Charlotte M. Braeme
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Steven desJardins and Distributed Proofreaders.
EVERYDAY LIFE LIBRARY No. 2
By CHARLOTTE M. BRAEME
Author of "Dora Thorne," "The Mystery of Colde Fell," "The Belle of
Lynn," "Madolin's Lover," "The Heiress of Hilldrop," Etc., Etc.
"Eighty pounds a year!" My reader can imagine that this was no great
fortune. I had little or nothing to spend in kid gloves or cigars;
indeed, to speak plain, prosaic English, I went without a good dinner
far oftener than I had one. Yet, withal, I was passing rich on eighty
pounds a year.
My father, Captain Trevelyan, a brave and deserving officer, died when I
was a child. My mother, a meek, fragile invalid, never recovered his
loss, but died some years after him, leaving me alone in the world with
my sister Clare.
When I was young I had great dreams of fame and glory. I was to be a
brave soldier like my dear, dead father, or a great writer or a
statesman. I dreamed of everything except falling into the common
grooves of life--which was my fate in after years. My mother, believing
in my dreams, contrived to send me to college--we both considered a
college education the only preliminary to a golden future. How she
managed it out of her slender means I cannot tell, but she kept me at
college for three years. I was just trying to decide what profession to
adopt, when a letter came summoning me suddenly home.
My mother was ill, not expected to live.
When I did reach home I found another source of trouble. My sister
Clare, whom I had left a beautiful, blooming girl of eighteen, had been
ill for the past year. The doctors declared it to be a spinal complaint,
from which she was not likely to recover, although she might live for
She was unable to move, but lay always on a couch or sofa. The first
glimpse of her altered face, so sweet, so sad and colorless, made my
All the youth and bloom had died out of it.
My mother did not live many days; at her death her income ceased, and I
found myself, at twenty, obliged to begin the world as best I could, the
sole protector of my invalid sister. The first step was to sell our
little home, a pretty cottage at Hempstead, then to take lodgings nearer
the city; after that I set vigorously to work to look for a situation.
Ah, me, that weary task! I wonder if any of my readers ever went quite
alone, friendless, almost helpless, into the great, modern Babylon, to
look for a situation; if so, they will know how to pity me. I spent many
pounds in advertisements; I haunted the agency offices; I answered every
advertisement I read--it seemed all in vain.
My father's regiment was then in India, but I wrote to several of the
officers, who had known and valued him. Then, as a last resource, I
looked up the few friends my mother had.
If there is one thing more dreary than looking for a situation, it is
what is commonly called "hunting up one's friends." I found many, but
some were old and indifferent, others too much engrossed in their own
affairs to have any time to devote to mine. Some shook hands, wished me
well, promised to do all they could to help me, and before I had passed
from their sight forgot my existence.
I gave up my friends. Their help in the hour of need is a beautiful
theory, but very seldom put into practice.
Just as I was growing dull and dispirited, a friend upon whom I had not
called, and whose aid I had not solicited, wrote to me and offered me a
situation as clerk in his office, with a salary of eighty pounds per
annum, to be afterward increased. God send to every weary heart the
comfort this news brought to mine. I ran to Clare with the letter in my
"Eighty pounds a year, darling!" I cried; "there is a fortune."
We had neither of us ever had much to do with money; we were quite
ignorant of its value, how far it would go, what it would purchase, etc.
It seemed an inexhaustible sum. We had cheap, comfortable apartments in
Holloway--a room for my sister and two smaller rooms for myself. When I
think of her patience, her resignation, her unvarying sweetness, her
constant cheerfulness, my heart does homage to the virtue and goodness
One fine morning in September I went for the first time to work. The
office of Lawson Brothers was in Lincoln's Inn. The elder brother seldom
if ever appeared; the younger was always there. He gave me a very kindly
welcome, said he hoped I should not find my work tiresome, showed me
what I had to do, and, altogether, set me at my ease.
I sighed many times that morning to find of how little use was my
college education to me now and I sighed to think how all my dreams, all
my hopes and aspirations, had ended behind a clerk's desk, with eighty
pounds per annum in lieu of the fortune of which I had dreamed.
After a few days I became used to the novelty and did my best to
discharge my duties well.
Hundreds of young men in London lead lives similar to mine, with very
little variety; the only way in which I differed from them was that I
had my sister Clare to provide for. Alas! how soon I found out what a
small sum eighty pounds a year was! When we had paid the rent of our
three rooms, set aside a small sum for clothes and a small sum for food,
there was nothing left. Clare, whose appetite was dainty and delicate,
suffered greatly. I could not manage to provide even a bunch of grapes
for her; the trifling coppers I spent in flowers, that cheered her as
nothing else ever did, were sorely missed.
How I longed sometimes to take home a ripe peach, a bottle of wine, an
amusing book! But every penny was rigorously needed; there was not one
to spare. How I pitied her for the long hours she spent alone in those
solitary lodgings! A bright inspiration came to me one day; I thought
how glad I should be if I could get some work to do at night, if it were
but possible to earn a few shillings. I advertised again, and after some
time succeeded in getting copying to do, for which I was not overwell
I earned a pound--positively a whole golden sovereign--and when it lay
in my hand my joy was too great for words. What should I do with one
sovereign and such a multiplicity of wants? Do not laugh at me, reader,
when I tell you what I did do, after long and anxious debate with
myself. I paid a quarter's subscription at Mudie's, so that my poor
sister should have something to while away the dreary hours of the long
day. With the few shillings left I bought her a bottle of wine and some
That is years ago, but tears rise in my eyes now when I remember her
pretty joy, how gratefully she thanked me, how delicious she found the
wine, how she made me taste it, how she opened the books one after
another, and could hardly believe that every day she would have the same
happiness--three books, three beautiful new books! Ah, well! As one
grows older, such simple pleasures do not give the same great joy.
It was some time before I earned another. It was just as welcome to me,
and there came to me a great wonder as to whether I should spend the
whole of my life in this hard work with so small a recompense.
"Surely," I said to myself, "I shall rise in time; if I am diligent and
attentive at the office, I must make my way."
But, alas! the steps were very small, and the clerks' salaries were only
increased by five pounds a year at a time. It would be so long before I
earned two hundred a year, and at the same rate I should be an old man
before I reached three hundred.
One morning--it was the 1st of May--bright, warm, sunny day, the London
streets were more gay than usual, and as I walked along I wondered if
ever again I should breathe the perfume of the lime and the lilac in the
springtime. I saw a girl selling violets and daffodils, with crocuses
and spring flowers. I am not ashamed to say that tears came into my
eyes--flowers and sunshine and all things sweet seemed so far from me
I reached the office, and there, to my intense surprise, found a letter
waiting for me.
"Here is a letter for you, Mr. Trevelyan," said the head clerk,
He gave me a large blue official envelope. If he had but known what it
Some minutes passed before I had time to open it; then I read as
"To Sir Edgar Trevelyan:
"Sir: We beg to inform you that by the death of Sir Barnard
Trevelyan, and his son, Mr. Miles Trevelyan, who both died of the
epidemic in Florence, you, as next of kin, will succeed. We are not
aware that the late Sir Barnard had any other relatives. Crown
Anstey, the residence of the late baronet, is ready at any time for
your reception. If you can favor us with a call today, we will
explain to you the different ways in which the late baronet's large
fortune is invested. We have managed the Crown Anstey property for
some years, and hope to have the honor of continuing our business
relations with you. We are, sir, your obedient servants,
"Moreland & Paine."
The letter fell from my hands and I looked at it in blank astonishment
too great for words.
Sir Barnard Trevelyan! Crown Anstey! Why, the last time I ever heard
those names my mother sat talking to me about this proud, stately cousin
of my father--cousin who had never noticed either him or us by word or
by look. I was curious, and asked many questions about him. She told me
he had married some great lady, the daughter of a duke, and that he had
two sons--Miles, the eldest, and Cecil. I remembered having heard of
Cecil's death, but never dreamed that it could affect me.
Moreland & Paine! I knew the firm very well; they had large offices in
Lincoln's Inn, and bore a high reputation. Suddenly my heart stood
still. Why, of course, it was a jest--a sorry jest of one of my fellow
clerks. There they were, looking at me with eager, wondering eyes--of
course it was a jest. My heart almost ceased to beat, and I caught my
breath with something like a sob.
They should not laugh at me; they should not read what was passing in my
I put the letter calmly and deliberately in my pocket and opened my
ledger. I fancied they looked disappointed. Ah! it was but a jest; I
would not think of it.
I worked hard until the dinner hour, and then asked permission to absent
myself for a time. Dinner was not in my thoughts, but I went quickly as
I could walk to the office of Moreland & Paine.
Mr. Paine was not in. Mr. Moreland was in his office. I went up the
stairs, trembling, fearful of being abused for stupidity in taking the
least notice of such a letter.
Mr. Moreland looked up when the clerk announced my name--looked up,
bowed and positively rose from his seat. I took the letter from my
"I received this this morning, but, believing it to be a jest played
upon me, I have not mentioned it. I have called to ask you if you know
anything of it."
He took the letter from me with a strange smile.
