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The Woman-Hater
by Charles Reade
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"Saddled with a virago!" screamed Fanny.

"Saddled with a—!" sighed Zoe, faintly.

"Saddled with a virago FOR LIFE!" shouted Vizard, with a loud defiance that seemed needless, since nobody was objecting violently to his being saddled.

"Look here!" said he, descending all of a sudden to a meek, injured air, which, however, did not last very long, "I was in the garden of Leicester Square, and a young lady turned faint. I observed it, and, instead of taking the hint and cutting, I offered assistance—off my guard, as usual. She declined. I persisted; proposed a glass of wine, or spirit. She declined, but at last let out she was starving."

"Oh!" cried Zoe.

"Yes, Zoe—starving. A woman more learned, more scientific, more eloquent, more offensive to a fellow's vanity, than I ever saw, or even read of—a woman of genius, starving, like a genius and a ninny, with a ring on her finger worth thirty guineas. But my learned goose would not raise money on that, because it was her father's, and he is dead."

"Poor thing!" said Zoe, and her eyes glistened directly.

"It is hard, Zoe, isn't it? She is a physician—an able physician; has studied at Zurich and at Edinburgh, and in France, and has a French diploma; but must not practice in England, because we are behind the Continent in laws and civilization—so she says, confound her impudence, and my folly for becoming a woman's echo! But if I were to tell you her whole story, your blood would boil at the trickery, and dishonesty, and oppression of the trades-union which has driven this gifted creature to a foreign school for education; and, now that a foreign nation admits her ability and crowns her with honor, still she must not practice in this country, because she is a woman, and we are a nation of half-civilized men. That is her chat, you understand, not mine. We are not obliged to swallow all that; but, turn it how you will, here are learning, genius, and virtue starving. We must get her to accept a little money; that means, in her case, a little fire and food. Zoe, shall that woman go to bed hungry to-night?"

"No, never!" said Zoe, warmly. "'Let me think. Offer her a loan."

"Well done; that is a good idea. Will you undertake it? She will be far more likely to accept. She is a bit of a prude and all, is my virago."

"Yes, dear, she will. Order the carriage. She shall not go to bed hungry— nobody shall that you are interested in."

"Oh, after dinner will do."

Dinner was ordered immediately, and the brougham an hour after.

At dinner, Vizard gave them all the outline of the Edinburgh struggle, and the pros and cons; during which narrative his female hearers might have been observed to get cooler and cooler, till they reached the zero of perfect apathy. They listened in dead silence; but when Harrington had done, Fanny said aside to Zoe, "It is all her own fault. What business have women to set up for doctors?"

"Of course not," said Zoe; "only we must not say so. He indulges us in our whims."

Warm partisan of immortal justice, when it was lucky enough to be backed by her affections, Miss Vizard rose directly after dinner, and, with a fine imitation of ardor, said she could lose no more time—she must go and put on her bonnet. "You will come with me, Fanny?"

When I was a girl, or a boy—I forget which, it is so long ago—a young lady thus invited by an affectionate friend used to do one of two things; nine times out of ten she sacrificed her inclination, and went; the tenth, she would make sweet, engaging excuses, and beg off. But the girls of this day have invented "silent volition." When you ask them to do anything they don't quite like, they look you in the face, bland but full, and neither speak nor move. Miss Dover was a proficient in this graceful form of refusal by dead silence, and resistance by placid inertia. She just looked like the full moon in Zoe's face, and never budged. Zoe, being also a girl of the day, needed no interpretation. "Oh, very well," said she, "disobliging thing!"—with perfect good humor, mind you.

Vizard, however, was not pleased.

"You go with her, Ned," said he. "Miss Dover prefers to stay and smoke a cigar with me."

Miss Dover's face reddened, but she never budged. And it ended in Zoe taking Severne with her to call on Rhoda Gale.

Rhoda Gale stayed in the garden till sunset, and then went to her lodgings slowly, for they had no attraction—a dark room; no supper; a hard landlady, half disposed to turn her out.

Dr. Rhoda Gale never reflected much in the streets; they were to her a field of minute observation; but, when she got home she sat down and thought over what she had been saying and doing, and puzzled over the character of the man who had relieved her hunger and elicited her autobiography. She passed him in review; settled in her mind that he was a strong character; a manly man, who did not waste words; wondered a little at the way he had made her do whatever he pleased; blushed a little at the thought of having been so communicative; yet admired the man for having drawn her out so; and wondered whether she should see him again. She hoped she should. But she did not feel sure.

She sat half an hour thus—with one knee raised a little, and her hands interlaced—by a fire-place with a burned-out coal in it; and by-and-by she felt hungry again. But she had no food, and no money.

She looked hard at her ring, and profited a little by contact with the sturdy good sense of Vizard.

She said to herself, "Men understand one another. I believe father would be angry with me for not."

Then she looked tenderly and wistfully at the ring, and kissed it, and murmured, "Not to-night." You see she hoped she might have a letter in the morning, and so respite her ring.

Then she made light of it, and said to herself, "No matter; 'qui dort, dine.' "

But as it was early for bed, and she could not be long idle, sipping no knowledge, she took up the last good German work that she had bought when she had money, and proceeded to read. She had no candle, but she had a lucifer-match or two, and an old newspaper. With this she made long spills, and lighted one, and read two pages by that paper torch, and lighted another before it was out, and then another, and so on in succession, fighting for knowledge against poverty, as she had fought for it against perfidy.

While she was thus absorbed, a carriage drew up at the door. She took no notice of that; but presently there was a rustling of silk on the stairs, and two voices, and then a tap at the door. "Come in," said she; and Zoe entered just as the last spill burned out.

Rhoda Gale rose in a dark room; but a gas-light over the way just showed her figure. "Miss Gale?" said Zoe, timidly.

"I am Miss Gale," said Rhoda, quietly, but firmly.

"I am Miss Vizard—the gentleman's sister that you met in Leicester Square to-day;" and she took a cautious step toward her.

Rhoda's cheeks burned.

"Miss Vizard," she said, "excuse my receiving you so; but you may have heard I am very poor. My last candle is gone. But perhaps the landlady would lend me one. I don't know. She is very disobliging, and very cruel."

"Then she shall not have the honor of lending you a candle," said Zoe, with one of her gushes. "Now, to tell the truth," said she, altering to the cheerful, "I'm rather glad. I would rather talk to you in the dark for a little, just at first. May I?" By this time she had gradually crept up to Rhoda.

"I am afraid you must," said Rhoda. "But at least I can offer you a seat."

Zoe sat down, and there was an awkward silence.

"Oh, dear," said Zoe; "I don't know how to begin. I wish you would give me your hand, as I can't see your face."

"With all my heart: there."

(Almost in a whisper) "He has told me."

Rhoda put the other hand to her face, though it was so dark.

"Oh, Miss Gale, how could you? Only think! Suppose you had killed yourself, or made yourself very ill. Your mother would have come directly and found you so; and only think how unhappy you would have made her."

"Can I have forgotten my mother?" asked Rhoda of herself, but aloud.

"Not willfully, I am sure. But you know geniuses are not always wise in these little things. They want some good humdrum soul to advise them in the common affairs of life. That want is supplied you now; for I am here—ha-ha!"

"You are no more commonplace than I am; much less now, I'll be bound."

"We will put that to the test," said Zoe, adroitly enough. "My view of all this is—that here is a young lady in want of money for a time, as everybody is now and then, and that the sensible course is to borrow some till your mother comes over with her apronful of dollars. Now, I have twenty pounds to lend, and, if you are so mighty sensible as you say, you won't refuse to borrow it."

"Oh, Miss Vizard, you are very good; but I am afraid and ashamed to borrow. I never did such a thing."

"Time you began, then. I have—often. But it is no use arguing. You must—or you will get poor me finely scolded. Perhaps he was on his good behavior with you, being a stranger; but at home they expect to be obeyed. He will be sure to say it was my stupidity, and that he would have made you directly."

"Do tell!" cried Rhoda, surprised into an idiom; "as if I'd have taken money from him!"

"Why, of course not; but between us it is nothing at all. There:" and she put the money into Rhoda's hand, and then held both hand and money rather tightly imprisoned in her larger palm, and began to chatter, so as to leave the other no opening. "Oh, blessed darkness! how easy it makes things! does it not? I am glad there was no candle; we should have been fencing and blushing ever so long, and made such a fuss about nothing—and—"

This prattle was interrupted by Rhoda Gale putting her right wrist round Zoe's neck, and laying her forehead on her shoulder with a little sob. So then they both distilled the inevitable dew-drops.

But as Rhoda was not much given that way, she started up, and said, "Darkness? No; I must see the face that has come here to help me, and not humiliate me. That is the first use I'll make of the money. I am afraid you are rather plain, or you couldn't be so good as all this."

"No," said Zoe. "I'm not reckoned plain; only as black as a coal."

"All the more to my taste," said Rhoda, and flew out of the room, and nearly stumbled over a figure seated on a step of the staircase. "Who are you?" said she, sharply.

