Dr. Paull's Theory: A Romance

Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


Copyright, 1893,
Electrotyped and Printed
at the Appleton Press, U. S. A.




Hugh Paull, house-surgeon to a great City hospital, was seated at his writing-desk. During his spare time he was working at a treatise on nervous disease, the special subject which attracted him. It was a day when a certain public event was disturbing the usual City routine. The thoroughfares near to the hospital were blocked, and his room was quieter than usual. He had almost forgotten that he was liable to be disturbed, when a tap came at his door.

“Wanted, sir. Accident just brought in.”

The porter spoke, standing in the doorway.

Hugh laid down his pen with a sigh.

“Has Mr. Hamley taken the case?”

“Yes, sir. They are getting him into the ward. Old gentleman—carriage accident. Horse frightened and bolted. Two bobbies brought him in.”

“All right, I’ll come.”

He put aside his manuscript, and went down to the accident ward. The “sister” of the ward, two nurses, and young Hamley, a dresser, were standing round the recumbent figure of a fine old man, who lay on his narrow bed still as death, his pale features composed, his 2grey hair tossed upon the pillow. It was a grand face—a model for a painter.

As Paull neared the group the two nurses moved away to bring forward and unfold a screen.

“Take it away,” he said.

“I think he’s gone, or nearly so,” said the dresser, a fair young man, his face flushing. He had asked for the screen, usually drawn around the dying or dead.

“Nothing of the sort,” said Hugh. He felt the patient’s pulse, listened at his heart, opened the closed eyelids, placed his hand lightly on his brow, which was cold and clammy, then ordered him to be undressed, himself assisting the nurses to rip up the coat-sleeves.

There were no injuries. It was a case of concussion of the brain. The groom was having his slight wounds dressed in the out-patients’ department; and Hugh learned from him that his master, whom he appeared to hold greatly in awe, was Sir Roderick Pym, one of the partners in the well-known banking firm of Pym, Clithero and Pym. He had a town house in a West-end square, and a country house in Surrey, where he mostly lived. He was staying in town for a few days, and had insisted on driving towards the City to-day, in spite of the warning issued by the police to the public. Moreover, he insisted on driving a thoroughbred mare, who no sooner got among quite a small assemblage of roughs than she kicked up her heels and was off. The groom stuck to the tilbury till the final crash, but his master fell out shortly before. That was all he knew (or chose to tell). He was a town groom. He never went into the country. He would return home and tell Sir Roderick’s housekeeper. She would come round and see about their master.

3Hugh went thoughtfully back to the ward, and standing at the foot of the bed gazed at the solemn, set face of the unconscious man. He was interested—unusually so. This old man’s aquiline, grave face was full of expression. Peaceful and composed as it was now, it was the countenance of one who had suffered, and suffered deeply.

“His eyelids quivered a little when the ice-bag was applied, sir,” said the nurse who was watching the patient.

Hugh was once more gravely examining the case, when the stout, matronly personage, in a high cap and huge white apron, who was called the “sister” of the ward, came from the little room at its end, through the square window of which she could see all that was going on in the long room with the rows of beds.

“I thought I would give you these, Mr. Paull. I would rather not have anything to do with them,” she said, handing Hugh a massive gold watch and chain, a purse, and some letters and papers.

“I will see to them, sister,” he said.

Giving directions as to the immediate treatment of Sir Roderick, he returned to his room to lock them away in a small iron safe, where certain of the hospital books and cases of instruments were kept. The watch was a hunter. It struck him that the glass might be broken. It was. He shook out the fragments; then, seeing a locket attached to the chain, he opened that.

The glass of this was intact, and covered the coloured photograph of a woman’s face—sweet, bright, fair, with smiling lips and dark eyes, that even on lifeless paper looked mischief and pretty defiance.

He shut up the locket in a hurry—he had not meant 4prying—and placing the contents of Sir Roderick’s pockets in a corner of the safe, turned the key upon them.

“This is my quiet day’s work,” he thought, with a sigh. It was useless to sit down to a scientific treatise, for which the most complete abstraction was an absolute necessity, when at any moment he might be summoned to this unexpected and important case; so he put the scattered sheets of manuscript together, and re-arranged the books of reference that he had piled on chairs by his writing-table in their rightful places on the book-shelves. Then he sat down in his American chair, and stared at the fire.

“A strange old face,” he was thinking, “massive, thoughtful. Quite a Rembrandt head. I wonder how old he is—whether he will get over it? Nasty shock, anyhow. Must have fallen on a soft bit of road; if it had been the kerb, or cobbles even, it might have been all over with him.”

It seemed to Paull that he must have seen that face before. Yet this could scarcely be. He had come to the hospital from his country home. He was the only son of the Rector of Kilby, in Derbyshire, and had seldom gone out, except to the museums and to scientific lectures; his ambition kept him chained to its object—his profession.

“The sort of face one sometimes dreams of,” he concluded. “I thought I was past nonsense of this sort. This latest thing in accidents has upset me as if I were a girl.”

Presently, the “gentleman’s housekeeper” was announced, and a portly dame, handsomely dressed in dark silk and a fur-trimmed cloak, entered. At once 5Hugh banished all idea of the locket and Mrs. Naylor having the faintest connecting link.

Sir Roderick’s housekeeper was comely, and good-looking in her buxom way. But although there was anxiety in her enquiries, and evident relief in her manner when Paull gave her hopes that her employer might recover, the ruddiness did not forsake her cheeks, nor was she in the least flurried.

“I feared something might happen, that I did,” she said, accepting a chair. “The groom, David, he didn’t half like going behind that mare. Sir Roderick’s a first-rate driver; they do say at both riding and driving he can manage anything in the way of a horse. But there, I’ve seen that Kitty in the stable, and I know she’s that bad-tempered—but, lor! no one daren’t say one word to Sir Roderick.”

Paull asked if there were no near relations who might be sent for, or informed of her master’s condition.

“Mr. Edmund—that’s Sir Roderick’s next eldest brother—had dinner with him last night,” she answered, doubtfully, “But he’s taken his family to see the procession. Mr. Pym—that’s the eldest, the head of the firm—isn’t on what you might call good terms with Sir Roderick, who has nothing to do with the bank now.”

“Were those all?” asked Hugh.

Mrs. Naylor could not suggest anyone else. Sir Roderick—well, he was one of those gentlemen that you didn’t know how to take. You might offend him mortally, and you wouldn’t know it except by his never having anything to do with you afterwards.

“You would rather not take any responsibility in the matter then, Mrs. Naylor?” asked Hugh, slightly amused.

6The character of that strange man, lying for the present dead to the world without, was being unexpectedly revealed to him.

“I certainly would rather not, sir,” said Mrs. Naylor, briskly.

“But you will not object to give me his brother’s address?”

Mrs. Naylor being quite ready to give Mr. Edmund Pym’s address, Hugh wrote it down. Then he offered to take Mrs. Naylor to see her master.

From this she seemed to shrink; and it was only after being adjured that it was her duty to remain, at all events, in the hospital, until someone else belonging to Sir Roderick came—that she consented to visit the ward.

Mr. Edmund Pym arrived to visit his brother about nine in the evening: a singularly impassive personage, who showed no emotion whatever of any kind, and who departed as soon as possible.

Mrs. Naylor, evidently greatly relieved, slipped away after she had had a short interview with her master’s brother.

At ten o’clock the old man still lay on the hospital bed—breathing, living, but apparently dead to all around him.

“What do you think of him, Mr. Paull?” asked the Sister, as Hugh went his last round—at least the round which was usually his last.

“Think of him?” repeated Hugh, absently. “Oh—well—Dr. Fairlight will be here in the morning. He will take the case. Tell the night nurse I shall be down in an hour.”

“You’re not going to sit up, Mr. Paull?”

7“I think I shall.”

The Sister looked from patient to doctor, as Hugh went striding out of the ward, and back again to the livid, solemn face on the pillow.

“That young cabman’s case last week was a good deal worse than this,” she mused, “and he didn’t sit up. I suppose the old gentleman’s age makes him anxious.”

Hugh Paull, with his odd attractiveness, his scrupulous fidelity to his duties, and his learning, which was acknowledged by the great men who were appointed to the hospital, as well as by his fellow-workers, was the hero of the resident staff, both doctors and nurses; and it did not enter the good Sister’s head to dream that any other motive but that of devotion to duty led to this sacrifice of a night’s rest, and singular departure from ordinary hospital routine.

Yet when Hugh took up his position at the patient’s bedside with some books as the possible companions of his vigil, he smiled to himself with a cynical wonder.

“Why am I doing this?” he asked himself. Why, indeed? He could have been summoned if any change took place. He could have ordered an extra night nurse for Sir Roderick. Why should he go out of his way for a strange man? Because this old man’s brother and the housekeeper had behaved so coolly, and his sense of humanity was aroused? Because this human windfall in the accident ward was Sir Roderick Pym, of Pym, Clithero & Pym? No! for neither of these reasons. Hugh Paull was in the habit of self-interrogation. His dissatisfaction with ordinary life as ordinary people took it had made him desperately in earnest; and being desperately in earnest, had made—

8“To thine own self be true,
Thou canst not then be false to any man,”

one of his governing mottoes. As he settled himself to his night watch he grimly told himself that he was here for the sole reason that he knew he could not without a struggle have kept away. Sir Roderick Pym attracted him like a magnet. Why, he had still to learn.

Alternately watching the slightest movement of the patient, and reading, the night wore on. There was silence in the long ward. The rows of beds loomed whitely in the distance. The fire crackled. Now and then there was a sigh or a weary moan. The distant clatter of cab-wheels, the howl of a restless dog, or the slow rumbling of the market-waggons, were the only signs that not all in London slept, as did these victims of carelessness or misadventure within the quiet stone building.

Between one and two o’clock, Sir Roderick gave signs of returning consciousness. As the night nurse glided from bed to bed, administering medicine to those patients for whom it had been ordered, he opened his eyes, and muttered something. Then he moved his head on his pillow, turned, and gradually subsided into natural sleep.

After Hugh was completely satisfied that this was real slumber—“tired Nature’s sweet restorer,” indeed—he might safely have sought “balmy sleep” for his own solace; but by this time he was so wide awake, and his brain so fit for study, that he remained. Sir Roderick slept for hours as placidly as an infant, while Hugh studied with all his might and strength.

At six o’clock the night nurse brought him a cup of 9tea, and congratulated him on the changed appearance of the patient.

“Yes; he’ll do now, I think,” said Hugh, contentedly.

The clatter of the spoon in the saucer, or the whispering, or both, aroused Sir Roderick. He opened his eyes, and stared at Hugh, first wildly, then with an amazed expression.

“Kemble, in Hamlet,” he muttered. Then, as Hugh bit his lip to restrain a smile—a shaken brain must not be irritated—he frowned and stared, stared and frowned, then jerked his head away as from an unpleasant object.

Since the old man had been resolutely driving into the City, against much warning and advice, all had been a blank. Now he was awakening amid the most unpleasant sensations: his limbs heavy as lead, his head curiously light. At first he squinted at the strange objects around him, struggling to focus them aright, like a semi-conscious infant. As his sight adjusted itself, he found that there were really many beds—a row of beds. He began to count them, but before he had reached two figures he felt sick and faint, and instinctively turned back for help.

A lithe strong arm was round him, a glass with some cordial was at his lips. He swallowed the draught, and helplessly subsided.

As he revived he began to think.

“This is real,” was his first thought. “What has happened to me?”

After the thought had hummed about in his mind like a spinning-top, it subsided, tottered, and tumbled. He, as it were, picked it up.

10“Who am I?” he stammered, suddenly, to Hugh, who was sitting near, his eyes alert. He had not meant that, but it came out higgledy-piggledy, somehow, and he listened to his own voice wonderingly.

“You are quite safe, Sir Roderick Pym,” said Hugh, gently. “A few hours ago you were thrown out of your carriage, and were brought here. You have been slightly—faint—but you will soon be all right again, and able to go home.”

“A—hospital!” Sir Roderick looked round with evident disgust. “Who—knows?” he added, with a glance of alarm.

Hugh hastened to relate details, slowly, clearly, while the nurse administered some light nourishment.

Sir Roderick listened attentively. The only question he asked was if his mare, Kitty, had suffered.

“I wouldn’t have had anything happen to Kitty,” he began, emphatically. Then, as he glanced up at Hugh from under his shaggy grey eyebrows, he seemed to remember that he was speaking to a stranger, and stopping short, sank wearily back.

“I took you for a vision of ‘Hamlet,’” he said, with a short laugh. “You looked like it—all black against the light, bending over your books.”

“My black clothes?” said Hugh. “I am just in mourning for my mother. I am house-surgeon here.”

Sir Roderick looked at him less coldly, and murmured some thanks. Then he asked the time.

“I want to telegraph. I was expected home—in the country—to-day,” he said. “Perhaps—I could go this afternoon.”

Hugh convinced him that this would be, if not impossible, the height of imprudence.

11Sir Roderick listened to reason, but bargained that he should write a telegram now, at once, while he was able.

So excitedly did he plead, that Hugh reluctantly fetched a telegram form from the secretary’s room, and propped his troublesome patient up in the bed, that he might fill it in himself.

But the pencil fell from Sir Roderick’s fingers, the effort made him feel faint.

Not till an hour after was the telegram despatched, and then it was Hugh who had written it at Sir Roderick’s dictation:—

To L. Pym, The Pinewood,
Near F——, Surrey.

Am detained by important business. Will return as soon as possible. Keep all letters, and do not see visitors.

Roderick Pym.

“To his wife, presumably,” thought Hugh, as he left his patient to the day nurse, who was fresh from her night’s rest; and as he thought this he sneered: “Younger than her lord and master; very much under his thumb, too, evidently. Married him for his money, of course! The original of the portrait in the locket, doubtless. Fancy the jealous prudence of the old fox! Wouldn’t write ‘Lady Pym,’ only put ‘L.’ I wondered why he hesitated so long before yielding up the name. Poor old fellow! A young wife, with that mischievous face! Why didn’t the housekeeper mention her?”

Hugh went about his day’s work strangely dissatisfied, and had never felt more annoyed with anyone in his life than with the Sister of the accident ward when she told Dr. Fairlight that he had kindly remained all night by Sir Roderick’s bedside.



Sir Roderick decidedly improved on acquaintance. During the next two days his health promised to return. He declined the offer of a private ward.

“I like to watch what goes on,” he said to Hugh. “Of course there is a good deal to see that is painful. But I may not have such an opportunity of realising certain conditions of human nature again.”

Then he descanted upon the different cases, upon the various characteristics of the maimed and injured men who were either inmates, or who were brought in, upon the method and patient quietude of the nurses, &c.

“You are a practised observer,” said Hugh. Upon which they began a conversation that partially showed Hugh there was a bond of sympathy between them. Both were dissatisfied with life generally, and with certain matters particularly. Both were prompted to study deeply, and ponder much on the great problems which have puzzled philosophers from Thales to Schopenhauer; and although Sir Roderick was a materialist and pessimist, and Hugh had taken refuge in a high ideal optimism which was to a certain extent original, they met on the common ground of mental disquietude.

Seen thus, Sir Roderick seemed another man. Weak though he still was, his eyes sparkled, his face was brightened 13by an almost youthful animation. Hugh was about to end the interview, fearing overfatigue for his patient, when Sir Roderick stopped short. His countenance changed. His brother, Mr. Edmund Pym, came into the ward with the secretary of the hospital.

Edmund Pym was a short, wizened little man, with pinched features and blinking eyes, scant white hair and smooth shaven face. Greater opposites in personal appearance than these two brothers could hardly be.

He glanced at Hugh through his eye-glass, nodded, somewhat awkwardly asked the invalid how he was getting on, then stood fidgeting at the bedside.

Hugh offered him a chair, but Sir Roderick gave him such a look that he would have retired precipitately but for his patient’s apologetic—

“Pray don’t go, Mr. Paull, I want to speak to you. My brother cannot stay long.”

“No, I cannot stay long,” said Mr. Edmund, uncomfortably. “I only came in to see how you were getting on, and to tell you how sorry Mary and the girls are about this. Mary will come and see you, if you like?”

“But I don’t like,” interrupted Sir Roderick, pettishly. “Tell her—anything you please. I don’t mind Mary and the girls when I am well. But they can’t come here. If they do, I sha’n’t see them.”

Mr. Pym nervously assured his brother that “Mary and the girls” would not dream of doing anything to displease him. They were most anxious to show their solicitude and sympathy, that was all.

“Tell them that as long as they hold their tongues and don’t gossip about my infernal accident, they may do what they please,” said Sir Roderick, surlily. “And if they must chatter about it, tell them to pray for me. 14Yes, tell them that. They’ll think the black sheep is coming into the fold at last. It’ll please them, and won’t do me any harm.”

Mr. Edmund Pym was evidently embarrassed, and did not stay long. Hugh pitied him, and accompanying him to the end of the ward apologised for the irascibility of the patient, which was not only natural after the shock, but was, if anything, a favorable symptom, &c.

“Oh! I am accustomed to my brother, Mr. Paull,” he said, with a gentleness that touched the young house-surgeon. “He is naturally irritable. We take it for what it is worth. He has had a great deal of trouble in his life, and it has soured him. And he is quite a recluse. But he has a good heart, a wonderfully kind heart.”

Then he thanked Hugh for his attention to the patient and hurried off, evidently relieved that the visit was over.

“H’m!” muttered Hugh to himself, as he slowly returned to the patient. “H’m! It strikes me that my pessimistic friend is, like most pessimists, a bit of a Tartar.”

Sir Roderick welcomed him with a forced smile.

“I daresay you think me ungracious?” he said, his long, withered hand nervously fingering the bedclothes. “I’m not—at least, not exactly. I can put up with my brother when I’m well, but just now I can’t. The fact is, he is one of the most woman-ridden men on the face of the earth. His wife is a bigot and a snob, and brings up her daughters bigots and snobs. And they rule him. Rule him? They sit upon him. They drive him, like the old donkey he is. He was always the same. At school they called him Neddy, because he took everything 15so meekly. It used to enrage me, youngster as I was. I used to say to him: ‘Man, why can’t you hold up your head?’ And I’ve gone on saying it to him all through life. If there’s one thing I despise, it’s a man who can’t hold up his head and defend himself.”

“Against the women?” suggested Hugh. He had seated himself in the chair he had offered Mr. Pym. His arms were folded. He saw that he must treat Sir Roderick boldly, if they were to be friends. And some inward feeling told him that Fate, or Providence, had brought them together—that at least they were to be well acquainted with each other, if nothing more. “I am afraid, sir, that you are a woman-hater.”

He half expected his patient to turn upon him somewhat after the manner in which he had snubbed his brother, in which case he would have left the old gentleman to himself, as far as conversation went, for the future. Instead, Sir Roderick smiled, and seemed gratified.

“No, Hamlet, my friend,” he said, with a sort of pleased chuckle, leaning back against his pillows. “You must excuse my calling you Hamlet, but with your serious speculative nature, the name seems to fit you exactly. No, I am no woman-hater. I know we can’t do without them. But I object to them out of their proper place, as I object to cats out of the kitchen, or mastiffs and Newfoundlands in the drawing-room. The drudge woman and the ornamental woman are necessary evils. When strictly kept under, they serve their purpose. But bowed down to and worshipped as my unfortunate brother fetishes his womankind, they are only fit for extermination—as if they were so many rats.” He spoke viciously. Then turning to Hugh, he said: “I suppose 16you consider me a barbarian? Like the rest, you adore a petticoat—eh?”

“No,” said Hugh. “But I can’t say I am with you in the extermination idea; I have not known any domineering women. My mother was soft, gentle—more a helpmeet than a companion to my father, who is a very studious man. She was his right hand. His is not a mind to require a second self. My sisters are like her.”

“I understand,” said Sir Roderick, in a depreciatory tone. “Good specimens of the domestic genus. But what about the lady-love, the ideal realised, the creature apart—eh?”

“I have so many, you see, Sir Roderick,” said Hugh. “Silent lassies, who only speak when spoken to, and wait patiently side by side for days, even weeks, till I throw the handkerchief. Their petticoats are half-calf—morocco—cloth, lettered—”

“Oh! your books,” said the old man. “Ah! well, your turn will come, your turn will come! And the longer you wait the worse it’ll be.”

“May your words not come true,” said Hugh, as he went off, amused, yet—when he thought of the portrait in the locket, and of the telegram sent to “L. Pym”—somewhat puzzled.

During the time that Sir Roderick remained in the hospital—between three and four days—the subject of the fair sex was mutually tabooed by doctor and patient. They had interesting conversations, and Sir Roderick expressing a wish to see Hugh’s treatise, the evening before the old gentleman left the hospital he supped in the house-surgeon’s room, and Hugh read him portions of the work, which he was pleased greatly to approve.

“You must come and see me in the country,” he 17said, when, after writing a check for a handsome donation to the hospital fund, and insisting upon Hugh’s acceptance of a ruby ring he had ordered to be sent from his town house, he was taking leave of those of the staff who had been good Samaritans to him in his weakness. “You must come and stay. They think me an unsociable old brute, do my neighbors and people round about. But they wouldn’t care for me if they knew me. We have nothing in common. My friends are men of about my own age, with similar tastes. I hope you and I will be friends. Although I am nearly old enough to be your grandfather—minds like yours don’t count by years.”

Hugh answered that he was grateful, obliged—hoped they would be friends, certainly, etcetera. But as Sir Roderick leaned forward and nodded gravely to him from his brougham window when the carriage drove off, he felt a strange sensation—was it an uneasy feeling of aversion for this peculiar patient who had occupied his time and his thoughts these few days? Was he relieved by his departure? He could not tell. The ruby ring on his finger almost annoyed him. He locked it away in his desk, and tried to lock away the recollection of Sir Roderick with it.

Then he went about his work with a strange oppression of mind and weariness of body. It was an operating day. A most interesting—in fact, a thrilling operation took place in the theatre—one which set all the students and surgical nurses talking. But at the most critical moment he seemed to see Sir Roderick’s face and to hear that short, cynical laugh. He felt as if he were haunted.

As the days and weeks went on, the sensation 18lessened. But when the post came in he generally remembered Sir Roderick. At least, for the first few weeks after the accident he looked for the large, crooked scrawl he had noticed on the cheque, among his correspondence. When no letter, no news came of the strange old man, he began to think of their short acquaintance as of one of those purposeless episodes which occur in the lives of most medical men.

As spring blossomed into summer, he began to forget. When he had his short holiday, and was once more in his childhood’s home among the fields and woods, with flowers scenting the summer air and the birds singing all around, the remembrance of the weird old Rembrandt face on the pillow in the hospital ward came back into his mind as might some curious dream. Alas! it would have been better for Hugh Paull if indeed it could have been but a dream.

Kilby was a picturesque village among the Derbyshire hills. A stream ran through the smiling little valley. It meandered through the rectory grounds. There was no regular village street. There were groups of cottages clustering together about the old inn, and around the church. The rectory was a grey stone, gabled house, in grounds that the Reverend John Paull had enlarged and improved each year since he “read himself in” twenty-seven years ago. In front of the house was a large, square lawn, with spreading beeches and straight conifers on either side. Opposite, a yew hedge divided the lawn from the beautiful flower garden with the masses of bloom bordering the winding paths. Then came the river, famous for its succulent trout, and beyond, grassy banks, a row of elms, and the sloping hills.

19Although Hugh missed the genial presence of his sweet-faced little mother, his father seemed determined to be cheery during his visit, and his sisters Maud and Daisy had made up their minds to be bright in their brother’s presence, so only indulged in their inevitable fits of grief in private.

“Do not let—Hugh—miss me,” had been their mother’s constant exhortation during her last brief illness. “He is such a gloomy boy. Pray be cheerful with him.”

Mrs. Paull herself had lived cheerfully; and as she had lived, so she died—with a smile of encouragement to those around her on her lips. To her, life was merely one scene in the eternal drama of the human soul.

When the rector chose the words, “She is not dead, but sleepeth,” to be engraven on the stone at the head of her grave, he felt indeed that his Maggie was not, could not be dead. Dead? Sometimes he believed they were nearer and dearer to each other now than when for the first time he took his love into his arms and kissed her lips.

Thus it was hardly a house of mourning into which Hugh came. As soon as he became accustomed to the empty chair, the absence of the kindly voice, and the sombre garments of his sisters and the maids, he successfully fought low spirits.

The ordeal of the first visit to his mother’s grave over, he also struggled to be unselfish, and not to add to his father’s and sisters’ grief by a mournful presence. So he walked about the parish with the rector as usual, drove his sisters in the pony-chaise, and fished with them in the old haunts of the capricious trout, which sometimes 20suddenly and unaccountably changed their favourite lurking-places, and as suddenly and unaccountably returned to them again.

In the evenings, when the Rector glanced through the papers and the girls worked by the light of the shaded lamps, he told them stories of the hospital: the strange beings that came under his notice, the hard, cruel tales of some of their lives.

About a week after his arrival, he was reminded of Sir Roderick. In the weekly journal, Speculative Thought, there was a letter on some subject that bore upon certain theories he held in regard to animal magnetism. It was signed “R. Pym.” At dinner he inquired of his father whether he had noticed it. He had not. So, after dinner Hugh read it aloud.

“Why, I should have thought you had written that,” said his father. “That is a pet theory of yours, is it not?”

“The old thief!” said Hugh, half to himself, but with an amused smile. “At least, I have no right to say that. It is written by Sir Roderick Pym. Of that I have little or no doubt. We had a discussion on the subject. He defended the opposite view. Now, he is on my side. That is what I can’t make out.”

“You brought him round to your way of thinking, I suppose,” said the rector, with a satisfied glance at his son. “You certainly have the gift of persuasion. Many a time, in our walks and talks, you have staggered me. I have felt that your hypotheses were uncalled for and preposterous. But for the life of me I could not advance anything solid in the way of refutation.”

“You certainly haven’t got the gift of persuasion, papa,” said the fair-haired, round-faced Daisy. “Giles 21was drunk again last night. Mary Giles has a black eye to-day. I am sure I thought your sermon on Sunday week would do something. But old Brown went to the Arms just the same all last week, Mrs. Brown told me. I said, quite aghast: ‘What! after papa’s sermon?’ And she said: ‘Lawk, miss, Brown do go to church, I know, but he allers settles hisself for a good sleep while the sermon’s a-goin’ on.’”

“One man, single-handed, is powerless against alcohol,” said the rector, helplessly. “I’ve fought it these seven-and-twenty years, and haven’t scored a point. If they will drink, they will drink—an earthquake would not stop them.”

The conversation drifted away from Sir Roderick Pym. But next morning it drifted back again.

“There is a letter for you, Hugh; such a curious-looking letter,” said Maud, a tall, dark, handsome girl, who was pouring out the tea and coffee when her brother came down to breakfast. “A most original handwriting. You must tell me whose it is. I have been reading up graphology lately, and there seems to me a great deal of sense in it. At least, my friends’ handwritings correspond wonderfully with what I know of their characters.”

“I warn you, Maud is getting quite a dangerous person,” said Daisy, with wide-open eyes. “I found her reading one of your medical books the other day, Hugh.”

But Hugh did not hear, or heed her. He was turning over the square, grey envelope, with a big black P stamped on the flap. The first communication from Sir Roderick after ten weeks’ silence. There was no mistaking the large, crooked scrawl. The stamp was 22stuck on corner-ways. After turning over the closed letter once more, he replaced it by his plate and began his breakfast. He could not bring himself to open that letter in the presence of his sisters. Why, he could not have told.

“You are not going to open your letter?” asked Daisy, wonderingly, as she took her brother’s egg out of the egg-boiler.

He was saved the reply by the entrance of his father. After breakfast, he escaped into the garden; and there, by the river, among the flowers and in the sunshine, the first link of the terrible life-chain which was to crush his heart was forged. He opened the letter. If he could have guessed, have known, would he have cast it from him into the stream to be carried away—out of his reach and ken, for ever? In after days he asked himself this with untold bitterness of soul, but no answer came.

The contents of the envelope, which had been redirected and forwarded by the secretary of the hospital, were simple enough.

Sir Roderick wrote, dating from the Pinewood, near F——, Surrey, as follows:—

“My good young Friend,—It must be about time for you to claim a holiday. Let it be spent here. You will like the place; that it will be congenial I feel sure. Let me know day and hour, and the carriage will meet you at F—— Station.

“Yours, Roderick Pym.”

Hugh read it twice, thrice. At first, he had (so he thought) been full of self-gratulation that he had so complete an excuse to decline the invitation as this, that his furlough from hospital, spent in his own home, was 23nearly at an end. But, as he paced the garden walk, he wondered whether, in reality, he had won over Sir Roderick to his views upon the subject of that letter to the weekly journal Speculative Thought, or whether the baronet had written it in one of his sardonic humours as a sort of grim jest. He would like to know. Perhaps Sir Roderick had been laughing at him in his sleeve during those long talks in the hospital. Gruesome thought, not to be borne! But he would like to know.

“I should do no harm by running down for a day,” he thought. “I could even leave before the dinner hour, and not have to encounter Lady Pym.”

The portrait in the locket, no less than the silence on the subject of Sir Roderick’s young wife on the part of the housekeeper and Mr. Edmund Pym, had prejudiced Hugh greatly against the lady to whom he had indited that telegram. Sir Roderick’s contempt for women, too, induced the idea that L. Pym, however charming she might be, was not a woman to deserve either respect or love.

Seldom vacillating, to-day Hugh was as irresolute as any woman. One minute he resolved to accept the invitation, the next he told himself it would be better to let it stand over for the present. At last he got angry with himself, went into the house, asked Maud if he might use her davenport in the drawing-room, and presently posted a letter to Sir Roderick with his own hands, lest once more he should change his mind. In this he accepted the invitation to the Pinewood for the following Saturday morning.

Why he was reluctant to enlighten his family on this subject, he could not for the life of him make out. 24But whenever he neared it in conversation, he felt uncomfortable. The days passed. He told them all he should return to town the following Friday. But of the projected visit to the Pinewood he said not one word.

The sweet summer days came and went, one by one. Once more Hugh said good-bye, perhaps for months, to the old garden; had a farewell fish in the river, and after a reluctant parting with father and sisters, returned—to meet his strange fate.



July—, 18—.

Am I awake? Is my visit to the Pinewood a dream? No, no, it has all happened—one of the strangest experiences that ever befell mortal man.

It has been like a visit to some new world: the impressions have been so strong. It is the Pinewood which seems the reality, and this, my hospital life, a dream. To my horror, things are growing shadowy. I cannot concentrate my thoughts upon my cases; and when the fellows or the nurses ask me anything, I am not “all there.” At last the climax came this morning. An epileptic case came in, and Dr. Hildyard asked my opinion upon his diagnosis. My mind was a blank. Suddenly I could have sworn I heard a laugh—her laugh.

I will write it all down, that is what I will do; then perhaps I may forget.

I left London last Saturday week morning, in the full possession of my senses (of that I feel sure). I can remember everything—all the details of the journey down to F——, through the heathery moorland, the firwoods, the cornfields.

No one waiting at F—— station. Taking my bag, I was leaving, intending to make inquiries as to the whereabouts of the Pinewood and to walk, when an old 26coachman, perched up on the driving-seat of a high dogcart, touched his hat and said:

“The gentleman for the Pinewood?”

“I am going to the Pinewood,” I said.

“The doctor, sir, what attended Sir Roderick in London?”


I got up, and we drove off. The skittish bay (Reindeer) went like the wind at first along the smooth highroad, through snug villages, past outhouses, between hop-gardens, till we came to the hills covered with pine-forest.

“This is the Pinewood, sir,” said the old man; “as far as you can see a tree.”

That was much farther than I could see. The slopes were clad with the straight, tall trees, from slim saplings to lofty giants, until the dark green outlines of the hills melted into the lilac haze of the horizon.

Driving less quickly uphill, he told me something about his master and his habits.

“You must excuse my not believin’ in you at first sight, sir,” he said; “but so few gen’l’men comes here, and they’re not young gen’l’men, but them as pokes about after beetles or goes butterfly catching. Some goes out with a hammer, and knocks the stones about. And as for a lady—well, sir, I suppose you know Sir Roderick can’t abide the sight of a petticoat?”

I murmured something. I was certainly not going to discuss my host with one of his servants. Fortunately, we were now in the grounds.

What a dream of beauty!

Velvety, mosslike hillocks, among the stern clumps of pines; whole glades of bracken in narrow dells, fairy 27sporting grounds; then, an occasional oasis of garden, apparently growing spontaneously among the woodland. Here and there a flight of steps, leading to the shrubbery of high laurels and conifers, or a small white-stone temple; now and again a stone bench, flanked by cypresses and urns on pedestals—such a bench as one sees in the gardens in Italy.

Then, suddenly, a dip in the land to the right, disclosing a tiny park, with some beeches and elms, and in its centre a circular garden, surrounding a white-domed building.

“A chapel?” I asked.

“It was wonst,” my conductor told me; “but not in my time. We none of us knows nothink about wot’s inside. They do talk about that chapel, folks do. My opinion is, that there’s nothink in it; it just amuses Sir Roderick to tease their curiosity.”

Then a sharp turn and a short drive between thick firwoods brought us to a strange place.

A long, high wall—the wall of a solid building; for there was a porch, a door, and long, narrow windows on either side. If the whole façade had had windows it would have looked like a museum, for on the top there was a balustrade crowned at intervals with small, funereal-looking urns.

The place looked mouldy and dismal even on this glorious summer day.

“Well?” I said, for Thomas drew up before the door.

“Well, sir, if you just give that bell hanging to the right of the door a good pull, they’ll hear you.”

Did Sir Roderick’s eccentricity extend to his living in a semi-tomb? As I pulled the bell, and heard a distant, feeble clang, I looked somewhat disconsolately 28after the comfortable-looking dogcart driving away, remembering some of the ancient Greek philosophers’ predilections for doing their work among the tombs.

Out of perversity, I daresay, I felt utterly disinclined for philosophical disquisitions in this tomb-like place; in fact, I yearned for a real boyish holiday in those grounds with young, merry companions (I had better be truthful with myself).

What was my dismay when a solemn-looking old servitor in black (he had white hair and a “white choker,” and looked like a major-domo of State funerals) ushered me into a vault-like crypt. There were niches in the walls and more urns. He offered to take my bag. I clutched it tight, expecting some grim jest on the part of my host. When he said, “Will you please walk this way, sir,” and, opening a door, disclosed a long, vault-like passage, I hesitated; but he slouched off at such a rate, and the echo of his footsteps clattering on the stone pavement was so loud, I could not stop him, so I followed in silence—down a flight of stone steps, round a corner, down another darker and narrower staircase (all lighted dimly by tiny yellow-glass windows in the wall), until, when I was emerging into total darkness, I paused.

“I can’t see!” I shouted, really annoyed.

Sir Roderick could not be living underground—that was all nonsense. He was playing a trick upon me, and would think it fine fun.

“I will strike a match,” I added, crossly; but the old man pulled open a door.

The landing just below me was suddenly flooded with light. Stepping down, I turned and followed him into a large conservatory.

29What a magical change! The blue clear light from the glass dome showed up each frond of the great tree-ferns, each grand leaf of the palms, each yellow orange and white-waxen blossom of the orange-trees. Huge crimson blooms hung upon the thick festoons of the sub-tropical creeping plants, and there was my friend the Cape jessamine strengthening the warm, intoxicating perfume of the gardenias, daphnes, and, above all, of the orange-blossom.

It was a relief to be out of the scented atmosphere and in an ordinary, square hall, which had a billiard-table in the centre.

My cicerone asked me to wait; but after opening various doors and exploring several rooms, he came to me with a rueful expression.

“They was here half-an-hour ago,” he said; “but they must be out now. Lor! why they’re on the lawn. Come along, sir!”

He must have caught sight of “them” through a window. He opened the hall-door, and I saw a lawn with spreading trees, under one of which Sir Roderick was seated in a basket-chair, smoking. At his feet lay a huge mastiff. By his side sat a lady, bending over a book, her face shaded by a broad-brimmed hat.

My conductor had shut the door, and left me to my fate. I walked across the lawn, thinking to myself that under that hat was the face I had seen in Sir Roderick’s locket.

No—as she suddenly looked up—it was not the same! What! that wild-rose, tender young face, with large grey eyes, the same as that saucy, imperious minx of the portrait? No relation, I could swear it.

30“Well, Hamlet!” Sir Roderick was quite warm in his welcome.

“I didn’t look myself. No, unmistakably I did not. Overwork, of course; the foul atmosphere, too. Oh! I might say what I liked. Mine was a good hospital in its way, doubtless; but all the same, the atmosphere was a foul one. Else, why the disinfectants?”

“You mentioned some unheard-of sum that you annually spend in disinfectants, and you can’t deny it,” he said. “Well, here you will have Nature’s disinfectants—pure air, and the scent of the pines and the heather and the hay. But I have not introduced you. Lilia, this is Dr. Paull.”

The lovely girl, who wore white stuff with something red twisted round her waist, had been looking at me like children taken to the Zoo for the first time look at the wild beasts.

She did not bow to me. I felt the blood come to my face. What on earth was she staring at? Then she turned to him, and said slowly:

Doctor Paull?”

It was not flattering, but I understood.

“You are right—not Doctor,” I said. “There is much work before me before I can claim that title. I am only a medical student—”

“Bosh!” interrupted Sir Roderick. “I know what Lilia means. I never have any young men here; she expected one of the old fogies. That’s it, isn’t it, child?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “But—do you care for butterflies or beetles? No? Dear me! Oh, you are a botanist!”

I hastened to disclaim the soft impeachments.

31“Then”—she knit her brow, and looked like a child making up an old woman’s face—“then you like geology?”

I remembered Thomas’ mention of the visitors who went about with hammers, and responded gravely to my catechist.

“I prefer to look at Nature and to ask no questions,” I said.

Then there was some talk of the covered way from the road above, which my host informed me was built by his father.

“He had some peculiar pleasure in startling people,” he said. “He used to give out that he was a social hermit; and although he lived down here much like other people live, would go about in town strangely dressed and behave oddly. My poor father was very eccentric.”

He made the remark so innocently that I involuntarily glanced at his companion. She seemed unaware that there was anything naïf in those words, and met my eyes with a deep, enquiring look. I have never seen such child eyes in a woman’s face.

Then the luncheon bell rang, and I was conducted to my room by a blushing youth in livery. I was burning to know who “Lilia” was—for that brief introduction was all that I had had—but I could not ask the gauche young footman (evidently a “new hand”). So I washed my hands and wondered, as I gazed round the quaint old room. It must be an old house, although from the lawn it looked modern, and foreign, with its brilliantly white walls and bright green shutters. The flooring, though spotless, was old; the ceiling low. There was a fourposter of carved wood black with age, 32and the mahogany furniture, which shone like mirrors, was of an ancient pattern. White dimity hung about, and there was a fresh scent of lavender.

Going downstairs, I noticed that the shallow stairs were of old oak, likewise the balustrade; but the dining-room, to which Sir Roderick, who met me in the hall, escorted me, was of newer fashion—a square room with massive furniture, and hung with paintings.

“All Pyms,” said my host, following my eyes as, seated at “Lilia’s” right, I ate my soup. Then ensued some talk about the various dark visages that frowned down from the black canvases. To all appearance, misanthropy ran in the family. Most of these bilious-looking ancestors seemed to have done something strange; and the nearer they had drifted to contempt of social law, the more unctuously Sir Roderick related their exploits. Meanwhile the gentle Lilia listened with wide-open eyes and evident interest.

“But that? Surely that one is not a Pym!” I said, indicating a portrait in an oval Florentine frame that hung conspicuously over the mantelpiece—in fact, in solitary glory, while the other portraits were somewhat huddled together.

“And pray, why not?” asked my host dryly, after a moment’s pause.

I looked again. A sunbeam lighted up the laughing face of a fair young man, with large blue eyes and the very much-curved lips which always produce the effect of a sneer. To me they are painful, recalling the cruel risus sardonicus which I have never seen without distress.

“Why not?” I repeated, stupidly. “Oh! because he is so unlike all the others, I suppose.”

33“Do you not see any likeness?” he quietly asked presently, after he had carved a fowl and insisted on giving me the breast.

I looked around.

“Oh, not to the pictures—to Lilia!” he cried, impatiently.

“No, I cannot say I do,” I said, glancing at my hostess.

I smiled; but I did not feel at all like smiling. My—was it dread?—to find so young a girl the wife of so old a man made me flinch at any suggestion which strengthened such a possibility.

“They are both Pyms!” he said, quite irritably. “You have evidently no eye for likenesses. Of course, there are dark Pyms and fair Pyms. The fair Pyms are upstairs in a corridor.”

“Women,” said the fair Lilia explanatorily to me. “Papa dislikes women so much, he won’t have their portraits about him.”

I had been on the point of calling the child Lady Pym, and she was his daughter! Fool that I had been!

“Because they simper and attitudinise,” said Sir Roderick. “If they behaved as sensibly as men I should like them as well.”

“That’s not saying very much,” said Lilia, with an amused look at me. “Papa is not enamoured of his fellow-men.”

“Do you want me to be hail-fellow well-met with Tom, Dick, and Harry?” he said, frowning at the daughter who was so unlike him that I began to think more charitably of my mistake.

“You know I don’t. I like you just as you are!” 34said his daughter, looking adorable with an infantine smile of love and trust brightening her sweet face.

It was like a personal sunshine. I felt it so, later, when she deigned to shine upon me; and every time it humbled me, and made me feel coarse, clumsy, unworthy, a very clod; and now it, or the memory of it, comes back here—it shines suddenly upon a poor sufferer’s face upon the pillow, and the patient vanishes and I see Lilia.

This won’t do. I must return to my statement.

After luncheon, Sir Roderick sent me out into the grounds with his daughter. From first to last he purposely threw us together. What his motive was I cannot imagine. Motive he has: I have seen enough to know that he never acts without one.

