NAME and FAME
BY ADELINE SERGEANT
Author of "The Great Mill Street Mystery," "A True Friend," "A Life Sentence," etc., etc.
Montreal: JOHN LOVELL & SON, 23 St. Nicholas Street.
[Handwritten: This is the only edition of "Name and Fame" published in the United States and Canada with my authority, and the only one by the sale, which I shall profit. Adeline Sergeant.]
Entered according to Act of Parliament in the year 1890, by John Lovell & Son, in the office of the Minister of Agriculture and Statistics at Ottawa.
NAME AND FAME
HUSBAND AND WIFE.
It was a brilliant day in June. The sky was cloudless and dazzlingly blue, but the heat of the sun's rays was tempered by a deliciously cool breeze, and the foliage of the trees that clothe the pleasant slopes round the vivacious little town of Aix-les-Bains afforded plenty of shade to the pedestrian. Aix was, as usual, very crowded and very gay. German potentates abounded: French notabilities were not wanting: it was rumored that English royalty was coming. A very motley crowd of divers nationalities drank the waters every morning and discussed the latest society scandal. Festivity seemed to haunt the very air of the place, beaming from the trim white villas with their smart green jalousies, the tall hotels with crudely tinted flags flying from their roofs, the cheery little shops with their cheerier dames de comptoir smiling complacently on the tourists who unwarily bought their goods. Ladies in gay toilets, with scarlet parasols or floating feathers, made vivid patches of color against the green background of the gardens, and the streets were now and then touched into picturesqueness by the passing of some half-dozen peasants who had come from the neighboring villages to sell their butter or their eggs. The men in their blue blouses were mostly lean, dark, and taciturn; the women, small, black-eyed, and vivacious, with bright-colored petticoats, long earrings, and the quaintest of round white caps. The silvery whiteness of the lake, flashing back an answer to the sunlight, gave a peculiarly joyous radiance to the scene. For water is to a landscape what the eye is to the human countenance: it gives life and expression; without it, the most beautiful features may be blank and uninteresting.
But the brightness of the scene did not find an echo in every heart.
"Dame!" said a French waiter, who stood, napkin in hand, at a window of the Hotel Venat, watching the passers-by, "there they go, that cold, sullen English pair, looking as if nothing on earth would make them smile again!"
A bullet-headed little man in a white apron stepped up to the window and stared in the direction that Auguste's eyes had taken.
"Tiens, donc! Quelle tournure! But she is superb!" he exclaimed, as if in remonstrance.
"She is handsome—oui, sans doute; but see how she frowns! I like a woman who smiles, who coquettes, who knows how to divert herself—like Mademoiselle Lisette here, queen of my heart and life."
And Auguste bowed sentimentally to a pretty little chambermaid who came tripping up the stairs at that moment, and laid his hand upon his heart.
"You are too polite, Monsieur Auguste," Lisette responded amicably. "And at whom are you gazing so earnestly?"
"At the belle Anglaise—you can still see her, if you look—she is charmingly dressed, but——"
"She is magnificent! simply magnificent," murmured the bullet-headed Jean, who was not, like his friend, enamored of the pert Lisette. "I have never seen so splendid an Englishwoman, never! nor one who had so much the true Parisian air!"
Lisette uttered a shrill little scream of laughter. "Do you know the reason, mon ami? She is not English at all: she is a compatriot. He—the husband—he is English; but she is French, I tell you, French to the finger-tips."
"Voyons; what rooms have they?"
"They are au quatrieme—they are poor—poor," said Lisette, with infinite scorn. "I wait on them a little—not much; they have been here three days, and one can see——But the gentleman, he is generous. When madame scolds, he gives me money to buy my forbearance; she has the temper of a demon, the tongue of a veritable fiend!"
"Ah! He loves her, then!" said Auguste, putting his head on one side.
Lisette snapped her fingers. "Ah, oui! He loves her so well that he will strangle her one of these days when she says a word too much and he is in his sombre mood! Quiet as he is, I would not go too far with him, ce beau monsieur! He will not be patient always—you will see!"
She went on her way, and the waiters remained at the window in the corridor. The lady and gentlemen of whom they spoke had turned into the hotel garden, and were walking up and down its gravelled paths, apparently in silence. Auguste and Jean watched them, as if fascinated by the sight of the taciturn pair, who now and then were lost to sight behind a clump of trees or in some shady walk, presently reappearing in the full sunshine, with the air of those who wish for some reason or other to show themselves as much as possible.
This, at least, was the impression produced by the air and gait of the woman; not by those of the man. He walked beside her gravely, somewhat dejectedly, indeed. There was a look of resignation in his face, which contrasted forcibly with the flaunting audacity visible in every gesture of the woman who was his wife.
He was the less noticeable of the two, but still a handsome man in his way, of a refined and almost scholarly type. He was tall, and although rather of slender than powerful build, his movements were characterized by the mingled grace and alertness which may be seen when well-proportioned limbs are trained to every kind of athletic exercise. His face, however, was that of the dreamer, not of the athlete. He had a fine brow, thoughtful brown eyes, a somewhat long nose with sensitive nostrils, a stern-set mouth, and resolute chin. The spare outlines of his face, well defined yet delicate withal, sometimes reminded strangers of Giotto's frescoed head of Dante in his youth. But the mouth was partly hidden beneath a dark brown moustache; a pity from the artistic point of view. Refinement was the first and predominating characteristic of his face; thoughtful melancholy, the second. It was evident, even to the most casual observer, that this man was eminently unfitted to be the husband of the woman at his side.
For a woman she was unusually tall. She was also unusually handsome. She had a magnificent figure, a commanding presence, good features, hair, and eyes; yet the impression that she produced was anything but pleasant. The flashing dark eyes were too bold and too defiant; the carmine on her cheeks was artificially laid on, and her face had been dabbed with a powder puff in very reckless fashion. Her black hair was frizzed and tortured in the latest mode, and her dress made in so novel a style that it looked outre, even at a fashionable watering-place. Dress, bonnet and parasol were scarlet of hue; and the vivid tint was softened but slightly by the black lace which fell in cascades from her closely-swathed neck to the hem of her dress, fastened here and there by diamond pins. If it were possible that, as Lisette had said, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Walcott were poor, their poverty was not apparent in Mrs. Walcott's dress. Black and scarlet were certainly becoming to her, but the effect in broad daylight was too startling for good taste. To a critical observer, moreover, there was something unpleasantly suggestive in her movements: the way in which she walked and held her parasol, and turned her head from side to side, spoke of a desire to attract attention, and a delight in admiration even of the coarsest and least complimentary kind.
There was certainly something in the bearing of husband and wife that attracted notice. Her vivacity and her boldness, a certain weariness and reluctance in his air, as if he were paraded up and down these garden walks against his will, led others beside inquisitive French waiters to watch the movements of the pair. And they were in full view of several gazers when an unexpected and dramatic incident occurred.
A man who had sauntered out of the hotel into the gardens directed his steps towards them, and met them face to face as they issued from one of the side-paths. He was not tall, but he was dapper and agile: his moustache curled fiercely, and his eyeglass was worn with something of an aggressive air. He was perfectly dressed, except that—for English taste—he wore too much jewellery; and from the crown of his shining hat to the tip of his polished pointed boot he was essentially Parisian—a dandy of the Boulevards, or rather, perhaps, of the Palais Royal—an exquisite who prided himself upon the fit of his trousers and the swing of his Malacca cane.
He paused as he met the Walcotts, and raised his hat with a true French flourish. The lady laughed, showing a row of very white, even teeth, and held out her hand. Her husband sprang forward, uttering an angry word of remonstrance or command. The Frenchman grinned insolently, and answered with a sneer.
The Englishman seemed to gain in dignity as he replied. His wife laughed loudly and unpleasantly, however, and then, with a quick movement which proved him agile as a cat, the Frenchman struck him with his cane across the face. In another moment, Alan Walcott had taken him by the collar and wrested the cane from his hand. Whether or no he would have administered the thrashing that the man deserved must remain an unsettled question, for hotel servants and functionaries came rushing to the rescue, guests flocked to the scene in hopes of further excitement, and all was bustle and confusion. Mrs. Walcott began to scream violently, as soon as she saw signs of an impending conflict, and was finally carried into the house in a fit of hysterics.
A very pretty little altercation between the two combatants—who were separated with difficulty—and the landlord and his myrmidons then followed. The police arrived rather late on the scene, but were speedily quieted by assurances that peace was restored, and by the transfer of a few coins from Alan Walcott's pockets to their own. The aggressor, who gave his name as Henri de Hauteville, was politely requested to leave the Hotel Venat; and Mr. Walcott declared his own intention of proceeding to Paris next morning. Accordingly the Frenchman speedily disappeared, but it was noticed that he dropped a word to his enemy, which Walcott answered by a bend of his head, and that he was seen shortly afterwards arm-in-arm with a young officer who was known to be an enthusiast in the matter of duelling.
An hour later Alan Walcott was crossing the hall with a hurried step and a face expressive of deep anxiety and vexation, when he encountered a stout, fair Englishman, who greeted him with effusion.
"You here, Walcott? Never thought of meeting you."
"I'm glad to see you, Dalton. I was longing at that very moment for some one to act as my friend."
"Not in the conventional meaning, I hope," laughed Dalton. "Your way of putting it suggests a duel—which no Englishman of any sense would embark in, I should hope!"
Dalton was a fresh-colored, blue-eyed man, of nearly thirty years of age. His frankness of manner and shrewdness of expression contrasted forcibly with the subtle dreaminess characteristic of Alan Walcott's face. Alan eyed him curiously, as if doubtful whether he should proceed.
"I am not altogether an Englishman," he said presently, "which may account in your eyes for some lack of sense. I want you, as a friend, in the most conventional manner possible. Come out with me and let us talk it over."
