I SAY NO
Part 4 out of 8
let us have the new cake. Are you too much of a man, Mr. Morris,
to like cake?"
In this state of agitation, he was unreasonably irritated by that
playful question. "There is one thing I like better than cake,"
he said; "and that one thing is a plain explanation."
His tone puzzled her. "Have I said anything to offend you?" she
asked. "Surely you can make allowance for a girl's curiosity? Oh,
you shall have your explanation--and, what is more, you shall
have it without reserve!"
She was as good as her word. What she had thought, and what she
had planned, when he left her after his last visit, was frankly
and fully told. "If you wonder how I discovered the library," she
went on, "I must refer you to my aunt's lawyer. He lives in the
City--and I wrote to him to help me. I don't consider that my
time has been wasted. Mr. M orris, we owe an apology to Mrs.
Alban's astonishment, when he heard this, forced its way to
expression in words. "What can you possibly mean?" he asked.
The tea was brought in before Emily could reply. She filled the
cups, and sighed as she looked at the cake. "If Cecilia was here,
how she would enjoy it!" With that complimentary tribute to her
friend, she handed a slice to Alban. He never even noticed it.
"We have both of us behaved most unkindly to Mrs. Rook," she
resumed. "I can excuse your not seeing it; for I should not have
seen it either, but for the newspaper. While I was reading, I had
an opportunity of thinking over what we said and did, when the
poor woman's behavior so needlessly offended us. I was too
excited to think, at the time--and, besides, I had been upset,
only the night before, by what Miss Jethro said to me."
Alban started. "What has Miss Jethro to do with it?" he asked.
"Nothing at all," Emily answered. "She spoke to me of her own
private affairs. A long story--and you wouldn't be interested in
it. Let me finish what I had to say. Mrs. Rook was naturally
reminded of the murder, when she heard that my name was Brown;
and she must certainly have been struck--as I was--by the
coincidence of my father's death taking place at the same time
when his unfortunate namesake was killed. Doesn't this
sufficiently account for her agitation when she looked at the
locket? We first took her by surprise: and then we suspected her
of Heaven knows what, because the poor creature didn't happen to
have her wits about her, and to remember at the right moment what
a very common name 'James Brown' is. Don't you see it as I do?"
"I see that you have arrived at a remarkable change of opinion,
since we spoke of the subject in the garden at school."
"In my place, you would have changed your opinion too. I shall
write to Mrs. Rook by tomorrow's post."
Alban heard her with dismay. "Pray be guided by my advice!" he
said earnestly. "Pray don't write that letter!"
It was too late to recall the words which he had rashly allowed
to escape him. How could he reply?
To own that he had not only read what Emily had read, but had
carefully copied the whole narrative and considered it at his
leisure, appeared to be simply impossible after what he had now
heard. Her peace of mind depended absolutely on his discretion.
In this serious emergency, silence was a mercy, and silence was a
lie. If he remained silent, might the mercy be trusted to atone
for the lie? He was too fond of Emily to decide that question
fairly, on its own merits. In other words, he shrank from the
terrible responsibility of telling her the truth.
"Isn't the imprudence of writing to such a person as Mrs. Rook
plain enough to speak for itself?" he suggested cautiously.
"Not to me."
She made that reply rather obstinately. Alban seemed (in her
view) to be trying to prevent her from atoning for an act of
injustice. Besides, he despised her cake. "I want to know why you
object," she said; taking back the neglected slice, and eating it
"I object," Alban answered, "because Mrs. Rook is a coarse
presuming woman. She may pervert your letter to some use of her
own, which you may have reason to regret."
"Is that all?"
"Isn't it enough?"
"It may be enough for _you_. When I have done a person an injury,
and wish to make an apology, I don't think it necessary to
inquire whether the person's manners happen to be vulgar or not."
Alban's patience was still equal to any demands that she could
make on it. "I can only offer you advice which is honestly
intended for your own good," he gently replied.
"You would have more influence over me, Mr. Morris, if you were a
little readier to take me into your confidence. I daresay I am
wrong--but I don't like following advice which is given to me in
It was impossible to offend him. "Very naturally," he said; "I
don't blame you."
Her color deepened, and her voice rose. Alban's patient adherence
to his own view--so courteously and considerately urged--was
beginning to try her temper. "In plain words," she rejoined, "I
am to believe that you can't be mistaken in your judgment of
There was a ring at the door of the cottage while she was
speaking. But she was too warmly interested in confuting Alban to
He was quite willing to be confuted. Even when she lost her
temper, she was still interesting to him. "I don't expect you to
think me infallible," he said. "Perhaps you will remember that I
have had some experience. I am unfortunately older than you are."
"Oh if wisdom comes with age," she smartly reminded him, "your
friend Miss Redwood is old enough to be your mother--and she
suspected Mrs. Rook of murder, because the poor woman looked at a
door, and disliked being in the next room to a fidgety old maid."
Alban's manner changed: he shrank from that chance allusion to
doubts and fears which he dare not acknowledge. "Let us talk of
something else," he said.
She looked at him with a saucy smile. "Have I driven you into a
corner at last? And is _that_ your way of getting out of it?"
Even his endurance failed. "Are you trying to provoke me?" he
asked. "Are you no better than other women? I wouldn't have
believed it of you, Emily."
"Emily?" She repeated the name in a tone of surprise, which
reminded him that he had addressed her with familiarity at a most
inappropriate time--the time when they were on the point of a
quarrel. He felt the implied reproach too keenly to be able to
answer her with composure.
"I think of Emily--I love Emily--my one hope is that Emily may
love me. Oh, my dear, is there no excuse if I forget to call you
'Miss' when you distress me?"
All that was tender and true in her nature secretly took his
part. She would have followed that better impulse, if he had only
been calm enough to understand her momentary silence, and to give
her time. But the temper of a gentle and generous man, once
roused, is slow to subside. Alban abruptly left his chair. "I had
better go!" he said.
"As you please," she answered. "Whether you go, Mr. Morris, or
whether you stay, I shall write to Mrs. Rook."
The ring at the bell was followed by the appearance of a visitor.
Doctor Allday opened the door, just in time to hear Emily's last
words. Her vehemence seemed to amuse him.
"Who is Mrs. Rook?" he asked.
"A most respectable person," Emily answered indignantly;
"housekeeper to Sir Jervis Redwood. You needn't sneer at her,
Doctor Allday! She has not always been in service--she was
landlady of the inn at Zeeland."
The doctor, about to put his hat on a chair, paused. The inn at
Zeeland reminded him of the Handbill, and of the visit of Miss
"Why are you so hot over it?" he inquired
"Because I detest prejudice!" With this assertion of liberal
feeling she pointed to Alban, standing quietly apart at the
further end of the room. "There is the most prejudiced man
living--he hates Mrs. Rook. Would you like to be introduced to
him? You're a philosopher; you may do him some good. Doctor
Allday--Mr. Alban Morris."
The doctor recognized the man, with the felt hat and the
objectionable beard, whose personal appearance had not impressed
Although they may hesitate to acknowledge it, there are
respectable Englishmen still left, who regard a felt hat and a
beard as symbols of republican disaffection to the altar and the
throne. Doctor Allday's manner might have expressed this curious
form of patriotic feeling, but for the associations which Emily
had revived. In his present frame of mind, he was outwardly
courteous, because he was inwardly suspicious. Mrs. Rook had been
described to him as formerly landlady of the inn at Zeeland. Were
there reasons for Mr. Morris's hostile feeling toward this woman
which might be referable to the crime committed in her house that
might threaten Emily's tranquillity if they were made known? It
would not be amiss to see a little more of Mr. Morris, on the
first convenient occasion.
"I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir."
"You are very kind, Doctor Allday."
The exchange of polite conventionalities having been
accomplished, Alban approache d Emily to take his leave, with
mingled feelings of regret and anxiety--regret for having allowed
himself to speak harshly; anxiety to part with her in kindness.
"Will you forgive me for differing from you?" It was all he could
venture to say, in the presence of a stranger.
"Oh, yes!" she said quietly.
"Will you think again, before you decide?"
"Certainly, Mr. Morris. But it won't alter my opinion, if I do."
The doctor, hearing what passed between them, frowned. On what
subject had they been differing? And what opinion did Emily
decline to alter?
Alban gave it up. He took her hand gently. "Shall I see you at
the Museum, to-morrow?" he asked.
She was politely indifferent to the last. "Yes--unless something
happens to keep me at home."
The doctor's eyebrows still expressed disapproval. For what
object was the meeting proposed? And why at a museum?
"Good-afternoon, Doctor Allday."
For a moment after Alban's departure, the doctor stood
irresolute. Arriving suddenly at a decision, he snatched up his
hat, and turned to Emily in a hurry.
"I bring you news, my dear, which will surprise you. Who do you
think has just left my house? Mrs. Ellmother! Don't interrupt me.