"I wrote it myself last evening," he said, and I looked at him
Good heaven! it was all true. To this moment I do not know how I bore
the shock. I remember falling into a chair, Mr. Moreland standing over
me with a glass of something in his hand, which he forced me to drink.
"Your fortune has a strange effect upon you," he said, kindly.
"I cannot believe it!" I cried, clasping his hand. "I cannot realize it!
I have been working so hard--so hard for one single sovereign--and now,
you say, I am rich!"
"Now, most certainly," he replied, "you are Sir Edgar Trevelyan, master
of Crown Anstey and a rent roll of ten thousand a year."
I am not ashamed to confess that when I heard that I bowed my head on my
hands and cried like a child.
"You have borne bad fortune better than this," said Mr. Moreland; and
then I remember telling him, in incoherent words, how poor we had been
and how Clare was fading away for want of the nourishment and good
support I was utterly unable to find for her.
After a time I became calmer and listened while he told me of the death
of the stately Sir Barnard and his eldest son. They had gone away
together on a trip to Italy. Miles Trevelyan was very fond of pictures,
and his father had given him permission to buy what he pleased for the
great picture gallery at Crown Anstey.
They went together to Florence, where a fearful epidemic was raging.
They, all unconscious of it, remained there for one night, caught it,
and in two days both lay dead.
I asked how old was Miles, this eldest and favorite son. He told me
twenty-seven. I asked again, had he never been married. He answered no;
that, of course, if he had been married and had children, I should not
be the heir to Crown Anstey.
"There was some little unpleasantness between father and son over a love
affair," said Mr. Moreland. "I do not know the particulars. Mr. Miles
Trevelyan was very proud and reserved. He mentioned it to us, but we
heard no more of it."
"What am I to do next?" I asked him, nervously.
"You ought to go down at once to Crown Anstey. The bodies of the two
gentlemen will be brought home for interment. They died on the 18th;
this is the 22d. We spent three days in trying to find out your address.
They will be at Crown Anstey, I should say, to-morrow. You should be
there to receive them and to officiate as head mourner. Mr. Paine and
myself will both be there, as a matter of course."
"Then I must ask Mr. Lawson's permission," I said, doubtfully.
Mr. Moreland laughed.
"He will soon give you that. You will find the master of Crown Anstey a
"There is another thing," I said, with a crimson flush burning my face;
"I have but five shillings and sixpence in all the world."
He laughed aloud at this.
"I can advance you whatever you like, then--five hundred pounds or
The very mention of such a sum positively frightened me. Mr. Moreland
looked very much amused.
"It will be some time," he said, "before you grow accustomed to ten
thousand a year."
At that moment we were interrupted by the arrival of another client. I
rose to take my leave, with a check for three hundred pounds in my hand.
"You will go down to Crown Anstey to-night?" said Mr. Moreland, as he
shook hands with me. "We shall be there to-morrow morning. You will make
what arrangements seem best to you over the funeral."
So I went away, the most bewildered man in London. As I re-entered the
office I felt ashamed of my suspicions over my fellow-clerks. They were
all busy, while I--oh, heaven! could it be true?
Mr. Lawson evidently thought I had been drinking when I went, white and
stammering, confused and hesitating, into his room. He looked very
sternly at me.
"What do you want, Mr. Trevelyan? I am very busy."
I took out the letter again and laid it before him.
"Will you read that, sir?" I asked, "It will make you understand more
quickly than I can, I am so confused."
He read it, then held out his hand to me.
"I congratulate you," he said. "Your poor father, the last time I saw
him, spoke to me of his rich cousin. He never expected this. Sir Barnard
had two fine, strong, healthy sons of his own then."
"My father could not have expected it less than myself. I have hardly
ever heard the name of Crown Anstey, and did not know that it was
entailed property. I shall have to ask you to let me go this afternoon,
He was perfectly willing, I was only at the office an hour, yet the news
seemed to have spread. I promised the clerks a dinner when I returned,
then once more I stood in the street, alone.
My brain was dizzy, my thoughts in a whirl. I remember taking a cab and
driving to a shop into which I had often looked with longing eyes. I
bought wine, grapes, peaches, flowers, dainty jellies--everything that I
thought most likely to please my sister--and then drove home. I had
resolved that I would not tell my good fortune to Clare all at once,
lest there should be some fatal mistake unforeseen by any one. She
looked up astonished when I entered the room, my arms full of fruit and
"Oh, Edgar!" she cried, "you have ruined yourself. Why you must have
spent your whole week's money!"
I forgot now what fiction I told here--something of a friend of my
father, who had left me a little money, and that I was going away that
same evening on business.
"Shall you be long?" she asked, with so sad a face I did not like to
"Two or three days at the outside," I told her. Then I took twenty
golden sovereigns from my purse and laid them before her, begging her
not to want for anything while I was away.
She looked almost alarmed at such a quantity of money.
"Twenty pounds, Edgar!" she cried. "How rich we are!" And I thought to
myself, "if she only knew!"
Then I went into my own room, and my first action was to thank God for
this wonderful benefit. I thanked Him with streaming eyes and grateful
heart, making a promise--which I have never broken--that I would act as
steward of these great riches, and not forget the needy and the poor.
At five o'clock I started for Thornycroft, the nearest town to Crown
Anstey. The journey was not a very long one, but I took no heed of time.
Was it all a dream, or was I in reality going to take possession of a
new and magnificent home?
I reached the station--it was a large one. Thornycroft seemed to be a
thriving town. No one was there to meet me. I went to the nearest hotel
and ordered a carriage to Crown Anstey.
I can recall even now my ecstasy of bewilderment at the splendid woods,
the beautiful park, the pleasure gardens. How long was it since I had
felt tears rush warm to my eyes at the scent of the violets? Here were
lime trees and lindens, grand old oaks, splendid poplars, beech trees,
cedars, magnolias with luscious blossom, hawthorn, white and pink
larches budding, and all were mine--mine. Then from between the
luxuriant foliage I saw the tall, gray towers of a stately mansion, and
my whole heart went out to it as my future home.
The birds were singing, the sun shining; all nature was so beautiful and
bright that my very soul was enraptured.
Then I caught a glimpse of gold from the laburnums, of purple from the
lilacs, of white from the sweet acacia trees.
The carriage drove up a long grove of chestnut trees, and then for the
first time I saw Crown Anstey. The western sunbeams fell upon it. I
thought of that line of Mrs. Hemans:
"Bathed in light like floating gold."
They showed so clearly the dainty, delicate tracing, the large, arched
windows. The house itself was built in the old Elizabethan style. I
found afterward that it was called Crown Anstey because it had belonged
in former years to one of the queens of England. The Queen's Chamber was
the largest and best room in it. Report said that a royal head had often
lain there; that the queen to whom the house had belonged had spent many
of her sorrowful and happy hours there. The Queen's Terrace run all
along the western wing, and was shaded by whispering lime trees.
Afterward I found many relics of this ancient time of royal
possessions--antique, out-of-the-way things, with the crown and royal
arms of England upon them. I was not a little proud of these historical
treasures. A broad flight of steps led from the lawn to a broad porch.
As I passed under it I figured to myself the gorgeous splendor of other
days, when "knights and dames of high degree" had entered there.
An old butler, evidently an old family retainer, was the first person I
saw. He bowed low when I told him that I was Sir Edgar Trevelyan, "the
heir come to take possession."
I went through the magnificent house like a man in a dream. Could it be
possible that all this magnificence, all this grandeur, was mine? Mine,
these grand old rooms, with furniture and hangings that once served a
queen; mine, these superb pictures and statues, these gems of art, this
profusion of gold and silver plate? I laughed and cried in the same
breath. I make no pretensions to being a strong-minded hero, and I was
Then, when I had some short time alone, the butler, whose name was
Hewson, came back and told me the Red Room was ready for my use. He had
selected it as being the most comfortable. Afterward I could, of course,
take what rooms I liked.
I found myself in a large, spacious chamber, called the Red Room, from
the prevailing tint of everything in it being crimson. The three large
windows were hung with crimson velvet; the carpet was crimson. I opened
one of the windows and looked over the glorious landscape, so full of
sunshine, flowers and beauty, that my heart thrilled within me, and my
soul did homage to the great Creator.
Half an hour later I was summoned to the dining-room, where dinner was
laid for me. God knows that I had never coveted wealth or thought much
of luxury--I had been content with my lot.
What did I think when I saw that stately dining-room, with its brilliant
lights, the gold and silver, the recherche dishes, the odorous wines and
rare fruits? My first feeling was one of wonder that fortune should have
so overpowered me; my second was a fervent wish that such pleasant times
could fall to every one.
I had finished dinner and enjoyed, for the first time in my life, a
really prime cigar, when Hewson came into the library, evidently wishing
to see me.
"I thought I had better tell you. Sir Edgar, that Mademoiselle
d'Aubergne is in the drawing-room."
I looked at him in astonishment.
"Who is Mademoiselle d'Aubergne?" I asked.
"Do you not know, Sir Edgar?" he said, in great surprise.
"I have never even heard the name," I replied.
