Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/Eleanor's victory - Part 27
BY THE AUTHOR OF “AURORA FLOYD,” “LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET,” &c.
CHAPTER LI. MRS. MAJOR LENNARD.
Miss Barkham stared at her visitor with a look of mingled horror and astonishment.
“You do not surely imagine, Miss Villars,” she said, “that anybody will engage you in the responsible position of governess to their children, upon no better recommendation than your own, I must confess, rather confident assertion of your merits?”
“I never told a falsehood in my life, Miss Barkham,” Eleanor answered, indignantly. “If I am without a friend whom I can ask to testify to my respectability, it is on account of circumstances which—”
“To be sure,” exclaimed Miss Barkham; “that is the very thing we have to contend against. This establishment is completely overrun by young ladies, who think there is nothing easier than to turn their backs upon their friends and their homes, and go out into the world to become the instructresses of the rising generation. You think me very punctilious and strait-laced, I daresay, Miss Villars; but I don’t know what would become of the rising generation if somebody didn’t keep watch and ward over the doors of the school-room. Young ladies who choose to feel unhappy in the society of their parents; young ladies who are disappointed in some sentimental affection; young ladies who fancy themselves ill-used by their elder sisters; young ladies who, from the very shallowness of their own minds, cannot be contented anywhere, all come to us, and want to go out as governesses,—just for a change, they say, in the hope of finding a little employment that will divert their minds—as if they had any minds to be diverted! These are the amateur hangers-on of a very grave and respectable profession, to which hundreds of estimable and accomplished women have devoted the best and brightest years of their lives. These are the ignorant and superficial pretenders who bring their cheap and worthless wares into the market; in order to undersell the painstaking and patient teachers who have themselves learned the lessons they profess to teach. And these amateurs will continue to flourish, Miss Villars; so long as ladies, who would shudder at the idea of entrusting an expensive silk dress to an incompetent dressmaker, are willing to confide the care of their children to an instructress whose highest merit lies in the fact that she is—cheap. I do not wish to wound your feelings, Miss Villars; but I assure you I often feel sick at heart, when I see a lady who offers thirty years’ experience, and all the treasures of a mind carefully and sedulously cultivated, rejected in favour of some chit of nineteen who can play one showy fantasia, and disfigure, glass vases with scraps of painted paper; and who will accept twenty pounds a year in payment of services that are not worth five.”
Eleanor smiled at Miss Barkham’s energetic protest.
“I daresay you are often very much worried by incompetent people,” she said; “but I assure you I have made no attempt to deceive you. I don’t profess to do much, you know. I believe I can play pretty well. May I play you something?” she asked, pointing to an open pianoforte at one end of the room, a handsome grand, with all Erard’s patent improvements, on which governesses upon their promotion were in the habit of showing off.
“I have no objection to hear you play,” Miss Barkham answered; “but remember, I cannot possibly procure you a situation without either references or testimonials.”
Eleanor went to the piano, took off her gloves, and ran her fingers over the keys. She had played very little during the last few months, for in the feverish preoccupation of her mind she had been unequal to any feminine employment; too restless and unsettled to do anything but roam about the house, or sit brooding silently, with her hands lying idle in her lap.
The familiar touch of the keys filled her with a strange pleasure; she was surprised at the brilliancy of her execution, as good players often are after an interval of idleness. She played one of Beethoven’s most sparkling sonatas; and even Miss Barkham, who was perpetually listening to such performances, murmured a few words of praise.
But before Eleanor had been seated at the piano more than five minutes, a servant came into the room and presented a card to Miss Barkham, who rose from her seat with some appearance of vexation.
“Really, I scarcely know what to do about it,” she muttered to herself. “It’s almost impossible to arrange anything at such very short notice. Excuse me, Miss Villars,” she added, aloud, to Eleanor, “I am obliged to see a lady in the next room. Don’t go until I return.”
Eleanor bowed, and went on playing. She finished the sonata; and then, suddenly catching sight of her wedding ring and the thick band of gold studded with diamonds that her husband had given her on her wedding-day, she stopped to draw the two rings off her finger, and put them into her purse amongst the few sovereigns that formed her whole stock of worldly wealth.
She sighed as she did this, for it seemed like putting off her old life altogether.
“It’s better so,” she said to herself; “I know now that Gilbert must have thought me false to him from the very first. I can understand his cold reserve now, though it used to puzzle me so much. He changed almost immediately after our marriage.”
