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First published in 3 volumes F.V. White & Co., London, 1894

This 1-volume e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
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Florence Marryat (1833-1899)

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"The Hampstead Mystery," F.V. White & Co., London, 1894

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"The Hampstead Mystery" F.V. White & Co., London, 1894



Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX


'ONCE for all,' exclaimed Mr Crampton, bringing down his broad fist heavily upon the table, 'once for all, I tell you, I will not have it.'

At this terrible assertion, Mrs Crampton shivered as if she had been struck, and Aunt Clem silently dissolved into tears. Henry Hindes, of all the party, alone preserved his composure. He leaned back in his chair, carefully trimming his filbert nails with a penknife, as if the affair under discussion were not of the slightest moment.

'Of course you will not have it,' he said after a pause to Mr Crampton, 'no man in his senses would. Mr Frederick Walcheren has money and good looks, but there his claims to admiration end. The first you do not require for your daughter, and the second would have no weight with anyone but a woman. To place against these supposed advantages, Mr Walcheren is a young man of dissolute habits, and lavish expenditure. You should hear what his cousin, Philip Walcheren, says of him.'

'I want no one's opinion but my own,' replied Mr Crampton vehemently. 'Jenny will have all my money by-and-by, and she shall marry no man that will make ducks and drakes of it. Besides, he isn't good enough for her in any way. He thinks, I suppose, because his family have been a set of idle scoundrels for centuries past, while my progenitors have been working to support their children, that his is the better of the two, but I don't see it. Besides, if he were the heir to the Crown, he shouldn't have my daughter. He's a Roman, that's more than enough for me. I'll have no Papists in my family. I hate the whole crew, with their cunning, underhand ways. If Jenny won't give this Walcheren fellow over, I'll lock her up on bread and water till she comes to her senses again.'

As neither of the ladies made any answer to this threat, Mr Hindes interfered again.

'Surely,' he said with an incredulous smile, 'Miss Crampton will not dream of opposing your wishes in this particular, when so much depends upon her obedience. What can she see in this young man to attract her, above others of his kind; she who has a crowd of admirers wherever she goes, and is the acknowledged beauty of Hampstead? I believe, Crampton, that you are alarming yourself without cause. Miss Crampton means nothing serious. She is merely amusing herself with the sight of young Walcheren's infatuation for her.'

'It's more than that,' returned the older man; 'I've forbidden the girl to dance with him when she meets him out, or to receive him here during my absence. And now, her mother tells me, she met them riding together yesterday afternoon, and has intercepted a letter from him to Jenny, in which he writes as though they were promised to each other. What am I to do? I can't be always at my daughter's elbow, and her mother can't go galloping all over the country after her. It is disgraceful to think that a young lady of twenty can't be trusted to behave herself properly as soon as she is out of her parents' sight!'

'Don't you think you are making rather a mountain out of a molehill?' inquired Henry Hindes, in the same calm way. 'Doubtless, Miss Crampton is young and thoughtless, and, if I may venture to say so—perhaps just a wee bit spoilt; but is that any reason that you should suspect her of impropriety? And, after all, is there anything wrong or unusual in a lovely girl being followed and persecuted by her admirers? Perhaps, if the truth were known, Miss Crampton might be as well pleased to get rid of Mr Walcheren as you would be.'

At this juncture, Mrs Crampton took heart of grace to put in her oar.

'Oh, thank you, dear Mr Hindes!' she exclaimed. 'I am sure you are right. That is, I feel certain that Jenny cares no more for Mr Walcheren than for anyone else. She is a trifle wilful and does not brook contradiction well—I acknowledge that—and perhaps papa and I have spoilt her a little; she is such a darling, you know, that it is very difficult not to spoil her—but she would never really oppose our wishes. Papa has only to speak to her—'

'Nonsense!' interposed Mr Crampton gruffly. 'I have spoken to her a dozen times already, and she laughs in my face and disobeys me as soon as my back is turned. But this business has gone far enough, and I mean to put a stop to it. Where is the girl?' he continued, turning to his wife; 'go and tell her I wish to speak to her at once!'

'My dear, she has not risen yet. I do not suppose she is awake!'

'And it is past eleven,' said her husband.

'Yes; but remember how late she was up last night. I don't think we were home till past two o'clock.'

'Whilst she was dancing with this young jackanapes, I conclude, and letting him make eyes at her! Well! it is for the last time, I can tell Miss Jenny that! If she disobeys me again, I'll take her right away from Hampstead, and she shall never see it till the fellow's dead, or married. No Papistical grandchildren for me! I can tell her that!'

'Oh, Mr Crampton!' cried his wife, with affected horror.

'Yes, it is "Oh! Mr Crampton,"' repeated the old man angrily, mimicking her thin tones, 'and it'll be "Oh! Mrs Crampton," if you don't take care. It's more than half your fault! You should look better after your daughter, and then these unpleasantries wouldn't happen. But you let her have her own way in everything. She just rules you and Miss Bostock, and then you leave me to rectify your errors. It isn't fair on either me or the child!'

Mrs Crampton and her sister, Miss Bostock, familiarly known as Aunt Clem, were now weeping in concert.

'I am sure,' sobbed the mother, 'I've done everything in my power, short of turning Mr Walcheren out of doors, to prevent his calling here so often, because I knew you didn't wish it, John. Last time he came I would not order up tea, until Jenny made such a point of it that I could not refuse. And when the dear child rides, or drives, you know it is impossible for me to supervise her actions.'

'You should go with her,' grumbled her husband.

'Oh! dear! I wouldn't sit behind those cobs of hers for all the world! It frightens me to see her drive them. And she won't come out in the barouche with Aunt Clem and me. She laughs at the very idea. She is so very high-spirited, you see. She must have her own way in everything!'

'Well, go and fetch her here,' said Mr Crampton shortly; 'I must speak to her before I go to town.'

'But if she is not dressed, my dear,' remonstrated his wife.

'Tell her to dress at once and come to me! Now, no nonsense, or I'll pull her out of bed myself.'

The two women flew from the room to prevent so awful a contingency, and the men were left alone. They were partners in the well-known firm of Messrs Hindes & Crampton, wool-staplers in the city.

Henry Hindes, although much the younger of the two, was head of the business, having inherited his share through the death of his father. He was a man of about five or seven and thirty, smooth and solid looking, but much more polished in manners and appearance than his partner. His fair, thin hair was parted in the middle, and combed close to his head. He possessed a powerful brain and a good knowledge of business. His blue eyes, straight thick nose, and smiling mouth, gave him a benevolent and cordial look, which made him a favourite in society. He was always perfectly dressed, and was proud of his white hands and filbert nails.

People who wished to do business with the firm, always preferred to see the senior partner to the junior, because the former was so suave and courteous, and the latter so rough and curt.

But Mr Crampton was the tenderer-hearted man of the two, though he did not show it so much. His private purse-strings were always open to help a disabled workman, or to head a subscription for the widows and orphans of those who were removed by death. He was a man of strong views, however, and a somewhat obstinate temperament, and this business of his daughter and Mr Frederick Walcheren had disturbed him very much. A Scotchman by birth, and brought up as a Nonconformist, he had a righteous horror of Popery, and everything connected with it. On this account alone he had, from the first, discountenanced the acquaintanceship of Mr Walcheren with his family; and to find that his daughter had, in express opposition to his wishes, made an intimate friend of the young man, wounded him in his tenderest point. He sat very gloomy and silent after his wife and sister-in-law had left the room, and Mr Hindes tried his utmost to make him regard the matter in a more hopeful light. For years he had been as intimate in the domestic circle of the Crampton family, as he was with his partner in the city, and was regarded as their nearest friend by them all.

'This is a matter that only requires a few words of explanation to set it right, Crampton,' he remarked, 'so it's no use looking so black about it. You must allow that you and your wife have rather given Miss Jenny her own way, and naturally she clings to it. But she loves you both too much to wilfully oppose you.'

'I hope so, I hope so!' replied the old man. 'But spoilt children are not always the most grateful, Hindes. I trust that Jenny may listen, as you say, to reason, but I would rather appeal to the young man himself. Perhaps, if he knew that we will never give our consent to her marrying a Papist, he might see the advisability of giving up the pursuit.'

'I will speak to him, if you empower me to do so,' said Hindes, eagerly. 'He is sure to be at the Bouchers' dance to-night. I did not intend to go, but I believe Hannah wishes to do so, and the opportunity will be an excellent one, particularly if Miss Crampton is to be there, and carries out your prohibition with respect to dancing with him. He will sulk and sit out, and I shall be able to give him a hint as to your disapproval of his suit.'

'Do so, Hindes, and I shall be exceedingly obliged to you,' replied Mr Crampton. 'And, if that fails, we must take Jenny away, for, by hook or by crook, I am determined to shake that young fellow off.'

'Hannah is going with the little ones to Broadstairs next week. What do you say to Miss Crampton accompanying her? You know how fond my wife is of your daughter, and she would watch over her like a mother. At all events, it is worth thinking of.'

'It would be a capital plan,' said Mr Crampton; 'but why are you going?'

'Because it is time one of us was at the office, my dear fellow; and, since you are about to speak to your daughter on this subject, it is just as well I should be out of the way. I shall see you later in the afternoon, but don't hurry on my account. And I shall not forget to speak to Mr Walcheren this evening. I shall not spare him, I promise you, but lay it on as thick as I know how, and, if he doesn't like it, he must do the other thing. By the way, I know the cousin, Philip Walcheren, as well as their mutual director, Father Tasker, so, if the young man won't hear reason, I will appeal to them. There is one convenience about these Papists, you can generally wield them through their directors.'

'Yes, the silly fools!' said Crampton contemptuously. 'They're afraid to say their lives are their own if the priests say they're not. Pooh! call them men. They're more like a flock of silly sheep, who run baa-ing after their shepherd.'

'In that case,' replied Mr Hindes, smiling, 'I'm afraid Mr Frederick Walcheren must be one of the lost sheep, for, from all I hear, he does not trouble the church, nor the director of his conscience much. But I'll do my level best to bring him to hear reason in this instance. Au revoir.'

And, with a nod and a smile, he was gone.

'He's a true friend,' thought Mr Crampton to himself, as he took up the Times, and tried to possess his soul in patience until the appearance of his daughter.

Meanwhile, Mrs Crampton and Miss Bostock were making their way, timidly, towards the young lady's bedroom. In the ante-chamber they encountered her maid, employed in sewing.

'Is Miss Crampton awake yet, Ellen?' demanded her mother.

'Oh! no, ma'am, I haven't heard a sound of her, and she begged me particularly not to call her till she rung. She was terrible tired, she said, and didn't wish to be disturbed.'

'I'm sorry, Ellen, but I'm afraid I must wake her now. It's past eleven, and her papa particularly wishes to see her before he leaves for the city,' replied Mrs Crampton.

'Oh, dear! I'm sure I don't know what she'll say,' remarked the maid, as she re-applied herself to her work, and looked as if she was glad the task had not fallen to her.

The two ladies entered the adjoining bedroom on tip-toe, and as if they feared the result of the least noise. It was one of the most perfectly-arranged chambers a young girl could desire, and it was pre-evident that its furnishings had been selected with the greatest care, and for someone who was much loved and treasured. The walls and chintzes were all of palest pink, the woodwork of white enamel, and the hangings of lace. On the walls were hung a selection of photographs, chiefly of dogs and horses, for Miss Crampton's tastes ran in that line, and the low, walnut-wood bookcase was filled with the best authors. Everywhere were signs of profusion and luxury, for the Cramptons were rich and spared no expense for this one beloved child, who made all the joy of their lives. The toilet table was covered with silver and cut glass, and on the mantelpiece stood a handsome clock and candelabras of Sevres china; but the fairest sight in all the room was Jenny Crampton herself, as she lay, flushed, dishevelled and palpitating on her bed, one of the most beautiful specimens of work that ever proceeded from the Creator's hand. It was difficult to believe that the two plain women who stood gazing at her from the foot of the bed, could be her nearest blood relations. The questions of hereditary resemblances and non-resemblances are amongst the most anomalous in Nature. Whence did Jenny Crampton inherit her perfect features and colouring? Her father was a type of the average middle-class Englishman. He had a broad-set, muscular figure, with legs too short for his size, a florid complexion, with thick bushy eyebrows, a heavy nose, and a long upper lip. His small grey eyes were shrewd, but honest and benevolent-looking, and his hands and feet were large and coarse. His wife and her sister might have stood, with a little caricaturing, for the Frenchman's notion of an 'English Mees.'

Mrs Crampton had the shapelier and more matured figure of the two, and her soft brown eyes, attenuated nose, and weak drooping mouth, might once have been styled pretty, but they both possessed the same tall, flat frames, with sloping shoulders, long hands and feet, and limp, lustreless hair. In what enchanted moment, then, had such progenitors given life to such a lovely creature, as lay asleep upon the bed before them? Her rounded dimpled arms were thrown restlessly above her head (for it was summer weather), and were half hidden by the mass of light chestnut hair, that strayed over her pillow. Her tints were those of a maiden-blush rose. From her neck and shoulders to her flushed cheeks, her skin was of one uniform texture, of a pale cream, just touched with pink. Her lips were slightly parted as she slept and showed the row of white teeth within. The lashes of her eyes lay thick and long upon her cheeks; and those eyes, when open, formed, perhaps, the very chief of her attractions. They were long, limpid eyes, of a light hazel colour, and with the startled expression in them of a deer or a child; eyes which made strangers think that Jenny Crampton was one of the most innocent of God's creatures upon earth, but which changed considerably in expression when Jenny's wishes were in any way crossed, or her requests disregarded. From the time when she was a lovely little child (the only one they had ever kept since its earliest infancy) Mr and Mrs Crampton had learned to dread the clouding over of those beautiful orbs, and the pouting of those pretty lips. It was in their power to gratify every wish of their child, and so they gratified themselves at the same time by avoiding anything so distressing to them as her tears. Everyone had combined to spoil Jenny Crampton from her babyhood, and by this time the young lady was pretty well beyond all control. The father acceded to her every request, however unreasonable or extravagant; and the mother and aunt only lived to worship her. Even poor Aunt Clem, who was the standing butt for Jenny's ridicule, or the mark for her ill-humour, considered herself well repaid for all her patience and endurance if the spoilt beauty gave her an occasional hasty kiss (or rather peck) on her cheek, or her cap, or wherever it might chance to fall, or honoured her by a request to tie her sash, or do a commission for her. This was the sort of education the poor girl had received to enable her to face the rebuffs of the world. But, though her bringing-up had been very faulty, there was no mistake about her beauty. Far or near, all round Hampstead and its environs, there was not a girl who could vie in good looks with old Crampton's daughter, and, as her father was known to be a very wealthy man, Jenny had more admirers than she could count on her ten fingers. But, of them all, none had really appealed to her senses but Frederick Walcheren. The Cramptons and Aunt Clem had a tough time before them.

'How lovely she is!' sighed Miss Bostock, as an intuition of their presence, even through her dreams, made Jenny turn restlessly and throw herself into another becoming attitude on the other side of the bed.

'Yes! indeed, Clem; but I'm afraid I must rouse her,' whispered Mrs Crampton. 'Papa is really vexed about this business, and, if she doesn't see him at once, I fear he may be more so. Jenny, my darling!' she continued, going round to the girl's side and laying her hand gently on her shoulder, 'Jenny, dear love, wake up; there's a dear! Papa wants to see you before he goes into the city.'

'Eh! what?' said the girl drowsily, as she turned away, 'it's not time to get up yet. I'm so sleepy.'

'But, Jenny, love, try and rouse yourself,' repeated her mother, rather tremblingly, 'your father wants you, dear. He won't keep you long. You need only put on a tea-gown and can come back and finish your toilet afterwards. Come Jenny, make an effort, love, for papa won't be denied.'

The girl opened her big hazel eyes then, and stared stupidly at her aunt and mother.

'You here, mamma!' she ejaculated, 'and Aunt Clem! What on earth is the matter? Is the house on fire?'

'No! no! dear, of course not, but papa wants to speak to you for a minute before he leaves home.'

'Then he must wait till he comes back,' replied Jenny, as she closed her eyes again, 'for I'm a great deal too sleepy to see anyone. Go away, do! mamma, and leave me alone. It's a shame to go waking me in this way, when you know I was dancing up to three o'clock this morning.'

'I know, darling, I know!' said Mrs Crampton, almost weeping, 'and I wouldn't have done it for the world, only papa insisted on it, and you know what he is when he's set on having his way. Jenny, my dear; do try and rouse yourself a little, for papa says if you don't go down and see him, he will come up here and pull you out of bed himself.'

At this intelligence, Miss Crampton did see fit to open her eyes a little wider, and sit up in bed. Perhaps her conscience warned her what this unusual severity on the part of her father might portend, but she looked exceedingly cross as she did so.

'I never heard such nonsense in all my life,' she exclaimed, 'what can he have to say to me, that will not keep till dinner time? I can't be down for half an hour, at anyrate, so papa must wait my pleasure. Where's Ellen? She must come and help me dress! My goodness me, Aunt Clem,' she broke off suddenly, as she caught sight of that lady's sympathetic features regarding her wistfully from the foot of the bed, 'don't stand there goggling at me like a stork on one leg, or you'll drive me out of my senses. Go and call Ellen, do! If I'm to see papa, someone must dress me. I don't suppose he wants me to walk downstairs in my night-dress, though he is in such a hurry.'

'No! no! love, of course not!' returned her mother, hastily. 'Clem! call Ellen, and tell her Jenny is going to get up. Now, darling! what can I do to help you?'

'Nothing,' replied her daughter peevishly, 'unless you will give papa a dose of morphia to keep him quiet till I can dress myself. What is all this mystery about? Why can't you say why the old gentleman is so desirous of my company this morning. He is not in the habit of dragging me out of bed, after a ball, at this unearthly hour.'

'It is nearly twelve o'clock, my dear!' said Mrs Crampton evasively.

'What of that? I ordered my trap to be round at four this afternoon, and told Ellen particularly that she was not to come near me till I rang. You know the Bouchers' dance is on to-night, and a nice figure I shall look at it if I do not have my sleep out first.'

'Well, dear,' replied her mother, soothingly, 'you can come to bed again, if you think fit, in the afternoon. You know I wouldn't have disturbed you for all the world, but gentlemen are not always so considerate. And your father insisted upon my doing so, so what could I say?'

'What's the row about?' repeated Jenny, as her maid began to brush out and twist up her superabundant hair.

But Mrs Crampton was too discreet to say all she knew before a servant.

'Oh! it's nothing particular, my love, and your father had best tell you himself. You needn't be afraid, he loves you too dearly ever to scold you, whatever you may do or say.'

'Oh! I'm not afraid of the old man!' rejoined the young lady; 'only he'd better not go too far with me. I can guess what all the fuss is about, mamma, and I've got a will of my own, as well as he has. If papa is going to lecture me about Mr—'

'Now, dear, don't mention any names,' interposed Mrs Crampton quickly, 'for it may only lead to mischief. Your papa must tell you his own business, and I'm sure you'll do all in your power to fall in with his wishes.'

'I'm not so sure of that,' replied the young lady, with a moue. 'Here, Ellen, give me my blue tea-gown! My hair will do very well, for I shall most likely be in bed again in half an hour. Go down, whilst I'm with Mr Crampton, and fetch me some chocolate and a piece of toast, and let it be ready when I come back. Now! mamma, we'll go and beard the old lion in his den.'


JENNY looked, if possible, lovelier than usual as she tripped downstairs beside her mother and her aunt. Her face was still flushed from sleep, and her hair had been twisted up anyhow, whilst the pale blue gown she wore accorded well with her rose-leaf complexion. Mrs Crampton and Miss Bostock accompanied her in trembling dread of the coming encounter, but the girl herself was perfectly confident and fearless. As they reached the door of the library, where her father awaited her, she caught sight of Aunt Clem's visage and burst out laughing.

'Oh, dear!' she cried, 'Aunt Clem, if you don't put on some other kind of face, you'll kill me! When you assume that lugubrious expression, you look so like a cow that I always expect to hear you low.'

'Dearest child! that is not kind,' remarked her mother, with mild reproof.

'Oh! never mind, it doesn't signify, I am sure dear Jenny doesn't mean it,' interposed Aunt Clem, who had, nevertheless, winced under the sarcasm.

'I did mean it, though,' cried Jenny boldly; 'one would think I was going to be hanged to see your long faces. Well, papa!' she continued, as they entered the presence of Mr Crampton, 'and what may you have to say to me this morning? You'll have to pay for dragging me out of my bed in this outrageous manner, you know, and I sha'n't be pacified until you buy me that little Arab mare of Mr Winchers'. Is it a bargain?'

She looked so saucy and so pretty as she said this, and perched herself on her father's knee, that Mr Crampton, in his pride and affection, was very nearly granting her request without further protest. But the remembrance of the Popish admirer intruded itself just in time to prevent the folly. Nevertheless, he kissed his daughter's blooming cheek, and said,—

'If you will be a good girl, and do exactly as I tell you, you shall have a dozen Arab mares if they will please you, Jenny.'

'All right, old gentleman! that's a bargain. Now for the conditions.'

'But we must speak seriously, my dear, for I am quite in earnest in this matter. You have been encouraging a young man to come about here, Jenny, of whose acquaintanceship you know I do not approve—I mean Mr Frederick Walcheren. Now, I must have a stop put to it at once. He never comes here again, nor will I allow you to meet him out of the house, unless it should be by accident, nor to dance with him if you do meet him. I hope you understand me plainly. I will not permit you to know any of the Walcherens from this time forward. You must entirely drop them. Nor shall your mother ask them to my house. And I shall never remove this prohibition from you—never!'

'Anything more?' asked Jenny, shortly.

A close observer might have seen and interpreted the change in her countenance as she listened to her father's mandate. Into the light hazel eyes had crept a much darker shade, and the full lips had pouted till they had become sullen. But all she said was 'Anything more?'

'I do not know that, as your father, I am in any way called upon to give you my reasons, my dear, but, since you seem to ask for them, I will. You appear to me to have shown a marked preference for Mr Frederick Walcheren's society, and, as it would be impossible for you to marry him, it is best the affair should be put an end to at once.'

'He has plenty of money,' argued the young lady.

'I am aware of that, and the uses he has hitherto put his money to. He is a gambler and a loose liver. But that is not the chief objection to him in my eyes. His vices might be reformed, but not his religion. Young creatures like yourself do not think of such things, but the Walcherens are all Roman Catholics, and that fact puts an insuperable barrier between them and us. I would never, under any circumstances, give my consent to your marriage with a Papist. I would rather see you in your grave, Jenny, and I cannot say more than that. If you have entertained any such idea, you must dismiss it from your mind at once. And in order that there may be no fear of such a thing—in order to secure your happiness and safety, I insist upon your giving up the acquaintanceship of this young man altogether. You must not ask him to the house again, and, if he calls, your mother will order the servant to say that she is not at home. If you meet him out, you have my strict commands not to dance with him, or to talk more than the merest politeness necessitates. If, notwithstanding these precautions, I find Mr Walcheren is obstinately bent on thrusting himself where he is not welcome, I shall take the law into my own hands, by carrying you away from Hampstead to some place where it is impossible you can meet him. Don't think me harsh, Jenny, for, God knows, that is the last thing I wish to be towards you, but I have spoken to you on this subject several times before, and I find you have taken no heed, so you force me to speak more plainly. Do you quite understand me now?'

'Yes, I understand,' said the girl sullenly.

'And you promise obedience?'

'How can I do otherwise than obey?' she broke out passionately. 'The house is yours, and you can do as you choose with it and those who enter it. And Frederick Walcheren is not a man to thrust his company where it is not wanted. All these accusations you bring against him—what authority have you for them? He is to be condemned unheard, and his religion is brought against him as a crime. If that is what you call Christian, I'd rather be a Jew any day.'

The tone she had adopted made the old man angry. He was devotedly fond and proud of her, but he had an obstinate temper, and would not brook opposition to his wishes.

'Now, now, that's enough!' he answered. 'My word is law here, and I will stand no arguments about the matter. I don't approve of the man—that is sufficient! Neither shall my daughter know him. As for condemning him unheard, that is all rubbish. Hindes knows his character as well as I do. He says—'

'Oh! then it is to Mr Hindes I owe this unpleasant interview,' cried Jenny. 'What business has he to poke his nose into my affairs? He's always meddling in some way or another. Mr Hindes made you sell my beautiful hunter, because he said it was not safe for me to ride; and Mr Hindes prevented my accepting Lady Makewell's invitation to the Castle, on account of some absurd rumours he had heard of her former life. But, if Mr Hindes thinks he is to be the judge of all my actions and the ruler of my destinies, he is very much mistaken, and so I will let him know before he is many days older. I won't have any man interfering with me in this way, and turning my own parents against me.'

'Don't be a fool!' exclaimed Mr Crampton, roughly. 'Hindes is the best friend you have—that any of us have—and it would be a bad day for the firm and the family, that saw our interests divided. I mentioned him as an authority for the sort of life Mr Frederick Walcheren lives, but, far from setting me against you, he has stood up for your good sense and filial obedience all through the discussion of this unfortunate affair. It is I alone—your father—who has come to the conclusion to cut Mr Walcheren's acquaintance, and now I demand your obedience to my commands. Once and for all, your implicit obedience. Do you promise it me?'

'I have no alternative!' said Jenny.

'All the same, I must have your promise given here, before your mother and your aunt.'

'Very well, then, I promise!' replied the girl after a pause.

'That is all I require,' said the old man; 'and now, I suppose, I can go about my business. But remember! if I ever catch you trying to outwit me by any d—d subterfuges, I will take you away from Hampstead, and you shall never see it again whilst that man is in it.'

He turned then, as if to leave the room, but, perceiving that both his wife and her sister were in tears, he thought he might have spoken too harshly to this child whom he so dearly loved, and came back again for a moment.

'Kiss me, Jenny,' he said; 'I'm not angry with you, my girl, though I may have seemed so, but it's your happiness I have at heart and not my own. There! there!' with a sounding kiss on her cheek, 'you won't fret about the matter, will you? and we'll ride over together to Winchers' to-morrow and secure the little mare you've set your heart on. God bless you, my dear!' and, with another kiss, he left them to themselves.

Jenny stood for a minute silent and motionless, then walked quickly towards the door, as if to return to her own room.

'Jenny, my darling,' pleaded her mother, 'you see the force of your dear father's argument, don't you?'

She went towards the girl as she spoke, and would have wound her arms about her, but Jenny pushed her impatiently aside.

'Don't bother me, mamma,' she said, 'you know how I hate a fuss. All this worry is mostly your fault, you might have prevented it if you had chosen.'

'Oh! Jenny, my dear, how?'

'Why, do you suppose I don't know it has come of some repetition of yours or Aunt Clem's? How should papa, who is all day in the city, and never goes with us anywhere in the evenings, have heard that I danced more with Fred Walcheren than any other man, unless you had told him? And I think it is beastly mean of you, too! Why can't I have my pleasure the same as other girls? I conclude you and papa made love enough to each other when you were young, and yet you grudge me a choice in the matter. I'm only to dance, and talk, and be agreeable with such people as you select for me. It's bitterly unfair.'

'Oh, no, darling, don't say that! Your dear father is only desirous of one thing, to promote your welfare. And Mr Walcheren is very wild, Jenny. He would not make you a good husband. Everybody says so.'

'And so my happiness is to be sacrificed because "everybody" chooses to tell lies of the man I like, and papa and you choose to believe them. Well! I sha'n't forget it in a hurry, I can tell you, mamma. And now, please let me go to my room in peace. I suppose I may claim a right to so much indulgence of my own wishes.'

'My dear girl, when have any of your wishes been ungratified, unless they were likely to prove hurtful to yourself. We should take a knife away from a baby, my darling, however much it cried for it, for fear it should cut itself.'

'Thank you for comparing me to a baby, mamma, but I think you will find I am not quite such a child as you imagine. Anyway, I am woman enough to wish to be left alone to think over this matter by myself.'

And, without waiting for an answer, Jenny ran up the staircase, and locked herself into her bedroom.

The two ladies downstairs were left in a very uncomfortable condition.

'I hope,' remarked Mrs Crampton to her sister, 'I hope dear papa did not go too far in what he said. Jenny is so high-spirited and quick-tempered, that she might be tempted to do something wilful just because she was crossed. And if she dances with Mr Walcheren at the Bouchers' to-night, I don't know what her papa will say.'

'Oh, she would never dare to do so, surely,' replied Aunt Clem; 'she would never fly in John's face in that manner! She is a little fond of her own way sometimes, I admit, but she has a good heart, poor darling, and says far more than she means. And John is right, Emma. Mr Walcheren is a very wild young man, and it would never do for our Jenny to marry him.'

'Of course, John is right,' acquiesced the wife; 'but I wish Jenny could see it in the same light. However, I will take care not to let her out of my sight this evening, and then it will be impossible for Mr Walcheren to get speech of her, without my overhearing what he may say.'

Meanwhile, Jenny, having reached the sanctuary of her own room, drank off her chocolate hastily, and dismissed her maid who was in attendance.

'Is my bath ready, Ellen?' she inquired; 'that is right. Well! you can go now and I will ring when I am ready to dress. Tell Brunell that I will have the Ralli cart at one.'

'Before luncheon, miss?' said the maid.

'At one o'clock, sharp! And don't go out of the way; I shall want you in ten minutes.'

She turned the key of her door on the inside as the maid disappeared, and, sitting down before her writing-table, drew out pen and paper, and commenced to write a letter, which ran as follows:—


There has been a row here this morning, and papa has forbidden me ever to speak to you again. What are we to do? I shall be at the Bouchers' to-night, without fail. I must not dance with you, but, if you will be in the picture gallery after the fourth dance, I will contrive to speak to you. Oh, Fred, where is all this going to end? They shall never make me give you up, if you remain of the same mind, but open communication with you seems almost impossible. I can't write any more, my head and my heart are both in a whirl.

Ever your loving


She sealed this letter, and directed it to Frederick Walcheren, Esq., 308 Nevern Mansions, Earl's Court, London, and placed it on one side. Her next concern was to see in what condition this unpleasant excitement had left her. But she found no reason to complain.

The exercise of her temper had made her cheeks rosier, and lent an extra brightness to her eyes. She was glad of this—glad that she had not given way to the weakness of tears, and swelled up her eyelids and made her face look puffy. She might meet Frederick during her drive. He spent most of his spare time in wandering about Hampstead in the hopes of meeting her. But she seldom drove out until the afternoon. Still, there was just the chance of a rencontre with her lover, and for that chance Jenny would have taken more trouble than this.

When she came downstairs again, an hour later, dressed in a tailor-made suit of light fawn tweed, with her jaunty little felt hat on her head, and her hands in white doeskin driving-gloves, holding a handsome ivory-handled whip, few people would have guessed the state of excitement she was still in, she looked so fresh and lovely and smiling. In the hall she encountered her mother, who had heard the wheels of the Ralli cart draw up to the door.

'Out so early, my darling?' Mrs Crampton said, kindly; 'where are you going to?'

'For a drive,' answered the girl curtly.

'But doesn't it look a little like rain,' continued her mother timidly, for she was half afraid of her idol, particularly when the idol was put out.

'I don't care if it does,' replied Jenny, in the same tone; 'I'm not made of sugar.'

'But take an umbrella, darling,' said her mother, anxiously, 'and let Brunell hold it over you, if it should be wet.'

But Miss Crampton rejected all her suggestions with scorn.

'If it thunders and lightens, and I get wet through and go into a consumption, so much the better,' she exclaimed impatiently. 'You and papa between you have contrived to make me so supremely miserable, that I don't care what happens to me! In fact, the sooner I'm dead the better; and I've a good mind to take a dose of prussic acid and end it at once.'

This is a very usual threat of selfish and ill-tempered people, particularly if they have loving and anxious hearts to deal with. To Mrs Crampton, to whom the girl was everything in the world, Jenny's words seem full of bitter portent.

'Oh! my darling! my darling!' she exclaimed, in a voice of the deepest concern, 'don't say such terrible things, even in jest, for Heaven's sake! You will break my heart, Jenny, and your poor father would go mad if he heard you speak in such an awful way. Why! we would cut off our right hands to save you a moment's trouble.'

'Yes! it looks like it, doesn't it?' said the young lady, sarcastically.

'My dearest, don't discuss the subject again. Wait a little and you will see it perhaps in a different light. My head aches so, Jenny, I am not fit to argue it with you, and you have been upset as well. Go for a nice drive, and the fresh air will make your head clearer. But be careful, my love, and don't do anything rash! I'm half afraid of those cobs, Jenny, they're so fresh and spirited.'

'Oh! you're afraid of everything,' replied her daughter in a tone of contempt; 'and as for Aunt Clem, she's alarmed at her own shadow.'

'I was never brought up to horses and dogs, as you have been, dear,' said Miss Bostock, who was standing near.

'No; nor to anything, I should think,' replied her niece, as she prepared to get into her Ralli cart. 'I often think you and mamma must have been born and reared on a desert island, you seem so utterly ignorant of the things most people do.'

With which Miss Crampton gently touched her steeds with the lash of her whip, and they went prancing down the drive as if they intended to bolt, whilst her mother and aunt held their breath with anxiety, lest the wilful driver should come to any harm.

Jenny drove at a smart pace through the principal ways of Hampstead, whilst the pedestrians whom she passed said to each other 'There goes the beautiful Miss Crampton,' and she overheard some of their remarks and flushed with pleasure at the notice she excited. For this young lady's besetting sin was an inordinate vanity of her personal attractions, which she had cultivated to the exclusion of all the Christian graces. She was a specimen of that most odious of all modern innovations, the fast girl of the nineteenth century, and she was vulgar in consequence, for all fast women are vulgar, and obnoxious in the eyes of everybody but their male admirers. For when will men be ever sensible enough to separate the value of personal beauty and mental charm? Not while they have eyes to see. Once touch their senses, and, for the time their infatuation lasts, you cannot convince them but that the mind and soul of their goddess equal her body in charm. Frederick Walcheren was infatuated with the beauty of this girl, and he believed her disposition to be all that was good and lovable as well. It appeared so to him, for, whenever they met, Jenny was in her best temper, and ready to be pleased with everything. Had he even seen her, as she had been on the present occasion, rude and impertinent to her parents, cruelly sarcastic to her meek and unoffending aunt, and obstinately resolved upon having her own way, he would still have taken her part, declared her to be a suffering angel, and her father and mother most unjust and tyrannical towards her. Shakespeare never wrote a greater truism than when he made Rosalind declare that 'Love is a madness,' a madness that blinds our vision, distorts our judgment, and makes all things, not only apparently, but actually, different from what they are; when the rose-coloured spectacles have been torn by circumstance from our eyes, and we wonder we could ever have been such egregious fools as to think that they were otherwise.

Miss Crampton, then, with her heart on fire and her soul up in arms, stopped at the first pillar-box she passed, and bade Brunell post the letter which she gave him, the letter she had written in her bedroom and which she knew would reach town before Mr Walcheren left it to meet her at the house of their mutual friends, the Bouchers.

And as she flew over the highway, one sentence kept revolving itself over and over in her mind, and the burden of it was, 'I will never give him up, I will never give him up.'


WHEN Miss Crampton's letter reached the hands of Mr Frederick Walcheren, it was by the four o'clock post, and that gentleman was lying on a couch in his apartments in Nevern Mansions. He was a handsome man of about thirty, with dark eyes and hair, and classical features, set in a pale, clear complexion. He was clean shorn, except for a small, soft moustache, and the possessor of a tall, lithe figure. He had an ample fortune, having inherited about two thousand a year from an old Catholic godfather, who died when Frederick was quite an infant, and who had expressed a wish in his will that his godson and heir should enter the church, or, at all events, benefit the church by founding some religious institution at his own death, with the fortune he left in his charge. But the old gentleman could hardly have chosen a worse guardian of his property. No embargo had been laid on the young man spending his money as he chose, and his choice was to spend it on himself and the companions whom he delighted to honour. His little flat in Earl's Court was only a pied à terre. His home may have been said to exist at Epsom, Goodwood, Newmarket, or any one of the other race-courses in England. He was also to be met periodically at Monte Carlo or Paris. Occasionally he would take a fancy to run over to New York or San Francisco, but, wherever he pitched his tent, one might be sure there were plenty of opportunities for gambling and speculation. Not but what Frederick Walcheren was a perfectly honourable man; but he could not live (or he thought he could not live) without excitement of some sort, and he loved the uncertainty and risk of betting and play.

His money and his good looks had rendered him an easy prey to the harpies of the other sex, and had landed him into one or two scrapes with more respectable women. His cousin, Philip, had often had to be the go-between and peacemaker with sundry fair damsels, who were violently bent on a breach of promise case, or a horse-whipping through means of their next friend.

Mr Philip Walcheren was quite a different sort of character from his cousin. Married, and the father of a family, a staunch Catholic, steady and prosperous in his business as a solicitor, he was almost a pattern man, and Frederick's goings-on were a marvel and a misery to him. He and his director, Father Tasker, were constantly talking over the other man, and wondering by what means they could dissuade him from his follies, and induce him to lead a more sober life. But, as yet, their exhortations and entreaties had been of no avail. Frederick laughed at their cautions, and pooh-poohed their predictions of a repentant future. He meant to live his life, he told them, and asked for no one's pity or advice. He was in reality, what Mr Crampton and Henry Hindes had called him, a dissolute and irreclaimable spendthrift, and not fit to be the husband of any girl.

Still, he was pleasant and fascinating, and the beau sexe spoilt him, to a woman. As he lay indolently on his couch this afternoon, turning Jenny's letter over and over in his hands, his thoughts were much the same as hers had been, for of all the femininities he had ever met, and trifled with, she was the only one who had seriously touched his heart. Women as handsome as Jenny, and far more amiable, had been ready, before now, to throw themselves at his feet, but they had had no power to move him. But for this petulant, spoilt, and rather underbred, girl, he would have laid down his life. Who can account for anomalies? Is love—such love as has its origin in admiration—a spiritual passion, or is it the force of two magnetisms that attract each to each, beyond the power of the individual to oppose? From the strange choices we see made in this world, it would seem so. Anyway, this is how Frederick Walcheren felt for Jenny Crampton—that he would die sooner than give her up. She seemed, in the short time they had known each other, to have grown into his life—to have become part of it, indeed—so that he could no longer imagine living without her. He kept saying to himself all the while, just as she had done,—'I will not give her up for any man or woman upon earth. What do I care about the old wool-stapler raving? Let him rave. I will carry her off before his very eyes. But she shall be mine; in fact, she is mine in heart and soul, and I defy the whole world to separate us.'

And, just at that moment, there sounded a double knock on his outer door, and his man appeared to usher in his cousin, Philip Walcheren and Father Tasker.

Frederick sprung to his feet. The instincts of a born Catholic were still strong in him, and, though he never went to confession or mass, he always showed a proper deference for the clergy. Added to which, Father Tasker was an old friend of his family.

'How are you, Father,' he said, 'I'm glad to see you. Pray take the arm-chair. Well, Philip! all right at home?'

'Quite right, thank you, Frederick,' replied his cousin; 'I was on my way to have a talk with you when I met Father Tasker, so we came together.'

'I'm delighted to see you both,' said Frederick, 'what can I give you? I know that it is no use my offering the father a brandy-and-soda, but, if you will not take one, Philip, my man shall get some tea ready in half a minute.'

'I don't think we have time for either,' replied Philip Walcheren. 'I have only about ten minutes to spare, and the Father honours me with his company at dinner to-night, so I think Marion will be disappointed if I deprive her of her five-o'clock tea gossip with him. She is, doubtless, anxiously awaiting us now. But I felt I could not pass another night without asking you, Frederick, if a rumour which I have heard concerning you is true.'

'What's up now?' demanded his cousin.

'I met young Fellows in the city this afternoon, Mrs Bouchers' brother, you know, and he told me that it is commonly said in Hampstead that you are engaged, or about to be engaged, to Miss Crampton.'

'What of it?' said Frederick carelessly.

'Surely it is not true! Surely, with your antecedents, Frederick, you are not thinking of marrying any respectable woman!'

'Would you prefer my marrying a disreputable one, then, Philip?'

'Most certainly not! What I mean is, that, under the circumstances, you have no right to marry at all. How can you go up to God's holy altar with any woman, whilst that unfortunate girl down at Luton is even now expiating the awful sin you led her into?'

'Of course, it is quite impossible that it was she who led me instead of the other way?' said Frederick, interrogatively.

'Whosoever fault it may have been in the first instance, you know that you are responsible now.'

'And I am quite ready to meet my responsibilities. Do you want me to marry the straw-plaiter down at Luton?'

'No, no! I want you to do nothing but alter your mode of living, Frederick, and try and be a decent member of society. It is terrible to think how you go on, without care for yourself or others, without a thought of God, or the future that lies before you. If poor Sir Frederick Ascher had only foreseen the uses his money would have been put to, he would have thought twice before he left it to you.'

'Yes! but, luckily for me, he didn't foresee, so I can do as I like about it. Has Father Tasker a lecture in store for me as well?' inquired Frederick, turning to the priest.

'No! my son, we are not in the confessional, where I could wish we met oftener; but I would like to remind you that, although your late godfather made no actual conditions regarding the expenditure of the fortune he left you, yet his wishes, that it should be devoted to the church, were so strongly expressed, as almost to amount to a demand, and I cannot believe that any blessing will follow a different disposition of it.'

'I have confessed to no intention of marrying, remember, but should I ever do so, my wife will be my church, and I shall settle my money upon her.'

But this was a blasphemy that neither Philip Walcheren nor the priest could pass over in silence.

'Be careful, my son, be careful,' cried the one, 'lest the curse of Heaven, and the church you despise, are both provoked against you.'

'I cannot believe, Frederick, that you seriously mean what you say,' exclaimed his cousin. 'The money is only yours for your lifetime, and, if you do not dedicate it to the holy church at your death, some fearful calamity will surely overtake you, or those to whom you wrongfully give it.'

'Nonsense!' replied Frederick; 'I suppose you both mean well, but I would rather you understood me at once. As matters stand at present, I have not the slightest intention of leaving my money to the church. My godfather—peace to his ashes!—left it to me, and I recognise but one authority in the matter, and that is the law, which is on my side. I wonder, by the way, Philip, that you stick up so badly for the stability of the profession by which you live!'

'Every consideration must give way to the claims of the church, Frederick!'

'Well, I don't agree with you. I think Mother Church has feathered her own nest pretty well, considering her claims to humility and poverty. In my idea, my own nest will have the prior claim on my indulgence!'

'So you are really contemplating matrimony, Frederick,' said Philip. 'I wonder you can dare to enter a church under the circumstances, lest the walls and roof should fall in upon you.'

'Perhaps I shall be married in a registrar's office,' responded Frederick lightly; but the jest was so ill-timed that neither of his hearers commented upon it.

'With the fact of that misguided female down at Luton, you are about to commit a great sacrilege, my son, in taking the sacrament of matrimony on yourself!' remarked Father Tasker.

'Well, really, Father, I must say you and Philip are both rather hard on me! You have been reproaching me for my loose style of living for years past, and begging me to reform, and now, when you hear a rumour—merely a rumour, remember—that I'm about to forsake the devil and all his ways, and become a steady married man, like my good cousin here, you attack me as if I had just formed a fresh liaison instead. Why shouldn't I marry like a good boy, as well as Philip, who is, I know, a pattern of propriety. Why shouldn't I walk to mass every Sunday morning, with a little boy by one hand and a little girl by the other? It doesn't seem as if I could please you anyway.'

'You mistake both me and your cousin, my son,' replied the priest. 'It is not that we are not most anxious to see you turn over a new leaf and lead a pure life, but marriage is assuredly a condition of great temptation for a man situated as you are. It will bring cares and expenses with it, and your mind will be filled with the thought of providing for the future of your family. You have been brought up to no profession, for your sainted mother had no idea that you would be anything but a priest, and that your godfather's fortune would go as he wished it should do, to our holy church. But since you elected otherwise, there is but one honest course for you to pursue, and that is, to remain single, and preserve your money intact for the purpose for which your godfather left it to you. Marriage will interfere with this, therefore marriage is not for you!'

At this juncture Frederick's temper got the better of his judgment.

'Then I'm d—d if the church shall have the money,' he exclaimed loudly; 'all your advice, and precepts, and exhortations to a purer life count for nothing; they are only made so you may hear yourselves talk, and plume yourselves with the idea of how much better men you are than myself. But this matter is in my own jurisdiction, thank goodness, and I shall do exactly as I choose about it. I shall marry, or remain single, as pleases me, but, whatever I may do, the church doesn't get my money, so you may put that thought out of your heads at once. I'll leave it to the Salvation Army, or the Home for Lost Dogs, first.'

He had thrown himself into a passion by this time, and he walked quickly up and down his little room in order to cool his temper. Philip Walcheren looked as if he expected the heavens to open and strike his cousin dead for the utterance of such blasphemy, and the priest rose and prepared to shake the dust of those apartments off his feet.

'Mark my words,' he said solemnly, as he turned to leave the room, 'God will not be mocked, Frederick Walcheren. He knows all our hearts, and He will avenge himself. Good-morning.'

And with that Father Tasker disappeared.

'For shame!' cried Philip, as he prepared to follow him, 'for shame, Frederick. You may have law on your side, but you have neither right nor conscience. You have not told me whether the rumour I mentioned is true or false, but, if it is true, and you have any such intention in your head, pause, I beseech you, before you carry it into effect, or some fearful calamity will follow it. You have defied our holy church, and God will defend her rights. I shall not come again until you send for me.'

And in another moment the room was clear.

'Here, Watson,' called Frederick to his man, 'bring me a whisky-and-soda. I declare,' he continued to himself, 'if their twaddle has not made me quite uncomfortable. What on earth did that old fool, my godfather, mean by not making his will decisive one way or the other? I a priest, indeed! No. I mean to live a rather jollier life than that comes to. And there is only one other decent alternative, to marry the girl I love, and rear a family for the benefit of the State. And how can I do that without money? It is ridiculous to think of.'

Still, with the superstitious ideas which the Catholic religion infuses in all her followers, with the childish inbred fear of the priestly power to save or damn, with the fear of purgatory and a fiery hell, and becoming an outcast from salvation for ever, Frederick Walcheren did not feel quite comfortable, though he tried to laugh the feeling off, and was as resolute as before, that no power in heaven or earth should separate him from Jenny Crampton.

'They are against us on every side,' he thought, 'but that fact will only make me the more determined to have her. My beautiful darling! The most beautiful woman, in my eyes, that I have ever met. Why, Father Tasker himself couldn't resist her, if she stood on one side and hell on the other. What time is it, Watson? Six-thirty? By Jove! if I don't hurry up I shall get no dinner before I start for the Bouchers'.'

'Going to Hampstead again to-night, sir?' asked Watson, as he laid out his master's dress clothes upon the bed.

How well our servants know where we go, and who we go to see, and what we do it for.

'Yes,' replied Frederick, 'to Mrs Bouchers' dance. You needn't sit up for me, Watson, for I shall be very late. Order the brougham to call for me at Simpson's at nine o'clock. I shall go on straight from there.'

He hurried into his dress clothes, for he was determined that nothing should make him late that night, for fear he should miss the interview in the picture gallery after the fourth dance.

The picture gallery at the Bouchers' was very seldom entered by any of their dancing guests, being some way removed from the ballroom, but both Jenny and Mr Walcheren, being intimate friends at the house, knew it well.

Frederick thought rightly that, since a prohibition had gone forth against his dancing with the girl of his heart, it would be more prudent if he did not put in an appearance to the ballroom till after he had held the interview with Jenny. So, when he presented himself at the house, between nine and ten o'clock, and had divested himself of his crush hat and overcoat, he peeped into the dancing room to see how far the evening had advanced. The number two had just been placed above the bandstand, so he concluded he had at least half an hour to wait before Jenny could join him, and turned away again to seek the solitude of the picture gallery until the time of meeting had arrived.

But he reckoned without his host. Henry Hindes, who had been one of the earliest arrivals, and on the express look-out for Walcheren, spied him as soon as he looked into the room, and, rising quietly, followed him out. So, as soon as Frederick had reached the picture gallery, he heard a step in his rear, and, turning with annoyance to see who had discovered the retreat besides himself, met the outstretched hand and smiling glance of Mr Hindes. Mr Walcheren could not fail to return his civilities, but he was infinitely vexed. Of all the people he knew, he would rather have encountered anyone than Mr Hindes.

Not only because he was so intimately connected with the Cramptons, and, undoubtedly, knew most of the family secrets, but also because Frederick had conceived an unaccountable aversion for him. He did not know why himself. Henry Hindes had always been courteous and polite to him, far more so, indeed, than Mr Crampton, who invariably treated a Roman Catholic as if his religion were his own fault, and he was sinning every day that he didn't change it. Hindes, on the contrary, had no scruples on the score of difference of faith, and no right to object to the young man because he courted Jenny Crampton. He had always spoken and behaved to him as one gentleman should to another, and yet Walcheren hated him. Now, as he accepted his hand and asked after his well-doing, he would have liked to strike him across his smooth, smiling face instead. Mr Hindes, having no idea that the young man was waiting to see Miss Crampton, had thought this would be an excellent opportunity for him to fulfil the promise made to his partner, and let Mr Walcheren know how utterly hopeless his suit was.

'How are you, Walcheren?' he said, cordially, as he came up with him. 'You don't mean to tell me you are going to eschew dancing to-night, when there are so many pretty girls doing "wallflowers"? I saw you look into the ballroom and disappear again, and wondered if you had found your way to a buffet and a whisky-and-soda. I shouldn't mind following you if you have, for the night is very warm and I am very thirsty.'

'No, I had no such intention,' answered Walcheren, in a tone of annoyance. 'I fancy it is rather too early for that game. I came in here because I have a slight headache, and thought the cool and quiet might charm it away before I encountered the heat and glare of the ballroom.'

'To be sure, and I daresay it will. This is a charming place, though one cannot see much of the pictures by night. It is in semi-darkness. I do not suppose the Bouchers intend their guests to use it on such an occasion as this, or they would have it better lighted.'

'Perhaps not,' replied Walcheren. 'But I am an old friend of the family, and consider myself privileged to do as I like.'

'Oh! I am not finding fault with your decision, my dear fellow; on the contrary, I am very glad of the opportunity of a few words in private with you. It is not often that my wife can drag me out to a dance, and, to tell you the honest truth, I came here this evening expressly to see you.'

'To see me?' echoed Walcheren in astonishment. 'Why, what on earth can you have to say to me?'

'Nothing on my account, my dear friend, unless it were to tell you (what I hope you know) that I have always been pleased to welcome you to my house, and always shall be. But I am, as I think you are aware, a very intimate friend of Mr and Mrs Crampton, who were, indeed, the intimate friends also of my father before me, and who have known me almost from a child.'

'I know it,' replied Frederick. 'What of it?'

'Mr Crampton sent for me before ten o'clock this morning, and I found him in the greatest distress. His wife had intercepted a letter from you to Miss Crampton, and the contents had terribly upset him.'

'Passing over the fact that I consider it a breach of honour to pry into the private correspondence of anybody, I am not aware that there was anything in the letter alluded to that was calculated to upset Mr Crampton,' said Frederick.

'I don't sanction the proceeding, my dear Walcheren; I am only telling you the facts. The old gentleman was more than upset; he was terribly angry, and he made his daughter give him a solemn promise not to see (of her own free will), or speak, or write to you again.'

'And pray, may I ask,' cried Frederick Walcheren in a sudden fury, 'what business it is of yours, Mr Hindes, to mention the subject to me?'

'None at all, but I owe it to the entreaty of my friends. Both Mr and Mrs Crampton have begged me to convey their wishes to you. They have derived so much pleasure from your society as an acquaintance, and think so highly of your intentions with regard to their daughter, that they dreaded the task of telling you personally, that they can never give their sanction to a marriage between you.'

'Perhaps, as they told you so much, they were good enough to add their reasons for so extraordinary a decision,' exclaimed Walcheren, in a tone of sarcasm.

'Certainly they did, and it is one with which you cannot find serious fault. The objection is your religion. Mr Crampton will never allow his daughter to inter-marry with a Catholic, and his decision is irrevocable. Since your feelings for Miss Crampton cannot have gone beyond admiration, considering the short time you have known her, he thought it best you should hear his decision at once, before any mischief is done on either side.'

'And Miss Crampton's feelings? Are they not to be taken into consideration also?'

'Most certainly! There is nothing on earth Mr Crampton cares for so much as his only child! She is his heiress, as doubtless you know, but he will leave her nothing if she marries against his wishes. He is very obstinate when thwarted, and very unrelenting. And Miss Crampton would hardly be so foolish as to give up her fortune, as well as her parents, at one blow. Under these circumstances, I hope you will not take offence, my dear Walcheren, if I ask you, in his name, to relinquish your acquaintanceship with Miss Crampton, and to leave off visiting at the house. It is an unpleasant task my friends have set me, but I have done it for their sakes, and without any ulterior feeling against yourself. I have not a daughter old enough to aspire to your hand,' said Henry Hindes, smiling, 'but if I had, I am not sure that I should deliver such a message to you on my own account!'

But Frederick Walcheren took no notice of this little sop for Cerberus.

'Have the Cramptons any other objection to me besides that of my religion?' he asked presently.

'Well! my dear fellow,' replied Henry Hindes, dubiously, 'rumours have been conveyed to them of your life having been a little fast, not more than that of other men of the world, I daresay, but these old people do not regard such matters with the same eyes that you and I should do. They have only mixed in a certain society, you see, and know little of the sayings and doings of fashionable men and women. They have very strict notions concerning propriety, and you cannot shake their opinions on the subject. But the real objection is to your religion. That is insurmountable! They will never overlook it.'

'It is most unfair,' exclaimed Frederick; 'how is a man to help what his parents chose to make him? Besides, I have no religion at all! I believe in nothing, not a God, nor a Hereafter, nor a Heaven, nor a Hell! Will that suit them better?'

Mr Hindes laughed heartily at the idea.

'Pray don't hint at such a thing, Walcheren,' he said, 'or they would think you were the old gentleman himself! But we must really talk seriously about this matter. Mr Crampton is obdurate, and will remain so. He declares that unless you will give your promise not to interfere with his daughter for the future, he will take her away from Hampstead and out of your reach, and keep her there until one of you is married. I am sure you are too much a gentleman and man of honour to upset a whole family in that way, in order to gratify your spite against them. For it will not lead to your being readmitted to the house, and Miss Crampton will be strictly watched for the future.'

Frederick Walcheren was thinking very deeply on the matter, and his thoughts ran thus, 'I must overcome these people by diplomacy. If I refuse to give this promise, I shall be watched so closely that I shall never get speech of Jenny again; whereas, if I pretend to give in to their demands, I shall throw them off their guard. And the first thing I must do is to get rid of this fellow!' Aloud he said,—

'I am deeply grieved to hear of Mr Crampton's decision, but I see the wisdom of it. Naturally, I admire Miss Crampton very much, I wonder who doesn't, but, to tell truth, I anticipated a great deal of opposition from my own family, if it ever came to anything serious. They are as staunch for the old faith as ever Mr Crampton can be for his. Mixed marriages are, after all, a mistake. I am glad, therefore, that you have spoken so frankly and openly to me, and I thank you for it. Will you tell Mr Crampton that I acquiesce in his decision, and willingly give my promise not to intrude upon his daughter, or himself, again. You have been a true friend to both of us, Hindes. Accept my hand on it. And now I think I will just go home without running the risk of encountering la belle Jenny. It will please Mr Crampton if he hears that I have done so. And my headache really unfits me for any violent exercise. Good-night. Are you going back to the ballroom? If so, we will walk to the front of the house together.'

'Yes; I must go back to wait for my wife, who is enjoying herself just like a girl. I shall not say a word to Miss Crampton of having seen you. It will be better to let her think you have been prevented attending the party.'

'Most certainly, and assure Mr Crampton that he has nothing to fear from me. Good-night again,' and the two men parted at the hall door, with a shake of the hand.

Frederick Walcheren went forth into the darkness, whilst Henry Hindes, congratulating himself on the diplomatic manner in which he had executed his embassage, and the easy victory he had gained over the enemy, re-entered the ballroom, and took his seat there, with the most perfect assurance that all danger was over.


BUT he did not quite know Frederick Walcheren. Perhaps, also, he did not how know cunning Love makes a man. The younger man had assumed his overcoat and hat, and gone forth at the hall door, as if he had but one intention—to seek the railway station, since his brougham had returned to town. But, once clear of the scrutiny of the servants, he skirted the house on the left side, and passed from the front garden to the back, which is easily done in most suburban houses. This brought him on to a large lawn, from which the interior of the lighted ballroom might be easily seen through the open windows. Also, by turning the other corner of the mansion, he could, by pressing his face against the glass, see if the picture gallery was occupied or not, though he remained himself unseen. The windows of this room were also thrown open, and Frederick waited at one of them until he saw the white-robed figure of Jenny Crampton steal in, and glance furtively around as if in search of him.

'Jenny, Jenny,' he called softly, lest she should be followed by the friend of the family, 'Jenny, my love, come here, to this window.'

'What is this?' cried the girl as she perceived him; 'why are you here? Is anything wrong?'

'Nothing is wrong whilst you love me,' said Frederick, 'but we are watched, darling, so I have pretended to go home again. Have you the pluck to join me in the garden? There are any number of arbours here where we can talk undisturbed.'

'Pluck,' cried Jenny, jumping on the window sill, 'of course I have. Pluck enough to follow you over a precipice, if you wish me to do so.'

'You angel. I will ask you to take no more dangerous leap than into my arms. But were you seen? Did anyone follow you? We must not have an open row.'

'No, no one even saw me leave the ballroom, for I was at the buffet with Captain Rawson, when number five dance struck up, so I told him to go and find his partner and leave mine to seek me out. And as soon as his back was turned I slipped out here.'

'You dear girl! Give me your hand, then, and jump out; there is a lovely seat under that acacia tree—but what will you say if your mother asks where you have been?'

'That I have been strolling in the garden with my partner. She will think it was Captain Rawson; but she will not ask. She is used to my vagaries, and lets me do just as I choose.'

'But, darling, they won't let you do that any longer, I'm afraid. I've had a lecture as well as you, Jenny. Mr Hindes followed me to the picture gallery just now, by your father's request, and made me promise I would give up all pretensions to your hand, and leave off visiting at your house.'

'And do you mean to keep your promise?' inquired the girl, pouting.

'Not unless you tell me to do so, Jenny; I love you too much for that. I only did it to prevent a row, for if Mr Crampton carried his threat of taking you away from Hampstead into execution, I might find it very difficult to have any communication with you again.'

'But what is the good of my staying here if I am never to see you, Fred?' asked Jenny.

'That depends upon yourself, my darling; you can't do it from your father's house, that's certain.'

'Who's from, then?' said Jenny.

'From mine, sweetheart! Don't think me very bold, but, if you love me as you say, you will marry me whether your parents give their consent or not.'

'So I will, if you will only tell me how, Fred.'

'We must elope together, dearest; heaps of husbands and wives have done it before us, and been none the worse. Your father says that if you marry without his consent, he will leave you none of his money; that is a thing you must take into serious consideration, before you give me your answer. I have enough for both of us, still, you would be a richer woman if you remained your father's heiress; his fortune cannot be less than ten thousand a year, whilst mine is only two thousand.'

'What do I care for money in comparison with you, Fred?' whispered Jenny.

'That's my own true girl,' he answered, folding her closely to him, 'and once you have made up your mind to marry me without your father's consent, the rest is easy enough. Tell me to get a licence, and to give notice at the nearest registrar's office to my place, and you have only to arrange how you can join me, so as to give us a few hours' start of Mr Crampton, and I will have you out of his reach and power before the day is over.'

'To join you, dearest, is easily managed,' replied the girl. 'I must take a few things with me, you know, Fred! To run away in the clothes I stand up in, would be altogether too romantic for the nineteenth century. But I can send a box to my dressmaker's, under pretence of wanting some dresses altered—no one interferes with my dress at home—and then, when you let me know which day I am to be in town, I will drive myself over, as if to go shopping; tell Brunell to put the cobs up for a few hours, and call for me at Madame Costello's at 5 o'clock, and apres ça, le deluge!'

'A deluge of love, my darling—a life of happiness, during which I shall have but one thought—one aspiration—how I can best repay my darling angel for the sacrifice she has made for me. And, perhaps, after a time, your parents will come round. I cannot believe but that they will forgive our temerity in the end, and all will be merry as a marriage bell.'

'Oh! poor mamma has nothing to do with it, Fred. I honestly believe she would let me marry a crossing-sweeper if I had set my heart upon it. I never remember her saying "No" to me since I was a baby. It is papa who is making all the fuss, and he is as obstinate as a pig. He thinks it is a sign of his own religion, to kick up such a dust about your being a Catholic, but I say he only proves he is no Christian by it. What can it signify if one is a Protestant or a Catholic? I am sure, for my own part, I would as soon be one as the other, and preferably neither. If you wish me to become a Catholic, Fred, I will to please you, but I hope you won't expect me to go to church and hear sermons, for if there is one thing beyond another for which I long to get married, it is to have my liberty in such matters. Papa and mamma have sickened me of church-going. Aunt Clem, too, who is so very pious, has a face long enough to turn the milk sour. It is not encouraging to a girl to go and do likewise.'

Frederick Walcheren laughed as he kissed the speaker.

'My darling!' he answered, 'I daresay your people have warned you that I am not a particularly good young man, but I can boast of one merit—I have never pretended to be better than I am. My cousin, Philip, and his great friend, Father Tasker, consider me a lost soul, but they cannot say that I am a dishonest one. They have heard some rumour—how, Heaven only knows—that I am very épris in a certain quarter, and put in an appearance at my rooms this afternoon to learn if it was true that I contemplated matrimony. You may take your oath that I did not gratify their curiosity. They want to get me into the church, so that they may grab my money. They've been trying it on for years, but this fish won't bite!'

'But, Fred, darling, would anything on earth ever make you go into the church?' inquired Jenny, rather anxiously.

'Nothing on earth,' he replied, quickly; but, after a slight pause, he added, 'at least only one thing, and that is too dreadful to contemplate. If you were taken from me, my treasure—if anything happened to you and I were left alone—I should be mad enough for anything—even to go into a monastery, and sacrifice every farthing I possess. What good would money be to me without my love?'

He pressed her closely to him as he spoke, and the two young faces were laid against each other, and the two young forms seemed to melt for a moment into one. But in another moment Jenny had sprung up to a standing position.

'I must go, dear Fred,' she exclaimed, 'or they will miss me, and Mr Hindes may be sent to find out where I am. Good-bye, good-bye, my darling. How soon do you think I shall have your letter?'

'The day after to-morrow, love! To-morrow morning I shall be in Doctors' Commons for the licence, and will wire you simply, "All right, Costello." Then, should the telegram fall into other hands, it will be thought to come from the dressmaker. On receipt of this, you must drive over on the following day to Madame Costello's, and leave your box there, and as soon as you have dismissed Brunell and the trap, I will take you to the registrar's office, and, when the knot is securely tied, we will pick up the box and be off to Dover. Will that suit your ladyship? Brunell will call for you at Costello's at five o'clock, and, after waiting about for a considerable time, will return to Hampstead and give the alarm. By which time my wife and I will be enjoying our dinner at the Castle Warden, and laughing over the adventures of our wedding-day.'

'Oh, Fred, it seems too good to come true,' said the girl, with a slight shiver.

'Nonsense, my dearest. It will come true, sure enough. But you are cold, my pretty Jenny. I have been a selfish brute to keep you out here so long. Let me take you back to the picture gallery. Or is it wiser you should go alone? Good-night, then, and God bless you. Give me one kiss, and don't forget to meet me the day after you receive that wire!'

'As if I could forget,' replied the girl reproachfully, as she raised her face for her lover's embrace, and, with his assistance, re-entered the picture gallery, and walked slowly back to the ballroom, to tell her mother she had such a terrible fit of neuralgia, she would rather return home at once.

Mr and Mrs Hindes, who were seated near Mrs Crampton, were all solicitude for her assumed indisposition, and Mr Hindes suggested taking her for a turn in the fresh air to see if the change from the heated ballroom would relieve her. Mrs Hindes, a tall, slight woman, with dark eyes and hair, and a graceful figure, who was really attached to Jenny, inquired with whom she had been dancing the last set, as she had looked for her in vain.

'I have not been dancing at all,' replied Jenny, boldly; 'I have been sitting in the picture gallery with Lord Craven, but my head gets worse instead of better. Come along, mother, the carriage must be waiting for us by this time, and I am tired to death. I want to get to bed.'

'Certainly, my love,' replied Mrs Crampton, with her usual lamb-like acquiescence to all her daughter's demands; 'perhaps Mr Hindes will be good enough to see us to the carriage.'

And Henry Hindes, who was convinced that Miss Crampton's neuralgia was due to Mr Walcheren's defalcation, smiled inwardly, and conducted the ladies to their barouche, with much satisfaction that he had conducted the business he had taken on himself so successfully.

