Katharine Sarah Macquoid.

Lost Rose. And other stories (Volume 1) online

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never reach Bruges ; and when at last they
were fairly on their way to his home, his agony
grew so strong that he covered his face with
his hands.

The door stood open ; Clemence went in
and beckoned him to follow up the stairs along
the gallery into his wife's bedroom.

Eosalie was kneeling beside the bed, one
arm round her child.

Loulou's eyes were closed, but he opened
them and looked at his mother.

He was so pale, so very still, but his father


saw the purple rings under the ^adely-opened
eyes, and the death-like pallor of the sweet
little face.

His eyes were fixed on his mother.

**Kiss me," — the little voice was so faint,
so weary, that it sounded far, far off to the two
listeners, — ^^ and kiss papa when he comes :
he will come — dear — dear mamma."

The eyes shut and opened again.

There was a little faint fluttering, and Lou-
lou was far away — away from his mother's
tears, and his father's agony of sorrow, and
yet closely present, praying for them, it may
be, in this their sore trial.

Clemence stole softly out of the room.
There was silence awhile, and then the man's
sorrow burst from him in deep struggling

Rosalie looked up ; she had not realised
that her husband had indeed come back; and
in the unlooked-for joy her new sorrow was
hushed. She went to him, took his hand and
kissed it tenderly ; then she clung to him.

** Louis, my Louis," she whispered, '' for-
give me, wilt thou not ? I will try and love
thee as well as Loulou loved."



T^HE rainy weather has passed away ; the
sky is bright and clear, with just a few
soft grey-tinted clouds to take hardness from
its intense blue ; but those days of heavy rain
have robbed the lilac flowers of their bloom,
and made the guelder-rose blossoms hang
their heads like a drenched mop.

But the birds in the cages sing out loudly
that the rain has brought a more genial
warmth into the old courtyard; and the vine
leaves have also found this out, and are
shaking themselves free of their brown sheaths
with surprising quickness. The fountain, too,
sparkles merrily in the sunshine, and seems
to be calling for its playfellows, the gold-fish,
to disport themselves in its basin.

Clemence stands waiting in the middle of
the courtyard ; her mourning dress looks sad.
in contrast to the brightness overhead, but
there is no sorrow in her sweet earnest dark.


Every now and then they are turned to the
arched passage mth an expectant look in them.

She is not looking at Elodie, who stands
outside the window of the little sitting-room,
with her arms a-kimbo, chatting with Madame
de Yos. The cook of the '' Ours d'Or " has
evidently softened towards the visitor ; she is
actually instructing her at this moment on
the best method of cooking chaffinches.

A sound of wheels at last, rattling over the
round stones of the place, and Elodie retreats
precipitately to her kitchen. It does not com-
port with her self-respect that her master
should find her chatting with her old foe.
Madame de Vos, too, shuts down the window,
to keep up her character as an invalid.

Clemence has gone to meet her father
under the archway ; he draws her hand fondly
within his arm, and they come back together
into the courtyard.

Clemence looks full of expectation.

** It is all right," Monsieur smiles down into
her questioning eyes. *^ I had a long talk
with Louis, and also with Rosalie. They
seem very happy. The most hopefal sign
about her is her loving gratitude for thee,


Clemence : she says, if she is happy in this
new life with Louis, she owes it all to thy
unselfish love."

**Hush, my father; " but Clemence's soft
eyes are full of tears.

** I am not afraid of spoiling thee, my
darling" — he kisses her forehead — ** but I
should like to know thy secret, Clemence ; it
could have been no easy matter to win poor
froward Eosalie to feel as she now feels — that
a wife is made for a husband, not a husband
for a wife."

**I have no secret," laughs Clemence softly.
** I only love Eosalie dearly, and I think she
believes it now."



Paet L

*' T^HEN you can give me no reason for
your objections, father?"

Molly's voice sounded defiant, but her
quivering mouth showed how much pain I
had given her ; and it is very hard to look
at your own child, a loving, lovely girl of
seventeen, and feel that you are making her

I do not think it is because Molly is my
own child that I say she was lovely at
seventeen. Other people thought so too.
She had such a rare face : a fair skin, a little
freckled ; dark-brown hair, which clustered
in boyish fashion over her white temples ;
black-fringedy clear grey eyes — the long
fringes trembled now as nervously as the
closely-shut scarlet lips. I knew the poor


child was trying to keep from crying, and
I felt an unnatural tyrant, sitting there in
my easy-chair looking at her. It became
necessary to repeat my objections, to save
myself from yielding.