Eleanor Monckton grew very pensive as she remembered that she had been perhaps herself to blame for the altered manner, and no doubt equally altered feelings, of her husband. She had neglected her duty as a wife, absorbed in her affection as a daughter; she had sacrificed the living to the dead; and she began to think that Richard Thornton’s advice had been wiser than she had believed when she refused to listen to it. She had been wrong altogether. Classic vows of vengeance were all very well in the days when a Medea rode upon flying dragons and slaughtered her children upon principle; but a certain inspired teacher, writing a very long time after that much-to-be-regretted classic age, has declared that vengeance is the right of divinity alone, and far too terrible an attribute to be tampered with by fallible mortals, blindly hurling the bolts of Heaven against each other’s earthly heads.
She thought this, and grew very melancholy and uncomfortable, and began to fancy that her impulses had been about the worst guides that she could have chosen. She began to think that she had not acted so very wisely in running away from Tolldale Priory in the first heat of her indignation, and that she might have done better perhaps by writing a temperate letter of justification to Gilbert Monckton, and quietly abiding the issue. But she had chosen her path now, and must stand by her choice, on pain of appearing the weakest and most cowardly of women.
“My letter is posted,” she said to herself. “Gilbert will receive it to-morrow morning. I should be a coward to go back; for however much I may have been to blame in the matter, he has treated me very badly.”
She wiped away some tears that had come into her eyes as she took the rings from her wedding finger, and then began to play again.
This time she dashed into one of the liveliest and most brilliant fantasias she could remember, a very pot-pourri of airs; a scientific hodge podge of Scotch melodies; now joyous, now warlike and savage, now plaintive and tender; always capricious in the extreme, and running away every now and then into the strangest variations, the most eccentric cadences. The piece was one of Thalberg’s chef-d’œuvres, and Eleanor played it magnificently. As she struck the final chords, sharp and rapid as a rattling peal of musketry, Miss Barkham re-entered the room.
She had the air of being rather annoyed, and she hesitated a little before speaking to Eleanor, who rose from the piano and began to put on her gloves.
“Really, Miss Villars,” she said, “it is most incomprehensible to me, but since Mrs. Lennard herself wishes it, I—”
She stopped and fidgetted a little with the gold pencil-case hanging to her watch-chain.
“I can’t at all understand this sort of thing,” she resumed; “however, of course I wash my hands of all responsibility. Have you any objection to travel, Miss Villars?” she asked, suddenly.
Eleanor opened her eyes with a look of astonishment at this abrupt question.
“Objection to travel?” she repeated; “I—”
“Have you any objection to go abroad—to Paris, for instance—if I could obtain you a situation?”
“Oh, no,” Eleanor answered, with a sigh, “not at all; I would just as soon go to Paris as anywhere else.”
“Very well, then, if that is the case, I think I can get you a situation immediately. There is a lady in the next room who was here yesterday, and who really gave me a most severe headache with her fidgety, childish ways. However, she wants to meet with a young lady as a companion immediately—that is the grand difficulty. She leaves London for Paris by this evening’s mail, and she put off engaging the person she required until yesterday afternoon, when she came to me in a fever of anxiety, and wanted me to introduce her to a lady instanter. She stopped all the afternoon in the next room, and I took ever so many young ladies in to her, all of whom seemed well qualified for the situation, which really demands very little. But not one of them would suit Mrs. Lennard. She was very polite to them, and made all kinds of affable speeches to them, and dismissed them in the most ladylike manner; and then she told me afterwards that she didn’t take a fancy to them, and she was determined not to engage any one she didn’t take a fancy to, as she wanted to be very fond of her companion, and make quite a sister of her. That was what she said, and, good gracious me,” cried Miss Barkham, “how am I to find her somebody she can take a fancy to, and make a sister of, at a quarter-of-an-hour’s notice? I assure you, Miss Villars, my head felt quite in a whirl after she went away yesterday afternoon; and it’s beginning to be in a whirl again now.”
Eleanor waited very patiently while Miss Barkham endeavoured to collect her scattered senses.
“I can scarcely hope this very capricious lady will take a fancy to me,” she said, smiling.
“Why, my dear,” exclaimed Miss Barkham, “that’s the very thing I came to tell you. She has taken a fancy to you.”
“Taken a fancy to me!” repeated Eleanor; “but she has not seen me.”
