Innocent : a tale of modern life

By Mrs. Oliphant

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Title: Innocent: a tale of modern life

Author: Mrs. Oliphant

Release date: September 17, 2023 [eBook #71671]

Language: English

Original publication: London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle, 1874

Credits: Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)



                        A TALE OF MODERN LIFE.

                           BY MRS. OLIPHANT,



                  SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW, & SEARLE
                  CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.


                       [_All rights reserved._]

                          ST. JOHN’S SQUARE.


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

I.--THE OLD HOUSE                                                      1

II.--THE NEWS, AND HOW IT WAS RECEIVED                                 8

III.--THE FAMILY                                                      16

IV.--THE FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY                                        23

V.--FREDERICK’S WAY                                                   32

VI.--PISA                                                             40

VII.--THE PALAZZO SCARAMUCCI                                          48

VIII.--THE COUSINS                                                    55

IX.--AT HOME                                                          63

X.--THE ARRIVAL                                                       70

XI.--AT HOME AND NOT AT HOME                                          79

XII.--A LOVE TALE                                                     87

XIII.--CONSULTATIONS                                                  94

XIV.--A MOMENTOUS INTERVIEW                                          101

XV.--A SUNDAY AT HOME                                                109

XVI.--INNOCENT’S FIRST ADVENTURE                                     117

XVII.--FREDERICK TO THE RESCUE                                       124

XVIII.--PHILOSOPHY FOR GIRLS                                         132

XIX.--THE FLOWER OF STERBORNE                                        140

XX.--WHAT IT IS TO BE “IN LOVE”                                      148

XXI.--A FAMILY DINNER                                                156

XXII.--ABOUT ANOTHER MARRIAGE                                        164

XXIII.--AMANDA                                                       172

XXIV.--WHAT THE FAMILY THOUGHT                                       180

XXV.--AFTER A YEAR                                                   188

XXVI.--A PROPOSAL                                                    195

XXVII.--MRS. FREDERICK                                               202

XXVIII.--A NEW COMPLICATION                                          211

XXIX.--INNOCENT’S OUTSET IN THE WORLD                                217

XXX.--THE HIGH LODGE                                                 224

XXXI.--THE MINSTER AND THE VILLA                                     231

XXXII.--THE MOMENT OF FATE                                           238

XXXIII.--FLIGHT                                                      247

XXXIV.--A BEREAVED HUSBAND                                           254

XXXV.--MRS. EASTWOOD’S INVESTIGATION                                 261

XXXVI.--AT HOME                                                      268

XXXVII.--INNOCENT’S CONFESSION                                       275

XXXVIII.--INTO FURTHER DEEPS                                         283

XXXIX.--AN APPEAL                                                    290

XL.--FAMILY OPINIONS                                                 298

XLI.--AN UNPOPULAR WEDDING                                           304

XLII.--AFTER THE WEDDING                                             311

XLIII.--THE GATHERING OF THE STORM                                   318

XLIV.--THE THUNDERBOLT                                               325

XLV.--THE FIRST DESERTER                                             333

XLVI.--THE EVIDENCE                                                  340

XLVII.--THE TRIAL                                                    347

XLVIII.--THE SECOND DAY                                              363

XLIX.--DELIVERED                                                     368

L.--JENNY’S MEDITATION                                               375

LI.--THE NUNNERY                                                     380

LII.--WHAT BECAME OF LADY LONGUEVILLE                                382

LIII.--CONCLUSION                                                    391






The Eastwoods lived in an old house in one of the southwestern suburbs
of London. It was one of those houses which, dating only from the
prosaic age of Queen Anne, have come to be picturesque in their
way--which they were never intended to be--and are comfortable, which
they were intended to be, to a degree rarely attained by all our modern
efforts. What advances we have made since then in every way! And yet all
Belgravia did not hold a house so thoroughly good for living in, so
pleasant, so modest, so dignified, and so refined, as the big brick
house, partly whitewashed, partly retaining its native red, lichened all
over with brown and yellow mosses, in which, at the outset of this
history, Mrs. Eastwood lived with her children. It had been built by the
Eastwoods of the time, more than a century and a half ago. It had given
shelter to various generations since then--their mortal inn and lodging,
the everlasting dwelling-place of their memory. They had left layers, so
to speak, of old furniture, from the japanned screens and cabinets of
the founder, to the hideous haircloth and mahogany of George IV.; and
pictures and knick-knacks, and precious old china for which collectors
would have given its weight in gold. All these riches were not shown off
to advantage, as they might have been. You stumbled on them in corners;
you found them in out-of-the-way cupboards, in rooms that were rarely
used. In short, you could not take a walk on a wet day about this
delightful house without finding something out that you had not seen
before. For my own part I prefer this to the modern device of making a
museum or china-shop of one’s drawing-room. The drawing-room was a place
to live in at The Elms. It had a hundred prettinesses about, none of
which had been bought within the memory of any of the young people,
except, indeed, a few foolish knick-knacks belonging to Ellinor--for
what girl worth calling such was ever without knick-knacks? But its
supreme use was to be lived in, and for this it was infinitely well
adapted. Its only drawback that I know--and that many people thought a
great advantage--was that, being close to London, you saw nothing from
the windows that you might not have seen a hundred miles deep in the
country. The drawing-room windows looked out upon a great green lawn,
set in old trees. In winter, when the trees had lost their leaves, bits
of other old houses, red and mossy, looked in through the bare branches;
but in spring the farther end of the lawn was carpeted with primroses,
and canopied with foliage, and the long avenue of elms at one side, and
the narrower path on the other under the lime-trees, which was called
the Lady’s Walk, might have graced a squire’s house anywhere. Both of
these ended in a high paling; but I defy you to have found that out when
elms and limes alike were in their glory of summer array.

After having said so much about the house, I may introduce you to its
inhabitants. Mrs. Eastwood was a widow, and had four children, all as
yet at home under the maternal roof. The eldest son was in a public
office; the second, Richard, commonly called Dick, was at home “reading”
for one of those examinations which occupy all our youth now-a-days. The
third boy, who bore the magnificent name of Plantagenet, usually, I am
grieved to say, shortened into Jenny, was still at Eton. One only
remains to be accounted for, and that was Ellinor. She was but one,
counted according to ordinary arithmetic; but she was as good as three
additional at least, reckoning by her importance in the household. “If
you count girls, there are seven of us; but some people don’t count
girls. I’m one,” said one of _Mr. Punch’s_ delightful little boys in the
old days of Leech. Ellinor Eastwood might have adapted this saying with
perfect propriety to her own circumstances. The boys might or might not
be counted; but to enter once into the house without hearing, seeing,
divining the girl in it was impossible. Not that she was a remarkable
young woman in any way. I don’t know if she could justly be called
clever; and she certainly was not more perfectly educated than
usual--and does not everybody say that all women are badly educated? Her
brothers knew twenty times as much as she did. They had all been at
Eton; and Frederick, the eldest, was a University man, and had taken a
very good class, though not the highest; and Dick was costing his mother
a fortune in “coaches,” and was required by the conditions of his
examination to be a perfect mine of knowledge; they ought by all rules
to have been as superior to their sister intellectually and mentally as
daylight is to darkness. But they were not. I don’t venture to explain
how it was; perhaps the reader may in his or her experience have met
with similar cases, though I allow that they go against a good many
theories. The household was a young household altogether. Mrs. Eastwood
herself was under fifty, which, for a woman who has had neither bad
health nor trouble in her life, is quite a youthful age. Her eldest son
was six-and-twenty. There had never appeared a very great difference
between them; for Frederick had always been the most serious member of
the family. His name of itself was a proof of this. While all the others
were addressed by a perpetually varying host of diminutives and pet
names, Frederick had always remained Frederick. I need not point out how
different this is from “Fred.” He was the only member of the household
who had as yet brought any trouble or anxiety to it, but he was by far
the most proper and dignified person in the house. The rest were very
youthful indeed, varying, as we have said, from the light-hearted though
sober-visaged youthfulness of seven-and-forty to the tricksey boyhood of
sixteen. It was a house, accordingly, in which there was always
something going on. The family were well off, and they were popular;
they were rich enough to give frequent and pleasant little
entertainments, and they had never acquired that painful habit of
asking, “Can we afford it?” which is so dreadful a drawback to social
pleasures. I do not intend to imply by this that there was any
recklessness or extravagance in this well-ordered house. On the
contrary, Mrs. Eastwood’s bills were paid as by clockwork, with a
regularity which was vexatious to all the tradesmen she employed; but
neither she nor her children--blessed privilege!--knew what it was to be
poor, and they had none of the habits of that struggling condition. That
ghost which haunts the doors of the less comfortably endowed, which
hovers by them in the very streets, and is always waiting round some
corner--that black spectre of indebtedness or scarcity had never been
seen at The Elms. There was a cheerful security of enough, about the
house, which is more delightful than wealth. To be sure, there are great
moral qualities involved in the material comfort of having enough, into
which we need not enter. The comfort of the Eastwoods was a matter of
habit. They lived as they had always lived. It never occurred to them to
start on a different _pied_, or struggle to a higher level. What higher
level could they want? They were gentlefolks, and well connected; no
sort of _parvenu_ glitter could have done anything for them, even had
they thought of it; therefore it was no particular credit to them to be
content and satisfied. The morality of the matter was passive in their
case--it was habitual, it was natural, not a matter of resolution or

And yet there had been one break in this simple and uncomplicated state
of affairs. Four years before the date at which this history begins, an
event had occurred to which the family still looked back with a sort of
superstition,--a mingled feeling of awe, regret, and pride, such as
might move the descendants of some hero who had abdicated a throne at
the call of duty. The year in which Frederick took his degree, and left
Oxford, Mrs. Eastwood had _put down her carriage_. I dare not print such
words in ordinary type. She said very little about the reasons for this
very serious proceeding; but it cannot be denied that there was a
grandeur and pathos in the incident, which gave it a place in what may
be called the mythology of the family. Nobody attempted to explain how
it was, or why it was. It gave a touch of elevating tragedy and mystery
to the comfortable home-life, which was so pleasant and free from care.
When now and then a sympathizing friend would say, “You must miss your
carriage,” Mrs. Eastwood was always prompt to disclaim any need for
pity. “I have always been an excellent walker,” she said cheerily. She
would not receive any condolences, and yet even she got a certain subtle
pleasure, without knowing it, out of the renunciation. It was the
hardest thing she had ever been called upon to do in her life, and how
could she help being a little, a very little, proud of it? But, to be
sure, this sentiment was quite unconscious. It was the only unexplained
event in her innocent life. Ellinor, of course, half by instinct, half
by reason of that ineffable communion between a mother and an only
daughter, which makes the one conscious of all that passes within and
without the other almost without words, knew exactly how this great
family event had come about; but no one else knew, not even the most
intimate friends of the house.

The cause, however, was nothing much out of the course of nature.
Frederick, the eldest son and hope, he of whom everybody declared that
he was his mother’s stay and support, as good as the head of the family,
had suddenly burst into her room one morning before she was up, like a
sudden avalanche. He came to tell her, in the first place, that he had
made up his mind not to go into the Church, for which he had been
educated, and in which he had the best of prospects; and in the second
place, that he was deeply in debt, and was going out to Australia by the
next ship to repent and make up his deficiencies. Fancy having all this
poured into your ears of a cold spring morning in your peaceful bed,
when you woke up with the consciousness that to-day would be as
yesterday, and, perhaps, still more tranquil and pleasant. Mrs. Eastwood
was stricken dumb with consternation. It was the first time that trouble
in this shape had ever visited her. Grief she had known--but that
curtain of gentle goodness and well-seeming which covers the surface of
life had never before been rudely rent before her eyes, revealing the
abyss below. And the shock was all the greater that it was Frederick who
gave it; he who had been her innocent child just the other day, and who
was still her serious boy, never the one to get into mischief. The
surprise was so overwhelming that it almost deadened her sense of pain;
and then, before she could fully realize what had happened, the real
importance of the event was still further confused by the fact, that
instead of judging the culprit on his real demerits, she had to pray and
plead with him to give up his mad resolution, to beg him not to throw
his life away after his money. So urgent did this become that she
gradually forgot all about the blame attaching to him, and could think
of nothing but those terrible threats about Australia, which gradually
became the central fact of the catastrophe. To do him justice, Frederick
was perfectly sincere, and had no thought of the admirable effect to be
produced by his obstinate determination. Where is the family that does
not know such scenes? The result was that the carriage was “put down,”
the debts paid, Australia averted; and after a short time Mr. Frederick
Eastwood gained, after a severe examination, his present appointment,
and all again went merry as marriage-bells. I don’t know whether the
examination was in reality severe; but at least Mrs. Eastwood thought
so, which pleased her, and did nobody any harm; and as time went on she
found to her entire satisfaction that every thing had been for the best,
and that Providence had brought good out of evil. In the first place, it
was “noble” of Frederick, when he found he could not conscientiously
enter the Church, to scorn all mercenary motives, and not to be tempted
by the excellent living which he knew awaited him. And then what a
comfort and blessing it was to have him at home, instead of away down in
Somersetshire, and only paying his family a visit two or three times in
a year! Thus the fault faded out of sight altogether by the crowding of
the circumstances round it; and Frederick himself, in contemplating (for
he was always serious) the providential way in which his life had been
arranged for him in a new groove, forgot that the first step in this
arrangement had been a very reprehensible one on his own part, and came
to regard the “putting down” of the carriage as the rest did--as a
tremendous and mysterious family event, calling forth an intense pride
and melancholy, but no individual sense of guilt or responsibility so
far as he was personally concerned. “I don’t like to take you out in a
fly, Nelly,” Mrs. Eastwood would sometimes say, as she gave a last touch
to Ellinor’s ribbons, and breathed a soft little sigh. “As if I cared!”
cried the girl: “and besides, you can say, like Lady Dobson, that you
never take your horses out at night.” Now Lady Dobson was very rich, and
in trade, and a standing joke in the Eastwood circle; and the party went
off very merry in the fly, with never another thought of the carriage
which had been “put down.”

Light-hearted folk! That sudden tempest of trouble and terror which had
driven Frederick into the Sealing-Wax Office, and the ladies into Mr.
Sutton’s neat flys, gave, I think, on the whole, a zest to their

The drawing-room at The Elms was a large room, with a rounded end
occupied by a great bow window, which opened like a door into a pretty
conservatory, always gay with flowers. Opposite the fireplace were three
other long and large windows, cut to the floor, from which you looked
out over the long stretch of greensward embosomed in great trees which
has been already described. In summer, the flower beds which were cut in
the grass close under the windows were ablaze with brilliant colour; but
in the meantime, on the afternoon when this story opens, nothing was
visible but an interrupted golden line of crocus, defining each bed, and
depending upon the sun to make the definition successful. When the day
was bright the border bristled all round in close array with spikes of
gold; but on this particular day it was gloomy, and the line was
straggling and broken. On a damp February afternoon the strongest
attraction is generally indoors; and the room was bright enough to
satisfy the most difficult critic. Mrs. Eastwood had, as every mother of
a family ought to have, her particular chair, with her particular little
table and footstool, a detached and commanding position, a genial
domestic throne, with the supremacy of which no one ever interfered.
There was room for any one who wanted counsel to draw a chair by its
side, and plenty of room for a big boy to stretch out his lazy length on
the rug at its feet, resting a curly head, it might be, on the mother’s
footstool. Mrs. Eastwood was seated here in her black gown with violet
ribbons, which was her compromise between the world and her widowhood.
Sometimes she went the length of grey and red. I don’t know what
innocent prejudice she had to the effect that grey and red betokened
still some recondite style of mourning; but such was her prejudice. She
would have felt a blue ribbon to be profane. Need I say that she was
plump, and had perhaps a little more colour than when she was twenty?
But there were few wrinkles upon her pleasant face, and no clouds upon
her forehead. She had known grief, innocent and holy, but no trouble of
that wearing kind which saps the strength and steals the courage out of
life, except that one of which the reader has been told; and that, as he
has also been informed, had turned out for the best.

Ellinor was the only other member of the family present, except, indeed,
a certain small Skye terrier, known by the name of Winks, who was a very
important member of the family. As Winks, however, for the present is
asleep coiled up in an easy chair, and happily unobservant of what is
going on, we may leave him for an after occasion, and pass on to the
young lady of the house. What can we say about her? Dear and gentle
reader, you know half-a-hundred just like Nelly. She had brown hair,
bright, dancing, brown eyes, and a nose which, thanks to Mr. Tennyson,
we do not require to describe as _retroussé_. It was “tip-tilted, like
the petal of a flower.” As there was not a straight line about her
anywhere, this delicate little turn was appropriate. Although, however,
it is true that there was no one straight line about the girl, the
combination of a hundred soft curves produced a perfect pose of figure,
light, firm, and elastic, like--well, like most girls of twenty. What
can one say more? Nelly had no settled place like her mother. She was
not restless, nor fidgetty, but she was everywhere at once. I don’t know
why it was necessary that she should be always in motion--for she never
crossed the room or went from one table to another without a reason for
it--but somehow there was a perpetual play of movement and variety in
every room where she was. Even when she was absorbed in the tranquillity
of needlework, the motion of her hand kept things going. She was like a
brook: a soft atmosphere of sound and movement--always soft, always
pleasant--belonged to her by nature; but, like the brook, she
tranquillized the surrounding scenery; or, like a bird, making the
quietness seem more complete by its flitting from one branch to another,
and delicious trying over of its favourite notes. Nelly was not
alarmingly good, nor perfect in any way I know of; but she fulfilled
this mission of the girl, which I fear, among greater aims, is falling a
little into disrepute--she filled the whole house with her youth, her
brightness, her gaiety, her overflowing life. No great demands of any
kind had yet been made upon her. Whether she would be capable of
responding to them when they came, no one could tell; but in the
meantime she fulfilled her primitive use with the most thorough
completeness. She was the life of the house.

Mrs. Eastwood had brought in some letters with her to the drawing-room.
They had been delivered at luncheon, and as none looked very pressing,
they had been suffered to wait. This happy household was in no anxiety
about its letters. That continual fear of bad news which afflicts most
of us had no place in the bosom of the easy soul who had but one of her
children absent from her, and he within half-an-hour by railway. She
went over them at leisure, reading here and there a few words aloud.
“Fancy, Nelly, Claude Somerville is going to be married at last,” she
said. “I wonder if his people will think her good enough; but indeed
they will never think any one good enough; and poor little Mary Martin
is going out as a governess. Now, how much better if Claude had married
her, and saved such a sad experiment?”

“But did they ever care for each other?” asked Nelly, with open eyes.

“No, I don’t think they did. But what a nice arrangement it would have
been! Whereas the girl he is going to marry is an heiress,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, “and has no need of him, so to speak. Dear me! I do not mean
to speak against Providence; but I should like sometimes to
interfere.--Listen! ‘Poor little Mary bears up very bravely. She
pretends to make light of it; but what a change it will be from her
home, and her father who spoilt her?’”

“Mamma, let us have her here on a long visit,” cried Nelly. “I am sure
if she chose she might spend her life among her friends.”

“She is a very independent little thing,” said Mrs. Eastwood doubtfully.
“Frederick and she were once rather good friends; but you may write to
her if you like, Nelly. It will always be kind. The Claude Somervilles
are going to Italy for their wedding trip. Dear me! why can’t people
stay at home? one hears of nothing but Italy. And, speaking of that,
here is an Italian postmark. I wonder who it comes from.”

A few minutes passed, and Mrs. Eastwood made no further communication.
“Where is it from?” Ellinor asked twice, not caring to be kept in
suspense, for the correspondence of the house, like other things, was in
common. Her mother, however, made no reply. She uttered various half
articulate exclamations--“Dear me! dear me! Poor man; has it really come
to that!” she murmured as she read. “What is it, mamma!” said Ellinor.
Mrs. Eastwood read it all over, cried out, “Good gracious, Nelly!” and
then turning back to the first page, read it over again. When Nelly
found it impossible to bear this suspense any longer, she rose and went
behind her mother’s chair, and looked over her shoulder: “Is it bad
news?” she cried, looking at the cramped lines which she could not make
out. “Dear! dear me! dear me! what shall I do, Nelly?” said Mrs.
Eastwood, wringing her hands; and then she added, “Don’t write to Mary
Martin, my dear, here is some one to be looked to of our own.”



Mrs. Eastwood had scarcely uttered these mysterious and affecting words,
when a roll of wheels, a resounding knock, a peal at the outer door,
announced visitors. “Oh, call Brownlow, Nelly, quick, before the door is
opened!” she said. “Oh, Brownlow, stop a moment; I have just heard of a
death in the family. I don’t think I can see any one; I don’t think that
I ought to be able to see any one, Nelly?”

“Who is it, mamma?” cried Nelly, taking possession of the letter. Mrs.
Eastwood took out her handkerchief and put it lightly to her eyes.

“I don’t mean that I was fond of him,” she said, “or could be, for I did
not know him, scarcely--but still it is a shock. It is my
brother-in-law, Nelly, Mr. Vane--whom you have heard of. I wonder now,
who it is at the door? If it is Mrs. Everard, Brownlow, you can let her
in; but if it is Lady Dobson, or Miss Hill, or any other of those
people, say I have just heard of a death in the family. Now run! it must
be some one of importance, for there is another knock at the door.”

“Mr. Vane--why he is not even a relation!” cried Nelly. “There! Brownlow
is sending the people away. My step-aunt’s husband, whom none of us ever

“It would be more civil to call him your step-uncle, Nelly. People
generally do--especially as he is dead now, poor man, and never can take
anything upon him. Oh, dear! why, it was Mrs. Barclay, and her brother,
Sir Alexis--people I really wanted to see. How unfortunate! Brownlow, I
am sure I said particularly, Lady Dobson, or Miss Hill, or that kind of

“You said Mrs. Everard was to come in, mum, and no one else,” said
Brownlow, standing very stiffly erect with his tray, and the card on it,
in his hand.

“That is how it always happens,” said Nelly, “when you say you are not
at home. The nicest people always get sent away: the bores come at other
times, and are admitted as a matter of course. Not to say that one
should always tell the truth; it is the best policy, like honesty, and
other good things.”

“Nelly, you forget yourself,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “When I say not at
home, everybody understands what is meant. But in the present instance
there is no fib. Of course, now we must keep it up for to-day, at least.
You can say, ‘Not a near relation,’ Brownlow; ‘nothing to draw down the
blinds for, but very unexpected and a shock.’ That is enough. Poor man!
it is true I never saw him but twice, and my father never forgave poor
Isabella for marrying him. Poor Isabella! But that is not all, dear.
Give me the letter again.”

“I am reading it, mamma,” said Nelly, and she began to spell it out
aloud, stumbling over the crabbed Italian, and somewhat mazed by mingled
ignorance and wonder. “Here is something about a girl, a young lady. Who
is this young lady, and what did you mean when you said some one of our
very own?”

“I have been a wicked woman,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “When poor Isabella
died, I never asked about the baby; I took it for granted the baby died
too. And I did hate the man so, Nelly; he killed her; I am sure he
killed her. And here has the poor baby been living all the time! I am a
wicked woman. I might have been of some use, and taken her away from
that dreadful man.”

“But she seems to have liked the dreadful man. It says here that she
cannot be consoled. Poor thing! Don’t you know anything about her,
mamma?” cried Nelly. Here Mrs. Eastwood took out her handkerchief once
more, and this time cried in earnest with grief and shame.

“I am a hard-hearted, bad woman!” she said; “Don’t contradict me, Nelly.
A girl that is my own flesh and blood; and I never even inquired after
her--did not know of her existence----”

“Well, mamma, I think I will give you absolution,” said Nelly. “If you
did not know of her existence, how could you inquire after her? Did poor
Aunt Isabella die when she was born?”

“That is the worst of it all,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I must make a clean
breast of it. I must not deceive myself any more. Yes, I did know of the
poor child’s existence. She must have been six or seven when Isabella
died. The child had the fever too, and I persuaded myself she must have
gone with her mother. For you see, Mr. Vane--poor man, he is dead; we
must not speak any harm of him--was so very disagreeable in his letters.
I know I ought to have inquired; but I had got to dislike him so much,
and almost to be afraid of him----”

“I think it was not quite right of you,” said Nelly, with the gravity of
a judge.

“I know it was not,” said the culprit, penitent. “Many a time I have
said to myself, I would write, but always put it off again. However, it
is not too late now to make amends to her; and as for him----. Give me
the letter, Nelly. Oh! to think he should be dead--such a man as that.”

“Well, surely, mamma, he is no great loss, if he was such a man.”

“Not to us; oh no, not to us! Not to any one except himself; but for
himself! Think, Nelly. However, we are not called upon to judge him,
thank Heaven! And as for the poor child--the poor little girl----”

“It is a long time since Aunt Isabella died,” said Nelly. “How old is
the little girl now?”

Mrs. Eastwood had to make a great effort of recollection. She had many
landmarks all through her life from which to date, and after a
comparison of these, and some trouble in fixing the exact one that
answered, she at length decided that her sister’s death had taken place
the year that Frederick had his fever, which was when he was sixteen. It
is unnecessary for us to go into the details by which she proved her
calculation--as that he grew out of all his clothes while he was ill,
and had nothing to put on till his new mourning arrived, which was a
melancholy business for an invalid. By this means, however, the fact was
established, that “the poor little girl” must be at least sixteen, a
startling conclusion, for which neither of the ladies were prepared.

“As old as Jenny,” said Ellinor, pondering, with unusual gravity upon
her face.

“But then she is a girl, dear, not a boy, remember,” said Mrs.
Eastwood. “Jenny is a dear boy, but two of him in the house would be
trying--in London. That is the worst of London. When boys are at home
for the holidays they have so little scope, poor fellows. I wonder if
she has had any education, poor child?”

“I wonder,” said Nelly, still very grave. “Mamma, must this new cousin
come here?”

“Where else could she go, Nelly? We must be very kind to her. Besides,
she will be a companion for you. It will be very delightful, I don’t
doubt, to have her,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a certain quaver and
hesitation in her voice.

Nelly made no immediate reply. “It will be very odd,” she said, after a
pause, “to have another girl in the house--a girl not so far off one’s
own age. Dear, what an unpleasant sort of creature I must be! I don’t
feel quite so sure that I shall like it. Perhaps she will be much nicer
than I am; perhaps people will like her better. I am dreadfully afraid,
mamma, I am not good enough to be quite happy about it. If she had been
six instead of sixteen----”

“Nelly, don’t say anything, dear. She is our own flesh and blood. You
would be good to any stranger. As for being nicer than you, my
Nelly!--But poor child, poor child, without either father or mother,
without a friend to stand by her--inconsolable in a strange country----”

“But, mamma,” said Nelly, scarcely able to keep from crying in sympathy,
“it cannot be a strange country to her if she has lived there all her

“That does not matter, dear; nothing can change the fact,” said Mrs.
Eastwood. “I have been in Italy, and I know how English people live.
They hold themselves aloof. Though they live there all their lives, it
is always a strange country to them. And he was not the sort of man to
make friends. I dare say she has been brought up by some old servant or
other, and allowed to run wild.” Here Mrs. Eastwood paused and sighed.
She was the kindest woman in the world, but the idea of a girl of
sixteen, with no manners or education, suddenly thrown upon her hands, a
new member of her family, brought up under circumstances so different,
and no doubt unlike them in every way, was not without its painful side.
And she was angry with herself for seeing this, and grieved to think
that she had so little natural affection or Christian charity. “Our
whole hearts ought to go out towards her, poor thing,” she added, with
profound compunction. “She has nobody else in the world to look to; and,
Nelly, whatever may be our first momentary feeling, of course there can
be no real hesitation----”

“Of course,” said Nelly, springing to her feet. “There is Mrs. Everard’s
knock this time, and now I know you will tell her all about it. What
room must she have? the little green room, or the room in the wing,

“Dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood coaxingly, “the kindest and the warmest
would be the little room, off yours--close to us both--to make the poor
child feel at home.”

“I knew that was what you would say,” cried Nelly, half laughing, half
crying; “it is exactly like you, mamma; not only take her in, but take
her into the very centre of the nest, between you and me.”

“To warm her, poor child,” said the inconsistent mother, laughing and
crying too; and Nelly ran off, stumbling in her way against Mrs.
Everard, her mother’s friend, whom the rest of the family were not fond
of. “Do not knock me down, Ellinor,” said that lady, giving Nelly a
kiss, which she received without enthusiasm. Where was Nelly going?
Straight up stairs without a pause to the little room which, already in
her own mind, she too had destined to her unknown cousin. She went and
looked at it with her head on one side, contemplating the little bed,
which was decked with faded chintz, and the paper, which was somewhat
dingy, and the carpet, which was so worn as to bear little trace of its
original pattern. “This will never do,” Nelly said to herself. Her
imagination, which was a very lively and sprightly imagination,
instantly set off on a voyage of discovery through the house to make up
what was wanting. She seized, always in her thoughts, upon here a
picture, and there a set of shelves, and rooted out from the lumber-room
the tiniest of easy chairs, and made up her mind as to the hangings. I
do not mean to say that this was all pure kindness. To tell the truth,
Nelly liked the job. The arrangement of the room, and its conversion out
of a dingy receptacle for a nursery maid to a bower for a young lady,
was the most delightful occupation to her. Did not some one say that a
lady had lately set herself up in business as a house decorator? Ellinor
Eastwood would have been her apprentice, her journeywoman, with all her

It will be apparent from this that though the first idea of the new
arrival startled both mother and daughter, the orphan was not likely to
have a cold or unkindly reception. So much the reverse indeed was this
to the real case, that by the time Mrs. Eastwood had confided all to her
friend she herself was in high excitement and expectation of her unknown
niece. Mrs. Everard had condoled with her on the burden, the
responsibility, the trouble, every one of which words added to the force
of the revulsion in her kindly and simple soul. “God forgive me, Nelly,”
she said, when her daughter reappeared in the twilight, “if I thought my
own sister’s child a burden, or shrank from the responsibility of taking
care of my own flesh and blood. It seemed to hurt me when she said such
things. She must have thought that was how I felt about it; when, Heaven
knows, the very reverse----”

“It was just like her, mamma,” said Nelly.

“My dear, none of you are just to poor Mrs. Everard,” said the mother,
driven back upon herself. She dared not grumble ever so little at this
friend of her bosom without giving occasion, so to speak, to the
Adversary to blaspheme. Therefore for the sake of peace she gulped down
a great many of her friend’s opinions without venturing to say how much
she disagreed with them. The two were sitting there, consulting over the
fire, when Frederick came in. There were no lights in the room, the
shutters were not closed, nor even the blinds drawn, and the trees were
dimly discernible like processions of ghosts in the dim air outside.
That still world outside, looking in through the window, was somewhat
eerie and dreary; when it caught Mrs. Eastwood’s eye she was apt to get
nervous, and declare that there was somebody in the grounds, and that
she saw a face looking in. But this evening she had other things to
think of. Frederick, however, as he came in, felt a shadow of his
mother’s superstitions and alarms. The glimmering dark outside seemed to
him full of possible dangers. “Why don’t you have the lamps lighted, and
shut up the windows?” he said. “I can’t understand your liking for the
firelight, mother. One can’t see to do anything, and anybody that
chooses can see in.”

“We don’t want to do anything, and we don’t care who sees us,” said
Nelly, who was sometimes saucy to her elder brother.

“Don’t wrangle, children: we were discussing something which will
startle you very much, Frederick, as it did me. It will make quite a
change in everything. Perhaps Frederick will feel it least, being out
all day; but we must all feel it,” said Mrs. Eastwood. Frederick seated
himself with his face to the window with a certain air of endurance. He
did not like the firelight flashing over him, and revealing what he
might happen to be thinking. Frederick liked to keep his thoughts to
himself; to tell just as much as he liked, and no more. He put his hands
into his pockets, and gave a half perceptible shrug to his shoulders. He
did not expect to be at all startled. “A change in the fashion, I
suppose,” he said to himself. He was supposed to be very fond of home,
and a most domestic young man; and this was one of the ways in which he
indemnified himself for the good character which he took pains to keep

They told him the story from beginning to end, and he was not startled;
but he was interested, which was a great deal more than he expected to
be. When the lamp was brought in he got the letter; but did not make
very much of that, for to Ellinor’s great gratification he could not
read it. It was written in Italian, as we have said. Now, Mrs. Eastwood
was the only person in the house who knew Italian, though Nelly herself
could spell it out. The mother was rather proud of her accomplishment.
She had lived in Italy in her youth, and had never ceased to regard that
fact as one of the great things in her life. It was with a thrill of
pleasure that she read the letter over, translating it word by word. And
it was something to have moved Frederick to such interest. He entered
into the discussion afterwards with warmth, and gave his advice with
that practical good sense which his mother always admired, though she
was not unaware that it sometimes failed him in his own affairs. “She
cannot come here by herself,” he said; “some one must go and fetch her.
You can’t allow a girl of that age to travel alone.”

“That is quite true, Frederick,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “how odd I should
never have thought of it before. Of course, she could not travel alone.
Dear, dear, what must we do? I cannot go myself, and leave you all to
your own devices. Could I send Brownlow, I wonder; or old Alice----?”

“Brownlow would never find his way to Pisa. He would break down long
before he got there. And old Alice, what good could she do--an old

“She travelled with me,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with modest pride.
“Wherever I went she went. She learned a little of the language too. She
would take very good care of her. Whom else can I send? Dick is too
young, and too busy about his examination.”

“If you will pay me well I don’t mind going myself,” said Frederick,
stroking his moustache, and thus concealing a smile which lurked about
the corners of his mouth.

“You, Frederick? It is very good of you to think of it. I never thought
of you. What a pity we cannot make a party, and all go!” said Mrs.
Eastwood. “To be sure that would cost a good deal. I would pay your
expenses, of course, my dear, if you could make up your mind to go. That
would, no doubt, be the nicest way of all. Yes; and although it is a
melancholy occasion, it would be a little change for you too. You have
been looking rather pale lately, Frederick.”

“Yes, I have been looking pale,” he said, with a little laugh, “and
feeling pale. I’ll go. I don’t care much for the melancholy of the
occasion, and I should like the change. To be sure, I am not much like
old Alice; if the little girl wants a nursemaid I might be awkward----”

“She is sixteen,” said Mrs. Eastwood. Nelly made no remark; but she
watched her brother with a scrutiny he did not quite like.

“Do you see anything extraordinary about me, Nell, that you stare at me
like that?” he said, with a little irritation.

“Oh, nothing extraordinary,” said Ellinor. There was a frequent
bickering between the two, which made the mother uncomfortable
sometimes. “I was thinking you must want a change very much to be so
ready to officiate as a nursemaid.”

“I do want a change,” he said.

“Don’t wrangle, my dear children,” said their mother; “what is the use
of wrangling? You have always done it since you were babies. Nelly, I
wish you were not so fond of having the last word.”

“I did not have the last word this time,” said Nelly hastily, under her

“For, if you will think of it, it is very good of Frederick to bestow so
much interest on a poor lonely little girl. Neither you nor I, Nelly,
though we are women, and ought to have more feeling, ever thought of
going to fetch her. The thing is, can you get leave, Frederick? You had
your two months in the autumn, and then you had Christmas, and you have
been out of town very often, you know, for three days. Can you have
leave again so soon? You must take care not to hurt yourself in the

“Oh, I can manage; I am not afraid of the office,” he said; but at this
moment Brownlow rung the bell solemnly, meaning that it was time to
dress. When they sat down to dinner together, four of them--for Dick had
come in in the meantime--they were as handsome a young family party as
could be seen. The table was bright with such flowers as were to be had;
well lighted, well served. Perhaps of all the party Frederick was the
most strictly handsome. He had a somewhat long face, with a melancholy
look, which a great many people found interesting--a Charles I. look
some ladies said; and he cultivated a small beard, which was slightly
peaked, and kept up this resemblance. His features were very regular:
and his fine dark brown hair longer than men usually wear it. He was
very particular in his dress, and had delicate hands, shapely and white.
He looked like a man to whom something would happen, the same ladies
said who found out his resemblance to Charles I. There was one thing
about him, however, that few people remarked at first sight; for he was
aware of it, and did his best to conceal the defect of which he was
conscious. He was not fond of meeting a direct look. This did not show
itself by any vulgar shiftiness of look, or downright evasion of other
people’s eyes. He faced the world boldly enough, forcing himself to do
it. There was, however, a subtle hesitation, a dislike to do it, which
affected people strangely who found this peculiarity out; it affected
them with a certain vague doubtfulness, not strong enough to be called
suspicion. This failing it was, undefined and undefinable, which
attracted Nelly’s eyes so often to her brother’s face, and produced the
“wrangling” which Mrs. Eastwood protested against. Nelly had, without
quite knowing it, a wondering curiosity about Frederick; though he was
her brother, she had not found him out.

“What’s the new girl’s name?” said Dick, who was exactly like all the
other young men going in for examinations who abound in English society,
and perhaps scarcely impress the general mind so much as their universal
information gives them a right to do. He was not great in conversation,
and he was fond of asking questions. Some people thought it was an
admirable omen of his future success. If there was a new point to be
found out in an exhausted topic, a new detail or particular (for Dick
was very practical) which no one had investigated, one of his questions
was sure to hit the mark. And it was wonderful, seeing the interest all
young persons take in proper names, that this important inquiry had been
left to him. “You talk of her as the little girl, and the cousin, and so
forth; ain’t she possessed of a name?”

“To be sure; what _is_ her name?” cried Nelly promptly.

Mrs. Eastwood went back into the recesses of her memory. She knew it was
a great family name in the branch of the Vanes to which her
brother-in-law belonged. It was something very unlike him; that she
remembered: very much unlike him; for she recollected quite well
thinking so when she heard it first. Not Angel; oh, no, though that was
pretty, and quite the reverse of the father. No. Now she recollected.
Innocent--that was the name.

“Innocent!” they all said, repeating it one after another all round the
table. It impressed the family somehow, and made Mrs. Eastwood--I cannot
tell you exactly for what reason--cry a little. There was something that
went to her kind heart in the name.

And two days after Frederick started for the Continent, to bring the
orphan home.



A bright spring morning, sharp and cold, but with floods of sunshine
everywhere--sunshine on the grass, turning the delicate rime into a
network of pearls, and glittering along all the bare branches, where the
brown buds were beginning to swell--colder than autumn, almost colder
than winter, but with a different sentiment in the air. Spring cold is
like the poverty of a poor man who has had a fortune left him--better
days are coming; the trees felt this already, though their buds were
pinched, and Nelly felt it as she went out with her garden gloves on,
and a pair of scissors. What did she expect to find in the garden, do
you ask? Nothing in the garden, where the crocuses had scarcely awakened
to the fact that the sun was up and calling them; but away at the end of
the lawn, among the roots of that transept of lime trees which crossed
the avenue of big elms, there were hosts of hardy little snowdrops
peeping up among the half-frozen grass, and growing in handfuls as
Nature bade them. By what sweet piece of good fortune this came to be, I
cannot tell; but so it was. Nelly herself, in a jacket trimmed with
white fur, was too bright to be like her snowdrops. She ran up and down
the long avenue to warm her delicate little toes. It was a better way
than sitting over the fire. In the little open space before the garden
door, Dick, with a book in his coat pocket, was doing what he could to
inform the mind of Winks. Dick was supposed to get up at seven to
improve his own mind, and, I presume, he believed that the book in his
pocket did him some good by mere contact, if nothing else. He had read,
at most, one page of it, at the expense of I don’t know how many yawns,
but now his soul was set on the more congenial task of teaching Winks to
carry a musket and stand on guard. Winks looked at the stick which had
fallen from his unwilling paws, sniffing at it with a certain cynical
disbelief in the supposed weapon. He was a very dark-coloured Skye,
almost black, and had a way of grinning at Dick with all his white teeth
displayed from his black lips, in a satirical smile which incensed his
instructor greatly. Winks had as great objections to being instructed as
Dick had himself, but, being above those prudential reasons which
induced his young master to smother his feelings, the four-footed
neophyte had distinctly the advantage. He did not believe in the feigned
firearm, and words could not have expressed the good-humoured disdain
with which he wagged his tail. “You think this is a gun, I suppose,”
Winks’s tail said; “but I who am your intellectual superior am not to be
taken in. Take up that bit of wood in my paws as if I was a mountebank!
Not if I know it.” “Sit up, sir, sit up,” said Dick in a passion. Winks
only smiled the more and wagged his tail. But the lesson, though it
amused his cynical humour, began to bore him. All at once he put his
head on one side, and pricked up his ears, responding to some imaginary
call. The pantomime was far cleverer than anything Dick was capable of.
“I think I hear my mistress calling me,” Winks said in the plainest
English; but he was too clever to escape at once. He paused,
contemplative, consulting heaven and earth. “Did I hear my mistress
call?” Then suddenly once more came the imaginary summons. “Distressed I
am sure, beyond all measure, to leave you,” the polite dog said, with a
final wag of his tail, triumphant, yet deprecating. “Confound the little
brute!” cried Dick, indignant; and Winks chuckled as he ran off on three
legs, pretending to be all eagerness. “Confound the little beast!”
repeated the boy; “Nelly, come here, and don’t dance about in that
aggravating way;--just when I thought he had got hold of a new trick!”

“Winks is a great deal too clever to do tricks,” said Nelly.

“Yes, he is as knowing as I am,” said innocent Dick. “I wonder now if
there is any truth in that stuff about transmigration. He must have been
an actor, that brute. I don’t believe my mother called a bit. I don’t
believe she is down-stairs yet--cunning little beast! What a jolly lot
of snowdrops, Nelly! Are you going in? It’s not nine yet. Come round the
walk, I want to speak to you. Oh what an awful bore is this exam.!”
said Dick, with a deep sigh. “Now I put it to you, Nell, in the spirit
of fairness, how can a fellow be expected to do mathematics before
breakfast? It is bad enough when you have been worked up to it, and
supported; but at eight o’clock in the morning, without so much as a cup
of coffee! What are men supposed to be made of? I am sure it never was
so in the old times.”

“Much you know about it,” said Nelly. “When I was at school, and much
younger than you, I had to get up and practise for an hour and a half
before breakfast--cold fingers and cold keys--and not even a fire.”

“Oh, as for that,” said Dick, “of course I never minded getting up at
Eton; all the other fellows did it, and for one thing, the masters were
punished just as much as we were, and looked just as blue. But when you
are all of you in your comfortable beds, and only me at work!”

“If that was all, I should not mind in the least getting up and sitting
with you,” said Nelly; “but then we should only chatter, and no work
would be done. And if you work hard, you know it will soon be over.”

“Soon over? yes, till the next one,” said Dick the disconsolate; “and
then India at the end. There’s Frederick now, a lazy beggar, comes down
at ten o’clock, and everybody thinks it quite right. Why should there be
such a difference between him and me? You’re a girl, and don’t count;
but why should he be in clover at the Sealing Wax Office, while I am to
be sent to India?”

“Frederick will never get rich in the Sealing Wax Office, but you may in
India. Besides, you know,” said Nelly, who was impressionable on this
point, though she did not altogether trust her elder brother, “he would
have been in the Church had he not been too conscientious. Quantities of
men go into the Church without thinking what they are doing; but
Frederick had scruples--he had doubts even on some points----”

“Much anybody would care if I had doubts,” said Dick; “if I were to set
up opinions, Nell----”

But this was more than Nelly’s gravity could stand. The idea of Dick
having opinions, and the injured look with which he announced the
probable indifference of the world to them, sent his sister off into
that _fou rire_ which no one can stop. “I will race you to the end of
the walk,” she said, trying to subdue herself; and, undismayed by the
indifference thus shown to his metaphysical difficulties, Dick accepted
the challenge. He allowed her to dart past him with all a boy’s
contempt. He regarded her, indeed, with something of the same sentiment
with which Winks had regarded him. “Girls spend all their strength at
the first outset,” Dick said composedly, going steadily on with his
squared elbows. “They’re like greased lightning for ten yards or so, and
then they’re done--like you, Nell,” he said, passing her when she
paused, panting, to take breath. She had made a hard fight for it,
however. She had run to within a few yards of the goal before she
allowed herself to be beaten. Dick immediately began a lecture to her
upon the deficiency of feminine performances, which was perhaps too
technical for these pages, but so like many lectures on the same subject
that the reader will have little difficulty in imagining it. “You never
can ‘stay,’” was the conclusion, made with much patronizing good-humour.
Altogether, it was apparent that Dick’s general opinion of his sister
coincided wonderfully with Winks’s opinion of himself. Great wits jump.

“Miss Ellinor, your mamma has been a-waiting breakfast this half-hour,”
said Brownlow solemnly, addressing them from the end of the walk.
Brownlow was large and stout, and filled up the vista formed by the
branches. They had known his sway all their lives, and they laughed at
him between themselves; but the young Eastwoods had not yet learned to
disobey Brownlow. They put themselves in motion with the utmost
docility. “We are coming directly,” said Nelly, running to pick up her
basket with the snowdrops. Even Frederick did instinctively what
Brownlow told him. The brother and sister went on to the house,
following the large black shadow which moved with dignity before them.
“What an awful old bore he is,” said Dick: “look here, Nell, what will
you bet that I couldn’t hit that big red ear of his with this chestnut?
One, two, three----”

“Oh, don’t, Dick, for heaven’s sake!” said Nelly, catching his hand;
“though he is an old bore. I wonder how it is that we have none but old
servants? Mamma prefers them, I suppose; though Frederick, I know, would
like another cook, and I,--oh, no, I couldn’t part with old Alice. What
a wretch I am to think of it! But she never can help one to a new way of
doing one’s hair.”

“I always do my hair exactly the same,” said Dick. “I never require any
one to help me.”

“Oh, you!” said Nelly taking her revenge; “who cares how a boy looks?”
And thus they went in, breathing youth, and fun, and nonsense, and
mischief. Mrs. Eastwood stood warming her hands by the fire, but Dick
and Nelly put themselves on the other side of the table. Their young
blood was dancing, their young limbs too light to be touched by the

“I wonder where Frederick will be by this time; I wonder when he will
reach Pisa,” said the mother. “I suppose it is not to be expected that a
young man would go right through Paris without stopping. But when I
think of that poor little thing all alone----”

“The wind blew nice and strong last night,” said Dick; “it would be
pleasant in the Channel. I say, mamma, I hope Frederick liked it. How
queer he would look this morning! What a thing it is not to be able to
stand a breeze at sea! You should have seen us off the Needles in the
last equinoctial, in old Summerdale’s yacht.”

“Don’t tell me about it,” said Mrs. Eastwood, closing her eyes and
setting down her tea-cup. “Some of these days you will hear that Mr.
Summerdale and his yacht have gone to the bottom: and I am sure, though
I would not be uncharitable to any man, I think he deserves it: carrying
boys away in a storm without the knowledge of their people. I thought I
should have died.”

“I was a good bit more like dying, and I did not mind,” cried Dick. “It
was glorious. The noise, so that you couldn’t hear yourself talk, and
the excitement, and the confusion, and the danger! Hadn’t we just a
squeak for it? It was gloriously jolly,” cried Dick, rubbing his hands
at the recollection. He looked so wickedly pleased with the escapade
that his mother could not help snubbing him on the spot.

“I hope you have got a great deal of work done this morning. Alice tells
me you got up directly when you were called. And you must remember,
Dick, how very short the time is getting,” she said, in her softest
tones. “I would not for the world deprive you of a single advantage; but
seven-and-sixpence an hour is a very great deal to pay unless you take
the full advantage of it. And now I shall have another child to provide
for,” Mrs. Eastwood added, sighing faintly. Poor Dick’s random mood was
over. He said something about mathematics in general which was not
complimentary to that lofty science.

“If it was to be of any use to a fellow after I should not mind,” he
said. “It is the doing it all for no good that riles one. If I were to
be mathematical master somewhere, or head accountant, or even a
bookkeeping fellow----. You need not cry ‘Oh, oh!’ You ain’t in
Parliament, Nell, and never can be; that’s a comfort. Girls ought to
talk of things they understand. I don’t interfere with your
fiddle-de-jigs. That’s what discourages a fellow. Besides, mathematics
are horribly hard; ladies that never opened a Euclid,” said Dick, with
dignity, “are quite incapable of forming an idea.”

“They tell the best in the examination,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “When you
have passed you will have no more trouble with them. But we must not
forget how many marks there are for mathematics; and you must not be
discouraged, Dick. But you know, children, if we are to have a new
member in the family, we shall require to think of economy more than
ever. I do not see anything we can actually put down,” the mother said,
with deliberation, and a sigh to the memory of the carriage. “The only
thing I could think of was the fires in our bedrooms, and really that
would not be good for your healths. But we must be generally economical.
And the very first principle of economy is making the best use of what
we have. So recollect, Dick.”

“I’m going, mamma,” he said, and pulled the book out of his coat pocket
which had been keeping him company all the morning. Mrs. Eastwood
followed him to the door with her kind eyes.

“I really think, though he is such a harum-scarum, that he is doing his
work, poor boy,” she said, with that fond maternal confidence which is
often so indifferently deserved.

“Yes, yes, mamma,” cried Nelly, with some impatience, not feeling all
the interest in the subject her mother did. “But never mind Dick, he’ll
do very well, I daresay. Come and see what I want to have done to the
little room.”

The Elms was an old-fashioned house. It was built, as houses in England
are rarely built now-a-days, in those suites of rooms which are so
general on the Continent. Mrs. Eastwood’s room occupied the whole width
of the wing. It had an alcove, which was like an inner room, for the
bed, and abundance of space for reading tables and writing tables, and
sofas and book-cases in the rest of the spacious chamber, which was like
a French room in every way, with its dressing-closet opening from the
alcove, and all the less beautiful accessories of the toilet kept well
out of sight. Ellinor’s room opened from her mother’s, and opening from
that again was the little room which was to be prepared for the
new-comer. Already it was all pulled to pieces by Nelly’s commands, and
under her supervision; and a brisk little workwoman sat in Nelly’s own
chamber surrounded by billows of bright new chintz, with a running
pattern of rose buds and fern leaves. A tall old woman, in a black gown
and cap, stood beside this artist, advising it seemed and disapproving.
Ellinor stopped with the anxious and indeed servile politeness of fear
to speak to this personage. “How kind of you, Alice, to come and help,”
she said; “I hope you like the chintz. Don’t you think we shall make the
room look nice after all, when it has been papered and cleaned?”

“There’s nothing to be said against the room,” said Alice, in a Scotch
accent, and with a solemnity of tone that spoke more than words.

“And then we shall all be together. It will be very handy for
everything,” said Nelly, with a sickly smile, trying to bear up; “all
the ladies of the family----”

“I would like to speak a word to your mamma about that,” said Alice. She
pronounced the word “Mammaw,” and somehow those broad vowels added
ten-fold weight--or so, at least, Ellinor thought--to the speech.

“Mamma has gone into the little room,” said Nelly, with an effort. Mrs.
Eastwood was a very persuadable woman, and she looked still more
persuadable than she was. Most people thought they themselves could
influence her to anything, unless, indeed, some one else had forestalled
them; and, to tell the truth, even her own family attributed to Mrs.
Everard, or failing her to Alice, everything in their mother’s conduct
which was not attributable to their own sage advices. It required a
more subtle observer than Nelly to make out that her mother had in
reality a great deal of her own way; therefore she was deeply alarmed by
Alice’s unfriendly looks, and followed her into the little room with but
slightly disguised terror.

“Alice is in a bad humour,” she whispered to her mother; “You won’t mind
what she says? She thinks the new paper and the chintz are extravagant.
Don’t listen to her, mamma.”

“So they are,” said Mrs. Eastwood, shaking her head. She was fond of
pretty paper and pretty chintz, and of change and novelty. She liked
furnishing a room almost as well as her daughter did, and she thought
she had “taste.” Therefore she had defences against any attack on that
side of the question, which Ellinor had not dreamt of. However, even
Nelly was startled and taken aback by the unexpected line taken by
Alice, who looked as if she might have something very important to say.

“You remember Miss Isabel, mem?” was what she said, looking her mistress
full in the face.

“Dear me, Alice, what a question! Remember my sister?” cried Mrs.
Eastwood, turning abruptly away from the paper and chintz.

“It’s a queer question to ask,” said Alice, with a grim smile; “but
dinna go too fast. You mind your sister, and yet you are going to put
her child--her only child--here in a room next to your own, next to Miss
Ellinor’s? Between mother and daughter? That’s where you place Miss
Isabel’s bairn?”

“Alice!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, almost angrily. She looked at Nelly’s
wondering face and then at her maid with a half-frightened,
half-threatening gesture. She was annoyed, but she was startled too.

“I say it before Miss Ellinor that you may not do it with your eyes
shut,” said Alice. “I’m only a servant, with no right to interfere; but
I cannot stand by, and no say a word. I’m no in favour of it,” she
cried, turning round. “It would be best to provide for her, and no bring
her home; but if you will bring her home--and, mem, you are always
wilful, though nobody thinks so--put her in any place but here.”

“You are dreadfully prejudiced, Alice--dreadfully prejudiced!”

“Maybe I am; and, mem, you like your own way. We are none of us perfect.
But your sister Isabel’s bairn, the child of an ill father to the boot,
should never come into my house. Maybe you think, mem, that the features
of the mind are no transmitted? Poor leddy! Poor leddy! There’s enough
of her in your blood already without searching out of your way to find

Mrs. Eastwood grew crimson to her hair. “If you think any of my children
resemble my sister, Alice, I can assure you you are very much mistaken,”
she said, walking up and down the little room in her agitation. “Nelly,
look here, you would think she meant something very dreadful. Your poor
aunt Isabella was very secret in her way, and liked to make a mystery.
She got me into some trouble when I was a girl through it. That was all.
Why it should be remembered against her child, or change my natural
affections, I can’t imagine. Oh, I know you mean well, Alice, you mean
well; but that does not make it a bit more pleasant. Put down those
curtains and things, Nelly, put them down. I hate so much fuss. There is
plenty of time. You are always so hasty and premature in everything. I
am going to speak to cook. Don’t trouble me about this any more.”

“It is all your doing, Alice,” said Ellinor, as her mother went away.



This mysterious hint did not dwell upon Ellinor’s mind as it might have
done in the mind of a young person less occupied. I am afraid she was of
a superficial way of thinking at this period of her existence, and
rather apt to believe that people who made themselves unpleasant, or
suggested uncomfortable mysteries were “in a bad humour,” or “put out
about something;” which, indeed, is a very excellent and safe
explanation of many of the unpleasant speeches we make to each other,
but yet not always to be depended upon. Mrs. Eastwood was “put out” for
the rest of the day, and would give no heed to any of Nelly’s
preparations; but, like the light-hearted soul she was, had thrown off
the yoke by next morning. “Why should I take up Alice’s opinions?” she
said half to herself.

“Why, indeed?” cried Nelly, eager to assist in the emancipation.

“Alice is a good servant,” Mrs. Eastwood continued; “most trustworthy,
and as fond of you all as if you were her own” (“Sometimes she takes an
odd way of showing it,” interpolated Nelly), “and a great comfort to
have about one; but she has a very narrow, old-fashioned way of looking
at things; and why should I take up her superstitions, and act upon

This speech was received with so much applause by her daughter, that
Mrs. Eastwood immediately plunged into all the preparations which she
had checked the day before; and the ladies had a shopping expedition
that very morning, and bought a great many things they had not thought
of to make the room pretty. When people have “taste” and set their
hearts upon making a room pretty, the operation is apt to become rather
an expensive one; but this I must say, that mother and daughter most
thoroughly enjoyed the work, and got at least value for their money in
the pleasure it gave them. You will say that this was done more with the
view of pleasing themselves than of showing regard to the poor little
orphan who was to profit by all the luxuries provided; but human nature,
so far as I know it, is a very complicated business, and has few
impulses which are perfectly single and unmixed in their motives. They
cudgelled their brains to think what she would like. They summoned up
before them a picture of an art-loving, beauty-mad, Italian-born girl,
unable to live without pictures and brightness. They went and roamed
through all the Arundel Society collections to look for something from
Pisa that would remind her of her home. They sacrificed a Raphael-print
which had been hung in Mrs. Eastwood’s own room, to her supposed
necessities. Nelly made a careful selection of several _morceaux_ of
china, such as went to her own heart, to decorate the mantelshelf. I
don’t deny they were like two overgrown schoolgirls over a bigger kind
of doll’s house; but if you can be hard upon them for this admixture, I
confess I cannot. When the room was finished, they went and looked at it
three or four times in a day admiring it. They did not know anything
about the future inmate, what sort of soul it might be who was coming to
share their nest, to be received into their most intimate companionship.
They decked the room according to a preconceived impression of her
character; and then they drew another more definite sketch of her
character, in accordance with the room. Thus they created their
Innocent, these two women; and how far she resembled the real Innocent
the reader will shortly see.

Their life, however, in the meantime was not all engrossed in this
occupation. The Eastwoods were a popular family. They “went out” a good
deal, even in the dead season of the year, when fashion is not, and
nobody, so to speak, is in town. There are a very tolerable amount of
people in town even in November and December. There are all the law
people of every degree; there are all the people in public offices,
especially those who are married. Among these two classes there are, the
reader will perhaps not be surprised to hear, many, very many,
excellent, highly-bred, well-connected persons who actually _live in
London_. I am aware that in fashionable literature this fact is scarcely
admitted, and everybody who is anybody is believed to visit town only
during the season. But the great majority of the English nation consists
of people who work more or less for their living, and of these a large
number are always in London. The society of the Eastwoods consisted of
this class. To be sure, Nelly had appeared at Lady Altamont’s ball, in
the very best of society, the year she came out; and invitations did
still arrive now and then during the season from that supernal sphere.
But these occasional flights into the higher heavens did not interfere
with the natural society which surrounded the Eastwoods for at least
nine months of the year, from November, say, to July. Here were Nelly’s
young friends, and Mrs. Eastwood’s old ones; the advisers of the elder
lady and the lovers of the younger. As for advisers, Mrs. Eastwood was
very well off. She had a great many of them, and each fitted with his or
her office. Mrs. Everard was, as it were, adviser-in-chief, privy
councillor, keeper of the conscience, to her friend, who told her
almost, if not quite, every thing in which she was concerned. Under this
great domestic officer there was Mr. Parchemin, once a great Chamber
counsel, noted for his penetration into delicate cases of all kinds, who
had retired into profound study of the art of investment, which he
practised only for the benefit of his friends. He was for the Finance
department. The Rector of the parish, who had once been a highly
successful master in a public school, was her general adviser in respect
to “the boys,” selecting “coaches” for Dick, and “keeping an eye” upon
him, and “taking an interest” in Jenny during the holidays. Mrs.
Eastwood’s third counsellor had, I am sorry to say, interested motives.
He was a certain Major Railton, in one of the Scientific Corps, and was
handy man to the household--for a consideration, which was Nelly. He had
the hardest work of all the three--advice was less wanted from him than
assistance. He never went so far as his club, poor man, or entered Bond
Street, without a commission. He recommended tradespeople, and
superintended, or at least inspected, all the repairs done on the old
house, besides suggesting improvements, which had to be carried out
under his eye. Lastly, there was Mrs. Eastwood’s religious adviser, or
rather advisers; there were two of them, and they were both
ladies,--one, a sister belonging to one of the many sisterhoods now
existing in the English Church; and the other an old lady from the north
of Ireland, with all the Protestantism peculiar to that privileged
region. With this body of defenders Mrs. Eastwood moved through life,
not so heavily burdened after all as might be supposed. She had a ready
way of relieving herself when she felt the yoke. Though she religiously
asked their advice on all their special topics, and would even go so far
as to acquiesce in their views, and thank them with tears in her eyes
for being so good to her, she generally after all took her own way,
which simplified matters amazingly. Since this was the case even with
her privy councillor, the friend of her bosom, it is not to be wondered
at if the others were used in the same way. Mr. Parchemin was the one
whose advice she took most steadily, for she was deeply conscious that
she knew nothing of business; and Mr. Brotherton, the clergyman, who was
the patron saint of the boys, was probably the one she minded least,
for an exactly opposite reason. But the curious thing was, that even in
neglecting their advice, she never alienated her counsellors--I suspect
because our vanity is more entirely flattered by being consulted than
our pride is hurt by having our counsel tacitly rejected. So much for
the elder lady’s share. Nelly, on her side, had a host of friends of her
own age, with whom she was very popular, but no one who was exactly
Pythias to her Damon, for the reason that she was old-fashioned enough
to make her mother her chief companion. Let us clear the stage, however,
for something more important than a female Pythias. Nelly had--who can
doubt it?--or her right to admission into these pages would have been
very slight, a lover, for whom the trumpets are now preparing to sound.

Let us pause, however, for one moment to note a fact which is certainly
curious. We all know the statistics that prove beyond possibility of
doubt that there are more women than men in the world--or, at least, in
the English world--and that, in the natural course of events, only
three-fourths, or four-fifths, or some other mysterious proportion, of
Englishwomen can ever attain the supreme glory and felicity of being
married. Now, I do not dare to contradict figures. I have too much
respect--not to say awe--of them. I only wish to ask, in all humility,
how does it then happen that a great many women are offered the choice
of two or three husbands, and that almost every nice young girl one
knows has to shape her ways warily in certain complications of
circumstances, so as to keep every thing smooth between some two, at
least, who devote to her the homage of their attentions? I do not expect
that any statistician will take the trouble to answer this question, but
it is one deeply calculated to increase the mingled faith, incredulity,
terror, and contempt with which I, like most people, regard that
inexorable science. Nelly Eastwood was one of these anomalies and
practical contradictions to all received law. She had no idea that she
was flying in the face of statistics, or doing her best to stultify the
most beautiful lines of figures. Major Railton, of whom we have already
spoken, was over thirty, which Nelly, not quite twenty, thought rather
old; but the other pretendant for Nelly’s favour was not old. He was one
of the class which has taken the place now-a-days of the knights and
captains, the heroes of the period. Not a conquering soldier or bold
adventurer--a young barrister lately called to exercise that noble
faculty, and prove black to be white and white black to the satisfaction
of a British jury; _tant soit peu_ journalist, ready with his pen, ready
with his tongue; up, as the slang goes, to anything. His name was
Molyneux, and his position as a briefless barrister was much modified by
the fact that he was the son of the well-known Mr. Molyneux, whose fame
and success at the bar had already indicated him as one of the next new
judges as soon as any piece of judicial ermine fell vacant. This changed
in the most wonderful way the position of Ernest Molyneux, upon whose
prospects no mother could frown, though indeed he had nothing, and
earned just enough to pay his tailor’s bills. Major Railton, too, was
somewhat literary, as indeed most men are now-a-days. When anything was
going on in the military world, he was good enough to communicate it to
the public through the medium of the _Daily Treasury_. He had even been
sent out by that paper on one or two occasions as its special
correspondent. Naturally, he took a view of professional matters
entirely opposed to the view taken by the correspondent of the
_Jupiter_. The Major’s productions were chiefly descriptive, and
interspersed with anecdote. The barrister’s were metaphysical, and of a
very superior mental quality. He was fond of theology, when he could get
at it, and of settling everything over again on a new basis. These were
the two gentlemen who happened to meet in the drawing-room at The Elms,
on one of these chilly afternoons, at the fire-light hour. This fashion
of sitting without lights was one which both of them rather objected to,
though they dared not express their sentiments freely, as on a former
occasion Frederick Eastwood had not hesitated to do. On a little table
which stood before the fire was the tea-tray, with its sparkling china
and little quaint old silver tea-pot, which glittered, too, in the ruddy
light. This was the highest light in the darkling scene. Major Railton
was seated quite in the shadow, near Mrs. Eastwood, to whom he had been
discoursing, in his capacity as out-door adviser, about the state of the
coachhouse. Young Molyneux was moving about the centre of the room, in
the way some men have, talking to Nelly, and looking at any chance book
or curious thing that might fall in his way. They had been hearing the
story of the new cousin with polite interest, varying according to the
nature of the men, and the intimacy and interest in the house which
their respective positions enabled them to show.

“The stables are the worst,” said the Major. “In one corner the rain is
positively coming in; not to speak of the uninhabitable nature of the
place, if you should want to use it, the property is positively
deteriorated. It really must not be allowed to fall out of repair.”

“There is no chance of my wanting to use it, Major; but, of course, if,
as you say, the property is injured----. I am sure,” said Mrs. Eastwood,
“it is a great nuisance to be your own landlord; other people, I find,
have all these things done for them.”

“But other people pay rent, and may be turned out at a year’s notice,”
said the Major.

“Oh, indeed, nobody is so foolish as to turn out a good tenant. Indeed,
it is a very equivocal advantage to live in your own house. Constant
taxes, constant repairs, and though everybody knows I have put down my
carriage, obliged to spend money on my stables! That,” said Mrs.
Eastwood emphatically, “is what I call an irony of fate.”

“It is bad, it must be allowed,” said Molyneux bursting in; his ear had
been caught by the last words, which she pronounced more loudly than
usual, with a true sense of the injury done her. “It is like a story I
heard the other day of an unfortunate Austrian whose chateau was
destroyed in the war. Just about the time the last fire smouldered out,
he got his bill from the great furniture man at Vienna for the
redecoration. It had just been finished before the Prussian guns went at
it. There’s irony for you! I don’t suppose your friend Bismarck,
Railton, will be so civil as to pay the bill.”

“Nobody will pay my bill, I am sure,” said Mrs. Eastwood, not quite
relishing the introduction of a misfortune which overshadowed her own.
“What a comfort it is, to be sure, that there is no more fighting in
Italy. Frederick, I think, ought to be in Pisa by this time, and next
week I hope we may have him back. What a difference in travelling since
my day! Then we went in our own carriages from Marseilles, going round
the coast, and taking weeks to it. Nelly, don’t you think we might have

“Presently, mamma; don’t you want to know about my new cousin, a new
young lady coming out of the unknown?” said Nelly. “If I visited in a
house where any one so very new was about to appear, I should be dying
of curiosity. Mr. Molyneux, you are full of imagination, or at least so
the newspapers say; help me to make out what she will be like. Born in
Italy; sixteen; named Innocent. Here are the facts. Now tell me what you
think, and then you shall have my idea.”

“I hope she will be like her relations, whom we know,” said Major
Railton gallantly: “and then the firmament will have another star.”

“That is pretty, but it is vague,” said Nelly, “and I have heard
something like it before. Mr. Molyneux----”

“Who said I was full of imagination?” said Molyneux, feeling entitled to
draw a chair near her. “Now if there is one thing I pride myself on, it
is that subordination of fancy to reason which is characteristic, Miss
Eastwood, of a well-regulated mind. Girls of sixteen are of two classes,
so far as I have observed: honest bread-and-butter, which I rather like
on the whole--or the shy and sentimental, which, when it is not too
thin, has its attractions also. Miss Innocent, being Italian, &c., will
probably belong to the last class. Now for your idea. I have said my

“My idea,” said Nelly solemnly, turning her face towards him in the glow
of the fire-light, which lighted up the soft round of her cheek, and
fluttered about her pretty figure as if caressing her, “is this: I have
been reading up ‘Aurora Leigh.’ Have you read ‘Aurora Leigh’? Perhaps
you do not condescend to anything merely English, and written by a

“Pardon, this is criticism and accusation, not your idea.”

“I will send Birkson to-morrow,” said the Major in his corner, “he is
the man I always employ. He can give an estimate at least, and I will
cast an eye over it the next time I see you. I fear you must do it,
though I hate all expense that can be spared.”

“And such unnecessary expense,” sighed Mrs. Eastwood.

“Well, then,” resumed Nelly, flushing with excitement, “this is how it
will be--it is constantly so in books, and I suppose you writers ought
to know. She will be beautiful, she will be clever, far cleverer than
anybody here. She will flash upon us in our dull little house like a
princess. Mamma and I will be quenched altogether. She will be the
centre of everything. When you come to call, you will all make a circle
round her to hear her talk, or to hear her sing, or just to look at her,
she will be so lovely. Probably she will sing like an angel,--everybody
does who comes from Italy. Her father will have taught her all sorts of
out-of-the-way things,--Greek and Latin, and astrology, and I don’t know
what. Poor mamma and I will try to keep her down, you know, and be
something still in our own house.”

“Why, Nelly, what wild nonsense are you talking? Do stop your romancing,
and ring for the lights.”

“Presently, mamma! We will be unkind to her, we will leave her at home
when we go out, we will make her sit up in the old schoolroom. I hope we
will have strength of mind to give her enough to eat. But whatever we do
she will shine like a star, as Major Railton beautifully says. She will
outshine us in goodness as well as in everything else. She will cast us
into the shade; we shall feel ourselves the meanest, and the
wretchedest, and the stupidest, and the ugliest----”

“Nelly, Nelly, are you going crazy? What can you mean?”

“There’s imagination for you!” cried Molyneux; “invention, the most
daring fancy. I did not know you were a poet. ‘Aurora Leigh’ is nothing
to it, nor even ‘Cinderella.’ Now, I confess my curiosity is awakened.
When is this course of cruelty to begin?”

“Yes, mamma, it is getting quite night,” cried Nelly, springing up. “We
have been left long enough in the dark, haven’t we? Have you settled
about the stables? Oh, Major Railton, if you would be so very good! It
is only a book I want. A book is a simple sort of commission. Now please
tell me if it is troublesome, for of course I could order it at
Clarke’s; but then it would not come for a week. We are supposed to be
in London here, but it is a week’s post to Regent Street.”

“What is the good of me but to run errands?” said the gallant Major,
changing his seat in the corner for another chair more near to Nelly.
“I like it. Good heavens, I beg your pardon, Winks, how was I to see you
were there?”

Winks jumped down out of the chair on which he had been lying, in the
highest dudgeon; he took no notice of the criminal. Too much a gentleman
to say anything uncivil beyond the momentary snap and snarl which
betrayed his disinclination to be sat upon, a thing abhorrent both to
dogs and men, he hobbled to the rug, holding up one paw with a
demonstration of patient suffering, which might have melted the hardest
heart. It was Winks’s favourite paw which he never ran upon under any
circumstances; but this was a little fact which he did not mention. He
took it to the matting, and licked it, and made much of it, with a
heroic abstinence from any complaint. The Major went down on his knees,
and felt the injured limb carefully, with every expression of penitence.
“The bone is not hurt, I assure you,” he said tenderly, half to Winks
and half to his mistress. The sufferer turned his head aside during this
examination, to conceal, I believe, the smile upon his countenance.

“He is a little humbug,” said Mrs. Eastwood, but she was relieved to
know there was not much the matter. As for young Molyneux, he took a
base advantage of the incident.

“Railton is getting rather stout,” he whispered aside to Nelly, “I don’t
wonder Winks did not like it. He is broadening, one can’t deny it. Look
what a shadow he throws, blotting out you and me together.” And, indeed,
the excellent Major, foreshortened by the firelight, did throw a
portentous shade up to the very ceiling. And Nelly laughed out like a
foolish girl, unable to restrain herself, and could give no account of
her laughter; but declared it was because of Winks, who was an
accomplished actor, and had taken the Major in. “Winks, come, I am going
up-stairs,” she cried; upon which the invalid bounded from the rug,
nearly upsetting the Major. And then Brownlow came in with the two
lamps, and the hour of reception was over. Major Railton, however,
lingered still for a last word about the stables, while young Molyneux
was forced to go away. To have a settled appointment, so to speak, about
the house in which dwells the young lady of your affections is an
unquestionable advantage. It secures the last word.

“Nelly, how could you talk in that wild way?” cried Mrs. Eastwood when
both were gone. “There is nothing men like so much as to think that
women are jealous of each other. It flatters their vanity. They will
think you meant every word of all that nonsense, and a pretty account
they will give of us to all our friends.”

“I did mean it,” said Nelly, “I was quite in earnest. If you will read
‘Aurora Leigh’ as I have been doing----”

“Aurora Fiddlestick,” cried Mrs. Eastwood, which, after all, was no
argument; “don’t let me hear any more such nonsense. As if any girl that
was ever born could alter one’s position in one’s own house! I am
surprised at you, Ellinor. Make haste now and dress; we are much later
than usual in consequence of your foolish talk. I suppose I must go to
this fresh expense about the stables after what the Major says,” she
added, with care on her brow; “though I am sure Frederick will no more
be able to keep horses when I die than I am now. And I don’t see why I
should keep them up for remote posterity--my great grandson, perhaps,
who, if he is able to afford it at all, should be able to build stables
for himself. I don’t think I will do it, Nelly. I will send for old
Sclater to-morrow, and have the roof looked to. These men talk as if we
were made of money, especially men who have the public money to fall
back upon. It is very pleasant, I don’t doubt, to see work done and
places kept up when you never have any bills to pay.”

This little speech was delivered partly on the stairs as Mrs. Eastwood
went up to dress, followed by her daughter. Nelly, I am afraid, was not
much interested about the stables, and made no reply; but she put her
head into the little room before she began to dress, and contemplated
it, admiring yet doubtful. She had been reading “Aurora Leigh” all the
morning, and the poetry had gone to Nelly’s head, as poetry is apt to do
when one is twenty. She wondered if English nature, as represented by
the elms and the lime trees, with no hills at all, not even a green
slope for a background, would seem as tame to her cousin as English
scenery in general had done to Aurora. Nelly herself had never yet been
farther than Paris, and had seen no scenery to speak of. The blue spring
sky and the primrose-covered grass,--the play of sunshine and shadow
further on in the year through the silken green of the limes--the
moonlight pouring down the avenue--filled her own heart with a flood of
soft delight. That was because she knew no better, she argued humbly
with herself; but the other, who had seen Alps and Apennines, and snowy
peaks and Italian skies! “I wonder if she will think us tame too,” Nelly
said to herself with a little shiver, as she went back to her own room
and applied herself to the work of dressing. She reflected that in books
the stranger, the orphan, the dependent, generally has it all her own
way; but that, at the same time, there was something to be said on the
other side for the tame, stay-at-home people, who did their best to
satisfy the poetic nature, even if they did not succeed. Perhaps Miss
Leigh herself, Aurora’s aunt, who had not bargained for a poet, might
have had her story too. On the whole Nelly, having completed the little
room, was somewhat depressed about its inmate. It was pretty, but she
had not been able to give quite the ideal effect she had intended. In
furnishing and decoration, as well as other matters, the highest ideal
is not always the one that succeeds best.



Frederick Eastwood had leave for a fortnight from his office. He was not
hardworked, as a rule. Leave was dispensed freely enough, without any
very profound investigation into the urgent affairs which demanded it.
The men at the Sealing Wax Office were something like their
contemporaries of the Household Brigade, and were allowed much leisure
to make up for the severe mental strain which their duties, so long as
they lasted, imposed upon them. Therefore he had not much difficulty in
getting free at this important family crisis. He left home the evening
before his fortnight began, with a very pretty cheque in his purse which
his mother had given him. Mrs. Eastwood’s opinion was that, as Frederick
was sacrificing himself to family duty, Frederick ought to have a

“You can buy yourself something with the rest,” she said, smiling upon
him with that confidence of being liberal and trustful which, perhaps
because it is contrary to so many of her superstitions, always makes a
woman pleased with herself.

“There are pretty alabaster things at Pisa,” said Nelly; “you may buy us
all something if you like.”

Frederick shut up his pocket-book, as in other days men used to button
their pockets. He went out of the house hastily, resolving to do neither
one thing nor the other. They closed the door upon him tranquilly,
feeling that it was Frederick’s way, and that they knew precisely how he
would conduct himself on this expedition. But the truth is that no soul
more utterly unknown to that excellent family went out of all London
that day. They knew absolutely nothing about him. The anticipations
which made his eyes glow as soon as he was safe in his Hansom, and could
look as he liked, would have been absolutely incomprehensible to his
family. Could they have seen into his mind, they would have refused to
believe in the reality of what they saw. I hope it may be in my power to
reveal to the reader with less difficulty what Frederick Eastwood really
was. He had a fine exterior--dainty, and delicate, and refined. To see
him you would have imagined his faults to be faults of the mind; high
temper, perhaps, irresolution and weakness in critical circumstances,
intentions which were fundamentally good though often mistaken, and a
wrong-headed obstinacy and self-opinion when he did decide upon any
thing, which is quite compatible with irresolution in great matters.
This is what the cursory observer would have supposed him to be; and
this is what his family thought of him. He was not clever in managing
his own affairs, they knew; he was undecided about matters which
required firmness, and obstinate about trifles. He had no idea of the
magnitudes of differing objects, but would insist upon some trifling
point in an argument while he yielded the great ones. All these faults,
real or supposed, were in harmony with his looks, and with the
impression he made upon most people who met him. A Charles the First
sort of man--wrong-headed, melancholy, virtuous, meaning the very best
but not always able to carry out his meaning, and now and then betrayed
into subterfuge by very indecision. This was the manner in which he was
regarded by his friends.

I am afraid this was not, however, at all the real state of affairs. It
is difficult to describe the true condition of his mind without using
what the newspapers call vulgar expressions, and without venturing upon
ground little known to or studied by the writer of this history. I do
not know after what fashion the artisan enjoys himself when, after a
long spell of respectability, his wife informs me, weeping or indignant,
that he has gone off “on the spree;” and still less do I know what
experiences are gone through by a young gentleman of quality when,
obeying the same impulse, he also breaks loose from decorum and plunges
into occasional dissipation. There are other pens in plenty which can
inform the curious reader; but for my part, though I may guess, I do not
know. Frederick Eastwood, however, though he was rather a fine gentleman
than otherwise, was as much subject to this influence as any
undisciplined working man with good wages and rampant senses. This was
the secret, the mystery, and, by consequence, the centre of his life.
His training, his wishes, his pride, all the traditions of his own and
his family’s history, bound him to the only career which is not ruin for
men in his condition--a life in accordance with the ordinary rules of
virtue and respectability. He had not any of the great qualities which
make society pardon an occasional aberration; nor was he rich enough to
be vicious decorously, even had that been possible. Besides, he did not
want to be permanently vicious, nor, indeed, to sin at all if he could
have helped it. He felt the importance of character as highly as any man
could feel it, and clung to his good repute with a tenacity all the more
desperate that he alone was aware how much he now and then put it in
peril. But that other impulse was as a fire within him--that impulse to
burst away from all routine and self-control--to throw every restraint
to the winds, and follow for a brief delirious interval only the wild
suggestions of the senses, wherever they might lead him. Where they did
lead him I have no intention of following. But this was the key to the
somewhat strange and incomprehensible aspect which he presented to his
fellows. He never got into mischief sociably with his contemporaries.
They thought him on the whole rather a Puritan; though there were
inevitable echoes of something against him wandering vaguely about his
club and among the men who had been with him at the University. But all
that was known and seen of his life was so spotless and respectable that
the whisper of hostility was hushed. The question why a young man so
blameless should be often so moody, and always so uncommunicative, had
been solved in the feminine world in the most romantic manner, by the
theory that he was like Charles the First. But men did not take up this
notion so readily. There were various strange “ways” about him which
were very mysterious to his friends: a certain secrecy, in itself
carefully concealed, and watchfulness, as of a man about whom something
might some day be found out. When his fever fit was coming on, he would
grow restless, shifty, anxious, declining his ordinary engagements,
shutting himself up in his own room, morose with his family, and
impatient of all usual intercourse. A headache, or a cold, or some other
slight ailment, was the reason easily accepted by the innocent people
about him--and at the very nick of time some invitation would arrive for
a week’s shooting, or other agreeable occupation, which would “set him
up,” everybody thought. Whether he was resisting the devil at these
preliminary moments, or merely concocting plans by which he might get
free and secure the opportunity of self-indulgence, I cannot tell. I
believe, strange as it may seem to say it, that he was doing both.

But the devil got the best of the argument, as he generally does when
what are called “the passions” are excited, and the craving for
enjoyment, to which some natures are so susceptible, sets in. This
curious byeway of the human mind is one which a great many of us have
been forced to study much against our will: when all the desires of the
mind seem set upon the better way, and sore repentance, religious
feeling, and rational conviction of the fatal character of the
indulgence, seem certainly to promise victory, but are all upset at the
critical moment by that irresistible sense of the pleasure within reach,
which overcomes at once all spiritual and all prudential considerations.
Frederick Eastwood reasoned with himself, condemned himself, understood
the whole situation; he even prayed, with tears, against the besetting
sin, about the character of which he could have no doubt. But all the
time that hankering after the delight of it lay in the background; with
a corner of his mental eye, so to speak, he saw how best to attain the
gratification, and with a rush snatched it. Recollections of the
sweetness of it last time would flash across his mind, even at the very
height of his resolution to avoid it next time. He knew all that could
be said about those apples of Sodom, which are so beautiful to look at,
but are as ashes in the mouth. This is one of the set things which
preachers and sinners are alike ready to say together; but the fact is
that a great many people like the taste of the ashes, as Frederick did.
The pleasure of anticipating that mouthful had more force upon him than
all the arguments which, with hot zeal, he had so often used to

He had been wavering on the very edge of downfall when this mission to
bring home Innocent came, as it were, in his way. He accepted
it as--we cannot say a godsend, or a gift from heaven--but as an
almost supernatural provision for his necessities, a kind of
counter-Providence, if we may use the word. So strange are the vagaries
of human nature, that Frederick felt a sort of pious thankfulness steal
over him when he saw before him this opportunity for a break-out which
would be unsuspected by his friends. This time it would require no
scheming, no fictitious invitation; which was one of the reasons why he
went off with such exhilarated feelings. He bore the Channel far better
than Dick could have believed, being supported by his pleasurable
anticipations, and arrived in Paris in a delightful turmoil of
expectation. He was free! He could do what he liked--go where he liked!
He had some money of his own in his pocket, and the letter of credit his
mother had given him. Plenty of money, no restraint, and in Paris! He
settled himself in an hotel not too much frequented by English, and made
up his mind really to enjoy himself, and take the good of his
opportunities, for a week at least.

He went into it with a plunge, just as his less elevated contemporary
would go “on the spree.” But, fortunately or unfortunately, there is no
concealment about the latter process. It is received as a kind of
painful necessity by the poor women who suffer most by it; and the
record does not put the culprit at any great moral disadvantage. It is
otherwise in the higher classes. Frederick went everywhere where he
ought not to go; did everything that was most unbecoming and
inappropriate. He did not get intoxicated, but he drank a great deal of
champagne, and kept himself in a state of reckless excitement from day
to day; and he got into the very cream of bad company--the company of
people who shocked all his prejudices and revolted his good taste, but
yet swept him along on that wild tide of pleasure, which was what he
wanted. He had got a fortnight’s leave, to accomplish the journey to
Pisa and back, to console his little cousin, and win her confidence, and
bring her kindly home. It was, however, ten days after he had left
London when he woke up from his wild dream in Paris, his money all but
exhausted, his frame worn out, his faculty of enjoyment at an end. That
was not a pleasant waking, as may be readily supposed. He came to
himself among the husks of his pleasures, and cursed them, and repented.
He had done it a great many times before.

This time, however, there were unfortunate complications. He had still a
long journey to make, and no time to do it in; and he had heavy expenses
of travelling still to encounter, and no money to pay them. What was he
to do? Cursing those husks of pleasure is one thing, and re-making them
into the gold they represent is quite another. He did not dare to write
to his mother, and show her that he was still in Paris. He would rather
die, he thought, than compromise the position which was every thing to
him, or betray the secret of his life. Yet he must go on somehow, and
accomplish his mission. With a racking headache and a despairing heart
he began to count up his remaining coins, and calculate the time
necessary for his journey. Time and money alike would just suffice to
take him to Pisa. He had but realized this fact, without drawing any
conclusion from it, when some one knocked at his door. He was in a
second-rate hotel, but occupied its best room--a chamber all gorgeous
with mirrors and marble tables and bronze candelabra. He hurriedly drew
the curtains of the alcove which held his bed, and in a querulous tone
bade his visitor enter. To his disgust and confusion he saw, when the
door opened, the only Englishman whom he had encountered--a middle-aged
man, in sporting costume and with boisterous manners, who had joined
Frederick’s party (always against his will) on various occasions, and
now came forward with horrible cordiality, holding out a red, fat hand,
which seemed to the unfortunate prodigal the greasiest and dirtiest that
he had ever shaken. He touched this paw reluctantly, with a repugnance
in which some alarm and a sense of the necessity of giving nobody
offence was mingled. He did not know who the man was. Had he been in
other circumstances he would have repudiated his acquaintance haughtily;
but at present he had the painful consciousness upon him that he was in
everybody’s power.

“Well, sir, how are you after last night?” said his visitor. “Hope you
find yourself tolerably well after _p’tey soupey_? It’s played the very
deuce with me, though I ought to be seasoned. You young ones have all
the odds in your favour. Thought you’d feel yourself pulled up hard this
morning, after the champagne--and the bill. Ha, ha! the bill; that’s the
worst fun of it all; barring that, sir, this sort of life would be too
pleasant to be true. The bill keeps us in mind that we’re mortal, hey?”

“I don’t feel myself in any danger of forgetting that fact,” said
Frederick stiffly.

He intended to answer with dignity and distance, but his mingled dislike
to and fear of his visitor introduced a complaining, querulous tone into
his voice. He seemed, even to himself, to be whimpering over a hard
fate, instead of uttering a mere morality with the loftiness of a
superior. And somehow, as he spoke, he looked at the table, where
“Bradshaw” lay spread out beside the unhappy remains of his money, the
few miserable gold pieces which he had left. The man gave a suppressed
whistle at this sight.

“So bad as that?” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Mr. Eastwood, I’ve
been keeping my eye upon you. I mean well, if I’m a little rough; and if
you won’t ask me to sit down, I’ll take it upon myself to do so, if
you’ll excuse me; for I haven’t yet got over the effects of last night.
I know your name?--yes, sir. It’s a good name, and I take an interest in
all that bear it. Related to Sir Geoffrey, I don’t doubt, Mr. Frederick
Eastwood? There’s how I know, sir. Picked it up the other night, after
you’d been dining; and, if you’ll believe me, I’ve taken an interest in
you ever since.”

“You are very good, I am sure--though you have so much the advantage of
me,” said Frederick, more stiff than ever, yet afraid to show his
resentment; for the fellow, as he called him in his heart, held out in
his fat hand a card, bearing his respectable name at full, with the most
immaculate of addresses--that of the Junior Minerva Club. Even his home
address would have been less terrible. There are dozens of “Elms” about
London, but only one Junior Minerva. He looked at the card with a dismay
which he could not conceal. He stood upright by his chair, not following
the example of his visitor. He would have liked to kick him down stairs,
or to thrust him out of the window; but he dared not do it. It seemed to
his feverish eyes that this man held his reputation, his character,
everything that he cared for in the world within his greasy hands.

“I’m naturally interested,” his visitor went on, “for I was born and
bred up on the Eastwood estates, near to Sterborne, if you know it. Very
glad to see you, sir, when you come in my direction. To be sure I have
the advantage of you. My name is Batty--Charles Batty--at your service.
I drive a good trade in the way of horses by times, though I call myself
an auctioneer, and don’t refuse no jobs as will pay. Bless you, I’d buy
libraries as soon as yearlings, and get my profit out of them, though
it’s slower. Mr. Eastwood, sir, knowing the respectable family you come
from and all your excellent connexions, and your address at your club,
&c., &c., I should not say, sir, but what I might also be of use to

Misery, we are told, makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows. So
does that modern form of misery called impecuniosity, which has its
agonies more sharp than any primitive form of privation or pain. It is
one of the worst penalties of the want of money, that the subject of
that fatal want feels such eagerness to anticipate help that he is ready
to look for it in the most unlikely places, and in his extremity will
stretch his hand out in the dark to meet anybody’s grasp. This rash
eagerness of desperation specially belongs to the exhausted state of
mind and purse in which Frederick now found himself. He was past all
calculation of probabilities, ready to seize upon any shadow of aid,
however attained. Insensibly he slid into his chair, and a faint gleam
of hope and light seemed to diffuse itself in the dull air around him.
He took a rapid survey of the situation. His repugnance for the man who
sat opposite to him, watching his movements, was not in any degree
lessened; but he reflected that anyhow he had betrayed himself to this
man. Stranger and _vaurien_ though he seemed, he held the character of
the accomplished Frederick Eastwood in his hands; and every principle
of self-preservation, and of that respect for the world’s opinion which
was his curse and his punishment, moved him to try what means he could
of bringing some advantage out of this now inevitable evil. He seated
himself with a sigh of impatience and wretchedness, sheathing his sword,
so to speak.

“The truth is, I am in a scrape, and I don’t see my way out of it,” he

“Tell me all about it, Mr. Eastwood; I’ll find a way out of it,” said
Batty, rubbing his greasy hands.

I suppose they were greasy hands. At all events, it was this particular
which dwelt on Frederick’s memory and revolted his fine feelings. Ugh!
the thought made him sick years after. In the meantime, however, he had
no time to be nice.

“The fact is,” he said, with hesitation, “that I was on my way to Italy
on business”---- Here he paused, remembering what Batty had said of an
interest in the Eastwoods. “On family business. I had something to
do--of importance; and I have been--detained here.”

This euphemism delighted his companion. He gave a horse-laugh, which
affected Frederick’s nerves. “Yes; you have been--detained here: I
understand. By Jove, you _are_ fun,” said this appreciative listener.

Frederick took no notice of the vulgar outburst. Now that he had
business in hand he could be clear enough. He laid bare his necessities
to this strange and novel adviser. There is no telling--as men in
Frederick Eastwood’s condition easily find out--in what strange regions
money, and the inclination to lend it, may be found. Nothing could be
less promising than this coarse Englishman, who had thrust himself into
the young man’s path so much against his will; and yet in this unlikely
quarter salvation was to be found. We need not concern ourselves here
about Mr. Batty’s motives.

“I thought you looked too much a swell to be a commercial gent, sir,” he
exclaimed later; “but when I picked up that card you might have knocked
me down with a feather. Eastwoods has always been the height of quality
in my eyes. I have been born and bred on their lands; and as for
good-will to serve ’em--here’s a way to prove it.”

Frederick was no neophyte, to put the unbounded confidence of a boy in
these fine speeches; but he knew that there are a great many kinds of
money-lenders, and that there are people in the world who are to be
influenced, even to the supreme length of opening their purses, by a
good name and a well-known address. Besides, after all there was no
great risk attendant upon Batty’s generosity. A man in a public
office--a man with a character--is not likely to allow himself to be
ruined for a matter of fifty pounds, especially when he has a mother
full of innocent credulity to fall back upon. Thus the bargain was
made, which was to Frederick, as soon as it became certain, an
insignificant transaction. The moment he had signed the note and got the
money, his despair of an hour ago seemed incredible to him, and all his
objections to Batty recurred in double force.

“If you are ever down my way, I’ll hope you’ll eat a bit of mutton with
me,” said the hospitable usurer: “not _salmis_ and _vol-à-vent_, Mr.
Eastwood, for we ain’t up to that; but sound English mutton, with a
glass of good wine to wash it down. And I’ll show you a stable that will
make your mouth water.”

Frederick, who had become stiff again, bowed and thanked him from a
mountain-top of superiority--and it was Batty’s hope to spend another
evening in his society which determined him on the virtuous step of
quitting Paris that night.

What was his brain busy about as he rolled out of the wicked, seductive
city, where all vice betakes itself with the hope of being tempted, in
that chill spring evening, between the lamps and the stars? His head was
confused with all he had passed through. The fumes of his “pleasures”
were still in it, mingled with the disgust which is inevitable, but
which floats away still more quickly than the fumes of the “pleasures.”
The thrill of his hairbreadth escape was also vibrating through him; but
a man of Frederick Eastwood’s habits soon gets used to that thrill of
escape. He was concocting and putting in order a reasonable way of
accounting for his acquaintance with such a man as Batty, should it ever
become known to his friends. All at once, while he was arranging his
bargain with Batty, this had flashed upon his mind. He would not conceal
that, having a day or two to pass in Paris, he had determined on going
to a purely French hotel, to escape the mass of travelling English who
fill up every corner; with the view of seeing Frenchmen as they are, he
had gone to this obscure hostelrie; and there, by an odd chance, he had
found this rough Englishman stranded, not knowing the language--thrown,
as it were, upon his charity. “A scamp, of course, and thoroughly
objectionable; but what could one do?” Frederick said to himself, as he
made up his story. His story seemed to himself so satisfactory that it
really accounted for the acquaintance, even to his own mind. He recalled
to recollection that he had been obliged to interpret for his unpleasant
compatriot, and the fiction gradually consolidated into fact. He
believed it himself long before he had reached the Marseilles steamboat
which was the next step in his hurried way.



Frederick had left Paris between the lamps and the stars, as I have
said, on a chilly night, when the darkness and confusion in his own mind
agreed better with the mist and rolling steam that made a cloud about
the train as it dashed into the darkness, than with the serene celestial
lights which tried in vain to penetrate that veil of vapour. He came
into the harbour at Leghorn again between stars and lamps, but this time
in the blue-green dawn of an Italian spring morning, too early for any
stir except that which attended the arrival of the steamer. Do people
still have that long _promenade sur l’eau_ through the green sea basin
from point to point before they are allowed to land, and be subjected to
the final examination at the Dogana? I suppose all that has been changed
with so many other things, with the abolition of passports, and other
hindrances to the traveller. Frederick Eastwood did not now feel so
hurried as when he was in Paris. He had arranged how he was to write
home, and to telegraph to the office, begging for the extra week’s leave
which was inevitable. He wrote his mother a long letter, telling her how
he had been seized with “unpleasant symptoms” in Paris, but would not
send her word of it lest he should alarm her; how he had managed to come
on to Leghorn, taking the journey easily, and really had not suffered as
he feared he would; how, on the whole, he was much better; how he
intended to proceed to Pisa in the evening after a rest; and how within
a week they might expect to see him back with his cousin. “Don’t be
uneasy about me,” he said, “I am really a great deal better. I feel sure
I shall now get home quite comfortably; but, as you remarked before I
left, I was not well when I started--too much confinement, I
suppose”---- I don’t attempt to explain this other fiction which he put
forth with perfect gravity, and without much feeling of guiltiness.
“Unpleasant symptoms” might mean anything, and I fear that from
schoolboy days the excuses given at home are not judged by a very high
standard of truthfulness. Frederick’s conscience did not trouble him
much on this subject. He telegraphed to his chief at the office,
announcing his detention by illness, without entering into any
particulars as to where that illness had occurred, and claiming so many
days’ extension of leave as would re-establish his health for the
journey home. He felt ill enough, it must be allowed, after all he had
gone through--ill enough almost to feel justified in the report he gave
of his ailing condition--“seedy,” as he would have called it, to the
last degree. He could not eat anything, he slept badly, his lips were
parched, his hand hot and tremulous, and his looks bore him
unimpeachable testimony, better than a medical certificate. Yet he felt
rather happy in his unhappiness, as he rested and tried to eat a little
_minestra_ at the hotel at Leghorn. It was not so good as the _bouillon_
he would have got in Paris, or the beef-tea at home, but it was all he
was capable of. In the evening he proceeded on his short railway journey
to Pisa--and on the way his mind, if not his body, mended rapidly. It
was again dark when he arrived. He went to one of the hotels on the
Lung’ Arno, and took a feeble walk in the evening to see the place,
though so little could be seen. He had never been in Italy before, and
though the circumstances were such as to damp enthusiasm, there was in
Frederick’s mind a certain new-born freshness of a man returned to the
paths of duty which we can compare to nothing but the feelings of one
recovering from an illness. It was over; he felt languid, weak, but
good. He had turned his back alike on temptation and upon sin. He was
convalescent. Now there is no real moral excellence in being
convalescent even after a fever; but that sufferer must have had
unkindly tending and little love about him in his malady, who does not
feel that it is good of him to get better, and that he has done
something for which all his friends are justly grateful to him.
Frederick, though he had no friends to be grateful, felt precisely in
this condition. He felt _good_. In Paris he had felt miserable,
mournful, and what he called penitent--that is he had felt that pleasure
carried too far ends by becoming unpleasant, and that it costs very
dear, and that the amount of satisfaction to be got out of it is
scarcely proportioned to the outlay. This mood had lasted during the
greater part of his journey. But after a man has so accounted for his
misfortunes as Frederick had done, and has got the means of beginning
again, and feels himself clear of the toils for the time being, such a
mood does not last very long; and by the time he reached Pisa he had got
fully into the convalescent state, and felt good. While his dinner was
preparing he took a walk down by the side of Arno, in which once more
the stars above and the lamps below were reflecting themselves with
serene composure, the lights of heaven asserting no proud superiority
over the lights of earth; and then turned aside to that wonderful group
of buildings of which everybody has heard. Nothing in all Italy belongs
to our childhood like that leaning tower. Frederick looked up at it,
bending towards him through the darkness, and recollected pictures in
books at home which his mother had shown him of evenings when he stood
by her knee in pinafores, before “life” began. His reminiscences gave
the softest domestic turn to his mind, and made him feel still more good
than before. Even in the dark there were still some beggars about,
flitting out of corners at the sight of the stranger, and he emptied his
pocket among them, giving them francs and half francs with a wild
liberality which increased tenfold the numbers of these waiters upon
Providence next evening in the Piazza del Duomo. There were fitful
gleams of moonlight coming now and then from out a mass of clouds, and
sending broad beams of momentary glory behind and between the different
buildings. Frederick was awed and impressed, as well as touched and
softened. This was like the higher light of religious feeling coming in
to elevate the domestic piety to which his heart had been suddenly
opened by recollection. Thus impressed and ameliorated the convalescent
walked back to his hotel to dinner, and was able to eat something, the
reader will be glad to hear.

It was late, and he did not feel disposed to break the almost holy calm
of his feelings after so many agitations, by making any effort to see
his cousin that evening. He looked up at the tall houses as he went
along, wondering if perhaps one of the faint lights he saw might be
hers, but he was content to remain in this state of doubt till next day.
One night could make little difference. When he had finished the meal,
which was slight, but more satisfactory than anything he had been able
to have since he left Paris, he made inquiries of the genial Italian
waiter as to the position of the Palazzo Scaramucci, and whether
anything was known of its English inhabitants. Antonio indicated to him
exactly where the house was, and was eager to add that he knew the
servant of the English gentleman who had died there. “Figure to
yourself,” he said, “that Mademoiselle, his daughter, is all alone in
that house of the dead.” The conversation was carried on in French, and
Antonio was eloquent. He gave the stranger instantly a sketch of the
girl thus left without any one to take care of her. “Letters have come
from the friends in England, but no one has arrived,” said Antonio.
“What kind of hearts can they have, blessed Madonna! Niccolo does not
know what will become of the poor young lady. The Forestieri here are
kind to her, but what is that when she is left all alone by her friends?
Monsieur perhaps may know some of her friends? She is a beautiful young
lady, but strange, neither like the English Meeses, nor the Italian
Signorine, and Niccolo says----”

“Did you say she was beautiful?” said Frederick. This was a particular
which it was impossible to hear without a certain interest.

“She will be beautiful when she is older, when she has more
_embonpoint_,” said Antonio. “But she is not English in her beauty, nor
in anything else. Niccolo says she will sit for days together and never
speak. She had a very strange father. He is buried in the English
cemetery, so I believe all must be right. But in my opinion, though
Monsieur may think it droll, the old Englishman was _tant soit peu

“_Sorcier?_” said Frederick, with a languid smile.

“Of course Monsieur thinks it droll--but for my part I believe he has
thrown a spell over Mademoiselle. No one can melt her. She sheds no
tear, Niccolo says. She listens to the English ladies without replying a
word. The only Christian thing about her is that she goes often to St.
Maria della Spina, the little, little, very little church which Monsieur
may have remarked; and as she is Protestant, I suppose that must be a
sin. Perhaps, if Monsieur knows any of the English in Pisa, he will be
able to see this strange and beautiful young girl”----

“Perhaps,” said Frederick, taking the key of his bedroom and the candle
from Antonio’s hand. He did not choose to say that he was the lingering
messenger whom her friends had sent for Innocent. But his mind was
compassionately moved towards her. Beauty is always a point in
everybody’s favour, and the sense of power and protection in himself was
pleasant to him. It quite completed, if anything had been wanted to do
so, the rehabilitation of Frederick Eastwood in Frederick Eastwood’s own
eyes. What a change his appearance would make in the position of this
deserted young creature, whose melancholy soul no doubt only wanted the
touch of his kindness and compassion to rouse it into warmer life! “Poor
child,” he said to himself almost tenderly, as he went to bed. He would
be a brother to her, and to do them justice at home, they would be good
to the poor girl. Yet somehow he could not but feel that his own
influence, as the first to go to her, would do most for Innocent. The
thought diffused a pleasant warmth and revival about his heart.

Pisa is not a cheerful place. It has neither the beauty of situation,
nor the brightness of aspect, nor even the larger historical interest
which belongs to Florence, its near neighbour and whilom rival. It has
fallen out of the race as a town may do as well as an individual. But,
on the other hand, it has no keen ice-wind to sweep its streets like
those that chill the very blood in your veins in the deep ravines cut
through lofty blocks of houses which form the Florentine streets. The
equable temperature of Pisa hangs about it like a cloud, stilling the
life in it that it may never grow loud enough to disturb the invalids
who set up their tents in those old palaces. They have a little society
among themselves, gentle, monotonous, and dull, such as befits invalids.
A great many English people are in that subdued winter population,
people who are, or are supposed to be, _poitrinaires_, and people in
attendance upon these sufferers, and finally, people who go because
other people go, without either knowing or caring about the special
advantages of the place. An English doctor and his wife, and an English
clergyman and his wife, are generally to be found in all such places,
and most usually these excellent persons do all they can to reduce the
little colony of English, living in the midst of the quaint old foreign
town, into the aspect of a village or small country place in England,
where everybody talks of everybody, and knows his or her domestic
grievances by heart. Mr. Vane, when he came to Pisa to die, had sought
the assistance of the doctor, but not of the clergyman; so it was Mrs.
Drainham, and not Mrs. St. John, who had taken Innocent in hand when
her father died, and had tried to make something of the forlorn girl.
Though Frederick of course knew nothing about this, two letters had been
despatched but a few days before to Mrs. Eastwood and another relation,
adjuring them to come to the help of the young stranger. The doctor had
himself written in a business like way to Sir Edmund Vane, but Mrs.
Drainham had taken Mrs. Eastwood in hand, and had written her what both
herself and the doctor felt to be a very touching letter. The author of
this affecting composition had been reading it over to some select
friends on the very evening on which Frederick arrived in Pisa. Dr. and
Mrs. Drainham lived on the first floor of the Casa Piccolomini, on the
sunny side of the Arno, in a very imposing apartment, where they often
assembled round them a little society “in a very quiet way,” for the
doctor himself was something of an invalid, and practised in Pisa as
much for his own health as for that of his patients. They were people
who were generally understood to be well off, an opinion which it is
good for everybody, and especially for professional people, to cultivate
about themselves. Every Wednesday and Saturday, tea and thin bread and
butter, cut exactly as bread and butter is in England, were to be had
from eight till eleven in the Drainhams’ handsome drawing-room. On the
evening in question the English colony at Pisa was very well represented
in this modest assembly. There was Mr. and Mrs. St. John, accompanied by
a gentle young English curate with pulmonary symptoms, who was staying
with them, and giving the benefit of his services when he felt able for
it. There was old Mr. Worsley and his pretty daughters, one of whom was
suffering from bronchitis, and the other from _ennui_, the latter the
more deadly malady of the two. The healthy portion of the population was
rather in the background, and not held in much estimation. Mr. St. John
himself, who now weighed nearly sixteen stone, had come to Pisa also
with pulmonary symptoms, and was fond of citing himself as an instance
of the cures effected by its wonderful equability of temperature. “But a
winter in England would kill me still. I could never survive a winter in
England,” he would say, tapping his ample bosom with his hand, and
coughing to show that he had not quite lost the habit. On this
particular occasion he uttered these words, which were very frequent on
his lips, in order to console and encourage poor little Mrs. O’Carroll,
the wife of a gigantic Irishman, who had broken all his bones one after
another in riding across country, and who stood gaunt and tall in a
corner conversing with the doctor, with red spots upon his high
cheekbones, and a hollow circle round his big eyes, which did not
promise such a comfortable termination.

