The Irrational Knot
George Bernard Shaw
Part 7 out of 8
Temptation,' 'The Flight,' 'The Pursuit,' and so on, all invented, of
course. Other papers give the most outrageous anecdotes. Old jokes are
revived and ascribed to us. I am accused of tearing his hair out, and he
of coming home late at nights drunk. Two portraits of ferocious old
women supposed to be Ned's mother-in-law have been published. The latest
version appeared in a Sunday paper, and is quite popular in this hotel.
According to it, Ned was in the habit of 'devoting me to science' by
trying electrical experiments on me. 'This,' the account says, 'was kind
of rough on the poor woman.' The day before I 'scooted,' a new machine
appeared before the house, drawn by six horses. 'What are them men
foolin' round with, Mr. C.?' said I. 'That's hubby's latest,' replied
Ned. 'I guess it's the boss electro-dynamic fixin' in the universe.
Full charge that battery with a pint of washing soda, an' youll fetch up
a current fit to ravage a cont'nent. You shall have a try t'morro'
mornin', Sal. Youre better seasoned to it than most Britishers; but if
it dont straighten your hair and lift the sparks outer your
eyelashes--!' 'You bet it wont, Mr. C.,' said I. That night (this is
only what the paper says, mind) I stole out of bed; arranged the wires
on each side of Ned so that if he stirred an inch he would make contact;
charged the battery; and gently woke him, saying, 'Mr. C, love, dont
stir for your life. Them things that's ticklin' your whiskers is the
conductors of that boss fixin' o' yourn. If I was you, I'd lie still
until the battery runs down.' 'Darn it all,' said Ned, afraid to lift
his lips for a shout, and coming out in cold water all over the
forehead, 'it wont run down for a week clear.' 'That'll answer me
nicely,' I replied. 'Good-bye, Mr. C. Young Douglas from the corner
grocery is waitin' for me with a shay down the avenue.' I cannot help
laughing at these things, but they drive Sholto frantic. He is always
described in them as a young man from some shop or other. He tries hard,
out of delicacy, to keep the papers which contain them away from me; but
I hear about them at breakfast, and buy them downstairs in the hall for
myself. Another grievance of Sholto's is that I will not have meals
privately. But my dislike to being always alone with him is greater than
my dread that my secret will leak out, and that some morning I shall see
in the people's faces that the Mrs. Forster who has so often been
regaled with the latest account of the great scandal, is no other than
the famous Mrs. Conolly. That evil day will come, sooner or later; but I
had rather face it in one of these wonderful hotels than in a
boarding-house, which I might be asked to leave. As to taking a house of
our own, I shrink from any such permanent arrangement. We are noticed a
good deal. Sholto is, of course, handsome and distinguished; and people
take a fancy to me just as they used to long ago. I was once proud of
this; but now it is a burden to me. For instance, there was a Mrs.
Crawford staying here with her husband, a general, who has just built a
house here. She was so determined to know me that I found it hard to
keep her off without offending her. At last she got ill; and then I felt
justified in nursing her. Sholto was very sulky because I did so, and
wanted to know what business it was of mine. I did not trouble myself
about his anger, and Mrs. Crawford was well in two days. In fact, I
think Sholto was right in saying that she had only overeaten herself.
After that I could avoid her no longer, and she was exceedingly kind to
me. She wanted to introduce me to all her New York friends, and begged
me to leave the hotel and go to her new mansion. There was plenty of
room for us, she said. I did not know what to say. I could not repay her
kindness by going to her house under false colors, and letting her
introduce me to her circle; and yet I could make no reasonable excuse.
At last, seeing that she attributed my refusals to pride, I told her
plainly that if her friends were to learn my history by any accident
they might not thank her for the introduction. She was quite confounded;
but she did not abate her kindness in the least, although my reservation
of confidence in only giving her a hint of the truth, checked her
advances. You may think this an insane indiscretion on my part; but if
you knew how often I have longed to stand up before everybody and
proclaim who I am, and so get rid of the incubus of a perpetual
falsehood, you would not be so much surprised. There is one unspeakable
blessing in American law. It is quite easy to obtain a divorce. One can
get free without sacrificing everything except bare existence. I do not
care what anybody may argue to the contrary, our marriage laws are
"I shall expect to hear from you very soon. If you desert me, Nelly,
there is no such thing as friendship in the world. I want particularly
to know what Ned did--as far as you know--when he heard the news. Is
papa very angry? And, above all, could you find out how Mrs. Douglas is?
I thought that Sholto would be uneasy and remorseful about her; but he
does not really care half so much as I do. How selfish I have been! I
used to flatter myself that I was thoughtful for others because I made a
habit--a detestably self-conscious habit--of being considerate in
trifles. And in the end, after being so vain-gloriously attentive to the
momentary comfort of all connected with me, I utterly forgot them and
thought only of myself when their whole happiness was concerned. I never
knew how high I stood in my own estimation until I found how far the
discovery of my folly and selfishness made me fall. Tell me everything".
I cannot write any more now. My eyes are smarting: I feel as if I had
been writing for a whole month instead of two days. Good-bye for three
"P.S. I have just learnt from a very severe criticism in one of the
papers that Mdlle. Lalage Virtue has failed here completely. I fear from
the wording that her unfortunate habit was apparent to the audience."
On a cold afternoon in January, Sholto Douglas entered a hold in New
York, and ascended to a room on the first floor. Marian was sitting
there, thinking, with a letter in her lap, She only looked up for a
moment when he entered; and he plucked off his sealskin gloves and threw
aside his overcoat in silence.
"It is an infernal day," he said presently.
Marian sighed, and roused herself. "The rooms look cheerless in winter
without the open fireplaces we are accustomed to in England."
"Damn the rooms!" he muttered.
Marian took up her letter again.
"Do you know that he has filed a petition for divorce?" he said,
"You might have mentioned it to me. Probably you have known it for days
"Yes. I thought it was a matter of course."
"Or rather you did not think at nil. I suppose you would have left me in
ignorance forever, if I had not heard from London myself."
"Is it of importance, then?"
"Certainly it is--of vital importance."
"Have you any other news? From whom have you heard?"
"I have received some private letters."
"Oh! I beg your pardon."
Five minutes passed in silence. He looked out of the window, frowning.
She sat as before.
"How much longer do you intend to stay in this place?" he said, turning
upon her suddenly.
"In New York?"
"This is New York, I believe."
"I think we may as well stay here as anywhere else."
"Indeed! On what grounds have you arrived at that cheering conclusion?"
Marian shrugged her shoulders. "I dont know," she said.
"Nor do I. You do not seem happy here. At least, if you are, you fail to
communicate your state of mind to those about you."
"So it seems."
"What does that mean?"
"That you do not seem to be happy either."
"How in the devil's name can you expect me to be happy in this city? Do
you think it is pleasant to have no alternative to the society of
American men except that of a sulky woman?"
"Sholto!" said Marian, rising quickly, and looking at him in surprise.
"Spare me these airs," he said, coldly. "You will have to accustom
yourself to hear the truth occasionally."
She sat down again. "I am not giving myself airs," she said, earnestly.
"I am astonished. Have I really been sulky?"
"You have been in the sulks for days past: and you are in them at this
"There is some misunderstanding between us then; for you have seemed to
me quite cross and out of sorts for the last week; and I thought you
were out of temper when you came in just now."
"That is rather an old-fashioned retort."
"Sholto: I do not know whether you intend it or not; but you are
speaking very slightingly to me."
He muttered something, and walked across the room and back. "I am quite
clear on one point at least," he said. "It was not for this sort of
thing that I crossed the Atlantic with you; and you had bettor make our
relations more agreeable if you wish me to make them permanent."
"You to make them permanent? I do not understand."
"I shall not shrink from explaining myself. If your husband's suit is
undefended, he will obtain a decree which will leave you a single woman
in six months. Now, whatever you may think to the contrary, there is not
a club in London that would hold me in any way bound to marry you after
the manner in which you have behaved. Let me remind you that your future
position depends on your present conduct. You have apparently forgotten
She looked at him; and he went back to the window.
"My husband's suit cannot be defended," she said. "Doubtless you will
act according to the dictates of the London clubs."
"I do not say so," he said, turning angrily. "I shall act according to
the dictates of my own common sense. And do not be too sure that the
petition will be unopposed. The law recognizes the plea of connivance."
"But it would be a false plea," said Marian, raising her voice.
"I shall not discuss that with you. Whether your husband was blind, or
merely kept his eyes shut will not be decided by us. You have been
warned. We will drop the subject now, if you please."
"Do you suppose," said Marian, with a bright color in her cheeks, "that
after what you have said, anything could induce me to marry you?"
He was startled, and remained for a moment motionless. Then he said, in
his usual cold tone, "As you please. You may think better of it. I will
leave you for the present. When we meet again, you will be calmer."
"Yes," she said. "Good-bye."
Without answering, he changed his coat for a silk jacket, transferred
his cigar-case to a pocket in it, and went out. When he had passed the
threshold, he hesitated, and returned.
"Why do you say good-bye?" he said, after clearing his throat uneasily.
"I do not like to leave you without saying it."
"I hope you have not misunderstood me, Marian. I did not mean that we
"I know that. Nevertheless, we shall part. I will never sleep beneath
the same roof with you again."
"Come!" he said, shutting the door: "this is nonsense. You are out of
"So you have already told me," she said, becoming pale.