She has made up her mind to go out to service again. Tired of
leading an idle life--that's her own account of it--and asks me
to act as her reference."
"Did you consent?"
"Consent! If I act as her reference, I shall be asked how she
came to leave her last place. A nice dilemma! Either I must own
that she deserted her mistress on her deathbed--or tell a lie.
When I put it to her in that way, she walked out of the house in
dead silence. If she applies to you next, receive her as I
did--or decline to see her, which would be better still."
"Why am I to decline to see her?"
"In consequence of her behavior to your aunt, to be sure! No: I
have said all I wanted to say--and I have no time to spare for
answering idle questions. Good-by."
Socially-speaking, doctors try the patience of their nearest and
dearest friends, in this respect--they are almost always in a
hurry. Doctor Allday's precipitate departure did not tend to
soothe Emily's irritated nerves. She began to find excuses for
Mrs. Ellmother in a spirit of pure contradiction. The old
servant's behavior might admit of justification: a friendly
welcome might persuade her to explain herself. "If she applies to
me," Emily determined, "I shall certainly receive her."
Having arrived at this resolution, her mind reverted to Alban.
Some of the sharp things she had said to him, subjected to
after-reflection in solitude, failed to justify themselves. Her
better sense began to reproach her. She tried to silence that
unwelcome monitor by laying the blame on Alban. Why had he been
so patient and so good? What harm was there in his calling her
"Emily"? If he had told her to call _him_ by his Christian name,
she might have done it. How noble he looked, when he got up to go
away; he was actually handsome! Women may say what they please
and write what they please: their natural instinct is to find
their master in a man--especially when they like him. Sinking
lower and lower in her own estimation, Emily tried to turn the
current of her thoughts in another direction. She took up a
book--opened it, looked into it, threw it across the room.
If Alban had returned at that moment, resolved on a
reconciliation--if he had said, "My dear, I want to see you like
yourself again; will you give me a kiss, and make it up"--would
he have left her crying, when he went away? She was crying now.
MENTOR AND TELEMACHUS.
If Emily's eyes could have followed Alban as her thoughts were
following him, she would have seen him stop before he reached the
end of the road in which the cottage stood. His heart was full of
tenderness and sorrow: the longing to return to her was more than
he could resist. It would be easy to wait, within view of the
gate, until the doctor's visit came to an end. He had just
decided to go back and keep watch--when he heard rapid footsteps
approaching. There (devil take him!) was the doctor himself.
"I have something to say to you, Mr. Morris. Which way are you
"Any way," Alban answered--not very graciously.
"Then let us take the turning that leads to my house. It's not
customary for strangers, especially when they happen to be
Englishmen, to place confidence in each other. Let me set the
example of violating that rule. I want to speak to you about Miss
Emily. May I take your arm? Thank you. At my age, girls in
general--unless they are my patients--are not objects of interest
to me. But that girl at the cottage--I daresay I am in my
dotage--I tell you, sir, she has bewitched me! Upon my soul, I
could hardly be more anxious about her, if I was her father. And,
mind, I am not an affectionate man by nature. Are you anxious
about her too?"
"In what way?"
"In what way are you anxious, Doctor Allday?"
The doctor smiled grimly.
"You don't trust me? Well, I have promised to set the example.
Keep your mask on, sir--mine is off, come what may of it. But,
observe: if you repeat what I am going to say--"
Alban would hear no more. "Whatever you may say, Doctor Allday,
is trusted to my honor. If you doubt my honor, be so good as to
let go my arm--I am not walking your way."
The doctor's hand tightened its grasp. "That little flourish of
temper, my dear sir, is all I want to set me at my ease. I feel I
have got hold of the right man. Now answer me this. Have you ever
heard of a person named Miss Jethro?"
Alban suddenly came to a standstill.
"All right!" said the doctor. "I couldn't have wished for a more
"Wait a minute," Alban interposed. "I know Miss Jethro as a
teacher at Miss Ladd's school, who left her situation
suddenly--and I know no more."
The doctor's peculiar smile made its appearance again.
"Speaking in the vulgar tone," he said, "you seem to be in a
hurry to wash your hands of Miss Jethro."
"I have no reason to feel any interest in her," Alban replied.
"Don't be too sure of that, my friend. I have something to tell
you which may alter your opinion. That ex-teacher at the school,
sir, knows how the late Mr. Brown met his death, and how his
daughter has been deceived about it."
Alban listened with surprise--and with some little doubt, which
he thought it wise not to acknowledge.
"The report of the inquest alludes to a 'relative' who claimed
the body," he said. "Was that 'relative' the person who deceived
Miss Emily? And was the person her aunt?"
"I must leave you to take your own view," Doctor Allday replied.
"A promise binds me not to repeat the information that I have
received. Setting that aside, we have the same object in
view--and we must take care not to get in each other's way. Here
is my house. Let us go in, and make a clean breast of it on both
Established in the safe seclusion of his study, the doctor set
the example of confession in these plain terms:
"We only differ in opinion on one point," he said. "We both think
it likely (from our experience of the women) that the suspected
murderer had an accomplice. I say the guilty person is Miss
Jethro. You say--Mrs. Rook."
"When you have read my copy of the report," Alban answered, "I
think you will arrive at my conclusion. Mrs. Rook might have
entered the outhouse in which the two men slept, at any time
during the night, while her husband was asleep. The jury believed
her when she declared that she never woke till the morning. I
"I am open to conviction, Mr. Morris. Now about the future. Do
you mean to go on with your inquiries?"
"Even if I had no other motive than mere curiosity," Alban
answered, "I think I should go on. But I have a more urgent
purpose in view. All that I have done thus far, has been done in
Emily's interests. My object, from the first, has been to
preserve her from any association--in the past or in the
future--with the woman whom I believe to have been concerned in
her father's death. As I have already told you, she is innocently
doing all she can, poor thing, to put obstacles in my way."
"Yes, yes," said the doctor; "she means to write to Mrs.
Rook--and you have nearly quarreled about it. Trust me to take
that matter in hand. I don't regard it as serious. But I am
mortally afraid of what you are doing in Emily's interests. I
wish you would give it up."
"Because I see a danger. I don't deny that Emily is as innocent
of suspicion as ever. But the chances, next time, may be against
us. How do you know to what lengths your curiosity may lead you?
Or on what shocking discoveries you may not blunder with the best
intentions? Some unforeseen accident may open her eyes to the
truth, before you can prevent it. I seem to surprise you?"
"You do, indeed, surprise me."
"In the old story, my dear sir, Mentor sometimes surprised
Telemachus. I am Mentor--without being, I hope, quite so
long-winded as that respectable philosopher. Let me put it in two
words. Emily's happiness is precious to you. Take care you are
not made the means of wrecking it! Will you consent to a
sacrifice, for her sake?"
"I will do anything for her sake."
"Will you give up your inquiries?"
"From this moment I have done with them!"
"Mr. Morris, you are the best friend she has."
"The next best friend to you, doctor."
In that fond persuasion they now parted--too eagerly devoted to
Emily to look at the prospect before them in its least hopeful
aspect. Both clever men, neither one nor the other asked himself
if any human resistance has ever yet obstructed the progress of
truth--when truth has once begun to force its way to the light.
For the second time Alban stopped, on his way home. The longing
to be reconciled with Emily was not to be resisted. He returned
to the cottage, only to find disappointment waiting for him. The
servant reported that her young mistress had gone to bed with a
Alban waited a day, in the hope that Emily might write to him. No
letter arrived. He repeated his visit the next morning. Fortune
was still against him. On this occasion, Emily was engaged.
"Engaged with a visitor?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. A young lady named Miss de Sor."
Where had he heard that name before? He remembered immediately
that he had heard it at the school. Miss de Sor was the
unattractive new pupil, whom the girls called Francine. Alban
looked at the parlor window as he left the cottage. It was of
serious importance that he should set himself right with Emily.
"And mere gossip," he thought contemptuously, "stands in my way!"
If he had been less absorbed in his own interests, he might have
remembered that mere gossip is not always to be despised. It has
worked fatal mischief in its time.
"You're surprised to see me, of course?" Saluting Emily in those
terms, Francine looked round the parlor with an air of satirical
curiosity. "Dear me, what a little place to live in!"
"What brings you to London?" Emily inquired.
"You ought to know, my dear, without asking. Why did I try to
make friends with you at school? And why have I been trying ever
since? Because I hate you--I mean because I can't resist you--no!
I mean because I hate myself for liking you. Oh, never mind my
reasons. I insisted on going to London with Miss Ladd--when that
horrid woman announced that she had an appointment with her
lawyer. I said, 'I want to see Emily.' 'Emily doesn't like you.'
'I don't care whether she likes me or not; I want to see her.'
That's the way we snap at each other, and that's how I always
carry my point. Here I am, till my duenna finishes her business
and fetches me. What a prospect for You! Have you got any cold
meat in the house? I'm not a glutton, like Cecilia--but I'm
afraid I shall want some lunch."
