A Country Gentleman


LIZZIE had a tiresome argument with her grandmother that night, who could not understand why she should be so bent on going into Highcombe by the first train. To see Miss Chatty married, — that was reasonable enough ; but Miss Chatty would not be married till eleven at the earliest, perhaps later. Mrs. Bagley knew that gentlefolks ran it almost too late, as late as was possible, because it was the fashion, or else because they did n’t like to get up so early as poor folks, — and why should Lizzie start by the seven o’clock train ? But Lizzie was determined, and got her way; declaring that she would stay up all night and do her work before she started, sooner than not go. It would not have mattered much had she done so, for there was no sleep for Lizzie that night. She had not any certainty of being right to support her in what she was going to do. She thought of disturbing all the wedding preparations, stopping the bride with her veil on and the orange blossoms in her hair, and all the guests assembled — for what ? Because of one who made no claim, who would never make any claim, who had not been heard of for more than six years. That was the flaw which disturbed Lizzie. It was not quite out, the seven years. Had that mystic period been accomplished, she felt that she could have left Chatty to the protection of God. But at the outside it was only six and a half, and he had heard of her through Lizzie herself, — though she inwardly resolved that no inducement on earth would make her appear before judge and jury to tell that. No ! she would rather die than tell it. And then her mind came back to the picture of the bride in her glistening white silk or satin, with the veil over her head, and the orange blossoms. To stop all that, to turn away the carriages from the door, to set herself up as knowing better than a gentleman like Mr. Cavendish, and perhaps making a fool of herself, and not being believed or listened to, after all !

These thoughts tormented Lizzie all through the night, and she got up very early, while it was still dark, and lighted the fire, and put everything straight for her grandmother, and made herself a cup of tea, which she needed much to settle her agitated nerves. Old Mrs, Bagley got up, too, disturbed by the sound of some one stirring, not without a grumble at being awoke so early. Lizzie came and kissed her before she went away. “ Oh, granny, say God bless you ! ” she cried ; “ for I’m all shaking and trembling, and I don’t know what may come to me to-day.” “ Lord bless the child,” said Mrs. Bagley, “what’s a-coming to her? A body would think as it’s you as is going to be married to-day. But God bless you’s easy said, and meant from the ’art, and never comes amiss ; and God bless Miss Chatty, too, the dear, and give her a happy weddin’ and a happy life.” Lizzie felt that she could not say Amen. It seemed to choke her, when she tried to utter that word, for it was little happiness poor Miss Chatty would have, if she did what she was going to do. She hurried to the station, which was a long walk in the fresh morning, feeling the air chill and sharp. It was a long way to the station, and then the railway made a round, so that an active person would have found it almost as quick to walk straight to Highcombe; and it was between eight and nine when Lizzie at last found herself before the door of Mrs. Warrender’s house. She thought it looked wonderfully quiet for the morning of a wedding, the shutters still closed over the drawing-room windows. But it would be vain to attempt to describe her dismay when she heard the explanation of this tranquillity. Not here, but in London ! Did n’t she know ? the housemaid said, who was a girl from Underwood. She thought everybody had known. And Lizzie had the sickening consciousness that had she inquired a little more closely she might have discovered it for herself, and saved herself this trouble. She was taken in by the sympathizing housemaid to have a second cup of tea at least, if not breakfast, and to hear all about the preparations and the dresses, which Betsey, though sadly disappointed to miss the glories of the wedding, had yet seen and could describe. And there was not a train to London till nearly ten. She asked herself, in her dismay, whether it was worth going then, — whether perhaps it was not Providence that had stopped her; but then, with a returning obstinacy of purpose, determined that she would not be beaten, —that whatever hindered she would not be kept back.

She got to London just at the hour when the wedding party were to leave for church, and found them gone when she arrived at the house. Lizzie’s habits did not consist with taking cabs. She had toiled along from the station, hot and weary, on foot. “ If you want to catch them up, you had better take an ’ansom,” said one of the white-neckclothed men who were busy preparing the wedding breakfast. Lizzie scarcely knew what a hansom was; but she submitted to be put into one, and to get with much difficulty a shilling out of her purse to pay for it. The sudden whirl, the jar and noise, the difficult getting out and in, the struggle to pursue that shilling into a corner of her purse among the pennies and sixpences, aided in confusing her brain utterly. She rushed up the steps of the church, which were crowded with idlers, not knowing what she did. The organ was pealing through the place, making a little storm of sound under the gallery, as she rushed in desperate, meeting the fine procession, the bride in all that glory which Lizzie had dreamt of, which she had been so reluctant to spoil: her white dress rustling over the red cloth that had been laid down in the aisle, her white veil flowing over her modest countenance, her arm in that of her bridegroom ; all whiteness, peace, and sweet emotion, joy touched with trembling and a thousand soft regrets. Chatty came along slowly, her soft eyes cast down, her soul floating in that ecstasy which is full of awe and solemn thoughts. Dick’s eyes were upon her, and the eyes of all, but hers saw nothing save the wonderful event that had come to pass, the boundary between the old and the new upon which she stood. And Lizzie had forgotten everything that could be called reason or coherence in her thought. She forgot her doubts, her scruples, her sense of the misery she might make, her uncertainty as to whether it might be needful at all. At this moment of bewildering excitement she had but one idea. She fell down upon her knees before them in the aisle, and caught at Chatty’s white dress and the folds of her floating veil. “ Oh, Miss Chatty, stop, stop! leave go of his arm! for he is married already, and his wife is living.” She lifted her eyes, and there appeared round her a floating sea of horror-stricken faces, — faces that she knew in the foreground, and floating further off, as if in the air, in the distance, one she knew still better. Lizzie gave a shriek which rang through the church : “ His wife is living: and she is HERE ! ”


The wedding morning had been confusing and full of many occupations, as wedding mornings always are. Chatty, left in the quiet of her room, had received innumerable little visits: from her mother, who came and came again, with a cheerful front, but her heart very low, merely to look at her, to give her a kiss in passing, to make sure that she was still there; and from Minnie, very busy, wanting to have a finger in everything, to alter the bride’s dress at the last moment, and the way in which her veil was put on. “ For it is quite different from mine,” Minnie cried, “ and it stands to reason that there cannot be two ways of putting on a veil.” Then there would come a young sister of Dick’s, very shy, very anxious to make friends, admiring Chatty and her orange blossoms, with that sense of probable future occurrences in her own life of the same description which makes sympathy so warm. Then Mrs. Wilberforce, who, though disapproving much of the wedding in London, was yet mollified by her husband’s share in it and association with the bishop; and Lady Markland, who gave the bride a kiss of tender sympathy and said nothing to her, which Chatty felt to be the kindest of all. Minnie, on the other hand, had a great inclination from the depths of her own experience to give her sister advice.

“ You must remember, Chatty, that a man is not just like one of us. When you are traveling, you must be sure to recollect that: they can’t do with a bun or a cup of coffee, or that sort of thing; they must always have something substantial to eat. You see they take so much more out of themselves than we do. And they like you to be ready to the minute, though you have often got to wait for them : and ” —

“ But, dear Minnie, men are not all alike,” said Mrs. Wilberforce, “ no more than women are. Don’t you think you had better leave her to find out for herself? She will learn soon enough,” she added, with a sigh, softly shaking her head, as though the experience could not but be melancholy when it came. “ Men, like everything else, are changing every day. The chivalry one used to meet with is quite gone, — but what can you expect in these times ? ”

“ I don’t like this trimming at all,” said Minnie; “ if I were you, I would have it taken off. Oh, I am not at all of your opinion about the times. We are liberal on both sides. The Thynnes have always gone in for the popular side; and when you think how much everything has improved ” —

“If you call it improvement! ” said Mrs. Wilberforce, with something like a groan ; but whether this was in reference to things in general, or to the removal of the tulle trimming over which Minnie was holding her hand, it would be difficult to say.