When Jenny Crampton reached home and found herself in the seclusion of her bedroom, she did not give way to any access of nervous agitation, or feel any trepidation at the thoughts of the important step which she had taken on herself. That might be all very well for a damsel of romance of a hundred years ago, but it is not the way the young women of the present day manage their affairs. They are too strong-minded, to cry and shake and faint over the deeds they have put their sign and seal to. Jenny had made an appeal to become the wife of Mr Walcheren in a fair way, and her request had been denied her, for what she considered a frivolous objection. She knew there was no chance of altering her father's decision, and having always been given her own way since a child, she determined to take it now. She regretted having to be married privately, but she saw no wrong in it. Her parents might be sorry when they heard of it, but they had brought it on themselves. She was not going to keep Frederick waiting for an indefinite period, and perhaps lose him altogether, because her father did not like Roman Catholics as well as he did Protestants. She didn't object to his religion, and she was the principal party concerned, so the young lady looked out the dresses she wished to take with her, and made her maid Ellen pack them in the box to take to the dressmaker's, and, when the key was in her own hands, she unlocked it again and added the articles of linen and jewellery that she needed, and managed the whole affair as coolly as if she had been preparing for elopements all her life. On the Friday—it was on a Thursday that she received the wire to tell her all was right, and it was on a Friday that her ill-regulated marriage took place—she dressed herself in her most becoming tailor-made costume, and drove gaily off to town, with a wave of her hand and a crack of her whip as a last adieu to the mother and aunt who loved her devotedly. She had promised them privately that she would be back to luncheon, unless her cousins, the Burtons, were at home again (which she did not anticipate), and pressed her to stay the afternoon.

'But, Jenny, love!' expostulated her mother, 'don't stay later than two, even if they do! Pray be home before papa comes back from the city. Remember how very particular he is about your driving in town by yourself, and I'm afraid he may blame me, if he finds I have let you go with only Brunell.'

'My dear mother, as if Brunell were not a better protection for me than fifty fat old men like papa. Now, don't worry, there's a good creature, for I shall be back long before dinner time, but you know what Costello is, and how difficult it is to get away from her. And perhaps I sha'n't go to the Burtons at all. So keep up your pecker, and don't expect me till you see me. Good-bye,' and with a flourish she was off.

She drove rapidly to Kensington, and, on arrival, directed her groom to put up the cobs and get himself some dinner, and call for her at Mrs Burton's house in Cromwell Road at five o'clock. The man touched his hat, the box was lifted out, and Miss Jenny entered the dressmaker's abode.

'Madame Costello,' she commenced, 'this is a box of things belonging to my cousin, Miss Burton, which I am just going to take to her in Cromwell Road. I have brought it here first that you may take out the canvas dress you made for me, and which is just a trifle tight under the arms. No, I have no time to have it fitted on, thank you. Tell the dressmaker to let it out half an inch under both sleeves. That will be quite sufficient.'

And, unlocking the box, the little diplomatist took out an old dress, which she had laid at the top, and locked the rest of its contents up again. Frederick Walcheren was waiting for her round the corner, she had spied him as she drove up to the door.

'My cousin is waiting to take me on to Cromwell Road,' she said to Madame Costello, as she beckoned him to advance. 'Ah, Fred,' she continued, 'you must call a cab for me, for I have been obliged to send the trap on to pick up papa, who wishes to join us. Have you one ready? That's right. Good-morning, Madame Costello. You needn't hurry with the alterations, for I shall not want that dress again just yet.'

And with that Miss Crampton entered the cab and was soon whirling away to the registrar's office.

'I never saw anything more neatly managed in my life,' was her first remark. 'Mamma has reason not to expect me home till five or six. I told Brunell not to call for me at Cromwell Road till five, so he can't be back in Hampstead till six or seven, and by that time—'

'By that time you will be Mrs Frederick Walcheren past all recall,' said her lover, joyfully.

But at that the girl seemed suddenly to lose her self-possession for the first time.

'Oh! Fred,' she cried, 'what am I doing? Oh! do stop and let me out before it is too late! I was mad to come! It is too wicked! My people will never forgive me,' and she struggled to loose herself from his detaining clasp.

'Jenny, my dearest,' he exclaimed, 'be reasonable, for my sake, do! It is too late to go back now. I have made every arrangement for our staying at the Castle Warden Hotel. Besides, would you disappoint me in so terrible a manner, after having passed your plighted word to be my wife? I am sure you won't! What should I do without you, Jenny? What would you do without me? If we part now, it must be for ever! Don't make both our lives unhappy for a little want of courage.'

'No, no, I must go on, I feel it! I cannot live without you, Fred. I love you too dearly! Do just as you will with me!'

'I had a little difficulty with the licence business yesterday,' he whispered, as they travelled onwards; 'they wanted to have the written consent of your guardians, or my assurance that you were of age, so I swore you were. It was the only way out of it, my darling, and quite justifiable, in my eyes, under the circumstances; but I thought I would put you on your guard in case the registrar put any awkward questions to you concerning it.'

'It doesn't signify,' replied the girl in a dejected tone. Now that the goal of her desires was so nearly reached, her high spirits seemed all to have evaporated, and she was trembling and nervous. 'I have had to tell so many lies to manage the business, that one more or less cannot make much difference.'

'Jenny, my own girl, what has come over you?' asked Walcheren in some alarm. 'Are you not well? Do you not love me as much as you thought you did? Your mood is not complimentary, dearest, to the coming ceremony. If you really repent the step you have taken, say so, and at all costs, if it breaks my heart, I will get out of the cab and you shall return to Madame Costello's. Jenny, do you no longer wish to be my wife?'

But, at that awful alternative, Jenny's sudden weakness evaporated and she clung to her lover, as if all her hopes in this world and the next centred in him.

'Yes! yes! yes!' she exclaimed eagerly, 'you are my life—my all. I cannot live without you, or away from you. It is only a sudden fear of the consequences of this step we are taking which terrified me. It is gone now, dear Frederick, indeed it has. What fear could I have in becoming your wife. You, whom I love beyond all other things. Only, my poor parents, my poor, good mother, Fred. How I wish she had said, "God bless you, Jenny," as we parted. She has been such a kind mother to me, and she will miss me so. She will have nothing to occupy her thoughts, or her hands, poor mother, now I am gone. Do you think I shall ever see them again, Fred?—my parents, and poor old Aunt Clem. Do you think my father will keep them from me all my life?'

She spoke so rapidly and excitedly, and she clung to him so tightly, that Frederick Walcheren feared she was what the lower orders call 'going off her head,' and said all he could think of to soothe her.

'No! no! my darling girl, what can you be thinking of, to ask me such a silly question? Of course, your father will come round in time. The old gentleman is too fond and proud of you himself to hold out very long. It is I on whom he will pour out the vials of his wrath. Come, let me dry those tears. We are almost at the registrar's office now, and he will think I am inveigling you into a marriage against your will if he sees you crying. Perhaps he will take it for a case of abduction, and order me to be locked up, until he has found out where you come from, and if I have carried you off by force. And then there will be the old gentleman to pay, and no pitch hot.'

Jenny laughed at the expression and let Frederick kiss away her tears, and in another half hour, they walked out of the registrar's office together man and wife.


HENRY HINDES' house was the most remarkable in Hampstead. It was called 'The Old Hall,' and was supposed to have been built more than two hundred years before. It was situated within ten minutes' walk of Mr Crampton's place, 'The Cedars,' but the two mansions belonged to different eras of the world's history. 'The Cedars' was fitted in the most luxurious style. Everything that money could possibly buy, or build up, had been added to it, to increase its convenience and comfort. It revelled in glass houses, expensive out-buildings, swimming and other baths, and all the luxuries of the prevailing season. But everything about it was painfully new. Mr Crampton had purchased a freehold of the ground, and built 'The Cedars' for himself, or rather for the daughter who was to come after him. Often had he said to his wife that when their Jenny married, they would find a smaller place for themselves, and make 'The Cedars' part of her marriage portion. Consequently, he had lavished money upon it, letting the builders and upholsterers have their own way in everything, because it was only so much more for Jenny, when she came, like a young queen, into the property her father's love had prepared for her.

But 'The Old Hall' was a very different sort of dwelling-place. Henry Hindes was a man of refined tastes and culture, a man who, before he had come into his father's business, had travelled much and seen the world of art and science, and cultivated his mind, and raised his ideas of beauty and workmanship. He hated business and all its details, and, had it not been for his children's sake, and the loss it would prove to them, would have sold his share of it for whatever it might fetch, and given up his life to the pursuit of his fancy. As it was, he refreshed himself, in the intervals of less congenial work, by making his home as beautiful as he could, but in a very different fashion from that of the Cramptons.

'The Old Hall' had low-roofed rooms, wainscotted with black oak, into which he would not permit the innovation of gas, and ghostly corridors that ran the whole length of the building, and stained glass windows which let in very little light, and made the house dark and gloomy in the eyes of such Philistines as could not appreciate medieval customs, and the relics of barbarism which made the delight of its owner's heart.

He was the possessor, too, of an admirable collection of paintings, mostly of grim and melancholy subjects, but valuable in their way, and well in accordance with the mummies, sarcophagae, curious gems and stones, and other curiosities which he had gathered on his travels and stored up in remembrance of them. His was a charming household, and his collection of odds and ends were the only gloomy things in it. His wife, Hannah Hindes, was a cultured and intelligent gentlewoman, eminently fond of him, and regarding his powerful brain and capacity for business with an admiration which bordered on reverence; and he was the father of three handsome and healthy children, all of whom he loved, and one of whom he idolised—to wit, Master Walter Hindes, his only son, an infant of some two years old.

To see Henry Hindes with this child in his fine old garden was to see him at his best—he was so partial to floriculture, and such a student of botany; though in this, as in other things, he would not allow fashion to trample sweetness and commonsense under foot. In the large, shady garden of 'The Old Hall' were to be found all sorts of flowers, growing together in the same bed. No ribbon borders or collections of prize begonias, or pelargoniums, of giant blossoms, or dwarfed bushes, transformed it into the semblance of a nurseryman's plot of ground; but sweet-smelling herbs grew amongst the choicer plants, and high and low bloomed side by side, as they used to do in the long ago.

In the summer weather, Henry Hindes spent almost all his spare time in his garden with his children, and was apparently quite happy with his own thoughts and them. Hannah Hindes was a woman who never grated on her husband's finer sensibilities. She was loving, tender and conscientious; but she seldom obtruded herself or her opinions on him, and never in opposition to his own. She was always there when needed, calm and intelligent, ready to give advice but not eager to thrust it down one's throat; a restful sort of woman for a man to come home to after a hard and perhaps harassing day's work.

And she had in her turn an admirable husband, for Mr Hindes was mild-tempered and indulgent; never found fault with anything his wife did, or wished to do, and was always quick to think of her comfort and that of her children.

A few mornings after the dance at the Bouchers', they were strolling together under the shade of an avenue of elm trees, which formed the approach to the house, and he was telling her of his interview with Frederick Walcheren. One of the little girls, Elsie, was holding her mother by the hand, whilst the other, Laura, was wandering in front of them, and the son and heir, was perched on his father's shoulder, enjoying a ride. In the length and breadth of England, you could hardly have found a more united, or happier family.

'I did not much relish the task, Hannah,' he was saying to his wife, 'when Mr Crampton entrusted it to me, for I anticipated a tough battle with the young gentleman. A man does not particularly care to have a stranger intermeddle with his love affairs—'

'Oh! but Mr Walcheren could never look on you as a stranger,' interposed Mrs Hindes, 'he must know how very intimate you are with the family and that you have known dear Jenny almost since she was born.'

'Not quite that, Hannah,' said her husband, wincing, for he did not like to be reminded that he was 'getting on,' 'but long enough, at all events, to act as her father's ambassador. Anyhow, I thought he would resent my speaking to him, and perhaps cause a bit of a scandal; but, to my surprise, he took it so quietly and so much as a matter of course, that I begin to think he was never in earnest, and was rather glad than otherwise, of an opportunity to withdraw without dishonour.'

'Then he must be a scoundrel!' replied Mrs Hindes, with unusual vehemence for her gentle nature, 'for I am witness that he behaved to dear Jenny just as if he were in earnest. I have been with them often, you know, Henry, when there has been no one else by, and if ever a man pretended to be in love with a woman, Mr Walcheren did!'

'Anyone would "spoon" a little, with such a pretty girl, if she gave him the opportunity, my dear,' replied Mr Hindes, 'and our dear Jenny is a bit of a flirt, you must allow that. I wouldn't trust her with a grandfather, if I valued his peace of mind.'

'I don't know what you mean by "spoon,"' said Mrs Hindes, who professed to understand no modern slang, 'but he looked at her and spoke to her as if he loved her and wished her to love him, and, if he meant nothing by it, all I can say is that he deserves a much worse reprimand than a mere hint to cease his visits at the house. Why, he might have broken darling Jenny's heart!'

'What do you mean?' exclaimed her husband; 'she doesn't care for the fellow!'

'Who can say if she cares for him or not, Henry? Women don't run about, as a rule, telling everyone they meet of their predilections for gentlemen who have not yet proposed for them.'

'But, good God! do you mean to insinuate that the girl's happiness is likely to be affected by this business? You must be mistaken! Jenny would never be such a fool as to risk losing all her father's money for the sake of the first young jackanapes who says he loves her!'

'She may like the jackanapes better than the money, Henry. I don't think women stick at much where their hearts are concerned. Besides, has not Mr Walcheren a fortune of his own?'

'Perhaps—I don't know—unless he has already made ducks and drakes of it,' replied Henry Hindes, wiping the perspiration from his forehead. 'But Jenny has never thought of him seriously, I am sure of it! Her father was telling me only yesterday, that her demeanour has not changed in the least since he told her she must give him up, but is as cheerful and lively as usual. That doesn't look as if she was very miserable over the loss, eh, Hannah?'

'Perhaps she does not believe she shall lose him,' observed his wife.

'What do you mean by that?'

'Nothing particular, only Jenny may derive comfort from looking forward to the time when she will be of age and able to please herself. It seems unnatural to me that they should give each other up so cheerfully, and it is not Jenny's disposition either. You seem to forget what a self-willed little mortal she is! And Mr Walcheren is so good-looking too. I am sure Jenny has positively raved to me about his beauty. And where will he find such another girl? I thought she looked more like an angel than a woman at the Bouchers' on Wednesday. So pure and sweet and fresh in that white dress, and with those lovely eyes of hers shining like two stars. Don't you think she has the very loveliest eyes in the world, Hal?'

'Yes! yes! very pretty, certainly; but handsome is as handsome does, Hannah, and I should be dreadfully grieved if I thought Jenny could be capable of wilfully deceiving her parents. It would break their hearts. If you fancy she may be (and you women know best about each other as a rule), tell me so, and I will warn the Cramptons. It will be my duty to do so, for they are the oldest friends I possess.'

Mrs Hindes was just about to answer her husband's query, when they were both startled by the appearance of Mr Crampton coming up the drive towards them. There was evidently something unusual about his visit. In the first place, the old man was walking, a most unheard of exertion on his part, and, in the second, he would, in the ordinary course of events, have met his partner in a few minutes in the train, as this was Saturday, when they made a point of going to the City together, in order to pay the workmen's wages, and set things generally right for the ensuing week.

'My dear Crampton! what on earth is the matter?' cried Henry Hindes, putting down his child, and hastening to his partner.

Mr Crampton's face, which was always of a fine roseate hue, was now positively purple, and, from fast walking and agitation, he found it impossible to articulate. Hannah feared he was going to have a fit, and urged her husband to get him to the house before he attempted to tell them what was amiss. Even when he was placed in a library chair, it was some minutes before he could find breath to speak, and, meanwhile, the distress pictured on his features was unmistakable.

'My dear friend,' said Mr Hindes, with the greatest concern, 'are you ill? Is anything wrong at home? For God's sake, speak, and put us out of this terrible suspense!'

'She's gone, Hindes! she's gone!' gasped Mr Crampton at last.

'Gone? Who? Not Jenny?' cried Mrs Hindes.

The old man nodded his head.

'Not dead?' said Hindes, turning as white as a sheet.

'No! No! Gone off with that scoundrel Walcheren,' replied Mr Crampton, who had somewhat recovered himself. 'Didn't you tell me that he promised to give up all pretensions to her hand, and to leave off visiting her or writing to her?'

'He did, most emphatically!' said Hindes. 'I was just telling my wife about it.'

'And so did she—so did Jenny,' continued the father, in a broken voice; 'and they were both lying to us, sir—both lying! She has left us for him. She writes she is married to him—that it is of no use our attempting any opposition, and we may keep our worthless money for ourselves—and our broken hearts too, I suppose,' he added, in a lower tone.

'But it is impossible—there must be some mistake—how did it happen?' cried Henry Hindes, excitedly.

'Well, they must have managed to have some communication with each other since Wednesday, for the girl joined him yesterday. My wife is such a fool—God forgive me for calling her by such a name!—that she never exercised the least supervision over the child, and yesterday morning it seems that Jenny said she was going to her dressmaker's, and they let her set off alone with Brunell. She told him on reaching town—this is the man's story, remember—to put up the horses, and call for her at the Burtons in Cromwell Road, at five o'clock. He was there to his time, and waited outside for an hour, when a caretaker came to the door and asked him what he was waiting for. On his telling her, she said that no young lady had been there that day—that the family was still out of town, and she didn't know when they were likely to be home again. On hearing that, Brunell drove to Madame Costello's, but learned there that Jenny had left directly he drove off in the morning, and had not returned since. A gentleman, her cousin, the woman said, had fetched her away in a cab. The man came back with this story, and you may imagine the night we have had. My wife was sure it was all right, but I knew the end from the beginning.'

'Don't despair, sir, until you are quite sure,' said Hannah, with ready sympathy.

'I am sure, Mrs Hindes. We sat up all night, and the first post this morning brought us that.'

He threw down a scribbled note on the table as he spoke, and Hannah picked it up, for her husband seemed too paralysed at the calamity that had overtaken his friends, to be able to do anything. The note ran thus:—

Dear Father and Mother,

I could not give Frederick up, as you desired me to do, because we love each other too much, so we were married this morning at the Earl's Court Registrar Office, where you can see the entry if you doubt my word. Don't be too angry with me. Remember I am your only child.

Yours affectionately,

Jenny Walcheren.

'That's a nice letter for a man to receive, who has idolised his child for twenty years, isn't it, Mrs Hindes?' asked Mr Crampton sarcastically. 'Remember she is my only child; indeed, I'm not likely to forget it, I can tell Miss Jenny that. And I'll never see her again, not if I live another fifty years!'

'Oh, don't say that. You don't know what may happen to alter your mind,' said Hannah, as she took the old man's hand in hers and pressed it warmly. 'You love her dearly, and she loves you. Things will not look so black when you are more used to them. After all, Mr Walcheren comes of a good family, and—'

'And is a Papist,' interrupted Mr Crampton angrily, 'a member of the faith which I despise and abhor and contemn—the faith which will bring my wretched daughter down to hell with himself. No, Mrs Hindes, my dear; you mean kindly, but don't talk to me of ever seeing this matter in a better light.'

'But she is under age,' said Henry Hindes, speaking for the first time. 'How could he marry her without the written consent of her guardians?'

'By a lie, of course. He must have sworn she was of age. It came natural to a Papist, no doubt. They're made of lies, religion and all! It's a proper beginning for a life of deception and ingratitude.'

'But if the licence has been obtained under false pretences, Crampton,' said Mr Hindes eagerly, 'it may not yet be too late to set it aside. It may be possible to force him to return your daughter to you, at all events until she is of age. I don't know the law accurately on this point, but I can go to town at once and inquire, and if there is a chance—if she could be returned to you—'

Mr Hindes' urbanity seemed to have forsaken him at this juncture, for he trembled so violently that his very teeth chattered.

'And do you suppose that I would take her back?' cried Mr Crampton, vehemently. 'What! take the casket without the jewel! Receive my daughter—no longer only my daughter, but that man's plaything—in her dishonoured home? Never! I will see her dead first! I will stand by thankfully, and watch her coffin lowered into the ground, sooner than acknowledge her again as my child. I have no child now. My Jenny, in whom I took such pride, for whom I have made money and treasured and garnered it up, is gone from me. She is no longer mine. She is Walcheren's wife. I have lost her more effectually than if she had been taken from me by death, as her brothers and sisters were, and never, so help me God! will I see her of my own free will, in this world again.'

He was fuming and raging in his despair, and Hannah Hindes motioned to her husband, to do or say something to calm the old man. But Henry Hindes remained as silent and motionless, as if he had been carved in stone. Then she attempted the task herself.

'Dear Mr Crampton,' she whispered, laying her gentle hand on his knotted one, 'surely you are going too far. This terrible disappointment has come upon you too suddenly, but try to look at it in a more reasonable light. Jenny has done very, very wrong; no one could think otherwise, but you must not speak of her as if she were abandoned to sin. She is honourably married, remember; and she is so young, that perhaps she did not view the fault of rebelling against your authority from so serious a point of view as we do. Mr Walcheren doubtless persuaded her that it was only a venial error, which you would soon forgive, for I cannot believe that she could ever forget your great love for her, nor hers for you.'

She smoothed the old man's palm with a motherly touch as she spoke, and her soft voice and manner served in a measure to soothe his extreme agitation.

'You are a good woman, Mrs Hindes, my dear,' he replied, more calmly, 'but my daughter must abide by the step she has taken, however this fellow cajoled her into it. She knew well enough that I would never give my consent to her marriage with a d—d Papist. She gave me her solemn promise, too, to give up all communication with him. She lied to me, Mrs Hindes, as the man lied to your husband, and I renounce them both—I renounce them both! Henceforth, I have no child. Heaven took five from me, and the devil's got the last.'

And with that Mr Crampton drew forth a red silk handkerchief and buried his face in it.

'But what is to be done?' inquired Henry Hindes, 'what is to be done?'

Hannah glanced round at him in astonishment. His full, deep voice seemed all of a sudden to have become thin and squeaky.

'Mr Crampton seems to think that we can do nothing, dearest,' she answered.

'But some sort of reply must be sent to her letter,' he continued, 'or she may present herself at any moment in Hampstead. She is very impetuous, you know, Crampton, and will not easily believe that you can be seriously angry with her. We must prevent a scandal if possible. You had better write to her, or see her once, just to come to an understanding, that you may know what to expect, and she also.'

'I will never see her, nor write to her again,' said Mr Crampton.

'Henry, could you not do so?' asked his wife, pleadingly. 'If Mr Crampton consents to it, could you not first verify the marriage, and then see poor Jenny, and tell her her father's decision? Someone ought surely to do it.'

'Where does she write from?' asked Mr Hindes.

'From the Castle Warden Hotel at Dover, whence they will probably cross over to Paris. If you follow them it should be at once. Will you go? Shall I get your portmanteau ready?'

She loved the girl, and cherished a secret hope that, through her husband's intervention, a reconciliation might be effected between the daughter and her parents.

'I am at Mr Crampton's service,' said Mr Hindes.

'What do you expect to issue from the proceeding?' asked the old man, in a muffled voice. 'I will never receive her back at "The Cedars." It is of no use giving her any false hopes, for my decision is irrevocable. She is dead to me from this time forward.'

'Will her mother consent to that, sir?'

'If she does not she must join her daughter, for I will have no one who associates with Papists in my house. I would as soon cherish a brood of vipers. But I do not anticipate my wife being so ungrateful as to desert me in this extremity.'

'But if Jenny—if your daughter, on hearing your decision, and learning that it is unalterable, should elect to give up her husband and return to the protection of her parents—what then, sir?'

'There is no chance of it,' said the old man.

'I am not so sure of that. Our childhood's affections are generally the strongest. She may be repenting the step she has taken even now. If I see her and find she wishes to come home again—what then?'

'I do not say that, in such a case, I should absolutely refuse to receive her, but it would be only on the very strictest conditions. And you would let me know first? You would not bring me face to face with her without any preparation, for, by the Lord, Hindes, I would not trust myself to say what I might do in such a case.'

'No,' replied Hindes, 'I promise you I will not act in any way without your consent. But I will go down to Dover, and see if it is possible to have an interview with her alone. If Mr Walcheren is present I have no hopes of success.'

'Don't mention the fellow's name!' exclaimed Mr Crampton. 'The very sound of it makes me feel like a murderer. I can conceive at this moment nothing that would give me greater pleasure than to squeeze the last breath out of his vile body.'

He rose to leave then, tottering as if the fatal intelligence had added twenty years to his existence.

'Don't walk home. Let me order the carriage. It won't be ten minutes, and then it can take Henry to the station,' said Hannah, kindly.

'Thank you, my dear,' replied Mr Crampton, reseating himself. 'I do not really think I am equal to the exertion. To think that a rebellious girl has the power to sap a man's strength in this manner.'

'The news has been a shock to all of us,' returned Hannah. 'My husband looks almost as bad as you do. Henry, you must take something before you start. Ring the bell and tell Simmonds to bring some brandy and soda. Your face is positively ghastly. What shall I put up for you? Shall you stay the night?'

'No, I think not; but, perhaps, I may. Just a shirt and a brush and comb, please, nothing more. I am so grieved for the Cramptons,' said her husband to her, in a lower tone, 'so deeply, deeply grieved. This will break their hearts. I shouldn't wonder if it were the death of both of them.'

'Yes, yes; poor, dear, old people, they loved her so,' rejoined Hannah, with the tears in her eyes, 'and we shall feel it terribly, too, Henry, when we have time to realise that it is true.'

'Oh! that's all nonsense,' said her husband, roughly. 'It is of them we have to think. What can it matter to us? Sooner or later she must have married someone, and we have no especial antipathy to Papists. But there is no time to discuss the matter now. Do as I tell you, and let me be off.'

And in another five minutes the two partners in the firm of Hindes & Crampton were driving down the elm-tree road together.


HONEYMOONS are not always the blissful periods anticipated by those who enter on them, but Frederick's and Jenny's promised to be an exception to the rule. The girl was so lively and merry, so easily pleased with all that surrounded her, and disposed to make so light of any little désagremens, that she formed a delightful companion. And then, she was so desperately in love with her husband, and he with her, that they both thought, and perhaps rightly, that they had never known what happiness was till then. Frederick especially, who had frittered away his time and his affections on more girls than he could remember the names of, could not understand how he could have been such a fool as to waste his life in so frivolous a manner, when so much pleasure had been within his grasp. The day after his marriage, when he was ready to consider himself quite a Benedict of experience, he decided that there was but one source of happiness, worth calling by the name, in this world, and that was the whole and undivided love of a wife, whose heart you felt to be entirely your own.

It was a lovely day, and the two young people were sitting in a room that looked upon the sea, watching the bright waves that were dashing up against the harbour bar, and filling the air with their sweet, salt flavour. Jenny, looking the very quintessence of youth and beauty, attired in a flowing gown of white muslin and lace, with a knot of blue ribbon in her sunny hair, was seated on her husband's knee, playing with his dark locks, and ever and anon pressing her ripe lips upon his forehead.

'My darling, my darling!' he said, in a fervour of admiration, 'how happy we are! Did you ever think we should be so exquisitely happy, Jenny?'

'No, Fred, I have never dreamed there could be such bliss in my life before. It is like heaven to be here, all alone with you, and to feel that we shall never, never part again, that we are all in all to one another, and that no one can ever come between us, or separate us. I have only one little regret, Fred, darling, and that is a very little one.'

'What is it, sweetheart?'

'That father and mother are angry with me! If they had been kind about you, I should be the very happiest girl alive. I think I am that, now, but if everything were right with the old people, I should be the happiest in heaven or earth.'

'My dear little wife, I don't think you need trouble your sweet self about that, they are sure to come round before long. Why you know they couldn't live without you. Naturally they are angry at present. We have been very naughty, but we mean to be ever so good for the future, so that they shall be quite proud of us. By the way, Jenny, did you write that letter to your father?'

'Certainly, and posted it yesterday. Oh! what a time it seems since we were married. I can hardly believe it is only a day. It seems like a year.'

'That's very complimentary to me, my darling; but you might have had an answer to your letter by telegram this morning.'

'So I might, but I daresay dear old papa is awfully enraged with me, and is keeping me in suspense on purpose; but mamma is sure to write in a day or two; I shall be glad to hear from them, Fred. I'd rather know the worst at once.'

'Why, what do you suppose the worst will be, you little silly? Who can do you any real harm, now that you have me to protect you? Who could wound you through the circle of my arms,' exclaimed Frederick, as he cast them around her. 'I defy the world to take my angel from my clasp; and so long as she has me and I have her, we shall be happy!'

The girl was silent for a few moments, whilst her husband was devouring her with kisses, but when he released her, she said thoughtfully,—

'Do you know who I doubt, Fred, though he has been our friend for years, and papa thinks there is no one like him—Mr Hindes! He has always been awfully good to me, and his wife is one of my dearest friends, but still, somehow, he always seems to come between me and anything I like. He is always advising papa about me, as if I belonged to him as well. He made him exchange my dog-cart for a Ralli, because he declared it was too dangerous for me to drive about in, and he makes mamma take me home from parties before twelve o'clock, for fear I should be overtired. I suppose he means it kindly, but I think it is very officious of him, and I have told him so. And now, I fancy, he will be advising my parents not to give in and forgive me too soon—perhaps tell them not to forgive me at all,' added Jenny, with drooping head.

'Officious, indeed! I should call it d—d impertinence on his part,' acquiesced her husband, 'and he wouldn't try that game on twice with me! To tell you the truth, little woman, I don't like your Mr Hindes any more than you do; he interfered in my affairs sufficiently by informing me I was to make myself scarce, but I expect by this time that he has found out his mistake. There is certainly something curious about the fellow. One cannot find fault with his manner, which is most courteous, and he seems well-informed into the bargain, and yet he has a knack of saying the most unpleasant things in a pleasant way that I ever came across. However, he will never worry you again, my Jenny, nor cross your path, if you don't wish him to do so.'

'Oh! I have no wish to cut him, only I fancy he will influence papa to hold out against us as long as possible. For the funny part about him is, that although he has always been so kind to me, personally, whenever he advises papa on my account, it is always something to give me annoyance instead of pleasure. I really quite hated him at one time, for so constantly opposing my wishes. I was always doing something unladylike, or dangerous, or foolish, according to Mr Hindes' account.'

'Well, that's over, at all events,' replied Frederick, 'neither Mr Hindes, nor Mr Anybody else, shall ever interfere with my wife's pursuits. If I think she is endangering her precious safety, I shall kiss her till she promises me to leave it off and be a good girl, but nothing else shall come between us.'

'I shall go on being bad, so that you may go on kissing me,' said Jenny, as she nestled closer to him.

'But what are we going to decide about to-morrow, little wife?' asked the young man, after an eloquent pause. 'Is it to be Paris or not?'

'Do the boats run to-morrow?' asked Jenny, dubiously.

'I fancy so, but that is soon ascertained. They are sure to know all about it in the hotel. The question is, do you prefer to cross to-morrow or Monday?'

'We are very happy here,' said the girl, thoughtfully.

'Happy! my sweet! happy is not the word for it. We are in Paradise, at least I know I am. But what made you make that remark?'

'Because, if it is all the same to you, Fred, I would rather stay here till Monday; then, if my father writes to me, or wishes to see me, I shall have time to receive his letter or to receive him before we leave England.'

'Very well, dear, have your own way in everything. You will never find me oppose your wishes. I am not so sanguine as you are about the old people coming round so quickly—I fancy your dear papa has a will of his own—still, it will be as well, perhaps, to stay a day or two in England, to give them a chance of behaving like Christians. But what do you feel like now doing now, eh?'

'Kissing you,' replied Jenny, suiting the action to the word.

'But we've been at that game for twenty-four mortal hours, my darling,' he cried, laughing, 'and before long there will be nothing of us left. Will you come for a walk?'

'Dearest, I'm too tired.'

'Well, if your ladyship will give me a little leave of absence, I will go for a swim. It is just the day for it. I sha'n't be long. Back for luncheon, at all events.'

'Oh! love, be careful,' exclaimed Jenny, with startled eyes; 'don't do anything rash. Think how precious you are to me!'

'You dear goose,' replied her husband, 'why, swimming is one of the things I do best. However, I will be careful, I promise you, now, and always, that I have such a dear wife to care if I live or die.'

'I suppose you will not want luncheon till three,' said Jenny, for the remains of breakfast were still on the table.

'No, three will do nicely, and then we will have a carriage and go for a jolly drive over the cliffs.'

'I wish I had my dear cobs here, and could drive you myself,' said Jenny, with a slight sigh. 'I wonder if father will let me have my cobs. They are my very own, for he gave them to me on my birthday.'

'If he doesn't, your husband will give you a pair that you will like just as well.'

He came back as he spoke and embraced her fondly.

'Don't regret anything you may have left behind you, my sweet,' he murmured, 'remember, you cannot have them and me as well.'

'I regret nothing and nobody,' she answered, clinging to him, 'you are my world, dearest. In having you I have everything.'

The young man's face glowed with delight, as he tore himself away from his enchantress, and left the hotel to have his swim.

For a little time after he had quitted her, Jenny tried to interest herself with the newspapers and magazines which they had purchased the day before. But she was naturally restless, and could not chain her thoughts to anything. She read one or two short stories without knowing what they were about, for her mind would keep wandering back to Hampstead and all that was happening there. Every time a footfall sounded near her room, she fancied it was the waiter bringing a telegram from her father, or a message, perhaps, that he waited below to speak to her. At last her nervous dread, lest he should arrive and interview her without the protection of her husband, grew to such a height that she felt as if she could not remain in the hotel without Frederick, and put on her walking attire with the idea of going to the beach and waiting for him there. But Dover was a strange place to Jenny, and she had no idea which direction Frederick might have taken, nor where the gentlemen bathed, nor if it would be proper for her to go there if she did. Besides, did she not remember her husband saying something about bathing from a boat, in which case he might be miles away from the land. The green downs stretched out invitingly before her; looking so much cooler and less glaring than the sandy beach sprinkled over with nursemaids and children, so she turned her steps in that direction. She carried a magazine in her hand, and she would go and sit on the cliffs she thought, till three o'clock had struck and Frederick had returned home again. A little chill feeling ran over Jenny, as she took her seat on the sward close to the edge of the cliffs whence she could see and hear the sparkling waves as they dashed over the shingly beach, and she moved further inland with a shudder.

'What an awful thing it would be,' she inwardly said, 'if I were to fall over those cliffs now—now, in the very hey-day of my youth and happiness. To leave my Frederick just as I know what it is to love him; just as I have taken the bold step to unite myself with him forever! Yet others have done it; others, I suppose, with hopes as high as mine, and with feelings as strong. Oh, it must have been terrible! terrible! The very idea makes my flesh creep! I must be over-excited and nervous to-day to think of such a silly thing!' and she drew herself further and further away from the edge of the cliff and tried to interest herself in her book.

It was about this time that Henry Hindes, pale and anxious as to the issue of his errand, walked into the vestibule of the Castle Warden Hotel and asked if Mrs Walcheren were at home. The porter having referred to half-a-dozen waiters in turn, at first said 'yes,' but on Mr Hindes sending up his name for admittance, the man returned to say he had been mistaken, and neither Mr nor Mrs Walcheren were indoors.

'Is it only an excuse, or is the lady really not in?' demanded Mr Hindes.

'She is really not at home, sir,' was the reply, 'but I did not see her go out; I suppose she went through the garden. Mr Walcheren went out better than an hour ago, for I saw him pass through the hall myself.'

'Do you know when they are likely to be in?' next asked the visitor.

'I can't say for certain, sir, but their lunch is ordered for three o'clock.'

'Very well; I will return at three.'

'What name shall I say, sir?'

'You need say no name. I will send it up on my return,' said Henry Hindes as he walked away.

He was disappointed that he had not found Jenny at home and alone, yet it was hardly natural that a young husband and wife should separate on the very morning after their wedding-day. But we are all apt to be unreasonable when our wishes are thwarted. However, he made up his mind to call again at three o'clock. Whether alone or together, he could not return to Hampstead without seeing Jenny, and delivering to her the message with which her father had entrusted him. So he must wile away the intervening hours as best he could. He stopped at the bar to have a brandy-and-soda, not the first by several, that he had taken that morning to build up his courage for the coming interview, and sustain him under the shock which the news of her marriage had been to him. And then he wandered forth into the town and took his way idly up the very path to the cliffs that Jenny had trodden before him. He had not walked, slowly and clumsily, for more than half an hour when he came upon her, seated on the close-cropped herbage, with her eyes fixed thoughtfully upon the water, and her book lying unheeded in her lap. Henry Hindes' heart gave a great leap and throb as he recognised the lovely features, shaded by a broad chip hat, trimmed with field flowers, and the graceful figure of the beauty of Hampstead. Here was an opportunity, for which he had never hoped—to find her thus alone and unoccupied, amidst the glories of Nature, with her attention free to listen to his pleadings on her parents' behalf. His involuntary exclamation as he encountered her, caused Jenny to look round, and the hot blush of shame that flooded her face at seeing him proved that she was not dead to the knowledge that she had done something to blush for.

'Mr Hindes!' she said, with a little gasp as if of fear, 'what has induced you to follow me?'

'Nothing but the heartiest interest in your welfare, Jenny, you may be sure of that! Did you think that we could hear the news of your marriage at Hampstead without emotion? It paralysed us, Jenny! We could not believe it without further proof—without your assurance that it was undertaken of your own free will.'

'My father is the proper person to put such questions to me,' replied Jenny, proudly. 'If he wished them answered, why did he not come to Dover himself, instead of sending you?'

'Your father could not come if he wished it. Your letter has made him so ill that he is not fit to leave home. I dread what the effects of the shock may be on him. Remember, he is no longer a young man, sixty-two on his last birthday, and you have robbed him of all he had in life.'

'I don't see that,' replied Jenny, with her old pertness, 'I must have married some day; I don't suppose my father meant to keep me single all my life, and in such a matter, people are generally left to choose for themselves.'

'Not when their choice is in direct opposition to their parents' wishes! However, you have elected to fly in their faces, and what's done can't be undone. I visited the Earl's Court Registrar's Office this morning, and found the ill news was, indeed, too true. It, therefore, now only remains to be seen what remedy there is for so sad a state of affairs, and if you are prepared to hear the proposal your father has sent you by me.'

He had made as though he were about to throw himself on the grass beside her, and, in order to avoid his doing so, Jenny rose and moved a few paces forward. Henry Hindes had, therefore, no alternative but to walk slowly by her side, and as she had turned her face from the town, each step took them further from it.

'If you have anything unpleasant to tell me,' she said, with a slight laugh, 'for goodness' sake don't make it public property. Let us go further up the cliffs, where our voices will not reach any loiterers on the beach below.'

'You can hardly expect my message to be a very pleasant one, Jenny,' commenced Henry Hindes, as composedly as he knew how, 'but it is soon told. Mr Crampton refuses either to write to or see you, unless you agree to his conditions. When he received your terrible news this morning, I was afraid he would have a fit, it affected him so dreadfully. As for your poor mother and aunt, they are, I hear, in utter despair. You have changed a happy home, Jenny, into a house of mourning.'

'Well, they should have been more considerate of my feelings,' said the girl, in a low voice, but Mr Hindes could detect signs of softening in it.

'They were considerate of them, they intended to be considerate of them,' exclaimed Henry Hindes, 'they only told you the truth when they said that Walcheren was not a fit man for you to marry, that he was a gambler and an evil liver—that—'

'Mr Hindes, you forget yourself,' cried the girl with newly acquired dignity, 'when you said those things the other day, you were speaking of an acquaintance, to-day you are maligning my husband!'

'I cannot help it! Were he twenty times your husband, I must say what is in my mind concerning him. You have had your own way too long, Jenny, and now you have taken it to your ruin. But your father is willing to receive you back as his daughter, on one condition, and that is, that you leave this man who has led you into so grievous an error, and return to the protection of your parents.'

Jenny gazed at him as if he had been a lunatic.

'Do I hear you rightly,' she said, 'or are you mad? Leave my husband, whom I have just married, leave the man whom I love above all the world, father and mother included, leave him all alone and go back to Hampstead to live a widowed life with my people! Why, papa must have been tipsy to propose such a thing. What had you been giving the old gentleman to make him talk such nonsense? Surely you are dreaming and have fancied it all.'

'Dreaming!' echoed Hindes, indignantly; 'is it dreaming to see your father's agony, to hear of your mother's tears? No, these things may be play to you, Jenny, but they are death to them. I have repeated your father's words just as he told them to me. "I will never see her, nor speak, nor write to her so long as life lasts," he said, "and I will never, under any circumstances, receive that man into my house; but, if Jenny will give him up and come back to our protection, I will try and forgive the past." Jenny! think of what you are resigning before you finally decide. Mr Crampton is much richer than you imagine. You will inherit nothing short of fifteen to twenty thousand a year at his death. And you were married illegally. Mr Walcheren took a false oath about your age, and this may be set aside if you will only give your consent to it. Why, Jenny, you have not been half clever enough! With your beauty and prospective wealth, you should have married into the aristocracy. Think twice about it. Give up this man who is not worthy of you, and you will make twice as brilliant a marriage by-and-by.'


THE girl turned round upon him like a fury.

'How dare you,' she cried, 'make such an infamous proposal to me? I don't believe papa ever told you to say so. I don't believe he would have thought of such a thing if you had not put it into his head. You are not telling me the truth, Mr Hindes. What spite have you against me, that you are always trying to put a spoke in my wheel in this way. You never propose anything for my pleasure, it is always something for my pain. I believe you have taken a hatred to me, you go against me so persistently.'

'I—I hate you, Jenny!' stammered Hindes.

'Yes, I feel sure you do, else why should you be forever urging papa to do something to displease me. I have seen it for years past. Every obstacle that has been thrown in my way has been by your advice. What am I to you? Why can't you let me and my affairs alone?'

'Why can't I let you alone? Why am I for ever interesting myself in your affairs?' he repeated after her. 'Cannot you guess, Jenny; has no glimmer of the truth reached your heart during all these years? Well, then, I will tell you; it is because I love you.'

'A nice way of loving,' interposed the girl sarcastically.

'Yes! you may laugh, but it will not unmake the fact. I love you, Jenny, as no one of your admirers has ever loved you yet, love you with the fire and fervour of a disappointed man, of one who knows, and has known for years past, that his love is of no avail, that it lives without hope, but still lives, burning on—loving on—because it can never die even if it would, because it would not die even if it could. Oh! my darling! I have loved you for years. Just give me one look of pity at last.'

But Jenny recoiled from him with a shudder of disgust.

'How dare you! how dare you!' she panted; 'and you pretend to be my friend, you, a married man. Oh! you have made me feel that I have sunk low indeed.'

Her look of horror and her tone of contempt stung Hindes more than a dozen lashes from her hand would have done.

'Married!' he exclaimed; 'what has that to do with a man's feelings? Am I blind, deaf, insensible, because I am married. And what about your fine scoundrel over there? You imagine he loves you. Yet, what is he? A married man, and worse than a married man, a thousand times over, for he has left a poor girl who is, to all intents and purposes, his wife, and a child who has the right to call him father, to break their hearts, and perhaps to starve down at Luton, whilst he is philandering after you. Ah! that has touched you, has it?' he continued almost savagely, as he saw Jenny's cheeks flush. 'Well! it is the solemn truth, as I can prove to you. And she is not the only one either. Ask Philip Walcheren! You are one of many, Jenny, though you may wear the wedding-ring upon your finger.'

'You lie!' cried the girl vehemently; 'I am sure you lie, and I will tell my husband every word you say, and he shall punish you for them. You want to frighten me, that is all—you are jealous of my great happiness. I have always suspected you were double-faced, and now I know it. And I hate you—I hate you. And I love my husband as much as I hate you, and nothing shall ever separate us, try as hard as you may. We will be together and together and together, until death.'

She turned, in all her beauty with a mocking smile upon her lovely face, towards him as she spoke, and stepped backwards towards the edge of the cliff. Henry Hindes' first impulse was to catch her by the wrist to prevent her falling over. But she wrenched it from his grasp.

'Don't dare to touch me, you brute!' she cried excitedly. 'You want to push me over the cliff now, I suppose!'

God! why did she say the word? Why did she put the idea into his excited brain? It had never entered his head before. He had never thought of her but in kindness. For years past, he had secretly cherished her image, suffering himself to indulge in beatific day-dreams of what his life might have been had Jenny been destined to spend it by his side—had permitted himself to enjoy her presence, to bask in her beauty, to be miserable when the thought crossed his mind that some day he would be assuredly called upon to relinquish her to another man, but never had he done less than love her. But now, as he held her in his power, and she laughed derisively into his face, whilst those words, 'I hate you,' still rung on the air, something entered into Henry Hindes that had never been there before. A wild fury that she should spurn him, her friend of years, and love Frederick Walcheren—a mad despair that he would never possess her beauty, and that another had the legal right to gloat over it night and day for all time—whilst he stood apart, baffled and disappointed, and then a desperate resolve to save her from further contamination and himself from a life-longing, and the devil, which is in all of us, glared out of his eyes, as with a single effort, hardly calculating what the effects would be, acting more on the impulse of what he would do, than of what he was doing, he pushed the girl violently from him and sent her light body hurling over the stupendous abyss which separated them from the beach below.

It was done in a second, beyond power of recall. This moment Jenny was standing before him in her mocking loveliness—and the next there was only a void, and not even the impress of her footprints on the short herbage where she had stood.

Henry Hindes remained motionless for the space of half a minute, then sunk down into a sitting position, and trembled as if he were taken with an ague. He did not look over the cliff to see what had become of his victim. He knew but too well! He had glanced over it before he met her, and saw that it consisted of an unbroken line of chalk cliffs, leading precipitately to the shingly shore. He knew what he should see if he looked over, and he dared not look! He only sat there and shook like an aspen leaf. The clammy perspiration rose upon his face, and stood in great beads upon his brow, but he did not raise his hand to wipe it away. He only remained dumb and motionless and trembled. By-and-by some instinct warned him that he ought to move, to go back to the town, and that it would not do for him to be found sitting so close by. Upon this he tried to stand, but found he could not, so turned round and crawled away, for some distance, on his hands and knees. A fresh breeze had sprung up from the sea, and it revived him sufficiently to enable him to stand upon his feet, and to commence with a tottering step to find his way back again. As he did so, he hardly believed that what had happened was real. He must have drunk more than was good for him, he thought, and it was a bad dream that had overtaken him. But a backward glance made the horrid truth too plain. There was the barren cliff, deserted for the time being, whilst all the world of Dover was occupied on the beach, with bathing or flirting or play. There was the very spot where they had stood together on the close grass, besprinkled with pink thrift and stunted daisies—the same irregular edge where she had mocked him, whence he would have saved her if she had let him, but where—

'I must pull myself together!' thought Henry Hindes, with a violent shudder; 'this is not the time or place for me to think about it! It was an awful accident, but nothing more—I would not have injured her for all the world, but it is an awkward time for it to have occurred, and in my presence, too—and I must take measures not to have my name implicated in the affair!'

He looked around with dimmed eyes as he argued with himself, but, far or near, he could perceive no one and no thing, except a few sheep grazing on the stunted herbage. Then he ventured near the cliff—not with his eyes towards that point where she had fallen, but turned the other way, and he saw it was quite deserted, the bathing population being at the further end of the town. Not a soul was on the beach, only a few boats were drawn up high and dry, whilst several more were dancing on the blue waters, laden with fishing nets or pleasure-seekers. The complete seclusion of the place imparted a temporary confidence to him.

'For the children's sake,' he muttered to himself, as he took his way downwards; 'for Walter's sake, and the others and Hannah, I must be brave and calm and not betray myself. Let me see! what time is it? Three o'clock! and I said I would return to the hotel about three. Well! I mustn't hurry, it will look bad! I will go into a restaurant first and have my dinner!'

The thought of eating sickened him, but he persevered, and, entering the principal restaurant in the town, ordered an expensive meal. But when it was served he could not eat it. The food would have choked him. Something seemed to have closed in his throat and prevented his swallowing.

Presently an idea struck him. Calling the waiter, he said,—

'I have some business to talk over with a friend in this town, and, as my time is short, I think it will facilitate matters if we dine together. Lay another plate and tell them to keep the dinner back till I return. I am going round to the hotel to fetch my friend. Keep the champagne in ice. I shall not be absent more than a few minutes.'

He left the restaurant as he spoke, and re-entered the vestibule of the Castle Warden Hotel.

'Has Mrs Walcheren returned yet?' he inquired, in an unconcerned voice.

'No, sir; she has not. Mr Walcheren, he came home about half an hour ago, but he went out again. I really can't say when they'll be back, sir!'

Hindes took out his card and wrote on it in a very shaky hand:—

I have called twice to-day to see you, with a message from home, and hoped to have persuaded you to lunch with me at the Tivoli Restaurant; but my time is up, and I must return to town. Will write in a day or two.


'Give this to Mrs Walcheren on her return, please,' he said to the waiter, and took his way, as best he could, back to the Tivoli.

There he forced himself to eat a little and drink a good deal, and, calling for the bill, gave the waiter a liberal tip, and departed in a cab to the station.

He had done all he could. He should tell the Cramptons, he had called twice to interview Mrs Walcheren and been unsuccessful each time, and he had waited about Dover till four o'clock. It was Saturday, and he could not spend Sunday away from his wife and children. They would surely say that he had done all that was necessary, and more than they had required from him. He had tried to see her twice, and he had failed; they must wait now until Jenny wrote to them herself.

'Until Jenny wrote to them herself!' As the thought crossed his mind, Henry Hindes sunk back into the corner of the railway carriage, in the same comatose state in which he had been on the downs. The train flew screeching through the evening air, on its way to London, but time and place were alike unheeded by him.

Had it been a dream—an unholy, lurid nightmare—or was it reality?

When he reached 'The Old Hall,' it was nine o'clock. He told his wife he had stayed to dine in town, but, in truth, he had been wandering about the streets, hardly conscious of what he was doing, until the time warned him that each hour he delayed would make it more difficult to account for his prolonged absence. So he dragged himself home, and the effort he made to look like a man who was rather disgusted for having been foolish enough to take a lot of trouble for nothing, sat upon him much as a clown's paint would sit upon a corpse. Hannah was naturally all sympathy for his disappointment and failure, and Hindes was compelled to take refuge in gruffness, to elude her searching inquiries.

'My dearest, how ill you look, and how tired you seem. This has been a trying day for you, I am sure. So fond as you are of dear Jenny, too. And did you really not see her?'

'I have told you already half-a-dozen times, Hannah, that I called twice at the Castle Warden Hotel to see her, but she was out each time, so was he, so there was nothing to be done but to return home. I did not relish the idea of wasting a Sunday in hanging about Dover, perhaps with the same result, when I might be at home with you and the chicks.'

'Dear Henry,' said his wife, 'you are always so considerate of us. Still, for Jenny's sake—if it were to lead to a reconciliation between her and her parents, I would give you up for even a longer time than that. You might have written her a letter, Henry, though.'

'I did write, just a scribble on my card, to say I had hoped to get her to lunch with me at the Tivoli Restaurant, when we could have talked the unhappy matter over together; indeed, I had ordered lunch for two, but she was not in and they couldn't say when she would be in, so I was obliged reluctantly to come back without seeing her. But I don't suppose it would have been of any use. What girl would give up her lover the day after her wedding? It was a mad scheme, and quixotic in me to set out on such an errand.'

'No; don't say that dear, for I am sure the old people will be glad hereafter, to think that you did all you could to bring them together.'

Henry Hindes started.

'"Hereafter?"' he echoed; 'what do you mean by "hereafter?"'

'Nothing, my dearest, only you surely do not think the Cramptons will hold out for ever, do you? And, when they are reconciled to Jenny and we are all happy again, I am sure they will be pleased to remember (and so will she), that you were the first to try and bring them together.'

'Oh, yes, yes! I see!' replied her husband, as he passed his handkerchief over his brow.

'Poor Mrs Crampton and Miss Bostock were over here this afternoon,' continued Mrs Hindes. 'They said they should go mad if they had no one to talk to about it. I don't think they are half so angry with Jenny as her father is. Of course, they say she has been very naughty, and her papa is quite right not to forgive her in a hurry, but they evidently think in the long run, he will find he cannot live without her. "It would be ridiculous," Mrs Crampton said, "and most wicked if they cast off their only child, however wrong she might be." She is afraid it will be a long time before Mr Crampton forgives Mr Walcheren or consents to receive him at "The Cedars," because of his being a Papist, but as for their darling, she declared if papa did not ask her up next week, she should go down to Dover to see her herself. I believe there is a great deal more in the old lady than we have given her credit for, Henry, and that she will have her own way in this matter, whatever her husband may say. But you are not feeling well, dear, surely? I never remember to have seen you look so white before. Are you sure that you made a good dinner in town? Or will you have a brandy-and-soda? You must have something, your looks quite frighten me.'

Mr Hindes pulled himself together and sat straight up on the sofa.

'Don't be a fool,' he began, but, seeing the consternation which his rudeness evoked, he added, 'don't worry me, Hannah. This has been a very fatiguing day, and, I may say, a very distressing one into the bargain. I cannot look on this matter in the same bright light as you do. Mrs Crampton may be very brave and determined, but she has her match in her husband, and I never knew him to go from his word yet. And the girl inherits her determination from him. I do not believe she was from home when I called to-day. I believe I was denied on purpose. They anticipated my errand, naturally, and declined to have a scene, which there undoubtedly would have been if Mr Walcheren and I had been brought in contact. I believe the young man to be a regular scoundrel, and I should have told him so. After which, I suppose, I should never have spoken to either of them again.'

'Oh, I don't believe Jenny would really quarrel with you, whatever you said, Henry. She is too fond of you for that. She is an impetuous little creature and says a great deal more than she means, but she has often told me how highly she thinks of your friendship, and how she felt sure that, whatever happened, you would always stick by her and help her out of all her scrapes.'

'There, there, hold your tongue, that will do!' exclaimed her husband, as he rose and walked slowly towards the door. 'I want to see my boy before I sleep to-night,' and he took his way, closely followed by his wife, to the nursery.

The two little girls were very pretty creatures, who combined the best points in both father and mother, but the boy, by one of these freaks of Nature which have been mentioned before, was like neither of them, but rejoiced in a particularly ugly mug of his own invention. He lay asleep in a magnificent cot which his father had had carved for him on the occasion of his birth, covered with a finely embroidered quilt; his black eyes were closed, but his little snub nose, swarthy complexion, and wide mouth, formed a sorry contrast to the lace and linen which enveloped them. No prince of the realm could have been more luxuriously surrounded than was Master Walter Hindes. His sisters were lying in their beds close by, their fair hair straying over their pillows, but their father hardly glanced at them as he crossed the room and bent over the carved cot at the further end. As he gazed at his sleeping son and heir, all the stolid feelings of despair which had occupied his mind during the day seemed to fade away and leave a wealth of passionate love behind them. He stooped down closely and laid his face against that of the slumbering child.

'My son, my son,' he murmured, but as the words left his lips, though heard by no one but himself, a vision of Jenny's face rose before him—of Jenny's mocking face, as she stood on the edge of the precipice and defied him—and, with a sudden impulse, he drew forth his silk handkerchief and wiped his kiss off his child's brow.

'What is that for, my dear?' asked Mrs Hindes, with a low laugh.

'A fly—a gnat—' he stammered, 'it might disturb Wally in his sleep,' and he withdrew, at the same moment, from the child's bed.

'Won't you look at Elsie and Laurie?' whispered the mother, as she passed her arm through his, and pulled him gently towards the girls' bed. 'They have been such good maids all day; I took them with me for a drive to call on old Miss Buckstone this afternoon, and she was delighted with them; she wants us to let them go and spend a whole day with her.'

'And not Wally?' said Henry Hindes, quickly.

'Well, she did not ask Master Wally, and she would regret it, I fancy, if she did. He is rather a handful away from home, dearest, you know, and too much used to have his own way; we really must not spoil him so much, or he may come to the same sad end as poor Jenny.'

'What sad end? What do you mean by saying that?' demanded Henry Hindes, for the second time that evening.

'Why, marry without our consent, to be sure, Henry; what else could I mean? Though I hope her marriage may have a happy ending after all. I shall always believe in it and pray for it, until it comes to pass.'

'Yes, yes, pray for it, Hannah,' replied her husband. 'I don't believe much in prayer myself, but if anybody should ever be heard, it is you! You have been a good wife to me, my dear, I seem to see it more plainly to-night than I have ever done before.'

'Ah! that's because of this trouble about poor Jenny; it has regularly upset us all. Shall you go over and see the Cramptons to-night, Harry?'

'No, no, I couldn't. I have had enough bother already,' replied Hindes, shrinking from the idea.

'Of course, and perhaps they will not expect it; but you must write to them, for they will be anxiously expecting to hear some news of your journey.'

'So they will,' he answered, as if the idea had only just struck him; 'well, I will not write, I will go,' and he rose to get his hat and stick, then suddenly turning to Hannah, he added,—'it's a fine night, will you go with me?'

She looked surprised at the request, but answered readily,—

'With pleasure, dear, if you will wait whilst I put on my hat and mantle.'

The brief walk to 'The Cedars' was accomplished in silence, but, as they reached the house, Hindes said to his wife,—

'Don't repeat anything I told you; leave me to tell my own story, I want to save them as much pain as possible.'

They found the three old people sitting together and looking very forlorn. Mr Crampton had recovered his temper of the morning, and was seated in an arm-chair, huddled up behind his newspaper, and professed to take no interest in the conversation that ensued. The two women flew at Henry Hindes as soon as he appeared.

'Oh, dear Mr Hindes! did you see her? What news do you bring us? Do not keep us in suspense; we implore you! Is she well? What did she say?'

'My dear friends,' he answered, with assumed jocularity; 'one at a time, if you please, and you must prepare yourselves for a disappointment. I haven't seen her at all! I called twice at the hotel and they were out each time. What else could we expect? I'm afraid I went down on a wild goose chase. Such a lovely day! Where should a bride and bridegroom be but out of doors! I am afraid we must have patience till next week. Then, if Mr Crampton wishes it, I will go down again and make a second attempt to interview them.'

'Oh, dear, dear; I am disappointed,' sighed Mrs Crampton; 'for I feel sure, if you had seen darling Jenny, that all would have been right!'

'Don't talk nonsense,' interposed her husband. 'How can anything be right again since she has elected to marry that scoundrel? The jade has made her own bed, and she may lie on it, and I hope it'll be a deuced hard one, too!'

'Don't say that,' replied Henry Hindes, quickly; 'if it should be hard it is not you that will make it so! I scribbled a line to her on my card to say I had brought her a message from home, so, if I am not very much mistaken, you will receive another letter from her before long.'

'Dear Mr Hindes, how can we ever thank you enough for the trouble you have taken on our behalf,' said Mrs Crampton, as she slid her slender hand in his; 'you are the truest and best friend we have. God bless you!'

But he could not stand the gentle pressure of her hand, nor the grateful intonation of her voice.

'Don't speak about it, please!' he answered, pulling his hand out of hers almost roughly; 'I wish—I wish I could have done more, but—but—Come! Hannah!' he exclaimed, interrupting himself; 'we must go home! It is late, and my two journeys have tired me. Good-night, Mrs Crampton! Good-night to everybody! we must leave the further discussion of the matter to another time,' and, with a hasty nod all round, he left the room.

He did appear very tired when they reached their home, very exhausted and overdone, but his condition did not tend to give him a good night's rest. On the contrary, long after Hannah had sunk into the dreamless sleep which waits on a good conscience joined to a good digestion, her unhappy husband lay wide awake staring into the darkness, and starting at every shadow that lurked in the corners of the room.


AMONGST Frederick Walcheren's varied accomplishments, swimming held a prominent position. From a child he had exercised this most useful of all practices, until he was as much at home in the water as on land. And on that fatal Saturday there was every inducement for him to spend a long time in his favourite occupation. The day was transcendently beautiful; the sea was sparkling with electricity and warm as a tepid bath; and the beach was crowded with spectators, eager to watch and applaud the various feats of natation which he performed. He was in good temper with himself and the world, poor fellow! and anxious to give them all the pleasure in his power. So he remained in the warm, exhilarating water as long as possible, performing all sorts of extraordinary dives and plunges and strange modes of swimming, whilst the people on the shore were full of admiration for his skill. At last he felt he had had about enough of it for the present, and dressed to return to the hotel. As he descended the steps of his machine, a young man of ordinary appearance, who was apparently waiting for him, came forward.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' he began, 'but, from witnessing your feats of skill in the water, I presume you are a swimming master, and should like to know your terms for a course of lessons.'

Frederick laughed heartily at the idea, but he was not snob enough to be offended by the young man's mistake.

'Indeed, I wish I were anything half so useful,' he replied; 'but I am only an amateur like yourself. Swimming is not at all difficult; it only requires pluck and practice. Anyone could attain my proficiency if he cared to take the trouble.'

'You'll forgive me for mentioning it, sir?' said the stranger, who feared he might have offended him.

'With all my heart. There was no harm in asking,' replied Frederick, as he heard the town clock strike three, and hastened towards the hotel. He reached it, almost running, and, going breathlessly upstairs, threw open the door of their sitting-room. But Jenny was not there. A waiter was employed putting the last touches to the luncheon-table, which was evidently only waiting their return to be spread with the noonday meal.

'Where is Mrs Walcheren?' inquired Frederick.

'I don't know, sir,' replied the stolid waiter, as he continued putting out cruets and water bottles.

Frederick ran up to their bedroom, which was on an upper floor, and finding that also empty, put on his straw hat again and descended to the vestibule.

'Has my wife—Mrs Walcheren, gone out?' he asked of the porter.

'Well, sir, I really can't say. There's been a gentleman asking that question here already, but I couldn't give him no satisfaction. I suppose the lady must be out, because we can't find her nowhere, but none of us see her pass through the hall, and I'll take my oath she hasn't come in, for I've never left my post one minute. Perhaps she went to the beach to you, sir.'

'Oh, doubtless, but about the gentleman who called to see her, what was his name?'

'He didn't leave no name, sir, but said he would call again.'

'What was he like? Short and stout and middle-aged, with rather a red complexion, eh?'

He concluded at once that it must have been Mr Crampton, who had followed his daughter on the receipt of her letter that morning.

'Well, not very red in the face, sir, but stoutish certainly, and not over tall.'

'I know him,' replied Frederick, thinking he did. 'If he comes again during my absence, ask him to walk upstairs and wait until we return.'

'All right, sir.'

Of course it was Mr Crampton, he thought. It could be no one else, and he must be by Jenny's side when their encounter took place. If old Crampton thought that, by right of his paternity, he would bully Jenny, he was very much mistaken. He would have to answer to her husband first. He went back to the beach, thinking he should find her amongst all the nursemaids, children, serenaders and fruit-sellers, and was prepared to meet her with a little scolding for exposing herself to the heat of the day and the vulgarities of the Dover sands. But she was not there. The beach was almost deserted now, for the babies and their attendants had gone back to their lodgings to early dinner, and the serenaders were performing in front of the 'pubs,' in hopes of earning a meal. There would have been no difficulty in discerning Jenny's distinguished little figure on the long line of sand and shingle, but it was evident she was not there. Where could the minx have hidden herself? Frederick was a little inclined to feel cross, although it was the first day of their married life, because Jenny had so decidedly said she would rather not go out that morning, and, if she had not done so, he should not have left her to herself. Could she have ventured into the town? She had come away so hurriedly, that she might have found herself in want of some trifling article that she had forgotten and gone to the shops to procure it. He turned his steps, therefore, in that direction, but saw her nowhere in the streets. He even asked one or two pedestrians if they had met a young lady in a broad-brimmed hat trimmed with poppies and grasses, but they all shook their heads. Frederick wandered about the streets for some time, and then resolved to go back to the hotel. After all, Jenny was not a baby. She had been well used to look after herself, and had a watch to tell her the proper time to return. It was more than likely she was already at the Castle Warden. His first inquiry on re-entering was naturally for her.

'No, sir, the lady ain't been in yet,' was the disappointing reply, 'but the gentleman as I spoke of, he came again and left his card.'

'Where is it?' said Frederick, eagerly, and was handed the one which Henry Hindes had left behind him.

'Did you ask him to wait and see us?' he inquired.

'Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I had gone for my dinner and didn't see the gentleman this time, but William tells me he seemed in a great hurry like, and didn't ask to wait, but said he had no time to come again to-day, as he had to catch a train for London.'

'Oh, very well, it is of no consequence,' replied Frederick Walcheren rather testily. 'Tell them not to serve luncheon until Mrs Walcheren returns. She cannot be many minutes now.'

But it was many many minutes before she came back to the hotel. Frederick went upstairs to their sitting-room, and tried to occupy his mind with newspapers, and persuade himself that he was not particularly anxious for his wife's return. But there is nothing more irritating than to be kept in suspense, especially for a trifle. He could not help wondering where Jenny had gone to, and why she had gone, and why the dickens she hadn't come back again! If the stranger who had inquired for her had not left a proof that he was Mr Henry Hindes instead of Mr Crampton, he should have almost fancied that she had been silly enough to have been lured away again by her father. But that was folly! Jenny was his wife; by love and by law. No one could ever take her from him again unless that quibble about her age would be considered sufficient to annul the marriage. But the next moment he laughed at the idea. Mr Crampton would surely never be such a fool as to take advantage of a loop-hole that would bring disgrace upon his daughter's name! How foolish he was to let so absurd an idea worry him!