“Oh, then, and you’ll tell Harry,” said the anxious woman, with the
mellow tones of her country. “You’ll tell him all about it, Mr. Singin,
dear, and what you took, and how you lived?”

“There is nothing to tell, my dear lady,” said the clergyman. “Pisa air,
and a regular life, and taking care never to be out late or early, and
nourishing food as much as I could take. But the air is the great thing.
There is a serenity and equability in this Italian climate.”

“Ah, then!” cried poor Mrs. O’Carroll, “to get him to take care is all
the battle. He never was ill in his life, and he won’t allow he’s ill,
not if I were to preach to him night and day.”

The only persons present who had no uncomfortable symptoms were two
ladies who sometimes dominated the party, and sometimes were snubbed and
cast into the shade, according to the influence which prevailed. These
were the two Miss Boldings, ladies in the earlier half of middle-age,
one of whom studied Art, while the other studied Italy; women of perfect
independence, and perfect robustness, who when Mr. St. John was not
there, carried matters with a high hand, and dismissed the question of
health as unworthy to occupy the first place in the conversation. “You
think a great deal too much about your lungs,” Miss Bolding would say.
“Let them alone, and they will come all right. Don’t fuss about your
health. Pisa is no better than any other place, and no worse. Don’t
think about it. Occupy yourself with something. Neither I nor Maria ever
take the smallest trouble about our healths, and what is the
consequence? We have never ailed anything since we had the measles.
Don’t mind Mr. St. John, that’s his hobby. If you’ll meet me to-morrow
morning in the Campo Santo--unless you are afraid----”

“Oh, no, not at all afraid,” said the gentle curate, with a flush of
youthful shyness and wounded pride. All these conversations were
interrupted by Mrs. Drainham, who called at once to Miss Bolding for her
advice, and to Mrs. O’Carroll for sympathy.

“I want you to tell me whether you think I have done right,” she said,
with much humility. “I am so anxious about poor Miss Vane. I have just
written a letter to her aunt, though with much hesitation, for I have
not your gift in writing, dear Mrs. St. John. Would you mind just
listening to what I have said? If I had your approval I should feel
encouraged after having sent it. It is very badly expressed, I am
afraid, but it comes from the heart,” said Mrs. Drainham, casting an
appealing glance round her. She had pretty eyes, and was rather apt to
give appealing glances. The audience gave a vague murmur of assent and
applause, and Mr. St. John added, in a bold and round voice, his
certainty of approval.

“It will be an excellent letter, that I don’t doubt for a moment,” said
the clergyman; and on this encouragement Mrs. Drainham proceeded to read
it, her husband standing behind her, feeling his own pulse, with a
benevolent and complacent smile. And indeed the letter was more than
excellent, it was eloquent. It appealed to the feelings of the distant
aunt in the most touching way. It bade her remember the sister with whom
no doubt her own childhood had been passed, and oh! to extend her
motherly protection over that dear sister’s orphan child; and it brought
forward many religious, as well as natural, arguments to soften the
heart of poor Innocent’s nearest relation. In short it was just such a
letter as was calculated to bring tears into Mrs. St. John’s eyes, and
which drove Mrs. Eastwood half frantic with indignation when she read
it. “Does this woman think I am an unnatural wretch, to want all this
talking to?” poor Mrs. Eastwood asked, half crying with anger and
wounded feeling. But the company in the Casa Piccolomini thought it a
beautiful letter. They thought the relations must be hardened indeed if
they could resist such an appeal as that.

“I am sure the aunt must be a dreadful woman,” said Clara Worsley, “or
she would have come by this time. Will you take me to see her to-morrow,
dear Mrs. Drainham? After that letter everybody ought to take an
interest in her----”

“You have expressed all our feelings, my dear,” said Mrs. St. John,
pressing the hand of the doctor’s wife with mingled admiration and envy.
“I doubt very much if I could have done it half as well.”

“Oh, that from you!” said Mrs. Drainham, with enthusiasm, for Mrs. St.
John was literary, and the highest authority on matters of style.

“But I hear the girl is a very odd girl,” said Miss Bolding. “Doctor,
what did her father die of? Are they wrong in their heads? I knew a Vane
once, of a West Country family, who were all very queer. I wonder if
they were the same Vanes? Devonshire, I think, or Somersetshire, I am
not sure which”----

“They are a Devonshire family,” said Dr. Drainham. “And there is nothing
wrong about their brains. He died of general break-up, Miss Bolding, a
high-tempered man who had lived hard. I have met him about Italy in all
sorts of places. The poor girl has been oddly brought up, that is all.”

“I fear without any sort of religious training, which accounts for a
great deal,” said Mr. St. John.

“Not without some sort of religion,” said Miss Maria Bolding. “She is
constantly coming over to the little Church of the Spina, the toy
church, as my sister calls it. A perfect little gem; I prefer it myself
to the Duomo. The girl has good taste, and she is wonderfully pretty.
Not the Raphael style perhaps, but just such a face as Leonardo would
have given anything for. I called her the Leonardo before I knew who she

“Don’t you think, my dear, you take rather a superficial view of the
matter?” said Mrs. St. John. “Think what a terrible thing to be said of
an English girl--that all she knows of religion is to be constantly in
the Church of the Spina! It is bad enough for the poor Italians who know
no better----”

“You must go and see her, Martha,” said Mr. St. John, coughing. “I have
had a delicacy about it, as her poor father declined to see me. Yes, he
declined to see me, poor man,” he added, shaking his head mournfully,
with a sigh. “I don’t like to mention it, but such was the case. I fear
he was sadly deficient, sadly deficient----”

“If he is the Vane I suppose him to be,” said Mr. Worsley, in a hoarse
voice, “he was as great a scamp as I ever met in my life. A man you saw
everywhere--well connected, and all that. A fellow that played high, and
ruined every man that had anything to do with him. And died poor, of
course; all those scapegraces do,” said the comfortable invalid, putting
his hand instinctively into his pocket.

“But his poor child. Whatever he was, we must not let that detract from
our interest in the poor girl,” said Mrs. Drainham. “I have tried hard
to get her to talk to me, to open her heart and to have confidence in me
as a true friend. You would think she did not understand the meaning of
the words.”

“Have you heard that poor Lady Florence Stockport has arrived, with that
delicate boy of hers?” said Mrs. St. John: and then Miss Worsley began
to consult with Mrs. Drainham about the music at church, and whether
Miss Metcalfe, who played the harmonium, could not be induced to give up
in favour of young Mr. Blackburn, who had taken a musical degree at
Oxford, and written a cantata, and meant to spend the spring months in

“It would make such a difference to our little service,” said Miss
Worsley; “and don’t you think, with all the attractions of the Roman
Catholic ritual around us, we ought to do everything we can to improve
our services?”

Thus the general tide of the conversation flowed on, and Innocent was
remitted back into obscurity.

All this took place on the evening when Frederick Eastwood arrived in
Pisa. From his chamber, where he was already asleep, and from the
windows of the Casa Piccolomini, might have been seen the faint light in
the third-floor windows which marked where the lonely girl was sitting.
She was all by herself, and she did not know, as Mrs. Drainham said,
what the meaning of the word friend was. But I must turn this page and
make a new beginning before I can tell you what manner of lonely soul
this poor Innocent was.



A long, bare room, the walls painted in distemper, with a running border
of leaves and flowers, and the same design running across the rafters
overhead; three huge windows, with small panes, draped with old brocaded
hangings round the top, but without either blinds or curtains to shut
out the cloudy glimpses of the sky; very sparely furnished; some old
cabinets and rococo tables by the walls, some old settees and chairs,
which had once been handsome; the floor tiled with red triangular tiles,
with pieces of carpet before the sofas. At one end a stove, which opened
to show the little fire, erected upon a stone slab like a door-step, and
with an ugly piece of black tube going almost horizontally into the
wall, had been added for the advantage of the English Forestieri, who
insisted--benighted northern people--upon such accessories of what they
called comfort. Another old rug, faded out of its natural brightness
into sweet secondary tints of colour, had been laid before this
impromptu fireplace; but the aspect of the place was cold, chilling the
spectator to the bone. One or two dark portraits, painted on panels,
hung on the walls; they were very grim and very old; for this was the
_terzo piano_, let at a cheap rate, and with few elegancies to boast of.
Near the stove, on a little marble-topped table, stood the tall lamp,
with its two unshaded wicks blazing somewhat wildly, for it had not been
trimmed for some time. The oil in it, however, one good, cheap luxury,
which even the poor may have in Italy, was so sweet and pure that the
air was quite untainted. On a little tray was a long loaf of the brown,
very dry bread of the country, a plate of green salad, and a thin flask
of common red wine--a pretty supper to look at, but scarcely appetizing
fare for a delicate appetite. At the first glance there seemed to be no
one in the room to benefit by these preparations, but after a while you
could perceive in the recess of one of the windows a shadowy figure,
leaning up in a corner, with its head against the pane, looking out. All
that could be seem from that window was the cloudy sky, and some
occasional gleams of moonlight, which threw silver lines upon the dark
floor, and--when you looked down, as into a well--the Arno, flowing far
below, with the stars, and clouds, and fitful moon, all reflected in it;
and on its very edge the little Church of St. Maria della Spina, with
all its tiny pinnacles tipped with silver. She who looked out from this
high window could not be looking for any one; the people below were as
specks hurrying along in the cold, with cloaks twisted over their
shoulders. The watcher was nearer the heavens than the earth. She stood
there so long, and was so motionless, that gradually the blazing light,
blown about softly by some draught from door or window, the little
table with the salad and the wine-flask became the centre of the still
life, and the human shadow in the window counted for nothing. No breath
or sound betrayed that something was there more alive than the light of
the lamp or the glimmer of the wood embers, which, indeed, fell now and
then in white ashes, and broke the utter silence of the place.

This silence, however, was much more effectually broken by the entrance
of a stout, middle-aged Italian, with a cloak over one of his shoulders,
and the _cache-nez_ in his hand in which he was about to muffle his
features when he went out. He looked round and round the large room,
apparently unable to see the figure in the window, and then, with an
impatient exclamation, went to the table and snuffed the blazing wicks
and trimmed the lamp. “Just like her, just like her,” he said to
himself, “gazing somewhere; never eating, never considering that one
must live. If I were to add a slice of salami--though the child is
fastidious, she does not eat salami----”

“I am here, Niccolo,” said a voice from the window.

“So I supposed, signorina; I knew you must be in some corner. May I be
permitted to remark that life is not supported by the eyes, but by the
mouth? If you will not eat the _cena_ I have prepared for you, what can
I do? I cannot take you on my knees and feed you like a baby. Oh, I have
done it; I have been obliged to do it, when I had the poor padrone’s
authority to sustain me, before now.”

“Niccolo,” said the voice, “I shall not want anything more to-night. If
you are ready you may go.”

“Oh yes, I may go,” said Niccolo fretfully, “not knowing whether I may
not find you a little heap of cinders in the morning, or fallen down in
the window and frozen to death, Madonna Santissima! without the power to
raise yourself up. If you would but have Philomena to stay with you, at
least, in case you should want anything.”

“I want nothing,” said the girl. She came out of the window, advancing a
few steps, but still keeping quite out of the cheerful circle of the

“No, the signorina wants nothing; the signorina will soon not want
anything but a hole in the heretic cemetery beside her father; and when
one goes sinfully out of the world by one’s own wickedness, besides
being a Protestant and believing nothing, what can one look for? If I
were the signorina, I should take very good care as long as I could not
to die, and put myself in the power of those beings with the prongs that
you see in the Campo Santo. I should take very great trouble, for my
part, not to die.”

Upon this she came out altogether out of the darkness, and approached
the fire. “Do you think that not eating kills people?” she asked. “I
cannot eat, I have no appetite, but I do not wish to die.”

“At least, under any circumstances, one can drink a little wine,” said
Niccolo, with disapproving dignity; “no effort is necessary to swallow a
little wine. Signorina, I have put everything in order. I will leave the
key with Luigi down-stairs, that the Philomena may enter in the morning
without disturbing you. I now wait only to bid you a _felicissimina
notte_. _Buona notte_, my little mistress--sleep well; and the Madonna
and the saints take care of you, poor child!”

This little outburst was not unusual. The girl extended her hand to him
with a smile, and Niccolo kissed it. Then throwing his cloak over his
other shoulder, and wrapping it round him, he left her in her solitude.
The guests at the Casa Piccolomini were dispersing at the same time,
escorting each other, and escorted by their servants through the still
streets. As Niccolo closed the great door after him, the sound seemed to
reverberate through the blackness of the great staircase, down which he
plunged, darkling, groping his way by the walls. Mr. Worsley, who lived
on the first floor, had a coil of green wax-taper in his pocket, which
he lighted to guide himself and his daughter to the door. They were a
little afraid when they heard the footsteps stumbling down, not having
been able to divest themselves of the idea that stiletto-thrusts were
the natural accompaniments of a dark staircase. And with his cloak
doubled over his left shoulder, and his red _cache-nez_ hiding his
countenance, Niccolo looked dangerous, more like killing his man in a
corner than watching with the tenderness of a woman over the wayward
child whom he had just left with an ache in his honest heart.

All alone in the house! The _appartamento_ was not so large as that of
Mr. Worsley down-stairs, for it was divided into two, as being adapted
for cheaper lodgers. Besides this large _salone_, however, there was an
ante-chamber, of which while Mr. Vane was alive he made a dining-room;
and then a long stone passage, echoing and dreary, through which the
solitary girl had to pass to her bed-room, another terrible stone room,
floored with tiles, at the other end of the house. She had to pass her
father’s room by the way, and another gaping empty chamber, full of the
furniture which, with Italian superstition, had been turned out of the
chamber of death. She was not afraid. She had been used to such constant
solitude that it seemed natural to her. While her father was alive she
had been as solitary as she was now, and it did not seem to her, as it
did to everybody else, that his mere presence in the house made so much
difference. She had been brought up in a Spartan-Italian fashion, to
bear the cold and heat as things inevitable. She put her feet upon the
stone slab, which did duty as a hearth, more from custom than for the
warmth, which she scarcely thought of. A small scaldino stood under the
table, full of fresh embers, which Niccolo had brought with him from the
kitchen; but though she was cold she did not take it up and warm her
hands over it, as a thorough Italian would have done. She was half
Italian only, and half English, rejecting many habits of both nations.
She had a small cloak of faded velvet drawn round her shoulders, old and
cut after no fashion that had prevailed within the memory of man. It had
come, I believe, originally from a painter’s studio, but it was warm and
kept her alive in the penetrating cold. Kind Mrs. Eastwood, in her
luxurious chamber, was wondering at that moment how the poor child would
brave an English winter, and if “the little room” would be warm enough,
with its soft carpets and close-drawn curtains, and cheery fire. If she
could have seen the Italian girl with her old mantle on her shoulders,
and the scaldino at the foot of her chair!

I am afraid I am describing too much, which is a fatal weakness for a
historian to fall into; but yet, of course, the gentle reader who does
not scorn that delightful title would prefer to hear what this solitary
girl was like. She had a straight, slim figure, too slim for beauty,
though that defect of youth is one which it is easy to forgive. Her hair
was dark and soft, and hung about her face, framing it with a soft fold,
very slightly undulating at the ends, though not in anything that could
be called a curl. I must warn my dear friend and gentlest auditor, that
this sounds a great deal better in words, and looks a great deal better
in a picture, than it does in reality; for a girl of sixteen with hair
thus hanging about her, neither curled nor dressed, is apt to be an
objectionable young person, inclining to untidiness, and to look like a
colt, unkempt and untrimmed. But Innocent was a neglected girl, who had
never known any better. She did not strike you at the first glance as
beautiful. She had no colour, and even had been called sallow by some
observers. The chief beauty that struck the beholder was the perfect
shape of her face, a pure oval, with the chin somewhat accentuated, as
in the pictures of Leonardo da Vinci, and the eyes somewhat long in
shape. Miss Bolding was right when she called the girl a Leonardo. She
wanted the crisped hair, and that subtle, sidelong sweetness in the
eyes, which is so characteristic of that great master; but otherwise the
character of her face was the same--somewhat long, and with all the
softness of youth in the prolonged and perfect curve of the colourless
cheek. The eyes were heavy-lidded; they were not “well-opened eyes.”
Only in moments of emotion did she raise the heavy lids freely, and
flash the full light of her look upon you. At the present moment those
lids were doubly heavy with dreams. The lips, which were thin and rather
straight, without curves, were closed upon each other with the closeness
of meditation; her hair fell into the hollow of her neck on either side,
and lay in a half ring and careless twist upon her shoulder. A very
simple back dress, without trimmings, appeared under the velvet cloak;
these were the days before the Watteau fashion became popular, when
dresses were made with but one skirt, and long, sweeping over the
wearer’s feet. Such was her costume and her appearance. She took a
little of the wine from the flask, and a morsel of the dry brown bread,
and swallowed them as it seemed with great difficulty, bending over the
fire in the stove, which began to sink into white ashes. Silence, cold,
solitude, all around; and here in the empty house, in the empty world,
this solitary creature, so young and forlorn. But she was not afraid.
After a while she rose quite calmly, and lifted the long stalk of the
lamp, and went away through the long echoing, ghostly passage. She saw
nothing, feared nothing; her imagination was not at liberty, it was
absorbed about other things.

Next morning it was more cheerful in the great _salone_; there was
light, at least, which was much, and I think there was sunshine; but the
gentle reader will forgive me if I confess that I have forgotten whether
the Palazzo Scaramucci was on the sunny or the shady side. At all
events, there was daylight, and a blue, clear, shining sky, and the
sight of sunshine outside if not its actual presence. When Mrs.
Drainham, who was really concerned about the girl, came to see her
before twelve next morning, she found her seated by the same little
table which had held her lamp on the previous night, with a little dish
of polenta before her, and again the dry brown bread and the small flask
of wine. It seemed the strangest, most distasteful breakfast to the
Englishwoman. “Oh, my dear,” she cried, “do send away that mess, and
have a nice cup of tea. Wouldn’t you enjoy a nice cup of tea? If you
will come with me, my maid will make you one directly--and perhaps an
egg and a little delicate bread and butter. I don’t wonder that you have
no appetite, my poor child.”

“I like polenta,” said Innocent, playing with her spoon, “and I don’t
like tea.”

This seemed immoral to Mrs. Drainham. “If you go to England, my dear,
you must not say you have been in the habit of having wine for
breakfast,” she said, “It would be thought so very strange for a young

Innocent made no immediate answer. With a perverse impulse she poured
out a little of the nostralé wine, the commonest and cheapest, and
diluted it with water. I do not, I confess, think it was an attractive
beverage. “Probably I shall never be in England,” she said in a very low

“Oh, you must go to England; that is one thing there can be no doubt of.
What are you to do here, poor child? Friends have been raised up to you
here, but it is not likely that people who are not connected with you
would continue--and the apartment, you know,” continued Mrs. Drainham,
in her eagerness to prove what was self-apparent, “must be let. The
marchese is very poor, and he could not be expected to lie out of his
money, and Niccolo must find another situation. Everything, in short,
is at a standstill until you go away.”

Something hot rushed to the girl’s eyes--but if they were tears it was
so unusual to shed them, that they rushed back again after an
ineffectual effort to get forth. She made no answer. She had learned ere
now, young as she was, the benefit of taking refuge in silence. Mrs.
Drainham had drawn a chair near her, and sat looking at her, with eyes
full of a curiosity not unmixed with disapproval. Mrs. Drainham, in
short, disapproved of everything about her--her loose hair, her odd
dress, her old velvet cloak, even the polenta on the tray before her,
and the coloured water she was drinking. “What will they do with her in
England?” she asked herself in dismay; but then _her_ responsibility, at
least, would be over, and her mind relieved.

“You have never been at school, my dear, I suppose?”


“Nor learned anything? But you must have had some resources; you must be
able to do something? Needlework at least, or tapestry, or something to
amuse yourself with? You must have been very lonely in your papa’s time,
as I hear he never saw any one. And you could not sit all the day with
your hands before you; you must have been able to do something?” Mrs.
Drainham cried, impressed almost against her will by the silence of her

“I can read,” said Innocent.

“And no more? I hope your aunt, Mrs. Eastwood, is well off. It would be
dreadful indeed if your relations were not well off. Girls in your
position frequently have to go out as governesses. I don’t want to be
unkind; but, my dear, it is for your advantage that you should look your
circumstances in the face. Most girls of your age (you are past
sixteen?) would have thought of that already. Suppose, for instance,
that you were compelled to try and work for your own living. Now, what
would you do?”

The suggestion was so strange that Innocent lifted her eyelids, and
turned a wondering look upon her questioner; but apparently perceiving
that nothing was to be made of it, cast them down again, with a slight
shrug of her shoulders, and made no reply. “Why should I take the
trouble to talk?” she seemed to say, which was not very civil to Mrs.
Drainham, nor encouraging to that lady’s benevolence, it must be

“You never thought of that view of the matter?” said the persevering
woman. “But you ought to think of it. Few people, unless they are very
rich, are disposed to take all the responsibility of a girl like you.
They might help you, and be kind to you; but they would most likely
think it was right and best that you should contribute at least to your
own support.”

“I do not know what you mean,” said Innocent looking at her with
mingled wonder and resentment. She pushed away her little tray from her,
and in sheer bewilderment took up the scaldino, putting it in her lap,
and holding her hands over it. This was another thing upon which the
doctor’s wife, as she herself avowed, could not look with any
toleration. She made a little gesture of distress, as if she would have
put it away.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, my dear, don’t let me see you with that odious
thing on your knee! An English girl keeps her hands warm with doing
something or other. You will find nothing of that sort in England. There
your time will be all filled up in a rational way. There is always
something going on, and you will find no time to nurse your hands in
your lap. Of course, there is a great deal that will be very novel. Put
down that scaldino, dear. I can’t bear to see you with it. It is such an
odd thing for an English girl to do.”

“Am I an English girl?” said Innocent dreamily. She did not respond to
what was said to her. “She never gives you a reasonable answer,” Mrs.
Drainham said afterwards, with an impatience for which it was not
difficult to account.

It was just then that the tinkling bell at the door pealed, and Niccolo
after some parley admitted a stranger. Niccolo recognized the name at
once, though no English visitor could have recognized it had he heard it
from Niccolo’s lips. “Signor Estvode,” he said, looking in at the door,
and pausing, with the true instinct of an Italian servant, to watch the
effect of the announcement. Innocent started to her feet, in her haste,
dropping instinctively from her shoulders her old velvet mantle, and
Mrs. Drainham sat and stared with genuine British composure, without any
thought of politeness. Frederick came in, looking (as he was) something
of an invalid still. He was pale; he had that look of convalescence we
have already referred to on his interesting countenance. He came
forward, holding out both his hands to the girl, who stood devouring him
with her eyes, which for once were fully opened. She could not say
anything; she could scarcely breathe. Many speculations had crossed her
mind as to the kind of messenger who might arrive. This young man,
looking not unlike one of the heroes of her dreams, pale, melancholy,
yet smiling, holding out his hands to her, made such a sudden lodgment
in the girl’s inexperienced heart as I can neither define nor account
for. The chances are that his mother, who was much kinder than
Frederick, would have made no impression at all upon Innocent. She
looked at him with her eyes all aglow and shining, with a sudden glad
contraction and then expansion of her heart. She put down the scaldino,
and went a step forward. “You are my little cousin,” said Frederick, in
a voice which the natural impulse of kindness and the pleasant sense of
beneficence made melodious. He looked at her with no criticism in his
eyes, rather with admiration and pleasure. The girl paused all aglow, on
tiptoe, her sudden impulse betraying itself in every line of her slim
figure. Then she obeyed that impulse, poor, forlorn child. She threw
herself forward, took the outstretched hands, and bent down and kissed
them in her pretty Italian way. “Yes, I am Innocent,” she said; “oh,
take me away! take me away!”



This little scene was odd and somewhat embarrassing to a young
Englishman utterly unaccustomed to have his hand kissed; but I think it
highly probable that Frederick would have felt much less objection to it
had it not been for the presence of that Gorgon of British propriety,
which kept staring at him with an expression of shocked and suspicious
watchfulness from the other side of the stove. He laughed with the
embarrassment common to his nation under the circumstances. There is
nothing so awkward, so unhappy, and unready, as an Englishman who is
called upon to show any natural feeling of the softer kind before
strangers. Why we all, and we alone, should feel that we are ridiculous
when our hearts are touched, I cannot tell; but so it is. Frederick
Eastwood was affected by the eager passion of his welcome; but with Mrs.
Drainham’s eyes upon him, he could do nothing but laugh. The
primitive-minded girl, who was not aware of this tacit necessity, shrunk
back into herself when, as she thought, he laughed at her. But the
spectator felt that it was the right thing to do, and her disapproval
softened. She indicated a chair to the new comer with a little wave of
her hand.

“Dear child,” she said in a caressing tone, “you must moderate your
feelings. We all understand you; we all excuse you; but these are not
English ways. Sit down a little, while I talk to you and to this
gentleman. Mr. Eastwood, I think?--so far as one can understand an
Italian’s version of the name we were expecting to hear--”

“Yes,” said Frederick, “I should have arrived a week ago, but
for--indisposition. I am glad to find my cousin in such good hands.”

Here they paused, and looked at each other, with sentiments which were
not unfriendly, but a certain English community of feeling that made
them sensible of the necessity of some sort of preliminary antagonism
before the one agreed to accept the other as the person he claimed to
be. Mrs. Drainham was a pretty woman, though it was appointed to her at
this moment to act the Gorgon’s part. And Frederick, with his peaked
beard and melancholy eyes, was a handsome young man. The tone of the
British matron perceptibly softened, as she took in at a glance the
various evidences before her that the new comer was “a
gentleman”--all-expressive and all-embracing phrase. She even laughed a
little in her turn, and coloured very becomingly as she executed the
sterner part of her duty.

“I am afraid you will think me impertinent,” she said; “and I feel
ridiculous; but as my husband and I have taken a great interest in Miss
Vane, would you pardon me for asking if you have--any credentials--or
authority? I am sure I beg your pardon. You will understand what I

Then they both laughed together, which advanced matters still farther.

“I have a letter from my mother to my cousin,” he said. “I might have
got a certificate of identity, had I thought she was so well guarded.
And here is my card,” he added, taking it out smilingly.

It was the card Batty had found in the Paris hotel, which was the first
one that came to his hand. He knew it by a crease in the corner, and
pushed it back again with a little shudder which he could not account
for: for indeed the Batty episode had faded into unimportance already.
The card, however, was given and accepted with a gracious smile and bow.
That celestial address, the “Junior Minerva,” impressed Mrs. Drainham,
as it had impressed Frederick’s less desirable acquaintance. A little
conversation of the most amicable character ensued, winding up by an
invitation to dinner for that evening.

“And you will come too, my dear,” said the doctor’s wife; “though it is
a thing you could not do in ordinary circumstances. Nobody could reflect
upon you for departing from the usual rules in your position. I will ask
no one to meet you. Mr. Eastwood will bring you to us at seven o’clock.”

Innocent had listened to this conversation vaguely, in a kind of stupor,
feeling as if they spoke a language of which she had never before heard
a word. Greek would have been as intelligible to her. It even hurt her
vaguely that they seemed to understand each other in the language which
she could not understand. She had been thrust back upon herself, which
is always painful--thrust back after, as she thought, a gleam of new
life and a new world, into the old dreary world, much drearier than ever
by the contrast, though it was but momentary. The visionary intensity of
a mind living in its own sensations almost annihilates space and time;
and though it was but half an hour since Frederick Eastwood came upon
the scene at all, there was room enough in that half hour to make the
girl feel the force of two revolutions--the one from her dreary solitude
into a new sphere of brightness, tenderness, companionship, which was as
a revelation of heaven to her; and the other, a dreary circle back
again, out of the light, out of the society, out of the strange
delightful newness which seemed to have changed her being all in a
moment. The one was a sudden sun-rising, the other an equally sudden
eclipse. She had been raised up to heaven and then suddenly tossed down
again. The amount of emotion involved was quite excessive and
extravagant, out of all keeping with the momentary character of the
incidents; but Innocent was not aware of this, nor could have believed
how utterly unimportant to the others was the half hour which subjected
her to such vicissitudes of feeling as she had never before felt in her
life. She made no reply to Mrs. Drainham’s invitation, which, indeed,
she scarcely comprehended. She did not understand the civilities with
which her two companions parted, Frederick accompanying Mrs. Drainham to
the door. What she imagined was that he had thus gone away without
taking any further notice of her, and that all was over, and the new
hope to which she seemed to have a right, taken from her. She sat in a
stupor, watching them go away, fingering the folds of the old velvet
cloak, which she had picked up mechanically from the floor, and feeling
a mingled chill--of her shoulders from the want of her mantle, and of
her heart from this strange desertion--which made her shiver all over,
and gave her that nervous and passionate impulse to cry, which children
and women are so seldom able to resist, but which poor Innocent had been
victorious over often, tears being among the things which her father
turned into highest ridicule. She had ceased almost to be able to
weep--forgotten the way; the natural emotions had been frozen in their
fountains. But the thrill of new existence of which she had been
conscious had broken those frozen chains, and she began to struggle with
a hysterical passion which roused all her pride and all her spirit to
conquer it. No doubt, she thought, this new cousin, like her father,
would despise the weakness which women indulged in. Innocent despised
herself for being a woman, and she would have died sooner than yield to
what she supposed to be a purely feminine impulse. She was struggling
thus with herself, fighting the hardest battle she had fought since the
time when goaded by his ridicule she had rushed upon her father like a
little tiger, beating him with her baby fist, choking with suppressed
passion, when the door opened again, and Frederick came in once more.
She gazed at him with her breast heaving, and her eyes dilated, in the
fierceness of her struggle to keep off the tears. And if he had laughed,
or treated her emotion lightly, Innocent would have conquered. But
Frederick’s heart was really touched. He felt benevolent, paternal, full
of patronage and kindness. He went up to her, and laid his hand
caressingly on her head.

“My little cousin, we must make friends now that woman is gone,” he
said, smiling upon her.

Poor child, she knew nothing of self-control, scarcely anything of right
and wrong. She threw out her arms and clung to him, in a simple effort
of nature to grasp at something; and fell into such a passion of sobs
and cries on his bosom as frightened him. But yet what was more natural?
She had just lost her father; she had no one in the world to turn to,
except this new relation who belonged to her. She had been undergoing an
unnatural repression, concealing her feelings in that stupor which grief
so often brings. Frederick thought he understood it all, and it affected
him, though he was glad there was no one else in the room. He put his
arm round her, and even kissed the cheek which was partially visible,
and said all the kind things he could think of. It lasted so long that,
not being very strong himself, he began to totter a little under the
unexpected burden, and would gladly have freed himself and sat down by
her. But Innocent had been carried away by the tide, and could not stop
herself. This was the beginning of their acquaintance. There were no
preliminaries. She had never “given way” in her life before, except on
the occasion we have already referred to--and heaven knows what strange
processes were going on in the girl’s half-developed, much-suppressed
nature, as for the first time she gave her tears and emotion way.

When the hysterical sobbing came to an end, Innocent lifted her head
from his breast, and looked at him, still holding him by the arms. She
looked up suddenly, half beseeching him not to despise her, half daring
him to do so; but there was no scorn in Frederick’s eyes. He was very
sorry for her.

“My poor child!” he said, smoothing the ruffled hair upon her forehead.

Then a sudden flush came to her face, and light to her eyes. She
released him as suddenly as she had clutched him. She sank back gently
into her chair, with a shy, deprecating smile.

“I could not help it,” she said, putting out her hand. She wanted to
retain some hold of him, to be sure that he would not melt quite away
like one of the dreams.

As for Frederick, though his first feeling, I confess, was great
thankfulness at being permitted to sit down, he had no objection to have
his hand held by those soft, long fingers, or to bear the eager look of
eyes which shown upon him with a kind of worship. He told her how he had
been coming to her for a long time, but had been detained--how he had
come to take her home--how they must start next day, if possible, and
travel as quickly as possible; and how his mother and sister were
awaiting her anxiously, hoping to make her happy, and to comfort her in
her trouble. Innocent leant back in her chair, and smiled and listened.
She made no reply. It did not seem necessary to make any reply. She held
his hand fast and let him talk to her, not caring much what he said. I
don’t know if her intelligence was much developed at this period of her
life. She understood what he was saying, but it was as a song to her, or
a story that he was telling. She did not mind how long she listened,
but it required no personal response--took no personal hold of her. The
picture he made of The Elms, and his mother and sister, produced no sort
of effect upon her mind. She was satisfied. Everything was unreal and
vague except the one tangible fact, that he was sitting beside her and
that she was holding his hand. It was not love at first sight. The child
did not know, and never inquired what it was. She had got some one--some
one belonging to her like other people, some one who did not sneer or
ridicule, but smiled at her: who called her name softly: who found no
fault. She was altogether transported by this wonderful sensation. She
wanted no more; no mothers nor sisters, no change, no conditions such as
make life possible. She knew nothing about all that. Her understanding
had nothing to do with the question. It was barely developed, not equal
to any strain; and in this matter it seemed quite possible to do without
it; whether she understood or not did not matter. She was happy; she
wanted nothing more.

“Must you go away?” she cried with a start, holding his hand closer, as
he moved.

“Not to leave you,” he said; “but if we go away to-morrow--Can you go
to-morrow, Innocent?”

“I will go when you go,” she said.

“My dear cousin, you must be less vague. Can you be ready? Can you have
your packing done, and all your little affairs settled? Where is your
maid? She will know best.”

“I have no maid. I have nothing to pack. I am ready now, whenever you
please; only you must not leave me. You must never leave me,” she cried,
clasping her hands round his arm.

“I have no intention of leaving you,” he said, half flattered, half
embarrassed, “till I have taken you to my mother. It is my mother whom
you are going to--my mother--I told you--and Ellinor----”

“Will you leave me when we get there?” the girl asked eagerly, still
holding him. Yes, it was flattering; but possibly it might become a

“No, no,” he said, “I live there too. I am not going to leave you. But
my mother will be the chief person then--my mother and Nelly, not me.
They are ladies, they will be your chief friends and companions----”

“I would rather have you; I know you; and I don’t like women,” said the
girl. “Listen! Could not we live somewhere without letting them know? I
can cook some dishes--very good maccaroni; and I can cook birds. I could
do what you wanted, and make your _spese_. This would be far better than
going to live with your mother. I do not like women.”

She warmed as she spoke, turning to face him, with her hand still
clasping his arm.

“You must not say such things,” he said.

“Why? This is the first time you have said ‘you must not.’ My father
says women are all bad--not some here and there like men. I am one, but
I cannot help it. I always try to be different. I would not do the
things they do--nor look like them if I could help it. Are you rich?”

“No,” said Frederick, becoming bewildered. He had risen up, but she
detained him with her two hands holding his arm.

“That is a pity. We were never rich. If you had been rich we might have
taken Niccolo, who could have done everything--he is so clever. We might
have stayed here. Stop!” she said suddenly, “there is a little cloud
coming up over your face. Do not let it. Smile. You smiled when you came
in first, and I knew that it was you, and was so happy.”

“My poor child! Why were you happy?”

“Because I knew it was you,” she said vehemently. “And now you talk of
your mother. I do not want to go to your mother. Let me stay with you.”

“Listen, Innocent,” he said, with a shade of impatience stealing over
him. “There is no possibility of questioning where you are to go. You
must go to my mother. I live there too. I cannot afford to have a house
for myself. You must learn to be fond of my mother, and do whatever she
wishes. Now let me go, please. I am going out to see the place. If we
leave to-morrow, I may not have another opportunity. Come, come, you
must let me go.”

She was looking up into his face, studying it intently, as if it were a
book, a close, penetrating gaze, before which his eyes somewhat wavered,
hesitating to meet hers. An idea that she would find him out if she
gazed thus into the depths of his soul crossed his mind and made him
half angry, half afraid. Perhaps she divined this feeling; for she let
his arm go slowly, sliding her hands away from it, with a half
caressing, half apologetic motion. She smiled as she thus released him,
but said nothing. There was something pretty in the act by which she set
him free--a mingling of resignation and entreaty that at once amused and
touched him. Go if you will--it seemed to say--but yet stay with me! It
was hard to resist the moral restraint after the physical was withdrawn.
But Frederick reflected that to spend this his only day in a strange new
place--in Italy--shut up _tête-à-tête_ with a girl who was a stranger to
him, though she was his cousin, would be extremely ridiculous. Yet he
could not leave her abruptly. He stroked her soft hair once more
paternally as he stood by her.

“I will come back in time to take you out to this lady’s to dinner,” he
said. “I suppose they have been kind to you? And in the meantime you
must see after your packing. I have no doubt you will find a great many
things to do. I am sorry you have not a maid to help you. Have you wraps
for the journey? You will want something warm.”

She took up her old velvet mantle with a startled look, and turned it
round in her hands, looking at it. It was a garment to delight the very
soul of a painter; but, alas! it was not such a garment as Frederick
Eastwood, who was not a painter, could walk about by the side of, or
travel with.

“Is that all you have?” he asked, with a little dismay.

“I have a shawl,” said Innocent, looking at him with astonished eyes.

“Ah! I must speak to Mrs. Drainham about it,” he said, with some
impatience. “Good-bye for the moment. Will you dress and be quite ready
when I come back? and then we can have a talk about our start to-morrow
and all our arrangements. I am sure if you are to be ready in time there
is not a moment to lose.”

Ready in time! The words seemed to echo about poor Innocent’s ears when
he was gone. Ready for what? For going out with him in the evening to
the house of the lady who found fault with her; who had come to her and
talked and talked so much that the girl neither tried nor wished to
understand. Ready! She sat and tried to think what it meant. She had but
the black frock she wore--no other--with its little black frill of crape
about her neck; no edge of white, such as people wear in England. She
could smooth her hair, and put on a locket, or her mother’s brooch; but
that was all she could do. The packing she never thought of. Niccolo had
been nurse and valet combined. He had always arranged everything, and
told her what to do. She sat for a long time quite still, pondering over
the mourning with a strange happiness and a still stranger poignant pain
in her agitated breast. Then she rose, and putting her cloak round
her--the poor cloak which she was afraid _he_ had despised--she went
down the long stairs and across the road to the tiny little church upon
the edge of the Arno. Nobody who has been in Pisa will forget Santa
Maria della Spina. I do not know whether its tiny size took the girl’s
fancy, or if the richness of the elaborate architecture pleased her, for
she had no such clearly developed ideas about art as her relations in
England gave her credit for. Perhaps after all it was but a child’s
fancy for the dim, decorated religious place, which, notwithstanding its
mystery and silence, and the awe which hung about it, was not so big as
the great bare _salone_ in which she sat at home. She went in, crossing
herself according to the custom which she had seen all her life,
mechanically, without any thought of the meaning of that sign, and held
out her hand to give the holy water to a peasant woman who entered along
with her, mechanically too, as she might have offered any habitual
courtesy. This poor girl had scarcely been taught anything except what
her eyes taught her. She went in, according to her custom, and knelt for
a minute on a chair, and then, turning it round, sat down with her face
to the altar. I think what she said under her breath was simply the
Lord’s Prayer, nothing more. It was very brief and mechanical too, and
when she sat down I cannot pretend that her thoughts were of a religious
kind. They were possessed by the occurrences of the morning. Her heart
was in a tumult, rising and falling like the waves of the sea. The dead
stillness with which the day before she had sat in the same place, full
of a certain dumb, wistful quiet--almost stupor of mind, had passed away
from her. Life had come along with the new living figure which had
placed itself in the foreground of her picture. Her heart beat with the
vibration of her first strange childish happiness at the sight of her
cousin; but in the very midst of this there came a sting of sharp wonder
and pain, that acute surprised disappointment which women are apt to
feel when the man whose company they themselves prefer to everything
shows himself capable of going away from them, and preferring some kind
of pleasure separate from them to that which can be had in their
society. “If he was glad to find me, if he came so far for me, why could
not he have stayed with me?” Innocent was not sufficiently advanced
either in intellectual or emotional life to put such a question into
words, but it was vaguely in her mind, filling her in her childish
inexperience with a pain almost as great as the new pleasure which had
come with her new friend. The morning masses were all over; there was no
service going on, no candles lighted upon the altar, which glimmered
with all its tall white tapers through the gloom. Everything was silent;
now and then a half seen figure stealing in, dropping down to say a
prayer or two, and with mysterious genuflexion gliding away again. A few
people, like Innocent, sat in different corners quite still, with their
eyes towards the altar; they were chiefly old people, worn old women and
benumbed old men, doing nothing, perhaps thinking nothing, glad only,
like the forlorn child, of the peacefulness, the stillness, the
religiousness about. Here and there was one who, with clasped hands and
rapt face, gazed up at some dark picture on the wall, and “wrestled”
like Jacob; but the most part showed little emotion of any kind; they
found a shelter perhaps for their confused thoughts, perhaps only for
the torpor of their worn-out faculties. But anyhow, they were the better
for being there, and so was Innocent. She sat quite still for a long
time, rather the subject of her thoughts than exercising any control
over them, and then she turned her chair round again and knelt and said
the Lord’s Prayer, and went away.

She went to Mrs. Drainham’s with her cousin as mechanically as she had
said her prayers. Her appearance was strange enough on that strange
evening, which she passed as in a dream. With an idea that ornament was
necessary, and perhaps not without some pleasure in the novelty of
having the little morocco box full of trinkets, which her father had
always kept in his own hands, handed over to her keeping, she had put on
a trinket which took her fancy, and which was attached to a little
chain. It was a very brilliant ornament indeed, set with emeralds and
rubies, in a quaint design, the background of which was formed by small
diamonds. The effect of this upon her very simple black frock may be
conceived. Mrs. Drainham was scandalized, yet impressed. Impossible not
to look upon a girl possessed of such a jewel with some additional
respect--and yet the impropriety, the unappropriateness of wearing it at
such a time was almost “past speaking of,” Mrs. Drainham felt.

“You should wear nothing but jet ornaments with such deep mourning,” she
said. “A plain gold locket might have done if you have no jet; but this,
my dear, is quite out of character. You must try and recollect these
things when you go among your relations. They will wonder that you know
so little. They might perhaps think it heartless of you. Was it your
mother’s? It is very pretty. You must take great care of such an
ornament as this; but you must be sure never to wear it when you are in
mourning.” This was said when she was alone in the drawing-room with
Innocent after dinner. And then she, too, began to inquire into the
packing and the wraps for the journey. She gave Innocent a great deal of
advice, which I fear was quite lost upon her, and offered to go next day
to “see to” her preparations. The girl sat much as she had sat in the
Church of the Spina, with her hands crossed on her lap, listening
vaguely. She did not know what to say, and her attention wandered often
as the stream of counsel flowed on. She had done no packing still, and
had no idea what to do about the wraps; and Frederick scarcely seemed to
belong to her, in this strange room, where she sat in a kind of waking
dream, ashamed of her poor frock, ashamed of her rich jewel, not knowing
what to make of herself. Poor little Innocent! perhaps, on the whole, in
this new rush of emotions that filled her there was rather less pleasure
than pain.



When Mrs. Eastwood received, after a long and anxious waiting,
Frederick’s letter from Leghorn, telling her of his illness and
detention in Paris (“the last place in the world one would like to be
ill in,” she said in her innocence), she was, as might be supposed,
greatly agitated and distressed. Her first thought was for his health,
poor fellow! her second for the office, and whether he could get an
extension of leave, or if this staying away without permission would
injure him. She did not quite know which of her counsellors to send for
in such an emergency, and therefore she did what she would have done in
any case, whether her advisers had bidden her or not. After she had
wondered with Ellinor what it could have been, and why he gave them no
details, and had cried over the bad news, and taken comfort at the
thought he was better, she sent for her habitual fly, the vehicle which
she had patronized ever since she put down her carriage. It was a very
respectable fly, with a sensible brown horse, which never got into any
trouble, as the horses of private individuals do, but would stand as
patiently at a door of its own free will as if it knew there was a place
round the corner where its inferior brother, the coachman, went to
refresh himself, and sympathized in his thirst. Mrs. Eastwood and
Ellinor got into this respectable vehicle about twelve o’clock, and
drove by Whitehall and the Horse Guards to the Sealing-Wax Office. There
they found the head of the office, Mr. Bellingham, who had just come in
from his cottage in the country, with a rosebud in his coat, which came
from his own conservatory, and had roused the envy of all the young men
as he came by. Mrs. Eastwood explained that Frederick had been detained
by illness in Paris. He had not written sooner in order that his friends
might not be anxious, she explained, and she hoped, as it was totally
unforeseen, and very, very inconvenient to himself, that there would be
no difficulty in the office. Mr. Bellingham smiled upon her, and said he
would make all that right. “Jolly place to be ill in,” he said with a
little nod and smile. “Indeed, I thought it the very last place in the
world for a sick person,” said Mrs. Eastwood, feeling somehow that her
boy’s sufferings were held too lightly; “so little privacy, so much
noise and bustle; and in a hotel, of course, the comforts of home are
not to be looked for.” It seemed to Ellinor that Mr. Bellingham’s
countenance bore traces of a suppressed grin, but he said nothing more
than that a letter had been received at the office from the sufferer,
and that, of course, under the circumstances, there would be no question
about the extended leave. “That is all right, at least,” Mrs. Eastwood
said as they left the office; but it may well be supposed that to wait
ten days for any news whatever of the absent son, and at the end of that
period, when they began to expect his return, to hear that he had been
ill all the time within reach of them was not pleasant. The mother and
daughter could talk of nothing else as they drove home.

“If he had but written at first, when he felt himself getting ill, you
or I, or both of us, might have gone to him, Nelly. I cannot think of
anything more dreary than being ill in an inn. And then the expense! I
wonder if he has money enough, poor boy, to bring him home?”

“If he wanted money he would have told you so,” said Nelly, half uneasy,
she could not quite tell why.

“I don’t know,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “boys are so odd. To be sure, when
they want money they generally let one know. But there never was
anything so tiresome, so vague, as men’s letters about themselves. ‘I
have been ill.’--Now if it had been you or me, Nelly, we should have
said, ‘I took cold, or I got a bad headache,’ or whatever it was, on
such a day--and how it got worse or better; and when we were able to get
up again, or to get out again. It is not Frederick alone. It is every
man. They tell you just enough to make you unhappy--never any details. I
suppose,” she added, with a sigh, “it is because that sort of meagre
information is enough for themselves. They don’t care to know all about
it as women do. They don’t understand what it is to be really anxious.
In a great many ways, Nelly, men have the advantage over us--things,
too, that no laws can change.”

“I don’t think it is an advantage not to care,” said Nelly indignantly.

“I am not so sure of that,” said her mother. “We care so much that we
can’t think of anything else. We can’t take things calmly as they do.
And they have an advantage in it. Frederick is a very good son, but if I
were to write to him, ‘I have been ill, and I am better,’ he would be
quite satisfied, he would want nothing more. Whereas I want a great deal
more,” Mrs. Eastwood said, flicking off with her finger the ghost of a
tear which had gathered, in spite of her, in the corner of her eye, and
giving a short little broken laugh. The path of fathers and mothers is
often strewn with roses, but the roses have very big thorns. Even Nelly,
who was young, whose heart leapt forward to a future of her own, in
which brothers had but little share, did not here quite comprehend her
mother. For her own part, had she been left to herself, it is possible
that Frederick’s “I have been ill, but I am better,” would have
satisfied all her anxieties; but as the girl by force of sympathy was
but half herself and half her mother, she entered into the feelings
which she did not altogether share with a warmth which was increased by
partisanship, if such a word can be used in such a case.

“It is wicked of him not to write more fully,” she said.

“No, Nelly, dear, not wicked, only thoughtless; all men are the same,”
said Mrs. Eastwood. And to be sure this large generalization affords a
little comfort now and then to women, as the same principle does to men
in different circumstances; for there is nothing about which the two
halves of humanity are so fond of generalizing as each other. It seems
to afford a certain consolation that “all men are just the same,” or
that “women are like that everywhere”--an explanation which, at least,
partially exonerates the immediate offender.

Another week elapsed, during which the Eastwoods carried on their
existence much as usual, unmoved to appearance by the delay, and not
deeply disturbed by the prospect of the new arrival. Mrs. Eastwood spoke
to Mr. Brotherton, her rector and adviser about “the boys,” on the
subject, but not much came of it; for Mr. Brotherton, though fond, like
most people, of giving advice, and feeling, like most people, that a
widow with sons to educate was his lawful prey, was yet shy of saying
anything on the subject of Frederick, who was no longer a boy. Whether
any more serious uneasiness lay underneath her anxiety for her son’s
health, no one, not even Mrs. Eastwood’s chief and privy councillor,
could have told; but when appealed to as to what he thought on the
subject, whether another messenger or the mother herself should go to
the succour of the invalid, Mr. Brotherton shook his head and did not
know what to advise. “If he has been able to go on to Leghorn, I think
you may feel very confident that he is all right again,” he said. “You
must not make yourself unhappy about him. From Leghorn to Pisa is but a
step,” added the Rector, pleased to be able to recall his own experience
on this subject. But Mrs. Everard, the Privy Councillor, was of a
different opinion. She was always for action in every case. To sit still
and wait was a policy which had no attractions for her. She was a slight
and eager woman, who had been a great beauty in her day. Her husband had
been a judge in India, and she was, or thought she was, deeply
instructed in the law, and able to be “of real service” to her friends,
when legal knowledge was requisite. It is almost unnecessary to say that
she was as unlike Mrs. Eastwood as one woman could be to another. The
one was eager, slight, and restless, with a mind much too active for her
body, and an absolute incapacity for letting anything alone; the other
plump and peaceable, not deficient in energy when it was necessary, but
slightly inert and slow to move when the emergency did not strike her as
serious. Of course it is equally unnecessary to add that Mrs. Everard
also was a widow. This fact acts upon the character like other great
facts in life. It makes many and important modifications in the aspect
of affairs. Life _à deux_ (I don’t know any English phrase which quite
expresses this) is scarcely more different from the primitive and
original single life than is the life which, after having been _à deux_,
becomes single, without the possibility of going back to the original
standing ground. That curious mingling of a man’s position and
responsibilities with a woman’s position and responsibilities, cannot
possibly fail to mould a type of character in many respects individual.
A man who is widowed is not similarly affected, partly perhaps because
in most cases he throws the responsibility from him, and either marries
again or places some woman in the deputy position of governess or
housekeeper to represent the feminine side of life, which he does not
choose to take upon himself. Women, however, abandon their post much
less frequently, and sometimes, I suspect, get quite reconciled to the
double burden, and do not object to do all for, and be all to, their
children. Sometimes they attempt too much, and often enough they fail;
but so does everybody in everything, and widows’ sons have not shown
badly in general life. I hope the gentle reader will pardon me this
digression, which, after all, is scarcely necessary, since it is the
business of the ladies in this history to speak for themselves.

“I would go if I were in your place,” said Mrs. Everard, talking over
all these circumstances in the twilight over the fire the same evening.
“A man, as we both know, never tells you anything fully. Of course you
cannot tell in the least what is the matter with him. He may have
overtasked his strength going on to Pisa. He may break down on the road
home, with no one to look after him. I suppose this girl will be a
helpless foreign thing without any knowledge of the world. Girls are
brought up so absurdly abroad. You know my opinion, dear, on the whole
subject. I always advised you--instead of taking this trouble and
bringing her here with great expense and inconvenience, to make her an
inmate of your own house--I always advised you to settle her where she
is, paying her expenses among the people she knows. You remember what I
told you about poor Adelaide Forbes?--what a mistake she made, meaning
to be kind! You know your own affairs best; but still on this point I
think I was right.”

“Perhaps you may have been,” said Mrs. Eastwood, from the gloom of the
corner in which she was seated, “but there are some things that one
cannot do, however much one’s judgment may be convinced. Leave my own
flesh and blood to languish among strangers? I could not do it; it would
have been impossible.”

“If your flesh and blood had been a duchess, you would have done it
without a thought,” said Mrs. Everard. “She is happy where she is (I
suppose). You don’t know her temper nor her ways of thinking, nor what
kind of girl she is, and yet you will insist upon bringing her here----”

“You speak as if Frederick’s illness was mamma’s doing,” said Nelly,
with a little indignation, coming in from one of her many occupations,
and placing herself on a stool in front of the fire, in the full glow of
the firelight. Nelly was not afraid of her complexion. She did
everything a girl ought not to do in this way. She would run out in the
sunshine unprotected by veil or parasol, and she had a child’s trick of
reading by firelight, which, considering how she scorched her cheeks,
can scarcely be called anything short of wicked. This was a point upon
which Mrs. Everard kept up a vigorous but unsuccessful struggle.

“Nelly, Nelly! you will burn your eyes out. By the time you are my age
how much eyesight will you have left, do you think?”

“I don’t much care,” said Nelly, in an undertone. She thought that by
the time she reached Mrs. Everard’s age (which was under fifty) she
would have become indifferent to eyesight and everything else, in the
chills of that advanced age.

“Nelly, you are not too civil,” said Mrs. Eastwood, touching the toe of
Nelly’s pretty shoe with her own velvet slipper, in warning and reproof.
The girl drew her toes out of the way, but did not make any apology. She
was not fond of Mrs. Everard, nor indeed was any one in the house.

“Of course, I don’t mean that your decision had anything whatever to do
with Frederick’s illness,” Mrs. Everard resumed, “that I don’t need to
say. He might have been ill at home as much as abroad. I am speaking now
on the original question. Of course, if Frederick had not gone away, you
would have been spared this anxiety, and might have nursed him
comfortably at home. But that is incidental. What I _am_ sorry for is
that you are bringing a girl into your house whom you know nothing of.
She may be very nice, but she may be quite the reverse. Of course one
can never tell whether it may or may not be a happy change even for
her--but it is a great risk for you. It is a very brave thing to do. I
should not have the courage to make such an experiment, though it would
be a great deal simpler in my house, where there is no one to be
affected but myself.”

“I don’t see where the courage lies,” said Nelly; “a girl of sixteen.
What harm could she do to any one?”

“Oh, a great deal of harm, if she chose,” said Mrs. Everard; “a girl of
sixteen, in a house full of young men! One or the other of them will
fall in love with her to a certainty if she is at all pretty----”

“Oh, please!” said Mrs. Eastwood; “you do think so oddly, pardon me for
saying so, about the boys. Frederick is grown up, of course, but the
last young man in the world to think of a little cousin. And as for
Dick, he is a mere boy; and Jenny? Don’t be vexed if I laugh. This is
too funny.”

“I hope you will always think it as funny,” said the Privy Councillor
solemnly, “but I know you and I don’t think alike on these subjects.
Half the ridiculous marriages in the world spring out of the fact that
parents will not see when boys and girls start up into men and women. I
don’t mean to say that harm will come of it immediately--but once she is
in your house there is no telling how you are to get rid of her.
However, I suppose your mind is made up. About the other matter here are
the facts of the case. Frederick is ill, you don’t know how or with
what; he has taken a long and dangerous journey----”

“Not dangerous, dear, not dangerous----”

“Well, not dangerous if you please, but long and fatiguing, and
troublesome to a man who is ill. He has gone on to Pisa in a bad state
of health. You know that he has reached so far; and you know no more.
Of course he will be anxious to get home again as quickly as possible.
What if he were to get worse on the road? There is nothing more likely,
and the torturing anxiety you would feel in such circumstances I need
not suggest to you. You will be terribly unhappy. You will wait for news
until you feel it impossible to wait any longer, and then when your
strength and patience are exhausted, you will rush off to go to
him--most likely too late.”

“Oh, have a little pity upon me! Don’t talk so--don’t think so----”

“I can’t stop my thoughts,” said Mrs. Everard, not without a little
complacency, “and I have known such things to happen before now. What
more likely than that he should start before he is equal to the journey,
and break down on the way home? Then you would certainly go to him; and
my advice is, go to him now. Anticipating the evil in that way, you
would probably prevent it. In your place I would not lose a day.”

“But I could not reach Pisa,” said Mrs. Eastwood, nervously taking out
her watch, “I could not reach Pisa, even if I were to start to-night,
before they had left it; and how can I tell which way they would come? I
should miss them to a certainty. I should get there just when they were
arriving here. I should have double anxiety, and double expense----”

“If they ever arrived here,” said Mrs. Everard ominously; “but indeed it
is not my part to interfere. Some people can bear anxiety so much better
than others. I know it would kill me.”

Mrs. Eastwood very naturally objected to such a conclusion. To put up
with the imputation of feeling less than her friend, or any other woman,
in the circumstances, was unbearable. “Then you really think I have
reason to be alarmed?” she said in a tremulous voice.

“I should not have any doubt on the subject,” said her adviser. “A young
man in delicate health, a long journey, cold February weather, and not
even a doctor whom you can rely upon to see him before he starts.
Recollect I would not say half so much if I did not feel quite sure that
you would be forced to go at last--and probably too late.”

“Oh, don’t say those awful words!” said the poor woman. And thus the
conversation went on, till Brownlow appeared with the lamp, interrupting
the agitating discussion. Then Mrs. Everard went her way, leaving her
friend in very low spirits with Nelly, who, though kept up by a
wholesome spirit of opposition, was yet moved, in spite of herself, by
the gloomy picture upon which she had been looking. They sat together
over the fire for a little longer, very tearful and miserable, while
Mrs. Everard went home, strong in the sense of having done her duty
“however things might turn out.”

“Must you really go, mamma?” said Nelly, much subdued, consulting her
watch, in her turn, and thinking of the hurried start at eight o’clock
to catch the night train, and of the dismal midnight crossing of that
Channel which travellers hate and fear. “It will be a dreadful journey.
Must you really go?”

“What do _you_ think, Nelly?” said Mrs. Eastwood, beginning to recover a
little. “I have the greatest respect for Jane Everard’s opinion, but she
does always take the darkest view of everything. Oh, Nelly, what would
_you_ advise me to do?”

This was an infallible sign that the mercury had begun to rise.
“Pressure had decreased,” to use a scientific term. The mother and
daughter made up their minds, after much discussion, that to catch the
night train would be impossible, and that there might perhaps be further
news next day. “If that is your opinion, Nelly?” Mrs. Eastwood said, as
they went up-stairs, supporting herself with natural casuistry upon her
child’s counsel. The fact was that she herself saw very clearly all the
practical difficulties of the question. She loved advice, and did not
think it correct for “a woman in my position” to take any important step
without consulting her friends; and their counsel moved her deeply. She
gave all her attention to it, and received it with respectful
conviction; but she did not take it. It would be impossible to
overestimate the advantage this gave her over all her advisers.

“I knew she had made up her mind,” Mrs. Everard said next day, with
resignation. Whatever might happen she had done her duty; and the
consequences must certainly fall on the culprit’s own head.



To the reader who is better acquainted with the causes and character of
Frederick Eastwood’s detention on his journey than either his mother or
her Privy Councillor, the fears entertained by these ladies in respect
to his health will scarcely appear deserving of much consideration. His
health, indeed, very soon came right again. Two days’ rest at Pisa, the
substitution of the _vin du pays_ for champagne, and the absence of
other excitements, made him quite equal to contemplate the journey home
without anxiety, so far as his own interesting person was concerned. He
had difficulties enough, however, of another kind. He was obliged to
stay a day longer than he intended, in order to fit out his cousin with
various things pronounced by Mrs. Drainham to be indispensable. She had
to be clothed in something more fit for a journey than the thin black
frock which Niccolo had ordered for her at her father’s death. Pisa did
not afford much in the way of toilette; but still the dress and cloak
procured by Mrs. Drainham were presentable; and the fastidious young man
was extremely grateful to the physician’s pretty wife for clothing his
companion so that he should not be ashamed to be seen with her, which
would have been the case had the poor child travelled, as she intended,
in her only warm garment, the velvet cloak.

“It must have been a stage property in its day,” Frederick said, looking
at the many tints of its old age with disgust.

Innocent hid it away instantly in the depths of her old trunk, and sat
proudly shivering with cold in her thin frock through all the long
evening,--the cold, long, lingering night which preceded their
departure. She thought her cousin would have come to her; but Frederick
wisely reflected that he would have enough of her society for the next
few days, and preferred the Drainhams’ comfortable drawing-room instead.
Poor Innocent! she stood in the old way at the window, but not impassive
as of old, looking for some one this time, and trying with a beating
heart to make him out among the crowd that moved along the Lung’ Arno.
This expectation engrossed her so much that she forgot to think of the
change that was about to come upon her life. I do not know, indeed, that
she was capable of thinking of anything so complex as this change. She
had wandered from one place to another with her father, living always
the same dreary, secluded life, having such simple wants as she was
conscious of supplied, and nothing ever required of her. I believe, had
it been suggested to her unawakened mind that thenceforward she must do
without Niccolo, this would have been the most forcible way of rousing
her to thought of what was about to happen. And, indeed, this was
exactly the course which was about to be taken, though without any idea
on the part of Niccolo of the effect it would produce. He came in as
usual with his little tray, the salad heaped up, green and glistening
with oil just as he liked it himself. Beside it, as this was the last
evening, was a small, but smoking hot, dish of maccaroni, a morsel of
cheese on a plate, and a _petit pain_, more delicate than the dry
Italian bread. The usual small flask of red wine flanked this meal,
which Niccolo brought in with some state, as became the little festa
which he had prepared for his charge. Tears were in the good fellow’s
eyes, though his beard was divided in its blackness by the kind smile
which displayed his red lips and white teeth. He arranged it on the
little table close by the stove, placed the chair beside it, and trimmed
the lamp before he called upon his Signorina, whose position by the
window he had immediately remarked with a shrug of his shoulders. He had
taken care of her all her life; but I am not sure that the good Niccolo
was not glad to be relieved of a charge so embarrassing. His own
prospects were certainly brightened by her departure. He had served her
father faithfully and long with but poor recompense, and now the reward
of his faithfulness was coming to Niccolo in the shape of a better
place, with higher wages, and a position which was very splendid in his
eyes. Never was heart more disposed to entertain a romantic devotion for
the child he had nurtured; but it is difficult for the warmest heart to
give itself up in blind love to an utterly unresponsive being, whether
child or man, and as Innocent did not love Niccolo or any one else the
separation from her was less hard than it might otherwise have been.
Nevertheless there were tears in his eyes, and his heart was softened
and melting when he arranged her supper for her, and went to the cold
window to call her to her solitary meal. He touched her shoulder
caressingly with his hand.

“Santissima Madonna!” cried Niccolo, “you will die of cold, my poor
young lady; you have nothing but this thin dress, which cannot keep you
warm. Where in the name of all the saints is your cloak?”

“I have put it away. It is ugly; it is not fit to wear,” cried Innocent.
“It is a thing of the theatre. Why did you let me wear it?” and she put
off his hand gently enough, but coldly, and continued her watch.

“A thing of the theatre!” cried Niccolo, indignant, “when I bought it
myself at the sale of the pittore Inglese, who died over the way; and
you looked like a princess when you put it on, and warm as a bird in a
nest. But I know who it is that turns you against your old dresses, and
your old way of living, and your poor old Niccolo. It is the cousin. I
hope he will be to you all we have been, Signorina. But in the meantime
my young lady is served, and if she does not eat, the maccaroni will be
cold. Cold maccaroni is good for no one. The cousin will not come

“You do not know,” said Innocent, turning a momentary look upon him,
which was half a defiance and half a question.

“But I do know,” said Niccolo; “he went to the house of the English
doctor half an hour ago, and bid me tell the Signorina to be prepared at
ten to-morrow. Come, then, to the maccaroni. When everything else fails
it is always good to have maccaroni to fall back upon. _Chi ha buon
pane, e buon vino, ha troppo un micolino._”

“I do not care for maccaroni,” said Innocent. She turned from the
window, however, with a dawning of the pride of a woman who feels
herself slighted. “Niccolo, I do not want anything: you can go away.”

“And this is how she parts with the old Niccolo!” he cried. “I have
carried her in my arms when she was little. I have dressed her, and
prepared for her to eat and drink all her life. I have taken her to the
festa, and to the church. I have done all for her--all! and the last
night she tells me, ‘I do not want anything, Niccolo; you may go away.’”

“The last night?” said Innocent, moved a little. She shivered with the
cold, and with the pang of desertion, and with that new-born sense of
her loneliness which had never struck her before. She knelt down by the
stove to get a little warmth, and turned her eyes inquiringly upon him.
She knew what he meant very well, and yet she did not know.

“The last night” said Niccolo. “To-morrow evening you will be upon the
great sea; you will be on your way to your relations, to your England,
which cannot be colder than your heart, Signorina. I weep, for I cannot
forget that you were once a little child, and that I carried you in my
arms. When I reflect that it is fifteen years, fifteen years that I have
taken care of you, from the moment your nurse left you, _disgraziata!_
and that after to-morrow I shall see you no more! Whatever has to be
done for you must be done by others, or will not be done at all, which
is more likely. When you want anything you may call ‘Niccolo, Niccolo;’
but there will be no Niccolo to reply. If I were to permit myself to
think of all this I should become _pazzo_, Signorina--though you don’t

Innocent said nothing; but slowly the reality of this tremendous
alteration in her lot made itself apparent to her. No Niccolo! She could
not realize it. With Niccolo, too, many other things would disappear.
She looked round the lofty bare walls, which, indeed, had few
attractions except those of use and wont, and faintly it dawned upon her
that her whole life and everything that was familiar to her was about to
vanish away. Large tears filled her eyes; she turned to Niccolo an
appealing, beseeching look. “I do not understand,” she cried, with a
panting breath; and put out her hands, and clung to him. He who was
about to be left behind was the emblem of all the known, the familiar--I
do not say the dear, for the girl’s heart and soul had been sealed up,
and she loved nothing. But she knew him, and relied upon him, and had
that child’s trust that he would never fail her, which is often all that
a child knows of love. No Niccolo! She did not understand how existence
was to go on without him. She clung to him with a look of sudden alarm
and dismay in her dilated eyes.

The good Niccolo was satisfied. He had not wished or attempted to rouse
that miserable, vague sense of desertion and abandonment of which he had
no comprehension; but he was satisfied to have brought out some evidence
of feeling, and also that his dramatic appeal had produced the due
effect. “My dearest young lady!” he said, wiping the great tears from
her eyes with his own red handkerchief, a service which he, indeed, had
performed many a time before. “Carissima Signorina mia! There will never
be a day of my life that I will not think of you, nor shall I ever enter
a church without putting the blessed Madonna in mind of my poor, dear,
well-beloved young lady who has no mother! Never, carina! never, my
child, my little mistress! You may always rely upon your old Niccolo;
and when my young lady marries a rich milordo she will come back to
Pisa, and seek out her old servant, and say to the handsome, beautiful
young husband, ‘This is my old Niccolo, that brought me up!’ Ah, carina
mia,” cried the good fellow, laughing and crying, and applying the red
handkerchief first to Innocent’s cheeks and then to his own, “that will
be a magnificent day to look forward to! The young milordo will say
immediately, ‘Niccolo shall be the maestro della casa; he shall live and
die in my service.’ Ah, my beautiful Signorina, what happiness! I will
go with you to England or anywhere. You were born to be our delight!”
cried Niccolo, carried away by his feelings, and evidently imagining
that the _giorno magnifico_ had arrived already. Innocent, however, did
not follow these rapid vicissitudes of feeling. To get one clear idea
into her mind was difficult enough. Sometimes she looked at him,
sometimes into the little fire, with its ruddy embers. Her head was
giddy, her heart dully aching. All was going away from her; the room,
the walls, seemed to turn slowly round, as if they would dissolve and
break up into vapour. The very dumbness of her heart made this vague
sense of misery the more terrible; she could say nothing. She could not
have told what she felt or what she feared; but all the world seemed to
be dissolving about her into coldness and darkness and loneliness; the
cold penetrated to her very soul; she was miserable, as we may imagine a
dumb animal to be, without any way of relieving itself of the confused
pain in its mind.

Niccolo, after a while, became alarmed, and devoted himself to her
restoration with all the tender kindness of his race. He rushed to the
trunk, and got out the old mantle, in which he wrapped her; he put the
scaldino into her hands, he brought her wine, and petted and smiled her
back into composure. He carried the largest scaldino in the house, full
of the reddest embers, into her stony bedroom. “It is not the cold,” he
said to himself, “it is the sorrow, poverina! poverina! Let no one say
after this that she has not a tender heart.” And when she went to bed
Niccolo stayed up all night--cheerful, yet sad--to finish the packing,
to set everything straight, and to leave the apartment in such order
that the Marchese Scaramucci might have no grievance against his tenant,
and as small a bill of repairs as possible. Good, kindly soul; he was
rather glad though, on the whole, that to-morrow he was going to the new
master, who was rich, and kept a number of servants, and who, being a
milordo, might perhaps be cheated now and then in a friendly way.

And next morning Innocent’s old world did break up into clouds and
vapours. For the last time she stole over to the little church in the
dark morning, and said the Lord’s Prayer, and then sat still, looking at
the little altar, where this time the candles were lighted, and a
priest saying mass. The mass had nothing to do with Innocent. The drone
of the monotonous voice, the gleam of the candles, made no sort of
impression upon her. Her imagination was as little awakened as her heart
was. If she thought of anything at all it was, with a sore sense of a
wound somewhere, that Frederick had left her, that he had not come near
her, that he was happy away from her; but all quite vague; nothing
definite in it, except the pang. And then Santa Maria della Spina, and
the high houses opposite, and the yellow river below, and the clustered
buildings about the Duomo, and all Pisa, in short, melted into the
clouds, and rolled away like a passing storm, and the new world began.

What kind of a strange phantasmagoric world this was, full of glares of
light and long stretches of darkness; of black, plunging, angry waves,
ready to drown the quivering, creaking, struggling vessel, which carried
her and her fortunes; then of lights again wavering and dancing before
the eyes, which were still unsteady from the sea; and once more the long
sweep of the railway through the night, more lights, more darkness,
succeeding and succeeding each other like the changes in a dream--we
need not attempt to describe. It was four days after their start from
Pisa, when her strength was quite worn out by the continuous and unusual
fatigue both to body and mind, her nerves shaken, and all her powers of
sensation dulled, when, shuddering at the sight, she came again to the
short but angry sea which had to be crossed to England. It was not a
“silver streak” that day. There are a great many days in the year, as
the traveller knows, in which it is anything but a “silver streak.” In
short, few things wilder, darker, more tempestuous, and terrible could
be conceived than the black belt of Channel across which Innocent fought
her way in the Dover steamboat to where a darker shadow lay upon the
edge of the boiling water, a shadow which was England. For a wonder, she
was not sea-sick. Frederick, whose self-control under such circumstances
was dubious, had established her in a corner, and then had left her, not
coming near her again till they entered the harbour, which was no
unkindness on his part, but an effort of self-preservation, which the
most _exigeant_ would have approved. He had been very good to her on the
journey, studying her comfort in every way, taking care of her almost as
Niccolo had done, excusing all her little misadventures with her
hand-bag, and the shawl she carried over her arm. He had let her head
rest upon his shoulder; he had allowed her to hold his hand fast when
the steamboat went up and down on the Mediterranean. These days of
fatigue had been halcyon days of perfect repose and confidence in her
companion. The poor child had never known any love in her barren life,
and this kindness, which she did not know either, seemed in her eyes
something heavenly, delicious beyond power of description. It had never
been possible for her to cling to any one before, and yet her nature
and breeding both made her dependent and helpless in her ignorance.
Frederick appeared to her in such a light as had as yet touched nothing
else in earth or heaven. Her heart woke to him and clung to him, but
went no further. Her eyes searched all the dark figures on the deck in
search of him when self-preservation drove him from her side. A
cloud--an additional cloud--came on the world when he was absent. She
felt no interest in the darksome England which loomed out of the mists;
no curiosity even about the home it enclosed, or the unknown women who
would hereafter so strangely affect her happiness. She gazed blankly at
the cliffs rising through the fog, at the lights blown about by the
wind, which shone out upon the stormy sea, and the bustle on the shore
of the crowd which awaited the arrival of the steamer. All that she felt
was again that ache (but slighter than before) to think that Frederick
liked to be away from her, chose to leave her. For her part, she felt
only half living and not at all real when he was not near enough to be
touched. He was all she had left of reality out of the dissolving views
into which the past had broken up; she might be dreaming but for him.
When he came to her side at last in Dover Harbour, she caught at his arm
and clasped it, and stood close up to him, holding on as to an anchor in
the midst of all her confusion. Frederick did not dislike the heavy
claim thus made upon him. The girl was very young, and almost beautiful
in her strange way. She was ice except to him. She had thrown herself
into his arms the first time they met, and a certain complacency of
superiority, which was very sweet, mingled with the sense of protecting
and sustaining care with which he looked upon the creature thus entirely
dependent on him.

“Now the worst of our troubles is over,” he said cheerfully, though he
was very white and even greenish in colour after the last hour’s
sufferings. “Two hours more and we shall be at home.”

Innocent made no answer. She did not think at all of home; she only
clung a little closer to him, as the only interpreter of all the vague
and misty wonders which loomed about her. They were just about to step
out of the boat, she always clinging to him, when Frederick heard
himself called in a coarse but jovial voice, which at first bewildered
him with surprise before he recognized it, and then gave him anything
but a pleasant sensation.

“Glad to see you again, Mr. Eastwood,” it said. “Horrid passage, sir; a
thing not to be endured if one could help it. I’ve been as sick as a
dog, and, judging by your colour, so have you.”

“No,” said Frederick coldly; but it is not easy to be politely calm to a
man who has you in his power, and who could “sell you up” to-morrow if
he liked without benefit of clergy. He shivered as he replied, feeling
such a terror of the consequences as I should vainly attempt to
describe. It was like the death’s head at the feast, suddenly presenting
itself when his mind was for the moment free from all dread of it. He
turned round (though he had recognized the voice) with supercilious
surprise, as if he could not imagine who the speaker was.

“Oh, Mr.----! You have been in Paris, I presume, ever since I saw you

“Just so,” said Batty, “and some jolly evenings we’ve managed to have
since, I can tell you. Not your way--unlimited, you know; but in
moderation. By Jove! your way was too good to last. Made out your
journey comfortable, eh, Mr. Eastwood? Got a companion now, I see.”

Oh, how Frederick blessed that companion for the opaqueness of her
observation, for her want of interest in what was done and said around.
“Yes, my cousin,” he said in a quiet undertone; and added, “Now I must
get her into the train, and find a place for her. I am sorry I have no
time to talk to you just now. Don’t be afraid that I shall forget
the--the business--between us.”

“No, I don’t think you will,” said Batty, with a horse-laugh. “You
couldn’t if you would, and I shouldn’t let you if you wanted to. And, by
the way,” he said, keeping them back from the wished-for landing, “I
recollected after I left you that I had never given you my address. Stop
a moment, I’ll find it directly.”

“I will come back to you,” cried Frederick, desperate, “as soon as I
have placed this lady in the train.”

“Just a moment,” said the man, pulling out his pocket-book. “I have your
address, you know. There I have the advantage,” he added, with a leer
into Frederick’s face.

Perhaps there is no ill-doing in this world which escapes punishment one
way or other. Frederick had escaped a great deal better than he had any
right to hope for till this moment. But now the Fates avenged
themselves. Though he was cold and shivering, he grew red to his hair
with suppressed passion.

“Let me pass, for Heaven’s sake!” he cried, bursting into involuntary

“Here it is,” said Mr. Batty, thrusting a card into his hand, and with a
chuckle he turned round to some people behind, who were with him, and
let his victim go. Frederick hurried his silent companion on shore in a
tumult of miserable and angry feeling. It was the first time he had felt
the prick of the obligation under which he lay. He did not make the kind
and pleasant little speech which he had intended to make to Innocent as
he led her on to English soil. It had been driven out of his head by
this odious encounter. Heavens! he thought, if it had been Nelly instead
of Innocent! and next time it might be Nelly. He hurried the girl into
the train without one word, and threw in his coat, and went off to get
some brandy to restore his nerves and his courage. “Hallo! Eastwood!”
some one else called out to him. “Bless my life, how green you are! been
ill on the crossing, eh?” This is not a confession which the young
Englishman is fond of making in a general way, but Frederick nodded and
hurried on, ready to confess to anything, so long as he could be left
alone. The brandy did him good, driving out the shuddering cold and
putting some sort of spirit into him; for indeed it was quite true that,
in addition to the mental shock, he had been ill on the crossing too.

Innocent had paid no attention to this colloquy; she received into her
passive memory the voice and face of the man who had addressed her
cousin; but she was not herself aware that she had done so. She was
grieved when Frederick left her, and glad when he came back in a few
minutes to ask if she would have anything. “No; only if you will come,”
she said, putting out her hand. That was all she thought of. A kind of
tremor had taken possession of her, not of expectation, for she was too
passive to speculate--a thrill of the nerves as she approached the end
of her journey. “You will not go away from me when we get there?” she
said piteously. What with his disagreeable acquaintances, and his too
clinging charge, poor Frederick had enough on his hands.

“Of course, I shall not go away; but, Innocent, you must put me in the
second place now,” he said, patting her shoulder kindly as he sat down
beside her. The answer she made was to put her hand softly within his
arm. I don’t think Mrs. Eastwood would have approved of it, and
Frederick found it rather embarrassing, and hoped the old lady did not
observe it who was in the other corner of the railway carriage; she
dozed all the way to town, and he did not know her; but still a man does
not like to look ridiculous. Otherwise it was not unpleasant of itself.

And then Innocent’s bewildered eyes were dazzled by a blaze of lights,
and noise, and crowding figures. Out of that she was put into the
silence of a dingy cab, and left there, feeling unutterably lonely, and
not at all sure that now at the last moment he had not forsaken her,
while Frederick was absent looking after the luggage, that dismal
concluding piece of misery after a long journey. By the time he came
back to her she was crying, and sick with suspense and terror. And then
came a last quick drive, through gleaming lights and intervals of
darkness, by shop-windows and through dim lanes, till at last a door
flew open in the gloom, sending forth light and warmth, and two figures
rushed out of it and took her passive into their arms. She held
Frederick fast with one hand while she gazed at them. This was how she
came home.



All the events of that evening passed like a dream over the mind of
Innocent. The warm, curtained, cushioned, luxurious room, with its soft
carpets, its soft chairs, its draperies, its fulness and crowd of
unfamiliar details, the unknown faces and sounds, the many pictures on
the walls, the conversation, quick and familiar, carried on in a
language which to be sure she knew perfectly, but was not accustomed to
hear about her--all bewildered and confused her. She sat and looked at
them with an infantile stare of half-stupefied dull wonder, not
altogether understanding what they said, and not at all taking in the
meaning even when she understood the words. She made scarcely any
response to their many questions. She said “Yes” when they asked if she
were tired, but nothing at all in reply to her aunt’s warm and tearful
welcome. She felt disposed to wonder why they kissed her, why they
unfastened her wraps and put a footstool for her feet before the fire,
and made so much fuss about her. Why did they do it? Nothing of the kind
would have occurred to Innocent had they gone to her. She did not
understand their kindness. It seemed to her to require some explanation,
some clearing-up of the mystery. She sat with her lips shut close, with
her eyes opened more widely than usual, turning to each one who spoke.
She had felt no curiosity about them before she arrived, and she did not
feel any curiosity now. They were new, and strange, and wonderful, not
to be accounted for by any principles within her knowledge. They placed
her by the fire, they took off her hat and cloak, they established her
there to thaw, and be comforted.

“Dinner will be ready directly--but will you have a cup of tea first?”
said Mrs. Eastwood, stroking her lank hair.

“No,” said Innocent, “I am not ill.” She thought, as was natural with
her Italian training, that tea was a medicine.

“Would you like to go up to your room before dinner, or are you too
tired, dear?” said Nelly.

“I will stay here,” said the girl. This was how she answered them,
always gazing at the one who spoke to her, and ever turning to give a
wistful look at Frederick, who, for his part, felt himself somehow
responsible for the new guest, and annoyed by the wondering looks of his
mother and sister.

“Let her alone,” he said, with some impatience. “Don’t you see she is
frightened and tired, and scarcely understands you? We have been
travelling day and night since Tuesday. Innocent, are you very much
tired? Should you like to go to bed? or are you able to sit up to
dinner? Don’t be afraid.”

She looked up at him instantly responsive. She put out her hand to him,
and grasped his, though this was a formula which he could have dispensed
with. “Are you to sit up to dinner?” she asked. “Then I will too.”

“I am the only one she knows,” he said, turning to the others, half
pleased, half ashamed; perhaps more than half ashamed, the young man
being English, and in deadly terror of being laughed at. “I hope I am
old enough to sit up to dinner,” he said, carrying off a little
confusion in a laugh; “but I confess after all this travelling I am
tired too.”

“Let me look at you, Frederick,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I see you are
better; you are not so pale as when you went away. Your illness, on the
whole, must have agreed with you. Why didn’t you write, you unkind boy?
Nelly and I would have gone over to nurse you----”

Heaven forbid! Frederick said to himself; the bare suggestion gave him a
livelier idea of the dangers he had escaped than anything else had done.
“No, no,” he said, “a journey at this time of the year is no joke. That
was the very reason I did not write; and then, of course, I was anxious
to get on as quickly as I could to poor Innocent, who was being made a
victim of by all the ladies, the doctress and the clergywoman, and all
the rest----”

“Was she made a victim of?” said Nelly, looking at the new comer in her
easy-chair, with doubtful wonder.

Innocent divined rather than understood that they were talking of her,
and once more raised her eyes to Frederick with a soft smile which
seemed to consent to everything he said. She seemed to the ladies to be
giving confirmation to his words, whereas, in reality, it was but like
the holding out of her hand--another way of showing her confidence and
dependence on him.

“I took her out of their hands,” said Frederick, with a delightful
indifference to facts; “they would have sent her to you with a Pisan
outfit, peasant costume for anything I can tell. I was very glad to get
there in time. I found the poor child living in the house all alone, not
even with a maid, and a dark ghostly dismal sort of house, which you
would have thought would have frightened her to death.”

“Poor child!” said Mrs. Eastwood, “alone without even a maid? Oh, that
is dreadful! Were you frightened, my poor darling?”

“No,” said Innocent, glancing at her questioner quickly, and then
returning to her habitual gaze upon Frederick. This was not encouraging,
but of course Frederick had been her first acquaintance, and she had
come to know him. His mother dismissed him summarily to wash his hands
before dinner. “Don’t think of dressing,” she said; and Innocent was
left alone with them. She sat quite passive, as she had done with Mrs.
Drainham, turning her eyes from one to the other with a wistful sort of
fear, which half amused, half angered them. To be sure, in her fatigued
state, there was every excuse to be made.

“You must not be afraid of us, my dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “Nelly and
I will love you very much if you will let us. It will be a great change
for you, and everything is very different here from what it is in Italy.
I have lived in Italy myself when your poor dear mamma was a young girl
like you. Do you remember your mamma, Innocent?”


“I think you must remember her a little. You are not like her. You must
be like the Vanes, I suppose. Have you ever seen any of the Vanes, your
father’s relations?”

“No,” said Innocent, again getting bewildered, and feeling that this
time she ought to say yes. Nelly came to the other side of the chair and
took her hand, looking kindly at her. Why would these people say so
much--do so much? Why did not they leave her alone?

“Mamma, she is stupefied with cold and fatigue,” said Nelly. “To-morrow
she will be quite different. Lean back in the chair, and never mind us.
We will not talk to you any more.”

But she did not lean back in her chair; she had not been accustomed to
chairs that you could lean back in. She sat bolt upright, and looked at
them with her eyes wide open, and looked at everything, taking in the
picture before her with the quick eyes of a savage, though she was
confused about what they said. How close and warm everything was, how
shut in, no space to walk about or to see round the crowded furniture!
The room, in English eyes, though very well filled, was not at all
crowded with furniture; but Innocent compared it with the Palazzo
Scaramucci, where every chair and table stood distinct in its own
perspective. How different was the aspect of everything! the very tables
were clothed, the windows draped to their feet, the room crammed with
pictures, books, things, and people. Innocent seemed to want space; the
walls closed and crowded upon her as they do upon people who have just
recovered their sight. Mrs. Drainham’s drawing-room had been made very
comfortable, but it was not like this. The want of height and size
struck her more than the wealth and comfort. She was not used to
comfort--never having had it--and did not feel the want of it. Even the
fire, after the first few minutes of revived animation produced by its
warmth, felt stifling to her, as to all Italians. The ladies by her side
thought she was admiring everything, which disposed them amiably towards
her, but this was very far from the feeling in Innocent’s mind.

And after dinner, when they took her to her room, this effect increased.
She was led through Mrs. Eastwood’s room and Nelly’s to that little
snug, bright chamber, with its bright fire blazing, the candles burning
on the toilette-table, the pretty chintz surrounding her with garlands,
and the pictures on the walls which had been chosen for her pleasure.
With what wonder and partial dismay she looked upon it all! It was not
much larger than the great carved chest which stood in a corner of her
chamber at the Palazzo Scaramucci, and yet how much had been put into
it! The girl was like a savage sighing for her wigwam, and to be shut up
here was terrible to her. Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly both led her to this
room, explaining, poor simple souls, how they had placed her in the very
heart of the house, as it were, that she might not feel lonely. “Both of
us, you see, are within call, my dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “but the
room is very small.”

“Yes,” said Innocent. They had, no doubt, expected her to say in answer
to this that the room was delightful, and to show her sense of their
kindness by some word of pleasure or admiration. But nothing of the kind
followed. She looked vacantly round, with a scared, half-stupefied
expression. She had no desire to be put into the heart of the house. And
there can be no doubt that this absolute want of all effusion, all
response even on her part, chilled the warm hearts of her relations.
“She is tired,” they said to each other, excusing her; but that was an
imperfect kind of satisfaction. Nelly herself had meant to stay with her
to help her to undress. “But perhaps you would rather be alone?” said

“Yes,” was Innocent’s answer; and you may imagine how discomfited poor
Nelly felt, who was used to the gregarious way of girls, and did not
understand what this could mean.

“I will leave you, then,” she said, so completely taken aback that her
self-possession failed her. She turned to go away, blushing and
disturbed, feeling herself an unwelcome intruder in the room which she
had spent so much care upon. Nelly did not know what to make of it. She
had never encountered anything like it in her life, and it puzzled her
beyond expression.

“I am here, Miss Ellinor,” said the voice of old Alice behind her, which
startled Nelly once more; for Alice had disapproved of all the fuss
about Innocent’s arrival, and had done everything she could to
discourage it. “I’ll put her to her bed,” said Alice. “It’s me that am
the proper person. Go to your mamma, my dear, and I’ll come and tell you
when she’s comfortable. She canna be expected to be pleasant to-night,
for she’s tired, and all’s new to her. I’ve done the same for her mother
many a day. Leave her to me.”

Innocent took no part in the discussion. She stood in the centre of the
little room, longing to be alone. Oh, if they would only go away and
leave her to herself! “I never have a maid,” she exerted herself to say,
when she saw that the tall old woman remained in the room; “I do not
want anything. Please go away.”

“Maybe it’s me that wants something,” said Alice, authoritatively, and
began her ministrations at once, paying very little attention to the
girl’s reluctance. “Hair clipped short, like a boy’s--that’s her
outlandish breeding,” said Alice to herself. “A wild look, like a bit
sauvage out of the woods--that’s loneliness; and two great glowering
een. But no like her mother--no like her mother, the Lord be thanked!”

Then this homely old woman said two or three words, somewhat stiffly and
foreignly, in Italian, which made Innocent stare, and roused her up at
once. She had no enthusiasm for the country in which she had lived all
her life; but still, she had lived there, and the sound of the familiar
tongue woke her up out of her stupor. “Are you not English,” she said,
“like all the rest?”

“God be thanked, no, I’m no English,” said Alice, “but I’m Scotch, and
it’s no likely that you would ken the difference. I used to be with your
mother when she was young like you. I was in Pisa with the family, where
you’ve come from. I have never forgotten it. Do you mind your mother?
Turn your head round, like a good bairn, that I may untie this ribbon
about your neck.”

“Why do you all ask me about my mother?” said Innocent, in a pettish
tone. “No, I never knew her; why should I? The lady down-stairs asked me

“Because she was your mother’s sister, and I was your mother’s woman,”
said Alice. “I’m much feared, my honey, that you’ve no heart. Neither
had your mother before you. Do you mean aye to call my mistress ‘the
lady down-stairs’?”

“I don’t know,” said Innocent, in dull stupor. She felt disposed to cry,
but could not tell why she had this inclination. “What should I call
her? No one ever told me her name,” she added, after a moment’s pause.

“This will be a bonnie handful,” said Alice to herself, reflectively.
“Did Mr. Frederick never tell you she was your aunt? But maybe you do
not ken what that means? She’s your nearest kin now you’ve lost that ill
man, your father. She’s the one that will take care of you and help you,
if you’re good to her--or whether or no,” Alice added, under her breath.

“Take care of me? _He_ promised to take care of me,” said Innocent, with
her eyes lightening up; “I do not want any one else.”

“‘He,’ meaning your cousin?” said Alice grimly.

“Frederick. I like his name. I cannot remember the other names. I never
have been used to see so many people,” said Innocent, at length bursting
into speech after her long silence. She could speak to this woman, who
was a servant, but she did not understand the ladies in their pretty
dresses, who oppressed her with their kindness. “Shall I have to see
them every day?” she continued, with a dismal tone in her voice. The
corners of her mouth drooped. At this thought she was ready to cry

“Go to your bed,” said Alice authoritatively. “If I thought you knew
what you were saying, my bonnie woman, I would like to put you to the
door. The creature’s no a changeling, for it says its prayers,” she
added to herself, when she had extinguished the candles, and left the
stranger in her chamber; “but here’s a bonnie handful for the mistress,”
Alice went on, talking to herself while she arranged Mrs. Eastwood’s
room for the night, “and plenty of mischief begun already. She’s no like
her mother, which is a comfort: but there’s ane that is.”

Nobody heard these oracular mutterings, however, and nobody in the house
knew as much as Alice did, who had no thought in the world but the
Eastwoods, and kept her mental life up by diligently putting one thing
to another, and keeping watch and ward over the children she had nursed.
It was common in the Elms to say that Alice was “a character;” but I do
not think any of them had the least idea how distinct and marked her
character was, or how deeply aware she was of the various currents which
were shaping unconsciously the life of the “family.” She was nearly ten
years older than Mrs. Eastwood, and had brought her up as well as her
daughter, commencing life as a nursery-maid in the house of her present
mistress’s father, when Mrs. Eastwood was six or seven years old, and
her young attendant sixteen. She knew everything, and more than
everything, that had taken place in the family since; more than
everything, for Alice in her private musings had thought out the mingled
story, and divined everybody’s motives, as, perhaps, they scarcely
divined them themselves. She had married, when she was thirty, the
gardener who took charge of a shooting-box in Scotland, which belonged
to Admiral Forbes, the Eastwoods’ grandfather, but had been absent from
them only about two years, returning at her husband’s death to accompany
them to Italy, and to settle down afterwards into the personal attendant
and superintendent of her young lady’s married life. She knew all about
them; she knew how it was that the old Admiral had made his second
marriage, and how his second daughter, Isabel, had developed by the side
of her more innocent and simple sister. She recollected a great deal
more about Innocent’s father and mother than Mrs. Eastwood herself
did--more than it was at all expedient or profitable to recollect. And
it was not only the past that occupied her mind; she understood the
present, and studied it with a ceaseless interest, which the subjects of
her study were scarcely aware of; though they had all long ago consented
to the fact that Alice knew everything. Mrs. Eastwood thought it right
to inform Alice of all the greater events that affected the family, but
generally ended such confidences abruptly, with a half-amused,
half-angry consciousness that Alice already knew all about them, and
more of them than she herself did. Alice was the only one in all the
house who had divined the real character of Frederick. As for the
others, she said to herself, with affectionate contempt, that they were
“Just nothing, just nothing--honest lads and lasses, with no harm in
them.” She loved them, but dismissed them summarily from her mind as
persons not likely to supply her life with any striking interest; but
here was something very different. Life quickened for the observant old
woman, and a certain thrill of excitement came into her mind as she put
out Mrs. Eastwood’s comfortable dressing-gown and arranged all her
“things.” Mrs. Eastwood herself had furnished but little mental
excitement to Alice, but something worth looking into seemed now about
to come.

Down-stairs, the two ladies looked at each other doubtfully when Nelly
went back to the drawing-room. They did not know what to say. Dick was
shut up in his own room at work, or pretending to be at work, and
Frederick had gone out into the garden to smoke his cigar, though the
night was dark and cold. “Well, Nelly?” said Mrs. Eastwood to Nelly; and
“Well, mamma?” Nelly replied.

“I do not understand the girl,” was Mrs. Eastwood’s next speech.

“How could we expect to understand her, just come off a long journey,
and stupefied by coming into a strange place? Remember, she never saw
any of us before. Don’t let us be unreasonable, mamma,” cried Nelly; and
then she added, in a more subdued tone, “She must be affectionate, for
she seemed to cling so to Frederick.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a long-drawn breath. “My dear,” she
added, after a pause, “I don’t want to anticipate difficulties which may
never come; but on the whole it might have been better to send some one
else than Frederick. A young man, you know; it is always a risk. I wish
I had made up my mind at once to spare Alice----”

“Nonsense, mamma!”

“It is all very well to say nonsense, Nelly, but when you have lived as
long as I have----” Mrs. Eastwood said slowly: “However, it cannot be
helped now. Do you think she is pretty, Nelly? It’s rather a remarkable

“I don’t know,” said Nelly, puzzled. “It would be beautiful in a
picture. Wait till she wakes up and comes to life, and then we shall
know. Here is Frederick, all perfumed with his cigar. We were talking
her over----”

“Yes, I knew you must be pulling the poor child to pieces,” said
Frederick, seating himself by the fire. “What have you got to say
against her? She is not cut in the common fashion, like all the other
girls whom one sees about--and is sick of.”

“I should think the other girls cared very little whether you were sick
of them or not,” retorted Nelly, affronted.

Mr. Frederick Eastwood was one of the young men who entertain a contempt
for women, founded on the incontestable consciousness of their own
superiority; and it was one of his theories that all women were jealous
of each other. Even his mother, he felt, would “pull” the new comer “to
pieces,” out of pure feminine spite.

“Hush, children,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “we have nothing to do with other
girls for the moment. This one is very unresponsive, I am afraid. You
have seen more of her than we have, Frederick. Had she any friends out
yonder? Did she seem to you affectionate?”

Frederick laughed. “I have no reason to complain of any want of
affectionateness,” he said, pulling his peaked beard with that supreme
satisfaction of gratified vanity which no woman can tolerate. Mrs.
Eastwood and Nelly looked at each other with a common wrath, but the
mother put up a finger to suppress the impatience of her child.

“Yes, she seemed to turn to you,” she said, with as much indifference in
her voice as was practicable. “Ring for tea now, Nelly. Frederick will
like to get up-stairs early after his journey. I saw Mr. Bellingham at
the office after I got your letter, Frederick. He made rather a joke of
your illness, poor boy. I hope you will not wish to go away for some
time again. I am told that, though promotion is by seniority, those
young men who are most to be depended on are the ones who get
secretaryships, and so forth--and you know your income, my dear boy, is
but small----”

“Those who get secretaryships, and so forth, are those who have private
influence,” said Frederick loftily, “which is not my case, mother.
Whoever told you so told you stuff and nonsense. Men in office take
their own sons and nephews, or their friends’ sons and nephews, for
their private secretaries--and fellows like me have no chance.”

“But Mr. Bellingham, I am sure, had no private influence,” urged Mrs.
Eastwood; “it must have been merit in his case----”

“There was some political reason, I suppose,” said Frederick. “Merit is
humbug, you may take my word for that. By-the-bye, I think I will just
step out to the club for half an hour to see what is going on. It is
rather a fine night----”

“But after your illness, Frederick----”

“Oh, I am all right,” he said, going out of the room. If I am obliged to
tell the truth, I must say that I do not think his departure was any
great loss to his mother and sister. Mrs. Eastwood sighed, half because
it was the first night of his return, and she felt the slight of his
speedy withdrawal, and half because of an old prejudice in her mind that
it was best for young men when not engaged to spend their evenings at
home. But Frederick never made himself at all delightful at home, after
an absence like this, for reasons of which she was altogether
unconscious. Nelly did not sigh at all, and if she felt her brother’s
departure, did so more in anger than in sorrow.

“Are all young men coxcombs like that, I wonder?” she said.

“Hush, Nelly, you are always hard upon Frederick. Most of them are
disposed that way, I am afraid; and not much wonder either when girls
flatter their vanity. We must teach Innocent not to be so
demonstrative,” said Mrs. Eastwood. She sighed again, remembering her
friend’s warning. “Perhaps Jane Everard was not so much in the wrong,
Nelly, after all.”

“I suppose people who take the worst view of everything and everybody
must be in the right sometimes,” said Nelly indignantly--a saying in
which there was more truth than she thought.



I am obliged at this moment to interrupt the history of Innocent’s
entrance into English life by the intrusion of another event which
occurred quite suddenly, and without adequate preparation, a few days
after the arrival of the traveller, and which threw Innocent for the
moment altogether into the shade. It was not a deeply premeditated
event, as perhaps it ought to have been, aiming as it did at such very
important results, and affecting two lives in so momentous a way. On
this particular afternoon there had been a flood of visitors at the
Elms, such as now and then occurs without rhyme or reason--every
acquaintance the Eastwoods possessed seeming to be moved by a unanimous
impulse. From two o’clock until five the callers kept pouring in. On
ordinary occasions one or two a day kept the house lively; this was one
of those accidental floods which obey, as philosophers tell us, some
fantastic law of their own, like the number of undirected letters put
into the post-office. Two gentlemen arrived among the latest, both of
whom had hoped to find the ladies alone, and who grinned and shook hands
with each other, and told each other the news with the most delightful
amiability, though their internal emotions were less sweet. They arrived
together, and as the room was still tolerably full, they became each
other’s companions, and stood in a corner talking with the most
confidential aspect, after they had shaken hands with Mrs. Eastwood.
Nelly was at the other extremity of the room, at the door-window which
opened into the conservatory, talking to Sir Alexis Longueville, a man
with a rent-roll as long as his name, whom both the gentlemen I have
mentioned regarded with unfavourable feelings.

“What do you suppose people see in that old ass, Molyneux,” said Major
Railton, “that everybody kootoos to him?”

“His money,” said Molyneux sententiously; and for ten minutes more these
gentlemen crushed Sir Alexis under their heels as it were, and ground
him into powder, though no feminine spite could be involved in their
proceedings. He was not an old ass. He was a cynical middle-aged man of
the world, who, notwithstanding his romantic name, had sustained a great
many prosaic batterings and fierce encounters with the world. He had
come to his fortune after his youth was over, and after he had learned
to think badly enough of most people about him, an opinion which was not
altered by the great social success he had when he reappeared as Sir
Alexis, after a somewhat obscure and not much respected career as
Colonel Longueville. It was now generally understood that this hero, the
worse for the wear, was disposed to marry, and indeed was on the outlook
for a suitable person to become Lady Longueville; a fact which his kind
but vulgar sister Mrs. Barclay, who had married a millionaire, made
known wherever she was received. He was “looking for a wife.” Major
Railton and Mr. Molyneux in their corner were both aware of this fact,
and both of them were extremely bitter upon Mrs. Eastwood for allowing
him, as she did quite placidly, to stand talking to Nelly “for hours,”
as Mr. Molyneux expressed it afterwards.

“What a pity that the best of women should be so mercenary!” he said to
his companion.

“They will give anything for a handle to their names,” said the
misanthropical Major, stroking his moustache, with discomfiture in his
countenance. He had come with an estimate in his pocket for the work
that had to be done at the stables, and had calculated on an hour at
least of confidential talk.

And Nelly stood and talked to Sir Alexis, pointing out to him quite
eagerly the different flowers that thrust their pretty heads against the
glass, peering into the room. He knew about flowers. This innocent taste
reigned strangely in his cynical bosom among many other inclinations
much less praiseworthy. He laughed with Nelly over their Latin names,
and told her stories about them and about his conservatories at
Longueville. Perhaps he was not aware of the reckless way in which he
was laying himself open to the remarks of the young men in the room, who
did not leave him a shred of reputation to cover him, as they stood
behind snarling to each other, and united in a common enmity. He was
more amusing than either of them, and though he had no particular
designs upon Nelly, he liked her fresh young face, and her interest in
all that he said. Perhaps, too, a man who is aware of all the advantages
of the youth which he has outlived, has a pleasure in proving himself
more entertaining than younger men. He detained Nelly, and Nelly was not
unwilling to be detained. She had perceived the entrance of the two at
the end of the room, and rather, I fear, enjoyed their gloomy looks; or
rather, she thought nothing whatever about Major Railton, but was
guiltily glad to see the gloom on the countenance of young Molyneux.