"My name is Severne."

"And what are you doing there?"

"Waiting for Miss Vizard."

"Come in, then."

"She told me not."

"Then I tell you to. The idea! Miss Vizard!"

"Yes!"

"Please have Mr. Severne in. Here he is sitting—like Grief—on the steps. I will soon be back."

She flew to the landlady. "Mrs. Grip, I want a candle."

"Well, the shops are open," said the woman, rudely.

"Oh, I have no time. Here is a sovereign. Please give me two candles directly, candlesticks and all."

The woman's manner changed directly.

"You shall have them this moment, miss, and my own candlesticks, which they are plated."

She brought them, and advised her only to light one. "They don't carry well, miss," said she. "They are wax—or summat."

"Then they are summat," said Miss Gale, after a single glance at their composition.

"I'll make you a nice hot supper, miss, in half an hour," said the woman, maternally, as if she were going to give it her.

"No, thank you. Bring me a two-penny loaf, and a scuttle of coals."

"La, miss, no more than that—out of a sov'?"

"Yes—THE CHANGE."

Having shown Mrs. Grip her father was a Yankee, she darted upstairs, with her candles. Zoe came to meet her, and literally dazzled her.

Rhoda stared at her with amazement and growing rapture. "Oh, you beauty!" she cried, and drank her in from head to foot.

"Well," said she, drawing a long breath, "Nature, you have turned out a com-plete article this time, I reckon." Then, as Severne laughed merrily at this, she turned her candle and her eyes full on him very briskly. She looked at him for a moment, with a gratified eye at his comeliness; then she started. "Oh!" she cried.

He received the inspection merrily, till she uttered that ejaculation, then he started a little, and stared at her.

"We have met before," said she, almost tenderly.

"Have we?" said he, putting on a mystified air.

She fixed him, and looked him through and through. "You—don't—remember—me?" asked she. Then, after giving him plenty of time to answer, "Well, then, I must be mistaken;" and her words seemed to freeze themselves and her as they fell.

She turned her back on him, and said to Zoe, with a good deal of sweetness and weight, "I have lived to see goodness and beauty united. I will never despair of human nature."

This was too pointblank for Zoe; she blushed crimson, and said archly, "I think it is time for me to run. Oh, but I forgot; here is my card. We are all at that hotel. If I am so very attractive, you will come and see me—we leave town very soon—will you?"

"I will," said Rhoda.

"And since you took me for an old acquaintance, I hope you will treat me as one," said Severne, with consummate grace and assurance.

"I will, sir," said she, icily, and with a marvelous curl of the lip that did not escape him.

She lighted them down the stairs, gazed after Zoe, and ignored Severne altogether.



CHAPTER XV.

GOING home in the carriage, Zoe was silent, but Severne talked nineteen to the dozen. Had his object been to hinder his companion's mind from dwelling too long on one thing, he could not have rattled the dice of small talk more industriously. His words would fill pages; his topics were, that Miss Gale was an extraordinary woman, but too masculine for his taste, and had made her own troubles setting up doctress, when her true line was governess—for boys. He was also glib and satirical upon that favorite butt, a friend.

"Who but a soi-disant woman-hater would pick up a strange virago and send his sister to her with twenty pounds? I'll tell you what it is, Miss Vizard—"

Here Miss Vizard, who had sat dead silent under a flow of words, which is merely indicated above, laid her hand on his arm to stop the flux for a moment, and said, quietly, "Do you know her? tell me."

"Know her! How should I?"

"I thought you might have met her—abroad."

"Well, it is possible, of course, but very unlikely. If I did, I never spoke to her, or I should have remembered her. Don't you think so?"

"She seemed very positive; and I think she is an accurate person. She seemed quite surprised and mortified when you said 'No.'"

"Well, you know, of course it is a mortifying thing when a lady claims a gentleman's acquaintance, and the gentleman doesn't admit it. But what could I do? I couldn't tell a lie about it—could I?"

"Of course not."

"I was off my guard, and rudish; but you were not. What tact! what delicacy! what high breeding and angelic benevolence! And so clever, too!"

"Oh, fie! you listened!"

"You left the door ajar, and I could not bear to lose a word that dropped from those lips so near me. Yes, I listened, and got such a lesson as only a noble, gentle lady could give. I shall never forget your womanly art, and the way you contrived to make the benefaction sound nothing. 'We are all of us at low water in turns, and for a time, especially me, Zoe Vizard; so here's a trifling loan.' A loan! you'll never see a shilling of it again! No matter. What do angels want of money?"

"Oh, pray," said Zoe, "you make me blush!"

"Then I wish there was more light to see it—yes, an angel. Do you think I can't see you have done all this for a lady you do not really approve? Fancy—a she doctor!"

"My dear friend," said Zoe, with a little juvenile pomposity, "one ought not to judge one's intellectual superiors hastily, and this lady is ours"—then, gliding back to herself, "and it is my nature to approve what those I love approve—when it is not downright wrong, you know."

"Oh, of course it is not wrong; but is it wise?"

Zoe did not answer: the question puzzled her.

"Come," said he, "I'll be frank, and speak out in time. I don't think you know your brother Harrington. He is very inflammable."

"Inflammable! What! Harrington? Well, yes; for I've seen smoke issue from his mouth—ha! ha!"

"Ha! ha! I'll pass that off for mine, some day when you are not by. But, seriously, your brother is the very man to make a fool of himself with a certain kind of woman. He despises the whole sex—in theory, and he is very hard upon ordinary women, and does not appreciate their good qualities. But, when he meets a remarkable woman, he catches fire like tow. He fell in love with Mademoiselle Klosking."

"Oh, not in love!"

"I beg your pardon. Now, this is between you and me—he was in love with her, madly in love. He was only saved by our coming away. If those two had met and made acquaintance, he would have been at her mercy. I don't say any harm would have come of it; but I do say that would have depended on the woman, and not on the man."

Zoe looked very serious, and said nothing. But her long silence showed him his words had told.

"And now," said he, after a judicious pause, "here is another remarkable woman; the last in the world I should fancy, or Vizard either, perhaps, if he met her in society. But the whole thing occurs in the way to catch him. He finds a lady fainting with hunger; he feeds her; and that softens his heart to her. Then she tells him the old story—victim of the world's injustice—and he is deeply interested in her. She can see that; she is as keen as a razor. If those two meet a few more times, he will be at her mercy; and then won't she throw physic to the dogs, and jump at a husband six feet high, and twelve thousand acres! I don't study women with a microscope, as our woman-hater does, but I notice a few things about them; and one is, that their eccentricities all give way at the first offer of marriage. I believe they are only adopted in desperation, to get married. What beautiful woman is ever eccentric? catch her! she can get a husband without. That doctress will prescribe Harrington a wedding-ring; and, if he swallows it, it will be her last prescription. She will send out for the family doctor after that, like other wives."

"You alarm me," said Zoe. "Pray do not make me unjust. This is a lady with a fine mind, and, not a designing woman."

"Oh, I don't say she has laid any plans; but these things are always extemporized the moment the chance comes. You can count beforehand on the instinct of every woman who is clever and needy, and on Vizard's peculiar weakness for women out of the common. He is hard upon the whole sex; but he is no match for individuals. He owned as much himself to me one day. You are not angry with me!"

"No, no. Angry with you?"

"It is you I think of in all this. He is a fine fellow, and you are proud of him. I wouldn't have him marry to mortify you. For myself, while the sister honors me with her regard, I really don't much care who has the brother and the acres. I have the best of the bargain."

Zoe disputed this—in order to make him say it several times.

He did, and proved it in terms that made her cheeks red with modesty and gratified pride; and by the time they had got home, he had flattered everything but pride, love, and happiness out of her heart, poor girl.

The world is like the Law, full of implied contracts: we give and take, without openly agreeing to. Subtle Severne counted on this, and was not disappointed. Zoe rewarded him for his praises, and her happiness, by falling into his views about Rhoda Gale. Only she did it in her own lady-like way, and not plump.

She came up to Harrington and kissed him, and said, "Thank you, dear, for sending me on a good errand. I found her in a very mean apartment, without fire or candle."

"I thought as much," said Vizard.

"Did she take the money?"

"Yes—as a loan."

"Make any difficulties?"

"A little, dear."

Severne put in his word. "Now, if you want to know all the tact and delicacy with which it was done, you must come to me; for Miss Vizard is not going to give you any idea of it."

"Be quiet, sir, or I shall be very angry. I lent her the money, dear, and her troubles are at an end; for her mother will certainly join her before she has spent your twenty pounds. Oh! and she had not parted with her ring; that is a comfort, is it not?"

"You are a good-hearted girl, Zoe," said Vizard, approvingly; then, recovering himself, "But don't you be blinded by sentiment. She deserves a good hiding for not parting with her ring. Where is the sense of starving, with thirty pounds on your finger?"

Zoe smiled, and said his words were harder than his deeds.

