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and feet (the latter all swollen and blistered,
as though they had walked many miles), and
by slow degrees to completely re- clothe her in
fresh hnen and garments.

The girl passively endured all Prue's minis-
trations, only once seeming to heed her, and






HEART. 171



that was when she sought to remove from her
bosom a small packet wrapped in silk, and
that from the touch seemed to Prue to con-
tain a letter. This the girl jealously guarded,
both then and after, and it was many days
before Prue found out what it contained.

The poor woman's heart lightened some-
what over her loving toil, and as she gazed
',vith passionate love into her mistress's uncon-
scious face, she tried to persuade herself that
the cloud now obscuring her brain was but
temporary, and might pass from her ; for the
blank look on the girl's face Avas far less
terrible than that which she had worn ere
the mind fled away, and whereas the creature
who had come upon Prue in her panic had
seemed altogether strange to and removed
from her, this one was her mistress, dis-
traught indeed, but her very self. When
Mignon was dressed she returned to the table,
and seemed to puzzle over it for a few mo-
ments, then turned to the door and Prue
followed.

She went with those uncertain lagging feet
■downstairs, and into the study, seeming to



172 " CHERRY RIPE /'

miss the crowd of books and papers with
which the room had formerly been full, sit-
tings down at last in the arm-chair in which
Adam had sat for those long three days and
nights, keeping his vigil, and seeking to root
her from his heart.

Prue placed the light upon the table, and
going into the hall, withdrew the key from
the hall-door, ran downstairs, fastened the
other entrance, and went upstairs again. She
had not been a moment too soon in her pre-
cautions, for on her return she found that
Mignon had removed the door-chain, and was
tugroino' at the fastenins^s.

'' Where are you going, Miss Mignon ?"
said Prue, her voice full of fear, " 'Tis too
late for you to be going out ; to-morrow we'll
go together, but not to-night."

'' Don't you hear somebody calling me ?"
said the girl, lifting her hand and standing in
an attitude of listening ; '' up yonder in the
big town, they are calling, always calhng,.
and I must go, for I've got something to tell
.... to tell . . . ."

" To-morrow we'll go," said Prue gently.



HEART. 173



'' but now you're worn out and must take
food and rest ; and if you re ill, how will you
ever be able to go at all V

Mignon left off pulling at the chain, a ray
of comprehension struggled into her blue
eyes.

"- If I'm ill, I shall not be able to o-o at
all," she repeated, then went away quietly
enough with Prue.

The girl required food and warmth, the
woman therefore took her to the kitchen, estal.^
lished her in a chair beside the hearth, and
closing the shutters, made of the room a pic-
ture of homely brightness and comfort.

The firehght shone, and leaped, and reflected
itself in the numberless tins and pipkins
ranged around, and flickered with many cir-
<3les on the polished sides of the dish-covers,
and deep-bodied jugs and basins.

But Mignon, as she held out her slender
hands to the crackling blaze, sliivered still,
and her vacant, ashen face took no tint of
colour from the warmth. Prue served and
brought to her food, but the girl only shook
her head, never even glancing at it, only keep-



174 ''' CHERRY RIPE f

ing her blank gaze fixed steadily upon the
bnrning coals. How loud the clock ticked, how
briskly and incessantly the crickets talked !
Surely they must say one or two things well
worth listening to in the course of these long
autumn and winter niofhts, throusfh which
they gossip so garrulously ? Prue had
taken some work in her hands, lest Mignon
should think she was being watched, but by
degrees the slowly-moving needle ceased alto-
gether, and the woman sat with dry eyes and
heavy heart, looking^ across at the little silent
fio'ure before her.

There sat her mistress, disgraced, ruined,
ill in body, stricken in mind, with a future
stretching out before her of bitter repentance
and miserable regrets, of an alienation from
all God's choicest gifts ; yet as the woman
looked at her, she blessed Heaven that had
given her darling back to her, even though
she w^as restored to her — thus.

What would her life have been, she asked
herself wildly, without this idolised little
creature to tend, to watch over, to love ? She
would have lost her wits in lonoino- for her.



HEART, l7o



or worn her body out in seeking her ; and in
her breast there beat as profound and wonder-
ing a gratitude as he may know, who has
found the cage-door of his wild bird open, and,
while he is mourning for it, discovers that it
has suddenly returned of its own free will.