The two men went out and talked together for upwards of an hour. When they separated the expression of their faces afforded a curious contrast. Alan looked defiant, resolved, almost triumphant; but Brooke Dalton went on his way wagging his head in a depressed and melancholy manner, as if his soul were afflicted by misgivings of many kinds.
* * * * *
Mr. Alan Walcott had said that he should leave Aix-les-Bains next day, but the state of his wife's health rendered it impossible for her to quit the hotel, and he could not very well separate himself from her. She continued for some time in shrieking hysterics, varied by fainting fits; and when she became quieter, under the influence of a soporific administered by the doctor, she declared herself quite too ill and exhausted to rise from her bed. Her husband remained with her night and day, until the second morning, when he escaped from her sight and ken for a couple of hours, and absolutely refused to tell her where he had been. His refusal seemed to produce a quieting effect upon her. She became very still, and lay watching him, with a sullen, puzzled look in her great dark eyes. He took up a paper and began to read, with an assumption of complete calmness and unconcern; but she saw that he was paler than usual, and that his hand shook a little as he turned the pages of his Galignani. Presently she asked, in a subdued voice, for something to drink. He brought her a glass of claret and water, and she raised herself a little on one arm to take it from him. Suddenly she uttered a loud cry, and fell back gasping upon her pillows.
"Mon Dieu!" she cried, "there is blood upon your cuff."
Alan looked down hastily. It was true enough: his white cuff was stained with red.
"You have killed him!" she said. "You have murdered him, you wretch, you murderer——"
"Not at all," said Walcott with the greatest composure. "Upon my word, I rather wish I had. I think he deserved it. He has got off very easily."
"You had a meeting?" his wife shrieked, her eyes beginning to flash with rage.
"We had a meeting. It was for that purpose that I left for two hours this morning. You don't suppose that I should let myself be struck in the face without demanding satisfaction? I have enough French blood in my veins to think it a very natural way of settling such a quarrel——"
"Was he hurt?" she asked, without waiting for him to finish.
"Very slightly. A sword-cut on the shoulder. The seconds interposed, or we should have gone on——"
"I have no doubt you wanted to kill him! I shall denounce you to the police!"
"As you please" said her husband indifferently, taking up his paper. "But M. de Hauteville has retired from the scene: he had a carriage waiting, and has crossed the frontier by this time. I assure you he is perfectly safe Switzerland."
There was a taunt in his voice which exasperated his wife's temper almost to madness.
"Scelerat!" she said, in a hissing, unnatural voice. "You would have killed him if you could? Beware of my vengeance then, for I swear that you shall suffer as he has suffered—and worse things too!"
Alan shrugged his shoulders. He had heard threats of this kind too often to be greatly moved by them. And Mrs. Walcott, after a few ineffectual remarks of the same sort, began to sob violently, and finally to work herself into another hysterical fit, during which her husband coolly rang the bell, and left her to Lisette's not very tender care.
When he returned she was once more quiet and subdued. He noticed that she was reading a letter, which, at his entrance, she thrust—somewhat ostentatiously—beneath her pillow. He took no notice. He was tired of taking notice. As a rule, he let her go her own way. He had been married for three years, and he had learned that, save in exceptional circumstances, it was better not to interfere. He was relieved, and somewhat surprised, when she suddenly declared herself better, and wishful to leave her bed. Before long she was sitting at an open window, with a cup of black coffee and a flask of cognac on a table before her, while Alan fanned her with a great red fan and occasionally bathed her temples with eau-de-cologne. He paid her these attentions with an air of gentle gravity which became him well, but the slight fold between his brows betokened irritation and weariness.
Cora Walcott seemed to delight in keeping him at her beck and call. She did not let him stir from her side for the whole of that sultry summer day. She put on a soft and languid manner: she shed tears and tried to say coaxing things, which were very coldly received; for there was a hard and evil look in her fine dark eyes that went far to neutralize the effect of her calineries. Once, indeed, when Alan had gone into an adjoining room to fetch a vinaigrette, her true feeling found its vent in a few expressive words.
"Sacre," she muttered, drawing back the red lips from her white teeth, with the snarl of a vicious dog, "how I hate you, cochon! How I wish that you were dead!"
And then she smoothed her brows, and smiled at him as he re-entered the room.
In the course of the evening she made the suggestion that they should leave Aix-les-Bains next day.
"Certainly," Alan answered, more warmly than usual. "And where shall we go?"
"Oh, to Paris, I suppose. To Dijon first, of course—if I am strong enough to travel so far."
Alan was eager to make his preparations for departure, and pleased to find that his wife was as ready as he to hasten them. Only in one point did her behavior strike him as peculiar. She announced that she meant to leave Aix-les-Bains at an early hour, lunch and rest at Culoz, and go on to Dijon by the afternoon train.
"But why Culoz? Nobody stops at Culoz," he remonstrated.
"Why not Culoz? There is an inn. I suppose we can get some lunch," she answered. "Besides, I have always meant to go there, to look at the chateau on the hill! You English like 'views,' do you not? The 'view' must be magnificent."
She had never formerly shown any interest in scenery, and Alan stared at her for a moment with a puzzled look. If Henry de Hauteville had been likely to join her at Culoz he could have understood this whim of hers; but de Hauteville was safely lodged by this time in the nearest Swiss canton, and not at all likely to intercept their journey. He did her bidding, however, without comprehension of her reasons, as he had done many a time before. Again, he was discomfited by her behavior in the train, shortly after their departure from the station at Aix-les-Bains. She suddenly flung herself back in the corner of the coupe and burst into a prolonged fit of noisy laughter, which seemed as if it would choke her by its violence. Alan questioned and remonstrated in vain. Fortunately, they had the coupe to themselves; but the laughter continued so long that he began to doubt his wife's sanity, as well as her self-control. At last she sat up and wiped her eyes.
"You will know why I laugh some day, mon ami," she remarked. "Till then, ask no questions."
Alan was not disposed to ask them. He remained silent, and his silence continued until the little station of Culoz was reached.
"We change here, of course," he said. "But why should we leave the station?"
"Do you want to starve me?" his wife inquired angrily. "We will go to the inn. There is an inn on the road to the village; I asked about it yesterday."
Very few English tourists think it worth their while to spend any time at Culoz, pretty little place although it be; and the landlady of the quaint auberge, with its wooden, vine-grown piazza, was somewhat amazed and distracted by the appearance of foreign visitors. The dining-room seemed to be full of peasants in blue blouses, who had been attending a fair; but lunch was served to Mr. and Mrs. Walcott in the open air, on the verandah. Cora grumbled openly at the simple fare provided; and Alan thought how charming would be the scene and the rustic meal if only his companion were more congenial. For himself, he was quite satisfied with the long French loaf, the skinny chicken, the well-salted cream cheese, and the rough red vin du pays. The blue sky, the lovely view of mountain and valley, lake and grove, the soft wind stirring the vine leaves on the trellis-work of the verandah, would have given him unmixed delight if he had been alone. But all was spoiled by the presence of an unloved and unloving wife.
* * * * *
The road to the chateau leads upwards from Culoz, and is a trifle hot and dusty. Alan wondered dumbly whether Cora had an object in dragging him so far away from the inn, and what that object was. But he took small annoyances patiently. It was something gained, at least, that his wife should seem content. Anything was better than tearing rage or violent hysterical weeping, which were the phases of temper most frequently presented to his view. On this occasion she appeared pleased and happy. He surprised a touch of malignity in her tones, a glance of evil meaning now and then; but he did not greatly care. Cora could not keep a secret. If she had any ill-will or ill intention towards him he was sure to know it before long.
"I am tired," she said at last, abruptly. "Let us sit down and rest. Look, here is an entrance into the park of the chateau. Shall we go in?"
"Is it open to the public?" said Alan, with an Englishman's instinctive fear of trespassing. For, although he had had a French grandmother, and sometimes boasted himself of French descent, he was essentially English in his ideas. Cora laughed him to scorn.
"I go where I will," she said, "and nobody finds it in his heart to turn me out. Courage, mon ami, I will protect you, if necessary. Follow me!"
Piqued by her tone, he opened the gate for her, and they passed from the hot, white road into the green demesnes of the Count who owned the chateau above Culoz. It struck Alan that his wife knew the way wonderfully well. She turned without hesitation into a path which led them to a wooden seat shaded by two great trees, and so situated that it could not be seen by anyone passing on the high road. Here she seated herself and looked up at her husband with a defiant smile.
"You have been here before?" he said suddenly.
She nodded. "Precisely, mon ami, I have been here before. And with whom? With M. de Hauteville, when you imagined me suffering from a migraine a few days ago. Surely you did not think that it was his first appearance when he arrived at the hotel, the day before yesterday?"
"I do not wish to discuss M. de Hauteville," said Alan turning away.
"But perhaps I wish to discuss him. We discussed you at full length—that day last week. We chronicled your vices, your weaknesses, your meannesses in detail. One thing I might have told him, which I left out—the fact that you are no gentleman, not even bourgeois—a mere peasant clown. He would not have let you measure swords with him if he had known the baseness of your origin, my friend!"
Alan's lips moved as if he would have spoken, but he restrained himself. He saw that she wanted him to respond, to lose his temper, to give her some cause of complaint, some opening for recrimination; and he resolved that he would not yield to her desire. She might abuse him as she would and he would not reply. She would cease when she was tired—and not till then.