"Because he doesn't mean a word he says," put in Fanny Dover, uneasy at the long cessation of her tongue, for all conversation with Don Cigar had proved impracticable.

"Are you there still, my Lady Disdain?" said Vizard. "I thought you were gone to bed."

"You might well think that. I had nothing to keep me up."

Said Zoe, rather smartly, "Oh, yes, you had—Curiosity;" then, turning to her brother, "In short, you make your mind quite easy. You have lent your money, or given it, to a worthy person, but a little wrong-headed. However"—with a telegraphic glance at Severne—"she is very accomplished; a linguist: she need never be in want; and she will soon have her mother to help her and advise her. Perhaps Mrs. Gale has an income; if not, Miss Gale, with her abilities, will easily find a place in some house of business, or else take to teaching. If I was them, I would set up a school."

Unanimity is rare in this world; but Zoe's good sense carried every vote. Her prompter, Severne, nodded approval. Fanny said, "Why, of course;" and Vizard, who it was feared might prove refractory, assented even more warmly than the others. "Yes," said he, "that will be the end of it. You relieve me of a weight. Really, when she told me that fable of learning maltreated, honorable ambition punished, justice baffled by trickery, and virtue vilified, and did not cry like the rest of you, except at her father dying in New York the day she won her diploma at Montpelier, I forgave the poor girl her petticoats; indeed, I lost sight of them. She seemed to me a very brave little fellow, damnably ill used, and I said, 'This is not to be borne. Here is a fight, and justice down under dirty feet.' What, ho!" (roaring at the top of his voice).

Zoe and Fanny (screaming, and pinching Ned Severne right and left). "Ah! ah!"

"Vizard to the rescue!"

"But, with the evening, cool reflection came. A sister, youthful, but suddenly sagacious (with a gleam of suspicion), very suddenly has stilled the waves of romance, and the lips of beauty have uttered common sense. Shall they utter it in vain? Never! It may be years before they do it again. We must not slight rare phenomena. Zoe locuta est—Eccentricity must be suppressed. Doctresses, warned by a little starvation, must take the world as it is, and teach little girls and boys languages, and physic them with arithmetic and the globes: these be drugs that do not kill; they only make life a burden. I don't think we have laid out our twenty pounds badly, Zoe, and there is an end of it. The incident is emptied, as the French say, and (lighting bed-candles) the ladies retire with the honors of war. Zoe has uttered good sense, and Miss Dover has done the next best thing; she has said very little—"

Miss Dover shot in contemptuously, "I had no companion—"

—"For want of a fool to speak her mind to."



CHAPTER XVI.

INGENIOUS Mr. Severne having done his best to detach the poor doctress from Vizard and his family, in which the reader probably discerns his true motive, now bent his mind on slipping back to Homburg and looking after his money. Not that he liked the job. To get hold of it, he knew he must condense rascality; he must play the penitent, the lover, and the scoundrel over again, all in three days.

Now, though his egotism was brutal, he was human in this, that he had plenty of good nature skin-deep, and superficial sensibilities, which made him shrink a little from this hot-pressed rascality and barbarity. On the other hand, he was urged by poverty, and, laughable as it may appear, by jealousy. He had observed that the best of women, if they are not only abandoned by him they love, but also flattered and adored by scores, will some times yield to the joint attacks of desolation, pique, vanity, etc.

In this state of fluctuation he made up his mind so far as this: he would manage so as to be able to go.

Even this demanded caution. So he began by throwing out, in a seeming careless way, that he ought to go down into Huntingdonshire.

"Of course you ought," said Vizard.

No objection was taken, and they rather thought he would go next day. But that was not his game. It would never do to go while they were in London. So he kept postponing, and saying he would not tear himself away; and at last, the day before they were to go down to Barfordshire, he affected to yield to a remonstrance of Vizard, and said he would see them off, and then run down to Huntingdonshire, look into his affairs, and cross the country to Barfordshire.

"You might take Homburg on the way," said Fanny, out of fun—her fun—not really meaning it.

Severne cast a piteous look at Zoe. "For shame, Fanny!" said she. "And why put Homburg into his head?"

"When I had forgotten there was such a place," said Mr. Severne, taking his cue dexterously from Zoe, and feigning innocent amazement. Zoe colored with pleasure. This was at breakfast. At afternoon tea something happened. The ladies were upstairs packing, an operation on which they can bestow as many hours as the thing needs minutes. One servant brought in the tea; another came in soon after with a card, and said it was for Miss Vizard; but he brought it to Harrington. He read it:

"MISS RHODA GALE, M.D."

"Send it up to Miss Vizard," said he. The man was going out: he stopped him, and said, "You can show the lady in here, all the same."

Rhoda Gale was ushered in. She had a new gown and bonnet, not showy, but very nice. She colored faintly at sight of the two gentlemen; but Vizard soon put her at her ease. He shook hands with her, and said, "Sit down, Miss Gale; my sister will soon be here. I have sent your card up to her."

"Shall I tell her?" said Severne, with the manner of one eager to be agreeable to the visitor.

"If you please, sir," said Miss Gale.

Severne went out zealously, darted up to Zoe's room, knocked, and said, "Pray come down: here is that doctress."

Meantime, Jack was giving Gill the card, and Gill was giving it Mary to give to the lady. It got to Zoe's room in a quarter of an hour.



"Any news from mamma?" asked Vizard, in his blunt way.

"Yes, sir."

"Good news?"

"No. My mother writes me that I must not expect her. She has to fight with a dishonest executor. Oh, money, money!"

At that moment Zoe entered the room, but Severne paced the landing. He did not care to face Miss Gale; and even in that short interval of time he had persuaded Zoe to protect her brother against this formidable young lady, and shorten the interview if she could.

So Zoe entered the room bristling with defense of her brother. At sight of her, Miss Gale rose, and her features literally shone with pleasure. This was rather disarming to one so amiable as Zoe, and she was surprised into smiling sweetly in return; but still her quick, defensive eye drank Miss Gale on the spot, and saw, with alarm, the improvement in her appearance. She was very healthy, as indeed she deserved to be; for she was singularly temperate, drank nothing but water and weak tea without sugar, and never eat nor drank except at honest meals. Her youth and pure constitution had shaken off all that pallor, and the pleasure of seeing Zoe lent her a lovely color. Zoe microscoped her in one moment: not one beautiful feature in her whole face; eyes full of intellect, but not in the least love-darting; nose, an aquiline steadily reversed; mouth, vastly expressive, but large; teeth, even and white, but ivory, not pearl; chin, ordinary; head symmetrical, and set on with grace. I may add, to complete the picture, that she had a way of turning this head, clean, swift, and birdlike, without turning her body. That familiar action of hers was fine—so full of fire and intelligence.

Zoe settled in one moment that she was downright plain, but might probably be that mysterious and incomprehensible and dangerous creature, "a gentleman's beauty," which, to women, means no beauty at all, but a witch-like creature, that goes and hits foul, and eclipses real beauty—dolls, to wit—by some mysterious magic.

"Pray sit down," said Zoe, formally. Rhoda sat down, and hesitated a moment. She felt a frost.

Vizard helped her, "Miss Gale has heard from her mother."

"Yes, Miss Vizard," said Rhoda, timidly; "and very bad news. She cannot come at present; and I am so distressed at what I have done in borrowing that money of you; and see, I have spent nearly three pounds of it in dress; but I have brought the rest back."

Zoe looked at her brother, perplexed.

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Vizard. "You will not take it, Zoe."

"Oh, yes; if you please, do," said Rhoda still to Zoe. "When I borrowed it, I felt sure I could repay it; but it is not so now. My mother says it may be months before she can come, and she forbids me positively to go to her. Oh! but for that, I'd put on boy's clothes, and go as a common sailor to get to her."

Vizard fidgeted on his chair.

"I suppose I mustn't go in a passion," said he, dryly.

"Who cares?" said Miss Gale, turning her head sharply on him in the way I have tried to describe.

"I care," said Vizard. "I find wrath interfere with my digestion. Please go on, and tell us what your mother says. She has more common sense than somebody else I won't name—politeness forbids."

"Well, who doubts that?" said the lady, with frank good humor. "Of course she has more sense than any of us. Well, my mother says—oh, Miss Vizard!"

"No, she doesn't now. She never heard the name of Vizard."

Miss Gale was in no humor for feeble jokes. She turned half angrily away from him to Zoe. "She says I have been well educated, and know languages; and we are both under a cloud, and I had better give up all thought of medicine, and take to teaching."

"Well, Miss Gale," said Zoe, "if you ask me, I must say I think it is good advice. With all your gifts, how can you fight the world? We are all interested in you here; and it is a curious thing, but do you know we agreed the other day you would have to give up medicine, and fall into some occupation in which there are many ladies already to keep you in countenance. Teaching was mentioned, I think; was it not, Harrington?"

Rhoda Gale sighed deeply.

