IT was a long time before Lily could think at all of what had happened, of what might have happened, of what might be going to become of her now, all forlorn and alone in the London streets. She had no time for thought; the first necessity was to go away, to go as far as her trembling yet nervously strong and energetic limbs could carry her, — away, away from that dreadful place. She flew rather than ran close by the garden walls and railings, scarcely feeling her feet touch the ground, to the end of the street, and out of that into a little square, which she crossed obliquely, following the street that led out of it at the other corner in a contrary direction. Until her breath was exhausted, and the first impulse of horror and panic had to some degree worn out, she never paused, going always straight before her, out of one street into another; sometimes crossing one which was full of bustle and lights, plunging into the darkness again on the other side. The district to which she had been taken was one of those which flank great London on every side, like a series of dull towns with interminable endless little streets, leading out of each other; all alike, monotonous, featureless, overpowering in their blank nonentity. Lily had no leisure of mind to understand this, or think how it was that she found nothing but solitude round her, though it helped to oppress her soul; but now and then a chilly anguish run through her, a feeling that she had got into some terrible circle which might bring her back to the spot she had fled from, and throw her once more into the power of him from whom she had escaped ; for the streets were all so like, so horribly like, with the same dull lamps at the corners, the same line of little gardens, the same rows of windows. The light had altogether faded out of the eveningsky, but it was still faintly blue overhead, showing a glittering and twinkling of innumerable stars; not bright, but mildly present in the sky, making a sort of twilight in the heavens. The sight of this pale, ineffable clearness appearing where there was a larger opening gave Lily heart to go on ; it was something known in the midst of this strange wilderness through which she was wandering, something familiar where all was so dark and strange.

When the first impulse of flight and panic began to wane, and she felt her breath fail her and her limbs trembling under her, Lily slackened her pace unconsciously ; and then she began to think. This was more dreadful than the other state, the wild instinct which had obliterated everything except the necessity of getting away. She began to remember, to realize what it was that had happened to her. Heaven help her, a forlorn and solitary creature, not knowing where to go nor what to do in this awful desert of houses, where there was no door open to her, but only one which led to — hell. That was where it led to. She caught her breath with an effort to repress the long, broken, convulsive sob that shook her from head to foot, and came back and back, like the sob of a child which has wept all its tears away. Yet it was not of the immediate danger she had escaped that she thought most. She did not, in fact, realize that, having an imagination free from all visions of corruption. What Lily realized with vivid horror was the picture so common in books, so continually repeated, which forms the burden of so many a rustic tale, — the betrayed girl going home in shame and misery to die, creeping to her father’s door, not daring to knock, not venturing even to look, hiding her ruined head upon the threshold. That it should have come within the most distant possibility that this could happen to her ! This was the first conscious thought that took possession of her when she became able to think at all. It had flashed across her mind as she stood in the dimly lighted room, hearing from the dingy little maid what fate was preparing for her. It returned now, and filled her whole being with such a pervading force as is possible only to the simple soul. It did not seem to be a thought only, but a vision. She, Lily, the first of all belonging to her, the one exceptional creature, unlike all others ; knowing and feeling to the very tips of her fingers that she was not like any one else, that she belonged to another sphere, — she whose intention and dream it had been to go in at that humble door, leaning upon the arm of the finest gentleman she knew, and justify her mother’s pride and fulfill all prognostications of splendor and happiness ! That to her, to Lily, that other fate might have come, the common fate of the rustic fool, the village girl betrayed! Perhaps it was a proof that no stronger passion, no self-abandonment, had ever been in Lily’s thoughts. This terrible picture took possession of her; she could almost feel herself sinking before the door, covering her face, and in her heart the humiliation, the shame beyond words, the collapse of every hope. If it had not been that silence was the first necessity in her present terrible circumstances, nothing could have restrained the keen cry of imagined anguish that was on her lips, — that this might have happened to her !

Then she calmed, or tried to calm, herself with the thought that it never could have happened. Even if she had not ascertained her danger in time and escaped as she had done, Lily felt, grasping herself tight, as it were, holding herself together, that shame could never have come to her, never, never, never ! It was a thing which she could not acknowledge possible, which never could have been. She clenched her hands, which were cold and trembling, until she hurt them with the pressure, and repeated Never, never, never! In all the world there was no power which could have brought that humiliation upon her. Oh, no, no, no! There are things which can be, and there are things which cannot be. She hurried on in her passion, flying from that thought which of itself was a degradation; for to be obliged to acknowledge even the possibility of shame approaching, shame almost within touch, was a shameful thing. She went on quicker and quicker to escape from it. It takes a long time to exhaust a thought, especially in such circumstances as those in which the girl now found herself. Was any girl ever in such a plight before ? In the streets of London, without a place to go to, without a friend, not knowing where to turn, lost, altogether lost to everybody who knew her, to everything she knew ! Her thoughts swept on like an accompaniment to that soft sound of her light footsteps, sometimes interrupted by a start of rising terror when she heard steps following her, or saw some figure coming into sight under the lamplight, but resuming again, going on and on. It was a long time before she came to the question what she was to do. The night had darkened, deepened, all around; the few little shops at the street corners which she passed from time to time had put up their shutters; the lights were few in the windows. It was no longer evening, but night. What was she to do?

