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Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



http://www.archive.org/details/repentanceofpaul02smit



THE KEPENTANCE



OF



PAUL "WENTWORTH,



^ Nobel



IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. II.




LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,

Publisfjers tn ©rtiinarg to ^vc IHajestg tJje ©u«n.

1889.
{All rights reserved.)



8£3



" Men are led by strange ways. One shonld have tolerance
for a man, hoj e of him ; leave him to try yet what he will
do." — Caelyle.



-n



CONTENTS OF VOL. 11.



CHAPTER PAGE

I. Lady Clavering to the Rescue ... ... 1

II. "Total Eclipse" ... ... ... 26

III. A Passage Perilous ... ... ... 38

IV. A Modern Sir Galahad ... ... 65

V. Stella ... ... ... 94

VI. "The Silence that came next" ... 120

VII. Philip Irvine becomes Uneasy ... ... 137

VIII. What the World said ... ... J 53

IX. Sealing the Indictment ... ... ... 17-i

X. Counsels of Perfection ... ... 190

XI. " Amici, Comqedia finita est " ... ... 220

XII. The Scene changes ... ... ... 244

XIII. A Chance Acquaintance ... ... ... 266

XIV. At a Little Dlnner-Party ... ... 287

XV. "Rosemary, for Remembrance" ... ... 314

XVI. Lady Ellesthorpe speaks ... ... 324

XVII. Then and Now ... ... ... ... 535





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THE EEPENTANCE

OP

PAUL WENT WORTH.

CHAPTER I.

LADY CLAVERING TO THE EESCUE.

" Daughter, I know not what you call the highest. . . .
If this be high, what is it to be low ? "

Tennyson.

" I can't think what made me fancy he was
a widower," poor Mrs. Erskine said, shivering
as she spoke. She was standing with Lady
Clavering in a secluded part of the garden on
the morning following the latter's arrival at the
Hotel My then ; the air was chilly and autumnal,
and, not expecting that the private conference to
which her friend had invited her would last so
long, the Professor's wife had come out in her

VOL. II. 21



2 THE REPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

thin house-dress, unprotected by shawl or wrap
of any kind, so her shivering condition was
easily accounted for. " I certainly never thought
he was a married man. What made me imagine
he was a widower, I wonder ? Surely Alec must
have said something to that effect ! "

"If you thought he was unmarried, Isabel,"
answered Lady Claveriug briskly, "I should
have said that was an additional reason for not
letting a pretty young girl run about the country
with him in this free-and-easy way. His being
married — if he behaved himself as he ought to
do, which he doesn't — would have been a kind
of safeguard. But that's not really the question.
Married or Avidowed, it makes no difference.
With a reputation like his, half a dozen wives
couldn't lessen the impropriety of Muriel's roam-
ing about with him."

Lady Clavering did not shiver at all. She
was w^ell and warmly equipped for the journey
on which she was about to start, and in any
case the heat of her righteous zeal and indigna-
tion would have prevented her experiencing any
sensation of cold.

" I am di'eadfully sorry, Susan," Mrs. Erskine
replied penitently. " I suppose I ought to have
looked after her more closely, but Alec monopo-



LADY CLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. 3

lizes so much of my time that I have little left
for any one else, and then he spoke so highly of
Mr. Wentworth ! I never had much to do with
him myself, but I could see that he was a very
clever, well-bred man, and I thought it very
kind of him to take so much notice of a child
like Muriel. So did Alec."

Lady Clavering gave a sort of despairing
groan. " Isabel, I believe you are more than
half a child still yourself," she said. "I speak
plainly, but we have been almost like sisters all
our lives, and I know you won't take my plain
speaking ill. It's very nice to be as guileless
and childlike and all that kind of thing as
you and the dear Professor are, but it's very
dangerous sometimes. Why, Muriel's nineteen ;
she's not a child at all. She's a very beautiful
girl, just at the age to take the fancy of a jaded
man of the world like Paul Wentworth. As to
his good nature and kindness, it's a myth ! You
won't get me to believe in it. Of course he
admires Muriel — who wouldn't ? I don't blame
him so much for that, and his own wife is a
tiresome, cold-hearted, artificial woman : I detest
her ! — and I've no doubt he has gone as far as
he dares in trying to flirt with the dear child.
He dares a good deal, let me tell you. My great



4 THE REPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

hope is that she's too young and simple to
understand what he's been driving at."