*' I gave you two reasons just now, Molly.
I think Mr. Wickham is too old for you ;
and also, I want to know a little more
about him before you promise to be his

** Oh, father!" She had been standing
by the door. I hoped this painful interview
was over, and she was going away quietly ;
but now she came back to my writing-table,
and pressed her clasped hands on it, as if to
steady herself.

** You know I don't care for young men.
Mr. Wickham is only forty ; you are young
still, and you are forty- seven ; and, father,
though you have only known him a few
weeks, remember I saw a good deal of him
at Brighton ; he and I used to spend every
morning on the beach."

*^ Then where was Mrs. Jackson?" I
asked angrily ; for my cousin Tom Jackson's
wife had assured me, if I would trust Molly


with her to spend a month at Brighton, she
would never let her go out alone.

** She was there ; she used to talk to Mr.
Wickham too. Why, father, I told you all
this, the first day he called here after I came
back; she talked to him till she began to read,
but you know, when once cousin Emma gets
her head in a book, she is not much of a
companion to anybody."

*' This is all irrelevant," I said. *^ I
must still keep to what I told you just now,
Molly : I don't yet know enough of Mr.
Wickham to consent to your marriage with
him ; and until I do know a little more
about him, he must not come here, my

I looked at her lovingly. But when a
father takes upon himself to thwart his
daughter's affections, though his heart may
be running over with love for her, it is all
one : he is looked upon as the most un-
natural tyrant that ever existed — a creature
taking actual delight in promoting the misery
of others.

^^ It is very, very hard," said Molly,
ignoring the fond look that went with my


last words. '* I must know best who will
make me happy."

There was such a quaver in the sweet
voice, as she shut the door behind her, that
I felt sure Molly would go straight upstairs
to her own room, and cry her dear heart
out ; and though I was such • an inflexible
tyrant, young ladies, I leaned back in my
chair, and covered my face with my hands,
as I thought of my darling's suffering.
Molly was all I had to care for now. Her
mother had been taken from me three years
before, and I had thought that the poor
lonely girl would be happier at school than
with such an utterly cast-down, spiritless
wreck as this loss had left me ; for my wife
and I had never been separated, and it was
to me now as if half of myself, half of my
feelings at least, and all my better judgment,
lay buried in the quiet little churchyard at

** Oh, Mary, if I only had yon, this would
all be easy."

And then it seemed to me that if her
mother had lived, this could never have
happened to Molly. My own lost darling


would never have sat reading novels on the
beach while an artless, blooming young crea-
ture like my child talked to a stranger.

** No," I said to myself, firmly. ^* I hate
prejudice, and I think young people should
marry for love ; but I consider an attach-
ment safest when it springs up in a girl's
own home ; especially when a girl is mother-
less, and has lost the only safe confidante in
such matters."

Still I was very uncomfortable.

Tea-time came, and Molly did not come
down to make it. I grew more and more
uneasy. I got up, and began to walk up
and down the large old-fashioned room I
sat in.

A room you never see in newly-built
houses ; but a room you will often find in
the old unfrequented parts of London between
Islington and Gray's Inn. A square room,
with a wide, shallow bow-window ; the
shutters of which were encrusted with richly-
carved woodwork ; carving was to be found too
on wainscoting and door-panels and chimney-
piece ; the ceiling was also richly decorated.
A room that, even with scanty furnishing


and meagre allowance of light, lent far more
of dignity to our straitened means than the
small, smart, bran-new drawing-room of a
suburban villa could ever have given. I
could never tell why — I have racked my
memory for this link in my poor child's sad
story, and I have never been able to find it
— but as I paced up and down my walk,
bounded by the limits of the Turkey carpet,
which did not reach nearly as far as the
wainscoting, I kept on looking at the ceiling.
It was not very distinct in the light given by
our lamp in that space ; but still the festoons
stretching from one bunch of flowers to
another kept on attracting my notice more
and more.

