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AUTHOR OF ' THE FIRST VIOLIN ' AND ' PROBATION
IN THREE VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
■publishers in (Drbimtnj to g}cr <rtT;tjcstji the (Queen.
[All Rights Reserved.]
CONTENTS OF VOL. III.
CHAPTER j, AGE
I. A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND i
II. A CONSUMMATION j5
III. CONSEQUENCES -5
IV. 'WOO'D AND MARRIED, AND A'.' 59
I. SARA - - -... -5
II. 'YES' - - - - - . . .89
III. IRREVOCABLE - - IX o
IV. DOUBTS - I2 c
V. MEIN GENUGEN - - - - 1 ^
VI. EINE REISE IN'S BLAUE - - - - - 1 59
VII. WELLFIELD - - - - 185
VIII. JEROME -. - .__. 2Q y
IX. A MYSTERY - - .-. 220
X. CAUGHT - - - 2 "-~
XI. GEFUNDEN 250
L'ENVOI - - - - - - - - 264
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
prELLFIELD'S position had not
been altogether an enviable one,
\^3^^> durinsf the last few months. In
his letter to Sara, summoning Avice home, he
had casually mentioned having had money
troubles, and this was true. He had shortly
before heard from Mr. Netley, that now that
his father's affairs were finally wound up,
VOL. III. I
A HEED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
nothing would remain to him save three to
four hundred pounds, then lying in the bank
to his account, representing at most some
twenty pounds a year. With this delightful
information in his pocket he repaired one day
to Burnham as usual, and during the morning
had an interview with Mr. Bolton, in which
that orentleman, all unconscious of what had
happened, offered him the post of foreign
correspondent to his house, at a salary of
two hundred a year. He was surprised at
the manner in which the proposition was
received. Wellfield started, and exclaimed,
' Mr. Bolton — I — I cannot thank you — you
do not know what this is to me.'
With which, leaning his elbows on the
table, he covered his face with his hands. In
truth, his emotion was almost overpowering ;
this event appealed strongly to all the super-
stitious elements of his nature. Here, when
he had just been debating on his way to
Burnham whether he should not that very
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. 3
morning explain his circumstances to Mr.
Bolton, and then and there take his leave,
leaving a message for Nita, and so cut the
Gordian knot which he spent hours daily
in futilely attempting to untie — now, at this
very moment came the only man who could
help him, and proffered him such tangible
assistance that, it seemed to his nature, it
would be madness to refuse it. A great strain
had been put upon his nerves lately. He had
expected and feared the news which he had
that morning received, but he had waited
for it as if paralysed. Now, everything,
gratitude, necessity, convenience, pointed
out to him that he must remain where he was.
It was most improbable that anywhere else
he would receive so much money, or be able
to find work which he could do competently.
Poor, weak and vacillating heart, which recog-
nised honour and truth when it saw them, but
which was too weak and vain to lay hold of
them and keep them ! Surely natures like
l — 2
4 A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
his are more to be pitied than any others
when their time comes for stru go-ling and
deciding— the natures which can see the right,
but which never perform it, if the wrong offers
an easier task at the moment.
Mr. Bolton was naturally surprised. 'Why,
Wellfield,' he asked, ' what ails you ?'
Jerome lifted his face from his hands, pale
and worn, and took the letter from his
' If you read that, you will understand
what I must feel on receiving your offer,' he
' Ah, indeed ! I do see,' said Mr. Bolton,
when he had finished it. ' Yes — well, you
need not fret so much about that now.
Things don't look so bad. You have this
salary coming in, and something to start with
« Yes — it is the feeling of relief, after all this
strain which overcame me for the moment,'
he answered ; and added, earnestly, ' Believe
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. 5
me, Mr. Bolton, I shall never cease to be
grateful for the goodness I have received
from you and yours, all this time — I, of all
He spoke as he felt, and the remembrance
of Nita's goodness, and all that it implied —
of the miserable entanglement in the back
ground, out of which he could in no way
emerge with honour, let the affair terminate
as it might — all this brought a mist before his
eyes, and a lump into his throat.
'Pooh!' said Mr. Bolton, 'never talk of
that. We are not barbarians, to turn a
stranger from our doors.'
