"Yes, I am Madeleine Linders," she answered. "I have often been at Chaudfontaine; did you stay at the hotel there?"
"Only for one night," said Graham; "but you and I had a long talk together in the courtyard that evening. Let me see, how can I recall it to you? Ah! there was a little green and gold fish——"
"Was that you?" cried Madelon, her face suddenly brightening with a flush of intelligence and pleasure. "I have it still, that little fish. Ah! how glad I am now that I did not give it away! That gentleman was so kind to me, I shall never forget him. But it was you!" she added, with a sudden recognition of Graham's identity.
"It was indeed," he said laughing. "So you have thought of me sometimes since then? But I am afraid you would not have remembered me if I had not told you who I was."
"I was such a little girl then," said Madelon colouring. "Five years ago—why I was not six years old; but I remember you very well now," she added, smiling up at him. "I have often thought of you, Monsieur, and I am so glad to see you again."
She said it with a little naive air of frankness and sincerity which was very engaging, giving him her hand as she spoke.
"I am glad you have not quite forgotten me," said Graham, sitting down by her on the window seat; "but indeed you have grown so much, I am not sure I should have recollected you, if I had not seen your name here. What have you been doing ever since? Have you ever been to Chaudfontaine again?"
"Oh, very often," said Madelon. "We go there almost every year for a little while—not this year though, for we were at Wiesbaden till three weeks ago, and then papa had to come to Paris at once."
"And do you still go about everywhere with your papa, or do you go to school sometimes?"
"To school? oh no, never," said Madelon, not without some wonder at the idea. "Papa would not send me to school. I should not like it at all, and neither would he. I know he would not get on at all well without me, and I love travelling about with him. Last winter we were in Italy."
"And you never come to England?"
"No, never. I asked papa once if he would not go there, and he said no, that we should not like it at all, it was so cold and triste there, one never amused one's-self."
"But I thought you had some relations there," said Graham. "Surely I saw an uncle with you who was English?"
"Oh yes, Uncle Charles; but he never went to England either, and he died a long time ago. I don't know of any other relations."
"So you never talk English now, I suppose? Do you remember telling me to speak English, because I spoke French so funnily?"
"No," said Madelon, colouring and laughing. "How is it possible I can have been so rude, Monsieur? I think you speak it very well. But I have not forgotten my English, for I have some books, and often we meet English or American gentlemen, so that I still talk it sometimes."
"And German too," said Horace, looking at her book.
"Yes, and Italian; I learnt that last winter at Florence. We meet a great many different people, you know, so I don't forget."
"And you are always travelling about?"
"Yes, always; I should not like to live in one place, I think, and papa would not like it either, he says. Do you remember papa, Monsieur?"
"Very well," said Graham; and indeed he recalled perfectly the little scene in the salle-a-manger of the Chaudfontaine hotel— the long dimly lighted room, the two men playing at cards, and the little child nestling close up to the fair one whom she called papa. "Yes, I remember him very well," he added, after a moment's pause.
"How strange that you should see us here again!" said Madelon. "Did you know we were staying in the hotel, Monsieur?"
"Not at all," answered Horace, smiling. "I only arrived yesterday, and had no notion that I should find an old acquaintance to welcome me."
"How fortunate that I was waiting here, and that you saw my name in that book," said Madelon, evidently looking on the whole as a great event, brought about by a more remarkable combination of circumstances than everyday life as a rule afforded. "Without that you would not have known who I was, perhaps? Papa will be very glad to see you again. Ah, how I wish he would come!" she added, all her anxieties suddenly revived.
"Do you always sit up for him when he is so late?" said Graham. "Surely it would be wiser for you to go to bed."
"That is just what I said to Mademoiselle an hour ago," said a kind, cheery voice behind them, belonging to Madame Lavaux, the mistress of the hotel. "Of what use, I say, is it for her to sit up waiting for her papa, who will not come any the sooner for that."
"Ah! Madame, I must wait," said Madelon. "Papa will come soon."
"But, ma chere petite—" began Madame.
"I must wait," repeated Madelon, piteously; "I always sit up for him."
Graham thought he could not do better than leave her in the hands of the landlady, and with a friendly good-night, and a promise to come and see her the next day, he went back to his own room. In a few minutes, he heard Madame pass along the corridor and go upstairs to bed; but, though tired enough himself after a day of Paris sight-seeing, he could not make up his mind to do the same, when, on opening his door, he saw Madelon standing where he had left her. He could not get rid of the thought of this lonely little watcher at the end of the passage, and taking up a book he began to read. From time to time he looked out, but there was no change in the posture of affairs; through the half-open door opposite he could see the lights burning in the still empty room, and the small figure remained motionless at the moonlit window. All sounds of life and movement were hushed in the hotel, all the clocks had long since struck midnight, and he was considering whether he should not go and speak to Madelon again, when he heard a faint cry, and then a rush of light feet along the passage and down the staircase.
"So he has come at last," thought Graham, laying down his book with a sense of relief, not sorry to have his self-imposed vigil brought to an end. He still sat listening, however; his door was ajar, and he thought he should hear the father and child come up together. There was a moment's silence as the sound of the footsteps died away, and then succeeded a quick opening and shutting of doors, the tread of hasty feet, a confusion of many voices speaking at once, a sudden clamour and stir breaking in on the stillness, and then suddenly subdued and hushed, as if to suit the prevailing quiet of the sleeping house.
"Something must have happened," thought Graham. "That poor child!—perhaps her father has, after all, met with some accident!" He left his room and ran quickly downstairs. The confused murmur of voices grew louder as he approached the hall, and on turning the last angle of the staircase, he at once perceived the cause of the disturbance.
A little group was collected in the middle of the hall, the night porter, one or two of the servants of the hotel, and some men in blouses, all gathered round a tall prostrate man, half lying on a bench placed under the centre lamp, half supported by two men, who had apparently just carried him in. He was quite insensible, his head had fallen forward on his breast, and was bound with a handkerchief that had been tied round to staunch the blood from a wound in his forehead; his neckcloth was unfastened and his coat thrown back to give him more air. The little crowd was increasing every moment, as the news spread through the house; the porte-cochere stood wide open, and outside in the street a fiacre could be seen, standing in the moonlight.
"A doctor must be fetched at once," someone was saying, just as Horace came up and recognized, not without difficulty, in the pale disfigured form before him, the handsome fair-haired M. Linders he had met at Chaudfontaine five years before.
"I am a doctor," he said, coming forward. "Perhaps I can be of some use here."
No one seemed to notice him at first—a lad had already started in quest of a surgeon, and jumping into the empty fiacre that had brought the injured man to the hotel, was driving off; but Madelon turned round at the sound of Graham's voice, and looked up in his face with a new expression of hope in her eyes, instead of the blank, bewildered despair with which she had been gazing at her father and the strange faces around. To the poor child it seemed as if she had lived through an unknown space of terror and misery during the few minutes that had elapsed since from the passage window she had seen the fiacre stop, and, with the presentiment of evil which had been haunting her during these last hours of suspense, intensified to conviction, had flown downstairs only to meet her father's insensible form as he was carried in. She was kneeling now by his side, and was chafing one of his cold hands between her poor little trembling fingers; but when she saw Graham standing at the edge of the circle she got up, and went to him.
"Will you come to papa?" she said, taking him by both hands and drawing him forward.
"Don't be frightened," said Horace, in his kind, cheerful voice, trying to encourage her, for her face and lips were colourless, and she was trembling as with a sudden chill. He put one arm round her, and came forward to look at M. Linders.
"Allow me," he said; and this time his voice commanded attention, and imposed a moment's silence on the confusion of tongues. "I am a doctor, and can perhaps be of some use; but I must beg of you not to press round in this way. Can anyone tell me what has happened?" he added, as he bent over M. Linders.
"It was an accident, Monsieur," said a man of the working- class, standing by, "this poor gentleman must have had some kind of fit, I think. I was crossing the Boulevards with him about ten o'clock; there were a good many carriages about, but we were going quietly enough, when suddenly I saw him stop, put his hand to his head, and fall down in the road. I had to run just then to get safely across myself, and when I reached the other side, I saw a great confusion, and heard that a carriage had driven straight over him."
There was a moment's pause, and Madelon said in a tremulous whisper, "Papa used to have vertiges last winter, but he got quite well again."
"To be sure," said Graham; "and so we must hope he will now. That was more than two hours ago," he said, turning to the man—"what have you been doing ever since?"
"We carried him into the nearest cafe, Monsieur, and some proposed taking him to a hospital, but after a time we found a letter in his pocket addressed to this hotel, and we thought it best to bring him here, as he might have friends; so we got a fiacre. But it was a long way off, and we were obliged to come very slowly."
"A hospital would perhaps have been the better plan," said Graham; "or you should have found a doctor before moving him. However, now he must be carried upstairs without further delay. My poor child," he said, turning to Madelon, "you can do no good here—you had better go with Madame, who will take care of you; will you not, Madame?" he added, turning to the landlady, who, roused from her bed, had just appeared, after a hasty toilette.
"Yes, yes, she can come with me," said Madame Lavaux, who was not in the best of tempers at the disturbance; "but I beg of you not to make more noise than you can help, Messieurs, or I shall have the whole house disturbed, and half the people leaving to-morrow."
