Part 7 out of 10
Again she glanced at him, but only for an instant; for a few moments more
she continued silent, deeply troubled, then with face still averted,
pressed her hand on the ground to assist her in rising; but he caught her
by the wrist and detained her.
"Have you nothing to say to me, Fan?" he asked.
"Only that I wish to stand up, Arthur, if you will let me."
She spoke so quietly, in a tone so like her usual one, using his
Christian name too, that he looked searchingly at her, not yet knowing
how his words had affected her. Her cheeks were flushed, but she was
evidently not angry, only a little excited perhaps at his declaration.
Her manner only served to raise his hopes.
"Then let me assist you," he said, springing lightly to his feet, and
drawing her up. But before she could steady herself his arms were round
her waist, and she was drawn and held firmly against his breast while he
kissed her two or three times on the cheek.
After freeing herself from his embrace, still silent, she walked
hurriedly away; then Eden, snatching up his coat from the grass, ran
after her and was quickly at her side.
"Dearest Fan, are you angry with me that you refuse to speak?" he said,
seizing her hand.
"I have nothing to say, Mr. Eden. Will you release my hand, as I wish to
"I must go back to town with you, Fan," he returned. "I will release your
hand if you will sit down on this bench and let me speak to you. We must
not part in this way."
After a few moments' hesitation she sat down, still keeping her face
averted from him. Then he dropped her hand and sat down near her. His
hopes were fast vanishing, and he was not only deeply disappointed but
angry; and with these feelings there mingled some remorse, he now began
to think that he had surprised and pained her. Never had she seemed more
sweet and desirable than now, when he had tempted her and she had turned
"For heaven's sake don't be so angry with me, Fan," he said at length.
"It is not just. I could not help loving you; and if you have old-
fashioned ideas about such things, and can't agree to my proposals, why
can't we agree to differ, and not make matters worse by quarrelling? My
only wish, goodness knows, was to make you happy; there is no sacrifice I
would not gladly make for your sake, for I do love you, Fan, with all my
She listened quietly, but every sentence he uttered only had the effect
of widening the distance between them. Her only answer was, "I wish to go
home now--will you let me go by myself?"
But he caught her hand again when she attempted to rise, and forced her
to remain on the seat.
"No, Fan, you must not go before you have answered me," he returned, his
face darkening with anger. "You have no right to treat me in this way.
What have I said to stir up such a tempest?"
"There is no tempest, Mr. Eden. What can I say to you except that we have
both been mistaken? I was wrong to meet you, but I did not know--it did
not seem wrong. That was my mistake."
Her voice was low and trembled a little, and there was still no note of
anger in it. It touched his heart, and yet he could not help being angry
with her for destroying his hopes, and it was with some bitterness that
"You have told me your mistake; now what was mine?"
"That you know already."
"Yes, I know it; but I do not know what you imagine. I may be able to
show you yet that you are too harsh with me."
After an interval of silence she answered:
"Mr. Eden, I believe you have heard the story of my origin from Mr.
Chance. I suppose that he knows what I came from. No doubt he thought it
right to separate his wife from me for the same reason that made you
think that you could buy me with money, just as you could buy anything
else you might wish to have. You would not have made such a proposal to
one in your own class, though she might be an orphan and friendless and
obliged to work for her living."
"You are altogether mistaken," he returned warmly. "I know absolutely
nothing of your origin, and if I had known all about it that would not
have had the slightest effect. Gentle birth or not, I should have made
the same proposal; and if you imagine that ladies do not often receive
and accept such proposals, you know little of what goes on in the world.
But you must not think for a moment that I ever tried to find out your
history from Merton. I put one question to him about you, and one only.
Let me tell you what it was, and the answer he gave me. I asked him where
you came from, or what your people were, and gave him a reason for my
question, which was that the surname of Affleck had a peculiar interest
for me. There was nothing wrong in that, I think? He said that you were
an orphan, that the lady you lived with, not liking your own name, gave
you the name of Affleck, solely because it took her fancy, or was
uncommon, not because you had any relations of that name."
"He did not know, I suppose, that it was my mother's name," said Fan.
But the moment she had spoken it flashed across her mind that by that
incautious speech she had revealed the secret of her birth, and her face
crimsoned with shame and confusion.
But the other did not notice it; and without raising his eyes from the
ground he returned--"Your mother's name--what was her name?"
"Margaret Affleck," she answered; and thinking that it was not too late
to repair the mistake she had made, and preserve her secret, she added,
"That was her maiden name, and when the lady I lived with heard it, she
preferred to call me by it because she did not like my right name."
"And what was your father's name?"
"I cannot answer any more questions, Mr. Eden," she returned, after an
interval of silence. "It cannot matter to you in the least. Perhaps you
say truly that it would have made no difference to you if I had come of a
good family. That does not make me less unhappy, or alter my opinion of
you. My only wish now is to go away, and to be left alone by you."
He continued silently prodding at the turf with his stick, his eyes fixed
on the ground. She was nervous and anxious to make her escape, and could
not help glancing frequently at his face, so strange in its unaccustomed
gloom and look of abstraction. Suddenly he lifted his eyes to hers and
"And if I refuse to leave you alone, Fan?"
"Must I, then, go away altogether?" she returned with keen distress.
"Will you be so cruel as to hunt me out of the place where I earn my
bread? I have no one to protect me, Mr. Eden--surely you will not carry
out such a threat, and force me to hide myself in some distant place!"
"Do you think you could hide yourself where I would not find you, Fan?"
he answered, looking up with a strange gleam in his eyes and a smile on
She did not reply, although his words troubled her strangely. After a
while he added:
"No, Fan; you need not fear any persecution from me. You are just as safe
in your shop in Regent Street, where you earn your bread, as you would be
at the Antipodes."
"Thank you," she returned. "Will you let me go home now?"
"We must go back together as we came," he said.
"I am sorry you think we must go back together. Is it only to annoy me?"
"Why should you think that, my girl?" he said, but in an indifferent
tone, and still sullenly prodding at the ground with his stick. After a
time he continued, "I don't want to lose sight of you just yet, Fan, or
to think when we part it will be for ever. If you knew how heavy my heart
is you would not be so bitter against me. Perhaps before we get back to
town you will have kinder thoughts. When you remember the pleasant hours
we have spent together you will perhaps be able to give me your hand and
say that you are my friend still."
Up to this moment she had felt only the pain of her wound and the desire
to escape and hide herself from his sight; but his last words had the
effect of kindling her anger--the anger which took so long to kindle, and
which now, as on one or two former occasions, suddenly took complete
possession of her and instantly drove out every other feeling. Her face
had all at once grown white, and starting to her feet, she stood facing
"Mr. Eden," she said, her words coming rapidly, with passion, from her
lips, "do you wish me to say more than I have said? Would you like to
know what I think of you?"
"Yes; what do you think of me, Fan? I think it would be rather
interesting to hear."
"I think you have acted very treacherously all along. I believe that from
the first you have had it in your mind to--to make me this offer, but you
have never let me suspect such a thing. Your kindness and interest in the
Chances--it was all put on. I believe you are incapable of an unselfish
feeling. Your love I detest, and every word you have spoken since you
told me of it has only made me think worse of you. You thought you could
buy me, and if your heart is heavy it is only because you have not
succeeded--because I will not sell myself. I dare say you have plenty of
money, but if you had ten times as much you couldn't buy a better opinion
of you than I have given. My only wish is never to see you again. I wish
I could forget you! I detest you! I detest you!"
Not one word did he reply; nor had he listened to her excited words with
any show of interest; but his eyes continued cast down, and the
expression of his face was still dark and strangely abstracted.
For some moments she remained standing before him, still white and
trembling with the strength of her emotions; then turning, she walked
away through the trees. He did not follow her this time; and when, still
fearing, she cast back one hurried glance at him from a considerable
distance, he was sitting motionless in the same attitude, with eyes fixed
on the ground before him.
With a mind agitated with a variety of emotions--her still active
resentment, grief at her loss, and a burning sense of shame at the
thought that her too ready response to Eden's first advances had misled
and tempted him--Fan set about destroying and putting from her all
reminders of this last vanished friendship.
She burnt the letters, and made up his books into a large package: there
were about fifteen volumes by this time, including one that she had been
reading with profound interest. She would never know the end of that
tale--the pathetic history of a beautiful young girl, friendless like
herself in London; nor would she ever again see that book or hear its
title spoken without experiencing a pain at her heart. The parcel was
addressed in readiness to be sent off next morning, and there being
nothing more to occupy her hands, she sat down in her room, overcome with
a feeling of utter loneliness. Why was she alone, without one person in
all the world to care for her? Was it because of her poverty, her lowly
origin, or because she was not clever? She had been called pretty so
often--Mary, Constance, all of them had said so much in praise of her
beauty; but how poor a thing this was if it could not bind a single soul
to her, if all those who loved for a time parted lightly from her--those
of her own sex; while the feeling that it inspired in men was one she
shrunk fearfully from.
During the next few days she was ill at ease, and in constant fear of
some action on Mr. Eden's part, dictated by passion or some other motive.
But she saw and heard nothing of him; even the parcel of books was not
acknowledged, and by Thursday she had almost convinced herself that he
had abandoned the pursuit. On the evening of that day, just after she had
gone up to her room at the top of the house, her heavy-footed landlady
was heard toiling up after her, and coming into the room, she sank down
panting in a chair.
"These stairs do try my heart, miss," she said, "but you didn't hear me
call from my room when you came up. There's a gentleman waiting to see
you in the parlour. I took him in there because he wouldn't go away until
he had seen you."
"Mr. Eden--oh, why has he come here to make me more unhappy?" thought
Fan, turning pale with apprehension.
"He's that impatient, miss, you'd better go down soon. He's been ringing
the bell every five minutes to see if you'd come, and says you are very
late." Then she got up and set out on her journey downstairs, but paused
at the door. "Oh, here's the gentleman's card--I quite forgot it." And
placing it on the table, she left the room.
For some moments Fan stood hesitating, then without removing her hat, and
with a wildly-beating heart, moved to the door. As she did so she glanced
at the card, and was astonished to find that it was not Arthur Eden's.
The name on it was "Mr. Tytherleigh," and beneath, in the left-hand
corner, "Messrs. Travers, Enwright, and Travers, Solicitors, Lincoln's
Who was Mr. Tytherleigh? And what had she, a poor friendless girl, to do
with a firm of lawyers? Then it occurred to her that it was Arthur Eden
after all who wished to see her, and that he had sent her up this false
card only to inveigle her into an interview. Her ideas about the code of
a gentleman were somewhat misty. It is true that Eden had taken advantage
of her friendless position, and had lied to her, and worn a mask, and
deliberately planned to make her his mistress; but he would no more have
taken another man's name in order to see her than he would have picked a
pocket or sent a libellous post-card. Being ignorant of these fine
distinctions, she went down to the little sitting-room on the ground
floor greatly fearing. Her visitor was standing at the window on the
opposite side of the room, and turned round as she entered; a natty-
looking man, middle-aged, with brown moustache, shrewd blue eyes, and a
"Miss Affleck?" he said, bowing and coming a few steps forward.