" I am sorry you think so very badly of him,"
Mrs. Erskine said wistfully. "I have heard
some very nice things about him from Alec
and Muriel. One little story— of his marvellous
kindness to some poor child who got lost between
this place and Fliielen, and whom he saved from
slipping over the precipice — was really quite
touching."

" Worse and worse ! " rejoined Lady Clavering,
with another sound of dismay. "Muriel told
you these pretty tales, did she ? I am very
sorry to hear it. However, they say we ought
to give even Satan his due, and I don't wish to
assert that Mr. Wentworth is destitute of common
humanity. Indeed, I never heard that he was
an unkind man."

" Then as regards Muriel," Mrs. Erskine struck
in, eager to exculpate herself from the charges
levelled at her, "don't you see that his age
alone would prevent her looking upon him in —
in the way you speak of? Oh, it's quite impos-
sible that she should ever think of him in that
way, Susan ! Why, he must be old enough to be
her father, pretty nearly ! She would consider
him an elderly man."



LADY CLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. 5

" My dear Isabel/ how little you know about
it all ! A clever, fascinating man of Paul Went-
wortli's age would be much more likely to dazzle
the mind of a romantic girl like Muriel than a
curly -headed boy twenty years younger. His
attentions would be something to be really proud
of, you see. As to his being elderly, he's only
forty and looks less ; and, elderly or not, I never
yet knew the woman whose head he couldn't
manage to turn if he gave his mind to the under-
taking."

" I have been very remiss, I fear," poor Mrs.
Erskine murmured. Her mild blue eyes filled
with tears; she looked the picture of helpless
regret and utter bewilderment. " I believe I am
unfit to take care of anybody, but to think that
I should have acted such a careless part by poor
Amy's child breaks my heart. Susan, you were
always quick and full of resource. Tell me what
to do in this terrible trouble ! "

" Come, we needn't call it a terrible trouble at
present," Lady Clavering said. She had gained
the desired end now — Mrs. Erskine had been
thoroughly frightened, and there was little fear
but what she would prove a more circumspect
guardian in future. " Perhaps there's no harm
done. In fact, my impression is that there is



6 THE EEPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWOETH.

not. I got Muriel into my room this morning
and talked to her — of course without saying any-
thincr of all this — and all she said reassured me.
She seemed as gay as a lark and not a bit self-
conscious, both good signs. Then I just casually
mentioned young Arlingham — you know that
nice 3^oung fellow at Eversleigh -who paid her
so much attention last summer — and she blushed
like a rose at once. That was another good sign,
and so, I thouo^ht, was her evident willingness to
go back to England directly. No, I don't think
there's any serious harm done yet."

" But what ought I to do now ? "

" Do ? Why, stop these tete-d-tete boating
expeditions to begin with — they are the worst
part of the business. I don't want to wound
your feelings again, my dear, but how could you
ever have permitted them ? Well, there's no
use crying over spilt milk. But it is lucky
John and I were the people to see and recognize
them last night, instead of some ill-natured
strangers. She would have been terribly talked
about in that case, I can assure you."

" I will not believe the world in general to be
so gratuitously cruel," answered Mrs. Erskine,
plucking up a little spirit. " I think you are
rather harsh in your own judgments, Susan. I



LADY CLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. 7

may have been wrong in allowing the child so
much liberty, but I gave the permission inno-
cently, and she took it innocently; and for aught
I know," added Mrs. Erskine, with a spurt of
defiance, " Mr. Went worth may have acted inno-
cently in the matter too."

" A fig for Mr. Wentworth's innocence ! You
cannot know many men of his stamp, or you
would not give much credence to that notion,"
Lady Clavering replied scornfully.

" No, I am glad to say I don't know many, or
indeed any men of the stamp you would have
me believe Mr. Wentworth belongs to," Mrs.
Erskine retorted with growing heat.

