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which was just begioning to show a faint train you are coming down by.” She was tinge of color. "He's a bad 'un to shy, silent for a minute, then suddenly she he is,” Lucas went on, “and he's not par- seemed to fiod courage. ticular what it's at, wheelbarrows, and um. “I shall leave London by the 4.30 brellas, and perambulators, and covered train,” she said. “It is due at Witley at carts, and tramps - he don't like tramps, twenty minutes to six, and I shall expect he don't - and bicycles and children if to find you there." She walked into the there's a few of 'em together, and bits of station with almost a hunted look. paper on the road – he's ready to be She managed to get into an empty car. afraid of anything. There's Tom Mitch. riage, shut the door and stood up by the ell coming along with ihe letters — would window, winking sternly at the passengers you like to stop?
who in passing hesitated whether or not “I do not expect any, but I may as well to enter. As the train moved off she shut put the question to him," the old lady said the window and sitting down with a sigh very distantly, for she was of opinion that stared out at the fir woods, and the pictur. Lucas talked too much for his station. esque Surrey cottages. She did not see But he was not to be abashed easily. them, she saw nothing and heard nothing
“ Them beeches is coming on,” he said. but the rattle of the train that gradually Aunt Anne looked up but made no answer. shaped itself into the word Liphook
Everything is so late this year on Liphook — Liphook — till she was madaccount of the cold. Tom, have you got dened. “It might have been some one any letters for Mrs. Wimple at the Cot- writing to importune him for money," she
said, thinking of the letter. But if the “ There's one I know, with a foreign difficulty at Liphook were only debt she postmark; the man stopped and took a felt certain that Alfred Wimple would not packet out of the leather wallet by his have spared her the annoyance of knowing side.
it. It was a mystery of which her indom. Aunt Anne, leaning over the cart, saw, itable pride refused' her the suggestion of as he pulled out the letter with the French one solution, which yet seemed gradually stamps on it for her, that there was another and from without to be getting burnt upon beneath directed in an illiterate-looking her brain. A despair that was half dread hand to " A. Wimple, Esq.," and that it was taking possession of ber. A des. had the Liphook postmark. Her eyes perate knowledge was bearing down upon flashed, she could hardly make her voice her, that the only chance she had of keepsteady as she said:
ing the man to whom she had bound her“I see you have one there for Mr. Wim: self was by giving him money. He was ple, you will find him at the Cottage." evidently at his wits' end for it, and had Then she drove on. She looked at her no resource of his own, and whatever was own letter a little bewildered. ** It is not the attraction at Liphook it did not seem from Walter or Florence,” she said, “yet to include money. Her one chance was I know the handwriting,” and gazed va- to give it him, and to let him see that she cantly at the hedges again, while Peter the would not fail to give it him, then perhaps pony, urged by arguments from the whip, he would stay with her. She siretched went on more swiftly towards the station. out her arms for a moment as if she were Lucas's remarks fell unheeded on her drowning, and trying to save herself by ears. Something was tightening round holding on to him, but she stretched them her heart that made her cheeks burn with only into space, and clutched nothing. a fire they had not felt for long years past. Perhaps he thinks because I am old I
“I think we'll have more rain, them cannot love properly. Oh, my dear one, clouds over there seem like it," the man if you would only speak to me out of your said, wondering why she was so silent, for heart, or if you could only look into my she generally liked a chat with him. heart — for that is not old, it is young. “ Maybe she wanted to drive him herself,” Age makes no difference if he did but he thought; “I forgot to offer her the know it, I feel the same as when I was reins, and it's no good changing now we twenty, and we walked between the chest. are so near the station. The train's sig. nuts to the farm. It is only the years that nalled,” he said, as they pulled up; " but have marked me.” And then anger and you are in plenty of time.”
pride chased away her misery and tender. “I calculated that I should have suffi- ness. “I will have it settled," she said, cient,” she answered.
“I will know what it means; and if he “Would you like me to meet you this has not treated me properly, he shall be afternoon? I will, if you tell me what I called to account. If Walter and Florence were only in England I should not be in “I am afraid," — the servant began this sad dilemma.” The mention of their again. names made her remember the letter in " And say I wish to see him on a matter her pocket. She pulled it out and opened of great importance,” she went on imperi. it; it was the one Mrs. North had written ously, not heeding the interruption. She from Marseille. At another time she walked towards the dining-room door, as would have liked the congratulations, or if she had a right to the entire house, but have been indignant at the divorce. Now suddenly turned round. she passed the news by with little more “ I feel certain Sir William will see than a scorpful wink. " It is most pre- me,” she said, “and I will follow you up. sumptuous of her to have written to me, stairs." Helplessly the servant obeyed she has taken a great liberty, she has com- her, and unfalteringly the soft footsteps mitted a solecism,” she said almost me- pattered after him up to the second floor. chanically. As she put the letter back There he entered the front bedroom, while into her pocket her hand touched some she remained on the landing. thing she did not remember to have placed “ Mrs. Baines wishes to know if she there. She looked puzzled for a moment, can speak to you, sir," she heard him say. then drew it out. It was a little necktie • Tell her I am too ill to see any one,” of Alfred Wimple's, blue with white spots a thin, distinct voice answered. on it. She understood - it was soiled “She says it is a matter of extreme imand frayed ; she had put it into her pocket portance, sir.” to mend. She looked at it wonderingly “I am writing letters and don't wish to for a moment, then kissed it with a vehe- be disturbed ; bring my chicken-broth in mence that was almost passion.