"I am not surprised," said she. "Most women of the world think with you. But oh, Miss Vizard, please take into account all that I have done and suffered for medicine! Is all that to go for nothing? Think what a bitter thing it must be to do, and then to undo; to labor and study, and then knock it all down—to cut a slice out of one's life, out of the very heart of it—and throw it clean away. I know it is hard for you to enter into the feelings of any one who loves science, and is told to desert it. But suppose you had loved a man you were proud of—loved him for five years—and then they came to you and said, 'There are difficulties in the way; he is as worthy as ever, and he will never desert you; but you must give him up, and try and get a taste for human rubbish: it will only be five years of wasted life, wasted youth, wasted seed-time, wasted affection, and then a long vegetable life of unavailing regrets.' I love science as other women love men. If I am to give up science, why not die? Then I shall not feel my loss; and I know how to die without pain. Oh, the world is cruel! Ah! I am too unfortunate! Everybody else is rewarded for patience, prudence, temperance, industry, and a life with high and almost holy aims; but I am punished, afflicted, crushed under the injustice of the day. Do not make me a nurse-maid. I won't be a governess; and I must not die, because that would grieve my mother. Have pity on me! have pity!"

She trembled all over, and stretched out her hands to Zoe with truly touching supplication.

Zoe forgot her part, or lost the power to play it well. She turned her head away and would not assent; but two large tears rolled out of her beautiful eyes. Miss Gale, who had risen in the ardor of her appeal, saw that, and it set her off. She leaned her brow against the mantel-piece, not like a woman, but a brave boy, that does not want to be seen crying, and she faltered out, "In France I am a learned physician; and here to be a house-maid! For I won't live on borrowed money. I am very unfortunate."

Severne, who had lost patience, came swiftly in, and found them in this position, and Vizard walking impatiently about the room in a state of emotion which he was pleased to call anger.

Zoe, in a tearful voice, said, "I am unable to advise you. It is very hard that any one so deserving should be degraded."

Vizard burst out, "It is harder the world should be so full of conventional sneaks; and that I was near making one of them. The last thing we ever think of, in this paltry world, is justice, and it ought to be the first. Well, for once I've got the power to be just, and just I'll be, by God! Come, leave off sniveling, you two, and take a lesson in justice—from a beginner: converts are always the hottest, you know. Miss Gale, you shall not be driven out of science, and your life and labor wasted. You shall doctor Barfordshire, and teach it English, too, if any woman can. This is the programme. I farm two hundred acres—vicariously, of course. Nobody in England has brains to do anything himself. That weakness is confined to your late father's country, and they suffer for it by outfighting, outlying, outmaneuvering, outbullying, and outwitting us whenever we encounter them. Well, the farmhouse is large. The bailiff has no children. There is a wing furnished, and not occupied. You shall live there, with the right of cutting vegetables, roasting chickens, sucking eggs, and riding a couple of horses off their legs."

"But what am I to do for all that?"

"Oh, only the work of two men. You must keep my house in perfect health. The servants have a trick of eating till they burst. You will have to sew them up again. There are only seven hundred people in the village. You must cure them all; and, if you do, I promise you their lasting ingratitude. Outside the village, you must make them pay—if you can. We will find you patients of every degree. But whether you will ever get any fees out of them, this deponent sayeth not. However, I can answer for the ladies of our county, that they will all cheat you—if they can."

Miss Gale's color came and went, and her eyes sparkled. "Oh, how good you are! Is there a hospital?"

"County hospital, and infirmary, within three miles. Fine country for disease. Intoxication prevalent, leading to a bountiful return of accidents. I promise you wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores, and everything to make you comfortable."

"Oh, don't laugh at me. I am so afraid I shall—no, I hope I shall not disgrace you. And, then, it is against the law; but I don't mind that."

"Of course not. What is the law to ladies with elevated views? By-the-by, what is the penalty—six months?"

"Oh, no. Twenty pounds. Oh, dear! another twenty pounds!"

"Make your mind easy. Unjust laws are a dead letter on a soil so primitive as ours. I shall talk to Uxmoor and a few more, and no magistrate will ever summons you, nor jury convict you, in Barfordshire. You will be as safe there as in Upper Canada. Now then—attend. We leave for Barfordshire to-morrow. You will go down on the first of next month. By that time all will be ready: start for Taddington, eleven o'clock. You will be met at the Taddington Station, and taken to your farmhouse. You will find a fire ten days old, and, for once in your life, young lady, you will find an aired bed; because my man Harris will be house-maid, and not let one of your homicidal sex set foot in the crib."

Miss Gale looked from Vizard to his sister, like a person in a dream. She was glowing with happiness; but it did not spoil her. She said, humbly and timidly, "I hope I may prove worthy."

"That is your business," said Vizard, with supreme indifference; "mine is to be just. Have a cup of tea?"

"Oh, no, thank you; and it will be a part of my duty to object to afternoon tea. But I am afraid none of you will mind me."

After a few more words, in which Severne, seeing Vizard was in one of his iron moods, and immovable as him of Rhodes, affected now to be a partisan of the new arrangement, Miss Gale rose to retire. Severne ran before her to the door, and opened it, as to a queen. She bowed formally to him as she went out. When she was on the other side the door, she turned her head in her sharp, fiery way, and pointed with her finger to the emerald ring on his little finger, a very fine one. "Changed hands," said she: "it was on the third finger of your left hand when we met last;" and she passed down the stairs with a face half turned to him, and a cruel smile.

Severne stood fixed, looking after her; cold crept among his bones: he was roused by a voice above him saying, very inquisitively, "What does she say?" He looked up, and it was Fanny Dover leaning over the balusters of the next landing. She had evidently seen all, and heard some. Severne had no means of knowing how much. His heart beat rapidly. Yet he told her, boldly, that the doctress had admired his emerald ring: as if to give greater force to this explanation, he took it off, and showed it her, very amicably. He calculated that she could hardly, at that distance, have heard every syllable, and, at the same time, he was sure she had seen Miss Gale point at the ring.

"Hum!" said Fanny; and that was all she said.

Severne went to his own room to think. He was almost dizzy. He dreaded this Rhoda Gale. She was incomprehensible, and held a sword over his head. Tongues go fast in the country. At the idea of this keen girl and Zoe Vizard sitting under a tree for two hours, with nothing to do but talk, his blood ran cold. Surely Miss Gale must hate him. She would not always spare him. For once he could not see his way clear. Should he tell her half the truth, and throw himself on her mercy? Should he make love to her? Or what should he do? One thing he saw clear enough: he must not quit the field. Sooner or later, all would depend on his presence, his tact, and his ready wit.

He felt like a man who could not swim, and wades in deepening water. He must send somebody to Homburg, or abandon all thought of his money. Why abandon it? Why not return to Ina Klosking? His judgment, alarmed at the accumulating difficulties, began to intrude its voice. What was he turning his back on? A woman, lovely, loving, and celebrated, who was very likely pining for him, and would share, not only her winnings at play with him, but the large income she would make by her talent. What was he following? A woman divinely lovely and good, but whom he could not possess, or, if he did, could not hold her long, and whose love must end in horror.

But nature is not so unfair to honest men as to give wisdom to the cunning. Rarely does reason prevail against passion in such a mind as Severne's. It ended, as might have been expected, in his going down to Vizard Court with Zoe.

An express train soon whirled them down to Taddington, in Barfordshire. There was Harris, with three servants, waiting for them, one with a light cart for their luggage, and two with an open carriage and two spanking bays, whose coats shone like satin. The servants, liveried, and top-booted, and buckskin-gloved, and spruce as if just out of a bandbox, were all smartness and respectful zeal. They got the luggage out in a trice, with Harris's assistance. Mr. Harris then drove away like the wind in his dog-cart; the traveling party were soon in the barouche. It glided away, and they rolled on easy springs at the rate of twelve miles an hour till they came to the lodge-gate. It was opened at their approach, and they drove full half a mile over a broad gravel path, with rich grass on each side, and grand old patriarchs, oak and beech, standing here and there, and dappled deer, grazing or lying, in mottled groups, till they came to a noble avenue of lofty lime-trees, with stems of rare size and smoothness, and towering piles on piles of translucent leaves, that glowed in the sun like flakes of gold.

At the end of this avenue was seen an old mansion, built of that beautiful clean red brick—which seems to have died out— and white-stone facings and mullions, with gables and oriel windows by the dozen; but between the avenue and the house was a large oval plot of turf, with a broad gravel road running round it; and attached to the house, but thrown a little back, were the stables, which formed three sides of a good-sized quadrangle, with an enormous clock in the center. The lawn, kitchen-garden, ice-houses, pineries, green houses, revealed themselves only in peeps as the carriage swept round the spacious plot and drew up at the hall door.

No ringing of bells nor knocking. Even as the coachman tightened his reins, the great hall door was swung open, and two footmen appeared. Harris brought up a rear-guard, and received the party in due state.

A double staircase, about ten feet broad, rose out of the hall, and up this Mr. Harris conducted Severne, the only stranger, into a bedroom with a great oriel window looking west.

