by L. B. Walford
BY L. B. WALFORD
AUTHOR OF MR. SMITH, THE BABY'S GRANDMOTHER, ETC.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 91 &93 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK LONDON,
BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA 1908
CHAPTER I. “SHE
CHAPTER II. ON
CHAPTER IV. A
CHAPTER V. OLD
CHAPTER VI. A
CHAPTER VII. “I
SOMETHING THAT I
CHAPTER VIII. A
CAT AND MOUSE
CHAPTER IX. “I'D
LIKE TO HAVE
THINGS ON A
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. DR.
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. “I
AM TO GIVE YOU A
MY HEART, I
CHAPTER XVII. A
KNIGHT TO THE
“A TURN OF THE
CHAPTER I. SHE HAS NO SETTLEMENT,
She can't come.
She shan't come, thenif you like that better.
Aye, of course, it's 'But father'I might have known it would be
that. However, you may 'But father' me to the end of my time, you don't
move me. I tell you, Sukey, you're a fool. You know no more than an
unhatched chickenand if you think I'm going to give in to their
impositionfor it's nothing elseyou are mistaken.
I was only going to say
Say what you will, say what you will; my mind's made up; and the
sooner you understand that, and Leonore understands that, the better.
You can write and tell her so.
What am I to tell her?
What I say. That she has made her own bed and must lie upon it.
But you gave your consent to her marriage, and never till now
I tell you, girl, you're a fool. Consent? Of course I gave my
consent. I was cheatedswindled. I married my daughter to a rich man,
and he dies and leaves her a pauper! Never knew such a trick in my
life. And you to stand up for it!
General Boldero and his eldest daughter were alone, as may have been
gathered, and the latter held in her hand, a black-edged letter at
which she glanced from time to time, it being obviously the apple of
discord between them.
It had come by the afternoon post; and the general, having met the
postman in the avenue, and himself relieved him of the old-fashioned
leathern postbag with which he was hastening on, and having further,
according to established precedent, unlocked the same and distributed
the contents, there had been no chance of putting off the present evil
Instead there had been an instant demand: What says Leonore? What's
the figure, eh? She must know by this time. Eh, what? A hundred and
fifty? Two hundred? What? Two hundred thousand would be nothing out of
the way in these days. Poor Goff wasn't a millionaire, but money sticks
to money and he had no expensive tastes. He must have been quietly
rolling up,all the better for his widow, poor child. Little Leonore
will scarcely know what to do with a princely income, and we must see
to it that she doesn't get into the hands of sharpers and
fortune-hunters and so on, and so on.
Then the bolt fell. The princely income vanished into the air. The
problematic two hundred thousand was neither here nor there, nor
anywhere. As for Poor Goff, General Boldero was never heard to speak
of his defunct son-in-law in those terms again.
In his rage and disappointment at finding himself, as he chose to
consider it, outwitted by a man upon whom he had always secretly looked
down, the true feelings wherewith he had regarded an alliance welcomed
by his cupidity, but resented by his pride, escaped without let or
What did we want with a person called Stubbs? What the deuce could
we want with him or any of his kind but their money? demanded he,
pacing the room, black with wrath. I never should have let the fellow
set foot within these doors if I had dreamed of this happening. I took
him for an honest man. What? What d'ye say? Humph! Don't believe a word
of it; he must have known; and as for his expecting to pull
things round, that's all very fine. It's a swindle, the whole thing.
Then suddenly the speaker stopped short and his large lips shot out as
he faced his daughter: Does Leonore say she hasn't a penny?
She says she will have to give up everything to the creditors. I
suppose, said Susan, hesitating, everything may not meanI thought
marriage settlements could not be touched by creditors?
No more they can, that's the deuce of it.
Then? She looked inquiringly, and strange to say, the fierce
countenance before her coloured beneath the look.
If he could have evaded it, General Boldero would have let the
question remain unanswered, although it was only Sue, Sue who knew her
parent as no one else knew himbefore whom he made no pretences,
assumed no disguiseswho had now to learn an ugly truth;as it was,
he shot it at her with as good an air as he could assume.
She has no settlement, damn it.
No settlement? In her amazement the open letter fell from the
listener's hands. She recollected, she could never forget, the glee
with which her father had rubbed his hands over the clinking
settlement he had anticipated from Leonore's wealthy suitor, nor the
manner in which it had insinuated itself into every announcement of the
match. No settlement? She simply stared in silence.
If you will have it, it was my doing, owned General Boldero
reluctantly; and I could bite my tongue off now to think of it! But
what with four of you on my hands, and the rents going down and
everything else going up, I had nothing to settlethat is, I had
nothing I could conveniently settle, and it might have been
awkward, uncommonly awkward. I could hardly have got out of it if
Godfrey had expected a quid pro quo. And he mighthe very well
might. A man of his class can't be expected to understand how a man of
ours has to live decently and keep up appearances while yet he hasn't a
brass farthing to spare. I'll say that for Godfrey Stubbs, he seemed
sensible on the point when I tried to explain; andand somehow I was
taken in and thought: 'You may be a bounder, but you are a very worthy
He paused, and continued. Then he suggestedit was his own idea, I
give you my word for itthat we should have no greedy lawyers lining
their pockets out of either of our purses. What he said wasI've as
clear a recollection of it as though it were yesterday'Oh, bother the
settlement, I'll make a will leaving everything I possess to
Leonore,'and I, like a numskull, jumped at the notion. It never
occurred to me that the will of a business man may be so much waste
paper. His creditors can snap their fingers at any will. That's what
Leonore means. She's found it out, and flies post haste to her desk to
write that she must come back here.
So she must.
So she must not. I won't have it. The whole neighbourhood
would ring with it.
By your own showing, said Sue quietly, in order to free yourself
from the necessity of making any provision on your part when the
marriage took place, you precluded but she got no further.
Provision on my part? burst forth her father, who was now himself
again, and ready to browbeat anybody; what need had the girl of any
provision on my part? She was marrying a fellow with tenfold my income.
The little I could have contrived to spare would have been a mere drop
in the bucket to him, and I should have been ashamed to mention it. I
can tell you I felt monstrous uncomfortable having to approach the
subject at all; and never was more thankful than when the young man,
like the decent fellow I took him then to be, pitchforked the whole
All the same, it is quite plain, persevered she, that it was with
your consent and approbation that Leonore had no money settled on her,
so that it could not be taken from her now;and that being the case,
you have no choice but to provide for her in the future.
You mean to say that it's due to me your sister's left a pauper on
That's exactly what I do mean. And you must either give her enough
to enable her to live properly elsewhere, or receive her back among us,
as she herself suggests. Besides which, you must make her the same
allowance you make the rest of us, and the speaker rose, closing the
Only she could have carried it on to such a close, indeed only
General Boldero's eldest daughterand only daughter by his first
marriagewould have engaged in it at all. The younger girls, of whom
there were still two unmarried and living at home, never, in common
parlance, stood up to their fatherthough, if he had not been as blind
as such an autocrat is wont to be, he would have easily detected that
they had their own ways of rendering his tyrannical rule tolerable, and
that while he fancied himself the sole dictator of his house, he had in
fact neither part nor lot in its real existence.
What is more easily satisfied than the vanity of stupid importance
always upon its perch? The general's habits and hours were known, also
the few points upon which he was really adamant. He was proud, and he
was mean. He liked to live pompously, and fare luxuriously,he made it
his business to cut off every expense that did not affect his own
comfort, or dignity. But that done, other matters could go on as they
chose for him.
So that while it was not to be thought of that Boldero Abbey should
exist without a full staff of retainers without and within, it was all
that his eldest daughterthe family managercould do to get her own
and her sisters' allowances paid with any regularityand whereas the
stables were well supplied with horses, and a new carriage was no
uncommon purchase, it was as much as any one's place was worth to hire
a fly from the station on an unexpectedly wet day.
When, exactly three years before the date on which our story opens,
there had appeared on the scene a suitor for the hand of the youngest
Miss Boldero, in the shape of a rich young Liverpool gentlemanGeneral
Boldero always talked of young Stubbs as a Liverpool gentleman, and
his hearers knew what he meanthe was accorded a free hand in reality,
though demur was strewn on the surface like cream on a pudding.
I have had to give in, quoth the general with a rueful
countenancebut he spread the news right and left, and Leonore was
kissed and bidden make the Liverpool gentleman a good wife.
Whereupon Leonore laughed and promised. Godfrey Stubbs was her very
first admirer, and she thought him as nice as he could be. At first the
Boldero girls had been somewhat surprised at the encouragement shown a
stranger to come freely among them, but when it became clear that Mr.
Godfrey Stubbs was a privileged person, they found it wonderfully
pleasant to have a man about the place, where a pair of trousers was a
rare sightand the inevitable happened.
The engagement concluded, Leonore trod on air. She who had never
been anywhere, who was never supposed to have a wish or thought of her
own, was all at once a queen. Godfrey assented to everything, and of
himself drew up the planoh, glorious! of a prolonged wedding tour.
His little bride was to go wherever she chose, see the sights she
selected, andshop in Paris. She was actually to stay a whole
fortnight in Paris to buy clothes.
Very right, very proper; nodded her father to this.
He was so smiling and genial over everything at this juncture that
Leonore's tongue wagged freely in his presence, and on hearing the
above she turned to him with a saucy air, which under the circumstances
he found quite pretty and pleasant:
So you see, there will be no need to dive deep into your
pocket, father, and my things will be ever so much smarter and more
Ha, ha, ha!laughed the general.
It all came back to him nowall that rainbow period, which had just
dissolved into the grim blackness of night. He could see the merry
little chit(as he called her then)rustling in her new-found state
like a puffed-out Jenny Wren; he could hear her calling to Godfrey over
the stairs, and after him across the lawn; most distinctly of all,
there rose before his mind's eye the wedding day, and the round baby
face solemnised for the occasion, with its large eyes and pursed-up
lips, whence emanated the bold I will which startled him by its
loudness and clearness,and yet again his own sigh of satisfaction as
the well-known march pealed out, and the pair walked down the aisle,
and the thing was done.
The thing was done, and could not be undonehe was in spirits to
play his part gloriously.
Terrible business this, Lady St. Emeraud. Poor little girl, to have
to be called 'Mrs. Stubbs,' eh, what? Oh, bless you, yes; it's her own
doing, entirely her own doingquite a love match,but, well and
there was a shrug of the shoulders, which, however, neither took in
Lady St. Emeraud nor any one else.
The horrid old wretch is simply gloating, and all the other girls
may follow Leonore's example with his blessing; was her ladyship's
comment. StubbsTubbsor Ubbsif there is money enough, come one,
come all to the Abbey. But the speaker turned with a more kindly air
to the white-robed figure of the youthful bride, and wished her well
with a kissand even that kiss added to the sting of General Boldero's
He had woven it into his remarks on many subsequent occasions. He
called Leonore Lady St. Emeraud's pet. And he would put himself in
her ladyship's way when he had news of her Pet, and tell the news
with an air of its being of special interest. Hang it all, her
ladyship ought to have been the child's godmother, if we had had our
wits about us; he had exclaimed within the home circle.
What would Lady St. Emeraud say now? She was a woman of the world,
and although she might choose to take up a girl after a fashion(even
he could not magnify the passing notice bestowed into more, since it
never led to anything further)she certainly would not care toI
wish we could keep this fiasco from her knowledge, he muttered.
Had it been possible, he would have dropped the hapless young widow
out of sight and ken, like a pebble in a pond. Her name should never
have been mentioned by him or his,and if by others, he would have
replied curtly and conclusively that she had gone to live with her
Confound it all, there must be some people to hang on to? It
had of course been a great point at the beginning of the connection
that young Stubbs stood alone in the world, and his not having a soul
belonging to him had been emphasised as one of the assets of the
match,but with the new change of affairs, surely some vulgar old
uncle or cousin could be unearthed to be made use of?
His auditor, however, had steadily shaken her head. She did not
repudiate the suggestion on any ground other than that of its
impossibilitybut on this she took her stand with that accurate
knowledge of her father which provided her influence over him.
He had just yielded the point, and she had mooted the idea of
receiving her sister back to the home of her childhood, when we are
admitted to hear the explosive She can't come, with which our
We know how the battle went, and to what was due the victory, if
such it could be called, on the part of Miss Boldero. She had
discovered a secreta shabby secret which the general had hitherto
been careful to lock tight within his own breastand armed with this
she could do as she chose about Leonorebut her triumph cost her dear.
No one would have believed how dear. No one would have supposed that
the person who of all others knew the ill-conditioned old soldier best,
who knew him in and out and through and through, could retain for so
poor a creature a spark of feeling other than that engendered by the
tie of blood. To Maud and Sybil their father was simply He,and to
catch him out, or catch him tripping on any occasion, the best fun
imaginablebut their half-sister suffered from every exposure, and
when possible hid the offence out of that charity which is love.
She was not a clever woman, she was in some respects a fool. People
would exclaim, Oh, that Miss Boldero! on finding which of the
three it was who had been met and talked with. There was nothing worth
hearing to be got out of poor old Sue. No gossip, no chatternot even
sly details of the general's latest wherewith her sisters were
willing to regale their friends. Sue was dull as ditch-water and silent
as the grave where family affairs were concerned.
She was not ill-looking, nay, she was handsome, as were all the
Bolderos; and, curiously, she was better turned-out than the younger
ones, for she had the knack of suiting herself in her clothes, which
they had not,but with it all, with her good appearance and
respectable air, she belonged to the ranks of the uninteresting, and
the weight she carried with her father was voted unaccountable.
No one, however, disputed it; and when the two withdrew together no
Well, what does Leo say? demanded Maud, who with Sybil had been
lying in wait for their half-sister while the conversation above
narrated was going on in the library. What a time you have been! You
might have known Syb and I were on thorns to hear what was in that
great fat letter? Where is she going to live? Or is she going to
travel? And is she going to invite one of us to go with her? If she
It ought to be me, struck in Sybil eagerly. I am nearest her age,
and Leo and I were always pals. I shouldn't at all mind going with
Which of us would? It would be splendid. Can't you speak? to Sue.
You are such a slow coach,and surely you might have broken loose
before, when you knew we were waiting.
You have been nearly an hour; Sybil glanced at the clock.
We thought you might have called us in, added Maud.
Anyhow, do for heaven's sake let us have it out now, continued
Sybil impetuously. She had been giving little tweaks at the letter in
her sister's hand, and a faint apprehension crept into her accents as
she found it firmly withheld; and don't look so owl-like. There is
nothing to be owl-like about, I suppose?
Hitherto neither had noted Sue's expression; now for the first time
they simultaneously paused long enough to enable her to open her lips.
I am afraid you will be disappointed, she said slowly. I am so
sorry to tell you, butbut things are not as you suppose. Poor
Godfrey she paused.
Poor Godfrey, well, poor Godfrey?
Both exclaimed at once, and each alike made a movement of
He had been very unfortunate of late. He hadspeculated. He
We don't care twopence about him, get on.
He has been unable to leave Leonore
Never mind what he has been un_able to dowhat has he been
He was ruined, said Sue at last, in a dull, matter-of-fact tone.
It appears he did not himself know it, for which Leonore is very
thankfulbut though he died in the belief that he was going to be
richer than ever, when his affairs came to be looked into
Oh, how long you are in telling it. You do love to harangue; with
a sudden petulance Sybil shook her sister's shoulder and seized the
letter, whose perusal was the work of a minute.
So that's how the cat jumps! quoth she, suddenly as cool as she
had been warm before. Poor brat! Well, it will be nice to have her
Here? ejaculated Maud. Is she coming here? To live?
Even so. Isn't she, Sue? Of course she is. She can't help it.
Though, I sayno wonder you were ages in the libraryhow does he
take it? Oh, you need not pretend, my dear, we can imagine the scene.
Our revered parent is not given to mincing matters, and to have Godfrey
Stubbs, his dear bloated son-in-law, collapse like a pricked balloon is
rough on him. He was so pleasedthat's to say he took poor Goff's
death so very philosophically, that one knew perfectly how he felt. The
money and not the manit was an ideal consummation. He would have
condoled with his poor little Leo, and petted and pampered herand
grinned whenever he was alone. She might have come to live with us
A nice jumble you are making of it. It was Maud who interposed,
with a vexed face. It is nothing but a huge joke to youbut upon my
word, I don't see a pleasant time ahead for any of us. The bare sight
of Leo will be a perpetual grievance, and we shall all reap the
By the evening's post, however, Leo was bidden to come.
CHAPTER II. ON THE STATION PLATFORM.
Is that the widow?
A couple of common-looking men with their hats and greatcoats on,
were standing, notebooks in hand, in the centre of a handsomely
appointed room, and the eye of experience would have seen at once what
they were doing there. They were taking an inventory of the furniture.
Their task had been momentarily suspended by the opening of the
door, and both heads had turned to behold a slight, black-robed figure
step forward, then, at the sight of themselves, stop short, turn and
vanishwhereupon the one put the above question and the other nodded
Lor', she ain't but a girl! muttered the speaker; then paused to
rub his chin, and add sententiously: that's the way with these rich
young cock-a-doodles. They marries and lives in lugsurygives their
wives di'monds, and motor-cars, and nothin' ain't too good for
them,then pop! off they goes, and we comes in! Sich is life!
Godfrey Stubbs was a very decent feller; protested the other,
biting the top of his pencil with a meditative air. He was
misfort'nate, that's all.
Humph? Misfort'nate? Yes, I've heard it called that before. Stubbs
ain't the first by a long chalk whose sticks I've had to make a list of
because of his dyingor livingmisfort'nate. Who's the missus?
Can't say. There she goes!suddenly; and with one accord both
stepped to the large French window which stood open, and stared across
the lawn. Just a mere slip of a thing, murmured Joe Mills, under his
breath, 'bout my Milly's age, poor lass!
Lucky there's no kids, quoth his companion, bluntly; and, 'Poor
lass' or no, we've got our work to do. Where had we got to now? Look
sharp, and let's clear out of this before she comes back,and spurred
to activity by the suggestion, the interlude came to an end forthwith.
They need not have hurried; Leonore was not going to interrupt
again. She had come to take a last look round, as she was not now
dwelling there; but the sight just witnessed was enough to preclude any
desire for further investigation, and she almost ran across the
threshold which she was never more to enter.
It may be wondered at that none of her own people were with the
hapless girl at such a momentbut a few words will explain this. A
very few days before Godfrey Stubbs' sudden death, an outbreak of
influenza, which was rife in the neighbourhood, had taken place at
Boldero Abbey; and to the intense vexation of the general, he found
himself laid by the heels, when it was above all things necessary and
desirable that he should appear, clad in the full panoply of woe, at
the funeral of his son-in-law.
He would go, he was sure he could go,and he rose from his bed and
tried, only to totter, trembling, back into it again.
Then he ordered up Sue, and sent messages to the younger ones. When
it appeared that all were either sick or sickening, and that the
doctor's orders were peremptory, he was made so much worse himself by
wrathful impotence, that thereafter all was easy, and by the time the
epidemic had abated, Leonore was no longer in her own house.
She was still, however, to her father's view a personage, and as
such to be treated. Messages of affectionate condolence and sympathetic
inquiry were despatched daily. Though he did not actually write with
his own hand, he composed and dictated, and every epistle had to be
submitted to him before it was sentwhile each and all conveyed the
emphatic declaration that, the very moment he was fit to travel,
General Boldero would fly to his dear girl's side, to give her the
benefit of his counsel and experience.
He had been for his first walk on the day Leonore's letter arrived
which changed the face of everything.
Thereafter his influenza and all the other influenzas assumed
astonishing proportions, and the trip to Liverpool which he had
formerly assured Sue would do him all the good in the world, was not to
be thought of. The weather was milder, but what of that? She had been
against his going all along; and now when he had given in to her, she
must needs wheel about face, and try to drive him to do what would send
him back to bed again as sure as fate.
Sue had next suggested that she herself, or Maud should go. Sybil,
the last to be attacked, was still in the doctor's hands.
The second proposition, however, met with no better fate than the
first. It was madness to think of it; sheer madness to take a long,
expensivethe speaker caught himself up and substituted
exhaustivejourney, when there was no end to be attained thereby.
Had he not said that Leo could come to them? Since she was coming, and
since it appeared there was nothing to prevent her coming immediately,
that settled the matter.
You can put it civilly, conceded he; but on this occasion he sent
no message, and did not ask to see the letter.
We perceive therefore how it chanced that the solitary, pitiful
little figure came to be haunting the precincts of her former home as
narrated above; she had been housed by friends who, struck by her
desolation, were not wanting in pity and sympathy,but confused,
dazed, bewildered, she moved about as in a dream, her one conscious
desire to be aloneand no one, she thought, would follow her on the
No one did, but we know the sight that met her eyes on opening the
drawing-room door, and she knew in a moment who and what the two men
were, and what they were doing. And she fled down the garden path and
passed from their view; but ere she reappears, we will present our
readers with a brief glimpse of our heroine up to the present crisis in
In appearance she was small, soft, and inclined to be
round-aboutwhile her face, what shall we say? It was a face
transmitted through generations of easy, healthy, wealthy ancestors,
who have occasionally married beauties,and yet it had a note of its
own. Her sisters were handsome, but it was reserved for her, the
youngest, to strike out a new line in the family looks and one which
did not ripen quickly. So that whereas the three elder Miss Bolderos
had high noses and high foreheads, and long, pale, aristocratic faces,
varying but little from each other(for somehow Sue, by resembling her
father, had no separate traits)the funny little Leonore, with her
rogue's eyes, and thick bunch of swinging curls, her chubby cheeks and
dimpled chin, was for a time entirely overlooked. It was certain she
would never be distinguished nor imposingconsequently would never
contract the great alliance General Boldero steadily kept in view for
Maud or Sybil. [N.B.He never contemplated a husband for
Suenever had, though she was the handsomest of the three. Briefly, he
could not do without her.]
But although he was presently obliged to confess to himself that the
little snub-nosed schoolgirl was developing some sort of impudent looks
of her own, he held them to be of such small account that it was as
much a source of wonder as of congratulation when it fell out that they
had fixed the affections of a suitor with ten thousand a year. It was
luckit was extraordinary luckthat Mr. Godfrey Stubbs could be
content with Leo, when really if he had demanded the hand of any one of
the three it would have been folly to hold back.
We need not, however, dwell on this period. Suffice it to say that
on each recurring occasion when the general welcomed his married
daughter beneath his roof, he was secretly surprised and even faintly
annoyed to behold her prettier than before. She glowed with life and
colour. She radiated vitality. She had a knack of throwing her sisters,
with their far superior outlines, into the shade.
Even Sybil, who had something of Leo's vivacity, had none of Leo's
charm. Even Maud, rated highest in the paternal valuation, had a heavy
look. What if he had been over-hasty after all? What if the little
witch could have done better? Once or twice he had to reason with
himself very seriously before equanimity was restored.
In mind Leonore was apt, with the intelligence, and it must be added
with much of the ignorance, of a child. She was ready to learn when
learning was easyshe would give it up when effort was needed.
As Godfrey was no reader, she only read such books as pleased her
fancy or whiled away a dull hour.
Godfrey told her what was in the newspapers, she said. It did not
occur to either that Godfrey's cursory perusal merely skimmed the
surface of events.
Again, Leonore protested that she had no accomplishments, but that
her husband could both sing and drawand she would hasten to place his
music on the piano, and exhibit his sketches. She thought his big bass
tones the finest imaginable; she framed the sketches as presents for
her father and sisters;and so on, and so on.
In short the poor little tendril had wound itself round a sturdy
pole, and with this support had waved and danced in the sunshine for
three years,and now, all in a moment, with cruel suddenness and
finality, the pole had snapped, and the tender young creature must
either make shift thenceforth to stand alone, or fall to the earth
also. Which will Leonore do?
The present, in so far as she was concerned, was a grey, colourless
She had of course to give audiences to her solicitor, an elderly,
grizzled man, whose coat, she noted, was shockingly ill-made, and who
had a heavy cold in the head, which brought his red bandana
handkerchief much into play,but though she dreaded his visits, and
kept as far away from him as possible, with a fastidious dislike of his
husky utterances, and heavy breathing, he relieved her of all
responsibility, and in fact earned a gratitude he did not get.
His was a thankless task. Leonore only wondered miserably what it
was all about? Of course she would do whatever was right; she would
give up anything and everythingso what need of details?
Indeed she offered to surrender cherished possessions which Mr.
Jonas assured her were not demanded and might lawfully be kept,but
this point clear, she had no interest in the rest, and his broad back
turned, nothing else presented itself to fill up the dreary days which
had to elapse before her presence could be spared and her departure
Your father will provide for you, I understand, Mrs. Stubbs? (And
a good job too, mentally commented the lawyer, shutting his bag with a
snap. There's many a poor thing has no father, close-fisted or no, to
fall back upon.)
Yesyes, said Leonore, hurriedly. She looked so young, and vague,
and helpless, that as he held out his hand, and mumbled conventionally,
his voice was a shade more husky than before.
Oh, yes, thank you; thank you, yes.
Now what is she thanking me for?queried Jonas of himself. For
very pity he felt aggrieved and sardonic, and Leo perceiving the frown,
and unable to divine its cause, was thankful anew that release was at
hand. Every interview had been worse than the previous one. She had had
to go in to the terrible old man all by herself, and be asked this and
that, and begged to remember about things which had made no impression
at the time, and been entirely wiped from memory thereafter.
Could she telloh, how she came to hate that ominous Can you
tell? seeing that she never could, and that the confession invariably
elicited the same dry little cough of dissatisfaction, followed by a
What did itwhat could it all mean? Then I think I need not
trouble you further, Mrs. Stubbs, said Mr. Jonas slowly,and Mrs.
Stubbs almost jumped from her seat.
Nothing could ever be as bad as this again. In her own old home no
one would disparage poor Godfrey by inference and solemn silences as
this grim old Jonas did. Every statement wrung out of her, even though
the same simply amounted to a non-statement, a confession of utter
ignorance and trustfulness, had somehow damned her husband in the eyes
of the man of businessbut her own people would feel differently.
Godfrey had always been treated well, indeed made rather a fuss
about at Boldero Abbey. Her father would run down the steps to meet the
carriage which brought the young couple from the station on a visit.
His hearty, Well, here you are! would accompany the opening of the
door by his own hand. Then there would be an embrace for herself, and
the further greeting of a pleased and affectionate host for her
The pleasant bustle of welcome outside would be amply followed up
within doors, where her sisters would cluster round, making as much of
Godfrey as of herselfperhaps even a little moreremembering his
tastes, his proclivities, his love of much sugar and plenty of cream in
his tea, his partiality for warmth and the blaze of a roaring fire.
Ah, you Liverpool gentlemen, you know what comfort is!the general
would jocularly exclaim, the while both hands pressed his son-in-law
down into his own armchair. I like to stand; he would protest,but
Leonore had a suspicion that he did not like to stand for most people.
Godfrey was a favourite; for Godfrey there would be horses and
dogcarts at command, keepers and beaters in the shooting season, (when
such visits annually took place), and elaborate luncheons and dinners.
We don't do much in the way of entertaining, you know, the general
would explain casually, having delivered himself on the subject to Sue,
beforehand(Hang it all, he can't expect thatbut he shall
have everything else, everything that we can do for him
ourselves")We don't go in for that sort of thing, except now and
again,but after all, a family gathering is more agreeable to us all,
I take it, eh, Godfrey? That's what you and Leo come for, not to
be bothered by a parcel of strangers you know nothing about?
But if strangers, i.e., old neighbours whom Leo remembered
from her youth up, and whom she would have liked very well to meet
again, if these did accidentally cross the path of the Bolderos and
their guests, nothing could be handsomer than the way in which Godfrey
Stubbs was presented by his father-in-law. Godfrey would tell his wife
about his meeting with Lord Merivale or Sir Thomas Butts with an air of
elation. Nice fellows; so chatty and affable. Once he let fall the
latter word in public, and nobody winced openly,so that Leo, who had
often heard it in her married home, and never dreamed of thinking it
odd, listened and smiled in all innocence.
It must be remembered that she had barely emerged from the
schoolroom when Godfrey Stubbs carried her off as his bride, and that
when the last blow fell, and there was a sudden demand on the forlorn
little creature for qualities she either did not possess or was not
conscious of possessing, she only felt with a kind of numb misery that
it was all strange and terrible, and that if Godfrey had been there to
help herand a burst of tears would follow.
But at least she was going home; she had never yet got quite over
the feeling that Boldero Abbey was home, and always spoke of it as
such, even in the days when her stay there was limited to visits. How
much more then nownow, when she had no foothold anywhere else, and
when the past three years took in the retrospect the shadowy outlines
of a dream.
It was odd how distinctly behind the dream stood out the days of
childhood. As the train bore her swiftly through the open country she
knew so well, on the mellow, misty October afternoon, which came at
last, Leonore's throbbing bosom was a jumble of emotions, partly,
though of this she was unaware, pleasurable. Until now she had been
dwelling in the pastthe near pastthe past which was all loss and
sadness,but as one familiar scene after another unfolded itself,
involuntarily they awakened interest and a faint anticipation. Of a
nature to be happy anywhere, and to cull blossoms off the most arid
soil, the necessity for living in a villa among other villas on the
outskirts of a great manufacturing town, had never called for lament
and depreciation: no one had ever heard Boldero Abbey descanted
upon,indeed Leonore had sharply criticised the taste of a new arrival
on the scene, a girl transplanted like herself by marriage, who was for
ever telling her new associates what was done in Bshire.
All this young lady's endeavours could not win an adherent in Mrs.
Stubbs, who simply put on a wooden face, and said, Indeed? when the
other threw out: It's all so different here from what I am accustomed
to. I have never lived in any place like this before.
Leo moreover had her triumph which she kept for Godfrey's ear. You
know how that girl brags, and what an amount of side she puts on? Would
you believe it, Godfrey, she's only a sort of stable-keeper's daughter!
Well, I don't know what else you call it; her father is a trainer of
race-horses, and that's how she knows about them; and the big people
she quotes, of course they are all about such placesandoh, I think
it's sickening, even if it were no shamthat running down of nice
James Bilson, who never sets up to be anything, and is a hundred
thousand times too good for his wife.
You don't buck, anyway, said he.
I'd be ashamed, said Leonore proudly.
Her father and sisters thought the villa with its luxurious,
well-kept surroundings, met her every aspiration; they liked it very
well themselves as a pied-à-terre,and though of course the
grounds might have been more extensive, and the smoke of tall chimneys
farther off, the general was remarkably sensible on the point. Land is
valuable hereabouts, and a man must live where he can keep an eye on
And our horses can go almost any distance; Leonore was always
anxious to impress this point. We have lovely drives round by the Dee;
you would almost think you were in the real country there.
Quite so, my dear, her father would respond urbanely.
In his heart he spurned the idea. Country? Up went his chin, God
bless his soul, the whole locality stank of docks and offices. The
array of dogcarts daily drawn up outside the little station, in
punctual awaiting of the five o'clock train, betrayed the business
atmosphere. As Leonore did not see it, well, well. Nay, all the
Don't, for Heaven's sake, any of you unsettle her, ordered he,
aside. She's in precious snug quarters, and has the wit to know it.
But now a strange and hitherto stifled sensation was stealing dimly
into Leo's breast. How blue the mists were, how noble that range of
forest in the distancehow broad and lonely and inviting that straight
road with only a solitary cart upon it! There was the old red-roofed
homestead she remembered so well at this point. There were the huge
ricks and ample outbuildings. There were the smoking teams being
unharnessed from the plough.
It seemed to her that she had seen them there often and often
before, doing the sameand as the thought arose, another followed; of
course they were; it was at this hour, by the self-same train, that she
and Godfrey had always passed that way.
And she had always selected the same corner seat in the train, and
gazed from the windowGodfrey being immersed in his paper, and
indifferent to the view. At the thought of Godfrey she caught her
breath and sighed,but after a while the past drifted again into the
Who would come to meet her? She had half expected an escort all the
way, and been relieved when none was proposed, for to talk would have
been an effort,but of course one or perhaps two sisters would be on
the platform when she stepped out? Or perhaps her fathershe shrank
with a sudden qualm.
Not that she was precisely afraid of the general; he was too
uniformly urbane and approving towards herself for that,but was it
possible that he was never quite natural? Had she not invariably the
feeling of being treated by him as company? As some one towards
whom he was bound to be agreeable and jocular? The quick, terse reply,
and the occasional frowning undertonethe family undertonewere not
for her, any more than for Godfrey; and whereas every one else in the
house was liable to be snapped up and made to understand that an
opinion was of no account, she, Leo, the youngest and presumably most
insignificant of General Boldero's offspring, might say what she chose,
It had all been pleasant enough, onlyonly nownow she would as
soon not see a certain grey wide-awake upon the platform; she would
hardly know what to say; andand there it was!
There it was, but luckily not alone, indeed surrounded by quite a
crowd of familiar faces, and the awkward momentfor the moment was
awkward, far, far more so than Leonore suspectedwas tided over by its
Every one had been told beforehand what took the general to the
station on the occasion.
In the interval which had elapsed between the present moment and his
reluctant tender of the shelter of his hearth towards his unfortunate
daughter, he had had time to think. Since he must have her and there
was no help for it, he would brave out the situation. His neighbours
were not in the least likely to have heard anything of Godfrey Stubbs'
affairs, which had never got into the papers and which he himself only
knew of by personal communication. They could still be made to believe
in the wealth of his late son-in-law; and by his continued deference
towards Godfrey's memory and Godfrey's widow, he would still be envied
and applauded for the match whose advantages he had so assiduously
vaunted. It would be intolerable to have the truth known, wherefore the
truth should not be known.
She must understand to hold her tongue, and do you all of you hold
yours, he ordered. No whining, and whispering; no being wheedled out
of confidences by impertinent people who make a show of sympathy, while
in reality there isn't one among 'em who wouldn't lick his lips over
our discomfiture if it were known. What? That's easy enough. She
comes to live with us because she can't live alone; too young andand
helpless. It wouldn't be a bad tipthat's to say, if people choose to
think that Leonore hasn't the head to manage her money-matters, and
that big investments require a lot of looking after, let 'em. We
needn't enlighten them. Let the poor child have any prestige she can
get that way. After all, what she has or what she hasn't is nobody's
business but her ownand ours; so mind you what I say, I'll have no
talk set agoing, and if I find any of you and it was all about to
begin again when Sue interposed:
Of course we shall say nothing to vex you, father.
You won't, I daresay, but, and he threw a glance at the
other two, those feather-brained creatures
Oh, we're all right. Sybil nodded gaily. We don't want to give
the show away any more than you do. And it will be rather fun to
mystify the neighbourhood, and have the men coming fortune-hunting
after a bit
What? thundered the general, aghast.
They will, oh, yes, they will. Leo will look uncommonly pretty and
pathetic as the rich young widow, and I don't suppose she will be
And you meanGod bless my soul! But though General Boldero rolled
his eyes, and kept up his high tone of indignant amazement, the speaker
did not feel snubbed as she might have done.
We shall have all the impecunious youths
That we shan't. A relapse to fierceness.
Sybil laughed. 'Trying it on,' was all I was going to say, sir. Any
one who knows you wouldn't back them for a brass farthing.
There was a touch of bitterness in the last words which called forth a
Pshaw! from the general's lips. He knew, as they all did, to what the
sneer referred, and Sue, as usual, made haste to avert an explosion.
I don't think we need fear that Leo will be in any hurry to marry
again; she was very fond of poor Godfrey
Then she must keep up appearances for his sake, struck in her
father eagerly. Tell her it's for his sake, mind; and see that
she does it. As for that nonsense of Sybil's and he enlarged till
he had worn out the subject.
When he left the room, the girls looked at each other. He doesn't
know Leo, said Maud at last. She was always the last to speak, it was
the easiest way; Syb could rattle, and sometimes rattle did well enough
with a parent who as has been said could be managed when not openly
contradicted, but she preferred silence and apparent submission. She
could, however, emit a sentiment when alone with her sisters. He won't
find it as easy as he thinks to get Leo to pretend. She was always a
truthful little thing.
At the same time, it is her duty to obey our father's wishes,
quoth Miss Boldero gently. And one cannot wonder that he should
dislike to have her unfortunate circumstances known.
Meaning that she is as poor as a rat, Madam Grandiloquence. Ah,
well, I don't mind. Didn't I say it would be fun to take in
everybody?and as I am not particularly truthful, laughed
Sybil, I'll play any part the old gentleman chooses, with all the
pleasure in life. Maud, if I catch you tripping, I'll tread on your
toes till you squeak. It is understood that our poor dear bereaved
oneeh, Sue? that's the style, isn't it?that she only comes to us
because she needs the paternal advice for her oceans of money, and the
paternal arm to prevent its being grabbed by needy adventurers. Again I
say, what fun!
But she had not grasped, nor had any of them, what was in General
He rather overdid his part presently on the station platform. He had
elected to go alone, and have out the big carriage. He had given orders
loudly for it and the luggage cart,and so entirely was he engrossed
in his own view of the subject, that the sight of a pale little face,
with heavy eyes, and quivering lips, irritated him. They'll see
through her like a shot, he muttered to himself. Why on earth need
sheby George! I had forgotten though for he had actually
forgotten that only a bare three weeks had elapsed since Godfrey's
Instantly his countenance changed. A mournful air was de rigueur, he must be tenderly and sympathetically sad, while yet respectful. He
was aware of having been a little too talkative before, and of having
given brisk and cheerful greetings to acquaintances whom he had
informed of his errand. Hang it all, he wished he had thought of that
sooner; and he now bent over the little black-gloved hand with his best
air, hoping that he was watched. If he had been accused of any lack of
feelinghe patted the hand, and tucked it within his arm.
And he noted with satisfaction the splendid furs, and handsome
travelling bag, and all the paraphernalia which still clung to poor Leo
and gave her the appearance of a princess.
Mr. Jonas had smiled grimly when asked about this,but he had given
such a decided opinion, and that in so kind a tone, for he was pleased
and touchedthat the little girl had thankfully received his word as
law, and her personal possessions were intact.
In consequence, she had to apologise for the amount of her luggage.
The more the better, my dear, said the general, graciously,and
everyone within hearing distance was edified by his directions freely
delivered anent portmanteaux and dress-baskets. If there were too many
for the cart, some of the smaller things could be put on the carriage
box. William could walk. They could take a few light articles inside.
Leo felt again the old feeling of being treated as company, but
it took off the edge of a trying moment, and she was glad of anything
that did that.
Ahem, my dear! The carriage door was shut, and the general opened
There were several kind friends looking on just now, whom I daresay
you did not see. You did very well; there was no occasion for you to
notice them. And in your place, I may add, I should not bother about
seeing peoplequite so, quite soyou were not thinking of such a
thing, of course not,you will just keep quiet, and let us say what
has to be said. What I mean is, as he caught a bewildered look, money
matters are not in your line, and at such a time as this less than
ever. Don't mention them. Don't know anything about them. I will
tell people all they need to know
Butbut do they need to know at all?
Certainly not, said General Boldero, promptly. No answer could
have pleased him better. They see you return, very properly, to the
home of your childhood, where in future I shall provide for you, he
gulped in his throat, and drew the rug further over his knees, but
continued; so that it is nobody's business how you are left byby
Godfrey never knew, murmured she.
Ahem! escaped the general.
Mr. Jonas is afraid he had some anxiety, continued Leonore,
bravely; but he had told some one only the day beforebefore he died,
that he hoped things were going to pull round all right.
They all think that. But, proceeded her father, curbing the
momentary snap, we need not distress ourselves by entering into
details about which I am as ignorant as you. I never thought a business
man couldhowever, leave it. What we have to do is to bolster
up his memory, to prevent nasty things being said of himin short, to
keep our neighbours in the dark as to the real state of affairs, for if
they knew, they would certainly think it disgraceful.
The word was out and he felt the better for it.