"Yes, that is my name," she returned, greatly relieved at finding a
"You look pale--not quite well, I fear. Will you sit down?" he said. Then
he added with a smile, "I hope my visit has not alarmed you, Miss
Affleck? It is a very simple and harmless matter I have come to you
about. We--the firm of Travers and Co.--have been for a long time trying
to trace a person named Affleck, and hearing accidentally that a young
lady of that name lodged here, I called to make a few inquiries." While
speaking he had taken a newspaper--the _Standard_--from his pocket,
and pointing out an advertisement in the second column of the first page,
asked her to read it.
She read as follows:
Margaret Affleck (maiden name). Messrs. Travers, Enwright, and Travers,
Solicitors, Lincoln's Inn Fields, wish to communicate with this person,
who was in service in London about sixteen years ago, and is supposed to
have married about that time. A reward will be given for any information
relating to her.
"That was my mother's name," said Fan.
"Then may I ask you, why did you not reply to this advertisement, which,
you see, is upwards of three years old, and was inserted repeatedly in
"I never saw it--I did not read the newspapers. But my mother has been
dead a long time. I should not have answered this if I had seen it."
"No? That sounds strange. Will you kindly tell me why you call yourself
by your mother's maiden name?"
She coloured and hesitated for some moments, and then returned, "I cannot
tell you that. If my mother was the Margaret Affleck you advertised for,
and something has been left to her, or some relation wishes to trace her,
it is too late now. She is dead, and it is nothing to me."
This she said with some bitterness and a look of pain; he, meanwhile,
closely studying her face.
"Nothing to you, Miss Affleck? If money had been left to your mother, it
would, I imagine, be something to you, she being dead. As it happens--
there is no legacy--no money--nothing left; but I think I know what you
mean by saying that it would be of no advantage to you."
"What do I mean?" she said, still led on to speak after resolving to say
"You mean that your mother was never married."
Her face flushed hotly, and she rose from her chair. Mr. Tytherleigh also
rose quickly from his seat, fearing that she was about to leave the room
without saying more.
"Miss Affleck," he said, "will you allow me to make a little explanation
before asking you any more questions? I have said that there is no money
left to Margaret Affleck, but I can safely say that if you are the
daughter of that Margaret advertised for so long ago, you can lose
nothing by giving us any information you may possess. Certainly you can
lose nothing by assisting us, but you might gain a great deal. Please
look again at this advertisement--'supposed to have married'--but
_was_ your mother ever married?"
"Yes, she was," answered Fan, a little reluctantly. "Her husband's name
was Joseph Harrod; but I do not know where he is. I left him years ago."
"Nor do we want him. But tell me this, Miss Affleck, and please do not be
offended with me for asking so painful a question; but everything hinges
on it. Are you the child of this Joseph Harrod--your mother's husband?"
She cast down her eyes. It was a hard question to answer; but the kind
tone in which he had spoken had won her heart, for kindness was very
precious to her just now, and quickly had its effect, in spite of her
recent sad experience. She could not help trusting him. "No, he was not
my father," she answered.
"And who was your father, Miss Affleck?"
"I do not know."
"But do you know absolutely nothing about him--did your mother never
mention him to you? How do you come to know that Joseph Harrod was not
"My mother told me. She said that my father was a gentleman, and--that I
looked like him. She would not tell me his name, because she had taken an
oath never to reveal it to anyone."
He was watching her face as she spoke, her--eyes cast down. "One question
more, Miss Affleck: do you happen to know where your mother was born?"
"She came from Norfolk."
Mr. Tytherleigh rested an elbow on the table, and thrusting his fingers
through his hair, stared down at the note-book in which he had been
writing down her answers. "How strange--how very strange!" he remarked.
Presently he added, "We must find out where you were baptised, Miss
Affleck; you do not know, I suppose?"
She could not tell him, and after some further conversation, and hearing
a brief sketch of her life, her visitor rose to go. "Mr. Tytherleigh,"
said Fan, "I remember something now I wish to tell you. One day, when I
was about twelve years old, I went with mother to a street near
Manchester Square, where she had some work, and on the way back to
Edgware Road we passed a small curious old-looking church with a
churchyard crowded thick with grave-stones. It was a very narrow street,
and the grave-stones were close to the pavement, and I stopped to read
the words on one. Then mother said, 'That is the church I was married in,
Fan, and where you were christened.' But I do not know the name of the
church, nor of the street it is in."
Mr. Tytherleigh took down this information. "I shall soon find it," he
said; and promising to write or see her again in two or three days' time,
he left her.
She had not so long to wait. On the next day, after returning from Regent
Street, she was called down to see Mr. Tytherleigh once more.
"Miss Affleck," he said, advancing with a smile to meet her, "I am very
glad to be able to tell you that our inquiries have satisfied us that you
are the daughter of the Margaret Affleck we advertised for. And I can now
add that when we were seeking for your mother, or information of her, our
real object was to find _you._"
"To find me!" exclaimed Fan, starting up from her seat, a new hope in her
heart. "Do you know then who my father is?"
_"Was_--yes. You have no father living. I did not wish to say too
much yesterday, but from the moment I saw you and heard your voice, I was
satisfied that I had found the right person."
"Is it then true that I resemble my father?"
"When I said that I was thinking less of your father than of your
"Then I have a brother living!" she exclaimed excitedly, an expression on
her face in which anxiety and a new glad hope were strangely blended.
"Have I sisters too? Oh, how I have wished to have a sister! Can you tell
me?" Then suddenly her face clouded, and dropping her voice, she said,
"But they will not know me--they will be ashamed to own me. I shall never
see them--I shall be nothing to them!"
"No, Miss Affleck, you have no sisters. Your father, Colonel Eden, had
only one son, Mr. Arthur Eden, whom you know."
"Colonel Eden! Mr. Arthur Eden!" she repeated, with a strange bewildered
look. "Is he my brother--Arthur--Arthur!" And while the words came like a
cry of anguish from her lips, she turned away, and with hands clasped
before her, took a few uncertain steps across the room, then sinking on
to the sofa, burst into a great passion of tears and sobs.
Mr. Tytherleigh went to the window and stared at the limited view at the
back; after a while he came to her side. "Miss Affleck," he said, "I
fully believed when I came to see you that I had welcome news to tell. I
am sorry to see you so much distressed."
Restraining her sobs she listened, and his words and tone of surprise
served to rouse and alarm her, since such a display of emotion on her
part might make him suspect her secret--that hateful secret of Arthur
Eden's passion, which must be buried for ever. In the brief space of time
which had passed since he had made his announcement, and that cry of pain
had risen from her lips, a change had already taken place in her
feelings. All the bitter sense of injury and insult, and the anger mixed
with apprehension, had vanished; her mind had reverted to the condition
in which it had been before the experience at Kew Gardens; only the
feeling of affection had increased a hundred-fold. She remembered now
only all that had seemed good in him, his sweet courteous manner, his
innumerable acts and words of kindness, and the goodness was no longer a
mask and a sham, but a reality. For he was her brother, and the blood of
one father ran in their veins; and now that dark cloud, that evil dream,
which had come between them, had passed away, and she could cast herself
on her knees before him to beg him to forgive and forget the cruel false
words she had spoken to him in her anger, and take her to his heart. But
in the midst of all the tumult of thoughts and feelings stirring in her,
there was the fear that he would now be ashamed of his base-born sister
and avoid her.
"I am afraid that I have no cause to feel happy," she returned at last.
"Arthur Eden knows me so well, and if he had not felt ashamed of finding
a sister in me, he would have come to me himself instead of sending a
stranger. But perhaps," she added with fresh hope, "he does not know what
you have told me?"
"Yes, he knows certainly, since it was he who discovered that you were
the daughter of a Margaret Affleck. I have been acting on his
instructions, and told him to-day when I saw him that there was no doubt
that you were Colonel Eden's child. It was better, he thought, and I
agreed with him, that you should hear this from me. He is anxious to see
you himself, and until you see him you must not allow such fancies to
disturb you. He had no sooner made the discovery I have mentioned the day
before yesterday--Wednesday--than he hastened to us to instruct us what
to do in the case."
Wednesday! But he had heard about Margaret Affleck on Sunday--why had he
kept silence all that time? She could not guess, but it seemed there had
been some delay, some hesitation, on his part. The thought sorely
troubled her, but she kept it to herself. "Do you think he will come to
see me this evening?" she asked, with some trouble in her voice.
"He said to-morrow. And, by-the-bye, Miss Affleck, he asked me to say
that he hopes you will be in when he calls to see you."
"But I must go to my place for the day."
"About that, Mr. Eden thinks you had better not go yourself. I shall
see or write to your employer this evening to let him know that you will
be unable to attend to-morrow."
"But I might lose my place then," said Fan, surprised at the cool way in
which Mr. Tytherleigh invited her to take a holiday, and thinking of what
the grim and terrible manager would say.
"I cannot say more," he returned. "I have only stated Mr. Eden's wishes,
and certainly think it would be better not to risk missing him by going
out tomorrow. In any case I shall see or communicate with your employer."
He left her with an excited mind which kept her awake a greater part of
the night, and next morning she resolved to do as she had been told and
remain in all day, even at the risk of losing her situation. Then as the
hours wore on and Arthur came not, her excitement increased until it was
like a fever in her veins, and made her lips dry, and burnt in her cheeks
like fire. She could not read, nor work, nor sit still; nor could she
take any refreshment, with that gnawing hunger in her heart; but hour
after hour she moved about her narrow room until her knees trembled under
her, and she was ready to sink down, overcome with despair that the
brother she had found and loved was ashamed to own her for a sister.
Finally she set the door of her room open, and at every sound in the
house she flew to the landing to listen; and at last, about five o'clock,
on going for the hundredth time to the landing, she heard a visitor come
into the hall and ask for "Miss Affleck." She hurried down to the ground
floor, passing the servant girl who had admitted her brother and was
going up to call her. When she entered the sitting-room Eden was standing
on the further side staring fixedly at a picture on the wall. It was a
picture of a fashionable young lady of bygone days, taken out of one of
L.E.L.'s or Lady Blessington's _Beauty Books;_ she was represented
wearing a shawl and flounced dress, and with a row of symmetrical curls
on each side of her head--a thing to make one laugh and weep at the same
time, to think of the imbecility of the human mind of sixty years ago
that found anything to admire in a face so utterly inane and
lackadaisical. So absorbed was Eden in this work of art that he did not
seem to hear the door open and his sister's steps on the worn carpet.
"Arthur--at last!" she cried, advancing to him, all her sisterly
affections and anxiety thrilling in her voice.
He half turned towards her with a careless "How d'ye do, Fan?" and then
once more became absorbed in contemplating the picture.
Her first impulse on entering the room had been to throw her arms about
his neck, but the momentary glimpse of his face she had caught when he
turned to greet her arrested her steps. His face was deathly pale, and
there was an excited look in his eye which seemed strangely to contrast
with his light, indifferent tone.
