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The Woman-Hater
by Charles Reade
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"Well, then?"

"Well, then, I am not going to throw away a chance. The beggar had the impudence to spoon on my sister Zoe. That was my fault, not hers. He was an old college acquaintance, and I gave him opportunities—I deserve to be horsewhipped. However, I am not going to commit the same blunder twice. My sister is in your neighborhood for a few days."

"Ah!"

"And perhaps you will be good enough to keep your eye on her."

"I feel much honored by such a commission. But you have not told me where Miss Vizard is."

"With her aunt, Miss Maitland, at Somerville Villa, near Bagley. Apropos, I had better tell you what she is there for, or your good dowager will be asking her to parties. She has come to nurse her aunt Maitland. The old lady is seriously ill, and all our young coquettes are going in for nursing. We have a sick lady at our house, I am sorry to say, and she is nursed like a queen by Doctress Gale and ex Flirt Fanny Dover. Now is fulfilled the saying that was said,

'O woman! in our hours of ease—'

I spare you the rest, and simply remark that our Zoe, fired by the example of those two ladies, has devoted herself to nursing Aunt Maitland. It is very good of her, but experience tells me she will very soon find it extremely trying; and as she is a very pretty girl, and therefore a fit subject of male charity, you might pay her a visit now and then, and show her that this best of all possible worlds contains young gentlemen of distinction, with long and glossy beards, as well as peevish old women, who are extra selfish and tyrannical when they happen to be sick."

Uxmoor positively radiated as this programme was unfolded to him. Vizard observed that, and chuckled inwardly.

He then handed him the forged acceptances.

Lord Uxmoor begged him to write down the facts on paper, and also his application for the warrant. He did so. Lord Uxmoor locked the paper up, and the friends parted. Vizard drove off, easy in his mind, and congratulating himself, not unreasonably, on his little combination, by means of which he had provided his sister with a watch-dog, a companion, and an honorable lover all in one.

Uxmoor put on his hat and strode forth into his own grounds, with his heart beating high at this strange turn of things in favor of his love.

Neither foresaw the strange combinations which were to arise out of an event that appeared so simple and one-sided.



CHAPTER XXII.

INA KLOSKING'S cure was retarded by the state of her mind. The excitement and sharp agony her physician had feared died away as the fever of the brain subsided; but then there settled down a grim, listless lethargy, which obstructed her return to health and vigor. Once she said to Rhoda Gale, "But I have nothing to get well for."

As a rule, she did not speak her mind, but thought a great deal. She often asked after Zoe; and her nurses could see that her one languid anxiety was somehow connected with that lady. Yet she did not seem hostile to her now, nor jealous. It was hard to understand her; she was reserved, and very deep.

The first relief to the deadly languor of her mind came to her from Music. That was no great wonder; but, strange to say, the music that did her good was neither old enough to be revered, nor new enough to be fashionable. It was English music too, and passe' music. She came across a collection of Anglican anthems and services—written, most of it, toward the end of the last century and the beginning of this. The composers' names promised little: they were Blow, Nares, Green, Kent, King, Jackson, etc. The words and the music of these compositions seemed to suit one another; and, as they were all quite new to her, she went through them almost eagerly, and hummed several of the strains, and with her white but now thin hand beat time to others. She even sent for Vizard, and said to him, "You have a treasure here. Do you know these compositions?"

He inspected his treasure. "I remember," said he, "my mother used to sing this one, 'When the Eye saw Her, then it blessed Her;' and parts of this one, 'Hear my Prayer;' and, let me see, she used to sing this psalm, 'Praise the Lord,' by Jackson. I am ashamed to say I used to ask for 'Praise the Lord Jackson,' meaning to be funny, not devout."

"She did not choose ill," said Ina. "I thought I knew English music, yet here is a whole stream of it new to me. Is it esteemed?"

"I think it was once, but it has had its day."

"That is strange; for here are some immortal qualities. These composers had brains, and began at the right end; they selected grand and tuneful words, great and pious thoughts; they impregnated themselves with those words and produced appropriate music. The harmonies are sometimes thin, and the writers seem scarcely to know the skillful use of discords; but they had heart and invention; they saw their way clear before they wrote the first note; there is an inspired simplicity and fervor: if all these choice things are dead, they must have fallen upon bad interpreters."

"No doubt," said Vizard; "so please get well, and let me hear these pious strains, which my poor dear mother loved so well, interpreted worthily."

The Klosking's eyes filled. "That is a temptation," said she, simply. Then she turned to Rhoda Gale. "Sweet physician, he has done me good. He has given me something to get well for."

Vizard's heart yearned. "Do not talk like that," said he, buoyantly; then, in a broken voice, "Heaven forbid you should have nothing better to live for than that."

"Sir," said she, gravely, "I have nothing better to live for now than to interpret good music worthily."

There was a painful silence.

Ina broke it. She said, quite calmly, "First of all, I wish to know how others interpret these strains your mother loved, and I have the honor to agree with her."

"Oh," said Vizard, "we will soon manage that for you. These things are not defunct, only unfashionable. Every choir in England has sung them, and can sing them, after a fashion; so, at twelve o'clock to-morrow, look out—for squalls!"

He mounted his horse, rode into the cathedral town—distant eight miles—and arranged with the organist for himself, four leading boys, and three lay clerks. He was to send a carriage in for them after the morning service, and return them in good time for vespers.

Fanny told Ina Klosking, and she insisted on getting up.

By this time Doctress Gale had satisfied herself that a little excitement was downright good for her patient, and led to refreshing sleep. So they dressed her loosely but very warmly, and rolled her to the window on her invalid couch, set at a high angle. It was a fine clear day in October, keen but genial; and after muffling her well, they opened the window.

While she sat there, propped high, and inhaling the pure air, Vizard conveyed his little choir, by another staircase, into the antechamber; and, under his advice, they avoided preludes and opened in full chorus with Jackson's song of praise.

At the first burst of sacred harmony, Ina Klosking was observed to quiver all over.

They sung it rather coarsely, but correctly and boldly, and with a certain fervor. There were no operatic artifices to remind her of earth; the purity and the harmony struck her full. The great singer and sufferer lifted her clasped hands to God, and the tears flowed fast down her cheeks.

These tears were balm to that poor lacerated soul, tormented by many blows.

"O lacrymarum fons, tenero sacros Ducemtium ortus ex animo, quater Felix, in imo qui scatentem Pectore, te, pia nympha, sensit."

Rhoda Gale, who hated music like poison, crept up to her, and, infolding her delicately, laid a pair of wet eyes softly on her shoulder.

Vizard now tapped at the door, and was admitted from the music-room. He begged Ina to choose another composition from her book. She marked a service and two anthems, and handed him the volume, but begged they might not be done too soon, one after the other. That would be quite enough for one day, especially if they would be good enough to repeat the hymn of praise to conclude; "for," said she, "these are things to be digested."

Soon the boys' pure voices rose again and those poor dead English composers, with prosaic names, found their way again to the great foreign singer's soul.

They sung an anthem, which is now especially despised by those great critics, the organists of the country—"My Song shall be of Mercy and Judgment."

The Klosking forgave the thinness of the harmony, and many little faults in the vocal execution. The words, no doubt, went far with her, being clearly spoken. She sat meditating, with her moist eyes raised, and her face transfigured, and at the end she murmured to Vizard, with her eyes still raised, "After all, they are great and pious words, and the music has at least this crowning virtue—it means the words." Then she suddenly turned upon him and said, "There is another person in this house who needs this consolation as much as I do. Why does she not come? But perhaps she is with the musicians."

"Whom do you mean?"

"Your sister."

"Why, she is not in the house."

Ina Klosking started at that information, and bent her eyes keenly and inquiringly on him.

"She left two days ago."

"Indeed!"

"To nurse a sick aunt."

"Indeed! Had she no other reason?"

"Not that I know of," said Vizard; but he could not help coloring a little.

The little choir now sung a service, King in F. They sung "The Magnificat" rudely, and rather profanely, but recovered themselves in the "Dimittis."

When it was over, Ina whispered, "'To be a light to lighten the Gentiles.' That is an inspired duet. Oh, how it might be sung!"

"Of course it might," whispered Vizard; "so you have something to get well for."

"Yes, my friend—thanks to you and your sainted mother."

This, uttered in a voice which, under the healing influence of music, seemed to have regained some of its rich melody, was too much for our cynic, and he bustled off to hide his emotion, and invited the musicians to lunch.

All the servants had been listening on the stairs, and the hospitable old butler plied the boys with sparkling Moselle, which, being himself reared on mighty Port; he thought a light and playful wine—just the thing for women and children. So after luncheon they sung rather wild, and the Klosking told Vizard, dryly, that would do for the present.

Then he ordered the carriage for them, and asked Mademoiselle Klosking when she would like them again.

"When can I?" she inquired, rather timidly.

"Every day, if you like—Sundays and all."

"I must be content with every other day."

Vizard said he would arrange it so, and was leaving her; but she begged him to stay a moment.

"She would be safer here," said she, very gravely.

Vizard was taken aback by the suddenness of this return to a topic he was simple enough to think she had abandoned. However, he said, "She is safe enough. I have taken care of that, you may be sure."

"You have done well, sir," said Ina, very gravely.

She said no more to him; but just before dinner Fanny came in, and Miss Gale went for a walk in the garden. Ina pinned Fanny directly. "Where is Miss Vizard?" said she, quietly.

Fanny colored up; but seeing in a moment that fibs would be dangerous, said, mighty carelessly, "She is at Aunt Maitland's."

"Where does she live, dear?"

"In a poky little place called 'Somerville Villa.'"

