“Indeed," said Ellen bitterly. “But her ladyship's surprise does not appear to have prevented her from assisting

step. I stayed in this house because I loved to see you now and then, and hear your voice; but now I shall leave

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“On the contrary,” said Hornby, “See me once more, Ellen-only once “she wished me God speed— her own more ?" words."

“I will see you once more. I will “Sir, you are a gentleman. Don't tear my heart once more, if you wish it. disgrace yourself and me if I can be You have deserved all I can do for you, disgraced — by quoting that woman's God knows. Come here the day after toblasphemy before me. Sir, you have morrow; but come without hope, mind. had your answer. I shall go.”

A woman who has been through what I “Ellen, you must stay. I have got have can trust herself. Do you know this interview with you to-night, to ask that I am a Catholic ?” you to be my wife. I love you as I “No," believe woman was never loved before, “I am. Would you turn Catholic if and I ask you to be my wife.”

I were to marry you ?” “You madman ! you madman !”

God forgive poor Hornby! He said, “I am no madman. I was a mad- “ Yes." What will not men say at such man when I spoke to you before; I times ? pray your forgiveness for that. You “Did I not say you were a madman? must forget that. I say that I love you Do you think I would ruin you in the as a woman was never loved before. next world, as well as in this ? Go Shall I say something more, Ellen ?” away, sir; and, when your children are “Say on.”

round you, humbly bless God's mercy “You love me."

for saving you, body and soul, this “I love you as man was never loved night." before; and I swear to you that I “I shall see you again ?”. hope I may lie stiff and cold in my un- . “ Come here the day after to-morrow; honoured coffin, before I'll ruin the man but come without hope." I love, by tying him to such a wretch as She passed through the door, and left myself."

him standing alone. Charles rose from “Ellen, Ellen, don't say that. Don't his lair, and, coming up to him, laid his take such vows, which you will not dare hand on his shoulder. to break afterwards. Think, you may “You have heard all this,” said poor regain all that you have lost, and marry Hornby. a man who loves you—ah, so dearly! – “Every word,” said Charles. “I had and whom you love too."

a right to listen, you know. She is my “Ay; there's the rub. If I did not sister.” love you, I would marry you to-mor- “Your sister ?” row. Regain all I have lost, say you ? Then Charles told him all. Hornby Bring my mother to life again, for had heard enough from Welter to underinstance, or walk among other women stand it. again as an honest one? You talk non. “Your sister! Can you help me, sense, Mr. Hornby-nonsense. I am Horton ? Surely she will hear reason going.”

from you. Will you persuade her to “Ellen ! Ellen! Why do you stay in listen to me?" this house ? Think once again.”

“No,” said Charles. “She was right. “I shall never leave thinking; but You are mad. I will not help you do my determination is the same. I tell an act which you would bitterly repent you, as a desperate woman like me dare all your life. You must forget her. tell you, that I love you far too well to She and I are disgraced, and must get ruin your prospects, and I love my own away somewhere, and hide our shame soul too well ever to make another false together."

What Hornby would have answered, in the body and limbs as above, in deep no man can tell ; for at this moment black, with the feather end of the pen, Adelaide came out of the room, and it becomes simply appalling, and will passed quickly across the hall, saying strike terror into the stoutest heart. good night to him as she passed. She Is this the place, say you, for talking did not recognise Charles, or seem sur- such nonsense as this? If you must prised at seeing Hornby talking to his give us balderdash of this sort, could groom. Nobody who had lived in Lord not you do so in a chapter with a less Welter's house a day or two was sur terrible heading than this one has ? And prised at anything. .