twenty minutes." " He thinks I cannot love," she said ; But a moment later, and Aunt Anne “I am convinced that is it. If he did but had whisked also into the room, passing know - if he did but know."
the servant who was leaving it. The servant who opened the door at “ William," she said, “you must not Portman Square instantly recognized her, refuse to let me see you once again. I and was disposed to treat her with more cannot believe that you are too ill to shake respect than on a former occasion.
hands with your cousin Anne.” As she "Mr. Boughton is not here, ma'am," he spoke she looked round the room, and said, in answer to her inquiry.
took in all its details at a glance. It had “Would you give me the address of his three windows, a writing-table and bookoffice ?"
case between them, a big four-post bed“I can give you the address, but he is stead with dark hangings facing them. away in Scotland, and not expected back To the left was a tall wardrobe of rosefor another fortnight." Aunt Anne stood / wood that had no looking-glass let into its dumbfounded for a moment, then slowly panelled doors. By the fireplace was a she looked up at the servant with a little roomy easy-chair in which sat Sir William smile that had its effect.
Rammage. He was dressed in a puce " It is very unfortunate,” she said, woollen dressing-gown, and half rolled up my business with him is most pressing. in a colored blanket. By his side was an Have you good accounts of Sir William ?" invalid-table with writing-materials on it,
“Sir William is back, ma'am. He re- and a flap at the side that stretched over turned last week, but he is confined to his his knees. In the large fireplace blazed a room, with another attack.”
cheersul fire, and on the other side of the “Does he keep his bed ?"
fireplace, and facing Sir William, there “Well, he is sitting by the fire just was a second easy-chair. He himself apnow, ma'am, writing some letters.” In a peared to be a tall man, thin, nervous moment Aunt Anne had whisked into the and irritable. His manner was cold and house ; she felt quite exhilarated.
disagreeable, but it conveyed a sense of “ Be good enough to take my name to loneliness, a remembrance of long, cheerhim, and ask if he is sufficiently well to see less years that in a manner excused it. his cousin, Mrs. – Mrs. Baines ” - she He looked like a man who had probably hesitated over the last word — “say that deserved respect, but had made few I am extremely solicitous to have a few friendships. He was not nearly as old as minutes' conversation with him."
he seemed at the first glance; illness, and “I am afraid he won't be able to see work, and lack of human interests, had you,” – the servant began.
aged him more than actual years. “ Have the goodness to take up my “ How do you do?” he said dryly. oame."
"I have been so grieved to hear of
your illness, William. I hope you re- “What country house are you staying ceived my letters, I wrote three or four in?" he asked. times to tender you my sympathy." She " Walter and Florence Hibbert's. It is looked at the servantio a manner that said, a cottage most charmingly situated in “Go away,” and he went, carefully shut- Surrey." ting the door.
" I suppose it costs you nothing to stay "I am not well enough to receive visit there?" ors," Sir William said, in the same “ They have been most kind. But they voice.
are now abroad, and naturally I have ap“My dear William, you must let me pearances to maintain and the necessities stay with you five minutes. I will not of the table to provide." intrude longer on your privacy,” and she “For whom? Only for yourself I supseated herself in the chair facing him. pose? You have not a large establish
“ If what you have to say is of a busi.ment." His thin fingers wandered beness nature, I am not well enough to enter Death the papers on the table as if they upon it now.”
were seeking for something. They found “ Did you derive benefit from your stay it, and drew it a little forward. Aunt at Cannes — you were constantly in my Anne, following the movement with her thoughts."
eyes, saw the corner of a cheque book “Thank you, thank you.”
peep out from beneath the blotting paper. "I fear you have had to abandon many “You have not a dozen servants ?” he of your city occupations,” she went on, in asked ironically. a sympathetic voice, “it must be a great “I have only one servant," she said, regret to the Corporation. I was speaking getting a little agitated. of your mayoralty some months ago to " And yourself? Mr. Fisher, the editor of the Centre." “ And some one who is with me," she Aunt Anne was talking to gain time. Her said. throat was choking, her mouth twitched “ And doesn't the some one who is with with restrained excitement.
you keep you, or do you keep her ? “Where did you meet him?" Sir Will and he pushed back the cheque book. liam asked in a judicial manner, tapping Aunt Anne was silent for a moment. " I the arm of his chair with his thin fingers. suppose it doesn't cost you anything to
“I met him at Walter Hibbert's." live. What do you want money for?”