"A very fine picture that; I shouldn't mind having it if the owner cares
to part with it," he said at length, and then half turning again,
regarded her out of the corners of his eyes. "Well, Fan, what do you
think of all this curious business?" he added, with a slight laugh.
For how many hours she had been trying to picture this meeting in her
mind, now imagining him tender and affectionate as she wished him to be,
now cold or contemptuous or resentful; and in every case her heated brain
had suggested the very words he would use to her; but for this careless
tone, and the inexplicable look on his face, according so ill with his
tone, she was quite unprepared, and for some time she could make no reply
to his words.
"Arthur," she spoke at last, "if you could have known how anxiously I
have been waiting for you since yesterday, I think you would in mercy
have come a little sooner."
"Well, no, Fan, I think not," he returned, still careless.
She advanced two or three steps nearer.
"Have you then come at last only to confirm my worst fears? Tell me,
Arthur--my brother! Are you sorry to have me for a sister?"
Again he laughed.
"What a simple maiden you must be to ask such a question!" he said.
"Sorry? Good God, I should think so! Sorry is no word for it. If Fate
thought it necessary to thrust a sister on me I wish it had rather been
some yellow-skinned, sour old spinster, but not you."
"Do you hate me then?" she exclaimed, misinterpreting his meaning in her
agitation. "Oh what have I done to deserve such unhappiness? Have I
brought it on myself by those cruel words I spoke to you when we last
He had turned again towards her and was watching her face, but when she
looked at him his eyes dropped.
"Yes, I remember your words, Fan," he said. "You abused me at Kew
Gardens, and you think I am having my revenge. You would remember me, you
said, only to detest me. Am I less a monster now because I am your
"Arthur, forgive me--can you not say that you forgive me?" coming still
nearer, and putting out her hands pleadingly to him.
His lips moved but made no sound; and she, urged on by that great craving
in her heart, at length stood by his side, but he averted his face from
"Arthur," she spoke again in pleading tones, "will you not look at me?"
Then, with sudden anguish, she added, "Have I lost everything you once
saw in me to make you love me?" But he still made no sign; and growing
bolder she put her arm round his neck. "Arthur, speak to me," she
pleaded. "It will break my heart if you cannot love me."
All at once he looked her full in the face, and their eyes met in a long
gaze, hers tender and pleading, his wild and excited. His lips had grown
dry and almost of the colour of his cheeks, and his breath seemed like a
flame to her skin. "Arthur, will you refuse to love me, your sister?" she
murmured tenderly, drawing her arm more tightly about his neck until his
face was brought down to hers, then pressing her soft lips to his dry
He did not resist her caress, only a slight shiver passed through his
frame, and closing his eyes, he dropped his forehead on her shoulder.
"Do you know what you are doing, Fan?" he murmured. "I have had such a
hard fight, and now--my victory is turned to defeat! You ask me to love
you; poor girl, it would be better if I scorned you and broke your heart!
Darling, I love you--you cannot conceive how much. If you could--if one
spark of this fire that burns my blood could drop into yours, then it
would be sweeter than heaven to live and die with you!"
He lifted his face again, and his lips sought hers, to cling long and
passionately to them, while he gathered her in his arms and drew her
against his breast, closer and closer, until she could scarcely refrain
from crying out with pain. Then suddenly he released her, almost flinging
her from him, and walking to the sofa on the other side of the room, he
sat down and buried his face in his hands.
Fan remained standing where he had left her, too stunned and confused by
this violent outburst of passion to speak or move. At length he rose, and
without a word, without even casting a look at her, left the room. Then,
recovering possession of her faculties, she hurried out after him, but on
gaining the hall found that he had already left the house.
Not knowing what to think or fear, she went to her room and sat down. The
meeting to which she had looked forward so impatiently had come and was
over, and now she did not know whether to rejoice or to lament. For an
hour she sat in her close hot room, unable to think clearly on the
subject, oppressed with a weak drowsy feeling she could not account for.
At last she remembered that she had spent an anxious sleepless night, and
had taken no refreshment during the day, and rousing herself she went
downstairs to ask the landlady to give her some tea. It refreshed her,
and lying down without undressing on her bed, she fell into a deep sleep,
from which she did not awake until about ten o'clock. Lying there, still
drowsy, and again mentally going through that interview with Arthur, her
eye was attracted by the white gleam of an envelope lying on the dusky
floor--a letter which the servant had thrust in under the door for her.
It was from Arthur.
MY DEAR SISTER [he wrote], I fear I have offended you more deeply than
ever; I was scarcely sane when I saw you to-day. Try, for God's sake, to
forget it. I am leaving London to-morrow for a few weeks, and trust that
when I return you will let me see you again; for until you assure me with
your own lips, Fan, that I am forgiven, the thought of my behaviour to-
day will be a constant misery. And will you in the meantime let yourself
be guided by Mr. Travers, who was our father's solicitor and friend, and
who can tell you what his last wishes about you were? Whatever you may
receive from Mr. Travers will come to you, _not from me,_ but from
your father. If Mr. Travers asks you to his house please go, and look on
him as your best friend. I believe that Mr. Tytherleigh intends calling
on you to-morrow at one o'clock, and I think that he has already informed
your employer that it will not be convenient for you to attend again at
Good-bye for a time, dear sister, and try, try to think as kindly as you
can of Your affectionate brother,
This letter had the effect of dissipating every sad and anxious thought,
and Fan undressed and went to bed, only to lie awake thinking of her
happiness. Her heart was overflowing with love for her brother; for how
great a comfort, a joy, it was to know that after all that had happened
he was good and not bad! He was indeed more than good in the ordinary
sense of the word, for what kindness and generosity and delicacy he had
displayed towards her in his letter. So far did her leniency go that she
even repeated his mad words, "Darling, I love you, you cannot conceive
how much," again and again with a secret satisfaction; for how hard it
would have been if that passionate love he had felt for her, which only
the discovery of their close relationship had made sinful, or
inconvenient, had changed to aversion or cold indifference; and this
would certainly have happened if Arthur Eden had not been so noble-minded
When morning came she could not endure the thought that he was going away
without that assurance from her own lips of which he had spoken. Mr.
Tytherleigh would call to see her at one o'clock, but there were three or
four long hours to get rid of before then, and in the end she dressed
herself and went boldly to his apartments in Albemarle Street, where she
arrived about eleven o'clock.
The servant who answered her knock did not know whether she could see Mr.
Eden, and summoned her mistress.
"Mr. Eden has only been home about an hour," said this lady, a little
stiffly. "He said he was going to sleep, and that he was not to be
disturbed on any account."
"But he is going to leave town to-day, and I _must_ see him,"
returned Fan. Then, with a blush brightening her cheeks, she added, "I am
"Why, miss, so you are!" exclaimed the woman astonished, and breaking out
in smiles. "I never knew that Mr. Eden had a sister, but I might have
guessed it when I saw you, for you are his very image. I'll just go up
and ask him if he can see you."
Fan, in her impatience, followed her up into Eden's sitting-room on the
first floor. At the further end of the room the woman rapped at the door.
"What the devil do you want now? I told you not to disturb me," was
shouted in no amiable voice from inside.
Fan hurried to the door and called through the keyhole, "Arthur, I must
see you before you leave town."
"Oh, Fan, is that you? I really beg your pardon," he replied. "All right;
make yourself comfortable, and I'll be with you in five minutes."
Fan, left alone, began an inspection of her brother's "den," about which
she had often heard him speak, and the first object which took her
attention was a brown-paper parcel lying on a chair against the wall. It
was the parcel of novels she had returned to him a few days before, not
yet opened. But when she looked round for that large collection of books,
about which he had spoken to her, she found it not, nor anything in the
way of literature except half a dozen volumes lying on the table, bearing
Mudie's yellow labels on their covers. Near the chair on which the parcel
was lying a large picture rested on the carpet, leaning against the wall.
A sheet of tissue paper covered it, which her curiosity prompted her to
remove, and then how great was her surprise at being confronted with her
own portrait, exquisitely done in water-colours, half the size of life,
and in a very beautiful silver frame. How it got there was a mystery, but
not for one moment did she doubt that it was her own portrait; only it
looked, she thought, so much more beautiful than the reality. She had
never worn her hair in that picturesque way, nor had she ever possessed
an evening dress; yet she appeared in a lovely pale-blue dress, her neck
and arms bare, a delicate cream-coloured lace shawl on one arm resting on
She was still standing before it, smiling with secret pleasure, and
blushing a little, when Eden, coming in, surprised her.
"I see you have made a discovery, Fan," he said.
She turned quickly round, the bright colour suffusing her cheeks, and
held out her hand to him. He was pale and haggard, but the strange
excited look had left his face, and he smiled pleasantly as he took her
hand and touched her finger-tips to his lips.
"Why did you come to me here?" he asked, beginning to move restlessly
about the room.
"To give you that assurance with my own lips you asked for--I could not
let you go away without it. Will you not kiss me, Arthur?"
"No, not now. Do sit down, Fan. I thought that you would only feel the
greatest aversion to me, yet here you are in my own den trying to--You
imagine, I suppose, that a man is a kind of moral barrel-organ, and that
when the tune he has been grinding out for a long time gets out of date,
all he has got to do is to change the old cylinder for a new one and
grind out a fresh tune. Do you understand me, Fan?"
She considered his words for a little while and then answered, "Arthur, I
think it will be better--if you will not avoid me--if you will believe
that all my thoughts of you are pleasant thoughts. I do not think you can
be blamed for feeling towards me as you do." She reddened and cast down
her eyes, dimmed with tears, then continued, "It was only that chance
discovery that makes you think so badly of yourself."
"You are strangely tolerant," he said, sitting down near her. "Strangely
and sweetly rational--so lenient, that if I did not know you as well as I
do, I might imagine that your moral sense is rather misty. Your words,
dear girl, make me sick of deceit and hypocrisy, and I shall not try to
see myself as you see me. I am worse than you imagine; if you knew all
you would not be so ready to invent excuses for me--you would not forgive
me." Then he got up, and added, "But I am glad you came to see me, Fan;
your visit has done me ever so much good."
"Don't send me away so soon, Arthur," she returned. "What is it that I
could not forgive? You should not say that before you put me to the
"Good heavens, Fan, do you wish me to do that? Well, perhaps that would
be best. I said that I was sick of deceit, and I ought to have the
courage of my opinions. Do you know that when Mr. Tytherleigh called to
see you, my lawyers had only just learnt the secret I had discovered
several days before?"
"Yes, I knew that."
"But you don't know--you couldn't imagine why I kept back the
"I thought that the delay was because I had offended you--I didn't think
much about it."
"Of course that was not the reason."
"Then you must tell me, Arthur."