"Don't talk in that way, Francine!"
"Do you mean to say you're glad to see me?"
"If you were only a little less hard and bitter, I should always
be glad to see you."
"You darling! (excuse my impetuosity). What are you looking at?
My new dress? Do you envy me?"
"No; I admire the color--that's all."
Francine rose, and shook out her dress, and showed it from every
point of view. "See how it's made: Paris, of course! Money, my
dear; money will do anything--except making one learn one's
"Are you not getting on any better, Francine?"
"Worse, my sweet friend--worse. One of the masters, I am happy to
say, has flatly refused to teach me any longer. 'Pupils without
brains I am accustomed to,' he said in his broken English; 'but a
pupil with no heart is beyond my endurance.' Ha! ha! the mouldy
old refugee has an eye for character, though. No heart--there I
am, described in two words."
"And proud of it," Emily remarked.
"Yes--proud of it. Stop! let me do myself justice. You consider
tears a sign that one has some heart, don't you? I was very near
crying last Sunday. A popular preacher did it; no less a person
that Mr. Mirabel--you look as if you had heard of him."
"I have heard of him from Cecilia."
"Is _she_ at Brighton? Then there's one fool more in a
fashionable watering place. Oh, she's in Switzerland, is she? I
don't care where she is; I only care about Mr. Mirabel. We all
heard he was at Brighton for his health, and was going to preach.
Didn't we cram the church! As to describing him, I give it up. He
is the only little man I ever admired--hair as long as mine, and
the sort of beard you see in pictures. I wish I had his fair
complexion and his white hands. We were all in love with him--or
with his voice, which was it?--when he began to read the
commandments. I wish I could imitate him when he came to the
fifth commandment. He began in his deepest bass voice: 'Honor thy
father--' He stopped and looked up to heaven as if he saw the
rest of it there. He went on with a tremendous emphasis on the
next word. '_And_ thy mother,' he said (as if that was quite a
different thing) in a tearful, fluty, quivering voice which was a
compliment to mothers in itself. We all felt it, mothers or not.
But the great sensation was when he got into the pulpit. The
manner in which he dropped on his knees, and hid his face in his
hands, and showed his beautiful rings was, as a young lady said
behind me, simply seraphic. We understood his celebrity, from
that moment--I wonder whether I can remember the sermon."
"You needn't attempt it on my account," Emily said.
"My dear, don't be obstinate. Wait till you hear him."
"I am quite content to wait."
"Ah, you're just in the right state of mind to be converted;
you're in a fair way to become one of his greatest admirers. They
say he is so agreeable in private life; I am dying to know
him.--Do I hear a ring at the bell? Is somebody else coming to
The servant brought in a card and a message.
"The person will call again, miss."
Emily looked at the name written on the card.
"Mrs. Ellmother!" she exclaimed.
"What an extraordinary name!' cried Francine. "Who is she?"
"My aunt's old servant."
"Does she want a situation?"
Emily looked at some lines of writing at the back of the card.
Doctor Allday had rightly foreseen events. Rejected by the
doctor, Mrs. Ellmother had no alternative but to ask Emily to
"If she is out of place," Francine went on, "she may be just the
sort of person I am looking for."
"You?" Emily asked, in astonishment.
Francine refused to explain until she got an answer to her
question. "Tell me first," she said, "is Mrs. Ellmother engaged?"
"No; she wants an engagement, and she asks me to be her
"Is she sober, honest, middle-aged, clean, steady, good-tempered,
industrious?" Francine rattled on. "Has she all the virtues, and
none of the vices? Is she not too good-looking, and has she no
male followers? In one terrible word--will she satisfy Miss
"What has Miss Ladd to do with it?"
"How stupid you are, Emily! Do put the woman's card down on the
table, and listen to me. Haven't I told you that one of my
masters has declined to have anything more to do with me? Doesn't
that help you to understand how I get on with the rest of them? I
am no longer Miss Ladd's pupil, my dear. Thanks to my laziness
and my temper, I am to he raised to the dignity of 'a parlor
boarder.' In other words, I am to be a young lady who patronizes
the school; with a room of my own, and a servant of my own. All
pr ovided for by a private arrangement between my father and Miss
Ladd, before I left the West Indies. My mother was at the bottom
of it, I have not the least doubt. You don't appear to understand
"I don't, indeed!"
Francine considered a little. "Perhaps they were fond of you at
home," she suggested.
"Say they loved me, Francine--and I loved them."
"Ah, my position is just the reverse of yours. Now they have got
rid of me, they don't want me back again at home. I know as well
what my mother said to my father, as if I had heard her.
'Francine will never get on at school, at her age. Try her, by
all means; but make some other arrangement with Miss Ladd in case
of a failure--or she will be returned on our hands like a bad
shilling.' There is my mother, my anxious, affectionate mother,
hit off to a T."
"She _is_ your mother, Francine; don't forget that."
"Oh, no; I won't forget it. My cat is my kitten's mother--there!
there! I won't shock your sensibilities. Let us get back to
matter of fact. When I begin my new life, Miss Ladd makes one
condition. My maid is to be a model of discretion--an elderly
woman, not a skittish young person who will only encourage me. I
must submit to the elderly woman, or I shall be sent back to the
West Indies after all. How long did Mrs. Ellmother live with your
"Twenty-five years, and more.'
"Good heavens, it's a lifetime! Why isn't this amazing creature
living with you, now your aunt is dead? Did you send her away?"
"Then why did she go?"
"I don't know."
"Do you mean that she went away without a word of explanation?"
"Yes; that is exactly what I mean."
"When did she go? As soon as your aunt was dead?"
"That doesn't matter, Francine."
"In plain English, you won't tell me? I am all on fire with
curiosity--and that's how you put me out! My dear, if you have
the slightest regard for me, let us have the woman in here when
she comes back for her answer. Somebody must satisfy me. I mean
to make Mrs. Ellmother explain herself."
"I don't think you will succeed, Francine."
"Wait a little, and you will see. By-the-by, it is understood
that my new position at the school gives me the privilege of
accepting invitations. Do you know any nice people to whom you
can introduce me?"
"I am the last person in the world who has a chance of helping
you," Emily answered. "Excepting good Doctor Allday--" On the
point of adding the name of Alban Morris, she checked herself
without knowing why, and substituted the name of her
school-friend. "And not forgetting Cecilia," she resumed, "I know
"Cecilia's a fool," Francine remarked gravely; "but now I think
of it, she may be worth cultivating. Her father is a member of
Parliament--and didn't I hear that he has a fine place in the
country? You see, Emily, I may expect to be married (with my
money), if I can only get into good society. (Don't suppose I am
dependent on my father; my marriage portion is provided for in my
uncle's will. Cecilia may really be of some use to me. Why
shouldn't I make a friend of her, and get introduced to her
father--in the autumn, you know, when the house is full of
company? Have you any idea when she is coming back?"
"Do you think of writing to her?"
"Give her my kind love; and say I hope she enjoys Switzerland."
"Francine, you are positively shameless! After calling my dearest
friend a fool and a glutton, you send her your love for your own
selfish ends; and you expect me to help you in deceiving her! I
won't do it."
"Keep your temper, my child. We are all selfish, you little
goose. The only difference is--some of us own it, and some of us
don't. I shall find my own way to Cecilia's good graces quite
easily: the way is through her mouth. You mentioned a certain
Doctor Allday. Does he give parties? And do the right sort of men
go to them? Hush! I think I hear the bell again. Go to the door,
and see who it is."
Emily waited, without taking any notice of this suggestion. The
servant announced that "the person had called again, to know if
there was any answer."
"Show her in here," Emily said.
The servant withdrew, and came back again.
"The person doesn't wish to intrude, miss; it will be quite
sufficient if you will send a message by me."
Emily crossed the room to the door.
"Come in, Mrs. Ellmother," she said. "You have been too long away
already. Pray come in."
Mrs. Ellmother reluctantly entered the room.
Since Emily had seen her last, her personal appearance doubly
justified the nickname by which her late mistress had
distinguished her. The old servant was worn and wasted; her gown
hung loose on her angular body; the big bones of her face stood
out, more prominently than ever. She took Emily's offered hand
doubtingly. "I hope I see you well, miss," she said--with hardly
a vestige left of her former firmness of voice and manner.
"I am afraid you have been suffering from illness," Emily
"It's the life I'm leading that wears me down; I want work and
Making that reply, she looked round, and discovered Francine
observing her with undisguised curiosity. "You have got company
with you," she said to Emily. "I had better go away, and come
back another time."
Francine stopped her before she could open the door. "You mustn't
go away; I wish to speak to you."
"About what, miss?"
The eyes of the two women met--one, near the end of her life,
concealing under a rugged surface a nature sensitively
affectionate and incorruptibly true: the other, young in years,
with out the virtues of youth, hard in manner and hard at heart.
In silence on either side, they stood face to face; strangers
brought together by the force of circumstances, working
inexorably toward their hidden end.
