speaking privately with Eleanor.
" I want to ask your opinion about something. It's a
question I am obliged to decide now I am going back to
Eleanor smiled inquiringly. She was not a little curious
to have a glimpse into her cousin's mind just now.
" You remember," pursued Miriam, leaning forward on a
table by which she sat, and ])laying with a twisted piece of
paper, " that I once had the silly desire to build a chapel at
She reddened in hearing the words upon her own lips â€” so
strange a sound th';'y had after all this time.
338 ' THE EMANCIPATED.
" I remember you talked of doing so," replied Eleanor,
mtli lier usual quiet good-nature,
" Unfortunately, I did more than talk about it. I made a
distinct promise to certain people gravely interested. The
prom'se was registered in a Bartles newspaper. And you
know that I went so far as to have my plans made."
" Do you feel bound by this promise, my dear ? "
Miriam propped her cheek on one hand, and with the
other kept rolling the piece of paper on the table.
" Tes," she answered, " I can't help thinking that I ought
to keep my word. How does it strike you, Eleanor ? "
" I am not quite clear how you regard the matter. Are
you speaking of the promise only as a promise ? "
It was no use. Miriam could not tell the truth; she
could not confess her position. At once a smile trembled
scornfully upon her lips.
" What else could I mean ? "
" Then it seems to me that the obligation has passed away
with the circumstances that occasioned it."
Miriam kept her eyes on the table, and for a few moments
seemed to reflect.
" A promise is a promise, Eleanor."
" So it is. And a fact is a fact. I take it for granted that
you are no longer the person who made the promise. I have
a faint recollection that when I was about eight years old, I
pledged myself, on reaching maturity, to give my nurse the
exact half of my worldly possessions. I don't feel the least
ashamed of having made such a promise, and just as little
of not having kept it."
Miriam smiled, but still had an unconvinced face.
" I was not eight years old," she said, " but about four-
" Then let us put it in this way. Do you still feel a desire
to benefit that religious community in Bartles ? Would it
disti-ess you to thiak that they shook their heads in mention-
ing your name ? "
" I do feel rather in that way," Miriam admitted slowly.
" But is this enough to justify you in giving them half or
more of all you possess ? You spoke of pulling down
Eedbeck House, and building on the site, didn't you ? "
" In any case, should you ever live there again ? "
" You prefer to be with us in London ? "
" I think you have been troubled with me quite long
enough. Perhaps I might take rooms."
" If you are as willing to share our house as we are to
have you with us, there can be no need for you to live
" I can't make up my mind about that, Eleanor. Let us
talk only about the chapel just now. Are you sure that
other people would see it as you do ?"
" Other people of my way of thinking would no doubt
think the same â€” which is a pretty piece of tautology.
Edward would be amazed to hear that you have such
scruples. It isn't as if you had promised to support a
family in dire need, or anything of that kind. The chapel is
" Not to them."
" They have one already."
" But very small and inconvenient."
" Suppose you ask Mr. IMallard for his thoughts on the
feubject ? " said Eleanor, as if at the bidding of a cai)rice.
" Docs Mr. Mallard know that I once had this purpose ? "
" I think so," replied the other, with a little hesitation.
" You know that there was no kind of reserve about it when
you first came to Naples."
"No, of course not. Do you feel as sure of his opinion
as of Edward's ? "
"I can't say that I do. There's no foreseeing his judg-
ment about anything. As you arc such good friends, why
not cor suit him ? "
340 THE EMANCIPATED.
" Our friendship doesn't go so far as that."
" And after all, I do n't see what use other people's
opinions can be to you," said Eleanor, waiving the point.
"It's a matter of sentiment. Strict obligation you see, of
course, that there is none whatever. K it would please you
to use a large sum of money in this way, you have a perfect
right to do so. But, by-the-bye, oughtn't you to make the
Bartles people clearly understand who it is that builds their
chapel ? "
" Surely there is no need of that ? "
" I think so. The scruple, in my case, would be far more
on this side than on the other."
Miriam did not care to pursue the conversation. The one
result of it was that she had an added uncertainty. She
had thought that her proposal to fulfil the promise would at
least earn the respect which is due to stern conscientious-
ness ; but Eleanor clearly regarded it as matter for the
smile one bestows on good-natured folly. Her questions
even showed that she was at first in doubt as to the motives
which had revived this project â€” a doubt galling to Miriam,
because of its justification. She said, in going away :
" Please to consider that this was in confidence, Eleanor."