"You are a mean-spirited creature!" she said, her eyes flashing hatred at him as she spoke. "You have chained me to you all these years, although you know that I loathe the very sight of you, that I have worshiped Henri, my lover, all the while. Who but a base, vile wretch would not have given me my freedom? You have known all the time that he loved me, and you have pretended ignorance because you did not want to let me go. From the moment I found this out, I have hated and despised you. You have no courage, no spirit; there is nothing even to be afraid of in you. You would be brutal if you dared, but you do not dare. You can be spiteful and treacherous and villainous, that is all. And I hate you for all that you are and all that you do not dare to be!"
Alan ground his teeth, in a moment's raging desire to bring the woman to her senses by some actual exertion of his physical strength. But the impulse of anger lasted only for a moment. He knew that half her rage was simulated—that she was lashing herself up in preparation for some tremendous crisis, and all that he could do was to wait for it in silence. She had risen to her feet as she spoke. He rose too and leaned against the trunk of a tree, while she stormed and raved like a madwoman for some minutes in front of him.
"Now," she said at last, "you know what I think of you, how I hate you, how I despise you. But it is not enough. My father shot down twenty of his enemies in the siege of Paris. Do you think that his daughter is a coward, to be trampled on by a brutal, cold-blooded Englishman? No! Because I hate you, and because you have tried to kill the man I love, and because you are too mean and vile to live—I will kill you!"
Her hand darted to the bosom of her dress. Before Alan could stop her—almost before he realized what she was doing—she had drawn out a little pistol, cocked it, and pulled the trigger. But her hurry at the last moment spoiled her aim. Alan felt a sting in the left arm, and knew that she had so far succeeded in her intentions; but with his right hand he was able to snatch the pistol from her, and to fling it far into the brushwood.
Then came the reaction. She burst into loud, screaming sobs and tears, and flung herself on the ground, where she writhed for a time like one in convulsions. Alan seated himself, feeling somewhat sick and faint, and waited for the storm to spend itself. Some time elapsed before she became calm; but at last she raised herself panting from the ground and looked half timorously at her husband. His coolness and quietness often enraged, but now and then it frightened her.
"If you have not another pistol with you," said Alan, "you cannot kill me just now. Perhaps you have done enough to satisfy yourself for the moment. What do you propose to do next?"
"What do you mean to do?" she asked sullenly. "Of course, you can follow me and give me up to the police."
"I shall not do that."
"I will not return with you," she said in a furious tone.
"That is natural," Alan agreed politely. "What then?"
"I told you I knew this place," she answered. "I am to meet a friend upon the road, half a mile further on. I am going there now. He will take me to the next station on the line."
"Admirably planned!" said Alan. "Every detail fits in to perfection."
"And I shall never come back," she said, looking at him spitefully.
For answer, he raised his hat. She turned on her heel, went down the slope towards the road, and disappeared. It was a strange parting between husband and wife. Not a single feeling of reluctance existed in the mind of either; only a fixed resolve to have done with each other henceforth and for ever.
Alan bound up his wounds as well as he could, and retraced his steps to Culoz. He would have done better, possibly, to avoid the place. People stared at him curiously as he passed them by. Why had he come back alone? What had he done with the beautiful lady who had accompanied him when he set forth?
"He, monsieur," tried the black-eyed dame of the auberge, leaning over the rail of the verandah, as he passed: "ou donc est madame? Est-ce qu'elle ne revient pas?"
"Madame est partie," said Alan continuing his walk without turning round. The aubergiste looked after him in amaze. Where could madame have gone? There was no other road to the station, and she had been watching for the English milord and his lady for the last hour and a half! What had he done with madame?
It was a matter of speculation which lasted her for many a day, and was often recounted to new comers. It became the general opinion at Culoz that the Englishman had in some unaccountable manner killed his wife and disposed mysteriously of her body. But although search was made for it high and low, the murdered body was never found. Nevertheless, the stranger's guilt remained a tradition of the neighborhood, and the story of that marvelous disappearance is related by the villagers unto this day.
Alan went on his way rejoicing, although in somewhat grim and shame-faced wise. For three years he had been a miserable slave. Now he was free! And he determined that he would never submit to bonds again.
AT THE RECTORY.
About the very time when Alan Walcott, at the age of three-and-twenty, was making a hasty match with the daughter of a French refugee—a match bitterly deplored before the first few weeks of married life were over—events, which afterwards very greatly affected his career, were quickly shaping themselves in a sleepy little English village not far from the place where he was born.
Angleford, a mere handful of red-brick cottages, five miles from a railway station, was little known to the outer world. Its nearest market-town was Dorminster, and the village of Thorley lay between Angleford and the county town. Birchmead, a hamlet which had some repute of its own as a particularly healthy place, stood further down the river on which Angleford was built, and its merits generally threw those of neighboring villages into the shade.
But Angleford was in itself a pretty little nook, and its inhabitants somewhat prided themselves on its seclusion from the world. These inhabitants, it must be confessed, were few. It had once been a larger and more important place, but had gradually dwindled away until the village contained less than three hundred persons, chiefly laborers and small shop-keepers. Beside these, there were the doctor, and his wife, the rector and his family, and the squire—a childless widower, who was of rather less account than anybody else in the parish.
The Rectory was a rambling, long, low, red-brick house standing in prettily-wooded grounds, bordered by the river, on the other side of which lay the park belonging to the squire. The park ran for some distance on both sides of the stream, and the Rectory grounds were, so to speak, taken out of the very midst of the squire's, demesne. The continuation of wooded ground on either side the narrow winding river made the place particularly picturesque; and it was a favorite amusement for the rector's son and daughter to push a rather crazy boat out of the little boat-house at the foot of the garden, and row up and down those reaches of the stream "between the bridges," which were navigable. One of the bridges warned them of the weir, which it was not very safe to approach; and beyond the other, three miles further down and close to Birchmead, the stream was shallow and clogged with reeds. But within these limits there was a peaceful tranquil beauty which made the boat a favorite resting place for the Rectory people during the long summer evenings and afternoons.
It was two o'clock on a late autumn afternoon, when a girl of sixteen came out of the Rectory door, which always stood hospitably open in fine weather, and walked to the boat-house, as if intending to launch out upon the water. The day was sunny on the whole, but not cloudless: the sun shone out brightly every now and then, and was again obscured by a filmy haze, such as rises so easily from the low-lying land in Essex. But the golden haze softened the distant outlines of wood and meadow, and the sun's beams rested tenderly upon the rapidly stripping branches, where a few rustling leaves still told of their departed glories. The long undefined shadows of the trees stretched far across the wide lawn, scarcely moving in the profound stillness of the air; and a whole assembly of birds kept up a low-toned conversation in the bushes, as if the day were hardly bright enough to warrant a full chorus of concerted song. It was a tender, wistful kind of day, such as comes sometimes in the fall of the year, before the advent of frost. And a certain affinity with the day was visible in the face of the girl who had walked down to the riverside. There was no melancholy in her expression: indeed, a very sweet and happy smile played about the corners of her sensitive mouth; but a slightly wistful look in the long-lashed grey eyes lent an unconscious pathos to the delicate face. But, although delicate, the face was anything but weak. The features were clearly cut; the mouth and chin expressed decision as well as sensibility; and beneath the thick, fine waves of shining brown hair, the forehead was broad and well-developed. Without pretension to actual beauty or any kind of perfection, the face was one likely to attract and then to charm; gentleness, thoughtfulness, intellectual power, might be read in those fair features, as well as an almost infantine candor and innocence, and the subtle and all too-transient bloom of extreme youth. Her hair, which constituted one of her best "points," was simply parted in the middle, fastened with a clasp at the nape of her neck, and then allowed to fall in a smooth, shining shower down to her waist. Mrs. Campion, who had been something of a beauty in her young days, was given to lamenting that Lettice's hair was not golden, as hers had been; but the clear soft brown of the girl's abundant tresses had a beauty of it's own; and, as it waved over her light woollen frock of grey-green hue, it gave her an air of peculiar appropriateness to the scene—as of a wood-nymph, who bore the colors of the forest-trees from which she sprang.
Such, at any rate, was the fancy of a man whose canoe came shooting down the river at this moment, like an arrow from a bow. He slackened pace as he came near the Rectory garden, and peered through the tangled branches which surrounded the old black boat-house, to catch another glimpse of Lettice. He wondered that she did not notice him: his red and white blazer and jaunty cap made him a somewhat conspicuous object in this quiet country place; and she must have heard the long strokes of his oars. But she remained silent, apparently examining the fastenings of the boat; absorbed and tranquil, with a happy smile upon her lips.
"Good afternoon, Miss Campion: can I help you there in any way?" he shouted at last, letting his boat slide past the boat-house entrance, and then bringing it round to the little flight of grassy steps cut in the bank from the lawn to the river.
"Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Dalton. Thank you, no; I don't want any help," said Lettice; but the young man had already set foot upon the lawn and was advancing towards her. He was the nephew and heir of the childless Squire at Angleford Manor, and he occasionally spent a few weeks with his uncle in the country. Old Mr. Dalton was not fond of Angleford, however, and the Campions did not see much of him and his nephew.
Brooke Dalton was six-and-twenty, a manly, well-looking young fellow, with fair hair and bright blue eyes. He was not very tall, and had already begun to develop a tendency towards stoutness, which gave him considerable trouble in after years. At present he kept it down by heavy doses of physical exercise, so that it amounted only to a little unusual fullness of body and the suspicion of a double chin. His enemies called him fat. His friends declared that his sunshiny look of prosperity and good-humor was worth any amount of beauty, and that it would be a positive loss to the world if he were even a trifle thinner. And Brooke Dalton was a man of many friends.
Lettice greeted him with a smile. "So you are here again," she said.
"Yes, I've been here a day or two. Have you heard from Sydney yet?"
"No, and we are dreadfully anxious. But papa says we shall hear very soon now."
"I don't suppose you need have the slightest anxiety. Sydney is sure to do well: he was always a clever fellow."