Leonore started, and held her breath.
Aye, disgraceful, resumed her father with increasing emphasis. I
fear I must say it, and there's not a person who if he knew all that I
know, would not join me in saying it. But Godfrey Stubbs was your
And they shan't dare to speak a word against himoh, they
shan'tthey shall not,with a face of fire she turned towards him,
and, father, you can't and you mustn't, either; Godfrey but she
could speak no more for sobbing.
You shall protect his memory, Leonore.
And when the carriage drew up beneath the Abbey portico, General
Boldero felt that he had accomplished the object for which he had met
his daughter, and met her alone.
CHAPTER III. SPECULATIONS.
I saw old Brown-boots Boldero at the station to-day, quoth Dr.
Humphrey Craig, the doctor of the neighbourhood, as he shook himself
out of his greatcoat and wiped the October mist from his beard, within
the hall of his comfortable house. Spick and span as usual, and boots
as glossy as if there were no such things as muddy lanes in the world.
To be sure he had his carriage to-day, though.
His carriage? The doctor's cheerful little wife was at once all
interest; something in her husband's tone awakened interest.
He was bringing home that poor girl of his.
Leonore? Did you speak to them?
To himnot to her. We had to stand together on the platform, but I
sheered off directly the train came in. He had told me what he was
But you saw Leonore arrive?
I saw her, yes,poor black little thing. There seemed nothing of
her at all beneath her widow's trappings. Handsome trappings they were
too; the furs of a millionairess.
Did she look?
Rather miserable and frightened. Scared at seeing her father, I
daresay. Bland and civil as the old ruffian is, every one knows how the
girls quake before him. There he was, doing the polite, footman in
attendance, big carriage outsideall to be taken note of as evidence
that Mrs. Godfrey Stubbs was worth it.
You are always down on that poor old man.
Can't help it. I hate him.
I do think you might give him credit for some fatherly feeling.
I don'tnot a ha'porth. Fatherly feeling? Bless my soul, I can
never forget his face at the time of the marriage; it was simply
bursting with greedy exultation, and at what? At getting rid of the
poor child to such a high bidder. Stubbs wasn't a bad fellow, but it
would have been all the same if he had been. Leonore was chucked at his
Hushhush!Mrs. Craig, with a look of alarm, pointed to the
green baize door which shut off the back regions. You really should be
more careful, dear; you can be heard in the kitchen, when you speak so
Don't care if I am. They know all about it; but as the doctor had
by this time divested himself of his outer garments, and extracted the
contents of their various pockets, he suffered himself to be drawn into
a side room, his own sanctum, still talking. Marriages like that are
the very deuce, and the law should forbid them.
Plenty of girls do marry at eighteen, demurred she.
Plenty of follies are committed,but the gruff voice got no
Come, come, old bear, I am not the person to be growled at;
I wasn't eighteen when I married you; that's to say,
hahaha!that's funny, and the brisk little woman, who had a
sense of humour, laughed heartily. You don't see? It sounded as if I
were younger still,well, never mind. You have had a horrid day, I
know; comfort your poor soul,and with the words the wearied man was
gently pushed down into his own armchair, that roomy bed of luxury into
which he nightly sank when the labours of the day were over. When late
like this, he had dined elsewhere, where and when he could.
And next the mistress of the house cast around her eagle eye. She
was a born housewife, and particular about all her domain, but woe
betide the servant who scamped her work in this room. Mary Craig had
what might be called a convincing demeanour when she chose.
And she had not had a moment to run in and see that all was right on
the present occasion; and the night was dark and chill, and her husband
later than usual, having been far afield on his rounds,it was just
like Eliza to be carelessbut Eliza had not been careless.
All was as it should be; a pleasant warmth was diffused throughout
the whole snug apartment by a fire which had been lit in time, and was
now a mass of glowing coals; the hearth glittered, the curtains were
properly drawn, the lamp properly trimmed, and books and papers neatly
piled upon the various tables. She had not even to fetch the favourite
pipe of the moment, as it and a couple of matchboxes lay handy at the
Eliza's conception of her part, nodded Eliza's mistress,
pleasantly familiar with current quotations. As she forgot a matchbox
yesterday, she puts two to-day.
And that with a fire big enough to roast an ox! grunted the
doctor, scornfully ignoring the extra contribution, and tearing off a
strip from the envelope in his hand. Wasteful hussylike all the rest
of you; but when he had lit up, and thrown the burning end of paper
into the fender, where it was suffered to expire without a motion on
his wife's part, he leaned back and his hand stole along the arm of the
chair till it found quite naturally another hand, and a round, warm
cheek, a dear little cheek, lay presently upon both. For a few minutes
neither spoke again.
Then Mary looked up. Very tired to-night, Humpty?
Oh, if the patients who thought such worlds of their grim,
overbearing Scotch doctor, and the nurses who trembled before him at
the county infirmary, could have heard him called Humpty!but to do
so they must also have beheld the softening brow, the relaxing of the
stern lips, the gradual light which crept into the piercing eyesand
only one person was ever suffered to behold these. Her tender accents
unveiled what was hidden from the world.
Well, may-be. Humpty made an effort and roused himself. Perhaps I
am, a bit. Those idiots at the infirmary let me in for a lot more
trouble than I need have had,but I daresay it will work out all
right. I'm worried about a new case, too,however, no shop. Let's
gossip.What have you been about?
To meet this invariable question was part of her daily business, and
however trifling the happenings of morning and afternoon might be, they
were taxed to yield something whereby Humpty might be beguiled from his
To-night, however, was an unlucky night, she had only such very
small beer to chronicle that he soon fell back upon them, and they
comprised the return of General Boldero's widowed daughter, and her
probable future under his roof.
She won't have a gay time of itat least she would not, if she had
come empty-handed,perhaps as things are, it may be different.
You forget, Humpty, that he always made a fuss about Leonore.
I don't forget; the doctor shook his head; but I remember other
things as well. It's all very well to try to whitewash that old sinner,
but you don't know human nature as I do, my bairn. For that matter, I
am not the only one to say nasty things of old Brown-boots. It is
common talk that for all his posing as the genial squire and jolly
paterfamilias, Brown-boots is as mean a skunk as breathes.
I know he is rather a martinet at home, but
But what? He protruded his head eagerly, scenting something in her
The fault is not all on his side. Sue is straight: she is perfectly
Oh, aye; we know old Sue, dull as ditch-water, but honest. Well?
The other two are just a littlesly.
Sly? You don't say so? I hadn't thought of that. I daresay they
are, I quite believe they are. Sly? And from you? Bless my life,
they must be sly indeed for you to say so! And he chuckled with
What I mean is that they have no sense of duty. They simply pretend
to give in to their fatherand of course they are afraid of himbut
behind his back it is a very different story. I don't like to say so,
but it's true.
Serves him right, the old tom-cat. I only wish they snapped their
fingers in his face.
No, no, Humpty
But I do. However, I daresay they prefer a quiet life; and as for
Leonore, I do wonder how Leonore will get on?and he puffed a long
breath of smoke and looked down at his wife's upturned face. If you
should ever have a chance of doing Leonore Stubbs a good turn, do it.
She'll need it, he prophesied.
The return of Leonore was the event of the neighbourhood. Others
besides Dr. Craig had seen General Boldero's carriage, with its
glittering harness and champing horses, in waiting at the station; and
it was noticed that not merely its presence but that of the general
himself on the occasion, was designed to give the young widow
importance in the public eye. The Reverend Eustace Custance, the
rector, and very much the rector, had both seen and understood.
Eustace was one of the excellent of the earth. His spare frame, long
neck, and hanging head were to be seen year in year out entering
familiarly every door in his parish,entering with a friend's step,
and departing with a note-book, well-worn and blessed by not a few, in
There were some among his richer parishioners who voted their
clergyman a bore, but he was never so thought of by the poor. Their
wants, their cares, their welfare was the burden of his thoughtsand
we know that such a burden is not always a welcome guest in the seats
of the mighty. General Boldero, for instance, would raise a curt hand
to his hat, and mutter something about being in haste, if he chanced
upon the rector on the road,if possible, he would scuffle out of the
way. I never see that man but he has a subscription list in his hand,
he would fretfully exclaim,and though it did not suit his dignity to
ignore the list, he would have disliked the person whose fingers thus
found their way into his pocket, if it had been possible. Since it was
not possible, he yielded a cold esteem, and secretly wondered why so
worthy a recipient for promotion did not obtain it.
On the present occasion, however, Mr. Custance did not cross his
neighbour's path; voluntarily he never did so, and he had, as it
happened, no very pressing case demanding assistance on hand at the
Wherefore, he only blinked his mild blue eyes as the handsome
turn-out, designed to edify all beholders, thundered past him on the
station road, and recalled what his sister had told him about the
Bolderos that morning at breakfast. Emily was his purveyor of news, and
his fondness for her made him often affect an interest in it which he
did not feel. It might be an effort to say Ah! Indeed? and follow on
with a proper question or comment when his thoughts were wandering; but
he never failed to try, and from trying faithfully for many years, he
had finally attained some measure of success.
Occasionally, also, Emily's chit-chat bore fruit; the good man had
the scent of a sleuth-hound for any event which bore, however remotely,
on his life's object; and though he might now have been secretly amused
by his sister's excitement over what to him was a very ordinary
circumstance, a single remark in connection with it arrested his
coffee-cup on its way to his lips.
To be sure I had forgotten that, he murmured.
Forgotten that Leonore made a wealthy marriage, my dear Eustace?
Why, it is only three years ago, and we were all full of it.
Then I suppose she he paused and mused.
You may be sure she brings back her money with her, nodded Emily
cheerfully. Poor dear child, it's all she has left. So sad to be
widowed so young, is it not? I don't think you seem quite to take in
how sad it is, Eustace, and she cast a gentle look of reproach.
The rector put down his cup and stirred its contents thoughtfully,
debating the question within himself. He was so accustomed to sad cases
that perhapswell, perhaps it was as she said: certainly it had not
occurred to him to bestow the same pity on a young girl, bereaved
indeed, but with a good home to come back to, as he did on Peggy, the
ploughman's wife, for instancethat valiant Peggy who, with her ten
children, was suddenly reduced from comparative affluence to naked
poverty, by the death of the bread-winner of the family.
Peggy was getting on in years, and her strength was not what it had
been. She had toiled and moiled, and brought up her boys and girls in a
way that won her pastor's heart. His smile would be its kindest, his
shake of the hand its heartiest when he entered the ploughman's hut;
and there were others;there was the case of Widow Barnaby whose only
son had just returned upon her hands, maimed for life, after starting
out into the world a fine, strapping youngster, the best lad in the
village, only a year before! No, he had not classed the calamity which
had befallen pretty little Leonore Boldero as on a plane with these.
But perhaps he was wrong, he was growing hard-hearted? Contact with
the very poor, and with material misery, was apt to blunt sympathy with
sorrows of another nature. I daresay you are right, Emily, he said
candidly; for once convicted, no one was swifter to acknowledge a
fault. I had not looked upon it in that light. Yes, it is certainly
very sad about Leonore, poor thing.
People say it is a blessing she does not come back poor and
dependent; thus encouraged, Emily proceeded with gusto, for we all
know the general.
Aye, that we do. So Leonore is rich? and he obviously pondered on
My dear brother, Emily laughed, but the laugh was full of
affection, now what is to come first? The Christmas coals, or the Old
Folks' Dinner, or?
Peggy Farmiloe, said he, succinctly. Her needs at the present
time are paramount. The rest can wait.
So you will call on Leonore?
I shall make a point of doing sopresently.
You will have to get at her when she is alone, you know. It would
be no good making it a topic of general conversation.
I shall be as wise as the serpent, Emily, the good man permitted
himself an appreciative sally. Perhaps I shall not even introduce the
subject at all on a first call, eh? It might not be in good tastenot
that one should heed that. But if my clumsiness were to prejudice the
causeoh, I must certainly beware of clumsiness. Let me see, to-day is
Thursday, and out came the note-book; and after due consideration
Monday was fixed upon, whereupon Mr. Custance rose briskly.
You may depend upon it, I shall go to the Abbey on Monday. And if
this poor little widow's heart is in the right place a glance shot
from his eye.
He foresaw sacks of coal and piles of blankets. He fed and he
clothed. He distributed the older Farmiloe orphans hither and thither,
and gathered the little ones together under his wing, which, weak
before, would now be strong to shelter and support. The Barnaby lad
should have better nursing and an easier couch. There was the old
couple at the disused toll-gate too. It was a blissful dream; and it is
sad to thinkbut we will not anticipate.
At Claymount Hall, the theme was treated from another point of view.
Here dwelt a very fine old lady with a youthful grandson, of whom it
may be briefly said that the neighbourhood thought Valentine Purcell a
fool, and that Val himself was very much of its opinion.
She's clever enough for two though, ain't she? opined
he,and on this point it was the neighbourhood who endorsed his
The pair were an unfailing source of interest and amusement. Mrs.
Purcell's latest word and Val's latest deed invariably went the round,
and to their house as a centre every fresh topic made its way.
It was there, we may observe, that the doctor's wife had met the
Boldero girls and heard about Leonore, and it might be added that it
was there also the Reverend Eustace Custance gained the like
intelligence. Let us hear how it was taken by the Purcells themselves.
Val, as usual, grinned from ear to ear, and had nothing to saybut
his grandmother had plenty, and directly her guests had departed she
summoned the young man to her side.
What is this I hear about the Bolderos?
This was Mrs. Purcell's little way of finding out what others had
heard. It is true that she was slightly deaf as she was partially
blind,but she heard a great deal more and saw a vast deal further
than most of her neighbours, and Val was never in the least taken in by
a parade of infirmities. On the present occasion he simply waited for
the speaker to proceed.
Did those girls say their sister was coming back to live with them?
I thought they didbut you know how badly I hear, especially if there
is a hubbub going on. Were they expecting her to-day? And had their
father gone to meet her, and was that why they had to hurry off, so as
to be back at home before the carriage returned? I thought so, but
those girls gabble like ducks. Eh? I was right then? And this is the
end of poor little Leonore's great marriage? At twenty-one she is left
a widow, with too much money to know what to do withwhat? What did
Didn't say anything, ma'am.
But it is so, is it not? I am sure I heard Maud telling
you? and Mrs. Purcell paused and peered sharply.
I didn't, then. But I knew you would tell me afterwards if
there was anything to tell.
Humph! The old lady paused again, and twisted her cap strings. Val
was gazing stupidly out of the window, but whatever the expression of
his face might be no one could deny that the face itself was worthy of
notice. It was an almost perfect outline which was now cut sharp
against the light, the unusually bright light of an autumn sun, setting
in a cloudless sky.
Val was looking at the sun, and wondering if a slight haze
surrounding it portended rain. He was learned in weather lore and most
of his life was passed out of doors,so that it was important to him
to ascertain if he could, the forecast of each day. It meant whether he
might expect a hunting, or a shooting, or a fishing day. This was
infinitely more interesting than the conversation, though he was always
ready for conversation if nothing better offered.
Humph! muttered his grandmother a second time, and stole a glance,
a long, furtive, appraising glancenot at the sunset, but at the
profile which it threw into such bold relief.
Apparently it satisfied her, for her own features relaxed, and her
eyes sought the floor in meditation.
(She might be caught by his looks, why not? The other two are
always glad to talk to Val, and Heaven knows it is not for anything he
says. He contrives to make them laughhe has a kind of oddity that
goes downbut if he were an ugly fellow they would not trouble their
heads about that. Now, if Leonoreshe is but a child still, and as
she could marry a man called Stubbs to begin with, she can't be
particular. Anyhow it is worth trying for.)
Val?suddenly the peremptory old voice rang out.
Val yawned and turned round.
I am so sorry for dear little Leonore, I can't get her out of my
Well, I'm sorry too. With an effort Val recalled what he had to be
sorry for, but that done, he assumed a solemn air that did him
creditand indeed we are wrong in using the word assumed, since
directly he remembered or reflected upon the woes of others, Valentine
Purcell's kind heart was touched.
I'm awfully sorry, he reiterated now, shaking his head.
It is so sad for her, is it not?
Awfully sad; I say, do you think she'd join the hunt? Suddenly his
eyes lit up, and he started to attention. We do want some more
subscribers jolly badly. If Leonore
Not just at present, my dear,but, yes, certainly, by-and-by, when
she has settled down here, and left off her weeds.
Her what? he stared.
Her widow's weeds, dear boy. The poor child must wear them, you
know. White collars and cuffs, and that kind of thing. Happily she need
not disfigure her sweet face by a frightful cap as I had to do.
Oh, Lor! Do you mean Leo will have to turn out in a thing like
My dear, I just said she would not.
But she might, he-he-he! he chuckled, but the next moment was
again preternaturally grave. I had no idea. Poor Leo!
This was better. The old lady sighed sympathetically. Yes, indeed.
Poor Leo! You always liked Leo, Val?
Rather. I can't imagine her in a beastly widow's cap, he-he-he!
It's a beastly shame, but I can't help laughing.
It does seem incongruous. I don't wonder that you can hardly
picture that bright little sunbeam of a face with those golden curls
hanging round it
She's not as good-looking as Maud, you know.
Indeed I think she is a great deal better looking, said Mrs.
But she knew better than to argue the point, and resorted to one
more likely to yield a favourable result.
You were talking about Leonore's joining the hunt; and I fancy if
you are content to wait a little and approach the matter delicately,
she is quite likely to be persuaded. Every one knows that it is only
stinginess on General Boldero's part which stands in the way of his
daughters' hunting. That need not affect Leonore, who will now
be quite independent, and can keep as many horses as she chooses.
You don't say so? Yoicks! I'll be at her like a shot.
And you can offer to pilot her, you know. She will be nervous at
Oh, I'll pilot her. But she can ride all right, for we used to have
great larks when they were out on their ponies, and Leo was always the
best of the bunch. It will be fun if I can get her to follow hounds,
and the hunt will be awfully obliged to me.
Don't let any one elseit is your idea, and you ought to have the
benefit of it.
Trust me for that, ma'am, looking very wise. I've never brought
them a subscriber yet, and it would be jolly mean of any one to try to
cut me out.
If it is suggested, you must pooh-pooh the notion.
How can I though, when I'm thinking of it all the time myself?
Leonore might be prevailed upon by you, by an old friend for
whom she has a kindly feeling, and on whose judgment she could rely,
replied Mrs. Purcell, softly; while at the same time she would not
think nor dream of such a thing if left to herself. And certainly she
would resent being approached on the subject by strangers. Therefore it
would be quite correct, absolutely correct, to say that no such
approach would have a chance of success. You see that, my dear boy?
He was further instructed that, in order to prepare the ground for
his future mission, he was to take an early opportunity of calling at
the Abbey, and of being especially respectful and sympathetic in his
manner towards poor dear little Leo.
He was to show that as an old friend and playmate he felt for her;
and he might, if he saw his way to it, intimate delicately that though
he might grieve on her account at her return to dwell among them, he
could not do so on his own.
Well, I can say that, you know, Val brightened up. He did not much
like being on the respectful and sympathetic lay, he told himself; he
was pretty sure to make a mess of it there;but if it came to saying
he was glad
You can't say such a thing, my dear, you can only infer it.
You can look it; look kind andand tender.
And jolly well show old Maud she needn't book me too sure as her
At last he seemed to have caught up what she was struggling against
heavy odds to inculcate. It was up-hill work teaching Val anything,
especially anything requiring finessebut occasionally he would
startle his mentor. He would emit a flash of intelligence when such was
least expected, and there was now such a humorous light in his grey
eyes that the old lady laughed in her heart. Dear, dearhow naughty he
was! So he had the vanity to suppose that Maud Boldero reckoned him an
Whereat Val complacently knew she did.
By degrees he was led to reveal all his artless thoughts upon the
subject, and somehow found it more engrossing than he had ever done
In truth, his grandmother had never encouraged mention of it before.
She had ignored the Boldero girls when she could, and bracketed them
together in faint, damning praise when to ignore was impossible. She
knew exactly how to treat Val. An incipient flame could be warmed,
cooled, or blown out by her breathand as hitherto she had had no
intention of receiving a daughter-in-law out of Boldero Abbey, she had
simply never permitted a spark to be lit.
Here, in justice to the old lady, a solitary fact must be stated.
Her grandson was not her heir, and the Claymount estate, of which she
had a life rent, was strictly entailed; wherefore Val must be provided
A woman of another sort would have attained this end by saving out
of her income, or by insuring her lifebut Mrs. Purcell argued that
she had so much to keep up, and Valentine's requirements were so
manifold and costly that she could neither put by anything worth
having, nor afford the heavy premiums an Insurance Office would demand
at her age. She had not taken the matter into consideration till too
And the boy had been bred to no professionindeed his grandmother
secretly doubted his ability to pursue oneand she had been only too
glad of the excuse to have him as her companion at Claymount. He had a
pittance of his own, derived from his parents who were both dead,but
he had nothing further to look to, as his uncle, who in the course of
time would succeed to the estate, openly flouted him for a loafer,
and made no secret of his opinion that the money spent on his hunters
and keepers would have been better bestowed upon almost anything else.
What then was to become of ValVal, who was the apple of her eye,
whose very childishness and helplessness were dear to her, whose beauty
of face and formstop, she had it, she laughed as she told herself she
had it. And how often she strained those dim old eyes of hers to see
more clearly when her darling's step was heard, and how fondly they
rested on the approaching figure and strove to appraise at its exact
value the curiously beautiful face, no one but herself knew.
It was a face without a souland she was pathetically aware of
this, but what then? Val would make a good husbandhe would certainly
make a good husband. Husbands were not required to be clever; and it
was quite on the cards that even an intelligent girl might fall in love
with a man who had only a kind heart and an amiable disposition to
recommend him, provided his exterior were to her fancy.
But of course the girl must be rich; and now we come to the crux of
the whole little scene above narratedLeonore Stubbs, the wealthy
young widow, with no ties, no drawbacks, and not too much
discrimination (or she could not have married as she did in the first
instance), was the very first person to solve the problem. In her own
mind Mrs. Purcell decided that her grandson should call at Boldero
Abbey the very first moment that decency permitted.
There is no need to multiply instances, it will now be perceived
that in no quarter was the real secret of the unfortunate Leonore's
return to the home of her childhood so much as suspected.
She was a pauperbut she was received as a princess. She had hardly
a penny of her ownbut she was marked down as a benefactress. She was
bereft, denuded, bewildered, humiliatedbut she was hailed with
acclaim by the shrewdest woman in the neighbourhood on the look-out for
CHAPTER IV. A DULL BREAKFAST-TABLE.
To her surprise, Leonore slept soon and soundly on her first night
in the vast, gloomy bedchamber wherein it was her father's pleasure
that she should be installed.
She had not expected to do so.
The room was known as the Blue Room; but years had faded the blue,
which now only stood out with any clearness in creases of the curtains,
or remote patches of carpet on which the light never fell. Otherwise a
dull grey prevailed.
Nevertheless Leo had been fond of the Blue Room in early days;
revelling in its mysterious depths, hiding in its capacious
hiding-holes, and, finest fun of all, making hay in its huge
four-poster with some little friend of her own age. It was an apartment
so seldom used, and its furniture was so shabby and out-of-date, that
Sue would readily accede to the little girls' petition to be despatched
thitheronly exacting a promise that there should be no climbing of
window-sills, which promise had been broken, and confessed
honourablywhereupon Sue, who was herself a woman of honour, never
once mentioned window-sills again. The windows, deepset and high up in
the wall, with broad sills inviting to perch upon, only existed as
roofs for the cupboards beneath, once Leo had succumbed to temptation
and gone unpunished. No, dear, there is no need for any more
punishment, Sue had said in her kindest accents,and when Sue spoke
like that, the little saucy upstart Leonore, whom usually nothing could
repress, would be good for days.
Consequently the apartment had its associations; and under other
circumstances its new occupant would have found it pleasant enough to
look upon it as her own. But weary and dejected, with all the world in
shadow around her, it is scarcely to be wondered at that she should
shrink into herself, and look piteously up into Sue's face, as Sue
turned the handle of the door.
Am Iam I to be here, Sue?
Father says so, dear.
But, Sue, couldn't Isome little room?
Oh, I think you will be very comfortable here, Leo; you will have
plenty of space for your belongings, she glanced at the array of
trunks,and you can always remain in undisturbed possession, summed
up Sue cheerfully. The other spare rooms
I never thought of them. My own little old room
She had settled this with herself beforehand. Although it was on the
top storey, and in a somewhat despised quarter, she had loved her small
domain because it was hers and she might pull it about as she
chose,most girls feel the same, and Leo was a very girl, and youthful
instincts were warm within her.
Sue, however, had received her orders on the point, and though they
were distasteful, she recognised in them an element of reasonableness.
I am sorry, dear, but that would never do. You know what father's
wishes are. That you should be given a dignified position in the
family; andand I think he explained why. He had thought the matter
carefully out before he fixed on this room for you. He does not like to
be argued with, Leo.
Leo resigned herself. She knew the tone of old, it conveyed, I am
sorry, but I shall be firmit was the formal, precise, elder sister,
the general's mouthpiece, not the good, old, motherly Sue, who spoke.
Further resistance would be useless.
And now, alone, sitting on the great square sofa, with great square
chairs and massive receptacles on every side, the forlorn little figure
gazed about her with a heart that sank lower and lower. She was to
occupy a dignified position in the family? Did that mean that she was
still to be treated ceremoniously as in Godfrey's life-time? That she
was still to have that uneasy sense of being company which had
then haunted her? Sue alone had led the way to her new abodeMaud and
Sybil having vanished elsewhereand this in itself forboded ill. She
sat motionless, pondering.
In childhood the gap between herself and her elders had always been
too wide to be bridged even at its nearest point, which was Sybilbut
she had looked to her marriage hopefully. Then somehow, she could never
quite tell how, but although she could manage to play the hostess to
her sisters on apparently equal terms at Deeside, the old position
remained intact at Boldero Abbey. For all her gay outward bearing, Leo
was of a sensitive nature, and the girlsto herself she always called
them the girlshad only to take a matter for granted, for her to
follow their lead.
So that while it would have been joy untold to perceive the barriers
withdrawn, and to have been allowed to run in and out of Maud's room
and Sybil's roomshe did not covet Sue'sin dressing-gown and
slippers, to have brushed her hair of nights along with them and talked
the talk that goes with that time-honoured procedure, Mrs. Godfrey
Stubbs had no more been accorded this privilege, for which she had
hungered ever since she could remember, than the little out-cast
Leonore had been. Indeed, she was kept even more steadily at bayand
we will for a moment lift the veil for our readers and disclose why.
It isn't unkind, quoth Maud, on one occasion. I wouldn't
be unkind for worlds, but it simply can't be done. Leo is no longer one
of us; she belongs to the Stubby people among whom she lives,and if
we were to begin talking about them, we couldn't help letting out what
we thinkat least, perhaps I could, but you couldn't. It was to Syb
she spoke, and Syb lifted her eyebrows.
I daresay; I can't see any harm if I did. I should rather like to
hear about the Stubby people and their queerities.
Not from Leo's point of view. She would not see what you call their
'queerities'. She takes them all au serieux.
Are you sure she does? She must see they are different from the
people here, at all events; and
How is she to see? interrupted Maud quickly. She never went
anywhere before her marriage. She had only been to one ball, and a few
cricket matches. Actually she had never once dined at a house in the
If she had, she might not have been so ready to take Godfrey. I
couldn't have stood Godfrey as a husband myself, though I really don't
mind him as a brother-in-law; and I think it a little hard that Leo
should be tabooed.
I tell you she isn't tabooed. It is for her own sake that it would
be a pity her eyes should be opened. She has got to mix in inferior
society, and why make her discontented with it?
All right, you needn't be excited. I am only rather sorry sometimes
when the child looks disappointed.I say, I do think father ought not
to have been in such a hurry to marry her off, cried Sybil, with
sudden energy. I do think it. What good did it do? She's rich,
and that's allfor I don't count Godfrey. I don't believe she cares
for him more than she would for any other tolerably nice man who went
for her as he did. I don't believe
Bother what you believe! Maud arrested the flow; the thing is
that we can't talk familiarly with Leo, as Leo now is. We can't let
ourselves go. You must see this for yourself? Why, only to-night when
she and Godfrey were so elated over the civility of their new
'Chairman,' and seemed to expect us all to be astonished and impressed,
because he is such a bigwig and it was such a terrific condescension, I
didn't dare to look at father. I knew the unutterable contempt that
filled his soul. Condescension from an absolute nobody to one of us!
That's it. When you are at Deeside you are breathing a weird
atmosphere, and Leo thrives in it. She knows all her neighbours, and
expects you to know them. She took me once to an enormous reception at
the opening of some building or other and it was beyond wordsthe most
appalling women in the most appalling clothesI told you about
themdon't you remember the apple-green satin hat with six feathers?
Well, I could hardly contain myself, but Leo saw nothing to laugh at.
She ran about all over the place, chattering to everybody, and could
hardly be got away, she was enjoying herself so much.
I don't blame her, said Maud indulgently. I really don't blame
her. How should she know any better, poor child?
At the close of the discussion Leo's doom was sealed.
True, it was now reopened, and Maud conceded that by-and-by,
perhaps, when by degrees the recalcitrant had been weaned from her
ways, and taught to tread the paths of righteousness according to
Boldero ideas, her case might be reconsidered,but as, for decency's
sake, the teaching could not be begun just yet, it was agreed that Leo
should receive her lighted candle and good-night kiss in the hall, as
It was due to accident, however, not to design, that the sisters for
whose fellowship our poor little heroine yearned, permitted her to be
escorted by Sue only to take possession of her new domain. A milliner's
box had arrived from London, and been brought up with Mrs. Stubbs'
luggage. Leo could not compete with that box. It was all important that
the new assortment of hats despatched by the Maison du Cram should be
smarter and more becoming than the first batch which had been
uncompromisingly rejected; and Maud, slipping out by one door, was
quickly followed by Sybil through the otherwhereupon Sue also rose,
and said, Come, Leo.
Here then was Leo, small, white-faced, black-robed, the most
pitiable little object, almost a parody on the name of widow, dumped
down in the Blue Room to rattle like a pea in a pod in its capacious
She was indeed accustomed to a luxurious bedchamber, but then it was
a different kind of bedchamber. At Deeside the morning sun poured in
through large, single-paned windows, lightly curtained; and its rays
were reflected by white woodwork clamped by shining brass, and
wallpaper that glistened.
Into her new abode neither sun could enter, nor would have met with
any response had it done so. She looked dolorously round and round, and
tears stood in her eyes. Poor little girl, tears were never very far
off in those days.
And she must have thus sat for some time, and perhaps dozed off for
a minute or two, for a brisk tap at the door, and the bustling entrance
of a housemaid, admitted also the sound of the dressing gong, and both
seemed to follow close upon Sue's departing heels.
Dressing was an easy matter when there was no choice of attire and
adornments, and Leo's curly hair only needed to be combed through to
look as though it had been freshly arrangedso that though she had to
open her trunks, and had a moment's flurry before she could be certain
into which of these her solitary evening robe had been packed, she was
ready and downstairs before any one else.
The evening was got through somehow, and then there was the return
march through the long dim corridor to the antiquated apartment, and
the conviction that she should never be able to sleep in it, and
then? No sooner had the weary little figure sunk down among the
pillows and drawn up the coverlid, than the sound, sweet slumber of
youth and innocence prevailed; and the mists were off the land and
melting in the blue October sky, long before Leo unclosed her eyes.
Eventually she was roused by the stable-clock striking eight beneath
her window, and woke to find the night was gone.
Have we said that Leo had a happy disposition? She had not merely
that, but a buoyant, recuperative, physical nature, which threw off
every adverse circumstance as a foreign element.
Even an ailment could not make her ill, even misfortune could not
make her miserable.
Experiencing either the one or the other she bent before it, but
there was a fount of bubbling vitality within, which it was impossible
wholly to repress.
So that when the little girl sat up in bed, and blinked her drowsy
eyesstill drowsy for all the long hours of dreamless, healthy
slumberand when next she yawned and caught back a yawn in sudden
recognition of a familiar object unobserved beforeand when again she
shook across her shoulders the thick plaits of hair on either side, and
pulled out the crumpled lace upon her nightgown cuffs, and finally
jumped up and ran to look what the day was like, it was perhaps as well
that nobody was there to spy upon the newly-made widow.
She actually laughed the next moment. Yes, she laughed as she sprang
upon the erst forbidden window-sill, and out of pure daring sat there.
Albeit a little creature, she was tall enough to have seen out without
even rising on tip-toe,it was the sheer pleasure of doing what no one
could now stop her doing which prompted the action.
And then again she sighed. The immediate past rose before her,
frowning, though the old past tittered. She hung her head, ashamed of
her levityand next her reflection in an opposite mirror kindled it
afresh. How comical she looked perched aloft with bare feet hanging
down, like a small white bird upon a rail! What a nice roost she had
foundand it would be nicer still if she sat sideways, with her back
to the shutters,so, and her feet against the opposite shuttersso!
The broad, smooth seat would be an ideal reading place for summer
evenings, when the sun crept round to that side of the house, and began
to descend, as she could remember it did, over the ridge of beech trees
which belted the park below.
She could lock her door, of course. The room was her own, and even
Sue could not expect to dominate over what went on within her own room.
Besidesbesides, she had almost forgotten that she was no longer under
Sue's thrall, and that yesterday Sue had observed a gentle deference
That might passshe hoped it would. If only she could be on the old
terms,and yet not on the old terms! If only she might be Leo, and yet
not Leo! She tried to puzzle out the situation.
She knew indeed what she did not want, but could not define with any
exactitude what she did. Three years of affluence and independence had
to a certain extent left their mark, and she could not but own that it
would be unpalateable to find herself again in leading-strings. At
Deeside when a matter came under discussion, as often as not, Godfrey
would say, Please yourself, little wife,or, if not, the little wife
was sure to be charmed with his decision. He was so much older and
wiser, that whatever he decreed was safe to be satisfactory in the long
But her father and sisters would most certainly not make her
pleasure their chief aim and object; consequently it was as well
perhapsa sigh of reliefthat she could not be ordered about and have
the law laid down to her as of yore.
And yet, even this would be better, infinitely better, than to be
kept at arm's-length, and made to feel that she had neither part nor
lot in the home life she had returned to share. For instance, if she
were late for breakfastWhat? What was that? The clock below was
striking the half-hour, and precisely at nine the breakfast gong would
soundwhat had she been thinking of?
I hope, Leonore, you will be more punctual in future, said General
Boldero, as his youngest daughter took her seat at the table, and
having thus delivered himself, he did not again address her throughout
the remainder of the meal.
It might have been that he was taken up with his letters, of which
he always made the mosthandling the envelope even of an advertisement
as though it were of importancebut Leo, sitting silent beside him,
wished her place were a little farther off. She was conscious of a
chill, and she had forgotten what a chill was like.
Her sisters talked among themselves, obviously indifferent to
anything but their own concerns; and since it was apparent that the
present social atmosphere was its normal one, she tried to think it had
no reference to herself, and not to draw comparisons between it and
that she had been of late accustomed to.
She and Godfrey had always enjoyed their breakfast-hour. It had
often had to be hurried through, and the good things set before them
unceremoniously boltedbut cheerfulness and good-humour made even that
drawback endurable,and after seeing her husband drive away from the
door, Leo would return to fill her cup afresh, with a smile on her
lips. She peeped round the table now, to see if there were a smile
Sue looked worried and primthe worst Sue. Miss Boldero never gave
way to temper, indeed she had a creditably equable temperbut when
things were not well with her she stiffened; she remained upon an
altitude; she addressed her sisters by their full Christian names. Leo,
who had been Leo on the previous evening, was now Leonore.
The girls also had merely nodded as the small creature, looking
almost irritatingly young and childish in her widow's garb, took her
seat among them. Neither Maud nor Sybil looked young for their years,
and perhaps unconsciously resented Leo's doing so, as accentuating a
gap already wide enough.
Further, Leo looked her best in the clear morning light, while her
sisters' complexions suffered. They would not have slept as profoundly
as she, nor risen with such a spring of elasticity in their veins. They
would not have the appetite for breakfast that made everything taste
good. They were inclined to be Chippy with each other.
For Leo a new-born day was a day full of pleasant possibilities, and
the less she knew about it the better. She rather preferred to have
nothing arranged for; it left so much the more margin for something
nice to happen. As for dullness, she did not know what the word meant.
For though our heroine's abilities were not of a high order, there
were plenty of things she could do, and do well; and being by nature
industrious and creative, she took much delight in small achievements.
Busy little woman! Godfrey would exclaim, when one of these was
submitted for his approval; and if his praise were at times lacking in
discrimination, he was humble enough to satisfy any one's vanity when
this was pointed out.
Now, though there was no longer the untrammelled freedom to fill her
days as she chose, no longer the allurement of adorning a home
according to her own unfettered fancies, no longer, alas! Godfrey to
surprise and delightthere was yet, on this first morning of her new
life, a little new pulsation throbbing within poor Leo's breast.
She had been unhappy for three whole weeks, and sorrow was unnatural
to her; so that although, as we have said, tears still lay near the
surface, and there would be the quick sigh and swell of the heart at a
chance recollection, there was also a tiny troublesome spark beginning
to flicker afresh within, of which the poor little thing, a widow, and
a pauper, and all that ought to have been crushed to earth, was
She looked around at the long solemn faces, and strove to bring hers
into line with them. She fixed her eyes upon her plate, and was shocked
to find it empty. How fast she must have eaten! How greedy and
unfeeling she must have appeared! Her cheeks burned; and thereafter it
was No, thank you to everything, though she could very well have done
with another slice of toast and something sweet.
Jam and marmalade were both on the well-laden, old-fashioned board,
but though Maud was helping herself to the latter, Leo resolutely
declined. She was sure she was being watched; perhaps it was thought
surprising that she could swallow food at all? Her hand trembled, and
the spoon fell from the saucer of her cup. General Boldero looked up
quickly, and the look was like a missile flung at her.
CHAPTER V. OLD PLAYMATES MEET.
No, I haven't seen her yet.
Obedient to command, Valentine Purcell had called three times at
Boldero Abbey during the month succeeding Leonore's arrival. Val had
quite entered into the spirit of the thing. He was fond of making calls
at all times, and only needed the slightest hint to betake himself to
any house in the neighbourhood.
It is true that the veriest trifle would also throw him off the
track; a fieldmouse in the path was a lion,but given no fieldmouse,
he might be trusted to reach his destination, and when reached, the
only difficulty was to get him away from it. Wherever he was, there
would he take root; and having no claims elsewhere, it did not occur to
him that other people's time was more precious than his own.
Accordingly he had spent, satisfactorily to himself, the best part
of three afternoons with the Boldero girls, and though Mrs. Stubbs had
been invisible on each occasion, he had got on quite well without
herindeed rather chuckled at the reflection that it would in
consequence be necessary for him to turn up again ere long at the
Mrs. Purcell was not so complacent, however. Dear me, how
Very extraordinary, ma'am. Val shook his head wisely, and looked
for more. His grandmother was so clever she would be sure to think of
something more to say, some explanation of the strangeness.
They spoke of her, of course?she threw out, after a meditative
pause. You gathered that she was there, and
Oh, aye, they spoke of her. That's to say I heard old Sue say
something about 'Leonore,' and when Maud came inshe wasn't there at
firstthe others asked where she had been, and she said, 'We went
somewhere or other'. 'We' couldn't have been any one else, you know;
they never go out with the general. Besidesstop a bitwhy, of
course, the footman took away her tea on a tray.
Three distinct and indisputable testimonies, observed Mrs. Purcell
She was vexed, and had it been any other narrator who pieced his
materials together in such a fashion, would have let loose a more
Why could he not have asked directly after Leonore, upon the mention
of her name? Why did he even wait for that? It would have been so
simple, so natural, to have hoped she was well or hoped she was not
illhoped something, anything, when the tea was openly sent her
elsewhere. The opportunity was obvious; and as obviously the tiresome
boy had missed it. She contented herself, however, with a grim smile.