"Mademoiselle is the daughter of the late Sir Barnard's cousin; she has
been living here for the past five years. Sir Barnard, I believe,
adopted her. I thought perhaps Messrs. Moreland & Paine might have
They had perhaps forgotten to do so, and I felt quite at a loss what to
do. However, if there was a lady in the house, I was bound to be
courteous; so I went to the drawing-room.
I attempt no description of that magnificent room, its treasures of art,
its statues, pictures, flowers, its wonders of bric-a-brac. For the
first minute my eyes were dazzled, and then I saw--
Well, I had read in the old poets' descriptions of sirens' wondrous
language, wondrous words telling of beauty almost divine in its
radiance--of golden hair that had caught the sunshine and held it
captive--of eyes like lode-stars, in whose depths men lost
themselves--of lovely scarlet lips that could smile and threaten. I saw
such loveliness before me now.
From the luxurious depths of a crimson velvet fauteuil rose a lovely
woman, who advanced to meet me with outstretched hands. Her mourning
dress fell in graceful folds around her tall, queenly figure, and from
the same dark dress her fair face and golden head shone out bright and
luminous as a jewel from a dark background.
"Sir Edgar Trevelyan," she said, "allow me to welcome you home."
Her voice was sweet and rich; she had a pretty, piquant accent, and the
play of her lips as she spoke was simply perfection.
"It is very lonely for you," she said. "There is great gloom over the
house, it is all sad and dark; but the brightness will come back in
I touched the white hand she held out to me; it was warm and soft; the
touch of those slender fingers had a magical effect.
"I must apologize for not having seen you before," I said, "but until
five minutes ago I did not know you were in the house."
"No," she replied, with a faint sigh, "I can believe that."
"You must know," I continued, "that I am a complete stranger to the
family. I never saw any of them in my life. I never heard the name more
than five or six times."
"Then, as a matter of course," she said, "you never heard of me."
"I am at a loss to know whether I should address you as kinswoman or
not," was my confused reply.
"It would take a bench of lawyers to decide," she said. "My mother was a
favorite cousin of Sir Barnard. I think, but I am not sure, that once
upon a time he was fond of her himself. My mother married a French
gentleman, Monsieur d'Aubergne, and at her death Sir Barnard kindly
offered me a home here, since I had no other."
"Is your father living?" I asked.
"Alas! no; he died when I was a child. There had been some quarrel
between my mother and Sir Barnard; perhaps he never forgave her for
marrying a Frenchman. During her lifetime he never wrote to her or took
the least notice of me."
"And then offered you his home?"
"Then he adopted me," she said, looking earnestly at me; "treated me in
every way as his own child. I have been with him ever since. I have no
home except here at Crown Anstey, and I had not a sou in the world
except what he gave me. Ah! I miss him so sorely."
A cloud came over her beautiful face, and her lips quivered. I sat down
in sore perplexity with my inheritance. I had not certainly expected
this. What was I to say to her--this beautiful and radiant woman, who
seemed thrown upon my hands like a child? There was silence between us
for some time, then she said, suddenly:
"How sad this is about poor Sir Barnard and his son, is it not? I
thought at first that I should never recover from the shock. Miles was a
very handsome man; so clever and full of spirits. I am told," she
continued, "that the bodies are to be brought home to-night. Is it true,
"I believe so. I am here to receive them and to preside at the funeral."
Her face grew a shade paler.
"I am so frightened and nervous at everything connected with death," she
"Your best plan will be to remain in your own room until it is all
over," I suggested, and she seemed very grateful for the thought.
"Will you take some tea?" she asked, suddenly. "I always made tea for
Sir Barnard and Miles."
Then she drew back shrinkingly, her face crimson.
"I beg your pardon," she said. "I forgot; I have no right to take the
same place now."
What could I do but hasten to implore her not to yield to such an idea,
to consider Crown Anstey her home, as it had been--at least for a time?
"You make me so happy!" she said; "but how can I--how can I stay here? I
find it awkward to explain myself--how can I remain here with you?"
I hastened eagerly to explain that I had a sister, an invalid sister,
and that I should be delighted if she would take an interest in her; and
it pleased me to think how happy Clare would be.
"Then you wish me to remain here as a companion to your sister?" she
said, slowly; and there was evidently some little disappointment in her
"Unless we can think of something more pleasant for you," I replied. "We
can make that a temporary arrangement. In any case, permit me to say
that I shall take the care of your future on my hands, as Sir Barnard
would have done."
"You are very kind," she said, thoughtfully; "I had no right to expect
that. I did not anticipate anything of the sort."
We talked then, in low tones, about the late baronet and his son. Of
Miles she said very little. Of Sir Barnard she told me many anecdotes,
illustrating his pride, his grave, stately character, his intense love
of caste, his conservatism. I felt almost as though I had known him
before she had finished.
"And Miles," I said, "the poor young heir; how did you like him?"
Was it my fancy, the light flickering on her face, or did a quick
shudder pass over it?
"Every one liked him," she said, slowly. "He was proud and reserved; yet
he was a general favorite."
She was strangely quiet after that, and I suddenly remembered the
drawing-room was hers. I rose, bidding her good-night.
"You shall be sure to hear the stir of the arrival, mademoiselle," I
said; "do not let it disturb you. I should advise you to keep your room
tomorrow until the funeral is over."
Yet, although I so advised her, it struck me that she did not feel any
great amount of sorrow. I cannot tell why I had that impression, but it
was very strong upon me.
Nine o'clock, and the arrival had not yet taken place. The fragrant
gloaming was giving way to night; there was promise of a bright moon,
and the golden stars were peeping one by one. The night-wind was laden
with odors, a thousand flowers seemed to have given their sweet breath
to fan it. It would have been profanation to have lighted a cigar, so I
went out on the Queen's Terrace and walked under the whispering lime
trees, thinking of all that had passed in those few days.
Slowly but surely the conviction gained upon me that I did not like
Coralie d'Aubergne. I ought, according to all authentic romances, to
have fallen in love with her on the spot, but I was far from doing so.
"Why?" I asked myself. She was very brilliant--very lovely; I had seen
no one like her, yet the vague suspicion grew and grew. It was not the
face of a woman who could be trusted; there was something insincere
beneath its beauty. I should have liked her better if she had shown more
sorrow for the awful event that had happened; as, it was, I could not
help thinking that her chief emotion had been a kind of half fear as to
what would become of herself.
Then I reproached myself for thinking so unkindly of her, and resolved
that I would not judge her; after that I forgot mademoiselle. I heard
the sound of carriage wheels in the distance, and, looking down the long
vista of trees, I saw a hearse slowly driven up, and then I knew that
the dead Trevelyans had been brought home.
The desolation and sadness of that scene I shall never forget--the
hearse, the dark, waving plumes, the sight of the two heavy laden
coffins, the servants all in mourning.
A room next the great entrance hall had been prepared; it was all hung
with black and lighted with wax tapers. In the midst stood the two
coffins covered with a black velvet pall.
On the coffin of Miles Trevelyan, the son and heir, I saw a wreath of
flowers. I asked several times who had brought it, but no one seemed to
I do not think that any one at Crown Anstey went to rest that night,
unless it were mademoiselle. There was something in the event to move
the hardest heart.
Father and son had left Crown Anstey so short a time since, full of
health, vigor, strength and plans for the future. They lay there now,
side by side, silent and dead; no more plans or hopes, wishes or fears.
The saddest day I ever remember was the one on which I helped to lay my
two unknown kinsmen in the family vault of the Trevelyans.
It was all over. The morning, with its sad office, had passed; the
servants had gone back to their work; the blinds were drawn up, and
light once more found its way into the darkened house. The will was read
in the library; the whole of the property, entailed and unentailed, was
left to his only son, Miles, and after him to his heirs. There was
several legacies to his servants, but no mention was made of
mademoiselle. I thought it strange at the time, afterward I understood
Of course, as the poor young Miles was dead without heirs, I, as next of
kin, took his place. I faithfully carried out every wish expressed in
the will. That same evening I sent orders to London for a splendid
memorial window to be placed in the church, and while I sat wondering
whether I had remembered everything that required attention, there came
a rap at the library door. Mademoiselle would be glad if I could see her
for five minutes.
I went at once to the drawing-room, knowing she would be there. She was
dressed in the deepest mourning, and her face was very pale.
"I knew you would spare me a short time," she said. "I want to ask you a
question that I could not ask any one else. Of course you were present
when the will was read to-day?"
She raised her eyes to mine. I knew not what magnetism, what spell lay
in them; but no other eyes were like them. They compelled attention; a
man could no more release himself from their glance than he could fly. I
was not at all in love with her, yet those eyes held me spell-bound.
"I want you to tell me," she said, "if there was any other will.
Did--did Miles leave one?"
As she put the question to me I saw that her lips were parched and
burning, her white fingers so tightly clenched that they left great red
"No," I replied; "there was only one will, and that was Sir Barnard's."
A great calm fell over her. After some minutes she looked at me again.
"Was there any mention in that will of me?"
I told her none. Once more she raised those resistless eyes to mine.
