B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

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trying, and she pined for rest or work. She must obtain either the one
or the other. A vague fear oppressed her that if she were unsuccessful
in this application she would be compelled, when the night came, to
walk to the river, and gaze upon the restful waters. Then the end
would come; she felt that she had not strength to resist it.

The contractor resumed his questioning; it was a kind of angling he
seemed to enjoy.

"Have you no friends?"






"You are alone in the world?"

"I am alone in the world."

"Then if I employ you, I should be your only friend?"

"I suppose so."

"As a rule," proceeded the contractor, "we do not employ ladies in
this establishment, which gives employment to - - how many persons do I
give employment to, Mr. Williams?" addressing the clerk.

"There are eleven hundred and seventy-two names upon the books, sir."

The hard taskmaster nodded his head with exceeding satisfaction.

"I provide bread for eleven hundred and seventy-two persons, and by
to-morrow this number will be increased by two hundred. I have given
employment to over two thousand persons at one time, I believe, Mr.

"You have, sir."

"And shall do so again, I have no doubt, before long. To repeat, I do
not employ ladies in this establishment. Common girls and women are
good enough for me - and bad enough. For there is absolutely no
gratitude to be found among the poorer classes, absolutely no
gratitude; not a particle."

This was said with so distinct an assertion of never having belonged
to the working classes, and of their small capacity for good and their
large capacity for evil, that it would have been remarkable were it
not common. There is no greater autocrat than the democrat when he
rises to power. There is no stronger despiser of the poor than the
poor man when he rises to wealth.

"I shall be grateful if you will give me employment," said Mrs.

"You agree with me in what I say?"

"Certainly, sir."

It was a sure truth that her mind was a blank as to the value of his
words, and that she said she agreed with him from a kind of instinct
that by doing so her interest would be better served.

"And you are a lady," he said pompously.

"I ask your pardon," she said, faltering, "the word slipped from me."

"What you may have been has nothing to do with what you are. You are
not a lady now, you know."

"I know, sir."

"Lenoir is not an English name, and that is why Mr. Williams asked if
you were French. I keep a strict record of the antecedents of all
persons I employ, so far as I am able to obtain them. It is my
system, and that is the reason," he said, graciously explaining,
"of so many questions being asked. I have a gift in my power to
bestow - employment - and only the deserving should receive it. I have
been deceived frequently, but it is not the fault of the system that
the poorer classes are given to falsehood. The record has proved
valuable, in instances - valuable to the police, who, through my books,
which are always open to them, have traced persons who were wanted for
crimes, and who have imposed upon me by obtaining employment at this
establishment. The last remarkable case was that of a woman who was
wanted for child-murder. Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Williams."

"You are stating the exact facts, sir."

"I went to the trial. The wretched woman, who was sentenced to death,
had nothing to say in her defence, absolutely nothing, except that she
had been betrayed and deserted, and that she had committed the act in
a fit of distraction. Betrayed and deserted!" he exclaimed harshly,
adding still another stone to the many he had flung during the days of
his prosperity at all classes of unfortunates. "My judgment teaches me
that it is the woman who betrays the man, not the man who betrays the
woman. This woman was traced through her handwriting in my books, for
all who work for me are expected to sign their names. You have been
well educated, doubtless."

Mrs. Lenoir gave a silent assent, and the contractor waved his hand
with a motion, which expressed, "I will not reproach you because you
have been well educated, and have come down in the world." As he waved
his hand, he was struck by the circumstance that while he was airing
his views to Mrs. Lenoir, she had kept her veil down, and he said

"It is usual for persons applying for employment to come unveiled."

Mrs. Lenoir raised her veil, and disclosed a face inexpressibly sad,
and which in years gone by had been surpassingly beautiful. Deathly
pale as she was - but this may have been produced by a recent
emotion - traces of rare beauty still remained, and signs of refinement
and delicacy were clearly depicted upon the face revealed to the two
men in the dingy office. Even Mr. Williams, who had worked at a desk
for forty years, and was not given to sentiment, was ready to admit
that this was an interesting experience.

"Without husband, children, friends or money," said the contractor,
betraying in his slightly altered tone some newly-born feeling of
deference for the applicant. "I will give you employment. Mr.
Williams, I will take the responsibility of this case upon myself.
Mrs. Lenoir can sign the book."