"Far from this?"

"Not very. It is forty miles by the railway, but not thirty by the road; and Zoe went in the barouche all the way."

Mademoiselle Klosking thought a little, and then taking Fanny Dover's hand, said to her, very sweetly, "I beg you to honor me with your confidence, and tell me something. Believe me, it is for no selfish motive I ask you; but I think Miss Vizard is in danger. She is too far from her brother, and too far from me. Mr. Vizard says she is safe. Now, can you tell me what he means? How can she be safe? Is her heart turned to stone, like mine?"

"No, indeed," said Fanny. "Yes, I will be frank with you; for I believe you are wiser than any one of us. Zoe is not safe, left to herself. Her heart is anything but stone; and Heaven knows what wild, mad thing she might be led into. But I know perfectly well what Vizard means: no, I don't like to tell it you all; it will give you pain."

"There is little hope of that. I am past pain."

"Well, then—Miss Gale will scold me."

"No, she shall not."

"Oh, I know you have got the upper hand even of her; so if you promise I shall not be scolded, I'll tell you. You see, I had my misgivings about this very thing; and as soon as Vizard came home—it was he who took her to Aunt Maitland—I asked him what precautions he had taken to hinder that man from getting hold of her again. Well, then—oh, I ought to have begun by telling you Mr. Severne forged bills to get money out of Harrington."

"Good Heavens!"

"Oh, Harrington will never punish him, if he keeps his distance; but he has advertised in all the papers, warning him that if he sets foot in Barfordshire he will be arrested and sent to prison."

Ina Klosking shook her head. "When a man is in love with such a woman as that, dangers could hardly deter him."

"That depends upon the man, I think. But Harrington has done better than that. He has provided her with a watch-dog—the best of all watch-dogs—another lover. Lord Uxmoor lives near Aunt Maitland, and he adores Zoe; so Harrington has commissioned him to watch her, and cure her, and all. I wish he'd cure me—an earl's coronet and twenty thousand a year!"

"You relieve my mind," said Ina. Then after a pause—"But let me ask you one question more. Why did you not tell me Miss Vizard was gone?"

"I don't know," said Fanny, coloring up. "She told me not."

"Who?"

"Why, the Vixen in command. She orders everybody."

"And why did she forbid you?"

"Don't know."

"Yes, you do. Kiss me, dear. There, I will distress you with no more questions. Why should I? Our instincts seldom deceive us. Well, so be it: I have something more to get well for, and I will."

Fanny looked up at her inquiringly.

"Yes," said she; "the daughter of this hospitable house will never return to it while I am in it. Poor girl; she thinks she is the injured woman. So be it. I will get well—and leave it."



Fanny communicated this to Miss Gale, and all she said was, "She shall go no further than Hillstoke then; for I love her better than any man can love her."

Fanny did not tell Vizard; and he was downright happy, seeing the woman he loved recover, by slow degrees, her health, her strength, her color, her voice. Parting was not threatened. He did not realize that they should ever part at all. He had vague hopes that, while she was under his roof, opportunity might stand his friend, and she might requite his affection. All this would not bear looking into very closely: for that very reason he took particular care not to look into it very closely; but hoped all things, and was happy. In this condition he received a little shock.

A one-horse fly was driven up to the door, and a card brought in—

"MR. JOSEPH ASHMEAD."

Vizard was always at home at Vizard Court, except to convicted Bores. Mr. Ashmead was shown into his study.

Vizard knew him at a glance. The velveteen coat had yielded to tweed; but another loud tie had succeeded to the one "that fired the air at Homburg." There, too, was the wash-leather face, and other traits Vizard professed to know an actress's lover by. Yes, it was the very man at sight of whom he had fought down his admiration of La Klosking, and declined an introduction to her. Vizard knew the lady better now. But still he was a little jealous even of her acquaintances, and thought this one unworthy of her; so he received him with stiff but guarded politeness, leaving him to open his business.

Ashmead, overawed by the avenue, the dozen gables, four-score chimneys, etc., addressed him rather obsequiously, but with a certain honest trouble, that soon softened the bad impression caused by his appearance.

"Sir," said he, "pray excuse this intrusion of a stranger, but I am in great anxiety. It is not for myself, but for a lady, a very distinguished lady, whose interests I am charged with. It is Mademoiselle Klosking, the famous singer."

Vizard maintained a grim silence.

"You may have heard of her."

"I have."

"I almost fancy you once heard her sing—at Homburg."

"I did."

"Then I am sure you must have admired her, being a gentleman of taste. Well, sir, it is near a fortnight since I heard from her."

"Well, sir?"

"You will say what is that to you? But the truth is, she left me, in London, to do certain business for her, and she went down to this very place. I offered to come with her, but she declined. To be sure, it was a delicate matter, and not at all in my way. She was to write to me and report progress, and give me her address, that I might write to her; but nearly a fortnight has passed. I have not received a single letter. I am in real distress and anxiety. A great career awaits her in England, sir; but this silence is so mysterious, so alarming, that I begin actually to hope she has played the fool, and thrown it all up, and gone abroad with that blackguard."

"What blackguard, sir?"

Joseph drew in his horns. "I spoke too quick, sir," said he; "it is no business of mine. But these brilliant women are as mad as the rest in throwing away their affections. They prefer a blackguard to a good man. It is the rule. Excuse my plain speaking."

"Mr. Ashmead," said Vizard, "I may be able to answer your questions about this lady; but, before I do so, it is right I should know how far you possess her confidence. To speak plainly, have you any objection to tell me what is the precise relation between you and her?"

"Certainly not, sir. I am her theatrical agent."

"Is that all?"

"Not quite. I have been a good deal about her lately, and have seen her in deep distress. I think I may almost say I am her friend, though a very humble one."

Vizard did not yet quite realize the truth that this Bohemian had in his heart one holy spot—his pure devotion and unsexual friendship for that great artist. Still, his prejudices were disarmed, and he said, "Well, Mr. Ashmead, excuse my cross-questioning you. I will now give myself the pleasure of setting your anxieties at rest. Mademoiselle Klosking is in this house."

Ashmead stared at him, and then broke out, "In this house! O Lord! How can that be?"

"It happened in a way very distressing to us all, though the result is now so delightful. Mademoiselle Klosking called here on a business with which, perhaps, you are acquainted."

"I am, sir."

"Unfortunately she met with an accident in my very hall, an accident that endangered her life, sir; and of course we took charge of her. She has had a zealous physician and good nurses, and she is recovering slowly. She is quite out of danger, but still weak. I have no doubt she will be delighted to see you. Only, as we are all under the orders of her physician, and that physician is a woman, and a bit of a vixen, you must allow me to go and consult her first." Vizard retired, leaving Joseph happy, but mystified.

He was not long alone. In less than a minute he had for companions some well-buttered sandwiches made with smoked ham, and a bottle of old Madeira. The solids melted in his mouth, the liquid ran through his veins like oil charged with electricity and elixir vitoe.

By-and-by a female servant came for him, and ushered him into Ina Klosking's room.

She received him with undisguised affection, and he had much ado to keep from crying. She made him sit down near her in the vast embrasure of the window, and gave him a letter to read she had just written to him.

They compared notes very rapidly; but their discourse will not be given here, because so much of it would be repetition.

They were left alone to talk, and they did talk for more than an hour. The first interruption, indeed, was a recitativo with chords, followed by a verse from the leading treble.

Mr. Ashmead looked puzzled; the Klosking eyed him demurely.

Before the anthem concluded, Vizard tapped, and was admitted from the music-room. Ina smiled, and waved him to a chair. Both the men saw, by her manner, they were not to utter a sound while the music was going on. When it ceased, she said, "Do you approve that, my friend?"

"If it pleases you, madam," replied the wary Ashmead.

"It does more than please me; it does me good."

"That reconciles me to it at once."

"Oh, then you do not admire it for itself."

"Not—very—much."

"Pray, speak plainly. I am not a tyrant, to impose my tastes."

"Well then, madam, I feel very grateful to anything that does you good: otherwise, I should say the music was—rather dreary; and the singing—very insipid."

The open struggle between Joseph's honesty and his awe of the Klosking tickled Vizard so that he leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.

The Klosking smiled superior. "He means," said she, "that the music is not operatic, and the boys do not clasp their hands, and shake their shoulders, and sing passionately, as women do in a theater. Heaven forbid they should! If this world is all passion, there is another which is all peace; and these boys' sweet, artless tones are the nearest thing we shall get in this world to the unimpassioned voices of the angels. They are fit instruments for pious words set by composers, who, however obscure they may be, were men inspired, and have written immortal strains, which, as I hear them, seem hardly of this world—they are so free from all mortal dross."

Vizard assented warmly. Ashmead asked permission to hear another. They sung the "Magnificat" by King, in F.

"Upon my word," said Ashmead, "there is a deal of 'go' in that."

Then they sung the "Nuno Dimittis." He said, a little dryly, there was plenty of repose in that.

"My friend," said she, "there is—to the honor of the composer: the 'Magnificat' is the bright and lofty exultation of a young woman who has borne the Messiah, and does not foresee His sufferings, only the boon to the world and the glory to herself. But the 'Dimittis' is the very opposite. It is a gentle joy, and the world contentedly resigned by a good old man, fatigued, who has run his race, and longs to sleep after life's fever. When next you have the good fortune to hear that song, think you see the sun descending red and calm after a day of storms, and an aged Christian saying, 'Good-night,' and you will honor poor dead King as I do. The music that truly reflects great words was never yet small music, write it who may."

"You are right, madam." said Ashmead. "When I doubted its being good music, I suppose I meant salable."

