Fanny's Fortune (III)

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CHAPTER XXVII.

MR. TABOR'S TROUBLES.




TABOR had been more becoming and more convinced that there was a background of unpleasant fact behind that unpleasant rumour concerning his junior partner, and the consciousness of that conviction—a conviction on which he was not prepared to act—cost him a great deal of anxiety and unhappiness.

    Mr. Tabor was a cautious man, but no means a suspicious one.  Suspicion is a vague thing, and he hated vagueness; he could not rest in it; he had never in his life rested in it; he had never suspected any one without a good and sufficient cause, and then he had used the utmost promptness and directness in either verifying or dispelling his doubts.  He could as easily have borne to leave his letters about loose and undocketed, as to leave his opinion about people in suspense.  On this therefore, as well as on higher grounds, it was a daily trouble, which soon grew to a daily torture, to meet his partner.  He could not put away his suspicion, simply docketing it a mistake, and thrusting it into the furthest mental pigeon-hole, as he would have done if Philip's language and manner had not confirmed instead of dispelling it, and he could not make up his mind to resolve it in one way or other, by simply asking for an explanation.  He felt that this was what he ought to do, and that he could not do what he ought to do, was a fresh and quite a new source of pain to him.  All his habitual caution, all his habitual delicacy, the very strength of his suspicion itself withheld him.  More than once he tried to approach the subject with Philip, and felt that he was foiled; Philip remained impenetrable: Mr. Tabor remembered that he and his brother had parted on bad terms, the circumstances of which Philip had but slightly alluded to at the time, and had ever since manifested the utmost distaste to enter upon.  The more Mr. Tabor pondered upon this, the more it told against Philip in his mind; his brother Francis had been a frank, amiable fellow, the universal favourite—too much given to pleasing everybody to please Mr. Tabor, who had liked Philip's more uncompromising temper the best; still he was the least likely of the two to make, or to maintain, a quarrel.  He would not have quarrelled without some strenuous cause.  If he, Mr. Tabor, could get to the bottom of that, it might throw light on the other matter.  He resolved to make another effort.  Therefore one day he asked Philip if he had ever heard from his brother yet?

    Philip simply answered, "No."

    "It is very strange," resumed Mr. Tabor, "you used to be so fond of each other as boys."

    Philip's face worked in a way it had of quivering when he was hurt.  Mr. Tabor knew he was probing a wound, but he went on: "You must have had a very serious quarrel, for resentment to have lasted all this time; he was the least resentful of the two, I should imagine," he added, with a meaning smile, and the old gentle way in which he had tried to correct Philip's faults when he was a much younger man.

    Philip felt it, and answered gently and sadly, "We had a very serious quarrel, Mr. Tabor."

    "May I ask what it was about—particularly, I mean?" said Mr. Tabor.  "I have known you both all your lives," he added in a voice of emotion, "and I do not like to have this great gap in my knowledge of you."

    "It was about our father's affairs," said Philip; "I am very sorry that further than this I cannot answer you."

    "One question I may ask," said Mr. Tabor; "I may ask who made the breach, you or he?"

    "As far as that is concerned," said Philip, "I may safely answer that it was I who made it."

    "Then you can mend it, perhaps," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I think not," was Philip's answer.

    Mr. Tabor was thus no wiser, but a good deal more unhappy, than he was before, being more than ever convinced that Philip had done something blameworthy.  "Do you know where Francis is at present?" he asked.

    "I do not," said Philip; "I have never heard from him since we parted."

    "At your father's grave," said Mr. Tabor, with more than usual sternness in his voice.

    Philip did not speak, and there was an end of the conversation.  But not of Mr. Tabor's hard thoughts; they were busier and harder than ever.  He reflected that Philip, not Francis, had had the management of their father's affairs during the illness of the latter.  If, therefore, there had been mismanagement, it was his; if there had been malversation, it was his.  Francis had had nothing to do with them, then nor since.  Had Philip for something of this kind incurred the displeasure of his elder brother, and resented it as the transgressor is apt to resent?  This would account for a great deal—for his brother's estrangement, for the condition of his father's affairs, so unexpectedly insolvent, and for Philip's efforts to retrieve the past by rigid retrenchment.

    But all such surmises only left the necessity for a fuller investigation where it was before—nay, made the necessity a great deal clearer to Mr. Tabor's mind, and he tormented himself with the conviction that he ought to take the initiative in clearing up the mystery.  And what would be the consequences of doing so?  One immediate consequence Mr. Tabor foresaw, and that was the dissolution of the partnership, which meant the giving up of the business into other hands.  Mr. Tabor felt that he was too old to organise it afresh, and so confident had he been of Philip's ability to succeed him that he had made no provision by retaining the services of his articled clerks for any failure on his part.  Whether Philip was guilty or not, the result would be the same; guilty, his services could not be retained in the firm; not guilty, a man so proud and sensitive could not be expected to remain.  The grounds on which he had been suspected of making away with money which was not his own, would be certain to seem insufficient to him.  And in the meantime this anxiety was making Mr. Tabor ill.  He came home jaded and worn.  He lost his appetite.  He could not sleep.  Mrs. Tabor became anxious in turn; she thought his health was failing, that he was breaking up prematurely.  A cloud seemed to settle on the little household, and to deepen instead of dispersing when the cause of the anxiety oozed out.

    Of course, Mrs. Tabor had known all along, but Lucy had remained in ignorance.  "Don't say anything to Lucy," Mr. Tabor had said; and nothing was said to her, till some words of his own led to the revelation.  "May I tell?" Mrs. Tabor's face had said, and Mr. Tabor's had answered, by a species of telegraphy, "You may," and Mrs. Tabor gladly availed herself of the first opportunity to do so, which took place a day or two before Arthur Wildish had brought to Lucy the report of his conversation with Ada, which had so distressed the former.  Lucy had always been her mother's confidant, and indeed there existed between them a beautiful friendship.  "I am very anxious about your papa," Mrs. Tabor had said; "he is worrying himself to death."

    "What is it about, mamma?" asked Lucy; "I can see he is vexed about something."

    "He is very unhappy about something he has heard concerning Mr. Tenterden," said Mrs. Tabor.

    "What has he heard, mamma?" asked Lucy, turning pale.

    "That there has been something wrong—something dishonest in fact—in his management of Fanny's affairs.  Your father thinks he ought to have handed them over to the firm when his father died; instead of which he has kept them in his own hands, and refuses to give an account of them."

    "I cannot, I do not, believe he has done anything wrong," said Lucy, in a tone which wrung her mother's heart.  "It must be some dreadful mistake.  He cannot be capable of dishonesty."  She brought out the word with a shudder of disgust.  "We could not all have loved him as we did," she added.

    "People may be lovable without being good Lucy," said Mrs. Tabor, sadly.  "We did love him; but you know we see very little of him now.  He may have stayed away because he felt unworthy," she added, speaking the thought that came into her mind at the moment.

    It was a new idea to Lucy, and a terrible one.  It gave her the first pang of the torture of doubt.  Her mother sat watching her transparent face.  "My darling, do you care for him?" she said at length in a choking whisper.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Do you care for him?"


    Lucy burst into tears and hid her face on her mother's bosom, who, as she bent over her, could hear the murmured words, "Oh, mamma! so much!—so much!"

    "But, my darling, you could not love him if he had done this wrong," said Mrs. Tabor; "I mean, you would cease to love him," she added, in sorrowful perplexity.

    "I cannot tell, I do not know," said Lucy.  She was silent for a little, and then she spoke again out of the very depths of her heart.  "I would still care for him, mamma," she said; "I cannot help it," she continued, as if deprecating blame.  "I know what papa thinks of money dishonour, and I think the same.  It is inexpressibly mean, and wicked; but he is not mean and wicked.  If he has done anything dishonourable, it must have been under some great temptation, and oh, mamma! it must have made him so unhappy."

    "My darling," said her mother, anxiously, "we cannot distinguish in that way between people and their actions; you will only perplex your mind, and confuse your notions of right and wrong."

    "What will happen?" said Lucy, after a pause; "what will happen to him, I mean?  Will it ruin him? will he be put in prison?"

    "It will ruin his prospects in life if he has away with Fanny's money," said Mrs. Tabor; "but I do not think, whatever is amiss, either your father or Fanny will bring it to a public trial.  Philip has been more like a brother to Fanny, and for that matter, more like a son to your father than anything else."

    Lucy was weeping unrestrainedly, and her mother's slower tears fell upon her head.  All their love and care had not been able to shield the cherished daughter from the hard fate of loving hopelessIy, and unworthily, for that Philip was unworthy was beyond doubt in Mrs. Tabor's mind.  Her husband had unwittingly conveyed to her a stronger assurance of his guilt than that which rested in his own mind, an assurance which she in her turn conveyed still more strongly to Lucy.  It hardly needed Arthur's report of his conversation with Ada to confirm the latter in her belief that it was already a thing proven and accepted by others, however she herself might hold out against it.

    But till then she did hold out; till then she had felt like the settler who hears that somewhere behind his clearing the woods are on fire, and thinks truly enough the fire is there, but it may take another direction, or it may die out.  But soon he breathes the conflagration in the air; he sees the smoke of its advance, and knows that it is coming on, spreading in a fatal circle, scorching and scathing all before it, and that if he escapes with life it will be well.

    Lucy at once imparted to her mother the confirmation which she had received, and she in her turn communicated the substance of what Lucy had heard to her husband.  The other and more personal confidence she retained, and because of it, still maintained a reticence on the whole subject.  But when Mr. Tabor, after a struggle with himself, went to Fanny and forced from her a very confused account of Philip's interview with her, and the admissions he had made, that reticence came to an end.  Suspicion had become certainty, and it only remained for Mr. Tabor to act upon it, and he freely consulted his wife and daughter as to the steps to be taken.

    After one of these consultations, when they were left alone together, "Lucy," said her mother, "would you rather your father did not know what you told me the other day?"

    "No, mamma; I do not seem to care," she answered.  "I think I could tell papa myself.  Do you know I have been thinking I would like to tell him."

    "Philip?"

    "Yes, mamma; I think it might help him to know; help him to save him—help to keep him from going from bad to worse, as papa said such men do."

    "My darling," said her mother, sitting down beside her, "I think it might, for love is the true salvation; but you could not do this.  We say and do in our hearts such things, but we fail to translate them into deeds."

    "I would not seek to see him again," said Lucy, showing how her thoughts had dwelt upon her sacrifice.  "I would not meet him perhaps till the best of our days were over.  After that I might, when other people only knew him as a man who had ruined himself long ago,  I might know that he had redeemed himself."


 
CHAPTER XXVIII.

SECOND TIME OF ASKING.


IT was a serious addition to Mr. Tabor's troubles just then, to be told of Lucy's attachment to Philip, and to see for himself, in the change which had come upon her, how much she suffered.  It was not that she drooped, she bore herself, on the contrary, more bravely, but her careless gaiety was gone; and to see this did not tend to soften Mr. Tabor towards his partner.  But his first thought, with his characteristic fear of doing the slightest injustice, was of Arthur Wildish.  "He must not be allowed to come about in this way any longer," he said to his wife.

    "I do not see that Lucy can help it, since she refused him distinctly," said Mrs. Tabor.  She could not bear the shadow of blame to rest on Lucy now.

    "No, my dear, I do not blame her in the least," returned her husband; "but you can see how it is, he is counting upon a second time of asking.  He thinks he will win her yet; and so he might, but for this unhappy attachment, which will spoil our little girl's life."

    "Don't say that, papa; our lives are never spoilt for us, though we may spoil them for ourselves, by taking things in the wrong way," said Mrs. Tabor.

    "Our Lucy is so lonely too.  We would have been glad to see her with a husband and children of her own.  We will leave her almost solitary," Mr. Tabor sighed.

    "We're not going to leave her yet a while, please God," said Mrs. Tabor, putting on a cheery smile.  "It will never do," she said to herself, "for all three to be melancholy together.  Perhaps you had better speak to Mr. Wildish," she added to her husband.

    "What shall I say to him?"

    "Tell him in the best way you can that he need not come for Lucy, nor yet stay away for her; that is, that if he is coming for her, perhaps he had better stay away, and if he is not, why then he may come and welcome."

    Mr. Tabor laughed.

    "Make him understand quite clearly that he is only to consider his own feelings in the matter, for I am sure Lucy's will not be in the least affected," Mrs. Tabor, continued; "now don't suspect me of managing, papa, for I hate it mortally."