"Then I am, indeed, alone in the world--alone and forsaken."
"Nay, nay!" I cried, eagerly; "do not say so. Clare will take care of
"And you?" she asked, in a voice that must have melted an anchorite.
"I will help her--or, rather, I will take care of you both."
"What is your sister like?" she asked, eagerly. "Is she very
clever--very beautiful? Shall I be frightened at her?"
"She is the sweetest and most gentle of girls--doubly gentle from her
"What affliction?" she asked eagerly, "you did not tell me there was
anything the matter with her."
"She has a spinal complaint," I replied, "and is unable to move."
"Is it quite incurable?" she asked again.
"We hope not; perhaps a change of air may do something for her; but even
at the best, it will be years before she is able to go about."
"I am so sorry," she said; "so very sorry. How sad for you and for her.
I can understand why you want a companion for her; she can take no
active share in the management of a large establishment like this."
"No, no share at all. We will not decide anything until my sister comes;
but it seems to me that she will be most thankful to have you here, that
you will be more useful to her than I can say. She would not be able to
see guests, give orders or anything of that kind."
There was a strange light in her eyes, a strange, suppressed glitter in
"When will your sister come?" she next inquired.
"I am going to-morrow to fetch her. There will be no need for you to
make any alterations. You spoke of going away; there will be no need of
that. I leave here to-morrow, and when my sister comes I suppose the
sternest British propriety will be satisfied."
"I suppose so, too. And Sir Barnard has not even left me a
mourning-ring? Well, I have so much less to be grateful for. The old
servants were all remembered, I hope?"
"All of them. I will say good-night, mademoiselle; I have much to attend
to. I shall hope to find you well when I return."
What a strange fascination her beauty had! I remember it with a shudder.
Her face haunted me all night; I could not forget it.
The following morning I returned to London. I had yet to break the news
of our fortune to Clare, and make arrangements for our journey to Crown
People who wish to be philosophers tell you money is nothing. Certainly,
as far as the spiritual and higher, holier interests of life go, it is
not; but as far as this world is concerned, it is almost everything. I
had been poor and friendless in London, and then it had seemed to me a
desert; now I had money, it was another place--bright, cheerful, every
one kind and friendly. I seemed to float in sunshine; the very air
around me was elastic, full of hope; every step was a pleasure. What
made the difference? I was poor, and now I had money.
Clare was pleased to see me; she cried out in astonishment at my black
clothes, so new and glossy.
"Edgar," she said, "I cannot understand you. You have money, clothes.
How is it? What has happened?"
I knelt down by her side and took her in my arms.
"Clare," I said, "God has been very kind to us. All of our poverty and
privations are ended. Will you be calm and brave if I tell you what it
"They have taken you into partnership!" she cried, rapturously. "They
have found out how clever and good you are!"
In the midst of my agitation I laughed at this very unbusiness-like
"It is better than that, Clare. There need be no more business, no more
work for me. You remember hearing my mother speak of my father's cousin,
Sir Barnard Trevelyan, of Crown Anstey?"
"Yes, I remember it," she said. "I had almost forgotten."
"He is dead, and, sad to say, both his sons are dead. One died with him,
and one died years ago. Now do you understand?"
"No," she replied. "They cannot have left us anything, because they did
not know us."
"Sir Barnard and his only son died together, and the heir to Crown
Anstey, the title and the whole of that vast fortune is--myself."
"You are not jesting, Edgar?"
"No; I am telling you the simple, perfect truth." And then, when she had
recovered from what to her was really a shock, I gave her the whole
"I hope you will like Mademoiselle, Clare. She is so utterly friendless
and alone that, unless we keep her with us, I do not know what is to
become of her."
"I shall be sure to like her," she said. "My heart is so full of
happiness that I shall love every one. O, Edgar, if I could but get
Yes, that was the one drawback to our happiness. The bright, sweet
sister, who would have enjoyed our prosperity so much, was a helpless
That same afternoon I went to the office and invited all my fellow
clerks to a sumptuous dinner at a far-famed restaurant. I made some sad
hearts light and happy with my money, thank God! Poor Stephen Knowsley
had a sick mother and was three quarters behind with his rent. I gave
him fifty pounds, and the tears that stood in his eyes were the sweetest
thanks man could have. What gives such pleasure as plenty of money to
help one's friends?
A comfortable invalid carriage was provided for Clare, and the journey
did not fatigue her. We said good-by to the old life, the old
privations, the old trials, and embarked on a new, smiling and sunny
Another week saw us comfortably settled at Crown Anstey. The first
bewilderment of our new position passed away, I began to feel more at my
ease as master of that magnificent mansion, and on my sister's calm face
I saw already signs of returning health.
We had a grand reception when I returned with Clare to Crown Anstey. The
Anstey church bells pealed out merrily; the servants were all assembled;
mademoiselle, fresh and beautiful as a morning star, was in the hall.
I saw the kindly looks of commiseration that followed my sister. All the
servants in the house vied with one another who should he the most
attentive. Coralie looked at me, with sweet, sisterly anxiety shining in
The following day Coralie suggested we find two nice, large, lofty
cheerful rooms for my sister's use. We decided upon two in the western
wing--they both looked on the Queen's Terrace--large, lofty rooms, with
the sun shining on them all day, each one containing two large windows,
from which could be seen a glorious vista of trees and flowers.
Without saying one word to Clare, they were prepared for her. Books,
music, pictures, statues, flowers, were all arranged in order;
everything bright and beautiful was brought there. A small part of the
room was partitioned off and made into a conservatory, where she could
see the flowers bloom and hear the birds sing all the day long.
I have seen many lovely places since then, but none that looked to me so
bright and beautiful as my sister's rooms. All that money could do to
alleviate her sufferings was done. I ordered the easiest reclining
chair, on which she could be gently moved from room to room, resolving
in my own mind, no matter what went on in other parts of the house, that
in her rooms there should be always sunshine and happiness.
Her joy when she was carried into them was most pretty and pathetic to
see. Then, when she was fairly installed, I wrote to London for the
celebrated Dr. Finlaison, and I placed her under his care. He gave me
some little hope.
In the course of time, he said, with the best of attention, the most
tender care and cheerful society, she would, he believed, recover so as
to be once more able to take her place in the world; and the hour in
which I heard that was, I do not hesitate to say, one of the very
happiest of my life.
This part of my story has been, perhaps, commonplace. There was coming
for me a different phase. If my reader thinks it too romantic, I can
only say--it is true.
It was some little time before I asked Clare how she liked Coralie, then
the answer was most diplomatic.
"I am so very sorry for her, Edgar, and so pleased that she has a home
She never said more than that, or less. Knowing her amiable character, I
came to the conclusion that she did not like her, but was too
good-natured and kind-hearted to say so.
Mademoiselle, as she was called in the household, was very kind to my
sister. She engaged a maid, whose only business was to wait upon her;
and more than that, she spent some hours, at least, every day in her
room. She attended to her flowers, fed her birds, selected her books,
played and sang to her, read to her, talked to her in her bright, lively
way, superintended her dress, so that I always saw my darling
exquisitely attired; and yet I could not see that Clare liked her.
She soon made herself almost indispensable. She gave orders to the
housekeeper and cook, she managed everything; she received our visitors
and entertained them with marvelous grace and courtesy; she understood
all the affairs of the estate; in fact, she was, to all intents and
purposes, mistress of the house.
I insisted upon making her a very handsome allowance, which, after a
little resistance, she accepted.
For a time everything went on most prosperously. How I loved my new life
no words of mine can tell. The luxury of having plenty of money, of
being able to do what I liked with my time, of seeing my sister so
happy, of being altogether without those dark fears for the future which
so often beset those whose lot is hard work and very limited means--I
thanked God for it all.
I had made the acquaintance of most of the tenants on the estate, and my
neighbors had begun to call upon me. It was surprising how every one
liked, or, I may say, loved, my sister Clare. That invalid couch of hers
became a kind of center of society.
One morning I saw some cards lying on the hall table. Coralie was
standing near when I took them up. "Sir John Thesiger," "Lady Thesiger."
"That is a new name," I said to mademoiselle.
When she took the card from my hand and saw it, a dark look came over
her face; I saw her lips close more firmly.
"Have you not heard of the Thesigers? I thought every one knew Sir John.
They live at Harden Manor, about five miles from here."
"Are they old friends of the family?" I asked.
Again the darkening look and the tightening lips.
"Both Sir Barnard and Miles knew them, but I cannot say whether they
were very great friends. Shall you call?"
She asked the question carelessly, but I saw that she was awaiting my
reply with painful anxiety.
"Yes, I shall go; I like to be on friendly and intimate terms with all
my neighbors. Sir John is the Tory member for Chingwell, is he not?"
"Yes," she replied, shortly.
"And next year I hope to be returned for Anstey, so that, of all men, I
shall probably find him the most useful of acquaintances."
She turned away, and a sudden conviction came over me that, for some
reason or other, Coralie d'Aubergne did not like the Thesigers. I rode
over to Harden Manor on the day following, and found Sir John at home.
