right," said Lancelot, smiling at Sabina. " Come,
now, if he will not tell me, perhaps you will?"
Sabina only blushed, and laughed mysteriously.
"You surely are intimate with him, Claude?
When and where did you meet him first?"
" Seventeen years ago, on the barricades of the
three days, in the charming little pandemonium
called Paris, he picked me out of a gutter, a boy
of fifteen, with a musket-ball through my body;
mended me, and sent me to a painter's studio.
. . . The next stjour I had with him began in
sight of the Demawend. Sabina, perhaps you
might like to relate to Mr. Smith that interview,
and the circumstances under which you made
your first sketch of that magnificent and little-
known volcano? "
Sabina blushed again this time scarlet ; and,
to Lancelot's astonishment, pulled off her slipper,
and brandishing it daintily, uttered some unintelli-
gible threat, in an Oriental language, at the laugh-
"Why, you must have been in the East?"
"Why not! Do you think that figure and
that walk were picked up in stay-ridden, toe-
pinching England? . . . Ay, in the East; and
why not elsewhere? Do you think I got my
knowledge of the human figure from the live-
model in the Royal Academy ? "
" I certainly have always had my doubts of it.
You are the only man I know who can paint
muscle in motion."
"Because I am almost the only man in Eng-
land who has ever seen it. Artists should go to
the Cannibal Islands for that. . . . f ai fait le
grand tour. I should not wonder if the prophet
made you take it. "
" That would be very much as I chose. "
" Or otherwise. "
" What do you mean ? "
" That if he wills you to go, I defy you to stay.
"Well, you are a very mysterious pair, and
a very charming one."
" So we think ourselves as to the charming-
ness . . . and as for the mystery . . . 'Omnia
exeunt in mysterium^ says somebody, somewhere
or if he don't, ought to, seeing that it is so.
You will be a mystery some day, and a myth,
and a thousand years hence pious old ladies will
be pulling caps as to whether you were a saint or
a devil, and whether you did really work miracles
or not, as corroborations of your ex-supra-lunar
illumination on social questions. . . . Yes . . .
you will have to submit, and see Bogy, and enter
the Eleusinian mysteries. Eh, Sabina ? "
" My dear Claude, what between the Burgundy
and your usual foolishness, you seem very much
inclined to divulge the Eleusinian mysteries."
Deus ex Machinzl 293
"I can't well do that, my beauty, seeing that,
if you recollect, we were both turned back at the
vestibule, for a pair of naughty children as we
" Do be quiet ! and let me enjoy, for once, my
woman's right to the last word ! "
And in this hopeful state of mystification,
Lancelot went home, and dreamt of Argemone
His uncle would, and, indeed, as it seemed,
could, give him very little information on the
question which had so excited his curiosity. He
had met the man in India many years before, had
received there from him most important kind-
nesses, and considered him, from experience, of
oracular wisdom. He seemed to have an un-
limited command of money, though most frugal
in his private habits; visited England for a short
time every few years, and always under a differ-
ent appellation ; but as for his real name, habita-
tion, or business, here or at home, the good
banker knew nothing, except that whenever ques-
tioned on them, he wandered off into Panta-
gruelist jokes, and ended in Cloudland. So that
Lancelot was fain to give up his questions and
content himself with longing for the reappearance
of this inexplicable sage.
ONCE IN A WAY
A FEW mornings afterwards, Lancelot, as he
glanced his eye over the columns of the
Times, stopped short at the beloved name of
Whitford. To his disgust and disappointment,
it only occurred in one of those miserable cases,
now of weekly occurrence, of concealing the
birth of a child. He was turning from it, when
he saw Bracebridge's name. Another look suf-
ficed to show him that he ought to go at once to
the colonel, who had returned the day ^before
A few minutes brought him to his friend's
lodging, but the Times had arrived there before
him. Bracebridge was sitting over his untasted
breakfast, his face buried in his hands.
"Do not speak to me," he said, without look-
ing up. " It was right of you to come kind of
you ; but it is too late. "
He started, and looked wildly round him, as if
listening for some sound which he expected, and
then laid his head down on the table. Lancelot
turned to go.