“It will teach him to be full five days without calling,” she said to
herself. She had not acknowledged even to herself that she was in love
with young Molyneux, but she had an inward conviction that he was in
love with her, and on the whole liked him for it. Is it not always a
sign of good taste at least? Therefore she stood and talked to Sir
Alexis, looking up brightly in his face, till he, who had no designs
that way, was half subjugated, and asked himself suddenly whether Nelly
Eastwood would not do? which was going a very long way. Time, however,
and Mrs. Barclay’s horses, could not wait for ever, and at last the
baronet was borne away.

“Come to me soon, Nelly dear, and finish what you have begun,” said that
lady, whispering in her ear, as she took leave. Finish what she had
begun! Nelly had no idea what she could mean.

By this time most of the visitors were gone, and Nelly, after a few
minutes’ talk with the pair at the other end of the room, proceeded to
execute some business which she had been kept from doing before. “I am
sure Major Railton and Mr. Molyneux will excuse me,” she said, “but I
must get my primroses now before any one else comes in----”

“I don’t think you will find any,” said Mrs. Eastwood, making her a sign
to stay. But it was getting dark, and Nelly, who was perverse, pretended
not to understand. Any pleasure she might have in the society of one of
the two was neutralized by the presence of both, and perhaps there was
even a thought in her mind that a young lover might take heart of grace
and follow. In the conservatory her white-furred jacket and little
flower-basket were lying on a chair. Before she could throw on the wrap
Molyneux had joined her. “I think Railton has some business to talk
about,” he said aloud, with a slight nod of concealed triumph to his
adversary; “May I come upon the flower-gathering expedition? Gathering
flowers by moonlight has quite a poetical sound.”

“It is too cold to be poetical,” said Nelly. There had been just enough
between this girl and boy to give them both a thrill of the heart when
they went, out of sight and hearing, into the stillness of the garden,
where, indeed, to tell the truth, few primroses were as yet to be found.
It was one of those lovely nights of early spring which sometimes
succeed a boisterous day. The wind had fallen with the evening. The sky
in the west was still full of colour, a pink flush extending far into
the blue. The gorgeous sunset clouds had broken up, but this great
rose-tinted pavilion still stood, spreading out its film of lovely
colour over the house. On the garden side there was a stretch of clear
sky, untinged by this dispersing veil of glory; clear, somewhat cold,
pale, and luminous, with one star set in the midst of it; and separated
from this blue bit of heaven by billows of fleecy cloud, a soft, clear
young moon in her first quarter. It was cold, but to think of cold was
impossible with such a heaven above them--impossible, at least, for
these two, who were young, and who were together. They went along under
the trees for some time without saying anything, except a little
exclamation about the beauty of the sky.

“I am tired,” said Nelly at length; “I am so glad it is over. Calls are
the stupidest of all things. If people would come in in the evening, as
they do abroad--but English people will never understand.”

“Your visitors were not all stupid, I think,” said Molyneux, warming
with the heat of combat.

“Oh no; Sir Alexis, for instance, was very amusing,” said Nelly, feeling
by instinct what was coming, and defying her fate.

“You seemed to think so,” said the young man, with the loftiest tone of
disinterested comment.

“And indeed I did think so; he is excellent company,” said the girl.

Thus the first parallels of warfare were opened. The pair went on quite
beyond the bit of lawn where the primroses grew, and the red in the west
stretched out as if to cover them, and the moon in the east looked down
as if it were hanging over some battlement of heaven to watch. Nelly’s
delicate nostrils had dilated a little with a sense of coming battle,
and as for Molyneux, he held his head high like a war-horse.

“Yes, I am aware that ladies take that view sometimes; he is not popular
among men,” he said, with lofty calm.

“I suppose men are jealous of him,” said Nelly. “Oh dear, yes, men are
very jealous of each other. If you think a girl can have been out two
seasons without perceiving that----”

“I am sorry we should have given you such a bad opinion of us. I am at a
loss to understand,” said Mr. Molyneux solemnly, “what kind of creature
the man could be who would be jealous of an old _roué_ like Longueville.
His character is too well known among men, I assure you, Miss Eastwood,
to make any such feeling possible.”

Nelly coloured with pride and shame. “He ought to have a label on him,
then, to warn the ignorant. Not knowing what his crimes are, I cannot
judge him; he is very amusing, that is all I know.”

“And that, of course, makes up for everything; and when any one ventures
to warn you, Miss Eastwood, instead of listening, you turn your
displeasure against the unfortunate man who feels it on his

“Mr. Molyneux,” cried Nelly, quickly interrupting him, “I don’t know
what right one gentleman, whom mamma knows, has to warn me against
another. Mamma is the person to be spoken to if there is really anything
to say.”

Thus the quarrel flashed and fizzed to the point of explosion; and what
would have happened--whether they would have been driven apart in
fragments, and their budding romance blown into dust and ruin in the
ordinary course of events, had Molyneux responded in the same tone, I
cannot say; but there are resources at the command of lovers which are
not open to the general public. He did not go on in the same tone. He
became suddenly lachrymose, as young men in love are permitted to be on

“Miss Eastwood,” he said dolefully, “there have been times when I have
ventured to think that you would not quite place me on the same level
with the last new-comer----”

“Oh, no,” said Nelly, with compunction, “I beg your pardon, that was not
what I meant. We have known you a long time, Mr. Molyneux, and I am sure
have always looked upon you as--a friend.”

“Well, as--a friend,” he said, in the same pathetic tone, “might I not
be allowed to say something when I saw that you were being deceived?
Dear Miss Eastwood, could I stand by, do you think, knowing all I do of
you, and see a man making his way into your esteem under false

“Making his way into my esteem?” cried Nelly with frank laughter.
“Please don’t be so solemn. You can’t think surely for a moment that I
_cared_ for that old Sir Alexis!”

“You are quite sure you don’t?” cried the lover, brightening up.

“Sure! Now didn’t I say it was all jealousy?” cried Nelly, laughing; but
when she had said the words she perceived the meaning they might bear,
and blushed violently, and stopped short, as people in embarrassing
circumstances constantly do.

“You are quite right, as you always are,” said Molyneux, stopping too,
and putting himself directly in front of her. If it were not that the
women who are being proposed to are generally too much agitated to
perceive it, a man about to propose has many very funny aspects. Young
Molyneux placed himself directly in Nelly’s way; he stood over her,
making her withdraw a step in self-defence. His face became long, and
his eyes large. He put out his hands to take hers, if he could have got
them. “Yes, you are right,” he said, more lachrymose than ever; “you are
always right. I should be jealous of an angel if he came too near you. I
am jealous of everybody. Won’t you say something? Won’t you give me your
hand? I don’t care for anything in the world but you, or without you.”

“Mr. Molyneux!” cried Nelly, drawing a little back, with her heart
beating and her cheeks burning, in the soft, starry twilight. He had got
her hands somehow, in spite of her, and was advancing closer and closer.
How unforeseen and unintended it all was! Neither of them had meant
anything half-an-hour ago of this tremendous character. But Molyneux by
this time felt sure that his life depended upon it, and that he had
thought of nothing else for ages; and Nelly’s heart beat so loud that
she thought it must be heard half a mile off, and feared it would leap
away from her altogether. Their voices grew lower and lower, their
shadows more confused in the young moonlight, which made at the most but
a faint outline of shadow. There grew to be at last only a murmur under
the bare branches, all knotted with the buds of spring, and only one
blot of shade upon the path, which was softly whitened by that poetic
light. This happened in the Lady’s Walk, which was on the other side of
the lawn from the elm-trees, narrower, and quite arched and overshadowed
with branches. The pink had scarcely gone out of the sky overhead, and
the one star was still shining serenely in its luminous opening, when
the whole business was over. You might have been in the garden without
seeing, and, certainly, without hearing; but then matters were
delightfully arranged for such interviews in the leafy demesne of The

“Oh, dear! I have forgotten my primroses,” said Nelly, “and what will
they think of us in-doors?”

“Never mind; Railton has been very busy talking to your mother about
bricks and slates,” said Molyneux, with a laugh of irrepressible
triumph. They both laughed, which was mean of Nelly.

“Oh, hush! What has poor Major Railton to do with it?” she said. She was
leaning against a lime-tree, a spot which she always remembered. It was
cold, but neither of them felt it. Nelly’s little toes were half frozen,
and she did not mind.

“Look! all the sunset is dying away,” said Molyneux. “It would not go,
Nelly, till it knew how things were going to turn out. ‘Go not, happy
day, from the shining fields----’”

“Don’t talk nonsense--you should say, from the sodden lawn,” said Nelly.
“Let us get the primroses now, or what can I say to mamma?”

“We shall both have a great deal to say to her. She will never once
think of the primroses, Nelly.”

“Oh, don’t call me ‘Nelly’ so loud; some one will hear you. Must we go
and tell directly?” said the girl, with a half-whimper, which the
foolish young man thought celestial. This to be said by Nelly, a girl
who had never in all her life kept a secret half an hour from her
mother! The fact was that she wanted to have the telling herself, and
quaked at the thought of presenting this ardent personage to her mother,
and probably having her dignity compromised before that mother’s very
eyes by “some of his nonsense.” Nelly was very shy, and half ashamed of
coming into the light and looking even her wooer himself in the face.

There were but a very few primroses, and these were half frozen,
cowering among their leaves. Young Molyneux carried away a little
cluster of them, and gave another to Nelly, which was not placed in her
basket, and then they made another final round of the garden, and
walked down the elm-tree avenue solemnly arm in arm. How quickly the
mind gets accustomed to any revolution! This little concluding
processional march threw them years in advance of the more agitating
contiguity of the Lady’s Walk.

“This is how we shall walk about everywhere ten years hence, when we are
sober old married people,” he said; and there glanced over the
imaginations of both a sudden picture, which both would have been sadly
disconcerted to have described. A little tremulous laugh went from one
to the other. How much emotion that cannot express itself otherwise has
vent in such soft laughter? And a sense of the calm of happiness to
come, so different from this delightful dream of the beginning, yet
issuing naturally from it, stole over them and stilled their young

This was what was going on in the garden while Major Railton, not
without many a horrible thought of his rival’s advantages, was talking
bricks and slates, as Molyneux flippantly said, to Mrs. Eastwood. They
had come to the length of a pipe and water-butt for the rain-water, and
the plumber’s estimate, when Nelly and Molyneux were gathering the
primroses. How the gallant Major’s heart was being torn asunder in the
midst of those discussions, I dare not attempt to describe. He had
seated himself so that he could see into the garden; but the flicker of
the firelight filled the room, and the Lady’s Walk was invisible from
the windows.

“Don’t you think Miss Eastwood will catch cold? There is an east wind, I
fear,” he said, in the very midst of the discussion about the plumber.

“I told Nelly to wrap herself up,” said Mrs. Eastwood, calmly. She was
not afraid of the east wind. The Eastwoods had never been known to have
any delicacy about the chest. And as for a more serious danger Nelly’s
mother, secure in full possession of her child, had not even begun to
think of that.

She was scarcely alarmed even when the two entered somewhat flushed and
embarrassed, as soon as Major Railton, who, poor man, had an engagement,
had withdrawn breathing fire and flame.

“What a colour you have, Nelly,” said Mrs. Eastwood innocently. “I
suppose it is the wind. The Major tells me the wind is in the east. You
should not have stayed out so long. Come to the fire and warm
yourselves, both of you. I see you have got no primroses after all.”

“There were none,” said Nelly guiltily, putting her hand over the little
cluster in her belt. “It is too cold for them; but I don’t think I ever
was out on such a lovely night.”

“You have no idea how beautiful it is,” said young Molyneux--and then he
took his leave in the most embarrassed way. When he clutched one of her
hands and held it fast, and groped in the dark for the other, Nelly
thanked heaven in mingled fright and gratitude that she had put a stop
to his intention of at once telling her mother. What might he not have
done before Mrs. Eastwood’s very eyes?

“But Nelly,” said the mother, when he was gone, “you should not have
stayed so long out of doors. I don’t want to be absurd, or to put things
into your head; but Ernest Molyneux is quite a young man, and very
nice-looking, and just the sort of person to have stories made up about
him--and really what object you could both have, wandering about on a
cold night, except chatter and nonsense----”

Nelly was kneeling before the fire, warming her cold little fingers. At
this address she sidled up to her mother’s side, and put her flushed
cheek down on Mrs. Eastwood’s silken lap, and began with the most
coaxing and melting of voices,--


It is not to be wondered at if an event like this happening quite
suddenly and unexpectedly in an innocent young house which had not yet
begun to afflict itself with love-stories should for the moment have
eclipsed everything, and put the strange inmate and all the
circumstances of her first appearance at once into the shade.



The commotion produced in The Elms by the above event was very great. It
was the first experience of the family in this kind of thing, and it
affected everybody, from Mrs. Eastwood down to the kitchen-maid.
Frederick was perhaps the least moved of all. He intimated it as his
opinion that Molyneux was all right, seeing that he had a father before
him; that he wondered at Nelly’s taste, but supposed it was her own
look-out, and if she was pleased no one had any right to interfere. He
made this speech rather disagreeable to his sister from the little shrug
of the shoulders with which he announced his surprise at her taste; but
otherwise he was friendly enough. Dick, for his part, said little, but
he walked round her with a certain serious investigation in the
intervals of his studies.

“You look exactly as you did yesterday; I can’t see any difference,”
said Dick. “Why don’t you put on another kind of gown, or pin Molyneux’s
card on you, to show you are disposed of?”

To this, however, Nelly paid no more attention than she did to the
comments of Winks, who came and wagged his tail at her in a knowing,
good-humoured sort of way. When Molyneux came to see Mrs. Eastwood next
morning, Winks met him at the door, escorted him to the dining-room,
where he was to have his audience, and then trotted in on three legs to
where Nelly was sitting, and wagged his tail confidentially. “A very
good fellow, on the whole, I assure you,” he said as plainly as could be
said by that medium of communication.

Nelly did not sit in awful suspense while her lover was unfolding
himself to her mother. She knew that mother well enough to be sure that
nothing untoward would come in the course of her true love. But she
awaited their coming with a certain importance and expectation. They had
a long conversation in the dining-room, longer perhaps than Nelly
approved. Mr. Molyneux had a great deal to say to Mrs. Eastwood. No one
could be less disposed to “repent at leisure” after the hot haste of his
declaration, but yet it is very probable, had he had time to think, that
he would have decided on the prudence of waiting longer. When it
occurred to him that he must tell Mrs. Eastwood that he was earning
nothing, but lived on the allowance his father gave him, it made the
young man uncomfortably hot and nervous. He avoided the mother’s eye as
he told this part of the story, dwelling much upon what he would do in
the future, and his eagerness to provide for Nelly “all the comforts she
had been used to.” Mrs. Eastwood, though she was not a woman of
business, knew enough about the world to shake her head at this. She was
very well inclined to Molyneux, both for his own sake and for Nelly’s.
He was good-looking, well-mannered, and always nicely behaved to
herself, which naturally has a certain influence upon a mother. And his
connexions were all that could be wished. Mr. Molyneux, Q.C., who was
recognized by everybody as going to be Mr. Justice Molyneux at the very
first vacancy, was perfectly satisfactory as a father-in-law for Nelly,
and would secure for Nelly’s family a comfortable certainty of being
well lawyered all their lives. And they were “nice people;” there was,
on the whole, nothing in the world to be said against Mrs. Molyneux,
Ernest’s mother, or the Misses Molyneux, his sisters. But nevertheless,
as it is strictly necessary for a young couple to have something to live
on, Mrs. Eastwood shook her head.

“Nelly has five thousand pounds,” she said, “but with my boys to place
out in the world, I shall not be able to give her any more, and that is
not much to depend upon. And, as a matter of principle, I don’t like to
see young people depending upon allowances from their fathers and
mothers--unless it might be an eldest son, with landed property coming
to him. I don’t think it is the right way.”

Molyneux was rather surprised at this display of wisdom. He thought some
one must have put it into her head. He had meant to slur over his want
of income in his interview with the mother, as he could not have done
with a father. And then Mrs. Eastwood was so “jolly,” so good-natured,
and kind that he did not expect his position to be regarded as
involving any want of principle. It must not be supposed, however, that
the young man had any intention of deceiving, or that he was aware of
having done wrong in obeying his impulse, and hastening by so many weeks
or months his explanation with Nelly. Yet he felt that but for that
overwhelming impulse it might have been prudent to have postponed the
explanation; and now he received a sudden check, and for a moment
experienced the sensations of a man who has been proceeding on false
pretences, and did not know what to say.

“I am afraid you will think I have been premature,” he said. “The fact
is, I should have made my way first before I ventured--but then, Mrs.
Eastwood, you must make allowances for me, and recollect that to see
Nelly often, and yet to continue quite prudent and master of myself----”

“But you need not have seen Nelly quite so often,” said Mrs. Eastwood
with a smile.

“Supposing I had stayed away, what should you have thought of me? That I
was a despicable fellow, laying myself out to please her, and then
running away when I thought I had gone too far.”

“I don’t think I should have thought anything of the kind,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, in that easy way which is so disconcerting to people who feel
that the eyes of the world ought to be upon them. “I should have thought
you were occupied, or had other engagements. Indeed, until Nelly told me
last night, I never had distinctly identified you as being fond of her,
Mr. Molyneux. No doubt it was my stupidity, but I should not have
remarked it; I don’t know whether she might have done so.”

Molyneux felt considerably crushed by this calm and tolerant judgment,
but he went on,--

“You may be sure this state of things won’t last,” he said; “I have a
motive now, and I shall set to work. Of course I cannot press for an
early marriage, as I should otherwise have done had I been wise, and
made my preparations first----”

“No, of course not,” said Mrs. Eastwood. This gave her great pleasure,
practically, but theoretically I am obliged to confess that she half
despised her future son-in-law for his philosophy. It was quite right,
and relieved her mind from a load. But still a woman likes her child to
be wooed hotly, and prefers an impatient lover, unwilling to wait. Such
a one she would have talked to, and reasoned down into patience, but,
theoretically, she would have liked him the best.

“You will not oppose me?” said Molyneux, taking her hand; “you will be a
good mother to me, and let me see Nelly, and be a sort of new son, to
make up to me for having to wait? You are always good, to everybody--you
won’t keep _me_ at arm’s length?”

“No,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “I won’t keep you at arm’s length, for that
would be to punish Nelly; but I think you should not have spoken till
your prospects were a little more clear.”

“They are clear enough,” said the anxious lover. “It is only that I have
been idle, and wanted energy; but now no man can have a stronger

Mrs. Eastwood shook her head again, but she smiled likewise, and gave
him her hand, and even permitted a filial salute, which reddened her
comely cheek, and softened her heart to Nelly’s betrothed. Perhaps,
under the circumstances, it was permissible for a man to be imprudent.
Molyneux spent the rest of the day in and about The Elms, appearing and
disappearing, hanging about Nelly, disturbing all the household
arrangements, and communicating to the visitors premature information as
to what had happened. Not that he made any confidences, but that his
mere presence there all the afternoon, his look of possession and
triumph, the little air of being at home, which the young man could not
resist taking upon himself, told the tale more clearly than words. Mrs.
Barclay ran in “just for a moment,” as she said, to beg Nelly to go with
her next day to a horticultural show, and “finish what you have begun,
you little puss,” she whispered in the girl’s ear. “What have I begun?”
Nelly asked, bewildered, while Molyneux, without any assignable reason,
was so rude as to burst out laughing in his enjoyment of the joke. He
put Mrs. Barclay into her carriage as if he had been the son of the
house, she said afterwards, a proceeding which sent her away with a
certain vague disquiet and resentment, though of course, as she allowed,
she had no right to interfere. Major Railton, too, when he called about
the plumber’s work, was infinitely disgusted to find Molyneux there, and
to leave him there, when, after long waiting, he was obliged to
relinquish the hope of out-staying his rival. “I must go,” he said at
length, in tart and ill-tempered tones, “for alas! I am not so lucky as
you young fellows with nothing to do. I have my duties to attend to.”
This was a poisoned arrow, and struck the whole happy group, mother,
daughter, and lover, with equal force.

“I am sure, Major Railton, you are an example to us all,” said Mrs.
Eastwood; “always so ready to serve others, and yet with so much of your
own work to do. But I hope Mr. Molyneux has his duties too.”

“Yes, I have my duties,” said the lover, in his insolent happiness
turning a beaming countenance upon the unsuccessful one. It was growing
dark, and he was so impertinent as to give a little twitch to Nelly’s
sleeve in the obscurity, under Major Railton’s very eyes; who did not,
indeed, see this flaunting in his face of his adversary’s banner, but
felt that there was some bond unrevealed which joined the three before
him in a common cause. He went away in a state of irritation for which
he could not have given any just reason, and tore the plumber’s estimate
to pieces when he emerged from the shrubbery in front of The Elms. Mrs.
Eastwood had not taken kindly even to his plumber. She had stood by a
certain old Sclater, an old jobbing Scotsman, for whom she had a
national partiality.

“Why should I bother myself about their concerns? Let them get Molyneux
to look after things,” the Major said to himself, with scorn that
transcended all other expression; and he laughed what is sometimes
described in literature as a “hollow laugh” of bitterness and sarcasm.

Indeed, I think Major Railton was right, and that Molyneux’s supervision
of the roofs and water-butts would have come to very little good.

It had been resolved in the family that nothing was to be said about the
engagement for the present, as it would in all probability be a long
one; and this was how they began to carry out their resolution. I do not
need to add that the servants knew it the first evening, and had already
settled where the young people were to live, and what sort of an
establishment they would keep up. Winks, too, was aware of the fact from
the first, and, as I have said, was confidentially humorous about it
with Nelly, and kept up her courage during the interview between her
mother and her lover. But notwithstanding all we have been hearing
lately about the communications made by dogs to their friends, I do not
think he spread the news out of doors, or if he did whisper it to a
crony, that crony was discreet.

On Saturday, which was the day following, Jenny came up from Eton to
spend the Sunday with his adoring family. Jenny was extremely unlike his
name--a big and bony boy of sixteen, promising to be the biggest of the
family, though neither Frederick nor Dick were short. He had big joints
and long limbs, and red wrists and prodigious knuckles projecting from
the short sleeve of his coat. But notwithstanding so many appearances
against him, he was the most intellectual of Mrs. Eastwood’s sons--a
“sap” at school, and addicted to reading away from school, a fashion of
Eton boy with which the world is not familiar. By way of making up for
this, he was somewhat rough in his manners, and great in such exercises
as demanded strength rather than skill. He was tremendous at football,
though no one gave him the credit for clever play; and though his “form”
was bad, and precluded all hope of “the boats,” he could carry a skiff
along at a pace which no one could keep up with, and against the stream
was the greatest oar of his years afloat on the Thames. In consideration
of these qualifications the youth of Eton graciously looked over his
“sapping,” or rather were vaguely impressed by it--as, to do him
justice, the modern schoolboy generally is when intellectual power is
combined with the muscular force, of which he has a clearer
understanding. Jenny was not yet a “swell,” but he was in a fair way for
being a swell--a title which at Eton bears a very different meaning
from its meaning elsewhere. But he was very good to his family when he
went home, and tolerant of their ignorance. Jenny’s name in the school
list was all starred and ribboned, so to speak, with unknown orders of
merit, such as the profane eye comprehends not. He had a big Roman
letter before his name, and a little Greek one after it, and a double
number after that--mystic signs of honours which the Eton man
understands, but which I will not attempt to explain. It might have been
confusing to a more mature intellect to contemplate all the novelties
which were to dawn upon him on this visit; but Jenny was not emotional.
He shook hands with his brother-in-law who was to be, with extreme

“I suppose they have told you,” said Mr. Molyneux, good-humouredly
permitting himself to be inspected by this big boy.

“Yes, they have told me,” said Jenny, “but I knew you before.”

“You did not know me in my present capacity. Indeed, I am not generally
known in my present capacity,” said Molyneux; “and I don’t quite see why
you should have been told. You would never have found out.”

“Oh, shouldn’t I!” said Jenny. “Last time I was at home, I said, ‘He’s
going to be Mr. Nelly, that fellow;’ didn’t I, mamma? Of course you are
Mr. Nelly. Women don’t get half justice in this world. I like her better
than you, as a matter of course; so that’s your distinction to me.”

“Jenny goes in for Women’s Rights,” said his mother, with a smile.

“Of course I do; I’m a woman’s son; oughtn’t I to stand up for them? If
you mean to tell me old Brownlow there has more sense than my mother, I
tell you you’re a fool, that’s all. Nor Frederick hasn’t--not half so
much--though he thinks himself such a swell,” said Jenny.

In point of negatives, boys, however learned in Greek and Latin, permit
themselves occasionally, in English, a style of their own.

“I don’t want a vote, you silly boy,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “it is not in
my way.”

“You may please yourself about that--but it’s a disgrace to England that
you shouldn’t have it if you like,” cried the young politician hotly.
And then he sunk suddenly from this lofty elevation, and asked, “Where’s
the other girl?”

“Do you mean Innocent?”

“I mean her, if that’s her name,” said the boy, colouring slightly.
“Don’t she stay with the rest of us? Ain’t you good to her? Where has
she gone?”

“We are as good as we know how to be,” said Mrs. Eastwood, glad to
plunge into a grievance, and with a new listener. “We don’t know what to
make of her, Jenny. She does not care for Nelly and me. We have tried to
coax her, and we have tried to scold her; but she will stay by herself.
She comes down when the bell rings, and she speaks when she is spoken
to: that is all; and I am at my wit’s end what to do.”

“But that is everything a woman ought to be,” said Molyneux. “Isn’t
there a proverb about being seen and not heard, &c.? What a difference
from some people! When I came in to-day, the first thing I heard was
some one singing up-stairs--singing so that I felt inclined to dance. I
suppose it was not this Innocent?”

“It must be your fault,” said Jenny seriously, taking no notice of this

“My fault, Jenny!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, getting red; and then she
paused, and subdued her tones. “Do you know, dear, I often think it must
be. But what can I do?” she said humbly. “I try talking to her, and that
fails; and then I try taking no notice. Yes, Jenny, I believe you are
right. If I could love her heartily, right out, as I love Nelly----”

“That’s unreasonable,” said Jenny. “You can’t do that, because, you see,
we love Nelly by instinct, not for anything in her. She’s not bad, for a
girl--but if she were as disagreeable as an old cat, still we should
have instinct to fall back upon. You have no instinct in respect to the
other girl.”

“What an odd boy you are!” said Mrs. Eastwood, half affronted, half
laughing; “and yet I believe there’s something in it. But I do blame
myself. I want to be kind, very kind, to her; whereas, you know, if I
had not been kind to her, but only had loved her at once, I should have
done better, I am sure. As for girls being seen and not heard, I don’t
think it applies to their families, Mr. Molyneux. It is all very well
out in the world----”

“Out in the world one would rather they did say something now and then,”
said Molyneux. “It may be good, but it is dull. We are in a new cycle of
opinion, and don’t think as our grandfathers did. At the domestic hearth
it might be very nice to have some one who would only speak when she was
spoken to. There would be no quarrels then, Nelly; no settings up of
independent judgment; no saying ‘Hold your tongue, sir----’”

“That ought to be said, however, sometimes,” said Nelly, making a little

These were the light-horse skirmishings of conversation, part of that
running dialogue about everything which these two young persons carried
on in every corner, over everybody’s head, and through everybody’s talk.
The others, to tell the truth, paid very little attention to their
chatter, and Jenny came in with a steady march, as of the main body of
the army along the beaten road.

“The question is, has she anything to say?” said Jenny. “I have felt
myself, sometimes, What is the good of talking? I don’t blame you for
not being fond of her, mother; for that, I suppose, you could not help.
But she should not be left to go about like a ghost. I don’t believe in
ghosts,” said the youth, propping himself up against the mantelpiece;
“they are generally deceptions, or else it is quite impossible to prove
them. But when I saw that girl I thought _she_ was one. Her face is a
face out of a picture: I saw it once at the Louvre, the year we were
abroad. And she has something very queer in her eyes; and she glides as
if she had not any feet. Altogether she is queer. Don’t she take to
anybody in the house?”

“She is fond of Frederick, I think,” said Mrs. Eastwood, faltering.
Jenny formed his lips into the appearance of “Whew!” He was taken by

“Fond of Frederick, and not care for _them_!” he said to himself, under
his breath; this was a very curious indication of character. I am not
sure that Jenny did not think, like most other human creatures, that it
was possible his own attractions and influence might “bring out”
Innocent. He gave her a considerable share of his attention that
evening, and kept his eyes upon her. He was a theoretical sort of boy,
and had read a great deal of modern poetry, and liked to think that he
could analyze character like Mr. Browning. He tried to throw himself so
strongly into her position that he should see the workings of her mind,
and why she looked like a ghost. How Jenny succeeded in this noble
pursuit of his will be seen hereafter. It occupied his mind very much
all that Sunday, during which Nelly and young Molyneux were still in the
ascendant, though the first novelty of their glory was beginning to



The course of Nelly’s true love did not, however, run so absolutely
smooth as might have been supposed from this beginning. Her own family
received it, as has been recorded, as a matter concerning Nelly’s
happiness, with little of those grave considerations about means and
money which generally attend the formation of such contracts. Perhaps
this might be because she had no father to consider that part of the
question, though Mrs. Eastwood did her best to be business-like. But
then Mrs. Eastwood, being only a woman, believed in love, and chiefly
considered Nelly’s happiness--which, after all, if it were involved, was
of more importance than money. The other side cared nothing about
Nelly’s happiness, and not very much for her lover’s--it concerned
itself with things much more important, with the fact that five
thousand pounds was but a small sum to pay for the honour of being
daughter-in-law to Mr. Molyneux, Q.C., and that Ernest might have done
better. And though Ellinor Eastwood was of better blood than the
Molyneuxes, and better connexions, and really possessed something of her
own, whereas her lover had nothing, his friends did not hesitate to say
among themselves that Mrs. Eastwood had long had her eye upon him, that
the Eastwoods had “made a dead set at him,” and many other flattering
expressions of the same kind, such as are liberally used in polite
society whenever a young man is “caught,” according to the equally
polite expression, by the young woman who, of course, has been angling
for him all her life long. This was the way in which the matter was
regarded by Ernest’s family, who were very much like other people,
neither better nor worse, and took the conventional way of treating the
subject. They had not a word to say against Nelly, but were convinced
she “had made a dead set at him.” Such is the way of the world.

A whole week passed before the Molyneuxes took any notice, and then it
was announced to Mrs. Eastwood that the head of the house, the future
Judge, was to call upon her before he went to his chambers in the
morning. Mrs. Eastwood had been put upon her dignity by this treatment
of her, and though she had allowed Ernest to come to The Elms
constantly, and to dine there every evening, her manner had become day
by day a little colder to him. This made Nelly unhappy, who coaxed and
hung about her mother with appealing eyes.

“But you like Ernest? You are sure you like him?” she would ask ten
times in a day.

“I have nothing to say against Ernest. It is his family, who are not
acting as we have a right to expect of them,” answered her mother; and
she received with great gravity the announcement of Mr. Molyneux’s
intended visit. She would not allow to any one that she was excited by
it, but the family breakfasted half an hour earlier on that particular
morning, in order that everything might be cleared away, and the room in
order for this interview. The dining-room was Mrs. Eastwood’s business
room, where she transacted all her more important affairs. There is
something in the uncompromising character of a dining-room which suits
business; the straight-backed chairs up and down, without compromising
curves or softness, the severe square rectangular lines of the table,
the side-board ponderous and heavy, tons of solid mahogany--even the
pictures on the walls, which were all portraits, and of a gravely severe
aspect--made it an appropriate state chamber for great occasions. When
Mr. Molyneux was ushered in, he found Mrs. Eastwood seated on a hard
chair before the table, with a large inkstand and all her housekeeping
books before her. He was amused by the _pose_, being clever enough to
perceive that it, at least, was not quite genuine, but he lacked the
power to go farther, and immediately made a vulgar estimate of her, such
as vulgar-minded men invariably make of women whose youth and good looks
are waning. Mr. Molyneux was a great speaker, a powerful pleader, but a
vulgar-minded man notwithstanding. He was loosely made and loosely
dressed, with a certain largeness and breadth about him which impressed
his hearers as if it had been a moral quality--and his face was
loquacious, especially the mouth, which had large lips, and lines about
them bearing token of perpetual motion. These lips, and the peculiar way
in which, in repose, they closed upon each other, were enough to prove
to any spectator, that his powers of speech were not to be despised. It
was not an eloquent mouth. There is a great difference between powerful
loquacity and real eloquence. He was not eloquent. A lofty subject would
have disconcerted him, and when he attempted to treat an ordinary
subject in a lofty way, his grandeur became bathos, and called forth
laughter when tears were intended. But he was tremendously fluent, and
he was popular. He did almost what he liked with the ordinary British
jury, and his name in a bad case was almost as good as a verdict of

When this man was ushered in by Brownlow with an importance befitting
the occasion, Mrs. Eastwood momentarily felt her courage fail her. She
knew him but slightly, and had never come into much personal contact
with him, and she had that natural respect, just touched by a little
dread for him, which women often entertain for men of public eminence
who have gained for themselves a prominent place in the world. Nor did
he do anything to diminish her agitation. He looked at her with cool
grey eyes which twinkled from the folds and layers of eyelids that
surrounded them, and with a half sarcastic smile on his face; and he
called her “ma’am,” as he was in the habit of doing when he meant to
bully a female witness. Mrs. Eastwood, striving vaguely against the
feeling, felt as if she too was going to be cross-examined and to commit
herself, which was not a comfortable frame of mind.

“So our children, ma’am, have been making fools of themselves,” he said,
with a twinkle of his eyes, after the preliminary observations about her
health and the weather were over. He followed the words with a chuckle
at the folly of the idea; and Mrs. Eastwood, who was anxiously
determined to fill the part of “mère noble,” was taken aback, and
scarcely knew what to reply.

“They have taken a step,” she said, breathless, “which must very
seriously affect their happiness----”

“Just so,” said Mr. Molyneux, “and you and I must see what can be done
about it. Ernest is not a bad fellow, ma’am, but he is sadly imprudent.
He plunges into a step like this, without ever thinking what is to come
of it. I suppose he has told you what his circumstances are?”

Mrs. Eastwood replied by a somewhat stiff inclination of her head.

“Precisely like him,” said his father, chuckling. “Not a penny to bless
himself with, nor the least idea where to find one; and accordingly he
goes and proposes to a pretty girl, and makes up his mind, I suppose, to
set up housekeeping directly--Heaven help him!--upon nothing a year.”

“This is not what he has said to me,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “In the first
place, though frankly avowing that he had nothing--beyond his allowance
from you--I have understood from him that by greater diligence in the
pursuit of his profession----”

Mrs. Eastwood was interrupted here, by a low “Ho, ho!” of laughter from
her visitor--a very uncomfortable kind of interruption. To tell the
truth, feeling that things were against her, and determined not to let
down Nelly’s dignity, she had taken refuge in a grandeur of expression
which she herself was conscious might be beyond the subject. No woman
likes to be laughed at; and Mrs. Eastwood grew twenty times more
dignified as she became aware of the levity with which the other parent
treated the whole affair.

“Ho! ho! ho! I recognize my boy in that,” said Mr. Molyneux. “I beg your
pardon, but Ernest is too great a wag to be resisted. Greater diligence
in the pursuit of his profession! He ought to be made Lord Chancellor on
the spot for that phrase. Are you aware, my dear ma’am, that he has
never done anything, that boy of mine, in the pursuit of his profession,
or otherwise, since he was born?”

“Am I to understand, Mr. Molyneux,” said Mrs. Eastwood, slightly
tremulous with offence and agitation, “that your object is to break off
the engagement between my daughter and your son?”

“Nothing of the sort, ma’am; nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Molyneux
cheerfully. “I have no objections to your daughter; and if it did not
happen with her, it would happen with some one else. It is for both our
interests, though, that they don’t do anything foolish. What they intend
is that we should pay the piper----”

“You must do me the favour to speak for yourself, and your son,” said
Mrs. Eastwood, with spirit. “My child has no such idea. She has never
known anything about such calculations; and I am sure she will not begin

“I beg your pardon, and Miss Nelly’s pardon,” said the great man, with
an amused look. “I did not mean to reflect upon any one. But if she has
not begun yet, I fear she will soon begin when she is Ernest’s wife.
They can’t help it, ma’am. I am not blaming them. Once they are married,
they must live; they must have a house over their heads and a dinner
daily. I’ve no doubt Miss Nelly’s an angel; but even an angel, when she
has weekly bills coming in, and nothing to pay them with, will begin to

“Such a thing appears to me quite impossible,” said Mrs. Eastwood, in a
flutter of suppressed indignation, and then she added, pausing to
recover herself, “I must say at once, Mr. Molyneux, that if this is the
way in which you are disposed to look at the matter, I should prefer to
end the discussion. My daughter’s happiness is very dear to me; but her
credit, and my own credit, ought to be still more dear----”

“My dear ma’am,” cried Mr. Molyneux, “now, tell me, as a matter of
curiosity, how your credit is concerned, or why you should be angry? My
point of view is that, of course, the young people mean to get as much
as they can out of us----”

“Perhaps your son does, sir!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, exasperated. “You
ought to know him best.”

“Of course I know him best; and of course that is his object--to get as
much as he can out of _me_,” said Mr. Molyneux, pausing upon the
pronoun. “Since you don’t like it, I will leave the other side out of
the question. I have known Ernest these eight and twenty years, and I
ought to know what stuff he is made of. Now, as there are two parties to
this bargain, we had better know exactly what we mean on either side. I
did not want Ernest to marry now, and in case he did marry, he ought to
have looked higher. I don’t mean to be unpleasant, but I should have
liked him to look out--let us say brutally--for more money. He has cost
a deal of money in his day; and he ought to have brought in more. It is
very likely, indeed, that your views were of a similar character. In
that case, instead of wrangling, we ought to agree. Miss Nelly might
have done better----”

“A great deal better,” said the mother firmly, and with decision.

“Exactly so. At bottom we mean the same thing, though I may speak too
roughly; but, like a couple of young fools, they have gone and run their
heads into a net. Privately I admire your daughter very much,” said Mr.
Molyneux, with a certain oily change in his tone--a confession that the
present subject under treatment was not to be bullied, but required more
delicate dealing; “and though I say it that shouldn’t, my son Ernest is
a fine young fellow. They will make a handsome couple--just the kind of
thing that would be delightful in a novel or in a poem--where they could
live happy ever after, and never feel the want of money. But in this
prosaic world things don’t go on so comfortably. They have not a penny;
that is the question that remains between you and me.”

“Nelly has five thousand pounds; and he has--his profession,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, with a certain faltering in her voice.

“Well, well, well,” said the wise man. “If we were all in a state of
innocence, five thousand pounds would be something; and if we were a
little wickeder, his profession might count; but the world is not so
litigious as might be desired. My son is too grand to demean himself to
criminal cases like that inconsiderable mortal, his father. And do you
mean them to live in London, my dear ma’am, upon Miss Nelly’s
twopence-halfpenny a year?”

“Indeed, I am not so foolish,” cried Mrs. Eastwood; “beside thinking it
wrong as a matter of principle. He must work, of course, before he can
marry. He must have at least the prospect of a sufficient income before
I should ever give my consent.”

“A sufficient income earned by Ernest!” said Mr. Molyneux, with again
that detestable “Ho, ho!” “Pardon me, my dear Mrs. Eastwood; but when I
see how that boy has imposed upon you! No--believe me, who know him
better, that if anything is to come of it, it must be done by you and

“I do not understand, Mr. Molyneux----”

“I quite believe it,” he said, relapsing into carelessness just touched
with contempt. “Ladies seldom understand such matters. If you will tell
me the name of your solicitor, perhaps it would be better for me to talk
the matter over with him.”

“What is there to talk over?” said Mrs. Eastwood, once more roused into
indignation. “I think, Mr. Molyneux, that we are speaking different
languages. Nelly has her little fortune--as you know--and I am willing
to allow her to wait till Ernest is in a position to claim her. I should
not allow this without your approval, as his father. But as, so far, you
have given your approval, what more does there remain to say?”

The great lawyer looked at his simple antagonist with a kind of

“We are indeed talking two different languages,” he said. “Tell me who
is your solicitor, my dear lady, and he and I will talk it over----”

“In a matter so important,” said Mrs. Eastwood, plucking firmness from
the emergency, “I prefer to act for myself.”

Perhaps at this moment she achieved the greatest success of her life,
though she did not know it. Mr. Molyneux was struck dumb. He stared at
her, and he scratched his head like any bumpkin. He could not swear, nor
storm, nor threaten, as he would sometimes do with the hapless people in
the witness-box. He was obliged to be civil and smooth-spoken, and to
treat her with a certain degree of politeness; for though he believed
that Ernest might have done better, he had no desire to defy his son,
who was, in his way, a formidable opponent, and he did not quite
venture, knowing the sort of young man he had to deal with, to break off
the match, or do anything violent tending that way.

“Then I must try what can be done by plainer language,” he said, hiding
his bewilderment under a specious appearance of candour. “We must throw
away all circumlocution. Let us be reasonable. I will give my son so
much a year, if you will give your daughter so much a year. That is what
it comes to. If we do this, there may be some possibility for them; but
without this, nothing can be done; and of course, the allowance which
you might be able to give her would determine to some extent what I
should give him.”

“What I might be able to give my daughter?” said Mrs. Eastwood, in
surprise; “but I have nothing to do with it. I give her nothing--she
comes into it by her grandfather’s will.”

“The five thousand pounds--yes, yes, I understand all about that,” said
Mr. Molyneux, with a mixture of disgust and weariness. This
infinitesimal, but always recurring, morsel of money bored him. But he
tried to keep his temper. He explained the duty of parents in such an
emergency with great fulness. If a sacrifice had to be made, it must, he
pointed out, be a mutual sacrifice. The question was not of five
thousand pounds, or five thousand pence, but how to “make up an income”
for the young people. Without an income there could be no marriage; it
was not a matter of feeling, but of arrangement; if the one side did so
much, the other side would do so much more. The great man explained the
position with all his natural wealth of words, and with all the ease of
wealth to which a hundred or two more of expenditure in a year mattered
comparatively little. But Mrs. Eastwood, who, as the reader is aware,
had enough, but not too much, listened with a dismay which she could
scarcely disguise. She who had been obliged to put down her carriage in
order to free her son, was not in a position to give large allowances to
either son or daughter. She made the best effort she could to maintain
her ground.

“I should have thought that your son, in your profession, in which you
are so eminent----” she began with an attempt to propitiate her amicable
adversary, who had changed the question so entirely from what appeared
to her its natural aspect.

“In my profession, ma’am, a man stands on his own merits, not his
father’s,” Mr. Molyneux answered, interrupting her with brusque
decision. What was poor Mrs. Eastwood to do? She could not give to Nelly
without being unjust to her other children, and yet how was she to have
the heart to crush Nelly’s happiness by refusing? A vision of her child,
hollow-eyed and pale, casting pathetic glances at her, which would be
worse than reproaches, flitted before her eyes. Girls have died ere now
of separation from their lovers, and Nelly (the mother thought) was the
kind of girl to break her heart without a complaint. Could she risk the
breaking of Nelly’s heart for a miserable question of money? This was an
influence infinitely more subtle and potent than Mr. Molyneux’s
eloquence. While he talked the good mother fought it out in her own
bosom. She gave her consent that he should see her solicitor and talk
over the matter, with a sort of despairing acquiescence and that
desperate trust in Providence which springs up in an oppressed soul when
driven to its last resources. Something might “come in the way.”
Nothing could be resolved upon at once; neither to-day nor to-morrow
could call for immediate action, and something might come in the way.

Mr. Molyneux saw Nelly before he went away, and was kind and fatherly,
kissing her on the forehead, an act which Mrs. Eastwood half resented,
as somehow interfering with her absolute property in her child. The
lover she tolerated, but the lover’s father was odious to her. And this
trial of her patience was all the more hard that she had to put the best
face upon it before Nelly, and to say that Mr. Molyneux and she did not
quite agree on some points, but that everything would come right by and
by. Nelly had always been her mother’s confidant, knowing everything,
and thrusting her ready youthful opinion and daring undoubting advice
into whatever was going on, and to shut her out now from all
participation in this crowning care was unspeakably hard.

And then the nature of the vexation which she had thus to conceal within
herself was so doubly odious--a question of money, which made her appear
even to herself as if she was a niggard where her child’s happiness was
involved, she who had never grudged Nelly anything all her life! Other
disagreeables, too, mingled in the matter. To be roused from the
pleasant confidence that all your friends think well of you by the
sudden discovery that some of them, at least, hold very lightly the
privilege of your special alliance, is not in itself consolatory.
Everything connected with the subject turned somehow into pain. Since
the time when the carriage was put down, no such incident had occurred
in the family, and Frederick’s debts, which were a kind of natural grief
in their way (for has not every man debts?), were not half so
overwhelming as this, nor did they bring half so many troubles in their

When the love of lovers comes into a house which has hitherto been kept
warm and bright by the loves of parent and children, brother and sister,
the first thing it does in most cases is to make a rent and division. It
calls out the sense of self and personal identity, it breaks the soft
silken bonds of nature, and turns the hands a little while ago so
closely linked almost against each other. Nelly thought her mother was
hard to her Ernest, and Ernest thought his future mother-in-law was
already developing the true mother-in-law character, and was about to
become his natural enemy. He could not help giving hints of this to his
betrothed, which made Nelly unhappy. And then her mother would find her
crying, and on asking why, would be assailed with pitiful remonstrances.

“Dear mamma, why should you turn against Ernest? You used to like him
well enough. Is it because I am fond of him that you turn against him?”
Thus Nelly would moan, rending her mother’s heart.

All this introduced the strangest new commotion into the peaceful
household, and the reader will not wonder that poor Mrs. Eastwood, thus
held on the rack, was a little impatient of other annoyances. On the
very evening of the day on which she had the interview with Mr. Molyneux
above recorded, when she was going through the hall on her way
up-stairs, another vexing and suggestive incident disturbed her. The
hall was square with one little deep window on one side of the door, the
recess of which was filled with a window seat. Here some one was seated,
half visible in the darkness, with a head pressed against the window,
gazing out. Nothing could be more unlike the large windows of the
Palazzo Scaramucci, but the attitude and act were the same. Mrs.
Eastwood stopped, half alarmed, and watched the motionless figure. Then
she went forward with a wondering uneasiness.

“Is it you, Innocent?” she said.


“What are you doing here? It is too cold to stand about in the hall,
and, besides, it is not a proper place for you. Go into the
drawing-room, dear, or come up-stairs with me. What are you doing here?”

“I am waiting,” said Innocent.

“For what, for whom?” said the mother, alarmed.

“For Frederick,” said the girl, with a long drawing out of breath, which
was almost a sigh.



Innocent, it may well be supposed, had been thrown into the shade by
these great events in Nelly’s history, and yet she was, notwithstanding,
a most important element in the discomfort which began to creep into the
house. The very first day after her arrival she had begun her strange
career. Brought down-stairs for meals, she would sit very quietly,
eating or pretending to eat what was offered to her--and much of what
was offered to her was so strange to her that she fared but badly, poor
child, until a new habit had begun to form, and the wholesome appetite
of youth had driven away her prejudices. It is a whimsical thought, and
one which we are aware the British intellect in general declines to
contemplate, that frog-eating foreigners, or those still more miserable
specimens of humanity who are brought up upon maccaroni and polenta,
should not when they come among us take any more enthusiastically to our
richer fare than we do to theirs; but yet, strange to say, this is
unquestionably the case--and poor Innocent had very little to eat for
the first few days, not knowing the looks of things, and hesitating, as
the inexperienced always do, to venture upon the unknown. When the meal
was over, unless absolute moral force was exerted to restrain her, she
escaped at once to her own room, her constant occupancy of which became
at once a standing grievance of the housemaid, who immediately settled
in her mind that this unusual course of procedure was suggested by an
ardent desire to spy upon her movements, and to report her imperfections
to her mistress. There were countless complaints from this quarter about
the impossibility of “cleaning out” Miss Innocent’s room, or even of
“cleaning out” Miss Ellinor’s room, which adjoined, or, in short, of
doing anything whatever under the constant inspection of the stranger’s
eyes. What with this offence against the housemaid of being constantly
in her bedroom, and the offence against the cook of never being
satisfied with anything at table, and the offence against Brownlow of
paying no attention to his intimations that dinner was ready, Innocent
was in bad odour with all the servants except Alice, who stood by her
quietly, without any warmer applause, however, than that there was no
“hairm in the girl.” In the higher regions Innocent made a still more
puzzling and painful impression. When she could be retained among them
she sat dumb in a corner, generally near one of the windows, saying
nothing, answering “Yes” and “No” to the questions addressed to her,
doing nothing, presenting a blank, impenetrable surface of silence to
all the attempts at friendly intercourse made by the lively and genial
group which she intruded herself amongst like a figure of stone. She
would obey when absolutely commanded, and for the immediate moment of
the command--but then only as by machinery, without the least appearance
of entering into the spirit of the directions given her, or wishing to
please, or desiring to bring herself into accord with her surroundings.
No idea, indeed, of putting herself in accord with her surroundings
seemed ever to enter into her mind. She was an alien in her own
consciousness, altogether untouched by the distress, the vexation, the
bewilderment caused by her self-isolation. Perhaps if, as Mrs. Eastwood
said, they had been able to love the girl heartily, and by nature,
without any action of hers to call it forth, they might have thawed the
snow-image. But beyond the natural bounds of the family, love ceases to
be given in this instinctive, causeless way, and nobody can long resist
the repellant effect of a perpetual non-response. The girl was a worry
and vexation to Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly, and she was the cause of much
suppressed merriment to Dick, who held that she was sulky, and giving
herself airs, and ought to be laughed at. Jenny, as the reader has been
informed, looked at the matter in a more philosophical way; but neither
nature nor philosophy threw any light upon the darkness, or suggested
any way of mending the matter. The strange girl in their midst occupied
the ladies (before the moment of Nelly’s engagement) perpetually. They
took her out, they tried to amuse her, they tried to sympathize with
her, they asked countless questions, and elicited many details of her
former life; but they never moved her with all their pettings and
coaxings to say one word to them, or to stay one moment with them longer
than she was compelled.

This was the outside aspect of affairs, as seen by those surrounding
her, who were much discouraged in every way by the strange passiveness
of the new comer; but to Innocent herself the world bore a different
appearance, as may be supposed. She had been brought up in utter
solitude; her father, who cared little for her, and took little notice
of her, and Niccolo, who had done everything, were the two sole figures
with which she was familiar. Other human forms she had seen going about
the streets, gliding round her in a strange, dull phantasmagoria,
without touching her. Her intellect was feeble, or so partially awakened
that she had never yet begun to think of her own position either present
or future, or connexion with the rest of humanity. All that life had yet
been to her was a window through which she had seen other people,
bearing no connexion with herself, moving about with mysterious comings,
and going through a world not realized. She had watched them with a
certain dull wonder. Their occupations and their activity surprised
without interesting her. Why should they take so much trouble, why keep
so constantly in motion? And then the whirlwind had seemed to seize
herself, to whirl her through air and space, through a still stranger
phantasmagoria--moving pictures of sea and land, and to set her down in
the very heart of one of those strange groups of people who were so
unlike anything she had ever known, people who clustered together and
talked and laughed and had a great deal to do with each other, but among
whom she felt as strange as a stray olive leaf dropped among the
cast-off garments of English beech and elm. She could not mix with them.
She felt no interest in what they did or said, and no desire to feel any
interest. She was even secretly vexed, as much as her dulled nature
would allow, by all the care taken of her, the demands which she was
daily conscious they made, the disappointment with her irresponsiveness,
which more or less they all showed. Why could not they let her alone?
She had not, as Nelly sometimes supposed, any conventional prepossession
in her mind, or feeling that she, the penniless niece and dependent,
must be of necessity slighted and kept down, an idea which does take
possession of some natures, and cause much unreasonable mischief. Such a
notion, however, was much too complicated, much too profound for the
mind of Innocent. It was not so much that she had a false impression
about her relationship with them as that she had no real conception of
any relationship at all. She accepted her external surroundings
mechanically, without even asking herself what right she had to be an
inmate of her aunt’s house, or to be cared for as she was. Gratitude was
more than impossible to her; she did not know what the word meant. She
had never asked to be brought to Mrs. Eastwood’s house; it occurred to
her in her ignorance that she would rather have stayed in Pisa, but it
never occurred to her to ask why she could not stay in Pisa, why Niccolo
had been sent away, and she brought here. She had never possessed more
than a franc or two in her life, and had no idea of the value of money
or its necessity. In short, the development of her mind was rather that
of six than sixteen. Nothing was formed in her except the striking
personality and individuality that shut her up within herself as within
a husk, and kept her from mingling with others. This absence of all
capability of thought or feeling, this perfect blank and stupefaction of
intellect and heart, took away from her all that lively sense of
novelty, all that interest in the unknown which is so strong and so
beneficent in youth. She did not ask to understand either the things or
persons round her. She accepted them dully, as she would have accepted
any other order of things; they did not affect her at all; they moved
her neither to love nor to hatred, scarcely even to wonder; through them
all she pursued her own dull way, crossed by these other threads of
existence perforce, but never entangling with them, or allowing herself
to be woven into the common web. Their outcries and laughter, their
manifestations of feeling, their fondness for each other, the perpetual
movement of life among them, affected her only with a vague surprise too
faint for that lively title, and a still more languid contempt. She had
nothing in common with them; they were, it seemed to her, restless,
afflicted with a fever of activity, bound by some treadmill necessity to
talk, and walk, and move about, and be always doing, of which her frame
and mind were totally unconscious. A vague resentment against them--the
girl scarcely knew why--for disturbing her with their companionship, and
subjecting her to such strange demands for a sympathy which she had not
to give, and an affection for which she felt no need, gave a certain
reality to the mistiness of her sensations. But that was all; she came
among them like a thing dropped out of another sphere, having no
business, no pleasure, nothing whatever to do or to learn upon this
alien earth.

But there was an exception to this rule. Innocent clung to Frederick as
a savage might cling to the one white man who had brought her out of her
woods and from among her people into the strange and beautiful world of
civilized life. She knew him, though she knew no one else. Frederick was
her revelation, her one discovery out of the darkness which surrounded
every other nature. She formed no very close or distinct estimate of
him, but at least she was conscious of another existence which affected
her own, and upon which she was to some degree dependent. When Mrs.
Eastwood found her lurking in the hall in the cold and darkness, waiting
for Frederick, an immediate and full-grown love tale glimmered before
the unfortunate mother’s eyes, filling her with dismay. But Innocent’s
thoughts had taken no such form. She was as unconscious of love as of
any other passion, and had as little idea of anything to follow as a
baby. It was, however, her only point of human interest, the sole thing
which drew her out of herself. When Frederick was present she had eyes
only for him; when he spoke she listened, not much understanding what he
said, but vaguely stimulated by the very sound of his voice. When he
told her to do anything she made an effort to bring her mind to bear
upon it, and somehow took in what he said. The moment when he came home
was the moment to which she looked forward the whole day through. A
vague sense that he understood her, that he did not ask too much from
her like the others, made no bewildering demand on her comprehension,
but accepted what she gave with a matter-of-fact simplicity equal to her
own, gave her confidence in him. Could she have been with Frederick
alone she would have been happy; or would he even have permitted her to
sit close to him, or hold his hand, while the bewildering conversation
of the others--conversation which they expected her to join in and
understand--was going on around, Innocent would have been more able to
bear it. This, however, he had privately explained to her could not be.

“When we are alone I do not mind,” he said, with a condescension which
suited his natural temper, “but when we are with the others it makes you
ridiculous, Innocent; and what is more, it makes me ridiculous. They
laugh at both you and me.”

“Why should they laugh?” asked the girl.

“Because it is absurd,” he said, frowning. “I cannot allow you to make
me a laughing-stock. Of course, as I tell you, I don’t mind so much when
we are alone.”

And he stroked her hair with a caressing kindness which was at that time
about the best sentiment in the young man’s mind. He was often
embarrassed by her, and sometimes had asked himself the question, What
on earth was it to come to? for he too, like his mother, believed that
Innocent was in love with him; and the love of such a girl, so
manifested, was more absurd than gratifying. But yet he was always kind
to her. Evil impulses enough of one kind and another were in his mind,
and he could have made of this girl anything he pleased, his slave, the
servant of his will in any way. But he never treated her otherwise than
as his little sister, and was kind, and put up with her demonstrative
affection, and did his best to advise her “for her good.”

“You must not shrink so from my mother and Nelly,” he said. “They want
to be kind to you. If you could only take to them, it would be much
better for you than taking to a fellow like me----”

“I don’t like women,” said Innocent. “My father always said so. I cannot
help being one myself, but I hate them. And nobody is like you.”

“That is very pleasant for me,” said Frederick, “but you must not keep
up that notion about women. Your father was a capital judge, I have no
doubt, but he might have taught you something more useful. Depend upon
it, you will never be happy till you make friends with your own sex.
They may be dangerous to men, though men are not generally of your
opinion,” continued the moralist, “but for you, Innocent, mark my words,
it is far your best policy to make the women your friends.”

“What is policy?” she asked, stealing her hand into his, much as a dog
puts his nose into his master’s hand.

“Pshaw!” said Frederick. His mother had come into the room and had seen
this pantomime. “You ought to be put to school and learn English,” he
added, somewhat roughly. “I don’t believe she understands half of what
we say.”

“Indeed, I should not be sorry to think so,” said Mrs. Eastwood, not
without severity in her tone. But the severity was lost upon Innocent.
She understood, as she did always by some strange magic understand
Frederick, that she was now to withdraw from him and do her best to
appear indifferent. It was a Sunday afternoon, rainy and miserable--and
a rainy Sunday afternoon, when English domestic virtue shuts up all its
ordinary occupations, is, it must be allowed, a dreary moment. I do not
at all agree in the ordinary conventional notion of the dreariness of
English Sundays generally, but I allow that a Sunday afternoon, when all
the good people are at home, when the children are forbidden to play,
and the women’s work is carefully put away, as if innocent embroidery
were sin, and the men do not know what to do with themselves, is trying.
If you are musical to the extent of Handel you may be happy, but the
only thing to be done otherwise in a good orthodox respectable family,
bound by all the excellent English traditions, is to pick a quarrel with
some one. About five o’clock or so, with the rain pouring steadily down
into the garden, the flower-beds becoming puddles before your eyes, the
trees looking in upon you like pitiful ghosts--if you have not dared the
elements and gone to afternoon church, you must quarrel or you must die.

Mrs. Eastwood felt the necessity. She called Frederick close to her, and
she addressed him in an undertone. Innocent had gone away, and placed
herself in a chair close by the window. She had not even “taken a
book”--the impossibility of making her ever “take a book” was one of the
miseries of the house. She was gazing blankly out upon the rain, upon
the trees that shivered and seemed to ask for shelter, and the beds,
where a draggled line of closed-up crocuses were leaning their bosoms
upon the mud. Her beautiful profile was outlined distinctly against the
pale gray dreary light. It _was_ a beautiful profile always, more
beautiful than the full face, which wanted life. Blank as the day itself
was her countenance, with that motiveless gaze which was, indeed, almost
mystic in its absolute want of animation. Her hands were crossed upon
her lap, her whole limp girlish figure seemed to sympathize with the
dreariness outside. Mrs. Eastwood looked with a mixture of pity,
sympathy, and disapproval at this apathetic, immovable being, so
self-absorbed, and yet so childish and pitiful in her self-absorption.
She drew Frederick to her and laid her hand upon his arm.

“Frederick, look there,” she said in a low tone, “if you were not in the
room Innocent would rush off up-stairs. She stays only for you. I saw
you just now with her as I came in. For God’s sake, take care what you
are about. You are turning that child’s head.”

“Bah! nonsense,” said Frederick, freeing himself with a complacent

“It is not nonsense. I have watched her since ever she came. She has
neither eyes nor ears but for you.”

“Is that my fault?” said Frederick, making a motion as if to break away.

“I do not say it is your fault. Stop and hear what I have to say. It was
very good of you, no doubt, to be so kind to her on the journey, to gain
her confidence----”

“Your words are very nice, mother,” said Frederick, “but your tone
implies that it was anything but good of me, as if I had gained her
confidence with an evil intention----”

“Frederick! how dare you put such a suggestion into my lips? If I were
to answer you as you deserve, I should say that only a guilty mind could
have thought of such a thing, or thought that I could think of it,”
cried Mrs. Eastwood, becoming involved in expression as she lost her
temper. This heat on both sides was entirely to be attributed to the
Sunday afternoon. On arriving so near the brink of the quarrel as this,
Mrs. Eastwood paused.

“Sunday is not a day for quarrelling,” she said, “and heaven knows I
have no wish to quarrel with any one, much less my own boy; but
Frederick, dear, you must let me warn you. You do not know the world as
I do (heaven help the innocent soul!) nor how people are led on further
than they have any intention; nor how the simplest kindness on your part
may affect the imagination of a girl. She is not much more than a

“She is an utter child--and a fool besides,” said Frederick, throwing
the female creature about whom he was being lectured overboard at once,
as a sacrifice to the waves, according to the wont of man.

“I would not say that,” said Mrs. Eastwood doubtfully. “She is a very
strange girl, but I do not like to think she is a fool; and as for being
a child--a child of sixteen is very near a woman--and, my dear, without
meaning it, without thinking of it, you might do a great deal of harm.
With a brooding sort of girl like this, you can never tell what may be
going on. If she was one to speak out and say what she is thinking, like
my Nelly----”

“Nelly! Well, to do her justice, she is very different from Nelly,”
said Frederick, with that natural depreciation of his sister which
is also usual enough, and which was largely increased by

“No, indeed, she is not like Nelly, more’s the pity,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, fortunately not detecting the injurious tone. “She is so shut
up in herself that you can never tell what may be going on within her. I
am sure you don’t mean it, Frederick, but sometimes I think, for
Innocent’s own sake, it would be better if you were not quite so kind. I
don’t like her waiting for you in the hall, and that sort of thing.
There is no harm in it, I know--but I don’t like it. It is always an
unpleasant thing to have ideas--which she would be better without--put
into a girl’s head.”

“You are too mysterious for me to follow,” said Frederick. “What ideas?
If you will be a little more plain in your definition----”

She was his mother, and thought she knew a great deal more than he did
about life; but she blushed as red as a girl at this half-contemptuous

“Frederick, you know very well what I mean,” she said quickly, “and I
hope you will not try to make me sorry that I have appealed to you at
all. You may make Innocent more fond of you than will be good for her,
poor child, and that can produce nothing but unhappiness. I am not
finding fault, I am only warning you. Her I cannot warn, because she so
shuts herself up. She is a mystery,” said poor Mrs. Eastwood, shaking
her head.

“Whip her,” said Frederick, with a little scornful laugh; and he walked
off to the library, where Dick was pretending to read, and really
teaching Winks, who had been having a _mauvais quart d’heure_, and whose
patience was so utterly exhausted that nothing but his regard for the
family could have kept him from snapping. Winks made his escape when the
door was opened, and rushed to the drawing-room, where nobody was
allowed to insult his intellect by tricks. He came and sat up before his
mistress on his hind legs, waving his feathery forepaws in
expostulation. She understood him, which is consolatory alike to dogs
and men. The tears had come into her eyes at the unkind scorn of
Frederick’s tone, but this other complaint brought a little laughter and
carried off the sharpness. “Yes, Winks, they are wicked boys,” she said,
half laughing, half crying. Dick declared after that Winks had been
“sneaking,” and I think the dog himself was a little ashamed of having
told; but it did the mother good, and set her thinking of her Dick, who
was not too bright, nor yet very industrious, but the honestest
fellow!--and that thought made her laugh, and healed the little prick in
her heart.



Innocent had remained quite unconscious that she was the subject of this
conversation. She was still a little in doubt even of the words of a
dialogue carried on by others. The quickness of utterance which strikes
every one when hearing an unaccustomed language, the half completed
phrases, the words half said, confused her mind, which was not equal to
such a strain, and her want of interest in the matter limited her
comprehension tenfold more. She sat with her profile marked out against
the light, the line of the curtains falling just beyond her, the garden
furnishing a vague background, until some time after Frederick had left
the room. She had scarcely moved while she sat there; there was nothing
to look at, nothing to occupy her, but that did not matter to Innocent.
When Frederick was gone she, too, moved a little, and after a few
minutes stole out and up-stairs like a ghost. She went to her room,
stealing through Nelly’s, where her cousin was occupied about some of
the little legitimate Sunday employments which a good English girl may
permit herself on a rainy Sunday. Nelly made some little friendly
observation, but Innocent glided past and closed the door upon her.
Innocent, however, had nothing to do; she sat down by the fireplace,
where, Mrs. Eastwood being extravagant in this particular, there burned
a cheery little fire. But the fire was no comfort to her. So far as she
had any feeling at all, she disliked the warm little room, with all its
cushions and curtains, and its position so close to her cousin’s. Now
and then she thought of the cold and bare rooms at the Palazzo
Scaramucci, so large and empty, and lonely, with something like a sigh.
Her life there, which was so void of any interest, so blank and
companionless, came back upon her as if it had been something better,
more natural than this. There no one bade her talk, bade her do
anything; no one cared what she was about. She might stand for hours at
the window, looking out, and no one would chide her or ask why she did
so. Books and music, and such perplexing additions to life, had no
existence there: and in Pisa there was room enough to move about, and
air enough to breathe. With the help of a scaldino, and the old velvet
cloak, which she kept in her box now, she had been able to keep the cold
at bay; but here she grew drowsy over the fire, and had no need for her
cloak. There too she might do what she pleased, and no one ever said
Why?--no one except Niccolo, who did not matter. Whereas now she could
not go in or out of her room without being observed, without having
somebody to peep at her and to say, “Ah, it is you.” What did it matter
who it was? If people would but let her alone! I do not know how long
she had been alone, shut up in the little room, when Nelly knocked at
the door. During the short time since Innocent’s arrival Nelly had gone
through a great many different states of mind respecting her. She had
been eager, she had been sympathetic, she had been sorry, she had been
angry, and then she had recommenced and been sympathetic, sorry, and
indignant again. The only thing Nelly could not do, though she advised
her mother with great fervour to do it, was to let the stranger alone.

“Leave her to herself, mamma,” Nelly said with precocious wisdom, “let
us have patience, and by and by she will see that we mean her nothing
but good, and she will come to herself.”

This was admirable advice if Nelly herself could only have taken it. But
she could not; a dangerous softness would come over her at the very
height of her resolution. She would say to herself, “Poor Innocent, how
lonely she must be!” and would go again and commit herself, and
endeavour in another and yet another way to melt the unmeltable. On this
Sunday she had begun the day very strongly in the mind that it was best
to leave Innocent alone; but the sight of the pale girl gliding past,
escaping to her solitude, shutting herself up alone, was too much for
Nelly. The soft-hearted creature resisted her impulse as long as
possible, and then she gave in. Surely this time there must be an
opening somehow to the shut-up heart. She knocked softly at the closed
door, which, indeed, Innocent had almost closed upon her. “May I come
in?” she said softly. It was not easy to make out the answer which came
reluctantly from within; but Nelly interpreted it to mean consent. She
went in and sat down by the fire, and began to talk. It was before her
engagement, and she had not that one unfailing subject to excite
Innocent’s interest upon, if that were possible; but she chattered as
only a well-conditioned good-hearted girl can do, trying to draw the
other from her own thoughts. Then she proposed suddenly an examination
of the house. “You have never been over the house, Innocent; come, there
is no harm in doing that on Sunday. There is a whole floor of attics
over this, and the funniest hiding-holes; and there are some curiosities
which, if we only could find room for them, are well worth seeing. Are
you fond of china, or pictures? Tell me what you like most.”

“No,” said Innocent, “nothing.”

“Oh, that is just because you don’t know. China is my delight. If I had
my way I would cram the drawing-room; but mamma is no true connoisseur;
she likes only what is pretty. Come along and I will show you the

Innocent rose, more to avoid controversy than from any interest in the
house. Nelly showed her a great many interesting things in the attics;
an old screen, which you or I, dear reader, would have given our ears
for; a whole set of old oak furniture, which had once been in the
library; old prints, turned with their faces to the wall; and one or two
family portraits. The girl moved quite unaffected through all these
delights. She neither knew their value nor saw their beauty. She
answered Nelly’s questions with yes or no, and vaguely longed to get
away again. To do what?--nothing. Once, and only once, she was moved a
little. It was when Nelly introduced her into the old schoolroom, a bare
room, with a sloping roof and two windows, looking away over the elms to
the suburban road some distance off, which led into London, and showed
moving specks of figures, carriages, and people, diminished by the
distance, over the bare tops of the trees. There were neither curtains
nor carpets in this bare place. It was cold and deserted, apart from the
other rooms, up a little staircase by itself. Innocent gave a cry of
something like pleasure when she went in. “I like this room,” she said,
and it was about the first unsuggested observation she had made since
her arrival. “May I come and live here?”

“Here! far away from us all?” cried Nelly, “with no furniture, no
pictures, nothing to make you cheerful! It would seem like banishment to
put you here. You do not mean to say you like this bare little place?”

“Yes,” said the girl, “I can breathe here. I can see put of the windows;
and I should not trouble anybody. I like this best.”

“Innocent, you must not talk of troubling anybody. All that troubles us
is when we think you are not happy.”

“I should be happy here,” she said wistfully, sitting down on the ledge
of the window, which was low, and turning her gaze to the distant road.

“Oh, Innocent!” said Nelly, half inclined to cry in her disappointment;
“if you knew how much I wished to make your room pretty, how I worked at
it, and how anxious mamma and I were to make it look like home to you!
We thought you would feel less lonely if you were close to us, and felt
that we were within call night and day. We hoped you would grow fond of
us, Innocent! You don’t really mean that you would like to get away from
mamma and me?”

To this appeal Innocent made no immediate answer. She looked far away
over the tree tops, and watched the omnibuses, crawling like flies along
the road. It was not a beautiful or exciting sight, but it soothed her
somehow, like “the woven paces and the waving hands” of Merlin’s
spell--the subtle influence of motion apart from herself, which acted
upon her like a cadence and rhythm. Then she said slowly, as if to
herself, “I like this best.”

“Oh, you cold-hearted, unkind thing!” cried impetuous Nelly, growing red
and angry. “After all we have done and tried to do to make you
comfortable! Don’t you care for anything or any one? Good heavens! how
can any girl be so indifferent! You deserve to have nobody care for you;
you deserve to be kept by yourself, to be allowed to do whatever you
please, never to be minded or thought of. You deserve--to be shaken!”
said Nelly, with all the heat of sudden passion.

Innocent turned round and looked at her, vaguely wondering; though she
did not comprehend the gentler emotions, she knew what it was to be
scolded. It was an experience she had gone through before. Her father
and Niccolo had both scolded her, and the sound was familiar. Perhaps it
might even have penetrated her apathy, and roused some sort of life in
her, had not poor Nelly been smitten by instant compunction, and gone
down metaphorically on her knees to expiate her fault.

“Oh, what a wretch I am,” cried Nelly, “to lose patience with you like
this, you poor, dear, little lonely child. I dare say you will care for
us in time. I did not mean to be disagreeable, Innocent. It was only
disappointment and vexation, and my horrid temper. Forgive me, won’t
you?” she said, taking the girl’s hand. Innocent let it drop as soon as
she could extricate her fingers. She was moved only to wonder, and a
feeling scarcely lively enough to be called impatience--weariness of
this perpetual emotion. Nelly seemed to her to be always laughing or
crying, always demanding sympathy, requiring to be responded to, asking
answers which by no strain of her nature could Innocent give.

“Oh, don’t!” she said, as her cousin put her arms round her and pleaded
for pardon. Poor Nelly, transported with anger and repulsed kindness,
had nearly blazed up again, but fortunately restrained herself, looking
with a kind of dismay at the other’s composure, which, indeed, was a
little disturbed by confused amazement, but nothing more.

“You are a very strange girl,” she said, drawing away with a feeling of
offence which had never before surmounted her friendliness and pity;
“but if you will keep us all at arm’s length, I suppose you must be
allowed to do it. If you wish for it very much mamma, I am sure, will
let you have this room.”

“I could sleep there,” said Innocent, pointing to a hard little settee,
which Nelly knew was far from luxurious.

“Oh, you need not be afraid. I shall take care that you are
comfortable,” said indignant Nelly, and she went away down-stairs with
dignity to lay the case before her mother. “You know the way back to
your own room?” she said, pausing at the door. “As it is Sunday we
cannot make the change to-day.” Innocent heard, and gazed at her, but
made no answer. She did not know how she had offended her cousin;
neither, it is true, did she care; but yet a certain surprise awoke in
her mind. Why was Nelly angry? What was there to make any one angry?
Innocent did not connect the “scolding” which she was aware of with
anything that might have called it forth. Scolding was in her experience
a phenomenon by itself, not attached by way of cause and effect to any
other phenomena. Many times in her life she had been scolded; but very
seldom could she have told why. In this present case the cause was one
entirely beyond her moral grasp. If she had broken a china tea cup or
torn a dress, these would have been tangible causes of displeasure,
which her mind could have taken in; but this was altogether mysterious.
Perhaps it was partially owing to the strange way in which she had been
brought up, and the absence of natural love in her early life, that
Innocent’s entire mental constitution was of so peculiar a kind. She had
no consciousness of the home affections, no need of them, no perception
of their sweetness. Whether there might not be in her the capacity for a
great love was yet unproved; but she had no affections. Such a condition
of nature is not so rare perhaps as we think. There are both men and
women who can love with passion the lover or the mistress, the husband
or the wife, but who remain through all the warmth of that one
possibility cold as death to all other affections. The decorous guise of
ordinary life prevents such natures from making themselves fully visible
in many cases. But Innocent was like a savage; she was unaware of the
necessity of those gentle pretences and veils of apparent feeling which
hold civilized life together. Therefore she sinned openly, and, so to
speak, innocently, against the softer natural sentiments which are
general to humanity, yet did not exist in her own bosom. She knew
nothing about them, and she had never been taught to feign a virtue
which she did not possess.

She sat in her newly-found refuge till she was thoroughly chilled with
cold, and gazing from the window she found out an object which exercised
some influence upon her afterwards, and got her into some immediate
trouble. This was a little chapel in the distant road, which some freak
of her imagination connected with that little church of the Spina which
she had been in the habit of frequenting in Pisa in so strange and
passive a way. I need not tell the gentle reader that the Methodist
chapel in the Brighton-road was profoundly unlike any chapel ever
dedicated to Our Lady. This particular Little Bethel, however, was
ornamented in front with some stucco pinnacles and tabernacle work,
which caught at a stray corner of Innocent’s memory. She had been taken
to church that very morning, to a church utterly unlike Santa Maria
della Spina--a huge place, with pews and galleries full of people, where
she had looked on at a service of which she had very little knowledge,
and listened to a sermon which she never attempted to understand. A
longing for her old haunt came upon her as she saw the place which
seemed to recall it to her mind. If she could but get there it seemed to
her that part of her old life--with which she had never been
dissatisfied--would come back.

Innocent had so far felt the thrill of awakening novelty and change as
to know that her present life was not satisfactory, though rather in the
instinctive way of sensation than by any conscious thought. The little
chapel possessed her not with any idea of improvement or knowledge to be
gained, but only as a possible means of drawing back to her a scrap of
the past. Innocent had a consciousness that were she to rush out
immediately to find this place she would be stopped and “scolded,” or
perhaps locked in, and prevented for ever from gratifying her wish, so
she resisted her impulse to go at once. The dreary afternoon by this
time was over, and the dressing-bell sounded its welcome summons through
the house. Frederick was dining out, so that there was nothing to detain
her in the drawing-room during the evening. She stole up to her room as
soon as dinner was over, and, taking her old velvet cloak from her
trunk, and the old black hat which she had worn in Pisa, stole very
carefully down-stairs, and out into the darkness. Nobody saw her making
her stealthy exit, and it was with a strange sense of bewildered freedom
mixed with fear that she found herself out of doors alone, in the
drizzling rain and darkness. She had no superstitious terrors, however,
of any kind, her imagination being too little active to make them
possible, and she had run down the long dark stairs of the Palazzo
Scaramucci too often to be afraid merely of the dark. It was the
novelty, the uncertainty as to how to turn and where to go that moved
her. However, Innocent had the good fortune which so often attends the
beginning of a foolish enterprise. By a maze of muddy turnings, which
she took aright by mere luck, and without making any note of them for
guidance on her return, she managed to make her way to the chapel. It
was resounding with the clangour of a hymn, chanted at the top of their
voices by the young men and young women who form in all places and in
all churches the majority of the evening worshippers. The noise startled
this poor little pilgrim; but she stole in notwithstanding, to the mean
little building full of pews and glaring gas-lights, which was like and
yet unlike Mr. Browning’s wonderful description. The sight of the place
inside startled Innocent still more. The quaint darkness of her little
Italian church, the silent people kneeling and sitting here and there,
the priest proceeding with his uncomprehended mystery at the altar, the
glimmer of the tapers, the odour of the incense, were strangely replaced
by the glare of light, the clangour of the hymn, the people packed close
in their pews, who stared at the lonely girl as she entered. The chapel
was very full; but Innocent, whose instinct led her to the dark
corners, found a refuge in a dim pew close to the door, underneath the
little gallery, where, after a while, a grim old pew-opener with a black
bonnet came and sat beside her. Innocent went through her own little
simple formula; she kneeled down and said the Lord’s Prayer; and then
she seated herself and gazed towards the pulpit, which stood in place of
the altar. I do not know whether the sermon that followed would of
itself have attracted her attention any more than the more regular and
decorous one which she had heard in the morning. But while poor Innocent
sat looking rather than listening, and began to think of repeating her
prayer and going away again, the old woman at her side uttered a groan
which chilled the very blood in her veins. The girl shrank away from her
into the corner of the pew as far as she could go, and turned her eyes
from the pulpit to her terrible neighbour. But no sooner had she
recoiled thus than a man in front of her uttered another exclamation.
The preacher was one famous in the Wesleyan connexion, whose appearance
prepared his audience for excitement, and as he went on the exclamations
grew louder and louder. Innocent, who had no understanding of this
proceeding at all, who could not make out even the words of those cries
which rose around her, was first startled into fright, and then frozen
into physical terror. I don’t know what dreadful vision of savages and
cannibals and human sacrifices came into her bewildered mind; a mixture
of fairy tales and those horrors of ghosts and vampires which still
linger about Italy, and which she had heard, though at an ordinary
moment her memory would not have retained them. The old woman by her
side was pale and haggard, with long teeth and large jaws. She groaned
at regular intervals, so regular that Innocent got to be prepared for
them, though they made her jump each time they sounded on her ear. When
her endurance was almost at an end, and she had become sick with very
fear, there came a lull in the proceedings; a hymn was sung, and part of
the congregation went out. Innocent made an anxious effort to go too,
but the old woman stood immovable between her and the door, and the girl
watched with agony the last figures retiring, and an evident movement to
begin again taking place. “Let me go! Let me go!” she cried in her
terror. The old woman clutched her shoulder with long, lean fingers,
which looked like claws to the girl’s excited fancy. She approached her
face to Innocent’s ear, and hoarsely whispered something which she did
not understand. Innocent was half frantic with fear. She did not know
what might be the next step. It seemed to her that other people were
approaching her, and that she saw the gleam of knives, an idea which was
natural enough to her Italian breeding. She uttered one loud shriek, and
springing over into the pew in front rushed out of the chapel, pushing
down someone in her passage. It seemed to her that she heard steps
pursuing as she flew madly along the dimly-lighted road. She had taken
the turn towards London in her bewilderment, and by the time she lost
breath and was obliged to stop, had come to the verge of a greater
thoroughfare, crowded and noisy. No one had come after her, though she
had thought she heard steps resounding close behind. She stopped short,
panting for breath; and, leaning against a wall, looked round her in
dismay up at the dark sky, and down at the muddy road, and along the
long line of dim lamps and passing figures, all strange, and without
help for her. When the full sense of her helplessness, her loneliness,
her desolation, burst upon her, she crouched down upon the pavement
close to the wall, and burst into tears. “Niccolo! Niccolo!” she cried,
with a wail of childish despair. Another girl in such circumstances
would have called upon God or her mother; but Innocent knew nothing of
her mother, and very little of God. The only being who had always been
helpful to her was Niccolo. She called upon him with a bitter cry of
helplessness. Niccolo in Pisa--how could he come to her? What could he
do for her? But other help--less tender, less sure than Niccolo’s--was
approaching slowly to her along the crowded way.



“What is wrong?” said one of two young men who were coming along the

“Bah! what does it matter to us?” said his companion.

This companion was Frederick Eastwood. He had dined out, and he had
looked in for half an hour at his club, and he was now walking leisurely
home with a friend who was going the same way. Why should two gentlemen
thus making their way homewards on a Sunday evening pay any attention to
a group of people gathered on the muddy pavement? But the curiosity of
his companion was stronger than Frederick’s indifference. There were a
dozen or so of people standing round some one who was crouching down
against the wall, and there was a policeman in the middle.

“Ask her her name; even if she’s furrin’ she’ll give some sort of an
answer to that,” suggested one of the bystanders.

“It is some tipsy woman,” said Frederick; but the next moment he changed
colour, and stepped into the midst of the crowd.

“Call me a cab,” he said to his amazed friend, and put out his hand to
grasp, not very gently, at the old cloak which he recognized. “Heaven
and earth! what has brought you here?” he said, in a tone of passion.
The crouching figure uttered a cry, and, springing up at once, rushed
upon him and clung to his arm.

“She’s found her young man at last,” said some one in the crowd; and the
very policeman grinned as he cast the light of his lantern upon poor
Innocent, who, pale and scared, and dazzled by the light, clung closer
and closer to her cousin.

“Oh, Frederick, I lost my way. Take me home! take me home!” she cried

“Why did you ever leave home, you little fool?” he asked, and thrust her
savagely into the cab which drove up. He threw a coin to the policeman,
and waved a good-night to his companion. He did not give any
explanation. It was better, he thought, to leave his friend to suppose
that this was some adventure--some disreputable acquaintance whom he
took the trouble to help, than to let him know who it really was whom he
had found in such a position. But he was savage when he got into the
cab, and thrust away the girl, who put out her trembling hands to cling
to him once more.

“How can you be such an idiot?” he said. “Where next must I pick you out
of? Do you know you are behaving like a shameless creature, and doubly
like a fool? Did you come out after me? or why are you here, and where
were you going? By heaven, it is enough to drive a man mad to see a girl
making an idiot of herself like this!”

Poor Innocent could not stand against this torrent of reproof. She
shrank back into a corner, and cried and sobbed. It seemed to her that
heaven and earth had risen up against her, now that Frederick “scolded”
her too. She had done no harm. But what an evening, what a round of
miserable adventures she had gone through! Her limbs were aching with
fatigue, and her mind with fright and terror. He had seemed to her the
very messenger of heaven for her deliverance. Her cry when she saw him
was one of those outcries of pure joy which sound keen and sharp as if a
pang were in them. Out of the darkness, the forlornness, the utter
misery, he appeared to her like an angel. But when the angel began to
scold her, poor Innocent, muddy and wretched, shrank up into her corner.
For the first time a consciousness of her own foolishness came across
her mind. How could he, so spotless and smooth as he was, touch or look
at her, with mud on her dress, with her old cloak wet with the rain, and
her hair hanging limp and damp upon her shoulders? Yes, she deserved to
be scolded: she perceived this for perhaps the first time in her life.

“When you have done crying,” said Frederick, still savage, “perhaps you
will explain to me what ridiculous cause brought you to this plight.
Have you run away entirely? Where were you going? What do you want! You
little fool! They are far kinder to you at home than any one would be
anywhere else. You would gain very little, I can tell you, by running

“I did not mean to run away,” said Innocent, crying softly as it were,
under her breath.

“You will find no other people so foolish,” said Frederick savagely.
“What did you want? what were you thinking of? Good heavens! you are a
girl, are you, and not a spirit of mischief? Fancy my dismay when I saw
you--you, who ought to have been safe and sound at home, questioned by a
policeman in the midst of a London crowd! Try and imagine how
disgraceful such a thing is to yourself--how exasperating to me.”

“Oh, Frederick!” cried the girl, overwhelmed by his reproaches, and
roused into understanding by the sharpness of the pain to which she was
subjected, “I did not mean it. Do not be angry: it was not my fault----”

“Not your fault!” he cried in his rage. “Good heavens! if it had not
been that I was afraid you might get into some still more disgraceful
scrape, I should have left you to your fate. The thought did go through
my mind. If this were known, nobody would ever speak to you again;
nobody would believe your excuses. Not your fault! What made you come
out at all, away from home?”

“Oh, don’t be angry,” she cried piteously, and put out her trembling
hand to touch his coat, to propitiate and pacify him with abject
self-humiliation. By this time his passion had begun to wear itself out,
but he would not give her any sign of forgiveness. When the cab reached
the gate of the Elms, it was thrown open to them by all the servants in
a body, who were searching about among the shrubbery with lights.

“Oh, here she is, with Mr. Frederick. I know’d she’d be found with Mr.
Frederick,” said one of the maids, whom Frederick overheard.

Mrs. Eastwood met them at the door, looking pale and frightened. “Oh,
thank God, here she is at last!” she cried to Nelly, who was behind.

Innocent clutched tightly at Frederick’s arm as she stepped down,
bewildered and dazzled by the lights that flashed everywhere around her.
He had scolded her cruelly, but yet she clung to him in preference to
the women who had been so kind to her. He felt the implied compliment,
even in the midst of his wrath.

“Yes, I have brought the little fool home,” he cried loudly, that all
might hear him. “Where do you think I found her? In the middle of the
Brompton Road, with a crowd round, crying, and unable to tell where she
came from. What were you thinking of, mother, to let such a child go out

“I! let her go out alone!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, astonished at the
undeserved blame. “Are you mad, Frederick? I have been more unhappy
about her than I can say. The gardener has gone out to look everywhere,
and we have been all over the grounds with lanterns. But bring her
in--bring her in. Thank God we have her safe at last!”

With the lights apparently flashing all round her, dazzling her eyes,
Innocent went in, half dragged by Frederick, to whom she kept clinging.
He pushed her roughly into a chair, pulling away his arm. “There! let us
see if you can give any account of your escapade,” he said harshly.

The tones of his voice, his harsh words, sunk into poor Innocent’s heart
like stones sinking into water. She remembered nothing else afterwards,
and the pain seemed something more than she could bear. She sat and
gazed at them all, holding her old faded cloak round her closely, and
showing the stains of mud on it and upon her black frock. Her hair fell
limp to her neck: her poor little hat was pushed back from her head. The
excitement and distress threw out, as nothing before had done, the
peculiar beauty of her face, but a more forlorn figure could not have
been seen. Mrs. Eastwood was more anxious and more compassionate than
her son.

“How was it, Innocent?” she asked: “I am sure you could not mean any
harm. Tell me where were you going? where had you been?”

The girl sat silent, like one under a spell, eager yet dumb, on the
point of utterance. She seemed to struggle with some force which
prevented her from speaking. She turned her eyes from one to another,
eager, miserable--trying, it seemed, to tell her story--incapable of
beginning. At last she surmounted the spell, and burst suddenly into
wild tears.

“I did not mean it. I saw the church from the window--I thought it was
like the Spina. Oh--h! it was not a church at all: it was some dreadful
place. They tried to kill me, and then I fled--fled! and I did not know
the way----”

“What is the Spina?” said Mrs. Eastwood, wondering. “You frighten her,
Frederick, making those grimaces. Innocent, no one will be hard upon
you. Tell me plainly; what sort of a dreadful place was it? Why did you

The girl looked round her at them all, one after another. Why did she
go? She did not really understand the question, but it seemed to drive
her to that necessity for an answer which sometimes brings the truth
from our lips, and sometimes calls up an involuntary fiction which
appears like truth to other minds, and sometimes to that of the speaker.
“I was--lonely,” she said, after a long pause.

Mrs. Eastwood gave a cry of pain. She turned her back upon them all, and
walked up and down the room two or three times with an agitation that no
one understood. Then she came and stood by Innocent, and put one arm
round her. “Oh, Nelly,” she cried, “Nelly, this is our fault!”

It would be wrong to say that Nelly was less tender-hearted than her
mother, except in so far as youth is always less considerate, less
tolerant than experience; but on this occasion she stood unmoved,
feeling more indignant than sorry. She, too, had made her essay at
sympathy, and she had not got the better of its rejection. She stood by
without any particular demonstration, while by degrees some sort of
account of the evening was got from her cousin. Innocent told them in
broken words all that had happened to her. She shuddered as she
described the groans. She was sure she had seen the gleam of the knives,
and heard the steps approaching of the men who were going to kill her.
This curious Italian version of a very commonplace incident puzzled the
family greatly, to whose imaginations knives were quite strange and
impossible things. When she had told her tale somehow, she sat, looking
at them all, one after the other, with strained eyes, not knowing what
they might do to her for the crime she seemed to have committed, without
knowing it to be a crime. She did not catch the sense of what they said
to each other, though her eyes followed every word, trying to divine it
on the lips of the speaker.

“I was lonely,” she repeated, with a curious mixture of wistful misery,
and the childish cunning of the perception that she had made a
successful stroke with these words before.

The result, so far as Innocent was concerned, was that she was taken
tenderly up-stairs, and committed to the care of Alice, who put her to
bed, and questioned her over again, making her own reflections on the
adventure. Innocent cried herself to sleep, sobbing while drowsiness
crept over her, and waking up to sob again. The groans of the old woman
in the chapel possessed her brain, and the strange black desolation of
the streets, which every time she dropped asleep seemed to enfold her
again, frightening her back out of the world of dreams to feel for the
first time the soothing of the firelight, and the kindly warmth and
comfort of her little room. These, however, were but superficial
tortures. The one which gave them their hold upon her, and which had
indeed produced a sort of half awakening of her spiritual nature, was
the terrible disappointment of being “scolded” by Frederick. She knew no
more tragical word to use, even in her own mind. He had forsaken her.
She dwelt upon the fact with an acute pang, almost like the birth-pang
of the soul which had not yet come to life within her. Almost, but not
altogether--for the impulses of that high and potent inspiration of pain
died off, when they reached the intolerable point, into vague childish
moaning over an unexpected unkindness. Her only moral standing-ground in
this vague uncertain world had failed her--Frederick had scolded her.
The two things sound very different, yet in the feverish and confused
musings of this poor undeveloped nature they were the same.

The party in the drawing-room were moved by very different feelings. The
young people could not understand their mother. She had been crying,
with her head bent down into her hands. To Nelly the incident was
disagreeable and annoying, but not tragic; while to Frederick it had
become chiefly an occasion of fault-finding. To think that it was
somebody’s fault was a great relief to his mind.

“Why do you let her stray about as she likes? Why don’t you make her
stay in the room with you? Why don’t you give her something to do?
Surely there are people enough in the house to see that a child like
that is not wandering about at her own will wherever she pleases?” he

This view of the subject relieved him from the indefinite uneasiness
which had begun to steal into his mind as to his own sharp words to
Innocent. He was quite right in using those sharp words. She must be
made to see (he thought) that something more was required of her than to
yield to every impulse--that she must learn, being a girl, to respect
the limits which society draws around a girl’s path from her earliest
beginning. She ought to have known them by instinct; but as she did not
know them it was necessary she should be taught, and the sooner and more
effectually the better. But, besides this, it was good to have somebody
at home to blame for her foolishness. If she had been properly watched
it could not have happened. Why did not some one keep her in their eye?
Why not force her to remain with the others, if force was necessary? Why
not--? There was no end to Frederick’s whys; everybody was wrong who had
anything to do with the management of the girl; while he managed her,
nothing of this sort had happened. But it was not in the nature of
things that he could go on looking after a girl of sixteen--and the
moment she got into the hands of the women, her natural guardians, this
was the issue. It was just like women’s way--they wanted to do men’s
work, and they would not take the trouble to do their own.

That Nelly should have accepted this challenge hotly and fiercely was
natural enough; but Mrs. Eastwood took no notice. It was only when the
discussion grew furious that she roused herself and interfered.

“Children,” she said, in her usual words, but with a more serious tone
than usual, “don’t wrangle. It does not become you, Frederick, to speak
against women who have brought you up, and done everything for you; and
it is foolish of you, Nelly, to argue, as if it was a thing for
argument. If Frederick thinks I am a fool, and you are a fool, seeing us
every day as he does, and knowing all about us, what good will arguing
do him?”

“I did not mean that, mother,” said Frederick, momentarily ashamed of

“You said it, then, my dear, which is a very common thing among men,”
said Mrs. Eastwood, “and curious when you come to think of it. But, as I
say, talk will not change any one’s opinion. And here is something very
much more serious to call for our attention. Something must be done
about Innocent. Her mother made me very unhappy when I was young. She
was not affectionate either. She was secret; nobody could ever make sure
what was going on in her mind. When she ran away and married Mr. Vane,
none of us had the least suspicion of what was going on. I am afraid of
Innocent doing something of the same kind.”

“Running away and marrying--some one?” asked Frederick. An ineffable
smile of secret complacency came over the young man’s face. He gave a
short little laugh of pleased embarrassment. “I think you may feel
yourself safe against any such danger. Running away--or, at least,
marrying--requires two----”

Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly looked at each other with secret feminine
indignation, thus relieving their minds; but the mother replied, with a
composure which she was far from feeling,--

“There are more ways of going wrong than making a foolish marriage. That
is very wrong, Heaven knows; when you consider how much the very
character of the family and its standing in the world depends upon the
wife whom a young man may marry in a sudden fancy----”

“If you are referring to me, mother,” said Frederick, catching fire,
“you may make yourself perfectly easy. I look upon Innocent as a mere
child. It seems to me a kind of insult to suppose for a moment that I
could be capable----”

“Of running away with Innocent?” said his mother, looking him calmly in
the face. “Be comforted, Frederick; I never imagined that you were
likely so to compromise yourself. The danger I warned you against was of
a very different kind.--But we need not return to that. Nobody can say
you have been too kind to her to-night.”

“I am not sentimental,” he cried, getting up from his chair, and glad of
the excuse for being angry, and withdrawing from unpleasant discussion.
He went off, whistling an opera air, to show his perfect indifference,
and was heard next moment pitching coals on the fire in the library, and
wheeling the chairs about violently, to get himself the most comfortable
place. This Sunday night was not so peaceable as a Sunday night ought to
be in a respectable English household, which strove to do its duty. Dick
came in immediately after Frederick’s withdrawal, with muddy boots, and
rain on his rough coat, but his cheeks pink with the cold air outside,
and the serenity of an easy mind in his good-natured countenance. Dick
seldom wrangled, and never allowed any event to disturb him very deeply.
His honest matter-of-fact character was always a comfort, whatever went

“So she has come back?” he said; “that’s a blessing. I went as far as
Piccadilly without seeing anything of her. I say, weren’t they making a
row in that little chapel in the road--groaning as if they’d groan their
heads off. Had Innocent gone after Frederick, as the maids say? or where
had she been?”

Dick was much amused when they told him the facts of the case, and saw
great possibilities of laughter in the idea.

“I say, what jolly fun!” he cried--“thought they were going to kill
her? Oh, oh, oh! What a stupid I was not to go in. Poor little soul
though, I hope you didn’t scold her--not more than you could help,
mamma! I suppose it’s right to scold--to a certain point--but she’s so
scared and so bewildered.”

“And you are my own good Dick,” cried his mother, giving him a kiss,
which the boy did not understand.

“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” he said, with a brightening of pleasure,
“though hang me if I know why. Ain’t I muddy, rather! You never saw such
a night. Honest fog is a joke to it. Drizzle, drizzle for ever; and the
sky is so low you could touch it. I’m glad she’s in all right, and safe
in bed; and I hope you didn’t whip her. If I am to be up at seven to
those dear mathematics,” Dick added, making a face, “I suppose I had
better go to bed too----”

“And don’t forget to get up when you are called, dear,” said Mrs.
Eastwood; “and do work, there’s a good boy. I am sure you have plenty of
brains, if you will only take the trouble.”

Dick shrugged his shoulders, as he went off cheerful after his long
walk. I don’t know that his brains were at all superabundant; and he was
not fond of work; but after the clever and refined Frederick the very
sight of this honest fellow, weighted to the ground as he was by the
burden of the coming Exam., was a consolation to everybody belonging to
him. The mother and daughter had a final consultation before they too
left the drawing-room. There had to be beer ordered for the gardener,
who came in much more overwhelmed by the fatigue of his bootless walk
than Dick was, depressed about things in general, and taking a dark view
of Innocent’s prospects in particular.

“Gentlemen don’t like to be followed about like that,” he said
oracularly, “no more nor I would myself. Women should know as their
place is at ’ome, and make up their minds to it.”

This, it is true, was said down-stairs to a sympathetic housemaid; but,
being an old servant, the gardener felt that he might unfold his mind a
little, even to his mistress.

“I’d give the young lady a word, mum,” he said, strong in his own sense
of injury, as having lost his Sunday evening’s ease and leisure through
her means. “I’d let her know, whatever may be furrin’ ways, as this sort
o’ thing won’t do--not in England. It ain’t the thing for a young gell.
In furrin’ parts there’s many ways as ain’t like ours--so I’m
told--dancing all over the place of Sundays, and that sort; but not to
be hard upon her the first time, nor nothing violent, I’d jest give her
a word--that it won’t do, not here.”

“You may be sure I will say all that is necessary,” said Mrs. Eastwood,
half laughing, half angry. “My niece went out to go to church, and went
to the little chapel in the road, and got frightened, poor child. That
is the whole matter.”

“Ah, ma’am, you’re a simple ’earted one,” said the man, shaking his
head with a scepticism that no asseveration could have touched.

The maids, too, were of opinion that Mrs. Eastwood was a very simple
’earted one; though not where they themselves were concerned. She had
not the same faith in their excuses as she seemed to put in this patent
deception attempted by “the French girl,” who was a likely one to get
into trouble by going to church surely. The kitchen and all its
dependencies laughed the idea to scorn, though, perhaps, respecting
Innocent more for the cleverness and invention she had displayed in
finding out such an excuse. But the story was laid up against her, with
a fulness of detail and circumstance such as might have made an
historian despair. How she followed Frederick to his dinner-party, and
watched him through the window, and went after him to the club, was all
known to the housemaid as particularly as if she had been there.

“And I hope he’ll reward her, when he’s free and can please hisself,”
said Jane in the kitchen, who was romantic.

“Get along with you,” cried the cook. “Do you think gentlemen care for a
chit like that?”

“And one as follows ’em about,” said Susan solemnly, whose younger
sister Jane was.



The result of this day’s proceedings was not on the whole satisfactory
to Frederick. If, as he, like the maids, felt assured, Innocent’s
escapade had been entirely on his own account, a despairing attempt to
follow and be with him, such devotion, however flattering, was of an
embarrassing character, and very likely to compromise him, however
prudently and conscientiously he might struggle to take no undue
advantage of her. Like the gardener, he felt that it would not do, and
having also, like the gardener, very little confidence in his mother’s
severity, he determined to make the matter very clear to Innocent
herself. Fortune favoured him so far in this virtuous intention that he
found her alone in the breakfast-room next morning when he came
down-stairs. Frederick was always late. This was one of the things that
made Dick so angry; while he, unhappy boy, was hunted up at seven
o’clock, Frederick came down to breakfast at ten, with an occasional
mild remonstrance, but no more. Things were sent away to be kept hot for
him; fresh coffee had to be made, and fresh rolls procured, and to
everybody this seemed the most natural thing in the world. He was
always late, but he was later than usual on this particular day, which,
being Monday, was an early day with the household. I need not enter into
the reasons why Monday was an early day. Every lady who is my gentle
reader, and who does her own housekeeping, will understand; and for the
uninitiated it is well that they should learn to believe and tremble. It
might be unwise of Mrs. Eastwood to leave Innocent alone in the room,
but she was unaccustomed to the attitude of suspicion, and felt it
dreadful to be obliged always to have her wits about her. Perhaps it was
with the object of seeing Frederick, that Innocent, poor soul, lingered.
She had been slightly, superficially touched by the kindness of her aunt
to her the night before, and by the fact that no “scolding” had followed
upon the offence; and she had for the first time offered to do
something, no greater a business than arranging moss about some
flower-pots, for which purpose it was, nominally, that she was left in
the dining-room. But another feeling much more strong possessed her.
Frederick had “scolded” her. He had beaten her down when she was very
low with angry words, and consequently she had a wistful desire to be
forgiven by him; to know how he would speak to her next time; if there
was any hope for her, or if all was over for ever. The others had
slightly moved the surface of her mind by their kindness, but Frederick,
by his unkindness, had touched her much more deeply, almost to the point
of revolution. All her senses were keenly awake to indications of his
coming. She heard his step a dozen times before it really came; she
wondered vaguely what he would say, how he would look; she was eager,
and anxious, and tremulous as she had never been before. Her interest in
him, instead of being checked, was doubled. This was what his unkindness
had done.

When he came into the room first he took no notice of her. He went and
poked the fire, and then he examined the table, and rang the bell for
his hot coffee. Then only he said, “Good morning, Innocent.” He did not
hold out his hand. Sometimes he would stroke her hair, or pat her head,
or give her some token of affectionateness. To-day he did not even hold
out his hand. “What are you doing?” was his next question, for it was
odd to see her doing anything. She made haste to answer, heaping up the
moss with such tremulous fingers that it fell down again in a mass.

“I am doing this--for Nelly.”

“That is right,” he said more cheerfully. “Never mind what nonsense you
do so long as you make it up with them. I told you the other day you
would never get on till you learned to make friends of your own sex.”

Innocent made no answer. What could she say? A general observation like
this was like Latin and Greek to her. She looked at him, and that was
all. By this time Brownlow had brought in the coffee, and he had begun
to eat his breakfast. It is a comfortable sort of thing to do on a
chilly spring morning, with a pleasant fire on one side of you, and
sunshine and crocuses on the other, looking in through the window. This
mollified Frederick in spite of himself.