“Of course not, my dear. But she really is the most confusing, I may almost say bewildering, person I ever remember meeting with. I was in the next room talking to this Mrs. Lennard, who is very pretty and fashionable-looking, only a little untidy in her dress, when you began to play that Scotch fantasia. Mrs. Lennard stopped to listen, and after she had listened a few moments, she cried out suddenly, ‘Now, I dare say that’s an old frump?’ I said, ‘What, ma’am?’ for, upon my word, my dear, I didn’t know whether she meant the piece, or the piano, or what. ‘I dare say the lady who’s playing is an old frump,’ she said. ‘Old frumps almost always play well; in point of fact, old frumps are generally very clever. But I’m determined not to have any one I can’t make a sister of; and I must have one by three o’clock this afternoon, or Major Lennard will be cross, and I shall go mad.’ Well, Miss Villars, I told Mrs. Lennard your age, and described your appearance and manners, that is to say, as well as I was able to do so after our very brief acquaintance, and I had no sooner finished, than she exclaimed, ‘That will do; if she can play Scotch melodies like that, and is nice, I’ll engage her.’ I then explained to Mrs. Lennard that you could give no references; ‘and that of course,’ I added, ‘would be an insuperable objection;’ but she interrupted me in a manner that would have appeared very impertinent in any one but her, and cried out, ‘Insuperable fiddlesticks! If she’s nice, I’ll engage her. She can play to me all the morning while I paint upon velvet;’ and you’re to come with me, please Miss Villars, and be introduced to her.”
Eleanor took up her muff and followed Miss Barkham on to the landing, but at this moment three ladies appeared upon the top stair, and the principal of the establishment was called upon to receive them.
“If you’ll go in by yourself, my dear,” she whispered to Eleanor, pointing to the door of the back drawing-room, “I shall be much obliged; you’ll find Mrs. Lennard a most affable person.”
Eleanor readily assented. She opened the door and went into the primly-furnished back drawing-room. Mrs. Major Lennard was a little woman, and she was standing on tiptoe upon the hearthrug, in order to survey herself in the chimney-glass while she re-arranged the pale blue strings of her black velvet bonnet. Eleanor paused near the door, waiting for her to turn round, and wondering what she was like, as the face in the glass was not visible from where Mrs. Monckton stood.
The lady employed a considerable time in the important operation of tying her bonnet-strings, then suddenly hearing the rustling of Eleanor’s dress as she advanced a few paces, Mrs. Lennard uttered an exclamation, and turned round.
“You naughty girl, you quite startled me,” she cried.
Not so much as she had startled Eleanor, who could not repress a cry of surprise at the sight of her face. It was a very pretty face, very young-looking, though Mrs. Major Lennard was nearly forty years of age. A fair childish face, with pink cheeks, turquoise-blue eyes, and the palest, softest bands of flaxen hair; rather an insipid, German kind of beauty, perhaps, but very perfect of its kind.
But that which had startled Eleanor was not the babyish, delicate prettiness of the face, but the strong resemblance which it bore to Laura Mason. It was the same face after twenty years, not of wear and tear, but of very careful preservation. This lady, in appearance and manner, was exactly what Laura must most surely become if she lived to be seven-and-thirty years of age.
CHAPTER LII. GOING BACK TO PARIS.
Eleanor was so completely bewildered by this extraordinary likeness that she remained for some moments staring at Mrs. Major Lennard in silent surprise.
“Goodness me, my dear!” exclaimed the lady, “how astonished you look! I hope I’m not a guy. Frederick—that’s Major Lennard, you know—never liked this bonnet, and really I’m beginning quite to dislike it myself. I do think its pokey. But never mind that, my dear Miss—Villars, I think Miss Barkham said,—a very nice person, Miss Barkham, isn’t she, but rather prim. I’ve got all sorts of business to settle between this and eight o’clock, for Fred will travel by the night-mail, because he sleeps all the way, and of course that makes the journey shorter—in consequence of which I’ve never seen Dover, except in the dark, and I always think of it with the lamps lighted and the pier slippery, and everybody hurrying and pushing, like a place in a dream. But the first question, my dear, that we’ve got to settle, is whether you like me, and think you could make a sister of me?”
This question, asked very eagerly, was really too much for poor Eleanor.
“Oh, please don’t look so surprised,” Mrs. Lennard exclaimed, entreatingly; “you make me fancy I’m a guy, and you see there’s really no time to be lost, and we must decide immediately, if you please. I was here all yesterday afternoon, and I saw legions of ladies, but there wasn’t one that I could take a fancy to, and my only motive for engaging a companion is to have somebody that I shall like very much, and always feel at home with, and I want some one who can play the piano and be agreeable and lively, and I’m sure you’re the very person, dear, and if you only think you can like me as well as I’m sure I shall like you, we can settle the business at once.”