Lily had never in her life gone anywhere or taken any important step by herself. She had gone to school, indeed, without the escort given to girls of a higher class, but even this under limitations : put into the railway carriage at one end, and met at the other, as was thought necessary by her schoolmistress, at least. She knew that what people did, when benighted in a strange place, was to go to a hotel; but this was an idea which made the blood course through her veins more wildly than before. To go to a hotel, a girl, alone, on foot, without any luggage except the basket, which she clung to as if there might possibly be help in it! The beating of her heart seemed to choke Lily, as she thought of that expedient. How could she explain that she was in London without any place to go to ? No, no, that was impossible ! She could not do it; she had not the courage. Oh, if she could but see some good woman, some one with a kind face, going into one of the little houses, standing at one of the doors! In books it was so certain that a poor girl would meet her at the end, when she was perhaps in despair. But no good woman stood at any door which Lily passed, or looked at her suddenly with compassion, going along the pavement. By this time, indeed, there were no women about, nobody was in those quiet streets. The doors were all closed ; from time to time some one went by, not distinguishable in the lamplight, who took no notice of Lily, — sometimes a policeman, with his heavy tread sounding all down the street in the quiet of the night. As it grew later and later, these policemen began to look at her, she observed, as if she were a strange sight; and it occurred to her that perhaps, in her ignorance, not knowing where she was going, she might he passing and repassing through the same street, meeting the same man, who would naturally wonder to see a young woman going along so late. And she began to get so tired, — oh, so tired; feeling as if she could not go further than the next corner, yet walking on mechanically without any volition of her own; her limbs moving, moving, her feet sometimes stumbling, always going on as if they had some separate impulse of their own. If she only dared to sit down on the steps of a door, rest a little, perhaps go to sleep for a time, leaning her head upon her hand ! But Lily felt hazily, in the confusion of her weariness, that if she did this the policeman or some one might speak to her, might take her perhaps to prison, or to the workhouse, or somewhere which would be a disgrace. Everything unknown seemed as if it might be a disgrace, something that would be a shame to think of, to have encountered. To be out all night was shameful, too, — in the streets all night! What would any one think to whom that was said ? In London streets all night! Anybody who heard of that would think of noise and tumult, and crowds of people and blazing lights, and dreadful gayety and merry-making. But what a mistake that was ! Lily said to herself. The streets of London, — what could be more quiet ? Quieter than the road through the village or the country highways, where the dogs would bark, at least, at a passing footstep, and the people in the houses get up to look out and wonder who it could be. But in these streets no dog barked, no window opened, no one looked out. She remembered to have heard that no woman need fear going anywhere in London, so long as she walked steadily along, minding her own business, giving no occasion to any one to interfere. How true that was, how safe it was, nobody paying any attention ! It sounded a terrible thing to be out walking about the streets all night; but it was not so dreadful, after all. There was nobody to meddle ; the policeman might perhaps look surprised to see a girl alone so late; but no one said a word. It was quite, quite safe; it was the best way, so that nobody should ever know. For who could believe it possible that Lily, Lily! had spent a night like that, walking, walking, never resting, about the silent, silent streets. If she were not so tired, and so faint, and so ready to cry, and so like to drop down with utter fatigue and blinding, chilling weariness ! But here was the policeman coming again, and he might think he had a right to speak to her if she faltered, or made any sound of crying, or showed that she was tired while he was passing. So she went on and on.

What she would have done had she not happened upon this quiet district, these innumerable little silent streets, who can tell? Had she drifted into a great thoroughfare, or the places where people live who go home late, poor Lily’s adventures might have been very different. It was fortunate for her that Stephen Mitford had chosen a quarter far removed from those which he knew best, a place out of reach of any prying eyes, in the midst of the respectability of the Westbourne Park district, in the endless labyrinths of Roads and Gardens and Places, where midnight commotion never enters. More than once she passed the very corner of the street to which he had taken her, in the ignorance of her aimless wandering in the dark hours of the night; sometimes, indeed, was within the length of a street from him searching for her. But it would not have mattered had they met face to face. Lily was forever emancipated from that dream. He could as soon have moved the church in the deep shadow of which the poor girl ventured to pause a little, leaning against the railings, as have persuaded or forced her back to the false shelter he had provided. However, he never came within sight of that shadowy little figure, which passed like a ghost, going close to the houses, brushing past the garden walls.

She was still going on in her circuit, her head more and more confused, her thoughts more broken, all lucidity gone from her mind, nothing left but the mechanical power of movement and sense that she must go on, when suddenly a miracle was worked about and around the poor little wanderer. The day broke. She was so dazed with fatigue that she had not observed the preliminary phenomena of dawn. Things had got clearer round her, but she had taken no notice. She had been vaguely aware of the houses, with their windows all veiled with white blinds, like closed eyes, which somehow became more visible, as if looking coldly at her, wondering what she was doing there, when abruptly there came upon her through an opening, like a hand reaching out of heaven, the warmth and glory of a ray of sunshine. Lily, who all that awful night through had not uttered a sound, started as if some one had touched her, and gave a faint cry. The sun, the day! It was over, then, this horrible darkness and silence. She put her hand to her heart, to which the ray, the dart, had gone. All at once the danger seemed over. It seemed to her that she now could sit down anywhere, which was the one sole, overpowering wish that remained in her, — rest anywhere without being remarked. The policeman was no longer a thing to fear, nor any one, any one ! Not that she had been afraid, but now that it was over she felt with reawalking faculties all the horror that had been in it, — now that it was day. She did not sit down, however, though the friendly steps at all those closed doors appeared to spread out like delightful places of refuge to receive her. One on which that ray of sunshine slanted was almost too tempting to be resisted. But courage came back to her with the light, and freedom and deliverance. It might be possible to ask for shelter somewhere, to look out wistfully again for that good woman, now the day had come. But though she felt this sudden relief in her soul, utter exhaustion made Lily like a creature in a dream, moving she could not tell how, drifting onward with little conscious impulse of her own.

She remarked things round her, and felt the sensation of freedom, but always as in a dream. Presently she came to the edge of a large thoroughfare, and stood and gazed at it with a wonder that was half reverence and half fear. Lily knew enough to understand that this was not like the streets in which she had been wandering. The great shops all barricaded and barred, the wide pavements, the many lamps, some of them still burning ineffectually, with curious unnecessary light, in the full eye of day, showed her that this was one of the centres of life of which she had heard. She thought it was perhaps Regent Street or Piccadilly. To see it bereft of all life, silent, filled with light and the freshness of the morning, produced in her mind some faint shadow of that emotion with which the poet saw the “ mighty heart " of the great city lying still, and the river flowing at its will. But that impression was faint, and the aspect of the deserted street chilled once more the innocent vagrant, half restored to life by the awakening touch of day. There was no one to help her, no one looking out to see what unhappy lost creature was in want of succor, no good woman. Oh, where was she, that good woman, who would take her by the hand, who would stand between her distracted youth and the terrible world ?

She was too much worn out, however, to feel even this with any warmth. Standing still had rested her a little: she went on again, automatically, scarcely knowing why, because there was nothing else for her to do, along the whole vacant length of the empty street. An early workman or two, pipe in mouth, went past her, taking no notice. No one took any notice. The earliest houses began to wake, as she passed, a few blinds were drawn up, a housemaid appeared here and there at a door, — a girl who had slept all night, and risen to her work cheerful and rosy, whereas she! One or two of these looked curiously at her, she thought, as she went along. Was her walk unsteady ? Was her hair untidy? she wondered vaguely. What would they think ? And what was she to do ? What was she to do ? Though she could neither feel nor think save by moments, something would rise in the morning air, and breathe across her with this question. What, what was she to do? As she went on, she suddenly became aware that the people whom she had begun mechanically to observe, appearing one by one from various sides, were all tending in one direction; and then a carriage or two came noisily along, disturbing the quiet, turning the same way. She looked up, and her heart gave a wild spring, then fell down again, down, down, into her bosom. It was the railway to which the people were all tending, and she with them, — the way home. How could she go home ? Oh, home, home, to which she had meant to return triumphant on her husband’s arm ! Her husband — but who was he ? She had no husband; and how could she go home ? She must think, she must think; the time had come at last when she must think, and find out what she was to do. She went on with the little stream, following instinctively, as if the current had caught her. One lady went into the waitingroom, where Lily followed, still mechanically. She did not know why she should choose to follow that individual more than another : they were all blind leaders of the blind to her confused intelligence, now sinking into a sort of waking sleep. But when she found herself sheltered by four walls and with a roof over her head, the long wretchedness of the night overwhelmed Lily. It seemed to have waited for her there to close around her, to stupefy all her faculties. She sank down upon a sofa, unconscious of the public place it was, knowing nothing except that here at last was shelter, and a place where she could lay her weary head.