The sad little procession moved quietly enough up the stairs, and along the corridor to M. Linders' room. Graham had gone on in front, but Madame Lavaux had held back Madelon when she would have pressed forward by the side of the men who were carrying her father, and she had yielded at first in sheer bewilderment. She had passed through more than one phase of emotion in the course of the last ten minutes, poor child! The first overwhelming shock and terror had passed away, when Graham's reassuring voice and manner had convinced her that her father was not dead; but she had still felt too stunned and confused to do more than obey passively, as she watched him carefully raised, and slowly carried from the hall. By the time they reached the top of the staircase, however, her natural energy began to reassert itself; and, as she saw him disappear within the bedroom, her impatient eagerness to be at his side again, could not be restrained. His recent illness was still too fresh a memory for the mere sight of his present suffering and insensibility to have any of the terrors of novelty, after the first shock was over, and all her former experiences went to prove that his first words on recovering consciousness would be to ask for her. Her one idea was that she must go at once and nurse him; she had not heeded, nor, perhaps, even heard Graham's last words, and she was about to follow the men into the bedroom, when Madame Lavaux interposed to prevent her.
"Run upstairs to my room, petite," she said; "you will be out of the way there, and I will come to you presently."
"No," said Madelon, refusing point-blank, "I am going with papa."
"But it is not possible, my child; you will only be in the way. You heard what M. le Docteur said?"
"I will go to papa!" cries Madelon, trembling with agitation and excitement; "he will want me, I know he will, I am never in his way! You have no right to prevent my going to him, Madame! Let me pass, I say," for Madame Lavaux was standing between her and the door of the room into which M. Linders had been carried.
"Allons donc, we must be reasonable," says Madame. "Your papa does not want you now, and little girls should do as they are told. If you had gone to bed an hour ago, as I advised, you would have known nothing about all this till to-morrow. Eh, these children! there is no doing anything with them; and these men," she continued, with a sigh, "the noise they make with their great boots! and precisely Madame la Comtesse, au premier, had an attaque des nerfs this evening, and said the house was as noisy as a barrack—but these things always happen at unfortunate moments!"
No one answered this little speech, which, in fact, was addressed to no one in particular. It was, perhaps, not altogether Madame Lavaux' fault that through long habit her instincts as the proprietor of a large hotel had ended by predominating so far over her instincts as a woman as always to come to hand first. The nice adjustment between the claims of conscience and the claims of self-interest, between the demands of her bills and the demands of never-satisfied, exacting travellers, alone involved a daily recurring struggle, in which the softer emotions would have been altogether out of place, we may suppose. In the present instance she considered it a hard case that her house should be turned topsy-turvy at such an untimely hour, and its general propriety endangered thereby; and Madelon's grief, which at another time would have excited her compassion, had for the moment taken the unexpected form of determined opposition, and could only be looked upon as another element of disturbance. Madelon herself, however, who could hardly be expected to regard her father's accident with a view to those wider issues that naturally presented themselves to Madame Lavaux, simply felt that she was being cruelly ill-used. She had not attended to a word of this last speech, but nevertheless she had detected the want of sympathy, and it by no means increased her desire to accede to Madame's wishes.
"I will go to papa," she repeated, the sense of antagonism that had come uppermost gaining strength and vehemence from the consciousness of the underlying grief and sore trouble that had aroused it, "or I will stay here if you will not let me pass; rather than go away I will stand here all night."
Graham had heard nothing of this little altercation, but now coming out of the bed-room to speak to Madame Lavaux, he found a most determined little Madelon standing with her hands clasped behind her, and her back set firmly against the wall, absolutely refusing to retreat.
She sprang forward, however, as soon as she saw him.
"I may go to papa now, may I not?" she cried.
"Mademoiselle wants to go to her papa," says Madame, at the same moment, "I beg of you, Monsieur, to tell her it is impossible, and that she had better come with me. She asserts that her father will want her."
"That is all nonsense," said Graham hastily; "of course she cannot come in now," then noticing Madelon's poor little face, alternately white, and flushed with misery and passion, he said, "Listen to me, Madelon; you can do your father no good now. He would not know you, my poor child, and you would only be in the way. But I promise you that by-and-by you shall see him."
"By-and-by," said Madelon; "how soon?"
"As soon as we can possibly manage it."
Nothing, perhaps, would have induced Madelon at that moment to have given into Madame Lavaux' unsupported persuasions, but she yielded at once to Horace; indeed her sudden passion had already died away at the sight of his face, at the sound of the kind voice which she had somehow begun to associate with a sense of help and protection. She did not quite give up her point even now, however.
"I need not go upstairs," she said, with trembling lips and tears in her eyes. "I may go into my own room, may I not?"
"Your room? Which is that?" asked Graham.
"This one—next to papa," she said, pointing to the door that led into the passage.
"Yes, you can stay there if you like; but don't you think you would be better with Madame Lavaux, than all by yourself in there?"
"No, I would rather stay here," she answered, and then pausing a moment at the door, "I may come and see him presently?" she added wistfully, "I always nursed him when he was ill before."
"I am sure you are a very good little nurse," said Graham kindly, "and I will tell you when you may come; but it will not be just yet. So the best thing you can do will be to go to bed, and then you will be quite ready for to-morrow."
He had no time to say more, for his services were required. He gave Madelon a candle, closed the door that communicated between the two rooms, and she was left alone.
A Farewell Letter.
Madelon was left alone to feel giddy, helpless, bewildered in the reaction from strong excitement and passion. She was quite tired and worn-out, too, with her long watching and waiting; too weary to cry even, or to think over all that had happened.
She did not go to bed, however; that would have been the last thing she would have thought of doing; for, Graham's last words notwithstanding, she had a notion that in a few minutes she would be called to come and watch by her father, as she had often done in the old days at Florence; so she only put down her candle on the table, and curled herself up in a big arm-chair; and in five minutes, in spite of her resolution to keep wide awake till she should be summoned, she was sound asleep.
Low voices were consulting together in the next room, people coming in and out; the French doctor who had been sent for arriving; cautious footsteps, and soft movements about the injured man. But Madelon heard none of them, she slept soundly on, and only awoke at last to see her candle go out with a splutter, and the grey light of dawn creeping chilly into the room. She awoke with a start and shiver of cold, and sat up wondering to find herself there; then a rush of recollections came over her of last night, or her father's accident, and she jumped up quickly, straightening herself, stretching her little stiff limbs, and pushing back her tumbled hair with both hands from the sleepy eyes that were hardly fairly open even now.
Her first movement was towards the door between the two bedrooms, but she checked herself, remembering that Monsieur le Docteur had told her she must not go in there till she was called. There was another door to her room leading into the corridor, and just at that moment she heard two people stop outside of it, talking together in subdued tones.
"Then I leave the case altogether in your hands," says a strange man's voice. "I am absolutely obliged to leave Paris for B—— by the first train this morning, and cannot be back till to-morrow night; so, as you say, Monsieur, you are in Paris for some time——"
"For the next few days, at any rate," answered the other; and Madelon recognized Graham's voice and English accent, "long enough to see this case through to the end, I am afraid."
"If anything can be done, you will do it, I am sure," interrupted the other with warmth. "You must permit me to say, Monsieur, as an old man may say to a young confrere, that it is seldom one meets with so much coolness and skill in such a very critical case. Nothing else could have saved——"
The voices died away as the speakers walked towards the end of the passage. Madelon had hardly taken in the sense of the few sentences she had heard; she was only anxious now to see Graham and ask if she might go to her father, so she opened her door softly and crept into the passage, meeting Horace as he returned towards the sick-room after seeing the French doctor off. He looked down on the little figure all pale and ruffled in the cold grey light.
"Why, I thought you were asleep," he said. "Would you like to see your father now? You may come in, but you must be very quiet, for he is dozing."
"Then he is better?" said Madelon, anxiously.
Graham did not answer, he opened the door and led her in. The room looked cheerless with the shaded night-lamp casting long shadows, which mingles with those that the growing daylight was chasing away. M. Linders was lying with his head supported on a heap of pillows: his forehead was bandaged where the deep cut had been given just above the brow, and he looked deadly pale; his eyes were closed, he was breathing heavily, and Madelon thought that, as Graham had told her, he was asleep; but it was, in fact, rather a kind of stupor, from which louder noises than the sound of her soft footfall would have failed to rouse him. She went on tiptoe up to his bedside, and stood gazing at him for a moment, and then with a swift, silent movement buried her face in her hands, and burst into an agony of crying.
"He is very ill—oh! is he going to die?" was all the answer she could give in a hoarse whisper to Graham's attempts at comfort, trying the while to smother her sobs, so that they might not break out and wake her father.
"I hope not—I hope not," said Horace, quite grieved at the sight of her distress; "but you must not cry so, Madelon; how are you to nurse him and help him to get well again if you do?"
She stopped sobbing a little at this, and tried to check her tears.
"Do you really think he will get well again?" she said; "he looks so ill."
Graham did not at once answer. In truth, he saw no prospect of M. Linders' ultimate recovery, though he would probably regain consciousness, and might, perhaps, linger on for a few days. But there always remained the hope born of a determination not to despair, and it seemed cruel, at that moment, not to share it with our poor little Madelon.
"We must hope so," he said at last, "we must always hope for the best, you know; but he must be kept very quiet, so you and I, Madelon, must do our best to watch him, and see that he is not disturbed."
"Yes," said Madelon, drying her eyes quite now. "I will take care of him."
"Very well, then, if you will sit with him now, I will go and speak to Madame Lavaux, if she is up; there are several arrangements I have to make."