That terrible things had befallen the girl,
tilings at which she could only fearfully and
dimly guess, Prue was certain ; but was not
even this thought bearable, compared with
the suspense and agony that would have been
hers, had Mignon stayed away, in the jDower
of the ^nllain who had destroyed her ?

And seeing her so quiet and gentle, some
of the first horror that had fallen on Prue,
when she saw the girl, faded, for, strange
though it might appear, Mignon's face was
now far less suggestive of woe and terrible
things than it had been before her wits left
her.

A veil was mercifully dra^v^i betvreen the
girl and the scenes that had produced upon
her so terrible an effect, and Prue sadly
wondered what might be the tale of tempta-
tion, of force, and of speedy disillusionment



178 " CHERR V RIPE /"

the dead meetinof the Uvino- since all com-
mimion of spirit would be denied to them ?

The one drop of honey in Prue's cup was
that she had the girl under her care, that not
among strangers or oppressors had her mad-
ness come upon her^ but in her own home,
and with some one to tend her who would do
so faithfully.

By degrees her tears ceased, her thoughts
grew indistinct; sitting bolt upright, she
began to nod, her chin by successive stages
almost touching her work. She roused her-
self, for she must not sleep. Mignon might
awake, and fancy herself beckoned out into the
night by those ghostly voices, and .... and

the woman's head fell back instead of

forw^ard, nodding no longer ; a moment, and
she was in a slumber as profound as was that
of her mistress.

•vS' vS- -v^ ■><: •?'-

She awakened with a violent start to find
the broad daylight streaming in, and a chilly
morning wind blowing upon her from the
open window, to find the fire extinguished^
the gas still burning, and Mignon — gone.



HEART. 179



The woman started up, and dashing the sleep
from her eyes, sprang through the low window,
mto the garden beyond. Surely she would
find her mistress there, but no, it was empty,
and she was not at the gate. Was it possible
that she had come out, re- entered the house,
and was now wandering A\dthin it \ With a
failinor heart Prue returned to the kitchen,
and searched the house from attic to base-
ment, in vain. Mignon was not there,
althouoch her hat and cloak were in her room
just as they had been thrown down the- night
before. The woman clasped her hands in a
paroxysm of despair. Where should she seek
the girl % and how long ago might she have
departed ? A terrible picture presented itself
of the poor, bewildered creature setting out
on foot for some far-away place that she was
dimly conscious it was necessary she must
reach, though if this were the case would she
not most Hkely go along the high-road from
mere force of habit, and might it not be
possible to overtake her \

She flung on shawl and bonnet, locked the
door behind her, and ran out of the gates.

52—2



180 ''CHERRY RIPE r

She met but few people, and nobody whom
she knew, and she ran on and on until she got
to the high-road, and in sight of the station.
The latter put an idea into her head,
Mignon had always gone by train on her
school-girl trips, and it was just possible
that she had wandered in there, and if so,
her being without money, her forlorn state
would have attracted attention, and caused
her to be detained.

The trains ran but infrequently, one in
every hour. The clock outside informed Prue
that one would be due in twenty minutes.

She flew up the stairs, meeting no one by
the way, and drew a long breath of relief- and
joy as at the farther end of the empty plat-
form she descried Mignon. She looked cold
and pinched, the wind was blowing her yellow
hair all about her eyes, that were anxiously
fixed on what appeared to be an approaching
train, but in reality was a pilot engine just
emerging from an archway.

'' Miss Mignon," said Prue, taking firm
hold of the girl's arm, scarcely able to articu-
late through the greatness of her relief,



HEART, 181



^' what are you doing here all alone ? and why
did you come away without me when I
promised you I'd come anywhere with you
you Hked V

" 1 couldn't wait," said the girl, restlessly.
*' Don't you hear a voice calling loud, oh ! so
loud ? ' Come and sit beside me,' it says,
' for it is cold, hitter cold, and I am lonely I
don't forget me so quickly.' .... That is what
it says, over and over again."

*^ I hear it," said Prue, appearing to listen,
•^ but it says that you're not to go alone, I'm
to come with you ; that we're to go tocj ether,
and not now, but later on in the day."

Mignon ceased to try and free herself from
Prue's grasj^.

" Does it say that ?" she said, sinking her
voice to a whisper. ^' Then you must come, but
soon, or she will be angry, and call me again."

