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sweetness, and sunshine, the sisters' faces rose
up before him, as he had once beheld them,
and now a mound of crumbling earth repre-
sented the one : yon poor frail outcast the



220 " CHERR Y RIPE !"

other, and for the hfe that had gone out in
darkness, for the one that yet more miserably
dragged on, should not a heavy reckoning be
required before the tribunal of God, if not of
man ? From the dead lips now mouldered
away beneath, no shriving syllables of peace
or pardon had fallen, while from those of the
girl who lived, Avould not words infinitely
more terrible than any the dead could speak,
issue, when she should awaken and recognise
his features '?

And he must awaken her, he said, with a
shiver that was partly physical cold, she
would die else of the exposure ; but with his
return to the consciousness of bodily dis-
comfort, the subtle influence that had held
Prue captive ceased, and noiselessly as a
shadow she passed him, and kneeling down
by her mistress's side, put both arms around
her :

'' Waken, mistress," she said, '' waken,
'svaken — come away home, come away . . . ."

Slowly, drowsily, for exliaustion and the
intense cold had almost thrown her into a
■lethargy, Mignon opened her blue eyes full



HEART. 221



upon Philip. He still knelt on the other side
of the grave. Upon his face, ujoturned to
hers, the moonlight shone clear as day.

Her eyes became fixed ; a look of know-
ledge, of recognition, flashed to them with the
speed of electricity. Dasliing aside Prue's
arm, she sprang to her feet like a panther,
her nostrils dilated, her breath coming in
quick, short pants, then her hand went
faltering sideways downwards, as though
seeking a knife ; she drew back a step,
and —

" You /" she cried in a low, harsh whisper,
and the unutterable loathing, hatred, and
passion expressed in that one whispered word
absolutely appalled Prue with their intensity.
Then the fire so fiercely kindled went out
like a suddenly extinguished torch, and the
cloud that for one moment's space had been
dispersed by some lightning intuition or
memory, closed round her again ; she stood
irresolute, as one from whose hand the weapon
has been struck without which she is power-
less to fight.

Philip, who had covered his face w^itli his



222 " CHERR V RIPE /"

hands, as thouo'h cowerinof under the antici-
pated shock of her next words, curiously
surprised at the halt, the stillness that fol-
lowed on that one burnino- syllable, lifted his
head, looked, and saw in her face that which
in her slumber had been hidden from him.
How it was but a mindless body that stood
on the opposite side of the grave. How the
essence that had made her what she was — in
short, Mignon — had fled, leaving but the
husk that had contained it. I think that as
he realised the truth, as he beheld in the eyes
of the girl he had so madly loved the doom
brought down by his sin upon her, that the
bitter cup that had been filling, filling always
since that May-day when he had first beheld
her, received its last drojD, and that thence-
forth, no matter what further blows Fate
might be pleased to inflict upon him, he was
absolutely proof against them. He had
reached the limit of human suffering, when,
with a ghastly cry, he fell all his lengiih
along the grave, and in his agony bit the
gTass and earth between his teeth, praying
that God would strike him dead as he lay,



HEART. 223

nor ever again compel his eyes to rest on that
living mockery of the thing that had once
represented to him all the beauty, the sweet-
ness, and the joy of earth.

Was it so very long ago that the mere
sight of a simple, sweet-faced flower would
bring her to his thoughts, when the faint sigh
and murmur of the summer breeze would be
to him as her gentle voice, the rustle of a leaf
as the sound of her footfall, and all things
fair, and gay, and blooming, suggested her in
myriad shapes of delight ?

" Tell him he must go away," said Mignon,
pulling at Prue's hand, a confused look of
horror and aversion upon her face, " he must
not come here. No one must come but me."

" You hear what my mistress says, sir,"
said Prue, overcoming by a violent effort the
distaste she felt to addressing Philip, " you're
to go away ; and sure," she added bitterly,
" 'tis the least you can do to respect her
wishes."

He rose, not looking at Mignon, but down-
wards at the grave that by the sovereignty of
crime was surely liis, and with one yearning,



224 " CHERR Y RIPE /"

hopeless look at Mignon, he turned, and, as
though the grace of obedience alone were left
to him, went slowly away, and passed out
through the open gates.

As he disappeared, Mignon pressed both
hands hard against her brows, and for the
second time that night there came into her-
eyes a flickering ray of reason.

