I SAY NO
Part 3 out of 8
"I don't know how _you_ feel," he proceeded; "_I_ am afraid of
the discoveries which she may make; and I am strongly tempted to
advise her to leave the proposed examination to her aunt's
lawyer. Is there anything in your knowledge of Miss Emily's late
father, which tells you that I am right?"
"Before I reply," said Miss Jethro, "it may not be amiss to let
the young lady speak for herself."
"How is she to do that?" the doctor asked.
Miss Jethro pointed to the writing table. "Look there," she said.
"You have not yet opened Miss Emily's letter."
Absorbed in the effort to overcome his patient's reserve, the
doctor had forgotten Emily's letter. He opened it immediately.
After reading the first sentence, he looked up with an expression
of annoyance. "She has begun the examination of the papers
already," he said.
"Then I can be of no further use to you," Miss Jethro rejoined.
She made a second attempt to leave the room.
Doctor Allday turned to the next page of the letter. "Stop!" he
cried. "She has found something--and here it is."
He held up a small printed Handbill, which had been placed
between the first and second pages. "Suppose you look at it?" he
"Whether I am interested in it or not?" Miss Jethro asked.
"You may be interested in what Miss Emily says about it in her
"Do you propose to show me her letter?"
"I propose to read it to you."
Miss Jethro took the Handbill without further objection. It was
expressed in these words:
"MURDER. 100 POUNDS REWARD.--Whereas a murder was committed on
the thirtieth September, 1877, at the Hand-in-Hand Inn, in the
village of Zeeland, Hampshire, the above reward will be paid to
any person or persons whose exertions shall lead to the arrest
and conviction of the suspected murderer. Name not known.
Supposed age, between twenty and thirty years. A well-made man,
of small stature. Fair complexion, delicate features, clear blue
eye s. Hair light, and cut rather short. Clean shaven, with the
exception of narrow half-whiskers. Small, white, well-shaped
hands. Wore valuable rings on the two last fingers of the left
hand. Dressed neatly in a dark-gray tourist-suit. Carried a
knapsack, as if on a pedestrian excursion. Remarkably good voice,
smooth, full, and persuasive. Ingratiating manners. Apply to the
Chief Inspector, Metropolitan Police Office, London."
Miss Jethro laid aside the Handbill without any visible
appearance of agitation. The doctor took up Emily's letter, and
read as follows:
"You will be as much relieved as I was, my kind friend, when you
look at the paper inclosed. I found it loose in a blank book,
with cuttings from newspapers, and odd announcements of lost
property and other curious things (all huddled together between
the leaves), which my aunt no doubt intended to set in order and
fix in their proper places. She must have been thinking of her
book, poor soul, in her last illness. Here is the origin of those
'terrible words' which frightened stupid Mrs. Mosey! Is it not
encouraging to have discovered such a confirmation of my opinion
as this? I feel a new interest in looking over the papers that
still remain to be examined--"
Before he could get to the end of the sentence Miss Jethro's
agitation broke through her reserve.
"Do what you proposed to do!" she burst out vehemently. "Stop her
at once from carrying her examination any further! If she
hesitates, insist on it!"
At last Doctor Allday had triumphed! "It has been a long time
coming," he remarked, in his cool way; "and it's all the more
welcome on that account. You dread the discoveries she may make,
Miss Jethro, as I do. And _you_ know what those discoveries may
"What I do know, or don't know, is of no importance." she
"Excuse me, it is of very serious importance. I have no authority
over this poor girl--I am not even an old friend. You tell me to
insist. Help me to declare honestly that I know of circumstances
which justify me; and I may insist to some purpose."
Miss Jethro lifted her veil for the first time, and eyed him
"I believe I can trust you," she said. "Now listen! The one
consideration on which I consent to open my lips, is
consideration for Miss Emily's tranquillity. Promise me absolute
secrecy, on your word of honor."
He gave the promise.
"I want to know one thing, first," Miss Jethro proceeded. "Did
she tell you--as she once told me--that her father had died of
"Did you put any questions to her?"
"I asked how long ago it was."
"And she told you?"
"She told me."
"You wish to know, Doctor Allday, what discoveries Miss Emily may
yet make, among her aunt's papers. Judge for yourself, when I
tell you that she has been deceived about her father's death."
"Do you mean that he is still living?"
"I mean that she has been deceived--purposely deceived--about the
_manner_ of his death."
"Who was the wretch who did it?"
"You are wronging the dead, sir! The truth can only have been
concealed out of the purest motives of love and pity. I don't
desire to disguise the conclusion at which I have arrived after
what I have heard from yourself. The person responsible must be
Miss Emily's aunt--and the old servant must have been in her
confidence. Remember! You are bound in honor not to repeat to any
living creature what I have just said."
The doctor followed Miss Jethro to the door. "You have not yet
told me," he said, "_how_ her father died."
"I have no more to tell you."
With those words she left him.
He rang for his servant. To wait until the hour at which he was
accustomed to go out, might be to leave Emily's peace of mind at
the mercy of an accident. "I am going to the cottage," he said.
"If anybody wants me, I shall be back in a quarter of an hour."
On the point of leaving the house, he remembered that Emily would
probably expect him to return the Handbill. As he took it up, the
first lines caught his eye: he read the date at which the murder
had been committed, for the second time. On a sudden the ruddy
color left his face.
"Good God!" he cried, "her father was murdered--and that woman
was concerned in it."
Following the impulse that urged him, he secured the Handbill in
his pocketbook--snatched up the card which his patient had
presented as her introduction--and instantly left the house. He
called the first cab that passed him, and drove to Miss Jethro's
"Gone"--was the servant's answer when he inquired for her. He
insisted on speaking to the landlady. "Hardly ten minutes have
passed," he said, "since she left my house."
"Hardly ten minutes have passed," the landlady replied, "since
that message was brought here by a boy."
The message had been evidently written in great haste: "I am
unexpectedly obliged to leave London. A bank note is inclosed in
payment of my debt to you. I will send for my luggage."
The doctor withdrew.
"Unexpectedly obliged to leave London," he repeated, as he got
into the cab again. "Her flight condemns her: not a doubt of it
now. As fast as you can!" he shouted to the man; directing him to
drive to Emily's cottage.
Arriving at the cottage, Doctor Allday discovered a gentleman,
who was just closing the garden gate behind him.
"Has Miss Emily had a visitor?" he inquired, when the servant
"The gentleman left a letter for Miss Emily, sir."
"Did he ask to see her?"
"He asked after Miss Letitia's health. When he heard that she was
dead, he seemed to be startled, and went away immediately."
"Did he give his name?"
The doctor found Emily absorbed over her letter. His anxiety to
forestall any possible discovery of the deception which had
concealed the terrible story of her father's death, kept Doctor
Allday's vigilance on the watch. He doubted the gentleman who had
abstained from giving his name; he even distrusted the other
unknown person who had written to Emily.
She looked up. Her face relieved him of his misgivings, before
she could speak.
"At last, I have heard from my dearest friend," she said. "You
remember what I told you about Cecilia? Here is a letter--a long
delightful letter--from the Engadine, left at the door by some
gentleman unknown. I was questioning the servant when you rang
"You may question me, if you prefer it. I arrived just as the
gentleman was shutting your garden gate."
"Oh, tell me! what was he like?"
"Tall, and thin, and dark. Wore a vile republican-looking felt
hat. Had nasty ill-tempered wrinkles between his eyebrows. The
sort of man I distrust by instinct."
"Because he doesn't shave."
"Do you mean that he wore a beard?"
"Yes; a curly black beard."
Emily clasped her hands in amazement. "Can it be Alban Morris?"
The doctor looked at her with a sardonic smile; he thought it
likely that he had discovered her sweetheart.
"Who is Mr. Alban Morris?" he asked.
"The drawing-master at Miss Ladd's school."
Doctor Allday dropped the subject: masters at ladies' schools
were not persons who interested him. He returned to the purpose
which had brought him to the cottage--and produced the Handbill
that had been sent to him in Emily's letter.
"I suppose you want to have it back again?' he said.
She took it from him, and looked at it with interest.
"Isn't it strange," she suggested, "that the murderer should have
escaped, with such a careful description of him as this
circulated all over England?"
She read the description to the doctor.
"'Name not known. Supposed age, between twenty-five and thirty
years. A well-made man, of small stature. Fair complexion,
delicate features, clear blue eyes. Hair light, and cut rather
short. Clean shaven, with the exception of narrow half-whiskers.
Small, white, well-shaped hands. Wore valuable rings on the two
last fingers of the left hand. Dressed neatly--'"
"That part of the description is useless," the doctor remarked;
"he would change his clothes."
"But could he change his voice?" Emily objected. "Listen to this:
'Remarkably good voice, smooth, full, and persuasive.' And here
again! 'Ingratiating manners.' Perhaps you will say he could put
on an appearance of rudeness?"
"I will say this, my dear. He would be able to disguise himself
so effectually that ninety-nine people out of a hundred would
fail to identify him, either by his voice or his manner."
"Look back at the description: 'Hair cut rather short, clean
shaven, with the exception of narrow half-whiskers.' The wretch
was safe from pursuit; he had ample time at his disposal--don't
you see how he could completely alter the appearance of his head
and face? No more, my dear, of this disagreeable subject! Let us
get to something interesting. Have you found anything else among
your aunt's papers?"
"I have met with a great disappointment," Emily replied. "Did I
tell you how I discovered the Handbill?"