Confidence of a barren kind. It was the same now as
it had ever been ; she had no one with whom she could com-
municate her secrets, no friend in the nearer sense. On
this loneliness she threw the blame of those faults which
she painfully recognized in herself â€” her frequent insincerity,
her speeches and silences calculated for effect, her pride
based on disingenuousness. If she could but have disclosed
her heart in the humility of love and trust, how would its
aching have been eased !
For a long time she had been absorbed, or nearly so, in
studying and observing ; but Mallard's inquiry whether she
found this sufficient touched the source whence trouble was
again arising for her. Three years ago it did not cost her
much to subdue a desire which had hopelessness for its
birthright ; the revival of this desire now united itself with
disquietudes of the maturing intellect, and she looked for-
ward in dread to a continuation of her loneliness. Some
change in her life there must be. Sudden hope had in a
day or two brought to full growth the causes of imrest
which would otherwise have developed slowly.
It seemed to be her fate to live in pretences. As the
mistress of Eedbeck House, and the light of dissenting
piety in Bartles, she knew herself for less than she wished
to appear to others ; not a hypocrite, indeed, but a pre-
tender to extraordinary zeal, and at the same time a flagrant
instance of spiritual pride. Now she was guilty of like
simulation directed to a contrary end. In truth neither
bond nor free, she could not suffer herself to seem less
liberal-minded than those with whom she associated. And
yet her soul was weary of untruth. The one need of her
life was to taste the happiness of submission to a stronger
than herself. Religious devotion is the resource of women
in general who suffer thus and are denied the natural
solace ; but for Miriam it was impossible. Her temperament
was not devout, and, however persistent the visitiugs of
uneasy conscience, she had no longer the power of making
her old beliefs a reality. The abstract would not avail
her ; philosophic comforts had as little to say to her as the
Churches' creeds. Only by a strong human hand could she
be raised from her unworthy position and led into the way
She had counted on having another morning with Mallard
before Cecily's arrival. Disappointed in this hope, she
invented a variety of tormenting reasons for Mallard's
behaviour. As there was a chance of his calling at Ihe
hotel, she stayed in all day. But he did not come. The
next afternoon Mrs. Lessingham and her ( ompanion reached
It was known that Cecily's health had suffered from her
342 THE EMTINCIPATED.
watchiugs by tlie sick child, and from lier grief at its
death ; so no one was surprised at finding her rather thin-
faced. She had a warm greeting for her friends, and*
seemed happy to be with them again ; but the brightness of
the first hour was not sustained. Conversation cost her a
perceptible effort; she seldom talked freely of anything,
and generally with an unnatural weighing of her words, an
artificiality of thought and phrase, which was a great con-
trast to the spontaneousness of former times. When
Eleanor wanted her to speak about herself, she preferred to
tell of what she had lately read or heard or seen. That the
simple grace of the girl should be modified in the wife and
mother was of course to be expected, but Cecily looked
older than she ought to have done, and occasionally bore
herself with a little too much consciousness, as if she felt
the observation even of intimate friends something of a
Miriam, when she had made inquiries about her brother's
health, took little part in the general conversation, and it
was not till late in the evening that she spoke with Cecily
" May I come and sit with you for a few minutes ? "
Cecily asked, when Miriam was going to her bedroom.
â€¢ They were far less at ease with each other than when
their differences of opinion were a recognized obstacle to
intimacy. Cecily was uncertain how far her sister-in-law
had progressed from the old standpoint, and she saw in her
even an increase of the wonted reticence. On her own side
there was no longer a warm impulse of sisterly affection.
But her first words, when they were alone together, sounded
like an appeal for tender confidence.
" I do so wish you had seen my poor little boy ! "
"I wish I had been nearer," Miriam answered kindly.
*' It is very sad that you have suffered such a loss."
Cecily spoke of the child, and with simple feeling, which
made her mox'e like herself than hitherto.
" When a little thing dies at that age," she said presently,
' * it is only the mother's grief. The father cannot have much
interest in so young a child."
" But Reuben wrote veiy affectionately of Clarence in one
letter I had from him."