I answer, Why not let me tell my story But Charles, speaking to Hornby my own way? Something depends even more as if he were master than servant, on this nonsense of making devils out of said, “Wait here;" and, stepping quickly the ace of clubs. from him, went into the room where It was rather a favourite amusement Lord Welter sat alone, and shut the of Charles's and Lord Welter's, in old door. Hornby heard it locked behind times at Ranford. They used, on rainy him, and waited in the hall, erectis au- afternoons, to collect all the old aces of ribus, for what was to follow.

clubs (and there were always plenty “There'll be a row directly,” said of them to be had in that house), Hornby to himself; "and that chival and make devils out of them, each one rous fool. Charles, has locked himself worse than the first. And now, when in. I wish Welter did not send all his Charles had locked the door, and adservants out of the house at night. vanced softly up to Welter, he saw, There'll be murder done here some over his unconscious shoulder, that he day.”

had got an ace of clubs, and the pen He listened and heard voices, low as and ink, and was making a devil. yet-so low that he could hear the It was a trifling circumstance enough, dripping of the rain outside. Drip— perhaps ; but there was enough of old drip! The suspense was intolerable. times in it to alter the tone in which When would they be at one another's Charles said, “Welter," as he laid his throats?

hand on his shoulder.

Lord Welter was a bully; but he was

as brave as a lion, with nerves of steel. CHAPTER XXXIX.

He neither left off his drawing, nor

looked up; he only said—“Charley boy, CHARLES'S EXPLANATION WITH LORD come and sit down till I have finished WELTER.

this fellow. Get an ace of clubs, and

try your own hand. I am out of pracTHERE is a particular kind of Ghost or tice.” Devil-which I used to draw very Perhaps even Lord Welter might dexterously at school, and of which have started when he heard Charles's I would give a wood-cut here, did voice, and felt his hand on his shoulder ; this magazine allow of illustrations, but he had had one instant-only one which is represented by an isosceles instant-of preparation. When he heard triangle (more or less correctly drawn) the key turn in the door, he had looked for the body; straight lines turned up at in a pier-glass opposite to him, and seen the ends for legs ; straight lines divided who and what was coming, and then into five at the ends for arms; a round gone on with his employment. Even 0, with arbitrary dots for the features, allowing for this moment's preparation, for a head; with a hat, an umbrella, we must give him credit for the nerve and a pipe. Drawn like this, it is a of one man in ten thousand : for the sufficiently terrible object. But, if you apparition of Charles Ravenshoe was as take an ace of clubs, make the club unlooked for as that of any one of represent the head, add horns, and fill Charles Ravenshoe's remote ancestors.

You see, I call him Charles Ravenshoe still. It is a trick. You must excuse it.

Charles did not sit down and draw devils; he said, in a quiet mournful tone,

“Welter, Welter, why have you been such a villain ?

Lord Welter found that a difficult question to answer. He let it alone, and said nothing.

“ I say nothing about Adelaide. You did not use me well there ; for, when you persuaded her to go off with you, you had not heard of my ruin."

“On my soul, Charles, there was not much persuasion wanted there.”

“Very likely. I do not want to speak about that, but about Ellen, my sister. Was anything ever done more shamefully than that?

Charles expected some furious outbreak when he said that. None came. What was good in Lord Welter came to the surface, when he saw his old friend and playmate there before him, sunk so far below him in all that this world considers worth having, but rising so far above him in his fearless honour and manliness. He was humbled, sorry, and ashamed. Bitter as Charles's words were, he felt they were true, and had manhood enough left not to resent them. To the sensation of fear, as I have said before, Lord Welter was a total stranger, or he might have been nervous at being locked up in a room alone, with a desperate man, physically his equal, whom he had so shamefully wronged. He rose and leant against the chimney-piece, looking at Charles.

"I did not know she was your sister, Charles. You must do me that justice.

"Of course you did not. If=.

“I know what you are going to say— that I should not have dared. On my soul, Charles, I don't know; I believe I dare do anything. But I tell you one thing—of all the men who walk this earth, you are the last I would willingly wrong. When I went off with Adelaide, I knew she did not care sixpence for you. I knew she would have made you wretched. I knew better than you, because I never was in love with her,

and you were, what a heartless ambitious jade it was! She sold herself to me for the title I gave her, as she had tried to sell herself to that solemn prig, Lord Hainault, before. And I bought her, because a handsome, witty, clever wife is a valuable chattel to a man like me, who has to live by his wits."

