A Bachelor's Dream by Mrs. Hungerford
CHAPTER VIII., AND LAST.
Now what can be done? said the Doctor. That's the question. What
on earth can I do about it?
He put this question emphatically, with an energetic blow of his
gloved hand upon his knee, and seemed very desirous of receiving an
answer, although he was jogging along alone in his comfortable
brougham. But the Doctor was perplexed, and wanted some one to help him
out of his difficulty. He was a bachelor, and knew therefore that it
was of no use letting Patrick drive him home in search of a confidant,
for at home the ruling genius of his household was his housekeeper,
Mrs. Jessop. She was a most excellent creature, an invaluable manager
of the house, the tradespeople, and the maid-servants, and a splendid
cook; the Doctor appreciated her highly, but he was not disposed to ask
her advice or to invite her consolation.
He beat his knee a little harder, frowned more severely; finally let
down the window, put out his head, and called smartly:
Sir. Patrick pulled up the slim, clean-limbed brown horse as
quickly as he could in the midst of the hurrying vehicles and
hucksters' stalls which are usually to be found in the Essex Road at
about seven o'clock on Saturday evening, and looked questioningly down
at his master.
Don't go home. Drive me to Petersham Villa, said Dr. Brudenell.
Patrick obeyed rather sulkily. He did not know what his master could
possibly want at Petersham Villawhere he had already been once that
dayand he did know that he himself was exceedingly hungry, and
desirous of getting home. He gave the brown horse an undeserved cut
over the ears with his whip; and when he pulled up he did so with a
jerk which he might easily have avoided.
I sha'n't be many minutes, said the Doctor, alighting in front of
a comfortable-looking well-kept house, with red gleams of firelight
shining from its parlor windows. Walk the horse up and down to keep
the cold off, but don't go far.
It's cowld enough we'll both be, I'm thinkin', muttered Patrick,
gathering up the reins with a shiver; for it was really a very cold
evening indeed, damp and gray, with a biting east wind.
If the Doctor heard this complaint, he did not heed it, his policy
being, when his henchman was attacked with a fit of grumbling, to let
him recover his good-temper at his leisure. He had hurried up the
snow-white flight of steps, given a vigorous knock at the door, and,
being admitted by a neat maid-servant, was asking if Mrs. Leslie were
at home. Hearing that she was, he crossed the hall with an air of being
perfectly at home, and, after tapping at the door, entered the parlor,
causing a lady who was making tea to utter an exclamation of surprise,
and a young lady who was making toast before the glowing fire to drop a
deliciously-browned slice of bread into the cinders.
Why, Doctorthe tea-maker extended a plump hand
good-naturedlyyou again? You are just in time for a cup of tea. I
believe you came on purpose.
Hardly that; but I shall be glad of one, if I may have it, Mrs.
Leslie, the Doctor returned, emulating her light tone as well as he
could; and, after shaking hands with the younger lady, who got up from
her knees to greet him, he took a seat near the round table, not in the
well-worn, cozy arm-chair in the snuggest corner of the snug room,
which, with its gorgeous dressing-gown thrown across it and slippers
warming before the fire, wad evidently sacred to somebody else.
Of coursealthough I fancy you rather despise it as a rule. Not a
bit like my Tom!
Ah, you see I'm not like Tom in having some one to make it for me!
Well, that's your fault, I suppose, said the lively woman,
vivaciously, as she deftly handled the shining copper kettle. I told
Kate it was your knock; but she wouldn't believe that you could honor
us with two visits in one day.
I thought Doctor Brudenell's time was too valuable, observed Kate,
quietly, as she resumed her toasting.
She was not nearly so pretty as her sister, although Mrs. Leslie was
the elder of the two by twelve years. Maria Leslie had taken life so
easily, and turned such a bright face to all its ups and downs, that
time had rewarded her at forty by making her look six or seven years
younger. A downright pretty woman she was, bright-eyed, bright-cheeked,
bright-haired, and so plump and merry that it was a pleasure to look at
her. Kate Merritt was smaller, darker, more grave, and less attractive
altogether. Doctor Brudenell liked them both, but he preferred the
elder, as most people did. He enjoyed a visit to Petersham Villait
was almost the only house with whose inhabitants he was upon really
easy and familiar terms, for he was by nature a shy and retiring man.
He had got into the habit of confiding in cheerful Mrs. Leslie, but he
seldom talked to Kate, who was too diffident to make him forget that he
also was inclined to be shy. Indeed he thought so little about her that
he had not even a suspicion that in her quiet, cool, self-controlled,
persistent way, she had made up her mind to marry him. Mrs. Leslie did
know it, and often rated her sister soundly on the subject, with even a
touch of contempt sometimes.
You are most absurd to keep that silly notion fixed in your head!
she would declare, impatiently. He doesn't care a straw for you,
child! Haven't you wit enough to see that? If he only knew what a goose
you were he'd pay you the compliment of thinking you crazy, I tell you.
He's a good fellowthe best fellow in the world after my Tombut
there's something odd about him in that way. Can't you see that he
hardly knows one woman from another, you silly child? I don't, for my
part, believe that the man has ever been in love in his life at all.
Mrs. Leslie was penetrative, but in this matter she was wrong; for,
if George Brudenell had been asked, he would probably have confessed
that he had been in love twice. True, his first passion had been
conceived at the age of eighteen, its object being the bosom-friend of
his only sister, a young lady who owned to six-and-twenty, and who had
laughed at him mercilessly when the most startling of valentines had
made her aware of the state of things. Then, years after, when he was
nearly thirty, he had become very fond of the daughter of his partner,
a pretty, gentle, winning creature some half a dozen years younger than
himself, who had girlishly adored him. He had been so fond of her and
so used to her, he had grieved so sincerely when, a month before what
was to have been their wedding-day, she died, that he did not realize
in the least that he had reached his present age of forty-three without
having been really in love at all.
He was not unhappy. A studious man, cold, taciturn, and
self-contained as a rule, caring little for general society and devoted
to his profession, the want in his life, the blank in his wifeless and
childless home, was not to him what it would have been to a more
impulsive, less self-reliant nature. If sometimes he instituted an
involuntary comparison between his contracted hoped and interests as
contrasted with those of other men, books, his work, his studies, soon
consoled him. He hardly knew there was a yearning in his breasta
vague, intangible felling, waiting for a mistress-hand to stir it into
activitythe hand of a woman whom he had never seen.
And what brings you here a second time, Doctor? asked Mrs. Leslie,
brightly, as she poured out a cup of tea and handed it to him. Are you
going to give us some advice gratis?
Hardly, Mrs. Leslie; in fact, I want yours.
Mine? exclaimed the lady, vivaciously. It is yours, of
coursebut upon what subject?
This. You recollect that I told you my sister was coming home from
India with her children?
To be sureI remember. Well?
Well, I have a letter from her announcing that, as she has been out
of health for the last month or two, her husband does not wish her to
travel yet. But her children are coming to Englandthey are on their
way, in fact, and coming to me.
Doctor Brudenell, in making this statement, did not feel comical,
but he looked so, in spite of his grave, refined, scholarly face, and
Mrs. Leslie greeted his words with a burst of hearty laughter.
My dear Doctor, don't look so tragic! The poor little creatures
won't eat you. So they are coming to you? Well, what is your
Merely, what am I to do with them?
Why, take care of them, of course!
The Doctor stirred his tea with an air of helpless bewilderment. He
felt that this was all very well as far as it went, and strictly what
he meant to do, of course; but it did not go far enoughit was no
solution of his difficulty. He felt a distinct sense of injury, too.
His sister had got married, which was all very well. She had had eight
children, only three of whom were now alive; and it occurred to him
that, having the children, it was clearly Laura's duty to look after
them. There was en element of coolness in her sending them to him which
he found rather disconcerting. It opened a prospect of unending
domestic tribulation. Laura herself had been an altogether
irrepressible child, loud in voice, restless of movement, tireless of
tongue, insatiable in curiosity, unceasing in mischief. What would his
quiet house be with three editions of Laura running rampant about it?
They would invade his study, disarrange his books, frolic in the
drawing-room, make quiet and peace things of the past. What could he do
with them? What would Mrs. Jessop say? The Doctor shuddered at the
thought; the prospect appalled him.
You had better get a governess for them, suggested Mrs. Leslie,
A governess! This was a ray of light, but he was not sure that he
did not prefer darkness. Oha governess? he repeated,
Of course! They will be tiresome, you may be sureall children
are, and Anglo-Indian ones particularlyat least so I should
fancyand you certainly will not want them disturbing you, while it
will never do to have them running riot over the house. Get a good,
sensible, responsible person, not too young, and you will find that you
need hardly be troubled at all.
The Doctor felt that this counsel was good. It was plain, practical,
feasible. But there remained a difficulty. How was he to become
possessed of the sensible, responsible person who was not too young?
Advertise, suggested his adviser, tersely.
Of course! How very foolish of him not to have thought of it! The
plainest possible way out of the dilemma.
Thank you, Mrs. Leslie, said the Doctor, rising and taking up his
hat. Thank you. I've no doubt that you're perfectly right. I will
He shook hands with the ladiesgratefully with the one,
indifferently with the otherand bowed himself out, hurrying to the
waiting Patrick, who had fulfilled his own prophecy in so far that he
was by this time cowld in every limb, although his temper was
From the window Kate Merritt watched the brougham roll away and then
turned to her sister angrily, tears in her eyes, a hot flush upon her
face. Although she was by nature really obstinate, resolute, and
persistent, she often exhibited upon the surface a childish pettishness
with which her real self was almost absurdly at variance. She spoke now
as a spoilt child might have done.
How dreadfully disagreeable you are, Maria! It's too bad, I
declare! I believe you do it on purposethere!
Do what on purpose? What in the world do you mean? cried Mrs.
Leslie, pausing, sugar-tongs in hand.
You know what I mean! exclaimed Kate, scarcely able to suppress a
I declare I do not. This is some fad about Doctor Brudenell, I
suppose, said the elder sister, resignedly. Do me the favor to be
intelligible, at least, Kate. What is it that you mean?
Why did you advise him to advertise? demanded Miss Merritt.
Because it was the most sensible advice I could give him. Is that
the grievance? What objection have you to his advertising?
That I know very well what it will come to. He'll take your advice,
and advertise, and get some woman into his house who will pet the
children and coax and wheedle him until she gets completely round him,
and then we know what will happen, cried Kate, with her handkerchief
pressed to her eyes.
Mrs. Leslie looked at her, and had some difficulty in restraining a
Nonsense, child! Doctor Brudenell will no more fall in love with
his governess than he will with anybody else. For goodness' sake do try
to be more sensible. A nice opinion of you he would have if he could
only hear and see you now, I must say! I should be ashamed, if I were
you, to spend my time fretting and crying after a man who didn't care a
pin about me, like a love-sick school-girl. Dry your eyes and come to
the table. Whoever the poor man gets for a governess, I hope she may
have more common sense than you, I am sure. And the sooner he
advertises for her the better, if that unruly brood is to be here so
He would never have thought of advertising but for you, said Kate,
Probably not! retorted Mrs. Leslie, tartly. But now he will do
it, and quickly, if he is sensible.
Mrs. Leslie was wrong. The Doctor did not advertise for a governess,
although when he left he was firmly resolved upon doing so. He drove
home quickly to his handsome house in Canonbury, and enjoyed an
excellent dinner by the bright fire in his comfortable dining-room,
with a renewed appreciation of the excellent Mrs. Jessop. Then he
summoned that lady in his presence, and with very little circumlocution
broke to her the news of the promised invasion and the suggested
panacea. Finding that Mrs. Jessop took the matter on the whole amiably,
he felt considerably relieved in mind, and began placidly to smoke his
pipe over the Times. The leading article was stupid, soporific, the
tobacco soothing, the fire hot; he was just hovering in delicious
languor upon the very borders of dreamland when a knock at the door
roused him abruptly. Of course, he was called out.
Had the call been from a well-to-do patient who fostered a
half-fancied illness, he might have been more put out than he certainly
was when, upon turning into the street, he felt the keen east wind
nipping his ears; but it was from a poor house lying in the midst of a
very labyrinth of squalid back streets and foul courts, and yet but a
mere stone's-throw from his own comfortable dwelling.
The Doctor did all that he could for the patienta disheveled
woman, who had fallen, while drunk, and cut her head. He bound up the
wound, gave a prescription; and, leaving directions with the voluble
Irish charwoman who filled the place of nurse, left the close,
evil-smelling room, glad to breathe even the tainted air outside, and
as quickly as he could retraced his steps.
He had left the last of the wretched narrow streets behind him, and
was turning into a wider road which led by a short cut to the adjacent
thoroughfare, when he heard a shrieka terrible cry of agony or
fearperhaps bothand there, not more than a hundred yards before
him, standing out black against the surrounding gray, two figures were
frantically strugglinga man and a woman.
George Brudenell, slight and wiry in figure, was active and swift as
a boy. He shouted and ran, but, before he could reach the two, the man
had violently wrested his arm free and raised it in the air. There was
a flash of steel as it descended, a shrill cry that broke off into a
moan; and the Doctor, hardly able to check himself, almost stumbled
over the woman as she fell at his feet.
Doctor Brudenell's first rapid glance about him as he recovered his
balance assured him that pursuit would be futile. The man had darted
off down a narrow turning which had led into a maze of streets. Already
his rapid footsteps had ceased to echo on the pavement; he was lost by
this time in the busy restless throng of Saturday night
foot-passengers. The Doctor, abandoning any idea of chasing and
securing him, lost not a moment in doing what he could. The short
street was a new one, having on one side a neglected piece of waste
land, where bricks, gravel, and mortar were flung in confusion; upon
the other a row of half-finished houses. A curve at its upper end hid
the thoroughfare beyond, although the sound of wheels and the hoarse
cries of hucksters were audible to him as he dropped upon one knee, and
gently raised the inert figure. Blood was upon it; he felt it and knew
that it was staining his hand. Had no one heard that dreadful,
thrilling cry but himself? It seemed not. He shouted loudly with the
full power of his lungs:
Help, help! Murder! Herehelp!
He was heard, for, as he loudly shouted again, voices answered him;
and in a few moments a group of men and women had gathered about him,
eager, excited, questioning. Before he could answer them they made way
for a sergeant of police whom Doctor Brudenell happened to know. He
explained hastily; the knot commented; the sergeant was cool and
Pity you weren't quick enough to nab him, sir!
