I SAY NO
Part 6 out of 8
Under these embarrassing circumstances, Mirabel rose to speak.
He secured silence, at the outset, by a humorous allusion to the
prolix speaker who had preceded him. "Look at the clock,
gentlemen," he said; "and limit my speech to an interval of ten
minutes." The applause which followed was heard, through the
broken window, in the street. The boys among the mob outside
intercepted the flow of air by climbing on each other's shoulders
and looking in at the meeting, through the gaps left by the
shattered glass. Having proposed his Resolution with discreet
brevity of speech, Mirabel courted popularity on the plan adopted
by the late Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons--he told
stories, and made jokes, adapted to the intelligence of the
dullest people who were listening to him. The charm of his voice
and manner completed his success. Punctually at the tenth minute,
he sat down amid cries of "Go on." Francine was the first to take
his hand, and to express admiration mutely by pressing it. He
returned the pressure--but he looked at the wrong lady--the lady
on the other side.
Although she made no complaint, he instantly saw that Emily was
overcome by the heat. Her lips were white, and her eyes were
closing. "Let me take you out," he said, "or you will faint."
Francine started to her feet to follow them. The lower order of
the audience, eager for amusement, put their own humorous
construction on the young lady's action. They roared with
laughter. "Let the parson and his sweetheart be," they called
out; "two's company, miss, and three isn't." Mr. Wyvil interposed
his authority and rebuked them. A lady seated behind Francine
interfered to good purpose by giving her a chair, which placed
her out of sight of the audience. Order was restored--and the
proceedings were resumed.
On the conclusion of the meeting, Mirabel and Emily were found
waiting for their friends at the door. Mr. Wyvil innocently added
fuel to the fire that was burning in Francine. He insisted that
Mirabel should return to Monksmoor, and offered him a seat in the
carriage at Emily's side.
Later in the evening, when they all met at dinner, there appeared
a change in Miss de Sor which surprised everybody but Mirabel.
She was gay and good-humored, and especially amiable and
attentive to Emily--who sat opposite to her at the table. "What
did you and Mr. Mirabel talk about while you were away from us?"
she asked innocently. "Politics?"
Emily readily adopted Francine's friendly tone. "Would you have
talked politics, in my place?" she asked gayly.
"In your place, I should have had the most delightful of
companions," Francine rejoined; "I wish I had been overcome by
the heat too!"
Mirabel--attentively observing her--acknowledged the compliment
by a bow, and left Emily to continue the conversation. In perfect
good faith she owned to having led Mirabel to talk of himself.
She had heard from Cecilia that his early life had been devoted
to various occupations, and she was interested in knowing how
circumstances had led him into devoting himself to the Church.
Francine listened with the outward appearance of implicit belief,
and with the inward conviction that Emily was deliberately
deceiving her. When the little narrative was at an end, she was
more agreeable than ever. She admired Emily's dress, and she
rivaled Cecilia in enjoyment of the good things on the table; she
entertained Mirabel with humorous anecdotes of the priests at St.
Domingo, and was so interested in the manufacture of violins,
ancient and modern, that Mr. Wyvil promised to show her his
famous collection of instruments, after dinner. Her overflowing
amiability included even poor Miss Darnaway and the absent
brothers and sisters. She heard with flattering sympathy, how
they had been ill and had got well again; what amusing tricks
they played, what alarming accidents happened to them, a nd how
remarkably clever they were--"including, I do assure you, dear
Miss de Sor, the baby only ten months old." When the ladies rose
to retire, Francine was, socially speaking, the heroine of the
While the violins were in course of exhibition, Mirabel found an
opportunity of speaking to Emily, unobserved.
"Have you said, or done, anything to offend Miss de Sor?" he
"Nothing whatever!" Emily declared, startled by the question.
"What makes you think I have offended her?"
"I have been trying to find a reason for the change in her,"
Mirabel answered--"especially the change toward yourself."
"Well--she means mischief."
"Mischief of what sort?"
"Of a sort which may expose her to discovery--unless she disarms
suspicion at the outset. That is (as I believe) exactly what she
has been doing this evening. I needn't warn you to be on your
All the next day Emily was on the watch for events--and nothing
happened. Not the slightest appearance of jealousy betrayed
itself in Francine. She made no attempt to attract to herself the
attentions of Mirabel; and she showed no hostility to Emily,
either by word, look, or manner.
. . . . . . . .
The day after, an event occurred at Netherwoods. Alban Morris
received an anonymous letter, addressed to him in these terms:
"A certain young lady, in whom you are supposed to be interested,
is forgetting you in your absence. If you are not mean enough to
allow yourself to be supplanted by another man, join the party at
Monksmoor before it is too late."
The day after the political meeting was a day of departures, at
the pleasant country house.
Miss Darnaway was recalled to the nursery at home. The old squire
who did justice to Mr. Wyvil's port-wine went away next, having
guests to entertain at his own house. A far more serious loss
followed. The three dancing men had engagements which drew them
to new spheres of activity in other drawing-rooms. They said,
with the same dreary grace of manner, "Very sorry to go"; they
drove to the railway, arrayed in the same perfect traveling suits
of neutral tint; and they had but one difference of opinion among
them--each firmly believed that he was smoking the best cigar to
be got in London.
The morning after these departures would have been a dull morning
indeed, but for the presence of Mirabel.
When breakfast was over, the invalid Miss Julia established
herself on the sofa with a novel. Her father retired to the other
end of the house, and profaned the art of music on music's most
expressive instrument. Left with Emily, Cecilia, and Francine,
Mirabel made one of his happy suggestions. "We are thrown on our
own resources," he said. "Let us distinguish ourselves by
inventing some entirely new amusement for the day. You young
ladies shall sit in council--and I will be secretary." He turned
to Cecilia. "The meeting waits to hear the mistress of the
Modest Cecilia appealed to her school friends for help;
addressing herself in the first instance (by the secretary's
advice) to Francine, as the eldest. They all noticed another
change in this variable young person. She was silent and subdued;
and she said wearily, "I don't care what we do--shall we go out
The unanswerable objection to riding as a form of amusement, was
that it had been more than once tried already. Something clever
and surprising was anticipated from Emily when it came to her
turn. She, too, disappointed expectation. "Let us sit under the
trees," was all that she could suggest, "and ask Mr. Mirabel to
tell us a story."
Mirabel laid down his pen and took it on himself to reject this
proposal. "Remember," he remonstrated, "that I have an interest
in the diversions of the day. You can't expect me to be amused by
my own story. I appeal to Miss Wyvil to invent a pleasure which
will include the secretary."
Cecilia blushed and looked uneasy. "I think I have got an idea,"
she announced, after some hesitation. "May I propose that we all
go to the keeper's lodge?" There her courage failed her, and she
Mirabel gravely registered the proposal, as far as it went. "What
are we to do when we get to the keeper's lodge?" he inquired.
"We are to ask the keeper's wife," Cecilia proceeded, "to lend us
"To lend us her kitchen," Mirabel repeated.
"And what are we to do in the kitchen?"
Cecilia looked down at her pretty hands crossed on her lap, and
answered softly, "Cook our own luncheon."
Here was an entirely new amusement, in the most attractive sense
of the words! Here was charming Cecilia's interest in the
pleasures of the table so happily inspired, that the grateful
meeting offered its tribute of applause--even including Francine.
The members of the council were young; their daring digestions
contemplated without fear the prospect of eating their own
amateur cookery. The one question that troubled them now was what
they were to cook.
"I can make an omelet," Cecilia ventured to say.
"If there is any cold chicken to be had," Emily added, "I
undertake to follow the omelet with a mayonnaise."
"There are clergymen in the Church of England who are even clever
enough to fry potatoes," Mirabel announced--"and I am one of
them. What shall we have next? A pudding? Miss de Sor, can you
make a pudding?"
Francine exhibited another new side to her character--a diffident
and humble side. "I am ashamed to say I don't know how to cook
anything," she confessed; "you had better leave me out of it."
But Cecilia was now in her element. Her plan of operations was
wide enough even to include Francine. "You shall wash the
lettuce, my dear, and stone the olives for Emily's mayonnaise.
Don't be discouraged! You shall have a companion; we will send to
the rectory for Miss Plym--the very person to chop parsley and
shallot for my omelet. Oh, Emily, what a morning we are going to
have!" Her lovely blue eyes sparkled with joy; she gave Emily a
kiss which Mirabel must have been more or less than man not to
have coveted. "I declare," cried Cecilia, completely losing her
head, "I'm so excited, I don't know what to do with myself!"
Emily's intimate knowledge of her friend applied the right
remedy. "You don't know what to do with yourself?" she repeated.
"Have you no sense of duty? Give the cook your orders."
Cecilia instantly recovered her presence of mind. She sat down at
the writing-table, and made out a list of eatable productions in
the animal and vegetable world, in which every other word was
underlined two or three times over. Her serious face was a sight
to see, when she rang for the cook, and the two held a privy
council in a corner.