Jerome went back to Wellfield that after-
noon, firmly resolved to write to Sara Ford,
and ask her to set him free. When it came
to the point, he 'could' not do it. He could
picture only too vividly what such a letter would
mean to her. It was Saturday afternoon. He
would wait until to-morrow, when he would
go up to Brentwood to the morning service,
6 A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
and would see Somerville and consult with
him. Perhaps he might even tell him the
whole truth. He did not know. He went
often to the services at Brentwood now.
They soothed him, and he found a satisfac-
tion in going there. Indeed, when one
reflects upon the fact that there are many
natures partaking of the characteristics of his,
one sees how to these natures some form of
religion, of an infallible institution outside
themselves, and yet within their reach, is an
absolute necessity ; and one begins to perceive
more clearly why agnosticism has never been
Wellheld could never have been an agnostic.
He and such as he have not the mental and
moral toughness of fibre which enables a
man to contemplate the mystery of the
heavens above and the earth beneath ; of
the life and the death, and the pain and the
evil that are upon the earth, of his own feel-
ings and speculations, and their origin, and
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. 7
the purpose and destiny of them — and then,
while reverently owning ' I know nothing,
and I will assert nothing, upon these things/
has yet the courage to live up to an ethical
code as high, as pure, and as stern as that of
St. John or of Christ — expecting nothing from
a life to come, as to the existence of which
he is in absolute ignorance. The more part
of mankind want none of this ; they want a
religion, a thing that will let them sin, and
prescribe to them how they must get for-
given. Such a religion was found in per-
fection at Brentwood, and thither Jerome
There was an unusually splendid service
that morning. A great dignitary — a cardinal
— preached. The sermon set forth eloquently
the rewards of faith and obedience. He
assumed that all present had overcome the
initiatory difficulties, that they were all entirely
faithful and entirely obedient ; and then he
proceeded to depict their happiness even here
8 A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
upon earth, not to mention the joys which
awaited them in heaven.
Well field listened ; he saw others listening :
a haughty-looking woman in widow's weeds,
just on the other side of the aisle. She was
Mrs. Latheby of Latheby, whose only son
was being educated at Brentwood. He knew
her well by sight ; her pride and reserve were
proverbial. Yet she wiped tears from her
eyes as she listened to the sermon. There
was a profound silence — a silence full of sup-
pressed emotion, as the sermon progressed.
Faith and obedience ; nothing to do but
submit that private judgment which is
usually so ill-trained, and which invariably
causes such trouble, and ye shall have rest
unto your souls.
That was the burden of the discourse — that
was what echoed with so seductive a sound
in Wellheld's ears.
After the service he saw Somerville ; he
was presented to Mrs. Latheby, who remem-
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
bered his mother, and told him so; adding
with the regretful smile which lent such pathos
and sweetness to her proud and still beautiful
' Ah, Mr. Wellfield, if that beautiful mother
of yours had been here to-day, how happy
she would have been in what she had heard
. . and it gives me a melancholy plea-
sure to think that had she lived to bring
you up, you might have been standing
here, one of us, not a looker-on, out in the
' You are far too good, madam, to think of
me at all/ he replied, moved somewhat by
her words, and yet under the influence of the
emotion which the cardinal's word-picture had
' I must ever take an interest in the only
son of Annunciata Wellfield,' she answered ;
' and I want you to come and see me — will
' I shall only be too honoured.'
io A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
' Then I shall write this week, and appoint
a day for you and Mr. Somerville to dine at
Latheby — if you can come, father.'
' I shall no doubt be able to come,' replied
Mrs. Latheby waited in the parlour to
have an interview with his Eminence.
Somerville walked with Wellfield alone the
lane towards his home. Wellfield told him
what had happened.
' I am superstitious, I suppose, acccording
to your notions,' said Somerville, ' and I call
it a sign.'
' I do not call it superstition,' stammered
Wellfield. ' I have myself been thinking to-
day that — that '
' That you ought to follow my advice, and
ask for Miss Bolton's hand,' was the firm,
' If it were not for this miserable business
in the back-ground '
' It is your duty to tell the truth to one
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. n
lady, or to get some one to do it for you,'
said Somerville, in a smooth, even voice,
which yet cut his hearer like a whip. He
' If you mean to stay here, you ought at
least in duty and honour either to propose
to Miss Bolton, or to tell her that you are
bound to another woman.'