“ Your Lily ? ” exclaimed Edmund, with an amazement so evident that the poor woman, who stood subduing herself, in a state of passionate excitement, yet keeping down her voice and her tears, half in eagerness to hear his reply, half in terror lest she should betray her distress to other ears than his, clasped her hands together in dismay, and burst into one momentary strangled cry. She had not doubted that he would know, — and he knew nothing. Her feverish hope, the hope which had seemed almost a certainty, fell in a moment and perished.

“Oh, sir,” she said, “oh, Mr. Edmund, don’t say that you don’t know, for it’s been all my hope! ”

He took her by the hand gently, and led her to a chair. The interruption had made him angry at first; but the real and terrible suffering in her homely face, which was blanched out of all its usual ruddiness, the mouth trembling, the brows all puckered with trouble, touched Edmund’s heart. “ Sit down,” he said, “ and compose yourself, and tell me what has happened. I know nothing about your daughter : what is it ? If I can do anything to help you, I will.”

“ Oh, Mr. Edmund! ” cried the poor woman again ; then she clasped her hands in her lap, and, leaning forward, her eyelids swollen and large with tears, said with impressive tragical simplicity, “ I have not seen my Lily since yesterday middle day, — not since yesterday middle day.”

“ You have not seen her ? I don’t understand,” said Edmund. “ Do you mean that you have had a quarrel — that she has— No, no, I know that can’t be. She must have gone — to see some of your friends.”

“We have no friends, Mr. Edmund, as she’d wish to go and see. Oh, if I’ve been a foolish woman bringing her up as I have done, out of her own kind, oh, God forgive me, and that it may all lie upon me! Mr. Edmund, she’s got no friends for that reason, because she’s a lady, is my Lily, and the rest are all just girls in the village. It never was no amusement to her, nor no pleasure, to go with them. No, no, she’s not gone to no friends. There’s only one thing I can think of to keep me from despair. Oh, Mr. Edmund, have pity upon me ! Tell me as she has gone off with your brother, and I ’ll never say a word. I ’ll not suspect nor think no harm. Mr. Edmund, I have confidence in my Lily, and Mr. Roger, he’s always acted proper and like a gentleman. Oh, Mr. Edmund, say as he’s taken her away ! ”

“ Why should he take her away ? He has asked her to marry him, and he has told you of it, and my father knows; everybody is now prepared for the marriage. You may be sure it would never occur to my brother to do anything clandestine, anything secret. Why should he ? He has suffered enough for her; there can be no need for any secret now.”

Edmund could scarcely restrain the indignation which rose in his mind as he spoke. Yes, Roger had suffered enough for her. To run away, after all, with this cottage girl was a supposition impossible, unworthy of him, ridiculous. Why had he borne all that he had done, if the matter was to come to such a solution at the end ?

“ I’ve said that to myself,” said poor Mrs. Ford. “ I’ve said it over and over: all as ever Mr. Roger has done or said, he’s been the perfect gentleman all through. But,” she added, crushing her hands together, and raising to him her tearful face, “ if my Lily is not with him, where is she ? for I have not seen her — I have not seen her ” — her voice broke, choked with tears and unquenchable sobs — “ me, that never let her out of my sight, — not since yesterday middle day. And there ’s her bed that no one’s slept in, and her things all lying, and supper and breakfast never touched. And oh, where is she, where is she, Mr. Edmund, where ’s my Lily ? ” cried the poor mother, her painful self-control breaking down. She held up her hands to him in an agony of appeal. Her poor homely face was transfigured with love and anguish, with that aching and awful void in which every wretchedness is concentrated.

It was scarcely to be wondered at if in Edmund’s mind there had sprung up at first a sort of impatient hope that here was a possibility of being rid of Lily, that troubler of everybody’s peace. But he could not resist the misery in the poor woman’s face. He sat down by her and soothed her as best he could, inquiring when and how the girl had disappeared and what the circumstances were, if perhaps they might throw any light upon it. It was a curious and bewildering coincidence that she should have disappeared on the afternoon on which Roger had gone to town. Was it possible, his brother asked himself, that, weary of all that had taken place, scarcely happy even in the prospect of what was to come, Roger had snatched at the possibility of concluding the whole business without further fuss or fret, and persuaded her to trust herself to him ? He thought it strange, very strange, that his brother should have dreamed of such an expedient; stranger still that Lily, no doubt elated by such a change in her fortunes, should have consented to it, and foregone her triumph. But still it was extraordinary that both these events should happen in one day, both in one afternoon, Roger’s departure and Lily’s disappearance. He could not refuse to see the probability of some connection between them. While he listened to Mrs. Ford’s story, his mind went off into endeavors to reason it out, to convince himself that the possibility of such a rapid conclusion might have struck Roger as desirable. He interrupted her to ask if she had inquired at the station, if any one had seen Lily there. “ It must be known, some one must have seen her, if she went by that train. But of course you have inquired there.”

Mrs. Ford replied with a little scream of alarm.

“ Ask, ask at the station! — as if I did n’t know about my own child, as if she had gone away unbeknownst to me ! I ’d rather die ! Oh, Mr. Edmund, don’t go and do that; don’t, for God’s sake ! Ask — about Lily ! —as if she was lost, as if we did n’t know where she was ” — She seized him by the arm, in her terror, as if she feared he would begin his inquiries at once. " Oh, Mr. Edmund, don’t, don’t, for the love of God ! ”

“ If you do not inquire, how are you ever to know ? ” he asked, with impatience.

“ I ’d rather never know,” she replied. “ I’d rather spend my life in misery than expose my Lily. Whatever she’s done, she’s done it with a right heart: whatever happens, I know that. And rather than ask strangers about her, or let on as I don’t know, I’d rather die. Don’t you go and expose us, and make my girl the talk of the parish that does n’t know her, — oh, that does n’t know what she is ! Ford would have done it, never thinking; but he saw when I told him. Mr. Edmund,” she said, rising, with a kind of dignity in her despair, “ I came to you putting faith in you because of your brother. You have n’t got no right to betray me, nor my Lily. If you go and expose my Lily ” — She stopped with a gasp, — words would do no more, — but confronted the young master, the gentleman to whom she had looked up as a superior being, with all the indignant grandeur of an angry queen.