"Well, but--Marian: perhaps I may have spoken rather harshly just now;
but I did not mean you to take it so. You must be reasonable."
"Pray let us have no more words about it. I need no apologies, and
desire no advances. Good-bye is enough."
"But, Marian," said he, coming nearer, "you must not fancy that I have
ceased to love you."
"Above all," said Marian, "let us have no more of that. You say you hate
this place and the life we lead here. I am heartily sick of it, and have
been so for a long time."
"Let us go elsewhere."
"Yes, but not together. One word," she added resolutely, seeing his
expression become fierce. "I will not endure any violence, even of
language, from you. I know of old what you are when you lose your
temper; and if you insult me I will summon aid, and proclaim who I am."
"Do you think I am going to strike you?"
"No, because you dare not. But I will not listen to oaths or abuse."
"What have you to complain of? What is your grievance?"
"I make no complaint. I exercise the liberty I bought so dearly to go
where I please and do what I please."
"And to desert me when I have sacrificed everything for you. I have
incurred enormous expenses; alienated my friends; risked my position in
society; and broken my mother's heart for your sake."
"But for that I would have left you before. I am very sorry."
"You have heard something in that letter which makes you hope that your
husband will take you back. Not a woman in London will speak to you."
"I tell you I am not going back. Oh, Sholto, dont be so mean. Can we not
part with dignity? We have made a mistake. Let us acknowledge it
quietly, and go our several ways."
"I will not be got rid of so easily as you suppose," he said, his face
darkening menacingly. "Do you think I believe in your going out alone
from this hotel and living by yourself in a strange city? Come! who is
"Who is----? What do you mean?"
"What new connexion have you formed? You were very anxious about our
ship returning the other day--anxious about the mails, of course.
Perhaps also about the surgeon."
"I understand. You think I am leaving you to go to some other man. I
will tell you now the true reason."
"Do," said he, sarcastically, biting his lip.
"I will. I am leaving you because, instead of loving you, as I foolishly
thought I could, I neither respect nor even like you. You are utterly
selfish and narrow-minded; and I deserve my disappointment for having
deserted for your sake a far better man. I am sorry you have sacrificed
so much for me; but if you had been worthy of a woman's regard, you
would not have lost me."
Douglas stared at her. "_I_ selfish and narrow-minded!" he said, with
the calm of stupefaction.
"I may have been narrow-minded in devoting myself so entirely to you,"
said he slowly, after a pause. "But, though I do not ask for gratitude,
I think I have been sufficiently a loser to disregard such a monstrous
assertion as that I am selfish."
"You show your selfishness by dwelling on what you have lost. You never
think of what I have lost. I make no profession of unselfishness. I am
suffering for my folly and egoism; and I deserve to suffer."
"In what way, pray, are you suffering? You came here because you had a
wretched home, and a husband who was glad to be rid of you. You do what
you like, and have what you like. Name one solitary wish of yours that
has not been silently gratified."
"I do not find fault with you. You have been generous in supplying me
with luxuries such as money can obtain. But it was not the want of money
that made me fancy my home wretched. It is not true that I can do as I
like. How many minutes is it since you threatened to cast me off if I
did not make myself agreeable to you? Can you boast of your generosity
after taunting me with my dependence on you?"
"You misunderstood me, Marian. I neither boasted, nor threatened, nor
taunted. I have even apologized for that moment's irritation. If you
cannot forgive such a trifle, you yourself can have very little
"Perhaps not. I do not violently resent things; but I cannot forget
them, nor feel as I did before they happened."
"You think so at present. Let us cease this bickering. Lovers' quarrels
should not be carried too far."
"I am longing to cease it. It worries me; and it does not alter my
determination in the least."
"Do you mean----"
"I do mean. Dont look at me like that: you make me angry instead of
"And do you think I will suffer this quietly?"
"You may suffer it as you please," said Marian, stepping quietly to the
wall, and pressing a button. "I will never see you again if I can help
it. If you follow me, or persecute me in any way, I will appeal to the
police for protection as Mrs. Conolly. I despise you more than I do any
one on earth."
He turned away, and snatched up his coat and hat. She stood apparently
watching him quietly, but really listening with quickened heart to his
loud and irregular breathing. As he opened the door to go out, he was
confronted on the threshold by a foreign waiter.
"Vas you reeng?" said the waiter doubtfully, retreating a step.
"I will not be accountable for that woman's expenses from this time
forth," said Douglas, pointing at her, "You can keep her at your own
risk, or turn her into the streets to pursue her profession, as you
The waiter, smiting vaguely, looked first at the retreating figure of
Douglas, and then at Marian.
"I want another room, if you please," she said. "One on any of the upper
floors will do; but I must have my things moved there at once."
Her instructions were carried out after some parley. In the meantime,
Douglas's man servant appeared, and said that he had been instructed to
remove his master's luggage.
"Is Mr. Forster leaving the hotel?" she asked.
"I dont know his arrangements, madam."
"I guess I do, then," said a sulky man, who was preparing to wheel away
Marian's trunk. "He's about to shift his billet to the Gran' Central."
Marian, still in a towering rage, sat down in her new room to consider
her situation. To fix her attention, which repeatedly wandered to what
had passed between her and Douglas, she counted her money, and found
that she had, besides a twenty pound note which she had brought with her
from London, only a few loose dollars in her purse. Her practice in
housekeeping at Westbourne Terrace and Holland Park had taught her the
value of money too well to let her suppose that she could afford to
remain at a first rate American hotel with so small a sum in her
possession. At home Conolly had made her keep a separate banking
account; and there was money to her credit there; but in her ignorance
of the law, she was not sure that she had not forfeited all her property
by eloping. She resolved to move at once into some cheap lodging, and to
live economically until she could ascertain the true state of her
affairs, or until she could obtain some employment, to support her. She
faced poverty without fear, never having experienced it.
It was still early in the afternoon when she left the hotel and drove to
"So you have come at last," cried Mrs. Crawford, who was fifty years of
age and stout, but leaner in the face than fat Englishwomen of that age
"I just expected you'd soon git tired of being grand all by yourself in
the hotel yonder."
"I fear I shall have to be the reverse of grand all by myself in some
very shabby lodging," said Marian. "Dont be surprised Mrs. Crawford. Can
one live in New York on ten dollars a week?"
"_You_ cant live on ten dollars a week in New York nor on a hundred. You
rode here, didnt you?"
"Yes, of course."
"Of course. If you have only ten dollars a week you should have walked.
I know the sort you are, Mrs. Forster. You wont be long getting rid of
your money, no matter where you live. But whats wrong? Hows your
"I dont know. I hope he is quite well," said Marian, her voice trembling
a little. "Mrs. Crawford: you are the only friend I have in America;
and you have been so very kind to me that since I must trouble some one,
I have ventured to come to you. The truth is that I have left my
husband; and I have only about one hundred dollars in the world. I must
live on that until I get some employment, or perhaps some money of my
own from England."
"Chut, child! Nawnsnse!" exclaimed Mrs. Crawford, with benevolent
intolerance. "You go right back to your husband. I spose youve had a
rumpus with him; but you mustnt mind that. All men are a bit selfish;
and I should say from what I have seen of him that he is no exception to
the rule. But you cant have perfection. He's a fine handsome fellow; and
he knows it. And, as for you, I dont know what they reckon you in
England; but youre the best-looking woman in Noo York: thats surtn. It's
a pity for such a pair to fall out."
"He is not selfish," said Marian. "You never saw him. I am afraid I must
shock you, Mrs. Crawford. Mr. Forster is not my husband."
"No! Do! Did you ever tell the General that?"
"General Crawford! Oh, no."
"Think of that man being cuter than me, a woman! He always said so. And
the grit you must have, to tell it out as cool as that! Well! I'm sorry
to hear it though, Mrs. Forster. It's a bad account--a very bad one. But
if I take what you said just now rightly, youre married."
"I am. I have deserted a very good husband."
"It's a pity you didnt find that out a little sooner, isnt it?"
"I know, Mrs. Crawford. I thought I was acting for the best."
"Thought you were acting for the best in running away from a good
husband! Well, you British aristocrats are singular. You throw stones at
us because our women are so free and our divorces so easy. Yet youre
always scandlizing us; and now _you_ tell me youve done it on morl
grounds! Who educated you, child? And what do you intend to do now?"
"For the present, only to get a lodging. Will you tell me where I should
look for one? I dont know the east from the west end of this town; and I
am so inexperienced that I might make a mistake easily as to the
character of the places. Will you direct me to some street or quarter in
which I should he likely to find suitable rooms? I can live very
"I dont know what to do," said Mrs. Crawford, perplexedly, turning her
rings on her fingers. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. And you so
"Perhaps you would rather not assist me. You may tell me so candidly. I
shall not be offended."
"You mustnt take me up like that. I must have a talk with the General
about you. I dont feel like letting you go into some ordinary place by
yourself. But I cant ask you to stay here without consulting----"
"Oh, no, you must not think of any such thing: I must begin to face the
world alone at once. I assure you, Mrs. Crawford, I could not come here.
I should only keep your friends away."
"But nobody knows you."
"Sooner or later I should meet someone who does. There are hundreds of
people who know me by sight, who travel every year. Besides, my case is
a very public one, unfortunately. May I take you into my confidence?"