And thus the morning went by. Chatty took it all very sweetly, responding with smiles to every one, feeling the hours pass like a dream: until it was time to go into the dream chariot, and be carried away to the fulfillment of the dream. In the large, dull London drawing-room below, meanwhile, guests were assembling, — guests in rustling garments of many colored silk, with bonnets which were enough to drive any ordinary mortal out of her senses : a little tulle tossed up with flowers or feathers into the most perfect little crown for a fair head, a little velvet with nodding plumes that made the wearer at once into a duchess. The duchess herself was present, but she was dowdy, as duchesses have a right to be. And then the arrivals, the carriages that came gleaming up, the horses that pranced and curved their beautiful necks, as high-bred as the ladies ! Geoff, who had come with his mother, posted himself at one of the windows, inside the filmy white curtains, to watch the people coming. He suddenly called out “ Mother ! ” when it was almost time to start, and the brougham was already waiting at the door for the bridegroom.

Lady Markland was standing close by the window talking to Dick, who, as bridegrooms often are, was agitated, and required support and encouragement. “ What is it, Geoff?” she asked, in the midst of what she was saying, without turning from her other companion.

“Oh, look here. I say, there is the lady that was at the big house at Underwood, the lady that picked me up the day I ran away, — the one that was at the Elms. Look, mamma. Ah, you’re just too late,” cried Geoff; “ you ’re always too late. She’s gone now.”

It was Dick, and not Lady Markland, who came forward to the window. “ The lady who was at the Elms ? ” he said: and Geoff, looking up, saw a face that was like ashes looking, not at him, but out of the window, with wide staring eyes.

“ Look there — just going away — in a big veil—don’t you see her? But I saw her face quite plain, — the same lady that took me up beside her on the big tall phaeton. I did not like her much,” the boy added in an undertone.

“ I think,” in a still lower voice, almost a whisper, “ you are mistaken, Geoff; that lady is dead.”

“ I saw her, all the same,” said the boy.

Here one of the jocular persons who make weddings more dreadful than they need to be came forward and touched Dick on the arm. “ Come along, old fellow,” he said: “no skulking ; it’s too late to draw back. The bridegroom’s carriage stops the way.”

There are resolute people in the world who can look as they please, who can receive a mortal blow, and smile all the time, — or, what is still harder, look gravely self-possessed, as if nothing had ever happened to them, or could happen to the end of time. Dick Cavendish was not of this heroic kind, but yet he managed to make himself look as a bridegroom ought, as he went through the little crowd and made his way downstairs. He said to himself it was not possible. Had not her death been certified beyond doubt ? Had not Saunders attended the funeral, and brought that photograph and the poor little ring ? Was the certainty of all these facts to be shaken by the random recollection of a foolish child, or a chance resemblance which that child might imagine in a passer-by ? He said to himself that there could be no greater folly than to pay any attention to such a piece of absurdity. But as he went out, and all the way along as he drove, hearing without paying any attention to the occasional remarks of his best man, who was with him, his eyes were searching among the wayfarers, the little crowd round the door, the other little crowd round the church. Just as he stepped inside the portico, turning round for a last look, he saw something approaching in a hansom, — something rather than some one, a gray veil covering an unseen face. Was it some woman peacefully going about her own business, or was it — He went in, feeling all the people in the church turn round to look at him ; wondering if his face was like the face of a man who was going to marry Chatty, or of one who was standing by the side of a grave? When he got up to the altar, and took his place to wait for his bride, there was a moment of silence, during which no intrusive fool could talk to him. And in the quiet he stood and closed his eyes, and felt himself — oh, not here at the altar, waiting for Chatty in her orange flowers, but by the side of the dark pit into which the coffin was descending, straining his eyes to see through the lid, if indeed the other were there. But then, again, with an effort, he shook his miserable nightmare off. It was not possible he could be deceived. What motive could any one have to deceive him ? Saunders had seen her buried, and had brought the photograph and that ring. The ring was conclusive,— unless a horrible trick had been played upon him there was no room for doubt: and to whose interest could it be to play him a trick of this horrible kind ?

And then came the little rustle and thrill of the arriving train : and something white came up, a succession of whitenesses streaming one after the other, with no sound but the delicate rustle, that soft touch upon the air that might almost have been wings. They stood together, both but half conscious of what was going on around: Chatty, sweetly wrapped in a maze of soft-coming fancies of wonder and pleasure and awe and regret ; while he, touched to the heart by her presence, yet only half aware of it, went through the whole in a kind of trance, mingling the words spoken with interlinings of unspeakable dumb reasonings, self-assurances, self-exhortations. Nobody knew anything about all this. The ceremony went on, just as such ceremonies go on every day in the year. The bishop said the words, and paused while they were repeated ; by one voice firmly and strongly, by the other low and unassured, yet clear. And then there was the flutter of tension relieved, the gathering round of the little crowd, the little procession to the vestry where everything was signed, the kissings and good wishes. Dick had no mother, but his elder sister was there, who kissed him in her place, and his younger sister, who was a bridesmaid, and hung about Chatty with all a girl’s enthusiasm. What could be more simple, more natural and true ? There was no shadow there of any dread, but everything happy, honest, pure. He recovered his soul a little in the midst of that group ; though when Geoff, with his little sharp face, in which there always seemed more knowledge than belonged to his age, caught his eyes, a slight shiver ran over him. He felt as if Geoff knew all about it; and might, for anything he could tell, have some horrible secret to bring forth.

And then they set out again, the husband with his wife on his arm, to go away. The touch of Chatty’s hand on his arm seemed to restore his confidence. She was his, in spite of all that Fate could do, — in spite of everything, he thought. They walked together — he feeling more and more the pride and triumph of the moment, she moving softly, still in her dream, yet beginning, too, to feel the reality — past the altar where they had knelt a little while before, going down the aisle, facing the spectators who still lingered, well pleased to see the bride. And then in a moment the blow fell. Some one Seemed to rise up before them, out of the ground, out of the vacancy, forming before his horrorstricken eyes. And then there rose that cry which everybody could hear, which paralyzed the bridal procession, and brought the clergymen, startled, out of the vestry, and thrilled the careless lookers-on. “ He has a wife living! she is living, and she is here ! ” Had he heard these words before in a dream ? Had he known all along that he would hear them ringing in his ears on his wedding day? “ His wife is living: and she is here! ”

“ What is it ? what is it?” cried the wedding guests, crowding upon each other : those who were nearest, at least, while those at the end of the procession paused, with the smile on their lips, to stare and wonder at the sudden disturbance. Chatty was the most self-possessed of all. She said softly, “ Lizzie, Lizzie ! Something has happened to her,” and put out her disengaged hand in its white glove to raise the girl from her knees.

“ Miss Chatty, it’s you that something has happened to. Oh, stop, — oh, stop ! there she is! Don’t — don’t let Miss Chatty go away with him, — don’t let her go away with him !” Lizzie cried.

“ The woman is mad,” said some one behind. And so it might have been thought, when suddenly those immediately following, who had closed up behind Chatty, heard the bridegroom’s voice, extremely agitated, yet with a nervous firmness, say audibly, “It is not true. Lizzie, the woman you speak of is dead. I know for certain that she is dead.”

“ Look there ! ” the intruder cried.

And he turned round in the sight of them all, the bride half turning too with the involuntary impulse, and saw behind that sea of anxious, wondering faces another, which seemed to float in a mist of horror, from under the halflifted cloud of a gray veil. He saw this face ; and the rest of the wedding guests saw his, blanched with dread and misery, and knew, every one, that the marriage was stopped, and Chatty no wife, and he a dishonored man.

Her eyes had followed his; she had not looked at him, but still held his arm, giving him a support he was incapable of giving her. The face in the background was not unknown to Chatty. She remembered it well, and with what a compunction of pity she had looked at it when she met that poor creature on the road at home, and wanted in her heart to take the lost one to her mother. She did not understand at all what was going on about her, nor what Mrs. Warrender meant, who came closely up behind, and took hold of her arm, detaching her from Dick, “ Chatty, let us get home, my darling. Come, come with me. Theo will take us home,”the mother said.