On the way to the keeper's lodge, the young mistress of the house
headed a procession of servants carrying the raw materials.
Francine followed, held in custody by Miss Plym--who took her
responsibilities seriously, and clamored for instruction in the
art of chopping parsley. Mirabel and Emily were together, far
behind; they were the only two members of the company whose minds
were not occupied in one way or another by the kitchen.
"This child's play of ours doesn't seem to interest you," Mirabel
"I am thinking," Emily answered, "of what you said to me about
"I can say something more," he rejoined. "When I noticed the
change in her at dinner, I told you she meant mischief. There is
another change to-day, which suggests to my mind that the
mischief is done."
"And directed against me?" Emily asked.
Mirabel made no direct reply. It was impossible for _him_ to
remind her that she had, no matter how innocently, exposed
herself to the jealous hatred of Francine. "Time will tell us,
what we don't know now," he replied evasively.
"You seem to have faith in time, Mr. Mirabel."
"The greatest faith. Time is the inveterate enemy of deceit.
Sooner or later, every hidden thing is a thing doomed to
"Yes," he answered positively, "without exception."
At that moment Francine stopped and looked back at them. Did she
think that Emily and Mirabel had been talking together long
enough? Miss Plym--with the parsley still on her mind---advanced
to consult Emil y's experience. The two walked on together,
leaving Mirabel to overtake Francine. He saw, in her first look
at him, the effort that it cost her to suppress those emotions
which the pride of women is most deeply interested in concealing.
Before a word had passed, he regretted that Emily had left them
"I wish I had your cheerful disposition," she began, abruptly. "I
am out of spirits or out of temper--I don't know which; and I
don't know why. Do you ever trouble yourself with thinking of the
"As seldom as possible, Miss de Sor. In such a situation as mine,
most people have prospects--I have none."
He spoke gravely, conscious of not feeling at ease on his side.
If he had been the most modest man that ever lived, he must have
seen in Francine's face that she loved him.
When they had first been presented to each other, she was still
under the influence of the meanest instincts in her scheming and
selfish nature. She had thought to herself, "With my money to
help him, that man's celebrity would do the rest; the best
society in England would be glad to receive Mirabel's wife. "As
the days passed, strong feeling had taken the place of those
contemptible aspirations: Mirabel had unconsciously inspired the
one passion which was powerful enough to master Francine--sensual
passion. Wild hopes rioted in her. Measureless desires which she
had never felt before, united themselves with capacities for
wickedness, which had been the horrid growth of a few
nights--capacities which suggested even viler attempts to rid
herself of a supposed rivalry than slandering Emily by means of
an anonymous letter. Without waiting for it to be offered, she
took Mirabel's arm, and pressed it to her breast as they slowly
walked on. The fear of discovery which had troubled her after she
had sent her base letter to the post, vanished at that
inspiriting moment. She bent her head near enough to him when he
spoke to feel his breath on her face.
"There is a strange similarity," she said softly, "between your
position and mine. Is there anything cheering in _my_ prospects?
I am far away from home--my father and mother wouldn't care if
they never saw me again. People talk about my money! What is the
use of money to such a lonely wretch as I am? Suppose I write to
London, and ask the lawyer if I may give it all away to some
deserving person? Why not to you?"
"My dear Miss de Sor--!"
"Is there anything wrong, Mr. Mirabel, in wishing that I could
make you a prosperous man?"
"You must not even talk of such a thing!"
"How proud you are!" she said submissively.
"Oh, I can't bear to think of you in that miserable village--a
position so unworthy of your talents and your claims! And you
tell me I must not talk about it. Would you have said that to
Emily, if she was as anxious as I am to see you in your right
place in the world?"
"I should have answered her exactly as I have answered you."
"She will never embarrass you, Mr. Mirabel, by being as sincere
as I am. Emily can keep her own secrets."
"Is she to blame for doing that?"
"It depends on your feeling for her."
"What feeling do you mean?"
"Suppose you heard she was engaged to be married?" Francine
Mirabel's manner--studiously cold and formal thus far--altered on
a sudden. He looked with unconcealed anxiety at Francine. "Do you
say that seriously?" he asked.
"I said 'suppose.' I don't exactly know that she is engaged."
"What _do_ you know?"
"Oh, how interested you are in Emily! She is admired by some
people. Are you one of them?"
Mirabel's experience of women warned him to try silence as a
means of provoking her into speaking plainly. The experiment
succeeded: Francine returned to the question that he had put to
her, and abruptly answered it.
"You may believe me or not, as you like--I know of a man who is
in love with her. He has had his opportunities; and he has made
good use of them. Would you like to know who he is?"
"I should like to know anything which you may wish to tell me."
He did his best to make the reply in a tone of commonplace
politeness--and he might have succeeded in deceiving a man. The
woman's quicker ear told her that he was angry. Francine took the
full advantage of that change in her favor.
"I am afraid your good opinion of Emily will be shaken," she
quietly resumed, "when I tell you that she has encouraged a man
who is only drawing-master at a school. At the same time, a
person in her circumstances--I mean she has no money--ought not
to be very hard to please. Of course she has never spoken to you
of Mr. Alban Morris?"
"Not that I remember."
Only four words--but they satisfied Francine.
The one thing wanting to complete the obstacle which she had now
placed in Emily's way, was that Alban Morris should enter on the
scene. He might hesitate; but, if he was really fond of Emily,
the anonymous letter would sooner or later bring him to
Monksmoor. In the meantime, her object was gained. She dropped
"Here is the lodge," she said gayly--"I declare Cecilia has got
an apron on already! Come, and cook."
Mirabel left Francine to enter the lodge by herself. His mind was
disturbed: he felt the importance of gaining time for reflection
before he and Emily met again.
The keeper's garden was at the back of the lodge. Passing through
the wicket-gate, he found a little summer-house at a turn in the
path. Nobody was there: he went in and sat down.
At intervals, he had even yet encouraged himself to underrate the
true importance of the feeling which Emily had awakened in him.
There was an end to all self-deception now. After what Francine
had said to him, this shallow and frivolous man no longer
resisted the all-absorbing influence of love. He shrank under the
one terrible question that forced itself on his mind:--Had that
jealous girl spoken the truth?
In what process of investigation could he trust, to set this
anxiety at rest? To apply openly to Emily would be to take a
liberty, which Emily was the last person in the world to permit.
In his recent intercourse with her he had felt more strongly than
ever the importance of speaking with reserve. He had been
scrupulously careful to take no unfair advantage of his
opportunity, when he had removed her from the meeting, and when
they had walked together, with hardly a creature to observe them,
in the lonely outskirts of the town. Emily's gaiety and good
humor had not led him astray: he knew that these were bad signs,
viewed in the interests of love. His one hope of touching her
deeper sympathies was to wait for the help that might yet come
from time and chance. With a bitter sigh, he resigned himself to
the necessity of being as agreeable and amusing as ever: it was
just possible that he might lure her into alluding to Alban
Morris, if he began innocently by making her laugh.
As he rose to return to the lodge, the keeper's little terrier,
prowling about the garden, looked into the summer-house. Seeing a
stranger, the dog showed his teeth and growled.
Mirabel shrank back against the wall behind him, trembling in
every limb. His eyes stared in terror as the dog came nearer:
barking in high triumph over the discovery of a frightened man
whom he could bully. Mirabel called out for help. A laborer at
work in the garden ran to the place--and stopped with a broad
grin of amusement at seeing a grown man terrified by a barking
dog. "Well," he said to himself, after Mirabel had passed out
under protection, "there goes a coward if ever there was one
Mirabel waited a minute behind the lodge to recover himself. He
had been so completely unnerved that his hair was wet with
perspiration. While he used his handkerchief, he shuddered at
other recollections than the recollection of the dog. "After that
night at the inn," he thought, "the least thing frightens me!"
He was received by the young ladies with cries of derisive
welcome. "Oh, for shame! for shame! here are the potatoes already
cut, and nobody to fry them!"
Mirabel assumed the mask of cheerfulness--with the desperate
resolution of an actor, amusing his audience at a time of
domestic distress. He astonished the keeper's wife by showin g
that he really knew how to use her frying-pan. Cecilia's omelet
was tough--but the young ladies ate it. Emily's mayonnaise sauce
was almost as liquid as water--they swallowed it nevertheless by
the help of spoons. The potatoes followed, crisp and dry and
delicious--and Mirabel became more popular than ever. "He is the
only one of us," Cecilia sadly acknowledged, "who knows how to
When they all left the lodge for a stroll in the park, Francine
attached herself to Cecilia and Miss Plym. She resigned Mirabel
to Emily--in the happy belief that she had paved the way for a
misunderstanding between them.
The merriment at the luncheon table had revived Emily's good
spirits. She had a light-hearted remembrance of the failure of
her sauce. Mirabel saw her smiling to herself. "May I ask what
amuses you?" he said.
"I was thinking of the debt of gratitude that we owe to Mr.