“ You need not fear for me, — I will betray no one,” said Edmund. “ And I think I understand you,” he added, more quietly, “ but it is very unreasonable, — you must see it is unreasonable. How are we to find out if we make no inquiries? However, I understand you, and I will say no more. I don’t know what to think about my brother. It was to avoid him that she left the house, that she told you she was going to spend the day in the park; and she said you could tell him truly that she was far, far away ? And yet you think — I don’t know what to think.”

“ It’s all true, — it’s all true ! Nor I don’t know what to think— But oh, my Lily, my Lily, where is she ? ” the mother cried, wringing her hands.

After a time Edmund succeeded in calming the poor woman, and persuaded her to go home, promising to follow her there, to meet her husband, and discuss with them both what was to be done. Appearances were so strongly against Roger that it was impossible for Edmund to stand aside and let the poor little rural tragedy go on to its appropriate, its conventional end. If Roger had anything to do with it, it would not have that conventional end. But it became harder and harder, as he thought all the circumstances over, to persuade himself that Roger could have taken such a strange step. He conducted Mrs. Ford down-stairs through the billiard-room, which was the way in which she was least likely to be seen by the servants, and flattered himself that nobody save Larkins was any the wiser. Larkins was a person of discretion, — of too much discretion, indeed, for he had looked every inch the possessor of a family secret when he called Edmund out of his father’s room to see Mrs. Ford, and there was a suspicious vacancy about the hall and corridors, as if the prudent butler had thought it necessary to clear every possible spectator away. The consciousness of something to conceal makes the apprehension unusually lively. In ordinary circumstances Edmund would have remarked neither Larkins’s looks nor the vacancy of the house and passages. He was not, however, to be allowed long to congratulate himself upon this quiet. When he came out of the billiard-room, after Mrs. Ford’s departure, he met Nina, her eyes dancing with curiosity and the keen delight of an inquirer who has got upon the scent of a new mystery.

“ Oh, Edmund ! ” she said, breathless, too eager even to dissimulate the heat of her pursuit.

“What are you doing here ? ”

“ Oh, nothing, Edmund, only looking. Was that Mrs. Ford, that woman going out this way ? ”

“ What does it matter to you who it was, Nina ? You had better go back to your own part of the house.”

“ Oh, Edmund, I do so want to know. I want to ask you something. What is the matter ? You and papa were shut up so long in the library, and then you and Mrs. Ford. Are you fond of Lily, too ? Are you like all the rest ? ”

Edmund put his hand upon her arm, and led her to the drawing-room. It was only there, in the shelter of that wide and quiet space, that he trusted himself to turn round upon her. " Nina,” he said, severely, “ will you never be cured of this prying and listening ? ” And then, drawing his breath hard, “ Why do you put such a question to me ? Do you know it is a great piece of impertinence ? And what do you mean by ‘ all the rest ’ ? ”

“Oh, Edmund, don’t look so angry. I haven’t done anything wrong; indeed, indeed, I was n’t listening ! How could I,” said Nina, with indignation, “ when you know there are those horrid portières at the library door ? ”

Edmund, with a groan, threw himself into a chair ; this little creature, with her odious insight and information, had him in her power.

“ And, Edmund,” she went on, “ do you think it is possible not to want to know, when the whole house is turned upside down ? Roger coming home on Monday, going away on Tuesday again, you in a great worry all the time, papa so angry and shut up in the library with Mr. Pouncefort, — there is always something wrong when Mr. Pouncefort is sent for, Simmons says, — and then Mrs. Ford taken to your sitting-room upstairs. If you think all that can happen, and only me not want to know !”

There was a certain reason in what she said which her brother could not dispute; and her words were full of mysterious suggestions. “ What do you mean,” he said again, “ by ' all the rest ’ ? ”

“ I would tell you if you would not be angry; but how can I tell you, Edmund, when you find fault with everything I say ? ”

He waved his hand in mingled impatience and apology. All the rest! — was it only the instinct of a gossip, or was there any light to come upon this dark problem from what Nina, with her servants’-hall information, really knew.

“ Well, Roger is in love with her,” said Nina, calmly ; “ every one, both upstairs and down-stairs, knows that. I did,” the little girl added, with a certain triumph, “ long ago.”

“ Nina, you don’t know how you vex me. You ought to be sent away, my poor little girl; you ought not to be left here ” —

“ To Geraldine’s or Amy’s ! Oh, yes, do ask papa to send me,” cried Nina, clapping her hands.

“ But allowing that about Roger, which is no business of yours, Roger is only one, after all; what do you mean by ‘ all the rest ’ ? ”

“ Oh, I only said that when I thought that you, too — because of Mrs. Ford going up to your room, Edmund.”

“ You have nothing to do with Mrs. Ford, nor with me either. What did you mean by c all the rest ’ ? ”

Nina hung her head a little. " It is n’t grammatical to say all when there are only two, is it ? ” she said ; “ but supposing there were only two, Edmund, why, then they would be ‘ all the rest ’! ”

“ Who are the two ? Who was the second, Nina ? ”

“ Oh, Edmund, don’t tell upon me !

I don’t mind for Roger. He might be angry, but he would n’t scold me. And then they say he has told papa and everybody that he is going to marry Lily, so it would be no secret. But, Edmund, if you were to tell Steve ” —

“ Steve ! ”

“Well, of course,” said Nina, “he is 1 all the rest ; ’ who could it be else ? I said you too, and there are only the three of you. I found out Steve all by myself. He used to go out every evening after dinner. I wondered very much, — how could I help it ? — and then I found out what it meant.”

“ Nina, this is too dreadful; you are no better than a little spy. You found it out, you went after him, you followed him — where ? To the lodge ? ”

Nina had been nodding vigorously during the course of these interrogations; but when he came to the last she changed the movement, and shook her head with all its innocent curls, instead of nodding it. “ Oh, no, no ! ” she said, “ he never went near the lodge; she met him in the park. They had a post-office, a place where they put their letters, in a hollow tree ; I could show it you, Edmund. And I will tell you another thing,” cried the girl, forgetting all possibility of reproof in the delight of having such a wonderful tale to tell. “ Some one saw Lily Ford at Molton Junction yesterday. She went to the office and sent off a telegraph, — oh, I know that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean, — she sent off a telegraph from Molton Junction. It is a long walk to Molton Junction. If it had been right to do it, she would have sent it from our own station. I don’t know what it was,” said Nina, regretfully, “ but I am sure she must have intended that nobody should know.”

