H. Rider Haggard
Part 6 out of 7
those mighty arms, and in a few short minutes it would all be done and
She gasped as the thought struck home. /Here/ was the answer to her
questionings, the same answer that is given to every human troubling,
to all earthly hopes and fears and strivings. One stroke of that black
knife and everything would be lost or found. Would it be so great a
thing to give her life for Geoffrey?--why she had well nigh done as
much when she had known him but an hour, and now that he was all in
all, oh, would it be so great a thing? If she died--died secretly,
swiftly, surely--Geoffrey would be saved; they would not trouble him
then, there would be no one to trouble about: Owen Davies could not
marry her then, Geoffrey could not ruin himself over her, Elizabeth
could pursue her no further. It would be well to do this thing for
Geoffrey, and he would always love her, and beyond that black curtain
there might be something better.
They said that it was sin. Yes, it might be sin to act thus for
oneself alone. But to do it for another--how of that! Was not the
Saviour whom they preached a Man of Sacrifice? Would it be a sin in
her to die for Geoffrey, to sacrifice herself that Geoffrey might go
Oh, it would be no great merit. Her life was not so easy that she
should fear this pure embrace. It would be better, far better, than to
marry Owen Davies, than to desecrate their love and teach Geoffrey to
despise her. And how else could she ward this trouble from him except
by her death, or by a marriage that in her eyes was more dreadful than
She could not do it yet. She could not die until she had once more
seen his face, even though he did not see hers. No, not to-night would
she seek this swift solution. She had words to say--or words to write
--before the end. Already they rushed in upon her mind!
But if no better plan presented itself she would do it, she was sure
that she would. It was a sin--well, let it be a sin; what did she care
if she sinned for Geoffrey? He would not think the worse of her for
it. And she had hope, yes, Geoffrey had taught her to hope. If there
was a Hell, why it was here. And yet not all a Hell, for in it she had
found her love!
It grew dark; she could hear the whisper of the waves upon Bryngelly
beach. It grew dark; the night was closing round. She paddled to
within a few fathoms of the shore, and called in her clear voice.
"Ay, ay, miss," answered old Edward from the beach. "Come in on the
She came in accordingly and her canoe was caught and dragged high and
"What, Miss Beatrice," said the old man shaking his head and
grumbling, "at it again! Out all alone in that thing," and he gave the
canoe a contemptuous kick, "and in the dark, too. You want a husband
to look after you, you do. You'll never rest till you're drowned."
"No, Edward," she answered with a little laugh. "I don't suppose that
I shall. There is no peace for the wicked above seas, you know. Now do
not scold. The canoe is as safe as church in this weather and in the
"Oh, yes, it's safe enough in the calm and the bay," he answered, "but
supposing it should come on to blow and supposing you should drift
beyond the shelter of Rumball Point there, and get the rollers down on
you--why you would be drowned in five minutes. It's wicked, miss,
that's what it is."
Beatrice laughed again and went.
"She's a funny one she is," said the old man scratching his head as he
looked after her, "of all the woman folk as ever I knowed she is the
rummest. I sometimes thinks she wants to get drowned. Dash me if I
haven't half a mind to stave a hole in the bottom of that there damned
canoe, and finish it."
Beatrice reached home a little before supper time. Her first act was
to call Betty the servant and with her assistance to shift her bed and
things into the spare room. With Elizabeth she would have nothing more
to do. They had slept together since they were children, now she had
done with her. Then she went in to supper, and sat through it like a
statue, speaking no word. Her father and Elizabeth kept up a strained
conversation, but they did not speak to her, nor she to them.
Elizabeth did not even ask where she had been, nor take any notice of
her change of room.
One thing, however, Beatrice learnt. Her father was going on the
Monday to Hereford by an early train to attend a meeting of clergymen
collected to discuss the tithe question. He was to return by the last
train on the Tuesday night, that is, about midnight. Beatrice now
discovered that Elizabeth proposed to accompany him. Evidently she
wished to see as little as possible of her sister during this week of
truce--possibly she was a little afraid of her. Even Elizabeth might
have a conscience.
So she should be left alone from Monday morning till Tuesday night.
One can do a good deal in forty hours.
After supper Beatrice rose and left the room, without a word, and they
were glad when she went. She frightened them with her set face and
great calm eyes. But neither spoke to the other on the subject. They
had entered into a conspiracy of silence.
Beatrice locked her door and then sat at the window lost in thought.
When once the idea of suicide has entered the mind it is apt to grow
with startling rapidity. She reviewed the whole position; she went
over all the arguments and searched the moral horizon for some
feasible avenue of escape. But she could find none that would save
Geoffrey, except this. Yes, she would do it, as many another wretched
woman had done before her, not from cowardice indeed, for had she
alone been concerned she would have faced the thing out, fighting to
the bitter end--but for this reason only, it would cut off the dangers
which threatened Geoffrey at their very root and source. Of course
there must be no scandal; it must never be known that she had killed
herself, or she might defeat her own object, for the story would be
raked up. But she well knew how to avoid such a possibility; in her
extremity Beatrice grew cunning as a fox. Yes, and there might be an
inquest at which awkward questions would be asked. But, as she well
knew also, before an inquest can be held there must be something to
hold it on, and that something would not be there.
And so in the utter silence of the night and in the loneliness of her
chamber did Beatrice dedicate herself to sacrifice upon the altar of
her immeasurable love. She would face the last agonies of death when
the bloom of her youthful strength and beauty was but opening as a
rose in June. She would do more, she would brave the threatened
vengeance of the most High, coming before Him a self murderess, and
with but one plea for pity--that she loved so well: /quia multum
amavit/. Yes, she would do all this, would leave the warm world in the
dawning summer of her days, and alone go out into the dark--alone
would face those visions which might come--those Shapes of terror, and
those Things of fear, that perchance may wait for sinful human kind.
Alone she would go--oh, hand in hand with him it had been easy, but
this must not be. The door of utter darkness would swing to behind
her, and who could say if in time to come it should open to Geoffrey's
following feet, or if he might ever find the path that she had trod.
It must be done, it should be done! Beatrice rose from her seat with
bright eyes and quick-coming breath, and swore before God, if God
there were, that she would do it, trusting to Him for pardon and for
pity, or failing these--for sleep.
Yes, but first she must once more look upon Geoffrey's dear face--and
Pity her! poor mistaken woman, making of her will a Providence,
rushing to doom. Pity her, but do not blame her overmuch, or if you
do, then blame Judith and Jephtha's daughter and Charlotte Corday, and
all the glorious women who from time to time have risen on this sordid
world of self, and given themselves as an offering upon the altars of
their love, their religion, their honour or their country!
It was finished. Now let her rest while she could, seeing what was to
come. With a sigh for all that was, and all that might have been,
Beatrice lay down and soon slept sweetly as a child.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Next day was Sunday. Beatrice did not go to church. For one thing, she
feared to see Owen Davies there. But she took her Sunday school class
as usual, and long did the children remember how kind and patient she
was with them that day, and how beautifully she told them the story of
the Jewish girl of long ago, who went forth to die for the sake of her
Nearly all the rest of the day and evening she spent in writing that
which we shall read in time--only in the late afternoon she went out
for a little while in her canoe. Another thing Beatrice did also: she
called at the lodging of her assistant, the head school teacher, and
told her it was possible that she would not be in her place on the
Tuesday (Monday was, as it chanced, a holiday). If anybody inquired as
to her absence, perhaps she would kindly tell them that Miss Granger
had an appointment to keep, and had taken a morning's holiday in order
to do so. She should, however, be back that afternoon. The teacher
assented without suspicion, remarking that if Beatrice could not take
a morning's holiday, she was sure she did not know who could.
Next morning they breakfasted very early, because Mr. Granger and
Elizabeth had to catch the train. Beatrice sat through the meal in
silence, her calm eyes looking straight before her, and the others,
gazing on them, and at the lovely inscrutable face, felt an
indefinable fear creep into their hearts. What did this woman mean to
do? That was the question they asked of themselves, though not of each
other. That she meant to do something they were sure, for there was
purpose written on every line of her cold face.
Suddenly, as they sat thinking, and making pretence to eat, a thought
flashed like an arrow into Beatrice's heart, and pierced it. This was
the last meal that they could ever take together, this was the last
time that she could ever see her father's and her sister's faces. For
her sister, well, it might pass--for there are some things which even
a woman like Beatrice can never quite forgive--but she loved her
father. She loved his very faults, even his simple avarice and self-
seeking had become endeared to her by long and wondering
contemplation. Besides, he was her father; he gave her the life she
was about to cast away. And she should never see him more. Not on that
account did she hesitate in her purpose, which was now set in her
mind, like Bryngelly Castle on its rock, but at the thought tears
rushed unbidden to her eyes.
Just then breakfast came to an end, and Elizabeth hurried from the
room to fetch her bonnet.
"Father," said Beatrice, "if you can before you go, I should like to
hear you say that you do not believe that I told you what was false--
about that story."
"Eh, eh!" answered the old man nervously, "I thought that we had
agreed to say nothing about the matter at present."
"Yes, but I should like to hear you say it, father. It cuts me that
you should think that I would lie to you, for in my life I have never
wilfully told you what was not true;" and she clasped her hands about
his arms, and looked into his face.
He gazed at her doubtfully. Was it possible after all she was speaking
the truth? No; it was not possible.
"I can't, Beatrice," he said--"not that I blame you overmuch for
trying to defend yourself; a cornered rat will show fight."
"May you never regret those words," she said; "and now good-bye," and
she kissed him on the forehead.
At this moment Elizabeth entered, saying that it was time to start,
and he did not return the kiss.
"Good-bye, Elizabeth," said Beatrice, stretching out her hand. But
Elizabeth affected not to see it, and in another moment they were
gone. She followed them to the gate and watched them till they
vanished down the road. Then she returned, her heart strained almost
to bursting. But she wept no tear.
Thus did Beatrice bid a last farewell to her father and her sister.
"Elizabeth," said Mr. Granger, as they drew near to the station, "I am
not easy in my thoughts about Beatrice. There was such a strange look
in her eyes; it--in short, it frightens me. I have half a mind to give
up Hereford, and go back," and he stopped upon the road, hesitating.
"As you like," said Elizabeth with a sneer, "but I should think that
Beatrice is big enough and bad enough to look after herself."
