridiculous you and the young ladies look,
and how absurdly unaware of it you all seem to be." For the first
time in his life, the reverend and ready-witted man of the world
is at a loss for an answer. Why?

For this simple reason. He too has felt the magnetic attraction
of the irresistible little creature whom every one likes. Miss
Jethro has been doubly defeated. She has failed to keep them
apart; and her unexplained misgivings have not been justified by
events: Emily and Mr. Mirabel are good friends already. The
brilliant clergyman is poor; his interests in life point to a
marriage for money; he has fascinated the heiresses of two rich
fathers, Mr. Tyvil and Mr. de Sor--and yet he is conscious of an
influence (an alien influence, without a balance at its bankers),
which has, in some mysterious way, got between him and his
interests.

On Emily's side, the attraction felt is of another nature
altogether. Among the merry young people at Monksmoor she is her
old happy self again; and she finds in Mr. Mirabel the most
agreeable and amusing man whom she has ever met. After those
dismal night watches by the bed of her dying aunt, and the dreary
weeks of solitude that followed, to live in this new world of
luxury and gayety is like escaping from the darkness of night,
and basking in the fall brightn ess of day. Cecilia declares that
she looks, once more, like the joyous queen of the bedroom, in
the bygone time at school; and Francine (profaning Shakespeare
without knowing it), says, "Emily is herself again!"

"Now that your arm is in its right place, reverend sir," she
gayly resumes, "I may admit that there are exceptions to all
rules. My waist is at your disposal, in a case of necessity--that
is to say, in a case of waltzing."

"The one case of all others," Mirabel answers, with the engaging
frankness that has won him so many friends, "which can never
happen in my unhappy experience. Waltzing, I blush to own it,
means picking me up off the floor, and putting smelling salts to
my nostrils. In other words, dear Miss Emily, it is the room that
waltzes--not I. I can't look at those whirling couples there,
with a steady head. Even the exquisite figure of our young
hostess, when it describes flying circles, turns me giddy."

Hearing this allusion to Cecilia, Emily drops to the level of the
other girls. She too pays her homage to the Pope of private life.
"You promised me your unbiased opinion of Cecilia," she reminds
him; "and you haven't given it yet."

The ladies' friend gently remonstrates. "Miss Wyvil's beauty
dazzles me. How can I give an unbiased opinion? Besides, I am not
thinking of her; I can only think of you."

Emily lifts her eyes, half merrily, half tenderly, and looks at
him over the top of her fan. It is her first effort at
flirtation. She is tempted to engage in the most interesting of
all games to a girl--the game which plays at making love. What
has Cecilia told her, in those bedroom gossipings, dear to the
hearts of the two friends? Cecilia has whispered, "Mr. Mirabel
admires your figure; he calls you 'the Venus of Milo, in a state
of perfect abridgment.'" Where is the daughter of Eve, who would
not have been flattered by that pretty compliment--who would not
have talked soft nonsense in return? "You can only think of Me,"
Emily repeats coquettishly. "Have you said that to the last young
lady who occupied my place, and will you say it again to the next
who follows me?"

"Not to one of them! Mere compliments are for the others--not for
you."

"What is for me, Mr. Mirabel?"

"What I have just offered you--a confession of the truth."

Emily is startled by the tone in which he replies. He seems to be
in earnest; not a vestige is left of the easy gayety of his
manner. His face shows an expression of anxiety which she has
never seen in it yet. "Do you believe me?" he asks in a whisper.

She tries to change the subject.

"When am I to hear you preach, Mr. Mirabel?"

He persists. "When you believe me," he says.

His eyes add an emphasis to that reply which is not to be
mistaken. Emily turns away from him, and notices Francine. She
has left the dance, and is looking with marked attention at Emily
and Mirabel. "I want to speak to you," she says, and beckons
impatiently to Emily.

Mirabel whispers, "Don't go!"

Emily rises nevertheless--ready to avail herself of the first
excuse for leaving him. Francine meets her half way, and takes
her roughly by the arm.

"What is it?" Emily asks.

"Suppose you leave off flirting with Mr. Mirabel, and make
yourself of some use."

"In what way?"

"Use your ears--and look at that girl."

She points disdainfully to innocent Miss Plym. The rector's
daughter possesses all the virtues, with one exception--the
virtue of having an ear for music. When she sings, she is out of
tune; and, when she plays, she murders time.

"Who can dance to such music as that?" says Francine. "Finish the
waltz for her."

Emily naturally hesitates. "How can I take her place, unless she
asks me?"

Francine laughs scornfully. "Say at once, you want to go back to
Mr. Mirabel."

"Do you think I should have got up, when you beckoned to me,"
Emily rejoins, "if I had not wanted to get away from Mr.
Mirabel?"

Instead of resenting this sharp retort, Francine suddenly breaks
into good humor. "Come along, you little spit-fire; I'll manage
it for you."

She leads Emily to the piano, and stops Miss Plym without a word
of apology: "It's your turn to dance now. Here's Miss Brown
waiting to relieve you."

Cecilia has not been unobservant, in her own quiet way, of what
has been going on. Waiting until Francine and Miss Plym are out
of hearing, she bends over Emily, and says, "My dear, I really do
think Francine is in love with Mr. Mirabel."

"After having only been a week in the same house with him!" Emily
exclaims.

"At any rate," said Cecilia, more smartly than usual, "she is
jealous of _you_."


CHAPTER XXXIX.

FEIGNING.

The next morning, Mr. Mirabel took two members of the circle at
Monksmoor by surprise. One of them was Emily; and one of them was
the master of the house.

Seeing Emily alone in the garden before breakfast, he left his
room and joined her. "Let me say one word," he pleaded, "before
we go to breakfast. I am grieved to think that I was so
unfortunate as to offend you, last night."

Emily's look of astonishment answered for her before she could
speak. "What can I have said or done," she asked, "to make you
think that?"

"Now I breathe again!" he cried, with the boyish gayety of manner
which was one of the secrets of his popularity among women. "I
really feared that I had spoken thoughtlessly. It is a terrible
confession for a clergyman to make--but it is not the less true
that I am one of the most indiscreet men living. It is my rock
ahead in life that I say the first thing which comes uppermost,
without stopping to think. Being well aware of my own defects, I
naturally distrust myself."

"Even in the pulpit?" Emily inquired.

He laughed with the readiest appreciation of the satire--although
it was directed against himself.

"I like that question," he said; "it tells me we are as good
friends again as ever. The fact is, the sight of the
congregation, when I get into the pulpit, has the same effect
upon me that the sight of the footlights has on an actor. All
oratory (though my clerical brethren are shy of confessing it) is
acting--without the scenery and the costumes. Did you really mean
it, last night, when you said you would like to hear me preach?"

"Indeed, I did."

"How very kind of you. I don't think myself the sermon is worth
the sacrifice. (There is another specimen of my indiscreet way of
talking!) What I mean is, that you will have to get up early on
Sunday morning, and drive twelve miles to the damp and dismal
little village, in which I officiate for a man with a rich wife
who likes the climate of Italy. My congregation works in the
fields all the week, and naturally enough goes to sleep in church
on Sunday. I have had to counteract that. Not by preaching! I
wouldn't puzzle the poor people with my eloquence for the world.
No, no: I tell them little stories out of the Bible--in a nice
easy gossiping way. A quarter of an hour is my limit of time;
and, I am proud to say, some of them (mostly the women) do to a
certain extent keep awake. If you and the other ladies decide to
honor me, it is needless to say you shall have one of my grand
efforts. What will be the effect on my unfortunate flock remains
to be seen. I will have the church brushed up, and luncheon of
course at the parsonage. Beans, bacon, and beer--I haven't got
anything else in the house. Are you rich? I hope not!"

"I suspect I am quite as poor as you are, Mr. Mirabel."

"I am delighted to hear it. (More of my indiscretion!) Our
poverty is another bond between us."

Before he could enlarge on this text, the breakfast bell rang.

He gave Emily his arm, quite satisfied with the result of the
morning's talk. In speaking seriously to her on the previous
night, he had committed the mistake of speaking too soon. To
amend this false step, and to recover his position in Emily's
estimation, had been his object in view--and it had been
successfully accomplished. At the breakfast-table that morning,
the companionable clergyman was more amusing than ever.

The meal being over, the company dispersed as usual--with the one
exception of Mirabel. Without any apparent reason, he kept his
place at the table. Mr. Wyvil, the most courteous and considerate
of men, felt
 it an attention due to his guest not to leave the room first.
All that he could venture to do was to give a little hint. "Have
you any plans for the morning?" he asked.

"I have a plan that depends entirely on yourself," Mirabel
answered; "and I am afraid of being as indiscreet as usual, if I
mention it. Your charming daughter tells me you play on the
violin."

Modest Mr. Wyvil looked confused. "I hope you have not been
annoyed," he said; "I practice in a distant room so that nobody
may hear me."

"My dear sir, I am eager to hear you! Music is my passion; and
the violin is my favorite instrument."

Mr. Wyvil led the way to his room, positively blushing with
pleasure. Since the death of his wife he had been sadly in want
of a little encouragement. His daughters and his friends were
careful--over-careful, as he thought--of intruding on him in his
hours of practice. And, sad to say, his daughters and his friends
were, from a musical point of view, perfectly right.

Literature has hardly paid sufficient attention to a social
phenomenon of a singularly perplexing kind. We hear enough, and
more than enough, of persons who successfully cultivate the
Arts--of the remarkable manner in which fitness for their
vocation shows itself in early life, of the obstacles which
family prejudice places in their way, and of the unremitting
devotion which has led to the achievement of glorious results.

But how many writers have noticed those other incomprehensible
persons, members of families innocent for generations past of
practicing Art or caring for Art, who have notwithstanding
displayed from their earliest years the irresistible desire to
cultivate poetry, painting, or music; who have surmounted
obstacles, and endured disappointments, in the single-hearted
resolution to devote their lives to an intellectual
pursuit--being absolutely without the capacity which proves the
vocation, and justifies the sacrifice. Here is Nature, "unerring
Nature," presented in flat contradiction with herself. Here are
men bent on performing feats of running, without having legs; and
women, hopelessly barren, living in constant expectation of large
families to the end of their days. The musician is not to be
found more completely deprived than Mr. Wyvil of natural capacity
for playing on an instrument--and, for twenty years past, it had
been the pride and delight of his heart to let no day of his life
go by without practicing on the violin.

"I am sure I must be tiring you," he said politely--after having
played without mercy for an hour and more.

No: the insatiable amateur had his own purpose to gain, and was
not exhausted yet. Mr. Wyvil got up to look for some more music.
In that interval desultory conversation naturally took place.
Mirabel contrived to give it the necessary direction--the
direction of Emily.

"The most delightful girl I have met with for many a long year
past!" Mr. Wyvil declared warmly. "I don't wonder at my daughter
being so fond of her. She leads a solitary life at home, poor
thing; and I am honestly glad to see her spirits reviving in my
house."

"An only child?" Mirabel asked.

In the necessary explanation that followed, Emily's isolated
position in the world was revealed in few words. But one more
discovery--the most important of all--remained to be made. Had
she used a figure of speech in saying that she was as poor as
Mirabel himself? or had she told him the shocking truth? He put
the question with perfect delicacy---but with unerring directness
as well.

Mr. Wyvil, quoting his daughter's authority, described Emily's
income as falling short even of two hundred a year. Having made
that disheartening reply, he opened another music book. "You know
this sonata, of course?" he said. The next moment, the violin was
under his chin and the performance began.

While Mirabel was, to all appearance, listening with the utmost
attention, he was actually endeavoring to reconcile himself to a
serious sacrifice of his own inclinations. If he remained much
longer in the same house with Emily, the impression that she had
produced on him would be certainly strengthened--and he would be
guilty of the folly of making an offer of marriage to a woman who
was as poor as himself. The one remedy that could be trusted to
preserve him from such infatuation as this, was absence. At the
end of the week, he had arranged to return to Vale Regis for his
Sunday duty; engaging to join his friends again at Monksmoor on
the Monday following. That rash promise, there could be no
further doubt about it, must not be fulfilled.

He had arrived at this resolution, when the terrible activity of
Mr. Wyvil's bow was suspended by the appearance of a third person
in the room.

Cecilia's maid was charged with a neat little three-cornered note
from her young lady, to be presented to her master. Wondering why
his daughter should write to him, Mr. Wyvil opened the note, and
was informed of Cecilia's motive in these words:

"DEAREST PAPA--I hear Mr. Mirabel is with you, and as this is a
secret, I must write. Emily has received a very strange letter
this morning, which puzzles her and alarms me. When you are quite
at liberty, we shall be so much obliged if you will tell us how
Emily ought to answer it."

Mr. Wyvil stopped Mirabel, on the point of trying to escape from
the music. "A little domestic matter to attend to," he said. "But
we will finish the sonata first."


CHAPTER XL.

CONSULTING.

Out of the music room, and away from his violin, the sound side
of Mr. Wyvil's character was free to assert itself. In his public
and in his private capacity, he was an eminently sensible man.

As a member of parliament, he set an example which might have
been followed with advantage by many of his colleagues. In the
first place he abstained from hastening the downfall of
representative institutions by asking questions and making
speeches. In the second place, he was able to distinguish between
the duty that he owed to his party, and the duty that he owed to
his country. When the Legislature acted politically--that is to
say, when it dealt with foreign complications, or electoral
reforms--he followed his leader. When the Legislature acted
socially--that is to say, for the good of the people--he followed
his conscience. On the last occasion when the great Russian
bugbear provoked a division, he voted submissively with his
Conservative allies. But, when the question of opening museums
and picture galleries on Sundays arrayed the two parties in
hostile camps, he broke into open mutiny, and went over to the
Liberals. He consented to help in preventing an extension of the
franchise; but he refused to be concerned in obstructing the
repeal of taxes on knowledge. "I am doubtful in the first case,"
he said, "but I am sure in the second." He was asked for an
explanation: "Doubtful of what? and sure of what?" To the
astonishment of his leader, he answered: "The benefit to the
people." The same sound sense appeared in the transactions of his
private life. Lazy and dishonest servants found that the gentlest
of masters had a side to his character which took them by
surprise. And, on certain occasions in the experience of Cecilia
and her sister, the most indulgent of fathers proved to be as
capable of saying No, as the sternest tyrant who ever ruled a
fireside.

Called into council by his daughter and his guest, Mr. Wyvil
assisted them by advice which was equally wise and kind--but
which afterward proved, under the perverse influence of
circumstances, to be advice that he had better not have given.

The letter to Emily which Cecilia had recommended to her father's
consideration, had come from Netherwoods, and had been written by
Alban Morris.

He assured Emily that he had only decided on writing to her,
after some hesitation, in the hope of serving interests which he
did not himself understand, but which might prove to be interests
worthy of consideration, nevertheless. Having stated his motive
in these terms, he proceeded to relate what had passed between
Miss Jethro and himself. On the subject of Francine, Alban only
ventured to add that she had not produced a favorable impression
on him, and that he could not think her
 likely, on further experience, to prove a desirable friend.

On the last leaf were added some lines, which Emily was at no
loss how to answer. She had folded back the page, so that no eyes
but her own should see how the poor drawing-master finished his
letter: "I wish you all possible happiness, my dear, among your
new friends; but don't forget the old friend who thinks of you,
and dreams of you, and longs to see you again. The little world I
live in is a dreary world, Emily, in your absence. Will you write
to me now and then, and encourage me to hope?"

Mr. Wyvil smiled, as he looked at the folded page, which hid the
signature.

"I suppose I may take it for granted," he said slyly, "that this
gentleman really has your interests at heart? May I know who he
is?"

Emily answered the last question readily enough. Mr. Wyvil went
on with his inquiries. "About the mysterious lady, with the
strange name," he proceeded--"do you know anything of her?"

Emily related what she knew; without revealing the true reason
for Miss Jethro's departure from Netherwoods. In after years, it
was one of her most treasured remembrances, that she had kept
secret the melancholy confession which had startled her, on the
last night of her life at school.

Mr. Wyvil looked at Alban's letter again. "Do you know how Miss
Jethro became acquainted with Mr. Mirabel?" he asked.

"I didn't even know that they were acquainted."

"Do you think it likely--if Mr. Morris had been talking to you
instead of writing to you--that he might have said more than he
has said in his letter?"

Cecilia had hitherto remained a model of discretion. Seeing Emily
hesitate, temptation overcame her. "Not a doubt of it, papa!" she
declared confidently.

"Is Cecilia right?" Mr. Wyvil inquired.

Reminded in this way of her influence over Alban, Emily could
only make one honest reply. She admitted that Cecilia was right.

Mr. Wyvil thereupon advised her not to express any opinion, until
she was in a better position to judge for herself. "When you
write to Mr. Morris," he continued, "say that you will wait to
tell him what you think of Miss Jethro, until you see him again."

"I have no prospect at present of seeing him again," Emily said.

"You can see Mr. Morris whenever it suits him to come here," Mr.
Wyvil replied. "I will write and ask him to visit us, and you can
inclose the invitation in your letter."

"Oh, Mr. Wyvil, how good of you!"

"Oh, papa, the very thing I was going to ask you to do!"

The excellent master of Monksmoor looked unaffectedly surprised.
"What are you two young ladies making a fuss about?" he said.
"Mr. Morris is a gentleman by profession; and--may I venture to
say it, Miss Emily?--a valued friend of yours as well. Who has a
better claim to be one of my guests?"

Cecilia stopped her father as he was about to leave the room. "I
suppose we mustn't ask Mr. Mirabel what he knows of Miss Jethro?"
she said.

"My dear, what can you be thinking of? What right have we to
question Mr. Mirabel about Miss Jethro?"

"It's so very unsatisfactory, papa. There must be some reason why
Emily and Mr. Mirabel ought not to meet--or why should Miss
Jethro have been so very earnest about it?"

"Miss Jethro doesn't intend us to know why, Cecilia. It will
perhaps come out in time. Wait for time."

Left together, the girls discussed the course which Alban would
probably take, on receiving Mr. Wyvil's invitation.

"He will only be too glad," Cecilia asserted, "to have the
opportunity of seeing you again."

"I doubt whether he will care about seeing me again, among
strangers," Emily replied. "And you forget that there are
obstacles in his way. How is he to leave his class?"

"Quite easily! His class doesn't meet on the Saturday
half-holiday. He can be here, if he starts early, in time for
luncheon; and he can stay till Monday or Tuesday."

"Who is to take his place at the school?"

"Miss Ladd, to be sure--if _you_ make a point of it. Write to
her, as well as to Mr. Morris."

The letters being written--and the order having been given to
prepare a room for the expected guest--Emily and Cecilia returned
to the drawing-room. They found the elders of the party variously
engaged--the men with newspapers, and the ladies with work.
Entering the conservatory next, they discovered Cecilia's sister
languishing among the flowers in an easy chair. Constitutional
laziness, in some young ladies, assumes an invalid character, and
presents the interesting spectacle of perpetual convalescence.
The doctor declared that the baths at St. Moritz had cured Miss
Julia. Miss Julia declined to agree with the doctor.

"Come into the garden with Emily and me," Cecilia said.

"Emily and you don't know what it is to be ill," Julia answered.

The two girls left her, and joined the young people who were
amusing themselves in the garden. Francine had taken possession
of Mirabel, and had condemned him to hard labor in swinging her.
He made an attempt to get away when Emily and Cecilia approached,
and was peremptorily recalled to his duty. "Higher!" cried Miss
de Sor, in her hardest tones of authority. "I want to swing
higher than anybody else!" Mirabel submitted with gentleman-like
resignation, and was rewarded by tender encouragement expressed
in a look.

"Do you see that?" Cecilia whispered. "He knows how rich she
is--I wonder whether he will marry her."

Emily smiled. "I doubt it, while he is in this house," she said.
"You are as rich as Francine--and don't forget that you have
other attractions as well."

Cecilia shook her head. "Mr. Mirabel is very nice," she admitted;
"but I wouldn't marry him. Would you?"

Emily secretly compared Alban with Mirabel. "Not for the world!"
she answered.

The next day was the day of Mirabel's departure. His admirers
among the ladies followed him out to the door, at which Mr.
Wyvil's carriage was waiting. Francine threw a nosegay after the
departing guest as he got in. "Mind you come back to us on
Monday!" she said. Mirabel bowed and thanked her; but his last
look was for Emily, standing apart from the others at the top of
the steps. Francine said nothing; her lips closed
convulsively--she turned suddenly pale.


CHAPTER XLI.

SPEECHIFYING.

On the Monday, a plowboy from Vale Regis arrived at Monksmoor.

In respect of himself, he was a person beneath notice. In respect
of his errand, he was sufficiently important to cast a gloom over
the household. The faithless Mirabel had broken his engagement,
and the plowboy was the herald of misfortune who brought his
apology. To his great disappointment (he wrote) he was detained
by the affairs of his parish. He could only trust to Mr. Wyvil's
indulgence to excuse him, and to communicate his sincere sense of
regret (on scented note paper) to the ladies.

Everybody believed in the affairs of the parish--with the
exception of Francine. "Mr. Mirabel has made the best excuse he
could think of for shortening his visit; and I don't wonder at
it," she said, looking significantly at Emily.

Emily was playing with one of the dogs; exercising him in the
tricks which he had learned. She balanced a morsel of sugar on
his nose--and had no attention to spare for Francine.

Cecilia, as the mistress of the house, felt it her duty to
interfere. "That is a strange remark to make," she answered. "Do
you mean to say that we have driven Mr. Mirabel away from us?"

"I accuse nobody," Francine began with spiteful candor.

"Now she's going to accuse everybody!" Emily interposed,
addressing herself facetiously to the dog.

"But when girls are bent on fascinating men, whether they like it
or not," Francine proceeded, "men have only one alternative--they
must keep out of the way." She looked again at Emily, more
pointedly than ever.

Even gentle Cecilia resented this. "Whom do you refer to?" she
said sharply.

"My dear!" Emily remonstrated, "need you ask?" She glanced at
Francine as she spoke, and then gave the dog his signal. He
tossed up the sugar, and caught it in his mouth. His audience
applauded him--and so, for that time, the skirmish ended.

Among the letters of the next morning's delivery, arrived Alban's
reply. Emily's anticipations proved to be correct. The
drawing-master's du ties would not permit him to leave
Netherwoods; and he, like Mirabel, sent his apologies. His short
letter to Emily contained no further allusion to Miss Jethro; it
began and ended on the first page.

Had he been disappointed by the tone of reserve in which Emily
had written to him, under Mr. Wyvil's advice? Or (as Cecilia
suggested) had his detention at the school so bitterly
disappointed him that he was too disheartened to write at any
length? Emily made no attempt to arrive at a conclusion, either
one way or the other. She seemed to be in depressed spirits; and
she spoke superstitiously, for the first time in Cecilia's
experience of her.

"I don't like this reappearance of Miss Jethro," she said. "If
the mystery about that woman is ever cleared up, it will bring
trouble and sorrow to me--and I believe, in his own secret heart,
Alban Morris thinks so too."

"Write, and ask him," Cecilia suggested.

"He is so kind and so unwilling to distress me," Emily answered,
"that he wouldn't acknowledge it, even if I am right."

In the middle of the week, the course of private life at
Monksmoor suffered an interruption--due to the parliamentary
position of the master of the house.

The insatiable appetite for making and hearing speeches, which
represents one of the marked peculiarities of the English race
(including their cousins in the United States), had seized on Mr.
Wyvil's constituents. There was to be a political meeting at the
market hall, in the neighboring town; and the member was expected
to make an oration, passing in review contemporary events at home
and abroad. "Pray don't think of accompanying me," the good man
said to his guests. "The hall is badly ventilated, and the
speeches, including my own, will not be worth hearing."

This humane warning was ungratefully disregarded. The gentlemen
were all interested in "the objects of the meeting"; and the
ladies were firm in the resolution not to be left at home by
themselves. They dressed with a view to the large assembly of
spectators before whom they were about to appear; and they
outtalked the men on political subjects, all the way to the town.

The most delightful of surprises was in store for them, when they
reached the market hall. Among the crowd of ordinary gentlemen,
waiting under the portico until the proceedings began, appeared
one person of distinction, whose title was "Reverend," and whose
name was Mirabel.

Francine was the first to discover him. She darted up the steps
and held out her hand.

"This _is_ a pleasure!" she cried. "Have you come here to see--"
she was about to say Me, but, observing the strangers round her,
altered the word to Us. "Please give me your arm," she whispered,
before her young friends had arrived within hearing. "I am so
frightened in a crowd!"

She held fast by Mirabel, and kept a jealous watch on him. Was it
only her fancy? or did she detect a new charm in his smile when
he spoke to Emily?

Before it was possible to decide, the time for the meeting had
arrived. Mr. Wyvil's friends were of course accommodated with
seats on the platform. Francine, still insisting on her claim to
Mirabel's arm, got a chair next to him. As she seated herself,
she left him free for a moment. In that moment, the infatuated
man took an empty chair on the other side of him, and placed it
for Emily. He communicated to that hated rival the information
which he ought to have reserved for Francine. "The committee
insist," he said, "on my proposing one of the Resolutions. I
promise not to bore you; mine shall be the shortest speech
delivered at the meeting."

The proceedings began.

Among the earlier speakers not one was inspired by a feeling of
mercy for the audience. The chairman reveled in words. The mover
and seconder of the first Resolution (not having so much as the
ghost of an idea to trouble either of them), poured out language
in flowing and overflowing streams, like water from a perpetual
spring. The heat exhaled by the crowded audience was already
becoming insufferable. Cries of "Sit down!" assailed the orator
of the moment. The chairman was obliged to interfere. A man at
the back of the hall roared out, "Ventilation!" and broke a
window with his stick. He was rewarded with three rounds of
cheers; and was ironically invited to mount the platform and take
the chair.

Under these embarrassing circumstances, Mirabel rose to speak.

He secured silence, at the outset, by a humorous allusion to the
prolix speaker who had preceded him. "Look at the clock,
gentlemen," he said; "and limit my speech to an interval of ten
minutes." The applause which followed was heard, through the
broken window, in the street. The boys among the mob outside
intercepted the flow of air by climbing on each other's shoulders
and looking in at the meeting, through the gaps left by the
shattered glass. Having proposed his Resolution with discreet
brevity of speech, Mirabel courted popularity on the plan adopted
by the late Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons--he told
stories, and made jokes, adapted to the intelligence of the
dullest people who were listening to him. The charm of his voice
and manner completed his success. Punctually at the tenth minute,
he sat down amid cries of "Go on." Francine was the first to take
his hand, and to express admiration mutely by pressing it. He
returned the pressure--but he looked at the wrong lady--the lady
on the other side.

Although she made no complaint, he instantly saw that Emily was
overcome by the heat. Her lips were white, and her eyes were
closing. "Let me take you out," he said, "or you will faint."

Francine started to her feet to follow them. The lower order of
the audience, eager for amusement, put their own humorous
construction on the young lady's action. They roared with
laughter. "Let the parson and his sweetheart be," they called
out; "two's company, miss, and three isn't." Mr. Wyvil interposed
his authority and rebuked them. A lady seated behind Francine
interfered to good purpose by giving her a chair, which placed
her out of sight of the audience. Order was restored--and the
proceedings were resumed.

On the conclusion of the meeting, Mirabel and Emily were found
waiting for their friends at the door. Mr. Wyvil innocently added
fuel to the fire that was burning in Francine. He insisted that
Mirabel should return to Monksmoor, and offered him a seat in the
carriage at Emily's side.

Later in the evening, when they all met at dinner, there appeared
a change in Miss de Sor which surprised everybody but Mirabel.
She was gay and good-humored, and especially amiable and
attentive to Emily--who sat opposite to her at the table. "What
did you and Mr. Mirabel talk about while you were away from us?"
she asked innocently. "Politics?"

Emily readily adopted Francine's friendly tone. "Would you have
talked politics, in my place?" she asked gayly.

"In your place, I should have had the most delightful of
companions," Francine rejoined; "I wish I had been overcome by
the heat too!"

Mirabel--attentively observing her--acknowledged the compliment
by a bow, and left Emily to continue the conversation. In perfect
good faith she owned to having led Mirabel to talk of himself.
She had heard from Cecilia that his early life had been devoted
to various occupations, and she was interested in knowing how
circumstances had led him into devoting himself to the Church.
Francine listened with the outward appearance of implicit belief,
and with the inward conviction that Emily was deliberately
deceiving her. When the little narrative was at an end, she was
more agreeable than ever. She admired Emily's dress, and she
rivaled Cecilia in enjoyment of the good things on the table; she
entertained Mirabel with humorous anecdotes of the priests at St.
Domingo, and was so interested in the manufacture of violins,
ancient and modern, that Mr. Wyvil promised to show her his
famous collection of instruments, after dinner. Her overflowing
amiability included even poor Miss Darnaway and the absent
brothers and sisters. She heard with flattering sympathy, how
they had been ill and had got well again; what amusing tricks
they played, what alarming accidents happened to them, a nd how
remarkably clever they were--"including, I do assure you, dear
Miss de Sor, the baby only ten months old." When the ladies rose
to retire, Francine was, socially speaking, the heroine of the
evening.