"No do not leave me! Not alone, for God's
sake, not alone ! "
Lancelot sat down. There was a fearful alter-
ation in Bracebridge. His old keen self-confi-
dent look had vanished. He was haggard,
Once in a Way 295
life-weary, shame-stricken, almost abject. His
limbs looked quite shrunk and powerless, as he
rested his head on the table before him, and mur-
mured incoherently from time to time:
"My own child! And I never shall have
another! No second chance for those who
Oh Mary! Mary! you might have waited you
might have trusted me ! And why should you ?
ay, why, indeed? And such a pretty baby,
too ! just like his father ! "
Lancelot laid his hand kindly on his shoulder.
" My dearest Bracebridge, the evidence proves
that the child was born dead."
" They lie ! " he said, fiercely, starting up. " It
cried twice after it was born ! "
Lancelot stood horror-struck.
"I heard it last night, and the night before
that, and the night before that again, under my
pillow, shrieking stifling two little squeaks,
like a caught hare ; and I tore the pillows off it
I did ; and once I saw it, and it had beautiful
black eyes just like its father just like a
little miniature that used to lie on my mother's
table, when I knelt at her knee, before they sent
me out ' to see life, ' and Eton, and the army,
and Crockford's, and Newmarket, and fine gentle-
men, and fine ladies, and luxury, and flattery,
brought me to this! Oh, father! father! was
that the only way to make a gentleman of your
son? There it is again! Don't you hear it?
under the sofa-cushions ! Tear them off ! Curse
you ! Save it ! "
And, with a fearful oath, the wretched man
sent Lancelot staggering across the room, and
madly tore up the cushions.
A long postman's knock at the door. He sud-
denly rose up quite collected.
"The letter! I knew it would come. She
need not have written it : I know what is in it. "
The servant's step came up the stairs. Poor
Bracebridge turned to Lancelot with something
of his own stately determination.
"I must be alone when I receive this letter.
Stay here. " And with compressed lips and fixed
eyes he stalked out at the door, and shut it.
Lancelot heard him stop; then the servant's
footsteps down the stairs; then the colonel's
treading, slowly and heavily, went step by step
up to the room above. He shut that door too. A
dead silence followed. Lancelot stood in fearful
suspense, and held his breath to listen. Per-
haps he had fainted? No, for then he would
have heard a fall. Perhaps he had fallen on the
bed ? He would go and see. No, he would wait
a little longer. Perhaps he was praying? He
had told Lancelot to pray once he dared not
interrupt him now. A slight stir a noise as of
an opening box. Thank God, he was, at least,
alive ! Nonsense ! Why should he not be alive?
What could happen to him? And yet he knew
that something was going to happen. The
silence was ominous unbearable; the air of the
room felt heavy and stifling, as if a thunderstorm
were about to burst. He longed to hear the
man raging and stamping. And yet he could not
connect the thought of one so gay and full of
gallant life, with the terrible dread that was
creeping over him with the terrible scene which
he had just witnessed. It must be all a temporary
excitement a mistake a hideous dream, which
Once in a Way 297
the next post would sweep away. He would go
and tell him so. No, he could not stir. His
limbs seemed leaden, his feet felt rooted to the
ground, as in long nightmare. And still the
intolerable silence brooded overhead.
What broke it ? A dull, stifled report, as of a
pistol fired against the ground ; a heavy fall ; and
again the silence of death.
He rushed upstairs. A corpse lay on its face
upon the floor, and from among its hair, a crimson
thread crept slowly across the carpet. It was all
over. He bent over the head, but one look was
sufficient. He did not try to lift it up.
On the table lay the fatal letter. Lancelot
knew that he had a right to read it. It was
scrawled, mis-spelt but there were no tear-
blots on the paper:
" SIR I am in prison and where are you ? Cruel
man ! Where were you all those miserable weeks, while
I was coming nearer and nearer to my shame ? Murder-
ing dumb beasts in foreign lands. You have murdered
more than them. How I loved you once ! How I hate
you now ! But I have my revenge. Your baby cried
twice after it was bom!"
Lancelot tore the letter into a hundred pieces,
and swallowed them, for every foot in the house
was on the stairs.