“Ellen was as handsome and as clever as she. Why did not you marry her?" said Charles bitterly.

“If you will have the real truth, Ellen would have been Lady Welter now, but "

Lord Welter hesitated. He was a great rascal, and he had a brazen front, but he found a difficulty in going on. It must be, I should fancy, very hard work to tell all the little ins and outs of a piece of villany one has been engaged in, and to tell, as Lord Welter did on this occasion, the exact truth.

“I am waiting,” said Charles, “to hear you tell me why she was not made Lady Welter."

“What, you will have it then? Well, she was too scrupulous. She was too honourable a woman for this line of business. She wouldn't play, or learn to play—d-n it, sir, you have got the whole truth now, if that will content you."

“I believe what you say, my lord. Do you know that Lieutenant Hornby made her an offer of marriage to-night?”

“I supposed he would,” said Lord Welter.

“And that she has refused him ?”

“I guessed that she would. She is your own sister. Shall you try to persuade her ?

“I would see her in her coffin first.” “So I suppose.”

“She must come away from here, Lord Welter. I must keep her and do what I can for her. We must pull through it together somehow."

“She had better go from here. She is too good for this hole. I must make provision for her to live with you."

“Not one halfpenny, my lord. She has lived too long in dependence and disgrace already. We will pull through together alone.”

Lord Welter said nothing, but he said to Hornby, whom he found with determined that Charles should not have his head resting on the table; “I his way in this respect.

will come to-morrow and prepare her Charles continued, “When I came for leaving this house. You are to see into this room to-night I came to quarrel her the day after to-morrow; but withwith you. You have not allowed me to out hope, remember.” do so, and I thank you for it." Here He roused a groom from above the he paused, and then went on in a lower stable to help him to saddle the horses. voice, “I think you are sorry, Welter; “Will it soon be morning ?” he asked. are you not? I am sure you are sorry. “Morning," said the lad; “it's not I am sure you wouldn't have done it if twelve o'clock yet. It's a dark night, you had foreseen the consequences, eh ?” mate, and no moon. But the nights

Lord Welter's coarse under-lip shook are short now. The dawn will be on us for half a second, and his big chest before we have time to turn in our heaved once; but he said nothing. beds."

“Only think another time; that is all. He rode slowly home after Hornby. Now do me a favour; make me a “The night is dark, but the dawn promise."

will be upon us before we can turn “I have made it."

in our beds !" The idle words of a “Don't tell any human soul you have sleepy groom, yet which echoed in his seen me. If you do, you will only entail ears all the way home! The night is a new disguise and a new hiding on me. dark indeed; but it will be darker yet You have promised.”

before the dawn, Charles Ravenshoe. “On my honour.”

"If you keep your promise, I can stay where I am. How is-Lady


A DINNER PARTY AMONG SOME OLD “Well. Nursing my father.”

FRIENDS. “Is he ill ?”

“Had a fit the day before yesterday. LADY HAINAULT (née Burton, not the I heard this morning from them. He Dowager) had asked some one to dinner, is much better, and will get over it.” and the question had been whom to ask

“Have you heard anything from to meet him. Mary had been called into Ravenshoe ?

consultation, as she generally was on “Not a word. Lord Saltire and most occasions, and she and Lady HainGeneral Mainwaring are both with my ault had made up a list together. Every father, in London. Aunt won't see one had accepted and was coming; and either me or Adelaide. Do you know here were Mary and Lady Hainault, that she has been moving heaven and dressed for dinner, alone in the drawingearth to find you ?”

room with the children. “Good soul! I won't be found, “We could not have done better for though. Now, good night!”

him, Mary, I think. You must go in And he went. If any one had told to dinner with him." him three months before that he would “Is Mary going to stop down to have been locked in the same room with a dinner?" said the youngest boy; “what man who had done him such irreparable a shame! I sha'n't say my prayers toinjury, and have left it at the end of night if she don't come up.” half an hour with a quiet “good night,” The straightforward Gus let his brother he would most likely have beaten that know what would be the consequences man there and then. But he was of such neglect hereafter, in a plaingetting tamed very fast. Ay, he was spoken way peculiarly his own. already getting more than tamed; he “Gus! Gus ! don't say such things," was in a fair way to get broken-hearted said Lady Hainault.