"We will go soon," said Prue, soothingly,
as she unfastened her shawl, wrapped it round
her mistress's figure, and covered her head
with a portion of it ; " w^e'll go home directly,
dear heart, and pack up, and come back here
.again by-and-by."



182 ''CHERRY RIPET

Mignon, making no resistance, suffered
lierself to be led away, and they reached
Rosemary in a few minutes ; but as Prue fol-
lowed the girl into the house, she wrung her
hands in despair. What could she do without
a soul to help her, and compelled to watch
Mignon night and day, lest she should again
make her escape % There would be no peace
till she departed, though could there be a
madder wdldgoose chase than to follow this^
girl's vagrant fancies up hill and doAvn dale ?
Yet to use force, restraint — Prue's heart
sickened at the thought ; come w^hat might,
that should never be. So long as her mistress
was under her care, she should do as she
listed, subject only to such controlling power
as love might possess.

After %NQ minutes' hard thinking, Prue
came to a decision. That it was one person's
work to watch Mignon was plain, and this she
could not do with the house and its work upon
her hands. She would go to London. In a
quiet, decent part of the town she had a friend
w^ho let lodgings, and would indeed be willing
to do her any good turn, or render her an}^



HEART. 183



assistance that she Avas able, and she herself
would be free to devote all her time to
Mii^non. If she grew very restless, and still
insisted on wandering, then Prue must e'en
go with her, and guard her as best she might.
To stay here was plainly out of the question,
and she set to Avork at packing her mistress's
clothes with a vigour and rapidity that
seemed to calm Migiion's restlessness. She
even in a fitful, uncertain way rendered some
assistance, and seemed satisfied and pleased
when all was finished. It was a less easy
matter to keep her quiet, when Prue had to
go from one room to another, locking up and
setting in order, arranging everything for the
lonof absence that she felt to be inevitable.
She had thought of an arrangement by which
the house would not be without a guardian.
and though it gave her a sharp twinge to
leave, even for a short time, that unpro-
tected which had been given into her charge,
she yet said to herself that her duty was to
her mistress first, and that duty she would
perform to the best of her power.

She managed to pack her own modest



184 ''CHERRY RIPE



trunk, and to write two letters, one of which,
unseen by Mignon, she addressed to her
master, and placed on the table in his study ;
the other she stamped, and put in her
pocket.

She then prepared food for her mistress
and herself, but could not prevail on Mignon
to take more than a few scanty mouthfuls.
All being ready, and Mignon growdng restless,
Prue jDut on the girl's hat and cloak, dressed
herself, and w^ent do^\m to the gate. After ten
minutes' waiting, Providence sent that way a
youth of tender years, who undertook, on the
promise of sixpence (not to be made over till
his return), to go to the Lily town livery stables
and despatch to Rosemarv a horse and

fly.

The biped, quadruped and conveyance,
with a driver to boot, arrived in due season :
the luggage w^as fetched out, and the kitchen-
door locked. Mignon, all impatience, had
already taken her seat, and in a few
moments Posemary was left behind, and
for the third time within four months the
girl had set out again on her travels, while



HEART. 185



Prue, looking back, asked herself with dim
•eyes and a foreboding heart, was it even
possible or likely that this last journey
should have a happier ending than had the
two preceding ones ?





CHAPTER VI.

" perilous mouths
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof,
Bidding the law make courtsey to the will."

IWO months had gone by since mis-
tress and maid had left their safe
home -shelter, to wander out into
the world in search of adventure. A poor
distraught pilgrim, a stupid faithful follower,
w^hat chance had these of success in their
quest, and would they not infallibly come to
grief and confusion, as do most earnest, simple
folk nowadays, w^lio ride a tilt at a world
that has no sympathy with romance, or pity
for misfortune ?

As yet, however, the adventures of the



HEART. 18'



pair had been neither dangerous nor exciting ;
they had simply been profoundly, prosaically
miserable.

The world seemed to be standing still,
Pruu sometimes said to herself, with a
dismal shake of the head ; she only wished
she could, but she had by this time almost
come to believe that her feet were doomed to
go dancing on for ever, like the girl who was
vain of her red shoes in Hans Andersen's
story. And even if there were a woodman
bv to cut them off for her, she thouofht
that it would still be her doom to go dancings
on, rain or shine, day or night, following her
mistress, who in her turn was beckoned for-
ward by some Will-o'-the-wisp, whose glim-
mer j^ierced with baneful light the poor
clouded brain.