' Do you suppose I don't know that ?'
retorted Wellfield, almost fiercely. ' Have I
not been debating within myself until I am
almost mad, how to tell her.'
' You are nervous, perhaps. Would you
like me to do it for you ?'
' You — heaven forbid !' he exclaimed
passionately. ' That would be to ruin — I
mean, I must think about it again. I will
' As you are taking the matter into con-
sideration,' observed Somerville, with scarcely
disguised insolence, ' I would really strongly
advise you to reflect whether it would not be
12 A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
in every way more advisable to tell the other
lady that you wish to be free.'
1 Do you wish to insult me ?' asked Well-
field, pale with passion.
' To insult you ! I am simply trying to
advise you for the best. Remember, you are
now dependent upon this post of Mr. Bolton's.
If you, or anyone else, lets Miss Bolton know
that you are engaged elsewhere, it might be
bad for your prospects. Girls who have an
idea — however mistaken — that their feelings
have been trifled with, are apt to be vindictive.'
There was a palpable sneer beneath the
even politeness of his tone. He had taken
out the whip — the whip which Wellfield's
own pleasant sins had knotted into a cord,
and which his own weakness and vacil-
lation had put into the other's hand.
The very first stroke had drawn blood.
With a chest heaving convulsively, and a
glitter in his eyes of anything but agree-
able import, Wellfield clenched his hands
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. 13
behind him, and said, composing himself
with an effort rendered efficacious by dire
1 I see what you mean, but I must think
' Yes, do,' retorted his monitor, with a
smile. ' And I must return, or I shall re-
ceive a reprimand. Good-morning. I w r ill
stroll down to Monk's Gate to-morrow even-
ing. Shall I find you in ?'
' I expect so,' said Wellfield, sullenly.
They parted. Somerville smiled as he
took his way towards Brentwood.
' He will come back,' he thought. ' He
has gone too far. He cannot do without
me . . . and he is half won. Mrs. Latheby
must flatter him, as she can flatter for us and
for her Church. He will come. I see him
coming. And when he is married to Miss
Bolton, of course she must learn the truth, or
they might live in such harmony that my
game would be spoiled.'
14 A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND.
Somerville called early on the following
evening, and it was during this visit that the
arrangements were made for Avice's return.
Jerome was thankful for the suggestion. He
dared not go to fetch her himself. He dared
not face Sara. But one side of his character
— his pride, we must call it, for want of a
better name — the pride which did not pre-
vent him from making love to one woman
while solemnly engaged to another, pricked
him sorely at the idea that Avice was
receiving Sara's kindness and living under
her care. He did not know how he was
to explain it, nor did he much care. He
was getting callous, and reckless, and
anxious only to find a way out of the
coil. Somerville had received his orders
suddenly, and was to set out almost im-
mediately. Perhaps the visit of his Eminence
had something to do with the matter. He
had had a long conversation with Father
Somerville, and had bestowed his blessing
A REED SHAKEN IN THE WIND. 15
upon him before parting. Jerome accord-
ingly wrote that letter to Sara, and on the
following morning Somerville set out on his
i^SKy^NE afternoon, on returning from
fi^Ti))) Burnham, Jerome found a letter
i£^Sr^hB awaiting him. It was that which
Somerville had written from Elberthal, and
it set Wellheld's heart on fire. Somerville
in his calculations had not forgotten to reckon
among the possible effects of his communi-
cation that one which might lead Jerome to
rush back again to Sara's feet, shocked into
honesty by the fear of losing her. But the
priest had decided again, ' No ; he will re-
member that if he leaves Mr. Bolton he
leaves all his subsistence ; that his sister is
A CONSUMMATION. 17
on her way home, and he has nowhere to
place her ; and above all, that he cannot
present himself to Miss Ford in the character
of injured innocence, considering the manner
in which he has been conducting himself.
