Run to Earth
M. E. Braddon
Part 2 out of 11
"Where else should I go?" she asked, in bitter tones.
"Have you no home?"
"Home!" echoed the girl. "I have never had what gentlemen like you call
"But where are you going to-night?"
"To the fields--to some empty barn, if I can find one with a door
unfastened, into which I may creep. I have been singing all day, and
have not earned money enough to pay for a lodging."
The full moon shone broad and clear upon the girl's face. Looking at
her by that silvery light, Sir Oswald saw that she was very beautiful.
"Have you been long leading this miserable life?" Sir Oswald asked her
"My life has been one long misery," answered the ballad-singer.
"How long have you been singing in the streets?"
"I have been singing about the country for two years; not always in the
streets, for some time I was in a company of show-people; but the
mistress of the show treated me badly, and I left her. Since then I
have been wandering about from place to place, singing in the streets
on market-days, and singing at fairs."
The girl said all this in a dull, mechanical way, as if she were
accustomed to be called on to render an account of herself.
"And before you took to this kind of life," said the baronet, strangely
interested in this vagrant girl; "how did you get your living before
"I lived with my father," answered the girl, in an altered tone. "Have
you finished your questions?"
She shuddered slightly, and rose from her crouching attitude. The moon
still shone upon her face, intensifying its deathlike pallor.
"See," said her unknown questioner, "here are a couple of sovereigns.
You need not wander into the open country to look for an empty barn.
You can procure shelter at some respectable inn. Or stay, it is close
upon midnight: you might find it difficult to get admitted to any
respectable house at such an hour. You had better come with me to my
hotel yonder, the 'Star'--the landlady is a kind-hearted creature, and
will see you comfortably lodged. Come!"
The girl stood before Sir Oswald, shivering in the bleak wind, with a
thin black shawl wrapped tightly around her, and her dark brown hair
blown away from her face by that bitter March wind. She looked at him
with unutterable surprise in her countenance.
"You are very good," she said; "no one of your class ever before
stepped out of his way to help me. Poor people have been kind to me--
often--very often. You are very good."
There was more of astonishment than pleasure in the girl's tone. It
seemed as if she cared very little about her own fate, and that her
chief feeling was surprise at the goodness of this fine gentleman.
"Do not speak of that," said Sir Oswald, gently; "I am anxious to get
you a decent shelter for the night, but that is a very small favour. I
happen to be something of a musician, and I have been much struck by
the beauty of your voice. I may be able to put you in the way of making
good use of your voice."
"Of my voice!"
The girl echoed the phrase as if it had no meaning to her.
"Come," said her benefactor, "you are weary, and ill, perhaps. You look
terribly pale. Come to the hotel, and I will place you in the
He walked on, and the girl walked by his side, very slowly, as if she
had scarcely sufficient strength to carry her even that short distance.
There was something strange in the circumstance of Sir Oswald's meeting
with this girl. There was something strange in the sudden interest
which she had aroused in him--the eager desire which he felt to learn
her previous history.
The mistress of the "Star Hotel" was somewhat surprised when one of the
waiters summoned her to the hall, where the street-singer was standing
by Sir Oswald's side; but she was too clever a woman to express her
astonishment. Sir Oswald was one of her most influential patrons, and
Sir Oswald's custom was worth a great deal. It was, therefore, scarcely
possible that such a man could do wrong.
"I found this poor girl in an exhausted state in the street just now,"
said Sir Oswald. "She is quite friendless, and has no shelter for the
night, though she seems above the mendicant class. Will you put her
somewhere, and see that she is taken good care of, my dear Mrs. Willet?
In the morning I may be able to think of some plan for placing her in a
more respectable position."
Mrs. Willet promised that the girl should be taken care of, and made
thoroughly comfortable. "Poor young thing," said the landlady, "she
looks dreadfully pale and ill, and I'm sure she'll be none the worse
for a nice little bit of supper. Come with me, my dear."
The girl obeyed; but on the threshold of the hall she turned and spoke
to Sir Oswald.
"I thank you," she said; "I thank you with all my heart and soul for
your goodness. I have never met with such kindness before."
"The world must have been very hard for you, my poor child," he
replied, "if such small kindness touches you so deeply. Come to me to-
morrow morning, and we will talk of your future life. Goodnight!"
"Good night, sir, and God bless you!"
The baronet went slowly and thoughtfully up the broad staircase, on his
way to his rooms.
Sir Oswald Eversleigh passed the night of his sojourn at the 'Star' in
broken slumbers. The events of the preceding day haunted him
perpetually in his sleep, acting themselves over and over again in his
brain. Sometimes he was with his nephew, and the young man was pleading
with him in an agony of selfish terror; sometimes he was standing in
the market-place, with the ghost-like figure of the vagrant ballad-
singer by his side.
When he arose in the morning, Sir Oswald resolved to dismiss all
thought of his nephew. His strange adventure of the previous night had
exercised a very powerful influence upon his mind; and it was upon that
adventure he meditated while he breakfasted.
"I have seen a landscape, which had no special charm in broad daylight,
transformed into a glimpse of paradise by the magic of the moon," he
mused as he lingered over his breakfast. "Perhaps this girl is a very
ordinary creature after all--a mere street wanderer, coarse and
But Sir Oswald stopped himself, remembering the refined tones of the
voice which he had heard last night--the perfect self-possession of the
"No," he exclaimed, "she is neither coarse nor vulgar; she is no common
street ballad-singer. Whatever she is, or whoever she is, there is a
mystery around and about her--a mystery which it shall be my business
When he had breakfasted, Sir Oswald Eversleigh sent for the ballad-
"Be good enough to tell the young person that if she feels herself
sufficiently rested and refreshed, I should like much to have a few
minutes' conversation with her," said the baronet to the head-waiter.
In a few minutes the waiter returned, and ushered in the girl. Sir
Oswald turned to look at her, possessed by a curiosity which was
utterly unwarranted by the circumstances. It was not the first time in
his life that he had stepped aside from his pathway to perform an act
of charity; but it certainly was the first time he had ever felt so
absorbing an interest in the object of his benevolence.
The girl's beauty had been no delusion engendered of the moonlight.
Standing before him, in the broad sunlight, she seemed even yet more
beautiful, for her loveliness was more fully visible.
The ballad-singer betrayed no signs of embarrassment under Sir Oswald's
searching gaze. She stood before her benefactor with calm grace; and
there was something almost akin to pride in her attitude. Her garments
were threadbare and shabby: yet on her they did not appear the garments
of a vagrant. Her dress was of some rusty black stuff, patched and
mended in a dozen places; but it fitted her neatly, and a clean linen
collar surrounded her slender throat, which was almost as white as the
linen. Her waving brown hair was drawn away from her face in thick
bands, revealing the small, rosy-tinted ear. The dark brown of that
magnificent hair contrasted with the ivory white of a complexion which
was only relieved by transient blushes of faint rose-colour, that came
and went with emotion or excitement.
"Be good enough to take a seat," said Sir Oswald: "I wish to have a
little conversation with you. I want to help you, if I can. You do not
seem fitted for the life you are leading; and I am convinced that you
possess talent which would elevate you to a far higher sphere. But
before we talk of the future, I must ask you to tell me something of
"Tell me," he continued, gently, "how is it that you are so friendless?
How is it that your father and mother allow you to lead such an
"My mother died when I was a child," answered the girl.
"And your father?"
"My father is dead also."
"You did not tell me that last night," replied the baronet, with some
touch of suspicion in his tone, for he fancied the girl's manner had
changed when she spoke of her father.
"Did I not?" she said, quietly. "I do not think you asked me any
question about my father; but if you did, I may have answered at
random; I was confused last night from exhaustion and want of rest, and
I scarcely knew what I said."
"What was your father?"
"He was a sailor."
"There is something that is scarcely English in your face," said Sir
Oswald; "were you born in England?"
"No, I was born in Florence; my mother was a Florentine."
There was a pause. It seemed evident that this girl did not care to
tell the story of her past life, and that whatever information the
baronet wanted to obtain, must be extorted from her little by little. A
common vagrant would have been eager to pour out some tale of misery,
true or false, in the hearing of the man who promised to be her
benefactor; but this girl maintained a reserve which Sir Oswald found
it very difficult to penetrate.
"I fear there is something of a painful nature in your past history,"
he said, at last; "something which you do not care to reveal."
"There is much that is painful, much that I cannot tell."
"And yet you must be aware that it will be very difficult for me to
give you assistance if I do not know to whom I am giving it. I wish to
place you in a position very different from that which you now occupy;
but it would be folly to interest myself in a person of whose history I
positively know nothing."
"Then dismiss from your mind all thoughts of me, and let me go my own
way," answered the girl, with that calm pride of manner which imparted
a singular charm to her beauty. "I shall leave this house grateful and
contented; I have asked nothing from you, nor did I intend to ask
anything. You have been very good to me; you took compassion upon me in
my misery, and I have been accustomed to see people of your class pass
me by. Let me thank you for your goodness, and go on my way." So
saying, she rose, and turned as if to leave the room.
"No!" cried Sir Oswald, impetuously; "I cannot let you go. I must help
you in some manner--even if you will throw no light upon your past
existence; even if I must act entirely in the dark."
"You are too good, sir," replied the girl, deeply touched; "but
remember that I do not ask your help. My history is a terrible one. I
have suffered from the crimes of others; but neither crime nor
dishonour have sullied my own life. I have lived amongst people I
despised, holding myself aloof as far as was possible. I have been
laughed at, hated, ill-used for that which has been called pride; but I
have at least preserved myself unpolluted by the corruption that
surrounded me. If you can believe this, if you can take me upon trust,
and stretch forth your hand to help me, knowing no more of me than I
have now told you, I shall accept your assistance proudly and
gratefully. But if you cannot believe, let me go my own way."
"I will trust you," he said; "I will help you, blindly, since it must
be so. Let me ask you two or three questions, then all questioning
between us shall be at an end."