“ At Molton Junction ! ” Edmund forgot to chide the little collector of news, whose eyes were dancing with satisfaction and triumph, as she brought out one detail after another. She enjoyed her own narrative thoroughly, without observing its effect upon him. He had grown very grave, his face was overcast, his brows were knitted over his eyes, which looked away into vacancy as if seeing something there that appalled him. “And what then? What did she do then ? ” he asked, sharply, turning round. Nina was taken by surprise at this sudden change of tone.

“ I don’t know; I did not hear any more. I suppose she must have walked home again. And fancy going all that way only to send a telegraph, when you have a station so near your own door ! ”

“ Then she went only to send the telegram ; and came back again ? ”

“ I suppose so,” said Nina, with a sudden sense that her evidence, though so full of interest that at last it had silenced Edmund, was on this point defective. She had all the instincts of a detective, and perceived her failure, and saw in a moment that her brother had expected more. But Edmund asked no further questions. His mind was indeed so distracted by this new light as for the moment to be almost paralyzed. And yet there was nothing impossible nor even unlikely in it. But if the solution of the problem was to be found in Nina’s story, what was he to say to the miserable father and mother ? The new character thus introduced was very different from him whom they suspected; and Stephen’s actions could not be calculated on, like Roger’s. If Lily had fallen into his hands, Heaven help her! for she was very little likely to escape. It was not, however, of Lily that he thought; if he considered her at all, it was with an impatient feeling that, whatever happened, she would have but herself to thank for it, which was not just. Even Ford and his wife, though Edmund’s heart ached to think of them, held a secondary place in his thoughts. But Roger ! This was what struck him dumb with dismay. How was he to tell Roger that the girl he had loved had fled from her father’s house, and in all probability with his brother ? And the Squire, who for this unhappy girl’s sake had disinherited Roger, and was putting Stephen’s name in the place of that of his eldest son ! What could be more terrible than that irony of fate ?



Edmund found Ford the gamekeeper, with red eyes, strained by watching and misery, waiting for him as he approached the lodge; and Mrs. Ford came out from her door to meet them as they neared the house. The sight of these two unhappy people gazing at him with a wistful hope, as if he could do something, went to Edmund’s heart. Their house loomed vacant and miserable, with all the doors open, an empty place behind them, while they stood on either side of their visitor, and with appealing faces mutely implored him to help them. For neither of them could say much. “ Oh, Mr. Edmund ! ” Mrs. Ford cried from time to time, while her husband stood crushing his hat in his hands, starting at every little sound, with his bloodshot eyes fixed upon the young master. Ford’s misery was more pitiful to see than his wife’s was. He had less command of words, and could not calm himself either by renewed statements of the case or tears, as she could ; and perhaps the grosser dangers were more present to his mind, and he had less confidence in Lily’s power of controlling circumstances. All that he could do to relieve the anguish of his soul was to turn and twist his hat out of all shape in those strong moist hands, with which he would have wrung the neck, if he could, of the man who had beguiled away his Lily: but Ford was not capable of uttering her name.

Edmund’s attempt to question the anxious pair as to whether Lily had known any one who could have tempted her away, whether there was any lover, even any acquaintance whom she could have made without their knowledge, produced nothing but eager contradictions from Mrs. Ford, and a look of fury in her husband’s face which warned Edmund that the man was nearly beyond his own control, and might almost be tempted to spring upon him, Edmund, in lieu of any other victim. “ Who could she ever see ? Who entered our doors but Mr. Roger ? And not him with my will,” said Mrs. Ford, — “ oh, not with my will! I would have shut the door upon him, if I could. But never another came near the place, — never another! And she was n’t one to talk or to bandy words : oh, never anything of that sort! She was as retired, as quiet, never putting herself forward, never letting any man think as she was to be spoken to different from a lady ” —

Ford made a wild movement, as if he would have struck his wife. “ Will you stop that ? ” he said hoarsely, the blood mounting into his brown, weather-beaten countenance; and then she began to cry, poor soul, while he kneaded his hat with restless hands, and looked straight before him into the vacancy of the park, his eyes red and lowering with excess of wretchedness and sleeplessness and misery. He could not speak nor hear her speak; he was impatient of any touch upon his wounds; and yet, in the helplessness of his ignorance, incapable of doing anything in his own person, he turned his piteous gaze again, with dumb expectation, on Edmund, who assuredly could do something, he knew not what, to help to clear up this misery, to find Lily if found she could be.

“ Mrs. Ford,” said Edmund, “ if you are right, she is as safe as if she were here in your own care. My brother Roger asked her from you as his wife.”

“ Oh, Mr. Edmund ! ” cried Mrs. Ford, wringing her hands.

“ She is as safe as in your own house,” said Edmund, stopping with a gesture the story on her lips. “ If she is with him, all is well. Ford, you know him ; you know that what I say is true.”

The man looked at him wildly, crushing his hat into a pulp in his fierce grasp. “ I don’t know nothing,” he suddenly burst forth, with a kind of roar of anguish, — “nothing but that I ’ll wring his damned neck with these hands!”

“ Ford, oh, Ford ! ”

“ I ’ll wring his damned neck, master or no master, if he’s harmed my girl! ” said the man, with his hoarse roar, pushing his wife away with his elbow. Then he turned to Edmund with the pathetic eyes of a dog, a helpless dumb creature asking for help. “ Do something for us, Mr. Edmund,” he said.

“ I will, I will, if I can,” Edmund cried. They stood on each side of him, their eyes, appealing, going to his very heart. What was he to do ? He knew, though they did not, how vain it was. If she were with Roger, then no harm could come to her. But Stephen! — how could he suggest to them that horrible danger, that misery in which there was no hope ?