He went down upon his knee and turned the light of his lantern upon
the ghastly face.
H'm! Young, and a spanker to look at, I should say! Wonder if it
was robbery? Is she dead, sir?
No. The Doctor laid her gently down, his practiced hand over the
heart. No; she's not dead. The blow was aimed at her heart, but
something in her dressa corset, probablyturned the weapon aside.
Call me a cab, somebody. You're off duty, I think, sergeantcan you
come with me?
I am, sir. Always happens so when there's anything doing, muttered
the sergeant, discontentedly. Here's another of our people that ain't,
though, as a second sergeant forced his way through the group,
followed by a constable. Baxter, you'd best step round and report this
little job, and not lose any time about it, either. It's attempted
murderthat's what the game is. Chap made off as if he'd got springs
in his heels.
The second officer bent down as the first had done, glanced at the
bloodless face, asked a question or two, and started off at a smart
pace, the fringe of the crowd hurrying after him.
The Doctor looked at his companion, repeating:
Can you come with me? I may want assistance.
With pleasure, sir! You'll take her to the hospital, I suppose?
No. My house is nearer; and, unless the wound is looked to at once,
I don't answer for the consequences. There is no objection, I suppose?
The sergeant thought there could be no objection, although the
hospital was the usual thing. The Doctor put aside that consideration
contemptuously. From what he could see of the wound, he was prepared to
state professionally that any delay would be highly dangerous. The
sergeant yielded the point respectfully, but protestingly; and the cab
came, bringing an excited crowd in its train.
There was no lack of proffered help; but the Doctor and the sergeant
lifted the insensible woman into the cab between them. On arriving at
the Doctor's house the two men carried her indoors; then bells rang,
maid-servants hurried, exclaimed, and questioned; and soon the door of
the library was closed upon all except Mrs. Jessop and the Doctor. The
sergeant retired to the dining-room, and meditatively took an inventory
of its furniture and appointments, as he awaited further developments.
Noticing the Doctor's decanter of choice old port, which was still upon
the table where he had left it, the officer helped himself to a
glassful, drinking it with evident relish.
Half an hour passed before the Doctor entered. He took his seat
thoughtfully by the fire, and motioned to the sergeant to draw his
The wound is not muchmerely a deep flesh-wound, he observed,
Glad to hear it, I'm sure, returned the sergeant, politely.
She has lost a great deal of blood, will be much weakened, and is
totally insensible now, Doctor Brudenell continued; but no vital part
is touchednot the fault of that scoundrel, though, sergeant.
Ah! replied the sergeant, intelligently.
The Doctor had motioned to him to help himself to the wine, and he
did so now with contemplative deliberation.
Then you think it is a case of intended murder, I take it, sir?
As far as my judgment serves meyes. I should say the blow was
meant to kill herindeed, only the steel of her corset saved her.
H'm, I thought as much! Now, as to motive, sir; have you got any
Robbery, I suppose. Ahas the sergeant shook his head with a wise
airyou don't think so, then!
No, I don't, sir. Maybe, of course, but I doubt it. A man don't use
a knife when his fists will do, as a rule. And look you here, sir,
said the sergeant, leaning forward to place his broad hand for a moment
upon the Doctor's kneewhen you find a fine old gentleman with a bald
crown or a 'spectable old lady with a bag and umbrella, tipped over
neat in a corner, you may put it down to robbery; for you won't find
anything in their pockets, I'll wager. But you find a good-looking
fellow with a ha'porth of rat poison inside of him that he didn't put
there himself, or a young woman stabbed that's as handsome as that
onejerking his head toward the doorand you won't go far wrong if
you put it down to jealousy.
The Doctor sat silently pondering. The sergeant slowly filled his
You've examined her dress, of course, sir? Anything in the
Nothing torn? No appearance of having been robbed?
No. Merely the cut where the blow was given.
Just so, sir. About the weaponan ordinary knife, should you say?
No; from the appearance and general character of the wound it was
caused by a two-edged blade.
H'm! Sort of daggerstiletto kind of thing? queried the sergeant.
I should say so.
The sergeant gave a prolonged whistle, with an air of intense
Supports my idea, you see, sir. A man going about with a dagger in
his pocket usually means to use it. A case of jealousythat's what it
is! It's surprising, I'm sure, the way a man will put his neck into a
rope if there's a woman t'other side of it. You wait till this young
woman comes round, and you'll find that that's about the size of it.
The work of some hot-headed young fool she's thrown over, I expect; or,
maybe, she's bolted from her husband, and it's a case of elopement.
Shouldn't wonder, for the handsomer they are the more mischief they get
up to. That's my experience.
I hope you are mistaken, said the Doctor, rising and looking
thoughtfully at the fire. I hope you are, but we shall see. Fill your
Thank you, sir, I am sure. The sergeant obediently filled his
glass for the fourth time, and held it critically between his eye and
the light. Well, we shall see, as you say. When do you fancy you'll be
able to speak to her, may I ask?
Impossible to say. She may be sensible to-morrow, or the shock may
cause a fever, in which case her condition may become highly dangerous.
I can't possibly say.
Pity there isn't something about her by which she might be
identified, mused the sergeant, thoughtfully. But it'll all be in the
papers to-morrow, and it will be odd if it doesn't catch the eye of
some one who knows her. But she's French, if I don't mistake, or at any
rate, not English.
Doctor Brudenell, recalling his impression of the ghastly face as he
had seen it, first in the light of the sergeant's lantern, and
afterward lying upon a pillow hardly whiter than itself, silently
endorsed this opinion. No, decidedly she was not English; but he did
not think she was French. The sergeant thoughtfully emptied his glass,
and set it down upon the table.
We'll do all we can, of course, but it strikes me that the chances
of nabbing the man don't amount to much unless the young man comes to
herself in time to help us. And, if she does, it's about twenty to one
that she puts us on a wrong scent. Well, I'm on duty again directly,
and I'll be going. Will you step down to the station with me, sir?
Certainly, if you think it necessary.
The sergeant thought that it might be as well, and the Doctor put
on his hat and coat, and walked with his companion to the
police-station, where the inspector on duty, who had received one
report already, listened to his statement, wrote it all down
imperturbably, and approved with some warmth of the sergeant's theory
as to jealousy. Fists or a knuckle-duster did well enough for
robbery, the inspector observed oracularly; it was only when a man went
a bit off his head that he took to daggers; and there was more of
that sort of thing aboutpresumably meaning jealousythan any one
would credit. Though, when it came to going it to that extent, the
inspector's private opinion was that no woman was worth it.
Is there much chance of capturing this man, do you think? Doctor
Why, that depended. If the young woman came to herselfsay
to-morrowand told the truth, you would know where you were; but if,
on the other hand, the young woman chose to put them on an altogether
false scentwhich was rather more likely than notwhy, where would
Feeling that he could not successfully answer this official poser,
the Doctor bade the sergeant and the inspector good-night, and,
repeating his former assurances of perfect willingness to do whatever
he could in the affair, walked out of the police-station. At home, by
the dining-room fire, he found the invaluable Mrs. Jessop waiting for
Well, Mrs. Jessop, and how is our patient now? he inquired,
He did not feel cheerful, but Mrs. Jessop had shown some slight
reluctance and resentment at being suddenly called upon to assume the
function of nurse to a totally unknown and much too handsome young
woman, and he thought it only prudent to conciliate her.
Pretty much the same, sirhasn't stirred so much as a finger or
opened her eyes; though whether or not it's a natural sleep I couldn't
take upon myself to say.
I'll step up-stairs again with you in a moment. What I fear is
fever, consequent on the shock. If we can keep off that, she will most
likely awaken sensible enough. I hope so, I am sure, for the sake of
catching that cowardly villain, whoever he was.
He must have meant to murder her, you think, sir? inquired Mrs.
Jessop, smoothing her cap-ribbons, thoughtfully.
I am afraid so. Poor girl! She is quite young?
And most remarkably handsome?
No doubt, sir.
She is a foreigner, I fancy. It is most unfortunate that there is
nothing on her by which we can identify her. By the wayI did not
noticedid you see if she wore rings?
Not a wedding-ring?No, sir.
And not a trinket of any kind about her?
Not one, sir.
Nothing whatever? persisted the Doctor musingly, as he held out
his hands to the fire. They were cold, for the February night air was
There was this, sir, said Mrs. Jessop, abruptly.
She held out to him upon the palm of her plump hand a tiny roll of
paper, tied with a wisp of faded red silk.
Where did you find this?
In a little pocket inside the bosom of her gown, sirit looked as
if it had been made for it.
Have you read it?No, sir. It's gibberish.
The Doctor untied and unrolled the little packet, then looked at it
by the gaslight. It was covered with characters of a deep red color,
curious and fantastic, and to him absolutely meaningless. It looked
strange, uncanny, witch-like. Was it a charm? The Doctor studied it
wonderingly for a few moments, and then laughed at the thought of such
an absurd fancy assailing him! He rolled up and re-tied the little
Well, that won't help us much, he said. As I thought, we must
wait for light from her, poor girl. Take care of it, Mrs. Jessop; she
may attach some fanciful value to it.
Doctor Brudenell, standing by the bed in the comfortable room, to
which the unknown woman had been carried, looked down at her curiously
and scrutinizingly. Upon the white pillows he saw a pale face lyinga
face that was exquisitely chiseled, the head crowned by a wonderful
mass of thick black hair.
Beautiful! he muttered, under his breath, and turning away. I
should fancy it was jealousy!
The next day's papers contained a sufficiently thrilling account of
the attempted murder of a lady in Rockmore Street; but, although an
elaborate description of the victim's person and attire was given and
enlarged upon with due journalistic skill, it brought no anxious troop
of friends and relatives to inquire at Doctor Brudenell's door; and the
best efforts of the inspector and his subordinates to track the
would-be murderer came to ignominious grief, for the only person who
could perchance have put them upon his track lay tossing in the
delirium of fever.
Hang the brats! exclaimed Dr. Brudenell, angrily. If this goes on
for long they'll drive me mad, I swear!
He was annoyed, chafed, irritated, more out of temper than he had
ever been before. The preceding week had been to him a period of
purgatory; the calm of his house was broken; his study was no longer a
sanctuary; the maids were flurried; Mrs. Jessop spoiled the soup. The
bachelor, transformed suddenly into a family-man without any
preliminary steps, was amazed and bewildered; the sufferings of his
married acquaintances filled him with a grotesque feeling of pity, with
the sincerest sympathy. He especially commiserated Laura's husbandfor
the three children had turned out to be three emphatic editions of
Just now the uproar which had caused the master of the house to
spring up from his dinner was more than usually vociferous. The three
had escaped from their extemporized nursery, and had shouted and
tumbled tumultuously down the staircase and into the hall. The street
door happened to be open, and the consequences were disastrous. One
rushed down the steps with a scream of triumph, which changed into a
shrill shriek of anger as he was pursued, captured, and brought back by
Patrick, in spite of violent kicking and struggling; another, backing
unconsciously toward the kitchen staircase, overbalanced, and,
descending with a succession of startling bumps, fell into a tray of
glasses with a terrific crash; while the third and youngest, not
precisely comprehending what was the matter, but being of a highly
sympathetic temperament, threw herself upon the devoted Patrick,
screaming, kicking, and scratching furiously; which, added to the
shouts of the youth whom Patrick carried upside down, and the wails of
the unfortunate whom Mrs. Jessop had just rescued from the débris
of the glasses, swelled the uproar into a chorus that was almost
The Doctor sat down again, and took up his knife and fork with an
energy which sent the gravy flying over the snowy cloth.
Confound the little wretches! I'll advertise to-morrow! he said.
The noise outside subsided a little as Mrs. Jessop appeared upon the
scene, but the next moment it broke out again, growing louder as the
staircase was mounted. Evidently Mrs. Jessop intended to put the rebels
to beda resolution which did not apparently please them, for Doctor
Brudenell distinctly heard his elder nephew threaten to punch the head
of that worthy woman, while his brother and sister appeared to be
trying to dance upon her toes. Then came a cessation of the hubbub,
sudden and soothing, and the Doctor finished his dinner in peace.
Crossing the hall toward his study a little later, with the
intention of getting a book to add to the enjoyment of a very
fine-flavored cigar, he encountered Mrs. Jessop, somewhat flushed and
tumbled, coming down-stairs, and stopped to speak to her.
Well, Mrs. Jessop, got rid of your charges for to-nighteh? he
That I haven't, sir, for to go to bed they wouldn't! I've seen a
good many children, but never did I see children so set upon their own
way as them children! declared Mrs. Jessop, emphatically.
The Doctor felt that this was correct; his opinion being that any
children in the least degree resembling Laura's luckily did not exist
Oh, spoilt, Mrs. Jessop, he remarked, judiciallyspoiltthat's
it! They'll be better, you'll find, when we get a good strict governess
for them; and that reminds me, I must certainly advertise for one
to-morrow. I don't know how it is that it has slipped my memory for so
long. So they're not in bed, the young rogueseh?
No, sirthey're with Miss Boucheafen.
With her? You should not have allowed ityou should not have let
them go in? said the Doctor, quickly and peremptorily.
I couldn't help it, sir, returned the housekeeper, stolidly. They
started making such a racket of stamping and screaming outside her door
that she heard and opened it to ask what was the matter. Of course,
they were for rushing in before I could keep them back, and so she
said, Let them stay awhile, and she would keep them still; and so there
they are, and she telling them some fairy-tale nonsense.
Well, well! exclaimed the Doctor; and then added, How does Miss
Boucheafen seem to-day?
Better, I think, sirshe seems so. She asked me to say that if you
were at liberty she would be glad if you could spare her a few
Tell her I will come up presently, said Doctor Brudenell, going on
to the study. Don't let those young torments stay there long enough to
tire her, Mrs. Jessop, if you please. She is still very weak.
But, when he went up-stairs half an hour later, he found that Mrs.
Jessop had not yet succeeded in getting the young torments out of
Miss Boucheafen's room. Miss Boucheafen was sitting in a great chair by
the fire, her dark hair streaming over her shoulders, and with the
children grouped about herFloss on her knee, Maggie perched on the
arm of her chair, and Tom kneeling at her feet, all three listening
intently to what she was telling them. What it was the Doctor did not
hear, for the group broke up at his entrance; Tom sprang to his feet,
Maggie jumped down, and Miss Boucheafen let Floss slip from her knees
to the floor.