"I am ready to answer any inquiry that it is possible for me to
"My name is Honoria Milford."
"Tell me, how is it that your manner of speaking, your tones of voice,
are those of a person who has received a superior education?"
"I am not entirely uneducated. An Italian priest, a cousin of my poor
mother's, bestowed some care upon me when I was in Florence. He was a
very learned man, and taught me much that is rarely taught to a girl of
fourteen or fifteen. His house was my refuge in days of cruel misery,
and his teaching was the only happiness of my life. And now, sir,
question me no further, I entreat you."
"Very well, then, I will ask no more; and I will trust you."
"I thank you, sir, for your generous confidence."
"And now I will tell you my plans for your future welfare," Sir Oswald
continued, kindly. "I was thinking much of you while I breakfasted. You
have a very magnificent voice; and it is upon that voice you must
depend for the future. Are you fond of music?"
"I am very fond of it."
There was little in the girl's words, but the tone in which they were
spoken, the look of inspiration which lighted up the speaker's face,
convinced Sir Oswald that she was an enthusiast.
"Do you play the piano?"
"A little; by ear."
"And you know nothing of the science of music?"
"Then you will have a great deal to learn before you can make any
profitable use of your voice. And now I will tell you what I shall do.
I shall make immediate arrangements for placing you in a first-class
boarding school in London, or the neighbourhood of London. There you
will complete your education, and there you will receive lessons from
the best masters in music and singing, and devote the greater part of
your time to the cultivation of your voice. It will be known that you
are intended for the career of a professional singer, and every
facility will be afforded you for study. You will remain in this
establishment for two years, and at the end of that time I shall place
you under the tuition of some eminent singer, who will complete your
musical education, and enable you to appear as a public singer. All the
rest will depend on your own industry and perseverance."
"And I should be a worthless creature if I were not more industrious
than ever any woman was before!" exclaimed Honoria. "Oh, sir, how can I
find words to thank you?"
"You have no need to thank me. I am a rich man, with neither wife nor
child upon whom to waste my money. Besides, if you find the obligation
too heavy to bear, you can repay me when you become a distinguished
"I will work hard to hasten that day, sir," answered the girl,
Sir Oswald had spoken thus lightly, in order to set his _protegee_ more
at her ease. He saw that her eyes were filled with tears, and moving to
the window to give her time to recover herself, stood for some minutes
looking out into the market-place. Then he came back to his easy chair
by the fire, and addressed her once more.
"I shall post up to town this afternoon to make the arrangements of
which I have spoken," he said; "you, in the meantime, will remain under
the care of Mrs. Willet, to whom I shall entrust the purchase of your
wardrobe. When that has been prepared, you will come straight to my
house in Arlington Street, whence I will myself conduct you to the
school I may have chosen as your residence. Remember, that from to-day
you will begin a new life. Ah, by the bye, there is one other question
I must ask. You have no relations, no associates of the past who are
likely to torment you in the future?"
"None. I have no relations who would dare approach me, and I have
always held myself aloof from all associates."
"Good, then the future lies clear before you. And now you can return to
Mrs. Willet. I will see her presently, and make all arrangements for
Honoria curtseyed to her benefactor, and left the room in silence. Her
every gesture and her every tone were those of a lady. Sir Oswald
looked after her with wonder, as she disappeared from the apartment.
The landlady of the "Star" was very much surprised when Sir Oswald
Eversleigh requested her to keep the ballad-singer in her charge for a
week, and to purchase for her a simple but thoroughly complete
"And now," said Sir Oswald, "I confide her to you for a week, Mrs.
Willet, at the end of which time I hope her wardrobe will be ready. I
will write you a cheque for--say fifty pounds. If that is not enough,
you can have more."
"Lor' bless you, Sir Oswald, it's more than enough to set her up like a
duchess, in a manner of speaking," answered the landlady; and then,
seeing Sir Oswald had no more to say to her, she curtseyed and
Sir Oswald Eversleigh's carriage was at the door of the "Star" at noon;
and at ten minutes after twelve the baronet was on his way back to
He visited a great many West-end boarding-schools before he found one
that satisfied him in every particular. Had his _protegee_ been his
daughter, or his affianced wife, he could not have been more difficult
to please. He wondered at his own fastidiousness.
"I am like a child with a new toy," he thought, almost ashamed of the
intense interest he felt in this unknown girl.
At last he found an establishment that pleased him; a noble old mansion
at Fulham, surrounded by splendid grounds, and presided over by two
maiden sisters. It was a thoroughly aristocratic seminary, and the
ladies who kept it knew how to charge for the advantages of their
establishment. Sir Oswald assented immediately to the Misses Beaumonts'
terms, and promised to bring the expected pupil in less than a week's
"The young lady is a relation, I presume, Sir Oswald?" said the elder
"Yes," answered the baronet; "she is--a distant relative."
If he had not been standing with his back to the light, the two ladies
might have seen a dusky flush suffuse his face as he pronounced these
words. Never before had he told so deliberate a falsehood. But he had
feared to tell the truth.
"They will never guess her secret from her manner," he thought; "and if
they question her, she will know how to baffle their curiosity."
On the very day that ended the stipulated week, Honoria Milford made
her appearance in Arlington Street. Sir Oswald was in his library,
seated in an easy-chair before the fire-place, with a book in his hand,
but with no power to concentrate his attention to its pages. He was
sitting thus when the door was opened, and a servant announced--
Sir Oswald rose from his chair, and beheld an elegant young lady, who
approached him with a graceful timidity of manner. She was simply
dressed in gray merino, a black silk mantle, and a straw bonnet,
trimmed with white ribbon. Nothing could have been more Quaker-like
than the simplicity of this costume, and yet there was an elegance
about the wearer which the baronet had seldom seen surpassed.
He rose to welcome her.
"You have just arrived in town?" he said.
"Yes, Sir Oswald; a hackney-coach brought me here from the coach-
"I am very glad to see you," said the baronet, holding out his hand,
which Honoria Milford touched lightly with her own neatly gloved
fingers; "and I am happy to tell you that I have secured you a home
which I think you will like."
"Oh, Sir Oswald, you are only too good to me. I shall never know how to
"Then do not thank me at all. Believe me, I desire no thanks. I have
done nothing worthy of gratitude. An influence stronger than my own
will has drawn me towards you; and in doing what I can to befriend you,
I am only giving way to an impulse which I am powerless to resist."
The girl looked at her benefactor with a bewildered expression, and Sir
Oswald interpreted the look.
"Yes," he said, "you may well be astonished by what I tell you. I am
astonished myself. There is something mysterious in the interest which
you have inspired in my mind."
Although the baronet had thought continually of his _protegee_ during
the past week, he had never asked himself if there might not be some
simple and easy solution possible for this bewildering enigma. He had
never asked himself if it were not just within the limits of
possibility that a man of fifty might fall a victim to that fatal fever
He looked at the girl's beautiful face with the admiration which every
man feels for the perfection of beauty--the pure, calm, reverential
feeling of an artist, or a poet--and he never supposed it possible that
the day might not be far distant when he would contemplate that lovely
countenance with altered sentiments, with a deeper emotion.
"Come to the dining-room, Miss Milford," he said; "I expected you to-
day--I have made all my arrangements accordingly. You must be hungry
after your journey; and as I have not yet lunched, I hope you will
share my luncheon?"
Honoria assented. Her manner towards her benefactor was charming in its
quiet grace, deferential without being sycophantic--the manner of a
daughter rather than a dependent Before leaving the library, she looked
round at the books, the bronzes, the pictures, with admiring eyes.
Never before had she seen so splendid an apartment: and she possessed
that intuitive love of beautiful objects which is the attribute of all
refined and richly endowed natures.
The baronet placed his ward on one side of the table, and seated
himself opposite to her.
No servant waited upon them. Sir Oswald himself attended to the wants
of his guest. He heaped her plate with dainties; he filled her glass
with rare old wine; but she ate only a few mouthfuls, and she could
drink nothing. The novelty of her present position was too full of
During the whole of the repast the baronet asked her no questions. He
talked as if they had long been known to each other, explaining to her
the merits of the different pictures and statues which she admired,
pleased to find her intelligence always on a level with his own.
"She is a wonderful creature," he thought; "a wonderful creature--a
priceless pearl picked up out of the gutter."
After luncheon Sir Oswald rang for his carriage, and presently Honoria
Milford found herself on her way to her new home.
The mansion inhabited by the Misses Beaumont was called "The Beeches."
It had of old been the seat of a nobleman, and the grounds which
encircled it were such as are rarely to be found within a few miles of
the metropolis; and they would in vain be sought for now. Shabby little
streets and terraces cover the ground where grand old cedars of Lebanon
cast their dark shadows on the smooth turf seven-and-twenty years ago.
Honoria Milford was enraptured with the beauty of her new home. That
stately mansion, shut in by noble old trees from all the dust and
clamour of the outer world; those smooth lawns, and exquisitely kept
beds, filled with flowers even in this chill spring weather, must have
seemed beautiful to those accustomed to handsome habitations. What must
they have been then to the wanderer of the streets--the friendless
tramp--who a week ago had depended for a night's rest on the chance of
finding an empty barn.
She looked at her benefactor with eyes that were dim with tears, as the
carriage approached this delightful retreat.
"If I were your daughter, you could not have chosen a better place than
this," she said.
"If you were my daughter, I doubt if I could feel a deeper interest in
your fate than I feel now," answered Sir Oswald, quietly.
Miss Beaumont the elder received her pupil with ceremonious kindness.
She looked at the girl with the keen glance of examination which
becomes habitual to the eye of the schoolmistress; but the most severe
scrutiny would have failed to detect anything unladylike or ungraceful
in the deportment of Honoria Milford.
"The young lady is charming," said Miss Beaumont, confidentially, as
the baronet was taking leave; "any one could guess that she was an
Eversleigh. She is so elegant, so patrician in face and manner. Ah, Sir
Oswald, the good old blood will show itself."