"If you wish, my dear. I dont ask you for it; but I will take it
"I know you will. You must have heard all about me. Mr. Forster's real
name is Douglas."
Mrs. Crawford stifled a whoop of surprise. "And you! Are you----?"
"Only think! And that was Douglas! Why, I thought he was a
straight-haired, sleeky, canting snake of a man. And you too are not a
bit like what I thought. You are quite a person, Mrs.--Mrs. Conolly."
"I have no right to bear that name any longer. Pray call me by my
assumed name still, and keep my secret. I hope you do not believe all
the newspapers said?"
"No, of course not," said Mrs. Crawford. "But whose fault was it?"
"Mine. Altogether mine. I wish you would tell people that Mr. Conolly is
blameless in the matter."
"He will take care of his own credit, never fear. I am sure you got some
provocation: I know what men are. The General is not my first husband."
"No, I got no provocation. Mr. Conolly is not like other men. I got
discontented because I had nothing to desire. And now, about the
lodgings, Mrs. Crawford. Do not think I am changing the subject from
reticence. It is the question of money that makes me anxious. All my
resources would be swallowed up at the hotel in less than a week."
"Lodgings? You mean rooms, I guess. People here mostly go to
boarding-houses. And as to the cheapness, you dont know what cheapness
is. Cant you make some arrangement with your great relations in England?
Have you no property of your own?"
"I cannot tell whether my property remains my own or not. You must
regard me as a poor woman. I am quite determined to have the lodgings;
and I should like to arrange about them at once; for I am rather upset
by something that happened this morning."
"Well, if you must, you must, I know a place that might suit you: I
lived in it myself when I was not so well off as I am at present. It is
a little down-town; but you will have to put up with that for the sake
Mrs. Crawford, who had read in the papers of her guest's relationship to
the Earl of Carbury, then sent for her carriage, and dressed herself
handsomely. When they had gone some distance, they entered a wide
street, crossed half way along by an avenue and an elevated railway.
"What do you think of this neighborhood?" said Mrs. Crawford.
"It is a fine, wide street," replied Marian; "but it looks as if it
needed to be swept and painted."
"The other end is quieter. I'm afraid you wont like living here."
Marian had hitherto thought of such streets as thoroughfares, not as
places in which she could dwell. "Beggars cannot be choosers," she said,
with affected cheerfulness, looking anxiously ahead for the promised
"Boarding-houses are so much the rule here, that it is not easy to get
rooms. You will find Mrs. Myers a good soul, and though the house is not
much to look at, it is comfortable enough inside."
The appearance of the street improved as they went on; and the house
they stopped at, though the windows were dingy and the paint old, was
better than Marian had hoped for a minute before. She remained in the
carriage whilst her companion conferred with the landlady within. Twenty
minutes passed before Mrs. Crawford reappeared, looking much perplexed.
"Mrs. Myers has a couple of rooms that would do you very well; only you
would be on the same floor with a woman who is always drunk. She has
pawned a heap of clothes, and promises to leave every day; but Mrs.
Myers hasnt got rid of her yet. It's very provoking. She's quiet, and
doesnt trouble any one; but still, of course----"
"She cannot interfere with me," said Marian. "If that is the only
objection, let it pass. I need have nothing to say to her. If she is not
violent nor noisy, her habits are her own affair."
"Oh, she wont trouble you. You can keep to yourself, English fashion."
"Then let us agree at once. I cannot face any more searching and
"Youre looking pale. Are you sure you are not ill?"
"No. It is nothing. I am rather tired."
They went in together; and Marian was introduced to Mrs. Myers, a
nervous widow of fifty. The rooms were small, and the furniture and
carpets old and worn; but all was clean; and there was an open fireplace
in the sitting-room.
"They will do very nicely, thank you," said Marian. "I will send for my
luggage; and I think I will just telegraph my new address and a few
words to a friend in London."
"If you feel played out, I can see after your luggage," said Mrs.
Crawford. "But I advise you to come back with me; have a good lunch at
Delmonico's; and send your cablegram yourself."
Marian roused herself from a lassitude which was coming upon her, and
took Mrs. Crawford's advice. When they returned to the richer quarter of
the town, and especially after luncheon, her spirits revived. At the
hotel she observed that the clerk was surprised when, arranging for the
removal of her luggage and the forwarding of her letters, she mentioned
her new address. Douglas, she found, had paid all expenses before
leaving. She did not linger in the building; for the hotel staff stared
at her curiously. She finished her business by telegraphing to Elinor:
"_Separated. Write to new address. Have I forfeited my money?_" This
cost her nearly five dollars.
"Only that you must find out about your money, I wouldnt have let you
spend all that," said Mrs. Crawford.
"I did not think it would have cost so much," said Marian. "I was
horrified when he named the price. However, it cannot be helped."
"We may as well be getting back to Mrs. Myers's now. It's late."
"Yes, I suppose so," said Marian, sighing. "I am sorry I did not ask
Nelly to telegraph me. I am afraid my funds will not last so long as I
"Well, we shall see. The General was greatly taken with you for the way
you looked after me when I was ill yonder; so you have two friends in
Noo York City, at any rate."
"You have proved that to me to-day. I am afraid I shall have to trouble
you further if I get bad news. You will have to help me to find some
"Yes. Never mind that until the bad news comes. I hope you wont mope at
Mrs. Myers's. How does the American air agree with you?"
"Pretty well. I was sick for the first two days of our passage across,
and somehow my digestion seems to have got out of order in consequence.
Of late I have been a little unwell in the mornings."
"Oh! Thats so, is it? Humph! I see I shall have to come and look after
"Never you mind, my dear. But dont go moping, nor going without food to
save money. Take care of yourself."
"It is nothing serious," said Marian, with a smile. "Only a passing
indisposition. You need not be uneasy about me. This is the house, is it
not? I shall lose myself whenever I go out for a walk here."
"This is it. Now good-bye. I'll see you soon. Meanwhile, you take care
of yourself, as youre told."
It was dark when Marian entered her new residence. Mrs. Myers was
standing at the open door, remonstrating with a milkman. Marian hastily
assured her that she knew the way, and went upstairs alone. She was
chilled and weary; her spirits had fallen again during her journey from
the telegraph office. As she approached her room, hoping to find a good
fire, she heard a flapping noise, which was suddenly interrupted by the
rattle of a falling poker, followed by the exclamation, in a woman's
voice, "Och, musha, I wouldnt doubt you." Marian, entering, saw a robust
young woman kneeling before the grate, trying to improve a dull fire
that burnt there. She had taken up the poker and placed it standing
against the bars so that it pointed up the chimney; and she was now
using her apron fanwise as a bellows. The fire glowed in the draught;
and Marian, by its light, noted with displeasure that the young woman's
calico dress was soiled, and her hair untidy.
"God bless us!" ejaculated the servant, starting and turning a comely
dirty face toward Marian.
"Did I frighten you?" said Marian, herself startled by the exclamation.
"You put the life acrass in me," said the servant, panting, and pressing
her hand on her bosom.
"I am sorry for that. I was going to say that I think you need not take
any further trouble with the fire. It will light of itself now."
"Very well, miss."
"What is your name?"
"Liza Redmon', miss."
"I should like some light, Eliza, if you please."
"Yis, miss. Would you wish to take your tay now, miss?"
"Yes, thank you."
Eliza went away with alacrity. Marian put off her bonnet and furs, and
sat down before the fire to despond over the prospect of living in that
shabby room, waited on by that slipshod Irish girl, who roused in her
something very like racial antipathy. Presently Eliza returned, carrying
a small tray, upon which she had crowded a lighted kerosene lamp, a
china tea service, a rolled-up table cloth, a supply of bread and
butter, and a copper kettle. When she had placed the lamp on the
mantelpiece, and the kettle by the fire, she put the tray on the sofa,
and proceeded to lay the cloth, which she shook from its folds and
spread like a sail in the air by seizing two of the corners in her
hands, and pulling them apart whilst she held the middle fold in her
teeth. Then she adroitly wafted it over the table, making a breeze in
which the lamp flared and Marian blinked. Her movements were very rapid;
and in a few moments she had arranged the tea service, and was ready to
"My luggage will be sent here this evening or to-morrow, Eliza. Will you
tell me when it comes?"
"You know that my name is _Mrs_. Forster, do you not?"
"Mrs. Forster. Yis, miss."
Marian made no further attempt to get miss changed to maam; and Eliza
left the room. As she crossed the landing, she was called by someone on
the same floor. Marian started at the sound. It was a woman's voice,
disagreeably husky: a voice she felt sure she had heard before, and yet
one that was not familiar to her.
"Eliza. Eli-za!" Marian shuddered.
"Yis, yis," said Eliza, impatiently, opening a door.
"Come here, alanna," said the voice, with mock fondness. The door was
then closed, and Marian could hear the murmur of the conversation which
followed. It was still proceeding when Mrs. Myers came in.
"I didnt ought to have left you to find your way up here alone, Mrs.
Forster," she said; "but I do have such worry sometimes that I'm bound
to leave either one thing or another undone."
"It does not matter at all, Mrs. Myers. Your servant has been very
attentive to me."
"The hired girl? She's smart, she is--does everything right slick away.
The only trouble is to keep her out of that room. She's in there now.
Unless I am always after her, she is slipping out on errands, pawning
and buying drink for that unfortunate young creature."
"A person that Mrs. Crawford promised to tell you about."