"Before the God who made us," said the old man furiously, and striking
the ground with his stick, "she may be bad, but she is not so bad as
you who betrayed her. If Beatrice is a Magdalene, you are a woman
Judas; and I believe that you hate her, and would be glad to see her
Elizabeth made no answer. They were nearing the station, for her
father had started on again, and there were people about. But she
looked at him, and he never forgot the look. It was quite enough to
chill him into silence, nor did he allude to the matter any more.
When they were gone, Beatrice set about her own preparations. Her wild
purpose was to travel to London, and catch a glimpse of Geoffrey's
face in the House of Commons, if possible, and then return. She put on
her bonnet and best dress; the latter was very plainly made of simple
grey cloth, but on her it looked well enough, and in the breast of it
she thrust the letter which she had written on the previous day. A
small hand-bag, with some sandwiches and a brush and comb in it, and a
cloak, made up the total of her baggage.
The train, which did not stop at Bryngelly, left Coed at ten, and Coed
was an hour and a half's walk. She must be starting. Of course, she
would have to be absent for the night, and she was sorely puzzled how
to account for her absence to Betty, the servant girl; the others
being gone there was no need to do so to anybody else. But here
fortune befriended her. While she was thinking the matter over, who
should come in but Betty herself, crying. She had just heard, she
said, that her little sister, who lived with their mother at a village
about ten miles away, had been knocked down by a cart and badly hurt.
Might she go home for the night? She could come back on the morrow,
and Miss Beatrice could get somebody in to sleep if she was lonesome.
Beatrice sympathised, demurred, and consented, and Betty started at
once. As soon as she was gone, Beatrice locked up the house, put the
key in her pocket, and started on her five miles' tramp. Nobody saw
her leave the house, and she passed by a path at the back of the
village, so that nobody saw her on the road. Reaching Coed Station
quite unobserved, and just before the train was due, she let down her
veil, and took a third-class ticket to London. This she was obliged to
do, for her stock of money was very small; it amounted, altogether, to
thirty-six shillings, of which the fare to London and back would cost
her twenty-eight and fourpence.
In another minute she had entered an empty carriage, and the train had
She reached Paddington about eight that night, and going to the
refreshment room, dined on some tea and bread and butter. Then she
washed her hands, brushed her hair, and started.
Beatrice had never been in London before, and as soon as she left the
station the rush and roar of the huge city took hold of her, and
confused her. Her idea was to walk to the Houses of Parliament at
Westminster. She would, she thought, be sure to see Geoffrey there,
because she had bought a daily paper in which she had read that he was
to be one of the speakers in a great debate on the Irish Question,
which was to be brought to a close that night. She had been told by a
friendly porter to follow Praed Street till she reached the Edgware
Road, then to walk on to the Marble Arch, and ask again. Beatrice
followed the first part of this programme--that is, she walked as far
as the Edgware Road. Then it was that confusion seized her and she
stood hesitating. At this juncture, a coarse brute of a man came up
and made some remark to her. It was impossible for a woman like
Beatrice to walk alone in the streets of London at night, without
running the risk of such attentions. She turned from him, and as she
did so, heard him say something about her beauty to a fellow Arcadian.
Close to where she was stood two hansom cabs. She went to the first
and asked the driver for how much he would take her to the House of
"Two bob, miss," he answered.
Beatrice shook her head, and turned to go again. She was afraid to
spend so much on cabs, for she must get back to Bryngelly.
"I'll take yer for eighteenpence, miss," called out the other driver.
This offer she was about to accept when the first man interposed.
"You leave my fare alone, will yer? Tell yer what, miss, I'm a
gentleman, I am, and I'll take yer for a bob."
She smiled and entered the cab. Then came a whirl of great gas-lit
thoroughfares, and in a quarter of an hour they pulled up at the
entrance to the House. Beatrice paid the cabman his shilling, thanked
him, and entered, only once more to find herself confused with a
vision of white statues, marble floors, high arching roofs, and
hurrying people. An automatic policeman asked her what she wanted.
Beatrice answered that she wished to get into the House.
"Pass this way, then, miss--pass this way," said the automatic officer
in a voice of brass. She passed, and passed, and finally found herself
in a lobby, among a crowd of people of all sorts--seedy political
touts, Irish priests and hurrying press-men. At one side of the lobby
were more policemen and messengers, who were continually taking cards
into the House, then returning and calling out names. Insensibly she
drifted towards these policemen.
"Ladies' Gallery, miss?" said a voice; "your order, please, though I
think it's full."
Here was a fresh complication. Beatrice had no order. She had no idea
that one was necessary.
"I haven't got an order," she said faintly. "I did not know that I
must have one. Can I not get in without?"
"Most certainly /not/, miss," answered the voice, while its owner,
suspecting dynamite, surveyed her with a cold official eye. "Now make
way, make way, please."
Beatrice's grey eyes filled with tears, as she turned to go in
bitterness of heart. So all her labour was in vain, and that which
would be done must be done without the mute farewell she sought. Well,
when sorrow was so much, what mattered a little more? She turned to
go, but not unobserved. A certain rather youthful Member of
Parliament, with an eye for beauty in distress, had been standing
close to her, talking to a constituent. The constituent had departed
to wherever constituents go--and many representatives, if asked, would
cheerfully point out a locality suitable to the genus, at least in
their judgment--and the member had overheard the conversation and seen
Beatrice's eyes fill with tears. "What a lovely woman!" he had said to
himself, and then did what he should have done, namely, lifted his hat
and inquired if, as a member of the House, he could be of any service
to her. Beatrice listened, and explained that she was particularly
anxious to get into the Ladies' Gallery.
"I think that I can help you, then," he said. "As it happens a lady,
for whom I got an order, has telegraphed to say that she cannot come.
Will you follow me? Might I ask you to give me your name?"
"Mrs. Everston," answered Beatrice, taking the first that came into
her head. The member looked a little disappointed. He had vaguely
hoped that this lovely creature was unappropriated. Surely her
marriage could not be satisfactory, or she would not look so sad.
Then came more stairs and passages, and formalities, till presently
Beatrice found herself in a kind of bird-cage, crowded to suffocation
with every sort of lady.
"I'm afraid--I am very much afraid----" began her new-found friend,
surveying the mass with dismay.
But at that moment, a stout lady in front feeling faint with the heat,
was forced to leave the Gallery, and almost before she knew where she
was, Beatrice was installed in her place. Her friend had bowed and
vanished, and she was left to all purposes alone, for she never heeded
those about her, though some of them looked at her hard enough,
wondering at her form and beauty, and who she might be.
She cast her eye down over the crowded House, and saw a vision of
hats, collars, and legs, and heard a tumult of sounds: the sharp voice
of a speaker who was rapidly losing his temper, the plaudits of the
Government benches, the interruptions from the Opposition--yes, even
yells, and hoots, and noises, that reminded her remotely of the
crowing of cocks. Possibly had she thought of it, Beatrice would not
have been greatly impressed with the dignity of an assembly, at the
doors of which so many of its members seemed to leave their manners,
with their overcoats and sticks; it might even have suggested the idea
of a bear garden to her mind. But she simply did not think about it.
She searched the House keenly enough, but it was to find one face, and
one only--Ah! there he was.
And now the House of Commons might vanish into the bottomless abyss,
and take with it the House of Lords, and what remained of the British
Constitution, and she would never miss them. For, at the best of
times, Beatrice--in common with most of her sex--in all gratitude be
it said, was /not/ an ardent politician.
There Geoffrey sat, his arms folded--the hat pushed slightly from his
forehead, so that she could see his face. There was her own beloved,
whom she had come so far to see, and whom to-morrow she would dare so
much to save. How sad he looked--he did not seem to be paying much
attention to what was going on. She knew well enough that he was
thinking of her; she could feel it in her head as she had often felt
it before. But she dared not let her mind go out to him in answer,
for, if once she did so, she knew also that he would discover her. So
she sat, and fed her eyes upon his face, taking her farewell of it,
while round her, and beneath her, the hum of the House went on, as
ever present and as unnoticed as the hum of bees upon a summer noon.
Presently the gentleman who had been so kind to her, sat down in the
next seat to Geoffrey, and began to whisper to him, as he did so
glancing once or twice towards the grating behind which she was. She
guessed that he was telling him the story of the lady who was so
unaccountably anxious to hear the debate, and how pretty she was. But
it did not seem to interest Geoffrey much, and Beatrice was feminine
enough to notice it, and to be glad of it. In her gentle jealousy, she
did not like to think of Geoffrey as being interested in accounts of
mysterious ladies, however pretty.
At length a speaker rose--she understood from the murmur of those
around her that he was one of the leaders of the Opposition, and
commenced a powerful and bitter speech. She noticed that Geoffrey
roused himself at this point, and began to listen with attention.
"Look," said one of the ladies near her, "Mr. Bingham is taking notes.
He is going to speak next--he speaks wonderfully, you know. They say
that he is as good as anybody in the House, except Gladstone, and Lord
"Oh!" answered another lady. "Lady Honoria is not here, is she? I
don't see her."
"No," replied the first; "she is a dear creature, and so handsome too
--just the wife for a rising man--but I don't think that she takes
much interest in politics. Are not her dinners charming?"
At this moment, a volley of applause from the Opposition benches
drowned the murmured conversation.
This speaker spoke for about three-quarters of an hour, and then at
last Geoffrey stood up. One or two other members rose at the same
time, but ultimately they gave way.
He began slowly--and somewhat tamely, as it seemed to Beatrice, whose
heart was in her mouth--but when he had been speaking for about five
minutes, he warmed up. And then began one of the most remarkable
oratorical displays of that Parliament. Geoffrey had spoken well
before, and would speak well again, but perhaps he never spoke so well
as he did upon that night. For nearly an hour and a half he held the
House in chains, even the hoots and interruptions died away towards
the end of his oration. His powerful presence seemed to tower in the
place, like that of a giant among pigmies, and his dark, handsome
face, lit with the fires of eloquence, shone like a lamp. He leaned
forward with a slight stoop of his broad shoulders, and addressed
himself, nominally to the Speaker, but really to the Opposition. He
took their facts one by one, and with convincing logic showed that
they were no facts; amid a hiss of anger he pulverised their arguments
and demonstrated their motives. Then suddenly he dropped them
altogether, and addressing himself to the House at large, and the
country beyond the House, he struck another note, and broke out into
that storm of patriotic eloquence which confirmed his growing
reputation, both in Parliament and in the constituencies.
Beatrice shut her eyes and listened to the deep, rich voice as it rose
from height to height and power to power, till the whole place seemed
full of it, and every contending sound was hushed.