The baronet smiled as he bade adieu to the schoolmistress. He had told
Honoria that policy had compelled him to speak of her as a distant
relative of his own; and there was no fear that the girl would betray
herself or him by any awkward admissions.
Sir Oswald felt depressed and gloomy as he drove back to town. It
seemed to him as if, in parting from his _protegee_, he had lost
something that was necessary to his happiness.
"I have not spent half a dozen hours in her society," he thought, "and
yet she occupies my mind more than my nephew, Reginald, who for fifteen
years of my life has been the object of so much hope, so many cares.
What does it all mean? What is the key to this mystery?"
* * * * *
"EVIL, BE THOU MY GOOD."
Reginald Eversleigh was handsome, accomplished, agreeable--irresistible
when he chose, many people said; but he was not richly endowed with
those intellectual gifts which lift a man to either the good or bad
eminence. He was weak and vacillating--one minute swayed by a good
influence, a transient touch of penitence, affection, or generosity; in
the next given over entirely to his own selfishness, thinking only of
his own enjoyment. He was apt to be influenced by any friend or
companion endowed with intellectual superiority; and he possessed such
a friend in the person of Victor Carrington, a young surgeon, a man
infinitely below Mr. Eversleigh in social status, but whose talents,
united to tact, had lifted him above his natural level.
The young surgeon was a slim, elegant-looking young man, with a pale,
sallow face, and flashing black eyes. His appearance was altogether
foreign, and although his own name was English, he was half a
Frenchman, his mother being a native of Bordeaux. This widowed mother
now lived with him, dependent on him, and loving him with a devoted
From a chance meeting in a public billiard-room, an intimacy arose
between Victor Carrington and Reginald Eversleigh, which speedily
ripened into friendship. The weaker nature was glad to find a stronger
on which to lean. Reginald Eversleigh invited his new friend to his
rooms--to champagne breakfasts, to suppers of broiled bones, eaten long
after midnight: to card-parties, at which large sums of money were lost
and won; but the losers were never Victor Carrington or Reginald
Eversleigh, and there were men who said that Eversleigh was a more
dangerous opponent at loo and whist since he had picked up that fellow
"I always feel afraid of Eversleigh, when that sallow-faced surgeon is
his partner at whist, or hangs about his chair at _ecarte_," said one
of the officers in Reginald Eversleigh's regiment. "It's my opinion
that black-eyed Frenchman is Mephistopheles in person. I never saw a
countenance that so fully realized my idea of the devil."
People laughed at the dragoon's notion: but there were few of Mr.
Eversleigh's guests who liked his new acquaintance, and there were some
who kept altogether aloof from the young cornet's rooms, after two or
three evenings spent in the society of Mr. Carrington.
"The fellow is too clever," said one of Eversleigh's brother-officers;
"these very clever men are almost invariably scoundrels. I respect a
man who is great in one thing--a great surgeon, a great lawyer, a great
soldier--but your fellow who knows everything better than anybody else
is always a villain."
Victor Carrington was the only person to whom Reginald Eversleigh told
the real story of his breach with his uncle. He trusted Victor: not
because he cared to confide in him--for the story was too humiliating
to be told without pain--but because he wanted counsel from a stronger
mind than his own.
"It's rather a hard thing to drop from the chance of forty thousand a
year to a pension of a couple of hundred, isn't it, Carrington?" said
Reginald, as the two young men dined together in the cornet's quarters,
a fortnight after the scene in Arlington Street. "It's rather hard,
isn't it, Carrington?"
"Yes, it _would be_ rather hard, if such a contingency were possible,"
replied the surgeon, coolly; "but we don't mean to drop from forty
thousand to two hundred. The generous old uncle may choose to draw his
purse-strings, and cast us off to 'beggarly divorcement,' as Desdemona
remarks; but we don't mean to let him have his own way. We must take
things quietly, and manage matters with a little tact. You want my
advice, I suppose, my dear Reginald?"
The surgeon almost always addressed his friends by their Christian
names, more especially when those friends were of higher standing than
himself. There was a depth of pride, which few understood, lurking
beneath his quiet and unobtrusive manner; and he had a way of his own
by which he let people know that he considered himself in every respect
their equal, and in some respects their superior.
"You want my advice. Very well, then, my advice is that you play the
penitent prodigal. It is not a difficult part to perform, if you take
care what you're about. Sir Oswald has advised you to exchange into the
line. Instead of doing that, you will sell out altogether. It will look
like a stroke of prudence, and will leave you free to play your cards
cleverly, and keep your eye upon this dear uncle."
"Sell out!" exclaimed Reginald. "Leave the army! I have sworn never to
"But you will find yourself obliged to do it, nevertheless. Your
regiment is too expensive for a man who has only a pitiful two hundred
a year beyond his pay. Your mail-phaeton would cost the whole of your
income; your tailor's bill can hardly be covered by another two
hundred; and then, where are you to get your gloves, your hot-house
flowers, your wines, your cigars? You can't go on upon credit for ever;
tradesmen have such a tiresome habit of wanting money, if it's only a
hundred or so now and then on account. The Jews are beginning to be
suspicious of your paper. The news of your quarrel with Sir Oswald is
pretty sure to get about somehow or other, and then where are you?
Cards and billiards are all very well in their way; but you can't live
by them, without turning a regular black-leg, and as a black-leg you
would have no chance of the Raynham estates. No, my dear Reginald,
retrenchment is the word. You must sell out, keep yourself very quiet,
and watch your uncle."
"What do you mean by watching him?" asked Mr. Eversleigh, peevishly.
His friend's advice was by no means palatable to him. He sat in a moody
attitude, with his elbows on his knees, and his head bent forward,
staring at the fire. His wine stood untasted on the table by his side.
"I mean that you must keep your eye upon him, in order to see that he
don't play you a trick," answered the surgeon, at his own leisure.
"What trick should he play me?"
"Well, you see, when a man quarrels with his heir, he is apt to turn
desperate. Sir Oswald might marry."
"Marry! at fifty years of age?"
"Yes. Men of fifty have been known to fall as desperately in love as
any of your heroes of two or three and twenty. Sir Oswald would be a
splendid match, and depend upon it, there are plenty of beautiful and
high-born women who would be glad to call themselves Lady Eversleigh.
Take my advice, Reginald, dear boy, and keep your eye on the baronet."
"But he has turned me out of his house. He has severed every link
"Then it must be our business to establish a secret chain of
communication with his household," answered Victor. "He has some
confidential servant, I suppose?"
"Yes; he has a valet, called Millard, whom he trusts as far as he
trusts any dependent; but he is not a man who talks to his servants."
"Perhaps not; but servants have a way of their own of getting at
information, and depend upon it, Mr. Millard knows more of your uncle's
business than Sir Oswald would wish him to know. We must get hold of
this faithful Millard."
"But he is a very faithful fellow--honesty itself--the pink of
"Humph!" muttered the young surgeon; "did you ever try the effect of a
bribe on this pink of fidelity?"
"Then you know nothing about him. Remember what Sir Robert Walpole
said, 'Every man has his price.' We must find out the price of Mr.
"You are a wonderful fellow, Carrington."
"You think so? Bah, I keep my eyes open, that's all; other men go
through the world with their eyes half-shut. I graduated in a good
school, and I may, perhaps, have been a tolerably apt pupil?"
"The school of poverty. That's the sort of education that sharpens a
man's intellect. My father was a reprobate and a gamester, and I knew
at an early age that I had nothing to hope for from him. I have had my
own way to carve in life, and if I have as yet made small progress, I
have fought against terrible odds."
"I wonder you don't set up in a professional career," said Mr.
Eversleigh; "you have finished your education; obtained your degree.
What are you waiting for?"
"I am waiting for my chances," answered Victor; "I don't care to begin
the jog-trot career in which other men toil for twenty years or so,
before they attain anything like prosperity. I have studied as few men
of five-and-twenty have studied,--chemistry as well as surgery. I can
afford to wait my chances. I pick up a few pounds a week by writing for
the medical journals, and with that resource and occasional luck with
cards, I can very easily support the simple home in which my mother and
I live. In the meantime, I am free, and believe me, my dear Reginald,
there is nothing so precious as freedom."
"And you will not desert me now that I am down in the world, eh, old
"No, Reginald, I will never desert you while you have the chance of
succeeding to forty thousand a year," answered the surgeon, with a
His small black eyes flashed and sparkled as he laughed. Reginald
looked at him with a sensation that was almost fear.
"What a fellow you are, Carrington!" he exclaimed; "you don't pretend
even to have a heart."
"A heart is a luxury which a poor man must dispense with," answered
Victor, with perfect _sang froid_. "I should as soon think of setting
up a mail-phaeton and pair as of pretending to benevolent feelings or
high-flown sentiments. I have my way to make in the world, Mr.
Eversleigh, and must consider my own interests as well as those of my
friends. You see, I am no hypocrite. You needn't be alarmed, dear boy.
I'll help you, and you shall help me; and it shall go hard if you are
not restored to your uncle's favour before the year is out. But you
must be patient. Our work will be slow, for we shall have to work
underground. If Sir Oswald is still in Arlington Street, I shall make
it my business to see Mr. Millard to-morrow."
* * * * *
Sir Oswald Eversleigh had not left Arlington Street, and at dusk on the
following evening Mr. Carrington presented himself at the door of the
baronet's mansion, and asked to see Mr. Millard, the valet.
Victor Carrington had never seen his friend's kinsman; he was,
therefore, secure against all chances of recognition. He had chosen the
baronet's dinner-hour as the time for his call, knowing that during
that hour the valet must be disengaged. He sent his card to Mr.
Millard, with a line written in pencil to request an interview on
Millard came to the hall at once to see his visitor, and ushered Mr.
Carrington into a small room that was used occasionally by the upper
The surgeon was skilled in every science by which a man may purchase
the hearts and minds of his fellow-men. He could read Sir Oswald
Eversleigh's valet as he could have read an open book He saw that the
man was weak, irresolute, tolerably honest, but open to temptation. He
was a middle-aged man, with sandy hair, a pale face, and light,
"Weak," thought the surgeon, as he examined this man's countenance,
"greedy, and avaricious. So, so; we can do what we like with Mr.