I liked him at first sight--a frank, kind-hearted English gentleman. He
was pleased to see me, and we spent some time talking over the late
baronet and his son. He told me something I had not heard from
Coralie--that there had been some slight misunderstanding between father
and son. He asked me if I would join the ladies, who were in the
drawing-room. I was only too pleased.
"Lady Thesiger was Sir Barnard's confidant. He consulted her about
everything--indeed, we were such near and dear friends that you must
forgive me if I cannot look upon you as a stranger."
Entering a very pretty drawing-room, long low and old-fashioned, I saw
two ladies, one a matron, the other a lovely young girl. Sir John
introduced me to his wife and then to Agatha, his daughter.
Looking up, I saw my fate. Never believe those cold-natured,
cold-hearted people who tell you that love grows from respect. It does
not. It comes into existence all at once--suddenly, as a flower is
kissed into color by the sun. When I entered Harden Manor, I was
heart-whole, fancy-free, loving no one but Clare; after one upward look
in Agatha Thesiger's face, I loved her with a love that was my doom.
Sir John looked at me in amazement.
"I--I did not know you had a daughter, Sir John."
"Ah! but I have, and a very precious one, too. Poor Sir Barnard was very
fond of Agatha; he used to call her his sunbeam. I was almost jealous of
him at times."
"There was no need, papa," said a sweet voice, the very sound of which
made me tremble.
Why had mademoiselle never mentioned this young girl, so fair, so
lovely? Why had she told me nothing about her? I should like to describe
her, reader, so as to make you love her. She was tall, very little above
the medium height, slender, graceful, with a delicate, arched neck and
the "fairest face the sun e'er shone on." Not beautiful--that word would
not describe her; fair, sweet and lovely. She had no brilliant or vivid
coloring; her complexion was clear, with the faintest rose-bloom; her
eyes large and blue, her lips sweet and sensitive; a white brow and a
wealth of soft, brown hair. She was no queenly beauty; she had not
Coralie's brilliancy and bright coloring, but she was the fairest and
most lovable girl who ever made a man's heart glad.
I did not know how the next few minutes passed. Sir John and Lady
Thesiger were talking about the neighborhood, and I was thinking that if
Agatha bid me lie down there at her feet and die for her sweet sake, I
should do so with a smile.
When I came to my senses, Lady Thesiger was asking me if I would dine
with them the week following; they were expecting some visitors from
London. I am sure she must have thought me almost an imbecile, I
answered her in such a confused, hesitating way.
All the time Agatha sat opposite to me, her lovely eyes drooping over
the drawing on which she was engaged when I entered. I could bear it no
longer; come what might, I must see those eyes. I went over and stood by
Alas! I had rarely, if ever, spoken to any young ladies except Clare and
Coralie. I had crossed the room purposely to speak to her. Standing by
her chair, every word I had ever known in my life died from memory, I
could not think of one thing to say.
Bending over the picture, I asked if she were fond of drawing, and then
I hated myself for the utter imbecility of the question.
When at once the blue eyes were raised to mine all constraint died away;
they kindled a fire in my heart that nothing could ever extinguish.
"Miss Thesiger," I said, "I should be so pleased if I could excite your
interest in my sister."
"Have you a sister?" asked Lady Thesiger. "I did not know it; I am
afraid she will think me very remiss."
I told them all about Clare, speaking, as was my fashion, with my heart
upon my lips, telling them of her sweetness, her patience, her long
illness, her cheerful resignation. Agatha forgot her reserve, Lady
Thesiger looked deeply interested, and when I had finished speaking, the
tears were in my eyes.
Lady Thesiger held out her hand.
"You have quite touched my heart, Sir Edgar; I shall not rest until I
have seen Miss Trevelyan."
"Nor I," added the daughter.
I turned eagerly to her.
"You will come over to see my sister? I should be so grateful; she would
welcome you so warmly. I have always longed for her to have a friend."
There was a slight constraint in the faces of mother and daughter. I
wondered what it meant. Lady Thesiger was the first to speak.
"We shall be delighted to do all that lies in our power to soften Miss
Trevelyan's terrible affliction. Pray, pardon me, Sir Edgar, but is
Mademoiselle d'Aubergne still at Crown Anstey?"
"She is staying there as a companion to my sister, who is utterly
incapable of taking any share in the management of the house."
"You must find a wife," said Sir John. "I should say myself that Crown
Anstey requires a mistress."
I longed to say there and then how I should pray him to give me his
daughter for a wife. Our eyes met. She must have read my thoughts, for
her face grew crimson, nor did I catch another glimpse of those lovely
eyes during my visit.
It was with difficulty I could tear myself away. Sir John, who was a
great connoisseur in horses, went with me to see Bonnie Prince. While we
stood on the lawn he turned to me with a constrained smile.
"So mademoiselle is still at Crown Anstey?" he said. "I suppose she is
as beautiful as ever?"
"Tastes differ," I replied, oddly. "Her beauty is not according to my
His kindly face cleared.
"That is right; she is of the siren order; some people would find her
irresistible. Now, pardon me if I say one word. I have known the lady
for five years, and know nothing against her, still mistrust her without
knowing why. You are young, new to the world; new, perhaps, to the
influence of great womanly beauty; keep your heart safe. Do not let
Mademoiselle d'Aubergne take it from you."
"There is no fear," I replied, with a light laugh. "Some day, Sir John,
I will tell you where my heart has found its home."
"I am glad you know how to take a hint given in all kindness," he said,
cordially. "As my old friend's heir and representative, my heart warms
I left Harden Manor a changed man. The very earth around seemed changed
to me; the sky wore a deeper blue; the grass a fairer green; there was
new music in the birds' songs and in the whisper of the wind, new hope
in my own heart, new beauty all around me. That was the beginning of the
glamour posts call frenzy, men call love.
Mademoiselle was out on the lawn as I rode up to the door. She came to
meet me, her glittering eyes on my face.
"Have you enjoyed your visit?" was the first question she asked.
"More than I ever enjoyed anything in my life. You did not tell me what
a beautiful neighbor I had at Harden Manor."
"I never thought of it," she replied, carelessly. "Agatha Thesiger is
only a school-girl."
"Then school-girls are very different from what I thought them," was my
reply, and mademoiselle turned away with a strange smile.
No matter what I did, that face was always before me. If I read it
looked up at me with sweet, serene eyes from the pages of my book. It
rose between me and the blue heavens. I saw it in every flower. It
haunted me until I could have cried out for respite from the pleasure
that was yet half pain.
Poets sing of the joy and the rapture of love. Who knows its pain? For
pain it surely is when no sleep comes near you, and the every-day duties
of life only weary you, and your sole desire is to dream over looks and
words you cannot forget. It is surely pain when a thousand doubts assail
you, when you weigh yourself in the balance and find yourself wanting.
A hundred times each day I found myself wondering whether Sir John would
think me good enough for his daughter. She was not his heiress, I knew,
for he had a son at college, but she was lovely, high-born,
accomplished, and my one great puzzle was whether he would think me a
good match for her.
Other doubts came to madden me. Perhaps she was already engaged. She had
doubtless a number of admirers. Who was I that I should dare to hope for
It was only two days since I had seen her, and I longed to see her
again. A fierce, wild desire to look once more into that sweet face took
possession of me. When my longing was gratified the very gates of
Paradise seemed opened to me. One beautiful morning Lady Thesiger and
Agatha came over to Crown Anstey. It so happened that I was in Clare's
room when they arrived, and Coralie, too, was there, attending to the
flowers, giving them fresh water, cutting off dead leaves and gathering
the fairest buds.
Lady Thesiger and Miss Thesiger were suddenly announced. Clare looked
eagerly, and I just caught the dark, bitter expression on Coralie's
face; then they entered. As a matter of course, I introduced Lady
Thesiger first. She stooped down to kiss the sweet face that seemed to
win universal love. Then I remember taking Agatha's hand and leading her
up to Clare. What could they have thought of me? I forgot everything
except that the two women I loved best were there together.
Lady Thesiger then turned toward mademoiselle. There was no kindly hand
extended, no warm greeting, no friendly words. Lady Thesiger made the
most formal of bows, Coralie returned it by one more formal still,
Agatha did the same, and a strange, constrained silence fell upon us
Without a word mademoiselle quitted the room. The beauty of her face was
not pleasant in that moment; there was a glitter in her eye, a
compression of her lips that might have told any one to beware. Lady
Thesiger became her own natural self after Coralie's departure; she
talked so kindly to Clare that I could have kissed her hand in
I took Miss Thesiger to show her my sister's flowers; for no word of
mine would those lovely eyes look up. She was not shy; her grace of
manner was too perfect for that, but she was evidently afraid to look at
me, and I reproached myself that I had perhaps frightened her at first.
Patiently I showed her flower after flower, perfect bud and perfect
blossom, the little white doves I had tamed, the birds of bright plumage
I had bought to amuse my sister. I showed her the little fountains that
rippled all day, the rocks and ferns. She admired everything.
"Your sister must be happy in spite of her illness," she said to me.
But I could bear those drooping eyes no longer.
