Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 19




It was rarely that Mr. Hawkesley, after he had entered his sanctum and sealed it against the world, for whose improvement he declared himself to be labouring, was intruded upon by visitors during the hours he set apart for the discharge of that elevated duty, and his wife was much too sensible a woman to exercise her own right of entrée, except upon emergency. So, when Beatrice Hawkesley hurried into the room without the faintest extenuating pretext, and suddenly recalled the author from fiction to reality, he dropped his pen with becoming marital submission.

“Charles, that woman will be here presently.”

“That woman?”

“From Lipthwaite, with whom Clara was left.”

“Mrs. Berry—what makes you say that?”

“Poor Price is here—she has hurried over as fast as she could come to warn us.”

“But why did she think we wanted warning?—Is the woman coming to claim the child?”

“I should like to hear her ask for Clara.”

“You do not purpose to give her up then, apparently?”

“What!—give her up to a creature that maligns her mother, and frightens the child with evil spirits? I will send for a policeman if she dares even to hint at such a thing.”

“You will send for me, my dear, which will answer your purpose far better. However, it is natural that she should make every search for a girl who was confided to her, and who departed without her leave or knowledge.

“Yes, and I suppose that she is in a state of terror lest Clara should tell how abominably she has been treated?”

“Possibly. But you don’t tell me why Price thought it needful to warn us.”

“It was quite right in her. The woman went to Gurdon Terrace, and spoke in a way which seems to have enraged Price beyond all measure. She said that there was no probability of Laura’s returning, and—”

“Who said, dear? Don’t stop to call names, as they confuse a story.”

“This Mrs. Berry, then,” said Beatrice. “Price, of course, was thunderstruck ——

“Was astonished—well.”

“The woman,” persisted Mrs. Hawkesley, regardless of her moderator, “did not at first explain that Clara had been in her charge, but made a variety of inquiries about Laura, which Price baffled as well as she could; and it was only at last, and when she had irritated Price by all sorts of hints and insolent questionings, that she mentioned that Clara had been left at Lipthwaite.”

“Mrs. Berry supposing that the child had gone home?”

“Yes, and ordering Price to bring her down. Then, I think, though Price knows her duty better than to say so, she gave the creature some very plain speaking, something like what she will get here, I can tell her.”

“I trust not in the least like it,” said Hawkesley, laying his hand on his wife’s. “Mrs. Hawkesley’s plain speaking will be as unlike Mrs. Price’s as possible. Quite plain enough, though, I have no doubt. Then Price hurried off to see whether the child were here?”

“Yes; and to say that Mrs. Berry was coming.”

“Did Mrs. Berry say so?”

“She asked for our address.”

“I wonder she was not here as soon as Price.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I think that Price, wishing to gain time——

“Did not tell the truth?”

“I don’t think she made the address very plain to her, and Maida Hill is rather a wide place.”

But, wide as it might be, less than half an hour had elapsed before Mr. Hawkesley was summoned to the parlour. There he found his wife in company with a lady whom the former introduced to him with as much frigidity as the warm-natured Beatrice could manage to superimpose upon her ordinarily demonstrative manner.

“This is Mrs. Berry, from Lipthwaite, Charles. She has called to inquire about Clara.”

“Who is here, I am glad to find—a naughty little runagate,” said Mrs. Berry, smiling kindly.

“You have informed this lady that Clara is here, and well?” said the author, addressing his wife.

“I have said nothing of the kind,” replied Mrs. Hawkesley, “as Mrs. Berry did not wait to ask the question of me, but thought proper to let the servant know that Clara had run away.”

“My dear lady,” said Mrs. Berry, “my natural impatience to know that the darling child was safe made me forget ceremony. Such a weight has been taken off my heart, that I can hardly express my sensations, but you, Mrs. Hawkesley, as a mother, will be able to appreciate them.”

Mrs. Hawkesley did not look as if she were inclined to make any particular effort to sympathise with her visitor, and Hawkesley said—

“We are happy, of course, to relieve you, Mrs. Berry, of a charge which may have been irksome. Clara will remain with us until her parents return to town.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Berry, tenderly, “perhaps that is the best way to put it.”

“To put what?” said Mrs. Hawkesley, almost angrily.

“To arrange for Clara,” said Hawkesley, with a movement of his hand, signifying his wish to understand the speech his own way, and avoid encounter. “Mrs. Berry, of course, thinks with us, that the child will be best with her uncle and aunt.”

He would speedily have ended the interview, but neither lady was minded that it should have so inglorious an issue.

