Infomotions, Inc.The Irrational Knot Being the Second Novel of His Nonage / Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950



Author: Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950
Title: The Irrational Knot Being the Second Novel of His Nonage
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): conolly; marian; marmaduke; lind; elinor; miss mcquinch; douglas; leith fairfax; miss lind
Contributor(s): Francke, Kuno, 1855-1930 [Editor]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 122,605 words (average) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 69 (easy)
Identifier: etext11354
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Title: The Irrational Knot
       Being the Second Novel of His Nonage

Author: George Bernard Shaw

Release Date: February 28, 2004 [EBook #11354]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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THE IRRATIONAL KNOT

BY BERNARD SHAW BEING

THE SECOND NOVEL
OF HIS NONAGE


1905




PREFACE

TO THE AMERICAN EDITION OF 1905


This novel was written in the year 1880, only a few years after I had
exported myself from Dublin to London in a condition of extreme rawness
and inexperience concerning the specifically English side of the life
with which the book pretends to deal. Everybody wrote novels then. It
was my second attempt; and it shared the fate of my first. That is to
say, nobody would publish it, though I tried all the London publishers
and some American ones. And I should not greatly blame them if I could
feel sure that it was the book's faults and not its qualities that
repelled them.

I have narrated elsewhere how in the course of time the rejected MS.
became Mrs. Annie Besant's excuse for lending me her ever helping hand
by publishing it as a serial in a little propagandist magazine of hers.
That was how it got loose beyond all possibility of recapture. It is out
of my power now to stand between it and the American public: all I can
do is to rescue it from unauthorized mutilations and make the best of a
jejune job.

At present, of course, I am not the author of The Irrational Knot.
Physiologists inform us that the substance of our bodies (and
consequently of our souls) is shed and renewed at such a rate that no
part of us lasts longer than eight years: I am therefore not now in any
atom of me the person who wrote The Irrational Knot in 1880. The last
of that author perished in 1888; and two of his successors have since
joined the majority. Fourth of his line, I cannot be expected to take
any very lively interest in the novels of my literary great-grandfather.
Even my personal recollections of him are becoming vague and overlaid
with those most misleading of all traditions, the traditions founded on
the lies a man tells, and at last comes to believe, about himself _to_
himself. Certain things, however, I remember very well. For instance, I
am significantly clear as to the price of the paper on which I wrote The
Irrational Knot. It was cheap--a white demy of unpretentious quality--so
that sixpennorth lasted a long time. My daily allowance of composition
was five pages of this demy in quarto; and I held my natural laziness
sternly to that task day in, day out, to the end. I remember also that
Bizet's Carmen being then new in London, I used it as a safety-valve for
my romantic impulses. When I was tired of the sordid realism of
Whatshisname (I have sent my only copy of The Irrational Knot to the
printers, and cannot remember the name of my hero) I went to the piano
and forgot him in the glamorous society of Carmen and her crimson
toreador and yellow dragoon. Not that Bizet's music could infatuate me
as it infatuated Nietzsche. Nursed on greater masters, I thought less of
him than he deserved; but the Carmen music was--in places--exquisite of
its kind, and could enchant a man like me, romantic enough to have come
to the end of romance before I began to create in art for myself.

When I say that _I_ did and felt these things, I mean, of course, that
the predecessor whose name I bear did and felt them. The I of to-day is
(? am) cool towards Carmen; and Carmen, I regret to say, does not take
the slightest interest in him (? me). And now enough of this juggling
with past and present Shaws. The grammatical complications of being a
first person and several extinct third persons at the same moment are so
frightful that I must return to the ordinary misusage, and ask the
reader to make the necessary corrections in his or her own mind.

This book is not wholly a compound of intuition and ignorance. Take for
example the profession of my hero, an Irish-American electrical
engineer. That was by no means a flight of fancy. For you must not
suppose, because I am a man of letters, that I never tried to earn an
honest living. I began trying to commit that sin against my nature when
I was fifteen, and persevered, from youthful timidity and diffidence,
until I was twenty-three. My last attempt was in 1879, when a company
was formed in London to exploit an ingenious invention by Mr. Thomas
Alva Edison--a much too ingenious invention as it proved, being nothing
less than a telephone of such stentorian efficiency that it bellowed
your most private communications all over the house instead of
whispering them with some sort of discretion. This was not what the
British stockbroker wanted; so the company was soon merged in the
National Telephone Company, after making a place for itself in the
history of literature, quite unintentionally, by providing me with a
job. Whilst the Edison Telephone Company lasted, it crowded the basement
of a huge pile of offices in Queen Victoria Street with American
artificers. These deluded and romantic men gave me a glimpse of the
skilled proletariat of the United States. They sang obsolete sentimental
songs with genuine emotion; and their language was frightful even to an
Irishman. They worked with a ferocious energy which was out of all
proportion to the actual result achieved. Indomitably resolved to assert
their republican manhood by taking no orders from a tall-hatted
Englishman whose stiff politeness covered his conviction that they were,
relatively to himself, inferior and common persons, they insisted on
being slave-driven with genuine American oaths by a genuine free and
equal American foreman. They utterly despised the artfully slow British
workman who did as little for his wages as he possibly could; never
hurried himself; and had a deep reverence for anyone whose pocket could
be tapped by respectful behavior. Need I add that they were
contemptuously wondered at by this same British workman as a parcel of
outlandish adult boys, who sweated themselves for their employer's
benefit instead of looking after their own interests? They adored Mr.
Edison as the greatest man of all time in every possible department of
science, art and philosophy, and execrated Mr. Graham Bell, the inventor
of the rival telephone, as his Satanic adversary; but each of them had
(or pretended to have) on the brink of completion, an improvement on the
telephone, usually a new transmitter. They were free-souled creatures,
excellent company: sensitive, cheerful, and profane; liars, braggarts,
and hustlers; with an air of making slow old England hum which never
left them even when, as often happened, they were wrestling with
difficulties of their own making, or struggling in no-thoroughfares from
which they had to be retrieved like strayed sheep by Englishmen without
imagination enough to go wrong.

In this environment I remained for some months. As I was interested in
physics and had read Tyndall and Helmholtz, besides having learnt
something in Ireland through a fortunate friendship with a cousin of Mr.
Graham Bell who was also a chemist and physicist, I was, I believe, the
only person in the entire establishment who knew the current scientific
explanation of telephony; and as I soon struck up a friendship with our
official lecturer, a Colchester man whose strong point was
pre-scientific agriculture, I often discharged his duties for him in a
manner which, I am persuaded, laid the foundation of Mr. Edison's London
reputation: my sole reward being my boyish delight in the half-concealed
incredulity of our visitors (who were convinced by the hoarsely
startling utterances of the telephone that the speaker, alleged by me to
be twenty miles away, was really using a speaking-trumpet in the next
room), and their obvious uncertainty, when the demonstration was over,
as to whether they ought to tip me or not: a question they either
decided in the negative or never decided at all; for I never got
anything.

So much for my electrical engineer! To get him into contact with
fashionable society before he became famous was also a problem easily
solved. I knew of three English peers who actually preferred physical
laboratories to stables, and scientific experts to gamekeepers: in fact,
one of the experts was a friend of mine. And I knew from personal
experience that if science brings men of all ranks into contact, art,
especially music, does the same for men and women. An electrician who
can play an accompaniment can go anywhere and know anybody. As far as
mere access and acquaintance go there are no class barriers for him. My
difficulty was not to get my hero into society, but to give any sort of
plausibility to my picture of society when I got him into it. I lacked
the touch of the literary diner-out; and I had, as the reader will
probably find to his cost, the classical tradition which makes all the
persons in a novel, except the comically vernacular ones, or the
speakers of phonetically spelt dialect, utter themselves in the formal
phrases and studied syntax of eighteenth century rhetoric. In short, I
wrote in the style of Scott and Dickens; and as fashionable society then
spoke and behaved, as it still does, in no style at all, my
transcriptions of Oxford and Mayfair may nowadays suggest an
unaccountable and ludicrous ignorance of a very superficial and
accessible code of manners. I was not, however, so ignorant as might
have been inferred at that time from my somewhat desperate financial
condition.

I had, to begin with, a sort of backstairs knowledge; for in my teens I
struggled for life in the office of an Irish gentleman who acted as land
agent and private banker for many persons of distinction. Now it is
possible for a London author to dine out in the highest circles for
twenty years without learning as much about the human frailties of his
hosts as the family solicitor or (in Ireland) the family land agent
learns in twenty days; and some of this knowledge inevitably reaches his
clerks, especially the clerk who keeps the cash, which was my particular
department. He learns, if capable of the lesson, that the aristocratic
profession has as few geniuses as any other profession; so that if you
want a peerage of more than, say, half a dozen members, you must fill it
up with many common persons, and even with some deplorably mean ones.
For "service is no inheritance" either in the kitchen or the House of
Lords; and the case presented by Mr. Barrie in his play of The Admirable
Crichton, where the butler is the man of quality, and his master, the
Earl, the man of rank, is no fantasy, but a quite common occurrence, and
indeed to some extent an inevitable one, because the English are
extremely particular in selecting their butlers, whilst they do not
select their barons at all, taking them as the accident of birth sends
them. The consequences include much ironic comedy. For instance, we have
in England a curious belief in first rate people, meaning all the people
we do not know; and this consoles us for the undeniable secondrateness
of the people we do know, besides saving the credit of aristocracy as an
institution. The unmet aristocrat is devoutly believed in; but he is
always round the corner, never at hand. That _the_ smart set exists;
that there is above and beyond that smart set a class so blue of blood
and exquisite in nature that it looks down even on the King with haughty
condescension; that scepticism on these points is one of the stigmata of
plebeian baseness: all these imaginings are so common here that they
constitute the real popular sociology of England as much as an unlimited
credulity as to vaccination constitutes the real popular science of
England. It is, of course, a timid superstition. A British peer or
peeress who happens by chance to be genuinely noble is just as isolated
at court as Goethe would have been among all the other grandsons of
publicans, if they had formed a distinct class in Frankfurt or Weimar.
This I knew very well when I wrote my novels; and if, as I suspect, I
failed to create a convincingly verisimilar atmosphere of aristocracy,
it was not because I had any illusions or ignorances as to the common
humanity of the peerage, and not because I gave literary style to its
conversation, but because, as I had never had any money, I was foolishly
indifferent to it, and so, having blinded myself to its enormous
importance, necessarily missed the point of view, and with it the whole
moral basis, of the class which rightly values money, and plenty of it,
as the first condition of a bearable life.

Money is indeed the most important thing in the world; and all sound and
successful personal and national morality should have this fact for its
basis. Every teacher or twaddler who denies it or suppresses it, is an
enemy of life. Money controls morality; and what makes the United States
of America look so foolish even in foolish Europe is that they are
always in a state of flurried concern and violent interference with
morality, whereas they throw their money into the street to be scrambled
for, and presently find that their cash reserves are not in their own
hands, but in the pockets of a few millionaires who, bewildered by their
luck, and unspeakably incapable of making any truly economic use of it,
endeavor to "do good" with it by letting themselves be fleeced by
philanthropic committee men, building contractors, librarians and
professors, in the name of education, science, art and what not; so that
sensible people exhale relievedly when the pious millionaire dies, and
his heirs, demoralized by being brought up on his outrageous income,
begin the socially beneficent work of scattering his fortune through the
channels of the trades that flourish by riotous living.

This, as I have said, I did not then understand; for I knew money only
by the want of it. Ireland is a poor country; and my father was a poor
man in a poor country. By this I do not mean that he was hungry and
homeless, a hewer of wood and a drawer of water. My friend Mr. James
Huneker, a man of gorgeous imagination and incorrigible romanticism, has
described me to the American public as a peasant lad who has raised
himself, as all American presidents are assumed to have raised
themselves, from the humblest departments of manual labor to the
loftiest eminence. James flatters me. Had I been born a peasant, I
should now be a tramp. My notion of my father's income is even vaguer
than his own was--and that is saying a good deal--but he always had an
income of at least three figures (four, if you count in dollars instead
of pounds); and what made him poor was that he conceived himself as born
to a social position which even in Ireland could have been maintained in
dignified comfort only on twice or thrice what he had. And he married on
that assumption. Fortunately for me, social opportunity is not always to
be measured by income. There is an important economic factor, first
analyzed by an American economist (General Walker), and called rent of
ability. Now this rent, when the ability is of the artistic or political
sort, is often paid in kind. For example, a London possessor of such
ability may, with barely enough money to maintain a furnished bedroom
and a single presentable suit of clothes, see everything worth seeing
that a millionaire can see, and know everybody worth knowing that he can
know. Long before I reached this point myself, a very trifling
accomplishment gave me glimpses of the sort of fashionable life a
peasant never sees. Thus I remember one evening during the novel-writing
period when nobody would pay a farthing for a stroke of my pen, walking
along Sloane Street in that blessed shield of literary shabbiness,
evening dress. A man accosted me with an eloquent appeal for help,
ending with the assurance that he had not a penny in the world. I
replied, with exact truth, "Neither have I." He thanked me civilly, and
went away, apparently not in the least surprised, leaving me to ask
myself why I did not turn beggar too, since I felt sure that a man who
did it as well as he, must be in comfortable circumstances.

Another reminiscence. A little past midnight, in the same costume, I was
turning from Piccadilly into Bond Street, when a lady of the pavement,
out of luck that evening so far, confided to me that the last bus for
Brompton had passed, and that she should be grateful to any gentleman
who would give her a lift in a hansom. My old-fashioned Irish gallantry
had not then been worn off by age and England: besides, as a novelist
who could find no publisher, I was touched by the similarity of our
trades and predicaments. I excused myself very politely on the ground
that my wife (invented for the occasion) was waiting for me at home, and
that I felt sure so attractive a lady would have no difficulty in
finding another escort. Unfortunately this speech made so favorable an
impression on her that she immediately took my arm and declared her
willingness to go anywhere with me, on the flattering ground that I was
a perfect gentleman. In vain did I try to persuade her that in coming up
Bond Street and deserting Piccadilly, she was throwing away her last
chance of a hansom: she attached herself so devotedly to me that I could
not without actual violence shake her off. At last I made a stand at the
end of Old Bond Street. I took out my purse; opened it; and held it
upside down. Her countenance fell, poor girl! She turned on her heel
with a melancholy flirt of her skirt, and vanished.

Now on both these occasions I had been in the company of people who
spent at least as much in a week as I did in a year. Why was I, a
penniless and unknown young man, admitted there? Simply because, though
I was an execrable pianist, and never improved until the happy
invention of the pianola made a Paderewski of me, I could play a simple
accompaniment at sight more congenially to a singer than most amateurs.
It is true that the musical side of London society, with its streak of
Bohemianism, and its necessary toleration of foreign ways and
professional manners, is far less typically English than the sporting
side or the political side or the Philistine side; so much so, indeed,
that people may and do pass their lives in it without ever discovering
what English plutocracy in the mass is really like: still, if you wander
in it nocturnally for a fitful year or so as I did, with empty pockets
and an utter impossibility of approaching it by daylight (owing to the
deplorable decay of the morning wardrobe), you have something more
actual to go on than the hallucinations of a peasant lad setting his
foot manfully on the lowest rung of the social ladder. I never climbed
any ladder: I have achieved eminence by sheer gravitation; and I hereby
warn all peasant lads not to be duped by my pretended example into
regarding their present servitude as a practicable first step to a
celebrity so dazzling that its subject cannot even suppress his own bad
novels.

Conceive me then at the writing of The Irrational Knot as a person
neither belonging to the world I describe nor wholly ignorant of it, and
on certain points quite incapable of conceiving it intuitively. A whole
world of art which did not exist for it lay open to me. I was familiar
with the greatest in that world: mighty poets, painters, and musicians
were my intimates. I found the world of artificial greatness founded on
convention and money so repugnant and contemptible by comparison that I
had no sympathetic understanding of it. People are fond of blaming
valets because no man is a hero to his valet. But it is equally true
that no man is a valet to his hero; and the hero, consequently, is apt
to blunder very ludicrously about valets, through judging them from an
irrelevant standard of heroism: heroism, remember, having its faults as
well as its qualities. I, always on the heroic plane imaginatively, had
two disgusting faults which I did not recognize as faults because I
could not help them. I was poor and (by day) shabby. I therefore
tolerated the gross error that poverty, though an inconvenience and a
trial, is not a sin and a disgrace; and I stood for my self-respect on
the things I had: probity, ability, knowledge of art, laboriousness, and
whatever else came cheaply to me. Because I could walk into Hampton
Court Palace and the National Gallery (on free days) and enjoy Mantegna
and Michael Angelo whilst millionaires were yawning miserably over inept
gluttonies; because I could suffer more by hearing a movement of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony taken at a wrong tempo than a duchess by
losing a diamond necklace, I was indifferent to the repulsive fact that
if I had fallen in love with the duchess I did not possess a morning
suit in which I could reasonably have expected her to touch me with the
furthest protended pair of tongs; and I did not see that to remedy this
I should have been prepared to wade through seas of other people's
blood. Indeed it is this perception which constitutes an aristocracy
nowadays. It is the secret of all our governing classes, which consist
finally of people who, though perfectly prepared to be generous, humane,
cultured, philanthropic, public spirited and personally charming in the
second instance, are unalterably resolved, in the first, to have money
enough for a handsome and delicate life, and will, in pursuit of that
money, batter in the doors of their fellow men, sell them up, sweat them
in fetid dens, shoot, stab, hang, imprison, sink, burn and destroy them
in the name of law and order. And this shews their fundamental sanity
and rightmindedness; for a sufficient income is indispensable to the
practice of virtue; and the man who will let any unselfish consideration
stand between him and its attainment is a weakling, a dupe and a
predestined slave. If I could convince our impecunious mobs of this, the
world would be reformed before the end of the week; for the sluggards
who are content to be wealthy without working and the dastards who are
content to work without being wealthy, together with all the
pseudo-moralists and ethicists and cowardice mongers generally, would be
exterminated without shrift, to the unutterable enlargement of life and
ennoblement of humanity. We might even make some beginnings of
civilization under such happy circumstances.

In the days of The Irrational Knot I had not learnt this lesson;
consequently I did not understand the British peerage, just as I did not
understand that glorious and beautiful phenomenon, the "heartless" rich
American woman, who so thoroughly and admirably understands that
conscience is a luxury, and should be indulged in only when the vital
needs of life have been abundantly satisfied. The instinct which has led
the British peerage to fortify itself by American alliances is healthy
and well inspired. Thanks to it, we shall still have a few people to
maintain the tradition of a handsome, free, proud, costly life, whilst
the craven mass of us are keeping up our starveling pretence that it is
more important to be good than to be rich, and piously cheating,
robbing, and murdering one another by doing our duty as policemen,
soldiers, bailiffs, jurymen, turnkeys, hangmen, tradesmen, and curates,
at the command of those who know that the golden grapes are _not_ sour.
Why, good heavens! we shall all pretend that this straightforward truth
of mine is mere Swiftian satire, because it would require a little
courage to take it seriously and either act on it or make me drink the
hemlock for uttering it.

There was the less excuse for my blindness because I was at that very
moment laying the foundations of my high fortune by the most ruthless
disregard of all the quack duties which lead the peasant lad of fiction
to the White House, and harness the real peasant boy to the plough until
he is finally swept, as rubbish, into the workhouse. I was an ablebodied
and ableminded young man in the strength of my youth; and my family,
then heavily embarrassed, needed my help urgently. That I should have
chosen to be a burden to them instead was, according to all the
conventions of peasant lad fiction, monstrous. Well, without a blush I
embraced the monstrosity. I did not throw myself into the struggle for
life: I threw my mother into it. I was not a staff to my father's old
age: I hung on to his coat tails. His reward was to live just long
enough to read a review of one of these silly novels written in an
obscure journal by a personal friend of my own (now eminent in
literature as Mr. John Mackinnon Robertson) prefiguring me to some
extent as a considerable author. I think, myself, that this was a
handsome reward, far better worth having than a nice pension from a
dutiful son struggling slavishly for his parent's bread in some sordid
trade. Handsome or not, it was the only return he ever had for the
little pension he contrived to export from Ireland for his family. My
mother reinforced it by drudging in her elder years at the art of music
which she had followed in her prime freely for love. I only helped to
spend it. People wondered at my heartlessness: one young and romantic
lady had the courage to remonstrate openly and indignantly with me, "for
the which" as Pepys said of the shipwright's wife who refused his
advances, "I did respect her." Callous as Comus to moral babble, I
steadily wrote my five pages a day and made a man of myself (at my
mother's expense) instead of a slave. And I protest that I will not
suffer James Huneker or any romanticist to pass me off as a peasant boy
qualifying for a chapter in Smiles's Self Help, or a good son supporting
a helpless mother, instead of a stupendously selfish artist leaning with
the full weight of his hungry body on an energetic and capable woman.
No, James: such lies are not only unnecessary, but fearfully depressing
and fundamentally immoral, besides being hardly fair to the supposed
peasant lad's parents. My mother worked for my living instead of
preaching that it was my duty to work for hers: therefore take off your
hat to her, and blush.[A]

It is now open to anyone who pleases to read The Irrational Knot. I do
not recommend him to; but it is possible that the same mysterious force
which drove me through the labor of writing it may have had some purpose
which will sustain others through the labor of reading it, and even
reward them with some ghastly enjoyment of it. For my own part I cannot
stand it. It is to me only one of the heaps of spoiled material that
all apprenticeship involves. I consent to its publication because I
remember that British colonel who called on Beethoven when the elderly
composer was working at his posthumous quartets, and offered him a
commission for a work in the style of his jejune septet. Beethoven drove
the Colonel out of the house with objurgation. I think that was uncivil.
There is a time for the septet, and a time for the posthumous quartets.
It is true that if a man called on me now and asked me to write
something like The Irrational Knot I should have to exercise great
self-control. But there are people who read Man and Superman, and then
tell me (actually to my face) that I have never done anything so good as
Cashel Byron's Profession. After this, there may be a public for even
The Irrational Knot; so let it go.


LONDON, _May_ 26, 1905.

[Footnote A: James, having read the above in proof, now protests he
never called me a peasant lad: that being a decoration by the
sub-editor. The expression he used was "a poor lad." This is what James
calls tact. After all, there is something pastoral, elemental, well
aerated, about a peasant lad. But a mere poor lad! really, James,
_really_--!!!]

P.S.--Since writing the above I have looked through the proof-sheets of
this book, and found, with some access of respect for my youth, that it
is a fiction of the first order. By this I do not mean that it is a
masterpiece in that order, or even a pleasant example of it, but simply
that, such as it is, it is one of those fictions in which the morality
is original and not readymade. Now this quality is the true diagnostic
of the first order in literature, and indeed in all the arts, including
the art of life. It is, for example, the distinction that sets
Shakespear's Hamlet above his other plays, and that sets Ibsen's work as
a whole above Shakespear's work as a whole. Shakespear's morality is a
mere reach-me-down; and because Hamlet does not feel comfortable in it,
and struggles against the misfit, he suggests something better, futile
as his struggle is, and incompetent as Shakespear shews himself in his
effort to think out the revolt of his feeling against readymade
morality. Ibsen's morality is original all through: he knows well that
the men in the street have no use for principles, because they can
neither understand nor apply them; and that what they can understand and
apply are arbitrary rules of conduct, often frightfully destructive and
inhuman, but at least definite rules enabling the common stupid man to
know where he stands and what he may do and not do without getting into
trouble. Now to all writers of the first order, these rules, and the
need for them produced by the moral and intellectual incompetence of the
ordinary human animal, are no more invariably beneficial and respectable
than the sunlight which ripens the wheat in Sussex and leaves the desert
deadly in Sahara, making the cheeks of the ploughman's child rosy in the
morning and striking the ploughman brainsick or dead in the afternoon;
no more inspired (and no less) than the religion of the Andaman
islanders; as much in need of frequent throwing away and replacement as
the community's boots. By writers of the second order the readymade
morality is accepted as the basis of all moral judgment and criticism of
the characters they portray, even when their genius forces them to
represent their most attractive heroes and heroines as violating the
readymade code in all directions. Far be it from me to pretend that the
first order is more readable than the second! Shakespear, Scott,
Dickens, Dumas _pere_ are not, to say the least, less readable than
Euripides and Ibsen. Nor is the first order always more constructive;
for Byron, Oscar Wilde, and Larochefoucauld did not get further in
positive philosophy than Ruskin and Carlyle, though they could snuff
Ruskin's Seven Lamps with their fingers without flinching. Still, the
first order remains the first order and the second the second for all
that: no man who shuts his eyes and opens his mouth when religion and
morality are offered to him on a long spoon can share the same
Parnassian bench with those who make an original contribution to
religion and morality, were it only a criticism.

Therefore on coming back to this Irrational Knot as a stranger after 25
years, I am proud to find that its morality is not readymade. The
drunken prima donna of a bygone type of musical burlesque is not
depicted as an immoral person, but as a person with a morality of her
own, no worse in its way than the morality of her highly respectable
wine merchant in _its_ way. The sociology of the successful inventor is
his own sociology too; and it is by his originality in this respect that
he passes irresistibly through all the readymade prejudices that are set
up to bar his promotion. And the heroine, nice, amiable, benevolent, and
anxious to please and behave well, but hopelessly secondhand in her
morals and nicenesses, and consequently without any real moral force now
that the threat of hell has lost its terrors for her, is left destitute
among the failures which are so puzzling to thoughtless people. "I
cannot understand why she is so unlucky: she is such a nice woman!":
that is the formula. As if people with any force in them ever were
altogether nice!

And so I claim the first order for this jejune exploit of mine, and
invite you to note that the final chapter, so remote from Scott and
Dickens and so close to Ibsen, was written years before Ibsen came to
my knowledge, thus proving that the revolt of the Life Force against
readymade morality in the nineteenth century was not the work of a
Norwegian microbe, but would have worked itself into expression in
English literature had Norway never existed. In fact, when Miss Lord's
translation of A Doll's House appeared in the eighteen-eighties, and so
excited some of my Socialist friends that they got up a private reading
of it in which I was cast for the part of Krogstad, its novelty as a
morally original study of a marriage did not stagger me as it staggered
Europe. I had made a morally original study of a marriage myself, and
made it, too, without any melodramatic forgeries, spinal diseases, and
suicides, though I had to confess to a study of dipsomania. At all
events, I chattered and ate caramels in the back drawing-room (our
green-room) whilst Eleanor Marx, as Nora, brought Helmer to book at the
other side of the folding doors. Indeed I concerned myself very little
about Ibsen until, later on, William Archer translated Peer Gynt to me
_viva voce_, when the magic of the great poet opened my eyes in a flash
to the importance of the social philosopher.

I seriously suggest that The Irrational Knot may be regarded as an early
attempt on the part of the Life Force to write A Doll's House in English
by the instrumentality of a very immature writer aged 24. And though I
say it that should not, the choice was not such a bad shot for a stupid
instinctive force that has to work and become conscious of itself by
means of human brains. If we could only realize that though the Life
Force supplies us with its own purpose, it has no other brains to work
with than those it has painfully and imperfectly evolved in our heads,
the peoples of the earth would learn some pity for their gods; and we
should have a religion that would not be contradicted at every turn by
the thing that is giving the lie to the thing that ought to be.

WELWYN, _Sunday, June_ 25, 1905.




BOOK I




THE IRRATIONAL KNOT




CHAPTER I


At seven o'clock on a fine evening in April the gas had just been
lighted in a room on the first floor of a house in York Road, Lambeth. A
man, recently washed and brushed, stood on the hearthrug before a pier
glass, arranging a white necktie, part of his evening dress. He was
about thirty, well grown, and fully developed muscularly. There was no
cloud of vice or trouble upon him: he was concentrated and calm, making
no tentative movements of any sort (even a white tie did not puzzle him
into fumbling), but acting with a certainty of aim and consequent
economy of force, dreadful to the irresolute. His face was brown, but
his auburn hair classed him as a fair man.

The apartment, a drawing-room with two windows, was dusty and untidy.
The paint and wall paper had not been renewed for years; nor did the
pianette, which stood near the fireplace, seem to have been closed
during that time; for the interior was dusty, and the inner end of every
key begrimed. On a table between the windows were some tea things, with
a heap of milliner's materials, and a brass candlestick which had been
pushed back to make room for a partially unfolded cloth. There was a
second table near the door, crowded with coils, batteries, a
galvanometer, and other electrical apparatus. The mantelpiece was
littered with dusty letters, and two trays of Doulton ware which
ornamented it were filled with accounts, scraps of twine, buttons, and
rusty keys.

A shifting, rustling sound, as of somebody dressing, which had been
audible for some minutes through the folding doors, now ceased, and a
handsome young woman entered. She had thick black hair, fine dark eyes,
an oval face, a clear olive complexion, and an elastic figure. She was
incompletely attired in a petticoat that did not hide her ankles, and
stays of bright red silk with white laces and seams. Quite unconcerned
at the presence of the man, she poured out a cup of tea; carried it to
the mantelpiece; and began to arrange her hair before the glass. He,
without looking round, completed the arrangement of his tie, looked at
it earnestly for a moment, and said, "Have you got a pin about you?"

"There is one in the pincushion on my table," she said; "but I think
it's a black one. I dont know where the deuce all the pins go to." Then,
casting off the subject, she whistled a long and florid cadenza, and
added, by way of instrumental interlude, a remarkably close imitation of
a violoncello. Meanwhile the man went into her room for the pin. On his
return she suddenly became curious, and said, "Where are you going
to-night, if one may ask?"

"I am going out."

She looked at him for a moment, and turned contemptuously to the mirror,
saying, "Thank you. Sorry to be inquisitive."

"I am going to sing for the Countess of Carbury at a concert at
Wandsworth."

"Sing! You! The Countess of Barbury! Does she live at Wandsworth?"

"No. She lives in Park Lane."

"Oh! I beg her pardon." The man made no comment on this; and she, after
looking doubtfully at him to assure herself that he was in earnest,
continued, "How does the Countess of Whatshername come to know _you_,
pray?"

"Why not?"

A long pause ensued. Then she said: "Stuff!", but without conviction.
Her exclamation had no apparent effect on him until he had buttoned his
waistcoat and arranged his watch-chain. Then he glanced at a sheet of
pink paper which lay on the mantelpiece. She snatched it at once; opened
it; stared incredulously at it; and said, "Pink paper, and scalloped
edges! How filthily vulgar! I thought she was not much of a Countess!
Ahem! 'Music for the People. Parnassus Society. A concert will be given
at the Town Hall, Wandsworth, on Tuesday, the 25th April, by the
Countess of Carbury, assisted by the following ladies and gentlemen.
Miss Elinor McQuinch'--what a name! 'Miss Marian Lind'--who's Miss
Marian Lind?"

"How should I know?"

"I only thought, as she is a pal of the Countess, that you would most
likely be intimate with her. 'Mrs. Leith Fairfax.' There is a Mrs. Leith
Fairfax who writes novels, and very rotten novels they are, too. Who are
the gentlemen? 'Mr. Marmaduke Lind'--brother to Miss Marian, I suppose.
'Mr. Edward Conolly'--save the mark! they must have been rather hard up
for gentlemen when they put _you_ down as one. The Conolly family is
looking up at last. Hm! nearly a dozen altogether. 'Tickets will be
distributed to the families of working men by the Rev. George
Lind'--pity they didnt engage Jenny Lind on purpose to sing with you. 'A
limited number of front seats at one shilling. Please turn over. Part I.
Symphony in F: Haydn. Arranged for four English concertinas by Julius
Baker. Mr. Julius Baker; Master Julius Abt Baker; Miss Lisette Baker
(aged 8); and Miss Totty Baker (aged 6-1/2)'. Good Lord! 'Song: Rose
softly blooming: Spohr. Miss Marian Lind.' I wonder whether she can
sing! 'Polonaise in A flat major: Chopin'--what rot! As if working
people cared about Chopin! Miss Elinor McQuinch is a fool, I see. 'Song:
The Valley: Gounod.' Of course: I knew you would try that. Oho! Here's
something sensible at last. 'Nigger melody. Uncle Ned. Mr. Marmaduke
Lind, accompanied by himself on the banjo.'

  Dum, drum. Dum, drum. Dum, drum. Dum--
  'And there was an ole nigga; and his name was Uncle Ned;
    An' him dead long ago, long ago.
  An' he had no hair on the top of his head
    In the place where the wool ought to grow,'

Mr. Marmaduke Lind will get a double _encore_; and no one will take the
least notice of you or the others. 'Recitation. The Faithful Soul.
Adelaide Proctor. Mrs. Leith Fairfax.' Well, this certainly is a blessed
attempt to amuse Wandsworth. _Another_ reading by the Rev.----"

Here Conolly, who had been putting on his overcoat, picked the program
deftly from his sister's fingers, and left the room. She, after damning
him very heartily, returned to the glass, and continued dressing,
taking her tea at intervals until she was ready to go out, when she sent
for a cab, and bade the driver convey her to the Bijou Theatre, Soho.

Conolly, on arriving at the Wandsworth Town Hall, was directed to a
committee room, which served as green-room on this occasion. He was
greeted by a clean shaven young clergyman who protested that he was glad
to see him there, but did not offer his hand. Conolly thanked him
briefly, and went without further ceremony to the table, and was about
to place his hat and overcoat on a heap of similar garments, when,
observing that there were some hooks along the wall, he immediately
crossed over and hung up his things on them, thereby producing an
underbred effect of being more prudent and observant than the rest. Then
he looked at his program, and calculated how soon his turn to sing would
come. Then he unrolled his music, and placed two copies of Le Vallon
ready to his hand upon the table. Having made these arrangements with a
self-possession that quite disconcerted the clergyman, he turned to
examine the rest of the company.

His first glance was arrested by the beauty of a young lady with light
brown hair and gentle grey eyes, who sat near the fire. Beside her, on a
lower chair, was a small, lean, and very restless young woman with keen
dark eyes staring defiantly from a worn face. These two were attended by
a jovial young gentleman with curly auburn hair, who was twanging a
banjo, and occasionally provoking an exclamation of annoyance from the
restless girl by requesting her opinion of his progress in tuning the
instrument. Near them stood a tall man, dark and handsome. He seemed
unused to his present circumstances, and contemptuous, not of the
company nor the object for which they were assembled, but in the
abstract, as if habitual contempt were part of his nature.

The clergyman, who had just conducted to the platform an elderly
professor in a shabby frock coat, followed by three well-washed
children, each of whom carried a concertina, now returned and sat down
beside a middle-aged lady, who made herself conspicuous by using a gold
framed eyeglass so as to convey an impression that she was an
exceedingly keen observer.

"It is fortunate that the evening is so fine," said the clergyman to
her.

"Yes, is it not, Mr. Lind?"

"My throat is always affected by bad weather, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. I
shall be so handicapped by the inevitable comparison of my elocution
with yours, that I am glad the weather is favorable to me, though the
comparison is not."

"No," said Mrs. Fairfax, with decision. "I am not in the least an
orator. I can repeat a poem: that is all. Oh! I hope I have not broken
my glasses." They had slipped from her nose to the floor. Conolly picked
them up and straightened them with one turn of his fingers.

"No harm done, madam," said he, with a certain elocutionary correctness,
and rather in the strong voice of the workshop than the subdued one of
the drawing-room, handing the glasses to her ceremoniously as he spoke.

"Thank you. You are very kind, very kind indeed."

Conolly bowed, and turned again toward the other group.

"Who is that?" whispered Mrs. Fairfax to the clergyman.

"Some young man who attracted the attention of the Countess by his
singing. He is only a workman."

"Indeed! Where did she hear him sing?"

"In her son's laboratory, I believe. He came there to put up some
electrical machinery, and sang into a telephone for their amusement. You
know how fond Lord Jasper is of mechanics. Jasper declares that he is a
genius as an electrician. Indeed it was he, rather than the Countess,
who thought of getting him to sing for us."

"How very interesting! I saw that he was clever when he spoke to me.
There is so much in trifles--in byplay, Mr. Lind. Now, his manner of
picking up my glass had his entire history in it. You will also see it
in the solid development of his head. That young man deserves to be
encouraged."

"You are very generous, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. It would not be well to
encourage him too much, however. You must recollect that he is not used
to society. Injudicious encouragement might perhaps lead him to forget
his real place in it."

"I do not agree with you, Mr. Lind. You do not read human nature as I
do. You know that I am an expert. I see men as he sees a telegraph
instrument, quite uninfluenced by personal feeling."

"True, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. But the heart is deceitful above all things
and des--at least I should say--er. That is, you will admit that the
finest perception may err in its estimate of the inscrutable work of the
Almighty."

"Doubtless. But really, Mr. Lind, human beings are _so_ shallow! I
assure you there is nothing at all inscrutable about them to a trained
analyst of character. It may be a gift, perhaps; but people's minds are
to me only little machines made up of superficial motives."

"I say," said the young gentleman with the banjo, interrupting them:
"have you got a copy of 'Rose softly blooming' there?"

"I!" said Mrs. Fairfax. "No, certainly not."

"Then it's all up with the concert. We have forgotten Marian's music;
and there is nothing for Nelly--I beg pardon, I mean Miss McQuinch--to
play from. She is above playing by ear."

"I _cannot_ play by ear," said the restless young lady, angrily.

"If you will sing 'Coal black Rose' instead, Marian, I can accompany you
on the banjo, and back you up in the chorus. The Wandsworthers--if they
survive the concertinas--will applaud the change as one man."

"It is so unkind to joke about it," said the beautiful young lady. "What
shall I do? If somebody will vamp an accompaniment, I can get on very
well without any music. But if I try to play for myself I shall break
down."

Conolly here stepped aside, and beckoned to the clergyman.

"That young man wants to speak to you," whispered Mrs. Fairfax.

"Oh, indeed. Thank you," said the Rev. Mr. Lind, stiffly. "I suppose I
had better see what he requires."

"I suppose you had," said Mrs. Fairfax, with some impatience.

"I dont wish to intrude where I have no business," said Conolly quietly
to the clergyman; "but I can play that lady's accompaniment, if she will
allow me."

The clergyman was too much afraid of Conolly by this time--he did not
know why--to demur. "I am sure she will not object," he said, pretending
to be relieved by the offer. "Your services will be most acceptable.
Excuse me for one moment, whilst I inform Miss Lind."

He crossed the room to the lady, and said in a lower tone, "I think I
have succeeded in arranging the matter, Marian. That man says he will
play for you."

"I hope he _can_ play," said Marian doubtfully. "Who is he?"

"It is Conolly. Jasper's man."

Miss Lind's eyes lighted. "Is that he?" she whispered, glancing
curiously across the room at him. "Bring him and introduce him to us."

"Is that necessary?" said the tall man, without lowering his voice
sufficiently to prevent Conolly from hearing him. The clergyman
hesitated.

"It is quite necessary: I do not know what he must think of us already,"
said Marian, ashamed, and looking apprehensively at Conolly. He was
staring with a policemanlike expression at the tall man, who, after a
vain attempt to ignore him, had eventually to turn away. The Rev. Mr.
Lind then led the electrician forward, and avoided a formal presentation
by saying with a simper: "Here is Mr. Conolly, who will extricate us
from all our difficulties."

Miss McQuinch nodded. Miss Lind bowed. Marmaduke shook hands
good-naturedly, and retired somewhat abashed, thrumming his banjo. Just
then a faint sound of clapping was followed by the return of the quartet
party, upon which Miss Lind rose and moved hesitatingly toward the
platform. The tall man offered his hand.

"Nonsense, Sholto," said she, laughing. "They will expect you to do
something if you appear with me."

"Allow _me_, Marian," said the clergyman, as the tall man, offended,
bowed and stood aside. She, pretending not to notice her brother, turned
toward Conolly, who at once passed the Rev. George, and led her to the
platform.

"The original key?" he enquired, as they mounted the steps.

"I dont know," she said, alarmed.

For a moment he was taken aback. Then he said, "What is the highest note
you can sing?"

"I can sing A sometimes--only when I am alone. I dare not attempt it
before people."

Conolly sat down, knowing now that Miss Lind was a commonplace amateur.
He had been contrasting her with his sister, greatly to the
disparagement of his home life; and he was disappointed to find the lady
break down where the actress would have succeeded so well. Consoling
himself with the reflexion that if Miss Lind could not rap out a B flat
like Susanna, neither could she rap out an oath, he played the
accompaniment much better than Marian sang the song. Meanwhile, Miss
McQuinch, listening jealously in the green-room, hated herself for her
inferior skill.

"Cool, and reserved, is the modern Benjamin Franklin," observed
Marmaduke to her.

"Better a reserved man who can do something than a sulky one who can do
nothing," she said, glancing at the tall man, with whom the clergyman
was nervously striving to converse.

"Exquisite melody, is it not, Mr. Douglas?" said Mrs. Fairfax, coming to
the clergyman's rescue.

"I do not care for music," said Douglas. "I lack the maudlin disposition
in which the taste usually thrives."

Miss McQuinch gave an expressive snap, but said nothing; and the
conversation dropped until Miss Lind had sung her song, and received a
round of respectful but not enthusiastic applause.

"Thank you, Mr. Conolly," she said, as she left the platform. "I am
afraid that Spohr's music is too good for the people here. Dont you
think so?"

"Not a bit of it," replied Conolly. "There is nothing so very particular
in Spohr. But he requires very good singing--better than he is worth."

Miss Lind colored, and returned in silence to her seat beside Miss
McQuinch, feeling that she had exposed herself to a remark that no
gentleman would have made.

"Now then, Nelly," said Marmaduke: "the parson is going to call time.
Keep up your courage. Come, get up, get up."

"Do not be so boisterous, Duke," said Marian. "It is bad enough to have
to face an audience without being ridiculed beforehand."

"Marian," said Marmaduke, "if you think Nelly will hammer a love of
music into the British workman, you err. Lots of them get their living
by hammering, and they will most likely resent feminine competition.
Bang! There she goes. Pity the sorrows of a poor old piano, and let us
hope its trembling limbs wont come through the floor."

"Really, Marmaduke," said Marian, impatiently, "you are excessively
foolish. You are like a boy fresh from school."

Marmaduke, taken aback by her sharp tone, gave a long whispered whistle,
and pretended to hide under the table. He had a certain gift of drollery
which made it difficult not to laugh even at his most foolish antics,
and Marian was giving way in spite of herself when she found Douglas
bending over her and saying, in a low voice:

"You are tired of this place. The room is very draughty: I fear it will
give you cold. Let me drive you home now. An apology can be made for
whatever else you are supposed to do for these people. Let me get your
cloak and call a cab."

Marian laughed. "Thank you, Sholto," she said; "but I assure you I am
quite happy. Pray do not look offended because I am not so uncomfortable
as you think I ought to be."

"I am glad you are happy," said Douglas in his former cold tone.
"Perhaps my presence is rather a drawback to your enjoyment than
otherwise."

"I told you not to come, Sholto; but you would. Why not adapt yourself
to the circumstances, and be agreeable?"

"I am not conscious of being disagreeable."

"I did not mean that. Only I do not like to see you making an enemy of
every one in the room, and forcing me to say things that I know must
hurt you."

"To the enmity of your new associates I am supremely indifferent,
Marian. To that of your old friends I am accustomed. I am not in the
mood to be lectured on my behavior at present; besides, the subject is
hardly worth pursuing. May I gather from your remarks that I shall
gratify you by withdrawing?"

"Yes," said Marian, flushing slightly, and looking steadily at him.
Then, controlling her voice with an effort, she added, "Do not try again
to browbeat me into telling you a falsehood, Sholto."

Douglas looked at her in surprise. Before he could answer, Miss McQuinch
reappeared.

"Well, Nelly," said Marmaduke: "is there any piano left?"

"Not much," she replied, with a sullen laugh. "I never played worse in
my life."

"Wrong notes? or deficiency in the sacred fire?"

"Both."

"I believe your song comes next," said the clergyman to Conolly, who had
been standing apart, listening to Miss McQuinch's performance.

"Who is to accompany me, sir?"

"Oh--ah--Miss McQuinch will, I am sure," replied the Rev. Mr. Lind,
smiling nervously. Conolly looked grave. The young lady referred to
closed her lips; frowned; said nothing. Marmaduke chuckled.

"Perhaps you would rather play your own accompaniment," said the
clergyman, weakly.

Conolly shook his head decisively, and said, "I can do only one thing at
a time, sir."

"Oh, they are not very critical: they are only workmen," said the
clergyman, and then reddened deeply as Marmaduke gave him a very
perceptible nudge.

"I'll not take advantage of that, as I am only a workman myself," said
Conolly. "I had rather leave the song out than accompany myself."

"Pray dont suppose that I wish to be disagreeable, Mr. Lind," said Miss
McQuinch, as the company looked doubtfully at her; "but I have disgraced
myself too completely to trust my fingers again. I should spoil the song
if I played the accompaniment."

"I think you might try, Nell," said Marmaduke, reproachfully.

"I might," retorted Miss McQuinch; "but I wont."

"If somebody doesnt go out and do something, there will be a shindy,"
said Marmaduke.

Marian hesitated a moment and then rose. "I am a very indifferent
player," she said; "but since no better is to be had, I will venture--if
Mr. Conolly will trust me."

Conolly bowed.

"If you would rather not," said Miss McQuinch, shamed into remorse, "I
will try the accompaniment. But I am sure to play it all wrong."

"I think Miss McQuinch had better play," said Douglas.

Conolly looked at Marian; received a reassuring glance; and went to the
platform with her without further ado. She was not a sympathetic
accompanist; but, not knowing this, she was not at all put out by it.
She felt too that she was, as became a lady, giving the workman a lesson
in courtesy which might stand him in stead when he next accompanied
"Rose, softly blooming." She was a little taken aback on finding that he
not only had a rich baritone voice, but was, as far as she could judge,
an accomplished singer.

"Really," she said as they left the platform, "you sing most
beautifully."

"One would hardly have expected it," he said, with a smile.

Marian, annoyed at having this side of her compliment exposed, did not
return the smile, and went to her chair in the green-room without taking
any further notice of him.

"I congratulate you," said Mrs. Leith Fairfax to Conolly, looking at
him, like all the rest except Douglas, with a marked access of interest.
"Ah! what wonderful depth there is in Gounod's music!"

He assented politely with a movement of his head.

"I know nothing at all about music," said Mrs. Fairfax.

"Very few people do."

"I mean technically, of course," she said, not quite pleased.

"Of course."

A tremendous burst of applause here followed the conclusion of the first
verse of "Uncle Ned."

"_Do_ come and listen, Nelly," said Marian, returning to the door. Mrs.
Fairfax and Conolly presently went to the door too.

"Would you not like to help in the chorus, Nelly?" said Marian in a low
voice, as the audience began to join uproariously in the refrain.

"Not particularly," said Miss McQuinch.

"Sholto," said Marian, "come and share our vulgar joy. We want you to
join in the chorus."

"Thank you," said Douglas, "I fear I am too indifferent a vocalist to do
justice to the occasion."

"Sing with Mr. Conolly and you cannot go wrong," said Miss McQuinch.

"Hush," said Marian, interposing quickly lest Douglas should retort.
"There is the chorus. Shall we really join?"

Conolly struck up the refrain without further hesitation. Marian sang
with him. Mrs. Fairfax and the clergyman looked furtively at one
another, but forbore to swell the chorus. Miss McQuinch sang a few words
in a piercing contralto voice, and then stopped with a gesture of
impatience, feeling that she was out of tune. Marian, with only Conolly
to keep her in countenance, felt relieved when Marmaduke, thrice
encored, entered the room in triumph. Whilst he was being
congratulated, Douglas turned to Miss McQuinch, who was pretending to
ignore Marmaduke's success.

"I hope, Miss McQuinch," he said in a low tone, "that you will be able
to relieve Marian at the piano next time. You know how she dislikes
having to play accompaniments for strangers."

"How mean it is of you to be jealous of a plumber!" said Miss McQuinch,
with a quick glance at him which she did not dare to sustain, so
fiercely did he return it.

When she looked again, he seemed unconscious of her presence, and was
buttoning his overcoat.

"Really going at last, Sholto?" said Marian. Douglas bowed.

"I told you you wouldnt be able to stand it, old man," said Marmaduke.
"Mrs. Bluestockings wont be pleased with you for not staying to hear her
recite." This referred to Mrs. Fairfax, who had just gone upon the
platform.

"Good night," said Miss McQuinch, shortly, anxious to test how far he
was offended, but unwilling to appear solicitous for a reconciliation.

"Until to-morrow, farewell," he said, approaching Marian, who gave him
her hand with a smile: Conolly looking thoughtfully at him meanwhile. He
left the room; and so, Mrs. Fairfax having gone to the platform to
recite, quiet prevailed for a few minutes.

"Shall I have the pleasure of playing the accompaniment to your next
song?" said Conolly, sitting down near Marian.

"Thank you," said Marian, shrinking a little: "I think Miss McQuinch
knows it by heart." Then, still anxious to be affable to the workman,
she added, "Lord Jasper says you are a great musician."

"No, I am an electrician. Music is not my business: it is my amusement."

"You have invented something very wonderful, have you not?"

"I have discovered something, and I am trying to invent a means of
turning it to account. It will be only a cheap electro-motor if it comes
to anything."

"You must explain that to me some day, Mr. Conolly. I'm afraid I dont
know what an electro-motor means."

"I ought not to have mentioned it," said Conolly. "It is so constantly
in my mind that I am easily led to talk about it. I try to prevent
myself, but the very effort makes me think of it more than ever."

"But I like to hear you talk about it," said Marian. "I always try to
make people talk shop to me, and of course they always repay me by
trying to keep on indifferent topics, of which I know as much--or as
little--as they."

"Well, then," said Conolly, "an electro-motor is only an engine for
driving machinery, just like a steam engine, except that it is worked by
electricity instead of steam. Electric engines are so imperfect now that
steam ones come cheaper. The man who finds out how to make the electric
engine do what the steam engine now does, and do it cheaper, will make
his fortune if he has his wits about him. Thats what I am driving at."

Miss Lind, in spite of her sensible views as to talking shop, was not
interested in the least. "Indeed!" she said. "How interesting that must
be! But how did you find time to become so perfect a musician, and to
sing so exquisitely?"

"I picked most of it up when I was a boy. My grandfather was an Irish
sailor with such a tremendous voice that a Neapolitan music master
brought him out in opera as a _buffo_. When he had roared his voice
away, he went into the chorus. My father was reared in Italy, and looked
more Italian than most genuine natives. He had no voice; so he became
first accompanist, then chorus master, and finally trainer for the
operatic stage. He speculated in an American tour; married out there;
lost all his money; and came over to England, when I was only twelve, to
resume his business at Covent Garden. I stayed in America, and was
apprenticed to an electrical engineer. I worked at the bench there for
six years."

"I suppose your father taught you to sing."

"No. He never gave me a lesson. The fact is, Miss Lind, he was a capital
man to teach stage tricks and traditional renderings of old operas; but
only the exceptionally powerful voices survived his method of teaching.
He would have finished my career as a singer in two months if he had
troubled himself to teach me. Never go to Italy to learn singing."

"I fear you are a cynic. You ought either to believe in your father or
else be silent about him."

"Why?"

"Why! Surely we should hide the failings of those we love? I can
understand now how your musical and electrical tastes became mixed up;
but you should not confuse your duties. But please excuse me:"
(Conolly's eyes had opened a little wider) "I am lecturing you, without
the least right to. It is a failing of mine which you must not mind."

"Not at all. Youve a right to your opinion. But the world would never
get on if every practical man were to stand by his father's mistakes.
However, I brought it on myself by telling you a long story. This is the
first opportunity I ever had of talking about myself to a lady, and I
suppose I have abused it."

Marian laughed. "We had better stop apologizing to one another," she
said. "What about the accompaniments to our next songs?"

Meanwhile Marmaduke and Miss McQuinch were becoming curious about Marian
and Conolly.

"I say, Nelly," he whispered, "Marian and that young man seem to be
getting on uncommonly well together. She looks sentimentally happy, and
he seems pleased with himself. Dont you feel jealous?"

"Jealous! Why should I be?"

"Out of pure cussedness. Not that you care for the electric man, but
because you hate any one to fall in love with any one else when you are
by."

"I wish you would go away."

"Why? Dont you like me?"

"I _loathe_ you. Now, perhaps you understand me."

"That's a nice sort of thing to say to a fellow," said Marmaduke,
roused. "I have a great mind to bring you to your senses as Douglas
does, by not speaking to you for a week."

"I wish you would let me come to my senses by not speaking to me at
all."

"Oh! Well, I am off; but mind, Nelly, I am offended. We are no longer on
speaking terms. Look as contemptuous as you please: you will be sorry
when you think over this. Remember: you said you loathed me."

"So I do," said Elinor, stubbornly.

"Very good," said Marmaduke, turning his back on her. Just then the
concertinists returned from the platform, and a waiter appeared with
refreshments, which the clergyman invited Marmaduke to assist him in
dispensing. Conolly, considering the uncorking of bottles of soda water
a sufficiently skilled labor to be more interesting than making small
talk, went to the table and busied himself with the corkscrew.

"Well, Nelly," said Marian, drawing her chair close to Miss McQuinch,
and speaking in a low voice, "what do you think of Jasper's workman?"

"Not much," replied Elinor, shrugging her shoulders. "He is very
conceited, and very coarse."

"Do you really think so? I expected to find you delighted with his
unconventionality. I thought him rather amusing."

"I thought him extremely aggravating. I hate to have to speak to people
of that sort."

"Then you consider him vulgar," said Marian, disappointed.

"N--no. Not vulgarer than anybody else. He couldnt be that."

"Sherry and soda, Marian?" said Marmaduke, approaching.

"No, thank you, Marmaduke. Get Nelly something."

"As Miss McQuinch and I are no longer on speaking terms, I leave her to
the care of yonder scientific amateur, who has just refused, on teetotal
grounds, to pledge the Rev. George in a glass of eighteen shilling
sherry."

"Dont be silly, Marmaduke. Bring Nelly some soda water."

"Do nothing of the sort," said Miss McQuinch.

Marmaduke bowed and retired.

"What is the matter between you and Duke now?" said Marian.

"Nothing. I told him I loathed him."

"Oh! I dont wonder at his being a little huffed. How _can_ you say
things you dont mean?"

"I do mean them. What with his folly, Sholto's mean conceit, George's
hypocrisy, that man's vulgarity, Mrs. Fairfax's affectation, your
insufferable amiability, and the dreariness of those concertina people,
I feel so wretched that I could find it in my heart to loathe anybody
and everybody."

"Nonsense, Nelly! You are only in the blues."

"_Only_ in the blues!" said Miss McQuinch sarcastically. "Yes. That is
all."

"Take some sherry. It will brighten you up."

"Dutch courage! Thank you: I prefer my present moroseness."

"But you are not morose, Nelly."

"Oh, stuff, Marian! Dont throw away your amiability on me. Here comes
your new friend with refreshments. I wonder was he ever a waiter? He
looks exactly like one."

After this the conversation flagged. Mrs. Fairfax grew loquacious under
the influence of sherry, but presently a reaction set in, and she began
to yawn. Miss McQuinch, when her turn came, played worse than before,
and the audience, longing for another negro melody, paid little
attention to her. Marian sang a religious song, which was received with
the respect usually accorded to a dull sermon. The clergyman read a
comic essay of his own composition, and Mrs. Fairfax recited an ode to
Mazzini. The concertinists played an arrangement of a quartet by Onslow.
The working men and women of Wandsworth gaped, and those who sat near
the door began to slip out. Even Miss McQuinch pitied them.

"The idea of expecting them to be grateful for an infliction like
that!" she said. "What do people of their class care about Onslow's
quartets?"

"Do you think that people of any class, high or low, would be gratified
by such an entertainment?" said Conolly, with some warmth. No one had
sufficient spirit left to reply.

At last the concertinists went home, and the reading drew to a close.
Conolly, again accompanied by Marian, sang "Tom Bowling." The audience
awoke, cheered the singer heartily, and made him sing again. On his
return to the green-room, Miss McQuinch, much affected at the fate of
Bowling, and indignant with herself for being so, stared defiantly at
Conolly through a film of tears. When Marmaduke went out, the people
also were so moved that they were ripe for laughter, and with roars of
merriment forced him to sing three songs, in the choruses of which they
joined. Eventually the clergyman had to bid them go home, as Mr. Lind
had given them all the songs he knew.

"I suppose you will not come with us, Duke," said Marian, when all was
over, and they were preparing to leave. "We can drop you at your
chambers if you like; but you will have to sit on the box. Mrs. Leith
Fairfax, George, Nelly, and I, will be a carriageful."

Marmaduke looked at his watch. "By Jove!" he cried, "it is only ten. I
forgot how early we began to-night. No thank you, Marian: I am not going
your way; but you may take the banjo and keep it until I call. Ta ta!"

They all went out together; and the ladies, followed by the clergyman,
entered their carriage and drove away, leaving Marmaduke and Conolly
standing on the pavement. Having shared the success of the concert,
each felt well disposed to the other.

"What direction are you going in?" said Marmaduke.

"Westminster Bridge or thereabouts," replied Conolly. "This place is
rather out of the way."

"Have you anything particular to do before you turn in for the night?"

"Nothing at all."

"Then I'll tell you what it is, old man. Lets take a hansom, and drive
off to the Bijou. We shall just be in time to see Lalage Virtue in the
burlesque; and--look here! I'll introduce you to her: youre just the
sort of chap she would like to know. Eh?"

Conolly looked at him, nodded, and burst out laughing. Marmaduke, who
had set him down as a cool, undemonstrative man, was surprised at his
hilarity for a moment, but presently joined in it. Whilst they were both
laughing a hansom appeared, and Conolly, recovering himself, hailed the
driver.

"We shall get on together, I see," said Marmaduke, jumping into the cab.
"Hallo! The Bijou Theatre, Soho, and drive as fast as you can afford to
for half a sovereign."

"Right you are, sir," replied the driver, whipping his horse.

The rattling of the cab silenced Conolly; but his companion persisted
for some time in describing the burlesque to which they were going, and
particularly the attractions of Mademoiselle Lalage Virtue, who enacted
a principal character therein, and with whom he seemed to be in love.
When they alighted at the theatre Marmaduke payed the cabman, and
Conolly took advantage of this to enter the theatre and purchase two
stall tickets, an arrangement which Lind, suddenly recollecting his new
friend's position, disapproved of, but found it useless to protest
against. He forgot it on hearing the voice of Lalage Virtue, who was at
that moment singing within; and he went to his stall with his eyes
turned to the stage, treading on toes and stumbling as children commonly
do when they walk in one direction and look in another. An attendant,
who seemed to know him, proffered a glass for hire. He took it, and
leveled it at Mademoiselle Lalage, who was singing some trivial couplets
much better than they deserved. Catching sight of him presently, she
greeted him with a flash of her dark eye that made him writhe as though
his heart had received a fillip from a ponderable missile. She did not
spare these roguish glances. They darted everywhere; and Conolly,
looking about him to note their effect, saw rows of callow young faces
with parted lips and an expression which seemed to have been caught and
fixed at the climax of a blissful chuckle. There were few women in the
stalls, and the silly young faces were relieved only by stupid old ones.

The couplets ended amidst great applause. Marmaduke placed his glass on
his knees, and, clapping his hands vigorously, turned to his companion
with a triumphant smile, mutely inviting him to clamor for a repetition
of the air. But Conolly sat motionless, with his arms folded, his cheek
flushed, and his brow lowered.

"You dont seem used to this sort of thing," said Lind, somewhat
disgusted.

"It was well sung," replied Conolly "--better than most of these
blackguards know."

"Then why dont you clap?"

"Because she is not giving herself any trouble. That sort of thing,
from a woman of her talent, is too cheap to say 'thank you' for."

Marmaduke looked at him, and began to think that he was a priggish
fellow after all. But as the burlesque went on, Mademoiselle Lalage
charmed away this disagreeable impression. She warbled in an amorous
duet, and then sang the pleasures of champagne; tossing her head; waving
a gilt goblet; and, without the least appearance of effort, working hard
to captivate those who were to be won by bold smiles and arch glances.
She displayed her person less freely than her colleagues, being, not
more modest, but more skilful in the art of seduction. The slang that
served for dialogue in her part was delivered in all sorts of
intonations, now demure and mischievous, anon strident and mock tragic.
Marmaduke was delighted.

"What I like about her is that she is such a genuine little lady," he
said, as her exit released his attention. "With all her go, she is never
a bit vulgar. Off the stage she is just the same. Not a spark of
affectation about her. It is all natural."

"You know her, then?" said Conolly.

"I should think I do," replied Marmaduke, energetically. "You have no
idea what a rattling sort she is."

"To you, who only see her occasionally, no doubt she gives--as a
rattling sort--a heightened charm to the order, the refinement, the--the
beauty of the home life which you can enjoy. Excuse my introducing such
a subject, Mr. Lind; but would you bring your cousin--the lady who sang
to-night at the concert--to see this performance?"

"I would if she asked me to," said Marmaduke, somewhat taken aback.

"No doubt. But should you be surprised if she asked you?"

"Not a bit. Fine ladies are neither such fools nor such angels as
you--as some fellows think. Miss Lind's notion is to see everything. And
yet she is a thoroughly nice woman too. It is the same with Lalage
there. She is not squeamish, and she is full of fun; but she knows as
well as anybody how to pull up a man who doesnt behave himself."

"And you actually think that this Lalage Virtue is as respectable a
woman as your cousin?"

"Oh, I dont bother myself about it. I shouldnt have thought of comparing
them if you hadnt started the idea. Marian's way is not the other one's
way, and each of them is all right in her own way. Look here. I'll
introduce you to Lalage. We can pick up somebody else to make a party
for you, and finish with a supper at Jellicoe's."

"Are you privileged to introduce whom you like to Miss Lalage?"

"Well, as to that, she doesnt stand much on ceremony; but then, you see,
that cuts two ways. The mere introducing is no difficulty; but it
depends on the man himself whether he gets snubbed afterward or not. By
the bye, you must understand, if you dont know it already, that Lalage
is as correct in her morals as a bishop's wife. I just tell you, because
some fellows seem to think that a woman who goes on the stage leaves her
propriety behind as a matter of course. In fact, I rather thought so
myself once. Not that you wont find loose women there as well as
anywhere else, if you want to. But dont take it for granted, that's
all."

"Well," said Conolly, "you may introduce me, and we can consider the
supper afterwards. Would it be indiscreet to ask how you obtained your
own introduction? You dont, I suppose, move in the same circle as she;
and if she is as particular as your own people, she can hardly form
promiscuous acquaintanceships."

"A man at the point of death does not stop to think about etiquet. She
saved my life."

"Saved your life! That sounds romantic."

"There was precious little romance about it, though I owe my being alive
now to her presence of mind. It happened in the rummest way. I was
brought behind the scenes one night by a Cambridge chum. We were
painting the town a bit red. We were not exactly drunk; but we were not
particularly sober either; and I was very green at that time, and made a
fool of myself about Lalage: staring; clapping like a madman in the
middle of her songs; getting into the way of everybody and everything,
and so on. Then a couple of fellows we knew turned up, and we got
chatting at the wing with some girls. At last a fellow came in with a
bag of cherries; and we began trying that old trick--you know--taking
the end of a stalk between your lips and drawing the cherry into the
mouth without touching it with your hand, you know. I tried it; and I
was just getting the cherry into my mouth when some idiot gave me a
drive in the waistcoat. I made a gulp; and the cherry stuck fast in my
throat. I began to choke. Nobody knew what to do; and while they were
pushing me about, some thinking I was only pretending, the girls
beginning to get frightened, and the rest shouting at me to swallow the
confounded thing, I was getting black in the face, and my head was
bursting: I could see nothing but red spots. It was a near thing, I tell
you. Suddenly I got a shake; and then a little fist gave me a stunning
thump on the back, that made the cherry bounce out against my palate. I
gasped and coughed like a grampus: the stalk was down my throat still.
Then the little hand grabbed my throat and made me open my mouth wide;
and the cherry was pulled out, stalk and all. It was Lalage who did this
while the rest were gaping helplessly. I dont remember what followed. I
thought I had fainted; but it appears that I nearly cried, and talked
the most awful nonsense to her. I suppose the choking made me
hysterical. However, I distinctly recollect the stage manager bullying
the girls, and turning us all out. I was very angry with myself for
being childish, as they told me I had been; and when I got back to
Cambridge I actually took to reading. A few months afterward I made
another trip to town, and went behind the scenes again. She recognized
me, and chaffed me about the cherry. I jumped at my chance; I improved
the acquaintance; and now I know her pretty well."

"You doubt whether any of the ladies that were with us at the concert
would have been equally useful in such an emergency?"

"I should think I do doubt it, my boy. Hush! Now that the ballet is
over, we are annoying people by talking."

"You are right," replied Conolly. "Aha! Here is Miss Lalage again."

Marmaduke raised his opera-glass to his eyes, eager for another smile
from the actress. He seemed about to be gratified; for her glance was
travelling toward him along the row of stalls. But it was arrested by
Conolly, on whom she looked with perceptible surprise and dismay. Lind,
puzzled, turned toward his companion, and found him smiling maliciously
at Mademoiselle Lalage, who recovered her vivacity with an effort, and
continued her part with more nervousness than he had ever seen her
display before.

Shortly before the curtain fell, they left the theatre, and re-entered
it by the stage door.

"Queer place, isnt it?" said Lind.

Conolly nodded, but went forward like one well accustomed to the dingy
labyrinth of old-fashioned stages. Presently they came upon Lalage. She
was much heated by her exertions, thickly painted, and very angry.

"Well?" she said quarrelsomely.

Marmaduke, perceiving that her challenge was not addressed to him, but
to Conolly, looked from one to the other, mystified.

"I have come to see you act at last," said Conolly.

"You might have told me you were coming. I could have got you a stall,
although I suppose you would have preferred to throw away your money
like a fool."

"I must admit, my dear," said Conolly, "that I could have spent it to
much greater advantage."

"Indeed! and you!" she said, turning to Lind, whose deepening color
betrayed his growing mortification: "what is the matter with _you_?"

"I have played a trick on your friend," said Conolly. "He suggested this
visit; and I did not tell him of the relation between us. Finding us on
terms of familiarity, if not of affection, he is naturally surprised."

"As I have never tried to meddle with your private affairs," said
Marmaduke to Lalage, "I need not apologize for not knowing your husband.
But I regret----"

The actress laughed in spite of her vexation. "Why, you silly old
thing!" she exclaimed, "he is no more my husband than you are!"

"Oh!" said Marmaduke. "Indeed!"

"I am her brother," said Conolly considerately, stifling a smile.

"Why," said Mademoiselle Lalage fiercely, raising her voice, "what else
did you think?"

"Hush," said Conolly, "we are talking too much in this crowd. You had
better change your dress, Susanna, and then we can settle what to do
next."

"You can settle what you please," she replied. "I am going home."

"Mr. Lind has suggested our supping together," said Conolly, observing
her curiously.

Susanna looked quickly at them.

"Who is Mr. Lind?" she said.

"Your friend, of course," said Conolly, with an answering flash of
intelligence that brought out the resemblance between them startlingly.
"Mr. Marmaduke Lind."

Marmaduke became very red as they both waited for him to explain.

"I thought that you would perhaps join us at supper," he said to
Susanna.

"Did you?" she said, threateningly. Then she turned her back on him and
went to her dressing-room.

"Well, Mr. Lind," said Conolly, "what do you think of Mademoiselle
Lalage now?"

"I think her annoyance is very natural," said Marmaduke, gloomily. "No
doubt you are right to take care of your sister, but you are very much
mistaken if you think I meant to act badly toward her."

"It is no part of my duty to take care of her," said Conolly,
seriously. "She is her own guardian, and she has never been encouraged
to suppose that her responsibility lies with any one but herself."

"It doesnt matter now," said Marmaduke; "for I intend never to speak to
her again."

Conolly laughed. "However that may turn out," he said, "we are evidently
not in the mood for further conviviality, so let us postpone the supper
to some other occasion. May I advise you not to wait until Susanna
returns. There is no chance of a reconciliation to-night."

"I dont want any reconciliation."

"Of course not; I had forgotten," replied Conolly, placably. "Then I
suppose you will go before she has finished dressing."

"I shall go now," said Marmaduke, buttoning his overcoat, and turning
away.

"Good-night," said Conolly.

"Good-night," muttered Marmaduke, petulantly, and disappeared.

Conolly waited a moment, so that he might not overtake Lind. He then
went for a cab, and waited at the stage door until his sister came down,
frowning. She got into the hansom without a word.

"Why dont you have a brougham, instead of going about in cabs?" he said,
as they drove away.

"Because I like a hansom better than a brougham; and I had rather pay
four shillings a night and travel comfortably, than thirteen and be half
suffocated."

"I thought the appearance of----"

"There is no use in your talking to me. I cant hear a word you say going
over these stones."

When they were alone together in their drawing-room in Lambeth, he,
after walking up and down the room a few times, and laughing softly to
himself, began to sing the couplets from the burlesque.

"Are you aware," she inquired, "that it is half past twelve, and that
the people of the house are trying to sleep."

"True," said he, desisting. "By the bye, I, too, have had my triumphs
this evening. I shared the honors of the concert with Master Lind, who
was so delighted that he insisted on bringing me off to the Bijou. He
loves you to distraction, poor devil!"