But why the deuce didn't Jenny come back? It was now four o'clock. This was carrying a joke too far. She couldn't possibly have lost her way in such a place as Dover. Besides, she wasn't the sort of girl to lose her way! Even if she had broken her leg, or done any unlikely thing of that sort, she would have had the nous to call assistance, or send him a message to say what was the matter. The only solution of the mystery that he could think of, was that she had gone for a walk and wandered so far away that she was too tired to walk home quicker. But why, in that case, had she not procured some vehicle to convey her back again. The more Frederick thought of it, the more puzzled he became. When five o'clock struck, he went out of doors for the second time, and ran all over the place, making inquiries of everybody he met. One girl said she had seen a very pretty young lady at about one o'clock that afternoon, walking towards the cliffs. She particularly noticed that she wore a large chip hat with scarlet poppies in it, and a white dress. She had a book in her hand, and she went up that way, continued his informant, pointing in the direction of the grassy downs. Frederick thanked her and commenced running off in the direction she had intimated. Of course, he said to himself, the cool breezy downs would be far more likely to attract Jenny than the hot beach. How foolish it was of him not to have thought of that before! He walked rapidly straight ahead of him for three or four miles, and then stopped to consider what he was doing. Jenny was not there! He could see from end to end of the broad wide expanse, and a sheep would have been visible to the naked eye. What was the use of his rushing about in that aimless manner, after a full-grown woman. Jenny was such a spoilt child, the Lord only knew whether she might not be playing a practical joke on him all this time, and hiding away for her own pleasure to see how much she could frighten him. He had been far wiser to eat his luncheon in comfort and let the young lady see that that sort of trick would not do with him. He was beginning to feel a little angry and hurt by this time. It was not good manners, to say the least of it—it showed a lack of good feeling and good taste to make him look like a fool in the eyes of the hotel servants, so soon after their wedding-day. He should give up the search as a bad job, and return to the Castle Warden and rest. Without doubt, she would come in for her dinner.

He gained the hotel again, but still no news had been heard of the missing lady. By this time every menial in the house knew that the bride (for when can people ever hide the glaring fact that they were married yesterday?) had played truant, designedly or otherwise, and many were the conjectures as to her reason for making herself so conspicuous. Meanwhile, Frederick Walcheren sat in his own apartments, by turns angry, impatient, anxious and despairing. He hardly took heed how the time went on. Every moment he expected to hear the sound of Jenny's footstep running up the staircase—to hear her merry voice telling him the reason of her extraordinary absence—to feel her arms round his neck and her lips pleading for forgiveness. But the hours went on till seven and eight o'clock had struck, and still she was not there. As the last hour sounded Frederick heard a low tap on his door; he was not in the mood to see strangers or talk with them, but he cried, 'Come in!' The door opened, and the landlord of the Castle Warden entered and closed it securely behind him.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' he commenced, 'but I am told that your lady has not come home, and that you are rather uneasy about her.'

'Well, I am, naturally,' replied Frederick, 'in fact, I don't know what the devil to think about her absence. It is most extraordinary! I went out to bathe this morning, leaving Mrs Walcheren here, and when I returned she was gone. No one saw her go out, nor can I hear any news of her, except from a little girl, who says she met her walking in the direction of the cliffs, about one o'clock this afternoon. I have been all over the cliffs, and the town, and the beach, but can neither see nor hear anything more. What should you advise me to do, Mr Cameron? I am nearly distracted with anxiety.'

'The lady was seen going towards the cliffs,' said the landlord, musingly, 'our cliffs are not very safe for strangers. I hope there has not been an accident.'

At this Frederick leapt from his seat as if he had been shot.

'My God! man,' he cried, 'what do you mean? You cannot think it possible that—that—'

He tried to finish the sentence, but failed.

'Indeed, sir, I meant nothing but that we must look at all possible contingencies if we are to find the young lady. It is a long time for her to be away, and, if I mistake not (though I hope you will excuse my mentioning it), the day after her wedding.'

'Yes, yes; I don't care who knows it,' replied Frederick in a voice of pain. 'We were only married yesterday, that makes this all the more mysterious and extraordinary; but how are we to ascertain the truth? What am I to do?'

'If you will allow me, sir, I will send some of the boatmen who know the cliffs to search for Mrs Walcheren, and they will soon relieve your suspense, for if she is there they will find her safe enough.'

'By all means; I ought to have thought of it myself. Thank you, Mr Cameron; pray send for the boatmen as soon as possible, and I will accompany them.'

Mr Cameron looked dubious.

'If you will permit me, sir, to advise you, I should say stay here, in case of your being wanted, or other news arriving.'

But Frederick was not to be persuaded.

'Stay here!' he echoed; 'what on earth should I do that for? My place is with the men who are going to find her. She has lost her way, probably, and is wandering about in the dark. Of course, I shall accompany them.'

But the landlord kept his back firmly against the door, and prevented the young man passing out.

'You will forgive me, sir, but you must not go—not just yet—not till I have said something. I have been trying to break it to you, Mr Walcheren, but I am afraid I have done it badly. They have found her, sir. She was found hours ago, and I came to tell you so.'

Frederick Walcheren stared at him, as if he thought he was mad.

'Found!' he ejaculated, 'and hours ago. What do you mean? Why has she not come home then? Is she injured—hurt? Has any accident happened to her?'

'Yes, sir, there has indeed, and you must try and bear it like a man. The lady has been hurt—badly—and she was found on the beach by two boatmen at five o'clock, or thereabouts.'

'Hurt! my darling. Oh! my God! this is hard,' exclaimed Frederick, in a voice of anguish. 'But where is she? Why have they not brought her here? Why did they not send for me?'

'Well, sir, they did not know where the lady belonged at first, nor who she was, so they carried her to the nearest public-house; "The Bottle and Spurs," which is half-way down the cliffs to the town.'

'A public-house!' cried Walcheren, indignantly; 'how dared they take a lady there? What was Mrs Walcheren about, to consent to it? Order a carriage at once, if you please, Mr Cameron, and I will go and fetch her home.'

The landlord fidgeted with the handle of the door.

'Well, you see, sir, I am not sure if the authorities will allow of her removal. It's the usual thing, under the circumstances, you see, and sorry as I should be to disoblige you, I'm afraid my customers might object to her being brought here. "The Bottle and Spurs" is a very respectable house, sir, and everything will be done, I feel sure, as can be done, to make things as little unpleasant for you as possible, but the authorities—'

Still the unhappy man did not understand the extent of his calamity. He sat down again and passed his hand wearily through his hair.

'What does it all mean?' he muttered in a dazed manner. 'At all events order the carriage and send for the best doctor in the town to accompany me.'

'The doctor is here sir,' replied the landlord, quickly, 'ready to speak to you. Dr M'Coll, one of our most skilful practitioners.'

Then he opened the door, and called out, 'Will you step up, doctor, please, the gentleman is ready to see you,' and in another minute a middle-aged kindly-looking man entered the room and went up to Walcheren's side.

'Doctor!' said Frederick faintly, 'what is all this about? I don't understand it. Have you seen my wife? Is she much hurt?'

'She is not suffering now, my dear sir,' replied the doctor.

'Thank God for that. But why did you not bring her home? I have been in such awful suspense all the afternoon.'

'I am sure you must have been, but now I am going to take you to see her. Here, Mr Cameron, a glass of brandy for Mr Walcheren. No! no soda thanks. I want him to take it as it is.'

He held the liquor to Frederick's lips, who drank it at a draught, and put down the wine-glass with a deep sigh.

'You must nerve yourself to hear what I have to tell you,' said Dr M'Coll firmly. 'I told you your wife no longer suffered, it is because she has gone beyond the reach of suffering. She had been dead for hours before the boatmen found her.'

The young man sprung from his seat with the one word on his lips—'DEAD!' He stared at his informant for a moment wildly, and then sinking down on his chair again, threw his arms over his stricken face and burst into a storm of tears.

'Leave him alone,' whispered the doctor to the landlord; 'they will save his brain.' But the next minute Frederick leapt up, and, seizing Dr M'Coll by the arm, exclaimed,—

'Take me to her. Don't let us lose a moment. Oh, my God! my darling, my darling!'

He tore down the staircase as he spoke, closely followed by the landlord and the doctor. The waiters and chambermaids, who were hanging about the passages discussing the awful event that had occurred, made way respectfully for him as he appeared, and looked after the bereaved bridegroom with melancholy interest. But Frederick might have passed through the ranks of a regiment at that moment without perceiving them. There was but one idea in his brain—to get as quickly as he could to the side of his beloved. He had heard distinctly what the doctor said, but he did not realise that Jenny was dead—that she would never speak to him, nor smile at him, nor kiss him any more. The drive to the public-house was performed in mournful silence, and when they reached it they were at once taken through the bar to a back room, where on a table was placed, just as she had been found, all that was left of sweet Jenny Walcheren. Her chip hat, so fresh and pretty in the morning, was still attached to her hair, by a long pin with a butterfly at the end of it, but it was crushed and forced back upon her head by the awful fall she had sustained. Her white dress had been decently composed about her young limbs; she might have almost have deceived one into the belief that she was sleeping, except for the purple lips which were drawn off the white teeth, and a dark blue bruise over the right eye, where her temple had struck the cruel rocks. But Frederick saw nothing but that he had regained his wife, and falling on her body, covered it with kisses, imploring her by every fond entreaty he could frame, to open her eyes once more and look at him, and to unclose her bruised and livid lips and speak his name. At last his madness calmed down a little, leaving a dull despair behind it, when he turned to the doctor and said,—

'Tell me, for mercy's sake, how did it happen?'

'We are as much in the dark as you are, my dear young friend,' replied Dr M'Coll, 'all we know is, that two Deal boatmen, Jackson and Barnes by name, went to the lower beach after their boats, which are drawn up there, at five this afternoon, and found the poor lady lying under the cliffs, over which there is no doubt she must have fallen, but how, there is nothing to tell. They did not know her name, so carried her here and sent for me. But I could do nothing. She must have been dead for two or three hours before I saw her. When I was convinced of that, I set inquiries on foot, to find out who she was, and they soon led me to the Castle Warden Hotel.'

'It wasn't easy to mistake her,' interposed Mr Cameron, whose own eyes were suspiciously red; 'the prettiest bride, as everyone says, we have had in the hotel for the last twelve month.'

'Don't, don't,' said Frederick, in a voice of the keenest pain. 'Doctor, how shall we take her back? She shall not lie here! I must take her to the hotel at once.'

'My dear Mr Walcheren, even if that were admissible, it would not be permitted. The body must not be touched until after the inquest, which, unfortunately, cannot be held till Monday.'

'She must lie here on this rough table, within sound of those rough voices, for forty-eight hours? Oh, impossible! I will not allow it!'

'My dear sir, you must allow it! It is the law! This poor young lady has met her death in a mysterious manner, and, until the police have evidence that it was an accident, they will not, in the cause of justice, permit the body to be tampered with.'

'An accident! but how could it be anything but an accident?' said Frederick, staring at the doctor.

'I have no doubt myself whatever in the matter; but the law must be satisfied. Meanwhile, let me persuade you, Mr Walcheren, to return to the hotel and try and calm yourself. You can do no good by remaining here, and I will engage that every respect shall be paid to her remains.'

'I go away,' said Frederick, in a broken voice, 'and leave her lying here? Oh, no; you mistake me! It is impossible! If I may not take her away yet, I shall stay by her till I can! Nothing shall persuade me to leave her, my darling little wife!' and he took one of her dead hands and kissed it fondly as he spoke.

'If you are determined—' began Dr M'Coll.

'I am determined, and nothing will shake my determination. Here I remain till they take my angel from me. But is an inquest imperative? I cannot bear to think of it! It is such an indignity—such a public insult! A body of strangers, men, too, whom I would not have allowed in her presence whilst living, to be admitted to view her remains. I am rich, doctor! Can no payment of money avert this outrage?'

'Nothing can avert it, Mr Walcheren; but I will take care it is conducted as quietly as possible. Remember, it is in the cause of justice; and now, what can I do for you? Can I wire the sad news to any of her relatives, or yours? You should have your own friends near you in this trial.'

Frederick turned and seized the doctor's hands as if he were a child, clinging to him in his trouble.

'Advise me, tell me what to do,' he said. 'I am unfit to think for the best. My head is all in a maze. Doctor, I must tell you the truth. This was a runaway marriage. She was an only child, and her parents doated on her. I dare not think what they will say. How am I to break it to them? Ought I to go myself?'

'I don't think they would let you leave Dover until after the inquest, Mr Walcheren, but your late wife's relations should certainly be told at once. If you wish it, to-morrow being a free day with me, I will go and break the sad intelligence to them.'

'It will greatly relieve me if you will. And every expense, you know doctor—'

'Yes, yes. We need not mention that at present. When you have strength to write down the names and addresses, I will make my arrangements.'

'And what about the gentleman who called twice to see Mrs Walcheren to-day?' inquired the landlord. 'Is he a relation of hers?'

'No, curse him!' said Frederick unthinkingly.

The doctor and the landlord glanced at one another.

'I have his name and address on his card,' whispered Mr Cameron significantly to his companion. 'I fancy he will be subpoenaed. He may have seen the poor lady after she left the hotel.'

'What are you whispering about?' said Frederick irritably.

'Nothing, sir. I will speak to the people of the house. I know them well, and they will see you have everything you may want.'

'And I will communicate with you directly I return to Dover,' added the doctor.

And so they left him to his vigil, with his hand clasping the hand of his dead wife, and his face bowed down till it was lost in the folds of her dress.


THE next morning Henry Hindes received a scrawl, in a hand which he could not recognise as that of Mr Crampton's, containing but three words, 'Come to me.'

He guessed at once what they meant. He had just returned from church with his wife and elder children. He had not dared to refuse to go, for he was a regular attendant there, and the omission would have looked peculiar. So he had stood and knelt and sat through a service of two mortal hours, whilst his eyes gazed into space and his mind was a blank, and he only followed mechanically what the others said or did.

He walked home with Hannah on his arm and Elsie and Laurie trotting before them, for the Hindes were far too strict a family to have out their horses on a Sunday, but all the while that acquaintances were bowing and smiling and exchanging civilities with himself and his wife, he was wondering how soon the news would reach Hampstead, and if it would come by telegraph or post, or if Walcheren would send a special messenger to break it to the old people at 'The Cedars.' And as soon as he re-entered his own house, the note was handed to him with the fatal words 'Come to me!' He knew then that the worst was known—that the poor parents had been told of their bereavement, and that it was his mission to fly to comfort them.

'What can be the matter?' questioned Hannah. 'Can they have already heard from Jenny, or do you think it possible she can be in Hampstead? Oh, Henry! if they meet, surely Mr Crampton cannot refuse to speak to her!'

'I know no more than you do,' he answered, 'but I suppose I must go! The old man may have been taken ill. He looked bad enough for anything yesterday evening.'

'Oh! certainly, Henry dear, you must go at once, and you can take your luncheon with them. But I shall be impatient to hear what he wants you for. If Jenny should be there—oh, Henry, you will let me know, won't you? for I should love to give the dear girl a kiss, and assure her of my faithful friendship. You will send someone over to tell me, in that case, won't you, dearest?'

'Yes, yes; of course I will,' he answered, quickly, 'but there is no likelihood of such a thing. Good-bye, I had better be off at once.'

And so he left her. The scene he encountered at 'The Cedars' is easier imagined than described. Mr Crampton received him in his library, in the presence of his wife, and sister-in-law, and Dr M'Coll. The old man looked as if he had suddenly crumpled up. His features were drawn and shrivelled, and his complexion the colour of parchment. His wife was laid face downwards on a couch at the further end of the room, stupefied with the shock of the news they had just heard, whilst Miss Bostock sat by her, silent and motionless, with her hands hanging passively on her lap. No one stirred except the doctor, as Henry Hindes, white and trembling, but with the assumption of being at his ease, entered the room.

'Well, my dear friend,' he commenced cheerily, 'what is it?'

Mr Crampton turned to the doctor, and muttered in a croaking voice, 'Tell him.'

'I have the misfortune to be the bearer of very bad news to Mr and Mrs Crampton, sir,' said Dr M'Coll, in obedience to his instructions. 'Their daughter, Mrs Walcheren, met with a terrible accident on the Dover cliffs yesterday afternoon, and is, in fact—has not recovered the injuries inflicted—is lying at this moment—dead!'

Henry Hindes' face went crimson instead of pale.

'Dead, sir!' he ejaculated slowly, as if he were choosing his words, 'are you sure she is dead? An accident? How can you tell it was an accident? Might not someone have done it on purpose—have pushed her over?'

Then he paused, as if he thought he had been talking too fast, and repeated his first question: 'But are you sure that she will not recover? She is very young, you know,' after which, perceiving the grief of all around him, he broke down, exclaiming, 'Oh! Jenny dead! Impossible! Impossible! Why, I went to see her only yesterday! She can't be dead! my dear, dear friend!' seizing old Crampton's hand; 'don't give way! It is impossible!'

'You are only buoying this gentleman up with false hopes, sir,' said Dr M'Coll. 'There is no doubt of the truth of the news, distressing as it may be, and I am commissioned by Mr Walcheren to break it to all whom it may concern. As to your suggestion that it may be due to foul play, there is nothing whatever to point to it, but it will cause the subject of the inquiry at the inquest to-morrow. Your presence will, of course, be necessary, also Mr Crampton's. I understand, as you say yourself, that you went down to Dover yesterday to see the unfortunate lady, so that your testimony may be valuable to the coroner, and the marriage having been, I am told, a little irregular, there is the more necessity that everything should be made perfectly clear.'

'An inquest!' stammered Hindes. 'But surely there is no need of our undergoing such a painful ordeal? Why, it will nearly kill Mr Crampton. My dear friend, you must not think of attending it.'

'Not go?' cried the old man, suddenly rousing himself from the lethargy into which he had temporarily fallen. 'What are you saying, Hindes? Of course we must go. Don't you see how this has come about? That villain has murdered her; he stole her from me first, and then he killed her. Who else would have pushed her over the cliff? My poor butchered lamb! my pretty Jenny! my beautiful, innocent daughter! Oh! but we will be avenged on him, never fear; we'll see him brought to justice and give a hand to set him swinging. My poor child! my murdered darling! I can see how the whole damnable trick was done!'

'You must not heed what he says,' whispered the doctor to Henry Hindes, 'the shock has been too much for him, though I broke it as gently as I could. You must get him to bed and give him a sleeping draught, but don't listen to any nonsense he may talk. There never was a clearer case of misadventure. The poor girl went out on the cliffs alone and fell over them. The coroner can bring in no other verdict.'

'But why, then, need we attend?' asked Hindes, with quivering lips; 'it will be a fearful trial for all of us. What do we need more than your assurance of the calamity that has befallen?'

'You may need nothing more, Mr Hindes, but the law needs your deposition as to what you know of the matter.'

'I know nothing—nothing—' repeated Hindes.

'Then you can say so,' answered Dr M'Coll, shortly.

'No, we know nothing as yet,' exclaimed Mr Crampton, eagerly, 'but we will know it. We will not rest till we have got at the bottom of this infamy. If ever a poor child was murdered, my girl has been.'

'Papa, papa,' wailed Mrs Crampton from the sofa, 'don't speak like that, or you will break my heart.'

'Ay, my poor woman,' said her husband, 'you've plenty of cause to greet. They've taken your ewe lamb from you. You had but one left, and the Lord let her be done to death, without stretching forth His hand to save. And yet they say He cares for us! But the murderer shall be brought to justice, never fear. I'll see to that.'

'Oh! if he goes on like this he'll kill me,' sobbed the tortured mother.

'Mr Crampton,' interposed the doctor, 'we all feel deeply for you in this sore affliction, but you must not bring unmeaning accusations against anyone. There is no question of how your poor daughter came by her death. It was an unfortunate accident, nothing more.'

'I know better, sir, I know better,' replied Mr Crampton. 'You can't deceive me. My lamb was murdered, and may God's deepest curse rest—'

'Oh! stop, stop,' cried Henry Hindes, holding up his hand. 'It is terrible to hear you blaspheming in this manner, without the least authority to do so. It will not ease your own pain, Crampton, and may add to it hereafter. For your wife's sake and your own, let me take you to your room, where you can think over this terrible news in quiet. Trust in God, Crampton, trust in God. There is nothing else to be done in a time like the present.'

But the old man, usually so acquiescent in all that his partner said, turned round on him, on this occasion, in a fury.

'Don't preach to me, Hindes!' he exclaimed, angrily. 'It's all very well for you to talk of trusting in God, whilst your own kids are safe at home, but lose five, my boy, lose five—three boys and two girls—and set all your hopes and chances of happiness on the remaining one, and have her murdered before your eyes, and then talk of trusting in God. You're a hypocrite, sir, a d—d hypocrite.'

'Mr Crampton,' said Henry Hindes, deeply wounded, 'I never thought to hear you speak to me like this.'

'For shame, John, for shame!' exclaimed his wife, rousing herself for a moment. 'What are you thinking of? Mr Hindes, too, who loved our darling almost as if she had been his own child, and who has always been so kind to her and us all.'

'Ah, well, well,' said the old man in a tired voice, 'I suppose I was wrong, and I ask your pardon for it, Hindes. But I don't seem to quite know what I am saying. My head keeps going round so. I suppose you are right, and I should be better by myself for a few hours. Give me your arm, and take me to my own room. I leave this gentleman in your hands, Hindes. See that he is attended to, and arrange everything for our going down to Dover. Good-morning, sir!' and with that Mr Crampton rose, and, leaning on the arm of his friend, quitted the apartment.

There was a less difficult task with the women, whose sorrow was too deep for words. Then Dr M'Coll agreed with Mr Hindes that they had better travel down to Dover by an early train on the morrow, as every endeavour was being made to have the inquest on that day, on account of the hot weather rendering it desirable to get the burial over as quickly as possible. Hindes shuddered at the thought, but showed no emotion beyond that which was evinced by his white face and silent demeanour. Luncheon was then served for the doctor, and he departed to interview Mr Philip Walcheren on the matter, when Henry Hindes was free to return home.

Here, as may be imagined, he had a difficult task before him, but he felt freer, for, in the presence of his wife, who had loved Jenny Crampton so dearly, he was not ashamed to break down himself, and give some relief to his overcharged feelings. Hannah's grief was extreme, but she tried to curb it for the sake of her husband, who only rose in her estimation for the tears and moans which he felt he might indulge in at last.

Both husband and wife had quite exhausted themselves with their emotion, when a servant entered to announce that a constable desired to speak to his master. Hannah could not help observing how vividly white Henry became at this intimation. She could not understand it, unless the sad events of the day had so undermined his usual intrepidity as to make him start at shadows.

'Only a constable, Henry, dear,' she repeated, seeing how he trembled. 'It is probably something to do with this unhappy business! Will you see him here?'

'No! no!' replied her husband, as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, 'not here! Let him wait, Johnson! I will be with him presently—presently!'

Could anything have been discovered? he thought to himself, as he leant against the form of his wife for support, and she passed her cambric handkerchief across his wet hair. Was it possible he had dropped any article belonging to him on the spot where he and Jenny had stood together? Had this man come to tell him that he was suspected, and must consider himself under arrest until the inquest had been held on the morrow?

He pushed Hannah's kindly ministrations away and stood upright.

'I cannot see him in this condition,' he said, alluding to his swollen eyelids and stained cheeks. 'I must go to my room first and smooth my hair.'

He escaped by a back way as he spoke, and gaining his dressing-room, arranged his toilet a little. Then he searched in a drawer for a bottle of morphia, which he had been occasionally in the habit of taking to induce sleep, for the condition of his mind regarding Jenny Crampton had not been conducive to sound and restful repose.

'If I am taken away from here,' he thought, 'I will not reach Dover. They shall see I know a trick worth two of that.'

He thrust the vial in his breast and descended to the hall to interview the constable. But he had come on a very simple errand. He had received information from the Dover police that the inquiry on the death of Mrs Walcheren had been fixed for the morrow, and that Mr Hindes' presence would be necessary.

'You see, sir,' said the man, fumbling with his papers, 'we're sorry to trouble you, but as you went down to Dover to see the lady, it is necessary the coroner should hear the why and the wherefore of everything to come to a right understanding of the case. It's a sad thing, ain't it, sir? A poor young creature done to death in a moment, as you may say, and only married on the Friday.'

'A frightful thing, indeed, constable!' replied Hindes.

'The poor gentleman, they say, is almost out of his senses, as he well may be,' continued the policeman; 'they can't get him away from the corpse, and he turns round like a madman on any one who proposes of it. Perhaps so be you're a relation, sir!'

'No, no; only a friend,' said Hindes, quickly.

'Well, he ought to have some friend by him now, if all they tell me is true, for the shock seems to have unsettled his mind. The inquiry won't be till three o'clock to-morrow afternoon, sir, at the 'Bottle and Spurs' public-house, where the poor lady lies. If you're there, sir, they'll get it over at once, but if so be as you're not there, the jury will have to be called to attend another day.'

'I shall be there,' replied Henry Hindes, and then he went upstairs again and replaced the vial in the drawer before he rejoined his wife. 'Only a notice to attend this miserable inquest, my dear,' he said in explanation as he threw himself on a couch and buried his face in his hands.

'Oh, Henry, how much I wish it were not necessary for you to go! I know how bitterly you will feel it! To have to be questioned by a man who cares nothing for our poor dear darling, and who will rake up all sorts of things to wound you and make the remembrance still more bitter than it is; but it is your duty, and you must go! Shall you see her, Harry?' she added, in a whisper.

Her husband shuddered.

'I suppose so! That is, if I must!'

'But you wouldn't like our sweet Jenny to go to her grave without a last look, dear, I am sure! And may I send some flowers to put over her? Will you take them from me?'

'No! no! for God's sake, no!' cried Hindes, covering his face again; 'I cannot enter into all these harrowing details like women can. I shall go down and come away again as quickly as possible; the sight of the poor child would kill me! I have no morbid inclination for gazing at corpses, Hannah.'

'But our poor Jenny,' said his wife, regretfully; 'it would seem to me like refusing to look at Elsie or Laurie if they were taken from us. Thank God they are not. Oh, poor Mrs Crampton,' continued Hannah, breaking down again; 'what must she be feeling at this moment! How I pity her with my whole, whole heart!'

Meanwhile, Philip Walcheren, having heard the news of Jenny's death from Dr M'Coll, had hastened to the presence of Father Tasker.

'A judgment, a judgment, my dear father!' he exclaimed. 'I have just heard the most terrible piece of news. Poor, misguided Frederick's young wife was killed yesterday by a fall over the cliffs at Dover!'

'Heaven rest her soul!' said the priest, crossing himself. 'Who told you of it?'

'A medical man called M'Coll, who came from Dover, at Frederick's request, to break the news to me. There is to be an inquest held on the remains of the poor, young creature to-morrow, and Frederick would like me to support him on the occasion. Can you manage to accompany me, father? Your presence might have a great effect on my cousin.'

'No, my son, I think not! You had better go alone! This is not a time for exhortation or reproof. It is the time for affection and kindness. Your poor cousin will, as you say, feel very desolate, and as if Heaven had forsaken him. Let him find if he has lost a wife he has found a brother. If ever we are to succeed in our plans for him—if ever our hopes of persuading him to enter the Church are to be realised, it is now—now, when he will feel as if the world had given way beneath him. Go down to-night by all means and comfort him as best you can. This marriage was entered into, you tell me, without the consent of the lady's parents. Possibly, they may be the more set against him in consequence of this event, though it happened from no fault of his own. Let him see that his misfortunes bind us more nearly to him—make us more anxious that he should seek comfort where it is only to be obtained—in the exercise of his religion. Heaven's workings are very mysterious, my son. I see already in this sad dispensation, a glimmer of hope for your cousin's future. Perhaps this, and nothing else, would have made him regard your exhortations and my entreaties in a proper light.'

'God grant you may be right, father,' answered Philip. 'If I could see Frederick fulfilling my good Aunt Alicia's wishes, and his godfather's intentions, by entering our Holy Church, and dedicating his money to her use, I should feel my life had not been wasted by devoting it to such a purpose.'


FREDERICK was still bending over the dead body of his wife, when Philip Walcheren entered the little back parlour of the 'Bottle and Spurs' that evening. The landlady told him that he had not left the room since the preceding night.

'Nor has bit nor sup passed his lips, sir, except a cup of coffee, which I made expressly, and took to him this morning. Nor haven't his clothes been off, neither! I'm sure I don't know what is to become of the poor gentleman at this rate. He seems just eat up with grief.'

'I will go to him,' said Philip, as he turned the handle of the door and entered his cousin's presence.

Frederick was much in the same position he had at first assumed. He occupied a chair by the side of the table on which the body of poor Jenny lay—his hand clasped hers, and his head was bowed down on the deal boards.

'Frederick—my dear Frederick,' said Philip, gently.

At the sound of his voice the bereaved husband roused himself, and made a slight deprecatory gesture with his hand.

'Don't speak to me—don't reproach me,' he answered, bitterly, 'for I cannot bear it.'

'Far be it from me to reproach you, Frederick,' replied his cousin as he laid his hand on his; 'on the contrary, I have come to comfort you, as far as lies in my power, under the terrible calamity that has befallen you.'

'No one can comfort me, Philip.'

'No one but our Heavenly Father, Frederick, and our Blessed Mother, who is watching your sufferings even now, with eyes of divine compassion and love.'

'I don't believe it,' said the other, brusquely; 'if she pitied me why didn't she prevent it? She could stand by and see the whole of my life ruined at a blow. What pity is there in that? What good can her pity do me after my love has been taken from me? Look at her, Philip,' he continued, uncovering the pretty, bruised face of the dead, over which the livid hues of decomposition were already beginning to steal. 'See how lovely she was! How young! how innocent! And she loved me—she loved me! And now it is all over; we are torn asunder for evermore. Oh, God! it is too hard for mortal man to bear! They might have let me enjoy a few months, a few weeks of happiness in her affection, but to call her mine one day and to lose her the next—I shall kill myself. I cannot live without her!'

'Hush, my dear Frederick, hush!' replied Philip, 'God's hand is very heavy upon you, but you must not blaspheme. Was not this beautiful creature His as well as yours? May He not do as He wills with His own? No one denies the awful grief you are called upon to bear, but you cannot lessen it by raving against the justice of the Almighty. Rather bend with submission to His decree, my dear cousin, and live your future life so as you may meet your wife again. You can think of nothing now but your exceeding loss, but when you have time to consider, you will realise that she is not really gone, only hidden from your natural sight for a little while, and that, if you choose it, you are bound to meet her again and to dwell with her for ever!'

This thought broke down the unhappy man.

'Oh! my Jenny, my Jenny!' he sobbed, 'is it possible you are looking on your wretched husband now? that you pity and love him and will wait for him at the eternal gates? Philip, Philip, is this a judgment on me? I have been thinking ever since it happened of that unfortunate girl, Rhoda Berry, at Luton! I cannot get her out of my head! All last night I fancied I saw her grinning and rejoicing at my misfortune. Has God done this out of anger for my sin? Has He made my sweet innocent wife the scapegoat for my iniquity? Was it the blood of the other woman, crying up from the eternal depths for vengeance, that caused my angel to take a false step and meet with her death over those dreadful cliffs? The idea has nearly driven me mad! Tell me it is not true!'

'My dear cousin—my dear brother, for such you are in affection to me—I cannot say that this loss has not been sent by the Almighty Father to wake you to a sense of the sinful life you have been leading. I should be false to my trust and to my belief were I to say so. But for whatever reason it has been permitted, it has come in love, Frederick, from a Father Who cannot see you ruin your hopes of everlasting happiness, but would have the soul of your beloved wife, and your own soul as well, in His keeping. My dear Fred, you must know that you were wrong, not only to marry this poor child under the existing circumstances, but to marry her without the consent of her parents. Think of the trouble you have brought upon them, those poor old people, who had no one to solace their age but this young creature who lies before us. Frederick, my dear cousin, I know you don't believe in prayer, but let me pray for you and for her, that she may be received into the ranks of those who shall be saved hereafter, even though as by fire!'

'Do you mean to say she is not happy now? That she has not already entered into the joys of Heaven?' asked Frederick anxiously.

'My dear cousin, you have surely not so far forgotten the precepts of our Holy Church as to imagine that Heaven is obtained without purgatory—bliss without self-sacrifice. This poor girl, however innocent and blameless she may have seemed, will have her expiation to pass through, as well as all of us. But we can pray for her, that she may find relief. We can yield up our own wishes, our own pleasures, that she may the sooner pass from purgatory to Paradise. Much will rest with you. Your future life will make or mar her progress to the gates of Heaven!'

'It shall not mar it,' replied Frederick, brokenly; 'my life is worth nothing to me now, and I will give it into your hands and Father Tasker's to do with as you think fit!'

Philip Walcheren smiled inwardly, not sardonically, for he was in earnest if man ever was, but with sublime satisfaction that the Almighty had seen fit to deliver the soul of this bruised reed into the power of the Church. He had no doubt now but that his hopes for his cousin's future were assured, and the poisoned barb had gone home so deeply that whilst the sting lasted he would be able to wield Frederick as he chose. But he was too prudent to press the subject home at the present moment. He contented himself with consoling his cousin to the best of his ability, always keeping before him the power and influence of the Blessed Mother of God, and her interest in the souls of young girls, like the poor dead child before them, until the miserable husband was almost supplicating the Virgin of his boyhood, then and there, to save his darling from the pit his misdeeds had drawn her into—he, who had not breathed a prayer for years past.

Philip Walcheren stayed by him all through that night and until the coroner's jury assembled on the following afternoon. At the appointed hour a noise, as of the trampling of many feet, sounded in the public bar of the house, and Philip touched Frederick gently on the shoulder.

'Fred, dear old man, rouse yourself. Here are the coroner and jury coming to view the body. And Mr Crampton and Mr Hindes wish to come in first. Be brave, my dear cousin. It is a painful but necessary ordeal. Stand apart a little and let your wife's father have access to the body. It is his right, you know.'

The young man stood up mechanically, and taking Philip's arm staggered to the other side of the room. Mr Crampton entered, leaning on Henry Hindes. The latter was suffering the tortures of the damned. His eyes were not still for a moment, and his whole frame shook and quivered. The sight of the crushed and pallid corpse struck both men like a heavy blow. Old Crampton gazed at it for a minute, muttering, 'My God! My God! can that be my Jenny?' but Hindes said nothing, and kept his eyes turned on Frederick Walcheren. Presently Mr Crampton's followed suit, and the sight appeared to rouse him into fury.

'Yes!' he exclaimed, brandishing his stick, 'there lies my murdered child, and there stands her murderer.'

'Crampton, Crampton, think what you are saying!' cried Hindes, shaking his friend's arm, whilst Philip Walcheren said angrily, 'If the effect of this sad sight, which should draw two men in misfortune together, is only to cause you to make malevolent and unjustifiable accusations, sir, I shall be compelled, as my cousin's friend, to request you to leave the room. This lady may have been your daughter, but she was his wife, and as such, no one has a right to intrude upon his grief.'

'Ay, Ay! a wife he stole from me, sir—that he stole from me, and murdered!' repeated the old man, shaking with rage.

'Gentlemen, I must beg you to clear the room,' said the landlord at this juncture. 'The coroner and jury are coming in to view the body.'

His wife, entering at the same time, hustled them all into another apartment, where they sat glaring at each other, until their time came to be called to appear and give evidence. The coroner, a Mr Procter, rather prided himself on his astuteness. He was for ever finding a mountain in a molehill, for he hoped to mount the magisterial chair some day, and his aim was to impress the public with his cleverness and ingenuity. The first witnesses called were the two boatmen Jackson and Barnes, who had found Jenny's body lying at the bottom of the cliffs.

'It was five o'clock or nigh upon it, please yer honour,' commenced the spokesman, 'as I and my mate here went to the lower beach to haul up our boats.'

'What do you call the "lower beach"?' snapped Mr Procter, who was a sandy-haired man, with a pimply face and red-rimmed eyes, 'all the beach is lower than the cliffs.'

'Yes, yer honour; but we calls the beach below Dragon's Foot the lower beach, because so be, when the tide runs out—'

'You are not here to tell us when the tide runs out, but to say how you discovered the body of the deceased Jane Emily Walcheren,' said the coroner, consulting his papers.

'Yes, yer worship. Well! as I and my mate here was a-haulin' up the boats, I says to him, I says, "Bob," I says, "what be that 'ere bundle of white," I says, "under the cliff?" "Blowed if I know," he says, "it looks like a sheet as has blowed over in drying," he says.'

'You are not here to tell the jury what your mate thought the body looked like. You are to tell us how you found it.'

'Yes, sir. Well, sir, we thought it was a sheet, you see, but when we went to pick it up, we see it was a young woman. So we lifted her atween us and carries her to this 'ere 'ouse, and then my mate he fetches Dr M'Coll. And that's all, sir!'

'Very good! Now, tell us, please, when you found the body was there no one about?'

'Not a soul as we see, my lord—I mean, yer worship—the beach was empty from hend to hend.'

'And the cliffs?'

'Didn't see a soul on the cliffs neither, yer worship.'

'You met no one on your way here? You are sure!'

'Quite sure, your honour! 'Twould be all over the town if we had!'

'Very well! You can sit down. Call Dr M'Coll!'

The doctor, having been sworn, deposed that he had been called to the 'Bottle and Spurs' at about six o'clock on Saturday night, to see the deceased. She was then quite dead—had been dead for two or three hours. There was a large bruise on the temple caused by her striking against the rocks in her fall. That was of itself sufficient to have caused death, but the spine was broken and the neck. The body was also much bruised. There was no question but that the deceased had met her death by falling over the cliffs.

'Now, Dr M'Coll, I should like to put a few questions to you, if you please,' said Mr Procter, looking his very sharpest. 'Is it your opinion that the deceased must inevitably have fallen over the cliffs of her own accord? Might she not have been blown over, or pushed over, or thrown herself over by design?'

'Certainly she might! It is impossible to say how she came to fall over, but she did fall over—that is beyond a question.'

'Ah!' said the coroner, with self-satisfaction, as if he had discovered a very knotty point. 'Then you consider death was due—'

'To dislocation of the spine from a fall over the cliffs.'

'That's your opinion, is it?' remarked the coroner, dubiously.

'Yes, sir, that's my opinion,' replied M'Coll shortly, as he retired.

The next witness was Crampton. He came tottering into the room, and stood supporting himself on his silver-mounted cane.

'You are, I believe, the father of the deceased, Mr Crampton,' began the coroner, scrutinising the old man through his eye-glasses.

'I am, sir. She was my only child—the only one I had left.'

'And she was married on the Friday preceding her death?'

'She was, worse luck!'

'Was her marriage undertaken with your consent, Mr Crampton?'

At this question, the old man became violently agitated.

'It was not, sir. She was stolen from me by a villain, who came to my house under the disguise of friendship, and—'

Some one in the jury remarked that this was quite irrelevant to the evidence on hand, but Mr Procter ordered him to be silent.

'This poor gentleman has sustained a double injury,' he said. 'Let him tell his story in his own words.'

'I have not much more to say, gentlemen,' resumed Mr Crampton. 'This man, Frederick Walcheren, stole my daughter from me, and the next thing I hear is that she is dead. It is not a long story, but it is a very bitter one.'

'And you have the full sympathy of the jury for it, Mr Crampton. I believe your daughter was your heiress. Did you threaten to make any alteration in your will if she went against your wishes?'

'I did. I said that if she married this Walcheren, who is a Papist, she shouldn't have a halfpenny.'

'Did you make the same intimation to Mr Walcheren?'

'I think not, at least personally, but I suppose she did, for they ran away together two days afterwards. And this is the end of it—this is the end.'

'You have recognised the deceased as your daughter?'

The father broke down.

'Oh, yes, sir, I have recognised her only too well. My poor pretty darling. She was called the "Beauty of Hampstead," sir, the "Beauty of Hampstead."'

'Thank you, Mr Crampton, that will do. I am sorry to have troubled you so far, but it was necessary. You can retire, sir. Call Mr Henry Hindes.'

The witness entered the room, with a pallid face, compressed lips, as if resolved that nothing should make him betray himself, and a stolid demeanour which was wholly put on. The stakes were too high. He could not afford to think or fear. All he had to do was to believe things were not so, and to act accordingly.

'You look ill, Mr Hindes. Do you wish for a chair?'

'Certainly not! But I am an old friend of the family. I have known the deceased from a child.'

'Ah! We will detain you as short a time as possible. You were in Dover, Mr Hindes, on Saturday last, I believe. Will you tell the jury why you came here?'

'I came at the instigation, and with the knowledge, of my old friends Mr and Mrs Crampton, to bring a message to their daughter, and to see if I could effect a reconciliation between them.'

'Between them and the young couple?'

'No, not with Mr Walcheren—they steadfastly refused to see or speak with Mr Walcheren—but with his wife, their daughter.'

'How could a reconciliation be effected with one and not with the other?'

'Because Miss Crampton—the deceased—had married without the consent of her people, and her father had cut her out of his will. But, as the marriage was somewhat irregular—'

'How was it irregular?'

'Miss Crampton was not of age, and Mr Walcheren swore, when he procured the licence, that she was!'

'Oh! he did!' said the coroner, making a note of the fact on his papers; 'and Mr Crampton cut the deceased out of his will in consequence?'

'He did so, or meant to do so, but he sent me here with a message to the effect that if she would return home, and permit the marriage to be annulled, he would receive her back, but on no other terms.'

'And may I ask what the lady said when you delivered that message to her?'

'I never delivered it! I did not see her! I called twice at the Castle Warden Hotel, but each time was told that she was out, so I returned to town without seeing her!'

'And you did not see Mr Walcheren either?'

'I did not see Mr Walcheren either.'

'Upon which you returned to town?'

'Yes! I went up by the five-thirty train.'

'One moment, Mr Hindes. Can you tell me if Mr Walcheren was aware of Mr Crampton's intention to cut his daughter out of his will before this marriage took place?'

'I do not know! I was deputed once to make Mr Crampton's wishes relative to his daughter known to Mr Walcheren, and the risk may have been mentioned, but he would not take it as a definite decision from me. The chief objection always brought forward was to his religion. Mr Crampton would not hear of his daughter marrying a Roman Catholic.'

'Of course not! very natural!' observed Mr Procter, who, like most of the middle classes in England, was an ultra-Protestant, and only connected Catholicism with monasteries, nunneries, fasting, confession and the Grand Inquisition.

'That will do, Mr Hindes! you can stand down,' said the coroner, with a smile. The next witnesses examined were Mr Cameron, the landlord of the Castle Warden, and the waiters and chambermaids, who had or had not seen poor Jenny Walcheren leave the hotel on that fatal day.

Then came a call for the last witness—the witness whom Mr Procter had purposely reserved to the last.

'Tell Mr Frederick Walcheren he is required.'

But Philip Walcheren stepped forward instead.

'Are you the husband of the deceased, sir?'

'No! I am his cousin. I have come to ask you if his presence and testimony on this, the most trying occasion of his life, cannot be dispensed with? He is half beside himself with grief. Picture to yourself, gentlemen, a young husband bereft the very day after his wedding of all that made his life happy. He is not in a fit state to answer any questions, nor to have his inmost feelings submitted to scrutiny. Besides, he knows no more than you do! He parted with his poor wife in radiant health and spirits on Saturday morning, and never saw her again until she lay on that table as you have seen her. The doctor has given you his testimony that her death was the result of a pure accident! Is it necessary, then, that my poor cousin should be tortured by recalling in public the memories that are nearly driving him out of his mind.'

'It is absolutely necessary, Mr Walcheren,' replied the coroner, 'the husband's testimony may prove the most important of all. I cannot, in the pursuit of my duty, excuse the presence of your cousin. Call Mr Frederick Walcheren.'

And all eyes were turned eagerly towards the door, to watch the advent of the greatest sufferer of all by this most hapless adventure.


IN a few seconds the door opened again, to admit Frederick Walcheren, leaning on the arm of his cousin, Philip. At first the jury wished the latter to withdraw, but he refused to do so.

'Is it not sufficient,' he cried, 'for you to look at this unfortunate man, to see what he is suffering, and that he is incapable of confronting you alone? I refuse to leave him; if you insist upon it, we will both withdraw. This is a court of inquiry, not of justice; how dare you treat this gentleman as if he were a criminal?'

'I am not aware that the jury were doing so, Mr Walcheren,' retorted Mr Procter. 'However, as he seems ill, and you insist upon remaining by his side, let it be so. It is not, however, the usual thing for a witness to be examined in the presence of another person.'

'I don't care if it is the custom or not,' replied Philip firmly. 'You may commit me for contempt of court, if you like, but my cousin is too ill to stand by himself, and I refuse to leave him.'

'Very well, sir, very well!' replied the coroner tartly, 'if Mr Frederick Walcheren answers the questions put to him, nothing more will be said about it.'

Frederick did indeed look more like a criminal than anything else. His dark hair, which he wore rather long for the general fashion, was dull and damp with the sweat which agony had forced from him. His features were pinched and his eyes sunk, whilst his clear olive complexion had assumed a yellow, waxen hue. The whole man seemed to have collapsed under the force of his grief. He did not raise his eyes to the faces of his inquisitors, but sat leaning back in his chair, with his gaze fixed on the ground, and his hands clasped together between his knees.

'Rouse yourself, if you please, sir,' commenced the coroner, 'and let us have as succinct an account as you can of all you know concerning this distressing affair. Do you recognise the deceased, Jane Emily Walcheren, as your late wife?'

'Yes!' answered Frederick in a low voice.

'Speak up, if you please! The jury cannot hear your replies. When did you see the deceased lady last?'

'On Saturday morning.'

'Well, well, what more?' cried Mr Procter, impatiently; 'tell us all about it. Where did you see her, and when did you part with her, and what did you do in the interim? We want the whole story, and can't go dragging it from you piecemeal.'

'Say all you know, Frederick,' whispered Philip, 'it will be so much the sooner over and done with.'

The unhappy young man made a visible effort, and said,—

'I saw her last alive on Saturday morning at the Castle Warden Hotel at about half-past eleven or twelve o'clock. We had just finished breakfast, and I left her to have a swim. I never saw her again until I came—here.'

'How long were you away from the hotel?'

'I did not return till nearly three. That hour was fixed for our luncheon.'

'Three hours is a long time to be taking a swim. What were you doing for the rest of the time?'

'I was occupied in the water, all, or nearly, all the time,' replied Frederick.

But Mr Procter, who had never indulged in a bath but once in his life, and that was the day before his wedding, when he caught such a cold that he had never ventured into the water since, was not to be taken in by so transparent an untruth.

'In the water for three hours, sir! Do you expect the jury to believe that?'

'I was in the sea for the best part of the time, swimming and doing feats of skill. Some part of it must be allowed for dressing and undressing myself. But the day was fine, and I did not care to come out sooner than was necessary.'

'I believe I am right, Mr Walcheren, in saying that you were only married to the deceased on the Friday previous?'

'That is the case.'

'Is it usual for a bridegroom to leave his bride alone for three hours the day after their wedding in order that he may have a swim?'

'I don't know,' said Frederick, wearily; 'but I did.'

'Well, when you came back at three o'clock you found your wife was gone?'

'I did.'

'Was it not rather strange, considering that you had gone to the beach, that she did not go to the beach also, in order to find you?'

'At first I thought she must have done so, but I searched the beach and the town, and, finally, the cliffs, without finding any trace of her.'

'And then you returned to the hotel! At what time might that have been?'

'I am not sure. At about five, or half-past, I think.'

'With the exception, then, of a run home for a few minutes, you were absent from the Castle Warden from half-past eleven to half-past five—six hours? And all that time you were bathing or looking for your wife?'

'I have already told you so,' answered Frederick.

'Who saw you during that time, Mr Walcheren? What witnesses can you bring forward to testify that it was spent as you tell us?'

'Witnesses!' reiterated Frederick, with a stare. 'How can I bring witnesses from a place where I am utterly unknown? I have never been in Dover to stay a night before now. Nobody in the town knows me. I have not spoken to an individual, excepting a young man who accosted me whilst swimming, and a girl whom I asked if she had seen—had seen—my—my—wife.'

'That is unfortunate,' remarked the coroner, drily. 'Now, Mr Walcheren, am I right in supposing that your marriage was not conducted very regularly—that it was undertaken, in fact, entirely against, and in opposition to, the wishes of the parents of the deceased?'

'I don't know what the devil business that is of yours!' exclaimed Frederick, roused from his lethargic condition by the impertinence of the question.

'Everything is my business, sir, in the pursuit of my duty, and, if you address me again in that manner, I shall commit you for contempt of court. I understand, further, that not only was your marriage with the deceased an irregular one, but that you took a false oath in order to procure a licence for it, by stating the deceased to be of age, when she wanted a year of that time.'

'I did, if you will have it so!' said the young man, sullenly.

'Are you aware, Mr Walcheren, that in consequence of your behaviour in the matter, your father-in-law, Mr Crampton, altered his will and cut his daughter's name out of it?'

'Of course I knew it.'

'Who told you of it?'

'I forget. My wife, I suppose!'

'Mr Crampton never informed you of the fact himself?'

'Not that I remember.'

'You did not hear of it, in fact, until after your unfortunate marriage had taken place beyond recall. Can you deny it, sir?'

'I don't know if I did or did not. I cannot remember. My head is so dazed by the events that have taken place since that I cannot trust my memory in anything.'

'Perhaps I can jog it for you. You took a false oath in order to enable you to marry the deceased, whom you believed to be an heiress, and it was not until you had brought her down here that you found out your mistake. Your wife told you of the fact, and you probably had a few words on the matter, before you left her so suddenly in the hotel.'

'It's a lie!' cried Frederick vehemently, as he sprang up from his chair, an action which caused the coroner to dodge behind two of the jury in case his witness might prove dangerous. 'It's a lie, I tell you, we never had a word of misunderstanding between us, and if you dare to mention her in that way to me again, I will knock your dirty head against the wall for you.'

He would have sprung at the coroner in reality, if his cousin had not restrained him.

'Frederick! Frederick! for her sake, restrain yourself. You would not mix up her name or memory with a low row.'

'Gentlemen of the jury!' exclaimed the coroner, 'another such insult on the part of that witness and I will put him in arrest for assault. You have heard him threaten me. The whole case is one of suspicion, in my opinion. This man runs away with a lady under age, whom he believes to be an heiress, and the very day he finds out his mistake she is found thrown over the cliffs, under every appearance of there having been foul play. The witness would have us believe that he, a bridegroom not two days married, left his young wife for six mortal hours to indulge in swimming—that when she was missed, he made every effort to find her, that he even went along the cliffs where she lay dead, and never saw her body.'

'But the body lay under the cliffs,' interposed a juror; 'and the gentleman walked along them. He couldn't have found her unless he had descended to the beach.'

'That's right, Mr Colly,' said Procter, spitefully; 'always interrupt at the most important moments. The witness has eyes in his head. I suppose he could have looked over—if he had been very energetic in his search he would have looked over. And what was he doing all that time? And is it likely the deceased would have ascended the cliffs by herself, in a place where she had never been before. You have heard the witness of the landlord and waiters of the hotel, to the effect that they never saw the deceased leave the hotel after her husband—that she must have been gone almost as long as he was, for another witness, Mr Hindes, called twice with the view of seeing her, and each time she was out. Now, where was she all that time, if she were not, as is most probable, with her husband? Dr M'Coll gave us his opinion that the deceased might have been thrown over the cliffs, or she might have fallen over, or she might have thrown herself over on purpose. Now, it seems to me highly improbable that a young woman of twenty should tumble over such a place by mistake—still less that she should have committed suicide the very day after her marriage; but words lead to quarrels, gentlemen, and quarrels lead to pushing sometimes, and a hasty push is a very dangerous thing, you know, when near a steep cliff. I don't wish to bias your decision in this matter in any degree. If you find the deceased came by her death by misadventure you will give your verdict to that effect, but if you think the circumstances are such as to demand a stricter inquiry, you will say so. I leave the case in your hands now, and I feel sure you will do it justice!'

The jury shambled out of the room, and Frederick looked up into his cousin's face with open eyes that were half mystified and half alarmed.

'Philip! what does that man mean? He cannot—no! it would be too gross—too impossible!—he cannot mean us to understand that he suspects me—me of having had any hand in this misfortune?'

'Hush! Fred; hush!' replied Philip, laying his hand soothingly on the other's arm; 'never mind what he says or thinks. He is a cad—any one can see that—in mind as well as breeding. Let the brute think what he likes. He cannot make others agree with him, and all your friends will know that you are innocent in the matter as far as the poor girl's death is concerned.'

'But to be suspected, and by a creature like that—I, who would have given my worthless life for hers a thousand times over. My God! it is hard!'

Philip squeezed his hand.

'I know it! It is part of the trial, but it will soon be over now! Here are the jury! They have not been long in coming to a decision.'

'Well, gentlemen, and what is your verdict?' demanded Mr Procter, with an unctuous smack of his lips, as if he longed to hear them say they considered that there had been foul play in the matter.

'Our verdict, sir,' replied the spokesman; 'is that the deceased came by her death from a fall over the cliffs, but whether she was thrown over or fell over by accident there is not sufficient evidence to show!'

'It is unsatisfactory that your verdict should be undecided,' said the coroner; 'had you not better reconsider it?'

'We are quite unanimous on the subject, sir; and we would like to add a rider to the effect that some sort of fence should be put along the edge of the cliffs to prevent accidents in future.'

'Very well, if you are agreed, it is no use detaining you any longer,' said Procter, with an aggrieved air, for he had quite made up his own mind that Frederick Walcheren had killed his wife; 'you have only to sign the papers and end the proceedings.'

As soon as they were set at liberty, Philip hurried his cousin out of the room, for Frederick was in that reckless condition that he dreaded what he might say or do to the coroner. Here they found that the body of poor Jenny had already been moved to an upper chamber by the orders of Mr Crampton, and was being prepared by women's hands for its last receptacle. That she should have been touched without his authority made her husband furious.

'Who has dared to do this?' he exclaimed wrathfully, as he glared at Mr Crampton and Henry Hindes.

'I have dared, sir,' replied the father, determinedly. 'You stole my living daughter from me, but you shall not have her now that she is dead! I have ordered, or rather my kind friend Hindes here has ordered, every preparation to be made for the conveyance of her precious remains to Hampstead, where I shall take her by train to-morrow, and there our connection ends. You have done me all the injury in your power, and I never wish to see your face again, either in this world or the next.'

'But you shall not have her, I say,' cried Frederick in a fury, 'she was my wife, and I defy you to take her from me, dead or alive! I shall take her myself to my brother's place in Northampton and see her laid in the family vault of the Walcherens'. That is the only place where my wife shall lie.'

'She was not your wife,' exclaimed the old man; 'you married her under false pretences, and if you attempt to cross me in my purpose I will appeal to the law to see me righted, and give me back all that your villainy has left me of my child.'

'By Heaven you sha'n't!' said the younger man, as he made a rush forward as if he would have seized Mr Crampton by the throat; 'if you persist in your intention I will fight you inch by inch, old man as you are, for the possession of her remains.'

'Frederick!' interposed Philip, restraining him, 'think what you are saying and doing. Is such wrangling seemly in the very presence of the dead? You know what this gentleman says is the truth. You did rob him of his daughter, and by a fraud. In strictest justice, therefore, she belongs to him now, as she did whilst alive. But even were it not so, cannot you make up your mind to yield your wishes to his? Think of all he has lost, of how little he has remaining, and don't deny him this sad consolation of laying his daughter to rest where he can see her grave. It is really of so little consequence when you come to think of it! And if it is a sacrifice on your part, cannot you make it as a little expiation for what has gone before, an atonement which Heaven may accept for the wrong you did them both. Be reasonable, Fred! After to-day neither you nor her father will ever see her in this world again. Why deny him the sorry comfort of taking her body home for her poor mother to weep over? Come, my dear fellow, yield this little point gracefully. I fancy your dear young wife, could we ask her, would rather choose to lie at Hampstead amongst the flowers than in our musty old vault at Northampton, where you never go.'

Frederick gave a tremendous gulp.

'Perhaps so,' he answered, 'perhaps so.' Then to Mr Crampton, 'Take her, sir, then, take my angel back to her own people, but let me bid her a last farewell before she is carried away from me.'

'Certainly, certainly,' said Mr Crampton, shamed out of his brawling manner by the other's submission, 'and I thank you for yielding the point, but I feel it is my right—the only right, unfortunately, which you have left me.'

Philip drew Frederick upstairs. He felt the less these two men met in the future the better. The room where Jenny now lay was already set to rights, and she was stretched upon the bed, clad in fair, fresh raiment, with her hands crossed meekly on her breast. She looked very different, poor child, from the saucy, merry, wilful girl who had run away with her lover, without giving a single thought to the consequences. The women had smoothed her hair upon her forehead, her eyes were sunk, her mouth pathetically closed and rigid. The little perfect nose, her lover had so much admired, was drawn and pinched almost out of all likeness to itself, and the inside of the hands were turning purple. Her unhappy husband prostrated himself with a cry of anguish by the side of the bed, and Philip withdrew and left him for a little while, whilst he made arrangements for their departure for London. He felt that Frederick could have no possible desire to remain in Dover when Jenny's body had been removed thence, and that the sooner he left it the better.

Mr Crampton and Henry Hindes had decided to remain there till the following day, when the sad preparations for their return to Hampstead would be completed, and Philip Walcheren was glad to see them leave the 'Bottle and Spurs' for a hotel, where they had arranged to pass the night. He accompanied them to the town, and, when the coast was clear, he secured a close carriage and returned to the public-house for his unfortunate cousin.

'Come, dear Frederick,' he said, as he re-entered the room where the body lay; 'let me take you away from here. I have settled your bill at the Castle Warden, and your portmanteau is waiting us at the station. The—the other things there, I have arranged with Mr Crampton to take away. It is best that we should return to London at once.'

'And is this the last—last time that I shall ever see her?' asked Frederick, in a tone of unutterable woe.

'On this earth, my dear cousin, yes,' replied Philip, 'and it is just as well. The sight can only increase your misery. In a very short time the undertakers will be here to do their work. Why not spare yourself the extra pain of watching them. And after they are gone, what will there be for you to gaze upon? A box of wood! Be a man, my dear fellow, and say good-bye to her.'

'Oh! Philip, Philip, if you only knew what that word costs me. It is like dragging my very entrails out to pronounce it.'

'I do know it, but it must be done. Better now than before strangers.'

'Good-bye, good-bye, my angel,' cried the young man, as he kissed the corpse from head to feet. 'Don't forget your wretched husband in the land you have gone to, but remember he has but one wish left on earth—to join you there. Good-bye, my only love! No other woman can ever take your place with me. I dedicate the rest of my unhappy life to your sweet memory. Oh, Philip, how can I tear myself away from her!'

'You have forgotten to take this, Frederick,' said his cousin, drawing off poor Jenny's fatal wedding-ring and holding it out to him. 'It is yours by right to keep for her till you meet again.'

'Sacred and inviolate!' exclaimed Frederick, as he pressed the pledge of their married love to his lips. 'My God, hear me swear that this ring shall keep me faithful to my darling's memory for ever, that with it I pledge myself to fidelity and virtue as long as my life may last.'

'And God has heard the oath,' said Philip, solemnly. 'Come, Frederick, the carriage is waiting at the door. Do not prolong this trying scene any more.'

'Shall I see anybody?' asked his cousin in a fearful manner, as they gained the outside of the door at last; 'shall we encounter either of those men again, Crampton or Hindes, I mean, or those dreadful creatures who wanted to accuse me—My God, Philip,' he continued, stopping short, 'of what was it they wanted to accuse me?'

'Of nothing, nothing, Frederick,' replied Philip, soothingly, 'you must not think of it again. It is the business of a jury to make everything look as black as possible, and they never think of the pain they may inflict by their unworthy suspicions. Try and forget it, with all the other incidents of this most trying day. You will meet no one, unless it be the people of the house. You may take my word for that! Just put yourself in my hands and I will manage everything for us both.'

Frederick was only too thankful to be relieved of all responsibility, for he was utterly worn-out with grief, and incapable of thinking or acting for himself, so he clung to the arm of his cousin, who hurried him into the carriage and off to the railway station before he hardly knew where they were going. But as they neared London, he roused himself sufficiently to ask their destination.

'I intend to take you to my house first,' replied Philip, cheerfully, 'for you are not fit in your present condition to look after yourself, nor would I allow you to go back alone to your flat in Nevern Mansions. In our house you shall have a couple of rooms to yourself, and Marion will take care that you are undisturbed. When you are better, you shall decide what to do. At present you must resign yourself into my hands.'

Frederick pressed his cousin's hand and murmured 'Thank you,' without making the slightest objection to the plan.

He was, indeed, too intensely miserable and worn-out to care about anything, and when their journey came to an end, he allowed Philip to do with him exactly as he chose.


A TELEGRAPHIC message, early in the day, had told Mrs Walcheren the time to expect them, and warned her to keep herself and the children out of the way, so that, when the travellers arrived in Kensington Gardens Square, they encountered no one but the servant who opened the door to them, and Frederick was conveyed to his apartments, without meeting another soul. Two rooms, adjoining one another, had been prepared for his reception, and, as he cast himself languidly upon a couch, he stretched out his hand to his cousin.

'What you have done for me yesterday and to-day, Philip, I shall never forget, and can never repay. I think you have saved my reason. God bless you for it!'

'To hear you say that, my dear Frederick, is more than sufficient to repay me for any trouble I may have taken on your behalf. But now, will you not try to take a little refreshment and rest? Have a warm bath! It is ready for you in the next room.'

'Yes! I should like to have a bath,' said Frederick, with a distorted smile; 'although that beast Procter did seem to imagine it was impossible that I should care to go into the water. Water is about the only luxury I could never dispense with. And I feel so dirty,' with a heavy sigh.

'All right, then, go at once,' replied his cousin; 'everything is prepared for you, and don't be afraid of meeting anybody. You are as much alone on this floor as if you were in your own flat. No one will come near you unless you ring, and for to-night I shall wait on you myself.'

'How good you are to me!' said Frederick, as he went into the bathroom.

When he came out again, with the taint of death, as it were, washed off him, he found a tray awaiting him, with a basin of strong soup, and a decanter of sherry, and Philip insisted upon his taking some refreshment before he dressed himself anew. His portmanteau had been unstrapped, and a fresh suit of grey tweed laid out for him to put on, but, unfortunately, it was the one which he had worn on Saturday morning, and the sight of it made him break down weakly again, as people will after having sustained a prolonged nervous strain.

'My darling! my darling!' he sobbed, 'how little I thought, when I left you on that fatal morning, that I should never see you again, except—except—'

'Come, Frederick, take your soup and drink a glass of sherry. You needn't be afraid of two or three glasses, for it is the oldest in my cellar, and you know I am rather a connoisseur in wine. Never mind dressing yourself again; there is no occasion. Your dressing-gown will be far more suitable, and then you can lie down comfortably on the sofa. You must be sadly in want of rest.'

'Yes, I do feel rather tired,' replied Frederick, as he drank several glasses of the generous wine, and lay down as his cousin directed him; 'and I almost think that I could sleep a little. I suppose one does go on sleeping and eating as long as one lives, even if one has lost everything one cared for in the world,' he added, with a wintry smile.

'Well, then I will leave you for a little while, and see my wife and children,' said Philip, taking no notice of his remark. 'Try and compose yourself. Rest will do you more good than anything else; and I will be with you again in an hour, sooner if you care to have me, and will ring your bell.'

'No, no! go to Marion,' said Frederick, in a drowsy voice. 'I have been trouble enough to you already.' And Philip, seeing that he was really inclined to rest, left him to himself.

Of course his wife had much to hear, and he to tell, of the unhappy scenes he had passed through, and an hour slipped away before he went up to his cousin's room again. He opened the door softly and peeped in. Frederick was still lying on the couch in an attitude of extreme exhaustion. He was breathing heavily, and catching his breath in his sleep, sobbingly, as children do; whilst, ever and anon, a half-muttered word, showed how grief pursued him, even in his dreams. Philip watched him for a few moments and then withdrew, and left him to his slumbers. Heavy, as he knew the awakening must be, Frederick needed strength above all other things, in order to bear what lay before him. Physically he had never been a very strong man, and his dissipated life had further tended to undermine his constitution, so that his cousin had feared for the effect of so violent a grief upon his health. When he descended to his family again he found the party augmented by the arrival of Father Tasker, who had come to hear what news Marion had received from Dover. Philip welcomed him warmly.

'You have come in the very nick of time,' he exclaimed. 'But I felt your good angel would direct your footsteps hither. Frederick is far more resigned than I hoped to see him, but then, he is so exhausted at the present moment that one can hardly judge. I left him asleep on the sofa in his room. It is the first time he has closed his eyes since this terrible calamity overtook him—'

'Say, rather, my son, since this great blessing was vouchsafed him, for I fully believe that this visitation, dreadful as it appears at first sight, is simply the voice of God calling to His unhappy child to repent and be saved.'

'I believe you are right, father,' said Philip. 'For his sorrow has already made a great change in Frederick. He swore before me, on his dead wife's wedding-ring, to pledge himself to virtue and fidelity for the rest of his life. I am sure he regards her death as a species of punishment for his former sins.'