“I did not understand Mrs. Berry to mean that,” said Mrs. Hawkesley.

“Nor did I, exactly,” said Mrs. Berry, “but I perfectly comprehend Mr. Hawkesley’s reluctance to allude to any circumstances of a painful character, and I am quite prepared to let that interpretation be placed on my words.”

Her words were delivered with the utmost precision, but in the gentlest tone, and they produced in Mrs. Hawkesley certain slight indications, almost imperceptible except by her husband, that if anything more were said, it would be a good deal more. And for this he saw no reason.

“Some little portmanteau, or something of the kind, I think Clara mentioned that she had left behind her,” he said. “If you would kindly cause it to be forwarded here, that will be the last trouble she shall give you.” And he was evidently bent on bowing Mrs. Berry out of her chair. He might as well have tried to bow a limpet off a rock.

“It shall be sent up,” she said, “and I trust that you will be rewarded for your kindness to the poor motherless child.”

Over the Rubicon.

“Pray, Mrs. Berry,” said Hawkesley, sternly, “what do you mean by that expression?”

His wife’s face flushed with pleasure at his taking up the case which she had been impatiently believing that he would refuse to fight.

“What expression?” asked Mrs. Berry, so naturally.

“You called Clara motherless. Have you heard of Mrs. Lygon’s death?”

“Her death!” responded Mrs. Berry, sadly. “To her sister, and to her brother-in-law, I may be forgiven for saying—alas! no. For you will understand me.” And she put her handkerchief to her eyes.

Mrs. Hawkesley, her husband felt (though he was not looking at her), was on the point of replying that she quite understood Mrs. Berry, and of explaining, in the least agreeable manner, the view the took of that lady’s nature, but he again interposed.

“A mysterious speech of that kind, addressed to a lady’s nearest and dearest friends, must, of course, be explained,” he answered. “Mrs Berry will be good enough to understand that we have no idea of its meaning.”

“You could not say such a thing insincerely.” said Mrs. Berry, with so much energy, and looking so exceedingly pained, that Hawkesley, who knew that he had not spoken sincerely, hesitated over his reply.

“We have not the least idea of its meaning,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, with vehemence.

“Then,” said Mrs. Berry, making good play with her handkerchief, “I am indeed most unfortunate. I must throw myself upon your mercy. I have said what I ought never to have said,—I have violated a trust I ought never to have broken. But I have erred in total ignorance that I was going astray. I could not have imagined that what had been confided to a stranger, a stranger at least in blood, would have been concealed from those who, as you say, are the nearest and dearest. And now what am I to do or say? Forget that I have said anything, and let me go.” And she wept.

“After what you have said, Mrs. Berry,” said Hawkesley, in the coldest tone, “it is, of course, clear that you are here for the purpose of saying more. We wait your explanation.” “Do not mistrust me—do not misjudge me,” she replied, earnestly. “I would not have entered this room, after being once assured of the safety of that dear child, if I could have foreseen this. Oh, I have been most foolish—most wicked. Spare me. I spoke heedlessly, and much too strongly,—forget all I have said, and let me leave you.”

“My avocations compel me to be a watchful observer of acting, Mrs. Berry,” said Hawkesley. “If I were in a mood for compliment, I would compliment you on yours.”

The light eyes were behind the handkerchief, so the evil glance that would have followed this speech was saved.

“Mr. Hawkesley,” said Mrs. Berry, with some dignity, “I have begged your forgiveness, and humiliated myself so earnestly, that I think I might have been spared insult. But I accept it as part of the penalty of my thoughtlessness, and I do not forgive myself in the least degree. There is no necessity for my saying anything else; indeed, now that I am calmer, I feel that I have no right to say anything else, and our interview must end. God bless poor dear little Clara.”

Hawkesley thought that she was going to rise, but his wife’s eye more truthfully interpreted Mrs. Berry’s fidget with her drapery.

“Mrs. Berry does not mean to go,” said Beatrice, in the most straightforward manner, “until she has tried to do more mischief than she can manage by lady-like conversations with servants and anonymous letters to tradespeople.

“Dear Mrs. Hawkesley,” replied Mrs. Berry, “do you think that I can be displeased with you for doing and saying everything in your power in favour of your poor sister, or for being hurt to the very soul at hearing anything on the subject. I should be a worse woman than I hope I am if I could cherish a spark of anger against one who is being so bitterly tried. I forgive as much as I understand of your unkind language, and I will forget the rest. I wish that poor Mrs. Lygon were worthier of your devoted affection.”