"So she did," said Marian. "But I did not know she was young."
"She's older than you, a deal. I knew her when she was a little girl,
and I often forget how old she is. She was the prettiest child! Even now
she would talk you into anything. But I cant help her. It's nothing but
drink, drink, drink from morning til night. There's Eliza coming out of
her room. Eliza."
"Yis, maam," said Eliza, looking in.
"You stay in the house, Eliza, do you hear? I wont have you go out."
"Could I spake a word to you, maam?" said Eliza, lowering her voice.
"No, Eliza. I'm engaged with Mrs. Forster."
"She wants to see you," whispered Eliza.
"Go downrs, Eliza, this minute. I wont see her."
"Mrs. Myers," cried the voice. Marian again shrank from the sound. "Mrs.
My-ers. Aunt Sally. Come to your poor Soozy." Mrs. Myers looked
perplexedly at Marian. The voice resumed after a pause, with an affected
Yankee accent, "I guess I'll raise a shine if you dont come."
"I must go," said Mrs. Myers. "I promise you, Mrs. Forster, she shall
not annoy you. She shall go this week. It aint right that you should be
disturbed by her."
Mrs. Myers went into the other room. Eliza ran downrs, and Marian
heard her open the house door softly and go out. She also heard
indistinctly the voices of the landlady and her lodger. After a time
these ceased, and she drank her tea in peace. She was glad that Mrs.
Myers did not return, although she made no more comfortable use of her
solitude than to think of her lost home in Holland Park, comparing it
with her dingy apartment, and pressing her handkerchief upon her eyes
when they became too full of tears. She had passed more than an hour
thus when Eliza roused her by announcing the arrival of the luggage.
Thereupon she bestirred herself to superintend its removal to her
bedroom, where she unpacked a trunk which contained her writing-case and
some books. With these were stowed her dresses, much miscellaneous
finery, and some handsomely worked underclothing. Eliza, standing by,
could not contain her admiration; and Marian, though she did not permit
her to handle the clothes, had not the heart to send her away until she
had seen all that the trunk contained. Marian heard her voice afterward
in the apartment of the drunken lodger, and suspected from its emphasis
that the girl was describing the rare things she had seen.
Marian imparted some interest to her surroundings that evening by
describing them in a letter to Elinor. When she had finished, she was
weary; and the fire was nearly out. She looked at her watch, and,
finding to her surprise that is was two hours after midnight, rose to go
to bed. Before leaving the room, she stood for a minute before the
old-fashioned pier-glass, with one foot on the fender, and looked at her
image, pitying her own weariness, and enjoying the soft beauty of her
face and the gentleness of her expression. Her appearance did not always
please her; but on this occasion the mirror added so much to the solace
she had found in writing to Elinor, that she felt almost happy as she
took the lamp to light her to her bedroom.
She had gone no farther than the landing when a sound of unsteady
footsteps on the stairs caused her to stop. As she lifted the lamp and
looked up, she saw a strange woman descending toward her, holding the
balustrade, and moving as though with pains in her limbs. This woman,
whose black hair fell nearly to her waist, was dressed in a crimson
satin dressing-gown, warmly padded, and much stained and splashed. She
had fine dark eyes, and was young, bold-looking, and handsome; but when
she came nearer, the moist pallor of her skin, the slackness of her
lower lip and jaw, and an eager and worn expression in her fine eyes,
gave her a thirsty, reckless leer that filled Marian with loathing. Her
aspect conveyed the same painful suggestion as her voice had done
before, but more definitely; for it struck Marian, with a shock, that
Conolly, in the grotesque metamorphosis of a nightmare, might appear in
some such likeness. The lamp did not seem to attract her attention at
first; but when she came within a few steps, she saw some one before
her, and, dazzled by the light, peered at Marian, who lost her presence
of mind, and stood motionless. Gradually the woman's expression changed
to one of astonishment. She came down to the landing; stopped, grasping
the handrail to steady herself; and said in her husky voice:
"Oh, Lord! It's not a woman at all. It's D. Ts." Then, not quite
convinced by this explanation, she suddenly stretched out her hand and
attempted to grasp Marian's arm. Missing her aim, she touched her on the
breast, and immediately cried, "Mrs. Ned!"
Marian shrank from her touch, and recovered her courage.
"Do you know me?" she said.
"I should rather think I do. I have gone off a good deal in my
appearance, or you would know me. Youve seen me on the stage, I suppose.
I'm your sister-in-law. Perhaps you didnt know you had one."
"Are you Miss Susanna Conolly?"
"Thats who I am. At least I am what is left of Miss Susanna. You dont
look overjoyed to make my acquaintance; but I was as good-looking as you
once. Take my advice, Mrs. Ned: dont drink champagne. The end of
champagne is brandy; and the end of brandy is----" Susanna made a
grimace and indicated herself.
"I am afraid we shall disturb the house if we talk here. We had better
"No, no. Dont be in such a hurry to get rid of me. Come into my room
with me for a while. I'll talk quietly: I'm not drunk. Ive just slept it
off; and I was coming down for some more. You may as well keep me from
it for a few minutes. I suppose Ned hasnt forbidden you to speak to me."
"Oh, no," said Marian, yielding to a feeling of pity. "Come into my
room. There is a scrap of fire there still."
"We used to lodge in this room long ago, in my father's time," said
Susanna, following Marian into the room, and reclining with a groan on
the sofa. "I'm rather in a fog, you know: I cant make out how the deuce
you come to be here. Did Ned send you to look after me? Is he in New
York? Is he here?"
"No," said Marian, foreseeing with a bitter pang and a terrible blush
what must follow. "He is in England. I am alone here."
"Well, why--? what--? I dont understand."
"Have you not read the papers?" said Marian, in a low voice, turning her
"Papers! No, not since I saw an account of my brilliant _debut_ here, of
which I suppose you have heard. I never read: I do nothing but drink.
What has happened?"
"Is it any secret?" said Susanna.
"No, it is no secret," said Marian, turning, and looking at her
steadily. "All the world knows it. I have left your brother; and I do
not know whether I am still his wife, or whether I am already divorced."
"You dont mean to say youre on the loose!" cried Susanna.
Marian was silent.
"I always told Ned that no woman could stand him," said Susanna, with
sodden vivacity, after a pause, during which Marian had to endure her
astonished stare. "He always thought you the very pink of propriety. Of
course, there was another man in it. Whats become of him, if I may ask?"
"I have left him," said Marian, sternly. "You need impute no fault to
your brother in the matter, Miss Conolly. He is quite blameless."
"Yes," said Susanna, not in the least impressed, "he always is
blameless. How is Bob? I mean Marmaduke, your cousin. I call him Bob,
short for Cherry Bob."
"He is very well, thank you."
"Now, Bob was not a blameless man, but altogether the reverse; and he
was a capital fellow to get on with. Ned was always right, always sure
of himself; and there was an end. He has no variety. I wonder will Bob
ever get married?"
"He is going to be married in the spring."
"To Lady Constance Car----"
"Damn that woman!" exclaimed Susanna. "I hate her. She was always
throwing herself at his head. Curse her! Damn her! I wish----"
"Miss Conolly," said Marian: "I hope you will not think me rude; but I
am very tired, and it is very late. I must go to bed."
"Well, will you come and see me to-morrow? It will be an act of charity.
I am dying here all alone. You are a nice woman, and I know what you
must feel about me; but you will get used to me. I wont annoy you. I
wont swear. I wont say anything about your cousin. I'll keep sober. Do
come. You are a good sort: Bob always said so; and you might save me
from destroying myself. Say youll come."
"If you particularly wish it, I will," said Marian, not disguising her
"Youd rather not, of course," said Susanna, despondently.
"I am afraid I cannot be of any use to you."
"For that matter, no one is likely to be of much use to me. But it's
hard to be imprisoned in this den without anyone to speak to but Eliza.
However, do as you please. I did as I pleased; and I must take the
consequences. Just tell me one thing. Did you find me out by accident?"
"That was odd." Susanna groaned again as she rose from the sofa. "Well,
since you wont have anything to do with me, good-bye. Youre quite
"I will come and see you. I do not wish to avoid you if you are in
"Do," said Susanna, eagerly, touching Marian's hand with her moist palm.
"We'll get on better than you think. I like you, and I'll make you like
me. If I could only keep from it for two days, I shouldnt be a bit
"Good-night," said Marian, overcoming her repugnance to Susanna's hand,
and clasping it. "Remember that my name here is Mrs. Forster."
"All right. Good-night. Thank you. You will never be sorry for having
compassion on me."
"Wont you take a light?"
"I dont require one. I can find what I want in the dark."
She went into her apartment. Marian went quickly up to her own bedroom
and locked herself in. Her first loathing for Susanna had partly given
way to pity; but the humiliation of confessing herself to such a woman
as an unfaithful wife was galling. When she went to sleep she dreamed
that she was unmarried and at home with her father, and that the
household was troubled by Susanna, who lodged in a room upstairs.
Sholto Douglas returned to England in the ship which carried Marian's
letter to Elinor. On reaching London he stayed a night in the hotel at
Euston, and sent his man next day to take rooms for him at the West End.
Early in the afternoon the man reported that he had secured apartments
in Charles Street, St. James's. It was a fine wintry day, and Douglas
resolved to walk, not without a sense of being about to run the
It proved the most adventurous walk he had ever taken in his life.