Then Chatty, turning round wondering, saw her bridegroom’s face. She looked at him earnestly for the moment, holding his arm tighter, and then said with a strange, troubled, yet clear voice, “ Dick — what does it mean ? Dick ! ”

“ Come home, come home, my dearest ! ” cried Mrs. Warrender, trying to separate them.

“ Come back to the vestry, Cavendish ! ” cried Theo, with threatening tones; and then arose a loud murmur of other suggestions, a tumult most unusual, horrifying, yet exciting to the spectators who closed around. The bishop came out, still in his robes, followed by Mr. Wilberforce, hurrying towards the spot. “ Whatever the interruption is,” he said, “don’t stay there, for Heaven’s sake. Come back, if you will, or go home, but don’t let us have a disturbance in the church.”

“ Chatty, go with my mother. For God’s sake, Frances, get them all away.”

“ I will not leave Dick,” said Chatty in her soft voice, “ until I know what it is.” She who was so yielding and so simple, she turned round with her own impulse the unhappy young man whose arm she held, and who seemed for the moment incapable of any action of his own, and led him back towards the place from which they had come. The horror had not penetrated sufficiently into Chatty’s mind to do more than pale a little the soft color in her face. She had grown very serious, looking straight before her, taking no notice of anything. They all followed like so many sheep in her train, the ladies crowding together, Dick’s sister at his other hand, Mrs. Warrender close behind, Lizzie carried along with them, now crying bitterly and wringing her hands, utterly cowed by finding herself in the midst of this perfumed and rustling crowd, amid which her flushed and tear-stained face and humble dress showed to such strange disadvantage. Unnoticed by the rest, Geoff, who had wriggled out of the throng, pursued down the further aisle a hurrying, flying figure and stopped her, holding her fast.

In the vestry Chatty began to fail a little. She relinquished Dick’s arm, and stood trembling, supporting herself by the table. “ I want him,” she said, faltering a little, “ mamma, to tell me — what it means. There is something — to find out. Dick,” with a tremulous smile, “ you have concealed something. It is not that I don’t trust you — but tell me”— Then, still smiling, she murmured, “Lizzie—and that — that poor — girl.”

Dick had collected himself. “ My darling,” he said, “ I have done wrong. I have concealed what you ought to have known. Warrender, stop before you speak. I married when I was a boy. I declare upon my soul that I had every assurance the woman was dead. My clerk saw her buried; he brought me the certificate, and her portrait, and her ring. I had no reason, no reason at all, to doubt. I have no reason now,” he said, with a sudden recovery of courage, “ except what this girl says, — who has no way of knowing, while my information is sure. It is sure, — quite sure. Chatty! can you think I would have brought you here to — to — The woman is dead.”

“ Mr. Cavendish ! ” cried Lizzie, loudly. “ You saw her, as well as I.”

He looked at her for a moment: his face grew once more gray as ashes; he trembled where he stood. “ It must have been — an illusion,” he said.

Here Warrender caught Lizzie somewhat roughly by the arm. “ If the woman is here, find her ! ” he cried peremptorily, pushing her to the door before him. The church was still full of excited spectators, whom the vergers were endeavoring to get rid of. In the aisle stood Geoff with some one veiled and muffled to the eyes. The boy was standing in front of her, like a little dog who had been set to watch. She could not move a step without a movement on his part. He gave to Warrender a sort of invitation with a nod of his little head. “ I ’ve got her here,” he said ; then whispered, " It is the lady, — the lady that run you over, that picked me up,— the lady at the Elms.”

“ At the Elms ! ” There rushed over Theo’s mind a recollection of Dick’s visit to the village, of his hurried departure, of agitation unnoticed at the time. “ I must ask you to step into the vestry,” he said.

“ Oh, Mr. Warrender,” cried the stranger, ‘‘ I know you, though you don’t know me; don’t ask me to do that. What, among all those nicely dressed people, and me so — Oh, no, please do not ask me, — please don’t ask me ! What good could I do ? It seems to me I’ve done harm, but I meant none. I thought I’d just come and have a peep, after hearing so much about you all, and knowing him so long.”

“ Will you tell me who you are, and what is your connection with Cavendish ? Come, and let us hear before his face.”

“Oh, my connection with — Dear, dear! is it necessary to go into that, — a thing of an age ago? Oh, Lord, Lizzie, let me alone,will you! It’s all your doing. Why couldn’t you let things alone ? ”

“ Whatever you have to say, it had better be said before us all,” said Warrender, sternly, for various members of the bridal party had straggled our, and were listening from the vestry door. He took her by the arm and led her into the room. “ What is your relation to that man ? ” he said, keeping his hand upon her arm.

The wedding guests made a circle round, the clergymen in their white surplices among the ladies’ gay dresses, the white figure of Chatty leaning with her hand on the table, her mother’s anxious face close behind her: poor Dick, in his spruce wedding clothes, with his ghastly face, stood drawing back a little, staring with eyes that seemed to sink deeper in their sockets as he gazed. He had never looked upon that face since he parted with her in utter disgust and misery, six years before. She came in, almost forced into the inclosure of those fine people gazing at her, with all her meretricious graces, not an imposing sinner, a creature ready to cry and falter, yet trying to set up against the stare of the ladies the piteous impudence of her kind.

“ What are you to that man ? ” Theo asked.

“ Oh, what should I be to him ? A gentleman does n’t ask such questions. I — I— have been the same to him as I’ve been—you know well enough,” she added, with a horrible little laugh that echoed all about, and made a stir among the people round.

“ Are you his wife ? ”

She shuddered, and began to cry. “I — I ’m nobody’s wife. I’ve been — a number of things. I like my freedom — I ” — She stopped, hysterical, overcome by the extraordinary circumstances, and the audience which listened and looked at her with hungry ears and eyes.

Dick put out his arms as if to wave the crowd away. What were all these spectators doing here, looking on at his agony ? He spoke in a hoarse and husky voice : “ Why did you deceive me? Why did you pretend you were dead, and lead me to this ? ”

“Because I’ve nothing to do with you, and I don’t want nothing to do with you,” she cried; “ because 1 ’ve been dead to you these long years; because I’m not a bad, cruel woman. I wanted to leave you free. He’s free for me,” she said, turning to Mr. Warrender. “It’s not I that wants to bind him. If I made believe it was me that died, where was the wrong ? I wanted to set him free. That’s not deceiving: it was for his good, that he might feel he was free.”

“ Answer, woman. Are you his wife? ”

“ What right have you to call me a woman ? His wife ? Who can tell whether I was n’t married before ever I set eyes upon him ! ” she cried, with a hysterical laugh. “ They don’t think so much of that where I came from. There ! I hope you’ve had enough of me now. Lizzie, you fool, you spoil-sport, you hateful creature, give me hold of your arm, and let’s go away ! We’ve done you harm, Mr. Cavendish, instead of doing you good, but that is no fault of mine.”

There was a pause as she went out of the vestry, holding Lizzie s arm, whose sobs were audible all the way’down the aisle. It did not last long, but it was as the silence of death. Then Dick spoke:—

“ You see how it is. I married her when I was a boy. She deserted me in a very short time, and I have never seen her from that day to this, nearly seven years ago. Six weeks since I received information that she was dead. She tells you it was a trick, a device ; but I — had every reason to believe it. God knows I wanted to believe it! but I thought I spared no pains. Then I went to Chatty, whom I had long loved.” Here he paused to regain his voice, which had become almost inaudible. “ I thought all was right. Don’t you believe me?” he cried, hoarsely, holding out his hands in appeal. At first his little sister was the only one who responded. She threw herself, weeping, upon one of his outstretched arms, and clasped it. Chatty had been put into a chair, where she sat now, very pale under the white mist of the veil, beginning to realize what it was that had happened. When she heard the anguish in Dick’s voice, she suddenly rose to her feet, taking them all by surprise. Instinctively the party had separated into two factions, his side and her side. The group about Chatty started when she moved, and Theo seized hold almost roughly of her elbow. But Chatty did not seem sensible of this clutch. She went forward to the bridegroom so disastrously taken from her, and took his other hand in hers. “I believe you — with all my heart,” Chatty said. “ I blame you for nothing,—oh, for nothing ! I am sorry — for us both.”