"Miss Thesiger," I said, hurriedly, "do not be unkind to me. I know I am
very presumptuous, but do, pray do, give me one kind look before you
Then she raised her eyes and looked at me. Alas! my tell-tale face. They
fell again, and the crimson flush mounted to her white brow. I could say
no more to her after that. She went to her mother's side, and they
talked to Clare until it was time for lunch.
I asked if they would remain and take lunch with my sister. They
consented, and when it was arranged I sent to ask Coralie if she would
join us. Her answer was that she was busily engaged and begged we would
excuse her. Again I felt sure that Lady Thesiger looked considerably
Every moment I was falling more deeply and more helplessly in love, and
yet across all my rapturous thoughts of Agatha came doubt and wonder as
to why they did not like Coralie.
Strange; she had the beauty of a siren, the grace and wit of a queen of
society, the talents and accomplishments of a complete woman of the
world, yet no one seemed to like her. How could it be?
Lady Thesiger rose at last, declaring that she was ashamed at the length
of her visit. When they were gone I went back to Clare. She looked up
at me with a smile; there was a bright flush of animation on her face.
"How much I like them, Edgar! How kind Lady Thesiger is, and Agatha! Oh,
brother, how I wish I had a sister like her!"
I thought I would ask her to solve my doubt.
"Clare," I said, gravely, "I want you to explain something to me. You,
being a woman, can understand women. Tell me how it is no one likes
Coralie. She is beautiful and clever; why is it no one cares for her?"
My sister looked at me uneasily.
"I cannot tell. I wish you would not ask me, Edgar."
"Nay; tell me what you think?"
"Then I fancy it must be because she is not quite sincere. I do not like
saying anything so unkind. You must not let it prejudice you against
her; but she gives me always the impression of a person who leads two
lives--one that everybody sees and one that nobody understands save
"How old should you imagine her to be?" I asked; and again my sister
looked uneasily at me.
"We have been in the habit of considering her a young girl," she
replied, "but do you know, Edgar, I believe she is more than thirty?"
"It is impossible!" I cried. "Why, Clare, she does not look a day more
"She is what the French people call well preserved. She will look no
older for the next ten years. She has a girl's figure and a girl's face,
but a woman's heart, Edgar, I am sure of it."
"She is thirty, you say, and has been here for five years; that would
make her a woman of twenty-five before she left France. A French woman
of twenty-five has lived her life."
"That is just what I mean," she replied. "Rely upon it, for all her
girlish face and girlish ways, Coralie d'Aubergne has lived hers."
"Clare," I asked, half shyly, "how do you like Miss Thesiger?"
A look bright as a sunbeam came over my sister's face.
"Ah! hers is a beautiful nature--sweet, frank, candid, transparent--no
two lives there, Edgar. Her face is as pure as a lily, and her soul is
the same. No need to turn from me, dear; I read your secret when she
came in. If you give me such a sister as that I shall be grateful to
"Then you think there might be some chance for me if I asked her to
become my wife?"
"Assuredly. Why not?"
She said no more, for at that moment Coralie returned; she had been in
the garden gathering some flowers for Clare. The brightest bloom was on
her face; the brightest light was in her eye. Looking at her, it was
impossible to believe that she was anything but a light-hearted happy
She glanced round the room.
"Your visitors are gone," she said. "I felt sure they were staying for
"Coralie," I asked, "Lady Thesiger tells me she has been here a good
deal, yet you do not seem to be on very intimate terms with her?"
"No," she said, with that frank smile that was lovely enough to charm
any one. "I neither like nor admire Lady Thesiger."
Clare uttered a little cry of astonishment.
"Why not?" I asked.
"I should not like to prejudice you against them, Sir Edgar; but as you
ask me, I will tell you. The Thesigers have but one object."
"What is it?" I inquired for she had paused abruptly, and seemed to be
entirely engrossed in her flowers.
"The one aim they have had in view for several years past is to see
Agatha mistress of Crown Anstey. She was educated solely and entirely
for that purpose."
"I do not believe it!" cried Clare, indignantly.
"I should never expect you to do so. You are too unworldly--too good;
you know nothing of the manners of fashionable people. Sir Barnard knew
it. They fairly hunted him down; they were always driving over here, or
asking Sir Barnard and Miles there; they were continually contriving
fresh means to throw Miles and Agatha together."
I would not please her by showing my anger.
"Perhaps," I said, carelessly, "Miles admired her; he may even have been
She turned to me with a strange, glittering smile, a look I could not
fathom on her face.
"No," she replied: "Miles knew all about it; he was too sensible to be
caught by the insipid charms of a mere school-girl. Sir Barnard was not
so wise; he would have liked to join the two estates--he spoke of it
very often--but Miles never gave the matter a serious thought."
There was such unconcealed bitterness in her words and look--such malice
in that glittering smile, I turned away half in disgust.
"All our neighbors understand Lady Thesiger's politics," she continued;
"they have been a source of great amusement for some time."
"Miss Thesiger is not a day above eighteen," I said, fairly angry at
last; "so that there can not have been much time for manoeuvring."
"Ah!" she said, "how I admire you, Sir Edgar. That simple, noble faith
you have in women is most beautiful to me; one sees it so seldom in
those who have lived always among fashionable men and women."
A little speech that was intended to remind me how strange and fresh I
was to this upper world. I began to find something like dislike to
mademoiselle growing up in my mind; but I spoke to her of the Thesigers
It seems an unmanly thing to write of a woman--my own face flushes hotly
as I write the words--but to make my story plain the truth must be
told. I could not help seeing that Coralie d'Aubergne was growing to
like me very much.
To describe how a man woos a woman is a task pleasant enough. It is
natural and beautiful; he is in his place then and she in hers; but who
would not shrink from the hateful task of describing how a woman woos a
God bless all women, say I! My life has been a long one, and my
experience of them bids me say they are almost all angels. I have found
them true, tender and earnest. I could tell stories of women's quiet
heroism that would move any one's heart. God bless them, one and
all--they are the chief comfort in life!
Still even I, who love and respect them so much, am compelled to own
that there are women wanting in purity and goodness, in modesty and
reserve. I grieve to say Coralie d'Aubergne was one of them. She pursued
me, and yet it was all so quietly done that she left me no room to
speak--no ground on which to interfere.
If I went out in the gloaming to smoke a cigar, as I liked best to do
among the sighs of the roses, in a few minutes that beautiful, fair face
was sure to be smiling at my side. She had a pretty, picturesque way of
throwing a black lace shawl over her shoulders and of draping it round
her head, so making her face look a thousand times more fair.
She would come to me with that graceful, easy, dignified walk of hers
"If I am not intruding, Sir Edgar, I should enjoy a few minutes with
She had a wonderful gift of conversation--piquant, sparkling and
intellectual. If I had been the dullest of the dull, I should have known
that such a woman would not pass her life as a companion unless she had
some wonderful end in view. She was far too brilliant. She would have
made a good ambassadress, for she could make herself all things to all
men. No matter what subject interested you, on that she could speak. She
seemed to understand every one intuitively; one's likes, dislikes,
tastes. She had a wondrous power of reading character. She was worldly
with the worldly, good with the good, romantic with the young, sensible
with the old. To me she was always the same. Sometimes, when I saw her
coming to meet me along those paths where the rose leaves lay dead, I
felt inclined to go away and leave her; but natural politeness came to
my aid. Then when she had talked to me for a few minutes, a strange,
subtle charm would steal over me.
I knew her well-chosen compliments were all flattery. I knew she was
pursuing me for some object of her own. Yet that charm no words can
describe was stronger than my reason. Away from her I disliked her; my
judgment was all against her; in her presence no man could help being
I thank Heaven that I had the shield of a pure and holy love; I was but
a weak man, and nothing else saved me. If there came a wet day, or one
that was not pleasant for walking, she had a thousand ways of making
time fly. She played billiards as well as any man; she read aloud more
beautifully and perfectly than I have ever heard any one else. She made
every room she entered cheerful; she had a fund of anecdote that never
seemed to be exhausted.
But the time she liked best for weaving her spells was after sunset,
before the lamps were lighted.
"You are fond of music, Sir Edgar," she would say to me. "Come, and I
will sing you some songs I used to sing years ago."
And she did sing. Listening to her, I could well believe in the
far-famed Orpheus lute. It was enough to bewilder any man. She had a
sweet, rich voice, a contralto of no ordinary merit, and the way in
which she used it was something never to be forgotten.
There was a deep bay-window in the drawing-room, my favorite nook; from
it there was a splendid view of waving trees and blooming flowers. She
would place my chair there for me and then sing until she sung my senses
away. There was such power, such pathos, such passion, in her voice that
no one could listen to it unmoved.
Then, when she had sung until my very senses were steeped in the sweet
madness of her music, she would come and sit, sometimes by my side,
sometimes on a Turkish cushion at my feet.
And then--well, I do not like to say more, but as women can woo, she
wooed me. Sometimes her hand, so warm and soft, would touch mine;
sometimes, to see what I was reading, she would bend over me until her
hair brushed my cheek and the perfume of the flowers she always wore
Thank God, I say again, that I was shielded by a pure love.
