Osmond Waymark was light-hearted; and with him such a state meant something not at all to be understood by those with whom lightness of heart is a chronic affection. The man who dwells for long periods face to face with the bitter truths of life learns so to distrust a fleeting moment of joy, gives habitually so cold a reception to the tardy messenger of delight, that, when the bright guest outdares his churlishness and perforce tarries with him, there ensues a passionate revulsion unknown to hearts which open readily to every fluttering illusive bliss. Illusion it of course remains; is ever recognised as that; but illusion so sweet and powerful that he thanks the god that blinds him, and counts off with sighs of joy the hours thus brightly winged.
He awaited with extreme impatience the evening on which he would again see Ida. Distrustful always, he could not entirely dismiss the fear that his first impressions might prove mistaken in the second interview; yet he tried his best to do so, and amused himself with imagining for Ida a romantic past, for her and himself together a yet more romantic future. In spite of the strange nature of their relations, he did not delude himself with the notion that the girl had fallen in love with him at first sight, and that she stood before him to take or reject as he chose. He had a certain awe of her. He divined in her a strength of character which made her his equal; it might well be, his superior. Take, for instance, the question of the life she was at present leading. In the case of an ordinary pretty and good-natured girl falling in his way as Ida Starr had done, he would have exerted whatever influence he might acquire over her to persuade her into better paths. Any such direct guidance was, he felt, out of the question here. The girl had independence of judgment; she would resent anything said by him on the assumption of her moral inferiority, and, for aught he knew, with justice. The chances were at least as great that he might prove unworthy of her, as that she should prove unworthy of him.
When he presented himself at the house in the little court by Temple Bar, it was the girl Sally who opened the door to him. She beckoned him to follow, and ran before him upstairs. The sitting-room presented the same comfortable appearance, and Grim, rising lazily from the hearthrug, came forward purring a welcome, but Ida was not there.
"She was obliged to go out," said Sally, in answer to his look of inquiry. "She won't be long, and she said you was to make yourself comfortable till she came back."
On a little side-table stood cups and saucers, and a box of cigars. The latter Sally brought forward.
"I was to ask you to smoke, and whether you'd like a cup of coffee with it?" she asked, with the curious naïveté which marked her mode of speech.
"The kettle's boiling on the side," she added, seeing that Waymark hesitated. "I can make it in a minute."
"In that case, I will."
"You don't mind me having one as well?"
"Of course not."
"Shall I talk, or shall I keep quiet? I'm not a servant here, you know," she added, with an amusing desire to make her position clear. "Ida and me's friends, and she'd do just as much for I."
"Talk by all means," said Waymark, smiling, as he lit his cigar. The result was that, in a quarter of an hour Sally had related her whole history. As Ida had said, she came from Weymouth, where her father was a fisherman, and owner of bum-boats. Her mother kept a laundry, and the family had all lived together in easy circumstances. She herself had come to London -- well, just for a change. And what was she doing? Oh, getting her living as best she could. In the day-time she worked in a city workroom.
"And how much do you think I earn a week?" she asked.
"Fifteen shillings or so, I suppose?"
"Ah, that's all you know about it! Now, last week was the best I've had yet, and I made seven shillings."
"What do you do?"
"Machine work; makin' ulsters. How much do you think we get, now, for makin' a ulster -- one like this?" pointing to one which hung behind the door.
"Have no idea."
"Well, -- fourpence: there now!"
"And how many can you make in a day?"
"I can't make no more than two. Some make three, but it's blessed hard work. But I get a little job now and then to do at home."
"But you can't live on seven shillings a week?"
"I sh'd think not, indeed. We have to make up the rest as best we can, s'nough."
"But your employers must know that?"
"In course. What's the odds? All us girls are the same; we have to keep on the two jobs at the same time. But I'll give up the day-work before long, s'nough. I come home at night that tired out I ain't fit for nothing. I feel all eyes, as the sayin' is. And it's hard to have to go out into the Strand, when you're like that."
"But do they know about all this at home?"
"No fear! If our father knew, he'd be down here precious soon, and the house wouldn't hold him. But I shall go back some day, when I've got a good fit-out."
The door opened quietly, and Ida came in.
"Well, young people, so you are making yourselves at home."
The sweet face, the eyes and lips with their contained mirth, the light, perfect form, the graceful carriage, -- Waymark felt his pulses throb at the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand.
"You didn't mind waiting a little for me? I really couldn't help it. And then, after all, I thought you mightn't come."
"But I promised to."
"Promises, promises, oh dear!" laughed Ida. "Sally, here's an orange for you."
"You are a duck!" was the girl's reply, as she caught it, and, with a nod to Waymark, left the room.
"And so you've really come," Ida went on, sitting down and beginning to draw off her gloves.
"You find it surprising? To begin with, I have come to pay my debts."
"Is there another cup of coffee?" she asked, seeming not to have heard. "I'm too tired to get up and see."
Waymark felt a keen delight in waiting upon her, in judging to a nicety the true amount of sugar and cream, in drawing the little table just within her reach.
"Mr. Waymark," she exclaimed, all at once, "if you had had supper with a friend, and your friend had paid the bill, should you take out your purse and pay him back at your next meeting?"
"It would depend entirely on circumstances."
"Just so. Then the present circumstances don't permit anything of the kind, and there's an end of that matter. Light another cigar, will you?"
"You don't dislike the smoke?"
"If I did, I should say so."
Having removed her outer garments one by one, she rose and took them into the inner room. On reappearing, she went to the sitting-room door and turned the key in the lock.
"Could you let me have some more books to read?" she asked.
"I have brought one, thinking you might be ready for it."
It was "Jane Eyre." She glanced over the pages eagerly.
"I don't know how it is," she said, "I have grown so hungry for reading of late. Till just now I never cared for it. When I was a child and went to school, I didn't like my lessons. Still I learned a good deal, for a little girl, and it has stayed by me. And oh, it seems so long ago! Never mind, perhaps I will tell you all about that some day."
They were together for an hour or so. Waymark, uneasily watching his companion's every movement, rose as soon as she gave sign of weariness, and Ida did not seek to detain him.
"I shall think much of you," he said.
"The less the better," was Ida's reply.
For his comfort, yes, -- Waymark thought, as he walked homewards. Ida had already a dangerous hold upon him; she possessed his senses, and set him on fire with passionate imaginings. Here, as on every hand, his cursed poverty closed against him the possibilities of happiness. That she should ever come to love him, seemed very unlikely; the alliance between them could only be a mere caprice on her part, such as girls of her kind are very subject to; he might perhaps fill up her intervals of tedium, but would have no share in her real life. And the thought of that life fevered him with jealousy. She might say what she liked about never having known love, but it was of course impossible that she should not have a preference among her lovers. And to think of the chances before such a girl, so blessed with rare beauty and endless charms. In the natural order of events she would become the mistress of some rich man; might even, as at times happens, be rescued by marriage; in either case, their acquaintance must cease. And, indeed, what right had he to endeavour to gain her love having nothing but mere beggarly devotion to offer her in return? He had not even the excuse of one who could offer her married life in easy circumstances, -- supposing that to be an improvement on her present position. Would it not be better at once to break off these impossible relations? How often he had promised himself, in moments of clear thought, never again to enter on a course which would obviously involve him in futile suffering. Why had he not now the strength to obey his reason, and continue to possess his soul in the calm of which he had enjoyed a brief taste?
The novel circumstances of the past week had almost driven from his mind all thought of Maud Enderby. He regretted having asked and obtained permission to write to her. She seemed so remote from him, their meeting so long past. What could there be in common between himself and that dim, quiet little girl, who had excited his sympathy merely because her pretty face was made sad by the same torments which had afflicted him? He needed some strong, vehement, original nature, such as Ida Starr's; how would Maud's timid conventionality -- doubtless she was absolutely conventional -- suit with the heresies of which he was all compact? Still, he could not well ignore what had taken place between them, and, after all, there would be a certain pleasant curiosity in awaiting her reply. In any case, he would write just such a letter as came naturally from him. If she were horrified, well, there was an end of the matter.
Accordingly, he sat down on the morning after his visit to Ida, and, after a little difficulty in beginning, wrote a long letter. It was mainly occupied with a description of his experiences in Litany Lane and Elm Court. He made no apology for detailing such unpleasant matters, and explained that he would henceforth be kept in pretty close connection with this unknown world. Even this, he asserted, was preferable to the world of Dr. Tootle's Academy. Then he dwelt a little on the contrast between this life of his and that which Maud was doubtless leading in her home on the Essex coast; and finally he hoped she would write to him when she found leisure, and be able to let him know that she was no longer so unhappy as formerly.
This he posted on Friday. On the following Monday morning, the post brought two letters for him, both addressed in female hand, one bearing a city, the other a country, post-mark. Waymark smiled as he compared the two envelopes, on one of which his name stood in firm, upright characters, on the other in slender, sloping, delicate writing. The former he pressed to his lips, then tore open eagerly; it was the promised intimation that Ida would be at home after eight o'clock on Wednesday and Friday evenings, nothing more. The second letter he allowed to lie by till he had breakfasted. He could see that it contained more than one sheet. When at length he opened it, he read this: --
"DEAR MR. WAYMARK, -- I have an hour of freedom this Sunday afternoon, and I will spend it in replying as well as I can to your very interesting letter. My life is, as you say, very quiet and commonplace compared with that you find yourself suddenly entering upon. I have no such strange and moving things to write about, but I will tell you in the first place how I live and what I do, then put down some of the thoughts your letter has excited in me.
"The family I am with consists of very worthy but commonplace people. They treat me with more consideration than I imagine governesses usually get, and I am grateful to them for this, but their conversation, especially that of Mrs. Epping, I find rather wearisome. It deals with very trivial concerns of everyday life, in which I vainly endeavour to interest myself.
"Then there is the religious formalism of the Eppings and their friends. They are High Church. They discuss with astonishing vigour and at dreadful length what seems to me the most immaterial points in the Church service, and just at present an impulse is given to their zeal by the fact of their favourite clergyman being threatened with a prosecution for ritualistic practices. Of course I have to feign a becoming interest in all this, and to take part in all their religious forms and ceremonies. And indeed it is all so new to me that I have scarcely yet got over the first feelings of wonder and curiosity.
"Have I not, then, you will ask, the courage of my opinions? But indeed my religious opinions are so strangely different from those which prevail here, that I fear it would be impossible to make my thoughts clear to these good people. They would scarcely esteem me a Christian; and yet I cannot but think that it is they who are widely astray from Christian belief and practice. The other evening the clergyman dined with us, and throughout the meal discussions of the rubric alternated with talk about delicacies of the table! That the rubric should be so interesting amazes me, but that an earnest Christian should think it compatible with his religion to show the slightest concern in what he shall eat or drink is unspeakably strange to me. Surely, if Christianity means anything it means asceticism. My experience of the world is so slight. I believe this is the first clergyman I ever met in private life. Surely they cannot all be thus?
"I knew well how far the world at large had passed from true Christianity; that has been impressed upon me from my childhood. But how strange it seems to me to hear proposed as a remedy the formalism to which my friends here pin their faith! How often have I burned to speak up among them, and ask -- 'What think ye, then, of Christ? Is He, or is He not, our exemplar? Was not His life meant to exhibit to us the ideal of the completest severance from the world which is consistent with human existence? To follow Him, should we not, at least in the spirit, cast off everything which may tempt us to consider life, as life, precious?' We cannot worship both God and the world, and yet nowadays Christians seem to make a merit of doing so. When I conceive a religious revival, my thought does not in the least concern itself with forms and ceremonies. I imagine another John the Baptist inciting the people, with irresistible fervour, to turn from their sins -- that is, from the world and all its concerns -- and to purify themselves by Renunciation. What they call 'Progress,' I take to he the veritable Kingdom of Antichrist. The world is evil, life is evil; only by renunciation of the very desire for life can we fulfil the Christian idea. What then of the civilisation which endeavours to make the world more and more pleasant as a dwelling-place, life more and more desirable for its own sake?
"And so I come to the contents of your own letter. You say you marvel that these wretched people you visited do not, in a wild burst of insurrection, overthrow all social order, and seize for themselves a fair share of the world's goods. I marvel also; -- all the more that their very teachers in religion seem to lay such stress on the joys of life. And yet what profit would a real Christian preacher draw for them from this very misery of their existence! He would teach them that herein lay their supreme blessing, not their curse; that in their poverty and nakedness lay means of grace and salvation such as the rich can scarcely by any means attain to; that they should proudly, devoutly, accept their heritage of woe, and daily thank God for depriving them of all that can make life dear. Only awaken the spirit in these poor creatures, and how near might they be to the true Kingdom of Heaven! And surely such a preacher will yet arise, and there will be a Reformation very different from the movement we now call by that name. But I weary you, perhaps. It may be you have no interest in all this. Yet I think you would wish me to write from what I am.
"It would interest me to hear your further experiences in the new work. Believe me to be your sincere friend,
Waymark read, and thought, and wondered. Then it was time to go and collect his rents.
Here is an extract from a letter written by Julian Casti to Waymark in the month of May. By this time they were living near to each other, but something was about to happen which Julian preferred to communicate in writing.
"This will be the beginning of a new life for me. Already I have felt a growth in my power of poetical production. Verse runs together in my thoughts without effort; I feel ready for some really great attempt. Have you not noticed something of this in me these last few days? Come and see me to-night, if you can, and rejoice with me."
This meant that Julian was about to be married. Honeymoon journey was out of the question for him. He and his wife established themselves in the lodgings which he was already occupying. And the new life began.
Waymark had made Harriet's acquaintance a couple of weeks before; Julian had brought her with him one Sunday to his friend's room. She was then living alone, having quitted Mrs. Ogle the day after that decisive call upon Julian. There was really no need for her to have done so, Mrs. Ogle's part in the comedy being an imaginary one of Harriet's devising. But Julian was led entirely by his cousin, and, as she knew quite well, there was not the least danger of his going on his own account to the shop in Gray's Inn Road; he dreaded the thought of such an interview.
Waymark was not charmed with Miss Smales; the more he thought of this marriage, the more it amazed him; for, of course, he deemed it wholly of his friend's bringing about.
The marriage affected their intercourse. Harriet did not like to be left alone in the evening, so Julian could not go to Waymark's, as he had been accustomed to, and conversation in Mrs. Casti's presence was, of course, under restraint. Waymark bore this with impatience, and even did his best to alter it. One Sunday afternoon, about three weeks after the marriage, he called and carried Julian off to his room across the street. Harriet's face sufficiently indicated her opinion of this proceeding, and Julian had difficulty m appearing at his case. Waymark understood what was going on, and tried to discuss the matter freely, but the other shrank from it.
"I am grievously impatient of domestic arrangements," Waymark said. "I fancy it would never do for me to marry, unless I had limitless cash, and my wife were as great a Bohemian as myself. By the by, I have another letter from Maud. Her pessimism is magnificent. This intense religiousness is no doubt a mere phase; it will pass, of course; I wonder how things would arrange themselves if she came back to London. Why shouldn't she come here to sit and chat, like you do?"
"That would naturally lead to something definite," said Casti, smiling.
"Oh, I don't know. Why should it? I'm a believer in friendship between men and women. Of course there is in it the spice of the difference of sex, and why not accept that as a pleasant thing? How much better if, when we met a woman we liked, we could say frankly, 'Now let us amuse each other without any arrière pensée. If I married you to-day, even though I feel quite ready to, I should ten to one see some one next week who would make me regret having bound myself. So would you, my dear. Very well, let us tantalise each other agreeably, and be at ease in the sense that we are on the right side of the illusion.' You laugh at the idea?"
Julian laughed, but not heartily. They passed to other things.
"I'm making an article out of Elm Court," said Waymark. "Semi-descriptive, semi-reflective, wholly cynical Maybe it will pay for my summer holiday. And, apropos of the same subject, I've got great ideas. This introduction to such phases of life will prove endlessly advantageous to me, artistically speaking. Let me get a little more experience, and I will write a novel such as no one has yet ventured to write, at all events in England. I begin to see my way to magnificent effects; ye gods, such light and shade! The fact is, the novel of every-day life is getting worn out. We must dig deeper, get to untouched social strata. Dickens felt this, but he had not the courage to face his subjects; his monthly numbers had to lie on the family tea-table. Not virginibus puerisque will be my book, I assure you, but for men and women who like to look beneath the surface, and who understand that only as artistic material has human life any significance. Yes, that is the conclusion I am working round to. The artist is the only sane man. Life for its own sake? -- no; I would drink a pint of laudanum to-night. But life as the source of splendid pictures, inexhaustible material for effects -- that can reconcile me to existence, and that only. It is a delight followed by no bitter after-taste, and the only such delight I know."
Harriet was very quiet when Julian returned. She went about getting the tea with a sort of indifference; she let a cup fall and break, but made no remark, and left her husband to pick up the pieces.
"Waymark thinks I'm neglecting him," said Julian, with a laugh, as they sat down together.
"It's better to neglect him than to neglect me, I should think," was Harriet's reply, in a quiet ill-natured tone which she was mistress of.
"But couldn't we find out some way of doing neither, dear?" went on Julian, playing with his spoon. "Now suppose I give him a couple of hours one evening every week? You could spare that, couldn't you? Say, from eight to ten on Wednesdays?"
"I suppose you'll go if you want to." said Harriet, rising from the tea-table, and taking a seat sulkily by the window.
"Come, come, we won't say any more about it, if it's so disagreeable to you," said Julian, going up to her, and coaxing her back to her place. "You don't feel well to-day, do you? I oughtn't to have left you this afternoon, but it was difficult to refuse, wasn't it?"
"He had no business to ask you to go. He could see I didn't like it."
Waymark grew so accustomed to receiving Ida's note each Monday morning, that when for the first time it failed to conic he was troubled seriously. It happened, too, that he was able to attach a particular significance to the omission. When they had last parted, instead of just pressing her hand as usual, he had raised it to his lips. She frowned and turned quickly away, saying no word. He had offended her by this infringement of the conditions of their friendship; for once before, when he had uttered a word which implied more than she was willing to allow, Ida had engaged him in the distinct agreement that he should never do or say anything that approached love-making. As, moreover, it was distinctly understood that he should never visit her save at times previously appointed, he could not see her till she chose to write. After waiting in the vain expectation of some later post bringing news, he himself wrote, simply asking the cause of her silence. The reply came speedily.
"I have no spare time in the week. I thought you would understand this.
It was her custom to write without any formal beginning or ending; yet Waymark felt that this note was briefer than it would have been, had all been as usual between them. The jealousy which now often tortured him awoke with intolerable vehemence. He spent a week of misery.
But late on Saturday evening came a letter addressed in the well-known hand. It said --
"Sally and I are going up the river to-morrow, if it is fine. Do you care to meet us on the boat which reaches Chelsea Pier at 10.30?
It seemed he did care; at all events he was half an hour too soon at the pier. As the boat approached his eye soon singled out two very quietly-dressed girls, who sat with their backs to him, and neither turned nor made any sign of expecting any addition to their party. With like undemonstrativeness he took a seat at Ida's side, and returned Sally's nod and smile. Ida merely said "Good morning;" there was nothing of displeasure on her face, however, and when he began to speak of indifferent things she replied with the usual easy friendliness.
It was the first time he had seen her by daylight. He had been uncertain whether she used any artificial colour on her cheeks; seemingly she did, for now she looked much paler than usual. But the perfect clearness of her complexion, the lustre of her eyes, appeared to indicate complete health. She breathed the fresh sun-lit air with frank enjoyment, and smiled to herself at objects on either side of the river.
"By the by," Waymark said, when no words had been exchanged for some minutes, "you didn't tell me where you were going; so I took no ticket, and left matters to fate."
"Are you a good walker?" Ida asked.
"Fairly good, I flatter myself."
"Then this is what I propose. It's a plan I carried out two or three times by myself last summer, and enjoyed. We get off at Putney, walk through Roehampton, then over the park into Richmond. By that time we shall be ready for dinner, and I know a place where we can have it in comfort."
There was little thought of weariness throughout the delightful walk. All three gave themselves up for the time to simple enjoyment; their intercourse became that of children; the troubles of passion, the miseries of self-consciousness, the strain of mutual observation fell from them as the city dropped behind; they were once more creatures for whom the external world alone had reality. There was a glorious June sky; there were country roads scented with flower and tree; the wide-gleaming common with its furze and bramble; then the great park, with felled trunks to rest upon, and prospects of endlessly-varied green to soothe the eye. The girls exhibited their pleasure each in her own way. Sally threw off restraint,, and sprang about in free happiness, like one of the young roes, the sight of which made her utter cries like a delighted child. She remembered scenes of home, and chattered in her dialect of people and places strange enough to both her companions. She was in constant expectation of catching a glimpse of the sea; in spite of all warnings it was a great surprise and disappointment to her that Richmond Hill did not end in cliffs and breakers. Ida talked less, but every now and then laughed in her deep enjoyment. She had no reminiscence of country life it was enough that all about her was new and fresh and pure; nothing to remind her of Regent Street and the Strand. Waymark talked of he knew not what, cheerful things that came by chance to his tongue, trifling stories, descriptions of places, ideal plans for spending of ideal holidays; but nothing of London, nothing of what at other times his thoughts most ran upon. He came back to himself now and then, and smiled as he looked at the girls, but this happened seldom.
The appetites of all three were beyond denying when they had passed the "Star and Garter" and began to walk down into the town. Waymark wondered whither their guide would lead them, but asked no questions. To his surprise, Ida stopped at a small inn half way down the hill.
"You are to go straight in," she said, with a smile, to Waymark, "and are to tell the first person you meet that three people want dinner. There's no choice -- roast beef and vegetables, and some pudding or other afterwards. Then you are to walk straight upstairs, as if you knew your way, and we will follow."
These directions were obeyed, with the result that all reached an upper chamber, wherein a table was cleanly and comfortably laid, as if expecting them. French windows led out on to a quaint little verandah at the back of the house, and the view thence was perfect. The river below, winding between wooded banks, and everywhere the same splendour of varied green which had delighted their eyes all the morning. Just below the verandah was the tiled roof of an outhouse, whereon lay a fine black and white cat, basking in the hot sun. Ida clapped her hands.