" Have you believe ! " Lady Clavering cried
with a gesture of exasperation. "Why, the
man's character is as well known as — as Caesar
Borgia's, I was going to say. Not that I mean
to imply he's like Caesar Borgia, of course.
People say sometimes that his wife must be
either a fool or an angel to bear as she does
with him. I don't believe she's either myself, by
the way : she's certainly not a fool, and I see no
tokens of angelhood about her. I only know
that if it was my husband who made himself so
talked about, I should break my heart for shame
and misery." Lady Clavering paused impres-



8 THE REPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

sively, but a faint smile on her friend's lips
warning her that the idea of the respectable,
elderly Sir John enacting the part of a reckless
and fascinating Don Juan was not without its
humorous elements and suggestions, she hurried
on again, " Well, Mrs. Went worth's conduct has
really nothing to do with the matter. If you
want me to prove the truth of what I have been
saying, I can tell you half a dozen stories "

"No, no; pray don't!" interrupted Mrs. Erskine,
flushing like a girl. " Of course I ought to have
known that you would not speak without good
and sufficient cause, Susan. But I would rather
not hear these — stories."

" I do not want to repeat them, I am sure,"
Lady Clavering said. " They're not exactly
edifying." This was undeniably true; neverthe-
less. Lady Clavering would have liked to repeat
them very much. " We must think now what
yon ought to do about Muriel."

" Yes, certainl}^ Pray tell me what you would
advise."

" First of all, I should inquire into this
widower idea — I mean, I should try and find out
how it reached you to begin with. If he's been
wilfully deceiving the Professor and Muriel, I
should expose him without mercy — to the girl



LADY CLAVEEIXG TO THE RESCUE. 9

herself, that is to say. Of course you wouldn't
talk about such a matter to strangers, or there
would be a scandal at once. For my part, I
believe Mr. Wentworth capable of anything, but
I don't want to condemn him unheard. If you
tind that it was all your own mistake from
beginning to end, of course you needn't say so
much. In that case, your plan of action would
be very simple indeed."

Lady Clavering, in her part of confidential
counsellor and experienced woman of the world,
was enjoying herself immensely. She stopped
for a minute, partly to take breath and partly to
indulge in a complacent review of the important
position she conceived herself to be occupying
at the moment, and then went on again as fast
and as eagerly as before.

"In that case I should simply say that you
have heard things about him from me and from
John that you don't like — of course you won't
enter into particulars, but you might just hint
that he's not an estimable individual morally,
and that he behaves ill to his wife ; that will
be quite enough for a girl like Muriel — and that,
as you've heard these things, you think she had
better not make such a friend of him, and rather
keep out of his way in future. You will see by



10 THE REPENTANCE OF PAUL WENT WORTH.

the way she takes this whether he has really
made any impression or not, because if he has,
she'll try to stick up for him, and refuse to believe
what you say. In any case, don't blame yourself
to her for what is over and gone. Keep up your
authority — perhaps you may need it before all's
done with, though I repeat that I don't believe
there's any real harm accomplished yet. But
how lucky John and I came, for yoa are so
innocent that there is no saying how long this
kind of thing might have gone on before you
woke up to its enormity ! I wish I could stay
and help you, but "

" Susan, where are you ? Where is Lady
Clavering ? " said Sir John's gruff voice close at
liand. " The steamer is ready to 'start ; we shall
be late, as usual I "

" Coming, dear, coming," cried his wife cheer-
fully. " Well, good-bye, Isabel " — embracing her
friend; "write to me how it all falls out. I
wish I could have stayed and helped you. Good-
bjT-e, and don't worry yourself" And with this
parting recommendation Lady Clavering sailed
off, having previously done her very best, in all
kindness, to harass Mrs. Erskine's srentle soul
into a madness of perplexity.

That lady was indeed sorely distressed, but



LADY CLAYERING TO THE KESCUE. 11

with the removal of Lady Clavering's presence
and the cessation of her energetic onslaughts in
behalf of propriety and conventionality, the
distress she had created began to subside a little.
Susan, good soul ! was always rather given to
exaggerated alarm on slender provocation, and
she had probably yielded to her habitual ten-
dency in the present instance — indeed, had she
not herself been oblis^ed to confess that no harm
had as yet been done? Mr. Wentworth might
not be in all respects a model of virtue, but this
regrettable fact would not render him incapable
of showing disinterested kindness to a mere girl,
young enough to be his daughter. Altogether,
by the time she got back to the house and her
husband, Mrs. Erskine had succeeded in brino-ino:
herself to a much more composed and hopeful
frame of mind, and it was in such a frame that
she sought counsel of the Professor.