He was silent and seemed to be waiting He put his hands on the arms of his chair for her to go. For a few moments she and looked at her. could not gather courage to speak again. William,” she said, “I cannot discuss He looked up at her.
all my expenditures, or enter into every “I am much obliged for this visit,” he detail of my household,” and there was as said coldly," but I cannot ask you to pro- much pride in her tone as she dared put long it
into it. “I came to ask you if you would “ William,” she said, “I came to see have the great kindness to advance the you on a matter of necessity, I would not quarter's allowance you are so kind as to have intruded had it been otherwise. On give me. It will be due the occasion of my last visit I saw Mr. " Quarter's allowance I give you? I Boughton, but I understand that he is don't understand. I told you some time now away."
ago that I was not in the habit of giving “He will be back in two or three weeks, away money. I believe you had some of you will then be able to see him." your own when you started in life, and if
She hesitated for a moment, and then you made away with it that is your own went on doubtfully, " I have been deeply business.” touched at your kindness."
“But William, I am speaking of the “ Yes?” he said inquiringly.
hundred a year you have allowed me lately " That it has been the greatest help to through Mr. Boughton.” me, I need hardly say; but I have had so He was fairly roused now, and turned many expenses this winter, it was inade his face full upon her. There were cruel, quate to meet them all.”
pitiless lines upon it, though she fought “I don't quite understand.” He was against them bravely. becoming interested.
“ I have allowed you no hundred a year," “There are three or four weeks yet be he said angrily, “and I intend to allow fore the next quarter is due. I am stay- you none. Do you mean to tell me that ing in a country house and the expenses'ı Boughton has paid you a hundred a year have to meet
on my account?”
"I understood so," Aunt Anne gasped, "Yes, married again, and that is why I shaking with fright.
implore you to help me, so that I may give " I suppose he had some reason for it. the young, tender life that is joined to If he has done it out of his own money, mine the comforts that are necessary to it is his own business. If he has done it him," she said, with supplicating misery. out of mine, I shall have a reckoning up “ Do you mean to say," and he looked with him, and probably you will have one at her as if he thought she was mad, too."
" that some young man has married you ? " " But William, have you been under the “ Yes," she answered in a low voice, impression that I was left to starve ?" "we have been married nearly six months.”
“I was under no impression at all con. " And has he got any money, or does he cerning you. Once for all, Anne, you do anything for a living?” must understand that it is not my inten. “ He is a most brilliant writer, and has tion to give away the money for which I given the greatest satisfaction to Mr. have worked to people who have been Fisher; but he has been ill, and he re. idle.”
quires country air, and nourishment, and “ I have not been idle,” she said, “and luxuries, and I implore you to help me to you forget that I am your cousin, that our preserve this young and beautiful life that mothers
has been confided to me.” “I know all that,” he said, interrupting • Is he a cripple or mad ? " her, "your people and you had your own She looked up in astonishment. way to make in life, and so had I and my “He is a fine, tall young man,” she people.”
said, with proud indignation ; “I should “But if you do not help me" — she not have married a cripple, William, and burst out, for she could bear it no longer I have already told you that he is a writer —“if
you do not help me, I shall starve.” on the Centre, though he is not able at “I really don't see what claim you have present to do his own talents justice.” upon me."
“So you have to keep him?" “ I am your cousin and I am old, and I “ He kept me when he had money; he shall starve," she repeated. • I must have gave me himself, and all he possessed in money to-day. If I don't take back money the world." this afternoon my heart will break.” “What did he marry you for?” Sir Again his fingers went for a moment in William asked, gazing at her in wooder the direction of the cheque book and tan- and almost clutching the arms of his talized her. She stood up and looked at chair. him entreatingly. “I am not speaking “ He married me" — her voice tremonly for myself,” she pleaded, “but for bled and she drooped her head again – another - and she broke down.
" he married me because — he loved me." “ For whom else are you speaking “ Loved you! What should he love you then?” he asked, withdrawing his fingers. for?”.
“For one who is very dear to me, and William, do you wish to insult me? who will starve too unless you help us. I do not see why he should not love me, William, I entreat you to remember – or why he should pretend to do so if he
“But who is this pauper you are help. did not.” ing, and why should I help her too ?” “And I suppose you love bim?” he
"It is not a pauper," she said indig. said, pulling the blanket farther up over nantly. “It is some one who is dearer his knees, and speaking in a scoroful, inthan all the world to me, and once more I credulous voice. entreat you to help us."