While the violins were in course of exhibition, Mirabel found an
opportunity of speaking to Emily, unobserved.

"Have you said, or done, anything to offend Miss de Sor?" he
asked.

"Nothing whatever!" Emily declared, startled by the question.
"What makes you think I have offended her?"

"I have been trying to find a reason for the change in her,"
Mirabel answered--"especially the change toward yourself."

"Well?"

"Well--she means mischief."

"Mischief of what sort?"

"Of a sort which may expose her to discovery--unless she disarms
suspicion at the outset. That is (as I believe) exactly what she
has been doing this evening. I needn't warn you to be on your
guard."

All the next day Emily was on the watch for events--and nothing
happened. Not the slightest appearance of jealousy betrayed
itself in Francine. She made no attempt to attract to herself the
attentions of Mirabel; and she showed no hostility to Emily,
either by word, look, or manner.

. . . . . . . .

The day after, an event occurred at Netherwoods. Alban Morris
received an anonymous letter, addressed to him in these terms:

"A certain young lady, in whom you are supposed to be interested,
is forgetting you in your absence. If you are not mean enough to
allow yourself to be supplanted by another man, join the party at
Monksmoor before it is too late."


CHAPTER XLII.

COOKING.

The day after the political meeting was a day of departures, at
the pleasant country house.

Miss Darnaway was recalled to the nursery at home. The old squire
who did justice to Mr. Wyvil's port-wine went away next, having
guests to entertain at his own house. A far more serious loss
followed. The three dancing men had engagements which drew them
to new spheres of activity in other drawing-rooms. They said,
with the same dreary grace of manner, "Very sorry to go"; they
drove to the railway, arrayed in the same perfect traveling suits
of neutral tint; and they had but one difference of opinion among
them--each firmly believed that he was smoking the best cigar to
be got in London.

The morning after these departures would have been a dull morning
indeed, but for the presence of Mirabel.

When breakfast was over, the invalid Miss Julia established
herself on the sofa with a novel. Her father retired to the other
end of the house, and profaned the art of music on music's most
expressive instrument. Left with Emily, Cecilia, and Francine,
Mirabel made one of his happy suggestions. "We are thrown on our
own resources," he said. "Let us distinguish ourselves by
inventing some entirely new amusement for the day. You young
ladies shall sit in council--and I will be secretary." He turned
to Cecilia. "The meeting waits to hear the mistress of the
house."

Modest Cecilia appealed to her school friends for help;
addressing herself in the first instance (by the secretary's
advice) to Francine, as the eldest. They all noticed another
change in this variable young person. She was silent and subdued;
and she said wearily, "I don't care what we do--shall we go out
riding?"

The unanswerable objection to riding as a form of amusement, was
that it had been more than once tried already. Something clever
and surprising was anticipated from Emily when it came to her
turn. She, too, disappointed expectation. "Let us sit under the
trees," was all that she could suggest, "and ask Mr. Mirabel to
tell us a story."

Mirabel laid down his pen and took it on himself to reject this
proposal. "Remember," he remonstrated, "that I have an interest
in the diversions of the day. You can't expect me to be amused by
my own story. I appeal to Miss Wyvil to invent a pleasure which
will include the secretary."

Cecilia blushed and looked uneasy. "I think I have got an idea,"
she announced, after some hesitation. "May I propose that we all
go to the keeper's lodge?" There her courage failed her, and she
hesitated again.

Mirabel gravely registered the proposal, as far as it went. "What
are we to do when we get to the keeper's lodge?" he inquired.

"We are to ask the keeper's wife," Cecilia proceeded, "to lend us
her kitchen."

"To lend us her kitchen," Mirabel repeated.

"And what are we to do in the kitchen?"

Cecilia looked down at her pretty hands crossed on her lap, and
answered softly, "Cook our own luncheon."

Here was an entirely new amusement, in the most attractive sense
of the words! Here was charming Cecilia's interest in the
pleasures of the table so happily inspired, that the grateful
meeting offered its tribute of applause--even including Francine.
The members of the council were young; their daring digestions
contemplated without fear the prospect of eating their own
amateur cookery. The one question that troubled them now was what
they were to cook.

"I can make an omelet," Cecilia ventured to say.

"If there is any cold chicken to be had," Emily added, "I
undertake to follow the omelet with a mayonnaise."

"There are clergymen in the Church of England who are even clever
enough to fry potatoes," Mirabel announced--"and I am one of
them. What shall we have next? A pudding? Miss de Sor, can you
make a pudding?"

Francine exhibited another new side to her character--a diffident
and humble side. "I am ashamed to say I don't know how to cook
anything," she confessed; "you had better leave me out of it."

But Cecilia was now in her element. Her plan of operations was
wide enough even to include Francine. "You shall wash the
lettuce, my dear, and stone the olives for Emily's mayonnaise.
Don't be discouraged! You shall have a companion; we will send to
the rectory for Miss Plym--the very person to chop parsley and
shallot for my omelet. Oh, Emily, what a morning we are going to
have!" Her lovely blue eyes sparkled with joy; she gave Emily a
kiss which Mirabel must have been more or less than man not to
have coveted. "I declare," cried Cecilia, completely losing her
head, "I'm so excited, I don't know what to do with myself!"

Emily's intimate knowledge of her friend applied the right
remedy. "You don't know what to do with yourself?" she repeated.
"Have you no sense of duty? Give the cook your orders."

Cecilia instantly recovered her presence of mind. She sat down at
the writing-table, and made out a list of eatable productions in
the animal and vegetable world, in which every other word was
underlined two or three times over. Her serious face was a sight
to see, when she rang for the cook, and the two held a privy
council in a corner.

On the way to the keeper's lodge, the young mistress of the house
headed a procession of servants carrying the raw materials.
Francine followed, held in custody by Miss Plym--who took her
responsibilities seriously, and clamored for instruction in the
art of chopping parsley. Mirabel and Emily were together, far
behind; they were the only two members of the company whose minds
were not occupied in one way or another by the kitchen.

"This child's play of ours doesn't seem to interest you," Mirabel
remarked

"I am thinking," Emily answered, "of what you said to me about
Francine."

"I can say something more," he rejoined. "When I noticed the
change in her at dinner, I told you she meant mischief. There is
another change to-day, which suggests to my mind that the
mischief is done."

"And directed against me?" Emily asked.

Mirabel made no direct reply. It was impossible for _him_ to
remind her that she had, no matter how innocently, exposed
herself to the jealous hatred of Francine. "Time will tell us,
what we don't know now," he replied evasively.

"You seem to have faith in time, Mr. Mirabel."

"The greatest faith. Time is the inveterate enemy of deceit.
Sooner or later, every hidden thing is a thing doomed to
discovery."

"Without exception?"

"Yes," he answered positively, "without exception."

At that moment Francine stopped and looked back at them. Did she
think that Emily and Mirabel had been talking together long
enough? Miss Plym--with the parsley still on her mind---advanced
to consult Emil y's experience. The two walked on together,
leaving Mirabel to overtake Francine. He saw, in her first look
at him, the effort that it cost her to suppress those emotions
which the pride of women is most deeply interested in concealing.
Before a word had passed, he regretted that Emily had left them
together.

"I wish I had your cheerful disposition," she began, abruptly. "I
am out of spirits or out of temper--I don't know which; and I
don't know why. Do you ever trouble yourself with thinking of the
future?"

"As seldom as possible, Miss de Sor. In such a situation as mine,
most people have prospects--I have none."

He spoke gravely, conscious of not feeling at ease on his side.
If he had been the most modest man that ever lived, he must have
seen in Francine's face that she loved him.

When they had first been presented to each other, she was still
under the influence of the meanest instincts in her scheming and
selfish nature. She had thought to herself, "With my money to
help him, that man's celebrity would do the rest; the best
society in England would be glad to receive Mirabel's wife. "As
the days passed, strong feeling had taken the place of those
contemptible aspirations: Mirabel had unconsciously inspired the
one passion which was powerful enough to master Francine--sensual
passion. Wild hopes rioted in her. Measureless desires which she
had never felt before, united themselves with capacities for
wickedness, which had been the horrid growth of a few
nights--capacities which suggested even viler attempts to rid
herself of a supposed rivalry than slandering Emily by means of
an anonymous letter. Without waiting for it to be offered, she
took Mirabel's arm, and pressed it to her breast as they slowly
walked on. The fear of discovery which had troubled her after she
had sent her base letter to the post, vanished at that
inspiriting moment. She bent her head near enough to him when he
spoke to feel his breath on her face.

"There is a strange similarity," she said softly, "between your
position and mine. Is there anything cheering in _my_ prospects?
I am far away from home--my father and mother wouldn't care if
they never saw me again. People talk about my money! What is the
use of money to such a lonely wretch as I am? Suppose I write to
London, and ask the lawyer if I may give it all away to some
deserving person? Why not to you?"

"My dear Miss de Sor--!"

"Is there anything wrong, Mr. Mirabel, in wishing that I could
make you a prosperous man?"

"You must not even talk of such a thing!"

"How proud you are!" she said submissively.

"Oh, I can't bear to think of you in that miserable village--a
position so unworthy of your talents and your claims! And you
tell me I must not talk about it. Would you have said that to
Emily, if she was as anxious as I am to see you in your right
place in the world?"

"I should have answered her exactly as I have answered you."

"She will never embarrass you, Mr. Mirabel, by being as sincere
as I am. Emily can keep her own secrets."

"Is she to blame for doing that?"

"It depends on your feeling for her."

"What feeling do you mean?"

"Suppose you heard she was engaged to be married?" Francine
suggested.

Mirabel's manner--studiously cold and formal thus far--altered on
a sudden. He looked with unconcealed anxiety at Francine. "Do you
say that seriously?" he asked.

"I said 'suppose.' I don't exactly know that she is engaged."

"What _do_ you know?"

"Oh, how interested you are in Emily! She is admired by some
people. Are you one of them?"

Mirabel's experience of women warned him to try silence as a
means of provoking her into speaking plainly. The experiment
succeeded: Francine returned to the question that he had put to
her, and abruptly answered it.

"You may believe me or not, as you like--I know of a man who is
in love with her. He has had his opportunities; and he has made
good use of them. Would you like to know who he is?"

"I should like to know anything which you may wish to tell me."
He did his best to make the reply in a tone of commonplace
politeness--and he might have succeeded in deceiving a man. The
woman's quicker ear told her that he was angry. Francine took the
full advantage of that change in her favor.

"I am afraid your good opinion of Emily will be shaken," she
quietly resumed, "when I tell you that she has encouraged a man
who is only drawing-master at a school. At the same time, a
person in her circumstances--I mean she has no money--ought not
to be very hard to please. Of course she has never spoken to you
of Mr. Alban Morris?"

"Not that I remember."

Only four words--but they satisfied Francine.

The one thing wanting to complete the obstacle which she had now
placed in Emily's way, was that Alban Morris should enter on the
scene. He might hesitate; but, if he was really fond of Emily,
the anonymous letter would sooner or later bring him to
Monksmoor. In the meantime, her object was gained. She dropped
Mirabel's arm.

"Here is the lodge," she said gayly--"I declare Cecilia has got
an apron on already! Come, and cook."


CHAPTER XLIII.

SOUNDING.

Mirabel left Francine to enter the lodge by herself. His mind was
disturbed: he felt the importance of gaining time for reflection
before he and Emily met again.

The keeper's garden was at the back of the lodge. Passing through
the wicket-gate, he found a little summer-house at a turn in the
path. Nobody was there: he went in and sat down.

At intervals, he had even yet encouraged himself to underrate the
true importance of the feeling which Emily had awakened in him.
There was an end to all self-deception now. After what Francine
had said to him, this shallow and frivolous man no longer
resisted the all-absorbing influence of love. He shrank under the
one terrible question that forced itself on his mind:--Had that
jealous girl spoken the truth?

In what process of investigation could he trust, to set this
anxiety at rest? To apply openly to Emily would be to take a
liberty, which Emily was the last person in the world to permit.
In his recent intercourse with her he had felt more strongly than
ever the importance of speaking with reserve. He had been
scrupulously careful to take no unfair advantage of his
opportunity, when he had removed her from the meeting, and when
they had walked together, with hardly a creature to observe them,
in the lonely outskirts of the town. Emily's gaiety and good
humor had not led him astray: he knew that these were bad signs,
viewed in the interests of love. His one hope of touching her
deeper sympathies was to wait for the help that might yet come
from time and chance. With a bitter sigh, he resigned himself to
the necessity of being as agreeable and amusing as ever: it was
just possible that he might lure her into alluding to Alban
Morris, if he began innocently by making her laugh.

As he rose to return to the lodge, the keeper's little terrier,
prowling about the garden, looked into the summer-house. Seeing a
stranger, the dog showed his teeth and growled.

Mirabel shrank back against the wall behind him, trembling in
every limb. His eyes stared in terror as the dog came nearer:
barking in high triumph over the discovery of a frightened man
whom he could bully. Mirabel called out for help. A laborer at
work in the garden ran to the place--and stopped with a broad
grin of amusement at seeing a grown man terrified by a barking
dog. "Well," he said to himself, after Mirabel had passed out
under protection, "there goes a coward if ever there was one
yet!"

Mirabel waited a minute behind the lodge to recover himself. He
had been so completely unnerved that his hair was wet with
perspiration. While he used his handkerchief, he shuddered at
other recollections than the recollection of the dog. "After that
night at the inn," he thought, "the least thing frightens me!"

He was received by the young ladies with cries of derisive
welcome. "Oh, for shame! for shame! here are the potatoes already
cut, and nobody to fry them!"

Mirabel assumed the mask of cheerfulness--with the desperate
resolution of an actor, amusing his audience at a time of
domestic distress. He astonished the keeper's wife by showin g
that he really knew how to use her frying-pan. Cecilia's omelet
was tough--but the young ladies ate it. Emily's mayonnaise sauce
was almost as liquid as water--they swallowed it nevertheless by
the help of spoons. The potatoes followed, crisp and dry and
delicious--and Mirabel became more popular than ever. "He is the
only one of us," Cecilia sadly acknowledged, "who knows how to
cook."

When they all left the lodge for a stroll in the park, Francine
attached herself to Cecilia and Miss Plym. She resigned Mirabel
to Emily--in the happy belief that she had paved the way for a
misunderstanding between them.

The merriment at the luncheon table had revived Emily's good
spirits. She had a light-hearted remembrance of the failure of
her sauce. Mirabel saw her smiling to herself. "May I ask what
amuses you?" he said.

"I was thinking of the debt of gratitude that we owe to Mr.
Wyvil," she replied. "If he had not persuaded you to return to
Monksmoor, we should never have seen the famous Mr. Mirabel with
a frying pan in his hand, and never have tasted the only good
dish at our luncheon."

Mirabel tried vainly to adopt his companion's easy tone. Now that
he was alone with her, the doubts that Francine had aroused shook
the prudent resolution at which he had arrived in the garden. He
ran the risk, and told Emily plainly why he had returned to Mr.
Wyvil's house.

"Although I am sensible of our host's kindness," he answered, "I
should have gone back to my parsonage--but for You."

She declined to understand him seriously. "Then the affairs of
your parish are neglected--and I am to blame!" she said.

"Am I the first man who has neglected his duties for your sake?"
he asked. "I wonder whether the masters at school had the heart
to report you when you neglected your lessons?"

She thought of Alban--and betrayed herself by a heightened color.
The moment after, she changed the subject. Mirabel could no
longer resist the conclusion that Francine had told him the
truth.

"When do you leave us," she inquired.

"To-morrow is Saturday--I must go back as usual."

"And how will your deserted parish receive you?"

He made a desperate effort to be as amusing as usual.

"I am sure of preserving my popularity," he said, "while I have a
cask in the cellar, and a few spare sixpences in my pocket. The
public spirit of my parishioners asks for nothing but money and
beer. Before I went to that wearisome meeting, I told my
housekeeper that I was going to make a speech about reform. She
didn't know what I meant. I explained that reform might increase
the number of British citizens who had the right of voting at
elections for parliament. She brightened up directly. 'Ah,' she
said, 'I've heard my husband talk about elections. The more there
are of them (_he_ says) the more money he'll get for his vote.
I'm all for reform.' On my way out of the house, I tried the man
who works in my garden on the same subject. He didn't look at the
matter from the housekeeper's sanguine point of view. 'I don't
deny that parliament once gave me a good dinner for nothing at
the public-house,' he admitted. 'But that was years ago--and
(you'll excuse me, sir) I hear nothing of another dinner to come.
It's a matter of opinion, of course. I don't myself believe in
reform.' There are specimens of the state of public spirit in our
village!" He paused. Emily was listening--but he had not
succeeded in choosing a subject that amused her. He tried a topic
more nearly connected with his own interests; the topic of the
future. "Our good friend has asked me to prolong my visit, after
Sunday's duties are over," he said. "I hope I shall find you
here, next week?"

"Will the affairs of your parish allow you to come back?" Emily
asked mischievously.

"The affairs of my parish--if you force me to confess it--were
only an excuse."

"An excuse for what?"

"An excuse for keeping away from Monksmoor--in the interests of
my own tranquillity. The experiment has failed. While you are
here, I can't keep away."

She still declined to understand him seriously. "Must I tell you
in plain words that flattery is thrown away on me?" she said.

"Flattery is not offered to you," he answered gravely. "I beg
your pardon for having led to the mistake by talking of myself."
Having appealed to her indulgence by that act of submission, he
ventured on another distant allusion to the man whom he hated and
feared. "Shall I meet any friends of yours," he resumed, "when I
return on Monday?"

"What do you mean?"

"I only meant to ask if Mr. Wyvil expects any new guests?"

As he put the question, Cecilia's voice was heard behind them,
calling to Emily. They both turned round. Mr. Wyvil had joined
his daughter and her two friends. He advanced to meet Emily.

"I have some news for you that you little expect," he said. "A
telegram has just arrived from Netherwoods. Mr. Alban Morris has
got leave of absence, and is coming here to-morrow."


CHAPTER XLIV.

COMPETING.

Time at Monksmoor had advanced to the half hour before dinner, on
Saturday evening.

Cecilia and Francine, Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel, were loitering in
the conservatory. In the drawing-room, Emily had been
considerately left alone with Alban. He had missed the early
train from Netherwoods; but he had arrived in time to dress for
dinner, and to offer the necessary explanations.

If it had been possible for Alban to allude to the anonymous
letter, he might have owned that his first impulse had led him to
destroy it, and to assert his confidence in Emily by refusing Mr.
Wyvil's invitation. But try as he might to forget them, the base
words that he had read remained in his memory. Irritating him at
the outset, they had ended in rousing his jealousy. Under that
delusive influence, he persuaded himself that he had acted, in
the first instance, without due consideration. It was surely his
interest--it might even be his duty--to go to Mr. Wyvil's house,
and judge for himself. After some last wretched moments of
hesitation, he had decided on effecting a compromise with his own
better sense, by consulting Miss Ladd. That excellent lady did
exactly what he had expected her to do. She made arrangements
which granted him leave of absence, from the Saturday to the
Tuesday following. The excuse which had served him, in
telegraphing to Mr. Wyvil, must now be repeated, in accounting
for his unexpected appearance to Emily. "I found a person to take
charge of my class," be said; "and I gladly availed myself of the
opportunity of seeing you again."

After observing him attentively, while he was speaking to her,
Emily owned, with her customary frankness, that she had noticed
something in his manner which left her not quite at her ease.

"I wonder," she said, "if there is any foundation for a doubt
that has troubled me?" To his unutterable relief, she at once
explained what the doubt was. "I am afraid I offended you, in
replying to your letter about Miss Jethro."

In this case, Alban could enjoy the luxury of speaking
unreservedly. He confessed that Emily's letter had disappointed
him.

"I expected you to answer me with less reserve," he replied; "and
I began to think I had acted rashly in writing to you at all.
When there is a better opportunity, I may have a word to say--"
He was apparently interrupted by something that he saw in the
conservatory. Looking that way, Emily perceived that Mirabel was
the object which had attracted Alban's attention. The vile
anonymous letter was in his mind again. Without a preliminary
word to prepare Emily, he suddenly changed the subject. "How do
you like the clergyman?" he asked.

"Very much indeed," she replied, without the slightest
embarrassment. "Mr. Mirabel is clever and agreeable--and not at
all spoiled by his success. I am sure," she said innocently, "you
will like him too."

Alban's face answered her unmistakably in the negative sense--but
Emily's attention was drawn the other way by Francine. She joined
them at the moment, on the lookout for any signs of an
encouraging result which her treachery might already have
produced. Alban had been inclined to suspect her when he had
received the letter. He rose and bowed as she approached.
Something--he was unable to r ealize what it was--told him, in
the moment when they looked at each other, that his suspicion had
hit the mark.

In the conservatory the ever-amiable Mirabel had left his friends
for a while in search of flowers for Cecilia. She turned to her
father when they were alone, and asked him which of the gentlemen
was to take her in to dinner--Mr. Mirabel or Mr. Morris?

"Mr. Morris, of course," he answered. "He is the new guest--and
he turns out to be more than the equal, socially-speaking, of our
other friend. When I showed him his room, I asked if he was
related to a man who bore the same name--a fellow student of
mine, years and years ago, at college. He is my friend's younger
son; one of a ruined family--but persons of high distinction in
their day."

Mirabel returned with the flowers, just as dinner was announced.

"You are to take Emily to-day," Cecilia said to him, leading the
way out of the conservatory. As they entered the drawing-room,
Alban was just offering his arm to Emily. "Papa gives you to me,
Mr. Morris," Cecilia explained pleasantly. Alban hesitated,
apparently not understanding the allusion. Mirabel interfered
with his best grace: "Mr. Wyvil offers you the honor of taking
his daughter to the dining-room." Alban's face darkened
ominously, as the elegant little clergyman gave his arm to Emily,
and followed Mr. Wyvil and Francine out of the room. Cecilia
looked at her silent and surly companion, and almost envied her
lazy sister, dining--under cover of a convenient headache--in her
own room.

Having already made up his mind that Alban Morris required
careful handling, Mirabel waited a little before he led the
conversation as usual. Between the soup and the fish, he made an
interesting confession, addressed to Emily in the strictest
confidence.

"I have taken a fancy to your friend Mr. Morris," he said. "First
impressions, in my case, decide everything; I like people or
dislike them on impulse. That man appeals to my sympathies. Is he
a good talker?"

"I should say Yes," Emily answered prettily, "if _you_ were not
present."

Mirabel was not to be beaten, even by a woman, in the art of
paying compliments. He looked admiringly at Alban (sitting
opposite to him), and said: "Let us listen."

This flattering suggestion not only pleased Emily--it artfully
served Mirabel's purpose. That is to say, it secured him an
opportunity for observation of what was going on at the other
side of the table.

Alban's instincts as a gentleman had led him to control his
irritation and to regret that he had suffered it to appear.
Anxious to please, he presented himself at his best. Gentle
Cecilia forgave and forgot the angry look which had startled her.
Mr. Wyvil was delighted with the son of his old friend. Emily
felt secretly proud of the good opinions which her admirer was
gathering; and Francine saw with pleasure that he was asserting
his claim to Emily's preference, in the way of all others which
would be most likely to discourage his rival. These various
impressions--produced while Alban's enemy was ominously
silent--began to suffer an imperceptible change, from the moment
when Mirabel decided that his time had come to take the lead. A
remark made by Alban offered him the chance for which he had been
on the watch. He agreed with the remark; he enlarged on the
remark; he was brilliant and familiar, and instructive and
amusing--and still it was all due to the remark. Alban's temper
was once more severely tried. Mirabel's mischievous object had
not escaped his penetration. He did his best to put obstacles in
the adversary's way--and was baffled, time after time, with the
readiest ingenuity. If he interrupted--the sweet-tempered
clergyman submitted, and went on. If he differed--modest Mr.
Mirabel said, in the most amiable manner, "I daresay I am wrong,"
and handled the topic from his opponent's point of view. Never
had such a perfect Christian sat before at Mr. Wyvil's table: not
a hard word, not an impatient look, escaped him. The longer Alban
resisted, the more surely he lost ground in the general
estimation. Cecilia was disappointed; Emily was grieved; Mr.
Wyvil's favorable opinion began to waver; Francine was disgusted.
When dinner was over, and the carriage was waiting to take the
shepherd back to his flock by moonlight, Mirabel's triumph was
complete. He had made Alban the innocent means of publicly
exhibiting his perfect temper and perfect politeness, under their
best and brightest aspect.

So that day ended. Sunday promised to pass quietly, in the
absence of Mirabel. The morning came--and it seemed doubtful
whether the promise would be fulfilled.

Francine had passed an uneasy night. No such encouraging result
as she had anticipated had hitherto followed the appearance of
Alban Morris at Monksmoor. He had clumsily allowed Mirabel to
improve his position--while he had himself lost ground--in
Emily's estimation. If this first disastrous consequence of the
meeting between the two men was permitted to repeat itself on
future occasions, Emily and Mirabel would be brought more closely
together, and Alban himself would be the unhappy cause of it.
Francine rose, on the Sunday morning, before the table was laid
for breakfast--resolved to try the effect of a timely word of
advice.

Her bedroom was situated in the front of the house. The man she
was looking for presently passed within her range of view from
the window, on his way to take a morning walk in the park. She
followed him immediately.

"Good-morning, Mr. Morris."

He raised his hat and bowed--without speaking, and without
looking at her.

"We resemble each other in one particular," she proceeded,
graciously; "we both like to breathe the fresh air before
breakfast."

He said exactly what common politeness obliged him to say, and no
more--he said, "Yes."

Some girls might have been discouraged. Francine went on.

"It is no fault of mine, Mr. Morris, that we have not been better
friends. For some reason, into which I don't presume to inquire,
you seem to distrust me. I really don't know what I have done to
deserve it."

"Are you sure of that?" he asked--eying her suddenly and
searchingly as he spoke.

Her hard face settled into a rigid look; her eyes met his eyes
with a stony defiant stare. Now, for the first time, she knew
that he suspected her of having written the anonymous letter.
Every evil quality in her nature steadily defied him. A hardened
old woman could not have sustained the shock of discovery with a
more devilish composure than this girl displayed. "Perhaps you
will explain yourself," she said.

"I _have_ explained myself," he answered.

"Then I must be content," she rejoined, "to remain in the dark. I
had intended, out of my regard for Emily, to suggest that you
might--with advantage to yourself, and to interests that are very
dear to you--be more careful in your behavior to Mr. Mirabel. Are
you disposed to listen to me?"

"Do you wish me to answer that question plainly, Miss de Sor?"

"I insist on your answering it plainly."

"Then I am _not_ disposed to listen to you."

"May I know why? or am I to be left in the dark again?"

"You are to be left, if you please, to your own ingenuity."

Francine looked at him, with a malignant smile. "One of these
days, Mr. Morris--I will deserve your confidence in my
ingenuity." She said it, and went back to the house.

This was the only element of disturbance that troubled the
perfect tranquillity of the day. What Francine had proposed to
do, with the one idea of making Alban serve her purpose, was
accomplished a few hours later by Emily's influence for good over
the man who loved her.

They passed the afternoon together uninterruptedly in the distant
solitudes of the park. In the course of conversation Emily found
an opportunity of discreetly alluding to Mirabel. "You mustn't be
jealous of our clever little friend," she said; "I like him, and
admire him; but--"

"But you don't love him?"

She smiled at the eager way in which Alban put the question.

"There is no fear of that," she answered brightly.

"Not even if you discovered that he loves you?"

"Not even then. Are you content at last? Promise me not to be
rude to Mr. Mirabel again."

"For his sake?"

"No--for my sake. I don't like to see you place yourself at a
disadvantage toward another man; I don't like you to disappoint
me."

The happiness of hearing her say those words transfigured
him--the manly beauty of his earlier and happier years seemed to
have returned to Alban. He took her hand--he was too agitated to
speak.

"You are forgetting Mr. Mirabel," she reminded him gently.

"I will be all that is civil and kind to Mr. Mirabel; I will like
him and admire him as you do. Oh, Emily, are you a little, only a
very little, fond of me?"

"I don't quite know."

"May I try to find out?"

"How?" she asked.

