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actually got into a mess over a passage in Aristophanes that I shall
ask you to clear up."

This was enough for Arthur, whose knowledge of the classics was that
of the ordinary University graduate; he turned the subject with
remarkable promptitude.

"Tell me," he said, looking her straight in the face, "are you glad
that I am coming?"

The grey eyes dropped a little before the boldness of his gaze, but
she answered, unhesitatingly,

"Yes, for my own sake I am glad; but I fear that you will find it very
dull."

"Come, Angela, we must be off; I want to be home by a quarter to six,"
said Philip just then.

She rose at once and shook hands with Arthur, murmuring, "Good-by till
to-morrow morning," and then with Lady Bellamy.

George, meanwhile, with the most unwonted hospitality, was pressing
her father to stay to dinner, and, when he declined, announcing his
intention of coming over to see him on the morrow. At last he got
away, but not before Lady Bellamy had bid him a seemingly cordial
adieu.

"You and your charming daughter must come and see me at Rewtham House,
when we get in. What, have you not heard that Sir John has bought it
from poor Maria Lee's executors?"

Philip turned pale as death, and hurried from the room.

"It is good," reflected Lady Bellamy, as she watched the effect of her
shaft, "to let him know that I never forget."

But, even when her father had gone, the path was still blocked to
Angela.

"What!" said George, who was, when in an amiable mood, that worst of
all cads, a jocose cad, "are you going to play truant, too, my pretty
cousin? Then first you must pay the penalty, not a very heavy one,
however." And he threw his long arm round her waist, and prepared to
give her a cousinly embrace.

At first Angela, not being accustomed to little jokes of the sort, did
not understand what his intentions were, but as soon as she did, being
an extremely powerful young woman, she soon put a stop to them,
shaking George away from her so sharply by a little swing of her lithe
body, that, stumbling over a footstool in his rapid backward passage,
he in a trice measured his length upon the floor. Seeing what she had
done, Angela turned and fled after her father.

As for Arthur, the scene was too much for his risible nerves, and he
fairly roared with laughter, whilst even Lady Bellamy went as near to
it as she ever did.

George rose white with wrath.

"Mr. Heigham," he said, "I see nothing to laugh at in an accident."

"Don't you?" replied Arthur. "I do; it is just the most ludicrous
accident that I ever saw."

George turned away muttering something that it was perhaps as well his
guest did not hear, and at once began to attack Lady Bellamy.

"My dear George," was her rejoinder, "let this little adventure teach
you that it is not wise for middle-aged men to indulge in gallantries
towards young ladies, and especially young ladies of thews and sinews.
Good-night."

At the same moment the footman announced that the dog-cart which
Arthur had ordered was waiting for him.

"Good-by, Mr. Heigham, good-by," said George, with angry sarcasm.
"Within twenty-four hours you have killed my favourite dog, taken
offence at my well-meant advice, and ridiculed my misfortune. If we
should ever meet again, doubtless you will have further surprises in
store for me;" and, without giving Arthur time to make any reply, he
left the room.



CHAPTER XXI

Early on the day following Arthur's departure from Isleworth, Lady
Bellamy received a note from George requesting her, if convenient, to
come and see him that morning, as he had something rather important to
talk to her about.

"John," she said to her husband at breakfast, "do you want the
brougham this morning?"

"No. Why?"

"Because I am going over to Isleworth."

"Hadn't you better take the luggage-cart too, and your luggage in it,
and live there altogether? It would save trouble, sending backwards
and forwards," suggested her husband, with severe sarcasm.

Lady Bellamy cut the top off an egg with a single clean stroke - all
her movements were decisive - before she answered.

"I thought," she said, "that we had done with that sort of nonsense
some years ago; are you going to begin it again?"

"Yes, Lady Bellamy, I am. I am not going to stand being bullied and
jeered at by that damned scoundrel Caresfoot any more. I am not going
to stand your eternal visits to him."

"You have stood them for twenty years; rather late in the day to
object now, isn't it?" she remarked, coolly, beginning her egg.

"It is never too late to mend; it is not too late for you to stop
quietly at home and do your duty by your husband."