Emily introduced Mrs. Ellmother to Francine. "It may be worth
your while," she hinted, "to hear what this young lady has to
Mrs. Ellmother listened, with little appearance of interest in
anything that a stranger might have to say: her eyes rested on
the card which contained her written request to Emily. Francine,
watching her closely, understood what was passing in her mind. It
might be worth while to conciliate the old woman by a little act
of attention. Turning to Emily, Francine pointed to the card
lying on the table. "You have not attended yet to Mr. Ellmother's
request," she said.
Emily at once assured Mrs. Ellmother that the request was
granted. "But is it wise," she asked, "to go out to service
again, at your age?"
"I have been used to service all my life, Miss Emily--that's one
reason. And service may help me to get rid of my own
thoughts--that's another. If you can find me a situation
somewhere, you will be doing me a good turn."
"Is it useless to suggest that you might come back, and live with
me?" Emily ventured to say.
Mrs. Ellmother's head sank on her breast. "Thank you kindly,
miss; it _is_ useless."
"Why is it useless?" Francine asked.
Mrs. Ellmother was silent.
"Miss de Sor is speaking to you," Emily reminded her.
"Am I to answer Miss de Sor?"
Attentively observing what passed, and placing her own
construction on looks and tones, it suddenly struck Francine that
Emily herself might be in Mrs. Ellmother's confidence, and that
she might have reasons of her own for assuming ignorance when
awkward questions were asked. For the moment at least, Francine
decided on keeping her suspicions to herself.
"I may perhaps offer you the employment you want," she said to
Mrs. Ellmother. "I am staying at Brighton, for the present, with
the lady who was Miss Emily's schoolmistress, and I am in need of
a maid. Would you be willing to consider it, if I proposed to
"In that case, you can hardly object to the customary inquiry.
Why did you leave your last place?"
Mrs. Ellmother appealed to Emily. "Did you tell this young lady
how long I remained in my last place?"
Melancholy remembrances had been revived in Emily by the turn
which the talk had now taken. Francine's cat-like patience,
stealthily feeling its way to its end, jarred on her nerves.
"Yes," she said; "in justice to you, I have mentioned your long
term of service."
M rs. Ellmother addressed Francine. "You know, miss, that I
served my late mistress for over twenty-five years. Will you
please remember that--and let it be a reason for not asking me
why I left my place."
Francine smiled compassionately. "My good creature, you have
mentioned the very reason why I _should_ ask. You live
five-and-twenty years with your mistress--and then suddenly leave
her--and you expect me to pass over this extraordinary proceeding
without inquiry. Take a little time to think."
"I want no time to think. What I had in my mind, when I left Miss
Letitia, is something which I refuse to explain, miss, to you, or
She recovered some of her old firmness, when she made that reply.
Francine saw the necessity of yielding--for the time at least,
Emily remained silent, oppressed by remembrance of the doubts and
fears which had darkened the last miserable days of her aunt's
illness. She began already to regret having made Francine and
Mrs. Ellmother known to each other.
"I won't dwell on what appears to be a painful subject, "Francine
graciously resumed. "I meant no offense. You are not angry, I
"Sorry, miss. I might have been angry, at one time. That time is
It was said sadly and resignedly: Emily heard the answer. Her
heart ached as she looked at the old servant, and thought of the
contrast between past and present. With what a hearty welcome
this broken woman had been used to receive her in the bygone
holiday-time! Her eyes moistened. She felt the merciless
persistency of Francine, as if it had been an insult offered to
herself. "Give it up!" she said sharply.
"Leave me, my dear, to manage my own business," Francine replied.
"About your qualifications?" she continued, turning coolly to
Mrs. Ellmother. "Can you dress hair?"
"I ought to tell you," Francine insisted, "that I am very
particular about my hair."
"My mistress was very particular about her hair," Mrs. Ellmother
"Are you a good needlewoman?"
"As good as ever I was--with the help of my spectacles."
Francine turned to Emily. "See how well we get on together. We
are beginning to understand each other already. I am an odd
creature, Mrs. Ellmother. Sometimes, I take sudden likings to
persons--I have taken a liking to you. Do you begin to think a
little better of me than you did? I hope you will produce the
right impression on Miss Ladd; you shall have every assistance
that I can give. I will beg Miss Ladd, as a favor to me, not to
ask you that one forbidden question."
Poor Mrs. Ellmother, puzzled by the sudden appearance of Francine
in the character of an eccentric young lady, the creature of
genial impulse, thought it right to express her gratitude for the
promised interference in her favor. "That's kind of you, miss,"
"No, no, only just. I ought to tell you there's one thing Miss
Ladd is strict about--sweethearts. Are you quite sure," Francine
inquired jocosely, "that you can answer for yourself, in that
This effort of humor produced its intended effect. Mrs.
Ellmother, thrown off her guard, actually smiled. "Lord, miss,
what will you say next!"
"My good soul, I will say something next that is more to the
purpose. If Miss Ladd asks me why you have so unaccountably
refused to be a servant again in this house, I shall take care to
say that it is certainly not out of dislike to Miss Emily."
"You need say nothing of the sort," Emily quietly remarked.
"And still less," Francine proceeded, without noticing the
interruption--"still less through any disagreeable remembrances
of Miss Emily's aunt."
Mrs. Ellmother saw the trap that had been set for her. "It won't
do, miss," she said.
"What won't do?"
"Trying to pump me."
Francine burst out laughing. Emily noticed an artificial ring in
her gayety which suggested that she was exasperated, rather than
amused, by the repulse which had baffled her curiosity once more.
Mrs. Ellmother reminded the merry young lady that the proposed
arrangement between them had not been concluded yet. "Am I to
understand, miss, that you will keep a place open for me in your
"You are to understand," Francine replied sharply, "that I must
have Miss Ladd's approval before I can engage you. Suppose you
come to Brighton? I will pay your fare, of course."
"Never mind my fare, miss. Will you give up pumping?"
"Make your mind easy. It's quite useless to attempt pumping
_you_. When will you come?"
Mrs. Ellmother pleaded for a little delay. "I'm altering my
gowns," she said. "I get thinner and thinner--don't I, Miss
Emily? My work won't be done before Thursday."
"Let us say Friday, then," Francine proposed.
"Friday!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed. "You forget that Friday is an
"I forgot that, certainly! How can you be so absurdly
"You may call it what you like, miss. I have good reason to think
as I do. I was married on a Friday--and a bitter bad marriage it
turned out to be. Superstitious, indeed! You don't know what my
experience has been. My only sister was one of a party of
thirteen at dinner; and she died within the year. If we are to
get on together nicely, I'll take that journey on Saturday, if
"Anything to satisfy you," Francine agreed; "there is the
address. Come in the middle of the day, and we will give you your
dinner. No fear of our being thirteen in number. What will you
do, if you have the misfortune to spill the salt?"
"Take a pinch between my finger and thumb, and throw it over my
left shoulder," Mrs. Ellmother answered gravely. "Good-day,
Emily followed the departing visitor out to the hall. She had
seen and heard enough to decide her on trying to break off the
proposed negotiation--with the one kind purpose of protecting
Mrs. Ellmother against the pitiless curiosity of Francine.
"Do you think you and that young lady are likely to get on well
together?" she asked.
"I have told you already, Miss Emily, I want to get away from my
own home and my own thoughts; I don't care where I go, so long as
I do that." Having answered in those words, Mrs. Ellmother opened
the door, and waited a while, thinking. "I wonder whether the
dead know what is going on in the world they have left?" she
said, looking at Emily. "If they do, there's one among them knows
my thoughts, and feels for me. Good-by, miss--and don't think
worse of me than I deserve."
Emily went back to the parlor. The only resource left was to
plead with Francine for mercy to Mrs. Ellmother.
"Do you really mean to give it up?" she asked.
"To give up--what? 'Pumping,' as that obstinate old creature
Emily persisted. "Don't worry the poor old soul! However
strangely she may have left my aunt and me her motives are kind
and good--I am sure of that. Will you let her keep her harmless
"Oh, of course!"
"I don't believe you, Francine!"
"Don't you? I am like Cecilia--I am getting hungry. Shall we have
"You hard-hearted creature!"
"Does that mean--no luncheon until I have owned the truth?
Suppose _you_ own the truth? I won't tell Mrs. Ellmother that you
have betrayed her."
"For the last time, Francine--I know no more of it than you do.
If you persist in taking your own view, you as good as tell me I
lie; and you will oblige me to leave the room."
Even Francine's obstinacy was compelled to give way, so far as
appearances went. Still possessed by the delusion that Emily was
deceiving her, she was now animated by a stronger motive than
mere curiosity. Her sense of her own importance imperatively
urged her to prove that she was not a person who could be
deceived with impunity.
"I beg your pardon," she said with humility. "But I must
positively have it out with Mrs. Ellmother. She has been more
than a match for me--my turn next. I mean to get the better of
her; and I shall succeed."