He went away, leaving Madelon contented for the moment, since she could sit and watch by her father; she remained motionless, her eyes fixed on his face, her hands clasped round her knees, her whole mind so absorbed in keeping perfectly quiet, the one thing she could do for him just then, that she hardly ventured to breathe. But not even yet did she understand the full meaning of what had happened, nor clearly comprehend all that she had to dread. She was not really afraid that her father would not recover; she knew indeed that he was very ill, much worse than he had ever been at Florence, and that it might be a long, long time before he would be well again, but she did not think that he was going to die. She had asked the question indeed, prompted by an instinctive terror that had seized her, but in fact she hardly knew what death meant, much less had she ever conceived of her father as dead, or imagined life without him. Nevertheless, the sudden panic had left a nameless, unrecognized fear lurking somewhere, which gave an added intensity to her desire that he would wake up and speak to her once more; and sometimes the beating of her own heart seemed to deafen her, so that she could not hear the sound of his heavy irregular breathing, and then nothing but the dread of disturbing him could have prevented her from jumping up and going to him to make sure that he was still sleeping. When would he awaken and look at her and speak to her again? It appeared so long since she had heard his voice, and seen him smile at her; since he had wished her good-bye the evening before, she seemed to have lived through such long hours of unimagined terror and sorrow, and all without being able to turn to him for the sure help, for the loving protection and sympathy that had ever been ready for his little Madelon; and even now, he did not know how she was watching him, nor how she was longing to go to him and kiss him, to put her arms round his neck, and lay her soft little cheek caressingly against his. This thought was the most grievous of all to Madelon just then, and the big tears came into her eyes again, and fell slowly one by one into her lap.
Graham, however, returning presently, somehow seemed to bring courage and consolation with him. Madelon brightened up at once when he sat down by her and told her that he had asked Madame Lavaux to send them up some coffee, so that they might have it together there; and then, seeing the tears on her sad little face, he assured her in his kind way that her father would wake up presently and speak to her, and that, in the meantime, she need not sit quite so still, as she would not disturb him if she moved about quietly; and when, by-and-by, the cafe-au-lait arrived, they had their little meal together, whilst he told her in a low voice how her father had partially recovered his consciousness in the night and asked for her, but had been quite satisfied when he heard she had gone to bed, and had afterwards gone off to sleep as Madelon saw him now.
"By-the-by, Madelon," Graham said presently, "tell me if you have any relations living in Paris, or any friends that you go and visit sometimes?"
"No," says Madelon wondering, "I have no relations—only papa."
"No uncles, or aunts, or cousins?"
"No," said Madelon again, "only Uncle Charles, who died, you know."
"Ah, yes—that was an English uncle; but your papa, has he no brothers or sisters in Paris, or anywhere else?"
"I never heard of any," said Madelon, to whom this idea of possible relations seemed quite a new one. "I never go to visit anyone."
"Then you have no friends living in Paris—no little companions, no ladies who come to see you?"
"No," answers Madelon, shaking her head, "we don't know anyone in Paris, except some gentlemen who come to play with papa— like Monsieur Legros, you know—only some are nicer than he is; but I don't know the names of them all. At Wiesbaden I knew a Russian princess, who used to ask me to go and see her at the hotel—oh, yes, and a German Countess, and a great many people that we met at the tables and at the balls, but I daresay I shall never see them again; we meet so many people, you know."
"And you have no other friends?"
"Oh, yes," said Madelon, her eyes shining suddenly, "there was the American artist, who lived in our house in Florence, and the old German who taught me to sing and play the violin; I was very fond of him, he was so good—so good."
"Who were they?" asked Graham.
Madelon explained, not in the least understanding the purport of all these questions, but her explanation did not help Graham much. In truth, he was revolving some anxious thoughts. In accepting the charge of this sick man, he felt that he had incurred a certain responsibility, not only towards M. Linders, but towards his little girl, and any relations or friends that he might have. It was on Madelon's account above all that he felt uneasy; what was to become of her if her father died—and Graham had little doubt that he was dying—all friendless and alone in the world as she would apparently be? Had any arrangements for the future been made, any provision left for her? What was to become of this poor child, clinging so closely to her father, and so dependent upon him that she seemed to have no thoughts nor ideas apart from him?
Graham had been questioning Madame Lavaux as to what she knew of M. Linders and his life, and had gained much information on some points, though very little on others. Madame Lavaux had readily related the history of Madelon's birth and Madame Linders' death. It was a story she was fond of telling; it had been a little romance in the ordinary routine of hotel life, and one in which, when she had duly set forth M. Linders' heartlessness and her own exertions, she felt that she must shine in an exceptionally favourable light; and indeed it was so pitiful a tale the her hearers could not but share the indignation and compassion she felt and expressed when she spoke of cette pauvre dame, who so young and so beautiful had been left alone to give birth to her infant, and, still alone, to die four months later. But when Graham endeavoured to get any facts bearing directly upon the present emergency, he found Madame Lavaux less well-informed. M. Linders had come to her hotel year after year, she said, and she had always taken him in, on the little girl's account (who was a chere petite, though troublesome sometimes, as children would be); otherwise she would have been sorry to have such a mauvais sujet about the house, in and out at all hours, and queer-looking men sitting up with him half the night. Had he any relations or friends? That she did not know, she had never seen or heard of any, but she did not wonder at that—they did well to keep clear of him, a bad man, who had broken more hearts than his wife's, she would answer for it. For the rest, she knew little about him, she added, with a sudden fit of professional reticence, induced by the recollection that it might be as well not to gossip too much about the affairs of her clientele; he came and went, paid his bill regularly enough, generally seemed to have money at his command, and of course it was not for her to inquire how he got it, though she might have her suspicions. What was to become of his little girl in case of his death? Madame had never thought of that: did Monsieur think he was going to die? In that case how much better to have taken him to the hospital; a death in the house was always so inconvenient and disagreeable—not that she had grudged it to that pauvre Madame Linders, but this was a different thing altogether; would he certainly die? Monsieur said he did not know, one must always hope, but the case was a grave one, and seeing that Madame could give him no help he left her.
He had questioned Madeleine in the hope that she would be able to tell him of some one for whom he could send, or to whom he could at least write, but here again he was baffled, and he could only wait now for the moment when M. Linders should recover consciousness.
The hotel was all astir by this time with life and movement, doors opening and shutting, footsteps up and down the staircases and corridors, voices talking, calling, grumbling, downstairs eating and drinking going on with much clattering of plates and dishes, fiacres and omnibuses driving up, tourists setting off in gay parties for their day's sight- seeing, luggage being moved, travellers coming, travellers going, to England, to the north, to the south, to the ends of the earth—all the busy restless hotel life going on except in this one silent room, where two people sat very quietly watching a third, who, as one of them foresaw sadly enough, would never take part in all this stir and bustle of life again. Outside was broad sunny daylight now, but within it was all dim and cool, for the night had been hot, and the window stood wide open, and now the morning air blew freshly through the Venetian shutters, that were closed to darken the room and shut out the sun, which later would shine full upon them. The morning hours slipped away; there was nothing to be done while M. Linders remained in this state, and Madelon, by Horace's advice, took a book, and seated herself on a low stool by the window to read. Now and then she would stand looking at her father with a most pitiful yearning in her great brown eyes; once or twice, M. Linders, in his dull slumber, half torpor, half sleep, seemed in some sort conscious of her presence; he moved his head uneasily, said "Madeleine," and then some low muttered words which she could not catch, but he never quite roused up, and after each throb of expectation and hope, she could only return to her book, and her silent watching.
Graham went in and out, or sat reading and writing at the table, and at twelve o'clock he made Madelon go downstairs to breakfast with Madame Lavaux in her own little sitting-room. Madame, who was really very fond of her, had forgotten all about the altercation of the night before. Indeed she was both good-natured and kind-hearted as soon as she could allow her better impulses to have their own way; but she was a little apt, as are most people to whom life resolves itself into a narrow ministering to their personal pains and pleasures, to look upon untoward occurrences as evidence of the causeless animosity of some vague impersonality, continually on the watch to adjust the largest events of life so as to occasion her particular inconvenience. If half Paris and its environs had been destroyed by an earthquake, her first impression of the catastrophe would very possibly have been that it could not have happened at a worse moment for raising the price of early asparagus, though the further reflection that the general want of accommodation would justify her in doubling her hotel tariff, might in some measure have restored her faith in the fitness of things. After this, she would have found time to be overwhelmed with compassion for the sufferers. M. Linders' accident, she found, had, as yet, been attended with no evil results, so far as she was concerned; no one had been disturbed in the night, no one had left, so that, for the moment, it had been safely transferred to that region of abstract facts, which she could consider dispassionately, and judge by the light of her kindly impulses; and it was under the influence of these that she was now bent on petting and making much of Madelon, giving her cakes and confitures and all kinds of good things. On second thoughts she had rejected the idea that M. Linders was going to die; it would be so very troublesome and inconvenient, that she found it pleasanter to persuade herself that he would surely recover; and now, on the strength of his conviction, and with a kind wish to console Madelon, she became so encouraging, so certain he would be well again in a few weeks—in a few weeks did she say?—in a few days—with this clever English doctor, who, as she improvised for the occasion, everyone knew was one of the first doctors in London—with all this Madame so encouraged and cheered our Madelon, that she came upstairs again at the end of an hour looking quite bright, and almost expecting to see some wonderful change for the better in her father. M. Linders, however still lay as she had left him, and perhaps the sight of his pale bloodless face chilled her, for she crept silently to her corner, and took up her book again, without saying a word of her new hopes. Presently Graham, looking up from his writing, found that she had done the best thing possible under the circumstances, for, with her book lying open upon her lap, and her head resting against the window-frame, she had fallen fast asleep. He went up to her, raised her gently in his arms, and carried her into her own room; so perfectly sound asleep was she, that she hardly stirred, even when he laid her on her bed; and then, drawing the curtain round her, he left her to herself.