Everybody he knew seemed to be lying in wait for him. In Portland Place
he met Miss McQuinch, who, with the letter fresh in her pocket, looked
at him indignantly, and cut him. At the Laugham Hotel he passed a member
of his club, who seemed surprised, but nodded coolly. In Regent Street
he saw Lady Carbury's carriage waiting before a shop. He hurried past
the door, for he had lost courage at his encounter with Elinor. There
were, however, two doors; and as he passed the second, the Countess,
Lady Constance, and Marmaduke came out just before him.
"Where the devil is the carriage?" said Marmaduke, loudly.
"Hush! Everybody can hear you," said Lady Constance.
"What do I care whether--Hal-lo! Douglas! How are you?"
Marmaduke proffered his hand. Lady Carbury plucked her daughter by the
sleeve and hurried to her carriage, after returning Douglas's stern look
with the slightest possible bow. Constance imitated her mother. Douglas
haughtily raised his hat.
"How obstinate Marmaduke is!" said the Countess, when she had bidden the
coachman drive away at once. "He is going to walk down Regent Street
with that man."
"But you didnt cut him, mamma."
"I never dreamed of his coming back so soon; and, of course, I cannot
tell whether he will be cut or not. We must wait and see what other
people will do. If we meet him again we had better not see him."
"Look here, old fellow," said Marmaduke, as he walked away with Douglas.
"Youve come back too soon. It wont do. Take my advice and go away again
until matters have blown over. Hang it, it's too flagrant! You have not
been away two months."
"I believe you are going to be married," said Douglas. "Allow me to
"Thank you. Fine day, isnt it?"
Marmaduke walked on in silence. Douglas presently recommenced the
"I only arrived in London last night. I have come from New York."
"Indeed. Pleasant voyage?"
"Has anything special happened during my absence?"
"Was there much fuss made about my going?"
"Well, there was a great deal of fuss made about it. Excuse my alluding
to the subject again. I shouldnt have done so if you hadnt asked me."
"Oh, my dear fellow, you neednt stand on ceremony with me."
"That's all very well, Douglas; but when I alluded to it just now, you
as good as told me to mind my own business."
"I told you so!"
"Not in those words, perhaps. However, the matter is easily settled. You
bolted with Marian. I know that, and you know it. If the topic is
disagreeable, say so, and it is easily avoided. If you want to talk
about it, better not change the subject when I mention it."
"You have taken offence needlessly. I changed the subject
"Hm! Well, has she come back with you?"
"Do you mean that youve thrown her over?"
"I have said nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, she has thrown me
"Thats very strange. You are not going to marry her then, I suppose?"
"How can I? I tell you she has deserted me. Let me remind you, Lind,
that I should not be bound to marry her in any case, and I shall
certainly not do so now. If I chose to justify myself, I could easily do
so by her own conduct."
"I expect you will not be troubled for any justification. People seem to
have made up their minds that you were wrong in the first instance, and
you ought to keep out of the way until they have forgotten----Oh,
confound it, here's Conolly! Now, for God's sake, dont let us have any
Douglas whitened, and took a step back into the roadway before he
recovered himself; for Conolly had come upon them suddenly as they
turned into Charles Street. A group of gentlemen stood on the steps of
the clubhouse which stands at that corner.
"Bless me!" said Conolly, with perfect good humor. "Douglas back again!
Why on earth did you run away with my wife? and what have you done with
The party on the steps ceased chatting and began to stare.
"This is not the place to call me to account, sir," said Douglas, still
on his guard, and very ill at ease. "If you have anything to say to me
which cannot be communicated through a friend, it had better be said in
"I shall trouble you for a short conversation," said Conolly. "How do
you do, Lind? Where can we go? I do not belong to any club."
"My apartments are at hand," said Douglas.
"I suppose I had better leave you," said Marmaduke.
"Your presence will not embarrass me in the least," said Conolly.
"I have not sought this interview," said Douglas. "I therefore prefer
Mr. Lind to witness what passes."
Conolly nodded assent; and they went to a house on the doorstep of which
Douglas's man was waiting, and ascended to the front drawing-room.
"Now, sir," said Douglas, without inviting his guests to sit down.
Conolly alone took off his hat. Marmaduke went aside, and looked out of
"I know the circumstances that have led to your return," said Conolly;
"so we need not go into that. I want you, however, to assist me on one
point. Do you know what Marian's pecuniary position is at present?'
"I decline to admit that it concerns me in any way."
"Of course not. But it concerns me, as I do not wish that she should be
without money in a foreign city. She has telegraphed a question about
her property to Miss McQuinch. That by itself is nothing; but her new
address, which I first saw on a letter this morning, happens to be known
to me as that of a rather shabby lodging-house."
"I know nothing of it."
"I do: it means that she is poor. I can guess at the sum she carried
with her to America. Now, if you will be good enough to tell me whether
you have ever given her money; if so, how much; and what her expenditure
has been, you will enable me to estimate her position at present."
"I do not know that you have any right to ask such questions."
"I do not assert any right to ask them. On the contrary, I have
explained their object. I shall not press them, if you think that an
answer will in any way compromise you."
"I have no fear of being compromised. None whatever."
Conolly nodded, and waited for an answer.
"I may say that my late trip has cost me a considerable sum. I paid all
the expenses; and Miss--Mrs. Conolly did not, to my knowledge, disburse
a single fraction. She did not ask me to give her money. Had she done
so, I should have complied at once."
"Thank you. Thats all right: she will be able to hold out until she
hears from us. Good-afternoon."
"Allow me to add, sir, before you go," said Douglas, asserting himself
desperately against Conolly's absolutely sincere disregard of him and
preoccupation with Marian, "that Mrs. Conolly has been placed in her
present position entirely through her own conduct. I repudiate the
insinuation that I have deserted her in a foreign city; and I challenge
inquiry on the point."
"Quite so, quite so," assented Conolly, carelessly. "Good-bye, Lind."
And he took his hat and went out.
"By George!" said Marmaduke, admiringly, "he did that damned
well--_damned_ well. Look here, old man: take my advice and clear out
for another year or so. You cant stay here. As a looker-on, I see most
of the game; and thats my advice to you as a friend."
Douglas, whose face had reddened and reddened with successive rushes of
blood until it was now purple, lost all self-control at Marmaduke's
commiserating tone. "I will see whether I cannot put him in the wrong,"
he burst out, in the debased voice of an ignobly angry man. "Do you
think I will let him tell the world that I have been thrown over and
"Thats your own story, isnt it? At least, I understood you to say so as
we came along."
"Let him say so, and I'll thrash him like, a dog in the street.
"Whats the use of thrashing a man who will simply hand you over to the
police? and quite right, too! What rot!"
"We shall see. We shall see."
"Very well. Do as you like. You may twist one another's heads off for
what I care. He has had the satisfaction of putting you into a rage, at
"I am not in a rage."
"Very well. Have it your own way."
"Will you take a challenge to him from me?"
"No. I am not a born fool."
"That is plain speaking."
Marmaduke put his hands into his pockets, and whistled. "I think I will
take myself off," he said, presently.
"As you please," replied Douglas, coldly.
"I will look in on you some day next week, when you have cooled down a
Douglas said nothing, and Marmaduke, with a nod, went out. Some minutes
later the servant entered and said that Mr. Lind was below.
"What! Back again!" said Douglas, with an oath.
"No, sir. It's old Mr. Lind--Mr. Reginald."
"Did you say I was in?"
"The man belonging to the house did, sir."
"Confound his officiousness! I suppose he must come up."
Reginald Lind entered, and bowed. Douglas placed a chair for him, and
waited, mute, and a little put out. Mr. Lind's eyes and voice shewed
that he also was not at his ease; but his manner was courtly and his
expression grave, as Douglas had, in his boyhood, been accustomed to see
"I am sorry, Sholto," said Mr. Lind, "that I cannot for the present meet
you with the cordiality which formerly existed between us. However
unbearable your disappointment at Marian's marriage may have been, you
should not have taken a reprehensible and desperate means of remedying
it. I speak to you now as an old friend--as one who knew you when the
disparity in our ages was more marked than it is at present."
"I have just heard from Mr. Conolly--whom I met accidentally in Pall
Mall--that you have returned from America. He gave me no further account
of you, except that he had met you and spoken to you here. I hope
nothing unpleasant passed."
"The meeting was not a pleasant one. I shall take steps to make Mr.
Conolly understand that."
"Nothing approaching to violence, I trust."
"No. Mr. Conolly's discretion averted it. I am not sure that a second
interview between us will end so quietly."
"The interview should not have taken place at all, Sholto. I need not
point out to you that prudence and good taste forbid any repetition of
"I did not seek it, Mr. Lind. He forced it upon me. I promise you that
if a second meeting takes place, it will be forced upon him by me, and
will take place in another country."
"That is a young man's idea, Sholto. The day for such crimes, thank
Heaven, is past and gone. Let us say no more of it. I was speaking to
your mother on Sunday. Have you seen her yet?"
"Sholto, you hit us all very hard that Monday before Christmas. I know
what I felt about my daughter. But I can only imagine what your mother
must have felt about her son."
"I am not insensible to that. I has been rather my misfortune than my
fault that I have caused you to suffer. If it will gratify you to know
that I have suffered deeply myself, and am now, indeed, a broken man, I
can assure you that such is the case."