'May he continue to do so,' replied the priest. 'But such feelings are but too often evanescent. If we are to take advantage of this softening on his part, Philip, it must be while his memory is still fresh—his feelings yet lacerated. We must strike whilst the iron is hot, or with time and forgetfulness his heart may harden, as did the heart of Pharaoh, and this salutary lesson be lost.'

'I do not think his sorrow for her loss will soon pass, father. I never remember to have seen Frederick so prostrated with grief before. I believe this poor girl must have been, as he says, the one love of his life.'

'To the exclusion of the Church and his religious duties, my son. Yes, perhaps so, but those are the very loves that the Lord is jealous of—that He will not permit, and so cuts off, in order that we may find our joy in Him alone.'

'Stay to dinner with us, father,' said Philip eagerly. 'Poor Frederick may be glad to see you, later on, and you can direct his thoughts to these great truths. Marion, my dear, the father will stay with us, I know. Let the servants know that he will do so.'

Philip peeped once more into his cousin's apartments before he descended to the dining-room, only to find him still sleeping, though brokenly, and it was not until dinner was concluded, that he ventured upstairs again. But then his worst fears were realised. Frederick had woke up with strength renewed by his temporary relief, to the full horror of his bereaved position. His cousin found him prostrated on the couch in an agony of suffering, during which he was calling upon the Almighty to put an end to his existence, or to give him back that of which He had so cruelly robbed him.

'Frederick! this is blasphemy!' cried Philip in a tone of horror, 'God's will is not to be altered by man's ravings. Your wife is in His keeping. Has that thought no power to calm your transports? Would you have her back again, even if you could, in this world of pain and disappointment?'

'Yes, I would, I would!' returned the young man, 'a thousand times over. Do you suppose that my darling can enjoy even heaven without me, whom she loved so tenderly? No, no! She is weeping for me, as I weep for her. You told me yourself that you did not believe that she was happy. Oh, my love—my love, would God I might have died for you, or with you.'

'Frederick, Father Tasker is below. Would you like him to come up and speak to you? He can make the reason of such things clearer to you than I can.'

'Father Tasker!' exclaimed Frederick, 'No. He will only talk to me of submission and obedience to God's will, and make me more miserable. I can't submit; it's no use telling me to do so, and I can't see God's love in the matter, either. I can only see hard-heartedness and cruelty, and utter indifference to my trouble. I have only one wish left—to die too, and join my darling, wherever she may be!'

'If you were sure of joining her, certainly that would be the easiest plan out of it all. But, Frederick, Father Tasker will tell you the best way—the only way—by which you can hope to join your wife when your time comes. Believe me, he has no intention or desire to wound you by any allusion to your trouble, unless you desire it. He has come to see you only as a friend who deeply sympathises with your pain.'

'Let him come up, then,' replied Frederick in a muffled voice, and in another minute the priest entered the room, whilst Philip discreetly remained downstairs. Father Tasker went up to the couch where the stricken man still lay, and kindly laid his hand on his.

'God bless you, my son, and comfort you,' he said.

'How can God comfort me?' demanded Frederick. 'He will not give me my lost wife back again.'

'Not in this world; but is this world all we live for? At the best we are here but for a few short years, whilst the next will last for all eternity. Had you the choice of fifty years spent with your late wife, Frederick, or fifty thousand, which would you prefer?'

'How can you ask me, when you know she was the life of my life! Father, you have heard so much of my loose style of living, that you may think my love for her was like the rest, but it was no more to be compared to them than light to darkness. I loved her—I loved her—all the other feelings I have ever experienced for women look like horrible nightmare dreams, or flimsy shadows, beside the strong, deep passion she evoked in me. I should have become a better man for her sake. Perhaps even religious, like Philip,—who knows? The possession of her—the knowledge of her love for me—made me feel so grateful, that I might have ended by loving God in very gratitude for what He had given me in her. And now—now, it is all over.'

'It is not all over, my son. It has but just begun.'

Frederick raised his swollen features to gaze with astonishment in the priest's face.

'I mean what I say! Love cannot die! Your wife is gone from your mortal gaze, but she still exists and her love exists with her. And now is the time for you to show the world if you did love her or not. I am not questioning your passion for her earthly body. I understand she was very beautiful, and such things take a great hold on men's fancies. But her body is no longer here for you to lavish your affection upon. What are you going to do for her soul?'

'Were I a good man, I would pray for it; but who would hear the prayers of such a sinner as I am? Besides, my darling was infinitely purer and better than myself! She can have no need of my prayers.'

'That is to say, then, that she was not mortal, for all mortals have need of each other's help. Besides, if she had no need of your prayers, have you none of your own?'

'Ah! father, you touch me on the raw there. I have felt, even since I comprehended what the awful news they brought me meant, as if it were a judgment upon me for my sins—as if the Lord had taken my innocent darling in His exceeding wrath at my past wickedness.'

'In His love, not His wrath,' interposed the priest gently; but Frederick did not heed him.

'Ever since I lost her,' he went on, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, 'I have done nothing but think of Rhoda Berry, and that girl down at Southampton, and other certain black marks on my unhappy life. But is God so hard as that? Can He have stricken down my angel by so cruel a death, just as she was happy with me, because I have made a beast of myself? Why her, and not me? I was the sinner. I should have been the sufferer.'

'And you are suffering greatly, my son; but it is a suffering which may result in exceeding joy. Why did the Almighty not take you, instead of your wife—the girl whom you led to fly in the face of her parents and to err greatly on that account. I think I can tell you. He was too gracious to cut you off in the midst of your sins, without giving you a chance of reparation, and, by taking her instead, he has left you behind to pray for the salvation of her soul. Frederick, that poor child is even now holding out her pale hands to you, through the gates of purgatory, and saying, "Husband! it was you who led me astray; it is to you I look to release me from these purgatorial fires. Show your great love for me, by dedicating the rest of your life to this pious purpose, so that, when I have risen, I may join my prayers to yours, and requite your goodness by praying for you." This poor girl was not of our faith; she was a heretic, so much the more does it behove all those who loved her to entreat the Blessed Mother of God to use her interest with her Son in order to gain her salvation. If you love her, Frederick, as you say you do, now is the time to prove it. Come back to the Church you have deserted, and spend your future life so as you may meet your wife again, when your time comes to leave this world.'

'You mean,' said Frederick, 'that I shall give up my fortune to the Church, as my godfather intended I should do. Well, if you will use it in masses for the repose of my poor darling's soul, you may have it. It is worth nothing to me now. My life, to all intents and purposes, is over.'

'I do not mean only that,' replied the priest; 'I do not think that the Church would accept your money without yourself. But you must not forget, Frederick, what was your sainted mother's wish and aim. She designed you, her favourite son, for the service of the Church—she educated you for that purpose, but, as soon as you were left without her counsel and guidance, you abandoned your studies and elected to go your own way. But the Church has never given you up. She considers you still as her child and disciple, and is ready at any time to welcome you back into her ranks. A very few more months of study would fit you to pass the necessary examination for ordination as a priest. Is it no inducement to you to know that, in that capacity, you might offer the Mass, every time you celebrated it, for the repose of your wife's soul—that you would live, as it were, in the presence of God, pleading for her, and for your eternal re-union? If you really desire her everlasting salvation—if you long to meet her again, and in a state of bliss—if you regret your past life and desire to lead a purer one in the future, you will take it up where you dropped it at your mother's death, and fit yourself for eternity.'

'I do wish all that you say,' cried Frederick, whose body was sorely weakened, and whose mental calibre had never been too strong (for his love of vicious courses in the past, proved the weakness of his moral character). 'I care nothing more for money, or the pleasures that money bring, and I have but one desire—to be assured of my darling's happiness, and that we shall meet again hereafter. Oh! father, if these things are to be gained by my entering the Church, let me do so as quickly as I may, for if you do not find me occupation and distraction, I shall go mad.'

'The Holy Church will take care of you, my son,' said Father Tasker, as he rose to leave the room. 'She will envelop you with her arms like a loving mother, and soothe all your sorrows and your fears to rest upon her holy breast. And the Blessed Mother of God, who is weeping tear for tear with you every moment, will rejoice so exceedingly to regain her lost child, that she will do her utmost to reward you by the salvation of your wife, whom she will accept as her child too, because of her great love for you. You could not have chosen a truer means to ensure the happiness of both. You will live, my son, to call this sad time the most blessed of all your life.'

'But, meantime, I must live without her!' cried Frederick, relapsing into a storm of grief.

'Not without her,' replied the priest, 'but with her, in spirit, every hour. This is where our blessed faith comforts us exceedingly over those of less favoured people. They talk of the Communion of Saints, but act as though the dead, once removed from our sight, had no more part nor lot with mortal flesh. But we know that this doctrine is erroneous, else what would become of our many instances of saints and angels appearing to men after their demise? The dead, so-called, are not beyond the reach of our prayers and our tears. They hear us and see us and pray for us. And it is our blessed privilege to ask their prayers, as in the case of your sainted mother (who has, doubtless, wearied the throne of God with her entreaties on your behalf—now about to be so mercifully and almost miraculously answered); or to give them ours, as in the case of your young wife, who will, in after years, rise up and call you blessed for what you have done for her, as you have cause to call your dear mother.'

'I am hers and the Church's for evermore,' exclaimed Frederick, in a fervour of exaltation, as he stretched forth his hands and clasped those of the father; 'only tell me what to do and I will do it!'

'Take a day or two to think over the idea, my son, and then, if you are still of the same mind, I will speak to my old friend, Canon Bulfil, on the subject, and see if he cannot receive you into his college, until you are ready to pass for Holy Orders. I am persuaded that a few months' study is all you will require to regain what you may have lost.'

'And then—and then,' exclaimed Frederick, with raised eyes and clasped hands, 'I shall offer the blessed Mass for the repose of her soul every day, five and six times a day, if they will let me do so. I shall tell them that they cannot give me too much work. If it kills me, so much the better. It will send me all the sooner to her.'

He remained in this mingled state of despair and hope for many days to come, and it was whilst in this condition that Philip Walcheren and the priest took advantage of him, and persuaded him to give himself and his fortune to the Church. Not that they entertained the slightest idea of fraud or chicanery in doing so. On the contrary, they honestly rejoiced in their success, believing that they were securing the salvation of his soul, and the commendation of their superiors in the faith. They were both good men in their way, and earnest to promote the cause of the Catholic Church and their religion.

We judge our fellow creatures too hardly in this world, on the supposition that what is good for Tom and Dick, must, necessarily, be good for Harry. A Protestant can see nothing but idolatry in the worship paid by a Catholic to the image of his patron, but he is quite blind to the fact that, when he exclaims with horror if one stands on a ginger-bread covered bible in order to increase one's stature, he practises the same idolatry in another form. The Catholic regards the Protestant as a heretic, because he does not bow his head at the elevation of the Mass; but when the Catholic Church forbids her children to kneel in prayer with their Protestant brethren, she is as openly contemptuous of their faith as she believes them to be of hers. Such extremes are folly, and go far to make one disbelieve in the uses of religion at all, except as a plea for fighting. Intolerance has caused more people to forsake the ordinances of their childhood than anything else, and those who set the faction going and the flame alight, will have much to answer for, if the day of judgment, which they foretell, ever comes to pass.

Both Catholics and Protestants may do many things which appear intolerant to outsiders, and yet act in the most perfect faith and desire to serve God. This was how Philip Walcheren and Father Tasker acted with regard to Frederick. They wanted to help him save his soul—they thought they saw a way of doing it—and they brought all their arguments to bear upon that way.

And Frederick was as tinder in their hands. His whole mind was absorbed with the idea that his sins had, in a measure, brought this awful calamity upon him, and that the loss of Jenny was due to himself alone. He loathed the thought of his past life with its licentiousness and folly. He wanted to put it right out of his head—to forget it had ever been—to lose sight of anything that should remind him of it. The idea of a cloister and hard study, strange to say, held no horror, at that moment, for this man of the world, who had lived his life on race-courses, and behind the scenes of theatres. All he longed for was oblivion, and he hoped to find it in the exercise of religion. Have we not all felt so at times, when the hopes of earth were shattered at our feet, and we could turn nowhere in the world for comfort? It is then, and especially when death has removed what we loved best from our sight, that we feel as if we must make the heaven for ourselves, in which we only half believe.

That is well enough. It is the cry of the human heart for the love of God, without which it cannot exist. If it could be followed by a realisation of the presence of God, the soul would be satisfied and all life changed. The burdens of earth would roll off our shoulders as Christian's bundle rolled off his back in the Pilgrim's Progress, and, instead of despairing mortals, reviling our fate and the Almighty's ordinances, we should be contented, grateful children, waiting patiently till our Father saw fit to call us home!

But the mistake is, to suppose that religious ceremonies, designed of men, will heal our wounds, unless God's balm has dropped upon them first. Church-going is all very well for those who like it, but it should never be made a superstition, as so many people make it, since it was only instituted to do honour to God (which mission it too often sadly fails in), and God is everywhere ready to be done honour to.

Yet we are too apt to fly to it in our sorrow, and believe, as Frederick Walcheren believed, that, by making a great sacrifice of all his pleasures, and making a great sweep of all his sins at one and the same time, he would be pleasing God and securing his own happiness.


OF all the people who suffered, and were destined to suffer, from Jenny Walcheren's death, the heart that bled the most has been mentioned the least, because it bled so silently and unobtrusively. Poor Mrs Crampton! Who can estimate the depth and length and breadth of a mother's love?

Whilst Mr Crampton had been noisily giving way to his indignation and suspicions down at Dover, and Frederick Walcheren had been lapped in despair, and Henry Hindes had been compelled to hide his dastardly dread under an assumption of friendly concern, she had been bowed beneath the weight of her sorrow at home. It was so hard to believe it. Her Jenny!—whom she had never parted from since she was a little baby at her breast. She sat passive, silent and incredulous, in her darkened room, trying to realise that Jenny would never come home again, except in her coffin. Her husband had wired her to say that he and Mr Hindes would return on the Tuesday evening, bringing that with him, which was all that was left of their daughter. The poor, stricken mother could not believe it. She tried to make herself do so. She kept on talking to Aunt Clem about Jenny, of her childhood, her wilfulness, and her beauty, but still the tears would not come, and the poor heart was unrelieved.

'I wish I could cry, Clem,' she said pathetically, 'I wish I could cry; but, whenever I think it is coming, a great, hard lump seems to rise in my throat and drive it back again. I fancy I should feel better in my head if I could cry. Talk to me, Clem, of when she was a little girl.'

'She was a sweet little girl,' said poor Aunt Clem, mendaciously, 'a little fond of her own way, perhaps, but very loving and obedient.'

'Oh! no, Clem, not obedient, I think,' replied Mrs Crampton, 'but always loving. I remember, when she was a baby, how I used to look at her and wonder if she would ever grow up to be a woman. I had lost so many of them, you see, Clem—five darlings buried, one after another—until I was quite afraid to grow fond of a baby for fear it should be taken from me. I can never forget those burials. They used to tear my heart in two, and bury a piece of it every time. I went to see the two first buried,—those were little John and Edmund, you know, Clem; but, afterwards, I couldn't bear the sight. It seemed so hopeless my having any children, until my Jenny came, so different from all the others, who had been sickly little creatures; but she was so fat and bonny that the doctor said to me, "Well, you've got a thriving child this time, Mrs Crampton." And yet it was many years, Clem, before I dared to spend my whole love on her. I felt as if she were to go too—that I must die. And yet you see she has gone, and I can sit and talk about it to you, and do not even cry. It is very strange; I am afraid there must be something wrong with my head,' and she passed her hand in a puzzled manner over her forehead as she spoke.

'Oh! my dear sister,' exclaimed Aunt Clem, whose own features were almost indistinguishable from the effect of her tears, 'do try and cry. I am sure it would do you good.'

'It has not done you any good, Clem,' replied the poor mother. 'Besides, we may expect her home at any moment now, and John has never been very patient of my tears. I should not like to meet them—I mean him—with my eyelids swollen. It might upset him. For we must be very quiet over it, you know, Clem. It is a very solemn occasion. Is everything ready for her reception?'

'Yes, dear; I have arranged they shall carry her into your boudoir. It will make the room more dear to you afterwards, Ellen. Bradshaw helped me to remove the ornaments and drape the tables in white, and decorate the room with flowers. I think you will like it when you see it, dear. At least, I have done my best.'

'I remember,' said the mother, in a monotone, 'how averse I was to call her Jane. John would have it so, because his sister Jane had only died a month before her birth, but I thought it such a plain name. I had set my heart upon calling her Ethel, after the heroine in Thackeray's story of the Newcomes, but her father said it was romantic nonsense on my part, and he would have her nothing but plain "Jane." But Mrs Sellon stood godmother to her, so she was called Emily, also, after her. Ah, well,' with a heavy, deep-drawn out sigh, 'it doesn't signify now, does it?'

'Hark!' exclaimed Miss Bostock, changing colour, as the sound of carriage wheels was heard slowly advancing up the drive. 'What is that?'

Mrs Crampton rose, trembling. They both knew but too well. It was the funeral coaches which they heard, coming back from the station where they had been ordered to await the nine o'clock train.

'Let me go!' cried Mrs Crampton wildly, rousing herself from her apparent apathy for the first time, 'let me go to my child, my Jenny. I must be there to meet her.'

But Miss Bostock held her back.

'Dear, dear Ellen,' she said, 'pray don't go down stairs till John has come to fetch you; there is so much to be done yet. Stay here quietly, there's a dear, till the arrangements are complete. Bradshaw promised to meet John and tell him where they were to carry her. Don't make a scene in the hall. You know how he objects to any publicity.'

'A scene in the hall, Clem,' said Mrs Crampton, in a voice of surprise. 'And when I am going to meet my own child and welcome her home? I don't understand you! Let me see, though. Isn't she married? Didn't she marry that Mr Walcheren, or is it a mistake? It must be a mistake, Clem, or why should she come back to us? My pretty Jenny, the beauty of Hampstead, as they call her! How glad I shall be to have her home again.'

'Good God!' cried Miss Bostock, in an agony of terror, 'her brain is going. John, John!' she called out over the banisters, 'come here quick to Ellen, she is very ill!'

The mournful cortège had, by this time, entered the house, and deposited their burden on the white-draped table in the boudoir on the ground floor. The coffin had been temporarily closed, but the undertakers, who had met it at the station, unclosed it again, and Jenny Walcheren lay revealed, placid and immovable, under her father's roof. Mr Crampton, hearing his sister-in-law's appeal, and thinking his wife had fainted, ran upstairs at once, but was surprised to meet her on the landing with a strange look in her eyes, but an unmoved countenance, as she extended her hand to him.

'John!' she said, in a muffled voice, 'our Jenny has come home. I heard her enter the house. Take me down to see her without delay.'

'Oh, John!' whispered the terrified Aunt Clem, 'it will kill her. Ought she to see her? I believe she is going out of her mind with grief.'

'Poor soul! and well she may,' replied Mr Crampton, as he looked into his wife's staring eyes. 'But let her come; the sight can't make her worse than she is. Come, Ellen,' he added, affectionately, 'come and see your lamb, then. God has taken her from us, Nelly, but there is no help for it, and railing won't bring her back again. Come and see how peacefully she sleeps.'

He led the bereaved mother downstairs and into the boudoir as he spoke. The servants, who had been gazing tearfully on the remains of their young mistress, withdrew respectfully, as they saw the approach of their employers; and, as they entered the room, Mr Crampton closed the door behind them. The most expensive coffins that Dover could produce had been procured to convey poor Jenny's remains to Hampstead, and there she lay in a white satin-lined shell, enclosed in a polished oak sarcophagus, heavily clamped and ornamented with brass. Mrs Crampton had had her Jenny before her mental eyes all day, dead indeed, but plump and filled-out as when she had parted with her. She was prepared to see a corpse, but a corpse that was only a marble likeness of her child, and when her husband reverently and solemnly lifted the cambric cloth that hid the features of the deceased, and she perceived a little, shrunken and fallen-in body with a pallid face, looking half the size it used to be, and flattened hands with purple nails and palms, she drew one gasping breath, and gave a scream that echoed and re-echoed through the mansion.

'That my Jenny?' she exclaimed; 'that my child—my daughter? Oh, God! be merciful, be merciful!' and dropped upon the floor in a dead faint.

Miss Bostock, who was sobbing at the sad sight before her as if her heart would break, flung herself down in terror beside her prostrate sister.

'John, John,' she cried, 'it has killed her. I told you it would.'

'Don't say that, Clem,' exclaimed the unhappy man, 'for, if I lose her as well, I shall have nothing left to live for. Go and send William for Dr Sewell at once.'

'Where is Mr Hindes?' said Miss Bostock. 'Did he not travel with you?'

'Yes, but he would not enter the Cedars. There was no need, and he feared to intrude on our sorrow at this sad home-coming. But he did everything for me whilst at Dover, and worked night and day in my behalf to save me trouble. I can never repay him for all his goodness. But send for Sewell, Clem, and tell Bradshaw to come here and help me carry poor Nelly to her room. She must not come back to her senses here.'

Mrs Bradshaw, who was the house-keeper, appearing at that moment, they lifted the poor mother between them and conveyed her upstairs, and, when she came to herself again and remembered what had occurred, a violent burst of weeping relieved her overcharged brain and rendered her grief more natural, and, consequently, less acute.

The sad days which succeeded, until that of the funeral arrived, were spent in silence and gloom, in a darkened house, where meals were prepared as usual, but never touched, and even the domestics spoke with bated breath, and went about their work with red-rimmed eyes. The preparations for the interment went on, and were conducted without the slightest regard to expenditure. Mr Crampton felt a melancholy pleasure in determining that it should be the most magnificent funeral that had ever taken place in Hampstead, and be succeeded by the most magnificent monument that had ever been erected over so young and insignificant a girl. He would have an inscription on it, he said to himself, that should hand down her cruel story to posterity, and be a standing shame against Frederick Walcheren forever more. And all Hampstead sympathised in his ambition. If Jenny had not been an universal favourite during her lifetime, she became so upon her death. The girls who had been jealous of her unusual beauty, and the admiration which it excited, were shocked at her sudden removal from amongst them, and the young men were as deeply moved. Everyone sympathised with the unfortunate parents who had lost the hope of their old age, and, when the day of the funeral arrived, there was hardly a household in Hampstead who did not send a wreath of flowers to place upon the bier, and a representative to swell the crowd about the grave.

Mr Crampton's city friends, too, turned out in large numbers to pay their last token of respect to his daughter, so that the line of carriages seemed unlimited, and the cemetery was filled with spectators. Mr Crampton had purchased a large plot of ground in the principal avenue, with the intention of making a garden round the grave, and here assembled, on that beautiful August afternoon, old and young, rich and poor, friends and strangers, to see his lovely daughter laid to rest in the warm bosom of her Mother Earth—all but the man who, humanly speaking, had caused all the trouble, but who was about to expiate it by a sacrifice greater than anyone else would have thought of dedicating to Jenny's memory.

Amongst the chief mourners, and standing next to old Mr Crampton, was Henry Hindes, clad in a suit of the deepest black, and with a face the colour of ashes. The bystanders, even those least well acquainted with the principal performers in the tragedy, remarked that he seemed to suffer as much, if not more, than the father did.

'He did not weep so openly, as poor Mr Crampton,' said a woman who had stood near him, 'but he shook so violently that I could see him do it. And, when the clergyman came to the part of "Dust to dust, and ashes to ashes," Mr Hindes swayed as if he was going to fall into the grave. I was quite frightened. I thought every moment that he would faint.'

'Ah! well,' replied her companion, 'he is one of the firm, you see, and a great friend of the family; I daresay he has known the poor girl ever since she was born! I wonder who the Cramptons will leave their money to now! Some one told me that this is the last of their family, and the sixth child they have lost, and they have no heir left. It'll be a nice pot of money for whoever gets it! They are reported to be as rich as Croesus.'

Mr Crampton said something of the same thing to Henry Hindes that evening, as they sat together in the library at The Cedars. The old man had insisted upon his friend accompanying him home, and the latter had not known how to refuse with any grace.

'Why I want to speak to you, my dear Hindes, is this,' said Mr Crampton as they sat in the gloaming together. 'You see it behoves me now to make a new will! Everything I had was to have gone to my poor girl—that is, after her mother's death—but that's all over now; in fact, everything is over for me, and I don't fancy I shall last long myself.'

'You mustn't say that, my dear friend,' replied Hindes, in the strange, muffled voice he had adopted of late, and which he attributed to a bad sore throat, 'you are hale and hearty, and have many years of life, I hope, before you yet, and—when this—this terrible event has somewhat faded from your memory—of enjoyment also.'

'No, Hindes, no! I am too old a man to forget so easily. You see it is not as if it were the first nor the second, and it has given me my death-blow, I am certain of that. We men don't make so much noise about our troubles as the women do, poor things; not that they don't feel as keenly, perhaps, but their tears are their salvation. Now people, to have heard me talk over this business, might have thought, maybe, that all I cared for was my revenge on the scoundrel who stole my pretty one from me. But it isn't so—only the other feeling lies too deep for words. But, I am sure of one thing—and that is, that my wife there will outlive me, and that it won't be so long, either, before she's a widow. Now, of course, she'll be provided for amply, and her sister into the bargain; but two women of such quiet tastes and habits can never use one half of the money I have to leave behind me; and who are they to leave it to, when they die? They stand alone in the world. Of course I had meant—I had intended—to leave my Jenny more than half of it—that's what I've been working for all these years—but as it is—'

Here the old man stopped, and, leaning his head on his hand, pressed the burning eyeballs which refused to shed tears, but let his dry heart feed upon itself.

'My dear friend,' interposed Hindes, 'do not pursue this torturing subject to-night, I entreat you. Think of the trial you have already gone through, and have some pity on yourself.'

'No, Hindes, I wish to say what I have to say to-night, and I am quite equal to it. I must see Throgmorton, my solicitor, about my will to-morrow, without fail, for the next day I intend taking my wife and her sister to Scotland for a change. But I will be as brief as I can. I mean, therefore, to alter my will with respect to the names, but not to disposition of property. To my wife and her sister, I shall leave, for their lifetimes, the half of my fortune, and the other half—my poor Jenny's share—to you.'

'To me,' exclaimed Henry Hindes, starting from his chair. 'No, no, it is impossible. The very idea is horrible to me. I will not take it.'

Mr Crampton gazed at this sudden eruption in mute surprise.

'But why not you, my dear Hindes?' he said, after a pause. 'You are the best—I may say—the nearest and dearest friend I possess; and now that she's gone, your children are the only ones in whom I feel any interest. I can never thank nor repay you for all you have done for me during this sad time. I do not mean to offer you my fortune as a requital, only to show you how deeply I have felt your goodness to me, and how truly I value your friendship and the love you felt for my poor girl.'

'I cannot take it—it is impossible,' gasped Hindes, as he nervously swept his brow, over and over again, with his handkerchief.

'I know you are rich enough for every ordinary purpose, my dear fellow, but wealth is never unwelcome. Even with our combined fortunes, you will not be a Rothschild. And, even if you were, you have three children to spend it on, and may have more. If you absolutely refuse to be my heir, I will make little Walter so. You will not refuse to let me benefit your child, to pass on to him that which was intended for my own.'

'I would rather not indeed!' repeated Hindes. 'Walter will have plenty. The idea of his being your heir is painful to me. Surely there are members amongst your own or your wife's family who would be thankful to be remembered by you, and need your kindness more than my children do.'

Mr Crampton looked puzzled and a little vexed. He had wished to show his appreciation of the Hindes's affection for his dead daughter, and his partner's determined refusal of his offer wounded him. It is not pleasant to have an intended kindness thrown back in one's face. But all he said was,—

'You have disappointed me!'

'I am sorry,' said Hindes, spasmodically, 'but it took me by surprise. It is more than I deserve at your hands—I feel as if I had no right to accept your bounty. People might think it strange—they might begin to question—'

'What could they question? What right would they have to think it strange?' demanded Mr Crampton, querulously. 'Have I not a right to dispose of my money in my own way? Come, Hindes, if it is not to be you, it must be your son, so I give you fair warning, and you can divide your own money amongst your children as you choose. But little Walter will be my heir—will take the place of my poor murdered Jenny, whether you like it or no. I will give Throgmorton the necessary directions to-morrow.'

'My God, my God!' groaned Hindes, below his breath.

'My poor friend, I know you are feeling this trouble almost as much as myself,' continued Mr Crampton, 'that is what has endeared you so to me since it occurred. I wonder what that fellow Walcheren, who has been the cause of it all, is thinking of at the present moment. If he has a conscience, by Jove! I don't envy him the possession of it. Say what you will, Hindes, I shall always look upon him as her murderer. If he didn't push her over the cliff, which I am half inclined sometimes to believe, his carelessness was the real cause of it. Why did he leave her alone, such a wild, thoughtless, heedless creature as she was—plucky to a fault, and ready to dare anything. Why wasn't he by her side, either to defend her against the villain who assaulted her, or to save her from her own wilfulness?'

'Oh! sir, pray do not discuss the matter any more, at least to-night,' said Hindes, in a voice of abject entreaty. 'Suppose you found out the truth, how could it alter matters now? Try to think that no one was to blame—that it was the will of Heaven—and that—'

'No! no! Hindes, I cannot think that!' replied the old man. 'Her death may always be shrouded in mystery, but God never designed so young and beautiful a creature to die so foully. There is some villainy at the bottom of it, and I have not done with it yet, for, if ever I can discover the real author of the mischief, I will kill him with my own hand. I will, if he proves to be a prince of the blood royal.'

Henry Hindes did not answer for a few minutes, and then he said in a low voice,—

'Have I your permission to go home, Mr Crampton? I am not well, and this conversation has upset me. It is all too new, too fresh, my dear friend; it will not bear discussion yet. If you can do without me, I should be thankful to try and procure a little rest at home. We have to be early at the office to-morrow.'

'Go then, Hindes, by all means. I am afraid I am sadly selfish, but it is a relief in such cases to have a friend to unbosom oneself to. God bless you for all you have done for me. I could never have gone through that ceremony to-day if you had not stood by my side. I will go up to my poor wife now, and see what I can do or say to comfort her.'

He grasped Hindes' hand as he spoke, and the two men separated for the night. Hannah was anxiously expecting her husband's return. She knew his emotional nature, and how he suffered after any trial to his feelings. She had been suffering through the day very much herself. In Jenny Walcheren, she had lost the female friend whose society she had enjoyed the most, and her sympathy with the bereaved and heart-broken parents was extreme. She wept more for their sakes than for her own, and she knew that her husband felt for them, equally with herself. But, as he entered her presence, she was shocked to see the ravages of grief upon his countenance. It seemed unnatural to her that he should mourn so deeply as this—as if, too, something more than grief mingled with his feelings—if it had not seemed derogatory to his manhood, she would have said he must have become superstitious since Jenny's death, for he seemed to have grown frightened of shadows, and to glance about him with a startled air, as if he expected to see something that was not there. She was a sweet, placid-tempered woman herself, with a strong sense of religion, who would never have been alarmed at the idea of any supernatural appearances; who did not believe in them in the first place, and, if she had done so, would have said they came of God, and therefore could never harm those who believed and trusted in Him.

She could not, therefore, account for her husband's altered appearance, unless, indeed, there was something in his constitution which unfitted him for resisting the attacks of sorrow. And she had always been aware that he loved the dead girl equally with herself.

'My dearest!' she said, as soon as they were alone, and he had cast himself upon a sofa, 'you must not give way like this, you must not indeed. You will make yourself ill if you fret so continuously, and you have your work to do, remember.'

'Do leave me alone,' he answered sulkily; 'it's all very well to preach, but everybody's not so cold-blooded as yourself.'

'Cold-blooded! Henry,' she exclaimed. 'Oh, don't say I am that with regard to our darling Jenny. I think I mourn her loss as much as you do. But you frighten me, my dear. You can have no idea how altered you have become in these few days. You are like a wreck of your former self.'

'It's enough to make a man a wreck, to pass through such trying scenes as I have been doing. You seem to forget that everything has fallen to my share. From that terrible inquest, to this afternoon's ceremony, Mr Crampton has depended on me for every mortal detail. You would feel like a wreck if you had done as much.'

'Yes, yes, dear,' she answered, soothingly, 'for without having seen it all, I cannot get it out of my head. I have been trying so hard this afternoon to picture darling Jenny to myself, as she used to be—as I have seen her, a thousand times and more—with her bright, merry face and her saucy smile, driving those cobs of hers at such a rate through the town, without a fear or a care. But I can't. I can only see that little, mournful, pale face which I looked on in her coffin, with its sunken eyes and closed lips, and—'

'Damn it all!' cried Hindes, furiously, as he leapt from the couch, 'you have the most ingenious faculty of any woman I ever knew for torturing a man. Why on earth can't you leave these harrowing details alone? What good does it serve to rake them up ad nauseam? Is that the way to make one forget? I cannot stand it any longer, I shall go to bed.'

And without another word, he rushed from the room.

Hannah was in dismay. She did not know what she had said to make her husband so angry with her. His irritation raised her suspicions. Had there been more in Henry's affection for Jenny Crampton than she had ever thought of? She was not a prying or curious woman by nature, but Hindes' behaviour was enough to make anyone suspicious. The mere idea was a revelation to her. Never in the whole course of their married life, now extending to eight years, had she conceived the slightest notion but that her husband cared for herself alone. He had never been very demonstrative, but, on the other hand, he had never been unkind. And yet, when she remembered how very lovely the dead girl was, she wondered she had never seen danger in Henry's familiar intercourse with her. She could not feel jealous of poor little Jenny now, lying so meekly, with her hands crossed upon her breast, out in the cemetery, but Hannah did feel very sorry for herself, and less effusive than usual towards her husband. Yet, after all, as she told herself, it was only a supposition—it might turn out to be a delusion on her part—but she would watch Henry carefully, and find out the truth for herself.


HENRY HINDES had passed through the fearful ordeals of the inquest and bringing home and funeral of Jenny Walcheren with surprising boldness and equanimity, never having been betrayed into displaying more emotion than was considered becoming under the circumstances; but, now that all possible danger was over—that all inquiries had ceased—and that the dead girl was laid in her grave, safe from prying curiosity, his nerve forsook him, and he was haunted by his own memory.

The dread which had oppressed him, ever since that fatal moment on the cliff, was set at rest. There was no chance that Jenny would bear witness against him from her grave. The world had accepted what appeared to be the most natural version of the tragedy that had befallen her, and no tongue would reveal the truth, until the judgment day.

He was safe—his children's good name was safe—he might sit down securely amongst his Lares and Penates, and comment on the shocking number of murders, that were reported in the newspapers, with impunity.

Why, then, did his native audacity take that opportunity to desert him, and leave him a prey to his doubts and remorse? During the suspense and fear he had endured, he had never given a thought to anything but his possible danger; he had had no time, as it were, to grieve over the loss of the girl he loved; but, now that the danger was past, he could think of nothing else but Jenny, done to death by his own hand.

Had he been a better man, the terrible deed would never have been committed, and, had he been a worse man, he would have sat down at this juncture, congratulating himself that all had ended so well for him, and banished the thought of her thenceforward. But Henry Hindes was neither a villain nor a hero. He was common clay, like the rest of us. And he had loved Jenny Crampton very dearly. He had not realised how much he loved her, nor how much he had longed to possess her, until the fatal truth was revealed to him by her marriage with Frederick Walcheren. He had seen her blossom into a bonny maiden day by day, and knew that her presence pleased and excited him; but he had not dreamt that his affection for her came between him and his duty to Hannah, until her lover came on the scene and she resented all interference between them. Then he realised what his true feeling for his partner's lovely daughter was; but subsequent events had caused him to think of nothing but the awful risk he ran. But now, the worst was over—the high tension to which his nerves had been strung for the last few days was relaxed—and he had leisure to dwell upon what had occurred, and to recognise what his love for the murdered girl really was, and to feel that he would give his miserable life a thousand times over, if the sacrifice could only bring back hers.

He saw her, as well as Hannah, but in a dozen shifting moods. Now, she was flourishing her whip at him, as she drove clattering down the principal street of Hampstead, and then she was laughing at some funny story, or teasing her parents or himself, or pouting her pretty lips because they thwarted her, or thanking him with those lovely eyes of hers for the American candies, or the illustrated papers, or the hot-house flowers, he had brought her from town. But the picture, however fascinating, always changed to give place to that in which she stood at the edge of the cliff on the last day of her young life, defying him with the contemptuous words,—'I hate you! I hate you!' He would go through the scene again and again; would hear her mocking voice—see her indignant, flashing eyes—give the fatal push that snuffed out her bright being like the flame of a candle—and then stand gazing at the empty space where she had been but a moment before, and which now was void and silent.

In fancy, the wretched man would see what he'd never seen in reality—her slender body falling down the steep declivity, dashing against the pointed crags and projections of chalk every instant, and then arriving with a dull thump at the bottom, and lying on the rough shingles, without life or sense or motion. In fancy, he would cast himself down beside her and entreat her forgiveness, by every means of speech in his power—would tell her how passionately, how truly, how devotedly he loved her—that he hated and cursed himself for having given way to the impulse that prompted him to touch her, and would die a million deaths to restore her bright beauty to life and strength again. This was the state of mind into which Henry Hindes fell as soon as Jenny Walcheren was buried.

He went up to his bed that night, a shivering craven. He had always professed to disbelieve in ghosts or anything supernatural, and to condemn those who credited the possibility of their appearance as fools or madmen.

But now he glanced around him as he entered his own apartment, as if he feared to meet the wraith of Jenny Walcheren lurking in the corner, ready to confront and accuse him.

The Hindes had always adopted the foreign plan of occupying separate rooms, so that he was alone, although his wife slept next him, with a door between them. Hindes wished that night that it were not so, for the sense of solitude bore in upon him very heavily, yet he did not like to propose seeking her companionship for fear she should guess the agony he was undergoing. So he crept into his own bed, and lay there, sleepless, and staring vaguely into the darkness, as if he dared not close his eyes, lest a ghostly hand might be placed upon his shoulder, or a ghostly voice whisper in his ear. Hannah, following her husband upstairs, about an hour after, peeped into his room, to see if he required anything.

'What, still awake, Henry!' she exclaimed, seeing his eyelids quiver as the light of her candle fell upon them; 'are you in pain? Shall I get you anything?'

'No! no! I am all right! All I want is rest and quiet!'

'Well, I will leave you! But you forgot your usual visit to the bairns this evening. I've just come from the nursery. You must have infected Wally with your wakefulness, for I found him sitting up in bed and crying for his dada.'

'Wally wants me!' exclaimed Hindes, springing out of bed; 'give me my dressing-gown. I will go to him!'

'He is quiet now, my dear. You need not disturb yourself,' said Hannah.

But her husband was already out of the room and on his way up to the nursery.

'My Wally, my Wally,' he thought, as he sat with the little boy closely folded in his arms, 'if anything should happen to him! If God should be revenged on me, by taking my child—I couldn't bear it! I couldn't; it would kill me!'

Then he remembered that his friends had more than once said the same thing in his presence, and Jenny seemed to be standing on the opposite side of the carved cot, and whispering, 'As you killed me! as you killed me!' and he laid little Wally hastily down again.

'Dada's boy will go to sleep now,' he said to him, with a kiss.

But Master Wally liked better lying in his father's arms, and was quite cunning enough to know how to get his own way.

'No; Wally wants dada,' he replied fretfully, and but half-awake. 'Wicked peoples come out of corners and frighten poor Wally.'

'Wicked peoples! What do you mean, Wally?' demanded Hindes, the perspiration breaking out immediately upon his face with apprehension. 'There is no one here to frighten my Wally! Only Elsie and Laurie sleeping like good little girls in their beds, and nursie in the next room, with the door wide open.'

'Oh, yes; there is,' replied the little boy, oracularly; 'peoples with black faces and white faces, and ladies with ribbons—'

'Good God!' exclaimed his father, with unnecessary fervour, 'what ladies, Wally? Not a pretty lady, with curling hair—'

'Oh, yes,' cried the child, delighted to have found a theme to build his fables on; a 'boo-ful young lady with long hair, just like Jenny that used to love me and bring me sugar plums. Dada, where is my Jenny? She hasn't been to see Wally for a long, long time.'

So he was babbling on in his childish ignorance and cunning combined, when Hindes suddenly left his side and called the nurse from the adjoining room.

'Rosa, you must get up and attend to Master Wally. He is very restless to-night, and cannot sleep. Come at once.' And then, with a hasty kiss to the child, he said, 'Nurse is coming, darling. She will stay with you. Dada must go now,' and bolted from the nursery.

Was it possible that Jenny had appeared to the boy? Would her coming portend good or evil? Surely she could never have the heart to harm the little child, on whom all his hopes were set. 'As you harmed me! as you harmed me!' he seemed to hear whispered through the darkness.

Had the man been in his sober senses, he would have recalled how many times Master Wally had invented the most marvellous stories of things which he declared he had heard and seen, in order to detain his parents by his side—things which, they both knew, existed only in their little son's imagination. But to-night the childish fibs assumed gigantic proportions in the eyes of his craven-hearted father. He lay in his own bed trembling, as he recalled how fond Jenny had always seemed of Wally above the other children—how often she spent her money on toys for him—and how eagerly the little fellow used to welcome her appearance. Was it true she had visited his bedside, and had she come in love or anger?

He found it more and more impossible to sleep after this exciting incident, so he crept out of bed softly, that his wife should not hear him, and took a dose of the morphia which he had used before for the same purpose. He wished, as he drank it, that he had the courage to take the whole contents of the bottle, and so end his perplexities and regrets at once. But he had not the courage for that. Life was not yet a sufficiently heavy burden to him. The world had condoned his offence, and there were, doubtless, many years of peace and prosperity before him. And, for the sake of Wally and the others, it was his duty to live on and struggle to forget. So he only took a rather full dose of the narcotic, and, after many moans and groans and restless turnings and tossings on his bed, nature succumbed to its influence and he fell asleep.

When he first woke in the morning, he thought he was all right again. His long sleep had removed his lassitude, and his mind was in a dreamy condition from the effects of the morphia, so that he was not in a fit state to worry himself by idle fears or expectations.

'Come! come!' he thought as he was dressing, 'this is better! I was sure my nerves were unnaturally upset last night. If the feeling returns, all I need do is to have recourse to my little friend here. The worry I have gone through is enough to make any man ill. To make him exaggerate matters into the bargain, and see everything in its worst light. It was an accident, which might have happened to scores of people who have not troubled themselves about the matter. I am not even sure, at this date, if I really caused the disaster! I put out my hand, I know, but I could not swear that I touched her. She stepped backwards, most likely of her own accord, and so fell over, without any aid from me! I believe it was so; it is best I should believe it, for all our sakes. I shall mourn her loss none the less, dear, darling girl, because I persuade myself that it was Heaven's will and not my hasty temper that caused it.'

His wife was surprised to see the placid humour in which he descended to the breakfast-table. He did not eat much, it is true, but all his appearance of despair had vanished, until she began to think she must have been mistaken, and that his mood of the night before had been due to the cause to which he had ascribed it—over-fatigue and worry. Mr Crampton being about to start for the Highlands that evening, there was a good deal to arrange before they parted, so Henry Hindes went off in good time to the city, and for the rest of the morning was immersed in business. The appearance of the poor father in his deep sables, and with his lowered tones and depressed air, did prick his conscience a little, but the influence of the morphia was still upon him, and a few glasses of wine soon dispersed the feeling. The first thing which renewed the discomfort of the night before, was the fact of Mr Crampton leaving the office, to seek that of his solicitor, Mr Throgmorton. Henry Hindes knew what he was going for, and tried to prevent him.

'My dear friend,' he said, in an expostulating voice, 'I hope you are not thinking of putting the idea you mooted to me yesterday into execution. You must not, indeed. You will give me great pain if you do, for I neither deserve it, nor desire it.'

But the old man would not listen to him.

'My dear Hindes, I shall tell you nothing about my intentions. They are locked in my own breast. I do not know but that I shall not take your advice after all. My wife, as you reminded me, has many needy relatives who will be thankful to be remembered in my will. But you acknowledge the necessity for an alteration. You will come and see us off from Euston, at eight o'clock this evening, won't you? I know that my wife and Miss Bostock would be grieved to leave without shaking hands with you.'

'I will be there, without fail,' replied Hindes, as he walked to the office door with his partner.

'What a terrible change in Mr Crampton, sir,' remarked the clerk, who was waiting to speak to him on his return.

'Do you think so, Mr Davidson?' said Hindes, mechanically.

'Think so, sir? Why! it's the talk of the whole office. There's death marked in the poor gentleman's face. He won't be with us long, sir, I feel sure of that.'

'I trust you are mistaken, Davidson. Mr Crampton's going away for change to Scotland to-night, and will not return to business until his health is quite restored.'

'I hope it may be, sir; I hope, I'm sure, with all my heart, that it may be, for Mr Crampton's been very good to all of us; but if you ask me my opinion, I don't believe he'll ever come back at all.'

'Well, I didn't ask your opinion, Davidson,' replied Mr Hindes, fretfully; 'and as Mr Crampton has the very best of advice, I think we may safely leave him in the hands of his doctor.'

'Oh! yes, sir, of course; and I hope I haven't said too much. But he does look very bad indeed—not like the same gentleman,' repeated the clerk, as he went back to his work.

This little conversation disconcerted Henry Hindes, and his uneasy condition was augmented by the entrance of an old friend, a Colonel Brinsley, whom he had known for years.

'My dear Hindes,' exclaimed the colonel, as he threw himself in an arm-chair, 'you might knock me down with a feather. I was on my way here, when I met poor Mr Crampton. Never saw such a change in any man in my life. Why, he's the shadow of his former self. Of course I've heard about the sad loss he has sustained, but, hang it all! Hindes, although it is a terrible thing to lose a child, it doesn't as a rule shrivel a man up to half his usual size. He is a mere skeleton. His clothes hang upon him in bags. I never was more shocked in my life.'

'She was his only child, and he cared for her very much,' replied Hindes, in a low voice, as he played nervously with a paper-knife.

'Ah! yes! yes! doubtless, and he lost her by some terrible accident or other, didn't he? What was it? Some people say she committed suicide, but that doesn't seem likely to me. Only, the young people of the present day think no more of taking their lives than of threading a needle. How did it happen?'

'It was an accident—a pure accident,' said Hindes; 'she fell over the cliffs at Dover.'

'Very dreadful! No wonder the poor old fellow feels it! She was very pretty, was she not? The beauty of Hampstead, so they tell me. And only married a few days. How sad! Is it true that it was a runaway match?'

'It was, but I think my partner would rather the matter were forgotten now that she is gone,' replied Hindes.

'God bless my soul, Hindes, you look very ill too, now I come to look at you!' exclaimed the colonel; 'have you taken it to heart as much as that?'

'It has been a trying time for everyone concerned, naturally,' replied his companion, 'but I rather fancy my looks may be attributable to my having had a bad faceache lately, and been obliged to take morphia to induce sleep. It always leaves me feeling more ill than before. But it is impossible to keep a head for business without rest.'

'True, but why don't you try opium by inhalation? That's the stuff to make you feel jolly! My wife says I shall ruin my health by it, but, as I've practised it now for twenty years and am none the worse, I fancy I shall continue it till I die. But only now and then, you know, only now and then. I contracted the habit whilst I was in China, where I suffered terribly from ague and fever, and it has never quite left me, so when I feel a fit coming on, out comes my hookah and, by Jove! in a quarter of an hour I'm ready to dance a jig.'

'It must be wonderful stuff,' said Henry Hindes, musingly.

'It's magical in its effects—perfectly magical,' returned the colonel, enthusiastically. 'I don't care if it's injurious, or not. I shall never part with my hookah till I die. You try it next time you have the toothache, my boy, and you'll thank me evermore.'

'But where is it to be procured?' demanded Hindes. 'I thought the sale of opium was prohibited in England.'

'So are the sale of several other articles that are in general use,' said Colonel Brinsley, laughing, 'but where's a will, there's a way, you know, Hindes.'

And thereupon he gave him all the necessary information for purchasing the deadly narcotic and using it as an anaesthetic, and took his leave, fully persuaded that he had done his friend Hindes an inestimable benefit.


MR CRAMPTON'S prognostications, with regard to himself, proved to be but too true. He had intended to take his wife and sister-in-law to a lovely place called Fochabers, in the Highlands of Scotland, but, on the way thither, he was taken so ill, that it was thought advisable they should stop at Aberdeen for the sake of medical advice, within a month of which time the old man had an apoplectic fit, and died without recovering consciousness. The news of this disaster was a fresh blow to Henry Hindes, but the intimation of it was accompanied by such an earnest appeal from the widow that he would go to them and help them in this calamity, as he had done in the last, that he was obliged to pack his portmanteau at once and start for Aberdeen, to go through the same painful scenes he had done before.

Mr Crampton's last wish was that he should be carried back to Hampstead and laid by Jenny's side. So the same melancholy preparations had to be made, the same melancholy coming-home to be gone through, and the same melancholy funeral rites to be solemnised, till Mr Hindes almost thought the former misery must have been a dream, and that Jenny Walcheren was only now being laid in her untimely grave.

No wonder that he looked ill and distracted, people said. The high estimation in which he had been held by the dead man was proved by the fact that he had left him half his fortune. No! not to him, perhaps, but to his son, which amounted to the same thing. For what Henry Hindes had dreaded and tried to prevent had indeed come to pass. His late partner's will left half his fortune, which was to remain in the business, to Walter James Henry Hindes, the son of his best friend, Henry Hindes; the other half to be his wife's for her lifetime, and, after her death, her sister's, on the same terms; and, when both were deceased, it was to be divided between the child or children of his best friend aforesaid, Henry Hindes. So he was forced to take it; to benefit by Jenny's death; to see his offspring in the enjoyment of that wealth which her father had accumulated for her; and which, but for himself, she might have lived half a century to take advantage of.

Hannah was naturally delighted that their old friend had remembered her little son in his will, and could not understand why her husband would not hear the subject alluded to. However unhappy he may have been made by Jenny's death, still, as the dear girl was gone beyond recall, she could not see why their darling Wally, who surely must be more to his father than any friend, however missed and mourned, should not benefit by Mr Crampton's generosity.

The elaborate monument which Mr Crampton had designed for his daughter's grave, and had set in hand before he left for Scotland, was now complete and ready to be erected. This task also fell to Mr Hindes, for the widow was incapable of acting for herself, and looked to him for everything. It was a massive column of red granite, lettered in gold. It stood twenty feet high, and could be seen over all the monuments in the cemetery. A second inscription had been added to commemorate the father's death, and, a few weeks after Mr Crampton's funeral, the masons having sent Hindes word that their work was completed and the monument placed in the cemetery, he walked down by himself to see if the orders given had been properly carried out, before payment was made. He dreaded the task beyond everything. He had been alternately fortifying his courage during the last few weeks by doses of morphia, pipes of opium, and glasses of brandy, until he had made himself physically, as well as mentally, ill. But he must go through this trial once, he said to himself, once and for all, for he had left off going to church lately. He was too great a coward to pass by the spot where she lay, twice every Sunday. But Mrs Crampton had commissioned him to see that the monument to her husband and daughter was properly erected, so he was compelled to do so. He could not afford to neglect the wishes of the widow of the man who had so greatly benefited his son. That cursed legacy would bind him her slave for life.

He entered the cemetery with folded arms, and his eyes cast on the ground. The plot of earth surrounding Jenny's grave had already been made beautiful by cartloads of flowering geraniums and other plants, transferred from the garden at The Cedars, and in the centre of them now reared the head of the red granite column. Henry Hindes knew the inscription by heart. He had seen it glaring at him through the darkness of the night, and had repeated it to himself until it seemed to be written in letters of fire on the tablets of his memory. But he had not calculated what it would look like, revealed in the glaring light of day, calling out, as it were, by its golden letters, to all men to come and read of his infamy. He looked up at it, and it seemed to blind his eyes. Something floated before them like a mist that prevented his seeing distinctly, and yet the very stones seemed to cry out the words:

'Sacred to the memory of Jane Emily Crampton, the only child of John Crampton, Esq., of this parish, who was killed by a fall over the Dover cliffs on the 14th of August, 1875, in the twentieth year of her age. "Thou God knowest."' After which was written: 'Also to the memory of John William Crampton, her father, who survived her loss only five weeks. "Vengeance is mine! I will repay, saith the Lord."'

Not a word of her marriage—not a mention of Frederick Walcheren's name—only those words and quotations, which, to those who knew the circumstances of the case, revealed but too plainly what the friends of the dead girl thought about her mysterious death. To the guilty conscience of Henry Hindes, it was almost as if the monument cried out to the whole world to come and read how he had thrown the daughter over the cliff, and killed her father into the bargain. It terrified and alarmed him. He would have liked to have rooted it all up again. But he knew it must stand there for ever—for centuries, perhaps, after his own death, an enduring testimony to his shame and remorse and disgrace. And it was Jenny—Jenny, whom he loved, who lay there, condemning him! The unhappy man sunk down on his knees before the red granite column, and sighed forth the anguish of his soul.

'Oh, my darling! my darling!' he groaned within himself. 'You know, don't you, that I never thought of the awful consequences of my hasty act—that I never meant to harm you, that it was your unkind words that led me on until I was no longer master of my self. You know I didn't want to take your father's money—your money, Jenny, and I would give it back, with all that I possess myself, to undo the fatal accident of that day. For it was an accident, my darling—you must know that now, and how your miserable lover is suffering for his rashness. Oh, Jenny! if I could only think so! if I could only think so!'

He had buried his face in his hands, and was unaware of the approach of any one until he was roused by the voice of Frederick Walcheren demanding indignantly,—

'And pray, Mr Hindes, may I ask by what right I find you weeping over my wife's grave?'

He had come as privately as possible to see the spot where they had laid his Jenny, intending to give himself the poor consolation of praying above her ashes for the repose of her soul; but, to find his intentions forestalled, and by the man he so much disliked and distrusted, roused all the old Adam in him again. At the imperious question, Henry Hindes also felt the fighting spirit rise in his breast. The instinct of self-preservation made him resent the idea that it was anything out of the way for him to be found kneeling on the grave of his friends. He drew himself up haughtily and replied,—

'I am not aware, Mr Walcheren, that this cemetery belongs exclusively to you, or that you have any right to forbid my mourning the loss of my friends. There are two victims beneath this stone. The father, as well as the daughter, owes his death to your behaviour. He has only survived her five weeks.'

'My God!' murmured Frederick below his breath, and then, looking at the inscription, he added, 'But why is my name not recorded here? Why is there no mention that she was my wife? Whom have I to thank for this insult?'

'The monument was designed, and the inscription written by Mr Crampton himself, sir, before he died,' replied Hindes.

'I don't believe it,' cried Frederick, hotly. 'And these texts! They are a positive reflection upon me. They say as plainly as possible that there is a doubt about the manner of my darling's death—that she was not killed by accident but design. Is this some of your doing, Mr Hindes, as well as the suppression of my wife's real name?'

'I have already told you that the whole thing is of Mr Crampton's ordering. He did not believe in the legality of your marriage—that I know. As to the texts, he had his own reasons, doubtless, for selecting them, but he did not confide them to me.'

'And I have told you that I do not believe you. You were in all Mr Crampton's confidences, and a precious bad use you made of your knowledge. My poor girl told me as much as that. She said several times how much she feared and suspected you. She said you were against her in everything, that you were always persuading her father to thwart her wishes and refuse her requests, and that she hated you for it.'

'She—Jenny—said—she hated me, and to—you!' exclaimed Henry Hindes. 'It is impossible. You are deceiving me. We were the greatest friends.'

'You may have thought so—she did not. And I will thank you to speak of my dead wife by her proper name, as Mrs Walcheren,' cried Frederick, in a fury. 'You should never have been allowed to call her by her Christian name, and I forbid you to do so now.'

Henry Hindes's natural impulse would have been to retort by saying that Mr Walcheren had no rights whatever in the matter, and he should call his late friend by what name he chose, but his former assertion was still rankling in his memory.

'Jenny said she hated me,' he murmured to himself, 'and to him! It was not on the impulse of the moment, then, as I hoped—as I have believed. She meant it—good heavens!—she meant it, and I—I loved her so.'

His face was white as ashes as he turned it towards Frederick Walcheren.

'We will not quarrel, sir,' he said, 'and especially here. I came to the cemetery this afternoon at Mrs Crampton's request to see if her orders had been carried out, with respect to the initialing and erection of this monument, with neither of which, as I told you, have I anything to do. But since you doubtless would wish to be left in privacy, I will withdraw.'

Saying which, he made a low bow and walked out of the cemetery. But he had left his sting behind him. Frederick Walcheren no longer felt in the disposition for prayer, or even tears.

'What is it about that man that makes him so repulsive to me?' he thought, as he found himself alone. 'He speaks fair enough, but there is something behind it all that I cannot understand. Well, they have taken care between them that I shall not want to visit this spot too often. My poor darling! What must she think of their depriving her of the title which made her my wife. I was a weak fool for letting them take her from me so easily. But I little thought they would insult us both in this manner. Perhaps it is as well. She is my wife. No false inscription can unmake her that, God be thanked! And Father Tasker says I must wean my heart from all these earthly longings as soon as may be. One is squashed at any rate. I shall never want to look upon her grave again, with those vile texts written beneath her dear name. "Thou God knowest." Yes, God does know that I am innocent of all blame in this matter, except of tempting her to leave her home. Well, well, it is not to be thought of. The sooner I turn my mind to other things the better.'

He stooped down and gathered two or three little blue flowers that were blossoming above Jenny's remains, and, kissing them, put them carefully between the folds of his pocket-book. Then he knelt down and said a prayer above her, and, dashing his hand across his eyes, turned slowly away. Meanwhile, Henry Hindes was walking back to The Old Hall, with his heart on fire. He had been trying hard to persuade himself lately that Jenny had meant nothing by the hasty words she had used to him just before her death. Hannah had reiterated so often how fond the girl had been of them both, and it had pleased him to think that she was right, and that, when he met Jenny again, there would be no cloud between them, but only the old feeling of affection. He had begun to address her, in the solitude of his own chamber, as his darling and his love and his true wife, from whom he had been separated only by the conflicting circumstances of the world. But Walcheren's statement had blown all his airy fancies away at a breath. She had really meant what she said. It had not been the meaningless outcome of a young girl's petulance. It was ante-dated to the moment. Jenny had even told her bridegroom of a day of the feelings she entertained against her father's friend. The truth made him feel fierce and wretched and revengeful all at once. For the moment he was not sorry that he had pushed her over the cliff and deprived her and her husband of their life's happiness. But this feeling did not last, and it was succeeded by a paroxysm of unusual despair, in which both Earth and Heaven seemed to have arrayed themselves against him. He retired to his room on the plea of a headache, and there indulged in the custom which was fast becoming habitual to him—of inhaling opium until his senses were stupefied and all his fears laid to rest. He remained alone all the evening, and retired to bed without seeing his wife again. This was now so much his custom that Hannah was beginning to think nothing of it. She believed that her husband suffered from acute neuralgia which necessitated his taking a soporific, after which it was unwise to disturb him. So she walked over to The Cedars, where she was always very welcome now, and tried to cheer up the two lonely women, who would persist in sitting down with their grief in their laps, instead of doing their utmost to dispel it. Hannah almost talked them into a promise that evening that they would spend the winter abroad. They had never visited Paris, and she pressed them so hard to have a little pity on themselves that Mrs Crampton actually authorised her to make inquiries about the best means of getting there, and which hotel would be the most suitable for her sister and herself to stay at. She therefore returned home, well satisfied with her success, and feeling she had done a good night's work. It was past her usual bed hour when she reached The Hall, so that, after a brief visit to the nursery, Hannah retired herself.

She was not very sleepy, however, so, having dismissed her maid, she sat down in her room to discuss a new novel that Mrs Crampton had lent her. It was an interesting tale, and engrossed her attention to that extent that she pored over it much longer than she had intended.

She was first roused to a sense how time was going on by hearing a noise, as she imagined, in the passage outside her door, and glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece, found, to her surprise, that it was past two.

The household must have long retired to rest. What, then, could the noise be which she had heard on the landing? Hannah was not a nervous woman as a rule, but it had sounded so much like voices, that she began to fear that some one might have got into the house with the intent to steal. She rose, therefore, and listened attentively. A moment's consideration showed her that the sound proceeded not from the passage, but her husband's bedroom. Perhaps he was ill, and, perceiving the light in her room, had called to her. So she unclosed the door between them and peeped in. What she saw there paralysed her into a silent witness. She did not speak to him, but stood leaning against the door-post, listening with all her ears. She felt her flesh creep as the full meaning of his words riveted itself upon her memory, but she did not scream out, nor do anything to disturb the speaker.

Henry Hindes was in his night-shirt, sitting on, or rather leaning against, the side of the bed. He was not asleep; at least his eyes were wide open, but it was evident that he neither saw nor heard anything around him. The sweat was pouring off his face, and his hair was damp with it, but it did not appear to inconvenience him, as he stared wildly into the darkness and muttered to himself,—

'It was an accident, Jenny—you know it was an accident—I did not push you intentionally—How could I tell it would cause your death?—Why did you aggravate me so?—Why should you hate me?—I, who love you—love you—My God! don't say it—I cannot bear it—cannot bear it! And to him, too—my rival—the man who stole you from me! Jenny! Jenny!—don't look so—don't speak so, or I shall push you over the cliff!—Ah! she is gone!—it is done! Why did I do it?—Why did I do it?—I have killed her, Jenny! My God! this is hell—hell—hell!'

He glared with his opium-laden eyes straight before him, and had just sense enough left to catch sight of Hannah's white night-dress as she stood, horror-stricken, at the open doorway, through which a light streamed from her bedroom.

'Ah!' he screamed in terror, 'don't come near me! Don't touch me—I didn't mean to do it, Jenny! It was the devil prompted me to push you!—Have mercy! Don't haunt me. Don't haunt me, or you will drive me mad—mad—mad!'

He slid down upon his bare knees as he concluded, hiding his face in his hands, and Hannah had just strength left to withdraw herself and close and lock the door between them.

She understood it all now! Her husband's unaccountable grief and sleeplessness and irritable temper. He was pursued by an undying remorse. And for what? Oh! it was terrible, terrible! Hannah reached her bed, but it was only to sink down by the side of it, and pour out her soul in prayer for her wretched husband and herself. And when she was exhausted with prayer and weeping, she threw her dressing-gown around her, and sat down to consider what she ought to do about the dreadful truth that had been made known to her.

Her husband was a murderer! There was no end served by disguising the horrid truth from herself. He had pushed sweet, darling Jenny Crampton over the Dover Cliffs. Oh! how could he have done it? How could he have done it? Their pretty, loving Jenny! It was too awful to think of, but it was true! She had heard him confess it with his own lips! But the idea that she could desert him on that account, or deliver him up to justice on his own confession, never entered the wife's mind. He was hers, and she was his, for better or worse; there must be no treachery between them. He had told his secret to the darkness; with the darkness it must remain!

Only, how ought she to act herself, so as not to become a particeps criminis; what steps should she take to prevent further wrong? To betray Henry, even if she could have made up her mind to do so, would not bring back poor, murdered Jenny, or the old father who had followed her so quickly to the grave.

But the money which Mr Crampton had left in such good faith to the son of his 'best friend,' Wally should not touch it, now or ever. She would not let her innocent child's hands be stained by the touch of blood money. It must be spent on some other purpose. It should never go to Wally.

Hannah sat and pondered over these puzzles all night, how could she do her duty to her husband and children, and yet not become a participator in his crime—a crime which must, under any circumstances, have caused a great revulsion in her feelings towards him, but when connected with Jenny Crampton, made her feel as if it were impossible for her to live with him again. Yet, if she left him, what depths might he not fall to? The only hope for him seemed to be in her presence and protection.

But, for her children, it was different. At all risks, she would separate her girls, now growing old enough to understand the meaning of most things that took place around them, from so tainted a father! Elsie and Laurie must leave home. Hannah felt as if she could not endure to see him kiss them again, or touch them with the hands that had sent their darling Jenny to her death.

She was not aware that her husband had adopted the fatal practice of inhaling opium. She attributed the strange manner which he occasionally exhibited, to too much alcohol, or the doses of morphia which he said he took for toothache. She would have borne patiently with all that, to whatever lengths he had carried it, but what she had heard was beyond the limits of woman's forbearance to tolerate. Her duty, perhaps, was to remain by him, but her children should, at all risks, be saved from contamination.

Henry Hindes came down the next morning, looking haggard and stupid and heavy-eyed, after the fashion of men who indulge too much in any sort of narcotic, but he could scarcely have looked worse than Hannah, who was as white as her gown, and trembling with dread of what lay before her.

'Henry,' she said, as soon as their breakfast was concluded, 'I wish to speak to you. Will you come into the library?'

'What's up now?' he grumbled, as he followed his wife's footsteps.

'I will soon tell you. I have come to the conclusion that it will be better for my daughters to leave home. I intend to take them over to my old friend, Mrs Tredgold, this afternoon, and leave them with her for their education.'

'What on earth do you mean?' exclaimed Henry Hindes. 'Send the girls away! Are you mad?'

'I think not. You will understand my reason if you think a little. I do not consider that they ought to live any longer at home. And if Wally were old enough to leave my care, I should send him away too.'