“That was a very foolish business of yours last night,” he said, but in
a softer tone; “you must not do such things. I daresay it is dull for
you here. You don’t enter into their life, and there is nothing of your
own to interest you. But still you know girls have to put up with that.
It may be hard, but still they have to do it. I suppose when you are
married it is expected that you should have it made up to you. At least
this is the ordinary state of affairs; girls have to put up with it. I
cannot take you to my club, you know, or to the--other places--where I

“I did not want you to take me,” said Innocent, surprised.

“I am glad to hear it,” said Frederick. He did not believe her any more
than the maids did. He smiled a little within himself at the idea that
she was yielding to a conviction of the necessity for pretence. He was
half amused by this, and rather more flattered than before. She must be
beginning, he thought, to feel half a woman, to understand that she must
not say and do everything that came into her head, with the freedom
permitted to himself, for instance. “I was going to speak to you very
seriously,” he went on, “but as you are trying to make friends with the
others, and to do better, I will not worry you. What I said is for your
good, Innocent--which is not to be obtained by your usual way of doing
what pleases yourself, but by yielding to others and trying to be
content with what is thought good for you. This may be hard--(N.B.
Frederick certainly had never tried)--but it is the only way for a girl
to get on. You must manage somehow to make friends of your own sex.”

Frederick dwelt upon this aphorism with some pride. He felt that it was
original, and did him credit, and its wisdom gratified him. On the whole
he was pleased with himself while he delivered his little address.
Instead of taking advantage of the girl’s fondness for him, as some men
might have done, he was doing his utmost to lead her in the paths of
virtue. Whether she or any one else appreciated it, he at least did. He
was so far softened by the sense of his own goodness, that when he had
finished breakfast, he put his hand kindly upon her shoulder while he
said “Good morning,” and finding her face near his and turned towards
him, kissed her for the first time with much benevolence of feeling.
Innocent’s face grew suddenly red under this salute. She was not angry,
she was not pleased--she did not know how to receive it; but a sudden
flush of colour answered to the light and somewhat careless touch.
Frederick himself went off half laughing, half confused. He said to
himself that the girl was growing into a woman, that she had developed
very quickly since he had brought her home. “I must mind what I am
about,” he said to himself. Perhaps, on the whole, in giving this kiss
he had gone just a very little too far. And Frederick felt that there
was a deep responsibility upon him. He must not delude his cousin with
hopes that never could be realized.

With this feeling in his mind he went off to the office, a little
wondering and alarmed lest the story of his wonderful encounter last
night in the street should have already reached it. But nobody showed
any signs of knowing this curious incident, and though Frederick was
slightly defiant and ready to stand on his defence at the slightest
provocation, no such provocation was offered him. I do not know how it
is that when something disagreeable is about to happen to us, we so
often have this preparation of looking for something else, perhaps
equally disagreeable, which does not come. Frederick was quite prepared
to be assailed about the mysterious female figure which he had rescued
from the midst of the crowd, and which he had driven off with, without a
word of explanation, under the very eyes of his astonished friend. He
looked out a little nervously for every new-comer who entered the place,
fancying that his last night’s companion would appear. No one came,
however, until about three o’clock, just before the hour for leaving, on
the verge, as it were, of security. He was just beginning to tell
himself that all was safe, that his perils were over for the day, and
that a joke of this kind could not survive twenty-four hours, when the
porter brought him the card of a visitor, who awaited him down-stairs.
Frederick took it unsuspicious, for at that moment he feared only
Egerton, his friend of last night. For a moment he gazed in wonder,
which rapidly turned into consternation, at the card. This was the
inscription upon it:--

        |                                        |
        |                                        |
        |                                        |
        |          MR. R. R. R. BATTY,           |
        |                                        |
        | _The Villa, Sterborne._                |
        |                                        |

The name of a second-rate hotel in London was written in pencil across
the card. Frederick held it in his hand, and gazed at it, feeling his
features stiffen as if it had been the Gorgon herself whose countenance
he was contemplating. I am afraid, that having heard nothing of Mr.
Batty for some weeks, he had forgotten the benevolent stranger who had
interposed to save him when he was almost in extremity. Mrs. Eastwood
had presented her son with a banknote or two by way of paying the
expenses of that illness of his, which had detained him compulsorily in
Paris, and put him, no doubt, to a great deal of extra expense; but as
there was not sufficient to pay Batty, and Batty did not ask for
payment, Frederick had disposed of these very comfortably in other ways.

“Shall I show the gentleman up?” said the porter, while the young man
gazed horror-stricken at the card.

“Show him into Mr. Jones’s room,” said Frederick, with an effort. Jones
was absent on leave, and his room was a safe place, where a disagreeable
visitor might be encountered without any more harm than was involved in
the sight of him. Then he did what he could to prepare himself for the
meeting. He buttoned his coat, and took his hat and cane by way of
showing that he was about to leave the office, and had little time for
colloquy. He tried to make up in his mind in desperate haste what to say
about the money, and he tried at the same time, the one attempt mingling
with the other, and confusing it, to make up some story for home, to
elicit a few more of those most necessary banknotes. It is dreadful to
think how many well-looking, faultlessly-dressed young gentlemen in the
public service like Frederick Eastwood, looking self-possessed enough
for any emergency, and superior enough to crush into insignificance the
greater part of their fellow-creatures, should be secretly occupied in
making up hasty and clumsy inventions like this, to stave off the paying
of money, or to coax it out of well-guarded pockets. Frederick walked
along the passage as slowly as he could towards Jones’s room. Wretched
little Innocent! it was all her fault that he had been seduced into this
expenditure, and put in this man’s power. Frederick remembered vividly
how objectionable the man’s loud voice and coarse geniality had been to
him when, with a bad headache and a sinking heart, he sat and studied
“Bradshaw,” and counted out his last francs in the Paris hotel. What
must he seem now, when he no longer had it in his power to be of use,
and appeared only in the guise of a creditor, always an odious character
to appear in? Frederick walked into the room at last with something of
the feelings which must move the poor wretch who marches to his
execution. Could he have followed his own will, ropes would not have
sufficed to drag him whither his reluctant feet now paced with that
appearance of voluntary motion which is often such a miserable pretence.
To how many places do we go thus, pretending to do it of our own free
will--to balls and dinner parties, and other festive meetings, to our
own marriage sometimes, to every kind of act in which we are--heaven
help us!--free agents, as the jargon goes. Frederick’s feelings were
doubtless exaggerated, for, after all, he owed this man not much over
fifty pounds. But then the man could tell things of him which he fondly
hoped were known to no one in his own sphere--as if there was anything
in any man’s life of a disagreeable or disgraceful kind which was not

Batty met him with the greatest cordiality, with a large red dirty hand
outstretched, and smiles of genial welcome.

“Delighted to see you looking so well, sir,” he said; “quite picked up
again, eh, after your little spree abroad? Glad of that. You young men
have no moderation. A steady old stager like me knows just how far to
go. But you’re always on ahead, you young ’uns. I came up to town
Saturday, Mr. Eastwood, to look about me a bit, and see how the world
was going on, and I’ve lost no time in looking you up.”

“Much obliged, I’m sure,” said poor Frederick, shivering. “I ought to
have written to you about that money,” and he went up to the smouldering
fire and poked it violently. “How cold the weather keeps for this time
of the year!”

“It do, to be sure,” said Batty. “But, Mr. Frederick, if you’ll give me
the privilege of calling you so--which comes natural, seeing I have been
among Eastwoods all my life--I ain’t come here prying about the money.
I’m above such mean tricks. When I can be of service to a gentleman I’m
proud, and so long as I’m used honourable, and treated like a friend,
hang me if I’d dun any man. It ain’t the money, sir, but feeling that
has brought me here.”

“I am sure you are very good,” said Frederick stiffly, “but however that
may be on your part, Mr. Batty, I am aware that I ought to have written
to you about what is really a debt of honour----”

“Hush, hush!” said Batty, “you make me feel like a shopman, I declare
you do. I’ve taken the liberty to write where we’re staying, Mr.
Eastwood, on my card, and if you’ll eat a bit of dinner with us at
seven, sharp, you’ll do us honour, sir. I’ve got my daughter with me. It
ain’t often I can get her up to town, and when I do I like to show her a
bit of the world. If you’d ever been down our way with your cousin, the
baronet, you’d have heard of my girl. She’s known as the Flower of
Sterborne, down our way. I don’t say but what you’ve great beauties
about London, greater beauties than our country lasses; but I’m proud of
my ’Manda. I’m not in the way of asking my friends when she’s with me,
but an Eastwood ain’t like any one else, at least not to her and me.”

“I am sure you are very good,” said Frederick, using the same words
again, and stiffening more and more. A rapid calculation had run through
his mind while Batty was speaking. Should he say he was engaged, or
should he keep the monster in good-humour by enduring a dinner in his
company? Was it worth his while, since the monster appeared so amiable
by nature, to take all this trouble to keep him in good-humour? These,
and various other branches of the same question, went through his mind,
retarding his reply. He did not personally know his cousin the baronet,
though Frederick was fully aware of the importance to a young man in
society of such a relative, and if the man really knew the Eastwoods,
his power of telling a disagreeable story was infinitely enhanced. On
the whole, it seemed to Frederick that it was better to humour him, to
accept his invitation, and trust to the support of Providence to get
through the evening. After all, it was seeing “life” as much at least as
many other ways which he had taken in his day for that purpose, and
which his friends were constantly employing. When he had got rid of
Batty he made up, in case of any chance discovery, an explanation of
what he was about to do. “I am going to dine with an old fellow whom I
picked up in Paris the other day,” he said to the people in the office.
“A genuine John Bull, ready for anything, but not knowing a word of any
language but his own. He turned out to be some sort of rural hanger-on
of my cousin Sir Geoffrey, and out of gratitude he is going to give me a
dinner. I expect some fun.”

“I wonder what that elaborate explanation means?” one of his audience
said to another. “Eastwood is always up to some mischief when he’s
explanatory. This time I wonder what it can be. I don’t believe he knows
his cousin Sir Geoffrey from Adam.”

“If he did, he’s a poor wretch in the hands of the Jews, and not much
good to any one,” said the other; but perhaps this was because neither
of the two had a cousin in the baronetage, which makes a difference in a
man’s feelings.

Innocent was in her usual place in the little window by the door when
Frederick went home that evening. The sight of her recalled to him all
the wise determinations of the morning, and he was annoyed to see how
little fruit they had borne. Really, he felt, this must be put a stop
to. He made a sign to her to come out to him, and went round the side of
the house into the garden. It was a cold and unfavourable spring,
scarcely warmer now, though it was the end of March, than it had been in
February, but the days had grown longer, and Frederick’s return was now
generally in daylight.

“I wanted to say to you, Innocent, that you must give up this habit of
watching for me,” he said. “No doubt it is very kind of you. I did not
mind it so much when you were quite a stranger, and of course knew me
best--and when the nights were darker you were not so much noticed at
the window. But now you must recollect it is quite light, and a great
girl like you is remarked. People will say unkind things about you. They
will say, for instance, that you are fond--of me.”

“I am fond of you,” she said, with the tears in her eyes.

“That is all very well,” said Frederick, “but we must not go too far.
Don’t let me see you there again. Girls ought to know these things
without being told. You are a great girl, almost grown up: and you know
the others now almost as well as you know me. I should have told you
this in the morning, but I forgot. Altogether, Innocent, there must be a
change. I had thought your own sense would teach you--and I thought
that what I said this morning---- But you compel me to speak plainly,”
said Frederick, seeing the face of his mother looking out from the
drawing-room, and feeling inspired by the thought that he would himself
be called to question for this interview with Innocent. He was
determined, however, at whatever risk to “put a stop to this sort of
thing.” And the annoyance to which he had himself been subjected gave
him strength and courage. It seems only right that we should have
compensation, and afflict others when trouble has come to ourselves.

Innocent made no answer. She walked silently by his side, overcome by
the bitterness of this sudden onslaught when she had expected quite the
reverse. Poor child, her earliest training was all emotional; the
severest kind of mental discipline. When he made her a sign to come out
to him, she had thought he meant to be kinder, more affectionate than
usual, more like what he used to be when he travelled with her, and
cared for her in everything. How quickly, how gladly she had rushed out,
leaving the door open behind her, as Brownlow remembered long
afterwards. And to find that all her pleasant expectations were to end
in a new and utterly unprovoked _accès_ of scolding! She tried hard not
to cry, her pride being hurt at last, but the large tears dropped down
her cheeks, as she went silently along the walk by his side. She put up
her hand furtively to dash them away. She turned her head from him that
he might not see them. Was it the same Frederick who had kissed her
before he went out, who had always been good to her, except last night?
But she could not say anything either in defence or submission. She was
too deeply and cruelly disappointed to have any power of speech left.

“You won’t give in?” said Frederick. “You are just like all women. You
will never allow you are in the wrong. When I come home, fretted and
vexed from the world,” continued the young man, taking a high tone, “and
hoping to have a little repose and comfort at home, you begin to worry
me from the first moment you catch sight of me. I declare it is hard; a
man who has always tried to do his duty at home--and instead of finding
it a refuge from the troubles of life----”

This speech was perfectly unintelligible to Innocent. She looked up at
him with vague surprise, being quite unaware, poor child, of the
troubles of life from which Frederick escaped with the hope of finding
comfort at home. He had fallen without thinking into the ordinary and
conventional manner in which manhood indignant addresses its womankind.
He pulled himself up suddenly with a “pshaw!” of disgust, which could
only be addressed to himself.

“I mean you must put a stop to all this nonsense,” he said abruptly.
“Make yourself happy somehow. Do as other people do. Don’t sit and mope
in a corner and gaze at me, and don’t watch for me any more at that
window. If you do, I shall be horribly vexed. There now, run in and
think no more of it. I don’t mean to be cross; but you must remember,
Innocent,” he concluded with great emphasis, “you must remember that
what you have got to do is to please, not yourself, but me.”

Innocent received this first lesson in the female necessity of
self-renunciation in silence, taking it in with her eyes as well as her
ears. She kept looking at him, in the dulness of her perception,
wondering if there was something more to follow; but nothing followed.
Then she said “Yes” vaguely, and they went in together, he to the
drawing-room, where he had his mother to encounter, she to the
schoolroom, high up in the roof, which she had taken possession of to
sit and dream in. Girls seldom have their lesson so very plainly put
forth to them in words, but perhaps Innocent’s undeveloped mind required
it. “What you have to do is to please, not yourself, but me!” She
pondered the words, and got to the length of mastering their meaning
without any criticism. Such plainspeaking has in it a certain sublimity,
surmounting all secondary shades of meaning, and penetrating into the
simplest soul. She got it by heart, seated on her window-ledge, looking
out upon the little chapel, which once more had caught something of the
aspect of the church of the Spina. “Not yourself, but me; not yourself,
but me!” Thus Innocent got her first great lesson by heart.



I do not know if any prevision of the fate which was about to befall him
was in Frederick’s mind on that eventful night. He had a few words with
his mother, which were not altogether friendly, ere he went to dress,
for Mrs. Eastwood objected to the private walk and talk with Innocent,
which seemed to her to be done in defiance of her warning and request.

“Ask her what I said to her, if you don’t trust me,” Frederick had said
in high dudgeon, before he went to prepare himself for Mr. Batty’s
entertainment; and this encounter excited him, and gave him a perverse
inclination to enjoy himself with the host whom he felt would be so
highly disapproved of by his family. I don’t think he let his
imagination dwell at all on the fact that there was a third person to be
present, or that this was a woman and a “beauty.” The greatest beauty in
the world being Mr. Batty’s daughter could be of little importance to an
Eastwood. He went his way to Batty’s hotel with his head full of many
thoughts, but totally indifferent to this one. He thought it was
immensely impudent of the fellow to ask him, that it was rather hard
upon himself to be obliged to go, that it would be amusing to see how
fellows of that sort dined and conducted themselves generally, along
with a variety of other reflections equally superficial; but he never
thought of the Flower of Sterborne, nor of the special effect she might
be likely to produce on a young man suddenly presented to her. The hotel
was not one of those seeming humble and quiet establishments, where
princes and millionaires abound; it was more pretentious and less
expensive, but yet dear enough to frighten any moderate soul out of
London. Frederick was shown into a small dining-room, prepared for a
small party. He saw with some relief that there were but three places,
and took his seat very easily and without ceremony in front of the fire,
with the _Times_, which was lying on a table. He scarcely noticed the
door open; when it did open it would no doubt be Batty, who was not shy,
and would soon make his presence known. Frederick read on, without
looking behind him. Until he became suddenly aware of a rustling and
subdued movement, and a slight air moved his paper as if some one had
passed behind him. Startled by this, and somewhat ashamed of his own
easy indifference, he started suddenly to his feet, and turned round. He
never forgot all his life the sight that met his eyes. Standing behind
his chair was (he thought) the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
The arch look with which she had been contemplating his unconcern was
still in her face. She was tall, almost as tall as himself, and ample, a
fully-developed and splendid piece of flesh and blood, not so warm or so
full-blown as Rubens, but something approaching that school of art. She
was of the class of beauty which has come to be distinctive of the
present period, though I cannot tell why. Her hair, I need not say, was
golden; her complexion dazzling. She was like the sun, almost as
brilliant, in her mingling of tints, her snow-white, and rose-red, and
glittering glory of hair. The sight of her was too much for weak vision.
It dazzled and brought water to the eyes of the rash and feeble
beholder. If you could have calmly examined her features, without regard
to that soft glow and glory of colour, and texture, and roundness, and
life, it is possible that you might have found them to be not at all
perfect; but this not one spectator in a hundred had coolness enough to
do. Her eyes were hazel; they ought to have been blue, according to all
rules; but it seemed part of her character, and the wilfulness which was
its chief point, that she should have eyes, which, beautiful as they
were, did not quite “go with” her face. There are many kinds of hazel
eyes; it is the most changeful, the most capricious of colours. I have
seen it turn to gold in a certain pair of orbs I wot of, showing like
light itself in the light. I have seen it melt into the softest liquid
grey; but there is a kind of hazel eye, very bright, very splendid, in
which there is hung a subtle little danger-signal to all mankind. These
are the eyes that have a spark of red in them, flashing out now and
then from the warm, translucent brown, a spark which tells of temper, of
passion, of headstrong will, and impulse. ’Manda Batty had these eyes.
They were lamps of light, and it seemed to the looker-on, if any one
remarked it at all, that this fiery gleam was necessary to give them
character, and keep them from losing their due importance in the
brilliant and sweet glow of colour that surrounded them. This, if it
really was, as I think, an indication of danger, was the only one. At
this moment her face was full of suppressed laughter. She had a finger
lifted to her lip like a statue of Silence, but how unlike a statue of
Silence was she otherwise! or, indeed, a statue of anything; everything
about her was warm and soft, breathing a lavish life. When Frederick
turned round upon her so suddenly the laughter in her face burst forth.
Perhaps it was louder and more uncultivated than if she had been, as
people say, a lady. She threw herself down in a chair, and laughed till
the water sparkled on her pretty eyelashes, and she put her hands to her
waist with such a rendering of “Laughter holding both his sides” as
never entered into any painter’s imagination. “Oh,” she cried, “I shall
die of laughing; come and stop me, come, papa.”

It struck Frederick with a shock of surprise and pain when Mr. Batty
came in by another door, also inarticulate with laughter. The idea of
this wonderful creature being Batty’s daughter appalled and struck him
dumb. Not to say that he was very deeply embarrassed by the situation
altogether, by the laughter of the new-comer, and his own
semi-ridiculous attitude--her beauty had struck him at once with one of
those impressions which are not to be shaken off, which count, slight
and superficial as is often the instrument, among the great things of
life. Never before had Frederick been so profoundly moved. He did not
understand the effect, nor what it meant. He ceased to be himself for
the moment, and became the subject of a strange and subtle experiment,
which stamped her reflection upon him. No, he was not himself; he was a
mirror of her, a sensitive plate, upon which that sudden light had
painted her likeness. These may seem fantastic similes, but I know no
other that would convey what I mean. I suppose it was what we, with our
limited powers of expression, call love at first sight. It was certainly
adoration at first sight, which is a different thing.

“Well, Mr. Eastwood, here’s my wild girl making fun of us both,” said
Batty, “without even giving me a chance of introducing you. ’Manda, this
is Mr. Eastwood, as of course you have found out.”

“Don’t say Mr. Eastwood, papa.”

“No, you’re right. Mr. Frederick, that’s what I mean, and a deal nicer a
gentleman,” said the father. “You see, Mr. Frederick, ’Manda has been,
so to speak, brought up with nothing but Eastwoods. All the young ’uns,
from Sir Geoffrey downwards, rode into Sterborne on their ponies to have
their lessons with our old curate, and ’Manda being his prime
favourite, and partly brought up with him----”

“You don’t suppose, papa, that any one but ourselves cares for all these
details. Pray forgive me for laughing at you,” said Miss Amanda, turning
to Frederick, “you were so comfortable and so much at your ease reading
your _Times_. What can gentlemen find in the _Times_ always, morning,
noon, and night? Papa is never done with his paper; first there is one
thing, then another. I suppose you had been reading it all the morning,
Mr. Frederick Eastwood, and the first thing you do is to take it up

“I did not know there was any one observing me,” said Frederick,
standing confused and humble before her. He who was very lofty and
dignified to his mother and sister, was ready to be abject to Amanda. He
listened to her with absolute reverence, though all that she had to say
was commonplace enough. When he was placed beside her at dinner, and
found himself at liberty to look at her and listen to her undisturbed,
it seemed to Frederick that he had never been so blessed. He took in all
her chatter without losing a word. Miss Batty was in full dress. Those
were the days when English ladies were supposed always to appear with
bare shoulders in the evening, and her beautiful shoulders and arms were
bare. Her dress was blue, with a long train, which was considerably in
her way. If there was anything wanting in her it was this--she moved
about in a manner that did not suit the dignity of her beauty; her
movements were quick, jerky, and without grace; she bustled like a
notable housewife rather than a fine lady. Perhaps if her dress had not
been much too fine for the occasion this would have been less
remarkable, but as it was, Frederick’s dream was disturbed a little when
she jumped up to help herself. “Oh, I can’t sit and wait if I want a bit
of bread till the servant comes,” she cried. Frederick did not like the
words, nor the tone of them, but she was lovelier than ever when she
said them. Thus he did not lose his senses instantly, or suppose that
everything that fell from her lips was divine. But his admiration, or
adoration, mastered all his criticism and swept away his good sense.
What she said might be foolish or flippant, but how she said it was
heavenly. He could not take his eyes from her. He made what effort he
could to keep up the ordinary decorum, and look as if he were capable of
eating, and drinking, and talking, as he had been the day before, but
the effort was very little successful. Miss Amanda saw her victory, and
almost disdained it, it was so easy; and her father saw it, and was

“Now take me to the play,” she said, when dinner was over. “It isn’t
often I am in town, and I mean to enjoy myself. Oh, we may be late, but
it does not matter. If it is only for the after-piece I am determined to

“Was there ever so imperious a girl?” cried her father. “You ought to
remember, ’Manda, here is Mr. Eastwood. You can’t send away a gentleman
that has but just eaten his dinner.”

“He can come too,” said Amanda. “I like to have two gentlemen. There is
always plenty for two gentlemen to do. Won’t you come, Mr. Frederick
Eastwood? But anyhow I must go,” she continued, turning to her father,
who was almost as abject in his devotion as Frederick was. Had she been
anything short of perfection Frederick would have hesitated much before
he consented to show himself in public with Mr. Batty and his daughter;
indeed, the possibility of such a thing would have driven him frantic.
But now he had no such thoughts. If he hesitated it was but to calculate
what was going on in the theatrical world; what there was worthy to be
seen by her. He was not much of a theatre-goer, but he knew what was
being played, and where. He suggested one or two of what were supposed
to be the best plays; but she put him down quite calmly. She had already
decided that she was going to see one of the sensational pieces of the
day, a drama (I do not know it, I may be doing it injustice) the chief
point in which was the terrific situation of the hero or heroine, who
was bound down on the line of a railway when the train was coming. It
was this lofty representation which she had set her heart on seeing.
Frederick handed her into the cab which was immediately sent for. He sat
by her in it; he breathed in the atmosphere of “Ess. bouquet” which
surrounded her. Now and then he thought, with a glimmer of horror, of
meeting somebody whom he knew; but his mind was only at intervals
sufficiently free to harbour this thought. It was, however, with a
certain fright that he found himself in the stage-box, which it appeared
had been provided beforehand for Miss Amanda’s pleasure. “I prefer a
box,” she said to Frederick, “here one can be comfortable, and papa if
he likes can fall asleep in a comfortable chair; but I can’t understand
a lady making herself happy down there.” She pointed to the stalls,
where Frederick was too happy not to be. There was, of course, somebody
he knew in the second row, who found him out he feared in the dignity of
his box, where Miss Amanda had no idea of hiding herself. “She objected
to her gentlemen,” she said, “taking refuge behind a curtain,” and she
did no such injustice to her own beauty as to conceal it. She dropped
her cloak from her shoulders, and gave the house all the benefit; and
she kept calling Frederick’s attention to one thing and another,
insisting that he should crane his neck round the corner to look at this
or that. Her beauty and her dress and evident willingness to be admired
drew many eyes, and Frederick felt that he had a share in the _succès_
which he could very well have dispensed with. He had experienced a good
many adventures, but very few like this. He had always been very
respectable under the eyes of the world; to be sure, he was quite
respectable now; there was no fault to be found with the party--his
beautiful companion, indeed, was something quite new, and not very much
used to her present position; but there was nothing wrong in that.
Nevertheless Frederick felt that there was something to pay for the
strange confusion of blessedness in which he seemed to have lost
himself. He felt this by intervals, and he kept as much as he could
behind the curtains, behind _her_. She was perfectly willing to occupy
the centre of the box, to rain down influence, to be seen and admired.
“Mr. Eastwood, I wish you would not keep behind me. Do let people see
that I have some one to take care of me. Papa has gone to sleep, of
course,” said the beauty, and she turned round upon Frederick with such
a look that he remembered nothing any more but her loveliness, and the
delight of being near her. She chattered through all the play, and he
listened. She said a great deal that was silly, and some things that
were slightly vulgar, and he noted them, yet was not less subjugated by
a spell which was beyond resistance. I cannot be supposed to understand
this, nor to explain it. In such matters I can only record facts. He was
not under the delusion that she was a lofty, or noble, or refined being,
though she was Batty’s daughter. He presumed that she was Batty’s
daughter heart and soul; made of the same _pâte_, full of the same
thoughts. She was “not a lady,” beautiful, splendid, and well-dressed as
she was; the humble, little snub-nosed girl in the stalls below who
looked up at this vision of loveliness with a girl’s admiration had
something which all the wealth of the Indies could not have given to
Miss Amanda. And Frederick Eastwood saw this quite plainly, yet fell in
love, or in madness, exactly as if he had not seen it. The feeling, such
as it was, was too genuine to make him capable of many words; but he did
his best to amuse her, and he listened to all she said, which was a very
good way of pleasing this young woman.

“I hope you mean to stay in town for some time,” he said, in one of the
pauses of her abundant talk.

“Not very long,” said Miss ’Manda. “Papa likes to live well, and to do
things in the best sort of way; so he spends a deal of money, and that
can’t last long. Our hotel isn’t like Mivart’s, and that sort of thing:
but it is dreadfully dear. We spend as much as--oh, I couldn’t venture
to tell you how much we spend a day. Papa likes to have everything of
the best, and so do I.”

“And so you ought,” said Frederick, adoring. “Pardon me if I am saying
too much.”

“Oh, you are not saying very much, Mr. Eastwood. It is I that am
talking,” said Amanda, “and as for our staying long here, that does not
much matter, for papa wants you to come to Sterborne. He has been
talking of it ever since he came back from Paris. What did you do to him
to make him take such a fancy to you? We don’t think the other
Eastwoods behaved vary nicely to us, and ever since he met with you papa
has been telling me of all your good qualities. You have put a spell
upon him, I think.”

“He is very good, I am sure,” said Frederick, stiffening in spite of

“Oh, I know,” said Amanda, with a toss of her head. “We are not so fine
as you are, we don’t visit with county people, nor that sort of thing.
But we have plenty of people come to see us who are better off than the
Eastwoods, and better blood, too, so you need not be afraid. Papa has
dealings with the very best. We don’t like to be slighted,” said the
beauty, with a gleam of that red light from her beautiful eyes; “and
when people put on airs, like your cousin has done, it sets papa’s back
up. That was why we went against Sir Geoffrey at the election. But I
hope you will come, Mr. Eastwood; papa took such a fancy to you.”

“I have just been away from the office for a month. I fear I shall not
have leisure again for some time,” said Frederick, feeling that an
invitation from Batty was to be resisted, even when conveyed by such
lovely lips.

“How hideous it must be not to be one’s own master; to have to ask for
‘leave’ like a servant,” cried ’Manda with a laugh; which speech set all
Frederick’s nerves ajar, and almost released him from the syren. He
withdrew into the shade of the curtains, and drew to him all the succour
of his pride.

“Yes, it is a pitiful position,” he said, with an angry laugh; “but I
may comfort myself that a great many people share it with me. Do you
know I am afraid I must leave you. This performance is endless, and
rather dull.”

“Upon my word!” cried Miss Batty, “you are free-spoken, Mr. Frederick.
To tell a lady you are dull when she is doing her best to amuse you!”

“Pardon me, I spoke of the performance.”

“Oh, I don’t care much for the performance,” said Amanda, with a beaming
smile. “I like the lights and the music, and the feeling of being out in
the world. But you wouldn’t go off, and leave me--with papa asleep, and
no one to talk to?”

“I have an engagement--at my club.”

“Oh, if you wish to go away, Mr. Eastwood----” The beauty turned away
pouting, turning her lovely shoulders upon him, and tossing her
beautiful head. Frederick had risen partly in the liveliness of personal
offence, partly with an impulse of prudence, to escape while he might.
But his heart failed him when he saw the averted head, the resentful
movement. Batty dozed peacefully in his chair, interfering with no one.
And something tugged at the unfortunate young man, who stood undecided
whether to fly or to stay. To leave a lovely creature like this, the
most beautiful woman he had ever seen, alone, without any one to amuse
her: to leave the place vacant which a hundred no doubt would give
their ears for! What harm could it do him to stay? It was pleasant to
spend an hour or two by the side of anything so pretty. Come of it--what
could come of it? It was an accidental delight entirely, without
connexion with the rest of his life; an isolated event, without either
origin or issue. Why should not he like others enjoy himself for the
moment? While he was thus hesitating Amanda turned her head round with a
sudden provoking glance. “Oh, have you not gone yet?” she asked.
Frederick felt, as it were, on his knees before her.

“Must I go? have I proved so unworthy of my privilege?” he cried humbly,
taking his seat with deprecating looks. Miss Batty did not wish him to
go, and said so freely, with unflattering plainness of speech.

“I should be left to listen to papa’s snores, which I can hear at home,”
she said. “I always prefer some one to talk to. I daresay, however, I
should not have been left long by myself, for there is Lord Hunterston
down below in those horrid stalls looking up. He is trying to catch my
eye. No; I don’t care to have too many. I shan’t see him as long as you

“Then I shall stay for ever,” said Frederick, inspired by that touch of
rivalship. Lord Hunterston, however, did manage to find his way up to
the box, whether by Miss ’Manda’s permission or not, and Frederick grew
stiff and resentful while the other foolish youth paid his homage. Lord
Hunterston pricked him into double eagerness, and sent all the
suggestions of prudence to the winds. Amanda proved herself thoroughly
equal to the occasion. She kept the two young men in hand with perfect
skill, though she allowed herself to be slightly insolent to Frederick,
referring again to the “leave” without which he could not budge. This
time, however, the reference did not make him angry, but only impressed
him with the fact that his admiration was nothing to her, and that every
step of vantage-ground would have to be fought for, and held with the
exercise of all his powers. He felt himself pitted against not Lord
Hunterston only, but all the world. It seemed impossible to imagine that
this syren, who had conquered himself by a glance, should not attract
everybody that had the happiness of approaching her. Terror, jealousy,
and pride, all came in to aid the strongest passion of all, which had
already taken possession of him--terror of losing her, jealousy of
everybody who looked at her, and all the _amour propre_ and
determination to elevate himself over the heads of his rivals that could
lend warmth to a young man’s determination. No prize is fully estimated
until the sense that it will be hotly contested bursts upon the
competitor’s mind. Frederick grew half wild when the time came for him
to leave the theatre. He secured her arm to lead her down-stairs, but
only by dint of having all his wits about him, and taking his rival
unawares. And then he was dismissed at the cab door, with all his nerves
tingling, his heart beating, his whole frame in a ferment. He walked
home all the way, following the path which her vehicle, so ignoble, and
unfit for her to enter, must have taken; he passed under the windows he
supposed to be hers. In short, he did everything that a foolish young
man, mad with sudden excitement, and what is called passion, is expected
to do, and worked himself into a higher and higher strain of excitement,
as with his head full of thoughts of her he made his way home, longing
impatiently for the morning, when he might see her again.



The story of such sudden passions as this, which had come upon Frederick
Eastwood, are common enough and well known. Love is a subject which
concerns and interests the whole world, and though there is not much
that is novel to be said about it, it is the event or accident in life
of which the gentle reader never tires. Let not that kind listener be
shocked if I call it an accident. Sometimes it is the influence which
shapes our lives, but sometimes, also, it is so slight an episode that
we are disposed to smile or to sneer at the prevailing human prejudice
which makes it the chief centre of existence in all song and story. A
pure and genuine love, however, has something of attraction in it for
every creature. It recalls the most delicious moments of life, those in
which the dream of perfect happiness, never to be fully realized, is
forming in the youthful imagination, and all heaven and earth thrills
and quickens with visionary hopes and aspirations; or it suggests, more
sweetly and more vaguely even than those dreams themselves, the visions
that are to come. The ignoble love which it is my evil fortune to have
now in hand, would, no doubt, could I enter into it, recall its own
ignoble yet exciting memories to the minds which are capable of such
feelings. Frederick Eastwood scarcely slept all night, and when he did
drop into a feverish doze, the image of Miss ’Manda, her golden hair
dropping warm and bright upon her beautiful shoulders, the soft
rose-white of her hand supporting the milky rose of her cheek, the
curves of her face, the splendour and glow of beauty about her, haunted
his dreams. Better visions, I hope, haunt the pillows of most lovers,
but this was how Frederick loved, or rather how he fell into passion and
frenzy, suddenly, without warning or thought, over the attractions of
Mr. Batty’s daughter, whom the day before he would have thought quite
beneath his lightest thought. Thus Love, even when of the least worthy
kind, laughs at prejudice and class distinctions, and at all those
conventional restraints which are stronger than the suggestions of
wisdom. I do not think that any generous or exalted emotion would have
led Frederick Eastwood to commit himself, to depart from what he thought
becoming to his own elevated position and character; and this being the
case, there may be a certain human satisfaction in the thought that
something does exist which is capable of plucking the intellectualist
from his eminence, and the man of social pretence from his position, as
well as the prince from his throne. Love, that conquers all things,
conquers in this way even the predominant influence of self. Frederick
for once was superior to that determined adherence to his own will and
pleasure which had accompanied him through his whole life. His first
thought in the morning was for her. He got up earlier than usual, though
he had been late on the previous night. He had no wish to sleep; it was
sweeter to wander about the garden in the morning sunshine and think of
her, which was a proceeding which filled the family with consternation.
When he was discovered at the breakfast-table making himself very
pleasant and friendly, the surprise of Nelly and Dick came to a height.
As for Mrs. Eastwood, she had a mother’s natural certainty that her
son’s manners were always agreeable, except when something had disturbed
him. Nothing, it was evident, had disturbed him this morning, and he
could show himself in his true colours. He was very communicative and
conciliatory, and told them how he had been persuaded to accompany some
people whom he met to the play, and that the piece was very stupid, like
so many pieces now-a-days.

“That’s all very well for you who were there,” said Dick; “I should like
to find out for myself. All pieces are stupid to a fellow that can see
them whenever he likes.”

“You might have had my share and welcome, old fellow,” said Frederick,
with undiminished amiability. “I didn’t pay much attention, to tell the
truth. There was the loveliest girl in the box--a Miss Batty. Her father
is a--country doctor, I think; but such a beautiful creature!”

I don’t know what tempted him to make this confidence; probably the
desire to be talking of her. And then he described her, which raised a
discussion round the table.

“I am sick of golden hair,” said Dick, who was moved by a spirit of
contradiction. “There are so many of ’em in novels, great, sleek,
indolent, cat-like----”

“And rather improper,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “doing things that one cannot
approve of girls doing. In my day what you call golden hair was known as
red. Raven locks were the right thing for a heroine, very smooth and

“Well plastered down with pomade, and not safe to touch,” said Nelly,
shaking her own brown locks. “But I agree with you, Frederick, there is
no hair so lovely as golden hair. Is your beauty going to stay long in
town? Do we know any one who knows her? Has she come for the season?”

“They are staying at an hotel,” said Frederick, very seriously. “I met
the father in Paris, quite by chance, when I was getting better. That is
how I came to know them. They are not quite in your set, I suppose. But
she is simply the most radiant, dazzling creature----”

“All red and white and green and blue,” said the irrepressible Dick,
“with her hair growing down to her eyes--oh, I know! seven feet high,
and weighing twelve stone.”

“Yes, that is odd too,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “people like that kind of
huge woman. In my days, now, a light, elastic figure----”

“They all died of consumption,” said Nelly. She was herself exactly the
kind of being whom her mother described; but she took up the cause of
the other with natural perverseness. A curious sense of possible help
gleamed across Frederick’s mind as he listened. He would not allow
himself to realize under what possible circumstances Nelly’s
championship might be useful to him; but his mind jumped at the thought,
with a sudden perception of possibilities which he by no means wished to
follow out at once to their full length and breadth. When he went to the
office he congratulated himself secretly on his skill in having thus
introduced the subject so as to awaken no suspicion--and he went into
the conservatory, and cut a lovely little white camellia bud, which
Nelly had been saving up for quite another button-hole. It was just
after the exciting moment of Nelly’s betrothal, and the house was full
of a certain suggestion of love-making, which, perhaps, helped to
stimulate Frederick’s thoughts; but his blaze of sudden passion was very
different from the sentiments of the others. He went to the office
first, feeling it too early to be admitted to Amanda’s beautiful
presence. Happily, there was not very much to do at the Sealing Wax
Office. He spent an hour or two there, in a feverish flutter, disturbing
the others (who, fortunately, were not very hard at work), and throwing
all his own occupations into confusion. At twelve he went out, and made
his way to the hotel. He found Batty there, but not his daughter.

“‘Manda? Oh, she’s all right,” said the father; “but the laziest girl in
Christendom. Pretty women are all lazy. _I_ haven’t seen her yet, and
don’t expect to for an hour or more. Have a glass of something,
Eastwood, to fill up the time?”

Frederick winced at this free-and-easy address, and hastened to explain
that he was on his way to keep a pressing engagement, and would return
in the afternoon, to pay his respects to Miss Batty. At three o’clock he
went back, and found her indeed; but found also Lord Hunterston and
another visitor, with whom Miss Amanda kept up a very lively
conversation. Batty himself filled up the centre of the scene, and made
a variety with talk of horses and feats in the hunting field. Frederick
was left in the background, to his intense misery. He heard one of the
other visitors asked in easy terms to dinner that evening, with again
the thrilling prospect of the play after it. He himself, it would seem,
had had his day. The only crumb of comfort he procured from the visit
was the name of the theatre they were going to. He rushed to Covent
Garden after this, poor wretch, and bought the costliest bouquet he
could find and sent it to her. Then he dined, miserable and solitary, at
his club, speaking no word to any man, and went afterwards to the
blessed theatre in which she was to exhibit her beauty to the world. He
saw her from the first moment of her arrival, and watched with horrible
sensations from his stall the comfortable arrangement of Lord Hunterston
in his corner beside her, and the large figure of the father behind
dropping into a gentle doze. He sat and gazed at them in tortures of
adoration and jealousy, wondering if she was saying the same things to
his successor as she had said to him; wondering if Hunterston, too, was
being invited to Sterborne, and ridiculed about the necessity of getting
“leave”--for, Frederick reflected with some satisfaction, “leave” was
necessary also to that distinguished guardsman. As soon as it was
practicable he made his way up to the box; but gained little by it,
since Mr. Batty insisted upon waking up, and entertaining him, which he
did chiefly by chuckling references to their previous meeting in Paris,
and the amusements of that gay place. Frederick went home half wild to
the calm house where his mother and sister were sleeping quietly; and
where poor little Innocent alone heard his step coming up-stairs, and
longed to get up and say good-night to him, though he had “scolded” her.
Had she known it, Innocent was deeply avenged. Amanda Batty had not
spared the rash adorer. She had “made fun” of him in a hundred refined
and elegant ways, joking about his gravity and serious looks, about his
fondness for the theatre, and his kindness in coming to speak to
herself. “When I am sure you might have gone behind the scenes if you
liked,” she said, with a laugh that showed all her pearly teeth. “You,
who know so much about the theatres: how I should like to go behind the

Frederick, who had made so many sacrifices to appearances, and who was
distinguished in society for the stateliness of his demeanour, would
have been infinitely insulted had any one else said this--all the more
insulted for his own consciousness of those moments of aberration in
which he had been behind a great many scenes--- though never, so far as
he was aware, where he could be found out. But a man in love is
compelled, when the lady of his affections is like Miss Amanda, to put
up with insults, and does so in scores of cases with a meekness which is
nowhere apparent in his domestic character. Frederick felt himself
punctured by shafts of ridicule not too finely pointed. He was laughed
at, he was rallied, jokes were made upon him. He was even treated with
absolute rudeness, Amanda turning her beautiful shoulders upon him, and
addressing Lord Hunterston, in the very midst of something Frederick was
saying to her. A thrill of momentary fury went through him, but next
moment he was abject in his endeavours to get a glance from her--a word
of reply.

“Don’t you mind her--it’s ’Manda’s way,” said Batty, laughing as he saw
the gloom on Frederick’s face. “The more insulting she is one evening,
the nicer she’ll be the next. Don’t you pay any attention: it’s his turn
to-night, and yours to-morrow. Don’t take it too serious, Eastwood; if
you’ll be guided by me----”

“I fear I don’t quite understand you, Mr. Batty,” said poor Frederick,
writhing in impotent pride at the liberties taken with him. Upon which
Batty laughed again, more insolently good-humoured than ever.

“As you like--as you like,” he said; “you are more likely to want me, I
can tell you, than I am to want you.”

Frederick answered nothing: his mind was torn in pieces. Could he have
had strength to go away, to break those fatal chains which in a day--in
a moment--had been thrown over him, he would have done it. A sudden
impulse to fly came over him; but a hundred past yieldings to temptation
had sapped the strength of his nature, and taken away from him all power
to make such a strenuous resistance to his own wishes. The self-willed,
proud young man put down his head and licked the dust before the coarse
beauty who had stolen away his wits, and the coarse man whose
familiarity was so odious to him. He turned from the father, and
addressed himself with eager adoration to the daughter; and, perhaps
because Amanda was a thorough coquette, and enjoyed her own cleverness
in pitting one admirer against another--perhaps because the misery and
earnestness in the eyes of her new slave softened her, she was friendly
to him for the rest of the evening, and wrapped his foolish soul in
happiness. Before they parted he was made happy by another invitation.
They were but to be two nights more in town, and one of these evenings
Frederick was to spend with them.

“Be sure and find out for me the very nicest thing that is to be played
in London,” she said, turning round to him as she left the theatre,
though the rival had her hand on his arm. The sweetness of this
preference, the sign she made to him as the carriage drove away,
contented, and more than contented, Frederick. He went home happy; he
got through--he did not know how--the intervening time. Next afternoon
he went to call on her, at one moment gaining a few words, which made
him blessed, at another turning away with his pride lacerated and his
heart bleeding. The succession of ups and downs was enough to have
given variety to months of ordinary love-making. Frederick was tossed
from delight to despair, and back again. He was jibed at, flattered,
made use of, tormented, and consoled. Had he been a man of finer mind,
he might possibly have been disgusted; but it is astonishing what even
men of the finest minds will submit to under the force of such an
imperious passion. They console themselves by the conclusion that all
women are the same, and that theirs is the common fate. If Frederick had
any time to think in the hurry of emotion and excitement which swept him
as into the vortex of a whirlpool, he excused Miss ’Manda’s cruelties
and caprices by this explanation. All women who possessed, as she did,
those glorious gifts of beauty--all the Cleopatras of existence--were
like her; they had to be worshipped blindly, not considered as
reasonable creatures. Reason! what had reason to do with those
shoulders, those cheeks, those eyes?

The evening came at last--the evening of rapture and misery which he was
to spend by her side, but which was to be the last. He counted how many
hours it could be lengthened out to, and gave himself up to the
enjoyment, not daring to forecast to himself what he might say or do
before that cycle of happiness was ended. He dressed himself with so
much care that Mrs. Eastwood, who had never forgotten that enthusiastic
description of Miss Batty, felt an uneasiness for which she could give
no very distinct reason. This time the roses in the conservatory were
not enough for Frederick. He had brought one from Covent Garden,
carefully wrapped up in cotton wool; and he spoiled half-a-dozen ties
before he could tie one to his satisfaction. His mother peeped at him
from the door of her room as he went down-stairs. In consequence of
their play-going propensities, the Battys had to dine early. It was but
half-past six when Frederick left The Elms in his hansom, which he had
taken the trouble to order beforehand. Mrs. Eastwood opened her window,
with a faint hope that perhaps the wind might convey his instructions to
the driver to her anxious ear. She withdrew blushing, poor soul, when
this attempt proved unsuccessful. It was almost dishonourable--like
listening at a door. When one does not succeed in a little wile of this
description, one realizes how ignoble was the attempt.

“Of course, if I had asked him where he was going, he would have told
me,” she said to herself.

But the truth was that Frederick had so often returned disagreeable
answers to such questions, and had made so many remarks upon the
curiosity of women, &c., that the household had ceased to inquire into
his movements. He was the only one of the family whose comings and
goings were not open as daylight to whomsoever cared to see.

His heart beat higher and higher as he threaded the streets and
approached the second-rate London inn which was to him the centre of the
world. When he was shown into the room, however, in which dinner was
prepared as usual, he went in upon a scene for which he was totally
unprepared. Seated by the fire, which had suddenly become unnecessary by
a change in the weather, and which made the little room very stuffy and
hot, was Amanda, wrapped in a great shawl. Her usual sublime evening
toilette had been exchanged for a white dressing-gown, all frills and
bows of ribbon. High up on her cheeks, just under her eyes, were two
blazing spots of pink. Her face, except for these, was pale and drawn.
The sound of her voice, fretful and impatient, was the first thing
Frederick heard. By her sat a middle-aged woman in an elaborate cap with
flowers. There was a medicine bottle on the mantelpiece. Frederick
rushed forward, in wonder and dismay.

“Miss Batty--Good God, you are ill----!”

“You may see that, I think, without asking,” said Amanda; “when one is
well one does not show like this, I hope. The last night, too--the last
time for ages I shall have the least chance of enjoying myself, or
having a little fun. Oh, it is too shocking! When one is at home, with
nothing going on, one does not mind; it is always something to occupy
one. Oh, go away please. Dine somewhere with papa. He is waiting for you
outside; never mind me. Oh, aunty, can’t you be still--rustling and
rustling for ever and ever, and setting all my nerves on edge.”

A sudden blackness came over Frederick’s soul. “Dine somewhere with
papa.” Good heavens! was that the entertainment offered to him after all
his hopes? He stood transfixed as it were, immovable in a blank and
horrible pause of disappointment. The close room and the sudden
revulsion of feeling made him sick and faint. His perfect and faultless
costume, the delicate rosebud in his coat, his tie which it had taken
him so much trouble to bring to perfection, his boots upon which he had
been so careful not to have a speck--all struck Amanda with relenting as
she looked at him, and finally roused her a little out of her absorption
in her own troubles. He looked such a gentleman! Miss Batty belonged to
that class which is given to describe its heroes as “looking like
gentlemen,” with often an uneasy sense that the looks are the only
things gentlemanlike about them. Frederick impressed her profoundly and
suddenly by this means. She relented as she looked at him.

“Dinner was laid here,” she said, “as you see--but I don’t think I could
stand it,--and then when one is not dressed or anything--it would not be
nice for you----”

“It is perfectly nice for me,” said Frederick, coming to life again--“a
thousand times more nice than anything else. Your dress is always
perfect, whatever it may be. Let me stay! What do I care for dining or
anything else? Let me be with you. Let me read to you. Don’t send me
into outer darkness----”

“Oh, how you do talk, Mr. Eastwood,” said Amanda, though with a smile.
“No, of course you must dine. We must all dine. No, now go away. I could
not have it. Let some one call papa, and you can go with him----” she
paused for a moment, enjoying the blank misery that once more fell upon
Frederick’s face; then added suddenly,--“On second thoughts, after all,
it might amuse me. Aunty, ring the bell. If you are sure you don’t mind
my dressing gown--and the room being so warm--and aunty being here,--and
the medicine bottle, and the big fire,--well, perhaps,” she said,
pausing to laugh in a breathless way,--“you may stay.”

If the Queen had created him Earl of Eastwood with corresponding
revenues, it would have been nothing to the bliss of this moment. He
drew a footstool to her feet and sat down on it, half kneeling, and made
his inquiries.--What was it? How was it? was she suffering? did she feel
ill? had she a doctor, the best doctor that London could produce,
Jenner, Gull, somebody that could be trusted? Amanda informed him that
it was heart disease from which she was suffering, an intimation which
she made not without complacency, but which Frederick felt to pierce him
like a horrible, sudden arrow--and that “Aunty” here present, whom she
introduced with a careless wave of her hand, knew exactly what to do.

“It is dreadful, isn’t it, to think I might die any moment?” she said
with a smile.

“Good God!” Frederick said, with unaffected horror, “it cannot be true!”
and he sat, stricken dumb, gazing at her, the tears forcing themselves
to his eyes. Mr. Batty entered at this moment, and the man, who was
human and a father, was touched by this evidence of emotion. He wrung
Frederick’s hand and whispered him aside.

“It ain’t as bad as it seems,” he said. “We daren’t cross her. If she
wanted the moon I’d have to tell her we’d get it somehow. We’ve known
for years that she wasn’t to be crossed; but barring that, I hope all’s
pretty safe. It’s bad for her temper, poor girl, but I’m not afraid of
her life.”

Frederick spent such an evening as he had never spent in his life. He
sat at Amanda’s feet and read to her, and talked to her, and listened to
her chatter, which was soft and subdued, for she was languid after her
spasms. Mr. Batty sat by most part of the evening admiring, and so did
the person called Aunty, who kept in constant attendance. Frederick
could not throw himself at Miss ’Manda’s feet according to conventional
form; he could not declare his love and entreat her to marry him, as he
was burning to do, for he was not permitted a minute alone with her. But
short of that, he said everything that a man in love could do. He told
his adoration by a hundred signs and inferences. And he went home in
such a whirl of sentiment and emotion as I cannot attempt to describe.
His love was frantic, yet so tinged and imbued with a sense of the
virtuous and domestic character of this evening of complete happiness,
that he felt as good as he was blessed. She was going away; that was the
only drawback to his rapture; and even that impressed a certain intense
and ecstatic character upon it, as of a flower snatched from the edge of
a precipice of despair.



While this wild love-fever of Frederick’s had run its course, Nelly’s
little drama had also enacted itself, and the interview between Mrs.
Eastwood and Mr. Molyneux, Q.C., had taken place, so that the moment had
been an exciting one in the family story. The young people were absorbed
in their different adventures, and it was only the mother who felt, even
though she did not know, all that was going on, on either hand. She did
not know what it was which had moved Frederick so much out of his usual
composure, which had made him “engaged” and inaccessible to all family
invitations or arrangements during one entire week. He had never
mentioned Miss Batty or her beauty again, but he had been engaged every
evening, going out early and staying late, and making no allusion to
where he had been. Indeed during that period he had scarcely seen any of
the family, except his mother herself, who had waited to pour out his
coffee for him at breakfast, and who saw by his hurried manner and
self-absorbed looks that something more than ordinary must be going on.
But he had offered no confidences, and Mrs. Eastwood had not gone so far
as to ask for any, partly from pride, and partly from a compassionate
unwillingness to disturb him any more than he was already disturbed. The
time when she could inquire into his troubles and set them right was
over. But she was uneasy about him, not knowing what to think, anxious
and unhappy; and she was still more distinctly disturbed about the
Molyneux business, and the engagements which she might be forced into,
against her will and her judgment, on Nelly’s account. The shadow which
thus had come upon her overshadowed the whole house, as I have already
said. It irritated Ernest Molyneux, and it made Nelly unhappy. Nelly,
poor child, had never known what it was to have any cross influences in
her life before. She had never been pulled two ways, never divided in
her affections or her allegiance. Few people appreciate the difference
this makes in a girl’s life. She is taken suddenly in the midst of an
existence which is all tender, filial duty, or that sweet counterfeit of
filial duty which animates the child’s mind who has a large part in
deciding the will of the parent who guides her, and is unconsciously the
inspiration of the very laws she obeys. This had been Nelly’s case. She
and her mother had been as one soul--the one ruling, the other obeying,
but neither able to discriminate from which came the original impulse;
and now she felt herself suddenly placed in a position, if not of
antagonism to her mother, yet at least of tenderest sympathy and union
with one who declared himself so far her mother’s antagonist. This
curious turn and twist of circumstances made the girl giddy,--it gave an
uncertainty to all things, it confused her old ideas, the ideas which
she had held as unchangeable till the day before yesterday, when they
were suddenly undermined, and all her old gods made to totter in their

“Your mother does not like me,” Molyneux said to her one day, when Mrs.
Eastwood, disturbed and worried by a communication from his father, had
been cold and distant to him. “It is always the way. She was nice enough
as long as I was only a young fellow dangling about the house; but as
soon as everything is settled, and you are ready to have me, Nelly, she
turns off at a tangent. Clearly, your mother does not like me----”

“How can you say so?” cried Nelly. “Oh, Ernest, as if it were

“Quite possible,--indeed, quite common,” he said, shaking his head. “You
don’t know the world, darling, and I don’t wish you to; but when people
have to make sacrifices to establish their children, they don’t like it.
Nobody likes to have a sacrifice to make. I suppose I thought your
mother different, because she was your mother; but human nature is the
same everywhere,--though you, Nelly, Heaven be praised, have no
knowledge of the world----”

“Is it mamma you mean by the world?” said Nelly, disengaging herself
almost unconsciously from her lover’s arm.

“Don’t be vexed dear. Mothers are just like other people. When our
interests come to be in opposition to those of our nearest and

“How can mamma’s interests be in opposition to ours?” said Nelly, with
open eyes.

“Well, I suppose our parents have got to provide for us,” said Molyneux.
“They have got to part with so much, on one side and the other, to set
us up--and they don’t like it--naturally. When it comes to be our turn
we shall not like it either. There is always a struggle going on, though
your dear, innocent eyes don’t see it; we trying to get as much as we
can, they to give us as little as they can;--that is what makes your
mother look so glum at me.”

“We trying to get as much as we can,--they to give us as little as they
can?” repeated Nelly, with a dreamy wonder in her tone. She dwelt on the
words as if she were counting them, like beads. She had withdrawn,
quite involuntarily and unawares, from his side.

“I don’t want to vex you about it,” he said, drawing closer to her. “It
can’t be helped, and after it is settled, things will come right again.
You don’t know anything about business, and I don’t want you to know
about it----”

“I know all about mamma’s business,” said Nelly. She withdrew again with
a little impatience from his close approach. She fell amusing and
thinking, and made some excuse, soon after, to get away from him. She
was startled beyond measure in the straight-forwardness of a soul
unacquainted with business. Very strange to her was this unexpected
distinction and separation. Was it really possible that her mother’s
interests were opposite to her own, for the first time in her life? “We
trying to get as much as we can,--they to give us as little as they
can,” she said to herself, in the solitude of her room, putting the
fingers of one hand against those of the other, as if to count the
words. Nelly was bewildered,--her head was dizzy through this strange
whirlabout of heaven and earth,--the firm ground seemed failing beneath
her feet.

It was about this time that another person appeared on the family scene,
a man about whom none of the Eastwoods felt any particular interest, or
rather, against whom they had all a decided prejudice. This was John
Vane, a distant cousin of Innocent’s father, a squire in the north
country, with considerable, but poor estates, who had lived a wandering
life for some years, and who was considered by all who knew him
“eccentric,” to say the least. His true name was Reginald or Roland, or
something of a sentimental and ornamental description represented by the
letter R; but Society, which has a way of identifying character by this
simple means, called him John. He was a man of three or four and thirty,
with a brown complexion tanned by much exposure to wind and weather, and
a golden brown beard, which was the chief feature about him to a
stranger. His hair had worn off his temples, and he had a threatening of
baldness, as if the forest on his chin had drawn all his locks
downwards. His forehead was clear and open and white, in contrast with
the tanned and much-lined surface of the more exposed parts of his face.
He was by no means the nearest or even a near relation of Innocent, but
he had lost no time in seeking her out. He arrived on the very day when
this first touch of doubt and pain came into Nelly’s belief in her
lover; and it was by no means a happy household in which the new comer
appeared one bright spring morning shortly after the events we have been
telling. His mission was to ask what had become of his cousin’s child,
to ascertain in the most delicate way possible what was her position in
her aunt’s house, and to offer her, should that prove necessary, a
refuge in his own. He made this offer with so much grace and natural
kindness that Mrs. Eastwood’s prejudices against him fled like the
morning dew. She was prejudiced against everything (except poor
Innocent) that bore the name of Vane, and against this John Vane in
particular, whose father had been a man of very unsettled opinions, and
who was understood to have been badly brought up. Innocent, too, poor
child, had been very badly brought up, and Mrs. Eastwood shuddered at
the idea of what might follow if the one uninstructed nature was put
into the hands of the other. But Mr. John Vane had that sure passport to
a woman’s favour--a frank and open countenance, and a pair of smiling
eyes which met your gaze frankly. He made so pleasant an impression that
Mrs. Eastwood ended by inviting him to a very solemn dinner party which
was to take place at her house that evening--a dinner at which “the
Molyneuxes” were to be present, though the negotiations between Ernest’s
side and Nelly’s side were yet far from being completed. Major Railton,
who had been one of the invited guests, had felt his courage fail him at
the last moment, and had sent an excuse on account of his health. “Mr.
Vane is a kind of a connexion,” Mrs. Eastwood said, doubtfully, when she
explained the change to her son. Frederick, who was full of other
thoughts, made no objection, and Mr. Vane, who was not less pleased with
his new acquaintances than they were with him, accepted frankly. This
dinner-party was a very great event in the family; and though
dinner-parties are not generally exciting occurrences, I may perhaps be
pardoned, for the sake of the issues, if I dwell upon it a little. The
chief guests were the Molyneuxes--Mr. and Mrs. and Miss, the latter of
whom we may drop out of the present history, having already enough
people on our hands. They were both of opinion that Mrs. Eastwood had
“kept her eye upon” Ernest for years, and that Nelly had made “a dead
set” at him; and they were accordingly dignified and a little
condescending in their cordiality. Mr. and Mrs. Brotherton also formed
part of the company, along with two other of Mrs. Eastwood’s
advisers--Mr. Parchemin and Mrs. Everard; and the party was made up to
the number of sixteen (which was all that could be comfortably
accommodated at the Elms dinner table) by the presence of Sir Alexis
Longueville and his sister. In opposition to the selection of this
guest, Nelly had put forth the moral objections to him which her lover
had on a certain evening pressed so warmly upon her, but had found, to
her great amazement, that Ernest laughed at the whole matter, and
declared Longueville one of the best fellows going; while Mrs. Eastwood
silenced her with some indignation, declaring that she had known him for
twenty years, and would not have any old scandals raked up. Poor Nelly,
who knew nothing about the old scandals, but who felt the whole
responsibility thrown upon her, withdrew, hot with angry blushes, from
the discussion, feeling as if she had shown a shameful knowledge of the
evil reports of the past, which the poor child was, in fact, as ignorant
of as a baby. “We must forgive and forget,” even Ernest said to her.
“Don’t be such a terrible moralist, Nelly.” This, too, wounded poor
Nelly, in the ignorance and innocence of her youth.

The dinner went off as such dinners do everywhere. There was a great
display of all the Eastwood plate, and the meal itself lasted two hours
and a half, and included everything that was out of season, and all that
was most costly in the way of eating and drinking. Mrs. Eastwood, at the
head of her own table, with Sir Alexis on one side of her and Mr.
Molyneux on the other, tried her very best to feel no sort of opposition
to the latter, and to look as if nothing but family love and union was
symbolized by their meeting. Frederick, at the other end, with his head
full of Amanda Batty, endeavoured to give his best attention to the
gorgeous Mrs. Barclay and the dignified Mrs. Molyneux. He had his
Charles the First look upon him, and he was not judged severely by these
ladies, who thought him superior to the rest of the family, and very
probably worried by his mother, whom Mrs. Molyneux considered a scheming
and worldly person. The other members of the party had, no doubt, their
own cares; but their cares do not concern us greatly, except in so far
as Nelly was concerned, whose poor little heart was wounded and her mind
confused, and who, in her position of _fiancée_, felt this sort of
formal reception of her by her lover’s parents to suggest all kinds of
strange doubts and miseries, and to throw uncertainty instead of
security upon the bond which had been tied so tightly, yet so happily,
in the cold, half-frozen garden but a little while before. No doubt that
she loved Ernest Molyneux, or that his love made her perfectly happy,
had crossed her mind then. She had been as full of gentle bliss as a
girl could be, when she had stolen in with him into the drawing-room in
the firelight, frightened lest any one should see how he held her hand,
and yet unable to conceive how anything or any one in the world could be
ignorant of the new great flood of light and joy which had flooded earth
and heaven. In that beatific moment, however, no idea of settlements or
negotiations, or the suggestion that Ernest might have done better, or
that it was his business and hers to try to get as much as they could,
had entered into her mind. There are well-seasoned and justly-regulated
minds, even of twenty, which understand all these accessories as well as
the oldest of us, and have no nonsense about them, and are robust enough
to enter into the whole question “as a matter of business.” But Nelly
was not one of these. She had a great deal of nonsense about her. She
was shocked, chilled, brought to a stand suddenly, in the first outset
of her independent career. Her love seemed to have ceased to be real,
now that it was being talked about and struggled over, and Ernest,
Ernest himself----. She would not say, even in the depths of her own
heart, any more than this; but her poor little heart gave an
inarticulate cry when he opened up his philosophy to her with so much
confidence, and congratulated himself that she knew nothing of
business. Nelly did not know whether, perhaps, among the strange
confusions of this world, he might not be right. She saw no way out of
the maze. She did not know how she herself, if left to herself, could
have bettered it; but her instinctive sense of what was noble and
ignoble, lovely and unlovely, was deeply wounded. She was put out of
harmony with herself and every one. If life was so--if such gulfs were
ready to open under your feet at your very first step in it, was it
worth living? Such was the painful question, not yet put into words,
that breathed through poor Nelly’s heart.

Mr. John Vane was on one side of her, and Ernest on the other; but Mrs.
Everard, who was a great conversationalist, had taken possession of
young Molyneux, and was putting him through a catechism. Nelly did not
feel herself capable of talk, but the kind looks of her next neighbour
were comforting, and he was touched by her downcast, yet bright, face.

“Miss Eastwood,” he said, “may I guess at something? I am a stranger,
but I am a connexion. You know your mother admitted my claims. This is a
solemn family assembly to celebrate something that is to make your
happiness. Have I guessed rightly; and will you forgive me, and let me
make my congratulations too?”

Nelly looked up, blushing and bright and sorry, and very much tempted to
cry. “Oh, Mr. Vane, I can’t bear it,” she said.

“What, not the happiness? I could bear a great deal of it if it ever
came my way.”

“Has it never come your way?” said Nelly, looking at him wistfully. “But
I did not mean--the happiness. I have always been very happy. It is the
family assembly, and the talk, and the congratulations. If you don’t
know, you can’t think how they hurt, how they----”

“Take the bloom off?”

“I suppose that is it,” said Nelly, with a soft little sigh.

Vane, who had a great deal more experience than she gave him credit for,
looked past her at her lover, and concluded, on perfectly insufficient
grounds, that Molyneux was not worthy of Nelly. The ladies of Ernest’s
family were not only convinced of the fact that Nelly was quite unworthy
of _him_, but that Frederick also was really misplaced in such a family.
Why such ideas should be so readily entertained by the different halves
of humanity, I cannot tell. It was something in Nelly’s tone and
something in the cut of Ernest’s nose which decided Mr. Vane.

“And would it be impertinent of a stranger, who is a connexion, to ask
if it is all settled,” he said, “and when it is to be?”

“Nothing is settled,” said Nelly, with a deeper blush than ever; and
after a pause she turned to him with a despairing simplicity, which he
did not quite understand. “Mr. Vane,” she said, “I should like to ask
you something. You say it has never come your way. Yet you look as if
one might ask you things. Do you think that people, relations, those who
have been each other’s dearest friends--or more than friends--I mean,”
said Nelly, “one’s father or mother even--do you think they change to
you, when your interests are in opposition to theirs?”

“One’s father or mother?” said Vane, trying to follow her thought; “but
that must be so rare a case, Miss Eastwood.”

“You think so too?” said Nelly brightly, recovering herself in a moment.
“That is my opinion; but they tell me I know nothing of the world. How
can one’s interests be in opposition to those of one’s own people? Since
ever I have known anything, I have been taught the contrary. I am so
glad you think as I do.”

“But stop a little,” said Vane, “perhaps we are going too far. Suppose
we were to take an instance. Regan and Goneril felt their interests to
be in opposition to their father’s, and it did make a great change in
them. If we were to ask more than we ought from our nearest relation, it
would wound his sense of justice and his trust in us; even love might be
impaired. I have known men who threw themselves upon their friends to
save them from ruin, real or supposed, and to whom there was no change
of feeling. And I have known others who made demands upon the same
friends for no greater sacrifice, to whom it was given with a sore heart
and a deep sense of injury. All the difference depends upon the

Nelly grew wistful again; she was not satisfied. “Tell me this, then,”
she said in a low voice, which he had to stoop to hear. “Is it natural
that we should be always trying how much we can get, and they how little
they can give?”

“Any one who told you so,” said Vane indignantly, “must have the lowest
and meanest conception”--then he caught Nelly’s eye with a mingled look
of fright and entreaty in it, which at the moment he could make nothing
of, but which touched some instinct in his mind more capable of action
than reason, and compelled him to change his tone. “I mean,” he said,
with a forced laugh, “that this is the conventional way in which we
speak in society, which sounds terrible but means nothing. It is the
fashionable cynical view, which we all pretend to take to hide the real
feeling, which it is not English to show. How didactic you have made me,
Miss Eastwood, and what a serious strain we have drifted into! I am
afraid you will never sit next to me again.”

“Indeed, I will, and like it,” said honest Nelly, smiling at him with
her heart in her eyes. It seemed to Nelly that here was a sort of big
brother, kinder than Frederick, wiser than Dick, who had suddenly come
to her aid to disentangle for her that ravelled skein which had troubled
her mind so much. She turned round to Ernest forthwith, and whispered
something to him with a sweet compunction, to make up for the injustice
she had done him in her heart. Mr. Vane, I am sorry to say, was not
moved with like sentiments. He gave a short, audible breath of
impatience through his nostrils, which he ought not to have done, and
glanced at young Molyneux over Nelly’s head, and said to himself,
“Confound the fellow!” I have observed that, towards a young man in
Ernest’s position, this is a common sentiment--with men.

Innocent was on her cousin’s other side. Mrs. Eastwood had hesitated
much about this, feeling that at sixteen, and with no education, the
girl ought not perhaps to be allowed to assist at a dinner party. But
Mr. Vane’s presence and the family character of the whole ceremony
decided her. It was a very poor pleasure to Innocent. She was dressed in
a black tulle dress, like nothing she had ever worn before, and which
seemed to transmogrify her and turn her into some one else. Nelly had
made a valiant effort to put up her hair, and give her something of the
aspect of a young lady of the period, but this even Mrs. Eastwood had
resisted, saying wisely, that if Innocent appeared with her hair hanging
on her shoulders, as she always wore it, it would be presumed at once
that she was “still in the schoolroom” (poor Innocent, who had never
been in the schoolroom in her life!), a girl not yet “out.” She answered
only “Yes” or “No” to the questions Vane put to her, and would have
stolen away from the drawing-room afterwards altogether if she had not
been detained by something like force. The great Mrs. Molyneux took
condescending notice of her, and plied her with a great many questions,
all actuated by an idea of which no one in the family had the smallest
conception. “I don’t doubt they neglect her shamefully,” she said to her
daughter, after she had ascertained that Innocent neither played, nor
sang, nor drew; that she had never been to school, nor had a governess,
nor masters, and that, in short, she knew nothing.

I am quite unable to tell why this discovery should have given pleasure
to Ernest’s mother, but it did so, and was remembered and made use of
afterwards in most unthought-of ways. But Innocent interested more
people than Mrs. Molyneux. When Sir Alexis came into the drawing-room
after dinner, he requested to be presented to the young stranger. “I
think I knew her father,” he said, and he went and sat by her, and did
his best to call forth some response. “Since he cannot have the one, he
is going to try for the other,” said Mrs. Barclay in Mrs. Eastwood’s
ear. But whatever his intentions or desires might be, he did not make
much of Innocent, who was frozen back into her old stupefied dulness by
the many strange faces and fresh appeals made to her. “You remember your
father?” said Sir Alexis, meaning to move her. “Oh, yes,” said Innocent,
but took little further interest in hearing about him. Perhaps, had it
been Niccolo, he might have moved her more.

“Has she all her faculties?” he asked, hesitating, of Nelly.

“Oh, yes, I think so. She has never been taught anything. She has not
got over her strangeness yet, and she does not care for any of us,” said
Nelly, “except perhaps----”

Here she paused, not venturing to add the name that came to her lips.
Young Molyneux laughed, and took up the words.

“Except, perhaps--yourself, do you mean? You made a wonderful picture
once of the cousin whom you expected; how she was to be the most
beautiful, clever, learned, accomplished of women, to throw everybody
else into the shade; and how, in self-defence, you would have to be
cruel to her, to banish her to the schoolroom----”

“That has come true,” said Nelly, smiling, “but it is the only thing.
She is not Aurora Leigh.”

“She has a beautiful face,” said Sir Alexis. They all looked at the girl
when he said so, for her beauty was not of a kind which struck every
beholder at the first glance. She was sitting quite by herself, in the
corner which she preferred, with her hands crossed upon her lap, and her
head half turned, following Frederick with an undivided gaze. She was
not conscious of any observation. She had eyes but for him alone.



Frederick was in so strangely disturbed a state of mind that this
evening’s entertainment--as well as all the other incidents of these
hurrying days, which seemed years as they passed, yet appeared to have
raced by him helter-skelter as soon as they were gone--was to him as a
dream. He did not seem to know what he was about. Whatever he did was
done mechanically. He declined all engagements, never went to his club,
went home of nights, and shut himself up in the library or his own room,
smoking a greater number of cigars than he had ever done in his life
before, and thinking of _her_. Tobacco may be said to be the food of
love to the modern man, as it is the food of musing minds, and
intellectual work or idleness. Frederick lighted one after another
mechanically, and brooded over the image of Amanda. He thought of her in
every aspect under which he had seen her. He recalled to his mind, in
detail, the times when they had met, and everything that had been said
and done. And there came upon him a hunger for her presence which he
could not overcome, and scarcely restrain. She was not an interesting or
amusing companion in any intellectual way. Her talk was the merest
chit-chat. The amusements and occupations she preferred were not of an
elevated character; she ignored or was bored by everything serious; she
was uneducated, sometimes almost vulgar. But all this made no
difference, though he was sensible of it. He made, indeed, occasional
efforts to throw off the spell that bound him; to try, if not to forget
her, at least to consider all the obstacles that stood between them.
Their condition of life was entirely different, and to this Frederick
was deeply sensitive. He had trembled to have Batty find him out at his
club, or visit him at his office. He had accepted the man’s invitation
in haste to get rid of him, that no one might see the kind of person who
claimed his acquaintance; and, good heavens! if that very man became his
father-in-law! Then Frederick acknowledged to himself that Amanda would
be “pulled to pieces by the women.” Men might admire her only too much;
but, notwithstanding Frederick’s contempt for women, he felt the deepest
angry humiliation at the thought that only men probably would approve of
his wife--if she should become his wife. Then he had no means to gratify
this sudden passion. He had been very lucky at the office, making his
way by a series of deaths and misfortunes to a position which he could
scarcely have hoped to hold for five or six years longer. Three or four
hundred a year, however, though much for a public office, is not much to
set up house upon, according to Frederick Eastwood’s ideas. He had, like
Nelly, five thousand pounds, but what was that? he said to himself,
having the exalted notions peculiar to the young men of the period. For
a young man, living at home in a handsome house, which cost him nothing,
and where he could entertain his friends when need was, this was very
comfortable; but if he married, and had to keep up an establishment of
his own, things would appear in a very different light. The marriage he
ought to have made was with some one at least as rich as himself; he
ought to have done as his father had done, whose wife had more than
doubled his income. All this Frederick was deeply, sadly aware of. He
knew that he ought to do exactly the reverse of what he wanted to do; he
knew that at the very least he ought to pause and consider carefully all
the penalties, all the misery involved. But in the very midst of his
wisest thoughts a sudden recollection would sweep away every scrap of
good sense he possessed, as well as all that paramount regard for self
which had carried him over so many hidden rocks and dangers of which he
alone knew. Perhaps it would be wrong to say that love had triumphed
over self in this struggle. It was a victory more subtle still--it was
the triumph of the self of passion over the self of prudence and worldly
well-being. It was gratification as against profit--delight against
honour. I may, perhaps, judge him harshly, for this class of sentiment
is one, I am aware, in which women are apt to show a want of
understanding; but the reader will decide in how far the credit of a
generous passion, scorning consequences, may be attributed to Frederick
Eastwood. I do not call this kind of frenzy love; but there are many
that do. Of the true being called Amanda Batty he knew next to nothing,
and what he did know would, had he been in his sober senses, have
revolted his good taste, and disgusted all his finer perceptions. Even
now he had a vague prevision that he would be bitterly ashamed of her,
did she belong to him; and a certainty that he would be more than
ashamed of her belongings, whom already he loathed; but the outside of
her filled him with a hungry worship, which overcame his reason and all
the sane portion of his mind. After he had forced himself to think over
all the disadvantages, to represent to himself the descent into another
sphere, the want of means, the horrible neighbourhood into which he
would be thrown, there would suddenly gleam upon his mind that turn of
her soft round shoulder when she flung away from him in disdain; the
dimples in it, the velvet texture, the snowy whiteness just touched with
tints of rose--and all his wiser self was at once trampled underfoot.
Yet he stood out bravely, fighting with himself after the same fashion
but more strenuously than he had done on other occasions, when not a
lawful love, but a wild, lawless desire for pleasure, possessed him.
Never before had he made so long or so hard a stand. In the other cases
not much had been in question--a bout of dissipation might carry with it
a good many headaches, an empty purse, and, if found out, a slur upon
that spotless character which it was Frederick’s pride to maintain; but
it could do no more; whereas this would compromise his life. Would it
compromise his life? Might it not turn out for the best, as the other
event did which had seemed to envelope him in ruin? Could not he cut the
Batty connexion altogether--make a condition that she was to be entirely
handed over to him, and never inquired about more? And must not his own
innate refinement, his constant companionship, reform the beautiful
creature herself into all that could be desired? This flattering unction
sometimes Frederick succeeded in laying to his soul; but to do him
justice he much more generally perceived and acknowledged to their full
extent the obstacles in his way, and made his fight honestly, knowing
what it was he was fighting against.

Things, however, came to a crisis before very long. He did not himself
know how long the struggle lasted; it absorbed him at last out of almost
all consciousness of what was going on round him. He kept his usual
place, got through, somehow, his usual work, ate and drank, and answered
when he was spoken to, and knew nothing about it. During this period
perhaps Innocent was the greatest comfort he had. The spring had come
with a bound in the beginning of April, after a long stretch of cold
weather, and when after dinner he strayed out of doors to wander under
the elms, and carry on his eternal self-conflict, it was rather soothing
to him than otherwise when his cousin came stealing to his side in the
soft twilight. Poor child! how fond she was of him! it was pleasant to
have her there. She put her hand softly within his arm, and held his
sleeve, and turned with him when he turned, as long as he liked, or at
least until his mother’s sharp summons startled them both, and called in
the unwilling girl.

“Why can’t they let her alone when she is happy?” he said to himself on
such occasions. “Women are so spiteful.”

But when Mrs. Eastwood was otherwise engaged, or forgot, or got tired,
as people will do, of constant interference, Innocent would stay with
him as long as he pleased, saying scarcely anything--content only to be
with him--making no demands on his attention. Sometimes she would lean
her cheek softly against his arm, or clasp her hands upon it, with a
touching, silent demonstration of her dependence.

“I am afraid they are not very kind to you,” he would say, bending over
her, in intervals when he had roused himself from more serious thought.

But Innocent made no accusation; she said, “I like you best,” leaning
upon him. Her mind was absolutely as her name. She thought of nothing
better or higher in life than thus to be allowed to wander about with
Frederick, doing whatever he might want of her, accepting his guidance
with implicit faith. He had been the first to take possession of her
forlorn and half-stupefied mind, and no one else had room as yet to
enter in.

This, as may be supposed, made Mrs. Eastwood very seriously uneasy, and
produced remonstrances to which Frederick in his pre-occupied condition
paid not the slightest attention.

One evening, however, when he had come to the very verge of the crisis,
she went out in the twilight, and took her son’s arm.

“If you must have a companion, Frederick,” she said, attempting a laugh,
“I am the safest. You cannot turn my head, or have your own turned. I
wish you would pay a little attention to what I say to you.”

“Mother,” he said breathlessly, finding himself forced at last into the
resolution he had so long kept at arm’s length; “for the moment it is
you who must listen to me.”

She was startled by the vehemence of his tone; but kept her composure.
“Surely,” she said, “I am always ready--when you have any thing to say
to me, my dear.”

“I have something to say--and yet nothing--nothing particular,” he
cried. “The fact is that circumstances--have made me think lately--of
the possibility--of marrying----”

He brought out the last words with something of a jerk.

“Of--marrying! You, Frederick?”

“Yes, I. Why not? There is no reason, that I know of, why I should not
marry. There are Nelly and Molyneux setting me the example. She is a
great deal younger than I am, and he has nothing. I do not know what
there should be to prevent me----”

“Nothing, my dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood softly; “but before such an idea
enters into a young man’s head there are generally preliminaries. You
intend to marry somebody in particular? not just the first that comes in
your way?”

“You mean that I should have determined upon the person before I suggest
the event?” said Frederick. “One does naturally, I suppose; but let us
imagine that to be done, and there still remains a great deal to do.”

“Is this all you can tell me, Frederick?” said his mother, aghast.

“Well, perhaps it is not all. It is all I have any right to tell you,
for I have taken no decisive steps. You must be aware, mother, that
before I do so I must ascertain what your intentions are--what you are
willing to do for me. I can’t live with a wife and an establishment upon
what I have. You would not like, I presume, to see your son in a back
street, with a maid-of-all-work, living upon next to nothing.”

“Frederick, you have never given me any reason to suppose that you
were thinking of this; you have taken me by surprise. I cannot
tell you all in a moment without any warning, without the least
indication--Frederick, for heaven’s sake,” cried Mrs. Eastwood, struck
by sudden terror, “tell me who is the lady! do not keep me in this
suspense. You cannot surely mean----”

She was about to say Innocent; but with natural delicacy she paused,
looking anxiously at him.

“I don’t mean anybody that you have seen,” he said impatiently. “What is
the use of going into particulars? If I told you her name a hundred
times over you would be none the wiser.”

“I am the wiser already. I am relieved of one fear,” said Mrs. Eastwood;
“but, Frederick, more than ever, if this is the case, you ought to be
careful about that poor child. How can you tell what fancies you are
putting into her head? You have made me most anxious, both on your
account and hers.”

“Pshaw! Mother, I wish you would put away those womanish notions of
yours, and for once understand what a man is thinking of when he has a
serious object in hand. Dismiss all this nonsense about that baby
Innocent. If she is a little fool, is it my fault?”

“If I was in your position, Frederick, I should feel it to be serious,
and very much my fault.”

“Good heavens! this is how you treat a man when he wants to talk to you
seriously. Will you pay a little attention to me for once without
dragging in somebody else?”

“I have paid too much attention to you one time and another,” said Mrs.
Eastwood; “and unless you can speak to your mother, Frederick, with
proper respect----”

“Oh dear, yes, certainly, as much as you like,” he cried. “I don’t
suppose you want me to say honoured madam, or go down on my knees for
your blessing.”

There was a moment of silence, during which the fumes of this little
quarrel dissipated themselves. He did not want to quarrel--it was
contrary to his interests. And neither did she.

“We need not make a fuss about it,” he said, in a subdued tone. “It is
natural enough. I shall be seven-and-twenty presently, which is not so
unripe an age. I have got on well enough hitherto living at home, though
I have never had a penny to spare, and I daresay there are a few debts
here and there to look up; but, of course, if I married, the thing would
be simply impossible. We could not come and live with you here, even if
we wished it, and unless you could make a tolerable allowance, of course
it is useless for me to think of such a thing.”

“A tolerable allowance! Frederick, that is what Mr. Molyneux is asking
for Nelly.”

“I’d see him at Jericho first,” said Frederick; “a miserly old villain,
who has money enough to set up a dozen sons. Why should he come to you?
I need not point out to you, mother, the very great difference there is
between Nelly, who is only your daughter, and myself, the eldest son.”

“Has the lady anything?” asked Mrs. Eastwood, skilfully making a
diversion. “I hope she is very nice, my dear, and very good, both for
your sake and my own; and I would not for the world have you mercenary
in your marriage; but still I should like to know--has she anything? I
take it for granted she has nice connexions, and every thing else

“I don’t know anything about her means,” said Frederick, in a lordly and
splendid way. “That is a question I never thought of asking. She may be
richer than I am, though that is not saying much, or she may not have a
penny. I cannot tell you. That is the last thing I should have thought
it necessary to ask.”

“And indeed you are quite right,” said Mrs. Eastwood, faltering. She had
herself inculcated this doctrine. Mercenary marriages she had held up
many and many a time to the scorn of her family; but it is one thing to
make a mercenary marriage, and another to inquire whether the future
partner of your days has anything--“for her own sake,” said Mrs.
Eastwood. But as Frederick was in a disagreeable state of mind, and
ready to take offence on the smallest provocation, she did not take up
this view of the question. The great revelation itself was the chief
thing to be considered. “May I not know something at least about her,
Frederick? Where did you meet her? So it is this that has absorbed you
so much for some time? I have noticed it, though I did not know what it
was. Is she pretty, is she nice? Do I know her? You will not refuse to
tell me something about her, my dear.”

“I cannot tell you, for there is nothing settled. It would be unfair to
her until I know myself,” said Frederick; “but, mother, the first part
is entirely within your power. And this is what I wanted--not to pour
out any sentimental secrets into your ear, but to ask what I shall have
to calculate upon. Of course,” said the young man, whose veins were
boiling with impatience, “unless I have some satisfactory settlement
with you it would be dishonourable for me to open my lips at all.”

Mrs. Eastwood was silent. She seemed to have lost the power of
utterance. Was Molyneux right after all? Was it to be a struggle to the
death from henceforth--the children trying how much they could get, the
parent how much she could withhold? She had not heard this suggestion
made in words; but something like it she asked herself piteously,
confused, and startled, and more shocked at herself for the shock and
revulsion of feeling which this demand produced on her than with her son
for making it. Was it possible that she was not ready instantly on the
spot to give to him and all of them whatever they wanted to make them
happy? She had said it of herself, and she believed it, that had they
asked for the heart out of her bosom, she would have given it, and a
kind of horror of herself fell upon her when she felt for the second
time a rising of reluctance and almost resistance within her. On that
well-remembered morning when the first appeal of this kind had been made
to her, when Frederick had come to her bedside and told her he was
ruined, no such feeling had been in her mind. She had cast about
instantly what was to be done, and had made her sacrifice, with poignant
grief for the cause, yet with a distinct pleasure in the power of
succouring her boy. But this demand upon her excited no such feeling. Is
it possible that a mother can deny her child anything that is for his
good? she had asked often enough--and now she herself was in the
position of denying. It struck at the very root of all her past
principles of action, of all that she had believed and held by
throughout her life. What did she care for in this world except her
children? What was there in this world that she would not give up for
her children? And yet she had (it was incredible) arrived at a moment
when two of them asked a sacrifice from her for their happiness which in
the depths of her heart she knew herself unwilling to make.

“You do not make me any answer, mother,” said Frederick.

“I cannot all at once,” she said, feeling desperately that to gain time
was the best she could do. “You forget, Frederick, that I was totally

“But you must have foreseen that such a thing would happen some day,” he

“I ought to have done so, no doubt, but I don’t think I had thought of
it. Of course I hoped you would both marry,” she said falteringly. Stray
and vague thoughts that the marriage of her children should not have
involved as a matter of necessity this attack upon herself floated
through her mind--but she was so deeply penetrated by the absolute
horror of her own reluctance to satisfy them that she felt unable to
suggest any possible blame except to herself.

“I must beg, mother,” said Frederick, “that you will not speak of Nelly
and myself as if we were exactly in the same position. Nelly has her
fortune. Any further demand on her part is quite ridiculous. I, on the
other hand, shall have the credit of the family to keep up. I shall
actually be the head of the family on your death----”

On your death! Is there any human mind which is not conscious of a
startling thrill and wince when these words are said? Mrs. Eastwood
nodded her head in acquiescence, but felt as if her son had calmly
fitted and fired an arrow which went tingling into her heart. Of course,
what he said was quite true.

“I will consider the whole question carefully,” she said, in a tone
which changed in spite of herself, “and I will ask advice. It is strange
to take advice between my children and myself, but you have often told
me, Frederick, I did not understand business. I must think it all over
carefully before I can give you any answer. I have the boys to consider

This she said in a very low tone, not for Frederick, but for herself;
for indeed it was at the bar of a private court of her own that she was
standing, striving to defend herself, which was not easy. She said this
humbly by way of explanation to the judge sitting there, who was a hard
judge, and received no weak excuses.

“The boys, pshaw!” said Frederick. “If Dick goes to India, and Jenny
into the Church, they are both provided for. I do not see that you need
to trouble yourself about the boys----”

“If you had gone into the Church you would have been well provided for,”
said Mrs. Eastwood. “Jenny may have difficulties too----”

“Oh, I would make short work with Jenny’s difficulties!” said Frederick.
That was totally a different question. He went on expounding his views
to her about his brothers till Mrs. Eastwood found the evening cold, and
went in shivering a little and far from happy. She had come to one of
the enigmas of life of which the _fin mot_ was yet to find, and out of
which she could not see her way.



Frederick’s fever had come to a crisis. The next day was Saturday, and,
without waiting his mother’s answer, he went down to Sterborne in the
afternoon. He could wait no longer. Sterborne is a little town with a
large old church. It would be almost a village but for the minster,
which gives it dignity; and all the people of the place are accustomed
to consider their minster as their private property, and to exhibit it
to strangers as something in which they themselves have had a hand, and
for which thanks are due to them--and not only thanks, but shillings and
sixpences. Frederick’s arrival at the little inn was accordingly set
down without doubt to the attractions of the minster; and while he ate
his luncheon the guides who particularly attached themselves to that
establishment collected outside, to be ready for his service as soon as
he should appear.

“The minster, sir? here you are, sir!” said one sharp small creature,
half man, half boy, with elf looks and unnaturally bright eyes. “I’m the
reg’lar guide,” said another. “Them fellows there don’t know
nothing--not a single haltar, or the names of the tombs as are all about
the place.” “I can do you a rubbing of the brasses, sir.” “Here’s
photographs, sir, of all the favourite aspects.”

Thus he was surrounded and beset. He could have knocked them all down,
with pleasure, as they struggled in his way; but as that was not
practicable, he threw their ranks into utter rout by saying plainly, “I
don’t want to go to the minster”--a speech which filled the crowd of
Sterborne with absolute consternation, and almost produced an
insurrection in the place. That any man should profess himself
indifferent to the centre of their town and the world startled them
beyond measure. “What did he come to Sterborne for, if not to see the
minster?” While they dispersed from his path, with an assured conviction
in their minds that he must be an infidel and revolutionary, Frederick
called the imp who had first offered his services.

“I want to go to Mr. Batty’s,” he said.

“To old Batty’s!” cried the lad, turning a somersault on the spot: “here
you are, sir.”

“He’s going to old Batty’s!” cried one of the assistants: and there was
a roar of laughter, which Frederick did not understand, but which made
him angry by instinct.

“Why did they laugh?” he asked, when he had left that mob behind him,
and was following his guide through the High Street.

“We all laughs at old Batty,” was the reply.

“For what reason?” said Frederick sternly: but his conductor only
laughed once more. To tell the truth, there was no reason. The
ragamuffins of the place had made a custom of it; they “always laughed,”
but they could give no reason why. Nevertheless, this very circumstance
chilled Frederick. It was not powerful enough to stop him in his
enterprise, but it chilled him. His old self--his serious self--sprang
up at once, and looked his infatuated and impassioned self in the face,
and asked him how he would like to be the son-in-law of a man at whom
the very ragamuffins laughed. His foolish self replied that the die was
cast, that he had committed himself, and had no way of escape--which,
indeed, was a mere pretence, since he had as yet neither seen the lady
of his love nor any one belonging to her; but it answered his purpose,
and stopped the mouth of the gainsayer.

Batty’s house was in the outskirts of the little town. It was an
old-fashioned house, low and straggling, opening direct from the road,
with a little brass-knockered door, raised by one white step from the
pavement. The door opened into a long passage, at the end of which was
another door, which stood wide open, showing a large garden, green and
bright with the afternoon sunshine. Mr. Batty was not at home, the maid
informed him who opened the door; but if the gentleman would walk into
the drawing-room or the garden she would see whether Miss Batty was
visible. Frederick, in his restlessness and the agitation of his mind,
preferred the latter, and went into the garden in a strange, tremulous
state of excitement, scarcely knowing what he was about.

The house had looked pretty and small from the front, with rows of small
twinkling windows and a low roof; but at the back the impression was
very different. Various rooms built on to the original _corps du logis_
stood out into the lawn, with great bow windows, with green turf at
their feet and creeping plants mantling about them. One of these,
evidently the drawing-room, displayed handsome and luxurious furniture,
of a tasteless but costly kind, through the softly fluttering lace
curtains. The garden itself was large and beautifully cared for, showing
both wealth and understanding. This gave a little comfort to Frederick’s
mind, for gardening is an aristocratic taste. He pleased himself with
thinking that perhaps this was Amanda’s doing; for no one could suspect
Batty himself of caring so much for mere beauty. He walked about the
beds and bosquets with a surprised sense of pleasure, finding the
surroundings so much more graceful than he had hoped--and began to feel
that his passion was thus justified. Presently she would appear, and
fill those paths with light. It would be very different from the aspect
under which she appeared in the London hotel. Here she was at home,
surrounded by circumstances which she herself had moulded, which were
sweetly adapted to her: and here for the first time he could see her as
she was. A hope of something better than he had yet known, better than
he deserved, stole over Frederick’s mind, he had fallen in love with
mere beauty--that beauty which is but skin deep, and which all moralists
preach against. Could it be that in so doing he was to find goodness,
good taste, and refinement too?

While he was thus musing, the sound of voices reached him from one of
the open windows. It was a warm afternoon, almost like summer. A glimmer
of firelight made itself visible in at least two of the rooms, and in
both of these the windows were open. Frederick had no intention of
eavesdropping, but when he heard the voice which he remembered so well
he pricked up his ears. I am afraid there are few lovers who would not
have done so. At first the talking was vague--not clear enough to reach
him; but after a while it became louder in tone. The first to make
itself heard was a voice which whimpered and complained, “After twenty
years’ work for him and his: twenty years!” it said; and it wavered
about as if the speaker was walking up and down the room with agitation.
Sometimes she would stand still, and address the person to whom she was
speaking, varying from complaint to anger. Frederick did not know this
voice. It was only when another speaker burst in, in a still louder
tone, that the situation became at all clear to him. The second voice
rang at once into his heart. It was melodious enough in its ordinary
sound--a round, full voice, not without sweetness; but something
altogether new and unexpected came into it with these sharper and louder

“You are free to go away whenever you choose,” Amanda cried. “I will not
be troubled like this. You know what all the doctors have said, and how
wicked it is to worry me. No one can know better than you do. You are a
wretch; you have no kindness, no feeling. Because you have quarrelled
with papa you want to kill me. What is the use of bullying me? You know
you can go as soon as ever you please. Go and be done with it. You are
always threatening, always saying what you will do----”

“Go!” said the other. “Oh, ’Manda, you to speak of feeling! when I have
been here twenty years, and taken care of you from your childhood. But
you are as cold and as hard as a millstone, though you are so pretty.
Oh, if people only knew how you can talk, and how heartless you are, and
the things you say to your mother’s own sister--her that has brought you
up and taken care of you for twenty years!”

“Taken care of me, indeed,” cried Amanda; “any servant could have taken
care of me. You have been a nuisance since ever I can recollect: always
reminding one that mamma was not a lady, and pulling us down as far as
you could. What were you? Nothing but a lady’s maid. Here you’ve been
tried to be made a lady of, and had handsome dresses given you, and all
sorts of things. Of course it was for our own sakes. What was there in
you to make us take any trouble? You are old, you are plain, and vulgar,
and disagreeable. What right have you to be kept like a lady in pa’s
house? You are only good enough to scrub the floor. Why have you always
stayed on when nobody wanted you? I suppose you thought you might marry
pa when ma was dead and gone, though it’s against the law. Of course
that was what you wanted--to be mistress of the house, and get him under
your thumb, and rule over me. Try it, aunty! You won’t find me so easy
to rule over! Just try! An old, ugly, vulgar, spiteful creature, with no
recommendation and no character----”

“‘Manda, ’Manda,” cried the other, “Oh, don’t be so cruel!----”

“I will be cruel, if you call that cruel. There’s more than that coming.
What is the good of you, but to make a slave and a drudge of? Why should
pa keep you but for that? Aunty, indeed! He was a fool ever to let me
call you so. And so he is a soft-hearted fool, or he never would have
kept you on for years and years. If he had but asked me, you should have
been packed off ages ago. You to put on airs, indeed, and say you won’t
do anything you’re told to do! Go, this minute, you wicked woman, and
don’t worry me. Fancy, me! to sit here and listen to you as if you were
worthy to be listened to--you who are no better than the dirt under my

“‘Manda, you dare to speak like that to your own flesh and blood!”

“I dare do a great deal more,” cried Amanda. “I dare to turn you out of
doors, bag and baggage; and I will, if you don’t mind. You old
Jezebel--you old hag, as pa says--you horrid painted witch--you wicked
woman! Get out of my sight, or I’ll throw something at you--I will! Go
away! If you are not gone in one moment--you witch--you old hag----”

Here a smash of something breaking told that the gentle Amanda had kept
her word. There was a suppressed cry, a scuffle, a scream, and then the
bell was rung violently.

“Oh, I suppose it’s my fault,” cried the other voice, with a whimpering
cry. “Bring the bottle out of her room--the one at her bedside. Give me
the eau-de-cologne. Here’s she been and fainted. Quick! Quick! ’Manda! I
didn’t mean it, dear! I don’t mind! Manda! Lord, you were red enough
just now--don’t look so dead white!”

Was it Frederick’s guardian angel that had made him an auditor of this
scene? The loud voice declaiming, the string of abusive words, the clash
of the missile thrown, were horrible and strange to him as the language
of demons. He was thunderstruck. Her language had not always been
pleasant to him, but he was not prepared for anything like this. He
walked up and down in a state of mind which it would be impossible to
describe. His first impulse was flight. There was still time for him to
get away altogether, to escape from this horrible infatuation, to escape
from her and her dreadful father, and everything belonging to her.
Should he go? Then he reflected he had given his card, and so far
compromised himself. Was this sufficient to detain a man who had just
been subjected to the hardest trial in the world, a sudden disgust for
the woman whom he thought he loved? Frederick stood still, he paused,
his heart was rent in two. He was within reach of her, almost within
sight of her, and must he go without seeing her, unworthy as she might
be? It was not necessary, he said to himself, that anything should
follow, that he should carry out the intention with which he came. That
was impossible--however lovely and sweet and fair she might be, he would
not take a low-bred termagant into his bosom. No, no! that was over for
ever. But how could he go without seeing her, after he had given his
card and announced himself? This would be to expose himself to her wrath
and her father’s, in whose power to some extent he was. He could hear
the voices through the open window as he wandered about the garden,
arguing with himself. Should he go? Should he stay? Strangely enough,
though he had been told that agitation might be fatal to her, he was not
anxious about her, though he surmised that she had fainted. His disgust
took this form. If she were ill after her outbreak, she deserved it. On
the whole he was almost pleased that she should be ill. She had
humiliated him as well as herself, and he had a vindictive satisfaction
in feeling that she was punished for it; but further than this he did
not go. No; of course all was over; he could never be her suitor, never
ask her to give him the hand with which she had thrown something which
crashed and broke at her companion’s head. Never! that was over; but why
should not he see her, behold her beauty once more--give himself that
last pleasure? He would never seek her again; she had disgusted,
revolted, turned his mind away from her. But since he was already so
near, since he had given his card, since it would be known at once why
he went away, this once, not for love, but for scornful gratification of
his contemptuous admiration, just as he would look at a statue or
picture, he would see her again.

This was the foolish reasoning with which he subdued the wiser instinct
that prompted him to fly. Why should he fly? A woman capable of
speaking, acting, thinking as this woman had done, could no longer have
any power over a man who, whatever might be his moral character, had
still the tastes and impulses of a gentleman. She had made an end of her
sway over him, he thought; that dream could never come back again.
Nobody but a madman would ask such a creature to marry him. To marry
him? to be taken to his mother’s house, and promoted into the society of
gentlefolk? Never! He laughed bitterly at the notion. But, thank
Heaven! he had not betrayed himself. Thank Heaven! that merely to see
her would commit him to nothing. No, he ended by convincing himself the
most manly course was to pay his visit as if nothing had happened, to
see the syren who was no longer a syren to him, but only a beautiful
piece of flesh and blood, whom he might look at and admire like a
statue. This was, he repeated to himself, the most manly course. The
phrase was pleasant to him. To run away would look as if he had no
confidence in his own moral force and power of resisting temptation. But
the fact was that there could be no longer any temptation in the matter.
To see her, and prove to himself that disgust had altogether destroyed
the fierce violent wild love which had swallowed up all his better
resolution, was the only manly course to take.

He was standing by one of the flower-beds, stamping down unconsciously
with his boot the border of long-leaved crocuses which had gone out of
flower, but quite unaware of the damage he was doing, when the maid who
admitted him came back. She apologized for keeping him so long waiting.
Miss ’Manda had been taken bad sudden--one of her bad turns--nothing out
of the common--but now was better, and would he go up-stairs, please?

“Was she well enough to see him?” Frederick asked, with a momentary
thrill of alarm, feeling his heart begin to beat.

“Oh, quite well enough. They don’t last long, these bad turns. You will
find her a bit shaken, sir, and she didn’t ought to be excited or put
out, but she’s better,” said the maid. Better! the scold, the termagant,
the beautiful fury; but still Frederick’s heart beat at the thought of
seeing her again.

She was lying on a sofa close to the open window, looking very pale and
languid, just as she had been on that delicious evening which he had
last spent in her company, looking as if nothing but gentle words could
ever come out of those lovely lips. The woman whom she had called Aunty,
and whom she had been abusing, sat by her holding a white hand, which
looked as if it had been modelled in ivory. Was that the hand? One of
poor aunty’s cheeks was red as fire, as if she had been struck on it,
and she had evidently been crying. But she was full of solicitude for
her charge, placing the cushions behind her comfortably, and whispering
and soothing her. Frederick asked himself if he had been in a dream.
Amanda held out her other hand to him with gentle languor, and smiled at
him an angelic smile.

“Is it really you, Mr. Frederick Eastwood?” she said. “We have been
wondering over your card. I could not think what could keep you here.
Are you staying at the Court? But Sir Geoffrey is not at home----”

“No! I had business in this part of the country, and thought I would
avail myself of your father’s invitation--that is for an hour or two. I
must return to town to-night,” he answered, proud of his own fortitude,
but feeling, oh, such a melting and dissolving of all his resolutions.

“That is a very short visit; but I hope papa may be able to persuade you
to stay longer,” said Amanda. “You do not mind my receiving you on the
sofa? I have been ill. Oh, you must not be too sorry for me,” she added,
laughing, “it was my own fault,--entirely my own fault. I allowed myself
to get into a passion. I am sure you never did such a thing. Mr.
Eastwood, is it not shocking? I got angry at poor Aunty, here. Yes, I
deserve to be whipped, I know I do,--and I always am punished, though
not more than I deserve. They told me you were in the garden. I am so
much ashamed of myself,--did you know, Mr. Eastwood, what a naughty,
naughty girl I was?”

“I heard--something,” said Frederick, feeling all his armour of proof,
all his moral courage drop from him. This fair creature, pale with
agitation and exhaustion, smiling softly from her pillow,--caressing the
hand of her homely attendant,--confessing her fault, this a termagant, a
scold, a fury! The thing was ridiculous. Let him disbelieve his ears,
his eyes, all his senses, rather than give up his faith in her.

“I don’t know how to look you in the face,” said Amanda, putting up her
disengaged hand to hide herself. “Oh, I know I have been so very
naughty. Please forgive me. It makes me so ill always. I am not let off.
I get my punishment, but not more than I deserve----”

“Don’t speak of punishment!” said Frederick. He was ready to pledge his
honour that no word which was not good and gentle could have come from
those lips. Miss ’Manda sighed softly and shook her head.