    "That is the last thing I will suspect you of," returned Mr. Tabor, smiling, in spite of himself.

    Lucy had kept faithfully to her part of the compact of everlasting friendship, and she honestly returned her lover's attachment in that sterling coin.  Having no feeling of her own corresponding to his, she believed that this had settled the matter, and she treated Arthur very much as a girl treats a favourite brother; and it did not mislead either of the parties principally concerned, though it had misled the people about them, who gradually began to look upon them as engaged persons, though nothing of the kind had been formally announced.  It did not mislead Arthur; nay, more, it was quite effectual in restraining him, from any lover-like demonstrations.  Her perfect cordiality and frank kindness raised no vain hopes, rather, as time went by, dispelled those he had entertained.  Reserve or faltering would have been a welcome sign to him, a sign that she was yielding to him something more than friendship.  But no such sign appeared, and he was beginning to be rather restive under the restraints of his position, when Mr. Tabor took him in hand.

    A party had been got up to take Ada Lovejoy to one of the evening concerts at St. James's Hall, and Arthur had brought a roomy hired carriage, and was waiting with a bouquet in each hand for Lucy, who was up-stairs dressing, and for Ada, who was coming in to go with them.  Mrs. Tabor was also upstairs, as she too was going to chaperon the girls.  It occurred to Mr. Tabor to seize the opportunity.  "Wildish," he said, laying his hand kindly on the young man's shoulder, and speaking in as light a tone as he could command, "I hope you don't go on thinking of that ungrateful little girl of mine."

    Mr. Wildish could not deny it; he smiled, and said frankly, "I'm afraid I think of her as much as ever I did."

    "Then, my dear fellow, you should give it up," said Mr. Tabor, seriously; "you are wasting your time and your affections."

    "Is it so hopeless, do you think?"

    "Quite hopeless," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I would like to give it one more trial," said the young man, eagerly.

    "The sooner the better then," returned Mr. Tabor, and Lucy and her mother came in.

    Ada followed speedily, dressed in silvery grey and green.  She and Geraldine had made the dress between them, Geraldine directing from her bed, and Ada executing her directions.  The result was very pretty, and made Ada look more like a tall lily then ever.  Arthur held out one of the bouquets to her with a mock heroic bow.  It was very pretty, and Lucy held one to match it in her hand.  "Let me run in and leave it," said Ada, quite forgetting to thank the giver.

    "It is to take with you, child," said Lucy.

    "Oh, but it would be such a pity to waste it, and Jerry so fond of flowers," said Ada, and she whisked away to Arthur's intense amusement, returning in a few minutes without the flowers, which she had left in a glass on the little table beside her sister's bed.

    Ada was a great source of interest and pleasure to Arthur Wildish, and ever since she had taken him into her confidence about her plans, he had assumed the right of helping and directing her.  Ada had lost no time in putting her musical plan into execution.  She had dragged Fanny out with her to see the inevitable "Professor of Music," three doors off, and to engage him to give her lessons.  Day after day she continued to work with unabated energy.  Even when she sat up-stairs with Geraldine it was with a music-book on her knee, accustoming her eyes to the reading and humming low snatches of song, which, instead of disliking, Geraldine found particularly soothing.

    Anything like Ada's intense enjoyment of that concert Arthur Wildish had never seen.  He sat next her, and saw and felt the slight figure sway and thrill and quiver to the music.  Flashes of passion crossed her white face, in which Arthur noticed for the first time the promise of splendid beauty, the great grey eyes dilated, the delicate nostrils quivered.  All the way home she never uttered a word, and when Arthur handed her out at her own door, he could see the tears on her eyelashes.

    It was a mild, breezy, moonlit night, and letting Mrs. Tabor pass into the house, Arthur detained Lucy with a whispered, "Come into the garden."  She went with him, gathering her short white cloak about her, and pulling the hood over her head she held it with one hand under her chin.  The promenade before them was not a long one, and they were soon at the bottom of the garden, neither having uttered a word.  Then they stopped. Lucy stood under the white blossoming boughs of a cherry-tree that had a weird beauty in the moonlight.  She had a feeling of what was coming, and strove to deprecate it; she stretched out her disengaged hand and laid it on her companion's arm, saying, "Don't, Arthur."

    "I must," he answered, adding abruptly, "Lucy, can't you love me?"

    "Oh, Arthur! do not ask me," said Lucy.  Then she added suddenly, for the same thought which had occurred to her father came into her mind, "You must go away and try to forget me.  You must not go on giving me all who have nothing to give you in return.  Yes, Arthur, you must go away; it was selfish of me not to think of this."

    "You selfish!" he repeated indignantly; "I do not care how long it goes on, only, Lucy, give me some hope at the end."

    "I cannot—cannot," she answered wistfully.

    "No hope at all?"

    "None at all."

    "Never?"

    "No, never," she repeated.  The wind shook the tree, and snowed its blossoms over her as she echoed the words.

    Then they walked up to the house together, as silent as before.  Lucy gave him her hand, which he wrung as if for parting, and then she ran up-stairs and he went into the house to find her father.

    "Well?" was Mr. Tabor's greeting, for he had seen his wife for a moment, and knew that he and Lucy had been together and alone.

    Arthur shook his head.

    "I was sure of it," said Mr. Tabor; "I am sorry, Wildish—sorry on more accounts than one, but you had better take my advice."

    "And never see her again?" he asked dolefully.

    "I did not say that, but as seldom as possible," was the answer.

    "I had rather waste my life, as you call it, in seeing her, than save it for any other purpose," said Arthur, warmly; then he said good night, and was gone.


 
CHAPTER XXIX.

MARRIAGE IN HASTE.




the night on which mother had interrupted her parting with her lover, Beatrice Lovejoy's relations with that gentleman had undergone a change.  He was freer and bolder in his bearing, though he professed to be as much in love with her as ever, and was after a fashion, in which selfishness and vanity were the chief characteristics.  He was a young man of the very lowest type, except that he had a degree of physical vigour, in which that type is generally deficient, and which was apparent in a tall and tolerably handsome figure, on which was set the small low-browed head of an English negro—a negro without the negro's affectionate nature, or power of idealisation.  Between these two it had been a game at cheat the cheater.  He had given out that he was a gentleman, and she, that she was a lady whose adverse circumstances had obliged her to work for bread, and they had carried on this deception throughout their courtship.  Both had a slight substratum of truth in their stories, he because of his birth, for he was the disinherited son of a landed proprietor, and she in that she could remember a time when her family were better housed and clothed and fed, and in her relationship to Fanny, past whose villa she had once walked her lover, while he pointed out to her the house where he dwelt with his mother and sisters, the people whom he passed off as these relations being not in any way connected with their lodger.

    The world had not used John Baselow over well—had not taught him much, we will admit, of love or reverence, and there was a time when Beatrice might have taught him both.  If she had been a good unselfish girl she might have redeemed him, for the poorest soil may grow grain instead of nettles.  He had wandered about with her in those city roads, looking down on her softened face and listening to her softened voice till he really loved her, and in this he was better than he had intended to be, for he had only intended to amuse himself.  He loved her, and he longed to tell her the truth, and to ask her to marry him, a clerk with two pounds a week; and if she had married him there and then, it would have lifted their whole lives into another plane.  But the sight of that poor, ill-clad, careworn mother had given him a shock.  He felt that she had been deceiving him.  He did not resent it as a more upright man would have resented it, and he did not cease to care for her; but what had been best and purest in his attachment perished at a blow.  Evil may and does harm the good, but its influence on the evil for evil is incalculable.

    Shortly after Geraldine's removal to her cousin's, Beatrice had begun to suffer from the great disadvantage under which the bulk of London workers suffer, the excessive fluctuation of employment.  The more exclusively they minister to the enjoyments, the luxuries, the adornments of the rich, the more liable they are to be thrown out of work on the shortest notice.  Those who provide for the necessities of the poor are comparatively secure.

    Beatrice worked half-time for a week or two, and at length she was dismissed to take a holiday for an indefinite period.  She was to be recalled, in short, only when business became brisk.  Such a holiday was to her simply hunger and despair.  She had refused to share her prosperity with those at home, and how was she to come upon them in her adversity?  At first she would not condescend to this, and bore privation with Spartan firmness.  It was not till she had lived on bread and water for days that she yielded so far as to share the poor enough meals of her parents.  She had defended herself for her former hardness—that is, in her own opinion, for she cared little for the opinions of others—by her resolution to help her sisters as soon as she herself was secure.  She had the true spirit of an adventuress, and despised her father and mother for plodding on as they did, sinking into the mire of poverty deeper and deeper at every step.  Beatrice knew she had beauty; knew all her good points—that she carried herself well and proudly, that she spoke well, and had none of the vulgarities which she saw and heard every day.  Therefore she determined to marry well, and set about doing so with inflexible purpose.  She believed in John Baselow, for he was well dressed and well educated, boastful and energetic, and she had resolved to marry him; but in her desperation she had ventured to push matters to this issue, and had found herself foiled; felt, too, that it was her poverty and the poverty of her home that had foiled her; and was very bitter against both.  And this bitterness extended to her lover; she made up her mind to throw him over and try again.

    Full of her purpose, she met him one evening, and as she came up to him refused his outstretched band.  The girl was pale with suppressed passion, and did not notice that he, too, was labouring under great excitement, only that it seemed of an entirely pleasurable kind.  She told him she had come to say good-bye, and as disguise was no longer necessary, explained her circumstances frankly.  She would have left him then and there, but he detained her.  He had such to tell, and no one to tell it to. Besides, her truth had been much more effective than her fiction, and her thin, pale face under the moonlight looked lovelier than he had ever beheld it.  He detained her, and forced her to listen.

    He, too, told the truth this time, and discarded the mythical mother and sisters.  His story was a strange one.  His father, after having cast him off for years, had left him his heir.  He had been written for; he had hurried down to the funeral, and had taken possession of his inheritance.  He had a handsome dwelling-house; he had some hundreds of acres.  He had a bank balance, on which he had drawn; and yet none of these did he offer to her.

    But Beatrice was dazzled.  She laid aside her humour; she rose to the occasion, and arrayed herself in every false enchantment.  He could not part with her; he was enslaved by her, as the songs of all nations have sung of men enslaved by false enchantments.

    And she held her own: supped with him for the first time, and, regardless of everything else but the stake she was playing, walked with him again, until she was nigh to fainting with exhaustion.  And he would have had her not to go home at all, but to stay under the protection of his landlady till the morrow, when he should make her his wife.

    On the first point Beatrice held her ground; on the second she yielded, promising that on the morrow she would leave her father's house, and cut herself off from her kindred for ever.

    They were to be married before a registrar, and to take their departure at once for the house of which John Baselow had come into possession.  At parting he gave her a sum of money—not a large sum, but sufficient, in her hands, to make her presentable.  She was to be ready at ten o'clock.

    When she came home that night, even she was touched by the look of haggard misery on her father's face, as he said, or rather wailed, "Oh, Beatrice—Beatrice!  I was coming out to look for you."

"I'm all right," she said carelessly. "I wish you wouldn't be so anxious about me." But she kissed him, which she had not done for a long time, and came in and sat down by the fire, pretending to warm herself.

    She could not bear to see him sitting there, with the tears chasing each other down his wan cheeks, and she went over and knelt by his side on the hearth.

    "I've not done any harm staying out so late," she said, "and I am sorry it has vexed you.  There, I have a sweetheart, and I'm going to be married soon, that's all.  Do believe me, and be sure that I can take care of myself."  She comforted him, and coaxed him to drink a little tea, and then to go to bed, which he did, and she stole in and saw him sleeping like a child.

    But she could not sleep.  Her faintness had given place to excitement.  She went to her room and looked out her best things, that she might put them on in the morning.  She had little save the one set that was worth taking, so that she need not encumber herself, and had nothing to regret leaving behind.  She made up the fire, however, and sat, altering and trimming, till morning.  At last she became sleepy and chill, and crept off to bed.

    Mr. Lovejoy was up first, and had lighted the fire and made the breakfast, and Albert was gone also.  She was glad that he was, for he would have treated her savagely enough for staying out so late the evening before.  She had nothing to fear in the way of reproach from her father.  He had drawn the little table in front of the fire, with a pathetic desire to make her comfortable.  It was covered with a brown stuff imitating polished mahogany, and on it were set two cups and saucers, a half-consumed loaf, and a basin of brown sugar.  It was to be her last meal at home, and these things were photographed on the memory of Beatrice Lovejoy, along with the feelings of the hour, as she and her father sat opposite to each other during the silent meal.  They were so photographed that through all her future life she was never secure—however differently surrounded, however far off the thought of such things might be—against having them flash before her mental sight, with more or less of insufferable vividness.