"Yes: you made a nice piece of mischief there. Where is he?"

"Gone away in a rage, swearing never to speak to you again."

"Hm! And so his name is Lind, is it?"

"Didnt you know?"

"No, or I should have told you when I read the program this evening. The
young villain pretended that his name was Marmaduke Sharp."

"Ah! The name reminds me of one of his cousins, a little spitfire that
snaps at every one who presumes to talk to her."

"His cousins! Oh, of course; you met them at the concert. What are they
like? Are they swells?"

"Yes, they seem to be. There were only two cousins, Miss McQuinch and a
young woman named Marian, blonde and rather good looking. There was a
brother of hers there, but he is only a parson, and a tall fellow named
Douglas, who made rather a fool of himself. I could not make him out
exactly."

"Did they snub you?"

"I dont know. Probably they tried. Are you intimate with many of our
young nobility under assumed names?"

"Steal a few more marches to the Bijou, and perhaps you will find out."

"Good-night! Pardon my abrupt departure, but you are not the very
sweetest of Susannas to-night."

"Oh, _good_-night."

"By the bye," said Conolly, returning, "this must be the Mr. Duke Lind
who is going to marry Lady Constance Carbury, my noble pupil's sister."

"I am sure it matters very little whom he marries."

"If he will pay us a visit here, and witness the working of perfect
frankness without affection, and perfect liberty without refinement, he
may find reason to conclude that it matters a good deal. Good-night."




CHAPTER II


Marian Lind lived at Westbourne Terrace, Paddington, with her father,
the fourth son of a younger brother of the Earl of Carbury. Mr. Reginald
Harrington Lind, at the outset of his career, had no object in life
except that of getting through it as easily as possible; and this he
understood so little how to achieve that he suffered himself to be
married at the age of nineteen to a Lancashire cotton spinner's heiress.
She bore him three children, and then eloped with a professor of
spiritualism, who deserted her on the eve of her fourth confinement, in
the course of which she caught scarlet fever and died. Her child
survived, but was sent to a baby farm and starved to death in the usual
manner. Her husband, disgusted by her behavior (for she had been
introduced by him to many noblemen and gentlemen, his personal friends,
some one at least of whom, on the slightest encouragement, would, he
felt sure, have taken the place of the foreign charlatan she had
disgraced him by preferring), consoled himself for her bad taste by
entering into her possessions, which comprised a quantity of new
jewellery, new lace, and feminine apparel, and an income of nearly seven
thousand pounds a year. After this, he became so welcome in society that
he could have boasted with truth at the end of any July that there were
few marriageable gentlewomen of twenty-six and upward in London who had
not been submitted to his inspection with a view to matrimony. But
finding it easy to delegate the care of his children to school
principals and hospitable friends, he concluded that he had nothing to
gain and much comfort to lose by adding a stepmother to his
establishment; and, after some time, it became the custom to say of Mr.
Lind that the memory of his first wife kept him single. Thus, whilst his
sons were drifting to manhood through Harrow and Cambridge, and his
daughter passing from one relative's house to another's on a continual
round of visits, sharing such private tuition as the cousins with whom
she happened to be staying happened to be receiving just then, he lived
at his club and pursued the usual routine of a gentleman-bachelor in
London.

In the course of time, Reginald Lind, the eldest child, entered the
army, and went to India with his regiment. His brother George, less
stolid, weaker, and more studious, preferred the Church. Marian, the
youngest, from being constantly in the position of a guest, had early
acquired habits of self-control and consideration for others, and
escaped the effects, good and evil, of the subjection in which children
are held by the direct authority of their parents.

Of the numerous domestic circles of her father's kin, that with which
she was the least familiar, because it was the poorest, had sprung from
the marriage of one of her father's sisters with a Wiltshire gentleman
named Hardy McQuinch, who had a small patrimony, a habit of farming, and
a love of hunting. In the estimation of the peasantry, who would not
associate lands, horses, and a carriage, with want of money, he was a
rich man; but Mrs. McQuinch found it hard to live like a lady on their
income, and had worn many lines into her face by constantly and vainly
wishing that she could afford to give a ball every season, to get a new
carriage, and to appear at church with her daughters in new dresses
oftener than twice a year. Her two eldest girls were plump and pleasant,
good riders and hearty eaters; and she had reasonable hopes of marrying
them to prosperous country gentlemen.

Elinor, her third and only other child, was one of her troubles. At an
early age it was her practice, once a week or thereabouts, to disappear
in the forenoon; be searched anxiously for all day; and return with a
torn frock and dirty face at about six o'clock in the afternoon. She was
stubborn, rebellious, and passionate under reproof or chastisement:
governesses had left the house because of her; and from one school she
had run away, from another eloped with a choir boy who wrote verses. Him
she deserted in a fit of jealousy, quarter of an hour after her escape
from school. The only one of her tastes that conduced to the peace of
the house was for reading; and even this made her mother uneasy; for the
books she liked best were fit, in Mrs. McQuinch's opinion, for the
bookcase only. Elinor read openly what she could obtain by asking, such
as Lamb's Tales from Shakespear, and The Pilgrim's Progress. The Arabian
Nights Entertainments were sternly refused her; so she read them by
stealth; and from that day there was always a collection of books,
borrowed from friends, or filched from the upper shelf in the library,
beneath her mattress. Nobody thought of looking there for them; and even
if they had, they might have paused to reflect on the consequences of
betraying her. Her eldest sister having given her a small workbox on her
eleventh birthday, had the present thrown at her head two days later for
reporting to her parents that Nelly's fondness for sitting in a certain
secluded summer-house was due to her desire to read Lord Byron's poetry
unobserved. Miss Lydia's forehead was severely cut; and Elinor, though
bitterly remorseful, not only refused to beg pardon for her fault, but
shattered every brittle article in the room to which she was confined
for her contumacy. The vicar, on being consulted, recommended that she
should be well whipped. This counsel was repugnant to Hardy McQuinch,
but he gave his wife leave to use her discretion in the matter. The
mother thought that the child ought to be beaten into submission; but
she was afraid to undertake the task, and only uttered a threat, which
was received with stubborn defiance. This was forgotten next day when
Elinor, exhausted by a week of remorse, terror, rage, and suspense,
became dangerously ill. When she recovered, her parents were more
indulgent to her, and were gratified by finding her former passionate
resistance replaced by sulky obedience. Five years elapsed, and Elinor
began to write fiction. The beginning of a novel, and many incoherent
verses imitated from Lara, were discovered by her mother, and burnt by
her father. This outrage she never forgave. She was unable to make her
resentment felt, for she no longer cared to break glass and china. She
feared even to remonstrate lest she should humiliate herself by bursting
into tears, as, since her illness, she had been prone to do in the least
agitation. So she kept silence, and ceased to speak to either of her
parents except when they addressed questions to her. Her father would
neither complain of this nor confess the regret he felt for his hasty
destruction of her manuscripts; but, whilst he proclaimed that he would
burn every scrap of her nonsense that might come into his hands, he took
care to be blind when he surprised her with suspicious bundles of
foolscap, and snubbed his wife for hinting that Elinor was secretly
disobeying him. Meanwhile her silent resentment never softened, and the
life of the family was embittered by their consciousness of it. It never
occurred to Mrs. McQuinch, an excellent mother to her two eldest
daughters, that she was no more fit to have charge of the youngest than
a turtle is to rear a young eagle. The discomfort of their relations
never shook her faith in their "naturalness." Like her husband and the
vicar, she believed that when God sent children he made their parents
fit to rule them. And Elinor resented her parents' tyranny, as she felt
it to be, without dreaming of making any allowances for their being in a
false position towards her.

One morning a letter from London announced that Mr. Lind had taken a
house in Westbourne Terrace, and intended to live there permanently with
his daughter. Elinor had not come down to breakfast when the post came.

"Yes," said Mrs. McQuinch, when she had communicated the news: "I knew
there was something the matter when I saw Reginald's handwriting. It
must be fully eighteen months since I heard from him last. I am very
glad he has settled Marian in a proper home, instead of living like a
bachelor and leaving her to wander about from one house to another. I
wish we could have afforded to ask her down here oftener."

"Here is a note from Marian, addressed to Nelly," said Lydia, who had
been examining the envelope.

"To Nelly!" said Mrs. McQuinch, vexed. "I think she should have invited
one of you first."

"Perhaps it is not an invitation," said Jane.

"What else is it likely to be, child?" said Mrs. McQuinch. Then, as she
thought how much pleasanter her home would be without Elinor, she
added, "After all, it will do Nelly good to get away from here. She
needs change, I think. I wish she would come down. It is too bad of her
to be always late like this."

Elinor came in presently, wearing a neglected black gown; her face pale;
her eyes surrounded by dark circles; her black hair straggling in wisps
over her forehead. Her sisters, dressed twinlike in white muslin and
gold lockets, emphasized her by contrast. Being blond and gregarious,
they enjoyed the reputation of being pretty and affectionate. They had
thriven in the soil that had starved Elinor.

"There's a letter for you from Marian," said Mrs. McQuinch.

"Thanks," said Elinor, indifferently, putting the note into her pocket.
She liked Marian's letters, and kept them to read in her hours of
solitude.

"What does she say?" said Mrs. McQuinch.

"I have not looked," replied Elinor.

"Well," said Mrs. McQuinch, plaintively, "I wish you _would_ look. I
want to know whether she says anything about this letter from your uncle
Reginald."

Elinor plucked the note from her pocket, tore it open, and read it.
Suddenly she set her face to hide some emotion from her family.

"Marian wants me to go and stay with her," she said. "They have taken a
house."

"Poor Marian!" said Jane. "And will you go?"

"I will," said Elinor. "Have you any objection?"

"Oh dear, no," said Jane, smoothly.

"I suppose you will be glad to get away from your home," said Mrs.
McQuinch, incontinently.

"Very glad," said Elinor. Mr. McQuinch, hurt, looked at her over his
newspaper. Mrs. McQuinch was huffed.

"I dont know what you are to do for clothes," she said, "unless Lydia
and Jane are content to wear their last winter's dresses again this
year."

The faces of the young ladies elongated. "That's nonsense, mamma," said
Lydia. "We cant wear those brown reps again." Women wore reps in those
days.

"You need not be alarmed," said Elinor. "I dont want any clothes. I can
go as I am."

"You dont know what you are talking about, child," said Mrs. McQuinch.

"A nice figure you would make in uncle Reginald's drawing-room with that
dress on!" said Lydia.

"And your hair in that state!" added Jane.

"You should remember that there are others to be considered besides
yourself," said Lydia. "How would _you_ like _your_ guests to look like
scarecrows?"

"How could you expect Marian to go about with you, or into the Park? I
suppose----"

"Here, here!" said Mr. McQuinch, putting down his paper. "Let us have no
more of this. What else do you need in the Park than a riding habit? You
have that already. Whatever clothes you want you had better get in
London, where you will get the proper things for your money."

"Indeed, Hardy, she is not going to pay a London milliner four prices
for things she can get quite as good down here."

"I tell you I dont want anything," said Elinor impatiently. "It will be
time enough to begrudge me some decent clothes when I ask for them."

"I dont begrudge----"

Mrs. McQuinch's husband interrupted her. "Thats enough, now, everybody.
It's settled that she is to go, as she wants to. I will get her what is
necessary. Give me another egg, and talk about something else."

Accordingly, Elinor went to live at Westbourne Terrace. Marian had spent
a month of her childhood in Wiltshire, and had made of Elinor an
exacting friend, always ready to take offence, and to remain jealous and
sulky for days if one of her sisters, or any other little girl, engaged
her cousin's attention long. On the other hand, Elinor's attachment was
idolatrous in its intensity; and as Marian was sweet-tempered, and more
apt to fear that she had disregarded Elinor's feelings than to take
offence at her waywardness, their friendship endured after they were
parted. Their promises of correspondence were redeemed by Elinor with
very long letters at uncertain intervals, and by Marian with shorter
epistles notifying all her important movements. Marian, often called
upon to defend her cousin from the charge of being a little shrew, was
led to dwell upon her better qualities. Elinor found in Marian what she
had never found at her own home, a friend, and in her uncle's house a
refuge from that of her father, which she hated. She had been Marian's
companion for four years when the concert took place at Wandsworth.

Next day they were together in the drawing-room at Westbourne Terrace:
Marian writing, Elinor at the pianoforte, working at some technical
studies, to which she had been incited by the shortcoming of her
performance on the previous night. She stopped on hearing a bell ring.

"What o'clock is it?" she said, after listening a moment. "Surely it is
too early for a visit."

"It is only half past two," replied Marian. "I hope it is not anybody. I
have not half finished my correspondence."

"If you please, Miss," said a maid, entering, "Mr. Douglas wants to see
you, and he wont come up."

"I suppose he expects you to go down and talk to him in the hall," said
Elinor.

"He is in the dining-room, and wishes to see you most particular," said
the maid.

"Tell him I will come down," said Marian.

"He heard me practising," said Elinor, "that is why he would not come
up. I am in disgrace, I suppose."

"Nonsense, Nelly! But indeed I have no doubt he has come to complain of
our conduct, since he insists on seeing me alone."

Miss McQuinch looked sceptically at Marian's guileless eyes, but resumed
her technical studies without saying anything. Marian went to the
dining-room, where she found Douglas standing near the window, tall and
handsome, frock coated and groomed to a spotless glossiness that
established a sort of relationship between him and the sideboard, the
condition of which did credit to Marian's influence over her housemaids.
He looked intently at her as she bade him good morning.

"I am afraid I am rather early," he said, half stiffly, half
apologetically.

"Not at all," said Marian.

"I have come to say something which I do not care to keep unsaid longer
than I can help; so I thought it better to come when I could hope to
find you alone. I hope I have not disturbed you. I have something
rather important to say."

"You are the same as one of ourselves, of course, Sholto. But I believe
you delight in stiffness and ceremony. Will you not come upstairs?"

"I wish to speak to you privately. First, I have to apologize to you for
what passed last night."

"Pray dont, Sholto: it doesnt matter. I am afraid we were rude to you."

"Pardon me. It is I who am in fault. I never before made an apology to
any human being; and I should not do so now without a painful conviction
that I forgot what I owed to myself."

"Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself--I mean for never having
apologized before. I am quite sure you have not got through life without
having done at least one or two things that required an apology."

"I am sorry you hold that opinion of me."

"How is Brutus's paw?"

"Brutus!"

"Yes. That abrupt way of changing the subject is what Mrs. Fairfax calls
a display of tact. I know it is very annoying; so you may talk about
anything you please. But I really want to hear how the poor dog is."

"His paw is nearly healed."

"I'm so glad--poor old dear!"

"You are aware that I did not come here to speak of my mother's dog,
Marian?"

"I supposed not," said Marian, with a smile. "But now that you have made
your apology, wont you come upstairs? Nelly is there."

"I have something else to say--to you alone, Marian. I entreat you to
listen to it seriously." Marian looked as grave as she could. "I
confess that in some respects I do not understand you; and before you
enter upon another London season, through which I cannot be at your
side, I would obtain from you some assurance of the nature of your
regard for me. I do not wish to harass you with jealous importunity. You
have given me the most unequivocal tokens of a feeling different from
that which inspires the ordinary intercourse of a lady and gentleman in
society; but of late it has seemed to me that you maintain as little
reserve toward other men as toward me. I am not thinking of Marmaduke:
he is your cousin. But I observed that even the working man who sang at
the concert last night was received--I do not say intentionally--with a
cordiality which might have tempted a more humbly disposed person than
he seemed to be to forget----" Here Douglas, seeing Marian's bearing
change suddenly, hesitated. Her beautiful gray eyes, always pleading for
peace like those of a good angel, were now full of reproach; and her
mouth, but for those eyes, would have suggested that she was at heart an
obstinate woman.

"Sholto," she said, "I dont know what to say to you. If this is
jealousy, it may be very flattering; but it is ridiculous. If it is a
lecture, seriously intended, it is--it is really most insulting. What
do you mean by my having given you unequivocal signs of regard? Of
course I think of you very differently from the chance acquaintances I
make in society. It would be strange if I did not, having known you so
long and been your mother's guest so often. But you talk almost as if I
had been making love to you."

"No," said Douglas, forgetting his ceremonious manner and speaking
angrily and naturally; "but you talk as though I had not been making
love to _you_."

"If you have, I never knew it. I never dreamt it."

"Then, since you are not the stupidest lady of my acquaintance, you must
be the most innocent."

"Tell me of one single occasion on which anything has passed between us
that justifies your speaking to me as you are doing now."

"Innumerable occasions. But since I cannot compel you to acknowledge
them, it would be useless to cite them."

"All I can say is that we have utterly misunderstood one another," she
said, after a pause.

He said nothing, but took up his hat, and looked down at it with angry
determination. Marian, too uneasy to endure silence, added:

"But I shall know better in future."

"True," said Douglas, hastily putting down his hat and advancing a step.
"You cannot plead misunderstanding now. Can you give me the assurance I
seek?"

"What assurance?"

Douglas shook his shoulders impatiently.

"You expect me to know everything by intuition," she said.

"Well, my declaration shall be definite enough, even for you. Do you
love me?"

"No, I dont think I do. In fact, I am quite sure I do not--in the way
you mean. I wish you would not talk like this, Sholto. We have all got
on so pleasantly together: you, and I, and Nelly, and Marmaduke, and my
father. And now you begin making love, and stuff of that kind. Pray let
us agree to forget all about it, and remain friends as before."

"You need not be anxious about our future relations: I shall not
embarrass you with my society again. I hoped to find you a woman capable
of appreciating a man's passion, even if you should be unable to respond
to it. But I perceive that you are only a girl, not yet aware of the
deeper life that underlies the ice of conventionality."

"That is a very good metaphor for your own case," said Marian,
interrupting him. "Your ordinary manner is all ice, hard and chilling.
One may suspect that there are depths beneath, but that is only an
additional inducement to keep on the surface."

"Then even your amiability is a delusion! Or is it that you are amiable
to the rest of the world, and reserve taunts of coldness and treachery
for me?"

"No, no," she said, angelic again. "You have taken me up wrongly. I did
not mean to taunt you."

"You conceal your meaning as skilfully as--according to you--I have
concealed mine. Good-morning."

"Are you going already?"

"Do you care one bit for me, Marian?"

"I do indeed. Believe me, you are one of my special friends."

"I do not want to be _one_ of your friends. Will you be my wife?"

"Sholto!"

"Will you be my wife?"

"No. I----"

"Pardon me. That is quite sufficient. Good-morning."

The moment he interrupted her, a change in her face shewed she had a
temper. She did not move a muscle until she heard the house door close
behind him. Then she ran upstairs to the drawing-room, where Miss
McQuinch was still practising.

"Oh, Nelly," she cried, throwing herself into an easy chair, and
covering her face with her hands. "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!" She opened her
fingers and looked whimsically at her cousin, who, despising this stage
business, said, impatiently:

"Well?"

"Do you know what Sholto came for?"

"To propose to you."

"Stop, Nelly. You do not know what horrible things one may say in jest.
He _has_ proposed."

"When will the wedding be?"

"Dont joke about it, please. I scarcely know how I have behaved, or what
the meaning of the whole scene is, yet. Listen. Did you ever suspect
that he was--what shall I say?--_courting_ me?"

"I saw that he was trying to be tender in his own conceited way. I fully
expected he would propose some day, if he could once reconcile himself
to a wife who was not afraid of him."

"And you never told me."

"I thought you saw it for yourself; particularly as you encouraged him."

"There! The very thing he has been accusing me of! He said I had given
him unequivocal tokens--yes, unequivocal tokens--that I was madly in
love with him."

"What did you say?--if I may ask."

"I tried to explain things to him; but he persisted in asking me would I
be his wife; and when I refused he would not listen to anything else,
and went off in a rage."

"Yes, I can imagine Sholto's feelings on discovering that he had
humbled himself in vain. Why did you refuse him?"

"Why! Fancy being Sholto's wife! I would as soon think of marrying
Marmaduke. But I cannot forget what he said about my flirting with him.
Nelly: will you promise to tell me whenever you think I am behaving in a
way that might lead anybody on to--like Sholto, you know?"

"Nonsense! If men choose to make fools of themselves, you cannot prevent
them. Hush! I hear someone coming upstairs. It is Marmaduke, I think."

"Marmaduke would never come up so slowly. He generally comes up three
steps at a time."

"Sulky after last night, no doubt. I suppose he wont speak to me."

Marmaduke entered listlessly. "Good morning, Marian," he said, sitting
down on an uncomfortable chair. "Good morrow, Nell."

Elinor, surprised at the courtesy, looked up and saluted him snappishly.

"Is there anything the matter, Duke?" said Marian. "Are you ill?"

"No, I'm all right. Rather busy: thats all."

"Busy!" said Elinor. "There must be something even more unusual than
that, when you are too low spirited to keep up a quarrel with me. Why
dont you sit on the easy chair, or sprawl on the ottoman, after your
manner?"

"Anything for a quiet life," he replied, moving to the ottoman.

"You must be hungry," said Marian, puzzled by his obedience. "Let me get
you something."

"No, thank you," said Marmaduke. "I couldnt eat. Just had lunch. Ive
come to pack up a few things of mine that you have here."

"We have your banjo."

"Oh, I dont want that. You may keep it, or put it in the fire, for all I
care. I want some clothes I left behind me when we had the theatricals."

"Are you leaving London?"

"Yes. I am getting tired of loafing about here. I think I ought to go
home for a while. My mother wants me to."

Miss McQuinch, by a subdued but expressive snort, conveyed the most
entire scepticism as to his solicitude about his mother. She then turned
to the piano calmly, observing, "You have probably eaten something that
disagrees with you."

"What a shame!" said Marian. "Come, Duke: I have plenty of good news for
you. Nelly and I are invited to Carbury Park for the autumn; and there
will be no visitors but us three. We shall have the whole place to
ourselves."

"Time enough to think of the autumn yet awhile," said Marmaduke,
gloomily.

"Well," said Miss McQuinch, "here is some better news for you.
Constance--_Lady_ Constance--will be in town next week."

Marmaduke muttered something.

"I beg your pardon?" said Elinor, quickly.

"I didnt say anything."

"I may be wrong; but I thought I heard you say 'Hang Lady Constance!'."

"Oh, Marmaduke!" cried Marian, affectedly. "How dare you speak so of
your betrothed, sir?"

"Who says she is my betrothed?" he said, turning on her angrily.

"Why, everybody. Even Constance admits it."

"She ought to have the manners to wait until I ask her," he said,
subsiding. "I'm not betrothed to her; and I dont intend to become so in
a hurry, if I can help it. But you neednt tell your father I said so. It
might get round to my governor; and then there would be a row."

"You _must_ marry her some day, you know," said Elinor, maliciously.

"_Must_ I? I shant marry at all. I've had enough of women."

"Indeed? Perhaps they have had enough of you." Marmaduke reddened. "You
seem to have exhausted the joys of this world since the concert last
night. Are you jealous of Mr. Conolly's success?"

"Your by-play when you found how early it was at the end of the concert
was not lost on us," said Marian demurely. "You were going somewhere,
were you not?"

"Since you are so jolly curious," said Marmaduke, unreasonably annoyed,
"I went to the theatre with Connolly; and my by-play, as you call it,
simply meant my delight at finding that we could get rid of you in time
to enjoy the evening."

"With Conolly!" said Marian, interested. What kind of man is he?"

"He is nothing particular. You saw him yourself."

"Yes. But is he well educated, and--and so forth?"

"Dont know, I'm sure. We didnt talk about mathematics and classics."

"Well; but--do you like him?"

"I tell you I dont care a damn about him one way or the other," said
Marmaduke, rising and walking away to the window. His cousins,
astonished, exchanged looks.

"Very well, Marmaduke," said Marian softly, after a pause: "I wont tease
you any more. Dont be angry."

"You havnt teased me," said he, coming back somewhat shamefacedly from
the window. "I feel savage to-day, though there is no reason why I
should not be as jolly as a shrimp. Perhaps Nelly will play some Chopin,
just to soothe me. I should like to hear that polonaise again."

"I should enjoy nothing better than taking you at your word," said
Elinor. "But I heard Mr. Lind come in, a moment ago; and he is not so
fond of Chopin as you and I."

Mr. Lind entered whilst she was speaking. He was a dignified gentleman,
with delicately chiselled features and portly figure. His silky light
brown hair curled naturally about his brow and set it off imposingly.
His hands were white and small, with tapering fingers, and small thumbs.

"How do you do, sir?" said Marmaduke, blushing.

"Thank you: I am better than I have been."

Marmaduke murmured congratulations, and looked at his watch as if
pressed for time. "I must be off now," he said, rising. "I was just
going when you came in."

"So soon! Well, I must not detain you, Marmaduke. I heard from your
father this morning. He is very anxious to see you settled in life."

"I suppose I shall shake down some day, sir."

"You have very good opportunities--very exceptional opportunities. Has
Marian told you that Constance is expected to arrive in town next week?"

"Yes: we told him," said Marian.

"He thought it too good to be true, and would hardly believe us," added
Elinor.

Mr. Lind smiled at his nephew, happily forgetful, worldly wise as he
was, of the inevitable conspiracy of youth against age. They smiled too,
except Marmaduke, who, being under observation, kept his countenance
like the Man in the Iron Mask. "It is quite true, my boy," said the
uncle, kindly. "But before she arrives, I should like to have a talk
with you. When can you come to breakfast with me?"

"Any day you choose to name, sir. I shall be very glad."

"Let us say to-morrow morning. Will that be too soon?"

"Not at all. It will suit me quite well. Good evening, sir."

"Good evening to you."

When Marmaduke was in the street, he stood for a while considering which
way to go. Before the arrival of his uncle, he had intended to spend the
afternoon with his cousins. He was now at a loss for a means of killing
time. On one point he was determined. There was a rehearsal that day at
the Bijou Theatre; and thither, at least, he would not go. He drove to
Charing Cross, and drifted back to Leicester Square. He turned away from
the theatre, and wandered down Piccadilly. Then he thought he would
return as far as the Criterion, and drink. Finally he arrived at the
stage door of the Bijou Theatre, and inquired whether the rehearsal was
over.

"Theyve bin at it since eleven this mornin, and will be pretty nigh til
the stage is wanted for to-night," said the janitor. "I'd as lief youd
wait here as go up, if you dont mind, sir. The guvnor is above; and he
aint in the best o' tempers. I'll send word up."

Marmaduke looked round irresolutely. A great noise of tramping and
singing began.

"Thats the new procession," continued the doorkeeper. "Sixteen hextras
took on for it. It's Miss Virtue's chance for lunch, sir: you wont have
long to wait now."

Here there was a rapid pattering of feet down the staircase. Marmaduke
started, and stood biting his lips as Mademoiselle Lalage, busy, hungry,
and in haste, hurried towards the door.

"Come! Come on," she said impatiently to him, as she went out. "Go and
get a cab, will you. I must have something to eat; and I have to get
back sharp. Do be qu----there goes a hansom. Hi!" She whistled shrilly,
and waved her umbrella. The cab came, and was directed by Marmaduke to a
restaurant in Regent Street.

"I am absolutely starving," she said as they drove off. "I have been in
since eleven this morning; and of course they only called the band for
half-past. They are such damned fools: they drive me mad."

"Why dont you walk out of the theatre, and make them arrange it properly
for next day?"

"Oh yes! And throw the whole day after the half, and lose my rehearsal.
It is bad enough to lose my temper. I swore, I can tell you."

"I have no doubt you did."

"This horse thinks he's at a funeral. What o'clock is it?"

"It's only eight minutes past four. There is plenty of time."

When they alighted, Lalage hurried into the restaurant; scrutinized the
tables; and selected the best lighted one. The waiter, a decorous
elderly man, approached with some severity of manner, and handed a bill
of fare to Marmaduke. She snatched it from him, and addressed the waiter
sharply.

"Bring me some thin soup; and get me a steak to follow. Let it be a
thick juicy one. If its purple and raw I wont have it; and if its done
to a cinder, I wont have it: it must be red. And get me some spring
cabbage and potatoes, and a pint of dry champagne--the decentest you
have. And be quick."

"And what for you, sir?" said the waiter, turning to Marmaduke.

"Never mind him," interrupted Susanna. "Go and attend to me."

The waiter bowed and retired.

"Old stick-in-the-mud!" muttered Miss Lalage. "Is it half-past four
yet?"

"No. It's only quarter past. There's lots of time."

Mademoiselle Lalage ate until the soup, a good deal of bread, the steak,
the vegetables, and the pint of champagne--less a glassful taken by her
companion--had disappeared. Marmaduke watched her meanwhile, and
consumed two ices.

"Have an ice to finish up with?" he said.

"No. I cant work on sweets," she replied. "But I am beginning to feel
alive again and comfortable. Whats the time?"

"Confound the time!" said Marmaduke. "It's twenty minutes to five."

"Well, I'll drive back to the theatre. I neednt start for quarter of an
hour yet."

"Thank heaven!" said Marmaduke. "I was afraid I should not be able to
get a word with you."

"That reminds me of a crow I have to pluck with you, Mr. Marmaduke Lind.
What did you mean by telling me your name was Sharp?"

"It's the name of a cousin of mine," said Marmaduke, attempting to
dismiss the subject with a laugh.

"It may be your cousin's name; but it's not yours. By the bye, is that
the cousin youre engaged to?"

"What cousin? I'm not engaged to anybody."

"That's a lie, like your denial of your name. Come, come, Master
Marmaduke: you cant humbug me. Youre too young. Hallo! What do _you_
want?"

It was the waiter, removing some plates, and placing a bill on the
table. Marmaduke put his hand into his pocket.

"Just wait a minute, please," said Susanna. The waiter retired.

"Now then," she resumed, placing her elbows on the table, "let us have
no more nonsense. What is your little game? Are you going to pay that
bill or am I?"

"I am, of course."

"There is no of course in it--not yet, anyhow. What are you hanging
about the theatre after me for? Tell me that. Dont stop to think."

Marmaduke looked foolish, and then sulky. Finally he brightened, and
said, "Look here. Youre angry with me for bringing your brother last
night. But upon my soul I had no idea--"

"That's not what I mean at all. You are dodging a plain question. When
you came to the theatre, I thought you were a nice fellow; and I made
friends with you. Now I find you have been telling me lies about
yourself, and trying to play fast and loose. You must either give that
up or give me up. I wont have you pass that stage door again if you only
want to amuse yourself like other lounging cads about town."

"What do you mean by playing fast and loose, and being a cad about
town?" said Marmaduke angrily.

"I hope youre not going to make a row here in public."

"No; but I have you where _you_ cant make a row; and I intend to have it
out with you once and for all. If you quarrel now, so help me Heaven
I'll never speak to you again!"

"It is you who are quarrelling."

"Very well," said Susanna, opening her purse as though the matter were
decided. "Waiter."

"I am going to pay."

"So you can--for what you had yourself. I dont take dinners from strange
men, nor pay for their ices."

Marmaduke did not reply. He took out his purse determinedly; glanced
angrily at her; and muttered, "I never thought you were that sort of
woman."

"What sort of woman?" demanded Susanna, in a tone that made the other
occupants of the room turn and stare.

"Never mind," said Marmaduke. She was about to retort, when she saw him
looking into his purse with an expression of dismay. The waiter came.
Susanna, instead of attempting to be beforehand in proffering the money,
changed her mind, and waited. Marmaduke searched his pockets. Finding
nothing, he muttered an imprecation, and, fingering his watch chain,
glanced doubtfully at the waiter, who looked stolidly at the tablecloth.

"There," said Susanna, putting down a sovereign.

Marmaduke looked on helplessly whilst the waiter changed the coin and
thanked Susanna for her gratuity. Then he said, "You must let me settle
with you for this to-night. Ive left nearly all my cash in the pocket of
another waistcoat."

"You will not have the chance of settling with me, either to-night or
any other night. I am done with you." And she rose and left the
restaurant. Marmaduke sat doggedly for quarter of a minute. Then he went
out, and ran along Regent Street, anxiously looking from face to face in
search of her. At last he saw her walking at a great pace a little
distance ahead of him. He made a dash and overtook her.

"Look here, Lalage," he said, keeping up with her as she walked: "this
is all rot. I didnt mean to offend you. I dont know what you mean, or
what you want me to do. Dont be so unreasonable."

No answer.

"I can stand a good deal from you; but it's too much to be kept at your
heels as if I were a beggar or a troublesome dog. _Lalage_." She took no
notice of him; and he stopped, trying to compose his features, which
were distorted by rage. She walked on, turning into Glasshouse Street.
When she had gone twenty yards, she heard him striding behind her.

"If you wont stop and talk to me," he said, "I'll make you. If anybody
interferes with me I'll smash him into jelly. It would serve you right
if I did the same to you."

He put his hand on her arm; and she instantly turned and struck him
across the face, knocking off his hat. He, who a moment before had been
excited, red, and almost in tears, was appalled. There was a crowd in a
moment; and a cabman drew up close to the kerb with a calm conviction
that his hansom would be wanted presently.

"How dare you put your hand on me, you coward?" she exclaimed, with
remarkable crispness of utterance and energy of style. "Who are you? I
dont know you. Where are the police?" She paused for a reply; and a
bracelet, broken by the blow she had given him, dropped on the pavement,
and was officiously picked up and handed to her by a battered old woman
who shewed in every wrinkle her burning sympathy with Woman turning at
bay against Man. Susanna looked at the broken bracelet, and tears of
vexation sprang to her eyes. "Look at what youve done!" she cried,
holding out the bracelet in her left hand and shewing a scrape which had
drawn blood on her right wrist. "For two pins I'd knock your head off!"

Marmaduke, quite out of countenance, and yet sullenly very angry,
vacillated for a moment between his conflicting impulses to knock her
down and to fly to the utmost ends of the earth. If he had been ten
years older he would probably have knocked her down: as it was, he
signed to the cabman, who gathered up the reins and held them clear of
his fare's damaged hat with the gratification of a man whose judgment in
a delicate matter had just been signally confirmed by events.

As they started, Susanna made a dash at the cab, which was pulled up,
amid a shout from the crowd, just in time to prevent an accident. Then,
holding on to the rail and standing on the step, she addressed herself
to the cabman, and, sacrificing all propriety of language to intensity
of vituperation, demanded whether he wanted to run his cab over her body
and kill her. He, with undisturbed foresight, answered not a word, but
again shifted the reins so as to make way for her bonnet. Acknowledging
the attention with one more epithet, she seated herself in the cab, from
which Marmaduke at once indignantly rose to escape. But the hardiest
Grasmere wrestler, stooping under the hood of a hansom, could not resist
a vigorous pull at his coat tails; and Marmaduke was presently back in
his seat again, with Susanna clinging to him and half sobbing:

"Oh, Bob, youve killed me. How could you?" Then, with a suspiciously
sudden recovery of energy, she screamed "Bijou Theatre. Drive on, will
you" up at the cabman, who was looking down through the trapdoor. The
horse plunged forward, and, with the jolt, she was fawning on
Marmaduke's arm again, saying, "Dont be brutal to me any more, Bob. I
cant bear it. I have enough trouble without your turning on me."

He was young and green, and too much confused by this time to feel sure
that he had not been the aggressor. But he did, on the whole, the wisest
thing--folded his arms and sat silent, with his cheeks burning.

"Say something to me," she said, shaking his arm. "I have nothing to
say," he replied. "I shall leave town for home to-night. I cant shew my
face again after this."

"Home," she said, in her former contemptuous tone, flinging his arm
away. "That means your cousin Constance."

"Who told you about her?"

"Never mind. You are engaged to her."

"You lie!"

Susanna was shaken. She looked hard at him, wondering whether he was
deceiving her or not. "Look me in the face, Bob," she said. If he had
complied, she would not have believed him. But he treated the challenge
with supreme disdain and stared straight ahead, obeying his male
instinct, which taught him that the woman, with all the advantages on
her side, would nevertheless let him win if he held on. At last she came
caressingly to his shoulder again, and said:

"Why didnt you tell me about her yourself?"

"Damn it all," he exclaimed, violently, "there is nothing to tell! I am
not engaged to her: on my oath I am not. My people at home talk about a
match between us as if it were a settled thing, though they know I dont
care for her. But if you want to have the truth, I cant afford to say
that I wont marry her, because I am too hard up to quarrel with the
governor, who has set his heart on it. You see, the way I am
circumstanced----"

"Oh, bother your circumstances! Look here, Bob, I dont want you to
introduce me to your swell relations; it is not worth _my_ while to
waste time on people who cant earn their own living. And never mind your
governor: we can get on without him. If you are hard up for money, and
he is stingy, you had better get it from me than from the Jews."

"I couldnt do that," said Marmaduke, touched. "In fact, I am well enough
off. By the bye, I must not forget to pay you for that lunch. But if I
ever am hard up, I will come to you. Will that do?"

"Of course: that is what I meant. Confound it, here we are already. You
mustnt come in, you would only be in the way. Come to-night after the
burlesque, if you like. Youre not angry with me, are you?"

Her breast touched his arm just then; and as if she had released some
spring, all his love for her suddenly surged up within him and got the
better of him. "Wait--listen," he said, in a voice half choked with
tenderness. "Look here, Lalage: the honest truth is that I shall be
ruined if I marry you openly. Let us be married quietly, and keep it
dark until I am more independent."

"Married! Catch me at it--if you can. No, dear boy, I am very fond of
you, and you are one of the right sort to make me the offer; but I wont
let you put a collar round _my_ neck. Matrimony is all very fine for
women who have no better way of supporting themselves, but it wouldnt
suit me. Dont look so dazed. What difference does it make to _you_?"

"But----" He stopped, bewildered, gazing at her.

"Get out, you great goose!" she said, and suddenly sprang out of the
hansom and darted into the theatre.

He sat gaping after her, horrified--genuinely horrified.




CHAPTER III


The Earl of Carbury was a youngish man with no sort of turn for being a
nobleman. He could not bring himself to behave as if he was anybody in
particular; and though this passed for perfect breeding whenever he by
chance appeared in his place in society, on the magisterial bench, or in
the House of Lords, it prevented him from making the most of the
earldom, and was a standing grievance with his relatives, many of whom
were the most impudent and uppish people on the face of the earth. He
was, if he had only known it, a born republican, with no natural belief
in earls at all; but as he was rather too modest to indulge his
consciousness with broad generalizations of this kind, all he knew about
the matter was that he was sensible of being a bad hand at his
hereditary trade of territorial aristocrat. At a very early age he had
disgraced himself by asking his mother whether he might be a watchmaker
when he grew up, and his feeble sense on that occasion of the
impropriety of an earl being anything whatsoever except an earl had
given his mother an imperious contempt for him which afterward got
curiously mixed with a salutary dread of his moral superiority to her,
which was considerable. His aspiration to become a watchmaker was an
early symptom of his extraordinary turn for mechanics. An apprenticeship
of six years at the bench would have made an educated workman of him: as
it was, he pottered at every mechanical pursuit as a gentleman amateur
in a laboratory and workshop which he had got built for himself in his
park. In this magazine of toys--for such it virtually was at first--he
satisfied his itchings to play with tools and machines. He was no
sportsman; but if he saw in a shop window the most trumpery patent
improvement in a breechloader, he would go in and buy it; and as to a
new repeating rifle or liquefied gas gun, he would travel to St.
Petersburg to see it. He wrote very little; but he had sixteen different
typewriters, each guaranteed perfect by an American agent, who had also
pledged himself that the other fifteen were miserable impostures. A
really ingenious bicycle or tricycle always found in him a ready
purchaser; and he had patented a roller skate and a railway brake. When
the electric chair for dental operations was invented, he sacrificed a
tooth to satisfy his curiosity as to its operation. He could not play
brass instruments to any musical purpose; but his collection of double
slide trombones, bombardons with patent compensating pistons, comma
trumpets, and the like, would have equipped a small military band;
whilst his newly tempered harmonium with fifty-three notes to each
octave, and his pianos with simplified keyboards that nobody could play
on, were the despair of all musical amateurs who came to stay at Towers
Cottage, as his place was called. He would buy the most expensive and
elaborate lathe, and spend a month trying to make a true billiard ball
at it. At the end of that time he would have to send for a professional
hand, who would cornet the ball with apparently miraculous skill in a
few seconds. He got on better with chemistry and photography; but at
last he settled down to electrical engineering, and, giving up the idea
of doing everything with his own half-trained hand, kept a skilled man
always in his laboratory to help him out.

All along there had been a certain love of the marvelous at the bottom
of his fancy for inventions. Therefore, though he did not in the least
believe in ghosts, he would "investigate" spiritualism, and part with
innumerable guineas to mediums, slatewriters, clairvoyants, and even of
turbaned rascals from the East, who would boldly offer at midnight to
bring him out into the back yard and there and then raise the devil for
him. And just as his tendency was to magnify the success and utility of
his patent purchases, so he would lend himself more or less to gross
impostures simply because they interested him. This confirmed his
reputation for being a bit of a crank; and as he had in addition all the
restlessness and eccentricity of the active spirits of his class,
arising from the fact that no matter what he busied himself with, it
never really mattered whether he accomplished it or not, he remained an
unsatisfied and (considering the money he cost) unsatisfactory specimen
of a true man in a false position.

Towers Cottage was supposed to be a mere appendage to Carbury Towers,
which had been burnt down, to the great relief of its noble owners, in
the reign of William IV. The Cottage, a handsome one-storied Tudor
mansion, with tall chimneys, gabled roofs, and transom windows, had
since served the family as a very sufficient residence, needing a much
smaller staff of servants than the Towers, and accommodating fewer
visitors. At first it had been assumed on all hands that the stay at the
Cottage was but a temporary one, pending the re-erection of the Towers
on a scale of baronial magnificence; but this tradition, having passed
through its primal stage of being a standing excuse with the elders
into that of being a standing joke with the children, had naturally
lapsed as the children grew up. Indeed, the Cottage was now too large
for the family; for the Earl was still unmarried, and all his sisters
had contracted splendid alliances except the youngest, Lady Constance
Carbury, a maiden of twenty-two, with a thin face and slight angular
figure, who was still on her mother's hands. The illustrious matches
made by her sisters had, in fact, been secured by extravagant dowering,
which had left nothing for poor Lady Constance except a miserable three
hundred pounds a year, at which paltry figure no man had as yet offered
to take her. The Countess (Dowager) habitually assumed that Marmaduke
Lind ardently desired the hand of his cousin; and Constance herself
supported tacitly this view; but the Earl was apt to become restive when
it was put forward, though he altogether declined to improve his
sister's pecuniary position, having already speculated quite heavily
enough in brothers-in-law.

In the August following the Wandsworth concert Lord Carbury began to
take his electrical laboratory with such intensified seriousness that he
flatly refused to entertain any visitors until the 12th, and held fast
to his determination in spite of his mother's threat to leave the house,
alleging, with a laugh, that he had got hold of a discovery with money
in it at last. But he felt at such a disadvantage after this incredible
statement that he hastened to explain that his objection to visitors did
not apply to relatives who would be sufficiently at home at Towers
Cottage to require no attention from him. Under the terms of this
capitulation Marian, as universal favorite, was invited; and since there
was no getting Marian down without Elinor, she was invited too, in
spite of the Countess's strong dislike for her, a sentiment which she
requited with a pungent mixture of detestation and contempt. Marian's
brother, the Reverend George Lind, promised to come down in a day or
two; and Marmaduke, who was also invited, did not reply.

The morning after her arrival, Marian was awakened at six o'clock by a
wagon rumbling past the window of her room with a sound quite different
from that made by the dust-cart in Westbourne Terrace. She peeped out at
it, and saw that is was laden with packages of irregular shape, which,
judging by some strange-looking metal rods that projected through the
covering, she took to be apparatus for Lord Jasper's laboratory. From
the wagon, with its patiently trudging horse and dull driver, she lifted
her eyes to the lawn, where the patches of wet shadow beneath the cedars
refreshed the sunlit grass around them. It looked too fine a morning to
spend in bed. Had Marian been able to taste and smell the fragrant
country air she would not have hesitated a moment. But she had been
accustomed to believe that fresh air was unhealthy at night, and though
nothing would have induced her to wash in dirty water, she thought
nothing of breathing dirty air; and so the window was shut and the room
close. Still, the window did not exclude the loud singing of the birds
or the sunlight. She ventured to open it a little, not without a sense
of imprudence. Twenty minutes later she was dressed.

She first looked into the drawing-room, but it was stale and dreary. The
dining-room, which she tried next, made her hungry. The arrival of a
servant with a broom suggested to her that she had better get out of the
way of the household work. She felt half sorry for getting up, and went
out on the lawn to recover her spirits. There she heard a man's voice
trolling a stave somewhere in the direction of the laboratory. Thinking
that it might be Lord Carbury, and that, if so, he would probably not
wait until half past nine to break his fast, she ran gaily off round the
southwest corner of the Cottage to a terrace, from which there was
access through a great double window, now wide open, to a lofty
apartment roofed with glass.

At a large table in the middle of the room sat a man with his back to
the window. He had taken off his coat, and was bending over a small
round block with little holes sunk into it. Each hole was furnished with
a neat brass peg, topped with ebony; and the man was lifting and
replacing one of these pegs whilst he gravely watched the dial of an
instrument that resembled a small clock. A large straw hat concealed his
head, and protected it from the rays that were streaming through the
glass roof and open window. The apparent triviality of his occupation,
and his intentness upon it, amused Marian. She stole into the
laboratory, came close behind him, and said:

"Since you have nothing better to do than play cribbage with yourself,
I----"

She had gently lifted up his straw hat, and found beneath a head that
was not Lord Carbury's. The man, who had cowered with surprise at her
touch and voice, but had waited even then to finish an observation of
his galvanometer before turning, now turned and stared at her.

"I _beg_ your pardon," said Marian, blushing vigorously. "I thought it
was Lord Carbury. I have disturbed you very rudely. I----"

"Not at all," said the man. "I quite understand. I was not playing
cribbage, but I was doing nothing very important. However, as you
certainly did take me by surprise, perhaps you will excuse my coat."

"Oh, pray dont mind me. I must not interrupt your work." She looked at
his face again, but only for an instant, as he was watching her. Then,
with another blush, she put out her hand and said, "How do you do, Mr.
Conolly. I did not recognize you at first."

He shook hands, but did not offer any further conversation. "What a
wonderful place!" she said, looking round, with a view to making herself
agreeable by taking an interest in everything. "Wont you explain it all
to me? To begin with, what is electricity?"

Conolly stared rather at this question, and then shook his head. "I dont
know anything about that," he said; "I am only a workman. Perhaps Lord
Carbury can tell you: he has read a good deal about it."

Marian looked incredulously at him. "I am sure you are joking," she
said. "Lord Carbury says you know ever so much more than he does. I
suppose I asked a stupid question. What are those reels of green silk
for?"

"Ah," said Conolly, relaxing. "Come now, I can tell you that easily
enough. I dont know what it _is_, but I know what it does, and I can lay
traps to catch it. Here now, for instance----"

And he went on to deliver a sort of chatty Royal Institution Children's
Lecture on Electricity which produced a great impression on Marian, who
was accustomed to nothing better than small talk. She longed to interest
him by her comments and questions, but she found that they had a most
discouraging effect on him. Redoubling her efforts, she at last reduced
him to silence, of which she availed herself to remark, with great
earnestness, that science was a very wonderful thing.

"How do you know?" he said, a little bluntly.

"I am sure it must be," she replied, brightening; for she thought he had
now made a rather foolish remark. "Is Lord Carbury a very clever
scientist?"

Conolly looked just grave enough to suggest that the question was not
altogether a discreet one. Then, brushing off that consideration, he
replied:

"He has seen a great deal and read a great deal. You see, he has great
means at his disposal. His property is as good as a joint-stock company
at his back. Practically, he is very good, considering his method of
working: not so good, considering the means at his disposal."

"What would you do if you had his means?"

Conolly made a gesture which plainly signified that he thought he could
do a great many things.

"And is science, then, so expensive? I thought it was beyond the reach
of money."

"Oh, yes: science may be. But I am not a scientific man: I'm an
inventor. The two things are quite different. Invention is the most
expensive thing in the world. It takes no end of time, and no end of
money. Time is money; so it costs both ways."

"Then why dont you discover something and make your fortune?"

"I have already discovered something."

"Oh! What is it?"

"That it costs a fortune to make experiments enough to lead to an
invention."

"You are exaggerating, are you not? What do you mean by a fortune?"

"In my case, at least four or five hundred pounds."

"Is that all? Surely you would have no difficulty in getting five
hundred pounds."

Conolly laughed. "To be sure," said he. "What is five hundred pounds?"

"A mere nothing--considering the importance of the object. You really
ought not to allow such a consideration as that to delay your career. I
have known people spend as much in one day on the most worthless
things."

"There is something in that, Miss Lind. How would you recommend me to
begin?"

"First," said Marian, with determination, "make up your mind to spend
the money. Banish all scruples about the largeness of the sum. Resolve
not to grudge even twice as much to science."

"That is done already. I have quite made up my mind to spend the money.
What next?"

"Well, I suppose the next thing is to spend it."

"Excuse me. The next thing is to get it. It is a mere detail, I know;
but I should like to settle it before we go any further."

"But how can I tell you that? You forget that I am quite unacquainted
with your affairs. You are a man, and understand business, which of
course I dont."

"If you wanted five hundred pounds, Miss Lind, how would you set about
getting it?--if I may ask."

"What? I! But, as I say, I am only a woman. I should ask my father for
it, or sign a receipt for my trustees, or something of that sort."

"That is a very simple plan. But unfortunately I have no father and no
trustees. Worse than that, I have no money. You must suggest some other
way."

"Do what everybody else does in your circumstances. Borrow it. I am sure
Lord Carbury would lend it to you."

Conolly shook his head. "It doesnt do for a man in my position to start
borrowing the moment he makes the acquaintance of a man in Lord
Carbury's," he said. "We are working a little together already on one of
my ideas, and that is as far as I care to ask him to go. I am afraid I
must ask you for another suggestion."

"Save up all your money until you have enough."

"That would take some time. Let me see. As I am an exceptionally
fortunate and specially skilled workman, I can now calculate on making
from seventy shillings to six pounds a week. Say four pounds on the
average."

"Ah," said Marian, despondingly, "you would have to wait more than two
years to save five hundred pounds."

"And to dispense with food, clothes, and lodging in the meantime."

"True," said Marian. "Of course, I see that it is impossible for you to
save anything. And yet it seems absurd to be stopped by the want of such
a sum. I have a cousin who has no money at all, and no experiments to
make, and he paid a thousand pounds for a race-horse last spring."

Conolly nodded, to intimate that he knew that such things happened.

Marian could think of no further expedient. She stood still, thinking,
whilst Conolly took up a bit of waste and polished a brass cylinder.

"Mr. Conolly," she said at last, "I cannot absolutely promise you; but I
think I can get you five hundred pounds." Conolly stopped polishing the
cylinder, and stared at her. "If I have not enough, I am sure we could
make the rest by a bazaar or something. I should like to begin to invest
my money; and if you make some great invention, like the telegraph or
steam engine, you will be able to pay it back to me, and to lend me
money when _I_ want it."

Conolly blushed. "Thank you, Miss Lind," said he, "thank you very much
indeed. I--It would be ungrateful of me to refuse; but I am not so ready
to begin my experiments as my talking might lead you to suppose. My
estimate of their cost was a mere guess. I am not satisfied that it is
not want of time and perseverance more than of money that is the real
obstacle. However, I will--I will--a----Have you any idea of the value
of money, Miss Lind? Have you ever had the handling of it?"

"Of course," said Marian, secretly thinking that the satisfaction of
shaking his self-possession was cheap at five hundred pounds. "I keep
house at home, and do all sorts of business things."

Conolly glanced about him vaguely; picked up the piece of waste again as
if he had been looking for that; recollected himself; and looked
unintelligibly at her. Her uncertainty as to what he would do next was a
delightful sensation: why, she did not know nor care. To her intense
disappointment, Lord Carbury entered just then, and roused her from what
was unaccountably like a happy dream.

Nothing more of any importance happened that day except the arrival of a
letter from Paris, addressed to Lady Constance in Marmaduke's
handwriting. Miss McQuinch first heard of it in the fruit garden, where
she found Constance sitting with her arm around Marian's waist in a
summer-house. She sat down opposite them, at a rough oak table.

"A letter, Nelly!" said Marian. "A letter! A letter from Marmaduke! I
have extorted leave for you to read it. Here it is. Handle it carefully,
pray."

"Has he proposed?" said Elinor, taking it.

Constance changed color. Elinor opened the letter in silence, and read:

  My dear Constance:

  I hope you are quite well. I am having an awfully jolly time of it
  here. What a pity it is you dont come over! I was wishing for you
  yesterday in the Louvre, where we spent a pleasant day looking at
  the pictures. I send you the silk you wanted, and had great trouble
  hunting through half-a-dozen shops for it. Not that I mind the
  trouble, but just to let you see my devotion to you. I have no more
  to say at present, as it is nearly post hour. Remember me to the
  clan.

                                               Yours ever,
                                                         DUKE.

  P.S.--How do Nelly and your mother get along together?

Whilst Elinor was reading, the gardener passed the summer-house, and
Constance went out and spoke to him. Elinor looked significantly at
Marian.

"Nelly," returned Marian, in hushed tones of reproach, "you have stabbed
poor Constance to the heart by telling her that Marmaduke never proposed
to her. That is why she has gone out."

"Yes," said Elinor, "it was brutal. But I thought, as you made such a
fuss about the letter, that it must have been a proposal at least. It
cant be helped now. It is one more enemy for me, that is all."

"What do you think of the letter? Was it not kind of him to
write--considering how careless he is usually?"

"Hm! Did he match the silk properly?".

"To perfection. He must really have taken some trouble. You know how he
botched getting the ribbon for his fancy dress at the ball last year."

"That is just what I was thinking about. Do you remember also how he
ridiculed the Louvre after his first trip to Paris, and swore that
nothing would ever induce him to enter it again?"

"He has got more sense now. He says in the letter that he spent
yesterday there."

"Not exactly. He says '_we_ spent a pleasant day looking at the
pictures.' Who is '_we_'?"

"Some companion of his, I suppose. Why?"

"I was just thinking could it be the person who has matched the silk so
well. The same woman, I mean."

"Oh, Nelly!"

"Oh, Marian! Do you suppose Marmaduke would spend an afternoon at the
Louvre with a man, who could just as well go by himself? Do men match
silks?"

"Of course they do. Any fly-fisher can do it better than a woman.
Really, Nell, you have an odious imagination."

"Yes--when my imagination is started on an odious track. Nothing will
persuade me that Marmaduke cares a straw for Constance. He does not want
to marry her, though he is too great a coward to own it."

"Why do you say so? I grant you he is unceremonious and careless. But he
is the same to everybody."

"Yes: to everybody _we_ know. What is the use of straining after an
amiable view of things, Marian, when a cynical view is most likely to be
the true one."

"There is no harm in giving people credit for being good."

"Yes, there is, when people are not good, which is most often the case.
It sets us wrong practically, and holds virtue cheap. If Marmaduke is a
noble and warmhearted man, and Constance a lovable, innocent girl, all I
can say is that it is not worth while to be noble or lovable. If
amiability consists in maintaining that black is white, it is a quality
anyone may acquire by telling a lie and sticking to it."

"But I dont maintain that black is white. Only it seems to me that as
regards white, you are color blind. Where I see white, you see black;
and----hush! Here is Constance."

"Yes," whispered Elinor: "she comes back quickly enough when it occurs
to her that we are talking about her."

Instead of simply asking why Constance should not behave in this very
natural manner if she chose to, Marian was about to defend Constance
warmly by denying all motive to her return, when that event took place
and stopped the discussion. Marian and Nelly spent a considerable part
of their lives in bandying their likes and dislikes under the impression
that they were arguing important points of character and conduct.

They knew that Constance wanted to answer Marmaduke's letter; so they
alleged correspondence of their own, and left her to herself.

Lady Constance went to her brother's study, where there was a
comfortable writing-table. She began to write without hesitation, and
her pen gabbled rapidly until she had covered two sheets of paper,
when, instead of taking a fresh sheet, she wrote across the lines
already written. After signing the letter, she read it through, and
added two postscripts. Then she remembered something she had forgotten
to say; but there was no more room on her two sheets, and she was
reluctant to use a third, which might, in a letter to France, involve
extra postage. Whilst she was hesitating her brother entered.

"Am I in your way?" she said. "I shall have done in a moment."

"No, I am not going to write. By-the-bye, they tell me you had a letter
from Marmaduke this morning. Has he anything particular to say?"

"Nothing very particular. He is in Paris."

"Indeed? Are you writing to him?"

"Yes," said Constance, irritated by his disparaging tone. "Why not?"

"Do as you please, of course. I am afraid he is a scamp."

"Are you? You know a great deal about him, I dare say."

"I am not much reassured by those who do know about him."

"And who may they be? The only person you know who has seen much of him
is Marian, and she doesnt speak ill of people behind their backs."

"Marian takes rather a rose-colored view of everybody, Marmaduke
included. You should talk to Nelly about him."

"I knew it. I knew, the minute you began to talk, who had set you on."

"I am afraid Nelly's opinion is worth more than Marians."

"_Her_ opinion! Everybody knows what her opinion is. She is bursting
with jealousy of me."

"Jealousy!"

"What else? Marmaduke has never taken the least notice of her, and she
is madly in love with him."

"This is quite a new light upon the affair. Constance, are you sure you
are not romancing?"

"Romancing! Why, she cannot conceal her venom. She taunted me this
morning in the summer-house because Marmaduke has never made me a formal
proposal. It was the letter that made her do it. Ask Marian."

"I can hardly believe it: I should not have supposed, from what I have
observed, that she cared about him."

You should not have supposed it from what she _said_: is that what you
mean? I dont care whether you believe it or not."

"Well, if you are so confident, there is no occasion to be acrimonious
about Elinor. She is more to be pitied than blamed."

"Yes, everybody is to pity Elinor because she cant have her wish and
make me wretched," said Constance, beginning to cry. Whereupon Lord
Carbury immediately left the room.




CHAPTER IV


Long before the harvest was home, preparations were made at Towers
Cottage to receive another visitor. The Rev. George Lind was coming.
Lord Carbury drove in the wagonet to the railway station, and met him on
the platform.

"How are you, my dear fellow?" cried the clergyman, shaking the earl's
hand. "Why did you trouble to meet me? I could have taken a fly. Most
kind of you, I am sure. How is your dear mother? And Constance: how is
_she_?"

"All quite well, thank you. Just show my fellow your traps; he will see
to them."

"Oh, there is no need to trouble him. I myself or a porter--oh, thank
you, I am sure; the brown one with G.L. on it--and that small green
metal box too, if you will be so good. Thank you very much. And how are
you, Jasper, if I may call you so? Studious still, eh? I hope he will be
careful of the box. No, not a word to him, I beg: it does not matter at
all. What a charming little trap! What air! Happy man, Jasper! These
fields are better than the close alleys and garrets to which my
profession leads me."

"Jump in."

"Thank you. And how is Marian?"

"Quite well, thank you. _Everybody_ is quite well. The girls are at a
tennis party, or they would have come to meet you. Constance desired me
particularly to apologize."

"Oh, needless, most needless. Why should they not enjoy themselves?
What a landscape! The smiling beauty of nature in the country is like
a--like a message to us. This is indeed a delightful drive."

"Yes, she is a capital trotter, this mare of mine. What do you think of
her?"

"A noble animal, Jasper. Although I never studied horseflesh much, even
in my university days, I can admire a spirited nag on occasion. But I
have to content myself with humbler means of locomotion in my own
calling. A poor parson cannot entertain his friends as a magnate like
you can. Have you any one at the hall now, besides the girls?"

"No. The place will be rather dull for you, I am afraid."

"Not at all, my dear fellow, not at all. I shall be satisfied and
thankful under all circumstances."

"We have led a humdrum life for the past month. Marian and Elinor have
begun to potter about in my laboratory. They come there every day for an
hour to work and study, as they call it."

"Indeed! I have no doubt Marian will find the study of nature most
improving. It is very generous of you to allow her to trespass on you."

"I occupy myself chiefly with Nelly McQuinch. Marian is my assistant's
pupil, and he has made a very expert workwoman of her already. With a
little direction, she can put a machine together as well as I can."

"I am delighted to hear it. And dear Nelly?"

"Oh, dear Nelly treats the subject in her usual way. But she is very
amusing."

"Ah, Jasper! Ah! An unstable nature there, an unstable nature! Elinor
has not been firmly trained. She needs to be tried by adversity."

"No doubt she will be. Most of us are."

"And dear Constance? Does she study?"

"No."

"Ahem! A--have you----? That is St. Mildred's yonder, is it not?"

"It is. They have put a new clock in the tower, worth about sixty
pounds. I believe they collected a hundred and fifty for the purpose.
But you were going to say something else."

"No. At least, I intended to ask you about Marmaduke. He is coming down,
I understand."

"I dont know what he is doing. Last week he wrote to us that he had just
returned from Paris; but I happened to know that he had then been back
for some time. He has arranged to come twice, but on each occasion, at
the last moment, he has made excuses. He can do as he likes now. I wish
he would say definitely that he doesnt intend to come, instead of
shilly-shallying from week to week. Hallo, Prentice, have the ladies
returned yet?" This was addressed to the keeper of the gate-lodge, at
which they had now arrived. He replied that the ladies were still
absent.

"Then," said Lord Carbury, "we had better get down and stroll across the
lawn. Perhaps you are tired, though?"

"Not at all. I should prefer it. What a lovely avenue! What greenery!
How--"

"We were talking about Marmaduke. Do you know what he is doing at
present? He talks of being busy, and of not having a moment to spare. I
can understand a fellow not having a moment to spare in June or July,
but what Marmaduke has to do in London in September is more than I can
imagine."

"I do not care to enquire into these things too closely. I had intended
to speak to you on the subject. Marmaduke, as I suppose you know, has
taken a house at West Kensington."

"A house at West Kensington! No, I did not know it. What has he done
that for?"

"I fear he has been somewhat disingenuous with me on the subject. I
think he tried to prevent the matter coming to my ears; and when I asked
him about it, he certainly implied--in fact, I grieve to say he left me
under the impression that he had taken the house with a view to marrying
dear Constance, and settling down. I expressed some surprise at his
going so far out of town; but he did not volunteer any further
explanation, and so the matter dropped." The Rev. George paused, and
then continued in a lower tone, "Not long afterward I met him at a very
late hour. He had perhaps exceeded a little in his cups; for he spoke to
me with the most shocking cynicism, inviting me to supper at this house
of his, and actually accusing me of knowing perfectly well the terrible
truth about his occupation of it. He assured me that she--meaning, I
presume, the unhappy person with whom he lives there--was exceptionally
attractive; and I have since discovered that she is connected with the
theatre, and of great notoriety. I need not tell you how dreadful all
this is to me, Jasper; but to the best of my judgment, which I have
fortified by earnest prayers for guidance, it is my imperative duty to
tell you of it."

"The vagabond! It is exactly as I have always said: Constance is too
tame for him. He does not care a d----"

"Jasper, my dear fellow, gently," said the clergyman, pressing his arm.

"Pshaw!" said the Earl, "I dont care. I think Constance is well out of
it. Let us drop the subject for the present. I hear the carriage."

"Yes, here it is. Dear Lady Carbury has recognized me, and is waving her
hand." The Rev. George stood on tiptoe as he spoke, and flourished his
low-crowned soft felt hat.

During the ensuing greetings Carbury stood silent, looking at the horses
with an expression that made the coachman uneasy. At dinner he ate
sedulously, and left the task of entertaining the visitor to his mother
and the girls. The clergyman was at no loss for conversation. He was
delighted with the dinner, delighted with the house, delighted to see
the Countess looking so well, and delighted to hear that the tennis
party that day had been a pleasant one. The Earl listened with
impatience, and was glad when his mother rose. Before she quitted the
dining-room he made a sign to her, and she soon returned, leaving
Marian, Constance, and Elinor in the drawing-room.

"You will not mind my staying, I hope, George," she said, as she resumed
her seat.

"A delightful precedent, and from a distinguished source," said the Rev.
George. "Allow me to pass the bottle. Ha! ha!"

"Thank you, no," said the Countess. "I never take wine." Her tone was
inconclusive, as if she intended to take something else.

"Will you take brandy-and-soda?" said her son, rather brusquely.

Lady Carbury lowered her eyelids in protest. Then she said: "A very
little, if you please, Jasper. I dare not touch wine," she continued to
the clergyman. "I am the slave of my medical man in all matters relating
to my unfortunate digestion."

"Mother," said Jasper, "George has brought us a nice piece of news
concerning your pet Marmaduke."

The clergyman became solemn and looked steadily at his glass.

"I do not know that it is fair to describe him as my pet exactly," said
the Countess, a little troubled. "I trust there is nothing unpleasant
the matter."

"Oh, nothing! He has settled down domestically in a mansion at West
Kensington, that is all."

"What! Married!"

"Unhappily," said the Rev. George, "no, not married."

"Oh!" said the Countess slowly, as an expression of relief. "It is very
shocking, of course; very wrong indeed. Young men _will_ do these
things. It is especially foolish in Marmaduke's case, for he really
cannot afford to make any settlement such as this kind of complication
usually involves when the time comes for getting rid of it. Pray do not
let it come to Constance's ears. It is not a proper subject for a girl."

"Quite as proper a subject as marriage with a fellow like Marmaduke,"
said Jasper, rising coolly and lighting a cigaret. "However, it will be
time enough to trouble about that when there is any sign of his having
the slightest serious intentions toward Constance. For my part I dont
believe, and I never did believe, that there was anything real in the
business. This last move of his proves it--to my satisfaction, at any
rate."

Lady Carbury, with a slight but impressive bridling, and yet with an
evident sense of discomfiture, proceeded to assert herself before the
clergyman. "I beg you will control yourself, Jasper," she said. "I do
not like to be spoken to in that tone. In discharging the very great
responsibility which rests with a mother, I am compelled to take the
world as I find it, and to acknowledge that certain very deplorable
tendencies must be allowed for in society. You, in the solitude of your
laboratory, contemplate an ideal state of things that we all, I am sure,
long for, but which unhappily does not exist. I have never enquired into
Marmaduke's private life, and I think you ought not to have done so. I
could not disguise from myself the possibility of his having entered
into some such relations as those you have alluded to."

Jasper, without the slightest appearance of having heard this speech,
strolled casually out of the room. The Countess, baffled, turned to her
sympathetic guest.

"I am sure that you, George, must feel that it is absolutely necessary
for us to keep this matter to ourselves."

The Rev. George said, gravely, "I do not indeed see what blessing can
rest on our interference in such an inexpressibly shocking business. It
is for Marmaduke to wrestle with his own conscience."

"Quite so," said the Countess, shrugging her shoulders as if to invite
her absent son's attention to this confirmation of her judgment. "Is it
not absurd of Jasper to snatch at such an excuse for breaking off the
match?"

"I can sympathize with Jasper's feeling, I trust. It is natural for a
candid nature to recoil from duplicity. But all our actions need
charitable construction; and, remembering that, we should take heed to
prevent our forebearance toward others from wavering. Who knows that the
alliance with your pure and lovely daughter may not be the means
specially ordained to rescue him from his present condition."

"I think it very possible," drawled the Countess, looking at him,
nevertheless, with a certain contempt for what she privately considered
his priggish, underbred cant. "Besides, such things are recognized,
though of course they are not spoken of. No lady could with common
decency pretend to know that such connexions are possible, much less
assign one of them as a reason for breaking off an engagement."

"Pardon me," said the Rev. George; "but can these worldly considerations
add anything to the approval of our consciences? I think not. We will
keep our own counsel in this matter in the sight of Heaven. Then,
whatever the world may think, all will surely come right in the end."

"Oh, it is sure to come right in the end: these wretched businesses
always do. I cannot imagine men having such low tastes--as if there were
anything in these women more than in anybody else! Come into the
drawing-room, George."

They went into the drawing-room and found it deserted. The ladies were
in the veranda. The Countess took up the paper and composed herself for
a nap. George went into the porch, where the girls, having seen the sun
go down, were now watching the deepening gloom among the trees that
skirted the lawn. Marian proposed that they should walk through the
plantation whilst there was still a little light left, and the clergyman
readily assented. He rather repented of this when they got into the deep
gloom under the trees, and Elinor began to tell stories about adders,
wild cats, poachers, and anything else that could possibly make a
nervous man uncomfortable under such circumstances. He was quite
relieved when they saw the spark of a cigaret ahead of them and heard
the voices of Jasper and Conolly coming toward them through the
darkness.

"Oh, I believe I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Conolly," said the
Rev. George, formally, when they met. "I am glad to see you."

"Thank you," said Conolly. "If you ladies have thin shoes on as usual,
we had better come out of this."

"As we ladies happen to have our boots on," said Marian, "we shall stay
as long as we like."

Nevertheless, they soon turned homeward, and as the path was narrow,
they walked in pairs. The clergyman, with Constance, led the way. Lord
Jasper followed with Elinor. Conolly and Marian came last.

"Does that young man--Mr. Conolly--live at the Hall?" was the Rev.
George's first remark to Constance.