If this long morning had passed slowly and sadly for our sorrowful little Madelon, it had been a time of anxiety and uneasiness enough for Horace Graham also; who had never, I daresay, felt more nervous than during these quiet hours when M. Linders, partly from the effects of his accident, partly from the opiates that had been given him, lay unconscious. He was young in his profession, and though clever and skilled enough in the technical part, he had had little experience in what may be called the moral part of it, and he positively shrank form the moment when this man, of whose life and character he knew something, should wake up, and he should have to tell him that he was dying. It was so absolutely necessary, too, that he should know the danger he was in; for if, as was too probable from his mode of life, his affairs were in disorder, and his arrangements for his child's future had still to be made, the time that remained to him was in all human probability but short. For the rest, Graham felt in himself small capacity for preaching or exhortation, and indeed from a professional point of view, he dreaded a possible outburst of excitement and remorse, as lessening his last chance of saving his patient's life; and yet to him— young, full of energy, and hope, and resolution, though no nearer perfection and tried wisdom than any other man with crude beliefs and enthusiasms and untested powers for good or evil—to him death still appeared one of the most awful facts in life, and he could not think unmoved of the task of announcing to such a man as this, that his last chances were over, and such life as one can live in this world was for him a thing of the past for ever now. Not a twelvemonth later, Graham had stood by so many dying men, had listened to so many dying speeches, had seen death met in so many forms, and with such strange variety of character, with indifference or calmness, or resignation, with wild triumph, or wilder remorse, that he looked back with a sort of wonder on his present inexperience and perplexity. Not the less, however, did he now sit framing a dozen speeches one after the other, dreading the effect of saying too much, and fearing to say too little, till, about an hour after Madelon had fallen asleep, M. Linders at length stirred, opened his eyes, and tried to move.
Graham was at his side instantly, and the sick man gazed up at him in silence for a moment.
"What has happened?" he said at last in a feeble voice: "who are you? where is Madelon?"
"Madelon is in the next room asleep," answered Graham; "you met with an accident last night—I am an English doctor staying in the hotel—the French one had to leave—do you remember?"
He paused between each sentence, and M. Linders' eyes, which were fixed upon him as he spoke, gradually acquired an expression of intelligence as memory returned to him. He closed them again and turned away his head.
"Yes, I remember something about it," he said, "but—que diable—I cannot move a limb; am I much hurt?"
"A good deal," said Graham, helping him to raise himself a little. "You had better keep quiet, and take this," giving him a cordial, as M. Linders sank back exhausted.
"That is better," he said, after a few minutes of struggling breathing. "So I am a good deal hurt? Am I—am I going to die by chance, M. le Docteur?"
He spoke in his old half-sarcastic, half-cynical way, but a feeble, gasping voice, that made an effect of contrast, as of the tragic face espied behind the grinning mask. Somehow it touched Graham, burdened as he was with the consciousness of the death-warrant he had to pronounce, and he paused before answering. M. Linders noticed his hesitation.
"Bah!" he said, "speak, then; do you think I am afraid—a coward that fears to know the worst? I shall not be the first man that has died, nor, in all probability, the last. We ought to be used to it by this time, nous autres!"
"Perhaps it is always best to be prepared for the worst," says Graham, recovering himself at this address, and taking refuge at last in a conventional little speech. "And though we must always hope for the best, I do not think it right to conceal from you, Monsieur, that you are very much injured and shaken. If you have any arrangements to make, anyone you would wish to send for, or to see, I earnestly advise you to lose no time."
He watched M. Linders narrowly as he spoke, and saw a sudden gleam of fear or excitement light up his dull eyes for a moment, whilst his fingers clutched nervously at the sheet, but that was all the sign he made.
"So—I am going to die?" he said, after a pause. "Well—that is ended, then. Send for anyone? Whom should I send for?" he added, with some vehemence. "For your priests, I suppose, to come and light candles, and make prayers over me—is that what you are thinking of, by chance? I won't have one of them—you need not think of it, do you hear? —not one."
"Pardon me," said Graham, "but it was not of priests I was thinking just then—indeed, it seems to me that, at these moments, a man can turn nowhere so safely as to his God—but there are others——"
He spoke quietly enough, but M. Linders interrupted him with a fierce, hoarse whisper. "I can arrange my own affairs. I have no one to send to—no one I wish to see. Let me die in peace."
In spite of his assumed indifference, his whole soul was filled and shaken with a sudden dread terror; for the moment he had forgotten even his child. Graham saw it, but could not urge him further just then; he only passed his arm under the pillow, so as to raise his head a little, and then said, with such professional cheerfulness as he could muster,
"Allons, Monsieur, you must have courage. Calm yourself; you are not going to die yet, and we must hope for the best. You may live to see many people yet."
M. Linders appeared scarcely to hear what he was saying; but in a few moments his face relaxed, and a new expression came into it, which seemed to soften the grey, ghastly look.
"My poor little girl!" he said, with a sort of groan—"my little Madelon!—to leave thee all alone, pauvre petite!"
"It was precisely of her that I wished to speak," said Graham. "I am afraid, in any case, you must look forward to a long illness, and, on her account, is there no friend, no relation you would wish to send for?"
"I have no friends—no relations," said M. Linders, impatiently. "A long illness? Bah! M. le Docteur, I know, and you know that I am going to die—to-day, to-morrow, who knows?— and she will be left alone. She has no one in the world but me, and she has been foolish enough to love me—my little one!"
He paused for a moment, and then went on, with a vehemence that struggled for utterance, with his hoarse feeble voice and failing breath.
"If this cursed accident had happened but one day sooner or later, I could have left her a fortune—but a superb fortune; only one day sooner—I had it two days ago—or to-morrow—I should have had my revenge last night of that scelerat—that devil—that Legros, and won back the money he cheated me of, he—he—of all men, a mere beginner, a smatterer—ah! if I had been the man I once was, it would have been a different account to settle——"
He lay back panting, but began again before Graham could speak.
"I only want time—give me a little time, and my little Madeleine shall have such a fortune as shall make her independent of every one; or stay, why not send for him now? I will give you his address—yes, now—now at once, before it is too late!"
"That is quite impossible, Monsieur," Graham answered with decision; "and if you agitate yourself in this way, I must refuse to listen to another word. You are doing all you can to lessen your chances of recovery."
"You do not play, Monsieur?" said M. Linders, struck with a new idea, and not in the least attending to what Graham was saying.
"Do you want to win my money?" said the young man, half smiling. "No, I do not play, nor, if I did, have I any money to lose. Leave all these notions alone, I entreat of you; calm yourself; you need not trouble yourself to speak much, but just tell me what your wishes are concerning your little girl— in any case it is always best to be prepared. Have you made any will? Is there any one to whose care you would wish to entrust her in the event of your death?"
M. Linders had exhausted his strength and his passion for the moment, and answered quietly enough. No, he had made no will, he said—of what use? Everything he had was hers, of course— little enough too, as matters stood. He owned he did not know what was to become of her; he had made no arrangements—he had never thought of its coming to this, and then he had always counted on leaving her a fortune. He had sometimes thought of letting her be brought up for the stage; that might be arranged now, if he could see S——, the manager of the Theatre ——. Could he be sent for at once?
"Certainly, if you really wish it," answered Graham with some hesitation, and then added frankly, "I have no sort of right to offer an opinion, but will you not consider a moment before fixing on such a fate for your child? She is surely very young to be thrown amongst strangers, on such a doubtful career, especially without you at hand to protect her."
"It is true I shall not be there," said the father with a groan; "I had forgotten that. And I shall never see my little one grown up. Ah! what is to become of her?"
"Has she no relations?" said Graham, "in England for instance——"
"In England!" cried M. Linders fiercely, "what could make you fancy that?"
"I had understood that her mother was English——" began Graham.
"You are right, Monsieur; her mother was English, but she has no English relations, or, if she has, they are nothing to her, and she shall never know them. No," he said slowly, after a pause, "I suppose there is only one thing to be done, and yet I would almost rather she lay here dead by my side, that we might be buried together in one grave; it would perhaps be happier for her, poor little one! Ah, what a fate! but it must be—you are right, I cannot send her out alone and friendless into the world, she must go to her aunt."
"She has an aunt, then?" said Graham, with some surprise.
"Yes, Monsieur, she has an aunt, my sister Therese, with whom I quarrelled five and twenty years ago, and whom I have cordially hated ever since; and if ever woman deserved to be hated, she does;" and indeed, though he had not mentioned his sister's name for years, the very sound of it seemed to revive the old enmity in all its fresh bitterness. "She lives near Liege," he went on presently. "She is the Superior of a convent there, having risen to that eminence through her superior piety and manifold good works, doubtless. Mon Dieu!" he cried, with another of his sudden impotent bursts of passion and tenderness, "that it should have come to this, that I should shut up my little one in a convent! And she will be miserable—she will blame me, she will think me cruel; but what can I do? what can I do?"
"But it seems to me the best thing possible," said Graham, who, in truth, was not a little relieved by this sudden and unexpected solution of all difficulties. "So many children are educated in convent, and are very happy there; she will be certainly well taught and cared for, and you must trust to your sister for the future."
"Never!" he said, half raising himself on his elbow with a mighty effort. "Well taught!—yes, I know the sort of teaching she will get there; she will be taught to hate and despise me, and then they will make her a nun—they will try to do it, but that shall never be! I will make Madelon promise me that. My little one a nun!—I will not have it! Ah! I risk too much; she shall not go!"
He fell back on the pillow gasping, panting, almost sobbing, all pretence and semblance of cynicism and indifference gone in the miserable moment of weakness and despair. Was it for this, then, that he had taught his child to love him—that he had watched and guarded and cherished her—that he should place her now in the hands of his enemy, and that she should learn to hate his memory when he was dead? Ah! he was dying, and from the grave there would be no return—no hand could be stretched out from thence to claim her—no voice make itself heard to appeal to her old love for him, to remind her of happy bygone days when she had believed in him, and to bid her to be faithful to him still. Those others would be able to work their will then, while he lay silent for evermore, and his little one would too surely learn what manner of father she had had, perhaps—who knows?—learn to rejoice in the day that had set her free from his influence.