" Yes, but it is natural that he shouldn't feel the loss as I
do. A man has his business in life ; a woman, if she needn't
work for bread, has nothing to do but be glad or sorry for
what happens in her home."
" I shouldn't have thought you took that view of a
woman's life," said Miriam, after a silence, regarding the
other with uncertain eyes.
" ' Yiews ' have become rather a weariness to me,"
answered Cecily, smiling sadly. " Sorrow is sorrow to me
as much as to the woman who never questioned one of
society's beliefs ; it makes me despondent. No doubt I
ought to find all sorts of superior consolations. But I
don't and can't. A woman's natural lot is to care for
her husband and bring up children. Do you believe,
Miriam, that anything will ever take the place of these
occupations ? "
" I suppose not. But time will help you, and your in-
terests will come back again."
" True. On the other hand, it is equally true that I am
now seeing how little those interests really amount to. They
are pastime, if you like, but nothing more. Some women do
serious work, however ; I wish I could be one of them. To
them, perhaps, ' views ' are something real and helpful. But
never mind myself ; you were glad to hear that Keubeu is
working on ? "
" Very glad."
Cecily waited a little j then, watching the other's face,
" You know what he is writing ? "
" In a general way," Miriam answered, averting her eyes.
" Po you think he has made a wise choice ? "
344 THE EMANCIPATED.
" I dare say it is the subject on whicli he will write best,"
Cecily answered, smiling.
"I doubt whether he understands it sufficiently," said
Miriam, with balanced tone. " He has really nothing but
prejudice to go upon. There will be a great deal of mis-
representation in his book â€” if he ever finishes it."
" Yes, I am afraid that is true. But it may be useful,
after all. Here and there he will hit the mark."
Cecily was tentative. She saw Miriam's brows work
" Perhaps so," was the reply. " But I know quite well
that such a book would have been no use to me when I stood
in need of the kind of help you mean."
"To be sure ; it is for people who have already helped
themselves," said Cecily, in a jesting tone.
Miriam turned to another subject, and very soon said
good night. Eeflectiug on the conversation, she was
annoyed with herself for having been led by her familiar
weakness to admit that she had changed her way of thinking.
Certainly she had no intention of disguising the fact, but
this explicit confession had seemed to make her Cecily's
inferior ; she was like a school-girl claiming recognition of
The next morning Mallard called. He came into a room
where Mrs. Lessingham, Eleanor, and Miriam were waiting
for Cecily to join them, that all might go out together,
Miriam had never seen him behave with such ease of manner.
He was in good spirits, and talked with a facility most
unusual in him. Mrs. Lessingham said she would go and
see why Cecily delayed ; Eleanor also made an excuse for
leaving the room. But Miriam remained, standing by the
window and looking into the street; Mallard stood near her,
but did not speak. The silence lasted for a minute or two ;
then Cecily entered, and at once the artist greetel her with
warm friendhness. Miriam had turned, but did not regard
the pair directly ; her eye caught their reflection in 3, mirror,
and she watched them closely without seeming to do so.
Cecily had made her appearance with a face of pleased
anticipation ; she looked for the first moment with much
earnestness at her old friend, and when she sj)oke to him it
was with the unmistakable accent of emotion. Mallard was
gentle, reverent ; he held her hand a Httle longer than was
necessary, but his eyes quickly fell from her countenance.
" Your husband is well ? " he asked ia a full, steady
They seated themselves, and Miriam again turned to the
window. Cecily's voice made a jamng upon her ear; it was
so much sweeter and more youthful, so much more like the
voice of Cecily Doran, than when it addressed other people.
Mallard, too, continued in a soft, pleasant tone, quite
different from his usual speech ; Miriam thrilled with irrita-
tion as she heard him.
" They have told me of the picture you painted at Psestum.
When may Mrs. Lessingham and I come and see it ? "
" I haven't a place in which I could receive you. I'll bring
the thing here, whenever you like."
Miriam moved. She wished to leave the room, but could
not decide herself to do so. In the same moment Mallard
glanced round at her. She interpreted his look as one of
impatience, and at once said to Cecily :
" I think I'll change my mind, and write some letters this
morning. Perhaps you could persuade Mr. Mallard to take
my place for the drive."