"Ah, voil'a!" said the Klosking. Then, turning to Vizard for sympathy, "What this faithful friend understands by good music is music that can be sold for a good deal of money."

"That is so," said Ashmead, stoutly. "I am a theatrical agent. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You have tried it more than once, you know, but it would not work."

Ashmead amused Vizard, and he took him into his study, and had some more conversation with him. He even asked him to stay in the house; but Ashmead was shy, and there was a theater at Taddington. So he said he had a good deal of business to do; he had better make the "Swan" his headquarters. "I shall be at your service all the same, sir, or Mademoiselle Klosking's."

"Have a glass of Madeira, Mr. Ashmead."

"Well, sir, to tell the truth, I have had one or two."

"Then it knows the road."

"You are very good, sir. What Madeira! Is this the wine the doctors ran down a few years ago? They couldn't have tasted it."

"Well, it is like ourselves, improved by traveling. That has been twice to India."

"It will never go again past me," said Ashmead, gayly. "My mouth is a cape it will never weather."

He went to his inn.

Before he had been there ten minutes, up rattled a smart servant in a smart dogcart.

"Hamper—for Joseph Ashmead, Esquire."

"Anything to pay?"

"What for?—it's from Vizard Court."

And the dog-cart rattled away.

Joseph was in the hall, and witnessed this phenomenon. He said to himself, "I wish I had a vast acquaintance—ALL COUNTRY GENTLEMEN."



That afternoon Ina Klosking insisted on walking up and down the room, supported by Mesdemoiselles Gale and Dover. The result was fatigue and sleep; that is all.

"To-morrow," said she, "I will have but one live crutch. I must and will recover my strength."

In the evening she insisted on both ladies dining with Mr. Vizard. Here, too, she had her way.

Vizard was in very good spirits, and, when the servants were gone, complimented Miss Gale on her skill.

"Our skill, you mean," said she. "It was you who prescribed this new medicine of the mind, the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; and it was you who administered the Ashmead, and he made her laugh, or nearly—and that we have never been able to do. She must take a few grains of Ashmead every day. The worst of it is, I am afraid we shall cure her too quickly; and then we shall lose her. But that was to be expected. I am very unfortunate in my attachments; I always was. If I fall in love with a woman, she is sure to hate me, or else die, or else fly away. I love this one to distraction, so she is sure to desert me, because she couldn't misbehave, and I won't let her die."

"Well," said Vizard, "you know what to do—retard the cure. That is one of the arts of your profession."

"And so it is; but how can I, when I love her? No, we must have recourse to our benevolent tyrant again. He must get Miss Vizard back here, before my goddess is well enough to spread her wings and fly."

Vizard looked puzzled. "This," said he "sounds like a riddle, or female logic."

"It is both," said Rhoda. "Miss Dover, give him the mot d'e'nigme. I'm off—to the patient I adore."

She vanished swiftly, and Vizard looked to Fanny for a solution. But Fanny seemed rather vexed with Miss Gale, and said nothing. Then he pressed her to explain.

She answered him, with a certain reluctance, "Mademoiselle Klosking has taken into her head that Zoe will never return to this house while she is in it."

"Who put that into her head, now?" said Vizard, bitterly.

"Nobody, upon my honor. A woman's instinct."

"Well?"

"She is horrified at the idea of keeping your sister out of her own house, so she is getting well to go; and the strength of her will is such that she will get well."

"All the better; but Zoe will soon get tired of Somerville Villa. A little persuasion will bring her home, especially if you were to offer to take her place."

"Oh, I would do that, to oblige you, Harrington, if I saw any good at the end of it. But please think twice. How can Zoe and that lady ever stay under the same roof? How can they meet at your table, and speak to each other? They are rivals."

"They are both getting cured, and neither will ever see the villain again."

"I hope not; but who can tell? Well, never mind them. If their eyes are not opened by this time, they will get no pity from me. It is you I think of now." Then, in a hesitating way, and her cheeks mantling higher and higher with honest blushes—"You have suffered enough already from women. I know it is not my business, but it does grieve me to see you going into trouble again. What good can come of it? Her connection with that man, so recent, and so—strange. The world will interpret its own way. Your position in the county—every eye upon you. I see the way in—no doubt it is strewed with flowers; but I see no way out. Be brave in time, Harrington. It will not be the first time. She must be a good woman, somehow, or faces, eyes and voices, and ways, are all a lie. But if she is good, she is very unfortunate; and she will give you a sore heart for life, if you don't mind. I'd clinch my teeth and shut my eyes, and let her go in time."

Vizard groaned aloud, and at that a tear or two rolled down Fanny's burning cheeks.

"You are a good little girl," said Vizard, affectionately; "but I cannot."

He hung his head despondently and muttered, "I see no way out either. But I yield to fate. I feared her, and fled from her. She has followed me. I can resist no more. I drift. Some men never know happiness. I shall have had a happy fortnight, at all events. I thank you, and respect you for your advice; but I can't take it. So now I suppose you will be too much offended to oblige me."

"Oh dear, no."

"Would you mind writing to Aunt Maitland, and saying you would like to take Zoe's place?"

"I will do it with pleasure to oblige you. Besides, it will be a fib, and it is so long since I have told a good fib. When shall I write?"

"Oh, about the end of the week."

"Yes, that will be time enough. Miss Gale won't let her go till next week. Ah, after all, how nice and natural it is to be naughty! Fibs and flirtation, welcome home! This is the beauty of being good—and I shall recommend it to all my friends on this very account—you can always leave it off at a moment's notice, without any trouble. Now, naughtiness sticks to you like a burr."

So, with no more ado, this new Mentor became Vizard's accomplice, and they agreed to get Zoe back before the Klosking could get strong enough to move with her physician's consent.



As the hamper of Madeira was landed in the hall of the "Swan" inn, a genial voice cried, "You are in luck." Ashmead turned, and there was Poikilus peering at him from the doorway of the commercial room.

"What is the game now?" thought Ashmead. But what he said was, "Why, I know that face. I declare, it is the gent that treated me at Homburg. Bring in the hamper, Dick." Then to Poikilus, "Have ye dined yet?"

"No. Going to dine in half an hour. Roast gosling. Just enough for two."

"We'll divide it, if you like, and I'll stand a bottle of old Madeira. My old friend, Squire Vizard, has just sent it me. I'll just have a splash; dinner will be ready by then." He bustled out of the room, but said, as he went, "I say, old man, open the hamper, and put two bottles just within the smile of the fire."

He then went upstairs, and plunged his head in cold water, to clear his faculties for the encounter.

The friends sat down to dinner, and afterward to the Madeira, both gay and genial outside, but within full of design—their object being to pump one another.

In the encounter at Homburg, Ashmead had an advantage; Poikilus thought himself unknown to Ashmead. But this time there was a change. Poikilus knew by this time that La Klosking had gone to Vizard Court. How she had known Severne was there puzzled him a good deal; but he had ended by suspecting Ashmead, in a vague way.

The parties, therefore, met on even terms. Ashmead resolved to learn what he could about Severne, and Poikilus to learn what he could about Zoe Vizard and Mademoiselle Klosking.

Ashmead opened the ball: "Been long here?"

"Just come."

"Business?"

"Yes. Want to see if there's any chance of my getting paid for that job."

"What job?"

"Why, the Homburg job. Look here—I don't know why I should have any secrets from a good fellow like you; only you must not tell anybody else."

"Oh, honor bright!"

"Well, then, I am a detective."

"Ye don't mean that?"

"I'm Poikilus."

"Good heavens! Well, I don't care. I haven't murdered anybody. Here's your health, Poikilus. I say, you could tell a tale or two."

"That I could. But I'm out of luck this time. The gentleman that employed me has mizzled, and he promised me fifty pounds. I came down here in hopes of finding him. Saw him once in this neighborhood."

"Well, you won't find him here, I don't think. You must excuse me, but your employer is a villain. He has knocked a lady down, and nearly killed her."

"You don't say that?"

"Yes; that beautiful lady, the singer, you saw in Homburg."

"What! the lady that said he should have his money?"

"The same."

"Why, he must be mad."

"No. A scoundrel. That is all."

"Then she won't give him his money after that."

"Not if I can help it. But if she likes to pay you your commission, I shall not object to that."

"You are a good fellow."

"What is more, I shall see her to-morrow, and I will put the question to her for you."

Poikilus was profuse in his thanks, and said he began to think it was his only chance. Then he had a misgiving. "I have no claim on the lady," said he; "and I am afraid I have been a bad friend to her. I did not mean it, though, and the whole affair is dark to me."

"You are not very sharp, then, for a detective," said Ashmead. "Well, shut your mouth and open your eyes. Your Mr. Severne was the lady's lover, and preyed upon her. He left her; she was fool enough to love him still, and pined for him. He is a gambler, and was gambling by my side when Mademoiselle Klosking came in; so he cut his lucky, and left me fifty pounds to play for him, and she put the pot on, and broke the bank. I didn't know who he was, but we found it out by his photograph. Then you came smelling after the money, and we sold you nicely, my fine detective. We made it our business to know where you wrote to—Vizard Court. She went down there, and found him just going to be married to a beautiful young lady. She collared him. He flung her down, and cut her temple open—nearly killed her. She lies ill in the house, and the other young lady is gone away broken-hearted."

"Where to?"

"How should I know? What is that to you?"

"Why don't you see? Wherever she is, he won't be far off. He likes her best, don't he?"

"It don't follow that she likes him, now she has found him out. He had better not go after her, or he'll get a skinful of broken bones. My friend, Squire Vizard, is the man to make short work with him, if he caught the blackguard spooning after his sister."