"No. He has rooms in Rose Cottage, that little place on Quilter's farm."

"Ha! Then he is very well off here."

"A great deal too well off. Jasper allows him to speak to him as though
he were an equal. However, I suppose Jasper knows his own business
best."

"I have observed that he is rather disposed to presume upon any
encouragement he receives. It is a bad sign in a young man, and one, I
fear, that will greatly interfere with his prospects."

"He is an American, and I suppose thinks it a fine thing to be
republican. But it is Jasper's fault. He spoils him. He once wanted to
have him in the drawing-room in the evenings to play accompaniments; but
mamma positively refused to allow it. Jasper is excessively obstinate,
and though he did not make a fuss, he got quite a habit of going over
to Rose Cottage and spending his evenings there singing and playing.
Everybody about the place used to notice it. Mamma was greatly
disgusted."

"Do you find him unpleasant--personally, I mean?"

"I! Oh dear, no! I should never dream of speaking to him. His presence
is unpleasant, because he exercises a bad influence on Jasper; so I
wish, on that account alone, that he would go."

"I trust Marian is careful to limit her intercourse with him as much as
possible."

"Well, Marian learns electricity from him; and of course that makes a
difference. I do not care about such things; and I never go into the
laboratory when he is there; so I do not know whether Marian lets him be
familiar with her or not. She is rather easygoing; and he is
insufferably conceited. However, if she wants to learn electricity, I
suppose she must put up with him. He is no worse, after all, than the
rest of the people one has to learn things from. They are all
impossible."

"It is a strange fancy of the girls, to study science."

"I am sure I dont know why they do it. It is great nonsense for Jasper
to do it, either. He will never keep up his position properly until he
shuts up that stupid workshop. He ought to hunt and shoot and entertain
a great deal more than he does. It is very hard on us, for we are
altogether in Jasper's hands for such matters. I think he is very
foolish."

"Not foolish. Dont say that. Excuse my giving you a little lecture; but
it is not right to speak, even without thought, of your brother as a
fool. No doubt he is a little injudicious; but all men are not called to
the same pursuits."

"If people have a certain position, they ought to make up their minds
to the duties of their position, whether they are called to them or
not."

The Rev. George, missing the deference with which ladies not related to
him usually received his admonitions, changed the subject.

Meanwhile, Conolly and Marian, walking more slowly than the rest, had
fallen far behind. They had been silent at first. She seemed to be in
trouble. At last, after some wistful glances at him, she said:

"Have you resolved to go to London to-morrow; or will you wait until
Friday?"

"To-morrow, Miss Lind. Can I do anything for you in town?"

Marian hesitated painfully.

"Do not mind giving me plenty of bother," he said. "I am so accustomed
to superintend the transit of machines as cumbersome as trunks and as
fragile as bonnet boxes, that the care of a houseful of ordinary luggage
would be a mere amusement for me."

"Thank you; but it is not that. I was only thinking--Are you likely to
see my cousin, Mr. Marmaduke Lind, whilst you are in London?"

"N--no. Unless I call upon him, which I have no excuse for doing."

"Oh! I thought you knew him."

"I met him at that concert."

"But I thought you were in the habit of going about with him. At least,
I understood him one day to say that you had been to the theatre
together."

"So we were; but only once. We went there after the concert, and I have
never seen him since."

"Oh, indeed! I quite mistook."

"If you have any particular reason for wishing me to see him, I will.
It will be all right if I have a message from you. Shall I call on him?
It will be no trouble to me."

"No, oh no. I wanted--it was something that could only be told to him
indirectly by an intimate friend--by some one with influence over him.
More a hint than anything else. But it does not matter. At least, it
cannot be helped."

Conolly did not speak until they had gone some thirty yards or so in
silence. Then he said: "If the matter is of serious importance to you,
Miss Lind, I think I can manage to have a message conveyed to him by a
person who has influence over him. I am not absolutely certain that I
can; but probably I shall succeed without any great difficulty."

Marian looked at him in some surprise. "I hardly know what I ought to
do," she said, doubtfully.

"Then do nothing," said Conolly bluntly. "Or, if you want anything said
to this gentleman, write to him yourself."

"But I dont know his address, and my brother says I ought not to write
to him. I dont think I ought, either; but I want him to be told
something that may prevent a great deal of unhappiness. It seems so
unfeeling to sit down quietly and say, 'It is not my business to
interfere,' when the mischief might so easily be prevented."

"I advise you to be very cautious, Miss Lind. Taking care of other
people's happiness is thankless and dangerous. You dont know your
cousin's address, you say?"

"No. I thought you did."

Conolly shook his head. "Who does know it?" he said.

"My brother George does; but he refused to tell me. I shall not ask him
again."

"Of course not. I can find it out for you. But of what use will that be,
since you think you ought not to write to him?"

"I assure you, Mr. Conolly, that if it only concerned myself, I would
not hesitate to tell you the whole story, and ask your advice. I feel
sure you would shew me what was right. But this is a matter which
concerns other people only."

"Then you have my advice without telling me. Dont meddle in it."

"But--"

"But what?"

"After all, what I wish to do could not possibly bring about mischief.
If Marmaduke could be given a hint to come down here at once--he has
been invited, and is putting off his visit from week to week--it would
be sufficient. He will get into trouble if he makes any more excuses.
And he can set everything right by coming down now."

"Are you sure you dont mean only that he can smooth matters over for the
present?"

"No, you mistake. It is not so much to smooth matters over as to rescue
him from a bad influence that is ruining him. There is a person in
London from whom he must he got away at all hazards. If you only knew--I
_wish_ you knew."

"Perhaps I know more than you suppose. Come, Miss Lind, let us
understand one another. Your family want your cousin to marry Lady
Constance. I know that. She does not object. I know that too. He does."

"Oh!" exclaimed Marian, "you are wrong. He does not."

"Anyhow," continued Conolly, "he acts with a certain degree of
indifference toward her--keeps away at present, for instance. I infer
that the bad influence you have mentioned is the cause of his
remissness."

"Yes, you are right; only, looking at it all from without as you do, you
are mistaken as to Marmaduke's character. He is easily led away, and
very careless about the little attentions that weigh so much with women;
but he is thoroughly honorable, and incapable of trifling with Lady
Constance. Unfortunately, he is easily imposed on, and impatient of
company in which he cannot be a little uproarious. I fear that somebody
has taken advantage of this part of his character to establish a great
ascendency over him. I"--here Marian became nervous, and controlled her
voice with difficulty--"I saw this person once in a theatre; and I can
imagine how she would fascinate Marmaduke. She was so clever, so
handsome, and--and so utterly abominable. I was angry with Duke for
bringing us to the place; and I remember now that he was angry with me
because I said she made me shudder."

"Utterly abominable is a strong thing for one woman to say of another,"
said Conolly, with a certain sternness. "However, I can understand your
having that feeling about her. I know her; and it is through her that I
hope to find out his address for you."

"But her address is his address now, Mr. Conolly. I think it is
somewhere in West Kensington."

Conolly stopped, and turned upon her so suddenly that she recoiled a
step, frightened.

"Since when, pray?"

"Very lately, I think. I do not know."

They neither moved nor spoke for some moments: she earnestly regretting
that she had lingered so far behind her companions in the terrible
darkness. He walked on at last faster than before. No more words passed
between them until they came out into the moonlight close to the
veranda. Then he stopped again, and took off his hat.

"Permit me to leave you now," he said, with an artificial politeness
worthy of Douglas himself. "Good-night."

"Good-night," faltered Marian.

He walked gravely away. Marian hurried into the veranda, where she found
Jasper and Elinor. The other couple had gone into the drawing-room.

"Hallo!" said Jasper, "where is Conolly? I want to say a word to him
before he goes."

"He has just gone," said Marian, pointing across the lawn. Jasper
immediately ran out in the direction indicated, and left the two cousins
alone together.

"Well, Marian," said Elinor, "do you know that you have taken more than
quarter of an hour longer to come from the plantation than we did, and
that you look quite scared? Our sweet Constance, as the parson calls
her, has been making some kind remarks about it."

"Do I look disturbed? I hope Auntie wont notice it. I wish I could go
straight to bed without seeing anybody."

"Why? What is the matter?"

"I will tell you to-night when you come in to me. I am disgusted with
myself; and I think Conolly is mad."

"Mad!"

"On my word, I think Conolly has gone mad," said Lord Jasper, returning
at this moment out of breath and laughing.

Elinor, startled, glanced at Marian.

"He was walking quite soberly toward the fence of the yellow field when
I caught sight of him. Just as I was about to hail him, he started off
and cleared the fence at a running jump. He walked away at a furious
rate, swinging his arms about, and laughing as if he was enjoying some
uncommonly good joke. I am not sure that I did not see him dance a
hornpipe; but as it is so dark I wont swear to that."

"You had better not," said Elinor, sceptically. "Let us go in; and pray
do not encourage George to talk. I have a headache, and want to go to
bed."

"You have been in very good spirits, considering your headache," he
replied, in the same incredulous tone. "It has come on rather suddenly,
has it not?"

When they went into the drawing-room they found that Constance had
awakened her mother, and had already given her an account of their walk.
Jasper added a description of what he had just witnessed. "I have not
laughed so much for a long time," he said, in conclusion. "He is usually
such a steady sort of fellow."

"I see nothing very amusing in the antics of a drunken workman," said
the Countess. "How you could have left Marian in his care even for a
moment I am at a loss to conceive."

"He was not drunk, indeed," said Marian.

"Certainly not," said Jasper, rather indignantly. "I was walking with
him for some time before we met the girls. You are very pale, Marian.
Have you also a headache?"

"I have been playing tennis all day; and I am quite tired out."

Soon afterward, when Marian was in bed, and Miss McQuinch, according to
a nightly custom of theirs, was seated on the coverlet with her knees
doubled up to her chin inside her bedgown, they discussed the adventure
very earnestly.

"Dont understand him at all, I confess," said Elinor, when Marian had
related what had passed in the plantation. "Wasnt it rather rash to make
a confidant of him in such a delicate matter?"

"That is what makes me feel so utterly ashamed. He might have known that
I only wanted to do good. I thought he was so entirely above false
delicacy."

"I dont mean that. How do you know that the story is true? You only have
it from Mrs. Leith Fairfax's letter; and she is perhaps the greatest
liar in the world."

"Oh, Nelly, you ought not to talk so strongly about people. She would
never venture to tell me a made-up tale about Marmaduke."

"In my opinion, she would tell anybody anything for the sake of using
her tongue or pen."

"It is so hard to know what to do. There was nobody whom I could trust,
was there? Jasper has always been against Marmaduke; and Constance, of
course, was out of the question. There was Auntie, but I did not like to
tell her."

"Because she is an evil-minded old Jezebel, whom no nice woman would
talk to on such a subject," said Elinor, giving the bed a kick with her
heel.

"Hush, Nelly. I am always in terror lest you should say something like
that before other people, out of sheer habit."

"Never fear. Well, you have done the best you could. No use regretting
what cannot be recalled. You cannot have the security of conventionality
along with the self-respect of sincerity. By the bye, do you remember
that Jasper and his fond mamma and George had a family council after
dinner? You may be sure that George has told them everything."

"What! Then my wretched attempt to have Marmaduke warned was useless.
Oh, Nelly, this is too bad. Do you really think so? When I told him
before dinner what Mrs. Leith Fairfax wrote, he only said he feared it
was true, and refused to give me the address."

"And so threw you back on Conolly. I am glad the responsibility rests
with George. He knew very well that it was true; for he had only just
been telling Jasper. Jasper told me as much in the plantation. Master
Georgy has no right to be your brother. He is worse than a dissenter.
Dissenters try to be gentlemen; but George has no misgivings about
himself on that score; so he gives his undivided energy to his efforts
to be parsonic. He is an arrant hypocrite."

"I dont think he is a hypocrite. I think he sincerely believes that his
duty to the Church requires him to behave as he does."

"Then he is a donkey, which is worse."

"I wish he were more natural in his manner."

"He is natural enough. It is always the same with parsons: 'it is their
nature to.' Good-night. Men are all the same, my dear, all the same."

"How do you mean?"

"Never mind. Good-night."




CHAPTER V


A little removed from a pretty road in West Kensington, and
communicating with it by a shrubbery and an iron gate, there stood at
this time a detached villa called Laurel Grove. On the opposite side
were pairs of recently built houses, many of them still unlet. These,
without depriving the neighbourhood of its suburban quietude, forbade
any feeling of rustic seclusion, and so made it agreeable to Susanna
Conolly, who lived at Laurel Grove with Marmaduke Lind.

One morning in September they were at breakfast together. Beside each
was a pile of letters. Marmaduke deferred opening his until his hunger
was satisfied; but Susanna, after pouring out tea for him, seized the
uppermost envelope, thrust her little finger under the flap, and burst
it open.

"Hm," she said. "First rehearsal next Monday. Here he is at me again to
make the engagement renewable after Christmas. What an old fool he must
be not to guess why I dont want to be engaged next spring! Just look at
the _Times_, Bob, and see if the piece is advertized yet."

"I should think so, by Jupiter," said Marmaduke, patiently interrupting
his meal to open the newspaper.

"Here is a separate advertisement for everybody. 'The latest Parisian
success. _La petite Maison du Roi._ Music by M. de Jongleur. Mr.
Faulkner has the honor to announce that an adaptation by Mr. Cribbs of
M. de Jongleur's opera bouffe _La petite Maison du Roi_, entitled King
Lewis on the lewis'--what the deuce does that mean?"

"On the loose, of course."

"But it is spelt l-e-w----oh! its a pun. What an infernal piece of
idiocy! Then it goes on as usual, except that each name in the cast has
a separate line of large print. Here you are: 'Lalage Virtue as Madame
Dubarry'----"

"Is that at the top?"

"Yes."

"Before Rose Stella?"

"Yes. Why!--I didnt notice it before--you are down fifteen times!
Every alternate space has your name over again. 'Lalage Virtue as Madame
Dubarry. Fred Smith as Louis XV. Lalage Virtue as the Dubarry. Felix
Sumner as the Due de Richelieu. Lalage Virtue as _la belle Jeanneton_.'
By the way, that is all rot. Cardinal Richelieu died four or five
hundred years before Madame Dubarry was born."

"Let me see the paper. I see they have given Rose Stella the last line
with a big AND before it. No matter. She is down only once; and I am
down fifteen times."

"I wonder what all these letters of mine are about! This is a bill, of
course. The West Kensington Wine Company. Whew! We are getting through
the champagne at the rate of about thirty pounds a month, not counting
what we pay for when we dine in town."

"Well, what matter! Champagne does nobody any harm; and I get awfully
low without it."

"All right, my dear. So long as you please yourself, and dont injure
your health, I dont care. Here's a letter of yours put among mine by
mistake. It has been forwarded from your old diggings at Lambeth."

"It's from Ned," said Susanna, turning pale. "He must be coming home,
or he would not write. Yes, he is. What shall I do?"

"What does he say?" said Marmaduke, taking the letter from her. "'_Back
at 6 on Wednesday evening. Have high tea. N.C._' Short and sweet! Well,
he will not turn up til to-morrow, at all events, even if he knows the
address, which of course he doesnt."

"He knows nothing. His note shews that. What _will_ he do when he finds
me gone? He may get the address at the post-office, where I told them to
send on my letters. The landlady has most likely found out for her own
information. There is no mistake about it," said Susanna, rising and
walking to the window: "I am in a regular funk about him. I have half a
mind to go back to Lambeth and meet him. I could let the murder out
gradually, or, perhaps, get him off to the country again before he
discovers anything."

"Go back! oh no, nonsense! The worst he can do is to cut you--and a good
job too."

"I wish he would. It would be a relief to me at present to know for
certain that he would."

"He cant be so very thin-skinned as you fancy, considering the time you
have been on the stage."

"There's nothing wrong in being on the stage. There's nothing wrong in
being here either, in spite of Society. After all, what do I care about
Ned, or anybody else? He always went his own way when it suited him; and
he has no right to complain if I go mine. Let him come if he likes: he
will not get much satisfaction from me." Susanna sat down again, and
drank some tea, partly defiant, partly disconsolate.

"Dont think any more about it," said Marmaduke. "He wont come."

"Oh, let him, if he likes," said Susanna, impatiently. Marmaduke did not
quite sympathize with her sudden recklessness. He hoped that Conolly
would have the good sense to keep away.

"Look here, Bob," said she, when they had finished breakfast. "Let us go
somewhere to-day. I feel awfully low. Let us have a turn up the river."

"All right," said Marmaduke, with alacrity. "Whatever you please. How
shall we go?"

"Anyhow. Let us go to Hampton by train. When we get there we can settle
what to do afterward. Can you come now?"

"Yes, whenever you are ready."

"Then I will run upstairs and dress. Go out and amuse yourself with
that blessed old lawn-mower until I come."

"Yes, I think I will," said Marmaduke, seriously. "That plot near the
gate wants a trimming badly."

"What a silly old chap you are, Bob!" she said, stopping to kiss him on
each cheek as she left the room.

Marmaduke had become attached to the pursuit of gardening since his
domestication. He put on his hat; went out; and set to work on the plot
near the gate. The sun was shining brightly; and when he had taken a few
turns with the machine he stopped, raising his face to the breeze, and
saw Conolly standing so close to him that he started backward, and made
a vague movement as if to ward off a blow. Conolly, who seemed amused by
the mowing, said quietly: "That machine wants oiling: the clatter
prevented you from hearing me come. I have just returned from Carbury
Towers. Miss Lind is staying there; and she has asked me to give you a
message."

This speech perplexed Marmaduke. He inferred from it that Conolly was
ignorant of Susanna's proceedings, but he had not sufficient effrontery
to welcome him unconcernedly at once. So he stood still and stared at
him.

"I am afraid I have startled you," Conolly went on, politely. "I found
the gate unlocked, and thought it would be an unnecessary waste of time
to ring the bell. You have a charming little place here."

"Yes, it's a pretty little place, isnt it?" said Marmaduke. "A--wont you
come in and have a--excuse my bringing you round this way, will you? My
snuggery is at the back of the house."

"Thank you; but I had rather not go in. I have a great deal of business
to do in town to-day; so I shall just discharge my commission and go."

"At any rate, come into the shade," said Marmaduke, glancing uneasily
toward the windows of the house. "This open place is enough to give us
sunstroke."

Conolly followed him to a secluded part of the shrubbery, where they sat
down on a bench.

"Is there anything up?" said Marmaduke, much oppressed.

"Will you excuse my speaking without ceremony?"

"Oh, certainly. Fire away!"

"Thank you. I must then tell you that the relations between you and Lady
Constance are a source of anxiety to her brother. You know the way men
feel bound to look after their sisters. You have, I believe, sisters of
your own?"

Marmaduke nodded, and stole a doubtful glance at Conolly's face.

"It appears that Lord Carbury has all along considered your courtship
too cool to be genuine. In this view he was quite unsupported, the
Countess being strongly in your favor, and the young lady devoted to
you."

"Well, I knew all that. At least, I suspected it. What is up now?"

"This. The fact of your having taken a villa here has reached the ears
of the family at Carbury. They are, not unnaturally, curious to know
what use a bachelor can have for such an establishment."

"But I have my rooms in Clarges Street still. This is not my house. It
was taken for another person."

"Precisely what they seem to think. But, to be brief with you, Miss Lind
thinks that unless you wish to break with the Earl, and quarrel with
your family, you should go down to Towers Cottage at once."

"But I cant go away just now. There are reasons."

"Miss Lind is fully acquainted with your reasons. They are her reasons
for wishing you to leave London immediately. And now, having executed my
commission, I must ask you to excuse me. My time is much occupied."

"Well, I am greatly obliged to you for coming all this way out of town
to give me the straight tip," said Marmaduke, relieved at the prospect
of getting rid of his visitor without alluding to Susanna. "It is very
good of you; and I am very glad to see you. Jolly place, Carbury Park
is, isnt it? How will the shooting be?"

"First rate, I am told. I do not know much about it myself." They had
risen, and were strolling along the path leading to the gate.

"Shall I see you down there--if I go?"

"Possibly. I shall have to go down for a day at least, to get my
luggage, in case I decide not to renew my engagement with Lord Jasper."

"I hope so," said Marmaduke. Then, as they reached the gate, he
proffered his hand, in spite of an inward shrinking, and said heartily,
"Good-bye, old fellow. Youre looking as well as possible."

Conolly took his hand, and retained it whilst he said: "Good-bye, Mr.
Lind. I am quite well, thank you. If I may ask--how is Susanna?"

Marmaduke was prevented by a spasm of the throat from replying. Before
he recovered, Susanna herself, attired for her proposed trip to Hampton,
emerged from the shrubbery and stood before them, confounded. Conolly,
still wearing the cordial expression with which he had shaken
Marmaduke's hand, looked at her, then at her protector, and then at her
again.

"I have been admiring the villa, Susanna," said he, after an emphatic
silence. "It is better than our place at Lambeth. You wont mind my
hurrying away: I have a great deal to do in town. Good-bye. Good-bye,
Mr. Lind."

Susanna murmured something. Marmaduke, after making an effort to bid his
guest good-bye genially, opened the gate, and stood for a minute
watching him as he strode away.

"What does _he_ care what becomes of me, the selfish brute!" cried
Susanna, passionately.

"He didnt complain: he has nothing to complain of," said Marmaduke.
"Anyhow, why didnt he stay at home and look after you? By George,
Susanna, he is the coolest card I ever came across."

"What brought him here?" she demanded, vehemently.

"That reminds me. I am afraid I must go down to Carbury for a few
days."

"And what am I to do here alone? Are _you_ going to leave me too?"

"Well, I cannot be in two places at the same time. I suppose you can
manage to get on without me for a few days."

"I will go home. I can get on without you altogether. I will go home."

"Come, Susanna! what is the use of kicking up a row? I cant afford to
quarrel with all my people because you choose to be unreasonable."

"What do I care about your people, or about you either?"

"Very well, then," said Marmaduke, offended, "you can go home if you
like. Perhaps your brother appreciates this sort of thing. I dont."

"Ah, you coward! You taunt me because you think I have no home. Do you
flatter yourself that I am dependent on you?"

"Hold your tongue," said Marmaduke, fiercely. "Dont you turn on me in
that fashion. Keep your temper if you want me to keep mine."

"You have ruined me," said Susanna, sitting down on the grass, and
beginning to cry.

"Oh, upon my soul, this is too much," said Marmaduke, with disgust. "Get
up out of that and dont make a fool of yourself. Ruined indeed! Will you
get up?"

"No!" screamed Susanna.

"Then stay where you are and be damned," retorted Marmaduke, turning on
his heel and walking toward the house. In the hall he met a maid
carrying an empty champagne bottle and goblet.

"Missis is looking for you, sir," said the maid.

"All right," said Marmaduke, "I have seen her. Listen to me. I am going
to the country. My man Mason will come here to-day to pack up my traps,
and bring them after me. You had better take a note of my address from
the card in the strap of my valise."

"Yes, sir," said the maid. "Any message for missis?"

"No," said Marmaduke. He then changed his coat and hat, and went out
again. As he approached the gate he met Susanna, who had risen and was
walking toward the house.

"I am going to Carbury," he said. "I dont know when I shall be back."

She passed on disdainfully, as if she had not heard him.




CHAPTER VI


Three days later Lord Carbury came to luncheon with a letter in his
hand. Marian had not yet come in; and the Rev. George was absent, his
place being filled by Marmaduke.

"Good news for you and Constance, mother."

"Indeed?" said the Countess, smiling.

"Yes. Conolly is coming down this afternoon to collect his traps and
leave you forever."

"Really, Jasper, you exaggerate Mr. Conolly's importance. Intelligence
of his movements can hardly be news--good or bad--either to me or to
Constance."

"I am glad he is going," said Constance, "for Jasper's sake."

"Thank you," replied Jasper. "I thought you would be. He will be a great
loss to me."

"Nonsense!" said the Countess. "If another workman is needed, another
can easily be had."

"If I can be of any assistance to you, old man," said Marmaduke, "make
what use of me you like. I picked up something about the business
yesterday."

"Yes," said Elinor. "While you were away, Jasper, he went to the
laboratory with Constance, and fired off a brass cannon with your new
pile until he had used up all the gunpowder and spoiled the panels of
the door. That is what he calls picking up something about the
business."

"Nothing like experiment for convincing you of the power of
electricity," said Marmaduke. "Is there, Conny?"

"It's very wonderful; but I hate shots."

"Where is Marian?" said Lady Carbury.

"I left her in the summer-house in the fruit garden," said Elinor. "She
was reading."

"She must have forgotten the hour," said the Countess. "She has been
moping, I think, for the last few days. I hope she is not unwell. But
she would never stay away from luncheon intentionally. I shall send for
her."

"I'll go," said Marmaduke, eagerly.

"No, no, Duke. You must not leave the table. I will send a servant."

"I will fetch her here in half the time that any servant will. Poor
Marian, why shouldnt she have her lunch? I shall be back in a jiffy."

"What a restless, extraordinary creature he is!" said Lady Carbury,
displeased, as Marmaduke hastily left the room. "The idea of a man
leaving the table in that way!"

"I suspect he has his reasons," said Elinor.

"I think it is a perfectly natural thing for him to do," said Constance,
pettishly. "I see nothing extraordinary in it."

Marmaduke found Marian reading in the summer-house in the fruit garden.
She looked at him in lazy surprise as he seated himself opposite to her
at the table.

"This is the first chance I've had of talking to you privately since I
came down," he said. "I believe you have been keeping out of my way on
purpose."

"Well, I concluded that you wanted as many chances as possible of
talking to some one else in private; so I gave you as many as I could."

"Yes, you and the rest have been uncommonly considerate in that respect:
thank you all awfully. But I mean to have it out with you, Miss Marian,
now that I have caught you alone."

"With me! Oh, dear! What have I done?"

"What have you done? I'll tell you what youve done. Why did you send
Conolly, of all men in the world, to tell me that I was in disgrace
here?"

"There was no one else, Marmaduke."

"Well, suppose there wasn't! Suppose there had been no one else alive on
the earth except you, and I, and he, and Constance, and Su--and
Constance! how could you have offered him such a job?"

"Why not? Was there any special reason--"

"Any special reason! Didnt your common sense tell you that a meeting
between him and me must be particularly awkward for both of us?"

"No. At least I--. Marmaduke: I think you must fancy that I told him
more than I did. I did not know where you were; and as he was going to
London, and I thought you knew him well, and I had no other means of
warning you, I had to make use of him. Jasper will tell you how
thoroughly trustworthy he is. But all I said--and I really could not say
less--was that I was afraid you were in bad company, or under bad
influence, or something like that; and that I only wanted you to come
down here at once."

"Oh! Indeed! That was _all_, was it? Merely that I was in bad company."

"I think I said under bad influence. I was told so; and I believed it at
the time. I hope it's not true, Marmaduke. If it is not, I beg your
pardon with all my heart."

Marmaduke stared very hard at her for a while, and then said, with the
emphasis of a man baffled by utter unreason: "Well, I _am_ damned!" at
which breach of good manners she winced. "Hang me if I understand you,
Marian," he continued, more mildly. "Of course it's not true. Bad
influence is all bosh. But it was a queer thing to say to his face. He
knew very well you meant his sister. Hallo! what's the matter? Are you
going to faint?"

"No, I--Never mind me."

"Never mind you!" said Marmaduke. "What are you looking like that for?"

"Because--it is nothing: I only blushed. Dont be stupid, Duke."

"Blushed! Why dont you blush red, like other people, and not green?
Shall I get you something?"

"No, no. Oh, Duke, why did you not tell me? How could you be so
heartless as to leave us all in the dark when we were talking about you
before him every day! Oh, are you in earnest, Duke? Pray dont jest about
it. What do you mean by his sister? I never knew he had one. Who is she?
What happened? I mean when you saw him?"

"Nothing happened. I was mowing in the garden. He just walked in; bade
me good morning; admired the place; and told me he came with a message
from you that things were getting hot here. Then he went off, as cool as
you please. He didnt seem to mind."

"And he warned you, in spite of all."

"More for your sake than for mine, I suspect. He's rather sweet on you,
isnt he?"

"Oh, Duke, Duke, are you not ashamed of yourself?"

"Deuce a bit. But I'm in trouble; and I want you to stand by me. Look
here, Marian, you have no nonsense about you, I know. I may tell you
frankly how I am situated, maynt I?"

Marian looked at him apprehensively, and said nothing.

"You see you will only mix up matters worse than before unless you know
the truth. Besides, I offered to marry her: upon my soul I did; but she
refused. Her real name is Susanna Conolly: his sister, worse luck."

"Dont tell me any more of this, Duke. It is not right."

"I suppose it's not right, as you say. But what am I to do? I must tell
you; or you will go on making mischief with Constance."

"As if I would tell her! I promise that she shall never know from me. Is
that enough?"

"No: its too much. The plain truth is that I dont care whether she finds
me out or not. I want her to understand thoroughly, once and for ever,
that I wont marry her."

"Marmaduke!"

"Not if I were fifty Marmadukes!"

"Then you will break her heart."

"Never fear! Her heart is pretty tough, if she has one. Whether or no, I
am not going to have her forced on me by the Countess or any one else.
The truth is, Marian, they have all tried to bully me into this match.
Constance can't complain."

"No, not aloud."

"Neither aloud or alow. I never proposed to her."

"Very well, Marmaduke: there is no use now in blaming Auntie or excusing
yourself. If you have made up your mind, there is an end."

"But you cant make out that I am acting meanly, Marian. Why, I have
everything to lose by giving her up. There is her money, and I suppose I
must prepare for a row with the family; unless the match could be
dropped quietly. Eh?"

"And is that what you want me to manage for you?"

"Well--. Come, Marian! dont be savage. I have been badly used in this
affair. They forced it on me. I did all I could to keep out of it. She
was thrown at my head. Besides, I once really used to think I could
settle down with her comfortably some day. I only found out what an
insipid little fool she was when I had a woman of sense to compare her
with."

"Dont say hard things about her. I think you might have a little
forbearance towards her under the circumstances."

"Hm! I dont feel very forbearing. She has been sticking to me for the
last few days like a barnacle. Our respectable young ladies think a lot
of themselves, but--except you and Nelly--I dont know a woman in society
who has as much brains in her whole body as Susanna Conolly has in her
little finger nail. I cant imagine how the deuce you all have the cheek
to expect men to talk to you, much less marry you."

"Perhaps there is something that honest men value more than brains."

"I should like to know what it is. If it is something that ladies have
and Susanna hasnt, it is not either good looks or good sense. If it's
respectability, that depends on what you consider respectable. If
Conny's respectable and Susanna isnt, then I prefer disrepu--"

"Hush, Duke, you know you have no right to speak to me like this. Let
us think of poor Constance. How is she to be told the truth?"

"Let her find it out. I shall go back to London as soon as I can; and
the affair will drop somehow or another. She will forget all about me."

"Happy-go-lucky Marmaduke. I think if neglect and absence could make her
forget you, you would have been forgotten before this."

"Yes. You see you must admit that I gave her no reason to suppose I
meant anything."

"I am afraid you have consulted your own humor both in your neglect and
your attentions, Duke. The more you try to excuse yourself, the more
inexcusable your conduct appears. I do not know how to advise you. If
Constance is told, you may some day forget all about your present
infatuation; and then a mass of mischief and misery will have been made
for nothing. If she is not told, you will be keeping up a cruel
deception and wasting her chances of----but she will never care for
anybody else."

"Better do as I say. Leave matters alone for the present. But mind! no
speculating on my changing my intentions. I wont marry her."

"I wish you hadnt told me about it."

"Well, Marian, I couldnt help it. I know, of course, that you only
wanted to make us all happy; but you nursed this match and kept it in
Constance's mind as much as you could. Besides--though it was not your
fault--that mistake about Conolly was too serious not to explain. Dont
be downcast: I am not blaming you a bit."

"It seems to me that the worst view of things is always the true one in
this world. Nelly and Jasper were right about you."

"Aha! So _they_ saw what I felt. You cant say I did not make my
intentions plain enough to every unbiassed person. The Countess was
determined to get Constance off her hands; Constance was determined to
have me; and you were determined to stick up for your own notions of
love and honeysuckles."

"I was determined to stick up for _you_, Marmaduke."

"Dont be indignant: I knew you would stick up for me in your own way.
But what I want to shew is, that only three people believed that I was
in earnest; and those three were prejudiced."

"I wish you had enlightened Constance, and deceived all the rest of the
world, instead. No doubt I was wrong, very wrong. I am very sorry."

"Pshaw! It doesnt matter. It will all blow over some day. Hush, I hear
the garden gate opening. It is Constance, come to spy what I am doing
here with you. She is as jealous as a crocodile--very nearly made a
scene yesterday because I played with Nelly against her at tennis. I
have to drive her to Bushy Copse this afternoon, confound it!"

"And _will_ you, after what you have just confessed?"

"I must. Besides, Jasper says that Conolly is coming this evening to
pack up his traps and go; and I want to be out of the way when he is
about."

"This evening!"

"Yes. Between ourselves, Marian, Susanna and I were so put out by the
cool way he carried on when he called, that we had a regular quarrel
after he went; and we haven't made it up yet."

"Pray dont talk about it to me, Duke. Here is Constance."

"So you are here," said Constance, gaily, but with a quick glance at
them. "That is a pretty way to bring your cousin in to luncheon, sir."

"We got chatting about you, my ownest," said Marmaduke; "and the subject
was so sweet, and the moments were so fleet, that we talked for quite an
hour on the strict q.t. Eh, Marian?"

"As a punishment, you shall have no lunch. Mamma is very angry with you
both."

"Always ready to make allowances for her, provided she sends you to
lecture me, Conny. Why dont you wear your hat properly?" He arranged her
hat as he spoke. Constance laughed and blushed. Marian shuddered. "Now
youre all that fancy painted you: youre lovely, youre divine. Are you
ready for Bushy Copse?"

Constance replied by singing:

  "Oh yes, if you please, kind sir, she said; sir, she said; sir, she said;
  Oh! yes if you ple--ease, kind sir, she said."

"Then come along. After your ladyship," he said, taking her elbows as if
they were the handles of a wheelbarrow, and pushing her out before him
through the narrow entrance to the summer-house. On the threshold he
turned for a moment; met Marian's reproachful eyes with a wink; grinned;
and disappeared.

For half an hour afterward Marian sat alone in the summer-house,
thinking of the mistake she had made. Then she returned to the Cottage,
where she found Miss McQuinch writing in the library, and related to her
all that had passed in the summer-house. Elinor listened, seated in a
rocking-chair, restlessly clapping her protended ankles together. When
she heard of Conolly's relationship to Susanna, she kept still for a
few moments, looking with widely opened eyes at Marian. Then, with a
sharp laugh, she said:

"Well, I beg his pardon. I thought he was another of that woman's
retainers. I never dreamt of his being her brother."

Marian was horror stricken. "You thought--! Oh, Nelly, what puts such
things into your head?"

"So would you have thought it if you had the least gumption about
people. However, I was wrong; and I'm glad of it. However, I was right
about Marmaduke. I told you so, over and over and over again."

"I know you did; but I didnt think you were in earnest."

"No, you never can conceive my being in earnest when I differ from you,
until the event proves me to be right."

"I am afraid it will kill Constance."

"_Dont_, Marian!" cried Elinor, giving her chair a violent swing.

"I am quite serious. You know how delicate she is."

"Well, if she dies of any sentiment, it will be wounded vanity. Serve
her right for allowing a man to be forced into marrying her. I believe
she knows in her soul that he does not care about her. Why else should
she be jealous of me, of you, and of everybody?"

"It seems to me that instead of sympathizing with the unfortunate girl,
both you and Marmaduke exult in her disappointment."

"I pity her, poor little wretch. But I dont sympathize with her. I dont
pity Marmaduke one bit: if the whole family cuts him he will deserve it
richly, but I do sympathize with him. Can you wonder at his preference?
When we went to see that woman last June I envied her. There she was,
clever, independent, successful, holding her own in the world, earning
her living, fascinating a crowd of people, whilst we poor respectable
nonentities sat pretending to despise her--as if we were not waiting
until some man in want of a female slave should offer us our board and
lodging and the privilege of his lordly name with 'Missis' before it for
our lifelong services. You may make up as many little bread-and-butter
romances as you please, Marian; but I defy you to give me any sensible
reason why Marmaduke should chain himself for ever to a little inane
thing like Constance, when he can enjoy the society of a capable woman
like that without binding himself at all."

"Nonsense, Nelly! Really, you oughtnt to say such things."

"No. I ought to keep both eyes tight shut so that I may be contented in
that station to which it has pleased God to call me."

"Imagine his proposing to marry her, Nell! I am just as wicked as you;
for I am very glad she refused; though I cant conceive why she did it."

"Perhaps," said Miss McQuinch, becoming excited, "she refused because
she had too much good sense: aye, and too much common decency to accept.
It is all very well for us fortunate good-for-nothings to resort to
prostitution----"

"Oh, Nelly!"

"--I say, to prostitution, to secure ourselves a home and an income.
Somebody said openly in Parliament the other day that marriage was the
true profession of women. So it is a profession; and except that it is a
harder bargain for both parties, and that society countenances it, I
dont see how it differs from what we--bless our virtuous
indignation!--stigmatize as prostitution. _I_ dont mean ever to be
married, I can tell you, Marian. I would rather die than sell myself
forever to a man, and stand in a church before a lot of people whilst
George or somebody read out that cynically plain-spoken marriage service
over me."

"Stop Nelly! Pray stop! If you thought for a moment you would never say
such awful things."

"I thought we had agreed long ago that marriage is a mistake."

"Yes; but that is very different to what you are saying now."

"I cannot see----"

"Pray stop, Nelly. Dont go on in that strain. It does no good; and it
makes me very uncomfortable."

"I'll take it out in work," said Nelly calmly, returning to her
manuscript. "I can see that, as you say, talking does no good. All the
more reason why I should have another try at earning my own living. When
I become a great novelist I shall say what I like and do what I please.
For the present I am your obedient, humble servant."

At any other time Marian would have protested, and explained, and
soothed. Now she was too heavily preoccupied by her guilty conscience.
She strolled disconsolately to the window, and presently, seeing that
Miss McQuinch was at work in earnest and had better not be disturbed,
went off for a lonely walk. It was a glorious afternoon; and nature
heaped its peculiar consolations on her; so that she never thought of
returning until the sun was close to the horizon. As she came, tired,
through the plantation, with the evening glow and the light wind, in
which the branches were rustling and the leaves dropping, lulling her
luxuriously, she heard some one striding swiftly along the path behind.
She looked back; but there was a curve in the way; and she could not see
who was coming. Then it occurred to her that it might be Conolly.
Dreading to face him after what had happened, she stole aside among the
trees a little way, and sat down on a stone, hoping that he might pass
by without seeing her. The next moment he came round the curve, looking
so resolute and vigorous that her heart became fainter as she watched
him. Just opposite where she sat, he stopped, having a clear view of the
path ahead for some distance, and appeared puzzled. Marian held her
breath. He looked to the left through the trees, then to the right,
where she was.

"Good-evening, Miss Lind," he said respectfully, raising his hat.

"Good-evening," said she, trembling.

"You are not looking quite well."

"I have walked too much; and I feel a little tired. That is why I had to
sit down. I shall be rested presently."

Conolly sat down on a felled trunk opposite Marian. "This is my last
visit to Carbury Towers," he said. "No doubt you know that I am going
for good."

"Yes," said Marian. "I--I am greatly obliged to you for all the pains
you have taken with me in the laboratory. You have been very patient. I
suppose I have often wasted your time unreasonably."

"No," said Conolly, unceremoniously, "you have not wasted my time: I
never let anybody do that. My time belonged to Lord Carbury, not to
myself. However, that is neither here nor there. I enjoyed giving you
lessons. Unless you enjoyed taking them, the whole obligation rests on
me."

"They were very pleasant."

He shifted himself into an easier position, looking well pleased. Then
he said, carelessly, "Has Mr. Marmaduke Lind come down?"

Marian reddened and felt giddy.

"I want to avoid meeting him," continued Conolly; "and I thought perhaps
you might know enough of his movements this evening to help me to do so.
It does not matter much; but I have a reason."

Marian felt the hysteric globe at her throat as she tried to speak; but
she repressed it, and said:

"Mr. Conolly: I know the reason. I did not know before: I am sure you
did not think I did. I made a dreadful mistake."

"Why!" said Conolly, with some indignation, "who has told you since?"

"Marmaduke," said Marian, roused to reply quickly by the energy of the
questioner. "He did not mean to be indiscreet: he thought I knew."

"Thought! He never thought in his life, Miss Lind. However, he was right
enough to tell you; and I am glad you know the truth, because it
explains my behavior the last time we met. It took me aback a bit for
the moment."

"You were very forbearing. I hope you will not think me intrusive if I
tell you how sincerely sorry I am for the misfortune which has come to
you."

"What misfortune?"

Marian lost confidence again, and looked at him in silent distress.

"To be sure," he interposed, quickly. "I know; but you had put it all
out of my head. I am much obliged to you. Not that I am much concerned
about it. You will perhaps think it an instance of the depravity of my
order, Miss Lind; but I am not one of those people who think it pious to
consider their near relatives as if they were outside the natural course
of things. I never was a good son or a good brother or a good patriot in
the sense of thinking that my mother and my sister and my native country
were better than other people's because I happened to belong to them. I
knew what would happen some day, though, as usual, my foreknowledge did
not save me from a little emotion when the event came to pass. Besides,
to tell you the truth, I dont feel it as a misfortune. You know what my
sister's profession is. You told me how you felt when you saw her act.
Now, tell me fairly, and without stopping to think of whether your
answer will hurt me, would you consent to know her in private even if
you had heard nothing to her disadvantage? Would you invite her to your
house, or go to a party at which all the other women were like her?
Would you introduce young ladies to her, as you would introduce them to
Miss McQuinch? Dont stop to imagine exceptional circumstances which
might justify you in doing these things; but tell me yes or no, _would_
you?"

"You see, Mr. Conolly, I should really never have an opportunity of
doing them."

"By your leave, Miss Lind, that means No. Honestly, then, what has
Susanna to lose by disregarding your rules of behavior? Even if, by
marrying, she conciliated the notions of your class, she would only give
some man the right to ill-treat her and spend her earnings, without
getting anything in return--and remember there is a special danger of
that on the stage, for several reasons. She would not really conciliate
you by marrying, for you wouldnt associate with her a bit the more
because of her marriage certificate. Of course I am putting her
self-respect out of the question, that being a matter between herself
and her conscience, with which we have no concern. Believe me, neither
actresses nor any other class will trouble themselves about the opinion
of a society in which they are allowed to have neither part nor lot.
Perhaps I am wrong to talk about such matters to you; but you are
trained to feel all the worst that can be felt for my sister; and I feel
bound to let you know that there is something to be said in her defence.
I have no right to blame her, as she has done me no harm. The only way
in which her conduct can influence my prospects will be through her
being an undesirable sister-in-law in case I should want to marry."

"If the person you choose hesitate on that account, you can let her go
without regret," said Marian. "She will not be worthy of your regard."

"I am not so sure of that," said Conolly, laughing. "You see, Miss Lind,
if that invention of mine succeeds, I may become a noted man; and it is
fashionable nowadays for society to patronize geniuses who hit on a new
illustration of what people call the marvels of science. I am ambitious.
As a celebrity, I might win the affections of a duchess. Who knows?"

"I should not advise you to marry a duchess. I do not know many of them,
as I am a comparatively humble person; but I am sure you would not like
them."

"Aye. And possibly a lady of gentle nurture would not like me."

"On the contrary, clever people are so rare in society that I think you
would have a better chance than most men."

"Do you think my manners would pass? I learnt to dance and bow before I
was twelve years old from the most experienced master in Europe; and I
used to mix with all the counts, dukes, and queens in my father's opera
company, not to mention the fashionable people I have read about in
novels."

"You are jesting, Mr. Conolly. I do not believe that your manners give
you the least real concern."

"And you think that I may aspire in time--if I am successful in
public--to the hand of a lady?"

"Surely you know as much of the world as I. Why should you not marry a
lady, if you wish to?"

"I am afraid class prejudice would be too strong for me, after all."

"I dont think so. What hour is it now, Mr. Conolly?"

"It wants ten minutes of seven."

"Oh!" cried Marian, rising. "Miss McQuinch is probably wondering whether
I am drowned or lost. I must get back to the Hall as fast as I can. They
have returned from Bushy Copse before this; and I am sure they are
asking about me."

Conolly rose silently and walked with her as far as the path from the
cottage to the laboratory.

"This is my way, Miss Lind," said he. "I am going to the laboratory.
Will you be so kind as to give my respects to Miss McQuinch. I shall not
see her again, as I must return to town by the last train to-night."

"And are you not coming back--not at all, I mean?"

"Not at all."

"Oh!" said Marian slowly.

"Good bye, Miss Lind."

He was about to raise his hat as usual; but Marian, with a smile, put
out her hand. He took it for the first time; looked at her for a moment
gravely; and left her.

Lest they should surprise one another in the act, neither of them looked
back at the other as they went their several ways.




BOOK II




CHAPTER VII


In the spring, eighteen months after his daughter's visit to Carbury
Towers, Mr. Reginald Harrington Lind called at a house in Manchester
Square and found Mrs. Douglas at home. Sholto's mother was a widow lady
older than Mr. Lind, with a rather glassy eye and shaky hand, who would
have looked weak and shiftless in an almshouse, but who, with plenty of
money, unlimited domestic service, and unhesitating deference from
attendants who were all trained artists in their occupation, made a fair
shew of being a dignified and interesting old lady. When he was seated,
her first action was to take a new photograph from a little table at her
side, and hand it to him without a word, awaiting his recognition of it
with a shew of natural pride and affection which was amateurish in
comparison to the more polished and skilful comedy with which her
visitor took it and pretended to admire it.

"Capital. Capital," said Mr. Lind. "He must give us one."

"You dont think that the beard has spoiled him, do you?" said Mrs.
Douglas.

"Certainly not: it is an improvement," said Mr. Lind, decisively. "You
are glad to have him back again with you, I dare say. Ah yes, yes" (Mrs.
Douglas's eyes had answered for her). "Did he tell you that he met me? I
saw him on Wednesday last for the first time since his return to London.
How long was he away?"

"Two years," she replied, with slow emphasis, as if such an absence
were hardly credible. "Two long years. He has been staying in Paris, in
Venice, in Florence: a month here, a week there, dissatisfied
everywhere. He would have been almost as happy with me at home. And how
is Marian?"

"Well," said Mr. Lind, smiling, "I believe she is still disengaged; and
she professes to be fancy free. She is fond of saying, generally, that
she will never marry, and so forth. That is the new fashion with young
women--if saying what they dont mean can be called a new fashion."

"Marian is sure to get married," said Mrs. Douglas. "She must have had
offers already. There are few parents who have not cause to envy you."

"We have both been happy in that respect, Mrs. Douglas. Sholto is a
highly distinguished young man. I wish I had started in life with half
his advantages. I thought at one time he was perhaps becoming attached
to Marian."

"You are quite sure, Mr. Lind, that you could forgive his being a plain
gentleman? A little bird whispered to me that you desired a title for
Marian."

"My dear Mrs. Douglas, we, who are familiar with titles, understand
their true value. I should be very sorry to see Marian lose, by an
unsuitable alliance, the social position I have been able to give her. I
should set my face resolutely against such an alliance. But few English
titles can boast a pedigree comparable with Sholto's. The name of
Douglas is historic--far more so than that of Lind, which is not even
English except by naturalization. Besides, Sholto's talents are very
remarkable. He will certainly adopt a political career; and, with his
opportunities and abilities, a peerage is anything but a remote
contingency."

"Sholto, you know, is perfectly unembarrassed. There is not a charge on
his property. I think that even Marian, good as she is, and lovely as
she is, will not easily find a better match. But I am well known to be a
little crazy about my dear boy. That is because I know him so much
better than anyone else does. Now let us talk about other matters. Let
me see. Oh yes, I got a prospectus of some company from the city the
other day; and whose name should there be upon the list of directors but
Reginald Harrington Lind's! And Lord Carbury's, too! Pray, is the entire
family going into business?"

"Well, I believe the undertaking to be a commercially sound one; and--"

"Fancy _you_ talking about commercial soundness!"

"True. It must sound strange to you. But it is no longer unusual for men
in my position to take an active part in the direction of commerce. We
have duties as well as privileges. I gave my name and took a few shares
chiefly on the recommendation of Jasper and of my own stockbroker. I
think there can be no doubt that Jasper and Mr. Conolly have made a very
remarkable discovery, and one which must prove highly remunerative and
beneficial."

"What is the discovery? I did not quite understand the prospectus."

"Well, it is called the Conolly Electro-motor."

"Yes, I know that."

"And it--it turns all sorts of machinery. I cannot explain it
scientifically to you: you would not understand me. But it is, in short,
a method of driving machinery by electricity at a less cost than by
steam. It is connected in principle with the conservation of energy and
other technical matters. You must come and see the machinery at work
some day."

"I must, indeed. And is it true that Mr. Conolly was a common working
man?"

"Yes, a practical man, undoubtedly, but highly educated. He speaks
French and Italian fluently, and is a remarkable musician. Altogether a
man of very superior attainments, and by no means deficient in culture."

"Dear me! Jasper told me something of that sort about him; but Lady
Carbury gave him a very different character. She assured me that he was
sprung from the dregs of the people, and that she had a great deal of
trouble to teach him his proper place. Still, we know that she is not
very particular as to what she says when she dislikes people. Yet she
ought to know; for he was Jasper's laboratory servant--at least so she
said."

"Oh, surely not a servant. Jasper never regarded him in that light. The
Countess disapproves of Jasper's scientific pursuits, and sets her face
against all who encourage him in them. However, I really know nothing
about Mr. Conolly's antecedents. His manner when he appears at our board
meetings is quiet and not unpleasant. Marian, it appears, met him at
Towers Cottage the year before last, and had some scientific lessons
from him. He was quite unknown then. It was rather a curious
coincidence. I did not know of it until about a month ago, when he read
a paper at the Society of Arts on his invention. I attended the meeting
with Marian; and when it was over, I introduced him to her, and was
surprised to learn that they knew one another already. He told me
afterward that Marian had shewn an unusual degree of cleverness in
studying electricity, and that she greatly interested him at the time."

"No doubt. Marian interests everybody; and even great discoverers, when
they are young, are only human."

"Ah! Perhaps so. But she must have shewn some ability or she would never
have elicited a remark from him. He is full of his business."

"And what is the latest news of the family scamp?"

"Do you mean my Reginald?"

"Dear me, no! What a shame to call poor Reggy a scamp! I mean young
Marmaduke, of course. Is it true that he has a daughter now?"

"Oh yes. Perfectly true."

"The reprobate! And he was always such a pleasant fellow."

"Yes; but he is annoyingly inconsiderate. About a fortnight ago, Marian
and Elinor went to Putney to a private view at Mr. Scott's studio. On
their way back they saw Marmaduke on the river, and, rather
unnecessarily, I think, entered into conversation with him. He begged
them to come to Hammersmith in his boat, saying that he had something
there to shew them. Elinor, it appears, had the sense to ask whether it
was anything they ought not to see; but he replied on his honor that it
was something perfectly innocent, and promised that they should be
delighted with it. So they foolishly consented, and went with him to
Hammersmith, where they left the river and walked some distance with
him. He left them in a road somewhere in West Kensington, and came back
after about fifteen minutes with a little girl. He actually presented
her to Marian and Elinor as a member of the family whom they, as a
matter of course, would like to know."

"Well, _such_ a thing to do! And what happened?"

"Marian seems to have thought of nothing but the prettiness of the
unhappy child. She gravely informed me that she forgave Marmaduke
everything when she saw how he doted on it. Elinor has always shewn a
disposition to defend him----"

"She is full of perversity, and always was."

"----and this incident did not damage his credit with _her_. However,
after the little waif had been sufficiently petted and praised to
gratify Master Marmaduke's paternal feelings, they came home, and,
instead of holding their tongues, began to tell all our people what a
dear little child Marmaduke had, and how they considered that it ought
not to be made to suffer for his follies. In fact, I think they would
have adopted it, if I had allowed them."

"That is Marian all over. Some of her ideas will serve her very well
when she goes to heaven; but they will get her into scrapes in this
wicked world if you do not take care of her."

"I fear so. For that reason I tolerate a degree of cynicism in Elinor's
character which would otherwise be most disagreeable to me. It is often
useful in correcting Marian's extravagances. Unfortunately, the incident
at Hammersmith did not pass off without making mischief. It happens that
my sister Julia is interested in a Home for foundling girls--a
semi-private place, where a dozen children are trained as domestic
servants."

"Yes. I have been through it. It is very neat and pretty; but they
really treat the poor girls as if they ought to be thankful for
permission to exist. Their dresses are so ugly!"

"Possibly. I assure you that presentations are much sought after, and
are very difficult to get. Julia is a patroness. Marian told her about
this child of Marmaduke's; and it happened that a vacancy had just
occurred at the Home in consequence of one of the girls dying of
melancholia and spinal affection. Julia, who has perhaps more piety than
tact, wrote to Marmaduke offering to present his daughter, and
expatiating on the advantages of the Home to the poor little lost one.
In her desire to reclaim Marmaduke also, she entrusted the letter to
George, who undertook to deliver it, and further Julia's project by
personal persuasion. George described the interview to me, and shewed
me, I am sorry to say, how much downright ferocity may exist beneath an
apparently frank, jovial, reckless exterior like Marmaduke's."

"Well, I hardly wonder at his refusing. Of course, he might have known
that the motive of the offer was a kind one."

"Refused! A gentleman can always refuse an offer with dignity. Marmaduke
was outrageous. George--a clergyman--owed his escape from actual
violence to the interference of the woman, and to a timely
representation that he had undertaken to bear the message in order to
soften any angry feelings that it might give rise to. Marmaduke
repeatedly applied foul language to his aunt and to her offer; and
George with great difficulty dissuaded him from writing a most offensive
letter to her. Julia was so hurt by this that she complained to
Dora--Marmaduke's mother--who had up to that time been kept in ignorance
of his doings; and now it is hard to say where the mischief will end.
Dora is overwhelmed by the revelation of the life her son is leading.
Marmaduke has consequently forfeited his father's countenance, which
had to be extended to him so far as to allow of his occasional
appearance at home, in order to keep Dora in the dark. Now that she is
enlightened, of course there is an end of all that, and he is forbidden
the house."

"What a lot of mischief! Dear me!"

"So I said to Marian. Had she refused to go up the river with Marmaduke,
as she should have done, all this would not have occurred. She will not
see it in that light, but lays all the blame on her aunt Julia, whose
offer fell somewhat short of her own notions of providing for the
child's future."

"How does Marmaduke stand with respect to money? I suppose his father
has stopped his allowance."

"No. He threatened to do it, and went so far as to make his solicitor
write to that effect to Marmaduke, who had the consummate impudence to
reply that he should in that case be compelled to provide for himself by
contracting a marriage of which he could not expect his family to
approve. Still, he added, if the family chose to sever their connexion
with him, they could not expect him to consult their feelings in his
future disposal of himself. In plain English, he threatened to marry
this woman if his income was cut off. He carried his point, too; for no
alteration has been made in his allowance. Indeed, as he has money of
his own, and as part of the property is entailed, it would be easier to
irritate him uselessly than to subject him to any material deprivation."

"The young scamp! I wonder he was clever enough to take advantage like
that."

"He has shewn no lack of acuteness of late. I suspect he is under shrewd
guidance."

"Have you ever seen the--the guidance?"

"Not in person. I seldom enter a theatre now. But I am of course
familiar with her appearance from the photographic portraits of her.
They are in all the shop windows."

"Yes. I think I have noticed them."

"And now, Mrs. Douglas, I fear I have paid you a very long visit."

"Why dont you come oftener?"

"I wish I could find time. I have not so much leisure for enjoyment as I
used."

"I am not so sure of that. But we are always glad to have a chat with
one another, I know. We are agreed about the dear children, I think?"

"Cordially. Cordially. Good-bye."

"Good-bye."




CHAPTER VIII


On the morning of the first Friday in May Marian received this letter:

                                  "Uxbridge Road, Holland Park, W.

  "DEAR MISS LIND: I must begin by explaining why I make this
  communication to you by letter instead of orally. It is because I
  am about to ask you to do me a favor. If you asked me to do
  anything for you, then, no matter how much my judgment might
  protest against my compliance, I could not without pain to myself
  refuse you face to face. I have no right to assume that your heart
  would plead on my behalf against your head in this fashion; but, on
  the other hand--the wish is father to the thought here--I have no
  right to assume that it would not. Therefore, to spare you all
  influences except the fair ones of your own interest and
  inclination, I make my proposal in writing. You will please put the
  usual construction on the word 'proposal.' What I desire is your
  consent to marry me. If your first impulse now is to refuse, I beg
  you to do so in plain terms at once, and destroy this letter
  without reading further. If you think, on the contrary, that we
  could achieve a future as pleasant as our past association has
  been--to me at least, here is what, as I think, you have to
  consider.

  "You are a lady, rich, well-born, beautiful, loved by many persons
  besides myself, too happily circumstanced to have any pressing
  inducement to change your condition, and too fortunately endowed in
  every way to have reason to anticipate the least difficulty in
  changing it to the greatest worldly advantage when you please.

  "What I am and have been, you know. I may estrange from you some of
  the society which you enjoy, and I can introduce you to none that
  would compensate you for the loss. I am what you call poor: my
  income at present does not amount to much more than fifteen
  hundred pounds; and I should not ask you to marry me if it were not
  that your own inheritance is sufficient, as I have ascertained, to
  provide for you in case of my early death. You know how my sister
  is situated; how your family are likely to feel toward me on her
  account and my own; and how impatient I am of devoting much time to
  what is fashionably supposed to be pleasure. On the other hand, as
  I am bidding for a consent and not for a refusal, I hope you will
  not take my disadvantages for more, or my advantages for less, than
  they are honestly worth. At Carbury Park you often said that you
  would never marry; and I have said the same myself. So, as we
  neither of us overrate the possibilities of happiness in marriage,
  perhaps we might, if you would be a little forbearing with me,
  succeed in proving that we have greatly underrated them. As for the
  prudence of the step, I have seen and practised too much prudence
  to believe that it is worth much as a rule of conduct in a world of
  accidents. If there were a science of life as there is one of
  mechanics, we could plan our lives scientifically and run no risks;
  but as it is, we must--together or apart--take our chance:
  cautiousness and recklessness divide the great stock of regrets
  pretty equally.

  "Perhaps you will wonder at my selfishness in wanting you, for my
  own good, to forfeit your present happy independence among your
  friends, and involve your fortunes with those of a man whom you
  have only seen on occasions when ceremony compelled him to observe
  his best behavior. I can only excuse myself by reminding you that
  no matter whom you marry, you must do so at the same disadvantages,
  except as to the approval of your friends, of which the value is
  for you to consider. That being so, why should I not profit by your
  hazard as well as another? Besides, there are many other feelings
  impelling me. I should like to describe them to you, and would if I
  understood them well enough to do it accurately.

  "However, nothing is further from my intention than to indite a
  love letter; so I will return to graver questions. One, in
  particular, must be clearly understood between us. You are too
  earnest to consider an allusion to religious matters out of place
  here. I do not know exactly what you believe; but I have gathered
  from stray remarks of yours that you belong to what is called the
  Broad Church. If so, we must to some extent agree to differ. I
  should never interfere in any way with your liberty as far as your
  actions concerned yourself only. But, frankly, I should not permit
  my wife to teach my children to know Christianity in any other way
  than that in which an educated Englishman knows Buddhism. I will
  not go through any ceremony whatever in a church, or enter one
  except to play the organ. I am prejudiced against religions of all
  sorts. The Church has made itself the natural enemy of the theatre;
  and I was brought up in the theatre until I became a poor workman
  earning wages, when I found the Church always taking part against
  me and my comrades with the rich who did no work. If the Church had
  never set itself against me, perhaps I should never have set myself
  against the Church; but what is done is done: you will find me
  irreligious, but not, I hope, unreasonable.

  "I will be at the Academy to-morrow at about four o'clock, as I do
  not care to remain longer in suspense than is absolutely necessary;
  but if you are not prepared to meet me then, I shall faithfully
  help you in any effort I may perceive you make to avoid me.

  "I am, dear Miss Lind,
             "Yours sincerely,
                  "EDWARD CONOLLY."

This letter conveyed to Marian hardly one of the considerations set
forth in it. She thought it a frank, strong, admirable letter, just what
she should have hoped from her highest estimate of him. In the quaint
earnestness about religion, and the exaggerated estimate (as she
thought) of the advantages which she might forfeit by marrying him,
there was just enough of the workman to make them characteristic. She
wished that she could make some real sacrifice for his sake. She was
afraid to realize her situation at first, and, to keep it off, occupied
herself during the forenoon with her household duties, with some
pianoforte practice, and such other triflings as she could persuade
herself were necessary. At last she quite suddenly became impatient of
further delay. She sat down in a nook behind the window curtain, and
re-read the letter resolutely. It disappointed her a little, so she read
it again. The third time she liked it better than the first; and she
would have gone through it yet again but for the arrival of Mrs. Leith
Fairfax, with whom they had arranged to go to Burlington House.

"It is really a tax on me, this first day at the Academy," said Mrs.
Fairfax, when they were at luncheon. "I have been there at the press
view, besides seeing all the pictures long ago in the studios. But, of
course, I am expected to be there."

"If I were in your place," said Elinor, "I----"

"Last night," continued Mrs. Fairfax, deliberately ignoring her, "I was
not in bed until half-past two o'clock. On the night before, I was up
until five. On Tuesday I did not go to bed at all."

"Why do you do such things?" said Marian.

"My dear, I _must_. John Metcalf, the publisher, came to me on Tuesday
at three o'clock, and said he must have an article on the mango
experiments at Kew ready for the printer before ten next morning. For
his paper, the _Fortnightly Naturalist_, you know. 'My dear John
Metcalf,' I said, 'I dont know what a mango is.' 'No more do I, Mrs.
Leith Fairfax,' said he: 'I think it's something that blooms only once
in a hundred years. No matter what it is, you must let me have the
article. Nobody else can do it.' I told him it was impossible. My London
letter for the _Hari Kari_ was not even begun; and the last post to
catch the mail to Japan was at a quarter-past six in the morning. I had
an article to write for your father, too. And, as the sun had been
shining all day, I was almost distracted with hay fever. 'If you were to
go down on your knees,' I said, 'I could not find time to read up the
_flora_ of the West Indies and finish an article before morning.' He
went down on his knees. 'Now Mrs. Leith Fairfax,' said he, 'I am going
to stay here until you promise.' What could I do but promise and get rid
of him? I did it, too: how, I dont know; but I did it. John Metcalf told
me yesterday that Sir James Hooker, the president of the Society for
Naturalizing the Bread Fruit Tree in Britain, and the greatest living
authority on the subject, has got the credit of having written my
article."

"How flattered he must feel!" said Elinor.

"What article had you to write for papa?" said Marian.

"On the electro-motor--the Conolly electro-motor. I went down to the
City on Wednesday, and saw it working. It is most wonderful, and very
interesting. Mr. Conolly explained it to me himself. I was able to
follow every step that his mind has made in inventing it. I remember him
as a common workman. He fitted the electric bell in my study four years
ago with his own hands. You may remember that we met him at a concert
once. He is a thorough man of business. The Company is making upward of
fifty pounds an hour by the motor at present; and they expect their
receipts to be a thousand a day next year. My article will be in the
_Dynamic Statistician_ next week. Have you seen Sholto Douglas since he
came back from the continent?"

"No."

"I want to see him. When you meet him next, tell him to call on me. Why
has he not been here? Surely you are not keeping up your old quarrel?"

"What old quarrel?"

"I always understood that he went abroad on your account."

"I never quarreled with him. Perhaps he did with me, as he has not come
to see us since his return. It used to be so easy to offend him that his
retirement in good temper after a visit was quite exceptional."

"Come, come, my dear child! that is all nonsense. You must be kind to
the poor fellow. Perhaps he will be at the Academy."

"I hope not," said Marian, quickly.

"Why?"

"I mean if he cherishes any grudge against me; for he will be very
disagreeable."

"A grudge against you! Ah, Marian, how little you understand him! What
perverse creatures all you young people are! I must bring about an
_eclaircissement_."

"I advise you not to," said Elinor. "If you succeed, no one will admit
that you have done anything; and if you fail, everybody will blame you."

"But there is nothing to be _eclairci_," said Marian. We are talking
nonsense, which is silly----"

"And French, which is vulgar," interposed Miss McQuinch, delivering the
remark like a pistol shot at Mrs. Fairfax, who had been trying to convey
by facial expression that she pitied the folly of Elinor's advice, and
was scandalized by her presumption in offering it. "It is time to start
for the Academy."

When they arrived at Burlington House, Mrs. Fairfax put on her gold
rimmed spectacles, and led the way up the stairs like one having
important business in a place to which others came for pleasure. When
they had passed the turnstiles, Elinor halted, and said:

"There is no sort of reason for our pushing through this crowd in a gang
of three. Besides, I want to look at the pictures, and not after you to
see which way you go. I shall meet you here at six o'clock, sharp.
Good-bye."

"What an extraordinary girl!" said Mrs. Fairfax, as Elinor opened her
catalogue at the end, and suddenly disappeared to the right amongst the
crowd.

"She always does so," said Marian; "and I think she is quite right. Two
people cannot make their way about as easily as one; and they never want
to see the same pictures."

"But, my dear, consider the impropriety of a young girl walking about by
herself."

"Surely there is no impropriety in it. Lots of people--all sensible
women do it. Who can tell, in this crowd, whether you are by yourself or
not? And what does it matter if----"

Here Mrs. Fairfax's attention was diverted by the approach of one of her
numerous acquaintances. Marian, after a moment's indecision, slipped
away and began her tour of the rooms alone, passing quickly through the
first in order to escape pursuit. In the second she tried to look at the
pictures; but as she now for the first time realized that she might meet
Conolly at any moment, doubt as to what answer she should give him
seized her; and she felt a strong impulse to fly. The pictures were
unintelligible to her: she kept her face turned to the inharmonious shew
of paint and gilding only because she shrank from looking at the people
about. Whenever she stood still, and any man approached and remained
near her, she contemplated the wall fixedly, and did not dare to look
round or even to stir until he moved away, lest he should be Conolly.
When she passed from the second room to the large one, she felt as
though she were making a tremendous plunge; and indeed the catastrophe
occurred before she had accomplished the movement, for she came suddenly
face to face with him in the doorway. He did not flinch: he raised his
hat, and prepared to pass on. She involuntarily put out her hand in
remonstrance. He took it as a gift at once; and she, confused, said
anxiously: "We must not stand in the doorway. The people cannot pass
us," as if her action had meant nothing more than an attempt to draw him
out of the way. Then, perceiving the absurdity of this pretence, she was
quite lost for a moment. When she recovered her self-possession they
were standing together in the less thronged space near a bust of the
Queen; and Conolly was saying:

"I have been here half an hour; and I have not seen a single picture."

"Nor I," she said timidly, looking down at her catalogue. "Shall we try
to see some now?"

He opened his catalogue; and they turned together toward the pictures
and were soon discussing them sedulously, as if they wished to shut out
the subject of the very recent crisis in their affairs, which was
nevertheless constantly present in their minds. Marian was saluted by
many acquaintances. At each encounter she made an effort to appear
unconcerned, and suffered immediately afterward from a suspicion that
the effort had defeated its own object, as such efforts often do.
Conolly had something to say about most of the pictures: generally an
unanswerable objection to some historical or technical inaccuracy, which
sometimes convinced her, and always impressed her with a confiding sense
of ignorance in herself and infallible judgment in him.

"I think we have done enough for one day," she said at last. "The
watercolors and the sculpture must wait until next time."

"We had better watch for a vacant seat. You must be tired."

"I am, a little. I think I should like to sit in some other room. Mrs.
Leith Fairfax is over there with Mr. Douglas--a gentleman whom I know
and would rather not meet just now. You saw him at Wandsworth."

"Yes. That tall man? He has let his beard grow since."

"That is he. Let us go to the room where the drawings are: we shall have
a better chance of a seat there. I have not seen Sholto for two years;
and our last meeting was rather a stormy one."

"What happened?"

Marian was a little hurt by being questioned. She missed the reticence
of a gentleman. Then she reproached herself for not understanding that
his frank curiosity was a delicate appeal to her confidence in him, and
answered: "He proposed to me."

Conolly immediately dropped the subject, and went in search of a vacant
seat. They found one in the little room where the architects' drawings
languish. They were silent for some time.

Then he began, seriously: "Is it too soon to call you by your own name?
'Miss Lind' is distant; but 'Marian' might shock you if it came too
confidently without preparation."

"Whichever you please."

"Whichever I please!"

"That is the worst of being a woman. Little speeches that are sheer
coquetry when you analyze them, come to our lips and escape even when we
are most anxious to be straightforward."