"It is fortunate for us all that matters are not absolutely
irremediable. I will so far take you into my confidence as to tell you
that I have never felt any satisfaction in Marian's union with Mr.
Conolly. Though he is unquestionably a remarkable man, yet there was a
certain degree of incongruity in the match--you will understand
me--which placed Marian apart from her family whilst she was with him. I
have never entered my daughter's house without a feeling that I was more
or less a stranger there. Had she married you in the first instance, the
case would have been different: I wish she had. However, that is past
regretting now. What I wish to say is that I can still welcome you as
Marian's husband, even though she will have a serious error to live
down; and I shall be no less liberal to her than if her previous
marriage had never taken place."
Douglas cleared his throat, but did not speak.
"Well?" said Mr. Lind after a pause, reddening.
"This is a very painful matter," said Douglas at last. "As a man of the
world, Mr. Lind, you must be aware that I am not bound to your daughter
in any way."
"I am not speaking to you as a man of the world. I am speaking as a
father, and as a gentleman."
"Doubtless your position as a father is an unfortunate one. I can
sympathize with your feelings. But as a gentleman----"
"Think of what you are going to say, Sholto. If you speak as a
gentleman, you can have only one answer. If you have any other, you will
speak as a scoundrel." The last sentence came irrepressibly to Mr.
Lind's lips; but the moment he had uttered it, he felt that he had been
"I repeat, as a scoundrel--if you deny your duty in the matter."
"I decline to continue this conversation with you, Mr. Lind. You know as
well as I do that no gentleman is expected or even permitted by society
to take as his wife a woman who has lived with him as his mistress."
"No man who betrays a lady and refuses to make her all the reparation in
his power can claim to be a gentleman."
"You are dreaming, Mr. Lind. Your daughter was the guardian of her own
honor. I made her no promises. It is absurd to speak of a woman of her
age and experience being betrayed, as though she were a child."
"I always understood that you prided yourself on acting up to a higher
standard of honorable dealing than other men. If this is your
"Mr. Lind," said Douglas, interrupting him with determination, "no more
of this, if you please. Briefly, I will have nothing whatever to say to
Mrs. Conolly in the future. If her reputation were as unstained as your
own, I would still refuse to know her. I have suffered from her the
utmost refinements of caprice and treachery, and the coarsest tirades of
abuse. She left me of her own accord, in spite of my entreaties to her
to stay--entreaties which I made her in response to an exhibition of
temper which would have justified me in parting from her there and then.
It is true that I have moulded my life according to a higher standard of
honor than ordinary men; and it is also true that that standard is never
higher, never more fastidiously acted up to, than where a woman is
concerned. I have only to add that I am perfectly satisfied as to the
propriety of my behavior in Marian's case, and that I absolutely refuse
to hear another accusation of unworthiness from you, much as I respect
you and your sorrow."
Mr. Lind, though he saw that he must change his tone, found it hard to
subdue his temper; for though not a strong man, he was unaccustomed to
be thwarted. "Sholto," he said: "you are not serious. You are irritated
by some lovers' quarrel."
"I am justly estranged from your daughter, and I am resolved never to
give her a place in my thoughts again. I have madly wasted my youth on
her. Let her be content with that and the other things I have sacrificed
for her sake."
"But this is dreadful. Think of the life she must lead if you do not
marry her. She will be an outcast. She will not even have a name."
"She would not be advised. She made her choice in defiance of an
explicit warning of the inevitable results, and she must abide by it. I
challenge the most searching inquiry into my conduct, Mr. Lind. It will
be found, if the truth be told, that I spared her no luxury before she
left me; and that, far from being the aggressor, it is I who have the
right to complain of insult and desertion."
"Still, even granting that her unhappy position may have rendered her a
little sore and impatient at times, do you not owe her some forbearance
since she gave up her home and her friends for you?"
"Sacrifice for sacrifice, mine was the greater of the two. Like her, I
have lost my friends and my position here--to some extent, at least.
Worse, I have let my youth slip by in fruitless pursuit of her. For the
home which she hated, I offered her one ten times more splendid. I gave
her the devotion of a gentleman to replace the indifference of a
blacksmith. What have I not done for her? I freed her from her bondage;
I carried her across the globe; I watched her, housed her, fed her,
clothed her as a princess. I loved her with a love that taught her a
meaning of the word she had never known before. And when I had served
her turn--when I had rescued her from her husband and placed her beyond
his reach--when she became surfeited with a wealth of chivalrous love
which she could not comprehend, and when a new world opened before her a
fresh field for intrigue, I was assailed with slanderous lies, and
forsaken. Do you think, Mr. Lind, that in addition to this, I will
endure the reproaches of any man--even were he my own father?"
"But she suffers more, being a woman. The world will be comparatively
lenient toward you. If you and she were married and settled, with no
consciousness of being in a false position, and no wearing fear of
detection, you would get on together quite differently."
"It may be so, but I shall never put it to the test."
"Listen a moment, Sholto. Just consider the matter calmly and
rationally. I am a rich man--at least, I can endow Marian better than
you perhaps think. I see that you feel aggrieved, and that you fear
being forced into a marriage which you have, as you say--I fully admit
it, most fully--a perfect right to decline. But I am urging you to make
Marian your legal wife solely because it is the best course for both of
you. That, I assure you, is the feeling of society in the matter.
Everybody speaks to me of your becoming my son-in-law. The Earl says no
other course is possible. I will give you ten thousand pounds down on
her wedding-day. You will lose nothing: Conolly will not claim damages.
He has contradicted the report that he would. I will pay the costs of
the divorce as well. Mind! I do not mean that I will settle the money on
her. I will give it to her unconditionally. In other words, it will
become your property the moment you become her husband."
"I understand," said Douglas contemptuously. "However, as it is merely a
question of making your daughter an honest woman in consideration of so
much cash, I have no doubt you will find plenty of poorer men who will
be glad to close with you for half the money. You are much in the city
now, I believe. Allow me to suggest that you will find a dealer there
more easily than in St. James's."
Mr. Lind reddened again. "I do not think you see the matter in the
proper light," he said. "You are asked to repair the disgrace you have
brought on a lady and upon her family. I offer you a guarantee that you
will not lose pecuniarily by doing so. Whatever other loss you may
incur, you are bound to bear it as the penalty of your own act. I appeal
to you, sir, as one gentleman appeals to another, to remove the dishonor
you have brought upon my name."
"To transfer it to my own, you mean. Thank you, Mr. Lind. The public is
more accustomed to associate conjugal levity with the name of Lind than
with that of Douglas."
"If you refuse me the justice you owe to my daughter, you need not
couple that refusal with an insult."
"I have already explained that I owe your daughter nothing. You come
here and offer me ten thousand pounds to marry her. I decline the
bargain. You then take your stand upon the injury to your name. I merely
remind you that your name was somewhat tarnished even before Mrs.
Conolly changed it for the less distinguished one which she has really
"Douglas," said Mr. Lind, trembling, "I will make you repent this. I
will have satisfaction."
"As you remarked when I declared my readiness to give satisfaction in
the proper quarter, the practice you allude to is obsolete. Fortunately
so, I think, in our case."
"You are a coward, sir." Douglas rang the bell. "I will expose you in
every club in London."
"Shew this gentleman out," said Douglas to his servant.
"You have received that order because I told your master that he is a
rascal," said Mr. Lind to the man. "I shall say the same thing to every
man I meet between this house and the committee-room of his club."
The servant looked grave as Mr. Lind left the room. Soon after, Douglas,
whose self-respect, annihilated by Conolly, had at first been thoroughly
restored by Mr. Lind, felt upset again by the conclusion of the
interview. Finding solitude and idleness intolerable, he went into the
streets, though he no longer felt any desire to meet his acquaintances,
and twice crossed the Haymarket to avoid them. As he strolled about,
thinking of all that had been said to him that afternoon, he grew
morose. Twice he calculated his expenditure on the American trip, and
the difference that an increment of ten thousand pounds would make in
his property. Suddenly, in turning out of Air Street into Piccadilly,
he found himself face to face with Lord Carbury.
"How do you do?" said the latter pleasantly, but without the
unceremonious fellowship that had formerly existed between them.
"Thank you," said Douglas, "I am quite well."
A pause followed, Jasper not knowing exactly what to say next.
"I am considering where I shall dine," said Douglas. "Have you dined
"No. I promised to dine at home this evening. My mother likes to have a
family dinner occasionally."
Douglas knew that before the elopement he would have been asked to join
the party. "I suppose people have been pleased to talk a good deal about
me of late," he said.
"Yes, I fear so. However, I hope it will pass over."
"It shews no sign of passing over as yet, then?"
"Well, it has become a little stale as a topic; but there is undeniably
a good deal of feeling about it still. If you will excuse my saying so,
I think that perhaps you would do well to keep out of the way a little
"Presuming, of course, that popular feeling is a matter about which I am
likely to concern myself."
"That is a question for you to decide. Excuse the hint."
"The question is whether it is not better to be on the spot, so as to
strangle calumny at its source, than to hide myself abroad whilst a host
of malicious tongues are busy with me."
"As to that, Douglas, I assure you you have been very fairly treated.
The chief blame, as usual, has fallen on the weaker sex. Nothing could
exceed the moderation of those from whom the loudest complaints might
have been expected. Reginald Lind has hardly ever mentioned the subject.
