B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

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times as old as your body." He bent over and kissed her, and tears
glistened in her eyes. "And our Duchess was as like a bright angel in
a dream as man's imagination can compass. I was a strong man then, a
strong lonely man, with nothing much to look forward to, and with
nothing outside my grisly self to love. Sixteen years ago it was. It
seems a lifetime to you, you say, Sally. And it was only yesterday
that I was a boy!"

He brushed the sentiment away with a light wave of his hand.

"As we grow older, Sally, things that were far apart come nearer; that
is, when we get to a certain age - my age. Then the young days, that
appeared so far away, begin to creep towards us, nearer and nearer,
until the man of seventy and the boy of ten are very close together.
With some old men, I don't doubt, it might be said that they die in
their cradles. Is that beyond you, Sally?"

"A little, Daddy. I can't understand it; but you're right, of course,"

"Not to wander too far away," continued Seth, with a faint laugh, "it
is sixteen years since you and the Duchess came to me, and that I
undertook a responsibility. Keep a tight hold of that word, Sally; I'm
coming back to it presently. You haven't much more flesh on your bones
now than you had then, but you're grown pretty considerable, and
you're a woman. Sally, if I had a son, I shouldn't mind your marrying

"Thank you, Daddy."

"But you can't marry a shadow; it wouldn't be satisfactory. Well,
you're a woman grown up. I'm a man, growing down; my hair's nearly
white, and that's the last colour, my girl. It seems to me that I'm
pretty well as strong as I was; but I know that's a delusion. Nature
has set lines, and the man that snaps his fingers at 'em, or
disregards 'em, is a fool. And I'm not one, eh, Sally?"

He laughed faintly again; but there was a notable lack of heartiness
in the small flashes of humour which occasionally lighted up his
speech. It would have been more in accordance with his serious mood
had they not been introduced; but habit is a master, not a servant.

"So much for you and me, Sally. There's another of more consequence
than both of us - our Duchess. When I first set my eyes on her, I
thought I'd never in all my life seen so beautiful a picture. We had
plenty of happy days then; and we must never forget how much we owe
her. We should have been a dull couple, you and me, without her. She
was like light in our dark little room, and when I had troublesome
thoughts about me, the sight of her was like the sun breaking through
dark clouds. Do you remember, Sally, when she was ill, and you watched
over her day and night?"

"You too, Daddy."

"I could do nothing; I had the bread to earn. Dr. Lyon said your
nursing, not his medicine, pulled her through; and he was right. Do
you remember our holiday in the country - the rides in the wagon, and
the rambles by the sea-shore? What pleasure and happiness we enjoyed,
Sally, was all through her. I can hardly think of her as anything but
a child; but, as I've said, Nature has set her lines; and our Duchess
is a woman - the brightest and most beautiful the world contains; and
whether that beauty and brightness is going to be a curse or a
blessing to her, time alone can tell."

"Not a curse, Daddy!" cried Sally, dropping her face in her hands.
"No, no; not a curse!"

"God knows," said Seth, with his hand resting lightly on Sally's
shoulder. "If you or me could do anything to make it a blessing we'd
do it, if it brought upon us the hardest sacrifice that ever fell upon
human beings. I say that of myself, and I know it of you. But I'm a
man, with a wider experience than yours, and I can see further.
Feeling is one thing, fact is another. To put feeling aside when we
talk of our Duchess is out of the question; but let us see how far
fact goes, and what it will lead us to." He looked down upon his
garments with a curious smile; they were old and patched and patched
again. Sally, with apprehension in her glance, followed his observance
of himself. Then, with an expression of pity and reverence, he turned
to Sally, and touched her frock, which was worn and faded. "Your only
frock, Sally," he said.

"What of that?" she exclaimed, with a rebellious ring in her voice.
"It's good enough for me."

"We've got to see this through," he returned, taking her hand in his,
and patting it so gently that her head drooped before him. "You
wouldn't fetch much at Rag Fair, my girl. All that belongs to you, on
and off, would fetch, perhaps - three farthings. Now let us look at
something else."

"Daddy, Daddy!" she cried, as she walked to the dark end of the
cellar; "what are you going to do?"