"In the same way," said Conolly, "the most enlightened men often express
themselves in a purely conventional manner on subjects on which they
have the deepest convictions." This sententious utterance had the effect
of extinguishing the conversation for some moments, Marian being unable
to think of a worthy rejoinder. At last she said:

"What is your name?"

"Edward, or, familiarly, Ned. Commonly Ted. In America, Ed. With, of
course, the diminutives Neddy, Teddy, and Eddy."

"I think I should prefer Ned."

"I prefer Ned myself."

"Have you any other name?"

"Yes; but it is a secret. Why people should be plagued with two
Christian names, I do not know. No one would have believed in the motor
if they had known that my name was Sebastian."

"Sebastian!"

"Hush. I was actually christened Edoardo Sebastiano Conolly. My father
used to spell his name Conollj whilst he was out of Italy. I have
frustrated the bounty of my godfathers by suppressing all but the
sensible Edward Conolly."

There was a pause. Then Marian spoke.

"Do you intend to make our--our engagement known at once?"

"I have considered the point; and as you are the person likely to be
inconvenienced by its publication, I am bound to let you conceal it for
the present, if you wish to. It must transpire sometime: the sooner the
better. You will feel uncomfortably deceitful with such a secret; and as
for me, every time your father greets me cordially in the City I shall
feel mean. However, you can watch for your opportunity. Let me know at
once when the cat comes out of the bag."

"I will. I think, as you say, the right course is to tell at once."

"Undoubtedly. But from the moment you do so until we are married you
will be worried by remonstrances, entreaties, threats, and what not; so
that we cannot possibly make that interval too short."

"We must take Nelly into our confidence. You will not object to that?"

"Certainly not. I like Miss McQuinch."

"You really do! Oh, I am so glad. Well, we are accustomed to go about
together, especially to picture galleries. We can come to the Academy as
often as we like; and you can come as often as you like, can you not?"

"Opening day, for instance."

"Yes, if you wish."

"Let us say between half-past four and five, then. I would willingly be
here when the doors open in the morning; but my business will not do
itself while I am philandering and making you tired of me before your
time. The consciousness of having done a day's work is necessary to my
complete happiness."

"I, too, have my day's work to do, silly as it is. I have to housekeep,
to receive visitors, to write notes about nothing, and to think of the
future. We can say half-past four or any later hour that may suit you."

"Agreed. And now, Marian----"

"Dont let me disturb you," said Miss McQuinch, at his elbow, to Marian;
"but Mrs. Leith Fairfax will be here with Sholto Douglas presently; and
I thought you might like to have an opportunity of avoiding him. How do
you do, Mr. Conolly?"

"I must see him sooner or later," said Marian, rising. "Better face him
at once and get it over. I will go back by myself and meet them." Then,
with a smile at Conolly, she went out through the door leading to the
water-color gallery.

"Marian does not stand on much ceremony with you, Mr. Conolly," said
Miss McQuinch, glancing at him.

"No," said Conolly. "Do you think you could face the Academy again on
Monday at half-past four?"

"Why?"

"Miss Lind is coming to meet me here at that hour."

"Marian!"

"Precisely. Marian. She has promised to marry me. At present it is a
secret. But it was to be mentioned to you."

"It will not be a secret very long if you allow people to overhear you
calling her by her Christian name in the middle of the Academy, as you
did me just now," said Elinor, privately much taken aback, but resolute
not to appear so.

"Did you overhear us? I should have been more careful. You do not seem
surprised."

"Just a little, at your audacity. Not in the least at Marian's
consenting."

"Thank you."

"I did not mean it in that way at all," said Elinor resentfully. "I
think you have been very fortunate, as I suppose you would have married
somebody in any case. I believe you are able to appreciate her. That's a
compliment."

"Yes. I hope I deserve it. Do you think you will ever forgive me for
supplanting the hero Marian deserves?"

"If you had let your chance of her slip, I should have despised you, I
think: at least, I should if you had missed it with your eyes open. I am
so far prejudiced in your favor that I think Marian would not like you
unless you were good. I have known her to pity people who deserved to be
strangled; but I never knew her to be attracted by any unworthy person
except myself; and even I have my good points. You need not trouble
yourself to agree with me: you could not do less, in common politeness.
As I am rather tired, I shall go and sit in the vestibule until the
others are ready to go home. In the meantime you can tell me all the
particulars you care to trust me with. Marian will tell me the rest when
we go home."

"That is an undeserved stab," said Conolly.

"Never mind: I am always stabbing people. I suppose I like it," she
added, as they went together to the vestibule.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Leith Fairfax had not been wasting her time. She had
come upon Douglas in the large room, and had recognized him by his
stature and proud bearing, in spite of the handsome Assyrian beard he
had allowed to grow during his stay abroad.

"I have been very anxious to see you," said she, forcing a conversation
upon him, though he had saluted her formally, and had evidently intended
to pass on without speaking. "If your time were not too valuable to be
devoted to a poor hard-working woman, I should have asked you to call on
me. Dont deprecate my forbearance. You are Somebody in the literary
world now."

"Indeed? I was not aware that I had done anything to raise me from
obscurity."

"I assure you you are very much mistaken, or else very modest. Has no
one told you about the effect your book produced here?"

"I know nothing of it, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. I never enquire after the
effect of my work. I have lived in comparative seclusion; and I scarcely
know what collection of fugitive notes of mine you honor by describing
as a book."

"I mean your 'Note on three pictures in last year's _Salon_,' with the
sonnets, and the fragment from your unfinished drama. Is it finished,
may I ask?"

"It is not finished. I shall never finish it now."

"I will tell you--between ourselves--that I heard one of the foremost
critics of the age say, in the presence of a great poet (whom we both
know), that it was such another fragment as the Venus of Milo, 'whose
lost arms,' said he, 'we should fear to see, lest they should be
unworthy of her.' 'You are right,' said the poet: 'I, for one, should
shudder to see the fragment completed.' That is a positive fact. But
look at some of the sonnets! Burgraves says that his collection of
English sonnets is incomplete because it does not contain your
'Clytemnestra,' which he had not seen when his book went to press. You
stand in the very forefront of literature--far higher than I, who
am--dont tell anybody--five years older than you."

"You are very good. I do not value any distinction of the sort. I write
sometimes because, I suppose, the things that are in me must come out,
whether I will or not. Let us talk of something else. You are quite well
I hope?"

"Very far from it. I am never well; but since I never have a moment's
rest from work, I must bear with it. People expect me to think, when I
have hardly time to eat."

"If you have no time to think, I envy you. But I am truly sorry that
your health remains so bad."

"Thank you. But what is the cause of all this gloomy cynicism, Mr.
Douglas? Why should you, who are young, distinguished, gifted, and
already famous, envy me for having no leisure to think?"

"You exaggerate the sadness of my unfortunate insensibility to the
admiration of the crowd," said Douglas, coldly. "I am, nevertheless,
flattered by the interest you take in my affairs."

"You need not be, Mr. Douglas," said Mrs. Fairfax, earnestly, fearing
that he would presently succeed in rebuffing her. "I think you are much
better off than you deserve. You may despise your reputation as much as
you like: that only affects yourself. But when a beautiful girl pays you
the compliment of almost dying of love for you, I think you ought to buy
a wedding-ring and jump for joy, instead of sulking in remote corners of
the continent."

"And pray, Mrs. Leith Fairfax, what lady has so honored me?"

"You must know, unless you are blind."

"Pardon me. I do not habitually imply what is not the case. I beg you to
believe that I do _not_ know."

"Not know! What moles men are! Poor Marian!"

"Oblige me by taking this seat," said Douglas, sternly, pointing to one
just vacated. "I shall not detain you many minutes," he added, sitting
down beside her. "May I understand that Miss Lind is the lady of whom
you spoke just now?"

"Yes. Remember that I am speaking to you as a friend, and that I trust
to you not to mention the effort I am making to clear up the
misunderstanding which causes her so much unhappiness."

"Are you then in Miss Lind's confidence? Did she ask you to tell me
this?"

"What do you mean, Mr. Douglas?"

"I am quite innocent of any desire to shock or offend you, Mrs. Leith
Fairfax. Does your question imply a negative?"

"Most certainly. Marian ask me to tell! you must be dreaming. Do you
think, even if Marian were capable of making an advance, that _I_ would
consent to act as a go-between? Really, Mr. Douglas!"

"I confess I do not understand these matters; and you must bear with my
ineptitude. If Miss Lind entertains any sentiment for me but one of
mistrust and aversion, her behavior is singularly misleading."

"Mistrust! Aversion! I tell you she is in love with you."

"But you have not, you admit, her authority for saying so, whereas I
_have_ her authority for the contrary."

"You do not understand girls. You are mistaken."

"Possibly; but you must pardon me if I hesitate to set aside my own
judgment in deference to your low estimate of it."

"Very well," said Mrs. Fairfax, her patience yielding a little to his
persistent stiffness: "be it so. Many men would be glad to beg what you
will not be bribed to accept."

"No doubt. I trust that when they so humble themselves they may not
encounter a flippant repulse."

"If they do, it will spring from her unmerited regard for you."

He bowed slightly, and turned away, arranging his gloves as if about to
rise.

"Pray what is that large picture which is skied over there to the
right?" said Mrs. Fairfax, after a pause, during which she had feigned
to examine her catalogue. "I cannot see the number at this distance."

"Do you defend her conduct on the ground of that senseless and cruel
caprice which your sex seem to consider becoming to them; or has she
changed her mind in my absence?"

"Oh! you are talking of Marian. I do not know what you have to complain
of in her conduct. Mind, she has never breathed a word to me on the
subject. I am quite ignorant of the details of your difference with her.
But she has confessed to me that she is very sorry for what passed--I am
abusing her confidence by telling you so--and I am a woman, with eyes
and brains, and know what the poor girl feels well enough. I will tell
you nothing more: I have no right to; and Marian would be indignant if
she knew how much I have said already. But I know what I should do were
I in your place."

"Expose myself to another refusal, perhaps?"

Mrs. Fairfax, learning now for the first time that he had actually
proposed to Marian, looked at him for some moments in silence with a
smile which was assumed to cover her surprise. He thought it expressed
incredulity at the idea of his being refused again.

"Are you sure?" he began, speaking courteously to her for the first
time. "May I rely upon the accuracy of your impressions on this subject?
I know you are incapable of trifling in a matter which might expose me
to humiliation; but can you give me any guarantee--any--"

"Certainly not, Mr. Douglas. I am really sorry that I cannot give you a
written undertaking that your suit shall succeed: perhaps that might
encourage you to brave the scorn of a poor child who adores you. But if
you need so much encouragement, I fear you do not greatly relish the
prospect of success. Doubtless it has already struck her that since you
found absence from her very bearable for two years, and have avoided
meeting her on your return, her society cannot be very important to your
happiness."

"But it was her own fault. If she accuses me of having gone away to
enjoy myself, her thoughts are a bitter sarcasm on the truth."

"Granted that it was her own fault, if you please. But surely you have
punished her enough by your long seclusion, and can afford to shew a
tardy magnanimity by this time. There she is, I think, just come in at
the door on the left. My sight is so wretched. Is it not she?"

"Yes."

"Then let us get up and speak to her. Come."

"You must excuse me, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. I have distinctly given her my
word that I will not intrude upon her again."

"Dont be so foolish."

Douglas's face clouded. "You are privileged to say so," he said.

"Not at all," said Mrs. Fairfax, frightened. "But when I think of
Marian, I feel like an old woman, and venture to remonstrate with all
the presumption of age. I beg your pardon."

He bowed. Then Marian joined them, and Mrs. Fairfax again gave tongue.

"Where have you been?" she cried. "You vanished from my side like a
sprite. I have been searching for you ever since."

"I have been looking at the pictures, of course. I am so glad you have
come back, Sholto. I think you might have made time to pay us a visit
before this. You look so strong and well! Your beard is a great
improvement. Have you met Nelly?"

"I think we saw her at some distance," said Douglas. "I have not been
speaking to her."

"How did you enjoy yourself while you were away?"

"As best I could."

"You look as if you had succeeded very fairly. What o'clock is it?
Remember that we have to meet Nelly at the turnstiles at six."

"It is five minutes to six now, Miss Lind."

"Thank you, Mr. Douglas. We had better go, I think."

As they left the room, Mrs. Fairfax purposely lingered behind them.

"Am I right in concluding that you are as frivolous as ever, Marian?"
he said.

"Quite," she replied. "To-day especially so. I am very happy to-day."

"May I ask why?"

"Something has happened. I will tell you what it is some day perhaps,
but not now. Something that realizes a romantic dream of mine. The dream
has been hovering vaguely about me for nearly two years; but I never
ventured to teach myself exactly what it was until to-day."

"Realized here? in the Academy?"

"It was foreshadowed--promised, at home this morning; but it was
realized here."

"Did you know beforehand that I was coming?"

"Not until to-day. Mrs. Leith Fairfax said that you would most likely be
here."

"And you are happy?"

"So much so that I cannot help talking about my happiness to you, who
are the very last person--as you will admit when everything is
explained--to whom I should unlock my lips on the subject."

"And why? Am I not interested in your happiness?"

"I suppose so. I hope so. But when you learn the truth, you will be more
astonished than gratified."

"I dare swear that you are mistaken. Is this dream of yours an affair of
the heart?"

"Now you are beginning to ask questions."

"Well, I will ask no more at present. But if you fear that my long
absence has rendered me indifferent in the least degree to your
happiness, you do me a great injustice."

"Well, you were not in a very good humor with me when you went away."

"I will forget that if you wish me to."

"I do wish you to forget it. And you forgive me?"

"Most assuredly."

"Then we are the best friends in the world again. This is a great deal
better than meeting and pretending to ignore the very thing of which our
minds are full. You will not delay visiting us any longer now, I hope."

"I will call on your father to-morrow morning. May I?"

"He is out of town until Monday. He will be delighted to see you then.
He has been talking to me about you a great deal of late. But if you
want to see him in the morning you had better go to the club. I will
write to him to-night if you like; so that he can write to you and make
an appointment."

"Do. Ah, Marian, instinct is better and truer than intellect. I have
been for two years trying to believe all kinds of evil of you; and yet I
knew all the time that you were an angel."

Marian laughed. "I suppose that under our good understanding I must let
you say pretty things to me. You must write me a sonnet before your
enthusiasm evaporates. I am sure I deserve it as well as Clytemnestra."

"I will. But I fear I shall tear it up for its unworthiness afterward."

"Dont: I am not a critic. Talking of critics, where has Mrs. Leith
Fairfax gone to? Oh, there she is!"

Mrs. Fairfax came up when she saw Marian look round for her. "My dear,"
she said: "it is past six. We must go. Elinor may be waiting for us."

They found Elinor seated in the vestibule with Conolly, at whom Mrs.
Fairfax plunged, full of words. Conolly and Douglas, introduced to one
another by Marian, gravely raised their hats. When they had descended
the stairs, they stood in a group near one of the doors whilst Conolly
went aside to get their umbrellas. Just then Marmaduke Lind entered the
building, and halted in surprise at finding himself among so many
acquaintances.

"Hallo!" he cried, seizing Douglas's hand, and attracting the attention
of the bystanders by his boisterous tone. "Here you are again, old man!
Delighted to see you. Didnt spot you at first, in the beard. George told
me you were back. I met your mother in Knightsbridge last Thursday; but
she pretended not to see me. How have you enjoyed yourself abroad, eh?
Very much in the old style, I suppose?"

"Thank you," said Douglas. "I trust your people are quite well."

"Hang me if I know!" said Marmaduke. "I have not troubled them much of
late. How d'ye do, Mrs. Leith Fairfax? How are all the celebrities?"
Mrs. Fairfax bowed coldly.

"Dont roar so, Marmaduke," said Marian. "Everybody is looking at you."

"Everybody is welcome," said Marmaduke, loudly. "Douglas: you must come
and see me. By Jove, now that I think of it, come and see me, all of
you. I am by myself on week-nights from six to twelve; and I should
enjoy a housewarming. If Mrs. Leith Fairfax comes, it will be all proper
and right. Let us have a regular party."

Mrs. Fairfax looked indignantly at him. Elinor looked round anxiously
for Conolly. Marian, struck with the same fear, moved toward the door.

"Here, Marmaduke," she said, offering him her hand. "Good-bye. You are
in one of your outrageous humors this afternoon."

"What am I doing?" he replied. "I am behaving myself perfectly. Let us
settle about the party before we go."

"Good evening, Mr. Lind," said Conolly, coming up to them with the
umbrellas. "This is yours, I think, Mrs. Leith Fairfax."

"Good evening," said Marmaduke, subsiding. "I----Well, you are all off,
are you?"

"Quite time for us, I think," said Elinor. "Good-bye."

Mrs. Fairfax, with a second and more distant bow, passed out with
Conolly and Douglas. Elinor waited a moment to whisper to Marmaduke.

"First rate," said Marmaduke, in reply to the whisper; "and beginning to
talk like one o'clock. Oh yes, I tell you!" He shook Elinor's hand at
such length in his gratitude for the inquiry that she was much relieved
when a servant in livery interrupted him.

"Missus wants to speak to you, sir, afore she goes," said the man.

Elinor shook her head at Marmaduke, and hurried away to rejoin the rest
outside. As they went through the courtyard, they passed an open
carriage, in which reclined a pretty woman with dark eyes and delicate
artificial complexion. Her beauty and the elegance of her dress
attracted their attention. Suddenly Marian became aware that Conolly was
watching her as she looked at the woman in the carriage. She was about
to say something, when, to her bewilderment, Elinor nudged her. Then she
understood too, and looked solemnly at Susanna. Susanna, observing her,
stared insolently in return, and Marian averted her head like a guilty
person and hurried on. Conolly saw it all, and did not speak until they
rejoined Mrs. Fairfax and Douglas in Piccadilly.

"How do you propose to go home?" said Douglas.

"Walk to St. James's Street, where the carriage is waiting at the club;
take Uncle Reginald with us; and drive home through the park," said
Elinor.

"I will come with you as far as the club, if you will allow me," said
Douglas.

Conolly then took leave of them, and stood still until they disappeared,
when he returned to the courtyard, and went up to his sister's carriage.

"Well, Susanna," said he. "How are you?"

"Oh, there's nothing the matter with me," she replied carelessly, her
eyes filling with tears, nevertheless.

"I hear that I have been an uncle for some time past."

"Yes, on the wrong side of the blanket."

"What is its name?" he said more gravely.

"Lucy."

"Is it quite well?"

"I suppose not. According to Nurse, it is always ill."

Conolly shrugged his shoulders, and relapsed into the cynical manner in
which he had used to talk with his sister. "Tired of it already?" he
said. "Poor little wretch!"

"It is very well off," she retorted, angrily: "a precious deal better
than I was at its age. It gets petting enough from its father, heaven
knows! He has nothing else to do. I have to work."

"You have it all your own way at the theatre now, I suppose. You are
quite famous."

"Yes," she said, bitterly. "We are both celebrities. Rather different
from old times."

"We certainly used to get more kicks than halfpence. However, let us
hope all that is over now."

"Who were those women who were with you a minute ago?"

"Cousins of Lind. Miss Marian Lind and Miss McQuinch."

"I remember. She is pretty. I suppose, as usual, she hasnt an idea to
bless herself with. The other looks more of a devil. Now that you are a
great man, why dont you marry a swell?"

"I intend to do so."

"The Lord help her then!"

"Amen. Good-bye."

"Oh, good-bye. Go on to Soho," she added, to the coachman, settling
herself fretfully on the cushions.




CHAPTER IX


On Monday morning Douglas received a note inviting him to lunch at Mr.
Lind's club. He had spent the greater part of the previous night
composing a sonnet, which he carried with him in his pocket to St.
James's Street. Mr. Lind received him cordially; listened to an account
of his recent stay abroad; and described his own continental excursions,
both gentlemen expressing great interest at such coincidences as their
having put up at the same hotel or travelled by the same line of
railway. When luncheon was over, Mr. Lind proposed that they should
retire to the smoking-room.

"I should like to have a few words with you first, as we are alone
here," said Douglas.

"Certainly," said Mr. Lind, assuming a mild dignity in anticipation of
being appealed to as a parent. "Certainly, Sholto."

"What I have to say, coming so soon after my long absence, will probably
surprise you. I had it in contemplation before my departure, and was
only prevented from broaching it to you then by circumstances which have
happily since lost their significance. When I tell you that my
communication has reference to Marian, you will perhaps guess its
nature."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Lind, affecting surprise. "Well, Sholto, if it be so,
you have my heartiest approval. You know what a lonely life her marriage
will entail on me; so you will not expect me to consent without a few
regrets. But I could not desire a better settlement for her. She must
leave me some day. I have no right to complain."

"We shall not be very far asunder, I hope; and it is in Marian's nature
to form many ties, but to break none."

"She is an amiable girl, my--my darling child. Does she know anything of
this?"

"I am here at her express request; and there remains to me the pleasure
of getting her own final consent, which I would not press for until
armed with your sanction."

Except for an involuntary hitch of his eyelids, Mr. Lind looked as
if he believed perfectly in Douglas's respect for his parental claims.
"Quite right," he said, "quite right. You have my best wishes. I have
no doubt you will succeed: none. There are, of course, a few
affairs to be settled--a few contingencies to be provided
for--children--accidents--and so forth. No difficulty is likely to arise
between us on that score; but still, these things have to be arranged."

"I propose a very simple method of arranging them. You are a man of
honor, and more conversant with business than I. Give me your
instructions. My lawyer shall have them within half an hour."

"That is said like a gentleman and a Douglas, Sholto. But I must
consider before giving you an answer. You have thrown upon me the duty
of studying your position as well as Marian's; and I must neither abuse
your generosity nor neglect her interest."

"You will, nevertheless, allow me to consider the conditions as settled,
since I leave them entirely in your hands."

"My own means have been seriously crippled by the extravagance of
Reginald. Indeed both my boys have cost me much money. I had not, like
you, the good fortune to be an only son. I was the fourth son of a
younger son: there was very little left for me. I will treat Marian as
liberally as I can; but I fear I cannot do anything for her that will
bear comparison with your munificence."

"Surely I can give her enough. I should prefer to be solely responsible
for her welfare."

"Oh no. That would be too bad. Oh no, Sholto: I will give her something,
please God."

"As you wish, Mr. Lind. We can arrange it to your satisfaction
afterward. Do you intend returning to Westbourne Terrace soon?"

"I am afraid not. I have to go into the City. If you would care to come
with me, I can shew you the Company's place there, and the working of
the motor. It is well worth seeing. Then you can return with me to the
Terrace and dine with us. After dinner you can talk to Marian."

Douglas consented; and they went to Queen Victoria Street, to a building
which had on each doorpost a brass shield inscribed THE CONOLLY
ELECTRO-MOTOR COMPANY OF LONDON, LIMITED. At the offices, on the first
floor, they were received obsequiously and informed that Mr. Conolly was
within. They then went to a door on which appeared the name of the
inventor, and entered a handsomely furnished office containing several
working models of machinery, and a writing-table, from his seat at which
Conolly rose to salute his visitors.

"Good evening, Mr. Lind. How do you do, Mr. Douglas?"

"Oh!" said Mr. Lind. "You two are acquainted. I did not know that."

"Yes," said Conolly, "I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Douglas at the
Academy yesterday evening."

"Indeed? Marian did not mention that you were there. Well, can we see
the wonders of the place, Mr. Conolly; or do we disturb you?"

"Not at all," replied Conolly, turning to one of the models, and
beginning his showman's lecture with disquieting promptitude. "Hitherto,
as you are no doubt aware, Mr. Douglas, steam has kept electricity, as a
motive power, out of the field; because it is much less expensive. Even
induced magnetic currents, the cheapest known form of electric energy,
can be obtained only by the use of steam power. You generate steam by
the combustion of coal: electricity, without steam, can only be
generated by the combustion of metals. Coal is much cheaper than metal:
consider the vast amount of coal consumed in smelting metals. Still,
electricity is a much greater force than steam: it's stronger, so to
speak. Sixpennorth of electricity would do more work than sixpennorth of
steam if only you could catch it and hold it without waste. Up to the
present the waste has been so enormous in electric engines as compared
with steam engines that steam has held its own in spite of its inferior
strength. What I have invented is, to put it shortly, an electric engine
in which there is hardly any waste; and we can now pump water, turn
mill-stones, draw railway trains, and lift elevators, at a saving, in
fuel and labor, of nearly seventy per cent, of the cost of steam. And,"
added Conolly, glancing at Douglas, "as a motor of six-horsepower can be
made to weigh less than thirty pounds, including fuel, flying is now
perfectly feasible."

"What!" said Douglas, incredulously. "Does not all trustworthy evidence
prove that flying is a dream?"

"So it did; because a combination of great power with little weight,
such as an eagle, for instance, possesses, could not formerly be
realized in a machine. The lightest known four-horse-power steam engine
weighs nearly fifty pounds. With my motor, a machine weighing thirty
pounds will give rather more than six-horse-power, or, in other words,
will produce a wing power competent to overcome much more than its own
gravity. If the Aeronautical Society does not, within the next few
years, make a machine capable of carrying passengers through the air to
New York in less than two days, I will make one myself."

"Very wonderful, indeed," said Douglas, politely, looking askance at
him.

"No more wonderful than the flight of a sparrow, I assure you. We shall
presently be conveyed to the top of this building by my motor. Here you
have a model locomotive, a model steam hammer, and a sewing machine: all
of which, as you see, I can set to work. However, this is mere show. You
must always bear in mind that the novelty is not in the working of these
machines, but the smallness of the cost of working."

Douglas endured the rest of the exhibition in silence, understanding
none of the contrivances until they were explained, and not always
understanding them even then. It was disagreeable to be instructed by
Conolly--to feel that there were matters of which Conolly knew
everything and he nothing. If he could have but shaped a pertinent
question or two, enough to prove that he was quite capable of the
subject if he chose to turn his attention to it, he could have accepted
Conolly's information on the machinery as indifferently as that of a
policeman on the shortest way to some place that it was no part of a
gentleman's routine to frequent. As it was, he took refuge in his
habitual reserve, and, lest the exhibition should be prolonged on his
account, took care to shew no more interest in it than was barely
necessary to satisfy Mr. Lind. At last it was over; and they returned
westward together in a hansom.

"He is a Yankee, I suppose,'" said Douglas, as if ingenuity were a low
habit that must be tolerated in an American.

"Yes. They are a wonderful people for that sort of thing. Curious turn
of mind the mechanical instinct is!"

"It is one with which I have no sympathy. It is generally subject to the
delusion that it has a monopoly of utility. Your mechanic hates art;
pelts it with lumps of iron; and strives to extinguish it beneath all
the hard and ugly facts of existence. On the other hand, your artist
instinctively hates machinery. I fear I am an artist."

"I dont think you are quite right there, Sholto. No. Look at the steam
engine, the electric telegraph, the--the other inventions of the
century. How could we get on without them?"

"Quite as well as Athens got on without them. Our mechanical
contrivances seem to serve us; but they are really mastering us,
crowding and crushing the beauty out of our lives, and making commerce
the only god."

"I certainly admit that the coarser forms of Radicalism have made
alarming strides under the influence of our modern civilization. But the
convenience of steam conveyance is so remarkable that I doubt if we
could now dispense with it. Nor, as a consistent Liberal, a moderate
Liberal, do I care to advocate any retrogression, even in the direction
of ancient Greece."

Douglas was seized with a certain impatience of Mr. Lind, as of a
well-mannered man who had never learned anything, and had forgotten all
that he had been taught. He did not attempt to argue, but merely said,
coldly: "I can only say that I wish Fate had made me an Athenian instead
of an Englishman of the nineteenth century."

Mr. Lind smiled complacently: he knew Douglas, if not Athens, better,
but was in too tolerant a humor to say so. Little more passed between
the two until they reached Westbourne Terrace, where Marian and her
cousin were dressing for dinner. When Marian came down, her beauty so
affected Douglas that his voice was low and his manner troubled as he
greeted her. He took her in to dinner, and sat in silence beside her,
heedless alike of his host's commonplaces and Miss McQuinch's
acridities.

Mr. Lind unceremoniously took a nap after his wine that evening, and
allowed his guest to go upstairs alone. Douglas hoped that Elinor would
be equally considerate, but, to his disappointment, he found her by
herself in the drawing-room. She hastened to explain.

"Marian is looking for some music. She will be back directly."

He sat down and took an album from the table, saying: "Have you many new
faces here?"

"Yes. But we never discard old faces for new ones. It is the old ones
that are really interesting."

"I have not seen this one of Mr. Lind before. It is capital. Ah! this of
you is an old friend."

"Yes. What do you think of the one of Constance on the opposite page?"

"She looks as if she were trying to be as lugubrious as possible. What
dress is that? Is it a uniform?"

"Yes. She joined a nursing guild. Didnt Mrs. Douglas tell you?"

"I believe so. I forgot. She went into a cottage hospital or something
of that kind, did she not?"

"She left it because one of the doctors offended her. He was rather
dreadful. He said that in two months she had contributed more to the
mortality among the patients than he had in two years, and told her
flatly that she had been trained for the drawing-room and ought to stay
there. She was glad enough to have an excuse for leaving; for she was
heartily sick of making a fool of herself."

"Indeed! Where is she now?"

"Back at Towers Cottage, moping, I suppose. That's Mr. Conolly the
inventor, there under Jasper."

"So I perceive. Clever head, rather! A plain, hard nature, with no
depths in it. Is that his wife, with the Swiss bonnet?"

"His wife! Why, that is a Swiss girl, the daughter of a guide at
Chamounix, who nursed Marian when she sprained her ankle. Mr. Conolly is
not married."

"I thought men of his stamp always married early."

"No. He is engaged, and engaged to a lady of very good position."

"He owes that to the diseased craving of modern women for notoriety of
any sort. What an admirable photograph of Marian! I never saw it before.
It is really most charming. When was it taken?"

"Last August, at Geneva. She does not like it--thinks it too
coquettish."

"Then perhaps she will give it to me."

"She will be only too glad, I daresay. You have caught her at a soft
moment to-night."

"I cannot find that duet anywhere," said Marian, entering. "What! up
already, Sholto? Where is papa?"

"I left him asleep in the dining-room. I have just been asking Miss
McQuinch whether she thought you would give me a copy of this carte."

"That Geneva one. It is most annoying how people persist in admiring it.
It always looks to me as if it belonged to an assortment of popular
beauties at one shilling each. I dont think I have another. But you may
take that if you wish."

"Thank you," said Douglas, drawing it from the book.

"I think you have a copy of every photograph I have had taken in my
life," she said, sitting down near him, and taking the album. "I have
several of yours, too. You must get one taken soon for me; I have not
got you with your beard yet. I have a little album upstairs which Aunt
Dora gave me on my eighth birthday; and the first picture in it is you,
dressed in flannels, holding a bat, and looking very stern as captain of
your eleven at Eton. I used to stand in great awe of you then. Do you
remember telling me once that 'Zanoni' was a splendid book, and that I
ought to read it?"

"Pshaw! No. I must have been a young fool. But it seems that I had the
grace even then to desire your sympathy."

"I assure you I read it most reverently down in Wiltshire, where Nelly
kept a select library of fiction concealed underneath her mattress; and
I believed every word of it. Nelly and I agreed that you were exactly
like Zanoni; but she was hardly to blame; for she had never seen you."

"Things like that make deep impressions on children," said Elinor,
thoughtfully. "You were a Zanoni in my imagination for years before I
saw you. When we first met you treated me insufferably. If you had known
how my childish fancy had predisposed me to worship you, you might have
vouchsafed me some more consideration, and I might have gone on
believing you a demigod to the end of the chapter. I have hardly
forgiven you yet for disenchanting me."

"I am sorry," said Douglas sarcastically. "I must have been sadly
lacking in impressiveness. But on the other hand I recollect that you
did not disappoint me in the least. You fully bore out the expectations
I had been led to form of you."

"I have no doubt I did," said Elinor. "Yet I protest that my reputation
was as unjust as yours. However, I have outlived my sensitiveness to
this injustice, and have even contracted a bad habit of pretending to
act up to it occasionally before foolish people. Marian: are you sure
that duet is not on the sofa in my room?"

"Oh, the sofa! I looked only in the green case."

"I will go and hunt it out myself. Excuse me for a few minutes."

Douglas was glad to see her go. Yet he was confused when he was alone
with Marian. He strolled to the window, outside which the roof of the
porch had been converted into a summer retreat by a tent of pink-striped
canvass. "The tent is up already," he said. "I noticed it as we came
in."

"Yes. Would you prefer to sit there? We can carry out this little
table, and put the lamp on it. There is just room for three chairs."

"We need not crowd ourselves with the table," he said. "There will be
light enough. We only want to talk."

"Very well," said Marian, rising. "Will you give me that woolen thing
that is on the sofa? It will do me for a shawl." He placed it on her
shoulders, and they went out.

"I will sit in this corner," said Marian. "You are too big for the
campstool. You had better bring a chair. I am fond of sitting here. When
the crimson shade is on the lamp, and papa asleep in its roseate glow,
the view is quite romantic: there is something ecstatically snug in
hiding here and watching it." Douglas smiled, and seated himself as she
suggested, near her, with his shoulder against the stone balustrade.

"Marian," said he, after a pause: "you remember what passed between us
at the Academy yesterday?"

"You mean our solemn league and covenant. Yes."

"Why did we not make that covenant before? Life is not so long, nor
happiness so common, that we can afford to trifle away two years of it.
I wish you had told me when I last came here of that old photograph of
mine in your album."

"But this is not a new covenant. It is only an old one mended. We were
always good friends until you quarrelled and ran away."

"That was not my fault, Marian."

"Then it must have been mine. However, it does not matter now."

"You are right. Prometheus is unbound now; and his despair is only a
memory sanctifying his present happiness. You know why I called on your
father this morning?"

"It was to see the electro-motor in the city, was it not?"

"Good Heavens, Marian!" he said, rising, "what spirit of woman or spirit
of mischief tempts you to coquet with me even now?"

"I really thought that was the reason--besides, of course, your desire
to make papa amends for not having been to see him sooner after your
return."

"Marian!" he said, still remonstrantly.

She looked at him with sudden dread, and instinctively recognized the
expression in his face.

"You know as well as I," he continued, "that I went to seek his consent
to our solemn league and covenant, as you call it. If that covenant were
written on your heart as it is on mine, you would not inflict on me this
pretty petty torture. Your father has consented: he is delighted. Now
may I make a guess at that happy secret you told me of yesterday, and
promised I should know one day?"

"Stop! Wait," said Marian, very pale. "I must tell you that secret
myself."

"Hush. Do not be so moved. Remember that your confession is to be
whispered to me alone."

"Dont talk like that. It is all a mistake. My secret has nothing to do
with you." Douglas drew back a little way.

"I am engaged to be married."

"What do you mean?" he said sternly, advancing a step and looking down
menacingly at her with his hand on the back of his chair.

"I have said what I mean," replied Marian with dignity. But she rose
quickly as soon as she had spoken, and got past him into the
drawing-room. He followed her; and she turned and faced him in the
middle of the room, paler than before.

"You are engaged to _me_," he said.

"I am not," she replied.

"That is a lie!" he exclaimed, struggling in his rage to break through
the strong habit of self-control. "It is a damnable lie; but it is the
most cruel way of getting rid of me, and therefore the one most
congenial to your heartlessness."

"Sholto," said Marian, her cheeks beginning to redden: "you should not
speak to me like that."

"I say," he cried fiercely, "that it is a lie!"

"Whats the matter?" said Elinor, coming hastily into the room.

"Sholto has lost his temper," said Marian, firmly, her indignation
getting the better of her fear now that she was no longer alone with
him.

"It is a lie," repeated Douglas, unable to shape a new sentence. Elinor
and Marian looked at one another in perplexity. Then Mr. Lind entered.

"Gently, pray," said he. "You can be heard all through the house.
Marian: what is the matter?"

She did not answer; but Douglas succeeded, after a few efforts, in
speaking intelligibly. "Your daughter," he said, "with the assistance of
her friend Mrs. Leith Fairfax, and a sufficient degree of direct
assurance on her own part, has achieved the triumph of bringing me to
her feet a second time, after I had unfortunately wounded her vanity by
breaking her chains for two years."

"That is utterly false," interrupted Marian, with excitement.

"I say," said Douglas, in a deeper tone and with a more determined
manner, "that she set Mrs. Leith Fairfax on me with a tale of love and
regret for my absence. She herself with her own lips deliberately
invited me to seek your consent to our union. She caused you to write me
the invitation I received from you this morning. She told me that my
return realized a dream that had been haunting her for two years. She
begged me to forgive her the past, and to write her a sonnet, of which
she said she was at least more worthy than Clytemnestra, and of which I
say she is at best less worthy than Cressida." He took a paper from his
pocket as he spoke; and, with a theatrical gesture, tore it into
fragments.

"This is very extraordinary," said Mr. Lind irresolutely. "Is it some
foolish quarrel, or what is the matter? Pray let us have no more
unpleasantness."

"You need fear none from me," said Douglas. "I do not propose to
continue my acquaintance with Miss Lind."

"Mr. Douglas has proposed to marry me; and I have refused him," said
Marian. "He has lost his temper and insulted me. I think you ought to
tell him to go away."

"Gently, Marian, gently. What am I to believe about this?"

"What I have told you," said Douglas, "I confirm _on my honor_, which
you can weigh against the pretences of a twice perjured woman."

"Sholto!"

"I have to speak plainly on my own behalf, Mr. Lind. I regret that you
were not in a position this morning to warn me of your daughter's
notable secret."

"If it is a secret, and you are a gentleman, you will hold your
tongue," interposed Elinor, sharply.

"Papa," said Marian: "I became engaged yesterday to Mr. Conolly. I told
Mr. Douglas this in order to save him from making me a proposal. That is
the reason he has forgotten himself. I had not intended to tell you so
suddenly; but this misunderstanding has forced me to."

"Engaged to Mr. Conolly!" cried Mr. Lind. "I begin to fear
that----Enga----" He took breath, and continued, to Marian: "I forbid
you to entertain any such engagement. Sholto: there is evidently nothing
to be gained by discussing this matter in hot blood. It is some girlish
absurdity--some--some--some--"

"I apologize for having doubted the truth of the excuse," said Douglas;
"but I see that I have failed to gauge Miss Lind's peculiar taste. I beg
you to understand, Mr. Lind, that my pretensions are at an end. I do not
aspire to the position of Mr. Conolly's rival."

"You are already in the position of Mr. Conolly's unsuccessful rival;
and you fill it with a very bad grace," said Elinor.

"Pray be silent, Elinor," said Mr. Lind. "This matter does not concern
you. Marian: go to your room for the present. I shall speak to you
afterwards."

Marian flushed, and repressed a sob. "I wish I were under _his_
protection now," she said, looking reproachfully at Douglas as she
crossed the room.

"What can you expect from a father but hostility?" said Elinor,
bitterly. "You are a coward, like all your sex," she added, turning to
Douglas. Then she suddenly opened the door, and passed out through it
with Marian, whilst the housemaids fled upstairs, the footman shrank
into a corner of the landing, and the page hastily dragged the cook
down to the kitchen.

The two men, left together in the drawing-room, were for some moments
quite at a loss. Then Mr. Lind, after a preliminary cough or two, said:
"Sholto: I cannot describe to you how shocked I am by what I have just
heard. I am deeply disappointed in Marian. I trusted her implicitly; but
of course I now see that I have been wrong in allowing her so much
liberty. Evidently a great deal has been going on of which I had not any
suspicion."

Douglas said nothing. His resentment was unabated; but his rage,
naturally peevish and thin in quality, was subsiding, though it surged
back on him at intervals. But now that he no longer desired to speak
passionately, he would not trust himself to speak at all. Suddenly Mr.
Lind broke out with a fury that astonished him, preoccupied as he was.

"This--this fellow must have had opportunities of thrusting himself into
her society of which I knew nothing. I thought she barely knew him. And
if I had known, could I have suspected her of intriguing with an
ill-bred adventurer! Yes, I might: my experience ought to have warned me
that the taint was in her blood. Her mother did the same thing--left the
position I had given her to run away with a charlatan, disgracing me
without the shadow of an excuse or reason except her own innate love for
what was low. I thought Marian had escaped that. I was proud of
her--placed un--unbounded confidence in her."

"She has struck me a blow," said Douglas, "the infernal treachery----."
He checked himself, and after a moment resumed in his ordinary formal
manner. "I must leave you, Mr. Lind. I am quite unable at present to
discuss what has passed. Any conventional expressions of regret would
be----Good-night."

He bowed and left the room. Mr. Lind, taken aback, did not attempt to
detain him or even return his bow, but stood biting his lips with a
frown of discomfiture and menace. When he was alone, he paced the room
several times. Then he procured some writing materials and sat down
before them. He wrote nothing, but, after sitting for some time, he went
upstairs. Passing Marian's room he listened. The sharp voice and
restless movements of his niece were the only sounds he heard. They
seemed to frighten him; for he stole on quickly to his own room, and
went to bed. Even there he could hear a shrill note of conversation
occasionally from the opposite room, where Marian was sitting on a sofa,
trying to subdue the hysteria which had been gaining on her since her
escape from the balcony; whilst Elinor, seated on the corner of a drawer
which projected from the dressing-table, talked incessantly in her most
acrid tones.

"Henceforth," she said, "Uncle Reginald is welcome to my heartiest
detestation. I have been waiting ever since I knew him for an excuse to
hate him; and now he has given me one. He has taken part--like a true
parent--against you with a self-intoxicated fool whom he ought to have
put out of the house. He has told me to mind my own business. I shall be
even with him for that some day. I am as vindictive as an elephant: I
hate people who are not vindictive: they are never grateful either, only
incapable of any enduring sentiment. And Douglas! Sholto Douglas! The
hero, the Newdigate poet, the handsome man! What a noble fellow he is
when a little disappointment rubs his varnish off! I am glad I called
him a coward to his face. I am thoroughly well satisfied with myself
altogether: at last I have come out of a scene without having forgotten
the right thing to say. You never see people in all their selfishness
until they pretend to love you. See what you owe to your loving suitor,
Sholto Douglas! See what you owe to your loving father, Reginald Lind!"

"I do not think that my father should have told me to leave the room,"
said Marian. "It was Sholto's place to have gone, not mine."

"Mr. Lind, who has so suddenly and deservedly descended from 'papa' to
'my father,' judiciously sided with the stronger and richer party."

"Nelly: I shall be as unhappy after this as even Sholto can desire. I
feel very angry with papa; and yet I have no right to be. I suppose it
is because I am in the wrong. I deceived him about the engagement."

"Bosh! You didnt tell him because you knew you couldnt trust him; and
now you see how right you were."

"Even so, Nelly, I must not forget all his past care of me."

"What care has he ever taken of you? He was very little better
acquainted with you than he was with me, when you came to keep house for
him and make yourself useful. Of course, he had to pay for your board
and lodging and education. The police would not have allowed him to
leave you to the parish. Besides, he was proud of having a nice, pretty
daughter to dispose of. You were quite welcome to be happy so long as
you did not do anything except what he approved of. But the moment you
claim your independence as a grown woman, the moment you attempt to
dispose of yourself instead of letting him dispose of you! Bah! _I_
might have been _my_ father's pet, if I had been a nonentity. As it was,
he spared no pains to make me miserable; and as I was only a helpless
little devil of a girl, he succeeded to his heart's content. Uncle
Reginald will try to do exactly the same to-morrow, he will come and
bully you, instead of apologizing as he ought. See if he doesnt!"

"If I had as much reason to complain of my childhood as you have,
perhaps I should not feel so shocked and disappointed by his turning on
me to-night. Surely, when he saw me attacked as I was, he ought to have
come to my assistance."

"Any stranger would have taken your part. The footman would, if you had
asked him. But then, James is not your father."

"It seems a very small thing to be bidden to leave the room. But I will
never expose myself to a repetition of it."

"Quite right. But what do you mean to do? for, after all, though
parental love is an imposition, parental authority is a fact."

"I will get married."

"Out of the frying pan into the fire! Certainly, if you are resolved to
marry, the present is as good as another time, and more convenient. But
there must be some legal formalities to go through. You cannot turn into
the first church you meet, and be married off-hand."

"Ned must find out all that. I am sadly disappointed and disilluded,
Nelly."

"Time will cure you as it does everybody; and you will be the better for
being wiser. By the bye, what did Sholto mean about Mrs. Fairfax?"

"I dont know."

"She has evidently been telling him a parcel of lies. Do you remember
her hints about him yesterday at lunch? I have not the least doubt that
she has told him you are frantically in love with him. She as good as
told you the same about him."

"Oh! she is not capable of doing such a thing."

"Isnt she? We shall see."

"I dont know what to think," said Marian, despondently. "I used to
believe that both you and Ned thought too little of other people; but it
seems now that the world is nothing but a morass of wickedness and
falsehood. And Sholto, too! Who would have believed that he could break
out in that coarse way? Do you remember the day that Fleming, the
coachman, lost his temper with Auntie down at the Cottage. Sholto was
exactly like that; not a bit more refined or dignified."

"Rather less so, because Fleming was in the right. Let us go to bed. We
can do nothing to-night, but fret, and wish for to-morrow. Better get to
sleep. Resentment does not keep me awake, I can vouch for that: I got
well broken in to it when I was a child. I heard Uncle Reginald going to
his room some time ago. I am getting sleepy, too, though I feel the
better for the excitement."

"Very well. To bed be it," said Marian. But she did not sleep at all as
well as Nelly.




CHAPTER X


Next morning Mr. Lind rose before his daughter was astir, and went to
his club, where he breakfasted. He then went to the offices in Queen
Victoria Street. Finding the board-room unoccupied, he sat down there,
and said to one of the clerks:

"Go and tell Mr. Conolly that I desire to speak to him, if he is
disengaged. And if anyone wants to come in, say that I am busy here. I
do not wish to be disturbed for half an hour or so."

"Yes, sir," said the clerk, departing. A minute later, he returned, and
said: "Mr. Conly is disengaged; and he says will you be so good as to
come to his room, sir."

"I told you to ask him to come here," said Mr. Lind.

"Well, thats what he said, sir," said the clerk, speaking in official
Board School English. "Shloy gow to him and tell him again?"

"No, no: it does not matter," said Mr. Lind, and walked out through the
office. The clerk held the door open for him, and carefully closed it
when he had passed through.

"Ow, oy sy!" cried the clerk. "This is fawn, this is."

"Wots the row?" said another clerk.

"Woy, owld Lind sends me in to Conly to cam in to him into the
board-room. 'Aw right,' says Conly, 'awsk him to cam in eah to me.' You
should 'a seen the owld josser's feaches wnoy towld im. 'Oyd zoyred jou
to sy e was to cam in eah to me.' 'Shloy gow and tell him again?' I
says, as cool as ennything. 'Now,' says he, 'Oil gow myself.' Thets wot
Aw loike in Conly. He tikes tham fellers dahn wen they troy it on owver
im."

Meanwhile, Mr. Lind went to Conolly's room; returned his greeting by a
dignified inclination of the head; and accepted, with a cold "Thank
you," the chair offered him. Conolly, who had received him cordially,
checked himself. There was a pause, during which Mr. Lind lost
countenance a little. Then Conolly sat down, and waited.

"Ahem!" said Mr. Lind. "I have to speak to you with--with reference
to--to a--a matter which has accidentally come to my knowledge. It would
be painful and unnecessary--quite unnecessary, to go into particulars."

Conolly remained politely attentive, but said nothing. Mr. Lind began to
feel very angry, but this helped him to the point.

"I merely wish--that is, I quite wish you to understand that any
intimacy that may have arisen between you and--and a member of my family
must--must, in short, be considered to be at an end. My daughter is--I
may tell you--engaged to Mr. Sholto Douglas, whom you know; and
therefore--you understand."

"Mr. Lind," said Conolly, decisively: "your daughter is engaged to me."

Mr. Lind lost his temper, and rose, exclaiming, "I beg you will not
repeat that, either here or elsewhere."

"Pray be seated," said Conolly courteously.

"I have nothing more to say, sir."

Conolly rose, as though the interview were at an end, and seemed to wait
for his visitor to go.

"We understand one another, I presume," said Mr. Lind, dubiously.

"Not quite, I think," said Conolly, relenting. "I should suggest our
discussing the matter in full, now that we have a favorable
opportunity--if you will be so good."

Mr. Lind sat down, and said with condescension, "I am quite willing to
listen to you."

"Thank you," said Conolly. "Will you tell me what your objections are to
my engagement with your daughter?"

"I had hoped, sir, that your common sense and knowledge of the world
would have rendered an explanation superfluous."

"They havnt," said Conolly.

Mr. Lind rose to boiling point again. "Oh, Mr. Conolly, I assure you I
have no objection to explain myself: none whatever. I merely wished to
spare you as far as possible. Since you insist on my mentioning what I
think you must be perfectly well aware of, I can only say that from the
point of view of English society our positions are different; and
therefore an engagement between you and any member of my family is
unsuitable, and--in short--out of the question, however advantageous it
might be to you. That is all."

Mr. Lind considered he had had the better of that, and leaned back in
his chair more confidently. Conolly smiled and shook his head,
appreciative of the clearness with which Mr. Lind had put his case, but
utterly unmoved by it. He considered for a moment, and then said,
weighing his words carefully:

"Your daughter, with her natural refinement and delicate habits, is
certainly not fit to be married to a foul-mouthed fellow, ignorant,
dirty, besotted, and out of place in any company except at the bar in a
public house. That is probably your idea of a workman. But the fact of
her having consented to marry me is a proof that I do not answer to any
such description. As you have hinted, it will be an advantage to me in
some ways to have a lady for my wife; but I should have no difficulty in
purchasing that advantage, even with my present means, which I expect to
increase largely in the course of some years. Do you not underrate your
daughter's personal qualities when you assume that it was her position
that induced me to seek her hand?"

"I am quite aware of my daughter's personal advantages. They are
additional reasons against her contracting an imprudent marriage."

"Precisely. But in what respect would her marriage with me be imprudent?
I possess actual competence, and a prospect of wealth. I come of a long
lived and healthy family. My name is, beyond comparison, more widely
known than yours. [Mr. Lind recoiled]. I now find myself everywhere
treated with a certain degree of consideration, which an alliance with
your daughter will not diminish."

"In fact, you are conferring a great honor on my family by condescending
to marry into it?"

"I dont understand that way of looking at things, Mr. Lind; and so I
leave you to settle the question of honor as you please. But you must
not condemn me for putting my position in the best possible light in
order to reconcile you to an inevitable fact."

"What do you mean by an inevitable fact, sir?"

"My marriage, of course. I assure you that it will take place."

"But I shall not permit it to take place. Do you think to ignore me in
the matter?"

"Practically so. If you give your consent, I shall be glad for the sake
of Marian, who will be gratified by it. But if you withhold it, we must
dispense with it. By opposing us, you will simply--by making Marian's
home unbearable to her--precipitate the wedding." Conolly, under the
influence of having put the case neatly, here relaxed his manner so far
as to rest his elbows on the table and look pleasantly at his visitor.

"Do you know to whom you are speaking?" said Mr. Lind, driven by rage
and a growing fear of defeat into desperate self-assertion.

"I am speaking," said Conolly with a smile, "to my future
father-in-law."

"I am a director of this company, of which you are the servant, as you
shall find to your cost if you persist in holding insulting language to
me."

"If I found any director of this company allowing other than strictly
business considerations to influence him at the Board, I should insist
on his resigning."

Mr. Lind looked at him severely, then indignantly, then unsteadily,
without moving him in the least. At last he said, more humbly: "I hope
you will not abuse your position, Mr. Conolly. I do not know whether you
have sufficient influence over Marian to induce her to defy me; but
however that may be, I appeal to your better feelings. Put yourself in
my place. If you had an only daughter----"

"Excuse my interrupting you," said Conolly, gently; "but that will not
advance the argument unless you put yourself in mine. Besides, I am
pledged to Marian. If she asks me to break off the match, I shall
release her instantly."

"You will bind yourself to do that?"

"I cannot help myself. I have no more power to make her marry me than
you have to prevent her."

"I have the authority of a parent. And I must tell you, Mr. Conolly,
that it will be my duty to enlighten my poor child as to the effect a
union with you must have on her social position. You have made the most
of your celebrity and your prospects. She may be dazzled for the moment;
but her good sense will come to the rescue yet, I am convinced."

"I have certainly spared no pains to persuade her. Unless the habit of
her childhood can induce Marian to defer to your prejudice--you must
allow me to call it so: it is really nothing more--she will keep her
word to me."

Mr. Lind winced, recollecting how little his conduct toward Marian
during her childhood was calculated to accustom her to his influence.
"It seems to me, sir," he said, suddenly thinking of a new form of
reproach, "that, to use your own plain language, you are nothing more or
less than a Radical."

"Radicalism is not considered a reproach amongst workmen," said Conolly.

"I shall not fail to let her know the confidence with which you boast of
your power over her."

"I have simply tried to be candid with you. You know exactly how I
stand. If I have omitted anything, ask me, and I will tell you at once."

Mr. Kind rose. "I know quite as much as I care to know," he said. "I
distinctly object to and protest against all your proceedings, Mr.
Conolly. If my daughter marries you, she shall have neither my
countenance in society nor one solitary farthing of the fortune I had
destined for her. I recommend the latter point to your attention."

"I have considered it carefully, Mr. Lind; and I am satisfied with what
she possesses in her own right."

"Oh! You have ascertained _that_, have you?"

"I should hardly have proposed to marry her but for her entire
pecuniary independence of me."

"Indeed. And have you explained to her that you wish to marry her for
the sake of securing her income?"

"I have explained to her everything she ought to know, taking care, of
course, to have full credit for my frankness."

Mr. Lind, after regarding him with amazement for a moment, walked to the
door.

"I am a gentleman," he said, pausing there for a moment, "and too
old-fashioned to discuss the obligations of good breeding with a
Radical. If I had believed you capable of the cynical impudence with
which you have just met my remonstrances, I should have spared myself
this meeting. Good-morning."

"Good-morning," said Conolly, gravely. When the door closed, he sprang
up and walked to and fro, chuckling, rubbing his hands, and occasionally
uttering a short laugh. When he had sufficiently relieved himself by
this exercise, he sat down at his desk, and wrote a note.

  "The Conolly Electro-Motor Company of London, Limited. Queen
  Victoria Street, E.C.

  "This is to let your ever-radiant ladyship know that I am fresh
  from an encounter with your father, who has retired in great wrath,
  defeated, but of opinion that he deserved no better for arguing
  with a Radical. I thought it better to put forth my strength at
  once so as to save future trouble. I send this post haste in order
  that you may be warned in case he should go straight home and scold
  you. I hope he will not annoy you much.--E.C."

Having despatched the office boy to Westbourne Terrace with this letter,
Conolly went off to lunch. Mr. Lind went back to his club, and then to
Westbourne Terrace, where he was informed that the young ladies were
together in the drawing-room. Some minutes later, Marian, discussing
Conolly's letter with Elinor, was interrupted by a servant, who informed
her that her father desired to see her in his study.

"Now for it, Marian!" said Nelly, when the servant was gone. "Remember
that you have to meet the most unreasonable of adversaries, a parent
asserting his proprietary rights in his child. Dont be sentimental.
Leave that to him: he will be full of a father's anguish on discovering
that his cherished daughter has feelings and interests of her own.
Besides, Conolly has crushed him; and he will try to crush you in
revenge."

"I wish I were not so nervous," said Marian. "I am not really afraid,
but for all that, my heart is beating very unpleasantly."

"I wish I were in your place," said Elinor. "I feel like a charger at
the sound of the trumpet."

"I am glad, for poor papa's sake, that you are not," said Marian, going
out.

She knocked at the study door; and her father's voice, as he bade her
come in, impressed her more than ever before. He was seated behind the
writing-table, in front of which a chair was set for his daughter. She,
unaccustomed from her childhood to submit to any constraint but that
which the position of a guest, which she so often occupied, had trained
her to impose on herself, was rather roused than awed by this
magisterial arrangement. She sat down with less than her usual grace of
manner, and looked at him with her brows knitted. It was one of the rare
moments in which she reminded him of her mother. An angry impulse to bid
her not dare look so at him almost got the better of him. However, he
began prudently with a carefully premeditated speech.

"It is my duty, Marian," he said gravely, "to speak of the statement
you made last night. We need not allude to the painful scene which took
place then: better let that rest and be forgotten as soon as possible.
But the discovery of what you have been doing without my knowledge has
cost me a sleepless night and a great deal of anxiety. I wish to reason
with you now quite calmly and dispassionately; and I trust you will
remember that I am older and have far more experience of the world than
you, and that I am a better judge of your interests than you yourself
can possibly be. Ahem! I have been this morning to the City, where I saw
Mr. Conolly, and endeavored to make him understand the true nature of
his conduct toward me--and, I may add, toward you--in working his way
clandestinely into an intimacy with you. I shall not describe to you
what passed; but I may say that I have found him to be a person with
whom you could not hope for a day's happiness. Even apart from his
habits and tastes, which are those of a mere workman, his social (and, I
fear, his religious) views are such as no lady, no properly-minded woman
of any class, could sympathize with. You will be better able to judge of
his character when I tell you that he informed me of his having taken
care, before making any advances to you, to ascertain how much money you
had. He boasted in the coarsest terms of his complete influence over
you, evidently without a suspicion of the impression of venality and
indelicacy which his words were calculated to make on me. Besides,
Marian, I am sure you would not like to contract a marriage which would
give me the greatest pain; which would offend my family; and which would
have the effect of shutting you out from all good society."

"You are mistaken in him, papa."

"I beg you will allow me to finish, Marian. [He had to think for a
moment before he could substantiate this pretence of having something
more to say.] I have quite made up my mind, from personal observation of
Mr. Conolly, that even an ordinary acquaintance between you is out of
the question. I, in short, refuse to allow anything of the kind to
proceed; and I must ask you to respect my wishes in the matter. There is
another subject which I will take this opportunity of mentioning; but as
I have no desire to force your inclinations, I shall not press you for a
declaration of your feelings at present. Sholto Douglas----"

"I do not want to hear _anything_ about Sholto Douglas," said Marian,
rising.

"I expect you, Marian, to listen to what I have to say."

"On that subject I will not listen. I have felt very sore and angry ever
since you told me last night to leave the room when Sholto insulted me,
as if I were the aggressor."

"Angry! I am sorry to hear you say so to me."

"It is better to say so than to think so. There is no use in going on
with this conversation, papa. It will only lead to more bitterness
between us; and I had enough of that when I tasted it for the first time
last night. We shall never agree about Mr. Conolly. I have promised to
marry him; and therefore I am not free to withdraw, even if I wished
to."

"A promise made by you without my sanction is not binding. And--listen
to me, if you please--I have obtained Mr. Conolly's express assurance
that if you wish to withdraw, he is perfectly willing that you should."

"Of course, he would not marry me if I did not wish it."

"But he is willing that you should withdraw. He leaves you quite free."

"Yes; and, as you told me, he is quite confident that I will keep faith
with him; and so I will. I have had a letter from him since you saw
him."

"What!" said Mr. Lind, rising also.

"Dont let us quarrel, papa," said Marian, appealingly. "Why may I not
marry whom I please?"

"Who wants to prevent you, pray? I have most carefully abstained from
influencing you with regard to Sholto Douglas. But this is a totally
different question. It is my duty to save you from disgracing yourself."

"Where is the disgrace? Mr. Conolly is an eminent man. I am not poor,
and can afford to marry anyone I can respect. I can respect him. What
objection have you to him? I am sure he is far superior to Sholto."

"Mr. Douglas is a gentleman, Marian: Mr. Conolly is not; and it is out
of the question for you to ally yourself with a--a member of the
proletariat, however skilful he may be in his handicraft."

"What _is_ a gentleman, papa?"

"A gentleman, Marian, is one who is well born and well bred, and who has
that peculiar tone and culture which can only be acquired by intercourse
with the best society. I think you should know that as well as I. I hope
you do not put these questions from a desire to argue with me."

"I only wish to do what is right. Surely there is no harm in arguing
when one is not convinced."

"Humph! Well, I have said all that is necessary. I am sure that you will
not take any step calculated to inflict pain on me--at least an act of
selfishness on your part would be a new and shocking experience for me.

"That is a very unfair way of putting it, papa. You give me no good
reason for breaking my word, and making myself unhappy; and yet you
accuse me of selfishness in not being ready to do both."

"I think I have already given you my assurance, weighted as it is by my
age, my experience, my regard for your welfare, and, I hope, my
authority as a parent, that both your honor and happiness will be
secured by your obeying me, and forfeited by following your own
headstrong inclinations."

Marian, almost crushed by this, hesitated a moment, twisting her fingers
and looking pitiably at him. Then she thought of Conolly; rallied; and
said: "I can only say that I am sorry to disagree with you; but I am not
convinced."

"Do you mean that you refuse to obey me?"

"I cannot obey you in this matter, papa. I--"

"That is enough," said Mr. Lind, gravely, beginning, to busy himself
with the writing materials. Marian for a moment seemed about to protest
against this dismissal. Then she checked herself and went out of the
room, closing the door quite quietly behind her, thereby unconsciously
terrifying her father, who had calculated on a slam.

"Well," said Elinor, when her cousin rejoined her in the drawing-room:
"have you been selfish and disobedient? Have you lacerated a father's
heart?"

"He is thoroughly unfair," said Marian. "However, it all comes to this:
he is annoyed at my wanting to marry Ned: and I believe there will be no
more peace for me until I am in a house of my own. What shall we do in
the meantime? Where shall we go? I cannot stay here."

"Why not? Uncle Reginald will sulk; sit at dinner without speaking to
us; and keep out of our way as much as he can. But you can talk to me:
we neednt mind him. It is he who will be out in the cold, biting his
nose to vex his face. Such a state of things is new to you; but I have
survived weeks of it without a single sympathizer, and been none the
worse, except, perhaps, in temper. He will pretend to be inexorable at
first: then he will come down to wounded affection; and he will end by
giving in."

"No, Nelly, I couldnt endure that sort of existence. If people cannot
remain friends they should separate at once. I will not sleep in this
house to-night."

"Hurrah!" cried Miss McQuinch. "That will be beginning the war with
spirit. If I were in your place, I would stay and fight it out at close
quarters. I would make myself so disagreeable that nobody can imagine
what life in this house would be. But your plan is the best--if you
really mean it."

"Certainly I mean it. Where shall we go, Nelly?"

"Hm! I am afraid none of the family would make us very comfortable under
the circumstances, except Marmaduke. It would be a splendid joke to go
to West Kensington; only it would tell as much against us and Ned as
against the Roman father. I have it! We will go to Mrs. Toplis's in St.
Mary's Terrace: my mother always stays there when she is in town. Mrs.
Toplis knows us: if she has a room to spare she will give it to us
without making any bother."

"Yes, that will do. Are you ready to come now?"

"If you can possibly wait five minutes I should like to put on my hat
and change my boots. We will have to come back and pack up when we have
settled about the room. We cannot go without clothes. I should like to
have a nightdress, at least. Have you any money?"

"I have the housekeeping money; but that, of course, I shall not take. I
have thirty pounds of my own."

"And I have my old stocking, which contains nearly seventeen. Say fifty
in round numbers. That will keep us going very comfortably for a month."

"Ridiculous! It will last longer than that. Oh!"

"Well?"

"We mustnt go, after all. I forgot _you_."

"What of me?"

"Where will you go when I am married? You cant live by yourself; and
papa may not welcome you back if you take my part against him."

"He would not, in any case; so it makes no difference to me. I can go
home if the worst comes to the worst. It does not matter: my present
luxurious existence must come to an end some time or another, whether we
go to Mrs. Toplis's or not."

"I am sure Ned will not object to your continuing with me, if I ask
him."

"No, poor fellow! He wont object--at first; but he might not like it.
You have no right to inflict me on him. No: I stick to my resolution on
that point. Send for the carriage. It is time for us to be off; and Mrs.
Toplis will be more impressed if we come in state than if we trudge
afoot."

"Hush," said Marian, who was standing near the window. "Here is George,
with a face full of importance."

"Uncle Reginald has written to him," said Elinor.

"Then the sooner we go, the better," said Marian.

"I do not care to have the whole argument over again with George."

As they passed through the hall on their way out they met the clergyman.

"Well, George," said Elinor, "how are the heathen getting on in
Belgravia? You look lively."

"Are you going out, Marian," he said, solemnly, disregarding his
cousin's banter.

"We are going to engage a couple of rooms for some errant members of the
family," said Elinor. "May we give you as a reference?"

"Certainly. I may want to speak to you before I go, Marian. When will
you return?"

"I do not know. Probably we shall not be long. You will have plenty of
opportunities, in any case."

"Will you walk into the study, please, sir," said the parlormaid.

The Rev. George was closeted with his father for an hour. When he came
out, he left the house, and travelled by omnibus to Westbourne Grove,
whence he walked to a house in Uxbridge Road. Here he inquired for Mr.
Conolly, and, learning that he had just come in, sent up a card. He was
presently ushered into a comfortable room, with a pleasant view of the
garden. A meal of tea, wheatcakes, and fruit was ready on the table.
Conolly greeted his visitor cordially, and rang for another cup. The
Rev. George silently noted that his host dined in the middle of the day
and had tea in the evening. Afraid though as he was of Conolly, he felt
strengthened in his mission by these habits, quite out of the question
for Marian. The tea also screwed up his courage a little; but he talked
about the electro-motor in spite of himself until the cloth was removed,
when Conolly placed two easy chairs opposite one another at the window;
put a box of cigarets on a little table close at hand; and invited his
visitor to smoke. But as it was now clearly time to come to business,
the cigaret was declined solemnly. So Conolly, having settled himself in
an easy attitude, waited for the clergyman to begin. The Rev. George
seemed at a loss.

"Has your father spoken to you about an interview he had with me this
morning?" said Conolly, good-naturedly helping him out.

"Yes. That, in fact, is one of the causes of my visit."

"What does he say?"

"I believe he adheres to the opinion he expressed to you. But I fear he
may not have exhibited that self-control in speaking to you which I
fully admit you have as much right to expect as anyone else."

"It does not matter. I can quite understand his feeling."

"It does matter--pardon me. We should be sorry to appear wanting in
consideration for you."

"That is a trifle. Let us keep the question straight before us. We need
make no show of consideration for one another. I have shown none toward
your family."

"But I assure you our only desire is to arrange everything in a friendly
spirit."

"No doubt. But when I am bent on doing a certain thing which you are
equally bent on preventing, no very friendly spirit is possible except
one of us surrender unconditionally."

"Hear me a moment, Mr. Conolly. I have no doubt I shall be able to
convince you that this romantic project of my sister's is out of the
question. Your ambition--if I may say so without offence--very naturally
leads you to think otherwise; but the prompting of self-interest is not
our safest guide in this life."

"It is the only guide I recognize. If you are going to argue the
question, and your arguments are to prevail, they must be addressed to
my self-interest."

"I cannot think you quite mean that, Mr. Conolly."

"Well, waive the point for the present: I am open to conviction. You
know what my mind is. I have not changed it since I saw your father this
morning. You think I am wrong?"

"Not wrong. I do not say for a moment that you are wrong. I----"

"Mistaken. Ill-advised. Any term you like."

"I certainly believe that you are mistaken. Let me urge upon you first
the fact that you are causing a daughter to disobey her father. Now that
is an awful fact. May I--appealing to that righteousness in which I am
sure you are not naturally deficient--ask you whether you have reflected
on that fact?"

"It is not half so awful to me as the fact of a father forcing his
daughter's inclinations. However, awful is hardly the word for the
occasion. Let us come to business, Mr. Lind. I want to marry your sister
because I have fallen in love with her. You object. Have you any other
motive than aristocratic exclusiveness?"

"Indeed, you quite mistake. I have no such feeling. We are willing to
treat you with every possible consideration."

"Then why object?"

"Well, we are bound to look to her happiness. We cannot believe that it
would be furthered by an unsuitable match. I am now speaking to you
frankly as a man of the world."

"As a man of the world you know that she has a right to choose for
herself. You see, our points of view are different. On Sundays, for
instance, you preach to a highly privileged audience at your church in
Belgravia; whilst I lounge here over my breakfast, reading _Reynold's
Newspaper_. I have not many social prejudices. Although a workman, I
dont look on every gentleman as a bloodsucker who seizes on the fruits
of my labor only to pursue a career of vice. I will even admit that
there are gentlemen who deserve to be respected more than the workmen
who have neglected all their opportunities--slender as they are--of
cultivating themselves a little. You, on the other hand, know that an
honest man's the noblest work of God; that nature's gentlemen are the
only real gentlemen; that kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple
faith than Norman blood, and so forth. But when your approval of these
benevolent claptraps is brought to such a practical test as the marriage
of your sister to a workman, you see clearly enough that they do not
establish the suitability of personal intercourse between members of
different classes. That being so, let us put our respective philosophies
of society out of the question, and argue on the facts of this
particular case. What qualifications do you consider essential in a
satisfactory brother-in-law?"

"I am not bound to answer that; but, primarily, I should consider it
necessary to my sister's happiness that her husband should belong to the
same rank as she."

"You see you are changing your ground. I am not in the same rank--after
your sense--as she; but a moment ago you objected to the match solely
on the ground of unsuitability."