"Yes, but he has had no teaching except from papa: and papa torments himself with the idea that there may be better teachers than himself at Cambridge—which I am sure there couldn't be. And I am sure he will be disappointed if Sydney does not get at least an exhibition, although he tries to pretend that he will not mind."
"If he does not get it this year, he will be the surer of it next time."
"Yes," said Lettice rather doubtfully. "But I wish papa were not quite so anxious."
"Did he go to Cambridge with Sydney?"
"Yes, and stayed for a day or two; but he said he was rather glad to get home again—there had been so many changes since he was there."
"Here he comes," said Brooke, turning round.
The rector was a dignified-looking man, with a tall figure, handsome features, and hair and beard which had of late been growing very grey. He greeted Dalton cordially, and at once began to speak of his hopes and expectations for his son. To all of these Dalton responded good-humoredly. "Sydney has plenty of brains: he is is sure to do well," he said.
"Oh, I don't know—I don't know. I've been his only tutor, and I may not have laid the foundations with sufficient care. I shall not be at all surprised if he fails. Indeed"—with a transparent affectation of indifference—"I shall not be sorry to have him back for another year. He is not quite eighteen, you know. And Lettice will be glad to have him again."
"But I want him to succeed!" said Lettice eagerly.
"Of course you do. And he will succeed," said Brooke; an assurance which caused her to flash a glad look of gratitude to him in reply.
"Lettice has been Sydney's companion in his studies," said Mr. Campion, patting her hand gently with his long white fingers. "She has been very industrious and has got on very well, but I daresay she will be pleased to have a holiday when he is gone."
"Yes, I daresay," said Brooke; and then, looking at Lettice, he saw the manifestation of some strong feeling which he did not understand. The girl flushed hotly and withdrew her hand from her father's arm. The tears suddenly came into her eyes.
"I never wanted a holiday," she said, in a hurt tone.
"No, no, you were always a good girl," returned her father absently—his eyes had wandered away from her to the high-road beyond the glebe. "But of course there is a limit to a girl's powers; she can't compete with a boy beyond a certain point. Is not that a cab, Lettice? Surely it must be Sydney, and he has came at last. Well, now we shall know the result!"
"I'll go to the fence and look," said Lettice, running away. The tears of mortification and distress were still smarting in her eyes. Why should her father depreciate her to their neighbor because she was a girl? She did not mind Mr. Dalton's opinion of her, but it was hard that her father should give her no credit for the work that she had done in the study at his side. Step by step she had kept pace with her brother: sometimes he had excelled her, sometimes she thought that she was outstripping him. Now in the hour of his possible success (of which she would be proud and glad), why should her father seem to undervalue her powers and her industry? They would never bring her the guerdon that might fall to Sydney's lot; but she felt that she, too, had a right to her father's praise.
She had been vaguely hurt during Sydney's absence to find that Mr. Campion did not seem disposed to allow her to go on working alone with him. "Wait, my dear, wait," he had said to her, when she came to him as usual, "let us see how Sydney's examination turns out. If he comes back to us for another year you can go on with him. If not—well, you are a girl, it does not matter so much for you; and your mother complains that you do not sit with her sufficiently. Take a holiday just now, we will go on when Sydney comes back."
But in this, Lettice's first separation from her beloved brother, she had no heart for a holiday. She would have been glad of hard work to take her out of herself. She was anxious, sad, des[oe]uvree, and if she had not been taught all her life to look on failure in an examination as something disgraceful, she would have earnestly hoped that Sydney might lose the scholarship for which he was competing.
Brooke Dalton saw that his presence was scarcely desired just then, and took his leave, meditating as he pulled up the river on Lettice's reddened cheeks and pretty tear-filled eyes. "I suppose she thinks she'll miss her brother when he goes away," he decided at length, "and no doubt she will, for a time; but it is just as well—what does a girl want with all that Latin and Greek? It will only serve to make her forget to brush her hair and wear a frock becomingly. Of course she's clever, but I should not care for that sort of cleverness in a sister—or a wife." He thought again of the girl's soft grey eyes. But he had a hundred other preoccupations, and her image very soon faded from his brain.
Lettice ran to the fence to look at the cab, but Mr. Campion turned at once to the gateway and walked out into the road. He had not been mistaken, it was Sydney, indeed; and as soon as the young fellow saw his father he stopped the vehicle, told the driver to go on to the Rectory with his portmanteau, and turned to his father with a triumphant smile. Lettice did not meet the pair for a minute or two, so the son's communication was made first to Mr. Campion alone.
"Here I am, sir!" was the young man's greeting, "turned up again like a bad half-penny."
"Welcome anyhow, my boy," said the rector, "and sterling coin, I'll warrant, however much you may malign yourself." He was too nervous to ask a direct question about his son's success. "We have been very dull without you. Lettice is counting on your help to break in her pony to the saddle."
"You mustn't be dull after a week's absence. What would you do if I had to be more than half the year at Cambridge?"
"Ah, that would be a different thing. Have they given you an exhibition then?"
"Well, not exactly that." The rector's face fell, but it brightened as Sydney proceeded with a touch of youthful pomposity. "Your old pupil is a Scholar of Trinity."
The rector was carrying his cane as he walked along, and when Sydney had told his good news he stopped short, his face aglow, and for lack of any more eloquent mode of expressing his satisfaction, raised it in the air and brought it down with sounding emphasis on his companion's back.
"Laudatur et alget," he said. "How many stripes would it have been if I had come home disgraced?"
"The stripes would have been my portion in that case," the rector answered, with a hearty laugh. He had not been so jovial for many months.
Then Lettice came running up, and had to be told the news, and clung to Sydney's neck with kisses, which he graciously permitted rather than returned. But he was gratified by her affection, as well as by the pride and pleasure which his father took in his success, and the less discriminating, but equally warm congratulations and caresses showered upon him by his mother.
Indeed for the rest of the day, Sydney was caressed and complimented to his heart's content. He preferred the compliments to the caresses, and he was not unloving to his parents, although he repulsed Lettice when she attempted to kiss him more than once. He had come back from Cambridge with an added sense of manliness and importance, which did not sit ill upon his handsome face and the frank confidence of his manner. It was Sydney who had inherited the golden hair and regular features which, as his mother said, ought to have belonged to Lettice and not to him; but she loved him all the more dearly for his resemblance to her family and to herself. It escaped her observation that Sydney's blue-grey eyes were keener, his mouth more firmly closed and his jaw squarer than those of most boys or men, and betokened, if physiognomy goes for anything, a new departure in character and intellect from the ways in which Mrs. Campion and her family had always walked. A fair, roseate complexion, and a winning manner, served to disguise these points of difference; and Mrs. Campion had not quick sight for anything which did not lie upon the surface, in the character of those with whom she had to do.
She was usually to be found in the drawing-room—a faded, pretty woman, little over fifty years of age, but with the delicate and enfeebled air of the semi-invalid—a white shawl round her shoulders, a bit of knitting or embroidery between her incapable, uncertain fingers. Her hair was very grey, but the curliness had never gone out of it, and it sprang so crisply and picturesquely from her white, unwrinkled forehead that it seemed a pity to hide any of the pretty waves even by the crown of fine old lace which Mrs. Campion loved. She was a woman at whom no one could look without a sense of artistic satisfaction, for her face was still charming, and her dress delicately neat and becoming. As for her mental and moral qualities, she was perfectly well satisfied with them, and her husband was as satisfied as she—although from a somewhat different point of view. And as she very properly remarked, if her husband were satisfied with her, she did not know why she should be called upon to regard any adverse opinion of the outer world. At the same time she was an ardent disciple of Mrs. Grundy.
How this woman came to be the mother of a child like Lettice, it were, indeed, hard to say. Sydney was fashioned more or less after Mrs. Campion's own heart: he was brisk, practical, unimaginative—of a type that she to some extent understood; but Lettice with her large heart, her warm and passionate nature, her keen sensibilities and tender conscience, was a continual puzzle to her mother. Especially at this period of the girl's life, when new powers were developing and new instincts coming into existence—the very time when a girl most needs the help and comfort of a mother's tender comprehension—Mrs. Campion and Lettice fell hopelessly apart. Lettice's absorption in her studies did not seem right in Mrs. Campion's eyes: she longed with all her soul to set her daughter down to crewel-work and fancy knitting, and her one comfort in view of Sydney's approaching separation from his home was her hope that, when he was gone, Lettice would give up Latin and Greek and become like other girls. She was ignorantly proud of Sydney's successes: she was quite as ignorantly ashamed of Lettice's achievements in the same lines of study.
"I can never forget," she said to Lettice that evening, when the rector and his son were discussing Cambridge and examination papers in the study, while the mother and her daughter occupied the drawing-room—Lettice, indeed, wild to join her father and brother in the study and glean every possible fragment of information concerning the place which she had been taught to reverence, but far too dutiful to her mother to leave her alone when Mrs. Campion seemed inclined to talk—"I can never forget that Sydney learned his alphabet at my knee. I taught him to spell, at any rate; and if your father had not insisted on taking the teaching out of my hands when he was seven years old, I am convinced that I should have done great things with him."
"Surely he has done great things already, mamma!" Lettice said with enthusiasm.
"Oh, yes!" said Mrs. Campion with a sigh. "But I don't think your father has given quite the bias to his mind that I should have liked best. I have always hoped that he would spend his strength in the service of the Church; but——You have not heard him say much about his future career, have you, Lettice?"
"I don't think he has considered it particularly," Lettice answered. "But he never speaks of taking Orders; he talked of the Bar the other day. There's no reason why he should make up his mind so soon, is there, mamma?"
"No, dear, no. But I am quite sure that if he went into the Church he would be a Bishop," said Mrs. Campion, with conviction. "And I should like him to be a Bishop."