    After breakfast she went up to her own room, and her father went out.  Her mother had not returned.  Should she wait for her?  She was later than usual.  Perhaps Geraldine was worse.  Beatrice made up her mind to wait as long as she could.  Her sister-in-law and the children were moving about; but she avoided them, as indeed she usually did.  She dressed herself deliberately; but Mrs. Lovejoy did not return.  Then she took an envelope—she happened to have one and a scrap of paper—and wrote: "I am gone to be married, and must bid you good-bye;" and addressing the envelope to her father, she enclosed in it one of the sovereigns her lover had given her, and hid it in a little tin tea-box which stood on a shelf in the cupboard; then turning the key in the parlour door she left the house, and never once looked behind her.


 
CHAPTER XXX.

RECONCILED.


MRS. LOVEJOY had combined on that morning a visit to the warehouse for which she usually worked with her journey home, and she was not surprised when she came in to learn that Beatrice had already gone out.  She did not ascertain the fact for herself, for she went straight into the little back kitchen, where Emily was washing out her children's socks and pinafores, and learnt from her that nothing had happened—"nothing particular," peace-loving Emily said, making no mention whatever of her sister-in-law remaining out till past midnight.

    Mr. Lovejoy had gone forth on one of his weary rounds in an outlying district, and would not be home till evening.  Mrs. Lovejoy had brought some work with her, and as there was a fire in the kitchen she established herself there, and commenced sewing with her usual industry.  When it drew near dinnertime she began to think of preparing a meal for herself, and as, like many poor women, she lived on tea and bread, she must have found that little note in the tea-caddy immediately.  But Emily came to the rescue.  She had prepared a meal for herself and the children, and called her mother-in-law to share it, which she did.

    After dinner, followed by a cup of tea, the children were set upon the floor to play, and both women began upon the dresses Mrs. Lovejoy had brought from the warehouse.

    The afternoon passed swiftly, and at length Albert came home.  Then Mrs. Lovejoy went down-stairs to her own room, lighted the fire, and sat down to await her husband, working on with might and main, for every stitch told, but the sum of a hard day's stitching would only bring her a single shilling.

    About six o'clock in the evening Mr. Lovejoy came home, looking weary and dispirited.  Mrs. Lovejoy only looked up from her work for a moment.

    "No luck to-day," he said, in answer to her look.  It was the usual formula; and her needle flew faster and with a firmer click.

    He sat down in a chair by the fire, sighing wearily, and looked at her busy hands; there seemed reproach in their rapid movement.  She did not rise to prepare a meal for him, as she had done in long-past times.  The kettle was simmering on the hob, and he could make tea for himself.  It was his usual custom now to prepare his own.  But he did not seem in a hurry to do so now.  He was too tired to be hungry, and he sat and sighed.

    Mrs. Lovejoy glanced up again, and seeing that he looked unusually weary offered to do it for him.

    The offer was enough to revive him.  "Never mind, my dear," he answered brightly; "I'll be right in a minute or two;" and presently he rose and went about the task.  It came into his head to ask for Beatrice as he reached down the tea-caddy, from its shelf.  "Has she come home?" he said.

    "No," answered her mother, sharply.

    He had got the teapot, and opened the little box to take out a spoonful of tea, when looking in he saw the folded paper placed there by Beatrice, stopped to take it out.  He felt the coin in it, and asked simply, "What is this?"

    "How can I tell?" replied his wife.

    He unfolded the paper in silence, and the sovereign rolled out and dropped unheeded on the floor, causing Mrs. Lovejoy to start and come to a standstill, for she had caught the gleam of the gold.  But no word came from her husband.  He stood like one stunned and bewildered.  At last he smiled faintly, and said, "Beatrice is married."


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"He stood like one stunned and bewildered."


    Mrs. Lovejoy did not reply.  She came over to husband and snatched the paper from his hands and read.

    "I couldn't have believed it," she cried.  The piece of gold was lying on the hearth in the firelight.  "A clandestine marriage," she repeated, pointing to it.  "Look at that!"  They both stood and looked at it a for moment with horror in their eyes; neither advanced to lift it up.  Starvation itself would not have tempted them to touch that gold.

    Then poor Mr. Lovejoy's limbs gave way and he sank into a chair, sobbing, "Merciful Father! what have I done to deserve such misery?"

    It was not what he had done that was rising up against him, it was what he had left undone.  It was what he had left undone that spoke in the hard sentence which seemed to come from a distance, though it was spoken close to him.  "You've not provided for me and my children as I'd a right to expect."

    Having said this, Mrs. Lovejoy sat down and did nothing—a sign in her of suffering too great to admit of mitigation or relief.  She was an unimaginative irreligious woman, with a sense of the value of work which was almost a religion to her; but she was thinking, "Oh! if Beatrice had only died; had only been lying up-stairs in the little bare room still and cold, as the others who were gone had lain, she could have thanked God as she had never thanked Him in all her life."

    Something might be done before the night closed in, but what?  Somebody might be sent forth to seek her, but where?  They did not even know the name of the man she had married.  Her father did not even know him by sight; her mother did—she would know him anywhere, she felt sure, though she had seen him only once.  But how would this help them?  Beatrice would not return with them if found that very hour.  They knew this too well.  From a child her power of resistance—her hard, unyielding obstinacy, even to her own hurt—had been wonderful.  No, there was nothing to be done, Mrs. Lovejoy made up her mind, and yet the idea that nothing was being done was unbearable.

    She was the first to arouse herself, and she set to work to make the tea, in the midst of the preparation of which her husband had stopped.  She made it, and set it before him, and bade him eat and drink.  It reminded both of more than one meal after death had been in the house, and one lay in it with lips closed for ever.  And they both ate just as they had eaten on those occasions, with neither relish nor desire, but from the mere habit and necessity of eating.

    Nor did they mention her name between them again.  Albert was up-stairs; but they did not go to him.  They tacitly agreed not to proclaim their loss.  They shrank from telling it as they would have shrunk from telling their most secret shame.

    But at length the father rose and said, "I am going now;" and his wife knew as well as if he had said it out what he meant.  He was going out into the city, upon which the darkness had already come down, to wander up and down in search of a clue to her whereabouts.  Then he went out quietly, and Mrs. Lovejoy began to prepare to go to Geraldine.  The hour had nearly come when she usually set out.  She hesitated whether she would go up-stairs first.  The children were being put to bed.  They were poor little things, to be quiet as mice when their father was at home.  She listened, and heard not a sound.  Then she too went out without a sign; and when she reached Geraldine's bedside there was not a trace of emotion visible on her hard features.

    Geraldine had been very much better than usual that day.  Her cough had ceased, and her spirits had risen.  She was quite light and gay when Fanny and Ada said good night and left her alone with her mother.  She was full of Ada's plans.

    Mrs. Lovejoy was far from approving; but she said very little.  What could she say, when Geraldine spoke of a time which her mother knew would never come?

    "I feel so much better," she said.  "I think I shall get well yet, mother; and perhaps I could sing too.  Ada says the singers at concerts make a great deal of money—sometimes five pounds in a single night.  She has found out all about it; she asked the professor to-day.  And Beatrice might help too," she added speaking with pauses between the sentences.  "Ada's voice and hers go together better than mine.  It is a wonder we never thought of it before."

    Her mother told her she must not speak so much.  "Try to sleep, Jerry," she said.  Mrs. Lovejoy was busy working by the light of the shaded lamp.  She always brought her work with her when she had any.

    "I seem to have so much to say to-night," she answered.  "I think I see Ada.  How pretty she looked the other night.  Ada looks well in slight things.  But Beta would look best in silk.  I wish you would tell her to come and see me, mother."

    Mrs. Lovejoy suppressed a groan.  "Jerry dear," she said again, "try and go to sleep.  Could you try if I put out the lamp?"

    "Not just yet, please," said Geraldine; "I am not sleepy.  I do want to see Beta, mamma."

    "Why should you wish to see Beatrice?" said Mrs. Lovejoy sharply; "I'm sure she has not been very kind to you."

    "That's why, mother.  You blamed her about me," answered Geraldine, "and I want to tell her that I don't feel it any more, that I love her all the same."

    Mrs. Lovejoy actually groaned this time, and in her heart felt something very like hatred for her eldest daughter.

    "Do you know," continued Geraldine, "that lying here thinking things, I seem to know people so much better—to know what goes on in their minds, I mean.  I think hard things have made Beta hard, mamma, and that if she was happy, and everybody was very good to her, she would be kind.  I mean to try and be good to her.  Tell her she is to come."

    "Jerry, Jerry, don't talk that way!" cried her mother: "Beatrice has gone."

    "Where has she gone?" said Geraldine.

    "She has left us," answered her mother.

    "Left home!—how?" asked Geraldine, raising herself on her elbow. "Mother, what do you mean?" she added faintly, for her mother's hands were wrung in her lap, and two tears, that looked quite hard and crystalline, the first the girl had ever seen her shed, had fallen upon them.

    It was too late for reserve now, and Jerry, young and innocent as she was, was too sadly wise.

    "She is gone to be married," said Mrs. Lovejoy; "but we know nothing more.  She has been cruel to the last."

    "Where is father?" asked Geraldine with a sob, and sinking back.

    "Gone to try and find out about it.  Hush! hush!"

    Geraldine closed her eyes, and there was silence in the room for a long time—at least, so it seemed.  The little timepiece ticked loudly.  Mrs. Lovejoy sat with her hands in her lap, and Geraldine lay with her closed eyes, and looked like one already dead.

    At length her voice, grown thinner and fainter, broke the silence.  "Mother, I don't want to live any more.  It has come to me just now, what they've all been wishing and praying for me to have, the desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better."

    She paused after the solemn words, sounding tenfold more solemn because this mother and child had never spoken of such things.  The one had never taught, the other never learned them.  And hearing them spoken then, not only awe, but fear and pain oppressed Mrs. Lovejoy.  They seemed at once to carry her favourite child out of her reach for ever—to remove her to a distance greater than even the distance of death.

    "Mother," sounded the sweet, faint voice once more, "I couldn't at first pray for myself as they told me; but it comes all right with me praying for you and father and the rest.  I wonder if father will find her.  I wonder if I could help him to find her if I went now."

    Her mother rose and drew near her.  "Oh, hush! —hush! Jerry, my child."  She thought she was beginning to wander in her mind.

    Geraldine's eyes closed, her lips moved, and then gradually, with her mother standing by her, she fell into a peaceful sleep.

    Mr. Lovejoy wandered up and down, far and near, coming home again and again to see if by any possibility Beatrice might be there, and still returning to his fruitless quest.  He loitered in roads where the gas glared on the pavement, and fell on the faces of the crowd, trying to scrutinise each till his brain was in a whirl, and all mingled in one hurrying, fantastic stream; then he walked into quiet bye-roads, where he met people mostly two and two.  But no Beatrice.  He had come out of one of these quiet dark roads out of the light of a corner public-house, facing into the principal thoroughfare, when suddenly he felt the pavement slipping from beneath his feet.  He clutched at the wall, which seemed receding also, and then he knew no more of what had happened till he woke bruised and shivering with cold, on the hard pavement.  It was as well, perhaps, that no one had seen him fall; that no police functionary was at hand, or he might have wakened on the hard bench of a police cell, imprisoned for the night as drunk a disorderly.


 
CHAPTER XXXI.

IN SEARCH OF EVIDENCE.




had come into the office of Messrs. Tabor and Tenterden the case of a disputed will, and it was found necessary, on consultation, that some one should proceed immediately to the locality in which the testator had lived and died, in order to ascertain what substantial ground there was, for the assertion of the plaintiff, that the will had been made when the said testator was in a condition of incapacity, and that in that condition undue influence had been exercised over him.  It was therefore settled that Philip should go into Essex for the purpose, and the day fixed was that on which Beatrice Lovejoy had left her home.  It was twelve o'clock noon before he started on his journey, having been detained at the office a couple of hours beyond the time which he had fixed.  He drove to the station in a hansom, and jumped into the train already in motion, with a black bag in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other.  He had a carriage all to himself, and presently devoted himself to the contents of his bag, refreshing his mind concerning the case before him.  The information was not of a very encouraging nature.  It had been furnished by the next of kin, the nephew of a Mr. Jacob Baselow, who had left the whole of his property to a disinherited son.  Old Mr. Baselow had died at the age of eighty-five, and was, his nephew was well assured, in his dotage.  Also, as proof that undue influence had been used, it was alleged that the will was only framed a year and a half previous to his decease—in fact, when the testator had very few wits left about him.  It was also urged that Mr. John Baselow had induced—and, indeed, bribed—certain friends to make false representations to his father concerning his (John's) former conduct, attaching the blame thereof to other and innocent persons.  The only fact stated in support of old Baselow's mental incapacity was towards the close of his life, for the last half dozen years or so, he had pretended to be stone deaf, while there was evidence to prove that he heard perfectly well.  This was said to be the cunning of madness; but Philip saw in it only the natural outcome of such a character.  When he could no longer take active means to verify the suspicions engendered by his own vile nature, and by the characters those by whom he had surrounded himself, he resorted to this mode of lying in wait to condemn them out of their own mouths.