"Where is the difference?" said the clergyman, with some warmth. "I have
not changed my ground at all. It is the difference in rank that
constitutes the unsuitability.

"Let us see, then, how far you are right--how far suitability is a
question of rank. A gentleman may be, and frequently is, a drunkard, a
gambler, a libertine, or all three combined."

"Stay, Mr. Conolly! You show how little you understand the only true
significance----"

"One moment, Mr. Lind. You are about to explain away the term gentleman
into man of honor, honest man, or some other quite different thing. Let
me put a case to you. I have a fellow at Queen Victoria Street working
for thirty shillings a week, who is the honestest man I know. He is as
steady as a rock; supports all his wife's family without complaining;
and denies himself beer to buy books for his son, because he himself has
experienced what it is to be without education. But he is not a
gentleman."

"Pardon me, sir. He is a true gentleman."

"Suppose he calls on you to-morrow, and sends up his name with a request
for an interview. You wont know his name; and the first question you
will put to your servant is 'What sort of person is he?' Suppose the
servant knows him, and, sharing your professed opinion of the meaning of
the word, replies 'He is a gentleman!' On the strength of that you will
order him to be shewn in; and the moment you see him you will feel angry
with your servant for deceiving you completely as to the sort of man you
were to expect by using the word gentleman in what you call its true
sense. Or reverse the case. Suppose the caller is your cousin, Mr.
Marmaduke Lind, and your high-principled servant by mistaking the name
or how not, causes you to ask the same question with respect to him. The
answer will be that Mr. Marmaduke--being a scamp--is not a gentleman.
You would be just as completely deceived as in the other case. No, Mr.
Lind, you might as well say that this workman of mine is a true lord or
a true prince as a true gentleman. A gentleman may be a rogue; and a
knifegrinder may be a philosopher and philanthropist. But they dont
change their ranks for all that."

The clergyman hesitated. Then he said timidly, "Even admitting this
peculiar view of yours, Mr. Conolly, does it not tell strongly against
yourself in the present instance?"

"No; and I will presently shew you why not. When we digressed as to the
meaning of the word gentleman, we were considering the matter of
suitability. I was saying that a gentleman might be a drunkard, or,
briefly, a scoundrel. A scoundrel would be a very unsuitable husband for
Marian--I perceive I annoy you by calling her by her name."

"N--no. Oh, no. It does not matter."

"Therefore gentility alone is no guarantee of suitability. The only
gentlemanliness she needs in a husband is ordinary good address,
presentable manners, sense enough to avoid ridiculous solecisms in
society, and so forth. Marian is satisfied with me on these points; and
her approval settles the question finally. As to rank, I am a skilled
workman, the first in my trade; and it is only by courtesy and
forbearance that I suffer any man to speak of my class as inferior. Take
us all, professions and trades together; and you will find by actual
measurement round the head and round the chest, and round our manners
and characters, if you like, that we are the only genuine aristocracy at
present in existence. Therefore I meet your objection to my rank with a
point-blank assertion of its superiority. Now let us have the other
objections, if there _are_ any others."

The clergyman received this challenge in silence. Then, after clearing
his throat uneasily twice, he said:

"I had hoped, Mr. Conolly, to have been able to persuade you on general
grounds to relinquish your design. But as you are evidently not within
reach of those considerations which I am accustomed to see universally
admitted, it becomes my painful duty to assure you that a circumstance,
on the secrecy of which you are relying, is known to me, and, through
me, to my father."

"What circumstance is that?"

"A circumstance connected with Mr. Marmaduke Lind, whom you mentioned
just now. You understand me, I presume?"

"Oh! you have found that out?"

"I have. It only remains for me to warn my sister that she is about to
contract a close relationship with one who is--I must say it--living in
sin with our cousin."

"What do you suppose will be the result of that?"

"I leave you to imagine," said the clergyman indignantly, rising.

"Stop a bit. You do not understand me yet, I see. You have said that my
views are peculiar. What if I have taken the peculiar view that I was
bound to tell Marian this before proposing to her, and have actually
told her?"

"But surely--That is not very likely."

"The whole affair is not very likely. Our marriage is not likely; but
it is going to happen, nevertheless. She knows this circumstance
perfectly well. You told her yourself."

"I! When?"

"The year before last, at Carbury Towers. It is worth your
consideration, too, that by mistrusting Marian at that time, and
refusing to give her my sister's address, you forced her to appeal to me
for help, and so advanced me from the position of consulting electrician
to that of friend in need. She knew nothing about my relationship to the
woman in a state of sin (as you call it), and actually deputed me to
warn your cousin of the risk he was running by his intimacy with her.
Whilst I was away running this queer errand for her, she found out that
the woman was my sister, and of course rushed to the conclusion that she
had inflicted the deepest pain on me. Her penitence was the beginning of
the sentimental side of our acquaintance. Had you recognized that she
was a woman with as good a right as you to know the truth concerning all
matters in this world which she has to make her way through, you would
have answered her question, and then I suppose I should have gone away
without having exchanged a word with her on any more personal matters
than induction coils and ohms of resistance; and in all probability you
would have been spared the necessity of having me for a brother-in-law."

"Well, sir," said the Rev. George dejectedly, "if what you say be true,
I cannot understand Marian, I can only grieve for her. I shall not argue
with you on the nature of the influence you have obtained over her. I
shall speak to her myself; since you will not hear me."

"That is hardly fair. I have heard you, and am willing to hear more, if
you have anything new to urge."

"You have certainly listened to my voice, Mr. Conolly. But I fear I have
used it to very little purpose."

"You will fail equally with Marian, believe me. Even I, whose ability to
exercise influence you admit, never obtained the least over my own
sister. She knew me too well on my worst side and not at all on my best.
If, as I presume, your father has tried in vain, what hope is there for
you?"

"Only my humble trust that a priest may be blessed in his appeal to duty
even where a father's appeal to natural affection has been disregarded."

"Well, well," said Conolly, kindly, rising as his visitor disconsolately
prepared to go, "you can try. _I_ got on by dint of dogged faith in
myself."

"And I get on by lowly faith in my Master. I would I could imbue you
with the same feeling!"

Conolly shook his head; and they went downstairs in silence. "Hallo!"
said he, as he opened the door, "it is raining. Let me lend you a coat."

"Thank you, no. Not at all. Good-night," said the clergyman, quickly,
and hastened away through the rain from Conolly's civilities.

When he arrived at Westbourne Terrace, there was a cab waiting before
the house. The door was opened to him by Marian's maid, who was dressed
for walking.

"Master is in the drawing-room, sir, with Miss McQuinch," she said,
meaning, evidently, "Look out for squalls."

He went upstairs, and found Elinor, with her hat on, standing by the
pianoforte, with battle in her nostrils. Mr. Lind, looking perplexed
and angry, was opposite to her.

"George," said Mr. Lind, "close the door. Do you know the latest news?"

"No."

"Marian has run away!"

"Run away!"

"Yes," said Miss McQuinch. "She has fled to Mrs. Toplis's, at St. Mary's
Terrace, with--as Uncle Reginald was just saying--a most dangerous
associate."

"With--?"

"With _me_, in short."

"And you have counselled her to take this fatal step?"

"No. I advised her to stay. But she is not so well used to domestic
discomfort as I am; so she insisted on going. We have got very nice
rooms: you may come and see us, if you like."

"Is this a time to display your bitter and flippant humor?" said the
Rev. George, indignantly. "I think the spectacle of a wrecked home--"

"Stuff!" interrupted Elinor, impatiently. "What else can I say? Uncle
Reginald tells me I have corrupted Marian, and refuses to believe what I
tell him. And now you attack me, as if it were my fault that you have
driven her away. If you want to see her, she is within five minutes walk
of you. It is you who have wrecked her home, not she who has wrecked
yours."

"There is no use in speaking to Elinor, George," said Mr. Lind, with the
air of a man who had tried it. "You had better go to Marian, and tell
her what you mentioned this afternoon. What has been the result of your
visit?"

"He maintains that she knows everything," said the Rev. George, with a
dispirited glance at Elinor. "I fear my visit has been worse than
useless."

"It is impossible that she should know. He lies," said Mr. Lind. "Go and
tell her the truth, George; and say that I desire her--I order her--to
come back at once. Say that I am waiting here for her."

"But, Uncle Reginald," began Elinor, in a softer tone than before,
whilst the clergyman stood in doubt--

"I think," continued Mr. Lind, "that I must request you, Elinor, to
occupy the rooms you have taken, until you return to your parents. I
regret that you have forced me to take this step; but I cannot continue
to offer you facilities for exercising your influence over my daughter.
I will charge myself with all your expenses until you go to Wiltshire."

Elinor looked at him as if she despaired of his reason. Then, seeing her
cousin slowly going to the door, she said:

"You dont really mean to go on such a fool's errand to Marian, George?"

"Elinor!" cried Mr. Lind.

"What else is it?" said Elinor. "You asserted all your authority
yourself this morning, and only made matters worse. Yet you expect her
to obey you at second hand. Besides, she is bound in honor not to desert
_me_ now; and I will tell her so, too, if I see any sign of her letting
herself be bullied."

"I fear Marian will not pay much heed to what I say to her," said the
clergyman.

"If you are coming," said Elinor, "you had better come in my cab.
Good-night, Uncle Reginald."

"Stay," said Mr. Lind, irresolutely. "Elinor, I--you--Will you exercise
your influence to induce Marian to return? I think you owe me at least
so much."

"I will if you will withdraw your opposition to her marriage and let her
do as she likes. But if you can give her no better reason for returning
than that she can be more conveniently persecuted here than at St.
Mary's Terrace, she will probably stay where she is, no matter how I may
influence her."

"If she is resolved to quarrel with me, I cannot help it," said Mr.
Lind, pettishly.

"You know very well that she is the last person on earth to quarrel with
anyone."

"She has been indulged in every way. This is the first time she has been
asked to sacrifice her own wishes."

"To sacrifice her whole life, you mean. It is the first time she has
ever hesitated to sacrifice her own comfort, and therefore the first
time you are conscious that any sacrifice is required. Let me tell her
that you will allow her to take her own course, Uncle Reginald. He is
well enough off; and they are fond of one another. A man of genius is
worth fifty men of rank."

"Tell her, if you please, Elinor, that she must choose between Mr.
Conolly and me. If she prefers him, well and good: I have done with her.
That is my last word."

"So now she has nobody to turn to in the world except him. That is
sensible. Come, cousin George! I am off."

"I do not think I should do any good by going," said the clergyman.

"Then stay where you are," said Elinor. "Good-night." And she abruptly
left the room.

"It was a dreadful mistake ever to have allowed that young fury to
enter the house," said Mr. Lind. "She must be mad. What did _he_ say?"

"He said a great deal in attempted self-justification. But I could make
no impression on him. We have no feelings in common with a man of his
type. No. He is evidently bent on raising himself by a good marriage."

"We cannot prevent it."

"Oh, surely we----"

"I tell you we _cannot_ prevent it," repeated Mr. Lind, turning angrily
upon his son. "How can we? What can we do? She will marry
this--this--this--this beggar. I wish to God I had never seen her
mother."

The clergyman stood by, cowed, and said nothing.

"You had better go to that woman of Marmaduke's," continued Mr. Lind,
"and try whether she can persuade her brother to commute his interest in
the company, and go back to America, or to the devil. I will take care
that he gets good terms, even if I have to make them up out of my own
pocket. If the worst comes, _she_ must be persuaded to leave Marmaduke.
Offer her money. Women of that sort drive a hard bargain; but they have
their price."

"But, sir, consider my profession. How can I go to drive a bargain with
a woman of evil reputation?"

"Well, I must go myself, I suppose."

"Oh, no. I will go. Only I thought I would mention it."

"A clergyman can go anywhere. You are privileged. Come to breakfast in
the morning: we can talk over matters then."




CHAPTER XI


One morning the Rev. George Lind received a letter addressed in a
handwriting which he did not remember and never thenceforth forgot.
Within the envelope he found a dainty little bag made of blue satin,
secured by ribbons of the same material. This contained a note written
on scented paper, edged with gold, and decorated with a miniature
representation of a _pierrot_, sitting cross-legged, conning a book, on
the open pages of which appeared the letters L.V. The clergyman
recognized the monogram no more than the writing. But as it was
evidently from a lady, he felt a pleasant thrill of expectation as he
unfolded the paper.

                                        "Laurel Grove West Kensington
                                             "Wednesday
  "Dear Mr. George

  "I have made poor little Lucy believe that Kew is the most heavenly
  place on earth to spend a May morning so Bob has had to promise to
  row her down there to-morrow (Thursday) after breakfast and I shall
  be at home alone from eleven to one this is very short notice I
  know but opportunities are scarce and another might not present
  itself for a month.

  "Believe me Dear Mr. George

                                     "Yours sincerely
                                            Lalage Virtue."

The Rev. George became thoughtful, and absently put the note in a little
rack over the mantelpiece. Then, recollecting that a prying servant or
landlady might misinterpret it, he transferred it to his pocket. After
breakfast, having satisfied himself before the mirror that his dress was
faultless, and his expression saintly, he went out and travelled by rail
from Sloane Square to West Kensington, whence he walked to Laurel Grove.
An elderly maid opened the gate. It was a rule with the Rev. George not
to look at strange women; and this morning the asceticism which he
thought proper to his office was unusually prominent in his thoughts. He
did not look up once while the maid conducted him through the shrubbery
to the house; and he fully believed that he had not seen at the first
glance that she was remarkably plain, as Susanna took care that all her
servants should be. Passing by the drawing-room, where he had been on a
previous occasion, they went on to a smaller apartment at the back of
the house.

"What room is this?" he asked, uneasily.

"Missus's Purjin bodoor, sir," replied the main.

She opened the door; and the clergyman, entering, found himself in a
small room, luxuriously decorated in sham Persian, but containing
ornaments of all styles and periods, which had been purchased and
introduced just as they had caught Susanna's fancy. She was seated on a
ottoman, dressed in wide trousers, Turkish slippers, a voluminous sash,
a short Greek jacket, a long silk robe with sleeves, and a turban, all
of fine soft materials and rare colors. Her face was skilfully painted,
and her dark hair disposed so as not to overweight her small head. The
clergyman, foolishly resisting a natural impulse to admire her, felt
like St. Anthony struggling with the fascination of a disguised devil.
He responded to her smile of welcome by a stiff bow.

"Sit down," she said. "You mustnt mind this absurd dress: it belongs to
a new piece I am studying. I always study in character. It is the only
way to identify myself with my part, you see."

"It seems a very magnificent dress, certainly," said the clergyman,
nervously.

"Thank you for the compliment----"

"No, no," said he, hastily. "I had no such intention."

"Of course not," said Susanna, with a laugh. "It was merely an
unpremeditated remark: all compliments are, of course. I know all about
that. But do you think it a proper costume?"

"In what sense, may I ask?"

"Is it a correct Eastern dress? I am supposed to be one of the wives of
the Caliph Somebody al Something. You have no idea how difficult it is
to get a reliable model for a dress before laying out a heap of money on
it. This was designed in Paris; but I should like to hear it
criticized--chronologically, or whatever you call it--by a scholar."

"I really do not know, Madam. I am not an Orientalist; and my studies
take a widely different direction from yours."

"Yes, of course," said Susanna, with a sigh. "But I assure you I often
wish for your advice, particularly as to my elocution, which is very
faulty. You are such a master of the art."

The clergyman bowed in acceptance of the compliment, and began to take
heart; for to receive flattery from ladies in exchange for severe
reproof was part of his daily experience.

"I have come here," he said, "to have a very serious conversation with
you."

"All right, Doctor. Fire away."

This sudden whim of conferring on him a degree in divinity, and her
change of manner--implying that she had been laughing at him
before--irritated him. "I presume," he said, "that you are acquainted
with the movements of your brother."

"Of Ned?" said Susanna, frowning a little. "No. What should I know about
him?"

"He is, I believe, about to be married."

"No!" screamed Susanna, throwing herself back, and making her bangles
and ornaments clatter. "Get out, Doctor. You dont mean it."

"Certainly I mean it. It is not my profession to jest. I must also tell
you that his marriage will make it quite impossible for you to continue
here with my cousin."

"Why? Who is he going to marry?"

"Ahem! He has succeeded in engaging the affections of my sister."

"What! Your sister? Marian Lind?"

"Yes."

Susanna uttered a long whistle, and then, with a conviction and
simplicity which prevented even the Rev. George from being shocked,
said: "Well, I _am_ damned! I know more than one fool of a girl who will
be sick and sorry to hear it." She paused, and added carelessly: "I
suppose all your people are delighted?"

"I do not know why you should suppose so. We have had no hand in the
matter. My sister has followed her own inclinations."

"Indeed! Let me tell you, young man, that your sister might have gone
farther and fared worse."

"Doubtless. However, you will see now how impossible it is that you
should remain in your present--that you should continue here, in fact."

"What do you mean?"

"You cannot," said the clergyman, accustomed to be bold and stern with
female sinners, "when you are sister-in-law to Miss Lind, live as you
are now doing with her cousin."

"Why not?"

"Because it would be a scandal. I will say nothing at present of the sin
of it: you will have to account for that before a greater than I."

"Just so, Doctor. You dont mind the sin; but when it comes to a
scandal----!"

"I did not say so. I abhor the sin. I have prayed earnestly for your
awakening, and shall do so in spite of the unregenerate hardness of
heart----"

"Hallo, Doctor! draw it mild, if you please. I am not one of your
parishioners, you know. Perhaps that is the reason your prayers for me
have not met with much attention. Let us stick to business: you may talk
shop as much as you please afterwards. What do you want me to do?"

"To sever your connexion with Marmaduke at once. Believe me, it will not
prove so hard a step as it may seem. You have but to ask for strength to
do it, and you will find yourself strong. It will profit you even more
than poor Marmaduke."

"Will it? I dont see it, Doctor. You think it will profit _you_: thats
plain enough. But it wont profit me; it wont profit Bob; and it wont by
any means profit the child."

"Not immediately, perhaps, in a worldly sense----"

"That is the sense I mean. Drop all that other stuff: I dont believe in
you parsons: you are about the worst lot going, as far as I can see.
Just tell me this, Doctor. Your sister is a very nice girl, I have no
doubt: she would hardly have snapped up Ned if she wasn't. But why is
she to have everything her own way?"

"I do not understand."

"Well, listen. Here is a young woman who has had every chance in life
that hick could give her: silk cradles, gold rattles, rank, wealth,
schooling, travelling, swell acquaintances, and anything else she chose
to ask for. Even when she is fool enough to want to get married, her
luck sticks to her, and she catches Ned, who is a man in a
thousand--though Lord forbid we should have many of his sort about! Yet
she's not satisfied. She wants _me_ to give up my establishment just to
keep her family in countenance."

"She knows nothing of my visit, I assure you."

"Even if she doesnt, it makes no odds as to the facts. She can go her
own way; and I will go mine. I shant want to visit her; and I dont
suppose she will visit me. So she need trouble herself no more than if
there was no such person as I in the world."

"But you will find that it will be greatly to your advantage to leave
this house. It is not our intention that you shall suffer in a pecuniary
point of view by doing so. My father is rich----"

"What is that to me? He doesnt want me to go and live with him, does
he?"

"You quite misunderstand me. No such idea ever entered----"

"There! go on. I only said that to get a rise out of you, Doctor. How do
you make out that I should gain by leaving this house?"

"My father is willing to make you some amends for the withdrawal of
such portion of Marmaduke's income as you may forfeit by ceasing your
connexion with him."

"You have come to buy me out, in fact: is that it? What a clever old man
your father must be! Knows the world thoroughly, eh?"

"I hope I have not offended you?"

"Bless you, Doctor! nobody could be offended with you. Suppose I agree
to oblige you (you have a very seductive High Church way about you) who
is to make Marmaduke amends for such portion of _my_ income as our
separation will deprive _him_ of? Eh? I see that that staggers you a
little. If you will just tot up the rent of this house since we have had
it; the price of the furniture; our expenses, including my carriage and
Marmaduke's horse and the boat; six hundred pounds of debt that he ran
up before he settled down with me; and other little things; and then
find out from his father how much money he has drawn within the last two
years, I think you will find it rather hard to make the two balance.
Your uncle is far too good a man to give Marmaduke money to spend on me;
but he was not too good to keep me playing in the provinces all through
last autumn just to make both ends meet, when I ought to have been
taking my holiday. I wish you would tell his mother, your blessed pious
Aunt Dora, to send Bob the set of diamonds his grandmother left him,
instead of sermons which he never reads."

"I thought Marmaduke had nearly a thousand a year, independently of his
father."

"A thousand a year! What is that? And your uncle would stop even that,
if he could, to keep it out of my hands. You may tell him that if it
didnt come into my hands it would hardly last a week. Only for the
child, and the garden, and the sort of quiet life he leads here, he
would spend a thousand a month. And look at _my_ expenses! Look at my
dresses! I suppose you think that people wear cotton velvet and glazed
calico on the stage, as Mrs. Siddons did in the old days when they acted
by candlelight. Why, between dress and jewellery, I have about two
hundred pounds on my back at the present moment; and you neednt think
that any manager alive will find dresses to that tune. At the theatre
they think me overpaid at fifty pounds a week, although they might shut
up the house to-morrow if my name was taken out of the bills. Tell your
father that so far from my living on Bob, it is as much as I can do to
keep this place going by my work--not to mention the worry of it, which
always falls on the woman."

"I certainly had no idea of the case being as you describe," said the
clergyman, losing his former assurance. "But would it not then be better
for you to separate?"

"Certainly not. I want my house and home. So does he. If an income is
rather tight, halving it is a very good way to make it tighter. No: if I
left Bob, he would go to the devil; and very likely I should go to the
devil, too, and disgrace you in earnest."

"But, my dear madam, consider the disgrace at present!"

"What disgrace? When your sister becomes Mrs. Ned, what will be the
difference between her position and mine? Dont look aghast. What will be
the difference?"

"Surely you do not suppose that she will dispense with the sacrament of
marriage before casting in her lot with your brother!"

"I bet you my next week's salary that you dont get Ned to enter a
church. He will be tied up by a registrar. Of course, your sister will
have the law of him somehow: she cant help herself. She is not
independent; and so she must be guaranteed against his leaving her
without bread and butter. _I_ can support myself, and may shew Bob a
clean pair of heels to-morrow, if I choose. Even if she has money of her
own, she darent stick to her freedom for fear of society. _I_ snap my
fingers at society, and care as little about it as it cares about me;
and I have no doubt she would be glad to do the same if she had the
pluck. I confess I shouldnt like to make a regular legal bargain of
going to live with a man. I dont care to make love a matter of money; it
gives it a taste of the harem, or even worse. Poor Bob, meaning to be
honorable, offered to buy me in the regular way at St. George's, Hanover
Square, before we came to live here; but, of course, I refused, as any
decent woman in my circumstances would. Understand me now, Doctor: I
dont want to give myself any virtuous airs, or to boast of behaving
better than your sister. I know the world; and I know that she will
marry Ned just as much because she thinks it right as because she cant
help herself. But dont you try to make me swallow any gammon about my
disgracing you and so forth. I intend to stay as I am. I can respect
myself; and I dont care whether you or your family respect me or not. If
you dont approve of me, why! nobody asks you to associate with me. If
you want society, you have your own lot to mix with. If I want it, I can
fill this house to-morrow. Not with stupid fine ladies, but with really
clever people, who are not at all shy of me. Look at me at the present
moment! I am receiving a morning visit from the best born and most
popular parson in Belgravia. I wonder, Doctor, what your parishioners
would think if they could see you now."

"I must confess that I do not understand you at all. You seem to see
everything reversed--upside down. You--I--you bewilder me, Miss Conol--"

"Sh! Mademoiselle Lalage Virtue, if you please. Or you may call me
Susanna, if you like, since we are as good as related."

"I fear," said the clergyman, blushing, "that we have no common ground
on which to argue. I am sorry I have no power to influence you."

"Oh, dont say that. I really like you, Doctor, and would do more for you
than most people. If your father had had the cheek to come himself to
offer me money, and so forth, I would have put him out of the house
double quick; whereas I have listened to you like a lamb. Never mind
your hat yet. Have a bottle of champagne with me?"

"Thank you, no."

"Dont you drink at all?"

"No."

"You should. It would give a fillip to your sermons. Let me send you a
case of champagne. Promise to drink a bottle every Sunday in the vestry
before you come out to preach, and I will take a pew for the season in
your church. Thats good of me, isnt it?"

"I must go," said the Rev. George, rising, after hastily pretending to
look at his watch. "Will you excuse me?"

"Nonsense," she said, rising also, and slipping her hand through his arm
to detain him. "Wait and have some luncheon. Why, Doctor, I really think
youre afraid of me. _Do_ stay."

"Impossible. I have much business which I am bound----Pray, let me go,"
pleaded the clergyman, piteously, ineffectually struggling with Susanna,
who had now got his arm against her breast. "You must be mad!" he cried,
drops of sweat breaking out on his brow as he felt himself being pulled
helplessly toward the ottoman. She got her knee on it at last; and he
made a desperate effort to free himself.

"Oh, how rough you are!" she exclaimed in her softest voice, adroitly
tumbling into the seat as if he had thrown her down, and clinging to his
arms; so that it was as much as he could do to keep his feet as he
stooped over her, striving to get upright. At which supreme moment the
door was opened by Marmaduke, who halted on the threshold to survey the
two reproachfully for a moment. Then he said:

"George: I'm astonished at you. I have not much opinion of parsons as a
rule; but I really did think that _you_ were to be depended on."

"Marmaduke," said the clergyman, colouring furiously, and almost beside
himself with shame and anger: "you know perfectly well that I am
actuated in coming here by no motive unworthy of my profession. You
misunderstand what you have seen. I will not hear my calling made a jest
of."

"Quite right, Doctor," said Susanna, giving him a gentle pat of
encouragement on the shoulder. "Defend the cloth, always. I was only
asking him to stay to lunch, Bob. Cant you persuade him?"

"Do, old fellow," said Marmaduke. "Come! you must: I havnt had a chat
with you for ever so long. I'm really awfully sorry I interrupted you.
What on earth did you make Susanna rig herself out like that for?"

"Hold your tongue, Bob. Mr. George has nothing to do with my being in
character. This is what came last night in the box: I could not resist
trying it on this morning. I am Zobeida, the light of the harem, if you
please. I must have your opinion of the rouge song, Doctor. Observe.
This is a powder puff: I suppose you never saw such a thing before. I am
making up my face for a visit of the Sultan; and I am apologizing to the
audience for using cosmetics. The original French is improper; so I will
give you the English version, by the celebrated Robinson, the cleverest
adapter of the day:

  'Poor odalisques in captive thrall
  Must never let their charms pall:
    If they get the sack
    They ne'er come back;
  For the Bosphorus is the boss for all
  In this harem, harem, harem, harem, harum scarum place.'

Intellectual, isnt it?"

Susanna, whilst singing, executed a fantastic slow dance, stopping at
certain points to clink a pair of little cymbals attached to her ankles,
and to look for a moment archly at the clergyman.

"No," he said, hurt and offended into a sincerity of manner which
compelled them to respect him for the first time, "I will not stay; and
I am very sorry I came." And he left the room, his cheeks tingling.
Marmaduke followed him to the gate. "Come and look us up soon again, old
fellow," he said.

"Marmaduke," said the clergyman: "you are travelling as fast as you can
along the road to Hell."

As he hurried away, Marmaduke leaned against the gate and made the
villas opposite echo his laughter.

"On my soul, it's a shame," said he, when he returned to the house.
"Poor old George!"

"He found no worse than he had made up his mind to find," said Susanna.
"What right has he to come into my house and take it for granted, to my
face, that I am a disgrace to his sister? One would think I was a common
woman from the streets."

"Pshaw! What does he know? He is only a molly-coddling parson, poor
fellow. He will give them a rare account of you when he goes back."

"Let him," said Susanna. "He can tell them how little I care for their
opinion, anyhow."

The Rev. George took the next train to the City, and went to the offices
of the Electro-Motor Company, where he found his father. They retired
together to the board-room, which was unoccupied just then.

"I have been to that woman," said the clergyman.

"Well, what does she say?"

"She is an entirely abandoned person. She glories in her shame. I have
never before met with such an example of complete and unconscious
depravity. Yet she is not unattractive. There is a wonderfully clever
refinement even in her coarseness which goes far to account for her
influence over Marmaduke."

"No doubt; but apart from her personal charms, about which I am not
curious, is she willing to assist us?"

"No. I could make no impression on her at all."

"Well, it cannot be helped. Did you say anything about Conolly's selling
his interest here and leaving the country?"

"No," said the clergyman, struck with a sense of remissness. "I forgot
that. The fact is, I hardly had the oppor----"

"Never mind. It is just as well that you did not: it might have made
mischief."

"I do not think it is of the least use to pursue her with any further
overtures. Besides, I really could not undertake to conduct them."

"May I ask," said Mr. Lind, turning on him suddenly, "what objection you
have to Marian's wishes being consulted in this matter?"

The Rev. George recoiled, speechless.

"I certainly think," said Mr. Lind, more smoothly, "that Marian might
have trusted to my indulgence instead of hurrying away to a lodging and
writing the news in all directions. But I must say I have received some
very nice letters about it. Jasper is quite congratulatory. The _Court
Journal_ has a paragraph this week alluding to it with quite good taste.
Conolly is a very remarkable man; and, as the _Court Journal_ truly
enough remarks, he has won a high place in the republic of art and
science. As a Liberal, I cannot say that I disapprove of Marian's
choice; and I really think that it will be looked on in society as an
interesting one."

Mr. Lind's son eyed him dubiously for quite a long time. Then he said,
slowly, "Am I to understand that I may now speak of the marriage as a
recognized thing?"

"Why not, pray?"

"Of course, since you wish it, and it cannot be helped--" The clergyman
again looked at his father, still more dubiously. He saw in his eye that
there would be a quarrel if the interview lasted much longer. So he said
"I must go home now. I have to write my sermon for next Sunday."

"Very good. Do not let me detain you. Good-bye."

The Rev. George returned to his rooms quite dazed by the novelty of his
sensations. He had always respected his father beyond other men; and now
he knew that his father did not deserve his respect in the least. That
was one conviction uprooted. And Susanna had done something to him--he
did not exactly know what; but he felt altogether a different man from
the clergyman of the day before. He had come face to face with what he
called Vice for the first time, and found it not at all what he had
supposed it to be. He had believed that he knew it to be most
dangerously attractive to the physical, but utterly repugnant to the
moral sense; and such fascination he was prepared to resist to the
utmost. But he was attacked in just the opposite way, and thereby so
thrown off his guard that he did not know he was attacked at all; so
that he told himself vaingloriously that the shafts of the enemy had
fallen harmlessly from his breastplate of faith. For he was not in the
least charmed by Susanna's person. He had detected the paint on her
cheeks, and had noted with aversion a certain unhealthy bloat in her
face, and an alcoholic taint in her breath. He exulted in the
consciousness that he had been genuinely disgusted, not as a matter of
duty, but unaffectedly, as a matter of simple nature. What interested
him in her was her novel and bold moral attitude, her self-respect in
the midst of her sin, her striking arguments in favor of an apparently
indefensible course of life. Hers was no common case of loose living, he
felt: there was a soul to be saved there, if only Heaven would raise her
up a friend in some man absolutely proof against the vulgar fascination
of her prettiness. He began to imagine a certain greatness of character
about her, a capacity for heroic repentance as well as for heroic sin.
Before long he was amusing himself by thinking how it might have gone
with her if she had him for her counsellor instead of a gross and
thoughtless rake like Marmaduke.

It is not necessary to follow the wild goose chase which the Rev.
George's imagination ran from this starting-point to the moment when he
was suddenly awakened, by an unmistakable symptom, to the fact that he
was being outwitted and beglamoured, like the utter novice he was, by a
power which he believed to be the devil. He rushed to the little oratory
he had arranged with a screen in the corner of his sitting-room, and
prayed aloud, long and earnestly. But the hypnotizing process did not
tranquilize him as usual. It excited him, and led him finally to a
passionate appeal for pardon and intercession to a statuet of the Virgin
Mother, of whom he was a very devout adorer. He had always regarded
himself as her especial champion in the Church of England; and now he
had been faithless to her, and indelicate into the bargain. And yet, in
spite of his contrition, he felt that he was having a tremendous
spiritual experience, which he would not for worlds have missed. The
climax of it was the composition of his Sunday sermon, the labor of
which secured him a sound sleep that night. It was duly delivered on the
following Sunday morning in this form:

"Dearly beloved Brethren: In the twenty-third verse of the third chapter
of St. Mark's gospel, we find this question: '_How can Satan cast out
Satan_?' How can Satan cast out Satan? If you will read what follows,
you will perceive that that question was not answered. My brethren, it
is unanswerable: it never has been, and it never can be answered.

"In these latter days, when the power of Satan has become so vast, when
his empire and throne tower in our midst so that the faithful are cast
down by the exceeding great shadow thereof, and when temples innumerable
are open for his worship, it is no strange thing that many faint-hearted
ones should give half their hearts to Beelzebub, and should hope by the
prince of devils to cast out devils. Yes, this is what is taking place
daily around us. Oh, you, who seek to excuse this book to infidel
philosophers by shewing with how much facility a glib tongue may
reconcile it with their so-called science, I tell you that it is science
and not the Bible that shall need that apology in the great day of
wrath. And, therefore, I would have you, my brethren, earnestly
discountenance all endeavors to justify the Word of God by explaining it
in conformity with the imaginations of the men of science. How can Satan
cast out Satan? He cannot; but he can lead you into the sin of adding to
and of taking from the words of this book. He can add plagues unto you,
and take away your part out of the holy city.

"In this great London which we inhabit we are come upon evil day's. The
rage of the blasphemer, the laugh at the scoffer, the heartless
lip-service of the worldling, and the light dalliance of the daughters
of music, are offered every hour upon a thousand Baal-altars within this
very parish. I would ask some of you who spend your evenings in the
playhouses which multiply around us like weeds sown in the rank soil of
human frailty, what justification you make to yourselves when you are
alone in the watches of the night, and your conscience saith, '_What
went ye out for to see_?' You will then complain of the bitterness of
life, and prate of the refining influences of music; of the help to
spiritual-mindedness given by the exhibition on the public stage of
mockeries of God's world, wherein some pitiful temporal triumph of
simulated virtue in the last act is the apology for the vicious trifling
that has gone before. And in whom do you there see typified that virtue
which you should shield in your hearts from the contamination of the
theatre? Is it not in some woman whose private life is the scandalous
matter of your whispered conversations, and whose shameless face smirks
at you from the windows of those picture-shops which are a disgrace to
our national morality? Is it from such as she that you will learn to be
spiritual-minded? Does she appear before your carnal crowds repentant,
her forehead covered with ashes, her limbs covered with sackcloth? No!
Her brow is glowing with unquenchable fire to kindle the fuel that the
devil has hidden in your hearts. Her raiment is cloth of gold; and she
is not covered with it. Naked and unashamed, she smiles and weeps in
mockery of the virtue which you would persuade yourselves that she
represents to you. Will you learn spiritual-mindedness from the sight of
her eyes, from the sound of her mouth, from the measure of her steps, or
from the music and the dancing that cease not within the doors of her
temple? How can Satan cast out Satan? Whom think ye to deceive by
whitening the sepulchre? Is it yourselves? The devil has blinded you
already. Is it God? Who shall hide anything from Him? I tell you that he
who makes the pursuit of virtue a luxury, and takes refuge from sin, not
before the altar, but in the playhouse, is casting out devils by
Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.

"As I look about me in this church; I see many things intended to give
pleasure to the carnal eye. Were the cost of all these dainty robes,
this delicate headgear, these clouds of silk, of satin, of lace, and of
sparkling jewels, were the price of these things brought into the
Church's treasury, how loudly might the Gospel resound in lands between
whose torrid shores and the tropical sun the holy shade of Calvary has
not yet fallen! But, you will say, it is a good thing to be comely in
the house of the Lord. The sight of what is beautiful elevates the mind.
Uncleanness is a vice. This, then, is how you will war with uncleanness.
Not by prayer and holy living. Not by pouring of your superfluity into
the lap of the poor, and entering by the strait gate upon the narrow
path in a garment without seam. No. By the dead and damning gold; by
the purple and by the scarlet; by the brightness of the eyes that is
born of new wine; by the mincing gait and the gloved fingers; and by the
musk and civet instead of the myrrh and frankincense: by these things
are you fain to purge your uncleanness. And will they suffice? Can Satan
cast out Satan? Beware! '_For though thou wash thee with nitre and take
thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord
God_.' There shall come a day when your lace and feathers shall hang on
you as heavy as your chains of gold, to drag you down to him in whose
name you have thought to cast out devils. Do not think that these things
are harmless vanities. Nothing can fill the human heart and be harmless.
If your thoughts be not of God, they will keep your minds distraught
from His grace as effectually as the blackest broodings of crime. '_Can
a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have
forgotten me days without number, saith the Lord God_.' Yes, your minds
are too puny to entertain the full worship of God: do you think they are
spacious enough to harbor the worship of Baal side by side with it? Much
less dare you pretend that the Baal altar is erected for the honor of
God, that you may come into His presence comely and clean. It is but a
few days since I stood in the presence of a woman who boasted to me that
she bore upon her the value of two hundred pounds of our money. I cared
little for the value of money that was upon her. But what shall be said
of the weight of sin her attire represented? For, those costly garments
were the wages of sin--of hardened, shameless, damnable sin. Yet there
is not before me a finer dress or a fairer face. Will you, my sisters,
trust to the comeliness of visage and splendor of raiment in which such
a woman as this can outshine you? Will you continue to cast out your
devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils? Be advised whilst there is
yet time. Ask yourself again and again, how can Satan cast out Satan?

"When sin is committed in a great city for wages, is there no fault on
the side of those who pay the wages? There is more than fault: there is
crime. I trust there are few among you who have done such crime. But I
know full well that it may be said of London to-day '_Thou art full of
stirs, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor
dead in battle_.' No. Our young men are slain by the poison of
Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Nor is the crafty old subterfuge
lacking here. There are lost ones in this town who say, 'It is by our
means that virtue is preserved to the rich: it is we who appease the
wicked rage which would otherwise wreck society.' There are men who
boast that they have brought their sins only to the houses of shame, and
that they have respected purity in the midst of their foulness. 'Such
things must be,' they say: 'let us alone, lest a worse thing ensue.'
When they are filled full with sin, they cry 'Lo! our appetite has gone
from us and we are clean.' They are willing to slake lust with satiety,
but not to combat it with prayer. They tread one woman into the mire,
and excuse themselves because the garment of her sister is spotless. How
vain is this lying homage to virtue! How can Satan cast out Satan?

"Oh, my brethren, this hypocrisy is the curse and danger of our age. The
Atheist, no longer an execration, an astonishment, a curse, and a
reproach, poses now as the friend of man and the champion of right.
Those who incur the last and most terrible curse in this book, do so in
the name of that truth for which they profess to be seeking. Art,
profanely veiling its voluptuous nakedness with the attributes of
religion, disguises folly so subtly that it seems like virtue in the
slothful eyes of those who neglect continually to watch and pray. The
vain woman puts on her ornaments to do honor to her Creator's handiwork:
the lustful man casts away his soul that society may be kept clean:
there is not left in these latter days a sin that does not pretend to
work the world's salvation, nor a man who flatters not himself that the
sin of one may be the purging of many. To such I say, Look to your own
soul: of no other shall any account be demanded of you. A day shall come
in which a fire shall be kindled among your gods. The Lord shall array
Himself with this land as a shepherd putteth on his garment. Be sure
that then if ye shall say 'I am a devil; but I have cast out many
devils,' He will reply unto you, How can Satan cast out Satan? Who shall
prompt you to an answer to that question? Nay, though in His boundless
mercy He give you a thousand years to search, and spread before you all
the books of science and sociology in which you were wont to find
excuses for sin, what will it avail you? Will a scoff, or a quibble over
a doubtful passage, serve your turn? No. You cannot scoff whilst your
tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth for fear, and there will be no
passage doubtful in all the Scriptures on that day; for the light of the
Lord's countenance will be over all things."




BOOK III




CHAPTER XII


One Sunday afternoon, as the sun was making rainbows in the cloud of
spray thrown from the fountain in Kew Gardens, Sholto Douglas appeared
there amongst the promenaders on the banks of the pond. He halted on the
steps leading down to the basin, gazing idly at the waterfowl paddling
at his feet. A lady in a becoming grey dress came to the top of the
steps, and looked curiously at him. Somehow aware of this, he turned
indifferently, as if to leave, and found that the lady was Marian. Her
ripened beauty, her perfect self-possession, a gain in her as of added
strength and wisdom, and a loss in her as of gentleness outgrown and
timidity overcome, dazzled him for a moment--caused a revulsion in him
which he half recognized as the beginning of a dangerous passion. His
former love for her suddenly appeared boyish and unreal to him; and this
ruin of a once cherished illusion cost him a pang. Meanwhile, there she
was, holding out her hand and smiling with a cool confidence in the
success of her advance that would have been impossible to Marian Lind.

"How do you do?" she said.

"Thank you: I am fairly well. You are quite well, I hope?"

"I am in rude health. I hardly knew you at first."

"Am I altered?"

"You are growing stout."

"Indeed? Time has not been so bounteous to me as to you."

"You mean that I am stouter than you?" She laughed; and the sound
startled him. He got from it an odd impression that her soul was gone.
But he hastened to protest.

"No, no. You know I do not. I meant that you have achieved the
impossible--altered for the better."

"I am glad you think so. I cling to my good looks desperately now that I
am growing matronly. How is Mrs. Douglas?"

"She is quite well, thank you. Mr. Conolly is, I trust--"

"He is suffering from Eucalyptus on the brain at present. Do not trouble
yourself to maintain that admirable expression of shocked sadness.
Eucalyptus means gum-tree; and Ned is at present studying the species
somewhere in the neighborhood. He came here with that object: he never
goes anywhere without an object. He wants to plant Eucalyptuses round
some new works where the people suffer from ague."

"Oh! You mean that he is here in the gardens."

"Yes. I left him among the trees, as I prefer the flowers. I want to see
the lilies. There used to be some in a hot-house, or rather a hot bath,
near this."

"That is it on our right. May I go through it with you?"

"Just as you please."

"Thank you. It is a long time since we last met, is it not?"

"More than a year. Fifteen months. I have not seen you since I was
married."

Douglas looked rather foolish at this. He was fatter, lazier,
altogether less tenacious of his dignity than of old; and his
embarrassment brought out the change strikingly. Marian liked him all
the better for it; he was less imposing; but he was more a man and less
a mere mask. At last, reddening a little, he said, "I remember our last
meeting very well. We were very angry then: I was infuriated. In fact,
when I recognized you a minute ago, I was not quite sure that you would
renew our acquaintance."

"I had exactly the same doubt about you."

"A very unnecessary doubt. Not a sincere one, I am afraid. You know too
well that your least beck will bring me to you at any time."

"Dont you think we had better not begin that. I generally repeat my
conversations to Ned. Not that he will mind, if you dont."

Douglas now felt at his ease and in his clement. He was clearly welcome
to philander. Recovering his poise at once, he began, in his finest
voice, "You need not chide me. There can be no mistake on my part now.
You can entangle me without fear; and I can love without hope. Ned is an
unrepealed statute of Forbiddance. Go on, Mrs. Conolly. Play with me: it
will amuse you. And--spiritless wretch that I am!--it will help me to
live until you throw me away, crushed again."

"You seem to have been quite comfortable without me: at least you look
extremely well. I suspect you are becoming a little lazy and attached to
your dinner. Your old haughtiness seems to have faded into a mere habit.
It used to be the most active principle in you. Are you quite sure that
nobody else has been helping you to live, as you call it?"

"Helping me to forget, you mean. No, not one. Time has taught me the
way to vegetate; and so I no longer need to live. As you have remarked,
I have habits, not active principles. But one at least of these
principles is blossoming again even as I speak. If I could only live as
that lily lives now!"

"In a warm bath?"

"No. Floating on the surface of a quiet pool, looking up into your eyes,
with no memory for the past, no anticipation of the future."

"Delightful! especially for me. I think we had better go and look for
Ned."

"Were I in his place I would not be absent from your side now--or ever."

"That is to say, if you were in his place, you wouldnt be in his
place--among the gum trees. Perhaps you would be right."

"He is the only man I have ever stooped to envy."

"You have reason to," said Marian, suddenly grave.

"I envy him sometimes myself. What would you give to be never without a
purpose, never with a regret, to regard life as a succession of objects
each to be accomplished by so many days' work; to take your pleasure in
trifling lazily with the consciousness of possessing a strong brain; to
study love, family affection, and friendship as a doctor studies
breathing or digestion; to look on disinterestedness as either weakness
or hypocrisy, and on death as a mere transfer of your social function to
some member of the next generation?"

"I could achieve all that, if I would, at the cost of my soul. I would
not for worlds be such a man, save on one condition."

"To wit?"

"That only as such could I win the woman I loved."

"Oh, you would not think so much of an insignificant factor like love if
you were Ned."

"May I ask, do you, too, think of love as 'an insignificant factor'?"

"I? Oh, I am not a sociologist. Besides, I have never been in love."

"What! You have never been in love?"

"Not the real, romantic, burning, suicidal love your sonnets used to
breathe."

"Then you do not know what love is."

"Do you?"

"You should know whether I do or not."

"Should I? Then I conclude that you do not. You are growing stout. Your
dress is not in the least neglected. I am certain you enjoy life
thoroughly. No, you have never known love in all its novelistic-poetic
outrageousness. That respectable old passion is a myth."

"You look for signs that only children shew. When an oak dies, it does
not wither and fall at once as a sapling does. Perhaps you will one day
know what it is to love."

"Perhaps so."

"In any case, you will be able to boast of having inspired the passion."

"I hope so--at least, I mean that it is all nonsense. Do look at that
vegetable lobster of a thing, that cactus."

"In order to set off its ugliness properly, you should see yourself
against the background of palms, with that great fan-like leaf for a
halo, and----"

"Thank you. I see it all in my mind's eye by your eloquent description.
You are quite right in supposing that I like compliments; but I am
particular about their quality; and I dont need to be told I am pretty
in comparison with a hideous cactus. You would not have condescended to
make such a speech long ago. You are changed."

"Not toward you, on my honor."

"I did not mean that: I meant toward yourself."

"I am glad you have taken even that slender note of me. I find you
somewhat changed, too."

"I did not know that I shewed it; but it is true. I feel as if Marian
Lind was a person whom I knew once, but whom I should hardly know
again."

"The change in me has not produced that effect. I feel as though Marian
Lind were the history of my life."

"You have become quite a master of the art of saying pretty things. You
are nearly as glib at it as Ned."

"We have the same incentive to admiration."

"The same! You do not suppose that Ned pays _me_ compliments. He never
did such a thing in his life. No: I first discovered his talent in that
direction at Palermo, where I surprised him in an animated discourse
with the dark-eyed daughter of an innkeeper there. That was the first
conversation in Italian I succeeded in following. A week later I could
understand the language almost as well as he. However, dont let us waste
the whole afternoon talking stuff. I want to ask you about your mother.
I should greatly like to call upon her; but she has never made me any
sign since my marriage; and Mrs. Leith Fairfax tells me that she never
allows my name to be mentioned to her. I thought she was fond of me."

"So she was. But she has never forgiven you for making me suffer as you
did. You see she has more spirit than I. She would be angered if she saw
me now tamely following the triumphal chariot of my fair tyrant."

"Seriously, do you think, if I made a raid on Manchester Square some
morning, I could coax back her old feeling for me?"

"I think you will be quite safe in calling, at all events. Tell me what
day you intend to venture. I know my mother will not oppose me if I shew
that I wish you to be kindly received."

"Most disinterested of you. Thank you: I will fail or succeed on my own
merits, not on your recommendation. You must not say a word to her about
me or my project."

"If you command me not to----"

"I do command you."

"I must obey. But I fear that the more submissive I am, the more
imperious you will become."

"Very likely. And now look along that avenue to the left. Do you see a
man in a brown suit, with straw hat to match, walking towards us at a
regular pace, and keeping in a perfectly straight course? He looks at
everybody he passes as if he were counting them."

"He is looking back at somebody now, as if he had missed the number."

"Just so; but that somebody is a woman; doubtless a pretty one, probably
dark. You recognize him, I see. There is a frost come over you which
convinces me that you are preparing to receive him in your old
ungracious way. I warn you that I am accustomed to see Ned made much of.
He has caught sight of us."

"And has just remarked that there is a man talking to his wife."

"Quite right. See his speculative air! Now he no longer attends to us.
He is looking at the passers-by as before. That means that he has
recognized you, and has stowed the observation compactly away in his
brain, to be referred to when he comes up to us."

"So much method must economize his intellect very profitably. How do you
do, Mr. Conolly? It is some time since we have had the pleasure of
meeting."

"Glad to see you, Mr. Douglas. We have been away all the winter. Are you
staying in London?"

"Yes."

"I hope you will spend an occasional hour with us at Holland Park."

"You are very kind. Thank you: yes, if Mrs. Conolly will permit me."

"I should make you come home with us now," said Marian, "but for this
Sunday being a special occasion. Nelly McQuinch is to spend the evening
with us; and as I have not seen her since we came back, I must have her
all to myself. Come next Sunday, if you care to."

"Do," said Conolly. "Half past three is our Sunday hour. If you cannot
face that, we are usually at home afterwards the entire evening. Marian:
we have exactly fifteen minutes to catch our train."

"Oh! let us fly. If we miss it, Nelly will be kept waiting half an
hour."

Then they parted, Douglas promising to come to them on that day week.

"Dont you think he is growing very fat?" said she, as they walked away.

"Yes. He is beginning to take the world easily. He does not seem to be
making much of his life."

"What matter, so long as he enjoys it?"

"Pooh! He doesnt know what enjoyment means."

They said nothing further until they were in the train, where Marian
sat looking listlessly through the window, whilst Conolly, opposite,
reclining against the cushions, looked thoughtfully at her.

"Ned," said she, suddenly.

"My dear."

"Do you know that Sholto is more infatuated about me than ever?"

"Naturally. You are lovelier than when he last saw you."

"You are nearly as complimentary as he," said Marian, blushing with a
gratification which she was very unwilling to betray. "He noticed it
sooner than you. I discovered it myself in the glass before either of
you."

"No doubt you did. What station is this?"

"I dont know." Then, raising her voice so as to be overheard, she
exclaimed "Here is a stupid man coming into our carriage."

A young man entered the compartment, and, after one glance at Marian,
who turned her back on him impatiently, spent the remainder of the
journey making furtive attempts to catch a second glimpse of her face.
Conolly looked a shade graver at his wife's failure in perfect
self-control; but he by no means shared her feelings toward the
intrusive passenger. Marian and he were in different humors; and he did
not wish to be left alone with her.

As they walked from Addison Road railway station to their house, Conolly
mused in silence with his eyes on the gardens by the way. Marian, who
wished to talk, followed his measured steps with impatience.

"Let me take your arm, Ned: I cannot keep up with you."

"Certainly."

"I hope I am not inconveniencing you," she said, after a further
interval of silence.

"Hm--no."

"I am afraid I am. It does not matter. I can get on by myself."

"Arm in arm is such an inconvenient and ridiculous mode of
locomotion--you need not struggle in the public street: now that you
have got my arm you shall keep it--I say it is such an inconvenient and
ridiculous mode of locomotion that if you were any one else I should
prefer to wheel you home in a barrow. Our present mode of proceeding
would be inexcusable if I were a traction-engine, and you my tender."

"Then let me go. What will the people think if they see a great engineer
violating the laws of mechanics by dragging his wife by the arm?"

"They will appreciate my motives; and, in fact, if you watch them, you
will detect a thinly-disguised envy in their countenances. I violate the
laws of mechanics--to use your own sarcastic phrase--for many reasons. I
like to be envied when there are solid reasons for it. It gratifies my
vanity to be seen in this artistic quarter with a pretty woman on my
arm. Again, the sense of possessing you is no longer an abstraction when
I hold you bodily, and feel the impossibility of keeping step with you.
Besides, Man, who was a savage only yesterday, has his infirmities, and
finds a poetic pleasure in the touch of the woman he loves. And I may
add that you have been in such a bad temper all the afternoon that I
suspect you of an itching to box my ears, and therefore feel safer with
your arm in my custody."

"Oh! _Indeed_ I have not been in a bad temper. I have been most anxious
to spend a happy day."

"And I have been placidly reflective, and not anxious at all. Is that
what has provoked you?"

"I am not provoked. But you might tell me what your reflections are
about."

"They would fill volumes, if I could recollect them."

"You must recollect some of them. From the time we left the station
until a moment ago, when we began to talk, you were pondering something
with the deepest seriousness. What was it?"

"I forget."

"Of course you forget--just because I want to know. What a crowded road
this is!" She disengaged herself from his arm; and this time he did not
resist her.

"That reminds me of it. The crowd consists partly of people going to the
pro-Cathedral. The pro-Cathedral contains an altar. An altar suggests
kneeling on hard stone; and that brings me to the disease called
'housemaids' knee,' which was the subject of my reflections."

"A pleasant subject for a fine Sunday! Thank you. I dont want to hear
any more."

"But you will hear more of it; for I am going to have the steps of our
house taken away and replaced by marble, or slate, or something that can
be cleaned with a mop and a pail of water in five minutes."

"Why?"

"My chain of thought began at the door steps we have passed, all
whitened beautifully so as to display every footprint, and all
representing an expenditure of useless, injurious labor in
hearthstoning, that ought to madden an intelligent housemaid. I dont
think our Armande is particularly intelligent; but I am resolved to
spare her knees and her temper in future by banishing hearthstone from
our establishment forever. I shudder to think that I have been walking
upon those white steps and flag ways of ours every day without awakening
to a sense of their immorality."

"I cannot understand why you are always disparaging Armande. And I hate
an ill-kept house front. None of our housemaids ever objected to
hearthstoning, or were any the worse for it."

"No. They would not have gained anything by objecting: they would only
have lost their situations. You need not fear for your house front. I
will order a porch with porphyry steps and alabaster pillars to replace
your beloved hearthstone."

"Yes. That will be clever. Do you know how easy it is to stain marble?
Armande will be on her knees all day with a bottle of turpentine and a
bit of flannel."

"You are thinking of inkstains, Marian. You forget that it does not rain
ink, and that Nelly will hardly select the porch to write her novels
in."

"Lots of people bring ink on a doorstep. Tax collectors and gasmen carry
bottles in their pockets."

"Ask them into the drawing-room when they call, my dear; or, better
still, dont pay them, so that they will have no need to write a receipt.
Let me remind you that ink shews as much on white hearthstone as it can
possibly do on marble. Yet extensive disfigurements of steps from the
visits of tax collectors are not common."

"Now, Ned, you know that you are talking utter nonsense."

"Yes, my dear. I think I perceive Nelly looking out of the window for
us. Here she is at the door."

Marian hastened forward and embraced her cousin. Miss McQuinch looked
older; and her complexion was drier than before. But she had apparently
begun to study her appearance; for her hat and shoes were neat and even
elegant, which they had never been within Marian's previous experience
of her.

"_You_ are not changed in the least," she said, as she gave Conolly her
hand. "I have just been wondering at the alteration in Marian. She has
grown lovely."

"I have been telling her so all day, in the vain hope of getting her
into a better temper. Come into the drawing-room. Have you been waiting
for us long?"

"About fifteen minutes. I have been admiring your organ. I should have
tried the piano; but I did not know whether that was allowable on
Sunday."

"Oh! Why did you not pound it to your heart's content? Ned scandalizes
the neighbors every Sunday by continually playing. Armande: dinner as
soon as possible, please."

"I like this house. It is exactly my idea of a comfortable modern home."

"You must stay long enough to find out its defects," said Conolly. "We
read your novel at Verona; but we could not agree as to which characters
you meant to be taken as the good ones."

"That was only Ned's nonsense," said Marian. "Most novels are such
rubbish! I am sure you will be able to live by writing just as well as
Mrs. Fairfax can." Conolly shewed Miss McQuinch his opinion of this
unhappy remark by a whimsical glance, which she repudiated by turning
sharply away from him, and speaking as affectionately as she could to
Marian.

After dinner they returned to the drawing-room, which ran from the
front to the back of the house. Marian opened a large window which gave
access to the garden, and sat down with Elinor on a little terrace
outside. Conolly went to the organ.

"May I play a voluntary while you talk?" he asked. "I shall not
scandalize any one: the neighbors think all music sacred when it is
played on the organ."

"We have a nice view of the sunset from here," said Marian, in a low
voice, turning her forehead to the cool evening breeze.

"Stuff!" said Elinor. "We didnt come here to talk about the sunset, and
what a pretty house you have, and so forth. I want to know--good
heavens! what a thundering sound that organ makes!"

"Please dont say anything about it to him: he likes it," said Marian.
"When he wishes to exalt himself, he goes to it and makes it roar until
the whole house shakes. Whenever he feels an emotional impulse, he vents
it at the organ or the piano, or by singing. When he stops, he is
satisfied; his mind is cleared; and he is in a good-humored, playful
frame of mind, such as _I_ can gratify."

"But you were always very fond of music. Dont you ever play together, as
we used to do; or sing to one another's accompaniments?"

"I cannot. I hardly ever touch the piano when he is in the house."

"Why? Are you afraid of preventing him from having his turn?"

"No: it is not so much that. But--it sounds very silly--if I attempt to
play or sing in his presence, I become so frightfully nervous that I
hardly know what I am doing. I know he does not like my singing."

"Are you sure that is not merely your fancy? It sounds very like it."

"No. At first I used to play a good deal for him, knowing that he was
fond of music, and fancying--poor fool that I was! [here Marian spoke so
bitterly that Nelly turned and looked hard at her] that it was part of a
married woman's duty in a house to supply music after dinner. At that
time he was working hard at his business; and he spent so much time in
the city that he had to give up playing himself. Besides, we were flying
all about England opening those branch offices, and what not. He always
took me with him; and I really enjoyed it, and took quite an interest in
the Company. When we were in London, although I was so much alone in the
daytime, I was happy in anticipating our deferred honeymoon. Then the
time for that paradise came. Ned said that the Company was able to walk
by itself at last, and that he was going to have a long holiday after
his dry-nursing of it. We went first to Paris, where we heard all the
classical concerts that were given while we were there. I found that he
never tired of listening to orchestral music; and yet he never ceased
grumbling at it. He thought nothing of the great artists in Paris. Then
we went for a tour through Brittany; and there, in spite of his
classical tastes, he used to listen to the peasants' songs and write
them down. He seemed to like folk songs of all kinds, Irish, Scotch,
Russian, German, Italian, no matter where from. So one evening, at a
lodging where there was a piano, I played for him that old arrangement
of Irish melodies--you know--'Irish Diamonds,' it is called."

"Oh Lord! Yes, I remember. 'Believe me if all,' with variations."

"Yes. He thought I meant it in jest: he laughed at it, and played a lot
of ridiculous variations to burlesque it. I didnt tell him that I had
been in earnest: perhaps you can imagine how I felt about it. Then,
after that, in Italy, he got permission--or rather bought it--to try the
organ in a church. It was growing dusk; I was tired with walking; and
somehow between the sense of repose, and the mysterious twilight in the
old church, I was greatly affected by his playing. I thought it must be
part of some great mass or symphony; and I felt how little I knew about
music, and how trivial my wretched attempts must appear to him when he
had such grand harmonies at his fingers' ends. But he soon stopped; and
when I was about to tell him how I appreciated his performance, he said,
'What an abominable instrument a bad organ is!' I had thought it
beautiful, of course. I asked him what he had been playing. I said was
it not by Mozart; and then I saw his eyebrows go up; so I added, as a
saving clause, that perhaps it was something of his own. 'My dear girl,'
said he, 'it was only an _entr'acte_ from an opera of Donizetti's.' He
was carrying my shawl at the time; and he wrapped it about my shoulders
in the tenderest manner as he said this, and made love to me all the
evening to console me. In his opinion, the greatest misfortune that can
happen anyone is to make a fool of oneself; and whenever I do it, he
pets me in the most delicate manner, as if I were a child who had just
got a tumble. When we settled down here and got the organ, he began to
play constantly, and I used to practise the piano in the daytime so as
to have duets with him. But though he was always ready to play whenever
I proposed it, he was quite different then from what he was when he
played by himself. He was all eyes and ears, and the moment I played a
wrong note he would name the right one. Then I generally got worse and
stopped. He never lost his patience or complained; but I used to feel
that he was urging me on, or pulling me back, or striving to get me to
do something which I could not grasp. Then he would give me up in
despair, and play on mechanically from the notes before him, thinking of
something else all the time. I practised harder, and tried again. I
thought at first I had succeeded; because our duets went so smoothly and
we were always so perfectly together. But I discovered--by instinct I
believe--that instead of having a musical treat, he was only trying to
please me. He thought I liked playing duets with him; and accordingly he
used to sit down beside me and accompany me faithfully, no matter how I
chose to play."

"Dear me! Why doesnt he get Rubinstein to play with him, since he is so
remarkably fastidious?"

"It is not so much mechanical skill that I lack; but there is
something--I cannot tell what it is. I found it out one night when we
were at Mrs. Saunders's. She is an incurable flirt; and she was quite
sure that she had captivated Ned, who is always ready to make love to
anyone that will listen to him."

"A nice sort of man to be married to!"

"He only does it to amuse himself. He does not really care for them: I
almost wish he did, sometimes; but it is often none the less provoking.
What is worse, no amount of flirtation on my part would make _him_
angry. What happened at Mrs. Saunders's was this. The Scotts, of Putney,
were there; and the first remark Ned made to me was, 'Who is the woman
that knows how to walk?' It was Mrs. Scott: you know you used to say
she moved like a panther. Afterward Mrs. Scott sang 'Caller Herrin' in
that vulgar Scotch accent that leaks out occasionally in her speech,
with Ned at the piano. Everybody came crowding in to listen; and there
was great applause. I cannot understand it: she is as hard and
matter-of-fact as a woman can be: I dont believe the expression in her
singing comes one bit from true feeling. I heard Ned say to her, 'Thank
you, Mrs. Scott: no Englishwoman has the secret of singing a ballad as
you have it.' I knew very well what that meant. _I_ have not the secret.
Well, Mrs. Scott came over to me and said 'Mr. Conolly is a very
_pair_tinaceous man. He persuaded me into shewing him the way the little
song is sung in Scotland; and I stood up without thinking. And see now,
I have been _rag_uilarly singing a song in company for the first time in
my life.' Of course, it was a ridiculous piece of affectation. Ned
talked about Mrs. Scott all the way home, and played 'Caller Herrin'
four times next day. That finished my domestic musical career. I have
never sung for him since, except once or twice when he has asked me to
try the effect of some passage in one of his music-books."

"And do you never sing when you go out, as you used to?"

"Only when he is not with me, or when people force me to. If he is in
the room, I am so nervous that I can hardly get through the easiest
song. He never offers to accompany me now, and generally leaves the room
when I am asked to sing."

"Perhaps he sees the effect his presence has on you."

"Even so, he ought to stay. He used to like _me_ to listen to _him_, at
first."

Miss McQuinch looked at the sunset with exceeding glumness. There was
an ominous pause. Then she said, abruptly, "You remember how we used to
debate whether marriage was a mistake or not. Have you found out?"

"I dont know."

"That sounds rather as if you did know. Are you quite sure you are not
in low spirits this evening? He was bantering you about being out of
temper when you came in. Perhaps you quarrelled at Kew."

"Quarrel! He quarrel! I cannot explain to you how we are situated,
Nelly. You would not understand me."

"Suppose you try. For instance, is he as fond of you as he was before
you married him?"

"I dont know."

Miss McQuinch shrugged herself impatiently.

"Really I do not, Nelly. He has changed in a way--I do not quite know
how or why. At first he was not very ceremonious. He used to make
remarks about people, and discuss everything that came into his head
quite freely before me. He was always kind, and never grumbled about his
dinner, or lost his temper, or anything of that kind; but--it was not
that he was coarse exactly: he was not that in the least; but he was
very open and unreserved and plain in his language; and somehow I did
not quite like it. He must have found this out: he sees and feels
everything by instinct; for he slipped back into his old manner, and
became more considerate and attentive than he had ever been before. I
was made very happy at first by the change; but I do not think he quite
understood what I wanted. I did not at all object to going down to the
country with him on his business trips; but he always goes alone now;
and he never mentions his work to me. And he is too careful as to what
he says to me. Of course, I know that he is right not to speak ill of
anybody; but still a man need not be so particular before his wife as
before strangers. He has given up talking to me altogether: that is the
plain truth, whatever he may pretend. When we do converse, his manner is
something like what it was in the laboratory at the Towers. Of course,
he sometimes becomes more familiar; only then he never seems in earnest,
but makes love to me in a bantering, half playful, half sarcastic way."

"You are rather hard to please, perhaps. I remember you used to say that
a husband should be just as tender and respectful after marriage as
before it. You seem to have broken poor Ned into this; and now you are
not satisfied."

"Nelly, if there is one subject on which girls are more idiotically
ignorant than on any other, it is happiness in marriage. A courtier, a
lover, a man who will not let the winds of heaven visit your face too
harshly, is very nice, no doubt; but he is not a husband. I want to be a
wife and not a fragile ornament kept in a glass case. He would as soon
think of submitting any project of his to the judgment of a doll as to
mine. If he has to explain or discuss any serious matter of business
with me, he does so apologetically, as if he were treating me roughly."

"Well, my dear, you see, when he tried the other plan, you did not like
that either. What is the unfortunate man to do?"

"I dont know. I suppose I was wrong in shrinking from his confidence. I
am always wrong. It seems to me that the more I try to do right, the
more mischief I contrive to make."

"This is all pretty dismal, Marian. What sort of conduct on his part
would make you happy?"

"Oh, there are so many little things. He makes me jealous of everything
and everybody. I am jealous of the men in the city--I was jealous of the
sanitary inspector the other day--because he talks with interest to
them. I know he stays in the city later than he need. It is a relief to
me to go out in the evening, or to have a few people here once or twice
a week; but I am angry because I know it is a relief to him too. I am
jealous even of that organ. How I hale those Bach fugues! Listen to the
maddening thing twisting and rolling and racing and then mixing itself
up into one great boom. He can get on with Bach: he can't get on with
me. I have even condescended to be jealous of other women--of such women
as Mrs. Saunders. He despises her: he plays with her as dexterously as
she thinks she plays with him; but he likes to chat with her; and they
rattle away for a whole evening without the least constraint. She has no
conscience: she talks absolute nonsense about art and literature: she
flirts even more disgustingly than she used to when she was Belle
Woodward; but she is quickwitted, like most Irish people; and she enjoys
a broad style of jesting which Ned is a great deal too tolerant of,
though he would as soon die as indulge in it before me. Then there is
Mrs. Scott, who is just as shrewd as Belle, and much cleverer. I have
heard him ask her opinion as to whether he had acted well or not in some
stroke of business--something that I had never heard of, of course. I
wish I were half as hard and strong and self-reliant as she is. _Her_
husband would be nothing without her."

"I am afraid I was right all along, Marian. Marriage _is_ a mistake.
There is something radically wrong in the institution. If you and Ned
cannot be happy, no pair in the world can."

"We might be very happy if----" Marian stopped to repress a sob.

"Anybody might be very happy If. There is not much consolation in Ifs.
You could not be better off than you are unless you could be Marian Lind
again. Think of all the women who would give their souls to have a
husband who would neither drink, nor swear at them, nor kick them, nor
sulk whenever he was kept waiting half a minute for anything. You have
no little pests of children----"

"I wish I had. That would give us some interest in common. We sometimes
have Lucy, Marmaduke's little girl, up here; and Ned seems to me to be
fond of her. She is a very bold little thing."

"I saw Marmaduke last week. He is not half so jolly as he was."

"He lives in chambers in Westminster now, and only comes out in this
direction occasionally to see Lucy. I am afraid _she_ has taken to
drinking. I believe she is going to America. I hope she is; for she
makes me uncomfortable when I think of her."

"Does your--your Ned ever speak of her?"

"No. He used to, before he changed as I described. Now, he never
mentions her. Hush! Here he is."

The sound of the organ had ceased; and Conolly came out and stood
between them.

"How do you like my consoler, as Marian calls it?" said he.

"Do you mean the organ?"

"Yes."

"I wasn't listening to you."

"You should have: I played the great fugue in A minor expressly for your
entertainment: you used to work at Liszt's transcription of it. The
organ is only occasionally my consoler. For the most part I am driven to
it by habit and a certain itching in my fingers. Marian is my real
consoler."

"So she has just been telling me," said Elinor. Conolly's surprise
escaped him for just a moment in a quick glance at Marian. She colored,
and looked reproachfully at her cousin, who added, "I am sure you must
be a nuisance to the neighbors."

"Probably," said Conolly.

"I do not think you should play so much on Sunday," said Marian.