Suddenly, after an invocation that would have been passionate had it
not been so restrained and strong, he stopped. She opened her eyes and
looked. Geoffrey was seated as before, with his hat on. He had been
speaking for an hour and a half, and yet, to her, it seemed but a few
minutes since he rose. Then broke out a volley of cheers, in the midst
of which a leader of the Opposition rose to reply, not in the very
best of tempers, for Geoffrey's speech had hit them hard.
He began, however, by complimenting the honourable member on his
speech, "as fine a speech as he had listened to for many years,
though, unfortunately, made from a mistaken standpoint and the wrong
side of the House." Then he twitted the Government with not having
secured the services of a man so infinitely abler than the majority of
their "items," and excited a good deal of amusement by stating, with
some sarcastic humour, that, should it ever be his lot to occupy the
front Treasury bench, he should certainly make a certain proposal to
the honourable member. After this good-natured badinage, he drifted
off into the consideration of the question under discussion, and
Beatrice paid no further attention to him, but occupied herself in
watching Geoffrey drop back into the same apparent state of cold
indifference, from which the necessity of action had aroused him.
Presently the gentleman who had found her the seat came up and spoke
to her, asking her how she was getting on. Very soon he began to speak
of Geoffrey's speech, saying that it was one of the most brilliant of
the session, if not the most brilliant.
"Then Mr. Bingham is a rising man, I suppose?" Beatrice said.
"Rising? I should think so," he answered. "They will get him into the
Government on the first opportunity after this; he's too good to
neglect. Very few men can come to the fore like Mr. Bingham. We call
him the comet, and if only he does not make a mess of his chances by
doing something foolish, there is no reason why he should not be
Attorney-General in a few years."
"Why should he do anything foolish?" she asked.
"Oh, for no reason on earth, that I know of; only, as I daresay you
have noticed, men of this sort are very apt to do ridiculous things,
throw up their career, get into a public scandal, run away with
somebody or something. Not that there should be any fear of such a
thing where Mr. Bingham is concerned, for he has a charming wife, and
they say that she is a great help to him. Why, there is the division
bell. Good-bye, Mrs. Everston, I will come back to see you out."
"Good-bye," Beatrice answered, "and in case I should miss you, I wish
to say something--to thank you for your kindness in helping me to get
in here to-night. You have done me a great service, a very great
service, and I am most grateful to you."
"It is nothing--nothing," he answered. "It has been a pleasure to help
you. If," he added with some confusion, "you would allow me to call
some day, the pleasure will be all the greater. I will bring Mr.
Bingham with me, if you would like to know him--that is, if I can."
Beatrice shook her head. "I cannot," she answered, smiling sadly. "I
am going on a long journey to-morrow, and I shall not return here.
In another second he was gone, more piqued and interested about this
fair unknown than he had been about any woman for years. Who could she
be? and why was she so anxious to hear the debate? There was a mystery
in it somewhere, and he determined to solve it if he could.
Meanwhile the division took place, and presently the members flocked
back, and amidst ringing Ministerial cheers, and counter Opposition
cheers, the victory of the Government was announced. Then came the
usual formalities, and the members began to melt away. Beatrice saw
the leader of the House and several members of the Government go up to
Geoffrey, shake his hand, and congratulate him. Then, with one long
look, she turned and went, leaving him in the moment of his triumph,
that seemed to interest him so little, but which made Beatrice more
proud at heart than if she had been declared empress of the world.
Oh, it was well to love a man like that, a man born to tower over his
fellow men--and well to die for him! Could she let her miserable
existence interfere with such a life as his should be? Never, never!
There should be no "public scandal" on her account.
She drew her veil over her face, and inquired the way from the House.
Presently she was outside. By one of the gateways, and in the shadow
of its pillars, she stopped, watching the members of the House stream
past her. Many of them were talking together, and once or twice she
caught the sound of Geoffrey's name, coupled with such words as
"splendid speech," and other terms of admiration.
"Move on, move on," said a policeman to her. Lifting her veil,
Beatrice turned and looked at him, and muttering something he moved on
himself, leaving her in peace. Presently she saw Geoffrey and the
gentleman who had been so kind to her walking along together. They
came through the gateway; the lappet of his coat brushed her arm, and
he never saw her. Closer she crouched against the pillar, hiding
herself in its shadow. Within six feet of her Geoffrey stopped and lit
a cigar. The light of the match flared upon his face, that dark,
strong face she loved so well. How tired he looked. A great longing
took possession of her to step forward and speak to him, but she
restrained herself almost by force.
Her friend was speaking to him, and about her.
"Such a lovely woman," he was saying, "with the clearest and most
beautiful grey eyes that I ever saw. But she has gone like a dream. I
can't find her anywhere. It is a most mysterious business."
"You are falling in love, Tom," answered Geoffrey absently, as he
threw away the match and walked on. "Don't do that; it is an unhappy
thing to do," and he sighed.
He was going! Oh, heaven! she would never, never see him more! A cold
horror seized upon Beatrice, her blood seemed to stagnate. She
trembled so much that she could scarcely stand. Leaning forward, she
looked after him, with such a face of woe that even the policeman, who
had repented him of his forbearance, and was returning to send her
away, stood astonished. The two men had gone about ten yards, when
something induced Beatrice's friend to look back. His eye fell upon
the white, agony-stricken face, now in the full glare of the gas lamp.
Beatrice saw him turn, and understood her danger. "Oh, good-bye,
Geoffrey!" she murmured, for a second allowing her heart to go forth
towards him. Then realising what she had done, she dropped her veil,
and went swiftly. The gentleman called "Tom"--she never learnt his
name--stood for a moment dumbfounded, and at that instant Geoffrey
staggered, as though he had been struck by a shot, turned quite white,
"Why," said his companion, "there is that lady again; we must have
passed quite close to her. She was looking after us, I saw her face in
the gaslight--and I never want to see such another."
Geoffrey seized him by the arm. "Where is she?" he asked, "and what
was she like?"
"She was there a second ago," he said, pointing to the pillar, "but
I've lost her now--I fancy she went towards the railway station, but I
could not see. Stop, is that she?" and he pointed to a tall person
walking towards the Abbey.
Quickly they moved to intercept her, but the result was not
satisfactory, and they retreated hastily from the object of their
Meanwhile Beatrice found herself opposite the entrance to the
Westminster Bridge Station. A hansom was standing there; she got into
it and told the man to drive to Paddington.
Before the pair had retraced their steps she was gone. "She has
vanished again," said "Tom," and went on to give a description of her
to Geoffrey. Of her dress he had unfortunately taken little note. It
might be one of Beatrice's, or it might not. It seemed almost
inconceivable to Geoffrey that she should be masquerading about
London, under the name of Mrs. Everston. And yet--and yet--he could
have sworn--but it was folly!
Suddenly he bade his friend good-night, and took a hansom. "The
mystery thickens," said the astonished "Tom," as he watched him drive
away. "I would give a hundred pounds to find out what it all means.
Oh! that woman's face--it haunts me. It looked like the face of an
angel bidding farewell to Heaven."
But he never did find out any more about it, though the despairing
eyes of Beatrice, as she bade her mute farewell, still sometimes haunt
Geoffrey reflected rapidly. The thing was ridiculous, and yet it was
possible. Beyond that brief line in answer to his letter, he had heard
nothing from Beatrice. Indeed he was waiting to hear from her before
taking any further step. But even supposing she were in London, where
was he to look for her? He knew that she had no money, he could not
stay there long. It occurred to him there was a train leaving Euston
for Wales about four in the morning. It was just possible that she
might be in town, and returning by this train. He told the cabman to
drive to Euston Station, and on arrival, closely questioned a sleepy
porter, but without satisfactory results.
Then he searched the station; there were no traces of Beatrice. He did
more; he sat down, weary as he was, and waited for an hour and a half,
till it was time for the train to start. There were but three
passengers, and none of them in the least resembled Beatrice.
"It is very strange," Geoffrey said to himself, as he walked away. "I
could have sworn that I felt her presence just for one second. It must
have been nonsense. This is what comes of occult influences, and that
kind of thing. The occult is a nuisance."
If he had only gone to Paddington!
I WILL WAIT FOR YOU
Beatrice drove back to Paddington, and as she drove, though her face
did not change from its marble cast of woe the great tears rolled down
it, one by one.
They reached the deserted-looking station, and she paid the man out of
her few remaining shillings--seeing that she was a stranger, he
insisted upon receiving half-a-crown. Then, disregarding the
astonished stare of a night porter, she found her way to the waiting
room, and sat down. First she took the letter from her breast, and
added some lines to it in pencil, but she did not post it yet; she
knew that if she did so it would reach its destination too soon. Then
she laid her head back against the wall, and utterly outworn, dropped
to sleep--her last sleep upon this earth, before the longest sleep of
And thus Beatrice waited and slept at Paddington, while her lover
waited and watched at Euston.
At five she woke, and the heavy cloud of sorrow, past, present, and to
come, rushed in upon her heart. Taking her bag, she made herself as
tidy as she could. Then she stepped outside the station into the
deserted street, and finding a space between the houses, watched the
sun rise over the waking world. It was her last sunrise, Beatrice
She came back filled with such thoughts as might well strike the heart
of a woman about to do the thing she had decreed. The refreshment bar
was open now, and she went to it, and bought a cup of coffee and some
bread and butter. Then she took her ticket, not to Bryngelly or to
Coed, but to the station on this side of Bryngelly, and three miles
from it. She would run less risk of being noticed there. The train was
shunted up; she took her seat in it. Just as it was starting, an early
newspaper boy came along, yawning. Beatrice bought a copy of the
/Standard/, out of the one and threepence that was left of her money,
and opened it at the sheet containing the leading articles. The first
one began, "The most powerful, closely reasoned, and eloquent speech
made last night by Mr. Bingham, the Member for Pillham, will, we feel
certain, produce as great an effect on the country as it did in the
House of Commons. We welcome it, not only on account of its value as a
contribution to the polemics of the Irish Question, but as a positive
proof of what has already been suspected, that the Unionist party has
in Mr. Bingham a young statesman of a very high order indeed, and one
whom remarkable and rapid success at the Bar has not hampered, as is
too often the case, in the larger and less technical field of
And so on. Beatrice put the paper down with a smile of triumph.