“How dare—” began Mrs. Hawkesley, with a kindling eye—but her husband laid his hand on her shoulder, and she restrained herself.

“Your husband is, I think, a solicitor, Mrs. Berry?” said Hawkesley.

“He was a solicitor,” replied the lady, quietly, “as Mrs. Hawkesley is very well able to inform you.”

“I never heard of him,” was Mrs. Hawkesley’s prompt reply.

“Yet your father has owed many a debt of kindness—pray do not think for a moment that I am bringing it up ungenerously—but Mr. Vernon has often been indebted to my husband for legal aid, and perhaps for aid of another kind.”

“I repeat that I never heard Mr. Berry’s name.”

“Oh, had he not added the name of Berry to that of Allingham?”

“Allingham—Berry,” repeated Mrs. Hawkesley, eagerly, “Then—then, you were Marion Wagstaffe,” she exclaimed.

“I thought that you recognised me at once,” said Mrs. Berry. “But as you did not say so, I forbore to make allusions to the past, which was not always pleasant.”

“No, I did not recognise you,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, in a low voice.

“I believe it, dear Mrs. Hawkesley, and that had you done so, many words of unkindness would have been spared. Now, do not let an old acquaintance be remembered only by bitter hours, but let me leave you, and pray that time may heal all sorrows.”

“I asked whether your husband were a solicitor,” said Hawkesley, in no way moved by this little episode. “You imply that he was, but is not now in practice. It will be necessary for me to communicate with him, in order to ascertain whether he takes upon himself the liability of answering for the slanders which his wife has been spreading, or whether he intends to repudiate them.”

“I fear,” said Mrs. Berry, preserving her temper with marvellous firmness, “that you do not quite understand the position of matters, Mr. Hawkesley, and that your zeal for your wife’s sister may lead you astray. I will not notice strong words at a time like this, but if there is anything to complain of, the person to complain is Mr. Lygon, and he is my husband’s most intimate friend. It was to Mr. Berry, and not to Mr. Hawkesley, that poor Arthur flew, when he heard of his dreadful sorrow; it was to Mrs. Berry, and not to Mrs. Hawkesley, that the distressed father confided his dearest child; and though doubtless two quiet country people are far less estimable in the eye of society than two London persons, of gay and worldly habits, it was to the country people that Mr. Lygon went for advice and consolation. To threaten us, therefore, is scarcely more wise than it is kind.”

“I cannot bear this,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, with energy. “If Mrs. Berry intends to equivocate and palter, instead of answering outright what it is that she dares to charge Laura with, she may. But now that I know who her husband is, I know too that he is incapable of being a party to any slander or meanness, and it will be for you, Charles, to go down to Lipthwaite to-night, and ask Mr. Berry for an explanation. Six words from him will be enough.”

“Fewer than that will be enough,” replied Mrs. Berry, “and if I do not speak them, it is only because I fear that my natural anger at your harshness might be gratified by my giving you pain—and I hope I have learned to mortify such feelings.”

“Spare your apologies, Madam,” said Hawkesley, now losing his temper at her pertinacity, “and do not spare me. I will hear either from you or your husband, before I sleep, what it is that you charge against my wife’s sister.”

“We charge her!” said Mrs. Berry. “Heaven forbid! We would do anything to screen her—ask her child how her mother was spoken of under our roof.”

Mrs. Hawkesley was far too indignant to meet this unequalled effrontery as she desired, and Mrs. Berry went on.

“But since you are bent upon a course of wilfulness, which I would in all sincerity beg you to avoid, it is for me to remember that I have other duties beside those of friendship. My husband is old—much older than myself, and it is not well that at his time of life he should be disturbed by such a scene as you, Mrs. Hawkesley, would urge your compliant husband to make under our roof. I will reply for him; and, with tears in my eyes and sorrow at my heart, will tell you, if you still insist on my doing so, what we learned from Mr. Arthur Lygon.”

“Speak your worst,” said Mrs. Hawkesley.

“I pity you—I pity you, indeed, most deeply,” replied Mrs. Berry, “and you will bear me witness hereafter that I have spoken only upon such provocation—no, in answer to such an appeal as has seldom been made to a woman.”

“I will take the responsibility of having asked for plain words instead of hints and allusions,” returned Hawkesley.

“Then—and chiefly to spare my aged husband a painful scene—I answer you. Mr Lygon is pursuing an unfaithful wife.”

“Utterly, wickedly false!” exclaimed Hawkesley.