Lilia told me so much as we wandered, first about the Italian garden just outside the dining-room windows, then across the lawns into the pinewoods. It was so difficult to check her childish confidences, which she poured out as a little creature just finding the use of its tongue will babble as it trots along holding one’s hand. They treated me, all of them, at the Pinewood, except one, of whom more presently, with simple trust; even Nero, the old mastiff, slouched along at our heels with his big tongue out, panting, as if I were an old friend. I must never, even in thought, betray that trust. I must never forget that to aspire would be a breach of that sacred confidence—never, never! On this subject I pray, as the octogenarian said in Dickens’ Haunted Man, “Lord, keep my memory green!”

She talked of her father—well and good.

“Papa has no patience with frivolity,” she said. “He only has sympathy with people who do their duty. 35That is what every one ought to feel, is it not? Ah! I thought you would say ‘Yes.’ Of course, it is much nicer when you like doing your duty, isn’t it? Those old men who come here and beetle-hunt and botanise, or go poring over the books in the library, not only like what they have to do in life, they love it. I do envy them.”

“But you—you like your life, do you not?” I asked.

Just then we came to a clearing in the wood. A giant pine, lately felled, lay prone among the ferns and mosses. She stopped.

“Let us sit down a moment,” she said; “you take my breath away.”

She seated herself on the trunk, looking like the embodied spirit of the pinewood in her white gown. Nero stood for a few minutes watching me as I sat down beside her, then slouched up and lay down at his mistress’ feet, one eye fixed on me. Evidently this proceeding was new to him. The botanists and gentlemen of the hammer did not care to sit on felled trunks and talk with the daughter of the house.

“I said that,” she went on, “because it was just as if you knew how treasonable my thoughts have been lately. I have actually been wishing to travel, and see the world!”

I asked her what treason there was in that.

“Such an idea, in me, is treason itself!” she said, almost indignantly—“when my father despises the world, and would rather anything should happen than that I should go beyond the Pinewood.”

Then I was amazed by the disclosure that this sweet young creature had lived all her life shut up in the Pinewood, 36almost as much a prisoner as a princess in a fairy-tale immured in a high tower. Her only companions and friends had been her nurses, the clergyman and his wife, and her cousin Roderick, the fair young man with a sneer whose portrait I had said to be unlike the Pyms.

Without governesses or tutors, Lilia has managed to learn a great deal. Latin and Greek are not dead languages to her, and she and her father chatter away in Italian like natives. But in the ordinary affairs of life, poor dear child, how ignorant she is!

Sitting there with myself, still almost an absolute stranger, she spoke out her heart as if I were a dear old friend returned after a long separation, and actually asked my advice. Mine!

It seemed that she had mentioned this desire to see other places to her cousin Roderick, who was a favourite nephew of her father’s, although he would not have anything to do with his family. She and this Roderick had been brought up together like brother and sister playing and sympathising and bickering in the usual fashion. Only when she had confided her treasonable ideas to him had he shocked her by a supplementary suggestion, which seemed to have made a terrible impression upon her.

“We have quarrelled, and never, never can be the same again,” she told me in much agitation. “My father does not know it, and has asked Roderick to dinner to meet you. What shall I do?”

She was quite tragic. I could hardly help smiling. But seeing how sensitive she was—a natural sensibility greatly increased by a life of unnatural seclusion—I repressed a smile, and said:

37“See your cousin before dinner, and ‘make it up,’ as the children say.”

“Oh, I couldn’t!” she said, in distress. “He won’t make it up.”

“Then you have tried him?”

She nodded.

“It has been a dreadful shock to me,” she said. “If you knew, you would understand.”

After a little coaxing, she spoke, or rather blurted out:

“If you must know—he actually—asked me—to marry him!”

Nothing so very dreadful, I suppose; but, under the circumstances, rash, to say the least—for Lilia admitted that her father was in total ignorance.

“He would never look at Roderick again,” she assured me. “Don’t say ‘nonsense.’ I tell you he would not. I am never to marry!”

“Why not?” I asked, perversely.

She looked at me almost with indignation.

“Marriage means misery,” she said, oracularly.

“You mean, that Sir Roderick thinks it does,” I suggested.

“He knows it,” she said, with emphasis, below her breath.

I was silent with confusion. The next word, and Lilia might unbosom herself of secrets not her own—sacred to her father—not from any malice aforethought, but through the spontaneity to which she was bred by that very father. It behoved me to be cautious.

“I really should tell Sir Roderick if I were you,” I hazarded. “It is only what he would reasonably expect. Cousins often marry. The contingency must have occurred to him.”

38At that moment I was inclined to think that such an issue might even have been planned by my self-sufficient host.

“I thought you knew him!” she cried, recoiling from me a little.

Nero got up and stood between us, looking suspiciously at me.

I explained, apologetically, that although Sir Roderick and I had talked over the questions of humanity in the abstract, we had not arrived at the domestic problems.

“The most important of all,” she said, somewhat pompously.

“Granted,” I said. “And problems that can, unfortunately, only be solved by individual experience.”

“Ah! you acknowledge that,” she said, with a sort of exultation. “You really uphold my father’s theory—that the risk is too great. He loves both Roderick and myself so well that he has preached the delights of celibacy to us ever since I can recollect.”

“His preaching has had more effect upon you than upon your cousin, evidently,” I suggested.

“I fear so,” she said, in a sorrowful tone which reproached me for my feeling this talk, so seriously in her estimation, almost absurd. “Poor, dear Roderick! I would rather do anything than ‘sneak,’ as he used to call it. But papa will be sure to notice something.”

“Cannot you act—pretend?” I hazarded.

She shook her head.

“I never tried,” she said; “it has never been necessary.”

“I daresay he will be equal to the occasion,” I said. “Your cousin is in the army, is he not? Oh! he is 39captain already? He has told you a good deal about life in camp, in barracks?”

“Lots,” she said.

(Doubtless lots, Captain Pym!)

“Well, you know, officers can be silent when necessary, and know how to veil their opinions and feelings.” (I yearned to say, “know how to tell lies,” but checked myself.) “If I were you, I should be just the same to him to-night: I should ignore his unlucky suggestion, and behave exactly as if he had never made it.”

Lilia resolved to take my advice, and we strolled in the gardens and into the enclosed park. I tried to find out something about the chapel in the circular garden, but she was evidently on guard.

I thought of her, dear child, while I was dressing. How few real friends she could have had! These Mervyns, the rector and his wife, seemed the only ones. I was anxious to see them. They had been invited for the evening. Lilia told me “they never would come to dinner; it was no use asking them.”

I went downstairs very soon after the second dressing bell rang. The drawing-room, which is all chocolate-colour, white, and gilding, struck me as like a picture I had recently seen. The room was lighted by short, thick wax-candles in wall candelabra. In the middle of the room an enormous china bowl of white roses on a round black table perfumed the air. The other object which attracted my attention was a huge grand piano in ebony.

I was just going round to ascertain the maker’s name, when someone jumped up from an easy-chair—Captain Roderick.

40“Hulloa!” he said (he had a newspaper in his hand), “it’s Mr. Paull, isn’t it?”

I shook hands with him. A prodigiously good-looking fellow, this cousin, and good company. It was a lively dinner-table. Lilia, child as she is, soon cast aside the stately manner she had put on outside the drawing-room door when she came sailing in to interrupt our tête-à-tête; and she laughed and talked with us all till over dessert we none of us noticed how time fled, until the footman announced that “Mr. and Mrs. Mervyn were in the drawing-room, and coffee was served.”

Mr. Mervyn, the clergyman of the parish, is a tall, dark man with white hair and keen black eyes. His wife is one of those large, soft, fair women with gentle faces and sweet manners, who can nevertheless be stern and unflinching when there is a question of right and wrong—the very woman for a sick nurse.

While we men talked over our coffee, Roderick sat down to the piano and sang: little Italian folk-songs and German lieder. When he was singing, there was a simplicity about him that gave him a likeness to her. She hung over the piano, and seemed almost to forget where she was. When I remembered her confidences a few hours ago, I was puzzled.

Did she love him—or his music?

Presently, my question was answered. When he had sung half-a-dozen chansonnettes, he rose and came across to us.

“You like music, doctor?” he asked.

“I like yours,” I said emphatically.

“Has Lilia sung to you yet?” he asked.

“No, and I do not intend to,” said the young lady, 41jumping up from the sofa where she was sitting by Mrs. Mervyn, and joining us.

“And pray why not?” asked Sir Roderick.

She shook her head and turned aside. For a minute or two I naturally felt embarrassed. But I saw that Mrs. Mervyn was expostulating with her, and presently, after I had taken part in a conversation suddenly started by Mr. Mervyn on the strange vagaries of nervous diseases, apropos of an afflicted poor person he wished me to see, Lilia rose and came back, looking penitent.

“Can I speak?” she began, humbly, when a pause came. “Thanks! I will sing for you with pleasure, Mr. Paull.”

“Not unless you tell us the reason of your extraordinary caprice,” said Sir Roderick, half-bantering, half annoyed. “Come, out with it!”

“You insist, papa?” She spoke pleadingly.

“I do.”

“Mr. Paull reminds me of that dreadful time you were ill—away. I could not sing anything lively; I should choke.”

It was good to see the expression on that old man’s face. There was such a royal content on his fine old features as he looked up at his child.

“Sing one of your morbidities, then,” he said. “Ha! I know! Sing Hamlet that little Danish song. He ought to like that, naturally.” He was suddenly in high good humor.

She went obediently to the piano, took off her long mittens and bracelets (which she handed to Roderick as a matter of course), and sang a sweet, weird melody to Ophelia’s pitiful verses; sang it simply, with a clear, noble voice, the voice of a human being with a great soul.

42It affected me, and I think that my emotion was the cause of my curious nervous condition that night.

We retired to our rooms pretty early. My old-looking chamber, with the blackened mahogany furniture, was flooded with moonlight. I had no intention of dreaming thoughts of the day over again all night long, as I have done when sleep has followed some hours’ concentration of thought on one subject; so I had borrowed a book from Sir Roderick—a treatise on “Somnambulism and other irregular manifestations of the Nervous Force,” translated from a work by some Dutch writer, name unknown, which he had spoken of.

Armed with this, I subsided into my feather-bed. (That feather-bed had something to do with what followed, I believe. I here vow myself to further the abolition of feather-beds; they should be taxed, and heavily.) I placed two candles on the little table by my bed, propped myself up against my pillows, and began to read.

The first chapters of the ponderous tome were soon dismissed. Exploded pathology and ancient fallacies filled Part I. of the Dutchman’s treatise. Had I felt at all sleepy, I should have laid down the book there and then, and have chaffed Sir Roderick next day for recommending me such old-fashioned stuff. But I felt absurdly wideawake. So I went on.

The introductory page to Part II. of the volume startled me somewhat. At first I doubted my eyesight. But there, sure enough, were the words—


“What does he mean, the fool?” I thought, turning over. I soon knew.

43The man, whoever he may have been, believed in that doctrine of transmigration, attributed in its raw state to Pythagoras, who is by some thought to have learnt it from the Egyptians; a fantastic notion which is still believed in by many Easterns, notably by the Buddhists.

This Dutchman spoke of the soul (the “breath of God”) as being born again and again, according to its moral progress; incarnations being its rule, until it should become sufficiently purified to be reabsorbed into the atmosphere of Divinity (something very like the Nirvana of Buddhism). I smiled, and thought that, judging by the people I had met, the world (according to the Dutchman) is likely to be well populated for a good many years to come.

“By their fruits shall ye know them,” wrote the Hollander, who was addicted to quotations, especially from Holy Writ. The good man, in enumerating the fatal signs of future reincarnation in individuals (whom he spoke of compassionately, for he evidently regarded human life as the greatest of ills), mentioned two particular signs, frivolity and self-absorption. Frivolity he seemed to hold in special abhorrence, as being so very far away from any attribute that might be termed eternal or divine.

This chapter “On the Age of Souls” was such diverting reading, that I grew wider and wider awake. At last, when two o’clock struck, I got up and dressed.

Looking out of window, the garden, bathed in moonlight, was such a ravishing sight that I thought—Why not go out for a stroll?

I would. I blew out my candles (I am certain I did), and opening my bedroom door as quietly as possible, 44crept downstairs, shoes in hand. Did ever stairs creak like those? Certainly not in my experience. Wondering where the dog Nero was, and whether he would be as amiably disposed towards a midnight marauder as he was towards his master’s guest in broad daylight, I gained the hall.

Then I remembered the bolts and bars. Should they be in as noisy a humour as the stairs, I should have to give up and go back—not to that hot feather-bed, but to my room.

Without in the least thinking it possible that the door to the garden would be unlocked, I tried the handle.

To my surprise, the door was unlocked. I was so astonished, that I stood there for a whole minute thinking how foolhardy was Sir Roderick, or how culpably careless were his servants. Open gates to the grounds, open doors to the house! It was positively inviting burglars to do their worst!

I thought of this as I walked along the white path, which crackled under my feet. I wanted to get out of sight and out of the hearing of any wakeful member of the household, so I went on and on, disregarding the tempting odour of the orange-blossoms in the Italian garden, the tempting sight of the terrace, with its white marble urns, benches, straight cypresses, and picturesque aloes, and was soon in the pinewood, among the gloomy trees.

It was gloomy. Standing still to listen, the silence was oppressive. Then, all of a sudden, there was a shrill skreel that made me start; and some bird, I suppose, came flapping out of the darkness and went fluttering away into the shadow. It must have been a 45bird, although it looked too big even to be a giant owl or a raven.

I laughed at my scared sensation, and walked briskly onward. Presently I came to a clearing where the grass was mown, and there was a bench against a clump of tall laurels.

I was going towards this with the intention of resting awhile, when I stopped short. A lady was seated in the corner, in the shadow.

Good heavens! It might be Lilia! She was just the girl to wander about out of doors on a hot night. I did not know whether I was glad or sorry when the being rose and came towards me. To my amazement, I saw a very graceful woman, in a white gown of some stuff which shimmered in the moonlight. A veil of black gauze or lace was about her head and neck.

“You are not—angry?” she said in a slow way; she had a foreign accent. “Come, I must speak.”

As she said the word “must,” she actually placed her hand on my arm in the most familiar way, and half led me across the grass plat.

“We will go to the terrace and talk,” she said presently, in quite an imperious manner.

I was so numbed by surprise, that I had gone passively with her some distance along the path that led away from the house or grounds before I had made up my mind what to do. She was no ghost. As she pressed close against my arm, I felt solidity and warmth. Then it flashed across me. She was dressed in quite queenly fashion. Of course! An escaped lunatic from a well-known private asylum in the neighbourhood. I stopped, withdrew her hand gently and respectfully, and suggested that she must be very tired.

46“Allow me to take you home, princess,” I said, haphazard.

I had seemingly struck the right chord.

“Do not call me that any more!” she said, passionately. “I am less than you! Far less!”

Once more she took my arm, and hurried me along an uphill path I had not seen. To our left, below us, was the park, with the round chapel in the garden; to our right was a plateau, a long, wide, grassy avenue, with fine trees on either side.

My strange companion turned abruptly to the right, and almost dragged me along a grassy path that went straight to the end of the avenue, between beds of overgrown shrubs and tangled weeds. My wits were returning. I felt inclined to go through with the adventure. She was evidently a lady. There was no hidden danger, I felt that.

Half-way up this avenue there was a broken-down fountain. Around was a circular grass plat. As we reached this the lady relinquished my arm, stepped back, and began speaking rapidly in a language I have not yet heard. At the end, she seized my hand, and before I could snatch it away, kissed it.

I felt horribly unnerved. I begged her to let me take her home.

“It is by far too late for you to be here—alone,” I said.

“Late?” she cried, in English. “It is not late!”

“It must be three o’clock,” I said.

Then I took out my watch and tried to see it in the moonlight. Just as I did so, a clock struck three.

“You hear?” I said, turning round.

She was not there!

47It gave me a shock. Then I remembered how swift and noiseless lunatics can be. There had been time enough for her to slip away under the trees. First, I listened. Not a sound; not the rustle of a falling leaf, not the crackle of a twig. Then I searched, and called; until a sudden uncanny sensation that I was the subject of some temporary delirium sent me, flying almost, towards the house.

I was thankful to see its white walls, to find the door open, and to gain my room.

As soon as I had done so, I felt such sudden fatigue that I got back into bed again as quickly as I could, and fell asleep directly.

I have set this down just as it seemed to me to be happening, neither more nor less.

Now comes the, to me, most curious part.

I was awakened by the footman bringing me the hot water. After he had gone out of the room, I turned to get up, when my attention was arrested by the china candlesticks on the table by the bed. The candles were burnt out, and the china rims were blackened.

“I put those out; I could have sworn it,” I said to myself. I remembered noticing the peculiar shape of one of the gutterings. It was like a monkey crawling up a stick. Could I have lit them on my return? I thought. No! I remembered throwing off my clothes in the moonlight, my eyelids weighed down by sudden drowsiness.

While I had my bath and dressed I pondered. No result came from my ponderings.

Then I heard fresh young voices, and hurried my dressing. Some feeling urged me to interrupt a bantering tête-à-tête between Roderick and Lilia. Going down, 48I found them in the hall: Lilia was standing against the billiard-table, frowning; Roderick was talking earnestly to her. He stopped speaking when I came in. She blushed.

Why blush? It was no business of mine, of course; but I did not wish to find that charming young creature utterly inconsistent. And any parleying from a lover point of view, with her cousin, after yesterday’s confidences, would prove her undeniably inconsistent.

But the blush faded, and she looked grave when she saw me.

“I am afraid you have had a bad night, Dr. Paull,” she said, kindly.

“Why?” I asked, nodding back good-morning to Captain Pym.

“You look so tired.”

I vouchsafed that I had an early morning stroll, and spoke of the unfastened door.

“The door into the garden?”

She looked amazed; and then walked to that door and tried it.

“It is locked and bolted now, whatever it was then,” she said.

I joined her, and sure enough it was.

“The omission must have been found out and rectified,” I said.

Indeed, I was absolutely certain on that point. That door was unchained and unbolted at two o’clock that morning.

She was concerned, and begged me as a favour not to mention the fact to her father. I did not. He just came into the hall then, and we went in to breakfast.

After breakfast, Captain Pym took leave, and started 49for the camp. Sir Roderick settled, in his dogmatic way, that after church (this was Sunday) Lilia should take me round the grounds. He seemed astonished that I should wish to accompany her to morning service.

“I thought you and I agreed on those subjects,” he said. “I had been looking forward to a pipe and a chat while Lilia was on her knees trying to propitiate her Fetishes.”

“Just as you please,” I said.

Glancing at Lilia, I fancied she looked disappointed. But Fancy seemed to have got me in a vice and to shake me like a dog shakes a rat, all the time I was at the Pinewood.

It was settled I should accompany her. Meanwhile I went into the study with Sir Roderick, and presently we got upon the subject of the Dutchman’s treatise.

“How did you like it?” he asked.

“It is hardly a question of liking,” I said. “The man is as illogical as Swedenborg, without the originality or the power.”

He looked surprised.

“How?” he said.

“That chapter ‘On the Age of Souls’ seems to me almost an absurdity,” I could not help saying.

“On what?” he said, taking his long pipe from his mouth, and staring curiously at me.

I repeated what I had said, adding comments on the extravagance of that part of the treatise.

He shook his head, puzzled.

“You must be dreaming,” he said. “I have no book in my library containing stuff of that sort. Where is it?”

50I offered to fetch it, but he had already sounded his hand-gong, and James was sent for the volume.

He was absent but a minute, but the time seemed long to me. Sir Roderick puffed away at his pipe, with an amused smile which was peculiarly exasperating.

His hand went out for the volume as soon as James appeared, and of course the young man gave it to his master, who carefully looked it through, then handed it to me.

“I cannot find this redoubtable chapter,” he said; “perhaps you can. But I flattered myself I knew the book well.”

I began at the beginning, turning over the pages carefully one by one, and recognising what I had read overnight. By the time I had come to the end of the first chapter I felt more assured. But when I turned over to the second, it was totally unfamiliar. I had certainly never read a word of it before; and its heading was “On Ordinary Somnambulism.”

I went on turning the pages, feeling as if I was bewitched, until I came to the end; but there was no chapter that even alluded to any doctrine of transmigration, and certainly no heading bearing the faintest resemblance to that curious title, “On the Age of Souls.”

“It is most extraordinary!” I cried. “I could swear to having read what I told you about. I remember the very words and the quaint turning of the phrases.”

He asked me how I had read it; then laughed at me.

“I hit the mark when I said you were dreaming, Hamlet,” he said. “It has often happened to me to continue thinking after dropping asleep, and nice bathos the thoughts are!”

51He dismissed the matter as a joke; but it was no joke to me. I was bewildered. When I think of it now the bewilderment is greater, the sense of confused perceptions more alarming.

During the talk which followed, I tried to gain a clue to the strange lady I met in the grounds. I casually alluded to the asylum in the neighbourhood, and asked if the authorities there were not almost lax in their vigilance.

“I cannot help thinking that I met an escaped madwoman, when I was taking a walk early this morning,” I said. “She looked, and I think must be, insane.”

“You could not have met a lady patient of Dr. Walters’, my dear Hamlet,” said Sir Roderick.

I asked, “Why not?”

“For a very good reason, the best of reasons,” he replied: “he hasn’t any. He only takes men. In which, I may add, he shows his wisdom, for female lunatics are the most disgusting creatures on earth. Pah! let us change the subject.”

I was only too glad. But I was not in the least fit for a scientific discussion with my host. I felt a dread gradually investing me—a dread lest I should find that the deserted spot the strange lady dragged me to last night actually existed in the grounds.

If I should come upon it just as it was, I should believe in my adventure as a fact. In that case, how about the missing chapter “On the Age of Souls”? For if my adventure actually happened, I was not asleep and dreaming immediately beforehand; at all events, it was extremely improbable that I was.

I was getting considerably strung up, when a tap came at the door, and Lilia came in, fresh, sweet in her 52muslin summer dress, like Dawn dispelling the dismal darkness of my thoughts.

“A quarter-past ten, and service begins at eleven,” she said.

“And it is about seven minutes’ walk to the church. Sit down, we are talking,” said Sir Roderick, dictatorially.

She looked wistfully at me.

“I thought you wanted to see the grounds,” she said.

“So I do, very much indeed,” I said.

My host did not look best pleased. He little knew what was in my mind.

Nor did she, sweet girl, as we started; and she would stop here and there to show me some choice foreign shrub or some new plant, or the view from this or that particular spot. All the time I was wondering how I should introduce the subject of the neglected plateau with the broken-down fountain.

The opportunity came.

“Your father does not allow any part of his shrubberies to run wild,” I said; “but I fancied I saw a wild-looking spot among the pines, where there were neglected flower-beds and the grass was unmown.”

She shook her head.

“I don’t know of any place about like that,” she said, reflectively. “No! I am sure that none of the flower-beds have weeds. Papa hates weeds: and weeding gives employment to people who cannot do much else.”

I had hardly time to be reassured by this support of the theory that the events of last night meant nightmare and nothing else, when we suddenly came upon 53that clearing with the grass plat. That bench under the laurels, where the lady had been sitting, was there. It was the same spot I had seen by moonlight—the very same.

“I come here and read sometimes on summer afternoons,” said Lilia, looking up at me innocently. “Why, what is the matter, Mr. Paull? You are frowning.”

“I was thinking that this is rather a damp place,” I said, “and cheerless looking.”

“Not to me,” she said. “But I only come here on really sultry days. When it is simply mild, I prefer the terrace. You haven’t seen the terrace. Do come, it has a history.”

The terrace! The terrace with a history! So it was not a dream; no, something far more disagreeable. Then and there I began to wonder whether I had not hit upon a family mystery. As we strolled along the path I had walked over but a few hours since with an unknown lady hanging familiarly upon my arm, I was imagining a possible elucidation of my mystery. Lilia’s mother—of whom I had heard absolutely nothing—perhaps mentally afflicted, shut up in some cottage or house on the estate, and wandering by night? Other even more extravagant ideas occurred to me.

No! that idea was untenable, for my moonlight acquaintance was indisputably a very young woman, almost a girl.

At that moment we came to the upward path leading to the plateau. I recognised it at once. Below was the park, with the chapel.

But—yes, it was the plateau, but not as I had seen it. The trees were pruned, the grass-walks smooth as green velvet, the flower-beds brilliant with blossom.

54“We often have tea here, papa and I,” said Lilia. “The story goes that this was the flower-garden of the old house two hundred years ago, and that they used to have afternoon gatherings here, like the garden-parties people have now.”

She must have thought me abnormally stupid that Sunday morning. When I saw a marble fountain, with water splashing into a basin where gold-fish were swimming, instead of the wrecked, broken-down object in my dream, I took refuge in silence; and as soon as I could, I left the uncanny spot. Whether I had dreamt of it, or of some place like it, of that I felt sure—the spot was uncanny.

While we walked through the wood towards the church, Lilia talked, but I heard little of what she said. She was telling me some story of a duel between the former proprietor of the Pinewood and a supposed friend, which had taken place on the terrace, and the chapel below was erected in memory of the event. If it was not exactly this, it was very much like it; and really I do not care. All that I want now is to find out whether my brain played me false that night, and whether I am likely to be the victim of brain disease if I go on working as hard as I have worked.

That darling girl! How good she was to me, how patient!

In spite of my inward anxiety, I shall always remember that Sunday with pleasure. The little whitewashed church, with the honest rustics singing hearty hymns to the quavering organ, while sunbeams came and went upon the walls, and the quivering foliage of an elm in the churchyard cast green lights upon my open prayer-book. The Mervyns are nice people. Mrs. Mervyn is a 55trifle too sharp, perhaps; I saw her eyes fixed upon me now and then with rather too scrutinising an expression. But it is very pretty, almost touching, to see her ways with that motherless girl. She loves her really, the good woman! When we were walking in the garden, Lilia and Mr. Mervyn strolling on in front of us, she was so good as to tell me she was glad I had come.

“Lilia knows so few young people, and no girls,” she said. “It is a law of her father’s, and always has been. Poor dear child! she is really not fit to face the world. She knows absolutely nothing of it.”

“Let us hope she may not be called upon to face the world,” I said.

[Here the written pages in a notebook of Hugh Paull’s abruptly ended.]



“Dr. Hildyard wishes to see you, sir.”

“Where is the doctor?” Hugh asked, putting aside the notebook in which he was writing.

A short, square man, with shaggy grey hair and keen blue eyes, came bustling in.

“How are you, Paull? Want a few words with you on private business.”

“Certainly,” said Hugh, bringing up a chair; but the doctor impatiently waved his hand.

“No, no! I ought to be miles away as it is. Do you remember that case of Sir Roderick Pym?”

Did he remember it? But the doctor was utterly unconscious that he was ironical.

“Ah! Well, you pulled him round, and watched his progress so closely that I should be glad of your opinion in a case of mine, very like his.”

Dr. Hildyard detailed the case, which was one of concussion similar to Sir Roderick’s; and the next time Hugh was off duty he accompanied the well-known specialist to see his patient, a middle-aged lady, whose brougham had been overturned by collision with a dray-cart.

He felt the distinction of his opinion being sought by so great a man keenly, but kept this most unusual 57honour a secret, even when writing home. Meanwhile, he gave his opinion modestly, but firmly. That opinion was in favour of a different course of treatment to the one pursued by Dr. Hildyard.

Dr. Hildyard modified his treatment, and liked the young man all the more for speaking frankly. A frank, bold man himself, he hated sycophants.

When, a few weeks later, the patient died, he said:

“Perhaps, after all, Paull, your treatment might have brought her round.”

Events worked curiously in Hugh’s life from first to last. Sir Roderick’s accident had brought about his meeting with Lilia, of whom he constantly thought, although he had not written—after his first note to announce his safe return to Sir Roderick—and he had not received any communication from the Pinewood. It had also led to this special notice from Dr. Hildyard; and that special notice brought about a strange rencontre, which was destined to be of lasting import in his extraordinary life.

It had been an unusually busy time in the hospital. Still, he was so much haunted by thoughts and memories of the Pinewood, and his experiences there, that, to distract himself, he gave every spare hour to the treatise he was writing when Sir Roderick’s accident changed the current of his thoughts.

He was at his desk one morning, when a note was brought to him from Dr. Hildyard, asking him, as a special favour, to dine with him that evening (one of his “evenings off”).

Seven o’clock found him dining tête-à-tête with the genial specialist, in his house in B—— Street. The family were away.

58The doctor, never at any time a lover of social ceremony, dismissed the servants as soon as possible, and then told Hugh what he wanted of him.

“I have a most interesting but puzzling case,” he said. “There are some nice people I know in the neighbourhood, the widow of a general practitioner and her two daughters, who add to a small income by letting lodgings. I generally send them patients of mine who come up from the country for treatment. The other day a doctor in Stainbury, an old friend of mine, wrote to me. A sad accident had occurred at the theatre there, during the performance of an opera by a travelling company. A scenic staircase, or tower, or something, had given way, and the young lady who was singing had a remarkably awkward fall. Her spine was not fatally injured, but the concussion had been followed by symptoms so new to him that he wished to send the case on to me, provided he could raise a subscription. The girl was poor and friendless, etcetera. Well, of course, I was only too glad to do what I could. I wrote back, if he would see to her removal here, and could get some of his rich friends and patients to help a bit, I would see to her for nothing, and her lodging could be paid out of a fund I keep going for poor patients. You see, Paull, sometimes matters go very well very unexpectedly with my special cases. (I was going to say our special cases, for I see you are doomed to nerve specialism.) Then the patient’s friends often get gushing. Some gush in words, but some wish to ‘give me some little token,’ as they call it. Then, when I know they can afford it, I bring out the account book of the poor patients’ fund, and get a handsome subscription or donation, or both. Well, the girl came up, 59and has been with Mrs. Draper for the last three weeks. They are very kind to her. She has a nurse, of course. But we make no progress. To-day I feared she was sinking.”

At first, Hugh excused himself, almost with a fear that Dr. Hildyard’s opinion of his ability was a hallucination.

Did some warning of the influence this incident was to have upon his future make him feel so strong a disinclination to meet the doctor’s wishes to-night, and visit his interesting patient with him? Oftentimes, in after years, he thought back, and asked himself that question, which none could answer.

It was bad enough to be called upon to pronounce on a case which had been a perplexing one to Dr. Hildyard.

It was only after further talk on the part of the doctor, who insisted on the fact of the peculiar insight Hugh had shown on various occasions being no credit to its owner—in fact, being perhaps somewhat of a drawback to the development of talents which were necessary to the making of a sound medical man, that the young surgeon gave way.

Almost as soon as he had reluctantly consented, the butler announced that the carriage was at the door.

“It is a mere stone’s-throw,” said Dr. Hildyard, as they drove through the lamplit streets. “We might have walked; but it is raining very fast now, and I promised to drive you back, if you remember.” Then he chatted away very fast till the brougham turned the corner and stopped before a tall house in a street leading out of a well-known West-end square.

“Here we are,” said the doctor. “How is Miss 60Morton to-night?” he asked of the neat parlourmaid, who opened the door. “Oh, there is nurse!”

A tall young lady, in the dark dress and picturesque cap and apron of a professional nurse, appeared on the first landing.

“Come up,” said Dr. Hildyard to Hugh, running up the stairs. “Nurse, this is the medical friend I spoke about this morning.”

Hugh followed the nurse and doctor, feeling as if in some strange dream. Truly, of late, his hitherto humdrum and monotonous life had changed—had utterly changed.

“As if Fate had overlooked me—poor insignificant unit—until now, and had pounced upon me with a vengeance, and intent to make up for lost time,” he thought.

They were conducted to a second-floor sitting-room—a comfortable room enough, with flowers and pretty knick-knacks about—while the nurse went into the next room, the sick chamber.

Coming back, “She is quite ready,” she said, addressing Dr. Hildyard.

You see her,” he said, shortly, to Paull.

“Without you?” Hugh was astonished.


Dr. Hildyard sat down at the table and took up a newspaper that was lying there. There was a peremptoriness in his voice and manner which forbade Hugh’s further questioning. He paused a moment, then turned and followed the nurse into the next room.

It was large, bright, airy, and cheerful, with its light maple furniture and white hangings. Coloured engravings of pleasant subjects hung on the walls. After the 61bare wards of the hospital, Hugh felt that it would be almost a luxury to go through an illness here.

He changed his mind when he saw his patient. No face among the many he had watched lying on the hospital pillows had looked as pitiable as this. The girl was beautiful, even now that the pallor of her oval face was as the pallor of the dead, that her delicately-shaped nose was pinched and transparent in the light of the shaded lamp at her bedside; and her large, dark eyes had the solemn, wondering expression he had so often seen on the faces of the dying. In health she must have been—lovely, a “perfect woman, nobly planned.”

She made no remark when the nurse told her it was Dr. Hildyard’s wish that this gentleman should see her, but meekly submitted, answering Hugh’s questions in a clear though feeble voice. In about twenty minutes Hugh returned to Dr. Hildyard.

“Well?” said the doctor.

Hugh closed the door and came towards him. “I cannot find the slightest physical cause for this extraordinary debility,” he said. Then he was silent.

“And that is all you can say?” asked Dr. Hildyard.

“All—but—something very unscientific.”

Dr. Hildyard uncrossed and recrossed his legs. “Well! but, my dear fellow, it is just your impressions that I want,” he said, almost impatiently. “I can form conclusions for myself. In fact, I want your medical instinct.”

“I—know,” said Hugh, deprecatingly. His eyes had the glaze of intense preoccupation. “Of—course—you—have formed scientific conclusions. I—only seem to—see. And I saw—a peculiarly delicate and sensitive temperament, with a deep, strong ego beneath. 62The girl has been deeply wounded, so deeply—I am speaking of her mental nature, not of her body—that, if I were you, I should think it cruel to keep her alive.”

They talked in subdued tones for some minutes. They continued the discussion while Dr. Hildyard accompanied Hugh to the hospital gates, which he entered, pledged to the physician to watch the case for the next few days.

The next day he appropriated the dining hour of the hospital staff to his visit to the sick girl. The nurse was reading to her when he entered the room. She was an intelligent, sweet-faced woman, and spoke quite tenderly of her charge when she followed Hugh into the sitting-room, after he had concluded his visit to the patient.

“I cannot understand the poor girl, Mr. Paull,” she said, confidentially. “She seems slowly sinking. The first animation she has shown was to-day, when I was trying to cheer her up a bit by telling her some little family anecdotes. I was just showing her the portrait of a scapegrace brother of mine, who ran away and enlisted, when she gave a start—a wild look at me—and fainted.”

Hugh asked to see the portrait. It was the photograph of a young man in uniform—an ugly likeness of the nurse’s, his sister. He was evidently quite young, and very uninteresting in appearance.

“He is not much like you,” said Hugh, cautiously. “I seem to know that uniform, though. What is his regiment?”

“The 45th Fusiliers,” she said. “They are at Aldershot now. My brother called here to see me the other day.”

63“Can there—could there, by any possibility, be any acquaintance between your brother and our patient?” suggested Hugh.

Nurse Bryant completely negatived the idea. Her brother had enlisted in a huff. He had been very silly about his employer’s daughter, and there had been a family row, which was the actual cause of his taking the Queen’s shilling.

“Has she not confided in you—I mean about her family—her affairs?” asked Hugh. “Has she told you—nothing?”

“Not—one—word—not even a hint,” emphatically said the nurse.

Miss Bryant confessed herself more absolutely ignorant of the dying girl’s antecedents, as well as of her actual thoughts and feelings, than she had been of those of any patient up to the present time.

“Try and gain her confidence,” was Hugh’s urgent advice to the nurse. He returned to the hospital more than usually thoughtful.

Next day, when he visited her, he asked her whether she had any dread as to the termination of her illness.

A faint colour rose to her cheek. “Oh!” she said, clutching nervously at the sheet with her emaciated fingers, “do you think I shall die?”

It was the hopeful eagerness with which patients generally asked him, “Do you think I shall get well?” Hugh began to see light.

“You speak almost as if you did not wish to live,” he said gravely. “Surely that cannot be. You are young, and neither I nor Dr. Hildyard think that there is any real reason why you should not be restored to your old active life, and to your friends.”

64Her eyelids drooped. “I have—no—friends,” she said, with effort. “I left my elder sister and brother, and went on the stage. They have not forgiven me. I have no parents. They are dead.”

“But——” Hugh hesitated a moment. “You know I have heard all about you,” he said. “You were making success after success in various provincial towns—you must have already had scores of admiring friends among the public when that unfortunate accident occurred.”

“Accident!” she said, scornfully. “That was no accident.”

“It could not possibly have been anything else,” said, Hugh, warmly. “No human being could have been so brutal——”

“No one—was—brutal,” she said; her breathing rapid with the fatigue and excitement of speaking. “I—did it—myself. I—flung myself down—and pulled the scene—with me. It came to me—suddenly. I felt I could not live—any—longer.”

Her great shining eyes were dry—but their agonising wistfulness was more piteous than tears. Hers was evidently some incurable grief. Hugh felt disinclined to probe further. Still, he spoke gently and comfortingly to the poor child—the friendless, motherless girl. He said, truly, that he felt no doubt but that her rash act was the consequence of overstrain. Were she to die now, or later on, she would not, in his opinion, be guilty of the frightful crime of self-murder. Then he asked her, seeing that her troubled expression remained, whether she would like to see a clergyman.

“Then you do believe I shall die?” she said, a sudden light crossing her face like a sunbeam. “Oh, thank God!”

65Hugh nearly started up from his chair. Certainly the mental state of this poor young creature was a new experience. What should he say—or do? She saved any hesitation by seizing his hand in her burning fingers.

“Promise me,” she said, “that you will do something for me after I am dead.”

Once more Hugh hesitated. He would not promise anything, or bind himself to anything, until he knew the whole truth about that which he might undertake (he would even not say would undertake).

Then the truth came out. It was the old story—love, deception, and the inevitable parting of sinner and sinned against. Olive (that was his patient’s Christian name) had met her hero at a musical party. He had been interested in her singing, and had become a frequent visitor at her brother’s house. He persuaded her brother to allow her to live in London for a time, to study, and himself recommended persons who would, he said, care for her as their own daughter during that time.

She went to London, and saw her lover as often as he could contrive to come to town. She considered herself engaged to him; he even went so far as to fix their marriage. But all was to be kept secret. Her preparation for the stage was also kept secret, her future husband promising her marriage immediately after her first appearance. This she made at a theatre in Ireland. Her lover was present—but the next morning she received a letter from him telling her that all must be over between them. He found that their marriage would ruin his career, and he begged her, if she had any affection for him at all, never to see or write to him again, 66and, forgetting him, to accept the profession he had planned for her instead of a husband. Brokenhearted, she wrote a long letter to her sister, which was answered by her brother in the harshest terms, telling her she had made her own bed and must lie on it.

After that she roused herself, worked hard, and achieved many triumphs. Then came bitterness, desolation of soul, and the sudden fit of despairing frenzy during which she had attempted suicide on the stage.

She entreated Hugh to take charge of a sealed packet after her death. There would be no address on the outside—but she begged him, after breaking the seals, to send the packet, unopened, to the person to whom it was addressed on the inside envelope, and never, under any circumstances whatever, to mention her story to anyone.

Hugh promised. After all, it was little that she asked; and, as her exhausted brain became confused, she forgot to exact any further promises as to his future conduct in respect to the man who had treated her as unscrupulous men mostly treat loving, generous, and unprotected women. When the nurse, directed by her patient, found the sealed packet and placed it in Hugh Paull’s hands, the dying girl’s false-hearted lover was virtually at his mercy.

After a long and fatiguing evening—there had been more casualties in the district than usual—Hugh was leaning out of his bedroom window, smoking and gazing down upon the moonlit quadrangle, when there was a knock at his door.

It was a special messenger with this note from Dr. Hildyard:—

67“Thursday, 9 p.m.

“Dear Paull,—Shortly after you left to-day our patient succumbed to syncope of the heart. I have given certificate of death. But, wiring to Dr. Bartlett, at Stainbury, he wires back that he knows nothing of her personally, and has no idea who she is. The theatrical manager, now in Liverpool, was wired to and returned similar reply. The nurse has informed me you have a sealed packet, and can doubtless give us clue to her identity. Messenger will wait for your reply.

“Yours always faithfully,
Chas. Hildyard.”

Hugh conducted the man who had brought the letter to his sitting-room below, lit the gas, opened the safe, and took out the sealed packet. He turned it over with a strange reluctance. He felt he could not open it then and there, with strange eyes watching him; so, giving the man some newspapers to look at, he took it upstairs with him, and by the uncertain light of a flickering candle broke the many seals of the packet which contained the dead girl’s secret.

What was it? Was some demon mocking him? There, staring him in the face, were the words—distinctly written on the packet—

Captain Roderick Pym,
45th Fusiliers.

He mechanically whispered the name to himself as he sank into a chair, staring at the package.

“Captain—Roderick—Pym,” he repeated, as a horrified, stunned feeling brought cold sweat upon his forehead. “What—how—when?”

His eyes felt as if stiffening in his head. The candle seemed to burn a dull red; the bed, chairs, chest of drawers to tremble and swim in the moonlight.

68“Come, come,” he said to himself. “This will never do. It is a coincidence, that is all. Society is made up of tiny circles. This is the most ordinary coincidence, such as happens to everyone at least once or twice in a lifetime.”

Pulling himself together, he forced himself to grasp the situation. The unidentified corpse lying, a burden to strangers, in a London lodging-house. Dr. Hildyard, overweighted with work and all sorts of responsibilities, awaiting the return of the messenger below before the dead girl could be coffined. And upon himself depended the clue that would make proceedings easy.

Roderick—Pym! Lilia’s cousin and possible future husband, Sir Roderick’s nephew and favourite, the dastard who ruined that fair young life? It was impossible. Utterly impossible—an idea untenable for a moment—he told himself, as he feverishly paced his room.

Roderick was possibly a mutual friend of the actors in that wretched little tragedy. He did not believe that the poor young creature who had shown no symptoms of anger, no suspicion of revenge, would trust the identity of the man whom she loved, although he had illtreated her, to a mere stranger—although she might to a mutual friend. No. Roderick Pym was most likely the confidant, the bosom friend—some evil feeling suggested the Mephistopheles—of the love story. At all events, he must not betray him in the affair. He must temporise.