Victor Carrington told the valet that he was the most intimate friend
of Reginald Eversleigh, and that he made this visit entirely without
that gentleman's knowledge. He dwelt much upon Mr. Eversleigh's grief--
"But he is very proud," he added; "too proud to approach this house,
either directly or indirectly. The shock caused by his uncle's
unexpected abandonment of him has completely prostrated him. I am a
member of the medical profession, Mr. Millard, and I assure you that
during the past fortnight I have almost feared for my friend's reason.
I therefore determined upon a desperate step--a step which Reginald
Eversleigh would never forgive, were he to become aware of it. I
determined upon coming to this house, and ascertaining, if possible,
the nature of Sir Oswald's feelings towards his nephew. Is there any
hope of a reconciliation?"
"I'm afraid not, sir."
"That's a bad thing," said Victor, gravely; "a very bad thing. A vast
estate is at stake. It would be a bad thing for every one if that
estate were to pass into strange hands--a very bad thing for old
servants, for with strangers all old links are broken. It would be a
still worse thing for every one if Sir Oswald should take it into his
head to marry."
The valet looked very grave.
"If you had said such a thing to me a fortnight ago, I should have told
you it was impossible," he said; "but now--."
"Now, what do you say?"
"Well, sir, you're a gentleman, and, of course, you can keep a secret;
so I'll tell you candidly that nothing my master could do would
surprise me after what I've seen within the last fortnight."
This was quite enough for Victor Carrington, who did not leave
Arlington Street until he had extorted from the valet the entire
history of the baronet's adoption of the ballad-singer.
* * * * *
AULD ROBIN GRAY.
A year and some months had passed, and the midsummer sunlight shone
upon the woods around Raynham Castle.
It was a grand pile of buildings, blackened by the darkening hand of
time. At one end Norman towers loomed, round and grim; at another
extremity the light tracery of a Gothic era was visible in window and
archway, turret and tower. The centre had been rebuilt in the reign of
Henry VIII, and a long range of noble Tudor windows looked out upon the
broad terrace, beyond which there was a garden, or _pleasaunce_,
sloping down to the park. In the centre of this long facade there was
an archway, opening into a stone quadrangle, where a fountain played
perpetually in a marble basin. This was Raynham Castle, and all the
woods and pastures as far as the eye could reach, and far beyond the
reach of any human eye, belonged to the castle estate. This was the
fair domain of which Reginald Eversleigh had been for years the
acknowledged heir, and which his own folly and dishonour had forfeited.
Now all was changed. There was not a peasant in Raynham village who had
not as much right to enter the castle, and as good a chance of a
welcome, as he who had once been acknowledged heir to that proud
domain. It was scarcely strange if Reginald Eversleigh felt this bitter
change very keenly.
He had placed himself entirely in the hands of his friend and adviser,
Victor Carrington. He had sold out of the cavalry regiment, and had
taken up his abode in a modest lodging, situated in a small street at
the West-end of London. Here he had tried to live quietly, according to
his friend's advice; but he was too much the slave of his own follies
and vices to endure a quiet existence.
The sale of his commission made him rich for the time being, and, so
long as his money lasted, he pursued the old course, betting, playing
billiards, haunting all the aristocratic temples of folly and
dissipation; but, at the worst, conducting himself with greater caution
than he had done of old, and always allowing himself to be held
somewhat in check by his prudent ally and counsellor.
"Enjoy yourself as much as you please, my dear Reginald," said Victor
Carrington; "but take care that your little follies don't reach the
ears of your uncle. Remember, I count upon your being reconciled to him
before the year is out."
"That will never be," answered Mr. Eversleigh, with a tone of sullen
despair. "I am utterly ruined, Carrington. It's no use trying to shirk
the truth. I am a doomed wretch, a beggar for life, and the sooner I
throw myself over one of the bridges, and make an end of my miserable
existence, the better. According to Millard's account my uncle's
infatuation for that singing-girl grows stronger and stronger. Not a
week now passes without his visiting the school where the young
adventuress is finishing her education. As sure as fate, it will end by
his marrying her and the street ballad-singer will be my Lady
"And when she is my Lady Eversleigh, it must be our business to step
between her and the Eversleigh estates," answered Victor, quietly. "I
told you that your uncle's marriage would be an unlucky thing for you;
but I never told you that it would put an end to your chances. I think,
from what Millard tells us, there is very little doubt Sir Oswald will
make a fool of himself by marrying this girl. If he does, we must set
our wits to work to prevent his leaving her his fortune. She is utterly
friendless and obscure, so he is not likely to make any settlement upon
her. And for the rest, a man of fifty who marries a girl of nineteen is
very apt to repent of his folly. It must be our business to make your
uncle repent very soon after he has taken the fatal step."
"I don't understand you, Carrington."
"My dear Eversleigh, you very seldom do understand me," answered the
surgeon, in that half-contemptuous tone in which he was apt to address
his friend; "but that is not of the smallest consequence. Only do what
I tell you, and leave the rest to me. You shall be lord of Raynham
Castle yet, if my wits are good for anything."
* * * * *
A year had elapsed, which had been passed by Sir Oswald between Raynham
Castle and Arlington Street, and during which he had paid more visits
than he could count to "The Beeches."
On the occasion of these visits, he only saw his _protegee_ for about a
quarter of an hour, while the stately Miss Beaumont looked on, smiling
a dignified smile upon her pupil and the liberal patron who paid so
handsomely for that pupil's education. She had always a good account to
give of Sir Oswald's _protegee_--there never was so much talent united
to so much industry, according to Miss Beaumont's report. Sometimes Sir
Oswald begged to hear Miss Milford sing, and Honoria seated herself at
the piano, over whose notes her white fingers seemed to have already
acquired perfect command.
The rich and clear soprano voice had attained new power since Sir
Oswald had heard it in the moonlit market-place; the execution of the
singer improved day by day. The Italian singing-master spoke in
raptures of his pupil--never was there a finer organ or more talent.
Miss Milford could not fail to create a profound impression when her
musical education should be completed, and she should appear before the
But as the year drew to its close, Sir Oswald Eversleigh talked less
and less of that public career for which he had destined his
_protegee_. He no longer reminded her that on her own industry depended
her future fortune. He no longer spoke in glowing terms of that
brilliant pathway which lay before her. His manner was entirely
changed, and he was grave and silent whenever any allusion was made by
Miss Beaumont or Honoria to the future use which was to be made of that
superb voice and exceptional genius.
The schoolmistress remarked upon this alteration one day, when talking
to her pupil.
"Do you know, my dear Miss Milford, I am really inclined to believe
that Sir Oswald Eversleigh has changed his mind with regard to your
future career, and that he does not intend you to be an opera-singer."
"Surely, dear Miss Beaumont, that is impossible," answered Honoria,
quietly; "my education is costing my kind bene--relative a great deal
of money, which would be wasted if I were not to make music my
profession. Besides, what else have I to look to in the future?
Remember, Sir Oswald has always told you that I have my own fortune to
achieve. I have no claim on any one, and it is to his generosity alone
I owe my present position."
"Well, I don't know how it may be, my dear," answered Miss Beaumont, "I
may be mistaken; but I cannot help thinking that Sir Oswald has changed
his mind about you. I need not tell you that my opinions are opposed to
a professional career for any young lady brought up in my
establishment, however highly gifted. I'm sure my blood actually
freezes in my veins, when I think of any pupil of mine standing on a
public stage, to be gazed at by the common herd; and I told Sir Oswald,
when he first proposed bringing you here, that it would be necessary to
keep your destiny a profound secret from your fellow-pupils; for I
assure you, my love, there are mammas and papas who would come to this
house in the dead of the night and carry off their children, without a
moment's warning, if they were informed that a young person intended to
appear on the stage of the Italian Opera was receiving her education
within these walls. In short, nothing but your own discreet conduct,
and Sir Oswald's very liberal terms, could have reconciled me to the
risk which I have run in receiving you."
The first year of Honoria Milford's residence at "The Beeches" expired,
and another year began. Sir Oswald's visits became more and more
frequent. When the accounts of his _protegee's_ progress were more than
usually enthusiastic, his visits were generally followed very speedily
by the arrival of some costly gift for Miss Beaumont's pupil--a ring--a
bracelet--a locket--always in perfect taste, and such as a young lady
at a boarding-school might wear, but always of the most valuable
Honoria Milford must have possessed a heart of stone, if she had not
been grateful to so noble a benefactor. She was grateful, and her
gratitude was obvious to her generous protector. Her beautiful face was
illuminated with an unwonted radiance when she entered the drawing-room
where he awaited her coming: and the pleasure with which she received
his brief visits was as palpable as if it had been expressed in words.
It was midsummer, and Honoria Milford had been a year and a quarter at
"The Beeches." She had acquired much during that period; new
accomplishments, new graces; and her beauty had developed into fresh
splendour in the calm repose of that comfortable abode. She was liked
by her fellow-pupils; but she had made neither friends nor
_confidantes_. The dark secrets of her past life shut her out from all
intimate companionship with girls of her own age.
She had, in a manner, lived a lonely life amongst all these companions,
and her chief happiness had been derived from her studies. Thus it was,
perhaps, that she had made double progress during her residence with
the Misses Beaumont.
One bright afternoon in June, Sir Oswald's mail-phaeton and pair drove
past the windows of the school-room.
"Visitors for Miss Milford!" exclaimed the pupils seated near the
windows, as they recognized the elegant equipage.
Honoria rose from her desk, awaiting the summons of the schoolroom-
maid. She had not long to wait. The young woman appeared at the door in
a few moments, and Miss Milford was requested to go to the drawing-
She went, and found Sir Oswald Eversleigh awaiting her alone. It was
the first time that she had ever known Miss Beaumont to be absent from
the reception-room on the visit of the baronet.