"Most men would think that I had done my duty by him pretty well.
Twenty years ago you were nobody, and had, comparatively speaking,
nothing. Now you have a title and between three and four thousand a
year. Who have you to thank for that? Certainly not yourself."

"Curse the title and the money! I had rather be a poor devil of an
attorney with a large family, and five hundred a year to keep them on,
than live the life I do between you and that vulgar beast Caresfoot.
It's a dog's life, not a man's;" and poor Bellamy was so overcome at
his real or imaginary wrongs that the tears actually rolled down his
puffy little face.

His wife surveyed him with some amusement.

"I think," she said, "that you are a miserable creature."

"Perhaps I am, Anne; but I tell you what it is, even a miserable
creature can be driven too far. It may perhaps be worth your while to
be a little careful."

She cast one swift look at him, a look not without apprehension in it,
for there was a ring about his voice that she did not like, but his
appearance was so ludicrously wretched that it reassured her. She
finished her egg, and then, slowly driving the spoon through the
shell, she said,

"Don't threaten, John; it is a bad habit, and shows an un-Christian
state of mind; besides, it might force me to cr-r-rush you, in self-
defence, you know;" and John and the egg-shell having finally
collapsed together, Lady Bellamy ordered the brougham.

Having thus sufficiently scourged her husband, she departed in due
course to visit her own taskmaster, little guessing what awaited her
at his hands. After all, there is a deal of poetic justice in the
world. Little Smith, fresh from his mother's apron-strings, is
savagely beaten by the cock of the school, Jones, and to him Jones is
an all-powerful, cruel devil, placed above all possibility of
retribution. If, however, little Smith could see the omnipotent Jones
being mentally ploughed and harrowed by his papa the clergyman, in
celebration of the double event of his having missed a scholarship and
taken too much sherry, it is probable that his wounded feelings would
be greatly soothed. Nor does it stop there. Robinson, the squire of
the parish, takes it out of the Reverend Jones, and speaks ill of him
to the bishop, a Low Churchman, on the matter of vestments, and very
shortly afterwards Sir Buster Brown, the Chairman of the Quarter
Sessions, expresses his opinion pretty freely of Robinson in his
magisterial capacity, only in his turn to receive a most unexampled
wigging from Her Majesty's judge, Baron Muddlebone, for not showing
him that respect he was accustomed to receive from the High Sheriff of
the county. And even over the august person of the judge himself there
hangs the fear of the only thing that he cannot commit for contempt,
public opinion. Justice! why, the world is full of it, only it is
mostly built upon a foundation of wrong.

Lady Bellamy found George sitting in the dining-room beside the safe
that had so greatly interested her husband. It was open, and he was
reading a selection from the bundle of letters which the reader may
remember having seen in his hands before.

"How do, Anne?" he said, without rising. "You look very handsome this
morning. I never saw a woman wear better."

She vouchsafed no reply to his greeting, but turned as pale as death.

"What!" she said, huskily, pointing with her finger to the letters in
his hand, "what are you doing with those letters?"

"Bravo, Anne; quite tragic. What a Lady Macbeth you would make! Come
quote, 'All the perfumes of Araby will not sweeten this little hand.
Oh, oh, oh!' Go on."

"What are you doing with those letters?"

"Have you never broken a dog by showing him the whip, Anne? I have got
something to ask of you, and I wish to get you into a generous frame
of mind first. Listen now, I am going to read you a few extracts from
a past that is so vividly recorded here."

She sank into a chair, hid her face in her hands, and groaned. George,
whose own features betrayed a certain nervousness, took a yellow sheet
of paper, and began to read.

"'Do you know how old I am to-day? Nineteen, and I have been married a
year and a half. Ah! what a happy lass I was before I married; how
they worshipped me in my old home! "Queen Anne," they always called
me. Well, they are dead now, and pray God they sleep so sound that
they can neither hear nor see. Yes, a year and a half - a year of
happiness, half a year of hell; happiness whilst I did not know you,
hell since I saw your face. What secret spring of wickedness did you
touch in my heart? I never had a thought of wrong before you came. But
when I first set eyes upon your face, I felt some strange change come
over me: I recognized my evil destiny. How you discovered my
fascination, how you led me on to evil, you best know. I am no coward,
I do not wish to excuse myself, but sometimes I think that you have
much to answer for, George. Hark, I hear my baby crying, my beautiful
boy with his father's eyes. Do you know, I believe that the child has
grown afraid of me: it beats at me with its tiny hands. I think that
my very dog dislikes me now. They know me as I am; Nature tells them;
everybody knows me except _him_. He will come in presently from
visiting his sick and poor, and kiss me and call me his sweet wife,
and I shall act the living lie. Oh! God, I cannot bear it much
longer - - '

"There is more of the same sort," remarked George, coolly. "It affords
a most interesting study of mental anatomy, but I have no time to read
more of it. We will pass on to another."