His wife turned deadly pale, moved restlessly on her chair, but made no reply.

“Unhappily it is true,” said Mrs. Berry; “and Mr. Lygon knows that it is so.”

“We must say no more while she remains, Charles, dear,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, in a faint voice. “Let her go.”

“Poor thing,” said Mrs. Berry, compassionately. “This was to be looked for. Why did you not let me go earlier, instead of wringing this disclosure from me? There is much—very much—that I would have endured rather than have caused this sorrow.”

“How dare you speak such words?” cried Beatrice, with an effort. “You have said that which you know to be false, and you exult in the torture you have caused. Charles, do you believe a word of this cruel slander?”

“I believe your sister to be as innocent as yourself. But what strange story may have been laid hold of, and twisted into a story of guilt, I cannot say, but Mr. Berry shall. I will not take Mrs. Berry’s word for his being associated in a plot against one of the best women in the world.”

“Surely you will not persist in your intention of persecuting an old man who can ill bear excitement,” pleaded Mrs. Berry.

“Excitement—who talks of excitement, when a foul and hideous charge is made against those we love?” cried Hawkesley “I have heard of Mr. Berry from Lygon, and if he is the friend Lygon has believed him, I shall hear the truth from his lips. Something tells me that I have not heard it from his wife’s.”

“You will go to Lipthwaite?”

“To-night. Meantime I have no more questions to put to Mrs. Berry.”

“She has one to put to you. I wish to speak a word to you, Mr. Hawkesley, but not in the presence of your wife.”

“I have no secrets from her.”

“Go with her, Charles, if she wishes it,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, “or I will go.”

Beatrice walked slowly, and as one who had been half stunned, towards the door, and supporting herself by it she said—

“Marion Berry, for some purpose of your own, you are acting a wickedness for which God will judge you. I shall see that judgment.” And she left the room.

“Even excited as she is, tell her, Mr. Hawkesley, that she should avoid such sinful language, such unholy appeals.”

“Do not speak of my wife, but let me hear what you wished to say.”

“Once more, I ask you whether you are bent on going to Lipthwaite?”

“Must I once more tell you that I will see Mr. Berry?”

“Then come. But be prepared to bring back with you a story twice as terrible as that which you struggle to disbelieve.”

“Do you think to deter me by such language?”

“I do not wish to deter you now. I have striven to spare you, and have met nothing but insolence and insult. I now invite you to come, for perhaps the humiliation you will undergo may be a wholesome chastisement of your pride and arrogance. Come to Lipthwaite, and hear from Mr. Berry into what kind of a family you have married.”

“I will come.”

“Mrs. Hawkesley will not accompany you. I trust that you will find her awaiting your return. She did not try to prevent my speaking to you alone. Most wives would have done so. She dared not.”

“Mrs. Berry,” said Hawkesley, struggling to suppress his rage, and using the most contemptuous manner he could adopt, “by what conceivable falsehood do you think to make me believe that the wife of Charles Hawkesley cares whether her husband spends five minutes—more or less—with any other woman in this world, young or old?”

“I have prayed to be strengthened to bear anything that may be said to me while I am doing my duty,” said Mrs. Berry, calmly, “but believe me, Mr. Hawkesley, such words as you employ in the hope of wounding me, go by me like the idle wind. They are meant to hurt, but are powerless. You, who have not the privilege of being a Christian, cannot comprehend the pity with which you are regarded by those who know better things. If you come to Lipthwaite to-night, and can bow yourself at our family altar, you shall hear how little anger and how much love we bear for those who wrong and insult us. Farewell, Mr. Hawkesley.”

And Mrs. Berry withdrew as composedly as she had entered. As the servant was opening the street door for her she paused, and drew from her pocket a tract.

“Read this, my good girl, when you have time. I fear that little teaching of this kind comes in your way; but read it, and may it be blessed to you.”

It was called “Who is your Master?” When the girl, in some wonderment, showed it to her fellow-servant, and to Price, who had remained in the house, the latter personage looked at the title with considerable disfavour.

“I could tell her who her master is,” said Price, “only I don’t want to put my tongue to an ugly word.”

“I would rather the old girl had given me a shilling,” said Mrs. Hawkesley’s servant, simply and honestly. Meantime, Hawkesley went in search of his wife, and as he expected, found her in tears.

Beatrice looked up, with mute inquiry as to the secret which he had been told in her absence.

“She tells me that if I come to Lipthwaite, I shall hear something much worse than that we have heard from her.”