Her fair cheek was very near to him. The softly-rising color on
it said, Answer me here--and he answered.


CHAPTER XLV.

MISCHIEF--MAKING.

On Monday, Mirabel made his appearance--and the demon of discord
returned with him.

Alban had employed the earlier part of the day in making a sketch
in the park--intended as a little present for Emily. Presenting
himself in the drawing-room, when his work was completed, he
found Cecilia and Francine alone. He asked where Emily was.

The question had been addressed to Cecilia. Francine answered it.

"Emily mustn't be disturbed," she said.

"Why not?"

"She is with Mr. Mirabel in the rose garden. I saw them talking
together--evidently feeling the deepest interest in what they
were saying to each other. Don't interrupt them--you will only be
in the way."

Cecilia at once protested against this last assertion. "She is
trying to make mischief, Mr. Morris--don't believe her. I am sure
they will be glad to see you, if you join them in the garden."

Francine rose, and left the room. She turned, and looked at Alban
as she opened the door. "Try it," she said--"and you will find I
am right."

"Francine sometimes talks in a very ill-natured way," Cecilia
gently remarked. "Do you think she means it, Mr. Morris?'

"I had better not offer an opinion," Alban replied.

"Why?"

"I can't speak impartially; I dislike Miss de Sor."

There was a pause. Alban's sense of self-respect forbade him to
try the experiment which Francine had maliciously suggested. His
thoughts--less easy to restrain--wandered in the direction of the
garden. The attempt to make him jealous had failed; but he was
conscious, at the same time, that Emily had disappointed him.
After what they had said to each other in the park, she ought to
have remembered that women are at the mercy of appearances. If
Mirabel had something of importance to say to her, she might have
avoided exposing herself to Francine's spiteful misconstruction:
it would have been easy to arrange with Cecilia that a third
person should be present at the interview.

While he was absorbed in these reflections, Cecilia--embarrassed
by the silence--was trying to find a topic of conversation. Alban
roughly pushed his sketch-book away from him, on the table. Was
he displeased with Emily? The same question had occurred to
Cecilia at the time of the correspondence, on the subject of Miss
Jethro. To recall those letters led her, by natural sequence, to
another effort of memory. She was reminded of the person who had
been the cause of the correspondence: her interest was revived in
the mystery of Miss Jethro.

"Has Emily told you that I have seen your letter?" she asked.

He roused himself with a start. "I beg your pardon. What letter
are you thinking of?"

"I was thinking of the letter which mentions Miss Jethro's
strange visit. Emily was so puzzled and so surprised that she
showed it to me--and we both consulted my father. Have you spoken
to Emily about Miss Jethro?"

"I have tried--but she seemed to be unwilling to pursue the
subject."

"Have you made any discoveries since you wrote to Emily?"

"No. The mystery is as impenetrable as ever."

As he replied in those terms, Mirabel entered the conservatory
from the garden, evidently on his way to the drawing-room.

To see the man, whose introduction to Emily it had been Miss
Jethro's mysterious object to prevent--at the very moment when he
had been speaking of Miss Jethro herself--was, not only a
temptation of curiosity, but a direct incentive (in Emily's own
interests) to make an effort at discovery. Alban pursued the
conversation with Cecilia, in a tone which was loud enough to be
heard in the conservatory.

"The one chance of getting any information that I can see," he
proceeded, "is to speak to Mr. Mirabel."

"I shall be only too glad, if I can be of any service to Miss
Wyvil and Mr. Morris."

With those obliging words, Mirabel made a dramatic entry, and
looked at Cecilia with his irresistible smile. Startled by his
sudden appearance, she unconsciously assisted Alban's design. Her
silence gave him the opportunity of speaking in her place.

"We were talking," he said quietly to Mirabel, "of a lady with
whom you are acquainted."

"Indeed! May I ask the lady's name?"

"Miss Jethro."

Mirabel sustained the shock with extraordinary
self-possession--so far as any betrayal by sudden movement was
concerned. But his color told the truth: it faded to paleness--it
revealed, even to Cecilia's eyes, a man overpowered by fright.

Alban offered him a chair. He refused to take it by a gesture.
Alban tried an apology next. "I am afraid I have ignorantly
revived some painful associations. Pray excuse me."

The apology roused Mirabel: he felt the necessity of offering
some explanation. In timid animals, the one defensive capacity
which is always ready for action is cunning. Mirabel was too wily
to dispute the inference--the inevitable inference--which any one
must have drawn, after seeing the effect on him that the name of
Miss Jethro had produced. He admitted that "painful associations"
had been revived, and deplored the "nervous sensibility" which
had permitted it to be seen.

"No blame can possibly attach to _you_, my dear sir," he
continued, in his most amiable manner. "Will it be indiscreet, on
my part, if I ask how you first became acquainted with Miss
Jethro?"

"I first became acquainted with her at Miss Ladd's school," Alban
answered. "She was, for a short time only, one of the teachers;
and she left her situation rather suddenly." He paused--but
Mirabel made no remark. "After an interval of a few months," he
resumed, "I saw Miss Jethro again. She called on me at my
lodgings, near Netherwoods."

"Merely to renew your former acquaintance?"

Mirabel made that inquiry with an eager anxiety for the reply
which he was quite unable to conceal. Had he any reason to dread
what Miss Jethro might have it in her power to say of him to
another person? Alban was in no way pledged to secrecy, and he
was determined to leave no means untried of throwing light on
Miss Jethro's mysterious warning. He repeated the plain narrative
of the interview, which he had communicated by letter to Emily.
Mirabel listened without making any remark.

"After what I have told you, can you give me no explanation?"
Alban asked.

"I am quite unable, Mr. Morris, to help you."

Was he lying? or speaking, the truth? The impression produced on
Alban was that he had spoken the truth.

Women are never so ready as men to resign themselves to the
disappointment of their hopes. Cecilia, silently listening up to
this time, now ventured to speak--animated by her sisterly
interest in Emily.

"Can you not tell us," she said to Mirabel, "why Miss Jethro
tried to prevent Emily Brown from meeting you here?"

"I know no more of her motive than you do," Mirabel replied.

Alban interposed. "Miss Jethro left me," he said, "with the
intention--quite openly expressed--of trying to prevent you from
accepting Mr. Wyvil's invitation. Did she make the attempt?"

Mirabel admitted that she had made the attempt. "But," he added,
"without mentioning Miss Emily's name. I was asked to postpone my
visit, as a favor to herself, because she had her own reasons for
wishing it. I had _my_ reasons" (he bowed with gallantry to
Cecilia) "for being eager to have the honor of knowing Mr. Wyvil
and his daughter; and I refused."

Once more, the doubt arose: was he lying? or speaking the truth?
And, once more, Alban could not resist the conclusion that he was
speaking the truth.

"There is one thing I should like
 to know," Mirabel continued, after some hesitation. "Has Miss
Emily been informed of this strange affair?"

"Certainly!"

Mirabel seemed to be disposed to continue his inquiries--and
suddenly changed his mind. Was he beginning to doubt if Alban had
spoken without concealment, in describing Miss Jethro's visit?
Was he still afraid of what Miss Jethro might have said of him?
In any case, he changed the subject, and made an excuse for
leaving the room.

"I am forgetting my errand," he said to Alban. "Miss Emily was
anxious to know if you had finished your sketch. I must tell her
that you have returned."

He bowed and withdrew.

Alban rose to follow him--and checked himself.

"No," he thought, "I trust Emily!" He sat down again by Cecilia's
side.



Mirabel had indeed returned to the rose garden. He found Emily
employed as he had left her, in making a crown of roses, to be
worn by Cecilia in the evening. But, in one other respect, there
was a change. Francine was present.

"Excuse me for sending you on a needless errand," Emily said to
Mirabel; "Miss de Sor tells me Mr. Morris has finished his
sketch. She left him in the drawing-room--why didn't you bring
him here?"

"He was talking with Miss Wyvil."

Mirabel answered absently--with his eyes on Francine. He gave her
one of those significant looks, which says to a third person,
"Why are you here?" Francine's jealousy declined to understand
him. He tried a broader hint, in words.

"Are you going to walk in the garden?" he said.

Francine was impenetrable. "No," she answered, "I am going to
stay here with Emily."

Mirabel had no choice but to yield. Imperative anxieties forced
him to say, in Francine's presence, what he had hoped to say to
Emily privately.

"When I joined Miss Wyvil and Mr. Morris," he began, "what do you
think they were doing? They were talking of--Miss Jethro."

Emily dropped the rose-crown on her lap. It was easy to see that
she had been disagreeably surprised.

"Mr. Morris has told me the curious story of Miss Jethro's
visit," Mirabel continued; "but I am in some doubt whether he has
spoken to me without reserve. Perhaps he expressed himself more
freely when he spoke to _you_. Miss Jethro may have said
something to him which tended to lower me in your estimation?"

"Certainly not, Mr. Mirabel--so far as I know. If I had heard
anything of the kind, I should have thought it my duty to tell
you. Will it relieve your anxiety, if I go at once to Mr. Morris,
and ask him plainly whether he has concealed anything from you or
from me?"

Mirabel gratefully kissed her hand. "Your kindness overpowers
me," he said--speaking, for once, with true emotion.

Emily immediately returned to the house. As soon as she was out
of sight, Francine approached Mirabel, trembling with suppressed
rage.


CHAPTER XLVI.

PRETENDING.

Miss de Sor began cautiously with an apology. "Excuse me, Mr.
Mirabel, for reminding you of my presence."

Mr. Mirabel made no reply.

"I beg to say," Francine proceeded, "that I didn't intentionally
see you kiss Emily's hand."

Mirabel stood, looking at the roses which Emily had left on her
chair, as completely absorbed in his own thoughts as if he had
been alone in the garden.

"Am I not even worth notice?" Francine asked. "Ah, I know to whom
I am indebted for your neglect!" She took him familiarly by the
arm, and burst into a harsh laugh. "Tell me now, in
confidence--do you think Emily is fond of you?"

The impression left by Emily's kindness was still fresh in
Mirabel's memory: he was in no humor to submit to the jealous
resentment of a woman whom he regarded with perfect indifference.
Through the varnish of politeness which overlaid his manner,
there rose to the surface the underlying insolence, hidden, on
all ordinary occasions, from all human eyes. He answered
Francine--mercilessly answered her--at last.

"It is the dearest hope of my life that she may be fond of me,"
he said.

Francine dropped his arm "And fortune favors your hopes," she
added, with an ironical assumption of interest in Mirabel's
prospects. "When Mr. Morris leaves us to-morrow, he removes the
only obstacle you have to fear. Am I right?"

"No; you are wrong."

"In what way, if you please?"

"In this way. I don't regard Mr. Morris as an obstacle. Emily is
too delicate and too kind to hurt his feelings--she is not in
love with him. There is no absorbing interest in her mind to
divert her thoughts from me. She is idle and happy; she
thoroughly enjoys her visit to this house, and I am associated
with her enjoyment. There is my chance--!"

He suddenly stopped. Listening to him thus far, unnaturally calm
and cold, Francine now showed that she felt the lash of his
contempt. A hideous smile passed slowly over her white face. It
threatened the vengeance which knows no fear, no pity, no
remorse--the vengeance of a jealous woman. Hysterical anger,
furious language, Mirabel was prepared for. The smile frightened
him.

"Well?" she said scornfully, "why don't you go on?"

A bolder man might still have maintained the audacious position
which he had assumed. Mirabel's faint heart shrank from it. He
was eager to shelter himself under the first excuse that he could
find. His ingenuity, paralyzed by his fears, was unable to invent
anything new. He feebly availed himself of the commonplace trick
of evasion which he had read of in novels, and seen in action on
the stage.

"Is it possible," he asked, with an overacted assumption of
surprise, "that you think I am in earnest?"

In the case of any other person, Francine would have instantly
seen through that flimsy pretense. But the love which accepts the
meanest crumbs of comfort that can be thrown to it--which fawns
and grovels and deliberately deceives itself, in its own
intensely selfish interests--was the love that burned in
Francine's breast. The wretched girl believed Mirabel with such
an ecstatic sense of belief that she trembled in every limb, and
dropped into the nearest chair.

"_I_ was in earnest," she said faintly. "Didn't you see it?"

He was perfectly shameless; he denied that he had seen it, in the
most positive manner. "Upon my honor, I thought you were
mystifying me, and I humored the joke."

She sighed, and looking at him with an expression of tender
reproach. "I wonder whether I can believe you," she said softly.

"Indeed you may believe me!" he assured her.

She hesitated--for the pleasure of hesitating. "I don't know.
Emily is very much admired by some men. Why not by you?"

"For the best of reasons," he answered "She is poor, and I am
poor. Those are facts which speak for themselves."

"Yes--but Emily is bent on attracting you. She would marry you
to-morrow, if you asked her. Don't attempt to deny it! Besides,
you kissed her hand."

"Oh, Miss de Sor!"

"Don't call me 'Miss de Sor'! Call me Francine. I want to know
why you kissed her hand."

He humored her with inexhaustible servility. "Allow me to kiss
_your_ hand, Francine!--and let me explain that kissing a lady's
hand is only a form of thanking her for her kindness. You must
own that Emily--"

She interrupted him for the third time. "Emily?" she repeated.
"Are you as familiar as that already? Does she call you 'Miles,'
when you are by yourselves? Is there any effort at fascination
which this charming creature has left untried? She told you no
doubt what a lonely life she leads in her poor little home?"

Even Mirabel felt that he must not permit this to pass.

"She has said nothing to me about herself," he answered. "What I
know of her, I know from Mr. Wyvil."

"Oh, indeed! You asked Mr. Wyvil about her family, of course?
What did he say?"

"He said she lost her mother when she was a child--and he told me
her father had died suddenly, a few years since, of heart
complaint."

"Well, and what else?--Never mind now! Here is somebody coming."

The person was only one of the servants. Mirabel felt grateful to
the man for interrupting them. Animated by sentiments of a
precisely opposite nature, Francine spoke to him sharply.

"What do you want here?"

"A message, miss."

"From whom?"

"From Miss Brown."

"For me?"

"No, miss." He turned to Mirabel. "Miss Brown wishes to speak to
you, sir, if you are not e ngaged."

Francine controlled herself until the man was out of hearing.

"Upon my word, this is too shameless!" she declared indignantly.
"Emily can't leave you with me for five minutes, without wanting
to see you again. If you go to her after all that you have said
to me," she cried, threatening Mirabel with her outstretched
hand, "you are the meanest of men!"

He _was_ the meanest of men--he carried out his cowardly
submission to the last extremity.

"Only say what you wish me to do," he replied.

Even Francine expected some little resistance from a creature
bearing the outward appearance of a man. "Oh, do you really mean
it?" she asked "I want you to disappoint Emily. Will you stay
here, and let me make your excuses?"

"I will do anything to please you."

Francine gave him a farewell look. Her admiration made a
desperate effort to express itself appropriately in words. "You
are not a man," she said, "you are an angel!"

Left by himself, Mirabel sat down to rest. He reviewed his own
conduct with perfect complacency. "Not one man in a hundred could
have managed that she-devil as I have done," he thought. "How
shall I explain matters to Emily?"

Considering this question, he looked by chance at the unfinished
crown of roses. "The very thing to help me!" he said--and took
out his pocketbook, and wrote these lines on a blank page: "I
have had a scene of jealousy with Miss de Sor, which is beyond
all description. To spare _you_ a similar infliction, I have done
violence to my own feelings. Instead of instantly obeying the
message which you have so kindly sent to me, I remain here for a
little while--entirely for your sake."

Having torn out the page, and twisted it up among the roses, so
that only a corner of the paper appeared in view, Mirabel called
to a lad who was at work in the garden, and gave him his
directions, accompanied by a shilling. "Take those flowers to the
servants' hall, and tell one of the maids to put them in Miss
Brown's room. Stop! Which is the way to the fruit garden?"

The lad gave the necessary directions. Mirabel walked away
slowly, with his hands in his pockets. His nerves had been
shaken; he thought a little fruit might refresh him.


CHAPTER XLVII.

DEBATING.

In the meanwhile Emily had been true to her promise to relieve
Mirabel's anxieties, on the subject of Miss Jethro. Entering the
drawing-room in search of Alban, she found him talking with
Cecilia, and heard her own name mentioned as she opened the door.

"Here she is at last!" Cecilia exclaimed. "What in the world has
kept you all this time in the rose garden?"

"Has Mr. Mirabel been more interesting than usual?" Alban asked
gayly. Whatever sense of annoyance he might have felt in Emily's
absence, was forgotten the moment she appeared; all traces of
trouble in his face vanished when they looked at each other.

"You shall judge for yourself," Emily replied with a smile. "Mr.
Mirabel has been speaking to me of a relative who is very dear to
him--his sister."

Cecilia was surprised. "Why has he never spoken to _us_ of his
sister?" she asked.

"It's a sad subject to speak of, my dear. His sister lives a life
of suffering--she has been for years a prisoner in her room. He
writes to her constantly. His letters from Monksmoor have
interested her, poor soul. It seems he said something about
me--and she has sent a kind message, inviting me to visit her one
of these days. Do you understand it now, Cecilia?"

"Of course I do! Tell me--is Mr. Mirabel's sister older or
younger than he is?"

"Older."

"Is she married?"

"She is a widow."

"Does she live with her brother?" Alban asked.

"Oh, no! She has her own house--far away in Northumberland."

"Is she near Sir Jervis Redwood?"

"I fancy not. Her house is on the coast."

"Any children?" Cecilia inquired.

"No; she is quite alone. Now, Cecilia, I have told you all I
know--and I have something to say to Mr. Morris. No, you needn't
leave us; it's a subject in which you are interested. A subject,"
she repeated, turning to Alban, "which you may have noticed is
not very agreeable to me."

"Miss Jethro?" Alban guessed.

"Yes; Miss Jethro."

Cecilia's curiosity instantly asserted itself.

"_We_ have tried to get Mr. Mirabel to enlighten us, and tried in
vain," she said. "You are a favorite. Have you succeeded?"

"I have made no attempt to succeed," Emily replied. "My only
object is to relieve Mr. Mirabel's anxiety, if I can--with your
help, Mr. Morris."

"In what way can I help you?"

"You mustn't be angry."

"Do I look angry?"

"You look serious. It is a very simple thing. Mr. Mirabel is
afraid that Miss Jethro may have said something disagreeable
about him, which you might hesitate to repeat. Is he making
himself uneasy without any reason?"

"Without the slightest reason. I have concealed nothing from Mr.
Mirabel."

"Thank you for the explanation." She turned to Cecilia. "May I
send one of the servants with a message? I may as well put an end
to Mr. Mirabel's suspense."

The man was summoned, and was dispatched with the message. Emily
would have done well, after this, if she had abstained from
speaking further of Miss Jethro. But Mirabel's doubts had,
unhappily, inspired a similar feeling of uncertainty in her own
mind. She was now disposed to attribute the tone of mystery in
Alban's unlucky letter to some possible concealment suggested by
regard for herself. "I wonder whether _I_ have any reason to feel
uneasy?" she said--half in jest, half in earnest.

"Uneasy about what?" Alban inquired.

"About Miss Jethro, of course! Has she said anything of me which
your kindness has concealed?"

Alban seemed to be a little hurt by the doubt which her question
implied. "Was that your motive," he asked, "for answering my
letter as cautiously as if you had been writing to a stranger?"

"Indeed you are quite wrong!" Emily earnestly assured him. "I was
perplexed and startled--and I took Mr. Wyvil's advice, before I
wrote to you. Shall we drop the subject?"

Alban would have willingly dropped the subject--but for that
unfortunate allusion to Mr. Wyvil. Emily had unconsciously
touched him on a sore place. He had already heard from Cecilia of
the consultation over his letter, and had disapproved of it. "I
think you were wrong to trouble Mr. Wyvil," he said.

The altered tone of his voice suggested to Emily that he would
have spoken more severely, if Cecilia had not been in the room.
She thought him needlessly ready to complain of a harmless
proceeding--and she too returned to the subject, after having
proposed to drop it not a minute since!

"You didn't tell me I was to keep your letter a secret," she
replied.

Cecilia made matters worse--with the best intentions. "I'm sure,
Mr. Morris, my father was only too glad to give Emily his
advice."

Alban remained silent--ungraciously silent as Emily thought,
after Mr. Wyvil's kindness to him.

"The thing to regret," she remarked, "is that Mr. Morris allowed
Miss Jethro to leave him without explaining herself. In his
place, I should have insisted on knowing why she wanted to
prevent me from meeting Mr. Mirabel in this house."

Cecilia made another unlucky attempt at judicious interference.
This time, she tried a gentle remonstrance.

"Remember, Emily, how Mr. Morris was situated. He could hardly be
rude to a lady. And I daresay Miss Jethro had good reasons for
not wishing to explain herself."

Francine opened the drawing-room door and heard Cecilia's last
words.

"Miss Jethro again!" she exclaimed.

"Where is Mr. Mirabel?" Emily asked. "I sent him a message."

"He regrets to say he is otherwise engaged for the present,"
Francine replied with spiteful politeness. "Don't let me
interrupt the conversation. Who is this Miss Jethro, whose name
is on everybody's lips?"

Alban could keep silent no longer. "We have done with the
subject," he said sharply.

"Because I am here?"

"Because we have said more than enough about Miss Jethro
already."

"Speak for yourself, Mr. Morris," Emily answered, resenting the
masterful tone which Alban's interference had assumed. "I have
not done with Miss Jethro yet, I can assure you."

"My dear, you don't know where she lives," Cecilia reminded her.

"Leave me to discover i t!" Emily answered hotly. "Perhaps Mr.
Mirabel knows. I shall ask Mr. Mirabel."

"I thought you would find a reason for returning to Mr. Mirabel,"
Francine remarked.

Before Emily could reply, one of the maids entered the room with
a wreath of roses in her hand.

"Mr. Mirabel sends you these flowers, miss," the woman said,
addressing Emily. "The boy told me they were to be taken to your
room. I thought it was a mistake, and I have brought them to you
here."

Francine, who happened to be nearest to the door, took the roses
from the girl on pretense of handing them to Emily. Her jealous
vigilance detected the one visible morsel of Mirabel's letter,
twisted up with the flowers. Had Emily entrapped him into a
secret correspondence with her? "A scrap of waste paper among
your roses," she said, crumpling it up in her hand as if she
meant to throw it away.

But Emily was too quick for her. She caught Francine by the
wrist. "Waste paper or not," she said; "it was among my flowers
and it belongs to me."

Francine gave up the letter, with a look which might have
startled Emily if she had noticed it. She handed the roses to
Cecilia. "I was making a wreath for you to wear this evening, my
dear--and I left it in the garden. It's not quite finished yet."

Cecilia was delighted. "How lovely it is!" she exclaimed. "And
how very kind of you! I'll finish it myself." She turned away to
the conservatory.

"I had no idea I was interfering with a letter," said Francine;
watching Emily with fiercely-attentive eyes, while she smoothed
out the crumpled paper.

Having read what Mirabel had written to her, Emily looked up, and
saw that Alban was on the point of following Cecilia into the
conservatory. He had noticed something in Francine's face which
he was at a loss to understand, but which made her presence in
the room absolutely hateful to him. Emily followed and spoke to
him.

"I am going back to the rose garden," she said.

"For any particular purpose?" Alban inquired

"For a purpose which, I am afraid, you won't approve of. I mean
to ask Mr. Mirabel if he knows Miss Jethro's address."

"I hope he is as ignorant of it as I am," Alban answered gravely.

"Are we going to quarrel over Miss Jethro, as we once quarreled
over Mrs. Rook?" Emily asked--with the readiest recovery of her
good humor. "Come! come! I am sure you are as anxious, in your
own private mind, to have this matter cleared up as I am."

"With one difference--that I think of consequences, and you
don't." He said it, in his gentlest and kindest manner, and
stepped into the conservatory.

"Never mind the consequences," she called after him, "if we can
only get at the truth. I hate being deceived!"

"There is no person living who has better reason than you have to
say that."

Emily looked round with a start. Alban was out of hearing. It was
Francine who had answered her.

"What do you mean?" she said.

Francine hesitated. A ghastly paleness overspread her face.

"Are you ill?" Emily asked.

"No--I am thinking."

After waiting for a moment in silence, Emily moved away toward
the door of the drawing-room. Francine suddenly held up her hand.

"Stop!" she cried.

Emily stood still.

"My mind is made up," Francine said.

"Made up--to what?"

"You asked what I meant, just now."

"I did."

"Well, my mind is made up to answer you. Miss Emily Brown, you
are leading a sadly frivolous life in this house. I am going to
give you something more serious to think about than your
flirtation with Mr. Mirabel. Oh, don't be impatient! I am coming
to the point. Without knowing it yourself, you have been the
victim of deception for years past--cruel deception--wicked
deception that puts on the mask of mercy."

"Are you alluding to Miss Jethro?" Emily asked, in astonishment.
"I thought you were strangers to each other. Just now, you wanted
to know who she was."

"I know nothing about her. I care nothing about her. I am not
thinking of Miss Jethro."

"Who are you thinking of?"

"I am thinking," Francine answered, "of your dead father."


CHAPTER XLVIII.

INVESTIGATING.

Having revived his sinking energies in the fruit garden, Mirabel
seated himself under the shade of a tree, and reflected on the
critical position in which he was placed by Francine's jealousy.

If Miss de Sor continued to be Mr. Wyvil's guest, there seemed to
be no other choice before Mirabel than to leave Monksmoor--and to
trust to a favorable reply to his sister's invitation for the
free enjoyment of Emily's society under another roof. Try as he
might, he could arrive at no more satisfactory conclusion than
this. In his preoccupied state, time passed quickly. Nearly an
hour had elapsed before he rose to return to the house.

Entering the hall, he was startled by a cry of terror in a
woman's voice, coming from the upper regions. At the same time
Mr. Wyvil, passing along the bedroom corridor after leaving the
music-room, was confronted by his daughter, hurrying out of
Emily's bedchamber in such a state of alarm that she could hardly
speak.

"Gone!" she cried, the moment she saw her father.

Mr. Wyvil took her in his arms and tried to compose her. "Who has
gone?" he asked.

"Emily! Oh, papa, Emily has left us! She has heard dreadful
news--she told me so herself."

"What news? How did she hear it?"

"I don't know how she heard it. I went back to the drawing-room
to show her my roses--"

"Was she alone?"

"Yes! She frightened me--she seemed quite wild. She said, 'Let me
be by myself; I shall have to go home.' She kissed me--and ran up
to her room. Oh, I am such a fool! Anybody else would have taken
care not to lose sight of her."

"How long did you leave her by herself?"

"I can't say. I thought I would go and tell you. And then I got
anxious about her, and knocked at her door, and looked into the
room. Gone! Gone!"

Mr. Wyvil rang the bell and confided Cecilia to the care of her
maid. Mirabel had already joined him in the corridor. They went
downstairs together and consulted with Alban. He volunteered to
make immediate inquiries at the railway station. Mr. Wyvil
followed him, as far as the lodge gate which opened on the
highroad--while Mirabel went to a second gate, at the opposite
extremity of the park.

Mr. Wyvil obtained the first news of Emily. The lodge keeper had
seen her pass him, on her way out of the park, in the greatest
haste. He had called after her, "Anything wrong, miss?" and had
received no reply. Asked what time had elapsed since this had
happened, he was too confused to be able to answer with any
certainty. He knew that she had taken the road which led to the
station--and he knew no more.

Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel met again at the house, and instituted an
examination of the servants. No further discoveries were made.

The question which occurred to everybody was suggested by the
words which Cecilia had repeated to her father. Emily had said
she had "heard dreadful news"--how had that news reached her? The
one postal delivery at Monksmoor was in the morning. Had any
special messenger arrived, with a letter for Emily? The servants
were absolutely certain that no such person had entered the
house. The one remaining conclusion suggested that somebody must
have communicated the evil tidings by word of mouth. But here
again no evidence was to be obtained. No visitor had called
during the day, and no new guests had arrived. Investigation was
completely baffled.

Alban returned from the railway, with news of the fugitive.

He had reached the station, some time after the departure of the
London train. The clerk at the office recognized his description
of Emily, and stated that she had taken her ticket for London.
The station-master had opened the carriage door for her, and had
noticed that the young lady appeared to be very much agitated.
This information obtained, Alban had dispatched a telegram to
Emily--in Cecilia's name: "Pray send us a few words to relieve
our anxiety, and let us know if we can be of any service to you."