"Must I tell you, dear sister? When you left me alone at Kew I asked
myself whether it would not be better to conceal what I had heard and
marry you. I don't know what madness possessed me. The instant you spoke
the words that Margaret Affleck was your mother's name, I was convinced
that you were my half-sister--the mystery of something in you, which had
always puzzled and baffled me, was made plain. Your voice at times was
like my father's voice, and perhaps like my own; and in your face and
your expression you are like my father's mother in a miniature of her
taken when she was a girl, and which I often used to see. And yet"--he
paused and turned his face from her,--"this very conviction that you were
so closely related to me made my feeling only stronger. Every scornful
word you uttered only made it stronger; it seemed to me that unless I
possessed you my life would not be worth having.... Even my father's
dying wishes were nothing to me.... And for three days and nights.... How
can you forgive me, Fan, when I had it in my heart to do such a thing?"
"But I should not have consented to marry you," said Fan simply.
"Consider, Fan; you, a poor friendless girl in London, with nothing to
look forward to. In a little while you would have recovered from your
anger, and in the end, when you knew how great my love was, you would
have consented. For I knew that you liked me very much; and perhaps you
loved me a little."
"I did love you, Arthur, from the very first, but it was not that kind of
love. I know that I should never have felt it for you. I did not know
that you were my brother, but I think that my heart must have known it."
"Perhaps so, Fan; perhaps in hearts of such crystal purity as yours there
is some divine instinct which grosser natures are without. But you ignore
the point altogether. My crime was in the intention, and if it had proved
as you think, my guilt would have been just as great. That is my sin,
Fan; the thought was in my heart for days and nights, and though the days
and nights were horrible, I refused to part with my secret."
"But, Arthur, you _did_ part with it in the end. No one compelled
you to give it up."
"No, no one. I was afraid, I think, that some horrible thing would happen
to me--that I would perhaps go mad if I carried out my intention; and I
was driven at last, not by conscience, but by servile fear to make a
clean breast of it."
"But, Arthur," she persisted, in a voice of keen pain, "is there any
difference between conscience and what you call fear? I know that I would
sometimes do wrong, and that fear prevents me. We have all good and bad
in us, and--the good overcame the bad in you."
There was silence for some time between them, then Eden said, "Fan, what
a strange girl you are! The whiteness of your soul is such that it has
even pained me to think of it; and now that I have shown you all the
blackness of my own, and am sick of it myself, you look very calmly at
it, and even try to persuade me that it is not black at all. The one
thing you have said which sounds artificial, and like a copy-book lesson,
is that we all have good and bad in us. What is the bad in you, Fan--what
evil does it tempt you to do?"
This question seemed to disturb her greatly.
"For one thing," she said hesitatingly, and casting her eyes down, "I
always hate those who injure me--and--and I am very unforgiving."
Then, raising her eyes, which looked as if the tears were near them, she
added, "But, Arthur, please don't be offended with me if I say that I
don't think you are right to put such a question to me--just now."
"No, dear, it isn't right. From me to you it is a brutal question, and I
shall not offend again. But to hear you talk of your unforgiving temper
gives me a strange sensation--a desire to laugh and cry all at the same
time." He looked at his watch. "I don't wish to drive you away, Fan, but
poor Mr. Tytherleigh will be at his wits' end if he misses you."
"What is he going to see me about, Arthur?"
"I don't know at all. You are in Mr. Travers' hands."
He was about to rise; but Fan, coming quickly to his side, stopped him.
"Good-bye, Arthur--my darling brother," she said, stooping and kissing
him quickly on his cheek, then on his lips. "May I take one thing away
"Your picture? Yes; you may take it if you like: that is to say, you may
keep it for a time. I shall not give it to you."
"But it is mine--my own portrait," said Fan, with a happy laugh. "Though
I do not know by what magic you got it."
"That's easily explained. When I heard where you had had your photo
taken, I went and ordered a copy for myself. The negative had been
preserved. Then I had it enlarged, and the water-colour taken from it.
And there are your books, Fan--take them too."
"I will take one, Arthur; I was just reading it when--" She did not
finish the sentence, but began hastily untying the parcel to get the
book, while her brother rang the bell, and ordered a cab "for Miss Eden."
How strange--how sweet it sounded to her!
"Is that my name, Arthur?" she asked, turning to him with a look of glad
"Yes, until you change it; and, by the way, you had better order yourself
A few minutes later and she was speeding northwards in a hansom, feeling
that the motion, so unlike that of the familiar lumbering omnibus, had a
wonderfully exhilarating effect on her. It was a pleasure she had not
tasted since the time when she lived in London with Mary, and that now
seemed to her a whole decade ago. But never in those past days had she
faced the fresh elastic breeze in so daintily-built a cab, behind so
fiery, swift-stepping a horse. Never had she felt so light-hearted. For
now she was not alone in life, but had a brother to love; and he loved
her, and had shown her his heart--all the good and the evil that was in
it; and all the evil she could forgive, and was ready to forget, and it
was nothing to her. She was even glad to think that when he had first
seen her in that little shabby sitting-room in Norland Square it had been
to love her.
Mr. Tytherleigh was already at her lodgings, and seeing her arrive, he
hurried out to ask her not to alight. Mr. Travers, he said, wished her to
move into better apartments; he had a short list in his pocket, and
offered to go with her to choose a place. Fan readily consented, and when
he had taken the picture into the house for her, he got into the cab, and
they drove off to the neighbourhood of Portman Square. In Quebec Street
they found what they wanted--two spacious and prettily--furnished rooms
on a first floor in a house owned by a Mrs. Fay. A respectable woman,
very attentive to her lodgers, Mr. Tytherleigh said, and known to Mr.
Travers through a country client of his having used the house for several
years. He also pronounced the terms very moderate, which rather surprised
Fan, whose ideas about moderation were not the same as his.
From Quebec Street they went to the London and Westminster Bank in
Stratford Place, where Fan was made to sign her name in a book; and as
she took the pen into her hand, not knowing what meaning to attach to all
these ceremonies, Mr. Tytherleigh, standing at her elbow, whispered
warningly--"_Frances Eden_." She smiled, and a little colour flushed
her cheeks. Did he imagine that she had forgotten? that the name of
Affleck was anything more to her than a bit of floating thistledown,
which had rested on her for a moment only to float away again, to be
carried by some light wind into illimitable space, to be henceforth and
for ever less than nothing to her? After signing her new name a cheque-
book was handed to her; then Mr. Tytherleigh instructed her in the
mysterious art of drawing a cheque, and as a beginning he showed her how
to write one payable to self for twenty-five pounds; then after handing
it over the counter and receiving five bank-notes for it, they left the
bank and proceeded to a stationer's in Oxford Street, where Fan ordered
Mr. Tytherleigh, as if reluctant to part from her, returned to Charlotte
Street in the cab at her side. During their ride back she began to
experience a curious sensation of dependence and helplessness. It would
have been very agreeable to her if this freer, sweeter life which she had
tasted formerly, and which was now hers once more, had come to her as a
gift from her brother; but he had distinctly told her that she had
nothing to thank him for, and only some very vague words about her
father's dying wishes had been spoken. Who then was she dependent on? She
had not been consulted in any way; her employer had simply been told that
it would not be convenient for her to attend again at the place of
business, and now she was sent to live alone in grand apartments, where
she would have a cheque-book and some five-pound notes to amuse herself
with. For upwards of a year she had been proud of her independence, of
her usefulness in the world, of the room she rented, and had made pretty
with bits of embroidery and such art as she possessed, and now she could
not help experiencing a little pang of regret at seeing all this taken
from her--especially as she did not know who was taking it, or changing
it for something else.
These thoughts were occupying her mind when she was led into her
landlady's little sitting-room, and hoped that the lawyer or lawyer's
clerk had only come to explain it all to her.
"I don't know when I shall see you again, Miss Eden," he said; she
noticed that he and her brother had begun calling her Miss Eden on the
same day; "but if there is anything more I can do for you now I shall be
glad. If I can assist you in moving to Quebec Street, for instance----"
"Oh no, thank you; all my luggage will go easily on a cab. Are you in a
hurry to leave, Mr. Tytherleigh?"
"Oh no, Miss Eden, my time is at your disposal"; and he sat down again to
await her commands.
"I should so like to ask you something," she said. "For the last few
hours I have scarcely known what was happening to me, and I feel--a
little bewildered at being left alone with this cheque-book and money.
And then, whose money is it, Mr. Tytherleigh--you can tell me that, I
"Why, I should say your own, Miss Eden, else--you could hardly have it to
"But how is it mine? I forgot to ask my brother today to explain some
things in a letter I had from him last night. He wishes me to be guided
by Mr. Travers, and says that what I receive does not come from him, but
from my father."
"Quite right," said the other with confidence.
"But, Mr. Tytherleigh, you told me some days ago that no money was left
to my mother or to anyone belonging to her."
"Ah, yes, it does seem a little contradictory, Miss Eden. I was quite
correct in what I told you, and--for the rest, you must of course take
your brother's word."
"Yes; but what am I to understand--can you not explain it all to me?"
"Scarcely," he returned, with the regulation solicitor smile. "I think I
have heard that Mr. Travers will see you himself before long. Perhaps he
will make it clear to you, for I confess that it must seem a little
puzzling to you just now."
"When shall I see Mr. Travers?"
"I cannot say. He is an elderly man, not very strong, and does not often
go out of his way. In the meantime, I hope you will take my word for it
that it is all right, and that when you require money you will freely use
And that was all the explanation she got from Mr. Tytherleigh.
Fan, alone in her fine apartments, her occupation gone, found the time
hang heavily on her hands. To read a little, embroider a little, walk a
little in Hyde Park each day, was all she could do until Mr. Travers
should come to her and explain everything and be her guide and friend.
But the slow hours, the long hot days passed, and Mr. Travers still
delayed his coming, until to her restless heart the leisure she enjoyed
seemed a weariness and the freedom a delusion. Every day she spent more
and more time out of doors. At home the profound silence and seeming
emptiness of the house served but to intensify her craving for
companionship. Her landlady, who was her own cook, never entered into
conversation with her, and only came to her once or twice a day to ask
her what she would have to eat. But to Fan it was no pleasure to sit down
to eat by herself, and for her midday meal she was satisfied to have a
mutton chop with a potato--that hideously monotonous mutton chop and
potato which so many millions of unimaginative Anglo-Saxons are content
to swallow on each recurring day. And Mrs. Fay, her landlady, had a soul;
and her skill in cooking was her pride and glory. Cookery was to her what
poetry and the worship of Humanity, and Esoteric Buddhism are to others;
and from the time when she began life as a kitchen-maid in a small hotel,
she had followed her art with singleness of purpose and unflagging zeal.
She felt it as a kind of degradation to have a lodger in her house who
was satisfied to order a mutton chop and a potato day after day. It was
no wonder then that she grew more reticent and dark-browed and sullen
every day, and that she went about the house like a person perpetually
brooding over some dark secret. Some awful midnight crime, perhaps--some
beautiful and unhappy young heiress, left in her charge, and smothered
with a pillow for yellow gold, still haunting her in Quebec Street. So
might one have imagined; but it would have been a mistake, for the poor
woman was haunted by nothing more ghastly than the image of her lodger's
mutton chop and potato. And at last she could endure it no longer, and
"I beg your pardon for saying it, Miss," she said in an aggrieved tone,
"but I think it very strange you can't order anything better for your
"It does very well for me," said Fan innocently. "I never feel very
hungry when I'm alone."