" Oh ! " exclaimed Cecily, with a laugh, " I'm quite sure
Mr. Mallard has no desire to go to the English cemetery."
She added in explanation, to Mallard himself, " My aunt has
promised to visit a certain grave, and copy the inscrijjtior. for
a friend at Florence."
Whilst she was speaking, Mrs. Lessingham and Eleanor
returned. Mallard, rising, looked at Miriam with a singular
gmile ; then talked a little longer, and, with a promise to
come again, soon took his leave.
346 THE EMANCIPATED.
" Dou't disa^ppoint us," said Cecily to Miriam, in the most
" It was only that I felt we were making Mr. Mallard's
visit very short," answered Miriam, constrained by shame.
"He detests ceremony. You couldn't please him better
than by saying, ' Please don't hinder me now, but come when
I'm at leisure.' "
It was peculiarly distasteful to Miriam to have informa-
tion concerning the artist's character offered her by Cecily,
in spite of the playful tone. During the drive, she persuaded
herself that Cecily's improved spirits were entirely due to
the conversation with Mallard, and this stii-red fresh resent-
ment in her. She had foreseen the effect upon her own
feelings of the meeting which had just come about ; it was
extreme folly, but she could not control it.
The next day Mallard brought bis picture again to the
hotel, and spent nearly an hour with Mrs. Lessingham and
Cecily in their sitting-room. Miriam heard of this on her
return from a. solitary walk, and heard, moreover, that Mal-
lard had been showing his friends a number of little draw-
inars which he had never offered to let her or the Spences see.
In the afternoon she again went out by herself, and, whilst
looking into a shop-window in the Piazza di Spagna, became
aware of Mallard's face reflected in the glass. She drew
aside before looking round at him.
" Iha': is a clever piece of work," ho said, indicating a
water-colour in the window, and speaking as if they had
already been in conversation. He had not even made the
" I thought so," Miriam replied, very coldly, looking at
" Are you going home, Mrs. Baske ? "
" Tes. I only came out to buy something."
"I am just going to see the studio of an Italian to whom
Mr. Seaborne introduced me yesterday. It's in the Quattro-
Fontane. Would it interest you ? "
Thank you, Mr. Mallard ; I had rather not go this after-
He accepted the refusal with a courteous smile, raised his
hat in approved manner, and turned to cross the Piazza as
she went her way.
This evening they had a visit from Seaborne, who met
Mrs. Lessingham and Cecily for the first time. These ladies
were predisposed to like him, and before he leEt they did so
genuinely. In his pleasantly quiet way, he showed much
respectful admiration of Mrs. Elgar.
" Now, isn't there a resemblance to Mr. Mallard ? " asked
Eleanor, when the visitor was gone.
"Just â€” just a little," admitted Cecily, with fastidiousness
and an amused smile. " But Mr. Seaborne doesn't impress
me as so original, so strong."
" Oh, that he certainly isn't," said Spence. " But acuter,
and perhaps a finer feeling in several directions."
Miriam listened, and was tortured.
She had suffered all the evening from observing Cecily,
whose powers of conversation and charms of manner made
her bitterly envious. How far she herself was from this
ideal of the instructed and socially trained woman ! The
presence of a stranger had banished Cecily's despondent
mood, and put all her capacities in disj^lay. With a miser-
able sense of humiliation, Miriam comjiared her own insig-
nificant utterances and that bright, often brilliant, talk which
held the attention of every one. Beside Cecily, she was still
indeed nothing but a school-girl, who with much labour was
getting a smattering of common knowledge ; for, though
Cecily had no profound acquirements, the use she made cf
what she did know was always suggestive, intellectual,
What wonder that Mallard brought out his drawings to
show them to Cecily ? There would be nothing common-
place in her remarks and admiration.
She felt herself a paltry- pretender to those possibilities of
348 THE EMANCIPATED.
modern womanliood which were open to Cecily from her birth.
In the course of natural development, Cecily, whilst still a
girl, thi'ew for ever behind her all superstitions and harassing
doubts ; she was in the true sense " emancipated " â€” a word
Edward Spence was accustomed to use jestingly. And this
was Mallard's conception of the admirable in woman.