"He's like poor old Grim," she cried. Then, turning to Waymark: "If you are good, you may bring out a chair and smoke a cigar here after dinner."
They had just began to eat, when footsteps were heard coining up the stairs.
"Oh bother!" exclaimed Sally. "There's some one else a-comin', s'nough."
There was. The door opened, and two gentlemen walked in. Waymark looked up, and to his astonishment recognised his old friends O'Gree and Egger. Mr. O'Gree was mopping his face with a handkerchief, and looked red and hungry; Mr. Egger was resplendent in a very broad-brimmed straw hat, the glistening newness of which contrasted with the rest of his attire, which had known no variation since his first arrival at Dr. Tootle's. He, too, was perspiring profusely, and, as he entered, was just in the act of taking out the great yellow handkerchief which Waymark had seen him chewing so often in the bitterness of his spirit.
"Hollo, Waymark, is it you?" cried Mr. O'Gree, forgetting the presence of the strangers in his astonishment. "Sure, and they told us we'd find a gentleman here."
"And I was the last person you would have thought of as answering that description?"
"Well, no, I didn't mean that. I meant there was no mention of the ladies."
Waymark flashed a question at Ida with his eyes, and understood her assent in the smile and slight motion of the head.
"Then let me introduce you to the ladies."
The new-comers accordingly made the acquaintance of Miss Starr and Miss Fisher (that was Sally's name), and took seats at the table, to await the arrival of their dinners. Both were on their good behaviour. Mr. O'Gree managed to place himself at Sally's left hand, and led the conversation with the natural ease of an Irishman, especially delighted if Sally herself seemed to appreciate his efforts to be entertaining.
"Now, who'd have thought of the like of this." he exclaimed. "And we came in here by the merest chance; sure, there's a fatality in these things. We've walked all the way from Hammersmith."
"And we from Putney," said Waymark.
"You don't mean it? It's been a warm undertaking."
"How did you find the walk, Mr. Egger?"
"Bedad," replied that gentleman, who had got hold of his friend's exclamation, and used it with killing effect; "I made my possible, but, bedad, I could not much more."
"You both look warm," Waymark observed, smiling. "I fear you hurried. You should have been leisurely, as we were."
"Now that's cruel, Waymark. You needn't have reflected upon our solitariness. If we'd been blessed with society such as you had, we'd have come slow enough. As it was, we thought a good deal of our dinners."
No fresh guests appeared to disturb the party. When all had appeased their hunger, Waymark took a chair out on to the verandah for Ida. He was spared the trouble of providing in the same way for Sally by Mr. O'Gree's ready offices. Poor Egger, finding himself deserted, opened a piano there was in the room, and began to run his finger over the keys.
"Let us have one of your German songs, my boy," cried O'Gree.
"But it is the Sunday, and we arc still in England," said the Swiss, hesitating.
"Pooh, never mind," said Waymark. "We'll shut the door. Sing my favourite, Mr. Egger, -- 'Wenn's Mailüfterl.'"
When they left the inn, Waymark walked first with Ida, and Mr. O'Gree followed with Sally. Egger brought up the rear; he had relapsed into a dreamy mood, and his mind seemed occupied with unearthly things.
With no little amusement Waymark had noted Sally's demeanour under Mr. O'Gree's attentions. The girl had evidently made up her mind to be absolutely proper. The Irishman's respectful delicacy was something so new to her and so pleasant, and the question with her was how she could sufficiently show her appreciation without at the same time forfeiting his good opinion for becoming modesty. All so new to her, accustomed to make an art of forwardness, and to school herself in the endurance of brutality. She was constantly blushing in the most unfeigned way at his neatly-turned little compliments, and, when she spoke, did so with a pretty air of self-distrust which sat quite charmingly on her. Fain, fain would O'Gree have proposed to journey back to London by the same train, but good taste and good sense prevailed with him. At the ticket-barrier there was a parting.
"How delightful it would be, Miss Fisher," said Mr. O'Gree, in something like a whisper, "if this lucky chance happened again. If I only knew when you were coming again, there's no telling but it might."
Sally gave her hand, smiled, evidently wished to say something, but ended by turning away and running after her companions.
Waymark was grateful for the help Mr. Woodstock had given him. Indeed, the two soon began to get on very well together. In a great measure, of course, this was due to the change in Waymark's philosophy; whereas his early idealism had been revolted by what he then deemed Mr. Woodstock's crass materialism and vulgarity, the tolerance which had come with widened experience now made him regard these characteristics with far less certainty of condemnation. He was often merely amused at what had formerly enraged and disgusted him. At the same time, there were changes in Abraham himself, no doubt -- at all events in his manner to the young man. He, on his side, was also far more tolerant than in the days when he had growled at Osmond for a conceited young puppy.
One Sunday morning in early July, Waymark was sitting alone in his room, when he noticed that a cab stopped before the house. A minute after, there was a knock at his door, an d, to his great surprise, Mr. Woodstock entered, bearing a huge volume in his arms. Abraham deposited it on a chair, wiped his forehead, and looked round the room.
"You smoke poor tobacco," was his first remark, as he sniffed the air.
"Good tobacco happens to be expensive," was the reply. "Will you sit down?"
"Yes, I will." The chair creaked under him. "And so here you hang out, eh? Only one room?"
"As you see."
"Devilish unhealthy, I should think."
The grunt meant nothing in particular. Waymark was eyeing the mighty volume on the chair, and had recognised it Some fortnight previously, he had come upon Abraham, in the latter's study, turning over a collection of Hogarth's plates, and greatly amusing himself with the realism which so distinctly appealed to his taste in art. The book had been pledged in the shop, and by lapse of time was become Abraham's property. It was the first time that Waymark had had an opportunity of examining Hogarth; the pictures harmonised with his mood; they gave him a fresh impulse in the direction his literary projects were taking. He spent a couple of hours in turning the leaves, and Mr. Woodstock had observed his enjoyment. What meant the arrival of the volume here in Beaufort Street?
Abraham lit a cigar, still looking about the room.
"You live alone?" he asked, in a matter-of-fact way.
"Ha! Didn't know but you might have found it lonely; I used to, at your age."
Then, after a short silence --
"By-the-by, it's your birthday."
"How do you know?"
"Well, I shouldn't have done, but for an old letter I turned up by chance the other day. How old are you?"
"H'm. I am sixty-nine. You'll be a wiser man when you get to my age. -- Well, if you can find room anywhere for that book there, perhaps you'd like to keep it!"
Waymark looked up in astonishment.
"A birthday present!" he exclaimed. "It's ten years since I had one. Upon my word, I don't well know how to thank you!"
"Do you know what the thing was published at?" asked Abraham in an off-hand way.
"I don't care about the value. It's the kindness. You couldn't have given me anything, either, that would have delighted me so much."
"All right; keep it, and there's an end of the matter. And what do you do with yourself all day, eh? I didn't think it very likely I should find you in."
"I'm writing a novel."
"H'm. Shall you get anything for it?"
"Can't say. I hope so."
"Look here. Why don't you go in for politics?"
"Neither know nor care anything about them."
"Would you like to go into Parliament?"
"Wouldn't go if every borough in England called upon me to-morrow?"
"Plainly, I think myself too good for such occupation. If you once succeed in getting outside the world, you have little desire to go back and join in its most foolish pranks."
"That's all damned nonsense! How can any one be too good to be in Parliament? The better men you have there, the better the country will be governed, won't it?"
"Certainly. But the best man, in this case, is the man who sees the shortest distance before his nose. If you think the world worth all the trouble it takes to govern it, go in for politics neck and crop, by all means, and the world will no doubt thank you in its own way."
Abraham looked puzzled, and half disposed to be angry.
"Then you think novel-writing better than governing the country?" he asked.
"On its own merits, vastly so."
"And suppose there was no government What about your novels then?"
"I'd make a magnificent one out of the spectacle of chaos."
"But you know very well you're talking bosh," exclaimed Abraham, somewhat discomfited. "There must be government, and there must be order, say what you like. Its nature that the strong should rule over the weak, and show them what's for their own good. What else are we here for? if you're going to be a parson, well and good; then cry down the world as much as you please, and think only about heaven and hell. But as far as I can make out, there's government there too. The devil rebelled and was kicked out. Serve him right If he wasn't strong enough to hold his own, he'd ought to have kept quiet."
"You're a Conservative, of course," said Waymark, smiling. "You believe only in keeping the balance. You don't are about reform."
"Don't be so sure of that Let me have the chance and he power, and I'd reform hard enough, many a thing."
"Well, one might begin on a small scale. Suppose one took in hand Litany Lane and Elm Court? Suppose we exert our right as the stronger, and, to begin with, do a little whitewashing? Then sundry stairs and ceilings might be looked to. No doubt there'd be resistance, but on the whole it would be for the people's own good. A little fresh draining mightn't be amiss, or----"
"What the devil's all this to do with politics?" cried Abraham, whose face had grown dark.
"I should imagine, a good deal," returned Waymark, knocking out his pipe. "If you're for government, yen mustn't be above considering details."
"And so you think you have a hit at me, eh? Nothing of the kind. These are affairs of private contract, and no concern of government at all. In private contract a man has only a right to what he's strong enough to exact If a tenant tells me my houses ain't fit to live in, I tell him to go where he'll be better off' and I don't hinder him; I know well enough in a day or two there'll come somebody else. Ten to one he can't go, and he don't. Then why should I be at unnecessary expense in making the places better? As Boon as I can get no tenants I'll do so; not till then."
"You don't believe in works of mere humanity?"
"What the devil's humanity got to do with business?" cried Abraham.
"True," was Waymark's rejoinder.
"See, we won't talk of these kind of things," said Mr. Woodstock. "That's just what we always used to quarrel about,, and I'm getting too old for quarrelling. Got any engagement this afternoon?"
"I thought of looking in to see a friend here in the street"
"Male or female?"
"Both; man and wife."
"Oh, then you have got some friends? So had I when I was your age. They go somehow when you get old. Your father was the last of them, I think. But you're not much like him, except a little in face. True, he was a Radical, but you, -- well, I don't know what you are. If you'd been a son of mine, I'd have had you ill Parliament by now, somehow or other."
"I think you never had a son?" said Way mark, observing the note of melancholy which every now and then came up in the old man's talk.
"But you had some children, I think?"
"Yes, yes, -- they're dead."
He had walked to the window, and suddenly turned round with a kind of impatience.
"Never mind the friend to-day; come and have some dinner with me. I seem to want a bit of company."
This was the first invitation of the kind Waymark had received. He accepted it, and they went out together.
"It's a pleasant part this," Mr. Woodstock said, as they walked by the river. "One might build himself a decent house somewhere about here, eh?"
"Do you think of doing so?"
"I think of doing so! What's the good of a house, and nobody to live in it?"
Waymark studied these various traits of the old man's humour, and constantly felt more of kindness towards him.
On the following day, just as he had collected his rents, and was on his way out of Litany Lane, Waymark was surprised at coming face to face with Mrs. Casti; yet more surprised when he perceived that she had come out from a public-house. She looked embarrassed, and for a moment seemed about to pass without recognising him; but he had raised his hat, and she could not but move her head in reply. She so obviously wished to avoid speaking, that he walked quickly on in another direction. He wondered what he could be doing in such a place as this. It could hardly be that she had acquaintances or connections here. Julian had not given him any particulars of Harriet's former life, and his friend's marriage was still a great puzzle to him. He knew well that the girl had no liking for himself; it was not improbable that this casual meeting would make their intercourse yet more strained. He thought for a moment of questioning Julian, but decided that the matter was no business of his.
It was so rare for him to meet an acquaintance in the streets, that a second chance of the same kind, only a few minutes later, surprised him greatly. This time the meeting as a pleasant one; somebody ran across to him from over the way, and he saw that it was Sally Fisher. She looked pleased. The girl had preserved a good deal of her sea-side complexion through the year and a half of town life, and, when happy, glowed all over her cheeks with the healthiest hue. She held out her hand in the usual frank, impulsive way.
"Oh, I thought it was you! You won't see I no more at the old place."
"No? How's that?"
"I'm leavin' un to-morrow. I've got a place in a shop, just by here, -- a chandler's shop, and I'm going to live in."
"Indeed? Well, I'm glad to hear it. I dare say you'll be better off."
"Oh, I say, -- you know your friend?"
"What about him?" asked the other, smiling as he looked into the girl's pretty face.
"Well," said Sally, "I don't mind you telling un where I live now, -- if you like. -- Look, there's the address on that paper; you can take it."
"Oh, I see. In point of fact, you wish me to tell him?"
"Oh, I don't care. I dessay he don't want to know anything about I. But you can if you like."
"I will be sure to, and no doubt he will be delighted. He's been growing thin since I told him you declined to renew his acquaintance."
"Oh, don't talk! And now I must be off. Good-bye. I dessay I shall see you sometimes?"
"Without doubt. We'll have another Sunday at Richmond soon. Good-bye."
It was about four in the afternoon when Sally reached home, and she ran up at once to Ida's room, and burst in, crying out, "I've got it! I've got it!" with much dancing about and joyous singing. Ida rose with a faint smile of welcome. She had been sitting at the window, reading a book lent her by Waymark.
"They said they liked my appearance," Sally went on, "and 'ud give me a try. I go in to-morrow. It won't be a over easy place, neither. I've to do all the cleaning in the house, and there's a baby to look after when I'm not in the shop."
"And what will they give you?"
"Ten shillings a month for the first half-year; then a rise."
"And you're satisfied?"
"Oh, it'll do till something better turns up. Oh, I say, I met your friend just after I'd come away."
"Did you?" said Ida quietly.
"Yes; and I told him he could tell his friend where I was, if he liked."
"The Irishman, you know," explained Sally, moving about the room. "I told you he'd been asking after me."
Ida seemed all at once to awake from a dream. She uttered a long "Ah!" under her breath, and for a moment looked at the girl like one who is struck with an unexpected explanation. Then she turned away to the window, and again gazed up at the blue sky, standing so for nearly a minute.
"Are you engaged to-night?" Sally asked presently.
"No; will you sit with me?"
"You're not feeling very well to-day, are you?"
"I think not," replied Ida, passing her hand over her forehead. "I've been thinking of going out of London for a few days, perhaps to the seaside."
"Go to Weymouth!" cried Sally, delighted at the thought. "Go and see my people, and tell un how I'm getting on. They'll make you hide with un all the time you're there, s'nough. It isn't a big house, but it's comfortable, and see if our mother wouldn't look after you! It's three weeks since I wrote; if I don't mind there'll be our father up here looking after I. Now, do go!"
"No, it's too far. Besides, if I go, I shall want to be quite alone."
On the following evening Waymark was expected. At his last visit he had noticed that Ida was not in her usual spirits. To-night he saw that something was clearly wrong, and when Ida spoke of going to the seaside, he strongly. urged her to do so.
"Where should you go to?" he asked.
"I think to Hastings. I went there once, when I was a child, with my mother -- I believe I told you. I had rather go there than anywhere else."
"I feel the need of a change myself," he said, a moment after, and without looking at her. "Suppose I were to go to Hastings, too -- at the same time that you're there -- would you dislike it?"
She merely shook her head, almost indifferently. She did not care to talk much to-night, and frequently nodded instead of replying with words.
"But -- you would rather I didn't?" he urged.
"No, indeed," still in the same indifferent way. "I should have company, if I found it dull."
"Then let us go down by the same train -- will you, Ida?"
As far as she remembered, it was the first time that he had ever addressed her thus by her name. She looked up and smiled slightly.
"If you like," was her answer.
"Why shouldn't life be always like this?" said Waymark, lying on the upper beach and throwing pebbles into the breakers, which each moment drew a little further hack and needed a little extra exertion of the arm to reach them. There was small disturbance by people passing, here some two miles up the shore eastward from Hastings. A large shawl spread between two walking-sticks stuck upright gave, at this afternoon hour, all the shade needful for two persons lying side by side, and, even in the blaze of unclouded summer, there were pleasant airs flitting about the edge of the laughing sea. "Why shouldn't life be always like this? It might be -- sunshine or fireside -- if men were wise. Leisure is the one thing that all desire, but they strive for it so blindly that they frustrate one another's hope. And so at length they have come to lose the end in the means; are mad enough to set the means before them as in itself an end."
"We must work to forget our troubles," said his companion simply.
"Why, yes, and those very troubles are the fit reward of our folly. We have not been content to live in the simple happiness of our senses. We must be learned and wise, forsooth. We were not content to enjoy the beauty of the greater and the lesser light. We must understand whence they come and whither they go -- after that, what they are made of and how much they weigh. We thought for such a long time that our toil would end in something; that we might become as gods, knowing good and evil. Now we are at the end of our tether, we see clearly enough that it has all been worse than vain; how good if we could unlearn it all, scatter the building of phantasmal knowledge in which we dwell so uncomfortably! It is too late. The gods never take back their gifts; we wearied them with our prayers into granting us this one, and now they sit in the clouds and mock us."
Ida looked, and kept silent; perhaps scarcely understood.
"People kill themselves in despair," Waymark went on, "that is, when they have drunk to the very dregs the cup of life's bitterness. If they were wise, they would die at that moment -- if it ever comes -- when joy seems supreme and stable. Life can give nothing further, and it has no more hellish misery than disillusion following upon delight."
"Did you ever seriously think of killing yourself?" Ida asked, gazing at him closely.
"Yes. I have reached at times the point when I would not have moved a muscle to escape death, and from that it is not far to suicide. But my joy had never come, and it is hard to go away without that one draught. -- And you!"
"I went so far once as to buy poison. But neither had I tasted any happiness, and I could not help hoping."
"And you still wait -- still hope?"
Ida made no direct answer. She gazed far off at the indistinguishable border-land of sea and sky, and when she spoke it was in a softened tone.
"When I was here last, I was seven years old. Now I am not quite nineteen. How long I have lived since then -- how long! Yet my life did not really begin till I was about eleven. Till then I was a happy child, understanding nothing. Between then and now, if I have discovered little good either in myself or in others, I have learned by heart everything that is bad in the world. Nothing in meanness or vileness or wretchedness is a secret to me. Compare me with other girls of nineteen -- perhaps still at school. What sort of a companion should I be for one of those, I wonder! What strange thoughts I should have, if ever I talked with such a girl; how old I should feel myself beside her!"
"Your knowledge is better in my eyes than their ignorance. My ideal woman is the one who, knowing every darkest secret of life, keeps yet a pure mind -- as you do, Ida."
She was silent so long that Waymark spoke again.
"Your mother died when you were eleven!"
"Yes, and that was when my life began. My mother was very poor, but she managed to send me to a pretty good school. But for that, my life would have been very different; I should not have understood myself as well as I always have done. Poor mother, -- good, good mother! Oh, if I could but have her now, and thank her for all her love, and give her but one year of quiet happiness. To think that I can see her as if she were standing before me, and yet that she is gone, is nowhere, never to be brought back to me if I break my heart with longing!"
Tears stood in her eyes. They meant more than she could ever say to another, however close and dear to her. The secret of her mother's life lay in the grave and in her own mind; the one would render it up as soon as the other. For never would Ida tell in words of that moment when there had come to her maturing intelligence clear insight into her mother's history, when the fables of childhood had no longer availed to blind her, and every recalled circumstance pointed but to one miserable truth.
"She's happier than we are," Waymark said solemnly. "Think how long she has been resting."
Ida became silent, and presently spoke with a firmer voice.
"They took her to a hospital in her last illness, and she died there. I don't know where her grave is."
"And what became of you? Had you friends to go to?"
"No one; I was quite alone. -- We had been living in lodgings. The landlady told me that of course I couldn't stay on there; she couldn't afford to keep me; I must go and find a home somewhere. Try and think what that meant to me. I was so young and ignorant that such an idea as that I might one day have to earn my own living had never entered my mind. I was fed and clothed like every one else, -- a good deal better, indeed, than some of the children at school, -- and I didn't know why it shouldn't always be so. Besides, I was a vain child; I thought myself clever; I had even begun to look at myself in the glass and think I was handsome. It seemed quite natural that every one should be kind and indulgent to me. I shall never forget the feeling I had when the landlady spoke to me in that hard, sharp way. My whole idea of the world was overset all at once; I seemed to be in a miserable dream. I sat in my mother's bedroom hour after hour, and, every step I heard on the stairs, I thought it must be my mother coming back home to me; -- it was impossible to believe that I was left alone, and could look to no one for help and comfort."
"Next morning the landlady came up to me again, and said, if I liked, she could tell me of a way of earning my living. It was by going as a servant to an eating-house in a street close by, where they wanted some one to wash up dishes and do different kinds of work not too hard for a child like me. I could only do as I was advised; I went at once, and was engaged. They took off the dress I was wearing, which was far too good for me then, and gave me a dirty, ragged one; then I was set to work at once to clean some knives. Nothing was said about wages or anything of that kind; only I understood that I should live in the house, and have all given me that I needed. Of course I was very awkward. I tried my very hardest to do everything that was set me, but only got scolding for my pains; and it soon came to boxes on the ear, and even kicks. The place was kept by a man and wife; they had a daughter older than I, and they treated her just like a hired servant. I used to sleep with the girl in a wretched kitchen underground, and the poor thing kept me awake every night with crying and complaining of her hard life. It was no harder than mine, and I can't think she felt it more; but I had even then a kind of stubborn pride which kept me from showing what I suffered. I couldn't have borne to let them see what a terrible change it was for me, all this drudgery and unkindness; I felt it would have been like taking them into my confidence, opening my heart to them, and I despised them too much for that. I even tried to talk in a rough rude way, as if I had never been used to anything better----"
"That was fine, that was heroic!" broke in Waymark admiringly.