"I found it, with the scrap-book and the newspaper cuttings,
under a collection of empty boxes and bottles, in a drawer of the
washhand-stand. And I naturally expected to make far more
interesting discoveries in this room. My search was over in five
minutes. Nothing in the cabinet there, in the corner, but a few
books and some china. Nothing in the writing-desk, on that
side-table, but a packet of note-paper and some sealing-wax.
Nothing here, in the drawers, but tradesmen's receipts, materials
for knitting, and old photographs. She must have destroyed all
her papers, poor dear, before her last illness; and the Handbill
and the other things can only have escaped, because they were
left in a place which she never thought of examining. Isn't it
With a mind inexpressibly relieved, good Doctor Allday asked
permission to return to his patients: leaving Emily to devote
herself to her friend's letter.
On his way out, he noticed that the door of the bed-chamber on
the opposite side of the passage stood open. Since Miss Letitia's
death the room had not been used. Well within view stood the
washhand-stand to which Emily had alluded. The doctor advanced to
the house door--reflected--hesitated--and looked toward the empty
It had struck him that there might be a second drawer which Emily
had overlooked. Would he be justified in setting this doubt at
rest? If he passed over ordinary scruples it would not be without
excuse. Miss Letitia had spoken to him of her affairs, and had
asked him to act (in Emily's interest) as co-executor with her
lawyer. The rapid progress of the illness had made it impossible
for her to execute the necessary codicil. But the doctor had been
morally (if not legally) taken into her confidence--and, for that
reason, he decided that he had a right in this serious matter to
satisfy his own mind.
A glance was enough to show him that no second drawer had been
There was no other discovery to detain the doctor. The wardrobe
only contained the poor old lady's clothes; the one cupboard was
open and empty. On the point of leaving the room, he went back to
the washhand-stand. While he had the opportunity, it might not be
amiss to make sure that Emily had thoroughly examined those old
boxes and bottles, which she had alluded to with some little
The drawer was of considerable length. When he tried to pull it
completely out from the grooves in which it ran, it resisted him.
In his present frame of mind, this was a suspicious circumstance
in itself. He cleared away the litter so as to make room for the
introduction of his hand and arm into the drawer. In another
moment his fingers touched a piece of paper, jammed between the
inner end of the drawer and the bottom of the flat surface of the
washhand-stand. With a little care, he succeeded in extricating
the paper. Only pausing to satisfy himself that there was nothing
else to be found, and to close the drawer after replacing its
contents, he left the cottage.
The cab was waiting for him. On the drive back to his own house,
he opened the crumpled paper. It proved to be a letter addressed
to Miss Letitia; and it was signed by no less a person than
Emily's schoolmistress. Looking back from the end to the
beginning, Doctor Allday discovered, in the first sentence, the
name of--Miss Jethro.
But for the interview of that morning with his patient he might
have doubted the propriety of making himself further acquainted
with the letter. As things were, he read it without hesitation.
"DEAR MADAM--I cannot but regard it as providential circumstance
that your niece, in writing to you from my house, should have
mentioned, among other events of her school life, the arrival of
my new teacher, Miss Jethro.
"To say that I was surprised is to express very inadequately what
I felt when I read your letter, informing me confidentially that
I had employed a woman who was unworthy to associate with the
young persons placed under my care. It is impossible for me to
suppose that a lady in your position, and possessed of your high
principles, would make such a serious accusation as this, without
unanswerable reasons for doing so. At the same time I cannot,
consistently with my duty as a Christian, suffer my opinion of
Miss Jethro to be in any way modified, until proofs are laid
before me which it is impossible to dispute.
"Placing the same confidence in your discretion, which you have
placed in mine, I now inclose the references and testimonials
which Miss Jethro submitted to me, when she presented herself to
fill the vacant situation in my school.
"I earnestly request you to lose no time in instituting the
confidential inquiries which you have volunteered to make.
Whatever the result may be, pray return to me the inclosures
which I have trusted to your care, and believe me, dear madam, in
much suspense and anxiety, sincerely yours,
It is needless to describe, at any length, the impression which
these lines produced on the doctor.
If he had heard what Emily had heard at the time of her aunt's
last illness, he would have called to mind Miss Letitia's
betrayal of her interest in some man unknown, whom she believed
to have been beguiled by Miss Jethro--and he would have perceived
that the vindictive hatred, thus produced, must have inspired the
letter of denunciation which the schoolmistress had acknowledged.
He would also have inferred that Miss Letitia's inquiries had
proved her accusation to be well founded--if he had known of the
new teacher's sudden dismissal from the school. As things were,
he was merely confirmed in his bad opinion of Miss Jethro; and he
was induced, on reflection, to keep his discovery to himself.
"If poor Miss Emily saw the old lady exhibited in the character
of an informer," he thought, "what a blow would be struck at her
innocent respect for the memory of her aunt!"
SIR JERVIS REDWOOD.
In the meantime, Emily, left by herself, had her own
correspondence to occupy her attention. Besides the letter from
Cecilia (directed to the care of Sir Jervis Redwood), she had
received some lines addressed to her by Sir Jervis himself. The
two inclosures had been secured in a sealed envelope, directed to
If Alban Morris had been indeed the person trusted as messenger
by Sir Jervis, the conclusion that followed filled Emily with
overpowering emotions of curiosity and surprise.
Having no longer the motive of serving and protecting her, Alban
must, nevertheless, have taken the journey to Northumberland. He
must have gained Sir Jervis Redwood's favor and confidence--and
he might even have been a guest at the baronet's country
seat--when Cecilia's letter arrived. What did it mean?
Emily looked back at her experience of her last day at school,
and recalled her consultation with Alban on the subject of Mrs.
Rook. Was he still bent on clearing up his suspicions of Sir
Jervis's housekeeper? And, with that end in view, had he followed
the woman, on her return to her master's place of abode?
Suddenly, almost irritably, Emily snatched up Sir Jervis's
letter. Before the doctor had come in, she had glanced at it, and
had thrown it aside in her impatience to read what Cecilia had
written. In her present altered frame of mind, she was inclined
to think that Sir Jervis might be the more interesting
correspondent of the two.
returning to his letter, she was disappointed at the outset.
In the first place, his handwriting was so abominably bad that
she was obliged to guess at his meaning. In the second place, he
never hinted at the circumstances under which Cecilia's letter
had been confided to the gentleman who had left it at her door.
She would once more have treated the baronet's communication with
contempt--but for the discovery that it contained an offer of
employment in London, addressed to herself.
Sir Jervis had necessarily been obliged to engage another
secretary in Emily's absence. But he was still in want of a
person to serve his literary interests in London. He had reason
to believe that discoveries made by modern travelers in Central
America had been reported from time to time by the English press;
and he wished copies to be taken of any notices of this sort
which might be found, on referring to the files of newspapers
kept in the reading-room of the British Museum. If Emily
considered herself capable of contributing in this way to the
completeness of his great work on "the ruined cities," she had
only to apply to his bookseller in London, who would pay her the
customary remuneration and give her every assistance of which she
might stand in need. The bookseller's name and address followed
(with nothing legible but the two words "Bond Street"), and there
was an end of Sir Jervis's proposal.
Emily laid it aside, deferring her answer until she had read
THE REVEREND MILES MIRABEL.
"I am making a little excursion from the Engadine, my dearest of
all dear friends. Two charming fellow-travelers take care of me;
and we may perhaps get as far as the Lake of Como.
"My sister (already much improved in health) remains at St.
Moritz with the old governess. The moment I know what exact
course we are going to take, I shall write to Julia to forward
any letters which arrive in my absence. My life, in this earthly
paradise, will be only complete when I hear from my darling
"In the meantime, we are staying for the night at some
interesting place, the name of which I have unaccountably
forgotten; and here I am in my room, writing to you at
last--dying to know if Sir Jervis has yet thrown himself at your
feet, and offered to make you Lady Redwood with magnificent
"But you are waiting to hear who my new friends are. My dear, one
of them is, next to yourself, the most delightful creature in
existence. Society knows her as Lady Janeaway. I love her
already, by her Christian name; she is my friend Doris. And she
reciprocates my sentiments.
"You will now understand that union of sympathies made us
acquainted with each other.
"If there is anything in me to be proud of, I think it must be my
admirable appetite. And, if I have a passion, the name of it is
Pastry. Here again, Lady Doris reciprocates my sentiments. We sit
next to each other at the _table d'hote_.
"Good heavens, I have forgotten her husband! They have been
married rather more than a month. Did I tell you that she is just
two years older than I am?
"I declare I am forgetting him again! He is Lord Janeaway. Such a
quiet modest man, and so easily amused. He carries with him
everywhere a dirty little tin case, with air holes in the cover.
He goes softly poking about among bushes and brambles, and under
rocks, and behind old wooden houses. When he has caught some
hideous insect that makes one shudder, he blushes with pleasure,
and looks at his wife and me, and says, with the prettiest lisp:
'This is what I call enjoying the day.' To see the manner in
which he obeys Her is, between ourselves, to feel proud of being
"Where was I? Oh, at the _table d'hote_.
"Never, Emily--I say it with a solemn sense of the claims of
truth--never have I eaten such an infamous, abominable,
maddeningly bad dinner, as the dinner they gave us on our first
day at the hotel. I ask you if I am not patient; I appeal to your
own recollection of occasions when I have exhibited extraordinary
self-control. My dear, I held out until they brought the pastry
round. I took one bite, and committed the most shocking offense
against good manners at table that you can imagine. My
handkerchief, my poor innocent handkerchief, received the
horrid--please suppose the rest. My hair stands on end, when I
think of it. Our neighbors at the table saw me. The coarse men
laughed. The sweet young bride, sincerely feeling for me, said,
'Will you allow me to shake hands? I did exactly what you have
done the day before yesterday.' Such was the beginning of my
friendship with Lady Doris Janeaway.