He watched the tremulous signing of the name, Louise Lenoir, and noted
the whiteness of the hand that wrote it, with undisguised curiosity,
and then Mrs. Lenoir, receiving her order for so many yards of
material, took her departure. From that day it became in some way an
understanding that whatever changes were made from time to time in the
number of workpeople on the establishment, Mrs. Lenoir's services were
always to be retained. For twelve years had she been employed by the
firm, and had been found faithful and attentive to her duties, the
performance of which provided her with the barest subsistence. The
contractor, during those years, never omitted to address a few words
to her if he happened to see her in Mr. Williams's dingy office. Once
she was sick, and unable to work, and this coming to his ears, he sent
her provisions and a small sum of money. What sympathetic chord in his
nature Mrs. Lenoir had touched was a mystery which he did not, perhaps
could not, reveal. It may have pleased him that she, a lady, as he was
satisfied in his mind she was, should be dependent upon him for
subsistence. He made use of her occasionally at his dinner-parties at
Lancaster Gate - for this once common man entertained the magnates of
the land - when some phase of social politics was being discussed,
referring to the circumstance that among his workpeople was a lady who
earned probably twelve shillings a week, and whose beauty and
education would in her earlier days have fitted her for a duke's

She sits now in her poorly furnished attic, stitching steadily through
the hours. It is not contractor's work upon which her fingers are
busy. She is finishing a girl's dress, and appears to take more than
ordinary interest in her work. It is twelve o'clock at night before
the last stitches are put in. She sets aside her needle and thread and
spreading the dress upon her bed, gazes upon it in silence for many
minutes, standing with her thin white fingers interlaced before her.
Once or twice she pats it softly as though it contained a living form,
and once she kneels by the bed, and buries her face in the soft folds
of the dress, kissing it, and shedding quiet tears upon it. Presently
she rises with a sigh, and folding the dress over her arm, steps
softly downstairs. The house is still and quiet, not a soul but
herself is stirring. She pauses at a door on the second landing, and
listens, hearing no sound.

"May I come in?" she whispers.

There is no reply, and she turns the handle of the door.

"Oh, who is there?" cries a frightened voice in the dark.

"It is only I, Lizzie," replies Mrs. Lenoir; "I have finished your

The female leaps from the bed with an exclamation of delight, and
quickly lights a candle. Then it is seen that the room is but slightly
better furnished than that of Mrs. Lenoir, and that its female
occupant is young and fair.

"I left my door unlocked," says the girl, "because you said the dress
would be finished some time to-night. I thought you would bring it in.
How good of you, Mrs. Lenoir!"

A graceful figure has Lizzie, and bright and full of joy are the eyes
which gaze upon the dress. It is a silver-grey barege, soft and
pretty, with ribbons and bits of lace and everything else about it
that art and fancy can devise to render it attractive. Early to-morrow
morning Lizzie starts for an excursion into the country - an excursion
lasting from morning to night - and as Some One who is constantly in
Lizzie's thoughts is to be there, she has a very particular desire to
appear to the best advantage.

"How good of you, Mrs. Lenoir," she repeats; "may I try it on?"

"Yes, Lizzie, if you are not too sleepy."

Lizzie laughs blithely. Too sleepy for such a task! The idea! At her
age, and with such love in her heart for Some One who is at this very
moment thinking of her!

Mrs. Lenoir assists her with the dress, and pulls it out here, and
smoothes it there, while Lizzie, with innocent vanity, surveys herself
in the glass. The delighted girl throws her arm round Mrs. Lenoir's
neck, and kisses her rapturously.

"No one in the world can make a dress like you, Mrs. Lenoir!"

A singular contrast are these two females, who by their ages might be
mother and daughter; but there is really no kinship between them. The
girl so glowing, so full of happiness the woman so sombre, so fraught
with sadness. The girl, all sparkle and animation; the woman with not
a smile upon her face.

"It fits you perfectly, Lizzie."

"It's the loveliest, loveliest dress that ever was seen! How can I
thank you?"