'I never heard of such an extraordinary thing in my life,' said her husband, who, nevertheless, was becoming rather uncomfortable under the coldness and decision of her manner, so different from the gentleness of Hannah's general demeanour. 'What the h—l will you do next? How long have you arrived at this decision?'

'Not long,' she answered, passing her hand in a weary manner over her aching brow, 'but this is not all, Henry! The money that Mr Crampton left to Wally. The child shall not keep it. It must be drawn out of the business at once, and if it is useless to try and persuade Mrs Crampton to take it back again, it must be spent in charity. No child of mine shall touch it.'

'Hannah!' said her husband fiercely, catching her by the wrist, 'what does all this mean? You have some latent reason for talking to me in this fashion. What is it? I insist upon knowing.'

'I don't think there is any necessity to force me to put my meaning into so many words, Henry,' replied his wife, quietly, but with a fast-beating heart, as she disengaged her wrist from his grasp; 'the reason is, that you have taken to talking in your sleep of late, and last night you were so noisy that I opened the door between our rooms, and I heard—all!'

Hindes became as white as a sheet, as he stood gazing at her, and breathing hard. After a long pause he said,—

'Well, and what are you going to do?'

'The money must be given up, of course,' she answered, as quietly as if they were discussing the most ordinary topic, 'and the children must be removed from home. It seems hard, but I could not—I could not bear to see them—playing with you, or caressing you.'

Hindes groaned and turned away. That he had rendered himself an unfit associate for his little ones, was perhaps the worst thing he had been yet called upon to bear.

'And you, Hannah,' he whispered after a moment's pause, 'what shall you do?'

'I am your wife, Henry,' she answered, simply; 'my place is with you.'

'You will stay by me—knowing all—hating all?' he asked, fearfully.

'Knowing all and hating all,' she said softly, 'but not necessarily hating you.'

He crept to her side and, burying his face in the folds of her dress, burst into a flood of tears.


THE town of Luton is almost entirely devoted to the business of plaiting straw for hats and bonnets. The windows of the cottages are filled with specimens of the art, from the finest plait possible, for the manufacture of Tuscan and Leghorn straw, to the coarse, rustic twist that has been so fashionable of late years. The town is, consequently, full of young women who, instead of going to service, earn their livelihood by plaiting straw. Amongst them was Rhoda Berry, who lived with her widowed mother in a cottage on the outskirts of the town.

Mrs Berry enjoyed a world-wide repute for being, what was called in olden times, 'a wise woman,' but who, in these more enlightened days, would be spoken of as a clairvoyante. By whatever name one chose to call her, however, there was no doubt that she was a very wonderful woman, and possessed occult powers in no small degree. Had Mrs Berry been in a position to rent apartments in Bond Street, and to keep clean nails and a courtly manner, half the aristocratic ladies in London would have besieged her door for admittance. But, being unknown, excepting to the good people of Luton, she was fain to be content with the credit they accorded her, and the sixpences they could spare, in return for the prophecies she made for them. Notwithstanding the source from which she derived the best part of her income, Mrs Berry was held in high respect, and not a little fear, by her fellow-townsmen, and there were few found bold enough to taunt or jest with her on the misfortune which befell her daughter Rhoda.

Rhoda's story was a very common and a very sad one. About a year previous to the time when we first see her, she had received an offer, from a London house in connection with the firm for which she worked in Luton, to take up her residence in town, in order to do some of the finishing work which was necessary after the straw had been made into shapes. She was a particularly skilled workwoman in the department, and the salary offered her was double what she could earn at home. Mrs Berry had not wished her daughter to leave her. She had foretold all sorts of disasters which would befall her in London, but the girl was dazzled by the advantages she was promised, and the pleasant life she anticipated leading. So she laughed her mother's prophecies to scorn, told her that 'forewarned was forearmed,' and that she would be very careful to avoid the dangers she prognosticated. So Mrs Berry let her go, with a sad heart, but she never ceased to lay the cards for her absent child, and to foretell a disastrous coming-home for her.

And so it turned out! Rhoda Berry met Frederick Walcheren at some place of public amusement, from which he, struck with her beauty, followed her to her lodgings, made acquaintance with her, and pursued it until a fatal intimacy was established between them.

It was the old game of the moth and the candle! The young man, thoughtless and dissipated, dreamt of nothing higher than amusing himself; whilst the girl, flattered by his attentions and with all sorts of romantic stories, such as the Prince and Cinderella, and King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, floating through her brain, believed that love must conquer over every obstacle, and Fred would make her an honest woman in the end. And the end was—disgrace, dismissal and despair. Mrs Berry was sitting one evening, laying the cards for her daughter with a foreboding heart, when Rhoda rushed into the cottage with wild eyes and incoherent words, and a face of crimson, which she could only hide in her mother's lap. The poor are much better to their relations in distress, or poverty, or shame, than the rich are to theirs. They don't hound them down, or turn them from their doors, or refuse to share their bite and sup with their less fortunate brethren. It is only the well-bred and well-educated and rich people who do such things. Mrs Berry received her daughter back with a good deal of regret. She often told her that she was a shame and a disgrace to her, and that her dead father would turn in his grave if he knew how badly she had behaved. But for all that, she kept her whilst she could not work, and nursed her through her illness, and would have stood up for her against any who had dared to cast a stone at her. But, as has been said, the wise woman was thought to be so powerful, and held in such awe by the residents of Luton, that no one would have risked offending her through her daughter. And Rhoda was a favourite amongst her young companions also. She was a superior sort of girl. Her father had been a respectable city tradesman, who had failed before his death, and left his widow and orphan to shift for themselves. Rhoda had therefore received an education far above that of most of her associates, which should, indeed, have saved her from the fault she had fallen into, did we not know that it is a fault which is committed by ladies of every degree, though money, like charity, has the power to cover 'a multitude of sins.'

When Rhoda's baby was born, Mrs Berry had, unknown to her daughter, written to Frederick Walcheren to inform him of the event, and ask him what he intended to do to remedy the wrong he had inflicted on her child. His answer was that, much as he regretted the unfortunate termination to his friendship with Rhoda, it was out of his power to remedy it, as he was just about to be married to another woman. He enclosed a cheque for a hundred pounds, with best wishes for the girl's health and happiness, and hoped she would forgive him for the unintentional injury he had done her.

Some people in the position of Mrs Berry would have said that Mr Walcheren had done 'the handsome thing' by her daughter, and that she was lucky to have got so well out of the scrape. But Rhoda's mother thought differently. She enclosed the cheque in another letter and sent it back to Frederick Walcheren, with an intimation that she could support his son without his help, and that she wanted no hush money for her daughter's misfortune. But she warned him that the curse of Heaven was on his marriage, and that it would come to no good, nor he either. When Frederick received this letter, he was on the eve of running away with Jenny Crampton, and, full of hope as he was, it still had the power to make him feel uncomfortable. But he had paid no heed to it. Rhoda Berry, in his estimation, was only a girl who had thrown herself into his arms, and he thought a hundred pounds was very handsome pay for his amusement. If the old woman wouldn't take it, that wasn't his fault.

But he remembered it afterwards. He told both his cousin Philip and Father Tasker that, whilst he was bending in agony over the remains of his wife, he fancied he saw Rhoda Berry gibing at his misery, and rejoicing in it. It was the very last thing that poor Rhoda would have done; she had loved the vaurien too well to take any pleasure in what troubled him, but his conscience told him he deserved her scorn, and so he fancied she gave it him. Poor Rhoda did not have a very good time with her mother after her baby's birth, for Mrs Berry could not forgive her for having so totally disregarded all her warnings against the trouble that loomed in the future for her. There was not another girl in Luton, she declared, who would not have declined the London situation after what she had told her, but her daughter thought less of her prophecies than strangers did. Had she not laid the cards for her the very evening before she left home, and did she not warn her, as plainly as she could speak, to beware of a gentleman with dark eyes and hair, who would promise her all sorts of fine things, but would leave her with a curse upon her back. And hadn't everything come to pass just as she had foretold, and wasn't the curse sleeping in a cradle at their feet that moment, in the shape of a little boy, as black as a crow?

It was the end of November by this time. Poor Jenny had been laid for months in her untimely grave, and Frederick Walcheren was hard at work studying for his ordination. Rhoda Berry had returned to her work of straw-plaiting at Luton, and everything went on the same in the cottage where her mother lived—except for the little child, and her subdued spirits.

'Come! Rhoda,' exclaimed Mrs Berry tartly, but not unkindly, 'there's that brat of yours crying again. Take him up, do! Nothing's good enough for him, I suppose, as it wasn't for his father before him! My gracious! I believe he grows uglier and uglier every day. You're as unlike as light and darkness. The child's a perfect nigger!'

Rhoda did not make any retort. She was a fair, slender girl of about nineteen, with blue eyes and yellow hair, a very elegant young woman in appearance, but of a sad countenance. She raised her youngster in her arms and kissed him fondly. He was certainly unusually dark for so young an infant, but bore unmistakably Frederick Walcheren's features and complexion.

'Have you heard the news?' said Mrs Berry. 'Mr Jenkins has come in for five hundred pounds by the death of an uncle in Australia that he never remembers to have heard of. Mrs Jenkins is half out of her mind with joy. She couldn't believe me last week when I told her there was money on the road for them. She said there wasn't a creature in the wide world that it could possibly come from. But I'm always right. The cards never fail me, never. There's Fanny Benson pronounced out of danger this morning, notwithstanding all the doctors' verdicts. I met her mother in the street just now, and she says she's wonderful; been sitting up in bed and eating rice pudding. Why, when Mrs Benson came to me last Thursday, crying her eyes out because the doctor had said there was no hope, I told her it was all nonsense, and there was no death in her cards, nor nothing like it. I wish you'd let me lay the cards for you, Rhoda. It's ages since I've done so.'

'No! no! mother,' cried the girl, shrinking backwards. 'I would rather not, really!'

'But why not?' asked Mrs Berry, who was very proud of her gift of second sight, and could not bear to hear it discredited. 'You know how right they came before you went to London. If you'd followed the cards then, you'd never have had that young crow upon your lap now. And I've never laid them for you, with your own cutting, since. Don't you believe in them, Rhoda?'

'Oh, yes, mother. Perhaps it is because I believe in them so much that I don't care to see them laid for me. Troubles come soon enough without our knowing them beforehand. And if you were to tell me anything unpleasant—that I should lose my baby, or have some other trouble—I don't think I could bear it, mother, not just yet. I'm so eaten up with disappointment already.'

'My poor girl,' said Mrs Berry, compassionately, 'you mustn't mind all I say about that little crow, Rhoda! He reminds me too much of your misfortune; that's why I speak short of him sometimes. But, bless you! I wish him no harm, nor will he come to harm either. He'll live to be a man, and a comfort to you yet. I can read that in his face.'

'Thank God for it!' replied the girl, as she lifted the baby's brown hand to her lips and kissed it fondly. 'I know he's a disgrace, mother, but it would kill me to part with him now. He's all I've got left of Fred.'

'I don't know that, my girl. I've dreamed some strange things about that Fred (as you call him) lately. That's why I want to lay the cards for you. That marriage of his hasn't turned out well. I feel sure of it, though we've heard nothing of him since the letter he sent me to say it was coming off. He's in trouble of some sort, as sure as he lives. I can see so much by the influences round the child, and I verily believe it's death.'

'Not for him, mother,' cried Rhoda, quickly.

'If it's not for him, it's very near him; but, if you won't cut the cards, I can't say more. Your fate and his are so mixed up, that I can't read one without the other.'

'Very well, mother, I will cut them,' replied Rhoda, as she laid her boy in his cradle, and seated herself at the table. 'You make me uneasy when you speak of Fred so, and I shall not rest till I know the worst.'

Mrs Berry produced her favourite pack of cards, which had been laid for all the inhabitants of Luton, and, having withdrawn some from the pack, directed her daughter to cut and shuffle the remainder, and lay them on the table in three portions, with their faces downwards. As she raised and dealt them out, she went on rapidly with her reading.

'There he is, you see,' she commenced, pointing to the king of clubs, 'as black as the little crow yonder. And I was right. There's death round him. If it hasn't come, it's coming, and it's for his wife, not for himself. See how he counts to the marriage ring in the lap of death. There's no escaping it for him, one way or another. Shuffle them again, my dear, and cut as before.'

Rhoda did as she was desired, and her mother scrutinised the cards attentively.

'There's trouble around him, as sure as he lives, and danger threatens him very nearly.'

'Danger, mother? What danger?' exclaimed the girl, in a voice of alarm.

'Not illness or death, my dear, so you needn't look so frightened. But he seems to me to be surrounded by a net of some sort—as if there were people about him who are trying to take advantage of him—to rob him, perhaps, or to entangle him in difficulties. He is full of perplexities. I don't like the look of this fair man who is mixed up with him. He's an enemy of his, and has done him, or will do him, a great mischief. He's been a bad man to you, this Mr Frederick Walcheren, but he ought to be warned against those who are about him, and especially of this fair man, or he will get into more trouble still.'

'Mother,' said Rhoda, timidly, 'do you really think that Fred has behaved so very badly to me? He never promised to marry me, you know—he never mentioned such a thing. I don't say that I didn't think of it, and hope for it, perhaps, but it was very foolish of me to do so. How could he have married me? He comes of a very high family, I have heard, and, under any circumstances, I am not fit to be his wife. Of course, I should have thought of that before, and weighed the consequences of my weakness, but then, mother, you see I loved him, and Fred loved me in his way, so we were equally to blame. Cannot you think of this trouble as you would if two children had gone out to play together, and the weaker of the two had fallen down and cut himself, whilst the stronger came back safe and well? We were equally thoughtless and equally wrong. Why should Fred be blamed more than I, because I have brought the worse trouble on myself.'

She looked up shyly to see how her mother had taken her argument, when she saw, to her surprise, that Mrs Berry had sunk back in her chair in a trance. She was not alarmed, for it was an usual thing for her to pass under control; but it struck the girl with a sense of awe. Presently her mother sat upright, and addressed her in her ordinary tone of voice.

'If you love this man,' she said gravely, 'you must try to save him. In a few days it will be too late. He is about to imprison himself for life—to deliver up his will, his mind, his very senses, into the keeping of others, and he will be miserable under the discipline. You will not be able to dissuade him from his purpose now, but your visit to him will have a good effect. Don't worry him about your own troubles. Only ask him to pause before he delivers himself over, body and soul, a prisoner for life. His wife has passed over. He thinks she died by an accident. It was not an accident. There was a man mixed up with it—not very tall and rather stout, with light hair, plainly parted in the middle, blue eyes, a straight nose, and a pleasant smile. He is very particular about his hands and nails. He has been your lover's worst friend—and her worst friend, he—he—he pushed—her—over!'

Here Mrs Berry's control took flight, and she yawned once or twice and opened her eyes.

'Have I been asleep?' she said, as she met her daughter's startled gaze.

'Yes, mother,' replied Rhoda, who was much excited, 'and you have been telling me the most extraordinary things.'

'Who was it?' demanded Mrs Berry. 'Paul, or Daisy?'

'I don't know,' said the girl, in a bewildered manner; 'I never asked. But they said—I mean, you said—that is, whoever it was, said, that Fred is in great danger of some kind, and I must go up to London and warn him to be careful. And, his wife is dead—you were right—and they said something I couldn't understand, about someone being pushed over somewhere. And they described a man who is Fred's worst friend. I don't know, how—but I am to warn him against him. And oh! mother, may I go to town and see him?' she concluded with glistening eyes.

'I don't half like the idea, Rhoda,' replied Mrs Berry. 'What should you go thrusting yourself into this man's way again for? He may quite misconstrue your motives.'

The girl drew herself up proudly.

'No, mother, he could hardly do that. I would not let him do that. Besides, Fred is a gentleman, remember. If I go to warn him, and ask him to consider before he takes any important step, he will know I only do it as a friend. And his poor wife is so lately dead, too. Please, mother, do me more justice than that.'

'I know, child, I know; but when there has once been such intimacy, it is hard to break through or forget it. However, if the controls urge you to go, go you must. Do you know where Mr Walcheren is now?'

'No, but I know his flat in Nevern Mansions, and, doubtless, I can find out his present address there.'

'I won't say anything for it, nor against it, Rhoda, but you mustn't take the child. I won't have my daughter calling at a gentleman's house with a baby in her arms. Remember who your dear father was, and don't make him turn in his grave, poor man.'

'No, no, mother!' replied Rhoda, as if such a feat were possible; 'but I'm afraid it will be such a trouble to you if I leave baby behind me.'

'You mean you think I'll smack the little crow as soon as your back is turned. No, my girl, I'm not quite such a brute as that, though the sight of the little rascal does make me swear sometimes. But it's only for your sake, Rhoda; I've no spite against the poor, innocent baby. After all, isn't he yours before anyone else's, and aren't you the only one I ever had to call my own? No, my dear, whatever happens, we'll stick to the little crow, you and I, and bring him up between us, and be mother and father both to him.'

And so saying, Mrs Berry lifted her little grandson from his cot and held him to her heart.

'Oh, mother, mother, when you talk like that, you do make me feel so happy,' exclaimed poor Rhoda, as she embraced Mrs Berry; 'indeed, I know what a trouble and a shame I've been to you, and baby too, but I can't help loving him, mother, never mind what he is. And you needn't be afraid I'll say anything to Fred to remind him of his obligations to me. I'm much too proud for that. Only, if he is in danger, and I can warn him, I feel it's my duty to do so; but if I find it's a mistake, and the lady is living still, I shall come straight away again, without seeing him.'

'It's no mistake, Rhoda; she's gone, sure enough, but I've no idea what danger Mr Walcheren can be in, unless he's got into another scrape.'

Rhoda reddened like a rose.

'Oh! no, mother, indeed; it's something to do with men. The controls said so. It's all very misty to me, but one thing's clear—that I'm to go and see him, and my visit is to do him good. I sha'n't be more than three or four hours gone, mother, and I'm sure baby will be good with you for that time.'

So, the following day, the injured girl set forth, with her heart full of nothing but love and concern for the man who had ruined her good name, and an earnest desire to return him good for evil. How some women can forgive! How they revel in forgiving! They seem always ready to take their betrayers and traducers back into their loving arms, as a mother receives her child, at the first note of repentance.

Rhoda would have suffered very keenly at any other time on re-visiting London. Here it was that she had dreamed such delicious dreams, and woke up to find them delusions! Here it was that she had been publicly dishonoured and disgraced, and told to go home to her mother, and receive her reproaches, alone, friendless, and without protection!

But she forgot all that trouble now that she was on her mission of mercy to Frederick Walcheren. She went to his flat in the Nevern Mansions first, and found it had been let, furnished, to new tenants.

'Can you,' she asked timidly of the servant who had opened the door, 'give me the present address of Mr Frederick Walcheren?'

At this appeal, the mistress of the apartments came to have a look at her, and seeing that she was not a beggar, said she had received Mr Walcheren's address, for the purpose of forwarding his letters, but she did not know if he would receive any visitors.

'I can but try,' replied Rhoda, gently; 'and if I cannot see him, they may deliver a message for me.'

'That is true,' said the lady; 'and, if you are a friend of his, you may as well take a packet of newspapers that have been waiting an opportunity to go to him.' She gave Rhoda a large parcel of papers and magazines as she spoke, and added: 'Mr Walcheren is staying at present at Canon Bulfil's college in Winters' Lane, Southwark.'

'Thank you very much,' returned Rhoda; and then she said wistfully, 'May I ask you, madam, if the report I have heard of the death of Mr Walcheren's wife is true?'

'Oh! dear, yes. That happened months ago,' replied the lady, as she closed the door again.

One part of her mother's revelation was true then, and so might the rest be. Rhoda knew that Frederick was a Catholic, but also that he had been a very lax one, as he had been lax in everything else, and could not help wondering what on earth he could be doing in a college. And, whilst sheltered within its walls, what danger could threaten him? He had been such a joyous, devil-may-care young fellow when she knew him, that she could not fancy him mured up in a religious house. What sympathy could he have with its inmates? What pleasure could he derive from its customs or mode of living? However, she would fulfil her mission, whether her warnings were needed or not. It was a long journey down to Southwark, but Rhoda reached it at last, and found her way, by dint of inquiries, to Canon Bulfil's college. It was a large, red brick building, more like a jail than anything else she could liken it to, and Rhoda felt very timid as she pulled the iron chain which sustained the bell, and heard the loud echoes it evoked in the vaulted hall beyond. It was answered by a lay brother, who demanded, in a grave voice, what was her business.

'I have come with a packet and message for Mr Frederick Walcheren, and wish to see him,' replied Rhoda.

The man unlocked the massive door, and admitted her to a cold-looking passage with brick walls, unpapered and unpainted.

'What name shall I say?' asked the lay brother, as if he were conducting a funeral.

'Say, please, that I have come from Mrs Pattison,' replied Rhoda, who had ascertained that was the name of the tenant of the flat in Nevern Mansions.

After what appeared to her to be an unconscionable delay, the man returned and ushered her into a parlour, the only furniture in which was a piece of matting on the oaken floor, a large table, four rush-bottomed chairs, and a fald stool placed in front of an oil painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Rhoda, remembering the luxury in which Frederick Walcheren used to live and revel in, thought it all very cold-looking and uncomfortable and precise, and wondered how he enjoyed himself there, and what could make him stay.

In a few minutes the door opened, and Frederick himself appeared. For the first moment, Rhoda did not recognise him. His dark hair was cut close to his head, he had shaved off his moustache, and wore a long, black cassock, which reached to his heels. His face was pale and careworn, and darker than usual. As he recognised his visitor, he gave a slight cry and staggered to a chair.

'Rhoda,' he exclaimed, faintly, 'what on earth have you come to see me for?'


THE girl was almost as taken aback as he was.

'Is this you, Fred?' she said, in a tone of the utmost astonishment. 'What have you done to yourself? I hardly knew you.'

But he only asked again,—

'Why have you come? What do you want with me? I thought our acquaintanceship was at an end.'

'I have not come to ask anything of you, Fred,' said Rhoda, in a reproachful voice. 'I think you might know that without my telling you. I am here as your friend only. I heard that you were in trouble, and I wanted to see if I could be of any use to you.'

'Thank you, thank you,' he replied nervously. 'It is kind of you to have thought of it. Won't you sit down?'

Rhoda seated herself on one of the rush-bottomed chairs, whilst Frederick took another as far as possible from her.

'What is it that I can do for you?' he commenced, in a stiff voice.

'Nothing,' replied the girl, 'only tell me about yourself. Is it true that you are a widower? I am so sorry for you! And why are you living in this place? What have you to do with a training college?'

'I am here as a probationer, or novice, Rhoda. It is evident you know nothing about me. I am about to enter the Church and become a priest.'

'A priest! Oh, Fred, never! You a priest? You'll never stick to it. You will be tired to death of it in three months.'

This prophecy seemed to offend the young man exceedingly, the more so as he had occasional doubts whether it might not be true.

'You do not know what you are talking of,' he returned, grandiloquently. 'A priest once is a priest for ever. There will be no going back. Once ordained, my fate is fixed for life.'

'Will there be no getting out of it; not even if you thought it right?' exclaimed Rhoda, with open eyes.

'Certainly not. Once admitted to the Church, there can be no leaving her without everlasting disgrace and loss of one's salvation.'

'Oh, Fred!' cried the girl, 'think twice before you take such an irrevocable step. You will repent it; I am sure you will. But what made you think of it? What put such an idea into your head?'

'The Almighty, in His infinite goodness,' replied Frederick. 'You have heard, you say, of my great loss. It was that which first brought me to my senses. It was so sudden—so terrible! I could see God's finger of wrath so plainly in it, that it mercifully opened my eyes to my true condition.'

'Do you think, then,' said the girl, timidly, 'that God revenges Himself on us for our petty, thoughtless sins, by torturing or cutting off the life of some one we love? If you were the sinner, why should she have died to bring you to a sense of your wickedness? Why should an innocent girl be used as a burnt-offering for your sins? And how can you better matters by becoming a priest? Are there not plenty of priests? Is it impossible to show God that you are sorry for the past in some other way?'

'Rhoda, as you truly say, you do not understand. You have not been brought up in our blessed faith. I wish you had. Then you would know there is no expiation for sin without blood shedding. When my beloved wife was taken from me I was nearly mad—'

'Tell me of her,' interposed Rhoda, softly. 'I would rather hear about her than the Church.'

'Oh! Rhoda!' exclaimed Frederick, with the selfishness of grief, not heeding how his praises of the dead might sting the girl before him, 'she was so young, so loving, so beautiful. She was the most perfect creature I have ever seen. And we had been married only one day, when she met with a terrible accident that deprived me of her. She fell over the cliffs at Dover and was killed on the spot. It nearly drove me out of my mind.'

'Poor Frederick!' said Rhoda, kindly. 'But are you sure it was an accident?'

'I am sure of nothing, except that my darling parted from me in health and spirits, and that I never saw her alive again. She was found at the foot of the cliffs, crushed to death. Some thought she might have thrown herself over, but I am sure she did not do that; but whether some villain insulted her, or tried to rob her, and so made her take a false step, in agitation and alarm, I cannot say. No one will ever know the truth now. The only thing certain is, that God has taken her from me, and that I shall never see her again this side Eternity.'

'Poor Frederick,' repeated the girl, gently. 'But why should you become a priest because of that? It will not bring your wife back to you.'

'Not in this world, Rhoda, but in the next. I need not mind saying to you that I have been a very bad man, and led a sinful life. You know it only too well. My mother intended me for the service of the Church, and educated me, up to the age of twenty, with that end in view. But, as soon as she died and I became my own master, I left college and entered the world, and you know the bad use I made of my time whilst there. I have to ask your pardon, Rhoda, for the way in which I treated you.'

'Don't, don't,' said Rhoda, quickly. 'I can't bear it. I have not reproached you, Frederick. Nor, in my own heart, have I blamed you. I always spoke my mind, you know. We were very happy whilst we knew each other, and thought we cared for each other, and if we have had to "pay for our whistle," let us do so bravely, and without any cant. I have borne my share without crying out. Do the same by yours. God will accept our secret grief and prayers quite as soon as any public display of regret.'

'I daresay you are right,' replied the young man, who, however, did not like being cut short in his protestations of repentance; 'but to return to what we were talking of. My godfather, Sir Frederick Ascher, who died before I can remember him, left me all his property, coupled with a hope that I should either enter the Church, when it would be confiscated to its use, or, failing that, that I should leave it to the Church at my own death, or endow some ecclesiastical building with it. This behest I laughed at, and had no intention of obeying until my eyes were so mercifully opened to the sins of which I had been guilty, and I saw that the only reparation I could make to Heaven, would be to do as my dear mother and godfather wished me, and become a priest.'

'But how,' demanded Rhoda, 'will that repair the wrong you have done in the world? It seems to me that it benefits really no one.'

'Oh, Rhoda! you speak in ignorance,' said Frederick Walcheren. 'In right of my blessed office, I shall have the privilege of offering the Mass for the repose of the souls of those I have loved and injured, every day. I shall live, as it were, in the sight of Heaven, and weary it with prayers for the pardon of my own sins, and the sins of those I have led, by my example or otherwise, into error; I shall live, I trust, blameless, henceforth, in the eyes of God and men, so that, when my time comes to leave the world, I may be found worthy to join my friends and relatives, and to live in the sight of God and angels for evermore.'

'And could you not effect these objects just as well by living in the world, instead of burying yourself alive?' asked Rhoda drily.

'I could not trust myself to do it, Rhoda. My aspirations are good, but my flesh is frail, and the temptations of this life might prove too strong for me.'

'Then I don't see much good in your repentance, Fred,' said the girl. 'If you are obliged to shut yourself up to prevent your sinning, your abstinence cannot be of much value in God's eyes. Your virtue will lie in the four walls of your clergy house, not in yourself.'

The young man sat silent. He did not like the tone adopted by his former friend. It was too much an echo of something which he could not drive out of his mind, nor his heart.

'Is this all you have to say to me, Rhoda?' he asked after a pause.

'No, Fred. I came up from Luton this morning expressly to see you. I heard, through my mother—you know how—that you were in trouble and danger, and I see now that both reports were true. I couldn't think what the danger might be! I was told that you were being entangled in a net that would close round you, and deliver over your soul and body into the keeping of others. I understand what they meant now! When you have become a priest, you will no longer be a man. You will be a slave, obliged to go here, or there, or do this or give up the other, as your superiors choose.'

'But it will be all for my good, Rhoda. I am not fit to look after, or take care of, myself.'

'Perhaps so, but I entreat of you, Fred, not to do this thing in too great a hurry! You are not in a fit state to judge for yourself at this moment! You are so grieved by the loss of your wife, that you have but one wish—to give up the world and everything in it, and be left to yourself and your own thoughts for ever. I know what the feeling is! Do you suppose that I have not felt it also? Do you suppose that I do not know what it is to despair of God's existence, and to believe that He neither sees nor hears what His unfortunate creatures are doing or suffering?'

'You, Rhoda, you? But what trouble have you had to make you despair like this?'

The girl turned and looked him full in the face. Was it possible that he could be so selfish and absorbed in his own sorrows, as entirely to have forgotten hers?

'You don't mean to tell me that you cared for me as much as all that?' demanded Frederick, with a touch of the old vanity.

'No!' she answered, 'no! I did not care for you as much as all that, and if I had done so, the time is past for telling you of it! Let me finish what I was going to say to you! Be warned by me! If you become a priest, you will regret it. You are not fitted by nature or constitution, for such an artificial life, neither is your present feeling a permanent one. I feel it! Something tells me so! Your mind has been upset, and you are not capable of judging for yourself! Don't take the final step without further consideration. And tell me one thing! Do you know a man, not very tall but rather stout—with blue eyes and fair hair, parted down the middle—a man with a pleasant smile and manner, and who is especially natty about his hands and nails?'

'Yes, yes!' cried the young man; 'what of him? I recognise your description perfectly.'

'He is an enemy of yours, Fred!' replied Rhoda. 'I was told to tell you that he—'

'Stop!' cried Frederick, suddenly. 'Who told you?'

'Mother did, last night, or some of her controls. I told you, ages ago, you may remember, that she has the gift of second sight.'

'A soothsayer—a woman with a familiar spirit—condemned alike of God and our holy Church!' exclaimed her companion excitedly, 'and you bring me warnings and admonitions from such a source! Away—silence! I will hear no more of it. I sin each moment that I listen. My poor friend, do you know the danger you run by giving heed to anything you may hear from such a source? You are playing with the devil—listening to his advice, delivering your soul into his hands. You must promise me never to have any dealings with such people again, or you will imperil your immortal soul.'

But Rhoda, though deeply attached to the man before her, was too sensible a woman not to have opinions of her own, and the courage to stick up for them, into the bargain.

'Not have dealings with my own mother!' she retorted; 'what will you tell me next, I wonder! If you don't choose to heed what I say to you, it's no fault of mine, Fred, but I've done my duty in telling you what was told to me. And as for its being wrong, I don't believe it. If my mother's controls were evil spirits, why did they warn me against you before ever I came to London, and say that nothing but trouble would come of our intimacy? Why didn't they tell me that life was short in this world, and I had better make the most of it whilst it lasted, instead? No! that was your teaching, not theirs; but you'd like to make out your principles the better of the two! You may not take my advice. I can't help that, but don't set up your own against it, for you'll only anger me, and I came to see you from a pure wish to do you good.'

And with that, and a suspicious sound in her voice as if she could not trust herself to speak any more, Rhoda gathered up a little shawl she had carried over her arm, and her umbrella, and prepared to quit the room.

'Rhoda, don't be vexed with what I said,' replied Frederick. 'You did it in good faith, I am sure, but I must obey the teachings of our most holy Church on the subject. She strictly forbids all tampering with such knowledge—with any communications from spirits of the dead. We are taught to regard them with horror, as temptations from the Evil One, and sent in order to lure us to our own damnation.'

'Yes,' said Rhoda, incredulously. 'But I thought that saints in the Roman Catholic Church were often made so, because they had seen or talked with spirits of the dead, and that the Pope called a convocation to decide if such reports were true, and, if they were, the saintship was confirmed.'

'That may be correct, Rhoda, but it is very different!'


Frederick began to fidget.

'Well, you see, the reports, as you say, are confirmed by a court of inquiry, and established by the approval of the Church, so that there remains no doubt of their honesty and—'

'You need say no more, Fred! My mother is as much to me as your Church is to you—perhaps a little more—and I have the same faith in her honesty, and impossibility of dealing with the devil, so that we may cry quits.'

'I hope I have not offended you,' said Frederick, 'but I dare not listen to communications from such a source! If not actually ordained, I am pledged to become a minister of the Church, and am bound to follow her commands in everything.'

'Poor Fred!' said the girl, compassionately, 'I can do nothing more for you, so I had better go. Good-bye! Believe how I sympathise in your great trouble—that I would have saved you from it, if I could. I don't suppose that I shall ever see you again, but I shall never forget you—never!'

She held out her hand to him as she spoke, and the warm human touch seemed to Frederick Walcheren like a last farewell of the world he had loved so much.

'One moment, Rhoda,' he said tremblingly; 'you said, just now, that you had had sorrow enough to make you despair. What was it? Was it connected with me?'

'You know how you left me,' she answered, colouring; 'surely I needn't remind you of that.'

'No, no; but I thought, perhaps—I hoped, as you had said nothing of it, that—that—'

'That God had mercifully buried the proof of your treatment of me, with your other sins, I suppose, Fred,' replied the girl, scornfully.

'Your mother wrote me a letter some time ago now, I remember (but later events have put it out of my head), and I sent her a cheque for one hundred pounds, for expenses, but she returned it to me, and said she did not want it. And not having heard since—'

'You flattered yourself you would never hear again,' retorted Rhoda. 'Well, you were right! You never will! Good-bye!'

But he would not let her go.

'Tell me,' he urged, 'tell me everything! Don't think, because I'm going to be a priest, that I have lost all trace of human feeling. Is the child alive and well? Is it a boy or a girl?'

'What is the good of my telling you?' asked Rhoda, dashing away the tears that had risen to her eyes. 'You'll never see him, nor will he call you "father." But since you ask me, he is a boy, and strong and healthy, and I love him dearly. Is that sufficient?'

'My little son,' said Frederick, musingly. 'The only child I shall ever have, and him I have disgraced, God forgive me! Rhoda, you must let me settle some money on this boy before my fortune passes out of my hands. He is mine; you have no right to refuse me.'

'No, no, I will not have it; he shall not take it!' exclaimed Rhoda, passionately. 'Mother and I have enough for him, and he shall never know who his father is. Don't be afraid but that he will be well looked after. He is all—all—' with a sudden break in her voice—'that I have left.'

In a moment the injury he had done this girl, whose existence he had almost forgotten, flashed across Frederick Walcheren's mind.

'Oh! let me make you some amends,' he cried. 'Don't leave me with this remorse tearing at my heart. If you do, the child and you will come between me and my prayers. The money is my own still, to do as I will with. Let me put a thousand pounds in the bank—only a thousand pounds, Rhoda—in your name, that you may have something to fit the boy out with when he is of an age to enter the world.'

But she shook her head.

'I will not take your money,' she said. 'I will not be paid for my love.'

'Then what can I do for you?' he cried, in a voice of despair. 'How can I show you how sorry I am for the past—how much I would do to repair it?'

'If you wish to make me happier,' she answered, turning so as to face him, 'don't become a priest. Give up this mad idea. You will regret it bitterly if you do not. Ah, Fred,' she continued, drawing closer to him, 'I don't ask—I don't wish to be anything to you ever again, but come back to the world and live in it a little longer before you take a step you can never recall. I do not expect, nor ask to receive, your love. I know that has gone from me to the girl you made your wife, but if I can comfort you by my friendship and my devotion, it will be yours to your life's end. Come back and let me try and comfort you for all you have lost. I will be your servant and your friend, and nothing more, so long as I can smooth your path in life. Dear, dear Fred, you know I loved you! Let us go away to some distant land together till your grief is assuaged and your mind is more fit to decide upon your future plans.'

She laid her hand affectionately upon his arm as she spoke, but he flung it from him as if it had been a serpent.

'Woman!' he cried, 'have you been sent from the devil to torture me and tempt me to forsake my duty? Leave this hallowed spot. Go back and wallow in the Slough of Despond from which I have been lifted. Are you mad to speak to me like this? What hellish design have you in your brain regarding me? Do you want to drag me down to the abyss with yourself? Go, and never come near me more! You have planted a sword in my breast that it will take weeks, perhaps months, to draw forth again. Go, go! Don't let me curse you! Oh, God! have I not suffered enough without this? Is it Thy will to crucify me afresh? Sancta Maria! Ora pro nobis!'

And, with a look of agonised entreaty at the pictured face that hung above the mantelpiece, Frederick Walcheren crossed himself and fled from the college parlour, and Rhoda saw him no more.

She was a little offended and very much hurt to have her overtures received in so ungracious a manner. She cried bitterly as she took her way back to Luton, but she told her mother nothing beyond the bare facts of the case. Fred was no longer the gay, debonnair young man she had given her heart to. So much the easier, she told herself, to forget all about him. Still, as she dreamt over the past, she could not but believe that, some day, she and the father of her child would meet again.


AS soon as Frederick Walcheren had left Rhoda's presence, he hurried to his private study and locked himself in. His interview with her had greatly disturbed him. For not only had it brought back the past in all its vividness, but made him conscious how dear that past had been to him—how dear it was still!

He sat down by the table and buried his face in his clasped hands. How plainly he could see all that he had promised to relinquish. The racecourse and the cricket field, the regattas and the football matches, the private theatricals and the picnics. And then the midnight revelries. The theatres and music-halls and dances he had attended and enjoyed with all the zest of youth and health combined. Was it possible he should never, let him live to the age of a hundred, see them evermore?

It was not that Frederick mourned the loss of such pleasure now. Jenny, and Jenny's cruel death, were still uppermost in his thoughts, and the idea of dissipation of any sort was repulsive to him. His passion for the pretty, petulant, self-willed daughter of old Crampton had been no chimera of his passing fancy. It was an ingrained feeling of his soul; a love which he would never forget nor replace to the last day of his life! But Jenny had now been gone for some months, and the fierce desire that had first obtained the mastery over him, to kill himself, or hide himself for ever from the world, was not so vehement as it had been. Rhoda's warnings had affected him chiefly because he felt that they were needed—that she was right in saying that he might live to repent the step he was about to take, and that he would do well to pause and consider before he made it irrevocable.

He had bade the poor girl begone, and told her she was an emissary of the devil, because her entreaties, that he would give up the idea of entering the Church, and go to some distant land with her, had taken so pleasant a hold on his imagination. In fancy, he had beheld himself in the wilds of Northern India or South America, wandering through totally new scenes, and Jenny's memory becoming fainter and fainter as time went on. The picture had been too fascinating! He dared not dwell on it.

And instead, he had chosen the cloister and the interminable services, and the strict standard of living and seclusion of a priest! Had he been wise? Had he been wise?

In the solitude of his own chamber, and to his own heart, the young man could not deny that the future held but few charms for him. In the violence of his untutored grief, he had seized at the first rope held out to him that seemed likely to guide him to a haven of peace. He had been willing then to sacrifice everything for the chance of seeing his beloved again, to secure their re-union, to make sure they should not be parted for ever. But Rhoda's searching questions had shown him what was really in his heart, and increasing instead of diminishing his discomfort. He was terribly afraid he had mistaken his vocation. He might make a priest, for he was clever and highly educated; he would also, he hoped, faithfully stick to his duty, but would he be an honest and conscientious one?

Frederick shuddered when he thought of the answer to that question, for his ordination was drawing very near. The day when he would take the final vows upon himself was close at hand, and, after that, there would be no drawing back. All would be fixed and settled for him. After that, the rising at dawn to celebrate early mass for the rest of his life, the daily services, the administering of sacraments, the cloistered prayers, the grave address, the repression of all laughter and jesting and pleasure for evermore. And yet, his heart had beat faster to think of worldly amusements and merriment and brave companionship.

As he mused over these things, Frederick groaned within his clasped hands. Could he stand it all, he thought—could he go on for the rest of his life—he was only just thirty, he might have another half century of work before him—in a service so utterly opposed to all his tastes and habits?

He was still pondering on the subject, when a second visitor was announced for him. It was his cousin Philip, who followed on the steps of his messenger.

'Well, Frederick,' he commenced, shaking hands, 'I thought I would not pass another day without coming to see you. Father Tasker tells me you have made such rapid progress with your studies that you are going up for ordination some weeks sooner than was intended. I congratulate you heartily. Your fate is now settled. Your life for this world and the next provided for. What a blessed privilege! Were it not for Marion and the children, I could find it in my heart to chuck up everything and follow your example. It must be a state of such complete calm and security and happiness. The very gate of Heaven. You lucky fellow!'

'Do you think so?' demanded Frederick, in a melancholy tone.

'Think so? My dear friend, there's no thinking in the matter. It is an assured certainty. You have dedicated the remainder of your life to the Church, and in return she gives you everlasting bliss. There can be no doubt on the matter. From the day of your consecration to her service, she will stand security for your salvation. What can be more assuring—more consolatory?'

'The Church can only stand security for my everlasting happiness if I fulfil my duties from my heart. What about Luther and his nun? Had they not pledged themselves to God's service for ever? Did that secure their salvation? Will the Church allow they are in Heaven at the present moment?'

'My dear Frederick, what put those two unfortunate heretics in your head? Surely, you do not liken yourself to either of them?'

'Perhaps I am not so good as they were! No, Philip, I do not wish to liken myself to anybody, but I sometimes fear that I am not worthy of the high calling I propose to take upon myself. I find my heart is still too much with the world—not sufficiently weaned from earthly things, and though my trouble is still so fresh that I have no inclination to mix in the scenes I used to love, I am afraid it only needs time to make me enjoy them as much as heretofore.'

'My dear cousin, before that time arrives, you will be folded in the bosom of the Church, and she will keep you safe from all the dangers you have so mercifully escaped since you turned your eyes once more towards her. Have no fear! Once ordained, your sacred calling will wrap you round as a mantle, and keep you from every harm. You will have nothing to do with the world. Her voice will be drowned in that of God.'

'You do not understand me, Philip. If the devil is in my heart, nothing will eradicate him. My sacred vestments will become a mockery—a falsehood. I am afraid I have been too hasty in deciding on this. I was so mad with grief when it was first suggested to me, that I hardly calculated what I was signing my name to. But I see more plainly now, and I feel afraid. This ordination must be put off. I will not go up for it with these feelings in my mind. It would be a sacrilege.'

Philip Walcheren now felt really alarmed. If Frederick once left the college again, they might lose him for ever. And his money would go with him. It was not to be thought of for a moment. At all costs, the notion he had got into his head must be battled with and overcome. But not by force—by suasion.

'My dear Frederick,' he commenced mildly, 'these feelings do honour to you. They prove your modesty—your want of self-esteem—your high standard of the duties that lie before you. But, at the same time, they are a worse temptation to you than those of the world you were speaking of. Your thoughts come straight from the devil, Frederick, who, under the guise of humility, is trying his utmost to dissuade you from pursuing the glorious career you have dedicated your life to.'

'Even if my fears do come from the devil, Philip, it is better that I should not do this thing without further consideration. There is no real hurry. Next month, or next year, will do just as well for my ordination. I don't think the world will lose much from the want of my ministrations. And if I am in the same mind then, it is easy enough to carry out my plans.'

'If you are in the same mind then. Oh, Frederick, how you make my heart ache by those words. How do you know that God will permit you to be in the same mind then?—that He will not have delivered you over to the machinations of the Evil One—that you may not, like Esau, fail to find repentance, though you seek it carefully and with tears? My dear cousin, I beg of you to put all such terrible doubts out of your head at once, for they are only temptations sent to try your faith. Have you not read that often, when dying Christians are at their last gasp, Satan is permitted to try them, by implanting blasphemous doubts in their minds of the truth of God or Christ's salvation. It is so with you. You have been allowed to reach, as it were, the very gates of Heaven, and the devil attempts to drag you thence. Resist him by every means in your power, Frederick! Stamp these unnatural doubts under foot, and think only of the great good before you, and the few steps left to gain it.'

Still Frederick was unconvinced.

'It will not be good if I find I am unable to perform the duties required of me, conscientiously and with my whole heart. Philip, this is not a new fear with me. I have experienced it often during the last few months, and I cannot believe but that it is sent as a warning. I have tried hard to keep such thoughts out of my head, but it is impossible. When I sleep, I dream of the world, of the scenes I used to mix in, the amusements I engaged in, the people I associated with, and I wake, feverish, excited, and anxious to see them all again. What feelings are these with which to enter the Church?'

'All temptations, diabolical temptations,' said Philip, with a look of distress.

'But I cannot help them, they are unavoidable,' replied his cousin, 'and if they continue when I am a priest, what shall I do?'

'Have you any doubt? Do as I have told you; stamp on them as you would on the head of the Old Serpent himself. Frederick! beware how you give way to such fancies. You have been plucked as a brand from the burning. You have consecrated your life to the service of our Church—your prayers to gaining the salvation of your young wife, who was hurled into Eternity without a care for her soul—and, at your peril, renounce these sacred objects for a mere dream. What! have you forgotten Jenny so soon, that you no longer desire to work out her salvation by the sacrifice of your own inclinations? Have you lost the wish to meet her again, purified from the sins which bound you together, and free to enjoy Heaven in each other's company?'

'Oh! no! no! my poor darling, never!' cried Frederick, in a burst of remorse.

'You will forfeit it all, if you do not fight against this horrible snare,' replied Philip, sternly. 'I knew that such doubts were likely to oppress you, Frederick, but I little thought to find you so weak in dispelling them. Do you suppose that any priests are entirely free from such feelings—that each one is not obliged at times to wrestle with the earthly part of his nature, and kill the old man within him? But where would be their crown of glory, without their cross to carry? Is it to be earned for nothing? Are the angels to record no deeds of valour on the roll of the martyrs' names, to counteract the dark plots which might otherwise efface them? If you imagined the road you elected to travel was one of roses, I am sorry for you. I thought you had more sense.'

'Yes! yes! you are right. I see I have been very weak,' said Frederick, as he sat upright and assumed a more cheerful aspect. 'It was a devilish temptation, as you say, Philip! The fact is, I had been talking with an old friend this morning, and it brought the past back a little too vividly. The dark cloud has passed again, and I feel braver. Please don't think of it any more.'

But Philip Walcheren did think of it. He made inquiries, before he left the college, as to what visitors his cousin had received, and heard that a young woman had been closeted with him for nearly an hour in the early part of the day. So he went straight to Father Tasker with the story, the result of which was that the priest also paid Frederick a visit, and had a long conversation with him upon the subject. Philip had told him that his cousin showed such signs of wavering that, if he were allowed to converse with many more young women, or to renew his old worldly associations, there were grave doubts if he might not give up the idea of being a priest altogether. And that meant, in the estimation of them both, not only the loss of his fortune for the Church, but the loss of himself for heaven.

So the father used his utmost casuistry to persuade the novice that the feelings he complained of were only so many signs of God's interest in him, and that it was because He loved His son so much that He permitted him to be chastised by doubts and perplexities. He ran over the old gauntlet of Jenny's peril in purgatory; of her present sufferings, which Frederick would augment tenfold by any defalcation; of his promises to offer the Mass daily for her relief, and of the probability that if he drew back, after he had put his hand to the plough, she would be the innocent victim of his defalcation.

He raked up the old wound, now gradually closing, till it streamed with blood; he made his disciple writhe under his scathing reminders; and, finally, he made him look so mean in his own eyes, that the young man was fairly baited into retracting all he had said to his cousin, and declaring he had never had any intention of giving up the Church, or going back from his plighted word. The priest, however, was not satisfied, and sought an early interview with his Superior, during which they decided that, for the good of the Church, and this poor, wavering soul, Frederick Walcheren's ordination had better take place as soon as possible, for which purpose several letters passed between them and higher authorities, and the day for the ceremony was fixed for a much earlier date than had been at first intended.

Meantime, Frederick was silenced, but not convinced. Had he been less sick of the world and its gaieties at the time—had his nerves not been so unstrung from the shock they had received—he would not have given in a second time so easily, but he was too tired (mentally) to argue the point. It was less trouble to say 'Yes,' than to keep on repeating 'No,' and he really did not seem to care which way it turned out; so he yielded with a sigh, and tried to persuade himself that it was of no consequence—that nothing would be of any consequence to him evermore.

But though he returned to his studies, he could not fix his attention on them as heretofore, for the face of Rhoda Berry would come between him and the written page. He feared he had spoken unkindly and roughly to her, and, if so, he was a brute. The poor girl had never harmed him; the wrong had been all on the other side. He had never been really attached to her, but he had been fond of her during the days of their courtship, and he could remember that he had regretted the fact of her birth precluding the idea of his asking her to be his wife.

He could remember also that he thought her a very intelligent and well-read girl, and a most interesting companion, more interesting, perhaps, and sensible than his sweet Jenny, who needed nothing but her own beauty to make all men worship her. Rhoda was a pretty girl too, not quite in his style, perhaps, for how could he admire blue eyes and yellow hair, with Jenny's big hazel orbs and chestnut locks forever before his mental vision? Still—whatever Rhoda was like, he had deeply wronged her, and she had never even reproached him for his baseness—never hinted that he had behaved badly to her, or that he ought to be ashamed of himself for deserting her and her child, in order to marry another woman. It was awfully good of her. Almost angelic, and he could weep tears of blood when he thought of it. He said one or two long prayers on her behalf, and then returned to his books, and tried to banish her from his mind.

But it was in vain! Strive as hard as Frederick would to fix his thoughts on Saint Augustine, or Saint Chrysostom, or any other of the holy fathers of the Church, their revered memories had to give way to a pair of tearful blue eyes and a willowy figure bearing a little image of himself in its arms.

He felt that he could settle to nothing until he had made peace with his conscience by making such amends as lay in his power for the grievous wrong he had done poor Rhoda Berry.

'Hang it all!' he said to himself, after a most unclerical fashion, 'I must make some provision for that child, whether Rhoda likes it or not. I can't make up my mind to give thousands to a Church, who is as rich as old Croesus, whilst I leave my own flesh and blood unprovided for. But she never even told me the little beggar's name, and, if I write to her for it, she will refuse again to take the money. Well! I can settle it on her instead. I must see Mr Sinclair on the subject at once!'

This resolution, on his part, resulted in his sending a request to his solicitor to call on him as soon as convenient, when he received him in his private room.

'I have asked to see you, Mr Sinclair,' he commenced, 'in order to place a confidence in you. You are aware, I believe, that, in a very short time, I am to be admitted to Holy Orders, and that, when that happens, my money, of which you have hitherto had the charge, will be confiscated to the Church.'

'I have heard so, Mr Walcheren, and, frankly, I was very sorry to hear it.'

'Ah, well, never mind that. It is all settled, so the less said soonest mended. But, before the deeds are drawn up in favour of the Church, I wish to make the disposition of a small portion of my property to an old friend. I conclude I am at perfect liberty to do so?'

'Most certainly, Mr Walcheren; you can give, or will, the whole of it away, if you like. The money was left absolutely to you for your own use. Pray, don't be persuaded into thinking that you are in any way, morally or legally, bound to give it to the Church.'

'No, no, I am aware of that. I make it over of my own free will. Only, I should like to make this little provision first. What does my income really amount to, Mr Sinclair? I have been such a careless dog, that I never made myself master of the amount.'

'You have the estate of Tetley, in Shropshire, you know, Mr Walcheren, which brings in about five hundred a year, and forty thousand pounds in consols, and from fifteen to twenty thousand in scrip. It's a tidy little fortune, and might be greatly increased by judicious handling. I'm truly sorry to find you throwing it away.'

'Hush! hush! man, what would the reverend fathers think if they heard you speak of increasing the revenues of the Church by such a term? And it will be all one, you know, when I am ordained. What good will money be to me then? I shouldn't be allowed to spend it if I had it.'

'True, but is it quite impossible that you may not yet change your mind?'

'Quite so; but let us keep to the matter in hand. I need not tell you, Mr Sinclair, who have known me through my "green sallet" days, that I have been a bit wild at times, and, amongst other peccadilloes, I deeply wronged a young friend of mine, named Rhoda Berry. In fact, she—she—has a little child of mine, and it is this child I am desirous of providing for, but the mother has refused to take any money from me. Cannot it be settled on her without any consent on her part?'

'Most certainly! any amount you like, provided you are in possession of the young woman's full name.'

'Yes! Her only names are Rhoda Berry, and she lives with her mother at Elm Cottage, Harrow Lane, Luton.'

'Very good,' replied the solicitor, as he noted down the information, 'And the amount to be settled?'

'Five thousand pounds,' replied Frederick, promptly.

'That's a large sum, Mr Walcheren, for a case like this. It means a couple of hundred a year, remember.'

'And which do you suppose wants it most; this poor girl, who is thrown probably on her own resources for life, with a child to keep into the bargain, and all through my beastly selfishness, or the Catholic Church, who has thousands of benefactors, and is rich in every sort of treasure?'

'Oh! I am not blaming you,' replied Mr Sinclair, who, being a Protestant, would rather have seen the money thrown into the gutter than go to enrich the coffers of the Roman Church. 'I think you are quite right, and doing most handsomely by the young lady—most handsomely indeed!'

'No money can make amends for sin,' said Frederick, sententiously.

'And how is this sum to be settled on Miss Berry, Mr Walcheren?' demanded the solicitor. 'In trust for the child, or unconditionally on herself?'

'Unconditionally on herself, please. I know, if she uses it at all, it will be for the benefit of the boy. Keep a note of my directions, Mr Sinclair, but don't draw up the deed until you do the two together. There will be less chance then, I think, of my being bothered from either side. When you draw the five thousand pounds, take it from the sum in consols. There will be the less chance of its being missed. Oh, dear! how glad I shall be when all this worry is over, and matters settled for good and all!'

'Am I to draw out this sum, and re-invest it in Miss Berry's name?'

'No, put it back in consols. It is a lower rate of interest than Rhoda could get elsewhere, but it is safer; and women are idiots about money matters. When you write and tell her about my present, perhaps you will advise her not to take it out on the chance of getting more interest. And, Sinclair, I wish you to have five hundred pounds, over and above what I may owe you.'

'I couldn't think of taking such a sum, Mr Walcheren. It is far too much.'

'Nonsense! You were a good friend to me when I was knocking about town, and got me out of many a scrape, and I know no one whom I would rather give it to. Why, what's the odds to me? I sha'n't have a halfpenny in my own hands in a fortnight's time. Why shouldn't I have the pleasure of making my old friends a little present whilst I can.'

'You're very good, Mr Walcheren, and I don't say that the sum will not give me pleasure, and be very useful to me; but, believe me, when I add that I would rather, a thousand times over, see it in your own hands. This step you contemplate makes me very uneasy. It seems so unnatural—so sudden!'

'It is sudden, Sinclair, but not unnatural. In losing my beloved wife, I have lost everything, and I don't care what becomes of the rest of my life. The vocation I am about to adopt is the one chosen for me by my mother, and I am only following her express wishes by entering the Church. It appears unnatural to you, because you have never known me, except as a wild, devil-may-care fellow, up to any pranks, and utterly careless all round. But you don't know the complete difference a shock, like the one I have experienced, makes in a man. It opens his eyes in a moment, as it were, to the folly and wickedness of his past life, and makes him see that there is only one thing worth living and striving for, and that is—the next. Once convinced of that truth, there can be no returning to the past existence. It fades away like a dream, and nothing can content one in the future, but hard, solid, substantial work.'

'Very true, Mr Walcheren. I suppose that time comes to every man after a certain period of carelessness. You remember the old song, sir, "Each dog must have his day." And when the best part of the day is over, we all feel, if we have any sense, that it is time to give up play. But you can work whilst you remain in the world, Mr Walcheren, and set a good example to your neighbours, into the bargain.'

The same axiom that Rhoda had hurled at his head, though clothed in other words. Frederick recognised it at once, and the recognition made him assume a colder air towards the solicitor.

'No doubt, Mr Sinclair,' he responded, 'no doubt, but we all have different tastes, and the Church is mine. I am afraid I shall have to dismiss you now, as the time is getting on for refectory, and I have some preparations to make before the bell sounds. You will bear all my instructions in mind, I am sure. Good morning!'

'Good morning! Mr Walcheren. I cannot thank you enough for your kind intentions respecting myself, for which you know that I should receive your instructions in writing. And if I have, in my sincere regard and friendship for you, said more than I should, I hope you will forgive me. I had not the least intention to offend.'

'I am sure of that, Sinclair, but there are things that will not bear talking of. I am fairly sick of life, my dear old friend—terribly sick and tired of it, and one lot is quite as good as another in my eyes. My greatest wish is that it may all be over as quickly as possible, and I may join my darling girl again.'

He held out his hand to his companion as he spoke, and as Mr Sinclair's eyes met the careworn, haggard face of the young man, whom he remembered as one of the handsomest, most débonnair fellows about town, they became so moist that he could hardly see, and, grasping the hand offered him firmly, he quickly left the room.


THE whole talk of the employés in the firm of Messrs Hindes & Son, late Hindes & Crampton, was of the extraordinary change that had taken place in their employer. Clerks, whether they be head or under clerks, are shy, as a rule, of whispering anything so derogatory to the head of their firm, as the suspicion that he takes 'more than is good for him.' But there was really no other possible reason to be adduced for the condition in which Henry Hindes constantly presented himself in the office. Formerly, he had been a keen, vigorous, active man of business, always ready to detect an error in the accounts, or to make a good bargain for himself and his partner. But, since Mr Crampton's death, he seemed as if he had lost all his capacity. Vendors, bearing samples of their wares, walked in and out of the counting-house, shaking their heads over Mr Hindes' altered condition, and wondering what had become of the powerful brain and courteous manners, to which they had been accustomed for so long. The cashier declared he might as well take in his books to be checked by a child, for all the attention the 'governor' accorded them, and the younger clerks affirmed that, when they carried a message to the inner office, they had to shout at him, sometimes three or four times, before he seemed to hear them, or understand what they were saying. Had he gone deaf, they inquired amongst themselves, or was he growing stupid? He seemed to be always more or less asleep, and when roused to take an active part in the affairs of the firm, was not always as good-tempered as he might be. One lad had given him notice because, he said, he could not stand Mr Hindes' bullying any longer, and this was the more remarkable, because the senior partner had ever been distinguished for his urbanity, and soft-spoken ways with all the younger members of the firm. But his office companions were on Alfred Jones' side, for the change in Henry Hindes was too remarkable to be denied. He, who had been noted for being so well dressed and perfectly appointed, who was wont to come each morning to town in a suit of the latest fashion, with a flower in his button-hole, and his white hands carefully encased in well-fitting gloves—would now lounge in at all hours, sometimes disgracefully late, in a shooting-coat or a rough suit of tweed, with sleepy eyes and careless hair, looking as if he had just tumbled out of his bed. His manner, which had had the credit of being so polite, even when under the necessity of telling an unpleasant truth, that even strangers were warned, before they set foot in the office to ask, for the senior partner had become curt, irritable, and sometimes exceedingly rude, so that intending customers went away offended, and never showed their faces there again. Mr Bloxam, who had been cashier to the firm for forty years past, and known Henry Hindes from his cradle, used to shake his head, and say that the business was fast going to the devil, and the sooner they put the shutters up, the better. The younger men whispered and made jokes amongst themselves, and hinted that 'Old Harry' (as he was familiarly termed amongst his employés) had been looking at the outside of a whisky bottle, and things would go on much better if he would stay at home and leave them to manage the business.

But these comments, naturally, never reached the ears of the man they pointed at. The unfortunate 'governor' still continued to attend the office and furnish jokes for the lads under him. He was little aware of how well he deserved them. His gait had now become slouching and he trembled as he walked. His hands shook so, that it was with difficulty he could sign his name intelligibly, and, more than once, the manager of the bank he lodged his money with, had sent over to identify his signature, it was so unlike what it used to be. He always seemed to be asleep, or nearly so. He would rouse himself with a start when spoken to, and then curse the intruder for having addressed him in so low a tone. More than one youth followed Jones out of the office, because Hindes declared he mumbled on purpose to annoy him, and he threw a heavy book at the head of a third, because, on having failed to make his master hear, he rang a hand-bell which stood at his elbow.

The office, where all had been conducted so pleasantly, was now the scene of continual quarrelling, and Henry Hindes bid fair to be left alone in his glory.

The man's whole appearance had changed. His clear, keen eyes were bloodshot and dropsical looking—his nails were permitted to grow, and the skin about them to become irregular—he often appeared with an unshaven chin, and a limp collar. Mr Bloxam was the only person in the office he ever spoke to, and him he took, curiously, into his confidence, playing uncertain notes on him, as on an instrument of which he was not quite sure, but from which he longed to extract harmony.

There was a case occupying the attention of the papers just then, in which Mr Hindes seemed to take an unusual interest. A man had given himself up to justice for having committed a murder twenty years before, and the persons, who might have borne witness against him, being dead, he had provided all the necessary information himself, even taking the police to the spot where he had committed the crime, and making them disinter the dust and bones that remained of his victim. The reason the case attracted particular attention was on account of the length of time that had elapsed since the murder, and also that the murderer had been very prosperous and esteemed since, occupied a good position in society—and had a wife and family to be plunged into disgrace by his confession.

'I can't understand the motive of Rayner's confession, Bloxam,' Henry Hindes would observe confidentially to his cashier. 'It would never have been found out to the day of his death, and what good does the disclosure effect? Here is a respectable tradesman, with a wife and family dependent on him—respected by his friends and customers—rich and flourishing in his trade—and he throws it all away for the sake of confessing his participation in a crime which the world has forgotten ages ago, and which he cannot rectify, even by swinging on the gallows.'

'That is true, sir,' replied Mr Bloxam, 'but you don't take into consideration that Rayner's conscience would not, in all probability, let him keep silence any longer. A murder must lie pretty heavy on a man's soul, Mr Hindes. I don't suppose he has had much rest at night, poor creature, however much he may have prospered outwardly. And he is an old man too—sixty the papers say—and begins to think, no doubt, of meeting his Maker, face to face, with that sin unconfessed. My wonder is how he has managed to live through so many years with such a burthen on his conscience. He must have led a terrible life!'

Hindes' face grew very yellow during this exordium, but the subject fascinated him, as fire is said to fascinate some people, and a precipice others, until they can hardly resist the temptation to cast themselves down headlong.

'But why should a murder, dreadful as it is, lie so much heavier on a man's conscience than his other sins? Look! how many murders are committed by most of us! We strike a blow, perhaps, which might have killed a fellow. If it had, we should have been arraigned as a murderer; since it does not, we go scot-free. But the feeling of murder was there all the same. We are just as guilty in the sight of Heaven. Why should we vex ourselves about one sin more than the other?'

'I'm not fit to argue the point with you, Mr Henry,' answered the cashier, 'but there's surely a difference! We don't always mean to murder a friend when we hit him. If we do kill him, even by accident, we have to pay the penalty. But when a man deliberately injures another, knowing it must kill him, like this Rayner, who strikes a fellow creature on the head with a hammer—why, that was deliberate murder—he meant to kill Thompson, and he must be a thorough bad man to have kept the secret in his breast for twenty years. Hanging's too good for him; that's what everybody says.'

'But telling won't bring Thompson back again, that's my argument,' said Henry Hindes, sullenly. 'Rayner hangs himself by his confession, and does no one any good.'

'Except himself, sir! He'll save his own soul, maybe, by the expiation of his crime, however tardy. See! what a hypocritical life he must have been leading. Mixing with all sorts of people, who would have spurned him with their feet had they known his real character—kissing his innocent children and wife—setting up for a respectable member of society, when he's the lowest creature amongst them all. The deceit has been too much for him at last, Mr Hindes, and he feels now, doubtless, that he would rather be standing on the gallows platform, as an honest man, than keep his place and go on deceiving. Why, he must have been thoroughly miserable. No one could enjoy life, however wealthy, under such circumstances. It must have been nothing but a burden to him.'

Henry Hindes sat for a few minutes musing silently. Bloxam, thinking the interview was over, prepared to leave the office.

'Don't go, Bloxam,' exclaimed his employer, rousing himself. 'Stay a little longer. This subject interests me. I feel so much for this poor fellow. I wonder if he is in his right mind.'

'Oh! yes, sir, there's no doubt of that! Why, he remembers everything connected with the murder, as if it happened yesterday. He described the whole scene to the officers with the minutest details, such as a lock of poor Thompson's hair getting stuck on the hammer with the blood, and his holding the hammer in the flame of the candle afterwards till it was completely cleansed. He could tell exactly what the poor fellow wore, and mentioned a gold ring he had on his little finger. And when they found the bones and dust under the cellar flooring, there was the ring amongst them, just as he said.'

'Yes; I read that. But wouldn't it have been wiser and better of Rayner to have kept this secret to the end, for the sake of his wife and children? He had kept it so long, you see; and, as I said before, confession could not remedy the evil he had done.'

'No, sir; but we are not sure, you see, that he had entirely kept the secret to himself. He has a wife, and women are powerfully 'cute about such matters. Married men don't keep secrets long. I can say that on my own authority. I know I shouldn't care to have one that Mrs Bloxam wasn't to find out. Perhaps Rayner's wife got at his, and had threatened him with discovery. It isn't unlikely, and then he had better be beforehand with her.'