This was plainly all that could be done--but Cecilia was not
satisfied. If her father had permitted it, she would have
followed Emily. Alban comforted her. He apologized to Mr. Wyvil
for shortening his visit, and announced his inten tion of
traveling to London by the next train. "We may renew our
inquiries to some advantage," he added, after hearing what had
happened in his absence, "if we can find out who was the last
person who saw her, and spoke to her, before your daughter found
her alone in the drawing-room. When I went out of the room, I
left her with Miss de Sor."

The maid who waited on Miss de Sor was sent for. Francine had
been out, by herself, walking in the park. She was then in her
room, changing her dress. On hearing of Emily's sudden departure,
she had been (as the maid reported) "much shocked and quite at a
loss to understand what it meant."

Joining her friends a few minutes later, Francine presented, so
far as personal appearance went, a strong contrast to the pale
and anxious faces round her. She looked wonderfully well, after
her walk. In other respects, she was in perfect harmony with the
prevalent feeling. She expressed herself with the utmost
propriety; her sympathy moved poor Cecilia to tears.

"I am sure, Miss de Sor, you will try to help us?" Mr. Wyvil
began

"With the greatest pleasure," Francine answered.

"How long were you and Miss Emily Brown together, after Mr.
Morris left you?"

"Not more than a quarter of an hour, I should think."

"Did anything remarkable occur in the course of conversation?"

"Nothing whatever."

Alban interfered for the first time. "Did you say anything," he
asked, "which agitated or offended Miss Brown?"

"That's rather an extraordinary question," Francine remarked.

"Have you no other answer to give?" Alban inquired.

"I answer--No!" she said, with a sudden outburst of anger.

There, the matter dropped. While she spoke in reply to Mr. Wyvil,
Francine had confronted him without embarrassment. When Alban
interposed, she never looked at him--except when he provoked her
to anger. Did she remember that the man who was questioning her,
was also the man who had suspected her of writing the anonymous
letter? Alban was on his guard against himself, knowing how he
disliked her. But the conviction in his own mind was not to be
resisted. In some unimaginable way, Francine was associated with
Emily's flight from the house.

The answer to the telegram sent from the railway station had not
arrived, when Alban took his departure for London. Cecilia's
suspense began to grow unendurable: she looked to Mirabel for
comfort, and found none. His office was to console, and his
capacity for performing that office was notorious among his
admirers; but he failed to present himself to advantage, when Mr.
Wyvil's lovely daughter had need of his services. He was, in
truth, too sincerely anxious and distressed to be capable of
commanding his customary resources of ready-made sentiment and
fluently-pious philosophy. Emily's influence had awakened the
only earnest and true feeling which had ever ennobled the popular
preacher's life.

Toward evening, the long-expected telegram was received at last.
What could be said, under the circumstances, it said in these
words:

"Safe at home--don't be uneasy about me--will write soon."

With that promise they were, for the time, forced to be content.


BOOK THE FIFTH--THE COTTAGE.

CHAPTER XLIX.

EMILY SUFFERS.

Mrs. Ellmother--left in charge of Emily's place of abode, and
feeling sensible of her lonely position from time to time--had
just thought of trying the cheering influence of a cup of tea,
when she heard a cab draw up at the cottage gate. A violent ring
at the bell followed. She opened the door--and found Emily on the
steps. One look at that dear and familiar face was enough for the
old servant.

"God help us," she cried, "what's wrong now?"

Without a word of reply, Emily led the way into the bedchamber
which had been the scene of Miss Letitia's death. Mrs. Ellmother
hesitated on the threshold.

"Why do you bring me in here?" she asked.

"Why did you try to keep me out?" Emily answered.

"When did I try to keep you out, miss?"

"When I came home from school, to nurse my aunt. Ah, you remember
now! Is it true--I ask you here, where your old mistress died--is
it true that my aunt deceived me about my father's death? And
that you knew it?"

There was dead silence. Mrs. Ellmother trembled horribly--her
lips dropped apart--her eyes wandered round the room with a stare
of idiotic terror. "Is it her ghost tells you that?" she
whispered. "Where is her ghost? The room whirls round and round,
miss--and the air sings in my ears."

Emily sprang forward to support her. She staggered to a chair,
and lifted her great bony hands in wild entreaty. "Don't frighten
me," she said. "Stand back."

Emily obeyed her. She dashed the cold sweat off her forehead.
"You were talking about your father's death just now," she burst
out, in desperate defiant tones. "Well! we know it and we are
sorry for it--your father died suddenly."

"My father died murdered in the inn at Zeeland! All the long way
to London, I have tried to doubt it. Oh, me, I know it now!"

Answering in those words, she looked toward the bed. Harrowing
remembrances of her aunt's delirious self-betrayal made the room
unendurable to her. She ran out. The parlor door was open.
Entering the room, she passed by a portrait of her father, which
her aunt had hung on the wall over the fireplace. She threw
herself on the sofa and burst into a passionate fit of crying.
"Oh, my father--my dear, gentle, loving father; my first, best,
truest friend--murdered! murdered! Oh, God, where was your
justice, where was your mercy, when he died that dreadful death?"

A hand was laid on her shoulder; a voice said to her, "Hush, my
child! God knows best."

Emily looked up, and saw that Mrs. Ellmother had followed her.
"You poor old soul," she said, suddenly remembering; "I
frightened you in the other room."

"I have got over it, my dear. I am old; and I have lived a hard
life. A hard life schools a person. I make no complaints." She
stopped, and began to shudder again. "Will you believe me if I
tell you something?" she asked. "I warned my self-willed
mistress. Standing by your father's coffin, I warned her. Hide
the truth as you may (I said), a time will come when our child
will know what you are keeping from her now. One or both of us
may live to see it. I am the one who has lived; no refuge in the
grave for me. I want to hear about it--there's no fear of
frightening or hurting me now. I want to hear how you found it
out. Was it by accident, my dear? or did a person tell you?"

Emily's mind was far away from Mrs. Ellmother. She rose from the
sofa, with her hands held fast over her aching heart.

"The one duty of my life," she said--"I am thinking of the one
duty of my life. Look! I am calm now; I am resigned to my hard
lot. Never, never again, can the dear memory of my father be what
it was! From this time, it is the horrid memory of a crime. The
crime has gone unpunished; the man has escaped others. He shall
not escape Me." She paused, and looked at Mrs. Ellmother
absently. "What did you say just now? You want to hear how I know
what I know? Naturally! naturally! Sit down here--sit down, my
old friend, on the sofa with me--and take your mind back to
Netherwoods. Alban Morris--"

Mrs. Ellmother recoiled from Emily in dismay. "Don't tell me _he_
had anything to do with it! The kindest of men; the best of men!"

"The man of all men living who least deserves your good opinion
or mine," Emily answered sternly.

"You!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed, "_you_ say that!"

"I say it. He--who won on me to like him--he was in the
conspiracy to deceive me; and you know it! He heard me talk of
the newspaper story of the murder of my father--I say, he heard
me talk of it composedly, talk of it carelessly, in the innocent
belief that it was the murder of a stranger--and he never opened
his lips to prevent that horrid profanation! He never even said,
speak of something else; I won't hear you! No more of him! God
forbid I should ever see him again. No! Do what I told you. Carry
your mind back to Netherwoods. One night you let Francine de Sor
frighten you. You ran away from her into the garden. Keep quiet!
At your age, must I set you an example of self-control?

"I want to know, Miss Emily, where Francine
 de Sor is now?"

"She is at the house in the country, which I have left."

"Where does she go next, if you please? Back to Miss Ladd?"

"I suppose so. What interest have you in knowing where she goes
next?"

"I won't interrupt you, miss. It's true that I ran away into the
garden. I can guess who followed me. How did she find her way to
me and Mr. Morris, in the dark?"

"The smell of tobacco guided her--she knew who smoked--she had
seen him talking to you, on that very day--she followed the
scent--she heard what you two said to each other--and she has
repeated it to me. Oh, my old friend, the malice of a revengeful
girl has enlightened me, when you, my nurse--and he, my
lover--left me in the dark: it has told me how my father died!"

"That's said bitterly, miss!"

"Is it said truly?"

"No. It isn't said truly of myself. God knows you would never
have been kept in the dark, if your aunt had listened to me. I
begged and prayed--I went down on my knees to her--I warned her,
as I told you just now. Must I tell _you_ what a headstrong woman
Miss Letitia was? She insisted. She put the choice before me of
leaving her at once and forever--or giving in. I wouldn't have
given in to any other creature on the face of this earth. I am
obstinate, as you have often told me. Well, your aunt's obstinacy
beat mine; I was too fond of her to say No. Besides, if you ask
me who was to blame in the first place, I tell you it wasn't your
aunt; she was frightened into it."

"Who frightened her?"

"Your godfather--the great London surgeon--he who was visiting in
our house at the time."

"Sir Richard?"

"Yes--Sir Richard. He said he wouldn't answer for the
consequences, in the delicate state of your health, if we told
you the truth. Ah, he had it all his own way after that. He went
with Miss Letitia to the inquest; he won over the coroner and the
newspaper men to his will; he kept your aunt's name out of the
papers; he took charge of the coffin; he hired the undertaker and
his men, strangers from London; he wrote the certificate--who but
he! Everybody was cap in hand to the famous man!"

"Surely, the servants and the neighbors asked questions?"

"Hundreds of questions! What did that matter to Sir Richard? They
were like so many children, in _his_ hands. And, mind you, the
luck helped him. To begin with, there was the common name. Who
was to pick out your poor father among the thousands of James
Browns? Then, again, the house and lands went to the male heir,
as they called him--the man your father quarreled with in the
bygone time. He brought his own establishment with him. Long
before you got back from the friends you were staying with--don't
you remember it?--we had cleared out of the house; we were miles
and miles away; and the old servants were scattered abroad,
finding new situations wherever they could. How could you suspect
us? We had nothing to fear in that way; but my conscience pricked
me. I made another attempt to prevail on Miss Letitia, when you
had recovered your health. I said, 'There's no fear of a relapse
now; break it to her gently, but tell her the truth.' No! Your
aunt was too fond of you. She daunted me with dreadful fits of
crying, when I tried to persuade her. And that wasn't the worst
of it. She bade me remember what an excitable man your father
was--she reminded me that the misery of your mother's death laid
him low with brain fever--she said, 'Emily takes after her
father; I have heard you say it yourself; she has his
constitution, and his sensitive nerves. Don't you know how she
loved him--how she talks of him to this day? Who can tell (if we
are not careful) what dreadful mischief we may do?' That was how
my mistress worked on me. I got infected with her fears; it was
as if I had caught an infection of disease. Oh, my dear, blame me
if it must be; but don't forget how I have suffered for it since!
I was driven away from my dying mistress, in terror of what she
might say, while you were watching at her bedside. I have lived
in fear of what you might ask me--and have longed to go back to
you--and have not had the courage to do it. Look at me now!"

The poor woman tried to take out her handkerchief; her quivering
hand helplessly entangled itself in her dress. "I can't even dry
my eyes," she said faintly. "Try to forgive me, miss!"

Emily put her arms round the old nurse's neck. "It is _you_," she
said sadly, "who must forgive me."

For a while they were silent. Through the window that was open to
the little garden, came the one sound that could be heard--the
gentle trembling of leaves in the evening wind.

The silence was harshly broken by the bell at the cottage door.
They both started.

Emily's heart beat fast. "Who can it be?" she said.

Mrs. Ellmother rose. "Shall I say you can't see anybody?" she
asked, before leaving the room.

"Yes! yes!"

Emily heard the door opened--heard low voices in the passage.
There was a momentary interval. Then, Mrs. Ellmother returned.
She said nothing. Emily spoke to her.

"Is it a visitor?"

"Yes."

"Have you said I can't see anybody?"

"I couldn't say it."

"Why not?"

"Don't be hard on him, my dear. It's Mr. Alban Morris."


CHAPTER L.

MISS LADD ADVISES.

Mrs. Ellmother sat by the dying embers of the kitchen fire;
thinking over the events of the day in perplexity and distress.

She had waited at the cottage door for a friendly word with
Alban, after he had left Emily. The stern despair in his face
warned her to let him go in silence. She had looked into the
parlor next. Pale and cold, Emily lay on the sofa--sunk in
helpless depression of body and mind. "Don't speak to me," she
whispered; "I am quite worn out." It was but too plain that the
view of Alban's conduct which she had already expressed, was the
view to which she had adhered at the interview between them. They
had parted in grief---perhaps in anger--perhaps forever. Mrs.
Ellmother lifted Emily in compassionate silence, and carried her
upstairs, and waited by her until she slept.

In the still hours of the night, the thoughts of the faithful old
servant--dwelling for a while on past and present--advanced, by
slow degrees, to consideration of the doubtful future. Measuring,
to the best of her ability, the responsibility which had fallen
on her, she felt that it was more than she could bear, or ought
to bear, alone. To whom could she look for help?

The gentlefolks at Monksmoor were strangers to her. Doctor Allday
was near at hand--but Emily had said, "Don't send for him; he
will torment me with questions--and I want to keep my mind quiet,
if I can." But one person was left, to whose ever-ready kindness
Mrs. Ellmother could appeal--and that person was Miss Ladd.

It would have been easy to ask the help of the good
schoolmistress in comforting and advising the favorite pupil whom
she loved. But Mrs. Ellmother had another object in view: she was
determined that the cold-blooded cruelty of Emily's treacherous
friend should not be allowed to triumph with impunity. If an
ignorant old woman could do nothing else, she could tell the
plain truth, and could leave Miss Ladd to decide whether such a
person as Francine deserved to remain under her care.

To feel justified in taking this step was one thing: to put it
all clearly in writing was another. After vainly making the
attempt overnight, Mrs. Ellmother tore up her letter, and
communicated with Miss Ladd by means of a telegraphic message, in
the morning. "Miss Emily is in great distress. I must not leave
her. I have something besides to say to you which cannot be put
into a letter. Will you please come to us?"

Later in the forenoon, Mrs. Ellmother was called to the door by
the arrival of a visitor. The personal appearance of the stranger
impressed her favorably. He was a handsome little gentleman; his
manners were winning, and his voice was singularly pleasant to
hear.

"I have come from Mr. Wyvil's house in the country," he said;
"and I bring a letter from his daughter. May I take the
opportunity of asking if Miss Emily is well?"

"Far from it, sir, I am sorry to say. She is so poorly that she
keeps her bed."

At this reply, the visitor's face revealed such sincere sympathy
and regret, that Mrs. Ellmo ther was interested in him: she added
a word more. "My mistress has had a hard trial to bear, sir. I
hope there is no bad news for her in the young lady's letter?"

"On the contrary, there is news that she will be glad to
hear--Miss Wyvil is coming here this evening. Will you excuse my
asking if Miss Emily has had medical advice?"

"She won't hear of seeing the doctor, sir. He's a good friend of
hers--and he lives close by. I am unfortunately alone in the
house. If I could leave her, I would go at once and ask his
advice."

"Let _me_ go!" Mirabel eagerly proposed.

Mrs. Ellmother's face brightened. "That's kindly thought of,
sir--if you don't mind the trouble."

"My good lady, nothing is a trouble in your young mistress's
service. Give me the doctor's name and address--and tell me what
to say to him."

"There's one thing you must be careful of," Mrs. Ellmother
answered. "He mustn't come here, as if he had been sent for--she
would refuse to see him."

Mirabel understood her. "I will not forget to caution him. Kindly
tell Miss Emily I called--my name is Mirabel. I will return
to-morrow."

He hastened away on his errand--only to find that he had arrived
too late. Doctor Allday had left London; called away to a serious
case of illness. He was not expected to get back until late in
the afternoon. Mirabel left a message, saying that he would
return in the evening.

The next visitor who arrived at the cottage was the trusty
friend, in whose generous nature Mrs. Ellmother had wisely placed
confidence. Miss Ladd had resolved to answer the telegram in
person, the moment she read it.

"If there is bad news," she said, "let me hear it at once. I am
not well enough to bear suspense; my busy life at the school is
beginning to tell on me."

"There is nothing that need alarm you, ma'am--but there is a
great deal to say, before you see Miss Emily. My stupid head
turns giddy with thinking of it. I hardly know where to begin."

"Begin with Emily," Miss Ladd suggested.

Mrs. Ellmother took the advice. She described Emily's unexpected
arrival on the previous day; and she repeated what had passed
between them afterward. Miss Ladd's first impulse, when she had
recovered her composure, was to go to Emily without waiting to
hear more. Not presuming to stop her, Mrs. Ellmother ventured to
put a question "Do you happen to have my telegram about you,
ma'am?" Miss Ladd produced it. "Will you please look at the last
part of it again?"

Miss Ladd read the words: "I have something besides to say to you
which cannot be put into a letter." She at once returned to her
chair.

"Does what you have still to tell me refer to any person whom I
know?" she said.

"It refers, ma'am, to Miss de Sor. I am afraid I shall distress
you."

"What did I say, when I came in?" Miss Ladd asked. "Speak out
plainly; and try--it's not easy, I know--but try to begin at the
beginning."

Mrs. Ellmother looked back through her memory of past events, and
began by alluding to the feeling of curiosity which she had
excited in Francine, on the day when Emily had made them known to
one another. From this she advanced to the narrative of what had
taken place at Netherwoods--to the atrocious attempt to frighten
her by means of the image of wax--to the discovery made by
Francine in the garden at night--and to the circumstances under
which that discovery had been communicated to Emily.

Miss Ladd's face reddened with indignation. "Are you sure of all
that you have said?" she asked.

"I am quite sure, ma'am. I hope I have not done wrong," Mrs.
Ellmother added simply, "in telling you all this?"

"Wrong?" Miss Ladd repeated warmly. "If that wretched girl has no
defense to offer, she is a disgrace to my school--and I owe you a
debt of gratitude for showing her to me in her true character.
She shall return at once to Netherwoods; and she shall answer me
to my entire satisfaction--or leave my house. What cruelty! what
duplicity! In all my experience of girls, I have never met with
the like of it. Let me go to my dear little Emily--and try to
forget what I have heard."

Mrs. Ellmother led the good lady to Emily's room--and, returning
to the lower part of the house, went out into the garden. The
mental effort that she had made had left its result in an aching
head, and in an overpowering sense of depression. "A mouthful of
fresh air will revive me," she thought.

The front garden and back garden at the cottage communicated with
each other. Walking slowly round and round, Mrs. Ellmother heard
footsteps on the road outside, which stopped at the gate. She
looked through the grating, and discovered Alban Morris.

"Come in, sir!" she said, rejoiced to see him. He obeyed in
silence. The full view of his face shocked Mrs. Ellmother. Never
in her experience of the friend who had been so kind to her at
Netherwoods, had he looked so old and so haggard as he looked
now. "Oh, Mr. Alban, I see how she has distressed you! Don't take
her at her word. Keep a good heart, sir--young girls are never
long together of the same mind."

Alban gave her his hand. "I mustn't speak about it," he said.
"Silence helps me to bear my misfortune as becomes a man. I have
had some hard blows in my time: they don't seem to have blunted
my sense of feeling as I thought they had. Thank God, she doesn't
know how she has made me suffer! I want to ask her pardon for
having forgotten myself yesterday. I spoke roughly to her, at one
time. No: I won't intrude on her; I have said I am sorry, in
writing. Do you mind giving it to her? Good-by--and thank you. I
mustn't stay longer; Miss Ladd expects me at Netherwoods."

"Miss Ladd is in the house, sir, at this moment."

"Here, in London!"

"Upstairs, with Miss Emily."

"Upstairs? Is Emily ill?"

"She is getting better, sir. Would you like to see Miss Ladd?"

"I should indeed! I have something to say to her--and time is of
importance to me. May I wait in the garden?"

"Why not in the parlor, sir?"

"The parlor reminds me of happier days. In time, I may have
courage enough to look at the room again. Not now."

"If she doesn't make it up with that good man," Mrs. Ellmother
thought, on her way back to the house, "my nurse-child is what I
have never believed her to be yet--she's a fool."

In half an hour more, Miss Ladd joined Alban on the little plot
of grass behind the cottage. "I bring Emily's reply to your
letter," she said. "Read it, before you speak to me."

Alban read it: "Don't suppose you have offended me--and be
assured that I feel gratefully the tone in which your note is
written. I try to write forbearingly on my side; I wish I could
write acceptably as well. It is not to be done. I am as unable as
ever to enter into your motives. You are not my relation; you
were under no obligation of secrecy: you heard me speak
ignorantly of the murder of my father, as if it had been the
murder of a stranger; and yet you kept me--deliberately, cruelly
kept me--deceived! The remembrance of it burns me like fire. I
cannot--oh, Alban, I cannot restore you to the place in my
estimation which you have lost! If you wish to help me to bear my
trouble, I entreat you not to write to me again."

Alban offered the letter silently to Miss Ladd. She signed to him
to keep it.

"I know what Emily has written," she said; "and I have told her,
what I now tell you--she is wrong; in every way, wrong. It is the
misfortune of her impetuous nature that she rushes to
conclusions--and those conclusions once formed, she holds to them
with all the strength of her character. In this matter, she has
looked at her side of the question exclusively; she is blind to
your side."

"Not willfully!" Alban interposed.

Miss Ladd looked at him with admiration. "You defend Emily?" she
said.

"I love her," Alban answered.

Miss Ladd felt for him, as Mrs. Ellmother had felt for him.
"Trust to time, Mr. Morris," she resumed. "The danger to be
afraid of is--the danger of some headlong action, on her part, in
the interval. Who can say what the end may be, if she persists in
her present way of thinking? There is something monstrous, in a
young girl declaring that it is _her_ duty to pursue a murderer,
and to bring him to justice! Don't you see it yourself?"

A lban still defended Emily. "It seems to me to be a natural
impulse," he said--"natural, and noble."

"Noble!" Miss Ladd exclaimed.

"Yes--for it grows out of the love which has not died with her
father's death."

"Then you encourage her?"

"With my whole heart--if she would give me the opportunity!"

"We won't pursue the subject, Mr. Morris. I am told by Mrs.
Ellmother that you have something to say to me. What is it?"

"I have to ask you," Alban replied, "to let me resign my
situation at Netherwoods."

Miss Ladd was not only surprised; she was also--a very rare thing
with her--inclined to be suspicious. After what he had said to
Emily, it occurred to her that Alban might be meditating some
desperate project, with the hope of recovering his lost place in
her favor.

"Have you heard of some better employment?" she asked.

"I have heard of no employment. My mind is not in a state to give
the necessary attention to my pupils."

"Is that your only reason for wishing to leave me?"

"It is one of my reasons."

"The only one which you think it necessary to mention?"

"Yes."

"I shall be sorry to lose you, Mr. Morris."

"Believe me, Miss Ladd, I am not ungrateful for your kindness."

"Will you let me, in all kindness, say something more?" Miss Ladd
answered. "I don't intrude on your secrets--I only hope that you
have no rash project in view."

"I don't understand you, Miss Ladd."

"Yes, Mr. Morris--you do."

She shook hands with him--and went back to Emily.


CHAPTER LI.

THE DOCTOR SEES.

Alban returned to Netherwoods--to continue his services, until
another master could be found to take his place.

By a later train Miss Ladd followed him. Emily was too well aware
of the importance of the mistress's presence to the well-being of
the school, to permit her to remain at the cottage. It was
understood that they were to correspond, and that Emily's room
was waiting for her at Netherwoods, whenever she felt inclined to
occupy it

Mrs. Ellmother made the tea, that evening, earlier than usual.
Being alone again with Emily, it struck her that she might take
advantage of her position to say a word in Alban's favor. She had
chosen her time unfortunately. The moment she pronounced the
name, Emily checked her by a look, and spoke of another
person--that person being Miss Jethro.

Mrs. Ellmother at once entered her protest, in her own downright
way. "Whatever you do," she said, "don't go back to that! What
does Miss Jethro matter to you?"

"I am more interested in her than you suppose--I happen to know
why she left the school."

"Begging your pardon, miss, that's quite impossible!"

"She left the school," Emily persisted, "for a serious reason.
Miss Ladd discovered that she had used false references."

"Good Lord! who told you that?"

"You see I know it. I asked Miss Ladd how she got her
information. She was bound by a promise never to mention the
person's name. I didn't say it to her--but I may say it to you. I
am afraid I have an idea of who the person was."

"No," Mrs. Ellmother obstinately asserted, "you can't possibly
know who it was! How should you know?"

"Do you wish me to repeat what I heard in that room opposite,
when my aunt was dying?"

"Drop it, Miss Emily! For God's sake, drop it!"

"I can't drop it. It's dreadful to me to have suspicions of my
aunt--and no better reason for them than what she said in a state
of delirium. Tell me, if you love me, was it her wandering fancy?
or was it the truth?"

"As I hope to be saved, Miss Emily, I can only guess as you do--I
don't rightly know. My mistress trusted me half way, as it were.
I'm afraid I have a rough tongue of my own sometimes. I offended
her--and from that time she kept her own counsel. What she did,
she did in the dark, so far as I was concerned."

"How did you offend her?"

"I shall be obliged to speak of your father if I tell you how?"

"Speak of him."

"_He_ was not to blame--mind that!" Mrs. Ellmother said
earnestly. "If I wasn't certain of what I say now you wouldn't
get a word out of me. Good harmless man--there's no denying
it--he _was_ in love with Miss Jethro! What's the matter?"

Emily was thinking of her memorable conversation with the
disgraced teacher on her last night at school. "Nothing" she
answered. "Go on."

"If he had not tried to keep it secret from us, "Mrs. Ellmother
resumed, "your aunt might never have taken it into her head that
he was entangled in a love affair of the shameful sort. I don't
deny that I helped her in her inquiries; but it was only because
I felt sure from the first that the more she discovered the more
certainly my master's innocence would show itself. He used to go
away and visit Miss Jethro privately. In the time when your aunt
trusted me, we never could find out where. She made that
discovery afterward for herself (I can't tell you how long
afterward); and she spent money in employing mean wretches to pry
into Miss Jethro's past life. She had (if you will excuse me for
saying it) an old maid's hatred of the handsome young woman, who
lured your father away from home, and set up a secret (in a
manner of speaking) between her brother and herself. I won't tell
you how we looked at letters and other things which he forgot to
leave under lock and key. I will only say there was one bit, in a
journal he kept, which made me ashamed of myself. I read it out
to Miss Letitia; and I told her in so many words, not to count
any more on me. No; I haven't got a copy of the words--I can
remember them without a copy. 'Even if my religion did not forbid
me to peril my soul by leading a life of sin with this woman whom
I love'--that was how it began--'the thought of my daughter would
keep me pure. No conduct of mine shall ever make me unworthy of
my child's affection and respect.' There! I'm making you cry; I
won't stay here any longer. All that I had to say has been said.
Nobody but Miss Ladd knows for certain whether your aunt was
innocent or guilty in the matter of Miss Jethro's disgrace.
Please to excuse me; my work's waiting downstairs."


From time to time, as she pursued her domestic labors, Mrs.
Ellmother thought of Mirabel. Hours on hours had passed--and the
doctor had not appeared. Was he too busy to spare even a few
minutes of his time? Or had the handsome little gentleman, after
promising so fairly, failed to perform his errand? This last
doubt wronged Mirabel. He had engaged to return to the doctor's
house; and he kept his word.

Doctor Allday was at home again, and was seeing patients.
Introduced in his turn, Mirabel had no reason to complain of his
reception. At the same time, after he had stated the object of
his visit, something odd began to show itself in the doctor's
manner.

He looked at Mirabel with an appearance of uneasy curiosity; and
he contrived an excuse for altering the visitor's position in the
room, so that the light fell full on Mirabel's face.

"I fancy I must have seen you," the doctor said, "at some former
time."

"I am ashamed to say I don't remember it," Mirabel answered.

"Ah, very likely I'm wrong! I'll call on Miss Emily, sir, you may
depend on it."

Left in his consulting-room, Doctor Allday failed to ring the
bell which summoned the next patient who was waiting for him. He
took his diary from the table drawer, and turned to the daily
entries for the past month of July.

Arriving at the fifteenth day of the month, he glanced at the
first lines of writing: "A visit from a mysterious lady, calling
herself Miss Jethro. Our conference led to some very unexpected
results."

No: that was not what he was in search of. He looked a little
lower down: and read on regularly, from that point, as follows:

"Called on Miss Emily, in great anxiety about the discoveries
which she might make among her aunt's papers. Papers all
destroyed, thank God--except the Handbill, offering a reward for
discovery of the murderer, which she found in the scrap-book.
Gave her back the Handbill. Emily much surprised that the wretch
should have escaped, with such a careful description of him
circulated everywhere. She read the description aloud to me, in
her nice clear voice: 'Supposed age between twenty-five  and
thirty years. A well-made man of small stature. Fai r complexion,
delicate features, clear blue eyes. Hair light, and cut rather
short. Clean shaven, with the exception of narrow
half-whiskers'--and so on. Emily at a loss to understand how the
fugitive could disguise himself. Reminded her that he could
effectually disguise his head and face (with time to help him) by
letting his hair grow long, and cultivating his beard. Emily not
convinced, even by this self-evident view of the case. Changed
the subject."