He rose to receive her, and took the hand which she extended towards
"I am alone, you see, Honoria," he said; "I told Miss Beaumont that I
had something of a serious nature to say to you, and she left me to
receive you alone."
"Something of a serious nature," repeated the girl, looking at her
benefactor with surprise. "Oh, I think I can guess what you are going
to say," she added, after a moment's hesitation; "my musical education
is now sufficiently advanced for me to take some new step in the
pathway which you wish me to tread."
"No, Honoria, you are mistaken," answered the baronet, gravely; "so far
from wishing to hasten your musical education, I am about to entreat
you to abandon all thought of a professional career."
"To abandon all thought of a professional career! You would ask me
this, Sir Oswald--_you_ who have so often told me that all my hopes for
the future depended on my cultivation of the art I love?"
"You love your art very much then, Honoria?"
"More than I love life itself."
"And it would grieve you much, no doubt, to resign all idea of a public
career--to abandon your dream of becoming a public singer?"
There was a pause, and then the girl answered, in a dreamy tone--
"I don't know. I have never thought of the public. I have never
imagined the hour in which I should stand before a great crowd, as I
have stood in the cruel streets, amongst all the noise and confusion,
singing to people who cared so little to hear me. I have never thought
of that--I love music for its own sake, and feel as much pleasure when
I sing alone in my own room, as I could feel in the grandest opera-
house that ever was built."
"And the applause, the admiration, the worship, which your beauty, as
well as your voice, would win--does the idea of resigning such
intoxicating incense give you no pain, Honoria?"
The girl shook her head sadly.
"You forget what I was when you rescued me from the pitiless stones of
the market-place, or you would scarcely ask me such a question. I have
confronted the public--not the brilliant throng of the opera-house, but
the squalid crowd which gathers before the door of a gin-shop, to
listen to a vagrant ballad-singer. I have sung at races, where the rich
and the high-born were congregated, and have received their admiration.
I know what it is worth, Sir Oswald. The same benefactor who throws a
handful of half-pence, offers an insult with his donation."
Sir Oswald contemplated his _protegee_ in silent admiration, and it was
some moments before he continued the conversation.
"Will you walk with me in the garden?" he asked, presently; "that
avenue of beeches is delightful, and--and I think I shall be better
able to say what I wish there, than in this room. At any rate, I shall
feel less afraid of interruption."
Honoria rose to comply with her benefactor's wish, with that
deferential manner which she always preserved in her intercourse with
him, and they walked out upon the velvet lawn. Across the lawn lay the
beech-avenue, and it was thither Sir Oswald directed his steps.
"Honoria," he said, after a silence of some duration, "if you knew how
much doubt--how much hesitation I experienced before I came here to-
day--how much I still question the wisdom of my coming--I think you
would pity me. But I am here, and I must needs speak plainly, if I am
to speak at all. Long ago I tried to think that my interest in your
fate was only a natural impulse of charity--only an ordinary tribute to
gifts so far above the common. I tried to think this, and I acted with
the cold, calculating wisdom of a man of the world, when I marked out
for you a career by which you might win distinction for yourself, and
placed you in the way of following that career. I meant to spend last
year upon the Continent. I did not expect to see you once in twelve
months; but the strange influence which possessed me in the hour of our
first meeting grew stronger upon me day by day. In spite of myself, I
thought of you; in spite of myself I came here again and again, to look
upon your face, to hear your voice, for a few brief moments, and then
to go out into the world, to find it darker and colder by contrast with
the brightness of your beauty. Little by little, the idea of your
becoming a public singer became odious to me," continued Sir Oswald.
"At first I thought with pride of the success which would be yours, the
worship which would be offered at your shrine; but my feeling changed
completely before long, and I shuddered at the image of your triumphs,
for those triumphs must, doubtless, separate us for ever. Why should I
dwell upon this change of feeling? You must have already guessed the
secret of my heart. Tell me that you do not despise me!"
"Despise you, Sir Oswald!--you, the noblest and most generous of men!
Surely, you must know that I admire and reverence you for all your
noble qualities, as well as for your goodness to a wretched creature
"But, Honoria, I want something more than your esteem. Do you remember
the night I first heard you singing in the market-place on the north
"Can I ever forget that miserable night?" cried the girl, in a tone of
surprise--the question seemed so strange to her--"that bitter hour, in
which you came to my rescue?"
"Do you remember the song you were singing--the last song you ever sang
in the streets?"
Honoria Milford paused for some moments before answering It was evident
that she could not at first recall the memory of that last song.
"My brain was almost bewildered that night," she said; "I was so weary,
so miserable; and yet, stay, I do remember the song. It was 'Auld Robin
"Yes, Honoria, the story of an old man's love for a woman young enough
to be his daughter. I was sitting by my cheerless fire-side, meditating
very gloomily upon the events of the day, which had been a sad one for
me, when your thrilling tones stole upon my ear, and roused me from my
reverie. I listened to every note of that old ballad. Although those
words had long been familiar to me, they seemed new and strange that
night. An irresistible impulse led me to the spot where you had sunk
down in your helplessness. From that hour to this you have been the
ruling influence of my life. I have loved you with a devotion which few
men have power to feel. Tell me, Honoria, have I loved in vain? The
happiness of my life trembles in the balance. It is for you to decide
whether my existence henceforward is to be worthless to me, or whether
I am to be the proudest and happiest of men."
"Would my love make you happy, Sir Oswald?"
"Then it is yours."
"You love me--in spite of the difference between our ages?"
"Yes, Sir Oswald, I honour and love you with all my heart," answered
Honoria Milford. "Whom have I seen so worthy of a woman's affection?
From the first hour in which some guardian angel threw me across your
pathway, what have I seen in you but nobility of soul and generosity of
heart? Is it strange, therefore, if my gratitude has ripened into
"Honoria," murmured Sir Oswald, bending over the drooping head, and
pressing his lips gently on the pure brow--"Honoria, you have made me
too happy. I can scarcely believe that this happiness is not some
dream, which will melt away presently, and leave me alone and
desolate--the fool of my own fancy."
He led Honoria back towards the house. Even in this moment of supreme
happiness he was obliged to remember Miss Beaumont, who would, no
doubt, be lurking somewhere on the watch for her pupil.
"Then you will give up all thought of a professional career, Honoria?"
said the baronet, as they walked slowly back.
"I will obey you in everything."
"My dearest girl--and when you leave this house, you will leave it as
Miss Beaumont was waiting in the drawing-room, and was evidently
somewhat astonished by the duration of the interview between Sir Oswald
and her pupil.
"You have been admiring the grounds, I see, Sir Oswald," she said, very
graciously. "It is not quite usual for a gentleman visitor and a pupil
to promenade in the grounds _tete-a-tete_; but I suppose, in the case
of a gentleman of your time of life, we must relax the severity of our
rules in some measure."
The baronet bowed stiffly. A man of fifty does not care to be reminded
of his time of life at the very moment when he has just been accepted
as the husband of a girl of nineteen.
"It may, perhaps, be the last opportunity which I may have of admiring
your grounds, Miss Beaumont," he said, presently, "for I think of
removing your pupil very shortly."
"Indeed!" cried the governess, reddening with suppressed indignation.
"I trust Miss Milford has not found occasion to make any complaint; she
has enjoyed especial privileges under this roof--a separate bed-room,
silver forks and spoons, roast veal or lamb on Sundays, throughout the
summer season--to say nothing of the most unremitting supervision of a
positively maternal character, and I should really consider Miss
Milford wanting in common gratitude if she had complained."
"You are mistaken, my dear madam; Miss Milford has uttered no word of
complaint. On the contrary, I am sure she has been perfectly happy in
your establishment; but changes occur every day, and an important
change will, I trust, speedily occur in my life, and in that of Miss
Milford. When I first proposed bringing her to you, you asked me if she
was a relation; I told you he was distantly related to me. I hope soon
to be able to say that distant relationship has been transformed into a
very near one. I hope soon to call Honoria Milford my wife."
Miss Beaumont's astonishment on hearing this announcement was extreme;
but as surprise was one of the emotions peculiar to the common herd,
the governess did her best to suppress all signs of that feeling. Sir
Oswald told her that, as Miss Milford was an orphan, and without any
near relative, he would wish to take her straight from "The Beeches" to
the church in which he would make her his wife, and he begged Miss
Beaumont to give him her assistance in the arrangement of the wedding.
The mistress of "The Beeches" possessed a really kind heart beneath the
ice of her ultra-gentility, and she was pleased with the idea of
assisting in the bringing about of a genuine love-match. Besides, the
affair, if well managed, would reflect considerable importance upon
herself, and she would be able by and bye to talk of "my pupil, Lady
Eversleigh;" or, "that sweet girl, Miss Milford, who afterwards married
the wealthy baronet, Sir Oswald Eversleigh." Sir Oswald pleaded for an
early celebration of the marriage--and Honoria, accustomed to obey him
in all things, did not oppose his wish in this crisis of his life. Once
more Sir Oswald wrote a cheque for the wardrobe of his _protegee_, and
Miss Beaumont swelled with pomposity as she thought of the grandeur
which might be derived from the expenditure of a large sum of money at
certain West-end emporiums where she was in the habit of making
purchases for her pupils, and where she was already considered a person
of some importance.
It was holiday-time at "The Beeches," and almost all the pupils were
absent. Miss Beaumont was, therefore, able to devote the ensuing
fortnight to the delightful task of shopping. She drove into town
almost every day with Honoria, and hours were spent in the choice of
silks and satins, velvets and laces, and in long consultations with
milliners and dressmakers of Parisian celebrity and boundless
"Sir Oswald has intrusted me with the supervision of this most
important business, and I will drop down in a fainting-fit from sheer
exhaustion before the counter at Howell and James's, sooner than I
would fail in my duty to the extent of an iota," Miss Beaumont said,
when Honoria begged her to take less trouble about the wedding
It was Sir Oswald's wish that the wedding should be strictly private.