" I remember now," she said slowly and
painfully, ''he is a murderer, and," she took
one hand from her broAv, and pointed her fore-
finger downward at the grave at their feet,.
'' he killed— /ic?\"





CHAPTEE IX.

" One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
80 fast they follow."

UEDEREE or no murderer, Philip
La Mert was fast approaching a
higher tribunal than that of man,
and if Adam would wreak his vengeance uj)on
him, then must he come quickly, or his enemy
would have escaped him, sailing out on the
tide of that mysterious ocean that returns no
mariners, nor ever in its ebb and flow casts
back to us one sign to tell if the departed
ones have safely reached the opj^osite shores,
or, object of our more earnest question still, of
what those shores and the land that lies be-
yond may consist.

And when Prue, on the day following that
VOL. III. 55



226 " CHERR V RIPE r

ineetino: at the oTave, had ao-ain found herself
flice to face with him, and from his Hps heard
the truth, the whole truth, and notliino- but
the truth, her woman's heart had gone out in
pity to the man whom she so well remem-
bered in the heyday of his boldness and
beauty, and whose physical sufferings at least
might compel ruth from those who would
have denied all pity to his mental ones.

With a gTeat dread had Prue been aware,
on the preceding night, of those steps track-
ing her own and Mignon's homewards, that
she knew to belong to Philip. It had been
with a positive determination to go away on the
moiTOw that she had at last lain down to rest,
for how could she doubt but that once again
he would seek to establish his power over her
mistress, and how was the girl to resist him
in her forlorn, defenceless state ?

But when that morrow came, and with it
the enemy against whom all her energies were
for the time being bent, she had found herself
compelled to hearken to liim, and, at his
miserable tale, amazement, joy, despair, relief,
had succeeded each other so rapidly in



HEART. 22'



her breast as to leave her breathless at the
last.

Her first impulse, when all was told, had
been to rush straight to her adored little mis-
tress, to kiss her hands, her feet, the very-
hem of her garment, and implore forgiveness
for the readiness with which she had accepted
the fact of Mignon's guilt ; her second,
to burst into passionate weeping as the
thought struck her that the truth came too
late, too late to save her mistress from the
hearing of those cruel words that had over-
turned her reason, too late to save her from
the terrible curse of God that had fallen upon
her.

" If master only kncAV — if he only knew !"

These were the first words that uttered
themselves out of all the confusion of thoughts
that distracted her.

And then it had been Philip's turn to
hsten to a story, to have, if possible, the
darkness of the shades about him deepened
as he hearkened, to find how Mignon had
been beggared of all, even to her reason,
through him, to discover that in bitterest

55—2



228 " CHERR V RIFE /"

irony of fate, she had been beheved to have
lost herself for love of one whom she loathed
above all things created under heaven.

If aught could animate with strength that
feeble frame, so gallantly struggling against
the mortal weakness that beset it, it would
be the wild longing that now possessed him
to come face to face with Adam, to commit
the one act of reparation that lay in his
power ere death placed it beyond his reach
for ever ; so that now, if Adam were desirous
of meeting Phihp, the latter was even more
imperatively desirous of meeting him, and
henceforth in the streets of London a double
search was being prosecuted, while poor mad
Mignon's life was wearing away under the
fever of a lonmno^ that she could not utter,
and one only of the four people whose lives
had been so closely intertwined soundly slept,
her troubles over, in her lonely grave in the
churchyard in the City.

4^ ^t ^r 45- *

When Philip had returned home on the
inorning following the day when he believed
himself to have made the discovery of Mig-



HEART. 229



non's love for him, lie had returned victor,
liis higher nature having at length conquered
his lower in the protracted struggle of the
night. He had renounced this sweet, strange,
precious gift that had fallen to him, he had
sworn, with his whole strength of body and
soul, that, of his o^vn will, he would never
look upon her face again, that he would not
have the sin upon his soul of encouraging
this love that was pure, because unconscious,
by either look or word — nay, that it should
be left to wither, and gradually die for lack of
sustenance, to be replaced by-and-by with
that love for her husband that bears the same
relation as fruit to blossom, and that is so
infinitely better worth the taking, but so
immeasurably less lovely and pleasant to the
eye !

Did he contemplate this later love with
calmness ? or did not flesh and blood rebel
fiercely against this relinquishment to another
of that for which he had longed as he had
longed for naught else in the course of his
life ?