At this proposition, Hindes went positively grey.

'But—but—' he stammered, 'I thought, Bloxam—I always have been told that the evidence of a wife cannot be taken against her husband in a court of law.'

'I've heard the same, sir; but, bless you, if a woman once got hold of a secret like that, she'd have a hundred ways of bringing the walls of a man's house about his ears, without meaning it. Women can't help gossiping. It's their nature; and if a thing of that sort once gets repeated, the police would soon get hold of it. I wouldn't trust my neck to Mrs Bloxam's tender mercies; I know that, though she's a good woman, and fond of me in her way; but news leaks through women. There's no other name for it. It leaks through them.'

'Do you think so?' asked Hindes, with a shiver.

'I'm sure of it, sir. Many a woman has been murdered for gossiping alone. They taunt the men with the things they may have done, and threaten to expose them, till they aggravate them into kicking or beating them to death. Half the cases of manslaughter come through women's taunts. They're not generous, as a rule.'

'Don't you think,' said Hindes, putting a suppositious case, 'that it would have been much wiser for Rayner to have gone out to the States or Australia, and have commenced a new life there under another name? He appears to have plenty of money. I think, instead of making confession, that I would sooner leave my wife and children comfortable, and fly the country, pretend to be lost overboard, or to die on reaching my haven—lose myself to the world, in fact, and begin life over anew. I am sure that if I did that—'

'You—you—if you did that, Mr Henry!' exclaimed Mr Bloxam, in a voice of surprise.

Henry Hindes, recalled to the trip his tongue had made, changed countenance to a kind of dull red purplish hue.

'I—I—' he stammered, 'did I say I? I must have been dreaming! We were talking of poor Rayner, surely. Why didn't he take a sum of money and go away and make a new name for himself in a new country? Did you suppose that I was talking of myself, Bloxam? Why should I say such things of myself? Do I look as if I had committed a—a—the thing that Rayner did?' And he finished up his sentence with a feeble, cackling laugh.

'God forbid! Mr Henry,' responded the cashier, solemnly. 'I knew, of course, you were speaking of that unhappy man! Why shouldn't he have fled the country instead, sir? Why, because it would have been of no use. Wherever he went he couldn't have left his conscience behind him, and, once that was awakened, he would have had to confess his guilt, whether he found himself in England or Australia. He might have run away from his wife and children, Mr Hindes, but he couldn't have run away from his crime. That would have followed him anywhere, even to the ends of the earth. Poor wretch! I pity him from the bottom of my heart. He'd better by far have given himself up to justice at once. Fancy the life he must have been living for the last twenty years, lying down and getting up, with the ghost of his poor murdered victim always by his side, looking at him with his reproachful eyes, and asking him silently what right he had to be eating and drinking and making merry, whilst he lay in his unhallowed grave! But it was bound to come out at last, sir. Murder always does.'

'Always! Does it always, Bloxam?' demanded his employer, fearfully. 'Do you mean to say that no murders have ever been successfully concealed?'

'Very few, sir, if any. They lie too heavy on the conscience for that. Why, isn't Rayner a case in point? If any have been kept dark for ever it must be amongst Roman Catholics, for they can ease their consciences by confession, and, if they receive absolution, they are set at rest. They have such entire faith in the power of their priests to absolve them from their sins. I have a friend of that religion, and it's wonderful how bright he seems after he's been to confession, quite a different creature.'

'But if a man were to confess a murder in the confessional, the priest would give him up to justice, surely?' said Henry Hindes.

'Oh, no, he wouldn't, begging your pardon. My friend tells me that the secrets of the confessional are inviolate. No priest would dare reveal them, on penalty of being stripped of his cloth. What he hears there never passes his lips again, not even to another priest.'

'I shouldn't like to trust him, all the same,' said Hindes; 'human nature is subject to too many accidents. A priest might lose his brain and babble everything he had heard.'

'I fancy, Mr Henry,' replied Bloxam, laughing, 'that he hears so many things, good, bad, and indifferent, that he forgets them as soon as he has heard them. And he doesn't know the names of half his penitents. A Catholic may go to any confessor he likes. It is his director only that he does not change.'

'You seem to know a lot about it,' said Hindes, indifferently.

'Only what my friend tells me, sir,' replied the cashier; 'but Catholics seem to derive so much consolation from confession, that I often wonder the practice is not more largely used in other churches. Will you see the books now, Mr Henry?'

'No, not now,' replied Hindes, in a languid voice; 'I'm awfully tired.'

'But you did not see them last week, sir, and, if you'll excuse my saying so, it is too long to let them run on without casting an eye over them.'

'Oh, they're sure to be all right, Bloxam. I can trust you better than myself.'

'I hope you may trust me, Mr Henry, after forty years' service with your honoured father and yourself, but still it would be a satisfaction if you would look into matters a little more closely than you have done of late. You're not yourself, sir, if you'll forgive my saying so, since poor Mr Crampton's death.'

Hindes roused himself directly, and, sitting upright in his chair, pulled the ledger towards him.

'Why, since Mr Crampton's death, Bloxam,' he said irritably, 'I've had plenty of time to get over that. But I'm not well, I haven't been for months, and I ought to go away—go away,' he continued, muttering to himself. 'Now, what's the matter with these confounded ledgers?'

He stuck his fingers through his hair, and stared in a vague way at the rows of figures before him.

'There's nothing the matter, sir, I trust,' replied the cashier; 'I can detect no error in them, but here are the bills of lading and the accounts of sale, for you to compare with the entries. Mackintosh & Prome of Antwerp sent us five hundred bales of the December order, but, in consequence of a fire taking place on the wharf, they were unable to complete the order—'

'Oh, hang it, man, take the beastly things back, do,' cried Hindes, pushing the books across the table, 'and look into them yourself. I'm not well enough. My eyesight has failed terribly of late, and the long rows of figures dazzle me. I trust it all to you—all to you. Do as you think best, but don't worry me about it! I'm going home!'

And, reaching down for his hat and coat, Mr Hindes stumbled out of his office, followed by the winking eyes of the clerks, who, with their tongues stuck in their cheeks, whispered to each other that the governor had, 'got 'em again.' But poor old Bloxam returned to his desk, shaking his head, and repeating that the business was going to the devil.


HENRY HINDES reached Hampstead quite early in the afternoon, and his wife met him with a foreign letter in her hand.

Hannah was much changed by this time as well as himself. Always quiet and refined, her manner had settled down into a general melancholy. She tried to smile sometimes, and to look cheerful for the sake of her little Wally, whom it was sad to think should be brought up between such a father and mother, but the attempt was usually abortive. How could she smile, whilst memory remained to her? But she never mentioned the terrible secret between them to her husband. Only he could see, but too plainly by the expression of her eyes, that she never forgot it, and it made him nervous and uneasy in her presence. They had been as happy as most husbands and wives before, and much happier than some; but though Hannah clung to him through a sense of duty, she shuddered if he touched her, or attempted to caress her, and Henry Hindes saw it. The little girls, too, being banished from home, made a great difference in 'The Old Hall.' Elsie and Laurie never came back, even for the holidays, though their mother saw them frequently, and their father dared not ask to see them. Wally, too, was confined to the nursery whenever he was indoors, and if he wanted to see him, it was almost by stealth he was obliged to accomplish it. So the house, which once had rung with childish laughter, was very much changed, as well as everybody in it; and the servants, though not admitted to their employer's confidence, saw and heard enough to make them participators in the fact, that something very unpleasant had come between the master and the mistress. But, on that particular day, as Hannah met him with the foreign letter in her hand, she tried to assume one of her old smiles, and to welcome her husband cheerfully.

'Here is a letter from Arthur, Henry,' she said; 'it came by the twelve o'clock post, just after you had driven away this morning.'

She held out a large, thin envelope to him as she spoke, and with a species of grunt, which was the usual salutation Henry Hindes accorded her, he took the letter and tore it open. The contents did not appear to please him.

'Here's a pretty kettle of fish,' he exclaimed; 'the doctors out there say that Edith must not pass another hot season in Bombay, so Arthur has applied for furlough, and they are all coming home as soon as they can pack up their traps.'

This announcement took Hannah completely by surprise. Captain Arthur Hindes was her husband's younger and only brother, indeed, his only near relation, who had married a very nice girl from their house some seven years before, and taken her out to Bombay, where they had a family of five children. They had visited England once during that period, when they had resided for a year at 'The Old Hall,' and now they were coming home again, and expected evidently to do the same thing—now, when they least expected them—least needed them.

'Coming back so soon,' she faltered. 'Why! in one of her last letters, Edith said they were bound to remain in Bombay for at least three years more. Why doesn't Arthur send her to the hills instead? Does he mention it as a settled thing?'

'If you don't believe me, read for yourself and see!' replied her husband, as he tossed the letter across the table. Hannah picked it up, and read,—

Dear Harry,

You'll be surprised, but I hope not sorry, to hear that we are all on the hop for home again. Edith has had a nasty attack lately—uncommonly like cholera—and it has left her so weak, that the doctor says I must not keep her in Bombay another hot season. We thought of the Hills at first, but he so strongly recommends England, that I have applied for my long leave, and, as all our fellows are here, have no doubt that I shall get it. I think, after all, it is just as well we should make a move. Fanny and Hal have grown so tall and thin that they look more as if they had been run up through gas-pipes than ever; and the last addition has suffered terribly with its teething, so we shall be none the worse for seeing dear old England again. We shall be there three years, so as to settle the elder chicks at school before we return to India. How I am longing to see The Old Hall again, and your lovely garden. It will be in its spring dress by the time we arrive. I hope the son and heir is flourishing, and not grown too proud to acknowledge his poor relations under his accession to the fortune that has come to him. There are only six months between him and my little Charlie. They will be nice playmates. What a jolly old fellow Mr Crampton must have been. How you must regret his loss! Our best love to Hannah and the girls. You may expect to see us home about the middle of April, or beginning of May. Good-bye, old chappie.

Ever your affectionate brother,

Arthur Hindes.

Hannah read the letter through in silence, and laid it down.

'Well!' ejaculated her husband, 'you see they are coming, and mean to share The Old Hall with us, as they did last time. Let me see! How long is it since they were in England? Three years, isn't it—or nearly so? And a couple more youngsters in that time. Artie will have his hands full before he has done.'

Still she was silent.

'What's the row now?' demanded Hindes. 'Are you going to set your back up against their coming here? There's plenty of room; all the more now the girls have gone to school. The children can have the whole of the top floor. They need not inconvenience you.'

'Henry,' said his wife, slowly, 'they cannot come here!'

'Cannot come here,' he repeated, reddening. 'What do you mean? Is the house yours or mine? It's a pretty thing when you commence to shut my doors against my own relations. But they expect to come here, and they must.'

'They cannot come here,' repeated Hannah, decidedly.

'Why not?' said Hindes, boldly.

She lifted her eyes and looked him full in the face.

'Oh, you're there, are you?' he exclaimed, dropping his own. 'You want to make what you learnt by your eavesdropping public property. You will prevent my brother entering my house, and make him curious to learn the reason; cause a quarrel between us, and drive me into a corner until I let the cat out of the bag. That's your object, is it? A neat way to get rid of me altogether.'

'I want none of these things, Henry,' she replied; 'but you must act honestly in this matter. You must not let your brother and his wife and children do anything for which they may reproach you in after years. You must think of an excuse to keep them away. They shall not take up their residence here, to be brought in hourly contact with—to be contaminated by association with—with—'

'Say it out at once,' retorted Hindes, angrily. 'Let all the world know what you know. Run up to the house-top and bawl it out from the roof, that all Hampstead may hear the story of your devotion to me. Why don't you ring the bell and assemble the servants and tell them what a master they are serving—a man who is not to be trusted with his own children, nor to associate with his brother. You've been itching to do it ever since that accursed night. You women can never keep a secret. I might have been prepared for that from the beginning. But mark my words, madam, the first moment you hint at such a thing, you go out of my house, and never see your children more. They're my children, and I will submit to no more of your tantrums concerning them. You only say these things to try and show your power over me. But, after all, what power have you? Where are your witnesses? A man cannot be convicted on the testimony of a nightmare. It was a nightmare! All these silent accusations of yours are the outcome of your own vivid imagination. You have no more power over me than that,' snapping his fingers in her face, 'and I defy you to injure me—I defy you.'

He sank down exhausted in a chair after this outbreak, and shook like an aspen. The habits he had contracted had robbed him of all physical and moral courage. Hannah stood for a few moments in silence, until he was in a fitter state to listen to her, and then she said,—

'It is true that, legally speaking, I may have no power over you, nor would I wield it if I had. But, if you show so little sorrow for what I know to be a fact, so little consideration for Arthur and his family, I will not stay in The Old Hall to be a partaker in it. If you cannot, or will not, devise some plan by which you can induce your brother to take up his quarters elsewhere, I shall leave you to entertain them by yourself. I shall go back to my mother, and take my children with me. The law still permits me the custody of two of them, but, if you attempt to touch any one of the three, I will appeal to its protection, and tell all I know in extenuation of my conduct. You must accept this, Henry, as my ultimatum. I will not remain here to receive your brother's family.'

Was it possible that this was Hannah—Hannah, who was renowned for her gentleness and meekness and docility. Her face did not flush as she spoke, nor did she show any signs of anger, but she stood facing her husband, calm and pale, but perfectly decided. Guilt had made a coward of him, and he turned from her shuddering, and hid his face in the sofa cushion.

'You want to ruin me!' he murmured.

'No, Henry, no. I want to make you regard your past in its true light, and to make what amends for it you can. What if this terrible secret should ever come out? Do you wish to involve others in your disgrace? Would you rather be quoted as having led the life of a hypocrite, or that of a penitent man?'

'Come out—come out,' he echoed, 'how can it come out, unless you betray me?'

'You need not be afraid of that, but God has His own ways of working. If it is His will to reveal it, no efforts of ours will prevent it. But the more persons you have in the house, the more risk you run. Who can answer for what servants and children overhear? You are so strange sometimes, even in the middle of the day, that I hardly know what to think of you. You do not seem like yourself, or as if you had your proper senses. You ramble at such times, and are not safe. I am protecting instead of betraying you, by advising you not to let Arthur bring his family to The Old Hall.'

A grey shade passed over Hindes' features.

'Do I talk much?' he inquired fearfully. 'Do I talk of her? What do you do at such times, Hannah? How do you keep the servants out?'

She crossed the room then to the sofa where he lay, and sitting down beside him, took his head and laid it on her bosom. As he felt the warm touch, he clung to her, as a child clings to its mother in the dark.

'Don't be afraid, dear,' she said softly. 'Neither servants nor friends shall gain access to you at such times. I guard you too well for that. Should you be downstairs, I take you to your bedroom; if the fit comes on whilst you are in your own room, I lock the door. Have no fear on that score. I will never leave you whilst you are true to yourself.'

He sunk his face lower and lower in her bosom, and kissed her arm and her shoulder and any part of her that came within his reach.

'Don't leave me, don't leave me,' he murmured, 'my only hope is in you.'

'But, Henry,' said Hannah, thinking this a favourable opportunity for remonstrance, 'are you not taking too much morphia, or brandy, or something, for your health? You must be careful, or you will circumvent the object you have in view.'

'I must take it, Hannah! I must! I have such dreadful dreams without it. I cannot sleep, or think, or act. It is my salvation. You mustn't take it from me.'

'No! no! I had no thought of that, and if you suffer from neuralgia, I do not see how you could go through your daily work without some sort of remedy. Only morphia is dangerous if taken in too large quantities, and you mustn't cloud your active brain, or where will the business be?'

'How I hate the business,' he said. 'Hannah, we have more than enough for our need. Couldn't we go away together somewhere; all together, and let me begin a new life? Out in Australia, or New Zealand, in a purer air, you would trust me with the children, wouldn't you? I will be so good, darling, if you would. I will try so hard not to bring any further disgrace upon their name, or yours. But here life is killing me. It is so full of bitter memories—bitter associations. Sometimes I feel as if I could cry on these stones of Hampstead to cover me; I feel so desperate. But in a newer air and amidst new scenes, perhaps—if you will let me have the children—I may—forget.'

The tears were running fast down Hannah's cheeks by this time. The man she held in her arms was no longer the one she had feared and shrunk from, and almost loathed in her contempt, for months past, but the lover of her girlhood—the husband of her youth—the father of her children—and her heart went out with a mighty compassion towards him, notwithstanding his weakness and his sin.

'Would you come with me?' he whispered in her ear. 'Would you try to forget everything, but that once we loved each other very dearly?'

'Yes! yes! I would,' she answered, as she kissed his forehead. 'You are right, Harry. We ought to have thought of it before. We will leave this country together; it is too full of hateful memories for both of us, and see if it will please God to prosper us in another land. How soon can we start, dear? How soon can we be ready? The sooner the better.'

'It cannot be done in a moment,' replied Hindes. 'A business like mine requires time to wind up. But I will put it in hand as soon as possible. Yet on what plea?'

'Your health, Henry. I am sure it is bad enough for anything. Mr Moreton said yesterday that you looked as if you were in a decline. Heaps of people have commented on your looks before me. I am sure they would accept your state of health as a plea for anything.'

'But Arthur—Arthur is coming home,' said Hindes, with the old look of fear.

'I will manage Arthur's business for you,' returned his wife, with decision. 'I will write to him at once and say that we are very sorry, but the state of your health and nerves is so bad, that we have been obliged to send Elsie and Laura away from home, and you are quite unequal to standing the noise of children about the house. That will be sufficient explanation for everything. And soon, I hope, we shall be far beyond the need of explaining our actions to anybody.'

'There will be a great deal to do first, you know, Hannah,' said her husband. '"The Old Hall" must be put up for sale, or to let. I wonder what Arthur will say to that?'

'If you wish to reach the goal you have set before you, Henry,' replied Hannah; 'you must cease to think what people will say to your decision. They have no right to say anything, and your anxiety may betray your motive. You have proposed this plan very suddenly. You had better consider it well before you decide. But oh! my dear, if I saw you trying to purify yourself by leading a newer and better life, I should be happier than I ever expected to be in this world.'

'We must see about it, we must see,' said Hindes, as he staggered to his feet; 'but what I am thinking of now is, what Arthur will say.'

She found it useless to try and lead his mind back to the softening mood which had for awhile possessed it, so she let him maunder on in his old style, but took care to write the letter to her brother-in-law before she retired to rest that night.

Captain Arthur Hindes was very much surprised, and just a little put out, when he received it, which was just as he was on the point of starting for home with his wife and family. It arrived too late to enable him to make any alteration in his plans; but to spend a long furlough in England on his own account, and to live with his brother, paying a complimentary sum towards the housekeeping, were two different things. The Henry Hindes had appeared so pleased to receive them, on the former occasion of their visiting home, and The Old Hall was such a big place, that want of room there could never be an excuse for not taking them in.

'I never was so vexed in my life, Edie,' he observed to his wife, as they read the letter together. 'I had so hoped and expected that the former arrangement would have held good, and Hannah would have taken all the trouble of housekeeping off your hands. You're not in a fit state to be worried about anything, just now. I feel almost inclined to chuck it all up and go to the hills instead.'

'Oh, no, Arthur, don't do that,' said his wife, who was ready to cry over the disappointment. 'Perhaps Henry will feel better after a while, and able to receive us. You see, you mustn't forget, dear, that we are two more in number since we were in England last, and seven people are really a formidable addition to any household.'

'Nonsense, my dear. The Old Hall contains about twenty bedrooms, and Hannah says their own girls are away. And with their seven or eight servants, what difference should we make, especially as you take your nurses? I'm afraid there is some other reason than the one given. I can't fancy old Hal being nervous, or seedy. He has always been so jolly and hearty and strong. There can't be anything wrong with the business, surely?'

'Oh, no, not likely; but don't you remember, Artie, that when those poor Cramptons died, Hannah told us that Henry was terribly upset. Perhaps he has not recovered the shock yet.'

'No, my dear, I'm afraid that sentimental explanation won't hold water. Men don't mourn their partner's demise quite so long as all that, particularly when they remember their sons so handsomely in their wills. Let me see. How long has old Crampton been dead, quite nine months, if not more. Hal has had plenty of time to get over that, however much it may have shocked him at the time. He must have worked too hard at the business. That's what shatters men's nerves more than anything.'

'But what shall we do, Arthur, when we get home?' inquired Mrs Hindes.

'That's easily enough settled, dear. I see Hannah offers to look out for a furnished house near them; but it will be best to go a little further off. If we are too near, there will always be a temptation to run in and out, and that will be more distracting to Henry's nerves, I should imagine, than if we lived there altogether. I shall take you on arrival to a hotel in London, and when we have been there for a few weeks, and seen a few sights, we will get a cottage in the country somewhere, where I can have a little fishing, and you can keep your cocks and hens, and have a pony carriage to drive about the lanes in.'

'Oh, Artie, dear, that will be delightful! I like the idea better that the other. I never had you a moment to myself last time we were in England.'

And thereupon Mrs Arthur embraced her husband so heartily, that it was evident that here, at least, was a happy couple, with no secrets between them.

They reached their native land about the time they had intimated; and the first thing they did, was naturally to go down to Hampstead and see their relatives. It was about nine o'clock one evening that they were suddenly announced. Hannah was sitting alone in the drawing-room, occupied with needlework, when the footman showed her brother and sister-in-law into her presence. She rose in the utmost confusion, letting her crewels and canvas fall to the ground without noticing it.

'Edith! Arthur!' she exclaimed, nervously. 'Oh, how you have taken me by surprise! I did not think the mail was due till to-morrow, or next day. When did you arrive? Where are you staying? How glad I am to see you.'

But she did not appear glad, to judge from the tremulous sound of her voice.

'My dear Hannah,' replied Captain Hindes, 'Henry might have told you the mail was due this morning. We reached London at noon, and only waited to settle the little ones at a hotel and see their creature comforts attended to before we came on here. We couldn't wait till to-morrow, you know, to see you and dear old Hal. By the way, where is he? Not out, I hope!'

'No,' replied Hannah, in the same timid manner, 'he is not out. He never goes out of an evening now; but he is in bed. He retired quite an hour ago.'

'Hal in bed at eight o'clock!' exclaimed Arthur. 'Oh, impossible! What's come to him? I must go and wake him again. I never heard of such a lazy fellow in my life.'

He was about to suit the action to the word, when Hannah stopped him.

'No, Arthur, please don't go. You must not wake him, indeed. He sleeps very badly, and is sometimes quite light-headed if roused unexpectedly. I cannot let him be disturbed.'

Captain Hindes sat down with a serious face.

'So bad as that?' he said; 'you quite alarm me, Hannah! Light-headed—what should make him that?'

'Oh! nothing very serious, if he is only left to himself,' she answered, trying to smile; 'Henry suffers from neuralgia, you know, and he often takes morphia to dull the pain. It always causes a person to ramble and talk nonsense if disturbed.'

'But why does he not consult the doctor for this neuralgia?' asked Arthur. 'My wife has suffered very much from it at times, but it has always yielded to medicine.'

'Henry is not much addicted to doctors, you may remember,' replied Hannah.

'No; he never needed them. I never saw a stronger or healthier man than he used to be. What is he suffering from? What has caused the difference?'

'I don't know,' said Hannah, shaking her head; 'but he has much gone off in strength and appearance lately. You will see a great difference in him when you meet.'

'He's been moping, I suppose, over this Crampton business,' returned Captain Hindes; 'but, now I've come home, I won't let him mope any more. I'll make the old boy come out with me and show me round town. We used to have no end of larks in the old days. We'll have them again. But now come, Hannah,' he added, taking his sister-in-law's hand, 'just tell me the plain truth. What is the matter with him?'


HANNAH HINDES did not know what answer to make to this direct appeal. She was an honest woman, to whom a lie was an abhorrence, but she was also a woman who held her husband's reputation, perhaps his life, in her hands. She hesitated so visibly, that Captain Hindes began to think his brother's disorder must be such as she found it impossible to speak to him upon.

'Well, never mind,' he said presently, 'I see you are unwilling to mention it, but I shall soon get it out of old Hal. But you make me feel rather anxious, Hannah. If my brother has not consulted a doctor, I must make him do so. His health is too valuable to you and the children to be trifled with. By the way, talking of children, what induced you to send those two little fairies, Elsie and Laurie, away from home to be educated? I thought that was altogether against your principles, Hannah. Edith says she remembers your giving her a long lecture on the subject when Fanny was born, and cautioning her never to let a daughter be educated anywhere but at home. She has dinned it into my ears whenever I have hinted the young lady was old enough to go to school.'

'Yes!' replied Hannah, with a sigh. 'Those have always been my sentiments, Arthur, and are so still. But Henry has grown so irritable of late, that the noise of the children playing about The Hall disturbed him, so I thought it best to let them go. They are with an old friend of mine, where I can see them almost every day. I daresay,' she continued, timidly, 'that you thought it very strange that we could not receive you at The Old Hall, as we did before. It cost me more than I can tell you to write and put off your coming here. But it was for the same reason. My husband cannot bear the least noise or confusion. I am afraid he has over-taxed his brain, and, when he returns home, he requires absolute rest.'

'Don't say anything more about it, Hannah,' replied her sister-in-law. 'Of course, Artie and I knew there was some unavoidable reason for the refusal. And, much as we should have liked to renew our former pleasant relations with you, everything must give way to Henry's health.'

'What are your plans?' inquired Hannah.

'We have hardly fixed them yet,' said Captain Hindes. 'We thought of staying in town for a while, just to see a few theatres and other amusements, while we look out for a country cottage to spend the summer in. But if my brother is seriously ill, I shall not dream of going far away from him.'

'Oh, Arthur! he is not so ill as that!' exclaimed Hannah; 'it is his mind that is suffering, rather than his body. He works so hard at the business, and now, of course, everything falls on his shoulders. He seldom gets to the City before noon, and, when he comes home, he is so exhausted, he cares for nothing but to go to bed.'

'But neuralgia is generally due to physical weakness, Hannah. The doctors always give Edie a tonic for it the first thing. Is Hal taking nothing to strengthen him?'

'I don't think he takes anything but morphia when the pain becomes intolerable,' replied Hannah; 'but, Arthur, don't argue with him on the subject. Nothing makes Henry so irritable as to be talked to about his health. When you see him, treat him as if you saw no difference in his appearance. He won't let even me mention the subject to him.'

'He must be mightily changed,' said Captain Hindes, sighing; 'however, I will take your advice, and keep silence on the matter. I shall call at his office the first thing to-morrow. When do you think I shall find him there?'

'Not before twelve, Arthur; if then. Will not you and Edith have some refreshment before you go back?'

'No, thank you, Hannah. We are both tired, and should not have moved out except to see you. Tell old Hal all about us when he wakes up, and say I shall be in Sise Lane early to-morrow. Good-night, my dear. I'm awfully sorry about his illness. It's quite spoilt my coming home, but I hope I may be able to cheer him up. If it is due, as you seem to imagine, to his over-working himself, I think I shall be able to persuade him to come out a little with me, and brush the cobwebs off his brain. What need has he to ruin his health by work? He has made plenty of money, to say nothing of the handsome legacy that Mr Crampton left the son and heir. By the way, how is the prodigy? I conclude he has not left home as well as the girls.'

'No,' said Hannah, with a wintry smile; he is not quite old enough for that yet. He will not be three till his next birthday. He is quite well, thank you, Arthur; but I have to keep him at the top of the house, for fear he should disturb his father.'

'Why, Henry was always so devoted to Master Wally. Edie and I have often laughed together over his letters about his little son, and said, surely no man had ever had a boy before. At one time he could write of nothing else.'

'Oh! yes, and he loves the child as much as ever, perhaps more, but he cannot stand his noise. It jars upon his nerves. Sometimes I long for the time when Wally shall be able to go too. It is a dull life for a young child to be confined to the company of his nurse.'

'You grieve me more and more with each word you say, Hannah,' replied her brother-in-law; 'however, I shall see Henry for myself to-morrow. Come! Edie, we must make tracks for our hotel.'

'Won't you wait for the carriage to take you back,' asked Hannah anxiously, for she was distressed at not being able to show them more hospitality.

'No, thanks, dear. We shall get home quicker by the Metropolitan. We shall see you again soon. Good-night!' and, with his wife's arm snugly tucked under his own, Captain Hindes walked off again.

As soon as she was sure that they were gone, Hannah sat down and indulged in the luxury of 'a good cry.' It was seldom that she permitted her feelings to get the better of her, but this interview had upset her.

The semi-deceit she had been compelled to practise—the determination of Captain Hindes to find out what was the matter with his brother, and the evident suspicion with which he had received her statements, all combined to make her fear that a crisis of some sort was at hand. She dreaded what her husband might do or say if his brother pressed him too hard for an explanation of the alteration in his demeanour and appearance. His brain was at times so muddled, even in the day-time, that he spoke more like a madman than a sane person, and if Arthur took it upon himself to consult medical men on Henry's behalf, or to have him privately watched, what terrible dénouement might not be the consequence. She wished heartily that her brother and sister-in-law had not returned home just at that particular moment, that they had given her time to coax her husband to leave England for a while, as he had seemed so well disposed to do, but wishing was futile. They were there, in their midst, and she must set all her wits to work to conceal the real state of affairs from them.

She visited her husband's bed-chamber at once, to find him sunk into a slumber, from which she could only rouse him to a semi-torpid condition. So she wisely let him sleep until the morning, when he was able to listen to her story, and conceive a hazy idea that his brother and his wife had paid The Old Hall a visit whilst he was asleep.

When Captain Arthur Hindes walked into the office the following day, he found his brother had not yet arrived. Naturally he was well-known there, by Mr Bloxam and all the older employés of the firm, and he received a hearty welcome, for he was a general favourite. Arthur was taller and fairer than Henry—had a handsomer face and a neater figure—was possessed, moreover, of a bright, happy temperament, and had always a kind word or a jest on hand.

'Not arrived yet?' he exclaimed in answer to Bloxam's intimation of the 'governor's' absence, 'and nearly half-past twelve! What makes him so late, Bloxam? He used to be called "the early bird" at one time.'

'Ah! Master Arthur, things are changed since then,' replied the old cashier. 'Mr Henry's not been nearly so active of late. I often think he's not well. He seems so mopey and dull. Perhaps it will be different now you've come home, Mr Arthur. You'll cheer him up a bit. He has felt Mr Crampton's death terribly, and Miss Jenny's too, for the matter of that, they came so quickly, one after the other, and he ought to have taken a change long ago. I'm very glad you've come back, sir. You'll do him more good than anyone else could do.'

'I am glad also, Bloxam, for Mrs Hindes's account of him quite alarmed me. But do you think he is really ill?'

'I think he is very, very ill, Mr Arthur,' returned Bloxam, mysteriously; 'but here he is, so I will leave you together.'

Saying thus, the cashier retreated by a side door into his particular sanctum, as the glass doors from the front swung slowly on their hinges, as though propelled by an enfeebled hand, to admit Henry Hindes. He entered, looking much as he had always done of late, slouching along with a bent figure and a shaking frame. He had made some attempt, at the instigation of his wife, to brighten up his general appearance by assuming a frock coat and a tall hat, but they only served to make the difference in him more apparent. Captain Hindes could not for a moment believe the evidence of his senses, but when he was convinced that it was his brother who stood before him, he started forward to greet him with a slight cry.

'Good God! Hal, my dear old fellow!' he exclaimed, 'is this you?'

'Who else?' demanded Henry, with an attempt at jocularity, as he held out his hand and grasped that of Arthur.

The younger man looked him in the face for a few minutes without speaking. He could not trust himself to do so. He was too infinitely shocked. This Henry? Henry, whose devotion to his personal appearance had passed into a family proverb—who had always been the 'nattiest' youth, and the most perfectly-dressed young man, and the most faultless gentleman in the City—whose irreproachable garb and spotless linen and glossy hats had been cast in his teeth in bygone days, as witnesses that he was not fit for business or anything but a cavalier des dames. This limp, untidy, slovenly-looking man, with bloodshot eyes, and unhealthy complexion, his brother Henry, of whom he used to be so proud? Arthur felt a great lump rise in his throat, and could have sat down and cried to see the difference a few years had made in him. But he held his hand as in a vice instead, and replied in as hearty a voice as he could manage,—

'Why, dear old chap, you're not looking yourself at all. You took me quite by surprise, though Hannah did prepare Edie and me last night to see a change in you.'

'Hannah, Hannah!' cried his brother quickly; 'what had she to say of me? What did she tell you? How dared she—I mean, why did she mention me at all?'

'My dear Henry, it would have been very extraordinary, surely, if she had not mentioned you, considering that we went over to Hampstead to see you, and were much disappointed to find you had already retired to bed. You want shaking up, old fellow, that's what it is. You've been worrying yourself over this big business too much. Your late partner's death has thrown too much responsibility upon your shoulders. How I wish I were not such a fool, and could help you a little. But now that I have returned, you must come out more, Henry. It is quite time you came back to the world. It is—let me see!—quite nine months or more, surely, since that poor girl met with her death—'

'Stop! stop!' cried Henry suddenly. 'What poor girl? What are you talking about?'

Arthur looked bewildered.

'Why! Miss Crampton, or rather Mrs Walcheren, of course. It was her death, wasn't it, that led to the other. You must have felt it terribly. Such a sudden shock, and when you regarded her as almost one of the family.'

'Oh! no, I didn't,' replied Hindes, in an incoherent manner. 'Why should I have felt it? She was nothing to me. I didn't care about her. Why, to hear you talk in that extravagant way,' he continued, turning his suspicious eyes upon his brother, 'one would think—one would almost imagine that I had had something to do with it all.'

'Something to do with it,' repeated Arthur, in a distressed tone of voice. 'Oh, Henry! how can you say such a thing! But you felt it deeply, I am sure. Anyone could see that from your altered appearance. But, my dear brother, there is such a thing, you know, as giving way too much to our feelings. You have lost two of your dearest friends, but you have your wife and children left. You must think of them, Henry, and also a little of me, of whom you are the last surviving relative. For all our sakes, dear old chap, try and rouse yourself from this morbid condition. A little amusement and gaiety will do you good. Hannah should have urged you to go out again before this. But, now that I have come home, I mean to persuade you to it, for my own sake as well as yours. Will you?'

'Of course I will,' replied Henry, sitting upright in his chair, and trying to look as if there were nothing the matter with him; 'we will go out together, Arthur, and have some larks as we used to do. I'm as fit as a fiddle. It's only Hannah who will have it I'm ill. Women are such coddles. But, now you are come, it will be all right. Let's make a night of it. Where shall we go? Tivoli first, and a little supper at Gatti's afterwards. Will that suit you, Artie? By Jove! the very sight of you has done me good.'

'I'd rather go to the theatre to-night, Henry. I shouldn't like to leave my little woman at home by herself, the first evening she spends in England. We will do the music-halls afterwards. What do you say to this? Come straight to Haxells' from the office, and dine with us. I will wire for Hannah to join us, and we'll make a party to the Lyceum in the evening. I can go now and secure a box. Will you do it, Henry? Do say yes!'

'Of course I'll do it, Arthur. What has my wife been telling you—that I'm not able to go to theatres and places of that sort? It's lies, I tell you—all lies. I'm as fit as they're made. All right, Bloxam. I'll attend to you in a minute.'

'I'd better go now, Henry, and leave you to your work,' said Captain Hindes, with a perplexed face, 'you'll get on better without me. Don't forget. Haxells' at five, and we'll dine there, and spend the evening at the theatre. And I'll telegraph to your wife at once that she may make no engagement for to-night. Good-bye for the present, dear old fellow. I'm awfully glad to have met you again Hal. Good-bye till this evening.'

But though he had said he was awfully glad, Captain Hindes looked awfully sad as he took his way back to the hotel to tell his wife of his interview with his brother. He fulfilled his engagements, secured a box at the theatre, sent Hannah an invitation by wire, and ordered a good dinner to be ready for the party at six.

But Hannah came, and the dinner came, yet there was no appearance of Henry Hindes. After some delay, Arthur volunteered to go back to the City and see if he had yet left the office. On reaching it, he was told that the 'governor' had been gone some time, and the clerk, who carried his papers to the hansom, had heard him distinctly give the order to drive to Hampstead, so the only thing his brother could do, was to jump into another hansom and follow him there. He expected to find Henry had mistaken the time of meeting, or had returned home to dress for the theatre, which, he had told him, was unnecessary. The man who opened the door of The Old Hall looked so surprised to see him, that Arthur's first inquiry was,—

'Has not your master returned?'

'Yes, sir, he has been home the best part of an hour.'

'Where is he?'

'In the library, I think, sir.'

Captain Hindes did not wait to be announced, but hastened to the library by himself. He found his brother seated in an arm-chair doing nothing, with his hands folded on his lap.

'Hullo!' cried Arthur.

Henry started as if he had been shot, and exclaimed,—

'Good God!' Then, turning towards the intruder, said angrily. 'How dare you startle me in that way? I have told you again and again—'

'Hal! Hal! it is I—Arthur,' replied the captain, quickly.

Henry Hindes turned a lack-lustre eye upon him, and said in a tone of surprise,—

'Arthur? but where have you come from? Why didn't you let me know you were coming home? We should have sent the carriage or something to meet you.

'Henry, old boy, what are you talking of?' said Captain Hindes. 'Why, I saw you at the office this morning, and you promised to dine with us this evening, and go to the theatre afterwards. Your wife is already in town, and I have come to see why you have not joined us. Had you forgotten your engagement? Why did you not come straight to Haxells', as you promised?'

'Did I promise?' asked his brother in a stupid way. 'I suppose I have forgotten it! I have so much business to think of. But I had better tell Hannah I am going with you, or she will wait dinner for me.'

'I left Hannah with Edith, Hal, and the sooner we join them the better. I have my cab at the door, so come at once, like a good fellow,' said Arthur Hindes, who was beginning to feel seriously uneasy about his brother.

He persuaded him to accompany him back to town, however, and in another half-hour they had all sat down to dinner. Captain Hindes marked the anxious look in his sister-in-law's eye, as he related how he had found his brother; but Henry picked up considerably during dinner, and even attempted some feeble attempts towards jocularity, which were accompanied, however, by such a silly, cackling laugh, that his wife's cheeks burned with shame to listen to him, and Arthur tried by all means in his power to cover his shortcomings by talking a great deal more nonsense than was his wont.

'I am sorry,' he said, as they started for the theatre, 'that I was unable to procure a box at the Lyceum. Everything was booked there for three weeks in advance, but I got seats at another theatre, which I daresay will prove just as amusing.'

'I shall like anything, naturally,' replied Edith; 'but you, Hannah, see so many pieces, I suppose, that you may be fastidious.'

'Indeed, you are mistaken,' said Hannah, with her quiet smile. 'Henry does not care, as a rule, to go out after dinner, and I cannot, of course, go without him. An evening at the theatre is almost as great a treat to me as to you, Edith.'

The theatre which Captain Hindes had selected was one of those which provide melodrama for the public amusement. There happened to be a very stirring piece on there at that moment, full of sensational scenes of murder, assault, and robbery. The murder was committed in the prologue, and the story dragged through three long acts afterwards, during which the assassin was being hunted down until he was finally brought to justice.

As soon as Hannah understood what they were likely to see, she became anxious and troubled on her husband's account, although she took great pains to conceal her feelings. The two ladies were seated in front of the box, whilst the gentlemen occupied the spaces behind their chairs. She could not, therefore, see her husband's face, but she sympathised with him all through the play. She fancied that the conversation between the brothers grew less and less as the piece proceeded, but that might be due to the fact that they had become interested in it. Her worst fears were, however, realised, when, as they were watching a scene in which the murderer betrayed himself to a woman, who had been on his track from the beginning, she suddenly heard Henry exclaim,—

'This is an insult! I will stand it no longer. I consider you had no right to bring my wife to see such a piece as this.'

Captain Hindes started to his feet at once, the two ladies looked round in amazement, and Hannah said, in an agonised whisper,—

'Hush, Henry, hush, for Heaven's sake! You will attract public notice. I am enjoying the play immensely. Do sit down and be quiet.'

'I will not sit down,' he continued, loudly. 'I will not stay another moment in this damned place. Here, Hannah, put on your cloak and bonnet at once, and come home with me. You sha'n't hear another line of it.'

Hannah glanced at her brother and sister-in-law with infinite distress, which their looks returned, but, rising hastily, she whispered to Arthur,—

'Don't make any fuss. Let me go home with him. He is not well. Forgive me, Arthur; forgive us both, but don't try to persuade him to stay.'

She threw her mantle over her shoulders as she spoke, and, putting her hand through her husband's arm, said gently,—

'Come, dear, I am quite ready to go home. Good-night, dear Arthur and Edie. Thanks so much,' and, with that, she drew him quickly away.

When they had disappeared, Captain and Mrs Hindes looked at each other in sorrowful surprise.

'What is the matter with him?' asked Edith of Arthur. 'Is he mad?'

'I am very much inclined to believe it,' replied her husband. 'There is certainly something very wrong about him, and I shall speak to a doctor on the subject to-morrow. Hannah says he has refused to see anybody, but, when a man begins to be as unreasonable as this, it is time his friends acted for him. I have not had time to tell you how I found him this afternoon, but I will when we get home.'

'I would rather return now if you have no objection, dearest,' said Mrs Hindes. 'This contretemps has taken away all my interest in the play. Poor Hannah! how I pity her.'


HENRY and Arthur Hindes had been the only children of their parents, and, as young men, had been much attached to each other; Arthur, perhaps, caring for Henry more than Henry did for him, as he joined admiration of his elder brother's abilities and address to his affection. His principal thought in coming home had been the meeting with Henry again, and the reality proved a bitter disappointment to him. He lay awake half the night trying to find some reason for his brother's unaccountable conduct, but was unable to think of any illness, except that of the brain, that could make him behave in so extraordinary a manner.

He determined, therefore, that, whether Henry liked it or not, it was his duty to consult a specialist on his behalf, and get him, if possible, to pay him a visit. His first action, therefore, in the morning was to inquire for and gain an interview with an eminent brain doctor, to whom he related, as well as he was able, all that had occurred since his arrival in England.

The great man listened to him with polite attention and in perfect silence. He was a slender, delicate-looking man, with a bald head, mild eyes and a pale complexion. No novice, to look at him, would have imagined that that quiet eye of his had the power to quell the ravings of the greatest lunatic who ever tried to dash his keeper's brains out. But, as he sat quietly with clasped hands and gazed at him, Captain Hindes felt his influence without inviting it.

'A sad story, Captain Hindes,' he said, when Arthur had finished; 'and it may be you have guessed the truth. But no disease is so subtle as that of the brain, and I can give no opinion without seeing your brother.'

'I am so afraid he would not admit you,' replied Arthur. 'His wife tells me he has such an abhorrence (forgive the term) of all medical men. But someone must see him. I feel sure of that.'

'Could you not introduce me as a friend of your own? Under any circumstances, you could not tell him who I am. It would defeat my efforts. I must observe him quietly and by myself,' said Doctor Govan.

'He is so morose and apparently averse to any company,' replied Arthur. 'I suppose you could not manage to see him at his office on pretence of doing business?'

'No, I'm afraid I should not play the rôle of a business man sufficiently well to escape detection. But, if you approve of the plan, I might pay him a visit at his own house some evening, in company with yourself, and be introduced as a fellow-passenger of yours from India. I have travelled in the East, so am equal to the occasion. Only give me half-an-hour in which to observe him at my leisure in his own home, and I shall be able to satisfy you if your surmises are correct or not.'

'Very good,' replied Captain Hindes. 'What evening will suit you, doctor?'

'I can go to-night, if you are sure your brother will be at home.'

'I will wire to my sister-in-law, and let you know the result at once.'

'Very well, sir. I will hold the time at your disposal for, say, the next hour.'

Arthur thanked him, and withdrew to the nearest telegraph office, whence he sent a wire to Hannah, waiting there till he had received her reply. It was satisfactory.

'We shall be at home this evening, and glad to see you.'

With this, Arthur hastened back to Doctor Govan, and received his promise to meet him at the entrance of The Old Hall gates at eight o'clock that night. They were both punctual, and walked up the drive together. The servant admitted them to the library, where his master and mistress usually spent their evenings, and they found Hannah sitting at her needlework by the lamplight, whilst her husband lounged in a chair with a newspaper on his knees, but apparently doing nothing.

'Well, Hal!' exclaimed Arthur, cheerfully, after he had saluted his sister-in-law, 'how are you? I should have looked you up before this, but I have been occupied half the day with a friend and fellow-passenger of mine, Doctor Govan. Let me make you known to one another. Doctor, this is my brother, Mr Hindes.'

As Hannah heard the profession of the stranger mentioned, she threw a quick glance towards Henry, to see how he would take it, but seemingly he had forgotten the breach of good manners of which he had been guilty the night before, and recovered his good temper, for he welcomed both his brother and his friend heartily.

'Delighted to see you both,' he said. 'Hannah, my dear, ring for brandy and soda. My wife says I behaved like a bear last night, Artie, in breaking up your party so soon; but I was confoundedly sleepy, old chap, and that's a fact, so you must forgive me.'

'Why, Hal, I don't think you need begin making excuses to me at this time of day,' replied his brother, who looked at the doctor, nevertheless, to see how he took this very brief mention of a great insult.

But Doctor Govan's face was imperturbable, and no index to his feelings. He accepted a glass of brandy-and-soda, and entered into a pleasant conversation with Henry Hindes respecting his business and shipping prospects, whilst Arthur maintained small talk with Hannah. At last a diversion was effected by the sound of a child's whimpering outside.

'Wally being carried off to bed,' said his mother, smiling. 'He is a very spoilt boy, I am sorry to say, and it is seldom effected without a controversy.'

'Wally,' cried his uncle. 'Oh, do have him in, Hannah! You forget I have not been introduced to my nephew yet.'

'It is so late,' she said, demurringly, as she glanced at the clock, 'eight o'clock. He ought to have been in bed half an hour ago. And he may worry Doctor Govan.'

'I'm sure he won't,' replied Arthur, as he sprang towards the door; 'here, nurse, bring that youngster this way. His mamma wants him,' he continued, and in another minute the little fellow ran into the room and hid his face in his mother's lap.

It was evident how his father loved him. Henry Hindes's features lighted up with paternal affection as his little son appeared, and he called the child to him and placed him on his knee, that all the room might admire him. Master Wally was really a splendid specimen of a boy, notwithstanding his plainness, with his head of thick, curly hair, his large, dark eyes, and dimpled neck and shoulders showing above his embroidered frock.

'This is not a bad specimen to carry on the family of the Hindes, eh, Arthur?' inquired his father, proudly, as he passed his hand over the infant's curls.

'He is a magnificent boy,' said his brother, enthusiastically, 'and I don't wonder you are proud of him, Henry. Why, he would make two of our little Charlie! And how fat he is! He must weigh about fifty pounds.'

'And he is really very intelligent for such a baby,' interposed Hannah; 'he has taught himself all his letters from his picture alphabet, and draws wonderfully for so young a child.'

'Yes,' added Henry Hindes, proudly, 'we are not at all ashamed of our son and heir. We consider he is as good as most.'

'I don't remember ever to have seen a finer child,' said Doctor Govan, willing to add his meed of admiration for the parents' pleasure, 'but you must be careful how you press so active a brain. Never forget that the body and the brain cannot grow together, unless at the expense of one or the other. Let him do nothing but play now! Half a dozen years hence will be plenty of time to begin cramming him. If the true history of most murderers could be traced back, it would be found that their brains had been unduly charged when young, and broken down, or become abnormal under the process. You don't want this little man to develop into a criminal, I'm sure,' said the doctor, as he kindly patted the boy's shoulder.

But Henry Hindes's manner had completely changed. He snatched the child from the stranger's reach, and rose majestically from his seat.

'What do you mean?' he demanded, 'by coupling my child's name with that of a murderer? Have you come here to insult me? I will not let you touch him again. I never heard of such a thing in my life! Perhaps you are a murderer yourself, since it comes so pat to you to talk of them. Leave my house at once! I will not have my children's ears contaminated by hearing of such things!'

'Henry! Henry!' pleaded his wife, 'what are you saying? This gentleman is our guest—a friend of Arthur's. You must not speak to him like that! You can't be well!'

'Not well!' he exclaimed vehemently, 'that's what you're always cramming down my throat nowadays. What is there about me that is not well? I suppose you want to get rid of me, and hope, by always dinning the lie, that I'm not well, into my ears, that you'll frighten me into dying. But you're mistaken! I'll live in spite of you! And is this the reason,' he continued, turning fiercely upon Arthur, 'that you brought this man to my house? You know I hate doctors. I told you yesterday that I don't believe in them. Why is he here? Tell me the truth at once!'

'There is nothing to tell, Henry,' replied his brother, in a tone of vexation, 'except that, since you choose to behave so unlike a gentleman, it will be the last time my friends ever intrude on you. I thought, in bringing Doctor Govan to my brother's house, that I was ensuring him the treatment due to his name and profession, but I see I was mistaken. We will not stay to be affronted any longer, so I will bid you good-night.'

He was turning away, wounded and unhappy, as he spoke, when a yell from little Wally arrested his footsteps. Henry, in his excitement, had dropped the child heedlessly on the carpet, where it lay screaming, whilst its father rubbed his hand in a bewildered manner through his hair. Hannah rushed to her baby and picked it up.

'That is always the way,' she said, indignantly, as she soothed the boy. 'He pretends to be so fond and proud of Wally, and yet, at the slightest provocation, he hurts or frightens him. That is why I did not wish to have him down, Arthur,' she whispered to her brother-in-law; 'I never bring him in contact with his father, if I can help it.'

'I am so sorry. I did not know,' said Arthur, with a look of commiseration. 'Come, Doctor Govan, I think we have been here long enough.'

'Yes, my object is effected,' returned the doctor, as he followed him out of the room.

Hannah ran off, at the same moment, with her child to the nursery, and Henry Hindes was left standing in the library alone. Captain Hindes did not speak until they were clear of The Old Hall and its surroundings, and then, as he and the doctor were finding their way back to the railway station, his tongue was loosed.

'Well, doctor?' he said, interrogatively, 'I suppose, after what has happened, that you have no doubt of the case.'

'Not the slightest, my dear sir! Your brother is no more mad than you are!'

Arthur turned round short, and regarded him with astonishment.

'Not mad?' he ejaculated. 'Then what makes him behave in so extraordinary a manner?'

'That I cannot tell you. There may be a dozen causes for it. I went there simply to satisfy you with regard to danger to his brain. Well, as far as I can see at present, there is none! He has recourse to stimulant of some sort or another. It may be spirits, or it may be a narcotic, which has shattered his nerves and weakened his control over himself. But he is not mad; you may rest assured of that; nor do I think he will ever go mad. The brain is more stupefied than excited.'

'But what, then, makes him behave so strangely? Doctor, if you will believe me, my brother was one of the most pleasant-mannered men about town. He was always scrupulously well-dressed, and had all the bearing and appearance of a courtier. He was remarkable for it, being a business man. Now, he is rude, uncertain and slovenly. He seems to have lost his memory, too, and his business habits are, I am told, falling off. What can be the reason?'

'Drink, my dear sir—you will excuse my saying so, for I am not at all prepared to say that Mr Hindes takes more liquor than is good for him—but stimulant in any shape, be it alcohol or morphia, will have all the effect you describe on a man. May I ask if your brother has experienced any great shock lately, that may account for his having recourse to sedatives?'

'Well! about nine or ten months ago, his partner's daughter was killed by a fall, which so much affected her father that he died also a few weeks afterwards. Henry was a great friend of old Crampton's, and had known the girl from a child, so he naturally felt their loss, so did his wife, but hardly, I should imagine, to such a degree as to make him take to intemperate habits. Of course, it was a shock, because it happened so suddenly; but our father died of heart disease—was well one hour, and dead the next—yet it did not affect my brother in this terrible fashion.'

'Has he had any trouble in business, Captain Hindes—any monetary losses?'

'I am sure not. On the contrary, when Mr Crampton died, he left half his fortune, a very large one, to that little chap we saw this evening. I heard it was a stipulation that the money was to accumulate in the business till the boy comes of age. I should say my brother was never so well off, with regard to money, as he is at the present moment.'

'Well, of course these things are not to be accounted for, unless one knows all the inner workings of a man's mind, but that Mr Hindes is in the habit of taking more morphia than is good for him, I am certain. Why he takes it, opens up a different question! He has a very powerful brain, and, naturally, a well regulated one, and it must have taken a large quantity of drugs, or he has indulged in them for a considerable time, to bring him to his present condition. I have said he is not mad, and I repeat my dictum, but I do not say that, if he continues his habits of taking morphia (or some other drug as deadly in its effects), that he will not reduce his brain to the level of madness, or a condition equally deplorable.'

'Good Heavens! how horrible!' cried Arthur.

'You have sought my opinion, Captain Hindes, and I have given you a faithful one,' said Doctor Govan, as they parted at the station; 'if you have your brother's welfare at heart, wean him, if possible, from this most pernicious habit, otherwise he will assuredly kill himself by it.'

Arthur Hindes returned to his hotel in the lowest spirits. He had never kept a secret from his wife, who was truly one with him in every sense of the word, so he told her all that had transpired between him and the doctor, and asked her what she would advise in the matter.

Edith thought for a moment, and then replied,—

'Since we have been talking about going into the country, Artie, wouldn't it be better if we went to Switzerland, or some mountainous district instead, and persuaded Henry and Hannah to accompany us? Away from London, and living under your own eye, you would be able to exert a better influence over him than here. Perhaps, then, you might, as the doctor said, wean your brother from this dreadful habit. I am sure poor Hannah is unhappy about it. The tears were standing in her eyes several times at the theatre last evening.'

'How can she be otherwise than miserable to see such a change in him? But have you calculated, my darling, what your proposal will entail on you? To live in the same house, for months, perhaps, with a man who may be as obnoxious to you as a drunkard. For this craving for morphia is very like drunkenness in its effects. It renders a man irresponsible for his actions, and may be the occasion of many unpleasant scenes between us. Am I justified in exposing you and the children to such things?'

'He is your only brother, Arthur, and you love him. That is enough for me. Were the consequences to be twice as disagreeable, I would risk them for your sake. Do what you think right in the matter, and trust me to do all I can to second your efforts.'

'You're the dearest wife a man ever had,' replied her husband, kissing her pretty face, 'and I thank you very much. Your plan is an excellent one, if I can only get Hal to accede to it. He will make all sorts of excuses about the business, of course, but I will not leave him alone until he consents to take a change. If it were only for a few weeks, it would be better than nothing.'

'Artie, dear, take my advice and don't speak to Henry about it first. Go and see Hannah. She is a sensible woman, and you can tell her all the doctor said, and enlist her on your side. She loves her husband—I am sure of that—and will be delighted to second any plan that is for his benefit.'

'Yes, dear, you are right again. To gain Hannah's consent will be gaining another ally. We shall be three against one. Henry must yield to us then. I will go over and speak to her to-morrow morning. You have lifted a load off my mind, Edith. I feel as if we must succeed now.'

Accordingly, the following morning, as Hannah was sitting at home, with little Wally playing at her feet, her brother-in-law was announced. Her first thought was to make some excuse for her husband's behaviour of the night before.

'Oh, Arthur, I am glad to be able to speak to you alone,' she commenced. 'It shocked me that poor Henry was so irritable last evening. Your friend must have thought he was insane. But that is the worst part about his illness. You can never be certain of him for ten minutes together. What did Doctor Govan think of such an outburst? What did he say?'

'He didn't say much, Hannah. You see, he is a medical man and used to such things.'

'But it made me feel so ashamed,' continued the wife, with the suspicious moisture in her eyes, 'and I hope you will not think me ungracious, Arthur, if I ask you not to bring any more of your friends here without giving us notice. Henry had been irritable all the afternoon, and if I had known a stranger was coming, I should have coaxed him to go to bed before you arrived.'

'I am very glad you didn't, Hannah, for I am going to tell you a secret. Doctor Govan is no friend of mine. I never set eyes on him till yesterday morning. I brought him here expressly that he should see Henry in his own home, and be able to report on his health, without his being aware he was examined by an expert.'

'An expert!' exclaimed Hannah, paling. 'What do you mean?'

'A specialist, then, if you prefer the term—anyway, a medical man who is at the top of the tree.'

'But why—why?' she said, with a startled gaze.

'Because I felt very much alarmed about his condition. His conduct at the theatre the other night, joined to his altered manners and appearance, all combined to make me think that he must have had some shock to addle his brain. Hannah, don't be angry, but Henry has behaved to me, ever since I came home, like nothing short of a madman, and it made me very uneasy about him.'

'And was—this—this gentleman a mad doctor, and did you bring him here to examine my husband?' she inquired with surprise.

'He was; and I certainly brought him here that he might give me a truthful report on Henry's condition,' replied Captain Hindes.

'How dared you?—how dared you?' she panted.

'Why, Hannah, I never thought you would take it like this! I consider that you have somewhat neglected your duty, in not having called in a doctor to him long ago. I think my brother is in a very critical state. Doctor Govan does not, I am glad to say, consider him mad, but he says he will drive himself so if he is not carefully watched in the future. He pronounces him to be suffering from the effects of opium, or some other narcotic, and that he has weakened his brain by its use, and is hardly responsible for his actions. Henry is my brother, you must remember, Hannah, as well as your husband, and it is my duty to look after him. Doctor Govan says that, if we cannot wean him from the habit he has fallen into, he will inevitably kill himself by it. Now, Edith and I have been talking the matter over, and came to the conclusion that we must all act in concert. I am willing to take my wife and family to Switzerland, or any distant place we may agree upon, if you and Henry will join us there, so that I may have him under my own eye, and do my best to restore him to health. You will do your part, I am sure, Hannah, and persuade your husband to consent to this arrangement.'

'I will not!' replied Hannah, with closed lips.


ARTHUR looked at her in amazement. Was this his gentle sister-in-law? Her very voice seemed changed, and her frame was shaking with her unusual emotion.

'What do you mean?' he asked. 'Surely you have Henry's welfare at heart as much as we have.'

'I think I have, Arthur; but I will not attempt to persuade him to go to Switzerland, or any other place, unless it should be alone with me. I have already told you that he cannot bear the noise of children, even that of his own, neither does he care for company. I was sorry and surprised that, knowing his state of health, you should have introduced a stranger at The Old Hall without giving us notice, but now that I find he was a mad doctor, brought here to examine my husband without my leave or cognisance, I think it little short of an insult.'

'An insult? Oh! Hannah! that is too hard a word,' interposed her brother-in-law.

'I don't say you meant it so, but at the least it was a piece of great officiousness on your part. How dared you think, or let others think,' she went on, suddenly flaring up, 'that my husband—is mad? Is that brotherly solicitude? For shame! For shame! Had I known who your friend was, I would have turned him from my door.'

'Then there is no chance, I suppose,' said Arthur, sorrowfully, 'of persuading you to join your forces to ours, and inducing Henry to go away with us for a change?'

'Not the slightest. He does not need change. If he does, we will go away quietly together. Don't think me unkind, Arthur, but I have already told you what Henry's illness arises from. I know he sometimes takes a little dose of morphia, or smokes a pipe of opium; he does it to allay the pain of neuralgia, which often unfits him for business; many other neuralgic patients do the same. The pain he endures unfits him for society also; it upsets his nerves and makes him irritable. But to call him mad—to bring a mad doctor to see him, without asking his consent, or mine— Oh! it was cruel—cruel!'

She turned her back upon her brother-in-law, and went on with her work, whilst he sat there, hardly knowing what to do or say.

'How am I to persuade you, Hannah,' he resumed at last, 'that I acted in all love and kindness towards my brother and you? I believed that, living always by his side, you could not have noticed what is so very palpable to me—the extraordinary change in poor Henry—'

'Not seen it?' she interrupted him with. 'Not wept over it, and prayed over it for months past! Why not say at once that I do not love my husband, Arthur? I know far more of him than you do, and could have saved you the trouble of bringing a mad doctor to gloat upon his infirmities. Henry is unhappy, poor darling! He has been unhappy ever since his partner's death, and his nerves have become unstrung. He is foolish, perhaps, to take so much morphia, but it soothes and relieves him, and anything is better than that he should suffer. But you will not cure him—neither you nor your doctors! Only time and affection will do that, with perfect quiet. I will not, therefore, have him disturbed, nor worried in any way, either by relations or strangers. I will not let him go to public amusements again, which only tire him, but he shall stay at home with me till God, in His own good time, sees fit to cure him of his complaint.'

'Forgive me, Hannah,' said Captain Hindes, after a pause, 'I daresay I have been very officious, but I did it for the best. Won't you believe that?'

'Yes, I believe that.'

'And I will leave Henry for the future to you. But, oh! do try to wean him from that dreadful habit. And look here, my dear, under these circumstances, what is the use of my remaining in London? I cannot afford the expense of an hotel, and came here, as you must know, only to be near you and Henry. But it can be no pleasure to me to continue to see him in this condition, especially if I can do him no good. It unnerves me, Hannah. He is a wreck of his former self. We shall only quarrel if we continue to meet, so the sooner I take my wife and little ones into the fresh country, the better. Don't be surprised, then, if we start almost immediately, but I shall, of course, run up and say good-bye to you and Henry before we go.'

He held out his hand to her as he spoke, but, to his surprise, instead of taking it, Hannah covered her face with her own, and burst into a flood of tears.

'Oh! it is so hard—so hard,' she sobbed, 'to see him so unlike himself, and find no remedy on any side. I would—I would,' she continued hysterically, 'give my life to see him as he used to be. But it is in vain wishing for it—all in vain—in vain!'

Arthur sat down beside her again, and took her hand.

'My dear Hannah,' he said, 'I feel sure that all the dear old man wants is a complete change. He has been brooding over these sad deaths of the Cramptons, and that, added to business matters being a great anxiety, and this confounded neuralgia driving him half crazy, has had a great effect upon his mind. But, if he went right away, it would work a miracle for him. Come, dear girl, think over my proposal a second time, and bring him to Switzerland, with Edie and me.'

'No, no, no; anything but that,' said Hannah, shaking her head. 'I will pray for him, and strive for him at home, but he must not go into society. Oh, Arthur, cease worrying me about it! I am so miserable—so miserable.'

'My poor sister, I can see you are. Well, as you say, we must trust him to God. Good-bye for the present. Edie shall give you proper notice of our next visit. But this isn't as it used to be—eh, Hannah?'

'No; nothing is as it used to be,' she responded, as she wished him farewell.

As soon as her brother-in-law was out of sight and hearing, poor Hannah gave vent to her tears in right earnest. How was all this to end, she thought. What would become of her hapless husband if it went on much longer? His condition had already attracted public notice. The next thing would be that he was declared unfit to conduct his business, and their affairs would have to be handed over to the care of a stranger. She foresaw nothing in the future but misery for herself and her children. She saw no prospect of ever having her daughters to live at home, for every day strengthened her resolve not to bring them in contact with so depraved and uncertain a father. Nothing remained for her but a life of servitude and loneliness, while she pandered to a sin she abhorred for the sake of the children she loved. Even so innocent a pleasure as the society of her brother and sister-in-law was denied her. Henry's conduct had estranged them. Little by little, she foresaw she would be called upon to relinquish everything that had made her existence pleasant to her.

When her husband returned home and she communicated the fact of his brother's proposed departure to him, he became as angry as if he had been doing everything in his power to make their stay in town agreeable. He called Arthur ungrateful, and Edith a fool, and wanted to know why they had ever returned to England if they intended to spend their furlough apart from the only relations they had in the world.

'I think you forget, Henry,' interposed his wife, 'that Arthur is not very rich, and to live in London with five children is rather expensive work. Their weekly bills must amount to something terrific. I don't wonder at his being anxious to get them all off into the country. He talks of going to Switzerland.'

'Switzerland! Bosh!' exclaimed Henry Hindes. 'Why don't he bring the lot of them to The Old Hall? There's plenty of room for them here! I should like to see the children running about! The place has been infernally dull since you sent the girls away. Just write and tell Arthur that the old place is at his disposal whenever he likes. Why didn't they come here from the beginning? What was the obstacle?'

'You were, Henry!' said Hannah, looking at him steadily. 'Have you forgotten that already?'

The man shivered, and turned away. But, the next moment, he was braving it out.

'You were, you mean, confound you!' he retorted. 'But if I choose to have my brother here, I shall do so without asking your leave, and that I tell you.'

'I don't think he would care to accept your invitation now,' she said, 'for you have behaved so rudely to him—once at the theatre and yesterday, when his friend was present,—that he would, I fancy, be rather afraid of subjecting himself to the daily risk of renewing such scenes. Arthur told me this afternoon that—'

'What?—what?' cried Hindes, quickly, 'what did he tell you? He doesn't suspect, does he, Hannah—he doesn't think—you haven't told him,' he continued, grasping her arm as if he held it in a vice. 'You haven't betrayed me—speak, speak, for God's sake! Don't keep me in suspense!'

He looked so abject as he put the question with trembling eagerness, that her heart went out to him with a great burst of pity. He was a murderer—but she loved him.

'No, no, darling!' she replied, with unwonted tenderness, as she bent down and kissed his haggard face, 'how can you think so for a moment? I shall never, never betray you, Harry; not even at the bar of Heaven. If I am brought up there as witness against you, I will go to hell sooner than open my mouth. Don't think it of me! You are not safer with God Himself than you are with me, my poor Harry!'