"I only know it was miserable enough. And things got worse instead of better. The master was a coarse drunken brute, and he and his wife used to quarrel fearfully. I have seen them throw knives at each other, and do worse things than that, too. The woman seemed somehow to have a spite against me from the first, and the way her husband behaved to me made her hate me still more. Child as I was, he did and said things which made her jealous. Often when she had gone out of an evening, I had to defend myself against him, and call the daughter to protect me. And so it went on, till, what with fear of him, and fear of her, and misery and weariness, I resolved to go away, become of me what might. One night, instead of undressing for bed as usual, I told Jane -- that was the daughter -- that I couldn't bear it any longer, and was going away, as soon as I thought the house was quiet. She looked at me in astonishment, and asked me if I had anywhere to go to. Will you believe that I said yes, I had? I suppose I spoke in a way which didn't encourage her to ask questions; she only lay down on the bed and cried as usual. "Jane," I said, in a little, "if I were you, I'd run away as well." "I will," she cried out, starting up, "I will this very night! We'll go out together." It was my turn to ask her if she had anywhere to go to. She said she knew a girl who lived in a good home at Tottenham, and who'd do something for her, she thought. At any rate she'd rather go to the workhouse than stay where she was. So, about one o'clock, we both crept out by a back way, and ran into Edgware Road. There we said good-bye, and she went one way, and I another.
"All that night I walked about, for fear of being noticed loitering by a policeman. When it was morning, I had come round to Hyde Park, and, though it was terribly cold -- just in March -- I went to sleep on a seat. I woke about ten o'clock, and walked off into the town, seeking a poor part, where I thought it more likely I might find something to do. Of course I asked first of all at eating-houses, but no one wanted me. It was nearly dark, and I hadn't tasted anything. Then I begged of one or two people -- I forgot everything but my hunger -- and they gave me a few coppers. I bought some bread, and still wandered about. There are some streets into which I can never bear to go now; the thought of walking about them eight years ago is too terrible to me. Well, I walked till midnight, and then could stand up no longer. I found myself in a dirty little street where the house doors stood open all night; I went into one, and walked up as far as the first landing, and there fell down in a corner and slept all night."
"Poor child!" said Waymark, looking into her face, which had become very animated as the details of the story succeeded each other in her mind.
"I must have looked a terrible little savage on that next morning," Ida went on, smiling sadly. "Oh, how hungry I was! I was awoke by a woman who came out of one of the rooms, and I asked her if she'd give me something to eat. She said she would, if I'd light her fire for her, and clean up the grate. I did this, gladly enough. Then she pretended I had done it badly, and gave me one miserable little dry crust, and told me to be off. Well, that day I found another woman who said she'd give me one meal and twopence a day for helping her to chop wood and wash vegetables; she had a son who was a costermonger, and the stuff he sold had to be cleaned each day. I took the work gladly. She never asked me where I spent the night; the truth was I chose a different house each night, where I found the door open, and went up and slept on the stairs. I often found several people doing the same thing, and no one disturbed us.
"I lived so for a fortnight, then I was lucky enough to get into another eating-house. I lived there nearly two months, and had to leave for the very same reason as at the first place. I only half understood the meaning of what I had to resist, but my resistance led to other unbearable cruelties, and again I ran away. I went about eight o'clock in the evening. The thought of going back to my old sleeping places on the stairs was horrible. Besides, for some days a strange idea had been in my head. I had not forgotten my friend Jane, and I wondered whether, if I went to Tottenham, it would be possible to find her. Perhaps she might be well off there, and could help me. I had made inquiries about the way to Tottenham, and the distance, and when I left the eating-house I had made up my mind to walk straight there. I started from Hoxton, and went on and on, till I had left the big streets behind. I kept asking my way, but often went long distances in the wrong direction. I knew that Tottenham was quite in the country, and my idea was to find a sleeping-place in some field, then to begin my search on the next day. It was summer, but still I began to feel cold, and this drew me away out of my straight road to a fire which I saw burning a little way off. I thought it would be nice to sit down by it and rest. I found that the road was being mended, and by the fire lay a watchman in a big tub. Just as I came up he was eating his supper. He was a great, rough man, but I looked in his face and thought it seemed good, so I asked him if he'd let me rest a little. Of course he was surprised at seeing me there, for it must have been midnight,, and when he asked me about myself I told him the truth, because he spoke in a kind way. Then he stopped eating and gave me what was left; it was a bit of fat bacon and some cold potatoes; but how good it was, and how good he was! To this moment I can see that man's face. He got out of his tub and made me take his place, and he wrapped me up in something he had there. Then he sat by the fire, and kept looking at me, I thought, in a sad sort of way; and he said, over and over again, 'Ay, it's bad to be born a little girl; it's bad to be born a little girl; pity you wasn't a boy.' Oh, how well I can hear his voice this moment! And as he kept saying this, I went off to sleep."
She stopped, and played with the pebbles.
"And in the morning?" asked Waymark.
"Well, when I woke up, it was light, and there were a lot of other men about, beginning their work on the road. I crept out of the tub, and when they saw me, they laughed in a kind sort of way, and gave me some breakfast. I supose I thanked them, I hope I did; the watchman was gone, but no doubt he had told the others my story, for they showed me the way to Tottenham, and wished me luck."
"And you found your friend Jane!"
"No, no; how was it likely I should? I wandered about till I could stand no longer, and then I went up to the door of a house which stood in a garden, and begged for something to eat. The servant who opened was sending me away, when her mistress heard, and came to the door. She stood looking at me for some time, and then told me to come in. I went into the kitchen, and she asked me all about myself. I told her the truth; I was too miserable now to do anything else. Well, the result was -- she kept me there."
"Indeed, for good. In that very house I lived for six years. Oh; she was the queerest and kindest little body! At first I helped her servant in the kitchen, -- she lived quite by herself, with one servant, -- but little by little she made me a sort of lady's maid, and I did no more rough work. You wouldn't believe the ridiculous fancies of that dear old woman! She thought herself a great beauty, and often told me so very plainly, and she used to talk to me about her chances of being married to this and the other person in the neighbourhood. And the result of all this was that she had to spend I don't know how long every day in dressing herself, and then looking at herself in the glass. And I had to learn how to do her hair, and put paint and powder on her face, and all sorts of wonderful things. She was as good to me as she could be, and I never wanted for anything. And so six years passed, and one morning she was found dead in her bed.
"Well, that was the end of the happiest time of my life. In a day or two some relatives came to look after things, and I had to go. They were kind to me, however; they gave me money, and told me I might refer to them if I needed to. I came to London, and took a room, and wondered what I should do.
"I advertised, and answered advertisements, but nothing came. My money was going, and I should soon be as badly off as ever. I began to do what I had always thought of as the very last thing, look for needlework, either for home or in a workroom. I don't know how it is that I have always hated sewing. For one thing, I really can't sew. I was never taught as a child, and few girls are as clumsy with a needle as I am. I've always looked upon a work-girl's life as the most horrible drudgery; I'd far rather scrub floors. I suppose I've a rebellious disposition, and just because sewing is looked upon as a woman's natural slavery, I rebelled against it.
"By this time I was actually starving. I had one day to tell my landlady I couldn't pay my rent. She was a very decent woman, and she talked to me in a kind way. What was better, she gave me help. She had a sister who kept a laundry, and she thought I might perhaps get something to do there; at all events she would go and see. The result was I got work. I was in the laundry nearly six months, and became quite clever in getting up linen. Now this was a kind of work I liked. You can't think what a pleasure it was to me to see shirts and collars turning out so spotless and sweet----"
"Oh, but you don't understand. I do so like cleanliness! I have a sort of feeling when I'm washing anything, that I'm really doing good in the world, and the dazzling white of linen after I'd ironed it seemed to thank me for my work."
"Yes, yes, I understand well enough," said Waymark earnestly.
"For all that I couldn't stay. I was restless. I had a foolish notion that I should like to be with a better kind of people again -- I mean people in a higher position. I still kept answering advertisements for a lady's maid's place, and at last I got what I wanted. Oh yes, I got it."
She broke off' laughing bitterly, and remained silent. Waymark would not urge her to continue. For a minute it seemed as if she would tell no more; she looked at her watch, and half arose.
"Oh, I may as well tell you all, now I've begun," she said, falling back again in a careless way. "You know what the end's going to be; never mind, at all events I'll try and make you understand how it came.
"The family I got into was a lady and her two grown-up daughters, and a son of about five-and-twenty. They lived in a small house at Shepherd's Bush. My wages were very small, and I soon found out that they were a kind of people who keep up a great deal of show on very little means. Of course I had to be let into all the secrets of their miserable shifts for dressing well on next to nothing at all, and they expected me -- mother and daughters -- to do the most wonderful and impossible things. I had to turn old rags into smart new costumes, to trim worn-out hats into all manner of gaudy shapes, even to patch up boots in a way you couldn't imagine. And they used to send me with money to buy things they were ashamed to go and buy themselves; then, if I hadn't laid out their few pence with marvellous result, they all but accused me of having used some of the money for myself. I had fortunately learnt a great deal with the old lady in Tottenham, or I couldn't have satisfied them for a day. I'm sure I did what few people could have done, and for all that they treated me from almost the first very badly. I had to be housemaid as well as lady's maid; the slavery left me every night worn out with exhaustion. And I hadn't even enough to eat. As time went on, they treated me worse and worse. They spoke to me often in a way that made my heart boil, as if they were so many queens, and I was some poor mean wretch who was honoured by being allowed to toil for them. Then they quarrelled among themselves unceasingly, and of course I had to bear all the bad temper. I never saw people hate one another like those three did; the sisters even scratched each other's faces in their fits of jealousy, and sometimes they both stormed at their mother till she went into hysterics, just because she couldn't give them more money. The only one in the house who ever spoke decently to me was the son -- Alfred Bolter, his name was. I suppose I felt grateful to him. Once or twice, when he met me on the stairs, he kissed me. I was too miserable even to resent it.
"I went about, day after day, in a dazed state, trying to make up my mind to leave the people, but I couldn't. I don't know how it was, I had never felt so afraid of being thrown out into the world again. I suppose it was bodily weakness, want of proper food, and overwork. I began to feel that the whole world was wronging me. Was there never to be anything for me but slaving? Was I never to have any enjoyment of life, like other people? I felt a need of pleasure, I didn't care how or what. I was always in a fever; everything was exaggerated to me. What was going to be my future? -- I kept asking myself. Was it only to be hard work, miserably paid, till I died? And I should die at last without having known what it was to enjoy my life. When I was allowed to go out -- it was very seldom -- I walked aimlessly about the streets, watching all the girls I passed, and fancying they all looked so happy, all enjoying their life so. I was growing thin and pale. I coughed, and began to think I was consumptive. A little more of it and I believe I should have become so really.
"It came to an end, suddenly and unexpectedly. All three, mother and daughters, had been worrying me through a whole morning, and at last one of them called me a downright fool, and said I wasn't worth the bread I ate. I turned on them. I can't remember a word I said, but speak I did, and in a way that astonished them; they shrank back from me, looking pale and frightened. I felt in that moment that I was a thousand times their superior; I believe I told them so. Then I rushed up to my room, packed my box, and went out into the street.
"I had just turned a corner, when some one came up to me, and it was Mr. Bolter. He had followed me from the house. He laughed, said I had done quite right, and asked me if I had any money. I shook my head. He walked on by me, and talked. The end was, that he found me rooms, and provided for me.
"I had not the least affection for him, but he had pleasant, gentlemanly ways, and it scarcely even occurred to me to refuse his offers. I was reckless; what happened to me mattered little, as long as I had not to face hard work. I needed rest. For one in my position there was, I saw well enough, only one way of getting it. I took that way."
Ida had told this in a straightforward, unhesitating manner, not meeting her companion's gaze, yet not turning away. One would have said that judgments upon her story were indifferent to her; she simply related past events. In a moment, she resumed.
"Do you remember, on the night when you first met me, a man following us in the street?"
"He was a friend of Alfred Bolter's, and sometimes we met him when we went to the theatre, and such places. That is the only person I ever hated from the first sight, -- hated and dreaded in a way I could not possibly explain."
"But why do you mention him?" asked Waymark. "What is his name?"
"His name is Edwards," returned Ida, pronouncing it as if the sound excited loathing in her. "I had been living in this way for nearly half-a-year, when one day this man called and came up to my sitting-room. He said he had an appointment with Mr. Bolter, who would come presently. I sat scarcely speaking, but he talked on. Presently, Mr. Bolter came. He seemed surprised to find the other man with me, and almost at once turned round and went out again. Edwards followed him, saying to me that he wondered what it all meant. The meaning was made clear to me a few hours after. There came a short note from Mr. Bolter, saying that he had suspected that something was wrong, and that under the circumstances he could of course only say good-bye.
I can't say that I was sorry; I can't say that I was glad. I despised him for his meanness, not even troubling myself to try and make sure of what had happened. The same night Edwards came to see me again, made excuses, blamed his friend, shuffled here and there, and gave me clearly to understand what he wanted. I scarcely spoke, only told him to go away, and that he need never speak to me anywhere or at any time; it would be useless. Well, I changed my lodgings for those I now have, and simply began the life I now -- the life I have been leading. Work was more impossible for me than ever, and I had to feed and clothe myself."
"How long ago was that?" asked Waymark, without looking up.
Ida rose from the beach. The tide had gone down some distance; there were stretches of smooth sand, already dry in the sunshine.
"Let us walk back on the sands," she said, pointing.
"You are going home?"
"Yes, I want to rest a little. I will meet you again about eight o'clock, if you like."
Waymark accompanied her as far as the door, then strolled on to his own lodgings, which were near at hand. It was only the second day that they had been in Hastings, yet it seemed to him as if he had been walking about on the seashore with Ida for weeks. For all that, he felt that he was not as near to her now as he had been on certain evenings in London, when his arrival was to her a manifest pleasure, and their talk unflagging from hour to hour. She did not show the spirit of holiday, seemed weary from time to time, was too often preoccupied and indisposed to talk. True, she had at length fulfilled her promise of telling him the whole of her story, but even this increase of confidence Waymark's uneasy mind strangely converted into fresh source of discomfort to himself. She had made this revelation -- he half believed -- on purpose to keep up the distance between them, to warn him how slight occasion had led her from what is called the path of virtue, that he might not delude himself into exaggerated estimates of her character. Such a thought could of course only be due to the fact that Ida's story had indeed produced something of this impression upon her hearer. Waymark had often busied himself with inventing all manner of excuses for her, had exerted his imagination to the utmost to hit upon some most irresistible climax of dolorous circumstances to account for her downfall. He had yet to realise that circumstances are as relative in their importance as everything else in this world, and that ofttimes the greatest tragedies revolve on apparently the most insignificant outward events -- personality being all.
He spent the hours of her absence in moving from place to place, fretting in mind. At one moment, he half determined to bring things to some issue, by disregarding all considerations and urging his love upon her. Yet this he felt he could not do. Surely -- he asked himself angrily he was not still so much in the thraldom of conventionality as to be affected by his fresh reminder of her position and antecedents? Perhaps not quite so much prejudice as experience which disturbed him. He was well acquainted with the characteristics of girls of this class; he knew how all but impossible it is for them to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And there was one thing particularly in Ida's story that he found hard to credit; was it indeed likely that she had not felt more than she would confess for this man whose mistress she became so easily? If she had not, if what she said were true, was not this something like a proof of her lack of that refined sentiment which is, the capacity for love, in its real sense? Torturing doubts and reasonings of this kind once set going in a brain already confused with passion, there is no limit to the range of speculation opened; Waymark found himself -- in spite of everything -- entertaining all his old scepticism. In any case, had he the slightest ground for the hope that she might ever feel to him as warmly as he did to her? He could not recall one instance of Ida's having betrayed a trace of fondness in her intercourse with him. The mere fact of their intercourse he altogether lost sight of. Whereas an outsider would, under the circumstances, have been justified in laying the utmost stress on this, Waymark had grown to accept it as a matter of course, and only occupied himself with Ida's absolute self-control, her perfect calmness in all situations, the ease with which she met his glance, the looseness of her hand in his, the indifference with which she heard him when he had spoken of his loneliness and frequent misery. Where was the key of her character? She did not care for admiration; it was quite certain that she was not leading him about just to gratify her own vanity. Was it not purely an intellectual matter? She was a girl of superior intellect, and, having found in him some one with whom she could satisfy her desire for rational converse, did she not on this account keep up their relations? For the rest -- well, she liked ease and luxury; above all, ease. Of that she would certainly make no sacrifice. How well he could imagine the half-annoyed, half-contemptuous smile which would rise to her beautiful face, if he were so foolish as to become sentimental with her! That, he felt, would be a look not easy to bear. Humiliation he dreaded.
When eight o'clock came, he was leaning over the end of the pier, at the appointed spot, still busy in thought. There came a touch on his arm.
"Well, are you thinking how you can make a book out of my story?"
The touch, the voice, the smile, -- how all his sophistry was swept away in a rush of tenderness and delight!
"I must wait for the end of it," he returned, holding out his hand, which she did not take.
"The end? -- Oh, you must invent one. Ends in real life are so commonplace and uninteresting."
"Commonplace or not," said Waymark, with some lack of firmness in his voice, "the end of your story should not be an unhappy one, if I had the disposing of it. And I might have -- but for one thing."
"What's that?" she asked, with sudden interest.
"My miserable poverty. If I only had money -- money"----
"Money!" she exclaimed, turning away almost angrily. Then she added, with the coldness which she did not often use, but which, when she did, chilled and checked him -- "I don't understand you."
He pointed with a bitter smile down to the sands.
"Look at that gold of the sunset in the pools the tide has left. It is the most glorious colour in nature, but it makes me miserable by reminding me of the metal it takes its name from."
She looked at him with eyes which had in them a strange wonder, sad at first, then full of scorn, of indignation. And then she laughed, drawing herself away from him. The laugh irritated him. He experienced a terrible revulsion of feeling, from the warmth and passion which had possessed him, to that humiliation, which he could not bear.
And just now a number of people came and took their stands close by, in a gossiping group. Ida had half turned away, and was looking at the golden pools. He tried to say something, but his tongue was dry, and the word would not come. Presently, she faced him again, and said, in very much her ordinary tone --
"I was going to tell you that I have just had news from London, which makes it necessary for me to go back to-morrow. I shall have to take an early train."
"This is because I have offended you," Waymark said, moving nearer to her. "You had no thought of going before that."
"I am not surprised that you refuse to believe me," returned Ida, smiling very faintly. "Still, it is the truth. And now I must go in again; -- I am very tired."
"No," he exclaimed as she moved away, "you must not go in till -- till you have forgotten me. At least come away to a quiet place, where I can speak freely to you; these people"----
"To-morrow morning," she said, waving her hand wearily. "I can't talk now -- and indeed there is no need to speak of this at all. I have forgotten it."
"No, you have not; how could you? -- And you will not go to-morrow; you shall not."
"Yes, I must," she returned firmly.
"Then I shall go with you."
"As you like. I shall leave by the express at five minutes past nine."
"Then I shall be at the station. But at least I may walk home with you?"
"No, please. If you wish me to think you are sincere, -- if you wish us still to be friends -- stay till I have left the pier. -- Good night."
He muttered a return, and stood watching her as she walked quietly away.
When it was nearly midnight, Ida lay on her bed, dressed, as she had lain since her return home. For more than an hour she had cried and sobbed in blank misery, cried as never since the bitter days long ago, just after her mother's death. Then, the fit over, something like a reaction of calm followed, and as she lay perfectly still in the darkness, her regular breathing would have led one to believe her asleep. But she was only thinking, and in deed very far from sleep The long day in the open air had so affected her eyes that, as she looked up at the ceiling, it seemed to her to be a blue space, with light clouds constantly flitting across it. Presently this impression became painful, and a growing restlessness made her rise. The heat of the room was stifling, for just above was the roof, upon which all day the sun had poured its rays. She threw open the window, and drank in the air. The night was magnificent, flooded with warm moonlight, and fragrant with sea breathings. Ida felt an irresistible desire to leave the house and go down to the shore, which she could not see from her window; the tide, she remembered, would just now be full, and to walk by it in the solitude of midnight would bring her that peace and strength of soul she so much needed. She put on her hat and cloak, and went downstairs. The front door was only latched, and, as she had her key, no doubt she would be able to let herself in at any hour.
The streets were all but deserted, and, when she came to the beach, no soul was anywhere visible. She walked towards the place where she had spent the afternoon with Waymark, then onwards still further to the east, till there was but a narrow space between the water and the cliffs. Breakers there were none, not more ripple at the clear tide-edge than on the border of a little lake. So intense was the silence that every now and then could be distinctly heard a call on one of the fishing-boats lying some distance from shore. The town was no longer in sight.
It was close even here; what little breeze there was brushed the face like the warm wing of a passing bird. Ida dipped her hands in the water and sprinkled it upon her forehead. Then she took off her boots and stockings, and walked with her feet in the ripples. A moment after she stopped, and looked all around, as if hesitating at some thought, and wishing to see that her solitude was secure. Just then the sound of a clock came very faintly across the still air, striking the hour of one. She stepped from the water a few paces, and began hastily to put off her clothing; in a moment her feet were again in the ripples, and she was walking out from the beach, till her gleaming body was hidden. Then she bathed, breasting the full flow with delight, making the sundered and broken water flash myriad reflections of the moon and stars.
Waymark was at the station next morning half an hour before train-time. He waited for Ida's arrival before taking his ticket. She did not come. He walked about in feverish impatience, plaguing himself with all manner of doubt and apprehension. The train came into the station, and yet she had not arrived. It started, and no sign of her.
He waited yet five minutes, then walked hastily into the town, and to Ida's lodgings. Miss Starr, he was told, had left very early that morning; if he was Mr. Waymark, there was a note to be delivered to him.
"I thought it better that I should go to London by an earlier train, for we should not have been quite at our ease with each other. I beg you will not think my leaving you is due to anything but necessity -- indeed it is not. I shall not be living at the old place, but any letter you send there I shall get. I cannot promise to reply at once, but hope you will let me do so when I feel able to.
Waymark took the next train to town.