“I will not see her to-night, sir," he “The hymn-book says 80, Aunt,” said Gus, triumphantly; and he quoted in society, he feared. Here was somea charming little verse of Dr. Watts's, body else; they would change the beginning, “There is a dreadful Hell.” subject.

Lady Hainault might have been Lord Saltire. They were so glad to puzzled what to say, and Mary would see him. Every one's face had a kind not have helped her, for they had had smile on it as the old man came and sat an argument “anent” that same hymn. down among them. His own smile was book (Mary contending that one or two not the least pleasant of the lot, I of the hymns were as well left alone at warrant you. first), when Flora struck in and saved “So you are talking about poor Ascot, her aunt, by remarking,

eh ?” he said. “I don't know whether “I shall save up my money and buy you were or not; but, if you were, let us some jewels for Mary like mamma's, so talk about something else. You see, my that when she stays down to dinner dear Miss Corby, that my prophecy to some of the men may fall in love with you on the terrace at Ravenshoe is falsiher, and marry her.”

fied. I said they would not fight, and lo, “Pooh! you silly goose," said Gus, they are as good as at it.” “those jewels cost sixty million thousand They talked about the coming war, pounds a-piece. I don't want her to be and Lord Hainault came in and joined married till I grow up, and then I shall them. Soon after another guest was marry her myself. Till then I shall announced. buy her a yellow wig, like grandma's, Lady Ascot. She was dressed in dark and then nobody will want to marry grey silk, with her white hair simply her.”

parted under a plain lace cap. She “Be quiet, Gus," said Lady Hainault. looked so calm, so brave, so kind, 80

It was one thing to say “be quiet, beautiful, as she came with firm strong Gus," and it was another thing to make step in at the door, that they one and him hold his tongue. But, to do Gus all rose and came towards her. She justice, he was a good fellow, and never had always been loved by them all; acted “enfant terriblebut to the most how much more deeply was she loved select and private audience. Now he had now, when her bitter troubles had made begun : “I wish some one would marry her doubly sacred. Grandma,” when the door was thrown Lord Saltire gave her his arm, and open, the first guest was announced, and she came and sat down among them Gus was dumb.

with her hands calmly folded before her. “General Mainwaring.” The general “I was determined to come and see sat down between Lady Hainault and you to-night, my dear," she said. “I Mary, and, while talking to them, reached should break down if I couldn't see out his broad brown hand and lifted the some that I loved. And to-night, in youngest boy on his knee, who played particular” (she looked earnestly at with his ribands, and cried out that he Lord Saltire). “Is he come vet?" would have the orange and blue one, if “Not yet, dear grandma," said Mary. he pleased ; while Gus and Flora came “No one is coming besides, I suppose ?" and stood at his knee.

asked Lady Ascot. He talked to them both sadly in a low “No one; we are waiting for him." voice about the ruin which had come The door was opened once more, and on Lord Ascot. There was worse than they all looked curiously round. This mere ruin, he feared. He feared there time the servant announced, perhaps in was disgrace. He had been with him a somewhat louder tone than usual, as that morning. He was a wreck. One if he were aware that they were more side of his face was sadly pulled down, interested, and he stammered in his speech. He “Mr. Ravenshoe.” would get over it. He was only three- A well-dressed, gentlemanly-looking and-forty. But he would not show again man came into the room, bearing such

« ElőzőTovább »