Whom could he invite to assist at his union with a nameless and
friendless bride? Miss Beaumont was the only person whom he could
trust, and even her he had deceived; for she believed that Honoria
Milford was some fourth or fifth cousin--some poor relative of Sir
Early in July the wedding took place. All preparations had been made so
quietly as to baffle even the penetration of the watchful Millard. He
had perceived that the baronet was more than usually occupied, and in
higher spirits than were habitual to him; but he could not discover the
"There's something going on, sir," he said to Victor Carrington; "but
I'm blest if I know what it is. I dare say that young woman is at the
bottom of it. I never did see my master look so well or so happy. It
seems as if he was growing younger every day."
Reginald Eversleigh looked at his friend in blank despair when these
tidings reached him.
"I told you I was ruined, Victor," he said; "and now, perhaps, you will
believe me. My uncle will marry that woman."
It was only on the eve of his wedding-day that Sir Oswald Eversleigh
made any communication to his valet. While dressing for dinner that
evening, he said, quietly--
"I want my portmanteaus packed for travelling between this and two
o'clock to-morrow, Millard; and you will hold yourself in readiness to
accompany me. I shall post from London, starting from a house near
Fulham, at three o'clock. The chariot must leave here, with you and the
luggage, at two."
"You are going abroad, sir?"
"No, I am going to North Wales for a week or two; but I do not go
alone. I am going to be married to-morrow morning, Millard, and Lady
Eversleigh will accompany me."
Much as the probability of this marriage had been discussed in the
Arlington Street household, the fact came upon Joseph Millard as a
surprise. Nothing is so unwelcome to old servants as the marriage of a
master who has long been a bachelor. Let the bride be never so fair,
never so high-born, she will be looked on as an interloper; and if, as
in this case, she happens to be poor and nameless, the bridegroom is
regarded as a dupe and a fool; the bride is stigmatized as an
The valet was fully occupied that evening with preparations for the
journey of the following day, and could find no time to call at Mr.
Eversleigh's lodgings with his evil tidings.
"He'll hear of it soon enough, I dare say, poor, unfortunate young
man," thought Mr. Millard.
The valet was right. In a few days the announcement of the baronet's
marriage appeared in "The Times" newspaper; for, though he had
celebrated that marriage with all privacy, he had no wish to keep his
fair young wife hidden from the world.
"_On Thursday, the 4th instant, at St. Mary's Church, Fulham, Sir
Oswald Morton Vansittart Eversleigh, Bart., to Honoria daughter of the
late Thomas Milford._"
This was all; and this was the announcement which Reginald Eversleigh
read one morning, as he dawdled over his late breakfast, after a night
spent in dissipation and folly. He threw the paper away from him, with
an oath, and hurried to his toilet. He dressed himself with less care
than usual, for to-day he was in a hurry; he wanted at once to
communicate with his friend, Victor Carrington.
The young surgeon lived at the very extremity of the Maida Hill
district, in a cottage, which was then almost in the country. It was a
comfortable little residence; but Reginald Eversleigh looked at it with
"You can wait," he said to the hackney coachman; "I shall be here in
about half an hour."
The man drove away to refresh his horses at the nearest inn, and
Reginald Eversleigh strode impatiently past the trim little servant-
girl who opened the garden gate, and walked, unannounced, into the
Everything in and about Victor Carrington's abode was the perfection of
neatness. The presence of poverty was visible, it is true; but poverty
was made to wear its fairest shape. In the snug drawing-room to which
Reginald Eversleigh was admitted all was bright and fresh. White muslin
curtains shaded the French window; birds sang in gilded cages, of
inexpensive quality, but elegant design; and tall glass vases of
freshly cut flowers adorned tables and mantel-piece.
Sir Oswald's nephew looked contemptuously at this elegance of poverty.
For him nothing but the splendour of wealth possessed any charm.
The surgeon came to him while he stood musing thus.
"Do you mind coming to my laboratory?" he asked, after shaking hands
with his unexpected visitor. "I can see that you have something of
importance to say to me, and we shall be safer from interruption
"I shouldn't have come to this fag-end of Christendom if I hadn't
wanted very much to see you, you may depend upon it, Carrington,"
answered Reginald, sulkily. "What on earth makes you live in such an
"I am a student, and an out-of-the-way hole--as you are good enough to
call it--suits my habits. Besides, this house is cheap, and the rent
suits my pocket."
"It looks like a doll's house," said Reginald, contemptuously.
"My mother likes to surround herself with birds and flowers," answered
the surgeon; "and I like to indulge any fancy of my mother's."
Victor Carrington's countenance seemed to undergo a kind of
transformation as he spoke of his mother. The bright glitter of his
eyes softened; the hard lines of his iron mouth relaxed.
The one tender sentiment of a dark and dangerous nature was this man's
affection for his widowed mother.
He opened the door of an apartment at the back of the house, and
entered, followed by Mr. Eversleigh.
Reginald stared in wonder at the chamber in which he found himself. The
room had once been a kitchen, and was much larger than any other room
in the cottage. Here there was no attempt at either comfort or
elegance. The bare, white-washed walls had no adornment but a deal
shelf here and there, loaded with strange-looking phials and gallipots.
Here all the elaborate paraphernalia of a chemist's laboratory was
visible. Here Reginald Eversleigh beheld stoves, retorts, alembics,
distilling apparatus; all the strange machinery of that science which
always seems dark and mysterious to the ignorant.
The visitor looked about him in utter bewilderment.
"Why, Victor," he exclaimed, "your room looks like the laboratory of
some alchymist of the Middle Ages--the sort of man people used to burn
as a wizard."
"I am rather an enthusiastic student of my art," answered the surgeon.
The visitor's eyes wandered round the room in amazement. Suddenly they
alighted on some object on the table near the stove. Carrington
perceived the glance, and, with a hasty movement, very unusual to him,
dropped his handkerchief upon the object.
The movement, rapid though it was, came too late, for Reginald
Eversleigh had distinguished the nature of the object which the surgeon
wished to conceal from him.
It was a mask of metal, with glass eyes.
"So you wear a mask when you are at work, eh, Carrington?" said Mr.
Eversleigh. "That looks as if you dabble in poisons."
"Half the agents employed in chemistry are poisonous," answered Victor,
"I hope there is no danger in the atmosphere of this room just now?"
"None whatever. Come, Reginald, I am sure you have bad news to tell me,
or you would never have taken the trouble to come here."
"I have, and the worst news. My uncle has married this street ballad-
"Good; then we must try to turn this marriage to account."
"By making it the means of bringing about a reconciliation. You will
write a letter of congratulation to Sir Oswald--a generous letter--in
which you will speak of your penitence, your affection, the anguish you
have endured during this bitter period of estrangement. You can venture
to speak freely of these things now, you will say, for now that your
honoured uncle has found new ties you can no longer be suspected of any
mercenary motive. You can now approach him boldly, you will say, for
you have henceforward nothing to hope from him except his forgiveness.
Then you will wind up with an earnest prayer for his happiness. And if
I am not very much out in my reckoning of human nature, that letter
will bring about a reconciliation. Do you understand my tactics?"
"I do. You are a wonderful fellow, Carrington."
"Don't say that until the day when you are restored to your old
position as your uncle's heir. Then you may pay me any compliment you
"If ever that day arrives, you shall not find me ungrateful."
"I hope not; and now go back to town and write your letter. I want to
see you invited to Raynham Castle to pay your respects to the bride."
"But why so?"
"I want to know what the bride is like. Our future plans will depend
much upon her."
Before leaving Lorrimore Cottage, Reginald Eversleigh was introduced to
his friend's mother, whom he had never before seen. She was very like
her son. She had the same pale, sallow face, the same glittering black
eyes. She was slim and tall, with a somewhat stately manner, and with
little of the vivacity usual to her countrywomen.
She looked at Mr. Eversleigh with a searching glance--a glance which
was often repeated, as he stood for a few minutes talking to her.
Nothing which interested her son was without interest for her; and she
knew that this young man was his chief friend and companion.
Reginald Eversleigh went back to town in much better spirits than when
he had left the West-end that morning. He lost no time in writing the
letter suggested by his friend, and, as he was gifted with considerable
powers of persuasion, the letter was a good one.
"I believe Carrington is right," he thought, as he sealed it: "and this
letter will bring about a reconciliation. It will reach my uncle at a
time when he will be intoxicated with his new position as the husband
of a young and lovely bride; and he will be inclined to think kindly of
me, and of all the world. Yes--the letter is decidedly a fine stroke of
Reginald Eversleigh awaited a reply to his epistle with feverish
impatience; but an impatience mingled with hope.
His hopes did not deceive him. The reply came by return of post, and
was even more favourable than his most sanguine expectations had led
him to anticipate.
"_Dear Reginald_," wrote the baronet, "_your generous and disinterested
letter has touched me to the heart. Let the past be forgotten and
forgiven. I do not doubt that you have suffered, as all men must
suffer, from the evil deeds of their youth_.
"_You were no doubt surprised to receive the tidings of my marriage. I
have consulted my heart alone in the choice which I have made, and I
venture to hope that choice will secure the happiness of my future
existence. I am spending the first weeks of my married life amidst the
lovely solitudes of North Wales. On the 24th of this month, Lady
Eversleigh and I go to Raynham, where we shall be glad to see you
immediately on our arrival. Come to us, my dear boy; come to me, as if
this unhappy estrangement had never arisen, and we will discuss your
future together.--Your affectionate uncle_, OSWALD EVERSLEIGH."
"_Royal Hotel, Bannerdoon, N. W._"
Nothing could be more satisfactory than this epistle. Reginald
Eversleigh and Victor Carrington dined together that evening, and the
baronet's letter was freely discussed between them.
"The ground lies all clear before you now," said the surgeon: "you will
go to Raynham, make yourself as agreeable as possible to the bride, win
your uncle's heart by an appearance of extreme remorse for the past,
and most complete disinterestedness for the future, and leave all the
rest to me."