    Past the outposts of the great city, where ranks upon ranks of houses are stretching out to take possession of the green country, like so many columns on the march, and on through the pastures of the marshes the train swept on.  Philip had arrived at his destination before he was aware.  The train was stopping at the station at which he had to get out, when, from a carriage in advance of his own, a young man sprang eagerly, while the train was still in motion, and was dashed upon the platform.  Philip's carriage stopped exactly opposite the spot where he fell, and Philip was jumping out to help him when the porter and guard ran forward and lifted him up, and seeing that little damage was done, immediately began to take him to task for a contravention of the bye-laws, in leaving the carriage while the train was in motion.  Philip by this time had got out bag and baggage.  He heard the guard demand the young man's name, and the young man answer sulkily, while dusting his knees, "My name is Baselow;" and Philip started at the name, for, by a curious coincidence, if nothing more, it was the name of the defendant in the case;—nay, he felt sure it was the defendant himself, still in happy ignorance of his position as such.  Guard and porter grinned as they heard the name, and seemed inclined to let him pass.

    A lady had joined the group, at which Philip could not help glancing with curiosity and interest.  She was the young man's companion—his wife or his sister.  Where had Philip seen that face? for it was quite familiar to him, though at the moment blanched with fear—a handsome, unlovable face, he thought it was.  And why did it bring before him Fanny Lovejoy and her troubles, and, by implication, his own, so persistently?

    The young man limped off to the waiting-room, with the lady by his side, the train puffed out of the station, and Philip, coming behind the porter who was carrying his portmanteau across the road to the little inn, called to mind where he had seen the face.  It was at Fanny's, after all, and she was one of those Lovejoy girls.  But, having settled that, he could not dismiss her from his mind.  What was she doing here, and with this young Baselow, of whom he had formed a most unfavourable opinion at first sight?  To these questions he could by no means return satisfactory answers.

    But having secured his bed and ordered his lunch, he returned to the common room, and found there the object of his mental inquiries, evidently waiting and alone.  She had off her left-hand glove, and on it appeared a wedding-ring.  Philip advanced boldly, and gravely begged her pardon; but he felt sure that he ought to know her.  Was she not, or had she not been, a Miss Lovejoy?

    Beatrice, for it was she, bowed with creditable dignity, and answered that it was so.

    "But you claim that name no longer?"

    "No; I am married."

    "Is the gentleman with you your husband?"

    Beatrice bowed again, and said, "Yes."

    "Mr. Baselow?" said Philip.

    "Yes."

    Philip hoped he was not hurt, and was turning away, when she looked round for a moment to see that she was unobserved, and, opening a purse which she held in her left hand, hurriedly took out and unfolded a piece of paper, and thrust it before him.  It was a marriage certificate, of that morning's date.  He had only had time to glance at it, and she to return it to her purse, when Mr. Baselow re-entered, loud and bustling, and calling to her that the chaise was waiting.  Without taking further notice of Philip, she walked from the room.

    Having established himself at the little inn, Philip set to work to sift his evidence, and look up his witnesses; but the conclusion at which he arrived was decidedly unfavourable to his client—viz. the old man had died possessed of all the senses he had ever had—a horrible mixture of craft and animalism, of shrewdness and the kind of short-sightedness which would come upon a soul never raised eyes from out the dust.

    With more than usual aversion Philip traced the footsteps of Jacob Baselow to the grave, and it was afternoon of the day following before he returned to town.  He went straight to the office, and found there a note from Fanny awaiting him.  Mr. Tabor was already gone.


 
CHAPTER XXXII.

A GOOD NIGHT.


GERALDINE'S sleep that night was disturbed by no pain, yet it could scarcely be called sleep, so thinly veiled were the senses.  Her mother lay down on the couch beside her and slept also, so slightly that the girl's faintest movement woke her.

    "What o'clock is it, mamma?" Geraldine asked again and again, as the night wore on, and after one of her brief intervals of slumber, Mrs. Lovejoy found with terror, that the timepiece had stopped.  To her it was an evil omen, not merely a sign that in the state of mind into which approaching death throws every household any habitual mechanical act, like the winding up of a watch or clock, is apt to be forgotten.

    She slept no more.  Geraldine, who had longing for the morning, roused as soon as it was light, and almost hurried her away that she might learn something of Beatrice.  Ada had been up with the dawn, and at her music, which, happily, did not disturb her sister, though it could be heard plainly through the rest of the house.  It had been settled that no one was ever to enter Geraldine's room in the morning until Mrs. Lovejoy came out, as the invalid was apt to gain her last and most refreshing sleep when others were rising for the day.  But, as soon as her mother opened the door, Ada would come in, and she heard the slight sound in the midst of her playing that morning and hastened up-stairs at once.  In the few minutes during which her mother was absent, getting something for Geraldine, Ada was put in possession of the fact of Beatrice's runaway marriage.  Trembling with excitement, she hastened to communicate it to Fanny; but Fanny could only stand aghast, and murmur, "Oh what a shame!"

    Fanny was not famous for resource in trouble, and her one idea under this fresh one was to send for Philip.  In all her perplexities Fanny had been accustomed to rely on him, and she could not break the habit.  "He is a lawyer, my dear," she said, when Ada objected, "and he always knows what is best to be done.  Don't you remember how soon he settled that affair of your brother's?  He is sure to find Beatrice, and have it explained.  You have no idea how clever he is."

    Ada submitted to this argument, with its kernel of fact, and Fanny, by a great effort at combination, sent in a note to Mr. Tabor, enclosing one to Philip, urging the latter to see her immediately.  Only the servant brought back a message to the effect that Mr. Tenterden was out of town, and might not be home till quite late in the evening, if then.

    Mrs. Lovejoy's fears, superstitious and natural, were somewhat dissipated in the morning light.  It soothed her especially to learn that the servant had forgotten to wind up the timepiece, and that it had not, as she expressed it, "stopped of itself."  Fanny took Mrs. Lovejoy's place from nine till eleven, while Ada had her music lesson, and the morning seemed passing like other mornings for poor Jerry, quiet and slow.  They had moved her bed lately, so that she could see a corner of the garden, and the cherry-tree over the wall, and the field beyond, with its fringe of greening elms.  It had been a great pleasure to her to look out at the pretty little picture, but to-day she turned her face away from it and shut her eyes.

    When Ada came in she seemed more than usually glad, and more than usually reluctant to lose sight of her for a moment, though whenever by some word or sign she had expressed this, she would hasten to condemn herself as selfish, and beg her sister to go.  Ada was glad she did not go that day.  She had her lunch brought up to her there, along with Jerry's chicken broth and jelly, and ate it beside her; but Jerry could not eat at all.  "Try it," said Ada, tasting it to tempt her; "it is so nice."

    "I wanted nice things to eat when I couldn't get them, and now that I have them I can't eat," said Jerry, smiling, always struck by the incongruities of things.  Then she took a little book from under her pillow and tried to read, as she had often done lately, but it soon dropped on the coverlet, as if it was too heavy for her to hold.  She asked Ada presently to read to her, and Ada read her to sleep.

    Mrs. Austin came to the door, but did not go up-stairs when she found she was sleeping.  A little later Mr. Huntingdon and Clara came, and found her awake.  She roused herself on their entrance, and seemed to to join meekly, as she always did, in the brief act of devotion.  Mr. Huntingdon was bending over her to say good-bye, when she said something in a tone so low that neither Ada, nor Clara heard her, but he answered, saying, "I am so glad."  A few more whispered words, and then he bade her good-bye, passing quickly out of the room to hide his emotion.  "She has learnt her hard lesson at last," he said to his sister, when they had gone on together for a little way in silence: "she is willing to go."

    "I am so glad," said Clara, echoing his own words.  "Well I know the peace it brings, for I have known the struggle."

    "Yes, you know some things better than I do," he answered, as if half wondering.

    "Because all life is a lesson," she answered, "and I have had a longer one than you—three years longer, Charles: measured by years and by pain," she continued, looking up at him with a pathetic smile, "far, far longer."

    "Then we are drawing nearer, Clara," said her brother, "if pain counts more than years."

    "Love counts more than pain," said Clara, smiling again.

    "And costs more," he answered.  "Clara, that poor child asked me to say good-bye for ever.  Do you think it is so near as that?"

    "There was a change for the worse, I thought," said Clara.

    "And do you know instead of saying 'Good-bye,' she said 'Good night.'"

    It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when Lucy Tabor paid her daily visit to Geraldine.  Fanny was sitting in the drawing-room, half asleep.  She had got into the custom of drowsing through the hours between lunch and tea.  Lucy did not rouse her, but went up-stairs at once; and, as she went, she could hear Ada singing very softly and sweetly.  She went in, and found her, with her books upon her knee, sitting on a low seat in the window, where she could not see her sister's face.

    As Lucy went up to Geraldine, she was shocked at the great change which she saw in her.  She stooped to kiss her, and the touch of her forehead made her shiver with dread.

    "How are you to-day, dear?" she asked; and Geraldine only turned upon her appealing eyes, but did not speak.  She was evidently unable to answer.  "Ada," cried Lucy, with a tone and look of reproach, "Geraldine is very ill."

    Ada started up, and threw her book down on the floor.  "What is it, Jerry darling?" she said, putting Lucy aside unceremoniously, and bending over her sister; "oh, Jerry! what is it?"

    There was no doubting what it was, even by eyes that had never seen it.  It was death.  Lucy ran for Fanny, who came up-stairs, and proclaimed herself worse than useless by beginning at once to cry.  It was evident that Geraldine noticed her and looked distressed.  Ada was standing by her, supporting her a little, with her left arm under the pillow, strange and white, but with a tender calm.  The terror was there for her, too, for it flashed across her face as she turned it away from Geraldine for a moment; but she was determined that her sister should not see it—as a mother turns smiling on her child, to keep it calm in some deadly strait of peril, which is stopping her own pulses with dread.

    "Be quiet, Cousin Fanny," she said; "and you, Lucy, run for the doctor."

    They did as they were bidden, both; and it was not long before Lucy returned with the doctor, who could only confirm their fears.  There was nothing to be done but to let her depart in peace.  The doctor was a kind-hearted man, and he pressed her hand in farewell, with tears in his eyes.  But, after he was gone, it was evident that she wanted something, for her eyes turned to the door, and then appealingly to her sister's face.

    "She wants mamma and papa," said Ada.  "Yes—she knows what I am saying; let some one go for them."

    "Let me go," said Lucy; and Ada gave her the address, without taking her eyes from off her sister's face.  She had evidently heard and understood, for she faintly smiled.

    Lucy flew to execute her errand, and just as she reached the door some one knocked.  She opened it herself, and found Arthur Wildish.

    Lucy's face was enough.  "Can I do anything to help?" he asked, in a subdued tone.

    "Oh yes," said Lucy, and told him her errand.  "You will go faster than I could;" and she repeated the address which Ada had given her.

    Arthur sprang off to do her bidding, and Lucy returned to the sick-room, to see if she could be of use there, telling them that Arthur had gone.

    The time seemed to pass with strange rapidity.  Fanny began crying again and again.  It reached Geraldine's ear, and seemed to distress her.  By a look—half reproach, half command—Ada succeeded in banishing her from the room; and she went into the next, where she could indulge freely.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Fanny began crying again and again.  It reached Geraldine's ear,
and seemed to distress her."


    Lucy remained a spectator of the scene, for Ada seemed to forget her presence.  But she could not leave her.  Out of sight she knelt in silence.

    Ada asked, "Do you like to hear me speak, Jerry?" and she must have received an answer in the affirmative, for she went on speaking; and she spoke only what she felt—her own strong, yearning love.  In broken, frequent sentences she murmured "I'm here, darling—don't be afraid.  I'm loving you, Jerry."  The girl had no words to express higher or deeper things.  But as the struggle grew harder, her words failed, and with lips grown white she whispered, "Shall I sing to you?"