“But you know that I can give you no references,” Eleanor said, hesitatingly.
“Of course I do,” answered Mrs. Lennard. “Miss Barkham told me all about it. As if I thought you’d committed a murder, or done something horrid, just because you can’t pounce upon half-a-dozen people ready to declare you’re an uncanonised saint all in a moment. I like your looks, my dear, and when I like people’s looks at first sight, I generally like them afterwards. And you play magnificently, I only wish I could; and I used to play the overture to ’Sémiramide’ before I was married, but as Frederick doesn’t like overtures, and as we’ve been scampering about the world ever since, in the cabins of ships, and in tents, and all sorts of places where you couldn’t have pianos, unless you had them made on purpose, without legs, I’ve gone backwards in my music till I can’t play so much as a polka, without skipping the difficult parts.”
Mrs. Lennard went on to say that the matter of salary was a question to be settled between Miss Villars and the Major.
“I always leave money matters to Frederick,” she said, “for though he can’t add up the bills, he looks as if he could, and that’s some check upon people. But you’ll have to wait for your quarter’s money now and then, I dare say, dear, because we’re often a little behind-hand, you know, and if you don’t mind that, it’ll be all the better for you, as Fred’s almost sure to give you a silk dress when your quarter comes due, and he can’t pay you; that’s what he calls a sop to Cerberus, and I’m sure the money he spends in keeping people ‘sweet,’ as he calls it, would keep us altogether if we paid ready money. Now, is it a settled thing, Miss Villars? Will you accept the situation?”
Eleanor assented without hesitation. She heard very little of Mrs. Lennard’s good-natured babble. Her whole mind was absorbed by the sense of her defeat, and by the feeling that she had no further chance of a victory over Launcelot Darrell. She despaired, but she did not submit. She was only desperate and reckless, ready to go anywhere, and finish the useless remainder of her existence anyhow. She was not prepared to begin a new life upon a new plan, casting the old scheme of her life behind her, as a mistake and a delusion. She was not able to do this yet.
While Mrs. Lennard was gathering together a lot of frivolous-looking little whitey-brown paper parcels that seemed to bear a strong family resemblance to herself, Miss Barkham came into the room to ascertain the result of the interview between the two ladies. Mrs. Lennard expressed herself in the most rapturous manner about Eleanor, paid some small fee for the benefit of the institution, and departed, carrying her parcels and taking Eleanor with her.
She allowed her companion to assist her with the parcels, after a little good-natured contention, and at the nearest corner summoned a cab which was dawdling lazily along.
“Of course the man will overcharge us,” Mrs. Lennard said, “but we must be prepared for that, and really I’d rather be overcharged than have a row, as we generally have when I’m with the major, and summonses and counter-summonses, and all sorts of disagreeables; not that I mind that half so much as foreign cabmen, who get excited, and dance upon the pavement and make wild noises if you don’t satisfy them; and I’m sure I don’t know what would satisfy foreign cabmen.”
Mrs. Lennard took out her watch, which was a pretty little Geneva toy with an enamelled back, ornamented with the holes that had once held diamonds. An anxious and intensely studious expression came over Mrs. Lennard’s face as she looked at this watch, which was overweighted by a heap of incomprehensible charms, amongst which chaotic mass of golden frivolity, a skeleton, a watering-pot, a coffin, and a Dutch oven were distinguishable.
“It’s half-past five by me,” Mrs. Lennard said, after a profound contemplation of the Geneva, “so I should think it must be about a quarter to three.”
Eleanor took out her own watch, and settled the question. It was only half-past two.
“Then I’ve gained another quarter of an hour,” exclaimed Mrs. Lennard; “that’s the worst of pretty watches, they always will go too much, or else stop altogether. Freddy bought me my watch, and he gave me my choice as to whether he should spend the money in purple enamel and diamonds, or works, and I chose the purple enamel. But then, of course I didn’t know the diamonds would drop out directly,” Mrs. Lennard added, thoughtfully.
She drove about to half a-dozen shops, and collected more whitey-brown paper parcels, a bandbox, a bird-cage, a new carpet-bag, a dog’s collar, a packet of tea, and other incongruous merchandise, and then ordered the man to drive to the Great Northern Hotel.