Even to me, he only shook his head and said that it was an old
attachment. As to Conolly, we have actually reproached him for making
excuses for you."
"Aye. A very astute method of bringing me into contempt. Allow me to
enlighten you a little, Jasper. Lind, whose daughter I have discovered
to be one of the worst of women, has just offered me ten thousand pounds
to marry her. That speaks for itself. Conolly, who drove her into my
arms by playing the tyrant whilst I played the lover, is only too glad
to get rid of her. At the same time, he is afraid to fight me, and
ashamed to say so. Therefore, he impudently pretends to pity me for
being his gull in the matter. But I will stop that."
"Conolly is a particular friend of mine, Douglas, Let us drop the
subject, if you dont mind."
"If he is your friend, of course I have nothing more to say. I think I
will turn in here and dine. Good-evening."
They parted without any salutation: and Douglas entered the restaurant
and dined alone, he came out an hour later in improved spirits, and
began to consider whether he would go to the theatre or venture into his
club. He was close to a lamp at a corner of Leicester Square when he
stopped to debate the point with himself; and in his preoccupation he
did not notice a four-wheeled cab going slowly past him, carrying a lady
in an old white opera cloak. This was Mrs. Leith Fairfax, who,
recognizing him, called to the cabman to drive a little past the lamp
"Good heavens!" she said in a half-whisper: "you here! What madness
possessed you to come back?"
"I had no further occasion to stay away."
"How coolly you say so! You have iron nerves, all you Douglases. I have
heard all, and I know what you have suffered. How soon will you leave
"I have no intention of leaving it at present."
"But you cannot stay here."
"Pray why not? Is not London large enough for any man who does not live
by the breath of the world?"
"Out of the question, Mr. Douglas. Absolutely out of the question. You
_must_ go away for a year at the very least. You must yield something to
"I shall yield nothing. I can do without any section of society that may
feel called upon to do without me."
"Oh, you must subdue that imperious nature of yours for your mother's
sake if not for your own. Besides, you have been very wicked and
reckless and daring, just like a Douglas. You ought to do penance with a
good grace. I may conclude, since you are here, that Elinor McQuinch's
story is true as far as the facts go."
"I have not heard her story."
"It is only that you have parted from--you know."
"That is true. Can I gratify your curiosity in any other particular?"
"Strive not to let yourself be soured, Mr. Douglas. I shudder when I
think of what you have undergone at the hands of one woman. There! I
will not allude to it again."
"You will do wisely, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. What I have suffered, I have
suffered. I desire no pity, and will endure none."
"That is so like yourself. I must hurry on to Covent Garden, or I shall
be late. Will you come and see me quietly some day before you go? I am
never at home to any one on Tuesdays; but if you come at about five,
Caroline will let you in. It will be dark: nobody will see you. We can
have a chat then."
"Thank you," said Douglas, coldly, stepping back, and raising his hat,
"I shall not intrude on you. Good-evening."
She waved her hand at him; and the cab departed. He walked quickly back
to Charles Street, and called his servant.
"I suppose no one has called?"
"Yes, sir. Mrs. Douglas came very shortly after you went out. She wishes
you to go to the Square this evening, sir."
"This evening? I am afraid--Buckstone."
"Is she looking well?"
"A little tired, sir. But quite well, I have no doubt."
"How much of the luggage have you unpacked?"
"Only your portmanteau, sir. I thought----"
"So much the better. Pack it again. I am going to Brussels to-night.
Find out about the trains. I shall want you to take a hansom and take a
note to Chester Square; but come back at once without waiting to be
"Very good, sir."
Douglas then sat down and wrote the note.
"My dear Mother:
"I am sorry I was out when you called. I did not expect you, as I
am only passing through London on my way to Brussels. I am anxious
to get clear of this vile city, and so shall start to-night.
Buckstone tells me you are looking well; and this assurance must
content me for the present, as I find it impossible to go to you.
You were quite right in warning me against what has happened; but
it is all past and broken off now, and I am still as ever,
"Your affectionate son,
One day Eliza, out of patience, came to Mrs. Myers, and said:
"A' thin, maam, will you come up and spake to Miss Conolly. She's rasin
ructions above stairs."
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said Mrs. Myers. "Cant you keep her quiet?"
"Arra, how can I kape her quiet, an she cryin an roarin, dyin an
"Ask Mrs. Forster to go in and coax her to stop."
"Mrs. Forsther's at dhuddher ind o the town. Whisht! There she is,
callin me. Youll have to gup to her, maam. Faith I wont go next or near
"There's no use in my going up, Eliza. What can I do?"
Eliza had nothing to suggest. "I'm sure, maam," she pleaded, "if she
wont mind you, she wont mind me--bad manners to her!"
Mrs. Myers hesitated. The lodger became noisier.
"I spose Ive got to go," said Mrs. Myers, plaintively. She went upstairs
and found Susanna lying on the sofa, groaning, with a dressing-gown and
a pair of thick boots on.
"What _is_ the matter with you, Miss Susan? Youre goin on fit to raise
"For God's sake go and get something for me. Make the doctor do
something. I'm famishing. I must be poisoned."
"Look at me. I cant eat anything. Oh! I cant even drink. I tell you I am
dying of thirst."
"Well, Miss Susan, thers plenty for you to eat and drink."
"What is the good of that, when I can neither eat nor drink? Nothing
will stay inside me. If I could only swallow brandy, I shouldnt care. I
thought I could die drunk. Oh! Send Eliza out for some laudanum. I cant
stand this: I'll kill myself."
"Be quiet, Miss Susan: youll be better presently. Whats the use of
talking-about the doctor? He says youll not be able to drink for days,
and that you will get your health back in consequence. You are doing
yourself no good by screeching like that, and you are ruining me and my
"Your house is all you care about. Curse you! I hope you may die
deserted yourself. Dont go away. _Dear_ Aunt Sally, you wont leave me
here alone, will you? If you do, I'll scream like a hundred devils."
"I dont know what to do with you," said Mrs. Myers, crying. "Youll drive
me as mad as yourself. Why did I ever let you into this house?"
"Oh, bother! Are _you_ beginning to howl now? Have you any sardines, or
anything spicy? I think I could eat some salted duck. No, I couldnt,
though. Go for the doctor. There must be something that will do me good.
What use is he if he can't set me right? All I want is something that
will make me able to drink a tumbler of brandy."
"The Lord help you! Praise goodness! here's Mrs. Forster coming up.
Whatll she think of you if you keep moaning like that? Mrs. Forster:
will you step in here and try to quiet her a bit? She's clean mad."
"Come here," cried Susanna, as Marian entered. "Come and sit beside me.
You may get out, you old cat: I dont want you any longer."
"Hush, pray," said Marian, putting her bonnet aside and sitting down by
the sofa. "What is the matter?"
"The same as last night, only a great deal worse," said Susanna,
shutting her eyes and turning her head aside. "It's all up with me this
time, Mrs. Ned. I'm dying, not of drink, but of the want of it. Is that
fiend of a woman gone?"
"Yes. You ought not to wound her as you did just now. She has been very
kind to you."
"I dont care. Oh, dear me, I wonder how long this is going to last?"
"Shall I go for the doctor?"
"No; what can he do? Stay with me. I wish I could sleep or eat."
"You will be better soon. The doctor says that Nature is making an
effort to rescue you from your habit by making it impossible for you to
drink. Try and be patient. Will you not take off those heavy boots?"
"No, I cant feel my feet without them. I shall never be better," said
Susanna, writhing impatiently. "I'm done for. How old are you? You
neednt mind telling me. I shall soon be beyond repeating it."
"I was twenty-five in June last"
"I am only twenty-nine. I started at eighteen, and got to the top of the
tree in seven years. I came down quicker than I went up. I might have
gone on easily for fifteen years more, only for drinking champagne. I
wish I had my life to live over again: you wouldnt catch me playing
burlesque. If I had got the chance, I know I could have played tragedy
or real Italian opera. I had to work hard at first; and they wont fill
my place, very readily: thats one comfort. My cleverness was my ruin.
Ned was not half so quick. It used to take him months to learn things
that I picked up offhand, and yet you see how much better he has done
"Do not disturb yourself with vain regrets. Think of something else.
Shall we talk about Marmaduke?"
"No, I dont particularly care to. Somehow, at my pass, one thinks most
about one's self, and about things that happened long ago. People that I
came to know later on, like Bob, seem to be slipping away from me. There
was a baritone in my father's company, a tremendous man, with shining
black eyes, and a voice like a great bell--quite pretty at the top,
though: he must have been sixty at least; and he was very fat; but he
was the most dignified man I ever saw. You should have heard him do the
Duke in Lucrezia Borgia, or sing Pro Peccatis from Rossini's Stabat
Mater! I was ten years old when he was with us, and my grand ambition
was to sing with him when I grew up. He would shake his head if he saw
Susanetta now. I would rather hear him sing three bars than have ten
visits from Bob. Oh, dear! I thought this cursed pain was getting
numbed, but it is worse than ever."
"Try to keep from thinking of it. I have often wondered that you never
speak of your child. I have heard from my friend in London that it is
very well and happy."
"Oh, you mean Lucy. She was a lively little imp."
"Would you not like to see her again?"
"No, thank you. She is well taken care of, I suppose. I am glad she is
out of my hands. She was a nuisance to me, and I am not a very edifying
example for her. What on earth should I want to see her for?"
"I wish I had the good fortune to be a mother."