Wyvil," she replied. "If he had not persuaded you to return to
Monksmoor, we should never have seen the famous Mr. Mirabel with
a frying pan in his hand, and never have tasted the only good
dish at our luncheon."
Mirabel tried vainly to adopt his companion's easy tone. Now that
he was alone with her, the doubts that Francine had aroused shook
the prudent resolution at which he had arrived in the garden. He
ran the risk, and told Emily plainly why he had returned to Mr.
"Although I am sensible of our host's kindness," he answered, "I
should have gone back to my parsonage--but for You."
She declined to understand him seriously. "Then the affairs of
your parish are neglected--and I am to blame!" she said.
"Am I the first man who has neglected his duties for your sake?"
he asked. "I wonder whether the masters at school had the heart
to report you when you neglected your lessons?"
She thought of Alban--and betrayed herself by a heightened color.
The moment after, she changed the subject. Mirabel could no
longer resist the conclusion that Francine had told him the
"When do you leave us," she inquired.
"To-morrow is Saturday--I must go back as usual."
"And how will your deserted parish receive you?"
He made a desperate effort to be as amusing as usual.
"I am sure of preserving my popularity," he said, "while I have a
cask in the cellar, and a few spare sixpences in my pocket. The
public spirit of my parishioners asks for nothing but money and
beer. Before I went to that wearisome meeting, I told my
housekeeper that I was going to make a speech about reform. She
didn't know what I meant. I explained that reform might increase
the number of British citizens who had the right of voting at
elections for parliament. She brightened up directly. 'Ah,' she
said, 'I've heard my husband talk about elections. The more there
are of them (_he_ says) the more money he'll get for his vote.
I'm all for reform.' On my way out of the house, I tried the man
who works in my garden on the same subject. He didn't look at the
matter from the housekeeper's sanguine point of view. 'I don't
deny that parliament once gave me a good dinner for nothing at
the public-house,' he admitted. 'But that was years ago--and
(you'll excuse me, sir) I hear nothing of another dinner to come.
It's a matter of opinion, of course. I don't myself believe in
reform.' There are specimens of the state of public spirit in our
village!" He paused. Emily was listening--but he had not
succeeded in choosing a subject that amused her. He tried a topic
more nearly connected with his own interests; the topic of the
future. "Our good friend has asked me to prolong my visit, after
Sunday's duties are over," he said. "I hope I shall find you
here, next week?"
"Will the affairs of your parish allow you to come back?" Emily
"The affairs of my parish--if you force me to confess it--were
only an excuse."
"An excuse for what?"
"An excuse for keeping away from Monksmoor--in the interests of
my own tranquillity. The experiment has failed. While you are
here, I can't keep away."
She still declined to understand him seriously. "Must I tell you
in plain words that flattery is thrown away on me?" she said.
"Flattery is not offered to you," he answered gravely. "I beg
your pardon for having led to the mistake by talking of myself."
Having appealed to her indulgence by that act of submission, he
ventured on another distant allusion to the man whom he hated and
feared. "Shall I meet any friends of yours," he resumed, "when I
return on Monday?"
"What do you mean?"
"I only meant to ask if Mr. Wyvil expects any new guests?"
As he put the question, Cecilia's voice was heard behind them,
calling to Emily. They both turned round. Mr. Wyvil had joined
his daughter and her two friends. He advanced to meet Emily.
"I have some news for you that you little expect," he said. "A
telegram has just arrived from Netherwoods. Mr. Alban Morris has
got leave of absence, and is coming here to-morrow."
Time at Monksmoor had advanced to the half hour before dinner, on
Cecilia and Francine, Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel, were loitering in
the conservatory. In the drawing-room, Emily had been
considerately left alone with Alban. He had missed the early
train from Netherwoods; but he had arrived in time to dress for
dinner, and to offer the necessary explanations.
If it had been possible for Alban to allude to the anonymous
letter, he might have owned that his first impulse had led him to
destroy it, and to assert his confidence in Emily by refusing Mr.
Wyvil's invitation. But try as he might to forget them, the base
words that he had read remained in his memory. Irritating him at
the outset, they had ended in rousing his jealousy. Under that
delusive influence, he persuaded himself that he had acted, in
the first instance, without due consideration. It was surely his
interest--it might even be his duty--to go to Mr. Wyvil's house,
and judge for himself. After some last wretched moments of
hesitation, he had decided on effecting a compromise with his own
better sense, by consulting Miss Ladd. That excellent lady did
exactly what he had expected her to do. She made arrangements
which granted him leave of absence, from the Saturday to the
Tuesday following. The excuse which had served him, in
telegraphing to Mr. Wyvil, must now be repeated, in accounting
for his unexpected appearance to Emily. "I found a person to take
charge of my class," be said; "and I gladly availed myself of the
opportunity of seeing you again."
After observing him attentively, while he was speaking to her,
Emily owned, with her customary frankness, that she had noticed
something in his manner which left her not quite at her ease.
"I wonder," she said, "if there is any foundation for a doubt
that has troubled me?" To his unutterable relief, she at once
explained what the doubt was. "I am afraid I offended you, in
replying to your letter about Miss Jethro."
In this case, Alban could enjoy the luxury of speaking
unreservedly. He confessed that Emily's letter had disappointed
"I expected you to answer me with less reserve," he replied; "and
I began to think I had acted rashly in writing to you at all.
When there is a better opportunity, I may have a word to say--"
He was apparently interrupted by something that he saw in the
conservatory. Looking that way, Emily perceived that Mirabel was
the object which had attracted Alban's attention. The vile
anonymous letter was in his mind again. Without a preliminary
word to prepare Emily, he suddenly changed the subject. "How do
you like the clergyman?" he asked.
"Very much indeed," she replied, without the slightest
embarrassment. "Mr. Mirabel is clever and agreeable--and not at
all spoiled by his success. I am sure," she said innocently, "you
will like him too."
Alban's face answered her unmistakably in the negative sense--but
Emily's attention was drawn the other way by Francine. She joined
them at the moment, on the lookout for any signs of an
encouraging result which her treachery might already have
produced. Alban had been inclined to suspect her when he had
received the letter. He rose and bowed as she approached.
Something--he was unable to r ealize what it was--told him, in
the moment when they looked at each other, that his suspicion had
hit the mark.
In the conservatory the ever-amiable Mirabel had left his friends
for a while in search of flowers for Cecilia. She turned to her
father when they were alone, and asked him which of the gentlemen
was to take her in to dinner--Mr. Mirabel or Mr. Morris?
"Mr. Morris, of course," he answered. "He is the new guest--and
he turns out to be more than the equal, socially-speaking, of our
other friend. When I showed him his room, I asked if he was
related to a man who bore the same name--a fellow student of
mine, years and years ago, at college. He is my friend's younger
son; one of a ruined family--but persons of high distinction in
Mirabel returned with the flowers, just as dinner was announced.
"You are to take Emily to-day," Cecilia said to him, leading the
way out of the conservatory. As they entered the drawing-room,
Alban was just offering his arm to Emily. "Papa gives you to me,
Mr. Morris," Cecilia explained pleasantly. Alban hesitated,
apparently not understanding the allusion. Mirabel interfered
with his best grace: "Mr. Wyvil offers you the honor of taking
his daughter to the dining-room." Alban's face darkened
ominously, as the elegant little clergyman gave his arm to Emily,
and followed Mr. Wyvil and Francine out of the room. Cecilia
looked at her silent and surly companion, and almost envied her
lazy sister, dining--under cover of a convenient headache--in her
Having already made up his mind that Alban Morris required
careful handling, Mirabel waited a little before he led the
conversation as usual. Between the soup and the fish, he made an
interesting confession, addressed to Emily in the strictest
"I have taken a fancy to your friend Mr. Morris," he said. "First
impressions, in my case, decide everything; I like people or
dislike them on impulse. That man appeals to my sympathies. Is he
a good talker?"
"I should say Yes," Emily answered prettily, "if _you_ were not
Mirabel was not to be beaten, even by a woman, in the art of
paying compliments. He looked admiringly at Alban (sitting
opposite to him), and said: "Let us listen."
This flattering suggestion not only pleased Emily--it artfully
served Mirabel's purpose. That is to say, it secured him an
opportunity for observation of what was going on at the other
side of the table.
Alban's instincts as a gentleman had led him to control his
irritation and to regret that he had suffered it to appear.
Anxious to please, he presented himself at his best. Gentle
Cecilia forgave and forgot the angry look which had startled her.
Mr. Wyvil was delighted with the son of his old friend. Emily
felt secretly proud of the good opinions which her admirer was
gathering; and Francine saw with pleasure that he was asserting
his claim to Emily's preference, in the way of all others which
would be most likely to discourage his rival. These various
impressions--produced while Alban's enemy was ominously
silent--began to suffer an imperceptible change, from the moment
when Mirabel decided that his time had come to take the lead. A
remark made by Alban offered him the chance for which he had been
on the watch. He agreed with the remark; he enlarged on the
remark; he was brilliant and familiar, and instructive and
amusing--and still it was all due to the remark. Alban's temper
was once more severely tried. Mirabel's mischievous object had
not escaped his penetration. He did his best to put obstacles in
the adversary's way--and was baffled, time after time, with the
readiest ingenuity. If he interrupted--the sweet-tempered
clergyman submitted, and went on. If he differed--modest Mr.