If passion found a place in Mrs. Lenoir's breast, it found none in her

"I want no thanks, Lizzie; it was a pleasure to me to make the dress
for you. Let me sit by your bedside a little - in the dark. Take off
the dress; I am glad you like it - there, that will do. Now jump into
bed. You have to get up early in the morning."

She arranges the dress over the back of a chair, and blowing out the
light, sits by the bed in darkness.

"I don't think I shall sleep any more to-night, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Yes, you will, Lizzie. Sleep comes to the young and happy."

"You speak so sadly - but it is your way."

"Yes, Lizzie, it is my way."

"You don't sleep well yourself, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Not always."

"It must be dreadful not to be able to sleep. One has such happy
dreams. Do not you?"

"I dream but seldom, Lizzie; and when I do, I wake up with the prayer
that I had died in my sleep. When I was as young as you, I used to
have happy dreams, but they never came true."

"I wish I could do something to make you feel less sorrowful," says
Lizzie, overflowing with pity and gratitude.

"You can do nothing, Lizzie. When you are married - - "

"O, Mrs. Lenoir!"

"As I hope you will be soon, I will make you a prettier dress than

"It's not possible - nothing _could_ be prettier."

"Charles - your lover, Lizzie - is not much older than you."

"Oh, yes, he is; ever so much! I am nearly nineteen; he is

"He truly loves you, Lizzie?"

"Truly, truly. I think no one ever loved as much. Am I not a fortunate
girl! When I am working - you don't mind my rattling on?"

"Say what is in your heart, Lizzie."

"When I am at work, I whisper to myself, 'Charlie! Charlie!' and I
talk to him just as though he was next to me. And Charlie tells me he
does the same by me - so that we're always together. The moon is
shining through the window, Mrs. Lenoir. Is it a watery moon? Go and
see if it is sure to be fine to morrow."

Mrs. Lenoir goes to the window and draws the curtain aside. A shudder
passes over her as she sees how bright and clear and beautiful the
night is.

"Is it a fine night, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Clear and bright, Lizzie. There is no sign of rain. To-morrow will be
a lovely day."

"I am so happy!"

Mrs. Lenoir resumes her seat by the bedside.

"Do not take any notice of me, Lizzie. I will sit here quite quietly,
and when you are asleep, I will go to my room."

So long a silence follows - or it seems so long to the happy girl - that
she falls into a doze, to be but partially aroused by Mrs. Lenoir's
voice, calling very softly:


"Yes, Charlie!" Thus betraying herself.

"It is not Charlie; it is I, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Lenoir. What a foolish girl you must
think me - and how ungrateful!"

"Not at all, Lizzie; it is I who am inconsiderate in keeping you
awake. I will say goodnight."

"No, no," cries Lizzie, understanding instinctively the woman's need
for sympathy, "don't go, or I shall think you are angry. You were
going to speak to me."

The girl raises her arm, and draws Mrs. Lenoir's head to her pillow.
"Remember, I have no mother." She presses her lips to Mrs. Lenoir's
face, which is wet with tears. "Mrs. Lenoir, you have been crying."

"It is nothing, Lizzie; I often cry when I am alone."

"But you are not alone now; I am with you, and I love you."

"It is kind of you to say so; you are in the mood to love, and to
believe all things fair and good."

"And do not you believe so, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Once I did. There was a time - - " What reminiscence was in the
speaker's mind remained there unexpressed. "Lizzie, you lost your
mother when you were a child."


"How old were you when she died?"

"Not quite five years."

"And you remember her?"


"With love?"

"Oh, yes."

"If," says Mrs. Lenoir, with almost painful hesitation, "she had died,
or you had lost her earlier, do you think you would have forgotten

"Oh, no, Mrs. Lenoir; I should have always remembered her, have always
loved her."

"She was kind to you Lizzie."

"She loved me more than all the world."

"You mean," says Mrs. Lenoir, with fierce eagerness, "she loved as a
mother loves, as a woman loves - as only a woman loves!"

"Mrs. Lenoir," asks Lizzie slowly, "do not men love as faithfully as

"Ask your own heart. You love Charlie and he loves you. Which do you
suppose is the stronger love, the most constant, the most likely to

"I do not know," replies Lizzie, her sadder tone denoting that Mrs.
Lenoir's sadness is contagious. "I do not want to think that Charlie's
love is not as strong as mine, and yet - and yet - I do not believe he
can love me as much as I love him."