He was not in an auspicious mood for giving
counsel to any one on any subject whatsoever.
Sir John's society had bored him insufferably,
and he had had besides two or three dull but
intricate business matters to dispose of that
morning by letter, and had consequently been
prevented attacking his dearly loved philosophers
at the usual hour. When his wife detailed her



12 THE EEPEXTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

narrative he was at first inattentive, next a little
taken aback, and finally exceedingly cross. "He
wished Lady Clavering would keep her advice
to herself : that chatterinsj tongjue of hers did no
end of mischief She never could appear on any
scene without instantly causing an imbroglio.
He hoped to goodness she had not been telling all
this fine tale to Muriel — putting things into the
child's head which she need never hear of, and
was much better for not knowing ? "

" No," Mrs. Erskine answered for her friend.
" She has not done that, for she particularly
assured me that she had not said a word to
Muriel about the matter. She even warned me
to be careful what I said myself"

" Much obliged for her warnin-gs," muttered the
Professor. " I should think we ought to know
how to look after our niece without her help."
The worthy man was all the more savage
because in the inmost recesses of his heart he
knew that the obnoxious Lad}^ Clavering was
right, and that he, Alexander Erskine, was wrong.
" An to Wentworth, I always told you that
I knew nothing of his private history. Lad}"
Clavering's scandalous gossip may or may not
be true; I have no means of testing its truth,
and for that thank Heaven, say I ! I don't



LADY CLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. 13

concern myself with such matters; I leave them
to the society papers and the company in the
servants' hall. Very possible Wentworth is
not a Sir Galahad — or more properly a King
Arthur ; both are rare figures in modern society.
But he is a perfect gentleman, and I decline to
believe that he has taken advantage in any way
of our confidence in him. If I thought he
had," Mr. Erskine added, a sudden gleam of
anger lighting up his rough-hewn features, " I
would make him repent it bitterly ! But I don't
think it for a moment."

"That is just what I feel, just what I told
Susan," rejoined his wife. " But you haven't
given me any answer about the other point,
Alec — about his having a wife living, I moan.
Did you know it ? "

" Know it ? Of course I knew it ! " the Pro-
fessor retorted angrily. " You or Muriel, or both
of you, ran away with some ridiculous idea about
his being a widower when you first saw him, I
believe, and I did not argue the matter with
you, not feeling interested in the question. For
aught I knew at that time your notion might
have been correct. However, any doubts I en-
tertained on the subject were soon set at rest by
Wentworth's speaking voluntarily of his wife.



14 THE EEPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWOKTH.

He has mentioned her to me several times ; he
did so only last week, if I remember aright.
Said something about her being in Scotland or
Ireland, I forget which."

Mrs. Erskine breathed more freely. " I am
very glad to hear this," she said. " It shows
that there can have been no deception on his
part, and that it does not do to trust implicitly to
Susan's fancies. Yet I wonder how it happened
that you never mentioned this to me, Alec ? "

" Why on earth should I mention it to you ? "
inquired the Professor irritably. '' Could I
suppose that you were likely to feel profoundly
interested in the fact of Mrs. Wentworth's beinor
in Scotland — or in the fact of her existing at all ?
Have we been in the habit of discussing Went-
worth's domestic affairs between ourselves, 3'ou
and I?"

Mrs. Erskine was obliged to admit that such
had certainly not been their habit. " Then you
would have me do nothing — not move in the
matter at all ? " she asked timidly, laying a
gentle hand on her husband's shoulder.

" I don't quite understand what you mean by
movinix in the matter," he answered more
amiably. The mute caress had not been without
its effect.



LADY CLAYERING TO THE KESCUE. 15

" Well — speaking to Muriel, and telling her
she had better not go out with Mr. Wentworth
any more."

" As to that," the Professor replied, getting up
and looking about for his hat, " tell her what
you please, Belle, my dear. I have perfect con-
fidence in your judgment, whatever Lady
Clavering may feel. I would only caution you
against putting ideas into Thekla's head that
would never come there without help. For the
rest, if even here we are to be subjected to
periodical domiciliary visits from Mrs. Grundy
and her satellites, perhaps you had better give
the child a hint to avoid solitary expeditions
with Wentworth in future. I believe he is
going away in a day or two, which will simplify
matters. Meanwhile, Muriel can easily excuse
herself, if he asks her to walk or row with him ;
but she is not to be rude or give herself airs,
remember."

Mrs. Erskine laughed a little at the notion of
Muriel's beinof rude or 2:ivino^ herself airs to Mr.
Wentworth. "I don't think that is likely to
happen," she said. "Well, I wnll follow your
advice exactly, Alec. I shall see b}^ the way
she receives my hint, whether " She hesi-
tated in confusion.