"This is your room, sir," said he. "Shall I unpack your things when they come?"

Severne assented, and that perfect major-domo informed him that luncheon was ready, and retired cat-like, and closed the door so softly no sound was heard.

Mr. Severne looked about him, and admitted to himself that, with all his experiences of life, this was his first bedroom. It was of great size, to begin. The oriel window was twenty feet wide, and had half a dozen casements, each with rose-colored blinds, though some of them needed no blinds, for green creepers, with flowers like clusters of grapes, curled round the mullions, and the sun shone mellowed through their leaves. Enormous curtains of purple cloth, with cold borders, hung at each side in mighty folds, to be drawn at night-time when the eye should need repose from feasting upon color.

There were three brass bedsteads in a row, only four feet broad, with spring-beds, hair mattresses a foot thick, and snowy sheets for coverlets, instead of counter-panes; so that, if you were hot, feverish, or sleepless in one bed, you might try another, or two.

Thick carpets and rugs, satin-wood wardrobes, prodigious wash-hand stands, with china backs four feet high. Towel-horses, nearly as big as a donkey, with short towels, long towels, thick towels, thin towels, bathing sheets, etc.; baths of every shape; and cans of every size; a large knee-hole table; paper and envelopes of every size. In short, a room to sleep in, study in, live in, and stick fast in, night and day.

But what is this? A Gothic arch, curtained with violet merino. He draws the curtain. It is an ante-room. One half of it is a bathroom, screened, and paved with encaustic tiles that run up the walls, so you may splash to your heart's content. The rest is a studio, and contains a choice little library of well-bound books in glass cases, a piano-forte, and a harmonium. Severne tried them; they were both in perfect tune. Two clocks, one in each room, were also in perfect time. Thereat he wondered. But the truth is, it was a house wherein precision reigned: a tuner and a clockmaker visited by contract every month.

This, and two more guest-chambers, and the great dining-hall, were built under the Plantagenets, when all large landowners entertained kings and princes with their retinues. As to that part of the house which was built under the Tudors, there are hundreds of country houses as important, only Mr. Severne had not been inside them, and was hardly aware to what perfection rational luxury is brought in the houses of our large landed gentry. He sat down in an antique chair of enormous size; the back went higher than his head, the seat ran out as far as his ankle, when seated; there was room in it for two, and it was stuffed—ye gods, how it was stuffed! The sides, the back, and the seat were all hair mattresses, a foot thick at least. Here nestled our sybarite; with the sun shining through leaves, and splashing his beautiful head with golden tints and transparent shadows, and felt in the temple of comfort, and incapable of leaving it alive.

He went down to luncheon. It was distinguishable from dinner in this, that they all got up after it, and Zoe said, "Come with me, children."

Fanny and Severne rose at the word. Vizard said he felt excluded from that invitation, having cut his wise-teeth; so he would light a cigar instead; and he did. Zoe took the other two into the kitchen garden—four acres, surrounded with a high wall, of orange-red brick, full of little holes where the nails had been. Zoe, being now at home, and queen, wore a new and pretty deportment. She was half maternal, and led her friend and lover about like two kids. She took them to this and that fruit tree, set them to eat, and looked on, superior. By way of climax, she led them to the south wall, crimson with ten thousand peaches and nectarines; she stepped over the border, took superb peaches and nectarines from the trees, and gave them with her own hand to Fanny and Severne. The head gardener glared in dismay at the fair spoliator. Zoe observed him, and laughed. "Poor Lucas," said she; "he would like them all to hang on the tree till they fell off with a wasp inside. Eat as many as ever you can, young people; Lucas is amusing."

"I never had peaches enough off the tree before," said Fanny.

"No more have I," said Severne. "This must be the Elysian fields, and I shall spoil my dinner."

"Who cares?" said Fanny, recklessly. "Dinner comes every day, and always at the only time when one has no appetite. But this eating of peaches— Oh, what a beauty!"

"Children," said Zoe, gravely, "I advise you not to eat above a dozen. Do not enter on a fatal course, which in one brief year will reduce you to a hapless condition. There—I was let loose among them at sixteen, and ever since they pall. But I do like to see you eat them, and your eyes sparkle."

"That is too bad of you," said Fanny, driving her white teeth deep into a peach. "The idea! Now, Mr. Severne, do my eyes sparkle?"

"Like diamonds. But that proves nothing: it is their normal condition."

"There, make him a courtesy," said Zoe, "and come along."

She took them into the village. It was one of the old sort; little detached houses with little gardens in front, in all of which were a few humble flowers, and often a dark rose of surpassing beauty. Behind each cottage was a large garden, with various vegetables, and sometimes a few square yards of wheat. There was one little row of new brick houses standing together; their number five, their name Newtown. This town of five houses was tiled; the detached houses were thatched, and the walls plastered and whitewashed like snow. Such whitewash seems never to be made in towns, or to lose its whiteness in a day. This broad surface of vivid white was a background, against which the clinging roses, the clustering, creeping honeysuckles, and the deep young ivy with its tender green and polished leaves, shone lovely; wood smoke mounted, thin and silvery, from a cottage or two, that were cooking, and embroidered the air, not fouled it. The little windows had diamond panes, as in the Middle Ages, and every cottage door was open, suggesting hospitality and dearth of thieves. There was also that old essential, a village green—a broad strip of sacred turf, that was everybody's by custom, though in strict law Vizard's. Here a village cow and a donkey went about grazing the edges, for the turf in general was smooth as a lawn. By the side of the green was the village ale-house. After the green other cottages; two of them

"Quite overcanopied with lush woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine."

One of these was called Marks's cottage, and the other Allen's. The rustic church stood in the middle of a hill nearly half a mile from the village. They strolled up to it. It had a tower built of flint, and clad on two sides with ivy three feet deep, and the body of the church was as snowy as the cottages, and on the south side a dozen swallows and martins had lodged their mortar nests under the eaves; they looked, against the white, like rugged gray stone bosses. Swallows and martins innumerable wheeled, swift as arrows, round the tower, chirping, and in and out of the church through an open window, and added their music and their motion to the beauty of the place.

Returning from the church to the village, Miss Dover lagged behind, and then Severne infused into his voice those tender tones, which give amorous significance to the poorest prose.

"What an Arcadia!" said he.

"You would not like to be banished to it," said Zoe, demurely.

"That depends," said he, significantly. Instead of meeting him half way and demanding an explanation, Zoe turned coy and fell to wondering what Fanny was about.

"Oh, don't compel her to join us," said Severne. "She is meditating."

"On what? She is not much given that way."

"On her past sins; and preparing new ones."

"For shame! She is no worse than we are. Do you really admire Islip?"

"Indeed I do, if this is Islip?"

"It is then; and this cottage with the cluster-rose tree all over the walls is Marks's cottage. We are rather proud of Marks's cottage," said she, timidly.

"It is a bower," said he, warmly.

This encouraged Zoe, and she said, "Is there not a wonderful charm in cottages? I often think I should like to live in Marks's. Have you ever had that feeling?"

"Never. But I have it now. I should like to live in it—with you."

Zoe blushed like a rose, but turned it off. "You would soon wish yourself back again at Vizard Court," said she. "Fanny— Fanny!" and she stood still.

Fanny came up. "Well, what is the matter now?" said she, with pert, yet thoroughly apathetic, indifference.

"The matter is—extravagances. Here is a man of the world pretending he would like to end his days in Marks's cottage."

"Stop a bit. It was to be with somebody I loved. And wouldn't you, Miss Dover?"

"Oh dear, no. We should be sure to quarrel, cooped up in such a mite of a place. No; give me Vizard Court, and plenty of money, and the man of my heart."

"You have not got one, I'm afraid," said Zoe, "or you would not put him last."

"Why not? when he is of the last importance," said Fanny, flippantly, and turned the laugh her way.

They strolled through the village together, but in the grounds of Vizard Court Fanny fairly gave them the slip. Severne saw his chance, and said, tenderly, "Did you hear what she said about a large house being best for lovers?"

"Yes, I heard her," said Zoe, defensively; "but very likely she did not mean it. That young lady's words are air. She will say one thing one day and another the next."

"I don't know. There is one thing every young lady's mind is made up about, and that is, whether it is to be love or money."

"She was for both, if I remember," said Zoe, still coldly.

"Because she is not in love."

"Well, I really believe she is not—for once."

"There, you see. She is in an unnatural condition."

"For her, very."

"So she is no judge. No; I should prefer Marks's cottage. The smaller the better; because then the woman I love could not ever be far from me."

He lowered his voice, and drove the insidious words into her tender bosom. She began to tremble and heave, and defend herself feebly.

"What have I to do with that? You mustn't."

"How can I help it? You know the woman I love—I adore—and would not the smallest cottage in England be a palace if I was blessed with her sweet love and her divine company? Oh, Zoe, Zoe!"

Then she did defend herself, after a fashion: "I won't listen to such—Edward!" Having uttered his name with divine tenderness, she put her hands to her blushing face, and fled from him. At the head of the stairs she encountered Fanny, looking satirical. She reprimanded her.