Graham very likely understood something of what was passing in M. Linders' mind, revealed, as it had been, by those few broken words, for he said in a kind voice,
"I think you may surely trust to your child's love for you, M. Linders, for she seems to have found all her happiness in it hitherto, and it is so strong and true that I do not think it will be easily shaken, nor can I fancy anyone will be cruel enough to attempt it." And then, seeing how little capable M. Linders seemed at that moment of judging wisely, he went on to urge the necessity of Madelon's being sent to her aunt as her natural guardian, representing the impossibility of leaving her without money or friends in the midst of strangers.
"There is a little money," said M. Linders, "a few thousand francs—I do not know how much exactly; you will find it in that desk. It would start her for the stage; she has talent— she would rise. S—— heard her sing once; if he were here now, we might arrange——"
He was rambling off in a low broken voice, hardly conscious, perhaps, of what he was saying. Graham once more interposed.
"No, no," he said, "you must not think of it. Let her go to her aunt. Don't be uneasy about her getting there safely; I will take charge of her."
"You will?" said M. Linders, fixing his dim eyes on Graham, and with some resumption of his old manner. "Pardon, Monsieur, but who are you, that you take such an interest in my affairs?"
"Anyone must take an interest in your little girl," said Graham warmly, and in the kind, frank voice that somehow always carried with it the conviction of his sincerity and good faith, "and I am truly glad that the chance that brought me to this hotel has put it in my power to be of use to you and to her. For the rest, my name is Graham, and I am an army surgeon. I don't suppose you recollect the circumstance, Monsieur, but I very well remember meeting you at Chaudfontaine some years ago."
"No, I don't remember," said M. Linders faintly, "but I think I may trust you. You will see that Madelon reaches Liege safely?"
"I will take her there myself," answered Graham. "Would you like to send any message to your sister?"
"I will write," said M. Linders, "or rather you shall write for me; but presently—I cannot talk any more now—it must do presently."
Indeed he was faint from exhaustion, and Graham could only do all that was possible to revive him, and then remain by his side till he should have recovered his strength a little; and as he sat there, silently watching, I daresay he preached a little sermon to himself, but in no unfriendly spirit to his patient, we may be sure. This, then, was what life might come to—this might be the end of all its glorious possibilities, of all its boundless hopes and aims. To this man, as to another, had the great problem been presented, and he had solved it— thus; and to Graham, in the fulness of his youth, and strength, and energy, the solution seemed stranger than the problem. To most of us, perhaps, as years go on, life comes to be represented by its failures rather than its successes, by its regrets rather than its hopes; enthusiasms die out, illusions vanish, belief in the perfectibility of ourselves and of others fades, as we learn to realize the shortness of life, the waywardness of human nature, the baffling power of circumstances, too easily allowed; but in their place, a humble faith in a more perfect and satisfying hereafter, which shall be the complement of our existence here, the fulfilment of our unfinished efforts, our many shortcomings, springs up, let us trust, to encourage us to new strivings, to ever-fresh beginnings, which shall perhaps be completed and bear fruit in another world; perhaps be left on earth to work into the grand economy of progress—not wholly useless in any case. But at four or five and twenty, in spite of some failures and disappointments, the treasure of existence to an honest, frank heart, still seems inexhaustible as it is inestimable. The contrast between the future Graham looked forward to, full of hopes and ambitions, and this past whose history he could guess at, and whose results he contemplated, forced itself upon him, and an immense compassion filled the young man's heart at the sight of this wasted life, of this wayward mind, lighted up with the sudden, passionate gleams of tenderness for his child, the one pure affection perhaps that survived to witness to what had been—a great compassion, an honest, wondering pity for this man who had thus recklessly squandered his share of the common birth right. Ah! which of us, standing on safe shores, and seeing, as all must see at times, the sad wreck of some shattered life cast up by the troubled waves at our feet, does not ask himself, in no supercilious spirit, surely, but with an awe-struck humility, "Who or what hath made thee to differ?"
Perhaps, as M. Linders lay there, he also preached to himself a little sermon, after his own peculiar fashion, for when, at the end of half an hour, he once more aroused himself, all signs of agitation had disappeared, and it was with a perfect calmness that he continued the conversation. Graham could not but admire this composure in the man whom but just now he had seen shaken with passion and exhausted with conflicting emotions; whom indeed he had had to help, and judge for, and support in his hour of weakness and suffering; whilst now M. Linders had resumed his air of calm superiority as the man of the world, which seemed at once to repel and forbid support and sympathy from the youth and inexperience at his side.
"You are right, Monsieur," he said, breaking the silence abruptly, and speaking in a clear, though feeble voice, "Madelon must go her aunt. Did I understand you to say you would take charge of her to Liege?"
"I will certainly," said Graham; "if——"
"I am exceedingly indebted to you," said M. Linders, "but I am afraid such a journey may interfere with your own plans."
"Not in the least," replied Graham. "I am only travelling for amusement, and have no one to consult but myself."
"Ah—well, I shall not interfere with your amusement long; and in the meantime, believe me, I am sensible of your goodness. It may make matters easier if you take a letter from me to my sister. I am afraid I cannot write myself, but I could dictate—if it be not troubling you too much—there are a pen and ink somewhere there; and if you could give me anything—I still feel rather faint."
Graham rose, gave him another cordial, drew a small table to the bedside, and sat down to write. M. Linders considered for a moment, and then began to dictate.
"Ma soeur,—We parted five and twenty years ago, with a mutual determination never to see each other again—a resolution which has been perfectly well kept, and which there is no danger of our breaking now, as I shall be in my grave before you read this letter; and you will have the further consolation of reflecting that, as we have never met again in this world, neither is there any probability of our doing so in another——"
"Pardon me," said Graham, laying down his pen, as M. Linders dictated these last words, "but you are about to recommend your child to your sister's care; of what use can it be to begin with words that can only embitter any ill-feeling there may have been between you?"
"But it is a great consolation I am offering her there," says M. Linders, in his feeble voice. "However, as you will— recommencons; but no more interruptions, Monsieur, for my strength is not inexhaustible."
"Ma soeur,—It is now five and twenty years since we parted, with the determination never to see each other again. Whether we have done well to keep this resolution or not, matters little now; we shall, at any rate, have no temptation in the future to break it, for I shall be in my grave before your receive this letter. I am dying, a fact which may possess some faint interest for you even now—or may not—that is not to the purpose either. It is not of myself that I would speak, but of my child. I am sending her to you, Therese, as to the only relative she has in the world; look on her, if you prefer it, as your mother's only grandchild; we had a mother once who loved me, and whom you professed to love—for her sake be kind to Madelon. I am not rich, and without money I cannot leave her amongst strangers, otherwise I would have found some other means of providing for her; at the same time, I do not send her to you absolutely penniless—she will take to you the sum of three thousand francs, which will provide her board for the next two or three years, at any rate; I do not cast her on your charity. I have two requests to make, and if your religion teaches you to have any regard for the wishes of a dying man, I trust you will hold them sacred as such. In the first place, I demand of you that you should not bring her up to be a nun; she has not, and never will have, the slightest vocation—is not that the right word?—for such a life. My wish is that she should be educated for the stage, but I do not absolutely desire it; circumstances must in some measure decide, and something must be left to your discretion, but a nun she shall not be. In the second place, respect my memory, so far as my little Madeleine is concerned. Keep your powers of abusing me, if they be not already exhausted, for the benefit of others; she has never been separated from me since she was an infant, and the little fool has actually learnt to love me, and to believe in me. It is an innocent delusion, and has made her happy—do not disturb it. I tell you, my sister, it will be the worst work you have yet wrought upon earth, and an evil day for you, if, even when I am in my grave, you try to come between me and my daughter.
"I will sign it," said the sick man, holding out his hand for the pen. He had dictated the letter with some pauses and gasps for breath, but in the uniform indifferent voice that he had adopted since the beginning of the conversation. He dropped the pen, when he had scrawled the signature with almost powerless fingers, and his hand fell heavily on the bed again. "That is done," he said, and, after a pause, continued: "Monsieur, circumstances have compelled me to place a confidence in you, with which, at another time, I should have hesitated to burden you, fearing to cause you inconvenience."
"You cause me no inconvenience, and I shall do my best to carry out your wishes," said Horace. "In return, I must beg of you to keep yourself quiet now."
"One moment, Monsieur—my money you will find in that desk, as I have said; after paying my funeral and other expenses, you will, I think, find there is still the sum left that I have named in my letter. I must beg of you to hand it over to my sister. I can trust her so far, I believe; and I will not have my child a pauper on her hands, dependent on her charity for food and clothing; otherwise it might have been wiser—however, it is too late now, and in two of three years much may happen. One word more, and I have done. I have no sort of claim on your kindness, Monsieur, but you have proved yourself a friend, and as such I would ask you not to lose sight of Madelon entirely. She will be but a friendless little one when I am gone, and I have not much confidence in her aunt's tender mercies."
"You may depend upon it that I will not," said Graham earnestly, and hardly thinking of the sort of responsibility he was accepting.
"Thank you; then that is all. And now, Monsieur le Docteur, how long do you give me?"
"How long?" said Graham.
"Ah! how long to live?—to-day, to-night, to-morrow? How long, in short?"
Then Graham spoke plainly at last, without further reticence or concealment, so useless in the face of this indifference and levity, real or affected.
"M. Linders," he said, "the chance on which your recovery hangs is so slight, that I do not think it probable, hardly possible, that you can live over to-morrow. Will you not try to understand this?"