So there was terror, and confusion, and running
in and out: but there were no wet eyes there
except those of Bracebridge's groom, who threw
himself on the body, and. would not stir. And
then there was a coroner's inquest; and it came
out in the evidence how " the deceased had been
for several days very much depressed, and had
N Vol. V
talked of voices and apparitions ; " whereat the
jury as twelve honest, good-natured Christians
were bound to do returned a verdict of tempo-
rary insanity; and in a week more the penny-a-
liners grew tired; and the world, too, who never
expects anything, not even French revolutions,
grew tired also of repeating, " Dear me ! who
would have expected it?" and having filled up
the colonel's place, swaggered on as usual, arm-
in-arm with the flesh and the devil.
Bracebridge's death had, of course, a great
effect on Lancelot's spirit. Not in the way of
warning, though such events seldom act in that
way, on the highest as well as on the lowest
minds. After all, your "Rakes' Progresses,"
and "Atheists' Deathbeds," do no more good
than noble George Cruikshank's " Bottle " will,
because every one knows that they are the excep-
tion, and not the rule ; that the Atheist generally
dies with a conscience as comfortably callous as
a rhinoceros-hide; and the rake, when old age
stops his power of sinning, becomes generally
rather more respectable than his neighbors. The
New Testament deals very little in appeals ad
terrorem; and it would be well if some, who fancy
that they follow it, would do the same, and by
abstaining from making "hell-fire" the chief
incentive of virtue, cease from tempting many a
poor fellow to enlist on the devil's side the only
manly feeling he has left personal courage.
But yet Lancelot was affected. And when,
on the night of the colonel's funeral, he opened,
at hazard, Argemone's Bible, and his eyes fell
on the passage which tells how "one shall be
taken and another left," great honest tears of
Once in a Way 299
gratitude dropped upon the page ; and he fell on
his knees, and in bitter self-reproach thanked the
new found Upper Powers, who, as he began to
hope, were leading him not in vain, that he had
yet a life before him wherein to play the man.
And now he felt that the last link was broken
between him and all his late frivolous com-
panions. All had deserted him in his ruin but
this one and he was silent in the grave. And
now, from the world and all its toys and revelry,
he was parted once and forever; and he stood
alone in the desert, like the last Arab of a
plague-stricken tribe, looking over the wreck of
ancient cities, across barren sands where far
rivers gleamed in the distance, that seemed to
beckon him away into other climes, other hopes,
other duties. Old things had passed away
when would all things become new?
Not yet, Lancelot. Thou hast still one selfish
hope, one dream of bliss, however impossible, yet
still cherished. Thou art a changed man but
for whose sake? For Argemone's. Is she to be
thy god, then ? Art thou to live for her, or for
the sake of One greater than she? All thine
idols are broken swiftly the desert sands are
drifting over them, and covering them in. All
but one must that, too, be taken from thee ?
One morning a letter was put into Lancelot's
hands, bearing the Whitford postmark. Trem-
blingly he tore it open. It contained a few pas-
sionate words from Honoria. Argemone was
dying of typhus fever, and entreating to see him
once again; and Honoria had, with some diffi-
culty, as she hinted, obtained leave from her
parents to send for him. His last bank note
carried him down to Whitford; and, calm and
determined, as one who feels that he has nothing
more to lose on earth, and whose torment must
henceforth become his element, he entered the
Priory that evening.
He hardly spoke or looked at a soul; he felt
that he was there on an errand which none under-
stood; that he was moving towards Argemone
through a spiritual world, in which he and she
were alone; that in his utter poverty and hope-
lessness he stood above all the luxury, even above
all the sorrow, around him ; that she belonged to
him, and to him alone; and the broken-hearted
beggar followed the weeping Honoria towards his
lady's chamber, with the step and bearing of a
lord. He was wrong; there were pride and
fierceness enough in his heart, mingled with that
sense of nothingness of rank, money, chance and
change, yea, death itself, of all but Love;
mingled even with that intense belief that his
sorrows were but his just deserts, which now
possessed all his soul. And in after years he
knew that he was wrong; but so he felt at the
time ; and even then the strength was not all of
earth which bore him manlike through that
He entered the room ; the darkness, the silence,
the cool scent of vinegar, struck a shudder
through him. The squire was sitting half idiotic
and helpless, in his arm-chair. His face lighted
up as Lancelot entered, and he tried to hold out
his palsied hand. Lancelot did not see him.
Mrs. Lavington moved proudly and primly back
from the bed, with a face that seemed to say
through its tears, " I at least am responsible for
Once in a Way 301
nothing that occurs from this interview. " Lance-
lot did not see her, either : he walked straight up
towards the bed as if he were treading on his own
ground. His heart was between his lips, and yet
his whole soul felt as dry and hard as some burnt-
A faint voice oh, how faint, how changed!
called him from within the closed curtains.