He replied by dragging forward a trunk, which he placed between Sally
and himself. It was locked, and he could not raise the lid. Taking
from his pocket a large bunch of keys, he tried them until he found
one that fitted the lock.

"I borrowed these keys of the locksmith round the corner," said Seth,
as he opened the trunk; "I told him what sort of a trunk it was, and
he said I'd be sure to find a key in this lot to fit it."

The trunk was filled with clothes. Before laying his hand upon them,
Seth, with a steady look at Sally, said:

"I doubt, Sally, whether there's anybody in the world you know better
than you know me."

"There _is_ no one, Daddy."

"It has been a pleasure to me to believe that you love me."

"There's only one I love better than you, Daddy.'

"Our Duchess."


"But in addition to love, you have some other feeling with respect to
me. Shall I try to put it in words?"

"If you please, Daddy."

"From what you know of me, you know I would not be guilty of a mean or
dirty action. You know that I would sooner have my hands cut off than
give anyone the power to say, 'Seth Dumbrick, you are a scoundrel and
a sneak.'"

"I am certain of it, Daddy."

"Well, then. Don't you think anything like that of me because of what
I'm doing now. Sally, I'm doing my duty. I'm doing what will perhaps
save our Duchess from what both you and me are frightened to speak of
to each other. If this man that she's keeping company with - this
gentleman, as she's spoken of at odd times, when I've tried to coax
her to confide in me - this gentleman that meets her secretly, and is
ashamed or afraid to show his face to me that stands in the light of a
father to the girl he's following - if this gentleman _is_ a gentleman
(though his conduct don't say that much for him), and means fairly and
honourably by our girl, then all's well. But I've got to satisfy
myself of that. I should deserve the hardest things that could be said
of me if I let our child walk blindly into a pit - if I, by holding
back, assisted to make her beauty a curse instead of a blessing to
her. Do you understand me?"

"I think I do."

"If," said Seth, with a tender animation in his voice, "this gentleman
wants to marry her, and sets it down as a hard and fast consideration,
that she should tear herself away from those who love her, and who
have cared for her all these years - if he says to her, 'I am a
gentleman, and when we are married you will be a lady; and as such you
must never speak another word to the low people you've lived and
associated with from a child;' if he says this to our Duchess, and we
happen to know it, and that it's for her good it should be so, neither
you nor me would step in her way. However sorry we should be, and
lonely without her, we should say, 'Goodbye, Duchess, and God bless
you! We'll never trouble you or your husband with a sight of our faces
again.' Would that be in your mind as well as in mine, my girl?"

"Yes," replied Sally, with a sob.

"But we've got to make sure of that - and there's only one way to come
to it, as our girl keeps her tongue still, and her thoughts shut from
us. When I accepted the charge of her, I accepted a responsibility,
and I'm not going to run away from it like a coward, because the
proper carrying of it out will bring a sorrow to my heart that will
remain there to my dying day. Do you think now I may look over what's
in this trunk?"

"I am certain you'll do what's right, Daddy."

He gave her another tender glance, and proceeded to examine the trunk.
It was filled with a girl's finery, of a better quality than that
which belonged to a person in the Duchess's position of life. Lace
collars and cuffs, feathers for hats, gloves, and underclothing of a
fine texture. Sally's face grew paler as the articles were carefully
lifted from the trunk by Seth, and placed upon the table.

"There are things here you've never seen before, Sally?"

Sally nodded, with lips compressed.

Seth took from the trunk a long soft package, containing a piece of
bright blue silk, sufficient for a dress.

"Did she ever show you this?" asked Seth.

"No," said Sally, with trembling fingers on the silk. "How beautiful
she will look in it!"

In a corner of the trunk was a small box made of cedar wood. Opening
it, Seth took out various articles of jewelry, and gazed at them with
sad eyes.

"These should be the belongings of a lady, Sally. Our girl is being
prepared for the change. Is it to be one of joy or sorrow?"

At the bottom of the cedar-wood box was a small packet of letters
addressed to the Duchess. Seth hesitated. The receipt of these letters
had been hidden from him. They were addressed to the Duchess at a
post-office a mile distant from Rosemary Lane. He debated within
himself whether he had a right to read them. "If I were her father,"
he thought, "the right would be clearly mine. As it is, the right is
mine. I am her guardian and protector."