“We’re staying at the Great Northern, my dear,” she said, after giving this order. “We very often stay at hotels, for Frederick thinks it’s cheaper to pay fifteen shillings a day for your rooms than to have a house, and servants’ wages, and coals and candles, and lard, and blacklead, and hearthstone, and all those little things that run away with so much money. And I should like the Great Northern very much if the corridors weren’t so long, and the waiters so stern. I always think waiters at grand hotels are stern. They seem to look at one as if they knew one was thinking of the bill, and trying to calculate whether it would be under ten pounds. But, oh, good gracious!” exclaimed Mrs. Lennard, suddenly, “what a selfish creature I am, I’ve quite forgotten all this time that of course you’ll want to go home to your mamma and papa, and tell them where you’re going, and get your boxes packed, and all that.”
Eleanor shook her head with a sad smile.
“I have no mother or father to consult,” she said; “I am an orphan.”
“Are you?” cried Mrs. Lennard; “then it must have been our destiny to meet, for I am an orphan, too. Ma died while I was a baby, and poor pa died soon after my marriage. He was disappointed in my marriage, poor dear old thing, though I’m glad to think it wasn’t that, but gout in the stomach, that killed him. But you’ll want to see your friends, Miss Villars, won’t you, before you leave London?”
“No,” Eleanor answered; “I shall write to the only friends I have. I don’t want to see anyone; I don’t want anyone to know where I am going. I left my portmanteau at an hotel in Norfolk Street, and I shall be glad if you will let me call for it.”
Mrs. Lennard gave the necessary order; the cabman drove to the hotel where Eleanor had left her portmanteau, and thence to the Great Northern, where Mrs. Lennard conducted her new companion to a very handsome apartment on the ground-floor, opening into a palatial bed-chamber, whose splendour was a good deal impaired by the circumstances that the stately Arabian bed, the massive easy-chairs, the sofa, the dressing-table, and even the washhand-stand were loaded with divers articles of male and female attire, which seemed to have been flung here and there by some harmless maniac disporting himself about the room.
In the very centre of all this disorder, upon a great black leather military travelling-case, sat a big broad-chested man of about forty, with a good-natured, sun-burnt face, a very fierce auburn moustache, and a thick stubble of crisp, wavy, auburn hair, cut close to his head, in the development of which a disciple of Mr. George Coombe would have scarcely discovered the organs that make a man either a general or a philosopher. This sunburnt, good-humoured looking gentleman had taken off his coat for the better accomplishment of his herculean labours; and, with his arms folded and his legs crossed, with an embroidered slipper balanced upon the extremity of his toes, and a meerschaum pipe in his mouth, he sat resting himself, after taking the initiatory step of dragging everything out of the drawers and wardrobe.
“Oh, you lazy Freddy!” cried Mrs. Lennard, looking in at her lord and master with a reproachful countenance, “is that all you’ve done?”
“Where’s the blue barège with the flounces to go?” roared the major in the voice of an amiable Stentor. “I couldn’t do anything till I knew that, and I’ve been waiting for you to come home. Have you got a companion?”
“Hush! yes! she’s in the next room; such a dear, and awfully pretty. If you stare at her much I shall be jealous, Freddy, for you know you are a starer, though you never will confess it. I’ve seen you, in Regent Street, when you’ve thought I’ve been looking at the bonnets,” added the lady, reproachfully.
Upon this the major got up, and, lifting his wife in his arms, gave her such a hug as a well-disposed bear might have bestowed upon the partner of his den. Major Lennard was about six feet one and a-half in the embroidered slippers, and was as strong as a gladiator in good training.
“Come and be introduced to her,” exclaimed Mrs. Lennard; and she led her husband, in his shirt-sleeves, nothing abashed, into the adjoining sitting-room.
The major’s conversational powers were not very startling. He made a few remarks about the weather, which were more courteous than original. He asked Eleanor if she was hungry, if she would have luncheon, or wait for a six o’clock dinner, and if she was a good sailor. Then, coming suddenly to a stand still, he demanded soda-water and brandy.
It was the habit of this amiable man to require this beverage on every possible occasion. He was by no means a drunkard, though he was one of those good-natured noisy creatures who can never be convivial without getting tipsy; but his existence was one perpetual absorption of soda-water and brandy. Why he drank this mixture, which the uninitiated are apt to consider insipid, was a mystery only to be explained by himself. He could not have been perpetually thirsty; and I am inclined to think that this soda-water and brandy was the desperate resource of a feeble intellect craving some employment, rather than a physical want.