"And serve him right. Still, I wish I knew where that young lady is."

"I dare say I could learn if I made it my business."

Having brought the matter to that point, Poikilus left it, and simply made himself agreeable. He told Ashmead his experiences; and as they were, many of them, strange and dramatic, he kept him a delighted listener till midnight.

The next day Ashmead visited Mademoiselle Klosking, and found her walking up and down the room, with her hand on Miss Gale's shoulder.

She withdrew into the embrasure, and had some confidential talk with him. As a matter of course, he told her about Poikilus, and that he was hunting down Severne for his money.

"Indeed!" said the Klosking. "Please tell me every word that passed between you."

He did so, as nearly as he could remember.

Mademoiselle Klosking leaned her brow upon her hand a considerable time in thought. Then she turned on Ashmead, and said, quietly, "That Poikilus is still acting for him, and the one thing they desire to learn is where to find Miss Vizard, and delude her to her ruin."

"No, no," cried Ashmead violently; but the next moment his countenance fell. "You are wiser than I am," said he; "it may be. Confound the sneak! I'll give it him next time I see him! Why, he must love villainy for its own sake. I as good as said you would pay him his fifty pounds."

"What fifty pounds? His fifty pounds is a falsehood, like himself. Now, my friend, please take my instructions, my positive instructions."

"Yes, madam."

"You will not change your friendly manner: show no suspicion nor anger. If they are cunning, we must be wise; and the wise always keep their temper. You will say Miss Vizard has gone to Ireland, but to what part is only known to her brother. Tell him this, and be very free and communicative on all other subjects; for this alone has any importance now. As for me, I can easily learn where Somerville Villa is, and in a day or two shall send you to look after her. One thing is clear—I had better lose no time in recovering my strength. Well, my will is strong. I will lose no time—your arm, monsieur;" and she resumed her promenade.

Ashmead, instructed as above, dined again with the detective; but out of revenge gave him but one bottle of Madeira. As they sipped it, he delivered a great many words; and in the middle of them said, "Oh, by-the-by, I asked after that poor young lady. Gone to Ireland, but they didn't know what part."

After dinner Ashmead went to the theater. When he came back Poikilus was gone.

So did Wisdom baffle Cunning that time.

But Cunning did not really leave the field: that very evening an aged man, in green spectacles, was inquiring about the postal arrangements to Vizard Court; and next day he might have been seen, in a back street of Taddington, talking to the village postman, and afterward drinking with him. It was Poikilus groping his way.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A FEW words avail to describe the sluggish waters of the Dead Sea, but what pen can portray the Indian Ocean lashed and tormented by a cyclone?

Even so a few words have sufficed to show that Ina Klosking's heart was all benumbed and deadened; and, with the help of insult, treachery, loss of blood, brain-fever, and self-esteem rebelling against villainy, had outlived its power of suffering poignant torture.

But I cannot sketch in a few words, nor paint in many, the tempest of passion in Zoe Vizard. Yet it is my duty to try and give the reader some little insight into the agony, the changes, the fury, the grief, the tempest of passion, in a virgin heart; in such a nature, the great passions of the mind often rage as fiercely, or even more so, than in older and experienced women.

Literally, Zoe Vizard loved Edward Severne one minute and hated him the next; gave him up for a traitor, and then vowed to believe nothing until she had heard his explanation; burned with ire at his silence, sickened with dismay at his silence. Then, for a while, love and faith would get the upper hand, and she would be quite calm. Why should she torment herself? An old sweetheart, abandoned long ago, had come between them; he had, unfortunately, done the woman an injury, in his wild endeavor to get away from her. Well, what business had she to use force? No doubt he was ashamed, afflicted at what he had done, being a man; or was in despair, seeing that lady installed in her brother's house, and her story, probably a parcel of falsehoods, listened to.

Then she would have a gleam of joy; for she knew he had not written to Ina Klosking. But soon Despondency came down like a dark cloud; for she said to herself, "He has left us both. He sees the woman he does not love will not let him have the one he does love; and so he has lost heart, and will have no more to say to either."

When her thoughts took this turn she would cry piteously; but not for long. She would dry her eyes, and burn with wrath all round; she would still hate her rival, but call her lover a coward—a contemptible coward.

After her day of raging, and grieving, and doubting, and fearing, and hoping, and despairing, night overtook her with an exhausted body, a bleeding heart, and weeping eyes. She had been so happy—on the very brink of paradise; and now she was deserted. Her pillow was wet every night. She cried in her very sleep; and when she woke in the morning her body was always quivering; and in the very act of waking came a horror, and an instinctive reluctance to face the light that was to bring another day of misery.

Such is a fair, though loose, description of her condition.

The slight fillip given to her spirits by the journey did her a morsel of good, but it died away. Having to nurse Aunt Maitland did her a little good at first. But she soon relapsed into herself, and became so distraite that Aunt Maitland, who was all self, being an invalid, began to speak sharply to her.

On the second day of her visit to Somerville Villa, as she sat brooding at the foot of her aunt's bed, suddenly she heard horses' feet, and then a ring at the hall-door. Her heart leaped. Perhaps he had come to explain all. He might not choose to go to Vizard Court. What if he had been watching as anxiously as herself, and had seized the first opportunity! In a moment her pale cheek rivaled carmine.

The girl brought up a card—

"LORD UXMOOR."

The color died away directly. "Say I am very sorry, but at this moment I cannot leave my aunt."

The girl stared with amazement, and took down the message.

Uxmoor rode away.

Zoe felt a moment's pleasure. No, if she could not see the right man, she would not see the wrong. That, at least, was in her power.

Nevertheless, in the course of the day, remembering Uxmoor's worth, and the pain she had already given him, she was almost sorry she had indulged herself at his expense.

Superfluous contrition! He came next day, as a matter of course. She liked him none the better for coming, but she went downstairs to him.

He came toward her, but started back and uttered an exclamation. "You are not well," he said, in tones of tenderness and dismay.

"Not very," she faltered; for his open manly concern touched her.

"And you have come here to nurse this old lady? Indeed, Miss Vizard, you need nursing yourself. You know it is some time since I had the pleasure of seeing you, and the change is alarming. May I send you Dr. Atkins, my mother's physician?"

"I am much obliged to you. No."

"Oh, I forgot. You have a physician of your own sex. Why is she not looking after you?"

"Miss Gale is better employed. She is at Vizard Court in attendance on a far more brilliant person—Mademoiselle Klosking, a professional singer. Perhaps you know her?"

"I saw her at Homburg."

"Well, she met with an accident in our hall—a serious one; and Harrington took her in, and has placed all his resources—his lady physician and all—at her service: he is so fond of Music."

A certain satirical bitterness peered through these words, but honest Uxmoor did not notice it. He said, "Then I wish you would let me be your doctor—for want of a better."

"And you think you can cure me?" said Zoe, satirically.

"It does seem presumptuous. But, at least, I could do you a little good if you could be got to try my humble prescription."

"What is it?" asked Zoe, listlessly.

"It is my mare Phillis. She is the delight of every lady who mounts her. She is thorough-bred, lively, swift, gentle, docile, amiable, perfect. Ride her on these downs an hour or two very day. I'll send her over to-morrow. May I?"

"If you like. Rosa would pack up my riding-habit."

"Rosa was a prophetess."



Next day came Phillis, saddled. and led by a groom on horseback, and Uxmoor soon followed on an old hunter. He lifted Zoe to her saddle, and away they rode, the groom following at a respectful distance.

When they got on the downs they had a delightful canter; but Zoe, in her fevered state of mind, was not content with that. She kept increasing the pace, till the old hunter could no longer live with the young filly; and she galloped away from Lord Uxmoor, and made him ridiculous in the eyes of his groom.

The truth is, she wanted to get away from him.

He drew the rein, and stood stock-still. She made a circuit of a mile, and came up to him with heightened color and flashing eyes, looking beautiful.

"Well?" said she. "Don't you like galloping?"

"Yes, but I don't like cruelty."

"Cruelty?"

"Look at the mare's tail how it is quivering, and her flanks panting! And no wonder. You have been over twice the Derby course at a racing pace. Miss Vizard, a horse is not a steam engine."

"I'll never ride her again," said Zoe. "I did not come here to be scolded. I will go home."

They walked slowly home in silence. Uxmoor hardly knew what to say to her; but at last he murmured, apologetically, "Never mind the poor mare, if you are better for galloping her."

She waited a moment before she spoke, and then she said, "Well, yes; I am better. I'm better for my ride, and better for my scolding. Good-by." (Meaning forever.)

"Good-by," said he, in the same tone. Only he sent the mare next day, and followed her on a young thorough-bred.

"What!" said Zoe; "am I to have another trial?"

"And another after that."

So this time she would only canter very slowly, and kept stopping every now and then to inquire, satirically, if that would distress the mare.

But Uxmoor was too good-humored to quarrel for nothing. He only laughed, and said, "You are not the only lady who takes a horse for a machine."

These rides did her bodily health some permanent good; but their effect on her mind was fleeting. She was in fair spirits when she was actually bounding through the air, but she collapsed afterward.

At first, when she used to think that Severne never came near her, and Uxmoor was so constant, she almost hated Uxmoor—so little does the wrong man profit by doing the right thing for a woman. I admit that, though not a deadly woman-hater myself.

But by-and-by she was impartially bitter against them both; the wrong man for doing the right thing, and the right man for not doing it.

As the days rolled by, and Severne did not appear, her indignation and wounded pride began to mount above her love. A beautiful woman counts upon pursuit, and thinks a man less than man if he does not love her well enough to find her, though hid in the caves of ocean or the labyrinths of Bermondsey.