"Fanny," said she, "you really must not do that"—[pause]—"out of our own grounds. Kiss me, darling. I am a happy girl." And she curled round Fanny, and panted on her shoulder.



Miss Artful, known unto men as Fanny Dover, had already traced out in her own mind a line of conduct, which the above reprimand, minus the above kisses, taken at their joint algebraical value, did not disturb. The fact is, Fanny hated home; and liked Vizard Court above all places. But she was due at home, and hanging on to the palace of comfort by a thread. Any day her mother, out of natural affection and good-breeding, might write for her; and unless one of her hosts interfered, she should have to go. But Harrington went for nothing in this, unfortunately. His hospitality was unobtrusive, but infinite. It came to him from the Plantagenets through a long line of gentlemen who shone in vices; but inhospitality was unknown to the whole chain, and every human link in it. He might very likely forget to invite Fanny Dover unless reminded; but, when she was there, she was welcome to stay forever if she chose. It was all one to him. He never bothered himself to amuse his guests, and so they never bored him. He never let them. He made them at home; put his people and his horses at their service; and preserved his even tenor. So, then, the question of Fanny's stay lay with Zoe; and Zoe would do one of two things: she would either say, with well-bred hypocrisy, she ought not to keep Fanny any longer from her mother—and so get rid of her; or would interpose, and give some reason or other. What that reason would be, Fanny had no precise idea. She was sure it would not be the true one; but there her insight into futurity and females ceased. Now, Zoe was thoroughly fascinated by Severne, and Fanny saw it; and yet Zoe was too high-bred a girl to parade the village and the neighborhood with him alone—and so placard her attachment—before they were engaged, and the engagement sanctioned by the head of the house. This consideration enabled Miss Artful to make herself necessary to Zoe. Accordingly, she showed, on the very first afternoon, that she was prepared to play the convenient friend, and help Zoe to combine courtship with propriety.

This plan once conceived, she adhered to it with pertinacity and skill. She rode and walked with them, and in public put herself rather forward, and asserted the leader; but sooner or later, at a proper time and place, she lagged behind, or cantered ahead, and manipulated the wooing with tact and dexterity.

The consequence was that Zoe wrote of her own accord to Mrs. Dover, asking leave to detain Fanny, because her brother had invited a college friend, and it was rather awkward for her without Fanny, there being no other lady in the house at present.

She showed this to Fanny, who said, earnestly,

"As long as ever you like, dear. Mamma will not miss me a bit. Make your mind easy."

Vizard, knowing his sister, and entirely deceived in Severne, exercised no vigilance; for, to do Zoe justice, none was necessary, if Severne had been the man he seemed.

There was no mother in the house to tremble for her daughter, to be jealous, to watch, to question, to demand a clear explanation—in short, to guard her young as only the mothers of creation do.

The Elysian days rolled on. Zoe was in heaven, and Severne in a fool's paradise, enjoying everything, hoping everything, forgetting everything, and fearing nothing. He had come to this, with all his cunning; he was intoxicated and blinded with passion.

Now it was that the idea of marrying Zoe first entered his head. But he was not mad enough for that. He repelled it with terror, rage, and despair. He passed an hour or two of agony in his own room, and came down, looking pale and exhausted. But, indeed, the little Dumas, though he does not pass for a moralist, says truly and well, "Les amours ille'gitimes portent toujours des fruits amers;" and Ned Severne's turn was come to suffer a few of the pangs he had inflicted gayly on more than one woman and her lover.



One morning at breakfast Vizard made two announcements. "Here's news," said he; "Dr. Gale writes to postpone her visit. She is ill, poor girl!"

"Oh, dear! what is the matter?" inquired Zoe, always kind-hearted.

"Gastritis—so she says."

"What is that?" inquired Fanny.

Mr. Severne, who was much pleased at this opportune illness, could not restrain his humor, and said it was a disorder produced by the fumes of gas.

Zoe, accustomed to believe this gentleman's lies, and not giving herself time to think, said there was a great escape in the passage the night she went there.

Then there was a laugh at her simplicity. She joined in it, but shook her finger at Master Severne.

Vizard then informed Zoe that Lord Uxmoor had been staying some time at Basildon Hall, about nine miles off; so he had asked him to come over for a week, and he had accepted. "He will be here to dinner," said Vizard. He then rang the bell, and sent for Harris, and ordered him to prepare the blue chamber for Lord Uxmoor, and see the things aired himself. Harris having retired, cat-like, Vizard explained, "My womankind shall not kill Uxmoor. He is a good fellow, and his mania—we have all got a mania, my young friends—is a respectable one. He wants to improve the condition of the poor—against their will."

"His friend! that was so ill. I hope he has not lost him," said Zoe.

"He hasn't lost him in this letter, Miss Gush," said Vizard. "But you can ask him when he comes."

"Of course I shall ask him," said Zoe.

Half an hour before dinner there was a grating of wheels on the gravel. Severne looked out of his bedroom window, and saw Uxmoor drive up. Dark blue coach; silver harness, glittering in the sun; four chestnuts, glossy as velvet; two neat grooms as quick as lightning. He was down in a moment, and his traps in the hall, and the grooms drove the trap round to the stables.

They were all in the drawing-room when Lord Uxmoor appeared; greeted Zoe with respectful warmth, Vizard with easy friendship, Severne and Miss Dover with well-bred civility. He took Zoe out, and sat at her right hand at dinner.

As the new guest, he had the first claim on her attention and they had a topic ready—his sick friend. He told her all about him, and his happy recovery, with simple warmth. Zoe was interested and sympathetic; Fanny listened, and gave Severne short answers. Severne felt dethroned.

He was rather mortified, and a little uneasy, but too brave to show it. He bided his time. In the drawing-room Lord Uxmoor singled out Zoe, and courted her openly with respectful admiration. Severne drew Fanny apart, and exerted himself to amuse her. Zoe began to cast uneasy glances. Severne made common cause with Fanny. "We have no chance against a lord, or a lady, you and I, Miss Dover."

"I haven't," said she; "but you need not complain. She wishes she were here."

"So do I. Will you help me?"

"No, I shall not. You can make love to me. I am tired of never being made love to."

"Well," said this ingenuous youth, "you certainly do not get your deserts in this house. Even I am so blinded by my passion for Zoe, that I forget she does not monopolize all the beauty and grace and wit in the house."

"Go on," said Fanny. "I can bear a good deal of it—after such a fast."

"I have no doubt you can bear a good deal. You are one of those that inspire feelings, but don't share them. Give me a chance; let me sing you a song."

"A love song?"

"Of course."

"Can you sing it as well as you can talk it?"

"With a little encouragement. If you would kindly stand at the end of the piano, and let me see your beautiful eyes fixed on me."

"With disdain?"

"No, no."

"With just suspicion?"

"No; with unmerited pity." And he began to open the piano.

"What! do you accompany yourself?"

"Yes, after a fashion; by that means I don't get run over."

Then this accomplished person fixed his eyes on Fanny Dover, and sung her an Italian love song in the artificial passionate style of that nation; and the English girl received it pointblank with complacent composure. But Zoe started and thrilled at the first note, and crept up to the piano as if drawn by an irresistible cord. She gazed on the singer with amazement and admiration. His voice was a low tenor, round, and sweet as honey. It was a real voice, a musical instrument.

"More tunable than lark to shepherd's ear When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear."

And the Klosking had cured him of the fatal whine which stains the amateur, male or female, and had taught him climax, so that he articulated and sung with perfect purity, and rang out his final notes instead of slurring them. In short, in plain passages he was a reflection, on a small scale, of that great singer. He knew this himself, and had kept clear of song: it was so full of reminiscence and stings. But now jealousy drove him to it.

It was Vizard's rule to leave the room whenever Zoe or Fanny opened the piano. So in the evening that instrument of torture was always mute.

But hearing a male voice, the squire, who doted on good music, as he abhorred bad, strolled in upon the chance; and he stared at the singer.

When the song ended, there was a little clamor of ladies' voices calling him to account for concealing his talent from them.

"I was afraid of Vizard," said he; "he hates bad music."

"None of your tricks," said the squire; "yours is not bad music; you speak your words articulately, and even eloquently. Your accompaniment is a little queer, especially in the bass; but you find out your mistakes, and slip out of them Heaven knows how. Zoe, you are tame, but accurate. Correct his accompaniments some day—when I'm out of hearing. Practice drives me mad. Give us another."

Severne laughed good-humoredly. "Thus encouraged, who could resist?" said he. "It is so delightful to sing in a shower bath of criticism."

He sung a sprightly French song, with prodigious spirit and dash.

They all applauded, and Vizard said, "I see how it is. We were not good enough. He would not come out for us. He wanted the public. Uxmoor, you are the public. It is to you we owe this pretty warbler. Have you any favorite song, Public? Say the word, and he shall sing it you."