More and more, till my neck ached from
the effort of looking up at them — I stopped
short suddenly, and asked myself sternly
how I could let my attention wander in this
childish fashion, when I had to consider so
important a subject as the happiness of my
child's life ? And then I tried to recall the
thought that was in my mind when I first
began to walk up and down.

Before long it came back ; but it certainly


had no connection with the ornamented ceil-
ing — at least, so it then seemed to me.

My thought was this : That I had not
been quite truthful with Molly ; that the
strong motive -power of my objection to
Mr. Wickham's suit was not so much his
age as a prejudice against the man him-
self. A prejudice conceived the instant I
saw him, and which the favourable after
impression his manner and conversation had
produced had utterly failed to remove. The
strangest part about this prejudice was that
it seemed to have been in my mind before I
saw him. It seemed to me as if I must
have known this man in a dream or in some
previous state of existence.

Molly had not talked about her new friend
before he presented himself; so that I could
in no way account for my predisposition
against him.

Mrs. Jackson had lent him a book, and
he called at our house to return it, having
ascertained that our cousin was to pay us a
visit on her way home.

I thought it unnecessary to ask him up-
stairs when he heard that Mrs. Jackson had



left us that morning ; but he came up, and
made himself very agreeable, and so excited
my interest by the promised sight of a rare
etching, that I confess I asked him to dine
with us the next Sunday, and bring his
treasure with him.

Afterwards, I imagine, he must have called
almost daily in my absence ; but of this I
heard nothing in detail. Once or twice Molly
said, '' Oh, father, Mr. Wickham called, and
asked to see you ; " but I took no heed. I
quite accepted the fact that I was the object
of his visits, and although, when Molly re-
peated it this evening, I recollected that
she had spoken of meeting Mr. Wickham on
the beach, still it would never have occurred
to me that a plain middle-aged man, who
seemed to me older than myself, could have
any attractions likely to win my beautiful

The shock this evening, when she came to
me, and said that she had promised Mr.
Wickham to ask my permission to become
his wife, had been overpowering. The whole
affair seemed to me so underhand.

'^ How can he dare to think of a girl like


my Molly ?" I had said to myself; and I said
it again as I stood still in the middle of the
room, trying to connect my thoughts to-

I had stood still beside a large easel. I
have not said before that I am an artist,
because it matters little to the story I have
to tell ; but the room was full of easels,
folios, and half- finished pictures and sketches.
On the easel beside which I now stood was
a sketch-book, kept open by a mahl-stick.
Molly had been sketching from a cast of a
pair of hands, hardly to be seen now in the
dim light on the opposite wall ; but I was
not looking at her bold yet careful drawing.
This easel was near enough to my lamp for
me to see a sentence written over and over
again on the other side of the page — Eichard
Eobert Wickliam — and then, as if the initials
pleased her, E. E. W. in varied monograms.

I started as if some one had come sud-
denly on me, and then instinctively I looked
up again at the ceiling ; a chaos of places and
persons was surging up into my brain so
confusedly that I could not attain to any
distinctness of \dsion.


I went back to my table, sat down in my
chair, and again I covered my face with my
hands. This time I was trying to face my
thoughts, not to shirk them.

E. E. W. I had seen these initials before.
Yes, often and often — but where ? I tried
to see the letters in my mind, and then,
holding them fixed there, to force Memory
to picture where she had seen them. By
degrees, slowly, painfully, my vision grew
clearer. I saw the E. E. W. distinctly ; no
longer on the blank leaf of Molly's sketch-
book, but in the corner of large folio sheets
of paper ; and then, as suddenly as the furl-
ing of a sail — as the unveiling of the moon
by a wind-driven cloud — came out into dis-
tinctness the mystery that had been labour-
ing in my brain,

I unclasped my hands, and looked up at
the ceiling. Yes ; I understood it all now.
Years ago, as a lad, I had been pupil to an
architect, and drawing after drawing of orna-
ments of various kinds had come under my
notice, always with this E. E. W. in the

But what had this to do with Mr. Wick-


ham ? There might be dozens of men with
the same initials. Had I ever seen the
artist whose designs had so clung to my
recollection ?