She said to herself, "Then he has no explanation to offer. Another woman has frightened him away from me. I have wasted my affections on a coward." Her bosom boiled with love, and contempt, and wounded pride; and her mind was tossed to and fro like a leaf in a storm. She began, by force of will, to give Uxmoor some encouragement; only, after it she writhed and wept.

At last, finding herself driven to and fro like a leaf, she told Miss Maitland all, and sought counsel of her. She must have something to lean on.

The old lady was better by this time, and spoke kindly to her. She said Mr. Severne was charming, and she was not bound to give him up because another lady had past claims on him. But it appeared to her that Mr. Severne himself had deserted her. He had not written to her. Probably he knew something that had not yet transpired, and had steeled himself to the separation for good reasons. It was a decision she must accept. Let her then consider how forlorn is the condition of most deserted women compared with hers. Here was a devoted lover, whom she esteemed, and who could offer her a high position and an honest love. If she had a mother, that mother would almost force her to engage herself at once to Lord Uxmoor. Having no mother, the best thing she could do would be to force herself—to say some irrevocable words, and never look back. It was the lot of her sex not to marry the first love, and to be all the happier in the end for that disappointment, though at the time it always seemed eternal.

All this, spoken in a voice of singular kindness by one who used to be so sharp, made Zoe's tears flow gently and somewhat cooled her raging heart.

She began now to submit, and only cry at intervals, and let herself drift; and Uxmoor visited her every day, and she found it impossible not to esteem and regard him. Nevertheless, one afternoon, just about his time, she was seized with such an aversion to his courtship, and such a revolt against the slope she seemed gliding down, that she flung on her bonnet and shawl, and darted out of the house to escape him. She said to the servant, "I am gone for a walk, if anybody calls."

Uxmoor did call, and, receiving this message, he bit his lip, sent the horse home and walked up to the windmill, on the chance of seeing her anywhere. He had already observed she was never long in one mood; and as he was always in the same mind, he thought perhaps he might be tolerably welcome, if he could meet her unexpected.

Meantime Zoe walked very fast to get away from the house as soon as possible, and she made a round of nearly five miles, walking through two villages, and on her return lost her way. However, a shepherd showed her a bridle-road which, he told her, would soon take her to Somerville Villa, through "the small pastures;" and, accordingly, she came into a succession of meadows not very large. They were all fenced and gated; but the gates were only shut, not locked. This was fortunate; for they were new five-barred gates, and a lady does not like getting over these, even in solitude. Her clothes are not adapted.

There were sheep in some of these, cows in others, and the pastures wonderfully green and rich, being always well manured, and fed down by cattle.

Zoe's love of color was soothed by these emerald fields, dotted with white sheep and red cows.

In the last field, before the lane that led to the village, a single beast was grazing. Zoe took no notice of him, and walked on; but he took wonderful notice of her, and stared, then gave a disagreeable snort. He took offense at her Indian shawl, and, after pawing the ground and erecting his tail, he came straight at her at a tearing trot, and his tail out behind him.

Zoe saw, and screamed violently, and ran for the gate ahead, which, of course, was a few yards further from her than the gate behind. She ran for her life; but the bull, when he saw that, broke into a gallop directly, and came up fast with her. She could not escape.

At that moment a man vaulted clean over the gate, tore a pitchfork out of a heap of dung that luckily stood in the corner, and boldly confronted the raging bull just in time; for at that moment Zoe lost heart, and crouched, screaming, in the side ditch, with her hands before her eyes.

The new-comer, rash as his conduct seemed, was country-bred and knew what he was about: he drove one of the prongs clean through the great cartilage of the bull's mouth, and was knocked down like a nine-pin, with the broken staff of the pitch-fork in his hand; and the bull reared in the air with agony, the prong having gone clean through his upper lip in two places, and fastened itself, as one fastens a pin, in that leathery but sensitive organ.

Now Uxmoor was a university athlete; he was no sooner down than up. So, when the bull came down from his rearing, and turned to massacre his assailant, he was behind him, and seizing his tail, twisted it, and delivered a thundering blow on his backbone, and followed it up by a shower of them on his ribs. "Run to the gate, Zoe!" he roared. Whack! whack! whack!—"Run to the gate, I tell you!"—whack!—whack!—whack!—whack!—whack!

Thus ordered, Zoe Vizard, who would not have moved of herself, being in a collapse of fear, scudded to the gate, got on the right side of it, and looked over, with two eyes like saucers. She saw a sight incredible to her. Instead of letting the bull alone, now she was safe, Uxmoor was sticking to him like a ferret. The bull ran, tossing his nose with pain and bellowing: Uxmoor dragged by the tail and compelled to follow in preposterous, giant strides, barely touching the ground with the point of his toe, pounded the creature's ribs with such blows as Zoe had never dreamed possible. They sounded like flail on wooden floor, and each blow was accompanied with a loud jubilant shout. Presently, being a five's player, and ambidexter, he shifted his hand, and the tremendous whacks resounded on the bull's left side. The bull, thus belabored, and resounding like the big drum, made a circuit of the field, but found it all too hot: he knew his way to a certain quiet farmyard; he bolted, and came bang at Zoe once more, with furious eyes and gore-distilling nostrils.

But this time she was on the right side of the gate.

Yet she drew back in dismay as the bull drew near: and she was right; for, in his agony and amazement, the unwieldy but sinewy brute leaped the five-barred gate, and cleared it all but the top rail; that he burst through, as if it had been paper, and dragged Uxmoor after him, and pulled him down, and tore him some yards along the hard road on his back, and bumped his head against a stone, and so got rid of him: then pounded away down the lane, snorting, and bellowing, and bleeding; the prong still stuck through his nostrils like a pin.

Zoe ran to Uxmoor with looks of alarm and tender concern, and lifted his head to her tender bosom; for his clothes were torn, and his cheeks and hands bleeding. But he soon shook off his confusion, and rose without assistance.

"Have you got over your fright?" said he; "that is the question."

"Oh yes! yes! It is only you I am alarmed for. It is much better I should be killed than you."

"Killed! I never had better fun in my life. It was glorious. I stuck to him, and hit—there, I have not had anything I could hit as hard as I wanted to, since I used to fight with my cousin Jack at Eton. Oh, Miss Vizard, it was a whirl of Elysium! But I am sorry you were frightened. Let me take you home."

"Oh, yes, but not that way; that is the way the monster went!" quivered Zoe.

"Oh, he has had enough of us."

"But I have had too much of him. Take me some other road—a hundred miles round. How I tremble!"

"So you do. Take my arm.—No, putting the tips of your fingers on it is no use; take it really—you want support. Be courageous, now—we are very near home."

Zoe trembled, and cried a little, to conclude the incident, but walked bravely home on Uxmoor's arm.

In the hall at Somerville Villa she saw him change color, and insisted on his taking some port wine.

"I shall be very glad," said he.

A decanter was brought. He filled a large tumbler and drank it off like water.

This was the first intimation he gave Zoe that he was in pain, and his nerves hard tried; nor did she indeed arrive at that conclusion until he had left her.

Of course, she carried all this to Aunt Maitland. That lady was quite moved by the adventure. She sat up in bed, and listened with excitement and admiration. She descanted on Lord Uxmoor's courage and chivalry, and congratulated Zoe that such a pearl of manhood had fallen at her feet. "Why, child," said she, "surely, after this, you will not hesitate between this gentleman and a beggarly adventurer, who has nothing, not even the courage of a man. Turn your back on all such rubbish, and be the queen of the county. I'd be content to die to-morrow if I could see you Countess of Uxmoor."

"You shall live, and see it, dear aunt," said Zoe, kissing her.

"Well," said Miss Maitland, "if anything can cure me, that will. And really," said she, "I feel better ever since that brave fellow began to bring you to your senses."

Admiration and gratitude being now added to esteem, Zoe received Lord Uxmoor next day with a certain timidity and half tenderness she had never shown before; and, as he was by nature a rapid wooer, he saw his chance, and stayed much longer than usual, and at last hazarded a hope that he might be allowed to try and win her heart.

Thereupon she began to fence, and say that love was all folly. He had her esteem and her gratitude, and it would be better for both of them to confine their sentiments within those rational bounds.

"That I cannot do," said Uxmoor; "so I must ask your leave to be ambitious. Let me try and conquer your affection."

"As you conquered the bull?"

"Yes; only not so rudely, nor so quickly, I'll be bound."

"Well, I don't know why I should object. I esteem you more than anybody in the world. You are my beau ideal of a man. If you can make me love you, all the better for me. Only, I am afraid you cannot."

"May I try?"

"Yes," said Zoe, bushing carnation.

"May I come every day?"

"Twice a day, if you like."

"I think I shall succeed—in time."

"I hope you may."

Then he kissed her hand devotedly—the first time in his life—and went away on wings.

Zoe flew up to her aunt Maitland, flushed and agitated. "Aunt, I am as good as engaged to him. I have said such unguarded things. I'm sure he will understand it that I consent to receive his addresses as my lover. Not that I really said so."

"I hope," said Aunt Maitland, "that you have committed yourself somehow or other, and cannot go back."

"I think I have. Yes; it is all over. I cannot go back now."

Then she burst out crying. Then she was near choking, and had to smell her aunt's salts, while still the tears ran fast.

Miss Maitland received this with perfect composure. She looked on them as the last tears of regret given to a foolish attachment at the moment of condemning it forever. She was old, and had seen these final tears shed by more than one loving woman just before entering on her day of sunshine.