By the time he had arrived at this conclusion, Hugh was more himself. He got out writing materials, and presently sent back Dr. Hildyard’s messenger with the following note:—

69“Dear Dr. Hildyard,—It is true that your patient entrusted me with a sealed packet, but I am in honour bound only to confide the packet, secretly, to another person. All I can do is to communicate at once with that person. I hope the upshot will be that I may speedily assure you as to the identity of the deceased lady.

Yours most faithfully,
Hugh Paull.

“I will write, or see you, as soon as I have any information.”

The messenger despatched, Hugh considered what was next to be done. His first impulse was to take the last train to Aldershot, and see Captain Pym. Second thoughts forbade this hasty move.

“I know little or nothing of these military men,” he thought.

His own code of morals and theirs must certainly differ. Still it was essential that he should gain some knowledge by means of that package, which most probably contained letters. After consideration, he resolved to surprise Roderick Pym into some admission. Unpleasant though it was to him to act, to use subterfuge, he told himself that his only course was to be diplomatic.

Looking at his watch, he saw that to telegraph to Aldershot that night he must seek some central office. Fortunately, there was one not very far distant, from which he despatched this message:—

To Roderick Pym, Captain — Division,
45th Fusiliers, The Camp, Aldershot.

Can I see you here to-morrow on most important and serious business? If you cannot leave, I must go to you.

Hugh Paull,
The S—— Hospital.”

70“I think that will fetch him,” he thought, as he returned through the silent City streets. “He will think it is something connected with the state of his uncle’s health—with Lilia.” He smiled bitterly to himself. “Heavens! how dare I suspect him of being that villain?” he thought. “Yet, would not any ordinary person do so? Can he be a near relation of that poor girl’s? I must not think of it all! Come what may, I must keep my head clear.”

Next morning the return telegram came:—

Will be at your place about ten. Must be back here at three.

It was well for Hugh that Friday was a busy morning, besides there being extra work on in consequence of yesterday’s influx of accidents; for, despite the close attention he must pay to his arduous occupation, his nervous agitation as ten o’clock struck from the tower above the entrance to the hospital was great.

At ten minutes past the hour he was fetched. “The gentleman” had arrived.

“He is ashamed of sending in his card,” thought Hugh. “Am I not good enough for him? Or has he an uneasy conscience?”

Captain Pym was in the hall, standing in an easy attitude, his hands behind him, swinging his cane, ostensibly studying the notices and regulations on the green-baize-covered board. He turned to meet Hugh with an amused smile.

“What laws of the Medes and Persians!” he said, airily, as he shook hands. “Ours in the service are mere child’s play in comparison! Well, what does the mysterious summons portend?”

71His whole appearance—he wore a light shooting-coat and delicacies in ties and gloves—his flippant manner, just tinged with condescension—chilled Hugh, especially when he thought of that pale corpse, lying straight and still, whose poor thin hand had written the name of this human butterfly for the last time.

“If you will come to my room, I will explain,” he said, leading the way through the hall and up the stone staircase.

He had intended to suddenly produce the packet of letters and watch the effect upon Roderick. But, as he mounted the staircase, a better idea occurred to him.

“I suppose it is something about my uncle—poor old fellow,” said Captain Pym, as soon as they had fairly entered Hugh’s sitting-room, throwing himself into a chair. “Gad! How close it is to-day! Thunder about, I should say.”

“Very likely,” said Hugh, dryly, as he produced brandy and a siphon of seltzer, which seemed to suit his guest’s ideas, for he assumed a less patronising manner, even saying, “Thanks, old fellow,” quite familiarly as Hugh handed him the tall tumbler. “No, Captain Pym; I did not telegraph to you on the subject of Sir Roderick. The fact is, Dr. Hildyard has a patient who has had to do with the regiment—your regiment, I mean—and whom you can possibly identify.”

“Well——” Captain Pym paused, evidently annoyed. “Excuse me, Paull, if I say that I think that is about the coolest proceeding I ever heard of in my life! I am to be wired for because some fellow in the hospital wants identification! Why didn’t you write? I’d have sent up a non-com. to oblige you. But—really——”

72“I think—that your friend—is an officer, Captain Pym.”

“Oh—well!”—Roderick tossed off his seltzer and brandy, and smiled somewhat sourly. “It was a curious thing to do—but you hospital fellows have ways of your own, I expect. Can’t be expected to know what’s what, of course. Where is the fellow? I don’t remember anyone I was particularly friendly with, by the way.”

“Your—acquaintance—is not here, Captain Pym,” said Hugh, hating the part he was playing—sickened as he felt by the young man’s manner, which was utterly different to that of the Roderick Pym he had met at the Pinewood. “The case is being privately nursed. If you would accompany me, a hansom will take us and bring us back within the hour.”

Roderick’s face brightened. He glanced at the clock.

“An hour!” he said. “I mean to make a holiday of what time I’ve got. You must lunch with me, Paull! We ought to be chums, you know, you being everybody at the Pinewood now. Why, my nose is quite out of joint. What a devil of a hurry you are in, man!” (Hugh had seized his hat, and had opened the door.) “The fellow, whoever it is, isn’t dying, I suppose?”

“No,” said Hugh, going rapidly downstairs and feeling that at least this was absolutely true.

Speeding along in a hansom, his volatile companion’s spirits rose; he laughed and chaffed and told anecdotes, rallying Hugh on his gravity.

“You medicos seem to me to think a lot more of death than we army fellows,” he said, as they neared the house with the lowered blinds. “I have a horror of killing: I acknowledge that. But as for death itself, 73what is a corpse, after all? A mere empty envelope. The likeness of the human being is the address; but the contents—the letter itself—is gone.”

Here Hugh shouted to the driver to stop, and without glancing at his companion, paid the fare and mounted the steps of No. 99. The sympathetic landlady had drawn down her blinds in respect to the dead girl, but Captain Pym did not notice this, he was looking after the departing hansom.

“You might have kept the fellow,” he said, discontentedly, as they entered the house.

Hugh muttered something about hansoms being plentiful in that fashionable quarter, and hurried upstairs, bidding Roderick follow.

The utter unsuspiciousness of Lilia’s cousin cut him to the quick. Yet, what was he to do? As he opened the door of the bedroom, he consoled himself by thinking how lightly Captain Pym had but a few minutes previously spoken of death.

Turning to hold open the door of the darkened room, he saw Roderick pause—his expression change. He looked sternly, distrustfully, at Hugh.

“What does this mean?” he said, entering and glancing from the bed, where a still, straight figure was visible under a sheet, to Paull. “The man, whoever he may be, is dead, and you must have known it.”

“I did know it,” said Hugh, calmly drawing up the blind of the window nearest the bed.

“Do you take me for a coward, then?” sneered Roderick.

“I will answer your questions presently,” said Hugh, watching Captain Pym closely, and throwing back the sheet to disclose the waxen, lovely face of the girl.

74There was a calm about the large sunken eyelids, with their dark lashes blackly defined against the ivory cheek—about the pale forehead, surrounded by a glossy wreath of black plaits—about the arms, crossed upon her breast over sprays of white lilies; and upon the closely-shut, beautiful dead lips was the set, strange smile that seems to express: “Fear not—none can harm me, now.”

For one instant, Roderick swerved. He could not be said to shudder, or to start—he swerved, as if he had made a false step. Then, visibly paler, but perfectly composed, he leant forward, his arms upon the brass rail.

“You—recognize her?” asked Hugh.

Either this young man was the most accomplished and hardened hypocrite—or he was not the villain of the story. He felt puzzled.

“I—do,” said Roderick, straightening himself and looking Hugh full in the face. “But—excuse me—I cannot understand why it should have fallen upon me to identify her. Where are her friends?”

“The only person connected with her whose name we have—is yours, Captain Pym.”

Roderick shrugged his shoulders.

“It is a mystery,” he said. “I knew her brother and her sister. I knew her—also—slightly.”

Evidently he began to feel that this was a verbal duel. He spoke cautiously, choosing his words, and he kept his eyes fixed upon Hugh.

“Slightly?” asked Hugh, doubtfully. “Perhaps you will be so good as to explain?”

“You will be so good as to explain first, if you please, Mr. Paull. I cannot tell what this lady may 75have led you to understand. She was, as far as I can judge, impulsive and imaginative to a degree.”

“Do not asperse the dead, Captain Pym,” said Hugh, contemptuously. “A corpse is but a poor shield for a man’s conduct. To shorten matters, let me tell you that this young lady has told me—all.”

“All?” said Roderick, raising his eyebrows. “Allow me to congratulate you on your knowledge, then. I have not seen her for nearly a year—since which she may doubtless have had an interesting history of which I am absolutely ignorant. The last time I saw her she was acting and singing in an Irish theatre, and I was one of the audience.”

“And wrote her a merciless letter next morning,” said Hugh, confronting him and speaking in a low, stern voice. “You—under promise of marriage—oh, do not lose your temper, Captain Pym; you cannot frighten me! Under promise of marriage you persuaded this unhappy girl to leave her home and study, secretly, for the stage; you assisted her to make the appearance on the stage which separated her from her family forever—and then—you left her to her fate!”

“I admire your romance—I mean, the romance,” said Roderick, calmly, turning his back upon the bed. “I am sorry you should be so credulous, Mr. Paull; that is all I feel upon the subject. I will give you any information I can. Meanwhile, as I have never given the lie to a living woman, it is scarcely likely I shall do so to a dead one. Cannot we end our discussion in another room? Such talk is scarcely seemly here.”

“I will come,” said Hugh, wrathfully. “But, once more, do not insult the dead, Captain Pym. Your—letters—to this—lady—are in my possession.”

76Roderick’s pallor assumed a greenish yellow.

“After you, Mr. Paull,” he said, bowing slightly, and casting an ironical glance at the sweet young corpse. “I cannot blame you. Only I hope you may never be dragged into committing yourself out of foolish good nature, as I appear to have done.” And replacing his hat, he walked towards the door.

“Good God—what a fiend!” thought Hugh, with a pitying glance towards the corpse. “Poor—unhappy—child!”

He had often been deeply touched by the innocent trustfulness of young children about to undergo terrible operations that meant kill or cure; he had frequently been shamed for his own impatience by the cheerful resignation of the sick and dying poor. But he had never felt such chivalrous sympathy as that which made him stoop—before he reverently re-covered that solemn, smiling dead face—and gently touch one thin cold hand with his lips.

Though he was neither kith nor kin to her—not even an acquaintance—her honour was safe with him, and he felt he would have staked his very life upon her truth.

He motioned Roderick to follow him, took him into the little sitting-room, closed the door, and faced him with righteous indignation.

“You are in my hands, Captain Pym, and at my mercy,” he said, harshly. “Only the truth can save you from exposure. It lies with Dr. Hildyard and myself whether there shall be an inquest or no; the cause of the patient’s death is sufficiently obscure to warrant legal investigation. As you know, every scrap of evidence must then be brought forward. Your 77letters will be produced. You will find yourself in an awkward position.”

This last blow, given literally in the dark, went home. Roderick bit his lip and looked dangerously at Hugh. For a full quarter of a minute the men’s eyes met, unflinching, then Roderick began to pace the room.

“One would think you had tampered with the woman yourself—at least, I might think so—only I happen to know you have succumbed to the fascinations of my cousin,” he said, sneeringly. “It is to this, I suppose, I owe your zeal on behalf of this young person.”

“Let us keep ladies’ names out of the conversation, Captain Pym,” said Hugh, who had flinched at the bare mention of Lilia. “Tell me the truth, like a man, and I will restore you your letters and bid you good-morning. But one condition will I make.”

Roderick paused, and looked full in his antagonist’s face.

“And that?” he said.

“You will entirely renounce all idea of marrying your cousin,” said Hugh.

It was his turn to pale to an ashen tint.

“Upon my word!” Roderick threw himself into a chair, and gave a scornful laugh. “By what right do you forbid the banns?”

“While I live, Captain Pym, she shall not marry you.”

“Then my promises are scarcely necessary, are they?” he asked, looking mockingly up and tilting his chair. “You have only to tell your wonderful tale to my uncle, and shew him your beautiful documents. Do so, and go to the devil!”

78“As you please,” said Hugh, somewhat astonished. “Unfortunately, in telling the news to Sir Roderick, it must be told to the world, and your family name dragged through the mud.”

Captain Pym had risen to go. He paused.

“What do you want me to say?” he said, savagely. “Tell me what you accuse me of, and I will answer.”

“That is by far more sensible,” said Hugh, seating himself at the table, and drawing an inkstand and blotting-case nearer to him. “Now that you are inclined to listen to reason, the affair assumes a different aspect. You will find that, if you confide in me, I will hold my peace, while you hold the scheme of marriage with your cousin Lilia Pym in abeyance. Think! Can you give me your word?”

Roderick gazed gloomily at the one window. A canary was busily pecking at a morsel of sugar between the bars of its cage; below, in a mews, a man was whistling while he swept the pavement with a bass broom.

What, thought Hugh, was passing in that mind? Was it possible for some good to be left in that careless, cruel nature?

“I will give you my word,” said Roderick at last, somewhat sullenly. “You give me my letters, and I will not advance a step in the matter of marriage with Lilia. Heavens! do you doubt my word?”

“I will not,” said Hugh. “I will hope for better things than to find you utterly unworthy.”

At least, the young man had no depth of cunning; for it was he himself who had informed Hugh that he had written compromising letters to the dead girl.

79“Come,” said Paull, more cheerfully, “tell me her name?”

“Her name is Olivia Fenton,” said Roderick. “Her parents are dead. I met her when I was at the Curragh. Her brother holds a living near there. She had a fine voice, and yearned to make use of it; but her brother and sister were against any idea of the sort. She appealed to me, and I helped her to come to London, and got people to look after her. During the time she was studying she, unfortunately, took a fancy to me. I liked and admired her; but as to marrying her, I knew such a thing was utterly out of the question. When I found that that was what she expected of me, I was horrified. She was on the eve of going on the stage, and I thought better to leave matters as they were until after her debût. She was successful, fortunately, and then I cut the whole thing.”

“As you ought to have done before,” said Hugh, sternly. “The old story—shut the stable door when the steed is stolen.”

“You did not gather that from my letters!” he cried, the blood rushing to his face. “The treacherous puss——”

“Hush! We are speaking of the dead,” said Hugh.

He was firm, composed. He knew as much now as it was necessary to know. He obtained the address of the brother and sister, pocketed it, and they left the house.

The sun was shining. In the full light of day Roderick looked ghastly. He stared vacantly at the life of the busy streets, and mechanically followed his companion. During their rapid drive back to the hospital [Hugh had chosen a hansom with a good horse, 80who covered the ground about as quickly as it could be done] Captain Pym said not one word.

Arrived, Hugh found himself demanded on all sides. The matron, coming out of the accident ward, met him with a disgusted frown; one of the ward Sisters, seeing him pass, hurried out, “Oh, Mr. Paull!” The dispenser was waiting outside his room door with a bundle of papers. He waved them all away. “He would be with them in a minute.” Then shutting himself in with Roderick, he unlocked his safe, and took out the packet of letters entrusted to him by Olivia Fenton.

“Before I give you these,” he said, earnestly to Roderick, “you must pledge yourself to give up all thoughts of marriage with your cousin. Oh! I exact no formal oath. A man’s word should be as good as his bond! Did I not still trust you to this extent, I should act very differently.”

Roderick held out his hand.

“I promise,” he said, with some show of emotion; then he eyed the letters greedily.

For one moment Hugh faltered in his determination. His fingers closed upon the packet; then he fulfilled his promise to his dead patient, and handed them to the man she had so fatally loved.

The captain glanced at the superscription, then at the seal; then he turned upon Hugh, his blue eyes aflame with anger.

“Good God! you have been lying!” he cried, wrathfully. “This is her seal—I know it—unbroken, and you said you had read the letters!”

He positively trembled with rage, and gnawed his fair moustache as he pushed the packet down into the inner breast-pocket of his coat.

81“I made no such statement, Captain Pym,” said Hugh, calmly, leaning up against the mantelpiece and watching the young man’s ignoble exhibition of feeling. “I inferred that you might be the writer of them—that was all. The cap fitted, and you yourself voluntarily acknowledged their contents.”

“If you had been straightforward,” said Roderick, fiercely, “I should have been so, also. Now, look to yourself! This is my last word to you;” and seizing his hat, he hurried from the room.



Whether some feeling of remorse prompted Roderick to a tardy act of justice, Hugh could only conjecture. In any case, Olivia Fenton’s brother-in-law appeared and claimed the remains of his wife’s sister. There was no inquest, and the unfortunate girl was quietly buried in Woking Cemetery.

After those few days of excitement, Hugh’s life fell back into the daily humdrum. His thoughts were concentrated upon his work, now augmented by the final preparation for the coming examination for an important degree, so that the memory of Lilia, and that peculiar feeling, half pleasure, half pain, when he thought back upon his visit to the Pinewood, ceased to trouble him so much.

Weeks of quiet study, of unbroken hospital routine: then came two startling days, two startling visits.

It was a gusty autumn morning. Hugh was coming out of one ward and just about to enter another, when the hall-porter brought him word that the Rev. Mr. Paull was below and wished to speak with him.

He hurried downstairs and found his father, who informed him that he was paying a flying visit to town, and must have a serious talk with him on important business.

83“It is quite clear we cannot talk here and now,” said Hugh.

“No, no, my boy; of course not.”

The old gentleman, who looked overwhelmed with some weighty affair or another, asked his son to dine with him at his hotel.

“And now for the serious talk,” said Hugh, who had been slightly amused at his father’s portentous manner and evident preoccupation during their dinner in a private room at a quiet hotel near Piccadilly, “I can see that something has happened. What is it?”

“Well, it is Daisy,” said Mr. Paull.

“Daisy! What is wrong?”

“Oh, there is nothing exactly wrong. But I shall know better presently. She is thinking of getting married.”

“Daisy married!”

Hugh smiled.

“Why not?”

“Somehow I can’t realise the idea of Daisy married. Who is the man?”

“Ah!” Mr. Paull drew up his chair and stirred the fire. It was a chill autumnal evening. “Do you remember the Danvers?” he asked.

“Of course.” (Mr. Danvers was a neighbouring clergyman, and his wife was a stout lady of much amiability, who, childless herself, had been fond of entertaining children.) “If I remember rightly,” said Hugh, “one of her juvenile parties brought about my first bilious attack.”

“I daresay. Well, you remember they went away for his health when you were at school, leaving a curate 84in charge. Since you came down last time, they have returned. At their house Daisy met this young man. I suppose you know that Mrs. Danvers was a Miss Clithero?”


Hugh gave a visible start.

“Yes; the sister of the Clithero who is partner of the Pyms. Oh! it is hard upon a man, Hugh, left alone as I am, when his girls begin to have love affairs.”

“It is,” said Hugh. “But whatever I can do, dad, shall be done. You know that.”

The old man was touched. For a few moments he gazed steadily at the fire. Then he said:

“I do; and I feel sure that you will tell me if there is any truth in the shocking stories about those Pyms.”

“The Pyms! What have they got to do with it?”

“The man who wants to marry Daisy is a son of the head of the firm.”

“Not Captain Pym?”

Hugh spoke almost fiercely.

“Why not?”

Mr. Paull looked at him curiously.

“Never mind. Tell me all—everything.”

It seemed that when Daisy Paull was staying at Mrs. Danvers’ house for a week, there had been also staying there a newly-ordained young clergyman, Herbert Pym, third son of Mr. Pym, the reputed millionaire. At the end of the week he had offered himself to Daisy.

“He is a nice young fellow,” added Mr. Paull. “Frank, no nonsense about him. He has expectations: will share equally with his eldest brother. He told me that his brother Roderick (the Captain Pym you mentioned) 85is to inherit nothing from his father, having been adopted by his uncle, Sir Roderick, who will leave him his whole fortune.”

“That is, to put it mildly, a mistake,” said Hugh. “You know that I stayed at the Pinewood, Sir Roderick’s place in Surrey, for a couple of days. Captain Pym is a favourite nephew, but is not an adopted son. Sir Roderick is wrapped up in his daughter.”

“His daughter? Now, Hugh, what is the mystery about that daughter? Is she an idiot? Don’t get angry! I have heard such queer tales.”

“Why did you listen to them?” said Hugh, disdainfully. “I thought you were above listening to gossip.”

“I was compelled, in Daisy’s interests, to investigate the matter,” said Mr. Paull, with a dignity which recalled Hugh to a sense of propriety his anxiety was tempting him to forget. “Mrs. Danvers hinted to me that, although Herbert was the nicest young man she knew, the family were eccentric. She had heard all sorts of things about them—untrue, doubtless; still, there seldom was so much smoke without some fire. Mr. Bullock, the banker, knew how much or how little there was in the stories. Now, Bullock being my banker, I called upon him.”

“Bullock,” said Hugh, thoughtfully. “He always seemed an honest, matter-of-fact sort of man. What did he say?”

“He said much,” said Mr. Paull. “There is a painful family story. What sort of a girl is this daughter?”

“Simple, innocent, good,” said Hugh, shortly, and 86in as matter-of-fact a manner as he could assume in his perturbation.

“Dear me! How strange that bad women so often have good children!” sighed his father.

“Is Lady Pym alive?” asked Hugh.

“I will tell you exactly what Bullock told me. Sir Roderick was quite different from that which I understand him to be now, when he was young. A roistering ‘young blood,’ as they termed fast young fellows then. There was a handsome girl who was one of the Society beauties. No one noticed Sir Roderick’s admiration. The young lady disappeared one season. Her disappearance caused quite a talk, especially as her relations were reticent on the subject. About two years afterwards, when she is almost forgotten, she reappears as Sir Roderick’s wife. When, how, and where they were married—why, and for what reason the affair was kept dark—no one has ever known.”

“But the child?”

“The girl seems to have been a young infant when they returned. Well, it appears that Sir Roderick was quite Eastern in his ideas of how a wife should be treated. He took that lively young creature to that place of his, the Pinewood, and shut her up. She saw no one but some of his relations.”

“Jealous, doubtless,” said Hugh, thinking back upon the pretty, mutinous face, miniatured in Sir Roderick’s locket. “Well?”

“Well, now comes the sad part. Mr. Pym, the brother, who was already a husband and the father of several children, had then, as I daresay you know he still has, an estate about twenty miles distant from Sir Roderick’s. He seems to have divided his time between 87the two houses. No one knows what took place there. But there was a serious family quarrel. Sir Roderick withdrew from the firm of Pym, Clithero, and Pym, and shut his doors against his whole family. The beautiful Lady Pym no one saw again. Some say she ran away and hid herself abroad: at least, hid herself from everyone but the object of her husband’s jealousy, Mr. Pym. The other rumour is that Sir Roderick shut her up more closely than ever, and that she died and was buried at the Pinewood.”

Hugh thought of the chapel in the grounds.

“That last story is more likely to be true than the other,” he said.

“Yes,” said Mr. Paull; “if, indeed, there is any fact in the gossip at all. Bullock said he felt positive that if Sir Roderick suspected his brother of wronging him in regard to Lady Pym, his suspicion had been utterly groundless. He knows Mr. Pym. He said that no doubt he pitied his young sister-in-law for being immured in so un-English a fashion, and did his best to brighten her life; but that this was all his part in the affair. That Sir Roderick has come to believe so too, is, I should think, proved by his love for his brother’s son.”

An idea came into Hugh’s mind which took away his breath for a moment. He unconsciously rose from his chair and straightened himself.

“How does anyone know that he is really fond of Captain Pym?” he suggested. “His statement that he is his heir may have been made in revenge, to spoil the young man, to place him in an unnatural position in his own family circle, and to leave him stranded and befooled at the last.”

88“Impossible, Hugh! No human being could be so mean!”

“Nothing is impossible in Sir Roderick, father. Think back on what you have told me of his conduct to his wife! His brain is unbalanced. He is clever enough, kind enough, in a way; but he is extravagantly eccentric. For instance, I am sure he adores that daughter of his as far as he is capable of adoration; yet he keeps her as much shut up as he did her mother.”

“Poor child!” said Mr. Paull, sympathetically. “What a good thing it would be for her to know Maud and Daisy.”

“To return to Daisy’s affair,” said Hugh. “It does not seem a very bright specimen of a family to marry into.”

“My dear boy, all families have their skeletons in the cupboard,” said the rector, somewhat nervously. (Hugh was seemingly getting into one of his stern humours, which would be bad for poor Daisy.) “Find me the family that has not.”

“Ours,” said Hugh.

“I daresay, if the truth were known, our ancestors had their foibles.”

“Madness has, unfortunately, the habit of going obliquely, father; it often attacks the nephew or niece, rather than the son or daughter. This Herbert Pym may develop into a Sir Roderick.”

“Madness may do that, Hugh; but surely not eccentricity.”

Hugh paced the room and thought deeply. He had felt there was some mystery connected with Sir Roderick’s wife, Lilia’s mother. But that any scandal was 89attached to her name he had not believed. For himself, he would not care. But when his sister was in question, he felt it behoved him to be uncompromisingly judicial.

“I do not think mother would have liked Daisy’s marrying this young man, father,” he said at last.

“If you say that, you cannot have understood her, Hugh,” said the rector, warmly. “She was the largest-hearted woman on earth. Scandal was her greatest horror. When young Pym came to me and asked for Daisy, I felt she would have liked him. It was just that which influenced me.”

“Well, you know best, father. Shall I see him and talk to him? Perhaps I might say things to him that you could scarcely say.”

“I wish you would see him,” said his father, reassured.

Hugh left him with the understanding that whenever it suited the Rev. Herbert Pym to make an appointment he was ready to receive him as his probable brother-in-law.

But the meeting was destined to be postponed. Next morning, just before noon, the porter came again.

“You are wanted, sir. A lady, this time.”

“I am engaged, you know that,” said Hugh, annoyed, for a dresser he had had occasion to reprove was just passing, and he saw the young man grin. “You should have asked her name.”

“I did, sir. But she said it didn’t matter, she would not keep you a minute. I took her into the board-room, sir.”

She, whoever she was, had evidently known the passport to the porter’s goodwill, thought Hugh, running 90downstairs. What lady could it be? If it were Daisy, he would give her a scolding she would remember.

Entering the board-room he was met by Mrs. Mervyn, pale, agitated.

“Oh, Mr. Paull! How could you forsake us so?” she said, almost indignantly.

Then she broke down, turned away, and hid her face in her handkerchief.

Hugh was so taken aback that for a moment or two he stood and stared. Then he felt that something must have happened—he hardly dared think what.

“I—forsaken you?” he said, as Mrs. Mervyn conquered her emotion and sat down. “I have not heard one word from the Pinewood since I spent those two days there.”

“You have had a letter and two telegrams,” said Mrs. Mervyn. “Sir Roderick was taken ill a week ago. Lilia wrote and asked your advice. No answer came. She telegraphed. No answer. Captain Pym offered to go to town to fetch Dr. Beard, the physician our doctor asked for. Mr. Mervyn wired to you,—silence. Captain Pym said he called here, but finding that you had been in the hospital all the time, and that therefore you evidently did not want to be bothered with us, or you would have taken some notice of the letter and telegrams, he did not trouble you in the matter.”

Hugh repressed his impulse to anathematise Captain Pym as a liar. “My time will come; I will bide my time,” he thought. Then he turned to Mrs. Mervyn, and said, gently:

“There has been some mistake. It does not matter now. How is he?”


Mrs. Mervyn gave an account of the last trying seven days: the attention of Dr. Beard, who gave no hope from the first; Lilia’s repressed anguish; the goodness of the two sick nurses; the summoning of the great Sir Edward Debenham yesterday (a mere matter of form, to state that death had proved himself conqueror, that nothing could be done to reverse the sentence). Then she was about to add something further, when Hugh asked, suddenly, hoarsely:

“If this be so, why have you come?”

“He asked for you—he wants you,” said Mrs. Mervyn. “He will not be pacified.”

“Did he know I was sent for?”

“Yes; and he knew no answer came. But it was he who said the messages could not have reached you. I would not be the one to suggest anything else.”

“You thought me a wretch, Mrs. Mervyn?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“What does it matter now?” she said, in agitation. “Let us go by the next train, if we can.”

Hugh procured a time-table. There was time to catch a fast train to F——. He saw the secretary, arranged for a deputy, and before he hardly realised the situation London was left far back in the distance in its purple veil of smoke, and they were rushing through brilliant autumnal scenes, under a breezy October sky.

They could not talk during the journey; they had fellow-passengers. It was painful for Hugh to think that Mrs. Mervyn had doubted him, and still more painful to remember Lilia. Of course the non-arrival of the letter and telegrams meant—Roderick.

92Mr. Mervyn was on the platform, looking careworn and eager. At the sight of Hugh he brightened. He grasped his hand.

“I knew you would come,” he said. Then, drawing him aside, he said: “You did not get my telegram? I thought not. Say as little as you can, will you? and be as unfathomable as a sphinx. I will explain later.”

Evidently he knew more, in one respect, than Hugh did.

A light dogcart was awaiting Hugh, and presently he was speeding along the lanes between the devastated hop-gardens behind Reindeer, who was going at full speed, while Mrs. Mervyn was following in the brougham with her husband.

During the uphill slackening of Reindeer’s pace, Hugh gathered that Sir Roderick was still alive, though his death was, according to the doctors, imminent; that none of his servants were surprised—they had seen so great a change in their master since his accident; and that, since he had sent for his brother, Mr. Pym, even Miss Lilia had given up hope.

“Miss Lilia couldn’t have believed he was agoing to die like other folks, I don’t believe, sir, if it hadn’t ha’ been for that,” said the sagacious Thomas. “They said as when she heard that the captain was to fetch his father, at Sir Roderick’s wish, she fainted dead away. They haven’t been friends, you see, sir, for many a long year; and Sir Roderick, when he makes up his mind—well, it isn’t easy to turn him. So I expect Miss Lilia knew, when he sent for Mr. Pym, that there wasn’t what you might call a straw left to cling to.”

“She is better now?” asked Hugh.

93“I can’t say, sir, I’m sure.”

It was hard work to obey Mr. Mervyn’s recommendation to be sphinx-like. But as the dogcart jogged down the steep incline leading to the garden entrance of the house, Hugh rallied himself, and determined to put aside all personal feeling, all emotions and passions, to follow no impulse, and to bear in mind that he was here on duty, as a species of death-bed sentinel—silent, motionless, except to salute the passing soul.

The house looked the same, as houses will, happen what may. There was even a greater gaiety about the place. A windy autumn day, when the cloudlets sail joyously across the luminous blue sky, and the red and golden trees are shaken by the fresh breezes, has a liveliness of its own, as if Nature were at play after the hard work of the spring and summer before the night of winter sets in, when she herself falls asleep. And within these four walls? As Hugh alighted at the garden door, and walked in without ringing the bell (all bells had been muffled by the doctors’ orders), he did not think with any pleasurable anticipation of the possible scene within.

But he miscalculated the influence of the young girl who was so soon to be left alone in the world.

As he entered the hall by one door, Lilia came in by another. She looked pale and thinner in her clinging grey gown; but she was calm, and met him with a half-smile and clinging clasp of the hand.

“You know?” she asked, in a hushed voice.

“That he is doomed by the doctors, and that a letter and two telegrams were not sent to me? Yes,” he said, dryly.

“I trusted——” She hesitated, and looked round.

94“Explanations afterwards,” she added, with a hopeless, bitter meaning in her tones and manner. “Now we must only think of him. Will you have some refreshment, or see him now?”

“Now, at once,” said Hugh.

Then he followed her in silence up the old oaken staircase, wondering at her power of self-control—she, so sensitive and emotional a creature! Until now, she had drawn his sympathies by her gift of fascination; thus, she seized and held his respect.

At a tap from Lilia, a nurse opened the door.

“Mr. Paull,” whispered Lilia, gliding away.

“I am thankful you have come,” said the nurse, who looked worn and harassed. “There are two of us, but he has been dreadful. You are a doctor. You will not let him over-excite himself? We are to leave you alone.”

Hugh satisfied the nurse, as they stood by the door behind the screen. They whispered, but the hearing of the dying man was sharpened.

“Who’s—that?” Hugh heard, in reedy, querulous tones he hardly recognised.

“You must come at once,” said the nurse.

Then her worn, anxious expression suddenly changed to the placid, cheerful smile that is as necessary an adjunct in the case of a sick-room attendant as in a danseuse before the public.

Hugh, following her, saw a yellowish-white face on the pillows of a big bed hung with dark green. The change was at hand. Sir Roderick’s aquiline features were pinched and shrunken; the great bluish circles round his dark eyes intensified the fixedness of his gaze; there was the heaviness of death in his arms, stretched motionless at his sides.

95“Hamlet!” he said, in a far-away voice, and his pallid lips drew aside in the faint mockery of a dying smile. “Come here—close. You two women, go.”

There was a slight suggestion of the living Sir Roderick in the irritable peremptoriness of that abrupt dismissal of his faithful nurses; in his “What on earth are they doing? Why don’t they go?” as they arranged bottles, glasses, and gong on a table at Hugh’s elbow; and in his “Are they gone?” when the door shut upon them so softly that he could not hear it.

“Of course they are gone.” Hugh bent over his former patient with a new, real tenderness. “I am here to do everything you wish me to do, Sir Roderick,” he said; “you have only to command.”

“Everything!” said the invalid, hoarsely, with a searching look.

“Everything that my conscience will allow me to do, Sir Roderick!”

The old man laughed, or tried to laugh; but it was a curious rattling sound, at which Hugh involuntarily bit his lip.

“That’s a dying laugh. Funny sound, isn’t it?” said Sir Roderick. Speech was evidently becoming more and more difficult. “Ugly sound; nasty feeling; choked feeling, too. I shall soon cast my chrysalis, Hamlet. I sha’n’t come to an end. No. I hope I shall be a poisonous serpent. Don’t look shocked. I want to sting human beings. They are worse than devils, if there were those fables. Yes, worse than devils,” he muttered, his eyes dimming with, Hugh feared, approaching coma. “Devils would be good if they could; men can be good, and won’t. I’m not dying, or going to sleep, Hamlet, so don’t look like that,” he suddenly 96said, in a voice so like his own, and with such reviving animation, that Hugh almost hoped that death was not imminent, despite appearances. “You clergyman’s son, you would like me to believe in devils, wouldn’t you? Well, I do. In human devils. And you must help me to punish them.”

The last words were said dispassionately, gravely. What did he mean? The old man groped for Hugh’s hand, which was resting on the bed near to his own. Hugh clasped the icy, clammy fingers in his warm, living grasp.

“Did you ever wonder why I wanted you here?”

It was a question, sudden, and to the point. With those dying eyes riveted upon him, Hugh must answer with bare fact.

“I did,” he acknowledged.

“I can’t waste my minutes palavering,” said Sir Roderick, irritable as he recognised his utter helplessness. “I read you like a book. I wanted you for Lilia.”

Hugh started, and flushed. The room seemed to sway and reel; he hardly knew whether he was shocked, hurt, delighted, or horrified. The possession of Lilia had been, so to say, hinted to him by his inclinations as something he might possibly dare to aspire to in the future. To have his ideal, as it were, snatched at, pounded together, and shot at him in this fashion was like being physically assaulted. He felt mentally wounded, but did not realise how or where.

“I see you know what I mean,” went on the dying man. “You blush like a girl. Love is nonsense. But you have a passion for her——”

“I love her!” interrupted Hugh. “I would not have dared—if you had not spoken.”

97A dreadful chuckle from the sick man seemed to freeze Hugh. If Sir Roderick would only refrain from that ghastly, rattling laugh!

“You say you love her, but that you would not have dared—what bosh! Hamlet, you would be a bad witness. Never mind. The question is—to be, or not to be? Will you marry Lilia, or not?”

What a position! He was utterly unprepared, too. For some moments he hardly knew what to do or say; then he felt he must fight Sir Roderick’s eccentricity for her sake.

“What would your daughter say?” he asked, gently. “You must not dispose of her. No one has a right to dispose of another. Of course, I would ask her to marry me, if I thought she wished it.”

“Of course she wishes it!” gasped Sir Roderick.

His eyes shone with excitement; cold beads were on his pale forehead.

“How can you tell?” suggested Hugh, in desperation.

The sick man had a fit of gasping. Hugh supported him, fearing that the end was come. But after he had swallowed a stimulating draught, he revived somewhat, and asked that his brother, Mr. Pym, his nephew, Roderick, and Lilia might be summoned.

Feeling a certain dread and a thorough reluctance, Hugh fetched the nurses, one of whom was despatched to bring in Mr. and Captain Pym and Lilia.

“Hold me,” said Sir Roderick. “Sit by me. Yes, that’s right; and hold me. Goodness! why ever there are women nurses I can’t make out! They can’t hold one like that!”

It took all Hugh’s strength to support his host’s 98dead weight. Sir Roderick’s cunning had evidently not left him. In Hugh’s position, as prop to a dying man, he could hardly assert himself if called upon to do so.

The first to enter the sick chamber was Mr. Pym, a slight old man of middle height, with a long thin face and small keen eyes. His manner was quiet and self-contained. He accepted a chair from the nurse as calmly as he would had she been one of his clerks and he in his own office. “An emotionless man of business,” was Hugh’s mental comment. “The hero of a scandal? Never!”

Then came Roderick—pale, handsome. He inclined his head haughtily to Hugh, then bent over his uncle.

“You are not worse, uncle, I hope?” he said.

“Better, according to religious people, like your father,” sneered Sir Roderick. “You feel better every Sunday, don’t you, William? Nearer heaven? I’m dying, so of course I’m better, nearer heaven.”

Mr. Pym reddened. At that moment Lilia entered. Mr. Pym rose and offered her his chair. She was declining it, and going to the bedside, when her father querulously said, “No, no; take it!” and she accordingly seated herself.

“I wanted you together,” began Sir Roderick, “to tell you a few truths. I once believed in honest men.” He looked from one to the other; then gave a chuckle, and choked. When he recovered, he added, meaningly: “You, William, put an end to that. You made me wiser, much wiser.”

Lilia’s pale face flushed. Hugh met her glance of appeal, and turned away. What could he do?

Mr. Pym looked gravely at his brother; then, half-turning to the others, said:

99“Pray, say what pleases you, Roderick; it will not hurt me.”

“You made a Diogenes of me,” went on Sir Roderick. “Well, at last, I found a man. This is the man—the rock I am leaning against to die!”

There was silence. Whatever Roderick or his father may have felt, they were silent; nor did they betray any emotion by glance or movement. But Lilia knelt down and kissed the cold hand lying on the bed. At that little spontaneous action Sir Roderick smiled, and Hugh began to believe that Lilia’s heart was his.

“I knew I was done for after the accident,” he went on; “but as I had found an honest man I didn’t mind. Where’s Mervyn?”

He roused himself, and struggled into a sitting posture.

“Don’t kneel there; fetch Mervyn, can’t you?” he said to Lilia, querulously.

“Fetch him,” said Hugh, pleadingly.

He felt overwhelmed by this sudden and unexpected crisis in his life. He pitied himself and each one of them for being, as it were, called to arms without hint or warning of war. And Lilia—he felt almost as if her holiest feelings were to be outraged. Yet, without troubling the dying man, he could do nothing to protect her.

There was a hush in the sick chamber. Roderick stood leaning against a wardrobe; Mr. Pym remained quietly seated as if he were on the magisterial bench, or in his pew in church. Presently the door opened, and Lilia came in, followed by Mr. Mervyn.

At the sight of him Sir Roderick gave a sort of grunt of satisfaction.

100“You know what I want you for,” he said.

Mr. Mervyn’s pale face flushed, and he glanced uneasily round. Then he went up to the bed and laid his hand kindly on Sir Roderick’s.

“Not exactly,” he said, cheerily. “You must tell me, for you said so many things. I do not know which one of them you allude to.”

With evident difficulty, Sir Roderick raised his hand and pointed from Hugh to Lilia.

“Marry them!” he gasped. “Here, now, at once!”

Mr. Mervyn looked helplessly at Hugh.

“What am I to do, Mr. Paull?” he said. “Lilia!”

Lilia had evidently not heard, or hearing, had not understood.

“What is it he wants?” she asked, coming to the bedside.

“Will you marry her now?” asked Sir Roderick, struggling away from Hugh, so that he could look up into his face.

“If she consents,” said Hugh, looking fixedly at Lilia. But her eyes were cast down: she was red as a rose—the picture of shame.

Mr. Pym jumped up, as if suddenly awakened from a stupor of astonishment.

“I—I protest against this—this mad notion—this insult to my niece!” he began, evidently angered beyond power of self-control.

Once more Sir Roderick chuckled.

“You protest against her money being her own, eh?” he said. “You would like your handsome son to spend it on his women, eh? Stand back!” he said, solemnly, raising his hand warningly as Roderick 101stepped forward, white with passion. “Mervyn, marry them! Do you hear?”

“I cannot, my dear old friend; it is impossible. Think, I have no license. To read any service would be mere waste of words——”

His speech was interrupted by a hoarse cry, as the dying man turned up his glazing eyes and fell back into Hugh’s arms.

“Take them all away, and send the nurses,” said Hugh, peremptorily.

Mr. Pym and his son instantly retired, but Lilia pleaded to remain.

“Have mercy on me, and let me stay!” she said, turning from Mr. Mervyn to Hugh with a piteous expression in her distended eyes.

“You shall stay,” said Hugh, tenderly; “only wait just a minute. Nurse!”

Mr. Mervyn took her to the window, and said all he could think of to comfort her. He, like Hugh, sorry though he was, felt almost thankful to Death for putting an end to the embarrassing position. But all he could think of saying was nothing to the poor child in her agony, he saw that.

When the nurses had arranged the now unconscious man, under Hugh’s direction, Hugh came across to the window.

“Coma has set in,” he said to them; “all pain and suffering are over for him. But as this state remains somewhat of a mystery to us doctors—I myself believe there may sometimes remain a super-conscious state we know nothing about—will you come quite close to him, Lilia? Hold his hand; let your head rest by him. We never know, it might comfort him!”

102Lilia put out her hand, and, guided by him, reached the bed. Presently the dying father and the living child were lying side by side, as motionless as if both were dead. The nurses sat near, watching and waiting. Mr. Mervyn and Hugh sat silently at the window, with plenty to occupy their thoughts. The minutes were slowly ticked off by the old clock outside the sick-room door, which presently, after some wheezing sounds, struck one, hoarsely, in a cracked, aged tone.