Geoffrey's success was splendid and unquestioned. Nothing could stop
him now. During all the long journey she pleased her imagination by
conjuring up picture after picture of that great future of his, in
which she would have no share. And yet he would not forget her; she
was sure of this. Her shadow would go with him from year to year, even
to the end, and at times he might think how proud she would have been
could she be present to record his triumphs. Alas! she did not
remember that when all is lost which can make life beautiful, when the
sun has set, and the spirit gone out of the day, the poor garish
lights of our little victories can but ill atone for the glories that
have been. Happiness and content are frail plants which can only
flourish under fair conditions if at all. Certainly they will not
thrive beneath the gloom and shadow of a pall, and when the heart is
dead no triumphs, however splendid, and no rewards, however great, can
compensate for an utter and irredeemable loss. She never guessed, poor
girl, that time upon time, in the decades to be, Geoffrey would gladly
have laid his honours down in payment for one year of her dear and
unforgotten presence. She was too unselfish; she did not think that a
man could thus prize a woman's love, and took it for an axiom that to
succeed in life was his one real object--a thing to which so divine a
gift as she had given Geoffrey is as nothing. It was therefore this
Juggernaut of her lover's career that Beatrice would cast down her
life, little knowing that thereby she must turn the worldly and
temporal success, which he already held so cheap, to bitterness and
At Chester Beatrice got out of the train and posted her letter to
Geoffrey. She would not do so till then because it might have reached
him too soon--before all was finished! Now it would be delivered to
him in the House after everything had been accomplished in its order.
She looked at the letter; it was, she thought, the last token that
could ever pass between them on this earth. Once she pressed it to her
heart, once she touched it with her lips, and then put it from her
beyond recall. It was done; there was no going back now. And even as
she stood the postman came up, whistling, and opening the box
carelessly swept its contents into his canvas bag. Could he have known
what lay among them he would have whistled no more that day.
Beatrice continued her journey, and by three o'clock arrived safely at
the little station next to Bryngelly. There was a fair at Coed that
day, and many people of the peasant class got in here. Amidst the
confusion she gave up her ticket to a small boy, who was looking the
other way at the time, and escaped without being noticed by a soul.
Indeed, things happened so that nobody in the neighbourhood of
Bryngelly ever knew that Beatrice had been to London and back upon
those dreadful days.
Beatrice walked along the cliff, and in an hour was at the door of the
Vicarage, from which she seemed to have been away for years. She
unlocked it and entered. In the letter-box was a post-card from her
father stating that he and Elizabeth had changed their plans and would
not be back till the train which arrived at half-past eight on the
following morning. So much the better, she thought. Then she
disarranged the clothes upon her bed to make it seem as though it had
been slept it, lit the kitchen fire, and put the kettle on to boil,
and as soon as it was ready she took some food. She wanted all her
nerve, and that could not be kept up without food.
Shortly after this the girl Betty returned, and went about her duties
in the house quite unconscious that Beatrice had been away from it for
the whole night. Her sister was much better, she said, in answer to
When she had eaten what she could--it was not much--Beatrice went to
her room, undressed herself, bathed, and put on clean, fresh things.
Then she unbound her lovely hair, and did it up in a coronet upon her
head. It was a fashion that she did not often adopt, because it took
too much time, but on this day, of all days, she had a strange fancy
to look her best. Also her hair had been done like this on the
afternoon when Geoffrey first met her. Next she put on the grey dress
once more which she had worn on her journey to London, and taking the
silver Roman ring that Geoffrey had given her from the string by which
she wore it about her neck, placed it on the third finger of her left
All this being done, Beatrice visited the kitchen and ordered the
supper. She went further in her innocent cunning. Betty asked her what
she would like for breakfast on the following morning, and she told
her to cook some bacon, and to be careful how she cut it, as she did
not like thick bacon. Then, after one long last look at the Vicarage,
she started for the lodging of the head teacher of the school, and,
having found her, inquired as to the day's work.
Further, Beatrice told her assistant that she had determined to alter
the course of certain lessons in the school. The Wednesday arithmetic
class had hitherto been taken before the grammar class. On the morrow
she had determined to change this; she would take the grammar class at
ten and the arithmetic class at eleven, and gave her reasons for so
doing. The teacher assented, and Beatrice shook hands with her and
bade her good-night. She would have wished to say how much she felt
indebted to her for her help in the school, but did not like to do so,
fearing lest, in the light of pending events, the remark might be
viewed with suspicion.
Poor Beatrice, these were the only lies she ever told!
She left the teacher's lodgings, and was about to go down to the beach
and sit there till it was time, when she was met by the father of the
crazed child, Jane Llewellyn.
"Oh, Miss Beatrice," he said, "I have been looking for you everywhere.
We are in sad trouble, miss. Poor Jane is in a raving fit, and talking
about hell and that, and the doctor says she's dying. Can you come,
miss, and see if you can do anything to quiet her? It's a matter of
life and death, the doctor says, miss."
Beatrice smiled sadly; matters of life and death were in the air. "I
will come," she said, "but I shall not be able to stay long."
How could she better spend her last hour?
She accompanied the man to his cottage. The child, dressed only in a
night-shirt, was raving furiously, and evidently in the last stage of
exhaustion, nor could the doctor or her mother do anything to quiet
"Don't you see," she screamed, pointing to the wall, "there's the
Devil waiting for me? And, oh, there's the mouth of hell where the
minister said I should go! Oh, hold me, hold me, hold me!"
Beatrice walked up to her, took the thin little hands in hers, and
looked her fixedly in the eyes.
"Jane," she said. "Jane, don't you know me?"
"Yes, Miss Granger," she said, "I know the lesson; I will say it
Beatrice took her in her arms, and sat down on the bed. Quieter and
quieter grew the child till suddenly an awful change passed over her
"She is dying," whispered the doctor.
"Hold me close, hold me close!" said the child, whose senses returned
before the last eclipse. "Oh, Miss Granger, I shan't go to hell, shall
I? I am afraid of hell."
"No, love, no; you will go to heaven."
Jane lay still awhile. Then seeing the pale lips move, Beatrice put
her ear to the child's mouth.
"Will you come with me?" she murmured; "I am afraid to go alone."
And Beatrice, her great grey eyes fixed steadily on the closing eyes
beneath, whispered back so that no other soul could hear except the
"Yes, I will come presently." But Jane heard and understood.
"Promise," said the child.
"Yes, I promise," answered Beatrice in the same inaudible whisper.
"Sleep, dear, sleep; I will join you very soon."
And the child looked up, shivered, smiled--and slept.
Beatrice gave it back to the weeping parents and went her way. "What a
splendid creature," said the doctor to himself as he looked after her.
"She has eyes like Fate, and the face of Motherhood Incarnate. A great
woman, if ever I saw one, but different from other women."
Meanwhile Beatrice made her way to old Edward's boat-shed. As she
expected, there was nobody there, and nobody on the beach. Old Edward
and his son were at tea, with the rest of Bryngelly. They would come
back after dark and lock up the boat-house.
She looked at the sea. There were no waves, but the breeze freshened
every minute, and there was a long slow swell upon the water. The
rollers would be running beyond the shelter of Rumball Point, five
The tide was high; it mounted to within ten yards of the end of the
boat-house. She opened the door, and dragged out her canoe, closing
the door again after her. The craft was light, and she was strong for
a woman. Close to the boat-house one of the timber breakwaters, which
are common at sea-side places, ran down into the water. She dragged
the canoe to its side, and then pushed it down the beach till its bow
was afloat. Next, mounting on the breakwater, she caught hold of the
little chain in the bow, and walking along the timber baulks, pulled
with all her force till the canoe was quite afloat. On she went,
dragging it after her, till the waves washing over the breakwater
wetted her shoes.
Then she brought the canoe quite close, and, watching her opportunity,
stepped into it, nearly falling into the water as she did so. But she
recovered her balance, and sat down. In another minute she was
paddling out to sea with all her strength.
For twenty minutes or more she paddled unceasingly. Then she rested
awhile, only keeping the canoe head on to the sea, which, without
being rough, was running more and more freshly. There, some miles
away, was the dark mass of Rumball Point. She must be off it before
the night closed in. There would be sea enough there; no such craft as
hers could live in it for five minutes, and the tide was on the turn.
Anything sinking in those waters would be carried far away, and never
come back to the shore of Wales.
She turned her head and looked at Bryngelly, and the long familiar
stretch of cliff. How fair it seemed, bathed in the quiet lights of
summer afternoon. Oh! was there any afternoon where the child had
gone, and where she was following fast?--or was it all night, black,
eternal night, unbroken by the dram of dear remembered things?
There were the Dog Rocks, where she had stood on that misty autumn
day, and seen the vision of her coffined mother's face. Surely it was
a presage of her fate. There beyond was the Bell Rock, where in that
same hour Geoffrey and she had met, and behind it was the
Amphitheatre, where they had told their love. Hark! what was that
sound pealing faintly at intervals across the deep? It was the great
ship's bell that, stirred from time to time by the wash of the high
tide, solemnly tolled her passing soul.
She paddled on; the sound of that death-knell shook her nerves, and
made her feel faint and weak. Oh, it would have been easier had she
been as she was a year ago, before she learned to love, and hand in
hand had seen faith and hope re-arise from the depths of her stirred
soul. Then being but a heathen, she could have met her end with all a
heathen's strength, knowing what she lost, and believing, too, that
she would find but sleep. And now it was otherwise, for in her heart
she did not believe that she was about utterly to perish. What, could
the body live on in a thousand forms, changed indeed but
indestructible and immortal, while the spiritual part, with all its
hopes and loves and fears, melted into nothingness? It could not be;
surely on some new shore she should once again greet her love. And if
it was not, how would they meet her in that under world, coming self-
murdered, her life-blood on her hands? Would her mother turn away from
her? and the little brother, whom she had loved, would he reject her?
And what Voice of Doom might strike her into everlasting hopelessness?
But, be the sin what it might, yet would she sin it for the sake of
Geoffrey; ay, even if she must reap a harvest of eternal woe. She bent
her head and prayed. "Oh, Power, that art above, from whom I come, to
whom I go, have mercy on me! Oh, Spirit, if indeed thy name is Love,
weigh my love in thy balance, and let it lift the scale of sin. Oh,
God of Sacrifice, be not wroth at my deed of sacrifice and give me
pardon, give me life and peace, that in a time to come I may win the
sight of him for whom I die."
A somewhat heathenish prayer indeed, and far too full of human passion
for one about to leave the human shores. But, then--well, it was
Beatrice who prayed--Beatrice, who could realise no heaven beyond the
limits of her passion, who still thought more of her love than of
saving her own soul alive. Perhaps it found a home--perhaps, like her
who prayed it, it was lost upon the pitiless deep.