I expect Leo was somewhere out of sight. After a minute's
reflection, Val advanced the above as its result. They couldn't take
her her tea if she wasn't there, you know.
It seems improbable, certainly. Mrs. Purcell's lips twitched
Improbable, ma'am? He was flustered on the instant. Why, ma'am,
where would have been the sense of it? Unless there was some one to
take tea tobless me, grandmotherwhy should Sue have sent the poor
footy off on a fool's errand? She rang for him, too, he summed up
Listen, Val; if you are not going to see Leonore when you call at
her father's house, if she is to be kept in the background there, you
must meet her elsewhere.
But I don't think she goes elsewhere. Nobody's seen her, for I've
Oh, you have asked? She looked pleased; she had not expected so
much of him.
Asked?I've asked wherever I go, and not a soul has set eyes on
her. I'll tell you how I do it. I say in an easy kind of way, not as if
I cared, you know, but just like this, 'Any one seen Mrs. Stubbs
yet?'I call her 'Mrs. Stubbs' not to seem too familiarand, what do
you think? they laughedJimmy Tod and Merivale laughedand Jimmy
poked me with his whip, and said: 'If you haven't, old fellow,
no one has'. Of course they know I'm intimate with the Bolderos,and
he drew up his collar with an air.
Why did you not mention this before, Val?
Val looked foolish. For the life of him he could not think why, the
truth being that he had forgotten, but never supposed he could forget.
Well, never mind, pursued his grandmother; what I mean is that
you must meet your old playfellow out-of-doors, on her walks, or in the
woods, or wherever she goes. She must go out: she must take the air
somewhere,and if you had had your wits about you, my dear boy, you
could have found out where to-day.
You ought to have told me if you meant me to do that.
Then you must stop herdon't let her pass without speakingand
ask leave to join heror them, if there are two,but it would be
better if you could catch Leonore alone. Somehow I feel sure the poor
little thing is being kept away from us all, murmured the old lady
pensively. They are masterful people, the Bolderos. And Leo is so
sweet and gentle
She's a Boldero though, struck in he. And though she's sweet
enough, hang me if Leo can't stand up for herself! I used to die of
laughing when she tackled old Sue. Sue was afraid of her. You bet she
hasn't forgotten the time they all thought Leo lost, and she was found
hiding in a ditch.
Leonore? Hiding in a ditch?
With her face blacked, and prepared to run away to the
I never heard a word of it, Val.
Not likely, ma'am; we were all sworn to secrecy. I believe it was
even kept dark from the general, for Sue's a good sort really, and Leo
was such a little thing. Though she tried to brave it out she couldn't;
and when she blubbed, the tears and the muckyou never saw such a
little goblin face in your life.
And you were in her confidence? Talk about old days to her now.
Trust me. I always wanted to talk about them, butI say, why were
we never invited to meet the Stubbses when they came to the Abbey? We
never were. Never once.
General Boldero was not proud of his son-in-law. No one was ever
invited to meet him.
They say it was he who made the match, though.
It certainly was difficult to keep Val to the point. The marriage
now dissolved was nothing to him nor to any one, but since it kept
Leonore as a topic of conversation, and since by means of the past the
old lady could gradually work her way back to the present, she did not
cut short her grandson's curiosity, and upon subsequent reflection was
not displeased that he had evinced it.
A fine day coming soon after this, Val prepared for action.
First of all he prepared his mind; had he anything else he wished to
do? Was there anything tempting in the way of sport to be had? He
considered and shook his head. His grandmother's shooting was limited,
and he had strained its capacity rather fully of late. The river was
too full for fishing. The hounds were not running that day.
Accordingly, hey! for the Abbey, and for what might come of it.
Thus much decided, what should he wear? No girl in her teens, no
dandy in his first London season was more serious over the great affair
of his clothes than this country fellow when occasion warranted. Worn
and frayed and weather-stained his daily homespun might be, but he had
a bill at the best tailor's in Bond Street which he never thought of
paying, and which his grandmother never thought of grudging. She
quietly annexed the bill, and Val heard no more of it.
He was thus well provided for emergencies like the present. He had
thick and thin suits, dark and light, loose and slightly shapedhe had
just received one of the last, of a delightful tawny brown colour,
which he had not yet worn. It had arrived a few hours after his last
call on the Bolderos, and the moment his eye fell upon it now, his mind
was made up.
But though so prompt and decided on this, the most important point,
there remained the question of the tie,and how many ties were
selected, tried, and found wanting before the first, which had been
contemptuously discarded as lacking in dash and originality, was
reconsidered, and eventually decided upon, it boots not to say.
Val had taste; and left to himself was nearly sure to come forth
triumphant from an ordeal in which taste and a desire to be in the
first fashion struggled for the mastery. Crimson and green and blue
were famous colours, but a quiet beech-brown of a darker shade than the
suit finished it off so harmoniously that he sighed consent, and stuck
in a fox-head pin without further ado. Gloves, hat, and stick were
below, and equipped with these he presented himself before his
Any commands, ma'am?
Commands? said Mrs. Purcell, absently. Commands, my dear?
She would not make the mistake of appearing to understand too soon;
if bothered, poor Val was so apt to tire of a subject, and turn rusty
on its reiteration.
I thought I might as well see what turns up, rejoined he, vaguely,
take the dogs for a run, you know; and as it's a nice morning,
perhaps, I may meet people. I have made myself decentand he looked
down complacently, and advanced within her line of vision.
A new suit, Val? Turn round, and let me see you. Humquite nice.
Are you going to the post-office? I have run out of stamps.
I was going the other way, butoh, I'll get them; Val
brightened. I'll get them at Sutley (Sutley was the Bolderos'
village)and if any of those girls are about, I'llI'll see what
I shall know where you are if you don't come back for luncheon,
Now, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, an expedition planned on
such hazy outlines would have come to grief, but strange as it may
seem, no sooner did Mr. Valentine Purcell, swinging along at a high
rate of speedfor he always walked as though furies were at his
heelsenter the main street of Sutley village, than he espied a
solitary, small, black figure advancing from the other end, and almost
ere he could believe his eyes, Leonore herself was smiling into them.
Why, Val? exclaimed she, I am so glad to see you, Val.
Well, you might have seen me before now. Suddenly Val felt
aggrieved; it was a way he had; I'm sure I've called often
enough!and he shook hands rather coldly; not to be won over too
I am not supposed to be at home to people at present, said Leo,
simply. They think I ought not,but I was sorry when I heard it was
you the other day.
Were you in the house?demanded he.
Oh, yes; in the old schoolroom. I have my tea there when we are not
by ourselves. II don't dislike it. But her face told another tale.
Val, who had quite a brute instinct of sympathy, knew that she did
dislike it very much.
Tea was the only really pleasant meal at the Abbey; it was relieved
of the general's presence, and often of Sue's alsoand during the last
month Leo had learnt to look forward to it.
A little quiver of the lips accompanied the above assertion, for of
late callers had been rather rife, and she had been banished so often
that she had come to dread the sound of the door-bell.
I do think I needn't be classed as 'people'; pursued her old
playmate, but without the asperity of his former accents. I've known
you ever since you were so high,indicatingandand I'm awfully
sorry about it all, you know.
It was only Val, Val whom nobody minded, but Leo, taken aback,
flushed to her brow.
Oh, I say, ought I not to have said that? I'm such a rotter, I
blurt out with whatever comes first, stammered he, discomfited in his
turn. Leo, you know I didn't mean it. There now, I suppose I oughtn't
to call you 'Leo' floundering afresh.
Indeed you may, Val; and I know you meant nothing but what was
kind; only II am so unaccustomed to hearingthey never talk about
me, and I wish they would, oh, I wish they would, her voice
broke, but she continued nevertheless: Val, you don't know how hard it
isoh, what am I saying?she stopped confused and panting, terrified
at what she had been led into.
Look here, said Val, slowly, you don't mind me, do you? You don't
need to care what you say before me?I shan't tell, of course I
shan't. They always used to be down upon you at home, and I suppose
they go on the same? Just you get it out to me, Leo, and he nodded
By the end of half-an-hour, during which the two had wandered away
from the village street and the eyes of spectators, Leo had got it
out, and if the truth were told, pretty thoroughly. Recollect how
young, and naturally frank, and in a sense absolutely friendless she
was. And then it was only Valshe felt almost as though she were
speaking to a dog.
Certainly there was, as we said before, an element of canine
sympathy in the silent, solemn, appreciative air with which her
companion listened. He never interrupted. When he spoke, it was to
utter a brief ejaculation or to put a question, a leading question, one
which gently turned the lock a little more on the opening side.
Sometimes he merely said, Well?but how comforting was that Well!
You see Godfrey was so very good to me, and I do miss him so,
sighed the speaker at last.
It was perhaps hardly the way in which a devoted wife would have
spoken of a husband only six weeks dead, but it exactly expressed the
truth. Godfrey Stubbs had never been idealised, but he had been readily
accepted as a lover by a barely emancipated schoolgirl who did not know
what love was; and three serene, unimaginative years had been
contentedly passed under his fostering care.
Had he lived, and had children been born to the pair, it is easy to
conjecture the sort of woman Leonore would have developed into; as it
was, she had grown more mentally and spiritually in the past six weeks
than in the whole course of her previous existence.
And then came the passionate desire for expression, the helpless
sense of an inner burden too heavy to be borne alone. It was lucky it
was Valentine Purcell who came in Leo's way: the dam must have burst
You won't tell any one, Val?
Rather not. I should think not. I should just say not, Leo.
Fervour gathered with each assurance.
They wouldn't understand, would they? faltered she.
Of course they wouldn't. People never do, asseverated he.
And you mustn't be vexed if I am still shut up when you come to see
us, because I know Sue means this to go on for ever so long. Sue thinks
it only proper, you know. She is not in the least unkind, she believes
she is doing just what I would wish, and she would be awfully ashamed
of me if I wished anything else, continued Leo, jumping across a
puddle with a freer and lighter step than she had come out with, or
indeed trod with, since coming back to the Abbey. Up the bank, Val. Go
first, and I'll follow. Oh, no, we won't turn back; it is only here
that the water lies; I often come along this path, and it is quite dry
directly you are round the corner.
You often come here? When? Do you come in the mornings, or
afternoons?he threw over his shoulder, still leading the way.
I don't know. Whenever it's fine. Stop a moment; I'm caught; and
she disengaged a sprawling bramble. It's a pity I put on this skirt,
continued Leo ruefully, examining an ugly cross-tear. It's too good. I
only meant to go to the village.
Well, but if I don't know when you come, how can I meet you here?
persevered he, pursuing his own line of thought. I can't hang about
all the time.
Meet me? Oh! She pondered, for it was a new idea. I wonder, I
suppose you might meet me; but if they knew we had agreed
Of course they're not to know. Sue would put a stopper on it at
Leo was silent.
That needn't prevent us, continued her companion, holding out a
hand for her to spring into the path again. If I'm not to see you
anywhere else, it's only fairI say, you're a married woman, you can
do as you please.
If I did it, I should do itbut I shouldn't hide it.
I'll never do anything I don't mean to tell about. It was a once
familiar voice which rang the words out, and the speaker shook back a
flying curl and tucked it in with a gesture of determination so
absolutely that of the old Leo that Val burst out laughing.
Oh, you funny little girl!
Leo however was upon her dignity at this.
I don't think you ought to speak to me like that, said she,
although you are to be my friend,for this had been agreed
uponyou must not call me a 'little girl,' and, Val, only the minute
before, you reminded me that I was a married woman.
You are such a queer mixture, Leo.
I know. I can't help it. She was off her pedestal as fast as she
had hopped on. I do try to remember, and at Deeside it was quite easy;
nobody thought of me as 'funny' or a 'girl' therebut here I seem to
be back again just as I was when I left! All the places are the same,
the places where we had our accidents and our happenings, and I
can't feel different. Only, Val she hesitated.
Well? said he.
There's Godfrey. I would not for worlds, not for worldsit
would be horrible to seem to forget Godfrey. I don't forget him, you
know; I don't really. It is just that my spirits get up on a morning
like this, what with meeting you, and talking, and all,she stumbled
on incoherently,and you are so kind, and seem just to know what it
is like. Only you mustn't take advantage, Val,and she shook her head
at him with an air of gentle exhortation, you mustn't encroach. And I
don't think I can meet you out-of-doorsno I can't(as he emitted an
expostulatory Oh, I say!) I have made up my mind. You always called
me your tyrant, don't you remember? Well, it's no use fighting against
your tyrant now.
All right. A happy idea occurred, and Val made shift to acquiesce
indifferently. Very glad to have had the pleasure of meeting you
to-day, and so forth; and now I must go back to grandmother, and I
daresay we shan't see each other again for months.
Perhaps not this winter. I may be going away from home. I daresay I
shall. It's beastly dull at our place, and there's nothing going on
But, Val?the shot had told; she was plainly disconcerted. Going
Very likely I shall. I haven't made up my mind where, but
But you never do go. What should you go for now?
A fellow must have change. Many fellows go abroad regularly. I know
a fellow who is going to hunt in Spain.
What on earth should you do hunting in Spain, Val?
She could not help it, she laughed outright at the idea. Val in
Spain? Val, who knew no country, no sport, no language but his own? A
glimmering of the truth dawned on Leo.
I should think Spain was a very nice place to go to, observed she,
regaining her composure, a very nice place indeed.
But their eyes met, and the farce could be kept up no longer.
You want to make me feel that I should miss you, and I should
miss you, cried Leo, finding her tongue first. I should be very, very
sorry, now that we've met and met as old friends, and understand each
other so well, to think that all through the long winter months you
were to be far away,so don't think of it, Val; you can't, you simply
mustn't. And though I can't and won't do anything secret, I shall tell
them at home straight out that I met you to-dayaccidentally, for it
was accidentallyand that we had a talkthey can't be angry with me
for that,and then, whether any one looks at me or not, I'll say
boldly: 'So in future there will be no need for me to get out of Val
Purcell's way'. There, that's settled. Here's your short cut, and I'll
run home across these fields. Good-bye, andand thank you, Val.
She was off, and though for a moment he thought of running after
her, a glance at his watch stopped him.
It was already past one o'clock and though for himself he had
nothing to fear if late for luncheon, since his grandmother was
accustomed to unpunctuality, and would be only too ready to pardon it
on the present occasion, with Leo it was different.
Luckily she was nearer home than he was. Flying along as she was
doing, she might get in by a side door before the general stalked into
the dining-room, and he sincerely hoped she would. He watched till she
was out of sight. There was no one on earth whom Val disliked and
feared as much as Leo's father.
The latter could not indeed snub him and snap at him, as when he was
a boybut it was almost worse to be looked at as though he were an
offensive object, and to be heard in sneering silence if he ventured
upon a remark. For all his witlessness Val, poor fellow, knew when he
was happy and comfortable and when he was not, and he did not need his
grandmother to tell him that he was no favourite with General Boldero.
I only hope the old beast doesn't bully Leo, he muttered, as at
last he turned into the short cut, and all the way home he was sunk in
But he burst into Mrs. Purcell's presence hilariously. I've had a
jolly good time, ma'am. Sorry to be late, but I was walking with
With Leonore? You really did?how odd that you should happen to
meet! The old lady, who had begun excitedly, checked herself, and
assumed a cheerful, every-day air. You fell in with the sisters on the
road, I suppose?
Not the sisters. Only Leo. I ran into her in the middle of the
village, and she was awfully nice and friendly; so then we went off for
a walk together.
How nice! Just the morning for a pleasant walk.
Beastly wet and dirty underfoot though. Look at my bootsand he
looked himself. We got into a regular bog once.
You left the high road? You should not have done that. (Delighted
that he had.)
Went along the lane to Prickett's Green, and got into the woods
there, said he, helping himself to cold pheasant, and looking about
for adjuncts. I knew you wanted me to do the civil, so I told her I
had nothing else on hand, and we might as well have a good tramp. But
we didn't really get very far, though we pottered on and on, and she
had to skurry at the last to be home in time.
Did youdid shedoes Leo seem changed? Or did you find your old
playmate what she always was?
Should never have known she had been away. She doesn't look a day
But altered otherwise, perhaps? Marriage does sometimes and she
Oh, hang it, yes; Leo's quite the married woman, supplied he,
decidedly. He knew it was a lie, but told himself he meant to say it.
I suppose they're always a bit pompous, aren't they?
Pompous? Do you mean that that dear little innocent-faced thing has
grown pompous? Impossible, Val.
It's the correct thing, I suppose, ma'am. Once when she thought I
was rather presumingI'm sure I meant no harmshe regularly jumped
Be careful, my dear, if Leo is like that. Being left rich and
independent while yet so young, may have turned her head a little. Did
sheahem! talk about her affairs at all?
Affairs? (Now, what the deuce does she mean by 'affairs'?
Did she speak of what she meant to do? Is she thinking of remaining
in these parts? Or has she any other plans?
If she has, she didn't tell them me. Val considered and shook his
head. No, I don't believe she said a word of the kind. Besides what
plans could she have, poor little
Not 'poor'. Mrs. Purcell smiled significantly. You don't seem to
understand, my dear. Leonore Stubbs is a very rich widow, and will be
immensely sought after. It would be a great pity if she could not
settle in the neighbourhood, andand join the hunt, as you said
Aye, to be sure. I forgot about that; but you told me not to spring
it upon her too soon.
True. But you might have discovered if she washowever, apparently
she has no immediate intention of flying away.
Reassured on the point, Mrs. Purcell let well alone. She had no
conception that anything could be hid from her, and thought she divined
that while all had gone well, even beyond her hopes so far, the two
whom she would fain have seen made one, had restricted their
tête-à-tête to the discussion of conventional and superficial
topics. Val had even called Leonore pompous. That meant the young
lady was aware of her own value, and if so?
There remained however this comfort; in her present situation the
youthful widow could not go into society, and Val, being first in the
field, might, to borrow his own phraseology, catch the hare before the
other hounds were on the scent.
Val on his part chuckled likewise. Secretive as the grave could Val
be when he chose; and one thing was clear to him: Leonore was trying to
play the part required of her by her family and the world, and he alone
knew that it was a part.
He would not betray her. Not all his grandmother's wiles should draw
from him a picture of that confiding little facesorrowful enough at
times certainly, and yet not sorrowful in the approved fashion, not
hopeless, not utterly cast down. Just looking as if she needed some
one to be kind to her, ruminated he; and when she laughed he
paused and wagged his head, Lord, it was a good thing nobody but me
heard Leo laugh!
CHAPTER VI. A REVELATION.
I think said Miss Boldero one day about a fortnight after
thisit appears to me that Leonore might now be permitted to see the
rector?and she looked round to take the opinion of her sisters.
Their father was not present.
Perhaps the speaker had awaited such an opportunity, possibly what
appeared to be a very simple suggestion cost her an effort,at any
rate, something of constraint in her air and accents arrested the
attention of the person most concerned, and Leo, wondering what so
formal a preamble portended, was so taken aback by the climax that she
did what she alone of the Bolderos ever did, she giggled.
I can't help it, Sue; I really can't. Oh, dearoh, dear!
Permitted to see the rector? Had she not been almost daily
seeingand dodgingthe worthy Custance for weeks past? It had seemed
to her that she could not set foot outside the Abbey domain without
catching a glimpse of his long, thin figure somewhere or other on the
road outside,and she had actually taken to spying out the land
through a chink of the park palings in order to let the figure, if
there, vanish, before venturing forth. Again she quavered
apologetically, Oh, dearoh, dear!
But naturally no one joined in the mirth; Maud looked contemptuous,
Sybil indifferentwhile a more than ordinary indignation suffused the
whole countenance of their half-sister. Really, Leo! Sue drew herself
up to her full height, and could enunciate no more.
I mean no harm, protested Leo, stoutly. You needn't look at me
like that, all of you,for now she too was vexed and bit her lip.
Why mayn't I laugh when a thing is funny? And it is funny, Sue's
Indeed? We don't happen to see it so. Maud was seldom in sympathy
with jesting, and it must be owned that to a person with no sense of
humour Leo's childishness was at times incomprehensible. Leo, however,
had learned not to heed this.
Well, I'll tell you, cried she, recovering. Then you'll
understand. Poor dear Euty, with his long back and hanging headwhat?
Oh, Sue, he has. He has the very longest back and thinnest
neckand his head regularly wiggle-waggles over his shoulder,it will
drop off some fine day,well, I won't then, I'll to the point, as the
books say. If Sue will only look a little, little bit relenting?
You are wounding Sue in her tenderest point, said Sybil, at length
aroused to take part in the conversation. Don't you know that, by now?
Sue is a pillar of the church
It is absurd to make game of Mr. Custance, at any rate, interposed
Maud authoritatively. He is a very good parish clergyman, and much
more of a gentleman than any of those you were accustomed to at
Deeside, and she threw an immeasurable contempt into her tone. I
never saw one with either decent manners or appearance at your table.
That's a nasty one, muttered Sybil. Then aloud: Now we've all had
our whack at each other, and Leo has next innings; what is it you want
to say, Leo? Never mind Maud; you tell Sue and me your little joke, and
let us pronounce upon it.
No, I think we have had enough; Sue rose from her seat in offended
dignity. Leo has got to learn that a friend's name should not be
bandied about, a mark for insults
But I wasn'tbut I didn't; the momentary mortification Leo had
undergone was forgotten in an instant, and all haste and incoherence
she sprang after her sister's retreating figure, and caught it. Sue,
dear Sue, you know I never thought of such a thing. Insults? Oh, Sue!
They sounded like insults, Leo.
Then they had no business to. I never would insult anybody, least
of all a nice good creature like Eutythere now, you are vexed again.
But do let me just say why I laughed about being 'permitted' to see
him. It is because he regularly haunts my steps when I'm alone. He
does, indeed he does, the dear good man. No doubt he has his reasons,
but when you spoke with bated breath
I don't know what you can possibly mean, Leo.
Oh, yes, you do. You think it a blessed privilege
It is a privilege.
Not to me. I am hard put to it sometimes to scuttle out of his
To scuttle out of his way!for sheer amazement Sue paused to
It's true, it's perfectly true. Leo nodded at her with mischievous
pertinacity. I am forever running across old EutyMr. Custance,
then,because, of course, he does tramp round his parish like a
gallant old soul, and I'm sure I honour him for it,but I have nowhere
else to go either. It has been so awfully wet of late, the woods are
sopping, so I must take to the roads, and on the roads there is
EutyMr. Custance. And EutyMr. Custancehankers after me; and you
know you said I wasn't to hanker after him, not until you gave me
I never said such a word.
You said I was to have no dealings with anybodyexcept Val; and
Val doesn't count. But of course Euty doesn't know that, and he thinks
I'm a poor little soul, and might be glad to pass the time of day with
anybody. Whereas II like the dear good man very well in church; but
outside it, I don't pine and crave for his society. I can exist without
it. You needn't stretch a point to grant it me
Is that child going on forever? struck in Maud, impatiently. Why
do you let her pour out this flood of nonsense, Sue? She simply wants
to hear her own tongue, and give no one else a chance.
Apparently, however, Sue thought otherwise. Disregarding the
interruption, she maintained a serious and puzzled air.
Am I to understand that you suppose yourself an object of interest
to Mr. Custance, Leo?
If not, why does he hunt me about the roads? Why does he come
galloping after me
He doeshe did yesterday. I was on ahead near Betty Farmiloe's
cottage, and out he popped and saw me. I walked on as fast as ever I
could, but his long legs took him over the ground like a racer, and he
would have caught me up as sure as fate
You misinterpret a very ordinary civility, but the speaker was
not allowed to proceed.
For goodness sake let her 'misinterpret' then, cried Sybil,
diverted by the recital, go on, Leo. Did he catch you, or did he not?
A cow came along, so I pretended it was a bull, and dashed into a
field. Luckily there was a gate handy.
'Pretended it was a bull'? How? rejoined Sybil, still enjoying
herself. You really are a joke, Leo.
I threw up my arms madlylike this. Then I made furious passes
with my umbrella at the cow supposed to be bull. Finally I leaped at
the gate and clambered over, unable to see in my desperation that it
would have opened if I had only drawn back the bolt. Tableau. The
baffled Euty sadly pursues his way, while the trembling and agitated
Leo flies over the fields home.
And never says a word about it?from Sybil.
Not I. Catch me. Sue would have been cross, as she is now, with a
roguish glance; she would have thought I wanted to rob her of her
beloved rectoroh, we know how she adores her Euty
What? It was a new voice that spoke. What? repeated
General Boldero, stepping forward into their midst. Do my ears deceive
me? Leonore, he paused and gasped. Wretched child!but pomposity
prevailed. May I inquire in all politeness what is the meaning of that
most extraordinary, most preposterous accusation? You are silent. You
may well be. Your most disgraceful languageagain I demand what is the
meaning of it?
He seized her arm, as though she were not already nailed to the
spot. The meaning, girlthe meaning?
I repeat, the meaning. I am coming along the passage, and I hear
you shouting at the pitch of your voice
At the pitch of my voice? echoed Leo, mechanically. Her eye was
not upon her father, and she only half heard his thunderous charge,it
was something else which petrified her senses and made her head swim.
Sue? What had come to Sue?
White as death Sue had fallen into a chair, every feature distorted
by such a mute agony of terror thatoh, there was no mistaking it, no
concealing it, and yet,Leo looked round.
She was between her unfortunate sister and the rest of the party,
Sue having cowered down behind her where she stood,while Maud and
Sybil, to avoid being implicated, had precipitately retreated to a
window-recess, the former with a shrug of her shoulders, the latter
with the intention of slipping off as soon as might be.
But Sue? Was it possible?yet nothing else was possible. Nothing
else could account for a collapse so sudden and complete. Oh, poor
Suepoor, prim, stately Sue. At another moment,but Leo must not stop
to think what she would have done at another moment; her one aim now
must be to shield the defenceless creature, exposed through her. So
far, the parent who made poor Sue's life a burden, and yet whom she
believed in, loved, and served to the best of her humble power, had
concentrated his attention on herself as chief delinquent, but at any
moment his infuriated eyes might turn to that shrinking, trembling
form, and then?
With the air of a combatant delighted to welcome an unexpected ally,
I am so glad you came in, father, said she.
Glad? The general stepped back as though she had hit him. Glad?
They are all so down upon me about that stupid old parson of ours,
continued Leonore, glibly. They won't listen to anything I say against
him, but I know you will believe me. He really does follow me
about the roads, you know; and of course any one might guess what for.
He's a money-grabber, that's what he is. Not a 'money-grubber'! I know
that kind; we had it in plenty at Deeside, but a 'grabber,' and a
'grabber' of the worst type. He thinks of nothing else but getting
money out of you for his poor people. Well, I daresay they are
poor, but then so am I, and as I can't tell him sofor you know you
forbade me yourselfall I can do is to flee. Yet they laugh me to
scorn when I say I flee, and he pursues.
She paused for breath, and moved a little more in front of Sue.
Humph! said the general, twirling his moustache. He was arrested,
but by no means appeased. She set to work again.
I know you would not wish me to be mulcted, father, and it is
so difficult to say 'no' when a good sort like Mr. Custance
You didn't call him that just now, burst forth the general.
Oh, I always call him 'Euty' to myself, said Leo, serenely. Girls
do, you know. We always give people nicknames,and though he is a
parson, there's no harm in it, is there? Sue thinks it dreadful, and
that there ought to be a sort of halo round the clerical head; and
that's why I was teasing her just now
You used most ridiculous, I may say most offensive terms; he
bristled up again.
Just to have a little rise out of Sue. For Sue was so very positive
that the saintly Euty never chased me on the road, supposing me to be
rich and generous and likely to give him oceans of money for his poor
people, that I had to go at her back. But you know it's true,
don't you, father?
True enough. He rose to the fly at once. Why, aye, if this is the
case, it certainlyhum, hacertainly it alters the case. You are a
tolerably sharp little piece of goods, Leo, and have discovered what
your numskulls of sisters never could. That man would have us all in
the workhouse, if he had his way. Directly he crosses this threshold
out comes a subscription list, or note-book, or something. It's sheer
robbery, that's what it is. Often and often I have to skulk down a back
lane, or go into a door I never meant to enter, because I see him
coming. I know if once he buttonholes me, I'm done for.
And as I simply can't be 'done for' in that way, I flee for my
life. Now do say a good word for me, father,and, to the general's
unspeakable amazement, the next moment a little friendly figure was
nestling against him, holding on to his coat, and looking up into his
The sensation this gave General Boldero was more than novel, it was
extraordinary. He was a tolerably old man, he had been twice married,
and had always lived surrounded by the gentler sex, but it is safe to
say he had never been nestled against in his life. He looked down, he
looked up, and then he looked down again.
Deuced pretty little rogue! he muttered.
They think Mr. Custance doesn't know one of us from another, and
that it is the most presumptuous cheek on my part to imagine he has
ever given me a thought, proceeded Leonore, still intent upon her
task; they think he is far, far above all sublunary affairs
Rubbish. He is no more above them than I am. I don't say Custance
isn't well enough, and I have aa sort of regard for him. But you have
the sense to see what your sisters have not
That one simply can't be mulcted at every turn. She had heard
mulcted on his own lips on more than one occasion; it should serve as
a weapon to shield Sue now. Sue, still mute and motionless, cringed
behind, but Leo had an intuition that she breathed relief.
That's it; that's it exactly, cried the general, delighted, and
again he appended a mental comment: Deuced clever little rat! Well,
I'm glad to find there is some explanation of what really sounded a
most outrageous statement; he turned to depart, now in excellent
humour. I must say, however, that you would do well to see that the
dining-room door is shut when next you are amusing yourself with that
kind of tomfoolery. Any of the servants coming along had only to step
inside and listen behind the screen, and there would have been a fine
tittle-tattle among themaye, and it wouldn't have stopped there. It
would have been all through the village that Miss Boldero
Oh, dear, how funny! laughed Leo. She had felt Sue's fingers
clutch her dress behind. She stepped with her father's step, as he
moved to pass, and made a face at him.
Therethereyou absurd monkey! but the monkey was pushed aside
with a gentle hand, and marching off with all the honours of the field
in his own esteem, the general never once looked at Sue.
CHAPTER VII. I HAVE LOST SOMETHING
THAT I NEVER HAD.
Throughout the foregoing scene Leonore had evinced a quickness of
perception and a delicacy beyond what might have been expected from one
so young and volatile,but directly she was alone a revulsion of
feeling took place.
Sue had tottered from the dining-room without so much as a glance
towards herself. That was nothing. She understood, and did not in the
least resent itsince any recognition of her protecting agency would
have openly acknowledged what the hapless spinster might still hope was
only vaguely guessed at; but it was the thing itself, the incredible,
incomprehensible thing which staggered, and, it must be owned, in a
sense revolted her.
She flew out of doors. There only, out of sight and hearing, could
her bewildered senses realise what had passed, and grasp its full
significance. There only dared she give way to the spasms of passionate
amazement and incredulity which found vent in reiterated ejaculations
of Sue's name.
Sue? Sue? SUE? She found herself crying it over and over
again, and each time with a fresh intonation.
Sue? It was impossibleit was unnaturalit was horrible. Sue? She
stamped her foot, and sent a pebble flying down the path.
Suepoor old Suedear old SueOld Sue, whichever way you took
it, how could she, how could she?
In Leo's eyes, Sue, verging on middle age, had never been young;
earliest reminiscences pictured her the same composed and tranquil
creature, with the same detachment from life as regarded herself, the
same contented absorption in the concerns of others, that was present
now to the eyes of all.
No one ever thought of Sue in connection with love or matrimony; not
even in years gone by; not even when Leo was a child.
True, she had her own niche in the family and household, and it was
by no means an unimportant onebut it was high upon a shelf as
regarded affairs of the heart.
Her dress, her habits, her punctilio in small mattersall that she
did or said marked her the typical old maid, and had done so for years
out of mindso that the present revelation was worse than shocking, it
For the best part of an hour the storm raged. She found herself
repeating her father's words preposterous!outrageous!and
endorsing them with throbs of scorn and anger. The sister she loved,
the woman she venerated was lowered in her eyes. She was pained, as
well as shocked....
But presently there ensued a change. After all, what had poor Sue
done? Certainly she had at no time given the faintest outward
indication of her folly, till powerless to help herself; she had
endured what must have been a painful ordeal beforehand with fortitude,
and there must have been many similar occasions when calmness and
self-restraint were needed, and had never failed.
Was it not rather wonderful of Sue? The weakness was there, but she
had had strength to hide it. Maud and Sybil knew nothing of it; no one
knew; least of all the man himself.
And apparently Sue was content to have it so,here was another
marvel; she loved and asked for nothing in return. She could go quietly
on week after week, month after month, hugging her secret,yet its
power was such that Leo herself trembled to recall the hour that so
nearly laid it bare. It was terrible to see Sue blanch and blench; to
watch the fluttering of her lace jabot as her bosom heaved beneath. She
trembled as she had never trembled at any emotions of her own.
She perceived that love was a strange, unknown force of which she,
happily wooed, happily wedded, and sorrowfully widowed, nevertheless
knew nothing. She had loved her husbandindeed she had loved him; he
had been uniformly kind and pleasant and indulgent towards her, and she
had honestly reciprocated his attachment,but sometimes, sometimes she
had wondered? She had heard, she had read ofmore: she had never felt
And vague fancies had been put aside as disloyal; reasoned away as
disturbing elements of a very real if sober felicity. She was married;
and it was wrong and wicked to imagine how things might have been if
she had never seen Godfrey, and was going about free and unfettered
like other girls?
She did not, of course she did not, wish to be free, and was ashamed
to find the thought obtruding itself; but there had been momentsand
these recurred to her now.
How strange it must be to feel asas Sue did, for instance? To
start at the sound of a footstep, to thrill at a voice; to be wrapt in
a golden hazeoh, she knew all that could be told about that curious,
fantastic, elusive mystery, which was yet a sealed book as regarded
And was it not a little hard that it should be so? Had something
been missed out of her nature? Was she really formed without warmth,
ardour, sensibility? A smile played upon her lips.
Was she then not inviting? Was there nothing desirable, attractive,
alluringnothing to create in another the feeling which might have
awakened her own slumbering soul?
It might be so, and yet
Again her thoughts reverted to Sue; to the staid, gaunt elderly
Sue,and with a new and sharp sensation. Sue had not waited to be
sought; Sue could give without asking to receiveshe envied Sue from
the bottom of her soul.
To her own small public Leo, before her widowhood, had always
appeared the gayest of the gay. It was her rôle to be jocund and
amusing, and no one took her seriously. But there was another side to
her character which she had always been at pains to conceal, partly
because it would have met with but scant sympathy from others, partly
because she was afraid of it herself,and of late she had been more
and more conscious of the existence of this undercurrent of thought and
Even had there been no cause for sadness, she would frequently have
felt sad. The influences of Nature moved her. Certain sights and sounds
oppressed her. From her dreams she often woke in tears.
And now that the first fury as regarded Sue had spent itself, this
causeless dejection of spirit took its place. She was no longer bitter
against Sue; she would have liked to take her sister to her heart and
comfort her. She would have likedoh, how she would have likedto
confide to her, to some one, to any one the dim confused tumult of
half-formed regrets and yearningsOh, I have lost something that I
never had!she cried aloud.
* * * * *
But who so bold and merry as this elfin Leo an hour afterwards?
I have brought Mr. Custance in to tea, father. Oh, father, I want
you; I have heaps of things to ask you about. I'm always forgetting
them, because you are so seldom in at tea. I met Mr. Custance marching
off in another direction, continued Leo, looking round, but I just
marched him up here instead,and she awaited applause.
It was a masterstroke, and so Sybil pronounced it afterwards. No
one but you would have dared, you audacious imp, she shook the
strategist by the shoulder. After that rumpus!
It was rather a shame dragging the poor innocent man into the
rumpus, and Sue was really hurt, quoth Leo, with a guileless air.
There was nothing for it but to make use of her permission, and
not only 'see the rector' but haul him along.
She had told herself that nothing would so effectually do away with
any fear of self-betrayal on Sue's part, as this easy introduction of a
guest never less expected and perhaps never more welcome. She had
waylaid the well-known figure from whom she had formerly fled, and her
end was attained.
But the general was not to be allowed to interfere with it, and he
heard himself forthwith accosted. Father, I wish you'd tell me; I was
out in the woods just now, and a bird was singing
Very wonderful, I'm sure. A bird usually sings in a garret, or a
cellar, of course.
Don't you laugh at me, father; you know about birds, and I don't;
and I really do want you to tell me why one should sing, and the others
not, at this time of year?
Tell you that? I can't. They're made so. But the general
did not speak as gruffly as usual, and emboldened, she proceeded.
Well, but what bird is it that singssings just as if it were
A robin, of course, you ignorant little thing. Given a bit of
sunshine, a robin will sing all the year round.
Oh, said Leo, profoundly attentive, all the year round, will he?
Why, I wonder?
If you come to 'whys' you may 'why' for ever. Why does a swallow
build on a housetop and a lark in a meadow? Why does a stork stand on
Oh, and I saw a heron to-day, cried she vivaciously. Now where
did that heron come from?
From Lord St. Emeraud's heronry. They often fly over here in the
What for, father?
Bless my soul, Leo, how can I tell you what for? What's all this
sudden interest in natural history about? Get a book and read it
up,and he was turning away, but this was just what he was not to do.
Can't you sit down and talk to me a little? quoth Leo,
plaintively; I don't care for those kind of books much. And you could
tell me a lot I want to know; about seabirds, for instance. I never can
understand how some can swim and some can't. And then there are the
birds that go away in the autumn
And there are the other kinds of birds
Of course there are. What's all this hullabaloo about birds for?
He was half disposed to be pugnacious, but even a fighting-cock could
hardly have quarrelled with Leonore in this vein. She was so
unconscious of giving offence, so friendly and sociable, had such a
little smiling way of her own, that even General Boldero was won upon,
and, indeed, had never looked so little disagreeable in his life.
Here was a chatterbox certainly, and he had all the dislike of a
suspicious, stupid man for chatterboxes. He despised themwith an
inkling that they despised him. When he did talk, he wished to lead the
talk,and such was the feeling he inspired in the neighbourhood, that
he was gladly allowed to do so. No one cared to put him into
ill-humour, since he was only tolerable when bland; furthermore, he was
not worth argument and opposition.
Hence it was a new thing to be appealed to for information, and
though not qualified to give it, he was the last to suppose as much.
About the subject in question he knew just what he could not help
knowing, and what Leo herself knew a great deal better,but her object
was attained, and the hullabaloo protested against, chained him to
The tea-table was now spread, and he glanced towards it, but quick
as lightning she struck in.
Do let us bring our tea here, father. Just you and me. The others
can amuse Mr. Custance, he can't need us too.
Eh? said the astonished general. Some one wanted to talk to him,
and to him alone? He hardly knew what to do with so flattering an
But as he was obviously expected to respond to it, he followed to
the tea-table, and for a minute awaited his turn in patience. Then, as
Leo, having helped herself, returned to the sofa and he was still
unattended to, he began to frown.
Pray, Miss Boldero, am I to have no tea? Take care, what you are
about. For, strange to say, he had been unperceived, and Sue, flurried
by the sudden demand, and in haste to meet it, contrived to catch the
handle of the cream jug in her wide lace sleeve, with the result that
her father's caution came too late; the jug overturned, and cream
Had it been milk it would have spread faster and farther, but even
as it was, there was a mess displeasing to the eye, and the offender in
her endeavours to remedy it, made matters worse. The wet lace swished
hither and thither.
Ugh! cried the general, retreating with a glance at his trousers.
Ring the bellno, hereand he produced a clean pocket-handkerchief,
and unfolded it.