'I know it, I know it!' he muttered; 'but why can't Arthur come here, then?'

'Because—oh! there are many reasons; don't make me reiterate them. But one is, that I am afraid your conduct would excite his attention and, perhaps, his suspicions. You are not master of yourself, Henry! That dreadful morphia makes you just the same as if you were intoxicated. It is killing you, body and soul. You take far too much of it. You must give it up. Oh! do promise me, Hal, to try and do without it. Half your time you are so stupid, you don't know what you are saying or doing. Even the servants see the alteration in you. Do give it up, Henry. I would ask it of you on my bended knees if I thought it would have any effect. Promise me you will throw the horrid bottle away, and never take any more of it.'

'I cannot, I cannot!' he replied in a despairing whisper. 'I take it to keep her away. Directly I leave it off for a night she comes and reproaches me with—you know what—and I cannot bear her eyes, they drive me mad.'

'Dear husband, it is only your fancy. She is far too happy, by this time, not to have forgotten and forgiven long ago. Only pray for God's forgiveness and all will be right. Or come away with me, as you proposed once before, and let us try to be at peace with our children again, in a new land.'

'Not now,' he said, shaking his head, 'not while Arthur is in England. He would suspect—he would come too. Wait!—wait, till he is gone away again.'

'Oh! Harry, never mind him. He may not go back to India for years. And your health is getting worse and worse. New scenes and interests would drive these feverish fancies out of your head. What is anything worth, in comparison to that? Leave the business to take care of itself! Sell it for anything it may fetch; only come away from England, and let me try to help you to overcome the dreadful habit you have contracted.'

'It is too late, my dear. I could not do without it now. I should go mad.'

'Henry, you will go mad if you do not leave it off! That Doctor Govan, who came here last evening, detected your fondness for morphia at once, and he told Arthur—'

But the idea that he was watched, raised the devil in Henry Hindes at once.

'How dare Arthur set traps to catch me!' he exclaimed furiously, 'and you are aiding and abetting him. Who told you what the doctor said? When have you seen my brother since? Are you all in league against me?'

'No! no! Henry; don't be so foolish,' replied his wife. 'No one says or thinks anything except for your good. But your brother is anxious on your account. Anyone would be who had known you in former days. You cannot know how ill you look. And so he brought his friend to see you, hoping he might suggest a remedy. But Doctor Govan said nothing will do you any good until you leave off morphia.'

'D—n his impudence!' exclaimed Hindes, angrily; 'that's what he was sneaking round here for, was it? I'll teach him to lay siege to me in my own house. The next time he shows his face here, I'll kick him out, and Arthur into the bargain. But it's all your fault,' he continued, turning round upon her. 'If you didn't go about with that long face of yours, people wouldn't be trying to find out what was the matter with me. Sending the children away from home, too; why, that in itself is enough to raise any one's suspicion—you, who always advocated home education, especially for girls. It is abominable—infamous—that a man cannot have any dependence even on his wife!'

The injustice of this attack, coming so immediately upon her kindness to him, stirred all the resentment of which she was capable in Hannah's breast.

'You are unjust to me,' she cried, 'most unjust! What other woman would have done for you what I have done? What other woman would have stayed by your side, after she knew what I know? I sent the girls away because I felt it was impossible they should be brought up in the same house with you, and the sequel has proved I was right. If any suspicions have been aroused, it is by your own conduct. The fatal habit you have contracted is as bad as that of drinking. It deprives a man of all self-respect—all forethought—all control over himself, or his temper. The scenes which took place in the theatre, and here, last night, are horrible to me and degrading to yourself. I have offered to exile myself with you in order to help you fight against the demon that possesses you, and you have refused. I can do no more. Henceforward, you must go your own way, without aid from me! I can only wait and watch for the end.'

She turned from him indignantly as she concluded, and Henry Hindes felt for the first time as if he were indeed deserted by God and man.

The idea rendered him frantic. He dashed out of the room and stumbled upstairs. At the top he met little Wally coming to bid papa and mamma good-night, carefully feeling his way down the broad stairs by holding on tight to the banisters. Master Wally was, as his nurse said, 'quite a man.' He highly objected to being led, or held by the hand. 'Let Wally go, all by his self,' he would say, and so, clad in his white frock and blue ribbons, he was laboriously making his way downwards, whilst his nurse followed, smiling proudly at his independence.

Just as he had commenced to descend the last flight, he encountered his father, mad with rage and fear and morphia. He did not even seem to see the little figure he so dearly loved, as he stumbled upstairs, and half fell, half brushed rudely against it. The baby lost his slight hold of the railings at once, and fell to the very bottom, where he lay motionless.

A shriek from the nurse brought Hannah quickly out of the library, when she found her little son lying on the mat in the hall. As she raised him, she glanced upwards and saw her husband standing at the head of the staircase, paralysed with fright. She had only time to ask, 'Is this your doing?' when he threw his arms wildly above his head, and exclaiming, 'The cliffs! the cliffs! A judgment! a judgment!' rushed away and locked himself into his own room.

Hannah had no care, at that moment, but for her little child. The nurse was sobbingly informing her how the dear baby was coming downstairs so beautifully, and how the master fell against him and upset his balance, and she hoped her mistress wouldn't fancy it was by any fault of hers, when Hannah interrupted her by saying,—

'Go and tell James to fetch Doctor Sewell at once, Annie, and I will lay Wally on the library sofa.'

She carried her little son away as she spoke, and sat down with him in her arms. Wally had not yet given any signs of consciousness, but lay like a bruised lily on his mother's lap. His face was very white, and his eyes were closed, but there was no appearance of his having sustained any injury. But when Dr Sewell arrived, he looked very serious over the misadventure. He measured the height of the fall, and examined the child's head and temples carefully. Then he said, as Wally stirred and moaned, and gave signs of returning consciousness,—

'You had better put the little fellow to bed, Mrs Hindes, and let his nurse sit up with him during the night. I will send a draught for him to take, and will be here early to-morrow.'

'But, doctor,' said Hannah, anxiously, 'you don't think this fall will have any bad effects, do you? He has so often tumbled about before.'

'Of course, of course,' replied the doctor, cheerfully, 'and will do so again, no doubt, but there is no harm in taking a little precaution. He is getting a heavy boy now, you know, and a fall is, consequently, more risky. But, doubtless, he will be all right after a few days' rest. Get him to bed, and don't take him out again till I have seen him in the morning.'

He left her with this sorry bit of comfort, and she carried her little boy up to her own bed, and prepared to watch by him for the night herself. As long as the nurse attended on her and Wally, she was undisturbed, but when she had dismissed her, and all the house was quiet, she heard the door between her room and that of her husband softly unclose, and Henry Hindes's haggard face appeared in the opening. Hannah felt so much disgust for him at that moment, that she could not help showing the feeling in her face and manner.

'Oh, go away, go away!' she exclaimed with averted eyes, 'I can't bear to see you or hear your voice. You have done enough mischief, God knows! Go away and leave me in peace with my child. It is the least thing you can do.'

'Is he dead?' demanded Hindes, in an awed whisper.

'He is not; but it is not your fault that he still lives. And what terrible results may follow this unnatural fall, no one knows. I told you what your habits would lead to. You have the consolation of knowing that you have injured, and perhaps killed, your favourite child by your fatal indulgence.'

'No! not killed—not killed—' he repeated hoarsely, 'it is impossible. God cannot have so little mercy.'

'Mercy!' cried Hannah, shrilly, for the accident to her baby had dried up, for the time being, every drop of the milk of human kindness in her, 'what mercy have you a right to expect at His hand—you, who showed none? You are not satisfied with making one mother childless. You must try and take the only joy left in my wretched life from me. You deprived me of the society of my girls, and now you want to murder my boy.'

She had used the word inadvertently, but it stabbed the unfortunate man before her to the heart. He glared wildly at her for a minute, and then, with a low cry like the protest of a wounded animal, he slammed the door between them, and locked it on the other side. Hannah had a bolt on hers, and she rose at once and drew it. She felt she could not endure his presence again that night. So she sat by Wally's side, and watched his feverish slumbers alone till daylight.


DOCTOR SEWELL'S report, the next morning, was not entirely satisfactory.

It was true that Wally was quite conscious, and had eaten a good breakfast, but he cried when he was moved, and did not seem to wish to get up, which was so far fortunate, because the medical man strictly forbade his doing so. But it made Hannah very uneasy, since it plainly denoted that he had sustained more injury than was outwardly apparent.

She did not see her husband all the day, during which he kept strictly to his own room, and she was glad of it, for she felt that she could not have spoken to him as she ought. She was already ashamed of her outburst of the day before, but did not feel as if she could speak much differently even now. For, as she sat by Wally's side, trying to soothe his fretfulness under pain, her thoughts would revert to sweet, beautiful Jenny, struck down through the same hand. Was this really a judgment on her husband for his unconfessed crime? Was his child to be taken from him, in the same way and by the same hand that had made other parents, as loving as himself, childless? But it was hard on her—very, very hard, that she should suffer, through her little son, for his father's sins. Hannah sat by the baby's side, thinking these sad thoughts throughout the day, and when night fell, and Wally was asleep, she wrestled with Heaven in prayer that the cup might pass away from her. Yet she knew, even while she prayed, that it is part of the world's plan that the innocent shall suffer for the guilty, and often more than they suffer themselves.

When the household was once more sunk in sleep, Hannah bethought her of her husband, of whom she had heard nothing since the previous night. What was he doing? Whom had he spoken to? What had he had to eat? She felt she must ascertain these points before she went to rest herself, for the doctor had told her, since the boy was out of immediate danger, it must be days, perhaps weeks, before he could finally pronounce on the ultimate effects of the accident, and therefore it behoved her not to try her strength more than was absolutely needful. With the purpose of seeing her husband, she tried the door between them, but found it was still locked on his side, therefore she went round to that which opened into the passage, which he had left unfastened, and went softly in. The sight which met her eyes was a pitiable one. Henry Hindes was on his knees beside the bed, moaning in the agony of his spirit. Yet, such is the force of a mother's love, that the expression of his pain did not move her as it had done that evening in the library. For since then had he not injured her child, which had awakened a twofold repulsion in her breast against him; one for herself and the other for Mrs Crampton. Hannah had never realised till now what her agony of loss had been. As she approached him, Hindes lifted his bloodshot eyes and muttered,—

'Say it at once, for God's sake! Is he gone?'

'Wally? No!'

'Thank Heaven!'

'Don't be too quick to do that, Henry. He is in pain. There is no knowing what injuries he may not have sustained. Dr Sewell will give no opinion. He says time only can show; pray that God may have mercy upon us, and not visit your sins on the head of your unoffending child.'

Hindes groaned.

'What would the worst be—the worst that could happen to him?'

'Spinal disease. A cripple for life, or a lingering death,' replied Hannah, sternly.

She could not find it in her heart to lighten the blow to the author of it.

'A cripple for life—a lingering death—my Wally, my darling Wally!' sobbed the father. 'Oh, Hannah, my punishment is heavier than I can bear.'

'You will have to bear it, if God wills; so shall I—as the Cramptons had to bear—'

'No, no, Hannah, for Heaven's sake, no!' screamed Henry Hindes, as he cowered beside the bedclothes. 'I have seen his face—Mr Crampton's face—before me ever since, saying, "Now you will know! Now you will know!" I drugged myself with morphia last night, but it was no good. He was there all the time—all the time.'

'This is your fancy, Henry. I have told you so before. It is your own thoughts that take bodily shape to haunt you. But this sad accident calls loudly for reparation and repentance. Confess your sins to God, Henry. Ask Him to forgive them—tell Him everything—your unhallowed wishes and desires, your hasty temper and revenge, your disregard of advice and entreaty. He knows all your weakness, and will have compassion on it, and, perhaps, for the sake of your penitence and desire of amendment, He may mercifully spare our little one, and avert the possible consequences of your muddled senses.'

'I will pray, I will repent,' moaned the unhappy man, with his face still hidden, 'and I will confess, Hannah, everything—everything—if God will only hear and forgive me.'

'He is sure to do that,' said Hannah, more kindly; 'though it is impossible to say in what way He may answer your prayers. But we will both pray, Henry, will we not, that this miserable affair may leave no bad effects behind it? And, should our prayers be granted, you will promise me to give up taking morphia, for the future, and keep your brain clear for the duties of everyday life. This would never have happened, remember, except that you were too stupefied, to see the child's danger, or that you were in his way.'

'I know, I know,' he answered, 'but he is better to-night, is he not?'

'There is no knowing—Doctor Sewell says it is impossible to say,' she said, as she turned and left him to his own reflections.

Many more days passed in this miserable uncertainty. Doctor Sewell brought two more doctors with him, to make a thorough examination of the little child, but, though they all agreed that the spine had been injured, they could not decide to what extent. All they could say was, that Wally must be kept on his back till the real extent of the mischief was ascertained. It might be months, even years, before the matter was finally decided; meanwhile, he must be kept perfectly still while indoors, and only taken out in the air, lying flat on his back, in a wheeled chair. It was a pleasant prospect to have to keep a sturdy child of Wally's age amused from morn to night, whilst in a recumbent position; but it was the only chance for him, so it must be done. The poor mother sat down patiently to await the verdict, but Henry Hindes raved like a madman at the doctors' orders, and declared he should shoot himself before the best or worst was made known to him. Hannah insisted that he should return to his duties, and leave her to the melancholy charge of looking after the child.

'You are worse than useless here, Henry. In fact, your presence and loud lamentations over him disturb Wally, and make him fretful and restless. Besides, you have your own duties to attend to, and must neglect them no longer. If you are sincere in your sorrow over this accident, prove it by doing your duty like a man, and attending the office as usual.'

For Henry Hindes had shut himself up since the night he had thrown his child down the stairs, and refused to meet anybody, on business or otherwise. Mr Abercorn, the chief clerk, and Mr Bloxam, the cashier, had been up to Hampstead together to inquire the reason of their employer's non-appearance in the city, and Mrs Hindes had been obliged to tell them that her husband was confined to his room and quite unfit to see them, or attend to business for the present. She was obliged to invent this fiction, for the reason that, for some days, Hindes was imbibing opium to such an extent, and raving of what distressed his conscience so freely, that she felt, at all hazards, she must keep everybody from him but herself.

Captain Hindes and his wife came over, as soon as they heard of poor Hannah's fresh trouble, and would have done anything in their power to help her, but it was a case where the assistance of one's fellow-creatures could avail nothing, and the only thing was to wait and hope. Arthur did not see his brother on the occasion, for Henry had shut himself up in his own room, as usual, and refused to open the door. He had come chiefly to tell Hannah that they had found a little cottage to suit them in the Isle of Wight, and intended moving into it at once. She was not sorry to hear their news. She longed to get them, and everybody connected with her husband, out of the way, so that she might have him to herself, and shield him from all prying eyes and ears. During his short period of seclusion, she had carried all his meals to his room with her own hands, and coaxed him to eat them by every means in her power. And, now that the first shock was over, she ordered him to return to his official duties as she would have ordered a boy to return to school. He had reduced himself to such a state that he was no longer capable of regulating his actions. His reappearance in the office was so far beneficial that a business never proceeds so well and regularly as when the head of it is absent; but Hindes had almost rendered himself incapable, by this time, of taking any active part in the management of affairs, which he left entirely to his two chief men, Abercorn and Bloxam, whilst he sat brooding in his private room, or wandered restlessly about the streets, waiting for the doctors' verdict respecting Wally, and wondering how much longer they would keep him in suspense. He consulted the best known physicians about the child, and brought the cleverest surgeons to see him, but the answer of each one was the same, 'Wait, wait! This is a case for time. No one can foretell the upshot of such a fall until the child has, in a measure, done growing.'

Done growing! And Wally was not yet three years old. Henry Hindes would groan within himself, and say that it was impossible. He could not be kept so long in suspense. He must know at once. He almost felt sometimes as if he would rather his boy had been killed outright, than condemned to such a lingering illness as this promised to be. He could not bear it! He could not! He could not!

During those days of mortification and miserable impatience, how more than vividly Jenny Crampton's fair image returned to his memory to torture him. His wife had advised him to confess all his unhallowed desires and wishes regarding her, but even Hannah knew little of what he had hoped, in his maddest moments, regarding Jenny. She had been a flirt—no doubt of that, though her errant heart had been caught fast at last by Frederick Walcheren. But before those days, when Henry Hindes had had no reason to affront her by the expression of his jealousy, she had not disdained to flirt a little with him on her own account.

She had meant her expressions of regard for him as nothing but a flash of coquetry; but he, with his secret passion for the beautiful girl, and the mad dreams he sometimes indulged in concerning her, had chosen to translate her kindness in a far warmer manner than she intended he should. And these tender moments, which were seared upon his memory, came back with irritating persistency to him now that they were over for ever—that even the remembrance of them had been dispelled by the terrible knowledge that his hand had quenched them for ever!

One day that he had brought her a little souvenir for her birthday—merely an étui of velvet, filled with scissors and thimble, and the rest of the rubbish provided for the work of ladies who don't work, mounted in gold, and encrusted with turquoises—Jenny had kissed him—had advanced her ripe, pouting lips of her own accord, and pressed them upon his. He could recall to this day how the piece of coquetry affected him. She had guessed, well enough, her power over this apparently staid, sensible man of business, and liked to show it. She had smiled on him the while in her saucy way and made his head swim. It was this circumstance, and one or two others like it, that had caused Jenny to turn against him and say hard things about him directly she had gained a lover whose heart she wished to keep. It was the remembrance of such things that had made her fear the expression of his jealousy, and declare he took an unwarrantable interest in her affairs.

Yet, the feeling her kiss had raised in his breast haunted the wretched man long after he had caused her death. Sometimes the one memory pained him more than the other. He would wonder, if he had been bold enough to speak openly to Jenny of his feelings regarding her, whether she would have listened to his story and requited his affection, just a little, in return. She would dance before him, like an airy phantom, all through the dull, old streets of the city, beckoning him, with her dimpled little hand, to come nearer and nearer, and taste her lips once more! And then, when he had worked his imagination up to a pitch of frenzy, the scene would change, and he would see, instead, Jenny lying still and white in her shroud, with the purple marks of foul decomposition upon her cheeks and brow. Yet, dead as she appeared, her wraith would still have the power to unclose its lustreless eyes and livid lips to say, 'These are the lips with which I kissed you, and you it was who rendered them like this, unfit for anyone but the worms to touch again.'

He would see her in the sunshine, and in the gloaming—in the crowded streets and by the deserted river-side—in the Mart and in his private office—till he nearly went mad with the longing to stamp her out from his brain, or to plunge himself into the silent river and follow her wherever she might be.

Much as she had haunted and pursued him since that fatal moment when he pushed her over the Dover cliff, never had he seen her as he had done since Wally's accident! She seemed to come now with a mocking smile upon her lips—a smile which said, 'I did it! I made him fall! I did for you what you did for me! Who was it made you drink morphia until you had paralysed your brain? I! Who was it drove you wild as you stumbled up these stairs? The remembrance of me! You killed me, and I have subjected your boy to a living death—a death far worse than mine—a death which will numb his nerves and his brain, and keep him a prisoner for life, tied to a sofa, inert in mind and muscle. Wally's accident was due to me! You made my parents childless. I have robbed you of your son and heir.'

He suffered extra torture from the daily inquiries which met him as he entered the office. Of course, every clerk there had heard the story of his child's fall, and was anxious to learn what the effects might be. The constant question of, 'How is the little boy to-day, sir? I trust he is better;' or, 'Have the doctors given any decided opinion about Master Wally, sir? Is he any worse this morning?' drove the unfortunate father nearly out of his senses, and often caused him to swear, in a most unfatherly manner, in return for the kindly inquiries made on the child's behalf.

He could not banish the thought, even for a moment. His brother had migrated to the Isle of Wight, and he never saw his wife, except by Wally's bedside. The boy, too, who had been so strong and sturdy was fast being reduced, under the effect of inertion and confinement, to a thin and sickly-looking child. His hands, that used to be so chubby, had grown white and limp; his abundant hair had been cropped to make him more comfortable, and his temper was fractious and irritable. In fact, he was no longer the little Wally of whom he had been so proud. He was almost as much changed, for the worse, as Henry Hindes himself. Sometimes, as his father sighed the long days away, Hannah's admonition would recur to his mind: 'Confess your sins to God, Henry! Tell Him everything! He knows your weakness and will have compassion on it!'

But where should he confess? To whom could he pour out the tale of his sins and his follies? He could not trust a private person, and the parsons of the Protestant church, though they professed to hear the confessions of the dying, who were passing into the very Presence of the great Father-Confessor of us all, and had no need of any more ministrations of man, would not hear a word from the living and the strong, who were still battling with the difficulties of life. He recalled what Mr Bloxam had told him one day, not so long before, of the consolation Catholics found in confession, and how it relieved their souls and consciences to receive absolution from their priests. Hindes wondered how they set about it, whether it was a difficult task, or easily accomplished. In the course of the long walks he frequently took round the City, when his conscience would not let him sit still in the office any longer, he had often come across a little Roman Catholic church, in the East-end of London, where the congregation seemed of a poorer class than the generality. One afternoon he had peeped inside it, and looked, with wonder, at the brass ornaments and artificial flowers on the altar, at the dimly-lighted swinging lamp before the Virgin's shrine, at the confessional on either side the building, covered in dingy red cloth, with the name of the priest, who occupied it, in white letters over the portal.

Henry Hindes had tried to confess his sins to God. He had poured out his soul in prayer, as well as he knew how, but the words had sounded hollow and meaningless in his own ears. He did not know God. He had never been used to talk to Him, and now that he had so great necessity of His reply, he did not know how to address Him. True, he had been a constant attendant at church, but the service had been a mockery to him. He had never really prayed from his heart. And now his prayers seemed to come back upon himself, unanswered, as if he had uttered them to the empty air. Wally grew no better for them. He still lay in his mother's bed, weary, languid and fretful. God had certainly not yet seen fit to answer any prayers on his behalf. Hindes wondered within himself if confession would really do any good—whether he would feel easier after it—and whether he should please Heaven by the effort, and gain some good from it for Wally? It was against all his preconceived ideas of comfort or right, and he shrunk from the notion with aversion. What person, not brought up to the practice from childhood, does not? A priest will tell you that therein lies the merit of the sacrifice, but the sins that are usually confided to the keeping of the confessional are very innocent ones. Few criminals take the burden of their crimes there. They are either too hardened, or too fearful. The confessionals are, generally speaking, occupied by women, who bring the same list of follies, week after week, to be absolved from. But that does not prove that there are not plenty of heavier burdens lying at the bottom of the lust of the eye and the pride of life.

But Henry Hindes had had no experience of the confessional, either as a vanity or a relief. He knew what he had heard concerning it, and he knew that, if he entered it, it would be strictly incognito, for he knew no Catholics, nor any priests. One afternoon, when his sins were lying on his mind, if possible, heavier than usual, he saw the door of the little East-end church standing invitingly open, and walked in, and took a seat to rest himself. The place was nearly empty. Two or three women, clad in sober black, and a sprinkling of half-grown children, were the only occupants, and they were all engaged in prayer. There was a sense of drowsiness and a subtle smell of incense about the little temple of God that was consonant with the man's perturbed feelings, and seemed to pacify them. Besides, he became interested in what was going on around him, and it diverted his mind, for a few brief moments, to watch it. Presently, the heavy baize curtain, that screened one of the confessionals, parted, and a woman issued thence. She had evidently been weeping, for she was wiping her eyes as she came out, but her face was illumined with joy. She entered the body of the church and took a seat just in front of Hindes. As she knelt down to return thanks for her absolution, he ever heard her murmur, 'Oh! the comfort! the comfort! Thank God for it!' He watched her earnestly after that, saw her take out her rosary, and begin to tell her beads, with her eyes raised and the same look of happiness irradiating her features. He found himself wondering what she had had to confess, and if it was anything like—like—what he might have to say. She looked a good, kindly sort of woman, and when, after a few minutes spent in prayer, she rose and left the church, Henry Hindes rose also and followed her into the open street. She looked astonished when she saw him hurrying after her—still more so when he began to speak. She thought at first she must have dropped something in her seat, but her little hand-bag and umbrella were safe. What could this stranger want with her? Her surprise was still greater when he opened his lips.

'Forgive me for addressing you,' he commenced, 'but do tell me, is confession such a marvellous consolation to you?'

The woman looked as if she thought he wished to insult her.

'Sir,' she replied, 'I saw you in church just now. Surely you can answer that question from your own experience?'

'I cannot. I was in the church, it is true, but I am not of your faith. But you looked so happy, so grateful, as you left the confessional, that you almost made me wish I were. Do tell me. Does confession really relieve your mind? Does it make your sins fall off you like an old garment? My friends have told me so, but I cannot believe it.'

'Oh, sir, your friends were right, indeed. It is the greatest comfort anyone can have. Why, when the priest absolves you, they are all gone. You not only need not trouble yourself about them again, but you are strictly forbidden to do so. It would be doubting God's goodness, and the power He has imparted to His priests. Oh, sir, do try it, only just once,' continued the woman, who saw in Hindes a possible convert. 'Just go to dear Father Henniker on the right hand side of the church, and he will explain it all to you so much better than I can.'

'But will this father, as you call him, see my face?'

'Oh, no; he sits behind a grating and you seem to be quite alone with God. You must put your mouth close to the grating and whisper low, but he will hear every word you say. And then the happiness of absolution! You won't know yourself afterwards. I feel to-day as if I could dance and sing.'

'Thank you, thank you, but I only asked for curiosity. You are very good to have told me so much. Good-afternoon!'

And, raising his hat to her, Hindes went on his way. He had not meant to take advantage of what he had heard, but somehow, whenever he went out, his feet seemed drawn to the same little church, until it became quite a habit of his to go and sit there and watch the penitents. And one day, almost before he knew what he was doing, he had lifted the baize curtain of one of the confessionals and walked inside.


FREDERICK WALCHEREN had passed through his novitiate, and been ordained. The die was cast. He was a priest. At first his duties were much the same as they had been during his stay in college, with the exception of ministering at the Mass. But, as he settled down into his new position, they became more various. The church to which he was attached was a very small one, belonging to his own sect of the Servite fathers. It had only two priests attached to it, one of whom was presently bound on a mission to the East. When he left, Frederick Walcheren (or Father Walcheren as we must henceforward term him) was to take his place. The novice entered on his new sphere of action, dully, almost sullenly. He knew he was unfit for the office he had undertaken, and was mad with himself for not having had more moral courage than to accept it, and more moral fortitude to brave the sneers, or the reproaches which would have accompanied his relinquishment of the sacred office he had once believed himself able and willing to fill. As he glanced round at his companions during their hours of privacy, and read the indifference on one face, the weariness on another, the melancholy on a third, and listened to the stilted speech they considered it a sign of their calling to adopt, he felt like the startled novice in Gustave Dore's famous picture, who has his eyes opened all at once to the earthliness of his surroundings—to the truth that, Church or no Church, man's nature is the same, and God can subdue it just as well whilst he remains in the world, perhaps better, than when he has given up the outward and visible sign of participation in it.

One of Frederick's first duties, naturally, lay amongst the poor of his parish, and, in this department, he received a severe rebuke before long, from his superior, Father Henniker, for not adopting a more distinctly clerical form of speech when speaking with them of their various ailments and troubles. In this dilemma, Frederick had recourse to the counsel of his other priestly companion, Father Grogan.

Dennis Grogan was an Irishman, a man several years younger than Frederick Walcheren, but who had entered the ministry some time before. He was a genial, good-hearted young fellow, though somewhat unrefined, as Irish priests are apt to be, and Walcheren felt less difficulty in talking to him than to his superior.

'Brother Grogan,' he said one day when they found themselves, for a few rare minutes, alone and at liberty, 'how did you feel when you first became a priest? Was it not all very strange to you?'

'Strange!' echoed Grogan, without raising his eyes from his missal, 'how could that be, when my thoughts had been fixed on nothing else for years beforehand?'

'But it is so difficult all at once to shake off the habits and customs of the world. For instance, I have been used all my life to plunge into a bath as soon as I get out of bed, but Brother Henniker has given me a long string of reasons, with none of which I agree, why it is desirable that I should relinquish the habit.'

'If he thinks so, you are bound to obey him! Why give another thought to such a trifle?'

'A trifle!' cried Frederick, indignantly, 'do you call cleanliness a trifle? Why, it has been part of my religion! When I lost my wife—when I had to give up all that made life endurable to me, I said there was only one thing that might not go after it, and that was cold water! And what harm can there be in it? I feel unfit for anything if I am not clean.'

'Perhaps the undue longing you have for this particular form of luxury is the very reason you are now called upon to give it up, brother,' replied Grogan. 'Remember! there have been men so holy as to give up washing altogether, for the love of God.'

'Dirty beasts!' cried Frederick, involuntarily, and then recalled to the indiscretion of which he had been guilty, by the horror depicted in his companion's eyes, he added, 'But you don't really suppose that we can please the Almighty by not washing our flesh, do you?'

'I know that we cannot please Him, unless we pay the strictest obedience to the commands of our superiors. You have not forgotten the vows you have taken so lately already, surely, Brother Walcheren!'

'Of course not, but I confess I was not prepared to find they included the surveillance of my toilet. However, it will be all one a hundred year hence. When I lost my wife, I lost everything!'

'Brother,' said Grogan, with his eyes still fixed on his book, 'would it not be wiser to leave off alluding to the time when you wallowed in earthly sin? It seems to me that you think of it too much. You have but one bride now, the holy Church, and you owe all your thoughts and affections and aspirations to her.'

'Do you mean that it is sin to think of, or allude to, my dear lost angel?' demanded Frederick.

'I think our superior would say that it is your bounden duty to put all the memories of the time when you lived with sinful companions, in a sinful condition, on one side.'

'Sinful companions!' exclaimed Frederick, all the old man springing up in him at once. 'Do you mean to tell me you are alluding to my late wife?'

'I was certainly alluding to the time of sin, which, by God's grace, we trust you have put away from you for ever.'

'Sinful!' repeated Frederick, with a glowing face; 'why, she was as fresh and innocent as the dawn. She was worth all the priests that were ever ordained put together! Sinful! It is all very well for you and me to talk about our sins, acted and unacted, but never couple her memory in my presence again with such a word, Brother Grogan, or I will not answer for myself!'

And the newly-ordained priest rushed from the apartment to subdue his unholy temper in the privacy of his own dormitory.

The conversation was duly reported to Father Henniker, who made a note of it, with the intention of shipping Brother Walcheren to some convenient station, a good distance from London, as soon as possible. He was a brand plucked from the burning, but the brand was smoking considerably still. The fire was not yet quenched, and required a good deal more cold water poured on it before it should be. So he sent Frederick much oftener amongst the poor. Here it was most palpably borne in upon him that he had mistaken his mission. He found no difficulty in talking to his poorer brethren, for he had a kind and generous heart, and he felt deeply for their privations and sufferings. But he found he was too apt to talk with them over their troubles, and advise them on the best way to get out of them, instead of praying with them and exhorting them to bless the Hand that had afflicted them. He detected himself more than once lamenting that he had no private purse from which he could have relieved their poverty, and telling them not to rise when he entered the room, and pay him so much well-meant attention when they were not fit to leave their seats. Once or twice he gave vent to an expression, or a wish, that shocked himself—pulled him up short, as it were, as he had been used to pull up his horses, in the olden days, upon their haunches, in order to check their too animated career. But, for a priest! Frederick's constant inward cry now was, 'Why did I ever suppose I was fit to become a priest?'

The face and form of his wife seemed to haunt him as much as they did Henry Hindes, and he could not bring himself to confess, to his fellow-priests, how constantly he thought and dreamed of her! He knew he should do so—he had been reared in the belief that, if he omitted one sin in confession, the whole was null and void, and absolution a mockery. Yet, he could not, and he would not, mention Jenny's name. He consoled himself with the idea that it was not a sin; that she was an angel in heaven, and he might dream of her just as soon as of the Virgin Mary, or any other saint. Still, the fact remained that, where he had sworn to render implicit obedience, he was thinking and acting for himself, just as if he still inhabited that world which he had voluntarily given up.

This tale is not written with the view of defending him. It only endeavours to portray the workings of a mind that has promised to give itself up into another man's keeping, and finds that it cannot do so without resigning its liberty of conscience—its rights as a man and a child of God—all its strength, its decision and its humanity.

Frederick Walcheren had not yet been made a confessor. He was considered to be too much of a novice—too young, and, perhaps, too handsome for so difficult an office. And, in truth, he did not desire it. He had received instruction in the duties of the confessional, and they did not attract him. He said openly that he feared he should never gain the sangfroid necessary for such a delicate duty. He had been a man of the world, accustomed to restrain his language and his allusions before women, and the questions he was advised to put to young girls, both of the educated and uneducated classes, shocked him to the last degree. He felt that he never could ask them, never mind how long he might be at the work—that he should feel himself blushing all over, just as if he were in a drawing-room instead of a confessional. He confided these scruples to his director, who begged him not to worry himself on the subject—that it would all come natural to him in time, and that, if his scruples did not vanish with custom, there were plenty of other fields open to him beside the confessional.

The little church which he belonged to was called Saint Sebastian del Torriano. Confessions were heard there on every day of the week, if necessary, but the regular time for them was on Saturdays, between three and six in the afternoon, when Fathers Henniker and Grogan were always ready to receive their penitents, whilst Frederick conducted Benediction. On one particular Saturday, however, just as the clock was on the stroke of three, Father Grogan came hurriedly into the priests' house, to tell Frederick that Father Henniker had been taken very ill with spasms of the heart, and was totally unable to hear confessions. He was therefore to occupy the confessional instead of him, and they had sent round to another church to ask the services of a brother priest for Benediction, which did not commence until four o'clock. Frederick was rather taken aback by this intelligence; however, there was nothing to be done but to cast aside his book, don his priestly vestment, and ensconce himself in Father Henniker's confessional.

There were only two confessionals in Saint Sebastian del Torriano, one on each side of the chancel. They were divided into two parts, the closed box where the priest sat, and the open portion, which was shaded by red baize curtains, where the penitent knelt. Between these was a partition formed of perforated zinc. This rendered everything behind it dark to the penitent. All he or she saw was the sheet of zinc, through which their sins or troubles had to be whispered in the confessor's ear. The priest, on the contrary, could see the features and expressions of the penitents plainly, on account of the light thrown behind them by the opening of the curtains, which were too narrow to draw quite close. Few of the penitents knew this. It gave them confidence to believe they were unseen or recognised, and only the habitués of the church cared to discover their identity. Father Walcheren walked into the confessional, feeling rather sheepish, and a little shy. He soon found, however, that the penitents left him but little to do. They provided all the talk themselves, and came laden with a string of small vices to pour at his feet, with perfect confidence of hearing the mechanical absolution pronounced over them as soon as the list was completed. They were, for the most part, women, both young and old. Some were in a tremendous hurry. He could watch them from the body of the church fighting their way into the confessional to get their business over as quickly as possible, almost pushing their neighbours aside in order to reach him first. They were accustomed to confess regularly every Saturday afternoon, and did it as formally as they assumed their walking things to go out. But they were in a bit of a hurry. They were going on to Mrs So-and-So's afternoon tea, or a flower fête at the Botanical, or, perhaps, down to the Crystal Palace to see a dog or cat show afterwards, and had promised not to keep mamma waiting. Others, again, were old women, who brought not only their own sins, but those of all their household, into the confessional with them—related how bad their servants were, and what difficulty they experienced in keeping their husbands in the straight and narrow path. This sort of penitent showed no disposition whatever to hasten, was deaf, indeed, to all the coughs that went on outside to remind them that time was up, nor took any notice of the faces that occasionally peered round the curtain to see if the confessor and confessed had both fallen asleep, or died at their posts.

Frederick Walcheren felt sick and disgusted with his fellow-creatures as he sat in Father Henniker's place and listened to the mechanical details of their faults and follies. Not one had approached him in a sincere manner or an earnest voice. It had all been rattle, rattle, prattle, prattle, get-it-over-as-quick-as-you-can sort of work, without any evidences of faith, or feeling, or hearty repentance for the sins they had committed. They had been told it was a religious duty—they knew they couldn't go to Holy Communion the next morning unless they had confessed—and had they gone to bed that night without having done so, they would have felt quite uneasy, because it had been their custom for years, and not because they had any real penitence in their hearts. Frederick Walcheren was musing much after this fashion, and pronouncing the absolution upon one after another, wondering when the long string would have come to an end, when the curtain was raised again and a man stumbled into the confessional. He did not ask a blessing, but, as old Catholics seldom do, knowing that as soon as they sink on their knees it will be given them, Frederick pronounced it in the usual form, and waited for the confession to follow. To his intense surprise, the first words the man said were,—

'I am not of your faith.'

His voice was so weak and husky that Frederick Walcheren did not at first recognise it.

'Indeed!' he answered, in a low whisper. 'Then why are you here?'

'Because I have a burden on my soul, an intolerable burden, and I am told that, if I confess it, it will leave me. Will you give me absolution?'

Frederick now looked at the stranger more particularly. He thought he had heard his voice before, and, now he saw him plainly, he recognised, to his intense astonishment, Henry Hindes. Yes! decidedly Henry Hindes—the man for whom he had always had such an invincible dislike, without knowing why—but so changed, in the short space of a year, that he thought he should never have known him again had he not heard him speak. His first impulse was to reveal his identity; the next moment he remembered where he was, and for what purpose, and shrunk further back on his seat, as if it were possible that the penitent should see him as plainly as he was seen. But, when he addressed him again, he was careful to disguise his own voice, and to speak as low as possible.

'I cannot say if I can give you absolution,' he answered, 'until I have heard your confession. But God never refuses it to the truly penitent.'

'I am penitent, God knows!' replied Hindes. 'My life is a misery to me on account of my sin. I would wash it out with my life's blood if it were possible.'

'I am listening to you,' was all the answer that the priest made.

'Are you quite, quite sure that no one will hear me?' demanded the unhappy man.

'No one but the God you have offended and myself,' said Frederick, in the same assumed tone; 'but place your mouth close to the grating, and speak low.'

Hindes did as was required of him, and began,—

'I have committed a murder! Is there any hope for me?'

'A murder!' exclaimed the priest, startled; and then, remembering himself, he added, 'there is hope for all!'

'It was a girl,' resumed Hindes, in a shaking voice; 'I had known her from her childhood, and I had secretly loved her. She taunted me whilst we were standing near some cliffs, and in my rage I—God forgive me!—I pushed her over them.'

Frederick Walcheren was nearly rushing out of the confessional and seizing his penitent by the throat; but he restrained himself in time. But he could not speak plainly. He sat in his box, paralysed with horror and his desire for revenge. How could he fail to guess what was coming! The murderer of his Jenny knelt before him. He knew it for a certainty, but he forced himself to reply,—

'Go on! Tell all!'

'I loved her,' wailed Henry Hindes; 'I would have given my life for hers at any time, but she preferred another man, and ran away and married him. I was commissioned by her father to pursue them and bring her back, if possible. I followed her to Dover, and met her on the cliffs. She was so lovely, so haughty in her pride and love for that other man, that she drove me mad. I reasoned with her. She said she hated me—had always done so—should do so to the end. It was her defiant words that raised the devil in me. I saw her standing perilously near the edge of the cliffs as she spoke to me, and put out my hand to prevent an accident. I grasped her by the wrist. She thought I was going to lay violent hands on her, and calling out, "Don't touch me! Do you want to murder me?" wrenched her hand from mine. She put it into my head. I swear before God I never thought of it before. But, when she said those words, the idea of preventing anybody ever having her, since I could not, flashed into my brain, and I pushed her—God forgive me! I put out my hand and pushed her over the cliff. That is the whole truth; but I have been a miserable man ever since, and Heaven has avenged itself upon me! My only son has fallen down a flight of stairs, and is likely to be a cripple for life. Give me absolution! I am truly penitent! Lift this awful burden off my soul, and let me feel I am forgiven.'

The priest did not answer, but sat in his box, with set teeth and clenched hands, thinking, if he had his will, what he would do to the wretch who had robbed him, in so brutal a manner, of his beautiful young wife.

'Speak to me! I implore you,' wailed Henry Hindes. 'I thought this confession would ease my soul, but it feels no better. I repeat I am truly penitent! Why cannot I have absolution? Is it because I am not of your faith? I will promise to become a Catholic to-morrow if that will bring me any peace. Speak! pray, speak!'

At last Frederick Walcheren understood that he must say something, or his conduct would be open to misconstruction, but his voice sounded like that of an old man; no need to disguise it now.

'Absolution,' he replied, 'is for the truly penitent. There, you are right! But the truly penitent make amends, for the wrongs they have committed, to the world as well as to God. A foul, uncalled-for murder needs expiation according to the law, as well as before heaven. The blood of your victim cries to you from the ground. I have no power to pronounce absolution over you until you have made what reparation the law demands.'

'Do you mean that I must confess it before men?' asked Hindes, in a cold sweat with terror.

'Most certainly! You owe it to all of whom you stole her life! You think only of your own misery and fear! What of her husband's—her parents'—the society which delighted in her youth, and beauty, and innocence? Make your peace with them first, and then ask forgiveness of God.'

'Oh! I cannot, I cannot! I am a married man myself. I have a wife and children dependent on me! God cannot wish me to own this deed—this accident—it was more an accident than anything else. I did not think what I was doing. My rage—my desire of revenge overcame my better feelings. Had I stopped to consider for a moment, I should never have done it. But there was no time. It happened so suddenly, before I realised what my hasty touch would do. Oh! father, surely it will not be accounted against me as a murder. I was wrong to call it by such a name. It was an accident! a pure accident!'

The priest's voice came back like a judgment.

'I do not believe you, Henry Hindes.'

'You know my name,' cried the penitent, starting. 'Who are you?'

'One whom you also know, or have known, but that is irrelevant to the matter in hand.'

'You are mistaken! I know no priest, nor have ever known one,' replied Hindes, trembling.

All his anxiety now was to get out of the confessional before the priest, who had evidently recognised his voice, should also see his face. He little knew that he had been gazing at it all the while, noting its expression, and watching every change that passed over it.

'You are quite mistaken,' he continued hurriedly; 'I am not the person you mentioned, nor have I ever heard the name before. I am a tradesman from the North of England, and am only passing through town. I hoped to hear better news from you, but it is of no consequence. I cannot stay any longer. Good-afternoon!'

And then, his cunning coming to his aid, he added,—

'I have been only trying to see how far I could go with you. A friend told me I could get absolution for every sin in the calendar, so I thought I would make up a story about a murder. I suppose it was very wrong of me, but we had a bet on the subject, and I wanted to prove to him that I was right. I trust you will forgive me.'

As he said the last words, he left the confessional, and prepared to fly from the church. But, as he did so, the door which admitted the confessor to his portion of the confessional also opened, and the face of Frederick Walcheren looked forth from it. Hindes turned involuntarily, and met his gaze, and with a low cry turned round and literally ran out of the sacred building.


HE had known so little of Frederick Walcheren before Jenny's death, and he had so purposely avoided thrusting himself in his way afterwards, that he had not had the slightest intimation that he had entered the Catholic Church as a priest. The discovery was as great a shock to him as his revelation had been to his auditor. How he ever got back to Hampstead on that eventful afternoon, he never knew. His head and heart were in as rapid a whirl as they had been when he committed the murder; the murder which, he now made sure, would, sooner or later, land him on the gallows. There was but one chance for him—the alleged secrecy of the confessional. Could he trust to it? Would Frederick Walcheren's vows prove adamant against the awful news he had been called upon to hear—the strong desire to avenge his wife's death which must be raging in his breast at the present moment, unless, on assuming his priestly robes, he had parted with his manhood. Henry Hindes pondered over this question, night and day, for a wonder, morphia-free.

The shock of discovering who was his confessor had acted on him as it might have done on a drunkard. It had sobered him, and, for a while, he conceived a horror of the drug without which he had considered it impossible he could live. Instinct came to his assistance, and made him feel he must keep his wits about him, in readiness for what might happen. After all, no one had, or could ever have, any proof against him. And who would believe the word of a priest from evidence taken in the confessional? What witness was there to what he had confessed? Besides, had he not cancelled it all at the last, by saying it had been the outcome of a bet between himself and a friend, and why should he not stick to that story?

Still, the knowledge that he had shared his secret with any living being rankled in his mind, and, after some days' cogitation with himself, he made up his mind to seek out Walcheren and ascertain what he intended to do in the matter. If his position as confessor prohibited him from taking any steps to disclose what had been confided to him, things would remain as they were before; if, on the contrary, he should betray the least disposition to bring him to justice, he would fly the country at once and leave no trace behind him.

Meanwhile, he had left Frederick in a state of mind hardly more enviable. He was unable to quit the confessional directly the murderer of his wife disappeared. Several people were waiting to push their way into his presence, directly he was at liberty. So he was compelled to sit there, whilst they poured their plaints into his deaf ears, and he pronounced the absolution over sins of which he had taken no heed. Who can blame him? He was a priest, it is true, but he was a man still, a lover, and a widower. Hindes' hateful confession had revived all the holiest, the tenderest, the most passionately-mourned portion of his existence. He was no longer in the confessional. He was with his beloved and murdered Jenny, in the Castle Warden at Dover—in the ballrooms of Hampstead—out on the breezy heath, or in her pretty phaeton. She was with her lover and her husband once more, not as an angel from Heaven, or a pale corpse lying in her cambric shroud, but as Jenny—his laughing, saucy, living, lovely Jenny, in whom he had taken such rapturous delight, and of whom this man—this fiend—this devil—had robbed him in the basest and most cruel manner. He could think of nothing else. His heart throbbed as though he should suffocate. He longed to rush out into the open air, but he was condemned to keep his place until Benediction was concluded and the confessions were over. Then he went straight to the sacristy and disrobed. He could not go through the mockery of a prayer. Rage was causing his whole frame to tremble. Curses, not blessings, were on his lips. He would not insult his Maker by addressing Him whilst in so earthly a mood. Father Grogan, who usually remained on his knees for about an hour after service, heaved a sigh as he saw the newly-ordained priest tear out of the church as if he had had more than enough of it, and put up an extra petition, good soul, for his impatient and undisciplined companion.

But Frederick Walcheren knew nothing of it. He was hastening with all dispatch, and in a state of the greatest excitement, to seek an interview with his superior. But Father Henniker was unable to see him. The heart spasms, which he occasionally suffered from, had been more violent than usual, and the doctor had ordered him to see no one that evening. So Father Walcheren sent up an entreaty for leave of absence on business of an important nature, which was immediately granted him. He was bursting with the intelligence which had been communicated to him. He felt that he must consult some friend as to the action he should take concerning it. He could not wait until the morning. It was coming between him and all his duties. Since he could not see Father Henniker, he would ask for an interview with his old friend, Father Tasker. So it was at his residence that he presented himself, late in the evening.

'What is the matter, my dear brother?' demanded Father Tasker. 'You look agitated.'

'Agitated!' echoed Frederick, 'I am bewildered—mad!'

'Why, whatever can be the reason? You alarm me by such violent expressions.'

'Father Tasker, you have known my story from the beginning—all my fears, hopes, misery and despair. You know how my beloved wife was snatched from me; how I mourned her loss, and wondered over the mystery of it.'

'Yes, yes; but forgive me, my dear friend, I hoped these sad thoughts had all been swallowed up in the love of God and the blessings of His holy Church.'

'They will never be swallowed up by anything so long as my life lasts,' cried Frederick, in his old impetuous way, 'but while I believed God had taken her from me, I could be, in a measure, resigned to His will. But to-day I have found out that it was not by His will that we were so cruelly separated. She was murdered! Killed by a man! Pushed over those cruel cliffs!—oh! my poor darling, why did I let you leave my sight for one moment? Why was I not there to protect you from his villainy?—and dashed to pieces on the beach beneath, out of a spirit of wicked jealousy and revenge! And I have come to ask you to tell me, as a man, what shall I do? Think of the days when you were free, when you, too, perhaps, loved and lost, and advise me how to act, to bring this murderer to justice?'

Father Tasker was visibly affected by this recital. He had not yet forgotten what it was to feel like a man, and the distress of poor Frederick Walcheren touched him to the quick.

'My poor lad,' he replied, forgetting for the moment the sacred office which his young friend had taken upon himself, 'I am deeply grieved to hear this story. I had so hoped that your new and blessed duties would completely drive all such memories from your mind. To have them renewed in this painful manner is most distressing. But where did you hear this intelligence, Frederick? Are you sure that it is correct, or only a base rumour set up to annoy you?'

'I heard it in the confessional,' replied the young priest.

'In the confessional?'

'Yes; Father Henniker was taken suddenly ill this afternoon, with one of his heart attacks, and I was called upon to take his place. After a while a man entered, whom I recognised at the first glance. It was—'

'Hush! hush! stop my dear brother; what are you thinking of?' exclaimed the elder priest, warningly. 'You must not repeat any names. Remember, the confessional is sacred.'

'All right, father, I won't; but it will have to come out some day. Well, this man entered, and after telling me he was not a Catholic, said he had a great burden on his mind and wished to try if confession would ease it. He then went on to give me the whole details of my darling's murder—how he had gone down to Dover and met her on the cliffs, and she had repulsed and taunted him—I can see her doing it, my poor, brave girl!—and how he had pushed her deliberately over the rocks to the shingles below. He said he had been miserable ever since, as well he may have been, the brute! and had the audacity to ask me for absolution for his crime.'

'Did you give it him?'

'Not I! I felt much more like giving him his quietus for evermore! I told him, if he were penitent, to go and make his peace with the law first, and then ask for the forgiveness of Heaven. It was all I could do to speak to him with any degree of decency.'

'Do you think he did not recognise you, brother?'

'Not till the last, when I opened the half door and looked at him. He knew me then and ran away, horrified, no doubt, at his own indiscretion. And now, father, tell me what steps can I take? To whom should I go? I feel as if I could not pass through the Sunday services with this black secret in my keeping. Tell me downright, what shall I do?'

Father Tasker looked at him sadly.

'You should know better than to ask me. You can do nothing!'

'Nothing? Are you laughing at my agony?'

'God forbid! I am grieving for this fresh pain you are called upon to endure, more than I can say. But I repeat, you can do nothing. Have you forgotten the solemn vows you have taken not to reveal anything you may hear in the confessional? You would not have dreamt of coming to me with a story you might have heard concerning a stranger. Your hands are just as much tied when the revelation affects yourself!'

'You mean that I can do nothing to set this matter right—that I am bound to let the murderer of my wife go free?'

'Certainly, since he has confessed the deed to you in your sacred office as confessor! You are bound by your own oath to maintain an utter silence on the subject.'

'And he, this brute, is to walk about the world, prosperous and esteemed—triumphing, perhaps, in his secret crimes—whilst my innocent darling lies unavenged in her grave? Oh! it is too, too cruel! I cannot believe it would be a duty!'

'It is a duty, a duty which you could only overcome by breaking your most solemn word, by violating your sanctity as a priest, by disgracing your holy office and bringing discredit on the sacrament of confession. What are you thinking of Frederick? What would you have thought in the olden days if I, for example, had revealed to the world what you have told me in the confessional?'

'Oh, that was different,' exclaimed the young priest passionately. 'My confessions—most people's confessions—are of trivial, everyday faults. But this—this heinous murder, which cries aloud to God's Throne for vengeance—is not the same thing. If murderers and such like criminals are to believe that, by coming to us and depositing their vile secrets in the confessional, they may obtain relief and absolution, the Church will be turned into a depository for crime—a sink hole of wickedness without any judgment to follow.'

'Whatever you may think, Frederick, the fact remains that, as a priest, you cannot reveal this terrible secret, nor even breathe a hint that you have heard it. With me you are safe, but to no one else must you mention the subject. Go home, my dear brother, and pray to forget it, even to forgive it.'

'Never!' cried the young man, emphatically. 'I should lie if I said I should ever do either one or the other. Father Tasker, I have had many doubts, as you know, since entering the Church, whether I have not made a grave mistake, but I have none at the present moment. I see that I have put myself in a wrong position. Had I had the least idea of what I have heard to-day—had I imagined, however vaguely, that my precious wife had come unfairly by the death which I always believed to be due to an accident, nothing would have induced me to bind myself by any vows but those which should bring her murderer to justice. And now that the bitter truth has been accidentally revealed to me—that I have met the villain face to face—you tell me I must be silent, that I must brood over my deep wrongs for a lifetime, praying the while, perhaps, for the welfare of the brute who goes scot-free. But I cannot do it—I cannot! I wear the vestments of a priest, but I am a man all the same, a man who loves and has lost, who knows his enemy and thirsts for revenge! And you bid me have patience and keep silence. It is impossible! unnatural! You lay a task on me that I am unable to fulfil.'

'You shock me,' said the old priest. 'You are indeed right, with such feelings, to say you should never have accepted the office you fill. What are you saying? You cannot, and you will not, and it is unnatural that you should. You forget you are no longer a free agent, but must do as the Church commands you—not as you think, or feel.'

'The Church may unfrock me, but she cannot unmake me a man, with all a man's feelings and desires. My love I buried in the grave with my darling, cheerfully, for the Church's sake. All my earthly amusements and luxuries I have been willing to give up in the same way. Life has nothing much left in it for me now, and I am desirous to dedicate the rest of it, if needful, to the good of my brethren. But this is something quite different. This is a duty, in my own estimation—the blood of my dearest possession crying out to me for vengeance from the ground. I say, her murderer shall not live to murder other victims, perhaps in the same cold-blooded, heartless manner! God's justice and the world's laws demand it. It would be a sacrilege to let him go free!'

'And I repeat, Frederick, that if the man had confessed to slaying the Christ Himself, in the confessional, you could not, as a priest, have betrayed him. If he comes to you again, you can counsel him to make the only reparation in his power, by confessing his sin to the world, and bearing the penalty, but you can go no further.'

'As if a mean-spirited cur like that, who would stoop to wage war against a helpless girl, would be brave enough to swing for it!' cried Frederick, contemptuously. 'Not he! When I told him I knew his name, he tried to get out of what he had said, by pretending he had confessed a made-up story for a bet, but, when he saw my face, his told a different tale. What man, born of woman, could remain dumb under such circumstances? It shames his manhood to think of it. There is not a creature in this vast city that, knowing what I know, would not deliver the criminal up to justice.'

'Perhaps so. To conceal a crime under ordinary circumstances is to be a partner in its guilt. Had this wretched man told you of his sin anywhere else than where he did—had you been with him in the open street, or in your private rooms, you would be justified in refusing to keep his secret for him, even though you are a priest. But he came to you, believing that he was safe in speaking openly to a confessor; therefore, to betray his confidence would be to perjure yourself, and without effecting your object. You could not take the secrets of the confessional into an open court of law as witness of a man's guilt. Who would accept your testimony? How easy it would be for the murderer to turn round, as you say he attempted to do, and deny that it was anything but a jest. Where would you be then? Disgraced, but unavenged.'

'You are right, father,' said Frederick, with a deep sigh, as he rose to leave, 'and I have been an impetuous idiot. Thanks for all your kindness and patience with me. I fear I try it sorely at times. Good-night!'

He went back to his residence, but the father's last words rung in his ears meanwhile. 'Had this man told you of his guilt anywhere else.' Would it be possible to induce Hindes to repeat what he had said in the confessional elsewhere? Would he be too astute, too cunning, too incredulous of the safety of such a thing, to repeat his story? Or might he, if Frederick could only conceal his hatred of him sufficiently well, be cajoled into believing that 'once a priest was always a priest,' and that the oath of silence was as obligatory out of the confessional as in? The young man shuddered as he thought of encountering Hindes again, yet, for Jenny's sake—Jenny, who had said, poor child, almost prophetically, how she hated and mistrusted this man—he could manage, he thought, to hide his aversion and loathing, if it would serve the purpose of causing him to betray himself, with confidence, under conditions when he could take advantage of it to deliver him over to justice.

'Oh, what feelings are these?' cried Frederick, in his inmost soul. 'Why did I ever become a priest? I had much better have enlisted in the army. I am not fitted for my position. I told them all so, but they would drive me into it. How can I go on offering the Mass, and attending all the services of the Church, with these burning desires for revenge in my heart? In another fashion I am as bad as this brute Hindes. He goes about the world as a whited sepulchre, and so do I. I wonder if I shall ever have the courage to break off my fetters. It would be one bold stroke and I should be free again. People would say, "How shocking. Fancy, he was a Catholic priest!" and poor dear Father Tasker and my cousin Philip would declare I was lost for evermore; but would their saying so, or thinking so, make it a fact? Which is better, that I should give up an office for which I am not only unfit, but in which I am a living lie, or go on with it, dissatisfied with myself and all my surroundings? After all, God, who knows my thoughts and my intentions, is the only Person Whose opinion I should fear, and I know that He hates hypocrisy. One thing I am sure of, that I cannot live a life of inactivity whilst my angel's death is unavenged, and her murderer goes at large. The prayers would blister my tongue. I am unfit for any of my sacred duties whilst such thoughts fill my mind. I wish—I wish, from my inmost soul, that I was a better man, but I am very earthly yet. Every thought proves it. And yet, oh, my God! I shall not serve Thee worse in the world than here. Thou knowest, Who knowest all things, that I shall not return to the world I left. That has fled with all its pleasures, but this life cramps me. I am not myself. I have made a mistake. Show me how to remedy it.'

These were the thoughts that occupied the mind of Frederick Walcheren, and he was not a hypocrite in giving vent to them. He had been a very wild and self-seeking man before he knew Jenny Crampton, thinking only of the gratification of his senses, and caring nothing for the things of the other world. But the Catholic Church makes religion so much more realistic than any other. She depicts the saints and angels as being so much nearer to us in an earthly sense—walking by our sides as we journey through life, and taking an interest in all our troubles and pleasures (as, indeed, all the souls departed do), that her votaries, especially those who have been reared in her faith, find it most difficult to shake off her influence, or to forget her precepts. It is said that a Protestant may be converted to Catholicism, or Mahommedanism, or Spiritualism, or any other 'ism'; but a Catholic, if he once rejects the faith of his fathers, becomes nothing but a total disbeliever. He either believes all or nothing. This may or may not be true, but the exception proves the rule. At all events, though his wife's death had not fitted Frederick Walcheren to be a priest, it had made him think very deeply, and the lessons he had learned in his youth had returned with twofold force upon his mind, and made him view his past life in a light which would prevent his ever returning to it. He viewed his past career now as it really had been—the outcome of his selfish desires—and he mourned over its effects sincerely.

Amongst his other sins, the one he had committed against Rhoda Berry haunted him. The other women he had trifled with had either been very well able to take care of themselves, or they had been more sinning than sinned against. Rhoda Berry, of them all, had used only the weapon of her own love against him, had suffered the most in consequence, and had complained the least. It was strange that he—a priest—should find his thoughts turning most to her—a simple, uneducated girl—in this dilemma. But he saw plainly that he must expect no help from his fellow-clergy. They had relinquished the world, with all things pertaining thereto, and would only advise him to pray and be patient, and regard his present state of miserable uncertainty as a trial sent from Heaven out of loving-kindness, and his thirsting to avenge the cruel murder of his wife as a sore temptation from the Enemy of Mankind, which it was his solemn duty to trample under foot. And then this inability to disclose anything heard under the seal of confession! If that were true, Frederick felt he could not lend himself to be the depositary of state secrets, the keeping of which might be, perhaps, a wrong to his sovereign, his country and the people at large.

So he sat down and wrote a note to Rhoda Berry, in which he called her his dear friend, and said that, if she were likely to be visiting London again, he would much like to see her for a few minutes and receive her in the common parlour of the priests' house, or call upon her at any place she might prefer. Rhoda showed this letter to her mother, and her mother, as usual, went to the cards for advice. The oracle said, decidedly, 'Yes.' Rhoda was to visit town for the express purpose of seeing her late lover, and the journey would be productive of good for both of them.

'I can't say I see what luck can come of it,' said Rhoda. 'If Fred were not yet ordained, I might dissuade him from it, but I said all I could last time we met, and I might as well have talked to the table. I can't fancy him a priest, mother! It seems too ridiculous. I often think what baby will look like some day, when he is grown up and bothers to know who his father is, and I tell him a Catholic priest. He'll think I'm out of my mind.'

'Don't worry over that now, my girl,' replied Mrs Berry, 'there's plenty of time before you. Little Fred won't trouble himself about his father for many years to come. And there's no saying what may happen before that comes to pass! I often fancy things will turn out different from what you imagine. You'll have a happy life after all. I'm sure of that, whoever you may pass it with.'

'It'll never be happy passed away from Fred, mother. You may take your oath of that,' said Rhoda, shaking her head; 'but I'll go up and see him, poor fellow, all the same. I never refused him anything yet, worse luck! and I can't begin now.'


FREDERICK WALCHEREN did not rest satisfied with the ultimatum which Father Tasker had passed on his conduct, with regard to what he had learned in the confessional. He had no hope of obtaining a different opinion, but he considered it right, before he acted on his own responsibility, to leave no stone unturned to vindicate his idea of what was just and right. As soon as Father Henniker was sufficiently recovered to be able to resume his duties, he sought an audience with him, and told him the whole story, carefully withholding any details that might lead to the identification of the parties concerned.

The older priest was very much shocked by the recital. He felt for his young brother keenly, so he said, but he had no further consolation to give him. It was a terrible trial for him—sent by Almighty God to test his faith and endurance of suffering. It was a high honour conferred on him by Heaven; he was called upon to take up the cross in imitation of the Saviour of Mankind, and to carry it, maybe, through life. But there was no remedy except the medicines which had been already prescribed for him—Prayer and Patience, and rejoicing in Suffering!

And he was a man with a burning, aching heart, bowed down beneath a sense of an irreparable loss, brought on him by a fellow-man, and he writhed under these recommendations to inactivity like a strong man would writhe and chafe to rend apart the cords that bound him, whilst what he loved best was being cruelly tortured under his very eyes.

He did not answer the father for a few minutes, but sat with his head bowed down and his eyes fixed upon the ground.

'I fear you do not see this matter in its proper light, brother,' said Father Henniker, after a long pause.

'If yours is the proper light, I cannot!' replied Frederick.

'It is not my light. It is the light of the Church,' said his companion.

'But it has not shined on me,' retorted Frederick, quickly. 'You make me feel I am unfit for our holy office! I am a man still, not a neutral creature, without feelings, or passions, or warm, human blood running through my veins. If I imagined that ordination would cure me of all this, I was mistaken! It has failed to do so. On every side I receive the same advice. Don't feel—don't think—don't remember! Be patient—be calm—be silent! Act, live, do your duty as if such things had never been, as if everything were right within you, and God had not taken the only thing which made your life worth living from you at one cruel blow!'

'Hush! hush!' interposed the priest. 'When you compare the love you conceived for a sinful woman, whose charms only appealed to the lust of the eye, to the duty which you owe to the Almighty, you are uttering blasphemy.'

'A sinful woman!' echoed Frederick. 'Who presumes to call her so? You forget she was my wife, father! No one shall ever call her "sinful" in my hearing, were it the Holy Father himself!'

'I will not listen to such talk any longer,' exclaimed Father Henniker, indignantly. 'You are right when you say you have mistaken your vocation, Brother Walcheren! Leave my presence, and never enter it again whilst such feelings obtain the mastery over you!'

Frederick did as he was desired, biting his lips with indignation at the rebuff, and, retreating to his own room, did not speak to his superior for some days to come.

It was while he was still warring with the human passions which had been raised in his breast, that he was informed one evening that a gentleman desired to speak with him, and on demanding his name, received the card of Henry Hindes. A close observer might have seen Father Walcheren's hands clench as he read the name on the card, but he told the man to admit the visitor to his private sanctum, in as calm a voice as he could muster. Whilst Henry Hindes was being conducted through the long stone passages, Frederick tried to make up his mind how he should address him, but his thoughts were all chaos. He stood like a statue, with his mind a blank, to receive—the murderer of his wife.

Hindes entered, looking very cringing and humiliated. He glanced round the small, bare chamber on entering, to see if there was any third person present to listen to their conversation, but perceiving they were alone, he plucked up courage to advance a little nearer. He had made up his mind to learn the worst, for he could wrestle no longer with his agony of suspense. As he advanced, Frederick Walcheren retreated till the distance of the room lay between them.

'Not a step nearer, Mr Hindes,' he ejaculated; 'give me some chance of remaining master of myself! Now, what have you to say to me?'

'Are you sure we are quite alone?' inquired his visitor, glancing around him fearfully; 'that we shall not be overheard?'

'No one will hear you,' replied Frederick.

'I know you—you recognised my voice the other day,' commenced Hindes, 'and I felt I must speak to you on the subject. I have understood that every word uttered in the confessional is sacred—that a priest dare not reveal it, even if he would. Is that true?'

'It is true!' replied the other.

'And that a priest's word would not be taken, even if he did repeat what he heard as a confessor—that he would be disgraced and stripped of his cloth in consequence, so that the secrets told in confession are as inviolate as the grave!'

'You have been informed aright. Were it not so, the sacrament of confession would be at a discount. Penitents would be afraid to tell of their sins, the greatest of which they confide to the ears of their confessor without the slightest fear.'