“ Take her away, mother. The carriage has come round to the vestry door. Chatty! This is no longer any place for you.”

Chatty looked round upon her faction, who were encircling her with dark or miserable looks. “ We are very unfortunate,” she said, “ but we have done nothing that is wrong.”

“ Chatty, oh, Chatty, my darling, come away. You cannot stay any longer here.”

“ What, without a word to Dick, mother ! Speak to him. He is the most to be pitied. We never thought we should have to say good-by again.” Here she paused, and the tears came. She repeated in a voice that went to the hearts of all the staring, excited spectators, “ I am sorry — for us both.”

“ God bless you, Chatty. God bless you, my own love. And must we part so ? ” cried poor Dick, falling down upon his knees, and sobbing over the hands which held his. He was altogether broken down. He knew there was nothing to be said to him, or for him. It was without help or hope. For a moment even Warrender, who was the most severe, could say nothing in sight of this lamentable scene: the bride and her bridegroom, who had been pronounced man and wife ten minutes before, and now were parting, — perhaps forever,— two people between whom there was now no bond, whose duty would be to keep apart.

Chatty stooped over him whom she must see no more; her white veil fell over him covering them both, she laid her pale cheek against his. “ It is not our fault. We are very unfortunate. We must have patience,” she said.

He kept on kneeling there, following her with his eyes, while her brother and her mother led her away ; then with a groan, he covered his face with his hands. Was this the end ?


After this extraordinary and terrible event there were a great many conferences and explanations, which did little good, as may be supposed. Dick’s life — the part of it which had passed during his absence, the wander-year which had brought such painful consequences — was laid entirely open both to his own family and all the Warrenders. There was nothing in it to be ashamed of ; still he had wanted to keep that episode to himself: and the consequence, of course, was that every detail became known. He had thrown himself into a wild, disorderly population on the edge of civilization: people who lived out of reach of law, and so long as they were not liable to the tribunal of Judge Lynch, did no harm in the eyes of the community. There he had fallen in love, being clean and of pure mind, and disposed to think everybody like himself; and had married in haste a girl whom his tiresome proprieties had wearied at once, and who did not in the most rudimentary way comprehend what to him was the foundation of life. He shuddered, but could give no coherent account of that time. She left him, inclosing him her “ marriage lines ” and a paper declaring him to be free. And from that time until she had been brought face to face with him in the vestry he had never seen her again. His old father, whom Dick had been anxious to spare from any annoyance, and who was too old to be present at the wedding, had to be called forth from his retirement to hear the whole story; his eldest brother, who was abroad, hurried home, to know what was meant by the paragraphs in the papers, and what it was all about. No particular of bitterness was spared to the unfortunate young man ; the details of the business were discussed at every dinner party. Had there been collusion ? Had he known all the time that the woman was not dead? Society did not quite understand the want of accordance with conventional rules that had been shown by everybody concerned. The wicked wife ought to have planned this villainous trick as a way of vengeance against him, whereas it was evident that she had meant only kindness, abandoned creature as she was. And the poor bride, the unfortunate Miss Warrender, should, with all her family, have sworn everlasting feud with him, whereas it was known that Chatty took his part, and would say nothing but that they were very unfortunate both. Women should not act like this : they should fly at each other’s throats, they should tear each other to pieces. But if Chatty (backed up by her mother, it was said) showed undue indulgence, this was not the case with her brother and sister. Theo’s keen temper had taken up and resented the whole matter almost with violence. He had not only treated Cavendish, and the Cavendishes generally, who were more important than the individual Dick, with harsh contumely and enmity, refusing to hear any excuse, and taking the occurrence as an insult to himself, but he had quarreled with his mother, who was disposed to forgive, and also more vehemently with Chatty, who made no pretense of any wrath, but believed Dick’s story fully, and would not hear anything against him. Chatty had a soft obstinacy about her which nobody had known till now. She had not broken down, nor hidden herself from her family, nor taken any shame to herself. She had even received him, against the advice of everybody, in a long interview, bearing everything over again, and fully, from his own lips, and had kissed him (it was whispered) at parting, while her mother and his sister, looking on, could do nothing but cry. There began after a while to be many people who sympathized with these two unhappy lovers, — who were not so unhappy, either, because they understood and had faith in each other. But Theo made an open quarrel with his mother and sister after this meeting. He was furious against both of them, and even against his wife when it became known that she had gone to see and sympathize with them. Warrender declared that he would consider any man his enemy who spoke to him of Cavendish. He was furious with everything and everybody concerned. He said that he had been covered with shame, though how no one could tell. Lady Markland, who also was on the side of Dick, was helpless to restrain him. She too, poor lady, began to feel that her lot was not one of unmixed good, nor her bed of roses. Though the force of events had carried Theo over all the first drawbacks to their marriage, he had never forgotten the bitterness and exasperation which these had called forth. He had not forgiven her, though he adored her, for being still Lady Markland ; and though he lived at Markland with her, yet it was under a perpetual protest, to which in moments of excitement he sometimes gave utterance, but which even in silence she was always conscious of. His smouldering discontent burst forth on the occasion given him by this mariage manqué. The rage that filled him was not called forth by Dick Cavendish alone. It was the outflow of all the discontents and annoyances of his life.

And Minnie’s outraged virtue was almost more rampant still. That Eustace should have any connection with a scandal which had found its way into the newspapers, that a girl who was his sister-in-law should have got herself talked about, was to Minnie a wrong which blazed up to heaven. “ For myself, I should not have minded,” she said ; “ at least, however much I minded I should have said as little as possible ; but when I think that Eustace has been made a gazing-stock to the world through me — Oh, you may think it extravagant, but I don’t. Of course he has been made a gazing-stock. ‘ Brother-in-law to that Miss Warrender, you know,’ — that is how people talk: as if it could possibly be his fault! I am sure he bears it like an angel. All he has ever said, even to me, is, ‘Minnie, I wish we had looked into things a little more beforehand ; ’ and what could I say ? I could only say you were all so headstrong, you would have your own way.”

“ Next time he says so, you will perhaps refer him to me, Minnie. I think I shall be able to answer Mr. Thynne.”

“Oh,” cried Minnie, “by making a quarrel ! I know your way of answering, mamma, I tell Eustace, if I had been at home it never, never would have happened. I never cared about him from the first. There was always something in the look of his eyes, — I told Eustace before anything happened. — something about the corners of his eyes. I did not like it when I heard you had seen so much of him in town. And Eustace said then, ‘ I hope your mother has made all the necessary inquiries.’ I did not like to say, ' Oh, mamma never makes any inquiries ! ’ but I am sure I might have said so. And this is what it has come to ! Chatty’s ruin, — yes, it is Chatty’s ruin, whatever you may say. Who will ever look at her ? — a girl who has been married, and yet is n’t married. She will never find any one. She will just have to live with you, like two old cats in a little country town, as Eustace says.”

“ If Mr. Thynne calls your mother an old cat, you should have better taste than to repeat it,” said Mrs. Warrender.

“ I hope he is not so vulgar, Minnie, nor you so heartless.”

“Vulgar! Eustace! The Thynnes are just the best bred people in the world: I don’t know what you mean. A couple of old ladies living in a little place, and gossiping about everything, — everybody has the same opinion. And this is just what it comes to, when no attention is paid. And they say you have actually let him come here, let Chatty meet him, to take away every scrap of respect that people might have had. Eustace says he never heard of such a mistake: it shows such a want of knowledge of the world.”