Well done, father! piped a clear voice at his side, and a small
hand whipped the handkerchief from him, and deftly used it.
It's you, is it? quoth the general, actually laughing.
Do what he would, he could not escape from Leo that day. Here she
was back at his elbow, and he was not even allowed to hector Sue for
her awkwardness and abuse her sleeves, he was withdrawn so swiftly from
the scene of action.
We'll have this little table between us, quoth Leo, planting it
handy for him, and we'll enjoy ourselves, and they can talk to their
rector,with gleeful assumption of having secured a superior
He is just their sort, but he isn't mine,and she peeped slily
from under her eyelashes.
You mischievous puss! But as she patted the sofa, and he finally
sat down, General Boldero felt in a curious way young, and attracted
against his will.
Could it really be his own daughter who was thus exerting herself
for his entertainment, and his alone? Hitherto, he had never given Leo
a thought in the way of desiring her company, and certainly would not
have done so now, if let alone,but since he was not let alone, but
was plied with a perfect cross-fire of questions, comments, and what
not, while all the time the speaker gave him the whole of her
attention, and the full play of her saucy eyes, he was bound to own
He was so well amused that he never once glanced towards the rest of
the party, nor would Leo do so, lest he should follow suit.
She was, however, nimble-witted, and could contrive for her own
purposes. She could stoop to pick up a fallen glove: she could search
the carpet for something else which was not there. By these means she
learnt that there was no longer a quartet assembled in a central part
of the room; that Maud and Sybil had resumed occupations in distant
corners, leaving the visitor to Sue; and that Sueshe longed to look
at Sue, but refrained.
Sue sat on in her large armchair, with her back to the light. Her
companion's hand rested on the back of the chair.
Seen from Leo's standpoint, the bent shoulders and thin neck were
aggressively apparent against the lightfor a pale winter sunset lit
up the sky without, and the two figures were silhouetted sharplybut
Sue? what did Sue see?
Apparently what satisfied her, what transformed the world around
For Leo, rising at last, as all rose, and drawing near with a
curiosity which had also in it a great and passionate envy, beheld upon
her sister's face the look which she sought, the look which she was
never to forget. Again her heart cried out, and would not be silenced:
I have lost something that I never had!
CHAPTER VIII. A CAT AND MOUSE GAME.
We will now pass over a period of deadly dulness and unvarying
monotony at Boldero Abbey.
Such periods were normal there to all but Leonore. Her sisters
frittered away the hours in small pursuits which led to nothing, (if we
except a certain kindly care of the poor on the estate, whose interests
Sue at least found of importance)otherwise they existed, and that is
all that could be said for them.
But Leonore? Well, of course she had no alternative but to tread the
path prescribed for her; and the bright spring days were followed by
the longer ones of summer, and again by the crisp, dewy mornings and
melting twilights of early autumn, without any incident or event taking
place to mark one week from another.
Such a life was foreign to all the instincts of our little girl's
nature. She was quick, alert, impetuous. She was keenly alive in every
fibre of her being. She effervesced with vitality. Added to which there
was a strange sense of growth pulsing through every vein.
And of this all outward token had to be repressed beneath the iron
hand of convention. To the outward eye there was only a forlorn little
black figure stealing meekly out of view, to seek, it might be
supposed, the shades of solitude for pensive, retrospective meditation,
or discharging with docility such offices of charity as were presumed
to be proper and becoming to her widowhood,but for the rest, no one
really knew or cared what Leo did with herself.
She was much alonethey supposed she liked to be alone. On that one
day to which she grew to look back upon as the daythe day on
which Sue's heart stood revealedit had indeed for a moment appeared
as if the bonds which held her in their grip must break, and give birth
to a new erabut the episode ended disappointingly. It was not an
upheaval, it was a mere crack on the surfaceand the crack gradually
I told you that father would not always be so amenable, said Sybil
one day, not perhaps altogether ill-pleased to see her sister's face
fall, and her cheek flush beneath a chilling response. It is no use
taking it to heart, child. You do better with him than any of the rest
of us do, and that ought to content you.
And again it was: Sue? What should I know about Sue? She goes her
own way, and we go ours,the tone conveying, and you must go yours,
as plainly as though the words had been spoken.
But Leo had no way to go. She had no object on which to bend her
eyes. She had no end in view when she rose in the morning, no food for
reflection at night. She drifted. Her poor little face took a wan,
comfortless look,and to herself she would wonder how, when she first
returned to the home of her childhood, she could have felt so
different, so foolishly hopeful and cheerful? All sorts of
possibilities had seemed to lie before her then, how could they? She
often sat for hours in the woods staring vacantly around, and thinking,
Had there been any human being in the big, dreary house to whom she
could have poured out all the workings of a young, imprisoned soul
beating against its bars, any one at this crisis to feel for and
sympathise with the hapless child, any kind arm thrown around her, or
hand in hers, things might have been different,but as it was, alone
she had to battle with all the subtle imaginings, the dim, confused
perceptions, the fancies, the visions which haunted her.
Incredible as it may appear, she looked back upon her married life
much as an emancipated schoolgirl regards the busy, merry past,
all-sufficing at the time, but outgrown and left behind.
Leo never doubted that she had been happy,but the thought that
were it possible for her one day to wake up and find that all she had
gone through of late was but a bad dream, brought no sense of longing,
no passionate thrill of desire. Instead, she shrankyes, she shrank
and hung her head, wondering if any one else so placed ever felt the
same? How was it?why was it?
And anon she knew. It was the look on Sue's face.
In lighter vein, Leonore took to beautifying her person. As Mrs.
Stubbs she had contented herself and annoyed her maid, a conscientious
creature, by fulfilling its bare requirements. She had hurried through
dressing-time, and been impatient of details. Anne's slow method of
handling her hair was a constant worry; and now that Anne no longer
existed for her, it must be owned that there was, or, to be correct,
there had been up to the present, a curly pow presented to the
family on many occasions, which was hardly consistent with the dignity
General Boldero sought to preserve.
But it chanced one day that a girl came to the house whose hair, of
colour and texture similar to Leonore's own, was beautifully arranged
and generally admired. It literally shone in the sun.
And as luck would have it, our heroine was caught at her worst that
same afternoon; and conscious of frowsy locks tumbling about her ears,
her vanity was mortified. She appeared at dinner with a fairly correct
imitation of the visitor's coiffure, and every single member of the
family had something to say about it: Sue's gentle, You have such
pretty hair, dear Leo, being the finishing touch.
Thenceforth the pretty hair was brushed and brushed; and finding it
still continued somewhat dry, Leo made almost her first purchase in the
neighbouring town. She procured a washonly a simple, vegetable
concoction, but it answered the purposeand there were great results.
Next, a manicure box which was among her possessions, but had lain
about unused after it ceased to be a novelty, was brought into play. To
confess the truth, Leo's hands were not her strong point, but hands and
fingers can look better or worse according to the care bestowed on
them, and there was now at least nothing to be ashamed of when she put
on her rings. She began to wear her rings regularly.
And searching about for something else to do, she unearthed some
weird implements, the sight of which made her laugh. With what zest she
had once thrown herself into the new game of physical culture which all
her friends were playing, and what fun she had thought itfor a time!
Her supple joints had enabled her to accomplish feats beyond the reach
of most, and she had attended drilling-classes and fencing-classes, and
gained glory at both. She now fixed up a hook or two in her room, and
found she could still do this and that, though she had lost the knack
of the more difficult. To regain these, ropes and pulleys were worked
vigorously,and being once started, invention was called to aid, and
there were all sorts of varied performances. Finally she volunteered to
become a teacher; but though Maud and Sybil condescended so far as to
look on, and even make a few half-hearted efforts, they were soon
discouraged. They were not clumsy, but they were stiff; their bones
were set; beside them Leo seemed to be made of elastic.
These trifles were, as we have said, the solace of our little girl's
happier moodsat least they did something towards whiling away the
uneventful days,but perhaps they might almost have been better left
undone, since the more healthful and beautiful she became, the more the
leaven of rebellious discontent worked within.
It seemed a shame that she should be so strong and well and winsome,
and there be nothing and no one to win. It was an injustice, a waste.
And was it to go on for ever? Was she to go on through a long, long
lifelife stretches very far ahead at twenty-onecrawling on her
hands and knees, when she could have stepped out so boldly, head in
That was the question which chiefly presented itself to Leonore's
mind, as the first long year of her widowhood drew towards its close.
She had never once stirred from Boldero Abbey,for it was by no means
a part of the general's programme to send her where she might meet with
either friends or strangers to whom the true state of the case might
leak outand he sharply negatived a suggestion on Sue's part.
Nonsense. Leo was never better in her life. You have only to look
at her. And it would not be decent for her to be going about as the
rest of you do.
Money had been wrung from him for annual trips to London and the
sea, but he had never grudged it more than now, and he had not himself
moved a foot.
I am certainly not going to pay for what I disapprove; he set his
lips grimly. And I not only disapprove, but I forbid Leo to go
prancing out into the world.
Wherefore Leo saw her sisters come and go, and remained stationary.
But she could not be what she was, and not throw out a hint of what was
for ever in her mind when at long last the year was over. It was only a
little anxious word, and no one guessed how often it had hung upon the
speaker's lips before it was out, nor how she wished it back directly
it was out. For it was met by a silence that stilled the very
beating of her heart.
Then, I do not quite understand, said Sue, gently as ever, what
is that you wish, Leo? But Leo, who had hoped to be met half-way,
perceived the coldness underneath.
I only wanted to know how long this was to go on, Sue. I meanI
mean, how long I am toto be unlike other people, andand the
rest faded away.
Half an hour afterwards the young widow went out by herself very
quietly, and using a side entrance. She did not wish to meet anybody.
All along she had suspected the worst, but now that the bolt had
actually fallen, she felt numb; there was a kind of weakness in her
limbs; she trembled as she stole along the walk. For things had been
made very plain, and the vague shadows of the future had taken form and
shape. The future? There was to be no future for her. She ought not to
be thinking about a futurethe present and the past only were hers.
And though of course her outward appearance could be suitably altered,
and there might be, as time passed, some relaxations and abrogations of
rigid etiquette, no actual, positive change in her lot was to be looked
As a matter of fact, General Boldero had impressed thus much upon
Sue, having perceived on this occasion more than she did. He saw that
Leo was restive, he also saw that she was developing. He was not going
to have her throw herself away a second time, but he was content to
wait, and he was vaguely afraid that she would not be so. Wherefore she
must be kept under lock and key.
The situation is now perhaps plain before our readers.
Hollo? said a voice on one side of a woodland stile.
Hollo? responded another opposite. It's you? continued Leo,
stepping across, and giving Valentine Purcell her hand. So you've come
back, Val? What ages you have been away! I have missed you dreadfully.
Not you. I don't believe it. Val beamed all over. I say, have you
though? You look uncommonly fit; and he eyed her with a certain
dubious admiration. If she were laughing at him, he was not going to be
taken in, as he had been on several previous occasions.
To be sure I'm fit, why shouldn't I be fit? I lead, oh, such a
healthy life, retorted she, with mocking emphasis. I eat, and I
sleep, and I'm out all day. I do nothing but health from morning to
Did you really miss me, Leo?
Humph! said Leo, beginning to walk on.
Did you know I had come back? pursued he. Did you think I should
be here about this time? Did you
Think you'd bother me with a lot of silly questions? Leo whose
first greeting had been simple and natural, assumed a pettish,
artificial air. Can't you think of anything more amusing to say than,
'Did you, did you, did you?'
And then to laugh idiotically!
I don't believe you missed me a bit, Leo.
Neither do I, now I come to think of it. I forget when you went.
Two months ago to-day. Don't you remember? Don't you
And now it will be, 'Don't youdon't youdon't you?' Why should I
remember? What is it to me that I should remember?
Anyhow you said you had missed me.
She had said it, and he had heard it, and stuck to the point like a
leech. It mattered not that he had come very near to quarrelling with
Leo before going off on his annual round of shooting visits; that she
had been capricious and disdainful, and had once gone so far as to tell
him that he bored her(which no one had ever openly told Val
before)he had forgotten all that; and though during his absence he
had also forgotten a good deal besides, and found other girls pretty
and attractive, no sooner was he back at home than the needle of his
mental compass flew round to its old point. He must needs hurry over to
the Abbey, and take the field-path in which he had so often walked and
talked with Leonore.
He had never made love to her; his grandmother had told him not.
Delighted as the old lady was with the turn events were taking, she had
the wit to see that undue haste might ruin all, and enjoined caution
with fervour. Be friends, but no moreat present, Val.
Furthermore, it was at Mrs. Purcell's instigation that the shooting
visits were prolonged beyond their usual limits on the present
She got painters into the house, and made them an excuse for bidding
Valentine keep away if he could;and her manner of placing the
position before him piqued his vanity, as she knew it would. If you
have no more invitations, return, and I will make a shift to house you
somewhere, she wrote;but of course a popular young man is never
short of invitations; and the autumn so wearily dragged through by
Leonore, was full of gaiety and variety for her friend.
He had a great time, a glorious time,and was longing to tell the
tale of it to sympathetic ears, when he set forth from his own doorstep
on the present mild October afternoon; he heard himself dilating and
explaining, introducing names which would lead to inquiries, carelessly
referring to charming girlsoh, he foresaw a delightful hour, whether
it were in the Abbey drawing-room, or better still with his favourite
auditor in a woodland solitudeand now?
Now somehow, he did not care to begin. Was Leo in one of her moods?
If so it was no use thinking of anything else; he knew by experience
what those moods were. Could he bring her round? Sometimes he could,
Was she really pleased to see him back, or? He could not endure
In short, the whole magnificent house of cards wherewith our young
man had so pleased himself an hour before, showed now a flimsy shanty
not worth a moment's preservation; and stripped of all importance,
reduced to insignificance, afraid of his own voice, he slunk along by
Why don't you speak?she flung at him at last.
Youyou are so strange! He faltered, then tried to rally. What's
the matter, Leo? Something is, I'm sure. You might tell me. You know
I'm always sorry when you are, and
What makes you think I am? But she spoke more gently, and
emboldened, he proceeded:
You did look pleased at first, but directly I spoke, you seemed to
fly off at a tangent. I suppose I said something rotten, I often
dobut you might have known I didn't mean it.
It was not what you said. She paused.
What was it then?
You lookevery one looksso happy and contentso bursting with
prosperity, so supremely filled withoh, can't you see, can't you see,
that I'm alone and miserable, and different? When you pretended to
admire me just now
Pretended? I didn't pretend! indignantly.
You said I looked 'uncommonly fit'.
So you did,so you do.
And who cares? What's the good of it? If it signified a jot to any
single human being how I looked
Leo! you know I care!
She had done it, she had provoked it. If she had taken a chisel in
her hand and dug out the admission by bodily force, she could not have
been more directly responsible than she now wasand yet she stopped
It was but for a moment however. You? she cried, you could hardly
say less than that, considering it was such a direct fish for a
compliment,no,no, Val; do be quiet and let me speak,what I mean
is that really, really, you know, I am most awfully down in my
luck, and I don't see the slightest prospect of anything better. I had
hoped that somehow a way would open
It would, if you would marry me.
Marry you? Nonsense!
Good gracious, Leo! Nonsense?
Of course. Can't you see I'm in earnest, and talk rationally for
Hang it all, am I not talking rationally, as rationally as ever I
did in my life?
That's not saying much. You needn't be affronted, it's an honour
for you to have me talk to you like this.
Is it though? I don't see itI think you are beastly unfair. I do
think that. And he pulled out his handkerchief and blew his nose by
way of protest. Just now you were whimpering because you had no one to
care for you,and I believe you said it just to get me to say I
did. SuddenlyIt was a shabby trick, Leo; and then to shut me up
like that, when I only meant to do my best for you!
Be quiet, be quiet. Despite a twinge of conscience, Leo held her
own stoutly. No one but you would ever have thought of such a thing.
That's all you know about it. My grandmother did. There!
You spoke to her, I suppose?
Not I. She put me up to it. Honour bright, she did. I
daresay I should have thought of it for myself, continued Val,
quickly, but I hadn't, till she did. She was always praising you, and
saying how pretty you were, and what a bad business your marriage was.
I meanI mean
Don't get flustered, Val. You know we have agreed always to be
straight with each other. I can quite understand Mrs. Purcell's not
approving my marriage.
But she was awfully sorry for you, you know when; he nodded
significantly; and she told me to make friends and try and cheer you
up, and then
A fellow couldn't help seeing what she was thinking of. She had it
in her mind all the time. You trust me. I'm just about as cute as you
make 'em when it comes to my gran. I know what she's driving at. All
about your being so sweet, and that. She never used to call you sweet;
now, did she? And I remember how she used to be down on you for being
so untidy and having your hair all about your ears; and she called it
red thenbut it's auburn now. He chuckled self-appreciatively, and
she laughed outright; but this sobered him.
Don't you go and laugh at me, Leo.
I'm not laughing at younow. Go on; tell me more; what else did
your gran say?
She saidbut you won't let it out?
She said it would be an awfully good thing for me if I could hitch
up withno, she didn't say that. At least, he reflected, I don't
think it was about you she said that.
There's some one else, then?
Oh, bless you, yes. There are heaps of girls,but I don't
care for any of them, said Val, loftily. Some of those I met at
houses when I was away were awfully nice, though; they were, really.
I daresay. What do you want with me, then?
Why, I've always been fond of you, Leo. You know I have. And I
don't think you should call it 'nonsense'. Suddenly he reverted to his
grievance: It makes a fool of a fellow toto treat a proposal in that
sort of way.
It wasn't a real proposal, Val. You just said it for something to
I didn't. What an idea! I told gran this morningshe was asking
who I'd met and all thatand I just told her straight, that none of
them could hold a candle to you. He paused and continued: Though
there were some dashers among them too; and I daresay some men would
have said Nelly Brackenbury was better looking
So Nelly Brackenbury was the one?
Rather. Simply splendid. She would have made two of you, Leo.
Maud's style, perhaps?
Aye, Maud's style; that's what I said. I told them I knew a girl
who could give her points, at my own place.
But to Maud you would say you had met a girl who could give her
Say that to Maud? No, thank you; I'm never rude to Maud.
Only to me?
Well, of course. You told me to be; and if it comes to that, you
were dashed rude to me yourself just now. And I was doing my level best
for you; I was feeling most awfully sorry for you; I never supposed you
were only trying it on with me. He paused and swung his stick. It was
all gammon then, about your being lonely and that? He stood still and
looked at her.
Leo was silent.
It wasn't very nice of you to take me in, and lead me on, if you
meant all the time to round on me in the end, said Val, in a voice
that made her still more uncomfortable. I didn't think you were that
An inaudible murmur, Leo's head turned the other way.
You can't say you didn't, persisted Val. You were almost crying;
and so then I thought, 'Hang it all, I may as well now as any time,'
meaning toto be kind and cheer you up.
She could not help it; after one violent effort, Leo fell upon the
bank, and rocked to and fro with merriment:Oh, Val!oh, Val!
But presently she put out her hand, and caught and held his; and she
sat up and looked into his face with such brimming, dancing, and withal
affectionate eyes, that albeit somewhat puzzled and astonished, he
smiled back. I suppose it was rather funny, but I supposed that was
the way to do.
But you see I wasn't prepared, Val!
Well, I tell you I hadn't thought of it myself.
Wait a minute, till I can speak, Leo wiped her eyes, and patted
the moss beside her. Sit downit's dry on this stoneand we'll have
it out. You think it was all a sham, a mere bid for pity, what I said
just now? It wasn't. But, Val, I can't exactly tell you what it was. It
just had to come out, it had been kept in so long. I'm better now. You
have cheered me up, only again laughter stirred withinonly
you might have done it cheaper. You needn't have
Gone such a mucker over it? suggested he.
Yes, that was what she meant. His sympathy, his indulgent
understanding of her troubles, above all, his renewal of
good-fellowship was enough; she did not require his heart and hand, and
with tact insinuated that he might retain them.
You know you don't want to marry, Val.
I've got to, though, said he.
Why have you got to? Can't you go on as you are?
Gran says not. When she dies
I see, you would be alone. But then, she may live long enough.
That's what I say. There's no hurry. I've often said that, but gran
gets nervous, and she always does like to boss, you know.
It's a good thing it was me you spoke to, said Leo, jumping up,
after a time. You might have got caught, whereas now no one need ever
know. Come alongand she stepped forward.
I'm not to tell gran, then? Already he was under a new thumb.
Certainly not, promptly. Old people are old, and we are
youngand if we don't want to marry, they shan't make us. Just wait a
moment,and with a sudden change of tone Leo sprang aside, as though
the subject were disposed of and another in its place.
A barberry tree laden with berries had come to view, and while he
stood still upon the path, she began snapping off the bending branches.
On her return, however, he was regarding her shyly with something of a
I never said I did not want to marry you, Leo.
Leo's lips twitched. There's no need to say things, Val. You
You bustle a fellow so, he doesn't know what he's about. I think
you might give a fellow a chance.
That's just what I'm doing. Giving you a chance to know your own
mindnot your grandmother's.
I like you awfully, you know.
So do I like you. That's where we stand. We are not going to bother
about marrying. Why, Valtake care, don't push me into that puddle.
What ever should you and I do if we were solemnly tied up to each
other, and had no one to meet, and talk with, and quarrel with? As it
is, you are my only relief from the deadly life I lead at home. And if
it comes out that we have been talking like this, there will be an end
of it allyes, there will,so you are warned, and it would be very
cruel of you
It would be cruel to take from me my only comfort.
I wouldn't be cruel to you for the world, Leo.
It was all pleasant enough; it was even exciting in its way; and
Leo, at her wits' end for any variety, thirsting for emotions,
sensations, pleasure, pain, comedy, tragedyfound the passing hour all
This was not the real thing, but it was something. There were
moments when even as a lover Val was not absurd, and one beautiful
moment in particular when he made her ashamed. He accused her of
leading him on, and her conscience echoed the reproach.
But all too soon he was pacified; betraying how ephemeral was the
mortification, and how easily healed the woundand thereafter she
played with him at will.
Cat and mouse play, perhaps, and the mouse had no chance from the
first, butLeo did not sigh when once more alone, and her wild spirits
all that evening rather displeased everybody.
CHAPTER IX. I'D LIKE TO HAVE THINGS
ON A SOUNDER BASIS.
In coquetry as in other matters, the old saying about the natural
and the acquired taste holds good. Leonore, having once tasted blood,
was not to be kept from it; exasperation and despair were thrown to the
winds in the triumph of her first victory, and the ease with which she
had brought Valentine Purcell to book turned her head. Its consequence
That's the jolliest little widow I have seen for ages, pronounced
Mr. George Augustus Butts, after seeing the Boldero ladies to their
carriage at the close of a prolonged call at his uncle's house. It's
all right, Aunt Laura. If she's on, I am. Mrs. Stubbs may become Mrs.
Buttswhy the very names seem to melt into each other, hahaha!
Really, George! But George's aunt, who was very little older than
himself, laughed sympathetically. It was she who had summoned him to
the spot; she who had instructed him in the why and wherefore of the
visit; and had the two been alone, she would not even have exclaimed,
But Lady Butts had a daughter, and Gwendoline was listening with the
curious ears of thirteen.
Gwenny will think you mean that, continued her ladyship, with a
warning intonation. She takes your little jokes au serieux, you
Jokes? But he perceived his mentor was in earnest, and mentally
confounded Gwenny for a nuisance. What business had that long-legged,
staring, pigtailed brat in her mother's drawing-room?
She had as a fact been brought in to make a third to match the three
visitors; but having fulfilled her end, and escorted Sybil Boldero in
one direction while Leonore was piloted by her cousin in another, round
the gardens(Sue and her hostess meanwhile sitting in state
within)Gwen's mission was over, and the point was to get rid of her.
It is not so easy, however, to get rid of a spoilt child. Gwen
admired George Butts very much indeed. She hung about him whenever he
came to the house, believed in him whenever he spoke, and had secret
ideas of marrying him as soon as she should be grown up. She was now
bursting with jealousy and curiosity, and meant to hold her ground by
hook or by crook.
Hadn't you ever met Leonore before, Cousin George?
The elders exchanged glances.
No, said Cousin George, bluntly. (Damn it all, was he to be
You seemed to like her. How you and she did talk! And you got away
from us altogether, proceeded Gwenny, stabbing her own wound as a
greenhorn will. I suppose you think her very pretty?
If I do, do you think I should tell you, Tailywags? He tossed the
thick plait of her hair up and down in returning good-humour. After
all, he might as well hear if she had anything amusing to say.
I believe it is only because she wears black, continued Gwenny,
watching to see how this was taken. Black, with a little white stuff
about the throat, is so becoming, and Leo doesn't look a bit
like a widow now.
So you noticed that, you observant imp? I say, Aunt Laura, when did
this young person of yours become such a prodigy? Perhaps she will tell
me what thethe lady under discussion does look like, eh?lighting a
cigarette,for free and easy manners prevailed in the Butt mansion,
and every one did as they chose there.
Just like any other girl, responded Gwen, readily. Andand I
don't think she ought, either.
Oh, just like any other girl. And, pray, why don't you think she
Because she's not; she's a married woman. She was married ever so
long ago, when I was little.
Of course you're awfully big now. And so Mrs. StubbsHeavens, what
a name!even though she has lost her husband, is to go on for ever
being 'a married woman' in your eyes, is she?
But here Gwen's mother interposed, having had enough, and burning
for more confidential intercourse.
Of course Gwenny is right, George. Butbut you don't quite
understand, darling, to her. And Cousin George is only teasing.
Suppose you run away to Miss Whitmore now, and see what she has been
about all this time? She will wonder what has become of you.
Oh, she won't, she's writing letters. She always writes letters
when you send for me, and she had
Tell her, love, that the post goes out at
She knows when the post goes out. She knows better than any one
else in the house, for she has told me lots of times.
Go, now, Gwenny. Go, my dear, when I tell you.
You'll have a handful to deal with when that young lady comes out,
observed George, bringing his eyes back from the door as it slowly
closed upon the reluctant figure. Gwen's too clever by half for you,
Aunt Laura; and, I say, we must both keep our eyes skinned if we are to
carry through this affair. She's half suspicious as it is.
It was your own fault, George. How could you be so foolish as to
blurt out what you did before her?
Good Lord, I never gave her a thought. However, I'll be more
careful in future. Well, now, now she's gone, what do you say? How did
it go off? How did I do? Do you thinkeh?
I did not exaggerate, did I, George?
Exaggerate? You did not come up to the mark. She's a ripper. And I
suppose the tin's all right? There's no mistake about that?
Becausewell, I needn't tell you how things are with me.
I knowof course. And of course I'd never have asked you to come
and meet Leonore Stubbs unless I knew she had been left well off.
'Well off,' only? I thought you said
Very well off, then. All the neighbourhood rang with the Bolderos'
big marriage, and it was big in no other sense. The poor little thing
was barely grown up and had been nowhere and seen nobody,and when the
husband died she was received back at the Abbey with open arms.
It's a wonder she hasn't been snapped up before.
The Bolderos have taken care of that. They have immured her like a
nun. This is positively the first call she has made here.
She's awfully pretty. He sighed contentedly.
And she seemed to get on with you?
Famously. Flirty little thing.
Of course there will be others after her, George. You must lose no
I haven't time to lose, my good aunt. Poor devils in Stock Exchange
offices can't call their souls their own. I must get back next week.
Luckily I only had a week in August, or I should not have been here
You poor, ill-used individual! Do you mean that you must actually
and positively return to your slavery at the risk of losing what would
emancipate you from it forever? It can't be, George. It simply must not
be. Your uncle must make up some excuse
My uncle Thomas is a great man on his native heath, no doubt, Aunt
Laurabut he hardly carries the same weight on the Stock Exchange. No,
I must go when the day comes. When Duty calls Love must obey. And it's
no use casting away the substance for the shadow. Andand I could
think of a dozen other wise sayings à propos, but it all comes
to this, I've got eight days clearI'm wound up now like an eight-day
clockand can make my running steadily till these are out. Then,
You could come down again?
If it were worth it, yes.
He smoked thoughtfully and proceeded. It does seem a chance, and
I'm awfully grateful to you and all that for providing it. But
supposing the widow is not to be caught, and who's to tell? She knows
her own value, you betI should be up a tree if I had had a row with
the Koellners. I don't want to fall between two stools, you know.
It ended in this, that he was to present himself at Boldero Abbey on
the following day, armed with an excuse; and that, as things developed,
further counsel as to further progression should be taken.
It was left to Sir Thomas to cast a damper over their hopes. He was
not told about them, but he would have been a simpleton indeed if he
had not seen for himselfneither his wife nor nephew being wary
conspirators,and directly he was alone with the former, he spoke out
with conjugal frankness.
You think yourself mighty clever? Look out. You have old Boldero to
But, my dear, Leonore is quite independent of her father.
A child like that is never independent. The more money she has, the
sharper he will look after it.
If she chooses to marry again
Now look here, Laura, if Godfrey Stubbs' widow chooses to marry
again, she may marry anybody. Anybody, d'ye take me? Is it
likely she'd take George? Who's George? What's George? An eighth son,
and nothing at that. Not even clever or good-looking.
Oh, he is good-looking.
Hanged if he is. Anyhow he's not a half nor a quarter as
good-looking as Valentine Purcell. And what's more, though he is my
nephew, he is not so much of a gentleman as poor Val is.
Lady Butts, however, stood to her guns.
What girl in her senses would marry that creature?
Creature? Humph! Val isn't over sensible, and he has no
backing,but in his own way he's quite a nice fellow, and has a
wonderful appearance when he's dressed. I don't want to see any one
look better than Val Purcell turned out for a meet.
He's just a big boy, and no one thinks of him as anything else.
One person doesor at any rate, pretends she does. You may take
your oath old granny yonder has an eye on your pretty widow; and the
Purcells are too close to the Bolderos not to have a dozen
opportunities of meeting, for one that you and your precious George
have. I wouldn't mind laying odds upon the rival candidate.
Of this conversation we may be sure no echo ever reached other ears,
and indeed Lady Butts soon forgot its tenor herself, in her exuberation
over George's report of his next step. He returned from the Abbey
treading on air. Even the general had been civilthough it transpired
at the last moment that the young man had been mistaken for his eldest
brotherbut he couldn't go back on me then, chuckled the narrator,
though I'm bound to say he looked a bit blank. He doesn't yet know
there are eight of us, and Heaven forfend his looking us up in
Did you get any invitation?
Rather. To luncheon to-morrow. Beastly things, luncheons,but I
couldn't cadge for anything else. What I did was to say I should be
walking past, and ask if I could do anything for anybody in the town?
My dear George! You don't propose walking all the way to
Of course I don't; but I propose being prevented by the superior
attractions of Boldero Abbey.
Oh, I see. She laughed and considered. There were many things she
wanted to ask, but to ask was to suggest, and suggestions were horribly
For instance, about the Purcells? Sir Thomas had made her uneasy by
his praise of Val Purcell's looks, praise which her own heart
endorsedand George, whose knowledge of the world was extensive, had
all along been slow to believe in his own chances of success. He knew
what it meant in London to be an eighth son. It was only her repeated
assurances of the Boldero's problematic ignorance on this head and her
encouragement on every other, which had brought him up to the scratch
at all. Thus hints which might have spurred on another man, would quite
possibly daunt one alive to his disadvantages and inclined to magnify
them. She reverted to Leonore, and he was willing to talk about Leonore
to any extent.
But on thinking it over afterwards, she could not see that he had in
reality very much to say. The little widow had looked as charming as
before, but she had not been so talkative. He thought she was shy
before her family; once only, when out of their sight for a few
minutes, she had brisked up and chattered as at their first meeting;
and she certainly did look pleased when on saying Good-bye, he had
added, till morrow; but otherwisethe fact was there had been no
opportunity for anything else.
The luncheon party however proved more productive. Let us see how
this came about.
I really can't see what that man is coming for again to-day,
observed Leonore, plaintively, the next morning. People at luncheon
are a bother, I think.
You're not often bothered by them, drily returned Maud; it is
months and months since such a thing happened. If we lived in a more
habitable neighbourhood we should think nothing of it.
Glad we don't then; Leo pouted like a sullen child. It means
changing one's frock, and
There's no need of thatfor you. You are all right.
One black thing is the same as another.
This was what Leo wanted to find out. She had a pretty new coat and
skirt, eminently satisfactory to herself, but about which there had
been some demur when it first arrived. It was devoid of crape, and had
a neat, coquettish air. Sue thought it hardly decent.
But what am I to do? queried her sister. I did so want something
to wear in wet weather. Even when it is only damp and mistyand you
know it nearly always is damp and misty about here in the autumncrape
gets limp and wretched looking. However, I'll send this back if you
Upon which Sue had relentedas Leo knew she would. Of course if
you keep it for walking about in the woods, and do not go where you are
seen, there might be no harm. Or perhaps it might be trimmed
No, no; it could not be trimmed, said Leo, hastily.
Trimmed? Disgusting! The very thought of a plain tailor-made coat which
was so simple and workmanlike, yet so unspeakably chic in its
simplicity, being mauled by a village dress-maker was terrible.
I must either wear it as it is, or not at all, she exclaimed with
decision; but I would not wear it to vex you, dear, and the sharpness
softened; only I can't afford to buy another, murmured Leo,and of
course she was allowed to wear it.
Accordingly just as the door bell rang, down stepped a very smart
little figure indeed, yet wearing a demure, unconscious air that would
have deceived a Solon.
Why, Leo! My dear!
Men never know, said Leo, calmly, and that other old rag wasn't
fit to be seen. It's torn at the back, and I gave it Bessie to mend.
But, dear, you promised,and supposing Lady Butts
She's not there. I looked from my window.
I understood this was to be kept for out-of-doors, murmured Sue,
uneasily, and somehow, Leo, you look altogether,but the door
opened, and no more could be said.
Feeling that she had got off cheap on the whole, Leo did nothing
further to merit reprobation, and beyond placing herself well within
Mr. George Butts' line of vision, took no pains to attract his notice.
But she was aware that he felt her, that more than once a
general observation was designed chiefly if not entirely for her, and
that she had but to open her lips for him to be silent. Girls always
know when this is the case.
And scarcely had the party risen from the table, and the sisters
retired, ere an astonishing thing happened.
We all know there are days of happenings; days charged with vitality
and eventfulness; when nothing surprises and nothing seems out of the
way,it seemed quite a commonplace occurrence on the present occasion,
when a motor car, full to the brim, whirled to the Abbey door.
At another time such a sight would have sent a thrill of excitement
through the whole house; as it was, Sue moved quietly forward to greet
a bevy of ladies, and Leo inwardly blessed her coat and skirt.
We are on tour, and ought to have been here an hour ago, my dear
people, cried a gay voice, belonging to General Boldero's only sister,
who though several years older than he, seemed, and to all intents and
purposes was, at least as much younger. She then presented her friends,
and continued: We took a wrong turning, or should have hit off your
luncheon hour, Sue; but you will still have pity on our famished state,
I'm sure, and the speaker put up her glasses, and inspected the
Only yourselves, I see; and only you girls. Is your father not at
He is still in the dining-room, but
In the dining-room? How lucky! We are not as late as we thought.
Pray, dear Sue, take us there at once. You know I told you I should
drop in unbeknownst some day, proceeded the voluble lady, slipping her
hand within her niece's arm, and gently urging her towards the door,
so you probably were on the look out? No? Oh, but I said I should
In the summer, Aunt Charlotte.
Summer? But it is far pleasanter now. No dust, and the inns not
half so crowded. Well, William, here we are,and the amazed William,
who was peacefully sipping his coffee and smoking his cigar, and
thinking that after all even an eighth son who was nephew of a rich and
powerful neighbour was worth a luncheon and not bad company after it,
found himself startled out of his chair by an invasion as unexpected as
it was inopportune.
But he was somewhat afraid of his sister, of her fashion and
smartnessabove all of her sang froid. There was no saying what
she might say or do.
Moreover he had a sneaking desire to show off before her. He was
really pleased to be found entertaining, if so be he must be found at
all. Altogether, after the first shock, he rose to the occasion
And now there rose on the horizon George Butts' lucky star. He had
vacated his place at table in favour of the newcomers, and was
hesitating as to whether after all he must not affect to pursue the
walk which had been given out as the raison-d'être of his being
where he was, when he caught Leonore's eye. Leonore, little minx, had
all her wits about her. In five minutes the pair were stealing forth
from a side door, and were quickly out of sight of the house.
I put him on his way, she remarked, subsequently; you were all so
taken up with Aunt Charlotte's people that poor Mr. Butts was utterly
neglected, and could not get any one even to say 'Good-bye' to him. So
I killed two birds with one stone. Turned him civilly out of doors, and
kept myself in my objectionable get-up out of the reach of Aunt
Charlotte's scathing tongue. Do you know, I really believe she hardly
saw me. I am sure she did not take me in at all.
She inquired where you had gone, Leo?
Did she? The old catI beg her pardon. But what business was it of
hers where I had gone? Father, continued Leo, reverting to a trick
whose value was tried and true, you looked so dumfoundered, poor
father, and were so completely taken possession of byby an
octopus,she paused to see how this was taken, and at his smile
proceeded,that said I to myself: 'You're not wanted here, neither is
friend George; you are both de trop: be off with you, and it
will clear the field'. That was all right, wasn't it?
HumI suppose so. I never saw you go.
The octopus had you fast. She adores her Williamwhen she does not
forget all about him.
The general grinned appreciatively. She certainly does not favour
us with much of her company; we're not fine enough for her. It was at
your marriage, I believe, she was here last. Sue, turning to her,
wasn't it at Leo's marriage your Aunt Charlotte was here last?
Sue believed sogravely. Leo experienced a qualm, despite herself,
and threw out a little flag of conciliation.
What did you say when she asked about me, Sue?
What could I say? You ought not to have gone, Leonore.
And you might have known that for yourself, appended Maud. You
really ought not to need so much looking after. Walking about alone
with a young man!
I did notwe did notwalk far. I took him through the park to the
A general exclamation.
Do wait, continued Leo, quickly. At the gate we fell in with Mr.
Custance, involuntarily her eye rested on Sue, and Sue was silenced
on the instant,so then I knew we were all right. We headed him off
coming here, for which I knew you would be grateful. He would not have
assimilated with Aunt Charlotte's lot. She paused for assent, and
perceiving the shot told, proceeded with confidence: So we took the
dear rector along with uswe could do nothing else,and when I came
back, they went on together. I thought it was rather masterly, myself.
Why, aye, Custance would have been a fish out of water, allowed
the general, nodding approval; though to be sure the clergyman of the
parish is always a respectable visitor. But what of young Butts? I hope
he did not think it rather cavalier being shipped off in that fashion?
You see I was quite civil to him, father. I saw him looking at his
watch as if in a hurry to be off; so I suggested making his apologies
to you; and we were standing near the door, so it made no disturbance;
and my hat was in the hall, and I was so glad to get out into
the open airthere was no harm in it, was there, Sue?
No wonder the recipient of so much diplomacy went home radiant. He
reallyreally he,dashed if he didn't think he had a chance. If he
could only work it uphe hummed and hawed and considered. At length:
I'll tell you what, Aunt Laura, it's no use shilly-shallying when
there's so little time. If you can bring about one other meeting
I have thought of that, George, and have secured the Merivale girls
for golf-croquet on Thursday.
Bravo! you don't let the grass grow under your feet. Thursday?
That's the last day I have here, but I supposeno, you could not have
done anything sooner.
And I thought you might ride over to-morrow, with my note?
I say! That would look a bit pointed, wouldn't it?
Perhaps. But since Leonore was so nice to you to-day
Oh, she was. Still he hesitated.
What is it, George? a trifle impatiently.