“Charles, dearest, I am very ill. While that woman was speaking, and especially when I found out who she really was, a cold chill came across me, and I could scarcely speak.”

“My dear one, such a tale, told of one whom you love, is surely enough to shock you to the heart.”

“But now I want to speak, and to say much to you, dear, and I am utterly unequal to the task.”

“How can it be necessary for you to say much to me, Beatrice. Have we come to a point in our lives when a dozen words are not enough between us.”

“I thought we never should come to it, dearest; but this woman seems to have brought it about. You trust me, Charles,” she said, taking both his hands and looking up at him earnestly; “you trust me, do you not, fully and implicitly?”

“I did not think I should ever feel so grieved with you,” he replied, “as I do at hearing such a question.”

“No, no, I have not grieved you—you shall not say that I have ever grieved you, my own one. But I told you that I could not speak as I ought. Sit down by me here, close to me, and let me try to say what is in my mind.”


It was very bad in the prisoner to have used a weapon, but then, on the other hand, he spoke French so admirably, that when he reached the place of captivity, instead of being thrust, as would have happened in the case of any other offender, and especially an English offender, into a gloomy cell, of very dungeon-like character, the officials placed him in a not very uncomfortable room, the uncleanliness whereof was simply an incident of the administration of justice, and not intended as any addition to the prisoner’s own punishment. It was late, and of course nothing could be done until the morning, but many an Englishman, taken into custody, in his own country, for a far lighter crime than that imputed to Adair, has been compelled to pass a much more miserable night than was spent by the latter. He was not locked up with ruffians, he was not put upon a stone floor, nor were his boots taken away; and if he had required food, or medical assistance, he would not have been told that nobody there was allowed to be hungry or ill until to-morrow morning.

Very early on the following day, and hours before Adair’s case could come before the authorities, he had summoned to his presence his host of the preceding night.

M. Silvain was not very long in obeying the summons, but when he entered the room, the windows of which were strongly barred, and he heard the door fastened heavily behind him, he rather felt as one who is introduced into the den of a wild animal. He was a brave man, too, but it was satisfactory to him to recollect that the weapon Ernest had used upon M. Haureau had been seized by one of the gendarmes who had interposed with such felicitous punctuality.

Adair rose from the bed on which he had been lying, half dressed, and glared viciously at his friend.

“So you have come,” said Ernest. “That was wise in you. I thought that you would have been too great a coward to come. But certainly it would have been braver in you to stay away, all things considered.”

“Am I sent for at this extremely inconvenient hour, to have injurious remarks addressed to me?” said Silvain, quietly.

“Remarks to you?” repeated Adair, savagely, and without a touch of the bantering manner he had been in the habit of manifesting in his interviews with Silvain. “No, do not alarm yourself.”

“I am not alarmed, M. Adair, and I should like to speak.”

“I forbid you to speak. Hold your tongue. You have not had time to learn any lesson of lies which could serve your turn with me; or, if you think you have, you may keep them until further notice.”

“With a prisoner,” said M. Silvain, with dignity, “it is impossible to quarrel.”

“Hold your tongue, I repeat,” said Adair, “or you may find that it is very possible for a prisoner to get you by the throat before you can make the fellows outside open the door for you. And if I do, it will not be worth their while to open the door for you.”

He looked so vindictive, and his eyes glared so, that Silvain instinctively placed himself in an attitude to resist a sudden attack. But Adair did not rise, and laughed scoffingly.

“I want you,” he said, “and you have nothing to fear while you can be of use to me. Now listen, and if you do not obey my orders, woe unto you.”

{{nop}] “Orders, M. Adair?”

“Orders, sir! and once more be silent. It is now seven o’clock. You will go from here to the lodging which you have taken for the English lady, Mrs. Lygon,—now do not begin to lie, because I know the house, and could tell you at what time she took possession of her room, and what rent she is to pay.”

Silvain deemed it wisest to remain silent.

“I know all. You will go, I repeat, to that house, and, with as much or as little regard to the convenances as you like, you will obtain speech of Mrs. Lygon, and inform that lady, first that I am here, and secondly that I wish to see her here before nine o’clock. That is your message, and now call to the gendarmes to let you out.”

“Do I hear you aright?” said Silvain. “I am to intrude upon Madame Lygon, and ask her to come and visit you in a police cell?”

“That is what you are to do, and instantly,” replied Adair. “You are not mad enough to hesitate.”

“Why should I obey?”

“Ask Matilde? Are you not gone?”