"I have already told you, Francine--you will fail."
"My dear, I am a dunce, and I don't deny it. But let me tell you
one thing. I haven't lived all my life in the West Indies, among
black servants, without learning something."
"What do you mean?"
"More, my clever friend, than you are likely to guess. In the
meantime, don't forget the duties of hospitality. Ring the bell
The arrival of Miss Ladd, some time before she had been expected,
interrupted the two girls at a critical moment. She had hurried
over her business in London, eager to pass the rest of the day
with her favorite pupil. Emily's affectionate welcome was, in
some degree at least, inspired by a sensation of relief. To feel
herself in the embrace of the warm-hearted schoolmistress was
like finding a refuge from Francine.
When the hour of departure arrived, Miss Ladd invited Emily to
Brighton for the second time. "On the last occasion, my dear, you
wrote me an excuse; I won't be treated in that way again. If you
can't return with us now, come to-morrow." She added in a
whisper, "Otherwise, I shall think you include _me_ in your
dislike of Francine."
There was no resisting this. It was arranged that Emily should go
to Brighton on the next day.
Left by herself, her thoughts might have reverted to Mrs.
Ellmother's doubtful prospects, and to Francine's strange
allusion to her life in the West Indies, but for the arrival of
two letters by the afternoon post. The handwriting on one of them
was unknown to her. She opened that one first. It was an answer
to the letter of apology which she had persisted in writing to
Mrs. Rook. Happily for herself, Alban's influence had not been
without its effect, after his departure. She had written
kindly--but she had written briefly at the same time.
Mrs. Rook's reply presented a nicely compounded mixture of
gratitude and grief. The gratitude was addressed to Emily as a
matter of course. The grief related to her "excellent master."
Sir Jervis's strength had suddenly failed. His medical attendant,
being summoned, had expressed no surprise. "My patient is over
seventy years of age," the doctor remarked. "He will sit up late
at night, writing his book; and he refuses to take exercise, till
headache and giddiness force him to try the fresh air. As the
necessary result, he has broken down at last. It may end in
paralysis, or it may end in death." Reporting this expression of
medical opinion, Mrs. Rook's letter glided imperceptibly from
respectful sympathy to modest regard for her own interests in the
future. It might be the sad fate of her husband and herself to be
thrown on the world again. If necessity brought them to London,
would "kind Miss Emily grant her the honor of an interview, and
favor a poor unlucky woman with a word of advice?"
"She may pervert your letter to some use of her own, which you
may have reason to regret." Did Emily remember Alban's warning
words? No: she accepted Mrs. Rook's reply as a gratifying tribute
to the justice of her own opinions.
Having proposed to write to Alban, feeling penitently that she
had been in the wrong, she was now readier than ever to send him
a letter, feeling compassionately that she had been in the right.
Besides, it was due to the faithful friend, who was still working
for her in the reading room, that he should be informed of Sir
Jervis's illness. Whether the old man lived or whether he died,
his literary labors were fatally interrupted in either case; and
one of the consequences would be the termination of her
employment at the Museum. Although the second of the two letters
which she had received was addressed to her in Cecilia's
handwriting, Emily waited to read it until she had first written
to Alban. "He will come to-morrow," she thought; "and we shall
both make apologies. I shall regret that I was angry with him and
he will regret that he was mistaken in his judgment of Mrs. Rook.
We shall be as good friends again as ever."
In this happy frame of mind she opened Cecilia's letter. It was
full of good news from first to last.
The invalid sister had made such rapid progress toward recovery
that the travelers had arranged to set forth on their journey
back to England in a fortnight. "My one regret," Cecilia added,
"is the parting with Lady Doris. She and her husband are going to
Genoa, where they will embark in Lord Janeaway's yacht for a
cruise in the Mediterranean. When we have said that miserable
word good-by--oh, Emily, what a hurry I shall be in to get back
to you! Those allusions to your lonely life are so dreadful, my
dear, that I have destroyed your letter; it is enough to break
one's heart only to look at it. When once I get to London, there
shall be no more solitude for my poor afflicted friend. Papa will
be free from his parliamentary duties in August--and he has
promised to have the house full of delightful people to meet you.
Who do you think will be one of our guests? He is illustrious; he
is fascinating; he deserves a line all to himself, thus:
"The Reverend Miles Mirabel!
"Lady Doris has discovered that the country parsonage, in which
this brilliant clergyman submits to exile, is only twelve miles
away from our house. She has written to Mr. Mirabel to introduce
me, and to mention the date of my return. We will have some fun
with the popular preacher--we will both fall in love with him
"Is there anybody to whom you would like me to send an
invitation? Shall we have Mr. Alban Morris? Now I know how kindly
he took care of you at the railway station, your good opinion of
him is my opinion. Your letter also mentions a doctor. Is he
nice? and do you think he will let me eat pastry, if we have him
too? I am so overflowing with hospitality (all for your sake)
that I am ready to invite anybody, and everybody, to cheer you
and make you happy. Would you like to meet Miss Ladd and the
"As to our amusements, make your mind easy.
"I have come to a distinct understanding with Papa that we are to
have dances every evening--except when we try a little concert as
a change. Private theatricals are to follow, when we want another
change after the dancing and the music. No early rising; no fixed
hour for breakfast; everything that is most exquisitely delicious
at dinner--and, to crown all, your room next to mine, for
delightful midnight gossipings, when we ought to be in bed. What
do you say, darling, to the programme?
"A last piece of news--and I have done.
"I have actually had a proposal of marriage, from a young
gentleman who sits opposite me at the table d'hote! When I tell
you that he has white eyelashes, and red hands, and such enormous
front teeth that he can't shut his mouth, you will not need to be
told that I refused him. This vindictive person has abused me
ever since, in the most shameful manner. I heard him last night,
under my window, trying to set one of his friends against me.
'Keep clear of her, my dear fellow; she's the most heartless
creature living.' The friend took my part; he said, 'I don't
agree with you; the young lady is a person of great sensibility.'
'Nonsense!' says my amiable lover; 'she eats too much--her
sensibility is all stomach.' There's a wretch for you. What a
shameful advantage to take of sitting opposite to me at dinner!
Good-by, my love, till we meet soon, and are as happy together as
the day is long."
Emily kissed the signature. At that moment of all others, Cecilia
was such a refreshing contrast to Francine!
Before putting the letter away, she looked again at that part of
it which mentioned Lady Doris's introduction of Cecilia to Mr.
Mirabel. "I don't feel the slightest interest in Mr. Mirabel,"
she thought, smiling as the idea occurred to her; "and I need
never have known him, but for Lady Doris--who is a perfect
stranger to me."
She had just placed the letter in her desk, when a visitor was
announced. Doctor Allday presented himself (in a hurry as usual).
"Another patient waiting?" Emily asked mischievously. "No time to
"Not a moment," the old gentleman answered. "Have you heard from
"You don't mean to say you have answered her?"
"I have done better than that, doctor--I have seen her this
"And consented to be her reference, of course?"
"How well you know me!"
Doctor Allday was a philosopher: he kept his temper. "Just what I
might have expected," he said. "Eve and the apple! Only forbid a
woman to do anything, and she does it directly--be cause you have
forbidden her. I'll try the other way with you now, Miss Emily.
There was something else that I meant to have forbidden."
"What was it?"
"May I make a special request?"
"Oh, my dear, write to Mrs. Rook! I beg and entreat of you, write
to Mrs. Rook!"
Emily's playful manner suddenly disappeared.
Ignoring the doctor's little outbreak of humor, she waited in
grave surprise, until it was his pleasure to explain himself.
Doctor Allday, on his side, ignored the ominous change in Emily;
he went on as pleasantly as ever. "Mr. Morris and I have had a
long talk about you, my dear. Mr. Morris is a capital fellow; I
recommend him as a sweetheart. I also back him in the matter of
Mrs. Rook.--What's the matter now? You're as red as a rose.
Temper again, eh?"
"Hatred of meanness!" Emily answered indignantly. "I despise a
man who plots, behind my back, to get another man to help him.
Oh, how I have been mistaken in Alban Morris!"
"Oh, how little you know of the best friend you have!" cried the
doctor, imitating her. "Girls are all alike; the only man they
can understand, is the man who flatters them. _Will_ you oblige
me by writing to Mrs. Rook?"
Emily made an attempt to match the doctor, with his own weapons.
"Your little joke comes too late," she said satirically. "There
is Mrs. Rook's answer. Read it, and--" she checked herself, even
in her anger she was incapable of speaking ungenerously to the
old man who had so warmly befriended her. "I won't say to _you_,"
she resumed, "what I might have said to another person."