It's so beastly hard to tell. She's a dear little thing, and if she
had been any one else, I should say she waswas and he laughed
Look here, Aunt Laura, I'm not a fool, and it seems almost uncanny,
don't you know?
Your being in such luck?
A girl like that! If she were ugly and poor
There's no accounting for tastes, quoth Lady Butts, gaily. Mr.
StubbsLeonore's first husbandwas nothing in particular.
So you think she might take a 'nothing in particular' for her
second? But remember she's in a different position now. She has only to
lift up her little finger
Apparently she has lifted it, Lady Butts laughed and patted his
arm. Do try and infuse some spirit into your faint heart, George. You
have had the most wonderful encouragement
It's just that which frightens me. II don't like the look
of it. When a prospectus looks too rosy, we shy at it at Koellners.
There's a screw loose somewhere.
But just now you were all up in the air about Leonore?
He was silent.
Could she have done more than she did, George?
Less would have put things upon a sounder basis. He shook his head
A sounder basis? I don't know what you mean, I don't understand
those business phrases, cried his aunt, with very natural vexation;
what in the world has 'a sounder basis' to do with Leonore Stubbs?
I'll tell you; he roused himself, I go about the world a good
deal, and I know girlsa little. I know this, that it isn't usual for
them to make the running so freely on their own account when they
arearein earnest. When they are in search of scalps, it's
Scalps? Oh, I see; I know. But surely Leonore
She went for meyes; but she was as cool as a cucumber. Do you
know, once or twice to-day I felt not exactly nervous, but that
waybut she? Not a bit of her. She was all froth and foam,
You are quite poetic, but you don't explain the 'sounder basis'?
Hang it all, aunt, I can't think that girl means anything.
And yet when you came in just now, you told me she was so
delightful and responsive.
I said 'delightful'I didn't say responsive'. The truth was, it
was I who had to be responsive. She made the advancesif
they could be called advances. And that isn't what I call having things
upon a sound basis.
With which piece of wisdom the two separated, for though Lady Butts
told herself that her protégé was simply suffering from
reaction, and that the reaction would pass, she felt that no more was
to be gained by pursuing the subject at present.
When, however, the Bolderos declined her invitation for Thursday,
and were not at home to the bearer of her note(although George vowed
he saw faces peeping from a window, and placed himself within view for
a good many minutes thereafter)her ladyship understood the meaning of
the business phrase, and owned that it had been correctly applied.
She made no further effort, and the whole trivial episode came to an
endbut it had had its effect upon Leonore.
CHAPTER X. THE THIRD CASE.
Hollo there! Where are you off to?Dr. Craig hailed his young
assistant who was just setting forth from the surgery door; I want
Tommy stood still. He had thought the doctor out for the day, and
had not heard the wheels of the returning gig. Otherwisewell, perhaps
otherwise, he would have been busy within doors, not starting out into
the sunshine of a brilliant June morning.
Where are you off to?repeated his interrogator, and this time an
answer to the question was necessary.
I was going to the Abbey, sir. An observant person might have
noted that the young man would have preferred not to say it, and a very
observant person might also have seen that he shifted the parcel in his
hand, and moved his feet uneasily.
Dr. Craig however either saw nothing or affected to do so. To the
Abbey? Who's ill there? he said, quickly. Anything sudden?
No, sir. Mrs. Stubbs
Mrs. Stubbs? What's wrong with her? I saw her on the road
She called here, but you were out. There's nothing much the matter,
but she wanted a tonic. II forgot to mention it.
And you forgot something else, mister. No tonics go out from here
that I don't prescribe. Here, give me that bottle. What's this? Trash.
If Mrs. Stubbs wants a tonic
She merely mentioned that she was not feeling quite the thing, sir;
and Iit was my suggestion
A damned impudent suggestion. Now look here, young man, there must
be no more of such suggestions, or you and I must part. You taking it
upon yourself to prescribe for my patients! Bless my soul!but the
delinquent was a favourite, and suddenly a humorous twinkle appeared
beneath the frowning eyebrows. You poor devil, what mischief is this?
Hey? You blush like a girl? Come in here, pushing him gently back
through the open doorcome in, and I'll prescribe for you, Mr.
Thomas Andrews. I had an inkling something of this sort was going on,
andand I'm not blaming you, my boy. But it's you that needs
the tonic, not that little widow-witch up yonder. Aye, you may turn red
and white and glower at meI know what I'm talking about. I've seen
what she's after, the artful hussy,and please God, I'll circumvent
Haud your wheesht, Tommy. Ye're but a bairn and an ignorant
fule-bairn at that:the broad Scotch accent lent itself readily to a
wonderful mingling of compassion and contempt; hark to me,what?
You're trembling?for the youth's lanky frame quivered beneath the
weight of his hand. Lord, has it gone as far as that? muttered the
speaker, under his breath.
Then he let go the young man's shoulder, and turned and shut the
door carefully. Sit ye down: sit, I tell ye. You are going to hear the
truth, and you'll have to hear it. What? You think I've no eyes
nor ears nor sense, because you have noneexcept for her?
Tommy, he paused and drew a breath, a long, deep breathTommy, my
man, I've that to say to you to-day I've never said to mortal man, nor
woman before. Will ye listenbut listen ye must, onlyonly I would as
soon ye heard it kindly, for your own sake. Tommy, I know what it's
Tommy started, lifted his eyes, and let them fall again.
Aye, I know;the big, shaggy head nodded slowly, and the words
dropped one by one from the full, protruding lips. The world's a dream
while it lasts.... You walk among shadows, without she's
there.... There's no sleep at night,there's only thinking, and
tossing, and sweatingand heugh! the next hour strikes!... And one day
it's heaven, and the next hell.... And it ends
There was a long silence.
It was twenty years ago, said the doctor, simply. Tommy lad,
would youwould you care to hear about it? You shall. He covered his
eyes with his hand and had begun to speak ere he removed it. I was
about your age, but I was still at college; I left late. It was a
custom in Edinburgh for the professors to ask us students once a year
to an evening party; and although some of us did not care over much for
that kind of entertainment, we could not have refused if we would. I
remember I was annoyed at having to buy a dress suit, when my
invitation came; I thought it waste of money, and money was scarce in
those days. Tommy, I've got that suit now....
You know that I am as happily married as a man can be; the speaker
started afresh. No husband ever had a better, a dearer, or a fonder
wifebut she has never thought of inquiring into the secret of that
locked drawer upstairs,and though I shall tell it her some day, I
haven't yet. It sticks in my throat, and I have put off and put
offbut, anyhow, you shall hear.... I went to the party I was telling
you about, andand she was there. A colonel's daughter, and no
great ladyas I was at the pains to find out afterwards. Her family
was not much better than my own, and upon that I built my hopesfor we
think much of family in Scotland. But hopes? I don't know that they
could be called 'hopes'. I was stunned, bewildered. She was the
loveliest creature I had ever seen, and Tommyhe leaned forward, his
hands clasping the chair arms on either sidemany women as I've seen
since, I have never yet seen her like.... Such eyes, such a brow, such
a dazzling fair skinthe curved oval of her cheekhuts! I maunder....
She was amused by my adoration, Tommy; I don't know that it even
flattered her, she was so accustomed to itand I fear, I fear she felt
no pity.... At any rate I was permitted to come to the housefor I
fought and struggled till I obtained an entrance,and even what I saw
there did not open my eyes. I was doing well at college, you see; oh, I
had better speak out, I did a deal better than ever you did, my
lad, and carried off honours which at that time seemed high enough to
promise anything. I saw myself at the head of my profession, with
money, position, perhaps a titleand thought if she would only wait?
Had she shown, were it ever so cruelly, her real sentiments, I might
have groaned beneath the knife, but the wound would have healed
swiftly, as wounds do at that agebut she kept me dangling on through
long months of torture, worn to skin and bone,he broke off abruptly,
paced the room, and stood for a moment at the window with his back
turned, then resumed:
When my sick jealousy became too apparent, she applied an opiate. A
few kind words or looks, an enchanting smile, and the poor, infatuated
fool was as mad as ever. We used to walk in Princes Street GardensI
can smell the spring flowers there now.
You can guess the rest, I suppose? With an effort the speaker
heaved himself upright, and a grimmer expression overcast his features.
It was all a delusionall. There never had been anything on her
sidenever. Oh, she was sorry, so sorry, but really she could
not blame herself. My boy, I was made to feel I was the dirt of the
earth beneath her feet.... Heigho! I got over it, Tommyin time. Not
for a long, long time; not till years had come and gone. Another
pause. Those years are what I would fain save you from, said Dr.
He had been encouraged to proceed by the respectful attention of the
motionless form beside him. A deep sigh, or an inarticulate murmur on
the young man's part alone showed that he was following what was said,
and that it struck home,but he remained rigid, and there might even
have been something of stubbornness in the set of his shoulders. What
if after all he refused to learn the lesson thus sternly and withal
tenderly taught? Maybe I've wasted my breath, mentally queried the
other, frowning and biting his lip. Already he was repenting himself of
the confidence wrung out of him, when all in a moment the scene
My ladmy lad, he cried, for Tommy had flung himself across the
table, sobbing as though his heart would break.
So, so? I should have spoken before, muttered the doctor,
half-aloud. It's the old story of shutting the door on the empty
But Tommy only quivered and shrank, as again a heavy hand was laid
upon his shoulder. Be a man, exhorted a gruff voice overhead. (To be
soft now would be damnation. It's the hammer he needs.) Take it like
a mannot like a whimpering bairn,and the speaker's grip tightened.
What? What d'ye say? Let you be? What for then did I bare my soul to
you just nowdo you think that cost me nothing? Up! Fight with
it. Master it. Then more gently: Would you have me ashamed of you,
III'm ashamed of nothing, gasped the unfortunate youth,
suddenly assuming a bravado he was far from feeling. What have I to be
ashamed of? I have never done anything, nor said anything
Tommy's head fell upon his breast.
Where were you going when I stopped you? proceeded his mentor,
sternly. You know the road, I'm thinking. And it can't be all
on one side. She may have led you on, but
Not a word against her. Tommy started up, inflamed. Say what you
will of me; strike at me as you will; sneer and scoff
Hoots! said the doctor, shortly. This melodramatic attitude
Aye, it's just 'hoots!' he repeated, bringing his big, red face
close to the pale and frenzied one before him, and lucky for you it
is. I'm not going to take offence, my manand that's the long and the
short of it. I know you've been bamboozledI know it,bearing
down interruption; and you're stillall I've said goes for nothing, I
suppose? he broke off sharply.
Tommy, who had tried to speak, also stopped, and the two glared at
But it was the younger who gave way first. It does not go for
nothing, Dr. Craig, and perhaps I ought to feel grateful to you, sir,
and all that, for taking such aa kind interest
Go on, said the doctor sardonically. 'A kind interest'aweel?
But you don't, you can't know. You judge every case by your own.
Because you were hardly treated, you think every woman deceitful. And
I do not call her that to her face, sir; I do not indeed.
For which the Lord be praisedthough it is but a small mercy. Did
not I say it was in thought, my ladbut have it out,
Tommysuch thoughts are best let out, like ill birds. Keeping them
pent, they breed. Loose, they may fly away. How long has this been
going on? Suddenly the speaker's tone changed, becoming peremptory and
Tommy murmured inaudibly.
Speak out, thundered Dr. Craig, losing patience, speak out, sir,
and be damned to you. How long?
We met first on the last day of March.
How? When? Where?
Accidentally. In the village. In the post-office. Till that day I
No matter about that. What happened at this precious meeting?
Answer me truly, Tommy, for he paused, and once more the angry
tone softened. You have neither father nor mother, and I've got to see
you through this brash. The truth I must have, so out with it.
She spoke to me, owned Tommy, reluctantly. She knew who I was,
and asked if I would take a message to Mrs. Craig?
Afterwards she was not sure that she had got the message
correctlyit was from Miss Boldero, I believe,andand
And you had to walk back with her to the Abbey and get it?
Now this was precisely what had happened, but the dry tone with its
covert mockery, stung.
Certainly I had. I don't know why you should speak to me so, Dr.
Craig? I did what every man in my case would have done. And Mrs.
That's better. 'Mrs. Stubbs.' Never let me hear 'Leonore' again.
Dash it, I can manage my own affairs, sir. II don't need either
your advice or interference. You take advantage of your position, and
ofof a moment's weakness on my part. Please to let me alone in
future. White, infuriated, and shaking like a reed, the wretched lad
struggled desperately for manhood, and his companion was secretly
relieved by the outburst.
Here was something to lay hold of at last; some good, honest,
fighting blood roused; real anger melted as he assumed its mask.
Very wellvery well. Neither advice nor interference shall you
have, if it comes to that, young sir; but there is such a thing as
authority. You are in my house, and in my employment, and I'll be
hanged if I stand by and see you ruined. Unless you give me your word
that you will hold no more communication with this woman, I shall go
straight to Boldero Abbey, and speak to hermark youto her,
And if she will not hearken to me, I shall address myself to her
To her father?in a soundless whisper.
That's what I shall do. You can take your choice. Hollo! For he
saw what was going to happen, and pushed a chair beneath the nerveless
limbs just in time. Here! take a taste of thisthe doctor hurriedly
poured from a small phial of brandy in his pocket, take it,or I'll
pour it down your throat, silly loon. We'll not quarrel yet, you and I.
And we'll talk no more at present; when we are both reasonable
again, and can discuss this business doucely and decently, as between
man and man, we will. Meantime just bide here a bit, and think it over.
And, Tommy, ahem?
Tommy's moist hand stole out feebly, tremulously.
You'll never let on to anybody aboutabout yon wee story of mine?
Poor ladpoor lad, said the doctor, going out presently wiping
his eyes. He's safe now. But, Lord, what a time I've had of it! And
one false stepone straining of the line and it would have snapped
like silk. Aye, aye; I played my fish on a single gut, and,
triumphantly, landed him! Landed him, by Jupiter!
It was strictly true that chance had discovered to Leonore the
existence of her village admirer, who otherwise most certainly would
never have come within the sphere of her observation. But each was
waiting to despatch a telegram, and something had gone wrong with the
wires. It was nothing too serious to be remedied and that speedily,
they were assured, and if they could wait a few minutes, all would be
well. But the few minutes expanded into a quarter-of-an-hour, and
thenperhaps it was she or perhaps it was he, or perhaps it was both
at once who were electrified by the all-potent touch of opportunity.
On Leonore's part, here was a comely youth,and she had seen the
comely youth in Dr. Craig's gig, and guessed at once who he might be.
Three months had passed since the collapse of Lady Butts' well-meant
little scheme, and no one had stepped into the cast-off shoes of her
philosophical nephewand Leonore had been bored, sadly bored. True,
Val was there, but since his perfunctory declaration, Val had lost his
savour. Up till then, Leo had not been sufficiently certain of his real
sentiments to make his company uninteresting, and had decided to probe
them by way of experimentbut the excitement of the interview had
fizzled out, and his honesty did him no service in the eyes of his
charmer. She would now bring him straight in to where her sisters were
assembled, if met outsideand as he was always happy and at home among
them, he had not the wit to perceive that things had changed.
Consequently the coast was clear for George Butts, and he had his
ephemeral hour; and then?then there rose above the dull, tame level
of the horizon a new object.
What! He was beneath her? She would never have looked at him, still
less spoken to him? Oh, my dear incredulous sir, or madam, how much or
how little do you who pronounce thus know of human nature? Have you
ever felt what it is to have an eye, blue or grey or what not, a mute,
appealing, impassioned eye, flashing into yours its secret?and have
you cared to reckon coldly its owner's claims to your notice? You
bearded widower, with your family of big girls and boys, what about
that little lodging-house keeper at the sea-side, who welcomes your
most trivial order reverentially, who hardly ever speaks, but gives you
one long look as she leaves the room? The humble soul has no idea of
betraying herself, and as for youyou are resolved that if you marry
again, it shall be well and prudentlybut you can't forget that look.
And you, great lady of the manor, what takes you so often to the
hot, stuffy, little village school-house, where the master, with awe
upon his brow, in silence hands you copy-books and samplers? He hardly
emits a syllable, but his soul flames beneath those weary eyelidspoor
wretch, poor wretch!
Leonore having uttered a few commonplaces to a companion delayed
like herself, chanced to glance directly at him. To her he was
virtually a stranger, and, to do her justice, she would have talked to
any stranger, obeying the sociable instincts which she alone of her
family possessedbut to find a pair of fine, dark, luminous orbs
fastened eagerly, almost ravenously, upon hers was?her first emotion
was one of great surprise.
It was weeks since young Andrews had secretly elected her to be the
lady of his dreams(when and where he had first beheld her, it boots
not here to say)but he had been content to adore from afar, and had
never thrust himself upon her notice,so that all the concentrated
fire of brooding, hopeless passion was not only visible, but almost
offensiveand yet it was not quite offensive.
The lady within her stiffened, but the woman? At least
she need not be uncivil; to be haughty and supercilious, as Maud would
have been under like circumstances, went against the grain; she could
keep the young man at a distance without hurting his feelings;
sheessayed a remark.
Afterwards she laughed to think how that remark was leaped at; how
it was turned and twisted and stammered over. For very pity of his
hopeless confusion she had to rejoin kindly, and again the words were
caught out of her lips, and so on, and so onand still the
postmistress was invisible behind the scenes.
Eventually, as we know, Leonore accepted an escort back to the Abbey
when the two errands were accomplished, and a message extracted from
her sister threw a properly respectable air over the whole proceeding.
Had things ended there, Dr. Humphrey Craig would not have returned
home unexpectedly on the present occasion. But he had heard whispers
and caught glimpseshe saw a gossip nudge her neighbour and look up a
bye-street; and looking himself, recognised two figures whose backs
were turned. Not a word said he; but he watched young Andrews narrowly
that evening, and the next, and on the third day he spoke.
He spoke, and the bubble burst.
Ignorant of any cause for the non-delivery of her prescribed tonic
which she had arranged to receive herself at one of the park
lodgessince General Boldero was not to be annoyed by the suspicion of
ill-health, and would infallibly make a fuss if medicines were handed
in at the front doorLeonore, after waiting some time in vain,
returned home and said nothing about the matter;but she started a
little when she heard a voice in the doorway a few hours later, and
found that it proceeded from Dr. Humphrey Craig.
He had not yet rung the bell; and took the liberty of a privileged
old friend to hail her instead of doing so.
Mrs. Stubbs? It was you I wanted to see. If no one's about, I'll
step inside for a minute. Eh? It's all right, is it? I've something
here for you; but I might have a word first, perhaps?
She drew him into an empty room.
This is not a professional visit, nodded he; you haven't called
me in, and there will be no note of it in my tablets,but I understand
from my young man that you are feeling a wee bit run down,don't be
frightened, we'll soon put you to rightsand I thought I'd look in.
How's the appetite?
Presently it was the sleepthen the spirits, the walking
powers;she was completely put through her facings, her tongue looked
at, her pulse felt,and at length the doctor sat back in his chair. I
have known you from a child, Miss Leonore, ahemMrs. Stubbs. Your
family has honoured me with its friendship for fifteen years now, and
as a friend, with emphasis, I'm going to lay down the law on this
matter. If you'd prefer me to speak to Miss Sue, I will.
I thought not, said the doctor, smiling a little grimly. But if
it should become necessary, I shall do it all the same. You must get
away from this place. Your father must be made to let you go. Only for
a bit, of course,but that bit I do insist upon. You've been shut up
here, fretting, and brooding, for a matter of nearly two years
Indeed, indeed I am quite well.
You tell Tommy Andrews you're not. Trust me, my dear young lady,
you wouldn't have told Tommy anything if you had been. It was, ahema
foolish thing to do, to consult a raw young apprentice.
II didn't like to trouble you.
Trouble me? Bless my soul, what am I for? If you hadn't been a wee
thing off colour you would never have had such a ridiculous notion.
However, I take it, your fatheraye, I seeand you thought if you
could quietly get a few bottles of physic, and no questions asked, it
would set all to rights. Well, now, proceeded he, on receiving a mute
assent, I've got a tonic here worth a score of that rubbish Andrews
was for giving you. But you need something more than that. I've
forbidden that lad of mine, forbidden him absolutely to have you
for a patient in future; he's a good lad, but he had mistaken his
place, Miss LeonoreMrs. Stubbs. You understand me? Yes, I thought you
would. He will not trouble you any more. While for you, it's not physic
you want most, it's a thorough change of life and scene. You must get
awayI say, you must. Now, rising, will you manage this, or
shall I? It must be done soon, mind.
Voices were heard outside at the moment, and Leonore swiftly turned
and opened the door.
Come in, Sue, come in and find me out. I've been trying to get
doctored,and she ran on gliblybut directly the conference was
over, shamefaced and crestfallen she flew to be alone.
He saw; oh, how horrible, how detestable! How could I stoop to it?
For hours she rang the changes on this theme.
And the very next day, Sue, alarmed and repentant, herself conveyed
her young sister up to London.
CHAPTER XI. DR. CRAIG'S WISDOM.
A friend who did not obtrude himself upon the departing travellers,
but spied from the background, rubbed his hands as the train moved off.
Then as the big Boldero omnibus turned empty homewards, Dr. Craig
stood still for a moment in thought, consulted his watch, and finally
walked briskly up the street to his own door.
What is it? demanded a voice from an upper window; forgotten
anything, Humpty?and the attentive wife prepared to fly down.
No, no; stay where you are. Humpty waved her back. I have some
work to do at home this morning, and he stepped into the surgery,
where on this occasion his young assistant was dutifully busy.
Hey, I'm going to send you for a run, Tommy; you can finish here
when you come in. Take your bicycle, and go to Mrs. Brooksyou know
the house? You don't? Well, you know Ashford Mill? It's near by. Any
one will tell you the road. Call, and say I'm not coming till to-morrow
if all's going on well. Of course, if I'm wanted, I can look inlet's
seesome time this evening. But I don't expect I shall be wanted. And
You needn't hurry back. Take your time, and get a breath of good
air over the downs.
Thank you, sir,but the dejected countenance did not brighten,
and the rejoinder was mechanical. A few days before what a prospect
would have opened at the above words, now it mattered not to Tommy
Andrews what he did nor where he went. He continued to pound away with
his back turned.
Come, be off! said Dr. Craig, good-naturely. I came back on
purpose to set you free. By the wayahem!you need not be afraid of
meeting any one; you won't be tempted to break your wordnot that you
would, of course,but, well, I thought I'd just mention itthe ladies
are off to London.
Thethe ladies, sir?
The Boldero ladies. Two of them, at least,Miss Sue and Mrs.
Stubbs. I was at the station just now, and saw them go, with a pile of
luggage that meant a longish stay. My boy, this ought not to be ill
news to you, continued the speaker, changing his tone of assumed
indifference for one of quiet sincerity; it's only the natural ending
of what ought never to have begun; and you will live to be glad it came
so soon, and so conclusively. Take your time upon the road, Tommy.
There's nothing to bring you in before dinner.
And at dinner Humpty was in his most genial mood. He was not as a
rule genial at the midday repast, to which as often as not he hurried
in late, only to hurry out again as soon as he had consumed
abstractedly the portion set aside for him; but on the present occasion
he subsided into his armchair at the foot of the table with a
leisurely, tranquil air that spoke of a mind at ease for the time
He enjoyed his roast chicken and green peas. He had himself cut the
asparagus and cut it bountifully. Mary was bidden to observe how
asparagus ought to be cuta couple of inches, not more, below the
surface of the earth; and it should never be allowed to grow too high;
the flavour was lost when it had been long above ground; furthermore,
it should be carried straight from the bed to the potbut here Mary
What are you laughing at? demanded he.
You, who never give your food a chance! Tommy knows,and the
careful housewife continued to laugh, looking at Tommy, he has to put
down your plate to the fire five days out of six.
No, no, Mary.
And often you could not tell me what's on it if I asked! And if
we did not look after your digestion
Well, well; I know what's good, when I have time to think about it.
And since you are so keen on my digestion, have you a mind to give
Tommy and me a treat? nodding at hermake us some coffee!
And we'll take it out-of-doors, continued the doctor, rising and
throwing his napkin aside. Under the trees yonder. Bring your pipe,
Tommy; you and I don't often enjoy a lazy hour, but a man must break
his rule sometimes. Come along,and he led the way.
Of course Tommy saw, and at first Tommy was inclined to resent. So
he was to be treated like a child, a child who has had his toy taken
from him and is to be comforted with other things? He had been allowed
to go out in the sunshine(on a bogus errand, he suspected; certainly
Mrs. Brooks had not expected a medical visit that morning)and now his
inner man was being consoled and pampered, and the raw wound which
still bled from the knife so unsparingly applied the day before, was to
be blandly ignored. He felt both hurt and angry.
But the roast chicken was very good, and so was the currant tart
with creamand he had covered many miles on an empty stomach, and was
young, and as a rule, ravenous. For the life of him he could not help
clearing his plate.
And next he found himself responding with alacrity to the suggestion
of coffee in the cool shade without, for the atmosphere of the little
dining-room had grown somewhat warm and odorous, pervaded by hot
disheswhile even a prospective tête-à-tête with his host was
not altogether distasteful, since he was to be permitted to smoke.
And though he told himself he would not for worlds have Leonore's
name enter into the conversation, in reality he was listening for it,
waiting for it.
He had to wait however.
It's a queer life, that of a country doctor; the elder man laid
down his pipe musingly. A queer lifebut it has its compensations.
There's much to be given up, much to be done without,there's struggle
and hardship to begin withstrain and anxiety always,but taken as a
whole, it yields a satisfactionTommy, I often think there's no life
on earth meets with such clear recompense for the outlay, be the outlay
what it may.
Yes, sir; I suppose so, sir; absently.
Human nature craves appreciation, the speaker slackened his
big-limbed frame afresh, and puffed luxuriously, to be watched for and
welcomed andand appreciatedthere is no other word for itwherever
one goes, is something, who can deny it? One may never rise to
eminence, one may be humble and obscure, as the world has it, all one's
days, and yet again he paused.
Yes, sir? But at the second Yes, sir, Dr. Craig roused himself.
You aren't following me, Tommy. You think you knew all this before,
and it sounds like a dull droning in your ears. Isn't it so, my boy?
I'm afraid I'm very poor company, sir. But youyou know what makes
And you would like to talk about it, and find every other subject
uninteresting? Maybe you're right. What is it then? Her, I
suppose? And a faint smile, not unkindly, accompanied the last words.
I do want you to believe that she is not to blame. I can't get over
it, your saying what you did. You seemed to infer that I had been
If you had, you are not the firstbut let that pass. I own I
cannot understand how otherwise you could have presumed to think at all
about a lady so high above your head.
I did presume, sir.
And I think I showed it, sir.
No, unconsciously. But it was my faultnot hers.
And you acquit her, absolutely?
Tommy was silent, colouring.
You would like to acquit her, and you hoped I should do so, without
the need of more? You have a chivalrous soul, and you may thank God for
it, young man; it is a great possession. Respecting Leonore Stubbs, I
may be too hard upon her
Indeed, sir, indeed
I may be, but time alone will show. When she first came back
here, a poor bit widow-creature, more child than woman, it would have
touched a heart of stone to see her and what's more, I saw they were
not going the right way to work with her. She was put into a sort of
strait-jacket. She was made to appear just what the Bolderos thought
she ought to appear. They made no account of the sort of lassie she
really was. I saw, for I was often at the house that winter. And I
think Leonore was glad to be ill sometimes(she caught colds and
chills that year)just for the sake of having something to think
about, and even old me to talk to. But of lateI don't knowI seem to
fancy she's altered. She breaks loose. Her face has a kind of reckless
look. And it struck me she'd been angered and fretted till she was ripe
for mischief. Did shedid she let you make love to her, Tommy?
Never, sir. There was never a word of the kind between us. I told
you so before.
Aye; words aren't always needed. You and she were walking in a
maze, and a maze neither of you had the wit to look beyond. Heaven
knows where you would have found yourselvesor, rather, where you
would have found yourselfif I had not brought you up sharp. But don't
imagine I think the worse of you for it, Tommy; and don't you go and
fret and gloom by yourself. The thing's done and can't be undone, and
I'll not deny I'm sorry it is so. Still he rubbed his chin
thoughtfully,perhaps you have learnt something you would have learnt
no other way, and for the rest, my advice isforget. Forget as fast as
you can, for, a grim smile, of one thing you may take your oath,
Tommy Andrews, however quick you may be, the little lady who's gone to
London to-day will be quicker still.
* * * * *
And of course Leonore was. There is no need to indicate the precise
moment at which the figure of her humble village admirer faded clean
out of sight after having hovered reproachfully over a few brief
penitential musings, but certain it is that it vanished, to return no
London in the season was a revelation to our heroine. Hitherto her
sole experience of it was confined to passing through, and that mainly
at other periods of the year,since it was an article of faith with
her husband that one big town was as good as another, and he had all he
wanted of town life at home.
So that all was new, strange, wonderful, gloriousand at first she
was utterly dazzled. True, a modern girl would have laughed in her
sleeve could she have heard Leo's idea of the gay world. She would have
said this unsophisticated creature went nowhere and knew nothing. She
would have marvelledperhaps as much as Leo would have marvelled at
Leo did more than marvel, she was secretly shocked and disgusted on
several occasions, but with the fidelity of the young to the young she
said nothing to Sue. Sue thought the houses she took her young sister
to all that was prudent and respectable. Some of them were rather great
housesthe Bolderos, when they did seek society, moved on a high
plane, and the very fact that they seldom sought it, told in their
The sisters were not overwhelmed with invitations, but they had
enough to gratify the elder and delight the younger. Leo did not dance;
indeed, she did not know how, so the one ball to which she was bidden
was declined, but the two went to a fair amount of dinner-parties, not
of the most lively order, but pictorial and majestic. They were invited
to opera boxesgenerally on the grand tier. Leo was on the box seat of
a coach occasionally. As for teas, they overran every afternoon, and
concerts, bazaars, charity entertainments, Hurlingham and Ranelagh
filled up the interstices.
It was in short a giddy round, and perhaps as good a cure for the
sort of complaint from which our poor little girl was suffering as
could have been devised.
It swept her off her feetand in another sense swept her on to her
She learned in curious ways a good deal.
Her shell was broken, and albeit the outer air was none of the
purest, it served its purpose of blowing away the cobwebs that had so
long encircled her outlook.
July, however, was passing, and soon, all too soon, fairy-land would
vanish in a myriad of shattered sparklets, and then?
I suppose we could not go to Cowes, Sue? A very tempting
invitation for the Cowes week had come, and there had been hints of
further house-parties, and shooting-parties,but of these latter Leo
knew at once that she must not think. For Cowes, however, she would
make a push. It is so near, and we could go home as easily from there
as from here,she murmured, wistfully. And the Beverleys are very
nice people, Sue.
Oh, very; butI don't know. I am afraid it would hardly do to
suggest it. You see father has already been asked twice to let us stay
on, and, dear Leo, he has been very good about it. Even Aunt
Charlotte was surprised.
It was Aunt Charlotte who did the trick though; Leo wagged her
head wisely. Her sending him a card for her reception was a
masterpiece. I almost wonder he didn't come up for it. Well, what about
We will think it over, dear.
I could go by myself, you know.
No, said Sue, decidedly.
Her orders were that Leo was to go nowhere by herself, and she had
more than once eaten humble pie in consequencefor her sister's sake
hanging on to her skirts, a neglected and undesired appendage by the
rest of the party.
Leo alone would be mindful of her, pleasant towards her. Leo was
certainly growing more affectionate and considerate than of oldbut
Leo must not go to Cowes alone.
I will try what I can do, said Sue, after a pause, during which
she absently broke open another envelope in her hand. I will read what
Maud says of how they are getting on at home. I see she has returned
from her visit to the Fosters, so perhaps An exclamation, quite a
violent exclamation for the prim Miss Boldero, followed. Then she
looked up, her face, we should like to say scarlet, or crimson, but
truth compels the statement that Sue's flushes were of a deeper tint,
not quite purple, but that way. Even her brow was now suffused by this
tint. Oh, Leo!
But Leo was absorbed in a letter of her own.
This is reallyLeolisten, Leo!
Well? said Leo, absently. Here's another idea for Cowes. However,
your news first.
Yes, indeed. You will say so when you hear it. Maud
She's not coming here, is she?quickly.
Maud writes to announce that she is engaged to be married.
Good gracious! The effect was electrical. Leo bounded from her
seat and almost tore the sheet from her sister's hands. Let me
seelet me see, then reading aloud: Major FosterMr. Foster's
younger brotherhome from Indialeft the armyfather pleased (that's
a good thing!)and coming here next week!Oh, Sue!Stop, there's
more, cried Leo, recovering, for the Oh, Sue! had been emitted with
dolorous mental reference to the Cowes scheme, now obviously knocked on
the head. What's this over the page? and she turned it in Sue's
fingers; only the man's namePaul. She doesn't say very much, does
she? I thought people usually put in something about
What? said Sue, smiling.
About being happy, and that. Or at least about the man himselfnot
merely who he is, and who his people are.
She will tell us all when we meet. Maud is not much of a writer,
and she is the last person toto speak of her feelings; but I do not
doubt she is happy, quoth Sue, radiantly. Dear Maud! To think that
she on her quiet visitand at the Fosters, the last people one would
have expectedand father pleased
Oh, it's fine, cried Leo, kissing her, it really is fine. If she
had only waited till after the Cowes week it would have been perfect.
Anyhow, we'll hie back, you and I, with something to look forward to.
We shan't leave all the sweets behind, now that Maud has done the civil
by us with her 'Paul'. I did hate the thought of going home before,
she was running on, when something stopped her, something that sent a
little cold shiver down her back. It wasyes, it wasthe look.
The look on Sue's face.
For quite a long while now she had lost sight of the goal once set
before her eyes by this. Imagination had ceased to be fired by its
memory. The three impulsive dashes made in its direction had been so
utterly futile that she could only recall the first with mirth, the
second with contempt, the last with shame. Val Purcell was now happily
restored to his former position of friend and playmate; George
Butts?she had come across Mr. Butts in London and found him in hot
pursuit of another lady; and though the thought of poor Tommy Andrews
with his weak, imploring mouth and burning eyes could still evoke a
twinge, it was but a passing twinge.
Tommy had certainly been found out, and Tommy's master was not a
person to find out in vain. Dr. Craig had effected what no one else
dared attempt, namely, her own escape from thraldomand she did not
see her co-delinquent let off, albeit after another fashion.
No, she had nothing more to fear from that quarter; and in the rush
and novelty of the past few weeks, bygone follies, big and little,
active and passive, dwindled to the vanishing point. If only Sue, dear,
good, unconscious Sue, would not recall them!
CHAPTER XII. THE PHOTOGRAPH AND THE
Families in which the daughters marry early and in due succession,
can have but little idea of the huge, volcanic shock an engagement
means in a house like Boldero Abbey.
True, it had once before gone through a like experience, but the
present happy occasion was intensified by a variety of causes.
It was satisfactory, altogether satisfactory. Like good wine it
needed not the bush which General Boldero had strewed so plentifully
over Godfrey Stubbs's antecedents and surroundings. His future
son-in-law was well-born and well-bred, and his having lately succeeded
to a considerable fortune was also well known. Accordinglywe are
obliged to add accordinglyit was in good taste to say nothing about
But he could show, and he did show, enough to raise a smile wherever
he went. However demure his air when receiving congratulations, he
could insert here and there a phrase, adroitly conceived beforehand,
the point of which could not be missedand he was rampant at home.
There he might freely puff and blow, and turn his little world
upside down. Nothing, not the veriest trifles of every-day life escaped
his touch; and had it not been that the sympathies of all were with
him, that there was not an antagonistic member of the family or
household, he would have been found unbearable.
But the change, the stir, the commotion, the heavy posts, and
constant ringing of the door-bell were delightful to everybody. There
was occupation for everybody. They ran against each other with busy,
pre-occupied faces. They hurried, when formerly time was of no account.
The writing-tables were bargained for, and Maud, all-important,
retained one solely for her own use,while the two who had fancied
they would have so much to tell of their London escapade, found it so
completely superseded by the new excitement, that they dismissed it
from their own minds.
In short the whole atmosphere quivered with the sensation: Who
would have thought it?who would have believed it? to which there
was but one response: We cannot make enough of it.
The man himself, however, had yet to be seen.
Yes, it is very unfortunate, observed Miss Boldero, in answer to
neighbourly inquiries; Major Foster has been obliged to put off coming
again. He has had another touch of feverhis long residence in hot
climates has left him subject to these, and though it is nothing to be
anxious about, he has to be careful. We expect him next week.
A photograph was presented in lieu of the original, and no one had
anything to say against the photograph. It represented an unmistakable
soldier, even if he had not been in uniform. The face was clear-cut and
clean-shaven, and some might have thought it had rather a melancholy
expressionbut such expressions in photographs are common, and not
always truthful. Leo, for one, openly admired her sister's lover.
I do detest a smirk, she cried, gaily; I am so glad Paul's man
did not make him smirk. Were you with him when this was taken, Maud?
No, it had been taken in London on Paul's way through; he had
promised copies to his regiment, and Maud had assisted him to send
Was he sorry to leave the service? She thought he was, a little.
So you had toto cheer him up? rejoined Leo, inwardly laughing
over the remembrance of poor Val and his perfunctory proposal. I
daresay it does cheer up people to marry them. Your knight of the
I don't know what you mean, said Maud, coldly.
Heigho! I came near a cropper that time, muttered Leo, to herself.
When she was alone she took up the photograph again and looked at
it. She could have wished for Maud's sake that she was to be united to
a more lively-looking individual. The eyes, she could almost swear,
were sad eyes. The mouth had a droop about it.
It would not matter if it were Sybil or me, reflected she, within
herself; but no one can ever get a word out of Maud unless she
pleases, and how is she going to bucket along a solemn spouse?... She
seems content with him, and awfully proud of the whole affairbut I
always fancied she would end with a jolly, jovial sort of creature, who
would not care two straws whether she sulked or not. Now, something in
this face,she scanned it thoughtfullyleads me to think that Paul
would care. He has a tired lookas if there were a weight upon
him. Good heavens! quickly, Maud isn't the person to remove a weight;
she's a regular old featherbed herself, when there's nothing to stir
her up. She was all right at the Fosters, no doubt, with this going on,
and everybody tootling round her; but if they only knewif he
only knew what she can be like at home!...
I don't mean to be nasty; repentance presently made itself felt;
and it may only be that Maud and I don't hit it off; that when I'm in
a merry mood, she isn't, and vice versastill, she shook her
head sagaciously, I'm not surenot quite sure. It is more noticeable
than it used to be. Even father gets snubbed and has to put up with it.
Both Sue and Syb utterly succumb.... To think that Maud should be the
onethough of course it is her looksand besides, she herself let
slip that the Fosters had got her there on purpose. Paul had come home
at a loose end, desperately in need of a wife, and a home, and all the
rest of it. The whole thing is clearthe only mystery,pooh! there's
But it was luck for Maud, she mused on, and I must say she
appreciates her luck, and means to get the uttermost farthing out of
it. How she revels in the idea of a grand wedding! And of course she
will be a lovely bridebut I wonderI hope once more her hand
strayed towards the photograph, and she gazed at it long and
searchingly, I do hope she will make this poor man happy.
Leo, however, had the wit to keep such speculations to herself. She
was only too conscious that she had not managed her own affairs so well
as to give her any claim to pry into those of others, and told herself
she was a little fool to keep on looking into Paul Foster's face and
thinking of him as a poor man.
Directly she saw the real face, it would certainly tell a different
tale. Maud breathed satisfaction over her lover's letters; obviously
she had no doubts of her empire over him, and even while graciously
accepting the encomiums passed by her belongings on her choice, let it
be seen that she by no means considered all the good fortune to be on
Paul is deeply religious; she announced once.
God bless my soul! ejaculated the general;indeed there was a
universal start, for even Sue, the good, kind Sue, could hardly be
regarded as deeply religious. Every eye was bent on Maud.