“ This is going too far, Minnie ; understand, once for all, that what Eustace Thynne says is not of the least importance to me, and that I think his comments most inappropriate. Poor Dick is going off to California to-morrow. He is going to get his divorce.”

Minnie gave a scream which made the thinly built London house ring, and clasped her hands. “ A DIVORCE ! ” she cried ; “ it only wanted this. Eustace said that was what it would come to. And you would let your daughter marry a man who has been divorced ! ”

Minnie spoke in such a tone of injured majesty that Mrs. Warrender was almost cowed ; for it could not be denied that this speech struck an echo in her own heart. The word was a word of shame. She did not know how to answer. That her Chatty, her child who had come so much more close to her of late, should be placed in any position which was not of good report, that the shadow of any stain should be upon her simple head, was grievous beyond all description to her mother. And she was far from being an emancipated woman. She had all the prejudices, all the diffidences, of her age and position. Her own heart cried out against this expedient with a horror which she had done her best to overcome. For the first time she faltered and hesitated as she replied: —

“ There can be no hard and fast rule ; our Lord did not do it, and how can we? It is odious to me as much as to any one. But what would you have him do? He cannot take back that wretched creature, that poor unhappy girl” —

“ You mean that shameless, horrible thing, that abandoned ” —

“There must be some good in her,” said Mrs. Warrender, with a shudder. “ She had tried to do what she could to set him free. It was not her fault if it proved worse than useless. I can’t prolong this discussion, Minnie. Eustace and you can please yourselves by making out your fellow-creatures to be as bad as possible. To me it is almost more terrible to see the good in them that might, if things had gone differently— But that is enough. I am going to take Chatty away.”

“ Away ! Where are you going to take her ? For goodness’ sake, don’t: they will think you are going after—they will say ” —

“I am glad you have the grace to stop. I am going to take her abroad, If she can be amused a little, and delivered from herself— At all events,” said Mrs. Warrender, " we shall be free from the stare of the world, which we never did anything to attract.”

“Abroad!” Minnie repeated. “Oh, I don’t think—and I am sure Eustace would say that you ought not to go away. You should live it down. Of course people will blame you, they must, I did myself: but after all, that is far better than what it would be at a place abroad, where everybody would say, ‘ Oh, do you know who that is? That is Mrs. Warrender, whose eldest daughter married one of the Thynnes, whose youngest was the heroine of that story, you know, about the marriage.’ Oh, mamma, this is exactly what Eustace said he was afraid you would do. For goodness’ sake, don’t! Stay at home and live it down. We shall all stand by you,” said Minnie. “ I am sure Frances will do her very best; and though Eustace is a clergyman, and ought always to show an example, yet in the case of such near relations — we ” —

Mrs. Warrender only turned her back upon these generous promises, walking away without any answer or remark. She was too angry to say anything. And to think that there was a germ of reality in it all, a need of some one to stand by them, a possibility that Chatty might be a subject for evil tongues, made Chatty’s mother half beside herself. It seemed more than she could bear. But Chatty took it all very quietly. She was absorbed in the story, more exciting than any romance, which was her own story. No thought of what divorce was, or of anything connected with it, disturbed her mind. What Dick had to do seemed to her natural: perhaps anything he had done in the present extraordinary crisis would have seemed to her natural. He was going to put things right. She did not think, for the moment, what the means of doing so were, nor what in the mean time her own position was. She had no desire to make any mystery of it, to conceal herself, or what had happened. There was no shame in it, so far as Chatty knew. There was a dreadful, miserable mistake. She was “ very sorry for us both,” but for herself less than for Dick, who had suffered, she said to herself, far more than she: for though he had done no wrong, he had to bear all the penalties of having done wrong, whereas in her own case there was no question of blame. Chatty was so much absorbed in Dick that she did not seem to have time to realize her own position. She did not think of herself as the chief sufferer. She fell back into the calm of the ordinary life without a murmur, saying little about it. With her own hands she packed up all the new dresses, the wealth of the pretty trousseau. She was a little pale, and yet she smiled. “ I wonder if I shall ever have any need for these,” she said, smoothing down the silken folds of the dresses with a tender touch.

“ I hope so, my dear; when poor Dick comes back.”

Then Chatty’s smile gave way to a sigh. “ They say human life is so uncertain, mamma: but I never realized it till now. You cannot tell what a day may bring forth : but it very, very seldom happens, surely, that there are such changes as this. I never heard of one before.”

“ No, my darling, it is very rare : but oh, what a blessing, Chatty, that it was found out at once, before you had gone away ! ”

“ Yes, I suppose it was a blessing. Perhaps it would have been wrong — but I should never have left him, mamma, had we gone away.”

“ Oh, do not let us think of that! You were mercifully saved, Chatty.”

“ On my wedding day ! I never heard that such a thing ever happened to a girl before. The real blessing is that Dick had done nothing wrong. That comforts me most of all.”

“ I do n’t know, Chatty. He ought, perhaps, to have taken better care; at all events, he ought to have let people know that he was a— that he was not an unmarried man.”

Chatty trembled a little at these words. She did not like him to be blamed, but so far as this was concerned she could not deny that he was in the wrong. It was the foundation of all. Had it been known that he was or had been married, she would not have given him her love. At this Chatty flushed deep, and felt that it was a cruel suggestion. To find that she was not married was a wondering pain to her, which still she could scarcely understand. But not to have loved him ! Poor Dick ! To have done him that wrong over and above all the rest, he who had been so much wronged and injured! No, no; neither for him nor for herself could it be anything but profane to wish that. Not to have loved him! Chatty’s life seemed all to sink into gray at the thought.

“At all events,” she said, returning to those easier outsides of things in which the greatest events have a humble covering, “ the dresses can wait, poor things, to see what will happen. If it should so be, as that it never comes right ” —

“ Oh, Chatty, my poor dear ! ”

“ Life seems so uncertain,” said Chatty, in her new-born wisdom. “It is so impossible to tell what may happen, or what a day may bring forth. I think I never can be very sure of anything now. And if it never should come right, they shall just stay in the boxes, mother. I could not have the heart to wear them.” She put her hand over them caressingly, and patted and pressed them down into the corners. “It seems a little sad to see them there, does n’t it, mamma, and I in my old gray frock ?” The tears were in her eyes, but she looked up at Mrs. Warrender with a little soft laugh at herself, and at the little tragedy, or at least the suspended drama, laid up with something that was half pathetic, half ludicrous, in the wedding clothes.

Chatty suffered herself to be taken abroad without any very strong opinion of her own. She would have been content to adopt Minnie’s way, to go back to Highcombe and “ live it down,” though indeed she was unconscious of scandal, or of the necessity of living down anything. There were some aspects of the case in which she would have preferred that, — to live on quietly day by day, looking for news of him, expecting what was to come. But there was much to be said, on the other hand, for her mother’s plan, and Chatty now, as at all times, was glad to do what pleased her mother. They went off, accordingly, when the early November gales were blowing, not on any very original plan, but to places where a great many people go, — to the Riviera, where the roses were still blooming with a sort of soft patience which was like Chatty. And thus strangely out of nature, without any habitual cold, or frost, or rain, or anything like what they were used to, that winter, which had begun with such very different intentions, glided quietly away. Of course they met people now and then who knew their story, but there were also many who did not know it : ladies from the country, such as abound on the Riviera, who fortunately did not think a knowledge of London gossip essential to salvation, and who thought Miss Warrender must be delicate, her color changed so from white to red. But as it is a sort of duty to be delicate on the Riviera, and robust persons are apt to be looked down upon, they did very well; and the days, so monotonous, so bright, with so little in them, glided harmlessly away. Dick wrote not very often, but yet now and then, which was a thing Minnie had protested vainly against: but then, mamma, Mrs. Eustace Thynne said, had always “ her own ways of thinking ; ” and if she permitted it, what could any one say ?