Some twenty years before the date we have reached, the Rev. Paul Enderby, a handsome young man, endowed with moral and intellectual qualities considerably above the average, lived and worked in a certain small town of Yorkshire.
He had been here for two years, an unmarried man; now it was made known that this state of things was to come to an end; moreover, to the disappointment of not a few households, it was understood that the future Mrs. Enderby had been chosen from among his own people, in London. The lady came, and there was a field-day of criticism. Mrs. Enderby looked very young, and was undeniably pretty; she had accomplishments, and evidently liked to exhibit them before her homely visitors. She exaggerated the refinement of her utterance that it might all the more strike off against the local accent. It soon became clear that she would be anything but an assistance to her husband in his parochial work; one or two attempts were made, apparently with good will, at intercourse with the poor parishioners, but the enterprise was distinctly a failure; it had to be definitively given up. Presently a child was born in the parsonage, and for a little while the young mother's attention was satisfactorily engaged at home. The child was a girl and received the name of Maud.
Paul Enderby struggled to bate no jot of his former activity, but a change was obvious to all. No less obvious the reason of it. Mrs. Enderby's reckless extravagance had soon involved her husband in great difficulties. He was growing haggard; his health was failing; his activity shrank within the narrowest possible limits; he shunned men's gaze.
Yet all at once there happened something which revived much of his old zeal, and, in spite of everything, brought him once more prominently forward. A calamity had visited the town. By a great explosion in a neighbouring colliery, numbers of homes had been rendered destitute, and aid of every kind was imperatively called for on all sides. In former times, Paul Enderby would have been just the man for this occasion, and even now he was not wanting. Extensive subscriptions were raised, and he, as chief man in the committee which had been formed, had chief control of the funds. People said afterwards that they had often remarked something singular in his manner as he went about in these duties. Whether that was true or not, something more than singular happened when, some two months later, accounts were being investigated and cleared up. Late one evening, Mr. Enderby left home, -- and never returned to it. It was very soon known that he must have appropriated to his own use considerable sums which had reached his hands for charitable purposes, and the scandal was terrific. Mrs. Enderby and her child disappeared in a day or two. It was said that ladies from London had come and fetched her away, and she was no more heard of in that little town.
Miss Bygrave, an elder sister of Mrs. Enderby, had received a letter from Paul summoning her to the wife's aid: and this letter, dated from Liverpool, after disclosing in a few words the whole situation, went on to say that the writer, though he would never more be seen by those who knew him, would not fail to send his wife what money he could as often as he could. And, after half a year, sums had begun to be remitted, in envelopes bearing a Californian postmark. They were not much use, however, to Mrs. Enderby. A few days after her arrival at her home in London, she had been discovered hanging, with a rope round her neck, from a nail behind her bedroom door. Cut down in time, her life was saved, but reason had forsaken her. She was taken away to an asylum, and remained there for five years.
By that time, she seemed to have quite recovered. Her home was now to be with her sister, Theresa Bygrave. Her child, Maud Enderby, was nearly seven years old. Mrs. Enderby returned to the world not quite the same woman as when she left it. She had never lacked character, and this now showed itself in one immutable resolution. Having found that the child had learnt nothing of its parents, she determined that this ignorance should continue; or rather that it should be exchanged for the belief that those parents were both long dead. She dwelt apart, supported by her sister. Finally, after ten years' absence, Paul Enderby returned to England, and lived again with his wife. But Maud, their daughter, still believed herself alone in the world, save for her aunt, Miss Bygrave.
At the time when Waymark and Ida were together at Hastings, Mrs. Enderby called one evening at Miss Bygrave's house -- the house of Maud's childhood, still distinguished by the same coldness, bareness and gloom, the same silence echoing to a strange footfall. Theresa Bygrave had not greatly altered; tall, upright, clad in the plainest black garment, she walked into the room with silent dignity, and listened to a suggestion made by her brother-in-law.
"We have talked it over again," said Paul, "and we have decided to take this step."
He paused and watched the listener's face eagerly, glancing quickly away as soon as she looked up.
"And you still wish me to break it to Maud, and in the way you said?"
"If you will. -- But I do so wish you would let me know your own thoughts about this. You have so much claim to be considered. Maud is in reality yours far more than she is ours. Will it -- do you think now it will really be for our own happiness? Will the explanation you are able to give be satisfactory to her? What will be her attitude towards us? You know her character -- you understand her."
"If the future could be all as calm as the past year has been," said Miss Bygrave, "I should have nothing to urge against your wishes."
"And this will contribute to it," exclaimed Enderby. "This would give Emily the very support she needs."
Miss Bygrave looked into his face, which had a pleading earnestness, and a deep pity lay in her eyes.
"Let it be so," she said with decision. "I myself have much hope from Maud's influence. I will write and tell her not to renew her engagement, and she will be with us at the end of September."
"But you will not tell her anything till she comes?"
Miss Bygrave lived in all but complete severance from the world. When Maud Enderby was at school, she felt strongly and painfully the contrast between her own home life and that of her companions. The girl withdrew into solitary reading and thinking; grew ever more afraid of the world; and by degrees sought more of her aunt's confidence, feeling that here was a soul that had long since attained to the peace which she was vainly seeking.
But it was with effort that Miss Bygrave brought herself to speak to another of her form of faith. After that Christmas night when she addressed Maud for the first time on matters of religion, she had said no second word; she waited the effect of her teaching, and the girl's spontaneous recurrence to the subject. There was something in the very air of the still, chill house favourable to ascetic gravity. A young girl, living under such circumstances, must either pine away, eating her own heart, or become a mystic, and find her daily food in religious meditation.
Only when her niece was seventeen years old did Miss Bygrave speak to her of worldly affairs. Her own income, she explained, was but just sufficient for their needs, and would terminate upon her death; had Maud thought at all of what course she would choose when the time for decision came? Naturally, only one thing could suggest itself to the girl's mind, and that was to become a teacher. To begin with, she took subordinate work in the school where she had been a pupil; later, she obtained the engagement at Dr. Tootle's.
An education of this kind, working upon Maud Enderby's natural temperament, resulted in an abnormal character, the chief trait of which was remarkable as being in contradiction to the spirit of her time. She was oppressed with the consciousness of sin. Every most natural impulse of her own heart she regarded as a temptation to be resisted with all her strength. Her ideal was the same as Miss Bygrave's, but she could not pursue it with the latter's assured calm; at every moment the voice of her youth spoke within her, and became to her the voice of the enemy. Her faith was scarcely capable of formulation in creeds; her sins were not of omission or commission in the literal sense; it was an attitude of soul which she sought to attain, though ever falling away. What little she saw of the world in London, and afterwards at her home by the sea-side, only served to increase the trouble of her conscience, by making her more aware of her own weakness. For instance, the matter of her correspondence with Waymark. In very truth, the chief reason why she had given him the permission he asked of her was, that before so sudden and unexpected a demand she found herself confused and helpless; had she been able to reflect, the temptation would probably have been resisted, for the pleasantness of the thought made her regard it as a grave temptation. Casuistry and sophistical reasoning with her own heart ensued, to the increase of her morbid sensitiveness; she persuaded herself that greater insight into the world's evil would be of aid in her struggle, and so the contents of Waymark's first letter led her to a continuance of the correspondence. A power of strong and gloomy description which she showed in her letters, and which impressed Waymark, afforded the key to her sufferings; her soul in reality was that of an artist, and, whereas the artist should be free from everything like moral prepossession, Maud's æsthetic sensibilities were in perpetual conflict with her moral convictions. She could not understand herself, seeing that her opportunities had never allowed her to obtain an idea of the artistic character. This irrepressible delight and interest in the active life of the world, what could it be but the tendency to evil, most strongly developed? These heart-burnings whenever she witnessed men and women rejoicing in the exercise of their natural affections, what could that be but the proneness to evil in its grossest form?
It was naturally a great surprise to Maud when she received the letter from her aunt, which asked her not to continue her engagement into the new quarter, giving as a reason merely that the writer wished for her at home. It was even with something of dread and shrinking that she looked forward to a renewal of the old life. Still, it was enough that her aunt had need of her. On her return to London, she was met with strange revelations. Miss Bygrave's story had been agreed upon between herself and Paul. It had been deemed best to make Mrs. Enderby's insanity the explanation of Maud's removal from her parents, and the girl, stricken as she was with painful emotions, seemed to accept this undoubtingly.
The five years or so since Paul Enderby's reappearance in England seemed to have been not unprosperous. The house to which Maud was welcomed by her father and mother was not a large one, and not in a very fashionable locality, but it was furnished with elegance. Mrs. Enderby frequently had her hired brougham, and made use of it to move about a good deal where people see and are seen. Mr. Enderby's business was "in the City." How he had surmounted his difficulties was not very clear; his wife learned that he had brought with him from America a scheme for the utilisation of waste product in some obscure branch of manufacture, which had been so far successful as to supply him with a small capital. He seemed to work hard, leaving home at nine each morning, getting back to dinner at half-past six, and, as often as not, spending the evening away from home, and not returning till the small hours. He had the feverish eye of a man whose subsistence depends upon speculative acuteness and restless calculation. No doubt he was still so far the old Paul, that, whatever he undertook, he threw himself into it with surpassing vigour.
Mrs. Enderby was in her thirty-eighth year, and still handsome. Most men, at all events, would have called her so, for most men are attracted by a face which is long, delicate, characterless, and preserves late the self-conscious expression of a rather frivolous girl of seventeen. She had ideals of her own, which she pursued regardless of the course in which they led her; and these ideals were far from ignoble. To beauty of all kinds she was passionately sensitive. As a girl she had played the piano well, and, though the power had gone from long disuse, music was still her chief passion. Graceful ease, delicacy in her surroundings, freedom from domestic cares, the bloom of flowers, sweet scents -- such things made up her existence. She loved her husband, and had once worshipped him; she loved her recovered daughter; but both affections were in her, so to speak, of æsthetic rather than of moral quality.
Intercourse between Maud and her parents, now that they lived together, was, as might have been expected, not altogether natural or easy. She came to them with boundless longings, ready to expend in a moment the love of a lifetime; they, on their side, were scarcely less full of warm anticipation; yet something prevented the complete expression of this mutual yearning. The fault was not in the father and mother if they hung back somewhat; in very truth, Maud's pure, noble countenance abashed them. This, their child, was so much the superior of them both; they felt it from the first moment, and could never master the consciousness. Maud mistook this for coldness; it checked and saddened her. Yet time brought about better things, though the ideal would never be attained. In her father, the girl found much to love; her mother she could not love as she had hoped, but she regarded her with a vast tenderness, often with deep compassion. Much of sympathy, moreover, there was between these two. Maud's artistic temperament was inherited from her mother, but she possessed it in a stronger degree, of purer quality, and under greater restraint. This restraint, however, did not long continue to be exercised as hitherto. Life for the first time was open before her, and the music which began to fill her ears, the splendour which shone into her eyes, gradually availed to still that inner voice which had so long spoken to her in dark admonishings. She could not resign herself absolutely to the new delight; it was still a conflict; but from the conflict itself she derived a kind of joy, born of the strength of her imagination.
Yes, there was one portion of the past which dwelt with her, and by degrees busied her thoughts more and more. The correspondence with Waymark had ceased, and by her own negligence. In those days of mental disturbance which preceded her return to London, his last letter had reached her, and this she had not replied to. It had been her turn to write, but she had not felt able to do so; it had seemed to her, indeed, that, with her return home, the correspondence would naturally come to an end; with a strange ignorance of herself, such as now and then darkens us, she had suddenly come to attach little value to the connection. Not improbably, Waymark's last two letters had been forced and lacking in interest. He had never said anything which could be construed into more than an expression of friendly interest, or intellectual sympathy. It may be that Maud's condition, dimly prophetic of the coming change, required more than this, and she conceived a certain dissatisfaction. Then came the great event, and for some weeks she scarcely thought of her correspondent. One day, however, she chanced upon the little packet of his letters, and read them through again. It was with new eyes. Thoughts spoke to her which had not been there on the first reading. Waymark had touched at times on art and kindred subjects, and only now could she understand his meaning. She felt that, in breaking off her connection with him, she had lost the one person who could give her entire sympathy; to whom she might have spoken with certainty of being understood, of all the novel ideas which possessed her; who, indeed, would have been invaluable as a guide in the unknown land she was treading. It was now almost the end of the year; more than three months had gone by since she received that last letter from him. Could she write now, and let him know that she was in London? She could not but give expression to her altered self; and would he be able to understand her? Yet, -- she needed him; and there was something of her mother in the fretting to which she was now and then driven by the balked desire. At length she was on the point of writing a letter, with whatever result, when chance spared her the trouble.
One morning in December, she went with her mother to an exhibition of pictures in Bond Street. Such visits had been common of late; Mrs. Enderby could rarely occupy herself at home, and pictures, as everything beautiful, always attracted her. They had been in the gallery a few minutes only, when Maud recognised Waymark close at hand. He was looking closely at a canvas, and seemed quite unaware of her proximity. She laid her hand on her mother's arm, and spoke in a nervous whisper.
"Mother, I know that gentleman."
"This one?" asked Mrs. Enderby, indicating Waymark, with a smile. She showed no surprise, any more than she would have done had Maud been only her friend.
"Yes. If he should notice me, may I introduce him to you? He was at the school where I taught a year ago."
"Why, certainly, my love," replied her mother, with cheerful assent. "It is quite natural that you should have acquaintances I should like to know. Shall I ask him to come and see us?"
There was no opportunity of answering. Waymark, in moving on, had glanced round at the groups of people, and his eye had fallen on Maud. He seemed uncertain; looked quickly away; glanced again, and, meeting her eyes, raised his hat, though still without conviction in his face. Maud came naturally forward a step or two, and they shook hands; then at once she introduced him to her mother. No one ever experienced awkward pauses in Mrs. Enderby's presence; conversation linked itself with perfect ease, and in a minute they were examining the pictures together. Mrs. Enderby had made up her mind with regard to her new acquaintance in one or two gleams of her quick eyes, and then talked on in an eager, intelligent way, full of contagious enthusiasm, which soon brought out Waymark's best powers. Maud said very little. Whenever it was possible unobserved, she gazed at Waymark's face. She found herself thinking that, in external appearance, he had improved since she last saw him. He had no longer that hungry, discontented look to which she had grown accustomed in the upper schoolroom at Dr. Tootle's; his eye seemed at once quieter and keener; his complexion was brighter; the habitual frown had somewhat smoothed away. Then, he was more careful in the matter of dress. On the whole, it seemed probable that his circumstances had changed for the better.
Waymark, on his side, whilst he talked, was not less full of speculation about Maud. For the change in her appearance was certainly much more noticeable than it could be in his own. Not only that she had put aside her sad-coloured and poor raiment for a costume of tasteful and attractive simplicity -- this, of course, her mother's doing -- but the look of shrinking, almost of fear, which he had been wont to see on her face, was entirely gone. Her eyes seemed for ever intelligent of new meanings; she was pale, but with the pallor of eager, joy-bringing thought. There was something pathetic in this new-born face; the lips seemed still to speak of past sorrows, or, it might be, to hold unspoken a sad fate half-foreseen.
If this renewal of acquaintanceship came just at the right time for Maud, it was no less welcome to Waymark. When he wrote his last letter to her, it had proceeded more from a sense of obligation than any natural impulse. For he was then only just recovering from a period of something like despair. His pursuit of Ida Starr to London had been fruitless. It was true that she had left her former abode, and the landlady professed to be ignorant of her new one, though she admitted that she had seen Ida scarcely two hours before Waymark's arrival. He wrote, but had no reply. His only comfort was an ever-rising suspicion of the truth (as he would learn it later), but fears were, on the whole, strongest within him. Confidence in her he had not. All the reflections of that last evening on Hastings pier lived and re-lived in his mind; outcome of the cynicism which was a marked feature in his development, and at the same time tending to confirm it. She had been summoned back suddenly by a letter; who but a simpleton could doubt what that meant? He thought of Sally, of course, and the step she had taken; but could he draw conclusions about Ida from Sally, and did ever two such instances come within a man's experience? To Sally herself he had naturally had recourse, but in vain. She said that she knew nothing of the lost girl. So Waymark fought it out, to the result of weariness; then plunged into his work again, and had regained very much his ordinary state of mind when Maud Enderby unexpectedly came before him.
He called upon the Enderbys, and was soon invited to dine, which necessitated the purchase of a dress suit. On the appointed evening, he found Maud and her mother in a little drawing-room, which had a pleasant air of ease and refinement. It was a new sensation for Waymark as he sank into a soft chair, and, in speaking, lowered his voice, to suit the quietness of the room. The soft lamp-light spreading through the coloured shade, the just perceptible odour of scent when Mrs. Enderby stirred, the crackling of the welcome fire, filled him with a sense of luxury to which he was not accustomed. He looked at Maud. She was beautiful in her evening dress; and, marking the grave, sweet thoughtfulness of her face, the grace of her movements, the air of purity which clung about her, his mind turned to Ida Starr, and experienced a shock at the comparison. Where was Ida at this moment? The mere possibilities which such a question brought before his mind made him uneasy, almost as if he had forgotten himself and uttered aloud some word all unfit for ladies' ears. The feeling was a novel one, and, in afterwards recalling it, he could smile rather contemptuously, If we are enraptured with one particular flower, shall we necessarily despise another, whose beauty and perfume happen to be of quite a different kind?
Mr. Enderby appeared, followed by another gentleman. Waymark noticed an unpleasant heat in the hand held out to him; there was a flush in Paul's cheeks, too, and his eyes were very bright. He greeted the visitor with somewhat excessive warmth, then turned and introduced his companion, by the name of Mr. Rudge.
Waymark observed that this gentleman and his hostess were on terms of lively intimacy. They talked much throughout the evening.
During the three months that followed, Waymark's intercourse with the Enderbys was pretty frequent. Mrs. Enderby asked few questions about him, and Maud was silent after she had explained Waymark's position, so far as she was acquainted with it, and how she had come to know him. To both parents, the fact of Maud's friendship was a quite sufficient guarantee, so possessed were they with a conviction of the trustworthiness of her judgment, and the moral value of her impulses. In Waymark's character there was something which women found very attractive; strength and individuality are perhaps the words that best express what it was, though these qualities would not in themselves have sufficed to give him his influence, without a certain gracefulness of inward homage which manifested itself when he talked with women, a suggestion, too, of underlying passion which works subtly on a woman's imagination. There was nothing commonplace in his appearance and manner; one divined in him a past out of the ordinary range of experiences, and felt the promise of a future which would, in one way or another, be remarkable.
The more Waymark saw of Maud Enderby the more completely did he yield to the fascination of her character. In her presence he enjoyed a strange calm of spirit. For the first time he knew a woman who by no word or look or motion could stir in him a cynical thought. Here was something higher than himself, a nature which he had to confess transcended the limits of his judgment, a soul with insight possibly for ever denied to himself. He was often pained by the deference with which she sought his opinion or counsel; the words in which he replied to her sounded so hollow; he became so often and so keenly sensible of his insincerity, -- a quality which, with others, he could consciously rely upon as a resource, but which, before Maud, stung him. He was driven to balance judgments, to hesitate in replies, to search his own heart, as perhaps never before.
Artificial good humour, affected interest, mock sympathy, were as far from her as was the least taint of indelicacy; every word she uttered rang true, and her very phrases had that musical fall which only associates itself with beautiful and honest thought. She never exhibited gaiety, or a spirit of fun, but could raise a smile by an exquisite shade of humour -- humour which, as the best is, was more than half sadness. Nor was she fond of mixing with people whom she did not know well; when there was company at dinner, she generally begged to be allowed to dine alone. Though always anxious to give pleasure to her parents, she was most happy when nothing drew her from her own room; there she would read and dream through hours There were times when the old dreaded feelings took revenge; night-wakings, when she lay in cold anguish, yearning for the dawn. She was not yet strong enough to face past and future, secured in attained conviction. As yet, she could not stir beyond the present, and in the enjoyment of the present was her strength.
It was one Wednesday evening in early April, that Waymark found a letter awaiting him, addressed in a hand he at once recognised.
"Will you come and see me? I am at home after eight o'clock till the end of the week, and all day on Sunday.
No distinct pleasure was aroused in Waymark as he read this. As was always the case for hours after he had left Maud's presence, her face and voice lived with him to the exclusion of every other thought. There was even something of repulsion in the feeling excited by his thus having the memory of Ida brought suddenly before him; her face came as an unwelcome intruder upon the calm, grave mood which always possessed him on these evenings. In returning home each Wednesday night, Waymark always sought the speediest and quietest route, unwilling to be brought in contact with that life of the streets which at other times delighted him. Ida's note seemed a summons from that world which, for the moment, he held at a distance. But the call was not to be silenced at his will. He began to wonder about her life during the past half-year. Why had she written just now, after so long a silence? Where, and under what circumstances, should he meet her? Did she think to find him the same as when they last talked together?
Through the night he woke constantly, and always with thoughts busy about Ida. In the morning his first impulse was to re-read her message; received so carelessly, it had in the meantime become of more account, and Waymark laughed in his wonted way as he saw himself thus swayed between forces he could not control. The ordinary day's task was neglected, and he impatiently waited for the hour when he could be sure of finding Ida at home. The address was at Fulham, and, on reaching it, he found a large new block of the kind known as model lodging-houses. Ida's number was up at the very top. When he knocked, the door opened immediately, and she stood there, holding out her hand to him.
She wore the same dress that she had worn at Hastings, but the gold brooch and watch-chain were missing, and her hair was arranged in a simpler way. She was a trifle pale, perhaps, but that might be due to the excitement of the moment; her voice shook a little as she spoke.
Waymark looked about him as he went in. There appeared to be two rooms, one of them a very small bedroom, the other fitted with a cooking-grate and oven; the kind of tenement suitable to very poor working-people. The floors were bare, and there was nothing in the way of furniture beyond the most indispensable articles: a table, two chairs, and a few cups, saucers, and plates on a shelf; through the half-open door, he saw that the bed-room was equally plain. A fire was burning, and a kettle on it; and in front, on a little square piece of carpet, lay Ida's inseparable friend, Grim. Grim had lifted his head at Waymark's entrance, and, with gathering curiosity in his eyes, slowly stood up; then stretched himself, and, looking first at one, then at the other, waited in doubt.