"We are two resolute women--I mean that _she_ is resolute, and
that I follow her--and we have asserted our right of dining to
our own satisfaction, by means of an interview with the chief
"This interesting person is an ex-Zouave in the French army.
Instead of making excuses, he confessed that the barbarous tastes
of the English and American visitors had so discouraged him, that
he had lost all pride and pleasure in the exercise of his art. As
an example of what he meant, he mentioned his experience of two
young Englishmen who could speak no foreign language. The waiters
reported that they objected to their breakfasts, and especially
to the eggs. Thereupon (to translate the Frenchman's own way of
putting it) he exhausted himself in exquisite preparations of
eggs. _Eggs a la tripe, au gratin, a l'Aurore, a la Dauphine, a
la Poulette, a la Tartare, a la Venitienne, a la Bordelaise_, and
so on, and so on. Still the two young gentlemen were not
satisfied. The ex-Zouave, infuriated; wounded in his honor,
disgraced as a professor, insisted on an explanation. What, in
heaven's name, _did_ they want for breakfast? They wanted boiled
eggs; and a fish which they called a _Bloaterre_. It was
impossible, he said, to express his contempt for the English idea
of a breakfast, in the presence of ladies. You know how a cat
expresses herself in the presence of a dog--and you will
understand the allusion. Oh, Emily, what dinners we have had, in
our own room, since we spoke to that noble cook!
"Have I any more news to send you? Are you interested, my dear,
in eloquent young clergymen?
"On our first appearance at the public table we noticed a
remarkable air of depression among the ladies. Had some
adventurous gentleman tried to climb a mountain, and failed? Had
disastrous political news arrived from England; a defeat of the
Conservatives, for instance? Had a revolution in the fashions
broken out in Paris, and had all our best dresses become of no
earthly value to us? I applied for information to the only lady
present who shone on the company with a cheerful face--my friend
Doris, of course. "'What day was yesterday?' she asked.
"'Sunday,' I answered.
"'Of all melancholy Sundays,' she continued, the most melancholy
in the calendar. Mr. Miles Mirabel preached his farewell sermon,
in our temporary chapel upstairs.'
"'And you have not recovered it yet?'
"'We are all heart-broken, Miss Wyvil.'
"This naturally interested me. I asked what sort of sermons Mr.
Mirabel preached. Lady Janeaway said: 'Come up to our room after
dinner. The subject is too distressing to be discussed in
"She began by making me personally acquainted with the reverend
gentleman--that is to say, she showed me the photographic
portraits of him. They were two in number. One only presented his
face. The other exhibited him at full length, adorned in his
surplice. Every lady in the congregation had received the two
photographs as a farewell present. 'My portraits,' Lady Doris
remarked, 'are the only complete specimens. The others have been
irretrievably ruined by tears.'
"You will now expect a personal description of this fascinating
man. What the photographs failed to tell me, my friend was so
kind as to complete from the resources of her own experience.
Here is the result presented to the best of my ability.
"He is young--not yet thirty years of age. His complexion is
fair; his features are delicate, his eyes are clear blue. He has
pretty hands, and rings prettier still. And such a voice, and
such manners! You will say there are plen ty of pet parsons who
answer to this description. Wait a little--I have kept his chief
distinction till the last. His beautiful light hair flows in
profusion over his shoulders; and his glossy beard waves, at
apostolic length, down to the lower buttons of his waistcoat.
"What do you think of the Reverend Miles Mirabel now?
"The life and adventures of our charming young clergyman, bear
eloquent testimony to the saintly patience of his disposition,
under trials which would have overwhelmed an ordinary man. (Lady
Doris, please notice, quotes in this place the language of his
admirers; and I report Lady Doris.)
"He has been clerk in a lawyer's office--unjustly dismissed. He
has given readings from Shakespeare--infamously neglected . He
has been secretary to a promenade concert company--deceived by a
penniless manager. He has been employed in negotiations for
making foreign railways--repudiated by an unprincipled
Government. He has been translator to a publishing
house--declared incapable by envious newspapers and reviews. He
has taken refuge in dramatic criticism--dismissed by a corrupt
editor. Through all these means of purification for the priestly
career, he passed at last into the one sphere that was worthy of
him: he entered the Church, under the protection of influential
friends. Oh, happy change! From that moment his labors have been
blessed. Twice already he has been presented with silver tea-pots
filled with sovereigns. Go where he may, precious sympathies
environ him; and domestic affection places his knife and fork at
innumerable family tables. After a continental career, which will
leave undying recollections, he is now recalled to England--at
the suggestion of a person of distinction in the Church, who
prefers a mild climate. It will now be his valued privilege to
represent an absent rector in a country living; remote from
cities, secluded in pastoral solitude, among simple breeders of
sheep. May the shepherd prove worthy of the flock!
"Here again, my dear, I must give the merit where the merit is
due. This memoir of Mr. Mirabel is not of my writing. It formed
part of his farewell sermon, preserved in the memory of Lady
Doris--and it shows (once more in the language of his admirers)
that the truest humility may be found in the character of the
most gifted man.
"Let me only add, that you will have opportunities of seeing and
hearing this popular preacher, when circumstances permit him to
address congregations in the large towns. I am at the end of my
news; and I begin to feel--after this long, long letter--that it
is time to go to bed. Need I say that I have often spoken of you
to Doris, and that she entreats you to be her friend as well as
mine, when we meet again in England?
"Good-by, darling, for the present. With fondest love,
"P.S.--I have formed a new habit. In case of feeling hungry in
the night, I keep a box of chocolate under the pillow. You have
no idea what a comfort it is. If I ever meet with the man who
fulfills my ideal, I shall make it a condition of the marriage
settlement, that I am to have chocolate under the pillow."
POLLY AND SALLY.
Without a care to trouble her; abroad or at home, finding
inexhaustible varieties of amusement; seeing new places, making
new acquaintances--what a disheartening contrast did Cecilia's
happy life present to the life of her friend! Who, in Emily's
position, could have read that joyously-written letter from
Switzerland, and not have lost heart and faith, for the moment at
least, as the inevitable result?
A buoyant temperament is of all moral qualities the most
precious, in this respect; it is the one force in us--when
virtuous resolution proves insufficient--which resists by
instinct the stealthy approaches of despair. "I shall only cry,"
Emily thought, "if I stay at home; better go out."
Observant persons, accustomed to frequent the London parks, can
hardly have failed to notice the number of solitary strangers
sadly endeavoring to vary their lives by taking a walk. They
linger about the flower-beds; they sit for hours on the benches;
they look with patient curiosity at other people who have
companions; they notice ladies on horseback and children at play,
with submissive interest; some of the men find company in a pipe,
without appearing to enjoy it; some of the women find a
substitute for dinner, in little dry biscuits wrapped in crumpled
scraps of paper; they are not sociable; they are hardly ever seen
to make acquaintance with each other; perhaps they are
shame-faced, or proud, or sullen; perhaps they despair of others,
being accustomed to despair of themselves; perhaps they have
their reasons for never venturing to encounter curiosity, or
their vices which dread detection, or their virtues which suffer
hardship with the resignation that is sufficient for itself. The
one thing certain is, that these unfortunate people resist
discovery. We know that they are strangers in London--and we know
And Emily was one of them.
Among the other forlorn wanderers in the Parks, there appeared
latterly a trim little figure in black (with the face protected
from notice behind a crape veil), which was beginning to be
familiar, day after day, to nursemaids and children, and to rouse
curiosity among harmless solitaries meditating on benches, and
idle vagabonds strolling over the grass. The woman-servant, whom
the considerate doctor had provided, was the one person in
Emily's absence left to take care of the house. There was no
other creature who could be a companion to the friendless girl.
Mrs. Ellmother had never shown herself again since the funeral.
Mrs. Mosey could not forget that she had been (no matter how
politely) requested to withdraw. To whom could Emily say, "Let us
go out for a walk?" She had communicated the news of her aunt's
death to Miss Ladd, at Brighton; and had heard from Francine. The
worthy schoolmistress had written to her with the truest
kindness. "Choose your own time, my poor child, and come and stay
with me at Brighton; the sooner the better." Emily shrank--not
from accepting the invitation--but from encountering Francine.
The hard West Indian heiress looked harder than ever with a pen
in her hand. Her letter announced that she was "getting on
wretchedly with her studies (which she hated); she found the
masters appointed to instruct her ugly and disagreeable (and
loathed the sight of them); she had taken a dislike to Miss Ladd
(and time only confirmed that unfavorable impression); Brighton
was always the same; the sea was always the same; the drives were
always the same. Francine felt a presentiment that she should do
something desperate, unless Emily joined her, and made Brighton
endurable behind the horrid schoolmistress's back." Solitude in
London was a privilege and a pleasure, viewed as the alternative
to such companionship as this.
Emily wrote gratefully to Miss Ladd, and asked to be excused.