Then Beatrice prayed no more. Short was her time. See, there sank the
sun in glory; and there the great rollers swept along past the sullen
headland, where the undertow met wind and tide. She would think no
more of self; it was, it seemed to her, so small, this mendicant
calling on the Unseen, not for others, but for self: aid for self,
well-being for self, salvation for self--this doing of good that good
might come to self. She had made her prayer, and if she prayed again
it should be for Geoffrey, that he might prosper and be happy--that he
might forgive the trouble her love had brought into his life. That he
might forget her she could not pray. She had prayed her prayer and
said her say, and it was done with. Let her be judged as it seemed
good to Those who judge! Now she would fix her thoughts upon her love,
and by its strength would she triumph over the bitterness of death.
Her eyes flashed and her breast heaved: further out to sea, further
yet--she would meet those rollers a knot or more from the point of the
headland, that no record might remain.
Was it her wrong if she loved him? She could not help it, and she was
proud to love him. Even now, she would not undo the past. What were
the lines that Geoffrey had read to her. They haunted her mind with a
strange persistence--they took time to the beat of her falling paddle,
and would not leave her:
"Of once sown seed, who knoweth what the crop is?
Alas, my love, Love's eyes are very blind!
What would they have us do? Sunflowers and poppies
Stoop to the wind----"[*]
[*] Oliver Madox Brown.
Yes, yes, Love's eyes are very blind, but in their blindness there was
more light than in all other earthly things. Oh, she could not live
for him, and with him--it was denied to her--but she still could die
for him, her darling, her darling!
"Geoffrey, hear me--I die for you; accept my sacrifice, and forget me
not." So!--she is in the rollers--how solemn they are with their hoary
heads of foam, as one by one they move down upon her.
The first! it towers high, but the canoe rides it like a cork. Look!
the day is dying on the distant land, but still his glory shines
across the sea. Presently all will be finished. Here the breeze is
strong; it tears the bonnet from her head, it unwinds the coronet of
braided locks, and her bright hair streams out behind her. Feel how
the spray stings, striking like a whip. No, not this wave, she rides
that also; she will die as she has lived--fighting to the last; and
once more, never faltering, she sets her face towards the rollers and
consigns her soul to doom.
Ah! that struck her full. Oh, see! Geoffrey's ring has slipped from
her wet hand, falling into the bottom of the boat. Can she regain it?
she would die with that ring upon her finger--it is her marriage-ring,
wedding her through death to Geoffrey, upon the altar of the sea. She
stoops! oh, what a shock of water at her breast! What was it--what was
it?--/Of once sown seed, who knoweth what the crop is?/ She must soon
"Geoffrey! hear me, Geoffrey!--I die, I die for you! I will wait for
you at the foundations of the sea, on the topmost heights of heaven,
in the lowest deeps of hell--wherever I am I will always wait for
It sinks--it has sunk--she is alone with God, and the cruel waters.
The sun goes out! Look on that great white wave seething through the
deepening gloom; hear it rushing towards her, big with fate.
"Geoffrey, my darling--I will wait----"
Farewell to Beatrice! The light went out of the sky and darkness
gathered on the weltering sea. Farewell to Beatrice, and all her love
and all her sin.
A WOMAN'S LAST WORD
Geoffrey came down to breakfast about eleven o'clock on the morning of
that day the first hours of which he had spent at Euston Station. Not
seeing Effie, he asked Lady Honoria where she was, and was informed
that Anne, the French /bonne/, said the child was not well and that
she had kept her in bed to breakfast.
"Do you mean to say that you have not been up to see what is the
matter with her?" asked Geoffrey.
"No, not yet," answered his wife. "I have had the dressmaker here with
my new dress for the duchess's ball to-morrow; it's lovely, but I
think that there is a little too much of that creamy lace about it."
With an exclamation of impatience, Geoffrey rose and went upstairs. He
found Effie tossing about in bed, her face flushed, her eyes wide
open, and her little hands quite hot.
"Send for the doctor at once," he said.
The doctor came and examined the child, asking her if she had wet her
"Yes, I did, two days ago. I wet my feet in a puddle in the street,"
she answered. "But Anne did say that they would soon get dry, if I
held them to the fire, because my other boots was not clean. Oh, my
head does ache, daddie."
"Ah," said the doctor, and then covering the child up, took Geoffrey
aside and told him that his daughter had a mild attack of inflammation
of the lungs. There was no cause for anxiety, only she must be looked
after and guarded from chills.
Geoffrey asked if he should send for a trained nurse.
"Oh, no," said the doctor. "I do not think it is necessary, at any
rate at present. I will tell the nurse what to do, and doubtless your
wife will keep an eye on her."
So Anne was called up, and vowed that she would guard the cherished
child like the apple of her eye. Indeed, no, the boots were not wet--
there was a little, a very little mud on them, that was all.
"Well, don't talk so much, but see that you attend to her properly,"
said Geoffrey, feeling rather doubtful, for he did not trust Anne.
However, he thought he would see himself that there was no neglect.
When she heard what was the matter, Lady Honoria was much put out.
"Really," she said, "children are the most vexatious creatures in the
world. The idea of her getting inflammation of the lungs in this
unprovoked fashion. The end of it will be that I shall not be able to
go to the duchess's ball to-morrow night, and she was so kind about
it, she made quite a point of my coming. Besides I have bought that
lovely new dress on purpose. I should never have dreamed of going to
so much expense for anything else."
"Don't trouble yourself," said Geoffrey. "The House does not sit
to-morrow; I will look after her. Unless Effie dies in the interval,
you will certainly be able to go to the ball."
"Dies--what nonsense! The doctor says that it is a very slight attack.
Why should she die?"
"I am sure I hope that there is no fear of anything of the sort,
Honoria. Only she must be properly looked after. I do not trust this
woman Anne. I have half a mind to get in a trained nurse after all."
"Well, if you do, she will have to sleep out of the house, that's all.
Amelia (Lady Garsington) is coming up to-night, and I must have
somewhere to put her maid, and there is no room for another bed in
"Oh, very well, very well," said Geoffrey, "I daresay that it will be
all right, but if Effie gets any worse, you will please understand
that room must be made."
But Effie did not get worse. She remained much about the same.
Geoffrey sat at home all day and employed himself in reading briefs;
fortunately he had not to go to court. About six o'clock he went down
to the House, and having dined very simply and quietly, took his seat
and listened to some dreary talk, which was being carried on for the
benefit of the reporters, about the adoption of the Welsh language in
the law courts of Wales.
Suddenly he became aware of a most extraordinary sense of oppression.
An indefinite dread took hold of him, his very soul was filled with
terrible apprehensions and alarm. Something dreadful seemed to knock
at the portals of his sense, a horror which he could not grasp. His
mind was confused, but little by little it grew clearer, and he began
to understand that a danger threatened Beatrice, that she was in great
peril. He was sure of it. Her agonised dying cries reached him where
he was, though in no form which he could understand; once more her
thought beat on his thought--once more and for the last time her
spirit spoke to his.
Then suddenly a cold wind seemed to breathe upon his face and lift his
hair, and everything was gone. His mind was as it had been; again he
heard the dreary orator and saw the members slipping away to dinner.
The conditions that disturbed him had passed, things were as they had
been. Nor was this strange! For the link was broken. Beatrice was
/dead/. She had passed into the domains of impenetrable silence.
Geoffrey sat up with a gasp, and as he did so a letter was placed in
his hand. It was addressed in Beatrice's handwriting and bore the
Chester postmark. A chill fear seized him. What did it contain? He
hurried with it into a private room and opened it. It was dated from
Bryngelly on the previous Sunday and had several inclosures.
"My dearest Geoffrey," it began, "I have never before addressed you
thus on paper, nor should I do so now, knowing to what risks such
written words might put you, were it not that occasions may arise
(as in this case) which seem to justify the risk. For when all
things are ended between a man and a woman who are to each other
what we have been, then it is well that the one who goes should
speak plainly before speech becomes impossible, if only that the
one who is left should not misunderstand that which has been done.
"Geoffrey, it is probable--it is almost certain--that before your
eyes read these words I shall be where in the body they can never
see me more. I write to you from the brink of the grave; when you
read it, it will have closed over me.
"Geoffrey, I shall be dead.
"I received your dear letter (it is destroyed now) in which you
expressed a wish that I should come away with you to some other
country, and I answered it in eight brief words. I dared not
trust myself to write more, nor had I any time. How could you
think that I should ever accept such an offer for my own sake,
when to do so would have been to ruin you? But first I will tell
you all that has happened here." (Here followed a long and exact
description of those events with which we are already acquainted,
including the denunciation of Beatrice by her sister, the threats
of Owen Davies as regards Geoffrey himself, and the measures which
she had adopted to gain time.)
"Further," the letter continued, "I inclose you your wife's letter
to me. And here I wish to state that I have not one word to say
against Lady Honoria or her letter. I think that she was perfectly
justified in writing as she did, for after all, dear Geoffrey, you
are her husband, and in loving each other we have offended against
her. She tells me truly that it is my duty to make all further
communications between us impossible. There is only one way to do
this, and I take it.
"And now I have spoken enough about myself, nor do I wish to enter
into details that could only give you pain. There will be no
scandal, dear, and if any word should be raised against you after
I am gone, I have provided an answer in the second letter which I
have inclosed. You can print it if necessary; it will be a
sufficient reply to any talk. Nobody after reading it can believe
that you were in any way connected with the accident which will
happen. Dear, one word more--still about myself, you see! Do not
blame yourself in this matter, for you are not to blame; of my own
free will I do it, because in the extremity of the circumstances I
think it best that one should go and the other be saved, rather
than that both should be involved in a common ruin.
"Dear, do you remember how in that strange vision of mine, I
dreamed that you came and touched me on the breast and showed me
light? So it has come to pass, for you have given me love--that is
light; and now in death I shall seek for wisdom. And this being
fulfilled, shall not the rest be fulfilled in its season? Shall I
not sit in those cloudy halls till I see you come to seek me, the
word of wisdom on your lips? And since I cannot have you to
myself, and be all in all to you, why I am glad to go. For here on
the world is neither rest nor happiness; as in my dream, too often
does 'Hope seem to rend her starry robes.'