“Before making the least approach to Madame Lygon, I will assuredly consult with Mademoiselle Matilde, and if her opinion be my own, your brutal errand will remain undone, M. Adair.”

“Go and ask Matilde, fool, I tell you, and don’t waste time, or you may be doing more mischief than you dream of. Mischief to Matilde, and the lady, and more people besides. Now, be off.”

“You will have to account to me for all this, Monsieur,” said Silvain, as he went to the door.

“Stop,” said Ernest Adair, in a furious voice. “Stop a second. I have humoured your folly and swagger long enough. Take warning now. If ever you provoke me again into inflicting personal chastisement on you, it is the last you will want, M. Silvain.”

“The tiger has tasted blood, and is ferocious,” said Silvain, contemptuously, as the door opened for him. He pointed to his arm, in illustration of his meaning, and departed.

How he sped on his mission need not be said, but considerably before the appointed time it was announced to Adair that a lady desired to see him.

Ernest Adair again seated himself on his bed, and cast a cynical glance around the disordered cell, intending to receive his guest without any effort to render the chamber more fit for a visitor. But the gendarme, without a word, took the matter into his own hands,—opened the windows, and with military rapidity, brought the room into something like a decorous condition. He could not, however, prevent Adair from taking a lounging attitude on the bed, though the look of the honest soldier expressed the displeasure he felt at such a demonstration.

A few moments later, and Ernest’s visitor was introduced.

He retained the position he had insolently taken up, until the lady (who was in the simplest morning costume, and veiled) advanced a step or two, and raised her veil.

“You!” said Ernest, springing to his feet. “I sent for your sister.”

“I—I wished to come,” said Bertha Urquhart.

“But your coming is useless,” he replied, without a word of courtesy, or the offer of the single chair which stood near him. “It is strange that I cannot be obeyed, when persons have such good reasons for obeying me.”

“Do not be angry with me,” said Bertha, “for I am very miserable.”

“And why does a lady who is miserable come to a place like this at such an hour, especially when no one has asked for her presence?”

“I thought it best to come,” pleaded Bertha.

“It is for me to think in the matter,” he replied. “Do I understand from your being here that the idiot Silvain has not delivered my message to Mrs. Lygon?”

“He will do as you ask, of course,” said Bertha, deprecatingly. “But I thought I would come and ask what you wish, and what can be done for you—Silvain has told me of the unfortunate affair last night.”

“Silvain has told you!” he began, in a high and angry voice, which dropped as he observed her terror. “No, no, I am wrong to speak so to you. I do not accuse you of trying to involve me in a quarrel with a ruffian who would probably have strangled me, but for my being armed. That stroke was not yours, my poor Bertha. Do not look so white. I would say take a chair, but time is precious. Will you leave me, find Mrs. Lygon, and deliver the message which Silvain has presumed to neglect?”

“He did not neglect it. I delayed him, in order to come and see whether we could serve you in any way. Pray let us do so, if we can.”

“Go, and send Mrs. Lygon to me.”

“But what will you say to her that you cannot say to me?”

Ernest Adair advanced, took the chair, and sat down before Bertha, so that his face was lower than hers, and his up-turned eyes met hers, with an expression which made her shudder.

“Are you afraid of my eyes?” he said, gently and slowly. “It was not always so.”


“The old voice too. He is in prison, and she comes unto him,” he added, mockingly. “But I have no time for recollections now. Bertha, go, and send your sister here.”

“Tell me, for mercy’s sake, what you are going to do.”

“She shall tell you when she leaves me.”

“I assure you, Ernest, on my life, that it is not our fault that we have not yet got the money for you, but we are doing our best, and you shall soon have it. Do not do anything hasty and cruel—think of the misery you will cause.”

“To whom? and why should I care?”

“Ernest, you ought not to speak thus.”

“To whom should I cause misery?”

“Oh, Ernest!” said Bertha, bursting into tears, and sinking on her knees before him. “Do not, do not be so cruel—we will do anything to satisfy you, but have some mercy.”

His back was towards the door as he sat, and as she looked up he beheld her face suddenly become of ashy whiteness. It was not, he felt on the instant, anything in his words that had worked this change—some terror was before her. He continued to gaze wonderingly at the change, and he said almost involuntarily—


“Who speaks so to a married woman?” said a stern voice, and as Ernest sprang to his feet he was suddenly pushed, hurled, flung,—what you will,—against the side of the cell, by a hand that seemed only bent on removing him from out of the way.

And the kneeling Bertha looked up piteously in the face of her husband.