Two months of wandering as vagabonds in
the streets of London, up and down, round
and about those dirty, crowded paths that
Prue had come to know by heart, and at
wdiich her soul sickened as she asked her-
self, was this woeful search, after she knew
not what, to go on for ever, or would the



188 " CHERR Y RIPE /"

end come but with the cessation of her Uttle
mistress's ah-eady slender hold upon life ?

For no farther than the great city had those
indefinite travels to which Prue had resigned
herself the day she left Rosemary been ex-
tended. Whoever or whatever might be the
object of Mignon's search was contained in
the town, and when once the girl had left
Waterloo, and found herself among the roar
of traffic and sea of passing faces, she had
grown calmer, and looking eagerly about
had seemed to recognise things, although
when later they came to a quiet part of the
town, she turned restless again and appeared
distressed. And from that day, from the
moment when with infinite difficulty Prue
had prevailed upon her to enter the modest
rooms tenanted by Prue's old friend, there
had been no keeping the girl within doors;
let them watch her as they chose, seek
to amuse her as they listed, she would glide
out of their midst like a shadow and be in
the streets again, turning her head from side
to side, looking, looking for something that
fche could not find. It was all in vain that



HEART. 189

Prue followed and brought her home ; the
girl displayed such skill in eluding her again,
that Prue gave up all attempt at coercing
her, and did the sole thing possible to her,
let the girl go where she would, and herself
— followed.

All jVIignon's heart was bound up in
this mysterious quest ; she seldom noticed
Prue, rarely spoke to her, and seemed to
have lost all her former aifection for the
woman. And with that marvellous instinct
which in mad people almost takes the place
of sense, Mignon, no matter how far she went,
or by what devious streets and ways, invari-
ably found her way home again, without any
reference to the patient shadow that followed
at her heels.

Prue sometimes rubbed her eyes and pinched
herself to make sure that it was not all a
dream, that this girl, clad like herself in the
coarse, unlovely dress of the poorest classes,
had once been tenderly nurtured, fondly
cherished ; moreover, the centre to at least
four people of such love as is rarely indeed
called forth or mven. Truly love had been



190 ''CHERRY RIPE



to her no blessing, but a curse, else had she
not come to such a pass of wretchedness and
vaofabondao^e to which she had now fallen.
Was it possible that she had ever been win-
some and laughter-loving and lovely, this girl
with the worn and wintry face, that was like
a beaten-down snowdrop, and from which
her blue eyes, no longer beautiful, looked out
upon the passing world with blank and wan-
derino^ o-aze %

As she went to and fro in her shabby,
shapeless clothes, the beauty that had once
been hers was so hidden and dimmed as to
be well-nigh lost, and men's eyes, resting
carelessly on her face, seldom or never gave it
a second glance, unless for the sake of the
misery written upon it. And of insult or
molestation from the lower classes, into
whose haunts she often strayed, she was
entirely free. Her apparent poverty, her
wretchedness, made her one of themselves ;
and having breathed upon and made her one
of their own, she was henceforth a child of the
people, and heeded by them no whit. In
those days it seemed a good thing to Prue



HEART. 191

that Mignon's sweet looks had so utterly
departed from her, for how else could she
have failed to be exposed to a thousand
perils against which Prue's weak arm would
have been powerless to shield her %

When first the pair had come to London,
Prue had dressed her mistress as became her
station, but on discovering: how much at-
tention the girl had attracted to herself in
her wanderings, the woman, with some of
that rare good sense that is usually called
"common," for the sole reason apparently
that it is the most precious and uncommon of
all qualities, saw the necessity for change.
Hence those miserable garments, sodden and
worn by wind and weather, that the girl
wore abroad, and beneath which she was as
delicately and fastidiously cared for as heart
could wish.

For whom was the girl looking? That
was the question that Prue asked herself
with weary iteration as she walked in her
mistress's track day after day. She scarcely
thought it was for Muriel, since now and
again, and in her sleep, there had fallen from



192 " CHERR V RIPE /'

Mignon's lips words that seemed to reveal a
strano-e fear and dread of her sister, while of
the love that had formerly been the religion
of her life there seemed to remain not a trace.
And if Mignon were not looking for Muriel^
all thouo'ht of the latter beino^ for the time
driven out by a later and more engrossing
idea, then could it be for her betrayer, Philip
La Mert, or for her husband Adam ?