"It need not distress you, Lizzie, to think so; it is in the nature of
things. It is impossible for a man to love with the whole soul as a
woman loves - often, alas! unhappily for her."

"And often, too, happily for her," remonstrates Lizzie, with sudden
and tender cheerfulness. "A moment ago I felt inclined to regret the
thought you put into my mind - that a woman's love is naturally
stronger than a man's; but when I think of it, as I am thinking now, I
would not have it altered if I could. It is far better for us that it
should be so. If I loved Charlie less, I should be less happy; and it
makes me glad to think that I can give him more love than he can give

"God forbid," says Mrs. Lenoir, "that I should endeavour to shake your
faith in Charlie. I was speaking out of the experience of a woman with
whose sad history I am acquainted. I am tired, Lizzie. Good night. A
happy day to-morrow!"

But Lizzie's fond arms cling to Mrs. Lenoir's neck; she is loth to let
her go without obtaining from her a mark of affection which has been

"Mrs. Lenoir, I have kissed you twenty times."

"Well, Lizzie."

"And will kiss you twenty times more - there, and there, there! O, Mrs.
Lenoir, will you not give me one kiss? - you have not kissed me once."

Mrs. Lenoir gently extricates herself from Lizzie's affectionate

"I made a vow years ago, Lizzie, never to press my lips to human face
until I met with one that my eyes may never behold. Good night."


Still another picture. This one on the sea, to give variety to the

A fresh breeze is blowing, the white sails are full, and a noble
vessel - the _Blue Jacket_, a famous clipper - is ploughing her way
through the snow-crested waves. Holding on to the bulwarks, a lad,
scarcely eighteen years of age, is gazing now into the billowy depths
into which they are descending, now to the curling heights up and over
which the ship is sailing. A rapture of delight dwells in his great
spiritual eyes, and a flush rises to his pale and pensive face, as he
gazes on the wonders of the deep. His heart is pulsing with worship of
the beautiful, and with his inner sight he sees what is hidden from
many. The breeze brings to him musical and thrilling whispers; the
laughing, joyous waters teem with images of spiritual loveliness.

By his side, gazing also into the water's depths, and holding on to a
rope with a stronger and more careless grip, stands a man whose years
exceed two score. A handsome, strongly-built man, with a mole on his
right temple which adds to rather than detracts from his beauty. That
he is of a commoner order than the lad by whose side he stands is
clearly apparent; yet he is one in whom the majority of women would
instinctively take a deeper interest because of his riper development
and the larger power expressed in him. His features are wanting in the
refinement and delicacy which characterise his young companion, but
they have boldness and fulness which, allied with good proportion,
possess a special and individual attraction of their own.

The young gentleman's name is Arthur Temple; the name of his valet is
Ned Chester; and the ship is ploughing her way to England's shores.

What the lad sees in the restless, laughing waters is created by his
poetical nature. What the man sees is the issue of an actual
experience in the past. In the lad's dreams there is no thread of
connection: images of beauty appear and disappear; slowly form
themselves, and fade as slowly away; and are not repeated. In the
man's, one face is always present, and always visible to his fancy;
the face of a beautiful child, whose eyes rival heaven's brightest
blue, whose cheeks are blooming with roses, whose head is covered with
clusters of golden curls.

A word of retrospect is necessary.