I trow not. Only when daybreak came



230 " CHERR V RIPE f'

lie had cast out the de^dls in his heart, and
taken one more step upon that path of atone-
ment, of which the first had been planted
when on that day in Paris he had resolved
to disobey the beckoning finger of passion to
follow that of duty.

And then he had reached home and thrown
himself down to a hea\y, dreamless slumber
that had lasted all day, and from that sleep
he had been awakened by a summons so
urgent that his servant had at last, through
the messenger s very importunity, been com-
pelled to convey to him, and Philip had
become aware that not one moment of
breatliing space had been allowed to him,
that his vow^s of never seeing Mignon
asfain were vain as wind, for that into her
presence he was, by the compelling force of
liis vow to her, now bound to go, to go mth
the death-warrant of Muriel upon his lips,
with that upon his soul which when uttered
would shrivel all her love, as the light-
ning blackens and kills the gTeen tree, the
pride of the forest. Even as the messenger
spoke, he saw (and, alas ! it was always thus



HEAR7, 231



to the end — it was Mignon first, Muriel last
in everything, and his sin was heinous in his
own eyes only as regarded its effects upon
her sister) the look that he had last seen in
Mignon's eyes, the look that would grow in
them when she knew the truth, though not
for one moment did the dastard idea cross his
mind of breaking the j^i'omise that he had
■given in Mr. Montrose's house but a few
'days past. Without the loss of a moment
he must fetch her to her sister's death-bed;
there must be no delay, for if the sisters
met not now, then they never would upon
earth. Yet, as he dismissed the messenger and
gave the requisite orders for his departure
for Rosemary, he found himself stupidly
wondering in what form of words he would
utter the summons ; nay, as his horses bore
him swiftly through the night, and each
moment brought him nearer to Mignon, his
mind seemed absolutely to lose the capacity
for thought, and memory alone placed certain
words in his power, so that he began me-
chanically to mutter over and over again :
•" Come, Mignon, come !"



2.3 2 " CHERR y RIPE r

These words Avere graven on liis heart ;
they now, by no effort of Avill, rose to his hps,
and he found himself clutcliing at and dinging
to them as one who knows himself to be
helpless without their aid. When he reached
Rosemary, as one who walks in a dream,
he had, without consciously thinking, gone
straight to the garden, feeling no surprise at
finding Mignon there, and as a child repeat-
ing a lesson he had said, " Come, Mignon,
come !"

As to thought of the possible misconstruction
placed on the girfs hasty departure with him,
that which then stood to him for his mind was
as blank of any such thought as of the vision of
the death-bed to which he was going ; he just
then felt, saw, and comprehended solely with
the senses, and was conscious of nothincr in
heaven or earth but that he now owned
Mignon's love, and that in the space of a
couple of hours he would be vile in her eyes.
Even A\hen the girl was seated beside him in
the carriage, her hand upon his arm, her pas-
sionate questions raining upon his ears, he
Avas not able to drag his regard from those



HEART. 23.?



two fatal facts ; a reply of some sort he must
have given her, and one that conveyed the
knowledge of her sister's danger to her mind ;
for she had covered her face and shrunk back
into a corner, asking no more. Nevertheless,
he was, neither then nor afterwards, aware of
the exact words that he used.

When they were in the train the attitude
of the two remained the same. The girl
asked no further questions, seemingly fearful
of the replies that she might receive, but with
convulsively clasped hands, and fixed eyes
looking out into the blackness of the night, en-
dured that intolerable fever which surely we
have all known when on some desperate
errand, the issue of Avhich is life or death to
that which we passionately love.

The heart and soul, annihilating space,,
traverses the journey in an instant ; the lielj:*-
less, longing body, no matter at how swift a
rate it may actually be progressing, seems to
stand stock-still, and the enforced inaction
becomes a physical torture that is to a certain
extent merciful, since for the time it j^artially
paralyses the action of the brain.



-234 ''-CHERRY RIPE



Thus Mignon, bj some curious process that
almost reduced her mind to the same level as
Philip's, seemed to see the end of her journey
resolved into a grotesque question of ribbons.
She wore mauve ones that day ; when she set
out on her homeward journey — would they
be the same colour, or — black ? Mauve or
black, mauve or black ; that was the question
that she asked of herself over and over again,
with the dull persistence of a child or an idiot,
as she stared alternately at the black window-
pane or the cushioned carriage before her.