Indeed he is, proceeded she, calmly. He made quite a mark in his
regiment, and received no end of testimonials, the Fosters told me.
They did not speak of it before him, but Caroline warned meI mean
Took an interest in the schools and that sort of thing, eh? Quite
right, very proper; General Boldero made an effort to recover himself.
In my day it was quite the thing for the commanding officer to back up
the chaplain; buthum, hathat's what you mean, I suppose?
You are not going to foist a parsonical gentleman upon us, young lady?
Despite the jocular tone, there was a gleam of anxiety.
I am merely stating a fact, said Maud, stolidly.
And I am sure we ought to be very glad, murmured Sue in her
humble, peacemaking accentsbut even she looked disconcerted.
We can have Custance to meet Paul at dinner, if that will satisfy
him, was the general's next; he had had a few minutes for reflection,
and after rapidly weighing the pros and cons of the new development,
decided to swallow it with a good grace. Will that satisfy him, or
will he want the curates too?
You may laugh if you choose, but it is as well you should know;
Maud drew up her neck, and retorted stiffly. Paul has been about the
world, and doesn't expect to find people all cut to the same
pattern,only I imagine I shall have to conform to his ideas
after we are married, and he has set his heart on getting a house with
a private chapel attached.
This was better; the general breathed again. A house with a private
chapel? That meant a big house, a stately house, a house he would be
proud to go to and refer to. Oh well, a man must have his fads, quoth
he, cheerfully; and though we have got along well enough at Boldero
Abbey without a private chapel, still if one had been here before my
day, I don't know, 'pon my word, I don't know that I should have done
away with it.
But the above conversation sent Leonore to look again at the
She was nervous, curiously nervous on behalf of this unknown Paul,
of whom every day produced fresh impressions.
As time passed, he assumed a form she had not been prepared
for,and the first joyous flurry having worn off, she felt or fancied
that he had in reality been no more fathomed by her sister than she by
It will be seen by this that Leonore had herself rapidly altered of
late. She had taken to looking below the surface of things. She
pondered and prophesied within herself. She perceived the drift of
casual observations, and following in thought the byways of life,
divined to what they might lead. In fine, her own blunders and mishaps
had implanted seeds for reflection, and while less unhappy, she was
infinitely more serious than before.
And for Paul Foster's appearance on the scene she grew every day
Perhaps she was altogether mistaken about him, and the being of her
imagination would prove so unlike the reality that doubts and
misgivings would fly to the winds, made ridiculous by a very ordinary
individual, devoid of all the mystery, all the glamour cast over him in
If so, of course she would be glad; it would be the best possible
thing to happen; and yet? I shall have to get rid of this Paul from my
thoughts somehow, she decided. He worries me. If he would only come
and be done with it!
It was evident that Maud attached a certain éclat to her
lover's piety; she recurred to the subject more than once.
It is all very well for father to make light of it, but I do hope
he understands that it is no joke with Paul. Paul is very sensible, and
never thrusts his opinions on other people, but no one ever thinks of
laughing at them to him.
It is only father's way, began Sue, distressed; but her sister
continued, unheeding. When Maud had a thing to say she was not to be
defrauded of saying it, and she had now got the ear of the house in the
shape of two other attentive listeners.
What I mean is that father always seems to think that it is only
clergymen who really care about religion. He looks upon it as their
trade,oh, he does, Sueand he would be the first to be down on them
if they neglected their trade,but as for other people, particularly
other men's caringand Paul does care, that's the unfortunate
part of it.
Why unfortunate, dear Maud? said Sue, gently.
Oh, I only mean lest he and father should clash, explained Maud
with perfect coolness. I am not speaking of my own feelings. I
don't mind. After a pause she subjoined: You might give father a
And what about asking Mr. Custance to dinner? struck in Sybil, who
had hearkened to the above uneasily, yet with a different sort of
uneasiness from that which made poor Sue breathe an unconscious sigh.
It might create a good impression. Well?
It wouldn't take Paul in for a moment, said Maud. Still, she
hesitated and looked over her shoulder as she was leaving the room, a
third person might be of use on the first evening after dinner. Just as
you like about that, and she passed out with the air of a queen. She
felt every inch a queen in those days.
So it wouldn't take Paul in for a moment? The words raised a new
question in Leonore's mind. If Paul where his deeper feelings were
concerned were thus acute and clear-sighted, how came it that he was so
blind otherwise? Ah, there she was at it again! Back to her old
dilemmato the bogie which had just been torn in tatters during a
merry feminine conclave, in which wedding preparations and wedding
clothes had formed the chief objects of discussion.
It was so obvious that no one else had any arrière pensée as
regarded the bridegroom elect, that she had suppressed her own
successfully for the time being, and entered eagerly into all the
details which even Maud condescended to be sociable over.
Maud had been quite sociable and pleasant over everything that
morning. She had read bits of Paul's letter aloud; she had permitted
herself to be bantered, even rather mischievously bantered, by Leo; and
altogether was so approachable and communicative, that the reference to
her lover's religious views and her desire that these should be
respected, fell out naturally. Why then should Leo be perplexed anew?
By the time Paul actually arrived, she told herself she was sick to
death of him, and everything about him....
* * * * *
And before the first interview was over she was jeering at herself
for her fussiness. The man was well enough, but he fell from his
pedestal the moment he approached. No, he was not like his presentment.
Maud had declared it did not do him justiceLeo thought differently.
She ran him up and down with her eye, and though she conceded his
stature and general outline to be correctly rendered, there was a
disappointing lack of effect; he had not the air of a hero; he had not
the lofty, melancholy bearing and inscrutable countenance which was to
set him apart from his fellows, a mark for furtive looks and whispers.
His brow was not worn and furrowed. His smile was not forced and
Obviously he was a bashful man, unused to finding himself the centre
of attraction, and almost painfully desirous of acquitting himself well
when needs must. When spoken to by a fresh voice, he jerked himself in
the speaker's direction with an almost perceptible start, and flushed
beneath his tan like a boy.
The position, it must be owned, was trying; Leonore had protested
against it beforehand. But her father and Maud were against her, ruling
that all should be assembled and the arrival made an affair of
statein fact neither would have missed it for the world.
But Paul? Leo had ventured doubtfully.
You may leave Paul to me, said Maud.
It appeared that Paul had brought a dog, and to Leo it was
excruciatingly funny to see General Boldero with this dog. He would
have Lion brought inhe from whose path all the animals belonging to
the lower stratum of household society fled by instinctand his
efforts to coax the big, gentle creature from beneath his master's
chair were continuous. Whenever conversation flagged, Lion was admired
and petted. Finally he made a joke. Leo and Lion? Ha, ha, ha! Upon
which Paul raised his eyes which were mainly bent upon the ground, and
Leo saw them fully for the first time. They were dark grey and very
soft. They had an infinite amount of expression, and although she
certainly could not call them sad at the moment, she felt that they
might once have been so and might be so again.
But she was not anxious to speak to Paul, and every one else was. By
Maud, as was natural, he was chiefly appropriated, but he listened to
every remark that was made, and without opening his lips took as it
were a leading part in the conversation.
General Boldero was eager to describe his shooting; he had planned
how to put its best side forward, and, while deprecating its merits as
superlative, to leave no doubt as to its being superior to that of his
He hoped Paul would not expect too much; on the other hand, such as
it was, and it was nothum, hato be exactly despised, it had been
carefully saved up for him.
You are very good, sir, said Paul, gratefully.
I was coming home from church last Sunday morning, continued the
generaland stopped, apparently to pick up his stick which slipped,
but in reality to let the words sink inwe walk across the fields
from church, it cuts off a mileand I marked a covey of sixteen.
That's not a bad covey, is it?
It is so long since I shot in England, sir, that I am afraid I
hardly know a large covey from a small one.
You have been tracking bigger game. I envy you that. But we poor
stay-at-homes must be content with what we can get. Valentine
Purcellthat's a young neighbour of ourswalked home from church with
me on Sunday, and he was astonished at the size of our coveys. We are
to shoot his, later on in the week.
Having thus twice brought in that he had been at church, though the
tenor of his speech was partridge-shooting, the general felt that he
had acquitted himself to admiration, and cast a glance of triumph at
Maud. Maud had been apprehensive of his manners forsooth? He hoped he
knew better than to tread on any one's toes; and a man who could afford
to give his daughter a handsome establishment and was on the look-out
for a house with a private chapel attached, had every right to his
He had decreed that no official mention should be made of the family
party having been augmented at dinner.
It's the custom in French houses for the abbé to appear without
invitation when he pleases. A very good custom; I wish it prevailed in
England, he alleged unblushingly. As it doesn't, it is not our fault
if Custance only comes when he's asked; and I should certainlyPaul
would certainly, eh, Maud?You needn't look stupid, my dear, with a
sudden touch of irritation. You know very well what I mean.
And as she did and the rest did likewise, it was left to himself to
say easily as the party broke up: We have only our good rector to meet
you to-night; he is quite l'ami intime here, as I am sure you
will agree with me the clergyman of the parish ought to be. Squire and
parson hand in hand, eh?
And now I think I have settled that, quoth General Boldero to
He had shot both his bolts; and though for a moment dismayed by the
reflection that he had no more in reserve, there was consolation in the
hope that no more would be required of him. Paul was evidently a
gentlemanly fellow who would avoid unpleasant subjects.
The general opinion of Paul, though it took a different form, was
No sooner had the lovers disappeared in orthodox fashion, than
encomiums broke out all round. They compared him with people they knew;
he was like one man but tallerhe reminded them of another but he was
handsomer. Perhaps he was not strictly handsome, but certainly he was
distinguished looking. If his nose were not a little on one side, it
would be a good nose. Sue had not noticed that it was on one side; she
thought it a very good nose as it was. Sue was even more enthusiastic
than Sybil. Sybil lamented the absence of a moustache. Let a mouth be
ever so good, a moustache was an improvement,whereat her father
stroked his own and agreed with her.
In the midst of it all, Leonore slipped aside, and passed into the
next room where the photograph was. She was going to convince herself
of its being unlike, absolutely unlike, the original. She was going to
discover, point by point, wherein lay the contrast, and abandon for
ever the old Paul, thus replaced by the new.
The old Paul looked at her, and she started.
For the new Paul had looked, just once, for a single passing minute,
CHAPTER XIII. I AM TO GIVE YOU A
WIDE BERTH, ALWAYS.
A formal dinner-party was of course necessary to introduce Major
Foster to the neighbourhood, and it took place a week after his
You will wear your best white silk, I suppose, Leo, said Sue,
No, said Leo, sharply.
Won't you, dear? But we are all going to dress up a little, and you
look so well in white.
Inever mind, I am not going to wear it.
What shall you wear?
What does it matter? Why should you care? You never used to
worry about my clothes; perceiving however that Sue looked hurt, Leo
laughednot quite naturally. Don't you see, stupid old darling, that
white silkwell, it makes a bride, and I am not the bride.
But you wore it in London.
One wears in London what one never wears out of it. There was
finality in the tone, but Sue persevered; she had not the art of
letting well alone.
Your only other is the grey voile.
Well, it would do well enough, impatiently. It's in rags, but it
will do. You ought to be flattered, as it was your present.
But it really is rather the worse for wear, Leo; and the white
Leo ran out of the room, and presently she was seen tearing down the
avenue at breakneck speed, and did not look round, though hailed loudly
from the terrace, as she swept out of sight.
So tiresome! exclaimed Maud, joining her eldest sister within; I
had been hunting everywhere for Leo; she promised to show Harrison the
new way of doing the hair, and Harrison is ready now. It was Leo
herself who said it would suit me.
She must have forgotten, said Sue; but I daresay she has only
gone for a little run, and will be back directly. You know she often
does run out in the twilight.
It was very inconsiderate, I think. She had the whole afternoon to
go out in, and then to take the only time when she could have been of
Sue was silent, feeling both for the offender and the offended. Maud
certainly had a grievance, for Leo's good offices had been volunteered
not besought, and further Leo was aware that Harrison, good soul, was a
despot of the worst type.
All the Boldero servants were despotsall the heads of departments
at least; they had the strength of long-continued, undisputed ruleand
Harrison, who had begun by being a little schoolroom maid, taken on the
recommendation of the late vicar, while yet Sue was young and her
sisters children, now governed them with a rod of iron. It was only in
consideration of Maud's present attitude that the present concession
regarding her hair had been made, and it was felt to be so magnanimous
that she was positively aghast at Leo's delinquency.
It is only six o'clock now, adventured Sue, soothingly. Could you
How can I? If you mean send after her? No one knows where she is by
this time. I called and called, but she never looked round. You might
have reminded her, Sue.
I should, if I had thought of it myself. But though she was here
just now, we were talking of other things.
What other things? Everything else is settled. The dinner-table
really looks very nice, in mollified accents; Watts has done the
flowers beautifully, and Grier has condescended to have out all the
plate. Well, I must go and break it to Harrison, I supposebut if she
is in a temper, she won't wait, even if I suggest it.
I don't think I should suggest it, said Sue. She had an instinct
that waiting would be of no use, and it proved to be a correct
The lower rooms were deserted when Leo hurried in; and lamps were
being lit, while a faint pale moon became momentarily more clear in the
dusk without. Servants were drawing down blinds and shutting shutters.
Leo half expected to find the garden-door bolted, but it was not
so,and she scurried along the corridor, and prepared to mount the
staircase, when her heart gave a sudden jump. There was some one in her
path. Paul was on the next landing, looking from the great staircase
window, with his back turned.
He was contemplating the scene without, which was certainly
beautiful enough to command admirationbut Leo fancied that he was
also sunk in thought. The pose of his motionless form suggested that he
had not merely stopped to look out in passing, but had come to a halt
at that spot and withdrawn into himself.
She put her foot on the next step and hesitatedbut he did not look
round. Obviously the slight noise of her entrance had fallen on deaf
ears, or been held of no consequence, as were the other openings and
shutting of doors in the distance,and that being the case, there was
no absolute need to intrude.
She stole back into the shadows beneath.
Finally by a circuitous route she reached her own room unseen.
* * * * *
I say, Maud does look splendid, doesn't she?
It was Val Purcell who voiced the general sentiment, and as he did
so he turned from Leonore to whom he had addressed himself, to gaze
down the table afresh at her resplendent sister.
Despite the contretemps of the hair, Maud was looking her
bestsuited by her dress, her ornaments, and the unusual animation
which coloured her cheeks, and sparkled in her eyes. Hitherto her
looks, though universally admitted, had failed to elicit warmth on the
part of any presentsince, truth to tell, she was not a favourite. She
was too cold and too grand. She never forgot that she was a Boldero,
and took care that no one else should. Even honest Val, as we know, did
not choose to be booked too surely as her admirer.
But that point being now settled, and the party having been
assembled in the lady's honour, he was free to add his mite.
Splendid! he repeated, settling down again with unction. I always
did say Maud was a ripper when she chose. I hope her johnnie
appreciates his luck. Between you and me, Leo, sinking his voice for
her private ear, I wonder how he dared? I wonder how he ever got it
out? Maud can be so awfully nastyOh, I say! I don't mean that, you
Then you shouldn't say it, said Leo, shortly. Maud's star was high
in the heavens, while her ownwhere was it? nowhere. She had no star;
her little glowworm light was out, and all was darknessyet she was
loyal, even with Val. Every one is not such a craven as you, Val; and
apparently Major Foster she paused.
He appears to have tackled her right enough. I only wonder how he
screwed himself up to the point? Bet you he had a good pint of
I daresay, said Leo, absently.
Now don't you round on me for that, Leo. I know you when you speak
like that. You mean to nab me the next minute.
I shan't nab you this time. I know nothing about Major Foster's
proclivities, and can't be answerable for them.
He never drinks anything but water when he's out shooting, but he
wasn't likely to face Maud upon water, was he?
I tell you I don't know. Ask him yourself.
Ask him myself? That's a good one. Ask him myself? Hahaha.
Well, whatever he took, it did the trick, and she looks as proud as a
cat with a tin tail,but between you and me, Leo
Oh, don't have any more 'between you and me's,' Val But the
next moment Leo demanded inconsequently: What is it you want to say?
He's an uncommonly nice fellow, and all that,but
Butwell, but? impatiently.
I should have thought he was more your sort than Maud's, that's
My sort! She was white to the lips, and there was a sudden heaving
of her bosom. Mymy sort?
I'll tell you what I mean. We had a long day together
yesterdayno, it was the day before. There wasn't much doing, the
birds were shy and scattered, and I took Foster into our church, as he
seemed to want to see it. I told him I generally went to yours for the
sake of the walk, butanyhow he seemed to hanker after going inside,
and it is an awfully nice, rum, little old place, you know; lots of
people come to see it. Oh, they come from long distances. Foster was
delighted; I couldn't tear him away. He poked and poked about, and at
last he said to me: 'This is the sort of thing I've dreamed about. An
English village church, with its old worn pillars and arches' and
he raved on a bit. I said I liked it too; of course I did; I had known
it all my life, and he said 'Ah?' and was quite interested. And thenI
don't know how it wasit just seemed as if we were in the thick of it
all of a suddenhe was talking about his ideas of marriage and that.
You never heard anything so queer! But it was very nice, you know. I
didn't mind it a bit, only I thought to myself, 'Do you jolly well
imagine you are going to catch old Maud going in with those highflown
ideas? Because if you do, I don't.'
What ideas? said Leo, in a strangled voice. She had a choking
sensation in her throat.
Eh? Well he considered; they weren't exactly what you would
have expected from a fellow who's knocked about as Foster has. Sort of
romantic, you know.
As she made no reply, he continued: I expect he had to let them out
to some one, and perhaps Maudwhat do you think? Do you see Maud
playing the pious and charitable?but I daresay she will, you know.
Woa there! I have it, I knew there was something, his tone quickened,
he called her, that's to say he didn't call her, but of course
he meant her, he said he hoped his wife would be an 'Angel in the
House,' or something of that kind. He said a lot more, but I can't
You are remembering very well. Go on.
So then I thought of you.
Of me? Oh, no.
But I did, Leo. I can't help it. Anyhow I did. After a minute he
continued briskly. Whatever made him think of Maud? She must have been
jolly different to him from what she is to us. You know what I mean,
Leo. If he thinks he is going to marry a saint
Oh, Val, don't. You mustn't. You haven't said anything about this
to other people? said Leo, in great agitation, you haven't, have
Rather not. Give you my word. I have been bursting with it ever
sinceand if my gran had known she'd have got it out of me sure as
fatebut she doesn't care twopence about Foster, and is only glad it
Do leave me out of the question. IIwhy should you think of me
Gran keeps me up to it. She goes on praising you. You see I never
told her about that, Leo, and she still thinksyou know what,
and he nodded significantly. This marriage has set her going again.
After a pause it was: You aren't making much of a dinner, Leo. You
say 'no' to everything. What's put you off your feed?
Too much afternoon-tea probably. No, it's not that, said Leo,
correcting the fib. I'm not hungry, that's all.
This venison is awfully good. Where did it come from? You generally
do have venison about this time, I know. I have eaten it here before in
Where does it come from?reiterated he.
From an old cousin, Anthony Boldero. We have no one else who sends
Respects to him. His venison is A1. Leo?
Well? said Leo, in a hard, dry tone. She recognised what was
It isn't me, it isn't anything I've been saying that bothers you?
But at the same moment Leo's neighbour on her other hand spoke to
She was partly glad and partly sorry for thisglad because it
relieved her from embarrassment, but sorry because it might be
difficult, and indeed it proved impossible, to lead the erratic Val
back to the same point thereafter.
He had delivered himself of all he had to say on the matter, and he
had a talkative damsel on the other side who having been already
somewhat affronted by his neglect, was resolved to endure it no longer.
The two were soon in full tide of conversation; and though Leo had her
turn once and again when Miss Merivale was attacked by her other
neighbour, she could not all in a brief moment resume a dialogue of
such import as the above. She thought Val was approaching it once,
That's a fine dog of hisof Foster's.
Lion? Yes, a delightful dog.
It's awfully funny to see your father with him. When he can't make
anything of Fosterhe makes no end of a fuss with Fosterbut it
doesn't always exactly come offthen he panders to the dog. And, you
know, they take it exactly in the same way! Lion gives him a bored
look, and shakes himself. I thinkhehe! his master would like to do
Leo could not but smile; she had noticed the bored look, and once or
twice it was even a disgusted oneon Paul's face. She would willingly
have caught at the opening, but a moment's hesitation proved fatal.
Miss Merivale struck in again and the opportunity was lost.
On the assembling of the ladies after dinner, Lady Butts fell to
Leo's share. There was a greater lady present, Lady St. Emeraud, once
before mentioned in these pages,but this august personage, who had,
as we know, kissed Leo on her marriage day, took no notice of Mrs.
Stubbs on the present occasion. It was only at long intervals that she
favoured Boldero Abbey with the light of her countenance, and being a
connection of the Fosters, she had now come to see Maud and do the
civil in view of the forthcoming alliance.
Accordingly her ladyship spread herself upon the principal sofa,
with Sue on one side and Maud on the other,while the lesser ladyship
subsided upon Leo, and Sybil, in the distance, gathered round her the
rest of the party, and chattered about wedding arrangements and
Leo rather liked Lady Butts, who was uniformly amiable and safely
unintelligent. She could be trusted not to say anything awkward. She
never went below the surface of things; and she had not had Val
Purcell's opportunities of seeing Paul Foster at close quarters. Her
Your sister's fiancé is charming. And how radiant she looks!
How pleased you must all be about it!with a few other appropriate
platitudes, dismissed the subject.
Then it was: You saw my nephew in Town, he told me. Sir Thomas and
I only went up for a few weeks, and had left before you and your sister
arrived. You had a pleasant time, I hope?
Leo thanked her, and had had a very pleasant time. She had seen Mr.
Butts about, but only to speak to on one occasion.
He had not called?
No, he had not called.
So rushed he hardly knows what he is doing; the fond aunt
concealed her disappointment, for her hopes had been renewed by the
London visit, and she knew nothing of a certain affair which was being
conducted independently of her leadership, (and we may add was brought
to a successful issue in consequence). George is simply done to death
in the season. We saw next to nothing of him ourselves.
You will soon hear something of him or I'm mistaken,
however, mentally commented Leoand the whole conversation which
ensued left but one impression on her mind: How could she ever have
chosen the long path whereby to conduct Mr. George Butts across the
As for poor Tommy Andrews, her feelings about Tommy had undergone a
strange revulsion of late. Self-disgust had given way to such a sense
of pity and sorrow as made her long to do something, anything, to heal
his wound; and instead of wincing when she saw his figure in the
distance, she cried out in her heart, Oh, I am so sorry, so
sorry,and could have wept for very tenderness offellow-feeling.
In the course of the evening Leo found Paul at her elbow; he had
returned from seeing some departing guests to their carriage, and
paused near the door where she was standing.
It is a fine fresh night, he remarked, cheerfully.
Has the moon come out? said she. It was raining a little while
The rain has stopped, and the moonlight is glorious. I saw you
flitting about in the dusk this afternoon, continued Paul, smiling. I
was coming your way, but I turned off. I didn't feel sure that my
company would be welcome. One likes to be alone sometimes.
Yes. II do. I do like it; emphatically.
That's flat. This time he laughed outright, seeming so much amused
by her brusquerie, that she perceived how it must have struck him.
No matter, it was as well he should be thus struck. He would know
for the future.
Your grounds are so extensive that you have a pretty wide range for
your rambles, resumed Paul, in the same easy, friendly accents; you
can walk all the way to Claymount without touching the road, young
Purcell tells me; and as for the paths, they seem to be legion; I
should get lost if I attempted to wander about by myself.
Don't wander then; I advise you not. You really might get lost.
And then if I fell in with you I should be obliged to throw myself
on your mercy, which would be a terrible catastrophe.
Oh, I should soon get rid of you, she made an effort to retort in
the same light tone; I should say she paused, I should say, 'Maud
is there,' and you would fly.
Is Maud then a woodland nymph also?
Was it her own fancy or was there an almost imperceptible pause
before he spoke? And did the gay tone of the minute before undergo ever
so slight a modification? Leo made answer with rather forced
It would be my ruse for throwing you off, don't you see? I should
not be positive absolutely that Maud was there, or anywherebut you
could look. You might find heror you might not. But anyhow you
would not find me if you came back.
I am to give you a wide berth then, always?
CHAPTER XIV. PAUL GOESAND RETURNS.
Is Paul going to stay here all the time? abruptly demanded
Leonore one day.
That's what I want to know. Her father's voice made answer from
the depths of an easy-chair; and it was a disconcerting answer, for he
had been unobserved, indeed unseen. Had his head appeared above the
back of the chair, Leo would have left the library as suddenly as she
had entered it. She had thought Sue was alone.
Of course if he wishes to stay, he can, proceeded the general,
laying down his paper; but it's a monstrous long timethat's to say,
humhathere are still three weeks till the twenty-fifth, and he has
been here three weeks already.
I am sure he is the best of guests, said Sue, gently.
Oh, the best of guests, no doubt. Bothers nobody. Still
Has anything been said?interposed Leo. She was drawing quick,
impatient breaths, and had an air of giving battle, if not replied to
No, nothing had been said, but Sue believed
If you only believe, that's no good. Can't you tell him to
go? Can't you say it isn't the thing for him to stay on and on?
My dear Leo!
Highty-tighty! simultaneously ejaculated the general, here's
fierceness! But he looked amused. If Paul were your sweetheart, young
lady, you wouldn't be in such a hurry to have him sent to the
right-about. However, there's something in it, Sue.
Sue looked distressed. Remember what you said when he first came,
father. How repeatedly you told him to make this his headquarters,and
there is another thing. The engagement took place so soon after he and
Maud met, that they could not have known very much of each other.
Hardly enough, perhaps. Don't you think it is as well
What is there to know? struck in Leo, vehemently. If they are in
love, as we presume they are she stopped short.
Certainly, murmured Sue.
Why, aye, that's all that's needed, no doubt, assented the
general, with a bland expression. Leo has hit the nail upon the head.
Those two are in love with each other
I said 'if,' said Leo, loudly.
'Ifwell 'if,' Madam Sceptic,but I suppose you will allow they
have taken the only means in their power of showing it? Well, what more
do they want but to get married as fast as they can?
We could not have had the wedding sooner, father, said Sue.
I suppose not; but another three weeks of Paulthough I'm not
saying a word against Paul, mind you;only, the truth is, I have to be
so confoundedly careful before him, that it'sit's a strain.
He had indeed been milder and more amicable in every-day life of
late, than any one could ever remember him before.
I like the fellow; he now mused aloud; he treats me as I ought to
be treatednot as that young ass Purcell does. Val licks my boots and
hates me: but Paul has a nice, cheerful, respectful way
Oh, he has all the virtues, no doubt,but Leo's mocking
interpolation was overborne by her father's steady tonesWe talk, and
he doesn't browbeat me. You may look at each other, but I know how a
gentleman should behave among gentlemen. When people are polite to me,
I am polite to them. And as I know that Paul has his foibles, religious
foibles, I am on my guard; while as for him, he never thrusts them on
my notice. There was that day that I saw him coming across the park
before breakfast, and guessed where he had beenat the early service,
of course,well, all I said when we met in the hall was, 'You must
have had a nice walk?' There's tact for you. From that day to this,
neither of us has ever remarked upon it.
It was such a sneaking, shocking thing to do, said Leo,
Eh? What? 'Pon my soul, child, that was more like Maud than you.
Sneaking? Shocking? It was the sort of thing a gentleman does
quietly, that's all; and it would have been in the worst possible
taste to have taken any notice of what was not meant to be known.
He resumed his paper, and his daughters left the room together.
I am sorry, Leo, that you don't like Paul, said Sue, as the door
closed. She had felt for some time that she must say it, and if
possible fathom to what was due a sense of tension in the air. It is
strange, continued she, for to me and to the rest of us he appears so
very lovable. Have youwhat is it you findyou feelyou dislike in
I findI feelI dislike in himnothing. He is nothing to me. Why
should my opinion be of any consequence about him?
You speak in such a hard voice, Leo. And you look so hard and
unsympathetic whenever Paul is mentioned. Can't you tell meyou might
surely tell me?
I wish you would tell me when he departs? One gets
tired of people in the state Paul is in, that's all.
Are you a littleenvious, dear Leo? Such happiness
Yes, that's it. Such happinessMaud is welcome to it, cried Leo,
with a laugh. Very welcome, most welcome; but it's all the parade, the
flutterhowever, it will soon be over, thank Heaven!she subjoined
under her breath.
No more was to be got out of her, and Sue, baffled and repelled,
went her way.
She was conscious, however, of a sense of relief when the very same
afternoon Paul's departure for a season was announced. He had arranged
for this without consulting any one; but Maud was satisfied that
business demanded his presence in London, and that there were also a
few old friends to whom as a bachelor he wished to bid farewell.
It did not appear very clearly where these friends lived, and indeed
an exacting fiancée might have found the brief announcement
vague and unsatisfactory, but Maud's feelings were thus conveyed to her
own people in private: Paul has so much sense of what is proper and
correct, that it really amounts to an intuition. I daresay he has an
idea that when there is so much for me to attend to, it is better that
I should be free to give myself up to it. Certainly it is a little
distracting to have to remember he is waiting for a walk or ride, when
one's head is in a whirl with other things.
Once she had asked Leo to take the walk instead of hershe did not
do it again. Leo, with blazing eyes, declined point-blank.
Take your man off your hands? Not I. If you're tired of him
Good gracious, child, what do you mean? What things you do say? I
am tired, as it happensbut not of Paul. I have been standing for
hours trying on dresses, and I am not such a walker as you at any time.
You are forever going out. One would have thought you would be glad of
I might be glad of a companionbut not of Paul, retorted Leo,
mimicking. He is your Paul, not mine, and Iand we her lips
trembled and framed no more.
You might oblige me, I think,but Sue touched the speaker's arm,
and Leo vanished.
What is it? demanded Maud, irritably. That child is quite spoilt
of late. It's since her London visit, I think. She never was like that
Sometimes I think, I fancy she is not quite well. Sue gathered up
some papers on the table, and proceeded. You know what Dr. Craig said?
That she was in a morbid state, artificially excited or depressed, her
mind preying upon itself. He said she must be taken where her natural
impulses would have freer vent
Well, well; we all know what he said; you told us at the time.
I thought she was cured, but it seems not, said Sue, in a low
voice. And your engagement has somehow
If it's that, of coursebut do you think it really is
that? said Maud, not without a touch of complacency. If it is that,
of course I am sorry. But at first she seemed as pleased as anybody. It
was only after she saw Pauland one would have thought that PaulI
can't understand why any one should dislike Paul.
Sue was silent.
Paul has not offended her, has he? Has she ever said so?
Never. Oh, never. One can't fancy Paul offending anybody, said
Sue, with a smile.
I told him all about Leo before he came herebut he made me repeat
it after he had seen her, and I knowI am sure he felt for her. Well,
I shan't ask Leo to walk with him again, that's certain;and only
half appeased she went to make ready herself.
Leo, however, had not always escaped a tête-à-tête with the
person she was thus bent on avoiding. She had seen him one evening in
the lower garden, and hoping she was herself unseen, had escaped into
the vineries, which, however, had afforded but a poor shelter, the
branches being nearly bare of leaf. Paul had seen some one within as he
passed the window, and entered also.
It was not till he had done so, and shut the door after him, that he
discovered whose solitude it was he had invaded, and then it was too
late to retreat. He could only offer his assistance in what she was
doinggathering the crimson vine leaves which fluttered here and
thereand with his stick hook down those out of reach. Then all of a
sudden a heavy autumn shower rattled upon the glass roof overhead, and
there was nothing for it, for the two thus caught and trapped, but to
wait till it was over.
They sat down on the low staging, and at first they hardly spoke.
But presently Leo grew frightened; the long, intimate silences
startled her. Suppose Paul? No, of course not that,but he might
think her odd and rude, and even seek some sort of explanation? She
started talking hurriedly, and it was nearly an hour before the sky
Thereafter Leo knew what she had to expect should she and Paul be
thrown together. She had gradually felt her defences giving way, her
voice had grown low and sweet, and much that was hidden in the depths
of her inner being, had welled up and overflowed into his listening
ear. All along she had known this would happen once the barriers were
down between her and Paul Foster; even when she sought to belittle him
to herself at the outset, she had a terrible underlying consciousness
of it,and looking back upon the hour, feeling over again the fragrant
warmth of the atmosphere, hearing the splashing of the rain, and
smelling the bitter scent of the vines, she laid her head upon her arms
and cried as if her heart would break.
But we know how Maud's request was met, and how one person at
Boldero Abbey would fain with her own voice have bidden Maud's lover
begone from it for ever.
* * * * *
Other voices, real voices, however, with one accord bewailed his
departure when it came.
Even the general, secretly relieved, was punctiliously regretful on
We shall soon see our gentleman back again, he observed in his
best manner, and I hope we shall often have nice long visits from you
both in time to come, my dear; addressing his bereaved daughter in
accents of gracious consolation. For myself I can never see Paul too
often. But, humha, no doubt at present he has done the right thing in
attending to business before pleasure. Has he got any more houses in
This was a subject on which he would always dilate, and it was
discussed at all points as the meal proceeded. The general was
unusually cheerful, as all remembered afterwards, and it was not till
dessert was on the table that his spirits suddenly flagged. No, he did
not want any wine; he was pettish when it was remarked that his glass
was empty. Were they going to sit on forever? Well, then, why did no
one rise? He would lead the way himself.
I don't care to stay behind when I have no one to talk to, he
pushed back his chair, but not far enough. Give me an arm, one of you.
Steady thereyou needn't haul me along. Stop, I tell you. It was
Leo's arm he heldshe was the nearest to himand he leaned upon it
He also breathed heavily. When she tried to draw him forward he
tottered. His daughters looked at one another.
Let me get you something, father? said Sue, moving towards the
sideboard;a little brandy?and with a tremulous hand she poured it
out, and held it to his lips.
At the same time she gently withdrew Leo's arm, substituting her
own, and Leo made no resistance. Their father looked them dazedbut
the brandy momentarily revived him.
Isuppose I go to bed, eh? I'm tiredthat's what's the matter
with me. Isn't that what's the matter with me, Sue? I'm
tiredtired,his head sank upon his breast. Tiredtired! he
Do not lose a moment, Maud; said Sue, aside.
Let me go; said Leo, darting forward.
She was nimbler of foot than Maudbut Maud went also.
Hey, what? Where are they all off to? With an effort General
Boldero straightened himself and made a pitiful effort to compose a
face already distorted. Whereare they going?the next minute he
fell in a heap upon the floor.
And by the time Dr. Craig, imperatively summoned, dashed through the
doorway which stood open awaiting him, all need of his presence was at
It could not have been averted, my dear Miss Sue; in moments such
as this the doctor invariably said Miss Sue. I have had my eye on
youryour poor father for a while back. I kind of opined he was
breaking. But it must have been a terrible shock for you all;and he
shook a sympathetic head to and fro.
Oh, Dr. Craig!
Aye, aye! He patted her shoulder. Aye, aye!
We were so unprepared.
Prepared or unprepared, my dear lady, it's all the same when it
comes. And it was a peaceful endnot a long, tormenting illness. Now
then, who have you got to come and look after you all?
The practical accents smote almost brutally upon her ear, and she
lifted her tear-stained face to his in helpless appeal.
You must have someone, some man, to look after things. You can't
wrestle with them alone. There's that cousin of yours, the it was on
the tip of his tongue to say, tha heir; for he was acquainted with
all the Boldero family circumstancesbut he caught himself up in time.
He recalled that he had never seen the heir at the Abbey.
Not for worlds, if you mean our cousin Anthony, said Sue, with a
decision that confirmed his prudence. He has neverwe have never been
on any but the most formal terms with him. (An exchange of venison and
pheasants once a year had indeed been their limit, and the doctor
guessed as much.)
But he will have to come, my dear lady; and for the sake of
Not yet. Oh, not yet.
(Aye, it will be a bitter pill to you, poor thing, and to all of
you, to have to bundle out neck and crop, inwardly cogitated the
doctor)and as he hesitated what further counsel to offer, she made
her own suggestion.
Paul would come to us, I know. He only left this morning. Oh, how
little we thought when he leftbut Maud knows where he is.
Let him be sent for, then. The telegraph-office will be shut, but I
daresay I could get them to open it if I went myself. Is Major Foster
in London? If he is in the country, we shall have to wait till morning,
Maud however testified that Paul was in London, and the telegram was
And next day ensued a scene familiar, alas! to many. Scared looks,
noiseless footsteps, muffled whispersstrangeness, dreariness,
everywhere. And there were questions that could not be asked, and
anxious thoughts that must not appear,and with the future knocking at
the door, the present must be all-in-all.
The present, however, with its multifarious demands, brought the
relief of occupation to every member of the family except Leonore.
She was indeed willing, more than willing to do her part; but the
elder three had been so long habituated to thinking of her as a
childish, inconsequent creature, not yet out of leading strings, that
each severally rejected her overtures, and she could only wander
aimlessly from room to room, and gaze from the windowsfrom one window
You will catch cold, Leo, if you stand in that draught, said Maud,
passing along the corridor, where a chill current of air made itself
felt. Go into the library, child; a good fire is wasting itself upon
But Leo did not go into the library. The library was snug and
comfortablethe most comfortable room in the house,but it commanded
no view. The high trees of the shrubbery shut out the park beyond; and
the short, straight road to the village, the road by which every one
was coming and going now, was also entirely hidden.
When Maud reappeared, the watcher was still at her post,but as she
was in the act of putting down the open window(perhaps she had heard
an approaching step?)remonstrance was not renewed. Instead, Maud came
and looked herself.
It is very strange of Paul; she mused aloud.
No word from Paul had yet come, and now we can guess why Leo stood
where she did.
He mayn't have got the telegram; she adventured.
It would have been returned if he had not. Besides, Dr. Craig said
it would be delivered last night, and Paul was not likely to be out at
Still the hours passed, and no answer came.
Nor did any come the next day, and the next.
You are sure about the address, I suppose? queried Sue, at last.
She had not liked to make the suggestion before, since Maud, correct to
a degree, was apt to resent any suspicion of carelessness or
inaccuracy,but the outlook was growing serious. A fresh telegram had
been despatched, and Paul had also been written to,it was
inexplicable that he should remain silent, unless a mistake had been
I am quite sure; replied Maud briefly, and no more was said.
It was the evening of the third day, and darkness was falling
outside. Leo, who had been waiting for this, had stolen outside,
permitted, even urged thereto, by Sue, touched and consoled by what she
took for a reflex of her own grief upon her young sister's faceand
she had got some way from the house, when, in the deepening shadows
beyond, she saw Paul coming.
Her first impulse was as usual to fly, but a second brought her
swiftly to his side. She must see, must hear, must know at oncea
maddening curiosity prevailed over every other feeling.
And it was immediately, if superficially met. He was eager to
explainwhile looking back on it she could not see that he had
explained anything. He had received no communication, he had heard no
tidings till the same day at noon, and had started by the first train,
which he had barely had time to catch.
So far all was clear, but the how or the why was left
untouched,and he was hurriedly asking her to speak, begging
for information, ejaculating expressions of sympathy, and reiterating
regrets all the way back to the house, as if he found it impossible to
take in all the sad details, for she was asked the same questions over
and over again.
It was not till Leo was alone that she had a moment wherein to ask
herselfWas she gladwas she sorrywas she relieved or bitterly
disappointed that there was no trace of that mystery secretly conjured
up during the past dreadful days? She had pondered, and fanciedoh,
how cruel she had been, forever dwelling on the possibility that she
might never need to see Paul Foster again;yet now the joy of itthe
pain of itthe bliss of itthe misery of it,every throb of her
veins was at once ecstasy and torture.