“I have not a good temper. I never had. Unless it is born with you, you
can never get it by trying,--and then when I am agitated it makes me
ill. Nobody must ever cross me, you know, Mr. Eastwood, or some day or
other I shall die----. It is dreadful to think you may die any day
without having a moment’s time to prepare.” She rounded off this doleful
anticipation with a gentle sigh. She lay back upon her pillows
with her colour beginning to come back, but with a delightful gravity
on her face. She throw an inkstand at any one? it was totally
impossible,--though, indeed, there was a black mark on the carpet which
a maid was mopping up, and a stain of ink on the front of Aunty’s dress;
but this must have been accidental. Frederick looked at her and forgot
his knowledge of the world, and threw away his independent judgment and
the evidence of his senses. It must have been a mistake. He had all but
seen it with his own eyes, but he felt it could not be true. If it had
been true, would the assailed woman, she with the stain on her dress,
be sitting by Amanda’s side, still holding her hand, and soothing her?
It must have been an accident. Nothing more easy than to push over an
inkstand from a table. It was the simplest accident. He suggested it to
himself first, and then he believed it strenuously. He drew his chair
close by the sofa, and asked what he could do to amuse her. Could he
read to her?--what could he do?

“Oh, no,--if you can only stay for an hour or two, talk to me,” said
Amanda, “tell me about town. I hate this horrid little place, where
nothing ever happens. When any one dies it keeps us quite lively. That
is the only kind of amusement we can get. Yes, Mr. Eastwood, sit
there,--you have town written all over you. It is so nice to see any one
from London; tell me how the parks are looking, and what ladies are most
talked of, and what sort of dress is being worn. Tell me if there is any
gossip going, or stories about anybody in high life.--Oh, I am so glad
you have come to-day when I want rousing up. Do tell me all the London

Frederick, to do him justice, was not much learned in London news.
Having been brought up by a good mother, he hesitated to repeat to this
young woman the stories he had heard at his club; for there are always
stories floating on the surface of society, and they are always to be
had at the club. After a while, moved by her persuasion, he did tell her
some of them, to her intense interest and gratification,--a
gratification which aroused Frederick’s pleasure in telling, and made
him forget his scruples. And while he amused her, and received the
flattering reward of her interest and attention, he was again inflamed
and taken possession of by her beauty. Everything in the shape of reason
melted out of his mind as he sat by Amanda’s side. All that he thought
of was how to secure her,--how soon he could marry, and bind to himself
that beautifulest form, that fairest face. If these had been the days
when rash proceedings were possible, Frederick felt that it was in him
to have carried her away to his den, as a wild beast carries his prey.
The first moment that it was possible, as soon as they were left alone
together, he poured out the story of his passion. He could not live
without her, he said,--to go away again,--to tear himself from her side
was an insupportable idea. Would not she have pity upon him? Thus this
foolish young man, notwithstanding all warnings, notwithstanding the
immediate interposition of providence and his guardian angel to save him
from it, rushed upon his fate.



Amanda was not so eager as her lover. She held back. To do her justice,
though she was glad of the prospect of marrying a gentleman, and doubly
glad, for reasons of her own, to have an Eastwood at her feet, she was
in no hurry to secure him; nor did she show any unbecoming exultation in
her conquest. Her father did, who had set his heart on the match. But
Amanda had too much confidence in her own charms and superiority to be
unduly elated, or to give her consent without all the hesitation which
she thought necessary to her dignity. I need not say that Frederick
stayed till Monday--till the last practicable moment; that he loathed
her father and everything surrounding him more and more deeply every
hour; and that his devotion to herself increased in heat and strength,
through all her coquettings, her doubtfulness as to whether she liked
him or not, and incapacity for making up her mind.

“I have known you such a little while,” she said.

“And I have known you such a little while,” cried Frederick.

“But that is quite different,” she said demurely, casting down her eyes;
“a woman’s happiness depends on it so much more than a man’s.”

This was a pretty speech entirely in her _rôle_; but as coming from a
woman who the other day had thrown an inkstand at somebody’s head, the
reader may perhaps be doubtful how far it is true. But it made Frederick
more mad with passion than ever. The more she held back, the more
eagerly he pressed and urged his suit. For this there were other reasons
besides his love. He was a proud man, notwithstanding all the many
voluntary humiliations to which he stooped, and Batty was insupportable
to him. He despised and hated and loathed the man who knew his weakness,
and had thrust himself into his confidence. He would have loathed any
man who had done so; but every point in Batty’s character exaggerated
the intensity of his feeling. His warm cordiality, his friendliness, his
satisfaction and good wishes, made Frederick recoil as from something
poisonous and unclean. He could hardly restrain himself even while
Amanda held his “fate” in her hands. Once the decision was made, he
determined to lose no time--to press for an immediate marriage--to carry
her away out of this man’s reach--anywhere; he did not care where, to
get rid of him at any cost. And with the usual folly of men under such
circumstances, he actually believed that he should be able to do this;
that he could impose his will upon Batty, and mould Amanda to his way
of thinking; and that from the moment when he succeeded in marrying her,
all would be right. He could crush all the bonds of nature; he could
subdue temper and disposition, and triumph over circumstances. All these
Frederick was quite ready to tackle, and did not doubt his power to
overcome. The first step was the only thing that depended upon another;
but when Amanda had consented--when she was his--then everything would
become easy and plain. In the meantime, however, he was received as
lover on probation, and had to make a number of pilgrimages Saturday
after Saturday before the decision was at last formally made in his
favour. During this time his family were in the dark, knowing little
about Frederick. I need not say that their curiosity and ingenuity were
warmly roused to find out his secret. This anxiety took a more practical
form in the mind of Dick and in that of Molyneux, to whom, of course,
Nelly had communicated the family perplexity, than in those of the
ladies themselves, who did not know how to find out anything except in
the legitimate way. Molyneux, however, managed by accident to stumble
against Frederick at the railway station, and thus discovered where he
went; while Dick by means of one of his fellow victims, who was reading
with him under the same “coach,” procured a natural history of Sterborne
of an exhaustive character. When the name of Batty was mentioned, Mrs.
Eastwood and Nelly looked at each other, and the whole became clear to
them. They had not forgotten the name which they had but once heard. A
great beauty--the daughter of a country doctor. Now, indeed, everything
became clear.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, mamma,” said Dick; “Trevor has often asked
me to go home with him on a Saturday. I’ll go--and I’ll manage to see
her, and bring you back the news.”

There was an eager assent on all sides to this proposition; and the mind
of the family was kept in much suspense until Dick’s return. For, as
Mrs. Eastwood justly remarked, a country doctor might be anything; it
might mean a gentleman, highly considered and well to do; or it might
mean a bustling little country practitioner, with no position of any
sort. Without further information it was quite impossible to divine
which of these two were meant; and everything depended upon the clearing
up of the question. As for Molyneux, he was disposed to take the very
gloomiest view of the matter. He thought that Frederick should be
“spoken to,” and remonstrated with. The son of a Q.C., hoping shortly to
be the son of a judge, does not look forward with any pride or
satisfaction to the thought of becoming connected with “a country
doctor.” Ernest argued that a man of high standing would never have been
so described; a country doctor, he declared, could mean nothing but the
most homely specimen of the profession--the workhouse doctor, the
village apothecary. He was uneasy on the subject. He thought Mrs.
Eastwood ought to be “very firm,” and that Frederick, for his own good,
should have all the disadvantages of such a mésalliance pointed out to

“It is not only a man’s own comfort that is destroyed, but that of all
his connexions,” said Molyneux; “everybody belonging to him suffers,”
and he insisted once more very sharply on the duty of the mother to be
“firm,” so strongly, indeed, that Mrs. Eastwood took offence, though she
did not say anything direct on the subject.

“Ernest seems to be afraid that his connexion with us may do him harm in
the world,” she permitted herself once to say to Nelly.

“Oh, mamma, why do you judge Ernest so harshly?” cried the poor girl.
But Nelly, too, felt that if Frederick should marry the daughter of a
country doctor, her own lover would be deeply annoyed; and she, too, was
wounded and offended by this, though perhaps unreasonably. So many of
the feelings which make our weal or woe are unreasonable, and not to be

The household awaited Dick’s return with much anxiety. He came up by a
very early train, with a cold in his head, and misanthropical tendencies
generally. And Dick’s report was not such as made the family more happy.

“I met Frederick yesterday,” he said. “The fellow accused me of coming
to spy upon him. I asked him how I was to know where he went to amuse
himself in secret? I was at the Trevors’, where I had often been asked.
He blessed me, and that was all; he dared not say any more. But wasn’t
he in a rage! I did not feel very nice myself; for after all I was a
kind of spy.”

“Indeed, I never thought of it in that light,” said his mother. “You
went to find out something about Miss Batty--not to spy upon Frederick.”

“Oh, Miss Batty! Miss Batty!” cried Dick; the recollection took away his
power of speech. “She is a big, fat, fleshy sort of a creature, with red
cheeks, and fuzzy hair in her eyes,” said Dick, “a fringe of it hanging
over her forehead, as you see some queer people in the streets; said
forehead about an inch high, dimples in her fat cheeks, and that sort of
thing. A figure like a feather-bed, with something tied round the middle
to make a waist. Beautiful! if that is what you call beauty!”

Dick’s taste was towards the slim and slight. This was his way of
representing all Juno or Rubens-like beauty. Amanda’s magnificent sweep
of shoulder and limb, her splendid fulness, represented to him weight
and fat, nothing more. I need not attempt to describe the cries of
dismay with which his mother and sister received this description. Mrs.
Eastwood gave a scream, when he came to talk of Amanda’s figure, and put
her handkerchief to her eyes. As for Nelly, she took her brother by the
shoulders and shook him, as much as it was in her power to do.

“You are not giving us a true account,” she said. “Mamma, don’t mind
him; it is plain he likes tiny people best. Tell us the truth, you
wicked boy, I am sure she is handsome; she must be handsome, even from
what you say.”

“As you like,” said Dick; “it is all the same to me.”

“She is like a lady at least?”

“Well, if you think that is like a lady. She must weigh twelve stone;
not an ounce less.”

“If that is all you have to say against her,” said Mrs. Eastwood, who
was herself a good weight; “but, Dick, dear, don’t talk any more
nonsense. People have different ideas about beauty. And her father, the
doctor? Is he a proper sort of person? Is he a gentleman? So much will
depend upon that.”

“Her father, the doctor!” said Dick, with increasing contempt. He made a
pause before he said any more to increase the effect. “He is a vet, and
a horse-dealer, and a man without a bit of character, the jest of the

Mrs. Eastwood gave a painful cry. Nelly echoed it feebly, standing in
the middle of the room, with her face suddenly like ashes. Nelly’s mind
was not primarily concerned with Frederick. The idea which flashed
through it was, must Ernest know this? must he be told? She felt the
humiliation keenly, with a pang such as she had never known before. It
would humiliate her before him. He would feel humiliated by his
connexion with her. For the moment it seemed to Nelly too bitter to be

“Are you quite sure, Dick?” she said faltering. “Is there no mistake?”

“I will write to old Miss Eastwood,” said the mother. It was something
to be able to get up, to hurry to her desk, to feel that she could do
something, could inquire, at least, and was not compelled to sit down
idle after receiving such news.

“What good can old Miss Eastwood do?” said Dick, who felt the
authenticity of his own report to be called in question; and, indeed,
old Miss Eastwood could do no good; to write to her to get further
information seemed a kind of ease to the excitement of the moment.
Before the letter was finished Mr. Vane came in, to make an innocent
call, and hearing where Dick had been and how he had caught such a
dreadful cold, proceeded to discourse upon Sterborne, lightly and
easily, as strangers often do upon points of deadly interest to their

“I have been all over that country,” he said; “I used to know the
Eastwoods, your relations, very well; indeed, I have a little box of a
place close to Sterborne, which my sister is rather fond of. The Minster
is the great attraction. Out of St. Peter’s at Rome, I don’t know a
service so high--and she goes in for that sort of thing.”

“Do you know anybody called Batty?” cried Nelly in her haste. She had
come to have a great confidence in the man who looked at her so kindly,
with eyes that had a certain regret in them--regret which flattered and
consoled her somehow, she could not tell why.

“Ellinor!” cried Mrs. Eastwood in dismay; but it was too late.

“Batty, oh yes, I know Batty. He is very well known to the ingenuous
youth of that part of England,” said Mr. Vane, “though I admire and
wonder to think you should ask for him. Stop a moment, however, I know;
he has a beautiful daughter.”

“Then she is beautiful!” cried Nelly.

“Red and white, flesh and blood--big Dutch doll of a thing,” cried Dick,
thrusting himself into the conversation, in eager self-defence, without
thinking of the contradiction in his words.

“I suppose we are all flesh and blood,” said Mr. Vane, “but I rather
incline to Dick’s view of the matter, on the whole. At the same time she
is a beautiful creature. I don’t believe she has any more soul than
Mahomet would allow; but she is the perfection of flesh and blood. By
the way, she was once said to be engaged to one of the Eastwoods, I
forget which, not Sir Geoffrey, but one of his brothers. I don’t know
how it was broken off.”

“I heard of that too,” said Dick, putting on an air of injured virtue;
“you listen to all he says, but you don’t put any faith in me.”

“No, I can’t tell you exactly how it was broken off,” Mr. Vane went on,
trying to recollect the details which might, he thought, interest in an
easy way the relations of Charlie Eastwood. “But these stories are
always disagreeable,” he added, “there is sure to be something
discreditable on one side or the other. It is a blessing, however, to
know that he did get out of it, which was the chief thing to be

In the dead pause that followed, in the look of despair which was
exchanged between Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly, and the absence of all
response to what he said, Vane, who was quick-witted, felt instinctively
that something more was involved. He turned the conversation at once to
other channels, and after a while Mrs. Eastwood withdrew with Dick,
whose cold was becoming more and more demonstrative. When they had left
the room there was another pause, which Mr. Vane made no haste to break,
for if Nelly chose to be confidential with the man who was a
“connexion,” as he thought she had once or twice shown an inclination to
be, John Vane was very far from having any objection. On the contrary,
he was disposed to cherish the inclination. He was “interested” in
Nelly. He thought there was a dissatisfaction and confused want in her,
which it was sad to see. He thought Ernest Molyneux not half worthy of
such a girl, and wondered what she could see in him; and if he himself
could be of any comfort or help to Nelly, why, what was the good of him
but to be of use? He waited, leaving her to speak, to ask his advice,
or confide in him, if she chose.

“About this Mr. Batty?” she said hastily. “Oh, Mr. Vane, pardon me for
troubling you. You say it was a blessing that Charlie Eastwood got out
of his engagement. I hate that way of talking, as if a girl’s happiness
went for nothing. But I don’t think you meant that; is this Mr. Batty
such a man that to be connected with him would be a disgrace?”

“Disgrace is a strong word,” said Vane. “I do not think I would use such
a violent expression; but as a matter of feeling, I would rather not be
connected with him; and pardon me if I say what perhaps may shock you--I
would like still less to be connected with her.”

“The girl?”

“Yes, the girl. It sounds brutal, I know; but she is just the kind of
girl whom one would tremble to have anything to do with. Beautiful,
passionate, uneducated, undisciplined, taught to think of nothing but
the gratification of the moment. I am afraid of such a creature. The
Lorelei is a joke to her. When you got into the hands of the syrens you
were doomed, and there was an end of you; but a woman like that with the
command of a man’s life----”

“Oh, Mr. Vane!” cried Nelly, with her hands clasped, following every
movement of his lips with her eyes, breathless in her interest; and then
she burst suddenly into hot, momentary tears, and cried, “Poor
Frederick! Poor Frederick!” wringing her hands.

Mr. Vane got up hurriedly from his chair. “Miss Eastwood, don’t think I
heard you, or will ever recollect, or attempt to connect with what we
have been saying”--he began. Then looking at Nelly, who was crying, the
man’s heart melted within him. “If it will do you any good or give you
any ease, tell me,” he said, going up to her, and standing behind her;
“you may trust me never to say anything.”

“Oh, yes, I can trust you,” said Nelly; and then clasped her hands, and
looked up at him. “You are a man; you are a connexion; you are supposed
to know better than we women do. Could _you_ speak to him, Mr. Vane?”

He looked at her again, and shook his head. What could he say? “I am not
a friend, and no one but a friend could interfere. Even a friend would
not be listened to in such a case,” he said; and then he added, “If he
loves her, he may have an influence upon her; he may be able to make
something better of her. And your influence and your mother’s----”

Poor Nelly shivered. “It is not entirely of Frederick I am thinking,”
she said with a low, suppressed moan; “I am selfish too.”

Mr. Vane seized his hat suddenly, and shook hands with her, and rushed
away! Nelly could not imagine why. She thought he was unfeeling, and she
was very, very vexed and angry with herself for having confided in him.
The last words had escaped her in spite of herself; but, then, he could
attach no meaning to them, she was sure.

When Frederick came home that evening there was a grand
_éclaircissement_, not of a perfectly peaceable nature. He accused his
mother of having sent Dick as a spy after him to find out his movements,
an accusation which had a certain truth in it. Dick fortunately was shut
up in his room with his cold, so that no quarrel between the brothers
was possible. When Frederick intimated that he was an accepted lover,
and that his marriage was to take place in six weeks, his mother and
sister made an appeal to him, into which I need not enter. After a
little fine indignation and heroic defence of his Amanda, Frederick
became _attendri_, and gave her up to them as a burnt offering, and
presented himself in the aspect of a martyr of honour, as men are in the
habit of doing; and they ended by taking his part, and weeping over him,
and consoling him. They agreed to endeavour to “make the best of it,” to
“stand by the poor boy.” Where is the family that has not in one way or
other had a similar task to perform?

There was but one other member of the house by whom the intelligence had
yet to be received. Innocent heard it without any appearance of emotion.
She had been wistfully curious about Frederick’s absence, and had
wandered about the garden disconsolately in the evenings, baffling by
her strange deadness and silence all the attempts which the others made
to replace him. Jenny, who had by this time come home for the holidays,
did more for her than any of the others. He announced in the family that
he meant to experiment upon her; he took her out into the avenue, and
declaimed Homer to her, to try what effect would be produced,--and he
said she liked it; I am of opinion also that she did. She had begun to
feel a certain solace in company so long as no response was demanded
from her, and no attempt made to interest her and make her take part in
feelings and opinions totally unknown. Jenny and his Greek were a
consolation to her; she did not understand, therefore she would not be
asked to feel, and he required no answer. She went through two or three
days of this after Frederick’s marriage was announced, and I suppose in
the silence her faltering thoughts took shape; for Jenny was nothing to
her, nor Ellinor, nor their mother, no one but Frederick--and slowly she
began to feel that this strange new event would separate her from him.
It was from Dick that at last she asked help for the solution of her

“Frederick is to be married,” she said, addressing him one day when they
happened to be alone. It was in the garden, which in summer was the
home of the family, and the slow, lingering spring had changed into
summer that year almost in a day.

Dick was almost as much surprised as if the lime-tree under which he sat
had suddenly disclosed a questioning Dryad. “Frederick? yes, he is going
to be married, more fool he,” cried Dick, shutting up, on the chance of
conversation, the book which he did not love.

“What does it mean?” said Innocent again. She had come to his side, and
was standing by, questioning him with her great, steady eyes. The good
young fellow thought to himself that she must be an absolute fool to ask
such a question, and did not know what to reply.

“Mean?--” he said confused, casting about for words.

“Does it mean that he will go away from here?” said Innocent, “I do not
know English ways. Will he go away,--will he have her with him instead?
Will he never come back, never to live, to be here always? That is what
I want to know.”

“Of course not,” said Dick. “Why any child knows that when a man marries
he goes away with his wife to a house of his own.”

“Will Frederick have a house of his own?”

“Of course,--I suppose so,--if he can afford it,” said Dick.

“And she will be with him always?” she asked in a musing tone.

Upon which Dick burst into a great laugh, which silenced Innocent; but
she had not the least idea why he laughed. Her mind was too much intent
upon one subject to mind anything else. Frederick had brought a
photograph of his betrothed to exhibit to his mother, and Innocent was
seen bending over it and examining it long and closely. Next morning it
was found on the table torn up into little fragments. The house was
disturbed by this, for Frederick gave his mother and sister credit for
the destruction of the image of his love, and accused them of want of
consideration for himself, and many another sin against his mightiness.
Both the accused ladies, however, suspected how it was; Innocent had
torn it up quickly and quietly after she had looked at it. She had done
it with no vindictiveness, but with a quiet solemnity, like an
administration of justice. “Why did you tear it up?” Nelly said to her,
a day or two later.

“Because I do not like her,” said the girl steadily, not rejecting the

“But, Innocent, though we may dislike people, we cannot destroy
them--nor even their portraits,” said Nelly.

“No,” said Innocent, “but it would be better if she could be destroyed,”
she added, speaking low.

“Hush,--hush,--why do you say so? She has not done anything wrong----”

Innocent made no immediate answer. Her face had changed from its
wistful blank to an almost haggard look of sadness and pain. She turned
away from Nelly, who was half angry and half sympathetic. The strange
thing which they could not understand was, that she had no apparent
anger against Frederick, or painful feeling towards him. She was not
angry. A sinking sense of loneliness came over her when she thought of
his departure, but no offence against him.--She was as ready as ever to
go to him in the garden, to walk with him, to cling to his arm.--Once,
even, she ventured to do what no one else did,--she remonstrated. This
was within a few days of his marriage, when all opposition was stopped,
and nobody made any attempt to change the inevitable. They had been
walking up and down together for some time, he saying nothing, she to
all appearances passive as usual,--when, quite suddenly, without any
warning, she spoke.

“Frederick! I wish you would not marry.--Why should you marry and go
away? I do not like her face. If I had known that you would go away, I
should have stayed in Pisa. Cannot you give it up?--I do not like you to
marry. Oh, stay with us, stay!”

Frederick had stared at her when she began,--now he burst into fits of
unconquerable laughter. There was something insulting in its tone which
touched some chord in Innocent’s nature. She went away from him without
a word, and for days spoke to him no more.



It is impossible for any story, unless comprised within a very short
space, to be written in full detail, and therefore I must beg the gentle
reader to pardon me if I pass over a little more than a year, jumping
over the marriage of Frederick Eastwood and all its attendant
circumstances, which, indeed, was not pleasant to dwell upon. To make
this event possible Mrs. Eastwood had to sacrifice a portion of her
income, which she did with a pained and miserable sense of
unwillingness. It would be impossible for anything to have been more
repulsive or disagreeable to her than the marriage itself, and yet she
had to subtract largely from her own living to render it possible. I
cannot rightly tell why she did not resist this claim. It was partly, I
think, out of horror at herself for being reluctant to sacrifice
anything or everything to secure “the happiness” of one of her
children--a fictitious motive, but one which had great force with her.
The consequence was that old Brownlow, who had seen all the children
grow up, and to whose services and lectures they had been used all their
lives, had to be “put down” like the carriage. Mrs. Eastwood could no
longer afford a costly and solemn butler; she laughed tremulously at the
idea that this was a grievance, and declared aloud that she had always
preferred having maids to wait at table. But it was a grievance, for
Brownlow was an old and faithful servant, upon whom Mrs. Eastwood had
relied much, and he married the cook, also a most important functionary
in the house, and disordered the establishment from top to bottom.
Nobody but the Molyneuxes thought the less of Mrs. Eastwood because the
door at The Elms was now opened by a nice-looking maid; but _they_ did
note her descent in the social scale, and this was very irksome to her.
Brownlow became the greengrocer of the district, and was always at hand
round the corner among the beetroots and cabbages, ready to respond to
any call, and to wait at all the dinner-parties; but still it was not
the same thing as having a man in the house. No carriage and no butler!
These things she had given up for Frederick, and what was she to give up
for Nelly when the time came? The fact was, however, that Nelly would
not allow the time to come. Things remained almost exactly in the same
position as they had done at the beginning of this story, so far as
Nelly was concerned. Ernest Molyneux still went and came, occasionally
taking upon himself the aspect of son of the house, but quite as often
making himself generally disagreeable, making speeches which were
sharply sarcastic or ill-tempered, under the guise of civility, to Mrs.
Eastwood, and torturing Nelly with heats and chills of feeling. He had
taken no step to make the marriage possible in his own person. He was as
idle as ever, lounging about his clubs and The Elms, interfering with
all their arrangements, a man with nothing to do. Now and then he wrote
an article in the _Piccadilly_ or in the _Daily Treasury_, and thus kept
up the character of being a literary man, and making a great deal of
money by his writings. But his profession was just as much and as little
to him as on the day when he had told Mrs. Eastwood that he would not
press for an immediate marriage. He did not press for it now. He felt
with all the clear-sightedness of personal extravagance how many
disadvantages there would be in having to set up an establishment of his
own, and felt that the changes involved would bring more discomfort than
additional happiness. A little more of Nelly would be purchased somewhat
dearly by the change in position, in money to spend, and in
responsibility of every kind; and at present he could have a very
sufficient amount of Nelly’s society without these attendant troubles.
His father, for his part, held himself good-humouredly ready to “do as
much as the other side,” whenever, as he said, Ernest and his young lady
made up their minds, but in the meantime regarded the whole matter with
a certain cynical amusement, watching the process by which, as he
thought, “the old mother” staved off the moment when, along with her
daughter, she would have to part with some of her money. “Knows the
value of money, that future mother-in-law of yours,” he would say to
Ernest, chuckling; “you don’t get it out of her so easily as you do out
of me.” And this was Ernest’s own opinion. To get as much as he could
out of her was clearly the principle on which he must go if he married.
She was “the other side.”

This is, I suppose, a very common state of affairs, and one which is
found existing everywhere; but it is difficult to describe the effect it
produced in the house where a little while ago each believed himself and
herself ready to give up anything or everything for the other, and in
which there was but one heart and one aim. Mrs. Eastwood was driven from
her old standing-ground altogether. She had no longer any faith in
herself or her motives. She felt all the gentle security of well-doing,
which had been in her life, to glide away from her. She was not willing,
as she thought she had been, to denude herself for her children. Their
desire to get as much as they could out of her, revolted her mind and
chilled her heart. Frederick had left her in no doubt that this was his
sentiment. And Nelly? Could Nelly be of the same mind? Oh, no, not
Nelly! but, at least, Ernest, who was to be Nelly’s husband, who would
take her from her mother, and no doubt persuade her to think with
him--at least, when she was his wife. Mrs. Eastwood felt that the virtue
upon which she had made her stand, the great principle of her life, no
longer animated her, and she no longer believed in herself. She felt
that her children were no longer wholly hers, but had become separate,
and even antagonist powers thinking chiefly of themselves; and she
ceased to believe in them. Thus her entire moral atmosphere was changed,
the foundations of the very earth unsettled, the time put out of joint.
She groped vainly for something to guide her out of the maze, and found
nothing. Her comely face became full of anxious lines, and care crept
over her like a cold shadow. This was how the changes, present and to
come, in the family existence, affected its head.

Nelly was, if possible, still more painfully divorced from her old
gentle ease and sprightly quiet. She had begun life for herself, and the
beginning was, like all beginnings, a fight and struggle. The new
required her to be faithless and disloyal to the old; the old could not
conceal a certain grudge and painful antagonism to the new. She was
placed between, feeling herself dragged on either side--dragged asunder,
the peaceful unity of her existence turned into a perpetual struggle to
please both parties, to serve two masters, to be loyal at once to her
lover and to her mother. Nay, the struggle was still more complicated:
for Nelly had not only to serve two masters, but to content and satisfy
a third party, a new being altogether--herself--another Nelly, who had
risen up and sat in judgment upon her. No inquisitor was ever so hard
upon a poor girl as was this other self--this new, severe, enlightened
Nelly, who sat, as it were, at the very springs of her life, and watched
them from their earliest outflow. Even when the poor Nelly in the flesh
had made what seemed to her a very successful compromise, when she had
done her very best, and had pleased both sides, and served both masters,
the spiritual Nelly would come down upon her like a wolf on the
fold--would convict her of falsehood, of paltering with what she knew to
be right, of mean expedients, and a base policy of time-serving. Poor
child! it was true she had become a time-server. She said one thing to
the one, another to the other. She tried in a hundred little stealthy
ways to “bring them together,” to resuscitate the ancient friendship
between them. She told each of pretty speeches the other had made, and
kept a dead silence as to the speeches, anything but pretty, which she
had often enough to listen to. Not only was her heart torn asunder, but
her mind was confused in its sense of right and wrong. Many things which
seemed abstractly right had become impossible to her; and some that were
wrong were so natural, so necessary! She was unhappy in her home, and,
with cruel mortification, she perceived that the other home, to which
she had naturally looked forward, was receding into the distance. It was
to be purchased only by despoiling the present. A certain impatience,
almost by moments, ripening into disgust, sometimes moved her in respect
to her betrothed. Her heart sickened sometimes at his suggestions--at
the tone in which he spoke. He wanted all the rest of the world to
bestir themselves on his behalf; but he himself had no idea of
bestirring himself. He thought it natural that sacrifices of all sorts
should be made to bring about his happiness--only not by him.

“But we are young,” poor Nelly would say; “we can put up with anything.
What does it matter?”

“It matters a great deal,” Ernest would answer. “We are young; it is our
time for enjoyment. They have had their day. You don’t suppose our
fathers and mothers feel half as keenly or enjoy half as much as we do?
Then why shouldn’t they give up, and let us have the means of enjoying?
I don’t understand that sort of dog-in-the-manger philosophy,” said the
young man, with a loftiness of moralizing which almost impressed Nelly,
in spite of her higher perceptions.

She was seated in a low basket-work chair under the lime-trees, looking
up with puckers of care upon her pretty forehead which had no business
there, at the self-absorbed countenance of her lover. He was cutting
down the young lime-shoots which grew up in a miniature forest round the
trees, with a little cane in his hand. It was autumn, and the leaves
fell at every stroke. He had one hand in his pocket, careless, yet
disappointed; laying down the law, and feeling himself above its action.
Nelly gazed at him with a mute inquiry--a close, anxious, silent
investigation, which she could not herself have explained. Yes; she was
interrogating Nature and circumstances, and the present and the future;
puzzled between her own instincts, her own ancient certainties of
belief, and the philosophy of him who ought to be more to her than all
else on earth. He was cleverer than she was, better able to express
himself: was he more right than she? Or was he wrong, all wrong--wrong
in feeling, in principle, in all that makes a man? What a question this
was for a girl to ask herself! And she did not ask it; but only looked
up at him, mutely wondering, trying to penetrate the real meaning that
was in him--a meaning which must, she felt, be better and higher than
anything he said.

Through the same old garden in which these two were seated another
figure was visible, passing and repassing under the distant trees. This
was Innocent, who had changed too, and developed in her way, during the
interval which had been of so much importance to her. Her face had
scarcely altered, for her mind was waking up but slowly, and it still
retained the half vacant, half dreamy look habitual to it. But a change
had come over her aspect generally. She had been assimilated in
appearance, as much as circumstances permitted, to other girls of her
age. Her hair had been put up, much against her will, though she had
strenuously resisted all the modern mysteries of hair-dressing. In this
point Alice had been invaluable to her; for Alice was old-fashioned, and
looked with grim contempt at the devices, which even Nelly was not
strong-minded enough to reject, for increasing the volume of piled-up
hair with which the young ladies of the day disguise the shape and
exaggerate the dimensions of their pretty heads. Alice drew Innocent’s
hair into a knot behind, loosely coiled and of no great magnitude. Even
thus it was seldom “tidy,” I am sorry to say, being somewhat short for
such treatment, and often fell loose in a wandering, half curled lock
upon her shoulders. Her dress, too, was still simply made and free from
furbelows; but it was kept within a respectful distance of the
fashion--enough “not to be remarked,” which was Mrs. Eastwood’s horror.
Mrs. Eastwood, indeed, felt that Innocent was scarcely safe from that
misery of being remarked; but consoled herself that, though the girl was
nearly eighteen, she was scarcely, properly speaking, “out:” and in such
cases, as everybody knows, plainness of dress is in the best taste and a
mark of distinction. What was still more remarkable, however, was that
Innocent held a book in her hand as she went up and down the Lady’s Walk
under the arching trees, which now and then sent down a leaf flickering
through the softened daylight upon her, or upon the open page, an
occurrence which sent her thoughts astray continually. The girl would
look up with a vague soft smile on her face when this occurred, up and
round as if half hoping to see some concealed playmate among the
branches or behind the bole of a tree, and then would breathe a gentle
little sigh and return to the book. Innocent was struggling with the
difficulties of education at this moment. She was reading, or trying to
read, history, endeavouring now and then, by help of her own voice, by
whispering it half aloud, and thus cheating herself into attention, to
master something about Elizabeth and the Marys, her of Smithfield and
her of Scotland. She had undertaken this study by her own desire,
curiously enough, having come to feel herself deficient. When a girl of
nearly eighteen feels herself deficient in education, what can the most
well-meaning of friends advise her to do? I need not say that Mrs.
Eastwood’s sense of propriety had long ere now secured a music master
for Innocent, and that by this time she could play a little on the
piano, not cleverly, but yet with a certain dreamy faculty, amusing
herself with long-drawn chords and fragmentary combinations of her own.
She could speak French and Italian, and even a little German, thanks to
her foreign education, and she had no taste for drawing. What more than
this could be done in the way of education for her? She had the same
novels to read if she chose which came from Mudie’s periodically for the
rest of the family, and she was recommended to “take a book” by
everybody who saw her seated, as she was seen so often, with her hands
in her lap, doing nothing. But it was only within a very recent time
that Innocent had begun to take this advice. She had been laughed at for
her ignorance, and the laugh had touched her for the first time; and
here she was accordingly, poor child, on this sunny, hazy autumn
afternoon, straying up and down, up and down the Lady’s Walk, reading
half aloud to herself, about the dead controversies, the national
struggles of which she knew nothing. The Queen of Scots even was to her
but a printed name. She knew nothing of the story, nothing of the woman
for whom partisans still fight, though she has been dead these two
hundred years. She read over with her whispering lips the curt record of
events which once made blood flow and hearts beat, insensible to them as
though they had been mere revolutions of machinery. The leaf which
dropped on her book was real, and so were the pebbles which caught her
foot as she strayed on, not looking where she went; but the history was
a dead thing so far as Innocent was concerned, and she herself was no
more real than the history. What did she there, a stray, half-awakened
soul, among the facts of that ordinary everyday scene? She was an
embodied dream, scarcely realizable even by herself, and her occupation
was as unreal as she was, as she strayed like a vision, appearing and
re-appearing between the openings of the trees.

“Is it really true,” said Molyneux, suddenly departing from the graver
subject, “that old Longueville has fallen in love with that child,
Innocent? It isn’t forbidden, I believe, to marry your grandfather, but
only your grandmother, eh Nelly? Are you jealous? First of all he wanted

“He never wanted me.”

“Oh, it is very well to say so now; but it was that, you know, that
brought me to the point.”

“If you did not want to be brought to the point, it is a pity that it
should have happened through a mistake,” said Nelly, driven into
momentary crossness by the complication and confusion of her feelings.
But Molyneux did not want to quarrel. He only laughed lightly.

“Perhaps I am the best judge whether it was a mistake,” he said, “but in
the meantime he is going in for Innocent. Is it true?”

“He has said something to mamma; but not enough to build any story upon,
or to be talked about----”

“By George!” cried Molyneux, “it is about to come to a crisis before our
eyes. There is your mother calling for Innocent, and I know
Longueville’s there----. Now this is what I call exciting. Innocent!
Innocent! don’t you hear your aunt calling you? She’s got a new doll for
you,” he said, laughing, as the girl came slowly past them. “A good
strong india-rubber affair, warranted not to break, that can walk and
talk, and say----. She doesn’t take any notice,” he added with some
disappointment. “What is she always dreaming about? She has got over all
that nonsense about Frederick----”

“Please don’t talk so lightly,” said Nelly, still cross in spite of
herself. “There never was any nonsense about Frederick. She liked him
best, for she knew him first. She has never taken to us very much. I
don’t know whether it is our fault or her fault; but there was nothing
like what you say.”

Molyneux laughed again. “It does not matter,” he said, “though you are
very contradictory, Nelly. Of course you are jealous, that’s what it is.
Lady Longueville, with a handsome house in town, and half-a-dozen in the
country, with diamonds and an opera-box, and everything that’s heavenly.
Confess now you do feel it. All this going to your little cousin!”

Nelly’s eyes flashed. Few people see the joke of which they are
themselves the subject, and Nelly was not superior to the rest of the
world; but she had learned the wisdom of restraining her first outburst
of feeling. She rose from her seat under the tree, and, going a little
apart from him, watched Innocent making her way slowly through the
gleams of sunshine and bars of shadow to the drawing-room windows, which
were open. When the girl went slowly in through the open window, Nelly
breathed forth a little sigh. “Poor child!” she said. She was thinking
more of her own strange position than of anything that could come to her
cousin. How little she had foreseen the perplexities, the chill doubts,
the weakening of faith, the diminution of feeling, the irritation and
weariness which often filled her now! Innocent could have no such
experience; she was not capable of it; but the one girl threw herself
into the position of the other, with a liveliness of feeling which the
circumstances scarcely called for. She forgot that Sir Alexis was as
unlikely to inspire love as Innocent was to feel it. “I wonder what she
will say?” Nelly murmured, with her eyes fixed on the window by which
Innocent had disappeared.

“Say? nothing! there is one advantage of taciturnity. She will let it
all be settled for her. A lucky girl, indeed; your mother must have
played her cards very well,” said Molyneux, with real approbation,
“after you and I foiled her, Nelly, by our precipitation, to catch the
great prize for her niece. You look angry. I think it was extremely
clever of her, for my part.”

“Ernest,” said Nelly quickly, “I wish you would go. If you don’t, I feel
sure we shall quarrel, and I would rather not quarrel,” cried the girl,
with tears in her eyes. “Please go away.”

“Why, Nelly? you are out of temper----”

“I am out of everything,” she cried, “out of heart, out of hope, out

“Not out of love?” he said, drawing her hand through his arm. He, at
least, was not out of love. And Nelly cried, but let him soothe her. Was
not she his, bound to him for ever and ever? Was it not hers to forgive,
to tolerate, to endure all things? If he seemed to think amiss would not
that mend? All this went through Nelly’s heart as her brief hot passion
of tears relieved the irritation in her soul; but still the irritation
was there.



Innocent walked in unsuspectingly through the great open window in the
drawing-room, which looked dusky and dim after the sunshine. The flowers
peeped through the glass doors of the conservatory, and her own image in
the great glass over the mantelpiece seemed to confront her as she came
in. Mrs. Eastwood rose from the sofa, close to the window, where she had
been sitting beside Sir Alexis. She took Innocent’s hand. The other hand
still embraced the history book, which she was holding close to her
breast. Mrs. Eastwood looked into the girl’s face tenderly, with an
anxious gaze, to which Innocent gave no response. “I wonder if she will
understand?” she said, turning to Longueville, who had risen from the
sofa. “I think I can make her understand,” he said. And then Mrs.
Eastwood put her arm round the girl and kissed her. Innocent had ceased
to be surprised and impatient of the kindness by which she was
surrounded. Though she still took little part in the life of the
family, it began to seem natural to her that people should feel, and
that they should talk, and laugh, and cry, and conduct themselves as it
once seemed so strange for them to do. She was not surprised now at any
“fuss” that was made. She accepted it quietly, taking little part in it.
But for the moment this scene did indeed appear like a dream; the
unexpected kiss, the words to which she attached no definite meaning,
the something evidently connected with herself, which they settled
before her eyes; even the air of the room seemed full of a certain
whispering curiosity, interest, and suspense. Innocent felt that
something was about to happen, without knowing how. Was she to be sent
away? Had something occurred that involved her fate? She looked, no
longer quite passive, with a little tremulous wonder and doubt from one
to the other. Then Mrs. Eastwood, who had been holding her hand, kissed
her again, and there were tears in her eyes.

“Sir Alexis has something to say to you, Innocent. Give him your
attention,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “and when you want me, you will find me
in the dining-room. My poor dear child--God bless you!” cried the kind
woman, and hurried away as if afraid to commit herself. Then it was the
turn of Sir Alexis to advance, which he did, looking, as Innocent
thought, strangely at her, as if he had something terrible to
communicate. He, too, took her hand, and led her to the sofa, to the
place from which Mrs. Eastwood had risen. “Innocent,” he said softly.

She looked at him with scared and anxious eyes. She was not as she had
been. Had she been asked whether she loved her relations, she would
probably have stared at the questioner, and made no reply; but the
thought of leaving them--of going out into the strange world--struck her
with a sharp pang. “Am I to be sent away?” she cried; “is that what you
have to tell me?” and a dull dread, which she could not struggle
against, took possession of Innocent’s soul.

“To be sent away! No, that is the last thing I could have to tell you,”
he said, looking at her with something in his eyes which surprised her,
which confused her; which, in her simplicity, she could not understand,
yet felt moved by strangely. Her foolish terror died away. The faint
vague smile, with which she had looked round at the falling leaves, came
upon her face again. This smile was quite peculiar to Innocent. It moved
some people almost to tears; and it frightened others. It was like the
look of some one smiling in a dream. The smile altogether overpowered
the old veteran and man of the world beside her. There was something in
it half-imbecile, half-divine; and, indeed, Innocent stood at the very
climax of these two extremes--almost a fool, almost the purest visionary
development of womankind. In her present stage of being it seemed
impossible to predict on which side the balance would drop.

“Innocent,” he said very softly, and then made a pause; “I am as old as
your father,” he added after a moment, in which he seemed to take


“As old as your father; and you are but a child--not a grown woman.
Young in years, younger in mind----”

“You say that because I am not clever,” said Innocent, with a look of

“No, indeed. I do not want you to be clever--not anything but what you

The girl looked up at him again with that soft, vague smile. She made a
movement as if to place her hand in his--then checked herself, having
learned that such ways of testifying her pleasure were not generally
approved of. Sir Alexis had been very kind to her. He had petted her as
a man of mature age is permitted to pet a child, bringing her flowers
and fruit and pretty things, and asking no comprehension, no reply,
except the smile. She felt at her ease with him. It did not even occur
to her to inquire what he could want now. And it is impossible to
describe the bewildering effect which this had upon the mind of the man
who wanted to present himself to Innocent as her lover. He was struck
dumb. He looked at her with a wondering gaze--baffled, silenced, in all
his superior sense and knowledge. But he had brought her here for the
purpose of making this disclosure of his wishes; he had been left with
her under this special understanding, and he felt that only ridicule
could be his fate if his courage failed him. To be daunted by Innocent!
The thought was too absurd. And yet when he looked at her he felt
daunted still.

“Innocent,” he said, “I have a great deal to say to you; but you are
so--young, that it is difficult to say it. You were afraid just now of
being sent away. Did it ever occur to you that you might some time go
away of your own will?”

“I go away? Where should I go?” said Innocent. “I should have liked to
have stayed at Pisa; but now I know better--I have nothing, no money, no
home. I could not go away. And, besides, I do not wish it. It is best

“You are fond of them, then, now?”

Innocent made a little pause, looking at him as if to fathom his meaning
before she said simply, “Yes;” and Sir Alexis, with all his experience,
grew red under the girl’s look; but in reality she had no thought of
fathoming what he meant. She never asked herself whether he meant
anything; she paused only to collect her wandering intelligence. Was she
fond of them? She had scarcely asked herself the question--her feelings
towards them had been passive more than active--“Yes,”--no more than
that; no girlish enthusiasm or effusiveness was possible to her.

“And Ellinor is fond of her mother--fonder than you can be; but yet some
day soon she will go away----”

“Nelly?--ah, that will be when she is married,” said Innocent, with a
livelier tone.

“And you, too, will be married some time.”

“Shall I?” she said with a smile. “No, I do not think so--Why? Some
people are never married; and some----” here she stopped short, and a
sombre look came over her face. Sir Alexis, following her eyes, imagined
that they rested on a portrait of Frederick, and the thought gave him a

“Some would have been better if they had not married,” he said.
“Innocent, what should you think of marrying me----?”

“You!” She looked somewhat amused, undisturbed, at him, making him feel
more disconcerted, more baffled than ever.

“I am serious,” he said, almost with impatience, taking her hand and
pressing it somewhat tightly to keep her attention alive--“I want you to
think of what I say. You are dependent here, dependent upon your aunt,
who some time or other may feel you a burden; and I could make you rich,
and put everything at your feet. You, who are a poor girl, would become
a great lady if you married me, Innocent. You would find it pleasant in
many ways. You should do what you like, and have what you like, without
asking any one’s leave. Yes, and go anywhere--to Pisa if you pleased. I
would do whatever you wished, and spend my life in trying to please
you--for I am very fond of you, Innocent,” said the man of the world in
a tone of appeal which was almost a whimper.

What a curious scene it was: she so passive, so unexcited, not
understanding nor caring to understand; and he, the wise man, agitated,
perplexed, anxious. He had meant that this should be a very different
scene. He had meant to put forth his hand and take her to himself, as he
might have taken a flower; but this no longer seemed so easy as he
looked upon the blankness of her beautiful, wistful, unresponsive face.

“Have you no answer to give me?” he said, almost humbly, holding her
slender hand between his.

“I don’t think I understand,” said Innocent slowly. “I am--stupid, as
the servants say. Nelly would go, perhaps, if you were to ask her.”

“But it is you I want--you, Innocent! Try to understand--I want you to
marry me--to be my wife.”

“Like Frederick and--his wife?” asked Innocent, with a shudder.

“Pshaw--like any man and his wife,” he said. “Innocent, you are not so
foolish as you try to make people think. You must be able to understand
this. Do you like me? Tell me that first.”

“Yes,” she said calmly, looking at him, grave, and curious, and

“Then will you marry me? Tell me yes or no.”

“Please, no!” said Innocent, with a troubled look. “Please, no----”

Sir Alexis dropped the hand he had been holding, and got up and walked
about the room. To tell the truth, he was impatient, half angry, annoyed
rather than wounded, as men generally are who are refused. Even in the
midst of his annoyance he was half inclined to laugh. He had made up his
mind to marry her whether she chose or not; but to be refused
point-blank by this child was a thing which had scarcely appeared to him
possible. It irritated, and vexed, and half-amused him, without in the
least altering his purpose and determination. A comical half-wish to
have her whipped mingled in his mind with vexation at having made so
little impression upon her. After a few moments, during which he calmed
himself down by his promenade, he came back and took his seat again, and
her hand, which she gave to him smiling. She was glad he was not angry.
It was a relief to her mind to find that he did not “scold” her, as so
many people felt themselves at liberty to do.

“Innocent, my dear,” he said, “I want you to think over this carefully.
Should not you like to go into the world with me, to see everything that
is to be seen; to go everywhere, and buy what you liked, and live where
you pleased? I would do anything to please you. I would go with you
everywhere to take care of you. Before you say no, think what it is you
are refusing; and speak to your aunt, and let her advise you. She knows
better than you do. I know better than you do,” he said, with a smile
which indeed was a smile at himself, so odd and strange was his
position. “I advise you to accept me, Innocent. Longueville is a
beautiful place, much finer than anything you have seen in England; and
we could go to Pisa if you liked.”

“Ah, I should have liked it once--a year ago,” said Innocent; “but now
it is best here. I don’t want to go away----”

“Not to make me happy? Suppose you take that into consideration? to make
a man who is fond of you happy.”

She gazed at him with wondering eyes. She did not understand the
language even which he was speaking. Had it been warm, youthful love,
probably Innocent would have known what he meant. But this middle-aged
fondness for the beautiful strange young creature, so strangely young,
so unusual in her type of beauty, conveyed no idea to the mind which was
but half alive. I don’t think she believed this last speech; it seemed
to her, though she had a very limited perception of humour, that it must
be a joke.

“Innocent,” he cried, growing excited, and raising his voice, as if she
had been deaf; “is it possible you do not understand me? I love you--is
not that plain? I want to have you always with me, to have you for my
wife. I want you to marry me. All girls marry; it is natural--it is
necessary; and you say you like me. Shall I call your aunt, and tell her
you have consented, and will be my wife?”

“Oh, please no! please no!” cried Innocent, putting her hand on his arm
in sudden fright. “If she said so, I would have to do it. Do not make me
go away. I am not--clever. Don’t be angry or scold me. I am beginning to
know a little better.” She put her hands together instinctively like a
child. “It would be as dark again as when I came here; do not make me go

“Nobody will make you do anything; but I love you, Innocent. Come with
me of your own will. Nobody will make you go away.”

“Ah, thanks!” she cried, with a long-drawn sigh of relief. She did not
seem to notice his other words--only the last, which relieved her. She
put her clasped hands to her side, and looked at him with her dreamy
smile. “I was frightened for a moment,” she said, “but I knew you were
too kind. Feel how it made my heart beat. You are not angry? It was
wrong not to care when I came here; but it cannot be wrong to wish to
stay now? I could not bear to go away.”

“You will think differently after a while,” he said, “and then----” The
man was piqued by her perfect insensibility to the honour he had done
her. But before he uttered the threat which came to his lips, better
feelings came over him. “Yes, Innocent,” he said, “I made a mistake; I
have been premature. But now listen to me. If ever you change your
mind--if ever you wish to go away--if the time should come when you may
be glad to think you have another home ready for you, and some one who
loves you--then will you think of me? I will not be angry if you will
promise this.”

“Oh, yes,” she cried gladly. “Yes, I will promise. I will think of you;
I will run to you. It is not likely,” she added, half to herself, “that
they will send me away, or that I shall wish to go; but if----”

“In that case you will come to me?”

“Yes, directly. I will remember. I promise--faithfully, faithfully!” The
vague look brightened up into warmer intelligence as she held out her
hand to him. I am not sure that the intelligence suited the face so well
as its usual passive visionariness. This gleam of light made her more
like a child than she had ever been before. Sir Alexis rose gravely,
and, stooping over her, kissed her forehead. She shrank a hair’s
breadth; but yet received the salute gravely too, without a blush,
looking at him with a wondering endeavour to investigate his
countenance. He could not be angry since he gave her this sign of amity.
As for the discomfited lover himself, he took his hat, and went away
very gravely, disappointed it is true, but touched and rendered serious,
he could not quite tell how. He did not feel like a man who had been
refused, but rather like one who had rashly thrust the vulgar questions
of life into some mysterious intermediate region between earth and
heaven. He had spoken earthly language to a creature, half idiot, half
angel, whose spotless mind had no thoughts or impulses in it which
could make it possible for her to understand him. He was half ashamed of
himself, half solemnized as by a vision. As this impression wore off,
however, which it did in time, Sir Alexis was not discouraged. He could
not have her now; but one day he would have her, and his love was not of
the hotly passionate kind which cannot wait. Perhaps, indeed, he wanted
Innocent only as he would have wanted a lovely picture, a rare flower.
He had never seen any one the least like her, and he did not require a
helpmate or a companion; it was a supreme luxury, the rarest he could
think of, that he wanted. And with such sentiments a man, especially
when he is fifty, may be content to wait.

When Mrs. Eastwood heard the door close she came back anxiously to the
drawing-room. Things had gone badly for Sir Alexis, she felt sure, from
the mere fact that he had gone away. Innocent was about to step out
again through the open window when her aunt came up to her. She laid her
hand upon the girl’s shoulder, detaining her. Innocent had still her
history-book clasped in one hand against her breast.

“Where is Sir Alexis?” said Mrs. Eastwood. “Have you sent him away?”

“Oh, no,” said Innocent, the gleam of intelligence which I have already
described still brightening about her face, and changing for the moment
into a kind of clever imbecility the usual pensive dreaminess of its
expression. “He went away himself quite of his own will. And he was not
angry. We are friends as much as ever.”

“Then you refused him, Innocent?”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘refused.’ I asked him not to ask you to
make me go away. I don’t want to go away. Did you wish me to go?” the
girl asked, with the old wistful look coming back into her face. It was
the first time this thought had struck her, and a chill stole into her

“No,” said Mrs. Eastwood, drawing her close. “I am glad you are not
going, Innocent. Only it might have been better for you, my poor child.
He is rich, and he is fond of you. He would have been very kind; he
would have given you every advantage, more than I can give you. And if
anything was to happen to me---- But you don’t understand such
calculations. It would have been a comfort to have you settled,” said
Mrs. Eastwood with a sigh.

“Is Nelly settled?” asked Innocent.

“God knows!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, in sudden trouble; and then she turned
to the girl whom she had adopted with an instinctive appeal for
sympathy. “If I was to die who would think of you who would care for
you--Nelly and you? There would be no one but Frederick--and Frederick’s

Innocent did not make any reply--a faint colour flickered over her
cheek. She turned away from her aunt, twisting her fingers together with
a helpless gesture. Then she said, very low, “Frederick--would always
take care--of me.”

“Oh, my dear,” cried Mrs. Eastwood, “you must not think of Frederick. I
am afraid when he is kind to you he is thinking more of himself than
you. That is one reason why I should have been glad, very glad.
Frederick belongs to his wife.”

“May I go now, and read my history?” said Innocent, after a pause. She
went back to the path overshadowed with trees, and opened her book; and
whispered to herself again, half aloud, how Mary plotted and wove her
spells, how Elizabeth lay in wait for her like a spider. She resumed at
the same sentence as if nothing had happened. How much of it went into
her mind? How much of the other had gone into her mind? Sir Alexis,
Frederick, all the surrounding figures, were they ghostly and dim to her
as Mary of Scotland and the great Elizabeth? But no one could answer
this question. Amid the strange light-gleams and weird darkness of her
own little world she dwelt alone.



The evening of the day on which the above incidents occurred was that of
a periodical banquet, feared and staved off as long as possible by all
the Eastwoods. Since the time of Frederick’s marriage it had been
considered necessary that he and his wife should be invited to dinner
formally from time to time, in order that it might be visible to the
world and “Mrs. Frederick’s family” that full honour was done to her.
Nelly and Mrs. Eastwood had made a great effort to adopt Amanda, if not
into their hearts, at least into their society, after the terrible event
was actually accomplished which made her their daughter and sister. But
I need not say that this was a very hopeless attempt, and that as
familiar companionship gradually failed between people who resembled
each other so little, the periodical dinner gradually gained importance
as the only practicable way of keeping up “a proper intercourse.” Mrs.
Frederick had come to London with very great ideas. She had hoped for
nothing less than an entry into the fashionable world, and all the glory
of associating with lords and ladies. The visits she received from the
ladies of Mrs. Eastwood’s circle disgusted and disappointed her. What!
Marry and come to London for no better purpose than to be visited by
ladies from the suburbs, who lived there always--ladies with no better
title than Mrs.; some of them, like Mrs. Eastwood herself, paying their
visits in flys, or in the plainest of little broughams, no better than a
fly. Visions of splendid vehicles, with embroidered hammercloths and
celestial flunkeys, had entranced Amanda’s imagination. The Eastwoods
were county people at Sterborne--they were a baronet’s family--magnates
in the neighbourhood; and the beauty had no means of realizing that a
country baronet is no great personage in London, much less a country
baronet’s cousin. The disappointment was bitter, and she was not the
woman to conceal it. Gradually, however, she fell into a kind of
society, or to use her own words, formed a circle, which pleased her
well enough. This consisted chiefly of the men who had been her father’s
visitors in former days, several of whom had handles to their names.
They were not as a general rule much credit to know, but they suited
Amanda better than the Mrs. Everards, and other humdrum persons, who had
welcomed her first to her new position. When she had yawned through one
or two dinner parties, painfully got up for Mrs. Eastwood’s sake, to
make the best of a bad business, by the society which frequented The
Elms, Amanda had declared her determination to have nothing more to do
with “Frederick’s old-fashioned set.” They were not much in sympathy
with her, to tell the truth; and dinners at Richmond, with Lord
Hunterston and his kind in attendance, were a great deal more to her
liking. Amanda held, in fact, the opinion which poor little Innocent had
expressed innocently as a reflection of the sentiments of her father.
She disliked women. They were all jealous of her beauty, she believed;
they were her critics or her rivals--never her friends; spite was their
chief characteristic; envy their main sentiment. The men of Amanda’s set
were of her opinion--so are a great many clever persons, it must be
allowed--at least, in books. Therefore it is not to be supposed that
Amanda looked forward with more distinct gratification than that felt by
the ladies at The Elms to her periodical dinner. She put on her
handsomest dresses and her finest talk to dazzle them, and she made it a
subject for her peculiar wit for some time before and after.

“I am going to dine with my old mother-in-law,” she would say to the
young men, few in number at this season of the year, who filled her
little drawing-room in the afternoon. “Such a set of old guys she has
about her, to be sure. Why she should insist upon having me, I can’t
imagine, for she hates me, of course. But duty before everything. I
shall have to go.”

“Why should you have to go?” said one. “And by Jove, I’ll come to-morrow
to hear all about it!” said another. The lively sympathy of this chorus
did Mrs. Frederick good.

“Oh, you shall hear the whole account,” she said. “It’s like Noah’s
Ark. There is the regular clergyman, and some old fogies of lawyers, and
a horrible man called John Vane----”

“Oh, come, Mrs. Eastwood, John Vane’s no end of a good fellow. I know
him as well as I know myself,” said one of the interlocutors.

“That may be--but he ain’t a good fellow at The Elms. The Elms! only
fancy. Doesn’t it sound like Hampstead Heath? He is related to the mad
girl I told you of--and he’s after my prim little puss of a
sister-in-law, in a quiet way; for she is engaged, if you please, and
oh! does give herself such airs on the strength of it. But the women!
You should see the women! In old silks and satins that belonged to their
grandmothers, with turbans and I don’t know what--all looking as if they
could eat me.”

“That, of course,” said one of Amanda’s court, with a laugh.

“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Frederick, giggling slightly in response; “and
to hear them lay down the law! what one should do, and what one should
not do. And, then, mamma-in-law herself! But there are some things too
dreadful to be talked about. Mothers-in-law are one of these things.
Tell me about Hurlingham, or something pleasant. If I go on thinking of
what’s before me, I shall die.”

Thus it will be seen the dispositions of Mrs. Frederick were little
likely to promote harmony. On the other hand, Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly
had their private conference, which was not much more hopeful.

“Try to avoid unpleasant subjects,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “Talk of
Brighton, and that sort of thing, Nelly. Or stay, as they have been
abroad for their holiday, get her to talk about Switzerland. That must
be a safe subject. She will think it is fine to talk about Switzerland,
as she was never there before; and keep her off her grievances, if
possible. Frederick looks so black when she begins; poor Frederick, how
he is changed!”

Nelly made no response on this point, for she was not so deeply
convinced as was her mother that Frederick had been a great deal “nicer”
before he was married. This is, I am sorry to say, a very common opinion
among a man’s female relations. But Nelly had not been so much deluded
about the “niceness” of her brother in his previous state as many
sisters happily are. She maintained a prudent silence so far as
Frederick was concerned.

“If I try to keep her off her grievances, you must try to keep her off
Innocent, mamma,” said Nelly; and this was the bargain with which they
concluded. I am not sure that Mrs. Eastwood was quite right in her
selection of guests to meet Mrs. Frederick. Had she invited Sir Alexis,
that imposing person might have kept her in order; but what did Amanda
care for Sir Timothy Doul, who had been Governor of Barbadoes, or for
Mr. Parchemin, though he was a great lawyer?--any more than she would
have done for great poets and such people, in distinction to the really
great, the dukes and countesses for whom her soul longed. Sir Timothy
and Lady Doul were the only strangers present on this occasion, for, as
the reader is aware, Mr. Parchemin was one of Mrs. Eastwood’s
councillors. Ernest Molyneux had failed at the last moment, and had been
hurriedly replaced by Mr. Vane, who was always ready to do a kind
action, and who of late had been a great deal about The Elms. Molyneux
objected much to meet Mrs. Frederick. Vane objected to nothing. Perhaps
the difference lay in the fact that one of the men had attained all he
wanted, and was no longer anxious about Nelly’s favour, but considered
it her duty to please him; whereas the other, foreseeing the possibility
of a catastrophe, felt himself (though despairingly) on his promotion,
and deemed it wise to be on the spot, in order that if anything offered
he might have full advantage of the chance. This, I fear, was Mr. Vane’s
reason for keeping so much in the foreground. It is impossible to
describe the use he was at The Elms. He was never out of temper, and
Ernest was very often out of temper. He was satisfied with all the
arrangements made by the ladies, and Ernest found fault continually.
Nelly, with a guilty sense of treachery in her mind, had felt herself
turn to the man who was “a connexion” for rest and sympathy, when she
could not turn to her lover. This was a very terrible state of affairs,
but no one was quite conscious how far it had gone.

Mrs. Frederick made her appearance in a dress of pink silk, with a train
almost a yard long. Her beautiful shoulders were bare, and her arms. Her
hair was dressed in the most elaborate way which an excited hairdresser
could devise; a soft little curling fringe of it half covered her low
but white forehead, and great golden billows rose above, increasing at
once her height and the size of her head. All the glow of colour, all
the roundness of outline, all the flush of physical beauty which had
maddened Frederick, remained undimmed and undiminished; but Frederick
stalked in behind her like a black shadow, gloomy, disappointed, dismal,
more like Charles I. than ever. Wherever he went, all the ladies were
sorry for Frederick. Poor fellow, he had made a mistake in his marriage,
and how he felt it! He writhed when his Amanda began to talk fine, and
to display her knowledge of great people. He looked at her morosely
whenever she opened her lips, and followed her into the room with a
gloom upon his countenance which here he did not think it necessary to
conceal. His mother at least had forgiven all the faults that Frederick
had ever committed against her, in consideration of his present
sufferings. The fact that he was discontented with the toy for which he
had paid so dear (and for which, alas! Mrs. Eastwood, too, was paying
dear), seemed to cover all his previous sins. Had he put a better face
upon it, and endured cheerfully the doom which he had brought upon
himself, his mother, and womankind in general, would have thought less
well of him; they would have concluded that he was happy, and would have
despised him; but they were sorry for him now, and elevated him to the
rank of a martyr, in consideration of his gloom and disgust. Nelly was
almost the only rebel against this universal tenderness.

“He married to please himself,” said Nelly; “he ought to make the best
of it now, and not the worst. It is mean of him to pose in this gloomy
way. I should like to shake him,” cried the impetuous girl.

“Nelly, don’t be so hard-hearted,” her mother would say, with piteous

Thus Frederick was generally successful in his gloom--at least among the
feminine half of society. He came in behind Amanda’s train, which he
looked at with disgust, as it curled about his foot. Nevertheless he was
pleased to see that his gorgeous wife made an impression on the old
fogies who sat by his mother’s side--Sir Timothy and Lady Doul.

“I am pretty well, thank you,” said Amanda, “as well as it is possible
to be in London at this time of the year; when all one’s friends are
gone, and when the place is full of outlandish country-looking people,
or strange fishes from abroad, it is such a bore to stay in London. You
don’t feel it out here in the suburbs--you have your little society of
your own, which pays no attention to the season. I am sure I wish I was
as well off.”

“Dear me!” said old Lady Doul, with the admiration and wonder of
ignorance. “I think London is always so exciting. I could not bear too
much of it. Sir Timothy and I were just saying what a racket it was. To
be sure we are living in Half-Moon Street, in the centre of everything,”
the old lady added with simple pride. Her cap had been made in
Barbadoes, and so had her gown; she had not been “in town” for more than
twenty years.

Amanda gave her a stare in passing. She was never civil to women.

“I should think you would find the desert lively if you think Half-Moon
Street exciting,” she said. “Give me a nice country house choke full of
people, with luncheons at the cover-side, and dances in the evening, and
all sorts of fun going on. But when one marries a poor clerk in a public
office, one has to put up with many things,” she went on, turning to old
Sir Timothy, who, startled and embarrassed, did not know what to reply.

“Oh, ah, oh, of course,” said the old man; “very good--very good.
Everybody suffers from a penurious government. I assure you, my dear
young lady, the fine young fellows one meets out in the
world--_attachés_, and such like--wasting their time, as I always tell
them, upon twopence-halfpenny a year. Why, I had a secretary once, a
young man of excellent family----”

“But I hope you did not allow him to marry,” said Amanda. “It is always
upon the wives that the hardship falls. If you saw the little hole of a
place we have to live in--and back to London in October--only fancy! I
wonder what we are supposed to be made of. The men are much better off
with their clubs, and that sort of thing. They know at least all that is
going on; they hear the gossip, and see every stray creature there is to
see; but as for us, poor ladies----”

“Tell me how far you went in Switzerland, Amanda,” said Nelly. “You must
have enjoyed that. We have only been once among the mountains; but what
a pleasure it was!--did you go to----? But I remember Frederick wrote
you had changed your minds----”

Nelly spoke with the artificiality of a made-up digression, and Sir
Timothy thought her but a poor little shadowy thing by the side of her
beautiful sister-in-law.

“Oh, I never go into raptures I don’t feel,” said Amanda. “I don’t care
twopence for Switzerland; I hate mountains; I would rather go to Margate
any day--that is, if nothing better were to be had,” she added,
remembering that Margate was hardly consistent with the splendour of her
pretensions--“Don’t ask me about places as if I was a guide book. I like
people, and talk, and to see new faces, and the play, and all that’s
going on.”

“Very pleasant,” said Sir Timothy, “and very good taste, and I quite
agree with you. I have promised Lady Doul and myself the pleasure of the
play to-morrow.”

“The play--to-morrow!” cried Amanda, putting out her hand with an air of
horror--“The play! At this time of the year? You must be out of your

Here Brownlow made his appearance at the door, and the party went in to

“You did not tell us that Mrs. Frederick was a beauty,” said Sir Timothy
in Mrs. Eastwood’s ear, “and so completely one of the _beau monde_. You
said _Mrs._ Frederick surely? Not a title? Ah, now you set my mind at
rest. I was rather afraid to hazard a name. Allow me to congratulate you
on such a charming daughter-in-law.”

“Yes--she is very handsome,” said poor Mrs. Eastwood.

“Handsome! a divinity, my dear madam, quite a divinity!” cried the old
man. For half the dinner through Mrs. Eastwood was silent, wondering
whether her old acquaintance had become imbecile in the climate of
Barbadoes; or if he was venturing to joke at Mrs. Frederick’s expense.
It was difficult to solve this question, for old Sir Timothy set up a
lively flirtation with the beauty, who was placed at her mother-in-law’s
other hand. All through the course of dinner, during which banquet Mrs.
Eastwood lost much of her accustomed good-humoured ease, the old man
went on. Was he drawing out Amanda’s folly? or was he dazzled by her
beauty with the usual incomprehensible weakness of men? Mr. Vane, who
sat between Mrs. Eastwood and Amanda, added this to his many
attractions, that he was not dazzled by her; and he, too, was somewhat
silent, finding little to say in the crossfire which the others kept up.
As for Frederick, he sat gloomy and grand at the foot of the table
between Lady Doul and his sister, and was not conversational. Lady Doul
had a pleasant little chattering tongue, and told him she remembered him
as a baby, and congratulated him on his beautiful wife.

“Mrs. Frederick seems to have been a great deal in society,” the old
lady said, with a keen glance at him, which belied the simplicity of her
question. And Frederick, with the consciousness of Nelly’s eye upon him,
did not know how to respond.

“Oh, ah,” he said, giving a tacit assent, and wondering all the time
what she was really thinking, and why that muff, Molyneux, was not
there. If it was a mere quarrel between Nelly and her lover, or even if
Molyneux had declared off, Frederick would not have disturbed himself
much on the subject; but he could not but recollect that Molyneux had
been absent the last time he and his wife had dined at The Elms. If he
were to behave badly to Nelly it would be bad, no doubt; but to give
himself airs with Frederick was a still more dreadful offence. “Confound
his impudence,” he muttered between his teeth.

As for the other members of the party, Innocent was very passive, and
Mr. Parchemin, with his spectacles pushed back upon his forehead, ate
his dinner with serious devotion, and troubled himself about nothing
which might be going on.

After dinner, the ladies, being so few in number, made a little group in
the drawing-room round Mrs. Eastwood’s chair. It was then that Innocent
attracted Amanda’s attention.

“What a great girl she is growing--almost grown up,” she said. “What do
you intend to do with her?”

Innocent was leaning against the back of Mrs. Eastwood’s chair. Her
attention was directed quite otherwise, or rather, she was attending to
nothing, gazing across the room vacantly with her eyes fixed on the
door. Whether this was mere chance, or whether it was the lingering
remains of the old adoration for Frederick, Nelly, who was watching her
very closely, could not tell. The girl was not attending--but she woke
up and stirred slightly at this allusion to herself.

“What am I going to do with her?” asked Mrs. Eastwood in dismay.

“Yes--I mean, do you intend to send her out as a governess, or anything
of that sort?” said Amanda, plucking a flower to pieces which she had
taken from the dinner table. It was bad enough to abstract the flower
from a bouquet which Nelly had arranged very carefully; but, having
abstracted it, to pull it to pieces, throwing the petals on the floor,
was almost more than human patience, personified in Nelly Eastwood,
could bear.

“Now she has grown up,” continued the beauty, “I suppose you mean her to
be of some use. You can’t keep her always in idleness to the injury of
your own children----”

“We must not talk about the questions you don’t fully understand,”
cried Mrs. Eastwood, with flushed cheeks. “Innocent, my love, go and
fetch a cushion for Lady Doul. And perhaps Mrs. Frederick will give us a
little music, Nelly, if you have anything new to tempt her.”

“Oh, I never play till the gentlemen come in,” said Amanda; “but I don’t
see why you should take me up so sharp about Innocent. Now you’ve given
her her education she ought to be made to do something. I’ll look out
for a companion’s place, if you like, among my friends. Why shouldn’t I
understand? it’s easy enough; and I am sure all your children have a
right to interfere. Why should a girl that is only your half-niece take
the bread out of their mouths? Ask any one if I am not right. Every
penny you spend on her will be so much less for your own.”

“We need not trouble Lady Doul with our family concerns,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, with a tremendous effort to keep her temper; and she addressed
a question to the old lady, upon which Amanda again broke in.

“Oh, I assure you Frederick and I often talk it over; he thinks as I do.
If she couldn’t be a governess she might be a companion. It would be
quite easy; I, myself----”

“Come and look at something I have got here,” cried Nelly, at the table,
sending meaning looks at her mother.

“Leave me alone, Nelly, I think it’s my duty to speak. As the wife of
the eldest son I have a right to interfere; the Eastwoods are not so
rich that the little they have should be spent on strangers.”

“My dear Mrs. Frederick,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a forced smile, while
old Lady Doul hurried to the other end of the room to speak to Nelly; “I
have been used to manage my own affairs without reference either to my
sons or my son’s wife.”

“And so much the worse for you,” cried Amanda, with flushed cheeks.
“What can you know about business?--women never do--you ought to take
sensible advice; you ought to consider your own children, and not a lot
of hangers-on; you ought not just to take your own way, without ever
thinking of us, starving our children for a pack of poor relations. Oh,
I know what I am saying, and I ain’t to be put down by looks. I’m one of
the family; and a poor enough thing for me, too, with my looks and my
expectations; but to see a great beggar girl eating all up with her
useless ways--what ought to come to us and our children. I cannot put up
with it. I _will_ say what I’ve got to say.”

“What is the matter, Amanda?” said Frederick, behind her. He had heard
the raised tone of his wife’s voice, and had rushed in, in dismay. He
found his mother risen from her chair, indignant, and burning with
suppressed anger, and his wife standing before her, aiding her words by
gestures, her white arm raised, her cheeks deeply flushed, her breath
coming quick, and her eyes flashing red fire. He put his hand on her
arm. “Come and sit down here on the sofa; the other men are just coming
in. For heaven’s sake, Amanda, compose yourself! Do you want to be ill
again? do you want to make a scene?”

“I don’t care twopence for making a scene. I want to have it out now
it’s been started,” cried Amanda. “I say that great girl oughtn’t to be
kept up in idleness and luxury. She ought to be sent out into the world
to make her living. Ain’t we the natural heirs, and haven’t we a right
to speak? Oh, what do I care for the men coming in? let ’em come in.
It’s only right and justice; since you haven’t the heart to speak up, I
must. Innocent, indeed! a nice sort of Innocent, to eat up what ought to
be for us. There isn’t so much of it; and a pack of younger brothers
already, and that sort. Oh, I have no patience; let me have it out.”

“For God’s sake, Amanda----”

She made an ineffectual attempt to go on, but breath failed her, and she
allowed herself to be drawn to the sofa, and laid herself back upon the
pillows panting, her white shoulders and forehead stained with patches
of vivid pink. “It’s all very well to say ‘don’t excite yourself,’” she
said. “How can I help it, when people are so self-willed and stupid!”

The unhappy Frederick sat down by her and endeavoured to soothe her.
Surely a little recompense for his many offences was doled out to him
that evening; he talked to her in a low tone, expostulating, entreating.
“Think of your health,” was the burden of his argument. He fanned her,
he held her hand, he wiped her hot forehead with her laced handkerchief.
Poor Frederick! He had pleased himself, and he was paying the penalty.
Nelly and Lady Doul had rushed with a common impulse towards the door to
meet the other gentlemen, and stood there involuntarily pointing out old
pictures to their admiration, and plunging into depths of conversation
which bewildered the new-comers. Mrs. Eastwood, too angry to think for
the moment of keeping up appearances, had pushed back her chair as far
as it would go, and after sitting down in it a minute, had risen again
to look for Innocent, who stood with one hand upon the table, gazing
with wide-open eyes at Frederick and his wife. No sort of offence was
upon Innocent’s dreamy face. Awakened attention, a slight startled
wonder, but nothing painful was in her expression, and perhaps that
wonder was more roused by the sight of Amanda’s excitement and
exhaustion than by anything she had said. Mrs. Eastwood hastened to her,
took the girl into her arms, and held her close. “My poor child, my dear
child. You must not mind her, Innocent,” she said.

“Is she ill?” asked Innocent, wondering.

“I am sure I wish she was!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, “she deserves to be,
venturing to dictate to me, the little vulgar intruder, a girl not fit
to be in the same room with Nelly and you!”

“Little!” said Innocent, with an amused smile. “She is not little. She
is the biggest of all. Are you very angry? Did she scold you?”

“I am very angry; but don’t you mind, my dear. Never think again of what
she said, Innocent. She is a passionate, selfish fool; don’t pay any
attention to what she said.”

“No,” said docile Innocent; “but I should like to be of use--it would be
pleasant to be of use,” she added, after a pause. “Let me do something.
What is a companion? How strange that she should be so red and so
breathless? Is it all about me?”

“It is because she is a fool,” said Mrs. Eastwood, though, indeed, she
herself was flushed and excited too.

“But what is a companion?” asked Innocent.

“You are my companion and Nelly’s,” said Mrs. Eastwood; “my dear, don’t
think of it any more.”

“And she is Frederick’s,” said Innocent, contemplating with a strange
abstract spectatorship the group on the sofa. There was no enmity, only
a wondering contemplation in her eyes. “Can he never be without her?
Will she stay with him for ever and ever?”

“As long as she lives,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a profound sigh.



This evening was an eventful evening at The Elms. When Mrs. Frederick
had rested sufficiently and calmed down, she was carried off by her
husband with the very briefest and driest of leave-takings. Old Sir
Timothy and his wife had gone off before, as hurriedly as was consistent
with good-breeding, shaking their old heads over the family fray they
had witnessed, and forming suppositions as to the origin of Mrs.
Frederick which did her injustice, unexalted though her antecedents

“I don’t know what Mrs. Eastwood could mean by asking me to meet such a
person,” cried Lady Doul in high dudgeon.

“Hush! my dear, hush! the poor woman was trying to make the best of it,”
said Sir Timothy; “and though she’s evidently a termagant, she’s
extraordinarily pretty, wonderfully pretty.”

“I have no patience with you men,” said Lady Doul. “Pretty! what has
pretty to do with it? Do you think a pretty face is like charity, and
covers a multitude of sins?”

“A great many, my dear,” said old Sir Timothy, with a chuckle. And so
the old pair jogged on to their lodgings, half sorry, half shocked, half
indignant. The party they left behind was more seriously excited. The
first thing Mrs. Eastwood did was to hurry off Innocent to bed,
accompanying her to her room with a fear for the effect of Amanda’s
ravings upon her feelings, which was really uncalled for; for Innocent’s
feelings were too little on the surface to be moved by any such assault.
It had given rise to vague thoughts in her mind, but no wound--thoughts
which, when her aunt, with many caresses, had left her, she expressed to
old Alice, with more freedom than probably she would have ventured upon
with any one else. Innocent’s habitation was now in the old schoolroom,
to which she had taken so great a fancy. And here Alice waited upon her
with a care which amazed the other servants, for Innocent had nothing to
give in return, not even thanks or caresses, and was considered “proud”
and “stuck-up” in her dreamy habitual silence.

“She said I might be a companion,” said Innocent. “And Sir Alexis said
something too--a companion! I am Nelly’s companion and my aunt’s, she
says--Frederick’s wife meant something different. Alice, you are old;
you know a great many things----”

“I know you’re but an innocent, my poor bonnie bairn,” said the old
woman with a sigh.

“Of course I am Innocent; but that is only my name. Companion is not a
name; it is a thing. She is Frederick’s companion. My aunt says he will
never be rid of her--never--so long as she lives. What a pity that she
cannot be made to stop living! She scolds--like--like--she grows red
like the women we once saw quarrelling in the street.”

“When you stoppit to tell them it was ugly,” said Alice; “and why should
they scold each other?”

“Yes,” said Innocent, “to scold children is natural, I suppose, at
least, everybody does it, even you, Alice; but Frederick’s wife--and he
cannot send her away. I wish she might die, and then Frederick would be

“Bairn, bairn, hold your tongue!” cried Alice. “Are you no aware that
it’s a sin, a great sin, to wish anybody dead? Never let me hear you say
such a thing again.”

“But I do think it,” said Innocent; “she makes herself ill; she suffers;
she makes everybody else unhappy. She scolds, it does not matter whom.
Why should people go on living when they do so much harm?”

“But you would not do her harm?” said Alice, curiously gazing at her;
“and why should Mr. Frederick be free? He has taken his own way, and he
must put up with it. He has made his bed, and he must lie on it. What is
he, that he should be delivered from what he has brought on himself?”

“I am fond of Frederick,” said Innocent dreamily. “If he is good or not
I do not know, but I am fond of him. Alice, do you know I have found out
something? When papa said women were hateful, he meant women like
Frederick’s wife.”

“My bonnie lamb,” said Alice, “think as little as you can either of Mr.
Frederick or Mr. Frederick’s wife. Such kind of thoughts are little
good. Say your prayers, and mind that you must wish harm to no person.
It’s against a’ Scripture; though, eh! human nature’s weak, and if it
was me I doubt if I could keep my hands off her,” she added to herself.

When Mrs. Eastwood left the room with Innocent, Mr. Vane asked
permission to stay. “May I wait till you come back?” he asked, “I have
something to say.” Perhaps it was injudicious on all sides, for, indeed,
Nelly, who was thus left alone with him in a state of high and indignant
resentment, was, perhaps, too much disposed to confide in the
sympathetic companion who was always ready to feel with her, always
willing to be interested. They were standing together over the little
fire, which on this mild October evening smouldered unnecessarily in the
grate. But when there is any trouble in a house the fire becomes at once
the centre; everybody goes to it mechanically. Nelly stood there,
clasping her hands together by way of restraining herself; her cheeks
were flushed, her eyes abashed. She was not only wounded and angry, but
ashamed to the bottom of her heart. She had been doing all she could to
conceal and cover over the “scene” which, like all Englishwomen, she
dreaded to have known. But she had not been successful, and now her mind
was so full of it, so running over with indignation and excitement, that
she knew she ought not to have trusted herself with any companion; and
yet absolute self-denial was so hard. She could not be so wise as to go
away and bury the tumult of feeling which was eager to be expressed.

“Oh, Mr. Vane, what must you think of us?” she burst forth at last.

“What must I think of you? I am afraid some things I dare not tell you,”
he said. “But what can any one think--that you have had to submit to a
very ordinary form of domestic misfortune, and that, by dint of doing
your very best to bear it, you have to suffer much that is disagreeable?
That is all that the most curious could think. Every one who is worthy
to be called your friend, Miss Eastwood, should be only too glad to
stand by you in such a trial.”

I don’t know what John Vane meant, or if he fully realized what he was
saying; but as for Nelly she turned crimson, and gave him a quick,
furtive look of inquiry. Had he looked as if he meant anything she would
have been offended; but he was sufficiently innocent or clever to
dismiss all meaning from his face.

“Oh, as for that,” said Nelly, “it would be foolish to speak as if we
wanted any one to stand by us. Mamma and I are able to support each
other--mamma, and I, and Innocent. We are quite a strong body; we want
no one else,” said Nelly. She looked up at him, smiling, to prove her
assertion, but somehow just at that moment a chance tear, which had
gathered on her eyelashes without her knowledge, seized the opportunity
to fall. “Why what is this? I wonder,” she said, with a little laugh,
wiping it from her hand with her handkerchief; “it seems I must have
been crying without knowing it. How silly! It is horrid that because one
happens to be a woman one should always make a fool of one’s self and

“I wish we were all fools of your description,” said Vane.

“What, to cry? Oh no. It comes natural to a girl, but it is dreadful in
a man. And there is not much to cry about either,” said Nelly. “It is
not Mrs. Frederick that makes me unhappy, Mr. Vane; it is that poor
mamma must feel what I once said to you, that we are all trying to get
as much out of her as ever we can. Why should she have given up her own
comforts to let Frederick marry? If papa had been alive, no one would
have expected him to do it; but because mamma is a woman, Frederick and
everybody think she should give in continually. Do you think it is just
or right? Why should she give up all she has been used to, to give us
things we have no need of? First her carriage, and now her old servants;
and she talks even of letting the dear old house. Mr. Vane, perhaps I
ought not to talk like this to you--but do you think it is right? Should
not a man try when he marries to make something for himself?”

“If I were ever so happy,” said Vane, “that is what I should do. I
should like my wife to feel that I was working for her. _My_ wife! That
sort of thing is not for me.”

“Why shouldn’t it be for you?” said Nelly in a softened tone; but she
felt the ground was dangerous, and perhaps she felt that there was a
certain inference in all that was being said--a something which
implicated others as well as her brother; therefore she hasted to place
Frederick in the foreground as the sole subject of discourse.

“Perhaps I am too angry with Frederick,” she said; “it is because I feel
as if mamma might think we were all alike--all thinking of what she has,
not of her; all grasping and wanting something. Rather than she should
think that of me I would die.”

“She could not think that of you. It would be impossible,” said Vane.

“I don’t know,” said Nelly, the tears gathering once more on her
down-dropped eyelashes. “Oh, how true it is what mamma says--that nature
wrongs women more than law does! Sometimes we are compelled to look
different from what we are that people may not see or find out--other
things. Sometimes we have to put on false looks to make other people
seem true. You men, you don’t know half nor a quarter what poor girls
have to do!”

This curious and enigmatical outburst filled Vane with feelings which I
will not attempt to describe. He thought he understood it, and his whole
heart melted over the girl, whose case already, perhaps, he had thought
over too much. He put his hand for a moment on hers, not holding it, but
giving just one touch of a sympathy which went beyond words. As he did
so another tear, slowly brimming over, fell on his hand. Instantly,
before he knew, the water stood in his own eyes; Nelly startled, dashed
the tear off with her handkerchief, and crying hastily, “Oh, I beg your
pardon! I beg your pardon!” covered her hot eyes and flushed face with
her hand.

It was at this moment that Molyneux came in. I do not wonder for my part
that he was a little startled by the position of the two, and the
attitude of affairs generally; Nelly crying, and Vane beside her with an
agitated look about the eyes, which tells much that men would prefer to
conceal. “Hullo, what is wrong?” he said, striding up to her side. Nelly
recovered her composure instantaneously; and Vane, drawing back, felt
that the charm of the moment was over, and all its magic flown.

“What is the matter?” cried Molyneux, more angry than affectionate;
“crying? What are you crying for? Has Winks been taken bad, or have you
lost your canary bird, or what? I think you might have kept your tears
till I came.”

“They are not pleasant things to keep,” said Nelly, “and indeed I was
not crying. Mrs. Frederick put us all out of temper----”

“Oh, Mrs. Frederick! Dick told me there had been a shindy,” said the
young man. “I’m sorry I was not here to see the fun. Vane, you are
luckier than I am--you are always on the spot.”

A retort was on John Vane’s lips; but he considered all the
circumstances, and held his peace, offering no explanations. Nelly’s
betrothed looked from one to the other with, I do not deny, a certain
justification for his suspicions. “Well,” he said, “now that I am here
you don’t seem communicative. What was it all about?”

“Oh, the subject does not matter,” cried Nelly. “It was an attack upon
mamma. Don’t let us speak of it; it makes me wicked, it makes my heart
sick. Poor mamma, who has always been so good to us--is this how we are
to repay her at the end?”

“I can’t say, of course, if you don’t choose to tell me,” said Molyneux;
“but Mrs. Eastwood is not any worse off than other people of her age, so
far as I can see. We can’t all be romantic little gooses, Nelly, like

“Don’t!” said Nelly, with sharp pain and shame. Why was it that her
lover’s familiar tone went so near to disgust her at such a moment? She
drew away, not venturing to look up, ashamed, because the other was
present, she would have said. And this was true; but not entirely in the
simple sense of the words.

“I must speak to your mother about Innocent,” Vane said, apologetically,
feeling too that he was in the way, and they stood all there about the
fire in the most awkward of positions until Mrs. Eastwood, with her
clouded brow, came back. She gave Ernest a little nod of recognition--no
more. It was well that he had not been there, and yet it was ill that he
took no pains to stand by Nelly in any emergency. She seated herself in
her usual chair, taking little notice of any one. Her pulses were still
tingling, and her heart beating. She was a proud woman, though she made
but small external pretensions; and she had been insulted in her own

“I want you to let Innocent go to my sister,” said Vane, approaching her
softly, “for a week or two perhaps. Don’t you think she should make
acquaintance with her father’s relations? She is grown up; she has
developed so much under your kind care. Could you not trust her, even
for a few weeks, out of your own hands?”

“Oh, Mr. Vane!” cried Mrs. Eastwood hastily, with tears coming to her
eyes; “this is because of what you have just been hearing--because of
what my daughter-in-law was so wicked and so cruel as to say.”

“What is the matter?” said Molyneux to Nelly. “What _did_ she say? and
what has he to do with it? and what does your mother mean by looking so
excited? It all seems a pretty muddle for a man to fall into.”

“What she said was about Innocent,” said Nelly, restraining herself with
an effort; “that we ought not to keep her here--that she should be sent
out as a governess--I don’t know how much more hard-hearted nonsense. I
can’t tell how she dared to speak so to mamma.”

“That woman would dare anything,” said Molyneux. “About Innocent? Well,
I don’t know that she was very wrong; that girl will turn into a
dreadful burden one day or other if she is not made to marry somebody. I
can’t think what your mother meant, when she had such a chance, by
letting Longueville slip through her fingers. So that’s why _he’s_ here,
I suppose? I hate that man, John Vane; always poking himself where he is
not wanted.”

“I suppose mamma must have wanted him or she would not have asked him,”
said Nelly. “We could not have an empty place at table.”

“Oh, that’s why you are cross, is it?” said Ernest, with a vain laugh;
“but, Nelly, you must not really expect that I can always be doing duty
at those family parties. A family party is the thing I most hate in the

“Fortunately for mamma, Mr. Vane is not of your opinion,” said Nelly. It
was the first time she had attempted anything like self-assertion. She
had never stood at bay before.



In consequence of this interview between Mrs. Eastwood and John Vane it
was arranged that Innocent should pay Miss Vane a visit at the High
Lodge, near Sterborne, where that lady lived in an eccentric way of her
own in an old house which her brother had abandoned to her, and which
she had turned to a great many uses quite uncontemplated by her
predecessors. “We are an eccentric race,” her brother had said,
laughing; “but as it is my way to be good for nothing, so it is
Lætitia’s way to be good for a great deal. The one of us neutralizes the
other. I tell her she is trying to lay up a stock of superfluous merit
on my account, one good result of having a brother a ne’er-do-well----”

“Why should you call yourself a ne’er-do-well!” said Mrs. Eastwood.
Nelly had already asked the same question furtively with a glance, and
there was a warmth in the little outburst of partisanship by which these
two women defended him against himself which warmed the man’s heart.

“Because, alas! it is true,” he said; “you got this character of me
before you knew me? Ah, I was sure you had! and you see it is realized;
but Lætitia is good for us both. Some part of her goodness is after a
droll fashion, I confess. She is prodigiously High Church; she keeps a
poor little parson in petticoats and a cloak, whom she calls father, and
treats, I fear, as she treats her housemaids; but mind, she is very good
both to the housemaids and the parson. I think Father Featherstone is a
mistake; but if there ever was a good woman bent on doing good and
succeeding in the attempt, it is my sister Lætitia. She will be very
good to Innocent. You need not fear to trust her in my sister’s hands.”

“I like men who believe in their sisters,” said Mrs. Eastwood with a

And Nelly looked at him. She did not say anything, but her lips moved as
if she would have echoed her mother’s words. Nelly’s face had grown
somehow longer, with a wistful expression which, by moments, was almost
like Innocent’s. Especially when she looked at John Vane was this the
case; a perpetual comparison seemed to be going on in her mind, almost a
complaint against him that he was different from the other who was so
much more important to her. Why should Vane always be of use and service
when that other neglected his duties? Why should he be, as Ernest said,
always on the spot when the other was away? Nelly was half angry with
the man who was so ready to stand by her; and then there came over her
heart the softest compunction and self-reproach, mingled--in that
inextricable complication which belongs to all human feeling--with
bitterness and mortification. Was it possible that she grudged the
kindness of the one because it threw into further relief the
indifference of the other? This, as the reader will easily see, was a
very unsafe, as well as a very uncomfortable, state of mind for an
engaged young woman. Perhaps on the whole, the kindest thing John Vane
could have done would have been to take himself out of the way, and
leave Ernest to show himself in the best light possible, a thing which
his constant presence put out of the question.

To return, however, to the conversation with which this chapter begins.
It took place on the morning after Mrs. Frederick’s outburst, and was
the end of the adjourned discussion which Vane had begun on the previous
evening. He had found some trouble in soothing Mrs. Eastwood, and
persuading her that his proposal had nothing to do with what Amanda had
said, but had been in his mind for some time previously. When he
succeeded in this, everything was easy enough. It was certainly well
that Innocent should be made acquainted with her family, her father’s
relations. “If anything were to happen to me,” Mrs. Eastwood allowed
with some pathos, “it would be an excellent thing that she should have
other friends to fall back upon. Frederick could not, I fear, give her a
home, as I might have hoped, and as for Nelly, I don’t know how Nelly
may be situated,” the mother said, looking at her daughter. She did not
know what was in Nelly’s mind; but that Ernest should be ready to give
succour and shelter to a penniless dependent was a thing which, at this
stage of affairs, with her present knowledge of Ernest, Mrs. Eastwood
could not hope.

“It was with no such lugubrious idea that I made my proposal,” said John
Vane, laughing. “But Innocent is nearly eighteen, and there could not be
an easier plunge into life for her than a few weeks at the High Lodge.
My sister has made half a convent, half a school, of the old house. I
wish you would come too, and see what she is doing. But if not, I will
take my little cousin down and leave her with Lætitia. It will teach
Innocent the use of some new faculties. You have taught her only how to
be carried about and cared for and tended----”

“I have not spoiled her, I hope,” said Mrs. Eastwood, who was not,
however, displeased with the compliment. When a woman comes to that
stage of life in which all that she does and says is no longer
admirable, because she says and does it--when she begins to feel the
force of hot and hostile criticism and to be shaken even in the natural
confidence with which she has been accustomed to regard her own motives,
then praise becomes very sweet to her; it restores her to the moral
standing-ground which she seemed to have lost. Mrs. Eastwood had just
accepted with a natural pleasure John Vane’s testimony to her goodness,
when Frederick came in suddenly, with a harassed look upon his face.
Frederick had been in the country shooting, as he said--for some
time--without his wife; and had come back looking pale, as he used to
look after his absences in the old days.

“Something is wrong?” said his mother, divining what his looks meant as
Vane discreetly withdrew.

“Oh, nothing particular--nothing out of the ordinary,” he said; “I
wonder though, that, knowing all the circumstances as you do, you should
not make an effort, mother, to prevent Amanda from exciting herself. Of
course, she is ill to-day. I told you before I married what was the
state of affairs; _she_ may deserve it if you please, but I don’t
deserve it, and the worst always falls on me. I do think you and Nelly
between you might, at least manage to keep the peace.”

“Frederick! you seem quite unaware of how it all happened,” cried his
mother, suddenly roused to a movement of self-defence.

“I know how it all turned out,” said Frederick, “and I do think my
mother, if she had any regard for me, would try to avoid such scenes.
She has been ill all night; and now she’s taken it into her head to go
down to Sterborne, to the old place--the last thing in the world I could
wish for. If you only knew,” said Frederick in a tone of the deepest
injury, “how I hate her father; how I have struggled to keep them apart!
And now here is my wife--your daughter-in-law--going down to our own
county among all the Eastwoods, to Batty’s house! By Jove, it will break
my heart.”

Words of unkind meaning were on Nelly’s very lips. “You should not have
married Batty’s daughter, if you hate him,” was what she was disposed to
say. “Frederick would not have spared me had I done anything of the
kind,” she added to herself. She was guilty in intention of this unkind
utterance; but in act she was innocent; she bit her lips, and kept it
in. Mrs. Eastwood was a great deal more sympathetic.

“But if you were to speak to her, Frederick--if you were to say you did
not like it?” she suggested anxiously.

“Speak! say! much she would care,” cried Frederick. “It just shows how
little you know Amanda. That confounded heart disease of hers--if she
has a heart disease--makes her believe that she is free to insult
everybody. She must not be crossed herself; but there is nothing she
likes so much as to cross others. No, I shall have to give in. I shall
have to take her there, though I hate the whole concern. I do not think
there ever was a more miserable wretch than I am on the face of the
earth,” cried Frederick, flinging himself wearily into a chair.

“My poor boy!” said his mother, going to him, and passing her soft kind
hand over his forehead, raising the waves of his hair, which were not in
their usual good order. Frederick was not generally very tolerant of his
mother’s caresses, but of late he had been soothed by them. Amanda cared
very little for his amour _propre_, and made no particular effort to
magnify his importance, and a man likes to feel himself important, if
only to his mother. On the other hand, his mother was half-pleased even
in the midst of her pity for him that he should, as it were, throw aside
his wife, and recognize himself as a victim. It is not a fine quality,
this, in women; but I am afraid a great many good women are conscious of
possessing it. When a man has connected himself with his inferior, with
some one we disapprove of, we like him to find out his mistake. We feel
that it is better for him to know that he has done badly, very badly,
for himself; and though in higher minds a certain contempt for the being
who thus gives up the cause of his once-beloved, mingles with the softer
feeling, yet we are all more or less mollified towards the son or
brother who has made a foolish marriage, when he delivers over his wife,
metaphorically, to our tender mercies, and abandons her standard. I
don’t know whether the same sentiment exists on the other side, but I
avow its existence on my own side. Mrs. Eastwood was pleased that her
boy gave his Amanda up. She was far more tenderly sorry for him than had
he been still in love. In words, she tried “to make the best of her,”
and recognized fully that now the deed was done it was to be desired
that Frederick should be “happy” with the woman who was his wife; but
she thought more highly of him because he was not happy. She was more
pleased, more tender, much more softened towards her son than if his
household had been a pleasant one. Nelly did not share these sentiments.
She was impatient with Frederick, and disposed to despise him for giving
up Amanda’s cause. She put herself in Amanda’s place, small as was her
sympathy for that young woman, and involuntarily conjured up before her
a picture of the Molyneuxes, who would feel towards Ernest’s wife much
as the Eastwoods felt to Frederick’s. Would Ernest abandon her, Nelly,
to their strictures? would he allow them to suppose that he too had made
a mistake? This thought made Nelly’s cheeks burn, and her eyes glow, and
disposed her on the spot to assault Frederick, and lift up Amanda’s
falling standard.

“It is curious,” said Mrs. Eastwood, after a pause, “that we should be
so much entangled with Sterborne, where all the Eastwoods live, without
having anything to do with the Eastwoods. Perhaps Innocent might travel
with you, Frederick, if you are obliged to go. She has been invited to
the High Lodge, to make acquaintance with her father’s family.”

“Who lives at the High Lodge?”

“Mr. Vane’s sister, the only one of the Vanes who has taken much notice
of Innocent.”

“What does John Vane want with Innocent?” said Frederick, his tone
changing. He got up from his chair, and slightly pushed away his mother,
who was still leaning over him. “Does he want to marry _her_ too?”

“Does Mr. Vane want to marry some one else--too?” said Nelly
instinctively, with an impulse for which next moment she was sorry.

“You should know best,” said Frederick; and then he turned to his mother
with that air of superior knowledge and virtue which he knew so well how
to assume. “I told you when that man first came to the house that his
character was very doubtful. He has always been a queer fellow. Had I
thought that you would receive him almost into the family, and make so
much of him, I should never have allowed him to come here at all.”

“But, Frederick!--I have never seen anything in him that was not nice,”
said Mrs. Eastwood, alarmed.

“Oh, I daresay, mother. A man does not come into a lady’s drawing-room
to show off his shady qualities; but I warned you to start with. There
are many queer stories about him current among men. Ask Molyneux--I
don’t think there is any love lost between him and John Vane.”

“Is that the case, Nelly?” asked Mrs. Eastwood.

Nelly felt to her dismay that a hot and angry blush--a blush not
altogether of embarrassment, of something that felt like
passion--covered her face. “I should be sorry to quote Ernest on any
such subject,” she said, faltering yet eager. “He told me that there
were stories current among men about Sir Alexis, that he was not a man
to be brought into your house, into my company----”

(“What impertinence! one of my oldest friends!”) said Mrs. Eastwood, in
a parenthesis.

“And then,” continued Nelly, “he turned round upon me, and laughed at my
knowing such things, when I told you, mamma. He made me out to be a
gossip, to be fond of disagreeable reports; he made me feel as if I had
made it up; that is how men show their friendship for each other.
Probably both Frederick and he would do the same about Mr. Vane.”

“Molyneux would be flattered by your opinion of him,” said Frederick,
laughing; and had it not been for the lucky arrival of Dick and Jenny, I
do not know how far the quarrel might have gone. Mrs. Eastwood, however,
would not have “the boys” made parties to any discussion of this kind,
and Frederick departed after a time to his office, where he was so very
hard worked, poor fellow, and where he appeared between twelve and one
o’clock, having settled his domestic affairs first, as became a Briton
of the most “domesticated” race in the world.

During the interval which has passed without record in these pages,
Dick, the much suffering and much labouring, had encountered a great
event, and had got through it, I do not say triumphantly, but at least
successfully. The examination--the great exam., which had exercised his
mind and temper for years--had come and passed; and Dick had pulled
through. There he was, still walking about with books in his pocket,
still in the trammels of “a coach,” and still subject to other terrible
and ghastly episodes of exam., which had (I think) to be repeated for
two or three years before the full-blown competition wallah was sent to
India. I do not remember to have encountered in society many young men
of this tremendously educated class, and therefore I cannot tell if Dick
may be considered as a fair specimen; but this I can say, that
considering the amount of information which must have been crammed into
his head, it was astonishing how lightly he wore it. He was profoundly
careful not to shock and humiliate the uninstructed mass of his
fellow-creatures by letting it appear when there was no occasion for
such vanities; and, in short, Dick examined and passed, was as much like
Dick unexamined and dubious as could be supposed. Jenny had undergone a
greater change. He had left Eton and had matriculated at Balliol, and
felt himself a greater man than it is given to mortal in any other stage
of existence to feel himself. He had done even more than this; he had
gained a scholarship, and was thus actually paying part of his own
expenses, a fact which his mother could not sufficiently admire and
wonder at, and which still had all the freshness of a family joke in the
house. It was astonishing how the brows of the two women cleared, how
the atmosphere lightened when these two boys (oh, boys, I beg your
pardon--men) came in. No complication had yet arisen in their young
lives. Jenny had hung his mother’s photograph over the mantelpiece in
his college sitting-room, and boasted that she had as much sense as all
the dons put together, though she knew no Greek. I wonder whether in the
progress of the human intellect this kind of boy will long survive; but
the very sight of Jenny’s face (though he was not handsome), and Dick’s
big figure, with a book in its coat pocket, was good for sore hearts as
well as eyes.

“We were talking about Mr. Vane,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a little
furtive artfulness such as women use. She would not enter into any
discussion of him with her boys, nor direct their attention to the
stories “current among men.” She reverenced their youth more perhaps
than, had she been anything but an ignorant woman, she would have
thought it necessary to reverence it. Probably they both knew a great
deal more than she did in that kind--or so at least all men inform women
for their comfort; but still I think it was good for Dick and Jenny that
their mother ignored all these “stories current,” &c. “We were talking,”
she said, “about Mr. Vane. Frederick does not seem quite to like

“I should think not. He isn’t the sort of fellow for Frederick to like,”
said Dick. “He is not your superior sort of prig. He is jolly to
everybody. _I_ like him--gives himself no airs, and is never above
saying he’s wrong when he’s wrong. Why just the other day--I told you,
Jen--about the build of that yacht----”

“I like him,” said Jenny, “but I’m not a fair judge. He came down to
Eton last fourth of June, and didn’t he just give me a tip! so I can’t
speak; I’m bribed; but if I knew anything _he_ wanted----”

“So that is your opinion,” said the mother, well pleased. “They say
though,” she added mournfully, “that those men in the clubs----”

“I don’t belong to any club,” said Dick. “It’s very hard. What does it
matter, if I _am_ going to India? I shall come back from India, I hope.
I suppose you all wish to see me again? Well, then, why shouldn’t I be
proposed for Trevor’s club? It doesn’t bind a fellow to anything, and
it’s a handy place to have people call upon you, and to send your
letters. Trevor offered to put me up a year ago. His father is on the
committee, and I know two or three other fellows there.”

“My dear boy, Frederick thought it a waste of money--as you are going
away,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with an incipient tear in her eye. This
glimmer of moisture was always produced by any reference to the fact
that Dick was going away.

“Then thanks to him,” said Dick, in high dudgeon, “I can’t tell any one
what is said in the clubs.”

“What is the question?” said Jenny, always practical; “is John Vane on
his trial for something?” And here the boy, without knowing it, glanced
at Nelly; and Nelly turned abruptly away, and went out through the
conservatory into the garden, with a very great tumult and many painful
thoughts in her breast.