"I am glad to go from such a world, in which but one happy thing
has found me--the blessing of your love. I am worn out with the
weariness and struggle, and now that I have lost you I long for
rest. I do not know if I sin in what I do; if so, may I be
forgiven. If forgiveness is impossible, so be it! You will forgive
me, Geoffrey, and you will always love me, however wicked I may
be; even if, at the last, you go where I am not, you will remember
and love the erring woman to whom, being so little, you still were
all in all. We are not married, Geoffrey, according to the customs
of the world, but two short days hence I shall celebrate a service
that is greater and more solemn than any of the earth. For Death
will be the Priest and that oath which I shall take will be to all
eternity. Who can prophesy of that whereof man has no sure
knowledge? Yet I do believe that in a time to come we shall look
again into each other's eyes, and kiss each other's lips, and be
one for evermore. If this is so, it is worth while to have lived
and died; if not, then, Geoffrey, farewell!
"If I may I will always be near you. Listen to the night wind and
you shall hear my voice; look on the stars, you will see my eyes;
and my love shall be as the air you breathe. And when at last the
end comes, remember me, for if I live at all I shall be about you
then. What have I more to say? So much, my dear, that words cannot
convey it. Let it be untold; but whenever you hear or read that
which is beautiful or tender, think 'this is what Beatrice would
have said to me and could not!'
"You will be a great man, dear, the foremost or one of the foremost
of your age. You have already promised me to persevere to this
end: I will not ask you to promise afresh. Do not be content to
accept the world as women must. Great men do not accept the world;
they reform it--and you are of their number. And when you are
great, Geoffrey, you will use your power, not for self-interest,
but to large and worthy ends; you will always strive to help the
poor, to break down oppression from those who have to bar it, and
to advance the honour of your country. You will do all this from
your own heart and not because I ask it of you, but remember that
your fame will be my best monument--though none shall ever know
the grave it covers.
"Farewell, farewell, farewell! Oh, Geoffrey, my darling, to whom I
have never been a wife, to whom I am more than any wife--do not
forget me in the long years which are to come. Remember me when
others forsake you. Do not forget me when others flatter you and
try to win your love, for none can be to you what I have been--
none can ever love you more than that lost Beatrice who writes
these heavy words to-night, and who will pass away blessing you
with her last breath, to await you, if she may, in the land to
which your feet also draw daily on."
Then came a tear-stained postscript in pencil dated from Paddington
Station on that very morning.
"I journeyed to London to see you, Geoffrey. I could not die
without looking on your face once more. I was in the gallery of
the House and heard your great speech. Your friend found me a
place. Afterwards I touched your coat as you passed by the pillar
of the gateway. Then I ran away because I saw your friend turn and
look at me. I shall kiss this letter--just here before I close it
--kiss it there too--it is our last cold embrace. Before the end I
shall put on the ring you gave me--on my hand, I mean. I have
always worn it upon my breast. When I touched you as you passed
through the gateway I thought that I should have broken down and
called to you--but I found strength not to do so. My heart is
breaking and my eyes are blind with tears; I can write no more; I
have no more to say. Now once again good-bye. /Ave atque vale/--
oh, my love!--B."
The second letter was a dummy. That is to say it purported to be such
an epistle as any young lady might have written to a gentleman friend.
It began, "Dear Mr. Bingham," and ended, "Yours sincerely, Beatrice
Granger," was filled with chit-chat, and expressed hopes that he would
be able to come down to Bryngelly again later in the summer, when they
would go canoeing.
It was obvious, thought Beatrice, that if Geoffrey was accused by Owen
Davies or anybody else of being concerned with her mysterious end, the
production of such a frank epistle written two days previously would
demonstrate the absurdity of the idea. Poor Beatrice, she was full of
Let him who may imagine the effect produced upon Geoffrey by this
heartrending and astounding epistle! Could Beatrice have seen his face
when he had finished reading it she would never have committed
suicide. In a minute it became like that of an old man. As the whole
truth sank into his mind, such an agony of horror, of remorse, of
unavailing woe and hopelessness swept across his soul, that for a
moment he thought his vital forces must give way beneath it, and that
he should die, as indeed in this dark hour he would have rejoiced to
do. Oh, how pitiful it was--how pitiful and how awful! To think of
this love, so passionately pure, wasted on his own unworthiness. To
think of this divine woman going down to lonely death for him--a
strong man; to picture her crouching behind that gateway pillar and
touching him as he passed, while he, the thrice accursed fool, knew
nothing till too late; to know that he had gone to Euston and not to
Paddington; to remember the matchless strength and beauty of the love
which he had lost, and that face which he should never see again!
Surely his heart would break. No man could bear it!
And of those cowards who hounded her to death, if indeed she was
already dead! Oh, he would kill Owen Davies--yes, and Elizabeth too,
were it not that she was a woman; and as for Honoria he had done with
her. Scandal, what did he care for scandal? If he had his will there
should be a scandal indeed, for he would beat this Owen Davies, this
reptile, who did not hesitate to use a woman's terrors to prosper the
fulfilling of his lust--yes, and then drag him to the Continent and
kill him there. Only vengeance was left to him!
Stop, he must not give way--perhaps she was not dead--perhaps that
horrible presage of evil which had struck him like a storm was but a
dream. Could he telegraph? No, it was too late; the office at
Bryngelly would be closed--it was past eight now. But he could go.
There was a train leaving a little after nine--he should be there by
half-past six to-morrow. And Effie was ill--well, surely they could
look after her for twenty-four hours; she was in no danger, and he
must go--he could not bear this torturing suspense. Great God! how had
she done the deed!
Geoffrey snatched a sheet of paper and tried to write. He could not,
his hand shook so. With a groan he rose, and going to the refreshment
room swallowed two glasses of brandy one after another. The spirit
took effect on him; he could write now. Rapidly he scribbled on a
sheet of paper:
"I have been called away upon important business and shall probably
not be back till Thursday morning. See that Effie is properly
attended to. If I am not back you must not go to the duchess's
Then he addressed the letter to Lady Honoria and dispatched a
commissionaire with it. This done, he called a cab and bade the cabman
drive to Euston as fast as his horse could go.
AVE ATQUE VALE
That frightful journey--no nightmare was ever half so awful! But it
came to an end at last--there was the Bryngelly Station. Geoffrey
sprang from the train, and gave his ticket to the porter, glancing in
his face as he did so. Surely if there had been a tragedy the man
would know of it, and show signs of half-joyous emotion as is the
fashion of such people when something awful and mysterious has
happened to somebody else. But he showed no such symptoms, and a
glimmer of hope found its way into Geoffrey's tormented breast.
He left the station and walked rapidly towards the Vicarage. Those who
know what a pitch of horror suspense can reach may imagine his
feelings as he did so. But it was soon to be put an end to now. As he
drew near the Vicarage gate he met the fat Welsh servant girl Betty
running towards him. Then hope left Geoffrey.
The girl recognised him, and in her confusion did not seem in the
least astonished to see him walking there at a quarter to seven on a
summer morning. Indeed, even she vaguely connected Geoffrey with
Beatrice in her mind, for she at once said in her thick English:
"Oh, sir, do you know where Miss Beatrice is?"
"No," he answered, catching at a railing for support. "Why do you ask?
I have not seen her for weeks."
Then the girl plunged into a long story. Mr. Granger and Miss Granger
were away from home, and would not be back for another two hours. Miss
Beatrice had gone out yesterday afternoon, and had not come back to
tea. She, Betty, had not thought much of it, believing that she had
stopped to spend the evening somewhere, and, being very tired, had
gone to bed about eight, leaving the door unlocked. This morning, when
she woke, it was to find that Miss Beatrice had not slept in the house
that night, and she came out to see if she could find her.
"Where was she going when she went out?" Geoffrey asked.
She did not know, but she thought that Miss Beatrice was going out in
the canoe. Leastways she had put on her tennis shoes, which she always
wore when she went out boating.
Geoffrey understood it all now. "Come to the boat-house," he said.
They went down to the beach, where as yet none were about except a few
working people. Near the boat-house Geoffrey met old Edward walking
along with a key in his hand.
"Lord, sir!" he said. "You here, sir! and in that there queer hat,
too. What is it, sir?"
"Did Miss Beatrice go out in her canoe yesterday evening, Edward?"
Geoffrey asked hoarsely.
"No, sir; not as I know on. My boy locked up the boat-house last
night, and I suppose he looked in it first. What! You don't mean to
say---- Stop; we'll soon know. Oh, Goad! the canoe's gone!"
There was a silence, an awful silence. Old Edward broke it.
"She's drowned, sir--that's what she is--drowned at last; and she the
finest woman in Wales. I knewed she would be one day, poor dear! and
she the beauty that she was; and all along of that damned unlucky
little craft. Goad help her! She's drowned, I say----"
Betty burst out into loud weeping at his words.
"Stop that noise, girl," said Geoffrey, turning his pale face towards
her. "Go back to the Vicarage, and if Mr. Granger comes home before I
get back, tell him what we fear. Edward, send some men to search the
shore towards Coed, and some more in a sailing boat. I will walk
towards the Bell Rock--you can follow me."
He started and swiftly tramped along the sands, searching the sea with
his eye. On he walked sullenly, desperately striving to hope against
hope. On, past the Dog Rocks, round the long curve of beach till he
came to the Amphitheatre. The tide was high again; he could barely
pass the projecting point. He was round it, and his heart stood still.
For there, bottom upwards, and gently swaying to and fro as the spent
waves rocked it, was Beatrice's canoe.
Sadly, hopelessly, heavily, Geoffrey waded knee deep into the water,
and catching the bow of the canoe, dragged it ashore. There was, or
appeared to be, nothing in it; of course he could not expect anything
else. Its occupant had sunk and been carried out to sea by the ebb,
whereas the canoe had drifted back to shore with the morning tide.
He reared it upon its end to let the water drain out of it, and from
the hollow of the bow arch something came rolling down, something
bright and heavy, followed by a brown object. Hastily he lowered the
canoe again, and picked up the bright trinket. It was his own ring
come back to him--the Roman ring he had given Beatrice, and which she
told him in the letter she would wear in her hour of death. He touched
it with his lips and placed it back upon his hand, this token from the
beloved dead, vowing that it should never leave his hand in life, and
that after death it should be buried on him. And so it will be,
perhaps to be dug up again thousands of years hence, and once more to
play a part in the romance of unborn ages.
/Ave atque vale/--that was the inscription rudely cut within its
round. Greeting and farewell--her own last words to him. Oh, Beatrice,
Beatrice! to you also /ave atque vale/. You could not have sent a
fitter message. Greeting and farewell! Did it not sum it all? Within
the circle of this little ring was writ the epitome of human life:
here were the beginning and the end of Love and Hate, of Hope and
fear, of Joy and Sorrow.