"I know. [Marian winced.] Well, if the neighbors will either melt down
the church bells they jangle so horribly within fifteen yards or so of
my unfortunate ears, or else hang them up two hundred feet high in a
beautiful tower where they would sound angelic, as they do at Utrecht,
then perhaps I will stop the organ to listen to them. Until then, I will
take the liberty of celebrating the day of rest with such devices as the
religious folk cannot forbid me."

"Pray do not begin to talk about religion, Ned."

"My way of thinking is too robust for Marian, Miss McQuinch. I admit
that it does not, at first sight, seem pretty or sentimental. But I do
not know how even Marian can prefer the church bells to Bach."

"What do you mean by '_even_ Marian'?" said Elinor, sharply.

"I should have said, 'Marian, who is tolerant and kind to everybody and
everything.' I hope you have forgiven me for carrying her off from you,
Miss McQuinch. You are adopting an ominous tone toward me. I fear she
has been telling you of our quarrels, and my many domestic
shortcomings."

"No," said Elinor. "As far as I can judge from her account, you are a
monotonously amiable husband."

"Indeed! Hm! Would you like your coffee out here?"

"Yes."

"Do not stir, Marian: I will ring for it."

When he was gone, Marian said "Nelly: for Heaven's sake say nothing that
could make the slightest coldness between Ned and me. I am clinging to
him with all my heart and soul; and you must help me. Those sharp things
that you say to him stab me cruelly; and he is clever enough to guess
everything I have said to you from them."

"If I cannot keep myself from making mischief, I shall go away," said
Elinor. "Dont suppose I am in a huff: I am quite serious. I have an
unlucky tongue; and my disposition is such that when I see that a jug is
cracked, I feel more inclined to smash and have done with it than to
mend it and handle it tenderly ever after. However, I hope your marriage
is not a cracked jug yet."




CHAPTER XIII


On the following Wednesday Douglas called on his mother at Manchester
Square in the afternoon. As if to emphasize the purely filial motive of
his visit, he saluted his mother so affectionately that she was
emboldened to be more demonstrative with him than she usually ventured
to be.

"My darling boy," she said, holding him fondly for a moment, "this is
the second visit you have paid your poor old mother this week. I want to
speak to you about something, too. Marian has been with me this
morning."

"What! Has she gone?" said Douglas.

"Why?" said Mrs. Douglas. "Did you know she was coming?"

"She mentioned to me that she intended to come," he replied, carelessly;
"but she bade me not to tell you."

"That accounts for your two visits. Well, Sholto, I do not blame you for
spending your time in gayer places than this."

"You must not reproach me for neglecting you, mother. You know my
disposition. I am seldom good company for any one; and I do not care to
come only to cast a damp on you and your friends when I am morose. I
hope you received Marian kindly."

"I did not expect to see her; and I told her so."

"Mother!"

"But it made no difference. There is no holding her in check now,
Sholto; she cares no more for what I say than if I was her father or
you. What could I do but kiss and forgive her? She got the better of
me."

"Yes," said Douglas, gloomily. "She has a wonderful face."

"The less you see of her face, the better, Sholto. I hope you will not
go to her house too often."

"Do you doubt my discretion, mother?"

"No, no, Sholto. But I am afraid of any unpleasantness arising between
you and that man. These working men are so savage to their wives, and so
jealous of gentlemen. I hardly like your going into his house at all."

"Absurd, mother! You must not think that he is a navvy in fustian and
corduroys. He seems a sensible man: his address is really remarkably
good, considering what he is. As to his being savage, he is quite the
reverse. His head is full of figures and machinery; and I am told that
he does nothing at home but play the piano. He must bore Marian
terribly. I do not want to go to his house particularly; but Marian and
he are, of course, very sensitive to anything that can be construed as a
slight; and I shall visit them once or twice to prevent them from
thinking that I wish to snub Conolly. He will be glad enough to have me
at his dinner-table. I am afraid I must hurry away now: I have an
appointment at the club. Can I do anything for you in town?"

"No, thank you, Sholto. I thought you would have stayed with me for a
cup of tea."

"Thank you, dear mother, no: not to-day. I promised to be at the club."

"If you promised, of course, you must go. Good-bye. You will come again
soon, will you not?"

"Some day next week, if not sooner. Good-bye, mother."

Douglas left Manchester Square, not to go to his club, where he had no
real appointment, but to avoid spending the afternoon with his mother,
who, though a little hurt at his leaving her, was also somewhat relieved
by being rid of him. They maintained toward one another an attitude
which their friends found beautiful and edifying; but, like artists'
models, they found the attitude fatiguing, in spite of their practice
and its dignity.

At Hyde Park Corner, Douglas heard his name unceremoniously shouted.
Turning, he saw Marmaduke Lind, carelessly dressed, walking a little
behind him.

"Where are you going to?" said Marmaduke, abruptly.

"Why do you ask?" said Douglas, never disposed to admit the right of
another to question him.

"I want to have a talk with you. Come and lunch somewhere, will you?"

"Yes, if you wish."

"Let's go to the South Kensington Museum."

"The South----! My dear fellow, why not suggest Putney, or the Star and
Garter? Why do you wish to go westward from Hyde Park in search of
luncheon?"

"I have a particular reason. I am to meet someone at the Museum this
afternoon; and I want to ask your advice first. You might as well come;
it's only a matter of a few minutes if we drive."

"Well, as you please. I have not been to the Museum for years."

"All right. Come al----oh, damn! There's Lady Carbury and Constance
coming out of the Park. Dont look at them. Come on."

But Constance, sitting a little more uprightly than her mother, who was
supine upon the carriage cushions, had seen the two gentlemen as they
stood talking.

"Mamma," she said, "there's Marmaduke and Sholto Douglas."

"Where???" said the Countess, lifting her head quickly. "Josephs, drive
slowly. Where are they, Constance?"

"They are going away. I believe Marmaduke saw us. There he is, passing
the hospital."

"We must go and speak to them. Look pleasant, child; and dont make a
fool of yourself."

"Surely youll not speak to him, mamma! You dont expect me----"

"Nonsense. I heard a great deal about him the other day. He has moved
from where he was living, and is quite reformed. His father is very ill.
Do as I tell you. Josephs, stop half way to the hotel."

"I say," said Marmaduke, finding himself out-manoeuvred: "come back.
There they are right ahead, confound them. What are they up to?"

"It cannot be helped," said Douglas. "There is no escape. You must not
cross: it would be pointedly rude."

Marmaduke went on grumbling. When he attempted to pass, the Countess
called his name, and greeted him with smiles.

"We want to know how your father is," she said. "We have had such
alarming accounts of him. I hope he is better."

"They havnt told me much about him," said Marmaduke. "There was deuced
little the matter with the governor when I saw him last."

"Wicked prodigal! What shall we do to reform him, Mr. Douglas? He has
not been to see us for three years past, and during that time we have
had the worst reports of him."

"You never asked me to go and see you."

"Silly fellow! Did you expect me to send you invitations and leave cards
on you, who are one of ourselves? Come to-morrow to dinner. Your uncle
the Bishop will be there; and you will see nearly all the family
besides. You cannot plead that you have not been invited now. Will you
come?"

"No. I cant stand the Bishop. Besides, I have taken to dining in the
middle of the day."

"Come after dinner, then?"

"Mamma," said Constance, peevishly, "can't you see that he does not want
to come at all? What is the use of persecuting him?"

"No, I assure you," said Marmaduke. "It's only the Bishop I object to.
I'll come after dinner, if I can."

"And pray what is likely to prevent you?" said the Countess.

"Devilment of some sort, perhaps," he replied. "Since you have all given
me a bad name, I dont see why I should make any secret of earning it."

The Countess smiled slyly at him, implying that she was amused, but must
not laugh at such a sentiment in Constance's presence. Then, turning so
as to give the rest of the conversation an air of privacy, she
whispered, "I must tell you that you no longer have a bad name. It is
said that your wild oats are all sown, and I will answer for it that
even the Bishop will receive you with open arms."

"And dry my repentant tears on his apron, the old hypocrite," said
Marmaduke, speaking rather more loudly than before. "Well, we must be
trotting. We are going to the South Kensington Museum--to improve our
minds."

"Why, that is where we are going; at least, Constance is. She is going
to work at her painting while I pay a round of visits. Wont you come
with us?"

"Thank you: I'd rather walk. A man should have gloves and a proper hat
for your sort of travelling."

"Nonsense! you look very nice. Besides, it is only down the Brompton
Road."

"The worst neighborhood in London to be seen in with me. I know all
sorts of queer people down Brompton way. I should have to bow to them if
we met; and that wouldnt do before _her_,"--indicating Constance, who
was conversing with Douglas.

"You are incorrigible: I give you up. Good-bye, and dont forget
to-morrow evening."

"I wonder," said Marmaduke, as the carriage drove off, "what she's
saying about me to Constance now."

"That you are the rudest man in London, perhaps."

"Serve her right! I hate her. I have got so now that I can't stand that
sort of woman. You see her game, dont you; she can't get Constance off
her hands; and she thinks there's a chance of me still. How well she
knows about the governor's state of health! And Conny, too, grinning at
me as if we were the best friends in the world. If that girl had an
ounce of spirit she would not look on the same side of the street with
me."

Douglas, without replying, called a cab. Marmaduke's loud conversation
was irksome in the street, and it was now clear that he was unusually
excited. At the museum they alighted, and passed through the courts into
the grill-room, where they sat down together at a vacant table, and
ordered luncheon.

"You were good enough to ask my advice about something," said Douglas.
"What is the matter?"

"Well," said Marmaduke, "I am in a fix. Affairs have become so
uncomfortable at home that I have had to take up my quarters elsewhere."

"I did not know that you had been living at home. I thought your father
and you were on the usual terms."

"My father! Look here: I mean home--_my_ home. My place at Hammersmith,
not down at the governor's."

"Oh! I beg your pardon."

"Of course, you know all about my establishment there with Lalage
Virtue? her real name is Susanna Conolly."

"Is it true, then, that she is a cousin of Marian's husband?"

"Cousin! She's his sister, and Marian's sister-in-law."

"I never believed it."

"It's true enough. But thats not the mischief. Douglas: I tell you she's
the cleverest woman in London. She can do anything she likes. She can
manage a conversation with any foreigner in his own language, whether
she knows it or not. She gabbles Italian like a native. She can learn
off her part in a new piece, music and all, between breakfast and
luncheon, any day. She can cook: she can make a new bonnet out of the
lining of an old coat: she can drive a bargain with a Jew. She says she
never learns a thing at all unless she can learn it in ten minutes. She
can fence, and shoot. She can dance anything in the world. I never knew
such a mimic as she is. If you saw her take off the Bones at the Christy
Minstrels, you'd say she was the lowest of the low. Next minute she will
give herself the airs of a duchess, or do the ingenuous in a style that
would make Conny burst with envy. To see her preaching like George would
make you laugh for a week. There's nothing she couldnt do if she chose.
And now, what do you think she has taken to? Liquor. Champagne by the
gallon. She used to drink it by the bottle: now she drinks it by the
dozen--by the case. She wanted it to keep up her spirits. That was the
way it began. If she felt down, a glass of champagne would set her up.
Then she was always feeling down, and always setting herself up. At last
feeling down came to mean the same thing as being sober. You dont know
what a drunken woman is, Douglas, unless youve lived in the same house
with one." Douglas recoiled, and looked very sternly at Marmaduke, who
proceeded more vehemently. "She's nothing but a downright beast. She's
either screaming at you in a fit of rage, or clawing at you in a fit of
fondness that makes you sick. When she falls asleep, there she is, a
besotted heap tumbled anyhow into bed, snoring and grunting like a pig.
When she wakes, she begins planning how to get more liquor. Think of
what you or I would feel if we saw our mothers tipsy. By God, that child
of mine wouldnt believe its eyes if it saw its mother sober. Only for
Lucy, I'd have pitched her over long ago. I did all I could when I first
saw that she was overdoing the champagne. I swore I'd break the neck of
any man I caught bringing wine into the house. I sacked the whole staff
of servants twice because I found a lot of fresh corks swept into the
dustpan. I stopped drinking at home myself: I got in doctors to frighten
her: I tried bribing, coaxing, threatening: I knocked her down once when
I caught her with a bottle in her hand; and she fell with her head
against the fender, and frightened me a good deal more than she hurt
herself. It was no use. Sometimes she used to defy me, and say she
_would_ drink, she didnt care whether she was killing herself or not.
Other times she cried; implored me to save her from destroying herself;
asked me why I didnt thrash the life out of her whenever I caught her
drunk; promised on her oath never to touch another drop. The same
evening she would be drunk again, and, when I taxed her with it, say
that she wasn't drunk, that she was sick, and that she prayed the
Almighty on her knees to strike her dead if she had a bottle in the
house. Aye, and the very stool she knelt on would be a wine case with a
red cloth stuck to it with a few gilt-headed nails to make it look like
a piece of furniture. Next day she would laugh at me for believing her,
and ask me what use I supposed there was in talking to her. How she
managed to hold on at the theatre, I dont know. She wouldnt learn new
parts, and stuck to old ones that she could do in her sleep, she knew
them so well. She would go on the stage and get through a long part when
she couldnt walk straight from the wing to her dressing-room. Of course,
her voice went to the dogs long ago; but by dint of screeching and
croaking she pulls through. She says she darent go on sober now; that
she knows she should break down. The theatre has fallen off, too. The
actors got out of the place one by one--they didnt like playing with
her--and were replaced by a third-rate lot. The audiences used to be
very decent: now they are all cads and fast women. The game is up for
her in London. She has been offered an engagement in America on the
strength of her old reputation; but what is the use of it if she
continues drinking."

"That is very sad," said Douglas, with cold disgust, perfunctorily
veiled by a conventional air of sympathy. "But if she is irreclaimable,
why not leave her?"

"So I would, only for the child. I _have_ left her--at least, I've taken
lodgings in town; but I am always running out to Laurel Grove. I darent
trust Lucy to her; and she knows it; for she wouldnt let me take the
poor little creature away, although she doesnt care two straws for it.
She knows that it gives her a grip over me. Well, I have not seen her
for a week past. I have tried the trick of only going out in the evening
when she has to be at the theatre. And now she has sent me a long
letter; and I dont exactly know what to do about it. She swears she has
given up drinking--not touched a spoonful since I saw her last. She's as
superstitious as an old woman; and yet she will swear to that lie with
oaths that make _me_ uncomfortable, although I am pretty thick-skinned
in religious matters. Then she goes drivelling on about me having
encouraged her to drink at first, and then turned upon her and deserted
her when I found out the mischief I had done. I used to stand plenty of
champagne, but I am sure I never thought what would come of it. Then she
says she gave up every friend in the world for me: broke with her
brother, and lost her place in society. _Her_ place in society, mind
you, Douglas! Thats not bad, is it? Then, of course, I am leaving her to
die alone with her helpless child: I might have borne with her a little
longer: she will not trouble me nor anyone else much more; and so on.
The upshot is that she wants me to come back. She says I ought to be
there to save the child from her, if I dont care to save her from
herself; that I was the last restraint on her; and that if I dont come
she will make an end of the business by changing her tipple to prussic
acid. The whole thing is a string of maudlin rot from beginning to end;
and I believe she primed herself with about four bottles of champagne to
write it. Still, I dont want to leave her in the lurch. You are a man
who stand pretty closely on your honor. Do you think I ought to go back?
I may tell you that as regards money she is under no compliment to me.
Her earnings were a good half of our income; and she saved nothing out
of them. In fact, I owe her some money for two or three old debts she
paid for me. We always shared like husband and wife."

"I hardly understand your hesitation, Lind. You can take the little girl
out of her hands; allow her something; and be quit of her."

"Thats very easy to say; but I cant drag her child away from her if she
insists on keeping it."

"Well, so much the better for you. It would be a burden to you. Pay her
for its maintenance: that is probably what she wants."

"No, no," said Marmaduke, impatiently. "You dont understand. Youre
talking as if I were a rake living with a loose woman."

Douglas looked at him doubtfully. "I confess I do not understand," he
said. "Perhaps you will be good enough to explain."

"It's very simple. I went to live with her because I fell in love with
her, and she wouldnt marry me. She had a horror of marriage; and I was
naturally not very eager for it myself. Matters must be settled between
us as if we were husband and wife. Paying her off is all nonsense. She
doesnt want money; and I want the child; so she has the advantage of me.
Only for the drink I would go back to her to-morrow; but I cant stand
her when she is not sober. I bore with it long enough; and now all I
want is to get Lucy out of her hands and be quit of her, as you
say--although it seems mean to leave her."

"She must certainly be a very extraordinary woman if she refused to
marry you. Are you sure she is not married already?"

"Bosh! Not she. She likes to be independent; and she has a sort of
self-respect--not like Constance and the old Countess, who hunted me
long enough in the hope of running me down at last in a church."

"If you offered her marriage, that certainly frees you from the least
obligation to stay with her. She reserved liberty to leave you; and, of
course, the same privilege was implied on your part. If you have no
sentimental wish to return to her, you are most decidedly not bound in
honor to."

"I'm fond enough of her when she is sober; but I loathe her when she is
fuddled. If she would only give up drinking, we might make a fresh
start. But she wont."

"You must not think of doing that. Get rid of her, my dear fellow. This
marriage of Marian's has put the affair on a new footing altogether. I
tell you candidly, I think that under the circumstances your connexion
with Conolly's sister is a disgraceful one."

"Hang Conolly! Everybody thinks of Marian, and nobody of Susanna. I
have heard enough of that side of the question. Marian married him with
her eyes open."

"Do you mean to say that she knew?"

"Of course she did. Conolly told her, fairly enough. He's an
extraordinary card, that fellow."

"Reginald Lind told my mother that the discovery was made by accident
after the marriage, and that they were all shocked by it. It was he who
said that it was Conolly's _cousin_ that you were with."

"Uncle Rej. is an old liar. So are most of the family: I never believe a
word they say."

"Marian must have been infatuated. I advise you to break the connexion.
She will be glad to give you the child if she sees that you are resolved
to leave her. She only holds on because she hopes to make it the means
of bringing you back."

"I expect youre about right. She wants me to meet her here to-day at
half past three. Thats the reason I came."

"Do you know that it now wants twenty minutes of four?"

"Whew! So it does. I had better go and look for her. I'm very much
obliged to you, old fellow, for talking it over with me. I suppose you
dont want to meet her."

"I should be in the way at present."

"Then good-bye."

Marmaduke, leaving Douglas in the grill-room, went upstairs to the
picture galleries, where several students were more or less busy at
their easels. Lady Constance was in the Sheepshanks gallery, copying
"Sterne's Maria," by Charles Landseer, as best she could. She had been
annoyed some minutes before by the behavior of a stout woman in a rich
costume of black silk, who had stopped for a moment to inspect her
drawing. Lady Constance, by a look, had made her aware that she was
considered intrusive, whereupon she had first stared Lady Constance out
of countenance, and then deliberately scanned her work with an
expression which conveyed a low opinion of its merit. Having thus
revenged herself, she stood looking uneasily at the door for a minute,
and at last wandered away into the adjoining gallery. A few minutes
later Marmaduke entered, looking round as if in search of someone.

"Here I am," said Constance to him, playfully.

"So I see," said Marmaduke, recognizing her with rueful astonishment.
"You knew I was looking for you, did you?"

"Of course I did, sir."

"Youre clever, so you are. What are you doing here?"

"Dont you see? I am copying a picture."

"Oh! it's very pretty. Which one are you copying?"

"What an impertinent question! You can tell my poor copy well enough,
only you pretend not to."

"Yes, now that I look closely at it, I fancy it's a little like Mary the
maid of the inn there."

"It's not Mary: it's Maria--Sterne's Maria."

"Indeed! Do you read Sterne?"

"Certainly not," said Constance, looking very serious.

"Then what do you paint his Maria for? How do you know whether she is a
fit subject for you?"

"Hush, sir! You must not interrupt my work."

"I suppose you have lots of fun here over your art studies, eh?"

"Who?"

"You, and all the other girls here."

"Oh, I am sure I dont know any of them."

"Quite right, too, your ladyship. Dont make yourself cheap. I hope none
of the low beggars ever have the audacity to speak to you."

"I dont know anything about them," said Lady Constance, pettishly. "All
I mean is that they are strangers to me."

"Most likely theyll remain so. You all seem to stick to the little
pictures tremendously. Why dont you go in for high art? There's a big
picture of Adam and Eve! Why dont you paint that?"

"Will you soon be leaving town?" she replied, looking steadily at her
work, and declining to discuss Adam and Eve, who were depicted naked.
Receiving no reply, she looked round, and saw Marmaduke leaving the room
with the woman in the black silk dress.

"Who is that girl?" said Susanna, as they went out.

"That's Lady Constance, whom I was to have married."

"I guessed as much when I saw you talking to her. She is a true English
lady, heaven bless her! I took the liberty of looking at her painting;
and she stared at me as if I had bitten her."

"She is a little fool."

"She will not be such a little fool as to try to snub me again, I think.
Bob: did you get my letter?"

"Of course I got it, or I shouldnt be here."

"Well?"

"Well, I dont believe a word of it."

"That's plain speaking."

"There is no use mincing matters. You are just as likely to stop
drinking as you are to stop breathing."

"Perhaps I shall stop breathing before long."

"Very likely, at your present rate."

"That will be a relief to you."

"It will be a relief to everybody, and a release for yourself. You have
made me miserable for a year past; and now you expect me to be
frightened at the prospect of being rid of you."

"I dont expect you to be frightened. I expect you to do what all men do:
throw me aside as soon as I have served your turn."

"Yes. Of course, _you_ are the aggrieved party. Where's Lucy?"

"I dont know, and I dont care."

"Well, I want to know; and I do care. Is she at home?"

"How do I know whether she is at home or not. I left her there. Very
likely she is with her Aunt Marian, telling stories about her mother."

"She is better there than with you. What harm has she done you that you
should talk about her in that way?"

"No harm. I dont object to her being there. She has very pleasant
conversations with Mrs. Ned, which she retails to me at home. 'Aunty
Marian: why do you never drink champagne? Mamma is always drinking it.'
And then, 'Mamma: why do you drink so much wine? Aunty Marian never
drinks any.' Good heavens! the little devil told me this morning by way
of consolation that she always takes care not to tell her Aunty that I
get drunk."

"What did you do to her for saying it?"

"Dont lose your temper. I didnt strangle her, nor even box her ears.
Why should I? She only repeats what you teach her."

"She repeats what her eyes and ears teach her. If she learned the word
from me, she learned the meaning from you. A nice lesson for a child
hardly three years old."

Susanna sat down on a bench, and looked down at her feet. After a few
moments, she tightened her lips; rose; and walked away.

"Hallo! Where are you going to?" said Marmaduke, following her.

"I'm going to get some drink. I have been sober and miserable ever since
I wrote to you. I have not got much thanks for it, except to be made
more miserable. So I'll get drunk, and be happy."

"No, you shant," said Marmaduke, seizing her arm, and forcibly stopping
her.

"What does it matter to you whether I do or not? You say you won't come
back. Then leave me to go my own way."

"Here! you sit down," he said, pushing her into a chair. "I know your
game well enough. You think you have me safe as long as you have the
child."

"Oh, thats it, is it? Why dont you go out; take a cab; and go to Laurel
Grove for her? There is nothing to prevent you taking her away."

"I have a good mind to do it."

"Well, _do_ it. I wont stop you. Why didnt you do it long ago? Her home
is no place for her. I'm not fit to have charge of her. I have no fancy
for having her talking about me, and most likely mimicking me to other
people."

"Thats exactly what I want to arrange with you to do, if you will only
be reasonable. Listen. Let us part friends, Susanna, since there is no
use in our going on together. You must give me the child. It would only
be a burden to you; and I can have it well taken care of. You can keep
the house just as it is: I will pay the rent of it."

"What good is the house to me?"

"Can't you hear me out? It will be good to you to live in, I suppose; or
you can set it on fire, and wipe it off the face of the earth, for what
I care. I can give you five hundred pounds down----"

"Five hundred pounds! And what will you live on until your October
dividends come in? On credit, I suppose. Do you think you can impose on
me by flourishing money before me? I will never take a halfpenny from
you; no, not if I starve for it."

"Thats all nonsense, Susanna. You must."

"Must I? Do you think you can make me take your money as you made me sit
down here? by force!"

"I only offer you what I owe you. Those debts----"

"I dont want what you owe me. If you think it mean to leave me, you
shant plaster up your conscience with bank notes. You would like to be
able to say in your club that you treated me handsomely."

"I dont think it mean to leave you, not a bit of it. Any other man would
have left you months ago. If I had married that little fool inside
there, and she had taken to drink, I wouldnt have stood it a week. I
have stood it from you nearly a year. Can you expect me to stay under
the same roof with you, with the very thought of you making me sick and
angry? I was looking at some of your old likenesses the other day; and
I declare that it is enough to make a man cry to look at your face now
and listen to your voice. When you used to lecture me for losing a
twenty pound note at billiards, and coming home half screwed--no man
shall ever see me drunk again--I little thought which of us would be the
first to go to the dogs."

"I shall not trouble you long."

"What is the use of harping on that? I have seen you drunk so often that
I should almost be glad to see you dead."

"Stop!" said Susanna, rising. "All right: you need say no more. Talking
will not remedy matters; and it makes me feel pretty much as if you were
throwing big stones at my heart. Youre in the right, I suppose: I've
chosen to make a beast of myself, and I must take the consequences. You
can have the child. I will send for my things: you wont see me at Laurel
Grove again. Good-bye."

"But----"

"Dont say another word, Bob. Good-bye." He took her hand irresolutely.
She drew it quickly away; nodded to him; and went out, whilst he stood
wondering whether it would be safe--seeing that he did not desire a
reconciliation--to kiss her good-bye.




CHAPTER XIV


On Sunday afternoon Douglas walked, facing a glorious sunset, along
Uxbridge Road to Holland Park, where he found Mrs. Conolly, Miss
McQuinch, and Marmaduke. A little girl was playing in the garden. They
were all so unconstrained, and so like their old selves, that Douglas at
once felt that Conolly was absent.

"I am to make Ned's excuses," said Marian. "He has some pressing family
affairs to arrange." She seemed about to explain further; but Marmaduke
looked so uneasily at her that she stopped. Then, resuming gaily, she
added, "I told Ned that he need not stand on ceremony with you. Fancy my
saying that of you, the most punctilious of men!"

"Quite right. I am glad that Mr. Conolly has not suffered me to
interfere with his movements," he replied, with a smile, which he
suppressed as he turned and greeted Miss McQuinch with his usual cold
composure. But to Marmaduke, who seemed much cast down, he gave an
encouraging squeeze of the hand. Not that he was moved by the
misfortunes of Marmaduke; but he was thawed by the beauty of Marian.

"We shall have a pleasant evening," continued Marian. "Let us fancy
ourselves back at Westbourne Terrace again. Reminiscences make one feel
so deliciously aged and sad. Let us think that it is one of our old
Sunday afternoons. Sholto had better go upstairs and shave, to heighten
the illusion."

"Not for me, since I cannot see myself, particularly if I have to call
you Mrs. Conolly. If I may call you Marian, as I used to do, I think
that our conversation will contain fewer reminders of the lapse of
time."

"Of course," said Marian, disregarding an anxious glance from Elinor.
"What else should you call me? We were talking about Nelly's fame when
you came in. The colonial edition of her book has just appeared. Behold
the advertisement!"

There was a newspaper open on the table; and Marian pointed to one of
its columns as she spoke. Douglas took it up and read the following:

  Now Ready, a New and Cheaper Edition, crown 8vo, 5s.

  THE WATERS OF MARAH,

  BY ELINOR MCQUINCH.

  "Superior to many of the numerous tales which find a ready sale at
  the railway bookstall." _Athenaeum_.

  "There is nothing to fatigue, and something to gratify, the idle
  reader." _Examiner_.

  "There is a ring of solid metal in 'The Waters of Marah.'" _Daily
  Telegraph_.

  "Miss McQuinch has fairly established her claim to be considered
  the greatest novelist of the age." _Middlingtown Mercury._

  "Replete with thrilling and dramatic incident..... Instinct with
  passion and pathos." _Ladies' Gazette_.

  TABUTEAU & SON, COVENT GARDEN.

"That is very flattering," said Douglas, as he replaced the paper on the
table.

"Highly so," said Elinor. "Coriolanus displaying his wounds in the
Forum is nothing to it." And she abruptly took the paper, and threw it
disgustedly behind the sofa. Just then a message from the kitchen
engaged Marian's attention, and Douglas, to relieve her from her guests
for the moment, strolled out upon the little terrace, whither Marmaduke
had moodily preceded him.

"Still in your difficulties, Lind?" he said, with his perfunctory air of
concern, looking at the garden with some interest.

"I'm out of my difficulties clean enough," said Marmaduke. "There's the
child among the currant bushes; and I am rid of her mother: for good, I
suppose."

"So much the better! I hope it has not cost you too much."

"Not a rap. I met her in the museum after our confab on Wednesday, and
told her what you recommended: that I must have the child, and that she
must go. She said all right, and shook hands. I havnt seen her since."

"I congratulate you."

"I dont feel comfortable about her."

"Absurd, man! What better could you have done?"

"Thats just what I say. It was her own fault; I did all in my power. I
offered her five hundred pounds down. She wouldnt have it, of course;
but could I help that? Next day, when she sent her maid for her things,
I felt so uneasy that I came to Conolly, and told him the whole affair.
He behaved very decently about it, and said that I might as well have
left her six months ago for all the good my staying had done or was
likely to do. He has gone off to see her to-day--she is in lodgings
somewhere near the theatre; and he will let me know in case any money
is required. I should like to know what they are saying to one another
about me. They're a rum pair."

"Well, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die," said Douglas, with
an unnatural attempt at humor. "Marian seems happy. We must not spoil
her evening."

"Yes: she is always in good spirits when he is away."

"Indeed?"

"It seems to me that they dont pull together. I think she is afraid of
him."

"You dont mean to say that he ill-treats her?" said Douglas, fiercely.

"No: I dont mean that he thrashes her, or anything of that sort. And yet
he is just that sort of chap that I shouldnt be surprised at anything he
might do. As far as ordinary matters go, he seems to treat her
particularly well. But Ive noticed that she shuts up and gets anxious
when he comes into the room; and he has his own way in everything."

"Is that all? He embarrasses her by his behavior, I suppose. Perhaps she
is afraid of his allowing his breeding to peep out."

"Not she. His manners are all right enough. Besides, as he is a genius
and a celebrity and all that, people dont expect him to be conventional.
He might stand on his head, if he chose."

"Sholto," said Marian, joining them: "have you spoken to little Lucy?"

"No."

"Then you are unacquainted with the most absolute imp on the face of the
earth," said Elinor. "You neednt frown, Marmaduke: it is you who have
made her so."

"Leave her alone," said Marmaduke to Marian, who was about to call the
child. "Petting babies is not in Douglas's line: she will only bore
him."

"Not at all," said Douglas.

"It does not matter whether she bores him or not," said Marian. "He must
learn to take a proper interest in children. Lucy: come here."

Lucy stopped playing, and said, "What for?"

"Because I ask you to, dear," said Marian, gently.

The child considered for a while, and then resumed her play. Miss
McQuinch laughed. Marmaduke muttered impatiently, and went down the
garden. Lucy did not perceive him until he was within a few steps of
her, when she gave a shrill cry of surprise, and ran to the other side
of a flower-bed too wide for him to spring across. He gave chase; but
she, with screams of laughter, avoided him by running to and fro so as
to keep on the opposite side to him. Feeling that it was undignified to
dodge his child thus, he stopped and bade her come to him; but she only
laughed the more. He called her in tones of command, entreaty,
expostulation, and impatience. At last he shouted to her menacingly. She
placed her thumbnail against the tip of her nose; spread her fingers;
and made him a curtsy. He uttered an imprecation, and returned angrily
to the house, saying, between his teeth:

"Let her stay out, since she chooses to be obstinate."

"She is really too bad to-day," said Marian. "I am quite shocked at
her."

"She is quite right not to come in and be handed round for inspection
like a doll," said Elinor.

"She is very bold not to come when she is told," said Marian.

"Yes, from your point of view," said Elinor. "I like bold children."

Marmaduke was sulky and Marian serious for some time after this
incident. They recovered their spirits at dinner, when Marian related to
Douglas how she had become reconciled to his mother. Afterward,
Marmaduke suggested a game at whist.

"Oh no, not on Sunday," said Marian. "Whist is too wicked."

"Then what the dickens _may_ we do?" said Marmaduke. "May Nelly play
_ecarte_ with me?"

"Well, please dont play for money. And dont sit close to the front
window."

"Come along, then, Nell. You two may sing hymns, if you like."

"I wish you could sing, Sholto," said Marian. "It is an age since we
last had a game of chess together. Do you still play?"

"Yes," said Douglas; "I shall be delighted. But I fear you will beat me
now, as I suppose you have been practising with Mr. Conolly."

"Playing with Ned! No: he hates chess. He says it is a foolish expedient
for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when
they are only wasting their time. He actually grumbled about the price
of the table and the pieces; but I insisted on having them, I suppose in
remembrance of you."

"It is kind of you to say that, Marian. Will you have black or white?"

"White, please, unless you wish me to be always making moves with your
men."

"Now. Will you move?"

"I think I had rather you began. Remember our old conditions. You are
not to checkmate me in three moves; and you are not to take my queen."

"Very well. You may rely upon it I shall think more of my adversary than
of my game. Check."

"Oh! You have done it in three moves. That is not fair. I won't play any
more unless you take back that."

"No, I assure you it is not checkmate. My bishop should be at the other
side for that. There! of course, that will do."

"What a noise Marmaduke makes over his cards! I hope the people next
door will not hear him swearing."

"Impossible. You must not move that knight: it exposes your king. Do you
know, I think there is a great charm about this house."

"Indeed? Yes, it is a pretty house."

"And this sunset hour makes it additionally so; Besides, it is
inexpressibly sad to see you here, a perfectly happy and perfectly
beautiful mistress of this romantic foreign home."

"What do you mean, Sholto?"

"I call it a foreign home because, though it is yours, I have no part
nor lot in it. Remember, we are only playing at old times to-night.
Everything around, from the organ to the ring on your finger, reminds me
that I am a stranger here. It seems almost unkind of you to regret
nothing whilst I am full of regrets."

"Check," said Marian. "Mind your game, sir."

"Flippant!" exclaimed Douglas, impatiently moving his king. "I verily
believe that if your husband were at the bottom of the Thames at this
moment, you would fly off unconcernedly to some other nest, and break
hearts with as much indifference as ever."

"I wish you would not make suggestions of that sort, Sholto. You make
me uncomfortable. Something _might_ happen to Ned. I wish he were home.
He is very late."

"Happy man. You can be serious when you think about him. I envy him."

"What! Sholto Douglas stoop to envy any mortal! Prodigious!"

"Yes: it has come to that with me. Why should I not envy him? His career
has been upward throughout. He has been a successful worker in the
world, where I have had nothing real to do. When the good things I had
been dreaming of and longing for all my life came in his path, he had
them for the mere asking. I valued them so highly that when I fancied I
possessed them, I was the proudest of men. I am humble enough now that I
am beggared."

"You are really talking the greatest nonsense."

"No doubt I am. Still in love, Marian, you see. There is no harm in
telling you so now."

"On the contrary, it is now that there is harm. For shame, Sholto!"

"I am not ashamed. I tell you of my love because now you can listen to
me without uneasiness, knowing that it is no longer associated with
hope, or desire, or anything but regret. You see that I do not affect
the romantic lover. I eat very well; I play chess; I go into society;
and you reproach me for growing fat."

Marian bent over the chessboard for a moment to hide her face. Then she
said in a lower voice, "I have thoroughly convinced myself that there is
no such thing as love in the world."

"That means that you have never experienced it."

"I have told you already that I have never been in love, and that I
dont believe a bit in it. I mean romantic love, of course."

"I verily believe that you have not. The future has one more pang in
store for me; for you will surely love some day."

"I am getting too old for that, I fear. At what age, pray, did you
receive the arrow in your heart?"

"When I was a boy, I loved a vision. The happiest hours of my life were
those in which I was slowly, tremulously daring to believe that I had
found my vision at last in you. And then the dreams that followed! What
a career was to have been mine! I remember how you used to reproach me
because I was austere with women and proud with men. How could I have
been otherwise? I contrasted the gifts of all other women with those of
my elect, and the lot of all other men with my own. Can you wonder that,
doing so, I carried my head among the clouds? You must remember how
unfamiliar failure was to me. At school, at Oxford, in society, I had
sought distinction without misgiving, and attained it without
difficulty. My one dearest object I deemed secure long before I opened
my lips and asked expressly for it. I think I walked through life at
that time like a somnambulist; for I have since seen that I must have
been piling mistake upon mistake until out of a chaos of meaningless
words and smiles I had woven a Paphian love temple. At the first menace
of disappointment--a thing as new and horrible to me as death--I fled
the country. I came back with only the ruins of the doomed temple. You
were not content to destroy a ruin: the feat was too easy to be
glorious. So you rebuilt it in one hour to the very dome, and lighted
its altars with more than their former radiance. Then, as though it
were but a house of cards--as indeed it was nothing else--you gave it
one delicate touch and razed it to its foundations. Yet I am afraid
those altar lamps were not wholly extinguished. They smoulder beneath
the ruins still."

"I wonder why they made you the Newdigate poet at Oxford, Sholto: you
mix your metaphors most dreadfully. Dont be angry with me: I understand
what you mean; and I am very sorry. I say flippant things because I
must. How _can_ one meet seriousness in modern society except by chaff?"

"I am not angry. I had rather you did not understand. The more flippant
you are, the more you harden my heart; and I want it to be as hard as
the nether millstone. Your pity would soften me; and I dread that."

"I believe it does every man good to be softened. If you ever really
felt what you describe, you greatly over-estimated me. What can you lose
by a little more softness? I often think that men--particularly good
men--make their way through the world too much as if it were a solid
mass of iron through which they must cut--as if they dared not relax
their hardest edge and finest temper for a moment. Surely, that is not
the way to enjoy life."

"Perhaps not. Still, it is the way to conquer in life. It may be
pleasant to have a soft heart; but then someone is sure to break it."

"I do not believe much in broken hearts. Besides, I do not mean that men
should be too soft. For instance, sentimental young men of about twenty
are odious. But for a man to get into a fighting attitude at the barest
suggestion of sentiment; to believe in nature as something inexorable,
and to aim at being as inexorable as nature: is not that almost as bad?"

"Do you know any such man? You must not attribute that sort of hardness
to me."

"Oh no; I was not thinking of you. I was not thinking of anyone in fact.
I only put a case. I sometimes have disputes with Ned on the subject.
One of his cardinal principles is that there is no use in crying for
spilt milk. I always argue that as irremediable disasters are the only
ones that deserve or obtain sympathy, he might as well say that there is
no use in crying for anything. Then he slips out of the difficulty by
saying that that was just what he meant, and that there is actually no
place for regret in a well-regulated scheme of life. In debating with
women, men brazen out all the ridiculous conclusions of which they are
convicted; and then they say that there is no use in arguing with a
woman. Neither is there, because the woman is always right."

"Yes; because she suffers her heart to direct her."

"You are just as bad as the rest of your sex, I see. Where you cannot
withold credit from a woman, you give it to her heart and deny it to her
head."

"There! I wont play any more," said Miss McQuinch, suddenly, at the
other end of the room. "Have you finished your chess, Marian?"

"We are nearly done. Ring for the lamps, please, Nelly. Let us finish,
Sholto."

"Whose turn is it to move? I beg your pardon for my inattention."

"Mine--no, yours. Stop! it must be mine. I really dont know."

"Nor do I. I have forgotten my game."

"Then let us put up the board. We can finish some other night."

It had become dark by this time; and the lamps were brought in whilst
Douglas was replacing the chessmen in their box.

"Now," said Marian, "let us have some music. Marmaduke: will you sing
Uncle Ned for us? We have not heard you sing for ages."

"I believe it is more than three years since that abominable concert at
Wandsworth; and I have not heard you sing since," said Elinor.

"I forget all my songs--havnt sung one of them for months. However, here
goes! Have you a banjo in the house?"

"No," said Marian. "I will play an accompaniment for you."

"All right. See here: you need only play these three chords. When one
sounds wrong, play another. Youll learn it in a moment."

Marmaduke's voice was not so fresh, nor his fun so spontaneous, as at
Wandsworth; but they were not critical enough to appreciate the
difference: they laughed like children at him. Elinor was asked to play;
but she would not: she had renounced that folly, she said. Then, at
Douglas's request, Marian sang, in memory of Wandsworth, "Rose, softly
blooming." When she had finished, Elinor asked for some old melodies,
knowing that Marian liked these best. So she began gaily with The Oak
and the Ash and Robin Adair. After that, finding both herself and the
others in a more pathetic vein, she sang them The Bailiff's Daughter of
Islington, and The Banks of Allan Water, at the end of which Marmaduke's
eyes were full of tears, and the rest sat quite still. She paused for a
minute, and then broke the silence with Auld Robin Gray, which affected
even Douglas, who had no ear. As she sang the last strain, the click of
a latchkey was heard from without. Instantly she rose; closed the
pianoforte softly; and sat down at some distance from it. Her action was
reflected by a change in their behavior. They remembered that they were
not at home, and became more or less uneasily self-conscious. Elinor was
the least disturbed. Conolly's first glance on entering was at the
piano: his next went in search of his wife.

"Ah!" he said, surprised. "I thought somebody was singing."

"Oh dear no!" said Elinor drily. "You must have been mistaken."

"Perhaps so," said he, smiling. "But I have been listening carefully at
the window for ten minutes; and I certainly dreamt that I heard Auld
Robin Gray."

Marian blushed. Conolly did not seem to have been moved by the song. He
was alert and loquacious: before he had finished his greeting and
apology to Douglas, they all felt as little sentimental as they had ever
done in their lives. Marian, after asking whether he had dined, became
silent, and dropped the pretty airs of command which, as hostess, she
had worn before.

"Have you any news?" said Marmaduke at last. "Douglas knows the whole
business. We are all friends here."

"Only what we expected," said Conolly. "Affairs are exactly as they
were. I called to-day at her address--"

"How did you get it?" said Marmaduke.

"I wrote for it to her at the theatre."

"And did she send it?"

"Of course. But she did not give me any encouragement to call on her,
and, in fact, evidently did not want to see me. Her appearance has
altered very much for the worse. She is a confirmed dipsomaniac; and she
knows it. I advised her to abstain in future. She asked me, in her
sarcastic, sisterly way, whether I had any other advice to give her. I
told her that if she meant to go on, her proper course was to purchase a
hogshead of brandy; keep it by her side; and condense the process of
killing herself, which may at present take some years, into a few days."

"Oh, Ned, you did not really say that to her!" said Marian.

"I did indeed. The shocking part of the affair is not, as you seem to
think, my giving the advice, but that it should be the very best advice
I could have given."

"I do not think I would have said so."

"Most likely not," said Conolly, with a smile. "You would have said
something much prettier. But dipsomania is not one of the pretty things
of life; nor can it by any stretch of benevolent hypocrisy be made to
pass as one. When Susanna and I get talking, we do not waste time in
trying to spare one another's feelings. If we did, we should both see
through the attempt and be very impatient of it."

"Did she tell you what she intends to do?" said Marmaduke.

"She has accepted an American engagement. When that draws to a close, it
will, she says, be time enough for her to consider her next step. But
she has no intention of leaving the stage until she is compelled."

"Has she any intention of reforming her habits?" said Elinor, bluntly.

"I should say every intention, but no prospect of doing so.
Dipsomaniacs are always intending to reform; but they rarely succeed.
Has Lucy been put to bed?"

"Lucy is in disgrace," said Elinor. Marian looked at her apprehensively.

"In disgrace!" said Conolly, more seriously. "How so?"

Elinor described what had taken place in the garden. When she told how
the child had disregarded Marian's appeal, Conolly laughed.

"Lucy has no sense of how pretty she would have looked toddling in
obediently because her aunt asked her to," he said. "She is, like all
children, very practical, and will not assist in getting up amiable
little scenes without good reason rendered."

Elinor glanced at Marian, and saw that though Douglas was speaking to
her in a low voice, she was listening nervously to her husband. So she
said sharply, "It is a pity you were not here to tell us what to do."

"Apparently it is," said Conolly, complacently.

"What would you have done?" said Marian suddenly, interrupting Douglas.

"I suppose," said Conolly, looking round at her in surprise, "I should
have answered her question--told her what she was wanted for. If I asked
you to do anything, and you enquired why, you would be extremely annoyed
if I answered, 'because I ask you.'"

"I would not ask why," said Marian. "I would do it."

"That would be very nice of you," said Conolly; "but you cannot: expect
such a selfish, mistrustful, and curious animal as a little child to be
equally kind and confiding. Lucy is too acute not to have learned long
since that grown people systematically impose on the credulity and
helplessness of children."

"Thats true," said Elinor, reluctantly. Marian turned away and quietly
resumed her conversation with Douglas. After a minute she strolled with
him into the garden, whither Marmaduke had already retired to smoke.

"Has the evening been a pleasant one, Miss McQuinch?" said Conolly, left
alone with her.

"Yes: we have had a very pleasant evening indeed. We played chess and
_ecarte_; and we all agreed to make old times of it. Marmaduke sang for
us; and Marian had us nearly in tears with those old ballads of hers."

"And then I came in and spoiled it all. Eh?"

"Certainly not. Why do you say that?"

"Merely a mischievous impulse to say something true: jealousy, perhaps,
because I missed being here earlier. You think, then, that if I had been
here, the evening would have been equally pleasant, and Marian equally
happy in her singing?"

"Dont you like Marian's singing?"

"Could you not have refrained from that most indiscreet question?"

"I ought to have. It came out unawares. Do not answer it."

"That would make matters worse. And there is no reason whatever why the
plain truth should not be told. When I was a child I heard every day
better performances than Marian's. She believes there is something
pretty and good in music, and patronizes it accordingly to the best of
her ability. I do not like to hear music patronized; and when Marian,
lovely as she is, gives her pretty renderings of songs which I have
heard a hundred times from singers who knew what they were about, then,
though I admire her as I must always, my admiration is rather increased
than otherwise when she stops; because then I am no longer conscious of
a deficiency which even my unfortunate sister could supply."

"Your criticism of her singing sounds more sincere than your admiration
of her loveliness. I am not musician enough to judge. All I know is that
her singing is good enough for me."

"I know you are displeased because it is not good enough for me; but how
can I help myself? Poor Marian----"

"Do hush!" said Elinor. "Here she is."

"You need not be in such a hurry, Duke," said Marian. "What can it
matter to you how late you get back?"

"No," said Marmaduke. "I've got to write home. The governor is ill; and
my mammy will send me a five-sheet sermon if I neglect writing to-night.
You will keep Lucy for another week, wont you? Box her ears if she gives
you any cheek. She wants it: she's been spoiled."

"If we find we can do no better than that with her, we shall hand her
back to you," said Conolly. Then the visitors took their leave. Marian
gently pressed Douglas's hand and looked into his eyes as he bade her
farewell. Elinor, seeing this, glanced uneasily at Conolly, and
unexpectedly met his eye. There was a gleam of cynical intelligence in
it that did not reassure her. A few minutes later she went to bed,
leaving the couple alone together. Conolly looked at his wife for a
moment with an amused expression; but she closed her lips
irresponsively, and went to the table for a book which she wanted to
bring upstairs. She would have gone without a word had he not spoken to
her.

"Marian: Douglas is in love with you."

She blushed; thought a moment; and said quietly, "Very well. I shall not
ask him to come again."

"Why?"

She colored more vividly and suddenly, and said, "I thought you cared. I
beg your pardon."

"My dear," he replied, amiably: "if you exclude everybody who falls in
love with you, we shall have no one in the house but blind men."

"And do you like men to be in love with me?"

"Yes. It makes the house pleasant for them; it makes them attentive to
you; and it gives you great power for good. When I was a romantic boy,
any good woman could have made a saint of me. Let them fall in love with
you as much as they please. Afterwards they will seek wives according to
a higher standard than if they had never known you. But do not return
the compliment, or your influence will become an evil one."

"Ned: I had not intended to tell you this; but now I will. Sholto
Douglas not only loves me, but he told me so to-day."

"Of course. A man always does tell it, sooner or later."

Marian sat down on the sofa and looked at him for some time gravely and
a little wistfully. "I think," she said, "I should feel very angry if
any woman made such a confession to you."

"A Christian British lady does not readily forgive a breach of
convention; nor a woman an invasion of her privileges, even when they
have become a burden to her."

"What do you mean by that?" she said, rising.

"Marian," he said, looking straight at her: "are you dissatisfied?"

"What reason have I to--"

"Never mind the reasons. Are you?"

"No," said she, steadfastly.

He smiled indulgently; pressed her hand for a moment against his cheek;
and went out for the short walk he was accustomed to take before
retiring.




CHAPTER XV


In October Marian was at Sark, holiday making at the house of Hardy
McQuinch's brother, who had recently returned to England with a fortune
made in Australia. Conolly, having the house at Holland Park to himself,
fitted a spare room as a laboratory, and worked there every night. One
evening, returning home alone a little before five o'clock, he shut
himself into this laboratory, and had just set to work when Armande, the
housemaid, interrupted him.

"Mrs. Leith Fairfax, sir."

Conolly had had little intercourse with Mrs. Fairfax since before his
marriage, when he had once shewn her the working of his invention at
Queen Victoria Street; and as Marian had since resented her share of
Douglas's second proposal by avoiding her society as far as possible
without actually discontinuing her acquaintance, this visit was a
surprise. Conolly looked darkly at Armande, and went to the drawing-room
without a word.

"_How_ do you do, Mr. Conolly?" said Mrs. Fairfax, as he entered. "I
need not ask: you are looking so well. Have I disturbed you?"

"You have--most agreeably. Pray sit down."

"I know your time is priceless. I should never have ventured to come,
but that I felt sure you would like to hear all the news from Sark. I
have been there for the last fortnight. Marian told me to call on you
the moment I returned."

"Yes," said Conolly, convinced that this was not true. "She promised to
do so in her last letter."

Mrs. Fairfax, on the point of publishing a few supplementary fictions,
checked herself, and looked suspiciously at him.

"The air of Sark has evidently benefited you," he said, as she paused.
"You are looking very well--I had almost said charming."

Mrs. Fairfax glanced archly at him, and said, "Nonsense! but, indeed,
the trip was absolutely necessary for me. I should hardly have been
alive had I remained at work; and poor Willie McQuinch was bent on
having me."

"He has been described to me as an inveterate lion hunter."

"It is not at all pleasant, I assure you, to be persecuted with
invitations from people who wish to see a real live novelist. But
William McQuinch's place at Sark is really palatial. He is called
Sarcophagus on account of his wealth. A great many people whom he knew
were staying in the island, besides those in the house with us. Marian
was the beauty of the place. How every one admires her! Why do you not
go down, Mr. Conolly?"

"I am too busy. Besides, it will do Marian good to be rid of me for a
while."

"Absurd, Mr. Conolly! You should not leave her there by herself."

"By herself! Why, is not the place full?"

"Yes; but I do not mean that. There is nobody belonging to her there."

"You forget. Miss McQuinch is her bosom friend. There is Marmaduke, her
cousin; and his mother, her Aunt Dora. Then, is there not Mr. Sholto
Douglas, one of her oldest and most attached friends?"

"Oh! Is Mr. Douglas in charge of her?"

"No doubt he will take charge of her, if she is overtaken by her second
childhood whilst he is there. Meanwhile, she is in charge of herself, is
she not? And there is hardly any danger of her feeling lonely."

"No. Sholto Douglas will provide against that."

"Your opinion confirms the accounts I have had from other sources. It
appears that Mr. Douglas is very attentive to my wife."

"Very, indeed, Mr. Conolly. You must not think that I am afraid of
anything--anything--"

"Anything?"

"Well--Oh, you know what I mean. Anything wrong. At least, not exactly
wrong, but--"

"Anything undomestic."

"Yes. You see, Marian's position is a very difficult one. She is so
young and so good looking that she is very much observed; and it seems
so strange her being without her husband."

"Pretty ladies whose husbands are never seen, often get talked about in
the world, do they not?"

"That is just what I mean. How cleverly you get everything out of me,
Mr. Conolly! I called here without the faintest idea of alluding to
Marian's situation; and now you have made me say all sorts of things.
What a fortune you would have made at the bar!"

"I must apologize, I did not mean to cross-examine you. Naturally, of
course, you would not like to make me uneasy about Marian."

"It is the very last thing I should desire. But now that it has slipped
out, I really think you ought to go to Sark."

"Indeed! I rather infer that I should be very much in the way."

"The more reason for you to go, Mr. Conolly."

"Not at all, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. The attentions of a husband are stale,
unsuited to holiday time. Picture to yourself my arrival at Sark with
the tender assurance in my mouth, 'Marian, I love you.' She would reply,
'So you ought. Am I not your wife?' The same advance from another--Mr.
Douglas, for instance--would affect her quite differently, and much more
pleasantly."

"Mr. Conolly; is this indifference, or supreme confidence?"

"Neither of these conjugal claptraps. I merely desire that Marian should
enjoy herself as much as possible; and the more a woman is admired, the
happier she is. Perhaps you think that, in deference to the general
feeling in such matters, I should become jealous."

Mrs. Fairfax again looked doubtfully at him. "I cannot make you out at
all, Mr. Conolly," she said submissively. "I hope I have not offended
you."

"Not in the least. I take it that having observed certain circumstances
which seemed to threaten the welfare of one very dear to you (as, I am
aware, Marian is), the trouble they caused you found unpremeditated
expression in the course of a conversation with me." Conolly beamed at
her, as if he thought this rather neatly turned.

"Exactly so. But I do not wish you to think that I have observed
anything particular."

"Certainly not. Still, you think there would be no harm in my writing
to Marian to say that her behavior has attracted your notice, and----"

"Good heavens, Mr. Conolly, you must not mention _me_ in the matter! You
are so innocent--at least so frank, so workmanlike, if I may say so, in
your way of dealing with things! I would not have Marian know what I
have said--I really did not notice anything--for worlds. You had better
not write at all, but just go down as if you went merely to enjoy
yourself; and dont on any account let Marian suspect that you have heard
anything. Goodness knows what mischief you might make, in your--your
ingenuousness!"

"But I should have thought that the opinion of an old and valued friend
like yourself would have special weight with her."

"You know nothing about it. Clever engineer as you are, you do not
understand the little wheels by which our great machine of society is
worked."

"True, Mrs. Leith Fairfax," he rejoined, echoing the cadence of her
sentence. "Educated as a mere mechanic, I am still a stranger to the
elegancies of life. I usually depend on Marian for direction; but since
you think that it would be injudicious to appeal to her in the present
instance----"

"Out of the question, Mr. Conolly."

"--I must trust to your guidance in the matter. What do you suggest?"

Mrs. Fairfax was about to reply, when the expression which she
habitually wore like a mask in society, wavered and broke. Her lip
trembled: her eyes filled with tears: she rose with a sniff that was
half a sob. When she spoke, her voice was sincere for the first time,
and at the sound of it Conolly's steely, hard manner melted, and his
inhuman self-possession vanished.

"You think," she said, "that I came here to make mischief. I did not.
Marian is nothing to me: she does not even like me; but I dont want to
see her ruin herself merely because she is too inexperienced to know
when she is well off. I have had to fight my way in London: and I know
what it is, and what the world is. She is not fit to take charge of
herself. Good-bye, Mr. Conolly: you are a great deal too young yourself
to know the danger, for all your cleverness. You may tell her that I
came here and gossipped against her, if you like. She will never speak
to me again; but if it saves her, I dont care. Good-bye."

"My dear Mrs. Fairfax," he said, with entire frankness, "I am now deeply
and sincerely obliged to you." And in proof that he was touched, he
kissed her hand with the ease and grace of a man who had been carefully
taught how to do it. Mrs. Fairfax recovered herself and almost blushed
as he went with her to the door, chatting easily about the weather and
the Addison Road trains.

She was not the last visitor that evening. She had hardly been fifteen
minutes gone when the Rev. George presented himself, and was conducted
to the laboratory, where he found Conolly, with his coat off, surrounded
by apparatus. The glowing fire, comfortable chairs, and preparations for
an evening meal, gladdened him more than the presence of his
brother-in-law, with whom he never felt quite at ease.

"You wont mind my fiddling with these machines while I talk," said
Conolly.

"Not at all, not at all. I shall witness your operations with great
interest. You must not think that the wonders of science are indifferent
to me."

"So you are going on to Sark, you say?"

"Yes. May I ask whether you will be persuaded to come?"

"No, for certain. I have other fish to fry here."

"I think it would renovate your health to come for a few days."

"My health is always right as long as I have work. Did you meet Mrs.
Fairfax outside?"

"A--yes. I passed her."

"You spoke to her, I suppose?"

"A few words. Yes."

"Do you know what she came here for?"

"No. But stay. I am wrong. She mentioned that she came for a book she
lent you."

"She mentioned what was not true. What did she say to you about Marian?"

"Well, she--She was just saying that it is perhaps as well that I should
go down to Sark at once, as Marian is quite alone."

The clergyman looked so guilty as he said this that Conolly laughed
outright at him. "You mean," he said, "that Marian is _not_ quite alone.
Well, very likely Douglas occupies himself a good deal with her. If so,
there may be some busybody or another down there fool enough to tell her
that people are talking about her. That would spoil her holiday; so it
is lucky that you are going down. No one will take it upon themselves to
speak to her when you are there; and if they say anything to you, you
can let it in at one ear and out at the other."

"That is, of course, unless I should see her really acting
indiscreetly."

"I had better tell you beforehand what you will see if you keep your
eyes open. You will see very plainly that Douglas is in love with her.
Also that she knows that he is in love with her. In fact, she told me
so. And you will see she rather likes it. Every married woman requires a
holiday from her husband occasionally, even when he suits her
perfectly."

The Rev. George stared. "If I follow you aright--I am not sure that I
do--you impute to Marian the sin of entertaining feelings which it is
her duty to repress."

"I impute no sin to her. You might as well tell a beggar that he has no
right to be hungry, as a woman that it is her duty to feel this and not
to feel that."

"But Marian has been educated to feel only in accordance with her duty."

"So have you. How does it work? However," continued Conolly, without
waiting for an answer, "I dont deny that Marian shews the effects of her
education. They are deplorably evident in all her conscientious
actions."

"You surprise and distress me. This is the first intimation I have
received of your having any cause to complain of Marian."

"Nonsense! I dont complain of her. But what you call her education, as
far as I can make it out, appears to have consisted of stuffing her with
lies, and making it a point of honor with her to believe them in spite
of sense and reason. The sense of duty that rises on that sort of
foundation is more mischievous than downright want of principle. I dont
dispute your right, you who constitute polite society, to skin over all
the ugly facts of life. But to make your daughters believe that the
skin covers healthy flesh is a crime. Poor Marian thinks that a room is
clean when all the dust is swept out of sight under the furniture; and
if honest people rake it out to bring it under the notice of those whose
duty it is to remove it, she is disgusted with them, and ten to one
accuses them of having made it themselves. She doesnt know what sort of
world she is in, thanks to the misrepresentations of those who should
have taught her. She will deceive her children in just the same way, if
she ever has any. If she had been taught the truth in her own childhood,
she would know how to face it, and would be a strong woman as well as an
amiable one. But it is too late now. The truth seems natural to a child;
but to a grown woman or man, it is a bitter lesson in the learning,
though it may be invigorating when it is well mastered. And you know how
seldom a hard task forced on an unwilling pupil _is_ well mastered."

"What is truth?" said the clergyman, sententiously.

"All that we know, Master Pilate," retorted Conolly with a laugh. "And
we know a good deal. It may seem small in comparison with what we dont
know; but it is more than any one of us can hold, for all that. We know,
for instance, that the world was not planned by a sentimental landscape
gardener. If Marian ever learns that--which she may, although I am
neither able nor willing to teach it to her--she will not thank those
who gave her so much falsehood to unlearn. Until then, she will, I am
afraid, do little else than lay up a store of regrets for herself."

"This is very strange. We always looked upon Marian as an exceptionally
amiable girl."

"So she is, unfortunately. There is no institution so villainous but
she will defend it; no tyranny so oppressive but she will make a virtue
of submitting to it; no social cancer so venomous but she will shrink
from cutting it out, and plead that it is a comfortable thing, and much
better as it is. She knows that she disobeyed her father, and that he
deserved to be disobeyed; yet she condemns other women who are
disobedient, and stands out against Nelly McQuinch in defence of the
unselfishness of parental love. She knows that the increased freedom of
movement allowed to her as a married woman has been healthy for her; yet
she looks coldly at other young women who assert their right to freedom,
and are not afraid to walk through the streets without a sheepdog, human
or otherwise, at their heels. She knows that marriage is not what she
expected it to be, and that it gives me many unfair advantages over her;
and she knows also that ours is a happier marriage than most.
Nevertheless she will encourage other girls to marry; she will maintain
that the chain which galls her own wrists so often is a string of
honeysuckles; and if a woman identifies herself with any public movement
for the lightening of that chain, she wont allow that that woman is fit
to be admitted into decent society. There is not one of these shams to
which she clings that I would not like to take by the throat and shake
the life out of; and she knows it. Even in that she has not the
consistency to believe me wrong, because it is undutiful and out of
keeping with the honeysuckles to lack faith in her husband. In order to
blind herself to her inconsistencies, she has to live in a rose-colored
fog; and what with me constantly, in spite of myself, blowing this fog
away on the one side, and the naked facts of her everyday experience as
constantly letting in the daylight on the other, she must spend half
the time wondering whether she is mad or sane. Between her desire to do
right and her discoveries that it generally leads her to do wrong, she
passes her life in a wistful melancholy which I cant dispel. I can only
pity her. I suppose I could pet her; but I hate treating a woman like a
child: it means giving up all hope of her becoming rational. She may
turn for relief any day either to love or religion; and for her own sake
I hope she will choose the first. Of the two evils, it is the least
permanent." And Conolly, having disburdened himself, resumed his work
without any pretence of waiting for the clergyman's comments.

"Well," said the Rev. George, cautiously, "I do not think I have quite
followed your opinions, which seem to me to be exactly upside down, as
if they were projected upon the retina of your mind's eye--to use
Shakspear's happy phrase--just as they would be upon your--your real
eye, you know. But I can assure you that your view of Marian is an
entirely mistaken one. You seem to think that she does not give in her
entire adherence to the doctrines of the Establishment. This is a matter
which I venture to say you do not understand."

"Admitted," interposed Conolly, hastily. "Here is my workman's tea. Are
you fond of scones?"

"I hardly know. Anything--the simplest fare, will satisfy me."

"So it does me, when I can get nothing better. Help yourself, pray."

Conolly did not sit down to the meal, but worked whilst the clergyman
ate. Presently the Rev. George, warmed by the fire and cheered by the
repast, returned to the subject of his host's domestic affairs.

"Come," he said, "I am sure that a few judicious words would lead to an
explanation between you and Marian."

"I also think that a few words might do so. But they would not be
judicious words."

"Why not? Can it be injudicious to restore harmony in a household?"

"No; but that would not be the effect of an explanation, because the
truth is not likely to reconcile us. If I were to explain the difficulty
to a man, he would argue. But Marian would just infer that I despised
her, and nothing else."

"Oh no! Oh dear no! A few kind words; an appeal to her good sense; a
little concession on both sides----"

"All excellent for a pair estranged by a flash of temper, or a
mother-in-law, or a trifle of jealousy, or too many evenings spent at
the club on the man's part, or too many dances with a gallant on the
woman's; but no good for us. We have never exchanged unkind words: there
are no concessions to be made: her good sense is not at fault. Besides,
these few kind words that are supposed to be such a sovereign remedy for
all sorts of domestic understandings are generally a few kind fibs. If I
told them, Marian wouldnt believe them. Fibs dont make lasting truces
either. No: the situation is graver than you think. Just suppose, for
instance, that you undertake to restore harmony, as you call it! what
will you say to her?"

"Well, it would depend on circumstances."

"But you know the circumstances on which it depends. How would you
begin?"

"There are little ways of approaching delicate subjects with women. For
instance, I might say, casually, that it was a pity that a pair so
happily situated as you two should not agree perfectly."

"You would get no further; for Marian would never admit that we do not
agree. She does not know what her complaint is, and therefore feels
bound in honor to maintain that she has nothing to complain of. She is
not the woman to cast reproach on me for a discontent she cannot
explain. Or, if she could explain it, how much wiser should you be? _I_
have explained; and you confess you cannot understand me. The difference
between us is neither her fault nor mine; and all the explanations in
the world will not remove it."

"If you would allow me to appeal to her religious duty----"

"Religion! She doesnt believe in it."

"What!" exclaimed the clergyman, unaffectedly shocked. "Surely,
surely----"

"Listen. To me, believing in a doctrine doesnt mean holding up your hand
and saying, 'Credo.' It means habitually acting on the assumption that
the doctrine is true. Marian thinks it wrong not to go to church; and
she will hold up her hand and cry 'Credo' to the immortality of her
soul, or to any verse in the New Testament. The shareholders of our
concern in the city will do the same. But do they or she ever act on the
assumption that they are immortal, or that riches are dross, or that
class prejudice is damnable? Never. They dont believe it. You will find
that Marian has been thoroughly trained to separate her practice from
her religious professions; and if you allude to the inconsistency she
will instinctively feel that you are offending against good taste. In
short, her 'Credo' doesnt mean faith: it means church-going, which is
practised because it is respectable, and is respectable because it is a
habit of the upper caste. But church-going is church-going; and business
is business, as Marian will soon let you know if you meddle with _her_
business. However, we need not argue about that: we know one another's
views and can agree to differ."

"I should be false to my duty as a Christian priest if I made any such
agreement."

"Perhaps so; but, at any rate, we cant spend all our lives over the same
argument. No, as I was saying, take my advice, and let Marian alone."

"But what do you intend to do, then?"

"What _can_ I do but wait? Experience must wear out some of her
illusions. She will at least find out that she is no worse off than
other women, and better off than some of them. Since the job cannot be
undone, we must try how making the best of it will work. I am pretty
hopeful myself. How are affairs getting on at your chapel? I am told
that the sermons of your _locum tenens_ send the congregation asleep."

"He is not at his best in the pulpit. A good fellow! a most loving man
but not able to grapple with a large congregation. After all, I am
obliged to confess that very few of our cloth are. The power of
preaching is quite an exceptional one; and it is a gift as well as a
trust. I humbly believe that the power of the tongue comes of a higher
ordination than the bishop's."

Nothing further was said about Marian. The clergyman's object in
visiting Conolly was, it presently appeared, to borrow a portmanteau.
When he was gone, Conolly returned to the laboratory, and wrote the
following letter:

  "My dear Marian

  "I have just had two unexpected visits, one from Mrs. Fairfax, and
  one from George. Mrs. L.F. said you asked her to call and give me
  the news. When I told her, without blushing, that you had written
  to prepare me for her visit, she was rather put out, justly
  thinking me to mean that I did not believe her. As this is fully
  the thirty-sixth falsehood in which you have detected good Mrs. F.,
  I fear you will be compelled, in spite of your principle of
  believing the best of everybody, to regard her in future as a not
  invariably accurate woman. She came with the object of making me go
  down to Sark. You were so young and so much admired: Mr. Douglas
  was so attentive: you should not be left entirely alone, and so
  forth. You will be angry with her; but she thinks Douglas so
  irresistible that she is genuinely anxious about you: I believe she
  really meant well this time. As to our reverend brother, his
  portmanteau burst in the train coming from Edinburgh; so he came to
  borrow mine, having apparently resolved to wear out those of all
  his friends before buying a new one. Unfortunately, he met Mrs. F.
  down the road; and she urged him to go down to Sark just as she had
  urged me. Now as George is incapable of holding his tongue when he
  ought, I feel sure that unless I tell you what Mrs. F. said, he
  will anticipate me. Otherwise I should not have mentioned it until
  your return, for fear of annoying you and spoiling your visit. So
  if his reverence hints or lectures, you will know what he means and
  not heed him. Mrs. F's confidences have probably not been confined
  to me; but were I in your place, I should not make the slightest
  change in my conduct in consequence. At all events, if you feel
  constrained to display any sudden accession of reserve toward
  Douglas, tell him the reason; because if you dont, he will ascribe
  the change to coquetry.

  "I have turned the spare room on the first floor into a laboratory,
  and am sitting in it now. I'm thinking of fitting it up like a
  studio, and having private views of my inventions, as Scott has of
  his pictures. Parson's man came with some flowers the other day,
  and informed me that three balls, to the first of which he was
  invited, took place in the house while I was away. One or two
  trifling dilapidations, and the fact that somebody has been
  tampering with the locks of the organ and piano, dispose me to
  believe this tale. Parson's man declares that he was too virtuous
  to come to the two last entertainments after finding out that the
  first was a clandestine one; but I believe he made himself
  disagreeable, and was not invited. Probably he quarrelled with some
  military follower of Armande's; for he was particularly bitter on
  the subject of a common soldier making free in a gentleman's house.
  I have not said anything to the two culprits; but I have contrived
  to make them suspect that I know all; and they now do their duty
  with trembling diligence. Some man sat on the little walnut table
  and broke it; but no other damage worth mentioning has been done.
  The table was absurdly repaired with a piece of twine, and pushed
  into the recess between the organ and the front window, whence I
  sometimes amuse myself by the experiment of pulling it into broad
  daylight. It is always pushed back again before I return in the
  evening.