“Innocent is going to pay his sister a visit,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “at a
house near Sterborne. He thinks it is time she knew her father’s
relations, and I have consented, for I thought so too. But Frederick

“Is she going now, or at Christmas?” said Jenny. “If now, I give my
consent, for I’m going off to-morrow. I like Innocent to be at home when
I am at home. You may laugh, if you please, but I like it; why shouldn’t
I?” said the boy hotly. “And I like Nelly to be at home. What is the
good of girls if they don’t make the old place look nice? But she may go
now, if you please, what has that to do with John Vane?”

Upon this Dick laughed long and low, “John ain’t in love with Innocent,”
he said chuckling. “I say, mother, what a set of jolly spoons!--if you
know what that means. I’ll take her down to the country, if you like,
and see John Vane’s sister. Perhaps she might take a fancy to me.”

“Silly boy, she is as old as I am,” said his mother, with a smile. And
thus the discussions of the morning fell into cheerful home banter, and
the jests of the boys. This consoled the mother, the light of whose
firmament was at present supplied by these two boys; but it did not
comfort Nelly, who was wading up to her neck in personal dismay and
trouble; and it would have called forth nothing but angry contempt from
Frederick, who felt his own griefs big enough to eclipse both earth and



Thus every one discussed and gave their opinion as to Innocent’s outset
in life--except Innocent herself. She acquiesced--it was all she ever
did. A slight paling of her very faint colour, a certain look of fright
in her eyes were the only indications that it affected her at all.
Somehow this change in her life associated itself in her ideas with
Amanda’s proposal to render her of use--a proposal which she had
received with more favour than any one else in the house; it had
offended them all on her account, but it had not offended Innocent. She
listened to all the descriptions which were given her of Miss Vane, her
unknown relation, and of the pretty country which she was about to
visit, and of the novelty and change which her aunt thought would do her
so much good, with passive incomprehension. Novelty alarmed, it did not
excite her; she wanted no change--but yet she was quite contented to be
sent where they pleased; to do whatever they thought proper. She looked
upon her visit as a very devout and enthusiastic believer looks--or is
supposed to look--upon death; as an unknown and terrible event of which
she could form no idea, but which would be soon over, and which it was
absolutely the will of those who were as gods to Innocent that she
should undergo “for her good.” Thus she allowed herself to be prepared
for it with a mixture of fright and docility; everybody talked of it
except herself, the heroine. Innocent’s visit was in every mouth except
Innocent’s. She did not even form to herself any picture of what it
would be like, as Nelly kept doing perpetually. She had no faculty for
making pictures. Indeed, the peculiarity of Innocent’s organization
began to centre chiefly in this point--that she had no imagination. It
did not seem a moral want in her as it does in some people, so much as a
wistful vacancy, a blank caused by some accident. No sort of cynic scorn
of the imagination of others, such, as the unimaginative often show,
was in her passive soul; but she followed the gaze of the eyes which
could thus see into the unseen with a wistful look which was full of

“How do you know when things are going to happen?” she said to Nelly,
who had just been indulging in a long account of Miss Vane’s probable
appearance and manners to cheer them over their work, as they sat with
Alice in Mrs. Eastwood’s room, helping to make some new “things” for
Innocent’s outfit.

“I don’t know in the least--I only imagine,” said Nelly, laughing.

“Imagine!” repeated Innocent. She did not understand it. She was all a
dream, poor child, and Nelly was all real; but the dream-girl possessed
no imagination at all, while the other was running over with ready
youthful fancy. No matter-of-fact creature, no dull clodhopper, could be
more absolutely and rigidly bound within the lines of what she knew,
than Innocent. She knew the old wandering life in Italy, and she knew
The Elms. But all the rest of the world was a blank to her. She had
formed no idea either of what she was about to meet with, or how she was
to conduct herself under other circumstances. With such an absence of
the faculty which guides us through it, the future and every change can
be nothing but a terror to the ignorant soul.

“Look here, Innocent,” said Jenny, who had always taken a special charge
of her, on the evening before she left home. He had taken her into the
garden for the purpose of examining her, and satisfying himself that she
was what he called a free agent. “Are you sure you like going? That’s
what I want to know.”

“Like going?” said Innocent, opening her eyes. “Oh, no.”

“Why are you going, then? Is it because you are obliged?” asked Jenny,
knitting portentous brows.

“Obliged!” Innocent repeated once more, with a little wonder. “I am
going because my aunt thinks so--neither because I am obliged, nor
because I like. It is not me, it is her.”

“But it ought not to be like that,” cried Jenny. “Speak to my mother,
she is very reasonable. She never forces a fellow into anything; tell
her that you would rather not. That’s how I always did.”

“But you are a boy,” said Innocent, with a mixture of respect and gentle
contempt, which I fear she had learned from Nelly.

“What difference does that make? have a little courage, and tell me. The
thing you want to learn,” said Jenny, with much gravity, “is that
everybody here wishes you to be happy, wishes you to do what pleases
you. Don’t misunderstand my mother. You take up an idea of your own--you
don’t look at the real state of the case, and try to make out what she
means. Don’t you understand me, Innocent?”

“No,” said Innocent, looking at him with veiled and wondering eyes.

Poor Jenny! he thrust his hands deeper into his pockets, and muttered
something to himself, which was not adapted for publication; and then he
looked at her in his turn with that anxious but impotent gaze with which
so often one mortal attempts to fathom another--to fathom the
unfathomable--whether there be nothing or much in those veiled and
inscrutable depths of personal identity. She smiled at him softly, and
the dreamy light of this smile went over all her face, touching it into
visionary life and beauty. Jenny was baffled in his inquiry, in his
investigation, in his counsel; he could not make anything of Innocent.
With a mixture of kindness and impatience he hurried her back into the

“It is growing cold, and you have no shawl,” said Jenny. Would poor
Innocent never be sensible to any higher solicitude than this?

Next day she went away under the care of John Vane. She did not cry or
show any emotion; but her eyes were full of fright, and the excitement
of terror. She had not even the same unreasoning instinctive confidence
to support her which she had felt in Frederick on her former journey.
John Vane was very kind to her, and very good, she knew; but he was not
Frederick. She sat still as a mouse in her corner of the carriage, and
said “Yes” and “No” when he asked her a question, and saw the world
whirl round her once again, and the long stretches of country, and
strange faces look in. To Innocent it seemed a kind of treadmill,
turning round and round. She was not conscious of making any progress;
but only of unknown faces that looked at her, of long green lines of
fields and hedgerows flying past. When they had got half way through
their journey, they discovered that Frederick was in the same train,
with his wife, whom he was taking to her father’s house. He came to the
carriage, when the train stopped, and leaned his arms upon the window
and talked to Innocent, who brightened at the sight of him, and
instinctively put out her hand to cling to the most real thing she knew,
the first human creature whom she had personally identified and
discovered, as it were, out of the unknown. John Vane could not be
supposed to understand this altogether inexplainable feeling, which poor
Innocent could no more have put into words than she could have written a
poem. He thought very differently of it. He thought like a man that the
other man, smiling and talking lightly to the poor girl, had meanly
accepted the worthless flower of this child’s love to laugh at, or tread
under foot. He was unjust, for perhaps the most really good feeling in
Frederick’s mind (when she did not cross or irritate him) was his
tenderness for his little cousin; but the other cousin, who felt himself
her protector, realized this as little as he understood the nature of
Innocent’s sentiments. He made the poor child change her seat to the
other end of the carriage, and when Frederick came back, entertained him
with remarks upon the weather, to which Frederick responded in the same
tone. There was, as people say, no love lost between them.

“Oh, is it Innocent?” said Amanda, when they reached Sterborne. “So your
mother has taken my advice, Fred. I suppose she is going to be trained
for a governess at Miss Vane’s school? Quite right, quite right! You may
come and see me, Innocent, if you like; it will be a little change for
you. After all the petting you have had at The Elms, you may not quite
like it at first; but it’s for your good. Fred, is there a carriage for
me? Is papa there? Come and take me out, then; don’t leave me here like
a piece of luggage. Come and see me soon, Innocent. You will always be
some one to talk to--Good-bye.”

“Innocent,” said John Vane, when he had placed her in the light open
carriage which had been sent for them from the High Lodge, “I do not
wish you to go and see that woman; neither does your aunt, I think. So
unless you wish it very much----”

“I don’t wish it at all,” said Innocent, more distinctly than usual; and
with a promptitude which surprised her companion.

“Then you don’t like her?” he said.

“She took Frederick away from us,” said Innocent; “he would have lived
at home always but for her. She makes my aunt, and every one, unhappy.
Him, too--sometimes he looks as if he were miserable. People who make
everybody miserable,” the girl continued, very gravely, “ought not to be
allowed to live.”

“My dear child,” he said, half laughing, “that is a terrible doctrine.
In that way none of us would be safe.”

“You don’t make any one miserable,” said Innocent. “Few that I have ever
seen do. But she does. And Frederick----”

“I don’t wish to say anything to you against your cousin,” said Vane,
very gravely; “but Innocent, you must not think too highly of Frederick
Eastwood. He is not so perfect as you suppose. Remember that it is
entirely his own fault that he has such a wife; you must not make a hero
of Frederick. The less you see of him, also, the better for your own

Innocent looked at him wonderingly with vague consternation. Did she
understand what he said? Certainly not the inference conveyed in his
words--the more serious meaning. But she had no time to reply, for the
short drive was over, and the High Lodge in sight. It was a curious old
straggling house, with an old chapel standing detached, but connected by
a covered way with the house. The grounds were large and well kept, and
the quaint little lattice windows showed their several clusters of faces
peeping out. The door stood open, flooded with evening sunshine. Great
feathery branches of the clematis which had done flowering, and was now
all cottony with seed pods, hung about the porch. The wall was one mass
of creeping plants; late roses were flaunting out of reach high up about
the clustered chimneys and gables; and the flower borders about the
house were bright with asters and scarlet geraniums, and all kinds of
autumn flowers. The chapel bell began to tinkle as they drove in at the
gate, and from all the corners of the irregular old house appeared
groups of women and children. Even Innocent was roused into curiosity by
the strange sight. In the slanting afternoon light, with that background
of old wall, matted all over with interlacing wreaths of jessamine,
clematis, honeysuckle, and roses, and pierced with twinkling casements,
each looking out as with so many eyes through the little diamond
panes--the sight was a very pretty one. One or two women in the dress of
Sisters lent an additional quaintness to the picture; the children were
of various ages and of various dress, fluttering like flowers along the
trim and well-kept walk. John Vane laughed as men laugh who are
half-amused, half-affected by the scene before them.

“Now we shall see Letty in all her glory,” he said.

This sight, which was so unusual and so little expected, had actually
driven from Innocent’s mind for the moment all recollection of herself,
and all thoughts of the meeting with another stranger which was about to
follow. She woke up with a start to find herself lifted out of the
carriage, and taken suddenly with a rapid salute into some one’s arms.
The new figure was that of a little woman with very bright eyes, and a
very alert and lively aspect, who kissed Innocent in a business-like
manner, and then turning, raised her cheek to her brother, who was about
three times as tall as she was.

“So here you are,” said Miss Vane, “fifteen minutes late, as that train
always is. Quick, come in, Reginald, there is tea in the parlour. I have
only time to say a word to you before chapel. This way, my dear, follow
me; the passage is rather narrow, and there are two steps, just at the
most unlikely places--but you will get used to it in time.”

Thus talking she led them in to a large low room, with great beams
across the roof, and a multiplicity of small windows, deeply recessed in
the thick old wall. There was a great open fireplace, with a few logs of
wood burning on the hearth, and a little white-covered table with tea,
standing before it; this table, and the easy chair, and a number of
books, were the only modern things in the room. It was panelled with
dark oak, and had, consequently, nothing of the brightness of the modern
English rooms which Innocent knew; neither was it like the spare and
lofty magnificence of those Italian apartments which had once been
familiar to her. There were some small but rare pictures on the walls,
and some portraits. Vane looked round it with the familiar satisfaction
of one who returns to an old home.

“Thank heaven, whatever you have done to the rest of the house, Letty,”
he said, “you have spared my mother’s old room.”

“Yes,” said Miss Vane, “I am far from perfection yet, if I ever attain
to it. I don’t expect I shall. It is not the drawing-room now, it is
only the parlour; but beyond that sacrifice I can’t go any further,
which is contemptible. So this is Gilbert Vane’s daughter? Innocent, my
dear, you are very welcome. I like you for your name. Reginald and I had
a sister Innocent. You must try to like me and be happy here as long as
your aunt will let you stay. Sit down and pour out some tea for yourself
and him;--I must go off to chapel. You are excused to-day, as your train
is late. Take care of the child, Reginald, and see she has some tea. I
must be off or else I shall be late as well. Very glad to see you both.
_Au revoir_ in half an hour.”

She went on talking till she reached the door, when she disappeared,
still talking and waving her hand. Her brother followed her with his
kind eyes.

“Dear old Letty!” he said, “I told you we should see her in all her
glory. Sit down, Innocent, and warm your poor little hands, and take
your tea.”

With this brief advice he left her, and went round the room, looking at
all the pictures, the books, everything about. Innocent sat down as she
was bid in the great easy chair. She poured out the tea as she had been
bid, for herself and for him. A soft sensation of well-being stole over
her; the sweetness of the mignonette outside, the tinkling of the bell,
the sunshine which slanted in through the deep, small windows, and the
soft warmth of the fire, all soothed the girl; but what soothed her most
was the charmingly matter-of-fact way in which she had been received, in
which she had been bidden to do this and that. No response, no emotion
had been required from her; there was no cause for emotion; she was told
what to do, and left to do it in peace. Her fright went away in this
quiet moment; her whole nature was soothed; here was the place for her;
now she knew and saw, and the terrors of the change fled away. She did
not care for the tea, and probably would not have taken it, but that she
recollected suddenly that she had been told to do so, on which
recollection Innocent sipped and was glad. The afternoon was sweet, the
rest and quiet were sweet after so much confused motion and vision; and
it was sweet to be no longer frightened, to feel the excitement and the
terror over. She did not know how long it was till the children began to
stream again past the windows, and Miss Vane came back; but even then no
call was made upon her. She was allowed to sit in peace while the others
talked, pleasant family talk, playful discussions, inquiries after one
and another. Innocent paid very little attention to the subject of the
conversation, but it was a pleasant sound in her ears, and the very air
of the gentle house was pleasant. Then Miss Vane took her to one of the
little rooms, with the shining casements, up-stairs, where pale roses
were still looking in at the window, and showed her where to put her
things, and told her at what hour she must be ready in the morning, and
all that was done at the High Lodge. It was the beginning of a new life
to the wondering girl. No more indulgence, consultation of her
wishes--she who had no wishes! but gentle control, absolute rule,
matter-of-fact kindness--nothing but obedience required of her; and that
was the easiest thing to give.

Miss Vane, however, as it turned out, was as much pleased with Innocent
as Innocent was with Miss Vane. After one day with his sister, which,
perhaps, in the circumstances, was enough for both, John Vane set off to
pay various visits, promising to return again for Innocent, and warning
his sister only to keep her apart from “the Frederick Eastwoods” and Mr.
Batty’s house in Sterborne. This Miss Vane cheerfully agreed to do
without any question; for, certainly, it was very undesirable that a
relation of her own should have any intercourse or connexion with Mr.
Batty’s daughter. The religious vocation of the mistress of the High
Lodge did not make her indifferent to the claims of family. Religious
vocations seldom do; a well-born woman is well-born in a Carmelite
cloister as well as in a king’s court, and generally thinks quite as
much of it in the one region as the other. It seemed accordingly a
perfectly simple matter that Innocent should be permitted to accept no
invitation from Mrs. Frederick Eastwood; and indeed no such invitation
came. Otherwise things went on with the most perfect comfort between the
girl and her new relation. She did not talk much, it is true; she was
not interested, as Miss Vane expected her to be, in the upper school,
where half-a-dozen “daughters of gentlemen” were being educated in one
wing of the old house; or the lower school, where children who had no
gentility to boast of were being trained in another; or in the
orphanage, even though she herself was an orphan, and might have been
supposed likely to “take an interest” in the young creatures--girls like
herself, who found refuge there. Innocent went through the whole
establishment, making no remark. When asked if she liked it, she said
Yes: when asked if she was tired, she said No: when asked if she would
like to see something more, she said Yes again. She smiled upon the
little children, and said _ma sœur_ to the sisters when they spoke to
her, which pleased them. She was everything that was docile, gentle, and
obedient, and she grew in a few weeks to look stronger and better than
she had ever done in her life; but she did not become more
communicative. One thing, however, Innocent did which found high favour
in everybody’s eyes. She would go and sit for hours together in the
little chapel, with her eyes fixed upon the pictured Christ (an old
Italian picture, full of true early Italian sentiment for the divine and
holy) which was hung over the altar. The chapel was low, like the
house, an old Early English building in good repair, but homely as
became its date, with low windows, filled with grisaille glass, dim and
silvery. Here Innocent would sit, taking no note of time; it felt to her
like the little church of the Spina over again; and here, as there, she
said “Our Father,” vaguely reverential, and sat in a soft quiescence,
scarcely thinking--happy, she knew not why. The habit she thus showed
commended her to the community beyond expression. She was so Catholic,
so pious, so saintlike, they said; and indeed Innocent in those gentle
days made the first great success of her life. It was the pause before
the storm.



“I must take you to see the Minster, Innocent,” said Miss Vane. “You
cannot be in this part of the world without seeing the Minster. You will
be quite happy in it, you who are so fond of church. Put on your hat and
your cloak, and be ready when the carriage comes round. I have got a
number of visits to make and things to do; but as I know you can make
yourself happy in the Minster while I am busy, I will take you with me.
Have you ever seen any of our great Gothic cathedrals? Then you will be
perfectly happy, child; you will feel this day an era in your life.”

Little thought Lætitia Vane what she was saying. The unconscious
prophecy came lightly from her lips, and was received by Innocent with a
smile. She was not excited by the prospect of seeing the Minster, but
she was pleased to go, to do what she was told, to be with the kind but
arbitrary mistress, who had brought harmony into her life. She put on
her hat, smiling, looking at herself in the glass, which was not very
usual with her. She had gained some colour on her pale cheeks, her eyes
were brighter, her whole aspect more life-like. It was a fresh October
morning, warm in the sunshine, though a sharp little chill of autumn
wind met them occasionally at a corner, promising a cold evening.

“We must take care not to be late coming back,” said Miss Vane, throwing
an additional shawl upon Innocent’s lap before she got into the little
carriage, and took the reins. Miss Vane herself wore no conventional
costume; she had not abandoned the pleasant things of this life. She
wore rich silks, moaning over her own imperfection, which never could
attain to the virtue of serge, and was fond of her pretty ponies and her
pleasant little carriage. They had a cheerful drive into Sterborne,
Miss Vane pointing out everything on the way, and naming every house
they passed, Innocent paying little attention, yet listening to all that
was said to her, and enjoying in her passive way the air, the sunshine,
the rapid movement. Things no longer seemed to rush past her, moved by
some dreadful whirl of their own, but it was she who was in motion,
lightly, cheerfully--the centre, not a passive object in the scene.
This, which she could not have explained for her life, but which she
felt vaguely yet strongly, made the greatest difference to Innocent. She
was more alive than she had ever been before in her life.

Miss Vane took her over the Minster, rapidly pointing out all the chief
wonders; and then left her, seated within sight of the high altar, to
enjoy what everybody at the High Lodge supposed to be meditation of the
devoutest kind.

“You will be quite happy here,” Miss Vane said, kissing her softly, and
feeling, with warm compunctions for her own worldliness, how superior
was her young relation. She stopped at the door, ere she went about her
many businesses, to point out Innocent to the chief verger, and commend
her to his care. “I will come back in about an hour and a half,” she
said. Thus Innocent was left alone.

I do not think she had ever been left entirely alone before, save on the
one occasion of her visit to the Methodist chapel, since she had been
under her aunt’s care, and the sensation was sweet to her,--quite alone,
silent, no one interfering with her, free to do as she would, to be
still, without speaking, without feeling, without thinking. The solemn
nave of the Minster, the lovely, lessening arches of the apse, the
silvery glow of the painted glass in the windows, made no special
impression upon her for themselves. As she sat silent they mingled in a
confused but grateful calm with the little church of the Spina--the
lingering memories of her past life. Subdued steps came and went about
her as in the other little sanctuary by the Arno; the light was subdued
as by the influence of the place; no sound above a whisper was audible;
gliding figures appeared in the distance, into which she gazed, not,
indeed, coming there to pray, as in Santa Maria, but yet moving softly,
with a certain reverence. No gleaming tapers on the altar, no chanting
priest interposed to furnish a background for her dreams; but Innocent
scarcely felt the want. She said her prayers, kneeling down, all
unconscious of observation, on the stone pavement. She sat down again in
a hush of soft and peaceful feeling--to dream? No, nor even to think.
The mind of this poor little Innocent had no need for any exercise; she
rested, before the fiery coming of her fate.

It was not till the verger, much bewildered by a stillness of attitude
to which he was quite unused, came to ask whether the young lady would
like to see the chapter-house, or the crypt, or any of the special
sights of the Minster, that the girl was roused. She rose then, always
acquiescent, smiling upon the old man. But as she turned round,
Innocent’s eye caught a figure much more interesting to her than the
verger’s. It was Frederick, who turned round at the same moment, and
came forward to her, holding out both his hands. “Ah, Innocent, at
last!” he cried. There was real pleasure in his face.

“Miss Vane has left me here to wait for her,” said Innocent, “but, oh, I
am so glad to see you!” It seemed to her that she had found him
again--that all the intermediate time had glided away, that she was in
the church of the Spina, and he, her new-discovered only guardian and
protector again.

“I am glad that you are glad,” said Frederick. “I thought you might have
forgotten all about us among the Vanes. How is it that they neglect you
like this? I suppose you are the poor relation there, Innocent, eh? You
never were so at The Elms.”

“I do not know what you mean,” said Innocent; but she put her hand
within his arm, with her old use and wont, looking up at him brightly
with her soft smile. The verger looking on, felt that, perhaps, it was
his duty to interfere, but had not the heart to do it.

“You’ll find me in the porch, Miss, if you want me,” he said. If the
young lady had met with some one as she liked better than them
Papistical nunnery-folks at the High Lodge, was it his business? He went
away heavily, dragging his feet upon the pavement, as ecclesiastical
attendants for ages and ages have dragged them, with stooped shoulders
and shuffling gait; and the two, whom he thought lovers, were left

They were not lovers, far from that; but Innocent clung to the arm of
the first man whom she had ever identified and felt any warm personal
regard for, and Frederick looked down upon her with a complacency which
half arose from a vain belief that she loved him, and partly from a real
kindness for his little cousin, and partly from a sensation of
thankfulness to have some one belonging to him to look at and speak
to--some one not of the terrible Batty tribe, to which he was bound
until Monday morning. This was Saturday, and he had been imperatively
summoned to visit his wife, who was still ill. He could not get back
until Monday morning, and the thought that this terrible moment of duty
might be softened by the presence of Innocent, who adored him, was
sweet. He told her that Amanda was ill in bed, not able to come out with
him, or to be his companion. “I cannot spend my whole time with her,”
said Frederick, “and her father is more odious than I can tell you. You
must come to see her; you must stay with me, Innocent, till I go back.”

“If Miss Vane will let me,” said Innocent, brightly.

“You would like it? You were always a dear girl. When I take you home
with me, Innocent,” said Frederick solemnly, “you will learn a lesson
which I have learnt too late, that it is a fatal thing to connect one’s
self with people of a different class from one’s own, who cannot
understand one, whose life is a contradiction to all one feels and
wishes. I don’t speak, of course, of my wife; that is my own affair;
whatever I may have to put up with I say nothing on that score to any
one. But, Innocent, a man of honour has many things to bear which women
never know.”

These fine sentiments were wasted upon Innocent, who looked up at him
wondering, and received what he said docilely, but made no attempt to
understand. I don’t know why Frederick, knowing her well enough to be
aware of this, should have thought it necessary to make so solemn a
statement. He did it, perhaps, from the habit he had acquired of posing
as a victim to honour. He led her about the Minster, and showed her many
things which Innocent looked at with her usual docility, pleased to be
with him, if not much excited by anything else. She had been happy at
the High Lodge, but after all Frederick was her first friend, her
discovery, and to be thus alone with him, cared for by him, no one else
interfering, carried her back to the first startled awakening of her
torpid youth. He was always kind to her when she was thus thrown upon
his care, and Innocent was happy, with her hand clinging to his arm.
When Miss Vane came to recall her to the present, she looked with
perhaps a warmer personal wish than had ever been seen in her eyes
before at her temporary guardian, pleading for the granting of the
request which Frederick made, with his very finest Charles I. look, and
melancholy gentlemanlike grace. Miss Vane, a busy woman, had partially
forgotten her brother’s warning about Mrs. Frederick. She knew the young
man before her had made a very foolish marriage, but still he was an
Eastwood, of prepossessing appearance, and a compunction crossed her
mind as to her want of civility in not “calling on” the daughter-in-law
of Innocent’s good aunt. A woman takes rank from her husband, not from
her father, Miss Vane reflected, and if this poor fellow had found out,
as might be guessed from his resigned manner, that he had made a
terrible mistake, it was only right that a connexion should stand by him
as far as was practicable. After a few difficulties, therefore, as to
Innocent’s dress, &c., she consented, promising to send the gardener
with her bag, and to drive in for her on Monday morning, “when I will
take the opportunity of leaving a card for Mrs. Eastwood. I am sorry to
hear she is so poorly,” said Miss Vane in her most gracious manner.
Innocent could scarcely believe it when she saw her energetic relation
drive away, and found herself left in Frederick’s charge. “I am to stay,
then?” she said, with a smile which lighted up her whole face; then
added, with a faint shadow stealing over it, “but with you, Frederick? I
do not like--your wife----”

“You shall be with me,” said Frederick; “but, Innocent, you must not
say such things. It is imprudent--you might be misunderstood. I know
very well what you mean, and that, of course, it is impossible you
should feel towards poor Amanda as you do to me; but you must not forget
what I have told you so often, that a woman’s best policy is always to
make friends with her own sex. You are coming now, you understand, to
visit my wife, who is far from well; but I shall take care to have you a
great deal with me.”

Innocent’s enjoyment was a little damped by this long speech; but as she
was still walking with Frederick, and had, as, yet, no drawback to the
pleasant sensation of being with him, the shadow flitted rapidly from
her face. He took her all over the village, showing her everything that
was to be seen, before he turned his step towards the Villa, where
Amanda, fretful and peevish, awaited him, longing for news, for change,
for something to amuse her. Frederick cared very little for the fact
that his once-worshipped beauty was now waiting for him. His little
cousin, with her dreamy delight in his society, her refined and
gradually developing beauty, and the strange attraction of her visionary
abstractedness from the common world, was very amusing and pleasant to
him. The mere fact of not seeing her every day, as he had been in the
habit of doing, had made him perceive Innocent’s beauty, and a mingled
feeling, half wholly good, half dubious in character, inclined him
towards the girl who clung to him. She was very pretty and “very fond of
him,” which pleased his vanity highly, and made him feel vaguely
self-complacent and on good terms with himself in her company; and by
the side of this doubtful and not very improving sensation, the man, who
was not wholly bad, had actually a little wholesome, brotherly,
protecting affection for the child who had clung to him from the first
moment of seeing him. Thus they wandered through the village, round and
round the Minster, looking at everything and at nothing till the October
afternoon began to cloud over. “Now you must come and see Amanda,” said
Frederick with a sigh. Innocent sighed too. It seemed to her very hard
that there was this inevitable “Frederick’s wife” to be always the
shadow to the picture, to take him away from his family, to separate him
from herself, to worry and vex him whatever he was doing. Innocent
hesitated at the corner of the street.

“Are you sure I should go?” she said. “She will scold me. She will not
be kind like Cousin Lætitia or you. She does not like me, and I do not
like her. Shall I go back now? I have had all I wanted, Frederick; I
have seen you.”

“That would never do,” said Frederick. “If it were known that you had
met me in the Minster and walked about so long with me, and then
returned without seeing my wife, people would talk--unpleasant things
would be said.”

“What could be said?” asked Innocent.

“Upon my life, one doesn’t know whether to laugh at you or be angry,”
cried Frederick, impatient. “Will you never understand? But, come along,
it is no use wasting words. Don’t you see you must come now?”

“I do not want to come. She will scold me,” said Innocent, standing
firmly, with a cloud upon her face. It was the first time she had openly
resisted him or any one. Poor child, was it some angel who stayed her
feet? She felt ready to cry, which was an unusual thing with her, and
with a frightened instinctive recoil, stood still, refusing to go on.

Poor Innocent! Safety and shelter, and the life of order and peace which
suited her half-developed faculties, lay calm and sunshiny on one side.
On the other was conflict, confused darkness and misery, pain and shame,
gathering in heavy clouds to swallow her up. For one moment it hung on
the balance which her fate was to be; terrible moment, which we, none of
us, divine, during which we have to exercise that great and awful choice
which is the privilege of humanity, in blindness and unconsciousness,
ignorant of the issues, stupid to the importance of the decision. This
was decided, however, not by Innocent. Impatient Frederick seized her
hand and drew it through his arm.

“This is folly,” he cried. “What you, Innocent! you be such a little
traitor and resist me and get me into trouble? No, no, come along. This
is out of the question now.”

Next moment he had knocked at his father-in-law’s door.

The Villa looked very much as it had done the day that Frederick first
made his appearance there. The sun was still shining by intervals, but
glimmers of firelight came from the window, and the garden behind was
spare of flowers. Mr. Batty met them as they came in, and stared hard at
the girl whom Frederick led by the hand into the narrow light passage
which traversed the house from the street to the garden door. “This is
my cousin, sir, Miss Innocent Vane,” said Frederick. “I have brought her
to see Amanda. She is on a visit at the High Lodge, as you may have

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard,” said Batty, “and I think it’s time she should
turn up, the only one of your family as has ever come near my girl.
You’re welcome, my dear, better late than never; though I think,
considering how kind the Eastwoods have been to you, that you might have
come a little sooner to show Mrs. Frederick some respect.”

Innocent listened, wondering, to this address, gazing at the man whom
she had a confused recollection of having seen before. All that she
comprehended now was, more or less, that he was scolding her, though
about what she could not tell. He was a kind of man totally unknown to
Innocent--his thick figure, his coarse air, his loud voice and red
hands, surprised, without so much revolting her as they might have done,
had her organization been more perfect. She was frightened, but made an
effort of politeness to conceal it.

“Is she better?” she asked, not knowing what to say.

“You’ll see what she’ll say to you when she sees you,” said Batty to
Frederick with a chuckle, “and I don’t blame her, poor girl. If this is
what you call visiting your wife when she’s poorly, things have changed
since my day. It’s close on five, and nearly time for dinner, and you’ve
been out since the moment you swallowed your lunch.”

“I have been with my little cousin here, and Miss Vane of the High
Lodge, who is coming to call on Amanda on Monday,” said Frederick. “In
the meantime I took the liberty of inviting my cousin to stay with my
wife for a couple of nights. I hope it is practicable----”

“Oh, practicable enough,” said Batty, with a laugh. “I’m not one of
those as leaves themselves without a room to give to a friend. Plenty of
accommodation here for as many as you like to bring--and the more the
merrier, if they’re the right sort. Glad to see you, Miss Innocent.
Training up for your trade, eh?--at that old nunnery out there. Lord, to
see that old Lady Abbess in my house will be a sight! ’Manda will tackle
her, I’ll be bound. Walk up, walk up-stairs, Eastwood will show you the
way; and he’s sure of a warm welcome, he is. Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Batty stood in the passage holding his sides, while Frederick, with
disgust on every line of his fine features, strode up-stairs. Innocent
followed her cousin wondering. What the man meant, whether he was merry,
or angry, or simply the most disagreeable strange man she had ever seen,
she could not make out. She remembered vaguely what Frederick had told
her so lately--what she had heard repeated on all sides at The
Elms--that Frederick’s wife was of “another class.” And the stairs were
narrow, the passage contracted, the maid who had opened the door not
like the maids at The Elms; and Batty’s dress, and appearance, and
manner of speech very different from anything Innocent had ever known
before. This was what it meant, then, to be of “another class.” Thus she
followed with some new speculations rising in her passive brain, into
the presence of Frederick’s wife.



Frederick led Innocent to the door of a bedroom which opened from a
little gallery up-stairs. He paused there before he opened it.

“If we find Amanda in an excitable state, you must not mind it,” he
said; “you must not be frightened. Forgive her because she is ill. It is
her way----”

With these words of warning he opened the door. It was a pretty room
enough--meant to be luxurious--in a somewhat tawdry style of decoration,
yet tolerable, in so far that its rose-coloured hangings and heavy
fringes were fresh at least, and in good order. Amanda was in bed, with
a blue dressing-gown over her shoulders, and her elaborately-dressed
hair adorned with a small lace cap. Nothing could be gayer than the
composition of colour, her own rose-cheeks and golden hair, the bright
blue garment in which she was clothed, and the blue ribbon in her little
cap, all relieved against the rose-coloured hangings. A perfect Watteau,
some one had told her, this composition made, and, though she did not
know what a Watteau was, she felt it must be something fine, and kept up
the successful combination. Her cheeks were not pale, but flushed with
anger, impatience, and excitement. She burst forth almost before
Frederick had come into the room.

“This is how you visit your wife, is it, Mr. Frederick Eastwood?--Three
mortal hours have I been left alone without a creature to speak to but
aunty. How dare you face me after that? how dare you? I have a hundred
minds never to speak to you again----”

“That would be to punish yourself more than me, my dear,” said
Frederick, with the conventional speech of the injured husband.

She looked at his careless smile, and her fury increased.

“I should like to throw something at you,” she cried. “You cold, wicked,
careless, unprincipled wretch! Was it for this you married me, and
pretended to be fond of me? Was it for this you took me from my father,
who was always so kind? Was it for this----”

“Of course it was for all that,” said Frederick, advancing to the
bedside. “We have gone through the list before. Amanda, try to keep your
temper; it will be the best thing for you. Here is Innocent, whom I
found in the Minster, and who has come to pay you a visit. Miss Vane is
coming on Monday to fetch her; and if you play your cards well----”

Amanda interrupted him by a shrill laugh.

“Oh, so here is Innocent! and the old nun is coming?--a great deal I
care! This is how you try to hoodwink me. Innocent, come here! How long
has he been walking about with you, talking, and holding your hand, and
turning your head, you little fool? You think he cares? He cares as much
for you as he does for me; he cares for no one but himself. Oh, go away,
or I shall throw something at you! Go away, or----”

She had put out her hand to clutch at a glass which stood by her on a
little table.

“Go! Go!” cried some one from behind the curtain.

Frederick made a rapid step to the door, but before he had reached it
his wife’s mood had changed.

“Oh, _you_ tell him to go, do you?” she cried. “Then I tell him to stay.
Come here, Innocent; you shall stay and nurse me; I know you’ll like it;
and, Fred, turn that woman out--turn her off, turn her out of doors. She
has been my plague ever since I can recollect. Oh, you thought you would
keep me all to yourself, did you, and get the better of me? but I
haven’t got a husband for nothing. Fred, turn her out of doors.”

Frederick opened the door with servile haste. He dragged the poor aunty,
the _souffre-douleur_ of the household, out by the sleeve, escaping
himself along with her. Amanda leant back upon her pillow, laying her
hand upon her breast.

“How hot it is,” she said, panting. “Open the window--take this fan and
fan me; can’t you make yourself useful? Oh, you are well named; you are
a true Innocent! If you will tell me all that he was saying to you, I
will forgive you. Tell me what he said.”

“He told me that I was to come and see you; that I was not to be
frightened,” said the girl, who was trembling, yet not confused by
mental dread, as she had sometimes felt on less occasion.

“And are you frightened?”

“N--no.” She spoke with a little hesitation, but still succeeded in
making this answer. She did not shrink from Amanda’s blazing red-hazel
eyes. The excited creature somehow did not alarm her. She had done all
that Amanda had told her with the happy habit of instant obedience,
which she had learned at the High Lodge, and kept fanning her, according
to her orders, as she spoke.

“You are very odd,” said Amanda, whose passion was over. “But you know
how to fan one; not like that woman who saws the air like a windmill.
You may take off your hat and sit down by me. I have a hasty temper. I
sometimes say things and do things I am sorry for; but I’m very
good-hearted. There, sit down and let us have a talk. Weren’t you glad
to get off? Don’t you hate that old cat, with her sermons and her
prayers? So she is coming to call?--what an honour, to be sure, for me!
But I think the Eastwoods can hold up their heads as high as the Vanes
any day--and she’s nothing but an interloper. Why, John Vane’s father
bought that house,” said Amanda; “it is no more an old family place than
this is. I am glad you are going to stay. If you are a good girl, I will
try what I can do for you, and make a friend of you. I never could make
a friend of that little stuck-up Nelly. What airs she does give herself
to be sure! and not so much to be proud of. Why, that wretched little
Molyneux, that she thinks such great things, is no better than a
shopkeeper’s grandson. I know the judge’s father was a jeweller in Brook
Street, and there is nothing so very grand in having a judge in the
family, unless you were going to be tried for your life, and wanted him
to get you off----”

“Can judges get people off?” said Innocent. Heaven knows why she asked
such a question! It was an echo rather of her companion’s last words
than said by any free-will of her own. But Frederick heard it as he came
in, and so did poor aunty, who stood outside, trembling at the door.

“Of course they can, you little stupid. It is all they are good for,”
said Amanda, benignantly. “Oh, you may come in. I am such a soft-hearted
ninny, I always forgive people when my passion is over. And none of you
ought to cross me; you know you oughtn’t. Some of these days, if you
don’t mind, just to punish you I shall die----”

She laughed and laid her head back upon the pillow, with her blue
ribbons and blue gown thrown sharply out by the rose-coloured bed. She
was amused by her own threat. But passion and self-indulgence had made
great havoc in the undisciplined creature, and to a serious looker-on
that menace would have seemed not so unlikely as Amanda thought, to come
to reality. Her breath came quick and with difficulty, heaving her
breast at every respiration. A high hectic colour was on her cheek, and
the cheekbones themselves which bore these dangerous roses were
sharpened by the wasting processes of continual excitement. Innocent
stood all this time by the bed, fanning her slowly and steadily. She was
getting tired, but did not think of stopping till she was told. Her
visionary looks, and the mechanical occupation which was so much more
natural to her than anything of a visionary character, contrasted
strangely, as she stood thus docile, always passive, by that bed. I
suppose she would literally have gone on for ever, like an Eastern
slave, had no one interposed.

This steady service pleased Amanda hugely. She took full advantage of
it, keeping the girl employed until her very arm was drooping with the
fatigue of the monotonous motion; and she was so generous as to allow
Frederick to sit down and tell her “the news.” Frederick had brought
down, as in duty bound, a few scandalous anecdotes from the
fountain-head of gossip--anecdotes circumstantialized by date and name,
but probably as false as was the taste that desired them. He made,
indeed, a few demurs at repeating these wonderful pieces of history
before Innocent, which were speedily silenced by his wife.

“Innocent is paying no attention. She never listens to what any one
says,” cried Amanda, “and, besides, no one thinks of that sort of
old-fashioned nonsense nowadays. Go on----”

In this edifying way the time was spent till dinner. Amanda declared
that she never felt better, that she would certainly get up next day.
“And I’ll go to church at the Minster if there is a good anthem,” she
said, “and you shall give me your arm, Fred, and everybody will think us
a model couple.” This last outburst of amiability was called forth by a
delightful piece of scandal about what the newspapers called a very
elevated personage, and which Frederick vouched for as authentic. Mrs.
Frederick, whose “set” were of those who called the heir to the throne
by the name of his principality _tout court_, was altogether conciliated
by this delightful communication. Innocent, as Amanda said, paid very
little attention. She listened yet did not listen, half pleased that
Frederick seemed pleased, half wondering, by an instinct which was more
penetrating than reason, that he should be satisfied, and should take so
much trouble to keep Amanda in good temper. Innocent was not observant,
she was not conscious of any faculty of criticism in her own undeveloped
mind; she made no voluntary contrast between Frederick in this fretful
sick chamber trying to please, and Frederick at home, contemptuously
indifferent to what any one did or said. Only a little vague wonder at
him rose in her mind; her sense of Mrs. Frederick’s imperfections was
not more distinct than the mere feeling of personal dislike--dislike
which was not softened by this sight of her, or by the exacting and
selfish demands she made upon everybody. Innocent was born to obey. She
did what Miss Vane had told her with the most docile unquestioning
readiness, and with the consent of her whole being; and she did also
whatever Mrs. Frederick told, but with how different a feeling. That she
could have explained the difference to herself, or that she even fully
defined and recognized it, I am far from asserting; but the fact that
she was conscious of this difference was at least a proof of the
expanding of her mental powers.

Mrs. Frederick consented that her husband and Innocent should leave her
to go to dinner, with reluctance, but she did consent. Before the meal
was over, however, they heard loud and repeated knockings on the floor
above, signals of her impatience. Frederick was in a state of unusual
exhilaration, perhaps excited by finding the weary evening pass less
disagreeably than he thought--for Innocent, passive as she was, was yet
a shield between him and his coarse father-in-law; and even Amanda’s
knocking, as he was out of her reach, did not disturb him.

“Come round the garden with me while I smoke my cigar,” he said, “and
then you can go to her.”

The evening was soft and warm and mellow, with a large full October moon
less white than usual, throwing broad beams of the palest gold over the
dark garden. Batty watched them go out with doubtful eyes, unable quite
to keep himself from vulgar interpretations of Innocent’s submission to
her cousin, yet confident in the power of “my girl” to retain her
husband’s devotion, and caring very little about the other. Besides he
was flattered in spite of himself that Innocent should be there under
his roof. Two great families, the one more “stuck up” than the other,
seemed thus to be holding out an olive branch to him, and already Batty
felt himself mounting the steps of social grandeur. He sat over his
port, meditating on the moment when he could change that drink for more
natural brandy and water--when another vehement assault upon the floor
overhead roused him.

“She’ll make herself worse than ever,” Batty said to himself; and going
to the stairs he shouted in his great voice, “Steady there, steady,
’Manda. She’s a coming; she’s a coming.” Then he went out into the
garden to seek the other two. The grass was wet with dew, the leaves,
which had begun to change colour, showed like flowers in the moonlight.
He followed the soft sound of sauntering steps along two or three
windings of the path. Then he came in sight of the pair he sought;
Frederick was walking along indifferently enough, smoking his cigar,
with one hand thrust into his pocket! Innocent by his side held his arm
so cavalierly and carelessly bent with her hand. She went along by him
like his shadow; she looked up at him with a half smile upon her face,
to which the moonlight lent an aspect of deeper and more impassioned
self-devotion than Innocent knew. Frederick, in low tones, and with now
and then a demonstrative gesture of the disengaged hand with which he
sometimes took his cigar from his lips, was laying down the law about
something. Probably he was inculcating that first duty of woman, to
“consider me, not yourself,” or some other equally plain and fundamental
principle. The sight struck Batty with a certain jealousy by reflection.
So intimate a conversation could scarcely be without somehow infringing
upon the rights of “his girl.” Had it been Frederick’s sister, probably
he would have had the same feeling; but in that case he would have been
less at liberty to interfere.

“Hollo!” he said, “don’t you know Mrs. Frederick is all alone, while you
two are gallivanting and philandering here? Come along, Miss; you’re
safer with my ’Manda than with that young spark. _I_ know him better
than you do. Come along, come along, or she’ll bring down the house; and
not much wonder either if she saw as much as I see--but I’ll tell no
tales,” he said, with a coarse laugh.

Innocent stood bewildered with the sudden shock--for at the moment that
Batty’s voice became audible, Frederick, with an instinctive movement,
cast her off from his arm. To her who knew no wrong, who thought no
evil, this movement was simply incomprehensible. He was angry, that
could be the only reason; but why, or with whom? She stood turning her
wandering looks towards Batty, towards the house, with its lighted
windows, the moonbeams pouring over her, lighting up her raised face,
with its wistful gaze. Frederick, as an expression of his feeling,
tossed away the end of his cigar.

“We were coming in,” he said. “Innocent, perhaps you had better go
first, and let me know if I’m wanted. I am tired. Tell Amanda I have got
some letters to write, office work which I was obliged to bring with me.
Batty, suppose you order some coffee, and let me get to work,” he added,
carelessly leading the way into the house. He left Innocent to follow as
she might, and to deal with Batty as she might. He had put up with him
long enough; he saw no reason for exerting himself further now.

“Confound his impudence!” said Batty. “Now, Miss, come along. You’d best
stay with ’Manda, if you’ll take my advice, while you are here.”

“If you please,” said Innocent, with a sigh.

“Oh, if _I_ please--you’d rather be with _him_, eh? Pleasanter ain’t
it?” said Batty, with a grin of airy raillery.

“Yes,” said simple Innocent. “I know Frederick, and I don’t know you.” A
courteous instinct which she could not have explained kept her from
adding that she did not like Mrs. Frederick, which was her usually
unconcealed sentiment. She added quite gravely, altogether unaware that
his laugh had anything to do with her, “if I am to go to Frederick’s
wife, will you show me the way?”

Batty led the way without another word--he was curiously impressed by
her gravity, by a certain solemn simplicity about the pale creature, who
stood there facing him in the moonlight impervious to his gibes. He took
her to his daughter’s room, and looked in, giving Amanda a word of
warning. “Keep your temper, ’Manda,” he said; I do not know that he
could have explained why.

This was what Amanda was little inclined to do. She assailed Innocent
with a storm of questions; what had she been doing? where had she been?

“I have been in the garden with Frederick,” said the girl, with that
serious and quiet calm, which already had so much impressed Mrs.
Frederick’s father.

“In the garden with Frederick! and you tell me so with that bold face!
What was he doing? what was he saying? oh, I know him, and his false
ways,” said the excited wife; “making you think all sorts of things, you
little fool--and then sending you to me with your innocent face.
Innocent, indeed! Oh, no; I didn’t call--I don’t want you. Innocent, to
be sure! You are a pretty Innocent for the nunnery; just the sort of
creature to go there if all tales be true--to learn to deceive--as if
you wanted teaching! You never thought of me lying up here, while you
went wandering about the garden with Frederick--nor he didn’t, neither.
Who cares for me? I was everything that was sweet before I married, but
now much he cares. Oh, if I just had him here to tell him what I think
of him! Call him to tell him what I think of him--both him and you!”

Innocent had never been thrown upon her own resources before. She was
not prepared for the emergency, and had those who loved her best
foreseen the possibility of such a trial for her she never would have
been allowed to risk it; but in the meantime it did her good. A certain
curious practical faculty had been developed in her by the life of rule
and order at the High Lodge. She went forward to the bedside with her
visionary look, but the most serious matter-of-fact meaning, ignoring
the passion as completely as if it did not exist; which, indeed, to her
it did not, being a thing beyond her range of perception.

“You make yourself ill when you are angry,” she said, seriously, looking
down upon Amanda’s worn and flushed countenance; “it makes you very ill;
it would be far better not to be angry. When you scold me I am sorry;
but it does not make me ill. It hurts you most. You should stop yourself
when you feel it coming on; because, perhaps, when you are scolding you
might die--and it would be better to live and not to scold. I have
thought about it, and that is what I think.”

Amanda was aghast at this speech--it subdued her as if a baby had
suddenly opened its mouth, and uttered words of wisdom. She gave a gasp,
half of wonder, half of terror, and felt herself checked and subdued as
she had never been in her life before. The effect was so strange that
she did not know what to make of it. She tried to laugh, and failed;
finally, she said, “What an odd girl you are!” and settled down among
her pillows, calmed in spite of herself. “Read to me,” she said, after a
little pause, thrusting a book into Innocent’s hand. The calm was as
sudden as the storm. The moment that she was told to do something
definite Innocent resumed her usual obedient frame of mind, after this
the longest speech she had ever made, and the most completely
independent mental action she had ever been conscious of. She sat down
and read, opening the book where she was told, pursuing without a
question the course of a foolish story. She never thought of asking who
or what were the personages she suddenly began to read about; she took
the book as she had taken the fan, and used it in a similar way. And
then there followed a curious little interval of calm. Amanda had
prepared herself for the night while the others were at dinner; she had
taken off her blue dressing-gown and her pretty ribbons; she was all
white now, ready to go to sleep when the moment came. The room had been
partially darkened for the same reason. Behind the curtain at the head
of the bed was a lamp shaded from the eyes, but the other lights had
been taken away, and the profound quiet grew slumbrous as Innocent’s
soft voice rose through it, reading steadily and gently with a certain
sweet monotony. I cannot tell how long Innocent continued reading. The
calm grew more and more profound; no one came near the room; Amanda’s
retirement was not invaded. Innocent herself grew drowsy as she listened
to her own voice; it rose and fell with a gentle, but incessant,
repetition; sometimes she would almost fall asleep, stumbling over the
words--and then, as Mrs. Frederick, who was drowsy too, stirred and
murmured at the cessation of the voice which acted upon her like a
lullaby, the girl would resume her reading, startled into wakefulness.
Once or twice poor aunty, who had been banished from the room, put in
her head noiselessly at the door, and withdrew it as gently, seeing that
all was still. Batty himself once did the same; but the household was
too glad of the unusual stillness to do anything to disturb it. At
length the soft girlish voice, after repeated breaks and faltering
recommencements, dropped altogether, and Innocent fell fast asleep, with
her head leaning upon the back of her chair, and the book in her clasped
hands. She and the lamp by which she had been reading and the little
table covered with medicine phials, were separated from the sleeper in
the bed by the dropped curtain, which threw a rose-coloured reflection
over Amanda in her sleep; this lasted for an hour or two, during which
the patient and the young attendant who was so little used to watch,
slept peacefully with but the veil of this curtain between them. Then
Amanda began to stir. Her sleep was always broken and uncertain; the
poor aunty to whom she was so cruel had accustomed her to constant and
unfailing attendance--and when she woke and called and saw no one,
sudden wrath flamed up in Amanda’s bosom. Gradually the circumstances
came back upon her mind, and plucking back the curtain she saw poor
Innocent quietly sleeping, her hair falling in the old childish way
about her shoulders, and her dark eyelashes resting on her cheek, which
looked so pale under them. Amanda did not care for the weary grace and
_abandon_ of the girl’s attitude, nor was she at all touched by the
thought that Innocent had been occupied in her own service to her last
moment of consciousness. Mrs. Frederick, on the contrary, was furious to
find herself “left alone” with no obsequious nurse ready to attend to
her wants. She shrieked at Innocent to rouse her, and stretching out of
bed shook the girl, who started violently, and sprang up trembling and
nervous. Amanda’s eyes were blazing, her figure trembling with sudden

“How dare you fall asleep?” she cried, “am I to be left with no one to
take care of me? oh, you all want to kill me. Give me my drops, you
cruel, wicked, sleepy, lazy, wicked girl! You don’t know how?--oh, you
know well enough how to walk about with my husband--how to make love to
him. My drops! can’t you understand?--there, in that bottle; you can
read, I suppose, though you are a fool. Oh, to leave me to this horrid
girl! Oh, to have no one to take care of me! My drops? can’t you hear?
I’ll make it heard all over the house. My drops! Oh, you little idiot,
can’t you do that much? I always said you was a fool; walk about with
another woman’s husband--torment a man with clinging to him--but as for
being of use. My drops! Put them in the glass, idiot! Can’t you see I
want to go to sleep?”

Innocent trembling, chilled, ignorant, incapable, only half awake, took
the bottle that was pointed out to her, and endeavoured, as she had seen
people do, to drop the liquid into a glass; she failed twice over in her
fright and tremor. Then she kneeled down by the table to try for the
third time, propping herself up against the chair. I don’t know what
thoughts might be passing unconscious through her mind. I don’t think
she was conscious of anything, except the miserable feeling of sudden
waking--the cold, the sense of being beaten down with angry words--and
the frightened attempt to do what she could not do, in obedience to the
fiercest order she had ever received in her life. Where she knelt,
painfully endeavouring to count the drops of the opiate, she was within
reach of Amanda’s arm, who by this time had worked herself into a wild,
shrieking passion. Once more she dashed aside the curtain, and plucked
at Innocent, calling to her with words which had become unintelligible
to the ears of the frightened girl. “Give it me, you fool--give it me,
you fool!” she said, then snatched the glass out of Innocent’s hand, and
lifted it to her lips. Between the fright of the one and the passion of
the other the bottle had been half emptied into the glass. Amanda held
it for a moment in one hand, grasping Innocent with the other, and
trying to recover breath. She was past thinking of any consequences, as
Innocent was past knowing what was happening under her eyes. With a
sudden long effort to regain her breath she put the glass to her panting
lips, and drank it. How much she swallowed no one ever knew; the glass
dropped out of her hand, spilling some dark drops upon the white
coverlid, and Amanda dropped back heavily upon the pillows. Then there
followed such a stillness as seemed to make the whole house, the very
walls, shiver. Innocent, with the little phial clutched in one hand,
with Amanda’s fingers slowly relaxing from the other, stood stupefied,
listening to the horrible stillness. Oh, God, what did it mean?



The inhabitants of the Villa were well used to the sudden sounds and
sudden stillnesses which marked the changes of Amanda’s moods, and on
ordinary occasions no one thought of interfering or taking any notice.
So long as aunty was there these were recognized as her share of the
advantages of this life, and the rest of the household left her in
undisturbed enjoyment of her privileges. But somehow on this evening
other sentiments had been called into being. Aunty herself loved, in her
way, the wilful creature whom she had nursed all her life,
notwithstanding the ill recompense she received, and could not take
advantage of the unusual holiday she was having. Instead of going to
bed, she hung about the passages, sometimes listening at Amanda’s door,
more vigilant, more wakeful than ever. The maids who slept above were
wakeful too. They were interested in the visitor, the curious pale girl
who was one of Mr. Eastwood’s great relations, “a real lady,” and so
much unlike the usual visitors to the house. Besides, though both the
patient and her poor little unaccustomed attendant had slept, it was
still comparatively early, about the hour of midnight. I do not know
what there was peculiar in the stillness that crept through the house.
Often enough before Amanda had fainted after one of her paroxysms of
passion, and everything had gone on as usual, no one except her special
nurse being much the wiser. But on this night a still horror seemed to
creep through the place. The women up-stairs rose from their beds with a
sensation of alarm, and poor aunty stood trembling at the door, not
knowing whether to venture in, at the risk of disturbing the quiet, or
stay outside at the risk perhaps of neglecting the patient. The moments
are long in such an emergency. It seemed to her, I think wrongly, that
this stillness had lasted full half an hour, when at last, emboldened by
terror, and stimulated by the appearance on the stairs of the frightened
housemaid in her nightgown, whispering “Was anything the matter?” she
opened softly the door of the room. All that aunty could see was
Innocent, standing, gazing at the bed on which, to all appearance, the
patient lay calm, with the softened reflection of the rose-coloured
curtain over her. Innocent stood like a statue, white, immovable,
gazing. Aunty stole in, frightened, with noiseless steps, afraid lest
some creak of the floor should betray her presence. She laid her hand
softly on Innocent’s shoulder.

“Is she asleep?” she asked.

Innocent awoke as from a trance.

“What is it?” she said shivering, and in low tones of terror. “Look,
look! what does it mean----”

Next moment a great cry rang through the silent house--the windows were
thrown open, the bells rung, the maids rushed in, half frantic with
excitement; what was it? A dreadful interval followed while they crowded
about the bed, and while aunty, moaning, weeping, calling upon Amanda,
tried to raise the senseless figure, to bring back animation by all the
means which she had so often used before. The wild yet subdued bustle of
such a terrible domestic incident, the hurried sending for the doctor,
the running hither and thither for remedies, the strange dream-like
horror of that one unresponsive, unmoving figure in the midst of all
this tumult of anxious but bootless effort--how can I describe it? The
cold night air poured into the room, ineffectually summoned to give
breath to the lips that could draw breath no longer, and waved the
lights about like things distracted, and chilled the living to the bone,
as they ran to and fro, seeking this and that, making one vain effort
after another. Innocent stood behind, leaning against the wall, like a
marble image. She had been pushed aside by the anxious women. She stood
with her eyes fixed on the bed, with a vague horror on her face. It was
a dream to her, which had begun in her sleep; was she sleeping still? or
was this a horrible reality? or what had she to do with it? she, a
little while ago the chief actor, now the spectator, helpless, knowing
nothing, yet with a chill of dread gnawing at her, like the fox in the
fable, gnawing her heart. Innocent’s head seemed to turn round and
round, as the strange group which had swept in, made all those wild
circles round the bed, doing one strange thing after another, incoherent
to her--moving and rustling, and talking low under the disturbed waving
of the lights, and in the shadow of the curtains. When, after a long
terrible interval, these figures dispersed, and one alone remained,
throwing itself upon the bed in wild weeping, the girl roused herself.

“What is it?” she asked, drawing a step nearer. “What is it?” It seemed
to Innocent that something held her, that she could not look at the
figure in the bed.

“Oh, my darling! my darling! I have nursed her from a baby--she never
was but good to me. Oh, my child, my ’Manda! Will you never speak to me
again! Oh, ’Manda, my darling! Oh, my lovely angel!” Thus poor aunty
moaned and wept.

“What is it?” cried Innocent, with a voice which took authority from
absolute despair.

“Oh, can’t you see for yourself? It’s you as has done it, driving that
angel wild. She’s dead! Oh, merciful Heaven, she’s dead----”

Then a sudden flood of light seemed to pour through Innocent’s darkened
mind. The horror which she had felt vaguely took shape and form. Heaven
help the child! She had done it! She gave a low wild cry, and looked
round her with a despairing appeal to heaven and earth. Was there no one
to protect her--no one to help her? One moment she paused, miserable,
bewildered, then turned and fled out of the awful room, where so much
had befallen her. What could she do? where could she go? She fled as an
animal flies to its cover--to its home, unreasoning, unthinking.
Frederick would have represented that home to her in any other
circumstances; but she had killed Frederick’s wife. This horror seemed
to take form and pursue her. The maids were all gone: one to call the
unhappy father, one to the husband, another to watch for the doctor;
this last had left the door open, through which another blast of
night-air swept through the house. Down the narrow staircase poor
Innocent fled noiseless, like a thief. Upon a table in the passage lay
her hat as she had thrown it off when she came in that afternoon with
Frederick, and the warm wrap in which Miss Vane had enveloped her when
they started, so peacefully, so happily, for their drive. Was it only
that morning? The High Lodge, and its orderly life and its calm
inhabitants, seemed to Innocent like things she had known ages ago;
older even than Pisa and Niccolo--almost beyond the range of memory. She
stole out at the open door, drawing Miss Vane’s great shawl round her,
and for a moment feeling comforted in the chill of her misery by its
warmth. For one second she stood on the step, with the moonlight on her
face, wondering where she was to go. The maid who was watching for the
doctor saw her, and cried out with terror, thinking her a ghost. Then a
sudden cloud came over the moon, and in that shelter, like a guilty
thing, Innocent stole away. She did not know where to go. She wandered
on through the dark and still village streets to the great Minster, with
some vain childish imagination of taking refuge there. But here chance
befriended the unhappy girl, or some kind angel guided her. The railway
was close by, with some lights yet unextinguished. Vaguely feeling that
by that was the only way home, she stole into the station, with some
notion of hiding herself till she could get away. The express train to
town, which stopped at Sterborne, though poor Innocent knew nothing of
it, was late that night. It had just arrived when she got in. The little
station was badly lighted, the officials sleepy and careless. By
instinct Innocent crept into an empty carriage, not knowing even that it
was going on, and in five minutes more was carried, unconscious, wrapt
in a tragic stupor of woe and terror, away from the scene of this
terrible crisis of her life.

Gradually, slowly, the sense of motion roused her, brought her to
herself. In her hand, firmly clasped, was the little phial which had
been so deadly. She unclosed her fingers with an effort, and looked at
it with miserable curiosity. _That_ had done it--a thing so small that
it was hidden altogether in her small and delicate hand. What had
Innocent done? How could she have helped herself? What could she have
done different? For the first time in all her life she turned her hot
confused eyes upon herself. She tried to go back over the events of the
night;--not as in a mental survey with all their varieties of feeling
disclosed, but like an external picture did they rise before her. First
that moment when she (Innocent could think of her now by no name) was
not angry or scolding, when Frederick sat and talked, and she herself
stood and fanned _her_, the central figure to which henceforward all her
terrified thoughts must cling. Then came the moonlight in the garden,
the smell of the dewy earth, and her hand on Frederick’s arm; then the
reading, which seemed like some strange incantation, some spell of
slumbrous power; then the horrible sudden waking, the clutch of that hot
hand, the incoherent half-conscious effort she made to do what was told
her, the black drops of liquid falling, the interrupted counting which
she seemed to try to take up again and complete--“ten, eleven, fifteen;”
and then the terror of the renewed clutch and grasp, the sudden
stillness, the black drops standing out on the white coverlid, the great
open eyes dilated, fixed upon her, holding her fast so that she could
not stir. God help the child! She cried aloud, but the noise drowned her
cry; she struggled under the intolerable sense of anguish, the burden of
the pang which she could not get free from, could not shake off. So many
pangs come in youth which are imaginary, which can be thrown off, as the
first impression fades; but when for the first time there comes
something which fixes like the vulture, which will not be got rid
of!--Innocent writhed under it, holding up her feeble hands in an appeal
beyond words--an appeal which was hopeless and which was vain.

It was still only the middle of the night when she arrived in London,
and by some fortunate chance or other crept out again without being
perceived. Poor child! Far from her distraught soul was any intention of
deceiving; she thought nothing at all about it, and in her innocence,
without consciousness of harm, escaped all penalties and questioning.
She did not know her way about London, but by mere chance took the right
direction, and by dint of wandering on and on, came at last by a hundred
detours, as morning began to break into a region with which she was
familiar. The movement did her good. She felt her misery less when she
was walking on and on through interminable streets, wrapping her shawl
about her, feeling her limbs ready to sink under her, and her power of
feeling dulled by fatigue. Probably this exercise saved her from going
mad altogether. Life and more than life hung on the balance. She was not
clever; she had no grasp of mind, no power of reason, nothing which
could be called intellectual development at all, and yet the difference
between sanity and insanity was as much to her as to others. She kept
her reason through the subduing force of this exercise, the blessed
movement and the weariness of body which counteracted the unaccustomed
struggles of her mind.

It was gray dawn, that chill twilight of the morning which is so much
colder and less genial than the twilight of night, when Innocent came
at last in sight of her home. Her strength and courage were almost at an
end, but her feeble heart leapt up within her at sight of the familiar
place in which she knew shelter and comfort were to be found. She had
never said anything which showed her appreciation of her aunt’s
tenderness, and had offered but little response to all the affection
that had been lavished on her; but yet a slow-growing trust had arisen
in her mind. She had no doubt how she was to be received; she knew that
kind arms would take her in, kind eyes pity her, kind voices soothe her
trouble--and never in all her life had Innocent stood in such need of
succour. The house was like some one asleep, with its eyes closed, so to
speak, the shutters shut, the curtains drawn, and no one stirring.
Innocent sat down upon the step to wait. She did not ring or knock for
admittance. She sat down and leant upon the pillar of the porch with a
patience which had some hope in it. She could wait now, for her
difficulties were over, and her goal within reach. She had fallen half
asleep when the housemaid undid the door, and with a scream perceived
the unexpected watcher.

“Miss Innocent!” cried the woman, half in terror, half in disapproval;
for indeed Innocent’s odd ways were the wonder of the house, and the
servants professed openly that they would not be surprised whatever she
might choose to do. Innocent opened her eyes and roused herself with an

“Yes, it is me,” she said softly. “I had to come home--by the night

“Oh, how could any one let you wander about like this!” cried the maid,
“and where is your luggage? Come to the kitchen, miss, there’s no other
fire lighted. You are as cold as ice, and all of a tremble. Come in,
come in for goodness’ sake, and I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

Innocent smiled her habitual smile of vague and dreamy sweetness in
acknowledgment of this kindness--but she shook her head and went
straight up-stairs to the door of Mrs. Eastwood’s room. Her first
arrival there came up before her as she paused at the door--her
dissatisfaction, her indifference--oh, if she had stayed in the little
room, within Nelly’s, within the mother’s, could this thing have
happened to her, could any such harm have reached her? This question
floated wistfully before her mind, increasing the strange confusion of
feelings of which she was vaguely conscious; but she did not pause for
more than an instant. Mrs. Eastwood was still asleep, or so at least
Innocent thought; but the very aspect of the familiar room was
consolatory. It seemed to protect her, to make her safe. She stole
softly to the alcove where the grey morning light struggled in through
the closed curtains. As Innocent approached Mrs. Eastwood opened her
eyes, with the instinctive promptitude of a mother, used to be appealed
to at all times and seasons. She started at the sight of the strange
figure in hat and shawl, and sat up in her bed, with all her faculties
suddenly collecting to her, to prepare her for the something, she knew
not what, which she instinctively felt to have befallen.

“Innocent! Good heavens, how have you come? What is the matter?” she
cried. Innocent fell down on her knees by the bed; the fatigue, the
cold, the personal suffering of which up to this moment she had been
scarcely conscious, seemed suddenly to overflow, and become too much for
her to bear. She clasped Mrs. Eastwood’s arm between her own, and looked
up to her with a ghastly face, and piteous looks of appeal; her lips
moved, but no words came. Now she had got to the end of her journey, the
end of her troubles; but now all capacity seemed to fail her. She could
not do more.

“My child--my poor child!” said Mrs. Eastwood. “Oh, Innocent, why did I
let you go from me? Speak, dear, tell me what it is? Innocent, speak!”

“Do not be angry,” said poor Innocent, raising her piteous face, with a
child’s utter abandonment and dependence upon the one standard of good
and evil which alone it understands. And yet the face was more woeful,
more distraught, than child’s face could be. Mrs. Eastwood, anxious yet
reassured, concluded that the poor girl, weary and frightened of
strangers, had run away from the High Lodge to come home, an offence
which might well seem terrible to Innocent. What could it be else? She
bent over her and kissed her, and tried to draw her into her arms.

“My poor child, how you are trembling. I am not angry, Innocent; why are
you so frightened? Sit down and rest, and let me get up, and then you
can tell me. Come, dear, come; it cannot be anything so very bad,” said
Mrs. Eastwood with a smile, endeavouring to disengage her arm from
Innocent’s hold.

But the girl’s fixed gaze, and her desperate clasp did not relax. Her
white face was set and rigid. “Do not be angry!” she said again, with a
voice of woe strangely at variance with the simple entreaty; and while
Mrs. Eastwood waited expecting to hear some simple confession, such as
that Innocent had been frightened by the strange faces, or weary of the
monotonous life, and had run away--there suddenly fell upon her
horrified ears words which stunned her, and seemed to make life itself
stand still. They came slow, with little pauses between, accompanied by
a piteous gaze which watched every movement of the listener’s face, and
with a convulsive pressure of the arm which Innocent held to her bosom.

“I have killed Frederick’s wife,” she said.

“What does she say? She must be mad!” cried Mrs. Eastwood. The housemaid
had followed Innocent into the room with officious anxiety, carrying the
cup of tea, which was a means of satisfying her curiosity as to this
strange and sudden arrival. Just as these terrible words were said she
appeared at the foot of the bed, holding the tray in her hand.

“No,” said Innocent, seeing nothing but her aunt’s face; “no, I am not
mad. It was last night. I came home somehow, I scarcely know how--it was
last night.”

“And, Innocent, Innocent--you----?”

“Oh, do not be angry!” cried Innocent, hiding her piteous face upon her
aunt’s breast. The woe, the horror, the distracting sense of sudden
misery seemed to pass from the one to the other in that rapid moment.
But the mother thus suddenly roused had to think of everything. “Put
down the tray,” she said quickly to the staring intruder at the foot of
the bed, “call Alice to me, get Miss Innocent’s room ready, and send
some one for the doctor. She is ill--quick, go and call Alice, there is
not a moment to lose. Innocent,” she whispered in her ear as the woman
went away, “Innocent, for God’s sake look at me! Do you know what you
are saying? Innocent! Frederick’s wife?”

Innocent raised herself up with a long-drawn sigh. Her face relaxed; she
had put off her burden. “It was last night,” she repeated, “we were
alone; I did not want to go, but they made me. She was angry--very
angry--and then--oh! She opened her eyes and looked at me, and was
still--still.--Till they came I did not know what it was.”

“And it was----? For God’s sake, Innocent, try to understand what you
are saying. Did she die--when you were with her? You are not dreaming?
But, Innocent, _you_ had nothing to do with it, my poor, poor child?”

Once more Innocent unfolded the fingers which she had clenched fast upon
something. She held out a small phial, with some drops of dark liquid
still in it. “It was this,” she said, looking at it with a strange,
vacant gaze.

And then a horrible conviction came to poor Mrs. Eastwood’s mind. Out of
the depths of her heart there came a low but terrible cry. Many things
she had been called upon to bear in her cheerful life, as all stout
hearts are--now was it to be swallowed up in tragic disgrace and horror
at the end?

The cry brought Nelly, wondering and horror-stricken, from her innocent
sleep, and old Alice, forecasting new trouble to the family, but nothing
so horrible, nothing so miserable as this.



I will not attempt to describe the state of the house out of which
Innocent had fled--the dismal excitement of all the attendants, the
sudden turning of night into day, the whole household called up to help
where no help was possible, and the miserable haste with which the two
men, of whose lives Amanda was the centre and chief influence, came to
the room in which she lay beyond their reach. Batty, roused from his
sleep, stupid with the sudden summons and with the habitual brandy and
water which had preceded it, stumbled into the room, distraught but
incapable of understanding what had befallen him; while Frederick,
stunned by the sudden shock, came in from the room where he had been
dozing over a novel, and pretending to write letters, scarcely more
capable of realizing the event which had taken place in his life than
was his father-in-law. It was only when the doctor came, that any one of
the party actually believed in the death which had thus come like a
thief in the night. After he had made his dismal examination, he told
them that the sad event was what he had always expected and foretold. “I
have warned you again and again, Mr. Batty,” he said, “that in your
daughter’s state of health any sudden excitement might carry her off in
a moment.” There was nothing extraordinary in the circumstances, so far
as he knew, or any one. The often-repeated passion had recurred once too
often, and the long-foreseen end had come unawares, as everybody had
known it would come. That was all. There was no reason for doubt or
inquiry, much less suspicion. The glass which had fallen from the dead
hand had been taken away, the black stain on the coverlit concealed by a
shawl, which aunty in natural tidiness had thrown over it. Poor Batty,
hoarsely sobbing, calling upon his child, was led back to his room, and
with more brandy and water was made to go to bed, and soon slept
heavily, forgetting for an hour or two what had befallen him. With
Frederick the effect was different. He could not rest, nor seek to
forget in sleep the sudden change which had come upon his life. He went
out into the garden, in the broad, unchanged moonlight, out of sight of
all the dismal bustle, the arrangements of the death-chamber, the last
cares which poor aunty, weeping, was giving to the dead. The dead! Was
that his wife? Amanda! She whom he had wooed and worshipped; who had
given him rapture, misery, disgust, all mingled together; who had been
the one prize he had won in his life, and the one great blight which had
fallen upon that life? Was it she who was now called by that dismal
title? who lay there now, rigid and silent, taking no note of what was
done about her, finding no fault? Frederick stood in the moonlight, and
looked up at her window with a sense of unreality, impossibility, which
could not be put into words; but a few hours before he had been there,
with his little cousin, glad to escape from the surroundings he hated,
from Batty’s odious companionship, from Amanda’s termagant fits. He had
felt it a halcyon moment, a little gentle oasis which refreshed him in
the midst of the desert which by his own folly his life had become. And
now--good heavens! was it true?--in a moment this desert was past, the
consequences of his folly over, his life his own again to do something
better with it. The world and the garden, and the broad lines of the
moonlight, seemed to turn round with him as he stood and gazed at the
house and tried to understand what had come upon him.

It may be thought strange that this should have been the first sensation
which roused him out of the dull and stupefying pain of the shock he had
just received. Frederick was not a man of high mould to begin with, but
he was proud and sensitive to all that went against his self-love, his
sense of importance, his consciousness of personal and family
superiority--and he had the tastes of an educated man, and clung to the
graces and refinements of life, except at those moments which no one
knew of, when he preferred pleasure, so-called, to everything, moments
of indulgence which had nothing to do with his revealed and visible
existence. He had been wounded in the very points at which he was most
susceptible, by Amanda and her belongings. She, herself, had been an
offence to him even in the first moments of his passion, and, as his
passion waned and disappeared altogether, what had he not been compelled
to bear? He had brought it upon himself, he was aware, and he had
believed that he would have to bear it all his life, or most of his
life. And now, in a moment, he was free! But Frederick was not unnatural
in exultation over his deliverance. The shock of seeing her lying dead
upon that bed, the strange, pitiful, remorseful sense, which every
nature not wholly deadened feels at sight of that sudden blow which has
spared him and struck another--that sudden deprivation of the “sweet
light,” the air, the movement of existence which we still enjoy, but
which the other has lost--affected him with that subduing solemnity of
feeling which often does duty for grief. How could any imagination
follow Amanda into the realms of spiritual existence? Her life had been
all physical--of the flesh, not of the spirit; there had been nothing
about her which could lead even her lover, in the days when he was her
lover, to think of her otherwise than as a beautiful development of
physical life, a creature all made of lovely flesh and blood, with
fascinations which began and ended in satiny gloss and dazzling colour,
in roundness and brightness, and softness and warmth. What could he
think of her now? She had gone, and had left behind all the qualities by
which he knew her. Her voice was silent, that one gift she possessed by
which she could call forth any emotion that was not of the senses; with
it she could rouse a man to fierce rage, to wild impatience, to hatred
and murderous impulses; but that was silent, and her beauty was turned
into marble, a solemn thing that chilled and froze the beholder. What
else was there of her that her husband could think of, could follow with
his thoughts? Her soul--what was it? Frederick had never cared to know.
He had never perceived its presence in any secret moment. But he was not
impious, nor a speculatist of any kind; he indulged in no questions
which the most orthodox theologian could have thought dangerous. He
tried even to think piously of his Amanda as passed into another, he
hoped a better, world; but he stood bewildered and saddened on that
threshold, not knowing how to shape these thoughts, nor what to make of
the possibility of spiritual non-bodily existence for her. He could not
follow her in idea to any judgment, to any heaven. He stood dully sad
before the dim portals within which she had passed, with a heavy aching
in his heart, a blank and wondering sense of something broken off. He
was not without feeling; he could not have gone to bed and slept
stupefied as did the father, who had lost the only thing he loved. A
natural awe, a natural pang, were in Frederick’s mind; he felt the life
run so warm in his own veins, and she was dead and ended. Poor Amanda!
he was more sorry for her than he was for himself. The anguish of love
is more selfish; it is its own personal loss, the misery of the void in
which it has to live alone, which wrings its heart. But Frederick, for
once, felt little for himself. To himself the change was not
heart-breaking; he was free from much that had threatened to make his
life a failure; but for once his mind departed from selfish
considerations. He was sorry for her. Poor Amanda! who had lost all she
cared for, all she knew.

This is not a bitter kind of grief, but so far as it went it was a true
feeling. He had more sympathy with his wife in that moment than he had
had throughout all their life together. Poor Amanda! it might be that he
had gained, but she had lost. I need not say what a different, far
different, sentiment this was, from that which feels with an ineffable
elevation of anguish that she, who is gone, has gained everything, and
that it is the survivor whose loss is unspeakable, irremediable.
Frederick’s loss was not irremediable. But he was sorry, very sorry for
_her_; the tears came into his eyes as he thought of the grave, and the
silence, for Amanda. Poor Amanda! so fond of sound, and bustle, and
motion; so confident in her own beauty; so bent upon gratification--all
taken away from her at a stroke. He looked up at her window through his
tears; the flickering lights had been put out, the movement stilled; no
more shadows flitted across the white blinds; the windows were open, the
place was quiet, one small taper left burning--the room given over to
the silence of death. And all this in a few hours! It was then the
middle of the night, three or four o’clock; he had been wandering there
a long time, full of many thoughts. When he saw that all was still, he
went back softly to the house. He had nowhere to go to but the little
parlour in which he had been writing, where he threw himself on the sofa
to get a few hours’ rest; and then it suddenly occurred to him to think
of Innocent. Where was she? how had she disappeared out of that scene of
consternation and distress? Frederick was cold and weary; he had wrapped
a railway rug round him, and he could not now disturb himself and the
house to inquire after his cousin. She must have gone to bed before it
happened, he said to himself. He had not seen her, or heard her referred
to, and doubtless it had been thought unnecessary to call her when the
others were called. No doubt she was safe in bed, unconscious of all
that had happened, and he would see her next morning. Thus Frederick
assured himself ere he fell into a dreary comfortless doze on the sofa.
Nothing could have happened to Innocent; she was safe and asleep, no
doubt, poor child, slumbering unconsciously through all these sorrows.

It was not till late next morning that he found out how it really was.
Neither aunty nor any one else entertained the slightest suspicion that
Innocent had anything to do with Mrs. Frederick’s death. She had
disappeared, and no one thought of her in the excitement of the moment.
The very maid who had seen her leave the house had not identified the
figure which had appeared and disappeared so suddenly in the moonlight.
She thought first it was a ghost, and then that it was some one who had
been passing and had been tempted to look in at the open door. In the
spent excitement of the closed-up house next day--it was Sunday, most
terrible of all days in the house of death--when the household, shut up,
in the first darkness, had to realise the great change that had
happened, and the two men, who had been arbitrarily drawn together by
Amanda, were thrown upon each other for society in the darkened rooms,
at the melancholy meals, with now no bond whatever between
them--Frederick asked, with a kind of longing for his cousin. “Is Miss
Vane still in her room? Is she ill?” he asked of the maid who attended
at the luncheon which poor Batty swallowed by habit, moaning between
every mouthful.

“Miss Vane, sir? oh, the young lady. She went away last night,
when--when it happened,” answered the maid.

“Went away last night? Where has she gone?” cried Frederick, in dismay.

“That none on us knows. She went straight away out of the house, sir,
the next moment after--it happened,” said the maid.

“She was frightened, I suppose, poor young lady. She took the way to the
Minster, up the street. It was me that saw her. I didn’t say nothing
till this morning, for I thought it was a ghost.”

“A ghost! My poor Innocent!” said Frederick. “Did she say nothing? Good
heavens! where can the poor child have gone?”

He started up in real distress, and got his hat.

“Stay where you are,” said Batty. “You are not going out of my house
this day, and my girl lying dead. My girl!--my pretty ’Manda!--none of
them were fit to tie her shoes. Oh Lord, oh Lord! to think an old hulk
like me should last and my girl be gone! You don’t go a step out of my
house, mind you, Eastwood--not a step--to show how little you cared for
my girl, if I have to hold you with my hands.”

“I have no desire to show anything but the fullest respect for Amanda,”
said Frederick; “poor girl, she shall have no slight from me; but I must
look after my little cousin. Miss Vane trusted her to me. My mother will
be anxious----”

“D---- Miss Vane,” said poor Batty, “d---- every one that comes in the
way of what’s owed to my poor girl, my pretty darling. Oh, my ’Manda, my
’Manda! How shall I live when she’s gone? Look you here, Frederick
Eastwood, I know most of your goings on. I know about that cousin. You
shan’t step out of here, not to go after another woman, and the breath
scarce out of my poor girl.”

“I must know where Innocent has gone,” cried Frederick, chafing at this
restriction, yet moved by so much natural emotion as to hesitate before
wounding the feelings of Amanda’s father. “I have little wish to go out,
Heaven knows; but the poor child----”

“I will find out about the child,” said Batty; and Frederick did not
escape till the night had come again, and he could steal out in the
darkness to supplement the information which Batty’s groom managed to
collect. Innocent had been seen by various people in her flight. She had
been watched to the shadow of the Minster, and then to the railway,
where nobody had seen her go into the train, but which was certainly the
last spot where she had been. Frederick was discomposed by this
incident, more perhaps than became a man whose wife had died the day
before. He could not leave the house in which Amanda lay dead to follow
Innocent; but in his mind he thought a great deal more of her than of
his wife on the second night of his bereavement. Where was she--poor,
innocent, simple-hearted child? He sent a messenger to the High Lodge,
hoping she might be there. He felt himself responsible for her to his
mother, to Miss Vane, to all who knew him. As it was Sunday, however, he
had no means--either by post or telegraph--to communicate with his
mother. He had to wait till morning, with burning impatience in his
mind. Poor Innocent! how his heart warmed to the little harmless, tender
thing, who had nestled to him like a child, who had always trusted him,
clung to him, believed in him. Nothing had ever shaken her faith. Even
his marriage, which had detached many of his friends from him, had not
detached her. She had believed in him whatever happened. I have said
that Frederick had always been kind to Innocent. It had not indeed
always been from the most elevated of motives; her supposed love for him
had pleased his vanity, and he had indulged himself by accepting her
devotion without any thought of those consequences to her which his
mother feared; he had, indeed, believed as firmly as his mother and her
maids did, that Innocent was “in love” with him--and instead of
honourably endeavouring to make an end of that supposititious and most
foolish passion he had “encouraged” Innocent, and solaced himself by her
childish love. But through all this vanity and self-complacency there
had been a thread of natural affection, which was perhaps the very best
thing in Frederick, during that feverish period of his life which had
now suddenly come to an end. He had always been “fond of” his little
cousin. Now this tender natural affection came uppermost in his mind.
Real anxiety possessed him--painful questionings and suspicions. Where
had she fled to in her terror? She was not like other people,
understanding how to manage for herself, to tell her story, and make her
own arrangements. And then there was the strange alarming fact, that
though she had been seen to enter the railway station she had not gone
away, so the officials swore, by any train, and yet had disappeared
utterly, leaving no trace. It seemed natural enough to Frederick that
she should have fled in terror at thus finding herself face to face with
death. Neither aunty nor the maids had as yet sufficiently shaped their
recollections to give a very clear idea as to the moment at which poor
Amanda died, and no one knew how deeply Innocent was involved in that
terrible moment. But yet no one wondered that she had “run away,” partly
because the excitement of the great event itself still possessed the
house, and partly because the girl’s abstracted visionary look impressed
upon all vulgar spectators a belief that “she was not all there,” as the
maids said. She was supposed to be a little “weak,” even at the High
Lodge, where her piety had procured for her a kind of worship. That she
should be driven wild by fright and should fly out of the house seemed
no wonder to any one. Frederick lay awake all night thinking of her; he
could not turn his thoughts to any other subject. How soon the mind gets
accustomed to either gain or loss when it is final! Twenty-four hours
before, his brain had been giddy with the awful thought that Amanda was
dead, that the bonds of his life were broken, and that she who had been
his closest companion, the woman he had loved and loathed, had suddenly
and mysteriously departed from him, without notice or warning, into the
unseen. The shock of this sudden interruption to his life had for the
moment disturbed the balance of earth and heaven; in that terrible
region of mystery between the seen and the unseen, between life and
death, he had stood tottering, wondering, bewildered--for a moment. Now,
after twenty-four hours, Amanda’s death was an old, well-known tale, a
thing that had been for ages; it was herself who began to look like a
shadow, a dream. Had she really been his wife, his fate, the centre of
his life, colouring it wholly, and turning it to channels other than
those of nature? Already this began to seem half incredible to
Frederick--already he felt that his presence in Batty’s house was
unnatural; that he was a stranger altogether detached from it and its
disagreeable associations, waiting only for a point of duty, free from
it henceforward for ever. He was there “on business” only, as any other
stranger might be. And his whole mind was now occupied by the newer,
more hopeful mystery, the fate of his cousin. Poor little Innocent! how
sweet she had always been to him, how soothing in her truth and faith.
Perhaps in the halcyon time to come, free of all the bonds which his
folly had woven round him, might he not reward Innocent for her love? If
he could only be sure she was safe--if he but knew where she was!

Early on the Monday morning he rushed to the telegraph-office to
communicate with his mother, and ascertain if she had gone home. How he
chafed at his bondage here, and that he could not go to satisfy himself,
to secure the poor child’s safety! No one, however, who saw Frederick
with his melancholy aspect passing along the street, had any suspicion
that Amanda’s memory was treated with less “respect” than that of the
most exemplary of wives. The village was full of the sad story, and
people looked at him curiously as he passed. Poor fellow, how he seemed
to feel it! and no doubt she was very pretty, and men thought so much of
beauty. Frederick’s solemn aspect gained him the sympathy of all the
villagers. They spoke more tenderly of Batty’s daughter when they saw
the bereaved husband. No doubt it had been a love match on his side at
least, and whatever her faults might have been it was dreadful to be
taken so young and so sudden! Thus Sterborne murmured sympathetically as
Frederick went to send off his telegram, with very little thought of his
wife, and a burning impatience to escape from all her belongings, in his

He went to the railway before he went back, to ask if any further
information about Innocent had been obtained. The early train from town
had just arrived, and to his astonishment he was met by his mother,
looking very pale, anxious, and almost frightened, if that could be.
“Mother, this is kind,” he cried, rushing up to her, touched for the
moment by a sudden sense of the faithful affection that never failed
him; and then he added hurriedly, “Innocent! is she with you? do you
know where she is?”

“She is safe at home,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a heavy sigh.

“Thank God!” he cried; and it did not occur to him that his mother did
not share his thankfulness, and that the cloud on her face was more
heavy than any he had before seen there through all her troubles.



“I feel for you very deeply,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “It is a terrible
calamity. Your child, whom you hoped would close your eyes, whom you
never thought to see taken before you----”

“She was the apple of my eye,” said poor Batty, sobbing. Except when he
stupefied himself with drink, or rushed into his business, and swore and
raged at every one round him, which were the only ways he had of seeking
a momentary forgetfulness, the man, coarse and sensual as he was, was
tragic in his grief. “There was never one like her, at least to me. I do
not say but she might have been faulty to others; but to her old father
she was everything. I thank you from my heart for this respect. You
mightn’t be fond of my girl, while she lived. I ask no questions. It was
because you didn’t know her--how could you?--like I knew her, that have
nursed her, and have doted on her from a baby; but thank you all the
same for the respect. It would have gone to her heart--my poor ’Manda!
Oh, ma’am, the beauty that girl was! I never saw anything to come nigh
to her. Her temper was quick, always hasty, ready with a word or a
blow--but always the first to come round and forgive those that had
crossed her. My life’s over, my heart’s broken. I don’t care for
nothing, horses nor houses, nor my garden, nor my bit of money--nothing,
now she’s gone.”

“Indeed, I feel for you very deeply,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “and at her
age, so young, it is doubly hard--and so unexpected.”

She recurred to this with a reiteration which was unlike her usual
sympathetic understanding of others. There was an eager anxiety in her
eyes when she suggested that Amanda’s death was unlooked for. Frederick
sat by with a countenance composed to the woe of the occasion, and
strangely impressed by the profound feeling in his mother’s face,
watched her anxiously, but could not understand. What did she mean? Was
she really so grieved for Amanda? Had the shock and pain of so sudden an
ending really produced this profound effect upon her? or was she so
conscious of the advantage which Amanda’s death would bring with it,
that natural compunction made her exaggerate her expressions of
sympathy? Frederick could not tell, but he watched his mother,
wondering. There were circles of weariness and care round her eyes, and
signs of suppressed and painful anxiety, and an eager watchfulness,
which was incomprehensible to him, were visible in her whole aspect. She
even breathed quickly, as with a feverish excitement, all the more
painful that it was suppressed.

“I thought you were aware, mother,” he said, “that poor Amanda had been
threatened for years with this which has happened now in so terrible a
way. The doctors have always said----”

“The doctors, confound ’em!” cried Batty. “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but
it’s hard for a man to keep his patience. They’re ready enough to talk,
but what can they do, these fellows? Keep her quiet, they told me. My
God! didn’t I do everything a man could do to keep her quiet, gave her
all she wanted, never crossed her, let her have her way in everything!
There is nothing I wouldn’t have done for my girl. She’d have had gold
to eat and drink if that would have done it. I’d have took her anywhere,
got her anything. But no. Ask ’em, and they tell you all that is
unpleasant, but give you a way to mend it--no. They do it, I sometimes
think, to make their own words come true. ‘She’ll go off one day, all in
a moment,’ they said to me, years and years ago. Says I, ‘I’ll give you
half I’ve got, all I’ve got, if you will make it so as this shan’t be.’
Trust them for that. They gave her physic and stuff, and shook their
wise heads, and said she was to be kept quiet. What had keeping quiet to
do with it? We’ve all quick tempers. I never could master mine myself,
and how was she to be expected to master hers? From father to son and
from mother to daughter, the Battys were always a word and a blow. I’d
rather that a deal than your slow, quiet, sullen ones, that hides their
feelings. No, you may say it was unexpected, for how was I to believe
them? A bit of a flare-up never did me no harm. I never believed them.
But now here’s their d----d artfulness--it’s come true.”

“And she knew it herself?” said Mrs. Eastwood, with searching, anxious
gaze. “Oh, Mr. Batty, try and take a little comfort! It must have made
her think more seriously than you suppose, if she knew it herself.”

Batty gave her a dull look of wonder from his tearful blood-shot eyes;
and then he launched forth again into panegyrics upon his lost child.
“She was none of your quiet, sullen ones--still water as runs deep. She
said what she thought, did my ’Manda. She might be too frank and too
open to please them as hide their thoughts, but she always pleased her
father. There’s aunty, now, that was constantly with my girl, will tell
you ’Manda was always the one to make it up; whatever was done or said,
she was the one to make it up. She spoke her mind free, but it was over
directly. You should have seen her when she was a bit of a girl; she’d
ride anything you put her upon--till the doctors said it was bad for
her. When she was a baby I used to grumble and wish for a boy; but I’d
never have been as proud of a boy as I was of my beauty, when I saw what
she was coming to. From fifteen there never was a man as saw her that
wasn’t mad about her. Your son, here, ma’am, Fred, as she always called
him, poor girl, was the one that had the luck to please her; I don’t
know why, for many is the handsome fellow, titles and all that, I’ve had
to send away. I’ve nothing to say against Fred, but she might have done
a deal better. And now she’s gone, where there’s neither marrying nor
giving in marriage. You are sorry for Fred, of course it’s but natural;
but it isn’t half to Fred that it is to me. Give us your hand, my boy; I
always look upon you as my son, for her sake--but it isn’t half the blow
to you as it is to me.”

Frederick had started to his feet when he had heard himself first spoken
of in this familiar fashion. The familiarity chafed him almost beyond
endurance. He stood at the window, with his back towards his
father-in-law, as Batty wept and maundered. Fiery rage was in
Frederick’s mind. What had this man, this fellow, to do with him? a man
with whom he had no relationship, no bond of connexion? He took no
notice of the outstretched hand. When would those slow hours pass, and
the time be over during which decency compelled him to endure his odious
presence? What would he not give when it was all ended, when this
horrible chapter in his life should be closed, and he himself restored
to his natural sphere among his equals, restoring to his mother all the
comforts which Amanda’s existence had diminished, and taking once more
his natural place. How he longed suddenly, all at once, for his old
home! He would never go back to the house which had been Amanda’s; he
would sell everything, disperse everything that could remind him of this
episode which, God be thanked, was over. Batty, though he stretched out
his hand in maudlin affectionateness, was satisfied that Frederick had
not observed the gesture, and did not resent the absence of response.
But Frederick had seen and loathed the offered touch. The days that must
pass perforce before he could finally cut the last lingering ties which
decency required him to respect seemed to him an age.

“I should like to see the--the--excellent person who attended upon poor
Amanda,” said Mrs. Eastwood, whose looks were still watchful and
anxious, though a certain relief had stolen over her face. “Might I
speak to her and thank her for her devotion--to my daughter-in-law?” she
added, almost rousing Frederick from his own preoccupied condition by
the astounding interest and sympathy she showed. What could she mean by
it? When Batty, pleased by the request, went himself to call aunty,
Frederick turned to his mother with something of his old peremptory and
authoritative ways.

“You did not always seem so fond of your daughter-in-law,” he said.

“Oh, Frederick!” cried Mrs. Eastwood, with a depth of feeling which
surprised him more and more. “I never wished her any harm. God forbid
that I should have wished her any harm!”

“Has anyone ever supposed you did?” he cried, with some impatience.

His mother put her handkerchief to her eyes. “God knows I am
sorry--sorry to the bottom of my heart,” she said, “for her, and for the
poor man who has lost his child. Whatever she was to us, she was his
child to him. But, Frederick, I am not quite disinterested in my
motives, God forgive me; it is for Innocent’s sake.”

“Are you out of your senses, mother? For Innocent’s sake?”

“Oh, hush, my dear! that I may ascertain the circumstances exactly, and
how much is known. Oh, hush! Frederick, here they are. Don’t say a word

He had to conceal his bewilderment, which was beyond describing, as
aunty, in a black gown and with her handkerchief rolled up tight into a
ball in her hand, came into the room. When he heard his mother speak to
this woman in soft caressing tones, and beg to hear an account of
everything, every incident and detail--it seemed to Frederick that his
understanding of the meaning of words must be deserting him. “Tell me
everything; it is all of the deepest interest to me, and there is a
mournful satisfaction in knowing the details,” said poor Mrs. Eastwood,
putting forth the conventional words with an uncomfortable sense of her
son’s criticism, and his doubt of her sincerity. But Batty had no doubt.
He was flattered by Mrs. Eastwood’s anxiety, by her desire to know all.
“I ain’t equal to it myself,” he said, “but she will tell you,” and
withdrew to a corner, to listen and sob, and moan over his child’s name.
Mrs. Eastwood could not see his grief without becoming sympathetic. As
for Frederick, he had heard the particulars often enough, and had no
wish to hear them again. He was surprised and half offended by his
mother’s strange mission. For Innocent’s sake! Were the women all mad
together, one madder than the other? or what did she, what could she
mean? He went out into the garden, his only refuge during these days
when decorum forbade him to be seen; there he lighted a cigar, and with
his hands in his pockets strolled about the paths. His mind turned to
Innocent, and he thought to himself how pleasant it would have been to
have had her there now, holding his arm with her delicate hand, hanging
upon him, looking up in his face. He took almost a fit of longing for
Innocent. But what folly about her could his mother have got into her
head? what did she mean?

Mrs. Eastwood had a long interview with aunty. She heard everything
about Amanda’s illness; how aunty had thought badly of her from the
first, seeing her strength give way; how her excitableness, poor dear,
grew greater and greater, so that not a day passed without one or two
outbreaks; how she took a fancy to “the young lady,” saying she’d have
her to sit with her, and not her ordinary nurse; how there had been a
long silence when Innocent went to the room, while she was reading; how,
after this, aunty had heard Amanda’s voice in high excitement, talking
loud and fast; how there had come a sudden stillness, a stillness so
great that it waked poor aunty from her doze; how she had rushed to the
rooms and found her patient in a faint, as she at first thought, with
“the poor young lady” standing over her. “The poor child ran off from us
in the midst of our bustle,” said aunty, “and I don’t wonder; she was
frightened, and I hope no harm happened to her, poor thing. She was
young to see death, and a nice young lady. I hope she came to no harm?”

“Oh no--except the shock to her nerves,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “She came
straight home. It was the best thing she could do.”

“The very best thing,” assented aunty. “And if you’ll believe me, ma’am,
what with the bustle, and grieving so, and my mind being full of one
thing, I never even thought of the poor young lady till to-day. I’m
thankful to hear she’s all safe, and not another house plunged into
trouble like we are. I was saying an hour since, my heart was sore for
her, poor young thing, her first being from home, as far as I
understood, and to come into a house of such sore trouble, and to see
death without notice or warning. It was hard upon such a child.”

“Yes, it was very hard,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I left her ill in bed, her
nerves shattered to pieces. And what a shock, what a night for you----”

“Oh, ma’am, you may say that,” cried aunty, with tears. “I’ve nursed her
from a baby, and nobody could care for her like me, except her poor
father, as worshipped the ground she trod on. She’s as beautiful as an
angel,” said the faithful woman; “never all her life, when she was at
her best, did I see her like what she is now. Oh, ma’am, you’ve a
feeling heart, besides being Mrs. Frederick’s mother, and a relation
like the rest of us. You’ll come up-stairs and look at her, poor dear.”

And Mrs. Eastwood was taken up-stairs, and what with infinite pity, what
with unspeakable relief and ease of mind, cried so over Amanda’s deathly
beauty, that Batty and his humble sister-in-law were flattered and
comforted beyond expression. She was a real lady, they both said--no
pride like the other Eastwoods, or the rest of that sort, but with a
feeling heart, and showing such respect as was Amanda’s due. She made a
conquest of both, and the household put itself at her feet when, with
red eyes and a voice tremulous with emotion, she came down-stairs. She
was just in time to receive Miss Vane, who, driving from the High Lodge
in fulfilment of her promise to reclaim Innocent and pay a visit of
ceremony to Mrs. Frederick, discovered to her consternation what had
happened, and was anxiously questioning the servants about Innocent
when Mrs. Eastwood came down-stairs.

“Went away in the middle of the night?” said Miss Vane. “Pardon me for
speaking out. What a very strange thing to do?”

“She is a strange girl,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “She was shocked and
frightened beyond measure. The only thought in her mind was to get

“It was very odd all the same, very odd, in the middle of the night, and
when she might have been of use. I must write to my brother Reginald,
and let him know she has left me. He will be surprised. I am glad she is
safe in your hands,” said Miss Vane pointedly; “a girl that does such
things is dangerous to have about one.”

“Indeed, you mistake poor Innocent,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “She is not
like other girls----”

“Ah, that is evident,” said Miss Vane. “I liked her too; there were many
things in her that I liked; but a girl that acts so on impulse--I ought,
however, to condole with you, Mrs. Eastwood. How very sad for--your

“It is a great shock,” said Mrs. Eastwood. She was so much excited and
agitated, that on the smallest inducement she was ready to cry again.

Miss Vane regarded Frederick’s mother with eyes of somewhat severe
criticism. No doubt a certain decorum was necessary; but for the
relations of a man who had made so unfortunate a marriage to pretend to
grieve over the death of the objectionable wife seemed to her absolute
duplicity. She eyed poor Mrs. Eastwood severely, making mental
commentaries upon her red eyes, which were very little to her favour. “I
had never the advantage of seeing Mrs. Frederick Eastwood,” she said,
drily. “She was very handsome, I have always heard.”

Then there was a pause; neither of the ladies knew what to say to each
other. That she should be found here, doing as it were the honours of
Batty’s house, was not a position pleasant to Mrs. Eastwood, and she
realized it for the first time now when her mind was relieved in respect
to Innocent. But what could she say? She could not explain her horror of
fear, her painful mission, to this representative of Innocent’s family,
who already looked suspicious and disapproving both at herself and at
the strange conduct of the poor girl whom no one understood. When the
pause had lasted so long that it was necessary to break it, she said
hurriedly, “If poor Innocent had not been so much startled and
shocked--so overcome, in short, by what happened before her eyes--I am
sure she would have asked me to explain to you. But she is so young, and
had never seen death before, and such a sensitive, imaginative----”

“Do you think she is imaginative? She looks it certainly--but I found
her matter-of-fact,” said Miss Vane, determined to give no countenance
to these wild proceedings. Mrs. Eastwood was thus driven upon another

“I am going back this afternoon,” she said, “her story was so
incoherent, poor child; and I feared for the effect the shock might
have--upon my son.”

“Is he imaginative too?” asked Miss Vane.

“He is my boy,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a comforting flush of
indignation and offence, “naturally my first thought was for him. I go
back to my other poor child to-night.”

“A most fatiguing journey for you, I am sure,” said the visitor, and
they took a stately leave of each other, with no very friendly feeling.
Had the brother only been there instead of the sister! Mrs. Eastwood
thought to herself. John Vane was the only person in the world to whom
possibly she might have confided the terror she had gone through--who
might have advised what was best to be done. Even to Frederick, Mrs.
Eastwood reflected, she never could whisper the horrible delusion which
had taken possession of Innocent’s mind. For it could be nothing but
delusion--yet how vivid, how powerful! Nelly knew of it, and Alice, who
were safe as herself; and Mrs. Eastwood could not but recollect the
other listener, whose commonplace imagination would never be satisfied
by any certainty that the confession she had heard was the outburst of a
mere delusion. The experience of life made her very well aware that
nothing is ever long concealed which has been put into words in the
hearing of an uninterested bystander; and should any emergency arise,
what should she--what could she do? There was no one whom she dared
trust--not Frederick, not Ernest Molyneux. The secret must be locked in
their own bosoms; nothing could be done but to keep it a secret. Even
John Vane--but on the thought of him alone her anxious mind reposed with
a certain consolation--of all the world, he was the only one who might,
perhaps, help them, should any terrible necessity for help ever come.

Miss Vane, on her part, went away shaking her head. “There is something
in it all I don’t understand,” she said to the Sister, who awaited her
in the pony carriage outside. “Innocent never concealed her dislike to
Mrs. Frederick. Though she talked so little, she could talk on that

“Poor child, she was so simple and sincere, she said what she thought,”
answered Sister Emily, whom Innocent’s church-going ways had deeply

“Oh, sincere! well, I suppose you may call that sincerity,” said Miss
Vane; “but few people would like such sincerity in respect to
themselves; and why with these feelings Innocent should have been so
shocked, I can’t imagine. Depend upon it, there is something more in the
whole business than meets the eye. I shall write to my brother all about
it to-day.”