16 THE KEPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

"Whether Wentworth's fascinations have had
any effect, you mean ? " her husband rejoined.
" Stuff and nonsense ! How should there be
anything to see ? The man's old enough to be
her father." With which comforting reflection
the Professor swung out of the room, calling as
he went : " I am going for half an hour s stroll
and smoke before we begin work."

His wife sat down to her writing-desk much
relieved in mind. True, the task of conveying
to Muriel a warning amounting to a prohibition
still lay before her, and this task was very
unpleasant to a woman of her shy, nervous
temperament, but the conversation she had just
held with her husband had shorn it of half its
difficulties and disagreeables. Then, meek as
she was, she nevertheless felt a glow of triumph
steal over her as she reflected that after all she
had been able to prove Susan's judgment over-
harsh, and erroneous as well. She was not
usually impulsive, but this unwonted feeling of
exultation, this new pride of victory, carried her
partially off her feet. She decided on sending
a note to Lady Clavering by that very day's
post.

She had written no further than *' My dear
Susan," when the door opened and her niece



LADY OLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. 17

came in. Muriel had not been out that morn-
ing, and her new happiness, coupled with her
secret anticipation of the words that she was to
hear from Wentworth's lips before many hours
were over, made her restless. She found it hard
to settle down to any kind of occupation, yet
she was unwilling to go into the garden and so
provoke the decisive interview just yet. Now
that the fateful moment was close at hand she
shrank a little from encountering it. Not that
she had any lurking distrust of Wentworth's
truth. She was very young and simple and inex-
perienced, and in her small world had never yet
found special cause to doubt any one's sincerity ;
therefore it was not likely that she would doubt
the man to whom she had given her whole
heart. All her doubts related to her own un-
worthiness to be loved by him. But she felt a
certain awe in contemplating the new phase of
her life's history just ready to open before her,
and a faint touch of innocent coquetry mingled
with this maidenly timidity. " He asked me to
come early," she said to herself, with a saucy
smile born of pride and happiness unspeakable,
" and it is a quarter past ten now. Well, that is
early — very early, I think. I shall not go till
eleven. You must wait a little while to-day,
VOL. II. 22



18 THE EEPENTANCE OF PAUL WENTWORTH.

Mr. Wentworth." And then she blushed deeply
at her own unspoken audacity.

She had brouoht her drawing^ materials into the
room with her, and, seating herself at the table
in the window, she tried to steady her quivering
fingers sufficiently to touch up a partially finished
sketch. Mrs. Erskine, sitting at the Professor's
writing-table on the opposite side of the room,
had her back turned to her niece — a fact for
which the poor lady felt devoutly thankful.
Now that Muriel was actually present and the
moment had clearly arrived for discharging what
Mrs. Erskine felt to be an exceedingly painful
duty, all her old nervousness returned upon her
with redoubled force. She cast about for some
easy introduction to the necessary subject of
discourse.

"Do you know, Muriel," she said at length
without turning round, " that I think I must be
an extraordinarily dull person ? I have just
been talking to your uncle, and he was quite
vexed with me for a stupid mistake I have been
labouring under with regard to Mr. Wentworth.
I always supposed he was a widower ; but it
seems that was pure fancy on my part, and that
he has a wife living, who is travelling in Scotland
or Ireland just now. Your uncle says Mr. Went-



LADY CLAVERING TO THE RESCUE. ID

worth has often spoken of her to him, but I am
sure he never did to me."

Muriel sat stiffened into stone, staring straight
before her in her dumb agony. The one instinct
that animated her was to keep silence ; she
clenched her hands painfully in the effort to
prevent herself crying out. It was as well that
Mrs. Erskine did not turn round at that moment.

" One does leap to conclusions too hastily some-
times," Mrs. Erskine went on; while Muriel's
heart suddenly awoke from the trance in which
it had seemed to stand still, and beat so wildly
that she felt as if great hammers were clanging
in her ears and brain, while everything before
her whirled round in a giddy dance, and, though
she still heard her aunt's voice speaking, it seemed
to come to her from an ever-increasing distance,
until at last she had to strain every nerve to
catch what was said, " I believe you leapt to
this conclusion too, my dear, didn't you ? "

" Yes, I did," Muriel answered. Her own


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