Mirabel said, in the most amiable manner, "I daresay I am wrong,"
and handled the topic from his opponent's point of view. Never
had such a perfect Christian sat before at Mr. Wyvil's table: not
a hard word, not an impatient look, escaped him. The longer Alban
resisted, the more surely he lost ground in the general
estimation. Cecilia was disappointed; Emily was grieved; Mr.
Wyvil's favorable opinion began to waver; Francine was disgusted.
When dinner was over, and the carriage was waiting to take the
shepherd back to his flock by moonlight, Mirabel's triumph was
complete. He had made Alban the innocent means of publicly
exhibiting his perfect temper and perfect politeness, under their
best and brightest aspect.
So that day ended. Sunday promised to pass quietly, in the
absence of Mirabel. The morning came--and it seemed doubtful
whether the promise would be fulfilled.
Francine had passed an uneasy night. No such encouraging result
as she had anticipated had hitherto followed the appearance of
Alban Morris at Monksmoor. He had clumsily allowed Mirabel to
improve his position--while he had himself lost ground--in
Emily's estimation. If this first disastrous consequence of the
meeting between the two men was permitted to repeat itself on
future occasions, Emily and Mirabel would be brought more closely
together, and Alban himself would be the unhappy cause of it.
Francine rose, on the Sunday morning, before the table was laid
for breakfast--resolved to try the effect of a timely word of
Her bedroom was situated in the front of the house. The man she
was looking for presently passed within her range of view from
the window, on his way to take a morning walk in the park. She
followed him immediately.
"Good-morning, Mr. Morris."
He raised his hat and bowed--without speaking, and without
looking at her.
"We resemble each other in one particular," she proceeded,
graciously; "we both like to breathe the fresh air before
He said exactly what common politeness obliged him to say, and no
more--he said, "Yes."
Some girls might have been discouraged. Francine went on.
"It is no fault of mine, Mr. Morris, that we have not been better
friends. For some reason, into which I don't presume to inquire,
you seem to distrust me. I really don't know what I have done to
"Are you sure of that?" he asked--eying her suddenly and
searchingly as he spoke.
Her hard face settled into a rigid look; her eyes met his eyes
with a stony defiant stare. Now, for the first time, she knew
that he suspected her of having written the anonymous letter.
Every evil quality in her nature steadily defied him. A hardened
old woman could not have sustained the shock of discovery with a
more devilish composure than this girl displayed. "Perhaps you
will explain yourself," she said.
"I _have_ explained myself," he answered.
"Then I must be content," she rejoined, "to remain in the dark. I
had intended, out of my regard for Emily, to suggest that you
might--with advantage to yourself, and to interests that are very
dear to you--be more careful in your behavior to Mr. Mirabel. Are
you disposed to listen to me?"
"Do you wish me to answer that question plainly, Miss de Sor?"
"I insist on your answering it plainly."
"Then I am _not_ disposed to listen to you."
"May I know why? or am I to be left in the dark again?"
"You are to be left, if you please, to your own ingenuity."
Francine looked at him, with a malignant smile. "One of these
days, Mr. Morris--I will deserve your confidence in my
ingenuity." She said it, and went back to the house.
This was the only element of disturbance that troubled the
perfect tranquillity of the day. What Francine had proposed to
do, with the one idea of making Alban serve her purpose, was
accomplished a few hours later by Emily's influence for good over
the man who loved her.
They passed the afternoon together uninterruptedly in the distant
solitudes of the park. In the course of conversation Emily found
an opportunity of discreetly alluding to Mirabel. "You mustn't be
jealous of our clever little friend," she said; "I like him, and
admire him; but--"
"But you don't love him?"
She smiled at the eager way in which Alban put the question.
"There is no fear of that," she answered brightly.
"Not even if you discovered that he loves you?"
"Not even then. Are you content at last? Promise me not to be
rude to Mr. Mirabel again."
"For his sake?"
"No--for my sake. I don't like to see you place yourself at a
disadvantage toward another man; I don't like you to disappoint
The happiness of hearing her say those words transfigured
him--the manly beauty of his earlier and happier years seemed to
have returned to Alban. He took her hand--he was too agitated to
"You are forgetting Mr. Mirabel," she reminded him gently.
"I will be all that is civil and kind to Mr. Mirabel; I will like
him and admire him as you do. Oh, Emily, are you a little, only a
very little, fond of me?"
"I don't quite know."
"May I try to find out?"
"How?" she asked.
Her fair cheek was very near to him. The softly-rising color on
it said, Answer me here--and he answered.
On Monday, Mirabel made his appearance--and the demon of discord
returned with him.
Alban had employed the earlier part of the day in making a sketch
in the park--intended as a little present for Emily. Presenting
himself in the drawing-room, when his work was completed, he
found Cecilia and Francine alone. He asked where Emily was.
The question had been addressed to Cecilia. Francine answered it.
"Emily mustn't be disturbed," she said.
"She is with Mr. Mirabel in the rose garden. I saw them talking
together--evidently feeling the deepest interest in what they
were saying to each other. Don't interrupt them--you will only be
in the way."
Cecilia at once protested against this last assertion. "She is
trying to make mischief, Mr. Morris--don't believe her. I am sure
they will be glad to see you, if you join them in the garden."
Francine rose, and left the room. She turned, and looked at Alban
as she opened the door. "Try it," she said--"and you will find I
"Francine sometimes talks in a very ill-natured way," Cecilia
gently remarked. "Do you think she means it, Mr. Morris?'
"I had better not offer an opinion," Alban replied.
"I can't speak impartially; I dislike Miss de Sor."
There was a pause. Alban's sense of self-respect forbade him to
try the experiment which Francine had maliciously suggested. His
thoughts--less easy to restrain--wandered in the direction of the
garden. The attempt to make him jealous had failed; but he was
conscious, at the same time, that Emily had disappointed him.
After what they had said to each other in the park, she ought to
have remembered that women are at the mercy of appearances. If
Mirabel had something of importance to say to her, she might have
avoided exposing herself to Francine's spiteful misconstruction:
it would have been easy to arrange with Cecilia that a third
person should be present at the interview.
While he was absorbed in these reflections, Cecilia--embarrassed
by the silence--was trying to find a topic of conversation. Alban
roughly pushed his sketch-book away from him, on the table. Was
he displeased with Emily? The same question had occurred to
Cecilia at the time of the correspondence, on the subject of Miss
Jethro. To recall those letters led her, by natural sequence, to
another effort of memory. She was reminded of the person who had
been the cause of the correspondence: her interest was revived in
the mystery of Miss Jethro.
"Has Emily told you that I have seen your letter?" she asked.
He roused himself with a start. "I beg your pardon. What letter
are you thinking of?"
"I was thinking of the letter which mentions Miss Jethro's
strange visit. Emily was so puzzled and so surprised that she
showed it to me--and we both consulted my father. Have you spoken
to Emily about Miss Jethro?"
"I have tried--but she seemed to be unwilling to pursue the
"Have you made any discoveries since you wrote to Emily?"
"No. The mystery is as impenetrable as ever."
As he replied in those terms, Mirabel entered the conservatory
from the garden, evidently on his way to the drawing-room.
To see the man, whose introduction to Emily it had been Miss
Jethro's mysterious object to prevent--at the very moment when he
had been speaking of Miss Jethro herself--was, not only a
temptation of curiosity, but a direct incentive (in Emily's own
interests) to make an effort at discovery. Alban pursued the
conversation with Cecilia, in a tone which was loud enough to be
heard in the conservatory.
"The one chance of getting any information that I can see," he
proceeded, "is to speak to Mr. Mirabel."
"I shall be only too glad, if I can be of any service to Miss
Wyvil and Mr. Morris."
With those obliging words, Mirabel made a dramatic entry, and
looked at Cecilia with his irresistible smile. Startled by his
sudden appearance, she unconsciously assisted Alban's design. Her
silence gave him the opportunity of speaking in her place.
"We were talking," he said quietly to Mirabel, "of a lady with
whom you are acquainted."
"Indeed! May I ask the lady's name?"
Mirabel sustained the shock with extraordinary
self-possession--so far as any betrayal by sudden movement was
concerned. But his color told the truth: it faded to paleness--it
revealed, even to Cecilia's eyes, a man overpowered by fright.
Alban offered him a chair. He refused to take it by a gesture.
Alban tried an apology next. "I am afraid I have ignorantly
revived some painful associations. Pray excuse me."
The apology roused Mirabel: he felt the necessity of offering
some explanation. In timid animals, the one defensive capacity
which is always ready for action is cunning. Mirabel was too wily
to dispute the inference--the inevitable inference--which any one
must have drawn, after seeing the effect on him that the name of
Miss Jethro had produced. He admitted that "painful associations"
had been revived, and deplored the "nervous sensibility" which
had permitted it to be seen.