One of the nurses rose with a warning “Mr. Paull.”

Hugh knew then what was before him. He went to the bedside, gently roused Lilia, who seemed half-asleep, half-stupefied. Then followed the feeling of the dead man’s pulse, the listening to the silent heart, the mirror held over the blue lips—all in vain.

“Kiss him, dear,” said Hugh, tenderly, to Lilia.

She looked up at him with a wan, bewildered look—the look of a lost child; then she flung her arms round her father, and the touch of his icy face told her that she was an orphan.

She flung herself back with a shriek.

“You have let him die!” she cried, frantically, to Hugh. “How dared you? Why did you? Oh father! come back, come back!”

“Lilia! you forget,” said Hugh, firmly, seizing her wrist. “Remember, we cannot dictate to God!”

He threw all the will he was capable of into those words. To his relief, he felt that he had some influence over his future wife. She recoiled, he felt her stiffen; then she slowly turned her head towards him.

“He is gone? There is no hope?” she asked, quietly.

“No hope—here” said Hugh. “Now, you will be 103good, be worthy of him? You will come away with me, me (he trusted me, you know, dear), for a little while? We will come back very, very soon!”

Like a child she held out her arms, and allowed him to assist her from the bed, and to half-support, half-carry her from the room and downstairs to the drawing-room, where, like a tired child, she sobbed herself into calm, then sleep.

When she was soundly asleep upon the sofa, Hugh fetched Mrs. Mervyn.

“It is best as it is, is it not?” she asked him, somewhat timidly, by which Hugh gathered that the proposed death-bed marriage was no secret.

“I hope so,” he said, ambiguously. Then, outwardly calm, inwardly racked with mingled emotions, he turned to face his life under the new conditions.



“Where is Mr. Pym?” asked Hugh, meeting James in the hall.

“Captain Pym is gone, sir. Rode off in a hurry about half-an-hour since. If you mean the old gentleman, he’s in the library with Mr. Mervyn.”

Sir Roderick’s brother was evidently unknown to and of little account in Sir Roderick’s household. Hugh felt that his first duty was to show every deference to a man who had been, whether justifiably or not, cruelly insulted by the dying man. He knocked at the library door. It was Mr. Mervyn who called out, “Come in.”

The fitful sunshine and the leaping flames on the old-fashioned hearth were brightening the room. Mr. Pym had unwittingly seated himself in Sir Roderick’s own particular arm-chair. Mr. Mervyn stood on the hearthrug.

“That’s right, Paull,” he said, evidently relieved. “She is better? Had a good cry? She’ll do, then. Mr. Pym and I have had a talk, and I am glad you should understand each other before he returns home. I have assured him, in your behalf, that Sir Roderick’s wishes on the subject of yourself and Lilia were more of a surprise to you than to myself.”

“I am not a thief, Mr. Mervyn,” said Hugh, warmly. 105“If coming here as Sir Roderick’s medical attendant I had even thought of Miss Pym as a possible future wife, I should have been as much a thief as a common burglar—aye, more so.”

Mr. Pym’s long upper lip curved a little with more a sneer than a smile.

“These young men now-a-days are so strangely romantic,” he said, turning to Mr. Mervyn. “It has, I assure you, been a great difficulty in my way in the matter of my clerks. My partner, Mr. Clithero, invariably defers to me in the affair of our staff. This tendency has been a great stumbling-block to me. I will not have a person in my employ who uses tall talk.”

Hugh bit his lip, but remembered that this man who wished to show him that he classed him with his bank clerks, with the despised majority, the bread-winning non-capitalists, was not only Lilia’s uncle, but possibly his sister Daisy’s father-in-law.

“I have assured Mr. Pym that Lilia, also, was more surprised than I was,” said Mr. Mervyn, admiring Hugh’s self-control; for Mr. Pym’s cold, measured tones were far more subtly insulting than his words. “This I have learnt from Mrs. Mervyn, who at the same time assured me that the child had a great regard for you, Paull—quite sufficient to render her obedient to her father’s wishes, when called upon.”

“That is all very well, Mr. Mervyn,” said Mr. Pym, dictatorially. “But, as you are aware, until quite lately, my unfortunate brother’s pet whim was to leave his fortune to Roderick, on the condition that he and my niece would marry.”

“Of that, sir, I know nothing,” said Mr. Mervyn, deferentially.

106“But you were always in the house, I understand?” said Mr. Pym, haughtily. “My brother’s almost adoption of my son cannot have escaped your notice.”

Mr. Mervyn cleared his throat; and looking down at his boots, brushed some invisible dust from the skirt of his coat.

“I have known Sir Roderick change his mind before now; that is all I can say, Mr. Pym,” he said.

“Yes—when he had a mind to change,” said the banker. “The question is, if the accident which brought about concussion of the brain did not so seriously affect his mind as to invalidate his opinions from that moment.”

Hugh was about to speak, but Mr. Mervyn silenced him with a warning glance.

“It may be treason to my dead friend; I don’t know; I certainly hope not,” he said, “but, if there is to be discussion or law-making on the subject of his fortune, I must tell the truth—he had no particular fortune to leave.”

Hugh felt as if a heavy weight were uplifted from his heart. “Thank God for that!” he said.

The exclamation was so undoubtedly genuine, that Mr. Mervyn smiled—almost laughed—but recollecting the dread presence in the house, checked himself. Mr. Pym settled his eyeglasses on his nose, looked curiously at Hugh as at some new specimen of unclassed animal, then dropped his glasses.

“Excuse me, if I think you are mistaken, Mr. Mervyn,” he said, politely. “My brother can scarcely have dissipated so large a capital as that which he withdrew from us when we dissolved partnership.”

Mr. Mervyn shrugged his shoulders.

107“The reading of the Will will doubtless tend to explain matters,” he said. “At present, we are even in the dark as to Sir Roderick’s wishes in regard to his burial.”

A minute’s silence, then Mr. Pym rose.

“Understand, Mr. Mervyn,” he said, stiffly and pompously, and with evident intention turning his back upon Hugh, “until I, as her nearest male relative, have had several interviews with my niece, I cannot countenance any arrangement for her future which may have been made by my unfortunate brother when in an unsound state of mind.”

Hugh’s impulse to resent was suddenly and strongly quelled by a strange, almost occult, sensation. He seemed, as it were, suddenly to feel, personally, the emotions that old Mr. Pym was enduring. These were goodwill towards the brother who had persistently misunderstood and quarrelled with him; an almost despair at that death-bed insult; an irritable questioning of the motives and intentions of himself and Mr. Mervyn, strangers except by hearsay; a yearning tenderness towards his orphaned niece.

“Mr. Pym!” he said, impetuously, going to the old man as he was quitting the room, “excuse me for detaining you one moment, but I must tell you how much your niece’s grief is increased by her father’s treatment of you; it was harder to console her for that than for the fact that Sir Roderick is dead!”

At first, a slight redness flushing Mr. Pym’s withered cheeks encouraged Hugh to fancy that his feelings were touched. But whatever transient emotion had caused that flush, it was but transient.

“I am sure I am very much obliged to you,” he 108coldly said, with a nod such as he might have given to a saluting servant; “but really I do not think that you, sir, and I need go into these questions. If you will direct me to the stables, I will find my carriage.”

Mr. Mervyn at once came to the rescue.

“You wait here for me,” he said confidentially to Hugh. “I’ll see him off, and come back.”

Hugh’s sensations when left alone were scarcely pleasant. “I am an interloper,” he thought. “Yet I love her! and if I were to wriggle out of the situation, Roderick would step in. Roderick! No. I must deal with the facts as they are, the best way I can.”

At least, he thought, as Mr. Mervyn cordially held out his hand to him as he returned to the room, Lilia’s guardian and trustee did not misunderstand him.

“It is a sad time for congratulations,” said Mr. Mervyn; “still, I cannot help congratulating you. Lilia is a sweet girl, with the making of a real woman in her. I was right when I said that Sir Roderick’s wish you two should be married took you by surprise, eh?”

“It was more than a surprise, Mr. Mervyn.”

“Not an unpleasant one? No, I thought not. Mrs. Mervyn assured me that you and Lilia liked each other weeks ago. Women are pretty reliable judges in these matters. Still, when Sir Roderick told me at the beginning of this last illness that he had invited you here, hoping that the child would take a fancy to you, I was surprised, I own.”

“What could his idea have been, Mr. Mervyn?”

“He liked you. When Sir Roderick liked anyone, 109he trusted that person blindly, I may say foolishly. Then he had just been disenchanted, awakened to the fact that his nephew Roderick is—what I have always thought him—a scamp.”

“How was he enlightened?” asked Hugh, drawing a long breath of relief.

“Oh! you know how curiously things get about. He was not a man to listen to gossip. But since the 45th were quartered at Aldershot rumours of Roderick’s looseness of conduct were in the air somehow.”

“Do you think he intended those two for each other?” asked Hugh.

“I cannot make out,” said the clergyman, slowly. “He made a fool of that lad; sometimes so much so that I felt uncomfortable, as if it were unreal, a cruel joke he was enjoying all to himself. You see, he hated the father.”

“I thought so,” said Hugh. Then he detailed the bitter speeches of the dying man, before Mr. Mervyn was fetched by Lilia.

“Dear, dear!” said Mr. Mervyn. “It is not to be wondered at that the old man’s back was up just now. Curious old man, that. A bit of a Pharisee, I fear. But not as guilty as his brother thought him, I believe.”

“Were you here then, Mr. Mervyn? When that affair of Lady Pym happened?”

“Who told you of the family scandal, eh, young man?”

Hugh recounted his father’s visit and its object.

“Do you know anything of this clergyman son who wants to marry my sister?” he asked.

“I met him once or twice, and thought him a prig,” 110said Mr. Mervyn. “But better a prig, than like his brother Roderick.”

“You knew Lady Pym?” asked Hugh.

“I did,” said Mr. Mervyn. “A lovely, winsome young creature; wretchedly unhappy. She was made for society and a lightsome life, and Sir Roderick literally imprisoned her. If she clung to her brother-in-law—if they were more affectionate to each other than in strict justice to him they should have been,—I, for one, cannot cast the first stone. It was piteous to see that poor girl. When the row came, and she disappeared, I felt inclined to give up the living. My one attempt to interfere was met with coldness; I could not try again. If it had not been for my wife, who was devoted to the poor baby, and literally went on her knees to me to stay, I should not be here talking to you now. It is this—with other things—that makes it impossible for me to regret Sir Roderick’s death, though he has been very kind to me, and to my wife too.”

“And to the poor?”

“No,” said Mr. Mervyn, energetically. “He has been their worst enemy. Your work is cut out for you, Mr. Paull, to undo his doings. But you are the man to do it.”

“But—I thought—you said—he left no fortune?”

Hugh’s ambition was certainly not to waste his energies in remedying Sir Roderick’s mistakes.

“No fortune, as Mr. Pym considers fortune. But you had better see Turner and Moffatt, the solicitors, Paull, you really had,” added Mr. Mervyn, lapsing into the familiar and confidential. “Someone must take up a position of authority; and you are the person to do it, as matters stand.”

111Hugh wrote off to the hospital authorities for further leave; and next day, hearing from Mrs. Mervyn, who was acting as mistress of the house pro tem., that Lilia would not come down till after luncheon, he drove over to the quiet little town where “Messrs. Turner and Moffatt, solicitors,” was engraved large upon a brilliant brass plate on the door of an old red-brick house.

This house was in a wide, quiet street of the silent country town, where the grass sprouted about the cobbles in the roads. A parlourmaid conducted Hugh into a prim library, where he was almost immediately joined by a little man, dressed with extreme neatness, and wearing thick glass spectacles, who met him with repeated little bows.

“A friend of my late client,” he said, insisting upon Hugh’s seating himself in a huge arm-chair, like a dentist’s. “Yes, yes.” (He referred to Hugh’s card that he was holding between his finger and thumb.) “My name is Moffatt. I have always acted for Sir Roderick. Dear me! Very sad, very sad! I only heard of his death this morning.”

He sat down and looked at Hugh through his spectacles with an inquiring, owl-like gaze.

“I have good reason to suppose that my client has spoken of you to me as having treated him very successfully after his accident,” he next said, taking off his spectacles and absently polishing them with his handkerchief. “Quite in a friendly way—Sir Roderick was very friendly with us; indeed he has often honoured Mrs. Moffatt by taking a bit of luncheon with us. And how is the poor young lady?”

To Hugh’s surprise, he found that Mr. Moffatt had never seen Lilia.

112“Our poor friend—my late client, I should say—was slightly eccentric, you see,” said the lawyer exculpatingly, after which Hugh found it easier to make a clean breast of affairs as they stood.

“Mr. Mervyn advised me to come to you to tell me exactly what to do,” he said.

“Certainly, certainly, Mr. Paull, anything that we can do.”

The little gentleman, who had been mentally casting up Hugh, of whose position in Sir Roderick’s will he was well aware, was so far satisfied with his new client. The reluctance Hugh showed, during their ensuing interview, to accept the situation, he thought foolish. Still, he liked the young man for it.

Hugh left him in a more uncertain mood than when he sought him.

He did not see Lilia till next morning. Mrs. Mervyn was kind, even tender in her manner to him when they dined tête-à-tête, but they both tacitly ignored the position of affairs. Mrs. Mervyn recalled and recounted little anecdotes which showed Sir Roderick at his best, but nothing further was discussed. Even on the subject of Lilia they were equally on guard.

“This is the most uncomfortable position a man could possibly be placed in,” Hugh told himself, as he breakfasted alone in the dining-room next morning, stared at by the painted eyes of the pictured effigies of bygone Pyms. “Why will she not see me?” for by Mrs. Mervyn’s message of excuse, that she would breakfast upstairs with Lilia, he augured that Lilia would not face him.

“What am I to do?” he thought, pacing the room in gloomy discomfort. “Of course! I see it. I have 113been forced upon her. As a loving daughter, she was ready to sacrifice herself to please her dying father. If he had asked to be burnt like an Indian and she to lie down among the flames in suttee fashion, she would have carried out his whim. She shall not be made miserable for life. I must insist upon her accepting her release. Of course the Mervyns and lawyer Moffatt think it best that Sir Roderick’s ideas should be carried out. My duty plainly is, to fight for her good, and hers only.”

While he was hotly arguing against himself Lilia was hanging despairingly about Mrs. Mervyn in her darkened room.

“My dear, I assure you he loves you, and would have wished to marry you even against your father’s wish,” Mrs. Mervyn was assuring the unhappy girl for the hundredth time. “If you only see him, you will be convinced that I am right. You will, indeed!”

Then Lilia said, brokenly, that she could not. If he would only go away, she would write to him.

“Let him take everything, and go,” she said for about the hundred-and-first time. “Life is over for me.”

Then once more Mrs. Mervyn said, this time somewhat indignantly, for she was losing patience, that such a suggestion to Mr. Paull savoured of insult.

“You are cowardly in your grief, Lilia,” she said, sharply. “At least tell the young man your ideas yourself, instead of saying them over and over again to poor me, who can do nothing.”

Perhaps it was this speech which brought about the following:—

Hugh, impatiently pacing the dining-room, did not 114hear the door open, and when once he suddenly turned round as he reached the hearthrug, he started back in alarm at finding himself confronted by a ghostly figure.

It was Lilia, Magdalen-like, with her hair dishevelled and hanging about over her white dressing-gown, with her head drooping, her swollen eyelids cast down, her arms crossed under her loose sleeves.

“Miss Pym!” he said. Then he placed a chair for her, and set a guard upon his emotions.

She sat down on the edge of the chair as if she were on sufferance. Indeed, she felt as if nothing in the world was her own now, except her grief.

“What can I do for you?” he said, as gently and tenderly as he could. “Anything, anything that you wish, I will try to do.”

She glanced up, at this.

“Will you—go?” she said, timidly. “And forget all about us—about him, and me? And I will write to you about everything.”

Her head drooped again. He stood looking at her in silence for a few moments, wondering what prompted that speech—what, indeed, she really felt. Then he said, very gently:

“Am I to understand that you really wish me to go?”

She murmured “Yes.”

“I will, then,” he said. “But you must give me your true reason for sending me away.”

“For your—happiness,” she said, with a sigh.

“My—happiness?” he repeated, bitterly. “Even though you may hate me because your father wished—that—I would rather stay near you, even though you 115would not look at me, or speak to me—than go away—now.”

He hoped his earnestness might have some effect in eliciting the truth. But she still sat there dumbly, miserably. After a pause:

“You are—very kind—he used to say so,” she murmured, with a sob.

He felt somewhat exasperated.

“I am not kind,” he said. “And I never say anything I do not mean and feel. Don’t you believe me?”

Really kind people do not know when they are kind,” she said, raising her grieved eyes and speaking more firmly. “Make no mistake, Mr. Paull. I understand your motives, which seem good to you. But they are not the best, or even good, for you or for me. I am positively certain of this.”

“My motives?” he said, scornfully. “Then, I have none! I only know—that I love you!” he added, passionately.

She fastened, as if in perversity, on the first half of his speech.

“If you have no motives, I have motives,” she said, slowly. “Therefore I am the one to see clearly. And I plainly see, that the best thing for both of us is—that you should go away.”

“But—why?” cried Hugh. (In his life, he had never felt more inclined to swear.) “That is all I ask you to tell me! Why?”

“I gave you my reason,” she said. “For your happiness!”

“My happiness! What do you know—or care—about my happiness?” he said, scornfully.

116“More than you care for mine!” she said, rousing a little. “Or you would go, without asking why!”

“No, that I certainly should not,” he returned. “Oh, what waste of time this beating about the bush is! Lilia, I plainly see what all this means. You cannot love me!”

He began pacing the room again. She, poor child, worn out by sleepless nights fighting against her inclinations—as she thought, for the welfare of this man whom she passionately loved—gazed sadly at him, a pathetic gaze of renunciation, which, if he had seen, might have enlightened him.

But he did not see.

“Well?” he said, at last, almost fiercely, halting opposite to her. “Your answer?”

“I forget—what you asked,” she said, timidly.

“That is answer enough!” he retorted sadly. “Poor, poor child! You shall not be sacrificed.” (Love him, and forget his question? The two things were incompatible. He was answered, he considered, and completely.)

With a swelling heart she held out her limp, cold hand to him.

“Be my brother,” she said, with a catching at her breath. “Remember—how alone—I am!”

He stooped and lightly touched her hand with his lips.

“If I were your brother, I should stay,” he said, gravely.

“If you were my brother, you would do as you like without asking me,” she said, with an attempt at a smile. “Do as you like.”

At that moment there was a tap at the door, and the older of the two nurses peeped in.

117“Might I trouble you one moment, Mr. Paull?”

He went outside. The nurse handed him a small sealed packet.

“A locket and chain from the patient’s neck,” she said. “Mrs. Mervyn would not take it.”

“I will give it to Miss Pym,” he said, wondering how much or how little Lilia knew of her father’s personal affairs.

“Nurse came to bring me this,” he said, returning to Lilia. “She says it contains a locket and chain she found around—his—neck.”

“A locket—round—his—neck? It must be a mistake,” said Lilia, confidently. “He never wore any jewellery—except, of course, his watchchain. He did not approve of men decking themselves out with ornaments.”

“Well, you can soon find out if it is a mistake,” he said, handing her the packet.

She hesitated, took the package, then laid it down on the table as if the touch of it had scorched her.

“I cannot!” she said, with a sob. “It seems—such prying, such desecration! You open it.”

There was something so childish in her change of voice as she pushed the packet towards him, that instinctively Hugh felt comforted. All the preceding palaver might have been partly the masquerading of a child, suddenly called upon to act the woman.

For a moment he hesitated; then he broke the seal, and handing her the locket which had been in his custody at the hospital, said:

“I have seen this before, I think.”

“You?” she asked, recoiling. “How? When?”

“In the hospital—your father wore it then. If I am not mistaken, the locket contains a portrait.”

118“I have never been photographed,” she said, evidently believing that no portrait save of herself could be so honoured. “It is not—a portrait—of Roderick?”

“Look and see for yourself,” suggested Hugh.

Her fingers trembled as she opened the locket, then she stared in amazement at the miniature.

“I have never seen that person in my life!” she cried. “Have you? Did he tell you anything about it? Oh, it is impossible, impossible!”

She was roused, almost excited. She tossed the locket away from her, then clutched at it again and devoured the portrait with her eyes.

“Surely the face must recall some one to your mind—there must be some—family—likeness?” he suggested, gravely.

“I never saw any one in the least like that!” she said, with withering contempt. “It is a horrid face!”

Could she speak thus if the slightest suspicion that the portrait was that of her unhappy mother had crossed her mind? Hugh thought not.

“You once—had—a mother,” he said, not without emotion that he, a stranger, should be called upon to remind this fatherless young creature of the fact.

“I know it,” she said, coldly. “Please do not allude to that—again.”

“What is to be done with this, then?” he asked, chilled by her unwomanliness. And he picked up the locket and once more looked at the pretty, defiant little face pictured therein.

“I do not see what one thing has to do with the other,” she said.

“I feel certain that this is the portrait of your 119mother,” he said. “And, that being so, what is to be done with it?”

She glanced at him with a curious light in her grey eyes that made her look more witchlike than angelic.

“I will show you,” she said; and going to the hearth she stirred the logs into a blaze, and detaching the locket from its slender chain she dropped it into the glowing heart of the fire.

“I will keep this,” she said, showing him the chain. “It touched his neck. You are answered.”

The horrified expression on Hugh’s pale features somewhat quieted her passion. He was surprised and shocked. Was her rage pure jealousy, or what? He stood there, pondering, with his face averted from her.

“Now you know me!” she said, recklessly. “No—not quite. But I will tell you. I hate the woman who dared to marry my father without loving him, and so, poisoned his life and broke his heart!”

Somehow Sir Roderick as Hugh had known him was scarcely to be recognised as a man with a poisoned life and a broken heart.

“As you have given me a brother’s privilege, I shall use it and tell you the truth,” he said, seriously, to the young creature who was, he could see, all panting and as it were aflame with long-repressed emotion. “You have no right to judge another whom you have neither seen nor known, least of all in the case of your mother, to whom you owe your life.”

“And—my misery!” she said, passionately. “If she had not spoiled his life, he would have been a happy man—he might be alive, now!”

“This is a very onesided way of arguing,” he said. “Had your parents been happy together in the 120ordinary way, they might have had a large family of troublesome sons and daughters, who would have broken your father’s heart, as you call it, a dozen times over.”

“She was—a wretch, a wretch!” said Lilia.

In her passion she forgot her new shyness of Hugh. She had seated herself on the corner of the table—gracefully enough, she was always graceful—but she was swinging her little foot impatiently, and thrust away the breakfast things, not yet removed, with evident carelessness whether they were broken or not.

“Did it ever occur to you—that if we continue the mistakes those beloved dead of ours made here on earth, we might possibly be injuring their souls?” said Hugh, gravely. “It seems to me that real grief for the dead should show itself in continuing the good they have done—and, perhaps, in rectifying those mistakes.”

“My father never made mistakes,” said Lilia, obstinately.

“He seems to have made one, at least,” he said, somewhat bitterly—“in thinking that you and I wished—or would consent—to marry each other!”

She blushed and hung her head.

“You were speaking of souls,” she said, presently, in a somewhat defiant tone. “What do you mean by souls?”

“You ought to know,” he returned. “Do you not go to church every Sunday, and say your prayers?”

“I did so while he was here—but never again, never again!” she said, in tones so despairing that Hugh’s growing hardness of humour was melted.

“Why not?” he asked, gently.

121“I was getting to believe that there might be a good God,” she said. “That—is crushed—now I know there is not!”

“You do not know what you are saying, poor child!” said Hugh.

What was he to do? What to say? Never in his life had he felt so helpless in thought and word.

She looked up at him with a sad, but quiet little smile.

“Would you, hard as you can be, have taken my father from me?” she said.

“I thought your mind was larger, stronger,” said Hugh, eagerly. “That you could distinguish between this little life and eternity; between our poor human ideas and the Eternal Must Be. I am disappointed.”

She sighed.

“I knew it,” she murmured, twisting her fingers. “I knew that when you saw me as I really am, you would despise me!”

“Pray, pray do not misunderstand me,” said Hugh, almost hopelessly. “It seems to me that all the trouble in life comes from people wilfully misunderstanding each other. Will you not believe in my devotion to you, that I am ready to do, to suffer anything for you?”

“I am not worth it,” she sighed. “And—really it seems to me that I don’t care whether I am or not, or indeed, what happens!”

She was so listlessly miserable that Hugh re-assumed his professional manner. She was suffering from the shock. She required complete rest. It never occurred to him that if he had taken her to his heart, then and there, without question or reserve, that complete rest 122would have been hers. Instead, he sent her upstairs to Mrs. Mervyn, devoutly kissing her hand at parting, with the kind, cool words:

“Remember, you have a brother who is ready to serve you day or night.”

So Lilia went wearily up the old staircase and scared Mrs. Mervyn, who was scribbling notes at the writing-table in her room, by looking more ghostlike than when she left her.

“Well?” said that lady, who had quite concluded that the young people would understand each other.

“Well? What?” she asked languidly. “Mr. Paull said I had better lie down. Lie down, indeed! As if I could rest!”

“But—you understand each other?” Mrs. Mervyn asked, with a shade of anxiety in her tone. She felt her position somewhat onerous.

“Perfectly,” said Lilia. “We are quite agreed—we have adopted each other as brother and sister—oh, father, father!”

And she broke down completely, sobbing hysterically for a long time.

When she was quieted, and was seemingly asleep, Mrs. Mervyn had time to reflect. What were those two about?

“They are too much in love with each other and cannot talk sense, that’s what it is,” she told herself. “Ah, well, time enough! The brother and sister business is really nicer during the first mourning, when there should be no thoughts of ‘marrying, or giving in marriage.’”



October —, 18—.

If I do not tell someone, or something, I shall go mad!

Oh! father, father, I loved you so; and what have you done to me?

You could not help dying and leaving me, I know that. The relentless progress of atoms, whose rules no one is clear-brained or unprejudiced enough to discover, determined your death.

But why, why did you degrade me so? I have been wandering in the dark among the pines, in the forlorn hope of meeting your spirit. I have been to the place in the churchyard where they buried you, to-day. I knew I could not see or hear you, but I thought my mind might feel your mind. I felt nothing—but that you—are—not.

You are not. Terrible, cruel thought! And I have not the courage to kill myself and be not, as well. This man you have given me to, without asking me, holds me, holds every bit of me—body, heart, what they call mind and soul—everything. I feel I must do his will, and that my own will is as not as you are.

I rage and chafe like a chained beast, and every moment I feel my chains are getting less galling—presently, 124oh, father, father! they will be pleasant, like your chains were—then I shall love them—then they will crush me, and I shall not be your Lilia any more, but a little piece of another identity.

It must have been your plan from the beginning. How you used to talk about him after that dreadful time in the hospital! You made him out a second “Hamlet,” only larger-minded, cleverer; but never said he was young and handsome. You must have purposely let me imagine him like your friends, that I might be surprised, that first time he came here. How well I remember one evening, when you and I were walking in the wood, and you were talking about him, and said he was coming!

“At last I shall see this ancient ‘Hamlet’ of yours,” I said, and asked you if there had been an “Ophelia” in his story.

“Scarcely time for that, yet,” you said, in a peculiar way of yours, that means I am all at sea—all in the dark about something. But I was not interested enough to think more about it.

Then came the day, when a graceful, dark, young, prince-like creature walked across the lawn, and when I saw him I felt all paralysed. I felt nothing, thought nothing. He stupefied me. I only seemed to wake up when he went away; no, some hours after he went back to London, and then my whole being seemed to give one great cry of despair, like it did when Mr. Mervyn told me of your accident and that you were in the hospital.

I did not know what that feeling of despair meant then. It only frightened me. I know what it meant, only too well, now. I despaired, because it is impossible 125that he can ever love me. And no one could see him and know him without feeling that life without his love is dry, purposeless—a living death.

Oh! why did you bring him here, and ask him to take me? Poor, dear father! I thought you could not be mistaken in any one, and you are certainly not mistaken in your estimate of him. But when you thought he could love me, how you exaggerated me, how your kind eyes saw your poor child in a false light!

I—his companion—his—wife! Impossible! The whole world would laugh, would stare! and I should be sick with shame, as I was to-day.

I told him, two days before, that he must go away. I begged him to go away. He did not. He thinks he ought to sacrifice himself. So he stayed for the “funeral,” as they call it. (Why not good Saxon burial?) Father, you never treated me wrongly till now. Now you have wronged your child. When you were dying, you did what you thought best for me. But—to-day—the shame of it!

Your brothers, Mr. Pym and Mr. Edmund Pym, came for the burial. Roderick did not come, it was said he was ill; but his brother Herbert, the clergyman, you used to laugh at to Roderick, and call the “family prig,” came. They followed your coffin through the pouring rain in carriages. I sat in my room alone—I could not even bear Mammy Mervyn with me—feeling cold and half-dead. While they were seeing your coffin put into the ground I was listening to the clatter of plates and dishes, and the footsteps of the servants laying the luncheon which those people were to eat when they came back. I heard the carriages coming back like carriages in a dream. Then Mammy Mervyn would 126come in with a cup of beef-tea. She took me in her arms and dropped tears on to me, which made me drink the beef-tea, as the less disagreeable of the two. She told me the will was to be read, and Mr. Moffatt said I must come down; and she made me put on that dreadful black gown, which you would dislike, I know, as much as I do. I went downstairs with her. She asked me if I thought I should “break down.” I said the truth: “Mammy, I feel there is nothing of me to break down.”

The room was dreadfully light. I could not make out which was which of the men in black standing about, till he came up to me and took my hand; and the touch of him fired up my life like a flaming match fires spirits of wine. Then I again saw—heard—thought—and suffered the anguish of your loss acutely. The lawyer, sitting at your table, in your chair, read your will, and the awful shame settled about me that I shall never be able to lift off myself, never!

You left all your money and property to him, with the condition that he married me. That was all. You never made any arrangement for anyone else, or for anything else, should he refuse, or I refuse.

If you could have heard the desecration of your name which followed!

Old Mr. Pym, Roderick’s father, that pinched old man like a sick weasel, got up and said he should oppose your will, which was evidently drawn up when you were of unsound mind.

At this I started up, and said that I should defend it. You had never been of unsound mind.

Mr. Mervyn proposed that discussions, if any, should be postponed.

127I said, “Certainly.”

This conversation made me feel all anger.

Then Mr. Pym proposed a private interview with me.

I said: “Yes; will you please come into the drawing-room?”

We went. I drew up the blinds, then stood with my back to the light, facing him. He offered me a chair. I declined. No man who has accused you of having been of unsound mind shall be invited to seat himself in this, your, house if I can prevent it.

He stared at me, I stared at him. He began a speech, muddling the words and clearing his throat. Then he accused me of being in league with him—to have influenced you to disinherit Roderick.

I said: “Excuse me; but I fail to understand what my cousin Roderick has to do with the matter.”

He told me that you had made Roderick your heir in a previous will, and that you had intended us to marry.

I laughed. That made him very angry. He stamped about the room, said many things I could not understand; but finished off by saying that “everything was exactly as he expected,” which was plain enough.

I said what I felt, for I was really sorry for him. I said: “I am glad of that. It seems to me that what one expects so seldom happens.”

Just then Mrs. Mervyn came in, looking quite frightened. (How frightened—or rather timid—these believers in all sorts of unseen extraordinary things are!) He and she looked at each other; then he went out, and she came to me and said:

“My darling, this is dreadful for you, I am sure! But I know he meant it well.”

128I said: “He!—who?”

“Your poor, dear father!” she said.

How dared she defend you, and to me!

I said: “My father was above ordinary men. He knew—he could see farther than we short-sighted mortals.”

She seemed a little chidden, and I was glad. Then she asked me if I would see—him.

“I can see, poor fellow! that he had no idea of this, he seems quite overwhelmed,” she said.

The white-hot shame of that scorched me. I stood there and—oh, father!—suffered an agony, to describe which there are no words—no words!

She called him “poor fellow!” Pityingly, she said “he had no idea of that, that he was quite overwhelmed.” Oh! my shame, my shame! And I never dreamt that I was good enough for him. I had never aspired, never should have aspired to being even his friend, much less his wife. Your goodness in overrating your child has covered her with a pall—a pall of shame—under which she will lie buried till the end of time—if, indeed, there should be such a thing as the end of time—which seems absurd.

I said, “To-morrow.” I would see him to-morrow. And I begged for solitude. I have had it—utter, complete.

October —.
[“Two days later” is written in another handwriting on the margin of the page.]

For once, I must try and communicate with you, dear father, before I begin the new life you cannot blame me for living, for you willed it so.

129Did you know that you were giving me to one whose thoughts, opinions, feelings are the very opposite of your own? This is the great, important question I am trying to put to you—in my mind—for it is no use to cry out to you, you cannot hear me. Oh! it is important, most important! For why should you have educated me so carefully in the common sense conformity of actualities, if you meant me to adopt the ordinary myths which he believes? He tells me you knew his opinions, that he concealed nothing from you. He cannot lie. So I am to think that you felt a secret dissatisfaction with your own explanations of the awful mysteries of human life and the universe, and preferred I should adopt the blind weaving of human fancies they call faith—religion. Can it be? Can it be? I cannot, cannot understand you.

I have sought your spirit everywhere—by your grave, in your favourite haunts, in your room. I have knelt and grovelled, imploring you to give me one sign, to comfort me with a passing breath. No! no! I have felt nothing—but a blank—a silence—death!...

Still, you, or what remains of you, may be dimly impressed with my burning, fiery thoughts; so I concentrate them and write them down. If Thought in Matter can communicate with disembodied Thought, the moment may come when you will in some way become acquainted with these sentences.

So I will tell you how the fulfilling of your will has come about.

I could not sleep last night—no, not last night, the night after your burial. In the morning—(fancy, that was only yesterday morning, though it seems so far away it might have been fifty years ago!)—I had no 130courage left. I could not see him. I sent Mammy Mervyn to tell him so. When she came back I asked her what he said. She answered, “Nothing.” I said: “He must have said something.” She said: “No. He bowed his head, and answered some question James had just asked him.”

Somehow, this silence rebuked me, and I felt I was not behaving with due respect to your chosen heir, for that is what he really is. So all day long I tried to nerve myself for what I had to do, which was to tell him I could not accept the sacrifice of himself, but that I was ready and glad to place myself in the position of his younger sister, as you had placed him in the position of an eldest—indeed, an only son. This would be very hard to say truthfully, feeling, as I do, that to be his own wife is the greatest happiness that any living woman on the face of this earth can possibly attain. When evening came, I could not face him. I felt worn out. I sent him a little note, telling him I would see him to-morrow morning (this morning); and locking myself into my room, went to bed and tried to sleep.

Sleep was impossible. The night was chill, I knew, though I was hot. The moonlight would not be shut out. I heard the quarters chime, the hours strike, the noises in the house cease one by one, till the last door up above shut softly, and the house had its night hush on, which, when you and I were reading together late, you used to call its “nightcap.” Only that last night that we were trying to find out something of the separate will-power, commonly called “the human soul,” you said, “We must wait till the house has put on its nightcap;” and when the hush came, you laid down your 131long pipe, and with that peculiar smile which meant work, you said, “Come along!”

Then, as I lay tossing, eleven struck, and a thought came to me as a lightning flash.

There is an old notion that midnight or thereabouts is the time when disembodied spirit-essence can manifest itself in some way; and, as you have often seriously said to me, there is always at least a spark of fire underlying the dense smoke of these popular fallacies.

I had not tried to find you in the dead of night yet! I got up, put on a winter dressing-gown, wrapped my head in a veil, and, going softly downstairs, went out into the pinewood.

There I roamed and wandered, straining my thoughts, fixing them upon you—yearning, longing for you. The moonlight streamed calmly down; the dark night sky was clear and peaceful; the pines stood solemn and still, like giant, black-clad sentinels guarding your grave. But you—oh, father, father!—you were not.

Now and then an owl hooted, or one of those screeching night-birds flew out of covert. But these natural noises only deepened the stern silence of the sleeping world. My wretched body, my miserable senses, were the barrier between us. Embodied, we shall never meet again. Oh, father! that thought maddened me; I could not bear the separation any longer.

I looked up. (Why do we always look up?) That cold, solitary eye of the night—the moon—glared banefully at me. To me its chill disdain meant: “Fool, why stand there drivelling? If you will have him again, die.”

The thought steadied me. I would die. Yes; but how, when?

132Those poor Mervyns! A rush of pity for dear, good Mammy and her worthy husband made me turn away from the idea, wrung with pain. They had been so tender and good to me always. What a repayment—to grieve their kind hearts!

Overcome, I made my way to the triangle-lawn, and sat down in a corner of the stone bench under the laurels to collect my thoughts. Then came the most startling event of my whole life.

I had hardly been there a minute, when a figure glided in by the path through the shrubs by which I had come—the figure of a man.

It stood motionless in the shadow. At first, with a throb of triumph, I thought it was you. I was springing up to rush to you when it made a step forward. I saw a white face in the moonlight: the face of a thin man with grey hair, all tossed about above his forehead—a face I seemed to know, but did not know.

(This I declare to you that I saw, with these living eyes, and never, never will I believe that I was deceived. Never!)

At first I shivered—yes, with fright. I was afraid of that man, whose face was familiar and strange at one and the same time.

Then I suddenly remembered something you said to me when I was a child, and Rob the pony ran away and I stuck on. When you came up and found us all right you said, sharply, “Were you frightened?” Then, after I answered “No,” you said, “That’s right. If you were frightened at anything, I should disown you.”

You shall never disown me for cowardice! So I conquered the nonsensical tremor, and went across 133towards the man. As I got near, I saw it was he—your Hamlet.

He looked frightened, horrified—I think, shocked. He stared at me without speaking while I could have counted twelve; then he said, quite harshly:

“Is this the first time you have been here at this hour?”

Before I could think I naturally said “Yes,” and told him why I had come.

“This is most extraordinary,” he said, staring strangely at me.

He was not like himself: he seemed dazed. I felt less shy of him.

“I came here for two reasons,” I said. “I was too unhappy to sleep, and I thought that if my father’s spirit is hovering about anywhere I might find it—him—here.”

Just then the church clock rang out so loudly that I started, and laid my hand on his arm. He smiled, and took my hand.

“Even the great philosopher, Miss Pym, is superstitious enough to believe in ghosts and to be frightened when the clock strikes twelve,” he said, in a familiar teasing way.

“I was not frightened; I was only startled,” I said.

“Come, we must go back to the house at once; I am answerable for you,” he said in an authoritative way.

“Answerable? May I ask to whom?” I said, as coldly as I could, though I began to feel a strange joy—yes, joy just after my despair, therefore all the keener by contrast. Oh, my father, what a paltry nature is mine to love another when I have but just lost you! “There is no one that has any power over me, no one who can or 134will ask or care what has become of me,” I said, as he did not speak for some moments.

“There is,” he said.

“That is absurd; there is not,” I asseverated.

“There is,” he said,—“Almighty God!”

He drew my hand through his arm, and we walked silently towards the house. I was wondering why I had shuddered at his sudden mention of the Deity; I was frightened to realise that his influence had even greater power over me than I thought.

“You are my sacred charge,” he said, in the same serious voice. What a voice he has—so deep, yet so mellow! “Do what you may, I shall watch over you till I die.”

“If you can find me,” I cried; for the battle to resist him against a strong inclination I felt to tell him I was his slave, to do as he pleased with, was exciting me to wildness. “Perhaps I shall die or disappear!”

“If I thought one thing, I should be the one to disappear; at least, you should never be troubled with the sight of me again,” he said, stopping when we came to an open place in the road, dropping my hand, and turning so that he could see my face plainly in the moonlight. “And I must really now, once for all, ask you to answer me a plain question, with truth, absolute truth. It is my duty to ask, and your duty to reply.”

“Well?” I said, nerving myself as if for some process of torture, dreading, fearing I should give away suddenly, and shame myself for ever, beyond repair, beyond recall.

“It is a plain question, and I only want a plain Yes or No,” he went on. “Can you love me as a husband?”

135I stood still, I gasped. Terror! I had to tell the truth, and that truth was horrible. Suddenly I bethought me how to be true both to myself and to him.

“It must be plain Yes or plain No?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Then, No!” I cried, emphatically.

He thrust his hands into his pockets, drew a deep sigh, and stared at me. His face was in the shadow: I could not see it; but I felt his eyes fixed upon me.

“Thank you for your frankness,” he said, just when the silence was getting unendurable, and I dreaded giving way and flinging myself at his knees, or something equally disgraceful. Oh, the hard, hard fight it was to keep cool, silent! “Then the dream is over,” he went on, more to himself than to me, beginning to walk along the road again. “I might have known it without asking you, child; but it is best to kill a delusion right out, at once.”

“What delusion?” I asked.

“The delusion that you, or, for the matter of that, any woman, could care to be the wife of a man so totally devoid of interest and charm as myself,” he said, bitterly. “Thank heaven! it will never come in my way to ask any woman that question again.”

His self-depreciation astonished me. Surely he must know what he is! Then I remembered, dear father, how people who are born with great gifts do not recognise the fact because it is so natural to them. Indeed, you once told me, when that wonderful man M—— condescended to talk to me about the beetles he had discovered, that these men of genius cannot understand how it is everyone else has not powers similar to their own.

136“Do you know that you are telling lies without knowing it?” I said.

“I am—— What did you say?” he said, evidently startled, stopping short and once more staring at me.

“When you say you are devoid of charm and interest you are telling a monstrous lie,” I cried. “If you don’t know that every woman who sees and talks to you must think you a god among men, it is time you did know it; for it is much better for women you should not be with them. You make them dissatisfied with their people. Don’t misunderstand me! You did not make me dissatisfied with my father: he, too, was perfect. But after seeing you that time you came and stayed, everyone else seemed coarse and common; and Roderick—oh, poor Roderick!—I was very unkind to him. I did not want him at all.”

Once more he stopped.

“Do you mean all this?” he said. “Good God! Why, of course you do! I forgot how innocent, how ignorant you are! What shall I do with you?”