Oh, uncle, I wish you hadn't come! cried Tom.
It was such a yuvly 'tory! lamented Maggie, whose five-year-old
vocabulary was but limited; while Floss, whose name was short for
Ferdinand, and who had perhaps not yet fully recovered from the shock
of his tumble down the kitchen stairs, contented himself with surveying
his relative with an implacable expression as he sucked his thumb.
I will finish the story to-morrow, perhaps, said Miss Boucheafen,
quietly; go to bed now. SeeMrs. Jessop is waiting for you.
They went without a murmurindeed, they hardly looked sulky, but
walked off in the wake of Mrs. Jessop, very unlike Laura's children,
the Doctor thought. He was amazed, and stood for a few moments, after
the door had closed behind them, quite silent, and looking at Alexia
A month had passed since the night of the attempted murder in
Rockmore Street, and, although during that time she had lived under his
roof, George Brudenell knew no more of this girl than her name. One
thing, however, he did know, and was growing to know better day by
daythat she was beautiful, with a beauty that was to him unique,
startling; he had seen none like it before. She had risen as the
children left the room, and stood with her hand resting upon the
mantel-shelf, her eyes gazing downward at the fire, her head above the
level of his. He looked at her, thinking how beautiful she was, and
thinkingnot for the first time eitherthat he was not sure whether
that very beauty did not repel rather than charm him. For it seemed to
have at once the glitter of ice and the hardness of stone; her large,
dark, bright eyes seemed to pierce him, but they never touched his
heart; a smile sometimes broke the perfect lines of her lips, but never
reached those eyes; the natural play of her features seemed to be
checked; she appeared to be as incapable of tears as of laughter, of
grief as of joy; no rush of warm blood ever tinted the strange pallor
of her cheeks with crimson; her voice was rich and full, but there was
a jarring note in its melancholy music; the girl was like
marblebreathing, moving, living, but marble still.
The Doctor waited for her to speak; but, either from perversity or
indifference, she stood like a statue, and would not even raise her
eyes. He was forced to break the silence, which embarrassed him, and he
knew that he spoke awkwardly.
I think, he said, that you wished to speak to me?
Yes, sir, if you please.
This was another anomalyher words were always of a meek and
submissive character, but her voice, her look, her gestures were those
of a queen. The Doctor felt this, but hardly its incongruity, as she
slowly resumed her seat and signed to him to be seated also.
I am quite at your service, of course, he replied, as he sat down;
but first let me ask how you are feeling?
I am well, she answered, gravely. A little weak, still, perhaps,
but it will pass. I wishah, pardon me, I am forgetting that I am not
to thank you, sir!
She had attempted to thank him before, when she first recovered her
senses and realized her position, but he had sensitively deprecated
that. On that same day she had told him her name, told him that she was
French, that in England she was friendless, and that of what little she
possessed she had been robbed by the man whom he had seen attack hera
man whom she had never seen before; and this was all that he knew about
her. He wanted to know more, but he sat before her wondering how to
phrase his questions. In spite of his curiosity he would have deferred
them had it been possible, but it was not possible; and he broke the
silence timidly, for as he spoke she looked at him full in the face
with her dark eyes.
Miss Boucheafen, if you are strong enough to allow of it
As I said, sir, I am well.
I must, with your permission, ask you a few questions. He
hesitated, almost confused under her steady gaze. I am presuming that
you would rather reply to me than be questioned by a police-officer?
I do prefer it, sir.
Then, said the Doctor, this man who so murderously attacked
youyou can tell nothing about him?
Nothing, sirI know nothing.
You do not know his motive?
Ah, siryou forget! He robbed me.
True, true! the Doctor returned, a slight flush tinting his
cheeks, for he fancied that he detected a mocking gleam in her eyes, a
suspicion of a smile curving her lips.
TrueI had forgotten. Pray pardon me, he said, but the attack
was so violent, the blow so savage, the weapon must have been so keen,
that it is almost impossible to connect it with a mere attempt to
commit a paltry robbery. I thought, and the police thought, that it was
a case of intended murder.
Ah, sir, they are clever, your police, but they sometimes make
mistakes! Is it not so?
Doctor Brudenell's face flushed crimson. Was she laughing at him? It
looked like it. He was taken aback, discomfited. He did not know how to
go on, but she gave him no chance, for she spoke herself, emphasizing
her words by rapid gestures and much energetic waving of her white
Listen, then, sir. This is all I knowthat this man followed
mewhy, I have no ideathat he came upon me suddenly in the solitary
street and asked me for money; that, when I refused it, he tore my
purse away; that, as I seized his arm and screamed, he wrenched it
free, and struck me with what you tell me was a dagger. I know no more
but what you tell menothing.
George Brudenell, listening and looking, believed after all his own
fancy was but a fancy. The theory of the sergeant and the inspector was
only a theory, a mere empty possibility, unsupported by fact. He
abandoned both ideas forthwith.
Miss Boucheafen, could you recognize this man?
I think notI am sure not. She shook her head, her eyes fixed
musingly upon the fire. It was dark. NoI could not recognize him.
Nor could I, unfortunately.
And yet you saw him?
I saw him, yesbut only well enough to know that he was young,
tall and dark. And such a description would apply equally well to a
hundred men within a stone's throw of the house at the present moment.
True, admitted Alexia Boucheafen, calmly.
Since you can give me absolutely no clue, I am afraid that the
chances of capturing him, particularly after the lapse of a month, are
so small as to be worth nothing.
Less than nothing, she assented. It would be better to abandon
I am afraid that is what will have to be done, from sheer lack of
ground to work upon. But it is horrible, said the Doctor, rising with
an unusual display of excitementabsolutely horrible to think of this
scoundrel's going scot free! It is abominable that such things should
be possible in the heart of a great city such as this!
A smile parted the girl's lips, but it did not light up her drooping
eyes. The smile seemed to imply that such a city held secret stranger
things than that. Doctor Brudenell did not see the smile; he was a
clever man, but it would have been far beyond his fathoming if he had
seen it. He returned to his chair and sat down again.
In asking my questions, Miss Boucheafen, I have forgotten yours. I
assume that you wished to ask me some.
Yes. She looked straight into his eyes again, and her slender
hands were clasped firmly together; he fancied he detected an
expression of doubt and anxiety in her glance. Sir, I have said that I
am almost strongyou know that I am so. It follows, then, that I shall
be able soon to leave here.
Yes, it certainly followed that such an event would take placethe
Doctor acknowledged it, but at the very thought he experienced a
strange sense of loss. She was so young, so beautiful, so friendless.
Where would she go? What would she do? He was silent, and waited for
her to continue speaking. It seemed that she drew courage from his
look, for, after she had glanced at him with eager scrutiny, she went
I shall be able to leave, but I do not desire it. I am alone, I am
friendless, penniless. Doctor Brudenell, I beg you, let me remain!
Remain? he echoed in bewilderment.
Yes. Why should I not? I have been a governess; it was to be a
governess that I came to this England of yoursit is a governess that
you require for the children, your nephews and nieceYour housekeeper
told me so but a little while ago. I should be industrious; I could
teach them well. Suffer me, then, to remain.
The Doctor hesitated, feeling uneasy, astonished, puzzled. Did she
mean it? Did she fully realize what she was doingshe, young,
beautiful, talentedin pleading to be tied down to the dull routine of
a nursery-governess? Did she remember that beneath his roof her
position might be questioned by carping feminine tongues? He remembered
itnot for his own sake, but for hers; but he only answered,
overcoming his first feeling of surprise:
But my dear young lady, you must be perfectly aware that your
attainments are far beyond those required for the teaching of such
young children as these.
Ah, sir, yes! But are beggars then choosers?
Doctor Brudenell got up, walked to the window and back again.
It is a fact, he said, slowly, that in London you have no
Yourself, she replied.
Then, until you wish to leave, or until some more suitable and
congenial sphere of work is opened for you, remain, my child.
George Brudenell, speaking thus, had forgotten her beauty, her
queen-like dignity, and remembered only her youth and helplessness. He
went down-stairs with an odd feeling, thinking how quickly, with what
almost disconcerting rapidity, she had, after her point was gained,
recovered that icy composure of manner; remembering, too, how cold and
lifeless her hand had lain in his when she gave it in saying
good-night. But he was glad that she was going to stay; he had that
curious sense of relief from tension which is the result of anxiety
removed, as though to protect her, to befriend and keep her safe, were
an object which had long lain near his heart. He was a little
astonished, but he explained his feeling to himself. She was too young
and far too beautiful to live friendless in the modern Babylon called
He rang for Mrs. Jessop, and explained to that excellent woman this
new phase of affairs. Mrs. Jessop, respectfully listening, received the
news in a manner which could hardly be termed gracious, but prudently
gave but small expression to her opinions. Mrs. Jessop's situation in
the Doctor's household was a very comfortable one, and she did not
desire to lose it; but Mrs. Jessop's eyes were as keen as those of most
women, a fact which she often insisted upon when talking to various
confidential friendsso keen, indeed, that they sometimes descried
things which did not exist. At present, however, Mrs. Jessop merely
told herself that, if Miss Boucheafen had not been quite so handsome,
her chance of remaining in her present quarters would not have been by
any means so great.
Mrs. Jessop, having formed this astute conviction, walked out of the
dining-room, and went down to her snug sitting-room, where, sitting
down by the fire, she fell to darning a table-cloth while she thought
things over. She had arrived at a conclusion that would have astonished
her master, and she chanced to want more cotton, and rose to get it
from her work-box. And among the reels and hanks of tape she saw
something that astonished her.
I declare, said Mrs. Jessop to herself, if I haven't forgot to
give it to her after all!
It was the only thing which had been found upon Alexia Boucheafen,
the tiny roll of paper, covered with its grotesque red characters and
tied with its piece of faded silk. Rather ashamed of her forgetfulness
and neglect, the housekeeper took it and went up-stairs at once to the
new governess's room.
Alexia was sitting by the fire, almost as Doctor Brudenell had left
her, her chin drooping upon her hands, her face almost hidden by her
hair. She started at Mrs. Jessop's entrance, flung back the black
tresses, and looked up.
What is it?
I'm sure I'm very sorry, miss, Mrs. Jessop faltered, finding
herself forced into somewhat reluctant respect before the bright gaze
of the imperious eyes, and I hope you'll excuse my forgetfulness. I
quite forgot until just this moment to give you this.
For a moment the girl stared languidly at the extended hand, then
with a cry sprang suddenly from her chair, seized the little packet,
and pressed it passionately to her lips and to her breast.
Ah, she cried, he did not take ithe did not take ithe did not
take itincoherently repeating the words and redoubling her strange
Take it, miss! exclaimed the astonished Mrs. Jessop. Why, what
should he want to take it for, the murdering villain? And how could he
take it, seeing that it was fast inside the bosom of your gown?
Go! cried Alexia, pointing to the door with an imperious gesture.
Leave me to myself!
The housekeeper went with the impression that Miss Boucheafen had
fallen upon her knees beside her chair, and that she was sobbing harsh
suffocating sobs beneath the shining veil of her streaming hair.
* * * * * * *
Peace returned to the Doctor's household; the children were calmed,
manageable; they stood in awe of their governess, but they liked her;
in the staid Canonbury house Miss Boucheafen was popular. Her name was
the only stumbling-block. Her pupils could not pronounce it, the
servants blundered over it, and Mrs. Jessop declared it heathenish.
By slow degrees it was dropped, and she became merely Mademoiselle.
Children, said Miss Boucheafen, abruptly, you have been good
to-day, and it is fine. We will go out.
The children, engaged in turning their nursery into a very fair
imitation of Pandemonium and in driving the unhappy nursemaid nearly
mad, stopped their various operations at these words from their
governess as she entered, and stared at herpartly perhaps because
they were not conscious of having been less troublesome than they
usually were, but more because of her last sentence. Did Mademoiselle
really say, We will go out? She had been their governess for six
weeks now, and during all that time had not once been outside the
Do you mean you'll take us? cried Tom, the eldest and the
Shan't go with Ellen, I shan't! muttered Floss, sulkily.
Nasty Ellenwon't go with Ellen! whimpered Maggie, with a thumb
in her mouth.
You will all go with me and Ellen, said Alexia, quietly, beginning
with her deft fingers to remove grubby pinafores and brush tumbled
hair. Will you get ready, Ellen? And do not waste time, please, or we
shall lose the best part of the afternoon.
Ellen departed willingly. She was not sure that she liked
Mademoiselle, but there was no doubt that she intensely detested her
daily task of taking the three troublesome brats for their walk. If
Mademoiselle liked to try itwell, Ellen only breathed a fervent wish
that she might like itthat's all!
Miss Boucheafen, making great haste over the toilet of her pupils,
had them ready and was ready herself before Ellen, and filled up the
spare time by pacing the hall from end to end as she waited. Not
hastilythe perfect grace of her every motion was too complete for
hastenot even impatiently, for the set expression of her face never
changed, and no flush of excitement tinted the ivory pallor of her
cheeks. If her eyes were a little brighter, a little wider open than
usual, it was very little. Mrs. Jessop, passing through the hall as the
governess and pupils waited, confessed to herself, with reluctant
honesty, as she looked at the stately young figure in its plain dark
dress, that there was no denying that Ma'm'selle did look like a
It was the beginning of May, and, for a wonder, hot and bright
enough almost for July; the afternoon sun shone down warm and
brilliant. As Alexia stepped out into its glare, she stopped and almost
staggered, putting her hand to her throat, while she shivered
violently. The round-eyed maid, watching, was quite sympathetic. No
wonder she felt odd, poor young lady, remembering what had happened to
her the last time she was out!
Where shall we go? demanded Tom, tugging at Alexia's hand.
Want to go an' see Mrs. Yeslie, murmured Maggie.
I'm going to look at the shops, declared Floss with emphasis. I
can spend my shilling if I want to, Uncle George said!
No, nonot to-day, demurred the governess, quickly. Listen,
children. The shops you can see any dayto-morrow, perhaps; but to-day
we will go somewhere else.