“ Yes, William, I do - I love him more “Well, but who is it?- is it a child ? " than all the world – and unless you will “ No," she answered in a low voice full help me so that I may give him those of infinite tenderness, and she clasped her things that he requires and make our little hands, and let her chin fall on her breast. home worthy of his residence in it you will " Who is it?"
break my heart. You will kill him, and “ It is my husband," and almost a sob you will break my heart,” she repeated broke from her.
passionately. “I will conceal nothing “ Your husband ? I thought he was from you, we are starving, we have not got dead."
a pound in the world. We have not even " Mr. Baines is dead, long ago; but food to eat. He is young and requires I have married again."
plenty of nourishment, he is not strong “ Married again!” he repeated, as if he and wants luxuries." could hardly believe his ears.
" And you want me to pay for them."
But she did not seem to hear him and not a month ago that his uncle told me of swept on :
some old woman, his landlady, forsooth, “He must have them or he will die. We who had been to him with a long bill bave spent every penny we had, I have “ It was for his professional chambers. even borrowed money on my possessions. A man in his position requires them." I can conceal things from strangers, but • Yes, and he'd been sponging on the you and I belong to the same family, and woman's mother, too, in the country. what I say to you I know is sacred - we Were you with him?" are starving, William, we are starving, and “No, William, I was not," and suddenly I implore you to help me. He says he a load was lifted from Aunt Anne's heart. cannot stay unless I take back money The mystery of Liphook appeared to be that he will go and leave me.” Something solved, and Alfred Wimple's account of seemed to gather in her throat, there was his debts to be verified. A world of tendera ring of fright and despair in her voice as ness rushed back into her heart and gave she said the last words. “He will leave her strength and courage to fight her batme, and it will break my heart, for he is tle to the end. “No, I was not with him," all the world to me. It will break my she repeated, and as she looked up a smile, heart if he goes, and unless I take back a look of almost happiness was on her face, money he will leave me."
that made her cousin more wonderstruck “ And let you starve by yourself - a than ever. “ He required country air to nice man to marry!”
invigorate him, and our means would not “ William,” she said, “ he must remem. admit of ber what is due to himself. He cannot “ Boughton has been allowing you a stay if he has not even food to eat.” hundred a year,” said Sir William, "and
" And pray who is this gentleman?" this Wimple has married you," he went
" I have told you that he is a brilliant on, a light seeming to break upon him. writer."
“I am beginning to understand it. I pre" What is his name?"
sume he knows that you are my cousin." “I don't think I am justified in telling “Yes, I told him that you were - he you — he does not wish our marriage to be spoke of you with admiration," Aunt Anne known."
added, always more anxious to say some“I can quite understand that," Sir thing gratifying to her listener than to be William answered ironically. “ Did he tell strictly veracious. you to come to me for money?"
“I have no doubt he did. Pray when “Yes, he told me to do so,” she said did this fine love-making begin?" Sir tragically, "he knew your good heart.” William asked scornfully:
"Knew my good heart, did he?" There “ Nearly a year ago," Aunt Anne anwas a deadly pallor spreading over Sir swered in a faltering voice for she was William's face that frightened her. For a almost beaten in spite of the relief that moment his lips moved without making a had been given her a minute or two ago. sound, then he recovered his voice “And when did Boughton begin to allow “ Tell me his name, what is it?”
you this hundred a year?” “ William,” she began.
“ About the time of my marriage.”. “ What is it ?” he cried, and his breath “I perfectly understand. I'll tell you came short and quick.
the reason of your marriage and of his She was too scared to demur any longer. love for you in a moment.” With an
“It is Alfred Wimple," and her heart effort he stretched out his hand and stood still.
touched the bell. “ Charles," he said, He gazed at her for a moment in when the servant entered, “unlock my silence.
safe." “ Wimple," he said, “ what, Boughton's The man pulled back a curtain that had nephew? That skunk he had to turn out been drawn over a recess and disclosed of his office ?"
an iron door. “On the top of the shelf " He is Mr. Boughton's nephew ; and to the left you will see a blue envelope he left his uncle's office because the duties labelled last will and testament.' Give were too arduous for his health."
it to me,” Sir William said. " He left his uncle's office because he A scared look broke over Aunt Anne's was kicked out of it. Do you mean to face. tell me that you have married him — a "Lock the safe and go — no, stopman who never did a day's work in his give me some brandy first." life or paid a bill that he owed ; and as for The servant poured a little into a glass writing, I don't believe one word of it. It's from a bottle which stood on the writing.