The doctor put away his diary, and rang the bell.

"Curious," he thought. "That dandified little clergyman has
certainly reminded me of my discussion with Emily, more than two
months since. Was it his flowing hair, I wonder? or his splendid
beard? Good God! suppose it should turn out--?"

He was interrupted by the appearance of his patient. Other ailing
people followed. Doctor Allday's mind was professionally occupied
for the rest of the evening.


CHAPTER LII.

"IF I COULD FIND A FRIEND!"

Shortly after Miss Ladd had taken her departure, a parcel arrived
for Emily, bearing the name of a bookseller printed on the label.
It was large, and it was heavy. "Reading enough, I should think,
to last for a lifetime," Mrs. Ellmother remarked, after carrying
the parcel upstairs.

Emily called her back as she was leaving the room. "I want to
caution you," she said, "before Miss Wyvil comes. Don't tell
her--don't tell anybody--how my father met his death. If other
persons are taken into our confidence, they will talk of it. We
don't know how near to us the murderer may be. The slightest hint
may put him on his guard."

"Oh, miss, are you still thinking of that!"

"I think of nothing else."

"Bad for your mind, Miss Emily--and bad for your body, as your
looks show. I wish you would take counsel with some discreet
person, before you move in this matter by yourself."

Emily sighed wearily. "In my situation, where is the person whom
I can trust?"

"You can trust the good doctor."

"Can I? Perhaps I was wrong when I told you I wouldn't see him.
He might be of some use to me."

Mrs. Ellmother made the most of this concession, in the fear that
Emily might change her mind. "Doctor Allday may call on you
tomorrow," she said.

"Do you mean that you have sent for him?"

"Don't be angry! I did it for the best--and Mr. Mirabel agreed
with me."

"Mr. Mirabel! What have you told Mr. Mirabel?"

"Nothing, except that you are ill. When he heard that, he
proposed to go for the doctor. He will be here again to-morrow,
to ask for news of your health. Will you see him?"

"I don't know yet--I have other things to think of. Bring Miss
Wyvil up here when she comes."

"Am I to get the spare room ready for her?"

"No. She is staying with her father at the London house."

Emily made that reply almost with an air of relief. When Cecilia
arrived, it was only by an effort that she could show grateful
appreciation of the sympathy of her dearest friend. When the
visit came to an end, she felt an ungrateful sense of freedom:
the restraint was off her mind; she could think again of the one
terrible subject that had any interest for her now. Over love,
over friendship, over the natural enjoyment of her young life,
predominated the blighting resolution which bound her to avenge
her father's death. Her dearest remembrances of him--tender
remembrances once--now burned in her (to use her own words) like
fire. It was no ordinary love that had bound parent and child
together in the bygone time. Emily had grown from infancy to
girlhood, owing all the brightness of her life--a life without a
mother, without brothers, without sisters--to her father alone.
To submit to lose this beloved, this only companion, by the cruel
stroke of disease was of all trials of resignation the hardest to
bear. But to be severed from him by the murderous hand of a man,
was more than Emily's fervent nature could passively endure.
Before the garden gate had closed on her friend she had returned
to her one thought, she was breathing again her one aspiration.
The books that she had ordered, with her own purpose in
view--books that might supply her want of experience, and might
reveal the perils which beset the course that lay before
her--were unpacked and spread out on the table. Hour after hour,
when the old servant believed that her mistress was in bed, she
was absorbed over biographies in English and French, which
related the stratagems by means of which famous policemen had
captured the worst criminals of their time. From these, she
turned to works of fiction, which found their chief topic of
interest in dwelling on the discovery of hidden crime. The night
passed, and dawn glimmered through the window--and still she
opened book after book with sinking courage--and still she gained
nothing but the disheartening conviction of her inability to
carry out her own plans. Almost every page that she turned over
revealed the immovable obstacles set in her way by her sex and
her age. Could _she_ mix with the people, or visit the scenes,
familiar to the experience of men (in fact and in fiction), who
had traced the homicide to his hiding-place, and had marked him
among his harmless fellow-creatures with the brand of Cain? No! A
young girl following, or attempting to follow, that career, must
reckon with insult and outrage--paying their abominable tribute
to her youth and her beauty, at every turn. What proportion would
the men who might respect her bear to the men who might make her
the object of advances, which it was hardly possible to imagine
without shuddering. She crept exhausted to her bed, the most
helpless, hopeless creature on the wide surface of the earth--a
girl self-devoted to the task of a man.



Careful to perform his promise to Mirabel, without delay, the
doctor called on Emily early in the morning--before the hour at
which he usually entered his consulting-room.

"Well? What's the matter with the pretty young mistress?" he
asked, in his most abrupt manner, when Mrs. Ellmother opened the
door. "Is it love? or jealousy? or a new dress with a wrinkle in
it?"

"You will hear about it, sir, from Miss Emily herself. I am
forbidden to say anything."

"But you mean to say something--for all that?"

"Don't joke, Doctor Allday! The state of things here is a great
deal too serious for joking. Make up your mind to be surprised--I
say no more."

Before the doctor could ask what this meant, Emily opened the
parlor door. "Come in!" she said, impatiently.

Doctor Allday's first greeting was strictly professional. "My
dear child, I never expected this," he began. "You are looking
wretchedly ill." He attempted to feel her pulse. She drew her
hand away from him.

"It's my mind that's ill," she answered. "Feeling my pulse won't
cure me of anxiety and distress. I want advice; I want help. Dear
old doctor, you have always been a good friend to me--be a better
friend than ever now."

"What can I do?"

"Promise you will keep secret what I am going to say to you--and
listen, pray listen patiently, till I have done."

Doctor Allday promised, and listened. He had been, in some degree
at least, prepared for a surprise--but the disclosure which now
burst on him was more than his equanimity could sustain. He
looked at Emily in silent dismay. She had surprised and shocked
him, not only by what she said, but by what she unconsciously
suggested. Was it possible that Mirabel's personal appearance had
produced on her the same impression which was present in his own
mind? His first impulse, when he was composed enough to speak,
urged him to put the question cautiously.

"If you happened to meet with the suspected man," he said, "have
you any means of identifying him?"

"None whatever, doctor. If you would only think it over--"

He stopped her there; convinced of the danger of encouraging her,
and resolved to act on his conviction.

"I have enough to occupy me in my profession," he said. "Ask your
other friend to think it over."

"What other friend?"

"Mr. Alban Morris."

The moment he pronounced the name, he saw that he had touched on
some painful association. "Has Mr. Morris refused to help you?"
he inquired.

"I have not asked him to  help me."

"Why?"

There was no choice (with such a man
 as Doctor Allday) between offending him or answering him. Emily
adopted the last alternative. On this occasion she had no reason
to complain of his silence.

"Your view of Mr. Morris's conduct surprises me," he
replied--"surprises me more than I can say," he added;
remembering that he too was guilty of having kept her in
ignorance of the truth, out of regard--mistaken regard, as it now
seemed to be--for her peace of mind.

"Be good to me, and pass it over if I am wrong," Emily said: "I
can't dispute with you; I can only tell you what I feel. You have
always been so kind to me--may I count on your kindness still?"

Doctor Allday relapsed into silence.

"May I at least ask," she went on, "if you know anything of
persons--" She paused, discouraged by the cold expression of
inquiry in the old man's eyes as he looked at her.

"What persons?" he said.

"Persons whom I suspect."

"Name them."

Emily named the landlady of the inn at Zeeland: she could now
place the right interpretation on Mrs. Rook's conduct, when the
locket had been put into her hand at Netherwoods. Doctor Allday
answered shortly and stiffly: he had never even seen Mrs. Rook.
Emily mentioned Miss Jethro next--and saw at once that she had
interested him.

"What do you suspect Miss Jethro of doing?" he asked.

"I suspect her of knowing more of my father's death than she is
willing to acknowledge," Emily replied.

The doctor's manner altered for the better. "I agree with you,"
he said frankly. "But I have some knowledge of that lady. I warn
you not to waste time and trouble in trying to discover the weak
side of Miss Jethro."

"That was not my experience of her at school," Emily rejoined.
"At the same time I don't know what may have happened since those
days. I may perhaps have lost the place I once held in her
regard."

"How?"

"Through my aunt."

"Through your aunt?"

"I hope and trust I am wrong," Emily continued; "but I fear my
aunt had something to do with Miss Jethro's dismissal from the
school--and in that case Miss Jethro may have found it out." Her
eyes, resting on the doctor, suddenly brightened. "You know
something about it!" she exclaimed.

He considered a little--whether he should or should not tell her
of the letter addressed by Miss Ladd to Miss Letitia, which he
had found at the cottage.

"If I could satisfy you that your fears are well founded," he
asked, "would the discovery keep you away from Miss Jethro?"

"I should be ashamed to speak to her--even if we met."

"Very well. I can tell you positively, that your aunt was the
person who turned Miss Jethro out of the school. When I get home,
I will send you a letter that proves it."

Emily's head sank on her breast. "Why do I only hear of this
now?" she said.

"Because I had no reason for letting you know of it, before
to-day. If I have done nothing else, I have at least succeeded in
keeping you and Miss Jethro apart."

Emily looked at him in alarm. He went on without appearing to
notice that he had startled her. "I wish to God I could as easily
put a stop to the mad project which you are contemplating."

"The mad project?" Emily repeated. "Oh, Doctor Allday. Do you
cruelly leave me to myself, at the time of all others, when I am
most in need of your sympathy?"

That appeal moved him. He spoke more gently; he pitied, while he
condemned her.

"My poor dear child, I should be cruel indeed, if I encouraged
you. You are giving yourself up to an enterprise, so shockingly
unsuited to a young girl like you, that I declare I contemplate
it with horror. Think, I entreat you, think; and let me hear that
you have yielded--not to my poor entreaties--but to your own
better sense!" His voice faltered; his eyes moistened. "I shall
make a fool of myself," he burst out furiously, "if I stay here
any longer. Good-by."

He left her.

She walked to the window, and looked out at the fair morning. No
one to feel for her--no one to understand her--nothing nearer
that could speak to poor mortality of hope and encouragement than
the bright heaven, so far away! She turned from the window. "The
sun shines on the murderer," she thought, "as it shines on me."

She sat down at the table, and tried to quiet her mind; to think
steadily to some good purpose. Of the few friends that she
possessed, every one had declared that she was in the wrong. Had
_they_ lost the one loved being of all beings on earth, and lost
him by the hand of a homicide--and that homicide free? All that
was faithful, all that was devoted in the girl's nature, held her
to her desperate resolution as with a hand of iron. If she shrank
at that miserable moment, it was not from her design--it was from
the sense of her own helplessness. "Oh, if I had been a man!" she
said to herself. "Oh, if I could find a friend!"


CHAPTER LIII.

THE FRIEND IS FOUND.

Mrs. Ellmother looked into the parlor. "I told you Mr. Mirabel
would call again," she announced. "Here he is."

"Has he asked to see me?"

"He leaves it entirely to you."

For a moment, and a moment only, Emily was undecided. "Show him
in," she said.

Mirabel's embarrassment was visible the moment he entered the
room. For the first time in his life--in the presence of a
woman--the popular preacher was shy. He who had taken hundreds of
fair hands with sympathetic pressure--he who had offered fluent
consolation, abroad and at home, to beauty in distress--was
conscious of a rising color, and was absolutely at a loss for
words when Emily received him. And yet, though he appeared at
disadvantage--and, worse still, though he was aware of it
himself--there was nothing contemptible in his look and manner.
His silence and confusion revealed a change in him which inspired
respect. Love had developed this spoiled darling of foolish
congregations, this effeminate pet of drawing-rooms and boudoirs,
into the likeness of a Man--and no woman, in Emily's position,
could have failed to see that it was love which she herself had
inspired.

Equally ill at ease, they both took refuge in the commonplace
phrases suggested by the occasion. These exhausted there was a
pause. Mirabel alluded to Cecilia, as a means of continuing the
conversation.

"Have you seen Miss Wyvil?" he inquired.

"She was here last night; and I expect to see her again to-day
before she returns to Monksmoor with her father. Do you go back
with them?"

"Yes--if _you_ do."

"I remain in London."

"Then I remain in London, too."

The strong feeling that was in him had forced its way to
expression at last. In happier days--when she had persistently
refused to let him speak to her seriously--she would have been
ready with a light-hearted reply. She was silent now. Mirabel
pleaded with her not to misunderstand him, by an honest
confession of his motives which presented him under a new aspect.
The easy plausible man, who had hardly ever seemed to be in
earnest before--meant, seriously meant, what he said now.

"May I try to explain myself?" he asked.

"Certainly, if you wish it."

"Pray, don't suppose me capable," Mirabel said earnestly, "of
presuming to pay you an idle compliment. I cannot think of you,
alone and in trouble, without feeling anxiety which can only be
relieved in one way--I must be near enough to hear of you, day by
day. Not by repeating this visit! Unless you wish it, I will not
again cross the threshold of your door. Mrs. Ellmother will tell
me if your mind is more at ease; Mrs. Ellmother will tell me if
there is any new trial of your fortitude. She needn't even
mention that I have been speaking to her at the door; and she may
be sure, and you may be sure, that I shall ask no inquisitive
questions. I can feel for you in your misfortune, without wishing
to know what that misfortune is. If I can ever be of the smallest
use, think of me as your other servant. Say to Mrs. Ellmother, 'I
want him'--and say no more."

Where is the woman who could have resisted such devotion as
this--inspired, truly inspired, by herself? Emily's eyes softened
as she answered him.

"You little know how your kindness touches me," she said.

"Don't speak of my kindness until you have put me to the proof,"
he interposed. "Can a friend (such a friend as I am, I mean) be
of any use?"

"Of the greatest
 use if I could feel justified in trying you."

"I entreat you to try me!"

"But, Mr. Mirabel, you don't know what I am thinking of."

"I don't want to know."

"I may be wrong. My friends all say I _am_ wrong."

"I don't care what your friends say; I don't care about any
earthly thing but your tranquillity. Does your dog ask whether
you are right or wrong? I am your dog. I think of You, and I
think of nothing else."

She looked back through the experience of the last few days. Miss
Ladd--Mrs. Ellmother--Doctor Allday: not one of them had felt for
her, not one of them had spoken to her, as this man had felt and
had spoken. She remembered the dreadful sense of solitude and
helplessness which had wrung her heart, in the interval before
Mirabel came in. Her father himself could hardly have been kinder
to her than this friend of a few weeks only. She looked at him
through her tears; she could say nothing that was eloquent,
nothing even that was adequate. "You are very good to me," was
her only acknowledgment of all that he had offered. How poor it
seemed to be! and yet how much it meant!

He rose--saying considerately that he would leave her to recover
herself, and would wait to hear if he was wanted.

"No," she said; "I must not let you go. In common gratitude I
ought to decide before you leave me, and I do decide to take you
into my confidence." She hesitated; her color rose a little. "I
know how unselfishly you offer me your help," she resumed; "I
know you speak to me as a brother might speak to a sister--"

He gently interrupted her. "No," he said; "I can't honestly claim
to do that. And--may I venture to remind you?--you know why."

She started. Her eyes rested on him with a momentary expression
of reproach.

"Is it quite fair," she asked, "in my situation, to say that?"

"Would it have been quite fair," he rejoined, "to allow you to
deceive yourself? Should I deserve to be taken into your
confidence, if I encouraged you to trust me, under false
pretenses? Not a word more of those hopes on which the happiness
of my life depends shall pass my lips, unless you permit it. In
my devotion to your interests, I promise to forget myself. My
motives may be misinterpreted; my position may be misunderstood.
Ignorant people may take me for that other happier man, who is an
object of interest to you--"

"Stop, Mr. Mirabel! The person to whom you refer has no such
claim on me as you suppose."

"Dare I say how happy I am to hear it? Will you forgive me?"

"I will forgive you if you say no more."

Their eyes met. Completely overcome by the new hope that she had
inspired, Mirabel was unable to answer her. His sensitive nerves
trembled under emotion, like the nerves of a woman; his delicate
complexion faded away slowly into whiteness. Emily was
alarmed--he seemed to be on the point of fainting. She ran to the
window to open it more widely.

"Pray don't trouble yourself," he said, "I am easily agitated by
any sudden sensation--and I am a little overcome at this moment
by my own happiness."

"Let me give you a glass of wine."

"Thank you--I don't need it indeed."

"You really feel better?"

"I feel quite well again--and eager to hear how I can serve you."

"It's a long story, Mr. Mirabel--and a dreadful story."

"Dreadful?"

"Yes! Let me tell you first how you can serve me. I am in search
of a man who has done me the cruelest wrong that one human
creature can inflict on another. But the chances are all against
me--I am only a woman; and I don't know how to take even the
first step toward discovery."

"You will know, when I guide you."

He reminded her tenderly of what she might expect from him, and
was rewarded by a grateful look. Seeing nothing, suspecting
nothing, they advanced together nearer and nearer to the end.

"Once or twice," Emily continued, "I spoke to you of my poor
father, when we were at Monksmoor--and I must speak of him again.
You could have no interest in inquiring about a stranger--and you
cannot have heard how he died."

"Pardon me, I heard from Mr. Wyvil how he died."

"You heard what I had told Mr. Wyvil," Emily said: "I was wrong."

"Wrong!" Mirabel exclaimed, in a tone of courteous surprise. "Was
it not a sudden death?"

"It _was_ a sudden death."

"Caused by disease of the heart?"

"Caused by no disease. I have been deceived about my father's
death--and I have only discovered it a few days since."

At the impending moment of the frightful shock which she was
innocently about to inflict on him, she stopped--doubtful whether
it would be best to relate how the discovery had been made, or to
pass at once to the result. Mirabel supposed that she had paused
to control her agitation. He was so immeasurably far away from
the faintest suspicion of what was coming that he exerted his
ingenuity, in the hope of sparing her.

"I can anticipate the rest," he said. "Your sad loss has been
caused by some fatal accident. Let us change the subject; tell me
more of that man whom I must help you to find. It will only
distress you to dwell on your father's death."

"Distress me?" she repeated. "His death maddens me!"

"Oh, don't say that!"

"Hear me! hear me! My father died murdered, at Zeeland--and the
man you must help me to find is the wretch who killed him."

She started to her feet with a cry of terror. Mirabel dropped
from his chair senseless to the floor.


CHAPTER LIV.

THE END OF THE FAINTING FIT.

Emily recovered her presence of mind. She opened the door, so as
to make a draught of air in the room, and called for water.
Returning to Mirabel, she loosened his cravat. Mrs. Ellmother
came in, just in time to prevent her from committing a common
error in the treatment of fainting persons, by raising Mirabel's
head. The current of air, and the sprinkling of water over his
face, soon produced their customary effect. "He'll come round,
directly," Mrs. Ellmother remarked. "Your aunt was sometimes
taken with these swoons, miss; and I know something about them.
He looks a poor weak creature, in spite of his big beard. Has
anything frightened him?"

Emily little knew how correctly that chance guess had hit on the
truth!

"Nothing can possibly have frightened him," she replied; "I am
afraid he is in bad health. He turned suddenly pale while we were
talking; and I thought he was going to be taken ill; he made
light of it, and seemed to recover. Unfortunately, I was right;
it was the threatening of a fainting fit--he dropped on the floor
a minute afterward."

A sigh fluttered over Mirabel's lips. His eyes opened, looked at
Mrs. Ellmother in vacant terror, and closed again. Emily
whispered to her to leave the room. The old woman smiled
satirically as she opened the door--then looked back, with a
sudden change of humor. To see the kind young mistress bending
over the feeble little clergyman set her--by some strange
association of ideas--thinking of Alban Morris. "Ah," she
muttered to herself, on her way out, "I call _him_ a Man!"

There was wine in the sideboard--the wine which Emily had once
already offered in vain. Mirabel drank it eagerly, this time. He
looked round the room, as if he wished to be sure that they were
alone. "Have I fallen to a low place in your estimation?" he
asked, smiling faintly. "I am afraid you will think poorly enough
of your new ally, after this?"

"I only think you should take more care of your health," Emily
replied, with sincere interest in his recovery. "Let me leave you
to rest on the sofa."

He refused to remain at the cottage--he asked, with a sudden
change to fretfulness, if she would let her servant get him a
cab. She ventured to doubt whether he was quite strong enough yet
to go away by himself. He reiterated, piteously reiterated, his
request. A passing cab was stopped directly. Emily accompanied
him to the gate. "I know what to do," he said, in a hurried
absent way. "Rest and a little tonic medicine will soon set me
right." The clammy coldness of his skin made Emily shudder, as
they shook hands. "You won't think the worse of me for this?" he
asked.

"How can you imagine such a thing!" she answered warmly.

"Will you see me, if I come to-morrow?"

"I shall be anxious to see you."

So they parted. Emily returned to the house, pitying him with all
her heart.


BOOK THE SIXTH--HERE AND THERE.

CHAPTER LV.

MIRABEL SEES HIS WAY.

Reaching the hotel at which he was accustomed to stay when he was
in London, Mirabel locked the door of his room. He looked at the
houses on the opposite side of the street. His mind was in such a
state of morbid distrust that he lowered the blind over the
window. In solitude and obscurity, the miserable wretch sat down
in a corner, and covered his face with his hands, and tried to
realize what had happened to him.

Nothing had been said at the fatal interview with Emily, which
could have given him the slightest warning of what was to come.
Her father's name--absolutely unknown to him when he fled from
the inn--had only been communicated to the public by the
newspaper reports of the adjourned inquest. At the time when
those reports appeared, he was in hiding, under circumstances
which prevented him from seeing a newspaper. While the murder was
still a subject of conversation, he was in France--far out of the
track of English travelers--and he remained on the continent
until the summer of eighteen hundred and eighty-one. No exercise
of discretion, on his part, could have extricated him from the
terrible position in which he was now placed. He stood pledged to
Emily to discover the man suspected of the murder of her father;
and that man was--himself!

What refuge was left open to him?

If he took to flight, his sudden disappearance would be a
suspicious circumstance in itself, and would therefore provoke
inquiries which might lead to serious results. Supposing that he
overlooked the risk thus presented, would he be capable of
enduring a separation from Emily, which might be a separation for
life? Even in the first horror of discovering his situation, her
influence remained unshaken--the animating spirit of the one
manly capacity for resistance which raised him above the reach of
his own fears. The only prospect before him which he felt himself
to be incapable of contemplating, was the prospect of leaving
Emily.

Having arrived at this conclusion, his fears urged him to think
of providing for his own safety.

The first precaution to adopt was to separate Emily from friends
whose advice might be hostile to his interests--perhaps even
subversive of his security. To effect this design, he had need of
an ally whom he could trust. That ally was at his disposal, far
away in the north.

At the time when Francine's jealousy began to interfere with all
freedom of intercourse between Emily and himself at Monksmoor, he
had contemplated making arrangements which might enable them to
meet at the house of his invalid sister, Mrs. Delvin. He had
spoken of her, and of the bodily affliction which confined her to
her room, in terms which had already interested Emily. In the
present emergency, he decided on returning to the subject, and on
hastening the meeting between the two women which he had first
suggested at Mr. Wyvil's country seat.

No time was to be lost in carrying out this intention. He wrote
to Mrs. Delvin by that day's post; confiding to her, in the first
place, the critical position in which he now found himself. This
done, he proceeded as follows:

"To your sound judgment, dearest Agatha, it may appear that I am
making myself needlessly uneasy about the future. Two persons
only know that I am the man who escaped from the inn at Zeeland.
You are one of them, and Miss Jethro is the other. On you I can
absolutely rely; and, after my experience of her, I ought to feel
sure of Miss Jethro. I admit this; but I cannot get over my
distrust of Emily's friends. I fear the cunning old doctor; I
doubt Mr. Wyvil; I hate Alban Morris.

"Do me a favor, my dear. Invite Emily to be your guest, and so
separate her from these friends. The old servant who attends on
her will be included in the invitation, of course. Mrs. Ellmother
is, as I believe, devoted to the interests of Mr. Alban Morris:
she will be well out of the way of doing mischief, while we have
her safe in your northern solitude.

"There is no fear that Emily will refuse your invitation.

"In the first place, she is already interested in you. In the
second place, I shall consider the small proprieties of social
life; and, instead of traveling with her to your house, I shall
follow by a later train. In the third place, I am now the chosen
adviser in whom she trusts; and what I tell her to do, she will
do. It pains me, really and truly pains me, to be compelled to
deceive her--but the other alternative is to reveal myself as the
wretch of whom she is in search. Was there ever such a situation?
And, oh, Agatha, I am so fond of her! If I fail to persuade her
to be my wife, I don't care what becomes of me. I used to think
disgrace, and death on the scaffold, the most frightful prospect
that a man can contemplate. In my present frame of mind, a life
without Emily may just as well end in that way as in any other.
When we are together in your old sea-beaten tower, do your best,
my dear, to incline the heart of this sweet girl toward me. If
she remains in London, how do I know that Mr. Morris may not
recover the place he has lost in her good opinion? The bare idea
of it turns me cold.

"There is one more point on which I must touch, before I can
finish my letter.

"When you last wrote, you told me that Sir Jervis Redwood was not
expected to live much longer, and that the establishment would be
broken up after his death. Can you find out for me what will
become, under the circumstances, of Mr. and Mrs. Rook? So far as
I am concerned, I don't doubt that the alteration in my personal
appearance, which has protected me for years past, may be trusted
to preserve me from recognition by these two people. But it is of
the utmost importance, remembering the project to which Emily has
devoted herself, that she should not meet with Mrs. Rook. They
have been already in correspondence; and Mrs. Rook has expressed
an intention (if the opportunity offers itself) of calling at the
cottage. Another reason, and a pressing reason, for removing
Emily from London! We can easily keep the Rooks out of _your_
house; but I own I should feel more at my ease, if I heard that
they had left Northumberland."

With that confession, Mrs. Delvin's brother closed his letter.


CHAPTER LVI.

ALBAN SEES HIS WAY.

During the first days of Mirabel's sojourn at his hotel in
London, events were in progress at Netherwoods, affecting the
interests of the man who was the especial object of his distrust.
Not long after Miss Ladd had returned to her school, she heard of
an artist who was capable of filling the place to be vacated by
Alban Morris. It was then the twenty-third of the month. In four
days more the new master would be ready to enter on his duties;
and Alban would be at liberty.

On the twenty-fourth, Alban received a telegram which startled
him. The person sending the message was Mrs. Ellmother; and the
words were: "Meet me at your railway station to-day, at two
o'clock."

He found the old woman in the waiting-room; and he met with a
rough reception.

"Minutes are precious, Mr. Morris," she said; "you are two
minutes late. The next train to London stops here in half an
hour--and I must go back by it."

"Good heavens, what brings you here? Is Emily--?"

"Emily is well enough in health--if that's what you mean? As to
why I come here, the reason is that it's a deal easier for me
(worse luck!) to take this journey than to write a letter. One
good turn deserves another. I don't forget how kind you were to
me, away there at the school--and I can't, and won't, see what's
going on at the cottage, behind your back, without letting you
know of it. Oh, you needn't be alarmed about _her!_ I've made an
excuse to get away for a few hours--but I haven't left her by
herself. Miss Wyvil has come to London again; and Mr. Mirabel
spends the best part of his time with her. Excuse me for a
moment, will you? I'm so thirsty after the journey, I can hardly
speak."

She presented herself at the counter in the waiting-room. "I'll
trouble you, young woman, for a glass of ale." She returned to
Alban in a better humor. "It's not bad stuff, that! When I have
said
 my say, I'll have a drop more--just to wash the taste of Mr.
Mirabel out of my mouth. Wait a bit; I have something to ask you.
How much longer are you obliged to stop here, teaching the girls
to draw?"

"I leave Netherwoods in three days more," Alban replied.

"That's all right! You may be in time to bring Miss Emily to her
senses, yet."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean--if you don't stop it--she will marry the parson."

"I can't believe it, Mrs. Ellmother! I won't believe it!"

"Ah, it's a comfort to him, poor fellow, to say that! Look here,
Mr. Morris; this is how it stands. You're in disgrace with Miss
Emily--and he profits by it. I was fool enough to take a liking
to Mr. Mirabel when I first opened the door to him; I know better
now. He got on the blind side of me; and now he has got on the
blind side of _her_. Shall I tell you how? By doing what you
would have done if you had had the chance. He's helping her--or
pretending to help her, I don't know which--to find the man who
murdered poor Mr. Brown. After four years! And when all the
police in England (with a reward to encourage them) did their
best, and it came to nothing!"