Mrs. Warrender and her daughter came home in the early summer, having lingered longer than they intended in the South. They had lingered, for one thing, because a long and strange interruption had occurred in the letters from America. Dick had made them aware of his arrival there, and of the beginning of his necessary business, into the details of which, naturally, he did not enter. He had told them of his long journey, which was not then so rapid as now, but meant long traveling in primitive ways by wagons and on horseback ; and also that he had found greater delays and more trouble than he expected. In the spring he was still lingering, investigating matters which he did not explain, but which might very likely facilitate what he had to do and make the conclusion more fortunate than he had anticipated. And then there came a pause. They waited, expecting the usual communication, but it did not come; they waited longer, thinking it might have been delayed by accident ; and finally returned home, with hearts heavier than those with which they went away. Theo came to meet them at the station, when they arrived in London. He was there with his wife in the beginning of the season. Mrs. Warrender’s anxious looks, withdrawn for the moment from Chatty, fell with little more satisfaction upon her son. He was pale and thin, with that fretted look as of constant irritation, which is almost more painful to see than the indications of sorrow. He put aside with a little impatience her inquiries about himself. “ I am well enough ; what should be the matter with me ? I never was an invalid that I know of.”

“ You are not looking well, Theo. You are very thin. London does not agree with you, I fear, and the late nights.”

“ I am a delicate plant, to be incapable of late nights,” he said, with a harsh laugh.

“And how is Frances? I hope she does not do too much — and that your — her ” —

“ Come, mother, spare me the catechism. Lady Markland is quite well, and my Lord Markland, — for I suppose it was he who was meant by ‘your — her ’ ” —

“ Geoff, poor little fellow! He is at school, I suppose.”

“ Not a bit of it,” said Warrender, with an ugly smile. “He is delicate, you know. He has had measles or something, and has come home to his mother to be nursed. There ’s a little too much of Geoff, mother ; let us be free of him here, at least. You are going to your old rooms?”

“ Yes. I thought it might be a little painful : but Chatty made no objection. She said, indeed, she would like it.”

“ Is she dwelling on that matter still?”

“ Still, Theo! I don’t suppose she will ever cease to dwell on it till it comes all right.”

“ Which is very unlikely, mother. I don’t give my opinion on the subject of divorce. It’s an ugly thing, however you take it; but a man who goes to seek a divorce, avowedly with the intention of marrying again — That is generally the motive, I believe, at the bottom, but few are so bold as to put it frankly en evidence.”

“ Theo ! you forget Dick’s position, which is so very peculiar. Could any one blame him? What could he do otherwise? I hope I am not lax, and I hate the very name of divorce as much as any one can : but what could he do ? ”

“ He could put up with it, I suppose, as other men have to do, and be thankful it is no worse.”

“ You are hard, Theo. I am sure it is not Frances who has taught you to be so hard. Do you think that Chatty’s life destroyed, as well as his own, is so little ? And no laws, human or divine, could bind him to — I don’t think I am lax ! ” Mrs. Warrender cried, with the poignant consciousness of a woman who has always known herself to be even superstitiously bound to every prejudice of modesty, and who finds herself suddenly assailed as a champion of the immoral. Her middle-aged countenance flushed with annoyance and shame.

“ No, I don’t suppose you are lax,” said Theo; but the lines in his careworn forehead did not soften, and Chatty, who had been directing the maid about the luggage, now came forward and stopped the conversation. Warrender put his mother and sister into a cab, and promised to “ come round ” and see them in the evening. After he had shut the door, he came back and asked suddenly, “ By the way, I suppose you have the last news of Cavendish. How is he ? ”

“ We have no news. Why do you ask ? Is he ill ? ”

“Oh, you don’t know, then?” said Warrender. “ I was wondering. He is down with fever: but getting better, I believe, — getting better,” he added hurriedly, as Chatty uttered a tremulous cry. “ They wrote to his people. We were wondering whether you might have heard.”

“ And no one thought it worth while to let us know ! ”

“ Lady Horton thought that if you did not know, it was better to say nothing ; and if you did, it was unnecessary. Besides, they are like me ; they think it is monstrous that a man should go off with an avowed intention; they think in any case it is better to drop it altogether.”

“ Theo,” said Chatty, in her soft voice, “ can we hear exactly how he is ? ”

“He is better, he is going on well, he will get all right. But if you should see Lady Horton ” —

Lady Horton was Dick’s elder and married sister, she who had stood by him on the day that was to have been his wedding day.

“ I think we had better drive on now,” Chatty said. And when Theo’s somewhat astonished face had disappeared from the window, and they were rattling along over the stones, she suddenly said, “ Do you think it should have been —dropped altogether? Why should it be dropped altogether? I seem to be a little bewildered — I don’t — understand. Oh, mamma, I had a presentiment that he was ill —ill and alone, and so far away.”

“ He is getting better, dear. He would think it best not to write to make us anxious ; probably he has been waiting on day by day. I will go to Lady Horton to-morrow.”

“ And Lady Horton thinks it should be dropped altogether,” said Chatty, in a musing, reflective tone. “She thinks it is monstrous — what is monstrous ? I don’t — seem to understand.”

“Let us not think of it till we get home; till we have a little calm and — time.”

“As if one could stop thinking till there is time ! ” said Chatty, with a faint smile. “ But I feel that this is a new light. I must think. What must be dropped ? Am not I married to him, mother ? ”

“ Oh, my darling, if it had not been for that woman” —

“ But that woman ? My thoughts are all very confused. I don’t understand it. Perhaps he is not married to me — but I have always considered that I— The first thing, however, is his health, mother. We must see at once about that.”

“Yes, dear; but there is nothing alarming in that, from what Theo says.”

The rest of the drive was in silence. They rattled along the London streets in all the brightness of the May evening; meeting people in carriages going out to dinner, and the steady stream of passengers on foot, coming from the parks, coming from the hundred amusements of the new season. Chatty saw them all without seeing them ; her mind was taken up by a new train of thought. She had taken it for granted that all she had done was natural, the thing that it was right to do : and now she suddenly found herself in an atmosphere of uncertainty to which she was little accustomed, and in which, for the moment, all her faculties seemed paralyzed. Was it monstrous ? Ought it to have been dropped ? She was so much bewildered that she could not tell what to say.

Theo and his wife both “ came round ” in the evening; she with a fragile look as of impaired health, and an air of watching anxiety which it was painful to see. She seemed to have one eye upon Theo always, whatever she was doing, to see that he was pleased, or at least not displeased. It had been her idea to go to Lady Horton’s, on the way, and bring the last news of Dick. “ Much better, going on quite well, will soon be allowed to communicate with his friends,” was the bulletin which Lady Markland took Chatty aside to give.

“ He has not been able to write, himself, all the time. The people who have taken care of him — rough people, but very kind, from all that can be presumed— found his father’s address, and sent him word. Otherwise, for six or seven weeks there has been nothing from himself. ”

This gave Chatty a little consolation. “ Theo says — it is all wrong, that it ought to be dropped,” she said.

“ Theo has become severe in his judgments, Chatty.”

“Has he? He was always a little severe. He got angry” — Chatty did not observe the look of recognition in Lady Markland’s face, as of a fact connu. She went on slowly : “ I wish that you would give me your opinion.

I thought for a long time that I was the first person to be thought of, and that Dick must do everything that could be done to set us right. But now it seems that is not the right view. Mamma hesitates ; she will not speak. Oh, will you tell me what you think ? ”

“ About,” said Lady Markland, faltering, “ the divorce ? ”

“ I don’t seem to know what it means. That poor creature — do people think she is —anything to him ?”

“ She is his wife, my dear.”

“ His — wife ! But then I —am married to Dick.”

“ Dear Chatty, not except in form, — a form which her appearance broke at once.”