"Well, perhaps he will be Lord Chancellor instead," said Lettice, merrily.
"There can be no doubt, my dear," said her mother, "that a Bishop of the Anglican Church is able to carry himself with more dignity and distinction in everyday life than a Lord Chancellor, who is only dignified when he is on the Bench. I think that Sydney would make an excellent Bishop—quite the most distinguished Bishop of the day."
It was not until next morning that Lettice had time to ply her brother with questions as to his examination and his Cambridge experiences generally. She did not ask about the visit to London which he had also paid. She had been to London herself, and could go there any day. But Cambridge!—the goal of Sydney's aspirations—the place where (the girl believed) intellectual success or failure was of such paramount importance—what was that like?
Sydney was ready to hold forth. He liked the position of instructor and was not insensible to the flattery of Lettice's intentness on his answers. But he was a little dismayed by one of her questions, which showed the direction of her thoughts.
"Did you hear anything about the women's college, Sydney?" For Girton and Newnham were less well known then than they are now.
"Women's colleges! No, indeed. At least, I heard them laughed at several times. They're no good."
"Why not?" said Lettice, wistfully.
"Now, Lettice," said the youthful mentor, severe in boyish wisdom, "I hope you are not going to take fancies into your head about going to Cambridge yourself. I should not like it at all. I'm not going to have my sister laughed at and sneered at every time she walks out. I don't want to be made a laughing-stock. Nice girls stay at home with their mothers; they don't go to colleges and make themselves peculiar."
"I am not going to be peculiar; but I don't want to forget all I have learned with you," said Lettice, quickly.
"You have learned too much already," said the autocrat, whose views concerning women's education had developed since his short stay in Cambridge. "Girls don't want Latin and Greek; they want music and needlework, and all that sort of thing. I don't want my sister to be a blue-stocking."
Lettice felt that her lot in life ought not to be settled for her simply as Sydney's sister—that she had an individuality of her own. But the feeling was too vague to put into words; and after Syndey had left her, in obedience to a call from his father, she sat on in the long, low room with its cushioned window-seats and book-covered walls—the dear old room in which she had spent so many happy hours with her teacher and her fellow-pupil—and wondered what would become of her when Sydney was really gone; whether all those happy days were over, and she must henceforth content herself with a life at Mrs. Campion's side, where it was high treason to glance at any book that was neither a devotional work nor a novel. Lettice loved her mother, but the prospect did not strike her as either brilliant or cheering.
It was the beginning, although at first she knew it not, of a new era in her life. Her happy childhood was over; she was bound henceforth to take up the heavy burden which custom lays on the shoulders of so many women: the burden of trivial care, unchanging routine, petty conventionalities—
"Heavy as frost and deep almost as life."
Sydney went out into the world to fight; Lettice sat in idleness at home; and society, as well as the rector and his wife, judged this division of labor to be fair and right. But to Lettice, whose courage was high and whose will and intellect were strong, it seemed a terrible injustice that she might not fight and labor too. She longed for expansion: for a wider field and sharper weapons wherewith to contest the battle; and she longed in vain. During her father's lifetime it became more and more impossible for her to leave home. She was five-and-twenty before she breathed a larger air than that of Angleford.
In due time, Sydney proceeded to Cambridge, and Lettice was left alone. The further development of brother and sister can scarcely be understood without a retrospective glance at their own and their parents' history.
The Reverend Lawrence Campion, Rector of Angleford, was at this time a prosperous and contented man. Before he reached his fortieth year, he had been presented by an old college friend to a comfortable living. Married to the woman of his early choice, he had become the father of two straight-limbed, healthy, and intelligent children; and then, for another twenty years, he felt that he would not care to change his lot with that of the most enviable of his fellow-creatures.
Being himself a scholar and a student, he determined that his boy and girl, so far as he could shape their lives, should be scholars also. To teach them all he knew was henceforth his chief occupation; for he would not hand over to another a task which for him was a simple labor of love. Day by day he sat between them in his comfortable study, where roses tapped at the lozenge-shaped window panes all through the summer, and in winter the glow of the great logs upon the hearth was reflected from the polished binding and gilt lettering of his books in a thousand autumnal hues, as pleasing to his eyes as the tints of the summer flowers. Day by day he sat between his children, patiently laying the foundation of all they could thereafter learn or know. He made no distinction for age or sex; and in their case, at any rate, nature had set no stigma of inferiority on the intelligence of the girl. Sydney was the older of the two by eighteen months, and at first it seemed as though his mind was readier to grasp a new idea; but there awoke in Lettice a spirit of generous rivalry and resolution, which saved her from being far out-stripped by her brother. Together they studied Greek and Latin; they talked French and read German; they picked up as much of mathematics as their father could explain to them—which was little enough; and, best of all, they developed a literary faculty such as does not always accompany a knowledge of half-a-dozen dead and living languages.
The day came when Mr. Campion, not without misgiving, resolved to test the value of the education which he had given to his children. He had held a fellowship at Peterhouse up to the time of his marriage, and had intended that Sydney should try for a scholarship at the same college. But the boy aimed at a higher mark; he was bent on being a Scholar of Trinity. Perhaps it might have done him good to fail once or twice on the threshold of his life, had his father assured himself beforehand that he would not be disappointed if his pupil was sent back to him for another year of preparation. But, as we have already seen, Sidney succeeded, and, if the truth must be told, Mr. Campion was in no way surprised at his success.
From that time forward none of the Campions ever dreamed of failure in connection with Sydney's efforts. He certainly did not dream of failure for himself. He had that sublime confidence which swells the heart of every young man in the flush of his first victory. We laugh in the middle age at the ambitions which we nursed at twenty; but we did not laugh when the divine breath was in us, and when our faith removed mountains of difficulty from our path.
Sydney's career at Cambridge was one long triumph. He gained the Craven and Porson scholarships; his epigrams were quoted by college tutors as models of vigor and elegance; he was President of the Union; he took an excellent degree, and was elected to a fellowship in due course. He had, in fact, done brilliant things; and at the age of twenty-four he was—to those who knew him best, and especially to those who liked him least—that shining, glorified, inspired, and yet sophisticated product of modern university culture, an academic prig. The word is not of necessity a term of reproach. Perhaps we are all prigs at some season in our lives, if we happen to have any inherent power of doing great things. There are lovable prigs, who grow into admirable men and women; but, alas! for the prig whose self-love coils round him like a snake, until it crushes out the ingenuous fervor of youth, and perverts the noblest aspirations of manhood!
From Cambridge Sydney went to London, and was called to the bar. Here, of course, his progress was not so rapid. Briefs do not come for wishing, nor even for merit alone. Nevertheless he was advancing year by year in the estimation of good judges; and it was known to his father, and to his intimate friends, that he only waited a favorable opportunity to stand for a seat in parliament.
At Angleford, in the meantime, they watched his career with proud hearts and loving sympathy. Mrs. Campion, in particular, doted on her son. She even scanned the paper every morning, never by any chance missing an item of law intelligence, where occasionally she would be rewarded by coming across Sydney's name. She would not have considered any distinction, however great, to be more than his due.
Lettice never thought of disagreeing with her mother when she sang the praises of Sydney; but it must be confessed that both the rector and his wife displayed less than their ordinary balance of judgment in discussing the merits of their son. They unconsciously did much injustice to the girl, by their excessive adulation of her brother, and her interests were constantly sacrificed to his. She would have been the last to admit that it was so; but the fact was clear enough to the few persons who used to visit them at Angleford. Her friend, Clara Graham, for instance, the wife of a London journalist, who came down now and then to spend a holiday in her native village, would attempt to commiserate Lettice on the hardness of her lot; but Lettice would not listen to anything of the kind. She was too loyal to permit a word to be spoken in her presence which might seem to reflect upon her parents or her brother.
Yet it would have been impossible that she should not be in some way affected by the change which had come over her life since Sydney went to Cambridge. From that day her regular reading with her father had ceased, and she was left to direct her studies as she thought best. Mr. Campion was almost entirely absorbed in the prospects of his son, and if Lettice needed his assistance she had to ask for it, often more than once. The consequence was that she soon gave up asking, and her mind, left to its own devices, gradually found its true bent. She did not read much more Latin or Greek, but devoured all the Modern literature that came in her way. After that she began to write—not fiction in the first instance, but more or less solid essays on criticism and social philosophy, following the pattern of certain writers in the half-crown monthly magazines, which her father was wont to take in. If she had known that the time would come when she would have to earn her living by her pen, she could scarcely have adopted a better plan to prepare herself for the task.
In the first instance, whatever she did in this way had been for her own pleasure and distraction, without any clear idea of turning her abilities to practical account. She had no inclination for an idle life, but there was a limited period during which it rested with her father to say what her occupation as a woman should be. When Sidney went to Cambridge, Lettice had entreated that she might be sent to Girton or Newnham; but the young Scholar of Trinity had fought shy of the notion, and it was dropped at once. That, indeed, was the beginning of Lettice's isolation—the beginning of a kind of mental estrangement from her brother, which the lapse of time was to widen and perpetuate.
Mr. Campion and his wife were by no means unkind to their daughter; they simply put Sydney first in all their plans and anticipations of the future. Her education was supposed to be complete; her lot was to be cast at home, and not in the rough outer world, where men compete and struggle for the mastery. If she had complained, they might not have been shocked, but they would have been immeasurably astonished. The rector had given her an excellent training, and though his strongest motive was the desire to stimulate and encourage his son, no doubt he had her interests in view at the same time. But when he finished with Sydney he finished with Lettice, and it never occurred to him that there was any injustice in suddenly withdrawing from her the arm on which he had taught her to lean.