"Never mind that!" Alban said impatiently. "I want to know how
Mr. Mirabel is helping her?"

"That's more than I can tell you. You don't suppose they take me
into their confidence? All I can do is to pick up a word, here
and there, when fine weather tempts them out into the garden. She
tells him to suspect Mrs. Rook, and to make inquiries after Miss
Jethro. And he has his plans; and he writes them down, which is
dead against his doing anything useful, in my opinion. I don't
hold with your scribblers. At the same time I wouldn't count too
positively, in your place, on his being likely to fail. That
little Mirabel--if it wasn't for his beard, I should believe he
was a woman, and a sickly woman too; he fainted in our house the
other day--that little Mirabel is in earnest. Rather than leave
Miss Emily from Saturday to Monday, he has got a parson out of
employment to do his Sunday work for him. And, what's more, he
has persuaded her (for some reasons of his own) to leave London
next week."

"Is she going back to Monksmoor?"

"Not she! Mr. Mirabel has got a sister, a widow lady; she's a
cripple, or something of the sort. Her name is Mrs. Delvin. She
lives far away in the north country, by the sea; and Miss Emily
is going to stay with her."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Sure? I've seen the letter."

"Do you mean the letter of invitation?"

"Yes--I do. Miss Emily herself showed it to me. I'm to go with
her--'in attendance on my mistress,' as the lady puts it. This I
will say for Mrs. Delvin: her handwriting is a credit to the
school that taught her; and the poor bedridden creature words her
invitation so nicely, that I myself couldn't have resisted
it--and I'm a hard one, as you know. You don't seem to heed me,
Mr. Morris."

"I beg your pardon, I was thinking."

"Thinking of what--if I may make so bold?"

"Of going back to London with you, instead of waiting till the
new master comes to take my place."

"Don't do that, sir! You would do harm instead of good, if you
showed yourself at the cottage now. Besides, it would not be fair
to Miss Ladd, to leave her before the other man takes your girls
off your hands. Trust me to look after your interests; and don't
go near Miss Emily--don't even write to her--unless you have got
something to say about the murder, which she will be eager to
hear. Make some discovery in that direction, Mr. Morris, while
the parson is only trying to do it or pretending to do it--and
I'll answer for the result. Look at the clock! In ten minutes
more the train will be here. My memory isn't as good as it was;
but I do think I have told you all I had to tell."

"You are the best of good friends!" Alban said warmly.

"Never mind about that, sir. If you want to do a friendly thing
in return, tell me if you know what has become of Miss de Sor."

"She has returned to Netherwoods."

"Aha! Miss Ladd is as good as her word. Would you mind writing to
tell me of it, if Miss de Sor leaves the school again? Good Lord!
there she is on the platform with bag and baggage. Don't let her
see me, Mr. Morris! If she comes in here, I shall set the marks
of my ten finger-nails on that false face of hers, as sure as I
am a Christian woman."

Alban placed himself at the door, so as to hide Mrs. Ellmother.
There indeed was Francine, accompanied by one of the teachers at
the school. She took a seat on the bench outside the
booking-office, in a state of sullen indifference--absorbed in
herself--noticing nothing. Urged by ungovernable curiosity, Mrs.
Ellmother stole on tiptoe to Alban's side to look at her. To a
person acquainted with the circumstances there could be no
possible doubt of what had happened. Francine had failed to
excuse herself, and had been dismissed from Miss Ladd's house.

"I would have traveled to the world's end," Mrs. Ellmother said,
"to see _that!_"

She returned to her place in the waiting-room, perfectly
satisfied.

The teacher noticed Alban, on leaving the booking-office after
taking the tickets. "I shall be glad," she said, looking toward
Francine, "when I have resigned the charge of that young lady to
the person who is to receive her in London."

"Is she to be sent back to her parents?" Alban asked.

"We don't know yet. Miss Ladd will write to St. Domingo by the
next mail. In the meantime, her father's agent in London--the
same person who pays her allowance--takes care of her until he
hears from the West Indies."

"Does she consent to this?"

"She doesn't seem to care what becomes of her. Miss Ladd has
given her every opportunity of explaining and excusing herself,
and has produced no impression. You can see the state she is in.
Our good mistress--always hopeful even in the worst cases, as you
know--thinks she is feeling ashamed of herself, and is too proud
and self-willed to own it. My own idea is, that some secret
disappointment is weighing on her mind. Perhaps I am wrong."

No. Miss Ladd was wrong; and the teacher was right.

The passion of revenge, being essentially selfish in its nature,
is of all passions the narrowest in its range of view. In
gratifying her jealous hatred of Emily, Francine had correctly
foreseen consequences, as they might affect the other object of
her enmity--Alban Morris. But she had failed to perceive the
imminent danger of another result, which in a calmer frame of
mind might not have escaped discovery. In triumphing over Emily
and Alban, she had been the indirect means of inflicting on
herself the bitterest of all disappointments--she had brought
Emily and Mirabel together. The first forewarning of this
catastrophe had reached her, on hearing that Mirabel would not
return to Monksmoor. Her worst fears had been thereafter
confirmed by a letter from Cecilia, which had followed her to
Netherwoods. From that moment, she, who had made others wretched,
paid the penalty in suffering as keen as any that she had
inflicted. Completely prostrated; powerless, through ignorance of
his address in London, to make a last appeal to Mirabel; she was
literally, as had just been said, careless what became of her.
When the train approached, she sprang to her feet--advanced to
the edge of the platform--and suddenly drew back, shuddering. The
teacher looked in terror at Alban. Had the desperate girl
meditated throwing herself under the wheels of the engine? The
thought had been in both their minds; but neither of them
acknowledged it. Francine stepped quietly into the carriage, when
the train drew up, and laid her head back in a corner, and closed
her eyes. Mrs. Ellmother took her place in another compartment,
and beckoned to Alban to speak to her at the window.

"Where can I see you, when you go to London?" she asked.

"At Doctor Allday's house."

"On what day?"

"On Tuesday next."


CHAPTER LVII.

APPROACHING THE END.

Alban reached London early enough in the afternoon to find the
doctor at his luncheon. "Too late to see Mrs. Ellmother," he
announced. "Sit down and have something to eat."

"Has she left any message for me?"

"A message,  my good friend, that you won't like to hear. She is
off w ith her mistress, this morning, on a visit to Mr. Mirabel's
sister."

"Does he go with them?"

"No; he follows by a later train."

"Has Mrs. Ellmother mentioned the address?"

"There it is, in her own handwriting."

Alban read the address:--"Mrs. Delvin, The Clink, Belford,
Northumberland."

"Turn to the back of that bit of paper," the doctor said. "Mrs.
Ellmother has written something on it."

She had written these words: "No discoveries made by Mr. Mirabel,
up to this time. Sir Jervis Redwood is dead. The Rooks are
believed to be in Scotland; and Miss Emily, if need be, is to
help the parson to find them. No news of Miss Jethro."

"Now you have got your information," Doctor Allday resumed, "let
me have a look at you. You're not in a rage: that's a good sign
to begin with."

"I am not the less determined," Alban answered.

"To bring Emily to her senses?" the doctor asked.

"To do what Mirabel has _not_ done--and then to let her choose
between us."

"Ay? ay? Your good opinion of her hasn't altered, though she has
treated you so badly?"

"My good opinion makes allowance for the state of my poor
darling's mind, after the shock that has fallen on her," Alban
answered quietly. "She is not _my_ Emily now. She will be _my_
Emily yet. I told her I was convinced of it, in the old days at
school--and my conviction is as strong as ever. Have you seen
her, since I have been away at Netherwoods?"

"Yes; and she is as angry with me as she is with you."

"For the same reason?"

"No, no. I heard enough to warn me to hold my tongue. I refused
to help her--that's all. You are a man, and you may run risks
which no young girl ought to encounter. Do you remember when I
asked you to drop all further inquiries into the murder, for
Emily's sake? The circumstances have altered since that time. Can
I be of any use?"

"Of the greatest use, if you can give me Miss Jethro's address."

"Oh! You mean to begin in that way, do you?"

"Yes. You know that Miss Jethro visited me at Netherwoods?"

"Go on."

"She showed me your answer to a letter which she had written to
you. Have you got that letter?"

Doctor Allday produced it. The address was at a post-office, in a
town on the south coast. Looking up when he had copied it, Alban
saw the doctor's eyes fixed on him with an oddly-mingled
expression: partly of sympathy, partly of hesitation.

"Have you anything to suggest?" he asked.

"You will get nothing out of Miss Jethro," the doctor answered,
"unless--" there he stopped.

"Unless, what?"

"Unless you can frighten her."

"How am I to do that?"

After a little reflection, Doctor Allday returned, without any
apparent reason, to the subject of his last visit to Emily.

"There was one thing she said, in the course of our talk," he
continued, "which struck me as being sensible: possibly (for we
are all more or less conceited), because I agreed with her
myself. She suspects Miss Jethro of knowing more about that
damnable murder than Miss Jethro is willing to acknowledge. If
you want to produce the right effect on her--" he looked hard at
Alban and checked himself once more.

"Well? what am I to do?"

"Tell her you have an idea of who the murderer is."

"But I have no idea."

"But _I_ have."

"Good God! what do you mean?"

"Don't mistake me! An impression has been produced on my
mind--that's all. Call it a freak or fancy; worth trying perhaps
as a bold experiment, and worth nothing more. Come a little
nearer. My housekeeper is an excellent woman, but I have once or
twice caught her rather too near to that door. I think I'll
whisper it."

He did whisper it. In breathless wonder, Alban heard of the doubt
which had crossed Doctor Allday's mind, on the evening when
Mirabel had called at his house.

"You look as if you didn't believe it," the doctor remarked.

"I'm thinking of Emily. For her sake I hope and trust you are
wrong. Ought I to go to her at once? I don't know what to do!"

"Find out first, my good fellow, whether I am right or wrong. You
can do it, if you will run the risk with Miss Jethro."

Alban recovered himself. His old friend's advice was clearly the
right advice to follow. He examined his railway guide, and then
looked at his watch. "If I can find Miss Jethro," he answered,
"I'll risk it before the day is out."

Tile doctor accompanied him to the door. "You will write to me,
won't you?"

"Without fail. Thank you--and good-by."


BOOK THE SEVENTH--THE CLINK.

CHAPTER LVIII.

A COUNCIL OF TWO.

Early in the last century one of the picturesque race of robbers
and murderers, practicing the vices of humanity on the
borderlands watered by the river Tweed, built a tower of stone on
the coast of Northumberland. He lived joyously in the
perpetration of atrocities; and he died penitent, under the
direction of his priest. Since that event, he has figured in
poems and pictures; and has been greatly admired by modern ladies
and gentlemen, whom he would have outraged and robbed if he had
been lucky enough to meet with them in the good old times.

His son succeeded him, and failed to profit by the paternal
example: that is to say, he made the fatal mistake of fighting
for other people instead of fighting for himself.

In the rebellion of Forty-Five, this northern squire sided to
serious purpose with Prince Charles and the Highlanders. He lost
his head; and his children lost their inheritance. In the lapse
of years, the confiscated property fell into the hands of
strangers; the last of whom (having a taste for the turf)
discovered, in course of time, that he was in want of money. A
retired merchant, named Delvin (originally of French extraction),
took a liking to the wild situation, and purchased the tower. His
wife--already in failing health--had been ordered by the doctors
to live a quiet life by the sea. Her husband's death left her a
rich and lonely widow; by day and night alike, a prisoner in her
room; wasted by disease, and having but two interests which
reconciled her to life--writing poetry in the intervals of pain,
and paying the debts of a reverend brother who succeeded in the
pulpit, and prospered nowhere else.

In the later days of its life, the tower had been greatly
improved as a place of residence. The contrast was remarkable
between the dreary gray outer walls, and the luxuriously
furnished rooms inside, rising by two at a time to the lofty
eighth story of the building. Among the scattered populace of the
country round, the tower was still known by the odd name given to
it in the bygone time--"The Clink." It had been so called (as was
supposed) in allusion to the noise made by loose stones, washed
backward and forward at certain times of the tide, in hollows of
the rock on which the building stood.

On the evening of her arrival at Mrs. Delvin's retreat, Emily
retired at an early hour, fatigued by her long journey. Mirabel
had an opportunity of speaking with his sister privately in her
own room.

"Send me away, Agatha, if I disturb you," he said, "and let me
know when I can see you in the morning."

"My dear Miles, have you forgotten that I am never able to sleep
in calm weather? My lullaby, for years past, has been the moaning
of the great North Sea, under my window. Listen! There is not a
sound outside on this peaceful night. It is the right time of the
tide, just now--and yet, 'the clink' is not to be heard. Is the
moon up?"

Mirabel opened the curtains. "The whole sky is one great abyss of
black," he answered. "If I was superstitious, I should think that
horrid darkness a bad omen for the future. Are you suffering,
Agatha?"

"Not just now. I suppose I look sadly changed for the worse since
you saw me last?"

But for the feverish brightness of her eyes, she would have
looked like a corpse. Her wrinkled forehead, her hollow cheeks,
her white lips told their terrible tale of the suffering of
years. The ghastly appearance of her face was heightened by the
furnishing of the room. This doomed woman, dying slowly day by
day, delighted in bright colors and sumptuous materials. The
paper on the walls, the curtains, the carpet presented the hues
of the rainbow. She lay on a couch covered with purple silk,
under draperies of green velvet to keep her warm. Rich lace hid h
er scanty hair, turning prematurely gray; brilliant rings
glittered on her bony fingers. The room was in a blaze of light
from lamps and candles. Even the wine at her side that kept her
alive had been decanted into a bottle of lustrous Venetian glass.
"My grave is open," she used to say; "and I want all these
beautiful things to keep me from looking at it. I should die at
once, if I was left in the dark."

Her brother sat by the couch, thinking "Shall I tell you what is
in your mind?" she asked.

Mirabel humored the caprice of the moment. "Tell me!" he said.

"You want to know what I think of Emily," she answered. "Your
letter told me you were in love; but I didn't believe your
letter. I have always doubted whether you were capable of feeling
true love--until I saw Emily. The moment she entered the room, I
knew that I had never properly appreciated my brother. You _are_
in love with her, Miles; and you are a better man than I thought
you. Does that express my opinion?"

Mirabel took her wasted hand, and kissed it gratefully.

"What a position I am in!" he said. "To love her as I love her;
and, if she knew the truth, to be the object of her horror--to be
the man whom she would hunt to the scaffold, as an act of duty to
the memory of her father!"

"You have left out the worst part of it," Mrs. Delvin reminded
him. "You have bound yourself to help her to find the man. Your
one hope of persuading her to become your wife rests on your
success in finding him. And you are the man. There is your
situation! You can't submit to it. How can you escape from it?"

"You are trying to frighten me, Agatha."

"I am trying to encourage you to face your position boldly."

"I am doing my best," Mirabel said, with sullen resignation.
"Fortune has favored me so far. I have, really and truly, been
unable to satisfy Emily by discovering Miss Jethro. She has left
the place at which I saw her last--there is no trace to be found
of her--and Emily knows it."

"Don't forget," Mrs. Delvin replied, "that there is a trace to be
found of Mrs. Rook, and that Emily expects you to follow it."

Mirabel shuddered. "I am surrounded by dangers, whichever way I
look," he said. "Do what I may, it turns out to be wrong. I was
wrong, perhaps, when I brought Emily here."

"No!"

"I could easily make an excuse," Mirabel persisted "and take her
back to London."

"And for all you know to the contrary," his wiser sister replied,
"Mrs. Rook may go to London; and you may take Emily back in time
to receive her at the cottage. In every way you are safer in my
old tower. And--don't forget--you have got my money to help you,
if you want it. In my belief, Miles, you _will_ want it."

"You are the dearest and best of sisters! What do you recommend
me to do?"

"What you would have been obliged to do," Mrs. Delvin answered,
"if you had remained in London. You must go to Redwood Hall
tomorrow, as Emily has arranged it. If Mrs. Rook is not there,
you must ask for her address in Scotland. If nobody knows the
address, you must still bestir yourself in trying to find it.
And, when you do fall in with Mrs. Rook--"

"Well?"

"Take care, wherever it may be, that you see her privately."

Mirabel was alarmed. "Don't keep me in suspense," he burst out.
"Tell me what you propose."

"Never mind what I propose, to-night. Before I can tell you what
I have in my mind, I must know whether Mrs. Rook is in England or
Scotland. Bring me that information to-morrow, and I shall have
something to say to you. Hark! The wind is rising, the rain is
falling. There is a chance of sleep for me--I shall soon hear the
sea. Good-night."

"Good-night, dearest--and thank you again, and again!"


CHAPTER LIX.

THE ACCIDENT AT BELFORD.

Early in the morning Mirabel set forth for Redwood Hall, in one
of the vehicles which Mrs. Delvin still kept at "The Clink" for
the convenience of visitors. He returned soon after noon; having
obtained information of the whereabout of Mrs. Rook and her
husband. When they had last been heard of, they were at Lasswade,
near Edinburgh. Whether they had, or had not, obtained the
situation of which they were in search, neither Miss Redwood nor
any one else at the Hall could tell.

In half an hour more, another horse was harnessed, and Mirabel
was on his way to the railway station at Belford, to follow Mrs.
Rook at Emily's urgent request. Before his departure, he had an
interview with his sister.

Mrs. Delvin was rich enough to believe implicitly in the power of
money. Her method of extricating her brother from the serious
difficulties that beset him, was to make it worth the while of
Mr. and Mrs. Rook to leave England. Their passage to America
would be secretly paid; and they would take with them a letter of
credit addressed to a banker in New York. If Mirabel failed to
discover them, after they had sailed, Emily could not blame his
want of devotion to her interests. He understood this; but he
remained desponding and irresolute, even with the money in his
hands. The one person who could rouse his courage and animate his
hope, was also the one person who must know nothing of what had
passed between his sister and himself. He had no choice but to
leave Emily, without being cheered by her bright looks,
invigorated by her inspiriting words. Mirabel went away on his
doubtful errand with a heavy heart.

"The Clink" was so far from the nearest post town, that the few
letters, usually addressed to the tower, were delivered by
private arrangement with a messenger. The man's punctuality
depended on the convenience of his superiors employed at the
office. Sometimes he arrived early, and sometimes he arrived
late. On this particular morning he presented himself, at half
past one o'clock, with a letter for Emily; and when Mrs.
Ellmother smartly reproved him for the delay, he coolly
attributed it to the hospitality of friends whom he had met on
the road.

The letter, directed to Emily at the cottage, had been forwarded
from London by the person left in charge. It addressed her as
"Honored Miss." She turned at once to the end--and discovered the
signature of Mrs. Rook!

"And Mr. Mirabel has gone, "Emily exclaimed, "just when his
presence is of the greatest importance to us!"

Shrewd Mrs. Ellmother suggested that it might be as well to read
the letter first--and then to form an opinion.

Emily read it.


                                        "Lasswade, near
Edinburgh, Sept. 26th.

"HONORED MISS--I take up my pen to bespeak your kind sympathy for
my husband and myself; two old people thrown on the world again
by the death of our excellent master. We are under a month's
notice to leave Redwood Hall.

"Hearing of a situation at this place (also that our expenses
would be paid if we applied personally), we got leave of absence,
and made our application. The lady and her son are either the
stingiest people that ever lived--or they have taken a dislike to
me and my husband, and they make money a means of getting rid of
us easily. Suffice it to say that we have refused to accept
starvation wages, and that we are still out of place. It is just
possible that you may have heard of something to suit us. So I
write at once, knowing that good chances are often lost through
needless delay.

"We stop at Belford on our way back, to see some friends of my
husband, and we hope to get to Redwood Hall in good time on the
28th. Would you please address me to care of Miss Redwood, in
case you know of any good situation for which we could apply.
Perhaps we may be driven to try our luck in London. In this case,
will you permit me to have the honor of presenting my respects,
as I ventured to propose when I wrote to you a little time since.

"I beg to remain, Honored Miss,

                                                  "Your humble
servant,

                                                           "R.
ROOK."


Emily handed the letter to Mrs. Ellmother. "Read it," she said,
"and tell me what you think."

"I think you had better be careful."

"Careful of Mrs. Rook?"

"Yes--and careful of Mrs. Delvin too."

Emily was astonished. "Are you really speaking seriously?" she
said. "Mrs. Delvin is a most interesting person; so patient under
her sufferings; so kind, so clever; so interested in all that
interests _me_. I shall take the letter to her at once, and ask
her advice."

"Have your own way, miss. I can't tell you why--but I don't like
her!"

Mrs. Delvin's devotion to the interests of her guest took even
Emily by surprise. After reading Mrs. Rook's letter, she rang the
bell on her table in a frenzy of impatience. "My brother must be
instantly recalled," she said. "Telegraph to him in your own
name, telling him what has happened. He will find the message
waiting for him, at the end of his journey."

The groom, summoned by the bell, was ordered to saddle the third
and last horse left in the stables; to take the telegram to
Belford, and to wait there until the answer arrived.

"How far is it to Redwood Hall?" Emily asked, when the man had
received his orders.

"Ten miles," Mrs. Delvin answered.

"How can I get there to-day?"

"My dear, you can't get there."

"Pardon me, Mrs. Delvin, I must get there."

"Pardon _me_. My brother represents you in this matter. Leave it
to my brother."

The tone taken by Mirabel's sister was positive, to say the least
of it. Emily thought of what her faithful old servant had said,
and began to doubt her own discretion in so readily showing the
letter. The mistake--if a mistake it was--had however been
committed; and, wrong or right, she was not disposed to occupy
the subordinate position which Mrs. Delvin had assigned to her.

"If you will look at Mrs. Rook's letter again," Emily replied,
"you will see that I ought to answer it. She supposes I am in
London."

"Do you propose to tell Mrs. Rook that you are in this house?"
Mrs. Delvin asked.

"Certainly."

"You had better consult my brother, before you take any
responsibility on yourself."

Emily kept her temper. "Allow me to remind you," she said, "that
Mr. Mirabel is not acquainted with Mrs. Rook--and that I am. If I
speak to her personally, I can do much to assist the object of
our inquiries, before he returns. She is not an easy woman to
deal with--"

"And therefore," Mrs. Delvin interposed, "the sort of person who
requires careful handling by a man like my brother--a man of the
world."

"The sort of person, as I venture to think," Emily persisted,
"whom I ought to see with as little loss of time as possible."

Mrs. Delvin waited a while before she replied. In her condition
of health, anxiety was not easy to bear. Mrs. Rook's letter and
Emily's obstinacy had seriously irritated her. But, like all
persons of ability, she was capable, when there was serious
occasion for it, of exerting self-control. She really liked and
admired Emily; and, as the elder woman and the hostess, she set
an example of forbearance and good humor.

"It is out of my power to send you to Redwood Hall at once," she
resumed. "The only one of my three horses now at your disposal is
the horse which took my brother to the Hall this morning. A
distance, there and back, of twenty miles. You are not in too
great a hurry, I am sure, to allow the horse time to rest?"

Emily made her excuses with perfect grace and sincerity. "I had
no idea the distance was so great," she confessed. "I will wait,
dear Mrs. Delvin, as long as you like."

They parted as good friends as ever--with a certain reserve,
nevertheless, on either side. Emily's eager nature was depressed
and irritated by the prospect of delay. Mrs. Delvin, on the other
hand (devoted to her brother's interests), thought hopefully of
obstacles which might present themselves with the lapse of time.
The horse might prove to be incapable of further exertion for
that day. Or the threatening aspect of the weather might end in a
storm.

But the hours passed--and the sky cleared--and the horse was
reported to be fit for work again. Fortune was against the lady
of the tower; she had no choice but to submit.

Mrs. Delvin had just sent word to Emily that the carriage would
be ready for her in ten minutes, when the coachman who had driven
Mirabel to Belford returned. He brought news which agreeably
surprised both the ladies. Mirabel had reached the station five
minutes too late; the coachman had left him waiting the arrival
of the next train to the North. He would now receive the
telegraphic message at Belford, and might return immediately by
taking the groom's horse. Mrs. Delvin left it to Emily to decide
whether she would proceed by herself to Redwood Hall, or wait for
Mirabel's return.

Under the changed circumstances, Emily would have acted
ungraciously if she had persisted in holding to her first
intention. She consented to wait.

The sea still remained calm. In the stillness of the moorland
solitude on the western side of "The Clink," the rapid steps of a
horse were heard at some little distance on the highroad.

Emily ran out, followed by careful Mrs. Ellmother, expecting to
meet Mirabel.

She was disappointed: it was the groom who had returned. As he
pulled up at the house, and dismounted, Emily noticed that the
man looked excited.

"Is there anything wrong?" she asked.

"There has been an accident, miss."

"Not to Mr. Mirabel!''

"No, no, miss. An accident to a poor foolish woman, traveling
from Lasswade."

Emily looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "It can't be Mrs. Rook!" she
said.

"That's the name, miss! She got out before the train had quite
stopped, and fell on the platform."

"Was she hurt?"

"Seriously hurt, as I heard. They carried her into a house hard
by--and sent for the doctor."

"Was Mr. Mirabel one of the people who helped her?"

"He was on the other side of the platform, miss; waiting for the
train from London. I got to the station and gave him the
telegram, just as the accident took place. We crossed over to
hear more about it. Mr. Mirabel was telling me that he would
return to 'The Clink' on my horse--when he heard the woman's name
mentioned. Upon that, he changed his mind and went to the house."

"Was he let in?"

"The doctor wouldn't hear of it. He was making his examination;
and he said nobody was to be in the room but her husband and the
woman of the house."

"Is Mr. Mirabel waiting to see her?"

"Yes, miss. He said he would wait all day, if necessary; and he
gave me this bit of a note to take to the mistress."

Emily turned to Mrs. Ellmother. "It's impossible to stay here,
not knowing whether Mrs. Rook is going to live or die," she said.
"I shall go to Belford--and you will go with me."

The groom interfered. "I beg your pardon, miss. It was Mr.
Mirabel's most particular wish that you were not, on any account,
to go to Belford."

"Why not?"

"He didn't say."

Emily eyed the note in the man's hand with well-grounded
distrust. In all probability, Mirabel's object in writing was to
instruct his sister to prevent her guest from going to Belford.
The carriage was waiting at the door. With her usual promptness
of resolution, Emily decided on taking it for granted that she
was free to use as she pleased a carriage which had been already
placed at her disposal.

"Tell your mistress," she said to the groom, "that I am going to
Belford instead of to Redwood Hall."

In a minute more, she and Mrs. Ellmother were on their way to
join Mirabel at the station.


CHAPTER LX.

OUTSIDE THE ROOM.

Emily found Mirabel in the waiting room at Belford. Her sudden
appearance might well have amazed him; but his face expressed a
more serious emotion than surprise--he looked at her as if she
had alarmed him.

"Didn't you get my message?" he asked. "I told the groom I wished
you to wait for my return. I sent a note to my sister, in case he
made any mistake."

"The man made no mistake," Emily answered. "I was in too great a
hurry to be able to speak with Mrs. Delvin. Did you really
suppose I could endure the suspense of waiting till you came
back? Do you think I can be of no use--I who know Mrs. Rook?"

"They won't let you see her."

"Why not? _You_ seem to be waiting to see her."

"I am waiting for the return of the rector of Belford. He is at
Berwick; and he has been sent for at Mrs. Rook's urgent request."

"Is she dying?"

"She is in fear of death--whether rightly or wrongly, I don't
know. There is some internal injury from the fall. I hope to see
her when the rector returns. As a brother cler gyman, I may with
perfect propriety ask him to use his influence in my favor."

"I am glad to find you so eager about it."

"I am always eager in your interests."

"Don't think me ungrateful," Emily replied gently. "I am no
stranger to Mrs. Rook; and, if I send in my name, I may be able
to see her before the clergyman returns."

She stopped. Mirabel suddenly moved so as to place himself
between her and the door. "I must really beg of you to give up
that idea," he said; "you don't know what horrid sight you may
see--what dreadful agonies of pain this unhappy woman may be
suffering."

His manner suggested to Emily that he might be acting under some
motive which he was unwilling to acknowledge. "If you have a
reason for wishing that I should keep away from Mrs. Rook," she
said, "let me hear what it is. Surely we trust each other? I have
done my best to set the example, at any rate."

Mirabel seemed to be at a loss for a reply.

While he was hesitating, the station-master passed the door.
Emily asked him to direct her to the house in which Mrs. Rook had
been received. He led the way to the end of the platform, and
pointed to the house. Emily and Mrs. Ellmother immediately left
the station. Mirabel accompanied them, still remonstrating, still
raising obstacles.