Chatty began to tremble, as if with cold. “ I shall always feel that I am married to him. He may not be bound, but I am bound — till death do ye part.”

“ My dear, all that was made as if it never had been said by the appearance of the — wife.”

Chatty shivered again, though the evening was warm “ That cannot be ! ” she cried. “ He may not be bound, but I am bound. I promised. It is an oath before God.”

“ Oh, Chatty, it was all, all made an end of when that woman appeared ! You are not bound, you are free: and I hope, dear, that when a little time has passed ” —

Chatty put up her hand with a little cry. “ Don’t! ” she said. “ And do you mean that he is bound to her, — oh, I am sorry for her, I am sorry for her! — to one who has forsaken him, and gone so far, so very far astray, to one who has done everything that cannot be borne ; and not to me, — by the same words, the same words, which have no meaning to her, for she has left him, she has never held by him, never ; and not to me, who said them with all my heart, and meant them with all my heart, and am bound by them forever and ever ? ” She paused a little, and the flush of vehemence on her cheek and of light in her eye calmed down. “It is not just,” she said.

“ Dear Chatty, it is very hard, — harder than can be said.”

“ It is not just,” said Chatty once more, her soft face falling into lines in which Lady Markland saw a reflection of those which made Theo’s countenance so severe.

“ So far as that goes, the law will release him. It would do so even here. I do not think there is any doubt of that — though Theo says — but I feel sure there is not any doubt.”

“ And though the law does release him,” said Chatty, “and he comes back, you will all say to me it must be dropped, that it is not right, that he is divorced, that I must not marry him, though I have married him. I know now what will happen. There will he Minnie and Theo, and even mamma will hesitate, and her voice will tremble. And I don’t know if I shall have strength to hold out! ” she cried, with a sudden burst of tears. “ I have never struggled or fought for myself. Perhaps I may be a coward. I may not have the strength. If they are all against me, and no one to stand by me, perhaps I may be unjust, too, and sacrifice him — and myself.”

This burst of almost incredible passion from a creature so tranquil and passive took Lady Markland altogether by surprise, — Chatty, so soft, so simple, so yielding, driven by cruel fate into a position so terrible ; feeling every thing at stake, — not only her happiness, but the life already spoiled and wasted of the man she loved; feeling, too, that on herself would depend the decision of all that was to follow; and yet seized by a prophetical terror, a fear which was tragic, lest her own habit of submission might still overwhelm all personal impulses, and sweep away her very life. The girl’s face, moved out of all its gentle softness into the gravity, almost stern, which this consciousness brought, was a strange sight.

“I do not count for much,” said Lady Markland. “ I cannot expect you to think much of me, if your own sister, and your brother, and even your mother, as you fear, are against you: but I will not be against you, Chatty. So far as I can, I will stand by you, if that will do you any good.”

“ Oh, yes, it will do me good,” cried Chatty, clasping her hands; “ it does me good already to talk to you. You know I am not clever, I don’t go deep down into things,” she added after a moment. “ Minnie always said I was on the surface: but I never thought until to-day, I never thought — I have just been going on, supposing it was all right, that Dick could set it all right. And now it has burst upon me. Perhaps, after all, mamma will be on my side, and perhaps you will make Theo ” — Here she paused instinctively, and looked at her sister-in-law, feeling in the haste and rush of her own awakened spirit a sudden insight of which she had not been capable before.

Lady Markland shook her head. She was a little sad, a little overcast, not so assured in her gentle dignity, slightly nervous and restless, which was unlike her. “ You must not calculate on that,” she said. “Theo — has his own way of looking at things. It is right he should. We would not wish him to be influenced by — by any one.”

“ But you are not — any one.”

“ No, indeed. I am no one, in that point of view. I am his wife, and ought to take my views from him, not he his from me. And besides,” she said, with a little laugh, “ I am, after all, not like an old acquaint— not like one he has known all his life, but comparatively new, and a stranger to his ways of thinking, — to many of his ways of thinking, — and only learning by degrees how he will look at this and that. You don’t realize how that operates even when people are married. Theo has very distinct views, — which is what he ought to have. The pity is that, I have lived so much alone, I have my views, too. It is a great deal better to be blank,” she said, laughing again. Her laugh was slightly nervous, too, and it seemed to be intended for Theo, whose conversation with his mother had now paused, and who was occasionally glancing, not without suspicion, at his wife and sister in the corner. Did she laugh to make him think that there was nothing serious in their talk ? She called to him to join them, making room upon the sofa. “ Chatty is tired,” she said, “ and out of spirits. I want to try and amuse her a little, Theo, before Mrs. Warrender takes her away.”

“ Amusement is the last thing we were thinking of,” he said, coming forward with a sort of surly opposition, as if it came natural to him to go against what she said. “ My opinion is that she should go down to the country at once, and not show at all in town this season. I don’t think it would be pleasant for any of us. There has been talk enough.”

“There has been no talk that Chatty need care for,” said Lady Markland, quietly : “don’t think so, — pray don’t think so. Who could say anything of her ? People are bad enough in London, but not so bad as that.”

“ Nevertheless, mother.” said Theo, “ I think you and I understand each other. Chatty and you have been enjoying yourselves abroad. You never cared for town. It would be much better in every sense that you should go home quietly now.”

“ We intended nothing else,” said Mrs. Warrender, with a slight irritation, “ though I confess I see no reason. But we need not discuss that over again. In the end of the week ” —

“ But this is only Monday. You cannot have anything to keep you here for three or four days. I think you should go to-morrow. A day’s rest is surely enough.”

“ We have some people to see, Theo.”

“ If I were you, I would see nobody. You will be sure to meet with something unpleasant. Take Chatty home : that is far the best thing you can do. Frances would say the same, if she had not that unfortunate desire to please everybody, to say what is agreeable, which makes women so untrustworthy. But my advice is to take Chatty home. In the circumstances it is the only thing to do.”

Chatty rose from where she had been seated by Lady Markland’s side. “ Am I to be hidden away ? ” she said, her pale face flushing nervously. “ Have I done anything wrong ? ”

“ How silly to ask such questions! You know well enough what I mean. You have been talked about. My mother has more experience; she can tell you, A girl who has been talked about is always at a disadvantage. She had much better keep quite quiet until the story has all died away,”

“ Mother,” cried Chatty, holding out her hands, “take me away, then, tonight, this moment, from this horrible place, where the people have so little heart and so little sense ! ”


“What was Chatty saying to you? I rely upon your good sense, Frances, not to encourage her in this sentimental folly.”

“Is it sentimental folly? I think it is very true feeling, Theo.”

“ Perhaps these are interchangeable terms,” he said, with the angry smile she knew so well; “ but without discussing that matter, I am determined that this business shall go no further. A sister of mine waiting for a married man till he shall be divorced ! The very thought makes my blood boil.”

“ Surely that is an unnecessarily strong statement. The circumstances must be taken into consideration.”

“I will take no circumstances into consideration. It is a thing which must not be. The Cavendishes see it in precisely the same light, and my mother,— even my mother begins to hear reason.”

Lady Markland made no reply. They were walking home, as their house was close at hand,—a house taken for the season, in which here was not the room and space of the country, nor its active interests, and which she, having come there with much hope in the change, would already have been glad to exchange for Markland, or the Warren, or almost any other place in the world. He walked more quickly than suited her, and she required all her breath to keep up with him; besides that, she was silenced by what he said to her, and did not know how to reply.

“You say nothing.” he continued after a moment, “ from which I conclude that you are antagonistic, and mean to throw your influence the other way.”

“ Not antagonistic : but I cannot help feeling for Chatty, whose heart is so much in it, — more, perhaps, than you think.”

“ Chatty’s heart does n’t trouble me much,” he said, carelessly. “ Chatty will always obey whatever impulse is nearest and most continuous, if she is not backed up on the other side.”

“I don’t believe you realize the strength of her feelings, Theo. That is what she is afraid of, not to be strong enough to hold out.”