She did not complain. Yet as time went on she could not shut her eyes to Sydney's habit of referring every question to the test of personal expediency. It was her first great disillusion, but the pain which it caused her was on her parents' behalf rather than on her own. They were the chief sufferers; they gave him so much and received so little in return. To be sure, Sydney was only what they had made him. They bade him "take," in language which he could easily understand, but their craving for love, for tenderness, for a share in his hopes, ambitions, resolutions, and triumphs, found no entrance to his understanding.
Sydney had spent a large sum of money at Cambridge, and had left heavy debts behind him, although his father had paid without remonstrance all the accounts which he suffered to reach the old man's hands. He had what are called expensive tastes; in other words, he bought what he coveted, and did not count the cost. The same thing went on in London, and Mr. Campion soon found that his income, good as it was, fell short of the demands which were made upon it.
The rector himself had always been a free spender. His books, his pictures, his garden, his mania for curiosities, had run away with thousands of pounds, and now, when he surreptitiously tried to convert these things into cash again there was a woeful falling off in their value. He knew nothing of the art of driving a bargain; and, where others would have made a profit with the same opportunities, he invariably lost money. He had bought badly to begin with, and he sold disastrously. Being hard pressed on one occasion for a hundred pounds to send to Sydney, he borrowed it of a perfect stranger, who took for his security what would have sufficed to cover ten times the amount.
This was in the third year after Sydney was called to the bar. Lettice was in London that autumn, on a visit to the Grahams; and perhaps something which she contrived to say to her brother induced him to write and tell his father that briefs were coming in at last, and that he hoped to be able to dispense with further remittances from home. Mr. Campion rejoiced in this assurance as though it implied that Sydney had made his fortune. But things had gone too far with him to admit of recovery, even if the young man had kept to his good resolutions—which he did not.
The fact is that Sydney's college debts hung like a weight round his neck, and he had made no effort to be rid of them. The income of his fellowship and his professional earnings ought to have been ample for all his needs, and no excuse can be urged for the selfishness which made him a burden to his father after he had left Cambridge. But chambers in Piccadilly, as well as at the Inner Temple, a couple of West End clubs, a nightly rubber at whist, and certain regular drains upon his pocket which never found their way into any book of accounts, made up a formidable total of expenditure by the year's end. He was too clever a man of the world to let his reputation—or even his conscience—suffer by his self-indulgence, and, if he lived hard in the pursuit of pleasure, he also worked hard in his profession. In short, he was a well-reputed lawyer, against whom no one had a word to say; and he was supposed to have a very good chance of the prizes which are wont to fall to the lot of successful lawyers.
At the beginning of 1880, when Sydney Campion was in his twenty-seventh year, there came to him the opportunity for which he had waited. Mr. Disraeli had dissolved Parliament somewhat suddenly, and appealed to the country for a renewal of the support accorded to him six years before. He had carried out in Eastern Europe a policy worthy of an Imperial race. He had brought peace with honor from Berlin, filled the bazaars of three continents with rumors of his fame, and annexed the Suez Canal. He had made his Queen an Empress, and had lavished garters and dukedoms on the greatest of Her Majesty's subjects. But the integrity of the empire, safe from foes without, was threatened on either shore of St. George's Channel—by malignant treason on one side, and on the other by exuberant verbosity. It was a moment big with the fate of humanity—and he strongly advised the constituencies to make him Prime Minister again.
Then the country was plunged into the turmoil of a General Election. Every borough and shire which had not already secured candidates hastened to do so. Zealous Liberals and enthusiastic Tories ran up to town from the places where local spirit failed, or local funds were not forthcoming, convinced that they would find no lack of either in the clubs and associations of the metropolis. Young and ambitious politicians had their chance at last, and amongst others the chance came for Sydney Campion.
There is no difficulty about getting into Parliament for a young man who has friends. He can borrow the money, the spirit, the eloquence, the political knowledge, and he will never be asked to repay any of them out of his own resources. Now Sydney had a friend who would have seen him through the whole business on these terms, who would at any rate have found him money, the only qualification in which he was deficient. But he fell into a trap prepared for him by his own vanity, and, as it happened, the mistake cost him very dear.
"You see, Campion," his friend had said to him, after suggesting that he should go down as Conservative candidate for Dormer, "our people know very well what they would get for their money if you were elected. You would make your mark in the first session, and be immensely useful to us in ever so many ways."
"Would it cost much?" asked Sydney, rather nettled by the mention of money. He had known Sir John Pynsent at Cambridge, and had never allowed himself to be outdressed or outshone by him in any way. But Pynsent had beaten him in the race for political honors; and Sydney, like a showy player at billiards who prefers to put side on when he might make a straightforward stroke, resolved to take a high tone with his would-be patronizing friend.
"Much?" said Sir John. "Well, no, not much, as things go. But these worthies at Dormer have their own traditional ways of working the oracle. The Rads have got hold of a stockjobber who is good for a thousand, and Maltman says they cannot fight him with less than that. The long and short of it is that they want a strong candidate with five hundred pounds, and we are prepared to send you down, my boy, and to be good for that amount."
Sydney took out his cigar case, and offered the beaming baronet a choice Villar.
"It's uncommonly good of you, Pynsent, to give me a look in at Dormer, and to suggest the other thing in such a friendly way. Now, look here—can you let me have two days to say yes or no to Maltman?"
"I am afraid I can't. He must have his answer in twenty-four hours."
"Well, say twenty-four hours. He shall have it by this time to-morrow. And as for the five hundred, you may be wanting that by and by. Keep it for some fellow who is not in a position to fight for his own hand."
Sir John Pynsent left his friend with a greatly increased opinion of his spirit and professional standing—a result of the interview with which Sydney was perfectly satisfied.
Then came the serious question, how he was to deal with the emergency which had arisen—perhaps the most critical emergency of his life. Within twenty-four hours he must know when and how he could put his hand upon five hundred pounds.
He might easily have saved twice the sum before now; but he had never learned the art of saving. He thought of his father, whom he had not seen or written to for more than a month, and determined that he would at all events go down and consult the rector. He had not realized the fact that his father's resources were already exhausted, and that mere humanity, to say nothing of filial duty, required him to come to the old man's assistance, instead of asking him for fresh sacrifices.
"If he has not the money," Sydney said, "no doubt he can help me to raise it. It will be an excellent investment of our joint credit, and a very good thing for us both."
So he telegraphed to Angleford—
"I am going to contest a borough. Must make provision. Shall be with you by next train."
FATHER AND SON.
Sydney's telegram reached Angleford at an awkward time. Things had been going from bad to worse with Mr. Campion, who had never had as much money as he needed since he paid the last accounts of the Cambridge tradesmen. In the vain hope that matters would mend by and by—though he did not form any precise idea as to how the improvement would take place—he had been meeting each engagement as it came to maturity by entering on another still more onerous. After stripping himself of all his household treasures that could be converted into money, he had pledged his insurance policy, his professional and private income, and at last even his furniture; and he was now in very deep waters.
A great change had come over him. At sixty, when Sydney took his degree, he was still handsome and upright, buoyant with hope and energy. At sixty-six he was broken, weak, and disheartened. To his wife and daughter, indeed, he was always the same cheerful, gentle, sanguine man, full of courtesy and consideration. In the village he was more beloved than ever, because there was scarcely a man or woman who was not familiar with the nature and extent of his troubles. In a country parish the affairs of the parson, especially when they do not prosper, are apt to become the affairs of the congregation as well. Who should know better than a man's butcher and baker when the supply of ready money runs short, when one month would be more convenient than another for the settlement of a bill, or when the half-year's stipend has been forestalled and appropriated long before it fell due?
However great his trouble, the rector had generally contrived to put a good face on things. He considered his difficulties as entirely the result of his own improvidence, and rejoiced to think that Sydney's position was assured, no matter what might happen to himself. Yet often in the silence of the night he would toss upon his restless bed, or vex his soul with complicated accounts in the privacy of his study, and none but the two faithful women who lived with him suspected what he suffered in his weakest moments.
He had come to lean more and more constantly on the companionship of Lettice. Mrs. Campion had never been the kind of woman to whom a man looks for strength or consolation, and when she condoled with her husband he usually felt himself twice as miserable as before. Some wives have a way of making their condolences sound like reproaches; and they may be none the less loving wives for that. Mrs. Campion sincerely loved her husband, but she never thoroughly understood him.
When the boy arrived with Sydney's telegram, Lettice intercepted him at the door. She was accustomed to keep watch over everything that entered the house, and saved her father a great deal of trouble by reading his letters, and, if need be, by answering them. What he would have done without her, he was wont to aver, nobody could tell.
Time had dealt gently with Lettice, in spite of her anxieties, in spite of that passionate revolt against fate which from time to time had shaken her very soul. She was nearly five-and-twenty, and she certainly looked no more then twenty-one. The sweet country air had preserved the delicate freshness of her complexion: her dark grey eyes were clear, her white brow unlined by trouble, her rippling brown hair shining and abundant. Her slender hands were a little tanned—the only sign that country life had laid upon her—because she was never very careful about wearing gloves when she worked in the garden; but neither tan nor freckle ever appeared upon her face, the bloom of which was tender and refined as that of a briar-rose. The old wistful look of her sweet eyes remained unchanged, but the mouth was sadder in repose than it had been when she was a child. When she smiled, however, there could not have been a brighter face.
Notwithstanding this touch of sadness on her lips, and a faint shadow of thought on the clear fine brows, the face of Lettice was noticeable for its tranquillity. No storm of passion had ever troubled those translucent eyes: patience sat there, patience and reflection; emotion waited its turn. One could not doubt her capabilities of feeling; but, in spite of her four-and-twenty years, the depths of her heart had never yet been stirred. She had lived a somewhat restricted life, and there was yet very much for her to experience and to learn. Who would be her teacher? For Lettice was not the woman to go ignorant of life's fullest bliss and deepest sorrow to the grave.