If the}^ Avere mauve still, she would have
got her darling safe again ; if they were
black ....

She clasped her hands wildly together, and
looked at Philip, who sat, his hat pulled low
over his brows, his arms folded on his breast,
motionless as a figure carved out of stone, and
the words that trembled on her lips died un-
spoken.

Had he not told her too much already %
She would stiU cheat herself with a doubt, a
hope ; she would still hug that " if," to her
breast, which interposed itself as a shield



HEART. 235



between her and the certitude of accomphshed
fate, and then her eyes returned to the black
window pane, and her poor Hps began dumbly
to murmur over and over again the question
of the ribbons, black or mauve, mauve or
black ?

To Philip the moments tarried not, but
sped swift as lightning. He Avould have
held time back had he possessed the
power, and he shrank, as may the craven
malefactor at his approaching doom, from the
moment when the sisters should be face to
face with each other, and when ujoon Mig-
non's eyes, but yesterday so exquisite with
love, should groAv the awful look of hatred
that would surely strike him dead as he stood.

And even as the incongruous thought of
the ribbons had intruded itself into Mignon's
intense absorption of mind and body, so
Philip, whose whole faculties were bent to one
point, found himself remembering some-
thing that he had heard or read a long time
ago, and yet that he had never thought of
since, but which now seemed to exactly sym-
bol forth this precious love of Mignon for



'2'oG " CHERR \ ' RIPE .'"

him that was truly to endure but for a night,,
and vanish with the first chill light of day.
Some one, he could not remember whether he
who told him had witnessed, or was merely
describing, the phenomenon, had related how,
of all ravishino^ sio-hts in the flower kino^dom,
there is nothing that can comj^are ^dth the
sight of a cofl:ee plantation in full bloom. The
snowy blossoms do not steal forth in niggardly
hesitatino' fashion, but burstino- simultane-
ously from their sheaths, the fields are in a
single night covered by a spotless mantle of
wliite that exhales an indescribable but ex-
quisite fragrance.

But it is a beauty so ephemeral that eagerly
indeed, lest he lose it for ever, must it be di'ank
into the o^azer's soul : it is a frao-rance that he
who would taste it to the uttermost must
quafi* without delay, for, alas ! within the space
<^f twenty-four hours the snow-white flowers
wither, the subtle odour passes away, and only
a memory and a di*eam is left of that which
was but a moment ago so matcliless a reahty.
And even thus, he said to himself, would be
Mignon's love for him. Yea, even ns th esfv



HEART. 237



flowers, it would wither, it would fade, it
would be as though it had never existed, and
unlike those hardier blossoms that slowl}^ swell
to maturity, and abide with us for awhile,
this dazzlino^ fraoTant flower would lie in his
hand barely so long as should suffice to him
to realise its exceeding preciousness and
beauty, then he would be left worse than
empty-handed, and without even the memory
of a vanished joy to fill the void.

For he knew that after this night he should
never aofain be able to take that exultant
pride in Mignon's love, that had intoxicated
him the preceding evening, that after the dis-
closure so inevitably near at hand, her passion,
even if it still struggled feebly on, three parts
quenched in hatred, could never be the same
as it had been when she believed hiin to be
her friend, and — Muriel's.

Presently he found himself dully wondering
that she did not speak, that she did not tor-
ture him with her questions, her guesses, and
then it came into his mind that perhajDS, since
she had heard his story (had she not once
told him so with her own lips ?), she was now



238 '' CHERR V RIPE /"



connecting it with that of Muriel, and even
bHndly groping her way to a dim suspicion of
the truth.

Ahnost without his oa\ti vohtion he
abruptly left his seat, and crossed over to the
one opposite hers.

She looked up into his face, not speaking,
her whole bearing one agonised question, but
he did not reply to it : only with a great
yearning and passion in his eyes gazed at her,
asking himself for one brief moment, might
she not, for love's sake, forgive him this sin
that he had committed %

As yet she guessed nothing — so much he
knew by the simple trust of her gesture, her
attitude — and once again the demon within
him whispered, '' Why do you tell her the
truth ? do not take her to Muriel, but make
her your own now while she is safely in your
power, and beyond the possible intervention
of friendly aid. ..."