"Shall I say it for you?" asked the incorrigible doctor. "'Read
it, and be ashamed of yourself'--That was what you had in your
mind, isn't it? Anything to please you, my dear." He put on his
spectacles, read the letter, and handed it back to Emily with an
impenetrable countenance. "What do you think of my new
spectacles?" he asked, as he took the glasses off his nose. "In
the experience of thirty years, I have had three grateful
patients." He put the spectacles back in the case. "This comes
from the third. Very gratifying--very gratifying."
Emily's sense of humor was not the uppermost sense in her at that
moment. She pointed with a peremptory forefinger to Mrs. Rook's
letter. "Have you nothing to say about this?"
The doctor had so little to say about it that he was able to
express himself in one word:
He took his hat--nodded kindly to Emily--and hurried away to
feverish pulses waiting to be felt, and to furred tongues that
were ashamed to show themselves.
When Alban presented himself the next morning, the hours of the
night had exercised their tranquilizing influence over Emily. She
remembered sorrowfully how Doctor Allday had disturbed her belief
in the man who loved her; no feeling of irritation remained.
Alban noticed that her manner was unusually subdued; she received
him with her customary grace, but not with her customary smile.
"Are you not well?" he asked.
"I am a little out of spirits," she replied. "A
disappointment--that is all."
He waited a moment, apparently in the expectation that she might
tell him what the disappointment was. She remained silent, and
she looked away from him. Was he in any way answerable for the
depression of spirits to which she alluded? The doubt occurred to
him--but he said nothing.
"I suppose you have received my letter?" she resumed.
"I have come here to thank you for your letter."
"It was my duty to tell you of Sir Jervis's illness; I deserve no
"You have written to me so kindly," Alban reminded her; "you have
referred to our difference of opinion, the last time I was here,
so gently and so forgivingly--"
"If I had written a little later," she interposed, "the tone of
my letter might have been less agreeable to you. I happened to
send it to the post, before I received a visit from a friend of
yours--a friend who had something to say to me after consulting
"Do you mean Doctor Allday?"
"What did he say?"
"What you wished him to say. He did his best; he was as obstinate
and unfeeling as you could possibly wish him to be; but he was
too late. I have written to Mrs. Rook, and I have received a
reply." She spoke sadly, not angrily--and pointed to the letter
lying on her desk.
Alban understood: he looked at her in despair. "Is that wretched
woman doomed to set us at variance every time we meet!" he
Emily silently held out the letter.
He refused to take it. "The wrong you have done me is not to be
set right in that way," he said. "You believe the doctor's visit
was arranged between us. I never knew that he intended to call on
you; I had no interest in sending him here--and I must not
interfere again between you and Mrs. Rook."
"I don't understand you."
"You will understand me when I tell you how my conversation with
Doctor Allday ended. I have done with interference; I have done
with advice. Whatever my doubts may be, all further effort on my
part to justify them--all further inquiries, no matter in what
direction--are at an end: I made the sacrifice, for your sake.
No! I must repeat what you said to me just now; I deserve no
thanks. What I have done, has been done in deference to Doctor
Allday--against my own convictions; in spite of my own fears.
Ridiculous convictions! ridiculous fears! Men with morbid minds
are their own tormentors. It doesn't matter how I suffer, so long
as you are at ease. I shall never thwart you or vex you again.
Have you a better opinion of me now?"
She made the best of all answers--she gave him her hand.
"May I kiss it?" he asked, as timidly as if he had been a boy
addressing his first sweetheart.
She was half inclined to laugh, and half inclined to cry. "Yes,
if you like," she said softly.
"Will you let me come and see you again?"
"Gladly--when I return to London."
"You are going away?"
"I am going to Brighton this afternoon, to stay with Miss Ladd."
It was hard to lose her, on the happy day when they understood
each other at last. An expression of disappointment passed over
his face. He rose, and walked restlessly to the window. "Miss
Ladd?" he repeated, turning to Emily as if an idea had struck
him. "Did I hear, at the school, that Miss de Sor was to spend
the holidays under the care of Miss Ladd?"
"The same young lady," he went on, "who paid you a visit
That haunting distrust of the future, which he had first betrayed
and then affected to ridicule, exercised its depressing influence
over his better sense. He was unreasonable enough to feel
doubtful of Francine, simply because she was a stranger.
"Miss de Sor is a new friend of yours," he said. "Do you like
It was not an easy question to answer--without entering into
particulars which Emily's delicacy of feeling warned her to
avoid. "I must know a little more of Miss de Sor," she said,
"before I can decide."
Alban's misgivings were naturally encouraged by this evasive
reply. He began to regret having left the cottage, on the
previous day, when he had heard that Emily was engaged. He might
have sent in his card, and might have been admitted. It was an
opportunity lost of observing Francine. On the morning of her
first day at school, when they had accidentally met at the summer
house, she had left a disagreeable impression on his mind. Ought
he to allow his opinion to be influenced by this circumstance? or
ought he to follow Emily's prudent example, and suspend judgment
until he knew a little more of Francine?
"Is any day fixed for your return to London?" he asked.
"Not yet," she said; "I hardly know how long my visit will be."
"In little more than a fortnight," he continued, "I shall return
to my classes--they will be dreary classes, without you. Miss de
Sor goes back to the school with Miss Ladd, I suppose?"
Emily was at a loss to account for the depression in his looks
and tones, while he was making these unimportant inquiries. She
tried to rouse him by speaking lightly in reply.
"Miss de Sor returns in quite a new character; she is to be a
guest instead of a pupil. Do you wish to be better acquainted
"Yes," he said grave ly, "now I know that she is a friend of
yours." He returned to his place near her. "A pleasant visit
makes the days pass quickly," he resumed. "You may remain at
Brighton longer than you anticipate; and we may not meet again
for some time to come. If anything happens--"
"Do you mean anything serious?" she asked.
"No, no! I only mean--if I can be of any service. In that case,
will you write to me?"
"You know I will!"
She looked at him anxiously. He had completely failed to hide
from her the uneasy state of his mind: a man less capable of
concealment of feeling never lived. "You are anxious, and out of
spirits," she said gently. "Is it my fault?"
"Your fault? oh, don't think that! I have my dull days and my
bright days--and just now my barometer is down at dull." His
voice faltered, in spite of his efforts to control it; he gave up
the struggle, and took his hat to go. "Do you remember, Emily,
what I once said to you in the garden at the school? I still
believe there is a time of fulfillment to come in our lives." He
suddenly checked himself, as if there had been something more in
his mind to which he hesitated to give expression--and held out
his hand to bid her good-by.
"My memory of what you said in the garden is better than yours,"
she reminded him. "You said 'Happen what may in the interval, I
trust the future.' Do you feel the same trust still?"
He sighed--drew her to him gently--and kissed her on the
forehead. Was that his own reply? She was not calm enough to ask
him the question: it remained in her thoughts for some time after
he had gone.
. . . . . . . .
On the same day Emily was at Brighton.
Francine happened to be alone in the drawing-room. Her first
proceeding, when Emily was shown in, was to stop the servant.
"Have you taken my letter to the post?"
"It doesn't matter." She dismissed the servant by a gesture, and
burst into such effusive hospitality that she actually insisted
on kissing Emily. "Do you know what I have been doing?" she said.
"I have been writing to Cecilia--directing to the care of her
father, at the House of Commons. I stupidly forgot that you would
be able to give me the right address in Switzerland. You don't
object, I hope, to my making myself agreeable to our dear,
beautiful, greedy girl? It is of such importance to me to
surround myself with influential friends--and, of course, I have
given her your love. Don't look disgusted! Come, and see your
room.--Oh, never mind Miss Ladd. You will see her when she wakes.
Ill? Is that sort of old woman ever ill? She's only taking her
nap after bathing. Bathing in the sea, at her age! How she must
frighten the fishes!"
Having seen her own bed-chamber, Emily was next introduced to the
room occupied by Francine.
One object that she noticed in it caused her some little
surprise--not unmingled with disgust. She discovered on the
toilet-table a coarsely caricatured portrait of Mrs. Ellmother.
It was a sketch in pencil--wretchedly drawn; but spitefully
successful as a likeness. "I didn't know you were an artist,"
Emily remarked, with an ironical emphasis on the last word.
Francine laughed scornfully--crumpled the drawing up in her
hand--and threw it into the waste-paper basket.
"You satirical creature!" she burst out gayly. "If you had lived
a dull life at St. Domingo, you would have taken to spoiling
paper too. I might really have turned out an artist, if I had
been clever and industrious like you. As it was, I learned a
little drawing--and got tired of it. I tried modeling in wax--and
got tired of it. Who do you think was my teacher? One of our
"A slave!" Emily exclaimed.
"Yes--a mulatto, if you wish me to be particular; the daughter of
an English father and a negro mother. In her young time (at least
she said so herself) she was quite a beauty, in her particular
style. Her master's favorite; he educated her himself. Besides
drawing and painting, and modeling in wax, she could sing and
play--all the accomplishments thrown away on a slave! When her
owner died, my uncle bought her at the sale of the property."