"How I love Crown Anstey!" she said to me one evening; "if I were asked
to choose between being crowned Queen of Great Britain or mistress of
Crown Anstey, I should prefer to remain here."
How well I remember that evening! The golden summer was dying then; the
flowers seemed to be yielding all their sweetest perfumes to it; there
was a lovely light from the evening sky that lingered on the tufted lime
trees; the birds were singing a faint, sweet vesper hymn; the time so
soon was coming when they were to cross the sunny seas in search of
I had been reading to Clare, but she did not seem to be quite so well
and asked to be left alone.
"Let Coralie play and sing for you, Edgar," she said; "I shall hear the
faint sound of it, and it will make me happy, because I shall know you
are well amused." I did not like to tell her how distasteful Coralie's
playing and singing were to me. We went into the drawing-room together.
I saw how everything was prepared for me; there were fresh flowers, my
favorite periodicals, my favorite chair, placed in the nook I liked
"I shall sing to you some gay French chansons," said Coralie, "and we
will leave the door open so that Clare may hear them."
A few moments later and I was in an atmosphere of delight. The rich,
sweet music rose and fell; it cheered me like strong wine.
Then after a time its character changed; it was no longer gay,
triumphant and mirthful. The very spirit of love and pathos seemed to
breathe through it. My heart beat; every nerve thrilled; every sense
answered to these sweet, soft words.
It ceased then, and Coralie came over to the bay-window. She sat down
upon the Turkish curtains, and looked with longing eyes at the light on
the trees and flowers. There was a softened expression on her face, a
flush as of awakened emotion, a new and brighter light in those dark,
dangerous eyes. The white fingers trembled, the white bosom heaved as
though she had felt deeply the words she had been singing.
Then it was said she would rather be mistress of Crown Anstey than Queen
of Great Britain.
I laughed, not knowing what to say.
"Crown Anstey ought to thank you very much," I said. "You pay it a great
"My heart is here," she continued, those dreamy eyes still fixed upon
mine. "I think if any one were to say to me, 'You must leave Crown
Anstey,' I should die."
All the music on earth seemed embodied in those few words.
"I should die," she repeated, "just as a flower dies when it is torn
from the soil it has taken deep root."
"Why do you speak of such things?" I asked. "No one thinks of your
going; this is your home."
"In my happiest hours the fear lies heaviest upon me," she replied. "No
one has ever spoken of my going, that is true; but I have common sense,
and common sense tells me if certain events happen I must go."
"What events do you mean?" I asked, all unconsciously.
She sighed deeply.
"If you were to be married, Sir Edgar--Cousin Edgar, I like to say
best--then I must go."
"I do not see the necessity."
"Ah! you do not understand; women are all jealous. I have grown so
accustomed to perform a hundred little services for you, they make the
pleasure and sunshine of my life. To be able to do some little thing to
help you is the highest earthly joy that I can ever know. When you are
married, Sir Edgar, your wife will take all this happiness from me."
"I do not see why," I replied, dryly, inwardly wishing myself safe in
"Ah! you do not understand--men never can understand the love of women.
Wives, above all, are so very jealous. Fancy, if ever I wanted to make
your tea, or get anything ready for you, she would be angry, and I
should be wretched."
"In that case you must make tea for Clare instead of me."
"If I am anywhere near you, I must always attend to you before every one
and anything in the wide world," she said, impulsively.
"You are making very sure that my wife will not like you," I said. "What
if I have no wife?"
She shook her head gravely.
"You will marry, Sir Edgar. All the Trevelyans of Crown Anstey marry,
as becomes the head of a grand old family. You will marry, and your wife
will be the happiest woman in the world."
"I may be a modern Bluebeard, Coralie."
"No; you will not. Ah, me! To go away and leave Crown Anstey--to leave
you--I shall feel like Eve driven forth from Paradise to die."
My hand lay carelessly on the back of a chair. She bent down swiftly and
laid her burning lips upon it. I would not tell--my face flames as I
write the word--but unless you know all, reader, you will not understand
She laid her warm, soft lips upon it! And though I did not love her--did
not even trust her--the magnetic touch thrilled every nerve. I took my
"Ah, cousin!" she said, looking at me with those dark, dangerous eyes,
"you love even your dog Hector better than me."
She was so near to me that the perfume from her flowers reached me. It
was by a desperate effort I broke the spell.
"This room is insufferably warm," I said; "I am going into the garden.
You had better see if Clare wants anything, Coralie."
So, like many another man, I ran away, not knowing how to meet my fair
adversary on equal grounds.
Walking among the whispering leaves, the conclusion I came to was that I
must take some precaution, or Coralie d'Aubergne would marry me whether
I was willing or not. A siren is a faint shadow compared with a
beautiful woman resolved to win a man whether he wants winning or not.
Why not risk my fate and ask Agatha to be my wife? There was a faint
hope in my heart that she would not refuse me, yet she was so modest, so
retiring, that though I had most perseveringly sought her favor since
the first moment I had seen her, I could not tell whether she cared for
me or not.
To judge by Coralie's standard, she did not like me. In all our
conversation it half maddened me to see the lovely eyes I loved so
dearly dropped shyly away from me.
It may not be a very elegant comparison, but she always reminded me of
some shy, beautiful bird. She had a bright, half-startled way of looking
at me. Several times, when I met her suddenly, I saw the lovely face
flush and the little hands tremble.
Did she love me or did she not? I could not tell. Of whom should I take
counsel? There was a bird singing over me; I wondered if that sweet
night-song was all of love. Alas! that I had not been more into the
world of women--their ways and fashions were all mysteries to me.
"Faint heart never won fair lady," says the old proverb, and it ran
through my mind. I resolved to try my fortune. If she did not love me,
why then, life held nothing more for me. If I could not win her I would
never ask the love of woman more, but live out my life with Clare.
Like many other anxious lovers, I lay awake all night, wondering what I
should say to her, how I should woo her, in what words I should ask her
to be my wife. When day dawned I was still undecided, only that it was
"You are going away early," said Coralie, as I ordered my horse. "Surely
you will not be away all day, Sir Edgar?"
"I am going to Harden Manor, and cannot say when I shall return. Do not
wait dinner for me--I may dine there."
"It will be a long, dark day," she said, with a sigh. "Do not be
late--every hour will seem like two."
She hovered round me, asking many questions, evidently seeking to know
my business there. When my horse was brought to the door, she came to me
with a delicate spray of heliotrope.
"Let me fasten this in your coat, Sir Edgar. No gentleman looks
completely dressed without a flower. You do not know what heliotrope
means. Men never--or, at least, very seldom--care for the sweetest of
all languages--the language of flowers. What that heliotrope means,
cousin, I say to you."
It was not until some weeks afterward that, looking quite accidentally
over an old book, I discovered the spray of heliotrope meant, "I love
The beautiful picture of this fair, passionate woman died from my mind
as I went to seek one a thousand times more fair. How well I remember
the day--the golden sunshine, the fragrant wind, the blooming flowers,
as I rode forth to win my love! It seemed to me that the summer skies
smiled on me, and the singing birds wished me joy.
The way to Harden Manor lay through green, flowery lanes and a shady
highroad. It seemed long because my heart sighed to be with her; yet
short because I was so uncertain what to say, and how my wooing would
I reached the manor at last. Sir John was from home. Lady Thesiger and
Agatha were busily engaged in making pretty fancy articles for a grand
fancy fair that was to be held--for the benefit of some out-of-the-way
people--by special permission of His Grace the Duke of Fairholme in the
grounds of Fairholme Castle.
Lady Thesiger looked up when I entered, with a smile.
"Good morning, Sir Edgar; I am very glad to see you. Agatha and I were
just wishing we had a gentleman to help us. Are you willing to assist us
for a day?"
My face flushed hotly with delight.
"Am I willing to give myself a day of Utopian delight, Lady Thesiger?
Most certainly. I will do anything--I can be very useful. I can mount
drawings, frame photographs, sketch and design, and my humble talents
are all yours."
Then Agatha looked at me, and the glance of those eyes was so sweet I
almost lost myself.
"The Cherokee Indians, or whatever they are called, will be much obliged
to you," she said. "I cannot call working for them 'Utopian delight;' my
fingers ache with this stiff cardboard."
"You willfully misunderstand me, Miss Thesiger; the delight consists in
being with you, not in working for the Cherokees. Save that I shudder
when I hear that they have eaten a missionary, they have no particular
interest for me."
Lady Thesiger smiled.
"You must work, not talk, Sir Edgar. Sit down here, pray, and if you
think Miss Trevelyan will be uneasy, I will send a servant to tell her
that you will remain here for lunch and for dinner."
"I prepared her for that emergency; now give me something to do for the
My hands were soon filled. It was pleasant sitting there in that
fragrant, sunny drawing-room, with two of the most gracious and graceful
women in England. Yet it was hard. I had gone there purposely to tell
the story of my love, and now I was condemned to sit for hours by
Agatha's side and say nothing to her.
"Perhaps fortune may favor me," I thought; "Lady Thesiger may leave the
room, and then I will not lose a moment."