“ Oh ! So you have been over that ground with her already ! ”

“ She spoke to me. She was glad of the opportunity to relieve her mind.”

“ And you promised to stand by her ? ” he said.

Lady Markland had been a woman full of dignity and composure. She was so still to all outward appearance, and the darkness concealed the flush that rose to her face; but it could not conceal the slight tremor with which she replied, alter a pause, “I promised not to be against her, at least.”

A flood of angry words rose to Theo’s lips, the blood mounted to his head. He had taken the bias, so fatal between married people, of supposing, when his wife disagreed with him, that she did it on purpose ; not because she herself thought so, but because it was opposition. Perhaps it was because of that inherent contempt for women which is a settled principle in the minds of so many men ; perhaps because he had been used to a narrow mind and opinions cut and dry in the case of his sister Minnie ; perhaps even because of his hot adoration and faith in Lady Markland as perfect. To continue perfect in his eyes, after their marriage, she would have needed to agree always with him, to think his thoughts. He exacted this accord with all the susceptibility of a fastidious nature, which would be content with no forced agreement, and divined in a moment when an effort was required to conform her opinions to his. He would not tolerate such an effort. He would have had her agree with him by instinct, by nature, not even by desire to please him, much less by policy. He could not endure to think of either of these means of procuring what he wanted. What he wanted was the perfect agreement of a nature which arrived at the same conclusions as his by the same means ; which responded before he spoke ; which was always ready to anticipate, to give him the exquisite satisfaction of feeling he was right by a perpetual seconding of all his decisions and anticipation of his thoughts. Had he married a young creature like Chatty, ready to take the impress of his more active mind, he might have found other drawbacks in her to irritate his amour propre, and probably would have despised her judgment in consequence of her perpetual agreement with him. But the fact was that he was jealous of his wife ; not in the ordinary vulgar way, for which there was no possibility, but for every year of additional age, and every experience, and all the life she had led apart from him. He could not endure to think that she had formed the most of her ideas before she knew him: the thought of her past was horrible to him. A suspicion that she was thinking of that, that her mind was going back to something which he did not know, awoke a sort of madness in his brain. All this she knew by painful intuition now, at first by discoveries which startled her very soul, and seemed to disturb the pillars of the world. She was aware of the forced control he kept over himself not to burst forth upon her, and she would have fled morally, and brought herself round to his ideas and sworn eternal faith to him, if it would have done any good. But she knew very well that his uneasy nature would not be satisfied with that.

“ I might have divined,” he said, after a long pause, during which they went quickly along, he increasing his pace unawares, she losing her breath in keeping up with him, “ that you would see this matter differently. But I must ask, at least, that you won’t circumvent us, and neutralize all our plans. The only thing for Chatty to do is to drop it altogether, to receive no more letters, to cut the whole concern. It is a disreputable business, altogether. It is better she should never marry at all than marry in this way.”

“ I feel sure, Theo, that except in this way she will never marry at all, — if you think that matters.”

“ If I think that matters ! It is not very flattering to me that you should think it does n’t matter,” he said.

And then they reached their house, and he followed her into the drawingroom, where one dim lamp was burning, and the room had a deserted look. Perhaps that last speech had been a little unkind. Compunction visited him not unfrequently. He seated himself at the little table on which the lamp was standing, as she took off her hat and recovered her breath. “ Since we are at home, and alone for once in a way,” he said, more graciously, “which happens seldom enough, I ’ll read to you for an hour, if you like, Frances; that is, if you have no letters to write.”

There was a little irony in the last words, for Lady Markland had, if the truth must be told, a foible that way, and liked, as so many women do, the idea of having a large correspondence, and took pleasure in keeping it up. She answered eagerly that she had no letters to write (though not without a glance at her table, where one lay unfinished), and would like his reading above everything : which was so far true that it was a sign of peace, and an occupation which he enjoyed. She got her work while he got the book, not without a horrible sense that Geoff, always wakeful, might have heard her come in, and would call for her; nor without a longing desire to go to him, if only for a moment, which was what she had intended to do. Perhaps it was to prevent this that Theo had been so ready with his offer; and so sensitive was he to every impression that the poor lady felt a shiver of terror lest her half formed intention, or Geoff’s waking, might thrill through the atmosphere to her husband’s mind, and make him fling down the book with impatience. She got her work with a nervous haste, which it seemed to her he must divine, and seated herself opposite to him. “Now I am ready,” she said.

Poor Lady Markland ! He had not read a page — a page to which she gave the most painful attention, trying not to think that the door might open at any moment, and the nurse appear begging her to speak a word to Lord Markland — when a faint cry reached her ears. It was faint and far away, but she knew what it was. It was the cry of “ Mamma ! ” from Geoff’s bed, only given forth, she knew, after much tossing and turning, and which a year ago she would have heard from any corner of the house, and flown to answer. She started when she heard it: but she had been so much on the alert, and prepared for some interruption of the kind, that she hoped Theo did not see the little instinctive movement. “ Mamma ! ” She sat with a nervous thrill upon her, taking no notice, trying to listen, seeing in the dark the little sleepless boy tossing upon his uneasy pillow, and calling in vain for his mother, but resisting all the impulses both of heart and habit. If only Theo might not hear! After a while, however, Theo’s ear caught the sound. “What’s that?” he said sharply, stopping and looking at her across the table. Alas, the repressed agitation in her smile told its own story to Theo. He knew that she pretended to listen, that she knew very well what it was. “ That,” she said, faltering. “ What ? Oh ! it sounds like Geoff calling — some one.”

“ He is calling you; and you are dying to be with him, to rush up-stairs and coax and kiss him to sleep. You are ruining the boy.”

“No, Theo. It is probably nurse he is calling. He sleeps so badly,” she said, with a broken voice : for the appeals to mamma came quicker, and she felt as if the child were dragging at her very heart-strings.

“ He would have slept better, had he been paid less attention to; but don’t let me keep you from your boy,” he said, throwing down the book on the table. She made an attempt at an appeal.

“ Theo ! please don’t go away. I will run for a moment, and see what is the matter.”

“ You can do what you please about that: but you are ruining the boy,” said Warrender. And then he began to hum a tune, which showed that he had reached a white heat of exasperation, and left the room. She sat motionless till she heard the street door closed loudly. Her heart seemed to stand still: was there, was it possible, a certain relief in the sound ? She stole upstairs noiselessly and into Geoff’s room, and threw herself down by the bedside.

“ Oh, Geoff, what is the matter ? ” Though her heart had dragged her so, there was in her tone a tender exasperation, too.

“ I can’t sleep,” the boy said, clinging to her, with his arms round her neck.

“ But you must try to sleep, for my sake. Don’t toss about, but lie quite still: that is far the best way.”

“ I did,” said Geoff, “ and said all the poetry I knew, and did the multiplication table twice. I wanted you. I kept quiet as long as I could ; but I wanted you so.”

“ But you must not want me. You are too big to want your mother.”

“ I shall never be too big : I want you always,” said Geoff, murmuring in the dark, with his little arms clinging close round her neck.

“ Oh, Geoff, my dearest boy ! but for my sake you must content yourself, — for my sake.”

“Was he angry?” the child asked: and in the cover of the darkness he clenched his little hands and contracted his brows, all of which she guessed, though she saw it not.

“ That is not a question to ask,” she said. “ You must never speak to me so ; and remember, Geoff,—they say I am spoiling you, — I will never come when you call me, after to-night.”

But Lady Markland’s heart was very heavy as she went down-stairs. She had put her child away from her ; and she sat alone in the large still drawingroom all the evening, hearing the carriages come and go outside, and hansoms dashing up, which she hoped might be coming to her own door. But Theo did not come back. This was one of many evenings which she spent alone, in disgrace, not knowing how to get her pardon, feeling guilty, yet having done nothing. Her second venture had not brought her very much additional happiness so far.

M. O. W. Oliphant.