There was something so wistful and kind and honest in Graham's expression as he stood there, looking down on his patient, that M. Linders was touched, perhaps, for he held out his hand with a little friendly gesture; but even then he could not, or would not abandon his latest pose of dying en philosophe.
"I understand well enough," he answered; "a man does not arrive at my age, mon ami, without having faced death more than once. You think, perhaps, it has terrors for me?—not at all; to speak frankly, pain has, but I do not suffer so much now. That is a bad sign, perhaps. Well, never mind, you have done your best for me, I know, and I thank you. Except for that little regret that you know of as regards Legros and—and Madelon, I am content that life should come to an end—it is not too delightful in any case, and those that I cared for most did their best to spoil mine for me. For people who believe in a hereafter, and choose to contemplate a doubtful future, adorned with flames and largely peopled with devils, I can imagine death to have its unpleasant side; but I look upon all such notions as unphilosophical in the extreme. And now, Monsieur, I think I could sleep a little. By-and-by, when Madelon awakes, I should like to see her."
He turned his head away, and presently fell into a light dose. Did he mean, or did he persuade himself that he meant half of what he said? Graham could not decide; and, in truth, he had uttered his little speech with an air of dignity and resignation that half imposed upon the younger man, and impressed him, in spite of his better judgment. An heroic soul going forth with an unfeigned stoicism to meet its fate? Or an unhappy man, striving to hide a shivering consciousness from himself and others, with an assumption of philosophical scepticism? Ah! who was Graham, that he should judge or weigh the secrets of another man's heart at such an hour as this? He left the bedside, and went back once more to his writing.
A few minutes afterwards, Madame Lavaux knocked softly, and looked into the room. Graham went out into the passage to speak to her, closing the door after him.
"How is he now, the poor Monsieur?" asks Madame.
"He is sleeping now," Graham answered; "there is nothing to be done but to keep him as quiet as possible."
"And will he recover, do you think?"
"Hardly. One must always hope; but he is very ill."
"Ah! well," said the landlady, resigning herself; "but, after all," she added, "it is sad to see a man die like that; and then there is the child. Otherwise the world will be none the worse for wanting him. But what is to become of the little girl?"
"That is all arranged," replied Graham, "she is to go to an aunt, a sister of her father's, who, it appears, is Superior of a convent near Liege. But can you tell me, Madame, had Madame Linders quarrelled with her English relations? When she was dying alone here, had she no friends of her own that she could have sent for to be with her?"
"She would not have them, Monsieur; you see, she was devoted to her husband in spite of all, this poor Madame, and he had quarrelled with her relations, I believe; at any rate, she would not send for them. 'Adolphe will come,' she would always say, 'and it would vex him to find anyone here,' and so she died alone, for he never arrived till the next morning. However," continues Madame, "it was not of that I came to speak now, it was to know if Monsieur would not wish to have a nurse to-night to attend the poor gentleman? It is what we must have had if you had not been here, and there is no reason why you should knock yourself up with nursing him."
"It certainly might be better," said Graham considering, "I had thought of it, but—however, you are quite right, Madame, a nurse we will have; where can I get one?"
Madame said he had better apply to the Soeurs de Charite, and gave him an address, adding that if he would like to go himself she could spare half an hour to sit with Monsieur there.
"I will go at once," replied Graham, "whilst he is sleeping; he is not likely to rouse again just a present; don't let him talk or move if he should awake, but it is not probable that he will."
So it was arranged, and Madame Lavaux established herself with her knitting in the dim, silent room, whilst Graham departed on his errand, satisfied that his patient was in safe hands. Not ten minutes had elapsed, however, when a knock came at the door of the sick-room, and a summons—could Madame come at once? Madame cast a look at her charge; he was perfectly still and quiet, sleeping profoundly apparently; there could be no harm in leaving him for a moment. She went, intending to return immediately; but, alas! for human intentions, downstairs she found a commotion that drove M. Linders, M. le Docteur, and everything else out of her head for the time being. Madame la Comtesse au premier had lost her diamond ring—her ring, worth six thousand francs, an heirloom, an inestimable treasure; lost it? it had been stolen—she knew it, felt convinced of it; she had left it for five minutes on her dressing-table whilst she went to speak to some dressmaker or milliner, and on her return it had vanished. Unpardonable carelessness on her part, she admitted, but that did not alter the fact; it had been stolen, and must be found; house, servants, visitors, luggage, all must be searched and ransacked. Where were the gendarmes? let all these people be taken into custody at once, pointing to the group of startled, wondering, servants,—let everyone be taken into custody. Madame Lavaux had enough to do and to think of for the next hour, we may be sure, and though, at the end of that time, Madame la Comtesse found the ring safe in the corner of her pocket, whither it had slipped off her finger, and the disturbance was at an end, not so were the consequences of that disturbance.
For in the meantime a very different scene was being acted out upstairs.
Five minutes after Madame Lavaux had left the room, Madelon, just awakened from her sound sleep, came creeping gently in. It was almost dark by this time, for it was late in the afternoon, and the Venetian shutters were still closed that had kept out the heat and glare all day; but now she threw them back, and let in the tepid evening breeze, and the faded light of the dying day; carriages and carts were rattling in the street below, shrill voices came from the opposite houses where lights were appearing here and there; high up in the serene grey-blue sky a few reddened clouds had caught the last gleams of the setting sun.
"Madelon," said M. Linders, roused by the noise she had made in opening the shutters.
A sudden throb of joy came over her as she heard his voice again, and she went swiftly and stood by his bedside.
"Are you better, papa?" she said, putting her two little cool hands into one of his, hot with fever.
"We are alone, are we not?" he answered, looking feebly around. "Come and sit up here by me. Can you jump up? That is right," as she climbed up and nestled close to him, her feet tucked under the sheet; "here, petite, let me put my arm round you."
He raised himself with an effort, and passed his arm round her, so that she could lay her head on his shoulder; and then in answer to her question,—
"No, I am not better," he said, "and I do not suppose I ever shall be better now. But never mind that," as she raised her head suddenly, and looked at him with wide, frightened eyes, "let us talk a little, Madelon. We have always been happy together; have we not, my child?"
"Ah! yes, papa."
"And later, when you are grown into a woman—as you will be, you know, by-and-by—and you think of the years when you were when you were a little girl, you will like to recall them; will you not, Madelon? You will remember that they were happy?"
"Yes, papa, I have been happy, ah, so happy!" says Madelon, half crying, and nestling closer to him; "but why do you talk so? What do you mean?"
"You will think of all our travels together, what pretty placed we have visited, all the fete days we have spent; and you will remember that, whatever else I may or may not have done, I have always tried to make you happy, and to be a good papa to my little one. Promise me that, Madelon."
"I promise it, papa," she said. "How could I forget? Why should I not remember? Why do you talk to me in this way, papa? Are you very ill?"
"Very ill," he replied, holding her tighter to him, "so ill that all those happy days are come to an end for me, and for you, too, ma petite; we shall never go about again together. You—you—" his voice broke with a sort of groan, but he went on again directly, "I wonder what my little Madelon will be like when she grows into a great girl? I should have liked to have seen you, my little one. I wonder if you will be tall—I dare say you will—for your mother was tall, and your face is very like hers."
"Am I like her, papa?"
"Very," he said, stroking her wavy hair, with his feeble fingers; "your eyes—yes, you have eyes that resemble hers exactly, and sometimes I have thought that when you grew up it would be almost like seeing her over again—for you know I did love her," he added, in a lower tone, turning his head restlessly on the pillow, "though they said I did not. I never meant her to die alone; they might have known that. I wish— Bah! I am forgetting——"
"What did you say, papa?"
"Nothing," he answered; "I think I was forgetting where I was. How dark it is growing! you must light the candles soon. I must look at you again; you know I want to see your eyes, and smile, and pretty hair once more. And you, my little one, you will not forget my face? Don't cry, don't cry," he said, with a sudden pain in his voice; "I cannot bear it. I have never made you cry before: have I, my child?"
"Never, never," she said, stifling her tears desperately.
"You must think of me sometimes when you are grown up," he went on in his feeble voice, harping still on the same subject. "You will have no money, my poor little one—if it had not been for that devil Legros—but it is too late to think of that now. Well, I think you will have beauty, and that will go far even if you have no dot, and I should like you to marry well. But when you have a husband, and are rich, perhaps, you must still think sometimes of the days when you were a little girl, and had a papa who loved no one in the world so much as his little Madelon."
"Papa, I want no money, nor husband, nor anything else," cried Madelon, in a burst of tears, and throwing both her arms round his neck. "I want nobody but you, and I love you, and always shall love you better than any one else in the world. Papa, are you going to die and leave me?"
"So it seems," he said bitterly. "It is not my choice, Madelon, but one cannot arrange these little matters for oneself, you see. Now listen, my child; I am not going to leave you quite alone. I have a sister, who is your aunt Therese; I have never spoken to you about her before, for she became a nun, and we have not always been very good friends, but I think she will give you a home. She is the Superior of a convent near Liege, and that English gentleman—the doctor, you know—will take you to her; do you understand?"
"Well, you must stay with her for the present. It is not just what I could have wished for you, ma petite, but I have no choice, as it happens; and if ever you are dull or unhappy there, you will not blame me, or think I was unkind in sending you, will you, my child? for indeed I could not help it, and you will be a good little girl, I know. By-and-by, as I said, perhaps you will marry—I cannot arrange all these matters beforehand. I used to think sometimes that perhaps you might have come out on the stage a few years hence. Would you have liked that, Madelon?"
"Yes—no—oh, I don't know, papa—I want you—I want you!"
"Yes—you will want me, pauvre petite. Good Heavens! that a child so small, so young should be left without me to take care of her! Bah, I must not think of it. Madelon, there is one thing more you must promise me—never to become a nun."
"A nun, papa?"