And now Zoe must be alone, and vent her swelling heart. She tied a handkerchief round her head and darted into the garden. She went round and round it with fleet foot and beating pulses.

The sun began to decline, and a cold wind to warn her in. She came, for the last time, to a certain turn of the gravel walk, where there was a little iron gate leading into the wooded walk from the meadows.

At that gate she found a man. She started back, and leaned against the nearest tree, with her hands behind her.

It was Edward Severne—all in black, and pale as death; but not paler than her own face turned in a moment.

Indeed, they looked at each other like two ghosts.



CHAPTER XXIV.

ZOE was the first to speak, or rather to gasp. "Why do you come here?"

"Because you are here."

"And how dare you come where I am?—now your falsehood is found out and flung into my very face!"

"I have never been false to you. At this moment I suffer for my fidelity."

"You suffer? I am glad of it. How?"

"In many ways: but they are all light, compared with my fear of losing your love."

"I will listen to no idle words," said Zoe sternly. "A lady claimed you before my face; why did you not stand firm like a man, and say, 'You have no claim on me now; I have a right to love another, and I do?' Why did you fly?—because you were guilty."

"No," said he, doggedly. "Surprised and confounded, but not guilty. Fool! idiot! that I was. I lost my head entirely. Yes, it is hopeless. You must despise me. You have a right to despise me."

"Don't tell me," said Zoe: "you never lose your head. You are always self-possessed and artful. Would to Heaven I had never seen you!" She was violent.

He gave her time. "Zoe," said he, after a while, "if I had not lost my head, should I have ill-treated a lady and nearly killed her?"

"Ah!" said Zoe, sharply, "that is what you have been suffering from—remorse. And well you may. You ought to go back to her, and ask her pardon on your knees. Indeed, it is all you have left to do now."

"I know I ought."

"Then do what you ought. Good-by."

"I cannot. I hate her."

"What, because you have broken her heart, and nearly killed her?"

"No; but because she has come between me and the only woman I ever really loved, or ever can."

"She would not have done that if you had not given her the right. I see her now; she looked justice, and you looked guilt. Words are idle, when I can see her face before me still. No woman could look like that who was in the wrong. But you—guilt made you a coward: you were false to her and false to me; and so you ran away from us both. You would have talked either of us over, alone; but we were together: so you ran away. You have found me alone now, so you are brave again; but it is too late. I am undeceived. I decline to rob Mademoiselle Klosking of her lover; so good-by."

And this time she was really going, but he stopped her. "At least don't go with a falsehood on your lips," said he, coldly.

"A falsehood!—Me!"

"Yes, it is a falsehood. How can you pretend I left that lady for you, when you know my connection with her had entirely ceased ten months before I ever saw your face?"

This staggered Zoe a moment; so did the heat and sense of injustice he threw into his voice.

"I forgot that," said she, naively. Then, recovering herself, "You may have parted with her; but it does not follow that she consented. Fickle men desert constant women. It is done every day."

"You are mistaken again," said he. "When I first saw you, I had ceased to think of Mademoiselle Klosking; but it was not so when I first left her. I did not desert her. I tore myself from her. I had a great affection for her."

"You dare to tell me that. Well, at all events, it is the truth. Why did you leave her, then?"

"Out of self-respect. I was poor, she was rich and admired. Men sent her bouquets and bracelets, and flattered her behind the scenes, and I was lowered in my own eyes: so I left her. I was unhappy for a time; but I had my pride to support me, and the wound was healed long before I knew what it was to love, really to love."

There was nothing here that Zoe could contradict. She kept silence, and was mystified.

Then she attacked him on another quarter. "Have you written to her since you behaved like a ruffian to her?"

"No. And I never will, come what may. It is wicked of me; but I hate her. I am compelled to esteem her. But I hate her."

Zoe could quite understand that; but in spite of that she said, "Of course you do. Men always hate those they have used ill. Why did you not write to me? Had a mind to be impartial, I suppose?"

"I had reason to believe it would have been intercepted."

"For shame! Vizard is incapable of such a thing."

"Ah, you don't know how he is changed. He looks on me as a mad dog. Consider, Zoe: do, pray, take the real key to it all. He is in love with Mademoiselle Klosking, madly in love with her: and I have been so unfortunate as to injure her—nearly to kill her. I dare say he thinks it is on your account he hates me; but men deceive themselves. It is for her he hates me"

"Oh!"

"Ay. Think for a moment, and you will see it is. You are not in his confidence. I am sure he has never told you that he ordered his keepers to shoot me down if I came about the house at night."

"Oh no, no!" cried Zoe.

"Do you know he has raised the country against me, and has warrants out against me for forgery, because I was taken in by a rogue who gave me bills with sham names on them, and I got Vizard to cash them? As soon as we found out how I had been tricked, my uncle and I offered at once to pay him back his money. But no! he prefers to keep the bills as a weapon."

Zoe began to be puzzled a little. But she said, "You have been a long time discovering all these grievances. Why have you held no communication all this time?"

"Because you were inaccessible. Does not your own heart tell you that I have been all these weeks trying to communicate, and unable? Why, I came three times under your window at night, and you never, never would look out."

"I did look out ever so often."

"If I had been you, I should have looked ten thousand times. I only left off coming when I heard the keepers were ordered to shoot me down. Not that I should have cared much, for I am desperate. But I had just sense enough left to see that, if my dead body had been brought bleeding into your hall some night, none of you would ever have been happy again. Your eyes would have been opened, all of you. Well, Zoe, you left Vizard Court; that I learned: but it was only this morning I could find out where you were gone: and you see I am here—with a price upon my head. Please read Vizard's advertisements."

She took them and read them. A hot flush mounted to her cheek.

"You see," said he, "I am to be imprisoned if I set my foot in Barfordshire. Well, it will be false imprisonment, and Mademoiselle Klosking's lover will smart for it. At all events, I shall take no orders but from you. You have been deceived by appearances. I shall do all I can to undeceive you, and if I cannot, there will be no need to imprison me for a deceit of which I was the victim, nor to shoot me like a dog for loving you. I will take my broken heart quietly away, and leave Barfordshire, and England, and the world, for aught I care."

Then he cried: and that made her cry directly.

"Ah!" she sighed, "we are unfortunate. Appearances are so deceitful. I see I have judged too hastily, and listened too little to my own heart, that always made excuses. But it is too late now."

"Why too late?"

"It is."

"But why?"

"It all looked so ugly, and you were silent. We are unfortunate. My brother would never let us marry; and, besides— Oh, why did you not come before?"

"I might as well say, Why did you not look out of your window? You could have done it without risking your life, as I did. Or why did you not advertise. You might have invited an explanation from 'E. S.,' under cover to so-and-so."

"Ladies never think of such things. You know that very well."

"Oh, I don't complain; but I do say that those who love should not be ready to reproach; they should put a generous construction. You might have known, and you ought to have known, that I was struggling to find you, and torn with anguish at my impotence."

"No, no. I am so young and inexperienced, and all my friends against you. It is they who have parted us."

"How can they part us, if you love me still as I love you?"

"Because for the last fortnight I have not loved you, but hated you, and doubted you, and thought my only chance of happiness was to imitate your indifference: and while I was thinking so, another person has come forward; one whom I have always esteemed: and now, in my pity and despair, I have given him hopes." She hid her burning face in her hands.

"I see; you are false to me, and therefore you have suspected me of being false to you."

At that she raised her head high directly. "Edward, you are unjust. Look in my face, and you may see what I have suffered before I could bring myself to condemn you."

"What! your paleness, that dark rim under your lovely eyes—am I the cause?"

"Indeed you are. But I forgive you. You are sadly pale and worn too. Oh, how unfortunate we are!"

"Do not cry, dearest," said he. "Do not despair. Be calm, and let me know the worst. I will not reproach you, though you have reproached me. I love you as no woman can love. Come, tell me."

"Then the truth is, Lord Uxmoor has renewed his attention to me."

"Ah!"

"He has been here every day."

Severne groaned.

"Aunt Maitland was on his side, and spoke so kindly to me, and he saved my life from a furious bull. He is brave, noble, good, and he loves me. I have committed myself. I cannot draw back with honor."

"But from me you can, because I am poor and hated, and have no title. If you are committed to him, you are engaged to me."

"I am; so now I can go neither way. If I had poison, I would take it this moment, and end all."

"For God's sake, don't talk so. I am sure you exaggerate. You cannot, in those few days, have pledged your faith to another. Let me see your finger. Ah! there's my ring on it still: bless you, my own darling Zoe—bless you;" and he covered her hand with kisses, and bedewed it with his ever-ready tears.

The girl began to melt, and all power to ooze out of her, mind and body. She sighed deeply and said, "What can I do—I don't say with honor and credit, but with decency. What can I do?"

"Tell me, first, what you have said to him that you consider so compromising."

Zoe, with many sighs, replied: "I believe—I said—I was unhappy. And so I was. And I owned—that I admired—and esteemed him. And so I do. And then of course he wanted more, and I could not give more; and he asked might he try and make me love him; and—I said—I am afraid I said—he might, if he could."

"And a very proper answer, too."

"Ah! but I said he might come every day. It is idle to deceive ourselves: I have encouraged his addresses. I can do nothing now with credit but die, or go into a convent."

"When did you say this?"

"This very day."

"Then he has never acted on it."

"No, but he will. He will be here tomorrow for certain."