A word of natural compassion escaped Emily--to Francine's
"Oh, my dear, you needn't pity her! Sappho (that was her name)
fetched a high price, even when she was no longer young. She came
to us, by inheritance, with the estates and the rest of it; and
took a fancy to me, when she found out I didn't get on well with
my father and mother. 'I owe it to _my_ father and mother,' she
used to say, 'that I am a slave. When I see affectionate
daughters, it wrings my heart.' Sappho was a strange compound. A
woman with a white side to her character, and a black side. For
weeks together, she would be a civilized being. Then she used to
relapse, and become as complete a negress as her mother. At the
risk of her life she stole away, on those occasions, into the
interior of the island, and looked on, in hiding, at the horrid
witchcrafts and idolatries of the blacks; they would have
murdered a half-blood, prying into their ceremonies, if they had
discovered her. I followed her once, so far as I dared. The
frightful yellings and drummings in the darkness of the forests
frightened me. The blacks suspected her, and it came to my ears.
I gave her the warning that saved her life (I don't know what I
should have done without Sappho to amuse me!); and, from that
time, I do believe the curious creature loved me. You see I can
speak generously even of a slave!"
"I wonder you didn't bring her with you to England," Emily said.
"In the first place," Francine answered, "she was my father's
property, not mine. In the second place, she's dead. Poisoned, as
the other half-bloods supposed, by some enemy among the blacks.
She said herself, she was under a spell!"
"What did she mean?"
Francine was not interested enough in the subject to explain.
"Stupid superstition, my dear. The negro side of Sappho was
uppermost when she was dying--there is the explanation. Be off
with you! I hear the old woman on the stairs. Meet her before she
can come in here. My bedroom is my only refuge from Miss Ladd."
On the morning of the last day in the week, Emily had a little
talk in private with her old schoolmistress. Miss Ladd listened
to what she had to say of Mrs. Ellmother, and did her best to
relieve Emily's anxieties. "I think you are mistaken, my child,
in supposing that Francine is in earnest. It is her great fault
that she is hardly ever in earnest. You can trust to my
discretion; leave the rest to your aunt's old servant and to me."
Mrs. Ellmother arrived, punctual to the appointed time. She was
shown into Miss Ladd's own room. Francine--ostentatiously
resolved to take no personal part in the affair--went for a walk.
Emily waited to hear the result.
After a long interval, Miss Ladd returned to the drawing-room,
and announced that she had sanctioned the engagement of Mrs.
"I have considered your wishes, in this respect," she said. "It
is arranged that a week's notice, on either side, shall end the
term of service, after the first month. I cannot feel justified
in doing more than that. Mrs. Ellmother is such a respectable
woman; she is so well known to you, and she was so long in your
aunt's service, that I am bound to consider the importance of
securing a person who is exactly fitted to attend on such a girl
as Francine. In one word, I can trust Mrs. Ellmother."
"When does she enter on her service?" Emily inquired.
"On the day after we return to the school," Miss Ladd replied.
"You will be glad to see her, I am sure. I will send her here."
"One word more before you go," Emily said.
"Did you ask her why she left my aunt?"
"My dear child, a woman who has been five-and-twenty years in one
place is entitled to keep her own secrets. I understand that she
had her reasons, and that she doesn't think it necessary to
mention them to anybody. Never trust people by halves--especially
when they are people like Mrs. Ellmother."
It was too late now to raise any objections. Emily felt relieved,
rather than disappointed, on discovering that Mrs. Ellmother was
in a hurry to get back to London by the next train. Sh e had
found an opportunity of letting her lodgings; and she was eager
to conclude the bargain. "You see I couldn't say Yes," she
explained, "till I knew whether I was to get this new place or
not--and the person wants to go in tonight."
Emily stopped her at the door. "Promise to write and tell me how
you get on with Miss de Sor."
"You say that, miss, as if you didn't feel hopeful about me."
"I say it, because I feel interested about you. Promise to
Mrs. Ellmother promised, and hastened away. Emily looked after
her from the window, as long as she was in view. "I wish I could
feel sure of Francine!" she said to herself.
"In what way?" asked the hard voice of Francine, speaking at the
It was not in Emily's nature to shrink from a plain reply. She
completed her half-formed thought without a moment's hesitation.
"I wish I could feel sure," she answered, "that you will be kind
to Mrs. Ellmother."
"Are you afraid I shall make her life one scene of torment?"
Francine inquired. "How can I answer for myself? I can't look
into the future."
"For once in your life, can you be in earnest?" Emily said.
"For once in your life, can you take a joke?" Francine replied.
Emily said no more. She privately resolved to shorten her visit
BOOK THE THIRD--NETHERWOODS.
IN THE GRAY ROOM.
The house inhabited by Miss Ladd and her pupils had been built,
in the early part of the present century, by a wealthy
merchant--proud of his money, and eager to distinguish himself as
the owner of the largest country seat in the neighborhood.
After his death, Miss Ladd had taken Netherwoods (as the place
was called), finding her own house insufficient for the
accommodation of the increasing number of her pupils. A lease was
granted to her on moderate terms. Netherwoods failed to attract
persons of distinction in search of a country residence. The
grounds were beautiful; but no landed property--not even a
park--was attached to the house. Excepting the few acres on which
the building stood, the surrounding land belonged to a retired
naval officer of old family, who resented the attempt of a
merchant of low birth to assume the position of a gentleman. No
matter what proposals might be made to the admiral, he refused
them all. The privilege of shooting was not one of the
attractions offered to tenants; the country presented no
facilities for hunting; and the only stream in the neighborhood
was not preserved. In consequence of these drawbacks, the
merchant's representatives had to choose between a proposal to
use Netherwoods as a lunatic asylum, or to accept as tenant the
respectable mistress of a fashionable and prosperous school. They
decided in favor of Miss Ladd.
The contemplated change in Francine's position was accomplished,
in that vast house, without inconvenience. There were rooms
unoccupied, even when the limit assigned to the number of pupils
had been reached. On the re-opening of the school, Francine was
offered her choice between two rooms on one of the upper stories,
and two rooms on the ground floor. She chose these last.
Her sitting-room and bedroom, situated at the back of the house,
communicated with each other. The sitting-room, ornamented with a
pretty paper of delicate gray, and furnished with curtains of the
same color, had been accordingly named, "The Gray Room." It had a
French window, which opened on the terrace overlooking the garden
and the grounds. Some fine old engravings from the grand
landscapes of Claude (part of a collection of prints possessed by
Miss Ladd's father) hung on the walls. The carpet was in harmony
with the curtains; and the furniture was of light-colored wood,
which helped the general effect of subdued brightness that made
the charm of the room. "If you are not happy here," Miss Ladd
said, "I despair of you." And Francine answered, "Yes, it's very
pretty, but I wish it was not so small."
On the twelfth of August the regular routine of the school was
resumed. Alban Morris found two strangers in his class, to fill
the vacancies left by Emily and Cecilia. Mrs. Ellmother was duly
established in her new place. She produced an unfavorable
impression in the servants' hall--not (as the handsome chief
housemaid explained) because she was ugly and old, but because
she was "a person who didn't talk." The prejudice against
habitual silence, among the lower order of the people, is almost
as inveterate as the prejudice against red hair.
In the evening, on that first day of renewed studies--while the
girls were in the grounds, after tea--Francine had at last
completed the arrangement of her rooms, and had dismissed Mrs.
Ellmother (kept hard at work since the morning) to take a little
rest. Standing alone at her window, the West Indian heiress
wondered what she had better do next. She glanced at the girls on
the lawn, and decided that they were unworthy of serious notice,
on the part of a person so specially favored as herself. She
turned sidewise, and looked along the length of the terrace. At
the far end a tall man was slowly pacing to and fro, with his
head down and his hands in his pockets. Francine recognized the
rude drawing-master, who had torn up his view of the village,
after she had saved it from being blown into the pond.
She stepped out on the terrace, and called to him. He stopped,
and looked up.
"Do you want me?" he called back.
"Of course I do!"
She advanced a little to meet him, and offered encouragement
under the form of a hard smile. Although his manners might be
unpleasant, he had claims on the indulgence of a young lady, who
was at a loss how to employ her idle time. In the first place, he
was a man. In the second place, he was not as old as the
music-master, or as ugly as the dancing-master. In the third
place, he was an admirer of Emily; and the opportunity of trying
to shake his allegiance by means of a flirtation, in Emily's
absence, was too good an opportunity to be lost.
"Do you remember how rude you were to me, on the day when you
were sketching in the summer-house?" Francine asked with snappish
playfulness. "I expect you to make yourself agreeable this
time--I am going to pay you a compliment."
He waited, with exasperating composure, to hear what the proposed
compliment might be. The furrow between his eyebrows looked
deeper than ever. There were signs of secret trouble in that dark
face, so grimly and so resolutely composed. The school, without
Emily, presented the severest trial of endurance that he had
encountered, since the day when he had been deserted and
disgraced by his affianced wife.