We stood staring at one another like cats before they begin to fight.

Do with me?” I said, thinking as I spoke; for I felt very sorry for him, burdened with me. “Take my advice, my first advice: have nothing to do with me. Go away, and forget my father and me as soon as you can.”

“But why should I? No, no; that is not the question,” he said, sternly, like you used to speak sometimes. “Lilia, be sensible! If you think far more of me than I deserve, why cannot you consent to be my wife?”

“You never asked me!” I said.

“I have done nothing else but ask you!” he cried.

137“You are mistaken,” I said, and with truth. “You did not ask me to be your wife; you asked me if I could love you as a husband.”

“And you said ‘No.’ Such a No!”

“I meant it.”

“You are the greatest puzzle I have ever come across,” he said, almost angrily. “I know you mean to speak the truth. But one moment you tell me decidedly, in a manner that admits of no doubt, no hope, that you cannot love me as a husband, and the next you say extravagant things about me—that I am a god among men—things which would be insults from any lips but yours. What am I to think? Both cannot be true.”

“Both things are true,” I said. “I cannot love you as, for instance, Mrs. Mervyn loves her husband. She doesn’t mind much where he is. She is quite contented to stay with me while he is at the Vicarage. But the woman who marries you will weary her heart out all the time you are away from her; or, perhaps, you might find a girl who would not. I can only speak for myself. If you love yourself, and I suppose you do—everyone does, more or less—save yourself from me! I cannot love you unselfishly. I should be a burden to you; you would get to hate me.”

He took my hands, then took me in his arms—like you used to, father, when you said “Good-night”—and he said to me:

“I should prefer to risk hating you, then. Lilia, let us talk sense. You are mine—doubly mine, as your father’s dying gift—I am yours. Only listen to my advice as you listened to his, and we shall be happy in life and death.”

138Already, under his influence, I began to see things in a different light. What a fool I am! Oh, dear father, what a great, grand thing your patience with me has been!

We have talked over everything. He is resolved to let no consideration interfere with his working out of whatever talent he has. So for six months or so, until he has passed certain important examinations, he will work hard in London, and I shall see but little of him. Mr. and Mrs. Mervyn will live here; and for the present the Vicarage will be shut up.

This, my dear father, is how your will—that our lives should be united—will be carried out. I will work on faithfully to improve myself, as far as I can be improved. May the end of these months of probation find me more worthy of the great honour of being your daughter and his wife!

Note in another handwriting: “This ended her diary.”

Extract from the first column of The Times, in the June following the dates of above extracts:

“On the 24th inst., at the Parish Church of the Pinewood, F——, Surrey, Hugh Paull, M. D. Lond., M. R. C. S., etc., to Lilia, only child of the late Sir Roderick Pym, Knt.”



May, 18—.

It is positively terrible! to-day I have been married eleven months, and during that time my work has been at a dead standstill.

It is rather my poor darling’s misfortune than her fault. For one with a temperament of passionate concentration such as hers, a totally different up-bringing was called for. School, for instance, and plenty of cheerful, natural society afterwards; she should have mixed freely with girls of her own age, girls like Daisy. This might have balanced her tendency to dwell on one idea to the exclusion of all others.

Week after week, month after month, I have tried to wean her from the one theme—our mutual affection. I see, I feel more bitterly each hour that she is not in love with me, but with her love for me. I may wrong her affection: God forgive me if I do! But true love is unselfish. Even her love for her father was unselfish.

To-day I have determined to look into the matter. The resolve formed itself in my mind during our walk.

She has an embarrassing habit of multiplying wedding-days: I don’t know what else to call it. For instance, I had to keep the day week of our marriage in a semi-solemn way: in recalling all our sentiments during 140our betrothal, in reading our old letters, in rejoicing that we had met, etcetera. A charming idea, especially when supplemented by plans for our future management of the Pinewood, our poor people, the tenants and labourers. But, like other habits of inspection and classification, not good when treated with “vain repetitions.” That day fortnight, that day month, the function was not to be cavilled at. But when, the “day five weeks” after our marriage, she raised her eyes in that earnest way when she gave me my first cup of tea at breakfast, and said: “It is five weeks to-day since we were married——”

Well, I had planned to do some work—in fact, to begin my work again; and I said, as gently as I could:

“Yes, dear; and to-day we must give up mooning over the past, and begin to live real, sensible lives.”

I cannot blame myself for the words, nor for my way of saying them. But their effect upon her alarmed me. She became deadly pale, and looked at me as if at the very least I had threatened to kill her.

“Did you say ‘mooning over the past’?” she stammered.

I confessed that I did.

“What do you mean by ‘mooning’?” she asked, imploringly.

“What you are doing now,” I said bravely, for I felt I must begin to bring my darling down to earth a bit. (It was for all the world like pulling a string attached to the foot of some fluttering and unwilling bird.) “You have some romantic idea in your mind. You want to square my life and your life with it. It cannot be done. Life is not a poem in so many cantos. It is work; hard, dry, but honest work.”

141“Did I ever say that it was not?” she said, reproachfully.

“No, dear. But——”

Then I explained, as carefully as I could, how essential it was that we should settle down; that while I continued to study, I should commence practising my profession; a thing as essential to a medical man as theoretical study.

“You are going to practise?” she asked, in evident horror.

“Certainly,” I said, firmly.

“Where? Here?” (This was at the Pinewood.)

“Scarcely here, I think,” I said. “In London.”

She said no more. For days after she was gentle, affectionate, but a very drooping lily indeed. Everything seemed an effort to her.

I persisted. Sir Roderick’s town house had been sold to pay off some mortgages on the Pinewood. So I saw my good friend Dr. Hildyard about a house. After discussion, he offered me a floor in his house (which he only used for business, having taken a country house near Finchley as his place of residence).

“By-and-by we may take it into our heads to be partners, Paull,” he said. “Then you will be on the premises.”

It was a brilliant prospect, and my poor girl rejoiced with me. In theory, it was delightful; in practice, impossible.

Day by day I would return to find the spectre of a wife, instead of the living, breathing entity I had married. I soon found out that although Lilia occupied each hour according to a plan we had drawn up together; although she managed her household cleverly, visited her 142people, taught in the school, and studied chemistry and physiology, as she wished, as she termed it, to be able at any moment to help me in minor matters if called upon, she seemed to rust, as it were, working and living alone.

At first I thought it was loneliness, and Daisy came and spent the last days of her single life with us, Herbert Pym coming occasionally. (An abominable prig, that!) But after a few weeks, my sister came to me with a serious face.

“I must speak to you, Hugh,” she said, with an evident struggle; “Herbert said it was my duty. My dear boy, do you know about Lilia?”

“Know?” I repeated, slightly nettled by Mr. Herbert’s Jack-in-office-ship. “Of course I know everything my wife says and does. I almost flatter myself she tells me her secret thoughts.”

“That is just it,” said my sister, who seemed quite unlike her usual bright self. “We cannot help seeing, Hugh, that if this sort of thing goes on, Lilia will ruin your life.”

“And pray why do we think so?” I asked.

“If you were to see her when you are away! She does what she sets herself to do. But in such a way! As soon as you are gone, she changes. She gets pale, and a sort of film comes over her eyes. She doesn’t really seem to understand what one says to her; and I can see that the poor people we go to see are beginning to think that you beat her, or something. The other day, old Dame Ashwell (that wonderful old woman who lives in the thatched cottage at the end of Swain’s Lane) looked quite disgustedly at me, and when she condescended to speak to me, was very dignified indeed; and yesterday, when I met her in the wood picking up fir-cones 143and determined to have it out with her, I found out that not only she but most of your people are noticing how miserable Lilia looks, and how different she was when the ‘old gentleman was alive,’ as they call it.”

It was this talk with Daisy which determined me to give up all idea of practising my profession for the present; and the very day after Daisy left us (I would not allow Herbert the satisfaction of knowing that his interference had influenced me, so sure I am that he has a secret grudge against me because he thinks I was the means of ousting his brother Roderick)—the very day after I was well quit of my sister and her betrothed, I went to Dr. Hildyard and told him how matters stood.

He was more taken back and affected than I could understand. He was silent for awhile; then he said:

“You had better let me see your wife, Paull. She must not stand in your way in this fashion.”

For him to see Lilia while entirely in the dark as to the peculiarities of her past life would never do. But we made a compromise. Shortly he would take a holiday, and spend it at the Pinewood.

He came, he saw, and was conquered. As I had been for some days entirely at home, Lilia was in the most brilliant of humours. She treated our distinguished guest with all the consideration and respect which Sir Roderick had known so well how to lavish on his favourites; and to this was added a womanly tenderness and reverence under the influence of which Dr. Hildyard expanded and, as it were, blossomed out into a geniality I had not before known in him.

It seemed to me that he told my wife the whole story of his life. She was intensely interested, and made so many apt and pertinent remarks that I began to see 144more than ever that if I pursued my profession, and left her to herself and her hopeless mood, between the two stools I should probably fall to the ground. Thus, she was a perfect woman. Away from me, she was literally non est.

An embarrassing position. Dr. Hildyard decided me. We had the matter out the day he left us. He said, warmly:

“Paull, I confess that from what I heard of your wife, I came here prepared to find her one of three things: mad, a fool, or a victim to hysteria. From what I have seen and observed, I think her one of the sweetest women alive, but a perfect baby.”

I told him my growing fear that she was becoming too absorbed in my companionship, that it might in time become almost a monomania.

He smiled.

“I think that will cure itself,” he said, “by the homœopathic system. You will find two babies less trouble than one.”

Friday, May —.

I was interrupted after that last word (I was writing late, in the study) by quick footsteps down the staircase, and Lilia came in in her dressing-gown.

“I was dreadfully frightened!” she said. “I must have fallen asleep, although I thought I was awake, listening for you; and I woke up and you were not there! And the clock struck one!”

“And if it did?” I said, taking her on my knee, after shutting this book into a drawer. Her heart was beating, she was trembling. “Oh, Lilia!” I said. “I thought I had married a woman who would bravely face 145life at my side, not shrink and cower at shadows like a nervous horse.”

Then I talked seriously to her. Many husbands in my position would have been able to use the argument of maternal responsibility to urge her to be more matter-of-fact, less absurd in her fancifulness, and I said so.

“You dislike giving me pain, dear, I know,” I said. “And your horror of the poor little one God may give to us is a great pain to me. Other women rejoice at such a prospect.”

She drew herself away from my arm and looked fixedly at me.

“What other women do you mean?” she said.

“All women, at least most women,” was my answer. “Lilia, I cannot understand this feeling, or rather this want of feeling, in you. Tell me truly, frankly, darling, why do you hate the idea of a child—our child?”

She took my face between her hands and kissed me.

“Because,” she spoke passionately, “you may love it—would love it; and I cannot spare one thought, one word, one look of yours!”

I sighed, I could not help it. Then I reminded her of a great oak we had seen during an expedition with Dr. Hildyard into the adjacent county. We had paused to look at the giant, around whose spreading branches ivy had climbed and twisted until bough after bough was dying.

She had said:

“That ivy clings to the tree like I cling to you.”

“The ivy is choking the life out of the oak,” said I; “it is to be hoped you will not do the same by me.”

I said it, and she took it, jestingly. But, as I told her, if matters do not mend—if I cannot at least have 146freedom for study, or to go to town now and then on business and to look people up, my end may be the same as the oak’s.

She was all penitence, all promises; nor would she leave the study until I had given her my word that I would for the future go on my own way regardless of her feelings, which she would try to modify by degrees.

Before we retired for the night, I had promised to go to town to-day for some scientific works I particularly want, and to transact neglected business.

Sunday, May —.

Only two days! It seems weeks—weeks of horror, anxiety—since I wrote those last words.

I went to town, got my books, saw Dr. Hildyard, etcetera, and returned by the seven o’clock train. Thomas was to meet me at the station with the dogcart. He was there. At first I noticed nothing unusual, but the instant I reached my seat he drove off at a tremendous rate.

“Gently, gently!” I cried. “What’s wrong with Firefly?”

“Nothing’s wrong with the hoss, sir,” he said, gruffly; “but we’ve had visitors to-day, and whether it’s them or not I don’t know, but the missus is upset, like.”

“Is your mistress ill?” I cried, startled, dreading I knew not what.

“I dunno, sir,” was all I could get out of Thomas for some minutes, until I was really angry, when he blurted out that “one of them Pyms—the old ’un, he thought,” had come and had had a long interview with 147my wife, since which no one had seen her or had been able to find her.

Distracted, I had poor Firefly driven home at racing speed, and searched, first the house, then the grounds, with lanterns.

No result. I feared calling her name, for the cottagers might hear, and there would be fresh talk such as that Daisy repeated to me.

May I never, never have to go through such a time again! I was getting mad with anxiety and fear when something seemed to say to me—not in my ear, but in my mind:

“Her father’s grave.”

With a flash of hope, I bade the men who accompanied me stay where they were; and taking a lantern went on into the churchyard alone.

The lantern sent a flicker upon a black heap on the grass: Lilia, asleep—or dead?

Her dress was wet to the touch, drenched with dew. Feeling half crazy with dread, I gently shook her.

She started, and staring with dazed eyes, sat up, rubbed her eyes (thank God! she had only been asleep, but that was bad enough!). Then she said, “Oh, dear!” looked at me, first with sharp inquiry, then with a smile, and held out her hands to be lifted up.

“How could you?” I said, as she clung to me.

“My uncle Pym came and said cruel things; said your inhuman treatment of me was the talk of the countryside: that I owed it to myself to leave you and go and live with him; and when I told him what I thought of him, got in a fearful rage, told me I was a fool and a dupe, and I should rue it, and went away,” 148she said, in her direct, childish manner. “Then I felt very bad—so lonely—and came here. I could not help crying, and I expect I cried myself to sleep. But I am not sorry!” she added, triumphantly, “for you look so ill, that I see you have really cared; that you really do love me!”

If I had not been so thankful to find and hold my darling to my heart once more, this would have been exasperating.

“Lilia, your absurd want of faith will be your ruin,” I told her. “Do you know that since our first meeting my experience of you has taught me that Faith is not only necessary to people’s happiness, but to their soundness in mind and body?”

Then I cautioned her to be careful what she said and did before those men—there would be talk enough of to-day’s incidents as it was,—and we went back to the house.

But the shock of that malignant old man’s visit had its natural result. Before morning my darling was suffering greatly. As soon as the telegraph-office was open I wired to Dr. Taylor (the specialist to whom Dr. Hildyard had introduced me, and who had promised to come to us if necessary). By midday he came. Towards evening a pale, delicate little boy was taken to his mother to be kissed. She was quite revived by the fact that he was a boy.

“You may say I am selfish! I am,” she said, wistfully, to me afterwards. “But if it had been a girl, and you had loved her like my father loved me, what room would there have been in your heart for me?”

149June —.

The little one is a week old to-day. It is very sweet to see mother and son together. I could sit and look at them by the hour. But “Life is real, life is earnest!” as the great author of that incomparable “Psalm of Life” says; and all the more that the boy has come upon the scene, I must be “up and doing, with a heart for any fate!”

Any fate! what fate can I fear, with those two precious ones to love and work for?

July —.

Can I, this wretched, hopeless wreck, groping in a thick darkness, where not the faintest gleam of hope tells me what I am, where I am, how I am to bear my life—can I be the fool who wrote that last entry?

Fool, fool! I boasted of a to-morrow. If ever any eyes see this—man or woman,—I solemnly warn you, never, NEVER, whatever happens, however you may have been blessed, look upon to-morrow with anything approaching to the feeling (was it confidence or presumption?) with which I wrote those last words.

It was all sunshine that day; next day the storm was down upon me with a vengeance.

My darling was lying on the sofa (it was a sultry afternoon) by the window. We were looking over a map together, discussing where we should all go for change of air as soon as she might travel, when suddenly she asked me “if I would mind shutting the window.”

“I think the wind must have changed,” she said, pulling her little shawl together over her shoulders; “I feel quite cold.”

150She could not possibly have had a chill; the air itself was like that which comes from a heated oven. However, I closed the window. I had hardly done so when she was seized with shivering.

I called Nurse, who is a kind, but highly-experienced woman. I called her in fear. I saw her look swiftly at Lilia, then at me.

Then I knew. We both pretended to Lilia to think nothing of the rigours which shook her and turned her lips blue over her chattering teeth; but I stole my opportunity, rushed downstairs, sent off a telegram to Dr. Taylor, despatched a messenger for the Mervyns. I could not face this alone: I turned coward. I “groaned in my anguish, and the thorn fastened in me.”

And when I went back—the pity of it—Nurse struggling to lift the pale, suffering darling into bed, and baby crying piteously in the next room; while she said piteously to me, “He might be quiet till I get warm, mightn’t he?”

Poor infant! if he were quiet till his mother got warm, he would never cry again.

I sent Nurse to quiet him, and waited on her myself. I did everything, I hazarded everything I dared, to bring about a reaction. But presently she complained of her chest.

“I feel as if they had taken one of those hideous flat stones off a grave and laid it on my chest,” she said, gazing at me with eyes that looked bluer and more staring than those dear grey eyes had ever looked. “What is it? Is there anything wrong with my heart, Hugh! Tell me, is it my heart?” (with alarm).

“Stuff!” I said. “I let you sit up too long, and you are chilly, that’s all.”

151Then I began, watching her stealthily, to talk as easily as I could.

Her features were paling into an ugly yellow, her eyes were sinking, and her nose looked pinched. Nurse, coming to the bed with a cheerful “Well, dear, are you all right now?” gave me a look that, knowing well enough what was happening, stabbed my very soul.

“Rather quick, don’t you think so?” she managed to whisper to me.

She need not have whispered. I knew my wife was sinking away from me as fast as any human being has ever sunk from time into eternity.

And how—how was she going?

“What is making that buzzing noise? I can’t hear you two,” she said presently. “And, Hugh, raise me, or I shall choke!”

She was gasping. I raised her. She did not feel cold now. Nurse was fanning her.

No hope for anyone to come! I felt desperate. Just then she said, “You fan me; Nurse—baby.” So Nurse gave me the fan and went away. The dying must be obeyed.

As I held her—a dead weight—on one arm and fanned her with my disengaged hand, she looked up at me with a terrible look—the most hopeless, yet defiant and angered, look I have ever seen in human eyes. I once saw it in a celebrated picture of “Lucifer at His Condemnation,” and, remembering this, it was hell to see it in my wife’s eyes now.

“I must know,” she said, in her altered voice. “Is this death?”

“It may be,” I faltered. I dared not withhold the awful truth.

152She smiled—a sneering, derisive smile.

“And you still believe in a good God?” she said.

“More than ever!” I said, my very life in my words. “Darling, how could I live and see you like this if God did not hold me, help me? I should be like a dead thing—helpless—and you know I am holding you up. I am calm, I can talk, by the mercy of God——”

“Hush!” she said, violently, with a tremendous effort raising herself (she was gradually slipping down, hold her how I might). “Do not say any more about that. Tell me, how long have I——”

“My darling, I have sent for Dr. Taylor; we must not give up hope,” I said. In my agony of despair the words mocked me like so many separate and distinct lies. “He may do something. Why should you die? You are so young——”

“I asked you, how long?” she repeated. “I have something to say.”

“Days—I mean hours,” I stammered, lying hard and fast in my misery.

She feebly shook her head.

“No, no!” she said; “perhaps in a minute. I want you to promise your dying wife something. Will you—whatever I ask?”

“Anything! anything!” I said. “Your will is my will now!”

Anything?” she repeated.

Drops, those last cold drops, were on her brow.

“I swear—anything,” I said, recklessly.

“Ah!” she laughed.

Yes, let me remember that, in her hour of agony, I pleased her so—that once more, for the last time, I heard that sweet little joyous laugh.

153“Well,” she said, “as soon as I am dead, go downstairs. In the right-hand drawer of my father’s writing-table you will find a small revolver. I have kept it loaded. Shoot yourself! We shall then be as much together as we are now. You will?”

It was an awful struggle—her dying eyes gazing into mine. At last I said:


“Now I don’t hate this God of yours quite so much,” she began, when suddenly her face was convulsed, a rattle came in her throat, her eyes glazed.

Minutes passed—half-an-hour; then (she had been dead a quarter-of-an-hour) I left her body, her beautiful young lifeless body, to Nurse, after kissing those dear lips for the last time, and I went to fulfil my promise.

I locked the library door, and, opening the drawer, found not only a revolver, but a case of pistols. The revolver seemed to me untrustworthy, so I cleaned one of the pistols, and loaded it. Did I feel remorse, anxiety, as to my future? I did not. I felt absolutely apathetic, commonplace, as a body, I imagine, might feel without its soul, if its life could continue under those conditions.

I had just completed the loading to my satisfaction when there was a knock at the door.

“I will come presently,” I said.

“Please, let me in,” said Mrs. Mervyn. “Baby fell off the sofa and is hurt. I have brought him.”

Her child! For an instant the room whirled; then an agony of grief welled up within me. The poor, innocent child!—our child!

Senselessly, I staggered to the door, opened it, and took the babe from Mrs. Mervyn. He was not much hurt—a wound on the head of but slight importance.

154Turning to reassure Mrs. Mervyn, I saw her gazing at the pistols as if she were petrified.

“You meant this?” she said to me, her face aflame like the face of the accusing Angel. “What a love God must have had for you, for you to have been saved!”

Walking to me, she took baby’s hand and laid it on mine.

“He has saved you,” she said. “Oh, never, never forget it!”



At first Hugh felt and seemed crushed. He had thought of many difficulties and troubles that might await him in his married life, but the one thing which had not entered into his calculations—Lilia’s death—was the unexpected occurrence which happened.

He had sometimes felt, from the first beginning of their married life, that something was hanging over him—some fatality. The whole story of his acquaintance with the Pyms was so strange, that the memory of it oppressed him. Perhaps this accounted for the feeling of discomfort which was now and then almost a dread of the future.

There were moments when he had thought that perhaps he was destined to die early; and he had made his will carefully, after much consultation with Mr. Mervyn, who was always, as it were, ready to hand during his short married life. Never, never once did he think he was to lose his beautiful tormentor, and so tragically.

At first he was prostrate. No one could rouse him. His father came to him and stayed. Dr. Hildyard spent his Sundays at the Pinewood. But efforts to coax and even startle him out of his gloom were fruitless. For a whole year he could not shake off the vivid recollection 156of what none but himself knew—the crowning horror of Lilia’s death-bed, her awful request, and his promise.

But through all this darkness of soul his faith did not waver. He reproached himself bitterly that he had not insisted more, struggled more, to help Lilia in her uncertainty, her unbelief. He blamed himself for her dying blasphemy, and for what he considered his cowardice in promising to kill himself. He went through their short life together over and over again, telling himself that at this juncture he ought to have said and done this thing, at such another that. He spent his days in listless wanderings about the Pinewood; his nights, or the best part of them, in feverish study, which availed him little or nothing. Thus passed the first year of his widowerhood.

Then came another sharp shock—the death of his good, kind friend, Dr. Hildyard, after a short illness of ten days.

During those ten days of close attendance upon his patron, Hugh’s eyes were opened. He saw that, the existence of which in a human being he had never suspected, never believed possible, a lofty soul.

Doctors are proverbially the worst patients. Dr. Hildyard, well aware that this was the end of his career, was a little impatient, perhaps, as to remedies which could not possibly reverse the fiat. In a few days his soul would be required of him, he knew that. He bore his physical agony with stoicism; his anxiety to leave his affairs in perfect order was so intense, it was a greater soporific than any narcotic. He talked much and often, between the paroxysms, to the young man in whose genius his faith had never wavered. He told his life—the 157difficulties he had successfully fought against and overcome, the awful temptations he had struggled with to the bitter end, the enmities which had dogged his footsteps and poisoned his simplest enjoyments—to Hugh. Each day of Dr. Hildyard’s existence, each day of that man who was supposed to be one of the most enviable beings in creation, who was in receipt of splendid fees, courted by all classes, the much-lauded hero of the medical press and the secretly hated of all the unsuccessful of the faculty (and their name is legion), was a miniature martyrdom; and he was awaiting his release with eager joy—a joy only damped by remorse that he had not done better, had not been a more faithful servant of the Giver of All.

“The miserable way in which I have crawled through my difficulties!” he wailed to his protégé. “Paull, never, never, fly low! Soar over your temptations and troubles, or when you come to die you will be ashamed of yourself, like I am!”

It was Dr. Hildyard’s exalted opinion of what a man should be, that first abashed, then roused, Hugh to cast aside self and live a new life.

Very soon after his friend’s death he set himself resolutely to a fresh beginning.

He had been strongly recommended by Dr. Hildyard to the influential men who came to shake his hand for the last time; and his start in practice as a specialist in nerve cases was made easy to him.

He took a house recently vacated by a well-known physician in a street frequented by doctors near Regent Street, and soon had plenty of patients, mostly former patients of Dr. Hildyard’s, who already knew him by repute. Before five years were over he had made some 158remarkable cures, had contributed some original and, in certain cases, startling papers on obscure nervous diseases to the leading medical journals, and was elected to appointments in four metropolitan hospitals.

Then he was consulted by royalty, and his private practice doubled itself. Ten years passed away, fifteen—it was now nineteen years since the awful day of Lilia’s death—and Dr. Hugh Paull was not only known throughout the English-speaking world, but his works were translated into French, German, and Italian, and his name was honoured by the medical profession in all countries.

His private life might be summed up in one word—Ralph.

Ralph was the name he had allotted to the puny pale babe who had been the unconscious instrument of his salvation from self-murder.

Ralph had been the name of an invalid uncle, his father’s younger brother, of whom he had pleasant childish recollections—a gentle, white-faced young man stretched on a couch in a pretty garden, who had seemed to know exactly what little boys liked, and to let them have it. So when he stood, one of the little group of black-garmented persons at the old stone font in the Pinewood church, and Mr. Mervyn said, “Name this child,” he remembered his uncle and said “Ralph.”

The delicate babe with the thoughtful blue eyes grew slowly and painfully from babyhood into childhood, from childhood into youth. At first Hugh felt the responsibility of being father and mother in one to the fragile boy—a heavy care. The child was always in his mind, an anxiety that never left him.

159One day he had gone to a well-known educationist almost in despair. After detailing his experiments in nursery training, which up to then seemed a failure, he said, “What am I to do?”

“Leave the child alone, like I left mine,” said the authority. “Get him a good nurse, and don’t interfere with her without necessity. When you have done with the nurse, get him a good governess; then send him to school.”

To Hugh, who had hitherto acted as a head-gardener devoted to one sickly plant, the advice seemed rough. But he plucked up courage, and acted upon it.

The boy grew up without many complications; but he was a strange, silent lad. His two characteristics were an unappeasable love of study and a concentrated, but undemonstrative, devotion to his father.

From the beginning of the change in Hugh, when he first began his professional life in London, it was his custom to spend Saturday and Sunday at the Pinewood. The trio—the tall, now gaunt and careworn-looking, man; the thin, effeminate boy, and the mastiff Nero, who always dogged their heels (an immediate descendant of Hugh’s first acquaintance at the Pinewood)—were familiar figures to the country folk, who were attached to Dr. Paull with an attachment born of his unvarying justice and kindliness.

Following the advice given by the authority, Ralph’s instruction in matters of faith and dogma was strictly ordinary and orthodox; and remembering the result of Lilia’s peculiar up-bringing, Hugh was careful to throw his son into the company of others of his own age as much as possible. He failed to see what others saw—that the boy could not endure the companionship of his 160fellows, and only suffered it because it was his father’s will.

Meanwhile, Ralph showed great aptitude for science, and at nineteen was, to his great delight, appointed secretary to the famous geologist W——, who had been one of his grandfather Sir Roderick’s intimate friends. At the time of the second storm that shook Dr. Paull’s life to its foundations, Ralph was away on a walking tour with the great scientist. Hugh Paull was alone in his town house.

He was sitting at the large dining-table in the big, silent room. The thin, dark-eyed man, whose prematurely white hair added a dignity to the pensive beauty of his face, would have been a suggestive figure to an imaginative painter. As he slowly ate his frugal dinner, his eyes fixed as he continued some important train of thought, now and then leaning back in his chair, and absently crumbling his bread, while the old butler Jones hovered noiselessly about in the background, this picture of well-appointed solitude might have been named “Successful, but alone.” Perhaps never, until Ralph went on this tour, had Hugh so realised his desolation.

It was the height of the London season, and that very day he had had three important consultations beside hospital and other work. But the silence of the huge, quiet house oppressed him. He found it tiresome to eat. He was planning to tire himself further by preparing a paper on a recent case for the Lancet when a carriage drove up to the door, and there was a somewhat violent peal of the hall bell.

Jones, who had been butler to Dr. Hildyard till his death, and then accepted service with Hugh in preference to any other, knew his rules thoroughly. He was 161a spare little man, well fitted for his vocation; for he had a respectful, almost soothing manner, which softened the denials he had so often to give to nerve-patients wild to obtain the immediate attendance of the great authority, Dr. Paull.

He went silently out, and gently opened the street door. The smart single brougham and pair drawn up before the house was as unfamiliar to him as were the two gentlemen standing on the doorstep, one of whom was tall and fair, the other being short and dark, with piercing black eyes and a thick black moustache. Both were dressed in the height of fashion; in fact, were evidently petits-maîtres.

It was the tall, fair man who, slightly lifting his hat, said in good English, but with a foreign accent:

“Can we see Dr. Hugh Paull at once?”

The bold demand—for Hugh was now a “consulting physician,” to be approached through the patient’s ordinary medical attendant—nearly deprived poor Jones of breath. He gave but one gasp only though, and remembering these were foreigners and ignoramuses in medical etiquette, recovered himself, and said politely, but in a somewhat shocked tone of voice:

“I am very sorry, sir, but that is quite impossible.”

The fair man turned to the dark one with a smile, and said something rapidly in a foreign tongue, upon which the dark young man produced a cardcase and presented Jones with his card, saying, “Please, you will give the docteur,” in broken and very foreign-sounding English.

Jones, seeing the word “Prince” prefixed to a, to him, unreadable and unpronounceable name, was somewhat startled, for the title meant royalty to his British 162mind. For a moment he was puzzled; then, saying, “Please, will you step this way?” he hurried along the bare stone hall, and ushering the distinguished visitors into the cheerless waiting-room, with the skylight, rows of dining-room chairs against the walls, and an old dining-table, whose dingy cloth was strewn with as dingily-covered volumes of illustrated journals, hurried to his master with the card.

Hugh glanced at it listlessly, read “Le Prince Andriocchi,” and laid it aside. Stray patients, arriving at odd moments, were always dismissed with a certain formula, and Hugh was not giving a second thought to the Prince Andriocchi or his card when an anxious voice piped at his elbow, “What am I to say, sir?” and turning, he saw Jones watching him in evident dismay.

“Say?” he asked. “To whom?”

“To the prince, sir! I took him into the waiting-room.”

“You took him into the waiting-room?” repeated Hugh, hardly believing his own ears.

For a patient to be admitted outside regular hours and against all rule was a most unwonted occurrence, and by Jones the impregnable, the unassailable! Had a golden talisman—No! such an idea was a treason to the faithful old servant.

“I thought as he was a prince, sir,” stammered Jones.

“Oh, well, never mind! I will explain to him that I cannot see him now,” said Dr. Paull, good-naturedly, rising and going to the waiting-room.

The two men were seated, but rose and bowed as he entered. The tall fair man, who had candid blue 163eyes and an insinuating smile, informed Hugh, in laboured but fairly correct English, that they had been recommended to consult him by the Spanish ambassador, whose son had been cured by him last season in so marvellous a manner.

“But your highness is surely not Spanish?” asked Hugh, glancing at the card he still held between his fingers.

“The prince,” said the fair man, bowing deferentially in the direction of the dark little gentleman, who was watching them while he nervously twisted his moustache, “is from Italy—is Italien. It is madame la princesse who is from the land of chivalry. It is for madame la princesse that we come to visit you.”

Hugh bowed.

“She is not very ill, I hope?” he said, awkwardly.

He had had but little experience of the denizens of other countries, and this had been of their learned men, who have a family likeness no matter in what latitude they are born. These two élégants embarrassed him.

“How shall I explain?” said the fair man, knitting his brow and gazing at the skylight. “You speak French? No? My friend the prince speak French as Italien. I am sorry. But I tell you, monsieur le docteur, best way I can: you so clever, you understand me with all my faults. M. le prince here, he marry this lady, who is the daughter of the Duke de Saldanhés. You know his name, of course? He is great at the Court of Spain. You must surely hear that the princesse is one of the most beautiful ladies in all the world; for the papers de Société, as you call them, tell everyone that. The princesse adore M. le prince; he adore her. But soon after the noces madame becomes 164more delicate, and she likes not to walk or drive; she shows no inclination for the world; she goes much to the church, and gets pâle, maigre. In the truth, monsieur le docteur, she shows symptoms of being, what you call, a sainte.”

The fair man raised his eyebrows, and looked so oddly at Dr. Paull as he half-whispered the last sentence, that Hugh felt inclined to laugh.

“I fear I cannot presume to cure a disposition to sanctity, sir,” he said. His voice sounded rough, in contra-distinction to the suave, delicately-pitched tones of his interlocutor. “I try to cure nervous diseases; I cannot cure a tendency which the most exacting husband can scarcely disapprove.”

“Monsieur is Catholique?” insinuated the fair man, sweetly.

“I—what? I beg your pardon, sir, but you took me by surprise,” added Hugh, his thin face flushing.

Then he explained that if there were any symptoms of physical disease he would see the princesse with pleasure, but that he did not prescribe for the mind.

The fair man, whose white satin manners and womanish grace were peculiarly repugnant to Hugh, rapidly translated Dr. Paull’s speech to the prince in Italian (a language with which Hugh had a slight acquaintance), and the prince made a voluble reply, which touched Hugh as being the earnest appeal of a man who was in considerable anxiety on the subject of his wife.

“I have understood his highness,” he said, somewhat dryly, when the count (he had been addressed as such by the prince) turned towards him to interpret; “and I will willingly see the lady and prescribe for 165her if it be in my power to do her any good, which I doubt.”

“Ah! sir; but we do not doubt it,” said the count with enthusiasm. “Nor did le Docteur Fosterre, who saw her it is two days ago, but whose medicine the princesse will not accept.”

“Dr. Foster saw her?” asked Hugh, puzzled. (Dr. Foster was a nerve-doctor with a large fashionable practice, much in favour with lady patients.) “I fear if Dr. Foster has been unsuccessful, I can do nothing.”

Further persuasions on the part of the count, who interpreted everything to his princely friend, led to Hugh’s provisional promise that after two days he would see the lady. He was to meet Dr. Foster in consultation on the morrow, and intended to talk with him on the subject. Then a difficulty was explained to him: the princess objected to doctors in toto. The meeting must be brought about by stratagem. The great Dr. B—— S—— had fallen in with this arrangement, and had had a long interview with the princess one evening at the Italian Embassy in Paris without her realising that he was one of the obnoxious faculty until it was over.

“But could he do nothing?” asked Hugh, astonished.

“Monsieur, he said the same as the Docteur Z. in Rome, and your Docteur Fosterre here in Londres. The princesse has a disease which is rare in one who has all the world at her charming feet. She likes not life, she longs for death, or, let us say, the heavens.”

“Which, interpreted, means the lady is a spoilt creature, and is thoroughly discontented,” thought Hugh, with a smile of amusement, after his visitors had oppressed him with a profusion of thanks, had bowed themselves 166out, and driven off in the carriage. At first the interview amused him; but after the novelty had worn off, he felt a distaste for the task he had undertaken, neither an onerous nor an unpleasant one, the interviewing of a beautiful and evidently amiable Spanish lady. But Hugh disliked women as patients even more than he disliked them as companions. His liking for the sex lay buried in Lilia’s grave.

After his consultation with Dr. Foster next day, he took him aside and told him of the prince’s visit and request.

“I thought they would come to you,” said Dr. Foster, a short, stout little man, his eyes twinkling. “Curious fellow, that count, isn’t he? I can’t make him out. Means well, though, I daresay. A sort of cousin of the prince’s, I understand. You know all about the family, don’t you? No? Well, the Andriocchis are one of the most ancient Italian families. He came into everything a couple of years ago, at his father’s death. He is only six-and-twenty, though he looks older. I saw him here the first season. He got into a fast set, and did no good. Last year his family married him. Families in those countries always sort the young folks and couple them, you know. Wonderful match—a great beauty—daughter of one of those awfully blue-blooded Spanish grandees, Duke de Saldanhés, great favourite at Court. She’s a charming woman, but——” Dr. Foster shook his head, and looked whole volumes of wisdom.

“But?” asked Hugh, suddenly interested and sorry. He did not know why.

“Well, perhaps you’ll find out. She baffled me; that’s all I know. First I thought there might be a 167suicidal tendency, or simple melancholia. Soon gave up that idea—one of the keenest-witted women I ever met. She gives you one look out of those lamps of eyes of hers, and tots you up pretty correctly, I can tell you. No, no! She’s as sane as you or I—saner perhaps, if the truth were known! But there’s something wrong somewhere. Whether it’s fretting, or remorse—well, it’s no use speculating. My opinion is this—she’s wretchedly ill; and before she can get any better, the cause of it must be got at, and treated. Perhaps you’ll do it. B—— S—— seems to have failed, and I confess myself nowhere.”

Dr. Paull felt less distaste for his task after this interview with his colleague: in fact, his professional interest was awakened; and when three, then four days passed without his being summoned by the prince, his surprise was flavoured with something akin to a feeling of disappointment.

On the fifth day, when he was snatching a hasty breakfast, the prince’s brougham drove up to the door, and the count alighted alone, and sent in a message—might he see the doctor for one minute?

“Show him in here,” said Hugh.

Accordingly the count entered, apologising for his intrusion.

“It was necessaire that I find you early, docteur,” he said. “An opportunity comes that you see madame la princesse to-night. She has consented to visit the Covent Theatre, to see the new opera.”

“But, excuse me, I do not understand,” said Dr. Paull, somewhat dryly. “I do not go to theatres and operas. I have no time, still less should I go there to see patients.”

168The count explained, almost pathetically, that the prince had naturally feared that this was the case. “And, in anticipation of your refusal, monsieur, I just paid visit to the Lady Forwood, to ask her to join in our appeal.”

He drew a note from his breast-pocket. It was from Lady Forwood, the wife of the popular baronet, Sir David Forwood, who had been Hugh’s friend for many years. Lady Forwood was the only woman, with the exception of his sisters, with whom Dr. Paull was at all familiar. She was not only a good woman, but was possessed of the feminine gift of tact in a marked degree.

“My dear Doctor” (she wrote),—“I am quite thankful to hear you have consented to see my old friend Mercedes. As I know you always like to have a good look at your patients, I venture to propose that you should spare us half-an-hour, and come to our box at Covent Garden to-night. It is exactly opposite the Prince Andriocchi’s, and you will be able to judge of my poor friend all the better, because she will not know you are looking at her. Afterwards, we can introduce you to her.

“Yours most truly,
Margaret Forwood.

“P. S.—The number of our box is 9. I will leave word at the door that you are coming.”

Hugh wavered; but before he knew that he had consented to the fair letter-writer’s proposition, the count had left him, and he could hardly withdraw his half-reluctant consent.

“I suppose I must go,” he told himself.

He disliked the proceeding altogether. The sense that he was doing that which he reprehended in others, acting for the great of this world in a manner he would 169certainly not act for the lowly, oppressed him throughout the day.

“It is a step in the wrong direction,” he told himself, as he stood before the glass, arranging that conventional white tie which he professed to disdain, with “the rest of men’s enforced toggery,” as he called the swallowtails and chimneypots, “but I have let myself in for it somehow, and must go through with it.”

He would not have out his carriage; he took a hansom to the opera house. On entering, he stood amazed! There had been a drawing-room that day, and the ladies who were alighting from their carriages and sailing and sweeping through the entrance-hall and up the staircase were in all the bravery of silk, satin, and velvet, and literally ablaze with jewels. The heated air was scented with the perfumes they used, and with the odour of the Court bouquets they carried. The scene of excessive luxury was foreign to the severe simplicity of Dr. Paull’s hard-working life.

“I suppose all this is good for trade,” he thought, as he made his way through the glittering throng to box 9, “but it seems a queer way for mortals to spend their time.”

He was ushered into the box just as the final bars of the National Anthem were being played, for it was a semi-State performance in honour of a foreign potentate. Lady Forwood, a fair young dame with a bright face, was standing in front of the box. She turned to welcome him.

“It is very good, indeed, of you to come,” she said, as she warmly shook hands. “Don’t say, No! David and I flatter ourselves we understand you pretty well. I know that nothing but a sense of duty brings you 170here. However, now that you are here, you may as well have a good look at it all. Take that chair. David is at the House. He may look in, but not till late; there is some important debate on to-night. Now, tell me, it is a fine sight, isn’t it?”

“It certainly is,” said Hugh.

The orchestra had struck up the spirited introduction to the new opera, and the unaccustomed sounds of bright music insensibly raised his spirits. The coup-d’œil of the gigantic horseshoe of tiers of crimson-curtained boxes filled with ladies in brilliant attire, white and the palest tints predominating, was magnificent.

“I never imagined women could look so like flowers,” said he, honestly.

“I thought you would think better of us when you knew a little more about us!” laughed Lady Forwood, who was scanning the house through her lorgnettes. “There! Mercedes has just come in! How lovely she looks! What a magnificent dress! I suppose she was at the drawing-room. I went last time, so I was not there to-day.”

“Where?” said Hugh, drawing back a little, and feeling like a conspirator.

“Not in the chandelier! and not exactly in the pit,” said Lady Forwood, laughingly. “Don’t be shocked at me! I positively can’t help teasing people. Look at the third from the royal box. There, she is just settling herself, and throwing off her mantilla—the lady in white.”

Hugh was looking at the third box to the left of the royalties.

“Take my glass,” said Lady Forwood, “and look at the third box to the right of the royal people. Make 171haste, for in another minute she may settle herself behind the curtain and stay there the whole evening. It would be just like her.”