Besides, it will be so much easier for him to
stay where he is and propose to Miss
Whether by chance, or in consequence of
extreme and almost superhuman cleverness,
Somerville had managed to calculate with
mathematical correctness. Wellfield's first
impulse, on reading the letter, was to rush
off then and there in all haste, and never to
pause until he had found Sara, and clasped
her in his arms, looked into her eyes, received
the assurance of her love. Then, across this
fever of impatience came the thought,
creeping chilly :
' When she turns and asks you to explain
your late treatment of her, what are you to
vol. in. 2
1 8 A CONSUMMATION.
He knew she might love with an utter
abandonment of self; but should she once
suspect falsehood, it would all have to be
disproved, all made clear and clean, before
she would touch his hand and speak tenderly
again. And it was too hard, too cruel.
Avice was on her way home. Sooner or
later Sara would learn something of what
had transpired here, at Wellfield . . . What
was all this talk about her favouring some
other man ? Again the impulse was strong,
if not to go to her, to seize pen and paper, and
ask what it all meant. And again came the
cruel, sudden check. She would have a
perfect right to retort with a similar question
— to ask him what his conduct meant — to
demand a reason for his late ambiguous
treatment of her. He might not write. He
buried his face in his hands and groaned.
What was he to do ? His counsellor
was away. For the first time he realised,
by the intensity of his wish to see him,
A CONSUMMATION. 19
what a hold Somerville had gained upon his
It. was a dreary, gusty November evening.
Round the solid walls of the old house of
Monk's Gate, the wind wuthered sadly and
fitfully ; the deep-set lattices did not shake —
one only heard the sound of the wind. No
passing vehicles disturbed the ear. The
quiet country road was profoundly still.
No one came to relieve his solitude, or to
divert his mind from its miserable debate with
his conscience. He sat there perfectly alone,
until at last he could bear it no longer. He
would go to the Abbey, and join them there.
There would be cheerful voices, honest faces ;
words to listen to — not this hideous silence,
broken only by the dismal sighing of the wind
about the roofs, and in the trees.
He snatched up his hat, opened the door,
and sallied forth into the night. The Abbey
gate was close at hand. Soon he was within
that dark portal, beneath the now leafless
avenue which shaded the river walk ; he could
hear the swollen stream rushing noisily along.
He saw a light in the drawing-room windows,
and, with an effort, he gathered himself to-
gether, so as to appear composed and collected,
for they would not understand his disturbance,
and the fear lest by betraying it he should
1 appear unto men a fool ' was sufficient to
give him outward calm.
Of course, when the servant opened the
door, Wellfield. asked for Miss Bolton, and
was told she was in. But he was in the habit
now of going unannounced into the drawing-
room. The page knew it, and retired.
Jerome hung up his hat, took his way to
the drawing-room door, and with a brief pre-
liminary knock, entered.
A large fire was burning in the ample grate,
but no lamps were lighted. No one was in
the room, either, except Nita, who was kneel-
ing upon a tiger-skin, straight in front of the
fire — her dog Speedwell by her side. Her
A CONSUMMATION. 21
hands were clasped before her ; her eyes wide
open, and her cheeks, with them, exposed to
the full fierceness of the a-lc-wine fire.
But she heard him come : heard his foot-
step, and started up — a deeper blush mantling
through the red which the heat of the fire had
Jerome came slowly up to her, and stooped
over her, and the firelight shone into his
eyes, and showed the hollows in his pale
' Are you quite alone ?' he asked, and there
was no surprise in his accent, for it had
flashed upon his mind, as he came in and
found her by herself, that perhaps this too
was a ' sign,' as Somerville had called it.
'Yes,' replied Nita, rising to her feet.
' Papa has gone up to Abbot's Knoll, to see
John : it is a wonder for him to be out, as you
know. I don't know what plots they are con-
cocting, I'm sure. John is perfectly mad
about some bird — a reed-warbler, he calls it —
22 A CONSUMMATION.
which he vows he has found by the river here,
and he is going to overthrow some great
authority, who says they are never found so
' And Miss Shuttleworth ?' asked Wellfield,
unconsciously acting on his secret desire to
know the coast clear.