    Geraldine again assented, and Ada sang.  She remembered the simple hymns she knew thus, when she could not say them; childish things they were, such as are sung in Sunday-schools, but they seemed full of sweetness and power then.

    At length Arthur Wildish returned, bringing with him Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy.  They found Philip outside the door, having just arrived, and all four entered the house together.  In the hall they all stood still, and listened for a moment to the sweet voice thrilling through the silent house; for the door Geraldine's room had been set open.  Arthur shook hands with Philip, who went into the drawing-room and then followed Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy up-stairs, but only to remain on the landing till Lucy came to him.  It was not long before she came to him, no longer able to control her sobs, and they stood there listening together.

    At length they knew by the silence, broken by Ada's crying, that all was over, and Lucy began to tremble so violently that Arthur had to support her in his arms, and, half carrying her down-stairs, he laid her on one of the sofas.


 
CHAPTER XXXIII.

A DISSOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIP.




turned away his face, looked out of the window, while Lucy strove to recover her self-possession. He neither moved nor spoke, and she remained unconscious of his presence, knowing that some one was standing there, but not caring to look up through her tears.

    "I am going now," she said at last; "papa and mamma will be getting anxious;" and she rose and left the room.

    Arthur, who had already spoken to Philip, absorbed in his care for Lucy, followed into the hall, where he stood waiting the opportunity to conduct her home.

    No one came near Philip.  He saw Lucy go out, ,and Arthur with her, opening the garden gate and offering her his arm, which she frankly accepted.  He was still standing there when Fanny entered, with Mr. Lovejoy.  Fanny had even forgotten that she had sent for him, and encountered him with secret dread.  He turned toward her a face too strongly controlled for Fanny to perceive anything but the sternness, and she immediately broke down and cried.

    "What is it you want me to do?" said Philip, gently.  "You sent for me this morning, and I came here as soon as I got your letter on my return to town."

    "Oh, I forgot," said Fanny; "now I remember; it was about Beatrice—my Cousin Beatrice.  We're in trouble—about her too."

    "She has gone," Mr. Lovejoy put in, looking the very picture of misery.

    "Gone!" said Philip, bewildered.  "I saw one of your daughters yesterday down in Essex.  She was newly married."

    "That is Beatrice! that must be Beatrice!" broke in Mr. Lovejoy.

    "She was with her husband, and was safe well," continued Philip.

    "Then you know whom she has married?" cried Mr. Lovejoy, light breaking out on his thin face.

    "As it happens, I do; and I am glad to be able to tell you.  Her husband's name is Baselow—a man whom I know something about already, am likely to know still more of."  He then explained who this Mr. Baselow was, and how he had come across the pair by a happy accident, and expressed his satisfaction that he had been able so speedily to allay their anxiety, lest she had made a discreditable match.

    Mr. Lovejoy wrung his hand, with tears of thankful emotion shining in his eyes, and the faint colour coming back to his face.  Then he hastened away to communicate the tidings to his wife; and Philip took leave of Fanny, after setting her mind completely at rest by offering her whatever sum she required, without putting her to the trouble of asking for it.

    When Philip once more reached his cheerless lodging, he found another letter awaiting him.  It was from Mr. Tabor, and, unlike any letter he ever received from his partner, it was several pages long.  It was evidently worded with the most anxious care.  Mr. Tabor began by reminding him of the trust he had reposed in him, and the expectation he had formed, that when he himself was no longer able to take an active part in the business, he would have left the burden to him, as to a son.  He went on to say that he had been as sure of his rectitude as of his own; and that, therefore it was no ordinary pain to have a doubt cast upon that rectitude.  He implored Philip to clear up the misunderstanding about Fanny's fortune.  He had taken upon himself to see Fanny concerning it, and had found her very reluctant to speak, and utterly ignorant on every point concerning her own investments, which was not a state of things to be approved.  He had also drawn from her, with the utmost difficulty, that there was insecurity concerning her money, if it was not already lost.  It was impossible in such circumstances, he concluded, for him to go any longer without an explanation.  Whatever affected the credit of one member of the firm affected the credit of the firm itself.  Lastly, if Philip, through any error of judgment, had lost any portion of the money entrusted to him, he (Mr. Tabor) claimed on the ground of business, as well as on the ground of friendship, to be consulted in the matter.  It might be in his power, either as a man of business, or as a friend, to help him out of difficulty, or even to save him from the consequences of still more serious fault, although in that event it would be necessary for their business connections to come to an end.

    It was a kind, a thoughtful, a delicate letter, from Mr. Tabor's point of view; but as that point of view was certainly not Philip's, these were not the qualities apparent to him.  It was the fact that he was suspected which took and held possession of his mind; the fact that years of the closest intercourse, the most perfect integrity, had not sufficed to create a trust in him which nothing could shake—such a trust as was necessary to him if he trusted at all.  He turned with despair from the life before him.  His restless mood came upon him, but he was conscious of fatigue, and sat still enduring.  If he had been a smoker, he would have stupefied himself with the weed; if he had been a drinker, he would have taken to wine—but he was neither.  He had a feeling of pity, not unmixed with disgust, for those who were the slaves of either habit.  His apartment boasted a couch which certainly did not tempt its occupant into habits of ease, for it forbade reclining on pain of absolute distortion; but, by the help of a chair, he managed to fling himself down to ruminate on his letter, while Mary brought him the never-failing tea and chop.

    An hour after, the girl came in uncalled.  He had not rang to have the things removed, or else she had not heard.  He was lying in the same position, and his meal lay untasted on the table.

    "Oh, sir! ye haven't eaten nothink!"cried Mary, a fine Irish mixture of Cork and cockney, and Philip woke with a start.

    "Never mind, Mary," he said, getting up and shaking himself.

    "I'll make ye a fresh cup of tay in a minute," said Mary, looking woefully at the chop, which could not be re-cooked, and was, in Mary's opinion, good for nothing.

    "Never mind," he persisted, sitting down to the cold and comfortless meal, and dismissing the girl with a smile, which made Mary turn up her hands and eyes outside the door, and utter an ejaculation to the effect that Philip was certainly a candidate for canonisation.  And Philip was wondering whether enough of "this sort of thing" would drive a man mad, and coming to the conclusion that it was extremely likely.

    The result of his subsequent meditations was that he sat down and wrote a brief note to Mr. Tabor, saying that, under the circumstances, he thought it was better that their connection should come to an end, as the close of that connection might give him an opportunity of explaining his circumstances, or, at least, do away with the necessity for any such explanation.  He added, that he trusted to Mr. Tabor's sense of justice to propose a sufficient compensation for the prospects he was renouncing.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"He thought it was better that their connection should come to an end."


    It had just occurred to him that he knew of an opening into a fresh life, which be might begin on new terms, on the other side of the globe.  It was an opening about which he and his partner had been consulted.  A firm in Melbourne wanted a managing partner, and offered excellent terms.  The more he thought of it, the more he became fixed in the idea that this was what he ought to do.  What had he to keep him in this country? he asked himself, bitterly.  Who would miss him if he went away?  He was a man without a single tie.  His work might miss him.  He was inconsistently glad to think the interests he had fought for and guarded might languish in other hands.  He was sorry to believe they would, and yet satisfied that it should be so.  And he formed his resolution and acted upon it, with a profound conviction at the bottom of his soul that life was not worth living anywhere out of England.

    When he had written his answer to Mr. Tabor, it was too late to post it to that gentleman's house.  Mr. Tabor would find it laid on his table when he entered his office in the morning, and Mr. Tabor would doubtless receive it as he received other business communications—with deliberate mind, and take it, as he took them, into the calmest consideration.

    But Philip was wrong.  Mr. Tabor did receive it in the morning when he entered his office, and took possession of it in anything but a deliberate way; and was, moreover, quite incapable of taking it into calm consideration.  He was, on the contrary, as completely "upset" by it—to use a favourite feminine phrase—as any woman might be, say, whose husband proposes a deed of separation on the ground of incompatibility of temper.  His hand shook, his calm blue eyes clouded with a suspicious mist, and as these symptoms abated, his mind became full of indignation and anger.  Philip's conduct appeared to him the basest ingratitude.  It could only be accounted for on the ground that he was guilty of the worst that could be brought against him, and even in that case his conduct did but aggravate his guilt.

    And while this was going on in Mr. Tabor's mind, the feelings of the culprit were by no means enviable.  Philip wished now that he had been less abrupt, that he had expressed gratitude for former kindness, and regret—a regret which he only too keenly felt—at the prospect of separation.

    Under the influence of these softened feelings, he at length entered his partner's room, intending to supplement the note which Mr. Tabor must have read long ago, intending to say much that was conciliatory and regretful, and to be as gracious and winning as Philip knew how to be.

    But Mr. Tabor, without intending at all, rose as he entered the room, and looked at him steadily and sternly, without offering any greeting whatever.

    Philip paused in the advance he was about to make, and for a moment neither of them spoke.

    "Is this all?" asked Mr. Tabor, at length, pointing to the note.

    "It is all I feel at liberty to say," answered Philip, "except—"

    "Is this what I had a right to expect from one whom I have treated as a son?" broke in the sorely exasperated man.

    "I was about to supplement it by thanking you for all your kindness," said Philip, the calmer of the two.

    "Your ingratitude is only equal to your effrontery," said Mr. Tabor.

    "You have listened to malicious and foolish charges made against me," retorted Philip.

    "Which you have not been at the pains even to deny the truth of," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I do deny them emphatically," was the answer.

    "Why not explain them then?" returned Mr. Tabor; "they must be capable of explanation."

    "They are; but if you do not believe my assertion, neither would you accept my explanation."

    "What am I to think of this?"

    "You must think as you please," said Philip, firmly.  "I can only repeat my great regret that this rupture should have taken place, and my hope that it may be conducted as quietly as may be to its only possible termination."

    "You are aware that we can force you to come to terms?" said Mr. Tabor.

    "Miss Lovejoy can force me to give an account of my stewardship," said Philip, with a smile which was only bitter, but which appeared to Mr. Tabor perfectly sardonic; "but I hope she will not."

    "You have already threatened her with the consequences, I think," said Mr. Tabor; "but that will not deter me from punishing, if necessary, the perpetrator of so cruel a wrong."

    Philip's eyes flashed fire, but he answered quietly, "The consequence will simply be, that I shall probably be rendered unable to replace that which has been lost."

    "Then you acknowledge that it has been lost."

    "I am driven to acknowledge it," said Philip.

    "How much of it?"

    "The whole," he answered; adding, "and through no fault of mine."

    "How am I to believe this, if you refuse to tell me how it has been lost?"

    "I distinctly refuse, unless I am forced to disclose it; and, Mr. Tabor, if you had only consented to trust me, I intended to replace it at any cost to myself—sacrifice my whole life to the replacing of it, if necessary, and for these two years I have strictly carried out this intention."

    Mr. Tabor's angry agitation had had the effect of completely calming Philip.  He paused for a little, and then said, "If on a further review of this painful business you will to a certain extent given me your confidence, a confidence to which I feel that I am entitled, I will lay before you my plan of repayment."

    Mr. Tabor raised his eyebrows, and looked at his partner as if he had assuredly gone out of his scenes.  "What?" he said, "ask me to become an—"

    "Accomplice," said Philip, bitterly.

    "You ask compensation for giving up your partnership in this business," said Mr. Tabor, turning his thoughts upon the unfortunate Fanny.  "If you are desirous of making reparation, whatever is due to you in that respect ought to go to her."

    "I intend it to do so," said Philip; "together with what I have already saved and invested on her account."

    "How much is that?" asked Mr. Tabor.  If Fanny was his client in the case, he was bound to see that her interests did not suffer, and the professional spirit coming thus to his aid, greatly conduced to calm him.

    "It is over a thousand pounds," replied Philip.

    "Have you accumulated this, besides paying her income out of your own, or is it part of her capital?"

    "It has all come out of my own income," said Philip.

    "I must at least give you credit for a desire to retrieve this unfortunate affair," said Mr. Tabor.

    Now as Mr. Tabor began to grow a little cool, to think that perhaps he might get to the bottom the mystery after all, Philip began to get hot, and at this last speech he exploded.  "I have said much more than I intended," he said, "and I will say more.  If you and Miss Lovejoy desire to force me to a fuller explanation, it is probable that I may throw up everything, especially as I have made up my mind to quit the country; whereas if you will only trust me sufficiently, she will be perfectly secure.  In the event of my death," he added, "she is secure already: my life is insured to the full amount."