"No blame can possibly attach to _you_, my dear sir," he
continued, in his most amiable manner. "Will it be indiscreet, on
my part, if I ask how you first became acquainted with Miss
"I first became acquainted with her at Miss Ladd's school," Alban
answered. "She was, for a short time only, one of the teachers;
and she left her situation rather suddenly." He paused--but
Mirabel made no remark. "After an interval of a few months," he
resumed, "I saw Miss Jethro again. She called on me at my
lodgings, near Netherwoods."
"Merely to renew your former acquaintance?"
Mirabel made that inquiry with an eager anxiety for the reply
which he was quite unable to conceal. Had he any reason to dread
what Miss Jethro might have it in her power to say of him to
another person? Alban was in no way pledged to secrecy, and he
was determined to leave no means untried of throwing light on
Miss Jethro's mysterious warning. He repeated the plain narrative
of the interview, which he had communicated by letter to Emily.
Mirabel listened without making any remark.
"After what I have told you, can you give me no explanation?"
"I am quite unable, Mr. Morris, to help you."
Was he lying? or speaking, the truth? The impression produced on
Alban was that he had spoken the truth.
Women are never so ready as men to resign themselves to the
disappointment of their hopes. Cecilia, silently listening up to
this time, now ventured to speak--animated by her sisterly
interest in Emily.
"Can you not tell us," she said to Mirabel, "why Miss Jethro
tried to prevent Emily Brown from meeting you here?"
"I know no more of her motive than you do," Mirabel replied.
Alban interposed. "Miss Jethro left me," he said, "with the
intention--quite openly expressed--of trying to prevent you from
accepting Mr. Wyvil's invitation. Did she make the attempt?"
Mirabel admitted that she had made the attempt. "But," he added,
"without mentioning Miss Emily's name. I was asked to postpone my
visit, as a favor to herself, because she had her own reasons for
wishing it. I had _my_ reasons" (he bowed with gallantry to
Cecilia) "for being eager to have the honor of knowing Mr. Wyvil
and his daughter; and I refused."
Once more, the doubt arose: was he lying? or speaking the truth?
And, once more, Alban could not resist the conclusion that he was
speaking the truth.
"There is one thing I should like
to know," Mirabel continued, after some hesitation. "Has Miss
Emily been informed of this strange affair?"
Mirabel seemed to be disposed to continue his inquiries--and
suddenly changed his mind. Was he beginning to doubt if Alban had
spoken without concealment, in describing Miss Jethro's visit?
Was he still afraid of what Miss Jethro might have said of him?
In any case, he changed the subject, and made an excuse for
leaving the room.
"I am forgetting my errand," he said to Alban. "Miss Emily was
anxious to know if you had finished your sketch. I must tell her
that you have returned."
He bowed and withdrew.
Alban rose to follow him--and checked himself.
"No," he thought, "I trust Emily!" He sat down again by Cecilia's
Mirabel had indeed returned to the rose garden. He found Emily
employed as he had left her, in making a crown of roses, to be
worn by Cecilia in the evening. But, in one other respect, there
was a change. Francine was present.
"Excuse me for sending you on a needless errand," Emily said to
Mirabel; "Miss de Sor tells me Mr. Morris has finished his
sketch. She left him in the drawing-room--why didn't you bring
"He was talking with Miss Wyvil."
Mirabel answered absently--with his eyes on Francine. He gave her
one of those significant looks, which says to a third person,
"Why are you here?" Francine's jealousy declined to understand
him. He tried a broader hint, in words.
"Are you going to walk in the garden?" he said.
Francine was impenetrable. "No," she answered, "I am going to
stay here with Emily."
Mirabel had no choice but to yield. Imperative anxieties forced
him to say, in Francine's presence, what he had hoped to say to
"When I joined Miss Wyvil and Mr. Morris," he began, "what do you
think they were doing? They were talking of--Miss Jethro."
Emily dropped the rose-crown on her lap. It was easy to see that
she had been disagreeably surprised.
"Mr. Morris has told me the curious story of Miss Jethro's
visit," Mirabel continued; "but I am in some doubt whether he has
spoken to me without reserve. Perhaps he expressed himself more
freely when he spoke to _you_. Miss Jethro may have said
something to him which tended to lower me in your estimation?"
"Certainly not, Mr. Mirabel--so far as I know. If I had heard
anything of the kind, I should have thought it my duty to tell
you. Will it relieve your anxiety, if I go at once to Mr. Morris,
and ask him plainly whether he has concealed anything from you or
Mirabel gratefully kissed her hand. "Your kindness overpowers
me," he said--speaking, for once, with true emotion.
Emily immediately returned to the house. As soon as she was out
of sight, Francine approached Mirabel, trembling with suppressed
Miss de Sor began cautiously with an apology. "Excuse me, Mr.
Mirabel, for reminding you of my presence."
Mr. Mirabel made no reply.
"I beg to say," Francine proceeded, "that I didn't intentionally
see you kiss Emily's hand."
Mirabel stood, looking at the roses which Emily had left on her
chair, as completely absorbed in his own thoughts as if he had
been alone in the garden.
"Am I not even worth notice?" Francine asked. "Ah, I know to whom
I am indebted for your neglect!" She took him familiarly by the
arm, and burst into a harsh laugh. "Tell me now, in
confidence--do you think Emily is fond of you?"
The impression left by Emily's kindness was still fresh in
Mirabel's memory: he was in no humor to submit to the jealous
resentment of a woman whom he regarded with perfect indifference.
Through the varnish of politeness which overlaid his manner,
there rose to the surface the underlying insolence, hidden, on
all ordinary occasions, from all human eyes. He answered
Francine--mercilessly answered her--at last.
"It is the dearest hope of my life that she may be fond of me,"
Francine dropped his arm "And fortune favors your hopes," she
added, with an ironical assumption of interest in Mirabel's
prospects. "When Mr. Morris leaves us to-morrow, he removes the
only obstacle you have to fear. Am I right?"
"No; you are wrong."
"In what way, if you please?"
"In this way. I don't regard Mr. Morris as an obstacle. Emily is
too delicate and too kind to hurt his feelings--she is not in
love with him. There is no absorbing interest in her mind to
divert her thoughts from me. She is idle and happy; she
thoroughly enjoys her visit to this house, and I am associated
with her enjoyment. There is my chance--!"
He suddenly stopped. Listening to him thus far, unnaturally calm
and cold, Francine now showed that she felt the lash of his
contempt. A hideous smile passed slowly over her white face. It
threatened the vengeance which knows no fear, no pity, no
remorse--the vengeance of a jealous woman. Hysterical anger,
furious language, Mirabel was prepared for. The smile frightened
"Well?" she said scornfully, "why don't you go on?"
A bolder man might still have maintained the audacious position
which he had assumed. Mirabel's faint heart shrank from it. He
was eager to shelter himself under the first excuse that he could
find. His ingenuity, paralyzed by his fears, was unable to invent
anything new. He feebly availed himself of the commonplace trick
of evasion which he had read of in novels, and seen in action on
"Is it possible," he asked, with an overacted assumption of
surprise, "that you think I am in earnest?"
In the case of any other person, Francine would have instantly
seen through that flimsy pretense. But the love which accepts the
meanest crumbs of comfort that can be thrown to it--which fawns
and grovels and deliberately deceives itself, in its own
intensely selfish interests--was the love that burned in
Francine's breast. The wretched girl believed Mirabel with such
an ecstatic sense of belief that she trembled in every limb, and
dropped into the nearest chair.
"_I_ was in earnest," she said faintly. "Didn't you see it?"
He was perfectly shameless; he denied that he had seen it, in the
most positive manner. "Upon my honor, I thought you were
mystifying me, and I humored the joke."
She sighed, and looking at him with an expression of tender
reproach. "I wonder whether I can believe you," she said softly.
"Indeed you may believe me!" he assured her.
She hesitated--for the pleasure of hesitating. "I don't know.
Emily is very much admired by some men. Why not by you?"
"For the best of reasons," he answered "She is poor, and I am
poor. Those are facts which speak for themselves."
"Yes--but Emily is bent on attracting you. She would marry you
to-morrow, if you asked her. Don't attempt to deny it! Besides,
you kissed her hand."
"Oh, Miss de Sor!"
"Don't call me 'Miss de Sor'! Call me Francine. I want to know
why you kissed her hand."
He humored her with inexhaustible servility. "Allow me to kiss
_your_ hand, Francine!--and let me explain that kissing a lady's
hand is only a form of thanking her for her kindness. You must
own that Emily--"
She interrupted him for the third time. "Emily?" she repeated.
"Are you as familiar as that already? Does she call you 'Miles,'
when you are by yourselves? Is there any effort at fascination
which this charming creature has left untried? She told you no
doubt what a lonely life she leads in her poor little home?"