Severne turned rather red at that, and was about to rise slowly, when Uxmoor, who was instinctively a gentleman, though not a courtier, said, "I don't presume to choose Mr. Severne' s songs; but if we are not tiring him, I own I should like to hear an English song; for I am no musician, and the words are everything with me."

Severne assented dryly, and made him a shrewd return for his courtesy.

Zoe had a brave rose in her black hair. He gave her one rapid glance of significance, and sung a Scotch song, almost as finely as it could be sung in a room:

"My love is like the red, red rose That's newly sprung in June; My love is like a melody That's sweetly played in tune."

The dog did not slur the short notes and howl upon the long ones, as did a little fat Jew from London, with a sweet voice and no brains, whom I last heard howl it in the Theater Royal, Edinburgh. No; he retained the pure rhythm of the composition, and, above all, sung it with the gentle earnestness and unquavering emotion of a Briton.

It struck Zoe's heart pointblank. She drew back, blushing like the rose in her hair and in the song, and hiding her happiness from all but the keen Fanny. Everybody but Zoe applauded the song. She spoke only with her cheeks and eyes.

Severne rose from the piano. He was asked to sing another, but declined laughingly. Indeed, soon afterward he glided out of the room and was seen no more that night.

Consequently he became the topic of conversation; and the three, who thought they knew him, vied in his praises.

In the morning an expedition was planned, and Uxmoor proffered his "four-in-hand." It was accepted. All young ladies like to sit behind four spanking trotters; and few object to be driven by a viscount with a glorious beard and large estates.

Zoe sat by Uxmoor. Severne sat behind them with Fanny, a spectator of his open admiration. He could not defend himself so well as last night, and he felt humiliated by the position.

It was renewed day after day. Zoe often cast a glance back, and drew him into the conversation; yet, on the whole, Uxmoor thrust him aside by his advantages and his resolute wooing.

The same thing at dinner. It was only at night he could be number one. He tuned Zoe's guitar; and one night when there was a party, he walked about the room with this, and, putting his left leg out, serenaded one lady after another. Barfordshire was amazed and delighted at him, but Uxmoor courted Zoe as if he did not exist. He began to feel that he was the man to amuse women in Barfordshire, but Uxmoor the man to marry them. He began to sulk. Zoe's quick eyes saw and pitied. She was puzzled what to do. Lord Uxmoor gave her no excuse for throwing cold water on him, because his adoration was implied, not expressed; and he followed her up so closely, she could hardly get a word with Severne. When she did, there was consolation in every tone; and she took care to let drop that Lord Uxmoor was going in a day or two. So he was, but he altered his mind, and asked leave to stay.

Severne looked gloomy at this, and he became dejected. He was miserable, and showed it, to see what Zoe would do. What she did was to get rather bored by Uxmoor, and glance from Fanny to Severne. I believe Zoe only meant, "Do pray say things to comfort him;" but Fanny read these gentle glances 'a la Dover. She got hold of Severne one day, and said,

"What is the matter with you?"

"Of course you can't divine," said he, sarcastically.

"Oh yes, I can; and it is your own fault."

"My fault! That is a good joke. Did I invite this man with all his advantages? That was Vizard's doing, who calls himself my friend."

"If it was not this one, it would be some other. Can you hope to keep Zoe Vizard from being courted? Why, she is the beauty of the county! and her brother not married. It is no use your making love by halves to her. She will go to some man who is in earnest."

"And am I not in earnest?"

"Not so much as he is. You have known her four months, and never once asked her to marry you."

"So I am to be punished for my self-denial."

"Self-denial! Nonsense. Men have no self-denial. It is your cowardice."

"Don't be cruel. You know it is my poverty."

"Your poverty of spirit. You gave up money for her, and that is as good as if you had it still, and better. If you love Zoe, scrape up an income somehow, and say the word. Why, Harrington is bewitched with you, and he is rolling in money. I wouldn't lose her by cowardice, if I were you. Uxmoor will offer marriage before he goes. He is staying on for that. Now, take my word for it, when one man offers marriage, and the other does not, there is always a good chance of the girl saying this one is in earnest, and the other is not. We don't expect self-denial in a man; we don't believe in it. We see you seizing upon everything else you care for; and, if you don't seize on us, it wounds our vanity, the strongest passion we have. Consider, Uxmoor has title, wealth, everything to bestow with the wedding-ring. If he offers all that, and you don't offer all you have, how much more generous he looks to her than you do!"

"In short, you think she will doubt my affection, if I don't ask her to share my poverty."

"If you don't, and a rich man asks her to share his all, I'm sure she will. And so should I. Words are only words."

"You torture me. I'd rather die than lose her."

"Then live and win her. I've told you the way."

"I will scrape an income together, and ask her."

"Upon your honor?"

"Upon my soul."

"Then, in my opinion, you will have her in spite of Lord Uxmoor."

Hot from this, Edward Severne sat down and wrote a moving letter to a certain cousin of his in Huntingdonshire.



"MY DEAR COUSIN—I have often heard you say you were under obligations to my father, and had a regard for me. Indeed, you have shown the latter by letting the interest on my mortgage run out many years and not foreclosing. Having no other friend, I now write to you, and throw myself on your pity. I have formed a deep attachment to a young lady of infinite beauty and virtue. She is above me in everything, especially in fortune. Yet she deigns to love me. I can't ask her hand as a pauper; and by my own folly, now deeply repented, I am little more. Now, all depends on you—my happiness, my respectability. Sooner or later, I shall be able to repay you all. For God's sake come to the assistance of your affectionate cousin,

EDWARD SEVERNE."

"The brother, a man of immense estates, is an old friend, and warmly attached to me. If I could only, through your temporary assistance or connivance, present my estate as clear, all would be well, and I could repay you afterward."



To this letter he received an immediate reply:



"DEAR EDWARD—I thought you had forgotten my very existence. Yes, I owe much to your father, and have always said so, and acted accordingly. While you have been wandering abroad, deserting us all, I have improved your estate. I have bought all the other mortgages, and of late the rent has paid the interest, within a few pounds. I now make you an offer. Give me a long lease of the two farms at three hundred pounds a year—they will soon be vacant—and two thousand pounds out of hand, and I will cancel all the mortgages, and give you a receipt for them, as paid in full. This will be like paying you several thousand pounds for a beneficial lease. The two thousand pounds I must insist on, in justice to my own family.

"Your affectionate cousin,

"GEORGE SEVERNE."



This munificent offer surprised and delighted Severne, and, indeed, no other man but Cousin George, who had a heart of gold, and was grateful to Ned's father, and also loved the scamp himself, as everybody did, would have made such an offer.

Our adventurer wrote, and closed with it, and gushed gratitude. Then he asked himself how to get the money. Had he been married to Zoe, or not thinking of her, he would have gone at once to Vizard, for the security was ample. But in his present delicate situation this would not do. No; he must be able to come and say, "My estate is small, but it is clear. Here is a receipt for six thousand pounds' worth of mortgages I have paid off. I am poor in land but rich in experience, regrets, and love. Be my friend, and trust me with Zoe."

He turned and twisted it in his mind, and resolved on a bold course. He would go to Homburg, and get that sum by hook or by crook out of Ina Klosking's winnings. He took Fanny into his confidence; only he substituted London for Homburg.

"And oh, Miss Dover," said he, "do not let me suffer by going away and leaving a rival behind."

"Suffer by it!" said she. "No, I mean to reward you for taking my advice. Don't you say a word to her. It will come better from me. I'll let her know what you are gone for; and she is just the girl to be upon honor, and ever so much cooler to Lord Uxmoor because you are unhappy, but have gone away trusting her."

And his artful ally kept her word. She went into Zoe's room before dinner to have it out with her.

In the evening Severne told Vizard he must go up to London for a day or two.

"All right," said Vizard. "Tell some of them to order the dog-cart for your train."

But Zoe took occasion to ask him for how long, and murmured, "Remember how we shall miss you," with such a look that he was in Elysium that evening.

But at night he packed his bag for Homburg, and that chilled him. He lay slumbering all night, but not sleeping, and waking with starts and a sense of horror.

At breakfast, after reading his letters, Vizard asked him what train he would go by.

He said, the one o'clock.

"All right," said Vizard. Then he rang the bell, countermanded the dog-cart, and ordered the barouche.

"A barouche for me!" said Severne. "Why, I am not going to take the ladies to the station."

"No; it is to bring one here. She comes down from London five minutes before you take the up train."

There was a general exclamation: Who was it? Aunt Maitland?

"No," said Vizard, tossing a note to Zoe—"it is Doctress Gale."



Severne's countenance fell.



CHAPTER XVII.

EDWARD SEVERNE, master of arts, dreaded Rhoda Gale, M.D. He had deluded, in various degrees, several ladies that were no fools; but here was one who staggered and puzzled him. Bright and keen as steel, quick and spirited, yet controlled by judgment and always mistress of herself, she seemed to him a new species. The worst of it was, he felt himself in the power of this new woman, and, indeed, he saw no limit to the mischief she might possibly do him if she and Zoe compared notes. He had thought the matter over, and realized this more than he did when in London. Hence the good youth's delight at her illness, noticed in a former chapter.