Lady Bellamy did not move; she sat trembling a little, her face buried
in her hands.

He took up a second letter and began to read a marked passage.

"'The die is cast, I will come; I can no longer resist your influence;
it grows stronger every day, and now it makes me a murderess, for the
shock will kill him. And yet I am tired of the sameness and smallness
of my life; my mind is too big to be cramped in such narrow fetters.'

"That extract is really very funny," said George, critically. "But
don't look depressed, Anne, I am only going to trouble you with one
more dated a year or so later. Listen.

"'I have several times seen the man you sent me; he is a fool and
contemptible in appearance, and, worst of all, shows signs of falling
in love with me; but, if you wish it, I will go through the marriage
ceremony with him, poor little dupe! You will not marry me yourself,
and I would do more than that to keep near you; indeed, I have no
choice, I _must_ keep near you. I went to the Zoological Gardens the
other day and saw a rattlesnake fed upon a live rabbit; the poor thing
had ample room to run away in, but could not, it was fascinated, and
sat still and screamed. At last the snake struck it, and I thought
that its eyes looked like yours. I am as helpless as that poor animal,
and you are much more cruel than the snake. And yet my mind is
infinitely stronger than your own in every way. I cannot understand
it. What is the source of your power over me? But I am quite reckless
now, so what does it matter? I will do anything that does not put me
within reach of the law. You know that my husband is dead. I _knew_
that he would die; he expired with my name upon his lips. The child,
too, I hear, died in a fit of croup; the nurse had gone out, and there
was no one to look after it. Upon my word, I may well be reckless, for
there is no forgiveness for such as you and I. As for little B - - , as
I think I told you, I will lead him on and marry him: at any rate, I
will make his fortune for him: I _must_ devote myself to something,
and ambition is more absorbing than anything else - at least, I shall
rise to something great. Good-night; I don't know which aches most, my
head or my heart.'

"Now that extract would be interesting reading to Bellamy, would it
not?"

Here she suddenly sprang forward and snatched at the letter. But
George was too quick for her; he flung it into the safe by his side,
and swung the heavy lid to.

"No, no, my dear Anne, that property is too valuable to be parted with
except for a consideration."

Her attempt frustrated, she dropped back into her chair.

"What are you torturing me for?" she asked, hoarsely. "Have you any
object in dragging up the ghost of that dead past, or is it merely for
amusement."

"Did I not tell you that I had a favour to ask of you, and wished to
get you into a proper frame of mind first?"

"A favour. You mean that you have some wickedness in hand that you are
too great a coward to execute yourself. Out with it; I know you too
well to be shocked."

"Oh, very well. You saw Angela Caresfoot, Philip's daughter, here
yesterday."

"Yes, I saw her."

"Very good. I mean to marry her, and you must manage it for me."

Lady Bellamy sat quite still, and made no answer.

"You will now," continued George, relieved to find that he had not
provoked the outburst he had expected, "understand why I read you
those extracts. I am thoroughly determined upon marrying that girl at
whatever cost, and I see very clearly that I shall not be able to do
so without your help. With your help, the matter will be easy; for no
obstacle, except the death of the girl herself, can prevail against
your iron determination and unbounded fertility of resource."

"And if I refuse?"