How fervently I blessed these Cherokees before the day was ended no one
will ever know. Lady Thesiger never left us; Agatha worked very hard.
Looking at the sweet, calm, high-bred face, I wondered if she knew that
a lover, with his heart on fire, sat near her.
Lunch came--we went to the dining-room. Lady Thesiger told us we had
only half an hour to spare; she had promised the duchess to send
everything in that evening, and she did not wish to break her word.
"It is worse than slavery," I said, and Lady Thesiger laughed, little
knowing why I was so impatient.
Back again to work. Happily, all was finished, and the servants were
called in to pack the pretty, fragile articles.
"Now I shall have five minutes," I thought to myself, "and I will find
out whether she cares for me or not."
Alas! there was the dressing-bell. "We have just finished in time for
dinner," said Lady Thesiger. "Sir John will not be at home; he does not
return until late."
I was tortured with impatience. Had I been waiting for a verdict over
life or death, my agony would not have been one-half so great.
The long ordeal of dinner had to pass.
"You will allow me to go to the drawing-room with you," I said to the
mistress of the house. "I could not sit here alone."
Then I saw a chance. Agatha went to the piano and played one of
Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words." The difference between the pure,
sweet, high-bred English girl and the brilliant, seductive French woman
never appeared to me so great as when they were at the piano. Coralie's
music wrapped one's soul, steeped one's senses, brought one nearer to
earth; Agatha took one almost straight to heaven. Listening to her, pure
and holy thoughts came, high and noble impulses.
Then, seeing that Lady Thesiger looked tired, I suggested that she
should rest upon the sofa while I took Miss Thesiger for a little stroll
through the gardens. The evening was beautiful, warm and clear, the
golden sun lingering as though loath to leave the fair world to
At last, at last! My hands trembled with impatience as I drew the black
lace mantilla over her white shoulders. At last, at last I had her all
to myself, only the birds and flowers around us, only the blue sky
Then, when I would have given worlds for the power of speech, a strange,
dull silence came over me.
"Agatha," I said at last, "I came over today on purpose to see you. I
want to ask you something, a favor so great my lips can hardly frame the
She looked at me. There was infinite wonder, infinite gentleness in her
eyes. I took courage then, and told my tale in burning words. I cannot
remember now, but I told her how I had loved her from the first moment I
had ever seen her, and had resolved upon winning her, if she was to be
Never mind what passed. I only know the sun never shone so brightly, the
flowers were never one-half so fair, the world so bright, no man ever
one-half so happy.
For she--well, she had listened to me, and her sweet lips quivered, her
beautiful face had grown tender and soft; she laid her little, white
hands in mine and said she loved me.
I have wondered since that the weight of my own happiness did not break
my heart, the suspense had been so great.
"You love me? Say it again, Agatha. I cannot believe it. Oh, my darling,
it seemed to me easier to reach the golden stars than to win you!"
"You did not try," she said, with a smile half sweet, half divine. "You
always looked frightened at me."
"So I was, but I will grow bolder now. Such beauty, such purity, such
goodness as yours would awe anyone. I can hardly believe now in my own
good fortune. Say it again, darling."
She raised her sweet face to mine.
"I love you," she said, simply; and it seemed to me the words died away
in the summer wind more sweetly than an echo from heaven would die.
"And you will be my wife? Agatha, promise me."
"I will be your wife," she said; and then, to my thinking, we went
straight away to fairyland.
I do not remember the sun setting, although it must have set; for when
my senses returned to me a servant was standing before us, saying that
Lady Thesiger was afraid it was growing cold.
There lay the dew shining on the trees and flowers, yet we had not even
seen it fall.
I would not leave the manor house until I had seen Sir John. Agatha did
not go back to the drawing-room with me.
"What will mamma think?" she said, in utter dismay. "See how late it is;
and the dew has fallen."
"I will tell her why I detained you, Agatha. You are sure that I shall
not wake up tomorrow and find all this is a dream?"
"I do not think so," she replied; and then she would not stop for
another word, and I went in to meet Lady Thesiger alone.
She was surprised when I told her. No matter what Coralie said about
maneuvering, if ever I saw real, genuine surprise in any woman's face,
it was in Lady Thesiger's this evening.
"You have asked Agatha to marry you!" she repeated, looking half
bewildered; "and pray, Sir Edgar, what did the child say?"
"She promised to marry me," I replied, more boldly; "that is, of course,
if Sir John and you, Lady Thesiger, have no objection."
"I am afraid that you have not taken that much into consideration. Asked
the child to marry you! Why, Sir Edgar, how long have you been in love
"From the very first moment I ever saw her."
"Why," cried her ladyship, "Sir John told me you were in love, and had
promised to confide in him."
Remembering what I had said to him, I explained to her that in speaking
as I had done I referred entirely to Agatha.
"It is so utterly unexpected," she said, "that you must pardon my
strange reception of your intelligence."
She sat quite silent for some minutes, then continued:
"It seems so strange for you to fall in love with Agatha. The dearest
wish of Sir Barnard's heart was to have her for a daughter-in-law."
A fierce spasm of jealousy almost robbed me of my breath.
"Did she--did she--"
Then I could get no further.
"No, Agatha did not like Miles, if that is what you mean?"
"Did Miles love her?"
"I cannot tell--there was something very mysterious about him. He looked
to me like one who had a secret on his mind. I have often wondered what
it could be. He was not a happy man of late years."
"You have not told me yet, Lady Thesiger, if I have your good wishes."
She held out her hand with a gracious, kindly smile.
"Shall I tell you the truth--no flattery, but just the simple truth? I
would rather Agatha married you than any other man in the nation. She
has not only my full consent, but I am pleased, proud and happy."
"And Sir John, shall I have his consent?"
"There is little doubt of it. I hear him now--he has just arrived, I
suppose. You shall see him at once."
I rode away from Harden Manor that night a happy man. Sir John, like
Lady Thesiger, gave his full, free, unhesitating consent. We had a long,
confidential conversation. He told me how his affairs stood. He was a
wealthy man, but his expenses were great. He told me frankly that he
should not be able to give Agatha a large portion at her marriage, nor
could he leave her anything considerable at his death. Harden Manor,
with its rich revenues, was all entailed on his son.
"So that I am glad, Sir Edgar," he said, "she is likely to marry a rich
man. She has been brought up in all luxury, and would never be able to
bear privation. I shall feel satisfied of her future now."
Alas! so did I. I rode home through the sweet, gathering gloom and the
starlight, one of the happiest men in England. I had won my love. She
loved me whom I loved best.
There seemed to be nothing wanting then. Two short years ago I was poor,
my daily life one of monotonous toil, without the least hope of relief.
Now the silvery moon fell upon the woods and silvered the roof of the
grand old mansion, and all this fair land over which I was riding was
Coralie was waiting for me. She affected to be just crossing the hall,
but I knew that she had been waiting there to have the first word with
me. She looked eagerly into my face.
"How long you have been away, Sir Edgar! Surely the starlight agrees
with you. I have coffee ready for you in the drawing-room--you have
dined, I suppose?"
"Yes, I dined at Harden Manor. I have been there all day."
A dark cloud came for a moment over her radiant face.
"All day," she repeated. "Ah, poor Miles! If he rode over in the morning
they were always sure to make him stay to the evening, if they could."
"If Miles found the place as pleasant as I do, the length of his visits
would not surprise me," I said, laughingly. "I will run up to see Clare
first and then try your coffee, Coralie."
I longed to tell my good news to my sister.
"Clare," I said, kneeling by her side, "look at me. Do you know, can you
guess, what news I have to tell you?"
She raised her eyes to mine; she laid her dear hand on my brow.
"I can guess," she said, quietly. "You have told Agatha you love her,
and have asked her to be your wife. Is that it?"
"Yes. She has promised, Clare. She loves me--she whom I have always
looked up to as some queen so far above me."
"Any good woman would love you, Edgar," said my sister. She hesitated,
then asked slowly: "Have you said anything to Coralie?"
"Certainly not. Why should I?"
A delicate color flushed my sister's face.
"To tell you the truth," she replied, "I have fancied of late that
Coralie likes you. Nay, I need not mince matters; I am quite sure she
"She loves us both, because we are all in the world she has to love; but
not in the way you mean, Clare."
But Clare shook her head doubtfully.
"I hope I may be mistaken; but, Edgar, I have a nervous feeling about
it, difficult to describe and hard to bear, as though evil would come to
you through her. I cannot tell you how the thought haunts and perplexes
I laughed, little dreaming then how it would be.
"Sheer nervous fancy, Clare. Take it at the very worst, that Coralie
does like me, perhaps, a little too well, and is both piqued and angry
at my engagement, in the name of common sense, I ask you, what possible
harm can she do to me?"
"None that I can see; yet the dread lies heavy upon me, brother."
"You will forget it all, darling, when you hear the chimes of wedding
bells. Ah, Clare, if you could get better I should not have a wish left
Then, still smiling at Clare's nervous fancy, I went to the
drawing-room. Coralie was there awaiting me. The picture, in all its
details, rises before me as vividly as though I had only seen it
Although the day had been warm, the evening was chilly, and a small fire
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