Even Mirabel felt that he must not permit this to pass.
"She has said nothing to me about herself," he answered. "What I
know of her, I know from Mr. Wyvil."
"Oh, indeed! You asked Mr. Wyvil about her family, of course?
What did he say?"
"He said she lost her mother when she was a child--and he told me
her father had died suddenly, a few years since, of heart
"Well, and what else?--Never mind now! Here is somebody coming."
The person was only one of the servants. Mirabel felt grateful to
the man for interrupting them. Animated by sentiments of a
precisely opposite nature, Francine spoke to him sharply.
"What do you want here?"
"A message, miss."
"From Miss Brown."
"No, miss." He turned to Mirabel. "Miss Brown wishes to speak to
you, sir, if you are not e ngaged."
Francine controlled herself until the man was out of hearing.
"Upon my word, this is too shameless!" she declared indignantly.
"Emily can't leave you with me for five minutes, without wanting
to see you again. If you go to her after all that you have said
to me," she cried, threatening Mirabel with her outstretched
hand, "you are the meanest of men!"
He _was_ the meanest of men--he carried out his cowardly
submission to the last extremity.
"Only say what you wish me to do," he replied.
Even Francine expected some little resistance from a creature
bearing the outward appearance of a man. "Oh, do you really mean
it?" she asked "I want you to disappoint Emily. Will you stay
here, and let me make your excuses?"
"I will do anything to please you."
Francine gave him a farewell look. Her admiration made a
desperate effort to express itself appropriately in words. "You
are not a man," she said, "you are an angel!"
Left by himself, Mirabel sat down to rest. He reviewed his own
conduct with perfect complacency. "Not one man in a hundred could
have managed that she-devil as I have done," he thought. "How
shall I explain matters to Emily?"
Considering this question, he looked by chance at the unfinished
crown of roses. "The very thing to help me!" he said--and took
out his pocketbook, and wrote these lines on a blank page: "I
have had a scene of jealousy with Miss de Sor, which is beyond
all description. To spare _you_ a similar infliction, I have done
violence to my own feelings. Instead of instantly obeying the
message which you have so kindly sent to me, I remain here for a
little while--entirely for your sake."
Having torn out the page, and twisted it up among the roses, so
that only a corner of the paper appeared in view, Mirabel called
to a lad who was at work in the garden, and gave him his
directions, accompanied by a shilling. "Take those flowers to the
servants' hall, and tell one of the maids to put them in Miss
Brown's room. Stop! Which is the way to the fruit garden?"
The lad gave the necessary directions. Mirabel walked away
slowly, with his hands in his pockets. His nerves had been
shaken; he thought a little fruit might refresh him.
In the meanwhile Emily had been true to her promise to relieve
Mirabel's anxieties, on the subject of Miss Jethro. Entering the
drawing-room in search of Alban, she found him talking with
Cecilia, and heard her own name mentioned as she opened the door.
"Here she is at last!" Cecilia exclaimed. "What in the world has
kept you all this time in the rose garden?"
"Has Mr. Mirabel been more interesting than usual?" Alban asked
gayly. Whatever sense of annoyance he might have felt in Emily's
absence, was forgotten the moment she appeared; all traces of
trouble in his face vanished when they looked at each other.
"You shall judge for yourself," Emily replied with a smile. "Mr.
Mirabel has been speaking to me of a relative who is very dear to
Cecilia was surprised. "Why has he never spoken to _us_ of his
sister?" she asked.
"It's a sad subject to speak of, my dear. His sister lives a life
of suffering--she has been for years a prisoner in her room. He
writes to her constantly. His letters from Monksmoor have
interested her, poor soul. It seems he said something about
me--and she has sent a kind message, inviting me to visit her one
of these days. Do you understand it now, Cecilia?"
"Of course I do! Tell me--is Mr. Mirabel's sister older or
younger than he is?"
"Is she married?"
"She is a widow."
"Does she live with her brother?" Alban asked.
"Oh, no! She has her own house--far away in Northumberland."
"Is she near Sir Jervis Redwood?"
"I fancy not. Her house is on the coast."
"Any children?" Cecilia inquired.
"No; she is quite alone. Now, Cecilia, I have told you all I
know--and I have something to say to Mr. Morris. No, you needn't
leave us; it's a subject in which you are interested. A subject,"
she repeated, turning to Alban, "which you may have noticed is
not very agreeable to me."
"Miss Jethro?" Alban guessed.
"Yes; Miss Jethro."
Cecilia's curiosity instantly asserted itself.
"_We_ have tried to get Mr. Mirabel to enlighten us, and tried in
vain," she said. "You are a favorite. Have you succeeded?"
"I have made no attempt to succeed," Emily replied. "My only
object is to relieve Mr. Mirabel's anxiety, if I can--with your
help, Mr. Morris."
"In what way can I help you?"
"You mustn't be angry."
"Do I look angry?"
"You look serious. It is a very simple thing. Mr. Mirabel is
afraid that Miss Jethro may have said something disagreeable
about him, which you might hesitate to repeat. Is he making
himself uneasy without any reason?"
"Without the slightest reason. I have concealed nothing from Mr.
"Thank you for the explanation." She turned to Cecilia. "May I
send one of the servants with a message? I may as well put an end
to Mr. Mirabel's suspense."
The man was summoned, and was dispatched with the message. Emily
would have done well, after this, if she had abstained from
speaking further of Miss Jethro. But Mirabel's doubts had,
unhappily, inspired a similar feeling of uncertainty in her own
mind. She was now disposed to attribute the tone of mystery in
Alban's unlucky letter to some possible concealment suggested by
regard for herself. "I wonder whether _I_ have any reason to feel
uneasy?" she said--half in jest, half in earnest.
"Uneasy about what?" Alban inquired.
"About Miss Jethro, of course! Has she said anything of me which
your kindness has concealed?"
Alban seemed to be a little hurt by the doubt which her question
implied. "Was that your motive," he asked, "for answering my
letter as cautiously as if you had been writing to a stranger?"
"Indeed you are quite wrong!" Emily earnestly assured him. "I was
perplexed and startled--and I took Mr. Wyvil's advice, before I
wrote to you. Shall we drop the subject?"
Alban would have willingly dropped the subject--but for that
unfortunate allusion to Mr. Wyvil. Emily had unconsciously
touched him on a sore place. He had already heard from Cecilia of
the consultation over his letter, and had disapproved of it. "I
think you were wrong to trouble Mr. Wyvil," he said.
The altered tone of his voice suggested to Emily that he would
have spoken more severely, if Cecilia had not been in the room.
She thought him needlessly ready to complain of a harmless
proceeding--and she too returned to the subject, after having
proposed to drop it not a minute since!
"You didn't tell me I was to keep your letter a secret," she
Cecilia made matters worse--with the best intentions. "I'm sure,
Mr. Morris, my father was only too glad to give Emily his
Alban remained silent--ungraciously silent as Emily thought,
after Mr. Wyvil's kindness to him.
"The thing to regret," she remarked, "is that Mr. Morris allowed
Miss Jethro to leave him without explaining herself. In his
place, I should have insisted on knowing why she wanted to
prevent me from meeting Mr. Mirabel in this house."
Cecilia made another unlucky attempt at judicious interference.
This time, she tried a gentle remonstrance.
"Remember, Emily, how Mr. Morris was situated. He could hardly be
rude to a lady. And I daresay Miss Jethro had good reasons for
not wishing to explain herself."
Francine opened the drawing-room door and heard Cecilia's last
"Miss Jethro again!" she exclaimed.
"Where is Mr. Mirabel?" Emily asked. "I sent him a message."
"He regrets to say he is otherwise engaged for the present,"
Francine replied with spiteful politeness. "Don't let me
interrupt the conversation. Who is this Miss Jethro, whose name
is on everybody's lips?"
Alban could keep silent no longer. "We have done with the
subject," he said sharply.
"Because I am here?"
"Because we have said more than enough about Miss Jethro
"Speak for yourself, Mr. Morris," Emily answered, resenting the
masterful tone which Alban's interference had assumed. "I have
not done with Miss Jethro yet, I can assure you."
"My dear, you don't know where she lives," Cecilia reminded her.
"Leave me to discover i t!" Emily answered hotly. "Perhaps Mr.
Mirabel knows. I shall ask Mr. Mirabel."
"I thought you would find a reason for returning to Mr. Mirabel,"
Before Emily could reply, one of the maids entered the room with
a wreath of roses in her hand.
"Mr. Mirabel sends you these flowers, miss," the woman said,
addressing Emily. "The boy told me they were to be taken to your
room. I thought it was a mistake, and I have brought them to you
Francine, who happened to be nearest to the door, took the roses
from the girl on pretense of handing them to Emily. Her jealous
vigilance detected the one visible morsel of Mirabel's letter,
twisted up with the flowers. Had Emily entrapped him into a
secret correspondence with her? "A scrap of waste paper among
your roses," she said, crumpling it up in her hand as if she
meant to throw it away.