The house door was opened by an old man. He looked reproachfully
at Mirabel. "You have been told already," he said, "that no
strangers are to see my wife?"

Encouraged by discovering that the man was Mr. Rook, Emily
mentioned her name. "Perhaps you may have heard Mrs. Rook speak
of me," she added.

"I've heard her speak of you oftentimes."

"What does the doctor say?"

"He thinks she may get over it. She doesn't believe him."

"Will you say that I am anxious to see her, if she feels well
enough to receive me?"

Mr. Rook looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Are there two of you wanting
to go upstairs?" he inquired.

"This is my old friend and servant," Emily answered. "She will
wait for me down here."

"She can wait in the parlor; the good people of this house are
well known to me." He pointed to the parlor door--and then led
the way to the first floor. Emily followed him. Mirabel, as
obstinate as ever, followed Emily.

Mr. Rook opened a door at the end of the landing; and, turning
round to speak to Emily, noticed Mirabel standing behind her.
Without making any remarks, the old man pointed significantly
down the stairs. His resolution was evidently immovable. Mirabel
appealed to Emily to help him.

"She will see me, if _you_ ask her," he said, "Let me wait here?"

The sound of his voice was instantly followed by a cry from the
bed-chamber--a cry of terror.

Mr. Rook hurried into the room, and closed the door. In less than
a minute, he opened it again, with doubt and horror plainly
visible in his face. He stepped up to Mirabel--eyed him with the
closest scrutiny--and drew back again with a look of relief.

"She's wrong," he said; "you are not the man."

This strange proceeding startled Emily.

"What man do you mean?" she asked.

Mr. Rook took no notice of the question. Still looking at
Mirabel, he pointed down the stairs once more. With vacant
eyes--moving mechanically, like a sleep-walker in his
dream--Mirabel silently obeyed. Mr. Rook turned to Emily.

"Are you easily frightened?" he said

"I don't understand you," Emily replied. "Who is going to
frighten me? Why did you speak to Mr. Mirabel in that strange
way?"

Mr. Rook looked toward the bedroom door. "Maybe you'll hear why,
inside there. If I could have my way, you shouldn't see her--but
she's not to be reasoned with. A caution, miss. Don't be too
ready to believe what my wife may say to you. She's had a
fright." He opened the door. "In my belief," he whispered, "she's
off her head."

Emily crossed the threshold. Mr. Rook softly closed the door
behind her.


CHAPTER LXI.

INSIDE THE ROOM.

A decent elderly woman was seated at the bedside. She rose, and
spoke to Emily with a mingling of sorrow and confusion strikingly
expressed on her face. "It isn't my fault," she said, "that Mrs.
Rook receives you in this manner; I am obliged to humor her."

She drew aside, and showed Mrs. Rook with her head supported by
many pillows, and her face strangely hidden from view under a
veil. Emily started back in horror. "Is her face injured?" she
asked.

Mrs. Rook answered the question herself. Her voice was low and
weak; but she still spoke with the same nervous hurry of
articulation which had been remarked by Alban Morris, on the day
when she asked him to direct her to Netherwoods

"Not exactly injured," she explained; "but one's appearance is a
matter of some anxiety even on one's death-bed. I am disfigured
by a thoughtless use of water, to bring me to when I had my
fall--and I can't get at my toilet-things to put myself right
again. I don't wish to shock you. Please excuse the veil."

Emily remembered the rouge on her cheeks, and the dye on her
hair, when they had first seen each other at the school.
Vanity--of all human frailties the longest-lived--still held its
firmly-rooted place in this woman's nature; superior to torment
of conscience, unassailable by terror of death!

The good woman of the house waited a moment before she left the
room. "What shall I say," she asked, "if the clergyman comes?"

Mrs. Rook lifted her hand solemnly "Say," she answered, "that a
dying sinner is making atonement for sin. Say this young lady is
present, by the decree of an all-wise Providence. No mortal
creature must disturb us." Her hand dropped back heavily on the
bed. "Are we alone?" she asked.

"We are alone," Emily answered. "What made you scream just before
I came in?"

"No! I can't allow you to remind me of that," Mrs. Rook
protested. "I must compose myself. Be quiet. Let me think."

Recovering her composure, she also recovered that sense of
enjoyment in talking of herself, which was one of the marked
peculiarities in her character.

"You will excuse me if I exhibit religion," she resumed. "My dear
parents were exemplary people; I was most carefully brought up.
Are you pious? Let us hope so."

Emily was once more reminded of the past.

The bygone time returned to her memory--the time when she had
accepted Sir Jervis Redwood's offer of employment, and when Mrs.
Rook had arrived at the school to be her traveling companion to
the North. The wretched creature had entirely forgotten her own
loose talk, after she had drunk Miss Ladd's good wine to the last
drop in the bottle. As she was boasting now of her piety, so she
had boasted then of her lost faith and hope, and had mockingly
declared her free-thinking opinions to be the result of her
ill-assorted marriage. Forgotten--all forgotten, in this later
time of pain and fear. Prostrate under the dread of death, her
innermost nature--stripped of the concealments of her later
life--was revealed to view. The early religious training, at
which she had scoffed in the insolence of health and strength,
revealed its latent influence--intermitted, but a living
influence always from first to last. Mrs. Rook was tenderly
mindful of her exemplary parents, and proud of exhibiting
religion, on the bed from which she was never to rise again.

"Did I tell you that I am a miserable sinner?" she asked, after
an interval of silence.

Emily could endure it no longer. "Say that to the clergyman," she
answered--"not to me."

"Oh, but I must say it," Mrs. Rook insisted. "I _am_ a miserable
sinner. Let me give you an instance of it," she continued, with a
shameless relish of the memory of her own frailties. "I have been
a drinker, in my time. Anything was welcome, when the fit was on
me, as long as it got into my head. Like other persons in liquor,
I sometimes talked of things that had better have been kept
secret. We bore that in mind--my old man and I---when we were
engaged by Sir Jervis. Miss Redwood wanted to put us in the next
bedroom to hers--a risk not to be run. I might have talked of the
murder at the inn; and she might have heard me. Please to remark
a curious thing. Whatever else I might let out, when I was in my
cups, not a word about the pocketbook ever dropped from me. You
will ask how I know it. My dear, I should have heard of it from
my husband, if I had let _that_ out--and he is as much in the
dark as you are. Wonderful are the workings of the human mind, as
the poet says; and drink drowns care, as the proverb says. But
can drink deliver a person from fear by day, and fear by night? I
believe, if I had dropped a word about the pocketbook, it would
have sobered me in an instant. Have you any remark to make on
this curious circumstance?"

Thus far, Emily had allowed the woman to ramble on, in the hope
of getting information which direct inquiry might fail to
produce. It was impossible, however, to pass over the allusion to
the pocketbook. After giving her time to recover from the
exhaustion which her heavy breathing sufficiently revealed, Emily
put the question:

"Who did the pocketbook belong to?"

"Wait a little," said Mrs. Rook. "Everything in its right place,
is my motto. I mustn't begin with the pocketbook. Why did I begin
with it? Do you think this veil on my face confuses me? Suppose I
take it off. But you must promise first--solemnly promise you
won't look at my face. How can I tell you about the murder (the
murder is part of my confession, you know), with this lace
tickling my skin? Go away--and stand there with your back to me.
Thank you. Now I'll take it off. Ha! the air feels refreshing; I
know what I am about. Good heavens, I have forgotten something! I
have forgotten _him_. And after such a fright as he gave me! Did
you see him on the landing?"

"Who are you talking of?" Emily asked.

Mrs. Rook's failing voice sank lower still.

"Come closer," she said, "this must be whispered. Who am I
talking of?" she repeated. "I am talking of the man who slept in
the other bed at the inn; the man who did the deed with his own
razor. He was gone when I looked into the outhouse in the gray of
the morning. Oh, I have done my duty! I have told Mr. Rook to
keep an eye on him downstairs. You haven't an idea how obstinate
and stupid my husband is. He says I couldn't know the man,
because I didn't see him. Ha! there's such a thing as hearing,
when you don't see. I heard--and I knew it again."

Emily turned cold from head to foot.

"What did you know again?" she said.

"His voice," Mrs. Rook answered. "I'll swear to his voice before
all the judges in England."

Emily rushed to the bed. She looked at the woman who had said
those dreadful words, speechless with horror.

"You're breaking your promise!" cried Mrs. Rook. "You false girl,
you're breaking your promise!"

She snatched at the veil, and put it on again. The sight of her
face, momentary as it had been, reassured Emily. Her wild eyes,
made wilder still by the blurred stains of rouge below them, half
washed away--her disheveled hair, with streaks of gray showing
through the dye--presented a spectacle which would have been
grotesque under other circumstances, but which now reminded Emily
of Mr. Rook's last words; warning her not to believe what his
wife said, and even declaring his conviction that her intellect
was deranged. Emily drew back from the bed, conscious of an
overpowering sense of self-reproach. Although it was only for a
moment, she had allowed her faith in Mirabel to be shaken by a
woman who was out of her mind.

"Try to forgive me," she said. "I didn't willfully break my
promise; you frightened me."

Mrs. Rook began to cry. "I was a handsome woman in my time," she
murmured. "You would say I was handsome still, if the clumsy
fools about me had not spoiled my appearance. Oh, I do feel so
weak! Where's my medicine?"

The bottle was on the table. Emily gave her the prescribed dose,
and revived her failing strength.

"I am an extraordinary person," she resumed. "My resolution has
always been the admiration of every one who knew me. But my mind
feels--how shall I express it?--a little vacant. Have mercy on my
poor wicked soul! Help me."

"How can I help you?"

"I want to recollect. Something happened in the summer time, when
we were talking at Netherwoods. I mean when that impudent master
at the school showed his suspicions of me. (Lord! how he
frightened me, when he turned up afterward at Sir Jervis's
house.) You must have seen yourself he suspected me. How did he
show it?"

"He showed you my locket," Emily answered.

"Oh, the horrid reminder of the murder!" Mrs. Rook exclaimed.
"_I_ didn't mention it: don't blame Me. You poor innocent, I have
something dreadful to tell you."

Emily's horror of the woman forced her to speak. "Don't tell me!"
she cried. "I know more than you suppose; I know what I was
ignorant of when you saw the locket."

Mrs. Rook took offense at the interruption.

"Clever as you are, there's one thing you don't know," she said.
"You asked me, just now, who the pocketbook belonged to. It
belonged to your father. What's the matter? Are you crying?"

Emily was thinking of her father. The pocketbook was the last
present she had given to him--a present on his birthday. "Is it
lost?" she asked sadly.

"No; it's not lost. You will hear more of it directly. Dry your
eyes, and expect something interesting--I'm going to talk about
love. Love, my dear, means myself. Why shouldn't it? I'm not the
only nice-looking woman, married to an old man, who has had a
lover."

"Wretch! what has that got to do with it?"

"Everything, you rude girl! My lover was like the rest of them;
he would bet on race-horses, and he lost. He owned it to me, on
the day when your father came to our inn. He said, 'I must find
the money--or be off to America, and say good-by forever.' I was
fool enough to be fond of him. It broke my heart to hear him talk
in that way. I said, 'If I find the money, and more than the
money, will you take me with you wherever you go?' Of course, he
said Yes. I suppose you have heard of the inquest held at our old
place by the coroner and jury? Oh, what idiots! They believed I
was asleep on the night of the murder. I never closed my eyes--I
was so miserable, I was so tempted."

"Tempted? What tempted you?"

"Do you think I had any money to spare? Your father's pocketbook
tempted me. I had seen him open it, to pay his bill over-night.
It was full of bank-notes. Oh, what an overpowering thing love
is! Perhaps you have known it yourself."

Emily's indignation once more got the better of her prudence.
"Have you no feeling of decency on your death-bed!" she said.

Mrs. Rook forgot her piety; she was ready with an impudent
rejoinder. "You hot-headed little woman, your time will come,"
she answered. "But you're right--I am wandering from the point; I
am not sufficiently sensible of this solemn occasion. By-the-by,
do you notice my language? I inherit correct English from my
mother--a cultivated person, who married beneath her. My paternal
grandfather was a gentleman. Did I tell you that there came a
time, on that dreadful night, when I could stay in bed no longer?
The pocketbook--I did nothing but think of that devilish
pocketbook, full of bank-notes. My husband was fast asleep all
the time. I got a chair and stood on it. I looked into the place
where the two men were sleeping, through the glass in the top of
the door. Your father was awake; he was walking up and down the
room. What do you say? Was he agitated? I didn't notice. I don't
know whether the other man was asleep or awake. I saw nothing but
the pocketbook stuck under the pillow, half in and half out. Your
father kept on walking up and down. I thought to myself, 'I'll
wait till he gets tired, and then I'll have another look at the
pocketbook.' Where's the wine? The doctor said I might have a
glass of wine when I wanted it."

Emily found the wine and gave it to her. She shuddered as she
accidentally touched Mrs. Rook's hand.

The wine helped the sinking woman.

"I must have got up more than once," she resumed. "And more than
once my heart must have failed me. I don't clearly remember what
I did, till the gray of the morning came. I think that must have
been the last time I looked through the glass in the door."

She began to tremble. She tore the veil off her face. She cried
out piteously, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner! Come here," she
said to Emily. "Where are you? No! I daren't tell you what I saw;
I daren't tell you what I did. When you're pos sessed by the
devil, there's nothing, nothing, nothing you can't do! Where did
I find the courage to unlock the door? Where did I find the
courage to go in? Any other woman would have lost her senses,
when she found blood on her fingers after taking the
pocketbook--"

Emily's head swam; her heart beat furiously--she staggered to the
door, and opened it to escape from the room.

"I'm guilty of robbing him; but I'm innocent of his blood!" Mrs.
Rook called after her wildly. "The deed was done--the yard door
was wide open, and the man was gone--when I looked in for the
last time. Come back, come back!"

Emily looked round.

"I can't go near you," she said, faintly.

"Come near enough to see this."

She opened her bed-gown at the throat, and drew up a loop of
ribbon over her head. 'The pocketbook was attached to the ribbon.
She held it out.

"Your father's book," she said. "Won't you take your father's
book?"

For a moment, and only for a moment, Emily was repelled by the
profanation associated with her birthday gift. Then, the loving
remembrance of the dear hands that had so often touched that
relic, drew the faithful daughter back to the woman whom she
abhorred. Her eyes rested tenderly on the book. Before it had
lain in that guilty bosom, it had been _his_ book. The beloved
memory was all that was left to her now; the beloved memory
consecrated it to her hand. She took the book.

"Open it," said Mrs. Rook.

There were two five-pound bank-notes in it.

"His?" Emily asked.

"No; mine--the little I have been able to save toward restoring
what I stole."

"Oh!" Emily cried, "is there some good in this woman, after all?"

"There's no good in the woman!" Mrs. Rook answered desperately.
"There's nothing but fear--fear of hell now; fear of the
pocketbook in the past time. Twice I tried to destroy it--and
twice it came back, to remind me of the duty that I owed to my
miserable soul. I tried to throw it into the fire. It struck the
bar, and fell back into the fender at my feet. I went out, and
cast it into the well. It came back again in the first bucket of
water that was drawn up. From that moment, I began to save what I
could. Restitution! Atonement! I tell you the book found a
tongue--and those were the grand words it dinned in my ears,
morning and night." She stooped to fetch her breath--stopped, and
struck her bosom. "I hid it here, so that no person should see
it, and no person take it from me. Superstition? Oh, yes,
superstition! Shall tell you something? _You_ may find yourself
superstitious, if you are ever cut to the heart as I was. He left
me! The man I had disgraced myself for, deserted me on the day
when I gave him the stolen money. He suspected it was stolen; he
took care of his own cowardly self--and left me to the hard mercy
of the law, if the theft was found out. What do you call that, in
the way of punishment? Haven't I suffered? Haven't I made
atonement? Be a Christian--say you forgive me."

"I do forgive you."

"Say you will pray for me."

"I will."

"Ah! that comforts me! Now you can go."

Emily looked at her imploringly. "Don't send me away, knowing no
more of the murder than I knew when I came here! Is there
nothing, really nothing, you can tell me?"

Mrs. Rook pointed to the door.

"Haven't I told you already? Go downstairs, and see the wretch
who escaped in the dawn of the morning!"

"Gently, ma'am, gently! You're talking too loud," cried a mocking
voice from outside.

"It's only the doctor," said Mrs. Rook. She crossed her hands
over her bosom with a deep-drawn sigh. "I want no doctor, now. My
peace is made with my Maker. I'm ready for death; I'm fit for
Heaven. Go away! go away!"


CHAPTER LXII.

DOWNSTAIRS.

In a moment more, the doctor came in--a brisk, smiling,
self-sufficient man--smartly dressed, with a flower in his
button-hole. A stifling odor of musk filled the room, as he drew
out his handkerchief with a flourish, and wiped his forehead.

"Plenty of hard work in my line, just now," he said. "Hullo, Mrs.
Rook! somebody has been allowing you to excite yourself. I heard
you, before I opened the door. Have you been encouraging her to
talk?" he asked, turning to Emily, and shaking his finger at her
with an air of facetious remonstrance.

Incapable of answering him; forgetful of the ordinary restraints
of social intercourse--with the one doubt that preserved her
belief in Mirabel, eager for confirmation--Emily signed to this
stranger to follow her into a corner of the room, out of hearing.
She made no excuses: she took no notice of his look of surprise.
One hope was all she could feel, one word was all she could say,
after that second assertion of Mirabel's guilt. Indicating Mrs.
Rook by a glance at the bed, she whispered the word:

"Mad?"

Flippant and familiar, the doctor imitated her; he too looked at
the bed.

"No more mad than you are, miss. As I said just now, my patient
has been exciting herself; I daresay she has talked a little
wildly in consequence. _Hers_ isn't a brain to give way, I can
tell you. But there's somebody else--"

Emily had fled from the room. He had destroyed her last fragment
of belief in Mirabel's innocence. She was on the landing trying
to console herself, when the doctor joined her.

"Are you acquainted with the gentleman downstairs?" he asked.

"What gentleman?"

"I haven't heard his name; he looks like a clergyman. If you know
him--"

"I do know him. I can't answer questions! My mind--"

"Steady your mind, miss! and take your friend home as soon as you
can. _He_ hasn't got Mrs. Rook's hard brain; he's in a state of
nervous prostration, which may end badly. Do you know where he
lives?"

"He is staying with his sister--Mrs. Delvin."

"Mrs. Delvin! she's a friend and patient of mine. Say I'll look
in to-morrow morning, and see what I can do for her brother. In
the meantime, get him to bed, and to rest; and don't be afraid of
giving him brandy."

The doctor returned to the bedroom. Emily heard Mrs. Ellmother's
voice below.

"Are you up there, miss?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Ellmother ascended the stairs. "It was an evil hour," she
said, "that you insisted on going to this place. Mr. Mirabel--"
The sight of Emily's face suspended the next words on her lips.
She took the poor young mistress in her motherly arms. "Oh, my
child! what has happened to you?"

"Don't ask me now. Give me your arm--let us go downstairs."

"You won't be startled when you see Mr. Mirabel--will you, my
dear? I wouldn't let them disturb you; I said nobody should speak
to you but myself. The truth is, Mr. Mirabel has had a dreadful
fright. What are you looking for?"

"Is there a garden here? Any place where we can breathe the fresh
air?"

There was a courtyard at the back of the house. They found their
way to it. A bench was placed against one of the walls. They sat
down.

"Shall I wait till you're better before I say any more?" Mrs.
Ellmother asked. "No? You want to hear about Mr. Mirabel? My
dear, he came into the parlor where I was; and Mr. Rook came in
too---and waited, looking at him. Mr. Mirabel sat down in a
corner, in a dazed state as I thought. It wasn't for long. He
jumped up, and clapped his hand on his heart as if his heart hurt
him. 'I must and will know what's going on upstairs,' he says.
Mr. Rook pulled him back, and told him to wait till the young
lady came down. Mr. Mirabel wouldn't hear of it. 'Your wife's
frightening her,' he says; 'your wife's telling her horrible
things about me.' He was taken on a sudden with a shivering fit;
his eyes rolled, and his teeth chattered. Mr. Rook made matters
worse; he lost his temper. 'I'm damned,' he says, 'if I don't
begin to think you _are_ the man, after all; I've half a mind to
send for the police.' Mr. Mirabel dropped into his chair. His
eyes stared, his mouth fell open. I took hold of his hand.
Cold--cold as ice. What it all meant I can't say. Oh, miss, _you_
know! Let me tell you the rest of it some other time."

Emily insisted on hearing more. "The end!" she cried. "How did it
end?"

"I don't know how it might have ended, if the doctor hadn't come
in--to pay his visit, you know, upstairs. He said some learned
words. When he came to plain English, he asked if anybody had
frig htened the gentleman. I said Mr. Rook had frightened him.
The doctor says to Mr. Rook, 'Mind what you are about. If you
frighten him again, you may have his death to answer for.' That
cowed Mr. Rook. He asked what he had better do. 'Give me some
brandy for him first,' says the doctor; 'and then get him home at
once.' I found the brandy, and went away to the inn to order the
carriage. Your ears are quicker than mine, miss--do I hear it
now?"

They rose, and went to the house door. The carriage was there.

Still cowed by what the doctor had said, Mr. Rook appeared,
carefully leading Mirabel out. He had revived under the action of
the stimulant. Passing Emily he raised his eyes to
her--trembled--and looked down again. When Mr. Rook opened the
door of the carriage he paused, with one of his feet on the step.
A momentary impulse inspired him with a false courage, and
brought a flush into his ghastly face. He turned to Emily.

"May I speak to you?" he asked.

She started back from him. He looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Tell her
I am innocent," he said. The trembling seized on him again. Mr.
Rook was obliged to lift him into the carriage.

Emily caught at Mrs. Ellmother's arm. "You go with him," she
said. "I can't."

"How are you to get back, miss?"

She turned away and spoke to the coachman. "I am not very well. I
want the fresh air--I'll sit by you."

Mrs. Ellmother remonstrated and protested, in vain. As Emily had
determined it should be, so it was.

"Has he said anything?" she asked, when they had arrived at their
journey's end.

"He has been like a man frozen up; he hasn't said a word; he
hasn't even moved."

"Take him to his sister; and tell her all that you know. Be
careful to repeat what the doctor said. I can't face Mrs. Delvin.
Be patient, my good old friend; I have no secrets from you. Only
wait till to-morrow; and leave me by myself to-night."

Alone in her room, Emily opened her writing-case. Searching among
the letters in it, she drew out a printed paper. It was the
Handbill describing the man who had escaped from the inn, and
offering a reward for the discovery of him.

At the first line of the personal description of the fugitive,
the paper dropped from her hand. Burning tears forced their way
into her eyes. Feeling for her handkerchief, she touched the
pocketbook which she had received from Mrs. Rook. After a little
hesitation she took it out. She looked at it. She opened it.

The sight of the bank-notes repelled her; she hid them in one of
the pockets of the book. There was a second pocket which she had
not yet examined. She pat her hand into it, and, touching
something, drew out a letter.

The envelope (already open) was addressed to "James Brown, Esq.,
Post Office, Zeeland. "Would it be inconsistent with her respect
for her father's memory to examine the letter? No; a glance would
decide whether she ought to read it or not.

It was without date or address; a startling letter to look
at--for it only contained three words:

"I say No."

The words were signed in initials:

"S. J."

In the instant when she read the initials, the name occurred to
her.

Sara Jethro.


CHAPTER LXIII.

THE DEFENSE OF MIRABEL.

The discovery of the letter gave a new direction to Emily's
thoughts--and so, for the time at least, relieved her mind from
the burden that weighed on it. To what question, on her father's
part, had "I say No" been Miss Jethro's brief and stern reply?
Neither letter nor envelope offered the slightest hint that might
assist inquiry; even the postmark had been so carelessly
impressed that it was illegible.

Emily was still pondering over the three mysterious words, when
she was interrupted by Mrs. Ellmother's voice at the door.

"I must ask you to let me come in, miss; though I know you wished
to be left by yourself till to-morrow. Mrs. Delvin says she must
positively see you to-night. It's my belief that she will send
for the servants, and have herself carried in here, if you refuse
to do what she asks. You needn't be afraid of seeing Mr.
Mirabel."

"Where is he?"

"His sister has given up her bedroom to him," Mrs. Ellmother
answered. "She thought of your feelings before she sent me
here--and had the curtains closed between the sitting-room and
the bedroom. I suspect my nasty temper misled me, when I took a
dislike to Mrs. Delvin. She's a good creature; I'm sorry you
didn't go to her as soon as we got back."

"Did she seem to be angry, when she sent you here?"

"Angry! She was crying when I left her."

Emily hesitated no longer.

She noticed a remarkable change in the invalid's sitting-room--so
brilliantly lighted on other occasions--the moment she entered
it. The lamps were shaded, and the candles were all extinguished.
"My eyes don't bear the light so well as usual," Mrs. Delvin
said. "Come and sit near me, Emily; I hope to quiet your mind. I
should be grieved if you left my house with a wrong impression of
me."

Knowing what she knew, suffering as she must have suffered, the
quiet kindness of her tone implied an exercise of self-restraint
which appealed irresistibly to Emily's sympathies. "Forgive me,"
she said, "for having done you an injustice. I am ashamed to
think that I shrank from seeing you when I returned from
Belford."

"I will endeavor to be worthy of your better opinion of me," Mrs.
Delvin replied. "In one respect at least, I may claim to have had
your best interests at heart--while we were still personally
strangers. I tried to prevail on my poor brother to own the
truth, when he discovered the terrible position in which he was
placed toward you. He was too conscious of the absence of any
proof which might induce you to believe him, if he attempted to
defend himself--in one word, he was too timid--to take my advice.
He has paid the penalty, and I have paid the penalty, of
deceiving you."

Emily started. "In what way have you deceived me?" she asked.

"In the way that was forced on us by our own conduct," Mrs.
Delvin said. "We have appeared to help you, without really doing
so; we calculated on inducing you to marry my brother, and then
(when he could speak with the authority of a husband) on
prevailing on you to give up all further inquiries. When you
insisted on seeing Mrs. Rook, Miles had the money in his hand to
bribe her and her husband to leave England."

"Oh, Mrs. Delvin!"

"I don't attempt to excuse myself. I don't expect you to consider
how sorely I was tempted to secure the happiness of my brother's
life, by marriage with such a woman as yourself. I don't remind
you that I knew--when I put obstacles in your way--that you were
blindly devoting yourself to the discovery of an innocent man."

Emily heard her with angry surprise. "Innocent?" she repeated.
"Mrs. Rook recognized his voice the instant she heard him speak."

Impenetrable to interruption, Mrs. Delvin went on. "But what I do
ask," she persisted, "even after our short acquaintance, is this.
Do you suspect me of deliberately scheming to make you the wife
of a murderer?"

Emily had never viewed the serious question between them in this
light. Warmly, generously, she answered the appeal that had been
made to her. "Oh, don't think that of me! I know I spoke
thoughtlessly and cruelly to you, just now--"

"You spoke impulsively," Mrs. Delvin interposed; "that was all.
My one desire before we part--how can I expect you to remain
here, after what has happened?--is to tell you the truth. I have
no interested object in view; for all hope of your marriage with
my brother is now at an end. May I ask if you have heard that he
and your father were strangers, when they met at the inn?"

"Yes; I know that."

"If there had been any conversation between them, when they
retired to rest, they might have mentioned their names. But your
father was preoccupied; and my brother, after a long day's walk,
was so tired that he fell asleep as soon as his head was on the
pillow. He only woke when the morning dawned. What he saw when he
looked toward the opposite bed might have struck with terror the
boldest man that ever lived. His first impulse was naturally to
alarm the house. When he got on his feet, he saw his own razor--a
blood-stained razor on the bed by the side of the corp se. At
that discovery, he lost all control over himself. In a panic of
terror, he snatched up his knapsack, unfastened the yard door,
and fled from the house. Knowing him, as you and I know him, can
we wonder at it? Many a man has been hanged for murder, on
circumstantial evidence less direct than the evidence against
poor Miles. His horror of his own recollections was so
overpowering that he forbade me even to mention the inn at
Zeeland in my letters, while he was abroad. 'Never tell me (he
wrote) who that wretched murdered stranger was, if I only heard
of his name, I believe it would haunt me to my dying day. I ought
not to trouble you with these details--and yet, I am surely not
without excuse. In the absence of any proof, I cannot expect you
to believe as I do in my brother's innocence. But I may at least
hope to show you that there is some reason for doubt. Will you
give him the benefit of that doubt?"