This time I was not so long in groping
among the dark corners of the past ; for it is
a curious fact that when once the mind is
thus forced out of the present life, it will
travel along unaided.

I saw a cosy dining-room, with a blazing
fire, and the glow of crimson curtains on the
face of my master and host — portly Mr.
Attwood, the architect — who sat opposite to
me on the other side of the hearth-rug ; and it
seemed to me I could see a trim-looking par-
lour-maid ushering in a middle-sized, slim
youth, with light hair and whiskers; his name
I could not remember, but he was the designer
of the ceilings, and in the employ of Messrs.
Popton, the builders. I remembered that he
sat with his face in shadow, only every now
and then a flicker in the fire had given me a
clearer glimpse of him. He stayed about a
quarter of an hour, and seemed glad to get
away. Could this have been Mr. Wickham,
— this thin, pale, timid youth — the well-


dressed and well-to-do man who had dined
with us that Sunday ? And yet once in the
afternoon there had come over him a timid,
ill-assured manner, which, now I rememhered
it, likened him strangely to Mr. Attwood's
visitor. And — yes, this seemed to make
conjecture certain — the timid manner had
come to Mr. Wickham when I asked him if
he had ever taken up art practically, as he
seemed to be so fond of collecting it. He
had avoided answering my question.

" If old Attwood were alive, I could make
inquiry of him," I said; and then I felt
provoked that he and both the brothers
Popton had died years ago. I had no clue
to the E. E. W. of my younger days.


Part II.

^EXT morning Molly sent me a message.
Her head ached so badly that she hoped I
would excuse her, and send her up some tea.
I felt very sorry not to see her, especially
as I was going to make a sketch near St.
Paul's, a background for my new picture,
and I had determined not to come home as
usual to our early dinner.

'' I wish I had told her I should not be
home," I thought ; '' she may fancy I am
displeased with her about this unfortunate
business. Poor dear child ! if I had not
sent her to school, she would have learned
to know her poor father better."

My sketch was very troublesome ; and
when I at last thought about dinner, I found
it was past three o'clock.

*' No wonder I am hungry. It is fortunate,"
I said, '' that I left word Molly was not to
wait, poor darling."

I was close to St. Paul's Churchyard, and


I went into a pastrycook's, a place I had
often lunched in when I was at Attwood's,
and ordered a hasin of soup.

I ordered soup, thinking there could be no
delay in getting it, but I was mistaken.

I had seated myself at one of the small
marble tables in the dingy parlour behind
the shop. There was no one there but my-
self, and I rapped my glass impatiently with
the blade of my knife.

*'Yes, sir," said the waiter, just putting
in his head from a side door — he was a short,
bald-headed man, with red hair and an in-
effable smile ; a man, you felt sure, would
only go the pace he chose — '' directly, sir !"
and he Tanished.

I felt exasperated — half-inclined to go
away at once. Just at this moment two
men came into the shop, gave their orders
at the counter, and then seated themselves
at the table next mine ; but as they had
their backs towards me, and the light came
dimly through the dirty cobwebbed window,
which looked into a court, I could not see
their faces.

They began to talk, at first about China.


One of them had lately returned from Shang-
hai. Something in the tone of this man's
voice struck me as familiar. I could not
identify it, but it linked itself with the crowd
of long-buried memories that had been re-
vived last night by the sight of Mr. Wick-
ham's initials.

Just then the waiter came with my soup.

** Are those chops coming?" said the
man from Shanghai. I tried to get a look at
him as he spoke, but his face was smothered
in a huge brown beard.

** I say, Tom," his companion said, *' did
you ever come across Dickybird in Australia ? "

**Hush!" said the other, but he scarcely
lowered his voice ; *' he's back again here —
up in the world again, and doing well."

*' You don't mean that ? Why, I've been
in England ever since, and I've heard nothing
about him."

**Well then, Fred, if you walk up and
down Mincing Lane for an hour to-morrow
morning before you return to the bosom of
your family at Eeading, you'll most likely
meet Mr. Kichard Eobert Wickham, tea-
broker, coming out of his own office."


Fred whistled. '' He has a nerve, and no
mistake. I've heard that these things happen
in Austraha ; but I didn't think a man could
get fourteen years, and then come back and
hold up his head in old England again, just
as if nothing had happened."