' Aunt Margaret has got a tea-party of
school-teachers. She always has one about
this time. . . . Did you want to see
' I am afraid I don't quite know what I
want,' he answered, with a great sigh of ex-
ceeding weariness, as he rested his elbow on
the mantelpiece, and looked at her with his
sombre, mournful eyes. ' I don't think I do
want to see your father — at least, I felt very
glad when I saw you alone. I think I want
to escape from myself and my thoughts,
' Why, do your thoughts trouble you ?' she
asked, softly and timidly.
A CONSUMMATION. 23
' Sometimes they do, very much — to-night
particularly. Will you let me sit with you a
little while, or must I go back again to
Monk's Gate and solitude ?'
' Oh, Mr. Wellfield, you know that you are
always welcome here, when it pleases you to
' That is a good hearing,' he answered, and
such was the odd mixture of the man's nature,
he felt that it was good. He felt that from
Nita he would receive no blows or buffets, or
rough words — nothing but (metaphorically
speaking) tenderest caresses and softest
whispers. To go back to solitude, and the
harsh accusations of conscience, and the dis-
agreeable anticipations for the future, was not
in him ; so he stayed.
' Do you never feel restless ?' he went on.
' Do you never feel as if you would like to
set off on some indefinite journey, and with-
out knowing where you were oroing — with a
sort of " onwards — but whither ?" feeling,
that you would just like to go on and on, and
for ever on, till life itself came to a stop ?
Have you never felt it ?'
' Yes, often,' said Nita, in a low voice.
She was standing opposite to him, on the
other side of the fireplace. Her hands — -
soft, pretty, little white hands — were folded
lightly one over the other. Jerome, in his
idle sentimentalising, had time to notice that
she had on very pretty black-lace mittens,
and that the stones of some rings sparkled
through them ; that a gold bracelet was pushed
tightly up the rounded arm. He scarcely ob-
served her averted face — her eyes looking
into the fire ; her rapidly-heaving bosom ; and
he prosed on, because he liked talking to her
— because it was easy to make himself out
sad, and blighted and persecuted.
' I felt sure you had,' he said. ' That is
what I feel to-night. But for your father's
goodness to me — but for the stern mandate
of reason and necessity and common sense, I
A CONSUMMATION. 25
would set off now, this moment ; and leave
Wellfield, never to return to it.'
He had spoken this time without rhyme or
reason ; without any arricre pensee — any
calculation as to the effect his words might
have upon her ; and when he saw what it
was, even he was startled.
' Leave Wellfield ! Go away !' she ex-
claimed, turning suddenly pallid. ' What
makes you say such a thing ?'
' Should you care much if I did ?' he
asked recklessly and ruthlessly. ' Would it
— can I believe it would make any difference
to you ?'
He was standing before her, looking, as
the girl in her sad infatuation thought, so
noble, so calm, so undaunted, after all his
misfortunes — undisturbed — only sad and a
little despondent after his reverses — more
of a hero than ever. Ah ! if she might only
tell him what she felt and wished ! But at
the moment something held her back ; she
A COXSUMMA riON.
could not say all — could not speak the words
her heart was breaking to utter. She drew
a long breath, and said :
' You — it would make me very sad if you
went away, for then 1 should feel more than
ever what interlopers we must seem to you.
I should feel that we had driven you out
from your old home. And you speak of
papa's goodness — but is it goodness ? I
don't call it the work for you — drudging in
an office in that way, like some common
clerk. I should think after a time it would
drive you almost mad.'
' Oh no ! It is only the getting into
harness that is such hard work — the learning
how to become a machine. I fancy when
that is accomplished, and the routine mastered,
one can go on easily enough — almost uncon-
sciously. I shall get used to it sometime.
Meanwhile, I am thankful to be so well off.'
' You are not thankful to be well off when
you know you are very ill off,' said Nita,
A CONSUMMATION. 27
with agitation. ' And you will never get
used to it. If you could you would not be
what you are — it would not all be so horrible.
. . . Oh, I wish the Abbey — I wish the money
were mine, that I might ask you to take
it as your right — your inheritance ! But
I can do nothing, nothing ; I am power-
less, helpless, and I believe it will kill
She turned away and threw herself upon a
couch, burying her face in the cushions, and