"Then your course is plain. You must choose to-night between him and me. You must dismiss him by letter, or me upon this spot. I have not much fortune to offer you, and no coronet; but I love you, and you have seen me reject a lovely and accomplished woman, whom I esteem as much as you do this lord. Reject him? Why, you have seen me fling her away from me like a dog sooner than leave you in a moment's doubt of my love: if you cannot write a civil note declining an earl for me, your love in not worthy of mine, and I will begone with my love. I will not take it to Mademoiselle Klosking, though I esteem her as you do this lord; but, at all events, I will take it away from you, and leave you my curse instead, for a false, fickle girl that could not wait one little month, but must fall, with her engaged ring on her finger, into another man's arms. Oh, Zoe! Zoe! who could have believed this of you?"

"Don't reproach me. I won't bear it," she cried, wildly.

"I hope not to have to reproach you," said he, firmly; "I cannot conceive your hesitating."

"I am worn out. Love has been too great a torment. Oh, if I could find peace!"

Again her tears flowed.

He put on a sympathizing air. "You shall have peace. Dismiss him as I tell you, and he will trouble you no more; shake hands with me, and say you prefer him, and I will trouble you no more. But with two lovers, peace is out of the question, and so is self-respect. I know I could not vacillate between you and Mademoiselle Klosking or any other woman."

"Ah, Edward, if I do this, you ought to love me very dearly."

"I shall. Better than ever—if possible."

"And never make me jealous again."

"I never shall, dearest. Our troubles are over."

"Edward, I have been very unhappy. I could not bear these doubts again."

"You shall never be unhappy again."

"I must do what you require, I suppose. That is how it always ends. Oh dear! oh dear!"

"Zoe, it must be done. You know it must."

"I warn you I shall do it as kindly as I can."

"Of course you will. You ought to."

"I must go in now. I feel very cold."

"How soon to-morrow will you meet me here?"

"When you please," said she, languidly.

"At ten o'clock?"

"Yes."

Then there was a tender parting, and Zoe went slowly in. She went to her own room, just to think it all over alone. She caught sight of her face in the glass. Her cheeks had regained color, and her eyes were bright as stars. She stopped and looked at herself. "There now," said she, "and I seem to myself to live again. I was mad to think I could ever love any man but him. He is my darling, my idol."



There was no late dinner at Somerville Villa. Indeed, ladies, left to themselves, seldom dine late. Nature is strong in them, and they are hungriest when the sun is high. At seven o'clock Zoe Vizard was seated at her desk trying to write to Lord Uxmoor. She sighed, she moaned, she began, and dropped the pen and hid her face. She became almost wild; and in that state she at last dashed off what follows:



"DEAR LORD UXMOOR—For pity's sake, forgive the mad words I said to you today. It is impossible. I can do no more than admire and esteem you. My heart is gone from me forever. Pray forgive me, though I do not deserve it; and never see me nor look at me again. I ask pardon for my vacillation. It has been disgraceful; but it has ended, and I was under a great error, which I cannot explain to you, when I led you to believe I had a heart to give you. My eyes are opened. Our paths lie asunder. Pray, pray forgive me, if it is possible. I will never forgive myself, nor cease to bless and revere you, whom I have used so ill.

ZOE VIZARD."



That day Uxmoor dined alone with his mother, for a wonder, and he told her how Miss Vizard had come round; he told her also about the bull, but so vilely that she hardly comprehended he had been in any danger: these encounters are rarely described to the life, except by us who avoid them—except on paper.

Lady Uxmoor was much pleased. She was a proud, politic lady, and this was a judicious union of two powerful houses in the county, and one that would almost command the elections. But, above all, she knew her son's heart was in the match, and she gave him a mother's sympathy.

As she retired, she kissed him and said, "When you are quite sure of the prize, tell me, and I will call upon her."

Being alone, Lord Uxmoor lighted a cigar and smoked it in measureless content. The servant brought him a note on a salver. It had come by hand. Uxmoor opened it and read every word straight through, down to "Zoe Vizard;" read it, and sat petrified.

He read it again. He felt a sort of sickness come over him. He swallowed a tumbler of port, a wine he rarely touched; but he felt worse now than after the bullfight. This done, he rose and stalked like a wounded lion into the drawing-room, which was on the same floor, and laid the letter before his mother.

"You are a woman too," said he, a little helplessly. "Tell me—what on earth does this mean?"

The dowager read it slowly and keenly, and said, "It means—another man."

"Ah!" said Uxmoor, with a sort of snarl.

"Have you seen any one about her?"

"No; not lately. At Vizard Court there was. But that is all over now, I conclude. It was a Mr. Severne, an adventurer, a fellow that was caught out in a lie before us all. Vizard tells me a lady came and claimed him before Miss Vizard, and he ran away."

"An unworthy attachment, in short?"

"Very unworthy, if it was an attachment at all."

"Was he at Vizard Court when she declined your hand?"

"Yes."

"Did he remain, after you went?"

"I suppose so. Yes, he must have."

"Then the whole thing is clear: that man has come forward again unexpectedly, or written, and she dismisses you. My darling, there is but one thing for you to do. Leave her, and thank her for telling you in time. A less honorable fool would have hidden it, and then we might have had a Countess of Uxmoor in the Divorce Court some day or other.

"I had better go abroad," said Uxmoor, with a groan. "This country is poisoned for me."

"Go, by all means. Let Janneway pack up your things to-morrow."

"I should like to kill that fellow first."

"You will not even waste a thought on him, if you are my son."

"You are right, mother. What am I to say to her?"

"Not a word."

"What, not answer her letter? It is humble enough, I am sure—poor soul! Mother, I am wretched, but I am not bitter, and my rival will revenge me."

"Uxmoor, your going abroad is the only answer she shall have. The wisest man, in these matters, who ever lived has left a rule of conduct to every well-born man—a rule which, believe me, is wisdom itself:

"Le bruit est pour le fat, la plainte est pour le sot; L'honnete homme trompe'; s'e'loigne, et ne dit mot."

You will make a tour, and not say a word to Miss Vizard, good, bad, nor indifferent. I insist upon that."

"Very well. Thank you, dear mother; you guide me, and don't let me make a fool of myself, for I am terribly cut up. You will be the only Countess of Uxmoor in my day."

Then he knelt at her feet, and she kissed his head and cried over him; but her tears only made this proud lady stronger.

Next day he started on his travels.

Now, but for Zoe, he would on no account have left England just then; for he was just going to build model cottages in his own village, upon designs of his own, each with a little plot, and a public warehouse or granary, with divisions for their potatoes and apples, etc. However, he turned this over in his mind while. he was packing; he placed certain plans and papers in his dispatch box, and took his ticket to Taddington, instead of going at once to London. From Taddington he drove over to Hillstoke and asked for Miss Gale. They told him she was fixed at Vizard Court. That vexed him: he did not want to meet Vizard. He thought it the part of a Jerry Sneak to go and howl to a brother against his sister. Yet if Vizard questioned him, how could he conceal there was something wrong? However, he went down to Vizard Court; but said to the servant who opened the door, "I am rather in a hurry, sir: do you think you could procure me a few minutes with Miss Gale? You need not trouble Mr. Vizard."

"Yes, my laud. Certainly, my laud. Please step in the morning-room, my laud. Mr. Vizard is out."

That was fortunate, and Miss Gale came down to him directly.

Fanny took that opportunity to chatter and tell Mademoiselle Klosking all about Lord Uxmoor and his passion for Zoe. "And he will have her, too," said she, boldly.

Lord Uxmoor told Miss Gale he had called upon business. He was obliged to leave home for a time, and wished to place his projects under the care of a person who could really sympathize with them, and make additions to them, if necessary. "Men," said he, "are always making oversights in matters of domestic comfort: besides, you are full of ideas. I want you to be viceroy with full power, and act just as you would if the village belonged to you."

Rhoda colored high at the compliment.

"Wells, cows, granary, real education—what you like" said he. "I know your mind. Begin abolishing the lower orders in the only way they can be got rid of—by raising them in comfort, cleanliness, decency, and knowledge. Then I shall not be missed. I'm going abroad."

"Going abroad?"

"Yes. Here are my plans: alter them for the better if you can. All the work to be done by the villagers. Weekly wages. We buy materials. They will be more reconciled to improved dwellings when they build them themselves. Here are the addresses of the people who will furnish money. It will entail traveling; but my people will always meet you at the station, if you telegraph from Taddington. You accept? A thousand thanks. I am afraid I must be off."

She went into the hall with him, half bewildered, and only at the door found time to ask after Zoe Vizard.

"A little better, I think, than when she came."

"Does she know you are going abroad?"

"No; I don't think she does, yet. It was settled all in a hurry."

He escaped further questioning by hurrying away.

Miss Gale was still looking after him, when Ina Klosking came down, dressed for a walk, and leaning lightly on Miss Dover's arm. This was by previous consent of Miss Gale.

"Well, dear," said Fanny, "what did he say to you?"

"Something that has surprised and puzzled me very much." She then related the whole conversation, with her usual precision.

Ina Klosking observed quietly to Fanny that this did not look like successful wooing.

"I don't know that," said Fanny, stoutly. "Oh, Miss Gale, did you not ask him about her?"

"Certainly I did; and he said she was better than when she first came."

"There!" said Fanny, triumphantly.

Miss Gale gave her a little pinch, and she dropped the subject.

Vizard returned, and found Mademoiselle Klosking walking on his gravel. He offered her his arm, and was a happy man, parading her very slowly, and supporting her steps, and purring his congratulations into her ear. "Suppose I were to invite you to dinner, what would you say?"

"I think I should say, 'To-morrow.'"

"And a very good answer, too. To-morrow shall be a fete."

"You spoil me?"

"That is impossible."

It was strange to see them together; he so happy, she so apathetic, yet gracious.