Other days had passed drearily since that time; but the one day
that had brought with it Cecilia's letter set past happiness and
present sorrow together so vividly and so cruelly that Emily's
courage sank. She had forced back the tears, in her lonely home;
she had gone out to seek consolation and encouragement under the
sunny sky--to find comfort for her sore heart in the radiant
summer beauty of flowers and grass, in the sweet breathing of the
air, in the happy heavenward soaring of the birds. No! Mother
Nature is stepmother to the sick at heart. Soon, too soon, she
could hardly see where she went. Again and again she resolutely
cleared her eyes, under the shelter of her veil, when passing
strangers noticed her; and again and again the tears found their
way back. Oh, if the girls at the school were to see her now--the
girls who used to say in their moments of sadness, "Let us go to
Emily and be cheered"--would they know her again? She sat down to
rest and recover herself on the nearest bench. It was unoccupied.
No passing footsteps were audible on the remote path to which she
had strayed. Solitude at home! Solitude in the Park! Where was
Cecilia at that moment? In Italy, among the lake s and mountains,
happy in the company of her light-hearted friend.
The lonely interval passed, and persons came near. Two sisters,
girls like herself, stopped to rest on the bench.
They were full of their own interests; they hardly looked at the
stranger in mourning garments. The younger sister was to be
married, and the elder was to be bridesmaid. They talked of their
dresses and their presents; they compared the dashing bridegroom
of one with the timid lover of the other; they laughed over their
own small sallies of wit, over their joyous dreams of the future,
over their opinions of the guests invited to the wedding. Too
joyfully restless to remain inactive any longer, they jumped up
again from the seat. One of them said, "Polly, I'm too happy!"
and danced as she walked away. The other cried, "Sally, for
shame!" and laughed, as if she had hit on the most irresistible
joke that ever was made.
Emily rose and went home.
By some mysterious influence which she was unable to trace, the
boisterous merriment of the two girls had roused in her a sense
of revolt against the life that she was leading. Change, speedy
change, to some occupation that would force her to exert herself,
presented the one promise of brighter days that she could see. To
feel this was to be inevitably reminded of Sir Jervis Redwood.
Here was a man, who had never seen her, transformed by the
incomprehensible operation of Chance into the friend of whom she
stood in need--the friend who pointed the way to a new world of
action, the busy world of readers in the library of the Museum.
Early in the new week, Emily had accepted Sir Jervis's proposal,
and had so interested the bookseller to whom she had been
directed to apply, that he took it on himself to modify the
arbitrary instructions of his employer.
"The old gentleman has no mercy on himself, and no mercy on
others," he explained, "where his literary labors are concerned.
You must spare yourself, Miss Emily. It is not only absurd, it's
cruel, to expect you to ransack old newspapers for discoveries in
Yucatan, from the time when Stephens published his 'Travels in
Central America'--nearly forty years since! Begin with back
numbers published within a few years--say five years from the
present date--and let us see what your search over that interval
will bring forth."
Accepting this friendly advice, Emily began with the
newspaper-volume dating from New Year's Day, 1876.
The first hour of her search strengthened the sincere sense of
gratitude with which she remembered the bookseller's kindness. To
keep her attention steadily fixed on the one subject that
interested her employer, and to resist the temptation to read
those miscellaneous items of news which especially interest
women, put her patience and resolution to a merciless test.
Happily for herself, her neighbors on either side were no idlers.
To see them so absorbed over their work that they never once
looked at her, after the first moment when she took her place
between them, was to find exactly the example of which she stood
most in need. As the hours wore on, she pursued her weary way,
down one column and up another, resigned at least (if not quite
reconciled yet) to her task. Her labors ended, for the day, with
such encouragement as she might derive from the conviction of
having, thus far, honestly pursued a useless search.
News was waiting for her when she reached home, which raised her
On leaving the cottage that morning she had given certain
instructions, relating to the modest stranger who had taken
charge of her correspondence--in case of his paying a second
visit, during her absence at the Museum. The first words spoken
by the servant, on opening the door, informed her that the
unknown gentleman had called again. This time he had boldly left
his card. There was the welcome name that she had expected to
Having looked at the card, Emily put her first question to the
"Did you tell Mr. Morris what your orders were?" she asked.
"Yes, miss; I said I was to have shown him in, if you had been at
home. Perhaps I did wrong; I told him what you told me when you
went out this morning--I said you had gone to read at the
"What makes you think you did wrong?"
"Well, miss, he didn't say anything, but he looked upset."
"Do you mean that he looked angry?"
The servant shook her head. "Not exactly angry--puzzled and put
"Did he leave any message?"
"He said he would call later, if you would be so good as to
In half an hour more, Alban and Emily were together again. The
light fell full on her face as she rose to receive him.
"Oh, how you have suffered!"
The words escaped him before he could restrain himself. He looked
at her with the tender sympathy, so precious to women, which she
had not seen in the face of any human creature since the loss of
her aunt. Even the good doctor's efforts to console her had been
efforts of professional routine--the inevitable result of his
life-long familiarity with sorrow and death. While Alban's eyes
rested on her, Emily felt her tears rising. In the fear that he
might misinterpret her reception of him, she made an effort to
speak with some appearance of composure.
"I lead a lonely life," she said; "and I can well understand that
my face shows it. You are one of my very few friends, Mr.
Morris"--the tears rose again; it discouraged her to see him
standing irresolute, with his hat in his hand, fearful of
intruding on her. "Indeed, indeed, you are welcome," she said,
In those sad days her heart was easily touched. She gave him her
hand for the second time. He held it gently for a moment. Every
day since they had parted she had been in his thoughts; she had
become dearer to him than ever. He was too deeply affected to
trust himself to answer. That silence pleaded for him as nothing
had pleaded for him yet. In her secret self she remembered with
wonder how she had received his confession in the school garden.
It was a little hard on him, surely, to have forbidden him even
Conscious of her own weakness--even while giving way to it--she
felt the necessity of turning his attention from herself. In some
confusion, she pointed to a chair at her side, and spoke of his
first visit, when he had left her letters at the door. Having
confided to him all that she had discovered, and all that she had
guessed, on that occasion, it was by an easy transition that she
alluded next to the motive for his journey to the North.
"I thought it might be suspicion of Mrs. Rook," she said. "Was I
"No; you were right."
"They were serious suspicions, I suppose?"
"Certainly! I should not otherwise have devoted my holiday-time
to clearing them up."
"May I know what they were?"
"I am sorry to disappoint you," he began.
"But you would rather not answer my question," she interposed.
"I would rather hear you tell me if you have made any other
"One more, Mr. Morris. I guessed that you had become acquainted
with Sir Jervis Redwood."
"For the second time, Miss Emily, you have arrived at a sound
conclusion. My one hope of finding opportunities for observing
Sir Jervis's housekeeper depended on my chance of gaining
admission to Sir Jervis's house."
"How did you succeed? Perhaps you provided yourself with a letter
"I knew nobody who could introduce me," Alban replied. "As the
event proved, a letter would have been needless. Sir Jervis
introduced himself--and, more wonderful still, he invited me to
his house at our first interview."
"Sir Jervis introduced himself?" Emily repeated, in amazement.
"From Cecilia's description of him, I should have thought he was
the last person in the world to do that!"
Alban smiled. "And you would like to know how it happened?" he
"The very favor I was going to ask of you," she replied.
Instead of at once complying with her wishes, he
paused--hesitated--and made a strange request. "Will you forgive
my rudeness, if I ask leave to walk up and down the room while I
talk? I am a restless man. Walking up and down helps me to
express myself freely."
Her f ace brightened for the first time. "How like You that is!"
Alban looked at her with surprise and delight. She had betrayed
an interest in studying his character, which he appreciated at
its full value. "I should never have dared to hope," he said,
"that you knew me so well already."
"You are forgetting your story," she reminded him.
He moved to the opposite side of the room, where there were fewer
impediments in the shape of furniture. With his head down, and
his hands crossed behind him, he paced to and fro. Habit made him
express himself in his usual quaint way--but he became
embarrassed as he went on. Was he disturbed by his recollections?
or by the fear of taking Emily into his confidence too freely?
"Different people have different ways of telling a story," he
said. "Mine is the methodical way--I begin at the beginning. We
will start, if you please, in the railway--we will proceed in a
one-horse chaise--and we will stop at a village, situated in a
hole. It was the nearest place to Sir Jervis's house, and it was
therefore my destination. I picked out the biggest of the
cottages--I mean the huts--and asked the woman at the door if she
had a bed to let. She evidently thought me either mad or drunk. I
wasted no time in persuasion; the right person to plead my cause
was asleep in her arms. I began by admiring the baby; and I ended
by taking the baby's portrait. From that moment I became a member
of the family--the member who had his own way. Besides the room
occupied by the husband and wife, there was a sort of kennel in
which the husband's brother slept. He was dismissed (with five
shillings of mine to comfort him) to find shelter somewhere else;
and I was promoted to the vacant place. It is my misfortune to be
tall. When I went to bed, I slept with my head on the pillow, and
my feet out of the window. Very cool and pleasant in summer
weather. The next morning, I set my trap for Sir Jervis."
"Your trap?" Emily repeated, wondering what he meant.
"I went out to sketch from Nature," Alban continued. "Can anybody
(with or without a title, I don't care), living in a lonely
country house, see a stranger hard at work with a color-box and
brushes, and not stop to look at what he is doing? Three days
passed, and nothing happened. I was quite patient; the grand open
country all round me offered lessons of inestimable value in what
we call aerial perspective. On the fourth day, I was absorbed
over the hardest of all hard tasks in landscape art, studying the
clouds straight from Nature. The magnificent moorland silence was
suddenly profaned by a man's voice, speaking (or rather croaking)
behind me. 'The worst curse of human life,' the voice said, 'is
the detestable necessity of taking exercise. I hate losing my
time; I hate fine scenery; I hate fresh air; I hate a pony. Go
on, you brute!' Being too deeply engaged with the clouds to look
round, I had supposed this pretty speech to be addressed to some
second person. Nothing of the sort; the croaking voice had a
habit of speaking to itself. In a minute more, there came within
my range of view a solitary old man, mounted on a rough pony."