    He was turning away, but Mr. Tabor detained him, saying, "After what has taken place it be impossible for us to meet and maintain the friendly relations necessary here.  May I ask if you will consent to an immediate withdrawal?"

    "I would gladly," said Philip, "but have you considered how such a withdrawal is likely to damage me?"

    "It would hardly be fair to you, I admit," said Mr. Tabor.

    "And there is work in my hands which I should like to see wound up.  It shall be as little disagreeable to you as it can be made, my stay here," said Philip;  "and," he added, "as brief as possible."

    And so the interview came to an end, with the understanding that the dissolution of the partnership had been agreed upon, and that it remained only to settle the details of the separation.


 
CHAPTER XXXIV.

A STRANGER.


AGITATION of any kind had an unusually injurious effect on Mr. Tabor, who was the calmest of men by habit, if not by nature.  He found it necessary to leave his office early and return home, labouring under symptoms which Mrs. Tabor had not seen for many a day, and which, noticed in the early days of their married life, when his struggle with circumstances was hardly over, had impressed upon her mind a feeling of insecurity, which deepened the tenderness of their union.  Philip had been absent all day, in attendance upon an important case in court, and had not returned when Mr. Tabor left.  He came home, with a flush upon his face almost like the flush of fever, an unnatural lightness in his eyes, and a slight but perceptible breathlessness, which at once awoke all his wife's anxieties.  But she hid them in her own heart.  He came home for peace, and he should find peace there if nowhere else in the world.  "You are very tired I can see, dear," she said cheerfully; "and you must tell us nothing till after dinner."

    He was in the habit of telling them the incidents of the day, as far as they concerned himself; and both Mrs. Tabor and Lucy were anxious to know what the incidents of that particular day had been.  They knew of the letter to Philip, and would have given much to hear the answer.  But Mrs. Tabor knew that if her husband had anything pleasant to communicate, he would do so in spite of her charge, if he had not, the news could wait.  His silence was a proof to her that she had anticipated truly, and saved him from feeling his silence an embarrassment.  She had no need to warn Lucy to follow her example; in that home atmosphere of unselfishness self was repressed without an effort.

    As soon as dinner was over, Mr. Tabor came into the drawing-room and lay down on one of the sofas, saying, "Let us have some music, Lucy, something that will do me good;" and Lucy went straight to the piano and began playing and singing, knowing exactly what he wanted when he spoke thus—some strain of lowly confidence or lofty hope; notes not only of human genius but of heavenly faith.

    In the midst of her playing there was a peal at the bell, and in a few minutes a servant entered, and announced "Mr. Tenterden."

    Mr. Tabor started from his easy attitude, which in former days he would have maintained, and assumed one in which he would await the greeting of a stranger.  Lucy and her mother looked one to the other in a kind of excited dismay; they were wishing, both of them, that they had known a little of what had taken place; but they were speedily relieved from their embarrassment.  A stranger entered room—a stranger, and yet not a stranger; a man bearing a distinct resemblance to Philip, but stouter and of coarser build, and bronzed and weather-beaten and bearded, as Philip was not.

    It was a respite.  "Francis!" exclaimed Mr. Tabor, eagerly advancing, "I am glad to see you," and he wrung the young man's hand with fartherly warmth.  Mrs. Tabor and Lucy followed suit, and in few minutes, Mrs. Tabor having ascertained that he had dined, he was seated in the centre of the friendly circle, and plied with question upon question.

    For a while these questions played about the outer circle of interests.  Where had he been?  What had he been doing?  When had he returned?  He returned only a day or two ago from the island of Ceylon, where he had been working for the last two years, and one of the principal things he had been doing was getting married.

    "And is your wife with you?" asked Mrs. Tabor, woman like.

    "It is for her sake chiefly that I am in England," he answered.  "She was anxious to place children at school."

    "They have come up very rapidly," said Mr. Tabor, perpetrating the mildest of jokes.  "How many are there?"

    "Only two.  They are girls," he added; "their father died in the island shortly before I went out."

    And still no mention of Philip, who was the person uppermost in the thoughts of all present.

    "I must go in and see Fanny to-night," said Francis Tenterden.  "I hope she is going on all right!" he added a little nervously.

    They told him of the changes in Fanny's household, and of the last change of all; the fair young girl who lay dead so near to them.  They told him with tenderer voices and shadowed faces, which, somehow changed the whole tone of their conversation.  It seemed easier to speak of Philip now, in the presence of the power which says, "The injurer and the injured are mine."

    "She still lives in the old house?" said Francis.

    It was Mr. Tabor who answered.  "Yes, your brother gave it up to her after you left."

    "And how is the old fellow?" asked Francis, ending the sentence with a husky voice, which begun with ill-assumed carelessness.

    "He is well, I believe," replied Mr. Tabor; "but he and I are about to part."

    Mrs. Tabor and Lucy felt the shock, but they were able to conceal their agitation; while Francis Tenterden betrayed the greatest surprise.  "You surely do not mean that he is leaving the firm!" he said.

    "I do," replied Mr. Tabor.

    "Have you quarrelled?" asked Francis, blankly.

    "Yes, we have quarrelled," replied Mr. Tabor.

    "So seriously?  I am astonished beyond measure."

    "Why, you yourself have done the same," said Mr. Tabor; "and probably for the same cause."

    "Impossible!" ejaculated Francis.  "Has he told you what we split upon?" he added, looking on the hearthrug at his feet with an embarrassed expression.

    "He has not.  He has this very day refused to tell me anything," and he added hastily, "I would rather not hear it from you, Francis.  Perhaps you may have sufficient influence over him to make him confess a great wrong."

    "A great wrong?" said Francis, fairly puzzled; "but I have no influence with him whatever.  It is just possible that I may have to leave England again without seeing him.  Pretty strange my wife will think that," he added again, contemplating the hearthrug.  "She has set her mind on seeing him, from reading a bundle of old letters of his."

    "It would be better, perhaps, to make your wife aware of the true state of the case—I mean of the grounds of the alienation between you.  It is always a mistake to have mysteries.  Take my advice, and tell her," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I can't," replied Francis Tenterden, looking embarrassed, and speaking more huskily than ever.

    "I can sympathise with you," said Mr. Tabor, warmly; at which Mr. Francis Tenterden looked up and then down, turned red-hot, and hastily rose to his feet and bade everybody good-bye abruptly.

    "Poor fellow, I am very sorry for him," said Mr. Tabor after he was gone.  "It is easy to see that he knows all about this business, and is very unwilling to betray his brother.  And all this time I have been unjust to Francis.  If I had been told that one of these boys would go wrong, I would certainly have fixed upon him.  In my mind Philip has always been first and best.  It's no use judging men by what they were when they were boys."

    Mrs. Tabor did not say, as some wives would have done, "I told you so," but she thought something very like it.  She had found an opportunity, however, for asking what had taken place between her husband and Philip.

    Mr. Tabor gave them an account of their interview of that morning, which Lucy and her mother received with a silent sympathy which was particularly soothing.  There is nothing, perhaps, so deeply irritating to a man as, when he has had ample reason to be angry, to give him greater reason still, and, when he has been angry or disappointed, to add to it by reflecting it.  Not one word of condemnation did one of them utter.

    "I think I shall give it up altogether," said Mr. Tabor, "and retire into private life; I have enough for our modest wants.  There will be enough for Lucy too when we are gone."

    Lucy went and sat on a low seat beside him.  "Do give up business, papa, and let us go away and live in your native county.  We might get a house near the place, where you were born, and you and I would ride about together among the hills."

    "And what would mamma do, who can't ride, and who cares more for Primrose Hill than for HeIvelyn, Lucy?" said her father.

    "Mamma would have a pretty garden, and a paddock for the ponies, and a cow, and a flock of chickens—"

    "Geese, goosey, or sheep, you mean," said her father.  "What do you say, mamma?" he added.

    "You know I don't want to be rich, dear—have never wanted it," she answered; "but I think it would be a mistake to give up all that ever interested and occupied you; I think, you know, it is far wiser to go on with our occupations and interests moderately.  I confess I should not care to live up among the hills, and never see a face I knew."

    And so they discussed the question of retirement in all its bearings, as they had often done before; and, as they had often done before, came to no conclusion, except that each desired what was most for the happiness of the others.

    They had wandered away purposely from the trial of the day, and Mr. Tabor only came back to it for a moment, before they parted for the night, by saying that Mrs. Austin must now be consulted concerning Philip's retirement.  It was not till Lucy was alone in her room that she gave way to the grief which oppressed her.


 
CHAPTER XXXV.

THE BROTHERS.




further could be determined on till after the funeral of Geraldine.  It was necessary to consult Fanny concerning her own affairs, and to get her, if necessary, to force Philip to submit to a complete investigation.  Some men might have rested content if the money had been restored, without caring to inquire too closely beneath the surface; but not Mr. Tabor.  He would go back, and go on unravelling till he held the clue to the whole transaction.  He could withhold his judgment, and hold the most lenient and generous one which the circumstances would admit of; but he first must be clear about these circumstances.  There was, therefore, no escape for Philip.  He must make up his mind one way or other: and he evidently had done so.  Everything that he did had some pointed reference to the close of his connection with Mr. Tabor.  In calling attention to the conclusion of each matter that admitted of a speedy settlement, it was as if he said, "This will not require doing again—this has been done by me for the last time."

    Philip had also dispatched a letter to Melbourne, offering himself for the vacant position, and also Mr. Tabor knew that Francis had written to Philip, and Philip had written to Francis; and he hoped that some negotiation was already on foot between the brothers.

    Francis had written requesting a meeting with his brother—a very friendly letter—asking Philip to be introduced to his wife, and offering to help him out of the scrape he had got himself into.  And Philip had written to Francis a very impatient letter, telling him that there was only one way of helping him, which he had already rejected, and that if he had anything to propose, he (Francis) had better come to him, and not bring a stranger into the matter.

    And Francis did come to him.  Things were in a great deal too awkward a position for both of them for Francis to stand upon ceremony, or to give way to proud resentment; besides, to these vices he was not much inclined.  Those he had a mind to were of quite a different stamp.  He arrived at Philip's lodgings before Philip himself, and had an opportunity of inspecting them at his leisure.  They evidently filled him with contempt and disgust.  How could Philip bear to live "in such a beastly place?" he thought, as he looked at the threadbare carpet, the dingy paper, the mean furniture.  Francis prided himself on having nothing mean, or dingy, or threadbare about him.  He had never had, and never would have had, let his means have been never so slender.  Now that he could afford it he had everything, he flattered himself, in first-rate style, and he was strongly inclined to despise men who had not.  All his appointments were perfect—his gloves, his boots, his clothes, his linen, the diamond on his little finger.  But on his face, as he stood puffing out his cheeks with contempt at his brother's chosen surroundings, there was marked—there was branded the deterioration of the man—the obliteration of the soul, caused by the vice of self-indulgence.

    Francis Tenterden had been a very good-natured youth, and he was a good-natured man—facile and easily led, but dominated above all by an ambition—(or is it not too low for the name?)—by a desire for worldly success.  If he had fallen into a fast set, he would have been a fast man, never going too far with his fastness to do injury to his comfort or his credit.  But he had fallen into a good set, and his object was to stand well with them.  His wife had been one of them, a good and very narrow woman, but narrow rather by training than by nature.  She was rich herself, as well as her children, and scrupulously upright, given to taking account of every detail—but with a fixed idea that management on a large scale was not a woman's province.  There was nothing to have hindered her from managing her money, herself, and her children, but she chose to give all up into the hands of Francis Tenterden, after what she considered a sufficient examination into his character, which, as she was not exactly in love with him, she had conducted quite fairly.  Francis had used his power to all appearance well, and stood there, a thoroughly successful and prosperous man.

    But he could not help thinking on the meeting with his brother with some disquietude, while going over in his mind every incident connected with their parting.  Far from approving of his brother's conduct at that time, it had only become more and more inexplicable.  Far from attempting to justify his own, he did not think it could possibly stand in need of justification.

    Before the funeral of Mr. Tenterden his sons had made the discovery, not only that their father was a ruined man who had lost everything of his own, but that every penny of Fanny's fortune was gone also.  Her clear six thousand in the funds was represented by shares not worth the paper they were written on, in more than one company which had made ruinous calls upon its shareholders before becoming happily defunct.  If Fanny had given her consent to these transactions, which was not apparent, it had clearly been given in utter ignorance—in blinded confidence.