**Well, and why not? I believe he had
a scamp of a father, who taught him no good.
I grant you forgery's an ugly thing ; but still
I believe it to be one of those crimes a man
may commit in a moment of sudden temptation,
and repent of ever after. I always thought
the Poptons hard in prosecuting the case.
No, I can't see why poor Dickybird should
not have a chance of dying honest. He's
getting on in life now."

*' Well," said Fred, '* you can do as you
please, but I couldn't have anything to say
to Wickham if I were to meet him a hundred

I pushed away my soup ; it was as much
as I could do not to groan aloud.

It was impossible to stay there any longer.
"What evil chance, or rather what providence,
had led me, on that special day, into that
pastrycook's ?


I went up to the counter, paid for what I
had had, and went back to my sketch.

But not to draw. I knew all power had
left me. My head seemed to be going round
and round, as I made the best of my way
back to Doughty Street.

Of course I remembered the forgery on
Poptons', but even now I could not distinctly
recall the names of those who had been tried
and convicted for having committed it. I
knew there had been three or four concerned.
Once or twice, as I walked home, I told
myself it was impossible that the lover of
my child was a returned convict. I tried to
look at the case as the Shanghai man had
looked at it ; but his friend's words had
more weight. I felt that the other notion
was overstrained and Quixotic.

I had some hope that Molly might have
gone out to take a walk ; but when I opened
the door, there she stood in the middle of
the ;3ainting-room, before the open sketch-

Fcr a moment I felt choked ; but the sight
of her sweet innocent beauty hardened me
yet m^re against Wickham.


'^ I will not give him a creature like that
to drag doAvn to disgrace," I said, firmly.

Molly came up to me timidly, and held up
her face to be kissed.

It seemed to me as if I could not tell her
what I had heard ; but she left me no power
of silence.

^* Father," — she grew crimson while she
spoke — ''Mr. Wickham has been here, and
he says he is coming again this evening to
explain matters to you "

I interrupted her vehemently. Poor dear
Molly ! I don't know what I had said ; my
words had burst from me like a tempest ; but
I saw in her cowering figure and whitening
face how angry I was^

She only shrank away for a moment ; then,
like a true woman, she rallied to defend her

''Father, you may not like Mr. Wickham,
but you have no right to call him a scoun-

"Silence!" I said.

Molly and I stood just by the easel where
I had stood last night. She did not cry;
anger flashed out of her beautiful eyes —


anger, and a sort of wondering contempt for
my blind prejudice.

I felt that I must tell her the truth at once ;
but I did not look at her while I told it.

^' And how do you know it is the same
person ? " her voice rang out, in triumphant
scorn, when I ended my story. *' How do
you know those men were speaking the truth ?
Father, I can't believe it is you telling me all
this. Why did you not turn round on the
men, and dare them to prove what they were
chattering about ? " She turned away im-
petuously, and walked up and down the room
as fast as she could.

Presently she came back to me, her breath
coming in quick short pants between her words.

*'And if it is true, do you think I shall
leave off loving him ? What ! when he is
trying to do what is right and just, shall I
desert him ? I shall only cling to him more
closely — only strive to show him that at least
one heart believes him now to be true and
honourable. But I don't believe the story."

I confess that her passion frightened me.
I had seen her self-willed, but not often ; she
had been such a gentle, yielding girl. How-


ever was I to convince her of the truth of my
story ?

It seemed to me that if its truth were once
made irresistible, a pure, innocent creature
like Molly must shrink from the contamina-
tion of such a marriage. I was determined
she should give up Mr. Wickham; but I
wanted her to do this willingly.

" If Mr. Wickham confesses to this when I
see him to-night, will you be convinced
then ?" I said gravely.

" Not unless he tells me so himself." And
she went out of the room, as if she were
afraid to trust her own self-control.

Mr. Wickham came. I told him my story.
At first he hesitated ; but when he saw that
I remembered him, he confessed the whole

He pleaded very strongly against my judg-
ment. He said bygones should be bygones.
What he had done was a sudden temptation,
and he had bitterly repented. He said he did
not believe anyone but the man I had heard
called Tom would have recognised him (he
had been clerk to Mr. Attwood at the time
of the forgery). He explained his prospects

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