Ida stooped and took him up in her arms.
"And who's this?" she asked, talking to him as one talks to a child, whilst she pressed his warm black cheek against her own. "Does Grim remember who this is? We still keep together," she added, looking at Waymark. "All day long, whilst I'm away, he keeps house; I'm often afraid he suffers dreadfully from loneliness, but, you see, I'm obliged to lock him in. And he knows exactly the time when I come home. I always find him sitting on that chair by the door, waiting, waiting, oh so patiently! And I often bring him back something nice, don't I, Grimmy? You should see how delighted he is as soon as I enter the door."
Ida was changed, and in many ways. She seemed to have grown younger; in her voice and manner there was a girlishness which was quite new to Waymark. Her motions were lighter and nimbler; there was no longer that slow grace of step and carriage which had expressed absolute leisure, and with it had gone, perhaps, something of dignity, which used to sit so well upon her. She laughed from time to time in a free, careless way; formerly she seldom did more than smile. In the old days, there was nothing about her suggestive of what are called the domestic virtues; now she seemed perfectly at home amid these simple surroundings, and, almost as soon as her visitor had sat down, she busied herself in laying the table in a quick, ready way, which came of the habit of waiting upon herself.
"You'll have a cup of tea with me?" she said, looking at Waymark with the curiosity which seemed to show that she also found something changed in him. "I only get home about eight o'clock, and this is the quietest and pleasantest meal in the day for me."
"What do you do all day, then?" Waymark asked, softening the bluntness of his question with a smile.
She stepped near to him, and held out her hands for him to look at; then, as he met her eyes again, laughed merrily.
"Do you guess?" she asked.
"I believe I can. You have gone back to the laundry again?"
"And how long is it since you did so?"
"How long is it since we last saw each other?"
"Did you begin at once when you returned to London?"
Waymark kept silence, whilst Ida poured out a cup of tea for him, and then took her seat at the table.
"Don't you think I'm comfortable here?" Ida said. "It's like having a house of my own. I see nothing of the other people in the building, and feel independent."
"Did you buy the furniture yourself?"
"Yes; just the things I couldn't do without. I pay only three-and-sixpence a week, and so long as I can earn that, I'm sure at all events of a home, where I can be happy or miserable, as I please."
Waymark wondered. There was no mistaking the genuineness of her tone. What, then, had been the reason for this astonishing change, a change extending, it would seem, almost to temperament? What intermediate phases had led up to this result? He wished to ask her for an explanation, but to do so would be to refer to the condition she had left, and that he did not wish to do. All would no doubt explain itself as they talked; in the meantime she told him how her days were ordered, and the details of her life.
"Have you brought your pipe?" she asked, when they had drank their tea.
"May I smoke?"
"Of course, -- just as you used to."
"But it is not the same," Waymark said, half to himself.
"Are you sorry for the change?" Ida asked, as she handed him a box of matches.
"What induced you to make it?"
"Oh, I have strange fancies. The idea came, just like others do. Are you sorry?"
"The opposite. Did the idea come whilst we were at Hastings?"
"Before that. Do you remember my telling you that I had a letter calling me back to London?"
"It was from the laundry, to say I could go to work as soon as I liked."
"And why didn't you tell me that?"
Ida seemed about to reply, but altered her intention, and, after being silent for a moment, asked another question.
"Did you think you would ever hear from me?"
"I had given up hope."
"And did you wonder what had become of me?"
"Often. Why didn't you write before?"
"I wasn't ready."
"What does that mean?" Waymark asked, looking closely at her.
"Perhaps I shall be able to explain some day. If not, well, it won't matter."
"And will you let me see you often?" said Waymark, after thinking a little. "Are we to be friends again, as we used to be?"
"If you would care for it."
Waymark turned away as their eyes met.
"Certainly I should care for it," he said, feeling all at once a difficulty in speaking naturally. Then he looked at Ida again; she was bending down and stroking Grim's ears. There was rather a long silence, which Waymark at length forced himself to break.
"Shall I bring you books again?" he said.
"I have very little time for reading," was Ida's reply. "It's better, perhaps, that it is so."
"Perhaps it would make me discontented with my work, and want all sorts of things I couldn't have."
"You have your Sundays free?" Waymark said, after another rather long silence.
"Then we must have some expeditions again, now that the fine days have come. By the by, do you ever see Sally?"
Ida looked up with a smile and said, "Yes; do you?"
"No; but I hear of her."
"From your friend?"
"Yes, from O'Gree."
"Do your other friends still live near you?" Ida asked, speaking quickly, as if to interrupt what Waymark was about to say.
"The Castis? Oh yes."
"What is Mrs. Casti like?" she said, in a tone which attracted Waymark's attention.
"Well," he replied, "it's difficult to describe her. There's nothing very good about her, and I suppose nothing very bad. I see little of her now; she's almost always ill."
"What's the matter with her?"
"Can't say; general weakness and ill health, I think?"
"But she's so young, isn't she? Has she friends to go and see her?"
"Very few, I think."
"It must be dreadful to be like that," said Ida. "I'm thankful that I have my health, at all events. Loneliness isn't so hard to bear, as it must he in illness."
"Do you feel lonely?"
"A little, sometimes," said Ida. "But it's ungrateful to poor old Grim to say so."
"Have you no acquaintances except the people you work with?"
She shook her head.
"And you don't read? Wouldn't you like to go on reading as you used to? You have a better head than most women, and it's a pity not to make use of it. That's all nonsense about in making you discontented. You won't always be living like this, I suppose."
"Why not?" Ida asked simply.
"Well," said Waymark, without meeting her look, "even if you do, it will be gain to you to cultivate your mind?"
"Do you wish me to cultivate my mind?"
"You know I do."
Waymark seemed uneasy. He rose and leaned against the mantelpiece.
"I will do whatever you bid me," Ida said. "I can get an hour or so each night, and I have all Sunday."
Waymark felt only too well the effect of the tone he was adopting. The situation was by this time clear enough to him, and his own difficulties no less clear. He avoided looking at Ida as much as he could. A change had again come over her manner; the girlishness was modified, the old sadder tone was audible at moments.
"If it's fine on Sunday," he said, "will you go with me to Richmond, and let us have dinner at the old place?"
"No," was Ida's reply, with a smile, "I can't afford it."
"But I invite you. Of course I didn't mean that it should be any expense."
She still shook her head.
"No, I must take my own share, wherever we go."
"Then I shall certainly refuse your cup of tea next time I come," said Waymark jestingly.
"That's quite different," said Ida. "But if you like, we can go in the afternoon, and walk about Roehampton; that I can afford."
"As you please. When shall I call for you?"
She opened the door for him, and held out her hand. Their eyes did not meet as they said good-bye. The door closed, and Waymark went so slowly down the stone steps that he seemed at every moment on the point of stopping and turning back.
Waymark and Julian Casti were sitting together in the former's room. It was Saturday evening -- two days after Waymark's visit to Ida. Julian had fallen into a sad reverie.
"How is your wife?" asked his friend, after watching the melancholy face for a while.
"She said her headache was worse to-night."
"Curiously," observed Waymark, with a little acidity, "it always is when you have to leave home."
Julian looked up, and seemed to reach a crisis in his thoughts.
"Waymark," he began, reddening as he still always did when greatly moved, "I fear I have been behaving very foolishly. Many a time I have wished to speak out to you plainly, but a sort of delicacy -- a wrong kind of delicacy, I think -- prevented me. I can't keep this attitude any longer. I must tell you how things are going on, and you must give me what help you can. And perhaps I shall be telling you what you already know?"
"I have suspected."
"Where is the blame?" Julian broke out, with sudden vehemence. "I cannot think that ever husband was more patient and more indulgent than I have been. I have refused her nothing that my means could possibly obtain. I have given up all the old quiet habits of my life that she mightn't think I slighted her; I scarcely ever open a book at home, knowing that it irritates her to see me reading; I do my best to amuse her at all times. How does she reward me? For ever she grumbles that I can't perform impossibilities, -- take her to theatres, buy her new dresses, procure for her friends and acquaintances. My wishes, expressed or understood, weigh with her less than the least of her own caprices. She wantonly does things which she knows will cause me endless misery. Her companions are gross and depraved people, who constantly drag her lower and lower, to their own level. The landlady has told me that, in my absence, women have called to see her who certainly ought not to enter any decent house. When I entreat her to give up such associates, her only answer is to accuse me of selfishness, since I have friends myself, and yet won't permit her to have any. And things have gone from bad to worse. Several nights of late, when I have got home, she has been away, and has not returned till much after midnight. Hour after hour I have sat there in the extremest misery, waiting, waiting, feeling as though my brain would burst with its strain! I have no idea where she goes to. If I ask, she only retorts by asking me where I spend the nights when I am with you, and laughs contemptuously when I tell her the truth. Her suspicions and jealousy are incessant, and torture me past endurance. Once or twice, I confess, I have lost patience, and have spoken angrily, too angrily; then she has accused me of brutal disregard of her sufferings. It would hurt me less if she pierced me with a knife. Only this morning there was a terrible scene; she maddened me past endurance by her wretched calumnies -- accusing me of I know not what disgraceful secrets -- and when words burst from me involuntarily, she fell into hysterics, and shrieked till all the people in the house ran up in alarm. Can you understand what this means to one of my temperament? To have my private affairs forced upon strangers in this way tortures me with the pains of hell. I am naturally reticent and retiring -- too much so, I dare say -- and no misery could have been devised for me more dreadful than this. Her accusations are atrocious, such as could only come from a grossly impure mind, or at the suggestion of vile creatures. You she hates with a rabid hatred -- God only knows why. She would hate any one who was my friend, and whose society relieved me for a moment from my ghastly torments!"
He ceased for very exhaustion, so terribly did the things he described work upon him.
"What am I to do, Waymark? Can you give me advice?"
Waymark had listened with his eyes cast down, and he was silent for some time after Julian ceased.
"You couldn't well ask for advice in a more difficult case," he said at length. "There's nothing for it but to strengthen yourself and endure. Force yourself into work. Try to forget her when she is out of sight."
"But," broke in Julian, "this amounts to a sentence of death! What of the life before me, of the years I shall have to spend with her? Work, forget myself, forget her, -- that is just what I cannot do! My nerves are getting weaker every day; I am beginning to have fits of trembling and horrible palpitation; my dreams are hideous with vague apprehensions, only to be realised when I wake. Work! Half my misery is caused by the thought that my work is at an end for ever. It is all forsaking me, the delight of imagining great things, what power I had of putting my fancies into words, the music that used to go with me through the day's work. It is long since I wrote a line of verse. Quietness, peace, a calm life of thought, these things are what I must have; I thought I should have them in a higher degree than ever, and I find they are irretrievably lost. I feel my own weakness, as I never could before. When you bid me strengthen myself, you tell me to alter my character. The resolution needed to preserve the better part of my nature through such a life as this, will never be within my reach. It is fearful to think of what I shall become as time goes on. I dread myself! There have been revealed to me depths of passion and misery in my own heart which I had not suspected. I shall lose all self-control, and become as selfish and heedless as she is."
"No, you will not," said Waymark encouragingly. "This crisis will pass over, and strength will be developed. We have a wonderful faculty for accommodating ourselves to wretchedness; how else would the world have held together so long? When you begin to find your voice again, maybe you won't sing of the dead world any longer, but of the living and suffering. Your thoughts were fine; they showed you to be a poet; but I have never hidden from you how I wished that you had been on my side. Art, nowadays, must be the mouthpiece of misery, for misery is the key-note of modern life."
They talked on, and Julian, so easily moulded by a strong will, became half courageous.
"One of her reproaches," he said, "is just; I can't meet it. If I object to her present companions it is my duty to find her more suitable ones. She lives too much alone. No doubt it is every husband's duty to provide his wife with society. But how am I to find it? I am so isolated, and always have been. I know not a soul who could be a friend to her."
Waymark grew thoughtful, and kept silent.
"One person I know," he said presently, and in a cautious way, "who might perhaps help you."
"You do?" cried Julian eagerly.
"You know that I make all sorts of queer acquaintances in my wanderings. Well, I happen to know a girl of about your wife's age, who, if she were willing, would be just the person you want. She is quite alone, parentless, and almost without friends. She lives by herself, and supports herself by working in a laundry. For all this, she is by no means the ordinary London work-girl; you can't call her educated, but she speaks purely, and has a remarkably good intelligence. I met her by chance, and kept up her acquaintance. There has been nothing wrong -- bah! how conventional one is, in spite of oneself! -- I mean to say there has been nothing more than a pleasant friendship between us; absolutely nothing. We see each other from time to time, and have a walk, perhaps a meal, together, and I lend her books. Now, do you think there would be any way of getting your wife to accept her society, say of an evening now and then? Don't do anything rash; it is of course clear that you must have no hand in this. I must manage it if it is to be done. Naturally, I can't answer at once for the girl's readiness; but I believe she would do what I asked her to. Do you think it is worth entertaining, this idea?"
"I do, indeed; it would be salvation, I really believe."
"Don't be too sanguine, Casti; that's another of your faults. Still, I know very well that this girl could cure your wife of her ill propensities if any living creature could. She is strong in character, admirably clear-headed, mild, gentle, womanly; in fact, there is perhaps no one I respect so much, on the whole."
"Respect, only?" asked Julian, smiling.
"Ye-es; yes, I believe I am perfectly honest in saying so, though I couldn't have been so sure about it some little time ago. Our relations, no doubt, are peculiar; on her side there is no more warmth than on mine" -- Waymark tried so to believe -- "and indeed her clear sight has no doubt gauged me fairly well at my true value."
"What is her name?"
"What!" cried Julian startled. "That is a strange thing! You have noticed the scar on Harriet's forehead?"
"Why, it was a wound given her at school by a girl of that very name! I remember the name as well as possible. It was a blow with a slate dealt in passion -- some quarrel or other. They were both children then, and Ida Starr left the school in consequence."
"Is it possible that it is the same person?" asked Waymark, wondering and reflecting.
"If so, that puts a new difficulty in our way."
"Removes one, I should have thought"
"Harriet is not of a very forgiving nature," said Julian gravely.
"I shouldn't have supposed she was; but a long time has gone by since then, and, after all, one is generally glad to see an old school-fellow."
At this point the conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door, followed by the announcement that a gentleman named O'Gree wished to see Mr. Waymark. Waymark smiled at Julian.
"Don't run away," he said. "You ought to know O'Gree in the flesh."
The teacher came into the room with a rush, and was much taken aback at the sight of a stranger present. Perspiration was streaming profusely from his face, which was aglow with some great intelligence. After being introduced to Casti, he plunged down on a chair, and mopped himself with his handkerchief, uttering incoherencies about the state of the weather. Waymark made an effort to bring about a general conversation, but failed; O'Gree was so preoccupied that any remark addressed to him had to be repeated before he understood it, and Julian was in no mood for making new acquaintances. So, in a few minutes, the latter took his hat and left, Waymark going with him to the door to speak a few words of encouragement.
"The battle's won!" cried O'Gree, with much gesticulation, as soon as Waymark returned. "The campaign's at an end! -- I'm sorry if I've driven your friend away, but I was bound to tell you."
"All right. Let me have a description of the manoeuvres."
"Look here, my boy," said O'Gree, with sudden solemnity, "you've never been very willing to talk to me about her. Now, before I tell you anything, I want to know this. Why wouldn't you tell me how you first got to know her, and so on?"
"Before I answer, I want to know this: have you found out why I wouldn't?"
"Yes, I have -- that is, I suppose I have -- and from her own lips, too! You knew her when she lived near the Strand there, eh?"
"Well now, understand, my boy. I don't want to hear anything disagreeable; in fact, I won't listen to anything disagreeable; -- all I want to know is, whether I may safely tell you what she has told me. If you don't know it already, there's no need to talk of it."
"I understand, and I don't think you can tell me anything I'm not well aware of."
"Sure, then, I will tell you, and if there's another girl as brave and honest as Sally in all this worruld, I'll be obliged if you'll make me acquainted with her! Well, you know she has a Saturday afternoon off every month It hasn't been a very cheerful day, but it couldn't be missed; and, as it was too rainy to walk about, I couldn't think of any better place to go to than the British Museum. Of course I wanted to find a quiet corner, but there were people about everywhere, and the best we could manage was in the mummy-room. We looked at all the mummies, and I told her all I knew about them, and I kept thinking to myself: Now, how can I work round to it? I've tried so often, you know, and she's always escaped me, somehow, and I couldn't help thinking it was because I hadn't gone about it in the proper way. Well, we'd been staring at a mummy for about a quarter of an hour, and neither of us said anything, when all at once a rare idea came into my head. 'Sally,' I said, glancing round to see that there was no one by, 'that mummy was very likely a pretty girl like you, once.' 'Do you think so?' she said, with that look of hers which makes me feel like a galvanic battery. 'I do,' I said, 'and what's more, there may once have been another mummy, a man-mummy, standing by her just as I am standing by you, and wanting very much to ask her something, and shaking in his shoes for fear he shouldn't get the right answer.' 'Did the mummies wear shoes when they were alive?' she asked, all at once. 'Wear shoes!' I cried out. 'I can't tell you, Sally; but one thing I feel very sure of, and that is that they had hearts. Now, suppose,' I said, 'we're those two mummies --' 'I'm sure it's bad luck!' interrupted Sally. 'Oh no, it isn't,' said I, seeing something in her face which made me think it was the opposite. 'Let me go on. Now, suppose the one mummy said to the other, "Sally --"' 'Were the girl-mummies called Sally?' she interrupted again. 'Sure I can't say,' said I, 'but we'll suppose so. Well, suppose he said, "Sally if I can hit on some means of making a comfortable home here by the Nile, -- that's to say, the Thames, you know, -- will you come and keep it in order for me, and live with me for all the rest of our lives?' Now what do you think the girl-mummy would have answered:'"
Waymark laughed, but O'Gree had become solemn.
"She didn't answer at once, and there was something very queer in her face. All at once she said, 'What has Mr. Waymark told you about me?' 'Why, just nothing at all,' I said, rather puzzled. 'And do you know,' she asked then, without looking at me, 'what sort of a girl I am?' Well, all at once there came something into my head that I'd never thought of before, and I was staggered for a moment; I couldn't say anything. But I got over it. 'I don't want to know anything,' I said. 'All I know is, that I like you better than I ever shall any one else, and I want you to promise to be my wife, some day.' 'Then you must let me tell you all my story first,' she said. 'I won't answer till you know everything.' And so she told me what it seems you know. Well, if I thought much of her before, I thought a thousand times as much after that! And do you know what? I believe it was on my account that she want and took that place in the shop."
"Precisely," said Waymark.
"You think so?" cried the other, delighted.
"I guessed as much when she met me that day and said I might let you know where she was."
"Ha!" exclaimed O'Gree, with a long breath.
"And so the matter is settled?"
"All but the most important part of it. There's no chance of my being able to marry for long enough to come. Now, can you give me any advice? I've quite made up my mind to leave Tootle. The position isn't worthy of a gentleman; I'm losing my self-respect. The she-Tootle gets worse and worse. If I don't electrify her, one of these days, with an outburst of ferocious indignation, she will only have my patience to thank. Let her beware how she drives the lion to bay!"
"Couldn't you get a non-resident mastership?"
"I must try, but the pay is so devilish small."
"We must talk the matter over."
Waymark had a good deal of frank talk with himself before meeting Ida again on the Sunday. Such conversation was, as we know, habitual. Under the circumstances, however, he felt that it behoved him to become especially clear on one or two points; never mind what course he might ultimately pursue, it was always needful to him to dissect his own motives, that he might at least be acting with full consciousness.
One thing was clear enough. The fiction of a mere friendship between himself and Ida was impossible to support. It had been impossible under the very different circumstances of a year ago, and was not likely to last a week, now that Ida could so little conceal how her own feelings had changed. What, then, was to be their future? Could he accept her love, and join their lives without legal bond, thinking only of present happiness, and content to let things arrange themselves as they would in the years to come?
His heart strongly opposed such a step. Clearly Ida had changed her life for his sake, and was undergoing hardships in the hope of winning his respect as well as his love. Would she have done all this without something of a hope that she might regain her place in the every-day world, and be held by Waymark worthy to become his wife? He could not certainly know, but there was little doubt that this hope had led her on. Could he believe her capable of yet nobler ideas; could he think that only in reverence of the sanctity of love, and without regard to other things, she had acted in this way; then, regarding her as indeed his equal, he would open his heart to her and speak somewhat in this way. "Yes, I do love you; but at the same time I know too well the uncertainty of love to go through the pretence of binding myself to you for ever. Will you accept my love in its present sincerity, neither hoping nor fearing, knowing that whatever happens is beyond our own control, feeling with me that only an ignoble nature can descend to the affectation of union when the real links are broken?" Could Waymark but have felt sure of her answer to such an appeal, it would have gone far to make his love for Ida all-engrossing. She would then be his ideal woman, and his devotion to her would have no bounds.
But he felt too strongly that in thus speaking he would sadden her by the destruction of her great hope. On the other hand, to offer to make her his legal wife would be to do her a yet greater injustice, even had he been willing to so sacrifice himself. The necessity for legal marriage would be a confession of her inferiority, and the sense of being thus bound would, he well knew, be the surest means of weakening his affection. This affection he could not trust. How far was it mere passion of the senses, which gratification would speedily kill?
In the case of his feeling towards Maud Enderby there was no such doubt. Never was his blood so calm as in her presence. She was to him a spirit, and in the spirit he loved her. With Maud he might look forward to union at some distant day, a union outwardly of the conventional kind. It would be so, not on account of any inferiority to his ideal in Maud, for he felt that there was no height of his own thought whither she would not in time follow him; but simply because no point of principle would demand a refusal of the yoke of respectability, with its attendant social advantages. And the thought of thus binding himself to Maud had nothing repulsive, for the links between them were not of the kind which easily yield, and loyalty to a higher and nobler nature may well be deemed a duty.