Where else? demanded Floss, critically, with a fond look at the
shilling which he had drawn out of his knickerbocker pocket.
Into the park, said Alexia. We will all ride there in a tram-car.
You will like that?
Finsbury Park? questioned Tom. Oh, all right! I don't mind. Only,
I say, let's go up to the water where the ducks are!
Yeslet's, added Floss, restoring the shilling to his pocket.
Want's some buns to feed 'em wiv, poor fings, murmured Maggie,
with pathetic intonation.
Yes, you shall go [to] the water and have the buns, said Alexia.
She had been walking rapidly all this timealmost too rapidly for the
little feet trotting beside herand did not pause or speak until they
reached Highbury Corner, which was more crowded and busy than usual
this warm afternoon. A tram-car was waiting, and she hurried her
charges into it, taking no heed of Tom's desire to sit where he could
see the horses, or of Floss's loudly-expressed determination to ride on
the roof. She took her seat, and, leaning back, drew her black gossamer
veil tightly over her face, and closed her eyes, seeming to become
totally oblivious of her surroundings.
Ellen, sitting with Maggie on her knee, distracted by Tom's
ceaseless questions upon the one side and by Floss's incessant demands
to be put out on the roof upon the other, felt a little sulky and
injured. Really it was too bad of mademoiselle! If she came out with
the children she might at least take her share in amusing and keeping
them quiet. Ellen, at any rate, was not sorry when the park-gates were
reached. A plentiful supply of buns was procured, and the children,
with shrill screams and whoops of delight, started off for the ducks
and the water.
Oh, dear, cried the nursemaid, quite dismayed at suddenly finding
herself alone with the governess, they'll lose themselves, Ma'm'selle!
There's such a many other children about we shall never find 'em.
Keep them in sight, then, said Alexia. Follow them, Ellen. You
had better not wait for me. My head aches, and I cannot walk fast.
But we shall lose you, too, Ma'm'selle, demurred the girl,
No, no; I will follow you slowly. Go; they may fall into the water
if you linger.
Miss Maggie's nigh sure to, with they buns! said the girl, taking
the alarm, and without any more loitering she darted after the
Alexia did not follow. For a moment she stood on the broad gravel
walk looking about her. Groups of figures were scattered about the
smooth turfyoung ladies with novels; old ladies with crochet and
poodles; nurse-[here a lack in the original text] The girl looked, not
at, but around and beyond them; her great eyes seemed to be searching,
as if surprised at not seeing something, and yet dreading to see it.
Then their expression changed; for a moment her figure swayed; the next
she was walking gracefully, slowly, languidly, toward a rustic seat
which stood upon the smooth greensward in a somewhat lonely spot. It
stood at an angle formed by two flower-beds, and was backed by a clump
of shrubbery. Upon it there was one figure seatedthat of a man.
The governess approached this figure slowly. A middle-aged man,
loosely-dressed, hair turning gray, dark-complexioned, with a scar on
his cheek, a scar such as a slash with a keen-edged knife might have
made. She approached and passed him; she did not look at him; he did
not look at her; he appeared to be quite absorbed in absently cutting
and fashioning a rough stick with the aid of a large clasp-knife. He
gazed before him abstractedly, brushed the splinters of wood from his
knee, and laid the knife down upon the seat beside him, the edge of the
blade uppermost. The girl shuddered; the ivory pallor of her cheeks
grew gray beneath her veil. She passed on round the clump of bushes and
returned. The man had abandoned his whittling, and, with his chin upon
his hand, whistled as he looked down at the grass at his feet. His
right hand played absently with the open knife; now the edge was
upward, now downward, now he half closed it, then opened it wide again.
Alexia Boucheafen's breath came rapidly; one violent throb of her heart
almost suffocated her; but, graceful, upright, stately, she passed the
seat as though it were vacant; she did not appear to glance at the man
sitting there, toying with the knife, and whistling under his breath.
She passed him, and, as she did so, her gloved hand made a swift
motion, and a white object gleamed upon the turf behind her. A paper
had fluttered from her fingers, and lay close to the rustic seat.
Tom, Floss, and Maggie, flinging pieces of bun to voracious ducks,
were delightedfar too absorbed to remember their governess; and
Ellen, finding herself fully occupied in keeping their hats on their
heads and themselves outside the railings that surrounded the lake, had
also forgotten Miss Boucheafen completely. The girl was quite startled
when she saw the tall dark figure suddenly beside her, the great bright
eyes shining through the black veil. And how pale she washer cheeks
were quite white!
Lor, Ma'm'selle, she cried, with loud-voiced sympathy, how bad
you do look!
I'm tired, said Alexia abruptly. Children, are you ready to go?
Ready? Why, we ain't had half a walk! demurred Tom.
I'm hungry! exclaimed Floss, tugging at Miss Boucheafen's gown.
Maggie went an' threw all the buns to the ducks, she didlittle
You 'tory, I never! You eatened two yourself, you did, Maggie
declared indignantly. You's a geedy boya dedful geedy boy! Isn't he
a geedy boy, Ma'm'selle?
Never mind, we will get more buns as we go out, said Alexia. Come
now, children. I am tiredmy head aches. We will come some other
timeto-morrow perhapsand stay longer. Come now.
They walked away from the water, and gained the broad path leading
to the gates. Alexia slackened her pace, and, releasing Floss's hand,
but still retaining Maggie's, fell slightly behind, sauntering slowly,
playing with the buttons of her cloak, keeping her eyes fixed straight
before her. They were passing a seat close to the edge of the path,
upon which a man was sittinga middle-aged, loose-jointed man with
gray hair. A bright object lay at his feeta small ball of gorgeous
tints; the child saw it, uttered a delighted cry, and struggled to
release her hand. It was released and she started to pick up the prize.
It was hardly in her grasp when she screamed out, frightened, for the
man with the gray hair had taken hold of her arm, and was speaking to
her, not roughly, although his voice was harsh and stern.
My little onesee, the lady has dropped this paper. Give it to
her; and as for this bauble, take it. Go!
He released her. The child was scared, but she held in one hand the
paper he had given to her, in the other the gay-colored ball. He
pointed peremptorily after the tall retreating figure of Alexia
Boucheafen, and, frightened at his frowning face, the child darted
Ma'm'selle, Ma'm'selle! She tugged at the governess's dress, at
her hand. 'Ook what he dave me!holding up the ball. Nice, nice
man, vewy nice! Floss s'an't have it, he s'antFloss a geedy boy. He
dived it me for meself. Oh, an' yes!
With a sudden remembrance of something less absorbing than the ball,
she held up the papera mere folded scrap. Alexia seized it eagerly,
held it fast in her hands, asked almost inaudibly:
Who gave it to you, child?
Him did. You droppened it. Him, said the child, turning round to
point. Then she cried out blankly, Oh, him's gone!
Miss Boucheafen glanced behind her hastily. The seat by which the
gay-colored ball had lain was empty. She opened the paper, and read
within it, written in a blood-red color, the one word Absolved!
* * * * *
Doctor Brudenell found his nephews and niece unusually excited and
talkative when, as was his custom, he came up after his dinner to see
them in Miss Boucheafen's pleasant sitting-room. The rides in the
tram-cars, the park, the buns, and the ducks were enlarged upon in
turn; and then Maggie produced her ball, and plunged onto such broken
and lavish praises of the vewy nice man that the Doctor looked at the
governess for enlightenment.
A gentleman in the park, sir, gave her the ball, explained Miss
And zou a letter! cried Maggie.
And also returned me a paper that I had dropped, amended Alexia.
I see. Well, don't smash more windows with the ball than you can
help, said the Doctor, putting his niece down upon her feet.
He rose and approached the stately young governess, standing,
beautiful in the light of lamp and fire, one hand drooping at her side,
the other lying upon the marble of the mantel-piece, hardly whiter and
hardly colder. George Brudenell had begun to think that her coldness
and gravity suited her beautylaughter, blushes, dimples would have
spoiled it. Her frigid manner did not repel him now; it had a charm for
him which no warmth and graciousness could have had; and yet,
perversely he longed intensely to see her both kind and sweet. How
beautiful she was! He glanced at her reflected face in the mirror, and
winced and frowned and bit his lip, seeing his own beside it. A small,
plain, dark, clean-shaven manhe was her very antithesis.
Intellectual-looking, pleasant, refined he might perhaps claim to be
considered; but how utterly, painfully unattractive he must be to her!
I am glad to hear that you have been out, Mademoiselle, he said
The day was so fineit tempted me, replied Alexia.
A very good thing; the confinement was telling upon you, resumed
the Doctor. Let me advise you to try to get out once at least every
I shall do so, sir, with your permissionnow.
Now that the first plunge is taken, he remarked good-humoredly.
Well, that is wise. Do not go too far, or let these youngsters trouble
you too much either out of doors or in, and you will soon feel the
You are very good, sir, murmured the governess; but I am quite
wellindeed, quite strong.
You must let me be the best judge of that, Mademoiselle. I am
afraid you have overtaxed your strength to-day. You are looking tired.
I am not so, indeed. Not at all too tired to play, if you desire
Thank you, Mademoiselle, said the Doctor simply.
There was a piano in the room, a tolerable one; and Alexia moved
slowly toward it and sat down. It had become quite an institution, this
half-hour's playing which she gave the Doctor when he came up-stairs to
bid the children good-night. He was disappointed if by any chance she
missed it, perhaps because he hardly saw her at any other time, and
because it was something to be able from his distant seat to watch her
as she played. He learned her attitudes, her expressions, the poise of
her head, the curve of her full throat by heart at these times.
He did not care for music, and had no knowledge of the airs she
played, but he knew that he had heard no playing like hers. The magic
of her fingers made the instrument speak.
Thanking her now, he did not leave the room as usual, but lingered
even after the children had said good-night and gone to bed. Alexia
looked at him questioningly, and he began to speakawkwardly, as she
saw, but with how much reluctance she did not suspect.
Mademoiselle, you will pardon my recalling it. But you recollect
when you first expressed a wish to remain here?
She spoke quite quietly, but her eyes involuntarily widened and her
lips parted. She put her hand to her bosom, felt the stiffness of paper
there, and then the hand fell at her side again, and she sat looking at
You recollect, resumed George Brudenell, with a reluctant troubled
glance at her averted face, that I told you then how perfectly aware I
was that the post you wished to fill was completely below your
capabilitiesthat in it you would be thrown away, in shortand that
at the best it could only be considered as an occupation for you until
something better should offer?
I remember, sir.
The Doctor hesitated; that sir, with its stiffness, its cool,
formal, respect, jarred upon him more and more day by day; and she
hardly ever failed to use it. He was too diffident to remonstrate with
a few gay words, as a more confident, easy man would have done, and
chafed under it in silence.
I am happy to tell you that something has offered.
It was a lie, and he knew it; the thought of losing her, cold and
statuesque as she was to him, made him miserable, filled his heart with
a keen paina pain which had brought very near the inevitable
revelation that he was bound to make to himself. Alexia raised her head
and looked at him, but she did not speak. He went on:
It is in the family of one of my patientsnot as governess, but as
companion to his wife. They are wealthy, and she is a refined,
cultivated, and kindhearted woman; you could, I think, hardly fail to
be comfortable with her, if you care to accept the post. He paused
again, but finding her still silent, went on. That you would be upon
terms of perfect equality I need not say. This ladyMrs. Latimer
would like to see you, if you care to think further of it.
Alexia looked into his face with her great sombre eyes.
Sir, do you then wish me to leave here?
Wish? he echoed.
Was there really a sorrowful, almost reproachful, intonation in her
voice? He was foolish enough to fancy so, weak enough to encourage this
sudden rapid beating of his heart.
Because, if not, she went on gently, I would rather stay here, if
Mademoiselle, are you sure of that? Consider.
Quite sure. I am comfortablehere it is home; you have been so
kind to me! Ah, sir, do not send me away! She spoke entreatingly,
eagerly, and to herself she added, pressing her hands again upon her
breast, If he sends me from the house, I am lost.
My child, said George Brudenell simply, again remembering only how
young she was as he spoke to her thus protectingly, stay if you wish,
and as long as you wish. You shall leave only when you yourself desire
I shall not do that, murmured Alexia softly; and then, having no
further excuse for remaining, he went away.
The Doctor fell into a reverie before his study fire presently, and
forgot the book upon his knee. He had the pleasant consciousness of an
uncongenial task conscientiously performed, and without its anticipated
unwelcome results being left behind. It was not an idea of his own
which had caused him to inquire among his patients for a suitable
situation for Alexia Boucheafen, but the hints, and then downright
urgings, of his friend Mrs. Leslie. Both she and Kate Merritt had seen
the governess, for in her kindness of heart the elder lady had paid
more than one visit to Laura's children. Mrs. Leslie had been
astonished at Alexia's beauty and stateliness, sympathetic and
questioning over her story, and, upon hearing that she was to remain in
the Doctor's house, had been amazed. A conventional-minded woman, with
all her kindness of heart, Mrs. Leslie had been shocked. Perhaps she
might not have been so had there been no scandalized and indignant
influence upon her own side; but Kate had been excessively voluble upon
this incipient fulfillment of her predictions, and had let her sister
have very little peace indeed. Finally, Mrs. Leslie had summed up the
whole case to the Doctor by assuring him that it would never do.
Well, it would have to do, he decided, when he roused himself
sufficiently to know what he had been thinking about. The girl should
stay if she preferred it, that was certain, in spite of all the
opinions in Christendom. He rather enjoyed this outrage upon the
proprieties, forgetful altogether that the same thought had been in his
own mind. He was glad to know that she was tranquil and safe. Nothing
more, consciously, yet.
Ma'm'selle, didn't you say we could go to the park again, if we
were good? said Tom, looking up from a smeary attempt to get a simple
addition sum to prove, and sucking his pencil doubtfully as he
surveyed the result.
Don't want to go to the park; want to go to the shops an' spend my
shilling, exclaimed Floss, dropping a prodigious blot upon his copy of
capital B's, and instantly smearing it over the page with his arm.
S'all go to the park, I s'all! Wants to see the ducks, pour fings,
an' the nice man, cried Maggie, as usual completing the trio, and
screwing up her face over the mysteries of a, b, ab.
Can't we go, Ma'm'selle? demanded Tom.