"Was it Sir Jervis?"
"It looked more like the popular notion of the devil," he said.
"Oh, Mr. Morris!"
"I give you my first impression, Miss Emily, for what it is
worth. He had his high-peaked hat in his hand, to keep his head
cool. His wiry iron-gray hair looked like hair standing on end;
his bushy eyebrows curled upward toward his narrow temples; his
horrid old globular eyes stared with a wicked brightness; his
pointed beard hid his chin; he was covered from his throat to his
ankles in a loose black garment, something between a coat and a
cloak; and, to complete him, he had a club foot. I don't doubt
that Sir Jervis Redwood is the earthly alias which he finds
convenient--but I stick to that first impression which appeared
to surprise you. 'Ha! an artist; you seem to be the sort of man I
want!' In those terms he introduced himself. Observe, if you
please, that my trap caught him the moment he came my way. Who
wouldn't be an artist?"
"Did he take a liking to you?" Emily inquired.
"Not he! I don't believe he ever took a liking to anybody in his
"Then how did you get your invitation to his house?"
"That's the amusing part of it, Miss Emily. Give me a little
breathing time, and you shall hear."
"I got invited to Sir Jervis's house," Alban resumed, "by
treating the old savage as unceremoniously as he had treated me.
'That's an idle trade of yours,' he said, looking at my sketch.
'Other ignorant people have made the same remark,' I answered. He
rode away, as if he was not used to be spoken to in that manner,
and then thought better of it, and came back. 'Do you understand
wood engraving?' he asked. 'Yes.' 'And etching?' 'I have
practiced etching myself.' 'Are you a Royal Academician?' 'I'm a
drawing-master at a ladies' school.' 'Whose school?' 'Miss
Ladd's.' 'Damn it, you know the girl who ought to have been my
secretary.' I am not quite sure whether you will take it as a
compliment--Sir Jervis appeared to view you in the light of a
reference to my respectability. At any rate, he went on with his
questions. 'How long do you stop in these parts?' 'I haven't made
up my mind.' 'Look here; I want to consult you--are you
listening?' 'No; I'm sketching.' He burst into a horrid scream. I
asked if he felt himself taken ill. 'Ill?' he said--'I'm
laughing.' It was a diabolical laugh, in one syllable--not 'ha!
ha! ha!' only 'ha!'--and it made him look wonderfully like that
eminent person, whom I persist in thinking he resembles. 'You're
an impudent dog,' he said; 'where are you living?' He was so
delighted when he heard of my uncomfortable position in the
kennel-bedroom, that he offered his hospitality on the spot. 'I
can't go to you in such a pigstye as that,' he said; 'you must
come to me. What's your name?' 'Alban Morris; what's yours?'
'Jervis Redwood. Pack up your traps when you've done your job,
and come and try my kennel. There it is, in a corner of your
drawing, and devilish like, too.' I packed up my traps, and I
tried his kennel. And now you have had enough of Sir Jervis
"Not half enough!" Emily answered. "Your story leaves off just at
the interesting moment. I want you to take me to Sir Jervis's
"And I want you, Miss Emily, to take me to the British Museum.
Don't let me startle you! When I called here earlier in the day,
I was told that you had gone to the reading-room. Is your reading
His manner, when he made that reply, suggested to Emily that
there was some foregone conclusion in his mind, which he was
putting to the test. She answered without alluding to the
impression which he had produced on her.
"My reading is no secret. I am only consulting old newspapers."
He repeated the last words to himself. "Old newspapers?" he
said--as if he was not quite sure of having rightly understood
She tried to help him by a more definite reply.
"I am looking through old newspapers," she resumed, "beginning
with the year eighteen hundred and seventy-six."
"And going back from that time," he asked eagerly; "to earlier
"No--just the contrary--advancing from 'seventy-six' to the
He suddenly turned pale--and tried to hide his face from her by
looking out of the window. For a moment, his agitation deprived
him of his presence of mind. In that moment, she saw that she had
"What have I said to frighten you?" she asked.
He tried to assume a tone of commonplace gallantry. "There are
limits even to your power over me," he replied. "Whatever else
you may do, you can never frighten me. Are you searching those
old newspapers with any particular object in view?"
"May I know what it is?"
"May I know why I frightened you?"
He began to walk up and down the room again--then checked himself
abruptly, and appealed to her mercy.
"Don't be hard on me," he pleaded. "I am so fond of you--oh,
forgive me! I only mean that it distresses me to have any
concealments from you. If I could open my whole heart at this
moment, I shou ld be a happier man."
She understood him and believed him. "My curiosity shall never
embarrass you again," she answered warmly. "I won't even remember
that I wanted to hear how you got on in Sir Jervis's house."
His gratitude seized the opportunity of taking her harmlessly
into his confidence. "As Sir Jervis's guest," he said, "my
experience is at your service. Only tell me how I can interest
She replied, with some hesitation, "I should like to know what
happened when you first saw Mrs. Rook." To her surprise and
relief, he at once complied with her wishes.
"We met," he said, "on the evening when I first entered the
house. Sir Jervis took me into the dining-room--and there sat
Miss Redwood, with a large black cat on her lap. Older than her
brother, taller than her brother, leaner than her brother--with
strange stony eyes, and a skin like parchment--she looked (if I
may speak in contradictions) like a living corpse. I was
presented, and the corpse revived. The last lingering relics of
former good breeding showed themselves faintly in her brow and in
her smile. You will hear more of Miss Redwood presently. In the
meanwhile, Sir Jervis made me reward his hospitality by
professional advice. He wished me to decide whether the artists
whom he had employed to illustrate his wonderful book had cheated
him by overcharges and bad work--and Mrs. Rook was sent to fetch
the engravings from his study upstairs. You remember her
petrified appearance, when she first read the inscription on your
locket? The same result followed when she found herself face to
face with me. I saluted her civilly--she was deaf and blind to my
politeness. Her master snatched the illustrations out of her
hand, and told her to leave the room. She stood stockstill,
staring helplessly. Sir Jervis looked round at his sister; and I
followed his example. Miss Redwood was observing the housekeeper
too attentively to notice anything else; her brother was obliged
to speak to her. 'Try Rook with the bell,' he said. Miss Redwood
took a fine old bronze hand-bell from the table at her side, and
rang it. At the shrill silvery sound of the bell, Mrs. Rook put
her hand to her head as if the ringing had hurt her--turned
instantly, and left us. 'Nobody can manage Rook but my sister,'
Sir Jervis explained; 'Rook is crazy.' Miss Redwood differed with
him. 'No!' she said. Only one word, but there were volumes of
contradiction in it. Sir Jervis looked at me slyly; meaning,
perhaps, that he thought his sister crazy too. The dinner was
brought in at the same moment, and my attention was diverted to
Mrs. Rook's husband."
"What was he like?" Emily asked.
"I really can't tell you; he was one of those essentially
commonplace persons, whom one never looks at a second time. His
dress was shabby, his head was bald, and his hands shook when he
waited on us at table--and that is all I remember. Sir Jervis and
I feasted on salt fish, mutton, and beer. Miss Redwood had cold
broth, with a wine-glass full of rum poured into it by Mr. Rook.
'She's got no stomach,' her brother informed me; 'hot things come
up again ten minutes after they have gone down her throat; she
lives on that beastly mixture, and calls it broth-grog!' Miss
Redwood sipped her elixir of life, and occasionally looked at me
with an appearance of interest which I was at a loss to
understand. Dinner being over, she rang her antique bell. The
shabby old man-servant answered her call. 'Where's your wife?'
she inquired. 'Ill, miss.' She took Mr. Rook's arm to go out, and
stopped as she passed me. 'Come to my room, if you please, sir,
to-morrow at two o'clock,' she said. Sir Jervis explained again:
'She's all to pieces in the morning' (he invariably called his
sister 'She'); 'and gets patched up toward the middle of the day.
Death has forgotten her, that's about the truth of it.' He
lighted his pipe and pondered over the hieroglyphics found among
the ruined cities of Yucatan; I lighted my pipe, and read the
only book I could find in the dining-room--a dreadful record of
shipwrecks and disasters at sea. When the room was full of
tobacco-smoke we fell asleep in our chairs--and when we awoke
again we got up and went to bed. There is the true story of my
first evening at Redwood Hall."
Emily begged him to go on. "You have interested me in Miss
Redwood," she said. "You kept your appointment, of course?"
"I kept my appointment in no very pleasant humor. Encouraged by
my favorable report of the illustrations which he had submitted
to my judgment, Sir Jervis proposed to make me useful to him in a
new capacity. 'You have nothing particular to do,' he said,
'suppose you clean my pictures?' I gave him one of my black
looks, and made no other reply. My interview with his sister
tried my powers of self-command in another way. Miss Redwood
declared her purpose in sending for me the moment I entered the
room. Without any preliminary remarks--speaking slowly and
emphatically, in a wonderfully strong voice for a woman of her
age--she said, 'I have a favor to ask of you, sir. I want you to
tell me what Mrs. Rook has done.' I was so staggered that I
stared at her like a fool. She went on: 'I suspected Mrs. Rook,
sir, of having guilty remembrances on her conscience before she
had been a week in our service.' Can you imagine my astonishment
when I heard that Miss Redwood's view of Mrs. Rook was my view?