So far logical arguing. But the fact remained that he had not the least intention of breaking off his intercourse with Ida, despite the certainty that passion would grow upon him with each of their meetings, rendering their mutual relations more and more dangerous. Of only one thing could he be sure: marriage was not to be thought of. It remained, then, that he was in danger of being led into conduct which would be the source of grievous unrest to himself, and for Ida would lay the foundation of much suffering. Waymark was honest enough in his self-communing to admit that he could not trust himself. Gross deception he was incapable of, but he would not answer for it that, the temptation pressing him too hard, he might not be guilty of allowing Ida to think his love of more worth than it really was. She knew his contempt of conventional ties, and her faith in him would keep her from pressing him to any step he disliked; she would trust him without that. And such trust would be unmerited.
It was significant that he did not take into account loyalty to Maud as a help in resisting this temptation. He was too sure of himself as regarded that purer love; let what might happen, his loyalty to Maud would be unshaken. It was independent of passion, and passion could not shake it.
Then came the subject of the proposed acquaintance between Ida and Mrs. Casti. An impulse of friendship had led to his conceiving the idea; together, perhaps, with the recollection of what Ida had said about her loneliness, and the questions she had asked about Mrs. Casti. Waymark had little doubt that those questions indicated a desire to become acquainted with his friends; the desire was natural, under the circumstances. Still, he regretted what he had done. To introduce Ida to his friends would be almost equivalent to avowing some conventional relations between her and himself. And, in the next place, it would be an obstacle in the way of those relations becoming anything but conventional. Well, and was not this exactly the kind of aid he needed in pursuing the course which he felt to be right? Truly; yet----
At this point Waymark broke into that half contemptuous, half indulgent laugh which so frequently interrupted his self-communings, and, it being nearly one o'clock, set out to call for Ida. The day was fine, and, when they left the steamer at Putney, they walked on to the heath in good spirits and with cheerful talk. To be with Ida under these circumstances, in the sunlight and the fresh breeze, was very different from sitting with her yonder in the little room, with the lamp burning on the table, and the quietness of night around. The calm pleasure of passionless intercourse was realised and sufficing. Ida, too, seemed content to enjoy the moment; there was not that wistfulness in her eyes which had been so new to him and so strong in its influence. It was easy to find indifferent subjects of conversation, and to avoid the seriousness which would have been fatal.
When they had found a pleasant spot to rest awhile before turning back, Waymark made up his mind to fulfil his promise to Julian.
"It's rather strange," he said, "that you should have been asking me questions about Mrs. Casti. Since then I've discovered that you probably know her, or once did."
Ida looked surprised.
"Do you remember once having a schoolfellow called Harriet Smales?"
"Is that her name?"
"It was, before her marriage."
Ida became grave, and thought for some moments before speaking again.
"Yes, I remember her," she said, "and not pleasantly."
"You wouldn't care to renew her acquaintance then?" said Waymark, half glad, in spite of himself, that she spoke in this way.
Ida asked, with earnestness, how he had made this discovery. Waymark hesitated, but at length told the truth. He explained that Mrs. Casti suffered from the want of companionship, and that he had mentioned Ida's name to Julian; whence the discovery.
"Has she been told about me?" asked Ida.
"Nothing was to be said till I had spoken to you."
Waymark paused, but presently continued in a more serious tone. In recurring to that conversation with Julian, his friend's trouble spoke strongly to him once more, and overcame selfish thoughts.
"I said that I had come to know you by chance, and that -- strange as it might sound -- we were simply friends." He glanced for an instant at Ida; her eyes were turned to the ground. "You will believe me," he went on quickly, "when I tell you that I really said nothing more?"
"I never doubt a word of yours," was Ida's quiet reply.
"Casti was overjoyed at the thought of finding such a friend for his wife. Of course I told him that he must not certainly count either on your consent or on his wife's. Hers I thought to be perhaps more doubtful than yours."
"Could I really be of any use to her," asked Ida, after a silence, "with so little free time as I have?"
"Supposing she would welcome you, I really believe you could be of great use. She is a strange creature, miserably weak in body and mind. If you could get to regard this as a sort of good work you were called upon to undertake, you would very likely be little less than an angel of mercy to both of them. Casti is falling into grievous unhappiness -- why, you will understand sufficiently if you come to know them."
"Do you think she bears malice against me?"
"Of that I know nothing. Casti said she had never spoken of you in that way. By-the-by, she still has a scar on her forehead, I often wondered how it came there."
"What a little termagant you must have been!" exclaimed Waymark, laughing. "How hard it is to fancy you at that age, Ida. -- What was the quarrel all about?"
"I can't speak of it," she replied, in a low, sad voice. "It is so long ago; and I want to forget it."
Waymark kept silence.
"Do you wish me to be her friend?" Ida asked, suddenly looking up.
"Certainly not if you dislike the thought."
"No, no. But you think it would be doing good? you would like me to help your friend if I can?"
"Yes, I should," was Waymark's reply.
"Then I hope she will be willing to let me go and see her. I will do my very best. Let us lose no time in trying. It is such a strange thing that we should meet again in this way; perhaps it is something more than chance."
"You think I am superstitious?" she asked quickly. "I often feel so. I have all sorts of hopes and faiths that you would laugh at."
Ida's thoughts were busy that night with the past and the future. The first mention of Harriet's name had given her a shock; it brought back with vividness the saddest moments of her life; it awoke a bitter resentment which mere memory had no longer kept the power to revive. That was only for a moment, however. The more she accustomed herself to the thought, the easier it seemed to he to bury the past in forgiveness. Harriet must have changed so much since those days. Possibly there would never be a mention between them of the old trouble; practically they would be new acquaintances, and would be very little helped to an understanding of each other by the recollections of childhood. And then Ida felt there was so much to be glad of in the new prospects. She longed for a world more substantial than that of her own imaginations, and here, as she thought, it would be opened to her. Above all, by introducing her to his friends, Waymark had strengthened the relations between her and himself. He was giving her, too, a chance of showing herself to him in a new light. For the first time he would see her under the ordinary conditions of a woman's life in a home circle Ida had passed from one extreme to the other. At present there was nothing she desired so much as the simple, conventional, every-day existence of the woman who has never swerved from the beaten track. She never saw a family group anywhere without envying the happiness which to her seemed involved in the mere fact of a home and relations. Her isolation weighed heavily upon her. If there were but some one who could claim her services, as of right, and in return render her the simple hum-drum affection which goes for so much in easing the burden of life. She was weary of her solitary heroism, though she never regarded it as heroism, but merely as the path in which she was naturally led by her feelings. Waymark could not but still think of her very much in the old light, and she wished to prove to him how completely she was changed. The simple act of making tea for him when he came to see her had been a pleasure; it was domestic and womanly, and she had often glanced at his face to see whether he noticed it at all. Then the fact of Harriet's being an invalid would give her many opportunities for showing that she could be gentle and patient and serviceable. Casti would observe these things, and doubtless would speak of them to Waymark. Thinking in this way, Ida became all eagerness for the new friendship. There was of course the possibility that Harriet would refuse to accept her offered kindness, but it seemed very unlikely, and the disappointment would be so great that she could not bear to dwell on the thought. Waymark had promised to come as soon as he had any news. The time would go very slowly till she saw him.
Waymark had met Harriet very seldom of late. Julian spent regularly one evening a week with him, but it was only occasionally that Waymark paid a visit in turn. He knew that he was anything but welcome to Mrs. Casti, who of course had neither interest nor understanding for the conversation between himself and Julian. Formerly he had now and then tried his best to find some common subject for talk with her, but the effort had been vain; she was hopelessly stupid, and more often than not in a surly mood, which made her mere presence difficult to be endured. Of late, whenever he came, she made her illness an excuse for remaining in her bed-room. And hence arose another trouble. The two rooms were only divided by folding doors, and when Harriet got impatient with what she conceived to be the visitor's undue stay, she would rap on the doors, to summon Julian to her. This rapping would take place sometimes six or seven times in half an hour, till Waymark hastened away in annoyance. And indeed there was little possibility of conversing in Julian's own room. Julian sat for ever in a state of nervous apprehension, dreading the summons which was sure to come before long. When he left the room for a moment, in obedience to it, Waymark could hear Harriet's voice speaking in a peevish or ill-tempered tone, and Julian would return pale with agitation, unable to utter consecutive words. It was a little better when the meeting was at Waymark's, but even then Julian was anything but at his ease. He would often sit for a long time in gloomy silence, and seldom could even affect his old cheerfulness. The change which a year had made in him was painful. His face was growing haggard with ceaseless anxiety. The slightest unexpected noise made him start nervously. His old enthusiasms were dying away. His daily work was a burden which grew more and more oppressive. He always seemed weary, alike in body and mind.
Harriet's ailments were not of that unreal kind which hysterical women often affect, for the mere sake of demanding sympathy, though it was certain she made the most of them. The scrofulous taint in her constitution was declaring itself in many ways. The most serious symptoms took the form of convulsive fits. On Julian's return home one evening, he had found her stretched upon the floor, unconscious, foaming at the mouth, and struggling horribly. Since then, he had come back every night in agonies of miserable anticipation. Her illness, and his own miseries, were of course much intensified by her self-willed habits. When she remained away from home till after midnight, Julian was always in fear lest some accident had happened to her, and once or twice of late she had declared (whether truly or not it was impossible to say) that she had had fits in the open street. Weather made no difference to her; she would leave home on the pretence of making necessary purchases, and would come back drenched with rain. Protest availed nothing, save to irritate her. At times her conduct was so utterly unreasonable that Julian looked at her as if to see whether she had lost her senses. And all this he bore with a patience which few could have rivalled. Moments there were when she softened, and, in a burst of hysterical weeping, begged him to forgive her for some unusual violence, pleading her illness as the cause; and so sensible was he to compassion, that he always vowed in his mind to bear anything rather than deal harshly with her. Love for her, in the true sense, he had never felt, but his pity often led him to effusions of tenderness which love could scarcely have exceeded. He was giving up everything for her. Through whole evenings he would sit by her, as she lay in pain, holding her hands, and talking in a way which he thought would amuse or interest her.
"You're sorry you married me," she would often say at such times. "It's no good saying no; I'm sure you are."
That always made Julian think of her father, and of his own promise always to be a friend to the poor, weak, ailing creature; and he strengthened himself in his resolution to bear everything.
Waymark decided that he would venture on the step of going to see Harriet during the daytime, whilst Julian was away, in order to speak of Ida. This he did on the Monday, and was lucky enough to find her at home. She was evidently surprised at his visit, and perhaps still more so at the kind and friendly way in which he began to speak to her. In a few minutes he had worked round to his subject. He had, he said, a friend, a young lady who was very lonely, and for whom he wanted to find an agreeable companion. It had occurred to him that perhaps he might ask to be allowed to introduce her. Waymark had concluded that this would probably be the best way of putting it; Harriet would perhaps be flattered by being asked to confer the favour of her acquaintance. And indeed she seemed so; there was even something like a momentary touch of colour in her pale cheek.
"Does Julian know her?" she asked, fixing her eyes on his with the closest scrutiny.
"No, he does not."
He would leave her to what conclusion she liked about his relations to Ida; in reality that mattered little.
"She is some one," he went on, "for whom I have a great regard. As I say, she has really no friends, and she earns her own living. I feel sure you would find her company pleasant; she is sensible and cheerful, and would be very grateful for any kindness you showed her. Her name, by-the-by, is Ida Starr."
"Is the name familiar to you?"
"I used to know some one called that."
"Indeed? How strange it would be if you knew her already. I have spoken to her of you, but she didn't tell me she knew your name."
"Oh no, she wouldn't. It was years and years ago. We used to go to school together -- if it's the same."
The way in which this was spoken was not very promising, but Waymark would not be discouraged, having once brought himself to the point of carrying the scheme through. Harriet went on to ask many questions, all of which he answered as satisfactorily as he could, and in the end she expressed herself quite willing to renew Ida's acquaintance. Waymark had watched her face as closely as she did his, and he was able to read pretty accurately what was passing in her mind. Curiosity, it was clear, was her main incentive. Good will there was none; its growth, if at all possible, would depend upon Ida herself. There was even something very like a gleam of hate in her dark eyes when Ida's name was first spoken.
"When may I bring her!" Waymark asked. "Perhaps you would like to talk it over with Julian first? By-the-by, perhaps he remembers her as your schoolfellow?"
"I don't know, I'm sure," she said, with a pretence of indifference. "I don't see what he can have to say against it. Bring her as soon as you like."
"She is not free till seven at night. Perhaps we had better leave it till next Sunday?"
"Why? Why couldn't she come to-morrow night?"
"It is very good of you. I have no doubt she would be glad."
With this understanding Waymark took his departure.
"Do you remember Ida Starr?" was Harriet's first question to her husband when he returned that evening.
"Certainly I do," replied Julian, with complete self-control. "Why?"
"When did you see her last?" followed quickly, whilst she examined him as keenly as she had done Waymark.
"See her?" repeated Julian, laughing. "Do you mean the girl you went to school with?"
"Of course I do."
"I don't know that I ever saw her in my life."
"Well, she's coming here to-morrow night."
An explanation followed.
"Hasn't he ever spoken to you about her?" Harriet asked.
"No," said Julian, smiling. "I suppose he thought it was a private affair, in which no one else had any interest."
"I hope you will like her," he said presently. "It will be very nice to have a friend of that kind, won't it?"
"Yes, -- if she doesn't throw one of my own plates at me."
"Well, how do you like her?" Julian asked, when their visitors had left them.
"Oh, I dare say she's all right," was the reply. "She's got a good deal to say for herself."
Julian turned away, and walked about the room.
"What does she work at?" said Harriet, after glancing at him furtively once or twice.
"I have no idea."
"It's my belief she doesn't work at all."
"Why should Waymark have said so, then?" asked Julian, standing still and looking at her. He spoke very quietly, but his face betrayed some annoyance.
Harriet merely laughed, her most ill-natured and maliciously suggestive laugh, and rose from her seat. Julian came up and faced her.
"Harriet," he said, with perfect gentleness, though his lips trembled, "why do you always prefer to think the worst of people? I always look for the good rather than the evil in people I meet."
"We're different in a good many things, you see," said Harriet, with a sneer. Her countenance had darkened. Julian had learnt the significance of her looks and tones only too well. Under the circumstances it would have been better to keep silence, but something compelled him to speak.
"I am sure of this," he said. "If you will only meet her in her own spirit, you will find her a valuable friend -- just such a friend as you need. But of course if you begin with all manner of prejudices and suspicions, it will be very hard for her to make you believe in her sincerity. Certainly her kindness, her sympathy, her whole manner, was perfect to-night."
"You seemed to notice her a good deal."
"Naturally I did, being so anxious that you should find a friend and companion."
"And who is she, I should like to know?" said Harriet, with perfection of subdued acrimony. "How can I tell that she's a proper person to be a friend to me? I know what her mother was, at all events."
"Her mother? What do you know of her mother?"
Julian had never known the whole story of that scar on his wife's forehead.
"Never mind," said Harriet, nodding significantly.
"I have no idea what you mean," Julian returned. "At all events I can trust Waymark, and I know very well he would not have brought her here, if she hadn't been a proper person for you to know. But come," he added quickly, making an effort to dismiss the disagreeable tone between them, "there's surely no need for us to talk like this, Harriet. I am sure you will like her, when you know her better. Promise me that you will try, dear. You are so lonely, and it would rejoice me so to feel that you had a friend to help you and to be a comfort to you. At all events you will judge her on her own merits, won't you, and put aside all kind of prejudice?"
"I haven't said I shouldn't; but I suppose I must get to know her first?"
Ominous as such a commencement would have been under any other circumstances, Julian was so prepared for more decided hostility, that he was even hopeful. When he met Waymark next, the change in his manner was obvious; he was almost cheerful once more. And the improvement held its ground as the next two or three weeks went by. Ida came to Beaufort Street often, and Julian was able to use the freedom he thus obtained to spend more time in Waymark's society. The latter noticed the change in him with surprise.
"Things go well still?" he would ask, when Julian came in of an evening.
"Very well indeed. Harriet hasn't been out one night this week."
"And you think it will last?"
"I have good hope."
They did not speak much of Ida, however. It was only when three weeks had gone by that Julian asked one night, with some hesitation in putting the question, whether Waymark saw her often.
"Pretty often," was the reply. "I am her tutor, in a sort of way. We read together, and that kind of thing."
"At her lodgings?"
"Yes. Does it seem a queer arrangement?"
"She seems very intelligent," said Julian, letting the question pass by, and speaking with some constraint. "Isn't it a pity that she can't find some employment better suited to her?"
"I don't see what is open. Could you suggest anything?"
Julian was silent.
"In any case, it won't last very long, I suppose?" he said, looking up with a smile which was rather a trembling of the lip.
They gazed at each other for a moment.
"No," said Waymark, shaking his head and smiling. "It isn't as you think. It is perfectly understood between us that we are to be agreeable company to each other, and absolutely nothing beyond that. I have no motive for leading you astray in the matter. However things were, I would tell you frankly."
There was another silence.
"Do you think there is anything like confidence between your wife and her?" Waymark asked.
"That I hardly know. When I am present, of course they only talk about ordinary women's interests, household affairs, and so on."
"Then you have no means of -- well, of knowing whether she has spoken about me to your wife in any particular way?"
"Nothing of the kind has ever been hinted to me"
"Waymark," Julian continued, after a pause, "you are a strange fellow."
"In what respect."
"Do you mean to tell me honestly that -- that you----"
"Well? -- you mean to say, that I am not in love with the girl?"
"No, I wasn't going to say that," said Julian, with his usual bashfulness, heightened in this case by some feeling which made him pale. "I meant, do you really believe that she has no kind of regard for you beyond mere friendship?"
"Why? Have you formed any conclusions of your own on the point?"
"How could I help doing so?"
"And you look on me," said Waymark, after thinking for a moment, "as an insensible dog, with a treasure thrown at his feet which he is quite incapable of appreciating or making use of?"
"No. I only feel that your position must be a very difficult one. But perhaps you had rather not speak of these things?"
"On the contrary. You are perfectly right, and the position is as difficult as it well could be."
"You had made your choice, I suppose, before you knew Ida at all?"
"So far from that, I haven't even made it yet. I am not at all sure that my chance of ever marrying Maud Enderby is not so utterly remote, that t ought to put aside all thought of it. In that case----"
"But this is a strange state of mind," said Julian, with a forced laugh. "Is it possible to balance feelings in this way?"
"You, in my position, would have no doubt?"
"I don't know Miss Enderby," said Julian, reddening.
Waymark walked up and down the room, with his hands behind his back, his brows bent. He had never told his friend anything of Ida's earlier history; but now he felt half-tempted to let him know everything. To do so, might possibly give him that additional motive to a clear and speedy decision in the difficulties which grew ever more pressing. Yet was it just to Ida to speak of these things even to one who would certainly not repeat a word? Once or twice he all but began, yet in the end a variety of motives kept him silent.
"Well," he exclaimed shortly, "we'll talk about this another time. Perhaps I shall have more to tell you. Don't be gloomy. Look, here I am just upon the end of my novel. If all goes smoothly I shall finish it in a fortnight, and then I will read it to you."
"I hope you may have better luck with it than I had," said Julian.
"Oh, your time is yet to come. And it's very likely I shall be no better off. There are things in the book which will scarcely recommend it to the British parent. But it shall be published, if it is at my own expense. If it comes to the worst, I shall sell my mining shares to Woodstock."
"After all," said Julian, smiling, "you are a capitalist."
"Yes, and much good it does me."
Since that first evening Julian had refrained from speaking to his wife about Ida, beyond casual remarks and questions which could carry no significance. Harriet likewise had been silent. As far as could be observed, however, she seemed to take a pleasure in Ida's society, and, as Julian said, with apparently good result to herself. She was more at home than formerly, and her health even seemed to profit by the change. Still, there was something not altogether natural in all this, and Julian could scarcely bring himself to believe in the happy turn things seemed to be taking. In Harriet herself there was no corresponding growth of cheerfulness or good-nature. She was quiet, but with a quietness not altogether pleasant; it was as though her thoughts were constantly occupied, as never hitherto; and her own moral condition was hardly likely to be the subject of these meditations. Julian, when he sat reading, sometimes became desperately aware of her eyes being fixed on him for many minutes at a time. Once, on this happening, he looked up with a smile.
"What is it, dear?" he asked, turning round to her. "You are very quiet. Shall I put away the book and talk?"
"No; I'm all right."
"You've been much better lately, haven't you?" he said, taking her hand playfully. "Let me feel your pulse; you know I'm half a doctor."
She drew it away peevishly. But Julian, whom a peaceful hour had made full of kindness, went on in the same gentle way.
"You don't know how happy it makes me to see you and Ida such good friends. I was sure it would be so. Don't you feel there is something soothing in her society? She speaks so gently, and always brings a sort of sunshine with her."
Harriet's lips curled, very slightly, but she said nothing.
"When are you going to see her again? It's hardly fair to let the visiting be always on her side, is it?"
"I shall go when I feel able. Perhaps to-morrow."
Julian presently went back to his book again. If he could have seen the look Harriet turned upon him when his face was averted, he would not have read so calmly.
That same evening Harriet herself was the subject of a short conversation between Ida and Waymark, as they sat together in the usual way.
"I fear there will never be anything like confidence between us," Ida was saying. "Do you know that I am sometimes almost afraid of her; sometimes she looks and speaks as if she hated me."
"She is a poor, ill-conditioned creature," Waymark re plied, rather contemptuously.
"Can you explain," asked Ida, "how it was that Mr. Casti married her?"
"For my life, I can't! I half believe it was out of mere pity; I shouldn't wonder if the proposal came from her side. Casti might once have done something; but I'm afraid he never will now."