"I must have read those extracts to very little purpose for you to
talk about refusing. If you refuse, the pangs of conscience will
overcome me, and I shall feel obliged to place these letters, and more
especially those referring to himself, in the hands of your husband.
Of course it will, for my own sake, be unpleasant to me to have to do
so, but I can easily travel for a year or two till the talk has blown
over. For you it will be different. Bellamy has no cause to love you
now; judge what he will feel when he knows all the truth. He will
scarcely keep the story to himself, and, even were he to do so, it
could easily be set about in other ways, and, in either case, you will
be a ruined woman, and all that you have toiled and schemed for for
twenty years will be snatched from you in an instant. If, on the other
hand, you do not refuse, and I cannot believe that you will, I will on
my wedding-day burn these uncomfortable records before your eyes, or,
if you prefer it, you shall burn them yourself."

"You have only seen this girl once; is it possible that you are in
earnest in wishing to marry her?"

"Do you think that I should go through this scene by way of a joke? I
never was so much in earnest in my life before. I am in love with her,
I tell you, as much in love as though I had known her for years. What
happened to you with reference to me has happened to me with reference
to her, or something very like it, and marry her I must and will."

Lady Bellamy, as she heard these words, rose from her chair and flung
herself on the ground before him, clasping his knees with her hands.

"Oh, George, George!" she cried, in a broken voice, "have some little
pity; do not force me to do this unnatural thing. Is your heart a
stone, or are you altogether a devil, that by such cruel threats you
can drive me into becoming the instrument of my own shame? I know what
I am, none better: but for whose sake did I become so? Surely, George,
I have some claim on your compassion, if I have none on your love.
Think again, George; and, if you will not give her up, choose some
other means to compass this poor girl's ruin."

"Get up, Anne, and don't talk sentimental rubbish. Not but what," he
added, with a sneer, "it is rather amusing to hear you pitying your
successful rival."

She sprang to her feet, all the softness and entreaty gone from her
face, which was instead now spread with her darkest and most
vindictive look.

"_I_ pity her!" she said. "I hate her. Look you, if I have to do this,
my only consolation will be in knowing that what I do will drag my
successor down below my own level. I suffer; she shall suffer more; I
know you a fiend, she shall find a whole hell with you; she is purer
and better than I have ever been; soon you shall make her worse than I
have dreamt of being. Her purity shall be dishonoured, her love
betrayed, her life reduced to such chaos that she shall cease to
believe even in her God, and in return for these things I will give
her - _you_. Your new plaything shall pass through my mill, George
Caresfoot, before ever she comes to yours; and on her I will repay
with interest all that I have suffered at your hands;" and, exhausted
with the fierceness of her own invective and the violence of
conflicting passions, she sank back into her chair.

"Bravo, Anne! quite in your old style. I daresay that the young lady
will require a little moulding, and she could not be in better hands;
but mind, no tricks - I am not going to be cheated out of my bride."

"You need not fear, George; I shall not murder her. I do not believe
in violence; it is the last resort of fools. If I did, you would not
be alive now."

George laughed a little uneasily.

"Well, we are good friends again, so there is no need to talk of such
things," he said. "The campaign will not be by any means an easy one -
there are many obstacles in the way, and I don't think that my
intended has taken a particular fancy to me. You will have to work for
your letters, Anne; but first of all take a day or two to think it
over, and make a plan of the campaign. And now good-by; I have got a
bad headache, and am going to lie down."

She rose, and went without another word; but all necessity for setting
about her shameful task was soon postponed by news that reached her
the next morning, to the effect that George Caresfoot was seriously
ill.



CHAPTER XXII

The dog-cart that Arthur had hired to take him away belonged to an
old-fashioned inn in the parish of Rewtham, situated about a mile from
Rewtham House (which had just passed into the hands of the Bellamys),
and two from Bratham Abbey, and thither Arthur had himself driven. His
Jehu, known through all the country round as "Old Sam," was an ancient
ostler, who had been in the service of the Rewtham "King's Head," man
and boy, for over fifty years, and from him Arthur collected a good
deal of inaccurate information about the Caresfoot family, including a
garbled version of all the death of Angela's mother and Philip's
disinheritance.