Finding that I still said nothing, the old lady entered into
details: 'We arranged, sir,' (she persisted in calling me 'sir,'
with the formal politeness of the old school)--'we arranged, sir,
that Mrs. Rook and her husband should occupy the bedroom next to
mine, so that I might have her near me in case of my being taken
ill in the night. She looked at the door between the two
rooms--suspicious! She asked if there was any objection to her
changing to another room--suspicious! suspicious! Pray take a
seat, sir, and tell me which Mrs. Rook is guilty of--theft or
"What a dreadful old woman!" Emily exclaimed. "How did you answer
"I told her, with perfect truth, that I knew nothing of Mrs.
Rook's secrets. Miss Redwood's humor took a satirical turn.
'Allow me to ask, sir, whether your eyes were shut, when our
housekeeper found herself unexpectedly in your presence?' I
referred the old lady to her brother's opinion. 'Sir Jervis
believes Mrs. Rook to be crazy,' I reminded her. 'Do you refuse
to trust me, sir?' 'I have no information to give you, madam.'
She waved her skinny old hand in the direction of the door. I
made my bow, and retired. She called me back. 'Old women used to
be prophets, sir, in the bygone time,' she said. 'I will venture
on a prediction. You will be the means of depriving us of the
services of Mr. and Mrs. Rook. If you will be so good as to stay
here a day or two longer you will hear that those two people have
given us notice to quit. It will be her doing, mind--he is a mere
cypher. I wish you good-morning.' Will you believe me, when I
tell you that the prophecy was fulfilled?"
"Do you mean that they actually left the house?"
"They would certainly have left the house," Alban answered, "if
Sir Jervis had not insisted on receiving the customary month's
warning. He asserted his resolution by locking up the old husband
in the pantry. His sister's suspicions never entered his head;
the housekeeper's conduct (he said) simply proved that she was,
what he had always considered her to be, crazy. 'A capital
servant, in spite of that drawback,' he remarked; 'and you will
see, I shall bring her to her senses.' The impression produced on
me was naturally of a very different kind. While I was still
uncertain how to entrap Mrs. Rook into confirming my suspicions,
she herself had saved me the trouble. She had placed her own
guilty interpretation on my appearance in the house--I had driven
Emily remained true to her resolution not to let her curiosity
embarrass Alban again. But the unexpressed question was in her
thoughts--"Of what guilt does he suspect Mrs. Rook? And, when he
first felt his suspicions, was my father in his mind?"
"I had only to consider next, whether I could hope to make any
if I continued to be Sir Jervis's guest. The object of my
journey had been gained; and I had no desire to be employed as
picture-cleaner. Miss Redwood assisted me in arriving at a
decision. I was sent for to speak to her again. The success of
her prophecy had raised her spirits. She asked, with ironical
humility, if I proposed to honor them by still remaining their
guest, after the disturbance that I had provoked. I answered that
I proposed to leave by the first train the next morning. 'Will it
be convenient for you to travel to some place at a good distance
from this part of the world?' she asked. I had my own reasons for
going to London, and said so. 'Will you mention that to my
brother this evening, just before we sit down to dinner?' she
continued. 'And will you tell him plainly that you have no
intention of returning to the North? I shall make use of Mrs.
Rook's arm, as usual, to help me downstairs--and I will take care
that she hears what you say. Without venturing on another
prophecy, I will only hint to you that I have my own idea of what
will happen; and I should like you to see for yourself, sir,
whether my anticipations are realized.' Need I tell you that this
strange old woman proved to be right once more? Mr. Rook was
released; Mrs. Rook made humble apologies, and laid the whole
blame on her husband's temper: and Sir Jervis bade me remark that
his method had succeeded in bringing the housekeeper to her
senses. Such were the results produced by the announcement of my
departure for London--purposely made in Mrs. Rook's hearing. Do
you agree with me, that my journey to Northumberland has not been
taken in vain?"
Once more, Emily felt the necessity of controlling herself.
Alban had said that he had "reasons of his own for going to
London." Could she venture to ask him what those reasons were?
She could only persist in restraining her curiosity, and conclude
that he would have mentioned his motive, if it had been (as she
had at one time supposed) connected with herself. It was a wise
decision. No earthly consideration would have induced Alban to
answer her, if she had put the question to him.
All doubt of the correctness of his own first impression was now
at an end; he was convinced that Mrs. Rook had been an accomplice
in the crime committed, in 1877, at the village inn. His object
in traveling to London was to consult the newspaper narrative of
the murder. He, too, had been one of the readers at the
Museum--had examined the back numbers of the newspaper--and had
arrived at the conclusion that Emily's father had been the victim
of the crime. Unless he found means to prevent it, her course of
reading would take her from the year 1876 to the year 1877, and
under that date, she would see the fatal report, heading the top
of a column, and printed in conspicuous type.
In the meanwhile Emily had broken the silence, before it could
lead to embarrassing results, by asking if Alban had seen Mrs.
Rook again, on the morning when he left Sir Jervis's house.
"There was nothing to be gained by seeing her, "Alban replied.
"Now that she and her husband had decided to remain at Redwood
Hall, I knew where to find her in case of necessity. As it
happened I saw nobody, on the morning of my departure, but Sir
Jervis himself. He still held to his idea of having his pictures
cleaned for nothing. 'If you can't do it yourself,' he said,
'couldn't you teach my secretary?' He described the lady whom he
had engaged in your place as a 'nasty middle-aged woman with a
perpetual cold in her head.' At the same time (he remarked) he
was a friend to the women, 'because he got them cheap.' I
declined to teach the unfortunate secretary the art of
picture-cleaning. Finding me determined, Sir Jervis was quite
ready to say good-by. But he made use of me to the last. He
employed me as postman and saved a stamp. The letter addressed to
you arrived at breakfast-time. Sir Jervis said, 'You are going to
London; suppose you take it with you?'"
"Did he tell you that there was a letter of his own inclosed in
"No. When he gave me the envelope it was already sealed."
Emily at once handed to him Sir Jervis's letter. "That will tell
you who employs me at the Museum, and what my work is," she said.
He looked through the letter, and at once offered--eagerly
offered--to help her.
"I have been a student in the reading-room at intervals, for
years past," he said. "Let me assist you, and I shall have
something to do in my holiday time." He was so anxious to be of
use that he interrupted her before she could thank him. "Let us
take alternate years," he suggested. "Did you not tell me you
were searching the newspapers published in eighteen hundred and
"Very well. I will take the next year. You will take the year
after. And so on."
"You are very kind," she answered--"but I should like to propose
an improvement on your plan."
"What improvement?" he asked, rather sharply.
"If you will leave the five years, from 'seventy-six to
'eighty-one, entirely to me," she resumed, "and take the next
five years, reckoning _backward_ from 'seventy-six, you will help
me to better purpose. Sir Jervis expects me to look for reports
of Central American Explorations, through the newspapers of the
last forty years; and I have taken the liberty of limiting the
heavy task imposed on me. When I report my progress to my
employer, I should like to say that I have got through ten years
of the examination, instead of five. Do you see any objection to
the arrangement I propose?"
He proved to be obstinate--incomprehensibly obstinate.
'Let us try my plan to begin with," he insisted. "While you are
looking through 'seventy-six, let me be at work on
'seventy-seven. If you still prefer your own arrangement, after
that, I will follow your suggestion with pleasure. Is it agreed?"
Her acute perception--enlightened by his tone as wall as by his
words--detected something under the surface already.
"It isn't agreed until I understand you a little better," she
quietly replied. "I fancy you have some object of your own in
She spoke with her usual directness of look and manner. He was
evidently disconcerted. "What makes you think so?" he asked.
"My own experience of myself makes me think so," she answered.
"If _I_ had some object to gain, I should persist in carrying it
"Does that mean, Miss Emily, that you refuse to give way?"
"No, Mr. Morris. I have made myself disagreeable, but I know when
to stop. I trust you--and submit."
If he had been less deeply interested in the accomplishment of
his merciful design, he might have viewed Emily's sudden
submission with some distrust. As it was, his eagerness to
prevent her from discovering the narrative of the murder hurried
him into an act of indiscretion. He made an excuse to leave her
immediately, in the fear that she might change her mind.
"I have inexcusably prolonged my visit," he said. "If I presume
on your kindness in this way, how can I hope that you will
receive me again? We meet to-morrow in the reading-room."
He hastened away, as if he was afraid to let her say a word in
"Is there something he doesn't want me to see, in the news of the
year 'seventy-seven?" The one explanation which suggested itself
to her mind assumed that form of expression--and the one method
of satisfying her curiosity that seemed likely to succeed, was to
search the volume which Alban had reserved for his own reading.
For two days they pursued their task together, seated at opposite
desks. On the third day Emily was absent.
Was she ill?
She was at the library in the City, consulting the file of _The
Times_ for the year 1877.
Emily's first day in the City library proved to be a day wasted.
She began reading the back numbers of the newspaper at haphazard,
without any definite idea of what she was looking for. Conscious
of the error into which her own impatience had led her, she was
at a loss how to retrace the false step that she had taken. But
two alternatives presented themselves: either to abandon the hope
of making any discovery--or to attempt to penetrate Alban 's
motives by means of pure guesswork, pursued in the dark.