"And he is so very good to her. I pity him from my heart whenever I see them together. Often I have been so discouraged by her cold suspicious ways, that I half-thought I should have to give it up, but I felt it would be cruel to desert him so. I met him in the street the other night just as I was going to her, and he thanked me for what I was doing in a way that almost made me cry."
"By-the-by," said Waymark, "you know her too well to venture upon anything like direct criticism of her behaviour, when you talk together!"
"Indeed, I scarcely venture to speak of herself at all. It would be hard to say what we talk about."
"Of course," Waymark said, after a short silence, "there are limits to self-devotion. So long as it seems to you that there is any chance of doing some good, well, persevere. But you mustn't be sacrificed to such a situation. The time you give her is so much absolute loss to yourself."
"Oh, but I work hard to make up for it. You are not dissatisfied with me?"
"And what if I were? Would it matter much?"
This was one of the things that Waymark was ever and again saying, in spite of himself. He could not resist the temptation of proving his power in this way; it is so sweet to be assured of love, even though every voice within cries out against the temptation to enjoy it, and condemns every word or act that could encourage it to hope. Ida generally met such remarks with silence; but in this instance she looked up steadily, and said --
"Yes, it would matter much." Waymark drew in his breath, half turned away -- and spoke of some quite different matter.
Harriet carried out her intention of visiting Ida on the following day. In these three weeks she had only been to Ida's lodgings once. The present visit was unexpected. She waited about the pavement for Ida's return from work, and shortly saw her approaching.
"This is kind of you," Ida said. "We'll have some tea, and then, if you're not too tired, we might go into the park. It will be cool then."
She dreaded the thought of sitting alone with Harriet. But the latter said she must get home early, and would only have time to sit for half an hour. When Ida had lit her fire, and put the kettle on, she found that the milk which she had kept since the morning for Grim and herself had gone sour; so she had to run out to a dairy to fetch some.
"You won't mind being left alone for a minute?" she said.
"Oh, no; I'll amuse myself with Grim."
As soon as she was alone, Harriet went into the bed-room, and began to examine everything. Grim had followed her, and came up to rub affectionately against her feet, but she kicked him, muttering, "Get off; you black beast!" Having scrutinised the articles which lay about, she quickly searched the pockets of a dress which hung on the door, but found nothing except a handkerchief. All the time she listened for any footfall on the stone steps without. Next she went to the chest of drawers, and was pleased to find that they were unlocked. In the first she drew out there were some books and papers. These she rummaged through very quickly, and at length, underneath them, came upon a little bundle of pawn-tickets. On finding these, she laughed to herself, and carefully inspected every one of them. "Gold chain," she muttered; "bracelet; seal-skin; -- what was she doing with all those things, I wonder? Ho, ho, Miss Starr?"
She started; there was a step on the stairs. In a second everything was replaced, and she was back in the sitting-room, stooping over Grim, who took her endearments with passive indignation.
"Have I been long?" panted Ida, as she came in. "The kettle won't be a minute. You'll take your things off?"
Harriet removed her hat only. As Ida went about, preparing the tea, Harriet watched her with eyes in which there was a new light. She spoke, too, in almost a cheerful way, and even showed a better appetite than usual when they sat down together.
"You are better to-day?" Ida said to her.
"Perhaps so; but it doesn't last long."
"Oh, you must be more hopeful. Try not to look so much on the dark side of things. How would you be," she added, with a good-humoured laugh, "if you had to work all day, like me? I'm sure you've a great deal to make you feel happy and thankful."
"I don't know what," returned Harriet coldly.
"But your husband, your home, your long, free days?"
The other laughed peevishly. Ida turned her head away for a moment; she was irritated by this wretched humour, and, as had often been the case of late, found it difficult to restrain some rather trenchant remark.
"It may sound strange," she said, with a smile, "but I think I should be very willing to endure bad health for a position something like yours."
Harriet laughed again, and still more unpleasantly.
Later in the evening Harriet went to call upon her friend Mrs. Sprowl. Something of an amusing kind seemed to be going forward in front of the house. On drawing near and pressing into the crowd of loitering people, she beheld a spectacle familiar to her, and one which brought a smile to her face. A man of wretched appearance, in vile semblance of clothing which barely clung together about him, was standing on his head upon the pavement, and, in that attitude, drawling out what was meant for a song, while those around made merry and indulged in practical jokes at his expense. One such put a sudden end to the exhibition. A young ragamuffin drew near with a handful of rich mud, and carefully cast it right into the singer's inverted mouth. The man was on his feet in an instant, and pursuing the assailant, who, however, succeeded in escaping down an alley hard by. Returning, the man went from one to another in the crowd, holding out his hand. Harriet passed on into the bar.
"Slimy's up to his larks to-night," exclaimed Mrs. Sprowl, with a laugh, as she welcomed her visitor in the bar-parlour. "He'll be losin' his sweet temper just now, see if he don't, an' then one o' them chaps 'll get a bash i' the eye."
"I always like to see him singing on his head," said Harriet, who seemed at once thoroughly at her ease in the atmosphere of beer and pipes.
"It's funny, ain't it? And 'ow's the world been a-usin' you, Harriet? Seen anything more o' that affectionate friend o' yourn?"
This was said with a grin, and a significant wink.
"Have you found out anything about her?" asked Harriet eagerly.
"Why yes, I have; somethin' as 'll amuse you. It's just as I thought."
"How do you mean?"
"Why, Bella, was in 'ere th' other night, so I says to her, 'Bella,' I says, 'didn't you never hear of a girl called Ida Starr?' I says. 'Course I did,' she says. 'One o' the 'igh an' 'aughty lot, an' she lived by herself somewhere in the Strand.' So it's just as I told you."
"But what is she doing now?"
"You say she's turned modest."
"I can't make her out quite," said Harriet, reflecting, with her head on one side. "I've been at her lodgings tonight, and, whilst she was out of the room, I happened to get sight of a lot of pawn-tickets, for gold chains and sealskins, and I don't know what."
"Spouted 'em all when she threw up the job, I s'pose," suggested Mrs. Sprowl. "You're sure she does go to work?"
"Yes, I've had somebody to follow her and watch her. There's Waymark goes to see her often, and I shouldn't wonder if she half keeps him; he's just that kind of fellow."
"You haven't caught no one else going there?" asked Mrs. Sprowl, with another of her intense winks.
"No, I haven't, not yet," replied Harriet, with sudden vehemence, "but I believe he does go there, or else sees her somewhere else."
"Well," said the landlady, with an air of generous wisdom, "I told you from the first as I 'adn't much opinion of men as is so anxious to have their wives friendly with other women. There's always something at the bottom of it, you may bet. It's my belief he's one too many for you, Harriet; you're too simple-minded to catch him."
"I'll have a good try, though," cried the girl, deadly pale with passion. "Perhaps I'm not so simple as you think. I'm pretty quick in tumbling to things -- no fear. If they think I don't notice what goes on, they must take me for a damned silly fool, that's all! Why, I've seen them wink at each other, when they thought I wasn't looking."
"You're not such a fool as to leave them alone together?" said the woman, who seemed to have a pleasure in working upon Harriet's jealousy.
"No fear! But they understand each other; I can see that well enough. And he writes to her; I'm dead sure he writes to her. Let me get hold of a letter just once, that's all!"
"And he's orful good-natured to her, ain't he? Looks after her when she has tea with you, and so on?"
"I should think he did. It's all -- 'Won't Miss Starr have this?' and 'Won't Miss Starr have that?' He scarcely takes his eyes off of her, all the time."
"I know, I know; it's allus the same! You keep your eyes open, Harriet, and you'll 'ave your reward, as the Scriptures says."
When she reached home, Julian was in the uneasy condition always brought about by these late absences. To a remark he made about the time, she vouchsafed no answer.
"Have you been with Ida all the evening?" he asked.
"No, I haven't," was her reply.
She went into the bed-room, and was absent for a few minutes, then reappeared.
"Do you know where my silver spoon is?" she asked, looking closely at him.
"Your silver spoon?" he returned, in surprise. "Have you lost it?"
The article in question, together with a fork, hod been a wedding-present from Mrs. Sprowl, whose character had in it a sort of vulgar generosity, displayed at times in gifts to Harriet.
"I can't find it," Harriet said. "I was showing it to Ida Starr when she was here on Sunday, and now I come to look for it, it's gone."
"Oh, it can't be very far off," said Julian. "You'll find it if you look."
"But I tell you I've looked everywhere. It's gone, that's all I know."
"Well, but -- what do you mean? How can it have gone?"
"I don't know. I only know I was showing it her on Sunday."
"And what connection is there between the two things?" asked Julian, almost sternly. "You don't wish me to understand that Ida Starr knows anything about the spoon?"
"How can I tell? It's gone."
"Come," exclaimed Julian, with a laugh, "this is too absurd, Harriet! You must have taken leave of your senses. If it's gone, then some one in the house has taken it."
"And why not Ida Starr?"
Julian stared at her with mingled anger and alarm.
"Why not? Simply because she is incapable of such a thing."
"Perhaps you think so, no doubt. You think a good deal of her, it seems to me. Perhaps you don't know quite as much about her as I do."
"I fancy I know much more," exclaimed Julian indignantly.
"Oh, do you?"
"If you think her capable of stealing your spoon, you show complete ignorance of her character. What do you know of her that you should have such suspicions?"
"Never mind," said Harriet, nodding her head obstinately.
There was again a long silence. Julian reflected.
"We will talk about this again to-morrow," he said, "when you have had time to think. You are under some strange delusion. After all, I expect you will find the spoon, and then you'll be sorry for having been so hasty."
Harriet became obstinately silent. She cut a piece of bread and butter, and took it into the other room. Julian paced up and down.
One or two days after this, Ida Starr came home from work with a heavy heart. Quite without notice, and without explanation, her employer had paid her a week's wages and dismissed her. Her first astonished questions having been met with silence by the honest but hard-grained woman who kept the laundry, Ida had not condescended to any further appeal. The fact was that the laundress had received a visit from a certain Mrs. Sprowl, who, under pretence of making inquiries for the protection of a young female friend, revealed the damaging points of Ida's story, and gained the end plotted with Harriet Casti.
Several circumstances united to make this event disastrous to Ida. Her wages were very little more than she needed for her week to week existence, yet she had managed to save a shilling or two now and then. The greater part of these small savings she had just laid out in some new clothing, the reason for the expense being not so much necessity, as a desire to be rather better dressed when she accompanied Waymark on those little country excursions which had reestablished themselves of late. By no means the smallest part of Ida's heroism was that involved in this matter of external appearance. A beautiful woman can never be indifferent to the way in which her beauty is arrayed. That Waymark was not indifferent to such things she knew well, and often she suffered from the thought that one strong means of attraction was lost to her. If at one moment Ida was conscious of her claim to inspire a noble enthusiasm, at another she fell into the saddest self-distrust, and, in her hunger for love, would gladly have sought every humblest aid of grace and adornment. So she had yielded to the needs of her heart, and only this morning was gladdened by the charm of some new clothing which became her well, and which Waymark would see in a day or two. It lay there before her now that she returned home, and, in the first onset of trouble, she sat down and cried over it.
She suffered the more, too, that there had been something of a falling off of late in the good health she generally enjoyed. The day's work seemed long and hard; she felt an unwonted need of rest. And these things caused trouble of the mind. With scarcely an hour of depression she had worked on through those months of solitude, supported by the sense that every day brought an accession of the strength of purity, that the dark time was left one more stage behind, and that trust in herself was growing assured.
But it was harder than she had foreseen, to maintain reserve and reticence when her heart was throbbing with passion; the effect upon her of Waymark's comparative coldness was so much harder to bear than she had imagined. Her mind tortured itself incessantly with the fear that some new love had taken possession of him. And now there had befallen her this new misfortune, which, it might be, would once more bring about a crisis in her life.
Of course she must forthwith set about finding new work. It would be difficult, seeing that she had now no reference to give. Reflection had convinced her that it must have been some discovery of her former life which had led to her sudden dismissal, and this increased her despondency. Yet she would not give way to it. On the following morning she began her search for employment, and day after day faced without result the hateful ordeal. Hope failed as she saw her painfully-eked-out coins become fewer and fewer. In a day or two she would have nothing, and what would happen then?
When she returned to London to begin a new life, now nearly a year ago, she had sold some and pawned the rest of such possessions as would in future be useful to her. Part of the money thus obtained had bought the furniture of her rooms; what remained had gone for a few months to supplement her weekly wages, thus making the winter less a time of hardship than it must otherwise have been. One or two articles yet remained capable of being turned into small sums, and these she now disposed of at a neighbouring pawnbroker's -- the same she had previously visited on the occasion of pawning one or two of the things, the tickets for which Harriet Casti had so carefully inspected. She spoke to no one of her position. Yet now the time was quickly coming when she must either have help from some quarter or else give up her lodgings. In food she was already stinting herself to the verge of starvation. And through all this she had to meet her friends as hitherto, if possible without allowing any trace of her suffering to become visible. Harriet, strange to say, had been of late a rather frequent visitor, and was more pressing than formerly in her invitations. Ida dreaded her coming, as it involved the unwarrantable expense of obtaining luxuries now unknown in her cupboard, such as tea and butter. And, on the other hand, it was almost impossible to affect cheerfulness in the company of the Castis. At times she caught Julian's eyes fixed upon her, and felt that he noticed some change in her appearance. She had a sense of guilt in their presence, as if she were there on false pretences. For, together with her daily work, much of her confidence had gone; an inexplicable shame constantly troubled her. She longed to hide herself away, and be alone with her wretchedness.
If it came to asking for help, of whom could she ask it but of Waymark? Yet for some time she felt she could not bring herself to that. In the consciousness of her own attitude towards him, it seemed to her that Waymark might well doubt the genuineness of her need, might think it a mere feint to draw him into nearer relations. She could not doubt that he knew her love for him; she did not desire to hide it, even had she been able. But him she could not understand. A struggle often seemed going on within him in her presence; he appeared to repress his impulses; he was afraid of her. At times passion urged her to break through this barrier between them, to bring about a situation which would end in clear mutual understanding, cost her what it might. At other times she was driven to despair by the thought that she had made herself too cheap in his eyes. Could she put off the last vestige of her independence, and, in so many words, ask him to give her money?
This evening she expected Waymark, but the usual time of his coming went by. She sat in the twilight, listening with painful intentness to every step on the stairs; again and again her heart leaped at some footfall far below, only to be deceived. She had not even now made up her mind how to speak to him, or whether to speak to him at all; but she longed passionately to see him. The alternations of hope and disappointment made her feverish. Illusions began to possess her. Once she heard distinctly the familiar knock. It seemed to rouse her from slumber: she sprang to the door and opened it, but no one was there. She ran half way down the stairs, but saw no one. It was now nearly midnight. The movement had dispelled for a little the lethargy which was growing upon her, and she suddenly came to a resolution. Taking a sheet of note-paper, she wrote this: --
"I have been without work for a fortnight. All my money is done, and I am in want. Can you send me some, for present help, till I get more work? Do not bring it yourself, and do not speak a word of this when you see me, I beg you earnestly. If I shall fail to get work, I will speak to you of my own accord.
She went out and posted this, though she had no stamp to put on the envelope; then, returning, she threw herself as she was on to the bed, and before long passed into unconsciousness.
Waymark's absence that evening had been voluntary. His work had come to a standstill; his waking hours were passed in a restless misery which threatened to make him ill. And to-night he had not dared to go to Ida; in his present state the visit could have but one result, and even yet he hoped that such a result might not come about. He left home and wandered about the streets till early morning. All manner of projects occupied him. He all but made up his mind to write a long letter to Ida and explain his position without reserve. But he feared lest the result of that might be to make Ida hide away from him once more, and to this loss he could not reconcile himself. Yet he was further than ever from the thought of giving himself wholly to her, for the intenser his feeling grew, the more clearly he recognised its character. This was not love he suffered from, but mere desire. To let it have its way would be to degrade Ida. Love might or might not follow, and how could he place her at the mercy of such a chance as that? Her faith and trust in him were absolute; could he take advantage of it for his own ends? And, for all these fine arguments, Waymark saw with perfect clearness how the matter would end. Self would triumph, and Ida, if the fates so willed it, would be sacrificed. It was detestable, but a fact; as good already as an accomplished fact.
And on the following morning Ida's note reached him. It was final. Her entreaty that he would merely send money had no weight with him for a moment; he felt that there was a contradiction between her words and her wishes. This note explained the strangeness he had noticed in her on their last evening together. He pitied her, and, as is so often the case, pity was but fuel to passion. He swept from his mind all obstinate debatings. Passion should be a law unto itself. Let the future bring things about as it would.
He had risen late, and by the time he had finished a hasty breakfast it was eleven o'clock. Half an hour after he went up the stairs of the lodging-house and knocked at the familiar door.
But his knock met with no answer. Ida herself had left home an hour before. Upon waking, and recalling what she had done, she foresaw that Waymark would himself come, in spite of her request. She could not face him. For all that her exhaustion was so great that walking was slow and weary, she went out and strayed at first with no aim; but presently she took the direction of Chelsea, and so came to Beaufort Street. She would go in and see Harriet, who would give her something to eat. She cared little now for letting it be known that she had left her employment; with the step which she had at last taken, her position was quite changed; she had only kept silence lest Waymark should come to know. Harriet was at first surprised to see her then seemed glad.
"I've only a minute ago sent a note, asking you to be sure to come round to-night. I wanted you to help me with this new hat; you have such good taste in trimming."
Ida would have been astonished at another time; for Harriet to be paying compliments was indeed something novel. There was a flush on the latter's usually sallow face; she did not sit down, and kept moving aimlessly about.
"Give me your hat and jacket," she said, "and let me take them into the other room."
She took them away, and returned. Ida was not looking at her; otherwise she must surely have noticed that weird pallor which had all at once succeeded to the unhealthy flush, and the unwonted gleaming of her eyes. Of what passed during those next two hours Ida had afterwards no recollection. They ate together, and they talked, Ida as if in a dream, Harriet preoccupied in a way quite out of her habit. Ida explained that she was out of employment, news which could scarcely be news to the listener, who would in that case have heard it with far less composure. There were long silences, generally brought to an end by some outburst of forced merriment from Harriet. Ida was without consciousness of time, but her restless imagination at length compelled her to go forth again. Harriet did not urge her to stay, but rose and watched her as she went into the other room to put her things on. In a few moments they had parted.
The instant Harriet, from the head of the stairs, heard the front-door close, she ran back into her bed-room, put on her hat, and darted down. Opening the door, she saw Ida moving away at a short distance. Turning her eyes in the opposite direction, she perceived a policeman coming slowly down the street. She ran towards him.
"I've caught her at last," she exclaimed, as she met him, pointing eagerly after Ida. "She's taken a brooch of mine. I put it in a particular place in my bed-room, and it's gone."
"Was she alone in the room?" inquired the constable, looking keenly at Harriet, then down the street.
"Yes, she went in alone to put her things on. Be quick, or she'll be off!"
"I understand you give her in charge?"
"Of course I do."
A brisk walk of two or three minutes, and they had caught up Ida, who turned at the sound of the quick footsteps, and stood in surprise.
"This lady charges you with stealing some articles of hers," said the constable, looking from face to face. "You must come with me to the station."
Ida blanched. When the policeman had spoken, she turned to Harriet, and gazed at her fixedly. She could neither speak nor move. The constable touched her arm impatiently. Her eyes turned to him, and she began to walk along by his side.
Harriet followed in silence. There were not many people on the way to the police-station in King's Road, and they reached it speedily. They came before the inspector, and the constable made his report.
"Have you got this brooch?" asked the inspector, looking at Ida.
Ida put her hand into one of her jacket-pockets, then into the other, and from the second brought out the object in question. It was of gold, and had been given by Julian to his wife just after their marriage. As she laid it before her on the desk, she seemed about to speak, but her breath failed, and she clutched with her hands at the nearest support.
"Look out," exclaimed the inspector. "Don't let her fall."
Five or six times, throughout the day and evening, Waymark had knocked at Ida's door. About seven o'clock he had called at the Castis', but found neither of them at home. Returning thence to Fulham, he had walked for hours up and down, in vain expectation of Ida's coming. There was no light at her window.
Just before midnight he reached home, having on his way posted a letter with money in it. As he reached his door, Julian stood there, about to knock.
"Anything amiss?" Waymark asked, examining his friend by the light of the street-lamp.
Julian only made a sign to him to open the door. They went upstairs together, and Waymark speedily obtained a light. Julian had seated himself on the couch. His face was ghastly.
"What's the matter?" Waymark asked anxiously. "Do you know anything about Ida?"
"She's locked up in the police cells," was the reply. "My wife has accused her of stealing things from our rooms."
Waymark stared at him.
"Cacti, what's the matter with you?" he exclaimed, overcome with fear, in spite of his strong self-command. "Are you ill? Do you know what you're saying?"
Julian rose and made an effort to control himself.
"I know what I'm saying, Waymark I've only just heard it. She has come back home from somewhere -- only just now -- she seems to have been drinking. It happened in the middle of the day, whilst I was at the hospital. She gave her in charge to a policeman in the street, and a brooch was found on her."
"A brooch found on her? Your wife's?"
"Yes. When she came in, she railed at me like a fury, and charged me with the most monstrous things. I can't and won't go back there to-night! I shall go mad if I hear her voice. I will walk about the streets till morning."
"And you tell me that Ida Starr is in custody?"
"She is. My wife accuses her of stealing several things."
"And you believe this?" asked Waymark, under his voice, whilst his thoughts pictured Ida's poverty, of which he had known nothing, and led him through a long train of miserable sequences.
"I don't know. I can't say. She says that Ida confessed, and, gave the brooch up at once. But her devilish malice is equal to anything. I see into her character as I never did before. Good God, if you could have seen her face as she told me! And Ida, Ida! I am afraid of myself, Waymark. If I had stayed to listen another moment, I should have struck her. It seemed as if every vein was bursting. How am I ever to live with her again? I dare not! I should kill her in some moment of madness! What will happen to Ida?"