Paul was hereto be avoided; he must be metand shunned; his voice
would sootheand stab; his touch would healand burn.
How had she ever borne the blank without him? The dreary vacuum
which nothing could fill? The hopelessness, the emptiness of it all?
He was here, but looking illthinner than beforewith a drawn,
haggard countenance, and restless eyes. She could not but say to
herself that even a kind heart, suffering for the sufferings of others,
hardly accounted for such manifestations of grief. It was not to be
supposed that General Boldero had during a few weeks' acquaintance so
endeared himself to his future son-in-law that his death, however
sudden and unexpected, was more than a shock. Leonore was tolerably
sure that if her father had not been also Maud's father, he would not
even have been acceptable to Paul as a friend. He could not be; the two
were dissimilar throughout,even Valentine Purcell, less intelligent
than other people, had discovered as much.
Yet in four daysfor it was but four days since the departing
traveller had been gaily ushered forth from the doorstep on which he
now stood, he had changed so visibly thatWhere had he been during
those four days? she found herself asking of herself anew.
CHAPTER XV. YOU'VE BROKEN MY HEART,
The funeral was over, and it was now decent to talk about the
marriage. When and where could the marriage take place?
Boldero Abbey, with all the landed estate, was virtually in other
hands already, and it did not need the opening of the will to announce
to the bereaved family that with the loss of a father there followed
that of a home.
All their lives they had known that this must be so, but the subject
was so grievous that it was hardly ever alluded to, and in a manner was
lost sight of.
For his years General Boldero was a young man; he was hale, hearty,
and selfish. He took good care of his health, and prognosticated for
himself a green old ageanyhow his tenure of the good things of
life was secure; and though unable to alter the law of entail, which
permitted no female heirs in the Boldero line of descent, he foresaw in
his mind's eye all his daughters married and settled, with the
exception of Sue, who had her mother's fortune, and was of course to
stick to him to the last.
Consequently the provision he had made for the rest was slight, and
there was no doubt that the sooner they now quitted the stately mansion
and broke up its large establishment, the better.
But the wedding, Maud's wedding, that was to have been so gay and
splendid, what was to be done about that? The invitations were already
out, and everything in such readiness that even Sue inwardly sighed. If
only it could have been all happily over!
It was terrible to her that an event so momentous should take place
anywhere but in the halls of her forefathersor to speak more
strictly, in the village church where Eustace Custance officiated. To
him had been confided the great satisfaction afforded by the match; and
when consenting to tie the knot, he had spoken warmly of Paul Foster.
Paul had often sought him out, and hadbut he must not say more. The
general, overhearing, had warranted Paul mulcted .
To other sources of distress, therefore, it was added in the breast
of poor Sue that Maud must seek her nuptial benediction
elsewhere,since Mr. Anthony Boldero, through his lawyer, had
intimated that he would be glad to have matters arranged as soon as
To each sister privately Sue had addressed herself on the point of
remaining in the neighbourhood, and each had protested against the
idea. No one of them could endure it.
But they had still a month's grace, and if Maud would consent to be
married very, very privately, with absolutely no one present but their
five selvesRidiculous! what are you thinking of? cried Maud,
Her sluggish nature was roused to positive wrath by such an
insulting proposition, but reading reproach in the colour which mounted
to her sister's cheek, she made haste to subjoin:
Don't you see how very undignified it would appear to be in such a
frantic hurry to secure a husband? It would almost seem as if I were
afraid of losing Paul! Of course I shall wait till things can be done
properly. I would not show any disrespectI wonder that you should
suggest it, Sue.
But the speaker was not perhaps as truthful as she might have been.
In communing with herself, she had decided that the next best thing to
being married in state from Boldero Abbey, would be a wedding in a
fashionable London church. She had been a bridesmaid once at such, and
to it her thoughts now reverted favourably. There need be but a short
delay, and she was willing to wait. To wait would be infinitely
preferable to a hole-and-corner business, with no prestige, no
spectators, no one even to see her bridal array and Paul's necklace.
Sue had even hinted at her not wearing the dress: You could just go
down in your travelling things, and no one need know anything about it
till it was over.
I should not degrade myself by doing anything of the kind; said
Maud, throwing up her head.
No, she would not consult Paul, Paul would of course let her decide
for him,and she did beg that no one would interfere with what after
all was her affair.
Presently it was, Paul will stay on here with us at present. He has
no real claims upon him elsewhere, for as we are not to be married just
yet, he can postpone making his arrangements. Perhaps we shall now be
able to get a house first.
To this end she ordered down agents' lists, and illustrated
magazines; also Leo came upon her in odd places posing meditatively
before various articles of furniture with a paper and pencil in her
hand. Leo guessed what she was doing.
She took no notice; but she wondered if any one could help noticing
that, whereas Paul when he first appeared on the scene had been eager
and animated over the home he hoped to form, and the life he meant to
lead, he was listless and indifferent now. He assented to everything,
initiated nothing. Sometimes he barely glanced at the attractive domain
whose allurements were so cunningly set forthsometimes he hung over
the page so long that Leo could not help suspecting it was but a screen
to hide his face.
He had lost altogether his pleasant habit of following each speaker
with his eyes as the talk went round. The eyes would be glued to the
floor, or fixed vacantly on some object. He would start when called to
order for inattention, and thereafter be abjectly attentive.
But whatever Maud said was right, and her wishes were law. She could
not make a suggestion which he was not ready to carry out; when she
withdrew from it herself he as readily withdrew. To Leo, watching from
the background, there was something unnatural, incomprehensible about
it allsomething which baffled her closest scrutinyand yet at times
made her feel as though the scrutiny itself were but foolishness,
emanating from her own disordered imagination.
She would think so for a whole day, and school herself to believe
that it was a happy dayand then something, some trifle, would occur
which made her heart leap and her hands tremble, and she found herself
talking for dear life in a meaningless jumble of words.
She would not, must not, dared not hope that Paul repented of his
choice, unless it might be that repentance were mutual, in which case?
But after a night of fitful sleep and miserable awakenings, Leo
would come down heavy-eyed and feverish, to find a prosaic,
business-like dialogue being carried on by the very individuals who had
figured so differently in the phantasms of the small hours, and her
entrance would hardly be noticed by either, so engrossed were they by
Once indeed she wondered whether Paul were not a trifle too
ostentatiously engrossed? Whether it were the case that he really did
not see her slip into the vacant chair, the only vacant chair at the
table? His head was steadily turned the other way, but her sisters
addressed her and still he perceived, or affected to perceive, no
addition to the party. Was he, could he be afraid of her penetration?
Did he suspect that it went further than was convenient?
Maud was unusually animated that morning. It really fits in
wonderfully, this plan of Aunt Charlotte's; and I must say I little
expected her to be the one to come to the rescue.
What is the plan? inquired Leo aside of Sybil.
Aunt Charlotte offers us her house for the winter. Sybil also
looked excited and jubilant. She is going abroad, and says she will
leave us everything as it stands.
But a house in Eaton Place, and it is one of the larger houses
too, demurred Sue, would it not be rather expensive?
Not in the least, seeing that we are to have Aunt Charlotte's
servants. It is really most kind, averred Maud, with the
warmest approval; I should not think of refusing, not for a moment.
And St. Peter's close by with a meaning smile to Paulwhat could
Hi, Lion, Lion? said he, looking under the table.
You will close with the offer at once, Sue? proceeded Maud, too
much elated and gratified to observe the lack of response; don't lose
a post, in case the good lady changes her mind. How soon can we go, do
But even the gentle Sue kindled a little beneath a note which jarred
on all, and she looked a mute reproach.
Well? How soon? impatiently reiterated her sister.
How soon? To leave for evermore the old familiar scenes, the
peaceful gladesevery spot hallowed by memories and associations? To
take a last farewell of the only life she had ever known, to fling it
aside like a worn-out garment? Was it possible that any one, even with
a bright new existence opening before her, could be so eager to turn
the page that all she could say or think of was How soon?
It wounded Sue to her heart's core to hear the peremptory tone and
meet the unabashed gaze. She could not speak,and the next minute she
felt an arm steal round her waist, and a cheek was laid on hers. It was
only Leo, but Sue never said only Leo from that moment. She took the
little hand and fondled it; she used it to wipe her own tears away.
Hi, Lion, Lion? said Paul, looking under the table again.
* * * * *
Is it settled? Is it decided? Later on in the day Leo, finding
Sybil by herself, returned to the mooted point.
About London? Why, of course. When our sovereign lady gives the
word of command, don't you know there is nothing for it but to obey?
Sue wrote by the first post.
And when are we to go? When?
You are as keen as Maud, I declare. Well, I am rather sorry
to leave the old place
When? I only ask, when?cried Leo shrilly.
Do you really not care at all, Leo? I thought at breakfast you and
What's the use of caring? Will caring alter things? If it
would but Leo caught her breath, and her hands gripped each other;
I think you might answer a plain question without rambling on about
other things; she subjoined as steadily as she could. Is the time of
our departure fixed?
For this day week, if we can be ready in time. Sue says we can't,
but Maud says we can. Ten to one on Maud.
This day week!
After all, there's nothing more to be done here; Sybil recovered
herself, for in reality she was like Maud, bitten with the idea of
change; and it's doleful enough, Heaven knows. Day after day the same
howling wind and rain, and nothing to talk about but Maud's houses.
Maud doesn't care two straws what becomes of the rest of us, as long as
she gets a fine place for herself. She won't even listen if a word's
said about our affairs. Paul is too good for her, I think,abruptly.
Leo, who had begun to turn away, stopped short, startled.
Oh, you don't care for him, I know, ran on Sybil at random; but
you are the only one of us who doesn't. I often think, she lowered her
voice to caution, I tell you what, Leo, if Paul had not fluked upon
Maud as he did, and the other Fosters had not puffed her up and prodded
him on, he never would have thought of her. She's not his style at all,
with her grandiose notions, and fondness of big people, and all that.
Just what Paul hates. Did you not see him wince when she made that
remark about Lady St. Emeraud? Maud is awfully obtuse, continued
Sybil, glad of a listener; she never saw. But you know, Leo, even
father used to laugh at her love of swaggerthough she got it from
You never said this before; muttered Leo, surprised. She had no
inclination to go away now.
Because Maud and Iof course we have held by each other always,
and I should have gone on holding, if she had. But I am nothing to her
now; said poor Sybil bitterly. She had a weak, shallow nature, but it
was capable of affectionand Maud's selfish withdrawal of affection,
her complete indifference to all that did not concern her own
individual interests at a time when in the natural course of things the
sisters would have been drawn together by an especially close tie, was
felt as keenly as Sybil could feel anything.
And you think Paul? hesitated Leo.
It's Paul's own look out. He may make her mend her ways. She thinks
a lot of him, of course.
Does sheis sheis she in love with him, Syb?
In love with him? I suppose soafter a fashion. She's in love with
being married, and having a country house of her own, and a husband to
domineer over. And if he should come in for a title
But that is not Paul; said Leo, in a low voice. She had
herself well in hand, but deep down there were strange emotions at
work, stirred by the above. Do you meanI wish you would say what you
really mean?II sometimes wonder myself, she stopped.
Oh, you mustn't take all this too seriously, Leo. Don't look at me
as if we were a couple of conspirators. It's no use being cross with
Maud because she is what she is. She hasn't fine feelingsno one ever
thought she had. But Paul has found that out by this time, I dare say;
and when his chance comes he can inoculate her with his. At the worst,
he has enough for both;and having thus summed up the situation and
relieved her feelings at the same time, Sybil turned to other matters.
Yet even she sees, cried Leo, inwardly, she sees
something, though she does not know, does not guess what it is. And I
who do, oh, how shall I bear it,how shall I bear it? And this is only
the beginningthey haven't yet actually begun the real thing,they
are only looking at it, and he? She heard Sue's voice calling her,
and thrust aside the he.
Sue wanted a parcel taken to the cottage of an under-gardener, who
was ill; and thought that both Henry and his wife would appreciate the
attention more if conveyed by one of themselves, than by a servant.
Would Leo go?
And ask if Dr. Craig has been, and what he says? further directed
Miss Boldero with a little sigh. She was thinking that perhaps this was
the last she would ever have to do with either doctor or patient, and
Sue had loved much the gentle routine of her daily life, with its easy
benefactions and ministrations,and now all her world, all the world
of which she knew anything, lay in ruins around her.
I'll go, said Leo, taking the parcel.
She was ready to go anywhere, and Henry's cottage was only a short
way off, one of a cluster at the edge of the lower garden,so that
even if the rain which threatened did come on, she could find
shelterand on this occasion safe shelter. Paul had gone for a ride,
and his rides were long; Maud explained that the exercise was good for
But though thus secure, there was another danger to which no thought
had been given, and Leo, whose path at this time seemed beset with
pitfalls, on emerging from one cottage room, found herself face to face
with a visitor issuing from the other. Dr. Craig had not been able to
come himself, but had sent his assistant.
The doctor had paused to rub his chin before doing so, but the
summons which stayed his own steps was imperative, and it was a hundred
chances to one against Tommy's meeting anybody. The Boldero ladies had
been very little about of late, and one of them had already visited the
sick man that day. He took the risk.
But he would not have taken it if he had guessed how great the risk
was; nor perhaps would young Andrews have gone, had he fore-seen the
effect upon himself of that beautiful, mournful, childish face, whose
expression?A cry escaped him. A mad interpretation of it possessed
him. His promise? He threw his promise to the winds. No man could keep
a promise when confronted witheven to himself he did not say with
what,but before Leonore could escape, or prevent it, the pent-up
torrent was loosed.
At first she was petrified,then flared up. What was the meaning of
this? What was she to think? Was Mr. Andrews beside himself? Did he
know what he was saying?
Still he poured forth, deaf and blind. Oh, how he had longed for
this moment!the thought of it, the hope of it, had kept him alive
through all the wretched, wretched months of separation,and she, how
had she endured?
I can endure no more, cried Leonore, with almost a scream. Be
quietbe quietthey will hear you,don't you know that they will
What if they do? He was past that. You are here. We are together.
That is enough. He seized her hand, but she fought and struggled, and
eventually wrenched herself free. Youyou dare? she panted.
Oh, I darenow. I dare anything now.
You dare to forget who you are? And who I am?
Yes, even that. It is nothing when we love each otherand again
he laid hold of her.
Let me golet me go.
If you have not altogether lost your senses, Mr. Andrews, you will
leave me this momentthis moment; she stamped her foot,and never,
never cross my path again.
Leonore? Oh, this is too insulting a burst of tears. What have
I done to be thus degraded? and she shook the hand torn from his
grasp as though it had been poisoned.
What have you done? You do not understand
I understand enoughtoo much. With an effort she changed her tone
to one of infinite disdain. You are under some strange hallucination,
Mr. Andrews, which alone can account for this extraordinary,
intolerable behaviour. If my father had been alivebut I am still his
daughter, and you, what are you?
The words in themselves might still have failed to arrest him, but
the look, the gesture, the withering emphasis on the you?he
stood still, and after a moment, staggered a step across the pathway
like a drunken man.
If you confess it was all a delusion, resumed Leonore, in slightly
modified accents, for she was now only eager to put an end to the
scene, and a twinge of pity made itself felt, if you allow that you
have utterly misinterpreted a little ordinary civilitywell, perhaps
it was more than civility, call it kindness if you willI will try to
forget,but you also must forget, and never breath a word of this
Butbut he faltered. Then staggered afresh, unrestrainedly,
it might almost have been thought ostentatiously. It was not a pretty
For Heaven's sake, pull yourself together, cried Leonore, with a
sense of repulsion. Be ashamed of this. Own that you are ashamed of
it. Own that I never gave you cause to thinkthat you have been
Hush. I am awake now, said the young man, slowly. And he turned
his burning eyes upon her till she shrank, but this time neither from
fear nor loathing; it was a new sensation which made itself
disagreeably felt. Was she indeed as innocent as she said? Was there
not a faint horrible suspicion of bluster in her fury of contempt and
repudiation? She was silent, struggling with herself.
You have broken my heart, I think, said Tommy, in the same slow,
dull tone. You have done what I was told you would do. You have played
with me, as others of your kind have played with others of mine. God
forgive you for your cruelty, but II am awake now, and again he
muttered to himself like a man in a dream.
Mr. Andrews, can you say?stop, I suppose you can. Wait a moment;
let me speak. I was lonely, unhappy, absorbed in myself and the empty
weariness of my life whenwhen I met you. I read in your face that
youwell, say it was my fault, say it was, suddenly impetuousat
most it was but a passing folly, and it was over almost before it had
begun. If it is any satisfaction to you now, I will say that I
amsorry. I can do no more.
No, you can do no more. It is much for a great lady to go so far.
It is the usual thing, I suppose; and again his mentor's words, She
was sorry, so sorry, echoed in the speaker's earsand
thethe episode is at an end. Again I say God forgive you, Mrs.
Stubbs, for I never can.
He was gone, and she rushed homewards, stumbling over every pebble
in her path.
CHAPTER XVI. TEMPTATION.
Is anything the matter with Leo? said Maud, the next day. She is
in such an odd mood; and she has scarcely left her room since morning.
She feels the going away, I think, replied Sybil, not ill-pleased
to say it, for she was smarting beneath a fresh instance of her other
sister's callousness. We had a talk yesterday, and I saw she was
taking it dreadfully to heart.
Rather absurd of Leo. She was ready enough to go once; and she
can't be as much attached to the place as we are, who have never been
away from it; and Maud looked aggrieved, as people do when others are
accredited with finer feelings than they themselves can boast of. Paul
is low to-day, too, but I believe it is lumbago. I only hope it is, and
not another attack of fever coming on.
That would be very inconvenient, certainly, rejoined Sybil,
gravely. It struck her that there was not much sympathy for the
sufferer in either case. What makes you think it is lumbago?
He has been sitting over the fire for hours, doing nothing. When I
asked him to come and look at these plans, he said another time would
do. And you know how he is always ready to look at plans, or do
anything I wish.
He didn't say he was unwell?
No, I only supposed so.
She passed on, and at the same moment Leonore appeared.
There you are! cried Sybil gaily. Come along, and be sociable.
You have been a most unsociable little creature all day. Now then,
aren't you coming?
But Leo was not coming. Obviously she was disconcerted at sight of
her sister, and shook her head as though vexed at being accosted.
Nonsense! Don't go hiding yourself again, resumed Sybil. What's
the use of moping? And it doesn't make it any pleasanter for the rest
of us that Paul is in the dumps in one room, and you in another. We are
none too cheerful without that.
Where is Paul?
In the library. Over the fire. So Maud says, and declares he has
lumbago. I don't believe it. He simply doesn't want to be bothered with
her and her eternal 'plans'.
You are sure he is there?
Go and look for yourself if you doubt Maud's word. Why? Do you want
But Leo threw her a strange look, a look of such bitter, ironical
meaning, that she appended hastily; You are not such a little fool as
to be worrying yourself over those two and their affairs? Maud won't
thank you if you do. She is rather put out as it is, because I hinted
that you took to heart our going more than she did. I didn't say
so, you knowbut I should, if she had gone on much longer. However,
she went off to Paul.
And Paul is safe, in there?
Paul is safein there. Let sleeping dogs lie. Well? Oh, Leo, you
really are too bad, for Leo had turned at the words, and was
remounting the staircase.
One can't say a word to her that she doesn't vanish on the
instant, muttered Sybil; how I do dislike that way she has got into!
And when Maud goes, of course I shall have to take up with Leo. Hullo!
I was looking for Leo, said Sue.
Did you look in the only place you were likely to find her? She has
hardly been out of her room all day.
Has she not been out-of-doors at all? Poor child!
I tried to get her to come for a walk this morning, but she
She seems said Sue, and stopped short.
Yes, we all know what she seems, and is: in an uncommonly bad
temper, for some reason or other. There is nothing for it but to let
I am rather anxious about her somehow, Syb.
And now we shall have you in the blues too! For sheer pity bear up,
and don't let me be the only oneand I suppose I have feelings too. It
really is disgusting, every one giving way but me.
I think I must go and see what Leo is doing?
I think you must do nothing of the kind. You will make
nothing of her. I've tried. She was here just now.
And did you not notice anything? It is not only her face; but her
voice, her manner
I told her she looked woebegone, and that it was no good. She frets
about things that are no business of hers, if you must know, owned
Sybil, reluctantly. She has taken it into her head that Maudthat she
and Paul aren't suited to each other, and has let the idea run away
with her. I suppose I was stupid myself, not to put a veto upon it
flat,but the truth is I do think they are an ill-assorted couple, and
can't make out how they ever came to take to each other.
I once thought it was something else on Leo's part, said Sue, in
rather a low voice. If it is only that, I think, I hope, we are all
We? cried Sybil, struck by the word.
Because I think as you do, said Sue, quietly.
* * * * *
The short light of a November day was beginning to fade when
Leonore, after a minute's cautious listening and watching from above,
stole downstairs equipped to go out, and safely reached the garden-door
without encountering any one. She was in the act of unlocking it, when
You are going out? said he, mechanically.
No, I am not, said sheand passed out before his eyes.
For a few minutes she ran aimlessly hither and thither, crossing and
recrossing her steps, while from time to time casting furtive glances
at the windows of the house, as though to see if she were being watched
or notbut satisfied apparently upon this point, she made a sudden
dart for the woods beyond, and was almost immediately lost to view.
Yet here again she hesitated, for the paths were numerous.
There was the one she had first trodden on her return to the Abbey
three years before. She recalled the beauty, the wild freshness of that
twilight hour. It had so exhilarated her that while desirous of walking
soberly as befitted the occasion, she had longed to run! Her first very
real but transient sorrow had worn off, and there was no one to see
heryet something restrained her. It was not kind to Godfrey's memory;
he had been so good to her, so uniformly affectionate and indulgent
towards her, that she would not seem to slight him even in solitude. As
for the dancing blood in her veins, she told herself it was purely
physical. She was so well and strong that she could not help feeling
just a little happy.
And though she had often traversed the same narrow little winding
path since, she had never perhaps felt quite the same again.
On the other hand, there lay the short cut to Claymountthat was
Val's way. She would not take Val's way, although of late Val had
ceased to frequent it. He had no object in doing so, since Leonore was
never to be met with now.
Once or twice he had adverted to this, but she had replied
evasively. Val did not interest her, did not amuse her any longer. He
grew tiresome since he had taken to making remarks upon her altered
appearance, and putting direct, awkward questions.
Things might have been worse, of course; but on the whole she would
even have preferred an open rupture and well-founded resentment, to
this persistent determination to know how things were with her,and
Val had no liking for Paul Foster now, though at first he had
professed such. He had no reason to give, and an obstinate look would
come over his face if pressed. Once he had murmured something of which
Leo only caught the words, jolly deceitful,and the next minute he
denied having spoken them.
To herself Leo owned that she had not behaved well to poor Val,
having made use of him for selfish ends; but the experiment had harmed
neither, and no remorse need be wasted upon it.
With George Butts it was the same; he was fair game, having come in
search of her supposititious fortune, without even the excuse of an
honest, jog-trot fidelity such as Val's. She had been scolded on
George's account, but had not scolded herself, and had archly and
triumphantly pointed out the recusant to Sue in a sly corner of a
But young Andrews? Ah, that stung. The home truths forced
from those quivering lips, the agony of those imploring eyesshe
quailed before them. They pierced her already shame-embittered soul,
they were her dying wounds. For she had made another suffer what she
herself was suffering, and had done it wantonly. There was no excuse
for her,none. There should be no pity, no sorrowif it were
possible, no knowledge whenwhen all was over.
She crashed into the undergrowth.
But she could not go far; the mould was too soft, and the rotting
leaves too thick and plentiful. She was forced to retrace her steps.
There was the dry track of a streamlet, along which a faint trickle
oozed to the surface here and there. She tried it, but the sharp stones
hurt her feet, and again she sprang into the path.
Then the sprawling arms of a bramble caught and ripped a bad tear in
her skirt. Her new, black skirtand just where a darn would show! How
tiresomehow vexatious! And Bessie could not darn decently. She
frowned and examined, condemning already Bessie's incapable hand, and
Tillremembrance came, and the torn edge flapped unheeded.
From below, where a frequented road came near at the point, there
broke upon her ear sounds and voices,children returning late from
school, lingering and playing by the waylaughing and singing over
their game. She crouched till they were pastthen hurried forward.
At length she came to an opening in the woods; a spot whose view of
the surrounding country often attracted her thitherand from habit she
paused and gazed.
It was such an afternoon as she loved; a red sky, a misty landscape,
the near trees still ablaze with autumn tints. In the distance a flying
train threaded its way whistling; the white steam appearing and
disappearing behind wooded heights and promontories.
How often had she stood thus; how familiar was the scene!but she
could not linger now.
There was something she was searching for which she did not find.
She had only seen it once, and then by chance,in the present confused
whirl of her brain she could not remember landmarks, nor identify
But it was there, somewhere,and she must look, look till she found
A branch snapped behind, and she spun round, terrified. Whowhat
The woods were almost silent, birds had ceased to sing, and rabbits
were in their holes. After a minute's breathless suspense, she crept on
a pace or two, and listened again,but there was not a rustle, not a
sound. She fled onwards.
A pile of logs and a rough saw-pit,yes, yes,she knew the
saw-pit, she had passed the saw-pit that other day, and Val and she had
sat upon the logs. Val had kicked about the splinters at his feet, and
formed them into heaps. And it was close, close by, thatoh, it was so
close that she shivered and trembled, and clung to the edge of the pit
as a support, and at last sank upon her knees.
But she was not prayingshe was not even thinking;there was
nothing more to think about,she rose and crept down the slope, to
where lay a deep, black pool.
And out of the pool crawled a toad. Its head came first; the ugly,
flat head that, but for its movement, might have been mistaken for a
lump of slime,then one long-jointed, sluggish leg, and then the
other, followed by a sudden leap, and a leap, ah! the loathsome
thing!in her direction. Involuntarily she also leapedbackwards.
Not therenot just there; she shuddered as the reptile startled in
its turn, turned and plunged again into the water, where, no doubt,
were others of its kind, many and vile....
The stem of a bulrush shook, suggestive of hideous gambols at its
The whole place looked so foul and evil that a wild desire to flee
from it did actually, and as it were involuntarily, drag Leonore's
nerveless feet a few yards from the edgebut there she halted,
muttering to herself in broken, meaningless utterances. She thought she
was goading herself backbackback;and she began to go back.
* * * * *
Caught you up at last, Leo. What a walker you are! I followed you
out, and guessed I should overtake you if I held on, continued the
cheerful voice, as Paul tumbled down the bank, slipping and sliding,
and steadying himself with his stick till he reached Leo's side. A bit
damp here though, isn't it?
Go awaygo away, Paul. She tried to push him aside, he was
between her and the pool.
Sorry. I didn't mean to intrude; but, I say this is just the sort
of thing to be very pleasant at the time, but
But it will find out the weak spot afterwards, and then the aches
I shall have no aches and pains, and youyou needn't stay.
I don't want you, I won't have you; cried Leo, wildly. Why did you
come? Why did you follow me? Who gave you leave to spy upon me?
I took my own leave, said Paul, and dropped his cheery note,
fixing his eyes steadily on hers. You will come awayfrom herewith
me;and she felt his hand close upon her arm.
She looked at it, and at him stupidly. She made no outcry.
Come, repeated Paul.
She shook her head.
You are going to come. That was what brought me here. Do you
understand me, Leo?
Nono. She made a faint, weak effort to release herself.
You must obey me.
I shall not.
You must obey a Higher Power than mine. In God's name I command you
to leave this baleful spot.
Paul! But she obeyed, cowering.
In silence they moved on, neither knowing which way they trod, then
suddenly: It was you who broke that branch I heardyou who tracked me
all the wayI heard somethingit was you I heard? How could
you?how could you?? cried Leo, sobbing aloud. Oh, to think that
it was you!
It was I, dear Leo, sent to save you in your hour of need. You are
illyou are not yourselfyou know not what you are doing;but there
is One who watches over His children, and in the hour of danger and
But why did he send you? Paul, do you believe you were
really sent by Him? she was awed, but scarcely subduedbecause I
don't. I cannot think even God would be so cruel as to choose you
she broke off panting.
He chooses His own instruments, Leo. Do not let this distress you,
dear little sisterI may call you 'sister,' mayn't I?You can trust
me, can you not? Lean on me, he drew her hand within his arm, and
tell me you forgive
Forgiveforgive? she sobbed afresh. Is it I to forgiveI who
have done it all? Paul, don't you know? Don't you see?
I only see a poor little lamb that has lost its fold.
But the little lamb has been straying in other folds, and it was so
dark there, Paulso dark and cold,oh, Paul, why did you stop me?
Whywhy did you save me? You know. You know;her sobs were
He was silent.
You were happy till you came here, said Leo, brokenly. You loved
Maudat least you thought you did, and she, she still thinks she loves
Hushno more. You must not say such things, Leo. He was calm no
longer; the sweat broke out upon his brow.
But it is the truth. Oh, it isit is the truth.
There are truths that must not be spoken. You must not, you shall
not say what you would repent of all your life.
Who is to speak if I do not? I am the only one
Am I fallen so low that I would let you proclaim the secrets
of my coward heart? If my lips are sealed, so shall yours
be, he cried, in great agitation. If I have made a terrible mistake,
it is my own mistake, and I shall abide by it.
PaulPaul, she clung more closely to him. Say you forgive me,
There is nothing to forgive. Take care. You nearly fell, Leo. Try
to look where you are going in this dim light. The accents of forced
composure fell like cold lead upon her heart. She had touched him for a
moment, and a nerve had vibrated to her touchbut he was slipping from
her again. He continued:
Since your penetration has discovered
Say since I found out the truth, Paul.
That, if you will. He bent his head. I cannot, I dare not deny
it. It is the truth, God help meGod help us both.
You and me? she whispered, faintly.
Maud and me. I have done her a great wrong, but it shall be the aim
of my life to repair it. She shall find me a true and faithful
You won'tyou can't marry her?
What? said Paul, stopping short.
You do not love her.
I loved her onceI shall learn to love her again.
You will be wretched, miserableand so will she, now that you know
the truth. I would have spared you. I meant to give my life to spare
youoh, Paul, you know I did, she wept passionatelybut now, now
when you yourself would not let me do it
She wept on.
Try to hear me. Try to understand me. Leo, there is a greater thing
No, no, there is notthere is not.
There is. He drew a breath, a long, deep breath. There is
She was silent. The tears hung on her cheeks.
I have lost all besides, said he, simply, but I have kept that,
and will keep it. He paused, and continued: If Maud were different,
other things might also be different, but you know your sister; to
break faith with her would beshe could not endure it. I have taught
her to believe that I am wholly hers, and she has never seen nor
guessed thatthat a change has come. And however acutely Maud would
feel that, if she knewwhich, so help me God, she never shallshe
would be infinitely more distressed, more humiliatedher prideher
self-respectno, it is not to be thought of. He was now walking on
alone, and so fast that she could scarcely keep pace with him. She
could catch only broken utterancessome perhaps not meant for her. It
appeared as though he had forgotten her presence.
Love lost, much lost.
Honour lost, all lost.
Honour is not lostnot yet. Happiness? That's nothing. Life is
short, and there's another life to look to. A coward turns his back on
the fight. A deserter falls out of the ranks. The strong should hold up
the weaksuddenly he looked round for herLeo?
Leo meekly raised her eyes, overmastered, dumb. It was the hardest
moment of Paul's life. One look, one word between them, and she would
have been dragged down into the whirlpool from which it was his part to
save her. A great convulsion shook his frame, and he set his teeth and
swore, then drew her gently to his side.
My little sister must forget all this. It is a bad dream and it is
over and past. She must promise me
She must promise mesolemnlybefore God, in Whose Presence we
arehe looked up, the sky was clear and shining overheadthat she
will nevermark me, Leo, neveras long as life lasts, allow
herself to think of cutting it short again. Before God, Leo!
He lifted her hand, still fast in his, as though invoking the Unseen
Presence, and almost inaudibly she repeated after him the words of the
We must hasten home now, said Paul, with a rapid transition to
another tone. The short cut from Claymount is somewhere hereabouts,
looking roundand we shall get back, he took out his watch, before
the house is shut up, if we walk briskly. You can walk, can't you? I
mean, of course you will have to walk, but can you step out? If you
would care to have an arm
I can walk quite well, thank youbut, oh, Paul, just thismayn't
I say it?
Better not, dear. The word slipped out; he was unconscious of it,
but she heard. They hurried home.
CHAPTER XVII. A KNIGHT TO THE
No, you don'tand don't you think it.
Somebody, and that a formidable personage, had been a witness of the
scene just narrated.
We would not for a moment call poor Val Purcell an eavesdropper
au naturel, but he certainly had a talent for picking up by the
wayside things which did not exactly belong to him.
Val, as we know, was not quite like other people.
It was only now and then that he showed this; in the ordinary give
and take of society he passed muster well enough, and no one would more
readily have spurned the notion of doing what others did not dothat
being the poor boy's code of conduct,yet he is not to be hardly
judged if occasionally it failed him at a pinch. Wherefore if when
passing through the Abbey woods on the afternoon in question, he heard
voices and crept near to peep and listen, let it be believed that the
feeling which arrested his footsteps was in its way innocent. His
curiosity was roused, and he had a hearty sympathy with sylvan lovers;
so if Jack and Jill were courting, there was no reason why he should
not see which Jack and Jill it was? He would not tell tales, not he.
But when, instead of the expected rustic figures, his starting eyes
beheld Paul Foster andnot Paul's betrothednot the girl with whom
alone he had a right to wander in that dim solitude at that mystic
hourbut Leonore, Leonore who was nothing, or should have been nothing
to her sister's lover, curiosity gave place to another feeling.
So how? He would spy if he chose.
He would jolly well discover what the devil those two were about?
They were up to no good hiding away by themselves in the woods, and,
damnation! holding each other's hands.
That beast Paulhe had always thought him a beastno, he hadn't,
but he did nowso he was playing a double game, was he? Engaged to
Maud, and flirting with Leo under the rose?
Leo could flirt, of course; she had made a fool of himself
once,but he had got it into his head that she rather disliked
Paul;she had never cracked him up as the rest did,oh, she was a
cunning, crafty little jade, and he would put a spoke in her wheel, be
hanged if he didn't!
The undergrowth was so thick at the point to which Paul had half
led, half dragged his trembling companion at this juncture, that it was
easy for a third person to draw very near unperceived,and though much
that now passed was unintelligible to one not possessed of the key of
the mystery, Val heard enough.
He did not indeed hear any love-making,but instinct guided him
straight to the mark which another by reasoning might have failed to
reach. He was as fully convinced that Maud had been supplanted as if he
had heard the fact avowed a hundred times; and though he stole off,
afraid to linger, before Paul's final adjuration which might have
puzzled and mystified him, he had got as much as his brain could carry,
and got it in very good order.
The next day he presented himself at Boldero Abbey. His plan of
campaign, conned over and over with ever-increasing wrath and valour,
was not confided to gran. Gran had never liked Maud, and in old days he
would often affect a hopeless passion for the latter for the sake of
getting amusement out of the old lady. Then an argument would ensue,
and he very nearly felt the passion. He could not see that one Boldero
was not as good as another; and as he could not be bluntly told that
Leonore had money while her sister had not, he held to it that gran was
prejudiced to the point of injustice. Accordingly he kept his own
counsel now, and plumed himself thereon mightily.
And Fortune favoured him; for though all the ladies were at home,
the one he sought was by herself in the drawing-room, when he was
I say, it's you I want, said Val, immediately. Look here, Maud, I
want to see you alone, and without any one's knowing. Where are the
Sue and Sybil are out
But I was told they were in!
That's Grier's laziness. He has grown intolerably lazy of late. As
he is under notice to go, he won't put himself out of his way for any
one of us, and says 'At Home' or 'Not at Home,' just as it suits him,
without taking the trouble of finding out.
Where are they gone? demanded Val, as usual diverted from his
course by any chance observation. Despite the purpose with which he was
big, he could not help feeling inquisitive as to which house in the
neighbourhood was being honoured.
Only to the rectory, said Maud, indifferently; but they are
there, and there they will stay for ages. It is a sort of farewell
visit. What do you want to see me about?
Stop a bit. There's Leo. Is shewhere is she?
In bed. She caught a chill yesterday going out in the damp.
You are sure she is not out in the damp again, to-day? said Val,
significantly, and gave his companion what he considered a meaning
look. Hey? Are you sure of that, Maud?
As I was with her five minutes ago, I think I may be, retorted
Maud, and convinced by this preamble that Leo, not herself, was the
real object of the visit, she was less gracious than before. I thought
you said it was me you wanted?she threw out, however.
So it is. I don't want Leonot a bit. I don't want her ever again,
that's more. You'd say the same if you'd seen what I saw. Give me time,
and I'll tell you all about it. That's what I came for.
Really, Val, Iit's not the thing, you know, to come to one of us
with complaints of the other. If you have any fault to find with Leo,
you must say so to herself.
You wait till you hear. You won't be so keen for me to go to
But I really can't, said Maud, rising. Her pride revolted at the
idea of being the confidant of some silly quarrel, which did not
concern her in the slightest. I don't know anything about it, and I
don't want to know. Do talk of other things.
What? When I came here on purpose?
Hush,you needn't be excited. Of course if you are determined to
speak, you had better speak and be done with it; but I warn you I
shan't take your part, or any one's part
As long as you don't take Paul's part, cried he, with a flash of
inspiration, the rest doesn't matter.
Paul's part? For very amazement Maud fell into her chair again,
and stared at the speaker as though he had struck her a blow.
Whatwhat did you say? Did you say 'Paul's part'?
Yes, I didI did say just that. I told you you'd jolly well better
hear me out instead of being so infernally supercilious. Oh, I say, I'm
sorry I said that, Maud; I'mI'm sorry for you altogether.
You speak in enigmas, Val,but her laugh was a little forced; his
earnestness and persistency told; and then there was Paul's part?
He isbut look here, you needn't mind what he is. Don't you take
it to heart
I know what Paul is, thank you, haughtily.
That's just what you don't
Excuse me, Val
Excuse me, Maud
You are impertinent now, I shall listen no longer.
Listen no longer? You haven't even begun to listen. Confound
it, you shouldn't treat a fellow like this, when a fellow is doing all
he can for you, and feels for you asas I do. You know I've always
been fond of you, Maud, softening, and I've come to say that if
you'll marry me instead
Have you gone crazy, Val? But vanity whispered a flattering
solution of the problem, and his ear detected an opening. To the same
suggestion Leo had cried Nonsense! and although affronted at first,
he had ultimately accepted the Nonsense! with philosophy,but he had
weapons in reserve now, and would soon show that he was not crazy.
No, damn it, he was not crazy. The idea!
With the rush of a torrent he told his tale.
And you saw thisand you heard this? said Maud, at last. You did
not dream it? Youyou are sure you did not dream it?
I'll take my solemn Davy I saw it all, and heard it all. Leo is a
little cat; and as for Paul, to think that he should darebut I say,
Maud, you will checkmate him, won't you?
Hush; she waved him back, for he had pressed forward. Let me
thinklet me think. If this is truebut it isn't, it can't be
true, and she pressed her hands upon her forehead. A thousand
trifles, insignificant in themselves, which had secretly perplexed and
chafed her spirit of late, rushed back upon her memory. Paul had lost
the air of a happy lover. He had become moody, silent, solitary in his
habits. He had, it is true, obeyed to the strictest extent the dictates
of custom, but there were moments which in the retrospect maddeningly
bore out Val's accusation. He had playedhe was still playing her
false? She was, or would be, a laughing-stock? She quailed and
Take me, urged Val. It's notnot only for your own sake, though
of course that's what I'm thinking of most, but
I must know first. I must make sure of the truth first.
If you do, you'll give the show away. You ought never to let out
that you know anything, and throw him over before he throws you.