Beatrice, hail! Beatrice, farewell! till perchance a Spirit rushing
earthward shall cry "/Greeting/," in another tongue, and Death,
descending to his own place, shaking from his wings the dew of tears,
shall answer "/Farewell to me and Night, ye Children of Eternal Day!/"
And what was this other relic? He lifted it--it was Beatrice's tennis
shoe, washed from her foot--Geoffrey knew it, for once he had tied it.
Then Geoffrey broke down--it was too much. He threw himself upon the
great rock and sobbed--that rock where he had sat with her and Heaven
had opened to their sight. But men are not given to such exhibitions
of emotion, and fortunately for him the paroxysm did not last. He
could not have borne it for long.
He rose and went again to the edge of the sea. At this moment old
Edward and his son arrived. Geoffrey pointed to the boat, then held up
the little shoe.
"Ah," said the old man, "as I thought. Goad help her! She's gone;
she'll never come ashore no more, she won't. She's twenty miles away
by now, she is, breast up, with the gulls a-screaming over her. It's
that there damned canoe, that's what it is. I wish to Goad I had broke
it up long ago. I'd rather have built her a boat for nothing, I would.
Damn the unlucky craft!" screamed the old man at the top of his voice,
and turning his head to hide the tears that were streaming down his
rugged face. "And her that I nursed and pulled out of the waters once
all but dead. Damn it, I say! There, take that, you Sea Witch, you!"
and he picked up a great boulder and crashed it through the bottom of
the canoe with all his strength. "You shan't never drown no more. But
it has brought you good luck, it has, sir; you'll be a fortunit man
all your life now. It has brought you the /Drowned One's shoe/."
"Don't break it any more," said Geoffrey. "She used to value it. You
had better bring it along between you--it may be wanted. I am going to
He walked back. Mr. Granger and Elizabeth had not yet arrived, but
they were expected every minute. He went into the sitting-room. It was
full of memories and tokens of Beatrice. There lay a novel which he
had given her, and there was yesterday's paper that she had brought
from town, the /Standard/, with his speech in it.
Geoffrey covered his eyes with his hand, and thought. None knew that
she had committed suicide except himself. If he revealed it things
might be said of her; he did not care what was said of him, but he was
jealous of her dead name. It might be said, for instance, that the
whole tale was true, and that Beatrice died because she could no
longer face life without being put to an open shame. Yes, he had
better hold his tongue as to how and why she died. She was dead--
nothing could bring her back. But how then should he account for his
presence there? Easily enough. He would say frankly that he came
because Beatrice had written to him of the charges made against her
and the threats against himself--came to find her dead. And on that
point he would still have a word with Owen Davies and Elizabeth.
Scarcely had he made up his mind when Elizabeth and her father
entered. Clearly from their faces they had as yet heard nothing.
Geoffrey rose, and Elizabeth caught sight of him standing with glowing
eyes and a face like that of Death himself. She recoiled in alarm.
"What brings you here, Mr. Bingham?" she said, in her hard voice.
"Cannot you guess, Miss Granger?" he said sternly. "A few days back
you made certain charges against your sister and myself in the
presence of your father and Mr. Owen Davies. These charges have been
communicated to me, and I have come to answer them and to demand
satisfaction for them."
Mr. Granger fidgeted nervously and looked as though he would like to
escape, but Elizabeth, with characteristic courage, shut the door and
faced the storm.
"Yes, I did make those charges, Mr. Bingham," she said, "and they are
true charges. But stop, we had better send for Beatrice first."
"You may send, but you will not find her."
"What do you mean?--what do you mean?" asked her father
"It means that he has hidden her away, I suppose," said Elizabeth with
"I mean, Mr. Granger, that your daughter Beatrice is /dead/."
For once startled out of her self-command, Elizabeth gave a little
cry, while her father staggered back against the wall.
"Dead! dead! What do you mean? How did she die?" he asked.
"That is known to God and her alone," answered Geoffrey. "She went out
last evening in her canoe. When I arrived here this morning she was
missed for the first time. I walked along the beach and found the
canoe and this inside of it," and he placed the sodden shoe upon the
There was a silence. In the midst of it, Owen Davies burst into the
room with wild eyes and dishevelled hair.
"Is it true?" he cried, "tell me--it cannot be true that Beatrice is
drowned. She cannot have been taken from me just when I was going to
marry her. Say that it is not true!"
A great fury filled Geoffrey's heart. He walked down the room and shut
the door, a red light swimming before his eyes. Then he turned and
gripped Owen Davies's shoulder like a vice.
"You accursed blackguard--you unmanly cur!" he said; "you and that
wicked woman," and he shook his hand at Elizabeth, "conspired together
to bring a slur upon Beatrice. You did more: you threatened to attack
me, to try and ruin me if she would not give herself up to you. You
loathsome hypocrite, you tortured her and frightened her; now I am
here to frighten /you/. You said that you would make the country ring
with your tales. I tell you this--are you listening to me? If you dare
to mention her name in such a sense, or if that woman dares, I will
break every bone in your wretched body--by Heaven I will kill you!"
and he cast Davies from him, and as he did so, struck him heavily
across the face with the back of his hand.
The man took no notice either of his words or of the deadly insult of
"Is it true?" he screamed, "is it true that she is dead?"
"Yes," said Geoffrey, following him, and bending his tall square frame
over him, for Davies had fallen against the wall, "yes, it is true--
she is dead--and beyond your reach for ever. Pray to God that you may
not one day be called her murderers, all of you--you shameless
Owen Davies gave one shrill cry and sank in a huddled heap upon the
"There is no God," he moaned; "God promised her to me, to be my own--
you have killed her; you--you seduced her first and then you killed
her. I believe you killed her. Oh, I shall go mad!"
"Mad or sane," said Geoffrey, "say those words once more and I will
stamp the life out of you where you are. You say that God promised her
to you--promised that woman to a hound like you. Ah, be careful!"
Owen Davies made no answer. Crouched there upon the ground he rocked
himself to and fro, and moaned in the madness of his baulked desire.
"This man," said Geoffrey, turning towards and pointing to Elizabeth,
who was glaring at him like a wild cat from the corner of the room,
"said that there is no God. I say that there is a God, and that one
day, soon or late, vengeance will find you out--you murderess, you
writer of anonymous letters; you who, to advance your own wicked ends
whatever they may be, were not ashamed to try to drag your innocent
sister's name into the dirt. I never believed in a hell till now, but
there must be a hell for such as you, Elizabeth Granger. Go your ways;
live out your time; but live every hour of it in terror of the
vengeance that shall come so surely as you shall die.
"Now for you, sir," he went on, addressing the trembling father. "I do
not blame you so much, because I believe that this viper poisoned your
mind. You might have thought that the tale was true. It is not true;
it was a lie. Beatrice, who now is dead, came into my room in her
sleep, and was carried from it as she came. And you, her father,
allowed this villain and your daughter to use her distress against
her; you allowed him to make a lever of it, with which to force her
into a marriage that she loathed. Yes, cover up your face--you may
well do so. Do your worst, one and all of you, but remember that this
time you have to deal with a man who can and will strike back, not a
poor friendless girl."
"Before Heaven, it was not my fault, Mr. Bingham," gasped the old man.
"I am innocent of it. That Judas-woman Elizabeth betrayed her sister
because she wanted to marry him herself," and he pointed to the Heap
upon the floor. "She thought that it would prejudice him against
Beatrice, and he--he believed that she was attached to you, and tried
to work upon her attachment."
"So," said Geoffrey, "now we have it all. And you, sir, stood by and
saw this done. You stood by thinking that you would make a profit of
her agony. Now I will tell you what I meant to hide from you. I did
love her. I do love her--as she loved me. I believe that between you,
you drove her to her grave. Her blood be on your heads for ever and
"Oh, take me home," groaned the Heap upon the floor--"take me home,
Elizabeth! I daren't go alone. Beatrice will haunt me. My brain goes
round and round. Take me away, Elizabeth, and stop with me. You are
not afraid of her, you are afraid of nothing."
Elizabeth sidled up to him, keeping her fierce eyes on Geoffrey all
the time. She was utterly cowed and terrified, but she could still
look fierce. She took the Heap by the hand and drew him thence still
moaning and quite crazed. She led him away to his castle and his
wealth. Six months afterwards she came forth with him to marry him,
half-witted as he was. A year and eight months afterwards she came out
again to bury him, and found herself the richest widow in Wales.
They went forth, leaving Geoffrey and Mr. Granger alone. The old man
rested his head upon the table and wept bitterly.
"Be merciful," he said, "do not say such words to me. I loved her,
indeed I did, but Elizabeth was too much for me, and I am so poor. Oh,
if you loved her also, be merciful! I do not reproach you because you
loved her, although you had no right to love her. If you had not loved
her, and made her love you, all this would never have happened. Why do
you say such dreadful things to me, Mr. Bingham?"
"I loved her, sir," answered Geoffrey, humbly enough now that his fury
had passed, "because being what she was all who looked on her must
love her. There is no woman left like her in the world. But who am I
that I should blame you? God forgive us all! I only live henceforth in
the hope that I may one day rejoin her where she has gone."
There was a pause.
"Mr. Granger," said Geoffrey presently, "never trouble yourself about
money. You were her father; anything you want and what I have is
yours. Let us shake hands and say good-bye, and let us never meet
again. As I said, God forgive us all!"
"Thank you--thank you," said the old man, looking up through the white
hair that fell about his eyes. "It is a strange world and we are all
miserable sinners. I hope there is a better somewhere. I'm well-nigh
tired of this, especially now that Beatrice has gone. Poor girl, she
was a good daughter and a fine woman. Good-bye. Good-bye!"
Then Geoffrey went.
THE DUCHESS'S BALL
Geoffrey reached Town a little before eleven o'clock that night--a
haunted man--haunted for life by a vision of that face still lovely in
death, floating alone upon the deep, and companioned only by the
screaming mews--or perchance now sinking or sunk to an unfathomable
grave. Well might such a vision haunt a man, the man whom alone of all
men those cold lips had kissed, and for whose dear sake this dreadful
thing was done.
He took a cab directing the driver to go to Bolton Street and to stop
at his club as he passed. There might be letters for him there, he
thought--something which would distract his mind a little. As it
chanced there was a letter, marked "private," and a telegram; both had
been delivered that evening, the porter said, the former about an hour
ago by hand.