    "She must not be allowed to suffer in this way," Philip had said at once, on making the discovery.

    And Francis had answered as promptly, "I do not see how we can help it."

    The answer was ready: "We can share the loss between us," Philip had said.

    "But we have nothing to lose," Francis had replied.

    And Philip had answered, "We can charge ourselves with it as a debt."

    "And ruin our prospects in life," his brother had cried.

    "Retrieve them, you mean," Philip had said scornfully, adding, "it is what our father wished when he was dying.  It was what he wanted to say to us, I feel sure."  And he did feel sure, remembering his father's hopeless hint of his wish to mate him with poor fortuneless Fanny."

    "Of course, I would never see Fanny want," Francis had urged, "but that is a different thing from sacrificing our lives to her."

    "Not to her, to our own sense of justice—to our father's honour and our own," Philip had answered hotly.  "I will not consent to the robbery of a weakling, an orphan, our father's ward, nor will I ever believe he meant it."

    "It is no robbery," Francis had answered, "it is a great misfortune.  I can't look at things in that high-flown way.  I will have nothing to do with it if you go much further."

    "I will see that Fanny is paid to the uttermost farthing," Philip had replied obstinately.

    "Then I wash my hands of the whole affair," said Francis.

    "And I wash my hands of you," was the angry retort.

    And Philip had stood firm in his determination, and before the coffin was closed on the day of the funeral, he had gone into the room where it lay and stood before it, with bent bead and an exceedingly bitter spirit; and at length he had lifted the shroud, and looking on the face of the dead, had vowed to wipe away the reproach and hide the shame.  And as he had stood gazing on the wasted face the bitterness had gone away.  "I will do as you wished me to do," he had said aloud, as if he made a promise to the living.  It was still more sacred, for it could never be remitted—it was a promise to the dead.

    From that day to this the brothers had held no communication whatever on the subject.  Philip had taken the burden entirely on his own shoulders, never thinking that, like other burdens, it would get heavier the longer it was borne.

    The thing be had taken upon himself was no easy task.  It was nothing less than the mortgage of the best years of his life.  Philip was then twenty-seven, no mere youth, but a man, with all the hopes of an honourable and ambitious manhood.  He had but just tasted of independence, in the shape of a considerable income which had been postponed to the prospect of a partnership in the firm he had entered as an articled clerk ten years before.  During those years he had stood very high in the estimation of his employers, who had lately depended much upon his zeal and ability.

    His income would be about nine hundred a year, and he lost no time in making his arrangements.  Three hundred had he paid to Fanny yearly, an insurance on his life had to be effected, that she might not suffer in the event of his death, and whatever he could save from the remainder must be set aside as the purchase of his freedom.  Unless he could accumulate sufficient capital to repay the money which had produced Fanny's income, there was nothing before him but a lifetime of bondage.

    He had arranged everything before he allowed himself time to think particularly of the consequences to himself; but when he did look at them, and realise them, there was no harking back in his mind.  To him it was the one course possible, and he did not credit himself with any special virtue in pursuing it.  He could imagine what it could be to despise himself, and go about for the rest of his life under a burden which could never be lifted—the burden of disgrace; he had imagination enough to realise that in the end even the actual money loss might be the greater.

    For two years Philip had rigidly carried out his plan, therefore the dingy lodging, the strict self-denial, the apparent stinginess, of which a nice little mystery had been made.  Sometimes he had felt the bondage well-nigh intolerable; at other times he went on hopefully, especially when his exertions in filling the place of Mr. Austin, laid aside by illness, and in the next place Mr. Austin's death, brought him more of the money for which he craved.  Money! it meant—what did it not mean for him?—freedom, love, a home, a life redeemed from bondage.

    The appearance of Mr. Lovejoy, and a whole race of Lovejoys behind him, Philip had, not unnaturally under the circumstances, hailed with anything but pleasure; but he had hardly foreseen the consequences of their advent.  But for them, Philip might have been left to pursue his plan in peace, to lay up from his steadily increasing income a sum sufficient in the course of years to repay the little fortune entrusted to his father, and set him free to live for himself.  And now the purpose of his life was frustrated, at least in part—unless, indeed, Francis had relented and was prepared to do his part, when it might still be possible for him to save his father's memory.  He clung to this tenaciously, and was resolved to cling to it to the last.  If it damaged his own reputation, he was free to assert his integrity, and to prove it in the end.

    At length Philip arrived, and found his brother awaiting him, having had time to refresh his memory of the past, and to review his present position, and to lose his easy good-nature in the process.  The first note which Francis struck was a false one, and made a discord.  He held out his hand, saying, "Why do you live in such a beastly place?  I had the greatest trouble in the world to find you?"

    "I am very sorry," returned Philip, dryly, "but I cannot afford a better."

    Francis saw his mistake, and retreated from it.

    "Won't you come and see my wife, Phil?" he said affectionately; "she is very anxious to see you."

    "You are married then?"

    "You might have seen it in the Times, a year and a half ago," said Francis.

    "I must have missed it.  I hope you are happy, Frank," and Philip forgetting for a moment that they were at feud, grasped his brother's hand with the old cordial clasp.

    It made Francis feel that it was worth some sacrifice to restore that former brotherly cordiality.  "I am very happy," he answered; "Rachel is as good as gold, and she brought me plenty of cash, on which I have been flourishing.  My only trouble has been the misunderstanding with you."

    "And you have come to set it right, I hope," said Philip, brightening.

    "I'll do my best," said Francis.  His best and Philip's by no means corresponded, however.

    "If the money can be replaced," said Philip, "I shall be content.  The rest must go.  I have made mind to leave England.  Tabor would never rest satisfied till he got to the bottom of it, and I am determined that be shall know nothing whatever, unless I am forced to disclose the whole.  I shall invest for Fanny every hundred I can get together, and if she will trust me for the rest, all will yet go well."

    "I was in hopes you had had enough of such a Quixotic enterprise," exclaimed Francis.  "It's like a man trying to swim with a millstone tied round his neck."

    Philip retreated coldly.  "How far are you prepared to help me?" he asked.  "I will accept your help, and leave the discussion of the question."

    "Well it depends," said Francis.  "We might offer Fanny a fair compensation."

    "I have determined that Fanny shall be paid every farthing," replied Philip; "and I am prepared to carry out that determination."

    "How much have you done towards it?" asked his

    "I have got together the first thousand," he replied.

    "The first thousand!" ejaculated Francis.  "At that rate you will have paid up the amount by the time you are about fifty."

    "I know it," said Philip, bitterly.

    "Come, do be reasonable, and get Fanny to accept a compromise, which she ought to be precious thankful for."


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Come, do be reasonable."


    "I hate compromises," said Philip; "a debt is a debt, and no amount of whitewashing can blot out the figures against one."

    "My money is my wife's, you know," said Francis, casting about in his mind for reasons wherewith to support his recommendation; "and of course I have no right to spend it carelessly."

    "You have no right to spend it at all, I should say," replied Philip; "and after all, Francis, you are poorer than I am."

    "Oh, but I have made some of my own besides," he hastened to say; "only, you know, three thousand is a large sum."

    "What can you afford then?" said Philip.  "I would give much that the story should not come out."

    It struck Francis just then that so would he.  He would suffer more in the estimation of some who knew him than Philip would.  He might not have felt this, but for the contrast between Philip's conduct and his own, which was being forced upon him.  What would his wife think, if she knew?  She was just like Philip.  She had such exaggerated notions.  Yes, certainly if Philip was willing to sacrifice himself, it was better that the story should not come out.

    "I can give you a thousand," said Francis, moodily.  "It seems a large sum to throw away in this fashion."

    "And will you lend me as much more as I may require?" asked Philip.  "You have only my personal security, but in case of my death you will be repaid in full, and I will pay you any interest you please."

    Francis hesitated for a moment, and then said, "Well, I will risk it; but I don't think there ever was such a piece of business as this transacted.  And now you will come and see Rachel?"

    Philip assented.

    "Come now," urged Francis.

    And Philip went.

    It was not pleasant to Francis Tenterden to throw away his money, as he had said, but it was pleasant to walk once more with Philip in the old brotherly fashion.  He had never been quite happy since their quarrel, and he was happy now in spite of those twinges of regret at the price he was paying for it.


 
CHAPTER XXXVI.

TRUTH WILL OUT.




next step was to see Fanny, and to overwhelm that unfortunate person with regret and shame.

    "I am about to dissolve the partnership with Mr. Tabor, and after that to leave England," he began, with the fewest possible preliminaries.

    "Dear me!" exclaimed Fanny, astonished and perplexed beyond measure; "you would never do such a thing!" (She did not say which thing.)  "I feel as if the world was coming to an end, with one trouble or another."

    "Mr. Tabor and I have quarrelled, and I have little choice in the matter," continued Philip.  "But what I want to explain to you is, simply, that before I go, your fortune, exactly as your father left it, in Government securities, will be placed in Mr. Tabor's hands.  You will then be able to manage it exactly as you please; to take it into your own hands, or to leave it in his; to spend, or to keep it, or to lose it," he ended, grimly.  "Do you understand?"

    "Yes," murmured Fanny, dolefully, feeling as if she stood upon quicksand.

    "You wished for this," said Philip, "did you not?"

    "I don't know.  I'm sure I never wished you to go away," said Fanny, crying.  Her prospects had never seemed so dreary before.  It was not such freedom as this she had wished for.  "You haven't quarrelled about me, have you?  It's not my money that has done it?" she cried.

    "Don't trouble yourself about it," he answered coldly; "I don't blame you;" and he did not—he felt her almost beneath blame."

    "But, tell me if it is," she urged.

    "It is, then," he replied.

    "Oh, dear!  I would rather have lost it!" she cried, all the kindness of the home of which she had been a member coming back upon her: and Fanny began to sob.

    "Nonsense," said Philip; "what is done cannot be undone.  But I want you to be firm," he added.  "You may do me still greater injury by your distrust of me now.  What I want to fix in your mind is that your money is safe, and that you must resist any attempt to force on an inquiry concerning it.  You must be content to wait, and you must say so.  Surely, Fanny, you have not known me all my life without being able to believe my word!  You will not have to wait long.  It rests with Mr. Tabor to offer me terms on which I can go out; and with this matter, in the meantime, he must not be allowed to interfere."

    "But, can't you give up going away?" sobbed Fanny.

    "I have no wish to give it up," he replied, impatient of her interference; and then proceeded to explain to her some details of her income and expenditure, which he had at length to say he would put on paper for her guidance, being perfectly hopeless of her coming to a clear understanding on the subject.

    And, indeed, after Philip left her, Fanny's state of haze might well have been felt by a person of far less hazy intellect.  She believed Philip because she could not help believing him, and her belief was the natural result of his character on one who knew him so well; but how had she ever come to distrust him?  Her distrust had done him serious injury.  She wanted to undo what she had done; but, then, what had she done?  She could not make it out at all.  Her head ached with the effort to get out of the labyrinth in which her thoughts were entangled.  She would go to Mr. Tabor that very night, and tell him that, in some inexplicable way, she had done Philip wrong.  Perhaps he would be able to set it right.

    Philip's next step was to write to Mr. Tabor—they were reduced to writing now—and to beg him to be as speedy as possible in settling the terms of their separation.  He also stated that he would be ready to give up to him the control of Fanny's fortune, which he had been enabled to recover.

    That same day he wrote to Mrs. Austin, saying that he would be glad to finish the task of looking over her husband's papers, but conveying not the slightest hint of anything being wrong with his affairs.

    Now Mrs. Torrance had congratulated herself exceedingly on the clever way in which she had put a stop to the attentions of Mr. Huntingdon.  He had never once called since the evening on which Mrs. Torrance had communicated to him that little piece of information concerning her daughter's fortune, nor, though she knew that Ellen had met him at Fanny's, had there been the slightest of those attentions.  Nay, for some reason or perhaps because of his drawing back so suddenly, Ellen had of late manifestly avoided him.  There remained only Philip to be dealt with—by far the most dangerous of the two.  Not only had she a conviction that Ellen cared more for him than for Mr. Mr. Huntingdon, but she felt that Philip was more strenuous in anything he undertook, and might not readily take a negative answer, unless it was a much stronger one than Ellen was likely to give. Then loss of income on her marriage was but a partial loss to him—what she lost, he and Mr. Tabor gained; besides, she also thought that the argument would have very little weight with him.  So she sat, knotting and scheming, and scheming and knotting, through those evenings during which Philip's visits had been postponed, but coming to no conclusion on the matter.  Perhaps, when the were disposed of, they would meet but seldom after all.  Philip was not the only young man, however; the Tabors were constantly having them about. It was very strange, she reflected, how scarce young men were when they were wanted.  When her daughters were growing up, she knew none.  All the families she knew had been daughters—not an eligible young man among them, so that she had had no choice in the matter of sons-in-law.  But when they weren't wanted, as in the case of a wealthy young widow, they were sure to come as thick as bees.