Edmund went to London by the night train. He arrived very early in the gray of the morning, before it was possible to see any one, even his brother. He went to the hotel near the station, and loitered through those slow, still morning hours, when nothing can be done, which are perhaps more dreadful in their monotony than any others. He was too much excited to sleep, and the brightness of the morning was appalling and merciless; softening nothing, showing everything terribly distinct and clear. To go to Roger and seek Lily there appeared to him more futile than even he had felt it to be at first. Lily there ! Could anything be more impossible ? That Roger should expose his wife that was to be to the faintest remark, that he should subject her to any misconstruction, that he could even have supposed it within the bounds of possibility that Lily would consent to go with him, Edmund now knew was preposterous. He had known it all along, but from pure pity of the misery of the family he had allowed himself to think that perhaps for once the impossible might have happened. He now felt that it could not be so. But on the other side, if Nina was right! The Mitfords had no delusions in respect to each other; at least there was none so far as regarded Stephen. Stephen was the member of the household whose course of action had always been most certain to the others. He would do what was for his own pleasure and his own interest. He professed no other creed. What he liked, what suited him, was what he did : and if he chose to gather that humble flower, what was it to any one ? He would do it without any after-thought. Was it not only too possible that he had corrupted Lily even before she left her father’s house ? Edmund set his teeth, with something of the feeling, though the culprit was his brother, which had made poor Ford in his passion crush the hat which was in his hands. “ I would wring his damned neck ! ” Edmund, with a passion of indignation and righteous wrath in his heart, felt that he too could do the same. And how could he hold back the miserable father, whatever he did in his anguish ? If Stephen had not corrupted her, then he had betrayed her. Poor Lily ! Poor flower of folly, trained to her destruction ! He thought with a kind of rage of all concerned, from his own mother, who had begun that fatal career, to the fond, deluded parents, who had put their pride in their daughter and brought her up a lady. A lady, and the gamekeeper’s daughter, — too good for her own people, not good enough for the others, destined to trouble from her cradle, devoted to misery and shame ! Poor Lily, it was no fault of hers. It was not by her will that she had been separated from the honest rustic lover who would have made her father’s daughter a good husband, had it been left to nature. The gardener, with his little learning, his superior pretensions, his pleasant house and work, — how happy Ford’s daughter might have been in such a simple possible promotion ! Whereas now, the ruin of one brother or the prey of another, — was this all her harmless vanity, her foolish training, her fatal beauty, had brought her ? To bloom like a flower, and to be thrown away like one, and perish, trodden underfoot. Edmund’s heart was sore with these thoughts. He had come to help, but how could he help ? Could he take her back to these poor people, stained and shamed, her glory and her sweetness gone? Would she go with him, even, abandoning the delight of a life of gayety and noise and so-called pleasure, to return to the wretchedness of the home she had left and the name she had covered with shame ? Poor Lily, poor Lily ! His heart bled for her, the victim of the folly of so many others more than of her own.

As soon as it was possible to do so, he went to Roger’s chambers, which he had always shared, and in which, now that the day was fully astir and awake, he had his own room to retire to, to prepare himself for an interview which he dreaded more and more as it approached. Though half a day seemed to have passed since Edmund’s arrival, it was still early, and Roger was not yet visible. His letters were on the breakfast-table ready for him, one in Mr. Mitford’s well-known hand, which Edmund perceived with a sensation of impatience almost insupportable ; thinking of Stephen promoted to Roger’s place, of Stephen guilty and cruel in the place of his honorable and innocent brother, and of the unhappy girl who stood between them, for whom Roger was suffering without blame, and upon whose ruin Stephen would stand triumphant. Could such things be ? It was all he could do to restrain himself, not to seize upon his father’s letter and tear it into a thousand pieces ; but what would it matter ? His father, Edmund knew in his heart, would forgive Stephen’s fault, but not Roger’s. It made no difference. Lily destroyed would not stand in the younger brother’s way, while Lily honored and beloved would ruin Roger. It was horrible, but it was true.

When Roger appeared, he came up to Edmund almost with enthusiasm, with a sparkle of pleasure in his eyes. “ I thought, somehow, I should see you soon,” he said; “ it seemed natural you should come after the one who was down on his luck,” and he grasped his brother’s hand with an unusual effusion. Though this was all that was said, they were both a little moved, — Edmund, as he felt, with better reason, for how he was to make known his trouble now he could not tell. The moment he saw Roger, all doubt of him disappeared from his mind. To have asked him where Lily was, or if he knew anything of her, would have been an insult. He had felt this with waverings from the first, but he had no wavering on the subject now. Roger, too, had a great deal of excitement about him, which took the form of elation and even gayety: smiles danced in his eyes; he laughed, as he spoke, for nothing, for mere pleasure. “ I hope you got my letter,” he said; “ but you could not, I fear, since yon must have started last night.”

“ I got no letter. I was — anxious to see you — to know — I suppose you have been arranging things ? ”

“ So well that I don’t understand how I can have been so successful the first try. I had made up my mind to everything that was discouraging. You know, people say that when you want anything very much, that is precisely the time when you don’t get it. But I’ve had a different experience. I went to see Hampton yesterday. I thought he was the man, if there was anything to be had: but you ’ll never believe what he ’s going to do. They ’re coming into office, you know. The excellent fellow offered me the post of his private secretary. What do you think, Ned, — private secretary to a cabinet minister, the very first try one makes ! ”

“ I am very glad, Roger; but it will be hard work, and you’re not used to that.”

“ Work !, what does that matter ? I shall delight in it, and there is no telling what it may lead to. I never thought I should fall into public life in this way ; but I have always had a fancy for it, one time or other, don’t you know ? ”

Edmund did not know; indeed, he thought he knew the reverse, and that his brother had aimed at a life untrammeled by any such confinement. But he did not say so. “ It is a capital beginning,” he said.

“ I should think it was! I never hoped for anything of the kind: but I have a feeling,” said Roger, with again a little joyous laugh, “that my luck is going to turn, Ned. I’ve had a good long spell of bad; I have some good owing me, and I feel that it’s coming. Why don’t you say something, you sulky fellow ? I believe you ’re not half pleased.”

“ I am pleased, as long as it pleases you. It is not the life I should have planned for you, but if you think you will like it ” —

“ Think ! I don’t think, I know : it will give me occupation and something serious to think of. A man wants that when he settles down. I wrote to Lily, too,” he said, his voice softening, u putting everything before her.”

And then there was a blank silence for a moment, one of those pauses full of meaning, upon which the most unsuspecting can scarcely deceive themselves. Edmund did not so much as look at his brother, whom he was about to strike with so cruel a blow.

“ Well,” Roger said, after a moment, “ speak out; what have you got to say ? I know there is something. Let me have it without more ado.”

“ It is not so easy to speak out,” returned Edmund.

“Why, Ned! You forget that I know it already. My father has done what he threatened. He has put me out of the succession. Do you think I did not know he would keep his word ? And you have got it, old fellow,” said Roger, putting out his hand, “ and I am quite satisfied. I wish you had got my letter. What England expects of you now is that you should marry Elizabeth, and live happy ever after. Did you think I should grudge it to you, Ned ? ”

Edmund listened to all this with a perfectly blank face. It sounded in his ears like something flat and fictitious, without interest, without meaning. He grasped the hand which his brother held out to him across the corner of the table, and held it fast. It seemed as if that little speech which Roger made him would never be done. Edmund held the hand after Roger’s voice ceased, and again there was another pause. Then Edmund heard his own voice say, as if it were some one else speaking, “ When did you last see Lily Ford ? ”

“ See Lily ? ” Roger looked at him with wondering eyes. Then he said, with a little impatience, “ I have not seen her since the night before I left home. You know that. She would not see me, for some reason or other, a panic about her father ; but I have written, I have set everything before her — Ned, what is it ? What do you mean ? ”

“ She did not — come with you to London ? ”

“ Ned ! What do you mean? Have you taken leave of your senses ? Come with me to London, the girl who is to be my wife ? ”

“ I told them so,” said Edmund. He could not lift his eyes and look Roger in the face.