Every one seemed to be looking for some-
body else, nothing sorted itself or came
straight, and life just then was to Prue a mental
rag-bag, in which she plunged her hand only
to bring out a bundle of odds and ends.

Where was her master, and had he yet come
up with the man ujDon whom he had vowed
veno^eance? And where was Mr. La Mert
now, and how came it that he had made not an
effort to overtake and recapture the girl whom
he had taken such desperate pains to win?

Utterly bewildered, Prue's mind revolved
every possibility till she became as giddy as a
blue-bottle fly imprisoned in a glass tumbler,
and at last gave up attempting to find the key
to the mystery. From Rosemary had come-



HEART.



not one word of news, good, bad, or indifferent.
The woman in whose care Prue had placed the
house, and who reached it the day after Prue's
departure, reported the arrival of sundry
letters for Mr. Montrose, all of which awaited
him, toof ether with Prue's, announcino' Mio^-
non's return ; but from Mr. Montrose himself
had come no sira or word, althouo^li sixty lono^
days had passed since he set out.

And in all this time Mignon had ceased not
from her mysterious search, save when, worn
out with bodily fatigue, she would sleep pro-
foundly, or sit, folding and unfolding her rest-
less hands, starino' out of the narrow window
at the stunted evergreens in their pots. I
wonder what o-oes on within the clouded brain
of such an one, whether all is darkness and
quietude, save when some glimmer of reason
pierces through to it ; or whether all is wild
hurry and chaos, idea succeeding idea, in
lavish profusion, yet all alike unsatisfactory
and impossible to grasp ?

Only once had the girl shown herself moved
by aught that she had seen or heard abroad,
and that was the sound of church bells. She

VOL. III. Go



192 " CHERRY RIPE /'

Mignon's lips words that seemed to reveal a
strange fear and dread of her sister, while of
the love that had formerly been the religion
of her life there seemed to remain not a trace.
And if Mignon were not looking for Muriel,.
all thought of the latter being for the time
driven out by a later and more engrossing
idea, then could it be for her betrayer, Philip
La Mert, or for her husband Adam ?

Every one seemed to be looking for some-
body else, nothing sorted itself or came
straight, and life just then was to Prue a mental
rag-bag, in which she plunged her hand only
to bring out a bundle of odds and ends.

Where was her master, and had he yet come
up with the man uj^on whom he had vowed
vengeance? And where was Mr. La Mert
now, and how came it that he had made not an
effort to overtake and recapture the girl whom
he had taken such desperate pains to win?

Utterly bewildered, Prue's mind revolved
every possibility till she became as giddy as a
blue-bottle fly imprisoned in a glass tumbler,
and at last gave up attempting to find the key
to the mystery. From Bosemary had come-



HEART, 193



not one word of news, good, bad, or indifferent.
The woman in whose care Prue had placed the
house, and who reached it the day after Prue's
departure, reported the arrival of sundry
letters for Mr. Montrose, all of which awaited
him, together with Prue's, announcing Mig-
non's return ; l^ut from Mr. Montrose himself
had come no sign or word, although sixty long
days had passed since he set out.

And in all this time Mignon had ceased not
from her mysterious search, save when, worn
out with bodily fatigue, she would sleep pro-
foundly, or sit, folding and unfolding her rest-
less hands, staring out of the narrow window
at the stunted evergreens in their pots. I
wonder what goes on within the clouded brain
of such an one, whether all is darkness and
quietude, save when some glimmer of reason
pierces through to it ; or whether all is wild
hurry and chaos, idea succeeding idea, in
lavish profusion, yet all alike unsatisfactor}'
and impossible to grasp ?

Only once had the girl shown herself moved
by aught that she had seen or heard abroad,
and that was the sound of church bells. She

VOL. III. [)3



194 " CHERR V RIPE f



Avould start up, trembling all over, when she
heard them ; and on Sundays it was impos-
sible, no matter Avhat the weather might be,
to keep her Avithin doors, for to church after
church she would find her way, only to look
eagerly at it and turn away again, as though
disappointed. Evidently the sound of bells
suggested some memory to her, that she was
incessantly trying to puzzle out, but could
not. Prue sometimes wept when the girl
turned her wistful eyes upon her, with the
look in them of a dumb creature who seeks to
express himself, yet cannot ; and would have
given ten years of her life to be able to
supply the answer after Avhich the toiling


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