The major and his wife retired to the bedroom and began their packing. When matters grew very desperate Eleanor was summoned as a forlorn hope, and did her best to reduce the chaos into something like order. This process occupied the time until six o’clock, when the major put on his coat and sat down to dinner.
But even during dinner the packing business was not altogether suspended, for every now and then, when there was a little pause in the banquet, Mrs. Lennard jumped up from the table, and ran into the next room with her workbox, or her desk, or something from the mantelpiece or one of the sofa-tables—sometimes a book, sometimes a paper-knife, a thimble, a pair of scissors, a pen-wiper, or a packet of envelopes—and then scampered back to her place before the waiter re-entered the room, and tried to look as if she hadn’t left her seat. The major meanwhile worked steadily on with his knife and fork, only looking up from his plate to attend to the wants of Eleanor and his wife.
At last everything was ready. The addresses were fastened to the boxes and portmanteaus. A bewildering canary bird—which rejoiced in every kind of noise and confusion, and had been excruciatingly loud and shrill all the afternoon—was inducted into the new brass cage which Mrs. Lennard had bought for it. A sharp little black-and-tan terrier, the property of the major, was invested in the new collar, and securely padlocked; Eleanor and Mrs. Lennard put on their shawls and bonnets; the major made himself gigantic by the addition to his normal bulk of a rough great-coat, a Scotch plaid, and half a dozen yards of woollen comforter; the bill was paid at the very last moment, while the luggage was being piled upon the top of an extra cab; and Major Lennard and his companions departed at a rattling pace for the London Bridge terminus. There was just time enough for the major to get the tickets and choose a comfortable carriage, before the train started. Away they flew through the darkness of the bleak March night, and Eleanor felt that every throb of the shrieking engine made the step that she had taken more irrevocable.
“There was not a word in Gilbert’s letter that expressed sorrow at parting from me,” she thought. “I had worn out his love, I suppose.”
It was eleven o’clock when they got to Dover. Major Lennard slept all the way, with the lappets of his travelling cap, which was a sort of woollen caricature of a Knight Templar’s helmet, drawn closely over his ears. Mrs. Lennard, who was very wide awake all the time, sat opposite to her husband, with the canary bird on her lap. He had grown quiet at last, and had retired from the world under a tent of green-baize. The bird’s mistress made up for his silence by talking incessantly throughout the journey; but it only seemed to Eleanor as if she had a second Laura for her companion, and the succession of her own sad thoughts was scarcely broken by Mrs. Lennard’s conversation.
They arrived in Paris the next morning in time for breakfast at the great Hôtel du Palais, a monstrous building, newly erected, and rich in the glitter of gilding and the glow of colour. Here the major took up his abode, after deliberately expounding to his wife and Eleanor the theory that the best and most expensive hotels are always the cheapest—in the end. This moral had been the rule of the major’s life, and had very often brought him alarmingly near the awful abysses of insolvency.
The gorgeous apartments in which Eleanor found herself were very unlike the low-ceilinged little sitting-room in the Rue de l’Archevêque; but her mind went back to that sad time, nevertheless. She spent the morning in the agreeable employment of unpacking Mrs. Lennard’s wardrobe, while the major and his wife sailed out of the great hotel to sun themselves in the Rue Rivoli and on the Boulevards, and to wind up with a drive in the Bois, and a little dinner at Véfours’. When she had completed this most wearisome task, and had arranged all the scraps of lace and ribbons, the gloves and collars, and feminine furbelows, in a buhl chest of drawers and a gorgeous ebony and gold wardrobe, Mrs. Monckton put on her bonnet and shawl, and went out into the busy street.
The tears rushed up to her eyes as she looked at the bright vista before her, and heard the roll of the drum, and the tramp of soldiers’ feet in the courts of the Louvre. Yes, there was the street along which she had walked by her father’s side on the last day of his blighted life. Her hands clenched themselves involuntarily as she remembered that day; and that other bitter day of anguish in which she had knelt upon the ground and sworn to be revenged upon George Vane’s enemy.
How had she kept her oath? She smiled bitterly as she thought of the four years that had passed since then, and the strange chance that had flung Launcelot Darrell in her way.
“I went away from this place while he was here,” she thought. “I come back to it now that he is in England. Is it my destiny, I wonder, always to fail in everything I attempt?”
She went to the Rue de l’Archevêque. Nothing was changed. The same butcher was busy in the shop; the same faded curtains of flowered damask hung behind the windows.