“ You told them so? Edmund,” said Roger, laying his hand upon his brother’s arm, “ you have something to tell me, something you are afraid to say. For Heaven’s sake, out with it ! What is it ? Something that I do not ex pect ? ”

“ Roger,” said his brother, faltering, “ Roger, Lily Ford disappeared from her home the day you left. They do not know where she is, nor what has become of her. They thought she might have come to London with you. I told them that was impossible. They are heart-broken; they don’t know where she is.”

Roger received this blow full in his breast. He had not feared anything, he had no preparation for it. It came upon him like the fire of a shooting party, when a man is condemned to die. The solid earth swam round him. He heard the hesitating words come one by one, singing through the air like bullets ; and yet he did not know even now what it meant.



In the end, however, this dreadful news, which Edmund had thought would kill his brother, had little or no effect upon him. The idea that Lily had in any way compromised herself, that anything disgraceful could be involved, or that there was wrong in it, was one which Roger was incapable of receiving. He was stunned for the moment by the mere wonder, but recovered himself almost immediately. “And she left no letter, gave them no clue ? ” he said, gravely enough, yet with a smile breaking through beneath the seriousness of his lips.

“ None whatever,” replied Edmund, watching his brother keenly, with the strangest new suspicions and doubts springing up in his mind.

Roger said nothing for a minute or two ; and then, shaking his head, “ What unreasoning creatures women are, the best of them ! Do you think she could suppose it possible that I would be shaken off like that ? ”

“ Shaken off — like what ? ”

“ I don’t know what is the matter with you, Ned : you look as if you were in great trouble about something. Not about this, I hope. Don’t you see it is as clear as daylight ? She is frightened of me, poor darling. She thinks her father will lose his place, and his home, and all his comforts. It is just like a girl’s inconsequent way. If she removes herself out of the question, she thinks all will be well. No doubt she is hiding somewhere, with her poor little heart beating, wondering if we will really let her get lost and sacrifice herself. My poor, little, silly, sweet Lily ! She has read too many novels, no doubt: she thinks that’s the best way, — to make a sacrifice of herself.”

Edmund looked with a certain awe at his brother’s face, lit up with the tenderest smile. Roger was not thinking of any danger to her, nor of how other people were affected, nor of anything but the romantic, generous girl, following, perhaps, some example in a novel, as little reasonable as any heroine of romance. And was not she a heroine of romance, the true romance which never fails or is out of fashion,— and was not this unreason the most exquisite thing in the world ? He did not observe that his brother made no answer; that Edmund gave him one wondering glance only, and then averted his eyes. Roger required no answer; his mind was altogether absorbed in this intelligence, which he received in so different a way from that which his brother feared.

“ We must n’t leave her too long in that thought,” said Roger, cheerfully. “ It’s curious how sweet that want of reason is, — don’t you think so? No, you ’re too matter of fact, Ned ; and besides, you have not fallen under the spell. What do they think ? Or rather, where do they think she can have taken refuge, — with some old aunt, or old friend, or something ? They must have made some guess.”

“ I don’t think so. They thought, and they almost persuaded me to think, that you had brought her here with you.”

“ I bring her here with me ! ”

“ I knew, of course, it was absurd,” said Edmund, averting his eyes.

“ There is a kind of unreason that is not sweet,” said Roger quickly. “ What did they suppose I could have done that for? And it was so likely she would come with me, her only half-accepted — when it is evident it’s to escape me, to sacrifice herself, that she’s gone away.” He got up, and began to pace about the room. “ This becomes a little disagreeable,” he said. “ With me ! What a strange idea ! The most sensitive, delicate — why, you might almost say prudish— And why, in the name of all that’s ridiculous, could I have wished her to come with me?”

“ That is what I felt,” Edmund said, but still with averted eyes.

“ Ah. Ned,” said Roger, “ that’s the worst of it. These good, honest people ! things that would horrify us seem natural to them. They would see nothing out of the question in such an impossible proceeding, — to show her London, perhaps, or consult her about our future arrangements ? ” He laughed, with a faint awakening of uneasiness. “And all the time she is in some nook in the country, some old woman’s cottage, thinking how clever she has been to hide herself from everybody, but yet perhaps wondering — I wonder if she is wondering whether I am no more good than that, whether I will let her go ” — He paused a little, his voice melting into the softness of a mother with her child ; then he said quickly, “ We must get at once the directions of all the old aunts.”

“They have no directions to give,” observed Edmund, in a low tone ; “ there seems to be no one they can think of. And the strange thing is that she appears to have come to London the day before yesterday, in the same train with you, Roger, — from Molton Junction, so far as I can make out, where it seems she sent off a telegram, having walked there.”

“ This is more mysterious than ever,” said Roger, growing red under his eyes, “ but also more natural than ever. Of course she must have telegraphed to the house she was going to. Of course London is the way to everywhere ; or she might even have a friend in town. Of course they must know of some one. You don’t mean to say that they have no relations, no friends, out of Melcombe ? Come, Edmund,” he said, giving his brother a sudden sharp pat on the shoulder, “wake yourself up ! We must find our way out of this ; we are not going to be outgeneraled by a simple girl. How strange,” he continued, after a moment, “ that I did n’t see her ! Now I think of it, I did see some one in the crowd at Molton who reminded me — To be sure — I said to myself, If I did not know she was safe at home — And, after all, I never thought of looking when we got to Paddington. By the way ” —

“ What, Roger ? ”

“ It has just occurred to me. I saw Stephen at the station : he was going to meet one of the men of his regiment. He may have seen her. I suppose he knows her, —by sight, at least? ”

“ Most probably,” answered Edmund, scarcely knowing how to command his voice.

“ And no one could see her without remarking her. Steve may have noticed, Ned; he may have seen whether any one met her, or what way she went. The moment I have swallowed my coffee ” (which had in the mean time grown cold on the table, and which was the only part of an ample breakfast which Roger seemed inclined to touch), “ I ’ll go and look him up.”

“ Let me go,” Edmund suggested. “ I am ready now ; and it will be easier for me, who have no special interest, to make inquiries than for you.”

“ No special interest,” said Roger, with an unsteady laugh. “If it did n’t happen to be my brother Ned’s way to think of everybody’s interests before his own ” —

“ Because I have none in particular, you see,” returned Edmund, waving his hand as he hurried away. He was too glad to find himself outside Roger’s door, and under no further necessity to veil the changes of his countenance. It had gone to his heart like a sudden arrow to hear that Stephen had been seen at the station going to meet some one. Whom was he going to meet, and what would he say, and how reply to the questions that must be forced upon him? Edmund had no faith in Stephen’s reply. He had no faith in him in any way, nor any hope of satisfaction from him. If only he could keep Roger from suspecting, and prevent any meeting from which enlightenment could come !