He read them in silence; they were love letters, expressing the most
passionate adoration for the Duchess, and filled with vows and
promises enough to distract the mind of any girl in her position.
Apart from the expressions of love they contained, there were other
disturbing elements - such as the circumstance of the letters being
written on paper bearing a crest with Latin words around it. Sally
followed Seth's movements with wistful eagerness, but he did not
enlighten her as to the contents of the letters. He returned them and
the trinkets to the scented box, and replaced in the trunk with
studied care all the articles he had taken from it. Then he locked and
carried the trunk to the corner of the cellar again.

"It may be," he said, after a short contemplative pause, "that our
Duchess has really attracted the love of a gentleman. Such things have
occurred, produced by faces and figures less beautiful than those of
our Duchess."

"Then the change will be one of joy!" cried Sally, with a brighter

"You know what that means, Sally. It means separation from us. You
have a good memory, my girl?"

"Oh, yes."

"Carry your mind back to the holiday we had in the country. Do you
think you can recall all that occurred in those few happy days?"

"Shall I try?"

"Yes - just run them over."

"Our packing up the night before; getting up early in the morning and
meeting the wagon; trotting out of the dull streets into the beautiful
country - I can hear the jingle of the bells on the horses' necks - the
gardens, the lanes, the lovely flowers, and the waving corn; the names
of the horses, Daisy and Cornflower - is that right, Daddy?"

"Go on, Sally. You have a capital memory."

"Our stopping at the public-house, and having dinner in the garden;
our getting into the wagon again, with a lot of fresh hay to sit on;
our trotting on and on till we came to another public-house, called
The World's End - I thought it a strange name, and that we were really
getting to the end of the world - - "

"One moment, Sally. Before we came to The World's End, we saw a great
park with splendid iron gates at the entrance. I asked what place it
was - - "

"And the wagoner said it was called Springfield."

"That's right, Sally; go on. What a memory you've got."

"Getting down at The World's End, and of its being quite early. Then
you took us for a walk, and on the way we met a gipsy woman - - "

Sally paused. She remembered perfectly well that the gipsy had
predicted that a great trouble would fall upon her through her love
for a woman younger than herself, more beautiful than herself, that
she loved, and loved dearly; and that then the gipsy had said to the
Duchess, "Show yourself, my beauty." Sally did not wish - for the
reason that it might be of disadvantage to the Duchess - to recall
these details to Seth, who might have forgotten them; as indeed he
had, his mind being fixed on a particular point which Sally's memory
had not yet reached; but not the less startling to her was the
conviction that the gipsy's words were coming true. _Coming_ true! Had
they not been already verified by the altered relations between
herself and the Duchess? It smote her keenly to reflect that for a
long, long time past the Duchess had hidden from her knowledge the
secret of a love which might tear them asunder for ever. But Sally was
not prone to selfish musings; her generous nature was always ready to
find excuses for the girl-friend to whom she had been sister and
mother; and although her heart was aching sorely, and yearning for
confidence and sympathy, she laid no blame on the cause of her sorrow.
What more could she desire than that the Duchess should become a lady,
and enjoy the life she sighed for? "I dare say," thought Sally, "that
she will let me see her now and again, when no one is near to make her
ashamed of me." To her own future Sally gave no thought; love of
another kind had not yet stirred her soul with its enthralling

"And while we were talking to the gipsy," said Seth, "a lady and
gentleman came up to us."

"Yes, yes; I remember."

"Do you remember what kind of a gentleman?"

"I didn't like him, Daddy."

"Nor I. Now as to his name."

Sally pondered, but could not call it to mind.

"If I mention it, you will know, perhaps. Was it Temple?"

"Yes, oh, yes; I remember now."

"Sally, would you like to know who has written all those letters to
our girl, and who is her gentleman lover?"

"Of course I should, Daddy."

"His name is Arthur Temple."

"Not the Mr. Temple we met in the country!" exclaimed Sally, clasping
her hands in a kind of despair. "He must be an old man by this time."

Seth could not help smiling sympathetically. This dismay at the
thought of an old lover for their Duchess was very intelligible to

"No, it cannot certainly be that Mr. Temple. But it would be a strange
thing if Arthur Temple should turn out to be his son. However, that
has to be discovered. Sally, I have made up my mind what to do; and
you may depend that it will be for the good of the Duchess."