That was a day never to be forgotten at The Elms. Innocent had been
partially soothed during the long Sunday by the constant presence of her
aunt and Nelly, and the careful tendance of old Alice. They never left
her all day long. She was brought back at her own piteous request from
the room she had chosen for herself to the little room within Nelly’s,
which had been first prepared for her, and there lay all day long,
holding the hand of one or the other, in a state of prostration which it
was painful to witness. So long as they were with her she was calm; but
if left a moment alone, began to cry out about the eyes that were
looking at her, the clutch on her arm. Sometimes she would doze and
begin counting over and over again, counting “ten, eleven, fifteen,” and
would wake and start with looks of horror, gazing wildly around her, not
knowing where she was. Mrs. Eastwood’s expedition to Sterborne had been
decided upon by the mother and daughter as they sat together whispering
over the fire, when Innocent at last fell asleep. Only one of the two
could go, and Mrs. Eastwood decided at once that hers must be the
mission. “We must know what is hanging over us--we must ascertain what
we have to expect,” she had said. Oh, in what labyrinths of woe and
horror did their innocent simple life seem about to lose itself! For
neither of them doubted Innocent’s story. They felt that nothing which
she had imagined could have produced such an effect upon her, and
besides, what could have suggested such a strange idea? Her imagination
was not impressionable. The only explanation was that it must be true.
Mrs. Eastwood accordingly, after her vigil, set off in the early morning
with a heart overweighted with horrible anxiety, not knowing what might
have happened before she returned, or what tumult she might meet when
she got there. She was prepared to defend the unfortunate girl to the
last gasp; but if this dreadful story were true, what could be done? To
carry Innocent away at once out of the country, without an hour’s delay,
was a thought which had occurred both to Nelly and herself, but this
might make doubt into certainty, and precipitate the very danger they
feared. Thus she went away, trembling with anxious fears, with traces in
her face of the agitation she could not conceal; yet, at the same time,
horribly on her guard, watching everybody and everything, to draw the
secret if possible from others, and to conceal her own possession of it.
The two whom she left behind to guard Innocent were almost more to be
pitied than she was. They felt themselves the garrison of the room, to
defend it against possible invasion. They locked the door of Nelly’s
chamber, through which any visitor must come, and then unlocked it
again, fearing to awake suspicion. At every noise they started, and
clung to each other, fearing nothing less than the horrible approach of
justice to carry a prisoner away; and how many noises there were in the
house that day! Carriages drove mysteriously to the door and drove away
again, from the very moment about daybreak when Mrs. Eastwood left them,
until the dreary afternoon which felt as if it would never be over. In
that afternoon all the people left in London, everybody the Eastwoods
knew, came to call, and had to be sent away with messages curiously
worded to baffle suspicion, if any suspicion existed. The morning’s post
had brought a short note from Frederick announcing his wife’s death, and
the telegram of inquiry about Innocent which he had sent off on Monday
morning closely followed the letter; therefore Nelly felt justified in
drawing down all the blinds, and announcing that the death of her
sister-in-law made it impossible for her to receive visitors. The maid
who had heard Innocent’s confession was the one who waited on them, who
came with hard knocks at the door to tell of every new caller, and kept
suspicious watch upon everything that passed. How frightened Nelly was
of her! How eager to conciliate and turn her thoughts into other
channels! But the woman was not to be moved into friendliness. She said
nothing of her superior knowledge, but she betrayed a curiosity, and, at
the same time, an amount of information which made the very blood run
cold in Nelly’s veins. She had not forgotten what she heard; she did not
set it down to delusion; she believed what Innocent had said. To the
vulgar intelligence it is always so comprehensible that evil should have
been done. No questioning as to motive or likelihood takes place in that
region; that all men are most likely to go wrong is the one fundamental
principle of their belief; they make no distinction between the kinds of
crime, that this is more probable than the other. All they know is that
guilt is always the most probable hypothesis, and that probably every
accused person did what he was accused of, or worse, however unlikely
the accusation might be.

And Innocent herself was restless and wretched; less stupefied, more
living than on the previous day. She could not bear Nelly to leave her.
She talked incessantly--she, whose habit it was never to talk at all,
and her talk was all about the event which had made so tremendous an
impression on her.

“Shall I always see her eyes?” she cried, holding Nelly fast. “She
looked at me, and would not stop looking. Her eyes were terrible. She
looked at me, yet she was dead. Oh, think! She was dead--and it was I
who made her die----”

“Even if you did, oh, Innocent,” cried Nelly, worn out with excitement;
“you did not mean it--it was an accident. She did it herself--it was an
accident--it was not you.”

“But I wished her to die,” said Innocent, lifting her pale face with
something of its old steadfastness of expression from her pillow. “I
wished her to die.”

“But not like this--Innocent, you would not hurt any one, I know. I am
sure you did not mean it. Oh, you must know you could not have meant
it!” cried Nelly, and wept, leaning her head upon the bed. How she felt
her loneliness in that terrible emergency! Her mother had left her, and
there was no one else to stand by her; to none in the world dared she
tell this tale. Oh, if Ernest had but been as he once was, as she had
thought him to be; if she but dared to send for him as a girl might send
for her affianced husband, and relieve herself of the burden which was
too heavy for her to carry alone! How blessed, how happy must the women
be who could do this, who could trust entirely in the love and faith of
the men whom they had pledged their own faith to! But on the contrary,
even while she realized so fully the happiness, the comfort of such
confidence, Nelly’s prayer was that Ernest might be kept away from
her--that he might not come to see her wretched suspense, or to spy into
the terrible secret of the house. He did not love the house, though he
had said he loved Nelly. The honour, the good name of the family, could
never be trusted in his hands.

And so the lingering wretched day went on. I think Nelly was far more
unhappy than Innocent was, though the girl’s whole being was shaken, for
Innocent had Nelly to transfer her trouble to; and Nelly, poor Nelly,
had no one. She had to bear up alone, and to bear up her cousin too; and
with sickening fear she looked forward to the moment when her mother
should return, and either relieve or intensify the strange suffering
into which they had been suddenly plunged. It was about seven o’clock
when Mrs. Eastwood came back, their usual dinner-hour--and Nelly had not
ventured to neglect the dinner or to seem careless about it, lest the
servants should suspect. Happily they were alone in the house, for Jenny
had gone to his college, and Dick had accompanied the young freshman to
Oxford, to see him off, according to his own phraseology, on his
University career. “Thank God, the boys are away!” had been Mrs.
Eastwood’s first exclamation; and Nelly had echoed it a hundred times
during that terrible day. Thank God, they were out of the way
altogether! Nelly ran down-stairs to meet her mother with an anxiety
which was speechless and almost indescribable--feeling as if her own
future, her own life, hung in the balance with Innocent’s. Mrs. Eastwood
was giddy, and worn out with fatigue. She stumbled out of the cab into
her daughter’s arms. There were lights in the little hall, and the
housemaid stood about waiting to receive Mrs. Eastwood’s bag--the
housemaid who had received Innocent--the one person in the house who
shared their knowledge. Mrs. Eastwood was very pale, but the aspect of
her countenance had changed.

“Oh, Nelly, let us thank God!” she said.

“Then it was all fancy--all delusion--it is not true!”

Nelly sank down upon a chair, feeling her limbs unable to sustain her.
She had kept up till then--though for her too (she felt) it would have
been death as well as Innocent. Now her head swam, her strength failed;
she could scarcely see with her dim eyes her mother’s exhausted face.

“It is simple delusion,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I cannot find even any
foundation that she could have built such a fancy on--except that she
was alone with--with poor Amanda, when the last paroxysm came on. Nelly,
my darling, how pale you are! it has been too much for you----”

“You are pale too, mamma----”

“Yes, with fatigue--and relief--and thankfulness. Oh, Nelly, it seems
wicked to be thankful when I think of that poor man who has lost his

“Mr. Batty?” said Nelly, with a perceptible failure of interest. The
introduction of a stranger into the conversation brought her back to
ordinary life.

“My dear, she was his child,” said her mother, with gentle reproach.

“But you have made quite sure, perfectly sure?”

“I have seen everybody. Her nurse, her doctor, her father, even the
maids--there is nothing in it--nothing. It must have been fright,
imagination, nothing more.”

“Thank God!”

This conversation was quite spontaneous and natural; but it would not, I
think, have taken place in the hall but for Jane’s presence, whom it was
necessary to convince as well as themselves. But for this the mother and
daughter would have concealed both their anxiety and their consolatory
news till they were alone. And Jane, can it be doubted, knew this, and
felt in the superiority of her unconscious cynicism and disbelief in
human nature that the whole scene was got up for her benefit, and was a
piece of acting. “As if I was to be taken in so easy,” she said to
herself; “as if they could come over me like that!”

Innocent lay with her eyes fixed upon the door, longing and waiting for
her kind nurses. It was old Alice who sat by her in the interval,
holding her head, smoothing the wild locks from her forehead. “My poor
lamb!” said Alice. The old woman’s heart was wrung with pity. I do not
think she had ever believed Innocent’s story fully. Neither did she
believe fully the vindication which Mrs. Eastwood was bringing. She held
the poor child’s hand, and looked at her with soft pitying eyes. “My
poor lamb!” To Alice, Innocent had always been a creature astray in the
world; she did not wonder, like the rest, at this fatal complication in
which her heedless feet had been caught. “I aye felt there was something
coming,” Alice had said, and her calm had been a support to them all in
their excitement. Now she stood aside, and gave up her place to her
mistress with far less anxiety than Nelly had shown; but kept behind,
listening and watching the one person in the world whom all three could
rely upon for life or death. Mrs. Eastwood, weeping and smiling
together, came forward, and threw herself on her knees by Innocent’s
bed. She kissed her again and again with many sobs. “Put it all away out
of your mind,” she cried, “my poor darling, my dear child! Put it all
out of your mind. You are as innocent as your name; you had nothing,
nothing to do with it. Do you understand me, Innocent? You had nothing
to do with it. All you did was to be kind to her, good to her--not to
bring her harm.”

“Then she is not dead?” asked Innocent, with a cry of joy.

“She is dead; but you are not to blame. Oh, Innocent, try to understand,
try to believe me; you are not to blame. She died of a disease she has
had all her life, not of anything that she took.”

“Ah! I gave it to her,” said Innocent, dropping back upon her pillows
with sad conviction. “I was there, I know; you and the others could not
see how it was. I gave it to her, and I know.”

“But, Innocent! listen to me. I have seen every one--the doctor, who
must know best. And he told me exactly how it was, and what it was. He
told me that he had looked for it for years--that he had always warned
Mr. Batty how it must be. Innocent, you are not listening, you are
paying no attention to what I say.”

“For I was there,” said Innocent. “Oh, do not be angry. I tried to count
right; twice I threw it away because there was too much; the third
time--oh, how can any one know but me? There was nobody else there--she
in the bed, and I standing looking at her. And then all at once she was
still--still like marble, and opened her eyes wide, and looked at me.
She knew I did it, and I know. Except us two, who can tell in all the
world? Oh, if you would be kind and kill me too!”

“Innocent! Innocent! It is her reason that has gone,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, with tears. She stood before the unreasoning creature in all
the impotence of fact against conviction. Nothing she could say or do
would change the girl’s certainty; and yet she knew that this to which
everybody bore witness, and not poor Innocent’s fatal fancy, must be the

“Leave her to me, mem,” said old Alice. “She’ll be quiet now, and maybe
sleep. She believes it; but the first effect is wearing off. Go and get
your mamma some food and some wine, Miss Nelly, and make her lie down
and rest. Leave this poor lamb to me, the first effect is wearing off.”

“But, Alice, there is no truth in it, not a word of truth----”

“I wouldna take it in that way,” said Alice; “there’s aye some truth.
Poor lamb, there has been something for her mind to fix upon. I’m no the
one to say what it was--an evil thought, or maybe just a shaking of the
hand, two or three drops too much, as she says, of the sleeping draught.
But there’s been something for her mind to fix on. It’s no for nothing
that the creature is shaken and laid low like this.”

“It is a delusion,” said Mrs. Eastwood.

But old Alice shook her head.

Alice’s suspicion was very hard upon the ladies in their first burst of
relief. It disturbed their conviction, their certainty.

“What Alice says is mere nonsense,” Mrs. Eastwood said, as she went
down-stairs. “It is as clear as daylight that poor dear Innocent has
been frightened out of her senses. There is nothing at all mysterious
about the death. It is delusion, nothing more; you think so, Nelly,

“Of course I think so, mamma,” said Nelly, with fervour. “I was always
certain it must turn out so.” But, nevertheless, there was a piteous
quaver in both their voices which had not been there when they went
joyous and confident to Innocent’s room to set her mind at rest with
their good news.

After they had eaten, for the first time almost since Sunday morning--a
hurried cup of tea having been their chief support and sustenance in the
interval--they sat together for half an hour over the fire with a hidden
sense of misery in their hearts, though Mrs. Eastwood’s detailed
narrative of all that had befallen her, and Nelly’s many comments and
questions, the mutual support of two hearts which were as one, was not
without its consolation. Before, however, this long and digressive talk
was over Ernest Molyneux’s well-known knock was heard at the door. He
had a habit of coming in thus late after his evening engagements. Mrs.
Eastwood started up suddenly.

“I am not equal to seeing any one to-night,” she said. “You can tell
Ernest I am tired; and Nelly--I don’t bind you, dear, if it will be a
comfort to you; but say no more than you can help----”

Thus the mother hurried away, leaving Nelly alone to meet her lover.
After all the weariness and horrible suspense of the day, here was a
reward for her--a moment of consolation, do you say, gentle reader?
Molyneux came in from a dinner-party in evening dress, and with the air
of society about him. He had looked in at his club, he had heard the
news, he was full of the atmosphere of that conventional and limited
sphere which is called the world; and he found Nelly in her morning
gown, rising with a nervous shiver from the fire, her face pale, her
eyes anxious, a creature trembling with the fulness of a life much
different from that of clubs and dinner parties.

“Hallo, Nelly!” he said, looking at her with surprise and tacit
disapproval. This sort of carelessness (he would have said) was
inexcusable. It shocked his best feelings--a dowdy already before her
marriage, idling over the fire in a morning dress; it might be a
dressing gown next time, and in married life what would be expected from
one who made such a beginning? All these commentaries were in the look
he gave her, and the involuntary comparison he conveyed by a glance at
himself in the mirror,--himself all gorgeously arranged in purple and
fine linen, and with a flower in his coat.

“I have not dressed, it is true,” she said hurriedly. “Innocent is ill,
and I have been with her all day. You have not heard of our----trouble.
Mamma has been at Sterborne since early this morning----”

“At Sterborne! I thought Innocent was there; and yet you tell me you
have been with her all day----”

“Ernest,” said Nelly, breaking in suddenly, “Frederick’s wife is

“Frederick’s wife!”

“Yes, it happened late on Saturday. Innocent is somehow mixed up in it.
I mean she was there, and saw it happen, and it has--almost--turned her

“She had not much to turn,” said Ernest carelessly. “But what does all
this mean? Mrs. Frederick dead? You don’t mean to tell me, Nelly, that
you were so much attached to her as to make a great trouble of that?”

“No, I suppose not,” said Nelly, looking at him wistfully, “but still,
when any one dies--it is a--shock.”

She used her mother’s word unconsciously. Words for the moment had
become to Nelly symbols, not for the expression, but for the concealment
of her meaning; and oh! he surely might have read that there was more
than her words said, in her eyes.

“Oh, a shock!” he said contemptuously. “Of course you would not have
done anything to bring it about, but when Providence has been so kind as
to deliver you from such an unpleasant connexion, you might be grateful
at least. By Jove, what a lucky dog he is! he has had his swing, and as
soon as the consequences threaten to be unbearable, here comes in some
cold or something and carries her off.”

“Do you call that lucky?” said Nelly, somewhat woe-begone. “I suppose he
loved her, or thought he did!”

“He has given up thinking anything of the sort for some time back, you
may be sure,” said Ernest. “Well, Nelly, I suppose the conventional
correct sort of thing is right for women. Granted that you have had
a--shock. But Mrs. Frederick’s death cannot have made such a deep
impression that you should look ready to cry at every word----”

“I suppose not,” repeated Nelly, with a painful smile. She was indeed
“ready to cry,” but not for Mrs. Frederick’s death--for many reasons
that he could little divine.

“It is not cheerful for a man to come a long round out of his way to see
you and find you like this,” continued Molyneux. “I don’t want to find
fault, heaven knows; but when you are of so much importance to me, I
ought to be of a little importance to you, don’t you think, Nelly? A
dowdy old gown, and your eyes red with gazing in the fire, or something
else--and the lamp burning low, and a supper-tray or something on the
table. Good heavens, what hugger-mugger ways you women fall into when
you are left to yourselves! And what now, crying? Nelly, upon my word I
don’t think I deserve this----”

“I am in trouble, Ernest,” said the poor girl, “and you are not. You
can’t enter into my feelings. I do not want to annoy you with things
that you have nothing to do with, as you once upbraided me for doing.
Next time perhaps I shall be in better spirits. It is very foolish
certainly to cry.”

Molyneux walked up and down the room in great impatience. He felt it was
time to read a moral lesson to his future wife.

“I wish you would remember, dear,” he said, “that neither your life nor
mine is to be limited by the walls of this house. You ought to think of
something else beyond what’s going on here. And really I cannot see that
the death of Frederick’s wife is much of an occasion for tears----”

“But Innocent was mixed up with it,” said Nelly timidly, with a feeling
that he must know some time, that it would be better if he knew at once.
“Innocent is--very ill--almost out of her mind----”

“Pshaw, Innocent!” he said; “if you open upon that chapter I shall go. I
must warn you, Nelly, that I think you all make a great deal of
unnecessary fuss over that girl.”

This was the result of poor Nelly’s faltering attempt to take her lover
into her confidence. He went away shortly after, chafing at the folly of
women; and she, poor girl, had a cry by herself in the dreary
drawing-room before she went to share her mother’s vigil up-stairs.



After this crisis there came a great lull. Innocent was ill. She lay for
some weeks under the power of a mysterious disorder which was sometimes
called low fever, and sometimes by other names. “She had no doubt
received a shock,” the doctor said, when informed by Mrs. Eastwood to
that effect, and this was about all that any one could say. But she was
young, and she got better by degrees. They were all very good to her. By
the time she was able to come down-stairs Frederick had returned home.
He had let his little house in Mayfair, prudently making the best of his
domestic calamity, and had gone back to live with his mother after his
wife’s death, with a gentle melancholy about him which most people, or
at least most ladies, found impressive. He had been unfortunate, poor
fellow; his marriage had been a terrible mistake, but yet it was very
sad and shocking to lose a beautiful young wife so suddenly--and his
conduct was most becoming, all that could be desired in the
circumstances. Frederick had a luck for coming well out of a bad
business. He had taken his own way, and derived from that all the
enjoyment procurable, and then Providence had taken the trouble to step
in and deliver him from his wife, who could not but have been a
hindrance to him in life. Frederick himself accepted very piously this
explanation of affairs. I don’t know whether he went so far as to
believe himself a favourite of heaven, but at heart he felt that he was
lucky, very lucky; yet nevertheless he would talk about “my poor wife”
now and then with touching pathos, and was very much sympathized with in
some circles. On the whole, however, there can be no doubt that he was
deeply thankful to find himself back again in The Elms with his career
still before him, and no harm done, or at least no harm to speak of.
Sometimes, it is true, softening thoughts of tenderness towards the
beautiful creature whom he had supposed himself to love would cross his
mind. But Amanda’s charm had lasted but a very short time, an incredibly
short time considering the insane force of the passion which had swept
him along to his marriage, and the momentary pangs of loss, which, I
suppose, being human, he must sometimes have felt, were as nothing in
comparison with the sense of relief and deliverance which came over him
when he recalled with an effort the strange feverish episode of life
which he had gone through since he left the familiar family home to
which he had now returned. Sometimes he wondered if it had been real, or
if it was only some strange dream more vivid than usual, so entirely did
every trace of that episode pass away, and the old existence come back.

But I think, on the whole, Frederick was a more agreeable inmate since
he had gone through this experience. He was not fundamentally improved
by his troubles, but he was more civil and tolerant to others. His wife
had treated him and his feelings with no consideration at all, and he
had not found that treatment agreeable. Thus experience made up for him
the want of that moral imagination, if we may use the word, which
enables some of us to put ourselves in the places of others, and
consider their feelings by nature. Frederick was as far as ever from
any disposition to sacrifice what he cared for to anybody’s
convenience--but in matters which he did not care for, he had, it must
be allowed, gained a certain power of toleration, and had learned to
think that the others might have wishes, and to respect them. He was
pleasanter to have in the house, even Nelly acknowledged. Things went
more smoothly in the re-united household. Brownlow came back again well
pleased, restoring to the house a certain amount of dignity which it had
lost; and to all of them Amanda and her brief reign began to appear like
a feverish dream.

When Innocent came down-stairs, an invalid, thin and pale, with eyes
that seemed to have grown to double their size, and with all that
touching weakness which appeals to every good feeling of humanity,
Frederick was very good to her. There was nothing he would not do for
her gratification. He would stay at home in the evening, and give up
other engagements in order to read to her. He would draw her chair from
one place to another, and watch over her comfort. Would she soon get
quite well? Would she ever be the same creature as before--the passive
abstracted little soul, who lived in the midst of them without being of
them? In many ways Innocent was changed. She no longer hung upon
Frederick as she had once done. Her eyes did not go forth to meet him,
her hand to grasp his. Indeed, at first she had been startled by his
presence, which was unexpected by her, and had shrunk from him--a fact
which piqued him deeply, when at last he found it possible to believe
that Innocent was less desirous than usual of his society. She had not
the skill to conceal this strange and incomprehensible state of feeling,
and when his mother had endeavoured to explain to him that he too was
inextricably associated in Innocent’s mind with the record of that night
which had been the principal turning-point in her existence, Frederick
did not like it. “Nonsense!” he had cried, with something of his old
warmth; “What is it to her in comparison with what it must be to me? If
I can bear it, surely she may be able to bear it. I did not think
Innocent had been such a little fool.”

“She has strange ideas,” said Mrs. Eastwood, trembling as she spoke.
“Sometimes I think her mind has been thrown a little off its balance. If
she says anything strange to you about her own share in all that was
done on that melancholy night, don’t treat her with ridicule, Frederick.
Sometimes I do not know what to make of her. Sometimes she is very

“She always was,” said Frederick, pulling his peaked beard with a
certain complacency. He thought he saw through it all. When he brought
her from Italy she had been very young, and had not understood her own
feelings; and then he married, and his position was changed. But now a
further change had come. He was a widower; he was free to love and to
marry over again. And Innocent, developed into self-consciousness, felt
this; and felt that she herself in her perilous position had need of
great additional prudence in her intercourse with him. Poor Innocent!
This interpretation of her motives entirely removed any offence that
Frederick might have felt. It gave him a delightful sense of his own
powers and attractions, and inclined him doubly towards the little
cousin who had so just an appreciation at once of himself and his
circumstances. It opened his eyes to many things, among others, to her
beauty, which had developed wonderfully. She was now not only very
handsome, but handsome in a way which struck everybody. Hers were not
the sweet and bright good looks of Nelly, but a quite distinct beauty of
a high order--and Frederick began to admire Innocent more than she had
ever admired him. He inquired into everything about her, and in the
course of his inquiries learned all that happened with Sir Alexis, and
was more amused and pre-occupied by this piece of news than his mother
could have supposed possible. He was amused, she supposed, for he
laughed long and low, and could not be done with the subject. “So
Longueville thought _he_ could have her for the asking,” Frederick said,
with a laugh which was full of keen and covert excitement. “He was very
nice about it,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I think he was really fond of her;
and it would be a good thing for Innocent; a man who knows her so
thoroughly, and would not expect too much. I don’t think he has given up

“Oh, he has not given up hope,” said Frederick half fiercely, half
laughing. He would not give any explanation of his amusement, but he
returned to the subject again and again with a curious interest. And
gradually he came to show a great deal of regard and attention to the
invalid of the house, to all Innocent’s desires and likings, as she came
out of her fever. Sometimes she would look at him strangely, as if she
had something to tell him, and then would sigh and shrink away, and
avoid all conversation with him. Poor, dear little Innocent! she felt
the difference. He was no longer a married man, he was free; she could
not disclose her guileless love any longer with the sense of security
she had once had. Nothing could be more natural, nothing sweeter, more
interesting to Frederick--and the whole secret of her conduct seemed to
him to be in his hands.

Strangely different were poor Innocent’s thoughts. The thing she wanted
to do was to tell him of the one event she had never forgotten. “I
killed your wife;” these were the words that were constantly on her
lips, which in her forlorn honesty, poor child, she could not rest
without saying. Though the sense of guilt had never left her, her mind
had begun to accustom itself to the idea, horrible as it was. She began
to feel herself in a measure the innocent victim of fate, guilty without
intention. She had not meant it. Innocent’s mind grew by degrees capable
of taking in this thought, which was more complex than anything she had
ever embraced with her intelligence before; she had not meant it--and
yet she was guilty. She had reft another of sweet life, she had freed
Frederick from his wife. She felt uneasy with him until she had told
him, an impostor, approaching him under false pretences. Poor Innocent
was in a sad strait between him and his mother. If she told Frederick
the terrible secret, which stood like a ghost between them, Mrs.
Eastwood would be angry with her. This kept her back; and who could
doubt that he, too, would be “angry” when he knew what she had done? The
latter thought, however, was an inducement to make the disclosure, for
Innocent, in her simplicity, could not bear the thought of keeping the
secret, which might alienate her cousin from her, and yet accepting his
kindness while she did not deserve it. Thus her secret had driven her
out of the primitive region of sentiment in which her mind had hitherto
dwelt, into that sphere of mental and moral complication in which most
of us have our home. This it was that made her uneasy, embarrassed,
almost unhappy with Frederick. It may seem strange to the reader that
any additional weight was necessary to disturb the calm of an unhappy
girl who thought herself guilty of a murder. But Innocent was passive in
feeling, and imagination scarcely existed in her; and besides, I believe
that though fictitious miseries are often very terrible, a fictitious
guilt like this, though it may affect the mind as if it were real, can
scarcely weigh upon the conscience like an actual crime. It is difficult
to grope into such darkling corners of nature or to discriminate between
moral and intellectual impressions to a point so fine drawn. I do not
affirm this as a certainty, but I put it forth as an opinion. Innocent
believed that she had been guilty of a terrible crime, and yet she knew,
poor child, that she was not guilty. Her mind was oppressed by it, her
life clouded, all her peaceful, passive existence revolutionized; but
her conscience was not affected to a similar degree. Her consciousness
had entered upon an entirely new chapter since this terrible event.
Herself had become revealed to her by the light of it, and it was only
by this light that she could realize her own individual and independent
being; but she was not so unhappy as in the circumstances she ought to
have been. She was unhappy with Frederick because he did not know,
because he thought otherwise of her than as she deserved; but the
general course of her life, though weighed down by this strange new
consciousness, was not so unhappy as, according to all rules, it ought
to have been.

There came a moment, however, when the crisis of this doubtful
intercourse between Innocent and her cousin could not be put off
further. Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly were dining out, and Frederick had
benignly announced his intention of staying at home to take care of
Innocent. This benevolent proposal did not quite meet with the gratitude
it deserved. His mother immediately hesitated about her engagement,
wondered whether it was necessary that she should go, and betrayed a
general uneasiness, in which Nelly shared. Innocent took little notice,
but she did not look at him with soft grateful eyes as she once would
have done. He was piqued, and he was rendered obstinate by this mingled
indifference and opposition, and, as her engagement was one which Mrs.
Eastwood could not really give up, Frederick had his way. Innocent and
Dick and he dined together, and when Dick went off to his studies, as
was needful, the two, between whom, as poor Innocent felt, that ghost
stood, were left alone. It was winter by this time, and the drawing-room
at The Elms was very warm and homelike when the ruddy curtains were
drawn, the lamp lighted, and the room full of cheerful firelight.
Frederick placed his little cousin in the easiest chair; he drew his own
seat near her, and took the book he had been reading to her on the
previous evening. It was a soft domestic scene, full of tender brotherly
affection, kind and pious duty to that feeblest and gentlest of all the
kindred, the youngest, the child of the house. Frederick felt a wave of
warm and delightful feeling suffuse his heart. In some cases duty itself
is the most pleasant of all pastimes, and this was one of those cases.
How lovely that passive, dreamy face was as Innocent sat and listened!
She was not at work, as so many women think it necessary to be. She was
capable of doing absolutely nothing, sitting with her hands laid loosely
across each other in her lap, listening--or dreaming--what did it
matter? The book that Frederick read was a story of gentle and
unexciting interest, a soft and simple narrative, such as Innocent was
capable of following. He felt that it was good of him merely to read
such a book--a book not adapted to his manly intelligence, food for
babes; to have been seen with it in his hand was a kind of certificate
of moral character. He, who had so many memories in his life which were
far from being domestic or dutiful, felt in this tender moment such an
accession of character as was enough to cover a great many peccadillos.
And Frederick loved character as much, or even more, though not with so
warm a passion as he liked self-indulgence. How exquisite was the
sensation when for once in a way duty and self-indulgence went hand in

“Do you like it, Innocent?” he inquired, after a time, pausing to look
at her, and laying down his book.

“Yes,” said Innocent softly; but she did not look at him as she had been

“You do not care very much for books, though? Do you remember, Innocent,
in summer, the first summer you were here, when we used to walk about
the garden together? you are changed since that time. You liked me
better then than you do now.”

“I, Frederick? You were the only one I knew,” she said, with a startled
look, moving uneasily in her chair.

“And you know the others now as well as me--my mother, and Nelly, and
Jenny, and Dick, and we are all the same to you? Do you know, Innocent,
I liked the old way best?”

She made no answer; her hands twined and untwined themselves in her lap;
her soft cheek coloured; it was still pale enough, heaven knows--but the
faint tint that came upon it was a blush for her.

“I like the old way best,” he continued, taking one of her hands into
his. “Innocent, I have been very foolish, I have had a sad life of it
for the last year. We must not say anything about the cause; but I have
often been far from happy, and I never thought my little cousin would
change to me. I could have understood any change in the world sooner
than one in _you_.”

“I have not changed, Frederick.”

“Yes, dear, you have,” he said. “Once you liked nothing better than to
sit with me, to walk with me; now you are uneasy and anxious to get
away. Your hand is trying to escape from my hand; why should it? Do you
know, when you used to put it on my arm in the old days in the garden,
the soft little touch was always a comfort to me? Don’t you think I have
more need of comfort now? but you take your hand away, Innocent.”

“It is not for that--it is not for that!” she cried. “Oh, Frederick, I
must tell you now. My aunt will be angry, and perhaps you will be angry,
and never speak to me again; but I must tell you--now.”

“What is it, dear?” he said in his softest tones. “I shall not be
angry--nothing can make me angry with you.”

“Oh, Frederick, you don’t know--you never could imagine what I have to
tell you. Do not touch me. I am too bad--too terrible! I killed--your

He looked at her with eyes of utter amazement, turning pale--not at this
strange intimation, which seemed madness to him--but at the sharp recall
to his real position, and the different ideas involved in it. Then he
smiled--a somewhat forced smile.

“My dear Innocent, this is the merest madness,” he said. “I partly
understand what you mean. You think it was your innocent presence that
drove poor Amanda into this last fit of passion. Put away the thought
from your mind, my poor darling--any one else--any trifling accident
would have done the same----”

Innocent kept her eyes fixed upon him, learning what he meant from his
face rather than from his words--the words themselves were not adapted
to penetrate into her mind. But from his face she knew that he was not
angry, that he did not understand--that he was soothing her, persuading
her that she was mistaken, as her aunt had done.

“It was not the passion--it was what I gave her from the bottle,” she
said, her voice falling very low--“her medicine to make her sleep; she
shook me--she snatched it from my hand; that killed her--and it was I
who did it. Now, now you understand!--and I know you will never speak to
me again.”

“Good God!” he cried, and rose to his feet in sudden blind misery and
bewilderment, driven wild for the moment by a horrible doubt, which
brought up before him in a second of time half-a-dozen scenes and
suggestions. He had seen Amanda live through so many paroxysms of
passion--why should she have died of that one? And Innocent had fled
like a hunted creature from the house; why had she fled? These
questions, that never occurred to him before, fell upon him now all at
once. He seemed to see again the darkened house, the sudden excitement
and horror falling into the ordinary stillness of night, the sudden
change from ordinary events and the usual tenor of existence to
death--confusion and trouble for the survivors; eternal silence for the
one who had been the most exuberant, the most violent in her vitality.
God in heaven! was the child mad and raving; or could this horrible
confession be true?

Innocent sat very still in her chair, looking at him with fixed eyes.
She had made her confession, and calm had returned to her. Her pale,
slender hands lay loosely clasped in her lap, relieved against the black
dress which she wore as mourning for Amanda. Her eyes were anxious,
following his every look and gesture, but perfect calm had fallen upon
her slight figure, her habitual attitude. Her secret was told, and all
her embarrassment and uneasiness gone. To look at her so, and to believe
that she was an actor in any such tragedy was impossible. Frederick was
overcome; his eyes filled with tears. He was surprised by an overflow of
feeling which he did not know how to restrain. He went to the back of
her chair and bent over her, putting down his hand upon hers.

“Innocent,” he cried, “you are dreaming, you are raving; it is
impossible, anything is possible but this.”

She lifted her face to him, searching into the expression of his with
her anxious eyes. “Oh, do not be angry,” she said, like a child that had
done some petty wrong.

The incongruity of the appeal, the words so foolishly simple, the look
so tragically anxious, had such an effect upon Frederick as nothing in
his life had ever had before. Was the murder of which she accused
herself no more to this child than the breaking of a piece of china, the
neglect of some trifling duty? God help them all! Wonder, horror, pity,
love, all complicated with the mystery of a doubt which could not be
shaken off, and a certainty which was above all doubt, distracted the
very soul of the man, who could no more understand Innocent than she
could understand him. He took her uplifted face in his hands and kissed
the forehead again and again. “Innocent, forget this madness,” he said,
“you make me wretched as well as yourself, for I love you--I love you
better than anything in the world.”

“Ah!” she cried, freeing herself and turning away; “but I cannot forget,
I can never forget. For I did it; I did not mean it, but I did it. Do
not be angry; but you must never say you love me again.”



When Mrs. Eastwood came back she found that Innocent had gone to bed
with a headache, and Frederick, with an agitated face, sat silent,
brooding over the fire by himself. He had no book nor paper to occupy
him, and his face was clouded, as it had been in the days of excitement
before his marriage, or those of unhappiness which followed after. He
said little while Nelly was in the room, but suggested crossly that she
should go and look after Innocent. “If you will take the trouble,” he
said. His tone was full of irritation, as it had been in the old times,
but seldom in the new. Mrs. Eastwood made Nelly a sign to obey. She saw
at once what had happened. She went and stood by her son’s side as Nelly
went up-stairs.

“What does this mean, mother?” he said, turning moody eyes, which looked
red and feverish, upon her. “What does it mean? Innocent has been raving
about something I don’t understand. Surely anything which concerns me so
much might have been told me. For God’s sake! what does it mean?”

“A delusion,” said Mrs. Eastwood quietly, laying her hand upon his

“A delusion! It is too serious, too terrible, to be a delusion. She must
be mad. The shock must have turned her brain.”

“It is mere delusion,” said Mrs. Eastwood, with tears. “I went down to
Sterborne, as you know, and inquired into everything. You remember that
terrible morning, Frederick? You thought I went out of regard for your
wife and her father. I went for Innocent’s sake;--now I can tell you. I
inquired into everything. It is a mere delusion; there is no foundation
for it, nothing to rest upon. But I cannot chase it from the poor
child’s mind, and I knew she would tell you some day. I would not have
had you know for much; but now that you do know, you must help me with
Innocent. She must be convinced.”

“Tell me the whole,” said Frederick; and she sat down by him by the
fireside, and told him everything, omitting only by instinct to mention
the presence of the housemaid when poor Innocent made her first
confession. He drew from her by degrees every particular of the poor
girl’s arrival at home, her consistent story, from which she had never
departed, and the little phial which had been clasped in her hand. This
she showed him, taking it out of a desk in which she had locked it up.
It had still a few drops of the opiate in it, and was labelled with the
name of Mrs. Frederick Eastwood, and the date. The sight of this strange
piece of evidence made Frederick shiver. It made him feel strangely for
a moment, as if Amanda still lived, and could have still such drugs
administered to her. “It would be better to destroy this,” he said,
taking it out of his mother’s hand. She took it back from him anxiously,
and put it in the desk again.

“Why should we destroy it?” she said.

“It is the sort of evidence that would tell,” he said, with once more a
nervous shiver.

“Oh, Frederick!” cried his mother, “you don’t mean to tell me that you
think--it may be true?”

“I don’t know what to think,” he said gloomily. “Mother, I am very
unhappy. I care more for Innocent than I ever thought I did. God help
us--it sounds very real. Why should she have taken such a thought into
her simple mind?”

“God knows!” said his mother, and, moved in her turn, she began to cry,
all her doubts and fears returning at the mere thought that some one
else thought it possible, thought it true. They sat together over the
dying fire, and talked it over in detail, entering into every
particular, every recollection. They drew close together in mutual
confidence; but they gave each other no comfort. Broken words that had
seemed to have no connexion with anything actual came floating back to
their memories. Frederick even remembered, with the feeling as of an
arrow which had suddenly struck and stung him, the words he himself had
heard as he entered his wife’s room on that eventful night, “Can judges
get people off?” and both of them were well aware how freely, how simply
Innocent had announced her dislike to Frederick’s wife. I do not believe
that Frederick had ever been so deeply affected in his life; but even at
that moment there came into his mind a certain sombre consciousness of
satisfied vanity which made things look still more black for Innocent.
“Her known affection for me will supply the motive at once,” he said;
his very vanity made him believe the whole strange tale. His mother
wavered between wondering doubts how if it were quite untrue such an
idea could have come into Innocent’s mind, taking possession of it so
strongly--and a sense that it was impossible, that nothing so hideous
and terrible could be. But Frederick, by mere stress of conviction that
Innocent loved and had always loved him, found possibility, reality in
the story at once. He did not even believe her own dreary assertion
that she had not meant it. With the certainty of intuition he felt that,
being alone with her rival, some irresistible impulse which she perhaps
scarcely understood had come over her, some impulse which, being but
momentary, had faded perhaps from her recollection. He was very
miserable. If ever self-complacency brought its own punishment, this
did. His unhappiness was intense in proportion to his conviction, which
allowed of no doubt. “What shall we do with her?” he said.

“Oh, Frederick!” said Mrs. Eastwood, “you take everything for proved;
and nothing is proved, not even the very first step. Neither you nor any
one at Sterborne had the slightest suspicion. Nobody thought of Innocent
as implicated. The death arose from natural causes, which had been
foreseen, understood. The doctor himself----”

“Ah, the doctor,” said Frederick, “perhaps I ought to see the doctor.
But it might excite suspicion. The doctor was going away--he had got an
appointment somewhere abroad.”

“But I saw him,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “he was most distinct in what he
said to me--more medical than I could understand--but very clear. He
said he had expected it for years, that Mr. Batty knew--that you even
had been told----”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Frederick, “that was all very well. Her heart
was affected; and very fortunate it is for us that such an idea existed.
But, mother, Amanda, poor girl, has been in a much greater passion with
me than she ever could have been with Innocent, and did not die. Why did
she die just then, with no one else present, and with this business
about the opiate? I wish you would throw that little bottle into the
fire. It is the sort of thing which would affect a stupid juryman more
than evidence.”

“Oh, Frederick!” said Mrs. Eastwood, trembling and crying; “for God’s
sake, don’t talk as if it could ever come to that.”

“Why shouldn’t it come to that? If Batty once gets hold of the story, he
will not let it rest, I promise you. He knows I hate him, and have
always done so, and he would believe it. Unfortunately, poor Amanda was
aware of Innocent’s feeling for me.”

“Frederick,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “Innocent, I am sure, had no feeling
for you that an innocent girl might not have for her first friend, her
protector, her relation----”

Mrs. Eastwood was not so sure of this as she professed to be, and the
want of certainty showed itself in her voice. And Frederick was
convinced to the contrary, and felt that he was right, whatever any one
might say.

“You did not always think so, mother,” he said. “I wish with all my
heart it had not been so--but you must see that this feeling on
Innocent’s part changes at once the whole character of the story. It
gives it a motive, it makes it possible. A girl would not do such a
thing for nothing; but the moment you supply the motive----”

“Frederick, for heaven’s sake! you speak not only as if she had done it,
but as if she had meant to do it----”

“I speak as Batty would think, and as his lawyer would put it,” said
Frederick, with sombre certainty. “The best thing we could do, mother,
would be to send her away. If she were taken to some out-of-the-way
place--in Italy, perhaps, as she knows Italy----”

“I cannot give up my poor child’s cause like this,” cried his mother.
“Send her away as if she were guilty--banish her from her home----”

“It will be easier, you may take my word for it, to prevent an inquiry
than to defend her if once accused,” said Frederick. “To have her
accused would be ruin and misery to us all. I might be brought in. Don’t
you see that mere acquittal would do little for us? The scandal is the
terrible thing; and everybody would believe it, whether it was proved or

Such was the consultation going on down-stairs while Innocent, strangely
moved and agitated, lay in her little white bed looking at Nelly. The
girl was not as she had been before; new thoughts were in her mind, new
troubles in her heart. But she could not confide these to her cousin.
She said simply, “I have told Frederick,” as Nelly kissed her and asked
after her headache. No such pretences as headaches were possible to her
simple soul.

“You have told Frederick?--Oh, Innocent!--of this delusion, this

“Of what happened,” said Innocent, “and he was very kind to me; he was
not angry. Nelly, tell me--will he always live here----”

“I suppose so,” said Nelly, “but never mind Frederick. Innocent, you
promised not to think of this--not to talk of it. It is a dream, a
delusion. Mamma told you so. You promised to think of it no more----”

Innocent shook her head with a faint smile. “I cannot help it,” she
said. “But you are sure Frederick will stay here always, Nelly?”

“Oh, what has Frederick to do with it?” said Nelly impatiently; and she
kissed her little cousin again and bade her go to sleep. When she had
got to the door, however, her heart smote her that she had been unkind.
She came back with tears in her eyes.

“What have you done, you poor child,” she said, “that you should be
tormented like this? Oh, Innocent, say your prayers and ask God to put
it away out of your mind.”

“I will try,” said Innocent.

Nelly went to her own room and wept--out of grief, out of pity, out of
impatience and impotence. Everything was out of joint, and nothing poor
Nelly could do would set it right. When her mother came up some time
after and told her the scope of her conversation with Frederick, and
his suggestion to send Innocent away, Nelly blazed into generous
momentary passion. “Give her up altogether!” she cried. “Send the poor
child away whom God has trusted to us----”

“That is what I feel, dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “but Frederick

“Oh, I don’t want to know what Frederick says! I am sick of
Frederick--and all men,” said poor Nelly. “Mamma, let us all go away
somewhere and hide ourselves from this horrible world----”

“Nelly, Nelly,” said her mother with a smile, “which of us would tire
soonest of that? You have other bonds which you forget in your
haste--and I have the boys.”

When Nelly was told of these other bonds she held her peace, with a
flush upon her face. Yes, she had other bonds, and of all the four
unhappy people who lay down under the kindly old roof of The Elms on
that agitating night, she perhaps was the most unhappy. A heart running
over with love, pity, generous impulses, but obstructed wherever her
feet turned, unable to leaven her little world with her own generous
thoughts, unable to convince it of what seemed so clear to her, bound
down by meannesses, by selfishness at which her soul revolted. The
others were free more or less to follow their own instincts, but for her
she was in bonds--a spirit imprisoned, writhing under the cords that
tied her, struggling with her fate.

“Oh, Nelly,” said Mrs. Eastwood before she went to bed, “what can have
become of John Vane? He is the one man in the world I could talk to
about it all, and who could tell us what was best.”

Nelly made no reply. Her thoughts, too, had travelled perhaps the same
way, but even while they did so it made her heart sore and bitter to
think that it was John Vane, and not another, who was “the one man in
the world” to help them in their terrible strait.

Innocent slept little that night. Something new was working in the
girl’s mind. All the household almost without exception believed that
she had been “in love” with Frederick from the time he brought her home;
and Frederick himself believed it most completely of all, as has been
shown. But Innocent herself had never thought of love, had known nothing
of it, nor what it was. She had learned it for the first time that
night. The discovery she made was not of anything in herself. She, in
her simplicity, in her preoccupation, was as quietly still and
affectionate in her emotions as she had ever and always been. But
Frederick’s looks, his words, his touch, had startled her in her
unbroken virginal calm. He had told her he loved her. Perhaps under
other circumstances Innocent would have received this with childlike
gratitude, and have said to herself simply that he was “kind”--how kind
he was! But there was something in this interview which made so gentle
an interpretation of the words impossible. Innocent felt without
knowing that there was a difference, and the difference alarmed her, she
could not tell why. It did not occur to her to think that the outburst
was momentary, nor could she have believed that Frederick himself at
that very moment was plotting her banishment. The impression made on her
mind was not complex but single. He loved her not as the others loved,
with a love which Innocent vaguely knew led to other ties and other
consequences. This thought did not move her, as does the first
suggestion of love which is destined to be happy; it filled her with
fright and pain. She felt by instinct that between her and Frederick
there was a gulf which could never be passed--a ghost, which kept them
apart from each other; yet they were here, under the same roof,
compelled to meet daily--and he loved her! The more she thought of it
the more alarmed and sick at heart Innocent grew. How could she avoid
him, resist him, put away from her all the old habits which had grown
into her life? She who had been used to put her hand in his, to take his
arm, to talk to him more freely than to any one else--all this would be
impossible if he loved her. She would shrink from the warmer
incomprehensible sentiment, but how could she shrink from Frederick?
What would they all say? What would they think if she, who had so clung
to him, were to turn from him? she could not do it. With an imagination
newly awakened, which had sprung up suddenly in self-defence, she saw
herself constrained to do as Frederick pleased: led with him where he
chose to lead her, drawn into new circumstances which she did not
understand, yet shrank from. To put these vague sentiments of fright,
repulsion, and alarm into words is to do them wrong, and to give to them
a distinctness which they did not possess, but words are the only medium
I have for conveying to the reader any idea of the state of confusion,
shame, pain, and terror which vaguely filled the mind of Innocent. This
terror of Frederick’s love was, perhaps, quite undue and unnecessary,
since Frederick had already realized the necessity for quenching
anything like love for Innocent, and thought himself quite strong enough
to do so. But perhaps it was some subtle consequence of the mistaken
notion he had so long entertained of her love for him, which produced
this mistaken notion on her part of his love for her, and became the
motive of the most decided act of her life. She did not sleep. The long,
long winter night, which felt as if it would never end, spun out its
lingering hours of darkness, while all these things passed darkly
through her mind--but as she waked and dreamed there suddenly occurred
to her a way of escape--a prospect of help. She had made a promise of
which no one knew--a promise which had never before recurred to her mind
from the moment she made it; this promise suddenly returned to her
memory in her moment of deepest darkness. She had promised if she needed
help, if she wanted change--a thing impossible at that moment,
impossible a few hours ago, but now so real and so necessary--to seek it
from one man; not the friend for whom Mrs. Eastwood sighed, whom Nelly
bitterly and against her will involved in her thoughts; a saviour, whose
name occurred to poor Innocent now as a sudden and only refuge in her
trouble. When she thought of him, and remembered her promise to him,
Innocent fell asleep. She had some one in whose hands she could place
her difficulty, and at once her own labouring mind, unused to any such
burdens, was eased.

She said nothing to any one of her purpose. She felt instinctively that
had she spoken of it she would have been prevented from carrying out her
intention. She did nothing, and said nothing, even to Alice, until next
afternoon, when Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly went out on some necessary
business. They thought it too cold for Innocent, and placed her in an
easy chair by the fire, with the storybook which Frederick had been
reading to her on the previous night. If anything had been wanting to
confirm her resolution, this book would have done it. As soon as they
were gone she went to her room and dressed herself carefully. She took
care to make no appeal to Alice, who would have stopped her, she knew,
and dressed herself without aid, taking out her best dress, the new
mourning which became her pale and dreamy beauty. No one observed her as
she went out, and very swift and straight, looking neither to the right
hand nor the left, she pursued her way. She had gone with Mrs. Eastwood
and Nelly more than once to the house where Sir Alexis Longueville had
so often something to show his friends--now a new picture, now a rare
flower, now some costly and elaborate piece of furniture. He was fond of
everything that was rare and costly, and his bachelor house was one of
the sights which connoisseurs delighted to be admitted to. It was not
very far from The Elms, a detached house surrounded by a garden, which,
in its way, was a sight too, notwithstanding the near neighbourhood of
London smoke. Sir Alexis lived by himself in this dainty dwelling-place.
It was like a child to him; he was constantly making alterations,
projecting this and that, improving upon the unimprovable; and the house
was a show-house. Nevertheless, when Innocent, young and alone, made her
way to the door, and asked for Sir Alexis, the man who opened it to her
was startled. Sir Alexis had not always been the irreproachable
middle-aged gentleman he was now, and his old servant, as well as his
old friends, recollected passages in his life which were not such as to
make the visit of a young girl alone a natural occurrence. The servant
stared at Innocent, and told her that his master was engaged, and made
various excuses. But Innocent was imperious to all such hesitations. She
would not tell what her business was, she would not be put off. “Tell
him I want him,” she said, walking in, in her simplicity. Such a girl,
absolutely pre-occupied, unconscious of any evil, pursuing her object
without _arrière pensée_, without fear or thought of harm, is, I
believe, safe to go over the world without let or hindrance. She
hesitated only when the man asked her her name. “Say it is Innocent,”
she answered at last, with a look of perfect gravity which checked the
smile which began to form about his lips.

“A young lady?” said Sir Alexis, when the message was delivered to him.
“Alone? it must be some mistake.”

“No mistake, Sir Alexis,” said the man, suffering the incipient grin to
show itself, but with a cautious watchfulness lest it should be out of
place. “When I asked if there was any name, she gave me a queer name. I
don’t know if she’s all right _here_. She bid me to tell you, Sir
Alexis, as how it was Innocent----”

“Innocent!” said Longueville, starting up. “You idiot, why did not you
tell me? Where have you put her?” and with a haste and anxiety which put
all thought of a grin out of his attendant’s head, Sir Alexis rushed
out, thrusting away the man, whose mind changed on the subject in the
twinkling of an eye.



“Innocent! you here, and alone--where are the others?” cried Sir Alexis,
taking both her hands.

“I have come--because I promised,” said Innocent--“no one knows. You
were to help me if I wanted help; I have come--for that. If I ever
wanted to go away--to have some one to help me--that was what you
said.--Surely you recollect?”

“Recollect! yes, I recollect,” he said, in agitation and dismay, and led
her to a seat. He looked at her with a wonder which words could not
express, and with a troubled sense of his accountability for having made
such a promise which had never occurred to him at the moment it was
made. To have her here in his house, all alone, was an indecorum which
struck the old man of the world as it never would have struck Innocent.
“My dear child, tell me what it is--I will walk home with you,” he said
in his confusion, not knowing what other suggestion to make.

“But I do not want to go home,” said Innocent. “I came to you to help
me. I have a great deal to tell you; but if they see me they will take
me back, they will not understand. Oh, keep me here!--help me as you

“Innocent! you bewilder me. What has happened--what can I do? But,
whatever I can do, my dear child, it will be better for you to be at

“I do not think so,” she said; “and I have been thinking a great deal--I
have been very unhappy--there is a great deal, a very great deal to tell
you. But for thinking of you, I do not know what I should have done. It
was because you said so yourself that I have come----”

“Yes, I did say so,” he murmured in his confusion. He was confused, but
she was perfectly calm; her eyes met his with their childish look of
appeal; no consciousness, no embarrassment, nothing in them that was not
simple as her soul. The man’s heart was touched beyond expression. “Yes,
my dear,” he said, “I did say so--and this house is yours, and
everything in it. You shall stay if you will--you shall do with it as
you please. I am grieved--grieved to the heart that you should be
unhappy. Have confidence in me--I will do everything for you that I
could do for--my own child.”

“Thanks,” she said gently, “you were always kind;” and then seemed to
fall into a half-reverie--a dreamy, self-absorbed pause. “I have so much
to tell you,” she resumed, “I don’t know where to begin----”

“Tell me first why you have left home?” he asked.

A faint colour came upon her cheek--“That comes last of all,” she said,
“and till you hear the first you will not understand. Frederick has come
home. He lives with us again as he used to do; and last night--we
talked--and he said he loved me. He must not love me, it is terrible so
much as to think of it, after what has happened. And how could I live
there and see him every day when that is what he is thinking? So I
remembered you, and came to you to help me. Now, please, I want to go
away--to stay there no longer--Take me, as you said you would--Take me

“Innocent, do you understand what you are saying?” he asked, once more
taking both her hands in his. Her words roused him out of all secondary
feelings. There was no passion left in his steady, middle-aged soul for
any woman; but this strange creature had charmed him by her strangeness,
her rarity, the pathos of her beauty. She had refused him as few men are
refused, and now had she come to offer herself to him? Middle-aged as he
was, he could not refuse to be moved by a quickening thrill of
excitement; nothing could have made him an impassioned lover, but he was
glad to have her, and his heart grew fond and tender as he held her
hands. “Innocent!” he repeated, “do you mean this? Think! Do not
encourage me and then disappoint me. There is but one way that I can
take you anywhere. You must marry me first; do you know?”

She shrank a little instinctively, looking at him all the time with
serious eyes, which shrank not, and then said slowly, “Yes--I know.”

He was so startled by this assent, so taken by surprise, and, at the
same time, so put upon his guard by all the decorums and punctilios of
which she knew nothing, that he made no such response as a lover might
have made. He uttered some broken exclamations in his bewilderment. The
surprise was a joyful one; but yet it was a surprise, and brought as
much wonder with it as pleasure. Then Sir Alexis remembered suddenly, in
the midst of his confusion, what was owing to the self-respect of a
woman who had thus rashly risked herself and her womanly credit. He
kissed the small, slender, girlish hands one after another with
reverential fervour. “Thanks, a thousand times, for your generous
confidence,” he said. “I hope I am worthy of the trust. It is settled
between us, then, of your free will, Innocent--of your free will? you
will be my wife?”

“Yes,” she said once more, grave as if she were uttering the sentence of
her own fate. He bent over her, and kissed her forehead; then rising
hastily rang the bell.

“Go to my sister,” he said, giving his orders at the door of the room,
orders which Innocent neither heard nor comprehended; “and ask her to
come to me at once. She will do me a great service if she will be here
in half an hour.” Then he came back, and sat down by his future bride.

“Innocent, my darling, now that this is settled between us you can speak
to me with confidence. What is it? Frederick would not, could not, have
been rude to you? He is a gentleman at least. It is well for me,
however, that this happened; but tell me, dear, what it was,” he said,
drawing her close to him. It seemed incredible to see her there in his
house, bestowing herself upon him, she who only the other day had been
so startled by his advances. He was flattered, touched, startled, full
of wonder, not knowing what to do or to say.

“Yes,” said Innocent, with a sigh, “but there is a great deal to say
first. Perhaps when I have told you, you will cease to care, you will be
angry, you will not want me. You say No; but you don’t know what I have
to say.”

“Nothing you can say will affect me, my dear,” he said, with almost
fatherly fondness, and an incredulous, admiring smile.

“Ah, but you do not know!” cried Innocent; and then her voice fell into
a low strain of narrative--gentle yet penetrating and clear as a bell.
“I was sent down to the High Lodge----”

“Has it something to do with that?” said the new bridegroom, gradually
glowing into elevation of feeling more fitted to the occasion. “Then let
us put off talking of it. You have been ill, my poor child. Your pretty
cheek is pale. You are looking worn and thin. You shall go to Italy, to
Pisa, Innocent----”

“Ah!” she said, with a deep sigh, long drawn out, and tremulous; “but
first you must hear.”

“Not first, my darling--after, when we have spoken of things more
important. We will go to Longueville first, and then to Italy. You shall
take me to your old house, and we will find your old Niccolo----”

“Ah!” she said again, this time with a slight nervous shiver; “but you
must hear--first you must hear. When I tell you, perhaps it will change
everything. I was sent to the High Lodge; but it is not about
that--Frederick saw me in the church, and took me to see his wife.”

“Is it about Frederick and his wife? I am tired of Frederick. You are
trembling, Innocent. Leave this story for another time. It cannot make
any difference to me.”

“To see his wife,” said Innocent, going on in a low, steady tone, as if,
once started, she had no longer power to stop. “She was ill. She used to
have fits of being angry. She would raise her voice and scold every one,
it did not matter whom, even Frederick. He was very kind to me--he
always was very kind.”

“Enough about Frederick,” said Sir Alexis, with some impatience.
“Innocent, you cannot think that your cousin is particularly interesting
to me.”

“Do not be angry,” she said, with an appealing look. “He took me to his
wife. I stayed with her a long time. She made me read. Sometimes she was
angry, sometimes she was kind. I read and read; and then I fell

“Selfish cur!” cried Sir Alexis, “to put the nursing of that terrible
wife of his upon you.”

“I woke up to hear her scolding. Oh, how red she was! how her eyes
blazed! She shook me and called to me, and cried that she would strike
me. I was not half awake; I was trembling----”

“Poor Innocent, you are trembling now. My darling, what does all this
matter? Another time will do----”

“I had to drop the drops,” said Innocent, sinking her voice lower; “I
had never done it before. My hand shook and she scolded, and I could
not. At last--oh, do not be angry--she seized it out of my hand, and
drank it. Listen! she drank it--and then she died. Do you know what that
means? I killed Frederick’s wife!”

“Good God! Innocent!”

“I was afraid--I was afraid!--I knew you would be angry!” she cried.

Sir Alexis withdrew the arm he had put round her. He was speechless with
wonder and horror. “Good God!” he repeated, when he had found his voice;
“what did you do?”

“What did I do?” she asked vaguely, looking at him with wonder and

“Yes; you alarmed the people, of course? You told them what had
happened?--you had everything done that could be done? How strange that
I should have heard nothing of all this!” he said, rising to his feet.

Innocent’s heart sank within her. She looked up at him with anxious
eyes, into which the tears were coming. No one had been angry before.
They had all wept over her, comforted her. But now, at last, he was
angry in whom she had placed her last hope. Sobs began to rise in her
throat; she deserved that he should be angry, she knew--yet she looked
up at him with a pitiful appeal against his wrath. She was guilty of
killing Frederick’s wife; but of all this that came after--this which
she ought to have done, and did not--no one had ever told her. She made
him no reply save by her look, by the big tears that rose into her eyes.

He had risen from her side rather in excitement and dismay than with any
intention of deserting the poor child who had thus thrown herself upon
him. When his eyes returned to her, and he met her piteous look, his
heart melted. He came back and sat down by her again. “Poor Innocent,”
he said, “poor little bewildered child! What did you do?”

“I came home,” she said, shivering. “When they told me she was dead, I
could not stay any longer. It was dark night--very late. I never was out
so late before. I came home----”

“And you never told them? you did not say what you had done?”

“Do not be angry!” said poor Innocent, bursting into sobs that were
piteous to hear.

He took her into his arms, and did what he could to comfort her. Poor
child! poor man, who had bound himself unawares to her foolish fate! He
never doubted her story for a moment, nor supposed that she had told him
anything less or more than the simple facts; and while he soothed her,
and tried to subdue her sobs, his mind set to work seriously, thinking
how a way was to be made for her out of this coil which she had woven
about her own feet. He was not less sorry for her than the others had
been, but his mind was cooler and more ready to act in this emergency.
To suppose that she had killed Frederick’s wife, as she thought, was
absolute folly, of course, he said to himself; but her flight, her
silence as to what she had done, her hurried return home, howsoever
effected, would be terribly against her. He set his whole faculties to
work to find a way out of it. “I am not angry,” he said to her, “my poor
child! how could I be angry? Innocent, Innocent, you must compose
yourself. You must stop crying, and let me think what it is best to do.”

Just then the door opened hastily, and Mrs. Barclay bustled in smiling
and rustling, and gay, with her ample silken skirts and cheerful

“What is all this, Alexis?” she said; “what do you want me for in such
a hurry? What do you mean by having young ladies here? Ah, Innocent, my
sweet! I had it borne in upon me that it must be you.”

Sir Alexis stumbled up to his feet, and Innocent checked her sobs as by
magic, and turned wondering to the new comer. “My dear sister, you have
judged rightly,” he said. “Innocent has come to me about a difficulty
she is in. I will go now to your aunt and see about it, my darling, and
my sister will take care of you. Lucilla, this is Lady Longueville that
is to be. You are the first to know it; you will take care of my poor
little darling? She is ill and nervous! give her some wine, or tea, or
something, and make her lie down and rest.”

“That I will,” said kind Mrs. Barclay, “I’ll take care of her--the
little puss! I knew this was coming. I said it all along from the very
first day you saw her, Alexis; and I hope she’ll be a sweet little wife
to you, as good as she’s pretty. I could not say more than that. My dear
brother, how I wish you joy!”

And she kissed him heartily, and kissed Innocent, and laughed and cried
in honest pleasure, the strangest contrast to the grave emotion, the
piteous self-abandonment upon which she came like the very angel of
commonplace life, good-humour, and kindly feeling. She went with her
brother to the door, shaking hands with him in her satisfaction. “Do you
mean to say there has been some quarrel with the Eastwoods?” she said in
an undertone.

“No quarrel, but something, I don’t quite know what. Make her rest,
Lucilla, and don’t allow her to talk. Let me find her well when I
return--for then we must decide what to do.”

“Trust me, I’ll take care of her,” said the cheerful woman, and in
another moment Innocent found herself all alone with this stranger, in a
new world, deserted by everybody, everything strange around her, except
the kind words which she was used to hear, though not from this voice.
Her head swam, and there was a ringing as of bells in her ears. But amid
the desolation and pain she felt, there was also a sense of calm
pervading her whole soul. This time she had put off the burden bodily,
and some one else had taken it up. She had a trust in Sir Alexis, which
was produced perhaps by the different way in which he had treated her
confession. He had gone away to do something, to deliver her somehow. To
bring back Amanda to life, perhaps, and make the dream come to an end;
the dream of death or the dream of life, it did not seem to matter much
to Innocent which was brought to an end. For what was she herself from
her first chapter till now but a dream--a very dream?

Sir Alexis, too, felt very much like a man in a dream as he took his hat
and buttoned his coat with habitual composure, though his whole being
was shaken by the extraordinary position in which he found himself, and
the extraordinary revelation just made to him. He walked along the
suburban road towards The Elms with his mind full of strange and
painful deliberations. His pretty Innocent, the rare and strange
creature whom he had coveted as the very crown and flower of all his
rarities and costly possessions, was it possible that the first sign of
his acquisition of her was this plunge into terrible realities affecting
life and death? He took a different view of the matter from that which
had occurred to the Eastwoods. He never doubted that things were as she
had said, and that Amanda’s death had really been caused by the
excessive opiate. Such things had happened ere now, a painful and
haunting recollection, no doubt, to those unhappily involved in them,
but not coming within any possible range of crime, or calling for the
penalties of justice. To any creature in her senses the situation,
though most painful, would have been simple enough. Had Innocent alarmed
the house at once, had she called for instant help, and informed the
attendants what had happened, she might indeed have regretted and
grieved all her life, but she would have been delivered from all blame.
But--God help the poor child!--she had done everything, on the contrary,
to draw suspicion upon her, to give an air of real guilt to her wild
proceedings. Sir Alexis could not even make out how it was that up to
this time no notice had been taken of such an extraordinary incident.
Had the family concluded to hush it up? had they managed to bribe or
intimidate the doctor to hush all reports? That seemed almost incredible
too. As he went quickly along he planned out and resolved upon a totally
different style of proceeding. To have the matter investigated at once,
and have Innocent’s real share in it fully ascertained, seemed the only
expedient possible. Without that what horrors might hang over her; what
accusations ready to be brought up in after days if she made any
enemies, or if he made any enemies, which was more likely! Thus he went
on with a very anxious face to The Elms, where Innocent’s absence had
just been discovered with consternation. Nelly had been searching for
her through the garden, and came in breathless through the conservatory,
as Sir Alexis entered by the drawing-room door.

“She is not in the garden,” he heard Nelly say, in a tone of fright and
anxiety. The ladies were both pale, and looked at each other with
miserable embarrassment when he came in. Here was one of those domestic
agonies which women have to suffer so often--a terrible emergency
demanding all their thoughts, and an indifferent visitor suddenly thrust
into it, to whom they must say nothing, betray nothing. Sir Alexis
relieved them however at once of their pain.

“You are anxious about Innocent?” he said. “I have come at once to
relieve you. She is with me--that is, with my sister--she is quite

“With you, Sir Alexis? Where did you find her? She must have gone
out--for a walk--” said Mrs. Eastwood, struggling to show neither her
great surprise nor her still greater relief.

“We are old friends,” cried Sir Alexis, taking Mrs. Eastwood’s hand. “We
have known a great deal about each other for years. Do not let it vex
you that I know this. Innocent has told me everything; she has put
herself in my hands.”

“Innocent--has put herself in your hands?--Are we dreaming, Nelly?”
cried Mrs. Eastwood, struck by the apparent slight, the apparent
abandonment, and looking at her visitor with mingled offence,
mortification, and wonder. “Do you mean that she has gone to you--from
us---- Sir Alexis, this cannot be the child’s doing. It is an
unpardonable interference--an--intrusion----”

“Hear me first,” he said. “I am guiltless in the matter. It _is_ the
child’s own doing. Something frightened her--about Frederick--I cannot
tell you what. I had told her that I was at her service if ever she
wanted me. You know how one says such words. She came to me this
morning. She has consented to be my wife--” he went on gravely, after a
pause--“of her own will--and she has told me all her story. Naturally I
have come to you at once----”

There was a pause--they looked at each other, each uncertain what was
the next step to be taken--the next word to be said.

“She has--consented----” Mrs. Eastwood repeated in dismay. “Sir Alexis,
I am her nearest relation, her only guardian;--I cannot let you suffer
for the sake of honour. When you spoke to her first there was no such
cloud upon her, poor child. I cannot let you take our burden upon

“I do not object to the burden,” he said gravely--“with her I accept it,
such as it is. I do not ask for your sanction, because you gave it
formally--you authorized my addresses to her. The question is now what
can we best do to set this painful business at rest--to prove that it
was mere accident--a chance that might happen to any one----”

“It is a delusion!” cried Mrs. Eastwood. “A mere delusion! there is
nothing in it. Oh, Sir Alexis, believe me, though my children doubt. I
hastened down to Sterborne as soon as Innocent came back; I got there on
Monday morning--I saw all Mrs. Frederick’s family, every one concerned;
the doctor assured me positively that she died of heart disease, as he
had expected for years she would. Nobody had the slightest thought of
Innocent as any way involved. There is not a suspicion--not an idea--in
any mind but her own.”

Sir Alexis had risen as she began this statement, and gradually went
forward to her, holding out his hands. Mrs. Eastwood rose, too, half
sobbing, as she concluded, and gave him hers.

“Is this true?” he cried, with the water in his eyes, the unspeakable
sense of relief proving to him, for the first time, what a horrible
weight had been lying on his heart.

“Absolutely true!” she said, through her tears--feeling as she said it
convinced by his faith, and by the intensity of her own words. What
could be more sure? Every word she said to him was fact, as distinct and
clear as it could be expressed--and yet----

Sir Alexis’ relief was so great that he rose into instant exhilaration
and happiness. He dismissed the subject for the moment, and unfolded to
Innocent’s guardian all he meant and wished to do. No end could be
served, he said, by delay. He wished to marry her as soon as possible,
to take her to Longueville, to Italy, to restore the freshness of her
mind by new scenes. And the others, glad of the relief, entered into
this lighter talk, and became almost merry over Innocent’s prospects.
Yet Sir Alexis left The Elms almost with as grave a countenance as he
had entered it. When the conversation returned to the subject of poor
Innocent’s “delusion,” the further information they gave him brought
back painful uncertainty to his mind. Was it simple delusion after
all--or was there something true at the bottom--something which might
still produce grief and sorrow to her, unhappy, and to all concerned?



It was thought best that Innocent should be brought back that evening to
The Elms, where Mrs. Barclay accompanied her full of smiles and
congratulations. “Since he could not have the one, my dear, he set his
heart upon having the other,” she said to Mrs. Eastwood; “otherwise I am
sure he would never have married at all. He had made up his mind to have
one of your girls. A good mother makes a good daughter; that has always
been the doctrine in our family,--and oh, how glad I am that the old
stock is not to be allowed to die out! It will be such a disappointment
to the Huntly Longuevilles, they never could bear Alexis,--and I am sure
if I once saw him with a nice wife and a young family, I would wish for
nothing more in this world----”

“We must not go so fast,” said Mrs. Eastwood.

“Oh, no, of course we must say nothing about that,” said Mrs. Barclay,
nodding and laughing in supreme satisfaction. She and her brother
remained to dinner, and but for the moroseness of Frederick, who
contemplated the whole matter with almost savage dissatisfaction, the
evening would have been a more cheerful one than the Eastwood family had
passed for some time. Frederick, however, was half frantic in his
opposition when the party dispersed. He asked his mother how she could
permit such a sacrifice,--how she could allow such a child to pledge
herself to a man old enough to be her grandfather? “If you call that
love for Innocent, I don’t know what love means,” he said.

“It is Innocent’s own doing,” said his mother in self-defence; “it is
she alone who is responsible. I have had nothing to do with it, for I
feel as you do, Frederick,--to some extent.”

“To some extent!--I don’t know how you can limit the extent,” he cried
in fiery indignation,--“and how about this,--what do you call it?--this
fancy,--this delusion----? She ought not to be allowed to go out of the
family with such a notion in her mind.”

“Frederick, I am afraid you will be annoyed,” said poor Mrs. Eastwood,
“I was very much distressed myself. She--told him everything;--though,
indeed, if they are to be married, it was indispensable that he should

Frederick almost foamed at the mouth with rage and vexation. He refused
to believe that Innocent could have done anything of the kind of her own
initiative,--he insisted that some one had suggested it, that she had
been frightened,--that the idea had been put into her mind. After the
improvement and amelioration of his manners, to which they had been
gradually getting accustomed, he went to the very farthest bound of
their endurance. He would be no party to the arrangement, he
declared,--they might carry it out if they would, but without him.
Frederick, indeed, was stung to the quick by what seemed to him the most
manifold and most complicated invasion of his rights. Innocent had been
his slave since ever he knew her, and she was to be taken from him,--and
the secret of her delusion, or whatever it was, was exposed to a
stranger. His wife’s death, and Innocent’s connexion with it, whatever
that might be, all talked of, discussed, pulled to pieces by others! I
think Frederick had some ground for general irritation, though he had no
right to blame any one individually; he was very sore and very angry at
this revolution of affairs; he had begun to think that Innocent was very
pretty and sweet, and that he might reward her for her devotion to him,
when lo, there came, first this story about Amanda’s death, and then
Innocent’s sudden, unaccountable throwing of herself into Longueville’s
arms! By degrees he became less sore, and began to think that he
understood the latter incident, and Innocent, feeling what a great gulf
lay between them now, now that he knew what had happened, had fled to
Sir Alexis from her own despair and his. This made him less sore, but
not less sorry. He had been conscious that he must think of her no more
when he heard her revelation on the previous night, but as soon as
further thinking of her was useless, he felt that the revelation she had
made was nothing,--that it was indeed mere delusion, as his mother said,
and that Innocent, once removed out of his reach, became the thing he
most longed for in the world. Altogether, that night brought him little
comfort. He was impatient, unhappy, irritable, nay furious; and,
naturally, his fury fixed upon those who deserved it least,--upon his
mother and sister, who were absolutely innocent, and upon Sir Alexis,
who had been brought into the matter by appeal, without any action of
his. It was some days after this before he could even secure a chance of
speaking to Innocent alone. They kept her from him watchfully, yet so
naturally, that much as he chafed, he could say nothing,--and
Longueville was there in the evenings, filling him with suppressed rage.
At last fortune favoured him, and he found her for a few minutes alone.

“Innocent,” he said, “I fear you are going to take a very foolish step.
Who has advised you to do it? You ought not to marry Longueville,--a man
whom you cannot care for,--a man so much older than yourself.”

Innocent shrank from him into the corner of the sofa where she was
sitting. She made no answer,--but she shrank unquestionably, which made
him more angry still.

“You are very foolish,--because you have been unhappy, you determine to
be more unhappy, to leave no way of escape for yourself. If you marry
that man you can have no sympathy with him. He is older than your
father. Was there no one else in the world to help you, Innocent, that
you should have referred to him?”

“Do not be angry,” sighed Innocent, softly, turning upon him her
anxious, deprecating eyes. “No one else offered to help me. He is very

“Oh, kind!” cried Frederick, “is any one unkind? When you say such a
thing you accuse us all. Surely I could have helped you better than

“Not you, Frederick,” said the girl. She did not withdraw her eyes from
him, but a faint flush came upon her face.

“Why not I? You are thinking of this business about--my wife. That was
no reason why you should turn from me. Innocent, be wise in time, and
give this man up.”

He did not remember that she too had suggested to him to give up his
marriage, with more simplicity, but not less unreasonableness. She shook
her head half-sadly, half-smiling. She had no wish to marry Sir Alexis.
The thought, indeed, filled her with vague alarm when it occurred to
her. But he had taken her burden on his shoulders,--he had promised to
set it right. And Innocent, not asking any questions, had been able to
believe him. Such help no one else in the world had offered her. It
seemed the only thing she understood or cared for in her life.

Thus the time stole away,--the interval between this rapid settlement of
affairs and the marriage-day, which was so strangely unlike other
marriage-days. Innocent had her _trousseau_ prepared like other brides,
and The Elms was full of the excitement of the preparations. I am not
even sure, notwithstanding all the circumstances involved which
tempered the pleasure, that Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly did not derive a
certain enjoyment from choosing her dresses, and buying her “things,”
and deciding how this and that was to be made. She was passive herself,
and took little interest in what was going on, but she was a very
patient lay figure in their hands, suffering draperies of all sorts to
be tried upon her, without active rebellion. The other ladies had the
satisfaction of artists in dressing Innocent. She had never been
“dressed” before, and to get her up as Lady Longueville ought to be got
up, was a delightful exercise of skill and ingenuity. Men, no doubt,
have other solacements of a like character,--but one requires to be a
woman to understand the genuine, simple, and natural pleasures which
Nelly Eastwood, though her heart was sore, and her mind full of a
thousand anxieties, got out of her cousin’s _trousseau_. To try how one
thing after another would look upon Innocent, to see which shade, which
fashion would become her best, to fit her out, in short, for her new
position, according to their own ideal of what that position was, amused
the mother and daughter as few other things could have done, and
distracted them from their own cares. If you despise Mrs. Eastwood and
Nelly for this, my dear reader, I do not agree with you. The marriage
itself was one in which they had no responsibility. They had not been
consulted in it--it was Innocent’s own doing,--and considering all the
circumstances, and the peculiarity of Innocent’s character, it was, to
Mrs. Eastwood at least, as she said, “a matter of great thankfulness,”
that Innocent had selected for herself so efficient a protector, so kind
a guardian as Sir Alexis. “He will give her everything that this world
can give,” Mrs. Eastwood said, addressing an indignation meeting of her
own two younger boys which had been hastily convened on the occasion.
“He is very fond of her, and will consider her happiness in everything.
He is an old friend of the family, and it need not trouble us to know
that he is acquainted with all our circumstances.” This last remark was
intended for Frederick, who stood sullenly at the window, turning his
back upon the others, with his figure relieved against the light.

“Our circumstances?” said Jenny. “Is there anything in our circumstances
that may not be known to all the world?”

“That is all very well, mother,” cried Dick, who was less observant,
“but I don’t know how you can make up your mind to give Innocent to an
old fogie like Longueville. He looks a hundred and fifty. He has old
ways of thinking, old habits; in short, he is an old fogie, neither more
nor less, and she is eighteen. It is the sort of thing one reads of in
novels. Such things don’t happen in real life----”

“My dear boy--” began Mrs. Eastwood.

“At least they oughtn’t to,” said Dick, “and as for its being Innocent’s
own choice, what does she know about it? She has been talked over. She
has been seduced by all that trash of dresses and finery---”

Dick had spent half the precious morning helping to decide between a
blue silk and a green one, and he was naturally wrathful (after it was
over) at that loss of his valuable time.

“Innocent doesn’t care for that sort of thing,” said Jenny. “Has some
one been hard upon her? has some one worried her? I don’t know what my
mother means about our circumstances. I thought Innocent was to get the
same as the rest of us. She may have my share, if that will keep her
from marrying old Longueville. I don’t see why she should want to marry
any one;--I don’t.”

“How can I explain it to you?” said poor Mrs. Eastwood; “a girl is not
like a young man. If anything was to happen to me, what would become of
Innocent?--who would take care of her? You, or you? Dick, who is going
to India, or Jenny who has his own way to make in the world,--or Nelly?
Nelly will have some one else to consult----”

“You seem to put me out of the question altogether,” said Frederick,
“though it seems to me I have a right to be considered----”

“You!--oh, Frederick!--when you know how impossible, how out of all
question that would be---- But Innocent has put it out of my hands, she
has chosen Sir Alexis herself,--and when I think how much more he can
give her than I ever could,--what advantages--what means of

“The fact is, women are all mercenary,” said Frederick, “they cannot
help it. Money carries the day with them, whatever may be the drawbacks.
I have long known it. Innocent is simple enough in other things, but in
this she is like all the rest.”

And thus the family conclave broke up, even Jenny, who was his mother’s
champion, being unable to see his way to her defence in this particular.
Dick gave up the question with more light-heartedness, being unaffected
by theories, but Jenny went back to Oxford somewhat melancholy,
wondering if indeed “all women” were to be condemned wholesale, or
whether there would be any other meaning in the allusion to the
circumstances which could be trusted to Sir Alexis. What these
circumstances were, and the special mystery which enveloped poor
Innocent, neither of the boys knew.

The effect, however, upon the world at large was very different. In the
opinion of the Molyneuxes, for instance, Mrs. Eastwood rose to a far
higher degree of estimation than they had ever bestowed upon her before.
They even thought it might be as well that Ernest should be “settled,”
now that things had taken this turn. Nelly was not a bad match, all
things considered, and to be married would probably settle Ernest, and
the connexion was good. Besides, when the mother had done so well for
her niece, a poor girl whom she had “shamefully neglected,” what might
she not aspire to for her daughter? I do not know that Ernest was
stimulated in distinct words by these sentiments--but such feelings
convey themselves otherwise than by words--and the conviction came to
his mind also that now was the moment to conclude his long probation, as
he now chose to call it. “Don’t you think I have been kept hanging on
and waiting long enough?” he said to Nelly, whom he found immersed in
Innocent’s business, one morning, when, contrary to his habit, and very
unexpectedly to them all, he sauntered into the drawing-room at The

“Kept hanging on?” said Nelly, with a surprise she did not attempt to

“Of course, you don’t suppose it is of my own will that I have waited
for you like this,--almost as long as Jacob, eh, Nelly?--longer, I
should say, considering how much faster things go now-a-days----”

“I did not know that you had ever tried to shorten it,” said Nelly
slowly, growing very red.

“I don’t pretend to be able to subdue circumstances,” said Molyneux; “we
are all the victims of them, and I as much as other men. But it seems to
me, Nelly, that now’s our chance; now that Frederick has been
providentially released from his encumbrance, and that your mother has
made this triumphant stroke, and booked old Longueville for

“Ernest! I will not permit such words----”

“Well, well, don’t let us quarrel about the words--now that Sir Alexis
is about to be made happy with the hand, &c. By Jove, you may say what
you like, Nelly, but it is the cleverest _coup_ I have heard of for a
very long time. Altogether the family is in luck; and if you play your
cards well, and we can get hold of your mother when she is in a good

Poor Nelly’s endurance had been greatly tried. Her troubles which she
dared not confide to her lover--the sense that he could not be trusted
to enter into the closer circle of her family anxieties, and
consequently that his sympathy with herself could never be complete--had
long been gnawing at her heart and embittering all his careless words
and irreverent thoughts. She turned red and then pale, tremulous and
then rigid, in the passionate tumult of feeling which took possession of
her; but she kept herself calm with all her might, and answered him with
an artificial coldness which filled Molyneux half with ridicule, half
with dismay.

“How am I to play my cards?” she said, “and what is it that you mean to
ask from my mother when she is in a good humour?”

“Nelly!” he said, half laughing, half angry, “what does this
tragedy-queen air portend? surely it is a little late to get on stilts
with me. Of course you know as well as I do what I have to propose to
your mother. We can’t marry without her help; the responsibility lies
upon her of keeping you from being settled and done for--I and my
people are ready enough. When I talk of playing your cards, I take it
for granted you want our business to be decided as much as I do,--and
the very first step for us is to know how much she means to do.”

“I look at it in a different way,” said Nelly, plunging desperately into
the centre of the question which she had so long avoided. “Ernest, now
we must understand each other at last; I will not have any such proposal
made to mamma. I will not!--it does not matter what you say. If we
cannot do with what we have and your profession, it is better to put an
end to it altogether. I have not wished for anything, nor thought of any
thing beyond what we could afford,” cried Nelly suddenly, the tears
coming in spite of her,--“but I will not take our living from mamma!”

Molyneux was thunderstruck. “Why, Nelly!” he said, in the half-derisive,
half-affectionate tone which had so often disarmed her, “you innocent
little goose!” and he drew her within his arm. But Nelly was wrought to
a point which did not admit of this treatment. She withdrew from his
clasp, and stood fronting him, tears in her eyes, but resolution in her

“We must understand each other,” she cried. “I have long tried to say
it. Now I have had courage to speak, and I cannot go back. I will live
as poorly as you like--if you like; but I will not fight with my own
mother for money; I will not take our living from hers; I am determined.
But I must not bind you,” she added, faltering slightly, “if you think
otherwise. If you think otherwise--if there is no other
alternative--Ernest, I must set you free----”

“To speak to your mother?” he said, with a laugh in which there was some
relief. “I should have done it without all this declamation, Nelly.”

“No,--but to be free from me,” said Nelly, folding closely together the
hands which he tried to take.



The marriage of Innocent took place on one of the first days of
February, a day of the “seasonable” kind, with black skies, a dark gray
atmosphere, and occasional downpours of steady rain. The raw cold
penetrated to one’s bones and one’s heart, and even the show of costly
flowers which had been procured for the occasion failed to make the
rooms look cheerful. Innocent herself, in her white bridal dress and
veil, was like the snowdrops. Her head drooped a little, her cheeks were
not much less pale than her dress. She was not a blushing, or a smiling,
or a weeping bride. Her eyes were full of a certain awe, sometimes
varied by alarm, when the prospect of leaving home came uppermost; but
she was passive in all things, gentle and grateful, as calm in her new
position as she had been in the former. The only one thing she had been
anxious about, the one trouble and mystery in her life, had been set
right (as she thought) by her bridegroom’s exertions. He had taken upon
him to arrange all that: to explain it, to make everything clear; and
Innocent, trustful and ignorant, had not doubted his power to do so.
Mrs. Eastwood’s anxious assurances that she was mistaken, that her
belief about Amanda was a delusion, had never made any impression on the
girl. But when Sir Alexis accepted her story as true, and pledged
himself to set everything right, the practical part of her mind, which
was in reality the only intellectual part of her which had any power,
accepted his assurances, and trusted in them. Why should any one bid her
believe that it was a delusion? Innocent knew that it was no delusion;
but at the same time she was quite simple enough and foolish to believe
that Sir Alexis could set it all to rights, without inquiring how. He
would give her a caressing answer when she asked him about it, and tell
her that all was being settled; and in her ignorance she believed him,
and was lightened of her burden. The wedding was to be a very quiet one,
partly (as it was announced) because of Innocent’s health--partly
because of the mourning of the family. John Vane, who had been summoned
for the occasion, was to give her away as the representative of her
father’s family--for Frederick, morose and melancholy (feeling the death
of his wife, poor fellow--for she was very beautiful, though it was
quite a _mésalliance_), would have nothing to do with it. And a few of
Mrs. Eastwood’s friends and counsellors were in attendance, and two or
three friends of Sir Alexis; but it was not a gay ceremonial. The
Molyneuxes were present, for Ernest had not intimated to his family any
doubt as to eventual union with Nelly, nor had he accepted her virtual
dismissal of him; but they, like many other people, after having
received the announcement of the marriage with enthusiasm, had come
prepared at the last moment to criticize.

“How could she allow that poor child to marry such a man?” whispered
Miss Molyneux to her mother.

“Hush, child!” said the mother; “the Eastwoods are people who will do
anything for money.”

“How pale she is; do you think they can have used force?” the same young
lady asked of Ernest.

“No more force than that of wealth and finery--a force women are always
glad to yield to,” said Ernest, almost in Nelly’s hearing.

She heard the last words, and divined the first. They had “made up”
their quarrel, as people say, but Nelly’s heart was very sore, quivering
with pain present and pain past. Even the marriage itself was nothing to
be happy about. How would poor Innocent bear it, when she was gone, away
from all who cared for her, with her old-new husband? How selfish it was
of him, Nelly thought, to insist upon marrying Innocent because in her
trouble she had committed herself to him!--but all men were now selfish;
they were not to be judged as women are. It came natural to them to
consider themselves, their own will, their own gratification before
everything else. This conviction was the bitter product of Nelly’s own
experience, which she endeavoured to soften by generalization, as men
and women do invariably on both sides. All men were like that, she said
to herself; it took off something of the sharp edge of self-seeking from
the man whom she had herself chosen from all the world--or rather, who
had chosen her, as he himself would have preferred to have said.

John Vane did not come to her until the weary morning was nearly over,
till after the bride and bridegroom had departed, and the other guests
were dropping away. The guests in general had not been cheerful in their
comments; most of them had expressed themselves warmly delighted at the
prospect of so good a match for Innocent--but the compliments they paid
to the mistress of the house now were not so agreeable.

“I am afraid poor little Lady Longueville is very delicate,” said one,
shaking her head.

“Everything has gone off very nicely,” said another; “but I wish, poor
thing, she had looked a little happier.”

“I don’t understand a bride looking very happy on her wedding day,”
said a more benevolent critic; “and she is so young and

“He has plenty of experience for both,” said a fourth.

“I should like to see that girl safe back from her wedding tour,” said
Mrs. Everard, who was privileged to speak her mind. “She looks to me a
great deal too like a Lucia di Lammermoor, my dear. She wanted nothing
but her hair down, and a confidant in white muslin. I hope he will take
care of her.”

“There can be no doubt that he will take every care of her,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, who was tired and irritated. “That was my great comfort in
giving my consent.”

“Well, at all events, the responsibility is off your hands,” said Mrs.
Everard, nodding her head half in congratulation, half in pity.

Thus the marriage was set down on all hands as a mercenary match made by
Mrs. Eastwood, of which poor Innocent was the victim. Her very sons
thought so; and with better reason John Vane thought so, whom she had
thought of as her counsellor, and whose moral support would have done
her good. But how was he to judge, except as other people did, from the
surface? and Mrs. Eastwood felt that she must bear it all, and dared
not say anything in her own defence. John Vane was cold and grave even
to Nelly. He seemed to intend to go away without speaking to anyone
beyond the ordinary civilities; but something in Nelly’s face seemed to
bring him back from the door, when he had all but taken his leave. He
approached her reluctantly, she thought, and his manner was not as of
old. He told her he was sorry he had not known of this sooner--that it
must all have been arranged very suddenly--and that he would have been
glad to have been consulted about a matter so important to his poor
little cousin’s happiness.

“We should have liked more time, too,” said Nelly, in her turn
indignant; “but Innocent settled it all by herself, and Sir Alexis
insisted that there should be no delay.”

“Innocent settled it all by herself?”

“Yes, Mr. Vane; it looks very strange, but it is true. I see you blame
poor mamma, who never was a matchmaker in her life; but it was Innocent
who settled everything. I hate it,” said Nelly, with warmth; “and when
she sees what she has done--poor Innocent! But he is a kind man,” she
added, more calmly, “and he will be very good to her, as mamma says.”

“I do not understand Innocent,” said Vane. “They told me a very strange
story at Sterborne----”

“A story--about what?” said Nelly, growing breathless with excitement
and terror.

“She seems to have gone home in so strange a way, so suddenly, so oddly
altogether,” he said, with an uneasy look. “And yet she is not _really_
an idiot--only odd. I am very sorry for my sister’s sake--it has
disturbed her so much. Indeed, I often regret deeply that I took
Innocent to the High Lodge.”

“Oh, if you had not done so!” cried Nelly, with that horrible perception
of how a whole world of trouble might have been avoided, which comes so
often after the event. “Oh, if you had not done it!” Then she restrained
herself, as he could see, with a sudden movement of alarm.

“There is something behind that I do not know,” said Vane, looking at

“Oh, no, no, pray don’t think so! She was frightened and nervous: that
was all,” cried Nelly.

How she longed to tell him, to set him right in his injurious opinion,
to vindicate her mother and herself! Few of the only denials of life are
equal to this, when men or women are compelled by honour to abandon
their honour to public comment, and to accept blame which is not justly
theirs. Vane looked at her curiously, even with something like anxiety;
but he remained silent. He was confounded by all that had happened, and
offended by the complete want of confidence shown by them. And what
could he say beyond what had been said?--that Innocent had been
permitted, or perhaps induced--forced, the bolder spirits said--into a
mercenary match which she did not wish; which she was passive in, if not
less than passive? Vane stood silently by Nelly’s side, for some time,
wondering, trying to think what the secret could be--what extenuating
circumstances might exist. At least, he concluded to himself, Nelly
could not be to blame. She could have nothing to do with the matter; one
young girl would not help to force another on that painful road. Nelly,
at the worst, must have been herself passive--perhaps she was herself
fated to be the next victim. Vane watched curiously the greetings
between her and the Molyneuxes, as this thought passed through his mind.
The _aigre-doux_ of their salutations was unchanged; they were not
warmer than before, nor more familiar; it was evident that no change had
taken place, there, in the position of affairs. He thought it was
evident (looking again at Nelly herself) that she was not more happy
than she had been. Why had not Mrs. Eastwood exerted herself to further
her daughter’s prospects, instead of thus fatally deciding poor
Innocent’s? He went away at last with his mind in a very uncomfortable
state; grieved for Innocent, troubled about Nelly, wondering and
confused altogether. The only thing he was sure of was another
generalization, such as in all similar cases men find it safe to take
refuge in--that it must be the mother’s fault. She it was who must have
“managed” and schemed for the one gilded unhappiness, and who must be
permitting, for her own ends, the other. Poor Mrs. Eastwood! this was
all the reward she got for her much anxiety and motherly care.

Another incident had occurred a few days before, which she had confided
to no one but Nelly, and which had seriously disturbed her. Jane the
housemaid, whose quiet demeanour had lulled all her fears to rest, had
come to her suddenly, and demanded to be promoted to the post of lady’s
maid to the future Lady Longueville.

“Lady’s maid! you, Jane? but you don’t understand the duties,” Mrs.
Eastwood had said in consternation.

“Oh, ma’am, I know a deal as no one thinks of,” said Jane,
significantly, with a look that froze the blood in her mistress’s veins.

“That may be, perhaps,” Mrs. Eastwood said, trying to cover her
confusion with a nervous laugh; “but you do not know how to make
dresses, or how to do hair--or any of a maid’s special duties. Household
work is a different sort of thing.”

“My friends has told me to apply for the place,” said Jane, “and them as
knows thinks me well qualified. They say as how I have the best right. I
knows a deal more than any one thinks for,” the woman repeated doggedly,
like a lesson she had learned by rote.

A swift calculation passed through Mrs. Eastwood’s mind--was it better
to keep this dangerous knowledge within her own reach, where she could
prevent its evil use, or try to prevent it? or, on the other hand, would
Jane be safer within the steady grasp of Sir Alexis, who would stand
between Innocent and harm? It was a difficult question to settle in a
moment. Mrs. Eastwood leaped at the more generous decision; she took the
burden on herself.

“I have no wish to part with you,” she said, diplomatically; “but if you
want to better yourself, to try another kind of place, I shall be glad
to let you try how you can get on with Miss Ellinor at home. For Lady
Longueville, I should like a person of more experience to begin with.
You can speak to my daughter about it, if you please.”

“But, ma’am,” Jane was beginning, pertinaciously.

“No more just now--I am busy. After the wedding I shall have more time,”
said Mrs. Eastwood. But this interview gave her another ache in her

All these things concurred to make the wedding day a painful one. As the
family were in mourning, and as the wedding had been so quiet, they had
excused themselves from any further festivities in the evening: and who
does not know how dismal is the languid close of the day, when all is
over, after the excitement of the morning, and of the busy days
preceding, when there was so much to do? Dick sauntered about the garden
with his wedding favour still on his coat, shedding bits of wedding-cake
all over his path, which Winks, following at his heels, condescended to
pick up, though Winks had not approved of the wedding any more than the
rest of the family. Winks had never had any opinion of Sir Alexis. A
connoisseur, fond of art, of dainty furniture, and fine gardens, has
seldom much sympathy with the four-footed visitor, whose appreciation of
the finest collection is generally somewhat contemptuous, to say the
least. Winks retired to a corner when Sir Alexis visited The Elms. He
declined to take any notice of him. “He is not in my style,” the little
cynic said very plainly; and he retired from his usual leading part in
the family life while this objectionable visitor remained. Other events
that day had combined to derange Winks’s temper, and wound him in his
tenderest feelings. Mr. Justice Molyneux (for the Q.C. was now a Judge)
had attempted to give him a kick in the hall, where Winks was
contemplating the arrival of the guests with much dignity; Mrs. Everard
had trodden on the flowing fringes of his tail; he had been hustled out
of his favourite chair, and interfered with in all his usual habits.
Winks was very tolerant when this sort of thing happened in the evening.
He accepted the fact of a ball with a certain benevolent interest, and
wagged his tail condescendingly at the young people, bidding them enjoy
themselves, before he went off on three feet, like the philosopher he
was, to enjoy tranquillity in the one comfortable chair in the library,
congratulating himself that dogs do not dance. But a ball, or something
like a ball, in the morning was a mystery to Winks. He thought he had
got rid of all that crowd of unnecessary people when they went off to
the church; but to see them come back in full daylight, not twelve
o’clock, and fill the room once more, was beyond the endurance even of a
philosopher. He was so far disturbed out of his ordinary calm as to
bark indignantly when the bride and bridegroom went away, and a few of
the livelier spirits in the party, headed by Dick, threw old shoes after
them. Winks read Dick a lecture on the subject afterwards. He looked at
him with a mixture of reproach and contempt, as he stood in the hall,
with his hands full of old slippers. He was too much disgusted even to
follow his young master back into the house when the carriage drove
away, but shook his head and marched off round the side walk into the
garden, feeling that such absurdity was not to be borne. I cannot quite
explain how it was that he condescended to pick up the bits of
wedding-cake; perhaps with a thrifty idea that it was best they should
not be lost; or perhaps he was satisfied that Dick was ashamed of
himself, and saw the familiar book in his pocket which was Dick’s
signal-flag and intimation to all concerned that he had returned to the
duties of ordinary life.

“It was fun, though, by Jove, to see that old slipper with the high heel
hit Longueville on his old nose,” Dick said with a laugh, as he held up
a larger bit of cake than usual; and Winks, mollified, grinned in
acknowledgment of the joke. He made one round of the garden after the
cake was finished, to show that he was not mercenary, and then trotted
indoors, where, providentially, all was now quiet. The family were
assembled in the drawing-room, where, though the chairs and tables had
been put in their usual places, there was still an air of excitement,
and a sentiment of disorder. Winks came in and set himself down in front
of the fire, and looked at them all. “What do you think of your
handiwork now it is finished?” he seemed to say, severely, looking at
his mistress, curling up one black lip over his white teeth; he would
not condescend to wag his tail.

“Oh, Winks, don’t look so diabolical,” said Nelly, trying to laugh;
perhaps it was as good a way of relieving her feelings as crying would
have been.

“Don’t sneer, you brute!” cried Jenny, indignant. Winks fixed upon them
all a look of contemptuous disapproval, and then trotted off to a chair
at the window. They were not even amusing in their exhaustion--he
preferred his own company to theirs.

After a while Jenny followed Winks’s example.

“What a bore a wedding is,” he said, stretching himself, “in the
morning, leaving one’s afternoon on one’s hands. I shall go out for a
walk till dinner.”

“Don’t go out in the rain with your cold, dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood.

“Pshaw! what’s a cold?” said Jenny. The rain was nothing to the chill
discouragement and inarticulate vague misery which seemed to fill the
house from garret to basement. A sense of unhappiness, which he did not
know how to struggle against, was in Jenny’s own mind. Nothing
uncomfortable had happened to him in his personal career. He had
pleasant rooms, was in a good set, and fortune smiled upon him.
Nevertheless he too was dully miserable, as the house was; he did not
know why. He was too young for sentiment, or, at least, too boyish and
defiant of sentiment, to take himself to task in the matter, or
ascertain what ailed him. Perhaps even the boy was wise enough not to
wish to come to any clear conclusion in the matter; but he was dull,
dull as ditchwater, according to his own simile.

They were all going to a dance at Mrs. Barclay’s that night, which was
some relief. She was full of triumph and exultation in the event which
had brought so little comfort to the Eastwoods. She had asked
everybody--the Molyneuxes, who were to be “connexions,” through Nelly,
and John Vane, who was already her “connexion,” through Innocent--and
all the _habitués_ of the Elms. Jenny spent the time till dinner in a
wretched walk, and came in drenched, with his cold considerably
increased, which, on the whole, he was rather glad of; and Mrs.
Eastwood, yielding to the general misery of the circumstances at last,
went “to lie down”--an indulgence unknown to her on ordinary occcasions.
Dick went to his own room, where Winks, on being whistled for five
times, condescended to follow him; and they two, I think, had the best
of it. Frederick had sole possession of the library, where he sat over
the fire with his feet on the grate, and a countenance which was dark as
the sky. And Nelly went to poor Innocent’s room and put things tidy with
her own hands, and cried over the little empty white bed, as if Innocent
had died. A wretched day, rain outside, cold, dulness, and misery
within; but if people will marry in February, what else can be looked
for? for the home of the bride is seldom a very cheerful habitation on
the evening of the wedding day.



The ball at Mrs. Barclay’s was brilliant, and the Eastwood family were,
as was natural, the most honoured guests. And I suppose that Nelly and
her brothers, being young, enjoyed themselves, as the phrase is, and
were able to cast off their melancholy. Dick at least was perfectly able
to cast it off, the more especially as he met the reigning lady of his
affections--the girl whom he had many thoughts of asking to go out with
him to India--thoughts which were tempered by the wholesome fear of
having his proposal treated with much contumely as a boy’s fancy at
home. He danced with her half the evening, and sat out with her on the
crowded staircase, and consumed much ice and lemonade in her company,
and was very happy. Jenny, who had not been properly looked after in his
dancing when he was young, and was very doubtful of his own steadiness
in a waltz, stalked about the rooms and talked to the people he knew,
and said it was a great bore, yet was vaguely exhilarated, as one is
when under twenty, by the crowd, and the lights, and the music.
Frederick, of course, being still in the first gloom of his widowhood,
did not come. And, as for Nelly, though she expected nothing but to be
miserable, she, too, found the evening pass off much less disagreeably
than she anticipated. Molyneux, somewhat frightened by the decided stand
she had made, and piqued by the possibility of rejection after all, was
more constantly at her side than he had been since the early days of
their engagement; and Vane, looking more friendly than in the morning,
asked her to dance with him, on purpose it would seem to make up for his
former coldness. He kept aloof from Mrs. Eastwood, but he sought Nelly.
“If you will accept so poor a partner,” he said; “my dancing days are
about over.”

“I do not see why that should be,” said Nelly, looking brightly up at
him, pleased to hear his voice soften into its old tone.

“Ah, pardon, I do,” he said, with a smile, “I am growing old. I shall go
and set up a monkery one of these days beside my sister’s nunnery. I am
not like Longueville; no means are afforded to me of renewing my youth.”

“But you are not old, like Sir Alexis,” cried Nelly.

“Not like Sir Alexis; but old--tolerably old in years--a great deal
older in heart.”

“Oh, how wrong you are!” said Nelly; “on the contrary, you are young. I
am a bystander, and I can see better than you can. You are a great deal
younger than many who are--not so old as you are.” Her eyes went
wandering over the room as she spoke, and John Vane made out in his own
mind that she was looking for Molyneux--a thing which I cannot take upon
me to affirm.

“You give me consolation,” he said, shaking his head; “and, indeed, I am
young enough to be very foolish, and as curious as a child. I wonder
now--you are honest, Miss Eastwood, and say what you think--I wonder if
you would tell me the real cause of poor little Innocent’s marriage, and
all her odd ways?”

Nelly’s countenance changed in spite of herself, and in her mind there
rose a painful debate. Should she make him some conventional answer,
evading his question? or should she answer him in sincerity? After all,
she could harm no one by honesty, though it would make her answer
unsatisfactory. She looked at him gravely, trying to frame her reply so
as to reveal nothing; and then the natural honesty to which he had
appealed gained the upper hand.

“Mr. Vane” she said, hurriedly, “if I tell you that I cannot tell you,
will you be satisfied? It is a strange way to answer, perhaps, but I
cannot do any more. Perhaps some time--but just now I cannot. There is a
reason,” she said, growing more agitated. “Oh, please do not take
advantage of my wish to tell you, and make me say more.”

“Do you wish to tell me?” he said, touched in spite of all his

“Yes,” she cried, “and so did mamma. If we could but have seen you
before she went to Sir Alexis; you were the first person we thought of;
we have always felt we could trust you. Ah, don’t make me say any more!”

“I will not,” he said gravely. The anxious appeal in her face filled
John Vane with many feelings, the foremost of which perhaps did not
concern Innocent. “Confound the fellow!” he said within himself, as he
had done many times before; and it was not Longueville he meant. They
were silent for the rest of the dance through which this very serious
conversation ran, but Nelly felt that the cloud between herself and her
friend had passed away. He was a true friend, more to be trusted perhaps
than--some others who were really more important in her life. Nelly
reflected to herself that after all this serious position of counsellor
if possible--of sympathizer when counsel was not possible--was rather a
friend’s place than a lover’s. A lover (said Nelly to herself) is less
concerned with your family and affairs, and more with you. He wants you
to enter into his concerns, not he into yours; he is more fond of you,
and therefore more exacting. It is you--you--he wants. He thinks nothing
of so much importance as to have you to himself. This thought brought a
blush upon her cheek, and some small degree of momentary comfort to her
heart. It was flattering, at least--for passion is at all times a better
excuse than indifference. But John Vane saw clearly, with eyes unblinded
by passion--he was clear-sighted enough to see that something was wrong,
and being a good kind friend only, not a lover, tried to show his
sympathy, and to help if that should be possible. In this point of view
a friend might be more satisfactory--more consolatory than a lover; but
still friendship and love were very different things. This was the
argument that went through Nelly’s mind in the frivolous atmosphere of
the ballroom, and while she was dancing with some indifferent person who
was neither friend nor lover. “Yes, the rooms are very pretty, Mrs.
Barclay has a great deal of taste,” she said, through the midst of her
thoughts. “She is very nice indeed, always good-natured and kind. The
Longuevilles are coming back for the season to their house in
Kensington. They will not go to Italy till next winter.” This kind of
prattle can go on very easily on the surface of much graver thoughts.