Idly he opened the telegram--it was from his lawyers: "Your cousin,
the child George Bingham, is, as we have just heard, dead. Please call
on us early to-morrow morning."
He started a little, for this meant a good deal to Geoffrey. It meant
a baronetcy and eight thousand a year, more or less. How delighted
Honoria would be, he thought with a sad smile; the loss of that large
income had always been a bitter pill to her, and one which she had
made him swallow again and again. Well, there it was. Poor boy, he had
always been ailing--an old man's child!
He put the telegram in his pocket and got into the hansom again. There
was a lamp in it and by its light he read the letter. It was from the
Prime Minister and ran thus:
"My dear Bingham,--I have not seen you since Monday to thank you
for the magnificent speech you made on that night. Allow me to add
my congratulations to those of everybody else. As you know, the
Under Secretaryship of the Home Office is vacant. On behalf of my
colleagues and myself I write to ask if you will consent to fill
it for a time, for we do not in any way consider that the post is
one commensurate with your abilities. It will, however, serve to
give you practical experience of administration, and us the
advantage of your great talents to an even larger extent than we
now enjoy. For the future, it must of course take care of itself;
but, as you know, Sir ----'s health is not all that could be
desired, and the other day he told me that it was doubtful if he
would be able to carry on the duties of the Attorney-Generalship
for very much longer. In view of this contingency I venture to
suggest that you would do well to apply for silk as soon as
possible. I have spoken to the Lord Chancellor about it, and he
says that there will be no difficulty, as although you have only
been in active practice for so short a while, you have a good many
years' standing as a barrister. Or if this prospect does not
please doubtless some other opening to the Cabinet can be found in
time. The fact is, that we cannot in our own interest overlook you
Geoffrey smiled again as he finished this letter. Who could have
believed a year ago that he would have been to-day in a position to
receive such an epistle from the Prime Minister of England? Ah, here
was the luck of the Drowned One's shoe with a vengeance. And what was
it all worth to him now?
He put the letter in his pocket with the telegram and looked out. They
were turning into Bolton Street. How was little Effie, he wondered?
The child seemed all that was left him to care for. If anything
happened to her--bah, he would not think of it!
He was there now. "How is Miss Effie?" he asked of the servant who
opened the door. At that moment his attention was attracted by the dim
forms of two people, a man and a woman, who were standing not far from
the area gate, the man with his arm round the woman's waist. Suddenly
the woman appeared to catch sight of the cab and retired swiftly down
the area. It crossed his mind that her figure was very like that of
Anne, the French nurse.
"Miss Effie is doing nicely, sir, I'm told," answered the man.
Geoffrey breathed more freely. "Where is her ladyship?" he asked. "In
"No, sir," answered the man, "her ladyship has gone to a ball. She
left this note for you in case you should come in."
He took the note from the hall table and opened it.
"Dear Geoffrey," it ran, "Effie is so much better that I have made
up my mind to go to the duchess's ball after all. She would be so
disappointed if I did not come, and my dress is quite /lovely/.
Had your mysterious business anything to do with /Bryngelly/?--
"She would go on to a ball from her mother's funeral," said Geoffrey
to himself, as he walked up to Effie's room; "well, it is her nature
and there's an end of it."
He knocked at the door of Effie's room. There was no answer, so he
walked in. The room was lit but empty--no, not quite! On the floor,
clothed only in her white night-shirt, lay his little daughter, to all
With something like an oath he sprang to her and lifted her. The face
was pale and the small hands were cold, but the breast was still hot
and fevered, and the heart beat. A glance showed him what had
happened. The child being left alone, and feeling thirsty, had got out
of bed and gone to the water bottle--there was the tumbler on the
floor. Then weakness had overcome her and she had fainted--fainted
upon the cold floor with the inflammation still on her.
At that moment Anne entered the room sweetly murmuring, "Ça va bien,
"Help me to put the child into bed," said Geoffrey sternly. "Now ring
the bell--ring it again.
"And now, woman--go. Leave this house at once, this very night. Do you
hear me? No, don't stop to argue. Look here! If that child dies I will
prosecute you for manslaughter; yes, I saw you in the street," and he
took a step towards her. Then Anne fled, and her face was seen no more
in Bolton Street or indeed in this country.
"James," said Geoffrey to the servant, "send the cook up here--she is
a sensible woman; and do you take a hansom and drive to the doctor,
and tell him to come here at once, and if you cannot find him go for
another doctor. Then go to the Nurses' Home, near St. James' Station,
and get a trained nurse--tell them one must be had from somewhere
"Yes, sir. And shall I call for her ladyship at the duchess's, sir?"
"No," he answered, frowning heavily, "do not disturb her ladyship. Go
"That settles it," said Geoffrey, as the man went. "Whatever happens,
Honoria and I must part. I have done with her."
He had indeed, though not in the way he meant. It would have been well
for Honoria if her husband's contempt had not prevented him from
summoning her from her pleasure.
The cook came up, and between them they brought the child back to
She opened her eyes and smiled. "Is that you, daddy," she whispered,
"or do I dreams?"
"Yes, dear, it is I."
"Where has you been, daddy--to see Auntie Beatrice?"
"Yes, love," he said, with a gasp.
"Oh, daddy, my head do feel funny; but I don't mind now you is come
back. You won't go away no more, will you, daddy?"
"No, dear, no more."
After that she began to wander a little, and finally dropped into a
Within half an hour both the doctor and the nurse arrived. The former
listened to Geoffrey's tale and examined the child.
"She may pull through it," he said, "she has got a capital
constitution; but I'll tell you what it is--if she had lain another
five minutes in that draught there would have been an end of her. You
came in the nick of time. And now if I were you I should go to bed.
You can do no good here, and you look dreadfully ill yourself."
But Geoffrey shook his head. He said he would go downstairs and smoke
a pipe. He did not want to go to bed at present; he was too tired.
Meanwhile the ball went merrily. Lady Honoria never enjoyed herself
more in her life. She revelled in the luxurious gaiety around her like
a butterfly in the sunshine. How good it all was--the flash of
diamonds, the odour of costly flowers, the homage of well-bred men,
the envy of other women. Oh! it was a delightful world after all--that
is when one did not have to exist in a flat near the Edgware Road. But
Heaven be praised! thanks to Geoffrey's talents, there was an end of
flats and misery. After all, he was not a bad sort of husband, though
in many ways a perfect mystery to her. As for his little weakness for
the Welsh girl, really, provided that there was no scandal, she did
not care twopence about it.
"Yes, I am so glad you admire it. I think it is rather a nice dress,
but then I always say that nobody in London can make a dress like
Madame Jules. Oh, no, Geoffrey did not choose it; he thinks of other
"Well, I'm sure you ought to be proud of him, Lady Honoria," said the
handsome Guardsman to whom she was talking; "they say at mess that he
is one of the cleverest men in England. I only wish I had a fiftieth
part of his brains."
"Oh, please do not become clever, Lord Atleigh; please don't, or I
shall really give you up. Cleverness is all very well, but it isn't
everything, you know. Yes, I will dance if you like, but you must go
slowly; to be quite honest, I am afraid of tearing my lace in this
crush. Why, I declare there is Garsington, my brother, you know," and
she pointed to a small red-haired man who was elbowing his way towards
them. "I wonder what he wants; it is not at all in his line to come to
balls. You know him, don't you? he is always racing horses, like you."
But the Guardsman had vanished. For reasons of his own he did not wish
to meet Garsington. Perhaps he too had been a member of a certain
"Oh, there you are, Honoria," said her brother, "I thought that I
should be sure to find you somewhere in this beastly squash. Look
here, I have something to tell you."
"Good news or bad?" said Lady Honoria, playing with her fan. "If it is
bad, keep it, for I am enjoying myself very much, and I don't want my
"Trust you for that, Honoria; but look here, it's jolly good, about as
good as can be for that prig of a husband of yours. What do you think?
that brat of a boy, the son of old Sir Robert Bingham and the cook or
some one, you know, is----"
"Not dead, not dead?" said Honoria in deep agitation.
"Dead as ditch-water," replied his lordship. "I heard it at the club.
There was a lawyer fellow there dining with somebody there, and they
got talking about Bingham, when the lawyer said, 'Oh, he's Sir
Geoffrey Bingham now. Old Sir Robert's heir is dead. I saw the
"Oh, this is almost too good to be true," said Honoria. "Why, it means
eight thousand a year to us."
"I told you it was pretty good," said her brother. "You ought to stand
me a commission out of the swag. At any rate, let's go and drink to
the news. Come on, it is time for supper and I am awfully done. I must
screw myself up."
Lady Honoria took his arm. As they walked down the wide flower-hung
stair they met a very great Person indeed, coming up.
"Ah, Lady Honoria," said the great Person, "I have something to say
that will please you, I think," and he bent towards her, and spoke
very low, then, with a little bow, passed on.
"What is the old boy talking about?" asked her brother.
"Why, what do you think? We are in luck's way to-night. He says that
they are offering Geoffrey the Under Secretaryship of the Home
"He'll be a bigger prig than ever now," growled Lord Garsington. "Yes,
it is luck though; let us hope it won't turn."
They sat down to supper, and Lord Garsington, who had already been
dining, helped himself pretty freely to champagne. Before them was a
silver candelabra and on each of the candles was fixed a little
painted paper shade. One of them got wrong, and a footman tried to
reach over Lord Garsington's head to put it straight.
"I'll do it," said he.
"No, no; let the man," said Lady Honoria. "Look! it is going to catch
"Nonsense," he answered, rising solemnly and reaching his arm towards
the shade. As he touched it, it caught fire; indeed, by touching it he
caused it to catch fire. He seized hold of it, and made an effort to
put it out, but it burnt his fingers.
"Curse the thing!" he said aloud, and threw it from him. It fell
flaming in his sister's dress among the thickest of the filmy laces;
they caught, and instantly two wreathing snakes of fire shot up her.
She sprang from her seat and rushed screaming down the room, an awful
mass of flame!
In ten more minutes Lady Honoria had left this world and its pleasures
to those who still lived to taste them.
An hour passed. Geoffrey still sat brooding heavily over his pipe in
the study in Bolton Street and waiting for Honoria, when a knock came
to his door. The servants had all gone to bed, all except the sick
nurse. He rose and opened it himself. A little red-haired, pale-faced
man staggered in.
"Why, Garsington, is it you? What do you want at this hour?"
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