"You mustn't interfere with her, Daddy. She won't put up with it."

"She will not know what I am about; what I do shall be done secretly.
It is my duty not to allow this to go on any further without an
understanding of some sort. To arrive at this I must set a watch upon

"Oh, Daddy if she should see you!"

"She shall not see me; I will take care of that. Sally, another thing
has to be done; we're to enter into a compact. Not a word of all this
to the Duchess."

"I'll be as mum as a mouse."

"And if things turn out right for the Duchess, we must twist our minds
into thinking that they have turned out right for us. It will be dull
here without her, but if the love of an old man can make it brighter
for you, Sally - - "

A little choking in his voice compelled him to pause, and turn his
head. The contemplation of this change in his life, now that he was an
old man and worse off in a worldly way than he ever remembered himself
to be, brought deep sadness upon him. All the dreams he had indulged
in of a bright future for the Duchess, some warmth from which would
shine upon herself, had faded quite away. But warmth and light came to
him from another quarter. A thin arm stole around his neck, and a
dark, loving face was pressed close to his. He drew the grateful woman
on his knee, and the few minutes of silence which ensued were not the
unhappiest that had been passed in the dingy old cellar.

"And now, Sally," he said, kissing her, "what we've got to do is our
duty - straight, my girl, as we can do it - and to hope for the best."


The evening following this conversation, Seth Dumbrick, going out
while the Duchess was still at home, watched for her at the corner of
a convenient street, and when she appeared, followed her so as not to
be observed. It was a fine dry evening, and the Duchess walked swiftly
towards the west of London. At the Mansion House she entered an
omnibus, and Seth climbed to the top. She alighted at Charing Cross,
and tripped over to Trafalgar Square, where she was immediately
greeted by a man whose face Seth, being compelled to keep at a safe
distance, could not distinguish. There was no difficulty in following
the pair; and it needed only ordinary caution to prevent being
detected. The Duchess and her companion walked onwards through the
Haymarket to Regent Street, pausing frequently at shop-windows, and
once they entered a café, Seth waiting for them in the street.
Resuming their walk they strolled to Oxford Street, and then turned
back towards the Strand. It was half-past seven by the time they
reached that wonderful thoroughfare, down which they strolled, until
they came to the door of the Strand Theatre. This they entered, and
were lost to Seth's sight. Noticing which way they turned, he
followed, and asked the price of admission. A gentleman in a white
tie, who was standing by the small window where the money was taken,
loftily informed Seth that the pit and gallery were round the corner.

"But," said Seth, "I want to go where the lady and gentleman who have
just passed through have gone."

"To the stalls?" inquired the gentleman in the white tie, in a tone of

"Yes, to the stalls," replied Seth.

"Can't admit you," was the rejoinder.


"Not dressed."

Seth glanced at his common clothes, and with a slight shrug and a
little ironical smile, pardonable under the circumstances, took the
indicated direction to the pit and gallery. He paid for admission to
the pit, and, soon after he entered, succeeded in discovering where
the Duchess was seated. She was in the stalls with her companion, and
their backs were towards him. When Seth entered the pit, he found it
very full, and he could only obtain standing room; necessarily,
therefore, his discovery of the Duchess was made with some difficulty,
and from where he stood it was impossible for him to observe her
closely. Indeed, from the surging of the audience, and the goings to
and fro, she was often not visible to him. He had no heart for the
performance, which caused a running fire of laughter and merriment in
all parts of the theatre, and before its termination he left the
place, afraid lest in the last crush he should miss the Duchess. He
lingered patiently in the Strand, near the box entrance of the
theatre, until the people came out, and was successful in catching
sight of the Duchess and her companion, whose evening dress was
covered by a light overcoat. When they had disengaged themselves from
the throng, they paused, and from the opposite side of the street Seth
noted that a discussion was taking place between them, the man
persuading, the Duchess refusing. At length the Duchess cut short the
disputed point by running away from her companion with a light laugh.
He hastened immediately after her, and arm-in-arm they wended their
way to Rosemary Lane, followed warily by Seth. There they parted,
after more than one kiss, which caused Seth to knit his brows
ominously. When he was alone, the man took from his pocket a cigar
case, which, notwithstanding the distance that separated them, Seth
observed was made of silver. Lighting a cigar, the Duchess's lover
strolled leisurely along until he came to a cab-rank, whence he hailed
a cab. This was what Seth feared. Quickly hailing another, he gave the
driver instructions to follow, without laying himself open to
observation, promising extra payment if this were done. His cab pulled
up in one of the most fashionable quarters of the west of London. As
he was paying the fare, he asked the driver the name of the street,
and saw his girl's lover walk on a few yards, and pause at a great
house, which he presently entered. Then Seth walked up the steps, and
noted the number.