Of the deadly peril in which Mignon stood
in that moment she never knew, only wonder
filled her heart when Philip, rising as abruptly
as he had approached her, set the full space of



HEART. 239'



the carriage betAveen himself and her, and
until the train finally stopped, neither moved
nor spoke.

In a few moments they were on their way
to Muriel, although up to the moment of the
man asking whither he should drive them,
Philip could not have told what direction his
tongue would bid the man to take.

On, on tlu'ough the crowded streets they
sped, and Philip observed what Mignon did
not, how that each moment they were leaving
the wide, well-lit thoroughfares behind, and
plunging into those purlieus of poverty, vice,
and ruffianism, into which a prudent man
would think twice before venturing in broad
daylight.

Mignon, whose suspense had now reached
the point of positive agony, looked at, mthout
heeding the sordid streets, the barrows with
their guttering candles, the slatternly half-
dressed women, chaffering with the hucksters
over their wares, at all the unsavoury, unlovely
sights and sounds of a London back street,
and found herself, like a parrot with its one
cry, dumbly asking over again the question.



240 " CHERR V RIPE /"

of the ribbons — black or mauve, mauve or
black ?

The driver stopped at the door of a mean,
miserable-lookinof tenement, of which the door
stood open, while a sickly glimmer of light
shone here and there in the dingy windows.

'' It is a mistake," cried Mignon, trembling,
and leanino^ out. " She cannot be here . . . ."

Philip, Avho had alighted on the other side,
now opened the door, and without a w^ord,
held out his hand to assist her to alight.

His silence, more than this, the ominous
look in his set face, sent a strange chill
through her, and as mechanically she de-
scended, hope died in her breast, and Muriel,
a moment ago so near, seemed to recede from,
and stand at a great distance from her.
Trembling, she looked upwards at the narrow,
many- windowed house, then started violently,
as from a lower room there pealed out a
hoarse shout of tipsy laughter, while on the
pavement hard by, a hurdy-gurdy man set his
barrel to the tune of " Home, sweet home."

As she crossed the dismal threshold a
dirty woman came out of a room at hand,



HEART. 241



and stared at her with a mingled famiharity
and surprise, that puzzled, yet did not affright
the girl, as, swiftly advancing, she said :

" My sister ? — she is here ; she is ill, will
you take me to her at once ?"

The woman looked over the girl's head at
Philip, who now entered, and repeated incre-
dulously — "Your sister T then with an ap-
praising glance at the girl's dress, and another
at that of her companion, shook her head, and
set her arms akimbo.

" You've made a mistake, miss," she said,
coarsely, yet not ill-naturedly, "'tis not the
likes o' you as has sisters stoppin' in this
house, leastways — "

"I told you it was a mistake," said Mignon,
turning to Philip feverishly : "O! do not lose
a moment, or we may get to her too late — "

But Philip had di'awn from his breast-
pocket the Avritten address that had been
furnished him, and the name under which
Muriel was then passing.

He handed it in silence to the woman,
upon whose face, as she read, there dawned a
stupid, dazed wonder, then she looked from

VOL. III. 56



242 •' CHERRY RIPE /"

the paper to Mignon, from Mignon to the
paper back again.

"She is here," cried Mignon, seizing the
woman's arm in her excitement, and shaking
it, '^0! tell me, she is not . . . she is not . . .
dead. T

For reply the \yoman lifted her grimy fore-
finger, and pointed upwards.

"Her as you're asking for, she's there," she
said; "there's no missing the way — she lies in
the attic."

"Stop here, sir," she cried, in quite a dif-
ferent tone, as the girl, swift as lightning,
sped up the narrow stairs, and disappeared
from her sight.

If the house had seemed full of waking,
noisy people to Mignon a moment ago, it was
none the less full of sleepers, she thought, as
she passed upwards through the heavy breath-
ings of seemingly countless human beings —
women who lay, as sometimes she perceived
through the open doors, herded together like
mid beasts, in all the grotesque ugliness of
profound slumber, a squalid gruesome sight
that turned her sick, as, still mounting higher



HEART. 243



and higher, she pushed on to that attic where
she had been told she should find her darling.

Surely, surely the air would be purer up
there, and these noisome fumes would be left
behind, else Muriel, who loved all sweet
smells and pleasant sights, must find it hard
to breathe, and so thinking, and clinging reso-
lutely to the belief that her sister was still
quick, and able to discern between good and
evil, she found herself standing before a shut
door, and knew that she had reached her lonof


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