“What were you talking to John Vane about?” said Ernest, when his turn

“About Innocent,” said Nelly, quietly.

“About Innocent! It must be very pleasant to have such an interesting
subject. You looked as if your whole hearts were in it--he asking and
you replying. An indifferent spectator might have thought the subject of
discussion more personal,” said Molyneux, with an angry countenance.

“Innocent is very interesting to me,” said Nelly, with spirit, “and also
to Mr. Vane. Though you do not care for her, Ernest, that is not to say
that I must become indifferent to my cousin. She has need of her
friends, poor child!”

“Poor child!” said Ernest, “I like that. She has just made one of the
best matches going, and got herself established as very few girls do, I
can tell you. She has carried her innocence to an excellent market,
Nelly. I don’t see why her fortunes should call forth so much
sympathetic discussion, especially between you and John Vane. I detest
the fellow, putting himself forward on all occasions. Who wants his
interference, I should like to know?”

“I do!” cried Nelly, bravely, “and so does mamma. He is the only one of
her relations who has taken any interest in Innocent. We should both be
distressed beyond measure if he did not interfere.”

“Confound Innocent!” said Molyneux, under his breath. “Why there should
be all this fuss about a half-witted girl is more than I can say;
especially now, when she is off your mother’s hands, Nelly. Our own
affairs are more interesting to me.”

“Yes, clearly,” Nelly said to herself, “a lover is very different. What
he wants is to have you to himself, not necessarily to please _you_;”
but she suppressed the retort which rose to her lips. She had no desire,
however, to prolong her dance, or to go out to the conservatory, or even
the staircase, where Dick was in Elysium, and which she herself on other
occasions had found very pleasant. “I would rather go to mamma,” she
said. “We are both tired, and I think we must go early. A wedding is a
very fatiguing business.”

“A wedding is a very tiresome business, especially if one never hears
the end of it,” said Ernest, and he left Nelly by her mother’s side with
considerable dudgeon. Though poor Nelly had explained it all to herself
so philosophically, and had even felt herself flattered by her own
definition of the peculiarities of a lover, she could have cried as she
sat down by her mother. She was prettily dressed, and her eyes were
bright, and altogether her aspect was such as to justify Mrs. Barclay’s
plaudits, who declared her, if not the prettiest, at least one of the
very prettiest girls present; but if she could have cried with vexation
and mortification and chill disappointment, it would have done her all
the good in the world. Instead of crying, however, she had to smile, and
to look pleased when Mrs. Barclay brought some new piece of emptiness up
to her with a simper on its countenance and a flower in its coat. “You
must not really go yet. I cannot have Nelly carried off in the midst of
the fun,” said Mrs. Barclay, “how can you be so hard-hearted?” and
Nelly’s mother had to smile too, and yield. Such things, I suppose, will
happen at balls everywhere, now and then, till the end of the world.

After this great event there followed another lull--a lull of strange
calm and quiet, almost incomprehensible to the family after the curious
interval of suppressed excitement through which they had passed, and
which seemed to have made an atmosphere of secrecy and mystery congenial
to them. Jenny returned to Oxford; Dick, who was approaching his final
examination, was once more kept to his work by every one in the house
with a zeal which his mother, who began now to feel the separation
approaching, felt almost cruel, though, moved by stern force of duty,
she herself was foremost in the effort. The only comfort in the matter
Dick himself felt was, that after this there would be no more Exams.--a
fond hope in which, as the better-instructed reader knows, a Competition
Wallah, with all the horrors of Tamil and Telugu before him, would soon
discover himself to be disappointed. In the meantime an additional
torment was added to him, in being recommended by everybody who “took an
interest” in his success, to read books about India in the few leisure
hours which hitherto had been dissipated by the aid of Mr. Mudie. Dick
did not object to “Tara: a Mahratta Tale;” but he kicked at the history
and travels in India which Mrs. Everard disinterred from her shelves for
his benefit. “I shall make out all about it when I get there,” he said,
piteously. “Why should a fellow be compelled to remember every hour of
the day that he is going to India? I shan’t have home so very much
longer. You may let me have a little peace as long as I am here.” At
this speech the tears would mount to Mrs. Eastwood’s eyes, and Winks
would come down from his favourite chair, and place himself before Dick,
and wag his tail sympathetically. When Dick continued--“Confound India!
I wish it was at the bottom of the sea,” Winks sat up solemnly and waved
his feathery forepaws at his young master. What he meant by this last
proceeding--whether to entreat him not to be too pathetic, or to mock
satirically at his self-pity--no one knew; there are moments of mystery
in all characters of any depth; some men are angry when they are in
trouble--some fictitiously gay when they are angry. All that can be said
is, that Winks expressed his feelings thus when his sympathy got beyond
the reach of ordinary expression, and the effect upon Dick, at least,
was always soothing and consolatory. “I won’t, old fellow, since you
make such a point of it,” he would say; and then Mrs. Eastwood would
laugh to hide her crying. In this way Winks found his way to the very
depths of their hearts, becoming a creature of domestic emotion, half
humorous, yet all-penetrating in its pathos.

Other matters, too, besides Dick’s training began to ripen towards a
crisis. Mr. Justice Molyneux had, as has been said, gained that
elevation which all his friends had foreseen for him, and the family had
proportionally risen in importance, and it had become a matter of
general remark among the friends of both parties that the engagement
between Nelly and Ernest had lasted quite long enough. “What are they
waiting for?” everybody said. Most people had a high opinion of the
young man’s powers, if he could only be prevailed upon to set to work.
His articles in the _Piccadilly_ were a proof that he could express
himself as forcibly and much more elegantly than his father, who in his
day had been a perfect master of the British jury, and whose summings-up
were now cited as models of clear-headedness--not elegant--the judge had
never gone in for elegance--but forcible and clear in the highest
degree. The son of such a father, with the powers which Ernest was known
to possess, and with all the advantages derived from his position, could
not fail to have a fine career before him. “What are they waiting for?”
Mr. Parchemin, who was Mrs. Eastwood’s financial adviser, one day took
upon him to say, “These long engagements are always doubtful things, but
sometimes there may be occasion for them--a clergyman, for instance. But
in this case there seems no reason. You must pardon me for my plain
speaking, as I have always taken an interest in Nelly. But what are they
waiting for?”

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Eastwood, who was sore on this subject, “till Mr.
Molyneux has fairly entered upon his career.”

“His career! My dear madam, a career does not come to such a man. He
must go and look after it,” said Mr. Parchemin. “I should have offered
my services--any little interest I have with the solicitors--long ago,
if I had not thought it quite unnecessary in the cause of his father’s

“I am afraid I cannot interfere,” said Mrs. Eastwood. “I don’t wish to
get rid of my daughter.”

“But, my dear madam, you prefer her being comfortably settled, I
suppose,” said the financial counsellor. And, indeed, he expressed the
opinions of all Mrs. Eastwood’s advisers. Mrs. Everard was still more
decided and emphatic. “I should speak to him, and ask him what he
means,” she said; “I should not put up with any shilly-shally. Nelly’s
happiness ought to be a great deal more to you than any nonsensical
scruples of delicacy. I should ask him what he means.”

“I do not hold Nelly so cheap,” cried Mrs. Eastwood, with a little flush
of anger. “I think the best man in the world is not too good for Nelly.
And he ought to ask her from me, not compel me to thrust her upon him.
No, not if he was the only man in the world!”

“For my part I should not be so scrupulous,” said Mrs. Everard; “I would
not stand on my dignity when my child’s happiness was involved. If
Nelly likes him she should have him--or I would know the reason why!”

“One can only act according to one’s nature,” said Mrs. Eastwood, less
amenable than usual to her friend’s persuasions. But the fact that
everybody did remark and wonder made her doubly angry with herself and
every one. Ought she to have offered sacrifices on her own part to
secure, as was the phrase, her child’s happiness? Ought she to have
taken the initiative without thus waiting, with a sense of proud
repugnance, for the “other side”? Was she risking Nelly’s happiness?
These questions Mrs. Eastwood asked herself with a troubled heart. Nelly
meanwhile went on tranquilly with her usual life, and made no sign.
Sometimes she would redden, sometimes grow pale, when Ernest came as
usual. He came always, but not so regularly as of old, and it seemed to
Mrs. Eastwood that Nelly’s expectations of his coming were not always
pleasant. She was as quick to recognize his ring at the door, and to
know his step, as ever, but no flush of joy came upon her face when she
heard them. Quite as often a line of embarrassment, of anxiety, of
incipient pain appeared on her forehead. The long engagement, was
it?--or something else? Certainly, as day by day went on, Nelly grew
more and more like one who drags a lengthening chain.

Jane, the housemaid, the most insignificant member of the household,
became also at this time an embarrassment and trouble. With a strong
desire to keep everything quiet, and hope that it might be accomplished,
Mrs. Eastwood had recommended Nelly to make experiment of her powers as
lady’s maid; and Nelly, half reluctant, had consented. “I hear you want
to try another kind of situation,” Nelly said to her. “Come and help me
while I dress, and then I shall be able to tell mamma what you can do.”

“It ain’t that I want another sort of situation--I want to be maid to my
lady,” said Jane.

“Well, it would be much finer, of course, than being maid to me,” said
Nelly, laughing; “but you had better try your skill on me first. If we
come to grief, it will not be of so much consequence.” This she said
merrily, being less impressed than her mother was, and much less than
the young woman herself was, with Jane’s harm-doing powers.

“That ain’t my meaning, miss,” said Jane, very solemnly; “I mightn’t
know enough for you, but I knows plenty for my lady. It’s a different
thing. My friends all tell me as it’s my own fault if my fortune’s not
made. I knows enough for my Lady Longueville--ay, and more than enough,
if all was said.”

“It seems to me you are rather impertinent,” said Nelly, reddening. “I
don’t know what you mean by it. I will take you on trial if you like,
because mamma wishes it; but Lady Longueville, you may be sure, will
not have you, unless you give proof of your knowledge more satisfactory
than words.”

“Oh, there’s sometimes a deal of use in words, miss,” said Jane,
oracularly. Nelly went down-stairs fuming to her mother, demanding that
she should be sent away.

“Send away Jane! Nelly, you are crazy. I might have let her go with
Innocent, trusting that Sir Alexis would be able to manage her; but
otherwise she must stay under my own eye. Think, Nelly, what she knows!
She heard what Innocent said, every word.”

“She is very impertinent,” said Nelly. “If you keep her she will grow
more and more so, and one day or other she will do the worst she can.
Why should you pay any attention to her? Send her away, and let her do
her worst!”

“Not for the world!” cried her mother. They had an argument about it
which almost came to a quarrel; but the result was that Nelly was
vanquished, and Jane stayed.



Some time after the above events, Frederick’s little house in
Mayfair--which had been the only advantage poor Amanda had gained by
marrying him, and which had been furnished according to her taste, in a
somewhat showy, modern fashion, with dashes of ill-considered and
ill-fitting antiquity--became vacant. The tenant who had taken it for
the winter months gave it up at the end of February: as it had proved a
somewhat profitable investment, Frederick, who had a lease of the house,
decided on letting it again, furnished. A little more money is never a
matter of indifference to a young man with expensive tastes, and he was
very willing to add to his income in this way. Before the house was let
again, however, it was necessary that all the personal lumber Mrs.
Frederick had left behind her should be cleared away. Her trunks, which
had been placed in one locked-up room, her knick-knacks, the trifles
with which she had filled her drawing-room, had to be put in order, and
either restored to their places or distributed to her friends. Frederick
found his mother and sister quite adverse to the office of looking over
Amanda’s “things.” Her clothes and her finery were objects in which they
took no interest, except the pitiful and painful one which now
encompassed everything she had possessed. But they would neither accept
this melancholy, tawdry inheritance which she had left behind her, for
themselves, nor did they feel any inclination to take upon them the
office of arbitrators and distributors among her friends. He sent for
Aunty in his perplexity from Sterborne. He had sworn to have nothing to
do with the family henceforward, but in this strait he did not hesitate.
Aunty came up to London on his application, almost by return of post.
The dead woman’s finery was all interesting to her. She had a pleasure
in trying it on, in estimating its value, in selecting some for herself,
in laying aside various articles for other friends. The office pleased
Aunty immensely; and as this sad but satisfactory piece of business
entailed the necessity of a prolonged visit to town,--where she lived in
Frederick’s house “like a lady,” with two maids to serve her, and a room
for a friend, and the most congenial occupation--it is not wonderful
that she should have regarded it with pleasure. It pleased Batty too
that his son-in-law, whom he described in his own circle as being proud
as Lucifer, yet acknowledged in this way the existence and the claims of
his wife’s family. He sent a friendly message by Aunty to the effect
that he himself would soon pay Frederick a visit. He had begun to
recover the shock of his daughter’s death. Marriage had already
separated her from him, and such grief as his does not resist the
softening influence of time and circumstances. Frederick’s “attention”
flattered and pleased him,--and Frederick’s family was always something
to brag of. Even Innocent’s marriage was a feather in Mr. Batty’s
cap,--“My poor girl’s cousin,” he called her. He was most amiable to the
Eastwoods, who had showed, he said, every respect to his girl. It was
only when any appearance of indifference to Amanda’s memory displayed
itself that his violence of grief returned. When some one suggested that
his son-in-law would soon marry again, his face clouded over; “Confound
him! if he can forget my girl so soon!” he cried; but Frederick’s appeal
to Aunty mollified him entirely. “He was bound up in my poor girl, was
Frederick Eastwood,” he said after that. And during the winter he had
been afflicted with rheumatism, and with brandy-and-water, as bad a form
of disease; therefore he had not gone to town, nor put his son-in-law’s
friendliness to the test. But the invitation to Aunty opened the door to
further intimacy; so Frederick did not intend--but so Batty thought.

It was a disappointment to both of these personages to find that their
host was not really their host, and that in reality it was an empty
house in which they were sent to live. The table was indeed supplied at
Frederick’s cost, and he himself was guiltless of any idea that he was
not doing everything that could be required of him; but Amanda’s
relations were sensitive. Then, too, the maids were not so respectful as
Aunty felt they ought to have been. They judged her, I suppose, as we
are all disposed to do, by her appearance, and were not careful to do
their service according to the strict measure of their duty. She had
expected to go to Frederick’s house to become for the time his
housekeeper and virtual mistress of his dwelling--to be supreme over the
servants, and have the management in her hands--perhaps to drive out in
the brougham which Amanda had told her of; and thus to relieve her
heavier labours by a few London sights such as had not for a long time
been afforded to her. As for Batty, though he intended his visit to be a
short one, he, too, expected to be Frederick’s guest, to see Frederick’s
friends, to go with him to his club, and to pick up at least a few names
which he could in the future produce among his friends as “cronies of my
son-in-law’s.” He had no intention of being hard upon Frederick. He
already knew, and had known before Amanda’s reign commenced, that the
morality of the young man was far from perfect. If he had discovered new
traces of indulgences similar to those he had witnessed in Paris, he
would have thought the poor fellow excusable, and would have made every
allowance for him. But it was a very different thing to arrive in
Frederick’s empty house--to be received by Aunty alone, whose society he
did not prize highly--to have a dinner served up to him imperfectly
cooked, the maids not caring to put themselves out of the way for such
guests--to be shown into a bedroom partially dismantled, and in which no
particular preparations for his comfort had been thought necessary. “By
George! What does it all mean?” he said. “It means that Frederick
Eastwood don’t think us good enough for his company,” said Aunty, who
was much galled by the want of reverence for herself shown by the
servants. “Well, well,” said Batty, persevering in his good-humour, “I
dare say he’s got other things to think of. I’ll set all that right
to-morrow.” In his heart he concluded that Frederick’s reluctance to set
up house with Aunty was natural enough, but his own presence would alter
all that. He put up with it accordingly the first night. He went to look
at his daughter’s dresses hung up to air in the best bedroom, and his
heart softened more and more. “I don’t doubt now as my poor girl was
very happy here,” he said, looking round upon all the fittings of the
room which had been hers. They were of a kind which he considered
luxurious--as such they had been chosen by _her_. No want of “respect”
was visible in this bower, which she had fitted up for herself. He went
to his own room after this inspection, melancholy and slightly maudlin,
but satisfied, and had a little more brandy-and-water, and concluded
that next day he should see Frederick, and set all right.

Next day, however, things were not set right. He went to the Sealing Wax
Office, and found that his son-in-law was out. Frederick was no longer
afraid of him, and the senility of fear was over for ever in his mind.
Before his marriage he would not have dared to be out of the way when a
man commanding the secret of his life called upon him; but everybody
knew now what a mistake and _mésalliance_ poor Eastwood had made, and
how he had been providentially delivered from it. Batty, gradually
growing furious, proceeded in the afternoon to The Elms, to call upon
the ladies. He saw, or thought he saw, them at the window, as he drove
to the door in his Hansom, and was about to enter with familiar freedom
as a connexion of the family, when Brownlow stopped him solemnly with a
“Not at home, sir.”

“Not at home!” cried Batty, “I saw them at the window. Take in my name,
my good fellow. I am not a stranger. Your mistress will see me.”

“My mistress is out,” said Brownlow solemnly--which was true to the
letter, as Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly had escaped by the garden door at
sight of the visitor, and were now deep in the recesses of the Lady’s

Batty looked at him like an infuriated bull--his face growing red, and
his eyes projected out of his head. “By Jove, sir, you shall smart for
this!” he cried in spite of himself.

Brownlow held his ground with all the imperturbability of a well-trained

“Not at home, sir,” he repeated, steadily. “Perhaps you would like, sir,
to leave a message? My mistress will be in to dinner.”

Batty closed the door of his Hansom with a crash that rang through the
whole neighbourhood. He drove off furious. But still, after all the
business of the day was done, he returned to the little house in
Mayfair, feeling it impossible that Frederick could have the audacity to
leave him another evening alone. He found Aunty again by herself, almost
weeping over the insolence of the maids, with another careless dinner,
indifferent service--altogether a contemptuous mode of treatment. “Hang
me if I stand this!” he said, making off as soon as he had eaten his
badly-cooked meal to his son-in-law’s club, resolute to find him, one
way or another, and “to have it out with him.” Aunty remained behind in
equally high dudgeon. She said to herself that “these Eastwoods” must
have suborned the servants to be insolent to her. Thus, in the most
unconsidered and, so to speak, innocent way did this unfortunate family
forge against themselves the thunderbolt which was to strike them almost
into social ruin. Frederick had certainly meant to avoid his wife’s
relations, but not with any such determined and insolent purpose as
Batty gave him credit for; and Mrs. Eastwood and Nelly did, indeed, run
out of the house in order to avoid receiving the visit of Amanda’s
father, but only from the impulse of the moment, without any concerted
plan. And when it was done, compunctions rose within the breasts of the
ladies. Mrs. Eastwood accused herself of her fault at dinner on the same

“Should you like me to call on--Miss Johnson, Frederick?” she said. “I
am sorry that Nelly and I were so foolish. I am sure I have often
received people I had as little sympathy with as Mr. Batty. Indeed,
poor man, I have a great deal of sympathy with him. Should you like me
to call on Miss Johnson?”

“Who on earth is Miss Johnson?” cried Frederick. “Aunty, do you mean?
Why should you call on her? She has not any social pretensions, that I
know of. Poor soul, to do her justice, she never went in for that sort
of thing.”

“Then you think I need not call?” Mrs. Eastwood said, with a look of
relief; “I confess I would rather not. Brownlow,” she said, some time
after, “you will find a parcel in the library, addressed to Miss
Johnson, at Mr. Eastwood’s. Will you take it to-night, or to-morrow
morning? Leave it with my compliments, and say I hope to have the
pleasure of calling before she leaves town. Perhaps it is better to say
that,” added the diplomatist. “Things might occur to prevent our having
the pleasure--but it is as well not to offend any one, unless we cannot
help it.” She said this without the least idea that anything more than a
breach of her own perfect good manners could be involved in offending
the Batty family. She had wounded her own sense of right and wrong by
avoiding Batty’s visit. It did not occur to her to think what effect her
“rudeness” might have produced on him.

The parcel in the library contained a few books, some music, a fan, and
a handkerchief, left at various times by Amanda at The Elms. Brownlow
grumbled slightly, as he went down-stairs, at this commission.

“If a man is to be kept running of errands all day long, ’ow is ’is work
to get done?” said Brownlow. Jane, the housemaid, not generally
considered very “ready to oblige,” answered this appeal at once.

“It’s a fine evening,” she said, “and I’d like a walk. I’ll take ’em for
you, Mr. Brownlow, and leave the message. My work’s done, and I’m sick
of needlework. Don’t say a word about it. I’d like the walk.”

“There’s some one a-waiting, I make no doubt, under the lamp-post,” said
Brownlow; and Jane had to bear the brunt of some raillery, such as
abounds in the regions down-stairs. She took it very calmly, making no

“There may be half-a-dozen under the lamp-post, for what I know,” said

Thus the matter arranged itself with the utmost simplicity. Never did
messenger of evil leave a household more unsuspicious. Mrs. Eastwood had
as little conception of what was in preparation as had the innocent
Brownlow, who would have walked to the end of the world rather than
accept this fatal substitute, had he known. But neither he knew, nor any
one. The soft spring air caressed Nelly’s face as she looked out from
the hall window, wondering if any one was coming, and saw Jane’s dark
figure passing through the gate; just as softly it caressed the
countenance of Jane herself, on her way to spread havock and
consternation. But the girl at the window had no fear, and the girl at
the door only an excited sense of importance. Jane had not even any very
bad meaning, so far as she was aware. She was bursting with the
something which she had to tell; this could not but bring some advantage
to herself, she thought; as for the disadvantage to others, she did not
realize to what length that might go, or feel that its greatness would
overbalance the importance and benefit to come to her. On this point her
imagination altogether failed her. I believe, for my own part, that
imagination is the first faculty wanting in those that do harm to their
kind, great or small.

Just about the same moment Batty, breathing fire and flame, had found
Frederick, and was pouring out the history of his grievances.

“Do you ask a man to your house, you fine gentleman, when you’re not at
home?” cried Batty. “Lord, I wouldn’t invite a dog, unless I meant him
to share my kennel. A miserable, empty place, with a couple of impudent
maids--that’s what you call giving your friends hospitality, eh? You
invite a gentleman like that----”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Frederick; “I am not aware that I ever
took so great a liberty as to invite you.”

“Confound your politeness and your impudence!” said the other: and
became so noisy that Frederick left the club, enduring without replying
to the abuse of his companion, who, however, gradually calmed down as
they emerged into the open air, where there was no one to hear what he
said. He told his son-in-law of the affront put upon him at The
Elms--how the door had been shut in his face, though he had seen the
ladies at the window--and demanded to be invited there, as a proof that
no insult was intended. “I don’t care twopence for your paltry dinner,”
he said. “Thank God, I can feed myself and all belonging to me, without
being beholden to any man or woman either; but hang me if I’ll stand
your disdainful ways. If you want to quarrel, say so; now that my poor
girl’s gone, you and your stuck-up set are nothing to me. But a man’s
honour’s his honour, however you take it. If there weren’t no affront
intended, as you say, get the old lady to send me an invite, and I’ll
look over it. I could not speak more fair.”

“What you ask me is quite impossible,” said Frederick. “Dine with me
to-morrow if you will, either at my house, where you are, or somewhere
else. I’ll arrange it, and I’ll give you a good dinner, a better dinner
than my mother understands. But I can’t interfere with her arrangements.
I live at home because it suits me, and there is room; but I never
interfere with her guests. My mother has a will of her own. She leaves
me my freedom, and I never interfere with her.”

From this position Frederick would not recede. Batty, stung by the
refusal, furious at himself for having asked, and at his son-in-law for
not having granted, left him at last with a mind on flame, asking
himself how he could be revenged on the ungrateful husband who, no
doubt, had ill-treated his girl and made her miserable. He soothed and
stimulated his feelings by extensive potations upon his drive back in
his Hansom to the little house in Mayfair. He would not spend another
night under that d----d roof, he would get his traps and go to his
hotel, where he was known as a man that could pay his way; the old cat
might stay if she liked, but as for him he would have no more of their
d----d impertinence. But he’d go to the office next morning and expose
the d----d scoundrel, d----n him if he wouldn’t. Thus Batty blasphemed
as his Hansom drove violently to the door of Frederick’s house. He
rushed in and mounted the stairs to the deserted-looking drawing-room,
in which there were lights. “Get me my things together, old woman,” he
cried; “quick, I have not a moment to lose. They’re all a pack of d----d
impudent good-for-nothings. I’ll see Frederick Eastwood at Jericho
before I stay another night in his d----d miserable house!”

Aunty was standing dissolved in tears, with a coloured photograph in her
hand, in a tawdry frame, a portrait of Mrs. Frederick which had been
done before she married, and in which her blue gown appeared to
perfection, if nothing else. She was not alone; another individual, of
whom Batty knew nothing, stood by in a corner, curtseying to him as he
came in. Aunty held out the photograph to him, with the tears running
down her cheeks.

“Look what I found in an old cupboard among the rubbish!” she cried;
“the picture we was all so proud of. Oh, the lovely creature! and them
as got her thinking nothing on her. And, oh Batty, there’s that to hear
as neither you nor me knows nothing about. Look at her, the sweet
darling! She’s been took from us, she’s been murdered! and neither you
nor me knows nothing about it! Sit down, man, if you’re a man and loved
your child. Sit down and listen to what this woman’s got to tell you.
Sit, Batty, don’t be thinking of yourself. Sit down and hear.”

He was at once stupefied and excited by the drink he had swallowed, and
lost in an intoxication of rage scarcely less confusing. The first words
of the tale to which he was thus entreated to listen called up in him a
passion of vindictive grief and misery more potent still. He listened
with muttered curses mingling with his sobs, looking at the poor faded
picture, the simpering image of his daughter who was dead--of his
daughter who was murdered--of Amanda, whom he had loved better than
anything in the world, and for whom he could take a terrible revenge on
the people whom he hated worse than anything in the world. He sat, and
sobbed, and swore, and listened. No suspicion had ever crossed his mind
before--now he felt that this was not suspicion, but certainty. That
girl had done it--that girl who loved Frederick--and by whom vengeance
dire and dreadful could be taken upon Frederick and Frederick’s family,
upon all who had slighted his child and slighted him. I cannot describe
the mixture of real emotion and fictitious excitement, of passionate
grief and injured self-love, of fierce desire for justice and wild
vindictive personal rage which overwhelmed him. It was terrible, and it
was horrible. Jane, frightened at herself, frightened at him, was not
allowed to leave the place where he was; he stayed at Frederick’s house
to mature his vengeance upon Frederick, and he seized upon his witness
who was all-important to him, with a force entirely beyond her feeble
powers of resistance. Jane, poor creature, not meaning so much harm to
others as good to herself, was there and then taken out of her own
hands. The harm, too terrible to think of, too fatal to forecast, was no
longer problematical. She had set the storm a-going, but only heaven
knew where it would end.



Longueville Hall, the principal residence of Sir Alexis Longueville,
Bart., is one of the first houses of its class in the south of England.
It is not of the first magnitude, but it is of the first excellence. It
has always been the home of wealth--nothing about it has ever fallen
into decay. The façade is pure Italian, and has been ascribed to a very
great name indeed in architecture; but in the east wing, which is the
oldest part of the house, there are traces (as the “Handbook” to the
county will tell you) of much older work. The kitchen is a great vaulted
Gothic chamber, whispering recollections of Wolsey, and guests
archiepiscopal at the least, and the building has been carefully toned
up or down to these relics. You can see at a glance that nothing has
ever been neglected or forsaken at Longueville Hall. The Longuevilles
had always been a very proud family, though Sir Alexis, by dint of being
of the younger branch--not a younger son, but, what is worse, a younger
nephew--had learned to veil his native haughtiness in a semblance of
theoretical equality; but even he had all the pride of the Longuevilles,
though he knew better than to exhibit it where there was no need of such
vanities. And to all the Longuevilles their house had always been the
first of houses, the one sacred shrine to which no evil was permitted to
approach. They had worshipped it with a certain superstition, and the
consequence was that few houses in such perfect preservation were to be
found in England. Almost all that remained for Sir Alexis to do when he
came into possession was the remodelling of the gardens, and the
rearrangement of the picture gallery--not that either was in bad order,
indeed, but that, as a connoisseur and amateur flower-gardener of the
first water, it was for him one of the first necessities of life to
conform these sovereign luxuries to his own fancy. Sir Alexis was
luxurious in everything. He was rich, and had few claims upon him beyond
those of his own tastes, and accordingly he had spared nothing in the
gratification of those tastes. The house accordingly was the pride of
the county, the standard of grace and of art for the whole district.
“Ah, you should see Longueville,” the rural squires said, when they were
told of Chatsworth or of Trentham; and when a newly-married gentleman of
the district remodelled his old rooms for his bride’s arrival, furtive
recollections of the reigning house were ever visible in his furniture
and flower-beds. Simplicity itself came into fashion through the example
of Sir Alexis; and, though the magnificence was less easy to be copied,
the attempt was made out with still more eager servility. Every new
detail in the great house was described and dwelt upon with unfailing
interest throughout the neighbourhood, and when it was known that Sir
Alexis was about to introduce that crowning novelty, that final luxury,
a young and beautiful wife, the interest rose to a climax. This was a
particular in which few of the rural great people could copy, in which
most of them had preceded, the baronet. But still in hall, and park, and
parsonage throughout the country the new Lady Longueville was looked for
with almost enthusiasm. People were honestly glad that the old house was
not to die out. Whatever advances democratical feeling may have made,
this pleasure in the continuance of a family is, I believe, universal in
England. It gave an almost personal gratification to people who had no
connexion whatever with the Longuevilles--such a gratification as
bystanders have in seeing an apparently failing cause or combatant pick
up strength, and gain at the very end an unhoped-for triumph.

There were all kinds of rejoicings on the estate itself, and it was
under triumphal arches, with ringing of bells, and sound of music, with
a bodyguard of mounted tenantry, and shouts that rent the sky, that
Innocent was conducted to her future home. I do not know if she
understood the full meaning of such a demonstration, or took in, in the
smallest degree (I do not believe it), the elevating sense of local,
almost national importance, the _quasi_-sovereignty which such a
reception might convey. But her mind was full of a kind of wondering
pleasure--the phantasmagoria in this case which glided before her dreamy
eyes was pleasant and bright, and amusing and pretty; and she had one
strong staff of reality to support her in her husband, her perfectly
kind and always attentive companion, who took complete charge of her,
told her what to do, cared for her in everything, and never scolded her;
conditions which made up all the Elysium Innocent had ever dreamed of.
Sir Alexis had happily hit upon the right key-note at the very
beginning. He had taken up, after careful thought, the position which
Frederick had stumbled into by chance, and which had bound Innocent to
him in absolute allegiance for so long. Sir Alexis, thinking it all
carefully over, and determined to be successful in this last great
venture of his life, had not been above taking a lesson, even from that
attachment to Frederick, which was the only thing he resented, and the
only thing he feared in his simple young wife; and the experiment had
all the appearance of being triumphantly successful. After the first
bewilderment and agitation inseparable from the beginning of a life so
strangely new and different from all her past, Innocent had settled down
with sweet docility into all the novel habits of her changed existence.
The magnificence that surrounded her pleased her. She took to it
naturally. The great rooms, the larger lines of drapery, the size and
space about her, supplied a want which she had vaguely felt during all
her life at The Elms. The want of space was the first thing which had
struck her on her arrival, and during all the interval she had been
conscious of it. To be sure, the magnificent perfection of Longueville
was very unlike the scanty poverty and bareness of the Palazzo
Scaramucci; but yet this great house was more like home to her than were
the smaller crowded rooms, clothed from top to bottom, of her Aunt’s
house. She had room to breathe. I think Sir Alexis was disappointed that
she did not choose for herself one of the smaller rooms, to make of it
her own special bower and the future domestic centre; but he was wise
and very tolerant, and did not interfere. “All that will come in time,”
he said to himself. He did not even ask questions about what she liked
or did not like, but skilfully watched and followed the unconscious
leading of her inclinations. Few men would have had the patience to do
this, as few men would have been able to gratify these inclinations as
they showed themselves. But Sir Alexis was capable of both.

I cannot follow out the course of this curious idyll. I suppose it is
within the bounds of possibility that a man of fifty might find himself
able to play the impassioned part of the young lover in an idyll of the
more usual land, though I avow that to a woman approaching that period
of life the possibility appears half humbling, half comical; but Sir
Alexis did not attempt this particular _rôle_, which indeed would have
been incomprehensible to Innocent. Their mutual position was of a
different kind. In marrying a creature so unlike ordinary women--so
undeveloped, so simple in mind and thoughts--Sir Alexis had accepted all
the responsibilities of the position. He showed his love for her rather
in the calm way in which a father displays his sentiments than with the
passion of a young husband. Her beauty delighted him, and the pride of
possessing so rare a piece of Nature to crown his collections; and her
simplicity--even her pensiveness and silentness had a charm for the man
of the world, whom the world had often wearied, but who found a kind of
renewal in the society of this soft companion, who accepted all he said
with little response but no contradiction, and who turned to him after a
while as flowers turn to the sun. And it would be simple foolishness to
say that Innocent loved Sir Alexis as women love their husbands; she was
incapable of such a sentiment; but she had a gentle affection for him,
made up of gratitude and the soft response to kindness which every
gentle nature gives. She learned soon and without words the pleasant
lesson that her comfort and happiness and well-being were dear to him
beyond everything else, that he would neglect no indication of her
wishes, no germ of inclination on her part. He took care of her whatever
she did, wherever she went, he shaped all his acts and his ways to
please her, or--which was just as good--he implied her acquiescence in
all he wished, and told her to do what she was glad and pleased to do in
obedience to him. He made her drive, he made her ride, he took her out
walking, he filled her life with gentle occupation. Sometimes she would
write something for him at his dictation, or at his desire--sometimes
she would play for him, pleased to think she pleased him, and with
growing certainty day by day that everything she did pleased him,
_because_ she did it, a certainty which is more potent in attracting and
confirming affection than perhaps any other secondary influence. And
haply Sir Alexis himself not only endured patiently, but enjoyed this
curious placid life, which was so strangely different from the ordinary
honeymoon. His pride was involved, as well as his affection. Many men
dream (I believe) of training their wives into perfect accord, perfect
harmony, or rather reflection of their own being; but few men have ever
had such an opportunity. Innocent seemed the blank sheet on which he
could write his name, the virgin wax which he could mould into any form
he pleased. He did not put actual educational processes in operation,
but he began to guide her towards the things that pleased him. He
praised her music, and so persuaded her to cultivate that faculty, which
was perhaps the only one by which she could have reached a certain kind
of excellence; he read to her, not inquiring much into her opinions,
hoping for little beyond impression, yet placing a certain trust in
that. He talked to her, and told her stories of people and places and
things, of pictures which she had a natural love for, and books which
she respected with a certain awe. His object was not only to ripen and
mature the pretty Innocent he was fond of, but to produce out of this
germ of being the Lady Longueville, who would be the mother of his
children, and mistress of his house--when his work was done.

They spent some weeks thus together, pleasant and soft and free from
care. Thus all February, with its winds and chills passed over them, and
March began. They had not, however, quite completed the honeymoon, when
a vague, indescribable shadow fell on this tranquil sweetness. The
shadow fell, not on Innocent, who, however, once or twice vaguely
fancied on looking at her husband that he might be “angry,” but on Sir
Alexis alone, who sat long over the newspaper one particular morning,
rose pallid as a ghost from reading it,--locked it carefully away in his
desk, and telegraphed immediately after to his solicitor in town. His
countenance was changed when his young wife came into the room, and that
was the first time that Innocent fancied he was angry, but when she
asked him, he took her in his arms with more passionate fervour than he
had ever shown before.--“Angry! my darling,--can I ever be angry with
you?” he cried, frightening her by his vehemence. The solicitor, Mr.
Pennefather, a serious man, whom Innocent had scarcely seen before, came
next day, and there were very long and solemn discussions between the
two men, during which she was left alone, and felt somewhat desolate,
poor child; but she was perfectly satisfied when she was told it was
business, and asked no questions. When Mr. Pennefather went away, the
shadows seemed to pass, and all was well again. The great woods about
Longueville began to thrill with the new life of spring, and to open new
buds to the genial sun. They seemed an emblem of their master, who was
also clothing himself with a new existence, and delights, and hopes. The
green slopes of the park surrounded the pair with miles and miles of a
lovely solitude, stately in immemorial splendour, yet fresh as a village
common. On the terrace, which occupied the front of the house, and upon
which opened the many windows of the great drawing-room which Innocent
loved, great baskets of flowers were already placed. It had a southern
exposure and was sheltered from the winds, and the gardeners were
skilful and many. Sir Alexis took pleasure in placing these great
bouquets of blossom in his young wife’s favourite walk; and if any
delicate plant succumbed to the frost, there were abundant means of
replacing it. In the distance the broad lawn was marked out with deep
golden lines of crocuses, and waving airy anemones, and every common
flower that loves the spring; for he was wise enough not to despise the
common children of Nature, the sweetest and most abundant riches of the
season. After the momentary cloud which had passed over their sky, he
was more tender than ever, more constantly watchful over her; and much
of their time was spent on this terrace, where they would sometimes sit
together, sometimes wander, from one end to another, talking as they
called it, which meant that Sir Alexis would talk and Innocent listen,
looking up at him with docile, grateful eyes--or reading, when she was
more attentive still, absorbed with the story; for it was always story,
either poetry or prose. This was how they were occupied on one mild
afternoon early in March. The sun slanted from the west upon the green
terrace, one end of which lay in full light, while the other was turned
into a chill corner of shadow by the projection of the west wing. The
husband and wife were walking slowly along the sunny side, now and then
making a long pause by one of the flower baskets, gay with hyacinths and
hardy azaleas. Sir Alexis, with the sunshine streaming upon the crisp
curls of his hair, which was getting grey, read to her one of Tennyson’s
lighter and more youthful poems. I think it was “The Miller’s Daughter.”
Sometimes, if he thought her attention was wandering, he would put out
his hand and lay it lightly on her shoulder, holding the book from which
he read in his other hand; and on these occasions Innocent turned to him
with a smile, in which a faint dawning sense of amusement at his
solicitude mingled with the natural dreamy sweetness. She was dressed in
a gown made of white cashmere, somewhat more akin to the fashion than
was her wont, yet falling in the soft, clinging folds peculiar to the
material, with a grace which modern fashion scarcely permits--and a
little cloak of pale blue velvet, gray-blue, with a bloom upon it such
as painters love, made after the fashion of the old cloak which had been
her constant wrap in Pisa. It was Sir Alexis who had disinterred the
ancient garment, and had learned the associations it had to her. He was
a man who thought of such trifles, and he had himself chosen with great
trouble the colour of the material in which it was reproduced. Her hair
had been allowed to fall down, as of old, on her shoulders. Nobody could
be more strenuous on the point of appearance than was Sir Alexis on
state occasions, but he liked to see his young wife look as childlike as
when he saw her first. Thus she strayed along by his side, a child, yet
with the mysterious maturity of wifehood in her eyes--a gentle vagrant
in a world not half realized, yet one whose simple feet had trod through
mysteries and wonders of life and death--the simplest of girls, yet a
great lady-sovereign in a breadth of country as great as many a
principality, and with power for good or evil over many a soul unborn.
The evening sun slanted down upon her uncovered head, the princely house
held all its windows open behind her, the afternoon bees, ready to fly
home, sucked their last at the hyacinths with drowsy hum, and the soft
grass felt warm under her feet. There was not a cloud upon the sky, save
those which had already began to perform the final ceremonial of the
sunset in the west. How peaceful the scene! Tranquil happiness in the
air, soft sunshine, nothing impassioned, lofty, ecstatic, but a gentle
perfection of well-being. Every line of those trees, every blade of the
growing grass, seemed to bear its part in the peaceful fulness of
enjoyment, which was almost too still and soft to be called by that

“The Miller’s Daughter!” Our poet was not the great poet we know when he
wrote that soft and youthful pastoral. There was nothing in it too deep
for Innocent. She listened, with her heart gently stirred, with a sense
of all the peace surrounding her, and the grave, calm love that
cherished her, and her own ineffable safety from all evil--smiling when
her husband laid his hand upon her shoulder. There have been scenes of
more exalted, more profound emotion; but none more soft, more safe, more
peaceful, safe, and sure than this afternoon scene at Longueville. The
very afternoon was tranquil in its slumberous peacefulness, like the
girl’s heart.

They were disturbed by the sounds of wheels ringing sharply upon the
gravel of the avenue, and dispersing the pebbles on all sides, as if
some one in hot haste was on his way to the Hall. The avenue was
invisible from the terrace; but this harsh sound offended Sir Alexis. It
was no carriage, but some impertinent two-wheeled thing like a dog-cart
which made this ado--he could tell as much by the sound. His brow
puckered with impatience; he stopped his reading. Something of the look
which had made Innocent think he was “angry,” a sharp anxiety, a sudden
pallor, came over his face.

“It is some Cockney party to see Longueville, no doubt,” he said, in a
voice which sounded harsh to Innocent. “But, thank heaven! they will be
disappointed to-day.”

The sound ceased, but he could not resume his reading all at once.

“That is the nuisance of having a handsome house,” he said; “all the
fools in the country think they have a right to come and see it. I have
no doubt these impertinent intruders will go away quite angry that we
choose to keep our house to ourselves. I do not know what the world is
coming to. But whom have we here?”

Two men were approaching, following the butler, who was a very solemn
personage, looking like a bishop at the least, but who this time was
pale and scared, with a curious look of warning and alarm. The men who
followed at first only conveyed to the beholder the impression that they
were “not gentlemen.” As, however, they advanced closer an indefinable
air about them began to take effect upon Sir Alexis, as it seemed to
have done upon his servant. The paleness of his face increased till it
grew ashen-grey.

“Had you not better go in, Innocent?” he said hoarsely, laying his hand
once more on her shoulder; but his voice was strange, not like the
gentle tone in which he usually gave her his instructions, and Innocent
kept her place by him, falling a step behind him, but showing no other
appearance of embarrassment or shyness. She was not looking at them, but
saw vaguely that the new-comers were not interesting to her. She waited
because her husband waited, to see what they wanted. It was an
interruption--but interruptions did not affect Innocent as they do most
people. “The Miller’s Daughter” and the lingering warmth of the spring
afternoon would wait.

“Two--gentlemen, Sir Alexis--to speak with you,” said the butler,
standing aside with an air of fright. He did not go away when he
announced them in this simple way, but stood still, like a man
paralyzed, not seeming to know what he did.

Shabby men--not such men as had any right to penetrate there--into that
region of refinement and splendour. They kept very close to each other.
One of them, the shabbiest of the two, kept so close on his companion’s
track that their shadows fell into one along the grass. The other
cleared his throat, shifted from one foot to another, took out his
handkerchief, and wiped his face. He was embarrassed and uncertain.

“Is there anything in which I can serve you, gentlemen?” said Sir
Alexis, with a voice so strangely altered by restrained excitement that
even Innocent looked up at him wondering, not recognizing the sound.

“I don’t want to do nothing disagreeable,” said the foremost, “or to
make any unpleasantness as can be spared. It is an ’orrible business,
make the best of it as you can. We won’t give no trouble as we can help,
Sir Alexis. She may go in her own carriage, and you may go along with
her, if you please. But I can’t disguise from you as my lady must come
with us. I don’t know how much you knows about it--and I don’t doubt as
one way or other she’ll get off----”

“What is the meaning of this?” said Longueville. O God! how well he knew
what it meant! He made a step forward in front of his wife by instinct,
then stopped short in the confusion of impotence, knowing that he could
do nothing, and that his only policy was to submit.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said the man, moulding his hat in his hands
with real embarrassment. “I feels for you with all my heart. I have my
warrant all in order. You shan’t be deceived nohow--and anything as we
can do to make the blow less ’eavy and spare ill-convenience you may
calculate upon. But I have to do my duty----”

“Of course, you must do your duty,” said Sir Alexis, pale, but nerving
himself for the worst. “But, my good fellow, here is evidently some
mistake. What”--he paused with an effort, for his lips were
parched--“what--do you mean?--whom--do you seek here?”

“If I must say it in so many words,” said the officer, “I have come for
my Lady Longueville. Here’s my warrant. It’s all in the paper.--‘Dame
Innocent, wife of Sir Alexis Longueville, Bart.----’”

“For what? Good heavens!”

How vain it was to ask!--as if since even he saw these men the certainty
of it, the shame, the misery, the horrible possibilities which might
follow, had not risen like a picture, pale against a lurid background of
suffering, before his eyes.

“For the murder of Amanda Eastwood, at Sterborne, on the 21st of October

For the first time Innocent was fully roused. She uttered a low cry--she
turned to her husband with a wild look of wonder and appeal.

“You said it would all be made right--all right!” she said, clasping her
helpless hands, appealing against her sudden misery to heaven and earth.



The next morning after this event, Ernest Molyneux, with a newspaper in
his hand, jumped out of a hansom at the door of The Elms and rushed into
the house. The door was open; a certain air of agitation and excitement
was about the place, some trunks stood in the hall, corded and labelled
as for a journey. He told Brownlow, who came out of the dining-room at
the sound of his arrival, to send Miss Eastwood to him directly, and
made his way into the drawing-room, which was empty. Empty, arranged
with all its usual peaceful order and grace, full of sunshine, sweet
with the flowers which looked in brightly through the round window-door
of the conservatory, with novels from Mudie’s on the table, Mrs.
Eastwood’s work-basket, and Nelly’s knitting. Nothing can excuse
untidiness in an English house--the housemaid must do her duty whether
we live or die, or even if things happen to us which are worse than life
or death. Molyneux was confounded by the tranquil comfort, the
brightness and calm of this shrine of domestic life. It checked him in
his eagerness and heat. The horrible news in the paper seemed to lose
all appearance, all possibility of truth. He calmed down. He asked
himself what he would have to say to Nelly after demanding her presence
in such hot haste if this rumour was not true. A little shame, a little
compunction came into his mind. He had not come here to console, but to
reproach. He had to wait for some time before she came, and in the
meantime the absolute stillness of the house, the tranquillizing warmth
and brightness of the sunshine, worked upon him with the most curious
effect. He became more and more ashamed of himself, and I do not know
what moral result might have been produced in the end had Nelly delayed
her coming much longer, or had her own demeanour carried out the effect
of this scene. But Nelly came in with red eyes and pale cheeks, in the
simplest of travelling dresses, with this look of mingled excitement and
exhaustion which more than anything else betrays “something wrong” in
the history of a family. She came in eagerly, almost running to him,
with that instinctive and unconscious appeal which is conveyed by
visible expectation, and which it is so difficult to disappoint, her
hands outstretched, her eyes ready to fill with tears. The sight of her
emotion, however, had an effect upon Molyneux which totally counteracted
the calm of the house. It restored him to his position of criticism and
superiority. He took her hands, it is true, and even kissed her cheek,
though with something of that indifference which comes with habit. But
he made no demonstration of sympathy. He said hastily, “Nelly, I am come
to you for information. Have you seen what is in the papers? Surely,
surely, it cannot be true!”

The check and sudden revulsion which comes to all who expect too much
came to Nelly. She withdrew her hands from him. Her tears, which were
ready to fall, went back somehow. She retreated a little from his side;
but her pride supported her. At that moment and for ever Nelly closed
the doors of her heart against her lover. It is true indeed, as the
reader will perceive, that she threw them open again once, and once
only, not knowing that her decision had been made, and believing there
was still a place of repentance; but certainly, though she was not aware
of it, those doors closed now with a crash of sound which rang in her
ears and made her deaf to everything else. She thought for the moment,
however, that the ringing in her ears meant only weariness and pain, and
sat down, to keep herself from fainting, in her mother’s chair.

“If you mean is it true that Innocent, poor Innocent, has done what they
say,” said Nelly, low and trembling, “but all the rest is true enough.
They have put her in---- Oh me! Oh me! how can I say it? It is those
dreadful people, whom Frederick bound himself to for a curse to us all.”

“But,” said Molyneux--he was more bewildered than I can say to find
himself uncontradicted, to know that anything so incredible was really
true--“but those dreadful people, as you call them, could not do this
without some cause, something to build upon. For God’s sake, tell me!
How do they dare? Is there any foundation?”

“Mamma went down to inquire the very day,” said Nelly dreamily,
repeating the old story; “she lost no time. She came back saying it was
sheer delusion, nothing more. There was no foundation. Every one was
quite satisfied that Mrs. Frederick died of heart-disease. Nobody,
except Innocent herself, ever dreamt of anything of the kind.”

“But Innocent herself--what was it that she dreamt of? What was the

“She had to give a sleeping draught, and she gave--too much,” said Nelly
simply. “She was frightened to death. She left the house instantly, and
came home. Oh, how well I recollect that dreadful morning. She came in
accusing herself, and Jane heard what she said. Ernest, could such
evidence harm her? Is it possible? Her own wild idea, nothing more.”

“I am bewildered by all this,” said Molyneux. “You have known it ever
since Mrs. Frederick’s death, and I have been allowed to---- You have
never breathed a syllable to me.”

“Oh, how could I?” cried Nelly. “Think, to put it into words was like
giving some sanction to it; and you were not fond of her as we were. It
was on my lips a hundred times. But, Ernest, you were not fond of her.”

“No, thank Heaven!” he said, walking up and down the room. The chief
feeling in his mind was anger, mingled with a certain satisfaction in
the sense that he had a right to be angry. “I hope, at least,
Longueville knew,” he added, after a pause. “I hope you think he, being
fond of Innocent, had the right----”

“Ernest,” said Nelly piteously, moved by one of those last relentings of
love which cannot, for very pity, consent to its own extinction, “surely
you have some feeling for us in our great trouble. It was because poor
Innocent told him, appealed to him, that they ever married at all. He
was very, very kind, very good--to us all.”

“Apparently, then, everybody has been considered worthy of your
confidence but myself,” said Molyneux; but, notwithstanding, the
knowledge that Sir Alexis knew made him think better of the business.
Longueville, he thought, was not such a fool as to have married a girl
against whom there was real evidence of such a tremendous character. “It
is a very good thing that you have Longueville to depend upon,” he said,
after a pause. “Of course, it is chiefly his business; of course, he has
been making his arrangements to meet the danger; he will get the best
counsel--the best----”

“Ernest,” said Nelly, rising from her seat. She put her hands together
unconsciously as she went up to him--“Ernest! We have often talked of
what might be, if something really worth your while should offer; not
mere troublesome law-business, but something that would really exercise
your mind--something worthy of you. And, Ernest, would it not be all the
more great, the more noble, if it was to save an innocent creature from
destruction? You know her almost as well as we do,” cried the girl, the
big tears running down her pale cheeks. “You have seen her grow from
almost a child. You know how simple she is, how innocent, like her name.
Perhaps she was slow at first to see that we loved her. Perhaps we did
not go the right way. But you have seen it all, Ernest; you have known
her from the first--from a child. She never was anything but a child.
And you are eloquent--you could bring any one through whose cause you
took up. Oh, what a power it is--and when you can use it to save the
innocent, Ernest! I do not say for my sake----”

She stood before him more eloquent in her tears than he, with all his
cleverness, could ever have been, with one soft appealing hand on his
arm, and the other raised in passionate entreaty. Her eyes were fixed
upon him with a prayer as passionate--all Nelly’s heart, all her soul,
was in this appeal. It was for Innocent--to save her; it was for
Ernest--to save him; it was for herself, poor Nelly, to change her
despairing into life and hope. Never was face more full of emotion than
the glowing, moving, tearful face, every line quivering, every feature
inspired, which she turned upon him. Her very look was a prayer intense
and passionate. But opposite to this entreating face was one which
lowered like the skies when everything is black with storm. Ernest shut
himself as heaven itself seems to close sometimes upon the prayers of
the despairing. He stood obdurate, unmoving, unmoved, looking at her
with blank brows, answering with a hard abstinence from all emotion the
imploring look, the impassioned words. Nelly saw how it was before she
had ceased speaking; but she repulsed the chill of certainty from her
heart, and prayed on with eyes and gestures, even when she felt herself
to be praying against hope.

At last he threw off, not roughly, but crossly, her hand from his arm,
and, as he himself would have said, “put a stop to it.”

“Nelly,” he said, “are you mad? What do you mean? Longueville, you may
be sure, has secured counsel already; I suppose he has not been taken by
surprise as I have been? And supposing I could do it, would you have me
begin my career under such unfavourable circumstances, on the spur of
the moment, for the sake of mere family connexion? I have often heard
that women carried their feeling for their own family a very long way;
but to prefer this girl and her folly to the interests of your future
husband--to ask _me_ to commit myself---- Are you mad, Nelly? Why, my
interests are yours--my character is yours. You should beg me rather to
keep out of it--you should keep out of it yourself, for my sake. What is
Innocent to us?--a silly, creature, half idiot, an ungrateful little
minx, fond of nobody but Frederick, and, I daresay, capable of striking
a bold stroke for him, as she seems to say she has done. Don’t look at
me as if you would eat me. I don’t say she has done it. I know nothing
but what you have told me.”

Nelly shrank away from him to her mother’s chair. A burning blush
covered her face; her tears dried up as if by scorching heat. Her eyes
flashed and shone; her whole aspect, her very figure seemed to change.

“I may ask at least one thing of you,” she said; “and that is to forget
what I told you. I was very foolish to say so much. Women are prone to
that, I suppose, as you say; but I may trust to your honour to forget
it? not to repeat it to any one? I shall be very thankful if you will
promise that.”

“Why, Nelly!” he cried, “_I_ repeat what you have said to me! You don’t
take me for a scoundrel, I hope, because I don’t act upon everything you

She smiled faintly, and bowed her head, accepting the assurance; and
then between these two, who had loved each other, who were betrothed and
bound to each other, there ensued a pause. She said nothing, she did not
even look at him; and he looking at her, feeling somehow that greater
things had happened even than those which appeared, cast about in his
mind how to speak, and did not know what to say.

“Nelly,” he said, at last, clearing his throat, “I see you are angry
with me; and, though I think you are rather unreasonable, I am very
sorry to vex you. I would do as much as most men for the girl I love;
but I should be compromising your prospects, as well as my own, were I
to plunge into this business without reflection, as you tell me. I am
sure, when you are cool and able to think, you will see the justice of
what I say.”

Still Nelly made no answer. She could not trust herself to speak; her
heart beat too loudly, her breath came too fast. But to him it seemed
obduracy, determined and conscious resistance, like his own.

“If this is how you take it, of course I can’t help myself,” he said;
“but you are very unjust--and unreasonable. A woman may stretch her
demands too far. There is much that I would be glad to do for your sake;
but, even for your sake, it is best that I should employ my own
judgment; and I cannot do what that judgment condemns----”

“No,” said Nelly, “No--I did not say for my sake; but if I did it would
not have mattered. No, you must use your own judgment. But will you
excuse me now,” she added, after a momentary pause, “if I say good-bye?
We are going--to Sterrington directly, and I have still some things to

“To Sterrington! To mix yourself up with Innocent, and trumpet your
connexion with her to all the world!”

“To stand by one of mamma’s children in her trouble,” said Nelly,
looking at him with tears shining in her eyes, and with a smile which
increased his exasperation a hundredfold. “I am sorry you do not
understand. Mamma’s place is with Innocent, and mine with mamma.”

“This is folly, Nelly,” he cried, “absolute folly. She has her husband
to look after her. Have I no claims? and for my sake you ought not to

She rose, holding out her hand to him, still with that pale smile upon
her face. “Let us part friends,” she said. “This is not a time to
discuss any one’s claims. What you cannot do for my sake I will not do
for yours. Good-bye.”

“Is this final?” he cried, in rage and dismay.

“It would be best so,” said Nelly gently.

But she did not know how he went away. She kept her composure, and
appeared, so far as he could make out, as resolute as she was calm; but
there was a dimness in Nelly’s eyes and a ringing in her ears. The room
seemed to swim about her, and his face, which flamed into sudden rage,
then went out, as it were, like an extinguished light. Gradually the
darkness that closed over everything lightened again, and she found he
had gone. She had not fainted nor lost consciousness, but a mist had
overspread her soul and her thoughts, and all that was done and said.
She sat still where he left her, quite silent, coming to herself. She
forgot that she had things to do, and that it would soon be time for the
train. She sat still, realizing what had happened, looking, as it were,
at what she had done. She was not sorry but stunned, wondering how she
came to do it--not grieved that she had done it. I don’t know how long
she sat thus; it seemed to her hours, but that of course was a mere
impression. What roused her at last was the entrance of another man, as
much excited, as anxious, and curious as Ernest had been. He came to
offer his services, to ask if he should go at once and put himself at
the disposal of Sir Alexis; and in the second place--only in the second
place--to ask what it meant. Nelly sat and listened to his eager
questions, and then burst into sudden tears. She gave him no reason for
them--why should she? There were reasons enough and to spare, without
diving into her personal history, for any outburst of sorrow. John Vane
put no questions, but he had met Ernest rushing in the opposite
direction, and I think he divined that some reflection of a personal
misery was in Nelly’s paleness and agitation. But he asked her no
questions, and he tried not to ask himself any, which was harder still.

When Mrs. Eastwood came into the room, which she did very soon after in
her bonnet and cloak ready for the journey, Vane went up to her, holding
out his hand.

“Forgive me,” he said humbly, “for having done you a temporary wrong in
my thoughts.”

“How so, Mr. Vane?” said Mrs. Eastwood, with a faint smile, the first
that had relieved the tension of her pale face since the terrible news

“I can understand now all about Innocent’s marriage,” he said. “God
forgive me for doubting her best friends. I thought you were like other
women--thinking of a good match above everything.”

“Are you so sure that other women think of a good match above
everything?” said Mrs. Eastwood, once more with a smile, and then as she
had spared a moment from Innocent, compunction seized her. “What are we
to do,” she cried, “oh, what are we to do for my poor child?”

“I am going with you,” said Vane, to whose own eyes (though he was a man
not given to emotion) the moisture rose. Mrs. Eastwood sent Nelly away
to put on her bonnet, knowing nothing of the interview which Nelly had
gone through in the meantime--and entered into all the dismal story
which Nelly had briefly unfolded to him. He made no reproaches as Ernest
had done--that he had not been told at the time. He understood without
explanations how unwilling they must have been to confide such a story
to any one, even to Innocent’s relation; and he listened with the
deepest attention to Mrs. Eastwood’s account of her own cursory visit to
Sterborne, and the total absence of all suspicion at the time of
Amanda’s death. John Vane, an idle man, had read for the bar in a wrong
way in his youth, not pursuing the study, but yet retaining some
fragments of knowledge--and it seemed to him that this was very
important. He discussed the whole matter closely, giving, his companion
thought, his whole attention to it; but yet--will the reader think less
well of John Vane for it?--within a corner of his mind or heart, if you
like the word better, he was following Nelly, wondering why she took so
long to put on her bonnet--whether she was crying, poor soul, over some
lost illusion, some disappointed hope of her own, as well as over her
cousin? He was almost glad to think that he alone was, as it were, in
her confidence--that even her mother did not know that Molyneux had been
there and had disappointed Nelly. He must have disappointed her (this
train of thought went on like an undercurrent while he discussed, and
that with an anxiety beyond words, the fate of Innocent)--he must have
disappointed her, for he had left her. No true lover--no man worthy to
be Nelly’s husband--would have left her at such a moment. Had she been
wise enough to see this? Would she be strong enough to perceive it
hereafter? Mrs. Eastwood did not know--she made not the slightest
allusion to Ernest. When Nelly had come down-stairs, and the cab had
driven up to the door which was to take them to the railway, she left
detailed instructions with Brownlow as to the messages to be given to
callers. “You can tell Mrs. Everard and Mr. Brotherton, if they call,
that they will hear from me very soon,” she said; “and the same to Mr.
Molyneux; though, indeed, Nelly, it is negligent not to have let Ernest
know sooner.”

“I have let him know,” said Nelly softly; and Vane thought she gave him
a piteous appealing look, as if to beg him not to say anything--a look
which almost made him glad, though she was in trouble, and they were all
in trouble. There are things that make one’s heart rise even in the
midst of lamentation and woe.

“That is well--that is always something spared,” said Mrs. Eastwood,
with a sigh; “and be careful of the young gentlemen, Brownlow. Ask Mr.
Eastwood if he would like any change made in the dinner-hour while I am
away, and see that Mr. Richard is called regularly at seven, and that he
has his coffee. My poor Dick must go on working, whatever happens,” she
said, taking her place in the cab with a sigh.

And thus Innocent’s friends, all who loved her, gathered round in her
direst need. There was but one deserter, and he no friend of hers.



“But it is true--I killed Frederick’s wife,” said Innocent.

Her voice was tranquil as usual; but her eyes were dilated and full of
woe, like the eyes of a dumb creature hardly used. The scene had
strangely changed for her. Instead of the sunny terrace at Longueville,
the sunny garden at The Elms, the four gray walls of a prison-cell
surrounded her. I will confess to the gentle reader that I never was in
a prison, and I do not know how it looked; but I never heard that there
were special hardships in poor Innocent’s case, and I believe, indeed,
that she was allowed many relaxations of the ordinary prison rules. She
was seated on her little bed, Mrs. Eastwood was with her, her husband,
and Mr. Pennefather, the solicitor, who had visited Sir Alexis at
Longueville, had come down to Sterrington with the eminent lawyer who
was to defend poor Innocent, to have a personal interview with her.
These two learned persons were subjecting the poor girl to a private
examination, and straining all their faculties to get at the exact facts
of the case.

“Oh, Innocent,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “how often have I told you, dear,
that you are mistaken. Do not give this gentleman a false idea. It is a
delusion, a mere delusion----”

“Let her tell me her own story,” said Mr. Serjeant Ryder, the lawyer. He
was impatient of interference, and it seemed to him that a woman in
tears, ready to interrupt his unfortunate client’s story by weak denials
of a guilt which the culprit confessed, was a most undesirable assistant
at this interview. “Let her tell me her own story,” he repeated, “there
is nothing so important as that I should know the whole truth.”

He had heard the story already, and had been led to believe the case
simple enough. But an experimental lawyer, accustomed to all the
subtilities of crime, does not easily believe in the most obvious story.
“Mere delusion” might, indeed, tempt a fool to accuse himself, but it
was not enough to explain a criminal prosecution, and all the
solemnities involved. I cannot describe the feelings with which the two
bystanders kept silence, and listened to Innocent’s story, which she
repeated as she had so often repeated it. Sir Alexis did not say a word,
and he put his hand on Mrs. Eastwood’s arm, restraining her when she
would have spoken. Innocent was left free to tell her own tale, which
she did in her simplicity, giving all the details with absolute
exactness and that curious matter-of-fact truth which was as
characteristic of her as her visionary looks. She forgot nothing, she
left out no circumstances. It was not until the second time of going
over it that she even interposed that gentle profession of innocence, “I
did not mean it,” in the midst of her full confession of guilt.

“You did not mean it?”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Eastwood, unable to keep silence, “how can you ask her
such a question? She mean it! She did not even do it, though she thinks
so--but mean it? Oh, Sir Alexis, this is too much.”

“I must take my own way,” said the lawyer. “I beg your pardon, but I
cannot be interrupted. You did not mean what? To hurt the sick woman, or
to put more than twenty drops in the glass? These, you perceive, are two
different things. Pray let me put my questions my own way. If I could be
permitted to see Lady Longueville alone, it would be much better. Your
feelings, I am sure, are perfectly natural, but if I could see her

Innocent put out her hand and caught at her aunt’s dress with a low cry.
“Oh, do not go away!” she cried, roused out of her usual calm. “It would
be better to kill me than to leave me here alone. Oh, if you knew what
it is to be alone!--all strange faces--nothing you ever saw before--and
not even the window as there used to be in Pisa, and Niccolo to come in
before he went away. Oh, Niccolo, Niccolo!” cried the girl, her voice
rising in a cry of such loneliness as went to the heart even of the men
who questioned her. She calmed down next moment, and looked with a faint
smile from one to another--from her aunt to her husband. “When it is day
and you are here it is different; but at night it is all a mist and
dark, and there seems no one but Niccolo in all the world, and Niccolo
is not here.”

“Oh, Innocent, my darling,” said Mrs. Eastwood, “if they would but let
me stay with you night and day----”

“Niccolo never stayed the night,” said Innocent, wandering off, with a
vague smile, into her recollections. “When he had put down the salad and
said, ‘Felicissima notte,’ he went away. I could hear his steps all the
way down the stairs; but I never was frightened. If he would but come in
and say, ‘Good-night,’ I should be happier--for sometimes I think I am
in Pisa now, only the room is smaller and there is no window,” she said,
looking up wistfully at the high window in the wall, which, with all her
exertions, she could not reach. While she was thus gazing with her head
turned away, the two lawyers exchanged significant glances. Mr. Serjeant
Ryder looked at Sir Alexis with a faint elevation of his eyebrows, and
shut his note-book with something between impatience and despair.

“I don’t think,” he said, “that I need trouble Lady Longueville any
further to-day.”

“Go and ask him what he thinks,” said Mrs. Eastwood anxiously in the ear
of Sir Alexis; but Longueville, too, shook his head. He saw well enough
what Innocent’s counsel thought; he had no desire to have his conclusion
put into words. He himself could not banish from his mind a chill sense
that Innocent had retrograded, that she had gone back ever so far from
the mental condition to which she had reached when he read to her on the
terrace at Longueville. A chill dread struck his heart that this
terrible event in her life would contradict all his hopes, would put a
final end to all her possibilities of development, and reduce the simple
unopened mind into mere idiocy. This horror of doubt being in his own
mind, it may be supposed that he had no wish to have it confirmed and
forced upon him by the voice of another. He shook his head and threw
himself down in the languor of despondency upon the wooden stool from
which his counsel had risen. This was almost the most bitter moment he
had yet gone through. She for whom he had hoped so much, his crowning
glory, his rare, unique blossom of humanity, would this be her
conclusion? She would be acquitted--on the score of idiocy! It seemed
the most hopeful, the only prospect before them.

Mrs. Eastwood happily did not give herself up to any such thoughts. Her
office for the moment was to cheer Innocent, not to forecast what was
coming. She sat down beside her on the bed, and told her everything she
could think of which would amuse her. She told her minutely how Nelly
and herself had found lodgings opposite the prison. “You cannot see us,
my darling; but we can see you,” she said, with a show of cheerfulness,
“at least we can see your window. One of us is always watching you,
Innocent. Is not that a little comfort to think of? If we cannot say
good-night, so that you can hear, we say it in our hearts. Nelly sat
half the night through watching, looking up at the window. What a pity
it is so high--if it were not so high you could look across the road to
us, and then you would feel as if you were at home. But when you say
your prayers, dear, then you can make sure that we are with you; for I
don’t think there is one hour--not an hour, my darling--that Nelly and I
are not praying for you.” Here for a moment Mrs. Eastwood broke down.

“Yes,” said Innocent, pleased, like a child. “I will do so too. Saying
your prayers is a very good way; but I wish I could go down-stairs and
across to the Spina as I used to do. I liked the chapel at the High
Lodge; the minster is too great. It is so strange,” she went on, with a
smile. “I cannot get it out of my heart that the Arno is down there, and
the Spina Church just as it used to be. It is because I cannot look out
of the window.”

“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Eastwood caressingly; “but of course you know
that the Spina is not there.”

“Oh, yes,” said Innocent; “and sometimes I think it must be Longueville
and the great trees stretching for miles--it is so strange not to see;
but I never think it is _home_. I do not feel that it could be home.”

“Listen,” said Mrs. Eastwood in Longueville’s ear. “She is as sensible
as any one can be--full of imagination, poor darling; but nothing else.
God bless her! she was fond of Niccolo, and all that. And it has a very
strange effect upon one, when one cannot see out of the window. She is
as sensible as you or me.”

Longueville shook his head still, but took comfort. I think, however,
that when he went away it was, on the whole, better for the poor
prisoner; for though the anxiety of the watch he kept upon her was
disguised as far as he could do it, it still disturbed vaguely the
absolute confidence which alone made Innocent happy. The doubt disturbed
her--she could not have told why. It was only when she knew that she was
entirely in possession of the sympathy of her surroundings, a knowledge
which she attained by no intellectual process, but by something in the
air, that Innocent lost her look of woe. Even the prison, the terrible
loneliness of the night which she had to look forward to; the shock of
this dreadful event which had taken place in her life did not prevent
her smile from regaining much of its simple sweetness when her aunt
talked to her alone, prattled to her--Heaven help them!--of subjects
much unlike those which one would expect to be discussed in a prison
cell, of every gentle folly that occurred to her, and trifles far enough
from her aching heart.

Mr. Ryder and Mr. Pennefather remained in Sterrington that night, and
there was a long and solemn consultation held after the prison was
closed to Innocent’s relations in the little sitting-room opposite the
jail where the Eastwoods were living. The Spring Assizes were
approaching very closely, and Innocent’s anxious defenders were divided
upon one important subject--whether to seek for delay and gain time to
collect all the evidence they could in her favour, including that of the
doctor’s, who had left Sterborne after Amanda’s death, and who was
naturally a most important witness, or whether to allow the case to come
on at the Assizes which was to be held in less than three weeks, and for
which the quiet country town of Sterrington was already preparing with
unusual flutter of anticipation, for an exciting and interesting trial,
a very romance in real life, which would draw the eyes of the world upon
it, was no common occurrence. Both the lawyers were anxious for delay,
but the family more immediately concerned were equally anxious that the
trial might be got over as speedily as possible; partly, perhaps,
because it was impossible for them to believe in any but a favourable
issue as soon as the case was fully gone into, and partly from the more
serious and substantial reason that all felt the impossibility of
Innocent bearing up against a lengthened interval of loneliness and
suspense. “The child will die,” Mrs. Eastwood said. Sir Alexis did not
explain his fears, but they were of a still more miserable kind. Whether
she lived or died, she would probably, he believed, have fallen into a
blank idiocy even before these three terrible weeks were over, and if
the three weeks were lengthened into three months, there could be no
hope for her whatever. “The trial must come on as soon as possible,” he
said, with an obstinacy which his confidential adviser, Mr. Pennefather,
who flattered himself that he knew Sir Alexis to the very depths of his
soul, could not understand, and no argument could move him from his
position. Altogether, the lawyers, I fear, were not satisfied with the
unhappy “relations.” It is true that relations are apt to be either
over-confident or over-frightened, and to insist illogically upon the
innocence of the accused, when the thing to be done is to prove that
innocence--a very different matter from believing in it. But their
obstinacy on the point of the trial, their indifference to the necessity
of the doctor’s presence, and the irrelevant interruptions made by the
ladies, at last provoked Mr. Ryder, who was not famed for his temper.
“These matters ought to be left entirely in our hands,” he said
peremptorily. “The doctor, so far as I can see at present, is the only
witness on whom we could depend.”

“But when I tell you,” cried Mrs. Eastwood, “that I was there--that no
one thought of such a thing--that it was a mere delusion----”

“What was a mere delusion?” said the lawyer sharply. “Did Lady
Longueville give the draught or not? Is she under a delusion as to the
actual opiate, or simply as to having killed the patient? If it is
certain that she gave the draught, then the medical evidence is all
important. We must discriminate between these two points. Is there any
proof, except her confession that she gave the draught at all?”

Mrs. Eastwood looked up quickly, with a hard, sudden drawing of her
breath. She looked round the men, who were none of them in her
confidence, and a sudden sense of fright sealed her lips. “They have no
proof that I know of,” she answered, faltering, and, taking courage,
bore the steady look which Mr. Ryder gave her without shrinking. As for
Alexis, his mind was absorbed in his own gloomy thoughts, and he paid no
attention to this little episode. Vane, for his part, had not heard of
the trial. Mrs. Eastwood withdrew soon after, trembling from head to
foot, and went to the little room, in which Nelly was sitting, gazing up
at poor Innocent’s high window with tender superstition, and threw
herself upon her child’s shoulder, sobbing and sick with misery.
Frederick had taken the phial out of her desk, and had thrown it into
the fire at the first rumour of doubt about Amanda’s death. She had
suffered him to do it, she could not tell why, and now how was she to
explain? What was she to do? To say that he had done it would be to
involve him, already, unhappily, too much involved, for whose sake it
would be the effort of the prosecution to prove the deed had been done.
And it was easier to be silent about it altogether than to tell how so
fatal a mistake had been made. The more Mrs. Eastwood thought of it, the
more she felt how serious a mistake it was; and if she could have said
truly that she herself had done it, I think she would have gone back at
once and told her story. But to say that Frederick had interfered, that
he had destroyed the only tangible proof of poor Innocent’s wild
tale--he whom everybody thought badly of already, who was supposed the
cause of all; who to every vulgar imagination, even to his own, supplied
the motive necessary to make Innocent’s guilt possible,--how could she
mention his name? how involve him doubly, making him, as it were, an
accomplice? With dismal confidence in chance, she said to herself that
no one knew anything about the phial; that it would not be thought of
unless she herself mentioned it. But after this she shrank from
discussion of the subject. She avoided any encounter with the lawyers.
She was to be, poor soul, one of the principal witnesses, and many a
miserable, anxious prayer did the poor woman make that God would direct
the minds of her questioners away from this one point upon which she had
gone astray. It seemed easier to her to trust to a miracle for
deliverance than to confess the truth.

During the interval which followed it would be impossible to describe
the alternations of hope and of misery which swept over the unhappy
family, who kept together in their little lodging opposite the prison.
They were allowed to be with poor Innocent during the greater portion of
the day, and then the ladies put on a semblance of ease, and even
gaiety, which was far from real. But in the dreary evenings they were
apart from her--and the evenings of March are still long--the
vicissitudes of feeling to which they were subject were like the
changes of a fever. Sometimes it seemed so impossible to them that any
one could for a moment believe so incredible an accusation; and again
all the horrible accumulation of proof would gather round their souls.
The love of the poor girl for her cousin--love which they had themselves
believed, and of which they but dimly now had come to recognize the real
character; her dislike, openly professed, for Amanda; her strange vigil
by Amanda’s side, brought about in so simply accidental a way, yet which
might be made to bear the aspect of a deliberate plot; her sudden and
unaccountable flight; her confession. When they recollected all these
things, horror would come over them, dismay, and almost despair.

These and a great many other particulars were in all the papers,
reported and dwelt upon with all the avidity natural when the public
mind has a story so interesting presented to it--a romance in real life.
There had been the usual horrible preliminaries, into which it is not
necessary for me to enter, before the warrant was produced for
Innocent’s arrest. Poor Amanda’s last repose had been disturbed to
furnish evidence, though, owing to the lapse of time, with little or no
result; but the circumstantial evidence had seemed so strong to the
magistrates before whom Innocent was first examined as to warrant her
immediate committal. All that the public knew in her favour was mere
supposition and hearsay, while the facts on the other side were very
apparent. One dismal feature in the case, however, which appalled all
who heard of it, was that while all Innocent’s friends were called for
the prosecution, it was by some cursed spite of fate only her enemies,
with one exception, who could be called for her defence. Frederick was
the only witness capable of saying anything about Amanda’s death who
would not be the personal enemy of the unhappy girl, and every one was
aware under what difficulties, and with what prejudices against him, the
man whom the public supposed the cause of the whole would appear before
a British jury. In such cases women have the best of it. A woman who has
been the cause of a deadly struggle between two men is not discredited,
but rather gains a fictitious interest by it. But a man for whom two
women have appeared to contend bears always a miserable aspect. Men
despise him, and women hate him; his evidence in favour of a culprit is
worth nothing, for he is supposed bound in honour to perjure himself, if
necessary, to shield the creature who has risked her life for him. The
public, as was natural, regarded Frederick with scorn and disgust. And
yet, with the exception of Frederick, only Innocent’s enemies, the
father, the nurse, the women servants, all committed to proceed against
her, could be called for her defence--a thought which might well have
appalled the stoutest heart.

Jenny Eastwood had started at once in search of the doctor, whose
evidence it was believed was of so much importance, and who had gone,
not to the Colonies, as Frederick said, but to Transylvania, and other
remote parts of Europe, with a scientific expedition. It was hoped that
he might be brought back in time for the trial. And the anxious days
went on--terrible days, but so full of eager consultation, of anxious
reviewing of every circumstance, of the efforts made by all to keep each
other up, and to support the poor girl herself, whose mind certainly
seemed to weaken under the effects of her confinement, that they fled as
if on wings. The unhappy family living at the prison gates, going to and
fro constantly, identifying themselves with the poor young prisoner, yet
probably destined to prove her guilt, became the object of much public
compassion. The newspapers enlarged greatly on the attractive theme, and
some graphic and eloquent journals went out of their way to paint this
striking picture of family devotion and suffering. But there were some
facts which even the _Semaphore_ itself was not aware of, which deepened
every stroke of pain. Batty pursued the prosecution like a fiend,
calling, as I have said, Innocent’s dearest friends to convict her, to
prove her foolish love, her wild expressions of dislike, her distracted
avowal of guilt; and the case, thus complicated and embittered, would
naturally fall to be tried by the youngest judge on the bench, the
well-known and justly-celebrated Mr. Justice Molyneux. Could there be
any bitterer drop in that cup of tears?



The trial of Lady Longueville for the wilful murder of Amanda Eastwood
came on about the 2nd of April, after some unimportant business had been
got over. The trial was one which was not only interesting in itself,
but doubly attractive to the district in which the Eastwoods had their
ancestral home, and where Miss Vane had set up so remarkable an
establishment. Sterborne, like every other place, had very strong
opinions about the semi-conventual life of the community which had
possession of the High Lodge. Some wished the sisters and their strange
lady abbess well, thinking that, whether wisely or not, they were women
really attempting a great piece of work while so many of us content
ourselves with saying that work ought to be done. But a great many were
virulent against Miss Vane, especially among the lower classes, and
these felt themselves almost flattered in their _amour propre_ by the
discovery that a niece or a relative of the mistress of the High Lodge
was to be tried for her life. Many of them thought it served her right,
many more that it was the natural result of nunneries, and that, on the
whole, it was rather a good thing that light should thus be thrown on
the doings habitual to them. Of others, and better-informed people, many
were curious on behalf of the Eastwoods, and some on behalf of the
Vanes. Sterrington, the county town, was sufficiently near Sterborne to
be affected by the strong feeling on the question which naturally
existed there: and the county itself attended the Assizes almost in a
body, half-glad and half-sorry that Innocent had never belonged to its
“set.” Batty’s daughter, too, was very well known in the district, her
beauty, her violent temper, and the match she had made having each and
all of them attracted public attention to her. Thus the ordinary
attractions of a trial in which the romantic element was involved, and
dark stories of love and mystery promised to be unfolded, were enhanced
by everything that local interest could add to it. The court was
thronged. There was as distinguished an audience as if the Queen herself
had come to Sterrington, or as if Titiens or Patti had been about to
sing; and the anxiety to get places was more eager than it would have
been on either of these occasions, for it was a real tragedy, at which
all the good people intended to assist, and which thrilled them with the
liveliest emotions of sympathy, horror, and fear.

Thus the court was crowded from an early hour in the morning when people
went to take their places as for a spectacle; every seat was filled,
almost from the floor to the roof, the Town Hall was one throng and sea
of faces, and it was with difficulty that the judge himself made his way
to the bench. Within the last week it had been expected that Mr. Justice
Waterhouse, Molyneux’s colleague, would try the case; but the day before
Sir Edward Waterhouse took ill, and there was no escape for the other,
whose usually good-humoured countenance looked gloomy enough on this
particular occasion. When Innocent appeared, who was the chief object of
the popular curiosity, there was that thrill through the place which
testified to the tension of excited nerves and highly-strained feelings.
She came in very quietly, with a wondering, scared look in her eyes, but
no other sentiment. She was not abashed, nor afraid to meet the gaze of
so many. Why should she shrink from their gaze? Innocent had been by
many supposed to be shy, but she had never really been shy--she had not
enough imagination for that painful feeling. Therefore she was not
abashed nor shame-faced, though a faint additional colour came upon her
colourless face. Her eyes had a look of fright because she did not know
what was going to happen to her, but of the scene she saw, or the people
who looked at her, Innocent was not afraid. She was in the same dress of
clinging white cashmere which she had worn on the day when she was
arrested, and had the little gray-blue cloak upon her shoulders. A very
light little bonnet, more like a white veil arranged about her head, and
throwing up her pathetic face against its white background--a bonnet
which had been made by a fanciful milliner to suit the strange beauty of
the poor young bride--was on her head. There had been many consultations
about this dress. Mrs. Eastwood had desired that her niece should wear
black, as being less subject “to be remarked;” but Innocent had been
unusually obstinate. She had carried her point, and accordingly made her
appearance in a costume which was quite bridelike, and certain “to be
remarked.” Nelly sat near the bar, as close to it as she could be
permitted to place herself, so that Innocent might see her, and feel the
support of a friend at hand if her heart failed her. Sir Alexis was on
the other side. She was surrounded at least by those who loved her best,
and perhaps no young woman ever stood in such a terrible position who
was less deeply impressed by it. She believed herself to be guilty, but
her mind was not weighed down by the sense of guilt. She had a vague
consciousness that something terrible might be done to her, she scarcely
knew what; but she was not given to forecasting the future, and for the
present moment perhaps Innocent was the least painfully excited of all
the family. She could do nothing, she was in the hands of those people
who surrounded her, billows of faces which indeed she did not know, but
who looked on her, some with visible pity, some even with tears, few
with an angry aspect. When the jury came in to whom she had been told to
look as the arbitrators of her fate, none of them appeared to Innocent
to be angry; and from the presiding seat, where sat the man to whom
everybody looked, and to whom the privilege of finding fault with
everybody seemed allotted, there appeared to her a countenance she
recognized, not awful, scarcely severe. And her husband and Nelly were
close by her, to take care of, to speak for, to prevent her from being
scolded. She knew vaguely that there was something worse than scolding
to be apprehended, but poor Innocent had never known anything worse, and
therefore her fears were not lively on this point. To be sure she had
already been imprisoned, which was worse than scolding; but the effect
the prison had upon her was much more that of highly disagreeable
lodgings than anything worse. She did not like them, she longed to go
home; but still she had been brought there in preparation for this
trial, and the very unpleasant room in which she had to live was one of
the circumstances rather than any positive infliction in itself. She
came into the court with these subdued feelings, and looked round her
wistfully with an appealing, pitiful look, in which, however, there was
neither terror nor overwhelming shame. Nelly felt the shame a great deal
more deeply, and so did Miss Vane, who was trying hard to accept and
subdue it as a mortification of the flesh, but who kept murmuring to
herself in her corner, “A Vane! one of our family!” with humiliation
unspeakable. Innocent did not feel the humiliation. She was scared, but
not abashed, and as she got used to the faces, her eyes grew more and
more piteous, wistful, appealing. When would they make up their minds,
all these strangers, and say to her what had to be said, and do to her
what had to be done, and let her go home?

Before I begin this part of my story, I have to confess to the gentle
reader that I was not there, and that I am very little learned in the
mode of conducting such tragical inquiries. Everybody knows how confused
are the narratives which those who have taken part in such a scene give
to the historian. Sometimes one informant will lose all general sense of
what was going on in a mere detail, or another burst forth into laments
of mournful shame over a foolish answer he or she has given, instead of
making the unfortunate narrator aware what that answer was. Under these
disadvantages I have to set forth this scene, which is the most
important in poor Innocent’s history, and I trust the kind reader who
knows better will forgive me when I go wrong.

There was some difficulty to start with in getting Innocent to utter the
plea of “Not Guilty,” a difficulty which had been foreseen, and which
indeed could only be overcome by the exertions of all her friends, who
had exacted a pledge from her that she should say the words, which were,
they explained eagerly, a “matter of form,” and profoundly true, at all
events, so far as her intention went. All her immediate supporters drew
a long breath when this danger was safely surmounted. It was, indeed,
more than a relief, for the pathetic way in which she replied to the
question, “What is your name?” by her ordinary, simple answer, “I am
Innocent,” went to the hearts of the multitude, and produced one of
those altogether unreasoning but most powerful moments of popular
sympathy which transcend all argument. A distinct pause had to be made
to permit the general emotion to subside before the first formal
evidence could be heard, and vain and foolish hopes of foolish acquittal
by acclamation swelled the breast of Nelly, at least, who, poor girl,
with old Alice alone to support, her mother being a witness, sat
searching for sympathy with her anxious eyes through all the eager

The first important witness called was Aunty, who came into the
witness-box in her deep mourning, subdued yet triumphant, feeling
something of that fierce pleasure in having the life of another in her
power, which seems to move humanity so strangely. She was by nature a
kind soul. Under any other circumstances she would have cried over
Innocent, and followed her fate with hysterical interest. But now she
could not keep herself from feeling a certain elation--a certain
satisfaction and superiority--at having the girl’s life, as it were, in
her hands, and being able to crush the family who had been unfriendly to
Amanda--the “other side.” She came fortified with a large white
handkerchief and a large double smelling-bottle, ruby and gold, which
had been one of Amanda’s properties, picked up during the unhappy visit
to Frederick’s house. Aunty, otherwise Miss Johnson, proved all the
particulars of the death in her examination-in-chief. She related the
unexpected arrival of Innocent--the sudden determination of Amanda to be
attended by her husband’s young cousin--and the preliminary scene in the
afternoon, before dinner. The witness had no intention of saying
anything untrue, but unconsciously she gave to her account of Innocent’s
behaviour in the sick-room an air of hostility and evil purpose.

“Mrs. Eastwood was in so little danger at this moment that you could
feel it right to confide her to the charge of a young girl?” said the
counsel for the prosecution.

“Bless you, she was in no danger at all!” said Aunty. “She was as she
had been often and often before.”

“And the young lady came, knowing she was ill, to help to nurse her?”

“Mrs. Frederick didn’t take it in that way; she wanted no new nurses;
she made the young lady stay with her to keep her from Mr. Eastwood, as
was a gentleman with taking ways. That is the truth, if I should die for
it! It was thought by his poor wife, and many more than her, as the
prisoner was fonder of Mr. Frederick than ought to be between

“I must appeal to the Court,” said Mr. Serjeant Ryder, “that this is the
introduction of an entirely new element not at all to the purpose.”

“If my learned brother will wait a little he will see that it is very
much to the purpose,” said the other. “I must really be allowed to
examine my witnesses in my own way. I have no doubt he will afterwards
make them as uncomfortable as possible in his cross-examination.--The
deceased had, then, a strong reason for retaining the prisoner with

“As strong as a woman can have,” said Aunty. “She knew as her husband
was no better than making love to his cousin. I have seen it myself over
and over. She kept knocking all the time of dinner for them to come up.
And then they went into the garden. My poor dear was angry. I don’t know
who wouldn’t have been; lying there ill, not able to move, and knowing
as your husband was carrying on in the garden with a silly young girl.”

“It must be acknowledged that the position was disagreeable. When the
prisoner was finally summoned did she show symptoms of displeasure? Did
she resist the call?”

“She was not one as showed much of anything,” said the witness. “She did
something or said something as quieted poor ’Manda. I was sent away for
quietness, as I told you, sir; and the prisoner got the book as I had
been reading, and read her to sleep.”

Then there followed a description of the next two hours, to which the
court listened with rapt attention. Aunty was not eloquent; but she had
a homely natural flow of words, and for this part at least of her story
the veracity of an eye-witness. She described the silence which
gradually fell over the room--how the patient dropped to sleep, not all
at once, but after repeated dozes, as was her custom, during which time
the reading went on; how at last all was still--how she, half dozing too
in the passage outside, went softly, and, looking in at the door, saw
Innocent also asleep, or feigning sleep, with her head on her breast,
the book lying on her knee, and the little table, with all its medicine
bottles, illuminated by the lamp beside her. This silence lasted so far
as she could judge for about an hour and a half, when she was suddenly
aroused by a loud outburst of voices from the sick room. “I was not
frightened--not to say more frightened than usual,” said Aunty. “She
often did wake up like that, all in a flurry. I heard the prisoner’s
voice, so I know she was awake, and Mrs. Frederick a-crying and
screaming for something. No, I wasn’t frightened even then; that was her
way; when she did not get what she wanted that very moment, she would
scream and go into a passion. It was through never being crossed. The
house was all still, everybody gone to bed but me; I heard the Minster
clock strike, and then I could hear her calling for her drops. I
couldn’t make out nothing else. Then I heard a moving about and a
rustling, and then all at once, all in a moment, everything was still. I
can’t say as I took fright even then, for now and again the passion
would go off like that all in a moment. I waited and waited, listening;
at first I thought as she had gone to sleep again. I said to myself, Now
she’s dropped off, she’ll have a good sleep, and the worst of the
night’s over.”

“Did anything occur then to excite your suspicions?” said the counsel,
as the witness paused.

“Oh, sir, nothing as I could put into words,” cried Aunty. “There was a
creepy sort of feeling, as went all over you, like as if it was a chill,
cold and quiet, both at once. I felt it, but I didn’t say nothing till
Mary the cook came slipping down-stairs in a fright. Then I took fright
as well, for she was always subject to fainting fits was poor ’Manda,
and the doctor had warned us. I dashed into the room, and there was the
poor darling lying back with her mouth open, and her big blue eyes wide
and staring, and oh! I’ll never forget that night as long as I live.”

The witness hid her face in her handkerchief. The feeling was perfectly
spontaneous and natural, and it affected the audience as natural feeling
always does.

“Compose yourself,” said the counsel soothingly. “Take your time; no
one wishes to hurry you. What was the demeanour of the prisoner during
the sad event?”

“I hadn’t no time to think of her,” said Aunty, sobbing. “She stood
about, that’s all I know, while Mary called up the other servants, and
we tried cold water, and everything I could think of. I can’t tell you
either how long it was before I ran to my poor child, or how long it was
before I saw that nothing was of any good. It felt like hours and hours.
The prisoner stood about in the way of the maids, and never did nothing
to help us. I think she asked me what was the matter, but I can’t swear
to it. The only thing I can swear to was as I saw her stealing quietly
out of the room when nobody was looking. I thought, perhaps, she was
going to call some one. I never thought as she intended to run away.”

“And that was the last you saw of her? She did not wait to see Mr.
Eastwood? She did not make any explanation, or offer any help?”

“Not a thing, sir, not a word, as I’m a living woman. She went right off
like a ghost. Mary, the cook, saw her a-standing at the door in the
moonlight, and she says----”

“May I ask if Mary, the cook, is to appear as a witness?” asked Mr.

“Certainly, a most important witness. We will, therefore, wait for
Mary’s own appearance to hear what she said.--In the meantime, I
suppose, you perceived the opiate had been administered?”

“That wasn’t till some time after,” said Aunty, with a little confusion.
“There was the glass on the bed as had rolled out of her poor dear hand,
and a drop or two of black stuff on the coverlet.”

“Was the opiate black?”

“Not as it ought to have been given,” said Aunty; “many and many’s the
time I give it, so I ought to know. It didn’t ought to have coloured the

“You did not attach so much importance to these circumstances at the
time--for what reason? The deceased, you have informed us, was not
dangerously ill?”

“It was along of them fainting fits,” said Aunty. “She was subject to
them--the doctors had always warned us as she might go off in one any
day, if we didn’t take care. We had to be very careful not to cross her.
As long as she was at home she was never crossed; but when a lady’s
married it’s different. I had been frightened for the faintings so long
that I never thought of nothing else--that’s the truth. If I’d had my
wits about me, I’d have seen in a minute; but being as it was, with all
them warnings against the faints, and knowing as she had been crossed
badly, and in a temper just before----the other was never put into my
head in a moment like; though it would have been, if I’d had my wits
about me,” she concluded, in a tone of defiance, facing the eager
listeners round her. The wary prosecution perceived coming danger, and
dismissed her with soothing compliments.

“You have given your evidence with great distinctness; that will do,
Miss Johnson. For the present I will not trouble you any more.”

Mr. Serjeant Ryder was peremptory in ordinary life, but he could be very
suave and sweet to a witness. He began his cross-examination with the
same compliments.

“You have given your evidence with so much distinctness,” he said, “and
discharged your onerous duty so well, that I am sure there are a few
further particulars with which you can favour us.--May I ask, for
instance, how your suspicions were first directed against the accused?”

This was an embarrassing question, with which the witness was scarcely
prepared to cope; but she got through it by a vigorous exercise of
mother wit, and told, not ineffectively, how Jane’s story cleared up to
her many difficulties which had dwelt in her mind in respect to Amanda’s
death, and how she felt at once that a flood of light had been poured
upon that event which, ever since it happened, she had been brooding
over, feeling that there was something inexplainable in it.

“I saw it all as clear as daylight,” she said; and as here again the
feeling was natural, she carried the audience with her, as every
practised eye could see.

“Still you felt no necessity at the time for any other explanation
except the faulting fits to which the deceased was liable. How long had
she been subject to these fainting fits?”

“From a child,” said Aunty. “When she was a baby she had to have
everything she wanted, or she’d have cried herself into fits. So every
doctor told us; it was not her fault, poor dear. It was something as
affected her heart. She could not put up with things as other folks have
got to put up with. She had very fine feelings, had poor Amanda,” the
witness said, once more hiding her face in her handkerchief. The
feeling, however, was fictitious here, and consequently did not tell.

“But it is sometimes highly inconvenient to have very fine feelings,”
said Serjeant Ryder. “You have said that she did not approve of the
friendship between her husband and his cousin. Was this the chief cause
of the excitement which brought on those fainting fits?----”

“Oh, bless you, sir, anything would do,” cried the witness incautiously.
“I have seen her fly out at myself for opening the door too quick or too
slow, or for putting a thing down on a table or for pinning my collar
wrong. It didn’t matter what it was!”---- Here Aunty discovered her
mistake, and added falteringly,--“I mean since she was married. When a
lady is married she is in the way of being put out, more than a young
girl at home in her father’s house----”

“How is that, now,--tell me,--I should like some information on that
subject,” said the bland lawyer. “Is it because a lady who is married
gets so much more of her own way? or less?”

“Lord, sir, what a question,--less of course. She was never put out, nor
allowed to be put out when she was at home with us; but when a girl goes
into the world, and has to be troubled with servants, and bills, and all
that,--not to say with a husband as would be enough to try a saint----”

(Episodes of this kind are amusing and exhilarating, I suppose, to both
the witnesses and the counsel, as well as to the audience, whose
feelings are thus preserved from undue tension,--but they are somewhat
hard upon the persons principally concerned,--Innocent’s friends looked
on with blank and rigid faces at this encounter of wits.)

“Are we to understand, then, that the deceased was cruelly tried by her

“I don’t know what you mean by cruelly tried--between cruelty as you can
go to law for, and the way a man ought to behave as is fond of his wife,
there’s a deal of difference,” said the witness, feeling that she had
the best of it. “All I have got to say against him is, that he was
aggravating in his ways,--most gentlemen is.”

At this there was a laugh,--notwithstanding the pale, piteous face of
Innocent at the bar--notwithstanding the tremendous issues involved to a
creature so young and so simple--and notwithstanding all the blank
faces, almost awful in their indignation, of her friends, the court and
the jury relieved their feelings by momentary laughter. Mr. Justice
Molyneux kindly allowed his features to relax; even in the midst of a
tragedy it is well to have a little buffoonery to lighten the strain.
The cross-examination went on, and Serjeant Ryder elicited many details
of the life of Frederick and Amanda, which proved conclusively that no
suppositious Rosamond was necessary to awaken her jealousy, and that
indeed jealousy itself, or any such intense feeling, was not needed to
rouse the excitement which was followed by those dangerous faints. A
large proportion of the audience present had some knowledge beforehand
of Amanda Batty’s temper, so that the revelation was very complete; and
it was a highly-interesting revelation, and gratified the curious. Every
popular assembly is greedy of such details of those exceptional human
lives which are separated by misfortune or crime from the decorum of
ordinary privacy, and delivered over to the gaze of the world. But
though it was thus interesting as a revelation, it did not advance the
cause of the prisoner at the bar, whose conduct in that mysterious
moment when she was with the sick woman was neither explained nor
affected by any of the details of Amanda’s previous life. Much less
interesting to the general mind were Serjeant Ryder’s attempts to
elicit distinct information from the witness as to the time which had
elapsed between Amanda’s last outburst of passion and the moment when
Aunty rushed into the room--“It felt like hours,” she said, and she
thought, but could not swear, that the hour which she heard strike while
Amanda was talking must have been eleven; or perhaps the chimes for the
half-hour after ten. This discussion, however, wearied the public which
had been allowed to taste more exciting fare.

After Miss Johnson’s examination terminated, the maids were called to
confirm her evidence, one of whom gave a picturesque account of the
sudden appearance of Innocent at the open door in a flood of moonlight,
while she was looking out for the doctor. She was herself standing in
the deep shadow on the other side, looking down the lane by which the
doctor must come. She described her own fright and wonder as the
noiseless figure paused, looked round, and then glided along through the
moonlight, until the next bank of shadow swallowed it up. She thought it
was a ghost, and could not scream for very terror; and it was not until
she knew that the young lady had disappeared that she identified the
noiseless, gliding figure. The maids both thought Innocent’s
disappearance thus very odd, but they both confessed that they had given
no importance to it at the time. Nor were either of these witnesses
clear about the time. One was of opinion with Aunty that it was eleven
o’clock which struck; while the other, who had not heard the clock,
concluded the hour to be later. These were the chief witnesses to the
event itself, for neither Batty nor Frederick were called. The former
had held himself ready up to the last moment, but his vindictive impulse
was so visible and so tremendous that the gentleman who held his brief
had almost thrown it up after an interview with him, and had insisted
upon excluding him from the witness-box.

Mrs. Eastwood was then called. This poor lady had been more unhappy than
I can tell ever since she was aware that her testimony would be called
for against poor Innocent. “What shall I say?” she had asked, with
clasped hands and streaming eyes, of Innocent’s counsel, from whom first
she learned the real gravity of her position.

“Tell the truth, ma’am,” that functionary had said sharply; for he was
prepossessed against the aunt, who had, he thought, endeavoured to keep
Innocent from speaking freely, and who had, no doubt, forced the poor
girl into a marriage which destroyed what little mind she had. Poor Mrs.
Eastwood tried to dry her tears and smother her indignation. And now the
dreadful moment had come when she must tell that truth in all its naked
bareness, without the explanations which she knew changed its character
so completely. Her appearance was for the public at least the most
exciting event of the day.

“You remember the morning of the 21st of October?” said the counsel for
the prosecution.

“Oh, indeed, alas! I do,” said the poor woman, the tears coming to her
eyes. This injudicious warmth of assent was indicated to her as
something wrong by the sharp cough of Mr. Serjeant Ryder, who, however,
did not look at her; but Sir Alexis did, and Nelly, who clasped her
hands and fixed an entreating glance on her mother, full of unutterable
things. These warnings did, I think, less good than harm, for they
confused the unfortunate witness beyond description.

“Something remarkable, then, happened on that morning? The prisoner was
absent from home, so far as I understand, on the day before?”

“She was on a visit at her cousin’s, near Sterborne,” said Mrs.
Eastwood, “or at least so I thought.”

“I see from the depositions,” continued the counsel, “that the prisoner
arrived suddenly at your house on the morning of the 21st. Will you be
good enough to inform the court of the circumstances attending her
return home?”

Mrs. Eastwood paused; she gave an anxious look round, to her daughter,
to Sir Alexis, finally to the familiar countenance of the judge, who
seemed to look at her with that twinkle in his eye of incipient sarcasm
and amusement which she had encountered before. She met, too, from a
distant corner the frowning, peremptory look of Frederick, who, being
far off, raised a finger to her in warning--warning of what? She drew a
long breath of reluctance and fear.

“I hope I need not tell a lady of your education,” said the counsel
peremptorily, “that hesitation can only harm the unfortunate prisoner.
No prevarication will help her. Everybody must feel for your very
painful position; but you are pledged, I must remind you, to conceal
nothing, to inform the court of the truth. The prisoner came home
suddenly on the morning of Sunday, the 21st of October. You did not
expect her, believing her to be safe with her relation?”

“I did not expect her,” said Mrs. Eastwood, faltering; “she was to have
stayed for some weeks; still, as she was a little peculiar in her ways
of acting, and very fond of home, and frightened of strangers, I should
not have been surprised, at any time----”

“You were surprised, however, on this particular morning? Come, madam,
the court is waiting. I understand you were not up when the prisoner
burst suddenly into your room?”

“She did not burst into my room at all,” said Mrs. Eastwood with
indignation. “When I opened my eyes, roused by the sound of the door
opening, I saw her by my side.”

“This was at a very early hour in the morning, before the other members
of the household were up?”

“It was about seven o’clock. The housemaid had let my poor child in as
soon as she went down-stairs. She came to me, naturally--”

“And when you woke under these unusual circumstances, and saw her by
your bedside, what did the prisoner say?”

Again Mrs. Eastwood paused. She threw once more a bewildered look round
the court. Then recovering herself, she turned with the dignity of
sorrow to the judge himself. “My lord,” she said firmly, “I don’t know
what to do. The words I have to repeat will shock and startle every one
who hears them; they will convey a false impression--they will create a

“The witness has no power of choice in the matter,” said the judge. “It
is for the jury to decide what is true and what is false. The facts are
what we must exact from you.”

Mrs. Eastwood grew very pale, so pale that all the women in the court
believed she was going to faint, and the greater part of them grew sick
with sympathy. “Then,” she said, in a very low voice, which, however,
was heard everywhere, so great was the silence, “if I must tell it, this
was what she said: ‘I have killed Frederick’s wife.’”

A long-drawn, sobbing breath of spent excitement, so universal as to
reach to a subdued but distinct sound, came from the crowd. The witness
stood for a moment leaning upon the front of the box, seeing nothing but
a mist of white faces--her brain whirling, her mind confused, with the
shock. It did not occur to her--how should it?--that her reluctance, her
paleness, her misery, were all so many additions to the force of her
testimony. What more terrible witness could have appeared against
Innocent than one out of whom this terrible testimon