"Yes, a nun," he repeated, in his feeble vehement way, "a nun like your aunt Therese. Do you know what it means? To grow pious, and narrow-minded, and sour, to live for ever shut up between four walls from which there is no escape, to think yourself better than all the world. Madelon, promise me never to become a nun; if I thought that were the future in store for you—promise me, I say."
"I promise, papa," she said, quite solemnly, putting her hands together with a quaint little gesture; "indeed I should not like it at all."
"If I could only foresee—if I could only arrange," he said piteously. "God knows I have done what I think is best for you, my child, and yet—who knows what may come of it? Madelon," he went on in a faint, pleading, broken voice, "you will not let them make you think ill of me, and blame and despise me when I am dead? They will try perhaps, but you must always love me, my darling, as you do now; it must not be all in vain—all that I have been striving for—ah, don't cry—there— we won't talk any more now—another time."
There was a minute's silence in the darkening twilight; Madelon's face was hidden in her father's shoulder, as he lay there with his arm still round her and his eyes closed, faint and exhausted. All of a sudden he roused himself with a start.
"Ah, I am dying!" he cried, with a hoarse voice, "and it is all dark! Light the candles, Madelon—light them quickly, I must see you once more before I die!"
Startled, awe-struck, only half realizing the meaning of his words, Madelon slid off the bed and prepared to obey. At that moment there came a tremendous knocking at the door of the room, and a voice half chanting, half shouting,—
"Are you here, my friend? Are you within to-night? Can one enter? Open quick; it is I, it is your friend! Are you ready for your little revenge? I am ready, for my part; I will give it to you—yes, with pleasure—yes, with an open heart!"
"It is Legros!" cried M. Linders from his bed, in a sudden spasm of rage, "it is that villain, that miserable! Yes, yes, come in; Madelon, light the candles quickly; where are the cards? Ah—I will have my revenge yet!"
The door burst open, and Legros entered, just as Madelon had succeeded in lighting the candles. He stopped short in his uproarious entrance, suddenly sobered by the appearance of M. Linders, as he lay propped up with pillows, his white face and bandaged head, and eyes gleaming with fever and rage.
"Papa is very ill," says Madelon. "Monsieur, do not stay to- night, I beg of you!"
"What are you saying, Madelon?" cried her father; "I forbid you to say that again; bring me the cards. Legros, I am ready for you; ah, there is then one more chance in life!"
"You are not fit to play, Monsieur," said the young man, stepping back; "I will come again to-morrow."
"To-morrow!" answered M. Linders, with a sort of laugh, "have you then so many to-morrows that you can talk of them recklessly? Well, then, I will tell you—I have not—not one; but I have to-night, and that I will not lose. Ah! you think to cheat me in that way? you will put me off till to-morrow? you will say then—Ah, this M. Linders can never have his revenge now, he is quiet enough, I can keep his money in my pocket? You shall not say that, Monsieur; Madelon, bring the cards, and the lights, close to me, here, I cannot see well, it is so dark."
He seized the cards, and began to deal them out on the coverlet with his trembling hands. Madelon placed a small table at his side, put one candle on it, and with the other in her hand stood close to his pillow white and motionless. Legros slowly and reluctantly drew a chair to the bedside, and sat down opposite. There was a moment's pause, whilst M. Linders shifted and sorted his cards, and then, "A vous, Monsieur," he cried, with a sort of fierce impatience; but at the same instant his hold relaxed, the cards tumbled all in a heap on the floor, his head fell back. Madelon screamed and started forward, upsetting the table and the candle; Legros sprang up. It was at that moment that the door opened, and Graham, followed by a Soeur de Charite, entered the room.
Never, to the last day of his life, one may fancy, would Graham forget the little scene before him, which, indeed, always returned to his memory with an impression as vivid as that made upon him now—the overturned table, the scattered cards, Madelon in her white frock, her pale scared face, her wavy hair, her great brown eyes illuminated by the candle she still held, the terrified Legros, the ghastly look of the dying man—he saw it all at a glance, as he entered the room he had left so dim and silent but half an hour ago. It was to Legros he first addressed himself in a tone of strong indignation.
"Monsieur," he said, "you can have no business to transact with a dying man, and your presence is not desired here. Might I request you to leave me alone with my patient?"
"On my honour, Monsieur," cries the other, pale and stammering; "it was no doing of mine—he would have it so."
Graham, very likely, did not hear what he said; he was already at M. Linders' side. He raised his head, he felt his pulse and heart.
"It is nearly over," he said to the Soeur de Charite; "will you take the little girl into the next room?" And Madelon, frightened and trembling, offered no resistance as the Soeur took her by the hand and led her away.
It was as Graham said; all was nearly over. The feeble life, that with careful tending and cherishing might have flickered and lingered on yet a little longer, was all but quenched in this last supreme passion and effort. M. Linders never spoke again, and died in less than two hours, quietly at last, as men do for the most part die, it is said.
"That poor child!" said Graham, "who will tell her?"
"I will," said the brave, cheery little Soeur Angelique, and went.
* * * * * *
It was nearly midnight when the sad little bustle that had been going on in the chamber of death was hushed at last, and the Soeur de Charite prepared to depart. She had offered indeed to stay all night, but when Graham assured her that there was no occasion for any one to remain, as his room was just opposite, and he should be on the watch to see that all was quiet, she owned that she should be glad to go, as there was much illness about, and her services might be required elsewhere. She stood talking to Graham for a few moments before leaving.
"That poor little one," she said, "I should like to have one look at her, just to see that she is quiet; I don't think she half understood, or took in, what I said to her."
"Madame Lavaux told me she was in bed," Graham answered, "but we will see if she is asleep. Poor child, she will understand it all soon enough."
He opened the door gently between the two rooms, and they looked in. All was dark and silent, but they could just distinguish a little head laid on the white pillow, and could hear Madelon's soft, regular breathing.
"That is all right," said Graham, "we will not go in and disturb her; she will sleep till the morning, I daresay, for she was up almost all last night." He closed the door again as he spoke, and so they left her.
It was true that Madelon was asleep, but she was not exactly in bed. When the Sister had come in to tell her of her father's death, she had found her seated on the ground close to the door, with her hands clasped round her knees, her head leaning against the doorway; some one had bought in some supper on a tray, but it stood on the table untouched, though she had eaten nothing since the morning. She did not move when Soeur Angelique came in, but she looked up with an expression of dumb, helpless misery that went to the Sister's heart; she sat down beside her on the floor, put her arm round her, and told her the sad news in her gentle, quiet tones, which had acquired a ring of sympathy and tenderness in a thousand mournful scenes of sorrow and despair; but, as she had said to Horace, she hardly knew whether the child understood her, or took in what she was saying. Madelon did not speak nor cry; she only sat gazing at the little Sister with a look of perplexed terror dilating her brown eyes, that never changed as Soeur Angelique went on with her pious, gentle maxims and consolations, which fell blankly enough we may be sure on our small Madelon's bewildered mind; and presently, hearing herself called, and seeing indeed that she was making no impression with her kind little speeches, the Sister rose to go, saying as she did so, "You will go to bed now, chere petite, will you not?" and then thinking that a familiar face and voice might perhaps have a kindlier influence than her own just then, she added, "and I will ask Madame Lavaux to come to you."
"No, no," cried Madelon, suddenly rousing, and starting up at these last words. She had comprehended what the Sister had told her well enough so far as words went, but she was too stunned and confused to take in their full meaning; and in truth her presence there at all had only been another unfamiliar element in this bewildering whirl of events, imparting an additional sense of unreality. But when she mentioned Madame Lavaux, the name linked itself at once with recent memories and emotions, and its accustomed association with her every-day life made it a rallying point, as it were, for her scattered ideas. Madame Lavaux had been cross and unkind to her the night before; Madame had buoyed her up with false hopes of her father's recovery only that morning; Madelon did not want her, would not see her. She stood still for a few minutes after the Soeur de Charite had left the room, all her sorrows and doubts and certainties resolved for the moment into a dull, unreasoning dread of seeing Madame Lavaux come in; and then, suddenly fancying she heard footsteps approaching the door, she hastily blew out her candle, and all dressed as she was, crept under the coverlet of the bed. She would pretend to be asleep, she thought, and then no one would disturb her. The footsteps passed on, but presently the door did open, and some one looked in: it was Madame Lavaux, who, seeing that Madelon made no sign, concluded that she was asleep, and went away softly, with a kind pity in her heart for the desolate child. As for Madelon, the pretence of slumber soon passed into reality, for, after lying awake for a while listening to the low voices and rustling movements in the next room, fatigue and her own enforced tranquillity overcame her, and she fell sound asleep.
It must have been long past midnight when she awoke again with a sudden feeling of fright and strangeness, for which she could not account, but which made her spring off the bed and listen if she could hear any one moving. All was very still; not a sound came from the adjoining apartment; her own room was quite dark, for the windows and outside shutters were closed. Madelon felt scared, lonely, desolate, without knowing why; and then, all at once, she remembered the reason. All that the Sister had said came back with fresh meaning and distinctness to her senses restored by sleep; and, sitting down on the floor just where she was, she began to cry with a low moaning, sobbing sound, as a child cries when it is sorry and not naughty.
No one heard her, no one came near her; she was all alone, and in a few minutes she stopped crying, half frightened at her own voice in the silence and darkness. And then she began to wonder if her father were still in the next room, or whether they had taken him away anywhere; if not, he was all alone in there, as she was in here. It would be some comfort to be with him, she thought. Madelon knew that he was dead, but death was an unfamiliar experience with her; and she could not perhaps clearly separate this hour from all other hours when she had been hurt, or sorrowful, or frightened, and had run to her father to be comforted.