"No, miss; and no person would with nothing but a chop to sit down to. I
was told by the gentleman from Mr. Travers' office that brought you here
that I was to do my best for you. But how can I do my best for you when
you order me to do my worst?" Here she appeared almost at the point of
crying. "It is not for me to say anything, but I consider, miss, that
you're not doing yourself justice. I mean only with respect to eating and
drinking----" with a glance full of meaning at Fan's face, then at her
dress. "About other things I haven't anything to say, because I don't
interfere with what doesn't concern me."
"But what can I do, Mrs. Fay?" said Fan distressed. "I have not been
accustomed to order my meals, but to sit down without knowing what there
was to eat. And I like that way best." Then, in a burst of despair, she
added, "Can't you give me just whatever you like, without asking me?"
Mrs. Fay's brow cleared, and she smiled as Fan had not seen her smile
"That I will, miss; and I don't think you'll have any reason to complain
that you left it to me."
From that time Fan was compelled to fare delicately, and each day in
place of the simple quickly-eaten and soon-forgotten chop, there came to
her table a soup with some new flavour, a bit of fish--salmon cutlets, or
a couple of smelts, or dainty whitebait with lemon and brown bread-and-
butter, or a red mullet in its white wrapper--and exquisitely-tasting
little made dishes, and various sweets of unknown names. Nor was there
wanting bright colour to relieve the monotony of white napery and please
the eye--wine, white and red, in small cut-glass decanters, and rose and
amber-coloured wineglasses, and rich-hued fruits and flowers. Of all the
delicacies provided for her she tasted, yet never altogether free from
the painful thought that while she was thus faring sumptuously, many of
her fellow-creatures were going about the streets hungry, even as she had
once gone about wishing for a penny to buy a roll. Still, Mrs. Fay was
happy now, and that was one advantage gained, although her lodger was
paying dearly for it with somebody's money.
But here she drew the line, being quite determined not to spend any money
on dress until Mr. Travers should come to her to relieve her doubts, and
yet she knew very well that to be leading this easy idle life she was
very poorly dressed. Many an hour she spent sitting in the shade in Hyde
Park, watching the perpetual stream of fashionable people, on foot and in
carriages--she the only unfashionable one there, the only one who
exchanged greetings and pleasant words with no friend or acquaintance.
What then did it matter how meanly she dressed? she said to herself every
day, determined not to spend that mysterious money. Then one day a great
temptation--a new thought--assailed her, and she fell. She was passing
Marshall and Snelgrove's, about twelve o'clock in the morning, when the
broad pavement is most thronged with shopping ladies and idlers of both
sexes, when out of the door there came a majestic-looking elderly lady,
followed by two young ladies, her daughters, all very richly dressed.
Seeing Fan, the first put out her hand and advanced smilingly to her.
"My dear Miss Featherstonehaugh," she exclaimed, "how strange that we
should meet here!"
"Oh, mamma, it is _not_ Miss Featherstonehaugh!" broke in one of the
young ladies; and after surveying Fan from top to toe with a slightly
supercilious smile, she added, "How _could_ you make such a
"I beg your pardon," said the old lady loftily, as if Fan had done her
some injury, and also surveying the girl, apparently surprised at herself
for mistaking this badly-dressed young woman for one of her own friends.
Fan, arrested in her walk, had been standing motionless before them, and
her eyes, instinctively following the direction of the lady's glance,
travelled down her dress to her feet, where one of her walking-boots, old
and cracked, was projecting from her skirt. She reddened with shame and
confusion, and walked hurriedly on. What would her brother's feeling have
been, she asked herself, if he had met her accidentally there and had
noticed those shabby boots? and with all that money, which she had been
told to use freely, in her purse! A fashionable shoe-shop caught her eye
at that moment, and without a moment's hesitation she went in and
purchased a pair of the most expensive walking-shoes she could get, and a
second light pretty pair to wear in the house. That was only the first of
a series of purchases made that day. At one establishment she ordered a
walking-dress to be made, a soft blue-grey, with cream-coloured satin
vest; and at yet another a hat to match. And many other things were
added, included a sunshade of a kind she admired very much, covered with
cream-coloured lace. With a recklessness which was in strange contrast to
her previous mood, she got rid of every shilling of her money in a few
hours, and then went boldly to the bank. Then her courage forsook her,
and her face burned hotly, and her hand shook while she wrote out a
second cheque for twenty-five pounds. Not without fear and trembling did
she present it at the cashier's desk; but the clerk said not a word, nor
did he look at her with a stern, shocked expression as if reproaching her
for such awful extravagance. On the contrary he smiled pleasantly,
remarking that it was a warm day (which Fan knew), and then bowed, and
said "Good-day" politely.
The feeling of guilt as of having robbed the bank with which she left
Stratford Place happily wore off in time; and when the grey dress was
finished, and she found herself arrayed becomingly, the result made her
happy for a season. She surveyed her reflection in the tall pier-glass in
her bedroom with strange interest--or not strange, perhaps--and thought
with a little feeling of triumph that the grand lady and her daughters
would not feel disgusted at their dimness of vision if they once more
mistook her for their friend "Miss Featherstonehaugh."
"Even Constance would perhaps think me good enough for a friend now," she
said, a little bitterly; and then remembering that she had no friend to
show herself to, she felt strongly inclined to sit down and cry.
"Oh, how foolish I have been to spend so much on myself, when it doesn't
matter in the least what I wear--until Arthur comes back!"
And Arthur was not coming back just now, for only after all her finery
had been bought, on that very day she had received a letter from him
dated from Southampton, telling her that he had joined a friend who was
about to start for Norway in his yacht, and that he would be absent not
less than two months. This was a sore disappointment, but a note from Mr.
Travers accompanied Eden's letter, sent in the first place to Lincoln's
Inn, which gave her something to expect and think about. The lawyer wrote
to say that he would call to see her at twelve o'clock on the following
Fan, in her new dress, and with a slight flush caused by excitement, was
waiting for him when he arrived. He was a tall spare man, over seventy
years old, with a slight stoop in his shoulders, and hair and whiskers
almost white. He had an aquiline nose and a firm mouth and chin, and yet
the expression was far from severe, and under his broad, much-lined
forehead the deep-set clear blue eyes looked kindly to the girl. When in
repose there was an expression of weariness on his grey face, and a far-
off look in the eyes, like that of one who gazes on a distant prospect
shrouded in mist or low-trailing clouds. He had thought and wrought much,
and perhaps, unlike that stern-browed and dauntless old chair-mender that
Fan remembered so well, he was growing tired of his long life-journey,
and not unwilling to see the end when there would be rest. But when
talking or listening his face still showed animation, and was pleasant to
look upon. Fan remembered certain words of her brother's, and felt that
even if they had never been uttered, here was a man in whom she could
At first he did not say much, and after explaining the cause of his delay
in visiting her, contented himself with listening and observing her
quietly. At length, catching sight of the water-colour portrait of Fan,
which was hanging on the wall, he got up from his seat and placed himself
"It is a very beautiful picture, Miss Eden," he said with a smile, as Fan
came to his side.
"Yes, I think it is," she returned naively. "But that is the artist's
work. I never had a dress like that--I never had a dinner dress in my
life. It was taken from a photograph, and the painter has made a fancy
picture of it."
"It is very like you, Miss Eden--an excellent portrait, I think. Do you
not know that you are beautiful?"
"No, I did not know--at least, I was not sure. But I am glad you think
so. I should like very much to be beautiful."
"Why?" he asked with a smile.
"Because I am not clever, and perhaps it would not matter so much if
people thought me pretty. They might like me for that."
He smiled again. "I do not know you very well yet, Miss Eden, but judging
from the little I have seen of you and what I have heard, I think you
have a great deal to make people like you."
"Thank you," she returned a little sadly, remembering how her dearest
friends had quickly grown tired of her.
"How strange it is--how very strange!" he remarked after a while,
repeating Mr. Tytherleigh's very words. "I can scarcely realise that I am
here talking to Colonel Eden's daughter."
"Yes, it is very strange. That I should have got acquainted in that
chance way with my brother, and--" "That he should have fallen in love
with his sister," added Mr. Travers, as if speaking to himself rather
than to her.
She looked up with a startled expression, then suddenly became crimson to
the forehead and cast down her eyes. "Oh, I am so sorry--so sorry that
you know," she spoke in a low sad voice. "Why, why did Arthur tell you
that? No person knew except ourselves; and it would have been forgotten
and buried, and now--now others know, and it will not be forgotten!"
"My dear Miss Eden, you must not think such a thing," he returned. "Your
secret is safe with me, but perhaps you did not know that. Do you know
that your father and I were close friends? There was little that he kept
from me, and I am glad that Arthur Eden has inherited his father's trust
in me; and perhaps, Miss Eden, when you know me better, and have heard
all I intend telling you about your father, you will have the same
feeling. But when I spoke of its being so strange, I was not thinking
about you and Arthur becoming acquainted. That was strange, certainly,
but it was no more than one of those coincidences which frequently occur,
and which make people remark so often that truth is stranger than
"What were you thinking of then, Mr. Travers?" she asked, a little
"Are you not aware, Miss Eden, that your father never knew of your
existence at all? That is the strangest part of the story. But I must not
go into that now. You shall hear it all before long. Would you not like
to see your father's portrait?"
"Oh yes, very much; but Arthur never told me that he had one."
"I am not sure that he has one; but I possess a very fine portrait of
him, in oils, by a good artist, which, I hope, will belong to your
brother some day, for I do not wish to live for ever, Miss Eden. I should
like to show it you very much. And that leads me to one object of my
visit to-day. Mrs. Travers and I wish you to pay us a visit if you will.
We live at Kingston, and should like you to stay with us a fortnight."
Fan thanked him and accepted the invitation, and it was agreed that she
should go to Kingston that day week.
"I have found out one thing since I came to see you, Miss Eden," he said,
"and it is that you are singularly frank. One effect of that is to make
me wish to be frank with you. Now I am going to confess that I came today
with some misgivings. I remembered, my dear child, the circumstances of
your birth and bringing up, and could not help fearing that your brother
had been a little blinded by his feelings, and had seen a little more in
you than you possessed. But I do not wonder now at what he said of you.
If your father had lived till now I think that he would have been proud
of his child, and yet he was a fastidious man."
"Thank you, Mr. Travers; but you, perhaps, think all that because I am--
because you think I am pretty."
Mr. Travers smiled. "Well, your prettiness is a part of you--an
appropriate part, I think, but only a part after all. You see I am not
afraid of spoiling you. You are strangely like your father; in the shape
of your face, the colour of your eyes, and in your voice you are like
She was looking up at him, drinking in his words with eager pleasure.