Susanna laughed. "Never say die, Mrs. Ned. You dont know what may happen
to you yet. There now! I know, without opening my eyes, that you are
shocked, bless your delicacy! How do you think I should have got through
life if I'd been thin-skinned? What good does it do you? You are pining
away in this hole of a lodging. You squirm when Mrs. Myers tries to be
friendly with you; and I sometimes laugh at your expression when Eliza
treats you to a little blarney about your looks. Now _I_ would just as
soon gossip and swear at her as go to tea with the Queen."
"I am not shocked at all. You see as badly as other people when your
eyes are shut."
"They will soon shut up forever. I half wish they would do it at once, I
wonder whether I will get any ease before there is an end of me."
"Perhaps the end of you on earth will be a good beginning for you
somewhere else, Susanna."
"Thank you. Now the conversation has taken a nice, cheerful turn, hasnt
it? Well, I cant be much worse off than I am at present. Anyhow, I must
take my chance."
"Would you like to see a clergyman? I dont want to alarm you: I am sure
you will get better: the doctor told me so; but I will go for one if you
"No: I dont want to be bothered--at least not yet. Besides, I hate
clergymen, all except your brother, the doctor, who fell in love with
"Very well. I only suggested it in case you should feel uneasy."
"I dont feel quite easy; but I dont care sufficiently about it to make
a fuss. It will be time enough when I am actually at death's door. All I
know is that if there is a place of punishment in the next world, it is
very unfair, considering what we suffer in this. I didnt make myself or
my circumstances. I think I will try to sleep. I am half dead as it is
with pain and weariness. Dont go until I am asleep."
"I will not. Let me get you another pillow."
"No," said Susanna, drowsily: "dont touch me."
Marian sat listening to her moaning respiration for nearly half an hour.
Then, having some letters to write, she went to her own room to fetch
her desk. Whilst she was looking for her pen, which was mislaid, she
heard Susanna stirring. The floor creaked, and there was a clink as of a
bottle. A moment later, Marian, listening with awakened suspicion, was
startled by the sound of a heavy fall mingled with a crash of breaking
glass. She ran back into the next room just in time to see Susanna, on
her hands and knees near the stove, lift her white face for a moment,
displaying a bleeding wound on her temple, and then stumble forward and
fall prone on the carpet. Marian saw this; saw the walls of the room
revolve before her; and fainted upon the sofa, which she had reached
without knowing how.
When she recovered the doctor was standing by her; and Eliza was picking
up fragments of the broken bottle. The smell of the spilled brandy
reminded her of what had happened.
"Where is Miss Conolly?" she said, trying to collect her wits. "I am
afraid I fainted at the very moment when I was most wanted."
"All right," said the doctor. "Keep quiet; youll be well presently. Dont
be in a hurry to talk."
Marian obeyed; and the doctor, whose manner was kind, though different
to that of the London physicians to whom she was accustomed, presently
left the room and went upstairs. Eliza was howling like an animal. The
sound irritated Marian even at that pass: she despised the whole Irish
race on its account. She could hardly keep her temper as she said:
"Is Miss Conolly seriously hurt?"
"Oa, blessed hour! she's kilt. Her head's dhreepin wid blood."
Marian shuddered and felt faint again.
"Lord Almighty save use, I doa knoa how she done it at all, at all. She
must ha fell agin the stoave. It's the dhrink, dhrink, dhrink, that
brought her to it. It's little I knew what that wairy bottle o brandy
would do to her, or sorra bit o me would ha got it."
"You did very wrong in getting it, Eliza."
"What could I do, miss, when she axed me?"
"There is no use in crying over it now. It would have been kinder to
have kept it from her."
"Sure I know. Many's the time I tould her so. But she could talk the
birds off the bushes, and it wint to me heart to refuse her. God send
her well out of her throuble!"
Here the doctor returned. "How are you now?" he said.
"I think I am better. Pray dont think of me. How is she?"
"It's all over. Hallo! Come, Miss Biddy! you go and cry in the kitchen,"
he added, pushing Eliza, who had set up an intolerable lamentation, out
of the room.
"How awful!" said Marian, stunned. "Are you quite sure? She seemed
better this morning."
"Quite sure," said the doctor, smiling grimly at the question. "She was
practically dead when they carried her upstairs, poor girl. It's easier
to kill a person than you think, Mrs. Forster, although she tried so
long and so hard without succeeding. But she'd have done it. She'd have
been starved into health only to drink herself back into starvation, and
the end would have been a very bad one. Better as it is, by far!"
"Doctor: I must go out and telegraph the news to London. I know one of
her relatives there."
The doctor shook his head. "I will telegraph if you like, but you must
stay here. Youre not yet fit to go out."
"I am afraid I have not been well lately," said Marian. "I want to
consult you about myself--not now, of course, after what has happened,
but some day when you have leisure to call."
"You can put off consulting me just as long as you please; but this
accident is no reason why you shouldnt do it at once. If there is
anything wrong, the sooner you have advice--you neednt have it from me
if you prefer some other doctor--the better."
Upon this encouragement Marian described to him her state of health. He
seemed a little amused, asked her a few questions, and finally told her
coolly that she might expect to become a mother next fall. She was so
utterly dismayed that he began to look stern in anticipation of an
appeal to him to avert this; an appeal which he had often had to refuse
without ever having succeeded in persuading a woman that it was futile,
or convincing her that it was immoral. But Marian spared him this: she
was overwhelmed by the new certainty that a reconciliation with her
husband was no longer possible. Her despair at the discovery shewed her
for the first time how homesick she really was.
When the doctor left, Mrs. Myers came. She exclaimed; wept; and gossiped
until two police officers arrived. Marian related to them what she had
seen of the accident, and became indignant at the apparent incredulity
with which they questioned her and examined the room. After their
departure Eliza came to her, and invited her to go upstairs and see the
body of Susanna. She refused with a shudder; but when she saw that the
girl was hurt as well as astonished, it occurred to her that avoidance
of the dead might, if it came to Conolly's knowledge, be taken by him to
indicate a lack of kind feeling toward his sister. So she overcame her
repugnance, and went with Eliza. The window-shades were drawn down, and
the dressing-table had been covered with a white cloth, on which stood a
plaster statuet of the Virgin and Child, with two lighted candles before
it. To please Eliza, who had evidently made these arrangements, Marian
whispered a few words of approval, and turned curiously to the bed. The
sight made her uncomfortable. The body was decently laid out, its
wounded forehead covered with a bandage, and Eliza's rosary and crucifix
on its breast; but it did not, as Marian had hoped, suggest peace or
sleep. It was not Susanna, but a vacant thing that had always underlain
her, and which, apart from her, was ghastly.
"She died a good Catholic anyhow: the light o Heaven to her sowl!" said
Eliza, whimpering, but speaking as though she expected and defied Marian
to contradict her.
"Amen," said Marian.
"It's sure and sartin. There never was a Conolly a Prodestan yet."
Marian left the room, resolving to avoid such sights in future. Mrs.
Myers was below, anxious to resume the conversation which the visit of
the police had interrupted. Marian could not bear this. To escape, she
left the house, and went to her only friend in New York, Mrs. Crawford,
whose frequent visits she had never before ventured to return. To her
she narrated the events of the day.
"This business of the poor girl killing herself is real shocking," said
Mrs. Crawford. "Perhaps your husband will come over here now, and give
you a chance of making up with him."
"If he does, I must leave New York, Mrs. Crawford."
"What are you frightened of? If he is as good a man as you say, you
ought to be glad to see him. I'm sure he would have you back. Depend on
it, he has been longing for you all this time; and when he sees you
again as pretty as ever, he will open his arms to you. He wont like you
any the worse for being a little bashful with him after such an
"I would not meet him for any earthly consideration. After what the
doctor told me to-day, I should throw myself out of the window, I think,
if I heard him coming upstairs. I should like to see him, if I were
placed where he could not see me; but face him I _could_ not."
"Well, my dear, I think it's right silly of you, though the little
stranger--it will be a regular stranger--is a difficulty: there's no two
ways about that."
"Besides, I have been thinking over things alone in my room; and I see
that it is better for him to be free. I know he was disappointed in me.
He is not the sort of man to be tied down to such an ignorant woman as
"What does he expect from a woman? If youre not good enough for him, he
must be very hard to please."
Marian shook her head. "He is capable of pitying and being considerate
with me," she said: "I know that. But I am not sure that it is a good
thing to be pitied and forborne with. There is something humiliating in
it. I suppose I am proud, as you often tell me; but I should like to be
amongst women what he is amongst men, supported by my own strength. Even
within the last three weeks I have felt myself becoming more independent
in my isolation. I was afraid to go about the streets by myself at
first. Now I am getting quite brave. That unfortunate woman did me good.
Taking care of her, and being relied on so much by her, has made me rely
on myself more. Thanks to you, I have not much loneliness to complain
of. And yet I have been utterly cast down sometimes. I cannot tell what
is best. Sometimes I think that independence is worth all the solitary
struggling it costs. Then again I remember how free from real care I was
at home, and yearn to be back there. It is so hard to know what one
ought to do."
"You have been more lively since you got such a pleasant answer to your
telegram. I wish the General would offer to let me keep my own money and
as much more as I wanted. Not that he is close-fisted, poor man! That
reminds me to tell you that you must stay the evening. He wants to see
Back to Full Books