But Emily was too quick for her. She caught Francine by the
wrist. "Waste paper or not," she said; "it was among my flowers
and it belongs to me."
Francine gave up the letter, with a look which might have
startled Emily if she had noticed it. She handed the roses to
Cecilia. "I was making a wreath for you to wear this evening, my
dear--and I left it in the garden. It's not quite finished yet."
Cecilia was delighted. "How lovely it is!" she exclaimed. "And
how very kind of you! I'll finish it myself." She turned away to
"I had no idea I was interfering with a letter," said Francine;
watching Emily with fiercely-attentive eyes, while she smoothed
out the crumpled paper.
Having read what Mirabel had written to her, Emily looked up, and
saw that Alban was on the point of following Cecilia into the
conservatory. He had noticed something in Francine's face which
he was at a loss to understand, but which made her presence in
the room absolutely hateful to him. Emily followed and spoke to
"I am going back to the rose garden," she said.
"For any particular purpose?" Alban inquired
"For a purpose which, I am afraid, you won't approve of. I mean
to ask Mr. Mirabel if he knows Miss Jethro's address."
"I hope he is as ignorant of it as I am," Alban answered gravely.
"Are we going to quarrel over Miss Jethro, as we once quarreled
over Mrs. Rook?" Emily asked--with the readiest recovery of her
good humor. "Come! come! I am sure you are as anxious, in your
own private mind, to have this matter cleared up as I am."
"With one difference--that I think of consequences, and you
don't." He said it, in his gentlest and kindest manner, and
stepped into the conservatory.
"Never mind the consequences," she called after him, "if we can
only get at the truth. I hate being deceived!"
"There is no person living who has better reason than you have to
Emily looked round with a start. Alban was out of hearing. It was
Francine who had answered her.
"What do you mean?" she said.
Francine hesitated. A ghastly paleness overspread her face.
"Are you ill?" Emily asked.
"No--I am thinking."
After waiting for a moment in silence, Emily moved away toward
the door of the drawing-room. Francine suddenly held up her hand.
"Stop!" she cried.
Emily stood still.
"My mind is made up," Francine said.
"Made up--to what?"
"You asked what I meant, just now."
"Well, my mind is made up to answer you. Miss Emily Brown, you
are leading a sadly frivolous life in this house. I am going to
give you something more serious to think about than your
flirtation with Mr. Mirabel. Oh, don't be impatient! I am coming
to the point. Without knowing it yourself, you have been the
victim of deception for years past--cruel deception--wicked
deception that puts on the mask of mercy."
"Are you alluding to Miss Jethro?" Emily asked, in astonishment.
"I thought you were strangers to each other. Just now, you wanted
to know who she was."
"I know nothing about her. I care nothing about her. I am not
thinking of Miss Jethro."
"Who are you thinking of?"
"I am thinking," Francine answered, "of your dead father."
Having revived his sinking energies in the fruit garden, Mirabel
seated himself under the shade of a tree, and reflected on the
critical position in which he was placed by Francine's jealousy.
If Miss de Sor continued to be Mr. Wyvil's guest, there seemed to
be no other choice before Mirabel than to leave Monksmoor--and to
trust to a favorable reply to his sister's invitation for the
free enjoyment of Emily's society under another roof. Try as he
might, he could arrive at no more satisfactory conclusion than
this. In his preoccupied state, time passed quickly. Nearly an
hour had elapsed before he rose to return to the house.
Entering the hall, he was startled by a cry of terror in a
woman's voice, coming from the upper regions. At the same time
Mr. Wyvil, passing along the bedroom corridor after leaving the
music-room, was confronted by his daughter, hurrying out of
Emily's bedchamber in such a state of alarm that she could hardly
"Gone!" she cried, the moment she saw her father.
Mr. Wyvil took her in his arms and tried to compose her. "Who has
gone?" he asked.
"Emily! Oh, papa, Emily has left us! She has heard dreadful
news--she told me so herself."
"What news? How did she hear it?"
"I don't know how she heard it. I went back to the drawing-room
to show her my roses--"
"Was she alone?"
"Yes! She frightened me--she seemed quite wild. She said, 'Let me
be by myself; I shall have to go home.' She kissed me--and ran up
to her room. Oh, I am such a fool! Anybody else would have taken
care not to lose sight of her."
"How long did you leave her by herself?"
"I can't say. I thought I would go and tell you. And then I got
anxious about her, and knocked at her door, and looked into the
room. Gone! Gone!"
Mr. Wyvil rang the bell and confided Cecilia to the care of her
maid. Mirabel had already joined him in the corridor. They went
downstairs together and consulted with Alban. He volunteered to
make immediate inquiries at the railway station. Mr. Wyvil
followed him, as far as the lodge gate which opened on the
highroad--while Mirabel went to a second gate, at the opposite
extremity of the park.
Mr. Wyvil obtained the first news of Emily. The lodge keeper had
seen her pass him, on her way out of the park, in the greatest
haste. He had called after her, "Anything wrong, miss?" and had
received no reply. Asked what time had elapsed since this had
happened, he was too confused to be able to answer with any
certainty. He knew that she had taken the road which led to the
station--and he knew no more.
Mr. Wyvil and Mirabel met again at the house, and instituted an
examination of the servants. No further discoveries were made.
The question which occurred to everybody was suggested by the
words which Cecilia had repeated to her father. Emily had said
she had "heard dreadful news"--how had that news reached her? The
one postal delivery at Monksmoor was in the morning. Had any
special messenger arrived, with a letter for Emily? The servants
were absolutely certain that no such person had entered the
house. The one remaining conclusion suggested that somebody must
have communicated the evil tidings by word of mouth. But here
again no evidence was to be obtained. No visitor had called
during the day, and no new guests had arrived. Investigation was
Alban returned from the railway, with news of the fugitive.
He had reached the station, some time after the departure of the
London train. The clerk at the office recognized his description
of Emily, and stated that she had taken her ticket for London.
The station-master had opened the carriage door for her, and had
noticed that the young lady appeared to be very much agitated.
This information obtained, Alban had dispatched a telegram to
Emily--in Cecilia's name: "Pray send us a few words to relieve
our anxiety, and let us know if we can be of any service to you."
This was plainly all that could be done--but Cecilia was not
satisfied. If her father had permitted it, she would have
followed Emily. Alban comforted her. He apologized to Mr. Wyvil
for shortening his visit, and announced his inten tion of
traveling to London by the next train. "We may renew our
inquiries to some advantage," he added, after hearing what had
happened in his absence, "if we can find out who was the last
person who saw her, and spoke to her, before your daughter found
her alone in the drawing-room. When I went out of the room, I
left her with Miss de Sor."
The maid who waited on Miss de Sor was sent for. Francine had
been out, by herself, walking in the park. She was then in her
room, changing her dress. On hearing of Emily's sudden departure,
she had been (as the maid reported) "much shocked and quite at a
loss to understand what it meant."
Joining her friends a few minutes later, Francine presented, so
far as personal appearance went, a strong contrast to the pale
and anxious faces round her. She looked wonderfully well, after
her walk. In other respects, she was in perfect harmony with the
prevalent feeling. She expressed herself with the utmost
propriety; her sympathy moved poor Cecilia to tears.
"I am sure, Miss de Sor, you will try to help us?" Mr. Wyvil
"With the greatest pleasure," Francine answered.
"How long were you and Miss Emily Brown together, after Mr.
Morris left you?"
"Not more than a quarter of an hour, I should think."
"Did anything remarkable occur in the course of conversation?"
Alban interfered for the first time. "Did you say anything," he
asked, "which agitated or offended Miss Brown?"
"That's rather an extraordinary question," Francine remarked.
"Have you no other answer to give?" Alban inquired.
"I answer--No!" she said, with a sudden outburst of anger.
There, the matter dropped. While she spoke in reply to Mr. Wyvil,
Francine had confronted him without embarrassment. When Alban
interposed, she never looked at him--except when he provoked her
to anger. Did she remember that the man who was questioning her,
was also the man who had suspected her of writing the anonymous
letter? Alban was on his guard against himself, knowing how he
disliked her. But the conviction in his own mind was not to be
resisted. In some unimaginable way, Francine was associated with
Emily's flight from the house.
The answer to the telegram sent from the railway station had not
arrived, when Alban took his departure for London. Cecilia's
suspense began to grow unendurable: she looked to Mirabel for
comfort, and found none. His office was to console, and his
capacity for performing that office was notorious among his
admirers; but he failed to present himself to advantage, when Mr.
Wyvil's lovely daughter had need of his services. He was, in
truth, too sincerely anxious and distressed to be capable of
commanding his customary resources of ready-made sentiment and
fluently-pious philosophy. Emily's influence had awakened the
only earnest and true feeling which had ever ennobled the popular
Toward evening, the long-expected telegram was received at last.
What could be said, under the circumstances, it said in these
"Safe at home--don't be uneasy about me--will write soon."
With that promise they were, for the time, forced to be content.