"I see that you like to hear about him," he said, taking her hand. "But
all I have to tell you must be put off until we meet at Kingston. I am
only sorry that you will find no young people there. My sons and
daughters are all married and away. I have some grandchildren as old as
you are, and they are often with us, but at present Mrs. Travers is
After a few more words, he bade her good-bye and left her, and only after
he had gone Fan remembered that she had intended to confess to him, among
other things, that she had been extravagant with somebody's money.
The lawyer's visit had given her something to think of and to do;
forthwith she began to prepare for her fortnight's stay at Kingston with
much zeal and energy. It was a great deal to her to be able to look
forward to the companionship for a short time of even an elderly, perhaps
very dignified, lady, her loneliness did so weigh upon her. It had not so
weighed before; she had had her daily occupations, the companionship of
her fellow-assistants, and had always felt tired and glad to rest in the
evening. Now that this strange new life had come to her, that the days
were empty yet her heart full, to be so completely cut off from her
fellows and thrown back on herself, to have not one sympathetic friend
among all these multitudes around her, appeared unnatural, and made all
the good things she possessed seem almost a vanity and a delusion.
Sitting in the shade in Hyde Park, she had begun to find a vague pleasure
in recognising individuals she had seen and noticed on previous occasions
in the moving well-dressed crowd--the same tall spare military-looking
gentleman with the grey moustache; the same three slim pretty girls with
golden hair and dressed alike in grey and terra-cotta; the same two young
gentlemen together, both wearing tight morning coats, silk hats, and tan
gloves, but in their faces so different! one colourless, thoughtful, with
eyes bent down; the other burnt brown by tropical heats and looking so
glad to be in London once more. Were they brothers, or dear friends,
reunited after a long separation, with many strange experiences to tell?
To see them again day after day was like seeing people she knew; it was
pleasant and painful at the same time. But as the slow heavy days went
on, and after all her preparations were complete, and still other days
remained to be got through before she could leave London, the
dissatisfied feeling grew in her until she thought that it would be a joy
even to meet that poor laundry-woman who had given her shelter at Dudley
Grove, only to look once more into familiar friendly eyes. During these
days the memory of Constance and Mary was persistently with her; for
these two had become associated together in her mind, as if the two
distinct periods of her life at Dawson Place and Eyethorne had been the
same, and she could not think of one without the other. She had loved and
still loved them both so much; they were both so beautiful and strong and
proud in their different ways; and in their strength perhaps both had
alike despised her weak clinging nature, had grown tired of her
affection. And at last this perpetual want in her heart, this disquieting
"passion of the past," reached its culminating point, when, one day after
dinner, she went out for a short stroll in the park.
The Row at that hot hour being forsaken, instead of crossing the park to
seek her favourite resting-place, she turned into the fresh shade of the
elms growing near its northern unfashionable side. She walked on until
the fountains were passed and she was in the deeper shade of Kensington
Gardens. She was standing on the very spot where she had watched three
ragged little children playing together, heaping up the old dead brown
leaves. The image of the little girl struggling up from the heap in which
her rude playfellows had thrown her, with tearful dusty face, and dead
leaves clinging to her clothes and disordered hair, made Fan laugh, and
then in a moment she could scarcely keep back the tears. For now a
hundred sweet memories rushed into her heart--her walks in the Gardens,
all the little incidents, the early blissful days when she lived with
Mary; and so vividly was the past seen and realised, yet so immeasurably
far did it seem to her and so irrecoverably lost, that the sweetness was
overmastered by the pain, and the pain was like anguish. And yet with
that feeling in her heart, so strong that it made her cheeks pallid and
her steps languid, she went on to visit every spot associated in her mind
with some memory of that lost time. Under that very tree, one chill
October day, she had given charity unasked to a pale-faced man, shivering
in thin clothes; and there too she had comforted a poor wild-haired
little boy whose stronger companions had robbed him of all the chestnut-
burs and acorns he had gathered; and on this sacred spot a small angelic
child walking with its mamma had put up its arms and demanded a kiss.
Even the Albert Memorial was not overlooked, but she went not there to
admire the splendour of colour and gold, and the procession of marble men
of all ages and all lands, led by old Homer playing on his lyre. She
looked only on the colossal woman seated on her elephant, ever gazing
straight before her, shading her eyes from the hot Asiatic sun with her
hand, for that majestic face of marble, and the proud beautiful mouth
that reminded her of Mary, had also memories for her. And at last her
rambles brought her to the extreme end of the Gardens, to the once
secluded grove between Kensington Palace and Bayswater Hill; for even
that bitter spot among the yew and pine-trees must be visited now. She
found the very seat where she had rested on that unhappy day in early
spring, shortly after her adventure at Twickenham, when, as she then
imagined, her beloved friend and protector had so cruelly betrayed and
abandoned her. How desolate and heart-broken she had felt, seated there
alone on that morning in early spring, in that green dress which Mary had
given her--how she had sobbed there by herself, abandoned, unloved, alone
in the world! And after all Mary had done her no wrong, and Mary herself
had found her in that lonely place! The whole scene of their meeting rose
with a painful distinctness before her mind. In memory she heard again
the slight rustle of a dress, the tread of a light foot on a dead leaf
that had startled her; she listened again to all the scornful cutting
words that had the effect at last of waking such a strange frenzy of rage
in her, a rage that was like insanity. And now how gladly would she have
dismissed the rest, but the tyrant Memory would not let her be, she must
re-live it all again, and not one feeling, thought, or word be left out.
Oh, why, why did she remember it all now--when, starting from her seat as
if some demon had possessed her, she turned on her mocker with words such
as had never defiled her lips before, which she now shuddered to recall?
Unable to shake these hateful memories off, and with face crimsoned with
shame, she rose from the seat and hurriedly walked away towards Bayswater
Hill. Issuing from the Gardens she stood hesitating for some time, and
finally, as if unable to resist the strange impulse that was drawing her,
she turned into St. Petersburg Place, looking long at each familiar
building--the fantastic, mosque-like red-brick synagogue; and just beyond
it St. Sophia, the ugly Greek cathedral, yellow, squat, and ponderous;
and midway between these two--a thing of beauty--St. Matthew's Church,
grey and Gothic, with its slender soaring spire. In Pembridge Square she
paused to ask herself if it was not time to turn back. No, not yet, a few
steps more would bring her to the old turning--that broad familiar way
only as long as the width of two houses with their gardens, from which
she might look for a few moments into that old beloved place where she
had lived with Mary. And having reached the opening, and even ventured a
few paces into it, she thought, "No, not there, I must not go one step
further, for to see the dear old house would be too painful now." But
against her will, and in spite of pain and the fear of greater pain, her
feet carried her on, slowly, step by step, and in another minute she was
walking on the broad clean pavement of Dawson Place.
How familiar it looked, lovely and peaceful under the hot July sun; the
detached houses set well back from the road, still radiant as of old with
flowers in the windows and gardens! It was strangely quiet, and only two
persons beside herself were walking there--a lady with a girl of ten or
twelve carrying a bunch of water-lilies in her hand, which she had
probably just bought at Westbourne Grove. They passed her, talking and
laughing, and went into one of the houses; and after that it seemed
stiller than ever. Only a sparrow burst out into blithe chirruping notes,
which had a strangely joyous ring in them. And here where she had
expected greater pain her pain was healed. Something from far, something
mysterious, seemed to rest on that spot, to make it unlike all other
places within the great city. What was it--this calm which stilled her
throbbing heart; this touch of glory and subtle fragrance entering her
soul and turning all bitterness there to sweetness? Perhaps the shy
spirit of life and loveliness, mother of men and of wild-flowers and
grasses, had come to it, bringing a whiter sunshine and the mystic
silence of her forests, and touching every flowery petal with her
invisible finger to make it burn like fire, and giving a ringing woodland
music to the sparrow's voice.
In that brightness and silence she could walk there, thinking calmly of
the vanished days. How real it all seemed--Mary, and her life with Mary:
all the rest of her life seemed pale and dream-like in comparison, and
the images of all other men and women looked dim in her mind when she
thought of the woman, sweet, strong, and passion-rocked, who had taken
her to her heart. Slowly she walked along the pavement, looking at each
well-known house as she passed, and when she reached the house where she
had lived, walking slower still, while her eyes rested lovingly,
lingeringly on it. And as she passed it, both to leave it so soon, it
occurred to her that she could easily invent some innocent pretext for
calling. She would see the lady of the house to ask for Miss Starbrow's
present address. Not that she would ever write to Mary again, even if the
address were known, but it would be an excuse to go to the door with, to
see the interior once more--the shady tessellated hall, perhaps the
drawing-room. Turning in at the gate, she ascended the broad white steps,
and their whiteness made her smile a little sadly, reminding her of the
old dark days before Mary had been her friend.
Her knock was answered by a neat-looking parlourmaid.
"I called to see the lady of the house," said Fan. "Is she in?"
"Yes, miss; will you please walk in," and she led the way to the drawing-
room. "What name shall I say, miss?" said the girl.
Fan gave her a card, and then, left alone, sat down and began eagerly
studying the well-remembered room. There were ferns and blossoming plants
in large blue pots about the room, and some pictures, and a few chairs
and knick-knacks she had never seen, and a new Persian carpet on the
floor; but everything else was unchanged. The grand piano was in the old
place, open, with loose sheets of music lying on it, just as if Mary
herself had been there practising an hour before.
She was sitting with her back to the door, and did not hear it open. The
slight rustling sound of a dress caught her ear, and turning quickly, she
beheld Mary herself standing before her. It might have been only
yesterday that Mary had spoken those cruel-kind words and left her in
tears at Eyethorne. For there was no change in her--in that strong
beautiful face, the raven hair and full dark eyes, the proud, sweet
mouth--which Foley might have had for a model when he chiselled his
"Asia"--and that red colour on her cheeks, richer and softer than ever
burned on sea-shell or flower.
The instant that Fan turned she recognised her visitor, and remained
standing motionless, holding the girl's card in her hand, her face
showing the most utter astonishment. If a visitor from the other world
had appeared to her she could not have looked more astonished. Meanwhile
Fan, forgetting everything else in the joy of seeing Mary again, had
started to her feet, and with a glad cry and outstretched arms moved
towards her. Then the other regained possession of her faculties; she
dropped her hand to her side, the colour forsook her face, and it grew
cold and hard as stone, while the old black look came to her brows.
"Pray resume your seat, Miss Paradise--I beg your pardon, Miss----" here
she consulted the card--"Miss Eden," she finished, her lips curling.
"Oh, I forgot about the card," exclaimed Fan deeply distressed. "You are
vexed with me because--because it looks as if I wished to take you by
surprise. Will you let me explain about my change of name?"
"You need not take that trouble, Miss--Eden. I have not the slightest
interest in the subject. I only desire to know the object of this visit."
"My object was only to--to see the inside of the house again. I did not
know that you were living here now. I had invented an excuse for calling.
But if I had know you were here--oh, if you knew how I have wished to see
"I do not wish to know anything about it, Miss Eden. Have you so
completely forgotten the circumstances which led to our parting, and the
words I wrote to you on that occasion?"
"No, I have not forgotten," said Fan despairingly; "but when I saw you I
thought--I hoped that the past would not be remembered--that you would be
glad to see me again."