Next morning came a bit of human nature—a letter from Zoe to Fanny, almost entirely occupied with praises of Lord Uxmoor. She told the bull story better than I have—if possible—and, in short, made Uxmoor a hero of romance.

Fanny carried this in triumph to the other ladies, and read it out. "There!" said she. "Didn't I tell you?"

Rhoda read the letter, and owned herself puzzled. "I am not, then," said Fanny: "they are engaged—over the bull; like Europa and I forgot who—and so he is not afraid to go abroad now. That is just like the men. They cool directly the chase is over."

Now the truth was that Zoe was trying to soothe her conscience with elegant praises of the man she had dismissed, and felt guilty.

Ina Klosking said little. She was puzzled too at first. She asked to see Zoe's handwriting. The letter was handed to her. She studied the characters. "It is a good hand," she said; "nothing mean there." And she gave it back.

But, with a glance, she had read the address, and learned that the post town was Bagley.

All that day, at intervals, she brought her powerful understanding to bear on the paradox; and though she had not the facts and the clew I have given the reader, she came near the truth in an essential matter. She satisfied herself that Lord Uxmoor was not engaged to Zoe Vizard. Clearly, if so, he would not leave England for months. She resolved to know more; and just before dinner she wrote a line to Ashmead, and requested him to call on her immediately.

That day she dined with Vizard and the ladies. She sat at Vizard's right hand, and he told her how proud, and happy he was to see her there.

She blushed faintly, but made no reply.

She retired soon after dinner.

All next day she expected Ashmead.

He did not come.

She dined with Vizard next day, and retired to the drawing-room. The piano was opened, and she played one or two exquisite things, and afterward tried her voice, but only in scales, and somewhat timidly, for Miss Gale warned her she might lose it or spoil it if she strained the vocal chord while her whole system was weak.

Next day Ashmead came with apologies.

He had spent a day in the cathedral town on business. He did not tell her how he had spent that day, going about puffing her as the greatest singer of sacred music in the world, and paving the way to her engagement at the next festival. Yet the single-hearted Joseph had really raised that commercial superstructure upon the sentiments she had uttered on his first visit to Vizard Court.

Ina now held a private conference with him. "I think," said she, "I have heard you say you were once an actor."

"I was, madam, and a very good one, too."

"Cela va sans dire. I never knew one that was not. At all events, you can disguise yourself."

"Anything, madam, from Grandfather Whitehead to a boy in a pinafore. Famous for my make-ups."

"I wish you to watch a certain house, and not be recognized by a person who knows you."

"Well, madam, nothing is infra dig, if done for you; nothing is distasteful if done for you."

"Thank you, my friend. I have thought it well to put my instructions on paper."

"Ay, that is the best way."

She handed him the instructions. He read them, and his eyes sparkled. "Ah, this is a commission I undertake with pleasure, and I'll execute it with zeal."

He left her, soon after, to carry out these instructions, and that very evening he was in the wardrobe of the little theater, rummaging out a suitable costume, and also in close conference with the wigmaker.



Next day Vizard had his mother's sables taken out and aired, and drove Mademoiselle Klosking into Taddington in an open carriage. Fanny told her they were his mother's sables, and none to compare with them in the country.

On returning, she tried her voice to the harmonium in her own antechamber, and found it was gaining strength—like herself.



Meantime Zoe Vizard met Severne in the garden, and told him she had written to Lord Uxmoor, and he would never visit her again. But she did not make light of the sacrifice this time. She had sacrificed her own self-respect as well as Uxmoor's, and she was sullen and tearful.

He had to be very wary and patient, or she would have parted with him too, and fled from both of them to her brother.

Uxmoor's wounded pride would have been soothed could he have been present at the first interview of this pair. He would have seen Severne treated with a hauteur and a sort of savageness he himself was safe from, safe in her unshaken esteem.

But the world is made for those who can keep their temper, especially the female part of the world.

Sad, kind, and loving, but never irritable, Severne smoothed down and soothed and comforted the wounded girl; and, seeing her two or three times a day—for she was completely mistress of her time—got her completely into his power again.

Uxmoor did not reply.

She had made her selection. Love beckoned forward. It was useless to look back.

Love was omnipotent. They both began to recover their good looks as if by magic; and as Severne's passion, though wicked, was earnest, no poor bird was ever more completely entangled by bird-lime than Zoe was caught by Edward Severne.

Their usual place of meeting was the shrubbery attached to Somerville Villa. The trees, being young, made all the closer shade, and the gravel-walk meandered, and shut them out from view.

Severne used to enter this shrubbery by a little gate leading from the meadow, and wait under the trees till Zoe came to him. Vizard's advertisements alarmed him, and he used to see the coast clear before he entered the shrubbery, and also before he left it. He was so particular in this that, observing one day an old man doddering about with a basket, he would not go in till he had taken a look at him. He found it was an ancient white-haired villager gathering mushrooms. The old fellow was so stiff, and his hand so trembling, that it took him about a minute to gather a single fungus.

To give a reason for coming up to him, Severne said, "How old are you, old man?"

"I be ninety, measter, next Martinmas-day."

"Only ninety?" said our Adonis, contemptuously; "you look a hundred and ninety."

He would have been less contemptuous had he known that the mushrooms were all toad-stools, and the village centenaire was Mr. Joseph Ashmead, resuming his original arts, and playing Grandfather Whitehead on the green grass.



CHAPTER XXV.

MADEMOISELLE KLOSKING told Vizard the time drew near when she must leave his hospitable house.

"Say a month hence," said he.

She shook her head.

"Of course you will not stay to gratify me," said he, half sadly, half bitterly. "But you will have to stay a week or two longer par ordonnance du me'decin."

"My physician is reconciled to my going. We must all bow to necessity."

This was said too firmly to admit a reply. "The old house will seem very dark again whenever you do go," said Vizard, plaintively.

"It will soon be brightened by her who is its true and lasting light," was the steady reply.

A day or two passed with nothing to record, except that Vizard hung about Ina Klosking, and became, if possible, more enamored of her and more unwilling to part with her.

Mr. Ashmead arrived one afternoon about three o'clock, and was more than an hour with her. They conversed very earnestly, and when he went, Miss Gale found her agitated.

"This will not do," said she.

"It will pass, my friend," said Ina. "I will sleep."

She laid herself down and slept three hours before dinner.

She arose refreshed, and dined with the little party; and on retiring to the drawing-room, she invited Vizard to join them at his convenience. He made it his convenience in ten minutes.

Then she opened the piano, played an introduction, and electrified them all by singing the leading song in Siebel. She did not sing it so powerfully as in the theater; she would not have done that even if she could: but still she sung it out, and nobly. It seemed a miracle to hear such singing in a room.

Vizard was in raptures.

They cooled suddenly when she reminded him what he had said, that she must stay till she could sing Siebel's song. "I keep to the letter of the contract," said she. "My friends, this is my last night at Vizard Court."

"Please try and shake that resolution," said Vizard, gravely, to Mesdemoiselles Dover and Gale.

"They cannot," said Ina. "It is my destiny. And yet," said she, after a pause, "I would not have you remember me by that flimsy thing. Let me sing you a song your mother loved; let me be remembered in this house, as a singer, by that."

Then she sung Handel's song:

"What though I trace each herb and flower That decks the morning dew? Did I not own Jehovah's power, How vain were all I knew."

She sung it with amazing purity, volume, grandeur, and power; the lusters rang and shook, the hearts were thrilled, and the very souls of the hearers ravished. She herself turned a little pale in singing it, and the tears stood in her eyes.

The song and its interpretation were so far above what passes for music that they all felt compliments would be an impertinence. Their eyes and their long drawn breath paid the true homage to that great master rightly interpreted—a very rare occurrence.

"Ah!" said she; "that was the hand could brandish Goliath's spear."

"And this is how you reconcile us to losing you," said Vizard. "You might stay, at least, till you had gone through my poor mother's collection."

"Ah! I wish I could. But I cannot. I must not. My Fate forbids it."

"'Fate' and 'destiny,'" said Vizard, "stuff and nonsense. We make our own destiny. Mine is to be eternally disappointed, and happiness snatched out of my hands."

He had no sooner made this pretty speech than he was ashamed of it, and stalked out of the room, not to say any more unwise things.

This burst of spleen alarmed Fanny Dover. "There," said she, "now you cannot go. He is very angry."

Ina Klosking said she was sorry for that; but he was too just a man to be angry with her long: the day would come when he would approve her conduct. Her lip quivered a little as she said this, and the water stood in her eyes: and this was remembered and understood, long after, both by Miss Dover and Rhoda Gale.

"When does your Royal Highness propose to start?" inquired Rhoda Gale, very obsequiously, and just a little bitterly.

"To-morrow at half-past nine o'clock, dear friend," said Ina.

"Then you will not go without me. You will get the better of Mr. Vizard, because he is only a man; but I am a woman, and have a will as well as you. If you make a journey to-morrow, I go with you. Deny me, and you shan't go at all." Her eyes flashed defiance.

Ina moved one step, took Rhoda's little defiant head, and kissed her cheek. "Sweet physician and kind friend, of course you shall go with me, if you will, and be a great blessing to me."

This reconciled Miss Gale to the proceedings. She packed up a carpet-bag, and was up early, making provisions of every sort for her patient's journey: air pillows, soft warm coverings, medicaments, stimulants, etc., in a little bag slung across her shoulders. Thus furnished, and equipped in a uniform suit of gray cloth and wideawake hat, she cut a very sprightly and commanding figure, but more like Diana than Hebe.

The Klosking came down, a pale Juno, in traveling costume; and a quarter of an hour before the time a pair-horse fly was at the door and Mr. Ashmead in the hall.

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