  "How are you off for money? I have plenty of loose cash just now.
  Madame called last Monday, and asked Matilda, who opened the door,
  when you would be back. Thereupon I interviewed her. I must say she
  is loyal to her clients; for I had great difficulty in extracting
  her bill, which was, of course, what she called about. She
  evidently recognizes the necessity of keeping husbands in the dark
  in such matters. One of the items was for the lace on your
  maccaroni-colored body, which, as I chanced to remember, you
  supplied yourself. After a brief struggle she deducted it; so I
  paid her the balance: only 35L 13s. 9d.

  "When are you coming back to me? After Sark I
  fear you will find home a little dull. Nevertheless, I
  should like to see you again. Come back before Christmas,
  at any rate.

                     "Yours, dear Marian, in solitude,
                                                   "NED."

The answer came two days later than return of post, and ran thus:

                                         "Melbourne House, Sark,
                                                 "Sunday.
  "My dear Ned

  "How very provoking about the servants! I do not mind Matilda so
  much; but I do think it hard that we could not depend on Armande,
  considering all the kindness we have shewn her. I can scarcely
  believe that she would have acted so badly unless she were led away
  by Matilda, whom I will pack off the moment I return. As to
  Armande, I will give her another chance; but she shall have a sharp
  talking to. I am quite sure that a great deal more mischief has
  been done than you noticed. If the carpet was danced on for three
  nights by men in heavy boots, it must be in ribbons. It is really
  too bad. I do not want any money. Indeed the twenty pounds you sent
  me last was quite unnecessary, as I have nearly sixteen left. What
  a rogue Madame is to try and make you pay for my lace! I am sorry
  you paid the bill. She had no business to call for her money: she
  is _never_ paid so soon by _anybody_. We have had great fun down
  here. It has been one continual garden party all through; and the
  weather is still lovely. Mr. McQuinch is very colonial: but I think
  his ways make the house pleasanter than if he were still English.
  Carbury is quite stupid in comparison to this place. I have danced
  more than I ever did in my life before; and now we are so tired of
  frivolity that if any one ventures to strum a waltz or propose a
  game, we all protest. We tried to get up some choral music; but it
  was a failure. On Friday, George, who is looked on as a great man
  here, was asked to give us a Shakespeare reading. He was only too
  glad to be asked; for he had heard Simonton, the actor, read at a
  bazaar in Scotland, and was full of Richard the Third in
  consequence. He was not very bad; but his imitation of Simonton was
  so obvious and so queerly mixed with his own churchy style that he
  seemed rather monotonous and affected. At least I thought so. I was
  dreadfully uncomfortable during the reading because of Marmaduke,
  who behaved scandalously. There were some schoolboys present; and
  he not only encouraged them to misbehave themselves, but was worse
  than any of them himself. At last he pretended to be overcome by
  the heat, and went out of the room, to my great relief; but when
  the passage about the early village cock came, he crew outside the
  door, where he had been waiting expressly to do it. Nobody could
  help laughing; and the boys screamed so that Mr. McQuinch took two
  of them out by the collar. I believe he was glad of the excuse to
  go out and laugh himself. George was very angry, and no wonder! He
  will hardly speak to Marmaduke, who, of course, denies all
  knowledge of the interruption; but George knows better. All the
  Hardy McQuinches are down here. Uncle Hardy is rather stooped from
  rheumatism. Nelly is now the chief personage in the family: Lydia
  and Jane are nowhere beside her. They are good-humored, bouncing
  girls; but they are certainly not brilliant. I hope it is not Aunt
  Dora's walnut table that is broken. Was it not mean of Parson's man
  to tell on Armande? I think, since you have plenty of loose cash,
  we might venture on a set of those curtains we saw at Protheroe's,
  for the drawing-room. I can easily use the ones that are there now
  for _portieres_.

  "You must not think that I have written this all at once. I shall
  be able to finish to-day, as it is Sunday, and I have made an
  excuse to stay away from church. George is to preach; and somehow I
  never feel toward the service as I ought when he officiates. I know
  you will laugh at this.

  "The first part of your letter must have a paragraph
  all to itself. I hardly know what to say. I could not
  have believed that Mrs. Leith Fairfax would have behaved
  as she has done. I was so angry at first that for
  fully an hour I felt ill; and I spoke quite wickedly to
  George the day after he arrived, because he said that
  Sholto had better not take me down to dinner, although
  his doing so was quite accidental. I know you will believe
  me when I tell you that I was quite unconscious
  that he had been unusually attentive to me; and I was
  about to write you an indignant denial, only I shewed
  Nelly your letter, and she crushed me by telling me she
  had noticed it too. We nearly had a quarrel about it;
  but she counted up the number of times I had danced
  with him and sat beside him at dinner; and I suppose an
  evil-minded woman looking on might think what Mrs.
  Leith Fairfax thought. But there is no excuse for her.
  She knows that Sholto and I have been intimate since
  we were children; and there is something odious in her,
  of all people, pretending to misunderstand us. What is
  worse, she was particularly friendly and confidential with
  me while she was here; and although I tried to keep
  away from her at first, she persisted in conciliating me,
  and persuaded me that Douglas had entirely mistaken
  what she said that other time. Who could have expected
  her to turn round and calumniate me the moment my
  back was turned! How can people do such things! I
  hope we shall not meet her again; for I will never speak
  to her. I have not said anything to Douglas. How
  could I? It would only make mischief. I feel that the
  right course is to come home as soon as I can, and in the
  meantime to avoid him as much as possible. So you
  may expect me on Saturday next. Mr. McQuinch is
  quite dismayed at my departure, which he says will be
  the signal for a general breaking up; but this I cannot
  help. I shall be glad to go home, of course. Still, I
  am sorry to leave this place, where we have all been so
  jolly. I will write and let you know what train I shall
  come by; but you need not trouble to meet me, unless
  you like: I can get home quite well by myself. After
  all, it is just as well that I am getting away. It _was_
  pleasant enough; but now I feel utterly disgusted with
  everything and everybody. I find I must stop. They
  have just come in from church; and I must go down.

                            "Your affectionate
                                        "MARIAN."




CHAPTER XVI


One Saturday afternoon in December Marian and Elinor sat drinking tea in
the drawing-room at Holland Park. Elinor was present as an afternoon
caller: she no longer resided with the Conollys. Marian had been lamely
excusing herself for not having read Elinor's last book.

"Pray dont apologize," said Elinor. "I remember the time when you would
have forced yourself to read it from a sense of duty; and I am too
delighted to find that nonsense washing out of you at last to feel the
wound to my vanity. Oh, say no more, my dear you can read it still
whenever you please. Brother George read it, and was shocked because the
heroine loves the villain and tells him so without waiting to be asked.
It is odd that long ago, when I believed so devoutly in the tender
passion, I never could write a really flaming love story."

"Dont begin to talk like that," said Marian, crossly. "People _do_ fall
in love, fortunately for them. It may be injudicious; and it may turn
out badly; but it fills up life in a way that all the barren philosophy
and cynicism on earth cannot. Do you think I would not rather have to
regret a lost love than to repine because I had been too cautious to
love at all? The disappointments of love warm the heart more than the
triumphs of insensibility."

"Thats rather a good sentence," said Elinor. "Your talk is more
classical than my writing. But what would the departed Marian Lind have
said?"

"The departed Marian Lind was so desperately wise that she neglected
that excellent precept, 'Be not righteous over much, neither make
thyself over wise; why shouldest thou destroy thyself?' I took up the
Bible last night for the first time since my marriage; and I thought
what fools we two used to be when we made up our minds to avoid all the
mistakes and follies and feelings of other people, and to be quite
superior and rational. 'He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he
that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.' It is all so true, in spite
of what Ned says. We were very clever at observing the wind and
regarding the clouds; and what are we the better for it? How much
irreparable mischief, I wonder, did we do ourselves by letting our
little wisdoms stifle all our big instincts! Look at those very other
people whom we despised; how happy they are, in spite of their having
always done exactly what their hearts told them!"

"I think we are pretty well off as people go. I know I am. Certainly it
was part of our wisdom that marriage was a bad thing; and I grant that
though you married in obedience to your instincts you are as well off as
I. But I dont see that we are the worse for having thought a little."

"I did _not_ marry in obedience to my instincts, Nelly; and you know it.
I made a disinterested marriage with a man whom I felt I could respect
as my superior. I was convinced then that a grand passion was a folly."

"And what do you think now?"

"I think that I did not know what I was talking about."

"I believe you were in love with Ned when you married him, and long
enough before that, too."

"Of course I loved him. I love him still."

"Do you, really? To hear you, one would think that you only respected
him as a superior."

"You have no right to say that. You dont understand."

"Perhaps not. Would you mind explaining?"

"I do not mean anything particular; but there are two kinds of love.
There is a love which one's good sense suggests--a sort of moral
approval----"

Elinor laughed. "Go on," she said. "What is the other sort?"

"The other sort has nothing to do with good sense. It is an overpowering
impulse--a craving--a faith that defies logic--something to look
forward to feeling in your youth, and look back to with a kindling heart
in your age."

"Indeed! Isnt the difference between the two sorts much the same as the
difference between the old love and the new?"

"What do you mean?"

"I think I will take another cup of tea. You neednt stop flying out at
me, though: I dont mind it."

"Excuse me. I did not mean to fly out at you."

"It's rather odd that we so seldom meet now without getting on this
subject and having a row. Has that struck you at all?"

Marian turned to the fire, and remained silent.

"Listen to me, Marian. You are in the blues. Why dont you go to Ned, and
tell him that he is a cast-iron walking machine, and that you are
unhappy, and want the society of a flesh-and-blood man? Have a furious
scene with him, and all will come right."

"It is very easy to talk. I could not go to him and make myself
ridiculous like that: the words would choke me. Besides, I am not
unhappy."

"What a lie! You wicked woman! A moment ago you were contemning all
prudence; and now you will not speak your mind because you are afraid of
being ridiculous. What is that but observing the wind and regarding the
clouds, I should like to know?"

"I wish you would not speak harshly to me, even in jest. It hurts me."

"Serve you right! I am not a bit remorseful. No matter: let us talk of
something else. Where did those flowers come from?"

"Douglas sent them. I am going to the theatre to-night; and I wanted a
bouquet."

"Very kind of him. I wonder he did not bring it himself. He rarely
misses an excuse for coming."

"Why do you say that, Nelly? He comes here very seldom, except on
Sunday; and that is a regular thing, just as your coming is."

"He was here on Tuesday; you saw him at Mrs. Saunders's on Wednesday; he
was at your at-home on Thursday; and he sends a bouquet on Saturday."

"I cannot help meeting him out; and not to invite him to my at-home
would be to cut him. Pray are you growing spiteful, like Mrs. Leith
Fairfax?"

"Marian: you got out of bed at the wrong side this morning; and you have
made that mistake oftener since your return from Sark than in all your
life before. Douglas has become a lazy good-for-nothing; and he comes
here a great deal too often. Instead of encouraging him to dangle after
you as he does, and to teach you all those finely turned sentiments
about love which you were airing a minute ago, you ought to make him get
called to the bar, or sent into Parliament, or put to work in some
fashion."

"Nelly!"

"Bother Nelly! It is true; and you know it as well as I do."

"If he fancies himself in love with me, I cannot help it."

"You can help his following you about."

"I cannot. He does not follow me about. Why does not Ned object? He
knows that Sholto is in love with me; and he does not care."

"Oh, if it is only to make Ned jealous, then I have nothing more to say:
you may flirt away as hard as you please. There's a knock at the door,
just in time to prevent us from quarrelling. I know whose knock it is,
too."

Marian had flushed slightly at the sound; and Elinor, with her feet
stretched out before her, lapped the carpet restlessly with her heels,
and watched her cousin sourly as Douglas entered. He was in evening
dress.

"Good-evening," said Elinor. "So you are going to the theatre, too?"

"Why?" said Douglas. "Is any one coming with us? Shall we have the
pleasure of your company?"

"No," replied Elinor, drily. "I thought Mr. Conolly was perhaps going
with you."

"I shall be very glad, I am sure, if he will," said Douglas.

"He will not," said Marian. "I doubt if he will come home before we
start."

"You got my flowers safely, I see."

"Yes, thank you. They are beautiful."

"They need be, if you are to wear them."

"I think I will go," said Elinor, "if you can spare me. Marian has been
far from amiable; and if you are going to pay her compliments, I shall
very soon be as bad as she. Good-bye." Douglas gratefully went with her
to the door. She looked very hard at him, and almost made a grimace as
they parted; but she said nothing.

"I am very glad she went," said Marian, when Douglas returned. "She
annoys me. Everything annoys me."

"You are leading an impossible life here, Marian," he said, putting his
hand on her chair and bending over her. "Whilst it lasts, everything
will annoy you; and I, who would give the last drop of my blood to spare
you a moment's pain, shall never experience the delight of seeing you
happy."

"What other life can I lead?"

Douglas made an impulsive movement, as though to reply; but he
hesitated, and did not speak. Marian was not looking at him. She was
gazing into the fire.

"Sholto," she said, after an interval of silence, "you must not come
here any more."

"What!"

"You are too idle. You come here too often. Why do you not become a
barrister, or go into Parliament, or at least write books? If Nelly can
succeed as an author, surely you can."

"I have left all that behind me. I am a failure: you know why. Let us
talk no more of it."

"Do not go on like that," said Marian, pettishly. "I dont like it."

"I am afraid to say or do anything, you are so easily distressed."

"Yes, I know I am very cross. Elinor remarked it too. I think you might
bear with me, Sholto." Here, most unexpectedly, she rose and burst into
tears. "When my whole life is one dreary record of misery, I cannot
always be patient. I have been forbearing toward you many times."

Douglas was at first frightened; for he had never seen her cry before.
Then, as she sat down again, and covered her face with her handkerchief,
he advanced, intending to kneel and put his arm about her; but his
courage failed: he only drew a chair to the fire, and bent over, as he
sat beside her, till his face was close to hers, saying, "It is all the
fault of your mad marriage. You were happy until then. I have been
silent hitherto; but now that I see your tears, I can no longer master
myself. Listen to me, Marian. You asked me a moment since what other
life was open to you. There is a better life. Leave England with me;
and--and----" Marian had raised her head; and as she looked steadily at
him, he stopped, and his lips became white.

"Go on," she said. "I am not angry. What else?"

"Nothing else except happiness." His voice died away: there was a pause.
Then, recovering himself, he went on with something of his
characteristic stateliness. "There is no use in prolonging your present
life; it is a failure, like mine. Why should you hesitate? You know how
seldom the mere letter of duty leads to either happiness or justice. You
can rescue me from a wasted existence. You can preserve your own heart
from a horrible slow domestic decay. _He_ will not care: he cares for
nothing: he is morally murdering you. You have no children to think of.
I love you; and I offer you your choice of the fairest spots in the wide
world to pass our future in, with my protection to ensure your safety
and comfort there, wherever it may be. You know what a hollow thing
conventional virtue is. Who are the virtuous people about you? Mrs.
Leith Fairfax, and her like. If you love me, you must know that you are
committing a crime against nature in living as you are with a man who is
as far removed from you in every human emotion as his workshop is from
heaven. You have striven to do your duty by him in vain. He is none the
happier: we are unutterably the more miserable. Let us try a new life. I
have lived in society here all my days, and have found its atmosphere
most worthless, most selfish, most impure. I want to be free--to shake
the dust of London off my feet, and enter on a life made holy by love.
You can respond to such an aspiration: you, too, must yearn for a pure
and free life. It is within our reach: you have but to stretch out your
hand. Say something to me. Are you listening?"

"It seems strange that I should be listening to you quite calmly, as I
am; although you are proposing what the world thinks a disgraceful
thing."

"Does it matter what the world thinks? I would not, even to save myself
from a wasted career, ask you to take a step that would really disgrace
you. But I cannot bear to think of you looking back some day over a
barren past, and knowing that you sacrificed your happiness to
Fashion--an idol. Do you remember last Sunday when we discussed that
bitter saying that women who have sacrificed their feelings to the laws
of society secretly know that they have been fools for their pains? _He_
did not deny it. You could give no good reason for disbelieving it. You
know it to be true; and I am only striving to save you from that vain
regret. You have shewn that you can obey the world with grace and
dignity when the world is right. Shew now that you can defy it
fearlessly when it is tyrannical. Trust your heart, Marian--my darling
Marian: trust your heart--and mine."

"For what hour have you ordered the carriage?"

"The carriage! Is that what you say to me at such a moment? Are you
still flippant as ever?"

"I am quite serious. Say no more now. If I go, I will go deliberately,
and not on the spur of your persuasion. I must have time to think. What
hour did you say?"

"Seven."

"Then it is time for me to dress. You will not mind waiting here alone?"

"If you would only give me one hopeful word, I think I could wait
happily forever."

"What can I say?"

"Say that you love me."

"I am striving to discover whether I have always loved you or not.
Surely, if there be such a thing as love, we should be lovers."

He was chilled by her solemn tone; but he made a movement as if to
embrace her.

"No," she said, stopping him. "I am his wife still. I have not yet
pronounced my own divorce."

She left the room; and he walked uneasily to and fro Until she returned,
dressed in white. He gazed at her with quickened breath as she
confronted him. Neither heeded the click of her husband's latchkey in
the door without.

"When I was a little boy, Marian," he said, gazing at her, "I used to
think that Paul Delaroche's Christian martyr was the most exquisite
vision of beauty in the world. I have the same feeling as I look at you
now."

"Marian reminds me of that picture too," said Conolly. "I remember
wondering," he continued, smiling, as they started and turned toward
him, "why the young lady--she was such a perfect lady--was martyred in a
ball dress, as I took her costume to be. Marian's wreath adds to the
force of the reminiscence."

"If I recollect aright," said Marian, taking up his bantering tone with
a sharper irony, "Delaroche's martyr shewed a fine sense of the
necessity of having her wrists gracefully tied. I am about to follow her
example by wearing these bracelets, which I can never fasten. Be good
enough to assist me, both of you."

She extended a hand to each; and Conolly, after looking at the catch for
a moment, closed it dexterously at the first snap. "By the bye," he
said, whilst Douglas fumbled at the other bracelet, "I have to run away
to Glasgow to-night by the ten train. We shall not see one another again
until Monday evening."

Douglas's hand began to shake so that the gold band chafed Marian's arm.
"There, there," she said, drawing it away from him, "you do it for me,
Ned. Sholto has no mechanical genius." Her hand was quite steady as
Conolly shut the clasp. "Why must you go to Glasgow?"

"They have got into a mess at the works there; and the engineer has
telegraphed for me to go down and see what is the matter. I shall
certainly be back on Monday. Have something for me to eat at half past
seven. I am sorry to be away from our Sunday dinner, Douglas; but you
know the popular prejudice. If you want a thing done, see to it
yourself."

"Sholto has been very eloquent this evening on the subject of popular
prejudices," said Marian. "He says that to defy the world is a proof of
honesty."

"So it is," said Conolly. "I get on in the world by defying its old
notions, and taking nobody's advice but my own. Follow Douglas's
precepts by all means. Do you know that it is nearly a quarter to
eight?"

"Oh! Let us go. We shall be late."

"I shall not see you to-morrow, Douglas. Good-night."

"Good-night," said Douglas, keeping at some distance; for he did not
care to offer Conolly his hand before Marian now. "Pleasant journey."

"Thank you. Hallo! [Marian had impatiently turned back.] What have you
forgotten?"

"My opera-glass," said Marian. "No, thanks: you would not know where to
look for it: I will go myself."

She went upstairs; and Conolly, after a pause, followed, and found her
in their bedroom, closing the drawer from which she had just taken the
opera-glass.

"Marian," he said: "you have been crying to-day. Is anything wrong? or
is it only nervousness?"

"Only nervousness," said Marian. "How did you find out that I had been
crying? it was only for an instant, because Nelly annoyed me. Does my
face shew it?"

"It does to me, not to anyone else. Are you more cheerful now?"

"Yes, I am all right. I will go to Glasgow with you, if you like."

Conolly recoiled, disconcerted. "Why?" he said. "Do you wish----?" He
recovered himself, and added, "It is too cold, my dear; and I must
travel very fast. I shall be busy all the time. Besides, you are
forgetting the theatre and Douglas, who, by the bye, is catching cold on
the steps."

"Well, I had better go with Douglas, since it will make you happier."

"Go with Douglas, my dear one, if it will make _you_ happier," said he,
kissing her. To his surprise, she threw her arm round him, held him fast
by the shoulder, and looked at him with extraordinary earnestness. He
gave a little laugh, and disengaged himself gently, saying, "Dont you
think your nervousness is taking a turn rather inconvenient for
Douglas?" She let her hands fall; closed her lips; and passed quietly
out. He went to the window and watched her as she entered the carriage.
Douglas held the door open for her; and Conolly, looking at him with a
sort of pity, noted that he was, in his way, a handsome man and that his
habit of taking himself very seriously gave him a certain, dignity. The
brougham rolled away into the fog. Conolly pulled down the blind, and
began to pack his portmanteau to a vigorously whistled accompaniment.




CHAPTER XVII


Conolly returned from Glasgow a little before eight on Monday evening.
There was no light in the window when he entered the garden. Miss
McQuinch opened the door before he reached it.

"What!" he said. "Going the moment I come in!" Then, seeing her face by
the hall lamp, he put down his bag quickly, and asked what the matter
was.

"I dont know whether anything is the matter. I am very glad you have
returned. Come into the drawing-room: I dont want the servants to hear
us talking."

"There is no light here," he said, following her in. "Is it possible you
have been waiting in the dark?"

He lit a candle, and was about to light a lamp when she exclaimed
impatiently, "Oh, I did not notice it: what does it matter? Do let the
lamp alone, and listen to me." He obeyed, much amused at her irritation.

"Where has Marian gone to?" she asked.

"Is she out?" he said, suddenly grave. "You forget that I have come
straight from Glasgow."

"I have been here since three o'clock. Marian sent me a note not to come
on Sunday--that she should be out and that you were away. But they tell
me that she was at home all yesterday, except for two hours when she was
out with Sholto. She packed her trunks in the evening, and went away
with them. She told the cabman to drive to Euston. I dont know what it
all means; and I have been half distracted waiting here for you. I
thought you would never come. There is a note for you on your
dressing-table."

He pursed his lips a little and looked attentively at her, but said
nothing.

"Wont you go and open it?" she said anxiously. "It must contain some
explanation."

"I am afraid the explanation is obvious."

"You have no right to say that. How do you know? If you are not going to
read her letter, you had better say so at once. I dont want to pry into
it: I only want to know what is become of Marian."

"You shall read it by all means. Will you excuse me whilst I fetch it?"

She stamped with impatience. He smiled and went for the letter, which,
after a brief absence, he placed unopened on the table before her,
saying:

"I suppose this is it. I laid my hand on it in the dark."

"Are you going to open it?" she said, hardly able to contain herself.

"No."

He had not raised his voice; but it struck her that he was in a rage.
His friendly look and quiet attitude first reassured, then, on second
thoughts, exasperated her.

"Why wont you?"

"I really dont know. Somehow, I am not curious. It interests you. Pray
open it."

"I will die first. If it lie there until I open it, it will lie there
forever."

He opened the envelope neatly with a paper cutter, and handed her the
enclosure. She kept down her hands stubbornly. He smiled a little, still
presenting it. At last she snatched it, much as she would have liked to
snatch a handful of his hair. Having read it, she turned pale, and
looked as she had used to in her childhood, when in disgrace and
resolute not to cry. "I had rather have had my two hands cut off," she
said passionately, after a pause.

"It is very sad for you," said Conolly, sympathetically. "He is an
educated man; but I cannot think that he has much in him."

"He is a selfish, lying, conceited hound. Educated, indeed! And what are
_you_ going to do, may I ask?"

"Eat my supper. I am as hungry as a bear."

"Yes, you had better, I think. Good-evening." He seemed to know that she
would not leave; for he made no movement to open the door for her. On
her way out, she turned, and so came at him with her fists clenched,
that for a moment he was doubtful whether she would not bodily assault
him.

"Are you a brute, or a fool, or both?" she said, letting her temper
loose. "How long do you intend to stand there, doing nothing?"

"What _can_ I do, Miss McQuinch?" he said, gently.

"You can follow her and bring her back before she has made an utter
idiot of herself with that miserable blackguard. Are you afraid of him?
If you are, I will go with you, and not let him touch you."

"Thank you," he said, good-humoredly. "But you see she does not wish to
live with me."

"Good God, man, what woman do you think _could_ wish to live with you! I
suppose Marian wanted a human being to live with, and not a calculating
machine. You would drive any woman away. If you had feeling enough to
have kicked him out of the house, and then beaten her black and blue for
encouraging him, you would have been more of a man than you are: she
would have loved you more. You are not a man: you are a stone full of
brains--such as they are! Listen to me, Mr. Conolly. There is one chance
left--if you will only make haste. Go after them; overtake them; thrash
him within an inch of his life; and bring her back and punish her how
you please so long as you shew her that you care. You can do it if you
will only make up your mind: he is a coward; and he is afraid of you: I
have seen it in his eye. You are worth fifty of him--if you would only
not be so cold blooded--if you will only go--_dear_ Mr. Conolly--youre
not really insensible--you will, wont you?"

This, the first tender tone he had ever heard in her voice, made him
look at her curiously. "What does the letter say?" he asked, still
quietly, but inexorably.

She snatched it up again. "Here," she said. "'_Our marriage was a
mistake. I am going away with Douglas to the other side of the world. It
is all I can do to mend matters. Pray forget me_.' That is what her
letter says, since you condescend to ask."

"It is too late, then. You felt that as you read it, I think?"

"Yes," she cried, sitting down in a paroxysm of grief, but unable to
weep. "It is too late; and it is all your fault. What business had you
to go away? You knew what was going to happen. You intended it to
happen. You wanted it to happen. You are glad it has happened; and it
serves you right. '_Pray forget her_.' Oh, yes, poor girl! she need not
trouble about that. I declare there is nothing viler, meaner,
cowardlier, selfisher on earth than a man. Oh, if we had only done what
we always said we would do--kept free from you!"

"It was a good plan," said Conolly, submissively.

"Was it? How were we to know that you were not made of flesh and blood,
pray? There, let me go. [The table was between them; but she rose and
shook off an imaginary detaining hand.] I dont want to hear anything
more about it. I suppose you are right not to care. Very likely she was
right to go, too; so we are all right, and everything is for the best,
no doubt. Marian is ruined, of course; but what does that matter to you?
She was only in your way. You can console yourself with your--" Here
Armande came in; and Elinor turned quickly to the fireplace and stood
there, so that the housemaid should not see her face.

"Your dinner, sir," said Armande, with a certain artificiality of manner
that was, under the circumstances, significant. "There is a nice fire in
the laboratory."

"Thank you," said Conolly. "Presently, Armande."

"The things will spoil if you wait too long, sir. The mistress was very
particular with me and cook about it." And Armande, with an air of
declining further responsibility, went out.

"What shall I do without Marian?" said Conolly. "Not one woman in a
hundred is capable of being a mistress to her servants. She saved me all
the friction of housekeeping."

"You are beginning to feel your loss," said Elinor, facing him again. "A
pleasant thing for a woman of her talent to be thrown away to save you
the friction of housekeeping. If you had paid half the attention to her
happiness that she did to your dinners you would not be in your present
predicament."

"Have you really calculated that it is twice as easy to make a woman
happy as to feed a man?"

"Calc--! Yes, I have. I tell you that it is three times as easy--six
times as easy: more fool the woman! You can make a woman happy for a
week by a word or a kiss. How long do you think it takes to order a
week's dinners? I suppose you consider a kiss a weakness?"

"I am afraid--judging by the result--that I am not naturally clever at
kissing."

"No, I should think not, indeed. Then you had better go and do what you
_are_ clever at--eat your dinner."

"Miss McQuinch: did you ever see an unfortunate little child get a
severe fall, and then, instead of a little kindly petting, catch a sound
whacking from its nurse for daring to startle her and spoil its
clothes?"

"Well, what is the point of that?"

"You remind me a little of the nurse. I have had a sort of fall this
evening."

"And now you are going to pretend to be hurt, I suppose; because you
dont care to be told that it is your own fault. That is a common
experience with children, too. I tell you plainly that I dont believe
you are hurt at all; though you may not be exactly pleased--just for the
moment. However, I did not mean to be uncivil. If you are really sorry,
I am at least _as_ sorry. I have not said all I think."

"What more?"

"Nothing of any use to say. I see I am wasting my time here--and no
doubt wasting yours too."

"Well, I think you have had your turn. If you are not thoroughly
satisfied, pray go on for ten minutes longer: your feelings do you
credit, as the phrase goes. Still, do not forget that you thought just
the same of me a week ago; and that if you had said as much then you
might have prevented what has happened. Giving me a piece of your mind
now is of no use except as far as it relieves you. To Marian or me or
anyone else it does no good. So when you have said your worst, we cannot
do better, I think, than set our wits to work about our next move."

Elinor received this for a moment in dudgeon. Then she laughed sourly,
and said, "There is some sense in that. I am as much to blame as
anybody: I dont deny it--if that is any comfort to you. But as to the
next move, you say yourself that it is too late to do anything; and I
dont see that you can do much."

"That is so. But there are a few things to be faced. First, I have to
set Marian and myself free."

"How?"

"Divorce her."

"Divorce!" Elinor looked at him in dismay. He was unmoved. Then her gaze
fell slowly, and she said: "Yes: I suppose you have a right to that."

"She also."

"So that she may marry him--from a sense of duty. That will be so happy
for her!"

"She will have time, before she is free to find out whether she likes
him or not. There will be a great fuss in the family over the scandal."

"Do you care about that? _I_ dont."

"No. However, thats a detail. Marian will perhaps write to you. If so,
just point out to her that her five hundred a year belongs to her still,
and makes her quite independent of him and of me. That is all, I think.
You need take no pains now to conceal what has happened: the servants
below know it as well as we: in a week it will be town talk."

Elinor looked wistfully at him, her impetuosity failing her as she felt
how little effect it was producing. Yet her temper rather rose than fell
at him. There was a much more serious hostility than before in her tone
as she said:

"You seem to have been thoroughly prepared for what has happened. I do
not want any instructions from you as to what I shall write to Marian
about her money affairs: I want to know, in case she takes it into her
head to come back when she has found what a fool she has made of
herself, whether I may tell her that you are glad to be rid of her, and
that there is no use in her humiliating herself by coming to your door
and being turned away."

"Shall I explain the situation to you from my point of view?" said he.
At the sound of his voice she looked up in alarm. The indulgent,
half-playful manner which she had almost lost the sense of because it
was so invariable with him in speaking to ladies was suddenly gone. She
felt that the real man was coming out now without ceremony. He was quick
to perceive the effect he had produced. To soften it, he placed a
comfortable chair on the hearthrug, and said, in his ordinary friendly
way: "Sit nearer the fire: we can talk more comfortably. Now," he
continued, standing with his back to the mantelpiece, "let me tell you,
Miss McQuinch, that when you talk of my turning people away from my door
you are not talking fair and square sense to me. I dont turn my
acquaintances off in that way, much less my friends; and a woman who has
lived with me as my wife for eighteen months must always be a rather
particular friend. I liked her before I was her husband, and I shall
continue to like her when I am no longer her husband. So you need have
no fear on that score. But I wont remain her husband. You said just now
that I knew what was going to happen; that I intended it to happen,
wanted it to happen, and am glad it happened. There is more truth in
that than you thought when you said it. For some time past Marian has
been staying with me as a matter of custom and convenience only, using
me as a cover for her philandering with Douglas, and paying me by
keeping the house very nicely for me. I had asked myself once or twice
how long this was to last. I was in no hurry for the answer; for
although I was wifeless and had no one to live with who really cared for
me, I was quite prepared to wait a couple of years if necessary, on the
chance of our making it up somehow. But sooner or later I should have
insisted on closing our accounts and parting; and I am not sorry now
that the end has come, since it was inevitable; though I am right sorry
for the way it has come. Instead of eloping in the conventional way, she
should have come to an understanding with me. I could easily have taken
her for a trip in the States, where we could have stopped a few months
in South Dakota and got divorced without any scandal. I have never made
any claims on her since she found out that she didnt care for me; and
she might have known from that that I was not the man to keep her
against her will and play dog in the manger with a fellow like Douglas.
However, thats past praying for now. She has had enough of me; and I
have had more than enough of her set and her family, except that I
should like to remain good friends with you. You are the only one of the
whole lot worth your salt. It is understood, of course, that you take
Marian's part against me on all issues; but will you be friends as far
as is consistent with that?"

"All right," said Nelly, shortly.

"Shake hands on it; and I'll tell you something else that will help you
to understand me better," he said, holding out his hand. She gave hers;
and when the bargain was struck, he turned to the fire and seated
himself on the edge of the table.

"You know that when I married," he resumed, "I was promoted to mix in
fashionable society for the first time. Of course you do: that was the
whole excitement of the affair for the family. You know the impression I
made on polite society better, probably, than I do. Now tell me: do you
know what impression polite society made on me?"

"Dont understand."

"Perhaps it has never occurred even to you, sharp as you are, that I
could have taken society otherwise than at its own valuation of itself,
as something much higher, more cultivated and refined than anything that
I had been accustomed to. Well, I never believed in that much at any
time; but it was not until I had made a _mesalliance_ for Marian's sake
that I realized how infinitely beneath me and my class was the one I had
married into."

"_Mesalliance!_--with Marian! I take back the shake hands."

"_Mesalliance_ with her class, for her sake: I made the distinction
purposely. Now what am I, Miss McQuinch? A worker. I belonged and belong
to the class that keeps up the world by its millions of serviceable
hands and serviceable brains. All the pride of caste in me settles on
that point. I admit no loafer as my equal. The man who is working at the
bench is my equal, whether he can do my day's work or not, provided he
is doing the best he can. But the man who does not work anyhow, and the
class that does not work, is a class below mine. When I annoyed Marian
by refusing to wear a tall hat and cuffs, I did so because I wanted to
have it seen as I walked through Piccadilly and St. James's Street that
I did not belong there, just as your people walk through a poor street
dressed so as to shew that they dont belong there. To me a man like your
uncle, Marian's father, or like Marmaduke or Douglas, loafing idly round
spending money that has been made by the sweat of men like myself, are
little better than thieves. They get on with the queerest makeshifts for
self-respect: old Mr. Lind with family pride. Douglas with personal
vanity, and Marmaduke with a sort of interest in his own appetites and
his own jollity. Everything is a sham with them: they have drill and
etiquet instead of manners, fashions instead of tastes, small talk
instead of intercourse. Everything that is special to them as
distinguished from workers is a sham: when you get down to the real
element in them, good or bad, you find that it is something that is
common to them and to all civilized mankind. The reason that this isnt
as clear to other workmen who come among them as it is to me is that
most workmen share their ignorance of the things they affect superiority
in. Poor Jackson, whom you all call the Yankee cad, and who is not a cad
at all in his proper place among the engineers at our works, believes in
the sham refinements he sees around him at the at-homes he is so fond
of. He has no art in him--no trained ear for music or for fine diction,
no trained eye for pictures and colors and buildings, no cultivated
sense of dignified movement, gesture, and manner. But he knows what
fashionable London listens to and looks at, and how it talks and
behaves; and he makes that his standard, and sets down what is
different from it as vulgar. Now the difference between me and him is
that I got an artistic training by accident when I was young, and had
the natural turn to profit by it. Before I ever saw a West End Londoner
I knew beautiful from ugly, rare from common, in music, speech, costume,
and gesture; for in my father's operatic and theatrical companies there
did come now and then, among the crowd of thirdraters, a dancer, an
actor, a scenepainter, a singer, or a bandsman or conductor who was a
fine artist. Consequently, I was not to be taken in like Jackson by
made-up faces, trashy pictures, drawling and lounging and strutting and
tailoring, drawing-room singing and drawing-room dancing, any more than
by bad ventilation and unwholesome hours and food, not to mention polite
dram drinking, and the round of cruelties they call sport. I found that
the moment I refused to accept the habits of the rich as standards of
refinement and propriety, the whole illusion of their superiority
vanished at once. When I married Marian I was false to my class. I had a
sort of idea that my early training had accustomed me to a degree of
artistic culture that I could not easily find in a working girl, and
that would be quite natural to Marian. I soon found that she had the
keenest sense of what was ladylike, and no sense of what was beautiful
at all. A drawing, a photograph, or an engraving sensibly framed without
a white mount round it to spoil it pained her as much as my wrists
without cuffs on them. No mill girl could have been less in sympathy
with me on the very points for which I had preferred her to the mill
girls. The end of it was that I felt that love had made me do a
thoroughly vulgar thing--marry beneath me. These aristocratic idle
gentlemen will never be shamed out of their laziness and low-mindedness
until the democratic working gentlemen refuse to associate with them
instead of running after them and licking their boots. I am heartily
glad now to be out of their set and rid of them, instead of having to
receive them civilly in my house for Marian's sake. The whole business
was strangling me: the strain of keeping my feeling to myself was more
than you can imagine. Do you know that there have been times when I have
been so carried away with the idea that she must be as tired of the
artificiality of our life as I was, that I have begun to speak my mind
frankly to her; and when she recoiled, hurt and surprised and frightened
that I was going to turn coarse at last, I have shut up and sat there
apparently silent, but really saying under my breath: 'Why dont you go?
Why dont you leave me, vanish, fly away to your own people? You must be
a dream: I never married you. You dont know me: you cant be my wife:
your lungs were not made to breathe the air I live in.' I have said a
thousand things like that, and then wondered whether there was any truth
in telepathy--whether she could possibly be having my thoughts
transferred to her mind and thinking it only her imagination. I would
ask myself whether I despised her or not, calling on myself for the
truth as if I did not believe the excuses I made for her out of the
fondness I could not get over. I am fond of her still, sometimes. I did
not really--practically, I mean--despise her until I gave up thinking
about her at all. There was a certain kind of contempt in that
indifference, beyond a doubt: there is no use denying it. Besides, it is
proved to me now by the new respect I feel for her because she has had
the courage and grit to try going away with Douglas. But my love for her
is over: nothing short of her being born over again--a thing that
sometimes happens--will ever bring her into contact with me after this.
To put it philosophically, she made the mistake of avoiding all
realities, and yet marrying herself to the hardest of realities, a
working man; so it was inevitable that she should go back at last to the
region of shadows and mate with that ghostliest of all unrealities, the
non-working man. Perhaps, too, the union may be more fruitful than ours:
the cross between us was too violent. Now you have the whole story from
my point of view. What do you--"

"Hush!" said Elinor, interrupting him. "What is that noise outside?"

The house bell began to ring violently; and they could hear a confused
noise of voices and footsteps without.

"Can she have come back?" said Elinor, starting up.

"Impossible!" said Conolly, looking disturbed for the first time. They
stood a moment listening, with averted eyes. A second peal from the bell
was followed by roars of laughter, amid which a remonstrant voice was
audible. Then the house door was hammered with a stick. Conolly ran
downstairs at once and opened it. On the step he found Marmaduke reeling
in the arms of the Rev. George.

"How are you, ol' fler?" said Marmaduke, plunging into the hall. "The
parson is tight. I found him tumbling about High Street, and brought him
along."

"Pray excuse this intrusion," whispered the Rev. George. "You see the
state he is in. He accosted me near Campden Hill; and I really could not
be seen walking with him into town. I wonder he was not arrested."

"He is the worse for drink; but he is sober enough to know how to amuse
himself at your expense," said Conolly, aloud. "Come up to the
laboratory. Miss McQuinch is there."

"But he is not fit," urged the clergyman. "Look at him trying to hang up
his hat. How absurd--I should rather say how deplorable! I assure you he
is perfectly tipsy. He has been ringing the bells of the houses, and
requesting females to accompany us. Better warn Elinor."

"Nonsense!" said Conolly. "I have some news that will sober him. Here is
Miss McQuinch. Are you going?"

"Yes," said Elinor. "I should lose my patience if I had to listen to
George's comments; and I am tired. I would rather go."

"Not yet, Nelly. Wont um stay and talk to um's Marmadukes?"

"Let me go," said Elinor, snatching away her hand, which he had seized.
"You ought to be at home in bed. You are a sot." At this Marmaduke
laughed boisterously. She passed him contemptuously, and left. The three
men then went upstairs, Marmaduke dropping his pretence of drunkenness
under the influence of Conolly's presence.

"Marian is not in, I presume," said the clergyman, when they were
seated.

"No." said Conolly. "She has eloped with Douglas."

They stared at him. Then Marmaduke gave a long whistle; and the
clergyman rose, pale. "What do you mean, sir?" he said.

Conolly did not answer; and the Rev. George slowly sat down again.

"Well, I'm damned sorry for it," said Marmaduke, emphatically. "It was
a mean thing for Douglas to do, with all his brag about his honor."

The Rev. George covered his face with his handkerchief and sobbed.

"Come, shut up, old fellow; and dont make an ass of yourself," said
Marmaduke. "What are you going to do, Conolly?"

"I must simply divorce her."

"Go for heavy damages, Conolly. Knock a few thousand out of him, just to
punish him."

"He could easily afford it. Besides, why should I punish him?"

"My dear friend," cried the clergyman, "you must not dream of a divorce.
I implore you to abandon such an idea. Consider the disgrace, the
impiety! The publicity would kill my father."

Conolly shook his head.

"There is no such thing as divorce known to the Church. 'What God hath
joined together, let no man put asunder.'"

"She had no right to bolt," said Marmaduke. "Thats certain."

"I was married by a registrar," said Conolly; "and as there is no such
thing as civil marriage known to the Church, our union, from the
ecclesiastical point of view, has no existence. We were not joined by
God, in fact, in your sense. To deny her the opportunity of remarrying
would be to compel her to live as an adulteress in the eye of the law,
which, by the bye, would make me the father of Douglas's children. I
cannot, merely because your people are afraid of scandal, take such a
revenge on Marian as to refuse her the freedom she has sacrificed so
much for. After all, since our marriage has proved a childless one, the
only reason for our submitting to be handcuffed to one another, now that
our hearts are no longer in the arrangement, is gone."

"The game began at Sark," said Marmaduke. "Douglas stuck to her there
like a leech. He's been about the house here a good deal since she came
back. I often wondered you didnt kick him out. But, of course, it was
not my business to say anything. Was she huffed into going? You hadnt
any row with her just before, had you?

"We never had rows."

"That was your mistake, Conolly. You should have heard poor Susanna and
me fighting. We always ended by swearing we would never speak to one
another again. Nothing duller than a smooth life. If you had given
Marian something to complain of, she would have been too much taken up
with it to bother about Douglas."

"But have you ascertained whither they have gone?" said the clergyman,
distractedly. "Will you not follow them?"

"I know nothing of their movements. Probably they are crossing to New
York."

"But surely you ought to follow her," said the Rev. George. "You may yet
be in time to save her from worse than death."

"Yah!" said Marmaduke. "Drop all that rot, George. Worse than death be
hanged! Serves the family right! They are a jolly sight too virtuous: it
will do them good to get shewn up a bit."

"If you have no respect for the convictions of a priest," exclaimed the
Rev. George, shedding tears, "you might at least be silent in the
presence of a heartbroken brother and husband."

"Oh, I dont want to shew any want of consideration for you or Conolly,"
said Marmaduke, sulkily. "No doubt it's rough on you. But as to the
feelings of the family, I tell you flatly that I dont care if the whole
crew were brought to the Old Bailey to-morrow and convicted of bigamy.
It would take the conceit out of them."

"I know not how to break this wretched news to my father," said the Rev.
George, turning disconsolately from his sottish cousin to Conolly.

"It is no such uncommon occurrence. The less fuss made about it the
better. She is not to blame, and I shall not be heard crying out misery
and disgrace. Your family can very well follow my example. I have
nothing to say against her, and I believe she has nothing to say against
me. Nothing can prevent such publicity as a petition for divorce must
entail. Your father will survive it, never fear."

The clergyman, remembering how vainly he had tried to change Conolly's
intention when Marian was to be married, felt that he should succeed no
better now that she was to be divorced. Silent and cast down, he sat
dangling his handkerchief between his knees and leaning forward on his
elbows toward the fire.

"You must excuse me if I see my way straight through to the end. I
daresay you would rather realize it gradually, inevitable as it is,"
added Conolly, looking down with some pity at his drooping figure. "I
cannot help my habit of mind. When are you going to be married?" he
continued, to Marmaduke.

"I dont know. The Countess is in a hurry. I'm not. But I suppose it will
be some time in spring."

"You have made up your mind to it at last?"

"Oh, I never had any particular objection to it, only I dont like to be
hunted into a corner. Conny is a good little girl, and will make a
steady wife. I dont like her mother; but as for herself, she is fond of
me; and after all, I _did_ lead her a dance long ago. Besides, old boy,
the Earl is forking out handsomely; and as I have some notion of
settling down to farm, his dust will come in conveniently as capital."

The clergyman rose, and slowly pulled on his woolen gloves.

"If youre going, I will see you part of the way," said Marmaduke. "I'll
cheer you up. You know you neednt tell the governor until to-morrow."

"I had rather go alone, if you intend to behave as you did before."

"Never fear. I'm as sober as a judge now. Come along. Away with
melancholy! Youll have Douglas for a brother-in-law before this time
next year."

This seemed to have been in the clergyman's mind; for he shook hands
with his host more distantly than usual. When they were gone, Conolly
went to the laboratory, and rang for his neglected dinner, which he ate
with all a traveller's appetite. From the dinner table he went straight
to the organ, and played until a little before midnight, when, after a
brief turn in the open air, he retired to bed, and was soon quietly
asleep.




BOOK IV




CHAPTER XVIII


Miss McQuinch spent Christmas morning in her sitting-room reading; a
letter which had come by the morning post. It was dated the 17th
December at New York: and the formal beginning and ending were omitted.
This was an old custom between Marian and her cousin. In their girlish
correspondence they had expressed their affection by such modes of
address as "My darling Marian," and "My dearest Nelly." Subsequently
they became oppressed by these ceremonies and dropped them. Thereafter
their letters contained only the matter to be communicated and the
signature.

"You are the only person in England," wrote Marian, "to whom I dare
write now. A month ago I had more correspondents than I had time to
answer. Do you know, Nelly, I hesitated before commencing this letter,
lest you should no longer care to have anything to do with me. That may
have been an unworthy thought for a friend: but it was an unavoidable
one for a woman.

"And now comes the great vain question: What does everybody say? Oh, if
I could only disembody myself; fly back to London for a few hours; and
listen invisibly to society talking about me. I know this is mean: but
one must fill up life with some mean curiosities. So please tell me what
kind of sensation I have caused. Just the usual one. I suppose. Half the
people never would have thought it; and the other half knew all along
what it would come to. Well, I do not care much about the world in
general; but I cannot quiet my conscience on the subject of my father
and George. It must be very hard on papa that, after being disappointed
in my marriage and having suffered long ago from what my mother did, he
should now be disgraced by his daughter. For disgraced, alas! is the
word. I am afraid poor George's prospects must be spoiled by the
scandal, which, I know well, must be terrible. I thought my first duty
was to leave Ned free, and to free myself, at all hazards; and so I did
not dwell on the feelings and interests of others as much as I perhaps
ought to have done. There is one point about which I am especially
anxious. It never occurred to me before I went that people might say
that my going was Ned's fault, and that he had treated me badly. You
must contradict this with all your might and main if you hear it even
hinted at.

"There is no use in putting off the confession any longer, Nelly: I have
made an utter fool of myself. _I wish I were back with Ned again_.
There! what do you think of that? Now for another great confession, and
a most humiliating one. Sholto is a--I dont know what epithet is fair. I
suppose I have no right to call him an impostor merely because we were
foolish enough to overrate him. But I can hardly believe now that we
ever really thought that there were great qualities and powers latent
beneath his proud reserve. Ned, I know, never believed in Sholto; and I,
in my infinite wisdom, set that down to his not understanding him. Ned
was right, as usual. If you want to see how selfish people are, and how
skin-deep fashionable politeness is, take a voyage. Go with a picked
company of the nice people you have met for an hour or so at a dinner or
an at-home; and see how different they will appear when they have been
cooped up in a ship with you day and night for a week. An ocean steamer
is the next worst thing to the Palace of Truth. Poor Sholto did not
stand the ordeal. He was ridiculously distant in his manner to the rest
of the passengers, and in little matters at table and so forth he was
really just as selfish as he could be. He was impatient because I was
ill the first two days, and afterwards he seemed to think that I ought
not to speak to anyone but himself. The doctor, who was very attentive
to me, was his particular aversion; and it was on his account that we
had our first quarrel, the upshot of which was a scene between them,
which I overheard. One very fine day, when all the passengers were on
deck, Sholto met the doctor in the saloon, and offered him a guinea for
his attendance on me, telling him in the most offensively polite way
that I would not trouble him for any further services. The doctor
retorted very promptly and concisely; and though what he said was not
dignified, I sympathized with him, and took care to be very friendly
with him at dinner. (Meals take place on hoard ship at intervals of ten
minutes: it is horrifying to see the quantity of food the elderly people
consume.) To prevent further hostilities I took care to be always in the
way when the doctor encountered Sholto afterwards. I cannot imagine Ned
involving himself in such a paltry squabble. It is odd how things come
about. I used to take Sholto's genius for granted, and think a great
deal of it. In another sense, I used to take Ned's genius for granted,
and think nothing of it. Now I have found out in a single fortnight that
we saw all of Sholto that there was to be seen. His reserves of talent
existed only in our imagination. He has absolutely no sense of humor;
and he is always grumbling. Neither the servants, nor the food, nor the
rooms, nor the wine, satisfy him. Imagine how this comes home to me,
who, from not having heard grumbling for two years, had forgotten that
men ever were guilty of it. I flirted a little, a very little, with the
doctor; not because I meant anything serious, but because it amused me
and made the trip pleasant. Sholto will not understand this. One day, on
board, I was indiscreet enough to ask Sholto the use of a piece of
machinery belonging to the ship. Ned would have known, or, if he had
not, would very soon have found out. Sholto didnt know, and was weak
enough to pretend that he did; so he snubbed me by saying that I could
not understand it. This put me on my mettle; and I asked the surgeon
that afternoon about it. The surgeon didnt know, and said so; but he
appealed to the first officer, who explained it. I intended to revenge
myself on Sholto by retailing the explanation to him next day; but
unfortunately, whether through the first officer's want of perspicuity
or my own stupidity, I was not a bit the wiser for the explanation.

"I can tell you nothing as to what we are likely to do next. As Sholto
has given up all his prospects for me, I cannot honorably desert him. I
know now that I have ruined myself for nothing, and I must at least try
to hide from him that he has done likewise. I can see that he is not
happy; but he tries so desperately to persuade himself that he is, and
clings so to the idea that the world is well lost for me, that I have
not the heart to undeceive him. So we are still lovers; and, cynical
though it sounds, I make him a great deal happier in my insincerity than
I could if I really loved him, because I humor him with a cunning quite
incompatible with passion. He, on the other hand, being still sincere,
tries my patience terribly with his jealousies and importunities. As he
has nothing to do, he is almost always with me; and a man who has no
office to go to--I dont care who he is--is a trial of which you can have
no conception. So much for our present relations. But I fear--indeed I
know--that they will not last long. I dare not look steadily at the
future. In spite of all that he has sacrificed for me, I cannot live
forever with him. There are times at which he inspires me with such a
frenzy of aversion and disgust that I have to put the strongest
constraint upon myself to avoid betraying my feelings to him. We
intended going to the West Indies direct from here, in search of some
idyllic retreat where we could live alone together. He still entertains
this project; but as I have totally abandoned it I put him off with some
pretext for remaining here whenever he mentions it. I have only one hope
of gaining a separation without being open to the reproach of having
deserted him. You remember how we disputed that Saturday about the
merits of a grand passion, which I so foolishly longed for. Well, I have
tried it, and proved it to be a lamentable delusion, selfish,
obstinate, blind, intemperate, and transient. As it has evaporated from
me, so it will evaporate from Sholto in the course of time. It would
have done so already, but that his love was more genuine than mine. When
the time comes, he will get rid of me without the least remorse; and so
he will have no excuse for reviving his old complaints of my treachery.

"One new and very disagreeable feature in my existence, which I had
partly prepared myself for, is the fear of detection. We sailed before
our flight had become public; and as there was fortunately no one on
board who knew us, I had a nine days' respite, and could fearlessly
approach the other women, who, I suppose, would not have spoken to me
had they known the truth. But here it is different. Ned's patents are so
much more extensively worked here than in England, and the people are so
go-ahead, that they take a great interest in him, and are proud of him
as an American. The news got into the papers a few days after we
arrived. To appreciate the full significance of this, you should know
what American newspapers are. One of them actually printed a long
account of my going away, with every paragraph headed in large print,
'Domestic Unhappiness,' 'The Serpent in the Laboratory,' 'The
Temptation,' 'The Flight,' 'The Pursuit,' and so on, all invented, of
course. Other papers give the most outrageous anecdotes. Old jokes are
revived and ascribed to us. I am accused of tearing his hair out, and he
of coming home late at nights drunk. Two portraits of ferocious old
women supposed to be Ned's mother-in-law have been published. The latest
version appeared in a Sunday paper, and is quite popular in this hotel.
According to it, Ned was in the habit of 'devoting me to science' by
trying electrical experiments on me. 'This,' the account says, 'was kind
of rough on the poor woman.' The day before I 'scooted,' a new machine
appeared before the house, drawn by six horses. 'What are them men
foolin' round with, Mr. C.?' said I. 'That's hubby's latest,' replied
Ned. 'I guess it's the boss electro-dynamic fixin' in the universe.
Full charge that battery with a pint of washing soda, an' youll fetch up
a current fit to ravage a cont'nent. You shall have a try t'morro'
mornin', Sal. Youre better seasoned to it than most Britishers; but if
it dont straighten your hair and lift the sparks outer your
eyelashes--!' 'You bet it wont, Mr. C.,' said I. That night (this is
only what the paper says, mind) I stole out of bed; arranged the wires
on each side of Ned so that if he stirred an inch he would make contact;
charged the battery; and gently woke him, saying, 'Mr. C, love, dont
stir for your life. Them things that's ticklin' your whiskers is the
conductors of that boss fixin' o' yourn. If I was you, I'd lie still
until the battery runs down.' 'Darn it all,' said Ned, afraid to lift
his lips for a shout, and coming out in cold water all over the
forehead, 'it wont run down for a week clear.' 'That'll answer me
nicely,' I replied. 'Good-bye, Mr. C. Young Douglas from the corner
grocery is waitin' for me with a shay down the avenue.' I cannot help
laughing at these things, but they drive Sholto frantic. He is always
described in them as a young man from some shop or other. He tries hard,
out of delicacy, to keep the papers which contain them away from me; but
I hear about them at breakfast, and buy them downstairs in the hall for
myself. Another grievance of Sholto's is that I will not have meals
privately. But my dislike to being always alone with him is greater than
my dread that my secret will leak out, and that some morning I shall see
in the people's faces that the Mrs. Forster who has so often been
regaled with the latest account of the great scandal, is no other than
the famous Mrs. Conolly. That evil day will come, sooner or later; but I
had rather face it in one of these wonderful hotels than in a
boarding-house, which I might be asked to leave. As to taking a house of
our own, I shrink from any such permanent arrangement. We are noticed a
good deal. Sholto is, of course, handsome and distinguished; and people
take a fancy to me just as they used to long ago. I was once proud of
this; but now it is a burden to me. For instance, there was a Mrs.
Crawford staying here with her husband, a general, who has just built a
house here. She was so determined to know me that I found it hard to
keep her off without offending her. At last she got ill; and then I felt
justified in nursing her. Sholto was very sulky because I did so, and
wanted to know what business it was of mine. I did not trouble myself
about his anger, and Mrs. Crawford was well in two days. In fact, I
think Sholto was right in saying that she had only overeaten herself.
After that I could avoid her no longer, and she was exceedingly kind to
me. She wanted to introduce me to all her New York friends, and begged
me to leave the hotel and go to her new mansion. There was plenty of
room for us, she said. I did not know what to say. I could not repay her
kindness by going to her house under false colors, and letting her
introduce me to her circle; and yet I could make no reasonable excuse.
At last, seeing that she attributed my refusals to pride, I told her
plainly that if her friends were to learn my history by any accident
they might not thank her for the introduction. She was quite confounded;
but she did not abate her kindness in the least, although my reservation
of confidence in only giving her a hint of the truth, checked her
advances. You may think this an insane indiscretion on my part; but if
you knew how often I have longed to stand up before everybody and
proclaim who I am, and so get rid of the incubus of a perpetual
falsehood, you would not be so much surprised. There is one unspeakable
blessing in American law. It is quite easy to obtain a divorce. One can
get free without sacrificing everything except bare existence. I do not
care what anybody may argue to the contrary, our marriage laws are
shameful.

"I shall expect to hear from you very soon. If you desert me, Nelly,
there is no such thing as friendship in the world. I want particularly
to know what Ned did--as far as you know--when he heard the news. Is
papa very angry? And, above all, could you find out how Mrs. Douglas is?
I thought that Sholto would be uneasy and remorseful about her; but he
does not really care half so much as I do. How selfish I have been! I
used to flatter myself that I was thoughtful for others because I made a
habit--a detestably self-conscious habit--of being considerate in
trifles. And in the end, after being so vain-gloriously attentive to the
momentary comfort of all connected with me, I utterly forgot them and
thought only of myself when their whole happiness was concerned. I never
knew how high I stood in my own estimation until I found how far the
discovery of my folly and selfishness made me fall. Tell me everything".
I cannot write any more now. My eyes are smarting: I feel as if I had
been writing for a whole month instead of two days. Good-bye for three
weeks.

"MARIAN."

"P.S. I have just learnt from a very severe criticism in one of the
papers that Mdlle. Lalage Virtue has failed here completely. I fear from
the wording that her unfortunate habit was apparent to the audience."




CHAPTER XIX


On a cold afternoon in January, Sholto Douglas entered a hold in New
York, and ascended to a room on the first floor. Marian was sitting
there, thinking, with a letter in her lap, She only looked up for a
moment when he entered; and he plucked off his sealskin gloves and threw
aside his overcoat in silence.

"It is an infernal day," he said presently.

Marian sighed, and roused herself. "The rooms look cheerless in winter
without the open fireplaces we are accustomed to in England."

"Damn the rooms!" he muttered.

Marian took up her letter again.

"Do you know that he has filed a petition for divorce?" he said,
aggressively.

"Yes."

"You might have mentioned it to me. Probably you have known it for days
past."

"Yes. I thought it was a matter of course."

"Or rather you did not think at nil. I suppose you would have left me in
ignorance forever, if I had not heard from London myself."

"Is it of importance, then?"

"Certainly it is--of vital importance."

"Have you any other news? From whom have you heard?"

"I have received some private letters."

"Oh! I beg your pardon."

Five minutes passed in silence. He looked out of the window, frowning.
She sat as before.

"How much longer do you intend to stay in this place?" he said, turning
upon her suddenly.

"In New York?"

"This is New York, I believe."

"I think we may as well stay here as anywhere else."

"Indeed! On what grounds have you arrived at that cheering conclusion?"

Marian shrugged her shoulders. "I dont know," she said.

"Nor do I. You do not seem happy here. At least, if you are, you fail to
communicate your state of mind to those about you."

"So it seems."

"What does that mean?"

"That you do not seem to be happy either."

"How in the devil's name can you expect me to be happy in this city? Do
you think it is pleasant to have no alternative to the society of
American men except that of a sulky woman?"

"Sholto!" said Marian, rising quickly, and looking at him in surprise.

"Spare me these airs," he said, coldly. "You will have to accustom
yourself to hear the truth occasionally."

She sat down again. "I am not giving myself airs," she said, earnestly.
"I am astonished. Have I really been sulky?"

"You have been in the sulks for days past: and you are in them at this
moment."

"There is some misunderstanding between us then; for you have seemed to
me quite cross and out of sorts for the last week; and I thought you
were out of temper when you came in just now."

"That is rather an old-fashioned retort."

"Sholto: I do not know whether you intend it or not; but you are
speaking very slightingly to me."

He muttered something, and walked across the room and back. "I am quite
clear on one point at least," he said. "It was not for this sort of
thing that I crossed the Atlantic with you; and you had bettor make our
relations more agreeable if you wish me to make them permanent."

"You to make them permanent? I do not understand."

"I shall not shrink from explaining myself. If your husband's suit is
undefended, he will obtain a decree which will leave you a single woman
in six months. Now, whatever you may think to the contrary, there is not
a club in London that would hold me in any way bound to marry you after
the manner in which you have behaved. Let me remind you that your future
position depends on your present conduct. You have apparently forgotten
it."

She looked at him; and he went back to the window.

"My husband's suit cannot be defended," she said. "Doubtless you will
act according to the dictates of the London clubs."

"I do not say so," he said, turning angrily. "I shall act according to
the dictates of my own common sense. And do not be too sure that the
petition will be unopposed. The law recognizes the plea of connivance."

"But it would be a false plea," said Marian, raising her voice.

"I shall not discuss that with you. Whether your husband was blind, or
merely kept his eyes shut will not be decided by us. You have been
warned. We will drop the subject now, if you please."

"Do you suppose," said Marian, with a bright color in her cheeks, "that
after what you have said, anything could induce me to marry you?"

He was startled, and remained for a moment motionless. Then he said, in
his usual cold tone, "As you please. You may think better of it. I will
leave you for the present. When we meet again, you will be calmer."

"Yes," she said. "Good-bye."

Without answering, he changed his coat for a silk jacket, transferred
his cigar-case to a pocket in it, and went out. When he had passed the
threshold, he hesitated, and returned.

"Why do you say good-bye?" he said, after clearing his throat uneasily.

"I do not like to leave you without saying it."

"I hope you have not misunderstood me, Marian. I did not mean that we
should part."

"I know that. Nevertheless, we shall part. I will never sleep beneath
the same roof with you again."

"Come!" he said, shutting the door: "this is nonsense. You are out of
temper."

"So you have already told me," she said, becoming pale.

"Well, but--Marian: perhaps I may have spoken rather harshly just now;
but I did not mean you to take it so. You must be reasonable."

"Pray let us have no more words about it. I need no apologies, and
desire no advances. Good-bye is enough."

"But, Marian," said he, coming nearer, "you must not fancy that I have
ceased to love you."

"Above all," said Marian, "let us have no more of that. You say you hate
this place and the life we lead here. I am heartily sick of it, and have
been so for a long time."

"Let us go elsewhere."

"Yes, but not together. One word," she added resolutely, seeing his
expression become fierce. "I will not endure any violence, even of
language, from you. I know of old what you are when you lose your
temper; and if you insult me I will summon aid, and proclaim who I am."

"Do you think I am going to strike you?"

"No, because you dare not. But I will not listen to oaths or abuse."

"What have you to complain of? What is your grievance?"

"I make no complaint. I exercise the liberty I bought so dearly to go
where I please and do what I please."

"And to desert me when I have sacrificed everything for you. I have
incurred enormous expenses; alienated my friends; risked my position in
society; and broken my mother's heart for your sake."

"But for that I would have left you before. I am very sorry."

"You have heard something in that letter which makes you hope that your
husband will take you back. Not a woman in London will speak to you."

"I tell you I am not going back. Oh, Sholto, dont be so mean. Can we not
part with dignity? We have made a mistake. Let us acknowledge it
quietly, and go our several ways."

"I will not be got rid of so easily as you suppose," he said, his face
darkening menacingly. "Do you think I believe in your going out alone
from this hotel and living by yourself in a strange city? Come! who is
it?"

"Who is----? What do you mean?"

"What new connexion have you formed? You were very anxious about our
ship returning the other day--anxious about the mails, of course.
Perhaps also about the surgeon."

"I understand. You think I am leaving you to go to some other man. I
will tell you now the true reason."

"Do," said he, sarcastically, biting his lip.

"I will. I am leaving you because, instead of loving you, as I foolishly
thought I could, I neither respect nor even like you. You are utterly
selfish and narrow-minded; and I deserve my disappointment for having
deserted for your sake a far better man. I am sorry you have sacrificed
so much for me; but if you had been worthy of a woman's regard, you
would not have lost me."

Douglas stared at her. "_I_ selfish and narrow-minded!" he said, with
the calm of stupefaction.

"Yes."

"I may have been narrow-minded in devoting myself so entirely to you,"
said he slowly, after a pause. "But, though I do not ask for gratitude,
I think I have been sufficiently a loser to disregard such a monstrous
assertion as that I am selfish."

"You show your selfishness by dwelling on what you have lost. You never
think of what I have lost. I make no profession of unselfishness. I am
suffering for my folly and egoism; and I deserve to suffer."

"In what way, pray, are you suffering? You came here because you had a
wretched home, and a husband who was glad to be rid of you. You do what
you like, and have what you like. Name one solitary wish of yours that
has not been silently gratified."

"I do not find fault with you. You have been generous in supplying me
with luxuries such as money can obtain. But it was not the want of money
that made me fancy my home wretched. It is not true that I can do as I
like. How many minutes is it since you threatened to cast me off if I
did not make myself agreeable to you? Can you boast of your generosity
after taunting me with my dependence on you?"

"You misunderstood me, Marian. I neither boasted, nor threatened, nor
taunted. I have even apologized for that moment's irritation. If you
cannot forgive such a trifle, you yourself can have very little
generosity."

"Perhaps not. I do not violently resent things; but I cannot forget
them, nor feel as I did before they happened."

"You think so at present. Let us cease this bickering. Lovers' quarrels
should not be carried too far."

"I am longing to cease it. It worries me; and it does not alter my
determination in the least."

"Do you mean----"

"I do mean. Dont look at me like that: you make me angry instead of
frightening me."

"And do you think I will suffer this quietly?"

"You may suffer it as you please," said Marian, stepping quietly to the
wall, and pressing a button. "I will never see you again if I can help
it. If you follow me, or persecute me in any way, I will appeal to the
police for protection as Mrs. Conolly. I despise you more than I do any
one on earth."

He turned away, and snatched up his coat and hat. She stood apparently
watching him quietly, but really listening with quickened heart to his
loud and irregular breathing. As he opened the door to go out, he was
confronted on the threshold by a foreign waiter.

"Vas you reeng?" said the waiter doubtfully, retreating a step.

"I will not be accountable for that woman's expenses from this time
forth," said Douglas, pointing at her, "You can keep her at your own
risk, or turn her into the streets to pursue her profession, as you
please."

The waiter, smiting vaguely, looked first at the retreating figure of
Douglas, and then at Marian.

"I want another room, if you please," she said. "One on any of the upper
floors will do; but I must have my things moved there at once."

Her instructions were carried out after some parley. In the meantime,
Douglas's man servant appeared, and said that he had been instructed to
remove his master's luggage.

"Is Mr. Forster leaving the hotel?" she asked.

"I dont know his arrangements, madam."

"I guess I do, then," said a sulky man, who was preparing to wheel away
Marian's trunk. "He's about to shift his billet to the Gran' Central."

Marian, still in a towering rage, sat down in her new room to consider
her situation. To fix her attention, which repeatedly wandered to what
had passed between her and Douglas, she counted her money, and found
that she had, besides a twenty pound note which she had brought with her
from London, only a few loose dollars in her purse. Her practice in
housekeeping at Westbourne Terrace and Holland Park had taught her the
value of money too well to let her suppose that she could afford to
remain at a first rate American hotel with so small a sum in her
possession. At home Conolly had made her keep a separate banking
account; and there was money to her credit there; but in her ignorance
of the law, she was not sure that she had not forfeited all her property
by eloping. She resolved to move at once into some cheap lodging, and to
live economically until she could ascertain the true state of her
affairs, or until she could obtain some employment, to support her. She
faced poverty without fear, never having experienced it.

It was still early in the afternoon when she left the hotel and drove to
the Crawfords'.

"So you have come at last," cried Mrs. Crawford, who was fifty years of
age and stout, but leaner in the face than fat Englishwomen of that age
usually are.

"I just expected you'd soon git tired of being grand all by yourself in
the hotel yonder."

"I fear I shall have to be the reverse of grand all by myself in some
very shabby lodging," said Marian. "Dont be surprised Mrs. Crawford. Can
one live in New York on ten dollars a week?"

"_You_ cant live on ten dollars a week in New York nor on a hundred. You
rode here, didnt you?"

"Yes, of course."

"Of course. If you have only ten dollars a week you should have walked.
I know the sort you are, Mrs. Forster. You wont be long getting rid of
your money, no matter where you live. But whats wrong? Hows your
husband?"

"I dont know. I hope he is quite well," said Marian, her voice trembling
a little. "Mrs. Crawford: you are the only friend I have in America;
and you have been so very kind to me that since I must trouble some one,
I have ventured to come to you. The truth is that I have left my
husband; and I have only about one hundred dollars in the world. I must
live on that until I get some employment, or perhaps some money of my
own from England."