How was the problem to be solved? This serious question troubled
her all through the evening, and kept her awake when she went to
bed. In despair of her capacity to remove the obstacle that stood
in her way, she decided on resuming her regular work at the
Museum--turned her pillow to get at the cool side of it--and made
up her mind to go asleep.
In the case of the wiser animals, the Person submits to Sleep. It
is only the superior human being who tries the hopeless
experiment of making Sleep submit to the Person. Wakeful on the
warm side of the pillow, Emily remained wakeful on the cool
side--thinking again and again of the interview with Alban which
had ended so strangely.
Little by little, her mind passed the limits which had restrained
it thus far. Alban's conduct in keeping his secret, in the matter
of the newspapers, now began to associate itself with Alban's
conduct in keeping that other secret, which concealed from her
his suspicions of Mrs. Rook.
She started up in bed as the next possibility occurred to her.
In speaking of the disaster which had compelled Mr. and Mrs. Rook
to close the inn, Cecilia had alluded to an inquest held on the
body of the murdered man. Had the inquest been mentioned in the
newspapers, at the time? And had Alban seen something in the
report, which concerned Mrs. Rook?
Led by the new light that had fallen on her, Emily returned to
the library the next morning with a definite idea of what she had
to look for. Incapable of giving exact dates, Cecilia had
informed her that the crime was committed "in the autumn." The
month to choose, in beginning her examination, was therefore the
month of August.
No discovery rewarded her. She tried September, next--with the
same unsatisfactory results. On Monday the first of October she
met with some encouragement at last. At the top of a column
appeared a telegraphic summary of all that was then known of the
crime. In the number for the Wednesday following, she found a
full report of the proceedings at the inquest.
Passing over the preliminary remarks, Emily read the evidence
with the closest attention.
The jury having viewed the body, and having visited an outhouse
in which the murder had been committed, the first witness called
was Mr. Benjamin Rook, landlord of the Hand-in-Hand inn.
On the evening of Sunday, September 30th, 1877, two gentlemen
presented themselves at Mr. Rook's house, under circumstances
which especially excited his attention.
The youngest of the two was short, and of fair complexion. He
carried a knapsack, like a gentleman on a pedestrian excursion;
his manners were pleasant; and he was decidedly good-looking. His
companion, older, taller, and darker--and a finer man
altogether--leaned on his arm and seemed to be exhausted. In
every respect they were singularly unlike each other. The younger
stranger (excepting little half-whiskers) was clean shaved. The
elder wore his whole beard. Not knowing their names, the landlord
distinguished them, at the coroner's suggestion, as the fair
gentleman, and the dark gentleman.
It was raining when the two arrived at the inn. There were signs
in the heavens of a stormy night.
On accosting the landlord, the fair gentleman volunteered the
Approaching the village, he had been startled by seeing the dark
gentleman (a total stranger to him) stretched prostrate on the
grass at the roadside--so far as he could judge, in a swoon.
Having a flask with brandy in it, he revived the fainting man,
and led him to the inn.
This statement was confirmed by a laborer, who was on his way to
the village at the time.
The dark gentleman endeavored to explain what had happened to
him. He had, as he supposed, allowed too long a time to pass
(after an early breakfast that morning), without taking food: he
could only attribute the fainting fit to that cause. He was not
liable to fainting fits. What purpose (if any) had brought him
into the neighborhood of Zeeland, he did not state. He had no
intention of remaining at the inn, except for refreshment; and he
asked for a carriage to take him to the railway station.
The fair gentleman, seeing the signs of bad weather, desired to
remain in Mr. Rook's house for the night, and proposed to resume
his walking tour the next day.
Excepting the case of supper, which could be easily provided, the
landlord had no choice but to disappoint both his guests. In his
small way of business, none of his customers wanted to hire a
carriage--even if he could have afforded to keep one. As for
beds, the few rooms which the inn contained were all engaged;
including even the room occupied by himself and his wife. An
exhibition of agricultural implements had been opened in the
neighborhood, only two days since; and a public competition
between rival machines was to be decided on the coming Monday.
Not only was the Hand-in-Hand inn crowded, but even the
accommodation offered by the nearest town had proved barely
sufficient to meet the public demand.
The gentlemen looked at each other and agreed that there was no
help for it but to hurry the supper, and walk to the railway
station--a distance of between five and six miles--in time to
catch the last train.
While the meal was being prepared, the rain held off for a while.
The dark man asked his way to the post-office and went out by
He came back in about ten minutes, and sat down afterward to
supper with his companion. Neither the landlord, nor any other
person in the public room, noticed any change in him on his
return. He was a grave, quiet sort of person, and (unlike the
other one) not much of a talker.
As the darkness came on, the rain fell again heavily; and the
heavens were black.
A flash of lightning startled the gentlemen when they went to the
window to look out: the thunderstorm began. It was simply
impossible that two strangers to the neighborhood could find
their way to the station, through storm and darkness, in time to
catch the train. With or without bedrooms, they must remain at
the inn for the night. Having already given up their own room to
their lodgers, the landlord and landlady had no other place to
sleep in than the kitchen. Next to the kitchen, and communicating
with it by a door, was an outhouse; used, partly as a scullery,
partly as a lumber-room. There was an old truckle-bed among the
lumber, on which one of the gentlemen might rest. A mattress on
the floor could be provided for the other. After adding a table
and a basin, for the purposes of the toilet, the accommodation
which Mr. Rook was able to offer came to an end.
The travelers agreed to occupy this makeshift bed-chamber.
The thunderstorm passed away; but the rain continued to fall
heavily. Soon after eleven the guests at the inn retired for the
night. There was some little discussion between the two
travelers, as to which of them should take possession of the
truckle-bed. It was put an end to by the fair gentleman, in his
own pleasant way. He proposed to "toss up for it"--and he lost.
The dark gentleman went to bed first; the fair gentleman
followed, after waiting a while. Mr. Rook took his knapsack into
the outhouse; and arranged on the table his appliances for the
toilet--contained in a leather roll, and including a razor--ready
for use in the morning.
Having previously barred the second door of the outhouse, which
led into the yard, Mr. Rook fastened the other door, the lock and
bolts of which were on the side of the kitchen. He then secured
the house door, and the shutters over the lower windows.
Returning to the kitchen, he noticed that the time was ten
minutes short of midnight. Soon afterward, he and his wife went
Nothing happened to disturb Mr. and Mrs. Rook during the night.
At a quarter to seven the next morning, he got up; his wife being
still asleep. He had been instructed to wake the gentlemen early;
and he knocked at their door. Receiving no answer, after
repeatedly knocking, he opened the door and stepped into the
At this point in his evidence, the witness's recollections
appeared to overpow er him. "Give me a moment, gentlemen," he
said to the jury. "I have had a dreadful fright; and I don't
believe I shall get over it for the rest of my life."
The coroner helped him by a question: "What did you see when you
opened the door?"
Mr. Rook answered: "I saw the dark man stretched out on his
bed--dead, with a frightful wound in his throat. I saw an open
razor, stained with smears of blood, at his side."
"Did you notice the door, leading into the yard?"
"It was wide open, sir. When I was able to look round me, the
other traveler--I mean the man with the fair complexion, who
carried the knapsack--was nowhere to be seen."
"What did you do, after making these discoveries?"
"I closed the yard door. Then I locked the other door, and put
the key in my pocket. After that I roused the servant, and sent
him to the constable--who lived near to us--while I ran for the
doctor, whose house was at the other end of our village. The
doctor sent his groom, on horseback, to the police-office in the
town. When I returned to the inn, the constable was there--and he
and the police took the matter into their own hands."
"You have nothing more to tell us?"
Mr. Rook having completed his evidence, the police authorities
were the next witnesses examined.
They had not found the slightest trace of any attempt to break
into the house in the night. The murdered man's gold watch and
chain were discovered under his pillow. On examining his clothes
the money was found in his purse, and the gold studs and sleeve
buttons were left in his shirt. But his pocketbook (seen by
witnesses who had not yet been examined) was missing. The search
for visiting cards and letters had proved to be fruitless. Only
the initials, "J. B.," were marked on his linen. He had brought
no luggage with him to the inn. Nothing could be found which led
to the discovery of his name or of the purpose which had taken
him into that part of the country.
The police examined the outhouse next, in search of
circumstantial evidence against the missing man.
He must have carried away his knapsack, when he took to flight,
but he had been (probably) in too great a hurry to look for his
razor--or perhaps too terrified to touch it, if it had attracted
his notice. The leather roll, and the other articles used for his
toilet, had been taken away. Mr. Rook identified the
blood-stained razor. He had noticed overnight the name of the
Belgian city, "Liege," engraved on it.
The yard was the next place inspected. Foot-steps were found on
the muddy earth up to the wall. But the road on the other side
had been recently mended with stones, and the trace of the
fugitive was lost. Casts had been taken of the footsteps; and no
other means of discovery had been left untried. The authorities
in London had also been communicated with by telegraph.
The doctor being called, described a personal peculiarity, which
he had noticed at the post-mortem examination, and which might
lead to the identification of the murdered man.
As to the cause of death, the witness said it could be stated in
two words. The internal jugular vein had been cut through, with
such violence, judging by the appearances, that the wound could
not have been inflicted, in the act of suicide, by the hand of
the deceased person. No other injuries, and no sign of disease,
was found on the body. The one cause of death had been
Hemorrhage; and the one peculiarity which called for notice had
been discovered in the mouth. Two of the front teeth, in the
upper jaw, were false. They had been so admirably made to
resemble the natural teeth on either side of them, in form and
color, that the witness had only hit on the discovery by
accidentally touching the inner side of the gum with one of his
The landlady was examined, when the doctor had retired. Mrs. Rook
was able, in answering questions put to her, to give important
information, in reference to the missing pocketbook.