"He is there! I know it is he! Lancelot!
Silently still he drew aside the curtain; the
light fell full upon her face. What a sight!
Her beautiful hair cut close, a ghastly white
handkerchief round her head, those bright eyes
sunk and lustreless, those ripe lips baked and
black and drawn ; her thin hand fingering uneasily
the coverlid. It was too much for him. He
shuddered and turned his face away. Quick-
sighted that love is, even to the last! slight as
the gesture was, she saw it in an instant.
" You are not afraid of infection ? " she said
faintly. "I was not."
Lancelot laughed aloud, as men will at strangest
moments, sprung towards her with open arms,
and threw himself on his knees beside the bed.
With sudden strength she rose upright, and
clasped him in her arms.
"Once more!" she sighed, in a whisper to
herself, " Once more on earth ! " And the room,
and the spectators, and disease itself faded from
around them like vain dreams, as she nestled
closer and closer to him, and gazed into his eyes,
and passed her shrunken hand over his cheeks,
and toyed with his hair, and seemed to drink in
magnetic life from his embrace.
No one spoke or stirred. They felt that an
awful and blessed spirit overshadowed the lovers,
and were hushed, as if in the sanctuary of God.
Suddenly again she raised her head from his
bosom, and in a tone in which her old queenliness
mingled strangely with the saddest tenderness :
"All of you go away now; I must talk to my
They went, leading out the squire, who cast
puzzled glances toward the pair, and murmured
to himself that "she was sure to get well now
Smith was come : everything went right when he
was in the way."
So they were left alone.
" I do not look so very ugly, my darling, do I ?
Not so very ugly? though they have cut off all
my poor hair, and I told them so often not ! But
I kept a lock for you ; " and feebly she drew from
under the pillow a long auburn tress, and tried
to wreathe it round his neck, but could not, and
Poor fellow! he could bear no more. He hid
his face in his hands, and burst into a long low
"I am very thirsty, darling; reach me
No, I will drink no more, except from your dear
He lifted up his head, and breathed his whole
soul upon her lips; his tears fell on her closed
" Weeping ? No. You must not cry. See
how comfortable I am. They are all so kind
soft bed, cool room, fresh air, sweet drinks, sweet
scents. Oh, so different from that room!"
" What room ? my own ! "
Once in a Way 303
"Listen, and I will tell you. Sit down put
your arm under my head so. When I am on
your bosom I feel so strong. God! let me last
to tell him all. It was for that I sent for him."
And then, in broken words, she told him how
she had gone up to the fever patient at Ashy, on
the fatal night on which Lancelot had last seen
her. Shuddering, she hinted at the horrible filth
and misery she had seen, at the foul scents which
had sickened her. A madness of remorse, she
said, had seized her. She had gone, in spite of
her disgust, to several houses which she found
open. There were worse cottages there than
even her father's; some tradesmen in a neighbor-
ing town had been allowed to run up a set of rack
rent hovels. Another shudder seized her when
she spoke of them; and from that point in her
story all was fitful, broken, like the images of a
hideous dream. " Every instant those foul mem-
ories were defiling her nostrils. A horrible
loathing had taken possession of her, recurring
from time to time, till it ended in delirium and
fever. A scent-fiend was haunting her night and
day," she said. "And now the curse of the
Lavingtons had truly come upon her. To perish
by the people whom they made. Their neglect,
cupidity, oppression, are avenged on me! Why
not? Have I not wantoned in down and per-
fumes, while they, by whose labor my luxuries
were bought, were pining among scents and
sounds, one day of which would have driven me
mad! And then they wonder why men turn
Chartists! There are those horrible scents
again ! Save me from them ! Lancelot darling !
Take me to the fresh air ! I choke ! I am fester-
ing away ! The Nun-pool ! Take all the water,
every drop, and wash Ashy clean again! Make
a great fountain in it beautiful marble to
bubble and gurgle, and trickle and foam, for ever
and ever, and wash away the sins of the Laving-
tons, that the little rosy children may play round
it, and the poor toil-bent woman may wash and
wash and drink Water ! water ! I am dying
He gave her water, and then she lay back and
babbled about the Nun-pool sweeping "all the
houses of Ashy into one beautiful palace, among
great flower-gardens, where the school children
will sit and sing such merry hymns, and never
struggle with great pails of water up the hill of
Ashy any more."