After all, there are few more comfortable places than an inn; not a
huge London hotel, where you are known as No. 48, and have to lock the
door of your cell when you come out of it, and deliver up your key to
the warder in the hall; but an old-fashioned country establishment
where they cook your breakfast exactly as you like it, and give you
sound ale and a four-poster. At least, so thought Arthur, as he sat in
the private parlour smoking his pipe and reflecting on the curious
vicissitudes of existence. Now, here he was, with all the hopes and
interests of his life utterly changed in a single space of six-and-
twenty hours. Why, six-and-twenty hours ago, he had never met his
respected guardian, nor Sir John and Lady Bellamy, nor Philip and his
daughter. He could hardly believe that it was only that morning that
he had first seen Angela. It seemed weeks ago, and, if time could have
been measured on a new principle, by events and not by minutes, it
would have been weeks. The wheel of life, he thought, revolves with a
strange irregularity. For months and years it turns slowly and
steadily under the even pressure of monotonous events. But, on some
unexpected day, a tide comes rushing down the stream of being, and
spins it round at speed; and then tears onward to the ocean called the
Past, leaving its plaything to creak and turn, to turn and creak, or
wrecked perhaps and useless.

Thinking thus, Arthur made his way to bed. The excitement of the day
had wearied him, and for a while he slept soundly, but, as the fatigue
of the body wore off, the activity of his mind asserted itself, and he
began to dream vague, happy dreams of Angela, that by degrees took
shape and form, till they stood out clear before the vision of his
mind. He dreamt that he and Angela were journeying, two such happy
travellers, through the green fields in summer, till by-and-by they
came to the dark entrance of a wood, into which they plunged, fearing
nothing. Thicker grew the overshadowing branches, and darker grew the
path, and now they journeyed lover-wise, with their arms around each
other. But, as they passed along, they came to a place where the paths
forked, and here he stooped to kiss her. Already he could feel the
thrill of her embrace, when she was swept from him by an unseen force,
and carried down the path before them, leaving him rooted where he
was. But still he could trace her progress as she went, wringing her
hands in sorrow; and presently he saw the form of Lady Bellamy, robed
as an Egyptian sorceress, and holding a letter in her hand, which she
offered to Angela, whispering in her ear. She took it, and then in a
second the letter turned to a great snake, with George's head, that
threw its coils around her and struck at her with its fangs. Next, the
darkness of night rushed down upon the scene, and out of the darkness
came wild cries and mocking laughter, and the choking sounds of death.
And his senses left him.

When sight and sense came back, he dreamt that he was still walking
down a wooded lane, but the foliage of the overhanging trees was of a
richer green. The air was sweet with the scent of unknown flowers,
beautiful birds flitted around him, and from far-off came the murmur
of the sea. And as he travelled, broken-hearted, a fair woman with a
gentle voice stood by his side, and kissed and comforted him, till at
length he grew weary of her kisses, and she left him, weeping, and he
went on his way alone, seeking his lost Angela. And then at length the
path took a sudden turn, and he stood on the shore of an illimitable
ocean, over which brooded a strange light, as where


"The quiet end of evening smiles
Miles on miles."


And there, with the soft light lingering on her hair, and tears of
gladness in her eyes, stood Angela, more lovely than before, her arms
outstretched to greet him. And then the night closed in, and he awoke.

His eyes opened upon the solemn and beautiful hour of the first
quickening of the dawn, and the thrill and softness that comes from
contact with the things we meet in sleep was still upon him. He got up
and flung open his lattice window. From the garden beneath rose the
sweet scent of May flowers, very different from that of his dream
which yet lingered in his nostrils, whilst from a neighbouring lilac-
bush streamed the rich melody of the nightingale. Presently it ceased
before the broadening daylight, but in its stead, pure and clear and
cold, arose the notes of the mavis, giving tuneful thanks and glory to
its Maker. And, as he listened, a great calm stole upon his spirit,
and kneeling down there by the open window, with the breath of spring
upon his brow, and the voice of the happy birds within his ears, he
prayed to the Almighty with all his heart that it might please Him in
His wise mercy to verify his dream, inasmuch as he would be well
content to suffer, if by suffering he might at last attain to such an
unutterable joy. And rising from his knees, feeling better and
stronger, he knew in some dim way that that undertaking must be blest
which, in such a solemn hour of the heart, he did not fear to pray God
to guide, to guard, and to consummate.

And on many an after-day, and in many another place, the book of his
life would reopen at this well-conned page, and he would see the dim
light in the faint, flushed sky, and hear the song of the thrush
swelling upwards strong and sweet, and remember his prayer and the
peace that fell upon his soul.



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