Hugh focussed the glass, and with a singular sensation that was almost a thrill, he gazed at a lovely girl who was leaning forward glancing round the house. She was pale with a waxen pallor; her black hair was dressed high, and studded with pearls. She wore a white velvet gown, a shade whiter than her beautifully moulded bust and arms, and this appeared to be sewn with pearls. So youthful was her slender form that, had Hugh not recognized the Prince Andriocchi and his friend the count hovering in the background, he would hardly have believed this could be the new patient about whom so much fuss had been made.

“She is quite a girl!” he said, in surprise, turning to Lady Forwood.

“Why not?” asked she. “She was only married a year ago. Spanish girls marry young.”

“But, from what you said, I fancied you had been girl friends,” said Hugh, without thinking.

“How like you, to say that!” said Lady Forwood, with a good-natured laugh, as Hugh, forgetting his dislike to the rôle of “spy,” scrutinised her highness closely through the glasses. “That is almost on a par with your speech to the Princess M——, one of the stories she always tells to show what a bear you are, sir!”

“I do not remember saying anything to the Princess M——,” said Hugh, laying down the lorgnette.

“You don’t remember her playing to you, and your saying that you had never cared for any playing except that of a relation of yours?”

172“No,” said Hugh, who was beginning to think deeply on the subject of his new “case;” and his thoughts were curious, and to him utterly unexpected. “But what did I say to you that was bearish just now, Lady Forwood? I don’t care if her Royal Highness tells anecdotes about me or not—it amuses her, and doesn’t harm me. But I cannot be misunderstood by you.”

“That pretty speech makes up for the rude one,” said Lady Forwood, smiling. “You seemed surprised that Mercedes and I were girl friends. Of course I am her senior by some years. I will tell you how it was. Her parents were anxious about her as a child, she was such a delicate, mopy little thing. So they sent her to a convent school at the seaside in England. I was what you might call a sixth-form girl when she came; and, as the nuns thought me steady-going, they gave her to me to look after specially. I was to be a sort of deputy-mamma; and she grew very fond of me, poor little thing!”

“Why do you say ‘poor little thing’?” asked Hugh.

“Oh, Mercedes has always been peculiar,” said Lady Forwood. “The nuns thought her cold and apathetic. I knew very differently! There is fire underneath that cold manner of hers—she is the most passionate girl, I think, I ever met! And her parents have been idiots enough to marry her to that man!”

“You do not approve of the prince?” asked Hugh.

“Hush! We really must not talk any more, people will notice us,” said Lady Forwood, directing her lorgnettes towards the stage, where the prima-donna had 173just finished an air which was evidently greatly to the taste of the pit and gallery.

Hugh leaned back and during the remainder of the first act watched the Princess Andriocchi as narrowly as he could without being specially noticed.

She sat perfectly still at first, leaning back, her white profile cameo-like against the crimson curtain, her hands lying listlessly in her lap. She appeared to be watching the stage, but in reality her eyes were more than half veiled by their heavy lids. Through the glass he could see that her exquisite little ears were transparent as wax.

“Poor child!” thought Hugh, compassionately. He thought he knew now why the great B—— S—— and the clever Dr. Foster could neither of them relieve the little princess of her malaise. The cause was mental.

He had almost arrived at a resolution to “get out of the affair,” if he possibly could, when (to his absent mind, with a strange suddenness) down came the curtain upon the first act among the plaudits of the house, and people began to move and stand up; there was a general air of awakening to life of the attentive audience.

“Well,” said Lady Forwood, turning to him, “you must confess it is a charming opera! The next thing to be done is to take me over to see Mercedes.”

But this Hugh steadily refused to do.

Lady Forwood was still endeavouring to persuade him by all the arguments at her command, when the box-door opened, and the count entered.

He bowed profoundly to Lady Forwood, and offered his hand deferentially to Hugh, who scrutinised him with a new misgiving. Was this man who shadowed 174the young pair in any way connected with that young creature’s unhappiness? He was, certainly, the sort of man that some women would consider fascinating, with his persuasive manners and his fair, handsome face.

He had brought a message to Lady Forwood: the princess wished to come round to her box—would it be convenient?

Lady Forwood clapped her hands with evident delight.

Hugh had not known her in this childlike, unaffected mood.

“Convenient? Splendid!” she said to the count, who at once vanished.

Could anything be better?” she asked Hugh. “You will see her just as she really is when she is talking to her ‘mammy,’ as she calls me. What is the matter?” she said, suddenly, in a changed voice, for she saw her pale friend wince and bite his lip.

“Nothing, I assure you,” he said, earnestly, recovering himself. That word “mammy” had not been heard by him since Lilia had last addressed Mrs. Mervyn by the tender nickname in his presence.

What seeming trifles are the feather-weights that balance human destinies! But for the effect produced upon Hugh by that one word, he would have made an excuse, and missed——

What? As he stood hesitating, the box-door opened, and the princess came in.

A girl, with the carriage of a young queen.

Hugh stood back, and stared at the beautiful, dark young creature, in her magnificent robe of white velvet, embroidered with seed pearls, with but one feeling—amazement.

175The princess gave him a careless glance, with a half-nod, in return for his obeisance, as Lady Forwood introduced him, and seated herself by her friend.

She murmured something in a low voice to Lady Forwood, upon which the English lady blushed and looked annoyed. After some whispering, Lady Forwood turned to Hugh with a beseeching look.

“I am going to test your friendship to the utmost,” she said, pleadingly. “I am half afraid to ask you, but you will understand,” she added, meaningly. “I want you to go down and see if Sir David has arrived; there is nothing particular to hear for the next ten minutes.”

“With pleasure,” said Hugh, understanding that the little princess had some secret to tell her friend, and that he was not wanted for the next quarter-of-an-hour.

“A spoilt beauty,” he thought, as he strolled along the lobbies. “I should like to know how any physician can cure that, unless he inoculates her with the smallpox!”

He had hardly left the box before the princess’ manner changed. She clasped her friend’s hand, and with her lovely face all quivering, the corners of her lips drooping, and her great eyes full of tears, she almost sobbed:

“Oh, mammy, mammy! It is true!—it is true!”

“My dear, what is true? You have been thinking such strange things!” said Lady Forwood, distressed and worried, for she loved the unhappy little creature. “You have got some silly notions into your head, and you imagine all sorts of nonsense.”

“Listen!” said Mercedes, glancing round and speaking low. “To-day he told me that he and the count would go on the river. I had to go to the Court alone. 176Well, I thought I would ask the ambassadress to take me—it would be not so long—she has the entrée, as you call it. She did take me. Coming back, my carriage got into a number of other carriages, and I saw—him.”

“The prince? Well, why not?” asked Lady Forwood.

“I saw him—and her—the woman whose portrait I found!” said Mercedes, in a tone of anguish.

“Well, my dear,”—Lady Forwood spoke in a matter-of-fact manner, although she was anathematising the prince for his flagrant conduct in being publicly seen with the beautiful French actress whose name had been coupled with his in society gossip—“I daresay he will be able to explain it all to you, if, indeed, you were not mistaken.”

“How—explain?” asked Mercedes, bitterly. “How explain a lie, mammy?”

“Hush!” said Lady Forwood, uneasily. “My dear, I never should have worried David if I had seen him with fifty women!”

“That—is different!” said the princess. “Mammy, you love each other!”

Lady Forwood began a brisk lecture:

“My child, you are not fit to be out in the world at all,” she said. “You ought to have come to me for a year’s instruction before you were married, instead of going straight to the altar from the convent. You know absolutely nothing about men. Men’s ways are not women’s ways. The world allows them their liberty; and if their wives don’t allow it them also, they will neglect their wives for the world, and the wives will be to blame.”

And she held forth on this somewhat loose doctrine 177so subtly that the princess’ expression gradually changed from grieved perplexity to a sort of placid resignation.

“A man is not bad who allows a lady acquaintance to take him some distance in her carriage,” went on Lady Forwood, didactically. “You will be wiser by-and-by, darling. You will take it for granted that men are better than they seem.”

“The count is good,” said Mercedes, sorrowfully. “He is so kind to me!”

“The count is no better than his neighbours,” said Lady Forwood, sharply, feeling that from Scylla she was nearing Charybdis. “Mercedes, you must rouse yourself, and go into society. Then you will not brood on the subject of your husband. You can’t change him, at least, not all of a sudden, so you must put up with him.”

“The count says——” began Mercedes.

“Don’t talk about the count to me! You know my opinion of Italians, my dear. You shall be introduced to some Englishmen. You must know this friend of ours, that you made me turn out of the box just now. David says he is the best man he ever met.”

At this moment Hugh knocked at the box-door. He had been outside in the cool night. He had not seen Sir David; he had not expected to do so. He had watched the arrival of some late comers, and, unnoticed by them, had seen the Prince Andriocchi and his friend the count come out of the opera house, light their cigarettes, and remain in close conversation for a few minutes, after which they interchanged a glance of intelligence; the prince hailed a hansom and drove off, and the count reentered the theatre.

So he interpreted the steady gaze which Mercedes 178fixed upon him as he told Lady Forwood there was no sign of her husband’s arrival as a mute questioning as to the whereabouts of the prince, the count having established himself alone in the opposite box.

And the next occurrence startled him. The curtain was rising; he was turning to take his seat at the back of the box, when the princess suddenly leant towards Lady Forwood:

“Mammy, I have seen this—gentleman—before!” she said. “Where?” she added, turning to Hugh.

He smiled, amused at the startled look in her gazelle eyes.

“You have the advantage of me, princess,” he said. “I do not think I have had the honour of meeting you before to-night. And yet——”

He was puzzled. Looking at her steadily, there was something in the wistful, childish beauty of Mercedes’ oval face which was familiar. She had some resemblance to someone he had seen somewhere. But, even as he ransacked his memory, the likeness eluded him, as a forgotten name will refuse to repeat itself when the thinker struggles to recall it.

“You two had better talk over your previous acquaintance behind the curtain, I think,” said Lady Forwood.

Hugh took the hint. He drew his chair nearer to the princess, and asked her where they possibly could have met, while Lady Forwood became absorbed in the performance.

“You have been much in England; anyone can tell that who hears you speak,” he said. “But have you been in London?”

“Never, till now,” said Mercedes, still scrutinising 179him with a feeling of uneasiness, for she felt that this worn-looking but attractive man, with the prematurely white hair, was no stranger to her, yet she could not recall how or when she had seen him. “I have lived seven—no, eight years in the convent at B——. That is where mammy and I were together” (with an affectionate look towards her friend); “but to London I came—not—once! When I returned to Spain, we went by Newhaven. This is the first time I see—London.”

“Curious!” said Hugh, half to himself.

The resemblance to someone he had known was stronger while she was speaking, and yet there was nothing definite about it. It stirred him strangely; but what the emotion was which disturbed him and quickened his ordinarily sluggish pulses, he could not tell.

“Were you ever in Surrey?” he suggested, after a few minutes’ fruitless mental searching.

“Never in any place here but the convent,” she said, decidedly. “But you, sir. Perhaps you were in B—— sometime?”

“Never,” said Hugh.

“Then you have, perhaps, been in my country—in Spain?”

“Not yet,” said Hugh.

They both smiled; and then, suddenly remembering that they were strangers, talked more reservedly of the music, which the princess appeared to know well.

“I had the pianoforte score for a week,” she informed Dr. Paull. “The composer lent me his manuscript. I played it for him when he was in Madrid.”

She was telling Hugh of what was to come during the ensuing acts, when the box-door opened, and the count came in.

180“The prince requested me to escort you home at the end of the act, madame la princesse,” he said in English, bowing very slightly to Dr. Paull.

“But my husband? Where is he, monsieur?”

The count shrugged his shoulders, with an appealing smile, to Lady Forwood.

“He must go to the club for an hour, madame. When you arrive at the house, he will without doubt be there.”

Mercedes sat silent till the close of the act, then she rose abruptly, held out her hand to Lady Forwood, said “Adieu, monsieur,” with a melancholy little smile, to Hugh, and left the box on the count’s arm.

“Well?” said Lady Forwood, eagerly, when the two were alone.

“Well?” he repeated, coolly.

Some glamour, under the influence of which he had unbent—had forgotten his ordinary almost apathy to his surroundings—had passed away. He was on guard again.

“Tell me frankly what you think of her. I love her so much!” said Lady Forwood, eagerly and honestly.

“There is nothing the matter with her—physically,” said Hugh.


“As I told her husband, I do not profess to cure the mind.”

“Do you not see how miserable she is, Dr. Paull? We must do something for her,” said Lady Forwood, energetically. “You can, even more than I. She wants friends. She wants some powerful mind to control hers, and lead her to live her own life, without 181reference to the prince. That wretched young man! He neglects her shamefully; and how he can throw her with that count as he does—everyone is talking about it!”

“My dear Lady Forwood, what can I do?” asked Hugh, helplessly. Had she spoken to him thus before he had met Mercedes, he would have thought she was taking leave of her senses. Oddly enough, now, her appeal did not strike him as in any way peculiar. “I could see her professionally, and give her a few hints; but I could not talk to her openly, as you could,” he added, hesitatingly.

“What I want is for her to take an interest in something, Dr. Paull. I don’t mean an ordinary interest—but something that will occupy her energies, will distract her from brooding over her wrongs. Oh, she is wronged, poor child! David thinks very badly of the prince. I would not believe anything so dreadful of a fellow-creature. Oh, dear me, here is David!”

A portly, pleasant-looking man, who seemed as if the world suited him, and he it, came in with a “Hulloa! You don’t look best pleased to see me, my dear! I don’t wonder. It isn’t often she gets you all to herself, is it, Paull? Well, we’ve won. Majority of seventeen for our motion.”

Sir David talked away about the debate just over; and as soon as he could take leave, Hugh quitted the theatre.

Walking through the streets, under the dark night sky, he seemed awakening from some vivid dream, in which he had behaved in a manner in which he would certainly not have behaved when awake.

Letting himself in with his key, he rang for Jones.

182“You can go to bed. I shall sit up to do some work,” he said.

“You will find the letters in the library, sir,” said Jones, with extra gravity.

“Very well,” said Hugh. Then he flung himself into a chair, and began to think.

“That girl and I have met before,” he mused. “But how?—when? When I looked into her eyes, I felt she understood me ... and—I understand her. What on earth induced Lady Forwood to ask me to look after her?”

He almost laughed. Here, in the big, lonely house, which for years had been as a hermitage to him, the idea of his being asked to become mentor to a lovely Spanish princess seemed an absurdity.

“Let me see what Grantley has to say about Spain and the Spaniards,” he said to himself, going to the book-shelves and taking down a volume.

Captain Grantley was a patient of his, who had travelled in Spain, and recorded his experiences in print. For the next half-hour Hugh was reading about bullfights, romantic ruins seen by moonlight, mantillas, dark-eyed beauties, unpleasant railway journeys, and stuffy hostelries where the diet appeared to be garlic fried in oil. Nothing seemed to remind him of his princess; but he was still reading on, when a cab drove up, and there was a ring at the hall bell.

“At this hour!” (It was nearly midnight.) He went into the hall, unbarred and opened the door:

“Father?” His lanky son stepped joyfully in. “Why, you look surprised! Surely you got my letter?” he said, after depositing bags and hampers in the hall.

“Your letter? No,” said Dr. Paull. Somehow, 183Ralph’s unexpected arrival was a slight shock to him. “I thought you were not coming back for a week yet,” he said, after they went into the dining-room.

“We were away more than the fortnight, father,” said the pale lad, with a smile as sad as his dead young mother’s had been when her morbid sensitiveness was wounded. “But—you don’t look well! You have been worried into going to some dinner-party or another” (with a glance at his father’s evening dress). “I must not go away again! They will do for you among them!”

“I’m not dead yet, you see,” said Hugh, feeling a new embarrassment.

Until now there had been a confidence between him and the delicate lad, who looked at him with his lost Lilia’s eyes, which was more like the mutual understanding between attached brothers than that of father with son. For the first time Dr. Paull felt reluctant to speak of his doings to Ralph.

“But you must want some supper,” he suggested. “I will call up one of the servants—”

Ralph protested that he was not in the least hungry, and that he had had some sandwiches at Derby Station, which was literally true, although on his way from the terminus he had thought pleasantly of the snug supper with his father, which he fully expected was in store for him. His reception had effectually satisfied his youthful appetite.

“By the way, Jones said something about letters in the library; just get them, will you? Perhaps yours may be among them. I have had an extra-busy day—was interrupted at breakfast—hadn’t time to open my letters,” said Hugh, uneasily.

184Ralph hastened to execute his father’s command, and returned with a bundle of letters in his hand.

“Here is yours—unopened—as you see,” said Dr. Paull, showing Ralph his own letter, which he had neglected with the rest of his morning’s correspondence. “It was a fortunate thing I had not gone to bed.”

Ralph looked astonished. His father, the acmé of punctiliousness in business, speaking so carelessly of a whole batch of unopened letters! What could it mean?

“I have something to show you, father,” he said, gently. The poor boy thought that the fortnight’s loneliness had wrought this change in his beloved parent, whom he understood about as much as a beetle understands an eagle. And he fetched in two small packing-cases with lightly-fastened lids.

“There,” he said, “are they not beautiful? I made the ivy one myself.”

He opened the cases and removed some wadding. Dr. Paull stared with some perplexity at two wreaths—one of ivy, the other of white lilies. Then he bit his lip—he remembered! For the first time since Lilia’s death, he had not noted the approach of the anniversary of that terrible day when his son’s baby-hand had held him back from the one unforgivable sin—self-murder. On that day it had been his custom to take Lilia’s son to her grave, and talk to him of his mother: of what was best in her, that the memory of a mother should be even more to the boy than the influence of that mother, had she lived.

This time—he had forgotten!

“They are beautiful, Ralph,” he said, placing his hand affectionately on his boy’s shoulder. “Let us put 185them in a cool place, and go to bed. We must be up early to-morrow.”

He had not counted these last days as days of the month. He had made careless engagements for Tuesdays or Wednesdays, or other days in the week; and to-morrow he had appointments with important patients, and a consultation.

“It looks like decadence—strangely like decadence,” he told himself, bitterly, as, looking in the glass, he noted the deep lines on his face, the haggard look in his eyes. “I did not remember the twenty-first; and now I must cancel everything to-morrow—for the boy’s sake, I must be consistent—I must take him to his mother’s grave. But—to let everything go to the wall! Well, it must be done. But this shall be a lesson. No more fooling with princes and princesses—solid, sensible work.”

A brave determination, Dr. Paull! But, when you made it, did Fate smile, or shed a tear?



Dr. Paull and his son left Waterloo with their cases of flowers at an early hour next morning. Hugh was in a severe humour. Out of temper with himself, he was inclined to be out of temper with the rest of mankind. The first incident did not improve his humour. Like other travellers, he was in the habit of buying papers, to beguile the tedium of the railway journey. He had partially read his Times, when Ralph, who sat opposite, leant over, and, showing him an illustration in a well-known weekly, said:

“Is it like her, father?”

It was the portrait of the Princess Andriocchi, after a painting in the Paris Salon.

For a moment he hardly realised the extraordinary fact that his boy should ask him such a question, then recovering himself:

“Like whom?” he asked.

“Like the princess. Jones told me you had a new patient—a princess—and showed me the prince’s card. Poor old fellow! He does think a lot of royalty, father.”

“These people do not happen to be royal,” said Dr. Paull, as coldly as he ever spoke to his son. “But I am sorry that Jones is getting old and garrulous. I thought he would last my time out.”

187“He meant no harm——” began Ralph; but his father gave him a Times leader on the recent death of a celebrated geologist to read, and glanced at the memoir attached to the portrait.

This, after stating that the Princess Andriocchi was the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Saldanhés, who were high in favor at the Court of Spain, enlarged upon the sensation her beauty had created in Paris, how her carriage had been mobbed, how great portrait painters had made interest in influential quarters to have the privilege of taking her portrait, not knowing, until the picture by a celebrated Spanish artist was on the walls of the Salon, that they had been forestalled. After some further complimentary remarks, the article ended with the statement that although the princess was Spanish by birth, she had been educated in England.

“And this is the fulsome adulation with which the world ruins its sweetest women!” thought Hugh, intensely disgusted and annoyed. “What can be done against that? How can anyone or anything make an honest, God-fearing woman out of the object of that sort of stuff?”

He tried to occupy his mind with general subjects until they reached F—— Station, where Mr. and Mrs. Mervyn met them, beaming with smiles.


“My dearest boy!”

Ralph was rapturously embraced by Mrs. Mervyn, who was stouter and greyer than twenty years before, while Mr. Mervyn, a handsome old man, with hair as white as Hugh’s prematurely blanched locks, shook hands with Dr. Paull, who this year had been absent from the Pinewood for six months.

188“You must be glad to get away for a peep at the dear old place,” said Mrs. Mervyn, warmly, as she sat opposite Hugh in the waggonette. “You will find the garden a little neglected, I fear. You see, the men have had no direct orders, and we did not like to interfere.”

To Hugh, the peeps of the grounds through the clumps of pines as they drove along produced an effect of desolation. There was the still, overgrown, neglected look about the place which even the best kept estate will assume after the protracted absence of its owner. They were all to lunch together at the Pinewood. As they neared the house, Hugh’s spirits fell lower and lower.

“It is like a big churchyard with one grave in it,” he thought. To him the house looked mausoleum-like. Its windows stared blankly at him like so many reproachful eyes.

Within, he fancied there was a smell of damp. Mrs. Mervyn and the old housekeeper assured him, as they accompanied him through the unused rooms where the furniture was carefully shrouded in holland and the carpets rolled up, that during the wet weather there had been fires everywhere, and that at a couple of days’ notice the house would be ready for occupation.

“You could invite any number of people, sir. I’d undertake to be ready for them,” said Mrs. Gray, who had been housemaid at the Pinewood when Sir Roderick was a young man. “The parties as old Mr. Pym had here during the shooting! And how they used to enjoy theirselves! I only wish as how those times would come again, sir. As I said before, I’d be ready for ’em, as long as you’d let me have two housemaids and a man as knew something of his business.”

189Hugh looked sharply at her—as if the tempter himself had spoken through her lips.

“If I had people here—the whole place would have to be refurnished,” he said, turning to Mrs. Mervyn. “It all looks—so faded—so worn out.”

Last night’s splendid scene was in his mind. Not for one moment had his memory failed to reproduce it. Even as he looked at the good old furniture—(they were standing in the drawing-room, he, Mrs. Mervyn, and the housekeeper)—he seemed to see the opera house as background to the central figure of the princess in her pearl-embroidered robe, wearing priceless gems on her fair neck and arms and in her black hair as carelessly as if they were glass.

“I daresay it does all look poor after the houses you are accustomed to see,” said Mrs. Mervyn, indulgently. Good, untiringly faithful in well-doing as she was, her woman’s natural instincts remained; she daily witnessed by far too much squalor and poverty, and at the faint promise of something that would “brighten up the place,” as she termed it, she revived as an old war-horse pricks up his ears at the sound of the trumpet. “But, you know, all these things are solid and good, and at a comparatively small expense you could make the house look utterly different,” she added, persuasively.

Then, while Mrs. Gray stood by, intensely interested, she unfolded the poor old chocolate-coloured draperies, and showing Hugh how threadbare and faded they were, suggested numberless little plans for beautifying the rooms at a comparatively trivial outlay.

He listened with seeming interest. But he hardly heard what she was saying. He was building a castle in 190the air. He was reorganising the whole place on a far grander scale than would ever have occurred to Mrs. Mervyn’s frugal mind—he was preparing it for the entertainment of such guests as Sir David and Lady Forwood. (Sir David and Lady Forwood—his thoughts presumed no further. Hugh Paull, hitherto sincere, true to himself, had taken the first plunge into the bottomless waters of self-deception!)

“It seems a shame that a house with such capacities should be allowed to be in this state, doesn’t it?” he said to Mrs. Mervyn.

“It seems a shame so beautiful a place should ‘waste its sweetness on the desert air,’” she said, half-laughingly, half-earnestly. “But we know you will not leave it as it is,” she went on, in a low voice, to Hugh, as they followed the inwardly-elated housekeeper out of the room. “You see, Ralph is getting to be a young man, and should meet people. We have thought you would come to see this in its right light before very long.”

As Mrs. Mervyn was saying these words, they were passing through the hall, and Mrs. Gray, in her exuberance of spirits at the prospect of liveliness to come, went up to the gong and sounded the summons to luncheon in quite a joyous fashion.

Hugh, following Mrs. Mervyn into the dining-room, was struck by the bare and empty appearance of the room, but he was still more impressed by something else. This was Lilia’s portrait in pastel, which he had had painted by a celebrated French artist after her death, to be hung over the mantelshelf where Roderick Pym’s portrait in oils used to hang. This portrait, which had been somewhat of an abstraction, a study in grey and lilac, had lost whatever life the artist had put into it.

191“It might be a portrait of her ghost,” he thought, with an eerie feeling.

In truth, as he sat at luncheon, and afterwards, when he and Ralph laid the wreaths on the grave, there was no longer that old sensation of her presence lingering about the place. It was all empty as a husk.

“The old life has gone for ever,” he thought. To make the Pinewood bearable, he felt he must live a new life.

They took tea at the Rectory with the Mervyns.

As he was strolling in the garden with his hostess afterwards, he said to her, suddenly:

“If I should invite people here later on, would you consent to be hostess for a time?”

Mrs. Mervyn was slightly startled, but acquiesced. After the father and son had left, she broached the matter to her husband.

“Do you think he means to marry again?” suggested Mr. Mervyn, who had noticed some change in Hugh.

“Marry again!”

Mrs. Mervyn’s indignation made her husband smile.

“Well, we shall see,” he said. “My belief is, he will.”

Arrived home, by far more cheerful than when he started, Hugh went at once to his library for letters. There were a few, manifestly business communications. He looked at these somewhat blankly, then rang the bell.

“Are these all the letters?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Who called?”

“No one, sir.”

192“You are sure?”

He looked somewhat sternly at old Jones (the prattler).

“I am positive certain, sir,” said the old domestic, aggrieved, casting a reproachful look at his master as he retired. Dr. Paull had never spoken so sharply to him before.

“What a curious thing,” Hugh was telling himself. “Lady Forwood made all that fuss about my seeing the girl—and I am not sent for!”

It was only twenty-four hours since he was sitting in the box talking to the princess, but this fact did not occur to him. So many thoughts had passed through his mind, he had made such startling resolutions during those twenty-four hours that they seemed a week.

The next day passed, and the day after, in the usual routine. Rarely had that routine seemed so dull.

“What is the matter with my father, do you think, Jones?” asked Ralph of his old crony, who had been his secret playfellow since he first spun tops and made kite-tails for him. “He seems so strange. Has he been ill, and kept it to himself?”

“How can I tell, Master Ralph? How can the likes o’ me understand the likes o’ him?” answered Jones. In his heart of hearts, Jones feared that “much learning” was making his master certainly inclined to madness.

A few days later came a note from Lady Forwood.

“At last,” muttered Dr. Paull, who considered himself somewhat peculiarly treated by “a couple of women,” and attributed his irritable humour to annoyance thereat. But the letter merely asked him to dine to-morrow, and contained no mention of the princess.

193“But it is pretty certain she is to be there, or I should scarcely have been invited,” he thought.

Apart from his profession, he thought very lightly of himself. Since Lilia died he had merged the man in the physician; if one had told him people liked or disliked him as the man, without reference to the professional healer, he would scarcely have believed it.

He put the note into his breast-pocket—he was just going to deliver a lecture—said a few words to Ralph, and, stopping the carriage at a telegraph office, wired “With pleasure” to Lady Forwood.

He lectured brilliantly that day. The students were astonished at the youthful enthusiasm of their ordinarily calm and logical professor.

Returning, he found a letter from Mrs. Mervyn, who was anxious to keep him up to his new good resolutions. Mrs. Mervyn offered to come to town any day and “do his shopping for him.”

He talked of his idea of embellishing the Pinewood to Ralph that evening.

“You both, you and granny, have more artistic taste than I have,” he said to his son. “Suppose I were to give you carte blanche to refurnish the house—both houses, this is a great deal too shabby—and I will not grumble at the bills?”

Ralph acceded to his father’s suggestion joyfully, as he invariably did. But in private he wondered, and pondered. This man, all elation one day and moody abstraction the next, was not the father he had loved and revered. He was metamorphosed.

Sir David Forwood lived in one of the fashionable squares. When Hugh’s carriage drove up, it had to 194wait—another equipage was “setting down” at the hall-door, where there was an awning.

“A large party?” he asked the footman who took his hat.

“My lady receives after dinner, this evening,” said the man.

There were two or three ladies seated near Lady Forwood, and a few men were standing about in the big front drawing-room. One of these was the count, who bowed to him with what he considered an ironical smile.

“I want you particularly to take in Lady Boisville,” Lady Forwood said to him after she had said a few nothings. “She is dying to talk to you. You know she is a bit blue—and she positively raves about your ‘Commentaries on Psychological Facts.’ Did I pronounce that properly? Yes? For the first time, I assure you!”

Then she introduced him to the lady in question.

Lady Boisville was the wife of a millionaire who had been recently created a baron for some good reason best known to the title creators of the period. She was a stout lady in the sixties, who worshipped brains, as she said, and took a motherly interest in her juniors. She was fond of a little bit of gossip, and Hugh listened to her monologue half interested, half dreading that he might hear something—what, he hardly knew—that would unpleasantly affect him.

“You know Count Tornelli?” she said to him, after she had chattered about most of the persons present not strictly within earshot. “The man who is always with the Prince Andriocchi? I am very much interested in him.”

195“Indeed?” remarked Hugh, coldly.

“You speak as if—do you know anything about him that is not quite nice?” asked her ladyship, alarmed by his manner. “Because, if you do, you must tell me at once! That dark girl sitting by him is my niece, and we quite think that it will be a match—if everything should be suitable, of course.”

Hugh felt quite sorry for having excited Lady Boisville’s suspicions. He became suddenly sympathetic in her regard, and thinking she was a good motherly soul, he assured her quite warmly that during his slight acquaintance with the count he had seen nothing at all at which she might take exception.

“I hear that the prince is dreadfully fast” said she. “But that the count does his utmost to lead him away from his temptations.”

“A sort of Mentor,” said Hugh, with a smile.

He felt amused now, and discussed the advantages of the possible marriage with Lady Boisville with as much interest as if he had been a lady matchmaker.

The dinner over, he established himself in a corner of the back drawing-room and watched the arrivals to the “At Home.”

These were many; people he knew, people he did not know. Every gown as it flitted past the doorway set him on the alert—he felt that each dark head or pair of snowy shoulders might be hers.

As the quarters were chimed by a clock on a cabinet near him, as ten o’clock came, then eleven—he began to feel a peculiar sensation of uneasiness. It annoyed him. What was there to be uneasy about? he asked himself. Was he uneasy because he was wasting his time? Had he thought he was there in the cause of science, to see a 196patient that had baffled greater nerve-doctors than himself? Yes, that was it. Men came up to him and talked, and he conversed with them, still watching the doorway. Then guests began to depart, and feeling as if he had been made a fool of, he sought out his hostess and somewhat reproachfully told her he must leave, now.

“I am sorry I cannot wait any longer to see my patient,” he said with emphasis.

“Your patient?” repeated Lady Forwood. “Oh, dear! You expected to meet Mercedes!” she said. “You thought I was arranging something like they did with the Paris doctor. No! I wanted you particularly to know Lady Boisville. Mercedes and her husband are with the Arrans in Wales. I had a more cheerful letter from her than I have had for a long time. Her husband seems to like Wales, and all is couleur de rose.”

“I am happy to hear it,” said Hugh. Then he made his way out of the house and walked home, utterly disgusted with himself—ashamed of himself to himself for the first time in his life.



For the first time in his life Dr. Paull felt that he had considerably lost in his respect for himself, and he set himself to inquire into his mental and moral condition.

“I have lowered myself in some way,” he thought. (He was thinking of self in a strictly professional sense, be it understood.) “It has been the doctor running after the patient, not the patient seeking the doctor. It must not occur again. I know I meant well—but it must not occur again.”

After this neat little compromise with his conscience, which perhaps was rusty for want of work and therefore not equal to the occasion, he as it were shook hands with himself, and set to work again, ignoring the question of unhappy young princesses with neglectful husbands and doubtful counts in dangerous proximity.

It was the old life again. Patients at home in the morning, hospital work later, later still consultations or sudden calls. Then evenings spent quietly with Ralph, talking over his late tour with the geologist and helping him to arrange his specimens.

The boy was never so happy as when his father was sharing his life, thus. But he loved him unselfishly, 198and the seed of doubt whether that father was as well or as happy as he should be was sown, and had already fructified.

“Father,” he said suddenly, one evening, “why have you given up going out?”

“My dear boy, I cannot give up what I never began,” said Dr. Paull, startled so that his pale face flushed.

“You went to the opera and to parties,” persisted Ralph. “And you looked so jolly then. You don’t now. You are quite different.”

“Don’t let us talk nonsense,” said Hugh, annoyed.

Could it be true that he looked brighter after mixing with a crowd of silly people, who lived to waste time in amusing themselves?

The very next morning he was down to breakfast somewhat earlier, to keep an appointment with a patient, when Ralph came in, all eagerness. A letter was in his hand.

“From the princess, father,” he said. “A footman brought it, and is waiting for an answer.”

“Well, let him wait,” said Hugh, once more flushing with annoyance. (Why his son’s empressement?)

“He says one word will do,” said Ralph, pleadingly.

“What is the matter with you?” asked his father, with an embarrassed laugh, taking up the dainty little note addressed to “Monsieur le Docteur Paull,” in a weak but pretty handwriting. “There,” he said, suddenly, by some curious impulse handing the open note to the lad. “I don’t know what to do. You shall decide.”

The note contained but a few words:

199“Cher Monsieur,—I will ask you as a great kindness to me to give me your advice, when and how it pleases you. Receive my compliments.

Mercedes (Princess Andriocchi).”

“Decide?” Ralph stared at his father.

“Shall I go, or not?” said Hugh.

“What else would you do, father?” said his son, astonished.

He scarcely understood—he had never known his father refuse advice to a patient.

“Look here,” said Dr. Paull, throwing himself back in his chair. “This is a fashionable, selfish woman, who has really nothing the matter with her. If I go, it is merely truckling to her position and wealth.”

“Has she consulted you before, then?” said the boy, seriously.

He was naturally serious, and in the most minor matters, which had any reference to his father, he was preternaturally so.

“No, I have not seen her professionally, exactly,” admitted Hugh.

“You once told me, father, that no man, however gifted in diagnosis, should pronounce upon a patient without making an—what was the word?—an exhaustive examination.”

“Does that mean I ought to go?”

“Why not?”

Hugh looked into the earnest blue eyes which, despite the lad’s years, had still an almost infantine expression.

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings one often hears the truth,” he thought.

“I suppose I must go, then,” he said, “although it is most inconvenient,” and abruptly rising he went into 200the hall, spoke to the man, and returned pledged to see the princess.

He was set down for a clinical lecture at noon. At eleven he started in his brougham and drove to one of the new roads in South Kensington where the Prince Andriocchi rented a furnished house for the season.

An English groom of the chambers came forward as the door opened.

The princess was at home.

Hugh followed the man, who wore a dress something akin to ordinary levée costume, up the wide staircase, through the large, silent drawing-rooms which were furnished in the Parisian style rather than according to British taste, into a boudoir where he left him.

It was a circular room lighted from above. The ceiling was a dome draped in a peculiar fashion with some soft white stuff in cloud-like puffings; the narrow windows were of pink glass. The carpet was rose-pink with a white flower pattern, the walls were lined with puffings of white and pale pink satin, while the furniture was of pink and white brocade and gilded wood. A few engravings of celebrated pictures stood about on easels; and everywhere, wherever he looked, Hugh saw the choicest flowers; cut flowers in bowls, plants in jardinières. It was a room which was unlike all other rooms he remembered, yet, as he looked around, it struck him that he had seen some room like it somewhere, once. When? How? In a dream?

The sound of a door opening behind him made him turn round, and he saw the princess coming towards him through a conservatory which lay beyond a curtained arch opposite the door by which he had entered.

She was dressed in some floating girlish dress of 201softly tinted stuffs: she seemed lost in thought—Hugh fancied she was unaware that he was there: she walked slowly and wearily, her eyes cast down—then paused to pick off a dying blossom as she passed between the banks of bloom.

But—she knew! For as she came in she raised her eyes, and the colour rising to her pale cheek she said:

“Ah, I knew you would come!”

It was a strange thing to say; but it was said simply, earnestly, without the slightest tinge of vanity. As for coquetry, no man, looking at that sad, beautiful young face, would have been so lost to all sense of chivalry as to dream of the detestable quality in the presence of this gentle, modest woman.

She did not offer Hugh her hand. She seated herself on a settee, and motioned him to occupy an easy-chair opposite.

“My husband is away,” she said, in her foreign English, looking wistfully at Dr. Paull. “He sent to me the count late last night, to say it was impossible that he should return.”

She was evidently watching for the effect of her communication. But Dr. Paull maintained his professional sphinx-like calm.

“Indeed!” he said. “But you have friends staying with you? You are not alone?”

“I am quite alone,” she said. “But I have always been alone, so that is nothing.”

There was an awkward pause. Hugh hardly knew how to meet these naïve confidences.

“You sent for me?” he began, suggestively.

She looked at him with a peculiar, scrutinising glance for quite half a minute. Then she said:

202“Lady Forwood told me you are a good man.”

This was somewhat disconcerting.

“Lady Forwood is a charming, kind woman,” he said, warmly; “and I am glad that you are such friends.”

“She told me I should tell you everything!” said the girl, clasping her jewelled hands nervously.

“Naturally, of course,” said Hugh, who had rapidly determined to treat the princess’ case, whatever it might prove to be, with bare matter-of-fact common sense: and, as in the case of hysterical subjects, to be unsympathetic—even, if necessary, rough. “A doctor should hear the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, from a patient. Otherwise, he is working in the dark, and might do more harm than good.”

The princess was evidently in earnest about herself. She fixed her eyes intently upon Hugh as he was speaking, listened with all her ears, and when he had ended his somewhat didactic little speech, sighed a little sigh of relief.

“It is a long story,” she began, apologetically.

“We medical men are accustomed to long stories,” said Hugh, “especially from ladies.”

“You do not like ladies?” said the princess, with a smile. (She seemed rather pleased than otherwise.) “I did not like the ladies of my country when I was a child. My mother and father were every day at the Court. Their own palace was a little Court. I was very unhappy. It was there I began to dream.”

She hesitated and gave a nervous glance around before she said the word, which, indeed, she spoke with bated breath.

“To dream?” said Dr. Paull, beginning to set down 203his new patient among the hysterical category. (When his hysterical patients could find nothing else to complain of, they invariably grumbled about their bad dreams, which were beyond anyone’s power to verify.) “Why, dreams are only imagination. Everyone has bad dreams. Dreams are nothing.”

“Do you think so?” asked the girl, with intense anxiety, with a strained look in her big eyes. “Tell me that again! Tell me dreams are nothing!

“I do not exactly mean that they are nothing, that is merely an expression to be taken for what it is worth,” said he, impressed by her intensity. “But come, tell me all about these dreams; I am interested in dreams. I wish I could have met you when I was writing a little book about the brain. Your experiences might have been of great use to me. They still will be, if you will tell me all about them.”

She knitted her brow, considered for some moments, then said, with evident effort:

“Tell me, doctor, tell me truly. Do you think there could be two souls in one body, and one soul could be awake when the other was asleep?”

“Is such a wild, horrible idea allowed by your Catholic religion?” asked Hugh, somewhat brusquely. “Do you know, princess, that allowing yourself to think of such things probably causes you these bad dreams?”

She looked at him with a sad smile, and shook her head slowly.

“Ah! you do not know!” she said. He had heard that plaintive tone of voice before from patients suffering acute anguish from deadly disease. “But you are right, monsieur le docteur, I am wrong to say such a thing. It is against my holy faith.”

204Her proud humility touched him.

“And I was wrong to ask you such a question,” he said. Then he coaxed her to speak freely to him.

“You dreamt these dreams as a child?” he began. “They ought to be forgotten—dead.”

Then she told him simply, in her imperfect English, what her trouble really was. As a young child, she had been much like other children, without their life and cheerfulness when awake. But no sooner did she sleep than she felt herself surrounded by terrors, vague but horrible; a sense of impending doom seemed to suffocate her, yet some interior feeling made her believe that the doom was just. She heard weeping and lamenting among the dark shadows that surrounded her; and sometimes great eyes, with an expression of frantic appeal, appeared amid the gloom, and haunted her waking thoughts.

“I did think the souls in Purgatory were near me,” she said. “I told the Reverend Mother of the Convent. We children could any of us go to her when we liked, just as to a real mother. Oh, much more! I could never have talked to my mother, the Marquesa, like that.”

“And what did the Reverend Mother say?” asked Hugh, with a suggestion of sarcasm, for he had a good honest British distaste for the conventual system.

“Oh! she laughed at me, and said little children had nothing to do with Purgatory; and she showed me a picture-book, The Cats’ Tea Party, and when a lay sister brought her some bouillon, I had some in a pretty cup.”

“Altogether the bad dreams were rather a good thing than otherwise?” suggested Hugh, almost banteringly, 205thinking that at least that nun had some common sense, whatever dreamers the rest may have been.

“I had holidays, and the doctor came, and I had more things to eat,” said Mercedes; “and everyone was so kind to me.”

“Did not all that send away the bad dreams?” asked Hugh, still speaking lightly.

“No,” she said, sadly. “Nothing has ever altered them. It is so—always. And I cannot care for my life!”

She spoke with such despair that Hugh was touched. His determination to be harsh wavered, although he was unaware of the fact.

“But, for instance, lately,” he said, thinking of Lady Forwood’s account of a cheery letter, “you have been away in the country, I understand. How did you sleep there?”

“Not at all,” she said. “And it was beautiful! First came the quiet, dark night, with the scent of roses coming in with the cool air, and just a little rustle of the trees outside. Then a grey light, and the young birds twitting (is that the word?) little questions to their parents. Then the old birds began to sing sweet, happy songs, and the day came, first with blue light, then white, then pale rose. Then I got up, and from my window saw the rise of the glorious sun—ah! that waking is better than the sleep you doctors say is good. It is not good, to be asleep!”