Cecily was seeing Eome for the first time, but she could
not enjoy it in the way natural to her. It was only at rare
moments that she fdt Eome. One of the most precious of
her life's anticij^ations was fading into memory, disjilaced
by a dull experience, numbered among disillusionings.
Not that what she beheld disappointed her, but that she was
not herself in beholding. Had she stayed here on her first
visit to Italy, on what a strong current of enthusiasm would
the hours and the days have borne her! What a light
would have glowed upon the Seven Hills, and how would
every vulgarity of the modern streets have been transformed
by her imagination ! But now she was in no haste to visit
the most sacred spots ; she was content to take each in its
turn, and her powers of attention soon flagged. It had
been the same in Florence. She felt herself reduced to a
lower level of existence than was native to her. Had she
lived her life â€” all that was worth calling life ?
Her chief solace was in the society of Mrs. Sj^ence.
Formerly she had not been prepared for appreciating
Eleanor, but now she felt the beauties of that calm, self-
reliant character, rich in a mode of happiness which it
eeemt'd impossible for herself ever to attain. Fortune Lad
been Eleanor's friend. Disillusion had come to her only in
the form of beneficent wisdom ; no dolorous dead leaves
rustled about her feet and clogged her walk. Happy even
in the fact that she had never been a mother. She was a
free woman ; free in the love of her husband, free in the
pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of all her tastes.
She had outlived passion without mourning it ; what greater
happiness than that can a woman expect ? Cecily had once
believed that life was to be all passion, or a failure. She
understood now that there was a middle path. But against
her it was closed.
In a few days she could talk with Eleanor even of bygone
things in a perfectly simple tone, without danger of betraying
the thoughts she must keep secret. One such conversation
reminded her of something she had learnt shortly before she
" Do you remember," she asked, " a family named Denyer,
who were at Mrs. Gluck's ? "
Eleanor recollected the name, and the characteristics
attached to it.
" An acquaintance of mine who has rooms at Hampstead
happened to speak of the people she is with, and it surprised
me to discover that they were those very Denyers. One of
the daughters is paralyzed, poor girl ; I was shocked to
remember her, and think of her visited by such a fate. I
believe she was to have married that artist, Mr. Marsh, who
gave Mr. Bradshaw so much amusement. And the
She broke off to inquire why Eleanor had looked at her
" I'll tell you when you have finished your story. What
of the eldest ? "
" She has recently married Mr. Musselwhite, who was
also one of our old acquaintances. Mrs. Travis â€” the lady
who tells me all this â€” says that Mrs. Denyer is overjoyed
350 TH^ EMANCIPATED.
at this marriage, for Mr. Musselwhite is tlie brother of a
baronet ! "
" Very satisfactory indeed. Well, now for Mr. Marsli.
Edward heard from Mr. Bradshaw when avc were in Sicily,
and this young gentleman had a great part in the letter. It
seems he has long abandoned his artistic cai*eer, and gone
" That most superior young man ? But I remember
something about that."
" His business takes him often to Manchester, and he has
been cultivating the acquaintance of the Bradshaws. And
now there is an engagement between him and their eldest
" Charlotte ? What a queer thing to happen ! Isn't she
about my age ? "
"Yes; and, if she fulfils her promise, one of the plainest
girls in existence. Her father jokes about the affair, but
evidently doesn't disapprove."
It was Thursday, and the Spences had decided to start for
London on Friday night. Miriam had been keeping miich
alone these last few days, and this morning was out by
hex'self in the usual way. Spence was engaged with
Seaborne. Mrs. Lessingham, Eleanor, and Cecily went to
Where also was Mallard. He had visited the chapel, and
the Stanze, and the Loggia, and the picture-gallery, not
looking at things, but seeming to look for some one ; then
he came out, and walked round St. Peter's to the Museum.
In the Sala Eotonda he encountered his friends.
They talked about the busts. Cecily was studying them
with the catalogue, and wished Mallard to share her
" The empresses interest me most," she said. " Come and
do homage to them."
They look with immortal eyes, those three women who
once saw the world at their feet : Plotina, the wife of
Trajan ; Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius ; Juha, the
wife of Septimius Severus. Noble heads, each so unlike
the other. Plotina, with her strong, not beautiful, features,
the high cheek-bones, the male chin; on her forehead a
subdued anxiety. Faustina, the type of aristocratic self-