"Willingly!" Emily replied. "Am I right in supposing that you
don't despair of proving his innocence, even yet'?"

"I don't quite despair. But my hopes have grown fainter and
fainter, as the years have gone on. There is a person associated
with his escape from Zeeland; a person named Jethro--"

"You mean Miss Jethro!"

"Yes. Do you know her?"

"I know her--and my father knew her. I have found a letter,
addressed to him, which I have no doubt was written by Miss
Jethro. It is barely possible that you may understand what it
means. Pray look at it."

"I am quite unable to help you," Mrs. Delvin answered, after
reading the letter. "All I know of Miss Jethro is that, but for
her interposition, my brother might have fallen into the hands of
the police. She saved him."

"Knowing him, of course?"

"That is the remarkable part of it: they were perfect strangers
to each other."

"But she must have had some motive."

"_There_ is the foundation of my hope for Miles. Miss Jethro
declared, when I wrote and put the question to her, that the one
motive by which she was actuated was the motive of mercy. I don't
believe her. To my mind, it is in the last degree improbable that
she would consent to protect a stranger from discovery, who owned
to her (as my brother did) that he was a fugitive suspected of
murder. She knows something, I am firmly convinced, of that
dreadful event at Zeeland--and she has some reason for keeping it
secret. Have you any influence over her?"

"Tell me where I can find her."

"I can't tell you. She has removed from the address at which my
brother saw her last. He has made every possible inquiry--without
result."

As she replied in those discouraging terms, the curtains which
divided Mrs. Delvin's bedroom from her sitting-room were drawn
aside. An elderly woman-servant approached her mistress's couch.

"Mr. Mirabel is awake, ma'am. He is very low; I can hardly feel
his pulse. Shall I give him some more brandy?"

Mrs. Delvin held out her hand to Emily. "Come to me to-morrow
morning," she said--and signed to the servant to wheel her couch
into the next room. As the curtain closed over them, Emily heard
Mirabel's voice. "Where am I?" he said faintly. "Is it all a
dream?"

The prospect of his recovery the next morning was gloomy indeed.
He had sunk into a state of deplorable weakness, in mind as well
as in body. The little memory of events that he still preserved
was regarded by him as the memory of a dream. He alluded to
Emily, and to his meeting with her unexpectedly. But from that
point his recollection failed him. They had talked of something
interesting, he said--but he was unable to remember what it was.
And they had waited together at a railway station--but for what
purpose he could not tell. He sighed and wondered when Emily
would marry him--and so fell asleep again, weaker than ever.

Not having any confidence in the doctor at Belford, Mrs. Delvin
had sent an urgent message to a physician at Edinburgh, famous
for his skill in treating diseases of the nervous system. "I
cannot expect him to reach this remote place, without some
delay," she said; "I must bear my suspense as well as I can."

"You shall not bear it alone," Emily answered. "I will wait with
you till the doctor comes."

Mrs. Delvin lifted her frail wasted hands to Emily's face, drew
it a little nearer--and kissed her.


CHAPTER LXIV.

ON THE WAY TO LONDON.

The parting words had been spoken. Emily and her companion were
on their way to London.

For some little time, they traveled in silence--alone in the
railway carriage. After submitting as long as she could to lay an
embargo on the use of her tongue, Mrs. Ellmother started the
conversation by means of a question: "Do you think Mr. Mirabel
will get over it, miss?"

"It's useless to ask me," Emily said. "Even the great man from
Edinburgh is not able to decide yet, whether he will recover or
not."

"You have taken me into your confidence, Miss Emily, as you
promised--and I have got something in my mind in consequence. May
I mention it without giving offense?"

"What is it?"

"I wish you had never taken up with Mr. Mirabel."

Emily was silent. Mrs. Ellmother, having a design of her own to
accomplish, ventured to speak more plainly. "I often think of Mr.
Alban Morris," she proceeded. "I always did like him, and I
always shall."

Emily suddenly pulled down her veil. "Don't speak of him!" she
said.

"I didn't mean to offend you."

"You don't offend me. You distress me. Oh, how often I have
wished--!" She threw herself back in a corner of the carriage and
said no more.

Although not remarkable for the possession of delicate tact, Mrs.
Ellmother discovered that the best course she could now follow
was a course of silence.

Even at the time when she had most implicitly trusted Mirabel,
the fear that she might have acted hastily and harshly toward
Alban had occasionally troubled Emily's mind. The impression
produced by later events had not only intensified this feeling,
but had presented the motives of that true friend under an
entirely new point of view. If she had been left in ignorance of
the manner of her father's death--as Alban had designed to leave
her; as she would have been left, but for the treachery of
Francine--how happily free she would have been from thoughts
which it was now a terror to her to recall. She would have parted
from Mirabel, when the visit to the pleasant country house had
come to an end, remembering him as an amusing acquaintance and
nothing more. He would have been spared, and she would have been
spared, the shock that had so cruelly assailed them both. What
had she gained by Mrs. Rook's detestable confession? The result
had been perpetual disturbance of mind provoked by self-torturing
speculations on the subject of the murder. If Mirabel was
innocent, who was guilty? The false wife, without pity and
without shame--or the brutal husband, who looked capable of any
enormity? What was her future to be? How was it all to end? In
the despair of that bitter moment--seeing her devoted old servant
looking at her with kind compassionate eyes--Emily's troubled
spirit sought refuge in impetuous self-betrayal; the very
betrayal which she had resolved should not escape her, hardly a
minute since!

She bent forward out of her corner, and suddenly drew up her
veil. "Do you expect to see Mr. Alban Morris, when we get back?"
she asked.

"I should like to see him, miss--if you have no objection."

"Tell him I am ashamed of myself! and say I ask his pardon with
all my heart!"

"The Lord be praised!" Mrs. Ellmother burst out--and then, when
it was too late, remembered the conventional restraints
appropriate to the occasion. "Gracious, what a fool I am!" she
said to herself. "Beautiful weather, Miss Emily, isn't it?" she
continued, in a desperate hurry to change the subject.

Emily reclined again in her corner of the carriage. She smiled,
for the first time since she had become Mrs. Delvin's guest at
the tower.


BOOK THE LAST--AT HOME AGAIN.

CHAPTER LXV.

CECILIA IN A NEW CHARACTER.

Reaching the cottage at night, Emily found the card of a visitor
who had called during the day. It bore the name of "Miss Wyvil,"
and had a message written on it which strongly excited Emily's
curiosity.

"I have seen the telegra m which tells your servant that you
return to-night. Expect me early to-morrow morning--with news
that will deeply interest you."

To what news did Cecilia allude? Emily questioned the woman who
had been left in charge of the cottage, and found that she had
next to nothing to tell. Miss Wyvil had flushed up, and had
looked excited, when she read the telegraphic message--that was
all. Emily's impatience was, as usual, not to be concealed.
Expert Mrs. Ellmother treated the case in the right way--first
with supper, and then with an adjournment to bed. The clock
struck twelve, when she put out the young mistress's candle. "Ten
hours to pass before Cecilia comes here!" Emily exclaimed. "Not
ten minutes," Mrs. Ellmother reminded her, "if you will only go
to sleep."

Cecilia arrived before the breakfast-table was cleared; as
lovely, as gentle, as affectionate as ever--but looking unusually
serious and subdued.

"Out with it at once!" Emily cried. "What have you got to tell
me?'

"Perhaps, I had better tell you first," Cecilia said, "that I
know what you kept from me when I came here, after you left us at
Monksmoor. Don't think, my dear, that I say this by way of
complaint. Mr. Alban Morris says you had good reasons for keeping
your secret."

"Mr. Alban Morris! Did you get your information from _him?_"

"Yes. Do I surprise you?"

"More than words can tell!"

"Can you bear another surprise? Mr. Morris has seen Miss Jethro,
and has discovered that Mr. Mirabel has been wrongly suspected of
a dreadful crime. Our amiable little clergyman is guilty of being
a coward--and guilty of nothing else. Are you really quiet enough
to read about it?"

She produced some leaves of paper filled with writing. "There,"
she explained, "is Mr. Morris's own account of all that passed
between Miss Jethro and himself."

"But how do _you_ come by it?"

"Mr. Morris gave it to me. He said, 'Show it to Emily as soon as
possible; and take care to be with her while she reads it.' There
is a reason for this--" Cecilia's voice faltered. On the brink of
some explanation, she seemed to recoil from it. "I will tell you
by-and-by what the reason is," she said.

Emily looked nervously at the manuscript. "Why doesn't he tell me
himself what he has discovered? Is he--" The leaves began to
flutter in her trembling fingers--"is he angry with me?"

"Oh, Emily, angry with You! Read what he has written and you
shall know why he keeps away."

Emily opened the manuscript.


CHAPTER LXVI.

ALBAN'S NARRATIVE.

"The information which I have obtained from Miss Jethro has been
communicated to me, on the condition that I shall not disclose
the place of her residence. 'Let me pass out of notice (she said)
as completely as if I had passed out of life; I wish to be
forgotten by some, and to be unknown by others.' With this one
stipulation, she left me free to write the present narrative of
what passed at the interview between us. I feel that the
discoveries which I have made are too important to the persons
interested to be trusted to memory.


1. _She Receives Me_.

"Finding Miss Jethro's place of abode, with far less difficulty
than I had anticipated (thanks to favoring circumstances), I
stated plainly the object of my visit. She declined to enter into
conversation with me on the subject of the murder at Zeeland.

"I was prepared to meet with this rebuke, and to take the
necessary measures for obtaining a more satisfactory reception.
'A person is suspected of having committed the murder,' I said;
'and there is reason to believe that you are in a position to say
whether the suspicion is justified or not. Do you refuse to
answer me, if I put the question?'

"Miss Jethro asked who the person was.

"I mentioned the name--Mr. Miles Mirabel.

"It is not necessary, and it would certainly be not agreeable to
me, to describe the effect which this reply produced on Miss
Jethro. After giving her time to compose herself, I entered into
certain explanations, in order to convince her at the outset of
my good faith. The result justified my anticipations. I was at
once admitted to her confidence.

"She said, 'I must not hesitate to do an act of justice to an
innocent man. But, in such a serious matter as this, you have a
right to judge for yourself whether the person who is now
speaking to you is a person whom you can trust. You may believe
that I tell the truth about others, if I begin--whatever it may
cost me--by telling the truth about myself.'


2. _She Speaks of Herself_.

"I shall not attempt to place on record the confession of a most
unhappy woman. It was the common story of sin bitterly repented,
and of vain effort to recover the lost place in social esteem.
Too well known a story, surely, to be told again.

"But I may with perfect propriety repeat what Miss Jethro said to
me, in allusion to later events in her life which are connected
with my own personal experience. She recalled to my memory a
visit which she had paid to me at Netherwoods, and a letter
addressed to her by Doctor Allday, which I had read at her
express request.

"She said, 'You may remember that the letter contained some
severe reflections on my conduct. Among other things, the doctor
mentions that he called at the lodging I occupied during my visit
to London, and found I had taken to flight: also that he had
reason to believe I had entered Miss Ladd's service, under false
pretenses.'

"I asked if the doctor had wronged her.

"She answered 'No: in one case, he is ignorant; in the other, he
is right. On leaving his house, I found myself followed in the
street by the man to whom I owe the shame and misery of my past
life. My horror of him is not to be described in words. The one
way of escaping was offered by an empty cab that passed me. I
reached the railway station safely, and went back to my home in
the country. Do you blame me?'

"It was impossible to blame her--and I said so.

"She then confessed the deception which she had practiced on Miss
Ladd. 'I have a cousin,' she said, 'who was a Miss Jethro like
me. Before her marriage she had been employed as a governess. She
pitied me; she sympathized with my longing to recover the
character that I had lost. With her permission, I made use of the
testimonials which she had earned as a teacher--I was betrayed
(to this day I don't know by whom)--and I was dismissed from
Netherwoods. Now you know that I deceived Miss Ladd, you may
reasonably conclude that I am likely to deceive You.'

"I assured her, with perfect sincerity, that I had drawn no such
conclusion. Encouraged by my reply, Miss Jethro proceeded as
follows.


3. _She Speaks of Mirabel_.

"'Four years ago, I was living near Cowes, in the Isle of
Wight--in a cottage which had been taken for me by a gentleman
who was the owner of a yacht. We had just returned from a short
cruise, and the vessel was under orders to sail for Cherbourg
with the next tide.

"'While I was walking in my garden, I was startled by the sudden
appearance Of a man (evidently a gentleman) who was a perfect
stranger to me. He was in a pitiable state of terror, and he
implored my protection. In reply to my first inquiries, he
mentioned the inn at Zeeland, and the dreadful death of a person
unknown to him; whom I recognized (partly by the description
given, and partly by comparison of dates) as Mr. James Brown. I
shall say nothing of the shock inflicted on me: you don't want to
know what I felt. What I did (having literally only a minute left
for decision) was to hide the fugitive from discovery, and to
exert my influence in his favor with the owner of the yacht. I
saw nothing more of him. He was put on board, as soon as the
police were out of sight, and was safely landed at Cherbourg.'

"I asked what induced her to run the risk of protecting a
stranger, who was under suspicion of having committed a murder.

"She said, 'You shall hear my explanation directly. Let us have
done with Mr. Mirabel first. We occasionally corresponded, during
the long absence on the continent; never alluding, at his express
request, to the horrible event at the inn. His last letter
reached me, after he had established himself at  Vale Regis.
Writing of the society in the neighborhood, he infor med me of
his introduction to Miss Wyvil, and of the invitation that he had
received to meet her friend and schoolfellow at Monksmoor. I knew
that Miss Emily possessed a Handbill describing personal
peculiarities in Mr. Mirabel, not hidden under the changed
appearance of his head and face. If she remembered or happened to
refer to that description, while she was living in the same house
with him, there was a possibility at least of her suspicion being
excited. The fear of this took me to you. It was a morbid fear,
and, as events turned out, an unfounded fear: but I was unable to
control it. Failing to produce any effect on you, I went to Vale
Regis, and tried (vainly again) to induce Mr. Mirabel to send an
excuse to Monksmoor. He, like you, wanted to know what my motive
was. When I tell you that I acted solely in Miss Emily's
interests, and that I knew how she had been deceived about her
father's death, need I say why I was afraid to acknowledge my
motive?'

"I understood that Miss Jethro might well be afraid of the
consequences, if she risked any allusion to Mr. Brown's horrible
death, and if it afterward chanced to reach his daughter's ears.
But this state of feeling implied an extraordinary interest in
the preservation of Emily's peace of mind. I asked Miss Jethro
how that interest had been excited?

"She answered, 'I can only satisfy you in one way. I must speak
of her father now.'"


Emily looked up from the manuscript. She felt Cecilia's arm
tenderly caressing her. She heard Cecilia say, "My poor dear,
there is one last trial of your courage still to come. I am
afraid of what you are going to read, when you turn to the next
page. And yet--"

"And yet," Emily replied gently, "it must be done. I have learned
my hard lesson of endurance, Cecilia, don't be afraid."

Emily turned to the next page.


4. _She Speaks of the Dead_.

"For the first time, Miss Jethro appeared to be at a loss how to
proceed. I could see that she was suffering. She rose, and
opening a drawer in her writing table, took a letter from it.

"She said, 'Will you read this? It was written by Miss Emily's
father. Perhaps it may say more for me than I can say for
myself?'

"I copy the letter. It was thus expressed:


"'You have declared that our farewell to-day is our farewell
forever. For the second time, you have refused to be my wife; and
you have done this, to use your own words, in mercy to Me.

"'In mercy to Me, I implore you to reconsider your decision.

"'If you condemn me to live without you--I feel it, I know
it--you condemn me to despair which I have not fortitude enough
to endure. Look at the passages which I have marked for you in
the New Testament. Again and again, I say it; your true
repentance has made you worthy of the pardon of God. Are you not
worthy of the love, admiration, and respect of man? Think! oh,
Sara, think of what our lives might be, and let them be united
for time and for eternity.

"'I can write no more. A deadly faintness oppresses me. My mind
is in a state unknown to me in past years. I am in such confusion
that I sometimes think I hate you. And then I recover from my
delusion, and know that man never loved woman as I love you.

"'You will have time to write to me by this evening's post. I
shall stop at Zeeland to-morrow, on my way back, and ask for a
letter at the post office. I forbid explanations and excuses. I
forbid heartless allusions to your duty. Let me have an answer
which does not keep me for a moment in suspense.

"'For the last time, I ask you: Do you consent to be my wife?
Say, Yes--or say, No.'


"I gave her back the letter--with the one comment on it, which
the circumstances permitted me to make:

"'You said No?'

"She bent her head in silence.

"I went on--not willingly, for I would have spared her if it had
been possible. I said, 'He died, despairing, by his own hand--and
you knew it?'

"She looked up. 'No! To say that I knew it is too much. To say
that I feared it is the truth.'

"'Did you love him?'

"She eyed me in stern surprise. 'Have _I_ any right to love?
Could I disgrace an honorable man by allowing him to marry me?
You look as if you held me responsible for his death.'

"'Innocently responsible,' I said.

"She still followed her own train of thought. 'Do you suppose I
could for a moment anticipate that he would destroy himself, when
I wrote my reply? He was a truly religious man. If he had been in
his right mind, he would have shrunk from the idea of suicide as
from the idea of a crime.'

"On reflection, I was inclined to agree with her. In his terrible
position, it was at least possible that the sight of the razor
(placed ready, with the other appliances of the toilet, for his
fellow-traveler's use) might have fatally tempted a man whose
last hope was crushed, whose mind was tortured by despair. I
should have been merciless indeed, if I had held Miss Jethro
accountable thus far. But I found it hard to sympathize with the
course which she had pursued, in permitting Mr. Brown's death to
be attributed to murder without a word of protest. 'Why were you
silent?' I said.

"She smiled bitterly.

"'A woman would have known why, without asking,' she replied. 'A
woman would have understood that I shrank from a public
confession of my shameful past life. A woman would have
remembered what reasons I had for pitying the man who loved me,
and for accepting any responsibility rather than associate his
memory, before the world, with an unworthy passion for a degraded
creature, ending in an act of suicide. Even if I had made that
cruel sacrifice, would public opinion have believed such a person
as I am--against the evidence of a medical man, and the verdict
of a jury? No, Mr. Morris! I said nothing, and I was resolved to
say nothing, so long as the choice of alternatives was left to
me. On the day when Mr. Mirabel implored me to save him, that
choice was no longer mine--and you know what I did. And now again
when suspicion (after all the long interval that had passed) has
followed and found that innocent man, you know what I have done.
What more do you ask of me?'

"'Your pardon,' I said, 'for not having understood you--and a
last favor. May I repeat what I have heard to the one person of
all others who ought to know, and who must know, what you have
told me?'

"It was needless to hint more plainly that I was speaking of
Emily. Miss Jethro granted my request.

"'It shall be as you please,' she answered. 'Say for me to _his_
daughter, that the grateful remembrance of her is my one refuge
from the thoughts that tortured me, when we spoke together on her
last night at school. She has made this dead heart of mine feel a
reviving breath of life, when I think of her. Never, in our
earthly pilgrimage, shall we meet again--I implore her to pity
and forget me. Farewell, Mr. Morris; farewell forever.'

"I confess that the tears came into my eyes. When I could see
clearly again, I was alone in the room."


CHAPTER LXVII.

THE TRUE CONSOLATION.

Emily closed the pages which told her that her father had died by
his own hand.

Cecilia still held her tenderly embraced. By slow degrees, her
head dropped until it rested on her friend's bosom. Silently she
suffered. Silently Cecilia bent forward, and kissed her forehead.
The sounds that penetrated to the room were not out of harmony
with the time. From a distant house the voices of children were
just audible, singing the plaintive melody of a hymn; and, now
and then, the breeze blew the first faded leaves of autumn
against the window. Neither of the girls knew how long the
minutes followed each other uneventfully, before there was a
change. Emily raised her head, and looked at Cecilia.

"I have one friend left," she said.

"Not only me, love--oh, I hope not only me!"

"Yes. Only you."

"I want to say something, Emily; but I am afraid of hurting you."

"My dear, do you remember what we once read in a book of history
at school? It told of the death of a tortured man, in the old
time, who was broken on the wheel. He lived through it long
enough to say that the agony, after the first stroke of the club,
dulled his capacity for feeling pain when the next blows fell. I
fancy pain of the mind must f ollow the same rule. Nothing you
can say will hurt me now."

"I only wanted to ask, Emily, if you were engaged--at one
time--to marry Mr. Mirabel. Is it true?"

"False! He pressed me to consent to an engagement--and I said he
must not hurry me."

"What made you say that?"

"I thought of Alban Morris."

Vainly Cecilia tried to restrain herself. A cry of joy escaped
her.

"Are you glad?" Emily asked. "Why?"

Cecilia made no direct reply. "May I tell you what you wanted to
know, a little while since?" she said. "You asked why Mr. Morris
left it all to me, instead of speaking to you himself. When I put
the same question to him, he told me to read what he had written.
'Not a shadow of suspicion rests on Mr. Mirabel,' he said. 'Emily
is free to marry him--and free through Me. Can _I_ tell her that?
For her sake, and for mine, it must not be. All that I can do is
to leave old remembrances to plead for me. If they fail, I shall
know that she will be happier with Mr. Mirabel than with me.'
'And you will submit?' I asked. 'Because I love her,' he
answered, 'I must submit.' Oh, how pale you are! Have I
distressed you?"

"You have done me good."

"Will you see him?"

Emily pointed to the manuscript. "At such a time as this?" she
said.

Cecilia still held to her resolution. "Such a time as this is the
right time," she answered. "It is now, when you most want to be
comforted, that you ought to see him. Who can quiet your poor
aching heart as _he_ can quiet it?" She impulsively snatched at
the manuscript and threw it out of sight. "I can't bear to look
at it," she said. "Emily! if I have done wrong, will you forgive
me? I saw him this morning before I came here. I was afraid of
what might happen--I refused to break the dreadful news to you,
unless he was somewhere near us. Your good old servant knows
where to go. Let me send her--"

Mrs. Ellmother herself opened the door, and stood doubtful on the
threshold, hysterically sobbing and laughing at the same time.
"I'm everything that's bad!" the good old creature burst out.
"I've been listening--I've been lying--I said you wanted him.
Turn me out of my situation, if you like. I've got him! Here he
is!"

In another moment, Emily was in his arms--and they were alone. On
his faithful breast the blessed relief of tears came to her at
last: she burst out crying.

"Oh, Alban, can you forgive me?"

He gently raised her head, so that he could see her face.

"My love, let me look at you," he said. "I want to think again of
the day when we parted in the garden at school. Do you remember
the one conviction that sustained me? I told you, Emily, there
was a time of fulfillment to come in our two lives; and I have
never wholly lost the dear belief. My own darling, the time has
come!"


POSTSCRIPT.

GOSSIP IN THE STUDIO.


The winter time had arrived. Alban was clearing his palette,
after a hard day's work at the cottage. The servant announced
that tea was ready, and that Miss Ladd was waiting to see him in
the next room.

Alban ran in, and received the visitor cordially with both hands.
"Welcome back to England! I needn't ask if the sea-voyage has
done you good. You are looking ten years younger than when you
went away."

Miss Ladd smiled. "I shall soon be ten years older again, if I go
back to Netherwoods," she replied. "I didn't believe it at the
time; but I know better now. Our friend Doctor Allday was right,
when he said that my working days were over. I must give up the
school to a younger and stronger successor, and make the best I
can in retirement of what is left of my life. You and Emily may
expect to have me as a near neighbor. Where is Emily?"

"Far away in the North."

"In the North! You don't mean that she has gone back to Mrs.
Delvin?"

"She has gone back--with Mrs. Ellmother to take care of her--at
my express request. You know what Emily is, when there is an act
of mercy to be done. That unhappy man has been sinking (with
intervals of partial recovery) for months past. Mrs. Delvin sent
word to us that the end was near, and that the one last wish her
brother was able to express was the wish to see Emily. He had
been for some hours unable to speak when my wife arrived. But he
knew her, and smiled faintly. He was just able to lift his hand.
She took it, and waited by him, and spoke words of consolation
and kindness from time to time. As the night advanced, he sank
into sleep, still holding her hand. They only knew that he had
passed from sleep to death--passed without a movement or a
sigh--when his hand turned cold. Emily remained for a day at the
tower to comfort poor Mrs. Delvin--and she comes home, thank God,
this evening!"

"I needn't ask if you are happy?" Miss Ladd said.

"Happy? I sing, when I have my bath in the morning. If that isn't
happiness (in a man of my age) I don't know what is!"

"And how are you getting on?"

"Famously! I have turned portrait painter, since you were sent
away for your health. A portrait of Mr. Wyvil is to decorate the
town hall in the place that he represents; and our dear
kind-hearted Cecilia has induced a fascinated mayor and
corporation to confide the work to my hands."

"Is there no hope yet of that sweet girl being married?" Miss
Ladd asked. "We old maids all believe in marriage, Mr.
Morris--though some of us don't own it."

"There seems to be a chance," Alban answered. "A young lord has
turned up at Monksmoor; a handsome pleasant fellow, and a rising
man in politics. He happened to be in the house a few days before
Cecilia's birthday; and he asked my advice about the right
present to give her. I said, 'Try something new in Tarts.' When
he found I was in earnest, what do you think he did? Sent his
steam yacht to Rouen for some of the famous pastry! You should
have seen Cecilia, when the young lord offered his delicious
gift. If I could paint that smile and those eyes, I should be the
greatest artist living. I believe she will marry him. Need I say
how rich they will be? We shall not envy them--we are rich too.
Everything is comparative. The portrait of Mr. Wyvil will put
three hundred pounds in my pocket. I have earned a hundred and
twenty more by illustrations, since we have been married. And my
wife's income (I like to be particular) is only five shillings
and tenpence short of two hundred a year. Moral! we are rich as
well as happy."

"Without a thought of the future?" Miss Ladd asked slyly.

"Oh, Doctor Allday has taken the future in hand! He revels in the
old-fashioned jokes, which used to be addressed to newly-married
people, in his time. 'My dear fellow,' he said the other day,
'you may possibly be under a joyful necessity of sending for the
doctor, before we are all a year older. In that case, let it be
understood that I am Honorary Physician to the family.' The
warm-hearted old man talks of getting me another portrait to do.
'The greatest ass in the medical profession (he informed me) has
just been made a baronet; and his admiring friends have decided
that he is to be painted at full length, with his bandy legs
hidden under a gown, and his great globular eyes staring at the
spectator--I'll get you the job.' Shall I tell you what he says
of Mrs. Rook's recovery?"

Miss Ladd held up her hands in amazement. "Recovery!" she
exclaimed.

"And a most remarkable recovery too," Alban informed her. "It is
the first case on record of any person getting over such an
injury as she has received. Doctor Allday looked grave when he
heard of it. 'I begin to believe in the devil,' he said; 'nobody
else could have saved Mrs. Rook.' Other people don't take that
view. She has been celebrated in all the medical newspapers--and
she has been admitted to come excellent almshouse, to live in
comfortable idleness to a green old age. The best of it is that
she shakes her head, when her wonderful recovery is mentioned.
'It seems such a pity,' she says; 'I was so fit for heaven.' Mr.
Rook having got rid of his wife, is in excellent spirits. He is
occupied in looking after an imbecile old gentleman; and, when he
is asked if he likes the employment, he winks mysteriously and
slaps his pocket. Now, Miss Ladd, I think it's my turn to hear
some news. What have you got to tell me?"

"I believe I can match your account of Mrs. Rook," Miss Ladd
said. "Do you care to hear what has become of Francine?"

Alban, rattling on hitherto in boyish high spirits, suddenly
became serious. "I have no doubt Miss de Sor is doing well," he
said sternly. "She is too heartless and wicked not to prosper."

"You are getting like your old cynical self again, Mr.
Morris--and you are wrong. I called this morning on the agent who
had the care of Francine, when I left England. When I mentioned
her name, he showed me a telegram, sent to him by her father.
'There's my authority,' he said, 'for letting her leave my
house.' The message was short enough to be easily remembered:
'Anything my daughter likes as long as she doesn't come back to
us.' In those cruel terms Mr. de Sor wrote of his own child. The
agent was just as unfeeling, in his way. He called her the victim
of slighted love and clever proselytizing. 'In plain words,' he
said, 'the priest of the Catholic chapel close by has converted
her; and she is now a novice in a convent of Carmelite nuns in
the West of England. Who could have expected it? Who knows how it
may end?"

As Miss Ladd spoke, the bell rang at the cottage gate. "Here she
is!" Alban cried, leading the way into the hall. "Emily has come
home."



THE END




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