Go where? asked Alexia. She had been leaning against the
window-frame, staring out blankly. Her face was paler than usual, the
lines of the mouth more rigid, her hair even more coldly absent and
abstracted. Her pupils had spoken to her half a dozen times, and she
had not heard them, would not have heard them now, had not Tom tugged
impatiently at her gown.
Why, to the park, as we did last week? Can't we go?
I don't know; we will see. Get on with your lessons now. What is
that? Come in.
A tap had sounded at the door, which was now opened, and the Doctor
entered. The children scrambled down from their seats and ran to him.
Miss Boucheafen, turning from the window, arched her straight brows
with an expression of questioning surprise. For Doctor Brudenell to
appear in the school-room at that hour in the morning was an
Good-morning, Mademoiselle. He took the cold, carelessly-yielded
hand into his own for a moment. Don't let me disturb you. I simply
came up to express my hope that you were not alarmed last night.
Alarmed? echoed Alexia.
Then you did not hear it?with a look of mingled relief and
astonishment. Well, I am glad of it. But you must sleep very soundly.
You were the only person in the house who was not aroused.
I sleep very soundly. She looked at him keenly, noting that his
face was drawn and that his eyes were dull, showing that he had not
slept. I did not know there was anything wrong. Not here, I hope?
No, not here exactly; but it is a most horrible thing. He drew a
pace nearer to her, dropping his voice so that the sharp little ears
that were all eagerly listening should not catch the words. A most
horrible thing. A murder, Mademoiselle!
A murder? repeated Alexia.
Nothing less; and not a hundred yards away from this door.
Miss Boucheafen had leaned back, almost fallen, against the
window-frame. She was so pale that he said hastily:
I beg your pardonI spoke too abruptly. I have frightened you.
No, no; I am not frightened. Go on, pray! How was it? Who was it?
As to who it wasa man. As to how it was, he was stabbed to the
heart, answered the Doctor shortly.
And he was found dead, and brought here?
Yes, at three o'clock this morning, and brought here by the police.
But he was dead, and had been dead for at least half an hour. I could
How horriblehow very horrible! murmured Alexia. Did you say,
sir, that he was an old man?
No; he is little more than a lada mere boynineteen or twenty at
the most. A handsome lad too; I should fancy he was not English.
Is there any clue as to who did it? questioned the governess.
Not that I know of yet. The police have had no time to work, you
see, he reminded her gently.
Ah, yes; I was forgetting, sir! Have they taken it away?
From here? Not yet. It must be removed to the mortuary to await the
inquest, of course. He hesitated, and then added, in a voice which, in
spite of all his efforts, was almost tender, You are not afraid of its
being here, are you?
Afraid! A smile, as curious as fleeting, parted the beautiful lips
of Alexia Boucheafen. No, I am not afraid. I asked, becauseSir,
may I see it?
See it? George Brudenell was so startled and shocked that he
doubted if he had heard aright. Surely, Mademoiselle, you do not mean
what you say?
Yesif I may. She spoke quite steadily and coldly. I should like
to see himthis poor murdered boy, if I may. I have never seen death,
and I should like to know how it looks to be stabbed to the heart.
Surely a strange uncanny fancy in this lovely young creature! There
was something morbid about it, which the Doctor did not like; it almost
repelled him until he recollected how nearly this very fate had been
hers. He did not like assenting, but already he was so weak with regard
to her that he could refuse her nothing. So he said reluctantly:
Come now then, if you wish.
Quite quietly, only bending her head by way of reply, she followed
him out of the room and down-stairs to an apartment on a level with the
hall, where the murdered man had been carried. On the threshold he
stopped, looking at her doubtfully.
Mademoiselle, are you sure of yourself? This is no sight for you.
Yes, she answered steadily. Pray do not fear, sir; I shall not
faint. Let me see.
He stood aside and let her enter the darkened room. The blinds were
drawn down, cooling liquids had been sprinkled about, there was nothing
to horrify, nothing to disgust. The rigid figure, covered with white
drapery, lay stretched upon the table. Without faltering, Alexia
advanced, and, removing with a steady hand the cloth at the upper end,
looked at the dead face thus revealed.
A boy's face, indeed, beautiful even in death, smooth-cheeked, the
dark down on the delicate upper lip hardly perceptible, the black hair
clustering upon the white forehead almost like a child's. The governess
looked at it long and steadily, and one hand went to her bosom as she
raised her eyes to the Doctor's.
Tell medid he suffer much?
Noimpossible. Death must have been almost instantaneous. I doubt
if he was able to cry out. Pray come away, Mademoiselleyou will
faint. I should not have let you see this.
A voice in the hall called the Doctor. He was wanted, had been sent
for in haste, some one was dying. He went quickly to the door to reply.
Alexia Boucheafen bent down, her hand gently swept the hair from the
dead boy's forehead, and for a moment her lips rested upon it.
Poor boy, she murmuredyou were too young, too weak! It was
cruel. I did my best to save you, but I could not.
Mademoiselle, pray come, said the Doctor, turning from the door.
I am coming, sir, replied the governess; and with that she gently
replaced the sheet, and followed him quietly from the room.
* * * * *
Doctor Brudenell had a busy day, a day so filled with work that,
coming after his sleepless night, it exhausted him. It was later than
usual when he reached home, to find his dinner spoiled and Mrs.
Jessop's temper ruffled. So tired was he that, when the meal was over,
he fell asleep in his chair, entirely forgetting for once his regular
visit to Miss Boucheafen's sitting-room to bid the children good-night.
But his thoughts were all of her; and he dreamed of her as he
satdreamed that she was in some trouble, grief, danger, of which he
did not know the nature, and was helpless to relieve.
Vague as it was, the dream was to him dreadful, and the struggle
that he made to find her, to save her, was so intense that he
awokeawoke to see her standing within a yard or two of his chair, a
letter in her hand, the usual calmness of her face gone, her very lips
unsteady. He started to his feet, and seized her handthe dream still
clung about him, and he did not realize her reality. Then he exclaimed,
seeing the change in her:
Mademoiselle, what is it? What is the matter? You are in trouble.
Yes, she said faintly. She was trembling, and he gently induced
her to sit in the chair from which he had risen. Pray pardon me, sir,
she said; but I am troubled. I do not know what to do, andshe
faltered, glancing at himit seemed natural to come to you.
Sensible, practical George Brudenell was far from sensible and
practical when in the presence of those glorious eyes, which looked at
him beseechingly. He did not know it; but he had entirely bidden adieu
to common-sense where Alexia Boucheafen was concerned. He said gently:
What's the matter? Tell me? Am I to read this?
If you will. She let him take the letter; and he saw that it was
written in a boyish, wavering hand, and that it commenced
affectionately with her name. It was short, for the signature, to which
his eyes turned instinctively, was upon the same page, and was, Your
brother, Gustave Boucheafen.
The Doctor repeated it aloud.
Your brother, Mademoiselle?
You have heard me speak of my brother, sir?
Certainlyyes! But I thought he was in Paris.
I thought so too. He was there three months ago, when I last heard
from him. But the post he held was poor, miserable, he hated it; and he
was threatening then to leave it and come to England, as I had one. He
did so a month ago, and has found that the bad could be worse, for he
writes that he is penniless, sir, and starving.
And he writes to you for help, poor child! exclaimed the Doctor
Yes. But, ah, sir, he is so younga boy! He is two years younger
than I amonly nineteen, Alexia urged deprecatingly. And whom should
he ask, poor Gustave? We have no other kin who care for us.
Where is your brother? inquired the Doctor.
Close here, in London; but I forget the address. She pointed to
the letter, which he still held. Sir, if you read you will understand
better far than I can explain.
Doctor Brudenell read the letterjust such a letter as a foolish,
impulsive, reckless boy might write, and certainly describing a
condition that was desperate enough. The Doctor returned it, and asked
Mademoiselle, what do you wish me to do? You wish to help him?
Ah, siryes! she cried eagerly, and then stopped, faltering. But
I have no money, she said, her head drooping.
The Doctor walked to the end of the room, came back, and stood
My poor child, I understand you; but it must not be. Why should the
little you earn go to your brother? At the best it would help him only
for a very little time, for I see that he says he has no present
prospect of employment. In a week or two he would be in his present
state again. Something else must be done.
Ah, sir, it is easyso easy to speak! said the governess
bitterly. What else can be done? Who is there that will help him, poor
Gustave? He is even poorer, more helpless than I, for in all this
England he has not even one friend.
It needed only these words and the glance that accompanied them to
turn the doubtful notion that was in the Doctor's mind into a resolve.
But he had a sufficient sense of his own imprudence even now to
hesitate a little before speaking again.
Mademoiselle, he said gently, I know that a lad such as your
brother must be often placed at a great disadvantage in his endeavors
to get on if, as you say, he is alone and friendless. Being a foreigner
increases the difficulty, no doubt. You must let me see if I cannot
You will help him! cried Alexia eagerly. She rose, her face
flushing, her eyes sparkling. It was the first time he had seen them
shine so, the first time that a crimson flush had dispelled that
curious ivory pallor; her beauty dazzled him; he thought her grateful
for the help offered to a brother whom she loved. In her heart, with
perfect coolness, she was thinking him a fool, and triumphing in the
victory which she foresaw that she would win through his folly. It was
her first full knowledge of her power over him. Tell me what I must
do? she exclaimed.
Write to your brother, and tell him to come here, returned the
Doctor. He spoke quickly, refusing to doubt or falter. I have no doubt
I shall be able to help him to a fitting situation before long. Until
then he must remain here. You will have at least the satisfaction of
knowing that he is safe then. Youyou do not object to the
suggestion? he added with sudden humility, afraid that he might have
spoken too coolly, too imperatively. With a sudden movement she seized
his hand and pressed it.
ObjectI? Ah, sir, how can I, when you are so good, so more than
kind? She stopped, faltering. My poor Gustave shall thank youI
cannot. For what can I say but, Thank you a hundred times!
Tut, tut! said the Doctor lightly, recovering his self-possession
as she released his hand. You make too much of itit is nothing. I am
only too pleased to be able to serve you. You will write to your
At once, sir. She was turning to the door, when a thought occurred
to hima last lingering touch of prudence and caution made him say:
Mademoiselle, you have not told me. How did your brother know where
you werewhere to write to you?
By the papers, sirby what you call the reports of police, she
said, turning and replying without the least hesitation. It was the
first thing that he saw, my poor boy, that account of me. But he would
not come here or let me know he was in England, lest I should be
troubled about him, and he did not wish me to know, besides, that he
was poor and distressed. I am sure of that, although he does not tell
She left the room, and ran fleetly up-stairs to her own
sitting-room. The children were in bed, and there was no one to see her
as she drew her writing-case toward her, and wrote swiftly:
I have succeeded; my cause was won before I had time to plead it.
You are at liberty to come here. If, once here, you will succeed in
doing what you desire, I cannot tell. It is your affair, not mine. I
have done my part. Come then, and remember yoursmy brother.
* * * * *
Doctor Brudenell, paying his visit to the governess's sitting-room
the next evening to bid his nephews and niece good-night, found there,
not the children, but a stranger. His momentary look of surprise
vanished as he recollected; and, while he spoke a few rather
embarrassed words of greeting and welcome, he keenly scanned Gustave
He was a handsome young fellow, tall, slender, and dark, and looking
very boyish, in spite of some deep lines on the white forehead and
about the small, tightly-compressed lips. His clothes were shabby,
almost threadbare; there was an air of carelessness, even recklessness,
about him, and yet there was something that was far more easy to feel
than to describe which proclaimed him to be a gentlemen. All this the
Doctor noted as he took the soft slim hand, and answered as briefly as
he could the voluble speech of thanks which the young man tendered him,
speaking in English less correct than Alexia's and with a certain
extravagance of expression and manner which discomfited George
Brudenell, and which he decided was wholly French.
But, although embarrassed, as he always was by anything fresh and
new, he spoke very kindly and encouragingly to the brother, conscious
always of the sister's beautiful eyes resting gently upon him; and,
after a few questions asked and answered, he left the two to
themselves, and was called out shortly afterward to attend a very stout
old gentleman whom he had warned six months before to take his choice
between present port-wine and future apoplexy. The old gentleman, being
as obstinate as old people of both sexes occasionally are, had
heroically chosen the port; and now, according to the account of a
flushed messenger, he was enduring the punishment prophesied, and was
purple already. The weary Doctor took up his hat resignedly and went
out. Alexia Boucheafen, standing idly leaning against the window-frame,
negligently listening to what her companion was saying, saw her
employer hurrying down the steps and along the hot pavement, upon which
the sun had been shining fiercely all day.
He has gone out, she said, looking round, with a curious
inflection in her voice, as though that fact had a bearing upon the
conversation that had gone before.
Already? cried the young man eagerly. Better than I hoped. And
does he leave his study, laboratorywhat does he call it?unlocked?
You are sure?
Am I likely to be mistaken?
Of course notno! He moved across to the door. Well, come, show
You are in a hurry, said the governess, not stirring.
What would you have me do? he demanded impatiently. Can we let
time and opportunity slip together, with what we have to do?
Have we not done enough for the present? she asked slowly. Calm
and cold as she was, a slight irrepressible shudder shook her frame,
and he eyed her incredulously.
Your note used to be different, he said, with a meaning glance.
Enough? What do you mean?
I saw it. She looked at him steadily, with unflinching eyes. I
You! What possessed you?
I hardly know. I could not help it. I had a fancy that I must.
You with fancies, you with whims and caprices! He laughed a laugh
of fierce mockery, strode across the room, took her slender wrist in
his hand and felt the pulse. Ah, you are ill, your nerves are out of
order, orin a different toneyou suffer from a lapse of memory,
What do you mean?wrestling herself free, and drawing her level
brows together in a sudden threatening frown.
He went on as though he had not heard her:
I hoped that your one relapse would be your last, and pleaded for
you, thinking so. It was no easy matter to win youeven
Bah! she retorted scoffingly. Think you I do not know why it was
granted? I am valuable, am I not?
Were! she cried. Am I less now because, looking at that dead boy,
I for once remembered that I was a woman? You doubt me! Who are you to
dare do it? What have you done for the Cause that will weigh in the
scales against what I have done? Show me the paltry pin-prick of
suffering that you place against my agony?