He was very thoughtful all breakfast time, and as soon as it was over drew Vizard apart, and said he would postpone his visit to London until he had communicated with his man of business. He would go to the station and telegraph him, and by that means would do the civil and meet Miss Gale. Vizard stared at him.

"You meet my virago? Why, I thought you disapproved her entirely."

"No, no; only the idea of a female doctor, not the lady herself. Besides, it is a rule with me, my dear fellow, never to let myself disapprove my friends' friends."

"That is a bright idea, and you are a good fellow," said Vizard. "Go and meet the pest, by all means, and bring her here to luncheon. After luncheon we will drive her up to the farm and ensconce her."

Edward Severne had this advantage over most impostors, that he was masculine or feminine as occasion required. For instance, he could be hysterical or bold to serve the turn. Another example—he watched faces like a woman, and yet he could look you in the face like a man, especially when he was lying. In the present conjuncture a crafty woman would have bristled with all the arts of self-defense, but stayed at home and kept close to Zoe. Not so our master of arts; he went manfully to meet Rhoda Gale, and so secure a te'te-'a-te'te, and learn, if possible, what she meant to do, and whether she could be cannily propitiated. He reached the station before her, and wired a very intelligent person who, he knew, conducted delicate inquiries, and had been very successful in a divorce case, public two years before. Even as he dispatched this message there was a whistling and a ringing, and the sound of a coming train, and Ned Severne ran to meet Rhoda Gale with a heart palpitating a little, and a face beaming greatly to order. He looked for her in the first-class carriages, but she was in the second, and saw him. He did not see her till she stepped out on the platform. Then he made toward her. He took off his hat, and said, with respectful zeal, "If you will tell me what luggage you have, the groom shall get it out."

Miss Gale's eyes wandered over him loftily. "I have only a box and a bag, sir, both marked 'R. G.' "

"Joe," said he—for he had already made friends with all the servants, and won their hearts—"box and bag marked 'R. G.' Miss Gale, you had better take your seat in the carriage."

Miss Gale gave a little supercilious nod, and he showed her obsequiously into the carriage. She laid her head back, and contemplated vacancy ahead in a manner anything but encouraging to this new admirer Fate had sent her. He turned away, a little discomfited, and when the luggage was brought up, he had the bag placed inside, and the box in a sort of boot, and then jumped in and seated himself inside. "Home," said he to the coachman, and off they went. When he came in she started with well-feigned surprise, and stared at him.

"Oh," said she, "I have met you before. Why, it is Mr. Severne. Excuse me taking you for one of the servants. Some people have short memories, you know."

This deliberate affront was duly felt, but parried with a master-hand.

"Why, I am one of the servants," said he; "only I am not Vizard's. I'm yours."

"In-deed!"

"If you will let me."

"I am too poor to have fine servants."

"Say too haughty. You are not too poor, for I shan't cost you anything but a gracious word now and then."

"Unfortunately I don't deal in gracious words, only true ones."

"I see that."

"Then suppose you imitate me, and tell me why you came to meet me?"

This question came from her with sudden celerity, like lightning out of a cloud, and she bent her eyes on him with that prodigious keenness she could throw into those steel gray orbs, when her mind put on its full power of observation.

Severne colored a little, and hesitated.

"Come now," said this keen witch, "don't wait to make up a reason. Tell the truth for once—quick!—quick!—why did you come to meet me?"

"I didn't come to be bullied," replied supple Severne, affecting sullenness.

"You didn't!" cried the other, acting vast surprise. "Then what did you come for?"

"I don't know; and I wish I hadn't come."

"That I believe." Rhoda shot this in like an arrow.

"But," continued Severne, "if I hadn't, nobody would; for it is Vizard's justicing day, and the ladies are too taken up with a lord to come and meet such vulgar trifles as genius and learning and sci—"

"Come, come!" said Rhoda, contemptuously; "you care as little about science and learning and genius as I possess them. You won't tell me? Well, I shall find you out." Then, after a pause, "Who is this lord?"

"Lord Uxmoor."

"What kind of a lord is he?"

"A very bushy lord."

"Bushy?—oh, bearded like the pard! Now tell me," said she, "is he cutting you out with Miss Vizard?"

"You shall judge for yourself. Please spare me on that one topic—if you ever spared anybody in your life."

"Oh, dear me!" said Rhoda, coolly. "I'm not so very cruel. I'm only a little vindictive and cat-like. If people offend me, I like to play with them a bit, and amuse myself, and then kill them—kill them—kill them; that is all."

This pretty little revelation of character was accompanied with a cruel smile that showed a long row of dazzling white teeth. They seemed capable of killing anything from a liar up to a hickory-nut.

Severne looked at her and gave a shudder. "Then Heaven forbid you should ever be my enemy!" said he, sadly, "for I am unhappy enough already."

Having delivered this disarming speech, he collapsed, and seemed to be overpowered with despondency. Miss Gale showed no signs of melting. She leaned back and eyed him with steady and composed curiosity, as a zoologist studying a new specimen and all its little movements.

They drove up to the Hall door, and Miss Gale was conducted to the drawing-room, where she found Lord Uxmoor and the two young ladies. Zoe shook hands with her. Fanny put a limp paw into hers, which made itself equally limp directly, so Fanny's dropped out. Lord Uxmoor was presented to her, at his own request. Soon after this luncheon was announced. Vizard joined them, welcomed Rhoda genially, and told the party he had ordered the break, and Uxmoor would drive them to the farm round by Hillstoke and the Common. "And so," said he, "by showing Miss Gale our most picturesque spot at once, we may perhaps blind her to the horrors of her situation—for a time."

The break was driven round in due course, with Uxmoor's team harnessed to it. It was followed by a dog-cart crammed with grooms, Uxmoorian and Vizardian. The break was padded and cushioned, and held eight or nine people very comfortably.. It was, indeed, a sort of picnic van, used only in very fine weather. It rolled on beautiful springs. Its present contents were Miss Gale and her luggage and two hampers full of good things for her; Vizard, Severne, and Miss Dover. Zoe sat on the box beside Lord Uxmoor. They drove through the village, and Mr. Severne was so obliging as to point out its beauties to Miss Gale. She took little notice of his comments, except by a stiff nod every now and then, but eyed each house and premises with great keenness.

At last she stopped his fluency by inquiring whether he had been into them all; and when he said he had not, she took advantage of that admission to inform him that in two days' time she should be able to tell him a great deal more than he was likely to tell her, upon his method of inspecting villages.

"That is right," said Vizard; "snub him: he gets snubbed too little here. How dare he pepper science with his small-talk? But it is our fault—we admire his volubility."

"Oh," said Fanny, with a glance of defiance at Miss Gale, "if we are to talk nothing but science, it will be a weary world."

After the village there was a long, gradual ascent of about a mile, and then they entered a new country. It was a series of woods and clearings, some grass, some arable. Huge oaks, flung their arms over a road lined on either side by short turf, close-cropped by the gypsies' cattle. Some band or other of them was always encamped by the road-side, and never two bands at once. And between these giant trees, not one of which was ever felled, you saw here and there a glade, green as an emerald; or a yellow stubble, glowing in the sun. After about a mile of this, still mounting, but gradually, they emerged upon a spacious table-land—a long, broad, open, grass plateau, studded with cottages. In this lake of grass Uxmoor drew up at a word from Zoe, to show Miss Gale the scene. The cottages were white as snow, and thatched as at Islip; but instead of vegetable-gardens they all had orchards. The trees were apple and cherry: of the latter not less than a thousand in that small hamlet. It was literally a lawn, a quarter of a mile long and about two hundred yards broad, bordered with white cottages and orchards. The cherries, red and black, gleamed like countless eyes among the cool leaves. There was a little church on the lawn that looked like a pigeon-house. A cow or two grazed peacefully. Pigs, big and little, crossed the lawn, grunting and squeaking satisfaction, and dived into the adjacent woods after acorns, and here and there a truffle the villagers knew not the value of. There was a pond or two in the lawn; one had a wooden plank fixed on uprights, that went in some way. A woman was out on the board, bare-armed, dipping her bucket in for water. In another pond an old knowing horse stood gravely cooling his heels up to the fetlocks. These, with shirts, male and female, drying on a line, and whiteheaded children rolling in the dust, and a donkey braying his heart out for reasons known only to himself, if known at all, were the principal details of the sylvan hamlet; but on a general survey there were grand beauties. The village and its turf lay in the semicircular sweep of an unbroken forest; but at the sides of the leafy basin glades had been cut for drawing timber, stacking bark, etc., and what Milton calls so happily "the checkered shade" was seen in all its beauty; for the hot sun struggled in at every aperture, and splashed the leaves and the path with fiery flashes and streaks, and topaz brooches, all intensified in fire and beauty by the cool adjacent shadows.

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