"You will do it! darling! Strong, wise,
noble-hearted that you are ! Why do you look at
me? You will be rich some day. You will own
land, for you are worthy to own it. Oh that I
could give you Whitford ! No ! It was mine
too long therefore I die ! because I Lord
Jesus! have I not repented of my sin?"
Then she grew calm once more. A soft smile
crept over her face, as it grew sharper and paler
every moment. Faintly she sank back on the
pillows, and faintly whispered to him to kneel
and pray. He obeyed her mechanically. . . .
" No not for me, for them for them, and for
yourself that yon may save them whom I never
dreamt that I was bound to save."
And he knelt and prayed . . . what, he alone
and those who heard his prayer, can tell. . . .
Once in a Way 305
When he lifted up his head at last, he saw that
Argemone lay motionless. For a moment he
thought she was dead, and frantically sprang to
the bell. The family rushed in with the physi-
cian. She gave some faint token of life, but none
of consciousness. The doctor sighed, and said
that her end was near. Lancelot had known that
"I think, sir, you had better leave the room,"
said Mrs. Lavington; and followed him into the
What she was about to say remained unspoken ;
for Lancelot seized her hand in spite of her, with
frantic thanks for having allowed him this one
interview, and entreaties that he might see her
again, if but for one moment.
Mrs. Lavington, somewhat more softly than
usual, said, "That the result of this visit had
not been such as to make a second desirable
that she had no wish to disturb her daughter's
mind at such a moment with earthly regrets."
" Earthly regrets ! " How little she knew what
had passed there ! But if she had known, would
she have been one whit softened ? For, indeed,
Argemone' s spirituality was not in her mother's
language. And yet the good woman had prayed,
and prayed, and wept bitter tears, by her daughter's
bedside, day after day; but she had never heard
her pronounce the talisman ic formula of words,
necessary in her eyes to ensure salvation; and
so she was almost without hope for her. Oh,
Bigotry! Devil, who turnest God's love into
man's curse! are not human hearts hard and
blind enough of themselves, without thy cursed
For one moment a storm of unutterable pride
and rage convulsed Lancelot the next instant
love conquered; and the strong proud man threw
himself on his knees at the feet of the woman he
despised, and with wild sobs entreated for one
moment more one only!
At that instant a shriek from Honor ia resounded
from the sick-chamber. Lancelot knew what it
meant, and sprang up, as men do when shot
through the heart In a moment he was himself
again. A new life had begun for him alone.
"You will not need to grant my prayer,
madam," he said calmly: " Argemone is dead."
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
LET us pass over the period of dull, stupefied
misery that followed, when Lancelot had
returned to his lonely lodging, and the excitement
of his feelings had died away. It is impossible to
describe that which could not be separated into
parts, in which there was no foreground, no dis-
tance, but only one dead, black, colorless present.
After a time, however, he began to find that
fancies, almost ridiculously trivial, arrested and
absorbed his attention; even as when our eyes
have become accustomed to darkness, every light-
colored mote shows luminous against the void
blackness of night. So we are tempted to un-
seemly frivolity in churches, and at funerals, and
all most solemn moments ; and so Lancelot found
his imagination fluttering back, half amused, to
every smallest circumstance of the last few weeks,
as objects of mere curiosity, and found with
astonishment that they had lost their power of
paining him. Just as victims on the rack have
fallen, it is said, by length of torture, into insensi-
bility, and even calm repose, his brain had been
wrought until all feeling was benumbed. He
began to think what an interesting autobiography
his life might make ; and the events of the last few
years began to arrange themselves in a most
attractive dramatic form. He began even to work
out a scene or two, and where " motives" seemed
wanting, to invent them here and there. He sat
thus for hours silent over his fire, playing with his
old self, as though it were a thing which did not
belong to him a suit of clothes which he had
put off, and which,
" For that it was too rich to hang by the wall,
It must be ripped,"
and then pieced and dizened out afresh as a
toy. And then again he started away from his
own thoughts, at finding himself on the edge of that
very gulf, which, as Mellot had lately told him,
Barnakill denounced as the true hell of genius,
where Art is regarded as an end and not a means,