Hush! he said, in a low tone, and glancing round warningly,
evidently taken aback by her sudden vehemence. You mistake me. I
wished merely to remind you.
Goad me, rather! she retorted with unabated passion. I forget! I
forget either the blood of the dead or the tortures of the living! I
forget the oath I swore with this in my hand!
Her fingers had been restlessly plucking at the bosom of her gown,
and now she held out upon her open hand the tiny roll of red-marked
paper. She looked at it for a few moments with dilating eyes, while the
color died out of her face and left it impassive marble again. Then she
slowly restored the little roll to her breast and turned to the door.
Come, she said. I will show you.
Doctor Brudenell realized very often the fact that the life of a
London medical man, however large his practice and solvent his
patients, is not by any means an enviable one. Once upon a time, when a
red lamp had been a novelty, and the power to write M. D. after his
ordinary signature a delicious dignity, a patient had been to him a
prodigy, something precious for its rarity, even if it called him away
from his dinner or ruthlessly rang him up in the middle of the night.
But that was a long time ago, in the days of his impecunious youth; and
now, in his prosperous middle-age, he would often have willingly
bartered a good many patients for a little more leisure.
This was particularly the case upon a hot, oppressive night a week
later, a night such as London generally experiences in August. It was
Saturday, and certainly it was not pleasant, after a week of fatiguing
work, to be summoned as soon as he had got into his bedroom, at
considerably past eleven o'clock at night, to attend a patient who
resided somewhere in the wilds of Holloway.
However, there was no help for it; and the Doctor, philosophically
resigning himself, and taking care to be sure that his latch-key was in
his pocket, spoke a word to Mrs. Jessop, as a precaution against that
worthy woman's putting up the chain of the hall door before she went to
bed, and let himself out. It was a fine night, hot as it was, with a
large bright moon hardly beginning to wane, and myriads of stars.
Doctor Brudenell, as good and quick a walker now as he had been twenty
years before, thought lightly of the distance between his own house and
that of his patient, and soon reached his destination. It was little
that he could doin fact, he had been sent for without real needand
it was not much after twelve o'clock when he reached the railway-arch
which spans the Holloway Road. He stopped for a moment, and looked up,
thinking what a black bar it seemed in the yellow moonlight, and how
oddly quiet the streets were, which all day long were teeming with
noisy life. Most of the shops were closed, and only a few straggling
foot-passengers were to be seen. Only for a moment did he thus glance
about him, taking his hat off to push the damp hair from his forehead,
for his quick walk had made him warm. Then he walked on under the arch,
to stop before it was half traversed, for a hand suddenly placed upon
his shoulders brought him to a halt.
Your pardon, sir, said a voice in his ear. You are a doctor, I
I am! The Doctor tried in the gloom of the arch to make out the
face of the inquirer, but in vain. He could only tell that it was a
young man by his voice and gestures, and he saw that he was
considerably taller than himself.
Doctor Brudenell, I think?
I am Doctor Brudenell. What is wanted?
Yourself, sir, if you please. A personmybrotheris illalmost
dying, it is feared. Will you accompany me to him? There is no time to
What is the matter with him? asked the Doctor.
Sir, you will know when you see him. Iwith a deprecatory shrug
of the shoulderscan I tell?
But is it a fit, a fever, an accident? What is it? asked Doctor
Brudenell impatiently. You must know that.
Sir, it cannot be a fever, since an hour ago he was well. Pray,
sir, will you come? He is very ill. Delay is dangerous.
The man moved on as he spoke, and the Doctor moved with him, for his
arm was still clasped by the stranger's strong supple fingers. But
outside the archway he stopped.
Stay! Why do you come to me? Have you no regular medical
We have not, sir. As to why I come to youI have heard of you,
that is all. I reached your house almost as you left it, and have
followed you, and waited. Pray come, sir, I entreat you. There is a
carriage waiting here.
A carriage was standing just outside the archan ordinary-looking
close carriage, drawn by a light-colored horse, and driven by a
coachman who was singularly muffled up, considering the heat of the
night. The Doctor mechanically noticed that there were no lamps to the
carriage, as, in obedience to the eager pressure of his companion's
hand, he got in. The other followed, shutting the door smartly behind
him, and the vehicle started instantly.
Doctor Brudenell, leaning back in his corner, looked curiouslyas
well as the dimness of the carriage would let himwith the keen eyes
of a man accustomed to weigh and observe, at his companion, who, with
his hands in his pockets and his hat pulled down over his brows,
appeared to be half asleep. He was a very handsome man, that was
certainface dark and clear cut, complexion swarthy, figure at once
lithe and muscular, and some years under thirty. There was a turn of
the throat, a trick of movement, when he presently changed his position
restlessly, that perplexed the watcher. The Doctor fancied that he must
have seen this man before, but he could not remember where.
Is it far? he asked suddenly. It must be, he thought. They had
been in the carriage at least a quarter of an hour; the horse had been
going at a swift trot, and now there was no sign of slackening speed.
The young man started, and opened his eyes.
It is not now, sir. We shall soon be therein time, I hope.
He stamped twice upon the floor of the carriage impatiently, as
though in anxiety; but the sound seemed to act as a signal, for the
driver instantly whipped up the horse, and the speed was
increasedalmost doubled. The curtains of the windows were down, and
the Doctor drew one of them aside and peered out. They were in a street
he did not know, badly paved, badly lighted, squalid, flanked by rows
of high mean houses, half of which seemed empty, for hardly a light
shone from their windows. He looked round.
Where are we?
We are close there, sir.
But what street is this? I don't know it in the least.
Sir, I do not know it; but I know that in a moment we shall be
The Doctor sank back into his corner again resignedly. He was
fatigued, sleepy, put out. Just then he most heartily wished that this
young man had found some one else to attend to the wants of his
brother. He must be crazyto have gone all that distance after a
doctor, and then to follow and accost one in the street! It was as
queer a thing in its way as his twenty years in the profession had
brought to his knowledge. Thinking over this his eyelids drooped; he no
longer saw the dim figure of his companion and was startled when
presently the carriage stopped with a jerk. In a moment the young man
had opened the door, sprung out, and was saying:
We are here. Alight, sir, if you please.
Doctor Brudenell, confused and sleepy still, did so, looking about
him. He was in a narrow paved court, entirely unlighted, closed in at
the lower end by what seemed to be a huge deserted stack of warehouses
and fenced upon the farther side by the blank walls and regular rows of
narrow windows of what had evidently been a manufactory; but the
windows were broken; a door hung swinging upon its hinges; it was
evident that this place was unused and deserted too. Upon the side
where he stood were a couple of old houses, bare and desolate, with
broken windows, broken railingsdark, silentthe most dismal houses
the Doctor had ever seen.
At the door of the first of these, where a faint light was visible
in one of the lower windows as the carriage stopped, the young man
tapped cautiously with his hand three times. In another moment the door
was softly opened, the figure of the opener being lost in the gloom
within. On the broken door-step the Doctor hesitated; he was not a
timid man, but this all seemed very strange. However, he obeyed the
pressure of the hand laid upon his arm, and entered; glancing behind
him as he did so, he saw that the carriage had disappeared.
The door was gently closed; and he stood in absolute darkness,
hesitating, wondering. He fancied he heard cautious feet stealing
across the bare floor of the hall; but not another sound broke the
oppressive brooding silence of the close, musty-smelling old house. In
another moment he would have spoken, have demanded the meaning of all
this, when a faint gleam of light appeared at the end of the hall, and
from the lower stairs a man's hand and arm became visible, holding a
lamp. A hand was laid upon his arm at the same moment, and the voice of
his summoner spoke quietly in his ear:
Your patient is ready, sir. Come, if you please.
The speaker went toward the stairs, and the light was withdrawn. The
Doctor followed him for a few paces, then stopped abruptly.
Down-stairs! he said incredulously.
Sir, he was too bad to be moved.
I see. Go before, if you please.
The light glimmered faintly at the foot of the staircase again, and
the Doctor followed his conductor down, noting that the steps were
dirty and bare, that the stone passage-way at the bottom was also dirty
and bare, that, for all the indications that there were to the
contrary, this was an absolutely unfurnished house. As he reached the
last stair he looked keenly at the man who held the lampa middle-aged
man, loose-jointed and loosely dressed, with iron-gray hair and a scar
upon his cheek. He spoke with a slightly foreign accent, and, with a
bow, moved aside from the doorway in which he stood.
You are welcome, sir; I thank you. Enter, if you please.
Doctor Brudenell did so, then started and stopped involuntarily. A
sick man, a man on the point of dyingwere they mad enough to keep him
in a room such as this? A room? A sty, rather! The door was stone, with
a few sacks spread upon it; the windows were secured by crazy shutters,
the only table was formed by boards laid upon two old barrels, and the
two or three chairs were broken. The only other piece of furniture or
semblance of furniture was an old couch, the horse-hair covering
tattered, straggling pieces of the stuffing hanging down. Lying upon it
was the figure of a man, with some roughly-applied bandages about his
head and face.
Strange as it all was, the sight of this man, the cause of his being
there, restored to the Doctor his professional coolness and
self-possession. He was a medical manthis was his patient. He
advanced, and with rapid deft fingers removed the bandages, laying bare
a face so horribly disfigured that, practiced as he was, he felt his
own turn pale. He spoke quickly and aloud, knowing that the sick man
was insensible, and looking at the other two.
What's this? What has happened to this man? He is burnt!
As you say, sir. The gray-haired man, still holding the lamp,
Most horribly burntand with chemicals. Is it not so?
It is, sir.
There has been an explosion. He was trying to do something with
themprobably combine themhe made a mistake in his method or
calculations, and they exploded, said the Doctor rapidly.
Again you are right, sir. The two men exchanged swift glances of
mingled admiration and contemptadmiration of the Doctor's quickness
and lucidity, contempt of him for being there. He did not see them; he
was continuing his examination of the insensible man. The injuries to
the head and face were the worst, but the throat, chest, and arms were
also burned severely. Doctor Brudenell rose from the knee upon which he
had sunk down to pursue his examination.
You should have told me what the case was, he said sternly,
looking at the young man. You bring me here in ignorance, and I am
absolutely helpless. I have no materials for treating injuries such as
these. I require lint, oil, bandages.
They are here, said the gray-haired man quietly; and as his
companion, in obedience to a motion of his hand, left the room, he
looked at the Doctor, and asked anxiously, Sir, can you save his
I don't knowit depends upon his constitutionof which I know
nothingand the care that is bestowed upon him. Butwith a glance
round the wretched apartmenthe will not live if he stays here.
He will not stay here.
The Doctor said no more, for the young man came back with bandages,
lint, and oil. All three had evidently been purchased in anticipation
of their being wanted. The Doctor applied them as well as he could, by
the dim light of the lamp. The patient moved and moaned, but he did not
open his eyes or show any signs of consciousness; the other two did not
speak once. His task concluded, the Doctor turned to them abruptly.
He had better be moved at once; he cannot pass the night
hereindeed, he should have been got up-stairs at the first. If there
is any assistance that you can call it will be as well. He is utterly
helpless. He must be carried.
Good! said the elder man quietly, and with the suspicion of a
mocking smile at the corners of his mouth. Explain, sir, if you
please. Carried where?
Up-stairs, of course!
Up-stairs! Both men laughed, but only the elder echoed the word.
Impossible, sir! he said coolly.
But I tell you he must be moved! exclaimed the Doctor impatiently.
You have risked his life already by your delay.
Reassure yourself, sir, said the other, in the same tone as
before. He shall be movedI have said it!
Then where, if not up-stairs?
Out of the house.
Out of the housein this condition? You must be out of your mind!
It will kill him!
Doctor Brudenell was excited. He rebelled against this treatment of
his patientas his patient. As merely a man he would not have cared.
Kill himso be it!
The speaker shrugged his shoulders, with a smile that expanded the
scar on his cheek, and the Doctor involuntarily moderated his tone. He
instinctively recognized that he had spoken too bluntly, too hastily to
this man, who looked impenetrable.
You must really understand, he urged, the great risk of what you
are about to do. This man's condition is dangerous now; the shock to
the system may be so great that even with the best of care he will not
recover. By doing what you propose you seriously jeopardize what chance
he has of life. When do you intend to move him?
Sir, at once!
Whatnowin the middle of the night?
Preposterous! the Doctor cried excitedly. It shall not be done!
Indeed. And who, sir, will prevent it?
If necessary, I will.
The man put down the lamp upon the boards that served as a table,
put his hands to his sides, and laughed. Not loudly or heartily, but
with intense mocking enjoyment, as at something too grotesquely absurd
for speech. Then suddenly, exerting a surprising amount of strength for
so old a man, he put his two hands upon the shoulders of the
slightly-built Doctor, and, holding him so, stood looking down at him
tauntingly, laughing still.
You willyou will prevent! Monsieur the Doctor, you are a hero.
You are alone, you don't know where, with you don't know whom; it is
one o'clock in the morning, no one in your household knows where to
find you, and yet you will prevent! You stand in a house where your
body might remain undiscovered for years; but still you defy, you
threaten! By Heaven, my noble physician, you are brave!
He loosened his hold and leaned against the improvised table,
laughing still in the same suppressed manner, and glancing at the young
man, who replied to this dreadful mirth with a sarcastic smile.
George Brudenell, almost staggering as the strong hands released
him, was stupefied for the moment. He was no coward, but he suddenly
realized the utter helplessness of his position. Where was he? He did
not know. Who were these men, who met alone in this deserted house at
midnight? He did not know. He was a weaker man than either; and how
many more of them might there not be hidden within hearing distance
now? If they chose to do him violenceto murder him, in shorthe
would be totally incapable of offering any adequate resistance. He was
trapped, and he felt it; for the moment the knowledge appalled him, but
he strove to regain both his wits an courage.
You have the advantage, sir, he said, addressing the elder man;
and you use your superiority of numbers well. As for this man, you
take the responsibility if you move him. It is none of mine! I have
done what I can, and all I can. Show me to the door.
A moment, sir, if you please! The younger man looked at the elder
with a glance of remonstrance, as though he thought his companion in
his last speech and action had gone too far. You are forgetting an
important item, siryour fee.
I want no fee, and will take none! Show me to the door, I say!
He turned toward the doorway. By himself he would have stumbled up
the stairs down which he had been enticed; but the elder man seized him
by the shoulder. He spoke now in a tone almost as courteous as that
which he had just used had been insulting.