She looked particularly slender and youthful as she stood that day at the hall window when Sydney's telegram arrived. She had a double reason for keeping guard in the hall and glancing nervously down the carriage-drive that led from the main road to the rectory front. Half-an-hour before, a hard-featured man had swaggered up the avenue, fired off a volley of defiance on the knocker, and demanded to see Mr. Campion.
"What do you want?" said Lettice, who had opened the door and stood boldly facing him.
"I want to see the parson. At once, miss, if you please."
"Perhaps I can do what is necessary, if you will tell me what your business is. You cannot see my father."
"Oh," said the man, with a little more respect. "You are his daughter, are you? Well, if you can do the needful I am sure I have no objection. Three hundred and twenty pound seventeen-and-six"—here he took out a stamped paper and showed it to Lettice. "That's the figure, miss, and if you'll oblige with coin—cheques and promises being equally inconvenient—I don't mind waiting five minutes to accommodate a lady."
"We have not the money in the house," answered Lettice, who had been reading the formidable document, without quite understanding what it meant.
"Ah, that's a pity," said the man. "But I didn't expect it, so I ain't disappointed."
"It shall be sent to you. I will see that you have it—within a week from this date—only go away now, for my father is unwell."
"Very sorry, miss, but I can't go without the money. This business won't wait any longer. The coin or the sticks—those are my orders, and that's my notion of what is fair and right."
"The sticks?" said Lettice faintly.
"The goods—the furniture. This paper is a bill of sale, and as the reverend gentleman doesn't find it convenient to pay, why, of course, my principal is bound to realize the security. Now, miss, am I to see the gentleman, or am I not?"
"Oh no," said Lettice, "it is useless."
"Then what I am going to do," said the man, "is this. I am going to get the vans, and fetch the goods right away. I may be back this afternoon, or I may be back to-morrow morning; but you take my advice, miss. Talk it over with the old gentleman, and raise the money somehow, for it really would go against me to have to sell you up. I'm to be heard of at the 'Chequers,' miss—William Joskins, at your service."
Then he had gone away, and left her alone, and she stood looking through the window at the dreary prospect—thinking, and thinking, and unable to see any light in the darkness.
One thing, at all events, she must do; a message must be sent to Sydney. It would not be just, either to him or to his father, that the extent of the disaster should be any longer concealed. She had just arrived at this determination, and was turning away to write the telegram, when the messenger from the post-office made his appearance.
In five minutes all the house was astir. A visit from Sydney was a rare occurrence, and he must be treated royally, as though he were a king condescending to quarter himself on his loyal subjects—which indeed, he was. When Lettice went to tell her father the news she found him seated by the fire, pondering gloomily on what the immediate future might have in store for him; but as soon as she showed him Sydney's telegram he sprang to his feet, with straightened body and brightly shining eyes. In one moment he had passed from despondency to the height of exultation.
"Two o'clock," he said, looking at his watch, "and he will be here at five! Dinner must be ready for him by six; and you will take care, Lettice, that everything is prepared as you know he would like to have it. Going into Parliament, is he? Yes, I have always told you that he would. He is a born orator, child; he will serve his country brilliantly—not for place, nor for corrupt motives of any kind, but as a patriot and a Christian, to whom duty is the law of his nature."
"Yes, papa. And you will be satisfied when he is a member of Parliament?"
"So long as Sydney lives, my dear, I know that he will grow in favor with God and man; and so long as I live, I shall watch his course with undiminished joy and satisfaction. What else have we left to live for? Wife!" said the rector, as Mrs. Campion entered the room, "do you know that our boy is to dine with us to-night?"
"Yes, Lawrence, I have seen his telegram; and Mollie is doing all she can at short notice. It will not be the kind of dinner I should like to put before him; but times are changed with us—sadly changed! I hope he will not miss the plate, Lawrence; and as for wine and dessert——"
"Oh, mother dear," said Lettice, interrupting, "I quite forgot to tell you about my letter this morning. Look here! It contained a cheque for ten pounds, for that article of mine in the Decade. I mean to go into Dorminster, and get one or two things we shall be wanting, and I shall probably drive back in Sydney's cab. So you can leave the wine and dessert to me. And, mother dear, be sure you put on your silver-grey poplin, with the Mechlin cap. Nothing suits you half as well!"
Lettice's earnings had sufficed for some years past for her dress and personal expenses; but latterly she had contrived to have a fair margin left for such emergencies as that which had now arisen. She was more than thanked by the gleam of love which lightened the eyes of her parents as she spoke. Even though Sydney was coming, she thought, that smile at any rate was all for her.
So she went into the town and made her purchases, and waited at the station, shivering in the cold March wind, for Sydney's train.
How much should she tell him to begin with? Or should she say nothing till after dinner? How would he take it? How would it affect him? And suppose for a moment that he had to choose between getting into Parliament and rescuing his father from ruin?
Clearly as she saw the worst sides of Sydney's character, yet she loved him well, and was proud of him. How often she had yearned for tenderness in the days gone by! What excuses she had framed for him in her own heart, when he seemed to forget their existence at Angleford for months together! And now, when she had this terrible news to tell him, was it not possible that his heart would be softened by the blow, and that good would come for all of them out of this menaced evil? What a happy place the old Rectory might be if her father's mind were set at rest again, and Sydney would come down and stay with them from time to time!
The train was at the platform before Lettice had decided what to do. Sydney looked rather surprised to see her, but gave her his cheek to kiss, and hurried her off to the cab stand.
"What brought you here?" he said. "How cold you are! All well at home?"
"Yes, they are well. But, oh, Sydney, they are growing old?"
"Growing old, child? Why, of course they are. We must expect it. Do you mean they look older than they are?"
"Yes—older, and—and more——"
He looked at her sharply, for she could not quite command her voice, and left the sentence unfinished. Then Sydney had an uncomfortable feeling. He saw that there was something amiss, but did not care at the moment to insist on further confidences. No doubt he would hear all that there was to be said by and by. Meanwhile he turned the conversation, and soon contrived to interest her, so that they reached the Rectory in excellent spirits. All that day poor Lettice alternated between despair and giddy lightness of heart.
So the hero came home and was feasted, and his father and mother did obeisance to him, and even he for an hour or two thought it good that he should now and then renew his contract with the earth from which he sprang, and remember the chains of duty and affection which bound him to the past, instead of dwelling constantly in the present and the future.
Throughout dinner, and at dessert, and as they drank the wine which Lettice had provided, Sydney spoke of his position and prospects, dazzling those who listened to him with his pictures of victory at Dormer, of Conservative triumphs all along the line, of Ministerial favor for himself, of "Office—why not?—within a twelvemonth." It would have been treason for any of his audience to doubt that all these good things would come to pass. If Lettice felt that there was a skeleton at the feast, her father at any rate had forgotten its existence. Or, rather, he saw deliverance at hand. The crisis of his boy's fortune had arrived; and, if Sydney triumphed, nothing that could happen to Sydney's father could rob Mr. Campion of his joy.
At last the women left the room, and Sydney proceeded to tell his father what he wanted. He must return to town by the first train in the morning, having made an appointment with Mr. Maltman for two o'clock. Of course he meant to contest Dormer; but it was desirable that he should know for certain that he could raise five hundred pounds within a week, to supplement his own narrow means.
His face fell a little when his father confessed—as though it were clearly a matter for shame and remorse—that he could not so much as draw a cheque for twenty pounds. But, in fact, he was not surprised. Recklessly as he had abstained from inquiring into the old man's affairs since Lettice spoke to him in London two years ago, he had taken it for granted that there were difficulties of some kind; and men in difficulties do not keep large balances at their bankers'.
"Well, father," he said, "I am sorry for that. Yes—it certainly makes the thing rather hard for me. I hoped you might have seen me fairly launched on my career; and then, you know, if the worst came to the worst, I could soon have repaid you what you advanced. Well, what I suggest is this. I can probably borrow the money with your assistance, and I want to know what security we could offer between us for the loan."
Mr. Campion looked mournfully at his son, but he was not ready with a reply.
"You see," said Sydney, "it would never do for me to miss this chance. Everything depends upon it, and I was bound to refuse Pynsent's offer of the money. But if you have something that we can lodge as security——"
Mr. Campion shook his head. The look of distress that came upon his face might have softened Sydney's heart, if he had been less intent on his object.
"There will be an insurance policy I suppose?"
"No, my boy! The fact is, I was obliged to assign it a few years ago, to cover a former engagement."
"Dear me!" said Sydney, in a tone of vexation, "what a nuisance! I am afraid our signatures alone would hardly suffice. A bill of sale is out of the question, for that would have to be registered."
Something in the old man's appearance, as he sank back in his chair and wrung his hands, struck Sydney with a sudden conviction. He sprang to his feet, and came close to his father's side, standing over him in what looked almost like an attitude of menace.
"Good heaven!" he cried. "Don't tell me that it has gone so far as that!"
The door opened, and Lettice stood before them, with pale cheeks and glistening eyes. She had guessed what would come of their conversation, and had held herself in readiness to intervene.
Sydney turned upon her at once.
"You," he said, as deliberate now as he had been excited a minute before, "you, with your fine head for business, will doubtless know as much about this as anybody. Has my father given a bill of sale on his furniture?"
"He has," said Lettice.
"Months ago. I must have known it, for I read all his correspondence; but I hardly knew what a bill of sale meant. And Sydney," she continued, laying her hand on his arm, and whispering so that her father should not hear, "it may be only a threat, but a man was here this morning, who said he should come to-morrow and take the things away."