Thenthere you are!
You mean that I must not unveil Paul's treachery? That he is to go
You can't cut off your nose to spite your face, you know. Once you
have a row with Paul the fat is in the fire, and it will be all over
the place that he's jilted you.
And for my own sister; said she, bitterly.
She longed to rush to Leo, to Paul, to both severally or together,
and denounce them. She could scarce restrain herself from proclaiming
her wrongs upon the housetops, butshe paused and looked thoughtfully
at Val. There was no doubt about Val's integrity. Up to his lights he
was universally accounted straight, and she need never fear being
tricked and cheated a second time. He had acted well by her at this
crisis, and to reward him? The idea grew in favour.
On the other hand, how terrible would be her position if she
refusedand Position was a god she worshipped. She would be talked
about, pointed at, and worst of all, pitied. Her ignominyshe could
not face it.
I say, Maud, you know I am fond of you?
Yes, poor boy, he was fond of her; she had always felt complacently
secure of his fondness, though occasionally nettled of late by
misgivings as to his having transferred his first allegiance elsewhere.
Leo had been bidden to Claymount oftener than she; and gran had made
much of the younger sister, whereas she had always been cool and
distant to the elder.
Maud, in her slow way, had resented this, and given herself
considerable airs towards the old lady after her engagement. To triumph
over herover everybodyvindicate her own charms, and prove to the
world the unswerving devotion of her old admirer would be something,
would at any rate be better than nothing.
She sighed gently, and emboldened, he pressed his suit. A long
interview closed with this decision. If satisfied as to the truth of
his statementsbut satisfied she must beshe would send for him next
day, andand do whatever he asked her.
That's right, that's all I want; his face shone with satisfaction.
Of course you wouldn't have wanted me if you had had Paulnot that
Paul is any shakes now, (and whatever he is, he's not for you, in
parenthesis,) andand I'm your man. I'll see you through, Maud; trust
You will make all the arrangements?that is, if I send for you?
Won't I? I had the whole thing in my head when I came here, and
I'll work it out again going home. I'm a bit flustered just now, but
you'll see if I don't do the square thing. We'll be off by the first
train for London town and a registry officebut don't I just wish it
was Gretna Green, and a gallop through the night! I have often thought
what a jolly skidaddle one might have behind four horses to Gretna
Go, now; said Maud, authoritatively. But if I send word to come,
And the message went, Come.
* * * * *
Mr. Anthony Boldero and Mr. John Purcell were putting their heads
together in the window of a Pall Mall club. The two gentlemen had a
subject in common to discuss; and as old acquaintances, who had
recently become new neighbours, they had a great deal to say and said
A most disgraceful business; the one bald head wagged, and the
other responded. 'Pon my soul, asserted Mr. Purcell, vivaciously, it
is no wonder it killed the old lady. She might have hung on long
enough, but for that. Although she was seventy-seven. Seventy-seven. A
ripe age, Boldero.
He was only a little over sixty himself, and had often wondered how
long his step-mother was going to keep him out of the property? It had
for years been a secret grievance that a second wife should have had
its tenancy for life, and made her descendant, a poor creature like
Val, its master in appearance if not in fact. He could not therefore
affect to be inconsolable.
Was it possible that the disgraceful business had had anything to
do with General Boldero's demise?he queried next. Could he have
known, or suspected anything?
Mr. Anthony Boldero thought not. The general had been as cock-a-hoop
as possible over his daughter's engagement; as insufferably patronising
and condescending as over the first affair.
And it turned out a fiasco, of course, observed his friend.
While he lived, Boldero contrived to keep going his own version, I'm
told; and they sealed up the girl as tight as wax to prevent her
telling talesbut every one knows now. So you think he was crowing
over Maud's marriage too? Well, well, what would he have said to this?
They then talked of Major Foster. Major Foster had behaved like a
gentleman, taken himself quietly out of the way, and made no fuss. Mr.
Anthony Boldero thought he was probably well out of the connection; the
Boldero girls were too big for their boots, and Maud was the worst of
them. All the same, no man likes to be jilted.
Is it the case that your nephew has had nothing left him by his
grandmother? he suddenly demanded, having disposed of Paul.
He's not my full nephew, you know; he's only my half-brother's son.
And, fact is, the old lady had nothing, or next to nothing to leave.
Her money was all jointure, and reverts to the estate.
And you have come in for Claymount free and unencumbered, as I have
for the Boldero property? Ah! said his companion, thoughtfully.
Presently he looked up. Suppose between us we do something for
those two lunatics, Purcell? We can't let them starve, eh? Suppose we
make a bit of a purse, and ship them off to the colonies? British
Columbia, eh? That's the only place for them and their sort; and if
they can be put on a decent footing there, they won't be in a hurry to
come back again. Eh? What d'ye say? I'm willing, if you are. I have no
great affection for these relatives of mine, but after all, they are
relatives, and blood is thicker than water.
Wellyes; said Mr. Purcell, dubiously. He had been mentally
putting off this evil day, uneasily conscious that it was bound to
The general was the worst of the lot, proceeded his companion;
the most arrogant, conceited, humbugging, old swelled-head I ever came
across. But he's gone, and the poor girlswell, I'm sorry for them.
Sue is a good creature. I hardly know the younger ones,but none of
them have given me any trouble since I had to deal with them. Except
for this scandal of Maud's of courseand anyhow that doesn't affect
me. Well, what about her and her precious husband? You are bound to
do something for him, I suppose?
And it ended in Mr. Purcell's doing it.
Before Maud sailed, it was necessary for her to take leave of her
sisters, and this was Leonore's worst time. Till then she had been
shielded from the outer world by the illness which was impending when
Maud described it as a chill contracted by going out in the damp, and
the event which followed was generally accredited with developing the
chill into something more serious,but although Sue was obliged to ask
a month's grace from Mr. Anthony Boldero, in order that her sister
might be sufficiently recovered to run no risk from moving(a request
which he had sufficient goodness of heart to ignore when alleging that
he had had no trouble about family arrangements)Leo was now well
enough to have no excuse for evading a farewell scene.
In respect to Maud she knew not what to think. Had any hint or
rumour of the truth ever reached her, or could it have been mere
coincidence that caused her flight to follow Paul's confession almost
on the instant?
Had Paul's vaunted inflexibility broken down? Had he reconsidered
Yet, if so, this must have become known; it was impossible that it
should have been kept secret; and he, not Maud would have been
Where is Paul? What is Paul doing? The faint bleat of a weak and
wounded creature came incessantly from Leonore's pillow, all through
the first long day that followed the esclandre. They hid it from
her that Paul had gone.
Sue and Sybil would fain have kept him, yearning to breathe forth
contrition and sympathy every hour, every momentbut he could not be
prevailed upon. They thought he was too deeply hurt, too cruelly
affronted,and they thought they would not tell Leo.
It was all so inexplicable that even the very servants who know us,
their masters and mistresses, better than we know each other, could
draw no conclusions, and the prevailing amazement downstairs found vent
in ejaculations of Miss Maud! Miss Maud of all people! Now if it had
been Leonorebut the speaker, a pert young thing, was sharply called
to order for impudence'Mrs. Stubbs' then,the name ain't so pretty
she need have it always tagged on to herwith a giggleshe's got it
in her to run away with any number of 'em, she has. And Val was
her one, Mary and me thought. But, Lor, it's looks that tells: and
pretty as she is, LeonoreMrs. Stubbs, giggling again, can't stand
up to her that's Mrs. Val now. See her in her weddin' dressmy! We
little thought she wasn't never to put it on in earnest, when we was
let to have a sight of her that day it come home. A real treat it was!
Maud's first letter was a triumph of equivocal diplomacy. She did
not utter a single verbal falsehood, and without such contrived to
blindfold every one. Her feelings towards her affianced husband had
changed of late(of late is an elastic term)she had learnt to
value the lifelong devotion of her dear Val,(when learned was again
left to the imagination)and seeing no course left but to break with
Paul before it was too late, she had fled to avoid a scene which would
have only given him pain, and not altered her resolution.
Had you any sort of premonition of this, Paul? Sue inquired in
tremulous accents, an hour having elapsed since the letter came.
She put one or two rather strange questions to me yesterday;
Might I askcould you tell me what they were?
I think I would rather not. It can do no good now. He spoke
gently, but she could not press the point.
She knows; said Paul, to himself. How she knows I cannot fathom;
but all this about the change in her feelings is only a blind. She
knows; and though she has given me my release, I can never avail
myself of it.
He left the Abbey within the hour.
* * * * *
And this was now a story three months old, and Maud was coming to
say Good-bye before beginning a new life in another land.
Heretofore she had obstinately rejected the olive branch held out by
Sue. Sue, acting as mouthpiece for the three, had written time and
again, begging that for all their sakes no estrangement should take
place; entreating the delinquents to believe that they would only meet
with kindness and affection in Eaton Place, where the sisters were
established, and where room was plentiful. Would not Val and Maud come
and make their home also there for the present?
But though the offer, delicately worded, might have been presumed
tempting enough to two almost penniless people, it was coldly declined.
And she seems as if she were angry with us! cried
Sybil, she who dragged the whole family through the mud, and left us
to bear the brunt!
Certainly she does write as if she bore us a grudge, owned Sue,
and yet, how can she? What have we done? What has any one of us done
that Maud should refuse to be one with us again? I am sorry, but of
course if that is the spirit in which poor Maud receives overtures of
peace, I reallyreally I do not think I can go on thrusting them upon
her. For Sue also had her pride, though it was a poor, weak,
back-boneless pride, which would have melted at the first soft word
from her sister.
The emigration concocted in the club window, however, effected what
all besides had failed to do. By the time the final arrangements were
complete and the tickets taken, Maud, on the eve of departure, was won
upon to come to Eaton Place, though she still declined to take up her
Nor would she come alone.
Val's with her, announced Sybil, having peeped from the balcony;
she might have left him behind, I think. I did want to find out if I
could, what Maud really means by all this? Why we are in
disgrace, because she has behaved like an idiot?
We shall never discover that now; said Sue,and the event proved
Maud had taken the best and surest precaution against conversation
of an intimate nature. She had put on one of the smartest dresses of
her elaborate trousseauhaving left it unpacked on purpose,and her
step as she entered was that of a stranger on a foreign soil. She was
studiously polite; she inquired with a becoming air of solicitude after
their healths, and she looked kindly at Sue:but a jest of Sybil's
fell flat, and Leo was conscious that her sister's lips never actually
touched her cheek.
Leo herself was trembling from head to foot.
We have been rather anxious about dear Leo, said Sue, with a
tender glance towards the shrinking figure in the background.
Indeed? There is a good deal of influenza about; replied Maud
carelessly. Before anyone could rejoin she changed the subject. They
tell us the weather look-out is favourable, and we ought to have a good
passage. She never once looked at Leo, nor spoke to her.
And she rose to go as soon as decency permitted. But though a good
deal was said about future home-comings, and Val declared that he for
one would never rest till he was back in Old England again, there was a
general feeling that the impending separation would prove if not
absolutely final, at least of long duration. Maud was evidently longing
to be off. Her voice as she hurried to the door was sharp and
impatient. She could scarcely wait for Val to make his adieux properly,
and sprang into the hansom while he was still in the hall.
Then she leaned forward and beckoned, and Leo ran out. Leo was
yearning for one little word, one kind look to prove her dreadful fears
unfounded, but, It was not you I wanted, said Maud, rearing her chin;
send my husband to me.
She turned her face aside, and Leonore, like Paul, cried within
herself, She knows.
CHAPTER XVIII. A TURN OF THE
Hoots, it's in the blood, said Dr. Craig, briefly.
An old friend had come to visit him, and started the topic which had
ceased to be a nine days' wonder in the neighbourhood.
There's a wild strain in the Bolderos somewhere, continued the
doctor, crossing his legs, and settling down for a chat. Those lassies
have had a gay lady among their forebears at some time or other, for
they didn't get their pranks from old Brown-boots. To do Brown-boots
justice, he was respectableI'm thinking it was his one virtue. Proud
as Lucifer, and vain as a peacockthey say you can't be both, but he
wasand so was Maudand it was just her vanity that got the whip
hand of her pride at the last. It must have been, musing; nothing
else could account for her throwing over a nice fellow like Foster, and
a good match too, for poor loony Val without a sixpence. She didn't
know he hadn't a sixpence, mind you; she meant to come back and queen
it at Claymount,where I doubt not she would soon have ruled the
roost, if she hadn't had the ill-luck to kill the old lady instead. She
wanted to show she had two strings to her bow, d'ye see? He smoked and
nodded, then started afresh:
Aye, aye, and there was LeonoreLeonore Stubbsthe widow. Her
that played the mischief with that poor lad of mine, Tommy Andrews, and
lost me the best assistant I ever had. I tried to get Tommy back after
the Bolderos left, but no; he scunnered the place; she had just eaten
the heart out of him, Leonore had. My word, she was a jaunty bit
creature. I fair weakened to her myself, when she would stand by the
road-side looking up at me in the gig, with those big, laughing eyes of
hersand her wee bit moothie, it was the prettiest bit thingthough
mind you, I ran her down to Tommy. Poor Tommy!
He wouldn't take a telling, resumed the speaker, after a pause.
They never will, you knowthose dour, close, machine-like lads;
they'll make no resistance; they'll let you talk and talk and think
you've convinced themand it just rolls like water off a duck's back.
Tommy garred me believe it was all over and done with. He went about
his work, and kept out of little pussycat's way, and then, phew! all at
once the murder was out! It was simply bottled up; and one fine dayI
don't know what happened, for cart-ropes wouldn't drag it out of
himbut something did, and he came in, looking battle and
murder and sudden death. He was off at crack of dawn,and that was
just a few days before Maud's fine elopement took place. We had never
had such an excitement before in these humdrum parts, and we never
To all of this the friend, also a Scot, hearkened without emitting a
When, however, his ear detected the accents of finality, he shook
the ashes from his pipe and opened his lips: I fell in with the
rejected gentleman the other day.
Foster? No? Did you? Did you really? How was that? In an instant
the doctor was on the alert.
I was on my holiday, doing a bit of fishing in an out-of-the-way
part of Sutherland, and there were only two or three of us in the
hotel. Foster was one.
A tall, thin man, with a lantern-jawed face?
That's him. One of the others had got wind of this tale, and told
me. We were talking of you, I fancy; and he had been down here a whiley
ago, when the affair was fresh.
What was Foster doing there?
Fishing like the rest of usbut always by himself. He wasn't
uncivil, only unsociable. I had a walk with him one day, and he talked
about India. A good part of his life had been spent in India, and he
could tell a lot about it, but when the talk came round home, he shut
up like a knife, and I kind of jaloused there was something wrong. That
was before I knew what it was.
He lookedhow did he look?
How? I can't tell you how. He just looked. That was enough
Well, you saw the sort of chap he was, just the one to take a
woman's fancy,and to think that Maud Boldero could be so blind daft
as to throw him over for that poor Val, whom she could have picked up
at any time!
What has become of the others? Do you ever hear anything of them?
Sybil has married. She married pretty quickly after they left. A
London man; a barrister, I think. Sybil is good-looking enough, they
are all good-looking; though Maud's the pick of the bunch. Stop a bit,
I'm not sure that the little rascal Leonorebut no, no; she hadn't the
air, the style; it was just a way she had,eh, she was a bit beguiling
thing. There's that new boy of mine, he has twice the go that poor
Tommy had, though nothing like the brainsbut he's all over the place
among the lasses, and when I hear him whistling here and whistling
there, with his nose in at every open door, thinks I to myself, 'Thank
the Lord, Leonore Stubbs is out of Jock's way'.
Leonore was out of everybody's way, it seemed,or it might have
been that she had ceased to be beguiling. People who met her during the
next year of her life, found a quiet young girlshe still looked very
youngwith rather an interesting countenance; but if drawn thereby to
prosecute her acquaintance, they tried to engage her in their pursuits
and pleasures, they were disappointed. She did not respond to buoyant
propositions; games and pastimes did not attract her; they thought she
did not know how to flirt.
In short she was dull, and rather tiresomely devoted to her
half-sister, whom no one thought of inviting to join in youthful
escapadesso after a time Leo was not invited either.
This was a trouble to Sue, and one day she made a suggestion. Was
there any use in remaining in London, if the life there was not in
accordance with either of their tastes? If Leo no longer cared for
societythough she owned she thought that a pity at her ageand here
the speaker paused.
I don'tat present, owned Leo, frankly. I may againsome
time,but to herself she wondered, would that some time ever come?
Then news came from America, sad news, which put all other thoughts
aside for the moment. A child had been born, but its birth had cost the
mother her life, and the next cable announced that poor Val had lost
his little son also. He was begged to return home, and assured of
welcome and maintenance there,but to the surprise of all replied
evasively. He would see how matters were by-and-by; he could not bring
himself to move just yet.
The next letter expatiated on the wonderful beauty and climate of
California, and the kindness and hospitality of friends, who had
carried him off for a trip, to distract his thoughts.
Again another letter was full of nothing but these friends. Poor
simple Val had not the art of concealment, and long before he knew
himself, the sisters knew what to expect. He had been most awfully sad
and lonely, and he would never forget Maud,but he had found a dear
girl who reminded him of her, and (here the pen had raced) by the time
dear Sue and Leo received the letter, he would be married to the
richest heiress in California. A newspaper followed, announcing that
the ceremony had actually taken place.
So we need not go out to Val, said Leo, with a smile.
She and Sue were wandering hither and thither with no particular
reason for being anywhere, and it had been in contemplation to cross
the Atlantic. Sue's investments had prospered of late, and there would
have been no difficulty about fundsyet each sister was conscious of a
sense of relief when the expedition was abandoned. Sue was timorous and
a bad traveller,while Leo, from whom the suggestion had emanated, no
sooner found it taking shape than she repented. What was she going for?
What could the new country yield that the old could not? Could it heal
her sore heart? Could it banish remembrance? Could it give her news of
Paul? Paul, who had vanished from the face of the earth?
Rather she would be turning her back upon any possibility of either
hearing of or seeing him again; and though, of course, she could not
wish that they should meet, and in the natural sequence of events, they
were most unlikely to meet, it would be something only tooh, anything
would be better than that bitter blank, that desolation of ignorance
which was so impenetrable, so insurmountable.
Sue knew now about Paul. When Maud died there was no further reason
for concealment, and albeit the shock was great, it was a consolation
to both sisters to drop the veil between them.
But you do understand, don't you, that he nevernever even when I
almost forced it from him, said that it was I? murmured Leo. I
knew it; I felt it; but he did not, he would not say it. Oh, I did so
long for him to say it just oncebut he never did. Sue, you know that
little old jug I have upstairs? suddenly she broke off, as it appeared
Little old jug? Sue reflected, but could not remember. And she
wondered somewhat. What could a little old jug have to do with the
The one with the French soldier's motto. It used to be on the
anteroom mantelpiece at Boldero. Oh, you must remember it, Sue.
We had so much china, dear
But this was the one I asked you to give me for my ownhowever,
listen. The motto was:
Mon âme â Dieu,
Ma vie au Roi,
Mon coeur aux Dames,
L'honneur pour moi.
Paul noticed it one day, and turned round and said, 'That's
splendid,'and read it again. That was when he first came. And
afterwards, when things were getting very bad, I came upon him standing
in front of the mantelpiece, staring at the jug. I rather liked it
myself, but I didn't see it as he did, for on that dreadful day, she
looked down, even when it was only Sue, she looked downwhen Paul
saved me from myself
When you were too ill to know what you were doing, darling.
He looked at me and said with a sort of smile, 'L'honneur pour
Sue looked attention.
You know how poor Maud bored usI mean how she insisted on Paul's
religion as if it were something which gave him a sort of cachet
something quite over our heads?and how fatheroh, Sue, I
must say itdo you remember how father once shut her up by declaring
that Paul was too much of a gentleman to introduce unpleasant subjects?
It was only father's way, you know. He didn't mean any harm, and I do
think, don't you, that father was changed a little, that he was
different those last few weeks? He said to me once: 'There's more in it
than you think'. Anyway, Sue, he did like and admire Paul.
Yesyes, he did.
Now I want to say something, Leo changed the subject, which each
felt to be a sad one. Sue, what reallywhat I shall never forget, is,
that when the worst moment of all came, when Paul and I were together,
all alone, and I was readyoh, I was ready to fall into his
arms if he had held out his little fingerhe didn't hold it. He stood
there like a statue. And I know, I know what held him back. If
all the world had called Paul a good man, and he had preached goodness
from morning to night, it wouldn't have had the least effect, but when
he said 'L'honneur pour moi'her tears overflowed, and Sue
They often wondered how much and how little had been suspected by
Maud, inducing her own line of action. In the light of her subsequent
attitude it seemed more than probable that she had either learnt or
divined that all was not as it appeared, but so cleverly had she kept
up a show of being in good spirits up to the close of the day which was
to Leo like the day of judgment, that nothing could be certain.
Sue could recall that after Leo had been seen to bed, obviously ill,
on her return to the house before dinner, Maud had expressed a sort of
satisfaction, pointing out that this accounted for the peculiarities of
her sister's behaviour throughout the day. Really one is glad to know
it was that, she had exclaimed more than once.
She had also rallied Paul for his indifference on the subject. It
appeared he had been out with Leo, and on such a raw evening he might
have seen that it was rash and foolish of her not to keep within doors.
But I suppose you thought as it wasn't me? she had wound
up; and Sue, conscious that Sybil was watching also, owned that the
triumphant smile by which the words were accompanied, made her
And the next morning she pored over a new set of illustrated
papers, continued she; it is odd that I should remember it all so
clearly, but I do. What happened afterwards stamped it on my memory, no
doubt. I racked my brains to think if Paul could have offended her in
any way, and if a sudden angry impulseyou know poor Maud was apt to
get angry, and to be very implacable toobut they seemed quite as
friendly as usual. We had grown to think, Sybil and I, that Paul had
notnot perhaps found Maud all that he expected, and that
sometimes he looked a little grave after they had been together. Sybil
spoke to me about it, but we kept it to ourselves, as we fancied you
Well? said Leo, slowly. Well? She was drinking in every word.
The next eveningthe evening you were in bedstop, let me
consider: no, I don't think there was any palpable difference; nothing
to attract attention, of that I am sure. Maud had great command
over herself. She told us as if it were an ordinary piece of news, that
she had had a long visit from Valbut whether she intended Paul to
take any notice of that, or not, I cannot tell. I cannot tell anything
about that evening, because my own thoughts were rather taken up with
you, and I was up in your room a good deal, you may remember?
Yes, Leo remembered. Remembered also how she tried every means to
get rid of the kindly, patient intruder, who tortured her by her
presence and anxiety. I never thought I should be able to tell you the
truth, Sue. And oh, I was so miserable, I was in hell
Darling Leo, don't; don't say that. It is not quite right, you
Yet we talk of being in heaven, why is the other place worse?
Sue however could not tell why, and only shook her head gently.
Well, then, I was, you know where, resumed Leo, with a nod; and
what's more, I had been there for ages. I was wicked for quite a long
time before that, you know; and she leaned her elbows on Sue's lap,
and looked up into her face. It began soon after I came home. I did so
hate being a widowoh, poor Godfrey! Sue, it had nothing to do with
Godfrey; it was the awful clothes, and the being shut up in dark
Dark corners, Leo?
That was what it seemed like to me. I was hustled out of the way
when people came, and whatever happened, it didn't happen for me. Sometimes I could hardly believe it was me; I used to pinch
myself and say 'You horrid little black thing, who are you? Are you
Leonore, or Leonore Stubbs?because they are two quite different
people. Leonore is a harmless little tom-foolbut Leonore Stubbs is an
odious, artificial creature, a sham all round.' And then, Sue,
something, never mind what, started a new idea, I felt that I had never
really been in love, nor had any one really been in love
with me. Godfrey and I had just been fond of each other, and I couldn't
helpyes, I could have helped, but I didn'ttrying to get up the real
thing. I longed for it, I craved for itand I made several shots for
it. Oh, I am ashamed,and she hid her face.
My poor little Leo!
Your poor little Leo is a mighty bad lot. However, it wasn't till
Paul came that she wasno, I don't think that she really was to blame,
I don't indeed; said Leo, earnestly. Because directly she
suspectedI mean directly she began to feelit, she was
frightened to death. She was in a vile temper all the time, but she
kept her secret, and Paul does not know it yet. Oh, Sue, do you think,
do you think he does? she broke off suddenly.
No, dear, how should he?
I hoped perhaps he might. Of course I don't want him to, but still
if he did
You yourself said he never gave you to understand he had any
feeling for you.
But I didn't say he might not haveunderstood that I had any
feeling for him.
Would you wish it, Leo?
But after a long pause the face was turned up again. Yes.
* * * * *
Still nothing was heard of Paul, and the sisters grew to talk of him
less and less. They laid plans for their future irrespective of his
existence, they visited Sybil, who had now a home on the south coast,
her husband having become a County Court judge; and they flitted
quietly up and down the various highways and byeways of rural England.
One April they found themselves in a land of hills, and lakes, and
green, leafy foregrounds.
Let us stay here for a while, said Sue.
Beautiful scenery always appealed to Sue, and a good hotel was not
to be despised. The lapping of the waters of the lake beneath her
window was pleasant, even when the wind sent tiny wavelets running
along the shore in a sort of mock animosityand when the surface was
calm as a mirror, she thought it was Paradise.
It really is very nice, said Leo. I have been out exploring.
There is a lovely glen about a mile off, with woods and a streama
little splashing streamand the banks are simply covered with
blue-bells. I should have picked some, but the path looked suspiciously
well cared for, and there were little gates, as if it belonged to some
big place; to tell the truth, I had an inkling I was trespassing,
though there were no boards up. It would have been awkward to have been
met by the owner, with my hands full of blue-bells. However, I mean to
go again to-morrow, and spy out the land. If it's safe, you shall
Could I walk so far?
You can have a little carriage, and leave it at the gate. You could
not get it up the valley, as there is only a footpath, but I think you
could walk that part. I can't tell you how delightful it was,the
sunlight speckling through the trees, and the cuckoos answering each
other across the brook;I could have stayed forever, but I remembered
you and flew home.
She flew back, however, the following evening. It was an equally
calm, bright evening, after a day of heat and growth,and buds that
had been fast closed at dawn, had burst on every side. Tassels hung
from the larches, giving forth their resinous fragrance; and the pink
buds of young oaks, and sprays of waving yellow broom mingled with the
many shades of green above and beneath.
What a heavenly spot! sighed Leonore, enraptured. She could not
resist wandering on and on; the woods at Boldero were nothing to this
fairy dell, and at every tinkling waterfall, she was down the thymy
bank overhanging it.
But she noted anew that she was neither preceded nor followed by
other invaders. She also experienced a little thrill of dismay at
seeing through a vistaa long vista, it is truea country house
towards which a byepath led direct. Oh, well, she must risk it; if
met? She started and the courage of a moment before began to ebb, for
something certainly moved behind the trees, and now she distinctly saw
a figure on the path in front.
To put a bold face upon it when no one challenged the face was easy,
but it was another matter toher pulses beat a little faster.
Conning an apology, and prepared to offer it with the best grace she
could muster, she walked slowly forward, with downcast eyes,then, oh,
what?oh, who was this? She stood face to face withPaul.
Often and often afterwards she wondered how she felt, how she looked
and what she did at that supreme moment? In the retrospect it was all a
mista blurred canvasa confused phantasm.
An outcrythen a terrible silence; agitation on his part,
trepidation on herseach alike stupefied, breathless.
And Leonore's heart sank, and her eyelids fell.
Was this all? Was this the end? Oh, misery, misery.
Was it amazement alone which had first forced her name from his
lips, and then shut them fast? Was he shocked, perhaps sore that a
thing had happened which he had resolved should never happen? Was it
pain, disgust, horror, she heard in that single involuntary utterance?
Ah, then, she knew what she must do.
Sick disappointment sent a shiver through her frame, and all at once
she felt her limbs totter.
But to fall? To betray emotions which were not his emotions?
To be weak where he was bold and strong? No, a thousand times, no; she
drew herself upright and made a passionate effort.
Paul, I amso sorry. I did not know, I never dreamtof this.
Indeed, indeed I never did. Believe me, oh, do believe me, Paul.
Believe you, Leo? I do not understand? He gazed at her,
bewildered, then took a step forward, and she felt him trying to take
her hand. She drew it back hurriedly.
Wait. Wait a moment. Let me speak. We did not know you were here,
we did not indeed. We have not known anything of you, for a long, long
time. It was only yesterday we, Sue and I, came to this place; and we
can go away again to-morrowor to-night. We would not trouble you,
Trouble me? He laughed, a curious laugh, bitter and sweet,
scornful and surpassingly tender. It might have enlightened her, but
she was past listening.
You will believe, Paul, that wethat to annoy you, to distress
you,oh, not for worlds, not for worlds. We will go to-night. And she
turned as though to fly on the spot, but he caught her arm.
She was faintly trying to free herself. The arm went further and
held her fast.
Can you think, said a voice in her ear, can you suppose that the
sight of you, you who have been with me night and day in dreams,
and thoughts, and hopes, and fears, that this couldwhat did you call
it?'annoy' me? Leo, my own, my beloved, don't you, can't you see
You whom I might not love, and yet could not but love? Listen. You
say you had lost sight of methat was because I dared not come to you.
I dared not trust myselfperhaps, may I say it?I could not trust
either of us. We had onceand that must never happen again. You are
listening? My darling, how you tremble, why do you tremble so, Leo?
There is nothing to fear now. Let me go on, and you will see. It was
only the other day I learned the tidings that set me free. You see I
had no means of knowing; and then when I did hear, I could notit
would have been horrible to be in haste to take advantage of it. So,
though life opened anew, I meant to wait quietly till the time came
when perhaps I might hope to prevailbut, oh, to think of this!
And then at last she ventured to raise her eyes, and what did those
eyes behold? It was the lookthe lookon the face of Paul!
* * * * *
And now her head was on his breast, and his kisses on her cheek.
Cruel doubts tortured me often, he whispered, for how could I tell
what changes time might not have wrought? It had left my love
untouched, but what right had I to expect that you might not have lost
the feeling you hadyes, I did know you once had for me? Leo, darling,
can you think how terrible it was to know that, and have to affect
ignorance? To have every beat of my heart go out towards you, and to
feign indifference? To meet your poor, piteous eyes, and keep the
answer to their appeal out of mine? Not that you meant to show, dear;
oh, no, you never dreamed your secret was revealedand it was not, to others,but to me
Oh, Paul! Oh, Paul!
Hush, you were not to blame. It was no fault of yours, you poor,
brave, little thing. You played your part nobly
Oh, nooh, no.
You may think not, but I know you did. I know, for I shared the
struggle. There was once, he paused and considered, there was that
day when we were together in the green-house. You were cold and careful
at first, but gradually the mask wore off andand mine too slipped. We
were happy, too happy. I think we both knew it. We did not look at each
other as we came away, but I gave you a red vine leaf, and I saw that
you did not put it with the others, even with those I had picked for
I have it now, Paul.
After that, I began to suspect myself. I had hardly done so before,
for there was only a vague sense of disappointment, and dissatisfaction
with things as they were. Your sister was notbut no matter. I
reasoned myself out of this over and over again. I argued that I was
not well, was not fully recovered from my late attack of feverin
short, that I was hipped, and would certainly take a more cheerful view
of things as my strength came back. I really had been rather bad, you
knowand was low and easily depressed. But what might have opened my
eyes to the truth was that all depression vanished, and all inertia
ceased, directly you appeared,and that was after I had
ceased to hear your gay little laugh and merry voice. For though you
soon grew grave as myself, my heart would jump when you came into the
room, or when I came upon you in some distant corner, not knowing you
Paul, Paul, my heart jumped too.
He drew her closerah, she was very close now. I scarcely ever
spoke to you, do you remember? We avoided each other; and I cannot even
now imagine how I came to know you so well,and so on, and so on....
Presently Leo had a question to ask. Where had he been during those
three blank days when no communications from Boldero Abbey reached him?
He had disposed of them in a fashion that satisfied others, but not
No, you were too clear-sighted. I knew that, said he. But what
could I do? I could not tell the truth, which was that I never went
near the place whose address I gave Maud! My one desire was to be out
of range of her letters; for LeonoreI hadI cannot tell how, a sort
of dreadful certainty that she would recall me. For those three days I
wandered about,I went down to a wild, little, sea place, and fought
the demon within. Then because I simply felt weaker, I fancied soul as
well as body brought into subjection. You all told me I looked bad when
I returnednow you know why.
But though they thus skirted round and round one dread remembrance
which washow could it help being?in both their minds, each shrank
from approaching a subject avoided by the other; until at length
Leonore, tremulous but resolute, realised that it was for her, not him,
Paul, dear Paul, I don't want to leave anything unsaid.
Paul, on that worst day of all, she hesitated, and his hand pressed
the little hand within it. Dear Paul, she whispered, I did not know
what I was doing; indeed, indeed I did not. Something in my head seemed
to have snapped, and I felt so strangeI never felt like it before.
And it was not only about you that I was so unutterably wretched, there
wasthere wassomething else.
A man told me the day before that I had broken his heart,oh,
Paul, don't start. He was not a man I could ever have given a thought
to. He was not one I should ever have spoken toin that way. Only our
village doctor's assistant, and the rest of us hardly knew that he
existed,but I, I was so unhappy, even before you came to Boldero,
that I let myself go,that is, I let the poor silly creature run up a
kind of friendship with me. That was all, Paul; truthfully it wason
my part. I amused myself with hima little; and thenand then
What was fun to you was death to him?
It had no right to be, said Leo, with dignity. It never went any
length; we only just met each other once or twice, and
Not even that. I let him adore, she laughed, but
shamefacedlyand he mistook.
Paul, dear, I am not excusing myself; only I do not think, I do not
think that wretched Tommy Andrews ought ever to have presumedit was
frightful, it was untrue what he said. I did not break his
Oh, Leo! Paul tried not to laugh.
But he made me think I had. He accused me of it, and I was in such
a state at the time that I believed him, and it drove me wild. It was
the last straw, the finishing touch. I seemed not only to have made a
mess of my own poor life, but of another'sand while I was very angry
and contemptuous, I was enraged with myself for being so. I stormed and
raved when I was alone, and vowed to end it all,but I know now that
ISue says I was not accountable, Paul, wistfully.
Sue is right, dearest. Your nerves were altogether unstrung. You
were overstrained and off your balance for the time being.
Hadhad you noticed anything, Paul?
Everything. It was that which made me fearand follow you.
At night I hardly slept at all. And, I couldn't eat; I loathed
food. I may tell you all this, mayn't I? It just kills me to keep
things to myself; doing that was what, I think, began it all.
You shall tell me everything, said he.
* * * * *
Well, but Paul, after an interlude, there is still a mystery;
what are you doing here? And was it not the strangest thing our meeting
He smiled. Not so very strange, seeing that this is my usual walk
about this hour.
Yourwhat did you say?your 'usual' walk?
Look, Leo. He drew her along to the opening of the vista she had
passed before, and pointed to the mansion beyond, now glistening in the
setting sun. That is my homeand yours.
I bought it a year ago, but have been busy with alterations and
improvements, so only came to live here within the last few weeks. I
was so tired of a wandering life, Leo; and though I had only the
vaguest hope that youbut somehow hope never quite deserted me.
Then the strangeness is on our part. That we should come to
where you were!
You had really no suspicion, Leo? He looked at her with laughter
in his eyes. Sue kept her own counsel well; added Paul demurely.
He and Sue had been in communication fromfrom precisely the date
at which he took up his residence at Mere Hall. He had left for Mere
Hall the day after he last saw Sue in London.
You saw Sue in London? She could scarcely speak for astonishment.
Several times. The Fosters, my brother and his wife, put me up to
it. Your sister is good and kind and sensiblemine is both the first,
but not exactly the last, bless her for it! Her very lack of what is
commonly admired, proved my salvation. She first extracted the truth
from me, and then went straight for Sue, and hammered it into her that
there was no earthly reason why we two should not be made happy now.
She could not endure to see my long face, she said;and though I
gathered that Sue was somewhat startled by her abruptnessfor
Charlotte is not famed for tacteventually the two understood each
other, and I was brought on to the stage.
Was that, cried Leo, with a sudden flash of memory, was that one
day, oh, it must have been that day!Sue was so odd and unlike
herself. I wondered what could have excited her in a private view of
rather stupid water-colours, and why she began all at once to say she
longed for the country? Were you in the water-colour gallery?
He was, and all was explained.
Coo-coo, came the plaintive note of a dove from the leafy shades
close bybut it cooed unheard. The streamlet splashed on unheeded. The
sun went slowly down behind the mountain-tops unseen. And still they
CHAPTER XIX. EPILOGUE.
About a year after Paul and Leonore were married, they received a
visit from Mr. and Mrs. Valentine Purcell, travelling in all the state
that money could buy and ingenuity devise.
Val was glorious: even prouder of his new wife's cleverness than he
had been of her predecessor's beauty. Marietta was superb: there never
was such a woman; managed everythingran the entire show. He was
allowed a tailor's bill though,and he looked down at a new suit with
all his old complacency.
He was perfectly easy, happy, and friendly. He had not an awkward
remembrance, nor an uncomfortable sensation.
It was splendid to be among his dear old friends again, and to find
them all so fit; Mere Hall was a delightful place, and he was awfully
glad that it was Sue's home too.
He did wish that he could get them all out to California. Sue ought
really to see California. If she would hop across the pond, he would
meet her himself in New York, and take her across the Rockies in his
own car. He and his wife always travelled in their own car.
As for Paul and Leo, of course they were coming, but Suehe
had a sly whisper for Leo's ear anent Sue. What about Salt Lake City?
That would be Sue's chance: those Mormons are awful jossers for wives.
I never let Marietta within a hundred miles of 'em. You send old Sue
out to me, Leo.
Paul he speedily pronounced the best fellow in the worldtaking him
as an entirely new personage. Paul's alterations in the house were a
triumph of architecture, and the steeple he was adding to the church a
Quite right to look after the church, said Val, seriously. I
always take care that Marietta goes to church, and she's come rather to
like it. Now that she has been here, she says she's going to be more
religious, and I daresay I shall too. It's so awfully jolly to live as
you and Paul do, you know.
Another day he was alone with his old playmate, and raised his head
after a reverie.
So you and Paul got each other after all, Leo?
Leo, who was dressing a bowl with roses, dropped one, and looked
attentively at the speaker.
Got each other after all, Val?
Oh, don't you come the innocent over me, Mrs. StubbsMrs. Foster,
I mean. I know you and your tricks. You are just the same little wag
you always werebut I know you. And I know about you and Paul too.
Know about us? What about us?quickly.
Tell you if you like. I was in the woods that day. I was going home
from shooting and heard a row,so then I crept along to see what was
up, and hid behind some big hollies; and there you were, you and Paul,
holding each other's hands, and shouting into each other's faces!
Did youdid you hear what we said, Val?
Lord, nothough I tried all I could. And what the dickens made you
speak so loudyou, especiallyI could not imagine. If I hadn't had to
keep dark behind the beastly bushes, I could have heard every word.
Anyhow I heard enoughand saw enoughto know what you were up to.
And I was mad with you both, Leo. Because, you see, it wasn't
Queensberryhowever it's all right now.
And it was you who told Maud?
Why, of course, said Val, simply.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
ONE OF OURSELVES.
THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF OLIVIA.
MR. SMITH: A PART OF HIS LIFE.
THE BABY'S GRANDMOTHER.
THE HISTORY OF A WEEK.
A STIFF-NECKED GENERATION.
IVA KILDARE: A MATRIMONIAL PROBLEM.
NAN, AND OTHER STORIES.
THE MISCHIEF OF MONICA.
THE ONE GOOD GUEST.
PLOUGHED, AND OTHER STORIES.