Your pardon! A moment, sir, if you please. You were called
Trapped here! interposed the Doctor angrily.
Well, wellthe other spoke blandly, soothingly, as though to a
restive childtrapped here, if you will. A wordwhat does it matter?
Permit me to finish. There are two things to do, sir, and you have done
I will do nothing more!
George Brudenell was thoroughly master of himself again now, and he
flung off the hand upon his shoulder. The young man moved and stood
between him and the door, and the elder resumed coolly:
A difficult thing, since it has something like death to answer
forwith a glance at the senseless disfigured form upon the couch;
but an easy thinga mere bagatelle to a man such as youa skillful
chemist, a practiced handler of chemicals. Monsieur, you will do what
yonder bungler failed to doyou will, if you please, combine these
I will not! The Doctor's temper was roused; the thought that he
had been so tricked made him forget the danger he was in. He spoke
without any signs of fear now, and faced the pair. Comprehension he had
not, but suspicion he had, and he spoke it out hardily. I will not!
he repeated. Whatever villainy it is that you perpetrate here, I will
have no hand in it. To whatever atrocious use it is that you design to
put the things you speak of, I say that I am glad that they have turned
upon one scoundrel at least. It is useless to put these chemicals
before meI swear that I will not touch them! I would sooner cut off
my right hand!
Ma foi, monsieuragain the elder man smiled!you are
likely, if you remain obstinate, to lose more than that!
Comeconsider, sir,reflect. You are helpless, and we are impatient;
your summer nights are short, and we have much to do. Come,
Ah, cried the younger man suddenly, but in the suppressed tones
which both seemed to use habituallyHush!
Doctor Brudenell had heard nothingcould hear nothing, although he
listened eagerly; but it seemed that the sound, whatever it might have
been, had alarmed the two men. It was evidently repeated, for the lamp
was put out instantly, and he felt himself forcibly thrust into what
seemed to be a cupboard and heard the key turned in the lock.
For a few moments George Brudenell was dazed againstupefied. He
was so utterly amazed that he could hardly believe that it was not all
a dream. Was this the latter half of the nineteenth century....was he
in the heart of London? Then suddenly he realized his position, tried
to suppress his very breathing and the beating of his heart, for there
was a sound of footsteps upon the creaking stairs, some one else
entered the room, there was the scratching of a match, and a pale
thread of light crept under the door of his prison, showing that the
lamp had been relighted. He listened intently, jealously, straining
every nerve to hear and to understand. Voices whispered; he could
distinguish the tones of the two men, but not their words, the muffled
muttering was too low; then there came a cry, followed by a rapid
movement toward the door which shut him from these strange
whisperersmore, a hand was even laid upon the lock and the key was
partly turned. Then there came a scuffle, almost a struggle, a sound of
something being dragged along the bare boards, and the voice of the
elder man muttering fiercely, threateningly. The Doctor, as the
footsteps retreated and the savage, repressed sounds died away into a
distant murmur, leaned against the damp wall of his prison, and fought
with a fresh perplexity. The new-comer into that gloomy house of
wickedness and mystery was a woman! He had heard the sweep of heavy
skirts as his door was approached, and that one shrill, hardly-stifled
cry had surely been in a woman's voice! Then the pale thread of light
was withdrawn, the sound of footsteps moved toward the door, and a
horrible fear assailed him. Was he to be left there to break his way
out into light or to die in darkness? The notion was horrible; his
self-control failed him; and with his clenched hands he hammered upon
the panels of the door, calling out loudly that he would not be left
there, trapped like a rat, and appealing to them to let him out.
There was a pause, more hurried, unintelligible whispering, then
footsteps drew near the door, and outside a voice spokethe elder
Be silent, and no harm will be done you. Be patient, sir, and you
shall be released.
When? demanded Doctor Brudenell.
When we have done what we have to do. Until then, silence!
Again the footsteps and the light withdrew, and the Doctor was left
in absolute silence and complete darkness, to fight as well as he could
with his sense of utter helplessness and the violent beating of his
heart. The struggle lasted only for a short time as he found out
afterward, but in the passing it seemed an age. Then the pale gleam of
light crept again beneath the door, and there came the sound of
footsteps; the two men had returned. He could hear that they were
raising a heavy body with painful difficulty, for there were low moans
and one deep groanthey were moving the almost dying man.
Another and longer interval of profound darkness, of brooding
silence followed, until the footsteps again returned, the door was
thrown open, and he stepped out, dazed by the light, feeble as it was.
The lamp was held by the man with the scar on his cheek, the couch upon
which the wounded man had lain was empty; a faint trace of light shone
through the chinks of the crazy shuttersit was almost morning.
You are free, sir, said his captor calmly and in a tone of perfect
indifference, cutting short the useless words of wrath and indignation
which fell from the Doctor's lips. Go, and hasten, if you please; the
night is nearly over! The carriage in which you came waits.
I shall not use it; I will go alone, and on foot. He stepped
toward the door, anxious just then for nothing except to get free of
the detested house, but, as before, the man's hand was brought down
upon his shoulder.
Your pardon, siryou will go as you came, and with the same
companion. You need not fearno harm of any kind will be done you. I
have pledged my word that you shall depart as you came, and I will keep
it. Good! Depart then, if you please.
Realizing the utter futility of lingering or speaking, Doctor
Brudenell was prudent. He obeyed without remonstrance or delay. He
mounted the stairs, crossed the bare hall, and left the house. In a
moment his arm was seized by the younger man, he was hustled into the
carriage which had brought him, and driven off at a pace so swift that
he had the sense at once to abandon the design of leaping out which he
had hastily formed. But that would have been impossible had the vehicle
moved slowly, for the eyes of his companion were keenly on the alert,
as he could not fail to see. Not a word upon either side had been
spoken when, some half an hour later, the carriage suddenly stopped, he
was thrust out as strongly and roughly as he had been hustled in; and,
as he stood, dazed by the events of this extraordinary night and the
rush of fresh sweet air, the coachman drove rapidly away.
George Brudenell looked about him like one bereft of reason. He had
no idea of the route by which he had been driven, and it was only after
looking for some time at the houses about him that he discovered where
he was, for he felt as perplexed and confused as though he had been
voyaging through the air in a balloon. Slowly he recognized his
surroundingshe was close upon the confines of Victoria Park. Not a
sound broke the silence, not a form was visible, the dawn was
brightening rosily in the east. He drew out his watch; it was just
three o'clock on Sunday morning.
It was not to be wondered at that Doctor Brudenell, coming down to
breakfast at the usual time some five hours later, should have looked
what Mrs. Jessop called as pale as the very table-cloth itself, or
that he should have but little desire either for the meal or his Sunday
paper. The very children, coming in by and by to bid him good-morning
before going to church, loudly expressed their astonishment in a shrill
trio as to Uncle George's funny looks, and rather rebelled at the
unusually curt greeting and dismissal which he gave them. Even the
governess's eyes opened a little wider as she looked at him, but she
gave him her hand with her usual shadowy smile, and expressed no
interest or surprise. Not that she would have learned anything had she
been as concerned as she was indifferent, for George Brudenell,
reflecting upon and recalling his adventure of the night before, fully
realizing his own position, had come to the conclusion to dismiss and
forget it if he could, and to speak of it to no one.
The Doctor was a shrewd man, and, understanding his fellow-men in
their mental as well as their physical natures, knew very well that
such a story, if it were not entirely discredited, would be at any rate
doubted and caviled at. The general opinion would be that there was
some truth in it, but not much. He was a sensitive man, disliking and
dreading ridicule, and he came to the conclusion that no possible good
could result from his publishing the story. He did not know the
menthe street, the house, and the locality were alike unknown to him.
When speech could do no good, could throw no light, silence became
wise. He would be silent.
He fell asleep in his comfortable chair presently, and waking up in
a couple of hours, was cheerfulmore cheerful than usual. It happened
that he was not called out, and that there were no visits that he was
absolutely obliged to make, and so he spent the day about the house and
garden, enjoying his leisure almost boyishly. He romped with the
children in the garden, swung them, played ball with them, would have
even run races with them perhaps, as they earnestly besought him to do,
had the weather been cooler. Suddenly he caught sight of the perfect
face of Alexia Boucheafen at a window, with her brother beside her,
and, meeting her dark eyes, was a little abashed for the moment. He did
not play with the children any more, and the young rebels wondered why,
after being in such an absolutely seraphic temper, he should turn cross
so suddenly. Perhaps it was not her watching that vexed him, but the
scrutiny of that other pair of eyes. For, slowly and reluctantly,
George Brudenell had by this time made up his mind that, with every
desire to like this handsome young Gustave Boucheafen, he could not do
Prejudice, no doubt, said the Doctor to himself, when presently,
after having discreetly quieted his nephews and niece by a gift of
sixpence each, he sat down to smoke a cigar in his study; but upon my
word I shall be glad when the young fellow is out of the house. Well,
this post at Langley's will be a pretty good chance for him if he
chooses to stick to it. If he has any sense he will. I'll tell her this
evening, by the way.
He did not see Alexia again until the children were sleeping and the
twilight was fading at the approach of night. Then, looking from his
study window, he saw her, tall and erect, in her black dress, pacing
the gravel walk beside the trimly-kept lawn. Her brother was at her
side again, and they were talking earnestly, absorbedlyhe with his
usual redundancy of gesture, she with unfailing calmness. It seemed
that they were arguing about somethinghe urging, she resistingfor
presently she flung off the hand which he had placed upon her arm, and
turned her back upon him. His face darkened, the lines about his mouth
grew hard, he spoke a word or two, regarding her with a curious smile;
and then, turning upon his heel, without waiting for a reply, went into
the house. Doctor Brudenell paused, stood hesitating for a few moments,
then went out and joined her.
She would have moved away as he approached her, but, with his usual
diffident, shy manner toward her, he begged her to remain for a little
while, as he had something to say. Then she turned and walked beside
himher eyes fixed intently upon him in the gray dusk. Had he kept his
eyes upon her face, instead of nervously looking away, he would have
seen upon it curiosity, and signs of apprehension too scornful and
contemptuous for fear.
I will only keep you a moment, Mademoiselle. I wanted to say, that
with regard to your brother
I am glad to tell you that I have been successful in my efforts on
his behalf. There is, in the business-house of a friend of mine, a post
vacant which I think will probably suit him, and which he is likely to
fill creditably. Indeed, I may say that it only awaits his acceptance
Her eyes had wandered away from his face when he began to speak; now
they came back quickly, gleaming brightly in the dusk. He was taken
aback, and yet he wondered why, for she merely repeated:
I was merely going to add that to-morrow an interview will probably
settle the business.
Ah, siryou see you are so kind, so good! How can I thank
youwhat can I say?
George Brudenell, listening, looking, lost his head. He had meant to
tell her what he had to tell quietly and coolly, make light of the
thanks which only embarrassed him, and so go back soberly to his book
and cigar again. But he met her eyes, heard her voice, and the resolve
was gone. He never knew what it was that he said to Alexia
Boucheafenin what words he clothed his passion, in what phrases he
pleaded. He only knew that she listened for a moment impassively, that
the next time the cold blankness of her face was gone, that it was
replaced by a look of scorn, incredulity, pity, contempthe did not
know whatthat an instant later she had wrenched away the hand he had
taken, had burst into a laugh that rang out shrilly in the gloom, and
that he was standing alone, bewildered, thinking that her laugh had
sounded like an echo of the laugh that he had heard last night in that
mysterious housethe laugh of the gray-haired man with the scar upon
Alexia Boucheafen, moving with a rapidity unlike her usual slow
graceful motion, had rushed into the house and up to her sitting-room.
Her brother was there, evidently waiting for her, but he was not
waiting for anything like this. She looked at him for a moment, then
drew herself into a chair, and shrieked with hysterical laughter.
Gustave Boucheafen was cautious. He hurried to the door, shut and
locked it, returned and grasped her arm firmly.
What is this? Control yourselfconsider!
Her wild laughter was already dying away; it was evident that she
had to exercise rigid self-control to prevent it from turning to still
wilder sobbing. She sat for a few moments with her hands pressed over
her eyes, her breast heaving convulsively. When she looked at him,
rising as she did so, her eyes dilated and gleamed.
This night, she saidthis night of all others to choose!
To choose for what?
To make love to me! Think of it!
Bah! What did I tell you but just now? he returned sullenly,
releasing her arm. You laughed. Fool as he wastool as you had made
him, he was not fool enough for that, you said. Ehwas he not? I knew
how it would be. Did I not tell you so before I even entered this
house? Looking at her, he laughed grimly. What a foolan idiot!
Bah! she retorted, with a bitter smile. What, think you, does he
know? I could laugh at myself, for I am almost sorry!
Why not? He is a good man in his way, and he has been kind. Don't
look at me like that! she cried with sudden passion, a swift rush of
blood tinting the pallor of her cheeks. What do you think he is to me,
this man, but the tool I have made him? He has not harmed mehe
represents nothing that has harmed me; and I would not hurt him, as I
would not hurt a child.
Ah, that is all? He looked at her keenly. Goodand yet last
Well, she said defiantly, last night I saved him. What then? He
could do us no harmhe had done us good, and our use for him was
nearly overI may say now that it is over.
Unless we fail.
Fail! she echoed contemptuously.
What did you say to him? he asked after a moment's pause.
Nothing. What should I say? I rushed away. What does it matter? I
shall not see him again.
True. He glanced at the clock. Eight, he said, turning toward
the door, as though to close the conversation by leaving the room. You
will not forget the time?
I shall not.
And, he added warningly, you will not blenchthis time?
She did not hear him. She had drawn from her breast the tiny roll of
red-marked paper; and, holding it upon the palm of her hand, was
looking at it with a curiously intent and bitter smile.
Good! said Gustave Boucheafen, with satisfaction; and he went out
and left her.
CHAPTER VIII., AND LAST.
George Brudenell, having passed a restless and troubled evening,
passed also a restless and dream-haunted night, coming down to
breakfast the next morning jaded and out of sorts. He could not for a
moment dismiss from his memory that interview in the garden last night,
or explain to himself the meaning of Alexia Boucheafen's extraordinary
conduct. What was he to understand from it? Had her behavior been
prompted by astonishment, indecision, or annoyance? He did not know;
and he could make nothing of it. The Doctor ate no breakfast; but came
to the conclusion that he must see her again, and that as soon as
possible; his earnestness and anxiety conquered his diffidence. He rang
the bell for Mrs. Jessop, and asked if Mademoiselle were down-stairs
yet? He wished to see her.