He flung himself upon the couch, and burst into tears. Sobs convulsed him; he writhed in an anguish of conflicting passions. Waymark seemed scarcely to observe him, standing absorbed in speculation and the devising of a course to be pursued.
"I must go to the police-station," he said at length, when the violence of the paroxysm had passed and left Julian in the still exhaustion of despair. "You, I think, had better stay here. Is there any danger of her coming to seek you?"
Julian made a motion with his hand, otherwise lay still, his pale face turned upwards.
"I shall be back very quickly," Waymark added, taking his hat. Then, turning back for a moment, "You mustn't give way like this, old fellow; this is horrible weakness. Dare I leave you alone?"
Julian stretched out his hand, and Waymark pressed it.
Waymark received from the police a confirmation of all that Julian had said, and returned home. Julian still lay on the couch, calmer, but like one in despair. He begged Waymark to let him remain where he was through the night, declaring that in any case sleep was impossible for him, and that perhaps he might try to pass the hours in reading. They talked together for a time; then Waymark lay down on the bed and shortly slept.
He was to be at the police court in the morning. Julian would go to the hospital as usual.
"Shall you call at home on your way?" Waymark asked him.
"But what do you mean to do?"
"I must think during the day. I shall come to-night, and you will tell me what has happened."
So they parted, and Waymark somehow or other whiled away the time till it was the hour for going to the court. He found it difficult to realise the situation; so startling and brought about so suddenly. Julian had been the first to put into words the suspicion of them both, that it was all a deliberate plot of Harriet's; but he had not been able to speak of his own position freely enough to let Waymark understand the train of circumstances which could lead Harriet to such resoluteness of infamy. Waymark doubted. But for the unfortunate fact of Ida's secret necessities, he could perhaps scarcely have entertained the thought of her guilt. What was the explanation of her being without employment? Why had she hesitated to tell him, as soon as she lost her work? Was there not some mystery at the bottom of this, arguing a lack of complete frankness on Ida's part from the first?
The actual pain caused by Ida's danger was, strange to say, a far less important item in his state of mind than the interest which the situation inspired. Through the night he had thought more of Julian than of Ida. What he had for some time suspected had now found confirmation; Julian was in love with Ida, in love for the first time, and under circumstances which, as Julian himself had said, might well suffice to change his whole nature. Waymark had never beheld such terrible suffering as that depicted on his friend's face during those hours of talk in the night. Something of jealousy had been aroused in him by the spectacle; not jealousy of the ordinary gross kind, but rather a sense of humiliation in the thought that he himself had never experienced, was perhaps incapable of, such passion as racked Julian in every nerve. This was the passion which Ida was worthy of inspiring, and Waymark contrasted it with his own feelings on the previous day, and now since the calamity had fallen. He had to confess that there was even an element of relief in the sensations the event had caused in him. He had been saved from himself; a position of affairs which had become intolerable was got rid of without his own exertion. Whatever might now happen, the old state of things would never be restored. There was relief and pleasure in the thought of such a change, were it only for the sake of the opening up of new vistas of observation and experience. Such thoughts as these indicated very strongly the course which Waymark's development was taking, and he profited by them to obtain a clearer understanding of himself.
The proceedings in the court that morning were brief. Waymark, from his seat on the public benches, saw Ida brought forward, and heard her remanded for a week. She did not see him; seemed, indeed, to see nothing. The aspect of her standing there in the dock, her head bowed under intolerable shame, made a tumult within him. Blind anger and scorn against all who surrounded her were his first emotions; there was something of martyrdom in her position; she, essentially so good and noble, to be dragged here before these narrow-natured slaves of an ignoble social order, in all probability to be condemned to miserable torment by men who had no shadow of understanding of her character and her circumstances.
Waymark was able, whilst in court, to make up his mind as to how he should act. When he left he took his way northwards, having in view St. John Street Road, and Mr. Woodstock's house.
When he had waited about half an hour, the old man appeared. He gave his hand in silence. Something seemed to be preoccupying him; he went to his chair in a mechanical way.
"I have come on rather serious business," Waymark began. "I want to ask your advice in a very disagreeable matter-- a criminal case, in fact."
Abraham did not at once pay attention, but the last words presently had their effect, and he looked up with some surprise.
"What have you been up to?" he asked, with rather a grim smile, leaning back and thrusting his hands in his pockets in the usual way.
"It only concerns myself indirectly. It's all about a girl, who is charged with a theft she is perhaps quite innocent of. If so, she is being made the victim of a conspiracy, or something of the kind. She was remanded to-day at Westminster for a week."
"A girl, eh? And what's your interest in the business?"
"Well, if you don't mind I shall have to go a little into detail. You are at liberty?"
"She is a friend of mine. No, I mean what I say; there is absolutely nothing else between us, and never has been. I should like to know whether you are satisfied to believe that; much depends on it."
"Age and appearance?"
"About twenty -- not quite so much -- and strikingly handsome."
"H'm. Position in life?"
"A year ago was on the streets, to put it plainly; since then has been getting her living at laundry-work."
Mr. Woodstock had been gazing at the toes of his boots, still the same smile on his face. When he heard the name he ceased to smile, but did not move at all. Nor did he look up as he asked the next question.
"Is that her real name?"
"I believe so."
The old man drew up his feet, threw one leg over the other, and began to tap upon his knee with the fingers of one hand. He was silent for a minute at least.
"What do you know about her?" he then inquired, looking steadily at Waymark, with a gravity which surprised the latter. "I mean, of her earlier life. Do you know who she is at all?"
"She has told me her whole story -- a rather uncommon one, full of good situations."
"What do you mean?"
The words were uttered with such harsh impatience that Waymark started.
"What annoys you?" he asked, with surprise.
"Tell me something of the story," said the other, regaining his composure, and apparently wishing to affect indifference. "I have a twinge of that damned rheumatism every now and then, and it makes me rather crusty. Do you think her story is to be depended upon?"
"Yes, I believe it is."
And Waymark linked briefly the chief points of Ida's history, as he knew it, the old man continually interrupting him with questions.
"Now go on," said Abraham, when he had heard all that Waymark knew, "and explain the scrape she's got into."
Waymark did so.
"And you mean to tell me," Abraham said, before the story was quite finished, "that there's been nothing more between you than that?"
"I don't believe you."
It was said angrily, and with a blow of the clenched fist on the table. The old man could no longer conceal the emotion that possessed him. Waymark looked at him in astonishment, unable to comprehend his behaviour.
"Well if you don't believe me, of course I can offer no proof; and I know well enough that every presumption is against me. Still, I tell you the plain fact; and what reason have I for hiding the truth? If I had been living with the girl, I should have said so, as an extra reason for asking your help in the matter."
"What help can I give?" asked Woodstock, again cooling down, though his eyes had in them a most unwonted light. He spoke as if simply asking for information.
"I thought you might suggest something as to modes of defence, and the like. The expenses I would somehow or other meet myself. It appears that she will plead not guilty."
"And what's your belief?"
"I can't make up my mind."
"In that case, it seems to me, you ought to give her the benefit of the doubt; especially as you seem to have made up your mind pretty clearly about this Mrs. What's-her-name."
Waymark was silent, looking at Mr. Woodstock, and reflecting.
"What are your intentions with regard to the girl?" Abraham asked, with a change in his voice, the usual friendliness coming back. He looked at the young man in a curious way; one would almost have said, with apprehensive expectation.
"I have no intentions."
"You would have had, but for this affair?"
"No; you are mistaken. I know the position is difficult to realise."
"Have you intentions, then, in any other quarter?"
"Well, perhaps yes."
"I've never heard anything of this."
"I could scarcely talk of a matter so uncertain."
There was silence. A sort of agitation came upon the old man ever and again, in talking. He now grew absorbed in thought, and remained thus for several minutes, Waymark looking at him the while. When at length Abraham raised his eyes, and they met Waymark's, he turned them away at once, and rose from the chair.
"I'll look into the business," he said, taking out a bunch of keys, and putting one into the lock of a drawer in his desk. "Yes, I'll go and make inquiries." He half pulled out the drawer and rustled among some papers.
"Look here," he said, on the point of taking something out; but, even in speaking, he altered his mind. "No; it don't matter. I'll go and make inquiries. You can go now, if you like; -- I mean to say, I suppose you've told me all that's necessary. -- Yes, you'd better go, and look in again tomorrow morning."
Waymark went straight to Fulham. Reaching the block of tenements which had been Ida's home, he sought out the porter. When the door opened at his knock, the first face that greeted him was that of Grim, who had pushed between the man's legs and was peering up, as if in search of some familiar aspect.
From the porter he learned that the police had made that afternoon an inspection of Ida's rooms, though with what result was not known. The couple had clearly formed their own opinion as to Waymark's interest in the accused girl, but took the position in a very matter-of-fact way, and were eager to hear more than they succeeded in getting out of the police.
"My main object in coming," Waymark explained, "was to look after her cat. I see you have been good enough to anticipate me."
"The poor thing takes on sadly," said the woman. "Of course I shouldn't have known nothing if the hofficers hadn't come, and it 'ud just have starved to death. It seems to know you, sir?"
"Yes, yes, I dare say. Do you think you could make it convenient to keep the cat for the present, if I paid you for its food?"
"Well, I don't see why not, sir; we ain't got none of our own."
"And you would promise me to be kind to it? I don't mind the expense; keep it well, and let me know what you spend. And of course I should consider your trouble."
So that matter was satisfactorily arranged, and Waymark went home.
Julian spent his day at the hospital as usual, finding relief in fixing his attention upon outward things. It was only when he left his work in the evening that he became aware how exhausted he was in mind and body. And the dread which he had hitherto kept off came back upon him, the dread of seeing his wife's face and hearing her voice. When he parted with Waymark in the morning, he had thought that he would be able to come to some resolution during the day as to his behaviour with regard to her. But no such decision had been formed, and his overtaxed mind could do no more than dwell with dull persistency on a long prospect of wretchedness. Fear and hatred moved him in turns, and the fear was as much of himself as of the object of his hate.
As he approached the door, a man came out whom he did not know, but whose business he suspected. He had little doubt that it was a police officer in plain clothes. He had to stand a moment and rest, before he could use his latchkey to admit himself. When he entered the sitting-room, he found the table spread as usual. Harriet was sitting with sewing upon her lap. She did not look at him.
He sat down, and closed his eyes. There seemed to be a ringing of great bells about him, overpowering every other sound; all his muscles had become relaxed and powerless; he half forgot where and under what circumstances he was, in a kind of deadly drowsiness. Presently this passed, and he grew aware that Harriet was preparing tea. When it was ready, he went to the table, and drank two or three cups, for he was parched with thirst. He could not look at Harriet, but he understood the mood she was in, and knew she would not be the first to speak. He rose, walked about for a few minutes, then stood still before her.
"What proof have you to offer," he said, speaking in a slow but indistinct tone, "that she is guilty of this, and that it isn't a plot you have laid against her?"
"You can believe what you like," she replied sullenly. "Of course I know you'll do your worst against me."
"I wish you to answer my question. If I choose to suspect that you yourself put this brooch in her pocket -- and if other people choose to suspect the same, knowing your enmity against her, what proof can you give that she is guilty?"
"It isn't the first thing she's stolen."
"What proof have you that she took those other things?"
"Quite enough, I think. At all events, they've found a pawn-ticket for the spoon at her lodgings, among a whole lot of other tickets for things she can't have come by honestly."
Julian became silent, and, as Harriet looked up at him with eyes full of triumphant spite, he turned pale. He could have crushed the hateful face beneath his feet.
"You're a good husband, you are," Harriet went on, with a sudden change to anger; "taking part against your own wife, and trying to make her out all that's bad. But I think you've had things your own way long enough. You thought I was a fool, did you, and couldn't see what was going on? You and your Ida Starr, indeed! Oh, she would be such a good friend to me, wouldn't she? She would do me so much good; you thought so highly of her; she was just the very girl to be my companion; how lucky we found her! I'm much obliged to you, but I think I might have better friends than thieves and street-walkers."
"What do you mean?" asked Julian, starting at the last word, and turning a ghastly countenance on her.
"I mean what I say. As if you didn't know, indeed!"
"Explain what you mean," Julian repeated, almost with violence. "Who has said anything of that kind against her?"
"Who has? Why I can bring half a dozen people who knew her when she was on the streets, before Waymark kept her. And you knew it, well enough -- no fear!"
"It's a lie, a cursed lie! No one can say a word against her purity. Only a foul mind could imagine such things."
"Purity! Oh yes, she's very pure -- you know that, don't you? No doubt you'll be a witness, and give evidence for her, and against me; -- let everybody know how perfect she is, and what a beast and a liar I am! You and your Ida Starr!"
Julian rushed out of the room.
Waymark could not but observe peculiarities in Mr. Woodstock's behaviour during the conversation about Ida. At first it had occurred to him -- knowing a good deal of Abraham's mode of life -- that there must be some disagreeable secret at the bottom, and for a moment the ever-recurring distrust of Ida rose again. But he had soon observed that the listener was especially interested in the girl's earliest years, and this pointed to possibilities of a different kind. What was it that was being taken from the drawer to show him, when the old man suddenly altered his mind? Mr. Woodstock had perhaps known Ida's parents. Waymark waited with some curiosity for the interview on the morrow.
Accordingly, he was surprised when, on presenting himself, Mr. Woodstock did not at first appear to remember what he had called about.
"Oh, ay, the girl!" Abraham exclaimed, on being reminded. "What did you say her name was? Ida something" ----
Waymark was puzzled and suspicious, and showed both feelings in his looks, but Mr. Woodstock preserved a stolid indifference which it was very difficult to believe feigned.
"I've been busy," said the latter. "Never mind; there's time. She was remanded for a week, you said? I'll go and see Helter about her. May as well come along with me, and put the case in 'artistic' form."
It was a word frequently on Waymark's lips, and he recognised the unwonted touch of satire with a smile, but was yet more puzzled. They set out together to the office of the solicitor who did Abraham's legal business, and held with him a long colloquy. Waymark stated all he knew or could surmise with perfect frankness. He had heard from Julian the night before of the discovery which it was said the police had made at Ida's lodgings, and this had strengthened his fear that Harriet's accusation was genuine.
"How did this girl lose her place at the laundry?" asked Mr. Helter.
Waymark could not say; for all he knew it was through her own fault.
"And that's all you can tell us, Waymark?" observed Mr. Woodstock, who had listened with a show of indifference. "Well, I have no more time at present. Look the thing up, Helter."
On reaching home, Waymark wrote a few lines to Ida, merely to say that Grim was provided for, and assure her that she was not forgotten. In a day or two he received a reply. The official envelope almost startled him at first. Inside was written this:
"You have been kind. I thank you for everything. Try to think kindly of me, whatever happens; I shall be conscious of it, and it will give me strength.
The week went by, and Ida again appeared in court. Mr. Woodstock went with Waymark, out of curiosity, he said. The statement of the case against the prisoner sounded very grave. What Harriet had said about the discovery of the pawn-ticket for her silver spoon was true. Ida's face was calm, but paler yet and thinner. When she caught sight of Harriet Casti, she turned her eyes away quickly, and with a look of trouble. She desired to ask no question, simply gave her low and distinct "Not guilty." She was committed for trial.
Waymark watched Mr. Woodstock, who was examining Ida all the time; he felt sure that he heard something like a catching of the breath when the girl's face first became visible.
"And what's your opinion?" asked Waymark.
"I couldn't see the girl very well," said the old man coldly.
"She hasn't quite a fortnight to wait."
"You're sure Helter will do all that can he done?"
Mr. Woodstock nodded his head, and walked off by himself.
Julian Casti was ill. With difficulty he had dragged himself to the court, and his sufferings as he sat there were horribly evident on his white face. Waymark met him just as Mr. Woodstock walked off; and the two went home together by omnibus, not speaking on the way.
"She will be convicted," was Julian's first utterance, when he had sat for a few minutes in Waymark's room, whilst Waymark himself paced up and down. The latter turned, and saw that tears were. on his friends hollow cheeks.
"Did you sleep better last night?" he asked.
"Good God, no! I never closed my eyes. That's the third night without rest. Waymark, get me an opiate of some kind, or I shall kill myself; and let me sleep here."
"What will your wife say?"
"What do I care what she says!" cried Julian, with sudden excitement, his muscles quivering, and his cheeks flaming all at once. "Don't use that word 'wife,' it is profanation; I can't bear it! If I see her to-night, I can't answer for what I may do. Curse her to all eternity!"
He sank beck in exhaustion.
"Julian," said Waymark, using his friend's first name by exception, "if this goes on, you will be ill. What the deuce shall we do then?"
"No, I shall not be ill. It will be all right if I can get sleep."
He was silent for a little, then spoke, with his eyes on the ground.
"Waymark, is this true they say about her -- about the former time?"
"Yes; it is true."
Waymark in turn was silent.
"I suppose," he continued presently, "I owe you an apology."
"None. It was right of you to act as you did."
He was going to say something else, but checked himself. Waymark noticed this, watched his face for a moment, and spoke with some earnestness.
"But it was in that only I misled you. Do you believe me when I repeat that she and I were never anything but friends!"
Julian looked up with a gleam of gratitude in his eyes.
"Yes, I believe you!"
"And be sure of this," Waymark went on, "whether or not this accusation is true, it does not in the least affect the nobility of her character. You and I are sufficiently honest, in the true sense of the word, to understand this."
Waymark only saw Mr. Woodstock once or twice in the next fortnight, and very slight mention was made between them of the coming trial. He himself was not to be involved in the case in any way; as a witness on Ida's side he could do no good, and probably would prejudice her yet more in the eyes of the jury. It troubled him a little to find with what complete calmness he could await the result; often he said to himself that he must be sadly lacking in human sympathy. Julian Casti, on the other hand, had passed into a state of miserable deadness; Waymark in vain tried to excite hope in him. He came to his friend's every evening, and sat there for hours in dark reverie.
"What will become of her!" Julian asked once. "In either case -- what will become of her!"
"Woodstock shall help us in that," Waymark replied. "She must get a place of some kind."
"How dreadfully she is suffering, and how dark life will be before her!"
And so the day of the trial came. The pawnbroker's evidence was damaging. The silver spoon had been pledged, he asserted, at the same time with another article for which Ida possessed the duplicate. The inscriptions on the duplicates supported him in this, and he professed to have not the least doubt as to the prisoner's identity. Pressed in cross-examination, he certainly threw some suspicion on the trustworthiness of his assertions. "You positively swear that these two articles were pledged by the prisoner, and at the same time!" asked the cross-examiner. "Well," was the impatient reply, "there's the same date and name, and both in my writing." But even thus much of doubt he speedily retracted, and his evidence could not be practically undermined.
Harriet's examination was long and searching, but she bore it without the slightest damage to her credit. Plain, straightforward, and stubborn were all her replies and assertions; she did not contradict herself once. Waymark marvelled at her appearance and manner. The venom of malice had acted upon her as a tonic, strengthening her intellect, and bracing her nerves. Once she looked directly into Ida's face and smiled.
Mrs. Sprowl had been summoned, and appeared in all the magnificence of accumulated rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watch-chains. Helter hoped to make good use of her.
"Did you on a certain occasion go to the person in whose employ the prisoner was, and, by means of certain representations with regard to the prisoner's antecedents, become the cause of her dismissal?"
"I did. I told all I knew about her, and I consider I'd a right to do so."
Mrs. Sprowl was not to be robbed of her self-assurance by any array of judicial dignity.
"What led you to do this?"
"A good enough one, I think. She'd been imposed on Mr. Casti and his wife as a respectable character, and she was causing trouble between them. She had to be got rid of somehow, and this was one step to it."
"Was Mrs. Casti aware of your intention to take this step?"
"No, she wasn't."
"But you told her when you had done it?"
"Yes, I did."
The frankness of all this had its effect, of course. The case was attracting much interest in court, and the public seats were quite full. Mrs. Sprowl looked round in evident enjoyment of her position. There was a slight pause, and then the examination continued.
"Of what nature was the trouble you speak of, caused by the prisoner between this lady and her husband?"
"Mr. Casti began to pay a good deal too much attention to her."
There was a sound of whispers and a murmuring.
"Did Mrs. Casti impart to you her suspicions of the prisoner as soon as she missed the first of these articles alleged to be stolen?"
"Yes, she did."
"And did you give any advice as to how she should proceed?"
"I told her to be on the look-out."
"No doubt you laid stress on the advantage, from a domestic point of view, of securing this prisoner's detection?"
"Certainly I did, and I hoped and prayed as she might caught!"
Mrs. Sprowl was very shortly allowed to retire. For the defence there was but one witness, and that was the laundress who had employed Ida. Personal fault with Ida she had one at all to find; the sole cause of her dismissal was the information given by Mrs. Sprowl. Perhaps she had acted hastily and unkindly, but she had young girls working in the laundry, and it behoved her to be careful of them.
Julian's part in the trial had been limited to an examination as to his knowledge of Ida's alleged thefts. He declared that he knew nothing save from his wife's statements to him. He had observed nothing in the least suspicious.
A verdict was returned of "Guilty."
Had the prisoner anything to say? Nothing whatever. There was a pause, a longer pause than seemed necessary. Then, without remark, she was sentenced to be imprisoned for six months with hard labour.
Waymark had been drawn to the court in spite of himself. Strangely quiet hitherto, a fear fell upon him the night be fore the trial. From an early hour in the morning he walked about the streets, circling ever nearer to the hateful place. All at once he found himself facing Mr. Woodstock. The old man's face was darkly anxious, and he could not change its expression quickly enough.
"Are you going in?" he said sharply.
"Then I shall not," said Waymark. "I'll go to your place, and wait there."
But when Abraham, whose eyes had not moved from the prisoner throughout the proceedings, rose at length to leave, a step or two brought him to a man who was leaning against the wall, powerless from conflicting excitement, and deadly pale. It was Waymark. Mr. Woodstock took him by the arm and led him out.
"Why couldn't you keep away?" the old man exclaimed hoarsely, and with more of age in his voice than any one had ever yet heard in it.
Waymark shook himself free, and laughed as one laughs under torment.
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