Her eyes sparkled; her dejection had lifted.

“I cannot agree with you,” said Hugh. “And sleep—good sleep, mind—you must have. But last night—here, in London,—you had no rest?”

206“I had my worst-of-all dream!” she said, bitterly. “It has come to me these last years: at first—years back—I waked up crying and miserable, but could not remember. Then I remembered something about pistolets. I do not know your English word.”

“Pistols?” said Hugh. He never used the word, or thought of the weapon, without a shudder.

“That is it,” she assented.

“Were you ever frightened by firearms, do you think?” asked Dr. Paull, resolutely suppressing the commencement of the hopelessly wretched mood which inevitably succeeded any suggestion of that past terrible experience. “Sometimes a fright in infancy will reproduce unpleasant impressions.... Do you understand me?”

“I never saw pistolets before that dream,” she said, slowly and solemnly. “I could swear it to you before the bon Dieu, monsieur!”

“I quite believe you,” said Hugh, hurriedly. “There are strange incidents in the lives of young children, and they have curious ideas—science is yet in the dark about these things. But——” He paused and looked almost tenderly at the great, childish, anxious eyes raised to his. “I want to help you,” he said; “but, frankly, it is difficult.”

Then he questioned her as to the drugs physicians had ordered her, and she brought him a pile of prescriptions which proved to him how futile the greatest scientists’ efforts had been to alleviate the torture suffered by this envied, but in reality most pitiable young creature.

She looked so lovely, such a rare blossom of sweet womanhood; and, glancing at her amid her luxurious 207surroundings, anyone would have derided the idea of pitying her. But, as Hugh looked at her a strong belief arose in his mind that she was not, in some way, like other people; and that—how or why, he dared not imagine—some blight was upon that fair young head. Possibly some ante-natal occurrence, however remote, might have produced her morbid condition.

As he sat looking at her, thinking deeply, casting about how he could help her, she was watching him hopefully. At their first meeting she had felt a calmed sensation, an access of strength, while talking to him, and since—even when merely remembering or speaking of him.

“Well, monsieur?” she asked at last, with a smile.

He sighed, almost impatiently.

“You expect me to give you medicine?” he asked.

“If you do, monsieur le docteur, I think I could not take it,” she said. “I have had so much médécine, and never, never did it take away one dream; no, not one!”

“Then what am I to do for you?” asked Hugh, in his perplexed mood unaware how strange a question this was from an eminent physician to a patient.

She looked at him earnestly, and leaning forward she said, slowly:

“See me—every—day!”

Hugh started. Then he laughed, then checked himself. Was she mad, or only eccentric?

“Why?” he asked. “Why see you every day, especially as you tell me that if I prescribe for you, you will not take my medicine?”

She opened her lips; evidently she would have told 208him—had not some secondary thought arisen to check her confidence, whatever it might be.

“Will you see me every day for one week? then I will tell you,” she said, imploringly. “Lady Forwood said you would be my good friend. Be my good friend, monsieur, and do this!”

It was an embarrassing position; and although Hugh was deeply moved by the girl’s pathetic tone of entreaty, by this almost desperate appeal to him—for that was really what it seemed to be,—he wondered what was behind this strange request. Was Mercedes in the power of one of those two men—the prince and the count,—and unconsciously aiding in some bet or frivolous conspiracy? Or was she herself whimsical and capricious—“hysterical”? No! Those last ideas were treason. Having harboured them for an instant brought back his instinctive faith in the simple young creature.

“I would do what you ask, but really it is not possible, princess,” he said, gently, respectfully. Then he explained how his time was occupied, and gave her a list, jotted down hastily upon a leaf torn out of his pocket-book, of the engagements for the next few days, which could not be cancelled.

She took the list and went over it carefully, in a practical manner, quite unlike that of a hysterical woman.

“I see,” she said. “But, monsieur, the evenings? There is nothing for the evenings.”

Hugh told her that his evenings were sacred to his son.

“I am all that he has,” he said, “both mother and father. His mother died when he was born.”

209She asked his age, and Hugh told her.

“Nineteen!” she said, with a little laugh of surprise. “How funny! That is my age. But your son, when is he nineteen? You say, a few days ago? Why, he is older than I am, monsieur? You could be my father.”

“Certainly,” said Hugh, relieved, somehow, of part of the uneasy sensation excited by the situation by this suggestion. “But I confess I thought you older.”

“I was eighteen last March,” she said, gravely. “And my friend, Lady Forwood, was twenty-four.”

Eighteen—and a wife! Hugh looked pityingly at her. It seemed to him that parents who could wed a child of seventeen to a young roué of twenty-six were almost criminal in their rashness—or worse than rashness.

“But, your son, he would like to go out?” said the princess. “Monsieur, you and he, can you not come sometimes to Lady Forwood—to Lady Boisville? Then I could see you.”

“Impossible,” said Hugh, suddenly rising. This curious interview had lasted long enough.

“You will not?”

She sat back on the settee, and to his astonishment, a deathlike pallor spread over her face. A shrunken look aged her sweet youthful features, her eyes seemed to harden and recede beneath her dark eyebrows. His conscience smote him.

“I will try and see you again soon,” he said, lamely.

She raised her eyes languidly. He could not bear to see such abject misery on so young a face.... Young? This girl was younger than Ralph, more than young enough to be his own child. And so alone—and he 210could help her; he saw, he felt that there was some strong bond of sympathy between them.

Without further thought, he almost flung himself down upon the settee at her side.

“Suppose I were to see you every day for five days,” he said, with an affectation of amusement, “what good would that do you?”

“You shall see,” she said, reviving somewhat; “I promise you, you shall be astonished.”

“Pleasantly astonished?” he asked. He determined to treat her in a fatherly, indulgent way, as a spoilt child.

“You will see,” she said, nodding her head. “But,”—she seized his hand in hers in a familiar, innocent way which took his breath away for the moment—“you promise?”

“Promise! What?” he asked, uneasily. Something in the clinging touch of those slender fingers moved him deeply, recalled—what? Sensations long passed and gone, almost forgotten; sensations that stirred his heart to feel the pain of loss.

“Promise to accept the invitations you will receive this week,” she said.

“But where?” he asked.

“Here, to Lady Forwood, to Lady Boisville,” she said.

“Nowhere else?” he asked, gazing wonderingly into her upturned eyes. Had there ever been such beautiful dark eyes in this world before? He believed not. In any case, if such existed, he had never seen them.

“Nowhere else,” she said, earnestly.

“I do not quite understand, but I promise,” he said, rising. “And now au revoir, princess.”

211He bowed low, and hurried away without looking back. He felt shamefaced and guilty: running downstairs more actively than he had run for years past, he came full tilt against the count, who was standing at the foot of the staircase.

Bows, apologies. Then the count asked tenderly about the princess.

“We may hope, now that you have seen her, that our beautiful lady will be better, docteur,” he said, obsequiously. “But how, how do you find her?”

“There is nothing much the matter,” said Hugh, dryly. Then, wondering where the prince was, and how he could “let that fellow come hanging about at all hours,” he hurried out to his carriage.

“Where to, sir?” asked the coachman, leaning over as he came up.

“Where to? The hospital, of course,” said Hugh, getting into his brougham and pulling the door to. What did Fuller, his coachman, mean? He knew his hours well enough. And what was the matter? He was tapping at the glass. Hugh let down a front window, impatiently.

“Did you say to the hospital, sir?”

“Of course!” shouted Hugh.

“It’s half-past twelve, sir,” said the coachman, reproachfully. Had he not sat on his box wondering what had become of his master for five mortal quarters-of-an hour?

“Half-past eleven, you mean!” said Dr. Paull, sternly.

For reply, Fuller pulled out a turnip silver watch.

“It don’t never vary a second, sir, it don’t,” he said, conclusively.

212A glance at his own watch, and Hugh, saying, “You’re right, home,” drew up the window, and threw himself back in consternation.

“Am I mad, or dreaming?” he asked himself. He had missed a lecture for the first time since his appointment ten years ago!



“Incredible! Preposterous!”

That was Dr. Paull’s mental attitude: he could not understand how that hour, or more, had slipped away in the princess’ boudoir.

His annoyance, and his difficulty in accounting for his absence from his post, made him half-forgetful of the princess’ expressed determination to see him every day. Next morning, when Sir David Forwood was announced, he had no idea of his old friend’s errand.

“No one ill, I hope?” he said, with concern; he left his consulting-room to join his visitor in the dingy old drawing-room, a melancholy apartment. He was fond of the Forwood children, one or two of whom were weakly.

“No,” said Sir David, who looked as he felt, uncomfortable. “Really I am ashamed to come on such an errand to a man like you, Paull. But you must blame my wife and Lady Boisville, rather than myself. Lady Boisville gives a concert to-night in honour of the young French prince, and she has set her heart on your being there. She actually came herself about it, and the two ladies packed me off to secure you. I am afraid you will have to come, Paull, or I shall never be forgiven.”

214Dr. Paull smiled. He remembered. His new patient evidently understood how to carry out her whims.

“I am pledged to go, or I certainly would not. These things are not at all in my line,” he said.

“Pledged to go?” Sir David looked astonished. “Lady Boisville must have been mistaken, then. She said it was an afterthought of hers, and was so afraid you would be offended at being asked so late in the day.”

“I knew nothing of the entertainment; still, I am pledged to go,” said Hugh, amused at Sir David’s innocence. “I will be there.”

Then Sir David departed, perplexed, as he would not have been had his wife been a society intrigante.

Going into the dining-room to luncheon, Hugh was startled to see Mrs. Mervyn, without her bonnet and shawl.

“Good heavens!” he said, startled. What brings you to town?”

“You, of course,” said Mrs. Mervyn, amused. “How do you think the Pinewood is to be restored, and all that, without some one working pretty hard? Ralph and I have our work cut out for us this next week, I can tell you. Ralph arranged for my staying here. I won’t be in your way, I promise you.”

“As if that were possible,” said Hugh, affectionately. He was always glad to see poor Lilia’s “mammy.” Her round placid face and kind eyes were dear to him. But as he presided at the luncheon table, and talked to her and to Ralph, who appeared in the seventh heaven with delight and importance, he hardly knew what they said, or how he answered them, except that the words carpets, curtains, furniture, were frequently repeated. He was wondering how he should explain his absence that evening 215to “mammy,” who regarded him as an incorrigible recluse.

“I fear I must seem rude, and leave you to-night for an hour or two,” he said, as they rose from table.

“Patients make doctors’ laws,” said Mrs. Mervyn, sagely. “I know that.”

“But this is a private concert at Lady Boisville’s,” said Hugh, uneasily. “Nothing to do with business. In an evil hour I promised to go.”

“My dear, I am so glad that you are coming out of your shell,” said Mrs. Mervyn, warmly. “And that reminds me. When am I to be ready to play hostess at the Pinewood? It is necessary that I should know, to have everything in order.”

Hugh looked at her in consternation. He had forgotten his wild, fleeting ideas that day at the Pinewood. Evidently Mrs. Mervyn had not.

“Oh! I have not thought any more about that,” he said.

“Then I am glad I have reminded you,” said “mammy.” “And really you men of science are so unpractical in ordinary life, that the best thing one can do with you, I think, is to help you a bit. I suppose you mean to ask your friends for the partridge shooting? There are plenty of birds about; and old Cæsar has been taking pains with them since he knew for certain you were coming down.”

Before they parted, Hugh was aware that this was before him: he was to entertain the princess at the Pinewood. It was his own fault. When he had persuaded himself that day in the country that he was planning to entertain Sir David Forwood and his wife, he was deceiving himself.

216“I wanted her there,” he told himself, in consternation. “What influence has that girl over me, and how in Heaven’s name did she get it?”

He felt like some ponderous fly may feel entangled in the fine web of a seemingly insignificant spider. That delicate creature! How came it that he, a strong man, was subject to her will, or rather, her caprice?

“It must not be,” he told himself, sternly; “although, of course, I must fulfil my promise. I must see her, when and how she plans for these few days. But after that, no more.”

His determination seemed to him so strong, that he grew quite cheerful, and after a pleasant chat with Mrs. Mervyn during and after dinner, he sent her to the opera with Ralph and dressed for Lady Boisville’s concert quite as if these new doings had been his rule of life.

Lady Boisville’s house was well known. Its tapestries, picture-gallery, and new French ball-room were much talked of in society. When Dr. Paull arrived, the picture-gallery was already nearly filled by a brilliant crowd who were seated or standing about in groups, awaiting the young French prince. Hugh took up his position in the background. He had been forced into this gathering, he determined to remain a spectator of the interesting living picture as much as possible. At first it seemed as if his intention would be fulfilled. The concert began. Celebrated Italian singers warbled delicious music. The ladies smiled and fluttered their fans. The men conversed in snatches between the pieces, while the Boisville ancestors frowned darkly or smiled blankly from among the 217celebrated black canvases of the old Dutch painters or the gay Canalettis for which the Boisville collection was famous. One or two men he knew, the most celebrated portrait painter of the day, two of the foremost members of the Cabinet, and the physician dearest to reigning royalty, came up and talked with him. All seemed surprised to see him. One of the statesmen, a man of constitutional vigour and renowned for his honest joviality, told him he was taking a step in the right direction.

“You preach at your patients not to shut themselves up,” he said. “But hitherto you have not followed your own prescription.”

Just after that the portrait painter came up to him.

“I have just seen the loveliest woman in the world,” he said, enthusiastically; “and Lady Boisville tells me you are her doctor. Lucky fellow!”

And forthwith he questioned Hugh with what Dr. Paull considered execrable taste, until at last he made some excuse and came out of his corner to avoid the man.

Then he saw Mercedes, an exquisite picture in some silvery gossamer stuff, with pearls round her girlish throat and a long trail of lilies from her beautiful shoulder to the hem of her dress. Her large eyes were travelling restlessly from face to face, her lips were apart, she was nervously playing with her fan, yet the French prince was talking to her, and in the knot of people around them were some of the celebrities of the day. Their eyes met, her face lit up with pleasure, his heart seemed to swell with some emotion. He was touched, yet was angry with himself for being so.

218“I suppose I must speak to her,” he told himself; “but that must suffice. After that, I go home.”

He waited until the French prince moved away, then went up to her and asked her how she was.

“Very well, now,” she said. “Not before, for you had not come.”

“I have been here all the evening,” said Hugh, as coolly as he could, for her sweet face lifted to his actually stirred his steady pulses, and he rebelled against these new, involuntary sensations. “I must go, now. Good-bye! I am glad you are looking so well.”

“You will stay? Just a little while?” she pleaded.

“I am sorry that I cannot possibly do so,” he said. “My time is not my own.”

Her blank look of disappointment startled him. What was this violent fancy of hers for him? Was he wise, was he, indeed, doing right to encourage it? He began to fear that he had taken some dangerous step on that flowery way to destruction that he had hitherto succeeded in avoiding.

Still, as he argued to himself walking home under the calm night sky, why should he think there was anything approaching to danger in the kindly feeling this young, beautiful creature entertained for him?

“I am absurdly vain to think of such a thing,” he told himself with a scornful laugh. “I, more than middle-aged, white-haired, awkward, stupid in women’s society, she can only feel a mixture of pity and confidence. How absurd it is of me to make a mountain out of a molehill!”

He went to bed with a heavy heart, accusing himself of ingratitude to the princess.

219“I ought to feel flattered at it all, I suppose,” he said when he awoke, his spirits oppressed with the feeling of something going wrong in his life. Instead of this, he felt utterly wretched.

Had he expected to hear from Mercedes? He did not know. He only knew that he turned over his letters with a sense of disappointment, and although he talked with Mrs. Mervyn about the opera, and listened to her and to Ralph’s hints of some pleasant surprise in store for him in the arrangements at the Pinewood, he could not have given an account of the conversation afterwards had his life depended upon it. He had hard work to concentrate his energies upon his work that day. When he returned home he found a letter—a letter with the Andriocchi arms on the flap of the envelope, with his name in that graceful, sloping writing.

It lay among many others on his library table. If he had really doubted the girl’s power over his emotions, the eagerness with which he pounced upon it would have told him the truth.

Before he read it he locked the door. Another desperate symptom, had he been reflecting on his own case. But he was not. He had but one feeling, intense relief. He had been fearing he had offended her, and he had not done so.

He opened the envelope. The enclosed sheet of notepaper contained but a few words:

“I release you from your promise. Farewell.


The date; her address; those few words. No more.

In his present frame of mind, it was a shock. At first he paced the room, his old habit when perturbed. 220Then after gloomy self-chidings, during which he thought of himself as an inhuman bear who had trampled on the generous nature of one of the sweetest women God had ever created—he stopped short, consoled by a new thought.

“What did I do, or say?” he asked himself. “I only made excuses to get away from a fashionable entertainment. I did not slight her personally. She is a child! She has jumped to some conclusion or another—I must write at once and disabuse her of it, whatever it is.”

He sat down, and wrote:—

“Dear Princess,—It grieves me to find that you have lost confidence in me as your medical adviser, because I have given much consideration to your case. Allow me to assure you that if you permit me a further trial, you will be satisfied with the result. At the same time, if you conclude that you are better without my advice, I sincerely hope you will allow me to talk over your next medical adviser with you, as the selection is a matter of importance to your health.

“I am, faithfully yours,
Hugh Paull.”

“Whether this is too warm, or too cold—whatever it is, it shall go,” he said to himself decidedly, as he rang the bell.

“When did this letter come?” he asked of Jones, who came in response to his summons.

“That, sir? Oh, the princess! The fair, foreign gentleman brought it. He wanted to see you, sir. He came about two.”

Which gentleman?” asked Hugh—nettled to find that the letter had been recognised.

“The count, sir; not the prince.”

“Send this by a hansom at once,” he directed. 221“And send round to the stables. I want the brougham directly after dinner.”

He had given this order, spurred by a feeling he had not hitherto known: he wished to conceal his movements from his own servants. Hitherto, they might have known all that he did, and spoke, and thought, for all he cared.

Now, the idea of his patient the princess being commented upon by any one of his household, even by Ralph, was unbearable to him. He had ordered his carriage to elude remark. No sooner had he done so, than he wondered what he should do with it—where he should go.

“I will take mammy to the theatre,” he suddenly thought.

Upstairs he bounded—she was not in the drawing-room. Once more he rushed up the stairs three steps at a time and bounced up against Mrs. Mervyn.

“My dear boy!” Mrs. Mervyn was astonished, but not disconcerted.

It did her good to see the long disconsolate widower “alive again,” as she said afterwards to her husband.

“I came to see if you would come to the theatre, to-night,” he said, in a low voice. “Don’t say anything before the servants—but after dinner, we three can just go and see anything good that you would care to see.”

Mrs. Mervyn was enchanted.

“All the same, I would just as soon spend a quiet evening with you and Ralph,” she said. “You must not fatigue yourself on my account, dear.”

“Don’t be alarmed! I am purely selfish!” he said, going off disgusted with himself.

222What had happened to him? He was unstrung—his emotions were in revolt. He felt as if he could not sit quietly at home that evening, waiting for a reply to his note. He must have change of scene, excitement, to balance him. If mammy could only know! Poor “mammy!”

Perhaps “mammy” knew more than he thought. Mrs. Mervyn, finding him changed, had certainly been on the watch these days. She had discovered no clue to the feminine influence which, woman-like, she believed to be the root of Dr. Paull’s alternate high spirits and absence of mind—still, she believed that the feminine influence was there, and that in time she would “know everything.”

Poor “mammy!”

Meanwhile, she enjoyed herself that evening, as she, Dr. Paull, and Ralph sat together in a box to see a new piece, a serious comedy with both humorous and pathetic interest which was having a steady “run” at one of the principal theatres. Hugh exerted himself to be amusing, or, at least, to pay the undivided attention to Lilia’s dearest friend which he considered her due; and Mrs. Mervyn thought, more than once during the performance, “If there really is some love affair, it is going on favorably.”

So hoped Hugh. At least, so he hoped of this new acquaintance which he mentally designated his and Mercedes’ “friendship.” He believed his letter had “made it all right” between him and his offended patient.

But the next day passed, and the day after that, and no answer came.

Then Mrs. Mervyn departed, with the promise that 223he would send her full particulars of his house party at the Pinewood next month. She assured him at parting that everything would be ready for next month in a few days.

Good soul!—she journeyed home somewhat heavy-hearted on the subject of Hugh, of whom she was genuinely fond. When he returned from the bookstall with the newspapers he had bought to beguile her homeward journey, she noticed that he was deadly pale and looked very ill.

“He has been overfatiguing himself for me,” she dismally thought as the fields and hedges seemed to fly by the compartment in which she sat alone. “Poor, dear boy! I have been very thoughtless.”

She might have spared herself her misgivings. The cause of Dr. Paull’s pallor was a short paragraph in a society column his eyes rested upon as he brought her the papers:

“The Prince and Princess Andriocchi, who have been making a brief stay in the Metropolis, intend to take their departure for Madrid to-day. For the future they will reside in the well-known palace of the Duke and Duchess of Saldanhés, the parents of the princess, where an extensive suite of apartments has been magnificently re-decorated for their reception. One of the objects of the Prince Andriocchi’s recent visit to the Palazzo Andriocchi, in Florence, is said to have been the organisation for the removal of the most celebrated among the many renowned works of art accumulated by his ancestors to his new abode in the Spanish capital.”

So Mercedes had left him—without one word!



He left the station as in a trance. He felt nothing but that something had happened to him that had mortally wounded him.

Mechanically, he got rid of Ralph’s companionship by leaving him at the scientist’s house. Then he gave the order “Home.”

He was going up the steps of his house when the door opened, and the count came out.

“Ah!” The count’s exclamation was one of satisfaction.

“But I am glad to find you, monsieur le docteur! The prince is terribly anxious about madame! She is very ill. You will come to her at once?”

The revulsion of feeling was acute. The blood rushed to Dr. Paull’s cheek. He turned abruptly from the count, and opened the street door with his key.

“Will you come in?” he said coldly.

At that moment some instinct suggested aversion to this man. He had met those seraphic blue eyes fixed upon him with a mocking expression that was anything but seraphic, and in his present humour he would have doubted anyone.

“I understood that the prince had left town,” he said, after he had led the way into the library and 225closed the door. “Was it he who sent you, or the princess?”

The count explained that the princess was too ill to give directions, and was proceeding to make further explanations when Hugh cut him short, and explained that the princess having dismissed him, he could attend at her summons alone.

He was desperately angry—was it with Mercedes, or with himself? This anger nerved him to write the names and addresses of certain physicians and to hand them to the count.

“Any of these gentlemen will attend at the prince’s request,” he said. “Under the circumstances, you will quite understand that it is impossible for me to do so except at the princess’ special desire.”

The count was compelled to retreat. He was surprised. Perhaps he had expected that Hugh had only to hear that he was wanted by his beautiful patient to fly to her.

During that short interview Hugh felt triumphant. No sooner was he alone than the agreeable sense of self-vindication fled. He began to doubt whether he had acted rightly.

“I have been selfish—hard,” he told himself. “I ought to have remembered what a child she is—and so tender and sensitive—and so utterly friendless, with that man for a husband, and that fellow for a go-between!”

However, he had no time for further self-reproach. Patients arrived and had to be interviewed. Later in the day he had to visit a hospital, and in the evening Ralph was full of his day’s work. He had written a chapter at the professor’s dictation which had opened out a new vista of science to him. As the boy sat eagerly 226expatiating upon his day’s experiences, his flushed cheek and glistening eyes made him strangely like his dead mother. As Dr. Paull noticed the likeness he shuddered. As soon as he could, he made an excuse to be alone.

“I have work to do—can you amuse yourself without me?” he said.

Ralph’s affectionate glance recalled Lilia still more. Was it his fancy that to-night, of all nights, the lad bore a startling resemblance to his mother that Hugh had not observed before?

“It is not,” he thought, as he lowered the lamp in the library, and opening the window, drew an easy-chair near it and lighting his pipe, settled himself to think. “He is growing like her.”

It was a dark night—moonless, but clear. The stars were brilliant. Obscurity lent a charm to the blackened shrubs in the so-called gardens at the back of the house. The forms of the opposite houses were vaguely defined against the ebon blue. Hugh tried to recall nights such as this, when he and his wife strolled into the pinewoods, and Lilia talked love to him as she leant upon his arm. He tried to recall the tones of her voice, but could not. He tried to remember the expression of her eyes, but, to his horror—for to-day he would have sacrificed much for a keen recollection of the past—when he thought of Lilia’s face, he seemed to see the pathetic beauty of Mercedes; when he thought of Lilia’s voice, he seemed to hear Mercedes when she last spoke to him.

“I am a fickle wretch!” he told himself, bitterly. “I have forgotten the child who loved me better than she loved her God!”

227He was attempting to do what he had never since dared to attempt—to recall in all its torturing details the closing rebellious scene of Lilia’s short life—when he heard a tap at the door, and “May I come in?” in Ralph’s familiar tones.

He laid down his pipe with a sigh, and went to the door. He would send Ralph away—he was not in a humour to talk.

On opening the door, he saw Ralph—and two women, one of whom turned to her companion and said a few words in a low voice, then coolly passed him and walked into his room.

He recognised her at once, cloaked and veiled though she was. Still, he stood at the door, hesitating; his heart seemed to stand still at such unparalleled audacity. Only when, removing her veil, she said, almost impatiently, “Please shut the door,” did he seem to recover the right use of his senses.

“I thought—you were very ill,” he said, coming towards her.

“I am,” said Mercedes, throwing up her veil.

She certainly looked like death: her face pallid, her features sunken, her great eyes dimmed.

“This is terrible—you should not have come!” said Hugh, passionately, stirred by the sight of the face which had bewitched him, bereft of its exquisite beauty. “This is worse than imprudence!”

He drew a chair for her near the writing-table, turned up the lamp, and pulled down the blind, half indignant that his love—oh! when he saw her he felt she was his love, and nothing else—that this cruel love of his, who had caused him such throes, should have lowered herself thus, and have forgotten her high estate 228and womanly dignity to come to him! But half despairing—for he saw nothing but an abyss—an abyss of shame for her, of dishonour for him, in this.

Why did you come?” he asked her, when his emotion permitted him to think. “It is madness—madness—for you to come here! And at this hour!”

“Why did you not come—to me?” she gasped, rising in her chair. “My husband sent for you—and you would not come!”

“You wrote me my dismissal,” said Hugh, bitterly. “You felt a whim, a fancy, not to see me any more. You gratified it. You did not think what suffering it would cause me. You only pleased your vanity. It pleased your vanity to think you could hurt a man who has not been hurt by a woman before.”

He stopped short, for a sudden light came upon her face.

“What?” she whispered, leaning forward, her features losing their contraction, her pallor lessening. “No woman hurt you before! I was told you loved your wife!”

She said the word “wife” reluctantly. Hugh gazed at her wonderingly. His eyes travelled eagerly over her countenance. Every line was dear to him. The dimples about her mouth—how sweet they were!

But suddenly he remembered himself—his position—and her, his patient. He recalled himself to a sense of propriety, and assumed a calm which he did not feel.

“I was very sorry to receive your dismissal,” he began, in as ordinary a tone of voice as he could command, leaning up against the book-shelves in the shadow opposite to her, and folding his arms with a vague instinct to repress the turbulent beating of his heart. 229“But I am still more sorry that you, princess, should have stooped to come to me.”

Then he tried to explain why he had not gone to her at the count’s bidding. He spoke of professional etiquette, of the duty imposed upon members of his craft to support the rules that upheld their dignity. She leant back in her chair listening, with a curious smile on her pale lips.

He spoke confidently at first; indeed, almost with firmness. But as he looked at her, sitting like some exquisite waxen figure in the old leathern chair, a delicacy and royal daintiness about her, even to every fold of her glistening evening gown, her eyes fixed upon him with an expression of sad reproach, faintly tinged with disdain, he felt a wild impulse to throw himself at her feet and tell her he was hers—her slave, to be hers till death. Astonished at his own feelings—alarmed,—he violently repressed them; but his voice first faltered, then lost its resonance; he stammered, forgot what he wanted to say; in fact, failed miserably in his attempt to assert himself. He was thankful to her when she spoke, although she reproached him.

“You were not only my docteur,” she said, and her sweet, reproachful voice seemed dearer, more familiar, than before. “You said—you promised to be my friend.”

“Friendship cannot be all on one side,” said Hugh bitterly, relinquishing the pretence of doctor speaking to patient. “You told me you did not want me. You wrote as cruelly as ever woman wrote to man. I could not believe in your wish for my friendship after that.”

She looked at him, surprised.

“Think,” she said; “remember, remember! How 230did you be to me that night—that night at Lady Boisville’s? The good count he did come afterwards to console me. He said to me, ‘Excuse him, because he is so clever a man, and he understands les nerfs as no other man does understand them.’ Then he tells me more——”

“The count is extremely kind,” said Hugh. “He appears to know me very well. And pray what more did the count tell you about me?”

“He tells me” (she closed her eyes and spoke with hesitation and in a stifled voice) “how beautiful was your young wife, and how your poor heart is buried in her grave.”

There was silence in the big, shabby old room, where the Princess Andriocchi, seated in the lamplight, was the spot of light among the shadows. The princess had not spoken mockingly; she spoke like a true woman, sympathetically, although a cool listener would have gathered from her tone and manner how deeply she loved the man to whom she addressed those words.

But Hugh was no cool listener; he was excited to the utmost pitch, beyond the point where he could recognise that he was not himself.

“That is true in a way,” he said, roughly, with a half laugh. “It is true as far as this: if I had a heart, it might be buried in a grave. But I have none, princess. All women and men are alike to me. If they are ill and want me, then, of course, they are my patients, and I am interested in them as such. Otherwise—well, I wish good to everyone; but I am content to live alone—aye, and to die alone.”

He had paced the room while venting that speech. Turning abruptly, as he somewhat savagely enunciated 231those last words, he saw a smile on Mercedes’ sweet face.

“Ah!” she said, shaking her head, “you think you feel that. But——”

She looked incredulity. He and his sentiments had evidently not impressed her or depressed her spirits in the least. On the contrary, she looked far more human, far better in a physiological sense, than when she first came into the room.

“How good it is to be here!” she said, almost ecstatically, glancing above at the dingy ceiling, and around at the rows of book-shelves filled with plain bound volumes. “How much good it does me to be here!” and she heaved a sigh, a sigh of relief and contentment, sinking back in the old chair.

There was so true a ring in her voice, such a reality about her, that Dr. Paull was subdued by a sense of awe, or the beginning of awe. The situation was unnatural, yet Mercedes, more than at her ease, was making him feel as if it were not only natural that he and she should be here alone together thus, but even right and proper.

She was evidently completely at her ease. While he stood uncomfortably wondering what he should do or say next, she promptly solved the difficulty.

“Come here,” she said, not exactly with imperiousness, but certainly with the confidence of one in command. “Come here” (she drew one of the chairs near her own), “and I will tell you—all.”

He hesitated for a moment. A disagreeable feeling that some shock was awaiting him in this threatened revelation made him almost inclined to refuse to hear it, now and for always.

232What if he had refused? What if he had left her there and then, unconfessed of her secret, whatever it might be? Would it have changed his after life? would it have averted his fate? Often afterwards he asked himself this question, in wonder, in awe: that question which none on earth could answer.

He did not refuse. He seated himself by her, and said:

“You are mysterious.”

“Yes,” she said, simply. “It is all a dreadful mystery. You know, every time I have seen you, you have made me feel stronger. That is why I ask you to see me for five days, and then I tell you all! I tell you—you will be frightened when you hear what I have to say!”

There was no lightness about her voice and manner. Indeed, she spoke with reluctance, almost with pain.

“I do not think there is much which can frighten me now,” said Hugh, reassuringly. “You can tell me everything, anything you please.”

A nervous tremor shook her whole frame.

“I will tell you,” she said, almost convulsively. “I dreamed a dream once, when I was a child. I was sitting on a stone bench, such as we have in our country. But round me were dark trees, dark bushes of the sort we do not have there. It was dark. I dreamed I was in the expectation of some one to come to me. I was sitting there, waiting. Then I saw the moon, and just as I saw the moon, I saw some one who came—a man; and I knew that the man was the one I loved before everything, and as I did not love anyone else.”

“Yes,” said Hugh, encouragingly.

233The words brought back some unpleasantly suggestive recollection, but indistinctly.

“I woke from that dream,” she went on, musingly; “and I knew it was not like other dreams. I knew that it meant something. I had been not fond of people like my girl friends were fond of people; but that man, oh! I loved him!”

“Did you recognise him?” asked Dr. Paull, feeling uncomfortable, he hardly knew why.

She shook her head.

“No,” she said, “not then.... I will tell you. I did not dream that dream again. It made me think; I told my confessor. It was not like other dreams. If ever I see the place I shall know it; of that I am sure.”

“And the man?” asked Hugh.

“I did not see his face,” she went on. “Only from what I felt did I guess him to be the same.”

“As what?” His heart beat quick.

“As the man of the dreams which made me so—so unhappy.”

She spoke almost piteously.

“And what were they?” asked Hugh.

Pale as she had been when she came, she grew paler still.

“They,” she said, in a hushed voice, “they were many, many; time after time, but always the same dream.” She paused, drew a sobbing breath, then went on: “It was of a room. At first when I had the dream I could only notice that it was a room with a table, all the other was dark. But two things I could see quite plain: one was a pistolet lying upon the table, the other was a man sitting like this.” (She leaned her arms upon the table and buried her face in her hands.) “And I—I, 234even in the dream, wanted that man to kill himself! yes, to take that pistol and shoot himself! Ah! monsieur!” she started and exclaimed. Hugh had uttered an exclamation.

“I said I should frighten you!” she said, sinking back and looking at him concerned.

He was pale to lividity, but, with a ghastly attempt at a smile, he once more folded his arms, and said, coolly:

“Go on. Did the gentleman of your dream take your advice?”

“You must not mock or sneer,” she said, somewhat defiantly. “Monsieur, I do not think you should sneer at my suffering! I have been in torment with that dream; when I woke up I have felt that I was wicked, just as if it were the truth. I have cried and groaned. Oh! I have prayed to die!”

“Sneer? I wish I could sneer!” said Hugh, bitterly.

She fixed her eyes upon him, seriously, earnestly; then went on:

“After I had that dream many times each year, I see that room plainer. It is a room” (she stopped and looked round) “something like this. Books everywhere, on the walls like those, on the table. But while I dream that I ask that man—I beg him, indeed, more and more each time—to kill himself, never once in all those years did he move or look at me; never once did I see his face!”

Hugh could not speak; he was dumb with horror. He could not doubt that this dream of Mercedes’ was a dream of the terrible crisis in his life; of that hour when Lilia had, dying, tempted him to commit self-murder, 235and he had been saved from the crime by the accidental appearance of Mrs. Mervyn. But why should this Spanish girl have dreamt of him throughout her young life, far away in a foreign land? Could it be—but of course it must be—a coincidence? The thought of a coincidence was a relief.

“Dreams are strange things,” he stammered. “Go on, you interest me much!” (Interest him—good God!)

“Then,” she said, “came the strangest thing of all. When I was away in the country I dreamed that—once more. But it was more like real life than before; the room, oh! I saw it plain, even as I see this now. But the man—this time he looked at me—and—it was you!”

He did not speak. He did not think. It seemed as if his whole life had come to a halt.

It was Mercedes who spoke first. She had watched him wonderingly after her revelation. His dark face, stern and set, told her nothing.

“What—you think about it?” she said, at last. Her voice made him shiver like the touch of cold steel before the cut.

“I? I do not know,” he stammered. “Of course, it all seems very strange to you. But you must not think about it.”

In his perturbation, the instinct to protect this weak woman, who by some law not understood by science had suffered in dreams on his account, mastered all selfish emotion.

“I assure you,” he said, with a valiant attempt at a smile, “that the best thing you can do is to forget all about these dreams. I will give you a book about 236dreams, a book dry and hard to read perhaps, but which will make you feel happier on the subject.”

“But”—she began—“why—why—should I like you so much—why should the man of my dream be you?”

How could the wife of Prince Andriocchi and the constant companion of his friend the count, contrive, being no actress, to look into his face with infantine innocence as Mercedes looked now? That look made him think better of those two men.

“That—belongs to a branch of a subject I have not studied,” he said, hoping she did not notice the guilty flush which suddenly rose to his face. “I will think over all you have said to me to-night, and will tell you my opinion next time I see you,” he added, rising.

“Oh!” She looked disappointed. “When—when will that be?” She spoke anxiously. “You see how well being with you makes me! Let it be soon!” she urged.

What was he to say? To follow the promptings of his passionate feeling for her would have been madness. No, no; duty, duty alone——

That pause of a few seconds when he summoned all his force to subdue himself, a pause which seemed to him hideously long, was broken by a neighbouring, a friendly church clock, which struck ten.

“Do you hear?” he exclaimed, seeming to be horrified although nothing could have horrified him just then. He sprang up. “I had no idea it was this hour,” he said, truthfully enough. “Have you your carriage? Who was that with you?”

“My maid,” she said. “Emma—a German. Lady Boisville sent her to me. Such a kind person!”

237“But your carriage?” he asked, anxiously. It was farthest from his thoughts to compromise her.

“It is there,” she added, with a certain assertion of dignity, rising. “Perhaps you will tell—that I am coming?”

Hugh hastened to the door and called “Ralph.” A voice from the dining-room answered “Yes,” and Ralph came hurrying to the door.

“Where is the princess’ maid?” asked his father, as coldly as he could.

“She has been sitting in the dining-room with me, father.”

“That was right. Call up the carriage yourself, will you? Don’t bother Jones.”


Hugh returned to the room. She was standing thoughtfully at the table.

What should he say to her? As he stood undecided, Ralph came hurrying back; he ceremoniously offered her his arm, and presently he was standing alone on the pavement, the stars shining mockingly down upon him as he gazed after her departing carriage.



Dr. Paull had but little sleep that night. He spent it reading a book which had been presented to him by its author a few months ago, and which he had then shelved at the top of his bookcases among works not likely to be required.

The author was an old man, a Mr. Helven, who had been a celebrated analytical chemist, but who had retired from active practice to pursue certain fantastic theories which had taken possession of his mind. He had been a frequent visitor at the Pinewood during Sir Roderick’s lifetime. Hugh had seen him once since at a learned conversazione, and they had had some discussion, the result of which was that Mr. Helven sent him a copy of his book, “The result,” he wrote in the accompanying note, “of the research of a lifetime.”

Dr. Paull had thoughts which he chose to hide, not only from the whole world, but even, if possible, from himself. He took the book to his bedroom and only began to read when the last sounds of daily life had ceased within and without the house.

The title of the work was: “On Certain Ancient Doctrines. By a Modern Pythagorean.”

While cutting the pages Hugh’s attention was arrested by certain words on the flyleaf:

239Book II.
On the Age of Souls.

“Where have I seen that before?” he asked himself.

The words were familiar, and recalled sensations the reverse of pleasant.

He pondered for a few minutes: then he recollected. Memory carried his mind back to the night at the Pinewood when, after the day spent with Lilia, Sir Roderick had lent him a treatise written by a Dutch author. He had, so he afterwards believed, fallen asleep while reading it—and had dreamt that he read a chapter or chapters of its second part (which was entitled, “On the Age of Souls”).

This finding in black and white that of which he had dreamt years ago was weird. He turned over the pages that followed, and the sense of the uncanny was intensified. Here, almost word for word, was the strange treatise which he had read in his vision long ago; here was the history of the old doctrine of Metempsychosis, or the passage of the Soul through many bodies in various lives. There was also the speculation of the author (or commentator), that the object of all life upon the planet was to develop high spiritual force: gradually, slowly, through its friction with material frames. The speculator assumed this plan to be a merciful idea of a beneficent Creator, by which the Soul, when finally attaining to its eternal grandeur, might not be overwhelmed with the magnitude of its obligations, because it would recognise glory as principally earned by its long course of suffering and struggle.

Meanwhile, the author suggested that while the spiritual 240essence called the Soul, being eternal, could have no age, there being no such thing as Time in Eternity, the duration of its inhabitance of matter was of different length in different cases. Courageous souls that fought bravely for perfection would attain it sooner than the less enterprising. Those who lent themselves to evil would retrograde—would, like Sisyphus, be perpetually at work at the same step-in-advance. And those who failed to believe in the Eternal might revolve in fleshly forms even while the globe itself continued in the Universe in its present form.

Hugh read and re-read. Certain ideas he had vaguely felt floating among his troubled thoughts of late were assuming definite shape.

Throughout that hardest, most perplexed reverie of his life he remembered certain facts. Lilia’s unbelief during life: her rebellion against the law of Death at the last. The strange knowledge the Princess Mercedes had had from her earliest years of the awful scene in his life—Mercedes, who was born nine months after Lilia’s death.

“If I tell Helven this,” he said to himself, with a ghastly laugh at his own thoughts, “he will say that Mercedes is Lilia re-embodied. Did ever a romantic dreamer on subjects beyond our mortal powers of comprehension find such a case in point to bear out his wild imaginings?”

Lilia’s death—Mercedes’ birth—Lilia’s wild love for him—Mercedes’ feeling that his presence was necessary to her wellbeing.

“Bah! I am trying to justify my passion for that girl—that is what I am doing!” he cried to himself in an excess of self-anger. “I want to justify my unfaithfulness 241to Lilia, whom, if this is love, I never loved! God! I would die a thousand times for this girl—she has me, soul, body, all!”

No more would he deceive himself. He knew now—he knew that he was in the grasp of the one great passion of his whole life.

What should he do? Fly? To-morrow, if he chose, he could cancel all engagements, cast off all responsibilities, leave all arrangements to his lawyer, and start for—anywhere—without detriment to his one duty in life—Ralph. His father was dead, his sisters absorbed in their husbands and families. He had no ties. Would it not be best to turn his back upon his great temptation?

He resisted the thought. The fact was, he shrank from the daily and hourly struggle against the longing for Mercedes’ presence which he felt would arise when he had cut himself adrift.

“I am exaggerating the situation,” he told himself, summoning his ordinary common sense to his aid. “It throws one off one’s mental balance to be confronted by such a coincidence as my dreaming of that fantastic stuff years before the man wrote it.”