"Chut, child! Nawnsnse!" exclaimed Mrs. Crawford, with benevolent
intolerance. "You go right back to your husband. I spose youve had a
rumpus with him; but you mustnt mind that. All men are a bit selfish;
and I should say from what I have seen of him that he is no exception to
the rule. But you cant have perfection. He's a fine handsome fellow; and
he knows it. And, as for you, I dont know what they reckon you in
England; but youre the best-looking woman in Noo York: thats surtn. It's
a pity for such a pair to fall out."

"He is not selfish," said Marian. "You never saw him. I am afraid I must
shock you, Mrs. Crawford. Mr. Forster is not my husband."

"No! Do! Did you ever tell the General that?"

"General Crawford! Oh, no."

"Think of that man being cuter than me, a woman! He always said so. And
the grit you must have, to tell it out as cool as that! Well! I'm sorry
to hear it though, Mrs. Forster. It's a bad account--a very bad one. But
if I take what you said just now rightly, youre married."

"I am. I have deserted a very good husband."

"It's a pity you didnt find that out a little sooner, isnt it?"

"I know, Mrs. Crawford. I thought I was acting for the best."

"Thought you were acting for the best in running away from a good
husband! Well, you British aristocrats are singular. You throw stones at
us because our women are so free and our divorces so easy. Yet youre
always scandlizing us; and now _you_ tell me youve done it on morl
grounds! Who educated you, child? And what do you intend to do now?"

"For the present, only to get a lodging. Will you tell me where I should
look for one? I dont know the east from the west end of this town; and I
am so inexperienced that I might make a mistake easily as to the
character of the places. Will you direct me to some street or quarter in
which I should he likely to find suitable rooms? I can live very
economically."

"I dont know what to do," said Mrs. Crawford, perplexedly, turning her
rings on her fingers. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. And you so
pretty!"

"Perhaps you would rather not assist me. You may tell me so candidly. I
shall not be offended."

"You mustnt take me up like that. I must have a talk with the General
about you. I dont feel like letting you go into some ordinary place by
yourself. But I cant ask you to stay here without consulting----"

"Oh, no, you must not think of any such thing: I must begin to face the
world alone at once. I assure you, Mrs. Crawford, I could not come here.
I should only keep your friends away."

"But nobody knows you."

"Sooner or later I should meet someone who does. There are hundreds of
people who know me by sight, who travel every year. Besides, my case is
a very public one, unfortunately. May I take you into my confidence?"

"If you wish, my dear. I dont ask you for it; but I will take it
kindly."

"I know you will. You must have heard all about me. Mr. Forster's real
name is Douglas."

Mrs. Crawford stifled a whoop of surprise. "And you! Are you----?"

"I am."

"Only think! And that was Douglas! Why, I thought he was a
straight-haired, sleeky, canting snake of a man. And you too are not a
bit like what I thought. You are quite a person, Mrs.--Mrs. Conolly."

"I have no right to bear that name any longer. Pray call me by my
assumed name still, and keep my secret. I hope you do not believe all
the newspapers said?"

"No, of course not," said Mrs. Crawford. "But whose fault was it?"

"Mine. Altogether mine. I wish you would tell people that Mr. Conolly is
blameless in the matter."

"He will take care of his own credit, never fear. I am sure you got some
provocation: I know what men are. The General is not my first husband."

"No, I got no provocation. Mr. Conolly is not like other men. I got
discontented because I had nothing to desire. And now, about the
lodgings, Mrs. Crawford. Do not think I am changing the subject from
reticence. It is the question of money that makes me anxious. All my
resources would be swallowed up at the hotel in less than a week."

"Lodgings? You mean rooms, I guess. People here mostly go to
boarding-houses. And as to the cheapness, you dont know what cheapness
is. Cant you make some arrangement with your great relations in England?
Have you no property of your own?"

"I cannot tell whether my property remains my own or not. You must
regard me as a poor woman. I am quite determined to have the lodgings;
and I should like to arrange about them at once; for I am rather upset
by something that happened this morning."

"Well, if you must, you must, I know a place that might suit you: I
lived in it myself when I was not so well off as I am at present. It is
a little down-town; but you will have to put up with that for the sake
of economy."

Mrs. Crawford, who had read in the papers of her guest's relationship to
the Earl of Carbury, then sent for her carriage, and dressed herself
handsomely. When they had gone some distance, they entered a wide
street, crossed half way along by an avenue and an elevated railway.

"What do you think of this neighborhood?" said Mrs. Crawford.

"It is a fine, wide street," replied Marian; "but it looks as if it
needed to be swept and painted."

"The other end is quieter. I'm afraid you wont like living here."

Marian had hitherto thought of such streets as thoroughfares, not as
places in which she could dwell. "Beggars cannot be choosers," she said,
with affected cheerfulness, looking anxiously ahead for the promised
quiet part.

"Boarding-houses are so much the rule here, that it is not easy to get
rooms. You will find Mrs. Myers a good soul, and though the house is not
much to look at, it is comfortable enough inside."

The appearance of the street improved as they went on; and the house
they stopped at, though the windows were dingy and the paint old, was
better than Marian had hoped for a minute before. She remained in the
carriage whilst her companion conferred with the landlady within. Twenty
minutes passed before Mrs. Crawford reappeared, looking much perplexed.

"Mrs. Myers has a couple of rooms that would do you very well; only you
would be on the same floor with a woman who is always drunk. She has
pawned a heap of clothes, and promises to leave every day; but Mrs.
Myers hasnt got rid of her yet. It's very provoking. She's quiet, and
doesnt trouble any one; but still, of course----"

"She cannot interfere with me," said Marian. "If that is the only
objection, let it pass. I need have nothing to say to her. If she is not
violent nor noisy, her habits are her own affair."

"Oh, she wont trouble you. You can keep to yourself, English fashion."

"Then let us agree at once. I cannot face any more searching and
bargaining."

"Youre looking pale. Are you sure you are not ill?"

"No. It is nothing. I am rather tired."

They went in together; and Marian was introduced to Mrs. Myers, a
nervous widow of fifty. The rooms were small, and the furniture and
carpets old and worn; but all was clean; and there was an open fireplace
in the sitting-room.

"They will do very nicely, thank you," said Marian. "I will send for my
luggage; and I think I will just telegraph my new address and a few
words to a friend in London."

"If you feel played out, I can see after your luggage," said Mrs.
Crawford. "But I advise you to come back with me; have a good lunch at
Delmonico's; and send your cablegram yourself."

Marian roused herself from a lassitude which was coming upon her, and
took Mrs. Crawford's advice. When they returned to the richer quarter of
the town, and especially after luncheon, her spirits revived. At the
hotel she observed that the clerk was surprised when, arranging for the
removal of her luggage and the forwarding of her letters, she mentioned
her new address. Douglas, she found, had paid all expenses before
leaving. She did not linger in the building; for the hotel staff stared
at her curiously. She finished her business by telegraphing to Elinor:
"_Separated. Write to new address. Have I forfeited my money?_" This
cost her nearly five dollars.

"Only that you must find out about your money, I wouldnt have let you
spend all that," said Mrs. Crawford.

"I did not think it would have cost so much," said Marian. "I was
horrified when he named the price. However, it cannot be helped."

"We may as well be getting back to Mrs. Myers's now. It's late."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Marian, sighing. "I am sorry I did not ask
Nelly to telegraph me. I am afraid my funds will not last so long as I
thought."

"Well, we shall see. The General was greatly taken with you for the way
you looked after me when I was ill yonder; so you have two friends in
Noo York City, at any rate."

"You have proved that to me to-day. I am afraid I shall have to trouble
you further if I get bad news. You will have to help me to find some
work."

"Yes. Never mind that until the bad news comes. I hope you wont mope at
Mrs. Myers's. How does the American air agree with you?"

"Pretty well. I was sick for the first two days of our passage across,
and somehow my digestion seems to have got out of order in consequence.
Of late I have been a little unwell in the mornings."

"Oh! Thats so, is it? Humph! I see I shall have to come and look after
you occasionally."

"Why?"

"Never you mind, my dear. But dont go moping, nor going without food to
save money. Take care of yourself."

"It is nothing serious," said Marian, with a smile. "Only a passing
indisposition. You need not be uneasy about me. This is the house, is it
not? I shall lose myself whenever I go out for a walk here."

"This is it. Now good-bye. I'll see you soon. Meanwhile, you take care
of yourself, as youre told."

It was dark when Marian entered her new residence. Mrs. Myers was
standing at the open door, remonstrating with a milkman. Marian hastily
assured her that she knew the way, and went upstairs alone. She was
chilled and weary; her spirits had fallen again during her journey from
the telegraph office. As she approached her room, hoping to find a good
fire, she heard a flapping noise, which was suddenly interrupted by the
rattle of a falling poker, followed by the exclamation, in a woman's
voice, "Och, musha, I wouldnt doubt you." Marian, entering, saw a robust
young woman kneeling before the grate, trying to improve a dull fire
that burnt there. She had taken up the poker and placed it standing
against the bars so that it pointed up the chimney; and she was now
using her apron fanwise as a bellows. The fire glowed in the draught;
and Marian, by its light, noted with displeasure that the young woman's
calico dress was soiled, and her hair untidy.

"I think----"

"God bless us!" ejaculated the servant, starting and turning a comely
dirty face toward Marian.

"Did I frighten you?" said Marian, herself startled by the exclamation.

"You put the life acrass in me," said the servant, panting, and pressing
her hand on her bosom.

"I am sorry for that. I was going to say that I think you need not take
any further trouble with the fire. It will light of itself now."

"Very well, miss."

"What is your name?"

"Liza Redmon', miss."

"I should like some light, Eliza, if you please."

"Yis, miss. Would you wish to take your tay now, miss?"

"Yes, thank you."

Eliza went away with alacrity. Marian put off her bonnet and furs, and
sat down before the fire to despond over the prospect of living in that
shabby room, waited on by that slipshod Irish girl, who roused in her
something very like racial antipathy. Presently Eliza returned, carrying
a small tray, upon which she had crowded a lighted kerosene lamp, a
china tea service, a rolled-up table cloth, a supply of bread and
butter, and a copper kettle. When she had placed the lamp on the
mantelpiece, and the kettle by the fire, she put the tray on the sofa,
and proceeded to lay the cloth, which she shook from its folds and
spread like a sail in the air by seizing two of the corners in her
hands, and pulling them apart whilst she held the middle fold in her
teeth. Then she adroitly wafted it over the table, making a breeze in
which the lamp flared and Marian blinked. Her movements were very rapid;
and in a few moments she had arranged the tea service, and was ready to
withdraw.

"My luggage will be sent here this evening or to-morrow, Eliza. Will you
tell me when it comes?"

"Yis, miss."

"You know that my name is _Mrs_. Forster, do you not?"

"Mrs. Forster. Yis, miss."

Marian made no further attempt to get miss changed to maam; and Eliza
left the room. As she crossed the landing, she was called by someone on
the same floor. Marian started at the sound. It was a woman's voice,
disagreeably husky: a voice she felt sure she had heard before, and yet
one that was not familiar to her.

"Eliza. Eli-za!" Marian shuddered.

"Yis, yis," said Eliza, impatiently, opening a door.

"Come here, alanna," said the voice, with mock fondness. The door was
then closed, and Marian could hear the murmur of the conversation which
followed. It was still proceeding when Mrs. Myers came in.

"I didnt ought to have left you to find your way up here alone, Mrs.
Forster," she said; "but I do have such worry sometimes that I'm bound
to leave either one thing or another undone."

"It does not matter at all, Mrs. Myers. Your servant has been very
attentive to me."

"The hired girl? She's smart, she is--does everything right slick away.
The only trouble is to keep her out of that room. She's in there now.
Unless I am always after her, she is slipping out on errands, pawning
and buying drink for that unfortunate young creature."

"For whom?"

"A person that Mrs. Crawford promised to tell you about."

"So she did," said Marian. "But I did not know she was young."

"She's older than you, a deal. I knew her when she was a little girl,
and I often forget how old she is. She was the prettiest child! Even now
she would talk you into anything. But I cant help her. It's nothing but
drink, drink, drink from morning til night. There's Eliza coming out of
her room. Eliza."

"Yis, maam," said Eliza, looking in.

"You stay in the house, Eliza, do you hear? I wont have you go out."

"Could I spake a word to you, maam?" said Eliza, lowering her voice.

"No, Eliza. I'm engaged with Mrs. Forster."

"She wants to see you," whispered Eliza.

"Go downrs, Eliza, this minute. I wont see her."

"Mrs. Myers," cried the voice. Marian again shrank from the sound. "Mrs.
My-ers. Aunt Sally. Come to your poor Soozy." Mrs. Myers looked
perplexedly at Marian. The voice resumed after a pause, with an affected
Yankee accent, "I guess I'll raise a shine if you dont come."

"I must go," said Mrs. Myers. "I promise you, Mrs. Forster, she shall
not annoy you. She shall go this week. It aint right that you should be
disturbed by her."

Mrs. Myers went into the other room. Eliza ran downrs, and Marian
heard her open the house door softly and go out. She also heard
indistinctly the voices of the landlady and her lodger. After a time
these ceased, and she drank her tea in peace. She was glad that Mrs.
Myers did not return, although she made no more comfortable use of her
solitude than to think of her lost home in Holland Park, comparing it
with her dingy apartment, and pressing her handkerchief upon her eyes
when they became too full of tears. She had passed more than an hour
thus when Eliza roused her by announcing the arrival of the luggage.
Thereupon she bestirred herself to superintend its removal to her
bedroom, where she unpacked a trunk which contained her writing-case and
some books. With these were stowed her dresses, much miscellaneous
finery, and some handsomely worked underclothing. Eliza, standing by,
could not contain her admiration; and Marian, though she did not permit
her to handle the clothes, had not the heart to send her away until she
had seen all that the trunk contained. Marian heard her voice afterward
in the apartment of the drunken lodger, and suspected from its emphasis
that the girl was describing the rare things she had seen.

Marian imparted some interest to her surroundings that evening by
describing them in a letter to Elinor. When she had finished, she was
weary; and the fire was nearly out. She looked at her watch, and,
finding to her surprise that is was two hours after midnight, rose to go
to bed. Before leaving the room, she stood for a minute before the
old-fashioned pier-glass, with one foot on the fender, and looked at her
image, pitying her own weariness, and enjoying the soft beauty of her
face and the gentleness of her expression. Her appearance did not always
please her; but on this occasion the mirror added so much to the solace
she had found in writing to Elinor, that she felt almost happy as she
took the lamp to light her to her bedroom.

She had gone no farther than the landing when a sound of unsteady
footsteps on the stairs caused her to stop. As she lifted the lamp and
looked up, she saw a strange woman descending toward her, holding the
balustrade, and moving as though with pains in her limbs. This woman,
whose black hair fell nearly to her waist, was dressed in a crimson
satin dressing-gown, warmly padded, and much stained and splashed. She
had fine dark eyes, and was young, bold-looking, and handsome; but when
she came nearer, the moist pallor of her skin, the slackness of her
lower lip and jaw, and an eager and worn expression in her fine eyes,
gave her a thirsty, reckless leer that filled Marian with loathing. Her
aspect conveyed the same painful suggestion as her voice had done
before, but more definitely; for it struck Marian, with a shock, that
Conolly, in the grotesque metamorphosis of a nightmare, might appear in
some such likeness. The lamp did not seem to attract her attention at
first; but when she came within a few steps, she saw some one before
her, and, dazzled by the light, peered at Marian, who lost her presence
of mind, and stood motionless. Gradually the woman's expression changed
to one of astonishment. She came down to the landing; stopped, grasping
the handrail to steady herself; and said in her husky voice:

"Oh, Lord! It's not a woman at all. It's D. Ts." Then, not quite
convinced by this explanation, she suddenly stretched out her hand and
attempted to grasp Marian's arm. Missing her aim, she touched her on the
breast, and immediately cried, "Mrs. Ned!"

Marian shrank from her touch, and recovered her courage.

"Do you know me?" she said.

"I should rather think I do. I have gone off a good deal in my
appearance, or you would know me. Youve seen me on the stage, I suppose.
I'm your sister-in-law. Perhaps you didnt know you had one."

"Are you Miss Susanna Conolly?"

"Thats who I am. At least I am what is left of Miss Susanna. You dont
look overjoyed to make my acquaintance; but I was as good-looking as you
once. Take my advice, Mrs. Ned: dont drink champagne. The end of
champagne is brandy; and the end of brandy is----" Susanna made a
grimace and indicated herself.

"I am afraid we shall disturb the house if we talk here. We had better
say good-night."

"No, no. Dont be in such a hurry to get rid of me. Come into my room
with me for a while. I'll talk quietly: I'm not drunk. Ive just slept it
off; and I was coming down for some more. You may as well keep me from
it for a few minutes. I suppose Ned hasnt forbidden you to speak to me."

"Oh, no," said Marian, yielding to a feeling of pity. "Come into my
room. There is a scrap of fire there still."

"We used to lodge in this room long ago, in my father's time," said
Susanna, following Marian into the room, and reclining with a groan on
the sofa. "I'm rather in a fog, you know: I cant make out how the deuce
you come to be here. Did Ned send you to look after me? Is he in New
York? Is he here?"

"No," said Marian, foreseeing with a bitter pang and a terrible blush
what must follow. "He is in England. I am alone here."

"Well, why--? what--? I dont understand."

"Have you not read the papers?" said Marian, in a low voice, turning her
head away.

"Papers! No, not since I saw an account of my brilliant _debut_ here, of
which I suppose you have heard. I never read: I do nothing but drink.
What has happened?"

Marian hesitated.

"Is it any secret?" said Susanna.

"No, it is no secret," said Marian, turning, and looking at her
steadily. "All the world knows it. I have left your brother; and I do
not know whether I am still his wife, or whether I am already divorced."

"You dont mean to say youre on the loose!" cried Susanna.

Marian was silent.

"I always told Ned that no woman could stand him," said Susanna, with
sodden vivacity, after a pause, during which Marian had to endure her
astonished stare. "He always thought you the very pink of propriety. Of
course, there was another man in it. Whats become of him, if I may ask?"

"I have left him," said Marian, sternly. "You need impute no fault to
your brother in the matter, Miss Conolly. He is quite blameless."

"Yes," said Susanna, not in the least impressed, "he always is
blameless. How is Bob? I mean Marmaduke, your cousin. I call him Bob,
short for Cherry Bob."

"He is very well, thank you."

"Now, Bob was not a blameless man, but altogether the reverse; and he
was a capital fellow to get on with. Ned was always right, always sure
of himself; and there was an end. He has no variety. I wonder will Bob
ever get married?"

"He is going to be married in the spring."

"Who to?"

"To Lady Constance Car----"

"Damn that woman!" exclaimed Susanna. "I hate her. She was always
throwing herself at his head. Curse her! Damn her! I wish----"

"Miss Conolly," said Marian: "I hope you will not think me rude; but I
am very tired, and it is very late. I must go to bed."

"Well, will you come and see me to-morrow? It will be an act of charity.
I am dying here all alone. You are a nice woman, and I know what you
must feel about me; but you will get used to me. I wont annoy you. I
wont swear. I wont say anything about your cousin. I'll keep sober. Do
come. You are a good sort: Bob always said so; and you might save me
from destroying myself. Say youll come."

"If you particularly wish it, I will," said Marian, not disguising her
reluctance.

"Youd rather not, of course," said Susanna, despondently.

"I am afraid I cannot be of any use to you."

"For that matter, no one is likely to be of much use to me. But it's
hard to be imprisoned in this den without anyone to speak to but Eliza.
However, do as you please. I did as I pleased; and I must take the
consequences. Just tell me one thing. Did you find me out by accident?"

"Quite."

"That was odd." Susanna groaned again as she rose from the sofa. "Well,
since you wont have anything to do with me, good-bye. Youre quite
right."

"I will come and see you. I do not wish to avoid you if you are in
trouble."

"Do," said Susanna, eagerly, touching Marian's hand with her moist palm.
"We'll get on better than you think. I like you, and I'll make you like
me. If I could only keep from it for two days, I shouldnt be a bit
disgusting. Good-night."

"Good-night," said Marian, overcoming her repugnance to Susanna's hand,
and clasping it. "Remember that my name here is Mrs. Forster."

"All right. Good-night. Thank you. You will never be sorry for having
compassion on me."

"Wont you take a light?"

"I dont require one. I can find what I want in the dark."

She went into her apartment. Marian went quickly up to her own bedroom
and locked herself in. Her first loathing for Susanna had partly given
way to pity; but the humiliation of confessing herself to such a woman
as an unfaithful wife was galling. When she went to sleep she dreamed
that she was unmarried and at home with her father, and that the
household was troubled by Susanna, who lodged in a room upstairs.




CHAPTER XX


Sholto Douglas returned to England in the ship which carried Marian's
letter to Elinor. On reaching London he stayed a night in the hotel at
Euston, and sent his man next day to take rooms for him at the West End.
Early in the afternoon the man reported that he had secured apartments
in Charles Street, St. James's. It was a fine wintry day, and Douglas
resolved to walk, not without a sense of being about to run the
gauntlet.

It proved the most adventurous walk he had ever taken in his life.
Everybody he knew seemed to be lying in wait for him. In Portland Place
he met Miss McQuinch, who, with the letter fresh in her pocket, looked
at him indignantly, and cut him. At the Laugham Hotel he passed a member
of his club, who seemed surprised, but nodded coolly. In Regent Street
he saw Lady Carbury's carriage waiting before a shop. He hurried past
the door, for he had lost courage at his encounter with Elinor. There
were, however, two doors; and as he passed the second, the Countess,
Lady Constance, and Marmaduke came out just before him.

"Where the devil is the carriage?" said Marmaduke, loudly.

"Hush! Everybody can hear you," said Lady Constance.

"What do I care whether--Hal-lo! Douglas! How are you?"

Marmaduke proffered his hand. Lady Carbury plucked her daughter by the
sleeve and hurried to her carriage, after returning Douglas's stern look
with the slightest possible bow. Constance imitated her mother. Douglas
haughtily raised his hat.

"How obstinate Marmaduke is!" said the Countess, when she had bidden the
coachman drive away at once. "He is going to walk down Regent Street
with that man."

"But you didnt cut him, mamma."

"I never dreamed of his coming back so soon; and, of course, I cannot
tell whether he will be cut or not. We must wait and see what other
people will do. If we meet him again we had better not see him."

"Look here, old fellow," said Marmaduke, as he walked away with Douglas.
"Youve come back too soon. It wont do. Take my advice and go away again
until matters have blown over. Hang it, it's too flagrant! You have not
been away two months."

"I believe you are going to be married," said Douglas. "Allow me to
congratulate you."

"Thank you. Fine day, isnt it?"

"Very fine."

Marmaduke walked on in silence. Douglas presently recommenced the
conversation.

"I only arrived in London last night. I have come from New York."

"Indeed. Pleasant voyage?"

"Very pleasant."

Another pause.

"Has anything special happened during my absence?"

"Nothing special."

"Was there much fuss made about my going?"

"Well, there was a great deal of fuss made about it. Excuse my alluding
to the subject again. I shouldnt have done so if you hadnt asked me."

"Oh, my dear fellow, you neednt stand on ceremony with me."

"That's all very well, Douglas; but when I alluded to it just now, you
as good as told me to mind my own business."

"I told you so!"

"Not in those words, perhaps. However, the matter is easily settled. You
bolted with Marian. I know that, and you know it. If the topic is
disagreeable, say so, and it is easily avoided. If you want to talk
about it, better not change the subject when I mention it."

"You have taken offence needlessly. I changed the subject
inadvertently."

"Hm! Well, has she come back with you?"

"No."

"Do you mean that youve thrown her over?"

"I have said nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, she has thrown me
over."

"Thats very strange. You are not going to marry her then, I suppose?"

"How can I? I tell you she has deserted me. Let me remind you, Lind,
that I should not be bound to marry her in any case, and I shall
certainly not do so now. If I chose to justify myself, I could easily do
so by her own conduct."

"I expect you will not be troubled for any justification. People seem to
have made up their minds that you were wrong in the first instance, and
you ought to keep out of the way until they have forgotten----Oh,
confound it, here's Conolly! Now, for God's sake, dont let us have any
row."

Douglas whitened, and took a step back into the roadway before he
recovered himself; for Conolly had come upon them suddenly as they
turned into Charles Street. A group of gentlemen stood on the steps of
the clubhouse which stands at that corner.

"Bless me!" said Conolly, with perfect good humor. "Douglas back again!
Why on earth did you run away with my wife? and what have you done with
her?"

The party on the steps ceased chatting and began to stare.

"This is not the place to call me to account, sir," said Douglas, still
on his guard, and very ill at ease. "If you have anything to say to me
which cannot be communicated through a friend, it had better be said in
private."

"I shall trouble you for a short conversation," said Conolly. "How do
you do, Lind? Where can we go? I do not belong to any club."

"My apartments are at hand," said Douglas.

"I suppose I had better leave you," said Marmaduke.

"Your presence will not embarrass me in the least," said Conolly.

"I have not sought this interview," said Douglas. "I therefore prefer
Mr. Lind to witness what passes."

Conolly nodded assent; and they went to a house on the doorstep of which
Douglas's man was waiting, and ascended to the front drawing-room.

"Now, sir," said Douglas, without inviting his guests to sit down.
Conolly alone took off his hat. Marmaduke went aside, and looked out of
the window.

"I know the circumstances that have led to your return," said Conolly;
"so we need not go into that. I want you, however, to assist me on one
point. Do you know what Marian's pecuniary position is at present?'

"I decline to admit that it concerns me in any way."

"Of course not. But it concerns me, as I do not wish that she should be
without money in a foreign city. She has telegraphed a question about
her property to Miss McQuinch. That by itself is nothing; but her new
address, which I first saw on a letter this morning, happens to be known
to me as that of a rather shabby lodging-house."

"I know nothing of it."

"I do: it means that she is poor. I can guess at the sum she carried
with her to America. Now, if you will be good enough to tell me whether
you have ever given her money; if so, how much; and what her expenditure
has been, you will enable me to estimate her position at present."

"I do not know that you have any right to ask such questions."

"I do not assert any right to ask them. On the contrary, I have
explained their object. I shall not press them, if you think that an
answer will in any way compromise you."

"I have no fear of being compromised. None whatever."

Conolly nodded, and waited for an answer.

"I may say that my late trip has cost me a considerable sum. I paid all
the expenses; and Miss--Mrs. Conolly did not, to my knowledge, disburse
a single fraction. She did not ask me to give her money. Had she done
so, I should have complied at once."

"Thank you. Thats all right: she will be able to hold out until she
hears from us. Good-afternoon."

"Allow me to add, sir, before you go," said Douglas, asserting himself
desperately against Conolly's absolutely sincere disregard of him and
preoccupation with Marian, "that Mrs. Conolly has been placed in her
present position entirely through her own conduct. I repudiate the
insinuation that I have deserted her in a foreign city; and I challenge
inquiry on the point."

"Quite so, quite so," assented Conolly, carelessly. "Good-bye, Lind."
And he took his hat and went out.

"By George!" said Marmaduke, admiringly, "he did that damned
well--_damned_ well. Look here, old man: take my advice and clear out
for another year or so. You cant stay here. As a looker-on, I see most
of the game; and thats my advice to you as a friend."

Douglas, whose face had reddened and reddened with successive rushes of
blood until it was now purple, lost all self-control at Marmaduke's
commiserating tone. "I will see whether I cannot put him in the wrong,"
he burst out, in the debased voice of an ignobly angry man. "Do you
think I will let him tell the world that I have been thrown over and
fooled?"

"Thats your own story, isnt it? At least, I understood you to say so as
we came along."

"Let him say so, and I'll thrash him like, a dog in the street.
I'll----"

"Whats the use of thrashing a man who will simply hand you over to the
police? and quite right, too! What rot!"

"We shall see. We shall see."

"Very well. Do as you like. You may twist one another's heads off for
what I care. He has had the satisfaction of putting you into a rage, at
all events."

"I am not in a rage."

"Very well. Have it your own way."

"Will you take a challenge to him from me?"

"No. I am not a born fool."

"That is plain speaking."

Marmaduke put his hands into his pockets, and whistled. "I think I will
take myself off," he said, presently.

"As you please," replied Douglas, coldly.

"I will look in on you some day next week, when you have cooled down a
bit. Good-bye."

Douglas said nothing, and Marmaduke, with a nod, went out. Some minutes
later the servant entered and said that Mr. Lind was below.

"What! Back again!" said Douglas, with an oath.

"No, sir. It's old Mr. Lind--Mr. Reginald."

"Did you say I was in?"

"The man belonging to the house did, sir."

"Confound his officiousness! I suppose he must come up."

Reginald Lind entered, and bowed. Douglas placed a chair for him, and
waited, mute, and a little put out. Mr. Lind's eyes and voice shewed
that he also was not at his ease; but his manner was courtly and his
expression grave, as Douglas had, in his boyhood, been accustomed to see
them.

"I am sorry, Sholto," said Mr. Lind, "that I cannot for the present meet
you with the cordiality which formerly existed between us. However
unbearable your disappointment at Marian's marriage may have been, you
should not have taken a reprehensible and desperate means of remedying
it. I speak to you now as an old friend--as one who knew you when the
disparity in our ages was more marked than it is at present."

Douglas bowed.

"I have just heard from Mr. Conolly--whom I met accidentally in Pall
Mall--that you have returned from America. He gave me no further account
of you, except that he had met you and spoken to you here. I hope
nothing unpleasant passed."

"The meeting was not a pleasant one. I shall take steps to make Mr.
Conolly understand that."

"Nothing approaching to violence, I trust."

"No. Mr. Conolly's discretion averted it. I am not sure that a second
interview between us will end so quietly."

"The interview should not have taken place at all, Sholto. I need not
point out to you that prudence and good taste forbid any repetition of
it."

"I did not seek it, Mr. Lind. He forced it upon me. I promise you that
if a second meeting takes place, it will be forced upon him by me, and
will take place in another country."

"That is a young man's idea, Sholto. The day for such crimes, thank
Heaven, is past and gone. Let us say no more of it. I was speaking to
your mother on Sunday. Have you seen her yet?"

"No."

"Sholto, you hit us all very hard that Monday before Christmas. I know
what I felt about my daughter. But I can only imagine what your mother
must have felt about her son."

"I am not insensible to that. I has been rather my misfortune than my
fault that I have caused you to suffer. If it will gratify you to know
that I have suffered deeply myself, and am now, indeed, a broken man, I
can assure you that such is the case."

"It is fortunate for us all that matters are not absolutely
irremediable. I will so far take you into my confidence as to tell you
that I have never felt any satisfaction in Marian's union with Mr.
Conolly. Though he is unquestionably a remarkable man, yet there was a
certain degree of incongruity in the match--you will understand
me--which placed Marian apart from her family whilst she was with him. I
have never entered my daughter's house without a feeling that I was more
or less a stranger there. Had she married you in the first instance, the
case would have been different: I wish she had. However, that is past
regretting now. What I wish to say is that I can still welcome you as
Marian's husband, even though she will have a serious error to live
down; and I shall be no less liberal to her than if her previous
marriage had never taken place."

Douglas cleared his throat, but did not speak.

"Well?" said Mr. Lind after a pause, reddening.

"This is a very painful matter," said Douglas at last. "As a man of the
world, Mr. Lind, you must be aware that I am not bound to your daughter
in any way."

"I am not speaking to you as a man of the world. I am speaking as a
father, and as a gentleman."

"Doubtless your position as a father is an unfortunate one. I can
sympathize with your feelings. But as a gentleman----"

"Think of what you are going to say, Sholto. If you speak as a
gentleman, you can have only one answer. If you have any other, you will
speak as a scoundrel." The last sentence came irrepressibly to Mr.
Lind's lips; but the moment he had uttered it, he felt that he had been
too precipitate.

"Sir!"

"I repeat, as a scoundrel--if you deny your duty in the matter."

"I decline to continue this conversation with you, Mr. Lind. You know as
well as I do that no gentleman is expected or even permitted by society
to take as his wife a woman who has lived with him as his mistress."

"No man who betrays a lady and refuses to make her all the reparation in
his power can claim to be a gentleman."

"You are dreaming, Mr. Lind. Your daughter was the guardian of her own
honor. I made her no promises. It is absurd to speak of a woman of her
age and experience being betrayed, as though she were a child."

"I always understood that you prided yourself on acting up to a higher
standard of honorable dealing than other men. If this is your
boasted----"

"Mr. Lind," said Douglas, interrupting him with determination, "no more
of this, if you please. Briefly, I will have nothing whatever to say to
Mrs. Conolly in the future. If her reputation were as unstained as your
own, I would still refuse to know her. I have suffered from her the
utmost refinements of caprice and treachery, and the coarsest tirades of
abuse. She left me of her own accord, in spite of my entreaties to her
to stay--entreaties which I made her in response to an exhibition of
temper which would have justified me in parting from her there and then.
It is true that I have moulded my life according to a higher standard of
honor than ordinary men; and it is also true that that standard is never
higher, never more fastidiously acted up to, than where a woman is
concerned. I have only to add that I am perfectly satisfied as to the
propriety of my behavior in Marian's case, and that I absolutely refuse
to hear another accusation of unworthiness from you, much as I respect
you and your sorrow."

Mr. Lind, though he saw that he must change his tone, found it hard to
subdue his temper; for though not a strong man, he was unaccustomed to
be thwarted. "Sholto," he said: "you are not serious. You are irritated
by some lovers' quarrel."

"I am justly estranged from your daughter, and I am resolved never to
give her a place in my thoughts again. I have madly wasted my youth on
her. Let her be content with that and the other things I have sacrificed
for her sake."

"But this is dreadful. Think of the life she must lead if you do not
marry her. She will be an outcast. She will not even have a name."

"She would not be advised. She made her choice in defiance of an
explicit warning of the inevitable results, and she must abide by it. I
challenge the most searching inquiry into my conduct, Mr. Lind. It will
be found, if the truth be told, that I spared her no luxury before she
left me; and that, far from being the aggressor, it is I who have the
right to complain of insult and desertion."

"Still, even granting that her unhappy position may have rendered her a
little sore and impatient at times, do you not owe her some forbearance
since she gave up her home and her friends for you?"

"Sacrifice for sacrifice, mine was the greater of the two. Like her, I
have lost my friends and my position here--to some extent, at least.
Worse, I have let my youth slip by in fruitless pursuit of her. For the
home which she hated, I offered her one ten times more splendid. I gave
her the devotion of a gentleman to replace the indifference of a
blacksmith. What have I not done for her? I freed her from her bondage;
I carried her across the globe; I watched her, housed her, fed her,
clothed her as a princess. I loved her with a love that taught her a
meaning of the word she had never known before. And when I had served
her turn--when I had rescued her from her husband and placed her beyond
his reach--when she became surfeited with a wealth of chivalrous love
which she could not comprehend, and when a new world opened before her a
fresh field for intrigue, I was assailed with slanderous lies, and
forsaken. Do you think, Mr. Lind, that in addition to this, I will
endure the reproaches of any man--even were he my own father?"

"But she suffers more, being a woman. The world will be comparatively
lenient toward you. If you and she were married and settled, with no
consciousness of being in a false position, and no wearing fear of
detection, you would get on together quite differently."

"It may be so, but I shall never put it to the test."

"Listen a moment, Sholto. Just consider the matter calmly and
rationally. I am a rich man--at least, I can endow Marian better than
you perhaps think. I see that you feel aggrieved, and that you fear
being forced into a marriage which you have, as you say--I fully admit
it, most fully--a perfect right to decline. But I am urging you to make
Marian your legal wife solely because it is the best course for both of
you. That, I assure you, is the feeling of society in the matter.
Everybody speaks to me of your becoming my son-in-law. The Earl says no
other course is possible. I will give you ten thousand pounds down on
her wedding-day. You will lose nothing: Conolly will not claim damages.
He has contradicted the report that he would. I will pay the costs of
the divorce as well. Mind! I do not mean that I will settle the money on
her. I will give it to her unconditionally. In other words, it will
become your property the moment you become her husband."

"I understand," said Douglas contemptuously. "However, as it is merely a
question of making your daughter an honest woman in consideration of so
much cash, I have no doubt you will find plenty of poorer men who will
be glad to close with you for half the money. You are much in the city
now, I believe. Allow me to suggest that you will find a dealer there
more easily than in St. James's."

Mr. Lind reddened again. "I do not think you see the matter in the
proper light," he said. "You are asked to repair the disgrace you have
brought on a lady and upon her family. I offer you a guarantee that you
will not lose pecuniarily by doing so. Whatever other loss you may
incur, you are bound to bear it as the penalty of your own act. I appeal
to you, sir, as one gentleman appeals to another, to remove the dishonor
you have brought upon my name."

"To transfer it to my own, you mean. Thank you, Mr. Lind. The public is
more accustomed to associate conjugal levity with the name of Lind than
with that of Douglas."

"If you refuse me the justice you owe to my daughter, you need not
couple that refusal with an insult."

"I have already explained that I owe your daughter nothing. You come
here and offer me ten thousand pounds to marry her. I decline the
bargain. You then take your stand upon the injury to your name. I merely
remind you that your name was somewhat tarnished even before Mrs.
Conolly changed it for the less distinguished one which she has really
dishonored."

"Douglas," said Mr. Lind, trembling, "I will make you repent this. I
will have satisfaction."

"As you remarked when I declared my readiness to give satisfaction in
the proper quarter, the practice you allude to is obsolete. Fortunately
so, I think, in our case."

"You are a coward, sir." Douglas rang the bell. "I will expose you in
every club in London."

"Shew this gentleman out," said Douglas to his servant.

"You have received that order because I told your master that he is a
rascal," said Mr. Lind to the man. "I shall say the same thing to every
man I meet between this house and the committee-room of his club."

The servant looked grave as Mr. Lind left the room. Soon after, Douglas,
whose self-respect, annihilated by Conolly, had at first been thoroughly
restored by Mr. Lind, felt upset again by the conclusion of the
interview. Finding solitude and idleness intolerable, he went into the
streets, though he no longer felt any desire to meet his acquaintances,
and twice crossed the Haymarket to avoid them. As he strolled about,
thinking of all that had been said to him that afternoon, he grew
morose. Twice he calculated his expenditure on the American trip, and
the difference that an increment of ten thousand pounds would make in
his property. Suddenly, in turning out of Air Street into Piccadilly,
he found himself face to face with Lord Carbury.

"How do you do?" said the latter pleasantly, but without the
unceremonious fellowship that had formerly existed between them.

"Thank you," said Douglas, "I am quite well."

A pause followed, Jasper not knowing exactly what to say next.

"I am considering where I shall dine," said Douglas. "Have you dined
yet?"

"No. I promised to dine at home this evening. My mother likes to have a
family dinner occasionally."

Douglas knew that before the elopement he would have been asked to join
the party. "I suppose people have been pleased to talk a good deal about
me of late," he said.

"Yes, I fear so. However, I hope it will pass over."

"It shews no sign of passing over as yet, then?"

"Well, it has become a little stale as a topic; but there is undeniably
a good deal of feeling about it still. If you will excuse my saying so,
I think that perhaps you would do well to keep out of the way a little
longer."

"Presuming, of course, that popular feeling is a matter about which I am
likely to concern myself."

"That is a question for you to decide. Excuse the hint."

"The question is whether it is not better to be on the spot, so as to
strangle calumny at its source, than to hide myself abroad whilst a host
of malicious tongues are busy with me."

"As to that, Douglas, I assure you you have been very fairly treated.
The chief blame, as usual, has fallen on the weaker sex. Nothing could
exceed the moderation of those from whom the loudest complaints might
have been expected. Reginald Lind has hardly ever mentioned the subject.
Even to me, he only shook his head and said that it was an old
attachment. As to Conolly, we have actually reproached him for making
excuses for you."

"Aye. A very astute method of bringing me into contempt. Allow me to
enlighten you a little, Jasper. Lind, whose daughter I have discovered
to be one of the worst of women, has just offered me ten thousand pounds
to marry her. That speaks for itself. Conolly, who drove her into my
arms by playing the tyrant whilst I played the lover, is only too glad
to get rid of her. At the same time, he is afraid to fight me, and
ashamed to say so. Therefore, he impudently pretends to pity me for
being his gull in the matter. But I will stop that."

"Conolly is a particular friend of mine, Douglas, Let us drop the
subject, if you dont mind."

"If he is your friend, of course I have nothing more to say. I think I
will turn in here and dine. Good-evening."

They parted without any salutation: and Douglas entered the restaurant
and dined alone, he came out an hour later in improved spirits, and
began to consider whether he would go to the theatre or venture into his
club. He was close to a lamp at a corner of Leicester Square when he
stopped to debate the point with himself; and in his preoccupation he
did not notice a four-wheeled cab going slowly past him, carrying a lady
in an old white opera cloak. This was Mrs. Leith Fairfax, who,
recognizing him, called to the cabman to drive a little past the lamp
and stop.

"Good heavens!" she said in a half-whisper: "you here! What madness
possessed you to come back?"

"I had no further occasion to stay away."

"How coolly you say so! You have iron nerves, all you Douglases. I have
heard all, and I know what you have suffered. How soon will you leave
London?"

"I have no intention of leaving it at present."

"But you cannot stay here."

"Pray why not? Is not London large enough for any man who does not live
by the breath of the world?"

"Out of the question, Mr. Douglas. Absolutely out of the question. You
_must_ go away for a year at the very least. You must yield something to
propriety."

"I shall yield nothing. I can do without any section of society that may
feel called upon to do without me."

"Oh, you must subdue that imperious nature of yours for your mother's
sake if not for your own. Besides, you have been very wicked and
reckless and daring, just like a Douglas. You ought to do penance with a
good grace. I may conclude, since you are here, that Elinor McQuinch's
story is true as far as the facts go."

"I have not heard her story."

"It is only that you have parted from--you know."

"That is true. Can I gratify your curiosity in any other particular?"

"Strive not to let yourself be soured, Mr. Douglas. I shudder when I
think of what you have undergone at the hands of one woman. There! I
will not allude to it again."

"You will do wisely, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. What I have suffered, I have
suffered. I desire no pity, and will endure none."

"That is so like yourself. I must hurry on to Covent Garden, or I shall
be late. Will you come and see me quietly some day before you go? I am
never at home to any one on Tuesdays; but if you come at about five,
Caroline will let you in. It will be dark: nobody will see you. We can
have a chat then."

"Thank you," said Douglas, coldly, stepping back, and raising his hat,
"I shall not intrude on you. Good-evening."

She waved her hand at him; and the cab departed. He walked quickly back
to Charles Street, and called his servant.

"I suppose no one has called?"

"Yes, sir. Mrs. Douglas came very shortly after you went out. She wishes
you to go to the Square this evening, sir."

"This evening? I am afraid--Buckstone."

"Yes, sir."

"Is she looking well?"

"A little tired, sir. But quite well, I have no doubt."

"How much of the luggage have you unpacked?"

"Only your portmanteau, sir. I thought----"

"So much the better. Pack it again. I am going to Brussels to-night.
Find out about the trains. I shall want you to take a hansom and take a
note to Chester Square; but come back at once without waiting to be
spoken to."

"Very good, sir."

Douglas then sat down and wrote the note.

  "My dear Mother:

  "I am sorry I was out when you called. I did not expect you, as I
  am only passing through London on my way to Brussels. I am anxious
  to get clear of this vile city, and so shall start to-night.
  Buckstone tells me you are looking well; and this assurance must
  content me for the present, as I find it impossible to go to you.
  You were quite right in warning me against what has happened; but
  it is all past and broken off now, and I am still as ever,

                                     "Your affectionate son,
                                               "SHOLTO DOUGLAS."




CHAPTER XXI


One day Eliza, out of patience, came to Mrs. Myers, and said:

"A' thin, maam, will you come up and spake to Miss Conolly. She's rasin
ructions above stairs."

"Oh dear, oh dear!" said Mrs. Myers. "Cant you keep her quiet?"

"Arra, how can I kape her quiet, an she cryin an roarin, dyin an
desarted?"

"Ask Mrs. Forster to go in and coax her to stop."

"Mrs. Forsther's at dhuddher ind o the town. Whisht! There she is,
callin me. Youll have to gup to her, maam. Faith I wont go next or near
her."

"There's no use in my going up, Eliza. What can I do?"

Eliza had nothing to suggest. "I'm sure, maam," she pleaded, "if she
wont mind you, she wont mind me--bad manners to her!"

Mrs. Myers hesitated. The lodger became noisier.

"I spose Ive got to go," said Mrs. Myers, plaintively. She went upstairs
and found Susanna lying on the sofa, groaning, with a dressing-gown and
a pair of thick boots on.

"What _is_ the matter with you, Miss Susan? Youre goin on fit to raise
the street."

"For God's sake go and get something for me. Make the doctor do
something. I'm famishing. I must be poisoned."

"Lord forbid!"

"Look at me. I cant eat anything. Oh! I cant even drink. I tell you I am
dying of thirst."

"Well, Miss Susan, thers plenty for you to eat and drink."

"What is the good of that, when I can neither eat nor drink? Nothing
will stay inside me. If I could only swallow brandy, I shouldnt care. I
thought I could die drunk. Oh! Send Eliza out for some laudanum. I cant
stand this: I'll kill myself."

"Be quiet, Miss Susan: youll be better presently. Whats the use of
talking-about the doctor? He says youll not be able to drink for days,
and that you will get your health back in consequence. You are doing
yourself no good by screeching like that, and you are ruining me and my
house."

"Your house is all you care about. Curse you! I hope you may die
deserted yourself. Dont go away. _Dear_ Aunt Sally, you wont leave me
here alone, will you? If you do, I'll scream like a hundred devils."

"I dont know what to do with you," said Mrs. Myers, crying. "Youll drive
me as mad as yourself. Why did I ever let you into this house?"

"Oh, bother! Are _you_ beginning to howl now? Have you any sardines, or
anything spicy? I think I could eat some salted duck. No, I couldnt,
though. Go for the doctor. There must be something that will do me good.
What use is he if he can't set me right? All I want is something that
will make me able to drink a tumbler of brandy."

"The Lord help you! Praise goodness! here's Mrs. Forster coming up.
Whatll she think of you if you keep moaning like that? Mrs. Forster:
will you step in here and try to quiet her a bit? She's clean mad."

"Come here," cried Susanna, as Marian entered. "Come and sit beside me.
You may get out, you old cat: I dont want you any longer."

"Hush, pray," said Marian, putting her bonnet aside and sitting down by
the sofa. "What is the matter?"

"The same as last night, only a great deal worse," said Susanna,
shutting her eyes and turning her head aside. "It's all up with me this
time, Mrs. Ned. I'm dying, not of drink, but of the want of it. Is that
fiend of a woman gone?"

"Yes. You ought not to wound her as you did just now. She has been very
kind to you."

"I dont care. Oh, dear me, I wonder how long this is going to last?"

"Shall I go for the doctor?"

"No; what can he do? Stay with me. I wish I could sleep or eat."

"You will be better soon. The doctor says that Nature is making an
effort to rescue you from your habit by making it impossible for you to
drink. Try and be patient. Will you not take off those heavy boots?"

"No, I cant feel my feet without them. I shall never be better," said
Susanna, writhing impatiently. "I'm done for. How old are you? You
neednt mind telling me. I shall soon be beyond repeating it."

"I was twenty-five in June last"

"I am only twenty-nine. I started at eighteen, and got to the top of the
tree in seven years. I came down quicker than I went up. I might have
gone on easily for fifteen years more, only for drinking champagne. I
wish I had my life to live over again: you wouldnt catch me playing
burlesque. If I had got the chance, I know I could have played tragedy
or real Italian opera. I had to work hard at first; and they wont fill
my place, very readily: thats one comfort. My cleverness was my ruin.
Ned was not half so quick. It used to take him months to learn things
that I picked up offhand, and yet you see how much better he has done
than I."

"Do not disturb yourself with vain regrets. Think of something else.
Shall we talk about Marmaduke?"

"No, I dont particularly care to. Somehow, at my pass, one thinks most
about one's self, and about things that happened long ago. People that I
came to know later on, like Bob, seem to be slipping away from me. There
was a baritone in my father's company, a tremendous man, with shining
black eyes, and a voice like a great bell--quite pretty at the top,
though: he must have been sixty at least; and he was very fat; but he
was the most dignified man I ever saw. You should have heard him do the
Duke in Lucrezia Borgia, or sing Pro Peccatis from Rossini's Stabat
Mater! I was ten years old when he was with us, and my grand ambition
was to sing with him when I grew up. He would shake his head if he saw
Susanetta now. I would rather hear him sing three bars than have ten
visits from Bob. Oh, dear! I thought this cursed pain was getting
numbed, but it is worse than ever."

"Try to keep from thinking of it. I have often wondered that you never
speak of your child. I have heard from my friend in London that it is
very well and happy."

"Oh, you mean Lucy. She was a lively little imp."

"Would you not like to see her again?"

"No, thank you. She is well taken care of, I suppose. I am glad she is
out of my hands. She was a nuisance to me, and I am not a very edifying
example for her. What on earth should I want to see her for?"

"I wish I had the good fortune to be a mother."

Susanna laughed. "Never say die, Mrs. Ned. You dont know what may happen
to you yet. There now! I know, without opening my eyes, that you are
shocked, bless your delicacy! How do you think I should have got through
life if I'd been thin-skinned? What good does it do you? You are pining
away in this hole of a lodging. You squirm when Mrs. Myers tries to be
friendly with you; and I sometimes laugh at your expression when Eliza
treats you to a little blarney about your looks. Now _I_ would just as
soon gossip and swear at her as go to tea with the Queen."

"I am not shocked at all. You see as badly as other people when your
eyes are shut."

"They will soon shut up forever. I half wish they would do it at once, I
wonder whether I will get any ease before there is an end of me."

"Perhaps the end of you on earth will be a good beginning for you
somewhere else, Susanna."

"Thank you. Now the conversation has taken a nice, cheerful turn, hasnt
it? Well, I cant be much worse off than I am at present. Anyhow, I must
take my chance."

"Would you like to see a clergyman? I dont want to alarm you: I am sure
you will get better: the doctor told me so; but I will go for one if you
like."

"No: I dont want to be bothered--at least not yet. Besides, I hate
clergymen, all except your brother, the doctor, who fell in love with
me."

"Very well. I only suggested it in case you should feel uneasy."

"I dont feel quite easy; but I dont care sufficiently about it to make
a fuss. It will be time enough when I am actually at death's door. All I
know is that if there is a place of punishment in the next world, it is
very unfair, considering what we suffer in this. I didnt make myself or
my circumstances. I think I will try to sleep. I am half dead as it is
with pain and weariness. Dont go until I am asleep."

"I will not. Let me get you another pillow."

"No," said Susanna, drowsily: "dont touch me."

Marian sat listening to her moaning respiration for nearly half an hour.
Then, having some letters to write, she went to her own room to fetch
her desk. Whilst she was looking for her pen, which was mislaid, she
heard Susanna stirring. The floor creaked, and there was a clink as of a
bottle. A moment later, Marian, listening with awakened suspicion, was
startled by the sound of a heavy fall mingled with a crash of breaking
glass. She ran back into the next room just in time to see Susanna, on
her hands and knees near the stove, lift her white face for a moment,
displaying a bleeding wound on her temple, and then stumble forward and
fall prone on the carpet. Marian saw this; saw the walls of the room
revolve before her; and fainted upon the sofa, which she had reached
without knowing how.

When she recovered the doctor was standing by her; and Eliza was picking
up fragments of the broken bottle. The smell of the spilled brandy
reminded her of what had happened.

"Where is Miss Conolly?" she said, trying to collect her wits. "I am
afraid I fainted at the very moment when I was most wanted."

"All right," said the doctor. "Keep quiet; youll be well presently. Dont
be in a hurry to talk."

Marian obeyed; and the doctor, whose manner was kind, though different
to that of the London physicians to whom she was accustomed, presently
left the room and went upstairs. Eliza was howling like an animal. The
sound irritated Marian even at that pass: she despised the whole Irish
race on its account. She could hardly keep her temper as she said:

"Is Miss Conolly seriously hurt?"

"Oa, blessed hour! she's kilt. Her head's dhreepin wid blood."

Marian shuddered and felt faint again.

"Lord Almighty save use, I doa knoa how she done it at all, at all. She
must ha fell agin the stoave. It's the dhrink, dhrink, dhrink, that
brought her to it. It's little I knew what that wairy bottle o brandy
would do to her, or sorra bit o me would ha got it."

"You did very wrong in getting it, Eliza."

"What could I do, miss, when she axed me?"

"There is no use in crying over it now. It would have been kinder to
have kept it from her."

"Sure I know. Many's the time I tould her so. But she could talk the
birds off the bushes, and it wint to me heart to refuse her. God send
her well out of her throuble!"

Here the doctor returned. "How are you now?" he said.

"I think I am better. Pray dont think of me. How is she?"

"It's all over. Hallo! Come, Miss Biddy! you go and cry in the kitchen,"
he added, pushing Eliza, who had set up an intolerable lamentation, out
of the room.

"How awful!" said Marian, stunned. "Are you quite sure? She seemed
better this morning."

"Quite sure," said the doctor, smiling grimly at the question. "She was
practically dead when they carried her upstairs, poor girl. It's easier
to kill a person than you think, Mrs. Forster, although she tried so
long and so hard without succeeding. But she'd have done it. She'd have
been starved into health only to drink herself back into starvation, and
the end would have been a very bad one. Better as it is, by far!"

"Doctor: I must go out and telegraph the news to London. I know one of
her relatives there."

The doctor shook his head. "I will telegraph if you like, but you must
stay here. Youre not yet fit to go out."

"I am afraid I have not been well lately," said Marian. "I want to
consult you about myself--not now, of course, after what has happened,
but some day when you have leisure to call."

"You can put off consulting me just as long as you please; but this
accident is no reason why you shouldnt do it at once. If there is
anything wrong, the sooner you have advice--you neednt have it from me
if you prefer some other doctor--the better."

Upon this encouragement Marian described to him her state of health. He
seemed a little amused, asked her a few questions, and finally told her
coolly that she might expect to become a mother next fall. She was so
utterly dismayed that he began to look stern in anticipation of an
appeal to him to avert this; an appeal which he had often had to refuse
without ever having succeeded in persuading a woman that it was futile,
or convincing her that it was immoral. But Marian spared him this: she
was overwhelmed by the new certainty that a reconciliation with her
husband was no longer possible. Her despair at the discovery shewed her
for the first time how homesick she really was.

When the doctor left, Mrs. Myers came. She exclaimed; wept; and gossiped
until two police officers arrived. Marian related to them what she had
seen of the accident, and became indignant at the apparent incredulity
with which they questioned her and examined the room. After their
departure Eliza came to her, and invited her to go upstairs and see the
body of Susanna. She refused with a shudder; but when she saw that the
girl was hurt as well as astonished, it occurred to her that avoidance
of the dead might, if it came to Conolly's knowledge, be taken by him to
indicate a lack of kind feeling toward his sister. So she overcame her
repugnance, and went with Eliza. The window-shades were drawn down, and
the dressing-table had been covered with a white cloth, on which stood a
plaster statuet of the Virgin and Child, with two lighted candles before
it. To please Eliza, who had evidently made these arrangements, Marian
whispered a few words of approval, and turned curiously to the bed. The
sight made her uncomfortable. The body was decently laid out, its
wounded forehead covered with a bandage, and Eliza's rosary and crucifix
on its breast; but it did not, as Marian had hoped, suggest peace or
sleep. It was not Susanna, but a vacant thing that had always underlain
her, and which, apart from her, was ghastly.

"She died a good Catholic anyhow: the light o Heaven to her sowl!" said
Eliza, whimpering, but speaking as though she expected and defied Marian
to contradict her.

"Amen," said Marian.

"It's sure and sartin. There never was a Conolly a Prodestan yet."

Marian left the room, resolving to avoid such sights in future. Mrs.
Myers was below, anxious to resume the conversation which the visit of
the police had interrupted. Marian could not bear this. To escape, she
left the house, and went to her only friend in New York, Mrs. Crawford,
whose frequent visits she had never before ventured to return. To her
she narrated the events of the day.

"This business of the poor girl killing herself is real shocking," said
Mrs. Crawford. "Perhaps your husband will come over here now, and give
you a chance of making up with him."

"If he does, I must leave New York, Mrs. Crawford."

"What are you frightened of? If he is as good a man as you say, you
ought to be glad to see him. I'm sure he would have you back. Depend on
it, he has been longing for you all this time; and when he sees you
again as pretty as ever, he will open his arms to you. He wont like you
any the worse for being a little bashful with him after such an
escapade."

"I would not meet him for any earthly consideration. After what the
doctor told me to-day, I should throw myself out of the window, I think,
if I heard him coming upstairs. I should like to see him, if I were
placed where he could not see me; but face him I _could_ not."

"Well, my dear, I think it's right silly of you, though the little
stranger--it will be a regular stranger--is a difficulty: there's no two
ways about that."

"Besides, I have been thinking over things alone in my room; and I see
that it is better for him to be free. I know he was disappointed in me.
He is not the sort of man to be tied down to such an ignorant woman as
I."

"What does he expect from a woman? If youre not good enough for him, he
must be very hard to please."

Marian shook her head. "He is capable of pitying and being considerate
with me," she said: "I know that. But I am not sure that it is a good
thing to be pitied and forborne with. There is something humiliating in
it. I suppose I am proud, as you often tell me; but I should like to be
amongst women what he is amongst men, supported by my own strength. Even
within the last three weeks I have felt myself becoming more independent
in my isolation. I was afraid to go about the streets by myself at
first. Now I am getting quite brave. That unfortunate woman did me good.
Taking care of her, and being relied on so much by her, has made me rely
on myself more. Thanks to you, I have not much loneliness to complain
of. And yet I have been utterly cast down sometimes. I cannot tell what
is best. Sometimes I think that independence is worth all the solitary
struggling it costs. Then again I remember how free from real care I was
at home, and yearn to be back there. It is so hard to know what one
ought to do."

"You have been more lively since you got such a pleasant answer to your
telegram. I wish the General would offer to let me keep my own money and
as much more as I wanted. Not that he is close-fisted, poor man! That
reminds me to tell you that you must stay the evening. He wants to see
you as bad as can be--never stops asking me to bring you up some time
when he's at home. You mustnt excuse yourself: the General will see you
safe back to your place."

"But if visitors come, Mrs. Crawford?"

"Nobody will come. If they do, they will be glad to see you. What do
they know about you? You cant live like a hermit all your life."

Marian, sooner than go back to Mrs. Myers's, stayed; and the evening
passed pleasantly enough, although three visitors came: a gentleman,
with his wife and brother. The lady, besides eating, and replying to the
remarks with which Mrs. Crawford occasionally endeavored to entertain
her, did nothing but admire Marian's dress and listen to her
conversation. Her husband was polite; but Marian, comparing him with the
English gentlemen of her acquaintance, thought him rather oppressively
respectful, and too much given to conversing in little speeches. He had
been in London; and he described, in a correct narrative style, his
impressions of St. Paul's, the Tower, and Westminster Palace. His
brother fell in love with Mrs. Forster at first sight, and sat silent
until she remarked to him how strangely the hotel omnibuses resembled
old English stage coaches, when he became recklessly talkative and soon
convinced her that American society produced quite as choice a compound
of off-handedness and folly as London could. But all this was amusing
after her long seclusion; and once or twice, when the thought of dead
Susanna came back to her, she was ashamed to be so gay.

No one was stirring at Mrs. Myers's when she returned. They had left her
lamp in the entry; and she took it upstairs with her, going softly lest
she should disturb the household. Susanna's usual call and petition for
a few minutes talk was no longer to be feared, for Susanna was now only
a memory. Marian tried not to think of the body in the room above.
Though she was free from the dread which was just then making Eliza
tremble, cry, and cross herself to sleep, she disliked the body all the
more as she distinguished it from the no-longer existent woman: a feat
quite beyond the Irish peasant girl. She sat down and began to think.
The Crawfords and their friends had been very nice to her: no doubt the
lady would not have been civil had she known all; but, then, the lady
was a silly person. They were not exactly what Marian considered the
best sort of people; but New York was not London. She would not stay at
Mrs. Myers's: her income would enable her to lodge more luxuriously. If
she could afford to furnish some rooms for herself, she would get some
curtains she had seen one day lately when shopping with Mrs. Crawford.
They would go well with----

A noise in the room overhead: Susanna's death chamber. Marian gave a
great start, and understood what Eliza meant by having "the life put
across in her." She listened, painfully conscious of the beats of her
heart. The noise came again: a footstep, or a chair pushed back, or--she
was not certain what. Could Mrs. Myers be watching at the bedside? It
was not unlikely. Could Susanna be recovering--finding herself laid out
for dead, and making a struggle for life up there alone? That would be
inconvenient, undesirable: even Marian forgot just then to consider that
obvious view wrong and unfeeling; but, anyhow, she must go and see, and,
if necessary, help. She wished there were some one to keep her company;
but was ashamed to call Eliza; and she felt that she would be as well by
herself as with Mrs. Myers. There was nothing for it but to take a
candle and go alone. No repetition of the noise occurred to daunt her
afresh; and she reached the landing above almost reassured, and thinking
how odd it was that the idea of finding somebody--Susanna--there,
though it had come as a fear, was fading out as a disappointed hope.

Finding herself loth to open the door, she at last set her teeth and did
it swiftly, as if to surprise someone within. She did surprise some one:
her husband, sitting by his sister's body. He started violently on
seeing her, and rose; whilst she, mechanically shutting the door without
turning, leaned back against it with her hand behind her, and looked at
him open-mouthed.

"Marian," he said, in a quite unexpectedly apprehensive tone, putting up
his hand deprecatingly: "remember, here"--indicating the figure on the
bed--"is an end of hypocrisy! No unrealities now: I cannot bear them.
Let us have no trash of magnanimous injured husband, erring but
repentant wife. We are man and woman, nothing less and nothing more.
After our marriage you declined intercourse on those terms; and I
accepted your conventions to please you. Now I refuse all conventions:
you have broken them yourself. If you will not have the truth between
us, avoid me until I have subsided into the old groove again. There!" he
added, wincing, "dont blush. What have you to blush for? It was the only
honest thing you ever did."

"I dont understand."

"No," he said gently, but with a gesture of despair; "how could you? You
never did, and you never will."

"If you mean to accuse me of having deceived you," said Marian, greatly
relieved and encouraged by a sense of being now the injured party, "you
are most unjust. I dont excuse myself for behaving wickedly, but I
_never_ deceived you or told you a falsehood. Never. When he first spoke
wrongly to me, I told you at once; and you did not care."

"Not a straw. It was nothing to me that he loved you: the point was,
did you love him? If not, then all was well: if so, our marriage was
already at an end. But you mistake my drift. Falsehood is something more
than fibbing. You never told fibs--except the two or three dozen a week
that mere politeness required and which you never thought of counting;
but you never told me the truth, Marian, because you never told your
self the truth. You told me what you told yourself, I grant you; and so
you were not conscious of deceit. I dont reproach you. Surely you can
bear to be told what every honest man tells himself almost daily."

"I suppose I have deserved it," said Marian; "but unkind words from you
are a new experience. You are very unlike yourself to-night."

He repressed, with visible effort, an explosion of impatience. "On the
contrary, I am like myself--I actually am myself to-night, I hope." Then
the explosion came. "Is it utterly impossible for you to say something
real to me? Only learn to do that, and you may have ten love romances
every year with other men, if you like. Be anything rather than a
ladylike slave and liar. There! as usual, the truth makes you shrink
from me. As I said before, I refuse further intercourse on such terms.
They have proved unkind in the long run."

"You spoke plainly enough to her," said Marian, glancing at the bed,
"but in the long run it did her no good."

"She would have laughed me to scorn if I had minced matters, for she
never deceived herself. Society, by the power of the purse, set her to
nautch-girl's work, and forbade her the higher work that was equally
within her power. Being enslaved and debauched in this fashion, how
could she be happy except when she was not sober? It was her own
immediate interest to drink; it was her tradesman's interest that she
should drink; it was her servants' interest that she should be pleased
with them for getting drink for her. She was clever, good-natured, more
constant to her home and her man than you, a living fountain of innocent
pleasure as a dancer, singer, and actress; and here she lies, after
mischievously spending her talent in a series of entertainments too dull
for hell and too debased for any better place, dead of a preventable
disease, chiefly because most of the people she came in contact with had
a direct pecuniary interest in depraving and poisoning her. Aye, look at
her! with the cross on her breast, the virgin mother in plaster looking
on from where she kept her mirror when she was alive, and the people
outside complacently saying 'Serve her right!'"

Marian feared for a moment that he would demolish Eliza's altar by
hurling the chair through it. "Dont, Ned," she said, timidly, putting
her hand on his arm.

"Dont what?" he said, taken aback. She drew her hand away and retreated
a step, coloring at the wifely liberty she had permitted herself to
take. "I beg your pardon. I thought--I thought you were going to take
the cross away. No," she added quickly, seeing him about to speak, and
anticipating a burst of scepticism: "it is not that; but the servant is
an Irish girl--a Roman Catholic. She put it there; and she meant well,
and will be hurt if it is thrown aside."

"And you think it better that she should remain in ignorance of what
educated people think about her superstition than that she should suffer
the mortification of learning that her opinions are not those of all
the world! However, I had no such intention. Eliza's idol is a
respectable one as idols go."

There was a pause. Then Marian said: "It must have been a great shock to
you when you came and found what had happened. I am very sorry. But had
we not better go downrs? It seems so unfeeling, somehow, to talk
without minding her. I suppose you consider that foolish; but I think
you are upset by it yourself."

"You see a change in me, then?"

"You are not quite yourself, I think."

"I tell you again that I _am_ myself at last. You do not seem to like
the real man any better than the unreal: I am afraid you will not have
me on any terms. Well, let us go downstairs, since you prefer it."

"Oh, not unless you wish it too," said Marian, a little bewildered.

He took her candle and led the way out without another word or a look at
the bed. Marian, as he stood aside to let her go downstairs before him,
was suddenly seized with a fantastic fear that he was going to kill her.
She did not condescend to hurry or look back; but she only felt safe
when they were in her room, and he no longer behind her.

"Sit down," he said, placing the candle on the mantelpiece. She sat down
at the table, and he stood on the hearthrug. "Now," said he, "about the
future. Are you coming back? Will you give the life at Holland Park
another trial?"

"I cannot," she said, bending her head almost on her hands. "I should
disgrace you. And there is another reason."

"It is not in your power, nor in that of all London, to disgrace me if
I do not feel disgraced. It is useless to say that you cannot. If you
say 'I will not,' then that will settle it. What is the other reason?"

"It is not yet born. But it will be."

"That is no reason to me. Do you think I shall be a worse father to it
than he would have been?"

"No, indeed. But it would be unfair to you." He made an impatient
gesture. "I dont understand you, Ned. Would you not rather be free?"

"Freedom is a fool's dream. I am free. I can divorce you if I please: if
I live with you again it will be by my own choice. You are free too: you
have burnt your boats, and are rid of fashionable society, of your
family, your position, your principles, and all the rest of your chains
forever. You are declassed by your own act; and if you can frankly give
a sigh of relief and respect yourself for breaking loose from what is
called your duty, then you are the very woman I want for a wife. I may
not be the very man you want for a husband; but at all events you are
free to choose, free to change after you choose if you choose me, free
anyhow; for I will divorce you if you refuse; and then you will
be--independent--your own mistress--absolute proprietor of your own
child--everything that married women and girls envy. You have a
foretaste of that freedom now. What is it worth? One or two conditions
more or less to comply with, that is all: nature and society still have
you hard and fast; the main rules of the game are inviolable."

"I think it is a good thing to be free," said Marian, timidly.

"That means 'I will not.'"

"Not 'will not'; but I think I had better not."

"A characteristic distinction, Marian. I once thought, like you, that
freedom was the one condition to be gained at all cost and hazard. My
favorite psalm was that nonsense of John Hay's:

  'For always in thine eyes, O Liberty,
  Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
  And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.'

And she does slay us. Now I am for the fullest attainable life. That
involves the least endurable liberty. You dont see that yet. Very well:
you have liberty--liberty to hurt as well as help yourself; and you are
right to try whether it will not make you happier than wedlock has
done."

"It was not your fault; and it is very good of you to offer to take me
back, I know. Will my refusing disappoint you at all, Ned?"

"I am prepared for it. You may refuse or accept: I foresee how I shall
adapt myself to either set of circumstances."

"Yes, I forgot. You foresee everything," said Marian, with some
bitterness.

"No: I only face what I see. That is why you do not like living with me.
Good-bye. Do not look troubled: we shall meet again to-morrow and often
afterward, I hope; but to-night makes an end of the irrational knot."

"Good-night," said Marian rather forlornly, after a pause, proffering
her hand.

"One folly more," he said, taking her in his arms and kissing her. She
made no resistance. "If such a moment could be eternal, we should never
say good-bye," he added. "As it is, we are wise not to tempt Fortune by
asking her for such another."

"You are too wise, Ned," she said, suffering him to replace her gently
in the chair.

"It is impossible to be too wise, dearest," he said, and unhesitatingly
turned and left her.





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