Stephen was not to be found at his club, though it was known there that he was in town. He was not to be found at the rooms where he generally lived when in London. The people there knew nothing of Captain Mitford’s whereabouts ; they did not believe he was in town ; they had seen nothing of him : from which Edmund drew the conclusion, which was far from reassuring, that Stephen had established himself somewhere else. He went back to the club a second time, after seeking his brother in every other quarter he could think of, and was again disappointed. But as he turned away from the door, sadly cast down, and feeling himself baffled at every turn, he met Stephen coming along Piccadilly, in all the splendor of his town clothes, with that additional exquisite neatness of detail which the military element gives. Stephen was very triumphant to behold, in his strength and fullness of life : his hair exuberant in a hundred curls, his step spurning the pavement, his whole appearance the perfection of health and cleanness and superlative polish and care. Another man, equally splendid, brushed, and shaven, and smoothed into perfection, walked with him, and Edmund. in his country habiliments and with his anxious mind, felt himself a shabby shadow beside those dazzling specimens of their kind. His brother was passing him, with two fingers extended to be shaken, and a “ Hallo, Ned! ” when Edmund came to a stand before him, and compelled him to pause, Stephen’s companion paused, too, with momentary suspicion, then passed along, saying something under his mustache of seeing him again at the club. They were quite near the cluh, and Edmund read in Stephen’s face the contrariety of being so near shelter and yet caught. For he saw in a moment that the splendor of his brother’s appearance was but outside, and that his face was not as radiant as his clothes.

“Well,” cried Stephen, “I thought you had gone home, Ned. It seems to me you are getting as bad as the worst of us, always about town.”

“ I have come up on special business,” said Edmund, and he thought the splendid Stephen winced a little, as if he might have a suspicion what that business was.

“ Really ! So have I, — with that fellow that left us just now ; he’s gone to wait for me at the club. I owe him a trifle. I ’ll see you another time.”

“ My business is very much with you,” replied Edmund, “ but I ’ll walk with you. I need not detain you.”

“ Oh, about the will,” said his brother, with a laugh. “ I heard from the governor to-day. It’s all right, old fellow. I ’ll take it like a shot; I’ve no delicacy. If Roger and you choose to be a couple of fools, what does that matter to me ? ”

“ There is something else which matters, though,” answered Edmund, sternly. “You know why Roger is out of it. So far as I can hear, the same reason stands against you.”

“What!” said Stephen, “that I am going to marry ? Not a bit of it. Not such a fool, thank you. I’ve no more thought of marrying than you have, and little inclination that way.” His color heightened, however, and his breath quickened, and he did not meet Edmund’s eye.

“It is not marriage; it is — Lily Ford.”

“ Well,” cried his brother, turning upon him sharply, “ what of her ? The little damned jilt; the ” — He paused, with an evident sense of having committed himself, and added angrily, “ What the devil has she got to do with me ? ”

“ Much ; for she belongs to our immediate surroundings, and my father will never put up with an injury to a person who is really one of his household. She must be restored to her family at once.”

“ Restored ! ” exclaimed Stephen, with a harsh laugh. “ You speak at your ease, my friend Ned. You must have a thing before you can restore it. I’ve had nothing to say to the lady, and therefore I can’t give her back.”

“We had better go somewhere where we can talk with more safety. These are not subjects for the club or Piccadilly.”

“ Piccadilly has heard as much as most places, and so has the club ; and I don’t know what there is to talk about.”

“ Stephen, where is Lily Ford ? ”

Stephen swore a big oath under his breath. “ What have I to do with Lily Ford ? If you are trying to put blame upon me, mind what you are about, Ned; I’m not a safe man to meddle with. If you mean to spoil my luck with got-up stories ” —

“ She came to London on Tuesday night,” interrupted Edmund, abstractly, as if he were summing up evidence, “ and you met her at the station. Where is she now ? If you will tell me that, I will ask you no further questions.”

“ Who told you I met her at the station ? You are making up fables against me.”

“ Stephen, where is Lily Ford ? ”

It was in Piccadilly, with all the people passing; impossible to make any scene there, had life and death been in it. Edmund’s voice was low, but Stephen had no habit of subduing his tones or controlling himself, and he was already excited. The fury of a man baffled, disappointed, tricked, — for so he thought it, — whose victim had turned the tables on him, and placed him in the position of a fool instead of that of a scoundrel, raged within him, and it was a relief to vent it upon some one. He griped his brother’s arm with a sudden force which took Edmund by surprise and made him stagger, and he swore again by the highest name. “ By―! I don’t know. And if I did I should n’t tell you. I’ll break the head of any man who asks me such a question again. Stand out of the way ! ”

Edmund’s arm was raised instinctively to resist the push aside which his brother gave him, as Stephen released him from his grasp. But already the altercation had caught the eyes of two or three passers-by, and Edmund had an Englishman’s dread of exposure and horror of making an exhibition of himself. He stepped bck, answering only with a look the insolent gaze which Stephen fixed upon him, and in which there was an uneasy inquiry, an alarm which neutralized the defiance. It was not a light matter to submit to such rough treatment, but a quarrel in the open street, and above all in Piccadilly, was the last thing in the world to be thought of, as Stephen, cowardly in his audacious selfishness, well knew. Edmund let his brother brush past, and after a moment turned back in the other direction, silent while his heart burned. Stephen was fully aware that Edmund would make no public quarrel, and took advantage of it, as bullies do.

Edmund had said more than he was sure of, without premeditation, in the haste and heat of his first address to his brother. “ You met her at the station.” He had not been aware that he meant to say this until he heard himself saying it. But he had no doubt now that Stephen was guilty ; the very absence of all hesitation in his response, his instant comprehension of the question, made it apparent that Stephen had nothing to learn in respect to Lily’s flight. And God help the unfortunate girl if she were in his ruthless hands! God help the miserable parents, to whom Edmund could not have a word of comfort to say!

His heart was very heavy as he went along amid the stream of people flowing towards the park. It was afternoon by this time, and the carriages had begun to follow each other in a long line. Everything looked bright and gay, with that impression of endless prosperity, wealth, ease, and luxury which few other scenes convey to a similar degree. No doubt, among that luxurious crowd there was no lack of sad histories, aching hearts, unhappy parents, and ruined children; but the glitter and splendor seemed to carry the misery of his thoughts deeper into his heart.

Until all at once he woke to a terror near to himself, a danger which touched him more than anything that had happened, or could happen, to Lily Ford.

M. O. W. Oliphant.

T. B. Aldrich.