"Then you made a great mistake, Miss Eden; and I hope this interview will
serve to convince you, if you did not know it before, that I am not one
to change, that I never repent of what I do, or fail to be as good as my
"Then I must go," said Fan, scarcely able to keep back the tears that
were gathering thick in her eyes. "But I am so sorry--so sorry! I wish--I
wish you could think differently about it and forgive me if I have
"There is nothing to be gained by prolonging this conversation, which is
not pleasant to me," returned the other haughtily, advancing to the bell
to summon the servant.
"Wait one moment--please don't ring yet," cried Fan, hurrying forward,
the tears now starting from her eyes. "Oh, Mary, will you not shake hands
with me before I go?"
Miss Starbrow moved back a step or two and stared deliberately at her
face, as if amazed and angered beyond measure at her persistence. And for
some moments they stood thus, not three feet apart, gazing into each
other's eyes, Fan's tearful, full of eloquent pleading, her hands still
held out; and still the other delayed to speak the cutting words that
trembled on her lips. A change came over her scornful countenance; the
corners of her mouth twitched nervously, as if some sharp pang had
touched her heart; the dark eyes grew misty, and in another moment Fan
was clasped to her breast.
"Oh, Fan!--dearest Fan!--darling--you have beaten me again!" she
exclaimed spasmodically, half-sobbing. "Oh what a strange girl you are!
... To come and--take me by storm like that! ... And I was so determined
never to relent--never to go back from what I said.... But you have swept
it all away--all my resolutions--everything. Oh, Fan, can you ever, ever
forgive me for being such a brute? But I had to act in that way--there
was no help for it. I couldn't break my word--I never do. You know, Fan,
that I never change.... Is it really you?--oh, I can't believe it--I
can't realise it--here in my own house! Let me look at your dear face
And drawing back their heads they gazed into each other's faces once
more, Fan crying and laughing by turns, while Mary, the strong woman,
could do nothing but cry now.
"The same dear grey eyes, but oh, how beautiful you have grown," she went
on. "I shall never forgive myself--never cease to hate myself after
this. And yet, dearest, what could I do? I had solemnly vowed never to
speak to you again if we met. I should have been a poor weak creature if
I hadn't--you must know that. And now--oh, how could I resist so long,
and be so cruel? I know I'm very illogical, but--I hate it, there!--I
mean logic--don't you?"
"I hardly know what it is, Mary, but if you hate it, so do I with all my
"That's a dear sensible girl. How sweet it is to hear that 'Mary' from
your lips again! How often I have wished to hear it!--the wish has even
made me cry. For I have never ceased to think of you and love you, Fan,
even when I was determined never to speak to you again. But let me
explain something. Though you disobeyed me, Fan, and spoke so lightly
about it, just as if you believed that you could do what you liked with
me, I still might have overlooked it if it had not been for my brother
Tom's interference. I was very much offended with you, and when we spoke
of you I said that I intended giving you up, but I don't think I really
meant it in my heart. But he put himself into a passion about it, and
abused me, and called me a demon, and dared me to do what I threatened,
and said that if I did he would never speak to me again. That settled it
at once. To be talked to in that way by anyone--even by Tom--is more than
my flesh and blood can stand. And so we parted--it was at Ravenna, an old
Italian city--and of course I did what I said, and from that day to this
we have not exchanged a line, nor ever shall until he apologises for his
words. That's how it happened, and what woman with any self-respect--
would not _you_ have acted in the same way, Fan, in such a case?"
"No, Mary, I don't think so. But we are so different, you so strong and I
"Are you really weak? I am not so sure. You have taken me captive, at all
events." And then her eyes suddenly growing misty again, she continued:
"Fan, you have a strength which I never had, which, in the old days when
you lived with me, used to remind me of Longfellow's little poem about a
meek-eyed maid going through life with a lily in her hand, one touch of
which even gates of brass could not withstand. You will forgive me, I
know, but tell me now from your heart, don't you think it was cruel--
wicked of me to receive you as I did just now?"
"You wouldn't have been so hard with me, Mary, if you had known what I
felt. All day long I have been thinking of you, and wishing--oh, how I
wished to see you again! And before coming here to see Dawson Place once
more I went and sat down on that very seat in Kensington Gardens where
you found me crying by myself on that day--do you remember?--and where--
and where--oh, how I cried again only to think of it! How could I speak
to you as I did--in that horrible way--when you had loved me so much!"
"Hush, Fan, for heaven's sake! You make me feel as if you had put your
hand down into me and had wound all the strings of my heart round your
fingers, and--I can't bear it. I think nothing of what you said in your
anger, but only of my cruelty to you then and on other occasions. Oh, do
let's speak of something else. Look, there is your card on the floor
where I dropped it. Why do you call yourself Miss Eden--how do you come
to be so well-dressed, and looking more like some delicately-nurtured
patrician's daughter than a poor girl? Do tell me your story now."
And the story was told as they sat together by the open window in the
pleasant room; and when they had drank tea at five o'clock, much
remaining yet to be told--much in spite of the gaps Fan saw fit to leave
in her narrative--Mary said:
"Will you dine with me, Fan? You shall name the hour yourself if you will
only stay--seven, eight, nine if you like."
"I shall only be too glad to stay for as long as you care to have me,"
"Then will you sleep here? I have a guest's room all ready, a lovely
little room, only I think if you sleep there I shall sit by your bedside
"Then if I stay I shall sleep with you, Mary, so as not to keep you up,"
said Fan laughing. "Can I send a telegram to my landlady to say that I
shall not be home to-night?"
"Yes; after it gets cool we might walk to the post-office in the Grove to
And thus it was agreed, and so much had they to say to each other that
not until the morning light began to steal into their bedroom, to
discover them lying on one pillow, raven-black and golden tresses mingled
together, did any drowsy feeling come to them. And even then at intervals
"Mary," said Fan, after a rather long silence, "have you ever heard of
"No; but I saw her once. I went to the Alhambra to see a ballet that was
admired very much, and I recognised Rosie on the stage in spite of her
paint and ballet dress. I couldn't stay another moment after that. I
should have left the theatre if--if--well, never mind. Don't speak again,
Fan, we must go to sleep now."
But another question was inevitable. "Just one word more, Mary; have you
never heard of Captain Horton since?"
"Ah, I thought that was coming! Yes, once. Just about the time when I
returned from abroad, I had a letter from my bankers to say that he--that
man--had paid a sum of money--about two hundred and thirty pounds--to my
account. It was money I had lent him a long time before, and he had the
audacity to ask them to send him a receipt in my handwriting! I told them
to send the man a receipt themselves, and to inform him from me that I
was sorry he had paid the money, as it had reminded me of his hateful
After another interval Fan remarked, "I am glad he paid the money, Mary."
"Why--do you think I couldn't afford to lose that? I would rather have
"I wasn't thinking of the money. But it showed that he had some right
feelings--that he was not altogether bad."
"You should be the last person to say that, Fan. You should hate his
memory with all your heart."
"I am so happy to be with you again, Mary; I feel that I cannot hate
anyone, however wicked he may be."
"Yes, you are like that Scotch minister who prayed for everything he
could think of in earth and heaven, and finally finished up by praying
for the devil. But are you really so happy, dear Fan? Is your happiness
quite complete--is there nothing wanting?"
"I should like very, very much to know where Constance is."
"Well, judging from what you have told me, I should think she must be
very miserable indeed. They are very poor, no doubt, and in ordinary
circumstances poverty would perhaps not make her unhappy, for, being
intellectual, she would always have the beauty of her own intellect and
the stars to think about."
"Do you really think that, Mary--that she is miserable?"
"I do indeed. When she, poor fool! married Merton Chance, she leant on a
reed, and it would be strange if it had not broken and pierced her to the
And after that there was silence, broken only by a sad sigh from Fan;
which meant that she knew it and always had known it, but had gone on
hoping against hope that the fragile reed would not break to pierce that
Nearly the whole of Fan's remaining time before going to Kingston was
passed at Dawson Place. Her happiness was perfect, like the sunshine she
had found resting on that dear spot on her return to it, pure, without
stain of cloud. For into Mary's vexed heart something new seemed to have
come, something strange to her nature, a novel meekness, a sweetness that
did not sour, so that their harmony continued unbroken to the end. And,
oddly enough, or not oddly perhaps, since she was not "logical," she
seemed now greatly to sympathise with Fan's growing anxiety about the
lost Constance. Not one trace of the petty jealous feeling which had
caused so much trouble in the past remained; she was heartily ashamed of
it now, and was filled with remorse when she recalled her former unkind
and capricious behaviour.
At length Fan went on her visit, not without a pang of regret at parting
so soon again, even for a short time, from the friend she had recovered.
She was anxious to hear that "strange story" about her father which the
lawyer had promised to relate; apart from that, she did not anticipate
much pleasure from her stay at Kingston.
The Travers' house was at a little distance from the town, and stood well
back on the road, screened from sight by trees and a high brick wall. It
was a large, low, old-fashioned, rambling house, purchased by its owner
many years before, when he had a numerous family with him, and required
plenty of house-room; but its principal charm to Fan was the garden,
covering about four acres of ground, well stocked with a great variety of
shrubs and flowers, and containing some trees of noble growth.
Mrs. Travers was not many years younger than her husband; and yet she did
not look old, although her health was far from good, her more youthful
appearance being due to a false front of glossy chestnut-coloured hair,
an occasional visit to the rouge-pot, and other artificial means used by
civilised ladies to mitigate the ravages of time. In other things also
she offered a striking contrast to her husband, being short and stout, or
fat; she was also a dressy dame, and burdened her podgy fingers and broad
bosom with too much gold and too many precious stones--yellow, blue, and
red; and her silk dresses were also too bright-hued for a lady of her
years and figure. Her favourite strong blues and purples would have
struck painfully on the refined colour-sense of an aesthete. On the other
hand, to balance these pardonable defects, she was kind-hearted; not at
all artificial in her manner and conversation, or unduly puffed up with
her position, as one might have expected her to be from her appearance;
and, to put her chief merit last, she reverenced her husband, and
believed that in all things--except, perhaps, in those small matters
sacred to femininity, which concerned her personal adornment--"he knew
best." She was consequently prepared to extend a warm welcome to her
young visitor, and, for her husband's sake, to do as much to make her
visit pleasant as if she had been the lawful daughter of her husband's
late friend and client, Colonel Eden.