Before retiring to rest, the two gentlemen had paid the
bill--intending to leave the inn the first thing in the morning.
The traveler with the knapsack paid his share in money. The other
unfortunate gentleman looked into his purse, and found only a
shilling and a sixpence in it. He asked Mrs. Rook if she could
change a bank-note. She told him it could be done, provided the
note was for no considerable sum of money. Upon that he opened
his pocketbook (which the witness described minutely) and turned
out the contents on the table. After searching among many Bank of
England notes, some in one pocket of the book and some in
another, he found a note of the value of five pounds. He
thereupon settled his bill, and received the change from Mrs.
Rook--her husband being in another part of the room, attending to
the guests. She noticed a letter in an envelope, and a few cards
which looked (to her judgment) like visiting cards, among the
bank-notes which he had turned out on the table. When she
returned to him with the change, he had just put them back, and
was closing the pocketbook. She saw him place it in one of the
breast pockets of his coat.
The fellow-traveler who had accompanied him to the inn was
present all the time, sitting on the opposite side of the table.
He made a remark when he saw the notes produced. He said, "Put
all that money back--don't tempt a poor man like me!" It was said
laughing, as if by way of a joke.
Mrs. Rook had observed nothing more that night; had slept as
soundly as usual; and had been awakened when her husband knocked
at the outhouse door, according to instructions received from the
Three of the guests in the public room corroborated Mrs. Rook's
evidence. They were respectable persons, well and widely known in
that part of Hampshire. Besides these, there were two strangers
staying in the house. They referred the coroner to their
employers--eminent manufacturers at Sheffield and
Wolverhampton--whose testimony spoke for itself.
The last witness called was a grocer in the village, who kept the
On the evening of the 30th, a dark gentleman, wearing his beard,
knocked at the door, and asked for a letter addressed to "J. B.,
Post-office, Zeeland." The letter had arrived by that morning's
post; but, being Sunday evening, the grocer requested that
application might be made for it the next morning. The stranger
said the letter contained news, which it was of importance to him
to receive without delay. Upon this, the grocer made an exception
to customary rules and gave him the letter. He read it by the
light of the lamp in the passage. It must have been short, for
the reading was done in a moment. He seemed to think over it for
a while; and then he turned round to go out. There was nothing to
notice in his look or in his manner. The witness offered a remark
on the weather; and the gentleman said, "Yes, it looks like a bad
night"--and so went away.
The postmaster's evidence was of importance in one respect: it
suggested the motive which had brought the deceased to Zeeland.
The letter addressed to "J. B." was, in all probability, the
letter seen by Mrs. Rook among the contents of the pocketbook,
spread out on the table.
The inquiry being, so far, at an end, the inquest was
adjourned--on the chance of obtaining additional evidence, when
the reported proceedings were read by the public.
. . . . . . . .
Consulting a later number of the newspaper Emily discovered that
the deceased person had been identified by a witness from London.
Henry Forth, gentleman's valet, being examined, made the
He had read the medical evidence contained in the report of the
inquest; and, believing that he could identify the deceased, had
been sent by his present master to assist the object of the
inquiry. Ten days since, being then out of place, he had answered
an advertisement. The next day, he was instructed to call at
Tracey's Hotel, London, at six o'clock in the evening, and to ask
for Mr. James Brown. Arriving at the hotel he saw the gentleman
for a few minutes only. Mr. Brown had a friend with him. After
glancing over the valet's references, he said, "I haven't time
enough to speak to you this evening. Call here to-morrow morning
at nine o'clock." The gentleman who was present laughed, and
said, "You won't be up!" Mr. Brown answered, "That won't matter;
the man can come to my bedroom, and let me see how he understands
his duties, on trial." At nine the next morning, Mr. Brown was
reported to be still in bed; and the witness was informed of the
number of the room. He knocked at the door. A drowsy voice inside
said something, which he interpreted as meaning "Come in." He
went in. The toilet-table was on his left hand, and the bed (with
the lower curtain drawn) was on his right. He saw on the table a
tumbler with a little water in it, and with two false teeth in
the water. Mr. Brown started up in bed--looked at him
furiously--abused him for daring to enter the room--and shouted
to him to "get out." The witness, not accustomed to be treated in
that way, felt naturally indignant, and at once withdrew--but not
before he had plainly seen the vacant place which the false teeth
had been made to fill. Perhaps Mr. Brown had forgotten that he
had left his teeth on the table. Or perhaps he (the valet) had
misunderstood what had been said to him when he knocked at the
door. Either way, it seemed to be plain enough that the gentleman
resented the discovery of his false teeth by a stranger.
Having concluded his statement the witness proceeded to identify
the remains of the deceased.
He at once recognized the gentleman named James Brown, whom he
had twice seen--once in the evening, and again the next
morning--at Tracey's Hotel. In answer to further inquiries, he
declared that he knew nothing of the family, or of the place of
residence, of the deceased. He complained to the proprietor of
the hotel of the rude treatment that he had received, and asked
if Mr. Tracey knew anything of Mr. James Brown. Mr. Tracey knew
nothing of him. On consulting the hotel book it was found that he
had given notice to leave, that afternoon.
Before returning to London, the witness produced references which
gave him an excellent character. He also left the address of the
master who had engaged him three days since.
The last precaution adopted was to have the face of the corpse
photographed, before the coffin was closed. On the same day the
jury agreed on their verdict: "Willful murder against some person
. . . . . . . .
Two days later, Emily found a last allusion to the
crime--extracted from the columns of the _South Hampshire
A relative of the deceased, seeing the report of the adjourned
inquest, had appeared (accompanied by a medical gentleman); had
seen the photograph; and had declared the identification by Henry
Forth to be correct.
Among other particulars, now communicated for the first time, it
was stated that the late Mr. James Brown had been unreasonably
sensitive on the subject of his false teeth, and that the one
member of his family who knew of his wearing them was the
relative who now claimed his remains.
The claim having been established to the satisfaction of the
authorities, the corpse was removed by railroad the same day. No
further light had been thrown on the murder. The Handbill
offering the reward, and describing the suspected man, had failed
to prove of any assistance to the investigations of the police.
From that date, no further notice of the crime committed at the
Hand-in-Hand inn appeared in the public journals.
. . . . . . . .
Emily closed the volume which she had been consulting, and
thankfully acknowledged the services of the librarian.
The new reader had excited this gentleman's interest. Noticing
how carefully she examined the numbers of the old newspaper, he
looked at her, from time to time, wondering whether it was good
news or bad of which she was in search. She read steadily and
continuously; but she never rewarded his curiosity by any outward
sign of the impression that had been produced on her. When she
left the room there was nothing to remark in her manner; she
looked quietly thoughtful--and that was all.
The librarian smiled--amused by his own folly. Because a
stranger's appearance had attracted him, he had taken it for
granted that circumstances of romantic interest must be connected
with her visit to the library. Far from misleading him, as he
supposed, his fancy might have been employed to better purpose,
if it had taken a higher flight still--and had associated Emily
with the fateful gloom of tragedy, in place of the brighter
interest of romance.
There, among the ordinary readers of the day, was a dutiful and
affectionate daughter following the dreadful story of the death
of her father by murder, and believing it to be the story of a
stranger--because she loved and trusted the person whose
short-sighted mercy had deceived her. That very discovery, the
dread of which had shaken the good doctor's firm nerves, had
forced Alban to exclude from his confidence the woman whom he
loved, and had driven the faithful old servant from the bedside
of her dying mistress--that very discovery Emily had now made,
with a face which never changed color, and a heart which beat at
ease. Was the deception that had won this cruel victory over
truth destined still to triumph in the days which were to come?
Yes--if the life of earth is a foretaste of the life of hell.
No--if a lie _is_ a lie, be the merciful motive for the falsehood
what it may. No--if all deceit contains in it the seed of
retribution, to be ripened inexorably in the lapse of time.
The servant received Emily, on her return from the library, with
a sly smile. "Here he is again, miss, waiting to see you."
She opened the parlor door, and revealed Alban Morris, as
restless as ever, walking up and down the room.
"When I missed you at the Museum, I was afraid you might be ill,"
he said. "Ought I to have gone away, when my anxiety was
relieved? Shall I go away now?"
"You must take a chair, Mr. Morris, and hear what I have to say
for myself. When you left me after your last visit, I suppose I
felt the force of example. At any rate I, like you, had my
suspicions. I have been trying to confirm them--and I have
He paused, with the chair in his hand. "Suspicions of Me?" he
"Certainly! Can you guess how I have been employed for the last
two days? No--not even your ingenuity can do that. I have been
hard at work, in another reading-room, consulting the same back
numbers of the same newspaper, which you have been examining at
the British Museum. There is my confession--and now we will have
She moved to the fireplace, to ring the bell, and failed to see
the effect produced on Alban by those lightly-uttered words. The
common phrase is the only phrase that can describe it. He was
"Yes," she resumed, "I have read the report of the inquest. If I
know nothing else, I know that the murder at Zeeland can't be the
discovery which you are bent on keeping from me. Don't be alarmed
for the preservation of your secret! I am too much discouraged to
The servant interrupted them by answering the bell; Alban once
more escaped detection. Emily gave her orders with an approach to
the old gayety of her school days. "Tea, as soon as possible--and
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