She got up, and, opening the door, stole softly into the other room. It was not quite so dark in there: the windows and Venetian shutters were wide open, and a lamp in the street below gave an uncertain light, by which she could just distinguish the gleam of the mirror, the table in the centre of the room, and the bed, where the outline of a silent form was vaguely defined under the white covering sheet. Madelon had had some half-formed idea of getting on to the bed, and nestling down by her father, as she had done only the evening before, when he had put his arm round her, and they had talked together; but now a chill dread crept over her—a sense of change, of separation; she had not even the courage to raise the sheet and look upon his face. She stood gazing for a moment, afraid to go back into the darkness of her own room; and then, with a sudden movement, as though urged by some terror, she turned quickly away, and went swiftly to the open window. She looked down into the narrow, dark street, dimly illuminated by an occasional lamp; she looked up to the starlit space of sky visible above the house-roofs and chimneys, and neither above nor below did she find any comfort; for a sudden awful realization of death had come to her in the darkness and silence, almost too keen and terrible for our poor little Madelon to bear—each realization, too, a fresh shock, as with an instinctive shrinking from this new consciousness of an intolerable weight her mind slipped away into some more familiar channel, only to be brought rudely back to this fact, so unfamiliar, and yet the only one for her now, in this sudden shattering of all her small world of hopes and joys and affections. And is it not, in truth, terrible, this strength of facts, when we are, as it were, brought face to face with them, and held there till we recognise them? No means of evasion, no hope of appeal from what is, in its very nature, fixed, unalterable, irrevocable; the sin is committed, the loved one gone, the friendship broken and dead, and for us remains the realization in remorse, and heart-breaking, and despair.
Which of us is strong enough to wrestle with facts such as these? which one of us can look them long in the face and live? In the desperate recoil, some of us find ourselves recklessly striving to forget and ignore them, and some find a surer refuge in facts that are stronger still than they; but to one and all, in kindly compassion to human weakness, each new emotion, each passing interest and trivial incident, combines to interpose a barrier between us and the terrible moment that overwhelmed us; and time which, in later years, seems to drag out the slow hours and days into long ages of dreary grief, can deal swiftly and mercifully with a little child. Hardly had Madelon grasped the true measure of her grievous loss, or tasted its full bitterness, when the reaction came with a great burst of tears, and crouching down in the corner by the window where she had spent so many hours of the previous day, she sobbed away half the terror and awe that were oppressing her poor little heart. Presently she began to grow sorry for herself in a vague, half-conscious sort of way—poor little Madelon, sitting there all alone crying, no one to help her, no one to comfort her—then the sobs came at longer and longer intervals as she gradually lost consciousness of where she was, or why she was there; and with the tears still wet on her cheek, she was nearly asleep again, when she was roused by some one bringing a light into the room; it was Graham, who had come to fetch something he had left on the table, and to see that all was quiet.
Madelon was too much accustomed to late expectant vigils to be startled; and, indeed, in her drowsy state, her first impression was only the familiar one of a welcome arrival. "Me voici, papa!" she cried, jumping up promptly; and then she saw the young man coming towards her, and with a suddenly revived consciousness of the still, white-sheeted form on the bed, she sank down on her low seat again, the sensation of blank misery all revived.
Graham, on his side, was not a little surprised at the small figure that had started up to meet him; he had fancied her in bed hours ago. He came up to where she was sitting, a most sad, disconsolate little Madelon, all huddled together, her hands clasped round her knees, her eyes shining through a short wavy tangle of brown hair, all rough and disordered.
"Don't you think you would be better in bed?" says Horace, in his kind, cheery voice.
"No," she answered abruptly; she was so miserable, so sore at heart with the sudden disappointment, poor child, and Graham had been the cause of it.
"But I am afraid you will be ill to-morrow if you sit there all night," said Graham; "do you know what time it is?"
"No," she said again; and then, as he came a step nearer, she gave a stamp on the floor, and turned her back on him. "Ah, do leave me alone!" she cried, in a miserable little broken voice, covering her face with her hand.
Graham saw that she was utterly wretched and worn out. He could guess pretty well how it had all happened, and reproached himself for not having foreseen and provided against the chance of her waking up and finding herself alone; and now he hardly knew what to do—to speak to her, or to urge her any more just then, would only make matters worse. At last he said quietly,—
"I have some writing to do, and I am going to bring it in here; you will not mind that, I daresay?"
No answer; Horace left the room, but in a moment he returned, sat down at the table and began to write.
A stillness which the rapid scratching of the pen upon the paper, and the vague, ceaseless hum of the great city coming through the open window, only seemed to render apparent; occasionally the clang of a church clock, the sudden rattle of wheels rising like hollow thunder and dying away into remote distance, a far-off cry, and then a silence more profound by contrast. Madelon, sitting in her dark corner, began to recover herself; in truth, it was the greatest possible relief to have Graham in the room with her, bringing light and the warm sense of a living presence into the chill, unnatural silence and darkness of death; and presently she began to awake to a half-penitent consciousness that she had been cross, rude, not at all raisonnable in fact; little by little she shifted her position, and at length turned quite round to look at M. le Docteur.
Monsieur le Docteur was not looking at her, nor thinking of her apparently, for he never raised his eyes from his writing; the candle light shone on his rough brown hair, on his pleasant, clever face, with keen profile, well defined against a shadowy background. Madelon sat watching him as though fascinated; there was something in the absorbed attention he was giving to his writing, which subdued and attracted her far more than any words he could have spoken to her, or notice he could have taken of her just then. He had apparently forgotten her, this kind Monsieur le Docteur, who had evidently more important things to think about than her and her pettish little speeches; or she had perhaps made him angry, and he would not take any more notice of her at all? There was a certain amount of probability in this last idea to the self- convicted little Madelon, that urged her to some sort of action; she sat still for a few moments longer, then got up and stole softly across the room to where Graham was sitting.
"I did not mean to be cross, Monsieur," she said, in her little trembling voice, standing with her hands clasped behind her back, and tears in her eyes. Perhaps Graham had forgotten her for the moment, for he gave a little start as he looked round.
"I am sure you did not," he said quite earnestly, as he laid down his pen, "but you are so tired to-night, and unhappy too; are you not?"
"Ah, yes," she answered, with a little sob, "I am very unhappy!"
He put his arm round her, as she stood beside him, and took one of her little hands in his; he was so sorry for the poor little girl, and yet he hardly knew what to say to console her. She gave two or three more little sobs, rubbing her eyes with her other hand to keep back the tears; presently she looked up into his face, and said:
"Do you really think I had better go to bed?"
"Indeed I do," replied Horace, much relieved by the practical turn her thoughts were taking; "I am really afraid you will be ill to-morrow if you do not, and you know I must take care of you now."
"I thought papa was all alone in here, and I was alone too," said Madelon, "it was so dark and lonely in my room."
"Well," said Horace, "I am going to stay in here for a little while, and presently I will open your door, and then it will be almost as if you were in the same room; won't that do?"
"Yes, thank you," said Madelon, who indeed was so tired that she could hardly speak. Graham lighted a candle for her, and opened the door leading into the inner room; she paused a moment as she took the light; and gazed up into the kind face looking down upon her; then she put her hand into his, and saying, "Good-night, Monsieur," went into her own room. Graham closed the door, and returned to his writing. That was all that passed between them, but from that time Madelon's feeling for Horace Graham approached adoration.
A week later, and Madelon was again, as on the day of her father's death, standing at a long open window, looking out on the fading glories of another evening sky. But instead of the narrow Paris street, with its noisy rattle of vehicles, and high white houses limiting the view of earth and heaven, before her lay the small garden of a Liege hotel, and beyond, the steep slope of a hill, where, mingled with trees, roof rose above roof, to where two churches crowning the ridge, showed their grey masses outlined against the clear pale blue.
Madelon had left Paris with Horace Graham the day before, and they had arrived at Liege that afternoon. The young doctor, bent on fulfilling the promise he had made to M. Linders, had altered all his plans, remaining in Paris till his little charge's affairs were settled, and then bringing her to Liege, with the intention of leaving her in her aunt's hands, and then proceeding to Switzerland for the accomplishment of as much of his proposed tour as should still be practicable. He willingly forfeited these days out of his brief holiday, for he had come to regard the child so unexpectedly thrown upon his care, with a very sincere interest, an affection not unmixed with wonder. Madelon was not at all like any other little girl he had ever had anything to do with, or rather—for his experience on this point was limited—unlike his preconceived notions of little girls in general. We, who know what Madelon's education had been, cannot feel surprised at her total ignorance of all sorts of elementary matters, her perfect unconsciousness of the most ordinary modes of thought current in the world, and of the most generally received standards of right and wrong, combined with a detailed experience in a variety of subjects with which children in general have no acquaintance. But for Graham, there was much that could only be matter for conjecture, much that he could only learn from inference, and to him there was something at once strange and pitiable in the simplicity with which she talked to him of her past life, dwelling on little episodes that only served to exhibit more and more clearly the real character of M. Linders and his associates. Not for the world would he have touched the child's innocent faith, or revealed to our simple Madelon that her father was not the perfection she dreamed him; but he began to understand better the meaning of M. Linders' last words in his letter to his sister, and they gained a pathetic significance and force as he learnt to appreciate the affection that had subsisted between the father and child, and foresaw too plainly that the time must come when some rude shock would shatter all Madelon's early beliefs, and desecrate, as it were, her tenderest memories. There was something so sad in this certain retribution that must fall upon her innocent head, as the child of such a father, something so touching in her anomalous position, left all friendless and lonely in the midst of such a hard, relentless world, that Horace felt all his tenderest feelings stirred with compassion, and he could have wished to have shielded her for ever from what, he could not but fear, too surely awaited her sooner or later.