"But how the deuce can you help me at Raynham?"
"Time alone can show. I have only one hint to give you at present.
Don't be surprised if you meet me unexpectedly amongst the Yorkshire
hills and wolds, and take care to follow suit with whatever cards you
see me playing. Whatever I do will be done in your interest, depend
upon it. Mind, by the bye, if you do see me in the north, that I know
nothing of your visit to Raynham. I shall be as much surprised to see
you as you will be to see me."
"So be it; I will fall into your plans. As your first move has been so
wonderfully successful, I shall be inclined to trust you implicitly in
the future. I suppose you will want to be paid rather stiffly by and
bye, if you do succeed in getting me any portion of Sir Oswald's
"Well, I shall ask for some reward, no doubt. I am a poor man, you
know, and do not pretend to be disinterested or generous. However, we
will discuss that question when we meet at Raynham."
* * * * *
On the 28th of July, Reginald Eversleigh presented himself at Raynham
Castle. He had thought never more to set foot upon that broad terrace,
never more to pass beneath the shadow of that grand old archway; and a
sense of triumph thrilled through his veins as he stood once again on
the familiar threshold.
And yet his position in life was terribly changed since he had last
stood there. He was no longer the acknowledged heir to whom all
dependents paid deferential homage. He fancied that the old servants
looked at him coldly, and that their greeting was the chilling welcome
which is accorded to a poor relation. He had never done much to win
affection or gratitude in the days of his prosperity. It may be that he
remembered this now, and regretted it, not from any kindly impulse
towards these people, but from a selfish annoyance at the chilling
reception accorded him.
"If ever I win back what I have lost, these pampered parasites shall
suffer for their insolence," thought the young man, as he walked across
the broad Gothic hall of the castle, escorted by the grave old butler.
But he had not much leisure to think about his uncle's servants.
Another and far more important person occupied his mind, and that
person was his uncle's bride.
"Lady Eversleigh is at home?" he asked, while crossing the hall.
"Yes, sir; her ladyship is in the long drawing-room."
The butler opened a ponderous oaken door, and ushered Reginald into one
of the finest apartments in the castle.
In the centre of this room, by the side of a grand piano, from which
she had just risen, stood the new mistress of the castle. She was
simply dressed in pale gray silk, relieved only by a scarlet ribbon
twisted in the masses of her raven hair. Her beauty had the same effect
upon Reginald Eversleigh which it exercised on almost all who looked at
her for the first time. He was dazzled, bewildered, by the singular
"And this divinity--this goddess of grace and beauty, is my uncle's
wife," he thought; "this is the street ballad-singer whom he picked up
out of the gutter."
For some moments the elegant and accomplished Reginald Eversleigh stood
abashed before the calm presence of the nameless girl his uncle had
Sir Oswald welcomed his nephew with perfect cordiality. He was happy,
and in the hour of his happiness he could cherish no unkind feeling
towards the adopted son who had once been so dear to him. But while
ready to open his arms to the repentant prodigal, his intentions with
regard to the disposition of his wealth had undergone no change. He had
arrived, calmly and deliberately, at a certain resolve, and he intended
to adhere to that decision.
The baronet told his nephew this frankly in the first confidential
conversation which they had after the young man's arrival at Raynham.
"You may think me harsh and severe," he said, gravely; "but the
resolution which I announced to you in Arlington Street cost me much
thought and care. I believe that I have acted for the best. I think
that my over-indulgence was the bane of your youth, Reginald, and that
you would have been a better man had you been more roughly reared.
Since you have left the army, I have heard no more of your follies; and
I trust that you have at last struck out a better path for yourself,
and separated yourself from all dangerous associates. But you must
choose a new profession. You must not live an idle life on the small
income which you receive from me. I only intended that annuity as a
safeguard against poverty, not as a sufficient means of life. You must
select a new career, Reginald; and whatever it may be, I will give you
some help to smooth your pathway. Your first cousin, Douglas Dale, is
studying for the law--would not that profession suit you?"
"I am in your hands, sir, and am ready to obey you in everything."
"Well, think over what I have said; and if you choose to enter yourself
as a student in the Temple, I will assist you with all necessary
"My dear uncle, you are too good."
"I wish to serve you as far as I can with justice to others. And now,
Reginald, we will speak no more of the past. What do you think of my
"She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld."
"And she is as good and true as she is beautiful--a pearl of price,
Reginald. I thank Providence for giving me so great a treasure."
"And this treasure will be possessor of Raynham Castle, I suppose,"
thought the young man, savagely.
Sir Oswald spoke presently, almost as if in answer to his nephew's
"As I have been thoroughly candid with you, Reginald," he said, "I may
as well tell you even more. I am at an age which some call the prime of
life, and I feel all my old vigour. But death sometimes comes suddenly
to men whose life seems as full of promise as mine seems to me now. I
wish that when I die there may be no possible disappointment as to the
disposal of my fortune. Other men make a mystery of the contents of
their wills. I wish the terms of my will to be known by all interested
"I have no desire to be enlightened, sir," murmured Reginald, who felt
that his uncle's words boded no good to himself.
"My will has been made since my marriage," continued Sir Oswald,
without noticing his nephew's interruption; "any previous will would,
indeed, have been invalidated by that event Two-thirds--more than two-
thirds--of my property has been left to my wife, who will be a very
rich woman when I am dead and gone. Should she have a son, the landed
estates will, of course, go to him; but in any case, Lady Eversleigh
will be mistress of a large fortune. I leave five thousand a year to
each of my nephews. As for you, Reginald, you will, perhaps, consider
yourself bitterly wronged; but you must, in justice, remember that you
have been your own enemy. The annuity of two hundred a year which you
now possess will, after my death, become an income of five hundred a
year, derived from a small estate called Morton Grange, in
Lincolnshire. You have nothing more than a modest competency to hope
for, therefore; and it rests with yourself to win wealth and
distinction by the exercise of your own talents."
The pallor of Reginald Eversleigh's face alone revealed the passion
which consumed him as he received these most unwelcome statements from
his uncle's lips. Fortunately for the young man, Sir Oswald did not
observe his countenance, for at this moment Lady Eversleigh appeared on
the terrace-walk outside the open window of her husband's study, and he
hurried to her.
"What are to be our plans for this afternoon, darling?" he asked. "I
have transacted all my business, and am quite at your service for the
rest of the day."
"Very well, then, you cannot please me better than by showing me some
more of the beauties of your native county."
"You make that proposition because you know it pleases me, artful puss;
but I obey. Shall we ride or drive? Perhaps, as the afternoon is hot,
we had better take the barouche," continued Sir Oswald, while Honoria
hesitated. "Come to luncheon. I will give all necessary orders."
They went to the dining-room, whither Reginald accompanied them.
Already he had contrived to banish the traces of emotion from his
countenance: but his uncle's words were still ringing in his ears.
Five hundred a year!--he was to receive a pitiful five hundred a year;
whilst his cousins--struggling men of the world, unaccustomed to luxury
and splendour--were each to have an income of five thousand. And this
woman--this base, unknown, friendless creature, who had nothing but her
diabolical beauty to recommend her--was to have a splendid fortune!
These were the thoughts which tormented Reginald Eversleigh as he took
his place at the luncheon-table. He had been now a fortnight at Raynham
Castle, and had become, to all outward appearance, perfectly at his
ease with the fair young mistress of the mansion. There are some women
who seem fitted to occupy any station, however lofty. They need no
teaching; they are in no way bewildered by the novelty of wealth or
splendour; they make no errors. They possess an instinctive tact, which
all the teaching possible cannot always impart to others. They glide
naturally into their position; and, looking on them in their calm
dignity, their unstudied grace, it is difficult to believe they have
not been born in the purple.
Such a woman was Honoria, Lady Eversleigh. The novelty of her position
gave her no embarrassment; the splendour around her charmed and
delighted her sense of the beautiful, but it caused her no
bewilderment; it did not dazzle her unaccustomed eyes. She received her
husband's nephew with the friendly, yet dignified, bearing which it was
fitting Sir Oswald's wife should display towards his kinsman; and the
scrutinizing eyes of the young man sought in vain to detect some secret
hidden beneath that placid and patrician exterior.
"The woman is a mystery," he thought; "one would think she were some
princess in disguise. Does she really love my uncle, I wonder? She acts
her part well, if it is a false one. But, then, who would not act a
part for such a prize as she is likely to win? I wish Victor were here.
He, perhaps, might be able to penetrate the secret of her existence.
She is a hypocrite, no doubt; and an accomplished one. I would give a
great deal for the power to strip the veil from her beautiful face, and
show my lady in her true colours!"
Such bitter thoughts as these continually harassed the ambitious and
disappointed man. And yet he was able to bear himself with studied
courtesy towards Lady Eversleigh. The best people in the county had
come to Raynham to pay their homage to Sir Oswald's bride. Nothing
could exceed her husband's pride as he beheld her courted and admired.
No shadow of jealousy obscured his pleasure when he saw younger men
flock round her to worship and admire. He felt secure of her love, for
she had again and again assured him that her heart had been entirely
his even before he declared himself to her. He felt an implicit faith
in her purity and innocence.
Such a man as Oswald Eversleigh is not easily moved to jealousy; but
with such a man, one breath of suspicion, one word of slander, against
the creature he loves, is horrible as the agony of death.
Reginald Eversleigh had shared in all the pleasures and amusements of
Sir Oswald and his wife. They had gone nowhere without him since his
arrival at the castle; for at present he was the only visitor staying
in the house, and the baronet was too courteous to leave him alone.
"After the twelfth we shall have plenty of bachelor visitors," said Sir
Oswald; "and you will find the old place more to your taste, I dare
say, Reginald. In the meantime, you must content yourself with our
"I am more than contented, my dear uncle, and do not sigh for the
arrival of your bachelor friends; though I dare say I shall on very
well with them when they do come."