Mrs. Jessop, looking curiously at her master, went and returned. No,
Mademoiselle was not down yet; she had complained last night of
headache. Was it anything very particular; and should she be called?
Not on any account. The Doctor picked up the paper that he had
forgotten to read, and went to his consulting-room.
It was empty, for it was not yet his usual hour for receiving
patients. To fill up the time and to escape from his own thoughts he
opened the paper. The first thing that caught his eye and changed his
indifference to involuntarily interest was the announcement, in the
most sensational terms, of two supposed dynamite outrages which had
taken place on the previous night, resulting in the partial wreck of
one house and the almost total destruction of another, together with
the death of the Russian police-agent who lived in it.
It was just at this time that some such paragraph formed the chief
sensational tit-bit of almost every newspaper, and outraged public
opinion was ready to run wild upon the subject. The Doctor, excited,
horrified, interested, read the account. The two explosions had taken
place almost simultaneously, and had evidently been caused by the same
kind of infernal machine, whether containing dynamite or some other
explosive was not quite certain. As for the police-agent who had been
killed, it was known that he had been threatened by some secret
society, supposed to have lurking-places in various parts of London, he
having a year or two before been mainly instrumental in the breaking up
of a Nihilist society in Russia, and in bringing to the scaffold its
chief and most active member, a young Russian of noble birth. The
second explosion, which had done less damage, and was happily
unattended by any serious results beyond the partial wrecking of the
house, was at the private residence of a well-known English Detective.
The latest news was that there was a clue to the perpetrators of both
Doctor Brudenell tossed aside the paper, shrugging his shoulders as
at a madman's irresponsible rashness and folly, and turned his
attention to the patient who just then came in. That patient and the
many succeeding patients thought the Doctor odd this morning, brusque,
absent, constrained, gruff. He was thinking of Alexia, wondering what
she would say to him, wondering still more what he would say to her.
The room was empty at last; and he went back to the dining-room and
rang again for Mrs. Jessop. He could not face the day's round of work
without seeing her first. Mrs. Jessop was asked to inquire if
Mademoiselle could see him now. The housekeeper went, and returned
looking rather puzzled. Mademoiselle was not down-stairs yet, although
her breakfast was cold and the children were waiting to begin their
lessons. Mrs. Jessop was alarmed; her master wondered, and felt
She may be ill, he said; you say she complained last night. Go
and see. StayI'll come up-stairs with you!
He did so. At the governess's door Mrs. Jessop knocked softly and
waited, knocked loudly and waited. Then, in obedience to a gesture from
the Doctor, she tried to open the door. The handle yielded instantly;
and she, looking in, cried out:
Sir, she isn't here!
The bed was untouched, had not been slept in. The housekeeper looked
frightened at the Doctor's white face as he glanced round the room.
Call her brother. He has not been seen either. Quick!
A couple of curious maids, lingering on the stairs, ran up the next
flight to obey. There was the sound of knocking at panels, a pause, and
a cry at which George Brudenell felt his heart turn cold, for he
understood what it meant. That room was vacant too!
He sent all the women away, and examined Alexia's apartment himself.
There was not a line of writing, not a trace or clue of any sort to
explain this mystery. A few articles of clothing were scattered
carelessly about on the chairs and on the sofa; a faded flower which
she had worn yesterday in the bosom of her gown lay upon the
toilet-table. The poor blossom was dry and withered; he took it up in
his hand, crushed it, and flung its powdery fragments from him. Then he
came out, shut the door, and went straight down-stairs and out to his
George Brudenell, afterward looking back upon that day, wondered how
he got through it; but he did, and reached home at last, to be met by
Mrs. Jessop, who, in the last stage of amazement, indignation, and
perplexity, informed him that Mademoiselle and her brother had not yet
made their appearance. He had expected that, and, cutting short the
good woman's garrulous comments and questions, sent her away. He left
his dinner untouched, and went into his consulting-room; and, as he
waited for the usual influx of patients, strove to understand, to
think. People came in, and he attended to them and watched them go;
they told him, some of them, that he looked out of sorts and pale, and
he laughed, saying that he was all right. The evening wore away, it
grew late, every one in the house had retired but himself. It was
nearly twelve o'clock; and he was still sitting, with his head in his
hands, trying to solve the problem that perplexed him. Suddenly he
started up, and listened. There were footsteps outsiderapid,
cautiousa key was placed in the lock, and the door yielded. He darted
out into the hall, and grasped the arm of the stealthily-entering
With a swift gesture she signed to him to go back into the room,
entered after him, and cautiously shut and locked the door. Then with
another rapid movement she pulled aside her veil and stood looking at
him. He was too astonished to speak, but he saw that she was
breathless, intensely pale, that her dress was slightly disordered, and
that in the eyes which he knew that he had never understood there was
an expression which he could read at lasta look of mingled defiance
Sir, will you save me?
Save you! In his bewilderment he could only confusedly echo her
words. She moved a pace nearer to him.
Yes, save me. Last night you said you loved me; but I do not plead
to you for that. I plead because I am a woman, alone, friendless, lost
without your aid. Sir, will you give itwill you save me?
From whom? From what?
From the hands of the police, who are now, as I speak, on my track;
from the Russian Government, to which I shall be delivered; from the
death, or worth than death, which their sleuth-hounds will mete out to
Death! Good heavens, what have you been doing?
She laughed, glanced round the room, caught up the paper which lay
where he had put it down, and pointed to the column which he had read.
That! she cried.
That? What do you mean?
I mean that I killed that man, she answered, deliberately. I
placed the infernal machine by his door, and so took the vengeance
which I swore to take a year ago, when he took prisoner and gave to
torture and death my lover. I failed once, I failed twice; last night I
succeeded. He is dead!
You murdered this man?
Yes, as my lover was murdered, as my brother was murdered, as my
mother and my sister are being murdered in Siberia, as my father died,
murdered in the dungeons of St. Peter and St. Paul. And for what? For
daring to act, to speak, to read, to think; for striving to be men and
women, for revolting against the horrible tyranny which crushed them as
it crushes millions! That was their crime. Bah! what do you know, you
English, of brutality, of force, of cruelty, of slavery? You play with
the words, and think you have the thing!
She looked at him as he shrank from her, horrified, unable to grasp
or believe her words. Again she laughed bitterly, and, putting her hand
into the bosom of her dress, drew out a little roll of paper, and held
it toward him. The Doctor drew back. It had suddenly become horrible.
What is it?
The last lines of farewell which my lover contrived to have sent to
me from his prison the day before they butchered him, she answered,
steadily. He bade me farewell, and called upon me to avenge him. It
was redder then than now, for even the blood of an innocent man fades
with time; and he wrote this with his blood. With it in my hand, with
the memory of his face, when they dragged him away from me forever,
always before me, I swore I would obey his last prayer. It is done. His
murderer is dead!
She spoke with an air of dreary triumph, a dreadful exultation that
chilled her listener's blood. This was not the woman he had loved, upon
whom he had poured out all his long-guarded stores of devotion and
passionthis terrible, beautiful, avenging Medusa! His utter confusion
and bewilderment were patent to her; as he sank into a chair, she drew
a pace nearer to him, speaking rapidly, never pausing except when he
himself interrupted her, never halting for a word.
Sir, listen! I am in your power, since without your aid I cannot
escape. I should have been a prisoner now had I not thought of you and
had about me the key of your door. I thought you would save meI think
you will, for I have already saved you.
Me! he exclaimed, wonderingly.
You! Think you I do not know where you were taken on Saturday
You knew! Then
I was thereyes. I knew you would be waylaid and taken there. I
knew what you would be asked to dofirst, to attend to the injuries of
the foolish one among us who had tried to do what he could not do;
secondly, to finish what he had begun. You are a braver man than I
thought you, and you refused. Without those chemicals we were helpless,
for it is those that were used last night. In that deserted houseour
meeting-place at intervals for the past yearyour dead body might have
lain undiscovered for monthswould have lain undiscovered in all
probabilityfor you were dealing with desperate men, and you defied
them. I went there, as I have done twice before since I lived here, and
I pleaded for you and saved you. But I could not have done it except
for one thingI took with me what they wanted. Gustave understands
chemicals, and how to combine them; he came here, after I had lied to
you about himfor all that story that I told you was one great lie,
told because I knew something of my power over you, and that you would
probably act as you didhoping that he could here possess himself of
the chemicals that were needed, and which we could not obtain without
too great risk of discovery. You believed every word of the story with
which I befooled you; he came here, and obtained them easily.
Her audacity, her frankness were almost brutal. His bewilderment was
subsiding, but he revolted more and more, understanding so little of
the horrible tree of which such a woman as this was the poisoned and
Your brother? he said, withdrawing from her a little farther. How
did he become possessed of them here?
My brother! she cried, laughing. He is not my brother; his name
is Boucheafen no more than mine. My name! I have almost forgotten what
it is, I have borne so many that are false; were I to tell you it you
would be no wiser. Where, you ask, did he get the chemicals? From your
laboratory. We stole them; look, examine, and you will find them
She stopped, turning with dilating eyes toward the window, as
footsteps approached. They passed, and she turned back again, once more
drawing a step nearer to him, fascinating him with the light of her
brilliant inflexible eyes.
Sir, listen again. You have been deceived, as I have shown, but you
do not know how much. You recollect the day upon which you saw me
I told you that I had been robbed; it was a lie. The man that you
saw attack me meant to murder me.
To murder you?
Yes. Sir, once more. You don't know what they are, these secret
societies, these hidden leagues moulded by Russian oppression and
tyranny, these cliques, of which hate, vengeance, extermination, are
the watchwords. Knowing so well what treachery is, they are jealous of
the faith of their members. Death punishes treachery, and I had been
treacherous, and death was my sentence. The Cause avenges itself; the
appointed man accepted his appointed task. The man who threatened you
that nightthat old man, our chiefsaved me.
George Brudenell passed his hand over his forehead. The feeling
which had assailed him when he was a prisoner in the mysterious house
assailed him againthe involuntary doubt as to the reality of what he
saw and heard. Still with her relentless eyes fixed upon him, she went
I had been treacherousI will tell you how. There belonged to us a
lad, a boy, almost a childhe was innocent, simple; he was our errand
boy, cat's-pawwhat you will; and he did what you have done, fell in
love with mebecause I am beautiful, perhaps. Bah! Many men have loved
meit is nothing. We suspected him, thought him false; with the Cause
to suspect is to condemn. He was condemned, and to me was allotted the
task of striking him. I meant to do it, I swore to do it. At the last
moment my courage failed meperhaps I pitied himand I spared him.
The sentence passed upon him was passed also upon me.
He? She met his look with a gloomy smile. The Cause does not
forgive unless for its own good, as it afterward forgave me. Our chief
absolved me, for I was usefulso useful that my one act of treachery,
my one moment of weakness, was condoned. For himwhat was he? An
untrustworthy tool merely. Another hand struck the blow which I had
been appointed to strike. He died as I nearly died. She stopped and
smiled in the same gloomy way. No suspicion struck you when his body
lay there yonder, and I stood beside you, looking at his dead face!
That boy! cried George Brudenell, horrified.
That boy, she assented.
There was a pause, during which the Doctor rose and drew back from
the tall, splendidly-poised figure, as firm and erect as he had ever
seen it. He did not realize yet the blow that had fallen upon him, the
blank in his life that would come later; but he felt as though he were
struggling in a sea of horror, and was unable to disguise his shrinking
from her, his avoidance of her, the woman to whom yesterday he had
offered his love humbly, and whom he had besought to be his wife. He
asked coldly, not looking at her:
What can I do?
Sir, I have told yousave me. We were seen last night, the clue
was followed up, and we were surprised an hour ago in our most secret
meeting-place. Three of us were takenall would have been but for the
darkness, and that we knew so well each winding of the place. Where the
others are I do not know. Sir, help me! I am penniless, your
policeblood-hounds!are on my track. Every moment that I stay here
makes the danger greater. To-day I am a creature you hate, scorn,
shrink from; but yesterday I was the woman you lovedhelp me, then! I
am young to dieI saved you! Answer, will you save me?
I will help you, said George Brudenell, quietly.
* * * * *
Time has effaced many things from Doctor Brudenell's memory, but it
can never blot out his mental picture of that nightthe drive through
the silent street to the distant railway-station, from which a train
could be taken to carry them to the sea, the waiting through the
dragging hours until the tardy dawn broke, the fear, the stealth, the
suspicion, the watching, the rapid flight through the early morning,
that ended only when the blue waterso cruelly bright, untroubled, and
tranquil it looked!was audible and visible. Not a word had he spoken
to his companion through the night, nor did either of them break
silence until they stood upon the deck of the vessel which was to bear
her to the New World which has rectified so many of the mistakes of the
The deck was being cleared of those who were to return to the shore,
when, for the last time, she turned her beautiful eyes upon his face.
Farewell, Monsieur, she said, quietly; and he echoed:
* * * * *
Good Mrs. Jessop never discovered which patient it was to whom her
master had been called in the dead of the night, and who had kept him
away for the best part of twenty-four hours; and she never could
understand what that foreign young womana person concerning whom
she was for a long time exceedingly voluble and bittercould possibly
mean by running off in that scandalous way. But there were several
other things that Mrs. Jessop did not understandfor instance, why the
doctor for the next few weeks lost his appetite so completely, was so
snappish and short, and seemed to care for nothing but the newspaper;
and she was quite scandalized when he actually spent a whole day, as
she, by dint of judiciously pumping Patrick, contrived to ascertain,
in attending the trial of those horrid wretches of dynamitards, where
he heard the case, and heard the sentence of five years' penal
servitude passed upon a gray-haired man with a scar upon his cheek.
* * * * *
Laura has come home now, and the children are a great deal bigger
and even more tiresome than ever. She thinks her brother is very stupid
not to marry, and often roundly tells him so. But the Doctor takes her
suggestion very quietly; he is too old now, he says, and, besides, as
he reminds Laura, it was never in his line.