Meanwhile he felt as if he would like to see Helven again. The feeling was so strong next morning that after he had finished his hospital work he drove to the publishers of the book his thoughts had so curiously anticipated, to obtain its author’s address.

The address was a street in Bloomsbury. With the new instinct to hide his doings dominating him, Dr. Paull would not drive there in his own carriage.

He telegraphed to Helven asking him for an audience 242that evening. The reply arrived during the afternoon:

With pleasure—at eight.—Helven.

So, with an excuse for his absence to Ralph, at twenty minutes to eight Hugh strolled out of the house, and hailing a hansom in Oxford street, drove to Blank street, Bloomsbury.

It was a large, old, neglected house, smelling of damp and stale tobacco smoke. A maid ushered Dr. Paull up the blackened staircase into the large drawing-rooms, once, in their early days, the reception-rooms of fashionable dames, and doubtless gorgeous with tapestries and crystal chandeliers; now dismal with dirt and dingy books, papers, and dusty odds and ends of crazy furniture.

There was one bright spot in the room—a large lamp on the centre table, where Mr. Helven was bending over his papers, a long pipe in his mouth.

“Ah!” he said, in a pleased tone, looking up from his work over his spectacles and laying aside his pipe, “I am glad to see you, Dr. Paull. A chair for Dr. Paull, Margaret, if you please. Allow me, I will help you;” and as courteously as if the dirtily-dressed servant girl had been a refined lady, the old man assisted her to remove some twenty or so large volumes from a chair, and bowing her out of the room, invited Hugh to be seated.

“This is unexpected,” he said, beaming at his guest. “I remember meeting you about ten years ago. You were then a confirmed materialist, doctor.”

“Scarcely that,” said Hugh. “I have never altogether given up the simple tenets I learned in my mother’s lap.”

243Now that he was here, burning to tell his story and to see the effect it would produce on the Pythagorean, a certain awkwardness made him preface his disclosures by ordinary talk. For some minutes the two scientists spoke of the recent discoveries in physiology and other of Nature’s storehouses, and of the careers or deaths of well-known scholars who had been present at the conversazione where they had met. Then old Helven grew absent in manner, and suddenly interrupted Hugh in the middle of a sentence.

“Dr. Paull, you have something to tell me,” he said. “What is it?”

Their eyes met, they smiled.

“I have a strange story to tell you,” said Hugh. “But first you must understand that, without my express permission, it must go no further than your memory. You will remember, no fear of that!”

Then he told him of his last night’s perusal of his work On Certain Ancient Doctrines, and of his strange dream of the part “On the Age of Souls,” twenty years ago, at the Pinewood.

Helven was amazed.

“I cannot doubt your impressions,” he said, after hearing details. “But, visionary though people think me, I confess to but small belief in dreams. I can believe that there may appear to be a strong similarity in a vivid dream to facts that afterwards ensue. But you, in your own book On the Physiology of Sleep, refute the idea of impressions we receive in dreams and our waking memory of those impressions coinciding. The fact is, that when you thought you dreamt of those chapters I headed ‘On the Age of Souls,’ I had not even planned out their synopsis.”

244“But you knew the doctrines then, Mr. Helven,” said Hugh.

“The doctrines are as old as the hills, Dr. Paull,” said Helven. “But is your story a story of dreams?”

“I wish it were!” said Hugh. “No, what I have to tell you is simple fact. I trust you; so I will not disguise identities. The tale is of my own life.”

He briefly recounted his acquaintance with Sir Roderick, his affection for Lilia, and their marriage, not omitting his dream of a strange lady who spoke strange words to him with a foreign accent: the dream which he believed now to have been a prevision of Mercedes.

“My wife loved me unreasonably,” he said. “At times I feared the feeling might become a monomania. Poor child! when I had to tell her that she must resign herself to die, there was a terrible scene.”

He recounted the awful hour of his life, when Lilia exacted a promise that as soon as she was dead he would commit self-murder, and how he was saved by the accident to the babe, and Mrs. Mervyn’s consequent interruption with the child in her arms.

“I was sitting at the table in the library when this friend, with my child in her arms, suddenly appeared,” he said. “Pistols were on the table before me. I was resting my arms on the table and my head was bent down upon them. I am telling you these details because they bear upon the extraordinary part of my story.

“Well, I was saved. Then followed nineteen years of hard work and solitude. I have shunned society; I went weekly to the Pinewood, to my wife’s grave. I did all I could to prevent my poor child from feeling her loss; and in this sort of life I hoped to atone to 245my wife’s spirit for breaking the terrible promise she forced from me on her death-bed. I had many hours of wretchedness when I remembered her frame of mind when she passed into the Infinite. Often and often I reproached myself that I had not taken her atheism more seriously, that I had not made her realisation of Eternity my constant work. Since her death I have tried constantly, in all possible ways, to communicate with her soul, wherever it may be. But pray, struggle, do what I might, I failed.”

“You, with your knowledge, believed it possible for an embodied spirit to communicate with the immaterial?” asked Helven, leaning back in his chair, surprised.

“I did not believe, but I—shall I say, hoped? No, scarcely that. Mr. Helven, when loss and grief and anxiety are brought close home to us, to our very hearts, where are we? Where are theories, beliefs?”

Helven looked at Hugh, whose pale cheeks were flushed with excitement, as he might have looked at a newly-found specimen of a rare genus.

“I have never married,” he said, dryly. “I do not understand these family feelings.”

“Would you understand a being who rose from the dead to bear witness to your theories?” asked Hugh.

“When it happens, I will tell you my opinion,” said Helven.

“It has happened to me,” said Dr. Paull. “At least, when you hear what I have to tell you, you will, I think, be glad that we have met—years ago and now.”

Helven assured him he was not credulous, nor easily convinced.

“Hear me before you say more,” said Hugh. Then 246he recounted his meeting with the princess, the attraction she had felt for him, the deep, almost terribly strong affection that he had discovered to exist for her in his mind, and the mystery of her visions of the crucial hour of his life.

“What you say is peculiar, and would certainly bear favourably upon the development of a case of transmigration,” Helven admitted. “But there are other theories to be considered. We do not at present understand the influence that embodied spirits have upon each other.”

Then he discoursed learnedly about natural affinities, of the attraction between certain human beings of opposite sexes, even at a first most cursory meeting.

“When material law meets spiritual law, it is difficult, almost impossible, to detect which of the two is at work,” he concluded by saying. “I can assure you, doctor, I could have filled volumes with cases of possible metempsychosis as plausible, as well authenticated as yours, had I believed that the record would further faith in that which I believe to be a fundamental truth.”

“The most staggering fact of all I have not yet told you,” said Hugh, somewhat repelled by the cool and calculating reception of his experiences by the philosopher. “My wife died on a certain date. Nine months, less two days afterwards, this girl, who is conversant with my life story without ever having learned it, who knows more of my true history than any one alive, was born.”

Helven looked curiously at him.

“That is certainly strange,” he said, more interested. Then he entered notes, in a shorthand of his own invention, 247in one of the manuscript volumes devoted to cases of this sort, and Hugh, somewhat astonished, took leave.

He could not understand Helven’s apathy. Placing himself in imagination in the old scientist’s place, he fancied that he would have been excited to enthusiasm at the statement of a case such as his.

If he could have seen and heard Helven as he left him!

The old philosopher looked after him with a smile and a sigh.

“Fifty years old at least,” he muttered to himself, “and as much in love, as they call it, with a girl as if he were a boy!”

Then he took a few notes of the interview, and resuming his work speedily forgot Hugh and his throes as if no one existed but himself.

Hugh, dissatisfied, a trifle disgusted too, he hardly knew why, strolled westward. A fresh breeze met him as he walked up Oxford Street. It made him think yearningly of the country, of the heathery hills lying purple under a wind-blown sky, of the pine-clad valley where the solemn trees stood as sentinels about—a grave.

The busy thoroughfare was comparatively still: only a few passengers were strolling west or east. The street lamps twinkled redly in the clear summer night in contrast to the white glimmer of the stars in the fathomless dark blue above. Deep in thought, Hugh, without noticing, wended his way homewards through the square where Lady Forwood lived.

As he passed he saw her brougham waiting and the half-door open. He was hurrying past to avoid a meeting—he 248was in no humour for ordinary talk—but Lady Forwood, just as she was coming out, had seen him, and called out “Dr. Paull!” so eagerly, there was no escape. He reluctantly turned back.

“I am going to a concert at Lady M——’s,” she said; “positively the last entertainment this season, and very few are in town to go, so my absence would be noticed. But you must come in; I have something most important to ask you.”

She caught the long train of her dress over her arm and preceded him to the dining-room. There was something new in her manner to him which was half annoyed, half-bantering.

“Now, sir, perhaps you will explain,” she said, half-laughingly. “The first intimation we had that we are to be your guests next month was a newspaper paragraph, and you must acknowledge that that is hardly fair.”

Hugh stared at her.

“You—a newspaper paragraph—I do not understand,” he stammered.

“Surely——” she began; then, with a glance at his face, on which there was a comical expression of horror, she turned aside and, repressing a laugh, fetched a newspaper from a side-table, and, opening it, showed him a paragraph in a column headed “Fashionable Intelligence.”

“The Prince and Princess Andriocchi and Sir David and Lady Forwood will be the guests of Dr. Paull at his residence, the Pinewood, Surrey, next month.”

Hugh read it twice, thrice, before he believed that this experience was a reality. Then he turned to Lady Forwood with a laugh—a laugh of a strange exhilaration 249which was produced by the surprise, the shock almost, following upon his interview with Helven.

“Do you mean to say you have not received my letter?” he had said, before he had even had the idea of speaking. It seemed to him as if some other entity was speaking through his lips, while his will remained passive. And what the other entity uttered was a falsity!

“Not a line, not a word!” said Lady Forwood, becoming serious. “Whose fault can it be? If the servants——”

“Whatever fault there is in the matter is mine, and mine only,” said Hugh, reckless with a feeling which was half delirious joy, half despair. “But do you think, when the princess’ name has been taken in vain like this, that they will come?”

“Come?” Lady Forwood looked blank surprise with her beautiful blue eyes. “You don’t mean to say you have not asked her?” she cried.

“I had hoped you would arrange it with her,” he said in desperation. “I thought—I fancied—the change and the quiet might be good for her, so I was having the place done up.”

“I think myself I should have made sure of the birds before I got the cage ready,” said Lady Forwood, demurely (although her inward comment was an amused “It is really high time the poor man had a woman to look after him”). “However, you know, you and I are old friends, as friends go now-a-days, and I should so much enjoy invading you in your Surrey hermitage, that I will undertake to make it all right with the Andriocchis. Only tell me exactly when you want us.”

“You saw—next month,” said Hugh, half-savagely. 250He would investigate the affair of the paragraph. He would find out whose hand had precipitated his fate, had cast the last straw to balance his destiny.

“Any day?” asked Lady Forwood, smiling.

“Any day,” he said, somewhat brusquely.

Just then Sir David’s voice was audible in the hall asking where “my lady” was.

“Here,” she called out. “It is all settled,” she said, as her husband appeared. “An important letter miscarried—thus the mistake.”

Then she entered into a voluble explanation which astonished Hugh, but appeared perfectly intelligible to Sir David, who shook his hand quite warmly as he stepped into the brougham after his wife.

Who had done this thing? Who was it who had fathomed not only his secret thoughts, but had dared to publish them to the world?

“I will know some day,” he promised himself.

Then he went home, and wrote to Mrs. Mervyn. The gist of the letter was that he and the house party might arrive any day after the 1st of September.



The Pinewood, October, 18—.

They say lookers-on see more of the game than the players. I shall write down all that has happened, and review it as a third person might before sending a brief statement to Helven. I do not think myself that when he reads it he will retain any reasonable doubt of the reincarnation of Lilia’s soul.

I know now who instigated that paragraph; but more of that in its proper place.

Was I glad when my life was unexpectedly taken out of my own hands, and my wild dream of entertaining Mercedes and inviting the Forwoods at the same time, was suddenly realised? I cannot tell. I have felt emotions called forth by an extraordinary position, therefore cannot classify them.

My first step when I received a few words from Mercedes, that she and her husband would come here, was to come down myself and see to things, after sending off Ralph a few days in advance.

A surprise awaited me. I had certainly given mammy carte blanche to pledge my credit to any reasonable amount, but hardly considered how thoroughly she would set to work. I scarcely recognised the old 252brougham under its new paint and varnish, nor Andrew the groom in his brand-new livery. As I drove through the wood, the roads were in capital condition, the young trees were flourishing, the desolate look had gone. The same with the garden—the beds bright with flowers, the turf close shaven. The house? The house looked as when I first saw it—the veranda and shutters bright green, the creepers carefully trailed.

Rover, poor old Nero’s descendant after I don’t know how many generations, came leaping about me quite delighted at the change about him; and there, at the hall-door, stood mammy in a very becoming cap, quite the mistress of the mansion. Ralph came springing out more like other lads than I have yet seen him. Poor boy! I felt a pang of remorse. Has my barren life overshadowed his? Heaven forgive me if it has! I thought I was doing my best.

The hall had been modernised, the billiard-table renovated. But the drawing-room! Could it be the room where I saw Lilia leaning against the piano? The brown draperies, the neutral tints had disappeared. It was gold and white everywhere: the room had positively a bridal look, and even the plants in the white flower-stands were white and yellow.

“This looks a thorough woman’s den,” I remarked. “If I were left to myself, I should not set my foot across the threshold.”

“Don’t be churlish,” mammy said. “You have invited a princess, and you must entertain her properly, especially as it is only for once.”

“Why only for once?” I asked.

Poor innocent mammy! how little she suspected who it was she was to play hostess to.

253“I thought they lived in Spain?” she said, looking curiously at me.

I hurried her upstairs, where the arrangements for the guests were wonderfully managed. Then I felt a sudden uneasiness. Coming down in the train I had determined to give Lilia—God pardon me if I dare to call Mercedes by her old name!—to give the one who is really my own darling the opportunity of showing herself to me in gleams of recognition of her old home. I had planned that some day she should come into the library and find me seated at the table—those pistols before me—then, then, when I am convinced of her soul’s identity, my love for her and hers for me could not be sinful or even faulty, it would be the most natural thing in the world. Now, her old home was changed, scarcely recognisable.

“You have not done anything to the library?” I cried, almost fiercely, I fear; for poor mammy seemed dreadfully “upset,” as women call it, until I pacified her.

The library furniture had been recovered and the position of the chairs and tables altered, that was all. I soon had all the things back in their places. The books were untouched. Standing at the door, the room looked so much the same I could almost conjure up the figure of Sir Roderick, seated in his chair, his long pipe in his mouth.

Oh the misery of recalling the past! Yet, yet, had they not died, would Lilia’s soul and my soul have ever known each other as they do now?

I went to meet her at the station. They were all to have a saloon carriage—the prince and princess, the Forwoods, and Lady Boisville. I had invited the count, 254much against my wish, but in deference to Lady Forwood’s advice. “If you did not, the prince might make an excuse at the last moment, in which case it would hardly do for Mercedes to come,” she said. And recognising that she was right in her suggestion, I wrote to the fellow. Fortunately he had accepted an invitation to deer-stalk, and was going to the Lakes on his way (or said he was, which amounted to the same thing).

Driving to the station in the brougham (the waggonette followed for the men), I felt a dread that she would not come. It seemed too glorious a crown to my wasted, weary life that she would live under my roof, that every hour of each day I could look at her and listen to her voice, that morning and night I should touch her hand.

“Impossible!” I said to myself. “It cannot happen, it will not happen; something will prevent it all at the last moment.”

Shall I ever forget waiting on the platform that September evening? The houses and trees growing dark against a yellow sunset, people coming out of the booking-office and buying papers (travellers by the incoming train), porters trundling the luggage to the end of the platform. How could they all go on in this senseless, mechanical way when the one great event of my life was happening—when Joy was coming for the first time to my tired, thirsty soul?

Then came an awful minute. The signal was down. The electric bell had sounded, “ding-dong, ding-dong” went the porter’s handbell. “Andrew!” I shouted (it seemed to me a shill, frantic cry, but it can scarcely have been, for he only said, “All right, sir,” and no one else 255looked round), then I saw the steam-cloud and the black engine-front, and rattle-rattle the train came slowly nearer and alongside, how slowly! Was tortoise ever so abominably languid in its creepings?

No one there! That was my first belief. I went up and down by the first-class carriages, then someone touched me on the shoulder—Sir David.

“They put us at the wrong end,” he said. How jovial he looked in his shooting suit! “Oh, yes, we’ve all come.” What more he said I don’t know. I turned and saw her wrapped up in a cloak, her face so pale, sweet and wistful under a heavy black hat; just a little colour came to her lips as our eyes met, and I took her hand upon my arm. Her touch strengthened me. I cooled down and was able to behave decently, respectably. Ralph appeared—Mrs. Mervyn had sent him, I suppose—and Mr. Mervyn came out of the booking-office. I never was more delighted to see them in my life; for Lady Forwood preferred the waggonette, and I gave her and the prince and the other men over to Mervyn, and was thus able to drive home opposite her and Lady Boisville.

Lady Boisville, good-natured soul, was pleased with everything.

“What white sand, what purple heather, what very majestic pines, Dr. Paull!” she said, looking at the dear old trees through her eye-glass.

But, my darling, what did she say, or think? Would she recognise? Would some gleam of a soul-memory beyond our knowledge and power of understanding show itself? I watched her narrowly, breathlessly. As the shadows flitted across her face, I fancied I saw a troubled expression in her eyes.

256It vanished as she looked at me. She smiled. “Can I walk here, some day?” she asked me.

I replied that “she must do exactly as she pleased.” I wished her to understand that while she was in my domain, she was its queen.

She laughed—a laugh which chilled me, for it was Lilia’s laugh. Those two women, so utterly unlike in outline, feature, colouring, laughed alike. One physical detail in common—one only!

Arrived home, mammy welcomed her so warmly, in so motherly a way, I felt grateful. The ladies disappeared to their rooms. A cloud obscured the sunshine. Then came the prince, and Forwood, and the valets and maids, and the rest of the inevitable paraphernalia. Well! if you have the pearl, I suppose you must take the oystershell as well.

Was this my old bachelor, or rather widower domain, which used to look so grim and forlorn, all echoes and musty odours, where Ralph and I used to stroll about together in an aimless fashion, always, I fancy, feeling a certain amount of relief when we got back to bustling London, which, however noisy and grimy, is life-full? This pleasant, well-lighted house, where, thanks to mammy’s arrangements, bright patches of colour met the eye at every turn; deftly placed bits of china, or banks of plants glowing with bloom. I felt self-reproach. No, I have not lived as I ought to have lived. I have taught my boy to live beside a tomb.

I went down to the drawing-room. I was gazing at the fading sunset out of the open window, after wondering at the pretty effects of light made by lamps set about the room with coloured shades, when I started—it was Lilia’s laugh again.

257She came into the room; she was dressed in glistening white, with lilies at her breast, and Rover was leaping about her.

“Your dog is very friendly,” she said, and she patted the obtrusive animal, which was panting with pleasure.

“He is not generally so,” I said, with a scared sensation. In the dim light it recalled Lilia and her Nero too forcibly. “He is mostly surly to strangers.”

“He reminds me of some dog, but I cannot remember where I have seen the dog,” she said, thoughtfully, coming to me at the window, but her attention was arrested by the sunset. What happy minutes those were, as we stood side by side gazing at the monarch of the sky sinking into his purple bed! (Those were her words, not mine.)

It was delightful to see her look bright as she sat by my side at dinner. In the evening she played her guitar, and sang to it. It was a peep into the country of her birth. I could imagine the hidalgos and donnas pacing amid the picturesque buildings, and many other things. When Mercedes, during this visit to me, was purely Spanish, I almost ceased to believe in the identity I so firmly hold in my own mind as hers.

Next morning I took my guests about the place; carefully avoiding the terrace. I had a plan about the terrace.

In the afternoon Mercedes and I, Lady Forwood and the prince, drove in the waggonette. I took them to see the ruins of an ancient abbey. Lady Forwood absorbed the prince’s attention—(for such a born boor as he is, I must say he behaved very decently)—and I was able to tell my love the old tales of the bygone monastery, 258and to watch the changing expressions that flit across her pure face, like the clouds across a summer sky. What intense reverence this child-woman has for all that is holy! As we walked through the ruins of the monkish chapel I was shamed by her hushed, almost awestruck manner.

God has lived here,” she said, casting a longing look back as I removed the hurdle, placed to keep out the sheep, for her to pass out. “And it is a ruin!”

“God is everywhere,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “But it makes me sad that those monks, they are all gone from your land.”

Then she told me of all that the nuns had been to her in her haunted childhood; of their cheerfulness, their patience with the child who was unlike other children. I did not wonder she reverenced religious orders. For my part, realising as I did that Lilia’s love for me was the cause of Mercedes’ sad life, I blessed them.

Returning home, my chastened mood was roughly dispelled by a significant incident.

A fine barouche and pair drove past us: in it sat Colonel Roderick Pym, his wife, Lady Carnwood—(how objectionable is that fashion of re-married widows retaining their late husband’s name!)—and his pretty stepdaughters. I cut him dead, as I have steadily done. To my astonishment he bowed low, raising his hat, and the prince did the same.

I looked at Mrs. Mervyn. She got very red. The prince explained.

“Who is that gentilman?” he asked me. “I see him with my fren, the count. I not know at all that he live here.”

259This explained the paragraph in the paper. Roderick Pym and the count in league! Without absolute confirmation I would swear those two are our enemies.

Our enemies? How natural it has been to class myself with my twin soul; but to what will it lead? How will our spiritual union end? That spiritual union which came about this-wise.

First of all, after some bright days spent almost entirely with her—days made up of long strolls in the part of the garden which had been best kept up since Lilia’s death (the flower-gardens in the Pinewood, including the terrace, I had let go; it would have been useless expense to keep them trim and fair as in Sir Roderick’s time)—after our drives, our chats at dinner, rendered livelier by little sparrings between Lady Forwood and Mrs. Mervyn, and our talks in the softly lighted drawing-room, peace was disturbed by a telegram which arrived one day at luncheon for the prince.

He turned a yellowish white, and a remarkably nasty expression changed his face from moderately pleasant to cowardly hang-dog. Still, he was well-bred enough to conceal further emotion.

I saw Mercedes look uneasy. After luncheon he evidently asked her for a tête-à-tête, quite an event between those two. I was sitting in the library, anxious, when a tap came at the door, and enter Sir David and the prince.

“The prince, not feeling his English equal to the occasion, Paull, wishes me to explain to you that some bad news about a recent speculation obliges him to return to town at once,” said Sir David; then, evidently noticing my dismayed look, he added, hurriedly: “He asks a continuance of your hospitality for the princess.”

260Of course, I said I should be delighted. I was not sorry to be rid of the man; but somehow I augured ill for Mercedes for the future. Heaven avert the evil, whatever it may be!

No drive that afternoon. The prince departed, luggage, valet, and all. I did not see Mercedes till just before dinner. She looked pale, but not unhappy. As I took her in to dinner, she said:

“Can I see you, alone, this evening?”

During dinner the wild idea flashed across me to take her to the spot she had dreamed of, the spot where I had seen her in that strange vision twenty years ago.

The very thought of it exhilarated me. I was excited. I felt as if each moment that passed a year was slipping from my shoulders. I was rejuvenating. I hurried the men over their wine. Then I went into the drawing-room and got mammy away into a corner.

“Don’t look surprised at what I am going to say,” I said in an undertone. “And don’t exclaim, or look round. You must do something for me.”

She stared at me. I must have looked wild, but very quietly she said:

“If I can.”

“It is the merest trifle,” I said. “I wish to show the princess a certain spot in the grounds by moonlight. Keep them all amused till we come back.”

She said something, but I did not listen. I left her at once. I made Lady Forwood sit down at the piano, and when everyone was attentive (she plays well) I told Mercedes to slip away, quietly, soon after I left the room, and I went into the hall.

It was a glorious night, with a brilliant golden moon 261that bathed everything in a warm light. Presently she came gliding into the hall and up to me like a ghost, and would have seated herself on the divan, but I said, “No, the garden,” and wrapping her light cloak, which was hanging near, round her shoulders, I took her out.

Out into the stillness. It was so still, we could hear the voices of the people in the drawing-room, and the sound of our footsteps on the gravel was so loud I fancied that it must be audible in the house.

We walked on for some time, side by side, in silence. Presently we came to the pine grove. The light fell through the straight rows of slender trunks as the sunlight falls by day, only it was a yellowish white that silvered the sandy water tracks, glimmered upon the pebbles, and made fairy dells of the clumps of bracken. By common accord we halted here. As we stood still, a soft night wind arose and went sighing among the pine-tops; the feathered crests of the slim trees nodded to one another as if, so it seemed to me, they mourned my folly.

And she? She drew a long breath.

“This beautiful scent!” she said. “How I love it!”

“Have you pinewoods in Spain?” I asked.

“Such as this? No,” she said, beginning to walk again. There was not a shadow of embarrassment at being alone with me, in almost a forest, at this hour. She is too simple-minded for that. “But this perfume, it is like a room in our (I mean my father’s) castle in the country in Spain.”

She explained that the Duque’s drawing-rooms, as we call them, were each furnished in some luxurious material. One was all malachite, from the doors to the table furniture; another was silver, another cedar.

262“In the cedar room I was most happy,” she said; “it seemed that I knew that odour, it was like home, and this scent of your pines is the same.”

Then I asked her what she wished to say to me. She hesitated for a few moments. Then she put her hand on my arm with the childlike abandon so peculiarly hers.

“Tell me what I must do,” she said. “The prince he has gone away to see, someone else he should not go to see.”

She asked me such a question! Anger, jealousy! I have been angry often, too often—but jealousy? I have condemned others for that meanest passion in human nature, and now I am punished. I know what it is!

“What do you mean?” I said. “I do not understand.”

“Ah!” (It was a sob rather than a sigh.) “Monsieur, I am sure you do not understand,” she said, once more standing still, but this time confronting me. “You were good to your wife, I know that!”

“I was not good to my wife,” I said, bitterly. “You must not come to me for advice. Ask Lady Forwood, Mrs. Mervyn, anyone, not me!”

At that moment I forgot my theory, that Mercedes’ soul and Lilia’s are one and the same; this was the wife of the Prince Andriocchi, and I, daring to love her as no man should dare to love another man’s wife, was burning with jealousy, and was false to Lilia’s memory.

“Never tell me you are not good,” she said; “I know better.”

The words were ordinary enough. But at the end of her speech she gave a little satisfied laugh—Lilia’s laugh.

263I felt less human—the ghostly, creepy sensation reasserted itself.

“How can you know better?” I said.

“I know you are good,” she said. “You are an angel among other men: and I ask you what I am to do. I should feel sorry, should I not, when the prince does wrong?”

I felt my breath go—as after a blow.

“Certainly,” I said.

“Do not think me wicked,” she said, her voice trembling. “Oh, I knew I ought to be sorry when he was going away—and I knew well that he would see someone that he ought not to see while he is away—but I did not feel sorry, I am glad!”

Glad?” I said, assuming as shocked a tone as I could—(sinner—liar—when I was transported with joy and relief!). “Surely not glad?”

“Yes, glad,” she said. “Because I should be glad if everyone would go and leave me alone—with you.”

“This is foolish,” I said, chidingly. “You will know better when you have seen more of me.”

Then I changed the conversation to the subject of her dreams. We were nearing the spot where I meant to test her identity.

There was a narrow path between clumps of laurels. This was the path I had traversed alone in my dream years ago—when I emerged into the open I had seen this very woman—this woman I loved—seated on the stone seat opposite to me.

Now—she was by my side. As we came across the grass plat I summoned all my courage. I did not know whether I wished to be convinced that she was Lilia—or that she was not. I only felt abject fear—for the 264first time in my life I was an entire coward: I sickened, I was in a cold sweat.

“Will you sit here a minute?” I asked. “I want to see what time it is. I must strike a match under the bushes—there is too much wind here.”

I slipped away, and going round came slowly into the moonlight opposite to her. Ah! it was terrible to see her seated there, then to see her spring up and come to me—for once in my life, to experience a realised dream.

“Let us go,” she said, passionately—I had never seen her so disturbed. “I remember—come—!”

I accompanied her, passively. She went along the path between the laurels, then, after but a moment’s hesitation, she took the path leading to the terrace.

A few swift steps and she turned back to see if I followed.

“Come!” she said, in a voice of pain. “Come!”

Then, after one more poise—like a bird before it takes flight—she hurried up the slope and was at the end of the terrace. The wide, grassy avenue was before us.

I joined her. It was a long time since I had visited the spot. The long grass was rank and weedy, the beds were unkempt—I could see that much in this light. The scene by moonlight, that light which chastens and beautifies, was desolate—what would it be by the light of day?

The shame that I had neglected this favourite resort of Lilia’s partially levelled emotions, brought me back in some degree to ordinary common sense. But my practical mood did not last long. I followed Mercedes across the grass, blaming myself that I had let her 265come here, to a spot which was a disgrace to its proprietor in its neglected state—when to my astonishment she flung her arm about the stone fountain and turned upon me.

Her face, in the moonlight, looked drawn—I should scarcely have recognised her, nor indeed should I have recognised her sweet, dear voice.

Oh! what was it she said, in those hard, shrill tones? I was so unnerved, I can hardly recall those terrible words.

But she spoke with reproach.

“Where is the water here?” she asked. “There were fish—gold fish, silver fish—where are they? Where are the flowers? There were roses, red roses there,” and, pointing to a bed where Sir Roderick by careful expenditure had cultivated some hardy rose trees, she fell prone at my feet.

I had my token—she knew the place as it was of old, before she had awakened in this world.

Perhaps the greatest mystery among these many mysteries is this—I can write it all down, just as it happened, calmly, coolly, as I should record an exceptional case in medicine.

I took her in my arms and carried her back through the wood into the flower garden of the house. She was a dead weight, but I was impervious to ordinary impressions. Then I laid her upon a wide wooden bench in the Italian garden, and by slow degrees she recovered. Before the clock struck ten, she was able to join them all in the drawing-room.

I have a great power over her. I found that when I had sufficiently rallied from my emotions to exercise my will, that willing her to be her ordinary self 266(while her hands were in mine and my eyes fixed upon her face) “brought her to,” as the nurses say, at once.

This had opened up another aspect of affairs. If I have this power over her, may not that possibly be the cause of her liking for me—even of her impressions of her dreams? I must investigate, search, leave no stone unturned to unearth the truth. Too much is at stake.

Next day, I willed her to be cheerful and happy, and she was so. (Another symptom, which I duly recorded.)

I found she had not as perfectly clear a recollection of that terrible evening as I have myself. I was thankful for this. I was as commonplace as I could possibly be during those days before the prince’s return. I took care she should have no time to meditate, and mammy, Lady Forwood, and good Lady Boisville helped me. I don’t know what they have thought of it all, but they have consciously or unconsciously abetted me with that woman’s own gift of tact which is worth a king’s—no, an emperor’s—ransom, aye, and far more!

The prince returned, unexpectedly, one rainy afternoon. He came in a station fly. When he entered the hall we men were playing billiards.

I fancied he looked sulky, but during the short time that followed before the general departure he was amiability itself, and has declared his intention of remaining in England the winter, also to look out for a country house near here for the——

Dr. Paull was seated in his library a misty autumn 267morning writing the above, when a tap at his door disturbed him.

The servant brought him a telegram:

Come at once to London. This evening at half-past nine I will be at your house.



What was there in that telegram to cause Hugh Paull misgiving?

Ostensibly, but little. Many things could have occurred, simple in themselves, to give Mercedes an excuse to summon him. That she would take advantage of an excuse to shorten their separation, he well knew. As he turned over and re-read the telegram, he chided himself for the chill sense of impending trouble which was unnerving him; but his efforts came to nothing. He started for London at once, in irrepressible perturbation of mind.

Arrived home, the commonplace aspect of the familiar old house somewhat relieved him of his mental oppression. The housekeeper had had notice of his return in a week or ten days, and charwomen were about; there was a clatter of pails and the homely sound of busy brooms and scrubbing-brushes.

He spent the hours till Mercedes should arrive in superintending the arrangement of the library, and pretending to dine. His study lamp smoked. Just as he and the housekeeper had succeeded in coaxing it to burn with its wonted urbanity, one quarter chimed from the nearest church clock-tower.

A quarter-past nine! In a quarter-of-an-hour she 269would be here—and the big, dingy room seemed to him full of the ill-savoured fumes of lamp oil. He dismissed the housekeeper, who knew he expected a patient, and threw open the windows.

It was a clear night. The stars shone, brilliant specks in the dark-blue. He leaned out of the window, listening for the roll of wheels—for that peal of the hall bell which he longed for, yet dreaded. He would always long for her presence with an intense longing: yet this longing would be tempered by the dread that he would betray himself in some unguarded moment, would betray the passionate character of his love.

He mentally forecast the interview. Leaning out in the sharpened autumnal air, he braced himself to endure: to keep himself at a completely respectful distance from the woman whose soul he believed to be the soul of his lost wife, and part of his own soul, but whose physical being belonged to the lazy voluptuary, the Prince Andriocchi.

“It is hard,” he told himself. “Oh, God! Thou alone knowest how hard!”

The wild apostrophe brought a calm, a sudden peace—as if indeed his guardian angel had laid its holy hand upon his heated head; and as he took courage from the sense of occult help in his sore need, the clock slowly, warningly—it seemed to him with some knowledge of what was to come—chimed the half-hour.

Would she come? What was it all about? Perhaps the next few minutes’ silence and suspense were the worst of his life. Often afterwards, looking back into his past with a shudder, he thought so.

Yet the ring of the bell, sudden, impetuous, when it did come, was horrible. The sound of her voice, the 270slow footsteps along the hall—he clenched his hands as he listened, and cold drops of sweat were on his brow.

He went slowly to the door and opened it—for his limbs were stiff and heavy, disobedient to his will. Had he expected to see her also unnerved, trembling? He did not know—but the calm with which she entered was a shock to him.

“Please—shut—lock the door,” she said quietly, but with a desperate calm—imperiously, but in a tone of voice in which command was mingled with respect. “I have come,” she said, throwing aside her cloak and seating herself by the table, “to tell you, my friend, what will cause you grief, what will make you angry. But I must tell you, for your sake, and for mine.”

He stood, facing her, wondering at the extraordinary change in her, in her whole outward self. Her lovely face was pale and delicately beautiful as ever; but there was a new sternness about her sweet mouth, a look of absolute will in her dark, lustrous eyes which completely altered her. The clinging, tender girl had given place to the determined woman.

“What—is it?” he asked. “What has happened?”

“I—will tell you,” she began, evidently nerving herself for some disclosure, “just as it happened. You know that the prince”—(a look of pain contracted her features, and she blushed slightly as she said the word)—“my husband—liked the Pinewood. You know”—(she stopped and looked pleadingly up into his face)—“he liked you, liked our—friendship.”

Some warning of what was to come arose in his mind. Ah! at last some good-natured friend—some meddler—had stepped in between him and his long-waited-for happiness in life.

271“Go on,” he said, in a hard tone, turning away from her.

“The prince knows you, and he knows me,” she went on, proudly. “Well, I must tell you what happened. Last night, we—the prince, the count, and myself—we went to the new play. The prince did not like it, and went away to his club. I was sitting, not talking, the count was silent also, when I heard the voices of men (it was between the acts) in the next box. They spoke of you—and of me. What they said, was an infamy. Ah! do not look so, monsieur. You and I, we have a champion. The count, he did hear it also, and his anger against these men was great. He at once took me away down the staircase, procured my carriage, and I came back to my house. He told me he would avenge my honour—your honour. At eleven o’clock he came in. He told me he had challenged the man who said that infamy; that to-day they would fight, not here in England, but in France; and he said good-bye.... This” (she drew a case from her bosom), “this is the name of the man who separates us, monsieur, for I also have come to say good-bye. To-morrow I go home with the prince to Spain.”

It was so abrupt, her calm yet confused statements were so unexpected, that for a moment Hugh’s head swam, he had to steady himself by placing his hand on the back of a chair. Then he took a slip of paper that she held out to him, and holding it near the lamp, saw in her handwriting—

Colonel Roderick Pym.

As he gazed upon that familiar, distasteful name, he seemed to have known all along that this must come, 272this moment, this interview; that this was what had cast a shadow on their relations, and that this was the end.

“Once,” he said, half to himself, half to her—it seemed to him as if her mind ought to recognise his thoughts without the outward expression of words,—“once I robbed this man of someone he loved; and now he robs me of you!”

As he sighed out that last word he recollected. Perhaps at that moment Roderick Pym was dead, his revenge had cost him his life; for the count would be a dangerous antagonist, he was a skilled swordsman and a dead shot.

“How, when do they fight?” he asked breathlessly, with the instinct to stay that duel at any cost.

“Fight!” she spoke almost indignantly. “Do you think I would let the good count kill himself for me—even for you?” Tears stood in her eyes. “I knelt and prayed him,” she said. “I begged him, but he would not hear me. He said: ‘Would you have me be a coward?’ Then at last he said to me: ‘If you will promise me that to-morrow you will go home to Spain with the prince, and will never see or speak to him again, I too will go with you, and will sacrifice my honneur.’” She paused and hung her head. “So, as I have promised, I have come to say good-bye,” she faltered.

Yes; he had known this all along, he felt he had. This was the end—the end of a promised passionate joy—the end of delights of eye and ear—of heart, soul, mind, body—all!

“Yes,” he said, meekly bowing his head, “I understand. We part; it is all over for ever.”

“Oh no!” she cried, with sudden life, and her face 273was alight with love and hope, “only for here! You know—who should know better than you?—how short is this life, you who always see the dead and dying! Is it death, that which we call death?” she asked him, passionately. “Do you think it? Do you not rather think that this is dying, this living in a place where you must not love, where people hate and torture each other, and happiness cannot be, for no one will let another one be happy?”

He went to her and took her slender, cold hands in his—for the last time.

“It does not matter,” he said, bitterly, yet feeling, with a strange joy, that this sacrifice of love ennobled their love, raised it from a common thing to divinity. “No one can separate us after death, if God wills us to be soul to soul—one for ever.”

A strange expression flitted across her face. For one instant it seemed to him that this was not Mercedes, but Lilia. Then came the memory of that awful death-bed, when Lilia defied the will of her Creator, and would have forced him, her husband, to die with her, and he contrasted that hour of rebellion with this hour of humble renunciation.

“This is her soul,” he thought, in mingled awe and gratitude. “Roderick would have caused our misery; instead, he has saved us from an evil life together for here, in this painful world, to be united in eternity.”

This was his actual death, he felt, as he silently gazed into her eyes, this parting. Physical death, after this, would be nothing—would, indeed, be welcome.

For a moment he thought to take her, just this once, into his arms: to let her heart beat against his breast, to feel her lips upon his mouth; but before the thought 274was really born in his mind he killed it and flung it from him.

“Risk eternity for a moment?” he said to himself. “No!”

He dropped her hands and smiled at her, the smile she might have seen with the eyes of her soul upon the face of her angel guardian.

“There is no more for us to say now,” he said, “but to pray for each other. By-and-by we shall have time to see what this means—this you and I being but one soul.”

She rose and kept her eyes steadily fixed upon him. Then she slowly walked to the door. How slowly she passed from the room he never knew. Their eyes dwelt upon each other, and till she was gone he felt that never, even in infinite glory, could they be more really wedded than now.

The door was half open. The room was empty, save for himself and the shadows. The hall-door was gently shut. He heard the sound of carriage-wheels. All was over!

He sat down stupefied. This dead future which loomed blankly before him was stupefying—a dense blackness, a hopeless nothingness.

The hours passed. The lamp flickered and went out. Still he sat there gazing at vacancy, his mind groping about in this dreary cloud of fathomless misery.

He thought nothing tangible, felt neither cold nor fatigue. At last he began to wonder vaguely whether this was all that really existed—this dull, senseless apathy.

As he began to wonder, his attention was attracted 275by a brilliant speck of light at his feet. Tiny at first, it seemed to grow larger and brighter as he looked. A mere pin’s-point of light at first, in a few minutes it was a disc of some size. Then he saw an object he knew well—a steel urn at the end of his library fender.

With a flush of pain, he was alive again; alive, conscious of anguish, of separation from her, his darling, his adored. He seemed to see her retreating from him, steadily, hopelessly.

With a cry, he sprang up. That light was a mocking sunbeam. He saw it now, creeping in between the shutters. He went to the window, he flung open the shutters and defied the day, or would have defied it.

But he was face to face with the glory of the sunrise. The whole sky was golden, and crimson clouds floated upward, stately attendants upon the magnificence of the young day. Soft, white rounded masses were like smiles upon the clear blue sky: all meant life and hope and love.

And as he gazed he felt abashed at his own littleness. What was he but a speck upon the bosom of the earth? That little steel urn was greater in the shine of the world’s sun than was he in the Light that streams from the Eternal.

“I must reach it,” he told himself. “I must be more than a speck of dust. What is suffering, what is dull commonplace, but the ladder by which we climb to immortality?”

That was his crucial hour, the bridge over which he passed from unrest to peace.

None who knew him ever guessed the secret motives of his afterlife. They thought him more energetic, larger-minded, gentler, and more sympathetic. But he 276was envied as a man who seemed to have fathomed the mystery of “peace on earth.”

He died suddenly. A month before his death he received a letter from a Spanish priest, who informed him of the death of the Princess Andriocchi, and enclosed him a sealed envelope addressed to him in Mercedes’ handwriting. He recognised the writing at once, though in character it was larger and firmer.

It contained a slip of paper, on which was inscribed one word—“Come!

That word seemed to pierce his heart like an arrow. From that day his strength waned, his health failed. His household were hardly astonished when, one morning, he was found sitting in his chair by the library window, the early sunlight hovering about his dead, smiling face.

He passed away, smiling—a joyful smile that none had ever seen upon his face before.


  1. P. 240, changed “If tell Helven this,” to “If I tell Helven this”.
  2. Silently corrected obvious typographical errors and variations in spelling.
  3. Retained archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.