    Mrs. Torrance and her daughter sat a good deal in the library now, and being left there alone her knitting and reflections, while Mrs. Austin was at Fanny's, on the day when Philip was once more expected, she got rather weary of both, and began to look over the papers in the box.  Her dutiful daughter had left her keys with her in case she want anything, and the key of the box was among them.  The box lay quite handy at her feet, between the hearthrug and the table, having been placed there by Mrs. Austin's orders, and she got down on her knees and opened it.  She might find another packet of love-letters perhaps.  But, whatever she might find, it was not her intention to conceal her movements from Ellen.  She would tell her all about it when she came in.  Perhaps there was nothing that her daughter could not dispose of without Philip's aid.  There were the usual bundles of legal-looking papers, of not the slightest interest.  Putting these aside, she directed her attention to the letters and very soon lighted upon one marked "private" which she seized, of course, with interest.  There was something quite familiar in the handwriting, which was explained when she glanced at the signature—"Philip Tenterden."  She had seen Philip's handwriting.  The letter was his.  She began to read, and to read with eagerness.  She rose to her feet, and became more and more agitated as she went on.  Why, the letter was a confession of fraud and of impending ruin!  It was dated nearly three years ago—no doubt he had gone on all this time undetected.  It was horrible!  What a mercy it was that she had thought of looking in that box!  If he had found this, he would most certainly have destroyed it.  She had been the salvation of Ellen, and she would tell her so.  As for poor Fanny, was it not shameful?  She had not a penny; and what was to become of her, now that the fellow was found out, it was impossible to say.  Having finished the letter, she put it in her pocket, and with these new subjects of thought sat down to await her daughter's return.

    In less than an hour Ellen returned, coming straight into the library.

    "My dear, what a mercy that I thought of looking over those papers!" burst out Mrs. Torrance.

    "What papers, mamma?—what is a mercy?" asked Ellen calmly, accustomed to her mother's fashion of breaking intelligence.

    "Read that!" replied Mrs. Torrance, producing the letter.

    Ellen took it.  She, too, recognised the handwriting, but not as Philip's, only as having a great likeness to his—a likeness which often runs in families.  She, too, looked at the signature, and read the letter, light breaking on her face, like the clearing of a morning mist, as she read.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"She, too, recognised the handwriting."


    Mrs. Torrance would not suffer her to conclude it in peace.  "Now, my dear!" she exclaimed, "you see what that man is.  If he had laid his hands on that letter, he would have destroyed it—and I can't think what made me open the box; but as I sat looking at it, I seemed to have a feeling that I ought to look inside it.  It's always the way with me; I seem to know by instinct when people are not what they seem to be.  Now, my dear, that man must be exposed.  Leave it to me; I will expose him."

    "Expose him, mamma! he is cleared.  This is a letter from Mr. Tenterden's father, and explains a great many things."

    Mrs. Torrance's countenance fell; but she did not give up her point.  "Nobody has known anything about it all this time," she said. "He must have known, and kept it to himself, and acted under false pretences; so he is just as bad."

    "This money was lost years ago, mamma.  Can't you see that Mr. Tenterden has taken the loss upon himself? it has not affected Fanny's income, and Mr. Tenterden, no doubt, intends that it never should."

    "My dear, what nonsense you do talk! as if anybody would do that," said Mrs. Torrance.  "You must take the letter at once to Mr. Tabor."

    "I cannot act so suddenly, mamma.  I must have time to think what is best to be done.  Besides, I cannot see Mr. Tabor until the evening now."  Ellen held the letter in her hand, and went up to her own room, leaving Mrs. Torrance in a state of extreme exasperation.

    When she had shut herself in, she threw herself into a chair, and was conscious of a reflection of herself in a full-length mirror opposite; but it was to her the reflection of another self, so great was the difference between the thoughts of the present the thoughts of the past—even the past hour.  She pitied that old, pale self, as she smiled at it with a curious kind of pity,—that self that seemed to have hardly any reality in it,—whose generous impulses had all been quenched,—who had known no nobleness except what lived in books—this self, which had awakened at the contact with true, living nobleness was so much keener and sweeter.  She sat, with the letter in her hand, and one glove, with the shape of her hand within it, fallen at her feet, catching glimpses of Philip's character and purpose, which gave her a happiness such as she had never tasted before.  This was the clue to his self-denial; for this, perhaps, he had given up Lucy Tabor, loving her all the while: he had been sacrificing himself that Fanny might not suffer.

    It was her own smiling face and eyes suffused with glad emotion which recalled her to herself, and to the question, what was to be done with the letter?  Should she take it to Mr. Tabor?  That, for some reason or other, was the very course the writer deprecated.

    "Oh, Austin! I shall go mad," it began; and went on in short, disjointed sentences.  "I have come here"—it was dated from Brighton—"to escape for a day or two from the people about me—especially my son.  Fanny's money is gone; I used it in speculation, when I was on the brink of ruin, and but for the failure of Smith and Co., might have won everything back.  I cannot face Philip, and do not speak to Tabor—at least not yet.  If I could only live to work it up again, she should be paid back every penny.  The lads are provided for; they might even help me—at least Francis would—Philip too; but I dare not tell him.  He is not so lenient as Francis.  I gave you a hint of this; and now you know all.  Be merciful, Austin, and help me to begin again, and keep my secret, especially from Philip."

    She read the wild appeal again and again before she made up her mind.  Her mother fond sitting there an hour after, when she came to beg her to come down to dinner.  She found her there, and did not venture to approach the subject with which she was consumed, for Ellen was in a mood she could not understand.


 
CHAPTER XXXVII.

UNUTTERED.


MRS. AUSTIN and her mother had finished dining, but were still lingering in the dining-room, when the former said, in a tone as unconcerned as she could command, "Mamma, if Mr. Tenterden comes this evening, I want to speak with him alone."

    Mrs Torrance took alarm.  "My dear," she replied, in a tone of mild remonstrance, "had I not better see him instead?  I think I ought, certainly."

    Ellen thought—certainly not.  "I will see him myself, mamma," she answered.

    "Now, do be firm, Ellen," Mrs. Torrance ventured to urge; "you know you're not firm, dear; that is the reason I have for wishing to see him myself."

    "I do not see what firmness has to do with it, mamma," said Ellen; "Mr. Tenterden deserves the greatest sympathy."

    "Sympathy!" exclaimed her mother, thrown completely off her guard.  "Really, Ellen, you are too absurd.  Who but you could have any sympathy with a set of swindlers?"

    "It is quite clear to me," said Ellen, "that Mr. Tenterden has had nothing to do with the loss of fortune."

    "But his father had, and that is all the same.  He know all about it too; because his father has been dead two or three years, and he has never acknowledged it.  Depend upon it he is no better than his father.  It's my opinion sons are generally worse than their fathers: very likely he is."

    "Mamma," said Ellen quietly, but firmly, "it is not for us to condemn faults and misfortunes in the same breath."

    Mrs. Torrance understood the allusion, and was silent.  Some of Mr. Torrance's transactions had not been quite clearly defined between these two.  She was obliged to acquiesce, too, in her daughter's wish.  In her new character of independence she might not be meddled with.

    The knocker sounded.  Ellen started perceptibly.  "That is Mr. Tenterden," she said.  "Stay here a little time, it may save him unnecessary pain;" and she stooped and kissed her mother's forehead, in deprecation of her displeasure.

    Mrs. Torrance consented sulkily, and determined to stay there till she was sent for.  Ellen could never offend her without compunction, whereas to her compunction was unknown.

    Philip, for it was he, had entered, and was waiting for Mrs. Austin in the library.  "Are you at leisure?" he asked, after the customary greeting.

    "I am quite at leisure," she answered.  "I was about to write to you, when I received your note."

    "Were you?" he answered, somewhat absently; "I am glad I came: most things are better said than written."

    Something of unusual excitement of a grave kind had shown itself in Ellen's manner, and prepared him to some extent for what was to come.

    "I do not know," she answered; "I have become acquainted with a private matter which deeply concerns you, and it is of that I wish to speak."

    "Mr. Tabor has been consulting you, I presume," he rejoined, "on the subject of our dissolution of partnership."

    "No," she replied, quickly; "I have heard nothing of it.  I hope it has no connection with this."

    "With what?" he asked, abruptly.

    "The matter of which I speak is contained in this letter.  It was found among my husband's papers, and, unfortunately, not by myself."

    "She handed him the letter as she spoke, which he took and glanced at, with only too sure an intuition of its contents.  He read it, however, before looking up.  When he did so, it was to ask, half curiously, half bitterly, "What do you mean to do with this?" and he offered it again to her.

    "That is for you to decide," she answered, putting it back, and a little hurt by his manner, which took for granted on her part an utter want of sympathy.

    "I should like to know the worst," he said.  "Has any one else seen it?"

    "My mother," answered Ellen, with a slight flush.

    "Everything is against me," he said.  "And now, Mrs. Austin, I will explain my share in this miserable business."

    "I feel sure," she hastened to say in a voice of deep emotion, "I feel sure that you have no blame in it whatever; and that you have done, and are doing, all in your power to remedy the wrong that has been done."

    "I have," he replied, "and it has been made impossible for me to do it in my own way, which was to make up the loss without saying one word about it.  You can understand why."

    "Yes, indeed," she answered.

    "I have done something toward it," he continued; "one thousand pounds I have already invested in Government securities in Fanny's name.  But so large a sum cannot be replaced in a moment by a penniless man."

    "And her income?" said Ellen.

    "That, of course, I paid out of my own.  I thought I had met every contingency," he added, making a clean breast of it; "for my life was insured to the full amount in case of my death."

    Ellen uttered not a single word, but any one would have thought she was listening, not to a story of defeat, but of victory—a victory, too, in which she triumphed.

    "My plan has exploded," he went on; "but my brother has come forward to help me, and I mean to sell my interest in the business for as large a sum as I can, place it to Fanny's account, and emigrate."

    Ellen's countenance fell.  "Why should you do this?" she asked.  "Why not go on as you have been doing?  A few years would suffice to pay the debt, and trusted as you are—"

    "Am I?" he interrupted, "It has taken me nearly three years to do what I have done, at the same rate it would take me other ten, and already I believe all sorts of rumours are current against me; I can feel them in the air.  Even those who have known me all my life have learnt to distrust me.  It was bad enough going on with this millstone hung round my neck in secret, but to carry it openly is too much for my philosophy."

    "Only your friends would know anything about it," she said.

    "Consider what Fanny is," he answered; "and then these new relations of hers, who would have led to this disclosure sooner or later, even if this letter had not been found."

    "But your prospects," she said faintly, "you are giving them up."

    "They are not brilliant, I think," was his reply.

    "And your friends?"—she faltered.

    "Will be quite content to do without me."

    "They would stand by you in this matter, I am sure," she rejoined.  "There is Mr. Tabor,"—and she hesitated and blushed crimson—"Mr. Tabor and I would do so to any extent."

    "You are very kind.  I believe you would," and he gave a wistful look at her which seemed to speak regret and tenderness.

    With a sudden impulse she held out her hands to him, no longer looking at him, but standing before him with veiled eyes and downcast face.  He under- stood the action.  She had taken her life into it her hands, and offered it to him to make up for the world's wrongs.  There was no need of words; there was perfect consciousness between them.  He understood her, and she knew that he did.

    Philip felt the thrill of an emotion very like love.  He hesitated in his turn.  Neither of them might ever meet their equals again in generosity of spirit.  They felt how near they were to each other, how perfect a friendship theirs might be.

    And Philip hesitated, but it was only for a moment.  Then he took one of the outstretched hands; he took it in both of his caressingly.  "What would you think of me," he said, "if you knew that I have been tempted to secure your friendship and your help—to offer you a heart nearly as empty as my purse?  Forgive me for a thought so unworthy of you, and believe me, that I shall carry into my banishment the memory of your sweet kindness as my greatest solace; but I can never love you as you deserve to be loved—as I have loved from boyhood."



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