"You are an artist," Francine proceeded, "and therefore a person
of taste. I want to have your opinion of my sitting-room.
Criticism is invited; pray come in."
He seemed to be unwilling to accept the invitation--then altered
his mind, and followed Francine. She had visited Emily; she was
perhaps in a fair way to become Emily's friend. He remembered
that he had already lost an opportunity of studying her
character, and--if he saw the necessity--of warning Emily not to
encourage the advances of Miss de Sor.
"Very pretty," he remarked, looking round the room--without
appearing to care for anything in it, except the prints.
Francine was bent on fascinating him. She raised her eyebrows and
lifted her hands, in playful remonstrance. "Do remember it's _my_
room," she said, "and take some little interest in it, for _my_
"What do you want me to say?" he asked.
"Come and sit down by me." She made room for him on the sofa. Her
one favorite aspiration--the longing to excite envy in
others--expressed itself in her next words. "Say something
pretty," she answered; "say you would like to have such a room as
"I should like to have your prints," he remarked. "Will that do?"
"It wouldn't do--from anybody else. Ah, Mr. Morris, I know why
you are not as nice as you might be! You are not happy. The
school has lost its one attraction, in losing our dear Emily. You
feel it--I know you feel it." She assisted this expression of
sympathy to produce the right effect by a sigh. "What would I not
give to inspire such devotion as yours! I don't envy Emily; I
only wish--" She pau sed in confusion, and opened her fan. "Isn't
it pretty?" she said, with an ostentatious appearance of changing
the subject. Alban behaved like a monster; he began to talk of
"I think this is the hottest day we have had," he said; "no
wonder you want your fan. Netherwoods is an airless place at this
season of the year."
She controlled her temper. "I do indeed feel the heat," she
admitted, with a resignation which gently reproved him; "it is so
heavy and oppressive here after Brighton. Perhaps my sad life,
far away from home and friends, makes me sensitive to trifles. Do
you think so, Mr. Morris?"
The merciless man said he thought it was the situation of the
"Miss Ladd took the place in the spring," he continued; "and only
discovered the one objection to it some months afterward. We are
in the highest part of the valley here--but, you see, it's a
valley surrounded by hills; and on three sides the hills are near
us. All very well in winter; but in summer I have heard of girls
in this school so out of health in the relaxing atmosphere that
they have been sent home again."
Francine suddenly showed an interest in what he was saying. If he
had cared to observe her closely, he might have noticed it.
"Do you mean that the girls were really ill?" she asked.
"No. They slept badly--lost appetite--started at trifling noises.
In short, their nerves were out of order."
"Did they get well again at home, in another air?"
"Not a doubt of it," he answered, beginning to get weary of the
subject. "May I look at your books?"
Francine's interest in the influence of different atmospheres on
health was not exhausted yet. "Do you know where the girls lived
when they were at home?" she inquired.
"I know where one of them lived. She was the best pupil I ever
had--and I remember she lived in Yorkshire." He was so weary of
the idle curiosity--as it appeared to him--which persisted in
asking trifling questions, that he left his seat, and crossed the
room. "May I look at your books?" he repeated.
The conversation was suspended for a while. The lady thought, "I
should like to box his ears!" The gentleman thought, "She's only
an inquisitive fool after all!" His examination of her books
confirmed him in the delusion that there was really nothing in
Francine's character which rendered it necessary to caution Emily
against the advances of her new friend. Turning away from the
book-case, he made the first excuse that occurred to him for
putting an end to the interview.
"I must beg you to let me return to my duties, Miss de Sor. I
have to correct the young ladies' drawings, before they begin
Francine's wounded vanity made a last expiring attempt to steal
the heart of Emily's lover.
"You remind me that I have a favor to ask," she said. "I don't
attend the other classes--but I should so like to join _your_
class! May I?" She looked up at him with a languishing appearance
of entreaty which sorely tried Alban's capacity to keep his face
in serious order. He acknowledged the compliment paid to him in
studiously commonplace terms, and got a little nearer to the open
window. Francine's obstinacy was not conquered yet.
"My education has been sadly neglected," she continued; "but I
have had some little instruction in drawing. You will not find me
so ignorant as some of the other girls." She waited a little,
anticipating a few complimentary words. Alban waited also--in
silence. "I shall look forward with pleasure to my lessons under
such an artist as yourself," she went on, and waited again, and
was disappointed again. "Perhaps," she resumed, "I may become
your favorite pupil--Who knows?"
It was not much to say, when he spoke at last--but it was enough
to encourage Francine. She called him "dear Mr. Morris"; she
pleaded for permission to take her first lesson immediately; she
clasped her hands--"Please say Yes!"
"I can't say Yes, till you have complied with the rules."
"Are they _your_ rules?"
Her eyes expressed the readiest submission--in that case. He
entirely failed to see it: he said they were Miss Ladd's
rules--and wished her good-evening.
She watched him, walking away down the terrace. How was he paid?
Did he receive a yearly salary, or did he get a little extra
money for each new pupil who took drawing lessons? In this last
case, Francine saw her opportunity of being even with him "You
brute! Catch me attending your class!"
RECOLLECTIONS OF ST. DOMINGO.
The night was oppressively hot. Finding it impossible to sleep,
Francine lay quietly in her bed, thinking. The subject of her
reflections was a person who occupied the humble position of her
Mrs. Ellmother looked wretchedly ill. Mrs. Ellmother had told
Emily that her object, in returning to domestic service, was to
try if change would relieve her from the oppression of her own
thoughts. Mrs. Ellmother believed in vulgar superstitions which
declared Friday to be an unlucky day; and which recommended
throwing a pinch over your left shoulder, if you happened to
spill the salt.
In themselves, these were trifling recollections. But they
assumed a certain importance, derived from the associations which
they called forth.
They reminded Francine, by some mental process which she was at a
loss to trace, of Sappho the slave, and of her life at St.
She struck a light, and unlocked her writing desk. From one of
the drawers she took out an old household account-book.
The first page contained some entries, relating to domestic
expenses, in her own handwriting. They recalled one of her
efforts to occupy her idle time, by relieving her mother of the
cares of housekeeping. For a day or two, she had persevered--and
then she had ceased to feel any interest in her new employment.
The remainder of the book was completely filled up, in a
beautifully clear handwriting, beginning on the second page. A
title had been found for the manuscript by Francine. She had
written at the top of the page: _Sappho's Nonsense_.
After reading the first few sentences she rapidly turned over the
leaves, and stopped at a blank space near the end of the book.
Here again she had added a title. This time it implied a
compliment to the writer: the page was headed: _Sappho's Sense_.
She read this latter part of the manuscript with the closest
"I entreat my kind and dear young mistress not to suppose that I
believe in witchcraft--after such an education as I have
received. When I wrote down, at your biding, all that I had told
you by word of mouth, I cannot imagine what delusion possessed
me. You say I have a negro side to my character, which I inherit
from my mother. Did you mean this, dear mistress, as a joke? I am
almost afraid it is sometimes not far off from the truth.
"Let me be careful, however, to avoid leading you into a mistake.
It is really true that the man-slave I spoke of did pine and die,
after the spell had been cast on him by my witch-mother's image
of wax. But I ought also to have told you that circumstances
favored the working of the spell: the fatal end was not brought
about by supernatural means.
"The poor wretch was not in good health at the time; and our
owner had occasion to employ him in the valley of the island far
inland. I have been told, and can well believe, that the climate
there is different from the climate on the coast--in which the
unfortunate slave had been accustomed to live. The overseer
wouldn't believe him when he said the valley air would be his
death--and the negroes, who might otherwise have helped him, all
avoided a man whom they knew to be under a spell.
"This, you see, accounts for what might appear incredible to
civilized persons. If you will do me a favor, you will burn this
little book, as soon as you have read what I have written here.
If my request is not granted, I can only implore you to let no
eyes but your own see these pages. My life might be in danger if
the blacks knew what I have now told you, in the interests of
Francine closed the book, and locked it up again in her desk.
"Now I know," she said to herself, "what reminded me of St.
When Francine rang her bell the next morning, so long a time
elapsed without producing an answer that she began to think of
sending one of the house-servants to make inquiries. Before she
could decide, Mrs. Ellmother presented herself, and offered her
"It's the first time I have overslept myself, miss, since I was a
girl. Please to excuse me, it shan't happen again."
"Do you find that the air here makes you drowsy?" Francine asked.
Mrs. Ellmother shook her head. "I didn't get to sleep," she said,
"till morning, and so I was too heavy to be up in time. But air
has got nothing to do with it. Gentlefolks may have their whims
and fancies. All air is the same to people like me."
"You enjoy good health, Mrs. Ellmother?"
"Why not, miss? I have never had a doctor."
"Oh! That's your opinion of doctors, is it?"
"I won't have anything to do with them--if that's what you mean
by my opinion," Mrs. Ellmother answered doggedly. "How will you
have your hair done?"
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