The lad is the only child, by his wife, Lady Temple, of Mr. Temple, a
name famous in the superior Law Courts of England, a gentleman of
wealth, distinction, and high position in the land. From his birth,
Arthur Temple has been the object of the most anxious and devoted care
of his parents - the devotion mainly springing from the mother's
breast, the anxiety from the father's. Not that the father was wanting
in love. On the contrary. As much love as it was in his nature to
bestow, he bestowed upon his son. But it was not like the mother's
love, purely unselfish; it was alloyed with personal ambition, and was
consequently of a coarser grain. From a delicate babe, Arthur Temple
grew into a delicate boy - so delicate that his life often hung upon a
thread, as ordinary people express it, and he was not sent to a public
school for his education. The best private tutors were obtained for
him, and the lad showed an eager desire to acquire what they were
engaged to teach. But his mental vigour ran ahead of his physical
power, and the physicians ordered that his studies should be
discontinued. "His brain is too wakeful," they said, "his nerves too
sensitive. The difficulty will be not to make him study, but to keep
him from it." So it turned out. Free from the trammels of enforced
study, and left to follow his own inclination, the lad flew to the
books most congenial to his nature, and learnt from them what he most
desired to learn. The intellectual power apparent in the lad delighted
his father as much as his lack of physical strength distressed him.
Mr. Temple's ambition was various. Wealth he loved for the sake of the
luxury and ease it conferred; power he coveted, and coveted the more
as he rose, for its own sake, and because it placed him above his
fellows, and gave him control over them; but beyond all, his chief
ambition was to found a family, which should be famous in the land. To
the accomplishment of this end two things were necessary: the first,
that he himself should become famous, and should amass much wealth;
the second, that his son - his only child - should marry, and have
children. In the first, he was successful. It is not necessary to
inquire by what means - whether by superior talent, by tact, by
industry, or by force of patronage - he rose to power, and passed men
in the race who at least were equal with himself. The fact is
sufficient; he rose above them, and it was acknowledged that the
highest prize in his profession might one day be his.

This is an envious world. As worshippers of the successful and
powerful are everywhere to be found, so are detractors, and men who by
innuendoes throw dirt at those who occupy the best seats. But whatever
might be said to his detraction by the envious few, he was quoted in
public as a man of rare virtues and integrity. The public prints never
neglected an opportunity to point a moral by means of his example.
They never tired of quoting his stainless life, his probity, his
righteous conduct as an administrator of justice, and holding him
forth as a practical illustration of the highest qualities of human
nature. It cannot be denied that he, by his conduct, contributed to
this result. There was manifest in him a distinct assertion to the
possession of spotless honour and blamelessness; so pure a man was he
that he had no pity for human failings; that "earthly power doth then
show likest God's when mercy seasons justice," found no assenting
response within his breast. Woe to the fallen wretches who appeared
before him for judgment; he gave them their deservings, with no
compassionate regard of the tangled, dirt-stained roads they had been
compelled to travel. His stern manner said, "Look upon me. Have I
fallen? Why, then, have you?" And in his addresses to criminals when
passing sentence, he frequently embodied this in words - whereupon the
world would rejoice that the law had such an interpreter, justice such
a champion. All other things, therefore, being smooth before him, the
full accomplishment of his dearest ambition hung upon the health of
his only child, and he experienced the keenest anxiety in the
circumstance that as the lad grew in years, he failed in strength. At
the age of sixteen, Arthur Temple was a pale, dreamy stripling, full
of fine fancies, and sensitive to a fault. The physicians spoke
gravely of his condition.

"There is but one chance of his attaining manhood," they said; "a
complete change must be effected in his life. He must travel. Not on
the Continent, or in cities where money can purchase the indulgences
of existence. A long sea-voyage in a sailing vessel, to the other end
of the world. A sojourn there of twelve or eighteen months. Then home
again, with blood thickened, and bones well set."

"But if he should die!" exclaimed the anxious mother, distracted at
the thought of parting with her darling.

"He may," replied the physicians; "but there, at all events, he has a
chance of living. Keep him at home, and you condemn him to certain

After this there was, of course, nothing to be said, and preparations
were made for the lad's temporary exile. Arthur received the news with
joy. It was the realisation of a cherished dream. He felt like a
knight-errant going out in search of romantic adventures. The glad
anticipation made his step lighter, his manner cheerier.

"He is better already," said the physicians.

The difficulty was to find a companion for him. His father's
professional duties would not permit of his leaving England; his
mother's health was too delicate. The need was supplied by the younger
member of a family of rank and distinction, who, with his family, was
going out to settle in the new land across the seas. Into their care
Arthur Temple was given. Before he left England, his father conversed
privately and seriously with the lad, and in some part made a
disclosure of his views of the future. Arthur listened with respect
and attention; he had a sincere regard for his father, although
between their natures existed an undefinable barrier which prevented
the perfect merging of their sympathies.

"You are my one only hope," said Mr. Temple to his son; "but for you,
all the honours I have gained would be valueless in my eyes. Get

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Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 16 of 24)