Nevertheless, after the days she had spent with Mary, Fan did not find
Mrs. Travers' society exhilarating. The lady had given up walking, except
a very little in the garden, but on most days she went out for carriage
exercise in the morning, after Mr. Travers had gone to town. At two
o'clock the ladies would lunch, after which Fan would be alone until the
five o'clock tea, when her hostess would reappear in a gay dress, and a
lovely carmine bloom on her cheeks--the result of her refreshing noonday
slumbers. After tea they would spend an hour together in the garden
talking and reading. Mrs. Travers, having bad eyesight, accepted Fan's
offer to read to her. She read nothing but periodicals--short social
sketches, smart paragraphs, jokes, and occasionally a tale, if very
short, so that Fan found her task a very light one. She had _The World,
Truth, The Whitehall Review, The Queen_ and _The Lady's
Pictorial_ every week; and in the last-named paper Fan read out a
little sketch--one of a series called "Eastern Idylls"--which she liked
better than anything else for its graceful style and delicate pathos. So
much did it please her, that she looked up the back numbers of the paper,
and read all the sketches in them, each relating some little domestic
East End incident or tale, pathetic or humorous, or both, with scenes and
characters lightly drawn, yet with such skilful touches, and put so
clearly before the mind, that it was impossible not to believe that these
pictures were from life.
At half-past six Mr. Travers would return from town, and at seven they
dined, sitting long at table; and afterwards, if there were friends,
there would be a rubber of whist. It was a quiet almost sleepy existence,
and Fan began to look forward with a little impatience to the end of her
fortnight, when she would be able to return to her friend. For Mary's
last words had been, "I shall not leave London without you." But she
first wished to hear the "strange story" Mr. Travers had promised to
tell, but about which he had spoken no word since her arrival. Every day
she was reminded of it, for in the dining-room was the portrait of her
father, painted, life-size, by a Royal Academician, and showing a
gentleman aged about thirty-five years, with a handsome oval face, grey
eyes, thin straight nose, and hair and well-trimmed moustache and Vandyke
beard of a deep golden brown, the moustache not altogether hiding the
pleasant, somewhat voluptuous mouth. And it seemed to Fan when she looked
at it and the grey eyes gazed back into hers, and the pleasant lips
seemed to smile on her, that she had never seen among living men a more
beautiful and lovable face.
The sixth day of her visit was Sunday. Mr. Travers breakfasted alone with
her, his wife not having risen yet, and after breakfast he asked her if
she wished to go to church.
"Not unless you are going or wish me to go," returned Fan.
"Then, Miss Eden, let us stay at home, and have a morning to ourselves in
the garden. We have not yet had much time to talk, as I am generally
rather tired in the evenings. And besides, what I wish to talk to you
about is one of _my_ secrets, and it could not be mentioned before
They were out in the garden sitting in the shade, when he surprised her
by saying, "Are you at all superstitious, Miss Eden?"
"I am not quite sure that I understand you," replied Fan, with a little
hesitation. "Do you mean religious, Mr. Travers?"
"Well, no, not exactly. But superstition is undoubtedly a word of many
meanings, and some people give it a very wide one, as your question
implies. I used the word in a more restricted sense--in the sense in
which we say that believers in dreams, presentiments, and apparitions are
superstitious. My belief was--I am not sure whether I can say _is_--
that your father was infected with superstitions of this kind. But I must
tell you the whole story, and then you will understand what I mean when I
say that it is a strange one. He was one of several children; and, by the
way, that reminds me that--but let that pass."
"Do you mean--have I--has my brother many relations--uncles, aunts, and
cousins, Mr. Travers?" said Fan, a little eagerly.
"Well," he answered, smiling a little and stroking his chin, "yes. Your
half-brother's mother had two married sisters, both with large families;
but I do not think that Mr. Arthur Eden is intimate with them. I think I
have heard him say as much."
Fan, noting that he cautiously confined himself to her brother's
relations on the mother's side, grew red, and secretly resolved never to
ask such a question again, even of Arthur.
The other continued: "Being one of several children, and not the eldest,
his income was a small one for a young man of rather expensive habits and
in the army. He was in difficulties on several occasions, and it was at
that period that our acquaintance ripened into a very close friendship--
as warm a friendship as can exist between two men living totally
different lives, moving in different social worlds, and with a
considerable difference in their ages.
"When about thirty-eight years old he married a lady with a considerable
fortune, which was not in any way settled on herself, and consequently
became his. It was not a happy marriage, and after the birth of their
son--their only child--and Mrs. Eden not being in good health, she went
to live at Winchester, where she had relations and where her son was
educated; and for several years husband and wife lived apart. His wife
died about fourteen years after her marriage, and, I am glad to say, he
was with her during her last illness, but afterwards he returned to his
old life in London, and went very much into society. Finally his health
failed; and when he discovered that his malady, although a slow, was an
incurable one, his habits and disposition changed, and he grew morbid, I
think--possibly from brooding too much on his condition.
"Up to this time he had paid no attention to religion; now it became the
sole subject of his thoughts. He attended a ritualistic church in the
neighbourhood of Oxford Street, and gave up the house he had occupied
before, and took another only a few doors removed from the church, so as
to be able to attend all the services, one of which was held daily at a
very early hour of the morning. In this church, confession and penances,
and other things in which the ritualists imitate the Roman Catholics, are
in use, and the vicar, or priest as he is called, gained a great
influence over Colonel Eden's mind.
"He had at this time entirely given up going into society, but his
intimacy with me, which had lasted so many years, continued to the end.
Shortly before he died, and about three years and a half to four years
ago, he told me that he had had a strange dream, which he persisted in
regarding as of the supernatural order. This dream came to him on three
consecutive nights, and after several conversations with his priest and
confessor on the subject, and being encouraged by him in the belief that
it was something more than a mere wandering of the disordered fancy, he
consulted me about it. It was then that for the first time he told me the
story of Margaret Affleck, a girl in a humble position in life who had
engaged his affections some fourteen years before, and from whom he had
parted after a few months' acquaintance. He assured me that he had all
but forgotten this affair; that when parting from her he had given her
some money as a compensation for the trouble he had brought on her;
while, on her side, she had told him that she would not be disgraced, but
that she would marry a young man in her own class, who was willing and
anxious to take her.
"At all events, during those fourteen years he had never seen nor heard
anything of her. Then comes the dream. He dreamt that he was in the
church for early matins, and that he heard a voice calling 'Father,
father!' to him, and on looking round saw a poor girl in ragged clothes,
and with a pale, exceedingly sad face, and that he had no sooner looked
on her than he knew that she was his child, and the child of Margaret
Affleck. She was crying piteously, and wringing her hands and imploring
him to deliver her from her misery; and in his struggling efforts to go
to her he woke.
"This dream, as I said, returned to him night after night, and so preyed
on his mind that he interpreted it as a command from some Superior Power
to seek out this lost child and save her. I tried my best to argue him
out of his delusion, for I was convinced that it was nothing more; but
seeing him so determined, and so fully persuaded in his own mind that
unless he made atonement his sins would not be forgiven, I gave way, and
had inquiries made in various directions. I advertised for Margaret
Affleck; for I could not, of course, advertise for a child of whose
existence there was not any evidence. But though we advertised a great
many times both in the London and Norfolk papers--Colonel Eden remembered
that the girl belonged to Norfolk--we could not find the right person.
Colonel Eden, however, still clung to the belief that the daughter he
believed in would eventually be found, and he even contemplated adding a
clause to his will, in which everything was left unconditionally to his
son, to make provision for her. This intention was not carried out, but
shortly before his death he told me that he had left a sealed letter for
his son, who was abroad at the time, informing him of the dream, or
revelation, and asking him to continue the search, and to provide
generously for the child when she should be found. He never for a moment
seemed to doubt that she would be found; but his belief was that we would
find in her not, my dear girl, one like yourself--fresh and unsullied as
the flower in your hand, beautiful in spirit as in person."
"What did he believe you would find? Will you please tell me, Mr.
Travers?" said Fan, a tremor in her voice.
"He believed when he had that dream that you were in the lowest depths of
poverty--in misery, and exposed to all the dangers and temptations which
surround a destitute young girl, motherless perhaps, and friendless, and
homeless, in London. Dear child, I cannot tell you all or what he
feared," he finished, putting his hand lightly on her shoulder.
There were tears in her eyes, and she averted her face to hide the rush
of crimson to her cheeks.
Mr. Travers continued: "The news of Colonel Eden's death reached Arthur
in Mexico, and he came home at once. He showed me the letter I have
mentioned, and asked me to advise him what to do. But from the first he
had taken the same view of the matter which I had taken, and which I
suppose that ninety-nine men out of every hundred would take, and I must
say that he did not do much to find the girl, nor was there anything to
be done after our advertisements had failed. The rest of the story you
know, Miss Eden. When I last saw your brother I told him that after
making your acquaintance, if I found you what he had painted, I should in
all probability tell you this story, and he made no objection. I fear it
has given you pain, still it was best that you should know it. And
perhaps now you will not think that your brother was wrong in opening his
heart to me."
"No, I think he was right, and I am very, very grateful to you for
telling me about my father." After a while she continued: "But, Mr.
Travers, I hardly know what to say about the dream. I have heard and read
of such things, and--I was just what he imagined--just like the girl he
saw in his dream. And when my life was so miserable, if I had known where
to find him--if mother could have told me--I should have gone to him to
ask him to save me. But--how can I say it? Don't you think, Mr. Travers,
that if dreams and warnings were sent to us--if good spirits could let us
know things in that way and tell us what to do, that it would happen
oftener? ... There are always so many in distress and danger, and
sometimes so little is needed to save one--a few pence, a few kind words
--and yet how many fall, how many die! Even in the Regent's Canal how many
poor women throw their lives away--and nothing saves them.... I am not
glad to hear that it was a dream that first made my father wish to find
mother--and me. I should have preferred to hear that he thought of her--
of us, before he fell into such bad health, and when he was strong and
happy.... Do you think his dream was sent from heaven, Mr. Travers?"
"I am not prepared to express an opinion as to that, Miss Eden," he
replied, with a grave smile. "But I have been listening to your words
with great interest and a little surprise. Most young ladies, I fancy,
would have been deeply impressed with such a narrative, and they would
readily and gladly have adopted the view that some supernatural agency
had been concerned in the matter. You, strange to say, do not seem to
look on yourself as a special favourite of the powers above, and think
that others have as much right as yourself to be rescued miraculously
from perils and sufferings. Well--you have not a romantic mind, Miss
"No, I don't think I have--I have had the same thing said to me two or
three times before," replied Fan naively. "But I wish you would tell me
more about my father when he was healthy and happy. Was he really as
handsome as he looks in the portrait? It seems so life-like that when I
am looking at it I can hardly realise that he is not somewhere living on
the earth, that I shall never hold his hand and hear his voice."
The old lawyer was quite ready to gratify her curiosity on the point, and
told her a great deal about her father's life. "There is one thing I
omitted to mention before," he said at the end. "Your brother would
gladly do anything in his power to make you happy; at the same time he
wishes you to understand that in providing for you he is only carrying
out his father's intentions, and that you will owe it to your father, and
not to him."
"But I shall still feel the same gratitude to my brother, Mr. Travers."
"Well, no harm can come of that, and--we cannot help our feelings. Just
now it is your brother's fancy to leave you in ignorance of the amount of
your income, which I think you will find sufficient. For a year or so you
have as it were _carte blanche_ to do what you like in the way of
spending, and if you should exceed your income by fifty or a hundred
pounds I don't think anything alarming will happen. And now, Miss Eden,
is there nothing I can do for you? Nothing you would like to ask my
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