"I expect a bevy of pretty girls as well. Do you remember Lydia Graham,
the sister of Gordon Graham, of the Fusiliers?"
"Yes, I remember her perfectly."
"I think there used to be something like a flirtation between you and
Sir Oswald and Lady Eversleigh seated themselves in the barouche;
Reginald rode by their side, on a thorough-bred hack out of the Raynham
The scenery within twenty miles of the castle was varied in character
and rich in beauty. In the purple distance, to the west of the castle,
there was a range of heather-clad hills; and between those hills and
the village of Raynham there flowed a noble river, crossed at intervals
by quaint old bridges, and bordered by little villages, nestling amid
The calm beauty of a rustic landscape, and the grandeur of wilder
scenery, were alike within reach of the explorer from the castle.
On this bright August afternoon, Sir Oswald had chosen for the special
object of their drive the summit of a wooded hill, whence a superb
range of country was to be seen. This hill was called Thorpe Peak, and
was about seven miles from the castle.
The barouche stopped at the foot of the hill; the baronet and his wife
alighted, and walked up a woody pathway leading to the summit,
accompanied by Reginald, who left his horse with the servants.
They ascended the hill slowly, Lady Eversleigh leaning upon her
husband's arm. The pathway wound upward, through plantations of fir,
and it was only on the summit that the open country burst on the view
of the pedestrian. On the summit they found a gentleman seated on the
trunk of a fallen tree, sketching. A light portable colour-box lay open
by his side, and a small portfolio rested on his knees.
He seemed completely absorbed in his occupation, for he did not raise
his eyes from his work as Sir Oswald and his companions approached. He
wore a loose travelling dress, which, in its picturesque carelessness
of style, was not without elegance.
A horse was grazing under a group of firs near at hand, fastened to one
of the trees by the bridle.
This traveller was Victor Carrington.
"Carrington!" exclaimed Mr. Eversleigh; "whoever would have thought of
finding you up here? Sketching too!"
The surgeon lifted his head suddenly, looked at his friend, and burst
out laughing, as he rose to shake hands. He looked handsomer in his
artistic costume than ever Reginald Eversleigh had seen him look
before. The loose velvet coat, the wide linen collar and neckerchief of
dark-blue silk, set off the slim figure and pale foreign face.
"You are surprised to see me; but I have still more right to be
surprised at seeing you. What brings you here?"
"I am staying with my uncle, Sir Oswald Eversleigh, at Raynham Castle."
"Ah, to be sure; that superb place within four miles of the village of
Abbey wood, where I have taken up my quarters."
The baronet and his wife had been standing at a little distance from
the two young men; but Sir Oswald advanced, with Honoria still upon his
"Introduce me to your friend, Reginald," he said, in his most cordial
Reginald obeyed, and Victor was presented to Sir Oswald and his wife.
His easy and graceful bearing was calculated to make an agreeable
impression at the outset, and Sir Oswald was evidently pleased with the
appearance and manners of his nephew's friend.
"You are an artist, I see, Mr. Carrington," he said, after glancing at
the young man's sketch, which, even in its unfinished state, was no
"An amateur only, Sir Oswald," answered Victor. "I am by profession a
surgeon; but as yet I have not practised. I find independence so
agreeable that I can scarcely bring myself to resign it. I have been
wandering about this delightful county for the last week or two, with
my sketch-book under my arm--halting for a day or two in any
picturesque spot I came upon, and hiring a horse whenever I could get a
decent animal. It is a very simple mode of enjoying a holiday; but it
"Your taste does you credit. But if you are in my neighbourhood, you
must take your horses from the Raynham stables. Where are your present
"At the little inn by Abbeywood Bridge."
"Four miles from the castle. We are near neighbours, Mr. Carrington,
according to country habits. You must ride back with us, and dine at
"You are very kind, Sir Oswald; but my dress will preclude--"
"No consequence whatever. We are quite alone just now; and I am sure
Lady Eversleigh will excuse a traveller's toilet. If you are not bent
upon finishing this very charming sketch, I shall insist on your
returning with us; and you join me in the request, eh, Honoria?"
Lady Eversleigh smiled an assent, and the surgeon murmured his thanks.
As yet he had looked little at the baronet's beautiful wife. He had
come to Yorkshire with the intention of studying this woman as a man
studies an abstruse and difficult science; but he was too great a
tactician to betray any unwonted interest in her. The policy of his
life was patience, and in this as in everything else, he waited his
"She is very beautiful," he thought, "and she has made a good market
out of her beauty; but it is only the beginning of the story yet--the
middle and the end have still to come."
* * * * *
After this meeting on Thorpe Peak, the surgeon became a constant
visitor at Raynham. Sir Oswald was delighted with the young man's
talents and accomplishments; and Victor contrived to win credit by the
apparently accidental revelation of his early struggles, his mother's
poverty, his patient studies, and indomitable perseverance. He told of
these things without seeming to tell them; a word now, a chance
allusion then, revealed the story of his friendless youth. Sir Oswald
fancied that such a companion was eminently adapted to urge his nephew
onward in the difficult road that leads to fortune and distinction.
"If Reginald had only half your industry, half your perseverance, I
should not fear for his future career, Mr. Carrington," said the
baronet, in the course of a confidential conversation with his visitor.
"That will come in good time, Sir Oswald," answered Victor. "Reginald
is a noble fellow, and has a far nobler nature than I can pretend to
possess. The very qualities which you are good enough to praise in me
are qualities which you cannot expect to find in him. I was a pupil in
the stern school of poverty from my earliest infancy, while Reginald
was reared in the lap of luxury. Pardon me, Sir Oswald, if I speak
plainly; but I must remind you that there are few young men who would
have passed honourably through the ordeal of such a change of fortune
as that which has fallen on your nephew."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that with most men such a reverse would have been utter ruin of
soul and body. An ordinary man, finding all the hopes of his future,
all the expectations, which had been a part of his very life, taken
suddenly from him, would have abandoned himself to a career of vice; he
would have become a blackleg, a swindler, a drunkard, a beggar at the
doors of the kinsman who had cast him off. But it was not so with
Reginald Eversleigh. From the moment in which he found himself cast
adrift by the benefactor who had been more than a father to him, he
confronted evil fortune calmly and bravely. He cut the link between
himself and extravagant companions. He disappeared from the circles in
which he had been admired and courted; and the only grief which preyed
upon his generous heart sprang from the knowledge that he had forfeited
his uncle's affection."
Sir Oswald sighed. For the first time he began to think that it was
just possible he had treated his nephew with injustice.
"You are right, Mr. Carrington," he said, after a pause; "it was a hard
trial for any man; and I am proud to think that Reginald passed
unscathed through so severe an ordeal. But the resolution at which I
arrived a year and a half ago is one that I cannot alter now. I have
formed new ties; I have new hopes for the future. My nephew must pay
the penalty of his past errors, and must look to his own exertions for
wealth and honour. If I die without a direct heir, he will succeed to
the baronetcy, and I hope he will try his uttermost to win a fortune by
which he may maintain his title."
There was very little promise in this; but Victor Carrington was,
nevertheless, tolerably well satisfied with the result of the
conversation. He had sown the seeds of doubt and uncertainty in the
baronet's breast. Time only could bring the harvest. The surgeon was
accustomed to work underground, and knew that all such work must be
slow and laborious.
* * * * *
"O BEWARE, MY LORD, OF JEALOUSY."
The castle was gay with the presence of many guests. The baronet was
proud to gather old friends and acquaintances round him, in order that
he might show them the fair young wife he had chosen to be the solace
of his declining years. A man of fifty who marries a girl of nineteen
is always subject to the ridicule of scandalous lips, the ironical
jests of pitiless tongues. Sir Oswald Eversleigh knew this, and he
wanted to show the world that he was happy--supremely happy--in the
choice that he had made.
Amongst those who came to Raynham Castle this autumn was one trusted
friend of Sir Oswald, a gruff old soldier, Captain Copplestone, a man
who had never won advancement in the service; but who was known to have
nobly earned the promotion which had never been awarded him.
This man was on brotherly terms with Sir Oswald, and was about the only
creature who had ever dared to utter disagreeable truths to the
baronet. He was very poor; but had never accepted the smallest favour
from the hands of his wealthy friend. Sir Oswald was devoutly attached
to him, and would have gladly opened his purse to him as to a brother;
but he dared not offend the stern old soldier's pride by even hinting
at such a desire.
Captain Copplestone came to Raynham prepared to remonstrate with his
friend on the folly of his marriage. He arrived when the reception-room
was crowded with other visitors, and be stood by, looking on in grim
disdain, while the newly arrived guests were pressing their
felicitations on Sir Oswald.
By and bye the guests departed to their rooms, and the friends were
"Well, old friend," cried the baronet, stretching out both his hands to
grasp those of the captain in a warmer salutation than that of his
first welcome, "am I to have no word of congratulation from you?"
"What word do you want?" growled Copplestone. "If I tell you the truth,
you won't like it; and if I were to try to tell you a lie, egad! I
think the syllables would choke me. It has been hard enough for me to
keep patience while all those idiots have been babbling their unmeaning
compliments; and now that they've gone away to laugh at you behind your
back, you'd better let me follow their example, and not risk the chance
of a quarrel with an old friend by speaking my mind."
"You think me a fool, then, Copplestone?"
"Why, what else can I think of you? If a man of fifty must needs go and
marry a girl of nineteen, he can't expect to be thought a Solon."
"Ah, Copplestone, when you have seen my wife, you will think
"Not a bit of it. The prettier she is, the more fool I shall think you;
for there'll be so much the more certainty that she'll make your life
"Here she comes!" said the baronet; "look at her before you judge her
too severely, old friend, and let her face answer for her truth."
The room in which the two men were standing opened into another and
larger apartment, and through the open folding-doors Captain
Copplestone saw Lady Eversleigh approaching. She was dressed in white--
that pure, transparent muslin in which her husband loved best to see
her--and one large natural rose was fastened amidst her dark hair. As
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