BOOK THE FIFTH--THE COTTAGE.
Mrs. Ellmother--left in charge of Emily's place of abode, and
feeling sensible of her lonely position from time to time--had
just thought of trying the cheering influence of a cup of tea,
when she heard a cab draw up at the cottage gate. A violent ring
at the bell followed. She opened the door--and found Emily on the
steps. One look at that dear and familiar face was enough for the
"God help us," she cried, "what's wrong now?"
Without a word of reply, Emily led the way into the bedchamber
which had been the scene of Miss Letitia's death. Mrs. Ellmother
hesitated on the threshold.
"Why do you bring me in here?" she asked.
"Why did you try to keep me out?" Emily answered.
"When did I try to keep you out, miss?"
"When I came home from school, to nurse my aunt. Ah, you remember
now! Is it true--I ask you here, where your old mistress died--is
it true that my aunt deceived me about my father's death? And
that you knew it?"
There was dead silence. Mrs. Ellmother trembled horribly--her
lips dropped apart--her eyes wandered round the room with a stare
of idiotic terror. "Is it her ghost tells you that?" she
whispered. "Where is her ghost? The room whirls round and round,
miss--and the air sings in my ears."
Emily sprang forward to support her. She staggered to a chair,
and lifted her great bony hands in wild entreaty. "Don't frighten
me," she said. "Stand back."
Emily obeyed her. She dashed the cold sweat off her forehead.
"You were talking about your father's death just now," she burst
out, in desperate defiant tones. "Well! we know it and we are
sorry for it--your father died suddenly."
"My father died murdered in the inn at Zeeland! All the long way
to London, I have tried to doubt it. Oh, me, I know it now!"
Answering in those words, she looked toward the bed. Harrowing
remembrances of her aunt's delirious self-betrayal made the room
unendurable to her. She ran out. The parlor door was open.
Entering the room, she passed by a portrait of her father, which
her aunt had hung on the wall over the fireplace. She threw
herself on the sofa and burst into a passionate fit of crying.
"Oh, my father--my dear, gentle, loving father; my first, best,
truest friend--murdered! murdered! Oh, God, where was your
justice, where was your mercy, when he died that dreadful death?"
A hand was laid on her shoulder; a voice said to her, "Hush, my
child! God knows best."
Emily looked up, and saw that Mrs. Ellmother had followed her.
"You poor old soul," she said, suddenly remembering; "I
frightened you in the other room."
"I have got over it, my dear. I am old; and I have lived a hard
life. A hard life schools a person. I make no complaints." She
stopped, and began to shudder again. "Will you believe me if I
tell you something?" she asked. "I warned my self-willed
mistress. Standing by your father's coffin, I warned her. Hide
the truth as you may (I said), a time will come when our child
will know what you are keeping from her now. One or both of us
may live to see it. I am the one who has lived; no refuge in the
grave for me. I want to hear about it--there's no fear of
frightening or hurting me now. I want to hear how you found it
out. Was it by accident, my dear? or did a person tell you?"
Emily's mind was far away from Mrs. Ellmother. She rose from the
sofa, with her hands held fast over her aching heart.
"The one duty of my life," she said--"I am thinking of the one
duty of my life. Look! I am calm now; I am resigned to my hard
lot. Never, never again, can the dear memory of my father be what
it was! From this time, it is the horrid memory of a crime. The
crime has gone unpunished; the man has escaped others. He shall
not escape Me." She paused, and looked at Mrs. Ellmother
absently. "What did you say just now? You want to hear how I know
what I know? Naturally! naturally! Sit down here--sit down, my
old friend, on the sofa with me--and take your mind back to
Netherwoods. Alban Morris--"
Mrs. Ellmother recoiled from Emily in dismay. "Don't tell me _he_
had anything to do with it! The kindest of men; the best of men!"
"The man of all men living who least deserves your good opinion
or mine," Emily answered sternly.
"You!" Mrs. Ellmother exclaimed, "_you_ say that!"
"I say it. He--who won on me to like him--he was in the
conspiracy to deceive me; and you know it! He heard me talk of
the newspaper story of the murder of my father--I say, he heard
me talk of it composedly, talk of it carelessly, in the innocent
belief that it was the murder of a stranger--and he never opened
his lips to prevent that horrid profanation! He never even said,
speak of something else; I won't hear you! No more of him! God
forbid I should ever see him again. No! Do what I told you. Carry
your mind back to Netherwoods. One night you let Francine de Sor
frighten you. You ran away from her into the garden. Keep quiet!
At your age, must I set you an example of self-control?
"I want to know, Miss Emily, where Francine
de Sor is now?"
"She is at the house in the country, which I have left."
"Where does she go next, if you please? Back to Miss Ladd?"
"I suppose so. What interest have you in knowing where she goes
"I won't interrupt you, miss. It's true that I ran away into the
garden. I can guess who followed me. How did she find her way to
me and Mr. Morris, in the dark?"
"The smell of tobacco guided her--she knew who smoked--she had
seen him talking to you, on that very day--she followed the
scent--she heard what you two said to each other--and she has
repeated it to me. Oh, my old friend, the malice of a revengeful
girl has enlightened me, when you, my nurse--and he, my
lover--left me in the dark: it has told me how my father died!"
"That's said bitterly, miss!"
"Is it said truly?"
"No. It isn't said truly of myself. God knows you would never
have been kept in the dark, if your aunt had listened to me. I
begged and prayed--I went down on my knees to her--I warned her,
as I told you just now. Must I tell _you_ what a headstrong woman
Miss Letitia was? She insisted. She put the choice before me of
leaving her at once and forever--or giving in. I wouldn't have
given in to any other creature on the face of this earth. I am
obstinate, as you have often told me. Well, your aunt's obstinacy
beat mine; I was too fond of her to say No. Besides, if you ask
me who was to blame in the first place, I tell you it wasn't your
aunt; she was frightened into it."
"Who frightened her?"
"Your godfather--the great London surgeon--he who was visiting in
our house at the time."
"Yes--Sir Richard. He said he wouldn't answer for the
consequences, in the delicate state of your health, if we told
you the truth. Ah, he had it all his own way after that. He went
with Miss Letitia to the inquest; he won over the coroner and the
newspaper men to his will; he kept your aunt's name out of the
papers; he took charge of the coffin; he hired the undertaker and
his men, strangers from London; he wrote the certificate--who but
he! Everybody was cap in hand to the famous man!"
"Surely, the servants and the neighbors asked questions?"
"Hundreds of questions! What did that matter to Sir Richard? They
were like so many children, in _his_ hands. And, mind you, the
luck helped him. To begin with, there was the common name. Who
was to pick out your poor father among the thousands of James
Browns? Then, again, the house and lands went to the male heir,
as they called him--the man your father quarreled with in the
bygone time. He brought his own establishment with him. Long
before you got back from the friends you were staying with--don't
you remember it?--we had cleared out of the house; we were miles
and miles away; and the old servants were scattered abroad,
finding new situations wherever they could. How could you suspect
us? We had nothing to fear in that way; but my conscience pricked
me. I made another attempt to prevail on Miss Letitia, when you
had recovered your health. I said, 'There's no fear of a relapse
now; break it to her gently, but tell her the truth.' No! Your
aunt was too fond of you. She daunted me with dreadful fits of
crying, when I tried to persuade her. And that wasn't the worst
of it. She bade me remember what an excitable man your father
was--she reminded me that the misery of your mother's death laid
him low with brain fever--she said, 'Emily takes after her
father; I have heard you say it yourself; she has his
constitution, and his sensitive nerves. Don't you know how she
loved him--how she talks of him to this day? Who can tell (if we
are not careful) what dreadful mischief we may do?' That was how
my mistress worked on me. I got infected with her fears; it was
as if I had caught an infection of disease. Oh, my dear, blame me
if it must be; but don't forget how I have suffered for it since!
I was driven away from my dying mistress, in terror of what she
might say, while you were watching at her bedside. I have lived
in fear of what you might ask me--and have longed to go back to
you--and have not had the courage to do it. Look at me now!"
The poor woman tried to take out her handkerchief; her quivering
hand helplessly entangled itself in her dress. "I can't even dry
my eyes," she said faintly. "Try to forgive me, miss!"
Emily put her arms round the old nurse's neck. "It is _you_," she
said sadly, "who must forgive me."
For a while they were silent. Through the window that was open to
the little garden, came the one sound that could be heard--the
gentle trembling of leaves in the evening wind.
The silence was harshly broken by the bell at the cottage door.
They both started.
Emily's heart beat fast. "Who can it be?" she said.
Mrs. Ellmother rose. "Shall I say you can't see anybody?" she
asked, before leaving the room.
Emily heard the door opened--heard low voices in the passage.
There was a momentary interval. Then, Mrs. Ellmother returned.
She said nothing. Emily spoke to her.
"Is it a visitor?"
"Have you said I can't see anybody?"
"I couldn't say it."
"Don't be hard on him, my dear. It's Mr. Alban Morris."
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