His labours for that night were almost at an end; there was still a
small matter to be attended to. He waited until he heard the
policeman's measured footfall, and falling in by his side in a natural
manner, struck up a conversation. He did not find it difficult, being
in some respects a shrewd actor in the busy world, to ingratiate
himself into the good graces of the official It was a cold night, and
he proposed a friendly glass, The policeman, who knew an honest man
when he came across one, and who was generally luckier than Diogenes,
affably entertained the proposition. Over the friendly glass the
conversation was continued, and sufficiently mellowed, the policeman
took possession of his beat again, accompanied by Seth. They passed
the house which the Duchess's lover had entered. Seth had artfully
directed the conversation into the desired channel, and as they passed
the house, he asked:

"Who lives there? A great man, I should say."

"You'd say right," replied the policeman. "That's Mr. Temple's house."

"Hasn't he an estate in the country, called Springfield? I was in that
quarter some time since, and I heard it belonged to the great Mr.

"I've heard as much myself. Yes, Springfield's the name of his country
seat, now you mention it. I wish I was as well off as him."

"I wish so, too," said Seth Dumbrick, as he walked away.


It happened that, during the week in which these occurrences took
place, Mr. Temple was absent from London. On the night of his return
he was more than usually elated. Everything was prospering with him.
Arthur's ingenuous manner found favour wherever he appeared, and his
introduction into society promised the most favourable results. In
addition to this cause for satisfaction, Mr. Temple had reason to
believe that his public services were likely, nay, almost certain, to
be rewarded with a title, which his son would bear after him.

"There is practically no limit to our fortunes, my boy," he said to
Arthur; "the current will carry us on."

To which Arthur replied:

"I trust I shall not disappoint you, sir."

"I am satisfied as to that," said Mr. Temple. "My chief desire now is
that you should choose a definite career. I do not wish to press you,
but the sooner you enter public life the wider will be your experience
and the greater your chances. Our name shall be a famous one in the

On his return to his town house, Mr. Temple, after a few minutes'
conversation with his wife, proceeded to the library. He had been
expected home the previous evening, and his correspondence for two
days lay upon his writing-table. He looked over the letters hurriedly,
and paused at one which seemed to give him uneasiness. It was brief
and to the point.

"The writer of these lines, Seth Dumbrick by name, wishes for a
personal interview with Mr. Temple, on a matter of vital importance to
himself and the gentleman he addresses. He will call on Mr. Temple at
eight o'clock this evening, and hopes not to be denied."

Mr. Temple glanced at the clock. It was a quarter-past eight. He
struck a bell, and a servant entered.

"Is any person waiting to see me?"

"Yes, sir; he is in the hall."

"Giving any name?"

"Dumbrick, sir."

"Did he come yesterday?"

"Yes, sir, and was informed you would not return till to-night."

"What sort of a person?"

"A common person, sir - a very common person."

"Show him in."

The next moment Seth Dumbrick entered, hat in hand, and stood near the
door. From his seat at the table, Mr. Temple desired him to come near.
Seth Dumbrick obeyed, and the men faced each other.

"You are the writer of this note," said Mr. Temple haughtily.

"I am, sir."

"Explain it, and briefly. Stay - have I not seen your face somewhere?"

Seth Dumbrick made no immediate reply. He had no desire to recall to
Mr. Temple's memory the circumstances of the unpleasant interview that
had taken place between them many years ago. He himself had recognised
Mr. Temple the moment he entered the room, his cause for remembrance
being the stronger of the two. Mr. Temple had an unerring memory for
faces, but his meeting with Seth Dumbrick lay so far in the past, and

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Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 20 of 24)