'I wanted to make sure I had been informed aright,' continued Hindes, with the sweat of fear and agitation standing thick upon his brow, 'so I thought I would come and ask you straight. You must be aware that I did not know I was addressing you last week, Mr Walcheren; in fact, I had not heard that you had entered the Church. Naturally, you would have been the last person I should have chosen for such a confidence.'

'Naturally!' repeated Frederick.

'It was an awful thing to have to say,' said Hindes, trembling; 'but you assure me it will go no further. I will do anything to ensure this. Become a Catholic to-morrow, or leave the country and promise not to return to it. I am truly penitent, Mr Walcheren, indeed I am, and ready to prove my sincerity in any way you may choose to point out to me!'

'I have already told you, sir, that the secrets of the confessional are inviolate, and the Church demands no penance except such as shall be pleasing to Almighty God! Since you say you are penitent, you have, doubtless, said the same to Him.'

'Yes, indeed! I have tried to pray, but heaven seems so far off for such as I. But it was hardly a crime. It was more an accident than anything else. If I could only make you believe this.'

'I always did believe it, until your own lips told me otherwise.'

'Yes, yes! but in confession I wished to make the worst of my error, in order to see if I should have absolution for the worst. But it really was an accident! I assure you, on my honour.'

'Mr Hindes,' said Father Walcheren, sternly, 'let us have no fooling, if you please! I cannot listen to two stories. Last week you said, distinctly, that you did it by design. Now you want to make out it was an accident. But I shall choose to believe that what you said in the confessional, when you thought you were speaking to a stranger, was the true version of the story.'

'It was, it was; but it is safe with you!' cried Hindes, as though he felt himself beaten, and declined to fight any longer. 'I will tell you the whole truth, indeed I will! It will be a comfort to get it clean off my soul.'

At this critical moment it flashed through Father Walcheren's mind that he should warn his penitent that he was not in the confessional, but he could not. Jenny—his murdered Jenny, seemed to flit before him, with her beautiful features all soiled with the damps of death and almost indistinguishable through corruption, crying aloud for justice on her assassin, and, right or wrong, he could not, and he did not, speak.

'It happened just as I told you the other day,' continued Henry Hindes. 'I loved her—don't be angry with me, it is all over now, you know—and I would not have harmed her for the world, but I loved her long before she ever knew you, and her marriage made me jealous as well as angry. Mr Crampton deputed me to follow her down to Dover and make her an offer to return home, on the condition that she gave you up and allowed her father to annul the marriage, on a plea that you took a false oath concerning her age. When I arrived at the hotel she had gone out, and I wandered on the cliffs to beguile the time, and there I met her.'

'Go on!' said Frederick, curtly.

'I told you the rest,' replied Hindes, beginning to feel uneasy at the other's manner.

'I wish to hear it again. Whilst you are about it, you had better tell all.'

'I had no intention of injuring her, Mr Walcheren; indeed, you must believe that! I told her all her father had commissioned me to say, and she laughed in my face at the idea. She wanted to know what business it was of mine to interfere in her affairs, and why her father had not gone down himself to make his proposals in person. And then, I was mad enough to tell her the reason that I took such an interest in all that concerned her. I told her how long I had loved her.'

'You insulted her, in fact,' exclaimed Frederick, making a step forward.

'No, Mr Walcheren, no,' cried the coward, cringing before him; 'I did not, upon my honour.'

'Your honour,' sneered the other.

'I did not insult her; indeed I thought too highly of her for that. But she goaded me on to saying what I did. And then she turned round on me with such bitter scorn that she drove me beside myself. She almost spurned me from her in her mocking pride, and I saw she was perilously near the edge of the cliff. I stretched out my hand and laid it on her arm to save her from falling backward. But she wrenched her wrist from my grasp, crying out, "You brute! You want to push me over the cliffs now, I suppose." Upon my soul, Mr Walcheren, I had never dreamt of such an awful thing before. But, as she said the words, I suppose the devil entered into me,—something did, at any rate—and I thought, "And if I do, no one will have you evermore. If I can never hope to call you mine, I can prevent Walcheren doing so." I was mad—I must have been mad—for I had loved her so dearly, ever since she was a little child, and yet, at that moment, I seemed to have but one wish—to see her out of the reach of everybody, even myself—to know she would be unable ever again to taunt me, or despise me, or laugh over my infatuation. So, without thinking of the consequences, I gave her a push backwards instead of a pull forwards, and you know the rest. She fell—and I have never known a happy hour since. I don't think I shall ever have a happy hour again.'

'Not if I can help it!' replied Frederick, with emphasis.

Hindes started, and changed colour.

'But you cannot betray me. My revelation is sacred. You said yourself that the secrets of the confessional are inviolate.'

'I know I did. But this is not a confessional, Mr Hindes.'

The wretched man glared round him like a rat who has been trapped.

'Do you mean to say that you are not bound to keep secrets told out of the church?'

'A priest is bound to maintain utter silence on all matters revealed under the seal of confession, whether in the church or out of it, but you and I are in the position of two private individuals. You came to call on me like any other person; therefore, it lies in my discretionary power to keep what you have told me this evening to myself, or not.'

'My God!' cried Hindes, 'I am lost!'

Then the nerve which he had ruined by the use of morphia entirely forsook him, and he fell on his knees and crawled to the feet of the man he had so sorely wronged, like an abject animal.

'Mercy! mercy!' he groaned, 'don't visit my crime upon my head, for the sake of my poor wife and children. I loved her.'

'Silence, sir!' thundered Frederick, 'remember you are speaking of my wife! Mercy!' he continued, after a pause, 'what mercy did you have on me, when you cut my dream of love so cruelly short, and in so devilish a manner? What mercy had you on her, my sweet, innocent, loving Jenny, when your accursed hand hurled her over those awful rocks? My love! my darling!' he continued, pacing the floor of his room in his agitation, 'why was I not by your side at that fatal moment, that I might have made this fiend pay the penalty of his crime by sharing your fate? My wife—my wife—and he asks me to show mercy upon him!'

'Mr Walcheren! I will do anything—anything—if you will only keep my secret now. It can do you no good to publish it, nor her either. Let me go free and I will pay any penalty you like. I am a rich man. If your Church demands it, I will pay half my fortune into her coffers, or, if you wish it, I will sign a paper, promising to leave England at once—to-morrow, if you insist upon it—and never show my face in the country again; I will perform any penance you may put upon me, only don't make the matter public property after this length of time.'

He had forgotten, in his cowardly fear, that Walcheren had no witness against him, that his crime had been committed in secret, and that an English jury had acquitted him, and all men, from blame. His conscience had turned him into such a sorry poltroon that his memory had departed with his manliness. He grovelled before his opponent on the ground—he even attempted to kiss his feet, but Frederick Walcheren spurned him from him with his boot.

'Don't touch me, you brute!' he exclaimed, using involuntarily the very words poor Jenny had blurted forth in her indignation, 'your very lips are contamination! Once for all, I will not spare you. If you escape to the uttermost ends of the earth, I will pursue you there! You shall walk no longer among your fellow-men like a whited sepulchre. If I unfrock myself in order to obtain it, I will have my revenge!'

'I have tried to make amends,' groaned Henry Hindes, who was still upon his knees. 'I have not used the money Mr Crampton left to my son. It is all there; I intend to endow a church or an hospital with it. But it was hers. It more justly belongs to you; you shall have it, every farthing, with double interest, if you will only consider your intention again and contemplate how little good you will do yourself and others by carrying it out.'

'You would bribe me with money, you miserable cur!' replied Frederick, witheringly—'pay me for my wife's murder—satisfy my craving for revenge by so many pounds, shillings and pence! But you will find I am not such an usurer as you imagine. I have not been brought up to trade, and if I had, I should not trade in my heart's affections. Be silent! I will listen to no more from your accursed lips. You have said enough! Leave my presence; but don't think to hide yourself from me. I will leave the priesthood to-morrow—I will leave the Church itself—I will resign my hopes of salvation, if need be, but you shall not go unpunished for this hideous crime!'

So speaking, Frederick Walcheren left the room suddenly, slamming the door after him, whilst Henry Hindes remained on the floor, with the tears running down his cheeks. When he found himself alone, he rose from his knees and slowly quitted the apartment, not knowing what to do or where to go, or whom to consult, on the unhappy position in which he found himself.

The young priest was still pacing the floor of his dormitory, in the greatest disquietude, when a lay brother appeared, to tell him that a lady wished to speak to him in the common parlour, where the clergy usually receive their female visitors. Frederick tried to calm himself as he went down to meet her, but he felt very unequal to administering comfort, or giving advice to anyone. But what was his relief, on entering the parlour, to find that his visitor was Rhoda Berry. She was robed all in black, and looked so quiet and graceful that he was not surprised that the brother had called her a lady. Half his care seemed to fall off his shoulders as he recognised her.

'Oh! Rhoda,' he exclaimed, coming forward eagerly to greet her, 'how good it is of you to answer my appeal so soon. Were you surprised that I should wish to see you again? I am in great trouble, and I long for your advice and counsel. You were always giving me good advice in the old days, Rhoda, so you must do the same now.'

'Certainly, if I can,' replied the girl, in an astonished tone; 'but what advice of mine can benefit you, now that you are a priest, so high above me and so far, far away?'

'Do you think I must necessarily be so high above you, Rhoda, just because I have been ordained,' said Frederick, sadly. 'I, on the contrary, have but lately found out that I am lower than I even believed myself to be; full of the old worldliness, the old envy, malice and all uncharitableness.'

'I don't believe it,' replied Rhoda, stoutly, 'you were never anything like that, Fred—I beg your pardon, I meant Mr Walcheren—'

'Nonsense! call me Fred, Rhoda. What else should I be to you than that?'

'But now—' said Rhoda, dubiously, 'it sounds so disrespectful.'

'Does it? Never mind. It eases my heart to hear it. I feel very much alone sometimes, Rhoda, and as if I had isolated myself from all who loved me.'

'I suppose you do, but perhaps the feeling will wear off with time. But I do not like to hear you accuse yourself of faults of which you were never guilty. I am sure you were never either envious or malicious. You were always the most kind-hearted and generous of men, at least to me. So I am sure you cannot have become uncharitable now.'

'Perhaps I have had more cause lately to bring my bad qualities into play. I have had a great shock, the last week, Rhoda! I have discovered that my dear wife did not meet her death by an accident, but was foully murdered.'

The girl sprung from her seat with a genuine exclamation of horror.

The dead woman had been more than her rival. She had actually ousted her from her lover's affections, and she had had many bitter and envious thoughts about them both. But, when she heard that she had been murdered, all her resentment vanished in a flood of pity so vast, that she felt, at that moment, as if she would have laid down her own life to bring her back again. And how she pitied him too—her poor lover, whose infidelity to herself had met with so terrible an ending.

'Oh! my poor, poor boy!' she cried, forgetful of his priesthood and everything, except that once he had been her own; 'how sorry I am for you. How did you hear it? Who did the awful deed? What reason could anyone have had to injure you so fearfully?'

And then the tender-hearted girl sat down in her chair again and burst into tears—partly for poor dead Jenny, and partly for herself.

'I knew you would feel for me,' replied Frederick. 'You have been a good friend to me all along. I cannot answer all your questions. If I could, I should not have need of your advice. But listen to me, and I will tell you the whole story.'

He drew a chair opposite to her on the other side of the table, and leaned his arms across it.

'You have heard of the confessional, Rhoda, where Catholics tell their sins to a priest, and, when truly penitent, receive absolution. Last Saturday week, Father Henniker, one of our priests, was ill, and I was ordered to take his place in the confessional, and as the people who confess cannot see the face of the confessor, no one knew but that Father Henniker was in his usual place. Do you understand?'


'Whilst I was engaged thus, a man entered the confessional, and, to my horror and amazement, told me the whole history of my darling wife's—You don't mind my calling her that before you, do you, Rhoda?'

'No, no; call her just what you like. I should not love you—I mean, I should not have loved you—Fred, if you had married her without caring for her.'

'I did you an injustice by the question. You are too true-hearted a woman to mind it. Well, this man related the whole dreadful story to me, and told me that he had killed her himself—that she had not fallen over the cliffs by mistake, but that he had pushed her over—the villain!—on purpose, and with the design of killing her!'

'Oh, Fred, what did you do?' exclaimed Rhoda, with her blue eyes opened to their widest extent.

'My dear, I could do nothing. That was the terrible part of it. I had to sit there and listen to the account of his villainy and make no sign. But, as he left the confessional, I opened the half door on my side and showed my face, and he looked as though the heavens had opened to rain down judgment on him.'

'You knew the man, then, and he knew you,' said Rhoda.

'Yes! but I am bound by the most solemn oaths not to tell the name nor communications of any penitent who confesses to me. Oh! Rhoda, pity me! You can fancy what I felt, cooped up there, and compelled to listen to perhaps a dozen more confessions, without the slightest idea of what they were all saying. I think some of them must have been rather astonished to have been let off so easily, for I absolved the whole lot without a murmur. All I could think of was how I could escape and take counsel of someone. My head and my heart were on fire! Had I followed my natural inclination, I should have rushed down the aisle after the brute and seized him by the throat, and squeezed his life out of him then and there. But I had to wait till I was set at liberty, and then I rushed to Father Tasker, an old friend of mine, and asked him what I ought to do about it.'

'And he told you—?'

'That I could do nothing, that, by reason of my office, I must sit down like a dummy, and let this murderer walk about the world scot-free. That I must pray and hope, and trust that someone else might bring him to justice, or try and persuade him to confess his crime to the law, but failing this, I could do nothing but be patient under my heinous wrongs. Patient! when my beautiful girl lies in her grave, murdered, in the spring-time of her youth, by a jealous brute who could not bear to see our happiness; when my married bliss has been cut short, and all my earthly hopes shattered for ever; when I have pledged myself, in my despair, to be quiescent and forego my revenge. Rhoda! it has nearly driven me mad! I feel like that poor husband, of whom we read during the Indian mutinies, who was bound with cords whilst his lovely young wife was outraged and murdered before his eyes, the while the foam and blood dropped from his mouth in his rage and agony. Here am I, chained—bound—helpless, and all through my own folly. I cannot bear it! I cannot—I cannot!'

'Hush! hush, dear Fred, someone will hear you!' exclaimed the girl, cautiously, as she rose and listened at the door. 'I believe there is somebody in the passage now. Cannot I see you somewhere else, in order to talk over this unhappy business? May you not leave this place?'

'Certainly! I am free to go and come as I choose. Where are you staying in town?'

'At my old address. The landlady knows me, and is very kind. I do not intend to remain over to-morrow, unless you want me. You see, I have to leave the—the—little one with mother, and he is getting rather troublesome now.'

'Is he quite well?' inquired Frederick, wistfully.

'Yes; but can you come and see me to-night?'

'I can, and I will, at seven o'clock. Till then, good-bye.'

And he let her cautiously out of the front door.


THE young priest was punctual to his appointment, and found Rhoda ready to receive him. She was alone, and in the room where they had so often met before, yet she displayed no self-consciousness of the fact. It was evident that she had accepted the position, in which they now stood to one another, as final. Frederick Walcheren a priest was as dead to her as if he lay in his grave. She saw in him only a friend, whom she had once dearly loved and trusted in, to be advised, comforted and maybe led aright. Had she been a Catholic, this state of mind would not have been extraordinary on her part, since, for a Catholic to think of a priest otherwise than a priest, would be sacrilege. But Rhoda was a Protestant, who had been brought up to detest Popery, and everything connected with it, so that the reverential attitude she now assumed towards her former lover was due, not to his Church, but himself. She cared nothing, individually, for his office, but she still cared too much for him to tempt him to say a word, or do an act, which should become a reproach to him. She rose as he entered, but did not even hold out her hand in greeting. All the courtesy she extended, was to ask him if he would like a cup of tea after his walk.

'Thanks, Rhoda,' he replied; 'I think it would be very refreshing, for I have just come off a long round of visits. The women of the poorer classes I can see at any time, but it is only in the evenings that I can catch the men.'

'But there is not nearly so much trouble to induce the men to go to church in your religion as there is in ours, or so I have heard,' said the girl, as she busied herself with the kettle and the teapot.

'No, I suppose not, because they are reared from infancy to believe that it is a mortal sin not to attend Mass once on a Sunday. And a mortal sin, unconfessed, means, with us, eternal damnation. But what is the use, Rhoda, of a duty performed under such a dread? If it is only done from fear of hell, it may as well not be done at all.'

'We have not met to-night to discuss religion,' said Rhoda, as she placed his cup of tea before him, 'and you would never convert me if we had. You may remember that was one of the matters we used to argue about in the past, and finally agreed that each of us was to have our own way. But I quite agree with you, that a duty performed from the fear of man's opinion, or of future punishment, is just worth nothing in the eyes of God. There is only one person we have to please, or to account for our actions to, and that is Himself.'

'You used not to think so much of God when I first knew you, Rhoda,' said Frederick, 'or, at all events, I do not remember ever hearing you speak of Him.'

The tears filled Rhoda's eyes.

'No, perhaps not. But things that have happened since then may have drawn my thoughts more that way. You must feel yourself, Fred, that when one knows trouble and loss, one naturally goes to Heaven for comfort. It has been the same with you. That is why people say that it is sent to turn us to God.'

'Yes, for such as I, perhaps, Rhoda, who was so selfishly absorbed in my own joy as to forget the unhappiness I caused to others—I seemed to have no resource but to devote the rest of my life to Heaven. But you are young, and your loss has not been like mine! I have had to give up a wife who was far too good for me, whilst you lost only a most worthless friend, unworthy of the name, who did his best to ensure your destruction with his own.'

'Let us talk of what we were doing this afternoon,' responded the girl, quietly. 'I have thought of nothing else since we parted. It is so dreadful, so very, very sad; so terrible for you to hear so suddenly, and when you had no idea of such a thing. You told me that you had applied for counsel to your fellow-priests, and all they could advise you was to have patience. Patience for what, Frederick?'

'For nothing, Rhoda. Patience to see the murderer of my poor wife walking about the world as usual, beloved by his family, respected by his friends, and honoured by his fellow-men. That is all. I may live for the next fifty years—so may he—eating my heart out to know my great wrong goes unavenged, and pacifying myself with prayer the while—prayer that my enemy may find grace hereafter, I suppose, as well as here.'

'Fred,' said Rhoda, leaning her elbows on the table opposite to him, and looking him steadily in the face, 'if you had your whole will in this matter, what would you do?'

'Hang the brute fifty times, and gloat over his agony all the while.'

'Oh, no, you wouldn't,' she replied, shaking her head.

'I would, Rhoda, I would. What! spare him who had no mercy on my lost darling? You do not know me.'

'I think I do, better than you know yourself. You feel like that now, certainly, but when it came to actually doing it, you would draw back and say, "This is not my work. Leave him to God."'

'And let my darling lie in her bloody grave unavenged? Never!'

'Is she not avenged? You have described to me what an abject, trembling, miserable object her murderer is! Do you suppose he has not suffered such tortures of remorse as would make the gallows a welcome relief to him? There is no hell, Frederick, like that which we carry within ourselves—the worm that dieth not. Leave this wretched man to his own remorse! That will prove a greater hell to him than the hangman's rope, and be a jewel in your heavenly crown.'

'But why should I do this, Rhoda? I can understand the priests telling me I must forego my revenge because I must not violate the secrets of the confessional, yet, even they said that, if the confession were made to me in private, as it was this afternoon, it would be legitimate for me to bring the criminal to justice. But you say just the opposite. Why?'

'Because I am not speaking according to any formula, Frederick, of what the Church will, or will not, permit you to do. I am talking to you as a friend who thinks only of your individual good, and nothing of what people or Churches will say. I am thinking only of how God will view the matter, and what He might say when you had brought this murderer to earthly justice. "Well! and now that you are satisfied with regard to him who robbed you, how about yourself? Have you never robbed your neighbour? Have you murdered no good thing which he prized?—never taken from him anything which you can never give back again? Is there no murder but that of the mortal life?" Oh! Fred, I do not mean or wish to reproach you, but I want you to consider your own past life—your life and mine—and see if we are not liable to make amends in the sight of God as well as our fellow-creatures—even this poor murderer, on whom you thirst to take your revenge.'

The young man had hidden his face in his hands as she spoke to him, and, for a few moments, was too absorbed in thought to answer her. Here was what the world would have called his victim—the girl he had betrayed under a promise of eternal fidelity—who had trusted in him and been deceived—who had never blamed nor reproached him, but accepted her sad fate in all humility, teaching him true Christianity as no one had ever taught him before.

He had robbed her of her good name and her virtue. He had murdered her belief and faith in him. He had taken from her that which he could never restore—her spotless reputation, and her pride in herself. He had left her to support her shame and sorrow alone—the reproaches of her family, the scorn of her companions—whilst he had been revelling in Jenny's beauty and Jenny's love, and mourning over her death and his own exceeding loss.

Yet, Rhoda had forgiven him in the divinest manner. She had felt with him in his sorrow, but never asked him to share hers. She had listened, with all sympathy to his tale of misery, but never once alluded to her own. She had been a true friend to him in all things, and, if his life could do her any good, he owed it to her; and then, with a deep groan, he came back to himself and remembered that he was dead to the world; he could benefit no one in it any more; he had made himself a cipher, a machine, an automaton, to be moved only by the will of others, and never to think or act for himself. The groan alarmed Rhoda. She feared she had said too much.

'Forgive me,' she said softly, 'if I was over bold. I forgot, for the moment, what a gulf there is between us, and fancied I was scolding you as of yore. You will not think too much of what I said. It is only a girl's opinion, after all, and you should know so much better than I.'

'Yes, should,' echoed Frederick Walcheren, moodily; 'but the question is if I do! Don't blame yourself, Rhoda. You have put things in a new light before me, and I thank you for it. I will go home and think over the matter again. After all, you are right! What real good would this man's swinging do me? It cannot restore my murdered wife nor my own peace of mind. I should be none the better for it.'

'I am sure you would not, and especially if you had been the means of bringing him to justice. It would only add another link to your chain of sorrow. Besides, Fred, it would cast, as it were, a blot on your ministry. I feel shy of touching on such a delicate subject, but you will stand even this, I know, coming from me. The first fault, my dear, was your own. Had you not married that young lady without the consent of her parents, she would never have been placed in so dangerous a position. This man would not have followed her, and she would have had no chance of enraging him. There have been faults on all sides. How can you tell, if you had been placed under the same circumstances as this wretched murderer, whether you might not stand at this moment in the same position? You know I am not attempting to defend him. His crime excites the greatest abhorrence in my eyes, especially as it has so cruelly hurt you. But I cannot help feeling the same about all murderers—that, but for God's grace, we might have encountered the same lot. How many hasty blows are given, how many more intended—any one of which might, if dealt a few inches nearer or farther, cause death instead of mere pain. You say this man told you that his life had been a curse to him ever since—that he was in despair. Is that not sufficient punishment for his sin? What can be more terrible than a life of remorse? The gallows would be preferable a thousand times over. Don't try to hurry him out of the world before he has repented and tried to make such amends as may be in his power. Perhaps God may send the thought to him. Perhaps your leniency may have the same effect! At any rate, Fred, whatever may be his ultimate fate, don't you have a hand in it! Don't, for the sake of the old days!'

The tears were standing in her bright eyes as she leaned across the table and put her hand upon his arm. He placed his own hand over it.

'Were the old days very dear to you, Rhoda?' he asked.

'You know they were, but it is of no use talking of it. Since your lot in life is fixed, it would be foolish to revert to the time when you thought otherwise from now. I hear your voice, and fancy I have got my old friend again, but, when I look at you, dressed in that strange manner, and with your beautiful brown hair cropped off, I can hardly believe you are the same Fred I knew. And it is best so, is it not?'

'But what I am afraid of, Rhoda, is that my face and clothes are the only things that are changed about me. That is one thing I wanted to talk to you about. I fear I have made a terrible mistake in becoming a priest. You see, this time last year, I was so mad with grief, the shock I experienced had so shattered my nerves, that I was not myself. All I wanted was to find forgetfulness, even at the sacrifice of worldly good. My friends and relations worked largely on my frame of mind, by assuring me the peace I longed for was to be found only in the Church. My mother and godfather had intended me for that profession, and I was in too despondent a state of mind to care what they did with me, or made of me. So I drifted into ordination, not from a love of God, but of despairing grief for my great loss. And now, I am sure, I am unfitted for it. I am not nearly good enough. My thoughts and desires are all with the world I have left. I have no vocation for the ministry. What am I to do? Tell me, Rhoda. I have faith in your sincerity and purity of teaching. Don't consider anything, except how I can please Heaven best. I don't want to please myself so much, as not to disgrace my calling.'

'If you ask my advice, Fred, I can only give it in the words of your favourite Shakespeare:—

"To thine own self, be true!
It follows, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."'

'Be true to myself!' mused Frederick Walcheren. 'Yes, Rhoda, you are right! That must be the only true test of any man's conduct.'

'Be true to the divinity that is in you, Fred. If you feel—if your soul—your very self feels that you will live an honester and better life by leaving the Church—a life nearer God, and more in accordance with the nature which He has given you—then don't go by what any priest, or Church, or law says, but be a law to yourself—and act like not only a Christian, but a man, with free thoughts, and free aspirations, and a God-given right to regulate his own life as he may see best for himself and others.'

'Oh, you little heretic!' said Frederick, laughing, 'what would they have done to you a few centuries ago if you had been overheard uttering such blasphemies! You would have been condemned to be burnt at the stake!'

'Should I?' retorted Rhoda. 'Well, I should not think much of a religion that could do that!'

'They both did it,' replied Frederick, 'the Protestants as well as the Catholics! Everyone who differed from them in opinion, had to pay the penalty of their rashness.'

'Then I shouldn't have thought much of either of them,' said the girl. 'Fred! religion was meant to bring us nearer God, not farther from Him. The Church is not God, the priests are not God, the Bible, prayer—all these—are only so many helps to bring us nearer Him. Why think about what they will say then. Think only what God will say, and He speaks to you through your own conscience, and not through your fellow-men.'

'Rhoda, you astound me,' exclaimed her companion; 'where have you learned all this wisdom? You used not to talk to me like this when we knew each other before. Who has taught you so much? With whom have you been associating?'

The girl looked down and reddened.

'With no one but myself,' she answered gently. 'I have been very much alone. You see, I have been too much ashamed to go amongst the other girls. But I think I have learned a great deal from my little baby. He came, you know, Fred, when I was so very unhappy and despairing, and he seemed like a little messenger of God to me, so sweet and innocent and sinless, and yet, all mine, who was so wicked and ungrateful and repining. I suppose I ought to have been very much ashamed of him, but I never was. He seemed to say to me, when he looked up in my face and smiled, whilst I was weeping over him: "Yes, you have been very wicked, and you are very unhappy, but here I am, you see, sent straight from God to comfort you. And, if you will be good for the future, He will let me stay to make up to you for all you have lost." It was silly of me, wasn't it? to fancy such things, but they comforted me, and so I go on fancying them, even to this day. And baby has seemed to make me think of God and bring me nearer to Him than I have ever been before. And oh! Fred,' she continued, bursting out into a sudden enthusiasm, which she had never permitted herself to exhibit before, 'he is such a darling little creature, you can't think, so fat and strong, and he can toddle all over the place by himself. He was fourteen months old yesterday. But I forgot,' said Rhoda, suddenly checking herself; 'I oughtn't to mention him to you now. It will hurt you to remember it. Please forgive me, Fred. I should not have done it. It was a mistake.'

She looked at him, and, to her pity and surprise, saw that tears were standing in his eyes.

'Talk to me just as you will, Rhoda,' he said, 'I love to hear you. How can I say I am glad you have this little child to comfort you, when I remember all the shame and sorrow he has brought you, and of which I am the cause? Yet, perhaps, God knows best, and sent him with a holy purpose. May He bless you both, and reward you for your sweet, womanly goodness to me. I cannot. Will you tell me some more about him?' he added, humbly.

'Why, yes, of course, Fred, if you care to hear it! But mother says, if I once begin talking of my black crow, as she calls him, I never stop.'

'Is he so very dark, then?' asked the young man, gazing at the girl's golden hair.

'Oh! yes, not a bit like me, thank goodness! His eyes are like black velvet, and so is his hair. I am glad of that. He reminds me of you! And he has six teeth, and eats crusts like anything! And he can say "muvver" and "danny" quite well!'

'Nothing else?' inquired Frederick, wistfully.

'Only "sugar",' replied Rhoda, looking at him as much as to say, 'How can I teach him of a father he will never know?'

'And your mother,' continued Walcheren, 'did she pronounce Anathema Maranatha on me, Rhoda, for the shabby trick I played you?'

'She was very, very angry at first, Fred. She could hardly help being that; but she has been an angel of goodness to me all through. And she is really very fond of Freddy, now!'

'You called him after me!' cried the young man, eagerly.

'Was I wrong? Are you angry?' said Rhoda, colouring from cheek to brow.

'Angry! No! why should I be, only you might have called the poor bantling after a better man.'

'I did not think so,' said Rhoda, simply.

There was a long pause between them before the young man rose to take his leave. How strange it seemed that, all at once, he had become timid in the presence of this young girl who had such faith in him. They had been so much to each other, and now they were so little; such a wide gulf separated their interests and lives. And yet there was one tiny link between them which neither could ever forget.

'It is getting late! I must go,' said Frederick, as he stood up and held out his hand to her.

Rhoda took it in a lifeless manner. She dared not press it—it was the hand of a priest, not of her lover. Yet, not to press it, and when he was in trouble, seemed so hard. But she dropped it instead, as if her own had no power to retain it.

'Good-night!' she murmured. 'God bless you, Frederick, and help you out of this new trouble. I shall go back to Luton by the first train to-morrow.'

He longed to say 'Don't,' but he dared not. Whatever lay in the future for him, he must not say a word more than necessary to her, whilst he wore those robes. So he said 'Good-night!' also, in an awkward manner, as if he were ashamed to part with her so coldly, and turned away. But, as he reached the door, he halted for a moment to add,—'You have done me so much good, I feel quite hopeful since I have seen you! God bless you!' and, nodding kindly, went his way.

And when he had disappeared, Rhoda sank down on her knees, and thanked God that she had seen him again, and that he still thought of and regarded her as a friend.


WHEN Henry Hindes left the presence of Frederick Walcheren, he hailed a hansom and ordered the driver to take him back to Hampstead. He was not only unable to stand or walk, he was incapable of thinking. He lolled back in the hansom like a dead body, and had barely strength to alight at his own door. The servant who admitted him, used as he had been to see his master look ill of late, ran down to the lower regions to say that he believed 'The guv'ner was dying, he seemed that bad.' Hannah, who, having heard his entrance, came smiling out into the hall to meet him, was struck by his altered appearance, and exclaimed,—

'What is the matter with you? Have you been ill? Are you in any pain?'

To all which, Hindes only said in answer,—

'Be quiet! Hold your tongue! Am I destined never to have any peace?'

He pushed his way past her to the library, where she followed him.

'How can you be so unkind and ungrateful, Henry? I was coming to tell you a piece of good news, that I knew you would be glad to hear.'

'Good news! What good news can there ever be for me again?'

'I believe you will think it the very best you could receive. Doctor Sewell has been here this afternoon, and brought Mr Lyndhurst with him. They made a thorough examination of Wally, and Mr Lyndhurst says we may set our minds completely at rest with regard to his spine being permanently affected. It received a great shock by the concussion, but all the dangerous symptoms have abated, and I am to let him get up for a few hours to-morrow, and so gradually put him on his feet again. Now, isn't that good news?' Hannah said sweetly, as she put her hand upon her husband's arm.

But Hindes did not smile, nor look at her. He jerked his arm roughly from her detaining clasp instead, and, sinking down upon a sofa, murmured,—

'Too late! too late!'

'Too late!' exclaimed his wife, in a tone of surprise, 'what do you mean, Henry? Too late to have our dear child restored to us, safe and sound again. I thought that was what you were praying for, with myself. I thought the news would make you wild with joy. What are you thinking of?'

'Just what I say! I am thankful for the child's sake, of course, but the news comes too late for me. My secret is known, Hannah! I have betrayed myself. The bloodhounds of justice are on my track.'

'Good God!' she said under her breath, 'how did it happen? To whom did you speak? What made you do it?'

'My evil genius, I suppose,' replied Hindes, grovelling on the sofa. 'I could not bear the misery and the suspense any longer. It was burning into my soul like a red-hot iron, and I thought, if I confessed it, I might find consolation. So I went into a Roman Catholic confessional one day last week, and told my story to the priest. And who do you suppose he turned out to be?'

'How can I tell? I know no priests.'

'Frederick Walcheren!'

'Frederick Walcheren!' cried his wife; 'but how came he to be in a confessional?'

'He is a priest! He entered the Church, it seems, after—after—you know what! And I happened to enter his confessional! Was it not the irony of Fate? The finger of Heaven, or the devil tracking me to my destruction?'

'But, Henry, the secrets of the confessional are sacred! I know so much! It was most unfortunate that you should have committed such an error as to confess your sin to him. But he cannot make any use of his knowledge. So far, you are safe!'

'But that is not the worst of it, Hannah! He recognised my voice and, as I was leaving the accursed place, he showed his face at the open door. It made me dread the worst. I thought he might find means to let others learn what he had, or perhaps reveal it altogether. You never know what these Roman Catholics may do. They have no honour!'

'Don't blame others, Henry,' interposed Hannah, gently, 'whilst you are blameworthy yourself. Remember how deeply you have wronged this man. Yet, Mr Walcheren was always a gentleman and a man of honour, and I do not believe he would reveal a secret, however terrible, that had come to his knowledge through such a channel.'

'I wish I had thought the same. I wish I had consulted you before,' groaned her husband, 'but I feared the worst, and it weighed so on my mind that I determined to visit him privately, and learn what he intended to do. When I asked him, he said, as you do, that he was forbidden, under the most heavy penalties, to repeat anything that he might hear during his office as confessor. If I had only been content with that. But his manner made me feel secure, and I wanted to make myself look as little guilty as possible in his eyes, so I told him the story over again, and then—'

'Well, what then, Henry? Was there any harm in that?' inquired Hannah.

'I have d—d myself by it, that's all!' exclaimed Hindes, despairingly. 'I had hardly finished when he told me that, although secrets told under the seal of confession were inviolate, we were not in a confessional at that moment, and it lay within his discretionary powers to make what use of my revelation he chose.'

'Oh! Henry, Henry!' cried Hannah, 'what have you done? What misery and disgrace have you not brought upon us all?'

'Yes, that's right,' he answered roughly; 'think of the children and yourself before me. And it's all your fault, from beginning to end. Who was it urged me to confess my sins and obtain forgiveness for them? Who was it said that, if I humiliated myself, Heaven might have mercy on Wally and give us back his health in exchange?'

'And so He has!' said Hannah, joyfully. 'He has accepted the painful effort you have made, Henry, and rewarded it by giving us this fresh hope of the boy's recovery. Oh! my poor husband! have I been harsh to you? I did not mean it! I was only shocked to think of the danger you ran! But have no fear, dearest! I feel sure that God, who put it into your heart to confess, will not let it lead you to public disgrace. Frederick Walcheren will not betray your secret. I am sure of it! Let me go to him, Henry, and plead to him for mercy and forbearance in the name of myself and my little children. I feel certain he will not refuse me, if it were only for dear Jenny's sake, and my great love for her.'

'No, no!' said Hindes, hoarsely; 'you must do no such thing! You don't know him. He would spurn you from him. A woman cannot realise a man's feelings in such a matter. He loved her—he must feel like a wild beast deprived of his prey. He would tread on you, or anyone who stood in his path. He is thirsting for his revenge! He told me so, and when I craved him for mercy in your name and the children's, he only asked what mercy I had shown him. Hannah! it is useless to ignore the fact. My doom is fixed! If it is not the gallows, it is public and utter disgrace.'

All the woman rose in Hannah's breast at these words, and the man before her was one to be protected and solaced and thought for.

'It shall be neither, my dearest,' she answered firmly; 'only trust to me. I have pondered over the difficulties that might happen in your case, Henry, and I think I have found a way out of them. You are tired and worn out with misery and suspense, my poor love. Let me think for you. You must go to your room now, and try to rest. I will bring you some dinner myself, for you mustn't let the servants see you in this state. I will sit up to-night, and get your clothes ready, and pack your portmanteau, and to-morrow, instead of going to the city, you shall take the train for Liverpool, and the first steamer for the Argentine Republic. There you will be safe from English laws, and pursuit will be useless. As soon as you are fairly off, I will wind up your affairs, and join you with the children. Trust everything to me. Only look after your own safety.'

Henry Hindes raised his tear-stained face from the sofa cushions, and stared at his wife.

'You!' he exclaimed, wonderingly. 'You will undertake to do all this? But you have never been used to business in your life, Hannah. How do you propose to take such a burden on your shoulders, and to accomplish it?'

'My love for you will teach me, Henry,' she said simply. 'Besides, do not think I am so presumptuous as to suppose I can do it all by myself. My uncle, Bailey, is an excellent man of business, remember, and our solicitor will help me. The business may be sold something under value, perhaps, but I promise I will consent to nothing rash, and all I shall strive for is to realise the bulk of your money, and transmit it to you in the Argentine, that you may make a home for me and the children there.'

'But it will be exile for life, Hannah. I shall never be able to show my face in England again, remember.'

'I only remember that I would rather spend the rest of my life in the desert with you, Henry, than live without you anywhere,' replied Hannah, with a watery smile.

'And you can feel thus for me—a murderer!' said Hindes, wonderingly.

But she laid her hand upon his mouth.

'I will not let you call yourself by that name, Henry,' she said. 'I never think of you as such. I begin to believe, as you have sometimes told me, that it was the effects of an unfortunate accident.'

'God bless you! God bless you!' cried the wretched man, bursting into tears, as she took him in her arms and laid his weary head upon her faithful bosom.

They talked over the plan she had suggested a little longer, and then Hannah persuaded him to take some refreshment and to go upstairs to his own room and rest. But, left alone again, all his fears returned. The presence of his wife had a magnetic effect upon him, but, as soon as she had withdrawn, he became a prey to the phantoms raised by his uneasy conscience. He could not rest in his bed, but kept starting up, fancying that he heard voices in the hall, or on the stairs, people inquiring for him, demanding to see and speak with him, forcing their way up to his bedroom, whilst Hannah tried in vain to bar their ingress.

She, on the contrary, though feeling a little nervous and uneasy at the story her husband had brought home, fancied she saw a happier future before them than she had dared to hope for. It was better for them all, she thought, that matters had come to a crisis, and they were compelled to leave the country, where they could never again live in any comfort.

Once Henry was out of England, she would seek an interview with Mr Walcheren, and ask his forbearance for the sake of her poor children, who would have their innocent lives stained by the publicity of their father's crime. Once her husband was safe, she was sure she could arrange everything to her own satisfaction, and, when she joined him, they would begin a new life, unshadowed by fear or deceit.

She sat down quite cheerfully to her dinner, at which the master so seldom appeared now that his absence was nothing remarkable, and succeeded in making the attendants think that there was nothing more wrong than usual. After dinner, she carried a cup of coffee up to her husband with her own hands, but found him in an unaccountably nervous condition, considering how hopeful he had been when she parted with him.

'Who is that downstairs?' he asked, glancing fearfully at the door by which she had entered, as if he thought someone would steal in after her. 'I heard voices. Whom have you been talking to?'

'No one, dear, except the servants,' replied his wife. 'I met Ellen on the stairs just now coming from Wally's room, and she says the little rogue is so free from pain to-night that he has been romping over the bed.'

'No, no! Not that!' replied Hindes, fretfully. 'There was someone else. Don't try to deceive me. A man's voice. I heard it distinctly.'

'Why should I deceive you, Henry?' said Hannah, mildly. 'I assure you, you are mistaken. I have been quite alone since you came upstairs.'

'I don't believe it! You're lying to me!' he answered, glaring at her with demoniacal eyes.

She was used to his vagaries, and found it best not to argue against them. So she put the bedclothes over him carefully again, and, stooping down, kissed him, and bade him go to sleep.

'I shall come up very early to-night, you know, dear, in order to arrange your things, and, if you wish it, I will rouse you then, but it will be much better if you will try and sleep. You said just now, you know, that you would be good, and let me manage everything for you—and so I will. Only try and rest, for you will have so much fatigue to-morrow.'

Her soothing had its usual effect on him, and he lay down and closed his eyes, and murmured something about not deserving to have so good a wife, which was eminently true.

Hannah occupied herself a little about the adjoining apartment, until she thought he had dropped off again, and then went softly downstairs again. What was her amazement to be met at the foot by one of her servants, with the intelligence that a gentleman was waiting in the drawing-room to see her.

'A gentleman!' she echoed; 'what is his name, James?'

'He did not give his name, ma'am. He asked for the master first, but I said I thought he had gone up to bed, and then he said he would wait and see. I think he's some sort of a priest, if you please, ma'am; at least, he looks like it.'

Some sort of a priest! Hannah's heart stood still at the words, but she resolved to know what he came for. Perhaps it was Frederick Walcheren himself, and, in that case, she would plead her own cause to him. Without a moment's delay, she passed down the corridor, and entered the drawing-room. It was Walcheren who stood before her! Altered as he was by his dress, and the terrible experience he had passed through, she recognised him at once. But he seemed rather taken aback at her appearance. He had evidently not expected to see her, and he neither came forward to meet her nor offered his hand. As for Hannah, she stood trembling before him, as if he had been a judge.

'Mrs Hindes, I believe,' began Frederick, courteously, 'but I am sorry they troubled you, madam. It was your husband I came to see. I have a little business with him.'

'Yes, yes, I know. He has told me,' replied poor Hannah. 'We have no secrets from each other, Mr Walcheren, and Henry has related to me the whole account of his seeing you in the confessional and visiting you at your private residence afterwards.'

'He has told you his motives and what has passed between us?' said the young man, in astonishment.

'Everything, sir, and I have known it from the beginning. Oh, Mr Walcheren,' she went on rapidly, 'I was going to see you about it. I wanted to plead to you for mercy for my poor children and myself. I have no excuses to make for my unhappy husband. How could I have, when Jenny'—here Hannah's tears commenced to flow and her utterance became choked with her sobs—'when she was my very, very dearest friend? No one mourned her loss more than I did, and to think—to think— But my wretched husband has lived in hell since that miserable day. He has never known one happy moment. If any man ever repented a sin, he has done his. Can you not find it in your heart, Mr Walcheren, to show him a little mercy? It would be very noble of you if you would. Henry shall never annoy you by his presence again. We are intending to leave the country, never to return. Only, if you could find it in your heart to spare him—to forgive as you hope to be forgiven—for the sake of his little children, sir—'

She attempted to fall at his feet, but he raised her.

'Mrs Hindes, you greatly distress me,' he said. 'I did not expect, nor wish to see you when I came here to-night. I had but one object in doing so—'

'Yes, yes,' she interposed, 'I know it. To tell him to prepare for the worst—to say you must, in justice to yourself and her dear memory, let the law take its course—and if you had only waited a few days, I should have got him out of your reach.'

'But, indeed, you are mistaken,' replied Walcheren, 'that was not my intention. Of course, I don't pretend to deny the awful feelings for revenge which his story evoked in my breast against him. I loved—I loved her very dearly, Mrs Hindes—'

'Oh, my darling, my darling,' broke out Hannah.

'And you loved her too,' he proceeded, tenderly, 'and must understand what I felt on first hearing the awful story of her death. But that was my first impression. I have reflected since—a friend of mine has been probing my heart and motives for me, and setting things generally in a clearer light, and the conclusion I have arrived at is, that I shall do nothing more in the matter. I will bury my resentment in my lost wife's grave, and, though you must feel that I could never see, nor speak to your husband again, yet he is safe from me. His secret is also safe, as far as I am concerned. My lips shall never disclose it. I came here to-night to tell him so.'

'How—how can we ever thank you,' whispered Hannah, through her tears.

'Your thanks are not due to me, but to my friend. If she had not led my thoughts the right way, they would not have gone there by themselves. Set your mind at rest, therefore, Mrs Hindes. The matter is done with. Will you tell your husband so from me?'

'Oh! gladly, thankfully, Mr Walcheren. You have saved him. You have saved us all. May God bless you and your friend for it!'

'Thank you,' he returned quietly, as he bowed and walked out into the hall.

Hannah followed him there.

'Do you go back by the station?' she inquired. 'May I send you home in the carriage?'

'No thank you!' he answered, shuddering at the idea of using anything that belonged to Henry Hindes. 'I am a poor man now, and not used to such luxuries. The station will suit me best.'

And then, without any greeting less formal than an inclination of his head, Frederick Walcheren passed out of the hall door and went on his way. Hannah guessed the reason. Dearly as she had loved the dead girl, he could not persuade himself to shake hands with the wife of her murderer. Perhaps it was best so. Frederick Walcheren would now pass out of their lives for ever.

Henry Hindes, with his ears quickened by fear, had heard the opening and shutting of the front door, and the slight conversation passing in the hall. He had sprung out of his bed to listen, and crouched behind his bedroom door. He had recognised Frederick Walcheren's voice, and caught the word 'station' twice repeated. Why had he come? What was he there for? And what 'station' could he be speaking off? There was but one solution of the mystery in the morbid ideas of Henry Hindes. The conscience that makes cowards of us all, had transformed him into a trembling poltroon, incapable of judging or arguing. Frederick Walcheren was in The Old Hall, and there could be but one reason for his coming there—to publicly denounce him as a murderer—to have him arrested and dragged to prison—to pursue him until he landed him on the scaffold, and saw the rope pulled that should hang him by the neck till he was dead. But he shouldn't—he shouldn't—he had means by which he could escape it yet. Why didn't Hannah come up to tell him what was going on? Could she be in league with his tormentors, after all the protestations she had made to him an hour ago? Perhaps—it was not unlikely—women were such arch deceivers, they would smile in your face one moment, and draw a knife across your throat the next. Well! he would escape her too!—no one should triumph over his public fall. As he thought thus, Henry Hindes crept round to his chest of drawers and groped in the dark for the lock, which he opened with the keys he kept beneath his pillow. He found a bottle there—a bottle the shape of which he knew full well, for had it not been his daily and nightly companion for many months past? He knew it, and it knew him, he said to himself, with a sardonic smile, that was half a sneer, and they had never known each other better, nor valued each other more, than they would do that night. But as he was about to re-enter his bed, he remembered his little Wally lying in the next room, and thought he would like to take a look at him first. So he crept into the adjoining chamber, where the boy lay fast asleep, with one arm, thinned by sickness, thrown above his head. Hindes put his lips reverently on the little arm and then softly lay down beside his child.

Meanwhile, Hannah was feeling almost too thankful for words. How happy she would make poor Henry when he next woke. No need for packing up in a hurry now, and slinking out of England like a condemned criminal. He might stay on in safety till he had wound up his own affairs, and could start for the new land surrounded by his family.

'What a relief! what a relief!' she thought, as she went upstairs. 'I shall love and pray for the name of Walcheren to the last day of my life!'

She peeped into Wally's chamber first! There lay her child flushed with sleep, and beside him, with one arm thrown round the boy's body, was her husband, white and weary looking, but apparently sound asleep as well.

'Poor fellow!' mused Hannah, as she stood and gazed at him. 'He is utterly worn-out. I wonder what made him fancy getting into bed with the child. Perhaps it was to make sure that I should not come up without waking him. Henry dear,' she said aloud, as she touched the sleeper gently. 'Henry! I have such good news, such lovely news for you. Our worst troubles are over, darling! Wake up and hear what I have to tell you!'

She stooped and kissed his cold cheek as she spoke, and the truth was instantly revealed to her. Her husband slept so deeply that he would never wake in this world again.

At the very moment when his doubts and fears were to be set at rest, he had taken the law into his own hands and gone from this sphere to work out his life's punishment in another.


A FEW days after this occurrence, Rhoda Berry was seated in her mother's cottage at Luton, plaiting straw. It was interesting to watch her deft fingers weaving and interweaving the fine splits of straw, until they formed a plait as delicate as that of a woman's hair. The operation appeared as intricate as that of lace-making, until the ends were worked in and the Grecian pattern became visible.

At her feet sat, or rather tumbled, her baby boy, amusing himself also with the ends of straw his mother dropped. Mrs Berry was bustling in and out of the little kitchen meanwhile, occupied with her domestic duties, and discussing, with some vehemence, the contents of a letter she had received that morning.

'I can't think why you object to the idea, Rhoda,' she said. 'Here's a fine opportunity for us both to live like ladies again, and you almost turn up your nose at it! My brother Will is not one to go from his word, and you heard what he said, that since his wife is dead and he is so lonely, with his only son at sea, he would be grateful if you and I would take up our abode at King's Farm for the rest of our lives. I know what that means, Rhoda! That he intends to leave all he has to us. Will is not the fellow to invite two women to his house like that, and then leave them to starve. And this is next door to starvation. It's drudging from morning to night, and making a penny how and when we can. And my brother keeps two house-servants, fancy that! And I should have the management of them both!'

'Mother, dear! why don't you go, and leave me here? I am quite capable of earning my own living, and you know the obstacle to my going to King's Farm. How could I take my baby there, to disgrace my uncle and all his family? But it is a shame that my fault should be the means of keeping you from a good home. Do write and accept this offer, mother, and I shall do well enough in Luton, never fear. Why! I'm earning thirty shillings a week now, even in the worst times. I shall do well enough. That's more than sufficient for me and baby. But I'll never take him into another man's house to be scorned and pointed at.'

'Now, Rhoda, what nonsense you talk!' exclaimed Mrs Berry, impatiently. 'As if anything would tempt me to part from you and the little crow! As if you hadn't suffered enough without your mother forsaking you, poor girl! No, I'm not made of such stuff as that! Either we go to King's Farm together, or we don't go at all. But I must say I would like to see the roses back in your cheeks, Rhoda! You used to have such a fine colour before you went up to London. It would do you and the little crow such a world of good, too, to be running about the green fields and lanes of Somersetshire, and to live amongst the cows and sheep and chickens. You'd be another woman in a fortnight.'

'I know I should, mother, but, you see, this is one of the good things of this life that I have put away from me by my sin. It is part of the penance God has called upon me to perform. And that I must prevent your taking advantage of Uncle Will's offer, also, makes it doubly hard to bear.'

'Why, you don't suppose I could have any pleasure in it all whilst my only girl was moping down here by herself, do you? It's that bothering little crow that sticks in the way. Suppose we get rid of him, Rhoda?' said Mrs Berry, playfully. 'Let's drown him in the water-butt. No one will be any the wiser, and it would be a blessing to get rid of him, wouldn't it, now?'

She expected to see Rhoda shake her head sadly at the proposal, but she was not prepared to see her catch her child up and press it passionately to her bosom, whilst she burst into a flood of tears. That was so unlike her patient, humble, quiet Rhoda, that Mrs Berry was fairly taken aback.

'Why, my dear, my dear,' she cried, 'what is the matter? What have I said to upset you so? I was only in fun, Rhoda. Surely you know that? I wouldn't harm a hair of the child's head for all the wealth of the Indies.'

'Yes, mother, yes; I know it,' replied the girl, still sobbing. 'Only, I feel, I foresee that my poor bairn will be my curse and yours, perhaps, through life. The trouble and the expense are nothing—nothing. But it's the shame that is so hard to bear, not only for myself, but for you and him, poor lamb, when he is old enough to understand.'

'Ay, Rhoda, it's what was prophesied long ago—the sins of the fathers being visited on the children, but you mustn't make too much of it. You've had your share of fretting, goodness knows! and you'll kill yourself if you get no rest from it. You're not over strong, my girl, as it is. I've watched your cheeks grow thinner for many a day past, and it's worried me more than enough. This Mr Walcheren is as much dead to you, Rhoda, as if he was in his grave, where I'm sure I wish to goodness he had been before he had ever met you, and so you must try not to think of him, and that's why I'd like to see a few more miles put between you. It does you no good to live so near London.'

'Mother,' said the girl, as she dried her wet eyes, 'if you imagine for a moment that I think of Fred in any other light than that of another woman's husband, you are very much mistaken. If he were free to marry to-morrow, he wouldn't ask me to be his wife.'

('More shame for him,' interpolated Mrs Berry.)

'He is grieving too much to dream of marrying again, even if he were in the world. His heart is buried in his wife's grave.'

'More shame for him,' repeated her mother, 'and with that poor little child running about without a father to his name.'

'Such a thing has never entered my imagination for a minute,' continued Rhoda. 'I am glad that we are friends, and proud that he should consider me worthy to give him advice, but there will never be anything more between us. How could there be?'

'I understood he had some idea of leaving the Church.'

'He alluded to it, mother, but I do not suppose he will have the courage to carry it out. It would take the spirit of a hero, or a martyr, to brave the sneers and contempt and abuse of the world for taking such a step. And Frederick was never very strong-minded. He must have altered greatly since I knew him if he has the courage of his own opinions.'

'He's not like you, then, my dear, who have, I verily believe, the courage of a lion. But I mustn't stop chattering any longer, or we shall have no dinner to-day. But think over Uncle Will's proposal again, Rhoda, before you finally make up your mind. He's too good a man to throw a girl's misfortune in her teeth. And we shall never get such a chance again—never.'

Rhoda smiled faintly, but she shook her head all the same. Never had her sin stared her so unpleasantly in the face before. To be disgraced for Frederick's sake—to bear her shame silently and alone—to have to toil through life to maintain her child—all this she had realised long ago, and made up her mind to bear courageously.

But to stand in the way of her mother's well-doing—to have to see her toiling, even to old age, because of her daughter's fault—to know that she stood between her and comfort, between her and the love of her own family, between her and rest, and a home more fitted to her position than the one they had occupied since Rhoda's father died—this was the bitterest portion of the cup she had been called upon to drink.

When Mrs Berry had left her, the poor girl wept long and bitterly, as she tried to decide whether it might not be her duty to bear the shame and contempt which would be her share if she took her child amongst her mother's relations. It was hard to contemplate. She had hoped the worst was over—that, the inhabitants of Luton having agreed to overlook her misfortune, there would be no more unpleasantness to encounter, but if it was to be for her mother's sake—her dear mother, who had clung to her through everything—she would pass through the fire a second time. It was less than she deserved, she knew that, and, if needful, she would be brave and bear it.

She dried her eyes again, and turned to recommence her work. But the baby had got hold of her plait of straw, which had fallen to the ground, and taken advantage of his mother's abstraction to undo half of it, and spoil the rest.

'Oh, baby, baby!' she cried. 'How naughty you are. You have spoiled poor mother's work.'

As she spoke, and lifted the child in her arms, a shadow darkened the threshold of the open door, and, glancing up, she encountered the eyes of Frederick Walcheren fixed upon her. Rhoda rose in the utmost confusion. She did not know what to say to him. She was as timid of being caught with the child in her arms as if Frederick had never heard of its existence. The first words she stammered were,—

'You! Oh, why have you come down here?'

'Expressly to see you, Rhoda,' he replied, 'seeing that I know no one else in Luton. And so this is the little chap, is it? He is a sturdy fellow. And his eyes and hair are very dark, Rhoda.'

'Yes,' she answered in a low voice.

She could not understand why, under their present circumstances, Frederick should care to allude to the likeness between her child and himself. It jarred upon her. She put the baby down on the ground and began plaiting the straw again.

'Mayn't I come in? Are you not going to ask me to sit down? I am rather tired,' said Frederick Walcheren, 'and I have a good many things to talk to you about.'

'Oh! yes, forgive me,' she replied, as she rose and set a chair for her visitor at the opposite side of the little room.

'Are you very much surprised to see me here, Rhoda?' he commenced.

'Yes! very! It is so unexpected. I don't know what mother will say,' replied the girl, in an uncertain tone.

'I hope I may be able to relieve her mind. But you haven't looked at me, Rhoda.'

She raised her eyes then, and gave a little exclamation of surprise.

'Oh! what is changed in you? What have you done to yourself? You look so different!'

'Cannot you see? I am in plain clothes.'

She recognised the alteration then. He wore a rough suit of grey tweed, such as gentlemen sport in the country, with a coloured tie, and a round hat.

'You have discarded your cassock! What does this mean? Have you—can you really have left the Church?'

'I have indeed, Rhoda! Whatever my friends or enemies may think of my determination, I have resolved to follow the dictates of my own conscience, and be accountable to no one for my actions except God.'

The soft rose colour mounted to the girl's cheeks with pleasure.

'I am so glad,' she whispered.

'So you ought to be, for it is all your doing. Ever since I saw you last, I have been unable to get those words out of my ears:

"To thine own self, be true!
It follows, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."'

I was untrue to myself, Rhoda, when I allowed my friends to persuade me to become a priest, but, at the time, I was in no fit state to judge of anything. But I think I might have remained in it for ever, had it not been for your encouragement and brave advice. I suppose I shall make a great scandal amongst my brethren by leaving it, but they will not make it more public than necessary. The churches always hush up anything that does not redound to their credit. But I am willing, in this case, to take all the blame on myself.'

'And what are you going to do, Fred? You will not prosecute that unfortunate man, I hope,' said Rhoda, wistfully.

'Ah! Rhoda, there is no need to do it! The temptation has been removed from my way. He is dead.'

'Dead!' she echoed, wonderingly.

'Yes. It is true. After I left you that evening, I found your persuasions and arguments had taken such hold upon my mind that I resolved to go on to this man's dwelling at once and tell him he had nothing to fear from me.'

'Oh, Fred, how good of you!' cried the girl, with tears in her eyes.

'I did so, therefore, and saw the man's wife, whom I found knew the whole story, and thought I had come to accuse her husband openly of the murder. I set her mind at rest on the subject, and she told me he had determined to leave England the following day. He had retired to rest, so I did not attempt to disturb him, knowing his wife would tell him everything. The next day I received a letter from her to say that, on going up to her husband's room to communicate the news to him, she found him lying dead on the same bed as his little child. She tried to make out his was an ordinary sudden death, but, at the coroner's inquest that followed, I see they brought it in as suicide. Undoubtedly, the poor wretch had taken poison under the fear of detection. I had heard he was greatly addicted to the use of morphia. Remorse had driven him out of his mind.'

'And the poor wife and children—what will become of them?' asked Rhoda.

'They have plenty of this world's goods, child, with which to make themselves comfortable, and the peace of mind, let us hope, will come with time. She has a very kind brother and sister-in-law, who flew to her directly they heard the news of her husband's death, and they will doubtless be her firm friends in the future. And she has three children, Rhoda, to look to for comfort. I am very glad of it, for she is a good woman and wife and mother, and, I am told, believed in him to the last.'

'Poor lady,' sighed Rhoda, 'how sad for her to find him worthless of her regard. The worst thing we can be called upon to bear is, to find our love has been thrown away.'

'As you threw yours away on me, Rhoda.'

'No, I didn't mean that,' she answered, colouring. 'I shouldn't have said it before you if I had.'

'But I mean it, Rhoda. I have been a scoundrel to you. I never saw it more plainly than I do to-day, to find you hard at work, with this child crawling at your feet.'

'Don't speak of it, Fred, please. It is past. Let the subject be tabooed between us. What are your plans? Tell me what you intend to do?'

'I am going to leave the country, Rhoda. I don't wish to bring more discredit on my faith and family than I need, so I shall make my home in a new land, and never offend their sight or hearing again. I am penniless, as you know. Every farthing of my fine fortune has gone into the coffers of the Church. I can't say I don't regret it, for I do; but I must accept the loss as part of the penalty of not knowing my own mind.'

'Money does not make all the happiness of this world,' said Rhoda, softly.

'No, but a considerable portion of it. However, least said, in this case, soonest mended. Failing it, I must work with my hands for my daily bread, which, perhaps, will be all the better for me. I shall begin low, but shall hope to rise by-and-by. An old chum of mine has lent me sufficient money to take me out of the country and settle me down a bit, and I am going straight to another chum, who has a big ranch out in the Rocky Mountains, and who, I know, will find me some sort of work to do.'

'But, Fred—' began Rhoda, eagerly.

'Wait a minute, my dear. I have something more to say to you. I shall have to go, of course, any way, but you would make me so much happier if you would go with me.'

'Go with you!' exclaimed Rhoda, looking up with startled eyes.

'Yes, as my wife, of course. You didn't suppose I was brute enough to add an insult to the wrong I have done you.'

'But, Fred, I am not worthy,' cried the girl, with crimsoned cheeks.

'Not worthy! Don't make me feel a greater villain than I do, by saying such a thing. Rhoda, dear, I never deceived you. You know I never made what is called "love" to you in the old, thoughtless days, which ended so disastrously for you. I didn't love anybody at that time, unless it was myself and my own selfish pleasures. I adored my poor wife. I am not afraid to say that before you, because you are not like other women. You like a man to speak the truth, not a lot of lies and flattery. But, if ever I loved a woman in my life, you have made me love you. If ever I felt that anyone was absolutely necessary to my existence, I feel that of you. If ever a fellow-creature has been a true, unselfish, trustworthy friend to me, it is you; and I am only speaking the plain truth when I say, if you will come with me to America and share my rough life there, you will make me far happier than I ever expected to be again.'

Rhoda had slipped from her seat and was kneeling by his side, hiding her face upon his hands.

'Oh, my love, my love!' she sobbed, 'I cannot believe it. It is too wonderful for me to believe. Oh! take me with you as your servant, your slave, anything, so as I may remain near you in sickness or health, to look after your comfort and minister to your wants.'

But he raised her up and sat her on his knee.

'As my slave. Yes!' he answered as he kissed her, 'all wives who love their husbands become slaves, but a slave that will be very near my heart, Rhoda—a slave that shall be honoured above everyone in my household. Is that a bargain, my dear? That we shall promise to be true friends and counsellors to our lives' end.'

'Oh! Fred, I am so happy. I never thought or dreamt that it could come to this. I should have been content to be your friend only for ever.'

'Oh, no! you wouldn't,' he said, shaking his head; 'and if you would, I shouldn't. But remember, I am a beggar, Rhoda. All those magic bank-notes, that procured us so much pleasure in the old days, are gone for ever. It is a hard lot I ask you to share with me. You are marrying a gentleman who has nothing but the title to recommend him.'

'But, Fred, it is not so,' said the girl; 'you forget that you made Mr Sinclair invest five thousand pounds for baby. I never touched it, darling! I never should have touched it during your lifetime. I told Mr Sinclair so, and it is there for you to take when you choose. And, though it is little to what you used to have, still, it is better than nothing, isn't it?'

'Better than nothing! I should rather think so! Why, under the circumstances, it is a fortune. But it is not mine, Rhoda! It belongs to the little chap there!'

'Oh, Fred, what nonsense! Who gave it him? Who has a better right to it than you? Besides, you have given him value in exchange, twice told.'

'What is that?' inquired Frederick.

'A father,' she whispered.

At this juncture in bustled Mrs Berry from the kitchen, bearing a smoking beefsteak pudding in her hands.

'Now, Rhoda, my girl, it's past two. Where's the cloth?' she began, but finished up with, 'My gracious! whom have we got here?'

Rhoda was too excited and happy to wait for introductions.

'Mother! mother!' she cried, springing to Mrs Berry's arms, and nearly upsetting the pudding altogether, 'it's my Fred, and he's going to marry me, and we're going to the Rocky Mountains together, and oh, mother! you will be able to go and keep Uncle Will's house for him now whilst we're away.'

She clung to her mother, sobbing and laughing at the same time, whilst Mrs Berry and Frederick Walcheren could only stand and gaze at one another in astonishment.

'Rhoda, Rhoda, my dear! be reasonable!' at last said Frederick, as he took her hand and tried to pull her away.

'Reasonable! well, I wish she would!' exclaimed Mrs Berry; 'how am I to be expected to understand all this scrimmage, when you've never had the decency to tell me the man was in the house? Your Fred, indeed! Why, I thought your Fred was a Roman priest. Are you imposing on me, child? and putting another young man on me instead of him?'

'No, no! indeed, mother!' said Rhoda, as she caught up her baby, and prepared to leave the room. 'Oh, Fred! explain the whole thing to mother, and I'll be back in a minute.'

She flew upstairs, and spent some time crying and cooing over her child, and telling him, amidst her frantic kisses, what a dear, good father he had, and how very, very much his mother loved them both. She bathed her own eyes, too, and smoothed her golden hair, and descended to the little parlour, blushing like a rose, but with eyes beaming with gratitude and affection.

'Well, here's a pretty kettle of fish!' exclaimed Mrs Berry, as her daughter appeared; 'and so you're to be off to the United States in another fortnight, and leave your poor mother to go to King's Farm by herself. A nice, dutiful daughter you are, upon my word!'

'Oh, mother darling! you know it is the very thing you would have chosen had you been given your wish!' said the girl. 'It is sad to part, dear, but it is all for the best! You will be so happy and comfortable with Uncle Will, and the next time I see England,' she added, in a whisper, 'I shall not be ashamed, you know, to go down and pay you and him a visit.'

'Ah, my poor lamb!' said her mother, looking fondly at her. 'Thank God! the shame you have borne so bravely is to be lifted off your brow at last. Mr Walcheren, she has been a true and steadfast wife to you! God grant you may reward her!'

Frederick Walcheren stretched out his hand, and drew Rhoda and her child within the shelter of his arms.

'May God forsake me,' he answered, 'if I ever make her weep again!'


Roy Glashan's Library
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