When he heard this, Sydney lost his self-command, and spoke certain words for which he never quite forgave himself. No doubt the blow was a heavy one, and he realized immediately all that it implied. But he did not foresee the effect of the harsh and bitter words which he flung at his father and sister, charging them with reckless extravagance, and declaring that their selfishness had ruined his whole career.
Lettice was stung to the quick, not so much by her brother's unjust accusations as by the suffering which they inflicted on her father. His childishness had increased upon him so much of late that he was in truth, at this moment, more like a boy under correction than a father in presence of his children. He buried his face in his hands, and Lettice heard a piteous groan.
Then she stood beside him, laid her arm upon his neck, and faced Sydney with indignant eyes.
"Look!" she said. "This is your work. Can you not see and understand? You accuse him of selfishness—him, whose life has been one long sacrifice for you! I tell you, Sydney, that your cruel neglect, your ingrained love of self, have dragged our father down to this. He gave you all that you have, and made you all that you are, and when you should have come to his succor, and secured for him a happy old age, you have left him all these years to struggle with the poverty to which you reduced him. He never murmured—he will never blame you as long as he lives—he is as proud of you to-day as he was ten years ago—and you dare, you dare to reproach him!"
Lettice ended in magnificent wrath; and, then, being a woman after all, she knelt by her father's side and burst into tears.
If Sydney's pride had not got the better of him he would have owned the justice of her words, and all might have been well. Instead of that, he went to his room, brooding upon his misfortune, and soothing his wounded feelings in an intense self-pity.
And next morning, when he came remorsefully to his father's bedside, intending to assure him that he would make it the first business of his life to rescue him from his difficulties, he found him rescued indeed, with placid face and silent heart, over which the cares of earth had no further dominion.
The rector's death was a terrible shock to Sydney. For a time his remorse for his own conduct was very great, and it bore good fruit in a perceptible softening of his over-confident manner and a more distinct show of consideration for his mother and sister. Little by little he drew from Lettice the story of her past anxieties, of his father's efforts and privations, of his mother's suffering at the loss of luxuries to which she had always been accustomed—suffering silently borne because it was borne for Sydney. Lettice spared him as far as she could; but there was much that she was obliged to tell, as she had been for so long the depositary of her father's secrets and his cares. Man-like, Sydney showed his sorrow by exceeding sharpness of tone.
"Why did you not write to me? Why was I never told?"
"I told you as much as I dared, when I was in London."
"As much as you dared?"
"Dear father would not let me tell very much. He laid his commands on me to say nothing."
"You should have disobeyed him," said Sydney marching up and down the darkened study, in which this conference took place. "It was your duty to have disobeyed him, for his own good——"
"Oh, Sydney, how can you talk to me of duty?" said Lettice, with a sob. "Why did you not come and see for yourself? Why did you stay away so long?"
The reproach cut deeper than she knew. "I thought I was acting for the best," said the young man, half defiantly, half apologetically. "I did what it was the desire of his heart that I should do—But you, you were at home; you saw it all, and you should have told me, Lettice."
"I did try," she answered meekly, "but it was not very easy to make you listen."
In other circumstances he would, perhaps, have retorted angrily; and Lettice felt that it said much for the depth of his sorrow for the past that he did not carry his self-defence any further. By and by he paused in his agitated walk up and down the room, with head bent and hands plunged deep into his pockets. After two or three moments' silence, Lettice crept up to him and put her hand within his arm.
"Forgive me, Sydney, I spoke too bitterly; but it has been very hard sometimes."
"I would have helped if I had known," said Sydney gloomily.
"I know you would, dear. And he always knew it, too. That was the reason why he told me to keep silence—for fear of hampering you in your career. He has often said to me that he wished to keep the knowledge of his difficulties from you, because he knew you would be generous and kind——"
Tears choked her voice. Her brother, who had hitherto been quite unresponsive to her caresses, put out his right hand and stroked the trembling fingers that rested on his left arm. He was leaning against the old oak table, where his father's books and papers had stood for so many years; and some remembrances of bygone days when he and Lettice, as boy and girl, sat together with their grammars and lexicons at that very place, occurred a little dimly to his mind. But what was a dim memory to him was very clear and distinct to Lettice.
"Oh, Sydney, do you remember how we used to work here with father?" she broke out. "How many hours we spent here together—reading the same books, thinking the same thoughts—and now we seem so divided, so very far apart! You have not quite forgotten those old days, have you?"
"No, I have not forgotten them," said Sydney, in a rather unsteady voice. Poor Lettice! She had counted for very little in his life for the last few years, and yet, as she reminded him, what companions they had been before he went to Cambridge! A suddenly roused instinct of compassion and protection caused him to put his arm round her and to speak with unusual tenderness.
"I won't forget those old times, Lettice. Perhaps we shall be able to see more of each other by and bye than we have done lately. You have been a good girl, never wanting any change or amusement all these years; but I'll do my best to look after you now."
"I began to think you did not care for any of us, Sydney."
"Nonsense," said Sydney, and he kissed her forehead affectionately before he left the study, where, indeed, he felt that he had stayed a little too long, and given Lettice an unusual advantage over him. He was not destitute of natural affections, but they had so long been obscured by the mists of selfishness that he found it difficult to let them appear—and more difficult with his sister than with his mother. Lettice seemed to him to exact too much, to be too intense in feeling, too critical in observation. He was fond of her, but she was not at all his ideal woman—if he had one. Sydney's preference was for what he called "a womanly woman": not one who knew Greek.
He made a brave and manly effort to wind up his father's affairs and pay his outstanding debts. He was so far stirred out of himself that it hardly occurred to his mind that a slur would be left on him if these debts were left unpaid: his strongest motive just now was the sense of right and wrong, and he knew, too late, that it was right for him to take up the load which his own acts had made so heavy.
The rector had died absolutely penniless. His insurance policy, his furniture, the whole of his personal effects, barely sufficed to cover the money he had borrowed. What Sydney did was to procure the means of discharging at once all the household bills, and the expenses connected with the funeral.
"And now," he said to Lettice, when the last of these dues had been paid off and they took their last stroll together through the already half dismantled rooms of the desolate old Rectory, "I feel more of a man than I have felt since that terrible night, and I want to get back to my work."
"I am afraid you will have to work very hard, dear!" said Lettice, laying her hand on his arm, rather timidly. How she still yearned for the full measure of mutual confidence and sympathy!
"Hard work will be good for me," he said, his keen blue eyes lighting up as if with ardor for the fray. "I shall soon wipe off old scores, and there's nothing like knowing you have only yourself to look to. My practice, you know, is pretty good already, and it will be very good by and bye."
"I am so glad!"
"Yes. And, of course, you must never have any anxiety about mother and yourself. I shall see to all that. You are going to stay with the Grahams for a while, so I can come over one day and discuss it. I don't suppose I shall ever marry, but whether I do or not, I shall always set apart a certain sum for mother and you."
"I have been thinking about the future," said Lettice, quietly. She always spoke in a low, musical voice, without gesture, but not without animation, producing on those who heard her the impression that she had formed her opinions beforehand, and was deliberate in stating them. "Do you know, Sydney, that I can earn a very respectable income?"
"Earn an income! You!" he said, with a wrinkle in his forehead, and a curl in his nostrils. "I will not hear of such a thing. I cannot have my sister a dependent in other people's houses—a humble governess or companion. How could you dream of it!"
"I have not dreamed of that," said Lettice. "I do not think I should like it myself. I simply stay at home and write. I earned seventy pounds last year, and Mr. Graham says I could almost certainly earn twice as much if I were living in London."
"Why was I not told of this?" said Sydney, with an air of vexation. "What do you write?"
"Essays, and now and then a review, and little stories."
"Little stories—ouf!" he muttered, in evident disgust. "You don't put your name to these things!"
"I did to one article, last March, in The Decade."
"That is Graham's magazine, and I daresay Graham asked you to sign your name. When I see him I shall tell him it was done without sufficient consideration."
"All articles are signed in The Decade," said Lettice. She did not think it worth while to mention that Graham had written her a very flattering letter about her article, telling her that it had attracted notice—that the critics said she had a style of her own, and was likely to make her mark. The letter had reached her on the morning before her father's death, and she had found but a brief satisfaction in it at the time.
"I think you had better not say anything to Mr. Graham," she continued. "They have both been very kind, and we shall not have too many friends in London."
"Why do you want to live in London?"
"I think I should like it, and mother would like it too. You know she has fifty pounds a year of her own, and if what Mr. Graham says is right we shall be able to live very comfortably."
"I can't say I like this writing for a living," he said.
"I suppose we cannot have everything as we like it. And, besides, I do like it. It is congenial work, and it makes me feel independent."
"It is not always good for women to be independent. It is dangerous."
She laughed—a pleasant little rallying laugh.
"I hope you will not be shocked," she said. "I have set my heart on being perfectly independent of you and everybody else."
He saw that she would have her way, and let the subject drop.
A few weeks afterwards, Lettice and her mother had packed up their belongings and went to London. The Grahams were delighted to have them, for Lettice was a great favorite with both. James Graham was a literary man of good standing, who, in addition to editing The Decade, wrote for one of the weekly papers, and reviewed books in his special lines for one of the dailies. By dint of hard work, and carefully nursing his connection, he contrived to make a living; and that was all. Literary work is not well paid as a rule. There is fair pay to be had on the staff of the best daily papers, but that kind of work requires a special aptitude. It requires, in particular, a supple and indifferent mind, ready to take its cue from other people, with the art of representing things from day to day not exactly as they are, but as an editor or paymaster wants them to appear. If we suffered our journalists to sign their articles, they would probably write better, with more self-respect and a higher sense of responsibility; they would become stronger in themselves, and would be more influential with their readers. As it is, few men with vigorous and original minds can endure beyond a year or two of political leader-writing.